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Newsline - January 15, 2002


RUSSIA, U.S. DISCUSS STRATEGIC STABILITY
A working group headed by First Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii, on the Russian side, and by Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith, on the U.S. side, met on 15 January in the Pentagon, Western news agencies reported. First on the agenda is further negotiations on reductions of strategic offensive weapons, both countries having pledged to reduce by about two-thirds of their deployed strategic nuclear arsenals of more than 6,000 warheads each, Reuters reported. The meeting takes place a week after the Pentagon declared that some U.S. arms should be shelved for possible emergency redeployment, a decision that did not please Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2002). In addition, the Russian delegation plans to discuss President George W. Bush's announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty this year, news agencies reported. However, there is on both sides a firm commitment to find a common language in preparation for Bush's official visit in Russia during the summer. "We are facing new conditions, under which it is necessary to search for new forms of relations," RIA-Novosti quoted Baluevskii as saying upon his arrival at Washington, D.C. VC

UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES ARRIVES IN RUSSIA
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers arrived in Moscow on 15 January on a four-day visit, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Lubbers' program includes meetings with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, as well as visiting camps for displaced persons from Chechnya in neighboring Ingushetia. This visit occurs as the debate in Russia is focusing increasingly on Russian victims of the war, rather than on refugees. This is the first trial of military officers since the beginning of the second war in Chechnya. VC

RUSSIAN AND LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN MOSCOW
Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov and his Lithuanian counterpart Antanas Valionis met in Moscow on 15 January to discuss economic support for the Kaliningrad Oblast, Russian news agencies reported. Moscow wants to be sure that the forthcoming access of Lithuania to the European Union will not create difficulties for Russians who live in Kaliningrad Oblast and for the transit of Russian cargos through it, RIA-Novosti added. Improving conditions in Lithuania for Russian business and Russian-speakers is also on the agenda. VC

RUSSIAN POLITICIAN IN NEED OF AMERICAN HELP
Russian State Duma Deputy Chairman Artur Chilingarov found himself stranded at the South Pole and was rescued by a U.S. cargo aircraft, news agencies reported on 15 January. Chilingarov led a tour to the pole to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first Russian flight to the South Pole but encountered technical difficulties with his Russian plane after having visited the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole base. Considering that Chilingarov was on a private tour, the U.S. government now plans to bill the Russian government $80,000 for his rescue, RFE/RL reported the same day. VC

GOVERNMENT SETS UP FINAL HIKES IN DOMESTIC RATES...
The government has finalized hikes in domestic rates for the products and services of the so-called natural monopolies this year, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 January, quoting Federal Energy Commission Chairman Georgii Kutovoi. Kutovoi told Russian agencies on 14 January that natural gas rates will increase by 35 percent, electricity rates by 32 percent, and railway fares by 26 percent, and that the rates are likely to be increased twice this year -- once before the end of March 2002, and once in the summer. The Federal Energy Commission regulates the prices of Russia's natural monopolies, which include the railways, gas monopoly Gazprom, and Unified Energy Systems (EES). VC

...WHILE RAILWAYS FARES RISE WITH NO DELAY
On 15 January, rail fares increased by 30 percent, ntv.ru reported the same day. A railway ticket from Moscow to St. Petersburg will, from now on, cost 233 rubles ($7.75) on a "platscart" class and 1,804 rubles in the most expensive class (SV). Newly appointed Railways Minister Gennadii Fadeev told Russian reporters that fares will rise by 26 percent before the end of March 2002, ntv.ru reported, quoting TV-6. In addition, freight rates will increase by 14 percent, beginning from 20 January. VC

GROWING DEMAND PREDICTED FOR CELLULAR PHONES
The number of cellular phone subscribers in Russia soared 131 percent to 7.84 million in 2001, Interfax reported on 14 January quoting the website Sotovik and J'son&Partners consulting company. At the same time, the rate of growth in the number of users slowed slightly compared to 2000 because most of the new users belong to the mass market and cannot afford to spend much on phone bills, Interfax added. According to Sotovik (www.sotovik.ru), experts predict that the number of users will continue to grow in Moscow and the provinces and may reach 14 million by the end of 2002. VC

TV-6 JOURNALISTS MAKE BID TO MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE AND CONTROL...
The Media Ministry received a letter on 14 January signed by Pavel Korchagin, the executive director of TV-6, offering to give up the television's broadcasting license earlier than required to make it possible for the license to be transferred to the journalists and managers working at the station, polit.ru reported. Those employees hope to create a new channel on the basis of the old one. However, in an interview with NTV and Ekho Moskvy radio the same day, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin did not mention Korchagin's offer. Lesin said he is not yet sure when the channel's broadcasting license will be revoked, but it is possible that TV-6's broadcasting license will be annulled as soon as the Liquidation Commission is created. After the liquidation process is completed, an open competition for the license will be held. He told NTV that in order to take part in the competition, the workers' collective of TV-6 would need to register as a new legal entity. JAC

...AS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS U.S. CRITICISM...
Also on 14 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry responded to an earlier statement about TV-6 by the U.S. State Department. On 11 January, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that "the quick and unusual manner" in which the Supreme Arbitration Court heard the cases "added to the already strong appearance of political pressure in the judicial process against Russia's independent media." The Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of indulging in "double standards regarding freedom of the press in Russia." According to the ministry, the TV-6 dispute is "above all, an economic dispute between its shareholders." And the ministry added, "TV-6 is by far not the only private television channel broadcasting in Russia, as some are trying to assert." JAC

...AND PROTESTS U.S. OFFICIALS' PRESENCE AT PASKO PICKET
Also on 14 January, the Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Embassy protesting what it called "inadmissible actions by members of the staff of the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok," RIA-Novosti reported. The ministry complained that U.S. Consul General James Shumaker and political consul Alexander Hamilton attended a 10 January picket protesting the recent prison sentence handed down to former military journalist and environmental activist Grigorii Pasko. According to AFP, the ministry warned that it may take "corresponding" measures, the nature of which it did not specify. According to RIA-Novosti, the U.S. Consulate General reported that the two embassy officials were merely "observers" at the protest rather than participants. JAC

MEDIA MINISTER WINS ANOTHER COURT CASE
Lesin won a lawsuit on 14 January against Igor Malashenko, the first deputy chairman of the board of directors of Media-MOST, Russian agencies reported. Lesin said Malashenko had defamed him when he told a television audience in September 2000 that Lesin had offered Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky release from jail in exchange for control over NTV. The court ordered Malashenko to correct the statement on air. JAC

IS RUSSIAN PRESIDENT POWERLESS TO IMPROVE THE HEATING SITUATION?
Following President Vladimir Putin's meeting with EES head Anatolii Chubais on 12 January and an instruction to the government on 10 January to investigate the heating supply disruptions, Dalenergo announced on 14 January that it is resuming power outages in three cities in Primorskii Krai. Electricity will be provided only in the morning hours beginning on 15 January in retaliation for the buildup of a debt of 64.5 million rubles ($2.1 million), according to ITAR-TASS. Some military units, prisons, and federally funded research centers will be affected. Meanwhile, residents in Ust-Kut in Irkutsk Oblast still lack heat, NTV reported on 14 January. According to the station, some residents have installed wood-burning stoves. Ust-Kut Mayor Yevgenii Koreiko resigned last month following a phone call from a local student during a nationally televised question-and-answer program with President Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). JAC

TEACHERS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE FOR WAGES TO BUY FIREWOOD TO HEAT THEIR HOMES
Seven teachers in the village of Boguslavskoe in Primorskii Krai have declared a hunger strike because they have not received wages since October 2001, regions.ru reported on 14 January. The teachers say that they do not have enough money to buy firewood, which is a necessity since many live in private homes, according to the website. The teachers have sent an e-mail to President Putin explaining their plight, but are not confident that he will receive it. In Sverdlovsk Oblast, some 200 teachers at five schools in the Alapaevskii raion went on strike. They are demanding both that their wages be paid and that they be raised. JAC

FSB OFFERS ITS ADVICE ON RAILWAY REFORM...
"Vedomosti" reported on 14 January that the Federal Security Service (FSB) has been interfering in the reform of the railway sector. According to the daily, this is the first known instance of "chekists'" interfering in the economic policy of the government. A memo about the proposed reform from the FSB argued that if the railway system were to be transformed into an open shareholding society, Russia's national security would jeopardized because creditors could seize important strategic resources of the country through the courts. The FSB argued in favor of maintaining the country's railway infrastructure as a single entity. Meanwhile, the government decided on 10 January to cut the Railways Ministry's investment program in half, so that a hike in cargo and passenger rates could be limited. JAC

...AS GOVERNMENT TO TAKE UP ISSUE OF EES, GAZPROM LATER THIS YEAR
"Vedomosti" also reported that the government has charted out its plans for the first quarter of the year. According to the daily, the government plans to approve investment programs for EES in February, and Gazprom in March. JAC

ANOTHER SENATOR SELECTED
Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Yurii Neelov asked local legislators on 11 January to approve Aleksandr Yevstifeev as his representative to the Federation Council. Yevstifeev is currently a deputy presidential envoy to the Volga federal district. (Yamalo-Nenets is a member of the Urals federal district.) Neelov told the okrug's Duma that Yevstifeev has more than 20 years experience in legal and legislative work. JAC

RUSSIA FREEZES CONTACTS WITH CHECHEN PRESIDENT
The Russian leadership is not currently in contact with representatives of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Nikolai Britvin, who is the deputy presidential representative to the South Russia federal district, told ITAR-TASS on 14 January. Britvin said that earlier contacts proved "ineffective," and that the terms proposed by Maskhadov's representatives were "unacceptable to Russia." He did not elaborate. Presidential representative to the Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev met in Moscow last November with Maskhadov's envoy, Akhmed Zakaev, but reportedly failed to identify a mutually acceptable approach to ending the war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 November 2001). LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY CLAIMS TO INFLICT HEAVY LOSSES ON CHECHENS...
Federal forces in Chechnya killed over 1,000 Chechen fighters, including 30 field commanders, in search-and-destroy operations over the past 2 1/2 months, Interfax reported on 14 January, quoting the commander of the combined federal forces, Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi. A Russian military spokesman at the Khankala base near Grozny said the same day that 24 Chechen fighters were killed last week alone. LF

...BUT WILL NOT WITHDRAW FURTHER TROOPS
No further Russian troops will be withdrawn from Chechnya this year, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, told journalists in Grozny on 14 January, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Troshev said it is planned to end the "antiterrorist" operation in Chechnya by May 2002. Speaking in Moscow on 10 January, Russian armed forces Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin claimed that no large bands of Chechen fighters remain, only "insignificant pockets of resistance." LF

TRIAL OF INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICERS OVER 'FRIENDLY FIRE' DEATHS IN CHECHNYA POSTPONED
The trial at a Moscow Oblast court of three Interior Ministry officers, which was scheduled to begin on 14 January, was postponed after one of the accused failed to appear before the court due to illness, Interfax and AP reported. The three men are accused of an attack in Grozny in March 2000 by an OMON unit from Podolsk on an OMON convoy from Sergiev Possad, in which 22 policemen were killed and more that 30 wounded. LF

MORE WITNESSES TESTIFY IN ARMENIAN CAFE DEATH TRIAL
Five people present in Yerevan's Aragast cafe on the night of 24-25 September, three of them members of the cafe staff, told a Yerevan court on 14 January that they did not witness any brawls or scuffles in the cafe that night, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Nineteen people have testified to date in the trial of Aghamal Harutiunian, a member of Armenian President Robert Kocharian's bodyguards who is charged with the manslaughter of Poghos Poghosian. Prosecutors claim that Poghosian was assaulted by members of Kocharian's bodyguard after having addressed "obscene remarks" to the president, and that he died of a blow to the head incurred in a heavy fall. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES DISCUSS POTENTIAL FOR COOPERATION
Leading members of the opposition People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) met in Yerevan on 14 January with leaders of the six parties aligned in the "Socialist Armenia" union to discuss possible cooperation, Noyan Tapan reported. The two sides acknowledged that their positions coincide on such key issues as constitutional reform, social problems, and the 27 October 1999 parliament killings. But an HZhK spokesman excluded the creation of a formal alliance as "premature." Similar talks on 9 January between Socialist Armenia and the Hanrapetutiun party ended with the latter expressing readiness for "close cooperation." Albert Bazeyan, a leading member of Hanrapetutiun, said an alliance between the two groups is "possible," according to the daily "Aravot" on 10 January. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONIST FINED FOLLOWING UNSANCTIONED DEMO
A Baku district court on 14 January fined Mirvari Gahramanli 82,000 manats ($17) on charges of insulting behavior during the 12 January unsanctioned demonstration in Baku by female members of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2002). Human rights organizations issued a statement the same day protesting Gahramanli's arrest as politically motivated. Also on 14 January, the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan issued a statement condemning as a violation of the constitution and international norms police violence against female participants in the demonstration. LF

ABKHAZIA REJECTS GEORGIA'S OFFER OF 'HISTORIC COMPROMISE'
The UN-drafted document formulating the future relations between Abkhazia and Georgia within a single Georgian state requires Abkhazia to acknowledge it is a constituent part of Georgia, recognize Georgia's present borders, and allow the return of Georgian displaced persons to their homes in Abkhazia, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 14 January, according to Caucasus Press. He added that as a "historic compromise," Abkhazia will be permitted to preserve its constitution and state bodies for an unspecified time period. But Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba rejected Shevardnadze's statements the same day as mutually contradictory, pointing out that Abkhazia's existing constitution defines the Republic of Abkhazia as an independent state, and that Abkhazia does not envisage becoming part of a larger state. He added that it would be more appropriate for Tbilisi and Sukhum to discuss the situation in the Kodori Gorge, from which Georgia refuses to withdraw its troops. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR REGIONAL ENERGY SYSTEM
In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, President Shevardnadze advocated on 14 January creating a regional energy system that would encompass Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, and the Balkan states, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIA, NATO PLAN SUMMER MANEUVERS
A four-day conference of NATO and Georgian experts to plan for joint military exercises in Georgia later this year ended in Tbilisi on 14 January, Interfax reported. A total of 16 countries have applied to participate in those maneuvers, which will be held under the aegis of NATO's Partnership for Peace program at the former Russian military base at Vaziani near Tbilisi. But Armenian army Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Mikael Harutiunian denied on 12 January an AFP report that Armenian troops will participate, although he said some Armenian officers may monitor the maneuvers, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

KAZAKH DIPLOMATS HOLD TALKS WITH AFGHAN GOVERNMENT
A Kazakh Foreign Ministry delegation has held talks in Kabul with the interim government headed by Hamid Karzai on expanding bilateral relations, the provision of Kazakh humanitarian aid, and the opening of a Kazakh diplomatic representation in the Afghan capital, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 15 January. LF

KAZAKHSTAN REPORTS HIGHEST CIS GDP GROWTH IN 2001
Kazakhstan's GDP increased year-on-year in 2001 by 13 percent, the highest figure registered by any CIS state, Interfax reported on 14 January, quoting the Economy and Trade Ministry. Industrial output grew by 13.5 percent and agricultural production by 16.9 percent. Capital investment was up by 21 percent, and consumer price inflation amounted to 6.4 percent, according to Economy and Trade Minister Zhaqsybek Kulekeev. Trade turnover increased by 7.7 percent to $17.7 billion. GDP is expected to grow by 7 percent in 2002, Kulekeev added. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT AGAIN FAILS TO DISCUSS BEKNAZAROV ARREST
The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament) failed for the second time on 14 January to convene a formal discussion of the arrest of deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8, and 14 January 2002). But parliament deputy Bektur Asanov announced on 14 January he has joined the 18 people currently on hunger strike to demand Beknazarov's release. Representatives of five Kyrgyz human rights organizations addressed a letter on 14 January to President Askar Akaev, likewise demanding that Beknazarov be set free. Meanwhile, Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev held a press conference in Bishkek on 14 January at which he reiterated that Beknazarov's arrest was not politically motivated. Beknazarov is charged with negligence in failing to arrest a man who killed another in self-defense in February 1995. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT EXTENDS MORATORIUM ON DEATH PENALTY
President Akaev signed a decree on 11 January extending for a further 12 months the moratorium on implementation of the death penalty first announced in 1998, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Under a new program on human rights that Akaev signed on 2 January, the death penalty is to be abolished by 2010. LF

TAJIKISTAN, PAKISTAN DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION
Meeting in Dushanbe on 14 January with Tajik Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev, Pakistani Ambassador Abdul Majid Khan affirmed his country's interest in expanding mutually beneficial cooperation with Tajikistan, noting specifically that country's experience in combating terrorism, Asia Pus-Blitz reported. The two also discussed their respective countries' participation in the peace process in Afghanistan and the regional situation in Central Asia. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH VISITING U.S. CONGRESSMEN...
Islam Karimov met on 12 January with a U.S. congressional delegation headed by Jim Kolbe to discuss various aspects of bilateral cooperation, including U.S. economic assistance to Tashkent, Russian agencies reported. Kolbe told journalists in the Uzbek capital the same day that the U.S. has earmarked a total of $100 million in aid for Uzbekistan, but that once the war in Afghanistan is over that aid will be largely contingent on the pace of economic reform in Uzbekistan, according to AP. LF

...SAYS 'SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL' FOR ARMY
Speaking on 14 January on the occasion of Defenders of the Fatherland Day, President Karimov said that the country's armed forces should be small, but equipped with modern armaments and materiel, Interfax reported. He said the objective of the ongoing reform of the armed forces is to create "mobile self-sufficient units...capable of the most efficient methods of combat." Three days earlier, Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov said that Uzbekistan already has "battle-ready armed forces that can cope with the most important of tasks." LF

OPPOSITION PARTY URGES OSCE TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON BELARUS OVER POLITICAL REPRESSION...
The United Civic Party has appealed to the OSCE to impose economic and political sanctions on the Belarusian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka because of its continued repression of political opponents, the Charter-97 website reported on 15 January. JM

...WHILE OTHERS WANT EU TO DEFINE 'NEW STRATEGY' TOWARD BELARUS
A group of Belarusian opposition politicians has called on the foreign ministers of EU countries to map out a "new strategy" with regard to Belarus, Belapan reported on 14 January. The appeal was signed by leaders of the Belarusian Party of Communists, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Popular Assembly), the Belarusian Labor Party, and a number of public associations. The document proposes that the EU expand contacts with Belarus's "economic and political elites," support the independent media and civil society institutions, as well as provide assistance in creating "legal conditions conducive to the development of civilized economic relations" and holding democratic elections in Belarus. JM

MINSK REPORTS 4.1 PERCENT GROWTH IN 2001
The Statistics Ministry has reported that Belarus's GDP in 2001 grew by 4.1 percent compared with 2000, Belapan reported on 14 January. Industrial output increased by 5.8 percent while agricultural production grew by 1.8 percent. The 2001 annual inflation rate was 46.1 percent, down from 107.5 percent in 2000. JM

OUR UKRAINE LEADER DEFIES SMEAR CAMPAIGN
Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko, who heads the Our Ukraine election bloc, has said he is not afraid of any compromising material that may be used against him in the parliamentary election campaign, 1+1 Television reported on 14 January. "I do not feel that there is anything behind me or my family about which I would rather not speak in public," Yushchenko said. Yushchenko was commenting on the recent disclosure of his wiretapped conversation with Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko in which the two appear to discuss how to oust parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk. The tape was made public by Dmytro Ponomarchuk from the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Unity election bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 January 2002). The leadership of the bloc has distanced itself from Ponomarchuk, saying he was paid by Russian spin doctors to publicize the tape in a bid to compromise Yushchenko. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS PROBE INTO ALLEGED SALE OF ARMS TO TALIBAN
The Verkhovna Rada on 15 January backed a motion by lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak requesting the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Security Service of Ukraine to check the recent allegations by Germany's "Der Spiegel" of illegal sales of Ukrainian arms, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Quoting Russian State Duma deputy Viktor Ilyukhin in an article published on its website, "Der Spiegel" said Israeli citizen Vadym Rabinovych jointly with former Ukrainian Security Service chief Leonid Derkach and his son Andriy Derkach had sold "military equipment" to the Taliban. JM

UKRAINE TO UPGRADE MACEDONIAN MILITARY EQUIPMENT
Ukraine will help Macedonia upgrade its military equipment, Interfax reported on 15 January. An agreement to this effect was reached during a meeting of Ukrainian General Staff chief Petro Shulyak with his Macedonian counterpart Metodi Stamboliski in Kyiv on 15 January. Stamboliski told journalists that the talks focused on the equipment already delivered by Ukraine to Macedonia and ruled out any new weapons acquisitions. JM

UKRAINE'S GDP GROWS BY 9 PERCENT IN 2001
Ukraine's GDP in 2001 increased by 9 percent compared with 2000, UNIAN reported on 15 January, quoting a government official. Inflation in 2001 was 6.1 percent. JM

PROGRESS IN ESTONIAN COALITION TALKS
President Arnold Ruutel concluded following talks on 14 January with leaders of all Estonian political parties that the new coalition of the Center Party and the Reform Party may receive the support of nearly all deputies in the 101-seat parliament, ETA reported. The two parties said that they hope to agree on a coalition program by the end of the week. They have agreed not to change the current tax system of a flat income tax on companies and individuals of 26 percent. The Center Party supports the introduction of a graduated income tax, while the Reform Party has called for lowering the flat rate to 20 percent. Center Party Deputy Chairman Peeter Kreitzberg noted that the next round of parliament elections are scheduled for March 2003, and thus there is no need for the current parliament to try to make major changes in the tax system this year. SG

LATVIA REJECTS RUSSIAN CRITICISM OF PROSECUTING EX-SOVIET OFFICIALS
Foreign Ministry spokesman Vilmars Henins declared on 14 January that Latvia categorically rejects the regular reproaches by Russia over the criminal prosecution of World War II veterans in Latvia, and regards them as interference in the internal affairs of a foreign country, BNS reported. The statement came in response to the recent charges made by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko that "Latvian authorities have stepped up legal prosecution of antifascist veterans, causing quite grounded concern." Yakovenko said that such "investigation is biased, antifascist soldiers are presented as 'occupants,' and Hitlerite minions as 'freedom fighters.'" In December, the Latvian Prosecutor's Office opened three more criminal cases over possible genocide against the Latvian population by former officials of the State Security Ministry in 1949, but no charges have been filed thus far. SG

LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES OF DRAFT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
The cabinet expressed its unanimous approval on 14 January for the draft amendment to Article 47 of the constitution, which would allow foreigners to purchase agricultural land, inland waters, and forests, ELTA reported. If adopted, the measure would become effective only once Lithuania becomes a member of the European Union. The main incentive for the amendment is the desire to comply with EU requirements. Amending the constitution is a difficult process requiring the approval of two-thirds of the parliament in two votes separated by a minimum of three months. Fearing that foreigners would buy a significant amount of farming land, the parliament's Agricultural Committee has recommended that the government should try to obtain a seven-year transition period from the EU before land sales to foreigners are allowed. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT EXPECTS 'BREAKTHROUGH' IN RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
President Aleksander Kwasniewski told PAP on 14 January that the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Poland may be a "breakthrough" in Polish-Russian relations. Putin is expected in Warsaw in the evening on 15 January in what is to be the first visit of a Russian head of state in the past eight years. JM

CZECH PREMIER MIGHT RUN FOR PRESIDENT...
In an interview with Radio Frekvence 1 on 14 January, Milos Zeman said he would accept nomination for the post of president if a "stalemate situation" arose and if the next head of state is elected by the parliament, as required by current constitutional stipulations. Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, in an interview with the daily "Pravo" on 15 January, said he would be ready to run for the position if the Four Party Coalition decided to endorse his candidacy, CTK reported. In previous statements, Pithart conditioned his running for the post on amending the law to allow direct presidential elections. The Four Party Coalition, of which Pithart's Christian Democratic Party is a member, supports direct presidential elections. The ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) has already announced that it would not support a Pithart candidacy. President Vaclav Havel's second term expires in 2003, and he cannot run for a third term. MS

...REFUTES ALLEGATIONS OF COMPANY'S LINKS TO BIN LADEN
In the interview with Frekvence 1, Zeman also refuted media allegations that a company to which the Czech Republic last year sold the debt owed to Prague by Russia is linked with terrorist Osama bin Laden, CTK reported. Zeman said that following the 11 September terrorist attacks, "U.S. intelligence services carried out accurate checks on all organizations directly or indirectly linked with Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda organization," and that "Falkon Capital did not appear on any of these lists." Citing the Russian weekly "Novaya gazeta," CTK earlier reported that the Czech company Falkon Capital, to which the government sold Russia's debt for $580 million in the autumn of 2001, is directly connected to bin Laden. According to the report published in that weekly by journalist Oleg Lurye, Falkon Capital is a subsidiary of the Saudi Binladen Group, which is the main source of the terrorist's fortune. Lurye wrote that Russia now owes Falcon $770 million, and claimed that his information is based on classified documents of U.S. secret services and that Prague opted to make the sale to Falkon despite being warned against it by unnamed secret services. MS

CZECH POLICE DETAIN MEDIA MOGUL AGAIN
Police briefly detained Vladimir Zelezny on 14 January and filed new charges against him, but later released the media mogul on health grounds, CTK reported. Zelezny's lawyer, Ondrej Kuchar, and Edita Panuskova, who works in the office of Ales Rozenhal -- also a lawyer for Zelezny -- were detained after being questioned together with the Nova TV owner. A spokeswoman for the Financial Crime and State Protection Squad said Zelezny is suspected of illegal transfer of his property with the purpose of harming a creditor, dpa reported. Last year, similar charges were filed against Zelezny and one of his lawyers stemming from an alleged money transfer to a foundation in Liechtenstein. The investigators said Zelezny shifted the cash to Liechtenstein to dodge a $28 million debt to his former business partner, U.S. billionaire Ronald Lauder. Last year, an international arbitration court ordered Zelezny to pay Lauder compensation for the 1999 takeover of Nova TV, which they previously operated jointly. Separately, Lauder won another arbitration, which ruled that the Czech government must pay him $500 million. Zelezny was released by court order after spending several days in jail. Following his release, he met with parliamentary speaker Vaclav Klaus, who said the charges against Zelezny are false. Last weekend, dozens of Czech intellectuals signed an open letter to Klaus, demanding that he clarify his links to Zelezny. MS

MALFUNCTION AT TEMELIN SHUTS DOWN PLANT AGAIN
A technical malfunction on 14 January once again caused the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant to be shut down, AP reported. A spokesman for the plant said the safety system automatically shut down the reactor after detecting a malfunction in a valve in the non-nuclear section of the plant. Milan Nebesar said that "the problem has nothing to do with nuclear safety," and that the reactor would be restarted in a couple of hours," which it duly was. It was the second such malfunction at Temelin within four days. In his interview on Frekvence 1 (see above), Premier Zeman said on 14 January that he believes Austria will respect the agreement signed with the Czech Republic last November on Temelin. He added that he hopes new Austrian elections will take place before the referendum that the far-right Austrian Freedom Party is attempting to bring about this week. "The sooner the Austrians get rid of [Joerg] Haider and his pro-fascist party, the better," Zeman said. MS

CZECH RULING PARTY LAUNCHES PETITION IN FAVOR OF REFERENDA
CSSD Chairman Vladimir Spidla and Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky launched a petition on 14 January in support of a government-sponsored bill that would make possible the holding of referenda in the Czech Republic. The bill itself is now being considered by the Chamber of Deputies. The CSSD said the bill would allow people to decide on fundamental questions for the country's domestic and foreign policy. Rychetsky said the purchase of supersonic fighters would be a suitable subject for such a plebiscite. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT BLAMES PREMIER, FOREIGN MINISTER FOR STATUS LAW DISPUTE WITH HUNGARY
President Rudolf Schuster criticized Premier Mikulas Dzurinda and Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 14 January for failing to ensure that an agreement could be reached in due time with Hungary that country's Status Law, the Hungarian dailies "Nepszabadsag" and "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Addressing a forum of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, Schuster said the cabinet's stall tactics have provided an instrument for nationalist passions, which could spin out of control and cause harm to both countries. Dzurinda rejected Schuster's comments, saying he has presented his opinions on the law to Hungarian negotiating partners on several occasions. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo said Slovakia earlier indicated its objections to Budapest on several occasions, and added that "the side that caused the problem is the side that must also solve it." MS

HUNGARIAN, BRITISH PREMIERS DIFFER ON EU ISSUES
Visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban failed to agree with his British counterpart Tony Blair on 14 January on the issue of EU agricultural subsidies and regional development funds, Hungarian media reported. Following their meeting in London, Orban told reporters that Hungary and Britain are "far apart" on these matters, and negotiations over the next two months will be "critical." The two leaders also discussed the fight against terrorism, the need for a new strategic alliance between NATO and Russia, and EU enlargement. Orban said Great Britain recognizes the achievements of the Hungarian economy, as well as its low rate of unemployment. "Vilaggazdasag" quoted Blair as saying the same day that there is no economic policy reason why Hungary should not be admitted to the EU at the earliest possible date. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS, FIDESZ CONTINUE CLASH OVER STATUS LAW
If the opposition Socialist Party wins the elections in April, it will suspend the implementation of the memorandum of understanding with Romania and seek a new agreement that will serve the interests of Hungary, party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs told Hungarian media on 14 January. He said the FIDESZ government is not confident of its election victory, and thus it has planted a "time bomb" that will cause problems for the next government when Romanian guest workers come to Hungary to do seasonal work in the spring and summer. In response, FIDESZ Deputy Parliamentary Group Chairman Robert Repassy said the Socialists' remarks about the Status Law are reminiscent of the ideas of Joerg Haider, who is afraid that Hungarian job seekers will flood Austria. Thus, he added, "the Socialists are on the same platform as the far right." FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Laszlo Kover said that "if ethnic Hungarian communities abroad were not in such a good state of mind," then the opposition parties' actions regarding the Status Law would be tantamount to "a kind of mental Trianon" for them. MSZ

HUNGARIAN CHURCHES WELCOME STATUS LAW
Hungary's Roman Catholic, Calvinist, and Lutheran Churches issued separate statements on 14 January welcoming the Status Law and the memorandum of understanding with Romania on its implementation, Hungarian media reported. The Roman Catholic Church said Transylvanian Hungarians, despite all difficulties, can enjoy the benefits of the law now that the memorandum of understanding has been signed. It also voiced its concern and incomprehension of "manifestations eliciting mistrust that are against the interests of Hungarians who were torn from the motherland." MSZ

MONTENEGRO REMAINS FIRM ON INDEPENDENCE
Predrag Drecun, who is a Montenegrin member of the Yugoslav government's expert team on the future of Montenegrin-Serbian relations, said in Podgorica on 15 January that the Montenegrin authorities remain firm on independence, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2002). "The Montenegrin government will not accept the views of the EU on a joint state," he noted. Drecun added that Montenegro should clarify matters as soon as possible by holding a referendum. The EU is opposed to Montenegrin independence and has been pressuring Podgorica to maintain a joint state with Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 December 2001). On 14 January, Reuters reported from Brussels that EU security policy chief Javier Solana has postponed a planned visit to Montenegro. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an EU official said: "It's a question of finding the best moment for the trip, one that is most productive for reaching a framework agreement." PM

U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA TO CATCH KARADZIC?
The Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine" reported on 14 January that up to 300 U.S. special forces troops arrived in Bosnia recently to find and arrest former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. An SFOR spokesman told AP in Sarajevo that it is NATO's policy neither to confirm nor to deny any reports on specific operations. Observers suggest that there has been growing impatience in the international community recently over the fact that major war criminals are still at large. Sourcing for the Banja Luka article is, however, unclear. Speculative reports of possible arrests of war criminals and of future indictments of individuals by The Hague often appear in the regional media when hard news is scarce. In related developments, "Vesti" of 15 January shows a photo of Orthodox New Years celebrations in Banja Luka -- beneath portraits of Karadzic and his fellow indicted war criminal, General Ratko Mladic. PM

BRITAIN TO KEEP TROOPS IN BOSNIA
Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon told visiting Bosnian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija in London on 14 January that Britain will keep troops in Bosnia as long as they are necessary, Hina reported. He added that a planned decrease in British forces simply indicates that Bosnia is on the way to a stable peace. Hoon also stressed that the U.K. supports the arrest of indicted war criminals. PM

NO AGREEMENT AMONG KOSOVA ALBANIANS ON PRIME MINISTER'S POST
The leadership of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) reaffirmed in Prishtina on 14 January that it will offer the two next largest Albanian parties five cabinet posts and two deputy prime ministerships if they agree to form a coalition government, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) insists that it receive the post of prime minister as part of any deal (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 11 January 2002). The smaller Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) of Ramush Haradinaj has not claimed any top post for itself but is keeping its options open, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported. U.S. diplomats are working to end the political logjam. The U.S. is the country with the greatest prestige and credibility among the Albanians of Kosova and elsewhere in the Balkans. PM

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY TO BACK CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase told Romanian radio on 15 January that his ruling Party of Social Democracy (PSD) will back demands for amending the constitution. Nastase spoke after a meeting of the PSD leadership in Sinaia the previous day. He said the party will support changing the electoral system for the Senate to single-representation, and that a new law on the financing of political parties is necessary at this stage of postcommunist democratic development. Several political parties as well as nongovernmental organizations have demanded in the past changes in the present proportional representation system and the legislation on the functioning and financing of political parties. MS

PETRITSCH TO LEAVE BOSNIA IN JUNE
Wolfgang Petritsch will step down as the international community's high representative in Bosnia by June, Hina reported from Sarajevo on 15 January, citing a statement by his spokeswoman. Petritsch hopes to leave office once the constitution is changed to make Muslims, Serbs, and Croats legally equal in both entities. His successor is expected to be Paddy Ashdown of the U.K. Petritsch will head Austria's mission to the UN in Geneva. PM

CROATIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION
President Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb that Croatia's struggle for independence was a direct reaction to the policies of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 15 January. That date marks the 10th anniversary of Croatia's diplomatic recognition by EC -- as the EU was then called -- member states and is considered one of the most important dates in modern Croatian history, Hina reported. Already in 1991, Slovenia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Latvia, Iceland, Estonia, and Germany recognized the new state. Russia recognized Croatia on 17 February 1992, followed by the U.S. on 7 April. The EC's diplomatic move followed the end of the fighting in late 1991 and confirmed what was already an established fact, namely that the former Yugoslavia no longer existed. PM

ROBERTSON TO VISIT MACEDONIA
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson will travel to Macedonia on 18 January, dpa reported from Skopje on 15 January. In an interview, he dismissed speculation that his trip is linked to reports of possible renewed unrest there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2002). He said: "My visit to Skopje is connected with the wish of Macedonia to become a member of NATO. I'll visit all possible candidate states" as head of the alliance. PM

RIFT IN SERBIAN GOVERNING COALITION TO BE PATCHED UP?
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 14 January that he is prepared to offer Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) three ministries and a deputy prime minister's post if it returns to the government formed by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He also offered the DSS the positions of general inspector of the police and speaker of the parliament. Dragan Marsicanin, who is the vice president of the DSS and former speaker of the parliament, welcomed Djindjic's offer to restructure the government. Marsicanin said that his party will consider what to do next (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2001). The DSS has called for early elections if relations with DOS cannot be put on a firm footing. PM

SERBIAN GENERALS TRADE ACCUSATIONS
General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who is chief of the General Staff, said that former General Momcilo Perisic planned a crackdown on opposition leaders in 1997, when he headed the General Staff, "Vesti" reported from Belgrade on 15 January. Perisic, who is now a Serbian deputy prime minister and prominent member of DOS, denied the charges. He said he will propose a measure in the parliament aimed at disciplining Pavkovic. It is not clear whether he intends to work through the Serbian or Yugoslav parliament. The army is a Yugoslav institution, not a Serbian one. PM

SERBIAN AUTO COMPANY HOPING FOR GAINS IN CHINA
The Zastava automobile plant in Kragujevac is hoping to sell up to 10,000 Yugo-Florida cars to China as part of a bilateral trade agreement, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 14 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2002). PM

KOSTUNICA HOLDING KOSOVA SERBS TO HARD LINE?
Following a meeting between Kostunica and Serbian legislators from Kosova's Povratak (Return) coalition in Belgrade on 14 January, Kostunica's office issued a statement, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2002). It said that Povratak will not support any Albanian politician who does not distance himself from independence and does not accept a "dialogue with Belgrade." In practical terms, this effectively bars Povratak from entering into a coalition with any ethnic Albanian party in the legislature. Recent remarks by Djindjic and some Kosova Serb politicians suggested that Povratak might concentrate its demands instead on guarantees for the security and future of Serbs in Kosova. PM

BUCHAREST MAYOR SAYS NASTASE TRYING TO DRAW HIM INTO CORRUPTION SCANDAL
Bucharest Mayor and Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu said on 14 January that Premier Nastase is trying to draw him into the corruption scandal that precipitated the decision to dissolve the Bucharest General Municipal Council and hold early elections for that body, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Basescu said that he had signaled out improprieties on the town's General Municipal Council just a few months after winning the 2000 local elections and had asked Nastase to help him restore order. He said that the decision to dissolve the council is wrongly based on unimportant judicial grounds rather than on the need to fight corruption. In related news, Nastase on 14 January ordered the Prosecutor-General's Office to conduct an investigation into Basescu's statement that his Democratic Party had officially declared that it spent $100,000 for the 2000 electoral campaign from funds covered by donors, whereas in fact the costs of the campaign had been over $1 million. MS

CLUJ MAYOR TO DISMISS EMPLOYEES WHO APPLY FOR HUNGARIAN ID CARDS
Cluj nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar on 14 January said he will order the dismissal of any employee of the mayoralty who applies for a Hungarian ID card in line with the provisions of the Status Law, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Transylvanian capital reported. Funar claims that applying for such a document is tantamount to applying for Hungarian citizenship, and that consequently no holder of the card can continue to function as a civil servant in Romania. MS

EXILED ROMANIAN WRITER RECEIVES PRESTIGIOUS ITALIAN AWARD
Norman Manea was awarded the Noninio International Prize for his lifetime literary activity, a press release of the Bard College announced on 12 January. Manea, who left Romania in 1986, is currently a professor at the college in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. He was born in the Romanian province of Bukovina and was deported in 1941 by the Antonescu regime to a concentration camp in Transnistria together with his family, losing his paternal grandparents in the Holocaust. He has been subjected to frequent attacks in Romania since the fall of the communist regime due to two articles published in "The New Republic" in which he unveiled the fascist past of History of Religion scholar Mircea Eliade and the Eliade cult in the postcommunist period. Manea's works have been translated into more than 10 languages and he has been awarded several other prestigious awards and honors, among which are the MacArthur Fellowship Award and the Guggenheim Fellowship. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ASKS PUTIN TO 'CALL BACK' SMIRNOV
Vladimir Voronin, in an interview with the Russian NTV on 12 January, said the Transdniester conflict cannot be solved as long as separatist leader Igor Smirnov and the "gang" surrounding him continue to manage the region and indulge in illegal trafficking of arms and drugs, and in large-scale smuggling, Infotag reported. Voronin said that "it would be nice" if Russian President Vladimir Putin "instructed" Smirnov "to leave Transdniester in peace." (Smirnov has often stated that he is a Russian citizen). In response to a question, Voronin said he would not regard this as "interference in internal Moldovan affairs," and that the real interference is that caused by Smirnov, who "has carved the republic into two pieces." Voronin failed to secure a meeting with Putin to discuss the Transdniester conflict. He stopped over in Moscow on his way back from vacationing in Finland. MS

PROTESTS AGAINST RUSSIFICATION TO CONTINUE IN MOLDOVA...
The participants in the protests against the introduction of compulsory Russian classes in Moldovan schools decided on 14 January to continue their protest on 15 January, when Moldova celebrates the 152nd birthday of national poet Mihai Eminescu, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Social Liberal Party said the same day that it backs the protests. The Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD), which started the protests on 9 January, officially petitioned the Education Ministry to rescind the decision on the compulsory Russian classes. The PPCD said that decision contravenes the constitution, which stipulates that the "Moldovan" language is the country's only official language and that Russian is one of the recognized languages of minorities living in Moldova. The PPCD said the ministry has bestowed "privileged status" on members of the Russian minority, thereby discriminating against other ethnic minorities. It also said that the ministry's decision contravenes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates the right of parents to choose in what language their children are to be educated. MS

...WHILE GOVERNMENT WARNS ORGANIZERS WITH DISSOLUTION
Justice Minister Ion Morei warned the PPCD on 14 January that it will be outlawed unless it "offers explanations" within three days for its role in the organization of the protests and unless the protests stop within that period, Romanian radio reported. PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said in response that the warning is "a scenario aimed at liquidating the democratic opposition within a few days." MS

OSCE WORRIED ABOUT TRANSDNIESTER DELAY OF RUSSIAN AMMUNITION WITHDRAWAL
OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff said on 14 January that his organization is "worried" by the decision of the Transdniester authorities to delay the withdrawal of Russian ammunition, ITAR-TASS reported. Sidoroff said the separatist authorities hindered earlier that day the departure of a train loaded with ammunition of Russia's former 14th Army. The separatists demand compensation in the form of metal scrap supplies and the implementation of the earlier decision by Moscow to write off Transdniester's debts for Russian gas deliveries. So far three train loads of ammunition left the separatist region, in line with the decisions of the November 1999 Istanbul OSCE summit. MS

BULGARIA OFFERS RELIEF AID FOR AFGHANISTAN
Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov on 14 January said Bulgaria is prepared to provide relief aid to Afghanistan, BTA reported. Svinarov said that his ministry has sent the participants in the 21-22 January Tokio donors conference a list detailing its capabilities, and "if they decide that what we are offering can be of use, we are prepared to organize the delivery promptly." MS

FITCH IBCA UPGRADES BULGARIA'S CREDIT RATING
The international crediting agency Fitch IBCA on 14 January upgraded Bulgaria's ratings for long-term foreign currency, BTA reported. The rating was raised from B plus to BB minus, and Bulgaria's long-term rating outlook was changed from "positive" to "stable." The ratings for long-term credits in local currency and short-term foreign currency ratings were reconfirmed at BB and B, respectively. The agency said that in recent months the Bulgarian government has set out prudent fiscal targets and an ambitious program of structural reforms. MS

There is no End Note today.


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