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Newsline - January 22, 2002


TV-6 TAKEN OFF AIR, ELECTRICITY CUT...
At midnight on 21 January, the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation's (MNVK) TV-6 was taken off the air after the Media Ministry complied with an 11 January court order to immediately suspend the corporation's license, Russian news agencies reported. The order also forbids a number of financial operations by MNVK and prohibits the company from handing over its broadcasting license to any other entity, Interfax reported on 21 January, quoting the ministry press service. In addition, a few hours after the TV-6 broadcasting signal was switched off, electricity, telephone, and Internet services were disconnected in all of the company's offices in the Ostankino television tower, Interfax reported on 22 January, quoting TV-6 press service Director Tatyana Blinova. The shutdown came a few hours after TV-6 Executive Director Pavel Korchagin met with Media Minister Mikhail Lesin to back out of a temporary broadcasting deal cut with the ministry last week, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 January. Korchagin delivered a letter signed by General Director Yevgenii Kiselev that said TV-6 journalists had decided to reject an agreement they had made with the ministry to voluntarily surrender the station's license in order to form a new company without the backing of TV-6 owner Boris Berezovsky (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2002). The new company, to be named OOO TV6, was supposed to bid for the license in a spring tender. VC

...AS TV-6 JOURNALISTS ACCUSE KREMLIN OF PRESSURING THEM...
On 21 January, during a news conference held at the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Kiselev said that he had been forced to give up the license under duress, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 January. Kiselev accused Lesin of forcing them to include a representative of the presidential administration on the list of founders of the journalists' new company, OOO TV6. Kiselev added that Lesin had asked probing questions about the individuals named as OOO TV6 founders to find out if they were connected to Berezovsky or former NTV owner Vladimir Gusinsky, Ekho Moskvy reported on 21 January. Speaking at the same Ekho Moskvy news conference on 21 January, TV-6 anchorman Andrei Norkin confirmed that both Lesin and presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Voloshin pressured the TV-6 staff to give up the license without the support of main shareholder Berezovsky. Kiselev and his colleagues said their decision to hand over the license was a bad move. "What we did was a mistake," "The Moscow Times" quoted Kiselev as saying on 22 January. Kiselev added that the TV-6 staff has mixed feelings about what to do next, but are united in wanting to remain independent from the government. Earlier in the day, Kiselev said on TV-6 that the station plans to contest the Moscow Arbitration Court's decision that proceedings should be initiated and the verdict should be put into effect, Interfax reported on 21 January. VC

...WHILE GOVERNMENT MAINTAINS THERE ARE NO POLITICAL UNDERTONES...
On a 21 January interview with ORT, Media Minister Lesin said there is no connection between the TV-6 team's decision to back out of the deal and the appearance of the bailiffs. The following day, deputy chief of the presidential staff Aleksei Volin stressed that he does not see any political undertones in the halting of TV-6 broadcasts, and that there has been "no change in the situation with the freedom of speech in Russia," Interfax reported on 22 January. According to the bailiffs' orders, which were posted on the Ekho Moskvy website (http://www.echo.msk.ru), the Media Ministry must suspend TV-6's license until its owner, the Berezovsky-controlled MNVK, establishes a commission to liquidate the channel. The commission has six months to do so. A TV-6 shareholders meeting, scheduled for 14 January, was supposed to set up such a commission, but the meeting did not take place because of a boycott by Berezovsky, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 January. On 21 January, Lesin told ORT television that "several television companies" are considering ministry offers to "come on air on a temporary basis and ensure [continued] broadcasting on this frequency." During a press conference held at Interfax's head office on 22 January, Lesin said a tender for the frequency will be held on 27 March. Lesin also added that TV-6 journalists can bid along with other applicants and that he has no objection to TV-6 journalists being in charge of temporary broadcasting "if they can solve their administrative and financial problems," Ekho Moskvy reported on 22 January. VC

...AND EKHO MOSKVY OFFERS TO BROADCAST TV-6 NEWS
The directors of Ekho Moskvy have decided to rebroadcast TV-6 news at 3:00 and 11:00 pm, Ekho Moskvy website reported. It will also offer airtime to TV-6 anchormen Mikhail Osokin and Vladimir Kara-Murza until TV-6 is allowed to broadcast again. TV-6 has been taken off the air not only in Moscow, but also in 150 provincial cities. On 22 January, Ekho Moskvy reported from St. Petersburg that, instead of the usual TV-6 programs, one could see the "Swan Lake" ballet. At 7 a.m. in Moscow on 22 January, TV-6 began airing sports programs of NTV-Plus. VC

RUSSIA PROPOSES CENTRAL ASIAN GAS CARTEL...
Following three hours of talks with his visiting Turkmen counterpart Saparmurat Niyazov on 21 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that a gas cartel composed of Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan be created, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Putin's proposal, such a cartel could secure the balance between the supply and demand of natural gas supplies, and protect the interests of "Russia's and the Central Asian states' consumers." Putin said the four-country alliance would implement a "single export channel policy," the basis for which could be Gazprom's pipeline network in the region. Also discussed was the possibility of cooperation between Gazprom and Turkmenneftegaz in building a gas-export pipeline to China, vedomosti.ru reported. The two sides failed, however, to sign the long-term bilateral agreement on sales of Turkmen gas to Russia for which Niyazov had hoped, partly because the Turkmen side submitted its draft of that agreement only when Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited Ashgabat two weeks ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2002), and partly because Russia rejected as too high the price of $42 per thousand cubic meters that Ashgabat demanded. The two presidents also agreed that their respective foreign ministries should begin work on drafting a new bilateral agreement on friendship and cooperation, according to Interfax. LF/VY

...AND RIDES OIL INTO AFRICA
The Russian-Belarus company Slavneft headed by Mikhail Gurtseriev has signed a $126 million production-sharing agreement with Sudan for the exploration of oil deposits located in the center of that country, pravda.ru reported on 18 January. Although Sudan is on the United States' blacklist of states supporting terrorism, the loosening of economic sanctions against the country at the end of last year by the United Nations paved the way for Slavneft's entry. Sudan currently produces about 12 million tons of oil per year and Slavneft is banking on the lion's share of it. In addition, Slavneft has recently signed oil contracts with Angola and the Republic of the Congo. VY

COMMUNIST PARTY CONGRESS ON COLLISION COURSE WITH PUTIN
Speaking to the emergency congress of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) held on 19-20 January in Moscow, party leader Gennadii Zyuganov sharply criticized President Putin's policies as the "third stage of the betrayal of Russia's interests following the presidential terms of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin," Russian media reported on 20 and 21 January. Despite the reception of a warm letter from Putin to the congress in which he called KPRF "a creative and constructive political association that united a considerable part of society," Zyuganov said Putin's regime is neglecting "Russia's geopolitical heritage," and therefore "cannot exist for too long." Eventually, the closed-door congress decided that the KPRF is in 'irreconcilable opposition' to the Russian president. The KPRF did not have to wait long for Putin's reaction: on 21 January, Kremlin guards did not allow KPRF leaders to visit Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin's tomb, saying that "Monday is a nonworking day at the Lenin memorial obligatory for everyone." VY

PUTIN TELLS FSB IT MUST BETTER PROTECT STATE SECRETS, ECONOMY
Speaking on 18 January to the Collegium of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the agency's top administrative organ, President Putin said he is satisfied with the work of the Russian intelligence community in the past year, but that it must improve its ability to react to new threats to national security, RIA-Novosti reported. In particular, he said the FSB should concentrate its activities "on the protection of scientific-technological secrets, the military-industrial complex, and problems of drug trafficking and illegal immigration." He noted that the routes for illegal immigration coincide with those of drug trafficking and illegal financial flows. According to Putin, nonresidents of the Russian Federation receive up to 45 percent of the country's annual cash turnover of foreign currency through national credit institutions and siphon those funds into shadow or criminal businesses. He added that last year the FSB exposed about 100 officials who helped criminal entities put energy, metallurgical, and raw material sectors under their control. VY

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE INDICTS TOP SIBUR OFFICIALS...
Leonid Troshin, the head of the Prosecutor-General's Office's Department for Information and Public Relations, announced on 19 January that his agency has arrested and officially indicted Yakov Goldovskii, the president of petrochemical company Sibur, and his deputy Yevgenii Koshits for misusing funds from Sibur parent company Gazprom for illegal financial operations, ORT reported. Troshin added that Vyacheslav Sheremet, Sibur's board chairman and Gazprom vice president, has been released from custody but remains under investigation. VY

...AS RUSSIAN BUSINESS DENOUNCES METHODS OF INVESTIGATING ECONOMIC CRIMES
On 21 January, Arkadii Volskii, the president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, wrote a letter to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov saying that the Russian business community is worried by the way law enforcement agencies are investing economic crimes, Interfax reported. In particular, Volskii stressed that Sibur's managers who are being held in custody pose not threat to the public and will not attempt to flee the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2002). "With a few more arrests of this kind we can forget about the successes achieved in the past two years in improving the investment climate, while Russian business, due to foreign competitors' 'advertising,' will finally acquire a criminal reputation," Interfax quoted Volskii's letter as saying. The bureau of the union's board requested that senior officials of the Prosecutor-General's Office meet with business people to discuss the most pressing issues in relations between companies and law enforcement agencies, and added that it is "ready to post bail for Goldovskii and Koshits if the prosecutors release them before court hearings begin," Interfax reported. VC

PUTIN TELLS RUSSIAN ATHLETICS TO SHAPE UP
President Putin said on 18 January that the status of sport and athletes in Russia is in a miserable condition and that its further deterioration could undermine the "health of the nation," RIA-Novosti reported. Putin revealed that only 10 percent of the Russian population is actively involved in athletics, and the country's infrastructure for developing athletes is in decay. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many athletic training schools were closed and many stadiums serve Russia today as markets, Putin complained. He said that if Russia intends to remain an athletic powerhouse, it should concentrate its efforts on rebuilding its Olympic training programs. VY

DUMA CORRUPTION COMMISSION INSISTS ON FURTHER INVESTIGATION OF TOP OFFICIALS
The Duma Anti-Corruption Commission has announced that it will demand an explanation from the Prosecutor-General's Office concerning the termination of the criminal investigations of several former top Russian officials, RIA-Novosti reported on 21 January. Specifically, the commission is seeking the resumption of the investigations of Transport Minister Sergei Frank, Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, and former Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov. The commission stressed that the materials it handed over to the Prosecutor-General's Office pertaining to those individuals so clearly indicated their guilt in massive corruption that the only remaining job for the office is to decide upon the appropriate provision within the Criminal Code for their prosecution. VY

BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER IN RUSSIA
Bulgarian Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Nikolai Vasiliev told ITAR-TASS on 21 January following talks with Russian officials that his country hopes to attract $1 billion in Russian investments over the next few years. Vasiliev said Bulgaria sees Russia as "an immense market and a considerable source of investment whose potential has not yet been fully captured." He said Sofia wants to attract Russian investors in the ongoing privatization process "of practically the entire energy sector in Bulgaria." Among the topics Vasiliev discussed with Gazprom officials was the stalled project of building an oil pipeline from Burgas to Alexandropolis in Greece. He said Bulgaria has "the political will" to implement the project and that Sofia wants Gazprom to step up both deliveries to the Bulgarian market and the transit of gas via Bulgarian territory to other countries, such as Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia. MS

RUSSIAN MILITARY DISAGREES WITH WASHINGTON'S STANCE ON NUCLEAR CUTS
The first deputy of the Russian General Staff, General Yurii Baluevskii, said that Russia partly formulates its attitudes in response to the U.S. position on the reduction of its strategic nuclear arsenal, Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 January. Thus, Moscow and Washington have agreed on the principle of the equal security of the two sides, transparency of nuclear policies, and linkage between the reduction of strategic offensive weapons and national missile defense shields. However, Moscow disagrees with U.S. plans to store some of its dismantled warheads, and continues to insist on the "irreversibility of strategic nuclear cuts." VY

FORMER DUMA DEPUTY DETAINED FOLLOWING EXPLOSION IN DAGHESTAN
Nadir Khachilaev, who formerly represented Daghestan in the Russian State Duma, and nine other suspects were taken into custody on 19 January, one day after seven Russian servicemen were killed when a remote controlled bomb destroyed their truck in Makhachkala, Russian agencies reported. Weapons were found during a search of Khachilaev's palatial home in Makhachkala, but the local branch of the FSB said it has no questions to put to him in connection with the bombing. LF

UNHCR, PACE URGE RESUMPTION OF TALKS WITH MASKHADOV
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers told a press conference in Moscow on 18 January following his tour of displaced persons' camps in Chechnya and Ingushetia that he believes the Russian leadership should resume talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, whom he described as "an acting politician," on terms for ending the war in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He suggested that other persons in Chechnya with the influence to expel foreign mercenaries and end the fighting should also participate in such talks. Commenting later that day on Lubbers' statement, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that contacts with Maskhadov could be resumed provided that the latter agrees to the terms stipulated by Russian President Putin in September. On 21 January, the newly elected chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Peter Schieder, said that Akhmed Zakaev, who represented Maskhadov in talks last November with Russian presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev, has been invited to the current PACE session, Interfax reported. LF

RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS VERDICT IN APARTMENT BUILDING BOMBING
The Supreme Court has upheld the verdicts handed down on 19 March 2001 by Daghestan's Supreme Court on six men found guilty of the bombing of an apartment building in Buinaksk in September 1999 in which 58 people were killed and some 150 injured, Interfax reported on 21 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1999, and 20 March 2001). Two of the six defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, two to nine years imprisonment, and the remaining two were amnestied and released. LF

WITNESS IN ARMENIAN CAFE DEATH THREATENED
Andranik Poghosian said on 21 January at the trial of Aghamal Harutiunian, a member of President Robert Kocharian's bodyguard accused of the manslaughter of Poghosian's brother Poghos, that he received a telephone threat three days earlier, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. Harutiunian told the court the same day that the fall that caused Poghosian's death resulted from a "gentle shove" he gave him that caused him to lose his balance on the slippery floor, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

FRENCH PRESIDENT TELLS ARMENIAN COUNTERPART HE HOPES FOR KARABAKH SETTLEMENT
In a message sent to President Kocharian on the occasion of the arrival in Yerevan of France's new ambassador, Henri Cuny, President Jacques Chirac said he hopes 2002 will prove to be a year of dialogue in the South Caucasus that will culminate in the signing of a Karabakh peace accord based on the principles agreed on in Paris in March 2001 between Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Azerbaijani officials have subsequently denied the existence of any such principles. LF

NATO OFFICIALS VISIT AZERBAIJAN
NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Rafael Estrella and General Secretary Simon Lunn met in Baku on 17-18 January with Azerbaijani President Aliev, Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev, Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev, and parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov to discuss the prospects for expanding Azerbaijan's cooperation with NATO and for its acceptance into associate membership of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Turan reported. Estrella stressed the alliance's interest in promoting stability in the South Caucasus. The two officials also met with Ali Kerimli, the head of the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, who advocated the signing of a special cooperation agreement between NATO and the GUUAM member states, Turan reported on 17 January. LF

WILL GEORGIAN TROOPS PULL OUT OF KODORI?
During the 17 January meeting in western Georgia between Georgian, Abkhaz, UN, and Russian military representatives, an agreement was reportedly signed under which Tbilisi undertook to withdraw the 350 troops it deployed last fall in the Kodori Gorge. The Abkhaz and UN special envoy, Dieter Boden, had insisted on the withdrawal, terming the Georgian troops' presence a violation of the May 1994 cease-fire agreement (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 2, 10 January 2002). Caucasus Press quoted Boden on 21 January as saying that the Georgian pullout will begin early next month. But Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said during his weekly radio broadcast the same day that the Georgian troops must remain in Kodori to protect the local Georgian population. The Georgian parliament on 18 January denounced the agreement, as did the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili. But Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze explained to Caucasus Press that the local population's safety will be guaranteed by joint patrols of the district by UN observers and CIS peacekeepers, which will begin on 1 February. Kakabadze said the 17 January agreement will facilitate the resumption of talks between Abkhazia and Georgia. LF

GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS, DISPLACED PERSONS DEMAND REDEPLOYMENT OF CIS PEACEKEEPERS
Some 100 Georgian guerrillas and displaced persons who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and now live in temporary accommodation in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi blocked the border bridge across the Inguri River (which separates Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia) on 19 January to demand that the CIS peacekeepers deployed along that border since 1994 be moved to the Galidzga River, which marks the northern boundary of Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian parliament voted on 11 October to demand that the peacekeepers leave Georgia after their mandate expired on 31 December, but senior Georgian officials argue that as no other international organization can provide a substitute force, the CIS contingent should be redeployed along the Galidzga River (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 2, 10 January 2002). LF

NEW KAZAKH OPPOSITION MOVEMENT HOLDS MASS MEETING
The newly created opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK) convened a meeting in Almaty on 20 January that its organizers said two days earlier would include 30-40 delegates from each of the country's 14 oblasts, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Speakers called for expanding the powers of the parliament, reforming the judiciary, and holding elections for the oblast and regional administrators' posts, according to ITAR-TASS. President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev were invited to attend but failed to do so. LF

KAZAKHSTAN DENIES AGREEING TO DEPLOYMENT OF U.S. TROOPS
Kazakhstan has not signed any agreement with the U.S. giving the green light for the deployment of U.S. troops on the territory of Kazakhstan, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on 18 January, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and Russian agencies reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilyas Qozybaev told RFE/RL that Washington has not officially requested permission to do so. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Astana last month following talks with President Nazarbaev and Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov that the Kazakh leaders had offered to make the country's military bases and airspace available to the U.S.-led antiterrorist coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 2001). LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN...
Leading members of Kyrgyzstan's Ata-Meken, Erkindik, Asaba, Communist, and Ar-Namys parties convened a press conference in Bishkek on 21 January at which they demanded that President Askar Akaev resign, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. They accused the Kyrgyz authorities of targeting opposition figures under the pretext of waging a war against terrorism, of reversing earlier democratic transformations, and of ignoring the nationwide protests over the arrest earlier this month of parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov. Some 270 people are currently on hunger strike to demand Beknazarov's release. Also on 21 January, an unnamed official at the Prosecutor-General's Office told RFE/RL that Beknazarov will not be released pending his trial, as there is documentary evidence that he has tried to thwart the investigation into his case. LF

...AS OPPOSITION NEWSPAPERS COME UNDER PRESSURE
The state-run Uchkun publishing house refused to print the 19 January edition of the independent newspaper "Moya stolitsa-novosti" on the grounds that the paper has not yet renewed its annual contract with Uchkun, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The paper's editor, Aleksandr Kim, pointed out to RFE/RL that Uchkun nonetheless continues to publish other newspapers that have likewise not yet renewed their contracts with it. On the morning of 19 January, a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of the editorial office of the independent newspaper "Aghym," causing major damage. A local police official dismissed the attack on 21 January as an act of hooliganism that was not politically motivated. LF

KYRGYZSTAN GIVES GO-AHEAD FOR FRENCH TROOP DEPLOYMENT
A French military delegation headed by armed forces commander General Jean-Pierre Kelche arrived in Bishkek on 19 January and met the same day with President Akaev and Defense Minister Esen Topoev, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kelche told journalists after those talks that France may deploy immediately at the Manas airport near Bishkek six Mirage-2000 fighters, two refueling aircraft, and 2,000 men. Akaev agreed that the deployment should take effect immediately without waiting for the Kyrgyz parliament to ratify the relevant agreement reached last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2002). Kelche stressed that the French presence will last "only as long as is necessary" to "successfully complete the military operation in Afghanistan." On 21 January, the AKI Press Agency reported that the aircraft and the first 500 French troops will arrive in Kyrgyzstan "soon." LF

KYRGYZ INTERIOR MINISTER, SECURITY SERVICE HEAD DISMISSED
President Akaev dismissed Interior Minister Colonel General Tashtemir Aitbaev on 18 January for "serious shortcomings in his work," and named Finance Minister Temirbek Akmataliev to replace him, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The same day, Akaev also dismissed Bolot Djanuzakov from his post as chairman of the National Security Service in connection with his transfer to another, unspecified position. Djanuzakov's deputy, Kalyk Imankulov, was promoted to take his place. Also on 18 January, Akaev chaired a session of the country's Defense Council at which Defense Minister Topoev outlined priorities for 2002. LF

EU TO RESUME AID TO TAJIKISTAN
An EU delegation headed by Ambassador Alan Waddams held talks in Dushanbe on 17 January with senior Tajik officials on resources to be allocated to Tajikistan within the framework of the TACIS program, Asia Plus-Blitz and ITAR-TASS reported. TACIS suspended its programs in Tajikistan following the murder in November 1997 of one of its employees there. In acknowledgement of the enhanced importance of the Central Asian states in the light of developments in Afghanistan, TACIS has allocated an additional 50 million euros ($56.7 million) in funding for those countries, Waddams said. The EU will first unfreeze a 4 million euro loan to Tajikistan for the purchase of food. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT ASSURES FRENCH MILITARY OF SUPPORT...
President Imomali Rakhmonov assured visiting French armed forces commander Kelche on 20 January that Dushanbe will try to provide the maximum support to France for carrying out its peacekeeping mission "within the framework of the efforts of the international antiterrorist coalition," Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Kelche told journalists after his talks with the Tajik president that they focused on concrete aspects of military cooperation. He said experts are studying the Aini military air base to determine its suitability. ITAR-TASS quoted Western diplomatic sources in Dushanbe as saying that France will not deploy Mirage aircraft in Tajikistan. LF

...SACKS MORE BORDER GUARD OFFICIALS
Rakhmonov on 18 January fired all six deputy chairmen of the Border Guard Committee, one week after replacing its chairman, Reuters and Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January 2002). Addressing a meeting of the committee, Rakhmonov blamed the sacked officials for tolerating "outrageous" cases of involvement of its personnel in drug trafficking, the unauthorized use of firearms, misappropriation of state property, and other crimes. He warned that the future careers of the seven sacked officials will depend on the findings of a review of their past service. LF

U.S. DELEGATION VISITS TURKMENISTAN...
Visiting Ashgabat on 17 January, a U.S. Senate delegation headed by Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle met with Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and National Security Council Chairman Mukhammed Nazarov, whom they thanked for Turkmenistan's cooperation in permitting the transport of international humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Interfax reported. LF

... STRESSES 'LONG-TERM INTERESTS' IN UZBEKISTAN
Daschle told a news conference in Tashkent on 18 January that "we believe that our country will recognize that our presence and relationship with the people of Uzbekistan and the countries in the region is not simply in the immediate term," Reuters reported. He said long-term relations "are critical to our success in the region." Daschle again thanked the Uzbek leadership for its cooperation in the antiterrorism campaign, but added that he is disappointed that "we have not seen as much progress" in the field of improving human rights as Washington had hoped for. Speaking on 21 January at the international conference in Tokyo on aid for reconstruction in Afghanistan, Uzbek special envoy to Afghanistan Sadyk Safaev dismissed as "rumors" reports of an agreement between Uzbekistan and the U.S. on the long-term deployment in Uzbekistan of U.S. troops, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

BELARUS, LIBYA SIGN COOPERATION ACCORDS
A Belarusian delegation led by Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou concluded its visit to Tripoli on 19 January, Belapan reported. A session of the Belarusian-Libyan commission on trade, economic, and scientific-technical cooperation yielded agreements on bilateral trade cooperation, lending, investment, science, and technology. Khvastou met with Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi; Libya's chief military commander, General Abu Bakr Yunis Jabir; and other officials. JM

BELARUSIAN TRANSPORT PROSECUTOR DISMISSED
Belarusian Prosecutor-General Viktor Sheyman has dismissed Mikalay Karalyuk from the post of transport prosecutor, Belarusian Television reported on 21 January. The dismissal was connected with the arrest in November of Belarusian Railways chief Viktar Rakhmanko on charges of abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2001). "Numerous instances of corruption, abuse of office, embezzlement of the housing stock, and purchases of fuel and lubricants at high prices have been detected. The total sum of damage inflicted on the state stands at tens of millions of dollars. The Transport Prosecutor's Office should have detected and thwarted them, which was not the case," Sheyman said of the dismissal. JM

SIX BELARUSIAN INDUSTRIAL GIANTS SLATED FOR PRIVATIZATION
Aleh Melnikau, an official from the Economy Ministry, said on 18 January that six subsidiaries of the Belarusian State Petrochemical Concern (Belneftekhim) will be transformed into joint-stock companies by 2003, Belapan reported. These are: the chemical fiber group Khimvolokno (factories in Mahleu and Svetlahorsk), the oil refinery Naftan and polymer factory Polimir (both located in Navapolatsk), the fertilizer factory Azot in Hrodna, and the tire factory Belshina in Babruysk. According to Melnikau, talks with potential investors are already under way. "Two options are being considered: making them stock companies first, and then selling the stocks to the investor on certain terms, or doing it all at once, i.e., the investor gets his stocks after contributing a certain amount of money or property into their registered capital," Melnikau said. JM

UKRAINIAN PARTIES, BLOCS LIST PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION CANDIDATES
The Ukrainian National Assembly approved a list of 86 candidates on 21 January who will seek parliamentary mandates in the countrywide multiseat constituency, Interfax reported. The previous day, election lists were approved by the Unity bloc of Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko, the Popular Movement of Ukraine bloc led by Bohdan Boyko and Heorhiy Filipchuk, and the Greens Party headed by Vitaliy Kononov. Last week, lists of candidates for the 31 March parliamentary ballot were approved by eight other blocs and parties (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 22 January 2002). JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER VOWS TO BREAK 'INFORMATION BLOCKADE'
Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the antipresidential Forum of National Salvation and the election bloc bearing her name, told journalists on 21 January that she is going "to break the information blockade around the opposition" by meeting voters in regions, Interfax reported. "The authorities do everything to prevent our bloc from electioneering, the only [way out is to hold] meetings with voters," she said. She added that printing houses in Kyiv have recently refused to print the "Vechirni Visti" and "Slovo Batkivshchyny" newspapers, which are backed by the National Salvation Forum. Tymoshenko made a written pledge last year not to leave Kyiv in connection with a corruption case conducted against her. In December, Tymoshenko filed a lawsuit questioning the legality of the procedure that stripped her of her parliamentary immunity. A Kyiv court has accepted her lawsuit and ruled that law enforcement bodies may not take any actions against her that would violate a deputy's immunity. According to Tymoshenko, the ruling also means that the Prosecutor-General's Office had no right to demand from her a written pledge to stay in Kyiv. JM

CANDIDATES FOR NEW ESTONIAN MINISTERS NAMED
The Center and Reform Parties have decided that the cabinet to be formed by their new coalition will have eight ministers from the Center Party and six from the Reform Party, including Prime Minister Siim Kallas. This will be one fewer than in the current cabinet, as they plan to unite the Economy Ministry with the Transport and Communications Ministry. The Center Party approved its candidates on 21 January, ETA reported. They are: Sven Mikser for defense minister, Ain Seppik for interior minister, Liina Tonisson for economy and transport and communications minister, Meelis Polda for finance minister, Jaanus Marrandi for agriculture minister, Siiri Oviir for social minister, Mailis Rand for education and science minister, and Eldar Efendiyev for ethnic affairs minister. The Reform Party will retain four current ministers: Culture Minister Signe Kivi, Environment Minister Heiki Kranich, Justice Minister Mart Rask, and Regional Affairs Minister Toivo Asmer, and also named Kristiina Ojuland as foreign minister. SG

LATVIA, UN SIGN AGREEMENT ON JUDICIAL SYSTEM SUPPORT
Justice Minister Ingrida Labucka, Supreme Court Chairman Andris Gulans, Constitutional Court Chairman Aivars Endzins, and UN permanent coordinator in Latvia Jan Sand Soerensen signed an agreement in Riga on 18 January for the project "Judicial System Support," BNS reported. The judges said that past cooperation with the UN was instrumental in training Latvian judges, improving their performance, and getting valuable assistance for further judicial reforms in the country. The project enabled judges to undergo training in foreign countries and the European Union court. Gulans expressed satisfaction that the project calls for further measures to raise public awareness of the role of courts, since members of the Latvian judiciary have found themselves to be "outcasts" because the public and other branches of power have failed to realize and appreciate the importance of their work. SG

LITHUANIA AND RUSSIA TO JOINTLY BUILD NEW BORDER BRIDGE
Following two days of talks in Vilnius, Russian Deputy Transport Minister Oleg Skvortsov and his Lithuanian counterpart Arijus Ramonas agreed on 18 January to conduct a cost-benefit study for building a new bridge across the Nemunas River from Panemune, Lithuania, to Sovetsk (Tilsit) in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, BNS reported. The current Queen Luiza Bridge there would serve only foot traffic following the construction of the new bridge. Ramonas estimated that the construction of the new bridge would probably cost Lithuania some $10 million of the total cost and would not be completed before 2007 or 2008. SG

POLISH TROOPS TO JOIN WAR AGAINST TERRORISM IN FEBRUARY
Polish troops earmarked for the U.S.-led war against terrorism focused on Afghanistan will be sent to the region in the second half of February, AP reported on 19 January, quoting Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski. Poland has readied a 275-strong contingent including military engineers and specialists in countering chemical and biological warfare. The contingent is expected to primarily play a support role, but also includes members of the elite GROM commando unit. Szmajdzinski said U.S. commanders are planning to deploy Polish chemical and biological warfare units in Kyrgyzstan. "A task is being prepared separately for our GROM company, but the character of the mission is secret," he added. JM

POLAND'S RULING PARTY WANTS LOCAL ELECTIONS IN JUNE
Prime Minister Leszek Miller said on 21 January that the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) wants local government elections to be held in mid-June, adding that the SLD will suggest this term to the parliament, PAP reported. "The SLD believes that rural community heads and city mayors should be chosen in a direct ballot," Miller noted. Summing up his government's first 100 days, Miller said the most important tasks to date have been the introduction of a national stability program and the resetting of Poland's positions in the EU talks. JM

ANTI-TEMELIN PETITION GETS 15 PERCENT SUPPORT IN AUSTRIA...
The Austrian Interior Ministry said on 21 January that 915,220 out of the country's 5.8 million eligible voters supported the nonbinding referendum petition launched by the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), Reuters reported. The petition called for vetoing the Czech Republic's admission to the EU unless Prague shuts down the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant. The petition's outcome means that the parliament will have to hold a debate on the issue, but does not affect the government's policies in any other way. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said there will be no parliamentary majority in favor of vetoing Czech EU accession. Former FPO leader Joerg Haider said the results of the petition are a "significant success," and that "the population must now be listened to." MS

...AGAINST BACKGROUND OF RENEWED ANIMOSITY PRODUCED BY ZEMAN STATEMENT...
Reuters said that "support for the petition is likely to have been boosted" by the latest comments of Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. In an interview with the Austrian magazine "Profil" on 21 January, Zeman said Haider is "a populist, pro-Nazi politician who does not understand anything, but speaks about everything," and added that "only a person who is uninformed -- to avoid the term idiot -- can support this petition," CTK reported. Austrian President Thomas Klestil, in a telephone conversation with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel, on 20 January expressed "indignation" over Zeman's remarks, which were reported before the publication of the magazine. But the Czech premier rejected Klestil's criticism, remarking sarcastically: "I really admire people who comment on an interview they have not fully read." Zeman's remarks in the "Profil" interview were criticized by Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus, who called them "extremely unfortunate" and warned that "such power politics lead nowhere." On 21 January, Klaus also protested against a statement made by Social Democratic Party leader Vladimir Spidla, who said on 19 January that the ODS leader is inspired by Haider in the electoral campaign for the 2002 parliamentary elections and, like the FPO politician, tries to introduce nationalist tones in the campaign. MS

...AND THE RESURGENT ARGUMENTS ON THE SUDETEN GERMANS
In the interview with "Profil," Zeman also said that the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia prior to World War II were Adolf Hitler's "fifth column," and that many of them "committed treason, a crime that under the then-valid legislation carried the death penalty even in times of peace. If they were expelled or transferred, this was a more moderate punishment than death." Edmund Stoiber, the recently designated rightist candidate for the post of German chancellor, on 21 January called Zeman's comments "absolutely unacceptable." And Michael Glos, the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CSU) parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, said the CSU regards the absolute majority of the Sudeten Germans as "victims of the Nazi regime, not its henchmen," and that "one cannot join the EU in such a spirit." The organization representing the expelled Germans also protested Zeman's statement. Erika Steinbach, the chairwoman of the Union of the Expelled, said Zeman continues to "excuse the racialist policies of Eduard Benes" and has "understood nothing about basic EU values." MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER DISCLOSES LOCATION OF FACILITY FOR TREATMENT OF BIOLOGICAL ATTACK VICTIMS
Defense Minster Jaroslav Tvrdik said on 18 January that the army's facility for protection against biological, bacteriological, and other weapons of mass destruction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002) is being built in Techotin, east Bohemia, CTK reported. Tvrdik said that the time for keeping the project "completely secret is over," and that information on it and its equipment will soon be provided to journalists. He said that the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. were an "important impulse" for launching the project, and that the facility will pose no threat to local residents. Finance Minster Jiri Rusnok said on 21 January that the army will finance the facility's construction from its own budget and the ministry will not provide additional resources. MS

DIFFERENCES IN CZECH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE STILL UNSOLVED
The Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) on 18 January rejected the solution proposed by the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) for settling its debt to the Ceska Pojistovna insurer and gave the ODA a two-day ultimatum to either merge with the Freedom Union-Democratic Union or be excluded from the joint lists of the Four Party Coalition in the 2002 elections for the Chamber of Deputies, CTK reported. The ODA rejected the ultimatum. Its chairman, Michael Zantovsky, told CTK his party's merger with the Freedom Union-Democratic Union "cannot be discussed with a pistol at our head." The ODA Political Council, which met later on 18 January, said it cannot agree to the party's "forced liquidation" and called a meeting of the ODA leadership for 27 January. The merger proposal was first made by the Freedom Union-Democratic Union. But Freedom Union-Democratic Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova said after meeting with KDU-CSL Chairman Cyril Svoboda on 21 January that she is "disenchanted" with the pressure being exerted by the KDU-CSL on the allied party and on her own party as well. Marvanova said the Four Party Coalition agreement cannot be violated, and that tensions in the alliance "clearly harm it." MS

CZECH NATIONAL BANK SLASHES INTEREST RATES AGAIN
The National Bank on 21 January slashed interest rates to a historic low of 3.5 percent, down one-quarter of a percentage point from the previous record low of 3.75 percent established in November, dpa reported. The bank also trimmed two other key rates by one-quarter of a percentage point each: the two-week repo rate was cut to 4.5 percent, and the Lombard rate was lowered to 5.5 percent. The bank's board of governors also announced plans to intervene in the foreign exchange market, although it did not release any details. In recent months Czech exporters have been hurt by the crown's strength against the euro and the dollar. MS

SCHMOGNEROVA REPLACED BY OWN PARTY AS SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER
Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova was replaced as finance minister by her own Party of Democratic Left (SDL) on 21 January, CTK and Reuters reported. Schmognerova's reforms and her austerity program won her much praise in the West, but the SDL's popularity, as well as that of the cabinet, has been dropping sharply. She refused to resign on 20 January, saying she expects to be sacked but has "nothing to regret." She was replaced by Frantisek Hajnovic, an economist working for the National Bank, who surprisingly culled more support in the SDL's Republican Council's secret ballot than Labor Minister Peter Magvasi, who is a close ally of SDL Chairman Pavel Konkos. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER WRITES TO VERHEUGEN ON STATUS LAW
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, in a letter to Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, wrote on 18 January that Slovakia expects "significant progress" to be made at a meeting on the Status Law scheduled in Budapest on 23 January between Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo and his Hungarian counterpart Zsolt Nemeth, TASR and CTK reported. Kukan wrote that Slovakia "appreciates the interest in the issue displayed by the EU and Verheugen," as well as the EU's position that the Status Law should respect the norms of international legislation. On 21 January, Robert Fico, the populist Smer (Direction) Party leader, said he finds it "unacceptable" that a party representing "foreign interests," as the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) allegedly does, should be a member of the ruling coalition. Fico said that Smer is ruling out cooperation with the SMK after the autumn 2002 general elections unless the SMK "distances itself" from defending "a foreign country's interests," and called on SMK Chairman Bela Bugar to "finally comment" on the Status Law and "stop hiding." In a surprising move, the local branches of the SMK and of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia issued a joint statement in Kosice on 18 January calling on political parties to stop using the Status Law as an issue for a "political campaign" that risks escalation into "civic hatred." The joint statement also criticized the government for "keeping silent" and for allowing parties that are members of the ruling coalition to participate in this campaign. MS

HUNGARIAN UNIONS RALLY BEHIND SOCIALIST LEADER
The opposition Socialist Party's (MSZP) candidate for prime minister, Peter Medgyessy, signed a cooperation agreement on 21 January with the leaders of 35 trade unions, Hungarian media reported. The deal was described as a bid to ensure social dialogue following the elections and the improvement of workers' living conditions. The three main goals of the agreement are to reach European standards of living, improve social dialogue, and create 300,000-400,000 jobs in the next parliamentary term. MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said that by restoring the institution of interest coordination, the MSZP wants to ensure that "workers do not feel like modern-day slaves." In other news, Medgyessy's election campaign plans were stolen from an automobile belonging to a member of his campaign staff. The stolen items included a file containing the team's campaign plans for the coming weeks, two computers, and a compilation on the businesses of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's father, entitled "Secrets of the Orban Mines." MSZ

TORGYAN LAUNCHES ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN WITH ATTACK ON FIDESZ
Independent Smallholders' Party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan returned to politics "in grand style" at the Budapest Convention Center on 19 January, saying: "In vain did left- and right-wing cosmopolitan liberals attack us, the Smallholders not only survived the series of attacks but emerged out of them as a stronger party," Hungarian media reported. He said that "the FIDESZ kids who are stationed provisionally in the right wing cannot not absorb the Smallholders into them. We Smallholders will challenge the policy of the FIDESZ robber leaders," Torgyan vowed. "From here I warn Viktor Orban that FIDESZ must apologize to the Smallholders Party for the foul and godless acts it has committed against the party. I have put the crown on Viktor Orban's head, but I will remove it if I deem it necessary," Torgyan concluded. Delegates attending his speech decided by voice vote that Torgyan will be the party's candidate for prime minister and head its national list. MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTREMIST LEADER KICKS OFF CAMPAIGN
The Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) can be the third force in Hungarian politics, party Chairman Istvan Csurka told the party's 10th national conference on 19 January, according to Hungarian media reports. He said he expects MIEP to win at least 13 percent of the vote in the April parliamentary elections, and "according to some secret surveys," the party could garner as much as 25 percent in Budapest. Csurka announced that his party is ready to support any right-wing candidate that has a better chance of winning in the second round of elections, on a reciprocal basis. He alleged that some people want to prove that MIEP is an extremist party by using "people sent by the Israeli and other secret services." The party's national list, headed by Csurka himself, includes Laszlo Grespik, the head of Budapest's Public Administration Office. Grespik said on 21 January that he wants to continue to work as a civil servant while campaigning for the MIEP "right up until the moment" when he wins a seat in parliament. He said he is not a member of the MIEP, but "in my love of the people this party is closest to me." Grespik has become well-known for refusing to approve the sale of Budapest apartments to foreigners, despite several court rulings that such action is unlawful. In other news, Calvinist pastor and MIEP parliamentary deputy Lorant Hegedus Jr. pleaded innocent on 18 January to charges of "incitement against a community" at the Central Prosecution Investigation Office. He was questioned regarding an article published last summer that appeared to call for the exclusion of Jews from public life. MSZ

UKRAINE WANTS STATUS LAW BENEFITS TO FALL INTO LINE WITH 'ROMANIAN MODEL'
Ukrainian officials have proposed that seasonal job opportunities in Hungary extended to all Romanian citizens be offered to all Ukrainian citizens as well, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 19 January. Citing reliable sources in Kyiv, the newspaper wrote that Ukrainian members of the Ukrainian-Hungarian intergovernmental joint committee made the proposal at the committee's last session. A compromise was reportedly agreed upon, under which Ukraine will request that all Sub-Carpathian inhabitants, rather than just ethnic Hungarians, be entitled to the job opportunities made available under Hungary's Status Law. Ukraine's Sub-Carpathian region has a population of 1.3 million, of whom some 160,000 are ethnic Hungarians. MSZ

GERMAN OFFICIAL TO HEAD UN CIVILIAN OFFICE IN KOSOVA
Mauritius's Ambassador to the UN Jagdish Koonjul, the current president of the Security Council, told that body in New York on 21 January that Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants Germany's Michael Steiner to head the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The controversial Steiner -- who is regarded as headstrong and arrogant as well as professionally competent -- will succeed Denmark's Hans Haekkerup, who quit his post in December (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 January 2002). Steiner's confirmation is expected shortly. PM

ALBANIANS AND SERBS WELCOME STEINER'S KOSOVA APPOINTMENT
Alush Gashi of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova said in Prishtina on 21 January that "we hope that he will respect the will of Kosova's citizens for freedom, independence, and democracy," AP reported. Gashi called Steiner's appointment "one of the most important posts Germany has had at the international level since World War II," Reuters noted. Rada Trajkovic, who heads the Serbian Povratak (Return) faction in the parliament, said: "This is a very good message at a time when we have had a kind of parliamentary blockade and there has been no No. 1 international authority here." Meanwhile, Gennadii Gatilov, Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, said in New York that there is no real security for Serbs in Kosova and called for tighter border controls. PM

KFOR ARRESTS KOSOVA PROTECTION CORPS OFFICIAL
German military police arrested an officer of the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK) in Prizren after the man and unspecified other TMK members clashed with the Germans, dpa reported on 19 January. No weapons were used in the altercation. KFOR searched TMK offices and the officer's restaurant for incriminating material regarding criminal and anti-KFOR activity. PM

THREE BADLY INJURED IN KOSOVA EXPLOSION
An official of the TMK and three members of his family were badly injured on 20 January when a booby-trap mine exploded at their home in Gjakova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported the next day. Their house was destroyed in the explosion. Idriz Balaj was a former officer in the Kosova Liberation Army. UN police are investigating but have not yet determined a motive for the assault. Representatives of the international community in Kosova criticized what they called an escalating level of violence. PM

MAYOR OF CROATIAN CAPITAL QUITS AFTER DRUNKEN HIT-AND-RUN
Milan Bandic resigned as mayor of Zagreb on 20 January following a request by his Social Democratic Party for him to step down, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2002). Pressure for him to quit came in the wake of a recent hit-and-run accident in which he was intoxicated and following which he attempted to flee police. His ouster has been widely greeted as a milestone in holding public officials accountable for their actions in the same way that ordinary Croats are. PM

CROATIAN LIBERAL CANDIDATES SQUARE OFF
Drazen Budisa, the former head of the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS), and Jozo Rados, who now heads the party, unveiled their respective programs in Zagreb on 20 January in a contest for the party chairmanship, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In an ironic twist, Rados, who is defense minister in the government, wants the HSLS to leave the governing coalition, while Budisa, who delights in the role of gadfly and refused a seat in the cabinet, wants the party to stay in the government. PM

CROATIA BACKS DOWN ON OVERLAND OIL SHIPMENTS
The Bosnian government said in a statement on 19 January that it welcomes an announcement made by Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan the previous day to lift a controversial ban on overland transport of oil and oil products across Croatian territory, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002). Racan announced that the ban will be lifted soon, adding, however, that unspecified "rigorous measures" will be implemented to prevent environmental damage and smuggling. On 21 January, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry announced in Ljubljana that the Croatian ambassador officially informed Slovenia that overland oil transport can begin. PM

BOSNIA RECOMMENDED FOR COUNCIL OF EUROPE
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted on 22 January in Strasbourg to admit Bosnia-Herzegovina as a member, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Committee of Ministers must ratify the measure later in 2002, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Bosnia is now obliged to bring its legislation and human rights practices into line with European standards. Speakers who addressed the legislature on Bosnia's behalf stressed that it has now come of age as a sovereign country and has a government committed to the idea of Bosnia as a single state. PM

NEW 'WANTED' POSTERS APPEAR IN BOSNIA
As part of a U.S.-sponsored campaign to "bring them to The Hague," wanted posters offering a $5 million reward for Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic appeared in Sarajevo over the weekend, Reuters reported on 20 January. A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said the posters will appear elsewhere in Bosnia soon but did not give specifics. PM

BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT FILES SUIT IN THE HAGUE AGAINST SERBS
The government of the Republika Srpska filed legal documents with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal against 12 Serbs suspected of crimes against civilians in the 1992-1995 conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Banja Luka on 19 January. This is the first time that the authorities of the Republika Srpska have filed such charges against Serbs. PM

SERBIAN POLICE ARREST FORMER BOSNIAN MINISTER
Radovan Knezevic, who heads the Serbian police's head office in the fight against organized crime, said in Belgrade on 19 January that police arrested former Bosnian Interior Minister Alija Delimustafic two days earlier, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Delimustafic was then charged with possessing false documents and suspicion of involvement in criminal activities. Bosnia previously issued two international arrest warrants against him through Interpol on charges of abuse of office and forging official documents. He was minister at the start of the 1992-1995 war and is believed to have been involved in arms smuggling before that, dpa reported. He was also co-owner of BH Bank. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT CRIME
Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 19 January that the authorities have not been sufficiently diligent in rooting out organized crime, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He stressed that internal security will be a top priority for the government in 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 2001). PM

FORMER MILOSEVIC AIDE PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE
Branko Kostic -- who was Montenegro's representative on the Yugoslav collective presidency during that country's dissolution from May 1991 to May 1992 -- said in Podgorica on 20 January that he is willing to go to The Hague to testify in the trial of his former ally, Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported. Kostic said in a telephone interview: "I will appear as a witness for either the defense or the prosecution," adding that he does not expect that the prosecution will ask him to testify. He stressed that he is qualified to discuss only the events that took place during his year in office. PM

MONTENEGRIN COURT SENTENCES THREE
On 21 January, the local court in Berane sentenced one individual to 1 1/2 years imprisonment and two others to one year each in jail for attacking police during altercations at a Yule log festival according to the Orthodox Julian calendar, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 16 January 2002). The season of Christmas and New Year according to the traditional calendar has become a time of deliberate political provocations in Montenegro -- much like rival marches in Northern Ireland. In related news, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Zabljak that EU security policy chief Javier Solana will hold talks with Serbian and Montenegrin leaders soon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2002). The meetings will take place "most likely" on 27 January in either Belgrade or Podgorica. PM

MACEDONIAN CRISIS BOARD CHAIRWOMAN QUITS, SLAMS PRIME MINISTER
Dosta Dimovska announced in Skopje on 18 January that she has resigned as deputy prime minister and head of the government's Crisis Committee, Reuters reported. She blamed Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski for ignoring her in dealing with security issues and speaking only to Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski. Dimovska stressed that Georgievski has not observed the terms of a Western-sponsored agreement for the return of police forces to formerly guerrilla-held areas. Dimovska belongs to Georgievski's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), but is politically closer to moderates such as President Boris Trajkovski than to hard-liners like Georgievski and Boskovski. Alain Le Roy, the EU's envoy to Macedonia, said in a statement: "She sincerely wanted a peaceful return in the crisis areas. Her work was always professional and carried out without provocation." PM

EU: MACEDONIAN PARTIES AGREE ON LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT BILL
EU special envoy Alain Le Roy said in Skopje on 22 January that "there has been an agreement finally between representatives of the four [main] parties on...the text on the law on local self-government," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7,10, and 28 December 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 7 December 2001). He did not give details but said the parliament will vote on the bill later in the week. Most ethnic Albanians regard more home rule as an essential component of the August 2001 reform package agreed in Ohrid. Many ethnic Macedonians fear that self-rule could easily turn into cantonization or even secession. PM

ROMANIAN DETENTIONS TRIGGER SCANDAL
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 19 January ordered the detention for 30 days of Ovidiu Cristian Iane and searched the house of Mugur Ciuvica, who was chief of staff to former President Emil Constantinescu and now heads a foundation led by the former head of state, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Interior Ministry officials, claiming they acted on information provided by undisclosed sources, said Iane distributed the e-mails that recently accused Prime Minister Adrian Nastase of corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January 2002), and that Iane has admitted that Ciuvica provided the information, which Iane distributed without knowing its contents. The Prosecutor-General's Office said the e-mails, which were distributed, among others, to foreign embassies and foreign news agencies, represented an act of "disseminating false information" that could harm Romania's image, an offense punishable by up to three years imprisonment. The order for Iane's arrest was later rescinded and lawyers representing Ciuvica said on 22 January that they will appeal the interdiction imposed on him not to leave Bucharest. Former President Constantinescu, in a letter to President Ion Iliescu, demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Ioan Rus and of Prosecutor-General Tanase Joita, and there were numerous other protests by political parties and the media. Nastase said on 20 January that the purpose of the so-called Armageddon II report was to undermine Romania's chances of joining NATO and the EU, and that "nobody will deal with a government that is [as claimed by the report] totally corrupt and nobody will invest in a country overrun by corruption." He also said he will give police a statement detailing his assets and copies of his tax declaration. MS

ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTY SEEKS TO BUILD POLITICAL CAPITAL ON THE SCANDAL
The Greater Romania Party demanded on 18 January that President Iliescu dismiss Nastase, set up a national unity cabinet, and order the investigation of the premier and of all those mentioned in the Armageddon II report, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

MERGER OF ROMANIAN POLITICAL PARTIES FINALIZED
On 19 January, the National Liberal Party and the Alliance for Romania finalized their merger, which was approved by delegates to a joint extraordinary congress by a large majority, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER URGES NATO MEMBERSHIP IN TALKS WITH SUPREME COMMANDER
Visiting Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe, General Joseph Ralston, was received on 22 January by President Iliescu, Romanian radio reported. On 21 January, Premier Nastase discussed with Ralston his government's efforts to boost "interoperability between the Romanian army and NATO," and emphasized that in a bid to bring Romania closer into line with NATO standards his cabinet has boosted its defense budget by one-third compared to 2001, AFP reported. Ralston told the premier that the 2002 Prague summit decision on the enlargement of the Atlantic alliance will depend on fulfilling both the political and the military criteria of NATO. MS

ROMANIA DENIES LINKS TO TERRORIST SHIP SEIZED BY ISRAEL
On 21 January, the Foreign Ministry denied any link to the ship seized on 3 January by Israel in the Red Sea, which was carrying 50 tons of weapons allegedly intended for the Palestinian Authority, AFP reported. The ministry said the ship was not registered at the Black Sea Constanta port, as Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has claimed, and that it is "surprised" by Arafat's explanations. Arafat said on 19 January that the ship used to import construction materials from Romania, and that she had also ferried between Constanta and the Israeli port of Ashdoth. MS

EBRD CHAIRMAN IN ROMANIA
Jean Lemierre, the chairman of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was received on 20 January by President Iliescu and Premier Nastase, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 21 January, Lemierre signed an agreement with Bank Transylvania on a $5 million credit aimed at boosting small and medium-sized businesses. In related news, a delegation of the International Monetary Fund began talks on 21 January with Romania officials aimed at checking the extent to which Romania fulfills the obligations it assumed under the standby agreement with the fund on a $383 million loan inked last year. MS

MOLDOVAN AUTHORITIES 'SUSPEND' PPCD
The Moldovan authorities on 22 January "suspended" the activity of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) for one month because it organized the ongoing protest demonstrations against compulsory Russian-language classes in schools, Romanian radio reported. Under the legislation, a suspended party cannot take part in elections and cannot organize protest meetings. PPCD Secretary-General Ion Neagu said the formation will appeal the decision in court. President Vladimir Voronin told a joint meeting of the government and the parliament on 19 January that the PPCD has involved itself in "inadmissible actions" by having "mobilized without authorization" parents and school students in the ongoing demonstrations, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Justice Minister Ioan Morei on 20 January called on the Chisinau mayoralty to take "immediate measures" to stop the protests. Meanwhile, the protests continued and some 46,000 people are reported to have signed the petition against the compulsory classes. Also on 20 January, Education Minister Ilie Vancea said he intends to resign if the dispute is not solved, because he cannot "oppose public opinion" that "favors optional, rather than compulsory Russian-language classes." MS

RUSSIAN DAILY CRITICIZES ROMANIA'S STAND ON MOLDOVAN PROTESTS
Under the headline "The Elder Brother Is Angry," the Russian daily "Izvestiya" on 20 January criticized the position displayed by Romanian Premier Nastase in the controversy on Russian-language classes, Romanian television reported. The daily said Romania is displaying "an imperialist position, but one that lacks an empire." It said Romania "patronizes" Moldova's citizens, considering them to be "little brothers who are not yet mature," and that "in Bucharest, governments changed but the position [toward Moldova] remains unchanged." "Izvestiya" also quoted an unidentified Russian diplomat "who nonetheless expresses Russia's official position" as saying, "We fail to comprehend why a decision that is in line with the interests of an important part of Moldova's population triggered such a vehement reaction in Romania. Does Bucharest perhaps believe that studying the language of Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy can be a hindrance to relations between states?" Meanwhile, demonstrations of solidarity with the Moldovan protesters continued in Romania. Among these manifestations, hundreds participated in a protest organized on 20 January by the National Liberal Party and the National Peasant Party, as well as by civic organizations, in front of Moldova's embassy in Bucharest. MS

TRANSDNIESTER AUTHORITIES PREVENT RUSSIAN ARMS EVACUATION
OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff said on 21 January that the separatist authorities prevented members of the OSCE mission from inspecting a train that was to leave the Transdniester the same day, Reuters reported. The train carried the fourth consignment of Russian armaments for evacuation, Reuters reported. On 22 January, the outgoing commander of the Russian contingent in the Transdniester, General Valerii Yevnevich, told AFP that the separatists did not allow the train to depart. He said separatist troops surrounded Russian arms warehouses and let neither Russian officers nor OSCE observers near them. Yevnevich said he would "not give in" to the separatists' demands to keep the weapons. Separatist spokesman Stefan Kitzak said the authorities resorted to their actions because Moscow has "not fulfilled its commitments," but did not elaborate. The separatist authorities had agreed to let Moscow remove the weapons in line with the OSCE November 1999 Istanbul summit decision in exchange for Russia's reduction of the Transdniester's gas debt by $100 million. MS

PARVANOV TAKES OATH AS BULGARIA'S NEW PRESIDENT...
Bulgaria's new president, Georgi Parvanov, was sworn in on 19 January in the presence of Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and Patriarch Maxim, international agencies reported. He takes over the office on 22 January. The former communist kissed the bible and promised to continue the policies of his predecessor. "I am convinced that during my term as president Bulgaria will become a member of NATO," Parvanov said, adding that both NATO and EU membership are among his country's "strategic objectives." Parvanov pledged to work to "catch up" with other EU candidates, and added that he hopes that when the EU enlargement begins in 2004, that organization will "adopt a wider political approach, taking into account Bulgaria's efforts for [promoting] security in the region and the losses it has suffered," notably those due to the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Parvanov also pledged to fight corruption and urged the parliament to join forces with the government in making criminals "go down on their knees before the law." MS

...AS STOYANOV WRAPS UP PRESIDENTIAL TERM
In a statement issued on 21 January, outgoing President Petar Stoyanov said that during his tenure Bulgaria has moved closer to joining the EU and NATO, but the country is still gripped by poverty and corruption, AP reported. Stoyanov said that he is "proud" that during the 1999 allied campaign against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in neighboring Yugoslavia he supported granting NATO the right to use Bulgarian airspace despite internal opposition. "I proved to be right then...and did not let Bulgaria thwart its chances to attain a strategic goal -- NATO membership." He added that "every big success that followed -- the beginning of accession talks with the EU, the lifting of EU visa requirements [for Bulgarians] -- was to a considerable extent the result of Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic solidarity." Summing up his failures, Stoyanov listed poverty, corruption, political infighting, and the lack of good prospects for young people. MS

NORWAY REJECTS BULGARIAN ASYLUM SEEKERS
A spokesman for Norway's Immigration Directorate said on 18 January that a new stream of Bulgarians arrived in Norway in recent weeks seeking asylum in the Scandinavian country and that all applications were rejected, AP reported. Frode Forfang said that "Bulgarians, in general, do not need to be protected in Norway," and that the authorities believe the renewed exodus was organized, with the applicants being falsely lured into buying organized bus-trip tickets in the hope of finding work in Norway. About 100 Bulgarians were quickly expelled by the Norwegian authorities as a signal to others that there is no hope of being allowed to stay in the country. It is not clear whether the bulk of the asylum seekers were Roma, as was the case last year. MS

RUSSIA GIVES UKRAINE A HELPING HAND IN ITS ELECTIONS


Preparations for the Ukrainian parliamentary elections on 31 March are being keenly followed not only in the West but also in Moscow. Russia is keen to capitalize upon its success over the past two years in reorientating Ukraine's multivector foreign policy eastward. The main threat to the consolidation of this eastward orientation and Russia's increasing influence in Ukraine is Viktor Yushchenko and his Our Ukraine bloc.

In Ukraine, as in other postcommunist states, support for the pursuit of reform, reviving national identity, and an orientation toward "Europe" are closely tied together. The West is seeking to support this package of policies by encouraging reform and free elections, as exemplified by U.S. training of 25,000 local election commissions and $200,000 in support for the regional media in Ukraine. In contrast, Russia's primary concern is to reassert its influence within Ukraine, regardless of who is in power in that country (as in Belarus).

During the last two years, Russophile oligarch clans and their media outlets in Ukraine have increasingly given credence to a "Brzezinski plan" conspiracy that was first aired by Russian sources close to President Vladimir Putin. The "Brzezinski plan" is supposedly an elaborate plan concocted by a group of U.S. policymakers to overthrow President Kuchma and replace him with Yushchenko in a "bloodless revolution." An analogy is drawn with the overthrow of Slobodan Milosovic in Serbia in October 2000. Yushchenko's alleged allies in this plot are the two wings of the radical anti-Kuchma opposition, Yuliya Tymoshenko, his former deputy prime minister, and Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz.

The "Brzezinski plan" was allegedly behind the "Kuchmagate" scandal that broke in November 2000, when incriminating tapes illicitly made in Kuchma's office were released, leading to Ukraine's largest opposition demonstrations. The "Brzezinski plan" therefore played a classic disinformation role in seeking to deflect attention from possible Russian involvement in the scandal (in cahoots with a Ukrainian oligarch group) by laying blame on the West. After Kuchma survived calls for his ouster in 2000-2001, the conspiracy was quietly forgotten, but it was again revived in November of last year by "Kievskiye Vedomosti," a newspaper owned by the Social Democratic Party (United) (SDPU-O).

Controversial Kremlin strategist and Putin imagemakers Gleb Pavlovskii and Merat Gelman, who are joint owners of the Fund for Effective Politics (FEP), have given the maximum publicity to the "Brzezinski plan" conspiracy. The FEP is seeking to continue other shadowy PR activities in the Ukrainian elections together with the SDPU-O. Its main target is, unsurprisingly, Yushchenko, who is the archenemy of SDPU-O leader Medvedchuk.

In a recent survey of attitudes to foreign policy by political parties undertaken by the Analytical Centers of Ukraine Network (http://www.intellect.org.ua), only the SDPU-O, apart from the Communists, supported Ukraine's membership of the Russia-Belarus Union. The SDPU-O also recently raised the question of changing the 1989 Law On Languages by adding Russian as a second "official language." This Russophile populism did not prevent the SDPU-O from including the "nationalist" and pro-NATO former President Leonid Kravchuk among its top five candidates for the elections.

The SDPU-O is also the main backer of the extreme nationalist, anti-Western, and pro-Kuchma Rukh for Unity (NRU-ye) splinter group led by Bohdan Boyko, which was suspiciously created only three days before the Kuchmagate scandal began. The NRU-ye and the Progressive Socialists play the role of "radical opposition" parties on the left and right controlled by the executive, in a similar manner to Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. The NRU-ye controls the Ternopil-based "Tryzub" paramilitaries led by Colonel Yevhen Fil who orchestrated the violence at the March 9, 2001 demonstration in order to discredit the anti-Kuchma opposition.

The SDPU-o has also duplicated some of the shadowy PR activities that the FEP earlier successfully used in Russia. This includes attempting to blacken Yushchenko's character, which unlike that of the majority of other politicians, remains beyond repute. The FEP has an agreement with the SDPU-O to provide "campaign advice," and 10 of its associates are working on this campaign. This has included creating a fake Yushchenko website (http://www.yuschenko.com), an action that the FEP also undertook in the 1999 Russian parliamentary elections against Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and then-Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov.

The FEP and its SDPU-O allies were very probably behind Ukraine's second taping scandal, that of Yushchenko and Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko in early January 2002. As Serhiy Sobolev, deputy head of the Reform and Order pro-Yushchenko party said, this latest scandal "is a fresh pointer to those who organized the tape scandal" in Kuchma's office. This is apparently because of the similarity in advanced technology used in both cases. Sobolev had in mind the suspicion -- first voiced by "RFE/RL Newsline" in December -- that the SDPU-O (with Russia) was behind the taping of Kuchma's office.

The latest tape was released by the newly organized civic group "For Trustworthiness in Politics," which is closely linked to the SDPU-O and the NRU-ye. It aimed to discredit Yushchenko by creating the impression that he conspired with Omelchenko to remove Medvedchuk as deputy speaker. The latest taping was condemned by the majority of political parties and Omelchenko has taken the matter to court. Omelchenko, whose son is a member of the Yushchenko bloc and is himself a strong opponent of the SDPU-O, also accused Pavlovskii and the FEP of underhand practice by "humiliating Ukrainian national dignity."

The Ukrainian elections are the scene of a fierce geopolitical competition over the future direction of Ukraine, and yet the choices open to Ukraine are only twofold. Either it can continue to muddle along and "rejoin Europe together with Russia," the preferred option of Kuchma and the oligarchs, which postpones integrating into Europe indefinitely and ties Ukraine's fate to Russia's. Or it can revitalize its reform and nation-building policies and integrate into Europe regardless of Russia, the option promoted by Yushchenko and his allies.

Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.

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