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Newsline - January 24, 2002


TV-6 CLOSURE DEEMED ILLEGAL...
Aleksei Samokhmalov, a media expert for the Council of Europe, told reporters in Moscow on 23 January that the closure of TV-6 was "illegal" because the "liquidation of a company should be undertaken over a period of six months by [the company's] proprietors themselves, not by a government minister or bailiffs," AFP reported. "Vremya novostei" reported the same day that Media Minister Mikhail Lesin signed the order discontinuing TV-6's broadcasts, and "The Moscow Times" reported that small protests were held on behalf of TV-6 in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. Meanwhile, it was announced that the tender for the station's broadcasting rights will be held on 27 March. TV-6 General Director Yevgenii Kiselev said he "does not cherish any illusions about the possible outcome of the tender. Most likely, some other participant will acquire the license." In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 24 January, First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said participants in the tender will need to put up at least $1 million. JAC

...WHILE MEDIA MINISTRY SLATED TO JUDGE RESULTS OF STATION'S TENDER...
Seslavinskii went on to explain that the Federal Tender Commission for TV and radio broadcasting rights (FKK) will examine the results of the TV-6 tender. According to Seslavinskii, there are nine permanent members of the commission. These include Media Minister Lesin, Seslavinskii himself, Deputy Media Minister Andrei Romanchenko, Media Ministry technical department head Sergei Nikanorov, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, TV journalist Vladimir Pozner, Internews Director Manana Aslamazian, NII Radio journalist Mark Krivosheev, and TV-6 director of sociological research Vsevolod Vilchik. Seslavinskii added that although regional representatives are usually included in a tender commission when the tender concerns a particular region, there are too many regional interests potentially involved in TV-6's case to include them all, so there will be no regional representation involved. Seslavinskii reported that "unfortunately" a law establishing how such a tender commission should be formed has not yet been adopted. The commission, therefore, will operate according to a Media Ministry order. JAC

...WHICH COULD BE SOLD AS A WHOLE OR IN PARTS
On 24 January, Media Ministry press spokesman Yurii Akinshin said TV-6's network frequencies could be sold off as a whole or in parts, Interfax reported, quoting an interview Akinshin gave to "Gazeta." "We have not decided what to offer at the tender, either the Moscow frequency and the national network, or a set of frequencies in parts," Akinshin said. TV-6 held broadcasting licenses for Moscow and throughout Russia. VC

NEWSPAPER SAYS PRESIDENT LOSING FACE WITH POPULACE...
By giving his subtle consent to the closure of TV-6, President Vladimir Putin lost not only in the eyes of Russian democrats, but to a much wider audience -- millions of the country's television viewers, "Komsomolskaya pravda" commented on 23 January. The daily said those viewers now understand that Putin, who is at odds with embattled magnate and majority TV-6 shareholder Boris Berezovsky, is willing to sacrifice the interests of millions of Russian citizens in order to satisfy his own political ambitions. In addition, the paper opined, Putin has lost face in the eyes of world public opinion, which will now be more inclined to believe claims by the president's critics that his regime is slowly moving toward authoritarianism. While many had been reluctant to believe such claims before, Putin's latest actions have bolstered his opponents' arguments, the daily said. VY

...AS WELL AS WITH U.S. GOVERNMENT AND WESTERN INVESTORS
The commentary continued by questioning whether the TV-6 affair is also hampering relations between Russia and the United States, whose officials have repeatedly expressed their concern over the fate of the free media in Russia. By blatantly ignoring U.S. opinion, the paper said, Moscow is placing its newfound partnership with the U.S. if not in crisis, then under serious testing. Finally, the arbitrary liquidation by the government of such a big commercial company will alarm potential Western investors and fortify the position of those who say that conducting business in Russia is far too risky. As for Berezovsky's role in the affair, "Komsomolskaya pravda" said his image is also taking a beating, as he is acting like a typical Leninist guided by the principle "so much the worse, so much the better." VY

CIS DIRECTOR URGES PUTIN TO HALT MILITARY WITHDRAWAL FROM 'NEAR ABROAD'
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 23 January, Institute for the CIS Director Konstantin Zatulin argued that President Putin should publicly state that Russia is freezing the process of closing its bases in other CIS states due to the changed international situation, Caucasus Press reported. Zatulin expressed concern at the prospect of the U.S. concluding a 25-year agreement on leasing military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and of NATO receiving basing rights in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. LF

DUMA SHOWS SOME OF ITS OLD MOXIE...
State Duma deputies approved a bill on nationalization in its first reading on 23 January, despite opposition to the version from the government and presidential administration, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill sponsored by Adrian Puzanovskii (People's Deputy) polled some 239 votes -- just 13 more than necessary. Under the bill, property owners are entitled in the event of nationalization to receive "quick, effective, and adequate" compensation for the market value of its property as determined by an independent audit. Puzanovskii told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that even small enterprises could be nationalized under the legislation if they play an important role in a region's infrastructure. The Property Committee recommended that the Duma reject all versions of the bill, while the president and government suggested waiting until the government has finished preparing its version, which it plans to introduce to the Duma during the second quarter of 2002, polit.ru reported. The government's envoy to the Duma, Andrei Loginov, said that if the bill is passed on second and third reading, it will be rejected both by the Federation Council and the president. JAC

...AS DEPUTY LAMENTS DECLINE OF CHAMBER'S INDEPENDENCE
In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 23 January, independent deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov said he believes the Duma "should strive for greater political independence... Friendly work with the government and president is, of course, fine," he continued, but the "Duma is playing less of the role of representative organ, is thinking less about its electorate, and is demanding less of the executive organs of power." According to Ryzhkov, today the Duma is not even using those levers provided to it under the constitution, such as the Audit Chamber. JAC

ANOTHER VOICE FALLS SILENT
Well-known journalist and political observer Dmitrii Pinsker has died in Moscow, "Vedomosti" reported on 23 January. Pinsker was part of the exodus of staff from the weekly "Itogi" when that publication was taken over by Gazprom-Media. Most recently, he worked at the weekly "Yezhenedelnii Zhurnal," which was started by former "Itogi" Editor Sergei Parkomenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December 2001). Pinsker, 30, fell off a horse earlier in the week, and did not come out of the anesthesia he was administered following an operation on his arm, which he broke in the accident, "Vedomosti" reported. JAC

CUSTOMS COMMITTEE HEAD INVESTIGATED
The Prosecutor-General's Office has ordered the interrogation of State Customs Committee Chairman Mikhail Vanin following allegations that his agency violated procedures during its investigation of the Russian export company "Three Whales," "Vremya novostei" and RBK news agency reported on 22 January. Last fall, Vanin headed the investigation into the company, whose owner Sergei Zuev was accused of failing to pay customs duties in 2000 worth some $5 million. During the Customs Committee's investigation, it was revealed that the co-owner of "Three Whales," is Yevgenii Zaostrovtsev, the father of Federal Security Service General Yurii Zaostrovtsev, who heads the FSB's Economic Department and is a deputy to FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev. Vanin's findings also alleged that Patrushev himself may have been involved in the "furniture scandal," as he was in charge of the FSB's monitoring of the Customs Committee at the time. In response, working with the Prosecutor-General's Office, the FSB opened its own case against Vanin, "Vremya novostei" added. Meanwhile, in the same case the Prosecutor-General's Office interrogated Vanin's deputy, Boris Gutin, on 23 January, ntv.ru reported. VY

PRIME MINISTER SOUNDS ALARM ON GOVERNMENT CAR PRIVILEGES
Mikhail Kasyanov has signed a directive ordering the reduction of the number of government automobiles eligible for special emergency lights, sirens, and registration plates, RIA-Novosti reported on 23 January. In contrast to the past, when such privileges were granted to Russian VIPs without following definite criteria, the new regulation will provide such perks only to those functioning in the state hierarchy. Thus, only members of the federal government, heads of state military, security, and law enforcement agencies, leaders of parliament and parliamentary factions, presidential envoys, and governors will be allowed to install the equipment on their government automobiles. VY

MOSCOW SEEKS TREATMENT FOR JUVENILE DRUG ADDICTS ON ARBITRARY BASIS...
The Moscow Duma has initiated within the State Duma a proposed amendment to the federal law "On Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances" according to which juvenile drug addicts could be subject to medical treatment without their will or consent, RIA-Novosti reported on 23 January. Current legislation bans such imposition of treatment, but should the amendment be accepted, up to 1 million Russian teenagers could potentially be subject to treatment, "Moskovskaya pravda" reported on 23 January. VY

...AS ALCOHOLISM DECIMATES ADULTS
Almost 30 percent of men and 15 percent of women in Russia suffer from alcoholism, and consumption of alcohol tends to grow from year to year, utro.ru reported on 23 January. Official statistics reveal that Russia has lost 27 million of its citizens to alcoholism over the last 50 years, a figure equal to the casualties incurred by the Soviet Union in WW II, according to the website. In 1984 the Soviet Union was named the "most drunk country in Europe," with per capita alcohol consumption of 13.6 liters per year, and today that figure has risen to some 25 liters per person, utro.ru reported. Meanwhile, according to the calculations of academician Nikolai Gerasimenko of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, annual per capita alcohol consumption of countries' citizens should not exceed eight liters, as levels of more than that amount lead to the degradation of the state, the website reported. VY

MOTHERS IN PRISONS ARE PROMISED PARDON
President Putin approved the proposal by presidential adviser Anatolii Pristavkin Presidential Department for Pardons head Robert Tsivilyov on extending an amnesty to mothers regardless of their crimes or prison terms, Interfax reported on 24 January. The State Duma earlier adopted a resolution on amnestying some 10,000 minors and 14,000 women. However, women guilty of serious crimes or with a long criminal record were not eligible for the pardon, Interfax reported. VC

SOCIAL INJUSTICE IN RUSSIA LESS DANGEROUS THAN SOCIAL EXPLOSION
Writing in "Argumenty i fakty" on 23 January, former Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov said that despite more social injustice and widening disparity in the distribution of the nation's wealth, there is no threat of a social explosion in Russia similar to that experienced by Argentina over the last few months. Popov said the reasons for his conclusion lay in the ineptness of the opposition and weariness of a population exhausted after enduring numerous wars and repressions in the 20th century. But Communist Party of the Russian Federation leader Gennadii Zyuganov recently offered another view at his party's extraordinary congress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2002) when he said: "Our people do not need to explode their country from within, as has happened in other countries. How one can 'explode' a country that has thousands of nuclear warheads, worn and torn nuclear reactors, many big hydro-power stations with decaying equipment, and about 30,000 chemical enterprises making highly hazardous products?" VY

VERDICTS HANDED DOWN TO RUSSIAN MEMBERS OF JAPANESE EXTREMIST SECT
A Primorskii Krai court announced its verdicts on 23 January in the case of Russian followers of the Japanese extremist sect "Aum Senrike," who were accused of planning terrorist acts against Tokyo in an effort to free their Japanese comrades from custody there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001), Interfax reported. The leader of the Russian group, Dmitrii Siogachev, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment, member Boris Tupeiko to 6 1/2 years, and Dmitrii Voronov to four years. VY

NEW ALTAI HEAD NIXES POSSIBLE MERGER
Recently elected Altai Republic head Mikhail Lapshin has categorically denied the possibility of joining his republic with the neighboring Altai Krai, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 23 January. The possible merger has been actively discussed following the suggestion last year by Altai Krai legislature Chairman Aleksandr Nazarchuk that a referendum should be conducted on the question (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2001). JAC

IT WON'T BE OVER UNTIL THE FAT LADY SINGS
Composer and producer Vitalii Okorokov has written an opera entitled "Monica in the Kremlin," which borrows from the events in the life of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky but transfers the action to a Moscow setting. President Putin along with other officials are featured characters. Okorokov told a Saratov newspaper that he already has financial backing for the project, which will have a budget of $2-$2.5 million. Okorokov is the former manager of the all-girl pop group Kombinatsiya. JAC

ANOTHER EXPLOSION IN DAGHESTAN
A member of Daghestan's police force was injured late on 22 January by a booby-trap bomb, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported the following day. The attack is believed to be part of the long-standing power struggle between the republic's two largest ethnic groups, the Avars and Dargins, and to be aimed at undermining the position of Interior Minister Adilgirei Magomedtagirov, who is an Avar. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION FORMS 'CONSTITUTIONAL MOVEMENT'
Representatives of six Armenian opposition parties announced at a press conference in Yerevan on 23 January the formation of a joint "constitutional movement" whose objective is to use "all legitimate means" to force the Armenian authorities to put their proposed constitutional amendments to a nationwide referendum along with those proposed by an ad hoc commission created by President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian has already rejected that option (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 42, 20 December 2001). The opposition advocates transforming Armenia into a parliamentary republic, while Kocharian's proposed amendments preserve the presidency while curtailing the president's powers. LF

ARMENIA, RUSSIA SIGN ANNUAL AGREEMENT ON BORDER GUARDS
Visiting Yerevan on 22-23 January, Russian Federal Border Guard Service Director Colonel General Konstantin Totskii signed together with Armenian Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian an agreement on the funding for this year of the Russian border guards stationed along Armenia's frontiers with Iran and Turkey. Armenia will pay 57 percent of the total $6.2 million cost, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. At a separate meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Totskii expressed appreciation that the Armenian government paid its share of last year's costs in full and on time. Totskii and Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian traveled on 23 January to the northern Armenian town of Giumri to inspect the Russian posts on the nearby border with Turkey. LF

FORENSIC EXPERTS TESTIFY IN ARMENIAN CAFE DEATH TRIAL
Two forensic experts who examined the body of Poghos Poghosian told a Yerevan court on 23 January that he died of a blow to the back of the skull as a result of a fall, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But they also said that Poghosian suffered numerous other injuries to his face, body, and legs, which suggested that he had been beaten by several persons. Aghamal Harutiunian, a member of the presidential bodyguard, is facing charges of manslaughter in connection with Poghosian's death last September in a Yerevan cafe. Harutiunian has admitted to giving Poghosian a "gentle shove" that caused him to lose his balance and fall. He also testified that Poghosian was engaged in a scuffle with an unidentified group of young men immediately prior to that incident. Also on 23 January, 18 organizations representing the majority Armenian population of Poghosian's home region of Djavakheti in southern Georgia addressed a written appeal to President Kocharian to "contribute to establishing the truth" about Poghosian's death. They claimed that the investigation has "completely distorted the facts." LF

AZERBAIJAN, IRAN TO COOPERATE IN CRACKDOWN ON DRUG TRAFFICKING
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mussavi Lari and Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namig Abbasov signed an agreement in Baku on 22 January on cooperating in the fight against drug trafficking and exchanging information on border security, Russian agencies reported. On 23 January, Lari met with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who remarked on the recent improvement in bilateral relations. Aliev added that all issues related to his upcoming and much-postponed visit to Iran have been solved (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 3, 17 January 2002). Several bilateral agreements including an updated treaty of friendship, cooperation, and mutual security are to be signed during that visit, which Aliev said will mark "a new page" in relations between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

POLICE FAIL TO FORCIBLY INDUCT AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST
Police in Baku tried but failed on 23 January to apprehend Anar Neftaliev, a journalist with the newspaper "Milletin Sesi," in order to take him to the local registration point for enlistment into the armed forces, Turan reported. Neftaliev, who is 28, received his call-up papers in August 2001 but received a deferment as he is a graduate student. LF

UN OBSERVERS PROTEST GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS' PICKET
Caucasus Press on 23 January quoted a member of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia as formally protesting the ongoing picket at the bridge over the Inguri River that marks the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 January 2002). The acting commander of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the conflict zone, Major General Aleksandr Yefteev, has likewise complained to the local Georgian authorities that no measures have been taken to restrain persons who "pose a threat" to the peacekeeping force and the UN observers, according to ITAR-TASS. But Rusgen Gogokhia, who heads one of the Georgian guerrilla detachments operating in the conflict zone, denied that any attack on the Russian peacekeepers is planned, according to "Rezonansi" on 23 January, as quoted by Caucasus Press. Meanwhile, numerous Georgian political figures and organizations, including the former paramilitary group Mkhedrioni, Abkhaz parliament in exile Chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili, and the National Movement founded by former Justice Minister and parliament deputy Mikhail Saakashvili, have expressed their support for the picketers. LF

GEORGIA LOBBIES FOR AMENDMENT TO PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE ...
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told a government session on 23 January that Georgian officials are holding intensive and delicate talks with Russian and CIS authorities on amending the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force to redeploy it on the northern border of Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He said if no agreement is reached on doing so he will support the Georgian parliament's 11 October demand that the Russian peacekeepers be withdrawn. LF

...WHICH ABKHAZ PREMIER SAYS SUKHUM WILL NOT ACCEPT
In an interview with Apsnipress on 23 January that was summarized by Caucasus Press, Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia said the Abkhaz leadership will not endorse any amendment to the peacekeepers' mandate. He rejected the Georgian argument that one of the peacekeepers' functions is to provide security for Georgian displaced persons who return to Gali Raion, pointing out that the quadripartite agreement signed in Moscow in May 1994 by Georgian, Abkhaz, Russian, and UN representatives states only that the peacekeepers will promote the repatriation process. Djergenia further condemned Georgian officials' recent statements that Tbilisi may abjure all agreements it has signed with Abkhazia in recent years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002). Such threats, Djergenia remarked, are not conducive to furthering the confidence-building process undertaken by the UN. LF

PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES SOUND ALARM OVER CONDITIONS IN GEORGIAN PRISONS
A group of parliament deputies who undertook a study of conditions in Georgian prisons reported on their findings on 23 January, Caucasus Press reported. They described the overall situation as catastrophic, noting that at night prisons are lit by burning abandoned automobile tires. On 23 January, Caucasus Press reported that the number of fatalities in Georgian jails since the beginning of this year has risen to eight as the result of two deaths the previous day. Georgian human rights activist Giorgi Kervalishvili told a press conference in Tbilisi on 10 January that he believes riots in Georgian penitentiaries are imminent. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S COMMUNIST LEADER OPPOSES SENDING TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN
Communist Party of Kazakhstan Chairman Serikbolsyn Abdildin told the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament on 23 January that he is against the dispatch of Kazakh troops to serve as part of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Kazakh bureau reported. Agreement on sending a Kazakh contingent was reached during a visit to Kabul earlier this month by a Kazakh Foreign Ministry delegation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2002). LF

KYRGYZSTAN, U.S. SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Visiting Bishkek on 23 January, General Tommy Franks, who commands the U.S.-led antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan, signed a two-year agreement with Kyrgyz Defense Minister General Esen Topoev on bilateral military cooperation, including exchange visits and joint training, ITAR-TASS reported. Franks also met with President Askar Akaev, whom he thanked for Kyrgyzstan's cooperation in making its facilities available to international troops, and Abdygany Erkebaev, speaker of the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament. Franks told journalists after his meeting with Akaev that Washington has "no plans to build a permanent military base" in Central Asia as some Russian officials fear. LF

NEW KYRGYZ FINANCE MINISTER APPOINTED
President Akaev has named 38-year-old Bolot Abdildaev, the former Central Treasury director at the Finance Ministry, as finance minister, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 23 January. Abdildaev succeeds Temirbek Akmataliev, who was appointed interior minister last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). LF

FORMER KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FLEES ABROAD
Social-Democratic Party Co-Chairman Almaz Atambaev, who unsuccessfully challenged Akaev in the October 2000 presidential ballot, fled to Turkey on 12 January after police began investigating a planned attempt on his life, Atambaev's aide Grigorii Kuleshov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 23 January. LF

GERMANY, BRITAIN MAY REQUEST USE OF TAJIK AIR BASES...
German and British military experts met in Dushanbe on 23 January with Tajik armed forces Chief of General Staff Ramil Nadirov to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and expressed interest in securing formal permission to use Tajik airfields for the transit of their forces to Afghanistan and for maintenance of their aircraft, Western agencies reported. Defense Ministry official Zerobiddin Sirodjev said that the U.K. and Germany may be offered the use of the Ayni base 10 kilometers from Dushanbe on condition that they repair and modernize it. On 24 January, Asia Plus-Blitz quoted a Tajik air force officer as saying French experts who recently inspected the Ayni base concluded that it comes nowhere near meeting even minimal requirements. He noted that the runway has not been repaired since 1985. LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS TO REMAIN IN TAJIKISTAN
Speaking in Yerevan on 23 January (see above), Russian Federal Border Guard Service Director Colonel General Totskii affirmed that the Russian force currently deployed on Tajikistan's southern border with Afghanistan will remain there "at least for the next 10-15 years," Interfax reported. Totskii noted that the Tajik border guard force has neither the officer corps nor the funds to cope with that task on its own. President Imomali Rakhmonov recently fired the entire top command of the border guard force amid allegations of incompetence and corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 22 January 2002). LF

U.S. SLAMS PLANNED UZBEK REFERENDUM
The U.S. will not send observers to monitor the 27 January referendum in Uzbekistan, Reuters quoted U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher as telling journalists in Washington on 23 January. Voters will be asked to approve amendments to the Uzbek Constitution introducing a bicameral parliament and extending the presidential term from five to seven years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 2001 and 18 January 2002). Boucher noted that past elections in Uzbekistan "were neither free nor fair... We are concerned that holding a referendum on extending the term of an incumbent elected under such conditions will not be consistent with international standards." Interfax on 23 January cited the findings of a poll conducted by the Uzbek Public Opinion Research Center in which 77.7 percent of respondents said they would approve the first proposal and 96.2 percent the second. LF

BELARUS DENIES VISA TO FORMER HEAD OF OSCE MISSION
The Belarusian authorities have denied an entry visa to Hans Georg Wieck, the head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus from 1997-2001, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 23 January. Wieck planned to attend the first meeting of the Advisory Board of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies at the Minsk-based European Humanities University on 25-26 January. The center was established in 2000 and is funded by the EU and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. "The negative visa decision coincides with a number of other negative decisions of the authorities regarding the creation of favorable conditions for the improvement of the relationship of the country with European institutions," Wieck said. On 24 January, Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka said in commenting on the visa denial that "Ambassador Hans Georg Wieck has lost the Belarusian government's trust." JM

RFE/RL HOSTS DEBATE BETWEEN UKRAINE'S TYMOSHENKO, MEDVEDCHUK...
Former Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the election bloc bearing her name, and former parliamentary deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (United) election bloc, sparred in a discussion broadcast live by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on the evening of 23 January. The politicians touched upon their personal achievements in politics, the Land Code adopted last year, gas accords with Russia, and the record of Premier Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet, among other issues. Asked about her contribution to the well-being of the Ukrainian people, Tymoshenko said she managed to replenish the state budget with 10 billion hryvni ($1.88 billion according to the current exchange rate) when she served as a deputy prime minister responsible for fuel and energy issues in Yushchenko's cabinet. In his turn, Medvedchuk said he has served as a lawmaker for the past eight years and created legislation "that is changing Ukraine." JM

...WHO DISAGREE ON LAND CODE, YUSHCHENKO'S CABINET
Tymoshenko said it is necessary to immediately annul the Land Code adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in October. She argued that the provision allowing Ukrainian companies owned by foreign capital to purchase Ukrainian land may cause the restoration of "serfdom" in Ukraine. Tymoshenko said she supports private land ownership, but only to Ukrainian citizens and only after they are able to earn enough money for purchasing and cultivating land. Medvedchuk maintained that the Land Code suits the interests of the Ukrainian people, adding that its norms will help attract more investments in the country. The two politicians also differed on the assessment of the performance of Yushchenko's cabinet. Tymoshenko said the former prime minister's government allowed the people to feel for the first time in independent Ukraine that their life had improved, even if only a little. Medvedchuk criticized Yushchenko's cabinet for its inability to find consensus with the parliament. Tymoshenko retorted that the cabinet did not seek consensus with those lawmakers whom it was stripping of their "shadowy profits." JM

UKRAINIAN BECOMES YOUNGEST WORLD CHESS CHAMPION EVER
Ukrainian Ruslan Ponomaryov became the new world chess champion in Moscow on 23 January, having drawn the seventh game after 22 moves, and thus securing a 4.5:2.5 victory in his championship final match against his compatriot Vasyl Ivanchuk, ITAR-TASS reported. The 18-year-old Ponomaryov, who is a student at Kramatorsk University (eastern Ukraine), is the first Ukrainian to win this title and simultaneously became the youngest world champion in the 53-year history of world chess championships. JM

FUTURE OF ESTONIAN ENERGY DISCUSSED
Tallinn Technical University held an oil-shale energy forum on 23 January to discuss the future of Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy) and various ways of funding that entity's renovation, ETA reported. Estonian Energy board chairman Gunnar Okk said it is unlikely that the company will remain 100 percent state-owned, and recommended a merger with Latvia's state-owned energy company Latvenergo. Such a merger was discussed a few years ago, but was dropped after an agreement was signed with U.S. firm NRG Energy for the privatization of Narva Power Plants. However, that agreement was canceled at the end of 2001 when NRG failed to obtain needed loans. Hansapank Grupp board chairman Indrek Neivelt suggested that Estonian Energy does not need a strategic investor, as sufficient funding can be obtained through the issuing of bonds and selling up to 49 percent of the company's shares on the country's stock market. SG

NEW EC DELEGATION HEAD URGES LATVIA TO FOCUS ON STATE ADMINISTRATION AND COURTS
After meeting with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, the new head of the European Commission Delegation in Latvia, Andrew Rasbash, told reporters in Riga on 23 January that Latvia should focus on strengthening state administration skills and the judicial system, BNS reported. Rasbash, who was officially accredited by President Vaira Vike-Freiberga the previous day, praised Latvia for its great progress in moving toward EU membership, having completed 23 of the 31 negotiation chapters. He noted that unlike the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, Latvia has shown its great administrative abilities by meeting the requirements for obtaining SAPARD funding for its agricultural sector. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT CONCLUDES U.S. VISIT
Valdas Adamkus completed his extended visit to the United States by traveling from Chicago to Washington on 23 January for a meeting with Senator Richard D. Lugar, which focused on Lithuania's preparations for joining NATO, ELTA reported. He told the senator about his recent meeting with President George W. Bush (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002). Adamkus also delivered a lecture titled "Traditions and New Challenges -- Return of Lithuania to Nature" at the American Science Development Association, in which he noted that the Ignalina nuclear power plant meets all safety standards but will have to be closed with the financial aid of the EU. Adamkus departed later that day for an official two-day visit to Mexico, during which he will meet with his Mexican counterpart Vicente Fox and attend the signing by the two countries' foreign ministers of an agreement on cooperation in culture, education, arts, and athletics. SG

POLISH PREMIER SUMS UP GOVERNMENT'S FIRST 100 DAYS
Premier Leszek Miler in a brief television address on 23 January marked the first 100 days of his cabinet in office. Miller assured the country that the situation inherited after the previous government has now been stabilized, and added that his government will soon begin implementing its socioeconomic program that is to be approved next week. He said this program will be based on "three pillars" -- the improvement of public finances, the promotion of enterprise, and the creation of new jobs. JM

POLISH POLICE, HEALTH OFFICIAL CONFIRM SUSPICIONS OF TRADING IN CORPSES
Boguslaw Tyka, the head of the emergency medical service in Lodz, has confirmed the fact of trading in corpses as revealed by journalists of Radio Lodz and "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 23 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002), PAP reported. Reporters claimed that emergency service employees in the city frequently sold bodies of deceased patients to chosen undertakers and put pressure on patients' relatives to make funeral arrangements through them. Another charge concerned the alleged hastening of patient deaths by overdoses of the drug Pavulon, an antirespirant that is lethal in large doses. "Months of work by police has confirmed signs of unlawful and inhumane acts by emergency first aid workers and funeral parlors," Lodz police spokesman Jaroslaw Berger said the same day. "What is most surprising to me is that these things have supposedly been going on for 10 years without any response whatsoever. I find this almost too hard to believe," Premier Miller commented. JM

GERMAN OFFICIAL CRITICIZES CZECH PREMIER'S COMMENTS ON THE SUDETEN
German Deputy Foreign Minister Christoph Zoepel told the Bundestag on 23 January that the remarks made by Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman regarding Sudeten Germans earlier this week are "not only not constructive, but also unwise," international news agencies reported. However, Zoepel stopped short of demanding an official apology and stressed that Berlin does not want to "let the past burden present German-Czech relations." Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the German government "cannot accept the accusation or the thesis of collective guilt, and where there is no collective guilt, there can be no collective punishment." But Fischer added that he is unwilling to "place new hurdles for the EU," and that there must be no delay to Prague's admission into the union. Fischer said he is "looking forward" to visiting Prague next month for talks with his Czech counterpart Jan Kavan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). MS

OVER HALF OF CZECH MILITARY PILOTS NOT YET VETTED
Deputy air force commander Jiri Kubala told Prima television on 23 January that more than half of the members of the Czech air force have not yet been vetted and consequently are not allowed access to classified NATO data, CTK reported. Kubala said that in some cases vetting, which is carried out by the National Security Office, lasts as long as two to three years and this causes problems for members of the Czech squadron deployed within NATINADS, NATO's integrated system of air defense. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT TO TAKE OVER SEMTEX-PRODUCING COMPANY
The government decided on 23 January to take over the Explosia company, which produces the plastic explosive Semtex, in order to increase state control over the sensitive business in line with EU norms, CTK and Reuters reported. Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok told journalists that the government will pay 1 million crowns (some $27,350) for the company and will restructure its debt. Semtex, a plastic explosive, has been exported to communist Czechoslovakia's allies and to the Third World, and became popular with terrorist movements because it is difficult to detect. For several years Explosia has been producing Semtex containing metal traces in an effort to facilitate detection. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE POSTPONES SOLUTION TO ODA DEBT
During their meeting on 23 January, the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union postponed until after 27 January discussions on a solution to the Civic Democratic Alliance's (ODA) debt to the insurer Ceska Pojistovna, CTK reported. The ODA is to hold a party conference on 27 January and debate the matter at that time. Freedom Union-Democratic Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova said "some alternatives" were discussed, but added that a "compromise solution" must be found that is acceptable to all members of the Four Party Coalition. Christian Democratic Party Chairman Cyril Svoboda said after the meeting with Marvanova that their talks signaled a "positive shift." He said that "everyone wants to maintain the Four Party Coalition and everyone must sacrifice something." MS

SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER TO RESIGN NEXT WEEK
Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova said on 23 January that she will submit her resignation to President Rudolf Schuster on 28 January, international agencies reported. A spokesman for the president said Schuster will accept the resignation. Schmognerova told journalists she will resign because "I do not want to be the cause of a weaker ruling coalition." Her own Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) decided on 21 January to replace her, but Premier Mikulas Dzurinda refused to heed that decision, prompting the SDL to announce that it will "suspend" its participation in the coalition and consider withdrawing from it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 January 2002). MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES AMENDMENT TO BILL COMPENSATING NAZI VICTIMS
The government approved an amendment on 23 January to the 1999 law on the compensation of victims of the pro-Nazi regime in wartime Slovakia, CTK reported. The amendment was proposed by the Christian Democratic Movement and extends the right to claim compensation to those who were deported to concentration camps who were citizens of Hungary and deported from the territories of southern Slovakia after it was annexed by Hungary, as well as to people deported from the territory of the then-Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia -- currently the Czech Republic. The 1999 law limited compensation to those interned in and deported from the territory of wartime Slovakia. MS

HUNGARY, SLOVAKIA DISCUSS STATUS LAW
Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth and his visiting Slovak counterpart Jaroslav Chlebo told reporters in Budapest on 23 January that during their meeting they mainly dealt with "questions of principle" regarding Hungary's Status Law, but "no agreement was reached on details," Hungarian media reported. The officials said they hope to reach an agreement by late January, and prepare a draft text that could provide the basis for an intergovernmental political declaration. Chlebo said Slovakia does not question Hungary's right to support ethnic Hungarian minorities abroad. The real problem for Slovakia, he said, is to find mechanisms through which minority support can be implemented without others feeling that they are being discriminated against. "Bratislava is committed to finding constructive solutions within the framework of Slovak law," Chlebo said, hinting that Slovakia's main objection remains that the Hungarian law should have no force on Slovak territory, Hungarian and international media reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS STATUS LAW WON'T RESULT IN LOST JOBS
"No one in Hungary will lose their job because of foreigners, as the government has the tools to regulate the labor market," Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian radio on 23 January. Regarding disputes over the Status Law and the Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding, Orban said that "certain Hungarian political forces have burned their own negative stigma deep into the soul of millions of Hungarians across the borders." Opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said in response that his party only attacked the memorandum of understanding, which "changed the law behind parliament's back." In other news, trade unions and employers' groups on 23 January rejected the government's recent decision to allow up to 81,320 foreigners to work in Hungary this year. At a meeting of the National Labor Council the unions proposed that the quota be reduced to no more than 60,000, or 2 percent of the entire workforce, but the employers opposed setting any fixed number. MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTREMIST DECLARES WAR ON POLLSTERS
Istvan Csurka, the chairman of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), on 23 January accused the polling agency Szonda Ipsos of rigging its opinion polls in favor of the opposition Socialist Party. "After the elections Szonda Ipsos will have to cease its activities," Csurka told reporters. He said the polling agency is biased against the MIEP, as "they never give us more than 2 to 3 percent, whereas in all the by-elections [since the last general election in 1998] MIEP received at least 13 percent." In a poll published on 22 January Szonda Ipsos gave the Socialists a 6 percent lead over the FIDESZ-Hungarian Democratic Forum alliance and only 5 percent support for MIEP, Reuters reported. MSZ

VISEGRAD FOUR AGREE IN BUDAPEST TO UPGRADE SOVIET MILITARY EQUIPMENT
Defense ministers of the Visegrad Four -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia -- agreed in Budapest on 23 January to jointly upgrade the Soviet military equipment used by their armies, Hungarian media reported. The first step, the upgrade of MiG-24 helicopters, requires the approval of the respective governments. Hungarian Defense Minister Janos Szabo declined to give specific figures for the cost of that upgrade, saying only that "dozens of helicopters are involved" and the costs are "considerable." The four defense ministers also agreed to boost cooperation between their secret services in order to combat terrorism and advance NATO expansion. MSZ

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES VOJVODINA AUTONOMY BILL
The parliament voted on 23 January to restore Vojvodina's autonomy, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The vote was 119 to 74, with 42 abstentions reflecting the deep divisions over the issue, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002). Nenad Canak, the strong-willed leader who heads Vojvodina's autonomy drive, said: "The tight vote today illustrates that Serbia still has not gotten rid of its nationalists." Cedomir Jovanovic, a close ally of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, noted that tensions between rival members of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition tended to overshadow the issues involved in the debate on autonomy. Leaders from Pancevo and other local governments called for broader autonomy for their regions, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Many local and regional opposition leaders were instrumental in the overthrow of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. PM

SERBIAN COURT HALTS PYRAMID SCHEME INVESTIGATION
The Belgrade district court has called off its investigation of Dafina Milanovic, the head of the now-defunct Dafiment Bank, because it does not know where she is, "Vesti" reported on 24 January. Her lawyer said simply that she is abroad but is willing to testify if asked, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She is suspected of having stolen some $9 million from depositors in her bank, which was one of several pyramid-scheme institutions that operated in the early years of Milosevic's rule. Those banks are widely regarded as having been close to the regime and having had a hand in money laundering during the Croatian and Bosnian wars. PM

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW IDENTITY DOCUMENTS
On 23 January, the parliament approved the design of new internal identity documents, which will be written in both Croatian and English, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Upon request, members of ethnic minorities can obtain an identity card written in their own language as well, even if it uses a different alphabet than the Latin one. PM

SERBIA CONTINUES TO SEEK 'REGIONAL' ROLE...
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for southern Serbia and Kosova, met Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, and Defense Minister Vlado Popovski in Skopje on 23 January, dpa reported. Covic also discussed "regional affairs" with Alain Le Roy, who is the EU's envoy to Macedonia. Covic told reporters: "We talked about the situation in Macedonia, Kosovo, and southern Serbia. Those three points could not be separated." Since the overthrow of the Milosevic regime at the end of 2000, the Belgrade authorities have sought to win back a regional role for Serbia, which Milosevic squandered by waging and losing four wars. Kosova's Albanian majority wants nothing more to do with Serbia. Critics charge that the Belgrade government should concentrate its energies on dealing with poverty, crime, and corruption. PM

...AS COVIC OFFERS ADVICE
Speaking with reporters in Skopje on 23 January, Covic declined to say why Georgievski invited him to pay a one-day visit, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He noted simply that there are plans for the two countries' intelligence services and police forces to cooperate. Covic added that he advised Georgievski to implement the Ohrid agreement and pass a law on an amnesty. PM

U.S. HAILS PROGRESS IN MACEDONIA...
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington on 23 January that the U.S. welcomes the recent agreement between leading ethnic Albanian and ethnic Macedonian politicians on local self-government, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). "We expect the law to be submitted to the Macedonian parliament for approval this week, and we'd encourage its rapid passage. This would pave the way for a donors conference to facilitate Macedonia's economic and political recovery." PM

...DENIES SERBIAN REPORT ON KOSOVA
In a statement issued on 23 January, the U.S. office in Prishtina denied a report circulated by the Serbian Beta news agency that U.S. diplomats have succeeded in brokering a power-sharing agreement between leading Albanian politicians in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 15 January 2002). The statement added that "talks continue with all concerned parties. We continue to encourage the parties to reach an agreement that will lead to expeditious formation of a government." Observers note that Beta's coverage on matters pertaining to Kosova, Presevo, and Macedonia has often proven less than accurate. But Hajredin Kuci, who is an official of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), told reporters: "The talks are continuing with different proposals. I think we are going toward [a compromise agreement], which will make possible the formation of [government] institutions very soon," Reuters reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN POLL GIVES SLIGHT EDGE TO INDEPENDENCE
A recent poll by the Podgorica Center for Democracy and Human Rights and the Damar Agency suggests that 52 percent of Montenegrins would vote for independence in a referendum while 47 percent would vote against, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 23 January. Opponents of independence demand that more than a simple majority be required for the long-awaited proposal on independence to pass. PM

CROATIAN BROADCASTING CHIEF RE-ELECTED
The governing body for Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) voted in Zagreb on 23 January to re-elect Mirko Galic as director of HRT, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. His term will last four years. Galic said he hopes to complete the transformation of HRT from a state to a public broadcaster. Another of his priorities is to modernize the equipment of HRT. PM

CHARGES AGAINST CROATIAN FORMER KINGPIN
The Zagreb county court has filed charges against former Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak, who was a prominent figure in the era of late President Franjo Tudjman, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 23 January. Jarnjak is accused of financial irregularities in conjunction with the 1993 privatization of the Split daily "Slobodna Dalmacija," which was long known as a mouthpiece of Tudjman's party. PM

CROATIAN BISHOPS APPEAL ON REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT
The Roman Catholic Bishops Conference issued an appeal in Zagreb on 23 January to the government and parliament not to resettle refugees and displaced persons together in special settlements, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The bishops called on the authorities to help those individuals who cannot or will not return to their original homes to obtain new permanent homes on a legal basis. PM

KRAJINA REFUGEES TO VOTE IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
Deputy Prime Minister Petar Kunic said in Banja Luka on 23 January that Serbian refugees from Croatia who have obtained Bosnian citizenship will be able to vote in the next elections, which are slated for October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

EXPLOSIONS AT SPORTS CENTER IN HERZEGOVINA
Two explosive devices have caused nearly $7 million in damages at the new sports center in Siroki Brijeg, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 24 January. No one was injured. Police are investigating. PM

SLOVENIA AND BOSNIA NOT HAPPY WITH CROATIAN MOVES ON OIL SHIPMENTS
Rejecting recent Croatian concessions as insufficient, Slovenia has lodged a formal complaint with the WTO over Croatia's policies toward overland oil shipments, notably those from Slovenia to Bosnia, Hina reported from Ljubljana on 23 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). The WTO's Trade Council will discuss the matter on 11 February. The Slovenian government will consider taking unspecified further steps at its meeting on 24 January. On 23 January, the Bosnian Foreign Ministry sent a note to the Croatian Embassy in Sarajevo, saying that Bosnia wants Croatia to revoke its controversial restrictions completely. "Jutarnji list" wrote on 24 January that the Croatian government will require overland shipments to use "strictly determined corridors." PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CONDEMNS 'REGIONALISM'
In a speech in Iasi commemorating the unification of the Romanian principalities on 24 January 1859, President Ion Iliescu said on 23 January that it is "impossible not to condemn" the "regionalist ideas" whose aim, he said, is "to demolish the national unitary state forged by our forefathers," a local RFE/RL correspondent reported. Iliescu said Prince Michael the Brave, who first united the principalities in 1601, was physically liquidated by his enemies and "now, weapons that are more sophisticated are being employed against us." He said "regionalism" is being presented as an idea advancing European unity but that such unity, "whether a federal one or not, will be based on the [current] national states." MS

ROMANIAN ORGANIZATIONS CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT'S POLICIES TOWARD THE CSANGOS
In a joint report released on 23 January, the Association for the Defense of Human Rights-Helsinki Commission and the Pro-Europa League said the government is promoting a policy of assimilation of the Hungarian-speaking Csango minority in Moldavia and denies members of that minority the right to receive instruction in their native language and to attend church services conducted in Hungarian, Romanian television reported. Education Minister Ecaterina Andronescu called the report "unprofessional" and "biased," and said the Association of Hungarian Csangos in Moldova is not legally registered. MS

ROMANIAN EXTREMIST WANTS TURKISH BLUE MOSQUE RETURNED TO ORTHODOX FAITH
Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor on 23 January submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe a draft resolution demanding that the famous Santa Sofia Cathedral in Istanbul, which was turned into a mosque after the Turkish conquest in 1453, be returned to Orthodox Christian believers. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER SENDS 'PRIVATE LETTER' TO PPCD LEADER...
Adrian Nastase sent a letter on 23 January to Iurie Rosca, the leader of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase emphasized that he did not write the letter in his capacity as premier but "as a Romanian writing to another Romanian." He said he congratulates Rosca for his struggle in "defense of our forefathers' language," and that "while a man can be killed and his land can be stolen, one's consciousness of belonging to the same nation, language community, and creed, must never be allowed to disappear." President Iliescu, speaking in Iasi, said that while Romania cannot interfere in Moldova's internal affairs, his personal opinion is that the decision to introduce compulsory Russian-language classes in Moldova is "an infringement of democratic principles." Iliescu said Romania wants Moldova to "consolidate its statehood and develop along democratic principles" MS

...AS ROSCA DEMANDS THAT MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DISMISS JUSTICE MINISTER
PPCD leader Rosca told participants in the ongoing protest demonstrations in Chisinau that he has appealed to Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin to dismiss Justice Minister Ioan Morei, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Rosca said Morei is a suspect in the assassination in May 2001 of George Grumatchi, the leader of a local organization in Balti, who one day before being killed had accused Morei of dubious financial dealings. Rosca said Morei is "not a person who should be in charge of controlling legality in Moldova." He also said that the first trial of a group of participants in the protest demonstrations is scheduled for 24 January. PPCD Deputy Vlad Cubreacov told the rally that some 59,000 people have signed the petition against the introduction of compulsory Russian-language classes. Meanwhile, Morei said other political parties in Moldova could also be suspended if they join the protests. MS

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION SLAMS PREMIER OVER KOZLODUY STATEMENT
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and United Democratic Forces (ODS) harshly criticized Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski on 23 January for telling Greek Premier Costas Simitis the previous day that Bulgaria is likely to agree to closing down reactors No. 3 and No. 4 at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant by 2006, BTA reported. The BSP and the ODS said Saxecoburggotski does not have the necessary approval of the parliament to close down those two reactors in 2006, and that the declaration has harmed Bulgarian interests. The Civil Committee for the Protection of the Kozloduy Nuclear Plant demanded that the fate of the nuclear facility be decided in a referendum. MS

DENMARK SAYS BULGARIA'S EU ACCESSION COULD BE SEPARATE FROM ROMANIA'S
Claus Larsen-Jensen, the chairman of the Danish parliament's European Affairs Committee, told visiting Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi on 23 January that Bulgaria's bid to join the EU could be considered separately from that of Romania, BTA reported. Larsen-Jensen also said that the 10-plus-2 formula, under which the two Balkan countries were left out of the first wave of enlargement, "could be altered." Pasi also met in Copenhagen with Defense Minister Svend Aage to discuss joint military cooperation and the international antiterrorist campaign. On 22 January, Pasi met with his Danish counterpart Per Stig and with Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen, and was also received by Queen Margrethe II. MS

RUSSIA TO REPAY BULGARIAN DEBT WITH MILITARY SUPPLIES
Russia will pay its $100 million debt to Bulgaria through military supplies, nuclear fuel supplies, and in cash, BTA reported on 23 January, quoting Deputy Finance Minister Krassimir Katev. Katev, a member of the Bulgarian delegation that returned that day from a visit to Russia, told journalists that the sides agreed not to link the Russian debt to the issue of Bulgarian compensation to Moscow for formerly Soviet-owned property. He said the "diplomatic formula" agreed on stipulates that the two issues will be "settled on a parallel basis, as they lie within the competence of different ministries -- respectively the foreign and the finance ministries" in the two countries. MS

There is no End Note today.


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