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Newsline - January 28, 2002


TV-6 JOURNALISTS ASKED TO BOYCOTT TENDER...
Eduard Sagalaev, the chairman of the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters, told RTR on 27 January that he has received assurances from Media Minister Mikhail Lesin and All-Russia Television and Radio Broadcasting Company head Oleg Dobrodeev that the Russian government will not participate in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting license, ntvru.com reported. According to Sagalaev, TV-6 will remain a commercial rather than a state-run television channel. He added that a number of Western investors are ready to invest money in the Russian television market. Meanwhile, "Moskovskie novosti" Deputy Editor Lyudmila Telen told Ekho Moskvy radio on 25 January that the next issue of her publication will publish an appeal calling for TV-6 journalists to boycott the tender for the broadcasting rights. Telen said that "an unfair and unlawful action is being taken against the highly professional TV-6 team...and in this situation corporate solidarity should play a role." She added that it is unfortunate that Russia's journalists have not shown greater solidarity. JAC

...AS CHANNEL NOW OFFERS ALL SPORTS, ALL OF THE TIME...
Anna Klimenko, the general director of NTV-Plus, told ITAR-TASS on 25 January that viewers of TV-6 will get 17 hours of sports programming per day from her television company. According to Klimenko, NTV-Plus offered the programs on 22 January at the request of the Media Ministry. JAC

...AND LIBERAL FIGURES DEFEND KREMLIN'S IDEA OF 'FREE SPEECH'
In a throwback to the best of Soviet traditions, the Russian mass media are trying to rally public opinion by publishing statements from prominent liberal public figures in support of the Kremlin in its conflict with TV-6. Thus, " Nezavisimaya gazeta " on 25 January printed an opinion piece by Aleksandr Bovin, a former Russian ambassador to Israel and present dean of the journalism faculty at the Russian Humanitarian University, who wrote that "the freedom of speech is first of all the responsibility for what are you saying," and that the mark of a good journalist is not "good writing" but "good thinking." Meanwhile, the world-famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich told "Izvestiya" on 25 January that "too many in Russia misunderstand freedom of speech, misuse it, and insult Russia's president." VY

ACTIVISTS CONTINUE TO PROTEST PASKO SENTENCE
Some 30 local environmental activists held a protest in Kaliningrad on 25 January in support of former military journalist Grigorii Pasko, who was recently convicted of espionage, Interfax-Northwest reported. On 26 January, some 20 activists from the Democratic Union held a protest in Moscow's Pushkin Square to show their support for Pasko and journalists from TV-6, Interfax reported. Democratic Union leader Valeria Novodvorskaya told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that while she doesn't believe their action will yield any concrete results, the demonstrators wanted to express their views as citizens. JAC

RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN SIGN AGREEMENTS ON KEY RADAR STATION...
Meeting in Moscow on 25 January, President Vladimir Putin and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev signed an agreement on the new status of the Gabala radar station that allows Moscow to monitor missile launches in the Persian Gulf area, Indian Ocean, and crucial regions in the southern hemisphere, Russian agencies reported. According to the agreement, Gabala's property and equipment belong to Baku and are rented to Moscow for 10 years for $7 million per year. The Russian side initially rejected as too expensive Baku's demand for $5 million annual rent. Meanwhile, Putin said he discussed with Aliev joint efforts to combat terrorism, security, and stability in the Caucasus, and ways to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He said a solution to that conflict should be equally beneficial to both sides, and should "be based on the 'no winners and no losers' principle." Aliev told journalists that Azerbaijan and Russia have agreed to start demarcating the border between their sectors of the Caspian Sea bed along the modified median line, and that both countries, together with Kazakhstan, agree that the seabed should be divided in that way between the five littoral states while the waters remain in common use. VY/LF

...AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Also signed during the 25 January meeting were six other bilateral documents, including one on economic cooperation until 2010. But it is not clear whether any agreement was reached on such crucial issues as dividing for irrigation purposes the waters of the Samur River on the border between Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation, or Azerbaijan's participation in the North-South transport corridor. Aliev held further meetings on 25 January with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and on 26 January with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Aliev told journalists after his meeting with Ivanov that "we believe Russia can play a decisive role in resolving the Karabakh conflict," AFP reported. Speaking at a press conference on 26 January prior to his departure, Aliev thanked Putin for the "warm reception" he received and for their "frank and friendly discussion of all issues." He added that he was returning to Baku "with a sense of tremendous satisfaction," ITAR-TASS reported. LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH CABINET MEMBERS...
During his traditional Monday meeting with the Cabinet of Ministers, President Putin instructed the government to concentrate on expenditures of natural monopolies, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 January. Putin said that, after having agreed on natural monopolies' tariffs, ministers should now concentrate on natural monopolies' expenses and their transparency, Russian agencies reported. VC

...AND STRESSES NEED FOR SOCIAL CARE
During the same meeting, Putin said on 28 January that the recent decision to carry out an indexation of pensions must be implemented "in full and on time," Russian agencies reported. All pensions in Russia are being raised by 6.5 percent beginning on 1 February. Referring to a meeting with parliamentary leaders on 22 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002), Putin said parliamentarians are seriously concerned about wage payments in the regions, and stressed that he expects government proposals on how to assist regions in paying salaries to state employees. VC

FINANCE MINISTER ACCUSES SOME REGIONS OF FAKING FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES
Despite media reports about regions having difficulty paying higher wages to state sector workers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 22 January 2002), Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters in Tomsk on 25 January that the majority of Russian regions will have no problem paying higher wages, ITAR-TASS reported. Kudrin said the first quarter of the year is "always a difficult period," but it is necessary to differentiate between those regions that really have problems and those trying to take advantage of the situation to extract more funds from federal authorities. According to Kudrin, there are regions which act as "blackmailers" and "deliberately exaggerate" their problems. JAC

CUSTOMS COMMITTEE ACCUSES PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE OF POLITICKING
State Customs Committee head Mikhail Vanin has accused the Prosecutor-General's Office of politicking and serving the needs of special interests groups, RIA-Novosti reported on 25 January. In an allusion to his own interrogation by the Prosecutor-General's Office in relation to its investigation of the Customs Committee's probe of businessmen closely linked to the FSB (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002), Vanin said that the "Prosecutor-General's Office is becoming a newsmaker, and that is not its business at all." Vanin stressed that he and his deputy Boris Gutin have become the target of administrative and legal pressure in an effort to force them to halt "unwanted investigations affecting the interests of influential people." VY

EU PLACES HURDLES IN RUSSIA'S PATH TO WTO
The EU has set several conditions that could complicate Russia's admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO), "Vedomosti" reported on 25 January. The EU is demanding a guarantee from Russia that it would veto the passage of any legislation that is not in line with WTO norms. In addition, the EU wants Russia to stop charging Western airlines to use its airspace, which generates some $300 million in revenues and is used by the state to subsidize Russia's money-losing airline Aeroflot. The EU is also requiring that Russia discontinue state support for its aviation industry and intellectual property. According to the daily, Russia considers the conditions so unacceptable that it may opt to remain out of the WTO. VY

EES CUTS POWER TO SATELLITES
Vyacheslav Davidenko, the press spokesman for the Russian Space Troops, said that the regional branch of Unified Energy Systems (EES) has cut the power supply for the Space Control and Communication Center in the Kamchatka Peninsula, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 January. According to Davidenko, the center is responsible for monitoring the International Space Station as well as Russian military satellites. According to the news agency, the electricity to the center was cut because of debts it owes to EES despite the fact that federal law bans such actions against entities that are vital to the country, and the cost of losing a satellite could be 10 times as high as the amount of the center's debt to EES. VY.

RUSSIA DISMANTLES SPY CENTER IN CUBA
Russia has completed the dismantling of the Lourdes electronic intelligence center and has removed all of its equipment and personnel, Interfax reported on 27 January, quoting Defense Ministry sources. About 1,000 Russian personnel operated the espionage center, which was built in Cuba by the former Soviet Union. The center's radar was shut down on 29 December. VC

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY IN MOSCOW
On 27 January, the Federation of Peace and Accord in Moscow observed Holocaust Memorial Day, Russian agencies reported. The memorial holiday coincides with the date the Red Army liberated Nazi death camps in Auschwitz in 1945, and the decision to observe it in Russia was taken by 47 state representatives during the conference on the Holocaust in Stockholm in 2000. In opening the event, Alla Gerber, the head of the Russian Holocaust Foundation, said "Auschwitz was a climax of human degradation and human baseness. What happened in the U.S. on 11 September is also a climax of human degradation," Interfax reported. Vasilii Petrenko, a former division head who participated in the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camps; survivors from Auschwitz; Israeli Ambassador to Russia Nathan Meron; German Ambassador to Russia Ernst-Joerg von Studnitz; Chief Russian Rabbi Adolf Shaevich; and Federation Council member and President of the Russian Jewish Congress Leonid Nevzlin were among participants in the event. VC

EXODUS FROM THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST
More than 20,000 people (1 percent of the region's 2 million population) annually emigrate from Primore (Russia's Far East), RIA-Novosti reported on 28 January, quoting Primore Governor Sergei Darkin. Darkin stressed that numerous social and economic problems lead to the high level of emigration, and offered to enhance consolidation of Russian border territories, as well as develop more transport facilities in Primore ports in an effort to attract more investment. VC

NIKOLAEV CRONY GETS TOP SPOT AT DIAMOND FIRM
Vasilii Vlasov, the chairman of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic's government, has been nominated to serve as president of Alrosa, replacing recently elected Sakha President Vyacheslav Shtyrov, Interfax reported on 27 January, citing the Sakha presidential administration. In an interview with "Trud" on 25 January, Vlasov said the person who is tapped to replace Shtyrov should be a "professional of the highest class" and "should be from the republic." Vlasov also said he believes that the share of state property in key branches of the economy should be restored. Vlasov is a close associate of former Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev and former head of Sakhaneftegaz. JAC

DEPUTIES STEP BACK INTO LINE...
On 25 January, State Duma deputies conducted a new vote on the Law on Privatization as drafted by Adrian Puzanovskii and rejected it. The vote was 261 in favor of rejecting it, with 136 opposed, and no abstentions. Property Committee Chairman Viktor Pleskachevskii told reporters that deputes reviewed four different versions of the nationalization law late in the day and many had become confused, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Pleskachevskii, the government is drafting its own version, which will be submitted to the Duma in late April or May. According to AP, the government warned deputies that the bill, which was drafted in 1997, would panic investors. In addition, it was said to contradict the federal constitution, Civil Code, and a number of other federal laws. JAC

...AND GIVE STUDENTS DEFERMENTS
The same day, deputies voted to approve an amendment to the law on military duty and service, overcoming a previous Federation Council veto. The vote was 387 in favor with zero opposed, and no abstentions, according to ITAR-TASS. Under the bill, students in secondary schools can defer military service until they turn 20. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, if the bill comes into force, up to 18,000 young men annually will be able to finish their secondary education without it being interrupted by the need to serve in the armed forces. JAC

LOCAL OFFICIALS ASK SPARRING COUPLES TO CONTINUE ROOMING TOGETHER IN TIMES OF CRISIS
Although life is slowly returning to normal after severe flooding earlier this month, authorities in the Temryuk Raion of Krasnodar Krai have asked local residents to postpone getting divorces until housing officials can address the problem of reconstructing housing that was lost, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, more than 1,000 people have become homeless, as more than 300 houses -- many of them built of straw bricks or a mixture of sandstone and clay -- were destroyed beyond repair. JAC

NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT RE-ELECTED
Incumbent President Aleksandr Dzasokhov defeated six other candidates to win re-election on 27 January with approximately 57 percent of the vote, according to preliminary returns cited by ITAR-TASS. Colonel Stanislav Suanov polled 29.7 percent. Voter turnout was estimated at 65-70 percent. The North Ossetian Supreme Court invalidated the registration of Dzasokhov's most serious potential rival, former North Ossetian Premier Sergei Khetagurov, 10 days earlier (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 4, 24 January 2002). On 26 January, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the ruling disqualifying Khetagurov, Interfax reported. Acknowledging that the election campaign had effectively split the republic into two camps, one supporting himself and the other Khetagurov, Dzasokhov appealed to the population to unite to tackle the problems that North Ossetia faces. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY TOP BRASS KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH IN CHECHNYA
Fourteen senior army and Interior Ministry officers, together with four bodyguards and three crew members, died on 27 January when their transport helicopter crashed near the village of Shelkovskaya in northeast Chechnya. Interfax initially claimed that the helicopter was shot down, but deputy presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Nikolai Britvin said on 28 January that the wreckage showed no indication that it had been fired on, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

RUSSIA OPENS CONSULATE IN ARMENIA'S SECOND CITY
Russian Ambassador to Armenia Anatolii Dryukov, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who is also chairman of the Armenian-Russian intergovernmental commission for bilateral economic cooperation, and Shirak region Governor Feliks Pirumian attended the formal opening on 25 January of a Russian consulate in the northern Armenian town of Giumri, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Dryukov affirmed that Russia will continue to help fund restoration of the town, which was devastated by an earthquake in 1988. LF

WORLD BANK RELEASES DELAYED ARMENIAN LOAN TRANCHE
The World Bank has released the second $15 million installment of a crucial SAC Loan on which the Armenian government was relying to cover approximately half this year's anticipated budget deficit, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 25 January. The bank suspended disbursement of the tranche in November due to the failure to meet tax collection targets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2001). LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION STAGES NEW DEMONSTRATION
Several thousand people took part in a sanctioned demonstration in central Baku on 26 January under the slogan "Freedom for Karabakh," Turan reported. Participants again condemned the Azerbaijani authorities for failing to resolve the Karabakh conflict and called on them to resign. LF

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL APPEALS TO GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA TO BEGIN TALKS...
Addressing the UN Security Council on 23 January, Kofi Annan appealed to the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships to begin talks on the optimum division between them of constitutional competencies, Caucasus Press reported on 25 January. Annan characterized as " a substantial step forward" the completion of the document drafted by his special envoy Dieter Boden, which is intended to serve as the starting point for those talks. Annan also called on Tbilisi to withdraw the 350 troops it deployed last October in the Kodori Gorge. Commenting on Annan's statement on 25 January, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze termed it imprecise, and ruled out any retreat from the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. On 28 January, Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze told journalists that he will agree to a Georgian troop withdrawal from Kodori only when he is 100 percent convinced that there is no further threat to the safety of the region's Georgian population. LF

...AS GEORGIA MULLS 'INVENTORY' OF PREVIOUS AGREEMENTS
Meanwhile, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili denied on 25 January and again during a live TV broadcast on 27 January that Tbilisi is considering reneging on the agreements it has signed with Sukhum since 1994, Caucasus Press reported. Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze had hinted last week that the Georgian leadership might do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002). Menagharishvili said that unilateral rejection of those accords by the Georgian side would be tantamount to abandoning the peace process. Menagharishvili said that what is being considered is "an inventory" of all such agreements to determine which are being complied with and which are not. LF

ABKHAZ RELEASE GEORGIAN DETAINEES
The Abkhaz authorities have released all but one of the Georgian residents of the village of Gagida in Gali Raion whom they detained on 14 January on suspicion of being Georgian guerrillas, Caucasus Press reported on 26 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WANTS BUDGET PASSED ON SECOND READING
In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, President Shevardnadze urged the Georgian parliament on 28 January to pass the budget for 2002 on second reading as soon as possible, Caucasus Press reported. Failure to do so, Shevardnadze said, would result in nonpayment of pensions, wages, and other allowances. The parliament had been scheduled to debate the budget in the second reading on 25 January but could not do so for lack of a quorum. LF

GEORGIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN SOUTH OSSETIA ATTACKED
A checkpoint in South Ossetia manned by Georgian peacekeepers was attacked on 25 January by five masked Ossetian speakers who beat up three peacekeepers and stole their Kalashnikovs, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian investigators believe the attackers' motives were purely criminal and the incident was not intended to further strain relations between the central Georgian government and the unrecognized breakaway Republic of South Ossetia. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT EXCORIATES OPPOSITION
Nursultan Nazarbaev convened a meeting in Astana on 25 January of government ministers and regional governors at which he characterized the current political situation as a "free-for-all" and warned that "strict measures" are needed to end it, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Nazarbaev accused "so-called independent media outlets and political figures" of "accusing Kazakhstan's leadership of deeds it has never committed" and of ignoring its achievements, especially in preserving interethnic harmony. He further rejected the opposition Forum of Democratic Forces' claims that there is no democracy in Kazakhstan. "If that is the case, how did they manage to hold a mass gathering last Saturday [19 January]?" Nazarbaev asked rhetorically (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). He instructed the Prosecutor-General's Office to file criminal charges against all those who have "offended state officials," ITAR-TASS reported (see also "End Note"). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRIME MINISTER, GOVERNMENT RESIGN
Qasymzhomart Toqaev resigned early on 28 January, saying that "the time has come for the arrival of new people with new ideas and approaches," Reuters and dpa reported. In accordance with the constitution, the entire Kazakh cabinet must now step down. Toqaev said his move is "completely understandable in a country with a strong presidency." Asked during an interview with KTK television on 24 January about rumors that his dismissal was imminent, Toqaev replied that prime ministers in Kazakhstan are not appointed for life, Interfax reported. Toqaev said that as Kazakhstan is a presidential republic, the decision on his future career lies with President Nazarbaev. Reuters on 28 January suggested that Toqaev, who had headed the government since late 1999, wants to return to his previous post of foreign minister. As possible new premiers, Reuters identified National Bank head Grigorii Marchenko or Transport and Communications Minister Ablai Myrzakhmetov. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CALLS FOR MORE CUTS IN BUREAUCRACY...
During a four-hour speech on 24 January to a government session, President Askar Akaev announced that the government bureaucracy will be cut by a further 5 percent this year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev told the session that some 1,200 government jobs were abolished in 2001. Akaev described the existing government system, which according to Bakiev is composed of 70 divisions and 155 departments, as "too clumsy" for a country of 4.9 million people, saying it should be made "compact, efficient, flexible, and transparent," Interfax reported. Akaev departed on a hitherto unannounced vacation on 25 January. LF

...WHILE PARLIAMENT SPEAKER FOCUSES ON IMBALANCE BETWEEN PARLIAMENT, PRESIDENT
Meeting in Bishkek on 25 January with visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones, Abdygany Erkebaev, who is speaker of the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament, said that "in future" Kyrgyzstan's Constitution needs to be amended to reduce the "very strong powers" of the president and augment those of the legislature, Interfax reported. He said the parliament should have a greater say in deciding the composition of the government. LF

WITNESSES IN CASE OF ARRESTED KYRGYZ DEPUTY THREATENED WITH TORTURE
Djaparali Kamychbekov, whom arrested Kyrgyz parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov is accused of failing to arrest and charge with murder following a killing in 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 14 January 2002), was detained by police in Djalalabad Oblast on 24 January together with his father, the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights reported the following day. Both men have been beaten in an attempt to coerce them to testify against Beknazarov. Meanwhile, Beknazarov's supporters are continuing hunger strikes and protest demonstrations to demand his release, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jones told journalists in Bishkek on 25 January that she discussed Beknazarov's case with President Akaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2002), and hopes that Beknazarov will be released "soon," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Jones also told journalists that the U.S. is not turning a blind eye to human rights violations in Central Asia, and she denied that Washington is engaged in a competition with Russia for influence in the region, AP reported. LF

U.S. DIPLOMAT VISITS TAJIKISTAN
From Bishkek Jones flew to Dushanbe, where she met with President Imomali Rakhmonov on 26 January to discuss expanding bilateral relations, and to thank him for Tajikistan's support and assistance to the international antiterrorism coalition, Asia Plus-Blitz and AP reported. After those talks, Jones again told journalists that the U.S. has no plans to establish permanent military bases in Central Asia. "We are grateful to the countries of the region for the possibility to use their bases, but those are their bases not our military bases," she said. LF

UZBEKISTAN'S PRESIDENT DEFENDS AUTHORITARIANISM
Casting his vote on 27 January in a referendum in which Uzbekistan's estimated 13 million voters were called upon to approve the creation of a bicameral parliament and the extension of the presidential term from five to seven years, President Islam Karimov slammed the West for demanding a swifter transition to democracy in his country, Reuters and AP reported. Karimov affirmed that "at a certain stage of historic change you need a strong will and a certain figure...and you have to use some authoritarian methods at times," according to Reuters. But Karimov argued at the same time that authoritarian power will diminish with the rise of political consciousness. He said that if voters approve the creation of a bicameral parliament, some of the presidential powers, such as the right to appoint certain senior officials, will be transferred to the upper chamber, which will also represent the country's territorial units, ITAR-TASS reported. Voter turnout in the plebiscite was estimated at 94 percent. The final results are to be announced on 30 January, which will be Karimov's 64th birthday. LF

BELARUS FAILS TO AGREE WITH MOSCOW ON VAT COLLECTION
Belarusian Premier Henadz Navitski met with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov in Moscow on 25 January to discuss trade and taxation issues. Navitski told Belarusian Television on 26 January that Russia "flatly" refused to let the value-added tax be collected based on the country-of-destination principle in its trade with Belarus. "We suggested an asymmetrical solution: We trade based on the country-of-origin principle in all goods except oil, gas, and electricity. The Russian side considered it and rejected it flatly," Navitski said. JM

OSCE MISSION TO VISIT MINSK IN FEBRUARY
Uta Zapf, the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 25 January that her group will travel to Minsk on 3 February despite its prior refusal to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2002). "The reason [for the changed decision is] that [Belarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail] Khvastou wrote me a very friendly letter with an invitation to visit Minsk, and I have accepted this invitation," Zapf said. She added that Khvastou did not set any additional conditions in connection with her visit. Khvastou earlier suggested that he could meet with Zapf's group but without the attendance of representatives of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group, which the OSCE leadership considers an unacceptable condition. JM

UKRAINE IN TRADE WAR WITH WASHINGTON?
Agricultural Minister Ivan Kyrylenko said that last week's ban on U.S. poultry exports to Ukraine was introduced following a demand from sanitary services and has nothing to do with the U.S. sanctions imposed on Ukraine over CD piracy. "The problem consists in the difference between Ukrainian and U.S. veterinary legislation," Kyrylenko told Ukrainian Television on 27 January. Kyrylenko added that Kyiv needs full information from U.S. producers on preservatives they add to poultry products exported to Ukraine. The same day, Premier Anatoliy Kinakh vowed to defend national interests in trade with the U.S. "We shall be doing our utmost to ensure that our partners, including the U.S., clearly understand that we are ready for compromise. We are ready to seek optimal solutions but there is a boundary that neither the Ukrainian president nor the Cabinet of Ministers will ever overstep -- its name is the national interest of the state," Ukrainian Television quoted him as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN MINISTER PESSIMISTIC OVER U.S. TRADE SANCTIONS
Economy Minister Oleksandr Shlapak told ICTV Television on 24 January that the U.S. sanctions over CD piracy will cost Ukraine $51 million and "thousands of jobs." Shlapak added that U.S. trade sanctions from the Soviet era, which are still in force, suggest that there will be no swift end to the sanctions even if Ukraine fully complies with the demands of the international music industry. "The [Jackson-Vanik] amendment was passed by the [U.S.] Senate in 1974. It was aimed against the Soviet Union for violating the right of its Jewish citizens to emigrate. But this problem has long been solved in Ukraine, while the amendment is still in place. This shows how conservative the Americans are on economic issues," Shlapak noted. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CONSTRAINED TO CHANGE PRINT SHOP
"Ukrayina Moloda" reported on 26 January that the Kyiv-based newspaper "Vecherniye vesti," which is linked to opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko, has been forced to look for a printing house in Lviv since the editorial staff could not find a printer in the capital. "Print shop directors spoke to us in a normal manner by phone until we named ourselves. The name of our newspaper automatically meant an end to the conversation. Some promised to call us back, but it was obvious that they would not," "Vecherniye vesti" Editor in Chief Oleksandr Lyapin commented. JM

UKRAINE'S ELECTION COMMISSION REFUSES TO REGISTER TAPE-SCANDAL MAN
The Central Electoral Commission has refused to register former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko as a candidate on the Socialist Party's election list, Ukrainian media reported on 26 January. The commission said Melnychenko, who is currently residing in the U.S., cannot be viewed as a permanent resident of Ukraine, which is a requirement of the election law for parliamentary candidates. Yosyp Vinskyy from the Socialist Party disagreed with the ruling, saying that the election law allows anybody staying abroad under Ukraine's international agreements to become a parliamentary candidate. He recalled that in 1998 the Central Election Commission registered businessman Yukhym Zvyahilskyy, who had lived in Israel for more than two years. "The Central Election Commission interprets this provision differently for different people. I see this as an element of political persecution against our candidate who is running for parliament on the list of the Socialist Party," Vinskyy told Inter Television on 26 January. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW GOVERNMENT
Arnold Ruutel signed a decree on 27 January appointing the government Reform Party Chairman Siim Kallas presented to him two days earlier, ETA reported. Kallas will have eight ministers from the Center Party and five from the Reform Party in his cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). Yielding to pressure expressed by several newspapers and opposition parties that he lacked credentials for the post, finance minister candidate Meelis Polda withdrew his candidacy on 24 January to avoid damaging his party's reputation. The Center Party replaced him with its faction's deputy chairman, Harri Ounapuu, whom Kallas praised as having suitable experience as a parliament deputy, minister, and bank manager. SG

LATVIA'S WAY HOLDS 12TH CONGRESS
Prime Minister Andris Berzins told the 12th Congress of Latvia's Way in Riga on 26 January that the country has been very successful under the current government and that the party should be successful in the fall parliament elections, LETA reported. Receiving support from 422 out of the 431 delegates, Berzins was re-elected as party chairman. In the elections for deputy chairman, Ivars Godmanis defeated Andrejs Pantelejevs and Janis Gaigals, garnering 242 votes. The congress adopted the resolution "On Securing the Status of State Language," which stated that the proposed amendments to abolish language requirements for candidates to the parliament and local councils are acceptable if the status of the state language is simultaneously strengthened by other laws. It also approved other resolutions calling for higher wages, lower social taxes, and improved access to health services. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT CONCLUDES FALL SESSION
The parliament ended its fall session on 25 January by approving by a vote of 108 to two, with one abstention, an amendment to Article 119 of the constitution that would extend the term of local council deputies from three to four years and allow noncitizens permanently residing in Lithuania to elect and be elected to local councils, ELTA reported. To complete the amendment process, it must be approved a second time in three months by two-thirds of the parliament (94 deputies). The session also ratified by an unanimous vote the 1999 Criminal Law Convention against Corruption, and ruled in favor of handing over more than 300 rescued Jewish Torah scrolls -- which are currently being stored in the National Mazvydas Library -- to the Jewish society Hechal Shlomo in Jerusalem. SG

POLISH PARLIAMENT STRIPS SELF-DEFENSE LEADER OF DEPUTY IMMUNITY...
The Sejm on 25 January voted by 281 to 87, with seven abstentions, to lift the parliamentary immunity of Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper, Polish media reported. Lepper is now expected to face criminal charges for slander and unfounded accusations of corruption leveled against ministers and parliamentary deputies (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 and 11 December 2001). Before the vote, Lepper addressed the parliament with a two-hour speech in which he repeated his former allegations and accused all previous postcommunist governments of "plundering national assets." Lepper also accused National Bank Government Leszek Balcerowicz of implementing an "economic genocide" in Poland. The overwhelming majority of deputies left the session hall during Lepper's tirade. JM

...OPTS FOR LOCAL ELECTIONS IN THE FALL...
The governing Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) failed on 25 January to shift local elections slated for autumn to June. The Peasant Party, the SLD's coalition partner, sided with the opposition and upheld an autumn date for local elections. In addition, the SLD failed to introduce an amendment providing for the d'Hondt method for calculating seat allocations, which favors large groupings. Thereby, the Sejm upheld the Sainte-Lague system, which favors small and medium-sized parties and blocs. The amended local election bill will now go to the Senate for consideration. JM

...REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL AMENDMENTS TO LUSTRATION LAW...
The Sejm on 26 January amended the lustration law that provides for screening state officials regarding their possible collaboration with the communist-era secret services. The Sejm rejected amendments proposed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who wanted to exclude intelligence service and counterintelligence service functionaries from the lustration process and to change the definition of collaboration. The Sejm introduced an amendment saying that lustration proceedings, which are held in open court, may be -- "in particular cases, capable of bringing about a threat to the security of the state" -- conducted in closed court following a motion from the lustration prosecutor of his deputy. JM

...AS LEPPER ANNOUNCES 'PASSIVE REVOLT'
Self-Defense leader Lepper, said on 26 January in Bialystok, northeastern Poland, after being stripped of his parliamentary immunity that he will encourage people to "revolt against the authority that is acting against Poland, against the Polish nation," PAP reported. "I will not be afraid to stand at the head of this revolt, but [it will be] a passive revolt," Lepper added. He also criticized journalists who deemed his 25 January speech in the parliament uninteresting or declined to report on it. "If Lepper had gone in to see the speaker and hit him in the mug or spat in his face, then the whole press would have been writing about it on the front page, but because Lepper is saying that it is thieves who rule Poland, that is altogether normal for the journalists," he noted. JM

CZECH POLICE SHELVE COMPLAINTS BY GOVERNMENT, WEEKLY 'RESPEKT'
Police on 25 January announced that they have decided to shelve the complaints launched against each other last October by the government and "Respekt" Editor in Chief Petr Holub, CTK reported. Government office head and Minister without portfolio Karel Brezina, who launched the complaint against the weekly in the name of the cabinet, said through a spokeswoman that he has not received "any official information" on the decision and thus would not comment on it. Holub said he will appeal the decision. Holub added that he is prepared to withdraw the appeal if Prime Minister Milos Zeman would publicly declare that the complaint against the weekly was not launched in an attempt to restrain the freedom of the press, but was the result of "a sudden state of irritation." MS

GERMAN CHANCELLOR TO GO AHEAD WITH CZECH VISIT IN MARCH
Uwe-Karsten Heye, spokesman for German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, said on 25 January that the chancellor will not cancel his planned March visit to Prague in protest against statements Premier Zeman recently made about the Sudeten Germans, AP reported. Heye said Schroeder expects the "misunderstandings" resulting from the remarks to be clarified during the visit. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT DENIES CONTROVERSY OVER ELECTION DATE
President Vaclav Havel said on 25 January that he has "never said when the elections should take place," and that he will call the ballot "only after consulting with the premier, who has to countersign the decision." Last week, presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel would prefer the elections to be held in May, which prompted criticism from Civic Democratic Party Chairman Vaclav Klaus. Havel said he had "only exchanged opinions" with members of his staff about the election date, and that he does not understand why Klaus "is so irritated." MS

CZECH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE SHOWING CRACKS
On 26 January, Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) Chairman Cyril Svoboda told the daily "Lidove noviny" that he is prepared to accept the premiership if the Four Party Coalition wins the elections, CTK reported. The coalition's official candidate for the post is its leader, Karel Kuehnl, but Svoboda said Kuehnl is "too restrained" in his handling of the crisis in the alliance over the debts owed by the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA). On 27 January, ODA Chairman Michael Zantovsky said the Central Assembly of his party decided the same day to accept the conditions set by the Freedom Union-Democratic Union concerning the settlement of the ODA debt to insurer Ceska Pojistovna, but will not merge with that party as was proposed by the KDU-CSL. At a meeting between the three parties on 27 January, agreement was reached on the way the debt is to be settled, but details are to be released later. MS

CZECH, SLOVAK PRESIDENTS PRESENT FLAGS TO JOINT BATTALION
On 25 January, President Havel and his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster presented flags in Cesky Krumlov, southern Bohemia, to the joint Czech-Slovak peacekeeping battalion, CTK reported. The battalion is to take part in KFOR operations in Kosova. The two countries' defense ministers, Jaroslav Tvrdik and Jozef Stank, also attended the ceremony and both emphasized that 10 years after the partition of Czechoslovakia the armies of the two countries are operating together. Havel said the battalion is a symbol of the two states' realization of "their joint responsibility for peace in Europe and the world." Schuster said the battalion is leaving for Kosova when one of its units belongs to NATO and the other does not, but he believes that when it returns from its mission, both units will belong to the Atlantic alliance. MS

SLOVAK NATIONALISTS LAUNCH OFFENSIVE AGAINST STATUS LAW...
Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairwoman Anna Malikova said on 25 January that her party will launch a complaint against the Hungarian Status Law at the European Court of Human Rights, TASR reported. As grounds for its complaint, the SNS will mention the "violation of human rights, discrimination against 90 percent of Slovakia's population, and the breach of international agreements." The next day, the SNS Executive Board also decided to launch a complaint in Slovakia against the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), saying the SMK violated laws and the constitution by handling applications from Magyar Slovaks for the Hungarian ID card. Malikova said the SNS will also propose an amendment to the constitution that would deprive deputies of their mandate if they failed to respect the oath of loyalty to Slovakia taken upon inauguration. MS

...WHILE OSCE HIGH COMMISSIONER HOPES FOR QUICK SOLUTION TO DISPUTE
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus said in Bratislava on 25 January that he believes a quick solution to the dispute with Hungary over the Status Law is in sight following last week's negotiations in Budapest, CTK reported. Ekeus told journalists following talks with Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan that the problems are "complicated" and that he has reservations "about legislation in one country that interferes in the law in another country." He also said issues concerning ethnic minorities are "largely" the responsibility of the country in which they live. But he added that he welcomes action in support of the preservation of the linguistic and cultural traditions of ethnic minorities. Ekeus also discussed with Deputy Premier Pal Csaky the situation of the Slovak Roma. MS

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIANS REACT TO ORBAN STATEMENT...
Opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said on 25 January that "not even the leaders of Latin American military regimes" would make remarks like the one Prime Minister Viktor Orban made the previous day about opponents of the Status Law, Hungarian media reported. Orban told a meeting of the Economic Council that the government does not consider any organization as a partner if they do not share the "strategic goal" of improving conditions for ethnic Hungarians in the entire Carpathian Basin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2002). Free Democrat parliamentary group leader Istvan Szent-Ivanyi said that the voters, rather than Orban, should decide whether there is room in public life for the opponents of the Status Law. FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni said the Socialists and the Free Democrats are continuing their campaign of slander by referring to the prime minister as a Latin American dictator. MSZ

...WHILE PREMIER DEFENDS STATUS LAW
Hungary's Status Law is an "investment project" that will "surely benefit the country over the next few years," Orban told Hungarian radio on 27 January. He said the millions of ethnic Hungarians who live in neighboring states provide "considerable reserves of labor for the domestic Hungarian economy," adding that the Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding on the Status Law will not have any adverse effect in Hungary. Commenting on U.S. Ambassador Nancy Goodman Brinker's remarks concerning anti-Semitism in Hungary, Orban said that the Hungarian government "does not pronounce unjustified criticism about other countries, and consequently expects those countries to act in the same spirit." As the prime minister spoke, members of the New Generation, the youth wing of the opposition Free Democrats, protested outside the radio building against his appearing on the "Vasarnapi Ujsag" program for the fifth time during his government's tenure, saying the program promotes a far-right agenda. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS MAKE PROMISES AHEAD OF ELECTIONS
Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said at a pre-election conference of the opposition Socialist Party on 26 January that a Socialist-led government would create 300,000-400,000 new jobs, reduce average tax levels to around 25 percent from the current 40 percent, and increase real wages by 25 percent, Hungarian media reported. "The Orban government must go, because it raised corruption to the government level and had thus inflated it to unprecedented levels," Kovacs said. What is at stake in the election, he added, is the risk that a potential alliance between FIDESZ and the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party would turn Hungary into the most right-wing country in Europe and place it under the domination of economic mafias. "In the EU accession talks, we will end the practice of arrogant, confrontational statements and useless compromises," Kovacs concluded. MSZ

EU MINISTERS DEBATE WESTERN BALKANS
Foreign ministers of the EU member states began a discussion of the current situation in the western Balkans in Brussels on 28 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The meeting follows a trip to Macedonia, Kosova, and Belgrade by security policy chief Javier Solana (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2002). In Prishtina, he urged Kosovar leaders to "show maturity" and end the political crisis. Ethnic Albanian politicians, for their part, played down their differences and stressed that an agreement is not far off. In Belgrade, Solana failed to obtain substantial concessions from either the Serbian, Yugoslav, or Montenegrin leaders. Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac called Solana's demand for Serbia and Montenegro to remain united "inappropriate." Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic stressed that he will proceed with plans for a referendum on independence in the spring. Solana commented: "We'll see about that" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 December 2001). PM

DIFFERENCES IN SERBIAN GOVERNING COALITION GET NASTY
Just after it appeared that the feuding within the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition was winding down, supporters and opponents of President Vojislav Kostunica and his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) launched a fresh round of mutual recriminations regarding crime, corruption, and incompetence, AP reported from Belgrade on 27 January (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 January 2002). Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic, who is politically close to Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, said that sniping by DSS and the president's entourage is not only "nonsense" but also recalls "a sect with dangerous intentions." Mihajlovic warned his rivals: "If they do not do so themselves, we will be obliged to stop them in their insane efforts to undermine their state." He did not elaborate. Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS) noted that one DSS member was recently arrested on charges of armed robbery and that DSS financier Zoran Drakulic is under criminal investigation. The DSS said in a statement that it is "surprised" by the charges and remains the main force for the "democratic development of the country." PM

BOSNIAN EX-MINISTER TO FACE TRIAL IN SERBIA?
Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic suggested that former Bosnian Interior Minister Alija Delimustafic, who was recently arrested in Belgrade, could go on trial in Serbia for war crimes committed by his forces against Yugoslav forces early in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 27 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). The idea to try him in Serbia was originally floated by the Party of Serbian Unity, which was the party of the late Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan. Bosnia has sought Delimustafic's extradition on criminal charges. PM

MACEDONIAN POLICE RETURN TO REBEL STRONGHOLD
In a carefully prepared move, an ethnically mixed Macedonian police patrol entered the village of Matejce north of Skopje on 27 January for the first time since late the previous spring, when Macedonian forces attempted to "cleanse" the village of ethnic Albanian fighters, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May and 6 June 2001). Mayor Husamedin Halili said: "The mood of the locals is good, and we're working on the return" of Macedonian and Serbian displaced persons. He added that "it will take patience, wisdom, and courage, but I think the day is coming when all the citizens of Matejce will live together." One local man was less optimistic, saying simply: "We will treat the police the way they treat us." The prewar population of Matejce consisted of about 3,000 Albanians and 1,000 Slavs. Police have re-entered 30 out of 120 rebel-held villages. PM

BOSNIA LAUNCHES PROBE OF ISLAMIC ORGANIZATIONS
Alija Behmen, the prime minister of the Muslim-Croat federation, told "Dnevni avaz" on 28 January that the authorities have launched an investigation to see if certain undisclosed Islamic charities and banks have been used to provide money for terrorists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 23 January 2002). Many foreign-based Islamic charities and other offices set up branches in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 conflict. Many Muslims welcomed their newfound friends as a welcome source of help, while others resented the foreigners' strict religious practices. Most Bosnian Muslims consider themselves Europeans above all and have a casual attitude toward certain Islamic practices, such as the prohibition of alcohol or strict rules regarding female dress. An unnamed Bosnian official told "The Boston Globe" on 28 January: "We have a big problem with the Saudis. They are spreading around huge amounts of money to help rebuild Bosnia. But they are also building mosques and spreading a version of Islam that is alien to our Bosnian Islam." PM

BOSNIAN POLITICAL PARTIES BREAK THE ICE
Leaders of the eight largest political parties met in Mrakovica near Prijedor on 26 January to discuss key issues facing Bosnia, including the Constitutional Court ruling that Muslims, Serbs, and Croats must be made legally equal throughout Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The leaders agreed on the need to carry out that ruling and to implement human rights in keeping with European standards. Participants included Sulejman Tihic of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Dragan Kalinic of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), Niko Lozanic of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), Zlatko Lagumdzija of the Social Democratic Party, Safet Halilovic of the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kresimir Zubak of the New Croatian Initiative, Milorad Dodik of the Party of Independent Social Democrats, and Mladen Ivanic of the Party of Democratic Progress, Hina reported. This was the first gathering in years of leaders from across the ethnic and political spectrum to be held without the participation of foreigners. PM

NATO SET TO MOVE AGAINST WAR CRIMINALS IN BOSNIA?
Dpa reported from Sarajevo on 27 January that even some unnamed Western diplomats are suggesting that "something is going on" regarding possible NATO preparations to arrest top Bosnian Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. Rumors have been rife recently that the Bosnian authorities obliged the U.S. over the extradition of six suspected Arab Al-Qaeda terrorists -- despite legal controversy -- in return for a promise from the Americans to arrest the two most-wanted war criminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18, 22, and 23 January 2002). Reports of alleged indictments, sightings, or "imminent arrests" of war criminals are, however, staple fare of the region's media and have been likened by some observers to Loch Ness monster reports. PM

BOSNIAN HUNGER STRIKE
Some 200 prisoners are continuing a hunger strike in a prison holding 750 inmates in Zenica, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 27 January. They are protesting bad food and other problems in their living conditions. PM

HUNGARIAN PAPERS FOR CROATIAN CITIZENS
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban opened his country's consulate in Osijek on 26 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. That same day, ethnic Hungarians in Croatia began to receive the new Hungarian documents that allow ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries to enjoy special rights in Hungary. The Hungarian minority in Croatia is small, and the question of the documents has not generated the controversy that it has in Slovakia or Romania. PM

SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER RE-ELECTED TO PARTY POST
Leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party re-elected Janez Drnovsek as party chief in Ljubljana on 27 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He has held that post for 10 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001). PM

ROMAN CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL CONSECRATED IN ALBANIAN CAPITAL
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Tirana Archbishop Rrok Mirdita held the first mass in the newly reconstructed Tirana cathedral on 27 January, AP reported. Under the previous communist regime, all cathedrals were destroyed except that in Shkoder, which was converted to a basketball court. The Shkoder cathedral was returned to the Roman Catholic Church after the fall of communism, and Pope John Paul II held mass there in 1994. The Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, and Bektashis have been energetically reviving their respective religions over the past decade, often with foreign assistance. The Bektashis, for example, have received help from the Albanian Bektashi community in Detroit in the United States. PM

ROMANIAN PARTIES LIKELY TO RENEW COOPERATION AGREEMENT
After two days of negotiations, leaders of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) said on 27 January that the agreement between the two formations is likely to be extended for another year. Under the agreement, the UDMR does not support no-confidence motions in parliament against the minority PSD government. RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau quoted participants in the negotiations as saying that the PSD and the UDMR will set up a joint commission to monitor the implementation of the agreement at the national and county levels. The PSD is pledging to complete legislation pertaining to the return of confiscated properties and of church priorities in particular. UDMR Chairman Bela Marko described the results of the meeting, at which his party also presented demands on expanding education in the Hungarian language, as "positive." MS

ROMANIA REJECTS ALLEGATIONS IT MASTERMINDED CHISINAU PROTESTS...
President Ion Iliescu on 25 January rejected allegations made by Viktor Stepaniuk, the leader of the parliamentary group of the Party of Moldovan Communists, that Romania is involved in the staging of the protests against compulsory Russian-language classes in Chisinau, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The allegations were also rejected by Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana. During the debates that led to the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of three leaders of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD), Stepaniuk deplored the fact that deputies representing the Braghis Alliance joined the PPCD deputies in boycotting the meeting in protest, and said that the situation created is the result of "gross Romanian interference." Iliescu said that the lifting of the deputies' immunity "proves once more the political involution" underway in Moldova. Geoana said Stepaniuk's "insinuations are totally unfounded," and that the Moldovan leadership is persuaded that "European norms can be applied only partially and whenever they suit its interests." MS

...WHILE MOLDOVAN PREMIER REBUKES ROMANIAN COUNTERPART
In a letter to Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase, Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev wrote last week that Nastase's statement on the suspension of the PPCD "once more proves that Romania is steering away from the path of European norms, democratic standards, and international principles of noninterference in other countries' affairs," Flux reported on 28 January. Tarlev said Nastase is "regrettably too preoccupied by inner-party politics," and forgets that Moldova is a "sovereign and independent state" that is a "UN...and OSCE member." He said it is deplorable that Romania has failed to realize that "over 3 million people in Moldova believe they are Moldovans and live in their own country," and that failure to respect that choice amounts to "publicly insulting the people." MS

CHISINAU LIFTS RESTRICTIONS ON PROTESTERS...
The Chisinau mayoralty decided on 26 January to lift the restrictions forbidding protesters to hold their meetings in the National Assembly Square, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The restrictions were cited by Justice Minister Ion Morei as grounds for suspending the activity of the PPCD for one month and for lifting the parliamentary immunity of its three leaders. Mayor Serafim Urechean said the decision calls on the Justice Ministry and the parliament to clarify two articles in the law regulating the rights and duties of parliament deputies. He added that in spite of the decisions, demonstrations remain forbidden, as "there is no authorization for holding them." PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said in response that Urechean is "maintaining his positions of political complicity [with the government] and of hostility toward the PPCD." On 27 January, the protests were joined by the leaders of the Popular Party Christian Democratic and the Social Liberal party, Valeriu Matei and Oleg Serebrean. MS

...AS PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WRITES TO PACE
Parliament speaker Evgenia Ostapchuk wrote to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), demanding that the organization "monitor" the ongoing conflict between the protesters and the government before passing a resolution on it, Romanian radio reported. Ostapchuk assured PACE that Moldova respects the "standards and norms of the Council of Europe." Romanian television reported later the same day that the Council of Europe's rapporteurs for Moldova arrived in Chisinau and will travel on to Moscow on 30 January, saying that it is "not by accident" that their next leg of the journey is the Russian capital. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS ELECTORAL LAW
On 25 January, the parliament approved the final reading of an amendment proposed by the PPCD to the electoral law, Infotag reported, In accordance with the amendment, an alliance of two parties will need at least 9 percent to pass the threshold for representation, and alliances of three parties or more will need 12 percent. Parties running alone will continue to face a 6 percent threshold and independent candidates 3 percent. The electoral campaign was reduced from 90 to 60 days. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER'S MOVEMENT FAILS TO TRANSFORM ITSELF INTO PARTY
The ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) failed on 26 January to transform itself into a political party after Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski surprisingly announced that he would not run for the party's chairmanship, BTA and AP reported. Simeon said his duties as premier would not allow him to take over the position, and suggested that the NDSV postpone the election for a chairman to 6 April -- the anniversary of the former monarch's announcement that he would head the NDSV. The proposal was accepted by the 700 delegates. MS

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT THREATENS CRACKDOWN ON OPPOSITION, INDEPENDENT MEDIA, PART 1


On 25 January, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev warned that "strict measures" must be taken to end what he termed the intemperate criticisms of government officials expressed by independent media outlets and opposition political figures over the past three months.

Addressing a meeting in Astana of government ministers and the governors of the country's 14 oblasts and major cities, a "visibly irritated" Nazarbaev lambasted his critics for "accusing Kazakhstan's leadership of deeds it has never committed" while ignoring their achievements, specifically in the realm of preserving harmony between the country's various ethnic groups.

Other speakers echoed and expanded on those accusations in a manner reminiscent of CPSU Central Committee plenums. Parliament deputy Mikhail Troshchikhin, for example, accused unnamed opposition groups of trying "to undermine social and economic stability in the country." He proposed that Kazakhstan should introduce a moratorium on all mass gatherings and public meetings until a new law on political parties and movements is drafted and adopted by the parliament.

To judge from the reports available, Nazarbaev mentioned by name only one opposition grouping, the Forum of Democratic Forces (FDS). Created in the wake of the October 1999 parliamentary elections, the forum is an umbrella organization in which 16 opposition parties are aligned, including the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan (RNPK) headed by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, and the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. But Nazarbaev also referred (disparagingly -- he called them "rabble-rousers") to the young government and state officials whom he fired in November 2001 after they founded the opposition movement "Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan" (DVK).

Nazarbaev's blanket criticisms, in conjunction with the proposal to impose a moratorium on mass gatherings and public meetings, suggests that the president is on the defensive and is operating on the Leninist principle that all those who do not support him are against him. But that approach fails to take into consideration the major differences between the political objectives of the various opposition groups and how they intend to set about implementing them.

One of the FDS's first moves in the fall of 1999 was to appeal to Nazarbaev to begin a "national dialogue" with the opposition, an appeal that he ignored. Last November, the FDS openly called on Nazarbaev to step down. Less than one month later, Kazhegeldin's RNPK aligned with the National Congress headed by Gulzhan Ergalieva and Petr Svojk's Azamat Party to form the United Democratic Party. That party has since drafted a 15-point National Plan of Political Transformations that, according to Kazhegeldin, provides for "the gradual, peaceful, and absolutely legal redistribution of power" to be implemented in consultation with the OSCE and the Council of Europe. The first of those 15 points is likewise that "the president must resign." In accordance with the constitution, presidential powers then devolve on the chairman of the Senate (the upper parliament chamber), pending elections for a new parliament and for regional administrators.

That transition of power is necessary, the FDS argues, because Nazarbaev's determination to cling to power by any means and to shield himself, his family, and his supporters from having to answer for their systematic plundering of the country's resources risks plunging Kazakhstan into ruin. (The extent of Kazakhstan's economic and social crisis is analyzed in depth in a brilliant essay Svojk published last year.) The call for the transition from a presidential to a parliamentary republic was repeated at a meeting of opposition representatives in Almaty on 19 January.

The DVK, in contrast, has to date avoided criticizing Nazarbaev personally, let alone calling for his replacement. Instead, its founders advocate gradual political liberalization in order to expand the economic basis for the emergence of a middle class. In an open letter addressed to the president in December, the DVK's cofounders enumerated their five key demands: correcting the existing imbalance between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches to increase the powers of the executive, while ensuring their mutual independence; introducing elections for the post of local administrators at all levels, from oblast governors to the chairmen of village councils; changing the procedure for the selection of members of election commissions to ensure that they are not dominated by persons loyal to the president or the existing local administrator; reforming the court system (at present all 2,500 judges are appointed by a member of Nazarbaev's administration); and ensuring greater media freedom to counter the virtual monopoly enjoyed by members of Nazarbaev's immediate family.

Crucially, the DVK aims to achieve those objectives without replacing the present leadership. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in late December, one of the movement's cofounders, former Pavlodar Oblast Governor Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov, explained that "we intend to mobilize public opinion and force the parliament and above all the president to accept" the DVK's demands. Kazhegeldin has dismissed that approach as both unrealistic and naive. Recalling the harassment he personally was subjected to between his resignation as premier in the fall of 1997 and leaving Kazakhstan for self-imposed exile two years later, he predicted that the Kazakh leadership will resort to political and possibly physical reprisals against the DVK leaders in an attempt to discredit them and force them to repent. Criminal proceedings have already been opened against Zhaqiyanov on charges of abuse of power and financial mismanagement.

But Nazarbaev may still hope to co-opt the DVK; he proposed on 25 January that all "constructive" political forces "sit down at the negotiating table" with members of a specially created government commission to draft laws on decentralizing state power and creating elected organs of local government. Neutralizing the DVK would not, however, address the greater challenge posed by the FDS, which may in fact be the real target both of Nazarbaev's anger and of his threats. (This is the first of a two-part series; the second part will appear on 29 January.)

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