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Newsline - January 30, 2002


BEREZOVSKY ACCUSED OF USING AEROFLOT FUNDS TO FINANCE 'TERRORISTS'
Speaking at the Coordinating Council session of CIS law enforcement and security agencies in Minsk on 29 January, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov announced that the names of embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky and his deputy Badri Patarkatsishvili have been added to the list of those accused of involvement in the Aeroflot affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2001.) In contrast to the other defendants in the corruption case, both Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili are accused of using the funds siphoned from Aeroflot to financially support "Chechen terrorists," Ustinov said. Meanwhile, at the same forum Russian Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev repeated his claim that his agency has materials related to Berezovsky's involvement in the funding of "illegal military formations" and in "human trafficking in Chechnya" Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2002). Berezovsky has repeatedly claimed to possess evidence implicating that the FSB organized the bombings in August and September 1999 of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk. VY

ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR TOLD TO CLEAN UP CORRUPTION IN HIS ADMINISTRATION
Vladimir Zubrin, the deputy prosecutor-general for the Northwest federal district, said on 29 January that his agency has launched corruption investigations against six top St. Petersburg government officials, RosBalt reported. "The corruption investigation of the city's administration is a serious warning to St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, and our demand to him is to instill order among his associates," Zubrin said. He added that first in line for an indictment is Deputy Governor Valerii Malyshev, who will be followed by Aleksandr Potekhin and Dmitrii Solonnikov, two senior officials of Yakovlev's entourage. VY

PRESIDENT PROPOSES NATIONAL SPORTS CHANNEL...
At a session of the presidium of the State Council on 29 January, President Vladimir Putin ordered the government "to examine the opportunities for creating a federal television sports channel," Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko told reporters in Moscow. When asked whether the new sports channel might be broadcast on channel six, Matvienko answered that this is "a technical question." The same day, Leonid Tyachagov, the president of Russia's Olympics Committee, held his own press conference during which he declared that his committee needs its own sports channel. Shamil Tarpishchev, vice president of the committee, said that it is possible that his group will create a company that could participate in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting rights. Meanwhile, NTV-Plus has been providing sports programming for TV-6 since that station went off the air (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002). JAC

...AS TV-6 OFFICIAL FLATLY DENIES ANY PLANS TO MOVE TO GERMANY
TV-6 press spokesperson Tatyana Blinova said on 29 January that recent news reports about TV-6 journalists working in Germany have no real basis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002). According to Blinova, no one plans to transfer either a large or small group of journalists to Germany -- the issue "has not been raised and is not being discussed." At the same time, Blinova confirmed that a representative office for the television company Inter-TV, which is part of the Media Most group, is based in Cologne. In addition, Inter-TV has already begun broadcasting programs to Russian-language audiences in Israel, Europe, and the United States. JAC

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH WANTS TO CREATE ITS MEDIA HOLDING
Addressing State Duma deputies on 28 January, Vladimir Siloviev, the head of the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs), said that the church is interested in creating its own mass media concern that would include television, radio, and print outlets, RIA-Novosti reported the next day. Meanwhile, cleric Dmitrii Smirnov told parliamentarians that RPTs seeks to remove from Russian Television "all that we dislike." He said that "70 percent of the population is Russian Orthodox and, therefore, they should have 70 percent of airtime devoted to their [cultural] values." The two clerics also stressed that RPTs enthusiastically supports the public appeal made by Patriarch Aleksii II on 26 January for a course on the "foundations of Russian Orthodox culture" to be introduced in all state schools. VY

CHUBAIS GAINS UPPER HAND IN 'ELECTRICITY WAR' WITH DEFENSE MINISTRY
Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais said on 29 January that regional electrical companies connected to the national electrical power grid will continue to cut power to military units that have not paid their electrical bills, ITAR-TASS reported. Chubais stressed that the power supply to the space control center in Kamchatka as well as other strategic entities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002) has been resumed, but no exception will be made for lesser military facilities. He added that the debt owed by the Defense Ministry to EES totals some 2.8 billion rubles ($93 million). Meanwhile, the Primorskii Krai Prosecutor-General's Office has recognized as "lawful" the cutting of electrical supplies to military facilities of the Pacific Fleet initiated by local EES division Dalenergo, ORT reported on 29 January. And Vladimir Mikhailov, the commander of the Russian air force, has admitted that the military should blame its "own financial organs" for the current situation, gazeta.ru reported the same day. VY

GOVERNMENT TO REVOKE NATURAL RESOURCE EXTRACTION LICENSES
First Deputy Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Karaganov announced on 29 January that the government plans to revoke about 1,000 licenses issued for extracting natural resources from holders who have failed to meet their obligations, RBK news agency reported. Among the violators are companies that have allowed their licenses to expire, those who have failed to meet investment requirements, and companies that are illegally attempting to sell their extraction rights to foreign operators, he added. The blacklist includes some 60 oil and gas companies that have no funds to help further develop the exploration and extraction of resources, according to Karaganov. VY

SOME SOBER THOUGHTS ON RUSSIA'S STATUS IN THE WORLD
In an article in "Vremya MN" on 29 January, commentator Leonid Radzikhovskii argued that it is too early to "re-evaluate" President Putin's policy toward the United States. Radzikhovskii noted that "tactful" articles have started to appear accusing Putin of giving way more in concessions to the U.S. than Russia has received in return. However, Radzikhovskii suggested that there is little possibility of an equal partnership between Russia and the U.S., in part because U.S. GDP amounts to 21 percent of the world economy compared to Russian GDP's share of less than 2 percent. He said that Russia "can only be America's lesser partner" like "Japan, Canada, or Germany before unification." But he added that the U.S. is not even in a hurry to make Russia a lesser partner, and said Russia "may remain offended" or it can realize that Russia and the U.S. have only one real disagreement -- over finances. "Russia needs Western investments, and the West does not give them," he said. In conclusion he suggested that Russia's foreign policy be geared toward persuading the West to integrate it into its economic system. JAC

LOWER HOUSE WANTS TO REFORM THE UPPER HOUSE
The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), the Communist, and Yabloko factions in the State Duma are discussing the possibility of cooperating to allow them to push through changes to the constitution that would alter how the Federation Council is formed, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 January. According to the daily, many deputies consider the current Federation Council a "sorry sight." SPS reportedly wants regional legislatures to launch an initiative to change the constitution. Meanwhile, in a survey conducted among 1,500 respondents by the Public Opinion Fund on 19-20 January across Russia, 54 percent did not know what the upper chamber does, while 16 percent had difficulty answering the question, RIA-Novosti reported. JAC

REGIONS START FORMING PARDONS COMMISSIONS
At a planned monthly meeting between presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin and the presidential envoys from the seven federal districts on 29 January, the topic of regionally based pardons commissions as well as continuing work defining the division of power between regional and federal-level officials was discussed, according to polit.ru. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 25 January that Saratov Oblast is the first region in Russia to have organized a Pardons Commission, which met on 22 January. On 28 January, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov issued a decree naming 16 representatives to the local Pardons Commission. Regions were given the responsibility for organizing pardon commissions following President Putin's disbandment of the state-level Pardons Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). JAC

JUSTICE MINISTER CALLS FOR REDUCTION OF PRISON TERMS, NUMBER OF PRISONERS
Yurii Chaika proposed at his meeting with President Putin on 29 January to reduce sentences for crimes such as larceny and, by so doing, to reduce the number of prisoners in overcrowded Russian prisons, RIA-Novosti reported. Chaika also suggested that the maximum prison term in Russia be reduced from 20 to 15 years. He told the president that the number of prison inmates rose to a critical level last year as the result of an "unjustified" increase in the number of prison-term sentences for minor crimes. Thus, the number of prisoners sentenced for larceny grew in 2001 by 36 percent, or 42,000 people. Putin said he approves of Chaika's proposals and has asked him to prepare them for a legislative initiative. VY

PRIME MINISTER LAUNCHES 'ELECTRONIC RUSSIA' PROGRAM
On 29 January, Mikhail Kasyanov signed into law the federal program "Electronic Russia," which is intended to double the number of Internet users in Russia over the next five years and to integrate the country's educational and government systems into the Internet, "Vechernyaya Moskva" reported. The program also envisages the standardization of Russian Internet publications through the introduction of an obligatory format that would require information about the publisher, its state-issued license, a copyright disclaimer, and content annotation. VY

NEW RUSSIAN JOURNAL REVIVES TRADITION OF LIBERAL JOURNALISM
A group of journalists and philosophers in London have launched the new independent Russian-language magazine "Kolokol," which is modeled after the journal by the same name that was printed there from 1857-65 by Russian revolutionary democrats Aleksandr Herzen and Nikolai Ogarev, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 January. In its first issue, the publisher proclaimed that the magazine will rise up against those "who talk about the dead end of Western civilization without making a single step toward it." And against those "who are building a new Russian ideology based on Soviet arrogance, Russian drunkenness, and Asian state paternalism." VY

U.S. EMBASSY ACCUSED OF INTERFERING IN JOURNALIST'S TRAVELS
Aleksandr Budberg, a journalist with "Moskovskii komsomolets" who was planning on accompanying presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko to the United States, was denied an entrance visa, Russian agencies reported on 29 January. According to Interfax-Eurasia, the U.S. Embassy promised to resolve the situation on the 29 January, but Kirienko's press service noted that the part of the visit devoted to negotiations on chemical weapons would have already been completed by that time. The website polit.ru, citing an unnamed source in the Foreign Ministry, reported that the refusal was "not accidental and resulted from a conscious decision by the [U.S.] Embassy." Budberg visited the U.S. in November to cover President Putin's trip there, and according to the website he believes that the situation with his visa could be connected with a change of personnel in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. JAC

REGIONAL RESIDENTS COMPLAIN ABOUT LACK OF HEAT
The office of the presidential envoy to the Volga federal district revealed on 29 January that almost one-third of the letters and appeals sent to the envoy from ordinary citizens are about problems with housing, hot water, and heat. One resident in Ulyanovsk complained that the average temperature in his apartment was between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius. Also on 29 January, the local prosecutor in Ulyanovsk Oblast launched a criminal case against the head of one raion because heat was cut off to an entire village for one day when the temperature outside was minus 30 degrees Celsius. Radio Mayak reported the same day that 10,000 residents in Primorskii Krai were without heat in their homes, as outside temperatures dipped to minus 20 degrees Celsius. JAC

LINKS BETWEEN RUSSIAN FAR EAST AND ASIA EXPANDING
Air service has been established between Vladivostok and Shanghai, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. A Chinese airline company based in Shanghai will make twice-weekly flights. Meanwhile, unidentified diplomats at the South Korean Consulate in Primorskii Krai told the agency that South Korea is now home to around 6,000 illegal female immigrants from Russian who make their living through prostitution. According to the agency, the diplomats also confessed that while they issue visas to older Russians they are more reluctant to do so for "attractive young women." JAC

CHECHEN PREMIER WANTS RUSSIAN MILITARY TO JOIN GOVERNMENT
Speaking on local television on the evening of 28 January, Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov proposed that those Russian military commanders in charge of the ongoing "antiterrorist" operation in Chechnya should be included in the Chechen government, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that his government will continue to experience "problems" in discharging its duties without the "support" of the Russian military. Several Russian journalists have claimed that Russian generals are engaged in illicit commercial activities in Chechnya, including the theft of oil and strategic metals, and for that reason have no interest in ending the war (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 1, 5 January 2001). LF

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS FRENCH CONTACT WITH CHECHEN OFFICIAL
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 29 January condemning a meeting that took place in Paris on 25 January between French government Minister Jack Lang, a senior French diplomat, and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's envoy Akhmed Zakaev, Reuters and Interfax reported. Moscow issued two similar protests last week in connection with a meeting Zakaev held with British diplomats in London and Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmedov's talks in Washington with U.S. State Department officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 25 January 2002). LF

ITERA THREATENS TO CUT GAS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA
In a 29 January press release, the natural gas export monopoly Itera threatened to cut supplies of Russian natural gas to Armenia by 67 percent on 1 February unless the Armenian government pays outstanding debts of $6 million for gas received in 2001 and $3.85 million for this month's supplies, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia currently receives 5.2 million cubic meters of gas per day from Russia. A spokeswoman for Armenia's Energy Ministry told ITAR-TASS late on 29 January that the ministry has received no formal notification of the impending cut-off. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS PHONE CHARGES COMPROMISE
Opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament vowed on 29 January to campaign for the invalidation of the compromise deal on telephone charges reached last week between the Armenian government and the telecommunications monopoly Armentel, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That compromise requires private households to pay four drams (less than $0.01) for each minute of local calls over and above a six-hour monthly limit covered by the current flat fee of 900 drams (about $2) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2002). The opposition parties plan to introduce legislation banning per-minute telephone charges, but have little prospect of pushing it through parliament as they hold fewer than 30 seats in the 131-person legislature. The largest parliament faction, Miasnutiun, on 25 January lauded the compromise agreement, while the Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun also expressed approval. LF

GEORGIAN COUNTERFEITERS APPREHENDED IN ARMENIA
The Armenian National Security Ministry arrested three Georgian citizens, two of them Georgians and one Armenian, in Yerevan on 26 January in possession of counterfeit U.S. dollars with a face value of $19,000 that they intended to spend there, Noyan Tapan reported on 29 January. LF

U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE MAKES STOPOVER IN AZERBAIJAN
On a four-hour stopover in Baku on 29 January, Elizabeth Jones met with President Heidar Aliev to discuss bilateral relations, regional issues, and the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, Turan reported. She thanked Aliev on behalf of U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld for Azerbaijan's contribution to and support of that operation. LF

OFFICIALS MEET WITH AZERBAIJANI VILLAGE PROTESTERS
Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov, together with members of his staff and of the Baku police force, met on 29 January with inhabitants of the village of Nardaran, which lies some 30 kilometers from Baku, to discuss their grievances, Turan reported. The villagers staged a protest demonstration one week earlier to complain about the lack of basic amenities, including gas and electricity supplies, and the cost of public transport to and from Baku. They also demanded the release from prison of Islamic Party of Azerbaijan Deputy Chairman Hajiaga Nuriev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002). The municipal officials assured the protesters that electricity supplies will be improved, the cost of bus fares to Baku will be cut by half, and the village's carpet factory will be reopened to provide employment. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER VISITS AZERBAIJAN
On a two-day visit to Baku on 28-29 January, Nino Burdjanadze met with her Azerbaijani counterpart Murtuz Alesqerov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev, and President Aliev, Turan and Caucasus Press reported. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the total absence of problems in bilateral relations which, according to Aliev, are becoming stronger year-by-year. Aliev nonetheless addressed the issue of Georgia's 250,000 Azerbaijani minority, which has in the past alleged discrimination by the Georgian authorities. He offered to supply textbooks for and to fund repairs to Azerbaijani schools in southeast Georgia. The two sides also emphasized the importance for the South Caucasus as a whole of resolving the Abkhaz and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts on the basis of respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia and Azerbaijan. LF

AZERBAIJANI, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS CONFER
President Aliev and Vladimir Putin discussed by telephone on 28 January the agreements reached during Aliev's visit to the Russian capital on 24-26 January, which both men "evaluated highly," Russian agencies reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, RUSSIAN SECURITY CHIEF DISCUSS 'HOT SPOTS'...
Visiting Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo met for four hours in Tbilisi on 29 January with President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in Abkhazia and the Pankisi Gorge in eastern Georgia, Russian and Georgian agencies reported. Echoing the argument that Shevardnadze has expressed several times over the past weeks, Rushailo told journalists after those talks that he believes the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone would lead to an escalation of tension in the region, and possibly even "a large-scale civil war." For that reason, Rushailo added, no hasty decision should be taken on their withdrawal. In that context, Rushailo described the Abkhaz conflict as an interethnic one, thereby rejecting claims by some Georgian politicians that the Abkhaz are engaging in terrorism against Georgia. Shevardnadze stressed the recent improvement he said has taken place in bilateral relations, adding that it is hoped that consultations on the new framework treaty between Russia and Georgia will be completed within the next six weeks. LF

...AS INGURI PROTEST CONTINUES...
Meanwhile, despite torrential rain, the number of participants in the protest picket at the bridge of the River Inguri has risen to over 1,000, Caucasus Press reported on 29 January. The protesters are demanding that the Russian peacekeeping force withdraw or move further into Abkhaz territory to protect the Georgian population of Abkhazia's Gali Raion. LF

...AND PEACEKEEPERS COME UNDER FIRE
A member of the Russian peacekeeping force in the Abkhaz conflict zone was shot and wounded in the Abkhaz village of Tagiloni late on 29 January, and has been hospitalized in Sukhum, Caucasus Press reported. Russian military spokesmen blamed Georgian guerrillas operating in the district for the attack, but Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, said it was probably the result either of an attack by Abkhaz militants or of drunken shooting among the Russian force. LF

SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER RULES OUT TALKS ON RELATIONS WITH TBILISI
Eduard Kokoev, the recently elected president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, told a youth gathering in Tskhinvali on 29 January that he will not agree to any negotiations with the central Georgian government on the political status of the breakaway region, Caucasus Press reported. He said South Ossetia "gained its independence long ago." At the same time, Kokoev expressed readiness to allow Georgians who fled the region during fighting in 1990-1992 to return gradually over a period of several years. LF

MORE KAZAKH GOVERNMENT MEMBERS APPOINTED...
President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 29 January named three deputy premiers on 29 January: Karim Massimov, Baurzhan Mukhamedzhanov, and Aleksandr Pavlov, Interfax quoted Prime Minister Imangali Tasmagambetov as saying. Massimov served as a deputy premier in the outgoing government of Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Mukhamedzhanov is a former presidential administration head and justice minister, and Pavlov served as first deputy premier from October 1999 to November 2000, when he was named deputy director of the giant Kazakhmys zinc combine. He now also holds the post of finance minister. The outgoing ministers of defense (Mukhtar Altynbaev), state revenues (Zeinula Kakimzhanov), transport and communications (Ablai Myrzakhmetov), health (Zhaksylyk Doskaliev), energy and mineral resources (Vladimir Shkolnik), agriculture (Akhmetzhan Yesimov), and employment and social security (Gulzhana Karagusova) were reappointed to those posts, Interfax reported. LF

...AS CRACKS APPEAR IN NEW OPPOSITION MOVEMENT
Several of the young Kazakh politicians who last November founded the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK) announced in Astana on 29 January that they now plan to quit that grouping in order to form a new opposition party called Ak Zhol (White Road), Deutsche Welle reported on 29 January. The founding congress of Ak Zhol is scheduled for 6 March, and its members, including former Deputy Prime Minister Uraz Djandosov, will in the meantime retain their membership of DVK. LF

LATVIA ASKS KYRGYZSTAN TO ALLOW PEACEKEEPING CONTINGENT USE OF ITS FACILITIES...
The Latvian Foreign Ministry has addressed a request to its Kyrgyz counterpart for permission for the Latvian army unit that will serve in the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan to be allowed to use the Manas international airport in Bishkek, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. The Kyrgyz leadership has already granted the U.S. and France use of that airport, and similar requests by Canada, Australia, Denmark, South Korea, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Spain, and Norway await a decision. LF

...AS COMMUNISTS APPEAL TO KYRGYZ PRESIDENT TO SAY 'NO'
Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Absamat Masaliev told a press conference in Bishkek on 29 January that his party has appealed to President Askar Akaev and the country's parliament to reconsider its readiness to allow foreign countries to use Kyrgyz air bases and other facilities, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Masaliev argued that there is no need for countries other than the U.S. to be allowed to do so. LF

U.S. MILITARY DELEGATION VISITS TAJIKISTAN
A military delegation from the U.S. Central Command held talks in Dushanbe on 28 January on military and military-technical cooperation, including exchange of information, military education, cooperating in the prevention of drug trafficking, and humanitarian and technical aid, Russian agencies reported. LF

U.S. DIPLOMAT ENDS VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN
Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones has ended a three-day visit to Uzbekistan during which she met with President Islam Karimov, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, and Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov to discuss regional security and the prospects for bilateral cooperation. Jones told journalists in Tashkent on 29 January that the two countries will sign "a political declaration" during an upcoming visit by Karimov to the United States. She also announced that Washington will give Tashkent $160 million this year to fund security, health care, education, water supply, and other local infrastructure programs. LF

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION REACTIVATES COORDINATING BODY
Opposition parties and NGOs on 29 January brought back to life the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces, which stopped its activity in August 2001 prior to the presidential election, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "We are facing serious political challenges. I mean the threat of losing our political and economic independence," Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) leader Vintsuk Vyachorka commented on the council's reactivation. The council includes the BNF, the United Civic Party, the Charter-97 group, the Congress of Free Trade Unions, and a number of regional NGOs. Before the presidential election, the Belarusian opposition also coordinated its efforts in the Consultative Council of Opposition Political Parties, which was set up following an initiative of Hans Georg Wieck, the former head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus. JM

BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT SETS 2002 CROP TARGETS
Premier Henadz Navitski said on 29 January that Belarus plans to produce a minimum of 6.4 million tons of grain, 8.3 million tons of potatoes, 1.6 million tons of sugar beets, and 7.5 million tons of fodder this year, Interfax reported. Last year, the country produced 5.1 million tons of grain, its biggest such crop in the past 10 years. JM

CIS GATHERING IN MINSK CALLS FOR ALL-OUT EFFORT TO FIGHT CRIME, TERRORISM
At their meeting in Minsk on 29 January, the leaders of CIS member countries' law enforcement, security, border control, and customs agencies adopted a statement in which they called for increased joint efforts to combat crime, terrorism, and narcobusiness, Belapan reported. Participants in the meeting called on the CIS legislatures to make an all-out effort to adjust laws currently in force to the tasks of fighting organized crime, terrorism, illegal trade in narcotic and psychotropic substances, illegal trade in arms and explosives, and economic crimes -- including money laundering and the legalization of proceeds from criminal activities. Nikolai Patrushev, the director of Russia's Federal Security Service and chairman of the CIS Council of Security and Special Service Chiefs, told the agency that CIS security services have "no concrete evidence" that any Belarusian weapons have been sold to Chechnya. Reports accusing Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of illegal arms sales have appeared in the international press on a regular basis over the past year. JM

THIRTY-SIX GROUPS SEEK TO REGISTER FOR UKRAINIAN ELECTION
The Central Election Commission (CEC) told UNIAN on 30 January that 23 parties and 13 election blocs managed to submit documents for registration of their candidates for the 31 March parliamentary election. Under the election law, 29 January was the last day for submitting such documents. Interfax reported that the CEC has thus far registered 2,765 candidates on party lists and 1,160 candidates seeking parliamentary mandates in single-seat constituencies. The Verkhovna Rada has 450 seats, of which 225 will be contested in one countrywide constituency under a proportional system and the other 225 in single-seat constituencies. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER'S CAR CRASH SEEN AS 'EXTREME STAGE' OF ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Yuriy Kostenko, the leader of the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, said that the automobile crash of opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko on 29 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002) testifies to "the transition of the electoral process to an extreme stage," UNIAN reported on 30 January. "It is difficult for me to comment on the reasons for the crash. But everyone in Ukraine who has heard about this event -- I am sure 100 percent -- sees it not just as an [ordinary] road accident. [Such a perception] testifies to our assessment of the level of security in the state and to the fact that people in Ukraine have become used to criminal methods of political struggle," Kostenko noted. JM

UKRAINIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL BLOC TO TURN INTO PARTY
Volodymyr Lytvyn, the head of the presidential administration and the For a United Ukraine election bloc, said on 29 January that his bloc will transform itself into a party. "All members of the [For a United Ukraine] coordination board [have concluded] that we have to implement in practice the idea of setting up a political structure. We will tackle this in parallel with the election. Since we are associated with the party of power, think of it as a pro-presidential or presidential party," Ukrainian Television quoted Lytvyn as saying. The For a United Ukraine bloc consists of the Agrarian Party, the Popular Democratic Party, the Labor Ukraine Party, the Party of Regions, and the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. JM

ESTONIA CONSIDERS GIVING UP TAX-FREE REQUIREMENT IN EU TALKS
Prime Minister Siim Kallas told the media after the first meeting of his cabinet on 29 January that he expects to complete the membership negotiations with the EU by the end of this year, ETA reported. He suggested that the government might not ask for the 6 1/2 year transition period for tax-free trade that his predecessor Mart Laar had been asking for on the grounds that this had been granted to Sweden and Finland in 1993. The loss of tax-free trade would directly influence Estonian shipping firms, aviation, transport, as well as its tourism industry, and would likely result in requests for government assistance. Tax-free trade accounts for 46 percent of the total income of passenger ships operating between Tallinn and Helsinki, and the abolishment of tax-free trade would result in an increase in the price of tickets and a decrease in the number of passengers. The Tallinn airport, which took out loans for its recently completed renovation, would stand to lose about 10 percent of its turnover and as a result would likely ask that airport-use taxes be raised, which would boost ticket prices. SG

LATVIAN CABINET APPROVES ACTION PLAN FOR IMPLEMENTING EC PRIORITIES
The government approved on 29 January an action plan for implementing the priorities included in the European Commission's (EC) 2001 progress report, LETA reported. The plan, worked out by the Foreign Affairs Ministry with the assistance of other ministries, includes the priorities and drawbacks mentioned in the EC's progress report and assigns responsibility to institutions for liquidating these drawbacks. The institutions will be required to report on what they have accomplished at each meeting of the European Integration Bureau, which the cabinet has tasked with supplementing the national program for integration into the European Union, according to the action plan. SG

LITHUANIA'S GDP UP 5.7 PERCENT IN 2001
Statistics Department Chairman Algirdas Semeta announced preliminary data on 29 January indicating that the gross domestic product (GDP) of Lithuania in 2001 was 47.8 billion litas ($11.95 billion), or 5.7 percent greater than in 2000, ELTA reported. The Lithuanian Finance Ministry had forecast a GDP growth of 4.8 percent, while the International Monetary Fund and European Union had predicted a 4.5 percent rise. The greater-than-expected increase was primarily due to the rise of 7.9 percent in the GDP in the fourth quarter. Total industrial output sales (without valued added and excise taxes) in 2001 were 26.6 billion litas, an increase of 16.9 percent compared to 2000, but agricultural produce declined by 8 percent. Semeta mentioned that the construction sector recovered, with construction increasing by 4.7 percent. He also noted that exports in 2001 grew by about 20 percent and exceeded the results of 1997 for the first time since the Russian financial crisis. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT ADOPTS PROGRAM TO REVIVE ECONOMY
Premier Leszek Miller's cabinet approved a four-year economic strategy on 29 January that is intended to invigorate economic growth, reduce unemployment, support entrepreneurship, and increase infrastructure expenditures -- primarily housing construction and the building of highways, Polish media reported. The program aims to restore the flagging economic growth to 5 percent within two years. Miller said his government will ease conditions for business by amending some 40 laws, including the Labor Code, and reducing the number of approvals and permits required. JM

POLISH RADICAL AGRARIAN PLEDGES TO DISRUPT PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES
Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper, who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity last week, said on 29 January that he will not allow normal deliberations of the parliament "until social and economic policy is changed," PAP reported. "They threaten that they will be marching Self-Defense deputies out of the parliament -- we will play cat-and-mouse. If they march us out, we will go back in, and so we will go back and forth, but until social and economic policy is changed, there will be no normal deliberations of the Sejm," Lepper promised. On 30 January, the Gdansk Appeals Court was to decide whether to uphold Lepper's sentence to one year and four months imprisonment for in 1999 having called President Aleksander Kwasniewski "the biggest lay-about in Poland," former Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz "an economic idiot," and former Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Tomaszewski "the bandit from Pabianice." JM

GERMANY DONATES 23 SOVIET-MADE FIGHTER JETS TO POLAND
German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping and his Polish counterpart Jerzy Szmajdzinski signed an agreement on 29 January whereby Poland will receive 23 Soviet-made MiGs from Germany for a symbolic sum of 1 euro, and will purchase 128 Leopard tanks for 25 million euros ($22 million), international news agencies reported. "Signing this agreement opens up a historic perspective," dpa quoted Szmajdzinski as saying. JM

CZECH VERBAL BATTLE WITH AUSTRIA DRAGS ON
Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 29 January officially protested against comments made in Vienna by far-right Freedom Party Secretary-General Peter Sichrovsky, who said the Czech Republic has insufficiently compensated Jews persecuted under Nazi occupation, international agencies and CTK reported. Sichrovsky also said the Czechs helped the Nazis round up Jews and send them to concentration camps. Rychetsky told journalists on 28 January that Sichrovsky had uttered "a dirty lie, an absolutely base and false statement." Austrian diplomatic sources said the Czech protest asks the Vienna government to take a stand on Sichrovsky's statement. Representatives of the Federation of Czech Jewish Communities accused Sichrovsky of attempting to abuse the fate of Jewish victims of the Nazis for political means and for "distorting history." Sichrovsky dismissed the criticism and called the Jewish reaction "more than embarrassing." MS

CZECHS' HAVEL SUPPORTS DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
President Vaclav Havel told the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 30 January that he supports holding direct presidential elections, CTK reported. He said allowing the country's people to elect their president would contribute to political stability and make the head of state have a "direct mandate" from the people rather than a "derivative" one, as is the case when the president is elected by parliament. He also said presidential prerogatives must not necessarily be increased as a result of changing the system of electing the president. MS

NEW SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER APPOINTED
President Rudolf Schuster officially appointed Frantisek Hajnovic as Brigita Schmognerova's successor as the country's Finance Minister on 29 January, CTK reported. Hajnovic pledged to carry out the reforms started by Schmognerova. Meanwhile, media reports in Slovakia said Hajnovic's name appears on unofficial lists as a former agent of the Czechoslovak secret police and that his code name was "Franta." MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE ON STATUS LAW
The parliament on 29 January postponed for next week a debate on the Hungarian Status law, CTK and Hungarian media reported. The decision was taken after Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told a closed meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee that he has received a letter from his Hungarian counterpart Zsolt Nemeth, indicating that Hungary is prepared to publicly declare that the law has no extraterritorial validity. The parliament also rejected a proposal by Real National Slovak Party deputy Rastisalv Septak to abrogate the Slovak-Hungarian basic treaty. MS

SLOVAK SUPPORT FOR EU, NATO MEMBERSHIP GROWING
Slovak support for membership in the EU and NATO is growing, according to an MVK poll cited by CTK on 30 January. Eighty-one percent of the respondents in the survey supported EU entry and 61 percent supported membership in NATO. Opposition amounts to 12.8 percent in the case of the EU and 30.6 percent for NATO membership. In a similar poll conducted last month, 75.1 percent supported membership in the EU and 53.3 percent favored NATO membership. MS

HUNGARIAN RULING PARTY, PREMIER TARGETED BY ELECTORAL RIVALS
The opposition Socialist Party will request that the National Election Commission take a position on whether FIDESZ is using public funds to finance its election campaign through ads distributed by the National Image Center, Socialist Deputy Chairman Ferenc Juhasz told reporters on 29 January, Hungarian media reported. In other news, Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze the same day criticized Prime Minister Viktor Orban for appearing on the "Vasarnapi Ujsag" radio program, which Kuncze said is an indication that Orban is counting on the votes of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) in the April general elections. Kuncze said the Prime Minister's appearance on a program "viewed as a mouthpiece for MIEP and as a stain on the public service media," is tantamount to "a kind of cooperation" with the extremist party, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

U.S. WARNS HUNGARY ON ANTI-SEMITISM
U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Nancy Goodman Brinker's request last November that Hungary's political and social leaders take action against hate speech and extremism represents the policy of the U.S. government, the U.S. State Department's spokesman for European affairs, Larry Schwartz, told "Nepszabadsag" on 29 January. Schwartz said the U.S. is concerned about the presence of anti-Semitic and antiminority extremist groups in Central Europe, particularly in Hungary. He noted that Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi admitted during a visit to Israel earlier this week that anti-Semitism is a problem that still exists in Hungary, but that the Hungarian government condemns it and is committed to protecting the rights of minorities. MSZ

FEUD IN SERBIAN COALITION SPREADS TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The lower house of the federal parliament voted on 29 January to approve Velimir Radojevic of Montenegro's pro-Belgrade Socialist People's Party (SNP) as defense minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The assembly did not endorse, however, the nomination of Dragan Marsicanin of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) as finance minister. The DSS then accused its rivals in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition of provoking a crisis in the federal government. Dragoljub Micunovic, who heads one of the smaller parties in DOS, said that the fact that some DOS deputies voted against the government's own nominee is "a classic example of a dysfunctional parliamentary majority, and this issue has to be resolved," Reuters reported. PM

WORLD BANK LOAN FOR SERBIA
The bank approved a Structural Adjustment Credit of $70 million to fight poverty and promote growth in Serbia, dpa reported from Washington on 29 January. PM

HEARING OF SERBIAN EX-LEADER'S CASE OPENS IN THE HAGUE
A hearing began at The Hague tribunal's appeals court on 30 January over a request by prosecutors for former President Slobodan Milosevic to receive one trial instead of two, Reuters reported. A lower court has ruled that he must face one trial for crimes committed in Kosova and a second trial on indictments regarding Croatia and Bosnia. Appearing at the 30 January hearing, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte argued that Milosevic's wars were part of one plan. "The overall scheme, the overall plan of defendant Milosevic, which was already apparent in 1989, was the creation of a predominantly Serb state dominated by Belgrade. The acts, the behavior, the attitude of the defendant during that period, which is also very important, demonstrate that everything was being prepared for the Kosovo conflict," RFE/RL reported. Milosevic's Kosova trial is slated to start on 12 February. Prosecutors have said that his trial for all three sets of charges could begin on that date. PM

...IN THE SHADOW OF CONFLICTS
Representatives of the Public Administration Ministry reported that the UDMR local organization in Covasna County is violating the stipulations of the memorandum signed by Nastase and Hungarian Premier Orban on the implementation of the Status Law, Mediafax reported. They said that the local UDMR organization "goes beyond providing information" to those interested in receiving the Hungarian ID card. According to these reports, the UDMR's "information bureaus" set up for this purpose "distribute [application forms], fill them in, and mail them to Hungarian consulates or to the [Bucharest-based] embassy." Some 10,000 ethnic Hungarians have so far applied for the ID card, Mediafax reported. MS

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER CAUTIOUS ON HAGUE COOPERATION
On an official visit to the Netherlands, Goran Svilanovic said in The Hague on 29 January that his government will cooperate with the tribunal but on a "step-by-step" basis, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He argued that the Serbian population must be first convinced that war crimes did indeed take place and then that those responsible must be made to answer for them. PM

MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER PLAYS DOWN CHANCE OF CONFLICT
Speaking in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 29 January, Vlado Popovski downplayed views expressed by some members of his government that a renewed ethnic conflict is imminent, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002). He stressed that "the forces that intend to renew the conflict" would have no support either from the "Albanians in Macedonia" or from abroad. Many Albanians suspect that it is Macedonian hard-liners close to Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski who are the most anxious to launch a new conflict (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 18 January 2002). In related news, Georgievski said in Skopje on 29 January that he will take over the chairmanship of the National Crisis Center following the recent resignation of Dosta Dimovska, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 January 2002). PM

WEAPONS HAUL ON KOSOVA-MACEDONIAN BORDER
UN spokeswoman Andrea Angelli said in Prishtina on 30 January that police the previous night arrested three ethnic Albanians attempting to smuggle arms and ammunition from Kosova into Macedonia, Reuters reported. The men had five mules laden with 20 kilograms of explosives, 30 grenades, 20 Kalashnikovs and other rifles, two heavy machine guns, and about 15,000 rounds of ammunition, she said. Police are trying to determine for whom the goods were ultimately intended. In related news, KFOR on 29 January released three Arabs detained the previous month on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 2002). A KFOR spokesman said that "there was no justification in detaining these individuals further." PM

ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS RETURN TO THE PARLIAMENT
Sali Berisha, whose Democratic Party has boycotted the parliament for months to protest what he called fraud in the June 2001 elections, said in Tirana on 29 January that his deputies will soon take up their seats, Western news agencies reported. The move comes following the resignation of Prime Minister Ilir Meta, whose Socialist cabinet was undermined by sniping and political maneuvers by party Chairman Fatos Nano (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002). Meta refused to endorse a presidential bid by Nano, who is seen by many at home and abroad as given to corruption and cronyism. Berisha also warned Nano to give up his "presidential dreams." Berisha called for the formation of a broad-based interim government that would include his party. Under the constitution, President Rexhep Meidani is obliged to call on the Socialists to form a new government. PM

...AS ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER ANNOUNCES 'IMAGE-IMPROVING' CAMPAIGN
Presidential adviser Ioan Talpes said on 29 January after a meeting of the Supreme Council of National Defense that Romania will launch an international campaign geared at improving the country's image abroad and demolishing perceptions that Romania is on the brink of a crisis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Romania's perception as a corrupt state is to be particularly targeted. "Currently, the country's image is so negative that telling the truth is 10 times better," Talpes said. He mentioned the so-called two "Armageddon" reports anonymously distributed on the Internet as having caused particular damage. Talpes said he is "unaware" of any proof linking Romanian Intelligence Service chief Radu Timofte with businessmen currently under investigation for illicit deals and implicitly endangering national security. MS

CROATIA TO SLASH MILITARY
Defense Minister Jozo Rados presented a program on 29 January outlining his plans for a reform of the military and his ministry, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The plan provides for the retirement or release from duty of 21,194 out of 40,714 persons on the ministry's payroll by the end of 2005. Rados told "Jutarnji list" that he wants to make the army smaller, younger, and more efficient. Under late President Franjo Tudjman, the military was widely regarded as a bloated sinecure of his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). PM

CROATIA AND BOSNIA FAIL TO AGREE ON OIL TRANSPORT
Bosnian and Croatian delegations did not reach a deal in Sarajevo on 29 January on recent Croatian regulations and Bosnian countermeasures on overland oil deliveries, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002). Bosnian officials said that their ban on Croatian oil deliveries remains in force. PM

PREMIER SAYS ROMANIA MUST HEED U.S. RECOMMENDATIONS ON FIGHTING CORRUPTION...
In an interview with Reuters on 29 January, Adrian Nastase said Romania must heed the recent recommendations made by the U.S. government about fighting widespread corruption in the country. Nastase said this would prove that Romania is serious about reforms, as well as enhance the country's chances of joining NATO. Nastase said he does not believe that "we will finalize everything" before the 2002 Prague summit this fall, and that "realism" is necessary when coping with the problem. However, he added that "our task at the political level is to address the major sources of corruption in [both] institutional and legal terms, and our program is very clear -- we do not do those things for the Americans." MS

CROATS HONORED FOR SAVING JEWS IN HOLOCAUST
In Zagreb on 29 January, Israeli Ambassador to Croatia David Granit presented his country's Medal of the Righteous to 10 Croatian individuals or families for their roles in saving Jews during the period of rule by the pro-Axis Ustashe between 1941 and 1945, AP reported. Some of the awards were posthumous. A total of about 80 Croats have received the medal to date. At the ceremony, Granit called on young Croats to learn more about the Holocaust. Croatian President Stipe Mesic also stressed that young people should know that the Ustashe were "even more brutal" than the Nazis, even if they were not as well organized, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Mesic urged Croats to take pride in their countrymen who showed courage and saved Jews. PM

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY, UDMR RENEW PACT...
The ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) officially signed a new one-year cooperation agreement on 29 January, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002). The agreement stipulates that the UDMR will not support no-confidence motions against the minority government and that joint commissions to monitor its implementation will be set up at central and county levels. The PSD pledged to submit to the parliament within three months a law on the restitution of church properties confiscated by the communists; that additional faculties that teach in the Hungarian language will be established at Cluj Babes-Bolyai University; that it will examine the possibility of setting up a Hungarian-language section at Targu Mures Medicine Faculty; and that Hungarian-language television broadcasts from Targu Mures will be resumed. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER SAYS PROTESTS ARE 'SMOKE SCREEN FOR UNDERMINING THE STATE'
Vasile Tarlev, speaking on television on 28 January, said the protest demonstrations that have been going on for three weeks are a pretext for undermining the government and Moldova's independent statehood, Infotag reported. Tarlev said the "opposition is worried by the positive results achieved by the government," and that "for the first time in a decade we have achieved economic stability." This, Tarlev said, explains why the opposition has "grasped the first opportunity" to launch the protests against the introduction of compulsory Russian-language classes in schools. He also said that in the last few days, the protesters "seem to have forgotten why they came to the [National Assembly] Square and are chanting: "We are Romanians," and "Unification [with Romania]." MS

MOLDOVAN SUPREME COURT REJECTS PPCD APPEAL AGAINST SUSPENSION
On 29 January, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) against the decision of the Justice Ministry to suspend that party's activity for one month, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The court said it is "not competent" to deal with the complaint at this stage, since the PPCD should have first applied to the Court of Appeals in Chisinau. The same day, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's rapporteurs for Moldova concluded their visit with meetings with President Vladimir Voronin and Premier Tarlev, as well as with PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca, who told the rapporteurs that "Communist power in Moldova systematically liquidates all democratic institutions." MS

ROMANIAN, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Visiting Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh and his Romanian counterpart Nastase signed an agreement in Bucharest on 30 January on economic cooperation, Romanian radio reported. Kinakh said trade between the two countries increased by a significant 25 percent in 2001 and amounted to $600 million. Nastase said Romania is interested in continuing participation in the construction of the Kryvyy Rih ore-dressing plant in Ukraine, and that the two countries are cooperating on hydroelectric projects on the Tisa River and on connecting their respective natural gas-transportation pipelines. He hinted that the dispute over the Black Sea shelf and Serpents' Island remains unsolved, saying that in the future "sensitive points" in Romanian-Ukrainian relations will be "important tests" that must be "approached from a European perspective." MS

WAR CRIMINAL SOUGHT BY CROATIA ARRESTED IN HUNGARY
Hungarian border police arrested Rade Vrga at the Horgos border crossing between Serbia and Hungary on 29 January, Hina reported. He is a Croatian citizen who has been living in Serbia. Croatia has indicted the ethnic Serb for war crimes against prisoners of war in the Glina area in 1991 and 1992 during the Krajina conflict. Hungary is preparing his extradition, Reuters reported. PM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL CRITICIZES NEW ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISION OF MOLDOVA
Claude Casagrande, the deputy chairman of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, said on 29 January in Chisinau that the law that reintroduced the Soviet-type administrative division was approved by a vote tainted with "procedural violations," and that the congress should have been notified before changing the law, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Casagrande also said that if the government goes ahead with its plan to conduct early local elections, Moldova risks being expelled from the Council of Europe. Also on 29 January, Vasile Iovv, the chairman of the parliament's Commission on Local Public Administration, was appointed by President Voronin as first deputy prime minister. MS

OSCE MISSION CHIEF MEETS WITH SMIRNOV
David Schwartz, the head of the OSCE mission in Moldova, met on 29 January in Tiraspol with separatist leader Igor Smirnov, Flux reported. OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff said he is unable to provide details on the encounter, as Schwartz is in Tiraspol "on a working visit." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR DEFENSE INDUSTRY
Georgi Parvanov pledged on 29 January to make efforts to address the problems facing the country's defense industry, BTA reported. Parvanov met with the managers and workers of the Khan Krum plant in Turgovishte, which is run by the state-owned Terem EAD. Terem EAD was set up by the government in 1998, replacing the former Military Industry Department. Parvanov said he will urge the Defense Ministry to consider public procurement projects that could be commissioned to Khan Krum. In 2001 the army did not commission any such projects from the plant, which has been operating at minimum capacity for years. MS

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION WANTS TO MOVE NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova told the party's allies in the opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) that the alliance's parliamentary group should initiate a motion of no-confidence in the cabinet, BTA reported. Mihailova told journalists after an ODS meeting that "only big business" profits from the government's taxation policies. If the motion is submitted, it will be the first of its kind since the cabinet was formed last July. Mihailova said the ODS will not seek the support of the Coalition for Bulgaria alliance (which is dominated by the Socialist Party), because "the left is involved in the government." She also criticized "the flagrant censorship of the media" and infringements on the freedom of speech. MS

NATIONAL IDENTITY AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN UKRAINE: EXPLAINING THE YUSHCHENKO PHENOMENON


Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko entered Ukrainian politics on a national scale when he moved from chairman of the National Bank to prime minister in December 1999. During his government's 18-month tenure he oversaw Ukraine's emergence from a decade-long slump and paid off wage and pension arrears. A survey of different Ukrainian opinion polls conducted between June 2001 and January 2002 showed that Yushchenko's popularity ratings remained between 18-30 percent.

Western commentary has focused primarily on Yushchenko's personal popularity and has ignored why this popularity has not been transformed into a nationwide mass movement. In other words, why has Yushchenko not become a Ukrainian equivalent of Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) head Vojislav Kostunica, who was able to mobilize both democratic and nationalist anticommunist mass opposition to former President Slobodan Milosovic in October 2000? Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is as unpopular as Milosovic was, and yet the opposition newspaper "Vecherniye Vesti" compared Ukraine unfavorably to Yugoslavia and asked, "What kind of people would put up with discredited rulers? Are we worse than the Serbs?"

In Ukraine, the creation of a similar mass movement is made more difficult because of the national question that prevents Yushchenko and his Our Ukraine bloc from capturing the same levels of high support elsewhere in the country that it already enjoys in western and central Ukraine. A November-December 2000 International Foundation for Electoral Systems poll found that approximately the same number of ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians suffered as a result of a decade of social change. Nevertheless, only 26 percent of Russian respondents in the poll said they trusted Yushchenko, compared with 45 percent of Ukrainians. This gap in attitudes along ethnic lines was not reflected in attitudes toward President Kuchma, who was trusted by 31 percent of Ukrainians and 22 percent of Russians (the poll was conducted before the "Kuchmagate" scandal erupted in November 2000).

In the late Soviet era, the national democrats in Ukraine were strong enough to propel the country to independence, but not to take power. In the '90s they were nonetheless able to prevent Ukraine from fully sliding into authoritarianism, a regression that has been the norm in the remainder of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The opposition movement that grew up during the Kuchmagate scandal was based in the same regions as the anti-Soviet, nationalist movement of the late Soviet era, namely western and central Ukraine.

If the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement had been able to mobilize countrywide support, as Kostunica did in Serbia, it is doubtful that Kuchma would be still in power today. But, as in the late Soviet era, eastern and southern Ukraine remained passive. As Russophile activists Mykhailo Pogrebynsky and Vladimir Malynkowitch bemoaned in a roundtable convened at the Russian newspaper "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in April 2001, civil society is closely linked to national identity in Ukraine. Consequently, an active civil society only exists in western and central Ukraine, while the east is passive. Eastern and southern Ukrainians only become involved in politics in the run-up to national elections when their more numerous votes in regions such as the Donbas with its 10 million population are sought after by election blocs.

Because the national democrats were not able to take power in Ukraine they were therefore unable to ensure that Ukraine undertook the "radical reform and return to Europe" strategy adopted by the three Baltic states and post-Milosovic Serbia. Instead, Ukraine has muddled along with "third way" and "multivector" policies favored by the former Soviet Ukrainian elite-turned-oligarchs.

The only way Ukraine can escape from these confused policies is through the creation of a broad reformist movement, such as Our Ukraine, that combines a patriotic, anticorruption, and socioeconomic platform. For the first time since the late Soviet era, the Communist Party and its leader Petro Symonenko have been pushed into second place by Our Ukraine and Yushchenko. But, as in the late Soviet era when they allied themselves with the "sovereign communists," national democrats have today been forced to compromise by forming a tactical alliance with the centrists. The major difference between the late Soviet era and today is that Our Ukraine has for the first time expanded the reach of national democrats into eastern and southern Ukraine, the traditional preserve of the Communist Party and the oligarchs.

The link between national identity and civil society that makes Ukraine so different from Yugoslavia is reflected in a January poll by the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Research (UCEPS). Unsurprisingly, Our Ukraine is strongest in western and central Ukraine, where it commands 51.9 and 20 percent support. These are the only two regions where Our Ukraine has pushed the Communist Party into second place. In the north, east, and south Our Ukraine's popularity drops to second place after the Communist Party with 9.5, 7.9, and 11.6 percent respectively.

The two radical antipresidential Yuliya Tymoshenko and Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist Party election blocs are more geographically restricted to western and central Ukraine. The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, although led by a party with its origins in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, is only popular in western and central Ukraine, while the Socialists are confined to Ukrainophone central Ukraine. Opposition newspapers, such as Tymoshenko's "Vecherniye Vesti," are only able to obtain printing facilities in Western Ukraine.

Western and central Ukraine are the strongholds of the opposition movement against Kuchma and the oligarchs. According to the UCEPS poll, seven blocs would pass the 4 percent threshold for the 225 seats elected by proportional voting. In western Ukraine only four of these seven would pass the threshold, and of these Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc top the list. In central Ukraine, seven blocs would pass the threshold, of which the top four are national democratic or in the opposition camp (Our Ukraine, Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko's Unity, and the Socialist Party bloc).

For a United Ukraine, the bloc favored by President Leonid Kuchma that includes five "parties of power," would not pass the threshold in either western or central Ukraine. In Kyiv, a city with a large number of state officials, For a United Ukraine would only manage to scrape through with 4.3 percent.

National identity, reform, and civil society are closely linked in Ukraine, as they are in other postcommunist states. Ukraine's regional and linguistic divisions inhibit national integration and a civil society encompassing the entire country. Meanwhile, the more pervasive Soviet legacy in eastern and southern Ukraine has led to a passive population and a weak civil society. This, in turn, prevents Yushchenko's Our Ukraine from becoming a mass movement throughout Ukraine in the same manner as Kostunica's DOS in Serbia. The popularity of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine in Western and Central Ukraine reflects the region's role as Ukraine's main engine for reform, a bastion of opposition to the Communist Party and oligarchs, and preventing a further slide to authoritarianism. Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.

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