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Newsline - February 7, 2002


MEDIA MINISTER DENIES CENSORSHIP...
Speaking to the Duma on 6 February, Mikhail Lesin said the Media Ministry has prepared a concept for developing the state mass media, strana.ru and "Izvestiya" reported. Lesin refuted critics' claims that the government imposes censorship on the mass media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2002), but admitted that "development of free mass media in the last decade has led to some contradictions." However, he added, "the economic dependence of the mass media on the state does not allow [the state] to leave the scene too quickly." Lesin also said that in Russia there are currently 303,318 print, 3,805 broadcast, and 628 Internet based publications, of which he claimed only 10 percent are owned by the state. Lesin failed to mention that the 10 percent includes all national television channels and most of the national newspapers. VY

...AND ALLEGES SALE OF NTV STOCK IN THE WORKS
After his remarks, Lesin told reporters that NTV General Director Boris Jordan "with a Russian banker" is going to buy Vladimir Gusinsky's stake in NTV, which amounts to about 31.5 percent, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 February. However, both Gusinsky and Jordan flatly denied any sale is taking place. Gusinsky told Ekho Moskvy that the "minister is trying to pass off his wishful thinking for reality." An unidentified high-level source at Gazprom told the newspaper that his company has a good relationship with Jordan based on trust and has not heard about any negotiations. However, a source in the Media Ministry told "The Moscow Times" that Lesin announced the deal in order to force Gazprom to make the tender open and prevent Jordan "from quietly taking control of the station." "Izvestiya" reported that, according to unidentified sources, the Russian banker in question is Mezhprombank head and Federation Council senator (Tuva Republic) Sergei Pugachev, who is an old acquaintance of Jordan's. The daily also reported that the sum of $50 million has been discussed as the price for Gusinsky's stake. Earlier, Berezovsky alleged that Pugachev had approached him about buying his shares in TV-6 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2002). JAC

AUDIT CHAMBER SAYS WORLD BANK LOAN LINED POCKETS, PRODUCED PAPER
Speaking to the State Duma on 6 February, Audit Chamber inspector Tamara Zlotnikova said that a probe she led established that a $55 million loan given to Russia by the World Bank in 1995 to be used for the development of environmental controls was pocketed by officials involved in the project, "Vremya MN " and "Izvestiya" reported. She said that in the seven years since the loan was disbursed, the project's participants have produced nothing aside from "several bags of useless papers." VY

PRO-KREMLIN GROUPS MAINTAIN PRESSURE ON DUMA APPARATUS
On 6 February, more than 100 Duma deputies signed a letter to Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin asking his agency to conduct an audit of the lower chamber's financial activities from 1999 to 2001, Interfax reported. According to First Deputy Chairwoman Lyubov Sliska (Unity), deputies from the pro-Kremlin groups Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, Liberal Democratic Party, Russian Regions, and People's Deputies supported the initiative. Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev told reporters the previous day that he believes there is no special need for an audit because the chamber conducts such checks annually and has not found any violations so far, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Sliska said the last audit was done in 1998, and that after she asked Seleznev to show her all the documents from the audits he failed to provide them. Meanwhile, Oleg Kovalev (Unity), the new head of the committee on the Duma's standing rules of order, said on 4 February that he met with Seleznev recently to discuss the five groups' dissatisfaction with Nikolai Troshkin, the head of the Duma's apparatus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2002). According to Kovalev, the group's lack of trust in Troshkin will be difficult to overcome. JAC

MUSLIM RELIGIOUS LEADER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST DRAFT RELIGION LAW
The supreme mufti for Asian Russia, Nafigulla Ashirov, has spoken out against a draft law he believes would give the Russian Orthodox religion the legal status of the official state religion, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 February. Ashirov said such a plan would "lead to discontent among people of other faiths and shatter the Russian state." Unity faction member Aleksandr Chuev recently submitted a draft bill on traditional religious organization that would give the Russian Orthodox Church special privileges. Under the bill, the church would receive access to schools, television airwaves, and exemption from taxes, polit.ru reported. JAC

FORMER NATIONALITIES MINISTER SAYS OFFICES OF PRESIDENTIAL ENVOYS ARE BLOATED...
In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 7 February, former Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov criticized President Vladimir Putin's creation of seven federal districts, saying that "it would have been a good idea if the staff of the district remained at the level of 50 people or so, but it is several times more." He also suggested that smaller compact federal ministries made more sense than "creating such monsters as the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, where the minister [German Gref] is simply unable to supervise everything." JAC

...AS ENVOYS ASSIGNED TO TRIM BUREAUCRACIES
Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 February that the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts have recently been tasked with reducing the number of representatives of federal ministries in the regions and eliminating regional bodies that perform the same tasks as federal agencies. According to the daily, the seven envoys have divided up the various federal policy areas based on their previous experience. For example, envoy for the Northwestern federal district Viktor Cherkesov will look at the field operations of intelligence services, while Southern envoy Viktor Kazantsev will look at army sub-units. JAC

KREMLIN, REGIONS CONTINUE TO TUSSLE OVER WAGES
President Putin has ordered the government to make sure that state sector workers received their promised wage hike, RIA-Novosti reported on 6 February. Putin defended the federal government's decision to raise wages, noting that all possible complications have been taken into account, including the traditional decline in tax revenues at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin reported that less than half -- 42 of Russia's 89 regions -- "have not had problems paying wages and paid them on time." He also acknowledged that only 70 of the 89 regions have provided information about their situation regarding the payment of wages. Putin also repeated his earlier charge about blackmail by the regions, saying, "it is necessary to examine how money is spent in the regions, whether it is spent on priority needs or used for other purposes that cannot be called priority" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002). JAC

PUTIN INVITES EC TO ST. PETERSBURG JUBILEE...
Putin told reporters on 6 February that he favors inviting the heads of countries in the EU to meet in St. Petersburg when the city celebrates its 300-year anniversary next year from 24 May to 1 June, Interfax reported. Finance Minister Kudrin announced the same day that 11.7 billion rubles ($382 million) will be transferred from the federal budget to the city to help it prepare for the celebration. Kazan, which will be celebrating its 1,000-year anniversary next year, will receive 1.1 billion rubles. JAC

...AS MORE TALK OF TRANSFERRING GOVERNMENT FUNCTIONS OUT OF MOSCOW RAISED
St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev told reporters on 6 February that while he favors keeping the Russian Federal Assembly in Moscow, he is not against the transfer to St. Petersburg of several federal ministries such as the Finance Ministry, Central Bank, and Culture Ministry, polit.ru reported. The next day, in an interview with "Izvestiya," former Deputy Prime Minister and Saratov's representative to the Federation Council Abdulatipov discussed his idea of transferring some federal government functions not only from Moscow to St. Petersburg but also to other Russian cities. According to Abdulatipov, he considers it "reasonable" to transfer the State Duma to St. Petersburg, where it met under the Tsar, and move the Federation Council to the State Duma building in Moscow. He added that the offices of the navy would be better situated in Vladivostok, while offices related to forestry might be better located in Krasnoyarsk Krai. JAC

FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE ARM TO CREATE REGIONAL SUBDIVISIONS
Viktor Zubkov, the head of the Committee for Financial Monitoring, announced on 6 February that departments of the agency will soon be formed in all seven federal districts, RBK reported. Zubkov added that the number of departments in outlying regions might eventually be greater than seven. Zubkov also said he is disappointed that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an anti-money laundering arm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, did not exclude Russia from its "blacklist" of money-laundering states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2002). He said he will do his best to ensure Russia's removal from that list by the next FATF meeting in June 2002. VY

FEDERAL PROTECTION SERVICE EXPOSES CRIMINAL LINKS OF KREMLIN ADMINISTRATION
Sergei Devyatov, the spokesman for the Federal Protection Service (FSO), the security agency responsible for safeguarding top Russian officials, said on 6 February that his service is concerned by the use of automobile passes by unauthorized individuals, who were thus able to gain access to the Kremlin, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported. He said the passes were issued by members of the presidential staff at the request of unknown individuals, but following an investigation it was established that the requests and passes were forged. Devyatov said the FSO sent a complaint to President Putin, who has issued an order to punish any members of his staff found to be responsible. VY

ELECTRICITY RATES TO BE RAISED FOR PRIVATE CUSTOMERS
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced to the Duma on 6 February that the government will soon raise rates for electricity and other services for the general population, "Vremya novostei" reported. According to Khristenko, the government seeks to eliminate the burden of subsidizing utility costs for private customers, who cover just some 50 percent of expenditures. Beginning on 15 February, the government plans to raise gas rates by 20 percent, and from 15 March electricity rates will be raised by the same percentage. His announcement did not include rate hikes for industrial enterprises. VY

DUMA WON'T SPEAK OF IT
The State Duma rejected a motion on 6 February by Agro-Industrial group leader Nikolai Kharitonov to discuss banning Russian leaders from making public presentations abroad in languages other than Russian, RIA-Novosti reported. Kharitonov said that politicians who speak foreign languages abroad are "forgetting about language as a main attribute of national culture." President Putin and Premier Kasyanov have recently addressed citizens in foreign countries in German and English, respectively, which Kharitonov described as "political and ethical mistake," according to "Moskovskii Komsomolets." However, Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy head of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said that use of foreign languages is often a matter of politicians' education levels rather than protocol, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

COURT POSTPONES SCIENTIST'S ESPIONAGE TRIAL
The Krasnoyarsk Krai court on 6 February postponed the trial of Valentin Danilov, the physicist accused by the Federal Security Service of spying for China, ITAR-TASS reported. The case has been returned to the prosecution for further investigation. According to Danilov's lawyer, Yelena Yevmenova, the court agreed with the prosecution's request that the charges against Danilov should be expanded to include fraud, the agency reported. Danilov was arrested 18 months ago and is one several journalists and scientists charged over the past two years with disclosing state secrets, while the accused maintain that any information they obtained was from open sources. In each of the cases the Russian courts have employed the same tactics -- once public outcry reaches a peak, they decide to review the case while the defendant remains in custody. VY

ULTRA-LEFTIST FIGURE HOPES FOR DEPUTY MANDATE, IMMUNITY
National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov has registered as a candidate in State Duma by-elections in a single mandate district in Nizhnii Novgorod, RIA-Novosti reported on 6 February. Limonov will compete along with five other candidates for the seat abandoned by Gennadii Khodyrev when he won gubernatorial elections in that oblast. Limonov currently resides in Lefortovo prison, because he is suspected of organizing an illegal armed formation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2001). "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 February that despite his incarceration, Limonov's chances of victory are considered high, as the other candidates are not well known in the district. JAC

AUGUST IRKUTSK ELECTION RESULT QUESTIONED
Aleksandr Salii, a Duma deputy (Communist) and chairman of the Commission for the Study of the Use of Election Legislation, called on the Duma's Security Committee to confirm information contained in a 29 January article in "Moskovskii komsomolets" alleging that workers at his commission accepted money to falsify the results of the 2001 gubernatorial elections in Irkutsk Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2001). Incumbent Irkutsk Oblast Governor Boris Govorin won a second round by less than 2 percent of the vote. Salii suggested that the author of the article had apparently obtained some audiotapes from one of Russia's intelligence services, Interfax reported on 6 February. JAC

CHECHEN DEPUTY PREMIER SURVIVES ANOTHER ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Ali Alautdinov escaped unscathed on 6 February when his car hit a mine on the outskirts of Grozny, Russian agencies reported. Two of his bodyguards were hospitalized with injuries. It was the second attempt on Alautdinov's life since the beginning of this year. LF

RUSSIAN TROOPS UNDERTAKE NEW CHECHEN SEARCH OPERATION
Russian forces have surrounded the town of Shali, southeast of Grozny, and for the third consecutive day are checking the identity of the town's inhabitants, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. "Dozens" of people have been detained, according to a local official. On 6 February, Russian Human Rights Commissioner for Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov said he has received no confirmation of complaints by the human rights organization Memorial that Russian troops resorted to arbitrary brutality against civilians during a recent search operation in the towns of Novye and Starye Atagi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 February 2002). LF

MURDERED ARMENIAN PREMIER SUSPECTED OF HAVING RESORTED TO TORTURE
Armenia's prosecutor-general, Aram Tamazian, has ordered an inquiry into allegations that former Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, one of the eight victims of the October 1999 Armenian parliament shootings, participated in the beating and torture of Interior Ministry officers in 1995, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. At that time Sargsian was defense minister. The inquiry into Sargsian's role is part of a broader investigation into former Armenian prisons head Mushegh Saghatelian, who was arrested last year on a variety of charges including human rights violations and the arrest and torture in June 1995 of former Interior Ministry officials suspected of plotting to overthrow then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian. Saghatelian has accused current President Robert Kocharian of masterminding the 1999 parliament killings. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION FAILS TO FORCE PARLIAMENT DEBATE ON NEW TELECOMS TARIFFS
An attempt by Armenian opposition factions to convene a parliament debate on the compromise agreement on tariffs reached last month between the Armenian government and the Armentel telecommunications monopoly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2002) failed on 6 February for lack of a quorum, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Deputies from the pro-government Hanrapetutiun faction and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun boycotted the session, according to Noyan Tapan. The opposition factions argue that the new tariffs, which took effect on 1 February, are unfair as they apply only to subscribers to digital telephone networks. LF

GEORGIA WELCOMES RUSSIAN OFFER TO REPATRIATE CHECHEN REFUGEES
Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze on 6 February expressed approval of the Russian government's decision to assist Chechen refugees currently in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge to return home and guarantee their security in Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported. A team of experts from Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry, Interior Ministry, and Federal Border Service is to travel to Georgia next week to coordinate with the Georgian side the voluntary repatriation of those Chechens willing to leave Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 6 February, spokesman Lechi Gezidov said the Chechen government is ready to house the returnees either in temporary camps or with local residents. The Chechen Emergency Situations Ministry is ready to provide transportation for the repatriates as soon as weather conditions permit, Minister Colonel Vasilii Eshenko told Caucasus Press on 6 February. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT REJECTS CALLS FOR PARLIAMENTARY REPUBLIC...
Addressing a 6 February meeting of editors of pro-government media outlets, President Nursultan Nazarbaev rejected calls by the opposition Forum of Democratic Forces of Kazakhstan for the abolition of the presidency, Interfax reported. At that meeting, Nazarbaev also said he has given the new government headed by Imangali Tasmagambetov a free hand for the next two years to implement its programs, in particular education reform and the introduction of mandatory medical insurance. Meanwhile, in an interview published in the 5 February issue of "Kazakhstanskaya pravda," the commander of the presidential bodyguard said Nazarbaev, who is 61, excels at horseback riding, swimming, and diving, and can shoot as accurately as his bodyguards and pilot a helicopter, Interfax reported. LF

...AS KAZAKH COMMUNIST LEADER ACCUSES HIM OF TARGETING NEW OPPOSITION MOVEMENT
All the reprisals directed against the founders of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK) were initiated personally by President Nazarbaev, Communist Party of Kazakhstan First Secretary Serikbolsyin Abdildin told journalists at a press conference in Almaty on 6 February, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Abdildin appealed to Nazarbaev to embark on a "constructive dialogue" with the opposition. LF

WORKERS APPEAL TO NEW KAZAKH PRIME MINISTER TO INCREASE PENSIONS
Leading members of the Almaty Workers Movement told a press conference in the former capital on 6 February that they have written to new Prime Minister Tasmagambetov asking him to raise pensions by 25 percent and to lower the retirement age to 60 for men and 55 for women, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. They also called for more effective measures to combat crime and corruption. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, JAPAN SIGN CREDIT AGREEMENT TO FUND REFINERY RECONSTRUCTION
Representatives of Kazakhstan's state oil company KazakhOil and Japan's Marubeni Corporation have signed a credit agreement February on funding for reconstruction of the Atyrau oil refinery, Interfax reported on 6 February. Of the total estimated $308 million costs, the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) will provide $200 million and Marubeni $35 million. When the JBIC first approved that project two years ago, Tasmagambetov, then the Atyrau Oblast governor, argued against Japanese involvement, saying the refinery could meet the costs of reconstruction itself if it functioned at full capacity over a five-year period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2000). LF

COURT REJECTS FORMER KYRGYZ VICE PRESIDENT'S APPEAL
The Bishkek City Court on 6 February rejected an appeal by imprisoned former Vice President Feliks Kulov against a district court's decision not to hear Kulov's libel suit against Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001). In a book published last summer, Akaev said he was "disappointed" in Kulov, whom he described as "power-hungry." LF

IMF SUGGESTS EARLIER KYRGYZ WAGE, PENSION INCREASE
Meeting in Bishkek on 6 February with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, a visiting IMF delegation headed by Tapio Saavolainen proposed that salaries and pensions should be raised before, not after, the planned 25 percent increase in electricity tariffs takes effect on 1 April, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Saavolainen reportedly praised Kyrgyzstan's macroeconomic performance for 2001, when 5.3 percent GDP growth was recorded and consumer prices rose by only 3.7 percent, the smallest increase in the 10 years since the country became independent. LF

SUSPECT IN MURDER OF KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL ARRESTED
Kyrgyz police detained a man early on 6 February whom they suspect of shooting Mars Kozhbaev, the head of the Kyrgyz State Property Fund's Department for Foreign Investment, the previous day, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2002). Neither the suspect's identity nor his possible motive have been made known. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO KEEP BELARUS IN EUROPE...
Alyaksandr Lukashenka received credentials on 6 February from Norbert Jousten, the ambassador of the European Commission in Belarus, Belarusian Television reported. "The policy of ignoring Belarus or of trying to exclude it from European affairs -- as past years have testified -- is counterproductive, lacking in prospects, and cannot produce anything useful, because Belarus is the geographical center [of Europe]," Lukashenka said. "And we will not allow its exclusion from Europe, it is [a task] beyond anybody's powers," he said, adding, "we do not create any problems for Europe." JM

...THANKS UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS FOR SUPPORT...
The same day the Belarusian president met with Ukrainian Communist Party head Petro Symonenko, who headed a group of Ukrainian lawmakers visiting Minsk. "First of all, I want to thank you for your honesty, fairness, and colossal support -- not for Lukashenka but for the Belarusian people -- that was rendered by the Communist Party of Ukraine and you with your comrades during the last presidential election [in Belarus]," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM

...AND OKAYS MILITARY DOCTRINE
President Lukashenka on 6 February signed Belarus's military doctrine into law, Belapan reported. The doctrine does not regard any state as Belarus's potential adversary. Among "external military threats" to the country's security, the doctrine specifies the existence of large nuclear arsenals and weapons of mass destruction in some countries; potential hotbeds for local wars and armed conflicts; interference in Belarus' internal affairs; expansion of military blocs and alliances; open resistance to collective security arrangements within the former USSR; as well as international terrorism and transnational crime, illicit traffic in arms and drugs, and illegal migration. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PUTS PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT ON THE AGENDA...
The Verkhovna Rada on 7 February voted 282 to one to include the issue of impeachment of President Leonid Kuchma in the agenda of its last session, which is scheduled to end by 23 February, Interfax reported. JM

...REMOVES LAZARENKO FROM ITS RANKS
The same day, 337 lawmakers voted to deprive former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko of his parliamentary powers. Lazarenko is currently in jail in the U.S., where he is being tried on money-laundering charges. A Swiss court tried Lazarenko in absentia in 2000, finding him guilty of laundering some $6.5 million and sentencing him to 1.5 years in prison and a $6.6 million fine. JM

UKRAINE'S CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION ALLOCATES AIRTIME
The Central Election Commission (CEC) on 6 February drew lots to allocate airtime and space in newspapers to political parties and election blocs, UNIAN and Interfax reported. This was done to ensure their rights to state-financed election advertising on the nationwide Ukrainian Television (First Channel), Ukrainian Radio (First Program), and in the governmental "Uryadovyy Kuryer" and parliamentary "Holos Ukrayiny" newspapers. CEC Chairman Mykhaylo Ryabets told journalists that the commission registered 4,113 candidates running in the 31 March parliamentary elections on party lists, and 3,107 candidates in single-seat constituencies. Ryabets added that 268 deputies of the current parliament are seeking re-election. JM

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT IN KYIV
Hungarian President Ferenc Madl on 6 February met with his Ukrainian counterpart Kuchma, Ukrainian media reported. Madl urged Ukraine to develop closer ties with the EU and NATO. Kuchma took advantage of the meeting with Madl to slam Ukraine's party system. "The Republic of Hungary passed the stage of political forces' structuring long ago. Today there are virtually only two forces vying for the right to have a majority in the future parliament. Those political forces have no differences concerning the country's main lines of development. To my deep regret, I cannot say the same about Ukraine," 1+1 Television quoted Kuchma as saying. "The cloning of political parties and blocs has reached the point of absurdity in Ukraine," Kuchma added. JM

ESTONIAN STATE DEFENSE DEVELOPMENT PRIORITIES SIGNED
Defense Minister Sven Mikser and defense forces commander Rear Admiral Tarmo Kouts signed on 6 February the priorities of the development of state defense for 2002, BNS reported. The document defines Estonia's role in the NATO integration process, participation in European security and defense policy, as well as the implementation and development of the defense forces' structure. Mikser noted that more attention must be devoted to informing the public about the NATO accession process and the nature of the alliance. The officials said at a press conference following the signing that Estonia must provide at least 100 specialists from the Defense and Foreign Ministries and General Staff for cooperation with NATO, ETA reported. Some of the officials will represent Estonia at NATO headquarters in Brussels and be paid by Estonia, while others will work as NATO officials and receive their salaries from the Atlantic alliance. SG

LATVIAN, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS INTERSTATE AGREEMENTS
Indulis Berzins and Anatoliy Zlenko discussed bilateral relations in Riga on 6 February and agreed to continue working on several draft agreements, including ones on protection of classified information, cooperation in culture, and the fight against economic and financial violations, BNS reported. Zlenko expressed support for Latvia's efforts to join the EU and NATO and noted that joining those structures are also priorities of Ukrainian foreign policy. The ministers decided to form an intergovernmental Latvian-Ukrainian economic commission in Riga in March to enhance economic cooperation, with Berzins noting that Latvia backs Ukraine's efforts to be admitted to the World Trade Organization. SG

LITHUANIA, BELARUS SIGN AGREEMENT TO ENCOURAGE INTERSTATE TOURISM
Lithuanian Deputy Economy Minister Gediminas Miskinis and Belarusian Sports and Tourism Deputy Minister Henadz Alyaksenka signed an agreement in Vilnius on 6 February aimed at increasing tourism between the two countries, BNS reported. The agreement provides for better sharing of statistics on tourism and information about events, as well as for increased contacts between travel agencies and related associations in the two countries. Miskinis noted that in 2001 only Poland and Russia had more visitors to Lithuania than the 640,700 from Belarus. He expressed regret that less than 2 percent of the Belarusians spent a night in Lithuania, as most only went there to trade in small items and then return to Belarus. This was also true for some 400,000 people Lithuania who visited Belarus, of whom only 10 percent said tourism was the purpose of their visit. SG

POLAND PLANS TO INTRODUCE VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR EASTERN NEIGHBORS IN 2003
The Polish government intends to revoke the agreements on visa-free traffic with Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus "late in summer or in autumn" in 2003, PAP reported on 6 February, quoting an anonymous government official. The official added that Poland will stick to this pledge even if EU enlargement does not take place precisely on 1 January 2004. Eneko Landaburu, the director general for enlargement with the European Commission (EC), said EC experts propose that Poland introduce visas for citizens of its three eastern neighbors around a year prior to its EU entry. He made it understood, however, that if Poland suggests a period of a little less than a year and presents "credible guarantees," the EC will accept it, the agency reported. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT WELCOMES IDEA OF INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES ON PARTY LISTS
Vaclav Havel said on 6 February that he welcomes the idea of having the Freedom Union-Democratic Union and the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) offer places on their joint electoral list to independent civic society personalities, CTK reported. "I do so because I am a friend of civic society," Havel said, but denied he would offer his support for the list as a result. "If another party asked for my advice, I would tell it the same thing," Havel said, emphasizing that "I am a friend of civic society, not an adviser of any party." Also on 6 February, KDU-CSL Deputy Chairman Jan Kasal said he would support the idea, provided the decision on who should be included from among the independents will be taken at regional, and not at the central level. The KDU-CSL leadership was to discuss the proposal on 7 February. MS

LAWYER SAYS HE WILL STOP NUCLEAR FUEL TRANSPORT TO TEMELIN
Edward Fagan, the U.S. lawyer who represents Austrian environmental organizations in their lawsuit against the Czech Republic over the Temelin nuclear power plant, told journalists on 6 February that he believes he can stop the transport of nuclear fuel to the controversial plant, CTK reported. Fagan said he now has documents from the U.S. Westinghouse company, which is the supplier of nuclear fuel and of automatic control systems to the plant, and that they show that the uranium for the supplied fuel is mined in Australia. The mining company, according to Fagan, is owned by the Japanese extremist group that dispersed the deadly sarin gas in the Tokyo metro in 1995. "If the fuel is not safe, the plant is not safe either," he said. Fagan also said the plant is not guarded against terrorist attacks. MS

RUSSIA TO PAY CZECH DEBT WITH GOODS
Russia will pay part of its debt to the Czech Republic by supplying products worth $210 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. An agreement on the partial debt settlement was signed in Prague by Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin and his Czech counterpart Ladislav Zelinka. Under the agreement, Russia will supply fuel for Czech nuclear power stations, equipment for nuclear power engineering research and for energy carriers. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS MIKLOS OUSTED FROM GOVERNMENT
Thirty-five deputies representing the main opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) signed a petition on 6 February demanding the removal of Deputy Premier Ivan Miklos from the cabinet, CTK reported. Miklos is considered by Western observers to be the main driving force of economic reform, particularly after Brigita Schmognerova was forced to resign as finance minister. Parliament Chairman Jozef Migas called a special session of the legislature to be held on 13 February, at which a possible no-confidence motion in Miklos could be debated. A similar motion against him failed in May 2001, but observers say the motion could now be supported by coalition member Party of the Democratic Left. Such support, in turn, may bring about the government's resignation and early elections. MS

DEBATE OF STATUS LAW IN SLOVAK PARLIAMENT IS OCCASION FOR SETTLING ACCOUNTS
Addressing the Slovak parliament on 6 February, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said he does not believe the dispute with Hungary over the Status Law can be settled before the April parliamentary elections in that country, TASR reported. Dzurinda called on the opposition parties to "show whether they are serious" when they speak of unity in foreign policy orientations, saying that unless they do so they will show "that they are lying, as they have been doing for years." The remarks caused an uproar. HZDS deputy Roman Hofbauer asked during the debate: "How can we expect our interests to be defended when President Rudolf Schuster is a German, parliament speaker Josef Migas a Ruthenian, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda is a Gypsy, and the [Czech] wife of Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan does not even know the language of her adopted country"? MS

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS TO BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT UNTIL ELECTIONS...
The opposition Socialist Party on 6 February said it will refuse to participate in parliamentary debates until after the April elections in response to Prime Minister Viktor Orban's alleged reference to the opposition as "traitors" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2002). Socialist parliamentary group leader Sandor Nagy said the parliament's work has become "totally pointless," as Orban believes that anyone who does not support the government's policy is a traitor. Hungarian Justice and Life Party Chairman Istvan Csurka said Orban should not apologize even if he made that remark. Csurka described the opposition actions regarding the Status Law and the related memorandum of understanding as verging on treason, saying that the opposition has "aligned itself" with anti-Hungarian forces. MSZ

...WHILE PREMIER ADMITS HE CALLED SOCIALISTS 'TRAITORS'
During his weekly interview with Hungarian radio on 6 February, Orban said he used the word "traitor" in a private conversation, but not during the formal debate. He said he expressed his opinion to Socialist deputy Laszlo Keller "in a sober-minded, calm, and quiet manner." Orban said during his interview that Hungary is the only country among the nine EU candidates unable to show political unity ahead of accession. "It only happens here that the opposition, at least the Socialists and Free Democrats, keep the government under fire, just at the moment when it should be holding negotiations with Brussels in a smart, skillful, and expedient way," Orban said. "It will be difficult for the government to hold successful talks in Brussels with the opposition working against the interests of the Hungarian people," he concluded. MSZ

MILOSEVIC TO SPEAK FOR 'AT LEAST A FULL DAY' AT OPENING OF HAGUE TRIAL
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic intends to speak for at least one full day when his trial in The Hague begins next week, one of his 10-member team of advisers told AP on 6 February. Zdenko Tomanovic said that Milosevic will not be limited in the length of his opening statements "unless the UN court moves and makes a precedent in this case." In related news, the Greek government has said it will provide the UN war crimes tribunal with records of transactions from bank accounts suspected of possibly being connected with the Milosevic regime. DW

SERBIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR MORE EXTRADITIONS, REJECTS CALL FOR MEDIATION IN COALITION
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said on 6 February that U.S. pressure is making it inevitable that his government will extradite more war crimes suspects to The Hague, Beta news agency reported. "My view is that they should go to The Hague voluntarily. If they do not, then we must find a way for them to end up in The Hague," he said. Meanwhile, in response to a statement by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic calling for mediation between quarrelling factions of the ruling Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), Djindjic denied there is anything to mediate, Serbian agencies reported. "There is no need for anyone to pacify the quarrelling sides. This is a matter of facts, which can either be proved or not." He said the government demanded evidence concerning allegations made of corruption within the government, but has not received them. DW

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IN KOSOVA COMES OUT FOR ARRESTS
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson expressed his strong support for the arrest of three men for war crimes against fellow Albanians by KFOR and UN police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2002), which has sparked three days of street protests, AP reported. "Let there be no doubt: NATO and KFOR will not accept any intimidation from those who do not abide by the rule of law," Robertson said in a statement. Separately, the diplomatic missions of the U.S., EU, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Denmark in Kosova voiced support for the UN and NATO efforts "to uphold law and order" in the province. "If Kosovo is to establish itself as a society grounded in democratic ideals...Kosovo's people must be ready to condemn criminality -- regardless of the perpetrator or the victim," their statement said. DW

ROMANIAN PREMIER CANDID ON ANTICORRUPTION STRUGGLE...
Adrian Nastase told a meeting of the Social Democratic Party's (PSD) Central Executive Bureau on 6 February that the PSD has unfairly launched the struggle against corruption as if it were a "struggle against corruption in other parties." Nastase said the struggle must not be directed against political adversaries alone and that there is "enough dead wood" in the PSD as well. He said some of his party's local government leaders are beginning to repeat the mistakes that led to the party's loss of power in 1996. Nastase said the fight against corruption must be one that unites all political forces, and that to this purpose he will meet with the leadership of the National Liberal Party (PNL) to examine a PNL proposal on changes in the law on party financing. MS

MACEDONIAN 'LIONS' PULLED FROM CONFLICT AREA
Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said on 5 February that the elite Macedonian police unit, the Lavi (Lions), are being pulled out from checkpoints near the town of Tetovo in a move aimed at reducing tensions, dpa reported. Boskovski said that "the Lavi ended their historic mission and will be pulled out" and replaced by regular police units. The Lavi were known for their brutal fighting methods and have been accused of committing atrocities against ethnic Albanians. The group was formed last September by Boskovski and Macedonian Premier Georgievski. The opposition Social Democratic Union charges that the Lavi are a "private army" made up of former criminals. A NATO spokesman said the move is "the best way to reduce tensions and create a more positive atmosphere for reconciliation between ethnic groups." PB

ALBANIA'S FEUDING SOCIALISTS SELECT MAJKO TO BE NEW PREMIER
Defense Minister Pandeli Majko was named prime minister-designate on 6 February after a vote in Tirana by the ruling Socialists' Steering Committee, Reuters reported. Majko, 34, must still be approved by a parliament vote. He said that "after the work starts, I'm convinced I will have all of you by my side." Majko replaces Ilir Meta, who resigned last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002) amid party infighting. Majko, who was supported in the vote by Meta, beat out two other candidates: Ermelinda Meksi, the minister of trade and international economic cooperation, and Kastriot Islami, a university professor who served as speaker of the parliament in the early 1990s. Socialist Party Chairman Fatos Nano, who has been feuding with Meta and accused him of corruption, backed Meksi in the vote. Majko received 65 votes from the 117-member Steering Committee. PB

BOSNIAN SERB AUTHORITIES URGE WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS TO SURRENDER TO THE HAGUE
Authorities from the Republika Srpska said on 7 February that they are urging suspected Bosnian Serb war criminals to surrender to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, dpa reported from Banja Luka. The Republika Srpska government set a 30-day deadline for the more than 30 accused Bosnian Serb war criminals to give themselves up, the agency added. They include wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. There were conflicting reports over whether the Republika Srpska was offering a bail guarantee for those who comply with the request. Sinisa Djordjevic, an adviser to Srpska's prime minister, was quoted as saying on 6 February that those individuals should give themselves up or forfeit bail guarantees ahead of any trial in The Hague, Serbian news agency Beta reported. But the same agency quoted Srpska Republika Justice Minister Mladjen Mandic as saying on 7 February that the law on cooperation with the tribunal includes no such deadlines or conditions for bail. He added that Dusan Fustar, who gave himself up last week, did not receive government bail guarantees because his surrender was not organized through the Republika Srpska government, Beta reported. AH

PARTY SEEKS UNITED BOSNIAN CROAT POSITION IN CONSTITUTION TALKS
The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) of Bosnia-Herzegovina on 6 February invited Bosnian Croat parties to talks aimed at reaching consensus ahead of a parliamentary debate on constitutional harmonization, federation news agency reported. The HZD, which pledges equal footing for participating parties, alleged in a statement that "constitutional reforms have taken a negative turn for the Croats in the direction of transforming Croats from a constituent nation into a national minority," the agency reported. The amendment has loomed since a Constitutional Court ruling last year that Muslims, Serbs, and Croats must be made legally equal throughout Bosnia as "constituent peoples," but most parties have yet to coalesce around a strategy in the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002). AH

CROATIAN PREMIER SAYS COALITION PARTY SHUFFLE HAMPERING GOVERNMENT WORK
Ivica Racan said on 6 February that uncertainty stemming from a leadership change in the coalition Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS) is affecting the government's ability to work, Croatian radio reported. Croatian officials have canceled several foreign trips in recent days, including a weeklong visit by Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic (HSLS) to the United States that was to start on 6 February. "They obviously feel the need to stay here, and participate not only in the current work of the government, but also in the current events in their party," Social Democrat Racan said when asked about another recent cancellation, this time by HSLS Economy Minister Goranko Fizulic, the agency reported. The job security of some senior officials has been called into question since the election of Drazen Budisa to lead the HSLS on 2 February, a situation exacerbated by polls showing the HSLS and other conservative parties could gain seats in the event of early elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2002). AH

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL AGREES TO EXTEND FORCE'S STAY IN MACEDONIA
Lord George Robertson said in Brussels on 6 February that NATO will "pick up the challenge" and extend its mandate to remain in Macedonia, Reuters reported. Robertson said he will discuss the request, officially made by Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski the previous day, with Macedonian officials during a visit to Skopje set for 6-7 February. Robertson said that "if [the extension] is three, four, six months, then NATO is ready to pick up the challenge represented by our continued presence and we'll be there to give reassurance to the monitors." The NATO troops work with international monitors in Macedonia who are overseeing the redeployment of ethnically mixed security forces into areas previously controlled by ethnic Albanian rebels. PB

BOSNIA SAID TO BE SEEKING U.S. EXTRADITION OF WARTIME AMBASSADOR TO UN
News agency SRNA reported on 6 February that the Bosnia-Herzegovinian Foreign Ministry will request that the United States extradite the former Bosnian ambassador to the United Nations and ex-foreign minister, Muhamad Sacirbey. The agency reported that Bosnian Civil Affairs and Communications Minister Svetozar Mihajlovic confirmed the pending move, based on documents submitted by federation authorities. Mihajlovic said the extradition request will "most probably" be given to U.S. officials next week. Sacirbey, known locally as Sacirbegovic, has been accused of misappropriating some $2.6 million while he was head of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mission to the UN. He holds Bosnian citizenship but lives in the United States. Foreign Ministry officials said last month that they asked Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant for Sacirbey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2002). AH

SLOVENIAN, DANISH LEADERS TAKE UP CONTENTIOUS EU ISSUES...
Danish Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen met with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek on 6 February for talks centered around EU issues ahead of Denmark's presidency of the EU in the second half of 2002, Slovenian radio reported. Drnovsek offered Ljubljana's views on the starting point for negotiations on EU entry, saying those currently on offer are "not sufficient and adequate." He added, "within the next few months, we will try to achieve better starting points," the radio reported. Those are likely to be tough talks even after Denmark takes up the EU's rotating presidency. Denmark has not declared its stance over recent proposals by the European Commission on some sensitive areas like agriculture and regional aid, but Rasmussen said in Slovenia that, "basically, Denmark is in favor of the commission's strategy," the radio reported. AH

...AS DANISH LEADER VOICES SUPPORT FOR SLOVENIAN ADMISSION TO NATO
Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen also expressed support for Slovenia's membership in NATO during a visit to Brdo pri Kranju on 6 February, Slovenian radio said. AH

...'RETURNS COMPLIMENT' TO SENATE CHAIRMAN...
Nastase also said that Senate Chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu "might not have been very wise" when he accepted a consultancy position with mogul Sorin Ovidiu Vantu's Development and Investment Bank when the PSD was in the opposition, but that he does not believe Vacaroiu's political adversaries will "find support against him in the PSD." One day earlier, Vacaroiu repeated a remark made by President Ion Iliescu before his departure for the U.S., saying that Nastase is "somewhat arrogant." MS

...AND MEETS WITH NEGOTIATOR AT END OF INCONCLUSIVE IMF VISIT
Nastase met on 6 February with Neven Mates, the chief IMF negotiator for Romania, who headed an IMF delegation that examined the implementation of the accord on the standby loan concluded in October 2001, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He denied the discussions had reached an "impasse," and said he tried to convince the delegation of the need for "social measures" to accompany the envisaged reforms without changing the basic parameters of the standby agreement. The sides agreed that an "additional letter of intent" detailing the sources of financing for envisaged social measures is to be sent to the IMF within 10 days. The fund's executive board will examine in March the implementation of the agreement and decide whether to release the second tranche of the $383 million loan. MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION CLEARS SRI CHIEF
The parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) said on 6 February that it has not found any evidence that mogul Vantu, currently under investigation, has illegal links to SRI personnel and to its director, Radu Timofte, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The allegations were recently made when former Vantu associate Mihai Iacob testified before the commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 29 January 2002). Commission Chairman Ion Stan said that the "private meetings" between Vantu and Timofte posed "no danger to the national security," and that the former SRI employees who are currently working for Vantu were employed by him after their retirement from the service. MS

ROMANIA EXPELS KURDISH LEADER TO TURKEY
Salih Bingoltekin, an important member of the Kurdish Worker's Party, and his driver were expelled to Turkey on 6 February, Mediafax reported. Turkey has issued an international arrest warrant against Bingoltekin, who is accused of terrorism. The SRI said the Kurdish leader illegally entered Romania using a false passport and was expelled on the grounds of "involvement in activities contradicting Romanian legislation and in line with measures aimed at preventing terrorist threats against national security." The association representing the Kurds in Romania protested against the expulsion, saying Bingoltekin and his driver were tortured by the SRI and that Bingoltekin's expulsion is "politically motivated." MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER DOWNPLAYS DEPARTURE OF NON-COMMUNIST MINISTERS
Vasile Tarlev said on 6 February that Moldova "has lost nothing" with the departure from the cabinet of the only two ministers who were not members of the Party of Moldovan Communists, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Tarlev said there will be "no problem" in replacing the two -- Economy Minister Andrei Cucu, who was forced to resign, and Finance Minister Mihai Manoli, who submitted his resignation the same day. Also on 6 February, the cabinet approved the recall of Ceslav Ciobanu as Moldova's ambassador to the U.S. MS

OSCE MISSION CALLS ON TRANSDNIESTER SEPARATISTS TO CEASE 'HOSTILE ACTIONS' AGAINST IT
On 6 February, the OSCE permanent mission in Moldova called on the Transdniester authorities to "renounce what can only be termed as hostile actions" against the members of the mission and to respect the agreement of 26 August 1993, Infotag reported. That agreement guaranteed the freedom of movement of OSCE mission members carrying out their duties in Moldova. The mission said that since 16 January 2002 its members have been prevented by the separatist authorities from entering the region and from attending the meetings of the Joint Control Commission, with "only a few exceptions." It said these acts are a "deliberate violation of an agreement with an organization representing 55 countries in Europe and Eurasia." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL...
Lord George Robertson told President Georgi Parvanov at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on 6 February that Bulgaria has made "good progress" in reforming its military and that Sofia proved to be "a very substantial partner" of the alliance during last year's Macedonian crisis, Reuters reported. Parvanov said he was "gratified" by the recognition and that this will "motivate the [Bulgarian] politicians, the public at large, and the leadership of the Bulgarian army for a furthering of reform." Robertson declined to predict how many candidates will be asked to join NATO at the organization's Prague summit, but said NATO should have an "enhanced partnership for peace" agreement with those candidates that fail to join in November in order to ensure that they will not be discouraged from the longer-term goal of accession. MS

...AND WITH EU ENLARGEMENT COMMISSIONER
Guenter Verheugen told President Parvanov on 6 February that although enlargement is "irreversible," Bulgaria will probably not be included in the first wave, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. Verheugen said that the decision of the December 2001 Laeken EU summit to leave out Bulgaria and Romania in 2004 was "a realistic view." He said he cannot predict when Bulgaria might join, but that the country must make efforts to speed up economic reform, strengthen its administrative and judicial systems, tackle corruption, and make more effective use of EU funding. MS

RUSSIAN NATIONALISM COMES UNDER ATTACK IN UKRAINE


In the last week of January, an arson attack took place on the Kyiv headquarters of the Russian Bloc electoral union and editorial office of the "Russkii Mir" newspaper. The fire gutted one room and destroyed office furniture and a computer. The arson attack was preceded by earlier assaults across Ukraine against Russian nationalists, the most recent of which, on 13 January, was directed against the head of the Russian Bloc's Chernihiv branch. The previous month, members of the Russian Youth Movement were beaten up in Kyiv. On all three occasions, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued protest notes demanding that the culprits be brought to justice.

The Russian Bloc is a registered participant in Ukraine's upcoming parliamentary elections. It was created in July 2001 by three of Ukraine's nine Russian nationalist and pan-Slavic groups, the Lviv-based Russian Movement of Ukraine, the Russian-Ukrainian Union Party, and the Crimean-based Union (Soyuz) party. Ivan Symonenko, the leader of the Russian-Ukrainian Union Party, is also a leading member of the For a Union of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia (ZUBR) group drawn mainly from communist deputies in all three countries. ZUBR is also registered as an election bloc, thereby dividing the Russian nationalist vote.

The Russian Bloc aims to defend the rights of "compatriots," that is, Russian-speakers in Ukraine. "If you speak Russian and think in Russian, we define you as a Russian," argues Aleksandr Svystunov, the leader of the Russian Bloc and president of Russian Movement in Ukraine. Using that criteria, the Russian Bloc claims that half of the Ukrainian population is by its definition "Russian."

In the mid-1990s, Western scholars, journalists, and intelligence agencies tended to divide Ukraine into two roughly equal linguistic groups based on daily language use, rather than on professed "native language" as registered in the Soviet census. In the 1989 Soviet census one-third ofUkrainians listed Russian as their "native language." This perception of a country divided along linguistic lines was seemingly substantiated by the outcome of the second round of the presidential elections in July 1994, when western-central Ukraine voted for the incumbent, Leonid Kravchuk, and eastern-southern Ukraine for Leonid Kuchma.

Upon being elected, Kuchma promised to make Russian an "official language" while keeping Ukrainian as the "state language." The distinction between "state" and "official" is meaningless, however, even though Russian has been made an "official" language in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Moldova. Kuchma never fulfilled his election pledge, but in a December 2001 interview in "Trud" he reiterated his belief that Russian should not be defined as a "foreign" language in Ukraine and should therefore have "official" status. Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov have similarly called for making Russian an "official language," a move that would simply institutionalize a situation that already de facto exists.

In November 2001, the Social Democratic Party (United) (SDPU-O) introduced a new draft "Law on Languages" to replace the 1989 law that included a provision making Russian an "official language." But the draft bill vanished from the agenda after SDPU-O head Viktor Medvedchuk was forced to relinquish the post of first deputy speaker following a no-confidence vote.

Support for Russian as an "official" language also comes from the Greens, the Socialists, Yabluko, and Women for the Future. The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) calls for Russian to be made a second state language. But Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the pro-Kuchma For a United Ukraine oppose making Russian an "official" or state language.

Recent studies have shown that dividing Ukraine into two linguistic groups is convenient for Western political scientists but fails to capture the complexity and fluidity of the situation on the ground. Many people use Ukrainian and Russian interchangeably, as in Kyiv, where one-third of the population uses Ukrainian, another third Russian, and the remainder use both languages. A recent study by political scientist Lowell Barrington in the journal "Post-Soviet Affairs" found that 57 percent of Ukrainians base their identity upon citizenship, followed by ethnicity (34 percent), and only finally on language (13 percent). Unfortunately for the Russian Bloc, the latter group is more likely to vote for the KPU.

Besides supporting Russian as a second "state" or "official" language, Russian nationalists in Ukraine have other defining attributes, many of which are jointly held with the extreme left. They tend to view liberal values as "un-Russian," while they promote anti-Westernism, anti-Semitism (a feature especially noticeable within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarch), Russia as the natural leader of the eastern Slavs, and defense of the inherited status quo. They likewise denounce as "nationalist" any attempts at affirmative action for Ukrainian culture and language. In addition, they reject being classified as a "national minority" and oppose any moves perceived to be directed against Russian culture and language.

In actual fact, discrimination can occur simultaneously against both the Russian language in Western Ukraine and the Ukrainian language in the Donbas and Crimea. The only death resulting from ethnic violence in Ukraine over the past decade was the murder in Lviv by two Russian nationalists in the spring of 2000 of popular Ukrainian singer Ihor Bilozir. Although the use of Russian has declined in education facilities, in the media Russian-language publications have actually increased. The proportion of publications in Ukrainian and Russian is now 43 and 57 percent respectively. On a visit to Ukraine this week, OSCE High Commissioner for Ethnic Minorities Rolf Ekeus praised Ukraine's record on national minorities.

The Russian Bloc is unlikely to succeed in mobilizing Russians in Ukraine or initiating a mass Russian ethnic movement. Ethnic Russian nationalism has been unable to mobilize the 25 million Russians living in other former Soviet republics, in stark contrast to the role played by Serbian nationalism in the former Yugoslavia. In the March 1998 elections, the Social-Liberal (SLON) Russophile bloc, which also campaigned in defense of Russian language and culture in Ukraine, failed miserably and only obtained 0.9 percent of the vote. The Soyuz party garnered even less (0.7 percent). In a November poll the popularity of the Russian Bloc was only 0.6 percent.

In short, language is not an issue for Ukrainian voters. The main political force that successfully unites Soviet internationalism with Russian nationalism and defense of the Russian language is the KPU, not pure Russian nationalist movements such as the Russian Bloc.

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

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