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Newsline - February 12, 2002


PUTIN SLAMS INTERIOR MINISTRY'S FAILURES AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME...
Speaking at an annual Kremlin meeting attended by most of the heads of Russia's security and law enforcement community, President Vladimir Putin sharply criticized the Interior Ministry (MVD) for its failures to stem crime over the past year, Russian news agencies reported on 11 February. "As killing, kidnapping, and robbery are becoming routine occurrences in our lives, over 7,000 killers wanted by the law remain at large -- as well as hundreds of thousands of other uncaught criminals," Putin said in an opening harangue that lasted for seven minutes before journalists were asked to leave. He claimed that last year the MVD failed to establish the fate of 30,000 missing Russian citizens, and stopped or suspended investigations of 40,000 criminal cases simply because police failed to establish who committed them. As a result, he said he will not support calls to drop the moratorium on the death penalty. "What is the point of making punishment more severe if we cannot provide the inevitability of punishment?" Putin asked. VY

...CALLS ON PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE TO TAKE LARGER ROLE...
Putin also said that the Prosecutor-General's Office should play more of a " coordinating and preemptive role in protecting citizen's rights -- especially in the regions," Russian news agencies reported. In a nod toward human rights activists, Putin said that last year the office illegally sanctioned the arrest of 1,500 people and issued warrants for 25,000 searches. Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said in his address to the meeting that some 122,000 cases were discovered in which police concealed citizens' reports on crimes, thus stalling investigations. He said such action is patterned after the Soviet era, when the objective of law enforcement was not in protecting citizens, but in lowering crime statistics. VY

...AS MVD REPORTS INCREASE IN ECONOMIC CRIMES
Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasiliev said at a press conference in Moscow that last year his agency investigated 382 economic crimes committed mainly by "white-collar" criminals, utro.ru reported on 10 February. Vasiliev said the biggest increase in such crimes was recorded in the area of foreign trade (up 21 percent), followed by the credit/financial sector and official corruption (both up 12 percent). He said that overall, the ministry investigated 23,000 crimes last year related to state office and civil service, including 8,000 cases of bribe taking. Vasiliev noted that Russian organized crime entities are becoming more active not only on the domestic, but also on the international level, which he said poses a threat to democracy and stability not only to Russia, but to the world as a whole. According to Vasiliev, organized crime in Russia focuses its efforts on free economic zones, foreign trade, and raw material and energy exports. VY

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PROMISES TO SCRUTINIZE DEFENSE MINISTRY
Addressing military prosecutors on 11 February, Prosecutor-General Ustinov said they should use their legal powers to help combat negligence and waste among the military, protect state property and equipment, and improve the army's combat readiness, RIA-Novosti reported. Ustinov said that the carelessness and negligence that led to the "Kursk" nuclear submarine disaster is inherent not only to the Northern Fleet, but to all of Russia's armed forces. He added that prosecutors should take a hard line against those who are responsible for the low combat readiness of Russian troops, saying: "Last year the Defense Ministry got 126 percent of the funds that were initially incorporated in its budget, and this year will get even more. Therefore, any complains about low combat readiness due to lack of funds are unconvincing." VY

ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH EMBARKS ON 'UNFRIENDLY' MISSION IN RUSSIA
Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Igor Vyzhanov said that plans announced by the Roman Catholic Church on 11 February to upgrade its institutions in Russia are viewed as "an unfriendly action as regards the Russian Orthodox Church," gazeta.ru reported. According to the decision announced by the Holy See's press secretary, Joaquin Navarro-Vals, the Vatican has set up four Catholic dioceses in Russia in an effort to raise the profile of the church. Vyzhanov said that such a step "does not take into account the Orthodox Church's interests, and make a possible meeting between Patriarch Aleksii II and Pope John Paul II even more remote." According to Vyzhanov, the Vatican is engaging in missionary activities "'among the people of our country, which has never been and will never be Catholic." VY

POLITKOVSKAYA TURNS UP IN INGUSHETIA
Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, whom Russian military forces in Chechnya previously reported as missing, has turned up in Ingushetia and was expected to fly to Moscow on 12 February, Ekho Moskvy reported on 11 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2002). Her colleague at "Novaya Gazeta," Vyacheslav Izmailov, told the radio station that "we don't know how she wound up in Ingushetia, but she is coming and will explain things herself." JAC

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIA WILL PURSUE INDEPENDENT OIL STRATEGY
In an interview with Putin published by "The Wall Street Journal" on 11 February and posted on president.kremlin.ru, the Russian president said he considers $20-$25 per barrel to be the optimal oil price range for Russia. He did not specify which type of crude he was referring to. Until an oil glut last fall led to production cuts, OPEC targeted a $22-$28 price range for its mixed-blend crude. Putin explained that for Russia, problems result not only from low global oil prices, but also from high prices, "as they may generate too large an inflow of hard currency in our economy [and pose an inflationary risk]." While Russia continues to cooperate with OPEC, it is pursuing a strategy that preserves its independence and looks out for its own self-interests, Putin added. Global oil prices slipped slightly on 11 February in the wake of Putin's announcement and hover at around $20 per barrel for March delivery. Meanwhile, despite Russia's agreement with OPEC to cut oil production by 150,000 barrels a day during the first three months of this year, "Vedomosti" reported on 11 February that Russia is resuming oil exports to Southeast Asia for the first time in five years. VY

EKHO MOSKVY DECIDES TO HEDGE ITS BETS...
In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 11 February, Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov discussed the results of his meeting with Gazprom-Media General Director Boris Jordan earlier that day. According to Venediktov, he and Jordan agreed that a shareholders meeting will be held in June at which time Gazprom will declare its decision whether or not to sell its shares. They also agreed that the future board of directors will be elected on a proportional basis -- five seats for the shareholders with a controlling interest, three for Ekho Moskvy's journalists, and one for Vladimir Gusinsky -- and with its quota, Ekho Moskvy will nominate former Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin to the board. Meanwhile, Gazprom-Media official Oleg Sapozhnikov confirmed Venediktov's summary of the negotiations' results in an interview with RFE/RL. Also on 11 February, journalists at Ekho Moskvy held a meeting at which they decided to participate in the tender for Radio Arsenal's frequency, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 February. According to Venediktov, if Gazprom decides to sell its shares in Ekho Moskvy to that station's journalists, then they will operate two radio stations. Otherwise, he and many of his colleagues will leave. JAC

...AS DUMA DEPUTIES SAY THEY WANT A SPORTS CHANNEL
Several State Duma deputies headed by the People's Deputy group leader Gennadii Raikov intend to suggest that the State Duma appeal to President Putin asking him to consider the possibility of making TV-6 a sports channel, Interfax reported on 12 February. Raikov announced the group's intention following a meeting of the coordination council of the pro-presidential Duma groups -- Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, Russian Regions, and People's Deputy. Raikov added that the sports channel project is supported by this "coalition of four." JAC

GAZPROM INITIATES BANKRUPTCY OF SIBUR
Aleksandr Ryazanov, the deputy chairman of Gazprom's board of directors, announced on 11 February that his concern will initiate bankruptcy procedures for its affiliate Sibur (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22, 25, and 30 January 2002), "as it is the only way to get back its assets," Russian business news agencies quoted him as saying. Gazprom's goal is to recover some 29 billion rubles ($967 million) that it invested in Sibur, Ryazanov added. He also noted that he views the criminal investigation initiated by Gazprom against Sibur head Yakov Goldovskii and his deputy Nikolai Koshits as justified (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2002). "Goldovskii is himself to blame, as he did not want to cooperate, or make compromises," Ryazanov said. VY

ZYUGANOV SOWS NATIONALIST OATS AS NEW PARTY TAKES SHAPE
Speaking in Moscow on 11 February, Communist Party of the Russian Federation leader Gennadii Zyuganov continued to criticize President Putin's policies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2002), NTV reported. He called on all "peoples-patriotic forces to unite and prevent power from slipping into the hands of the junta and oligarchy." Meanwhile, Vladimir Miloserdov, a spokesman for the founding committee for the Peoples-Patriotic Party, said the inauguration congress of the new party will take place on 23 February, RosBalt reported on 11 February. "We are not concealing that the new party is created on the ruins left by the demise of the Peoples-Patriotic Union led by Zyuganov," Miloserdov said. He added that the most likely leader of the new party will be former Krasnodar Krai Governor Nikolai Kondratenko, and that the party's program includes the "restoration of independence and integrity" for Russia, as well as the suppression of ethnic conflicts. VY

DEPUTY FROM BASHKORTOSTAN WANTS TO POSTPONE CENSUS
State Duma Deputy (Russian Regions) Franis Saifullin said on 9 February that Moscow's plan to divide Tatars into several ethnic groups in the 2002 census is aimed at eliminating the Republic of Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 February, citing Tatarstan Radio. He said that if federal authorities do not give up on the idea, he will appeal to Tatarstan's legislature to postpone the census in the republic. Saifullin assumes the division of Tatars in the census will likely result in their totaling less than 50 percent of the population in Tatarstan. The Duma will then pass legislation to annul national republics where titular nations constitute less than half of the population, he asserted. Tatars currently make up some 52 percent of Tatarstan's inhabitants. JAC

UNIFIED RUSSIA BACKTRACKS ON ELECTION BILL...
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 February that Fatherland-All Russia faction leader Vyacheslav Volodin and Central Election Commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov have reached agreement on a bill proposed by Unified Russia that would alter how regional elections are conducted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2002). According to the daily, Veshnyakov and Volodin have agreed that the "law on guarantees of electoral rights and the right to a referendum of citizens of the Russian Federation" should be amended so that a second round of a gubernatorial election is required if no candidate attracts more than 50 percent of all votes cast. Last year, Yabloko proposed a similar bill that was approved by the Federation Council and Duma but was vetoed by the president. The daily concluded that since it is now being proposed by the pro-presidential Unified Russia, it will therefore be approved by the president. JAC

...AS SOME GOVERNORS WANT TO CONTINUE WITH ELECTIONS
In an interview with Interfax-Eurasia on 11 February, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov said that he does not favor the appointment of regional leaders (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 February 2002). Rakhimov said that, in his opinion, the election of a regional leader should only be declared valid if no less than 50 percent of registered voters participated in the ballot. And in an interview with "Izvestiya" on 8 February, Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonskii also spoke out against governors being appointed rather than elected. He said the election of the heads of federation subjects "strengthens rather than weakens the power vertical." He said the president and chairman of the federal government should have the right to interfere in a situation if the interests of the local population are being compromised. "They can suspend his powers for a defined time period," he said, "but that does not exclude [the need for] elections." JAC

NEW SENATOR FROM KALMYKIA HAS CHECKERED PAST?
Kalmykia's new representative to the Federation Council, Rustem Iskhakov, is a Kazan-based businessmen whose business dealings are under investigation by local law enforcement authorities, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 February, citing "Vechernyaya Kazan." The newspaper reported that Tatarstan's Interior Affairs Ministry initiated criminal proceeding against Iskhakov and his company several years ago. Iskhakov's personal case was then closed, but the case against his company continues. Iskhakov controls several companies in Kazan, including Aerostan airlines, some of whose pilots spent roughly a year in Taliban captivity several years ago. Iskhakov reportedly has friendly relations and joint business projects with Kalmykia's president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. JAC

ENVOY RENEWS ACQUAINTANCE WITH NORTH KOREAN LEADER
The presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on 12 February, after which he attended a dinner in his honor, KCNA news agency reported. Pulikovskii gave Kim a personal letter and gift from President Putin. According to Interfax, the discussions revealed a "common understanding of the problems of international life." These were followed by the singing of the song "My Country is Wide," which Interfax reported was sung -- presumably by Kim -- in Russian "without an accent." Pulikovskii announced earlier that he plans to write a book about his trip across Russia in a specially equipped train with Kim (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2001). JAC

CHINESE FIRM PLANS FOR THE FUTURE IN FAR EAST
The general director of a Chinese construction firm, which is registered in Amur Oblast, has sent a letter to oblast Governor Leonid Korotkov telling him of his company's readiness to build a bridge over the Amur River, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 11 February. According to the agency, the company's proposal is now being studied by the oblast administration. The agency also reported that the company, which has been working in the region since 1995, has built more than 500,000 square meters of housing. In addition to building the bridge, the company also wants to construct a factory for reprocessing soy, an airport complex, and a five-story hotel in downtown Blagoveshchensk. JAC

GOVERNMENT OF ADYGEYA RESIGNS
The entire government of the Republic of Adygeya stepped down on 11 February in accordance with the region's election law following the victory in the 13 January presidential elections of Khazret Sovmen, strana.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2002). LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BEGINS VISIT TO GEORGIA
On the first day of a two-day visit to Tbilisi, Vartan Oskanian held talks on 11 February with Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze and with his Georgian counterpart Irakli Menagharishvili, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Oskanian again said that harmonious relations between the two countries are vital for peace and security in the South Caucasus, and he accused an unnamed "third force" of seeking to undermine bilateral relations in order to "create new dividing lines" in the region. Oskanian said the Armenian government does not support the objections of the predominantly Armenian population of the south Georgian region of Djavakheti to the Georgian government's insistence that the Russian military base located there be closed. He also said Yerevan is not concerned by the planned signing of a trilateral security agreement between Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. Menagharishvili said that agreement focuses on combating the cross-border smuggling of drugs and weapons and illegal immigration. LF

UNCERTAINTY OVER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S HEALTH PERSISTS
Turan on 11 February quoted Azerbaijan's ambassador to the U.S., Hafiz Pashaev, as stating that he is "not aware" how long President Heidar Aliev will remain at a Cleveland clinic where, according to Pashaev, Aliev is still undergoing medical tests, the nature of which Pashaev declined to specify (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 8 February 2002). Aliev entered the clinic on 3 February. Also on 11 February, Turan quoted a spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Baku as saying that Aliev's long-delayed official visit to Iran will take place during the last week in February. LF

RUSSIA REPEATS CONCERN OVER POSSIBLE TURKISH MILITARY PRESENCE IN AZERBAIJAN
Speaking in Moscow on 11 February, Russian State Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Lukin criticized Azerbaijani parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov's statement three days earlier that Azerbaijan is prepared to host Turkish military bases, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2002). Lukin said that while he understands Baku's desire to maintain friendly relations with both Moscow and Ankara, Baku should "choose other forms" of developing relations with Turkey. Lukin also downplayed Alesqerov's statement that Azerbaijan might share with Turkey information received from the Gabala radar station. He noted that the station tracks intercontinental missiles, which Turkey does not possess, and therefore the release of such information to Turkey would not negatively impact Russia's national security. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY MEMBER DIES IN CUSTODY
Fazail Tagiev, who headed the Sumgait branch of the opposition Adalet Party, died in a Justice Ministry hospital on 9 February, Turan reported. Tagiev, who was 60 and suffered from diabetes and a heart condition, was taken into detention together with several other Adalet members in September 2001 after staging an unsanctioned demonstration in Baku. LF

HAVE AFGHAN FIGHTERS TAKEN REFUGE IN GEORGIA?
Acting U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Philip Remler said in an interview published in the independent newspaper "Akhali versia" on 11 February that several dozen "mujahedin" who escaped from Afghanistan have recently settled in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. Remler reportedly said that the Afghans maintain contacts with Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab who in turn, according to Remler, is in contact with Osama bin Laden. AP on 11 February quoted a U.S. Embassy spokesman as confirming the accuracy of Remler's statements. Also on 11 February, Georgian parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Giorgi Baramidze also said there are indications that Afghan and other terrorists may have taken refuge in Pankisi, Caucasus Press reported. But Georgian Intelligence Service chief Avtandil Ioseliani said he has no information concerning the presence of Afghans in Pankisi. "If Mr. Remler has such information, let him share it with us," Caucasus Press quoted Ioseliani as saying. LF

GEORGIA, ABKHAZ GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES MEET...
Georgian Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze and Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze traveled on 11 February to Sukhum for talks with Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba on the implementation of the 17 January accord under which Georgia undertook to withdraw from the Kodori Gorge the 350 troops it deployed there last fall, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). The Abkhaz leadership, supported by the UN, has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of those troops, but Georgian officials have said they will not pull out until other ways are found of protecting the local Svan population. UN special representative for Abkhazia Dieter Boden, who also attended the talks, said afterward that the Georgian withdrawal is underway, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...AGREE ON PATROLS OF KODORI GORGE
Agreement was reached, however, that members of the UN Observer Mission will resume patrols of the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge later this month, although not in conjunction with Russian members of the CIS peacekeeping force as envisaged in the 17 January agreement, as the Svans object to any Russian involvement. Djergenia told journalists the 11 February talks constituted "a step forward" toward resolving the Abkhaz conflict, while Boden spoke of "a climate of trust" between Djorbenadze and Djergenia which, he said, improves the chances for an early resumption of talks between the two sides on confidence-building measures, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT DISCUSSES BILATERAL TIES IN MOSCOW
Askar Akaev, who is vacationing in Russia, met in Moscow on 11 February with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who positively evaluated bilateral cooperation, including in the political and military spheres, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin also lauded Kyrgyzstan's decision to grant Russian the status of an "official language" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2000, and 28 December 2001). LF

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT OUTLINES ECONOMIC PRIORITIES
Meeting on 11 February, the Kyrgyz cabinet reviewed last year's economic results and set priorities for 2002, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Finance Minister Bolot Abildaev told the session that macroeconomic indicators in 2001 improved over the previous year, with annual inflation at only 3.7 percent compared with 9.6 percent in 2000. He singled out as priorities for 2002 bringing in $150-$200 million in foreign direct investment, which is more than double last year's figure of $73 million, and reducing poverty and raising wages. At the same time, he also admitted that the government currently owes a total of 180 million soms (about $3.8 million) in pensions and wage arrears. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN SIGN NEW AGREEMENT ON NATURAL GAS SUPPLIES
The governments of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have signed an agreement under which Uzbekistan will supply Kyrgyzstan with 525 million cubic meters of natural gas in 2002 at a price of $42 per thousand cubic meters, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau quoted Kyrgyzgas General Director Avtandil Sydykov as announcing on 11 February. Bishkek will pay half the price in cash and half in commodities as it has done in previous years. LF

GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Rudolf Scharping arrived in Tashkent on 11 February on a visit originally scheduled for late January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2002). After talks with his Uzbek counterpart Kadyr Gulyamov and with President Islam Karimov, Scharping expressed appreciation for the use of the Termez airfield to facilitate the transport of supplies for the German peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan. He said a formal agreement on the use of that facility and on other aspects of bilateral military cooperation will be signed very soon, but declined to say how much Berlin will pay Tashkent for the use of the Termez base, AP and Reuters reported. Scharping is to inspect the Termez base on 12 February. LF

WINTER OLYMPICS MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES

Through 11 FEBRUARY

Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Russia_____________1_______1_______1_______3
Armenia____________0_______0_______0_______0
Azerbaijan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Georgia____________0_______0_______0_______0
Kazakhstan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Kyrgyzstan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Tajikistan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Uzbekistan_________0_______0_______0_______0

PRISON PICKETED IN SUPPORT OF BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST
Some 50 activists of the United Civic Party on 11 February picketed a prison in Minsk to express solidarity with opposition lawmaker and businessman Andrey Klimau, who that day completed the fourth year of his six-year sentence, Belapan reported. Klimau, who owned a construction firm before his arrest, was convicted of "large-scale embezzlement" and forgery. However, opposition and human rights organizations in Belarus and abroad link his imprisonment to his loyalty to the Supreme Soviet, the parliament outlawed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in 1996, and his active role in the Supreme Soviet's attempts to impeach the Belarusian president. Under Belarus's Criminal Code, Klimau's imprisonment may now be commuted to corrective labor. Klimau's mother, who participated in the picket, told the agency that she has not appealed to the authorities to change her son's punishment. "I consider Belarus a large prison, in which everything depends on the prison's chief [Lukashenka], but I will never appeal to him," she said. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST'S MOTHER APPEALS FOR HELP IN FINDING MISSING SON
Nina Korban -- the mother of Yury Korban, who is the head of the Vitsebsk-based opposition youth center Kontur -- has appealed to Belarusian and international human rights organizations for help in finding her missing son, Belapan reported on 11 February. Nina Korban told the agency that her son left the house on 19 January and she has not seen him since. He telephoned her a few times in subsequent days, the last time on 23 January when he asked her to bring $20,000 to a location in Minsk. She arrived to that location with some money but no one met her. During the last telephone conversation her son told her that she would never see him again. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICIAL DISMISSES U.S. EXAMINATION OF MELNYCHENKO'S RECORDINGS
"It is a subsequent slip of paper that does not mean anything for Ukraine or the Ukrainian judiciary system," presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn said on ICTV Television on 11 February, referring to a recent U.S. expert conclusion that former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko's secret recordings are genuine (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 February 2002). Lytvyn added that the publicized conclusion is a campaign move by "those politicians who may be seen as outsiders in the election race." He did not disclose which politicians he had in mind. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko commented on 12 February that the U.S. examination of Melnychenko's tapes is "a step toward the truth." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SENDS KYIV MAYOR ON ELECTION CAMPAIGN LEAVE
Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree suspending Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko from performing his official duties until 31 March, Interfax reported on 11 February. Omelchenko heads the election bloc Unity and is seeking a parliamentary mandate. Omelchenko reportedly refused to take leave following a conversation with Kuchma on 11 February, when he asked the president whether Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, who are also seeking parliamentary mandates, have taken leave. Kuchma, according to Omelchenko, answered this question in the negative. JM

ELECTION BID OF WOMEN'S PARTY OF UKRAINE REJECTED
The Central Election Commission on 11 February annulled its previous decision to register a list of candidates of the Women of Ukraine (Zhinky Ukrayiny) party running in the 31 March parliamentary election in the countrywide multiseat constituency, Interfax reported. The commission's decision followed a ruling by a district court in Kyiv saying that the resolutions of the party's congress that proposed party-list candidates for the election were illegal. In addition, the court said the party has not paid an election security deposit of some $48,000, as required by the election law. Another group that registered its candidates and is campaigning with a gender platform in the current election is Women for the Future (Zhinky za maybutne) party (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 February 2002). JM

GERMANY ACTIVELY SUPPORTS ADMISSION OF BALTIC STATES INTO EU, NATO
The Foreign Ministers of Germany (Joschka Fischer), Estonia (Kristiina Ojuland), Latvia (Indulis Berzins), and Lithuania (Antanas Valionis) held talks in Riga on 11 February that focused primarily on the accession of the Baltic states into the EU and NATO, BNS reported. In the joint communique of the meeting, the ministers "expressed their support for further NATO enlargement in 2002 and admission of all qualified candidate countries. The ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania emphasized their continuous commitment to consolidate their defense capabilities and expressed their appreciation for Germany's support and assistance in this respect." At a later press conference, Fischer stressed that the Baltic states are well advanced and that Germany supports their membership in NATO. He also mentioned that the main reason why the European Commission proposed lower agricultural subsidies to farmers in candidate countries is the limited budget of the EU. SG

LATVIA, ESTONIA SIGN NEW AGREEMENT
Foreign Ministers Berzins and Ojuland signed a new agreement in Riga on 11 February on avoiding double taxation and fighting tax evasion, LETA reported. The two countries signed such an agreement in May 1993, but Latvia unilaterally suspended its implementation beginning on 1 June 2001, arguing that Estonia had changed its income tax laws significantly when it began to require companies registered in Estonia to pay taxes on profits only when those profits are distributed in dividends. The two countries set up a task force that drew up a new version of the agreement, which the Latvian cabinet approved in December and the Estonian cabinet approved in early February. The agreement must still be approved by the two parliaments, but will go into effect retroactively from 1 January 2002. The ministers also agreed to work out a joint position concerning the European Commission's proposal to provide farmers in new EU member countries only 25 percent of the agricultural subsidies given to farmers of current EU countries. SG

LITHUANIA SEEKS WORLD BANK LOAN FOR SCHOOL RENOVATION
Education Minister Algirdas Monkevicius held talks in Vilnius on 11 February with the World Bank's representative for education, Ernesto Cuadro, on the ministry's program for the reorganization and renovation of Lithuanian educational institutions, BNS reported. Lithuania hopes to receive a 100 million litas ($39.5 million) loan from the bank for the program, which will be carried out in 2002-2005. Cuadro said World Bank managers are happy with the project to renovate school buildings, improve school environments, prepare courses for teachers and headmasters, and provide transportation for schoolchildren. World Bank officials will spend 10 days in Vilnius to clear up the remaining details regarding the administration of the project in local authorities and participation of school communities. The loan agreement is expected to be signed in May. SG

BRUSSELS SMOTHERS WARSAW'S HOPES FOR BETTER DEAL ON FARMING SUBSIDIES
European Commissioner for Agriculture Franz Fischler told Polish Deputy Premier and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski in Brussels on 11 February that Polish farmers are unlikely to receive higher subsidies than those announced by the European Commission last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2002), Polish media reported. "We want to make clear that we need talks and dialogue in order to understand each other better, but it does not mean that this will be the start of changes in the European Commission's position [on farming subsidies]," Polish Radio quoted Fischler as saying. "We are aware that we will not receive 100 percent of direct payments [to farmers] at the beginning of Poland's EU membership," Kalinowski told journalists after his meeting with Fischler. He did not disclose the level of direct payments that would be acceptable for Poland. JM

POLAND ADVISES EASTERN TOURISTS TO APPLY FOR MULTI-ENTRY VISAS
Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said on 11 February that Poland is preparing an information campaign for its eastern neighbors to convince them to apply for multi-entry visas now, PAP reported. "Today people prefer buying [tourist] vouchers to applying for visas, but we will try to convince them that in the long run [multi-entry visas] will be [better for them]," Cimoszewicz noted. He added that the government wants to introduce such a visa system for Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians, which would not make it difficult for ordinary people to travel to Poland. Cimoszewicz admitted that the question is difficult because of purely organizational reasons. He said last year 29 million people crossed the Polish border, adding that it would be nearly impossible for Polish consulates to issue that many visas. JM

CZECH COURT JAILS FORMER SECRET POLICE MEMBERS
A Prague court sentenced two former members of the communist secret police to three years in jail on 11 February for having tortured antiregime dissidents in order to force them to flee Czechoslovakia, CTK and Reuters reported. Zbynek Dudek and Jiri Simak were acting on orders received within the "Asanace" campaign. The trial of five former StB officials accused of masterminding that campaign, including former Interior Minister Jaromir Obzina, is still underway. Both the accused and the prosecution, which is seeking a more severe punishment, said they are appealing the sentence. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT RAISES WAGES IN STATE SECTOR
The government on 11 February decided to raise wages by 11 percent in the state sector and by 18 percent for those employed in the health system, CTK reported. The increase goes into effect on 1 April. The government also decided to add 1,000 crowns ($27.50) to the monthly wage of priests. MS

CZECH ROMA WANT GOVERNMENT'S ROMANY COUNCIL ABOLISHED
Representatives of Romany organizations in the Czech Republic want the governmental Council for Romany Affairs abolished, Romany Civic Association (ROI) Chairman Stefan Licartovsky told CTK on 11 February. Licartovsky said the Romany organizations want the council replaced by a body that would genuinely represent Romany interests. On 10 February, the ROI said the Romany organizations disagree with the lineup of the council and that the government's 8 February appointments to that body had disregarded all but one of the Romany proposals. Licartovsky said the Romany organizations want to meet Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky, and that if the situation is not resolved soon they are prepared to organize demonstrations outside the government's office. MS

NATO OFFICIAL TELLS SLOVAKS THAT 'CONTINUITY IS IMPORTANT'
On 11 February in Bratislava, Dieter Stoeckmann, the assistant commander of NATO forces in Europe, praised the reforms carried out in the Slovak army but made it clear that Slovakia must continue on that path if it wishes to join NATO, CTK reported. Stoeckmann said after meetings with Defense Minister Jozef Stank and Chief of Staff General Milan Cerovsky that the army's reform is "very professional and very well prepared," but that the importance of its "real continuity" must be taken into account. MS

SLOVAK ROMANY ORGANIZATION LAUNCHES COMPLAINT WITH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
The Council of Non- Governmental Organizations of the Romany Parliament in Slovakia said on 9 February that it has filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court about violations of Roma's right to be educated their native language, CTK reported. The council said that the recent amendment to the Education Law approved by the parliament puts the Romany minority at a disadvantage compared with the right of other minorities to be educated in their mother tongues. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER EVALUATES EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE'S SITUATION AND PROSPECTS
In a major foreign affairs speech delivered on 11 February in Boston, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that today's Europe was shaped by two crucial changes in the early 1990s, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. One was Central Europe's increasing independence following the collapse of the Soviet empire, while the other was Western Europe's decision "to choose a future" without the participation of Central Europe. In the past 10 years, however, Central European countries have been able to recover, and their economic results prove that "they have de facto integrated into Europe," Orban said. He expressed hope that Russia will also choose Western values. Orban pointed out that for the first time in history Russian capital is flowing to Central Europe. The question is, he said, whether this "can be considered foreign trade or foreign policy." Orban delivered his lecture at Tufts University after receiving an honorary doctorate. MSZ

HUNGARY'S PRIME MINISTERIAL CANDIDATE SIGNS PROMISE TO SUPPORT ROMA
On 11 February, the opposition Socialist Party's candidate for prime minister, Peter Medgyessy, signed in the presence of 33 Romany groups a personal pledge to find a solution to major problems affecting Hungary's Romany minority. In outlining his party's Romany policy, Medgyessy said the educational problems of Roma should not be addressed by building new boarding schools, as the top priority is to eliminate school segregation. He said the Socialists' goal is to work out an antipoverty program that can offer a solution to both Roma and non-Roma. Medgyessy also said that his party would make incitement against a community and scare mongering punishable by law. The Romany organization Lungo Drom, which has signed an election agreement with FIDESZ, was not invited to the signing ceremony. Medgyessy said, however, that the group would not be at a disadvantage if the Socialists win the elections. MSZ

TESCO MOVES TO BAN INFAMOUS ANTI-SEMITIC TRACT
The headquarters of Tesco International in the United Kingdom has taken steps to ban the sale of Henry Ford's book, "The International Jew," which is banned in several countries for its anti-Semitic content, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 12 February. Hungarian-language editions of the book were available in Tesco's Szekesfehervar and Miskolc outlets. The American industrialist claimed in the book, published in the 1920s, that there was an international Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. Ford reportedly kept a portrait of Adolf Hitler on the wall of his study, even while his company was the U.S. army's largest supplier during World War II, according to the Hungarian daily. Oszkar Egri, a lawyer representing Hungary's Jewish Federation, said the organization is preparing a press statement on the sale of the book in Hungary's Tesco supermarkets. MSZ

SERBIAN EX-DICTATOR'S TRIAL OPENS IN THE HAGUE
The trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic opened in The Hague on 12 February, international media reported. He faces 66 counts of war crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and violation of the laws and customs of war. The case is contained in three indictments, one each for Kosova, Croatia, and Bosnia. The prosecution opened the trial by describing one incident in which one family was burned alive in their home, with the screams of a baby audible for two hours after Serbian forces set the fire. Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte called Milosevic's crimes "the worst known to humankind." She added that some incidents revealed a "medieval savagery and calculated cruelty." Del Ponte told Rome's "La Repubblica" on 11 February that she is sure that he will be convicted on all three indictments. The trial is expected to last about two years. PM

SERBIAN EX-LEADER'S TRIAL HAILED AS A MILESTONE
The Milosevic trial is considered the most important international war crimes trial since those in Germany and Japan after the end of World War II, the BBC reported on 12 February. His extradition by the Serbian government in 2001 put an end to some fears that the tribunal would never be able to try any major war criminal. Many more remain at large, however, including former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. "The Independent" wrote on 12 February that some observers have doubts as to how well the prosecution has prepared its case. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" noted that the lack of precedent makes for a legal minefield, especially as Milosevic refuses to recognize the tribunal's authority. His legal advisers say he will nonetheless try to gain maximum publicity from the trial. He will seek to prove his claims that NATO, the U.S., many Western leaders -- including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- are themselves war criminals. PM

DEL PONTE STRESSES SERBIAN EX-DICTATOR'S RESPONSIBILITY
Del Ponte told "La Repubblica" on 11 February that Milosevic is on trial but that Serbia and Serbian history are not. She also noted, however, that Milosevic stood at the head of a "criminal enterprise" that unleashed war, death, and suffering over a period of several years. Speaking in The Hague on 12 February, Del Ponte said: "An excellent tactician, a mediocre strategist, Milosevic did nothing but pursue his ambition at the cost of unspeakable suffering inflicted on those who opposed him or represented a threat [to] his personal strategy of power." PM

FORMER ROMANIAN AGRICULTURAL MINISTER FORMALLY CHARGED
Former Agriculture Minister Ioan Muresan and one of his subordinates were formally charged on 11 February with abuse of power. Muresan is suspected of having illegally transferred 5,000 tons of cooking oil from the state reserve to a private company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 2001). Muresan said in response that the decision of the Prosecutor-General's Office is "political." MS

ITALY SET TO TAKE OVER NATO'S MACEDONIAN MISSION
Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino said in Rome on 11 February that "Germany is leaving the command of [NATO's] Amber Fox mission in Macedonia. We have already been asked informally and we will be asked formally to substitute [for] Germany at the helm of the mission. I will therefore ask the government and parliament to allow Italy to take command of this mission," Reuters reported. Amber Fox's mandate to provide protection for EU and OSCE monitors runs out in late March. The Macedonian government wants it extended for an additional three months. Many observers believe that an international armed presence will be required in Macedonia for the foreseeable future. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 9 February that EU foreign ministers would like the EU to replace NATO as the organizer of that mission, probably in late September. Almost all of the forces in Task Force Fox are from EU countries. An EU-sponsored mission in Macedonia would work closely with NATO. The change would be largely cosmetic in nature but would allow the EU to test and develop its conflict-management capabilities. PM

WILL THE TRIAL LEAD TO SOUL-SEARCHING IN SERBIA?
Vienna's "Die Presse" noted on 11 February that efforts in Serbia to come to terms with the recent past are limited chiefly to a small number of intellectuals and artists. They complain that the current authorities have done little or nothing to help. Most Serbs still believe that Milosevic's wars were essentially defensive in nature and that the tribunal is an anti-Serbian instrument of Western policy, U.S. policy in particular. CNN on 12 February quoted a recent poll suggesting that most Serbs think he should be on trial but for crimes against his own people. Only one-third of the respondents said he is guilty of war crimes. PM

DEL PONTE TO VISIT BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS
RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Banja Luka on 12 February that Del Ponte will go to the Bosnian Serb capital on 15 February to meet with Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic and president of the parliament Dragan Kalinic. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT: STATUS QUESTION COMING TO A HEAD
After a meeting with Slovenian President Milan Kucan, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Ljubljana on 12 February that talks on the future of Serbian-Montenegrin relations will be concluded by the end of February, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2002). PM

POLL SUGGESTS KOSTUNICA'S POPULARITY GAP HAS NARROWED
The Strategic Marketing polling agency has issued the results of a recent survey of Serbian voters, suggesting that 57 percent of the respondents would vote for the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade on 11 February. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica remains the most popular individual politician with 53 percent of the voters favoring him. Immediately behind him is Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus with 52 percent. In the months immediately following the ouster of Milosevic in late 2000, Kostunica enjoyed approval ratings well over 60 percent and well ahead of any rivals. PM

ALBANIAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS CONDEMN INCIDENTS
Roman Catholic and Islamic religious leaders in Shkoder have condemned what they called a recent series of incidents aimed at poisoning relations between their respective religious communities, dpa reported on 12 February. In one incident, anti-Islamic leaflets were distributed. In the most recent development, unknown persons threw a grenade at a monument to Father Gjergj Fishta, Albania's most prominent Roman Catholic poet. Luciano Agostini, who is a leader of Shkoder's Roman Catholic community, said: "We condemn these acts and appeal to all believers to be vigilant against them." Northern Albania is the main center of the Roman Catholic minority. Relations between Catholics and the Muslim community have traditionally been good. Many more Roman Catholic Albanians can be found in Kosova, Croatia, and further afield, where they are known for their entrepreneurship. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS ASIAN TOUR...
On 11 February, President Ion Iliescu began a tour of several East Asian countries, meeting in Abu Dhabi with his United Arab Emirates (UAE) counterpart Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahayan and other UAE officials, Romanian radio reported. The talks were focused on bilateral economic relations and on encouraging UAE investments in Romania. Iliescu emphasized that his country has "traditionally" had good relations with Arab countries and that Romanian experts have in the past participated in many large-scale projects in the region. Iliescu said that his country's good relations with both Israel and the Arab world offer the possibility for Romania to be a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an ITAR-TASS report. He also called on Israel to lift its siege on Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. MS

...MEETS INTERIM AFGHAN LEADER
Iliescu also met in Abu Dhabi with interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, who the same day reopened his country's embassy in the UAE. Iliescu expressed the Romanians' "solidarity" with the Afghan people's suffering. Karzai thanked Iliescu for Romania's participation in the peacekeeping forces in his country. On 12 February, Iliescu was to arrive in Japan for the second leg of his tour, which will also include Vietnam, the Philippines, and Singapore. MS

ROMANIA DEFENDS BLAIR IN CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
In a press release dated 11 February, the government said the privatization of the giant Sidex steelmaker was carried out in line with legal procedure and international standards, and that a letter received from British Premier Tony Blair saluting the privatization did not influence its course, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government said the letter was received after the deal was concluded and was interpreted in Bucharest as a "sign of encouragement for pursuing the course of reform and economic restructuring." Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said that the privatization of such an important entity as Sidex "is not decided on because of a letter, no matter who its author may be." The reactions were prompted by allegations in the British press that Blair intervened in Romania on behalf of LNM Holdings, which is owned by Indian-born British businessman Laksmi Mittal, who donated 125,000 pounds ($177,683) to Blair's Labor Party one month ahead of the deal. MS

ROMANIA TO COMPENSATE HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS, KIN
Romania is to pay compensation to those who were deported to ghettoes and concentration camps during World War II and to those who were forced to work in labor camps, Mediafax reported on 8 February. According to norms approved by the government, those deported, as well as survivors of the 1941 Iasi "Death Trains," will be entitled to a compensation of 300,000 lei ($9.34) for each year spent in deportation and internment. Those who had to perform forced labor, and relatives of those who perished in the camps, are entitled to half that sum. Spouses are also entitled to the halved-compensation if they never remarried. Observers emphasize that the regulation requires that those entitled to compensation must produce documentation proving their internment, which in most cases is impossible to provide, and that only a handful of survivors are still alive. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON GAGAUZ POPULATION TO DISMISS GOVERNOR
President Vladimir Voronin appealed to the inhabitants of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region on 11 February to participate in the 24 February referendum and vote "yes" on dismissing Governor Dumitru Croitor, Infotag reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2002). Voronin accused Croitor of being "preoccupied with personal problems," rather than with those of the region, and said Popular Assembly Chairman Mihail Kendigelean is collaborating with the Tiraspol separatists. Croitor's supporters said the same day that the resolution passed by the assembly on the referendum is null and void, because it was supported by 21 deputies, two short of the required two-thirds majority. Croitor said in response to Voronin's appeal that the call can "only lead to further destabilization," and is "unconstitutional." MS

FORMER COMMUNIST INFORMER SACKED FROM BULGARIAN MEDIA COUNCIL
A member of Bulgaria's electronic media regulatory council was sacked on 11 February after a commission charged with studying the files of the communist secret service revealed him as a former agent, AFP reported. Vesselin Stoikov, one of the nine members of the Electronic Media Council that supervises radio and television, denied the accusation and claimed it was politically motivated. The law on radio and television stipulates that communist secret service collaborators may not serve on the Electronic Media Council. MS

BULGARIAN AMBASSADOR RESIGNS
Bulgaria's Ambassador to Belgium resigned on 11 February, AP reported. Konstantin Dimitrov, who also headed Sofia's permanent missions to the EU and NATO in Brussels, said he was stepping down because he belonged to "the team of former President Petar Stoyanov." Dimitrov said President Georgi Parvanov should appoint an ambassador of his own choice. Dimitrov is the third Bulgarian ambassador to resign. He was preceded by the ambassador to the U.S., Filip Dimitrov, and by Edvin Sugarev, who headed his country's diplomatic mission in Mongolia. Parvanov recently paid an official visit to Belgium and to the EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels. MS

BULGARIAN INFLATION GROWING
Prices in Bulgaria grew by 2.8 percent in January, dpa reported on 11 February, citing the National Statistics Institute. The budget for 2002 is based on a forecast of an annual inflation of 3.5 percent. MS

WINTER OLYMPICS MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES

Through 11 FEBRUARY.

Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Czech Rep._________0_______0_______1_______1
Poland_____________0_______0_______1_______1
Belarus____________0_______0_______0_______0
Bosnia-Herzeg.______0_______0_______0_______0
Bulgaria___________0_______0_______0_______0
Croatia____________0_______0_______0_______0
Estonia____________0_______0_______0_______0
Hungary___________0_______0_______0_______0
Latvia_____________0_______0_______0_______0
Lithuania__________0_______0_______0_______0
Macedonia_________0_______0_______0_______0
Moldova___________0_______0_______0_______0
Romania___________0_______0_______0_______0
Slovakia___________0_______0_______0_______0
Slovenia___________0_______0_______0_______0
Ukraine____________0_______0_______0_______0
Yugoslavia_________0_______0_______0_______0

There is no End Note today.


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