Accessibility links

Newsline - February 13, 2002


RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SEES U.S. PRESENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA IN POSITIVE LIGHT...
Sergei Ivanov told a press conference in Moscow on 12 February that the "presence of the U.S. and the other members" of the antiterrorist coalition on military bases in Central Asia is a positive factor for Russia," RIA-Novosti reported. "Without coordinated efforts by the participants in the international coalition, the Taliban threat could spill over Russia's borders," he added. "Afghanistan was a link in a hotbed of instability that stretched from the Philippines to Kosovo; now this link is out and terrorists throughout the whole world including Russia are no longer training in Afghanistan," Ivanov said. However, Ivanov noted that it is important that the United States and the Central Asian states abide by their promises to Russia that the presence of the antiterrorist coalition in the region is only a temporary measure, and that they will leave once the operation is finished. "Izvestiya" commented on 12 February that "if Ivanov is wrong and the bases stay, the Kremlin cannot blame anyone but itself, as it would be the price [it would have to pay] for the longstanding lack of a Russian strategy and resources adequate to the problems of the region." VY

...SAYS RUSSIA WILL NOT REACT IN KIND TO U.S. MILITARY BUDGET INCREASE...
Ivanov said at the same press conference that while Russia shares most serious concerns about the terrorist threat and nuclear proliferation, Russia does not want to assign the "terrorist" label to particular states even if it dislikes their policies. He also said that he understands the United States' need to increase its military budget, and that Russia is "simply unable to do the same even if it wanted to." In addition, he said Russia already increased its military spending dramatically in 1999-2000 and now there are no new threats that would dictate a new increase. VY

...AND EXCLUDES DIRECT RUSSIAN INVOLVEMENT IN DEVELOPING AFGHAN ARMY
Speaking to journalists after his talks with his visiting Afghanistan counterpart Mohammad Fahim in Moscow on 12 February, Ivanov ruled out the direct participation of Russian military advisers in rebuilding Afghanistan's armed forces, RIA-Novosti reported. "They have been at war for 20 years -- how we can teach them to fight?" he asked. However, he said Moscow will extend its full assistance as far as weaponry and spare parts are concerned, as well as for the training of military officers in Russian academies. "Izvestiya" commented the same day that, by providing the new Afghan government with weapons, Russia is attempting to allow Kabul into Moscow's "strong political embraces... In final judgment, the winner of the internal competition among the present Afghanistan leadership will be [the group] that has more money and weapons. The first was promised to the provisional government by Washington, and the latter is now being given by Moscow," concluded the newspaper. VY

MILITARY SUPREME COURT ANNULS LIST OF STATE SECRETS, BUT PASKO AND OTHERS REMAIN IN CUSTODY
The Collegium of the Military Supreme Court favored the appeal filed by Grigorii Pasko's lawyers on 12 February, ruling out as "null and void" the Defense Ministry's list of state secrets used as the basis for sentencing the military journalist and environmentalist to four years in prison for providing such information to Japan (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 29 December 2001), Russian news agencies reported. However, the decision will not affect Pasko's fate, or others who have been imprisoned for espionage for providing information found on the list. They include: Moscow businessman Viktor Kalyagin, who was sentenced last October to 14 years' imprisonment for providing information to the United States; and scientists Igor Sutyagin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001) and Vladimir Danilov (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 19 June 2001 and 7 February 2002), who are accused of divulging military secrets and espionage. Meanwhile, Naum Nim, the spokesman for a public committee in defense of Pasko, told "Izvestiya" on 12 February he cannot exclude the possibility that a new trial will be set in Pasko's case -- which in practical terms would mean an extension of his time in prison. VY

POLITKOVSKAYA CONTRADICTS REPORTS FROM MILITARY
In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio on 13 February, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya denied earlier news reports about her detention by military officers in Chechnya, ntvru.com reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 February 2002). According to Politkovskaya, the main reason that rumors about her detention were spread was because during her trip to Chechnya she had gathered information "from both sides -- from the residents of the village and from the soldiers." Politkovskaya said that in one village in Shatoi Raion she heard an account of "six civilians in the village in Shatoi Raion [who] were killed by members of a Spetsnaz detachment of the GRU, as a result of which 28 children were orphaned. They were killed and then set on fire -- among them was the pregnant director of a local school." Politkovskaya added that her journalist accreditation documents were in full order and were checked by everyone including a military prosecutor, whom she interviewed. JAC

BORIS JORDAN WANTS TO OWN EKHO MOSKVY...
In an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 13 February, Gazprom-Media General Director Boris Jordan expressed his personal interest in obtaining shares in Ekho Moskvy. He added that while he still does not know who will purchase Gazprom-Media's shares in the radio station, he has been trying to attract Western investors. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 8 February, Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov suggested that Jordan is trying to pursue an "inside deal" with regard to the radio station (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 February 2002). JAC

...AS LUKOIL CHOOSES A BID TO BACK FOR TV-6
Viktor Merezhko, a popular film director and TV personality, announced on 12 February, that LUKoil-Garant will be the main sponsor of his TV-VI corporation's bid to win the tender for TV-6's broadcasting rights, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2002). LUKoil-Garant, which is a minority shareholder in TV-6, originally sought the station's liquidation. JAC

TOP ISLAMIC CLERIC JOINS PROTESTS AGAINST CATHOLIC CHURCH
The chairman of the Central Spiritual Board of Muslims of Russia, Talgat Tadjuddin, said he agrees with objections expressed by the Russian Orthodox Church against the Vatican's decision to upgrade its institutions in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002), NTV reported on 12 February. "Catholicism is not a traditional Russian confession like the Orthodox Church and Islam," Tadjuddin said. Meanwhile, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusevich, the head of Russia's Catholics, told NTV on 12 February that the Russian Orthodox Church has never asked for the Holy See's consent when it seeks to expand its own religious activities, thus the Roman Catholic Church is not obligated to seek permission either. VY

PREMIER ANNOUNCES ADVENT OF 'REFORMS OF SECOND GENERATION'...
Speaking to senior officials of the Property Relations Ministry on 12 February, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that his government is about to launch a "second generation of reforms" through the restructuring of economy, Prime-TASS reported. One of the tools of this reform will be to transfer inefficient state property assets into the hands of the small and medium-sized businesses. In contrast to the past, he said the next phase of privatization must avoid simply redistributing state property, and strictly follow the provisions of privatization legislation and be controlled through Russia's registry for state assets. The Property Relations Ministry must also be a driving force in removing state control from the banking sector, Kasyanov continued. And while withdrawing its control over bank capital, the state must ensure that the privatization of bank and credit institutions is maximally transparent, he warned. Finally, the ministry must play the key role in land reform, and in doing so the ministry should unite into a single system the different legislation and legal norms that have been adopted at federal and regional levels for that purpose, Kasyanov said. VY

...AS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TRADE MINISTRY TO REFORM COMMUNAL SERVICES
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 February that Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that in the next six months his ministry will introduce a comprehensive market-oriented reform of communal services based on social differentiation and incomes. Initially the government planned to introduce an across-the-board measure that would require citizens to pay 100 percent of their communal utilities costs; however, following President Vladimir Putin's intervention the government decided that only families with higher incomes should pay the costs in entirety. As for poor families, the utilities costs will be subsidized by the state through municipal budgets, according to Gref. He added that the infrastructure of communal services in Russian cities today is in a miserable state, as 60 percent of it is obsolete and inadequate, and that the reforms are aimed at making the sector self-sufficient and able to provide funding for their upkeep. VY

LIBERALS INTRODUCE PROPOSED AMENDMENT AGAINST MONOPOLIZATION OF MASS MEDIA
Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Rightist Forces, introduced to the State Duma on 12 February an amendment to the Law on Mass Media that would prohibit any single entity -- including the state -- from establishing more than one mass media outlet of the same type and profile, nns.ru reported. Nemtsov suggested that such a law should go into force beginning next year so that all mass media outlets not currently in compliance could be by 1 January 2004. VY

YUKOS HEAD TELLS PREMIER TO LIBERALIZE GAS AND OIL MARKET
Mikhail Khodorkovskii, the head of the Russian oil giant Yukos, told journalists on 12 February that his company seeks to end Gazprom's monopoly of the Russian gas market and become the country's largest exporter of natural gas by 2005, RBK news agency reported. Khodorkovskii said such ambitions are realistic because today it is not Gazprom but the state that is the true monopolist, as the government controls the export pipelines. Khodorkovskii added that such a situation cannot last for long, and that eventually the government must either liberalize and deregulate the gas and oil market -- including access to the export pipelines -- or some big petrochemical companies will begin to die. And he added that "[Premier] Kasyanov knows that if oil companies experience an economic catastrophe, his government will not survive it." VY

OLIGARCH/GOVERNOR CONTINUES TO ENJOY POPULARITY
In an opinion poll of 1,446 residents of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug in late January, the Russian Institute of Sociology found that more than 96 percent of respondents had a positive assessment of Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich's first year in office, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. Respondents said their most acute problems are old and uncomfortable housing, the rise of drug addiction and alcoholism, and lack of educational and recreational opportunities for children and teenagers. Last June, RFE/RL's special correspondent Mumin Shakirov also found that the overwhelming majority of residents in the village of Tavaivaan thought highly of the governor they elected in January 2001 and continued to display campaign posters of him in local shops (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 July 2001). Meanwhile, "Vedomosti" reported on 7 February that Chukotka's share of tax revenues in the consolidated budget rose by five times last year, while the tax collections in the okrug rose by more than 10 times. Abramovich is a major shareholder in Sibneft. JAC

LEBED FAILS TO WIN OVER NORILSK LEADER
The conflict between the city of Norilsk and Krasnoyarsk Krai flared anew on 13 February, when a meeting between Norilsk Mayor Oleg Budargin and Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed ended without results. Budargin told RIA-Novosti that Lebed has proposed cutting Norilsk's social spending threefold. Budargin explained that "we in Norilsk understand that the krai has economic problems, [but] we have already cut the city budget and reduced financing for kindergartens and schools, and we cannot do more." The city of Norilsk is the home of the headquarters of Norilsk Nickel, which provides about 70 percent of the krai's tax revenue. However, it is located in the Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, whose officials, particularly those in the okrug's Duma, have recently begun seeking to free the city from its economic subordination to Krasnoyarsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2002). Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin is a former head of Norilsk Nickel. JAC

REPO MEN COME FOR CITY HALL IN RUSSIAN FAR EAST
Court bailiffs in Primorskii Krai have seized part of the real estate belonging to the administration of the city of Nakhodka, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 12 February. Three buildings -- including one belonging to the city's mayor -- and an automobile were taken. According to "Kommersant-Daily" the same day, the property was seized because the city lost a lawsuit to the firm Alfa-Eko-M, to which it owed 175 million rubles ($5.7 million) for fuel deliveries. The daily reported that it is not being excluded that property seized will be auctioned off in order to pay the debt. The office of the Nakhodka mayor claims that it had a pledge from then-Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko to guarantee the debt; however, current Governor Sergei Darkin has refused to honor all of the commitments made by his predecessor. JAC

EDUCATION MINISTRY TO CONDUCT MORE EXPERIMENTS IN SELECTED REGIONS
Education Minister Vladimir Filippov announced on 12 February that 17 regions will pioneer a new system of state exams in their schools beginning on 1 September this year, RIA-Novosti reported. By 2005, the exam will be offered in all schools across the country. Five exams in total will eventually be offered, three of which -- mathematics, Russian language, and literature -- will be required for all students. Tests in two other subjects of the students' choosing will also be offered. The regions chosen were Moscow, Samara, Bryansk, Penza, Ivanovo, Orenburg, Tomsk, Ulyanovsk, Voronezh, Perm, Saratov, and Yaroslavl Oblasts, the Jewish Autonomous Okrug, and the Republics of Sakha (Yakutia), Mordovia, and Chavash. JAC

CENTER TO COUGH UP MORE MONEY TO PAY WAGES IN REGIONS
The Finance Ministry will earmark more than 3.5 billion rubles ($114 million) for financial assistance for those regions experiencing financial difficulties in paying higher wages to state workers, Interfax-AFI reported on 12 February. First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev told the agency that the ministry conducted financial analyses of regional budgets for January that showed that some 15 regions are experiencing special difficulties. Of the 3.5 billion rubles, 1.5 billion will be transferred to Volgograd Oblast and 500 million rubles to Nizhnii Novgorod. Earlier, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin and President Putin accused certain unidentified regions of trying to blackmail the federal government in order to meet state workers' salaries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2002). JAC

RUSSIAN TROOPS LAUNCH NEW SEARCH OPERATION IN CHECHNYA
Russian forces surrounded and sealed the villages of Gikalo, Prigorodnoe and Chechen-Aul on the southern outskirts of Grozny during the night of 10-11 February, deploying armored vehicles and engaging in indiscriminate artillery fire that has killed or injured civilian residents, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 11 February. ITAR-TASS on 13 February reported that search operations were continuing and that "dozens" of residents have been detained for passport violations or on suspicion of links with Chechen resistance fighters. LF

FORMER ARMENIAN MINISTER CRITICIZES CAFE DEATH INVESTIGATION
Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 12 February, former Education Minister Ashot Bleyan, who now heads the Public Committee for the Protection of Human Rights, argued that the investigation into the death in a Yerevan cafe last September of an Armenian from Georgia demonstrates that Armenian citizens have no defense against arbitrary actions by the country's authorities, according to Noyan Tapan and Arminfo, as cited by Groong. The official postmortem established that Poghos Poghosian died of serious head injuries. The most recent issue of "Armeniaweek" quoted a British witness as saying that Poghosian had been severely beaten and suffered multiple injuries. That witness also said that he did not recognize Aghamal Harutiunian, the member of President Robert Kocharian's bodyguard who is currently on trial charged with Poghosian's manslaughter, among the six to nine members of Kocharian's bodyguard whom he saw beating Poghosian. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSS REGIONAL COOPERATION
On the second day of his visit to Tbilisi, Vartan Oskanian met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss regional cooperation and transport projects and the prospect for resolving conflicts in the South Caucasus, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. Arminfo quoted Oskanian as saying that agreement was reached during his talks in Tbilisi that Azerbaijan should not be permitted to hinder Armenia's participation in such projects. Oskanian and Shevardnadze also discussed the possibility of merging the two countries' energy systems, Caucasus Press reported. Oskanian and Georgian Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli signed a recently concluded agreement on rescheduling Tbilisi's $16 million debt to Armenia, which will be repaid over a 20-year period beginning in 2004, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2002). LF

GEORGIA AFFIRMS READINESS TO COOPERATE WITH 'FRIENDLY STATES' TO COMBAT 'TERRORISM'
Georgia is ready "to actively cooperate with friendly states...in accordance with our international obligations" if such joint measures prove necessary to eliminate terrorists on Georgian territory, Interfax and AP quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze as saying on 12 February. Sikharulidze did not explain whether Russia is considered a "friendly state" for those purposes. Sikharulidze was commenting on the statement by acting U.S. Ambassador Philip Remler that "mujahedin" from Afghanistan have taken refuge in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, and that the U.S. is prepared to help Tbilisi apprehend them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002). LF

TRIAL OF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY OPENS, ADJOURNS
The trial of Azimbek Beknazarov began on 12 February in the southern town of Toktogul as earlier announced, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2002). But proceedings were adjourned after Beknazarov formally expressed his lack of confidence that any court in Djalalabad Oblast would guarantee him a fair trial, whereupon presiding Judge Busurmankul Baktygulov complied with his request that the trial be adjourned and reconvened elsewhere in Kyrgyzstan. Police detained four of some 45 supporters of Beknazarov who had gathered outside the courtroom. Also on 12 February, 19 supporters of Beknazarov who were on hunger strike at the offices leased in the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources building by two Kyrgyz human rights organizations yielded to a 9 February ultimatum by Minister Aleksandr Kostyuk and moved to the editorial office of the newspaper "Res Publica," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

UN, OSCE COMMENT ON UPCOMING TAJIK BY-ELECTIONS
The heads of the OSCE and UN missions in Dushanbe, Marc Gilbert and Ivo Petrov, together with Central Commission for Elections and Referenda (CCER) Chairman Mirzoali Boltuev, held a joint press conference in Dushanbe on 12 February to assess preparations for by-elections in three constituencies, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Petrov stressed that elections must be held on an alternative basis. Gilbert said that the OSCE will soon establish a working group together with parliament deputies to draft a new "Law on Elections and Political Parties." Asked by Asia Plus-Blitz to comment on the CCER's refusal to register two candidates from the opposition Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT) for those by-elections, Boltuev said the candidates in question had violated the election law. DPT Deputy Chairman Asliddin Sohibnazarov, one of the rejected candidates, denied that charge and criticized the activities of the CCER and its regional subcommittees. In two of the three constituencies, candidates from the ruling People's Democratic Party (the former Communist Party) and the Islamic Renaissance Party (representing the opposition that now holds one-third of all government and local administrative posts) have been registered. LF

TAJIKISTAN, TURKMENISTAN IN COMPETITION TO PROVIDE ELECTRICITY TO AFGHANISTAN
At a meeting in Dushanbe on 13 February with government ministers and heads of UN agencies, Deputy Prime Minister Faridun Muhiddinov said that expanded deliveries to Tajikistan of gas and fuel oil would enable power stations in Dushanbe and Yavan to operate at full capacity, which in turn would allow Tajikistan to export 1.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually to Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. On 12 February, Afghanistan's Water and Electricity Minister Shaker Kargar said after talks with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov that "electricity from Turkmenistan practically fully satisfies the needs of the northern and northwestern provinces" of Afghanistan, according to AP. LF

FORMER TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTER SOUNDS ALARM OVER CRACKDOWN ON OPPOSITION
In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 13 February, former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said that over the previous week more than 100 persons suspected of sympathizing or maintaining contact with his People's Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan have been arrested. Shikhmuradov also said the movement's members have adopted an appeal to the OSCE to suspend Turkmenistan's membership in that organization. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT OUTLINES DEFENSE PLANS
Following a cabinet meeting attended by senior Defense Ministry personnel, President Niyazov on 11 February endorsed a program of measures to enhance the combat ability of the Turkmen armed forces, ITAR-TASS reported. In an indication that the country's leadership has finally woken up to the fact that Ashgabat is vulnerable to a possible air attack from Uzbekistan, Niyazov stressed the need for "pilots, supersonic planes, helicopters, and technical services to maintain the entire air fleet." "A neutral state must be able to defend itself and rebuff absolutely any possible aggressor," Niyazov noted. He was apparently less concerned at the prospect of an attack by ground forces, ordering that conscripts should spend only half their time perfecting their combat skills and the remainder on breeding cattle, growing cotton, or acquiring industrial skills, while devoting their evenings to watching television and reading his spiritual guide "Rukhname," Reuters reported. LF

WINTER OLYMPICS MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES

Through 12 FEBRUARY

Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Russia_____________1_______2_______2_______5
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

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS CABINET FOR FAILING TO MEET 2001 TARGETS...
Premier Henadz Navitski on 12 February reported to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on the government's economic performance in 2001, Belarusian media reported. Navitski said the government failed to meet five out of the 15 key economic targets decreed by the president for 2001, including 5 percent GDP growth as well as projected increases in capital investments, agricultural produce, and exports. Lukashenka harshly criticized the government for these failures as well as for its inability to keep monthly inflation below 2.5 percent. "[My demand] to keep the monthly rate of increase in consumer prices below 2.5 percent was not met... If you think that in this way you will ensure normal lives for yourselves and will continue to pull the wool over people's eyes, you're wrong," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM

...WARNS RUSSIAN BUSINESSMEN AGAINST BLACKMAILING HIM...
Lukashenka also touched upon a recent move by Baltika, Russia's leading beer producer, to get back some $10 million it invested in the modernization of the Krynitsa brewery in Minsk. Baltika was reportedly promised a controlling stake in Krynitsa by Lukashenka. Russia's NTV has recently broadcast a feature criticizing Lukashenka for breaking the promise given to Baltika. "Tell [Baltika President] Balloev that if I see any more commissioned material on NTV or any other crooked media, there will be no Baltika or any other Russian firm here [in Belarus]. If Russian businessmen want to participate in the liberalization and privatization of [Belarusian] enterprises, they will have to do that in the Belarusian way. Blackmail in Belarus will not stand," Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM

...INTENDS TO ARTICULATE HIS 'NEW ECONOMIC SYSTEM'...
Speaking to journalists after the government meeting, Lukashenka said he intends to formulate on paper "a concept of the new economic system" he has initiated in Belarus, Belapan reported. "We have already spoken so much about that. If I could [only] find five sensible scientists who would simply systematize that, my intention would materialize to a certain degree," Lukashenka said. And he added: "I want any journalist to be able to open a book and see that, proceeding from our conditions and experience in improving and reforming the economy, we have found that we must do such and such. I'm now thinking about this and trying to focus on this. I think I'll find time and, possibly, scientists who will help me to do this." JM

...VOWS TO STICK TO PARITY IN UNION WITH RUSSIA...
Lukashenka told journalists that he will never agree to make Belarusians "secondary people" in a union with Russia. "As regards compromises, we are ready for everything the Russian Federation is ready for today, but on the principles of equality and fraternity. There will be no unequal union. If they propose to me to accept the Russian ruble [as a common currency], I'll say 'yes'... But if they propose to print [this currency only] in the Kremlin, I'll never accept this. Why in Moscow and not in Minsk, I ask?" Lukashenka said. JM

...HAS RESERVATIONS ABOUT FOREIGN TROOPS IN CIS...
Lukashenka divulged to journalists that during an informal CIS summit in Astana on 1 March he will raise the issue of the deployment of foreign troops in some CIS countries, Belapan reported. "How could it happen that foreign troops appeared and military bases were created in some states that are signatories to the CIS collective security treaty, without coordination with other [signatories]? This is a breach of the treaty," Lukashenka said. JM

...AND TELLS OSCE WHERE TO GO
Answering a question about prospects for Belarus's cooperation with the OSCE, Lukashenka suggested he is not concerned about whether the OSCE will continue contacts with Minsk or not. "If they [OSCE] do not want to cooperate with us, so be it. We are not particularly palpitating over this. We know what we are worth, we know where we are and what we are worth for Europe," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. He said the OSCE's demand that Belarus expand the powers of its legislature is unacceptable to him. He noted that he does not see any problems with freedom of expression in Belarus. He also said that "there are no conditions" in Belarus for releasing the persons whom the opposition and the OSCE regard as political prisoners. JM

UNCERTAINTY REMAINS OVER WHO RUNS KYIV
Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko, who was suspended by President Kuchma for the duration of the election campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002), told UNIAN on 12 February that he is staying in office in accordance with the Kyiv City Council's decision. At an emergency session the previous day, the council refused to obey the president's decree and passed a no-confidence vote in Ihor Shovkun, whom Kuchma appointed as acting Kyiv mayor. Shovkun reportedly has taken control over the finance and transport directorates of the city administration. Speaking to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 12 February, Omelchenko said he was suspended following an initiative by Premier Anatoliy Kinakh. Omelchenko added that Kuchma's decree suspending him means administrative support for the Democratic Union election bloc, since Shovkun is running in the election on the Democratic Union's list. JM

UKRAINIAN ELECTION WATCHDOG REPORTS CAMPAIGN IRREGULARITIES
The Committee of Voters of Ukraine is concerned about mass irregularities in the election campaign, such as ignoring the ban on campaigning before 9 February, candidates abusing their official positions, breach of procedure in the formation of election commissions, and violence against candidates, STB Television reported on 12 February. According to the outcome of the committee's January monitoring, none of the culprits were punished. Observers noted mass distribution of fake campaign materials in Donetsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kirovohrad, and Luhansk Oblasts; particularly in the name of opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko. According to the committee, 70 percent of irregularities in January amounted to officials campaigning for the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine bloc. JM

UKRAINIAN SUPREME COURT WANTS COMMISSION TO REVIEW REJECTION OF BLOC
The Supreme Court has obliged the Central Electoral Commission to reconsider its decision not to register the For Yushchenko election bloc led by Oleksandr Rzhavskyy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2002), UNIAN reported on 12 February. Many Ukrainian observers see Rzhavskyy's election initiative -- using the name of popular politician Viktor Yushchenko without his approval -- as a dirty election technique intended to confuse the electorate and take away some votes from Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc. JM

KYIV, BELGRADE PLEDGE TO EXPAND TIES
Ukrainian Premier Kinakh said after his meeting with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic in Kyiv on 12 February that the two countries intend to continue developing and strengthening bilateral political, economic, and cultural relations, Interfax reported. According to Ukrainian official sources, the trade turnover between the two countries in January-November 2001 amounted to $75 million. JM

TYMOSHENKO WANTS TO COOPERATE WITH YUSHCHENKO, BUT HE DOES NOT
The Yuliya Tymoshenko election bloc on 11 February aired its state-sponsored election spot on Ukrainian Television, in which Tymoshenko accused the authorities of plotting to discredit her. "I will not defend myself against every allegation the authorities make. As soon as some allegations are cleared, they will come up with others to set society against me and all those around me," she said in a video recorded before her recent car crash. Tymoshenko appealed to viewers to vote for her bloc as well as for Viktor Yuschenko's Our Ukraine and Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist Party. She added that the three will cooperate in the new parliament. Meanwhile, Yushchenko said on 13 February that he does not cooperate with Tymoshenko in the election campaign because hers is an "opposition" bloc while his is a "constructive" one. He added that his aim is to unite forces around a "nonmilitant, nonopposition, nonradical program." JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT WITHDRAWS 20 DRAFT LAWS FROM PARLIAMENT
The cabinet decided on 12 February to withdraw 20 bills that were presented to the parliament by the previous government, ETA reported. Among them were a bill simplifying the return of property to expatriated Germans, amendments to the Criminal Code and related laws, a number of bills related to financing and administering local municipalities, a draft lottery law, and a foreign service bill. Justice Minister Mart Rask noted that the government demonstrated a statesmanlike approach and a strong sense of responsibility in selecting the bills to be withdrawn, as the parliament was considering 185 bills, 94 of which were sponsored by the government. The cabinet also decided to reintroduce daylight-saving time this spring, as they determined that it is more convenient to be in the same time zone as neighboring countries. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT SAYS LANGUAGE QUALIFICATION HAS TO BE DUMPED FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP
Upon returning from an extended visit to the U.S., Vaira Vike-Freiberga told a press conference at Riga's airport on 12 February that the U.S.'s favorable attitude toward Latvia's future membership in NATO could change if the country does not lift its language requirement for candidates to the parliament and local councils, LETA reported. She emphasized that on countless occasions during her visit she was told that Latvia has not been given a "free ticket" to join NATO, but must carefully fulfill the action plan for membership, which includes bolstering democracy in the country. Vike-Freiberga expressed satisfaction with her meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at a reception in Salt Lake City on 8 February prior to the opening of the Winter Olympics, mentioning that Bush said that he hopes to meet with her at the NATO summit in Prague in November. SG

LITHUANIA CONSIDERING WHERE TO STORE NUCLEAR WASTE
Dainius Janenas, the director of the recently formed Radioactive Waste Regulation Agency, told a press conference in Vilnius on 12 February that the agency's most important task is to find a permanent storage site for the fuel used by the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) once it is closed, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. He noted that the plant produces about 1,100 cubic meters of solid waste and 1,000 cubic meters of liquid nuclear waste each year, and that there are now about 60 intermediate containers at the INPP suitable for holding nuclear waste for 50 years. The number of containers would increase to 700 after the plant's closure and cost about 70-90 million euros ($62-$79 million). Some geologists have suggested a more secure underground burial site near Kaunas, but costs for using that site are estimated at between 100 and 250 million euros. The other suggested alternative of sending the nuclear waste to Russia has the drawback that Russia will agree only to temporary storage. SG

POLAND TO INTRODUCE VISAS FOR EASTERN NEIGHBORS IN JULY 2003
The government decided on 12 February to introduce visas for the citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus as of 1 July 2003, PAP reported. A timetable for the introduction of these visas is to be given by Warsaw to Brussels this week. Its acceptance will make it possible for Poland to close the EU membership negotiations in the chapter relating to justice and internal affairs. JM

MORE CZECH OFFICIALS SENTENCED OVER 'ASANACE'
Three more former Czech communist secret police officials were convicted on 12 February for their role in the so-called "Asanace" operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, AP and CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002). Vladimir Starek, Zdenek Wiederlechner, and Zdenek Nemec received three-year suspended sentences. A fourth official was acquitted because of insufficient evidence. The trial of former Interior Minister Jaromir Obzina was interrupted last week, pending clarification by the Supreme Court on whether he has parliamentary immunity. Obzina served as a deputy in the Czechoslovak parliament from 1973 to 1989. Also on 12 February, Obzina's son, also called Jaromir, was detained and faces 12 years in prison if found guilty. He is charged with fraud worth 11.2 million crowns (some $310,000) and the embezzlement of 10.6 million crowns during his tenure as chairman of a company in Jablonec, northern Bohemia. MS

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR SAYS TEMELIN DISPUTE MUST BE SOLVED BEFORE CZECH ACCESSION TO EU
Visiting Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel told journalists on 12 February in Madrid that the dispute with the Czech Republic over the Temelin nuclear power plant must be solved before that country's admission to the EU, CTK reported. Schuessel spoke at a press conference following talks with Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar. Schuessel said he believes Prague will honor its pledge to improve the plant's safety, and that some "60 percent of the problems" surrounding Temelin have so far been solved. MS

CZECH WEEKLY'S COMPLAINT AGAINST GOVERNMENT 'DEFINITELY SHELVED'
Prosecutor Zdenka Galkova told CTK on 12 February that the appeal by "Respekt" Editor in Chief Petr Holub against an earlier decision to shelve his complaint against the government has been rejected and that the case is now "definitely closed." Holub said in response that he cannot understand the reasoning of the decision and that he intends to pursue other means to "seek satisfaction." Following the government's decision to sue "Respekt" for libel, Holub lodged a complaint against the cabinet for "incitement of hatred" and limiting the freedom of expression. The government's complaint against "Respekt" has also been shelved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January, 2 and 6 February 2002). MS

CZECH DISPUTE OVER ROMANY COUNCIL LINEUP CONTINUES
On 12 February, Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky appointed nine new Romany members to the governmental Council for Romany Community Affairs and the lineup of the council has thus been completed, CTK reported, citing a spokeswoman for Rychetsky's office. The council has 28 members, half of whom are representatives of the Romany community from each region in the Czech Republic, and the remainder are deputy ministers of various key ministries. Romany Civic Initiative (ROI) Chairman Stefan Licartovsky said the government's appointees are "young people who do not...represent anyone." Roman Kristof, deputy chairman of the council, said in response that the appointments were made after consultations with representatives of many Romany civic associations. He also said that ROI is registered as a political party and therefore cannot be represented on a governmental advisory body (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002). MS

SLOVAK DEPUTY PREMIER LEARNS FROM CZECH COUNTERPART
Rychetsky and his Slovak counterpart Pal Csaky said after a meeting in Prague on 12 February that relations between their countries are "unparalleled" anywhere in the world and continue to be "above standard," CTK and TASR reported. Csaky said he has consulted Rychetsky on issues on which Prague is ahead of Bratislava because it tackled them earlier. Csaky said the current Slovak government is unlikely to produce legislation on compensating Holocaust victims during its remaining mandate, but that his preliminary report will propose using the Czech model for using privatization revenues to that purpose. He said Prague has made "visible progress" and that racially motivated attacks on Roma are in decline, but added that the problem cannot be solved quickly, and "will remain with us after our entry to the EU." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT TRIES TO SOOTHE NATO WORRIES...
President Rudolf Schuster told Dieter Stoeckmann, assistant commander of NATO forces in Europe, on 12 February that despite the current "turbulent political situation" there is no threat of a political crisis in Slovakia, CTK reported. In a reference to the likely no-confidence vote in Deputy Premier Ivan Miklos, Schuster said there is no threat of an early election and that Slovakia's orientation to the EU and NATO will not change. Citing Schuster, presidential spokesman Jan Fuele said that "even possible changes in the government will not mean a change [in Slovakia's orientation]." Stoeckmann said that while NATO "is not afraid," there are "some minor worries about developments in Slovakia in the days to come and after the autumn elections." MS

...BUT THOSE WORRIES MOUNT
After talks among representatives of the coalition on 12 February, Civic Understanding Party (SOP) Chairman Pavol Hamzik said that neither his formation nor the Party of the Democratic Left have given any guarantees on how they would vote on Miklos's ouster, CTK reported. Hamzik said that Miklos "does not enjoy our confidence, but we shall take into consideration all circumstances and approach the vote responsibly." He added that the SOP is "not interested in the government's fall." MS

SLOVAK PREMIER'S BROTHER DENIES WRONGDOING
Miroslav Dzurinda, the brother of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, said on 12 February that the media campaign launched against him is in fact aimed at discrediting the premier, CTK reported. Miroslav Dzurinda denied that any illegalities were committed in connection with his purchase of a luxury flat from the Slovak railway company ZSR, where he is employed in a managerial post. He said he intends to sue newspapers who allege otherwise, and to donate the compensation damages to a children's oncological clinic. Premier Dzurinda has asked the Supreme Audit Office to investigate the case. MS

HUNGARIAN, SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS STATUS LAW IN ISTANBUL
Janos Martonyi and his Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan, meeting in Istanbul on 12 February, agreed on the need to continue talks on a declaration dealing with the implementation in Slovakia of Hungary's Status Law, and on finding a mutually acceptable solution. Martonyi said Hungary continues to press for an agreement, adding that the Status Law has no extraterritorial effect, nor does Hungary intend to apply the law on the territory of foreign countries. According to "Magyar Nemzet," in an official letter to Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth, Slovakia has rejected a Hungarian proposal that the right of kin-states to support ethnic minorities abroad be included in the envisaged bilateral declaration. MSZ

MIEP PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE ASSAULTED IN BUDAPEST
Two men with baseball bats on 11 February beat and seriously injured Janos Olah, a Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) candidate for parliament. Olah was lured to a side street in Budapest's 13th district by a man who offered him "recommendation slips" that parliamentary members have to gather in their own constituency to qualify for April's national elections. MIEP spokesman Bela Gyori said that "while the police are trying to sweep this case under the carpet, there is no doubt Olah was attacked because of his political views," Hungarian and international media reported. According to Gyori, the attackers referred to Olah's party affiliation, used abusive language, and urged him to get out of the neighborhood. MSZ

HUNGARY, RUSSIA TO JOINTLY EXPLOIT SIBERIAN OILFIELD
Hungary's MOL and Russia's Yukos oil and gas companies have agreed to set up a joint venture to exploit the Zapadno-Malobalyk oilfield in Siberia, the two companies announced on 12 February in Budapest. The managers of the two companies said the cost of the project is $350 million, and the joint venture is to be controlled in equal shares. The capacity of the field is 10,000 barrels per day, which could be increased to 55,000 per day over the next three years, allowing Hungary's MOL to double its oil production. MOL Executive Director Gyorgy Mosonyi said the Hungarian company will invest $15-20 million at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, while the remaining amount will be covered with profits from the operation. According to the development plan, the two companies will drill some 300 wells, build 100 kilometers of pipelines, and 60 kilometers of roads for the field, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

TRIAL OF SERBIA'S EX-DICTATOR ENTERS SECOND DAY
In The Hague on 13 February, Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice told the International Criminal Tribunal that former President Slobodan Milosevic oversaw a command structure that carried out war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002). Nice noted that in 1991 and 1992, "there was a heavy preponderance of military crime being committed coming from the East, coming from Serbia, in the name of the [Yugoslav army]." The prosecutor added that local Serbs "declaring their autonomy or independence weren't just doing it for themselves. They were doing it in order to be joined to something else. Was it purely fortuitous that they wanted to be joined to something that was going to be headed by this accused? Or was he, as we say, for all the reasons already advanced, a party to precisely that plan?" Nice noted that in regard to Bosnia "we accept that our proof against this accused, at this stage, for complicity in these awful events [during the siege of Sarajevo], is via his support for the Republika Srpska and via support for its army. We do not, of course, exclude the possibility of being able to go further in due course." PM

SERBIAN EX-LEADER'S BACKERS DENY CHARGES
Speaking to RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in The Hague on 13 February, Vladimir Krsljanin, who is an official of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, said that the prosecutors have no proof to back their charges. He stressed that the trial is political in nature and that the evidence regarding the Trnopolje concentration camp was "staged." Krsljanin called for an investigation of war crimes by Kosovars, Muslims, and Croats. He denied that there was any "criminal plan" by Milosevic, since "there were crimes on all sides." PM

MIXED REACTIONS TO TRIAL IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
The media and many politicians throughout former Yugoslavia followed the developments in The Hague on 12 February carefully, as did many ordinary people, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. But with the exception of some people who were directly affected by Milosevic's war crimes, most people seemed more interested in getting on with their daily affairs. The issue of war crimes is generally not one that hurts or helps politicians throughout a region in which most people are concerned primarily with their standard of living and their future. In Belgrade, the Yugoslav federal parliament adjourned so that deputies could follow the proceedings on television. More than 1,000 journalists covered the trial from The Hague. PM

MONTENEGRIN AND YUGOSLAV PRESIDENTS MEET
Zoran Sami, who is a top official of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), said in Belgrade on 13 February that Kostunica met in the Serbian capital the previous night with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Unnamed sources in Podgorica added that the meeting came at Kostunica's suggestion and lasted for half an hour in the Yugoslav president's office. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN JAPAN
Ion Iliescu on 13 February was the guest of Japanese Emperor Akihito for lunch at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, where he took the opportunity to invite Princess Nori to visit Romania, AFP reported. Iliescu said that this year Romania will commemorate the 100th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, and would like the princess to visit on the occasion. Earlier, Iliescu met with Japanese businessmen. He was to meet Premier Junichiro Koizumi later on 13 February. MS

COMMENTS ON THE TRIAL FROM SERBS...
Speaking in Belgrade on 12 February, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that his country, "as a member of the United Nations, cannot comment as to whether the accusations [against Milosevic] are well founded or not," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Reuters reported from Fushe Kosova that local Serbs still remember Milosevic fondly as the man who "gave us strength...for survival" against the 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority. One man added that Milosevic "fought against terrorism... He was not a killer, he did not burn down houses." Another argued that "Serbs did not have a better life than during his rule." Yet another man said that "the people were very satisfied with what they heard from him and what he promised. Whatever he promised he fulfilled." Other Serbs blamed the current leadership, but not Milosevic, for their problems, adding that "he meant well but he went about it the wrong way." "Die Welt" wrote on 13 February that most ordinary Serbs regard the trial as a farce or a frame-up and blame Milosevic mainly for ruining the Serbian economy, if for anything. PM

...AND FROM OTHERS
In Zagreb on 12 February, the Croatian government expressed satisfaction with the trial, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Service reported. Officials said Croatia has supplied over 1,000 documents and 100 audio and video tapes as evidence. It has also sent to The Hague some 806 documents requested by the tribunal in conjunction with the case against General Rahim Ademi and other Croatian military men. In Sarajevo, the office of High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said in a statement that the Milosevic trial is a "historic opportunity" to identify those responsible for war crimes. "Dnevni avaz" wrote on 13 February that if Milosevic is found guilty, the international community should withdraw recognition from the Republika Srpska, which was "his project" (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 10 and 17 January 2002). PM

MONTENEGRIN MINISTER: MORE THAN ONE MAN IS ON TRIAL
Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac wrote in Podgorica's "Vijesti" of 13 February that the trial gives many an opportunity to look back on their own deeds during the years of Milosevic's rule. Lukovac called especially on those Montenegrins who have not abandoned Serbian nationalist attitudes to re-examine their ideas once again. The minister stressed that "this trial is not the trial of one individual, regardless of what is said. This is the trial of a government and its policies -- and directly or indirectly, of all those who took part in that government and in implementing those policies. One way or another. Both then and now." PM

BOSNIAN CROATS TO INSIST ON BICAMERAL LEGISLATURES
Members of seven ethnic Croat political parties agreed in Sarajevo that they will insist that any proposed constitutional changes in the two entities include the establishment of an upper House of Nations in addition to a lower House of Deputies, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 13 February. The creation of an upper house would guarantee representation for the Croats, who are the smallest of the three main ethnic communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Before the 1992-1995 conflict, they accounted for about 18 percent of the total. Many are believed to have since emigrated to Croatia or further afield. PM

U.S. BALKAN DIPLOMAT: I AM WILLING TO TESTIFY
Richard Holbrooke told BBC Television in London on 12 February that he is willing to testify against Milosevic in The Hague. Holbrooke denied Milosevic's assertion that the American offered him a deal in return for his support of the Dayton peace agreement. PM

BOSNIAN LEGISLATORS INFORMED ABOUT TERROR SUSPECTS
The Sarajevo daily "Oslobodjenje" wrote on 13 February that the Bosnian authorities have given members of the House of Deputies information on the hunt for suspected terrorists in Bosnia. Acting on a tip-off from the government in Cairo, the authorities are currently looking for seven naturalized citizens of Egyptian origin. PM

CONCERN WITH OTHER WAR CRIMINALS IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
"Vesti" reported on 13 February that former General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who commanded the Serbian General Staff during the Kosova campaign, is preparing his defense with over 2,000 pages of documents. He has been indicted by The Hague but is living in Serbia, reportedly in army housing. In Banja Luka, an official of The Hague-based tribunal said SFOR and the authorities of the Republika Srpska are both obliged to help arrest and extradite war criminals, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. He added that no one should expect to gain anything by stalling. PM

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY, OPPOSITION LIBERALS DISCUSS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Valeriu Stoica discussed on 12 February envisaged constitutional amendments, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said after the meeting that his own Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the PNL have "different positions" on several issues on the agenda. While the PNL has submitted to the parliament a draft bill on the financing of political parties, the PSD believes a single bill dealing with both that issue and the functioning of political parties in general should be part of the envisaged amendments. The premier emphasized that the main achievement of the meeting rested on a "return to normalcy" in the relations between the governing party and the opposition. But he added that in view of the "callous" and "unfair" attacks on the PSD by the Democratic Party and the Greater Romania Party, no similar consultations are envisaged with those formations. MS

MOLDOVAN EDUCATION MINISTER OUSTS 'HISTORY OF ROMANIANS'
Ilie Vancea signed a document on 12 February endorsing a government draft proposal on teaching history in schools, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The draft stipulates that "History of Romanians" courses will be replaced by courses in which the "History of Moldovans" will be taught. The regulation applies to schools as well as to universities. The government was to discuss the draft on 13 February. MS

COUNCIL OF EUROPE WELCOMES ANNULMENT OF PPCD SUSPENSION
Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer on 12 February welcomed the decision of the Chisinau government to abolish its decision to suspend the Popular Party Christian Democratic for one month, Flux reported. Schwimmer called the nullification of the suspension "a first step in the direction of making the early local elections respect democratic values, norms, and practice." MS

VENICE COMMISSION ASSESSING MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
A delegation of the European Commission for Democracy Through Law -- better known as the Venice Commission -- arrived in Moldova on 12 February at the invitation of the parliament to assess draft amendments to the Moldovan Constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. Last week, the parliament approved legislation aimed at bringing Moldova's basic document into line with the legislation granting autonomous status to the Gagauz-Yeri region. The law granting that status was approved in 1994. Gagauz-Yeri National Assembly Chairman Mihail Kendegelian says the proposed amendments are not satisfactory and that the constitution should grant his region's representatives a quota in the Chisinau parliament and in central Moldovan institutions. Chisinau is currently supporting a referendum to oust Gagauz-Yeri Governor Dumitru Croitor, whose supporters include Kendegelian. MS

BULGARIAN CABINET SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
The cabinet headed by Simeon Saxecoburggotski easily survived on 13 February a no-confidence vote submitted by the opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS), international agencies reported. Only 50 deputies supported the motion, while 134 voted against it and 45 deputies -- mostly from the Socialist Party -- abstained. The motion was initiated in response to the government's decision to introduce a value-added tax on Bulgarian-produced medicine (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2002). The government said the tax complies with EU standards. The motion's defeat notwithstanding, a survey carried by the National Center on Public Opinion shows that 61 percent of Bulgarians disapprove of the government's performance. If elections were held now, Saxecoburggotski's National Movement Simeon II would garner only 15 percent of the vote, compared with 18 percent for the Socialist-dominated Coalition for Bulgaria, and 14 percent for the ODS. MS

GREEK DEFENSE MINISTER IN SOFIA
Visiting Greek Defense Minister Yannos Papantoniou said in Sofia on 12 February that his country wants all East European candidates to be admitted to NATO, AP reported. Papantoniou added that Greece also supports the "gradual admission" into the organization of Russia and Ukraine, saying that Athens "wants no more division lines in Europe." He spoke after meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Svinarov. MS

BULGARIA'S FOREIGN DEBT NEARS $10 BILLION
Bulgaria's foreign debt totaled $9.894 billion at the end of 2001, representing 73.3 percent of its GDP, dpa reported on 12 February, citing the Bulgarian National Bank. The bank said the debt dropped by $470 million compared to the previous year. MS

WINTER OLYMPICS MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES

Through 12 FEBRUARY

Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Estonia____________1_______0_______1_______2
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
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.


XS
SM
MD
LG