PUTIN PRAISES GOVERNMENT'S ECONOMIC ACHIEVEMENTS...
Speaking to visiting Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien in Moscow on 14 February, President Vladimir Putin said that "if any Western government had done at least half what the government [of Mikhail Kasyanov] has achieved in the last few years, its work would have been designated a success," Russian new agencies reported. Among the government's achievements Putin listed "revolutionary tax reductions, economic growth and the increase of the population's purchasing power." Putin's favorable comments on the government's economic performance may have been intended more to attract foreign investments than to reflect accurately the real situation in the economy, strana.ru commented on 14 February. VY
...AS EXPERTS SAY INFLATION MEANS FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT'S ECONOMIC POLICY
In January 2002 Russia experienced an inflationary catastrophe, the seriousness of which is not realized either inside the country or abroad, Institute of Globalization Director Mikhail Delyagin is quoted as saying by "Obshchaya gazeta" on 14 February. Indeed, in January the government sharply increased tariffs for communal services, railroad transport, telephone calls, medicines, and print production, he continued. In addition, there was also a 16 percent jump in the price of fruit and vegetables. All this sent the annual inflation rate to 30 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002), and this figure means the complete failure of the government's whole economic course, concluded Delyagin. Meanwhile, ex-Finance Minister and member of the Duma Budget Committee Mikhail Zadornov called on the government at a press conference in Moscow to "publish the real figures for inflation and prognosis of its growth linked to the increase in tariffs," strana.ru reported on 14 February. Zadornov added that he is not sure that government can do this, but he is sure that the government will fail to attain its goal of 3-4 percent economic growth this year because of accelerating inflation. VY
RUSSIAN AND CANADA PLAN TO EXPAND COOPERATION AND TRADE
President Putin said after his talks in Moscow on 14 February with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Chretien that both countries have agreed to work out a political program of extended dialogue on strategic stability, defense, trade, and investments, Russian news agencies reported. Moscow and Ottawa also agreed to step up cooperation in the sphere of disposing of weapons of mass destruction, in particular, plutonium and chemical weapons, for which purpose Canada will provide Russia with $5 million. Putin also said that the two countries will strengthen their joint work in the Arctic, and that he has accepted Chretien's proposal to hold one of their future meetings at the North Pole. Meanwhile Chretien, who was accompanied to Moscow by a 300-strong delegation of Canadian businessmen, met the same day Prime Minister Kasyanov. Following their talks, Kasyanov told journalists that he has a portfolio of trade and industrial contracts with Canadian businessmen worth $2 billion. VY
GOVERNMENT ADOPTS BILL ON ALTERNATIVE SERVICE
Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko announced that at its meeting 14 February, the government approved the draft of the Law on Alternative Service strana.ru reported. According to Matvienko, the term of alternative service will be double that of compulsory military service, and young men will be allowed to perform it at their place of permanent residence, "unless there is an urgent need to send them to other regions." The approval of the bill by the government is considered a major step towards its transformation into law, because its smooth passage through both chambers of the parliament is almost guaranteed, according to strana.ru. VY
ECOLOGICAL MONITORING SERVICE DETECTS RADIOACTIVITY LEAK IN MOSCOW
The Moscow state service responsible for monitoring radiation announced on 14 February that it has discovered the presence in the air over the northern part of the city radioactive isotope of iodine-131. "Komsomolskaya pravda" and NTV reported on 14 February. Although the current quantity of the isotope poses no immediate danger, greater concentrations in the air could prove very harmful to human internal organs and the hormonal system. The specialists say they cannot explain the presence of iodine-131 in the atmosphere other than by a leak from a nuclear reactor, and that they have already begun checking functioning reactors in research and medical institutions in Moscow. VY
DUMA ASKS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL TO INVESTIGATE PRIVATE SECURITY SERVICES
The Duma has sent to the Prosecutor-General's Office a parliamentary request to probe the activities of commercial security services that "might be involved in illegal intrusion into private citizens' lives, seeking to incriminate heads of state institutions and other serious crimes," "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 14 February. The request was prompted by the arrest last month of Vyacheslav Aminov, a Moscow businessman and unpaid adviser to the chief of the presidential staff, Aleksandr Voloshin (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 3 January 2002), in whose possession was discovered a huge archive of compromising material on leading Russian politicians, parliamentarians, and businessmen. The Duma's move will no doubt please President Putin, who would like to crack down on the private "mini-KGBs" controlled by oligarchs and their financial-industrial groups, the newspaper commented. VY
PROSECUTOR SENDS TO COURT CASE OF FOREIGN TRADE MINISTRY OFFICIALS
The Prosecutor-General's Office has announced that its officers have completed their investigation of the case of former Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade Andrei Dovgaev and a senior ministry official, Evgenii Petrov, who are accused of smuggling strategic metals, Russian media reported on 14 February. The two men also are accused of abuse of office and accepting bribes totaling $12 million. The investigators also confiscated 151 pictures by famous Russian and foreign painters from Dovgaev's private collection. VY
FEDERAL PROPERTY AGENCY FRATERNIZES WITH LAWYER WITH MAFIA CONNECTIONS
Vladimir Malin, the head of the Russian Federal Property Fund (RFFI), has employed as his legal adviser, Aleksandr Dobrovinskii, who has earned the nick-name "Mafia advocate" for his close ties to criminal and semi-criminal figures, "Novaya gazeta" reported on 14 February. Dobrovinskii first entered the limelight as the defense lawyer of Vyacheslav Ivankov (a.k.a. Yaponchik), the Russian mobster sentenced by a U.S. court in1995 to 12 years in prison on racketeering charges. Dobrovinskii has close connections with Switzerland-based banker Bruce Rappoport, continues the newspaper, who is involved in laundering money for Russia criminal groups. He often represents controversial businessman Lev Chernoy, who is reportedly involved in the illegal export of metals. VY
MORE OLIGARCHS SOUGHT TO BUY TV-6
At their meeting on 14 February, TV-6 shareholders decided to set up a liquidation commission, Interfax reported. Igor Shabdurasulov, who represents the interests of two shareholders, said that the liquidation process could take anywhere from one month to a year. Also at the meeting, TV-6 General Director Yevgenii Kiselev tendered his resignation so that he can focus on the upcoming tender for the station's broadcasting rights. Meanwhile, "Gazeta" reported the same day that Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov is no longer involved in negotiations between Kiselev's team and potential investors, reportedly because he had become too talkative about negotiations. The daily also reported that TV-6 journalists are demanding that Siberian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska, Systema head Vladimir Yevtushenkov, and SUAL head Viktor Vekselberg, be included in the consortium of investors that already included Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, MDM-Bank head Aleksandr Mamut, Sibneft shareholder Roman Abramovich, and former Gazprom-Media head Alfred Koch. That way, a kind of balance would be achieved by having businessmen who are competing against each other included. JAC
LEGISLATOR TO TAKE ON LOBBYING JOB GRATIS
Former presidential security service head General Aleksandr Korzhakov plans to combine his job as a State Duma deputy with the vice presidency of the Trade and Industry Chamber (TPP), which is now headed by former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, regions.ru reported on 14 February. According to Korzhakov's Moscow office, Korzhakov will work for the TPP on a non-salaried basis and remain a member of the State Duma. That way, according to his office, Tula Oblast will not have to hold an early by-election for the single-mandate district from which Korzhakov was elected. JAC
ANOTHER SENATOR SELECTED
Legislators in Tyumen Oblast voted on 14 February to approve Deputy Governor Andrei Artyukhov as their representative to the Federation Council, regions.ru reported citing Samotlor-ekspress. Earlier it was suggested that Surgut Mayor Aleksandr Sidorov represent legislators, but he turned down the position. JAC
TENSE SITUATION REPORTED IN COAL MINING REGION
The liquidation of one of Rostov Oblast's largest coal mining companies, Rostovugol, could throw 12,000 people out of work, "Vremya MN" reported on 14 February. According to the daily, the interdepartmental commission for socioeconomic problems in the coal-producing regions, which is headed by Energy Minister Igor Yusufov, decided that the only legal means of extinguishing the company's 11-month backlog of unpaid wages to its workers would be to liquidate the company. However, local officials report that the social situation in the regions "has become red hot." Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub has already signed a decree designating 25 million rubles from the oblast's budget to the company. JAC
INTERIOR MINISTRY TO TAKE LEAD IN COMBATING HOMELESSNESS
Deputy Prime Minister Matvienko announced on 14 February that as a result of a cabinet ministers' meeting that day to discuss the results of last November's Civic Forum, an interdepartmental working group for the struggle against homelessness will be established and headed by Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, polit.ru reported. The Interior Ministry, in fact, will play the leading role in the struggle against homelessness, assisted by the Labor Ministry and Education Ministry. The government also intends to strengthen the legal responsibility of parents and schools for raising children. JAC
BOOK SWAP NETS SOME COMMUNIST CLASSICS
The pro-Kremlin political youth movement, Moving Together, completed on 14 February its exchange of books by modern authors for Russian classics, Interfax reported. The movement offered the reading public in various cities the opportunity to turn in books by modern popular authors such as Viktor Pelevin and Vladimir Sorokin, which the activists deem "intellectually marginal," and receive in return Russian classics by authors such as Igor Bunin and Anton Chekhov. Moving Together Press Secretary Denis Zaitsev told the agency that some 6,700 books were collected, including some 97 by Karl Marx. JAC
PROLIFERATING PROSTITUTION PLAGUES PERM
Presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko met with Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev on 14 February to discuss the problem of crime in the region, regions.ru reported citing Region-Inform-Perm. According to the site, both officials consider crime to be the oblast's chief problem ,and in particular the rising level of prostitution. JAC
MARRIAGE LESS POPULAR
The State Statistics Committee reported on 13 February that the number of new marriages in Russia declined to about 900,000 last year compared with 1.1 million in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported. There were also more divorces: 700,000 in 2001 compared to 655,000 in 1995. Regionally, in 2001, the Moscow area had one of the highest rates of marriages with 8.4 per 1,000 persons. The Urals region was a close second with 8 marriages per 1,000. The divorce rate was highest in the Russian Far East, with six divorces per 1,000 population. JAC
CHECHENS PROTEST ARTILLERY BOMBARDMENT BY RUSSIAN TROOPS
Residents of the village of Tsotan-Yurt south of Grozny prevented Russian troops from entering the village on 13 and 14 February, AP reported. The villagers were protesting the deaths of two civilians, one of them a woman, during artillery bombardment of the village on 12 February. Drunken Russian troops are reported to have killed dozens of civilians in Tsotan-Yurt during a security sweep in the village in early January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2002). LF
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ANGERED BY PRESIDENT'S COMMENTS ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
Representatives of Armenian opposition parties which have drafted an alternative package of proposed constitutional amendments on 14 February criticized President Robert Kocharian's statement the previous day that the alternative proposals will be excluded from a nationwide referendum on amendments proposed by the presidential commission, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2002). Kocharian admitted that if several alternatives were put to a referendum, it would be unlikely that any of them would receive the approval of the required minimum one-third of all registered voters. Kocharian also hinted that rejection of the amendments he has endorsed would negatively impact on his bid for re-election in March 2003. National Democratic Party leader Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the president), who co-authored the alternative amendments, told RFE/RL that "the president...cares more about his re-election than about reform of the constitution." LF
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT UNDERGOES APPENDECTOMY...
President Kocharian was hospitalized early on 14 February and underwent emergency surgery to remove his appendix, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported quoting the presidential press service. The 47-year-old president's condition after the operation was said to be "satisfactory," and he will be discharged from hospital in "a few days." LF
...AND HIS AZERBAIJANI COUNTERPART PROSTATE SURGERY
Also on 14 February, Heidar Aliev underwent prostate surgery at the Cleveland Clinic where he checked in for a medical examination 11 days earlier, Turan and Reuters reported. The presidential press service reported that Aliev is recovering normally. ITAR-TASS and Turan also quoted that service as saying that Aliev will return to Azerbaijan within a few days, while according to Reuters it gave no date either for his discharge from the clinic or his return to Azerbaijan. LF
ARMENIA, GREECE, IRAN DISCUSS JOINT ENERGY PROJECTS
Senior government officials from Armenia, Greece, and Iran met in Yerevan on 13-14 February to discuss energy projects, in particular the planned gas export pipeline from Iran to Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A memorandum of understanding on implementing that project was signed during President Kocharian's visit to Tehran in December 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001) , but no date was set for beginning construction, which will cost an estimated $120 million. Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Martirosian said the EU will contribute to funding the gas pipeline project as part of its efforts to secure alternative energy sources and expedite closure of the Medzamor nuclear power plant, which currently provides 40 percent of Armenia's electricity. LF
ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER, KARABAKH PRESIDENT MEET
Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian met in Stepanakert on 12 February with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, to discuss the military-political situation in the region, Noyan Tapan reported. The two agreed that the armed forces of both Armenia and Karabakh must be strengthened in order to preserve the existing military balance of forces in the conflict zone. At the same time, they stressed their commitment to seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict. LF
AZERBAIJAN AGAIN RULES OUT ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH ARMENIA...
Azerbaijan has not retreated from its position that any economic cooperation with Armenia is contingent on a "fair" solution to the Karabakh conflict, presidential administration department head Novruz Mamedov told the Trend news agency in Baku on 13 February, according to Groong. Novruzov was responding to a joint statement issued in Strasbourg on 8 February by UN, OSCE, and Council of Europe representatives again calling for Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to embark on trilateral regional cooperation, which, the statement said, "would help settle 'frozen' conflicts." Armenia has repeatedly signaled its readiness for such cooperation, while Azerbaijan has consistently rejected it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 25 June 2001). LF
...NOT YET READY TO MAKE FIRM COMMITMENT TO EXPORT OIL VIA UKRAINE
Speaking on 14 February in Kyiv at a session of the Azerbaijan-Ukraine intergovernmental commission for economic cooperation, Azerbaijan's Deputy Premier Abbas Abbasov said his country will not export oil via the Odesa-Brody pipeline this year, although he did not exclude doing so in future, Russian agencies reported. He invited Ukraine to participate in construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, according to Turan on 15 February. U.S. officials have similarly proposed that Ukraine should join that project. LF
PROTESTS SPREAD IN AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE
Residents of the village of Bananyar in Nakhichevan began a hunger strike on 13 February to protest appalling living conditions, Turan reported. Residents of two neighboring villages joined the protest the following day to demand bread, employment, and the resignation of the country's leadership. Turan quoted unidentified sources as saying that there have been "clashes" between the protesters and local officials. LF
ABKHAZIA'S ARMENIAN COMMUNITY APPEALS TO UN
"Krunk," a public organization that represents Abkhazia's Armenian minority, has addressed an appeal to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to secure the abolition of "anti-human" economic and political sanctions imposed on Abkhazia by the CIS and other international bodies, according to Armenpress on 14 February as cited by Groong. The appeal, which was published in the Armenian daily "Respublika Armeniya," argued that those sanctions constitute a violation of human rights, particularly as they make it impossible for local Armenians to travel to Armenia. LF
RUSSIAN DELEGATION ARRIVES IN GEORGIA TO PREPARE REPATRIATION OF CHECHEN REFUGEES
A Russian delegation headed by Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations Yurii Brazhnikov began talks in Tbilisi on 14 February on the voluntary repatriation to Chechnya of the estimated 7,000-8,000 refugees currently encamped in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, Russian and Georgian agencies reported. Brazhnikov did not mention any specific time frame for beginning the repatriation process. Brazhnikov said after meeting with Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili that Tbilisi will conduct a census of the refugees next month and determine how many of them are prepared to return to Chechnya. It is not clear how that census will be conducted as Pankisi has long been considered a "no-go" area even for the Georgian police. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 February that almost all the refugees have already said that they are not prepared to return to Chechnya until the fighting there is ended. LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SEEKS JOINT VENTURES WITH INDIA
Touring Bangalore on 14 February, Nursultan Nazarbaev invited local companies to establish joint ventures with Kazakhstan in the field of information technology and pharmaceuticals, dpa reported. LF
HEALTH PROBLEMS IN KAZAKHSTAN'S ARMED FORCES HIGHLIGHTED...
Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry has launched a program to prevent the spread of AIDS and venereal disease within the armed forces, Interfax reported on 14 February. Four servicemen tested HIV-positive in 2001, and "hundreds" of cases of syphilis and gonorrhea are reported annually, according to the ministry's press service. Meanwhile "Kontinent" reported on 5 February that no more than 15,000 of the potential 70,000 draftees are healthy enough to be inducted into Kazakhstan's armed forces this fall. Forty percent of the potential recruits are underweight, and 25 percent reportedly have an IQ that is too low. LF
...AS KYRGYZSTAN MOVES TO SHORTEN TERM OF MILITARY SERVICE
The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) on 14 February passed in the first reading a draft bill that reduces from two years to one the term of compulsory military service, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Servicemen may opt to sign a further two-year contract after completing their service. The bill's author, Defense and Security Committee Chairman Ismail Isakov, said the bill will save an unspecified amount in budget funds. LF
UNEMPLOYED KYRGYZ HOPE FOR JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN AFGHANISTAN
Since 7 February, a total of 2,000 residents of Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Oblast have signed up for employment opportunities in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Over 50 percent of those who did so are currently unemployed. LF
IMF CASTIGATES TAJIKISTAN FOR PROVIDING INACCURATE DATA
In a press release dated 13 February, the IMF noted three quarterly tranches of a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan were released in January 2000, April 2001 and July 2001 on the basis of incorrect data supplied by Tajikistan on the country's external debt. IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chairman Eduardo Aninat termed the Tajik authorities' failure to provide accurate data "a serious matter," but noted that the Tajik government has pledged to "take definitive actions to address deficiencies in their debt management capacities." LF
On 12 February "RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly identified Philip Remler as acting U.S. ambassador in Tbilisi. He is in fact charge d'affaires.
WINTER OLYMPICS MEDALS COUNT -- PART 1 COUNTRIES
Through 14 February
VALENTINE DAY MARCH IN MINSK ENDS IN ARRESTS
The Youth Front on 14 February initiated a three-month campaign of protests against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime by delivering Valentine's cards to a dozen embassies in Minsk. "In times of darkness, lies, aggression, repression, and dictatorship, we should remember that only love will help us overcome [them] and revive a European Belarus," Reuters quoted the inscription on a card delivered to the U.S. Embassy as reading. Russia's Embassy did not receive a card. Later in the day, some 200 Youth Front activists organized a traditional Valentine's Day anti-Lukashenka march in downtown Minsk, which was monitored by large numbers of police and, as in previous years, ended in the arrest of demonstrators. According to Belapan, riot police arrested no less than 30 young people. JM
TWO BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS CHARGED WITH LIBELING LUKASHENKA
Prosecutors in Hrodna on 14 February charged Mikalay Markevich and Pavel Mazheyka with defaming President Lukashenka in articles published in the opposition weekly "Pahonya" during the 2001 presidential election campaign, Belarusian media reported. In November 2001, the Supreme Court shut down "Pahonya" after the authorities previously issued two warnings to the weekly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2001). "Pahonya," of which Markevich was editor, wrote about the disappearances of opposition figures in Belarus and allegations that those disappearances were organized by a government-sponsored "death squad." If convicted, Markevich and Mazheyka face up to five years in prison. "I have no illusions about my trial and the verdict I may get. But I made my choice," Markevich told Belapan. JM
KUCHMA TO HEAD FOR A UNITED UKRAINE PARTY?
Presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, who leads the For a United Ukraine election bloc, told journalists on 14 February that President Leonid Kuchma has expressed his readiness to lead a planned For a United Ukraine Party, UNIAN reported. "Our agreement on the creation of the For a United Ukraine election bloc envisions two principal tasks -- the creation of a parliamentary caucus and the creation of a pro-presidential party on the basis of the bloc. The president is ready to head the party in the stage of its formation," Lytvyn said. JM
PRESIDENT SAYS SMUGGLING THREATENS UKRAINE'S ECONOMIC SECURITY
Addressing a government conference on the protection of the domestic market on 14 February, President Kuchma said smuggling is threatening the country's economic security, UNIAN reported. According to Kuchma, last year Ukraine's budget lost more than 2 billion hryvni ($376 million) in unpaid customs dues. Without specifying a time frame, Kuchma said illegal transit of alcohol across Ukraine has increased threefold. Kuchma also said Ukraine has become "a major link on the Balkan drug-trafficking route to Europe." The president added that Ukraine has seen a 300 percent increase in drug-related crimes in the past 10 years. JM
UKRAINE'S RUSSIAN BLOC CAMPAIGNS FOR ECONOMIC UNION WITH RUSSIA
Oleksandr Svystunov, the leader of the Russian Bloc, said in an election campaign spot on Ukrainian Television on 14 February that Ukraine needs an economic union with Russia to ensure "cheap energy resources" and markets for Ukrainian goods. "We have no other choice than going together and building industrial society in both Ukraine and Russia," Svystunov argued. He criticized Ukraine's "village mentality" in its view of relations with Russia, saying that the Ukrainian economy is based on Russian oil and gas. He also said that the 10 years of independence brought more trouble to Ukraine than 300 years of Russian rule. Svystunov was speaking to the camera from a rostrum against the bloc's emblem featuring a troika of galloping horses and slogans: Russian Bloc against poverty; Russian Bloc for the Russian language, unity and decent living. JM
UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS SHOWER PROMISES OF 'SOCIALIST REFORMS'
The Communist Party published its election manifesto in "Uryadovyy Kuryer" on 14 February, pledging to make workers "the masters of life" and to implement "socialist reforms...to restore the economy" after winning the 31 March parliamentary ballot. The Communists promise to ensure comprehensive support for domestic producers; restore the "uninterrupted operation" of the fuel and energy sector; support agricultural producers with preferential credits; prevent the massive purchase of land by the nouveau riche and foreigners; guarantee equal legal conditions for the operation of enterprises and businesses with different forms of ownership; lower tax pressure and abolish value-added tax; stop "the criminal grabatization" [privatization]; and "get rid of the dictatorship and the services of the U.S. administration, the IMF, and other financial-political octopi." The Communists also promise to turn Ukraine into a "parliamentary-presidential" country. JM
DEFENSE COOPERATION BETWEEN ESTONIA AND FINLAND
During a one-day visit to Helsinki on 14 February, Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland held talks with her Finnish counterpart Erkki Tuomioja on EU and NATO expansion and bilateral defense cooperation, ETA reported. Tuomioja said that defense cooperation between the two countries will continue after Estonia becomes a member of NATO. Ojuland thanked Finland for help in developing Estonia's border guard system, saying that this had considerably facilitated its integration process with the EU. Ojuland noted that the meeting on Valentine's Day had a symbolic meaning, as it demonstrated the good-neighborly relations between the two countries. She also met with parliament Speaker Riitta Uosukainen and Defense Minister Jan-Erik Enestam. SG
LATVIAN PUBLIC TV CHIEF FIRED
The Latvian National Radio and Television Council decided on 14 February by a vote of six to one with one abstention to dismiss Rolands Tjarve as the director-general of Latvia's public Latvijas Televizija (LTV), BNS reported. The main reason for the dismissal was Tjarve's approval of a trilateral agreement between LTV, Hansa Lizings, and Media Bridge media agency under which LTV was to be a guarantor to a 354,000 lats ($553,000) bank loan taken by the media agency. This agreement was considered to be a direct violation of the law "On Radio and Television," which bans the pledging or sale of LTV assets. LTV news service chief Gundars Reders was appointed as acting LTV director-general. The same day, the parliament by a vote of 80 to none with six abstentions appointed vice president of the "Balta" and "Latva" insurance companies Andris Ruselis as Bank of Latvia vice president. SG
FRENCH PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES PRAISE LITHUANIAN BID FOR EU
At a press conference in Vilnius on 14 February, French National Assembly Vice Chairman Maurice Ligot complimented Lithuanian officials for what he called "earnest, competent, and responsible dealing with EU entrance issues," ELTA reported. Ligot said that "all [EU] member states are looking forward to the admission of Lithuania," which he hopes will take place soon. The previous day, parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas received the French delegation headed by Ligot and informed them about the passage of numerous acts necessary for EU membership. The delegation also met with members of the Lithuanian parliament's European, foreign, rural, education, and science committees. Ligot said he believes that the EU will allow Lithuania to alter its previous decision and ask for a transition period on allowing the sale of farm land to foreigners, since other candidate countries are also applying for this. President Valdas Adamkus is scheduled to meet the delegation before they return home on 15 February. SG
NATO LEADER URGES POLAND TO MODERNIZE ARMED FORCES
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson met with Prime Minister Leszek Miller and Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz in Warsaw on 14 February and urged Poland to modernize its armed forces more quickly. "Modernize or you will get marginalized," Polish Radio quoted Lord Robertson as saying. Lord Robertson praised Poland for being a reliable NATO member. He also gave Poland credit for its efforts to bring NATO and Russia together. "This is one of the most historical opportunities which is now opening for us and could be the most long-lasting advantage resulting from the horrific events which took place on 11 September," Lord Robertson commented on the recent NATO-Russia rapprochement. JM
POLITICIAN WARNS AGAINST SPLIT IN POLISH COALITION OVER EU SUBSIDIES
Zbigniew Kuzmiuk, the newly elected head of the Peasant Party (PSL) parliamentary caucus, said on Radio Zet on 14 February that the PSL will quit the ruling coalition with the Democratic Left Alliance if the government accepts last month's European Commission proposals on farming subsidies to new EU members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2002). "This is Mr. Kuzmiuk's statement. Such important decisions as joining or quitting the coalition are not made on the basis of politicians' unofficial statements, even if those politicians are very prominent," government spokesman Michal Tober commented. Tober said the EU proposal regarding farming subsidies is a "preliminary stance," adding that the Polish government has termed it "unacceptable in this form." JM
POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES LOCAL ELECTION LAW...
The Sejm on 15 February adopted a law on local elections, shifting the ballot date from spring to autumn and approving the d'Hondt method for calculating seat allocations, which favors large groupings, the "Gazeta Wyborcz" website reported. In a previous vote in January, the Sejm opted for the Sainte-Lague method, which is more favorable for small and medium-sized parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002). The ruling Democratic Left Alliance managed to push through the d'Hondt system thanks to votes from Andrzej Lepper's Self-Defense. "Self-Defense has decided to support the d'Hondt method so that all the agrarian-national organizations unite and together oppose the liberal left and win against it," Lepper told PAP on 14 February. JM
...EXCLUDES INTELLIGENCE, BORDER SERVICES FROM LUSTRATION
The Sejm also approved the Senate's amendments to the 1997 lustration law removing intelligence, counterintelligence, and border protection service officers from the list of officials subject to the lustration process. Under the law, state officials are obliged to submit written declarations as to whether they collaborated with the communist-era secret services. The law stipulates that those concealing their collaboration with the communist secret police will be punished with a 10-year ban on holding public posts. In January, contrary to proposals by the president who was an author of the amendments, the Sejm decided that intelligence and counterintelligence would still be vetted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002). JM
NEW DISPUTE OVER CZECH PRESIDENT'S PREROGATIVES
The ruling Social Democratic Party and the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on 14 February criticized President Vaclav Havel for having decided on an appointment to the Constitutional Court without consulting the government, CTK reported. Havel asked the Senate on 12 February to appoint Supreme Court Judge Chairwoman Eliska Wagnerova to the vacant position. Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures said that he "regrets" that the president did not consider it necessary to ask him for information about Wagnerova. Bures asked for a meeting with Havel, which he said he hopes will take place by the end of next week. ODS Deputy Chairman Ivan Langer said Havel's handling of the appointment is "suitable for a monarchy, but not for a democracy." He said Havel should have consulted the premier, the Justice Ministry, and the speakers of both chambers of the parliament. MS
CZECH AUTHORITIES THREATEN TEMELIN OPERATOR WITH SANCTIONS
Dana Drabova, who heads the State Office for Nuclear Safety, told the daily "Lidove noviny" on 14 February that "high financial sanctions" and management changes could be imposed on the state-owned utility CEZ, which operates Temelin, if another emergency shutdown occurs at the plant after its restart, dpa reported. The previous day, Drabova's office issued a preliminary report on its investigation of the latest shut down at Temelin, six days after the malfunction occurred. The report classified the closure as "Level 1 emergency," which is the least dangerous according to international standards. It said no radioactivity was released and that control room technicians acted appropriately. The shutdown was caused by an electrical problem in the power-generating turbine. MS
NO PLACE FOR SCHINDLER ON CZECH LIST
The regional assembly of Eastern Pardubice voted on 14 February against including Oskar Schindler, who saved 1,200 Jews in the Holocaust, on a list of the region's outstanding personalities, AP reported. Schindler was born in Svitavy, which is located in the region, but an advisory council said he had been a member of the Nazi Party and is "too controversial" to be included on the list. Schindler's deeds became famous to millions in the world due to Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List." MS
CZECH INTERIOR MINISTRY BANS FAR-RIGHT YOUTH ORGANIZATION
The Interior Ministry on 14 February announced that earlier this month it dissolved the far-right Republican Youth organization, CTK reported. The ministry said parts of the organization's program infringe on legal provisions. Last year, the ministry asked the Republican Youth to correct references in the program to Roma, which were deemed to be racially discriminatory and at variance with legal provisions. Only some of those references were changed, the ministry said. Republican Youth Chairman Martin Zbela said the decision was a "mockery of democracy" and that the organization will file an appeal with the Supreme Court. The Republican Youth was established in 1998, and according to Zbela it has between 1,000 and 2,000 members. MS
NEW CZECH CIVIC ASSOCIATION TO DEFEND ZELEZNY
The Interior Ministry on 14 February registered the recently established Civic Association for Defense of Dr. Zelezny, CTK reported. The association is headed by politician Martin Schuster, businessman Jiri Slezak, and athlete Jonas Tichy, according to "Lidove noviny." In January it published a full-page advertisement in the Czech dailies in support of television mogul Vladimir Zelezny, who is being investigated on suspicion of fraud, challenging the procedure used in the investigation. Schuster is a member of the Young Conservatives organization, which is close to the ODS. MS
SLOVAKIA REACTS TO HUNGARIAN PREMIER'S COMMENTS...
The Foreign Ministry said on 14 February that it was "surprised" that Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban has linked the controversy over the implementation of the Status Law in Slovakia with Bratislava's bid to join NATO, TASR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2002). The ministry said that Slovakia "considers such views to be inappropriate, at best." The "common future of our countries and all NATO citizens is too important for politicians to hazard with," the statement said. According to Hungarian media reports, Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan called Orban's comment "irresponsible." Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said that "flexing one's muscles while speaking at the same time about readiness to reach an agreement are incompatible actions." MS
...WHILE HUNGARY DENIES THEY WERE MADE
In what can be called a "reaction to the Slovak reaction," the Foreign Ministry in Budapest said it was "astonished" that Bratislava has again criticized Hungary without having studied Budapest's statement in detail, CTK reported on 14 February. It said that Orban had told Hungarian radio the previous day that apart from the dispute on the Status Law, the two countries are "linked by many interests," and that if Slovakia wants to join NATO, that accession must also be approved by the Hungarian parliament. MS
ORBAN SAYS 'HUNGARIAN MODEL' PROVES ECONOMIC TEXTBOOKS WRONG
Hungary's outstanding economic performance in 2001 proves that it is possible to simultaneously achieve goals that textbooks say are mutually exclusive, Prime Minister Orban told a forum of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 14 February. Thanks to the "Hungarian model," Orban said, inflation and unemployment were reduced simultaneously, consumption increased, the trade and current account balances improved, small companies grew stronger, large companies boosted their exports, and regional differences did not grow. "The economy cannot be run according to any ideology, but according to Hungarian interests," he said, adding that Hungary needs "economic patriotism." Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy told the gathering that the economic goals set in 1998 have been achieved, and Hungary's GDP growth rate is twice the European average, Hungarian media reported. MSZ
HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST LEADER REACTS TO PREMIER'S HINTS ON POLITICALLY MOTIVATED ASSAULT...
Opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 14 February urged Premier Orban to present evidence for his claim that the 11 February attack on Janos Olah, a Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) candidate for parliament, was politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 February 2002). Kovacs also sent a letter to National Police commander Peter Orban, asking him to make public as soon as possible any evidence regarding the motives of the assault. Kovacs said it is "alarming" that MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka suspected that the MSZP was behind the attack, adding that Csurka's hints shed particular light on the prime minister's statement about alleged political motives. Olah told "Nepszabadsag" that "the MSZP's fingerprints can be seen all over this case." Budapest's 13th district local organizations of FIDESZ, the Democratic Forum, and the Christian Democrats also said the MSZP was responsible for the attack. According to "Nepszava," however, leaks from the police indicate that Olah was beaten for his involvement in selling real estate in the 13th district. MSZ
...AND ISRAEL CALLS MIEP ALLEGATIONS 'RIDICULOUS'
The Israeli Embassy in Budapest on 14 February expressed "regret" that some people have used its name in the election campaign, Hungarian media reported. The embassy said that "tasteless, ridiculous, and groundless" charges were directed at Israel after the assault on the MIEP candidate, adding that "Israel does not interfere in election campaigns, neither in Hungary nor anywhere else in the world." MSZ
CROATIAN PRESIDENT SAYS MILOSEVIC STILL TRYING TO DECEIVE...
Speaking in Djakarta, Indonesia, on 14 February, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that former Yugoslav and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic "has been deceiving the world since he came to power. At the same time he was deceiving his own people. He deceived the world by claiming he was fighting to keep Serbia together. He also deceived the Serbs. However the only thing he wanted was a Greater Serbia, ethnically clean Serbia," RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 14 February 2002). Mesic added that Milosevic "was not interested in the legitimate rights of Croatia, the rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the rights of Slovenia, or the rights of Macedonia, or the rights of Albanians. All he was interested in was power and he used it to pursue his criminal plan. And now he is questioning the legitimacy of this court." PM
...CALLS MILOSEVIC 'PRIME ARCHITECT OF THE WAR'
Mesic said in Djakarta on 14 February that when he was "the last president of Yugoslavia [in 1991], I told [Milosevic] that his plan to create a Greater Serbia would not succeed, and that the Serbian people would be those who would suffer the most from it, and I also told him that the Serbs would try him and hang him. However, I was wrong because he's now being tried by the tribunal. There is no death sentence, only life in prison in this case," RFE/RL reported. Mesic stressed that Milosevic is "definitely guilty of genocide, guilty of war crimes, and the suffering of peoples and individual people... He must be held responsible for that, and I am confident he will." The Croatian president concluded that "Milosevic was the prime architect of the war, he planned the crimes, and should be held accountable for that. Once he disappears completely from the political scene -- Milosevic and those [others] who are guilty -- I believe we will improve the stability of the region. I believe in individual accountability because nations are not guilty of crimes." PM
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT COURTS LIBYA AHEAD OF EXPECTED VERDICT
President Georgi Parvanov on 14 February wrote to his Libyan counterpart Muammar Ghaddafi that Sofia wants closer ties with Libya and the Arab world as a whole, BTA and AP reported. The message was delivered to Tripoli ahead of the verdict expected on 17 February in the trial of the six Bulgarians accused of having deliberately infected hundreds of children with the HIV virus. Parvanov wrote that "regardless of the outcome" of the trial, "we shall do our best to make our relations with the Arab world more active." At the same time, he expressed the hope that the trial will be "fair." MS
PRESIDENT SAYS MOLDOVA WANTS TO INTEGRATE INTO EUROPE
President Voronin, in an interview with an Italian television channel on 13 February, said Moldova is "fully determined" to pursue integration with Europe, but Europe uses "double standards" in relations with Moldova, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the EU "should not divide countries into big and small states," and should treat Moldova as a country equal to all others. MS
MILOSEVIC TELLS THE HAGUE OF SERBIAN FORCES' HUMANITARIAN WORK
Addressing the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on 15 February, Milosevic again denied that Serbian forces committed war crimes, and charged that NATO planned and provoked a war with Serbia, RFE/RL reported. Milosevic claimed that Serbian forces did not seek to expel Albanians from Kosova but rather that "the Serb forces were trying to save them, they assisted them, they transported them to hospitals, even to the most elite American institutions, even to Belgrade and not to Pristina and other towns of Kosovo." Referring to NATO's efforts to stop the ethnic-cleansing campaign, Milosevic argued that "this entire war was pointless and it constitutes a crime. Those come to kill children in their sleep can hardly sleep peacefully themselves if they are human at all and if they have any morals... The migration of Albanians from Kosovo was of strategic importance for the Clinton administration to win the support of the media and public opinion, as a justification of what they were doing" against Serbia. Presiding Judge Richard May suggested that 15 February will be the final day of Milosevic's opening presentation. PM
SERBIAN EX-DICTATOR WANTS TRIBUNAL TO SUMMON WESTERN LEADERS
Milosevic told The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 15 February that he wants it to summon numerous Westerners who held important positions during the 1999 conflict in Kosova, RFE/RL reported. He specifically mentioned: "[former U.S. President Bill] Clinton, [former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright, [French President Jacques] Chirac, [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder, [former German Foreign Minister Klaus] Kinkel, [German Foreign Minister] Joschka Fischer, [French Foreign Minister Hubert] Vedrine, [former British Foreign Secretary Robin] Cook." Milosevic is widely expected to seek to turn the trial into what one broadcaster called "a circus" to attract publicity to himself and cast doubt on the charges against him and on the tribunal itself. PM
GERMAN BROADCASTER REJECTS MILOSEVIC'S USE OF DOCUMENTARY ON KOSOVA
Joerg Schoenenborn, who is chief editor of the radio and television station West German Broadcasting (WDR), said on 14 February that Milosevic has no business citing a WDR television documentary from 2001 on the 1999 Recak massacre in Kosova as part of his defense, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported from Cologne. Schoenenborn called Milosevic's references to the broadcast "absurd and impudent," noting that the documentary represented the journalists' own point of view and nothing more. The documentary "It Began With A Lie" denies that the massacre took place and has been criticized by nearly all German Balkan experts and broadcasters as unprofessional and biased, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Many German experts suspect that some of the Serbian apologists who have taken up positions in Western media and NGOs in recent years may have played a role in producing the film. Meanwhile in Recak, villagers are "outraged" at Milosevic's allegation -- based on the film -- that the massacre never took place, AP reported. PM
HAGUE PROSECUTOR ARRIVES IN BOSNIA
Carla Del Ponte arrived in Banja Luka on 15 February on a one-day visit, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. She is expected to impress upon her hosts the need to extradite Radovan Karadzic and other indicted war criminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 January 2002). Bosnian Serb authorities have denied that they know the whereabouts of any of the men, but have called on those indicted to turn themselves in and offered to help provide bail for them. In related news, "Vesti" reported from Belgrade that former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic no longer enjoys Yugoslav army protection from arrest and extradition to The Hague. In November 2001, Del Ponte charged that the Yugoslav authorities headed by President Vojislav Kostunica are knowingly harboring Mladic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 November 2001). PM
MOLDOVAN PROTESTS CONTINUE...
Some 30,000 people continued their protest in Chisinau on 14 February for the second consecutive day against the government's decision to replace teaching the "History of Romanians" with the "History of Moldova," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Apprehensions were expressed that the "logical next step" of the government would be to have the Cyrillic alphabet replacing again the Latin transcription of "Moldovan," thus restoring the Soviet-era situation. After the demonstrations ended, armored personnel carriers were deployed on the city's main square. MS
BELKIC BECOMES HEAD OF BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY
In accordance with the legal provisions on the rotation of chairmen, Beriz Belkic, who is the Muslim representative on the joint presidency, took over the chairmanship on 14 February, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He said that his top priorities are the return of refugees and the introduction of legislation on the return of property. Belkic replaces Jozo Krizanovic, the Croatian representative, in the top position. PM
SERBIA WANTS INFRASTRUCTURE AID FOR OLYMPIC TRAFFIC
Serbian Transport and Telecommunications Minister Marija Raseta-Vukosavljevic told Reuters in Belgrade on 15 February that her country will need massive assistance in addition to that already pledged to upgrade its road and railway system in anticipation of heavy traffic for the 2004 Athens Olympics. PM
STEINER SETS PRIORITIES FOR KOSOVA
Michael Steiner, who is the new head of the UN civilian administration (UNMIK), told dpa in Prishtina on 14 February that "the real interests of people are jobs, security.., and of course the feeling that you can rely on institutions [and] the rule of law. That is what people want and that is the main issue that we have to address now," (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 January 2002, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2002). Referring to the ongoing political stalemate in the province, Steiner stressed that the international community can play a valuable supporting role, but that it is up to the political leaders of Kosova to take action. He added that "it's in everybody's interest that all [people] feel free in Kosovo," AP reported. But the next day, he told a press conference that he will meet with local leaders over the weekend because "we must come to a conclusion" on the composition of a government before too long. PM
MONTENEGRIN MINISTER HAILS 'PRINCIPLED AND BALANCED' U.S. POSITION
Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Podgorica on 14 February that he welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent statement on Montenegro's constitutional status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2002). Lukovac called Powell's cautious statement "principled and balanced," in contrast to the EU's strong-arm tactics against independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 December 2001 and 15 February 2002). Lukovac called on Washington to play a "key role in order to offset the biased attitude of the European Union," which refuses even to consider the possibility of Montenegrin independence. In related news, a group of European Balkan experts and NGO officials wrote an open letter calling on the EU to change its policy towards Montenegro. PM
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS JAPANESE PREMIER
On the last day of his four-day visit to Tokyo, President Ion Iliescu held talks on 14 February with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, AFP reported. The two sides agreed to boost bilateral economic ties and to cooperate with the international community in fighting terrorism. At a press conference hosted by the Japan National Press Club earlier that day, Iliescu expressed confidence that Romania will be invited to join NATO at the Prague summit this fall, and called for larger Japanese investments in his country. He said the business climate in Romania has been improving and "we are taking a very flexible stance and are listening carefully to requests and opinions." He also said Romania hopes to have "a more normal relationship with Russia," and to conclude the basic treaty between the two countries "at the earliest possible date." MS
FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE EXPLAINS VETO ON ROMANIAN POLITICIAN
The Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), in a statement stopping just short of a formal apology, on 14 February said its 1990 veto of Radu F. Alexandru's appointment as cultural attache in Israel had been due to "the [lingering communist] mentality and criteria that were still in force at that date," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2002). The SIE said it wishes to "assure" Alexandru, who is now a senator representing the National Liberal Party, that there are no files on him at SIE and that he is not "in the focus" of the institution. MS
HUNGARIAN LEADER IN ROMANIA HINTS THAT CONFLICT WITH DISSENTERS IS OVER
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko said on 14 February after discussions conducted with the recently formed "Civic-Christian wing" in the UDMR that he is now persuaded that the wing is "in no way undermining the unity of the UDMR" or the protocol signed with the ruling Social Democratic Party. Marko said that the group's formation was triggered by "problems arising from the way the [UDMR] parliamentary group functions, by problems of consultation [among the members of the parliamentary group] and of mutual exchange of information." He thus hinted that the disputes could be settled by promoting some of the dissenting group's members to higher positions within the parliamentary faction. MS
IRANIAN DIPLOMATS: 'WE ARE NOT PLEASED' BY ROMANIAN GESTURE
The local council of Cluj on 14 February voted against a proposal by Mayor Gheorghe Funar to declare Cluj and the Iranian town of Nishabur twin towns. The proposal, which had the approval of the Foreign Ministry, was rejected on the grounds that U.S. President George W. Bush recently referred to Iran as being a member of the "axis of evil." AFP said that Iranian diplomats in Bucharest expressed "indignation" at the decision, which was taken as a delegation from Nishabur and the Iranian ambassador to Romania were visiting the Transylvanian capital. MS
...AND COMMUNISTS REJECT PROTESTERS' DEMANDS
The leadership of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) met on 14 February with leaders of the parliament, who rejected the PPCD demand that President Vladimir Voronin and the government resign and early elections be called. Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary group leader Victor Stepaniuc said that "for 12 years, the Moldovan education system has prepared young people to become Romanian citizens -- the time has come to prepare the young generation to be Moldovan citizens." Parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapchuk told the PPCD leaders that their demands are "unfounded and absurd," and that the PCM has "received a four-year mandate from the people." MS
BULGARIA APPOINTS NATIONAL SECURITY CHIEF
The Bulgarian cabinet on 14 February approved the appointment of Colonel Ivan Chobanov as the new director of the National Security Service, BTA reported. Chobanov's appointment was proposed by Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov. Earlier this week, President Parvanov said he would sign the appointment immediately after its approval by the cabinet. Parvanov said Chobanov is a "consensus candidate" for the post and that his appointment will not stir objections from either Bulgaria's Eastern nor its Western partners. Chobanov has been assistant chief of operations in the Interior Ministry. He will be promoted to the rank of major general. The post of NSS director has been vacant since the resignation of General Atanas Atanasov in November 2001. MS
WINTER OLYMPICS MEDALS COUNT -- PART 2 COUNTRIES
Through 14 February
UKRAINE DEBATES THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
On 16-17 February Ukraine will hold a forum of Civic Organizations entitled "Society Before the Elections." The aims of the forum are to assist in the holding of free and fair parliamentary and local elections on 31 March through civic control over the election process, prevention of the use of "administrative resources," equal access to the media, and high voter turnout. Two-thirds of Ukrainians do not believe that the authorities will ensure a free and fair election and half do not believe Ukraine is a democracy. Three-quarters of election irregularities last month were undertaken by the pro-Kuchma For a United Ukraine (ZYU), the Voter's Committee of Ukraine reported.
The forum will also debate the role, function, and expansion of the activity of civic organizations and civil society within Ukraine. It will be attended by 300 civic groups from throughout Ukraine, foundations, political parties, and election blocs.
The number of civic groups in post-Soviet Ukraine has grown each year, with 1999-2000 recording the largest expansion. Young people and students participated in the "Ukraine without Kuchma" movement and the "For Truth" civic group that grew out of "Kuchmagate." Many of the young leaders of both of these groups were well-known activists from the 1990-91 student movement, such as Oles Doniy, who is now a member of the radical anti-Kuchma Yulia Tymoshenko election bloc. In the last decade, civil society in Ukraine has become more professional and efficient in its activity, but civic groups remain fragmented.
Two laws were adopted "on Civic Associations" in 1992, which underwent changes in 1993, 1997, and 1998, and a law "on Charity and Charitable Organizations" in 1997. By 2000 the Kyiv-based Innovation and Documentation Center (IDC) recorded 28,000 civic groups in Ukraine, of which 23,065 were civic organizations and the remainder charitable foundations.
During 1991-96, Democratic Initiatives found that public faith in civic organizations had declined from 30 to 13 percent. Only 7.8 percent of Ukrainians were members of the 28,000 civic groups, compared to 4.6 percent who were members of the country's 130 political parties, according to a 1999 IDC poll. Two-thirds of Ukrainians have never participated in civic activities, primarily due to a lack of time, distrust or lack of information about them, that poll established.
A major problem facing civic groups is financial. Only a third of civic groups actually collect membership dues, another third have no funds, and the remainder survive on less than $2,000 a year. The major source of financing remains Western, particularly U.S. foundations. Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-United (SDPU-O) leader Viktor Medvedchuk recently complained that as a result, American influence over Ukraine's civil society is "unrivalled."
Volodymyr Lytvyn's article "Civil Society: Myths and Realities" in the mass pro-Kuchma "Fakty i Komentarii" newspaper on 19 January provided the backdrop to the February forum. Lytvyn is head of the presidential administration and the ZYU election bloc. Lytvyn's article plagiarized an article by Thomas Carothers entitled "Civil Society" that appeared in the Winter 1999-2000 issue of "Foreign Policy," a journal published by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The intellectual reputation of Lytvyn, a professor of history and member of the National Academy of Sciences, was severely damaged by this revelation of plagiarism. Hryhorii Nemirya, chairman of the Board of the Renaissance (Soros) Foundation, said, "Except for microscopic fragments, it's essentially the same article."
Lytvyn was forced to admit that he had "re-written" Carothers' article, but refused to apologize or accept responsibility for his act of academic dishonesty. Subsequently, other Ukrainian academics and scholars have come forward to list a history of plagiarism by Lytvyn stretching back to 1990. A refusal to respect intellectual property by such a high-ranking official and the unwillingness to deal with CD music and computer piracy, a factor that led to U.S. sanctions being imposed on Ukraine last month, is symptomatic of a deeper psychological problem facing post-Soviet Ukraine.
The issue of plagiarism was made worse, Carothers believes, by the manner in which Lytvyn's article was used to undermine civil society, the very opposite of what Carothers had intended. Lytvyn's (and Kuchma's) fear of civil society is influenced by the growth of civic activism and public awareness since "Kuchmagate" and during the current election campaign. The authorities feel threatened by the growth of civic activism in support of democratization and against corruption at a time when between 50 and 57 percent of Ukrainians believe that political and economic reforms respectively are moving too slowly, according to a December 2001 International Foundations for Electoral Systems poll.
Anatoliy Grytsenko, president of the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies, gave the sharpest rebuttal to Lytvyn. Reading between the lines, Grytsenko understands Lytvyn's views as saying defense of citizens' rights lies not within the realm of civil society but through a "strong state and president." "The authorities would like citizens to remain silent, to not react to provocations against civil society, to not destabilize the situation or create a threat to national security," Grytsenko concluded.
Lytvyn's views on civil society represent the ideology of ZYU, the election bloc that is the official face of the "party of power" which a presidential decree on January 28 openly ordered state officials to back. Its views on civil society, business, and politics are influenced by the Soviet legacy which has evolved in the post-Soviet era into supporting a corporatist model for the state that plays a guiding and controlling role within society. The state sees civic activism and the mobilization of citizens as a threat to its capture and perceived ownership, of the state. Citizens are only meant to display activism during elections, as in a delegative democracy, when they need to be guided as to whom to vote for.
The ruling ideology of Ukraine's post-Soviet elites and the ZYU has therefore been "zlahoda" (concord), civic stability and social peace. "Stability" is therefore the "fundamental idea" upon which ZYU is campaigning. To them, civil society and citizens are not something to negotiate with, respect, or admit responsibility for one's actions to. State policies have therefore served to dampen the growth of civil society and reduce feelings of efficacy, something the forum of civic groups starting tomorrow is striving to change.
Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.