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Newsline - July 11, 2002


SERIES OF LANDMARK BILLS RACE THROUGH UPPER CHAMBER...
In the last day of its spring session on 10 July, the Federation Council approved a host of measures that recently passed the State Duma, including several landmark bills, Russian news agencies reported. The laws on bankruptcy, alternative civil service, trade in agricultural land, and the Arbitration Procedure Code were all approved, along with bills reforming the pension system, simplifying taxation for small businesses, defining the legal status of foreigners, and amending the 2002 federal budget (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 10 July and 27 June 2002). Senators also passed a bill amending election laws so that no less than 50 percent of the members of regional parliaments are elected according to party lists. The bill on the buying and selling of agricultural land mustered the most opposition; however, it was passed with 126 votes in favor, 14 against, and six abstentions, according to Interfax. According to ITAR-TASS, the upper chamber broke all previous records of productivity with this 6 1/2-hour session, having considered 46 measures and approved 26 laws. JAC

...INCLUDING LAW ON EXTREMISM...
The Federation Council approved the controversial bill on extremism that has aroused the concern of many human rights activists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2002), polit.ru reported on 10 July. Although the final version drops the words "and other types of activity" from the original definition of extremism, it remains quite broad and could be used against almost any type of political expression, the website added. The bill preserves potentially arbitrary and supra-legal norms for closing down political and religious organizations. It is widely expected that President Vladimir Putin, who initiated the bill, will sign it into law, most likely before the end of the month. VY

...AS SENATORS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR KRASNODAR KRAI AUTHORITIES
Also on 10 July, members of the upper chamber adopted a special resolution on the migration situation in Krasnodar Krai, Interfax reported. According to the agency, the resolution notes the large number of foreign citizens and persons without citizenship in the krai and laments the "unjustified delay in repatriating [Meskhetians], who are living temporarily in the Russian Federation, back to Georgia." The members also called on the government to adopt this fall a draft law on state regulation of migration to the Russian Federation" that would establish quotas limiting the number of migrants in regions and create the possibility of a temporary resettlement of separate categories of citizens, foreigners, and persons without citizenship out of regions plagued by conflict. A group of Meskhetians in the krai recently ended a hunger strike in protest of their status in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2002). Given a choice, at least some of them would prefer to emigrate to Turkey, rather than settle in Georgia. JAC

GENERAL STAFF OFFICER MOVES TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MINISTRY
President Putin appointed Colonel-General Vladislav Putilin, formerly the chief of the General Staff's Organizational-Mobilization Department, as deputy economic development and trade minister, Russian news agencies reported on 11 July. Although Putilin has no economics background, Ekho Moskvy reported that the appointment came at the request of Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref because of Putilin's knowledge of the country's mobilization resources and potential. However, Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Maksim Medvedkov told strana.ru the same day that his agency had neither initiated Putilin's appointment nor been informed about it. Polit.ru speculated that Putilin's appointment is connected to Putin's recent call to the Security Council to rethink the economic aspects of Russia's national security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). VY

PUTIN LOYALISTS GO AFTER AVANT-GARDE WRITER
Novelist Vladimir Sorokin is being investigated by Moscow prosecutors who are looking into whether his 1999 novel "Goluboye Salo" ("Blue Lard") is pornographic, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 11 July. Svetlana Petrenko, an aide to the city's chief prosecutor, told AP that the probe was launched in response to a complaint by the pro-Putin youth group Moving Together, which particularly objected to a sexual scene in the novel involving former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev. Petrenko also said that prosecutors are investigating the book's publishers and distributors. Last month, Moving Together staged a protest in Moscow at which members tore up copies of the book and threw them into a giant mock toilet bowl. "This may generate a trend that would signal a cleansing in literature and culture as a whole," the 47-year-old Sorokin said, according to Interfax. The news agency also quoted Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov as saying, "Writers should speak of the reasonable and the eternal instead of cursing and describing improper scenes." If convicted of disseminating pornography, Sorokin could be sentenced to up to two years in prison, AP reported. RC

RUSSIA, GERMANY TO HOLD JOINT PARATROOP EXERCISES
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced after a meeting with Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, a leading candidate to become the next chancellor of Germany (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002), that bilateral military cooperation between the two countries has begun to produce practical results, Russian news agencies reported on 10 July. Both countries are now preparing for a joint exercise of their airborne troops that should take place later this year in the framework of the international campaign against terrorism. Ivanov also said that Russia is ready for concrete cooperation with NATO on security problems, "the number of which, unfortunately, increases with each passing day." VY

AEROFLOT SWITCHES FROM BOEING TO AIRBUS
National air carrier Aeroflot has decided to replace its Boeing aircraft with Airbus planes on its medium-distance routes and is currently in leasing negotiations with Airbus, "Izvestiya" reported on 11 July. According to Aeroflot Deputy General Director Lev Koshlyakov, Aeroflot made the decision, despite its long history of cooperation with Boeing, because of the new situation in global civil aviation after the events of 11 September. He added that the Airbus aircraft will cost less than the Boeings. Meanwhile, Bavarian Prime Minister Stoiber told Bavarian Television that he is enthusiastic about the deal and expects Aeroflot to lease at least 11 Airbus planes. VY

SOUTHERN UTILITY IGNORES PUTIN, KASYANOV WARNINGS
TV-6 reported on 10 July that energy prices will rise by 5 percent by the end of the summer despite recent statements by the president and prime minister that such increases are immoral (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 8 July 2002). Utility officials at Stavropolenergo claim the increases are unavoidable, not only because they have had to pay for the restoration of the energy networks in the south, but also because of outstanding unpaid debts. JAC

KASYANOV PROMISES CENTER WILL STOP IMPOSING UNFUNDED MANDATES ON REGIONS, MUNICIPALITIES...
During a visit to Kaluga on 10 July, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov pledged that the federal center will stop obliging regions to spend money on social and community programs and policies without providing funding, TV-6 reported. Kasyanov said that it is necessary to complete work on demarcating budget responsibilities between the various levels of government. "At the same time, no one can have the right to assign expenditures to local budgets without providing them with sources of revenue," he said. Deputy Prime Minister Victor Khristenko addressed the issue of unfunded mandates in his recently released book on budgetary policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). JAC

...AND CLASHES WITH PUTIN OVER TAXES ON IMPORTED CARS
Also in Kaluga, Kasyanov openly challenged President Putin by saying the country must improve the quality of its domestic auto production before introducing protectionist measures against the import of foreign-made automobiles, polit.ru reported on 11 July. Otherwise, Kasyanov said, the problems of the domestic auto industry will be solved at the expense of Russian consumers. Kasyanov's remarks stand in sharp contrast to President Putin's 8 July statement in Saransk that "the government lacks the courage to support domestic automobile producers." Putin that he personally supports the idea of imposing high duties on imported cars, which is currently being lobbied by domestic producers. VY

JUST 11 PERCENT OF DRAFTEES FIT FOR SERVICE
The acting head of the General Staff's Organizational-Mobilization Department, Colonel General Vasilii Smirnov, announced that, in course of the spring draft, the military called up over 161,000 conscripts, 94 percent of what it requires, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 July. However, Smirnov said, the "quality of the draftee contingent is very low" and only 11 percent of draftees are suitable for the military service. He also noted that 20 percent of draftees have only an elementary-school education and about 7 percent have criminal records. VY

TRIAL FOR ACCUSED SPY POSTPONED AGAIN
The Prosecutor-General's Office has extended the investigation and detention period for Igor Sutyagin, a defense expert who is charged with treason, Russian news agencies reported on 10 July. Sutyagin's lawyer, Vladimir Vasiltsov, said that, according to the ruling, Sutyagin is to remain in prison until 8 September. Vasiltsov added that he considers this decision illegal because his client's guilt has not been proven. He intends to appeal the ruling in Moscow's Lefortovo Court, rian.ru reported. Sutyagin is accused of providing U.S. intelligence agents with classified information on Russian defense. He denies the accusation and claims that the materials he transferred to representatives of the British firm Alternative Futures were acquired from public sources, strana.ru reported. Sutyagin has been held in prison without trial since 27 October 1999. MD

COURT RULING ON GOVERNORS' TERMS LINKED WITH UPCOMING ELECTIONS
In their coverage of the Constitutional Court's decision of 9 July allowing most governors the possibility of running for a third and in some cases even a fourth term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002), most Russian newspapers interpreted the ruling as a kind of capitulation to regional leaders by the Kremlin. Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center was quoted by "Izvestiya" on 10 July as saying that the center is "changing its policy on the eve of elections" as it returns "administrative resources" to the governors. "Regional leaders should understand that they will have to be loyal to the federal center in the future in exchange for this decision," he continued. "Vremya novostei" also commented that the 2004 presidential elections were a key reason behind the "Kremlin's indulgence," claiming that the "administration thinks that Putin must win this election with a convincing victory." In addition, "Izvestiya" concluded that in 2006 the question might arise that "if the governors have the right to three terms, why shouldn't the president?" JAC

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION
In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 10 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002), Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the process of integration in Russian-Belarusian relations does not foresee Belarus becoming a subject of the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 18 June 2002). "The new principles of relations must build two sovereign states," Ivanov said, adding that, "From our point of view, it would be most justifiable to follow the principles of other associations that have proved their viability, the European Union in particular." Ivanov confirmed that the two countries plan to hold elections for a Russia-Belarus Union parliament, adding that: "It is one of the stages. But Europe did not begin with this stage. It is necessary first of all to expand economic cooperation, to unify the legal sphere, and only then to build supranational cooperation -- the highest level of integration." CB

SHOT FIRED AT IRKUTSK MOSQUE
An unknown gunman fired into a mosque in the Siberian city of Irkutsk during a service on 11 June, Russian and Western news agencies reported. None of the 10 people in the mosque at the time were injured. According to AP, a single shot was fired, breaking a glass plate in the door to the mosque. Police determined that the gunman fired from the attic of a five-story building across the street from the mosque and speculated that the incident had been planned in advance, according to lenta.ru. RC

OLIGARCH/GOVERNOR SLATED FOR TRANSFER?
Moscow-based political analysts believe that Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin has the best chance of victory in the 8 September gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 July. Sergei Kolmakov, vice president of the Fund for the Development of Parliamentarism, drew attention the fact that Khloponin gathered 60,000 signatures in support of his candidacy quickly, indicating his ability to "mobilize the electorate." Khloponin was the first of the 28 people expressing a desire to run to register officially. Igor Bunin, director of the Center for Political Technology, also said that Khloponin has the best chance of the three main contenders in the race, the other two being Aleksandr Uss, chairman of Krasnoyarsk Krai's legislature, and Krasnoyarsk Mayor Petr Pimashkov. Uss's campaign is being financed by Russian Aluminum, according to RFE/RL's Krasnoyarsk correspondent on 20 June, while Khloponin is the former general director of Norilsk Nickel. Last month, Uss's approval rating was estimated at 30 percent, compared with only 14 percent for Khloponin. JAC

AGRARIAN LEADER SAYS PUTIN SUPPORTS CREATION OF NEW DUMA FACTION
Following a meeting with President Putin in Moscow on 10 July, Altai Republic President and leader of the Agrarian Party Mikhail Lapshin said that Putin supports the agrarians' desire to establish an independent faction in the State Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. Lapshin was a member of the Fatherland-All Russia faction when he was a deputy in the Duma. JAC

PUTIN LOOK-ALIKE POPULAR WITH TRAFFIC COPS
TV-6 reported on 9 July that a man by the name of Anatolii Gorbunov from Volgodonsk bears an uncanny resemblance to President Putin, making him the focus of attention wherever he goes. According to the station, Gorbunov's life has changed considerably over the past two years, as passers-by point and whisper and drunken customers in restaurants won't leave him alone. On the plus side, traffic cops always let him go without a fine. Gorbunov is also a practical joker, and this year filmed his own address to the nation. Gorbunov's friends call him "Vladimir Vladimirovich" and often ask him to treat them to one of the president's "famous catch phrases." According to the station, Gorbunov can't wait to use the latest one: Putin said recently that businessmen in Moscow will "wear themselves out swallowing dust" running around the courts trying to unfreeze their assets. JAC

RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS END PARTICIPATION IN DISCUSSION OF SITUATION IN CHECHNYA...
Russian human rights organizations, including "Memorial" and the Moscow Helsinki Group, have announced that they are no longer prepared to participate in discussions in Grozny with representatives of the Russian government and military, Interfax reported on 10 July. A series of such discussions of the human rights situation in Chechnya has taken place over the past six months. But the human rights groups claim that the dialogue is being used to deflect attention from flagrant human rights violations by the Russian military. The groups also cast doubt on recent Russian official statements that displaced persons are returning voluntarily to Chechnya from Ingushetia. LF

...AS REPORTS SURFACE OF CHECHENS IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA
The office in Nazran of the Chechen Committee for National Salvation has received a letter smuggled out of a Russian prison claiming that over 100 Chechens are currently imprisoned in Russia, according to a committee press release dated 10 July and posted by chechenpress.com on 11 July. The prisoners reportedly include women with small children and some 20 persons who have been incarcerated since the 1994-96 Chechen war. The prisoners have been coerced to confess to crimes they did not commit, and for which they have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms. LF

ARMENIAN INTELLIGENTSIA PROTESTS REPRISALS AGAINST CO-ETHNICS IN RUSSIA
Some two dozen Armenian intellectuals picketed the Russian Embassy in Yerevan on 10 July to protest the violent attacks three days earlier on Armenians in the town of Krasnoarmeysk in Moscow Oblast, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). One of the picketers, sculptor Ara Shiraz, compared the assault with the February 1988 massacre of Armenians living in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. He noted that the attack was only the latest of a series, implying that the perpetrators were not hooligans acting spontaneously. Armenian parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 10 July that he does not believe the attacks were sanctioned by the Russian leadership, but that the latter should act to prevent any further such violence that could otherwise "cast a shadow" on the friendly relations between the two countries. LF

AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER AGAIN SAYS 'PARIS PRINCIPLES' NEVER EXISTED
Speaking to journalists in Baku on 9 July prior to the ceremony in which new Japanese Ambassador Toshiyuki Fugiwara presented his credentials to President Heidar Aliev, Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev again said that "there were no Paris principles" in the sense that no concrete agreement reached during talks in Paris in March 2001 between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on resolving the Karabakh conflict were committed to paper, according to "Zerkalo" on 10 July, as cited by Groong. Quliev admitted that various approaches to resolving the conflict were discussed in Paris and on previous occasions, but added that the term "principles" can be applied only "when there are final resolutions to the conflict." President Aliev said last month that he and Kocharian did agree on the "Paris principles," but that Armenia later reneged on them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). LF

ODIHR OFFERS ASSISTANCE IN DRAFTING NEW AZERBAIJANI ELECTION LAW
In a press release dated 9 July, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights called for the process of adopting new election legislation in Azerbaijan prior to the presidential poll due in October 2003 to be "transparent and inclusive." ODIHR offered its services in commenting on, and promoting broad public discussion of, a new draft election law. The press release also noted that ODIHR has not been invited to comment on the referendum scheduled for next month on the country's constitution. OSCE officials mediated between the Central Election Commission and opposition parties for several months in the summer of 2000 in an attempt to introduce changes in the existing election law to make it more democratic (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 26, 29 June 2000, and No. 29, 20 July 2000). LF

AZERBAIJAN, IRAN EVALUATE OIL, TRANSPORT PROJECTS
Azerbaijan's President Aliev met in Baku on 10 July with Mohammadali Subhanullakhi, the governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan Province, Turan reported. Aliev positively assessed Subhanullakhi's proposal to build a new railway linking the two countries from Miane via Ardebil and Pardabad to Imishli that would function as part of the North-South transport corridor. Subhanullakhi also proposed adapting the existing gas pipeline from Astara to Azerbaijan for use to export Azerbaijani oil to Iran. In addition, Subhanullakhi expressed disappointment that Aliev failed to visit Tabriz during his long-awaited official visit to Iran in April. Aliev explained that he will travel to that city, which has a large Azerbaijani population, only when Iran makes good on its undertaking to open an Azerbaijani consulate there. Subhanullakhi assured him that the Iranian government has given the go-ahead to do so. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL RULES OUT JOINT MILITARY ACTION WITH GEORGIA AGAINST CHECHEN 'TERRORISTS'
On his third visit to Tbilisi this year, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo met on 9 July with his Georgian counterpart Tedo Djaparidze, and on 10 July with Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze and President Eduard Shevardnadze, to discuss the threat posed by Chechen fighters encamped in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. In a direct contradiction of comments last month by Russian President Vladimir Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002), Rushailo told journalists on 11 July that there can be no question of any joint Russian-Georgian military operation against the "terrorists" in Pankisi, Caucasus Press reported. Rushailo also announced that Putin and Shevardnadze will meet in the near future. He did not elaborate. LF

THUGS RANSACK GEORGIAN NGO, INJURE STAFF
Around a dozen men stormed the Tbilisi office of the Liberty Institute on 10 July and proceeded to damage computer equipment and beat up staff members, Caucasus Press reported. Four men, including the Institute's Director Levan Ramishvili and an RFE/RL journalist, were hospitalized. Supporters of ultranationalist parliament deputy Guram Sharadze had picketed the institute the previous day to protest Ramishvili's characterization of Sharadze during a television talk show as a fascist and a former KGB agent. Georgian President Shevardnadze condemned the violence, saying that "such things do not happen in a normal country." LF

GEORGIAN PROSECUTOR SAYS ABDUCTED BRITON COULD BE FREED 'SOON'
Interfax on 10 July quoted Georgian Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze as saying that investigators are very close to solving the abduction of British financial adviser Peter Shaw. Shaw was snatched on the street in Tbilisi on 18 June. The agency also quoted Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili as saying that several persons suspected of involvement in the abduction have been identified, but that the top priority is to secure Shaw's release rather than to arrest those responsible. Also on 10 July, President Shevardnadze warned that the European Union, which Shaw was working for at the time of his kidnapping, may withhold further grants from Georgia. LF

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT AGAIN HOSPITALIZED IN MOSCOW
Vladislav Ardzinba was admitted to an unidentified medical facility in Moscow on 10 July for treatment for an unspecified vascular disorder, Interfax quoted Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba as saying. It is the third time that Ardzinba, 57, has undergone medical treatment in Moscow in the past year. He returned to Sukhum in early May after four months of treatment in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 5, 31 January 2002, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2002). LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA PLEDGE TO CONTINUE COOPERATION IN SOUTH OSSETIA
Meeting in Moscow on 8-9 July, Georgian and Russian government representatives agreed to continue their cooperation on financing reconstruction in Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia and expediting the return to the region of Georgians who fled during fighting in 1990-92, Caucasus Press reported. The session did not discuss the future status within Georgia of South Ossetia, whose President Eduard Kokoyty said in an interview published on 9 July in "Vremya-MN" that the region's population voted in 1992 for unification within the Russian Federation with the Republic of North Ossetia-Alaniya, but seeks to preserve "good-neighborly" relations with Georgia. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, U.S. SIGN AIRFIELD AGREEMENT
Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Abuseitov and U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Larry Napper signed a memorandum of understanding in Astana on 10 July under which Kazakhstan will permit U.S. military aircraft to land at Almaty international airport in an emergency or for refueling, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002). Interfax quoted Napper as saying that the United States may also receive permission to use two additional airfields, in Djambyl and Shymkent. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev stressed that the agreement does not envisage the establishing of any U.S. military bases in Kazakhstan. LF

KAZAKH JOURNALIST CHARGED WITH INSULTING PRESIDENT
Independent journalist Sergei Duvanov was summoned on 9 July to the National Security Committee and subjected to a three-hour interrogation in connection with an article he published in May discussing widely held suspicions that President Nursultan Nazarbaev and members of his entourage have secret bank accounts in Switzerland, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 10 July. He was informed that he has been charged under Article 318 of Kazakhstan's Criminal Code with insulting the honor and dignity of the president, according to forumkz.org on 10 July. Duvanov's home and office were also searched and documents confiscated. LF

RUSSIA UPGRADES KYRGYZ AIR-DEFENSE SYSTEM
Russia has provided Kyrgyzstan with equipment and spare parts worth 4.1 million rubles ($129,775) to modernize its air-defense system, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Russian agencies reported on 10 July. Speaking in Bishkek the same day, the commander of Kyrgyzstan's air-defense system, Igor Kurbatov, said Moscow may also provide S-300 antiaircraft missiles, ITAR-TASS reported. Kurbatov did not specify any time frame or conditions for such a deal. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT SLAMS SHORTCOMINGS IN SUGHD
Visiting the district of Isfara in Sughd (former Leninabad) Oblast in northern Tajikistan on 9 July, Imomali Rakhmonov criticized local officials for failing to take action to curb the activities of militant Islamic groups, and for failing to implement presidential and government decrees on political parties, religious organizations, and the role of women in society, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 10 July. Rakhmonov specifically noted that three residents of Sughd who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan are currently being held in Guantanamo Bay. A government delegation that visited Sughd last month registered a 1.2 million somoni ($425,532) shortfall in tax collection that has led to delays in the payment of wages and pensions, according to Asia Plus-Blitz on 10 June. Sughd is nonetheless the most economically developed and stable region of Tajikistan, and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 July reported that there is no backlog of unpaid wages and pensions. During the 1980s, cadres from Leninabad dominated the leadership of the Tajik SSR; Rakhmonov and most of the present leadership are from Kulyab, southeast of Dushanbe. LF

UZBEK, CHINESE PROSECUTORS FOCUS ON EXTREMISM
A delegation from the Chinese Prosecutor-General's Office visited Tashkent in late June to discuss with their Uzbek counterparts expanding cooperation in the fight against terrorism and religious extremism, according to the Uzbek newspaper "Huquq," as cited by uzreport.com on 11 July. LF

BELARUS HINTS AT CHANGES IN RELATIONS WITH NATO
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 10 July that Belarus will consider increasing ties with NATO, AP reported the same day. Lukashenka said Belarusian officials should consider modifying certain aspects of the country's foreign policy in light of Russia's new agreement with the alliance and Ukraine's intention to join NATO. Speaking at a meeting of Belarus's Security Council, Lukashenka said it is time "to evaluate the role of Belarus under the conditions of military-political and Euro-Atlantic integration and to determine its basic approaches to further cooperation with NATO." Lukashenka added, however, that Belarus has not changed its basic opposition to NATO expansion. He said it is important that Belarus not become a "dividing line between blocs" as it was between Nazi-controlled Europe and the Soviet Union during World War II. CB

BELARUS, RUSSIA SIGN AIR-DEFENSE AGREEMENT
Belarus and Russia signed an agreement in Minsk on 10 July on expanding bilateral cooperation in the field of air defense, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov, the commander in chief of the Russian Air Force, said at the end of a three-day visit to the Belarusian capital that the sides discussed measures to improve the organization of air defense, as well as monitoring and interaction within the East European collective-security region. CB

BELARUS CREATES COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC SECURITY
President Lukashenka signed a decree on 10 July ordering the creation of an interagency committee on economic security, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The committee, to be created under the aegis of the Belarusian Security Council, will be a standing body that will coordinate the work of state agencies and other organizations in ensuring economic security. Its main task will be to detect and counter domestic and foreign threats to state interests in the economic sphere. CB

UNESCO, BELARUS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura and Belarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvostov signed a memorandum of cooperation in Minsk on 10 July, Belapan reported the same day. The Foreign Ministry's press office said that Belarus is interested in cooperating with UNESCO in the areas of cultural tourism and the preservation of the country's "nonmaterial cultural heritage." For its part, Matsuura said that UNESCO is interested in developing education and research ties. CB

IMF OFFICIAL SUGGESTS INCREASED ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Russian media quoted John Odling-Smee, director of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) European II Department, as saying on 9 July that in order for the proposed Russia-Belarus Union to work efficiently, Belarus must first bring its economy into line with Russian standards, Belapan reported the same day. Odling-Smee added that Belarus is currently far behind Russia in the economic sphere. Odling-Smee made his comments during a Vienna-Washington teleconference under the auspices of the IMF. CB

U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY ARRIVES IN UKRAINE
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill arrived in Kyiv on 11 July as part of a tour of former Soviet republics, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 July. According to a statement issued by the Department of the Treasury, the focus of the trip will be to "accelerate private-sector investment, growth, and job creation." Secretary O'Neill is due to meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 12 July and will then proceed to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia. O'Neill's spokesman Robert Nichols told journalists that the treasury secretary will not discuss recent reports on a reemerging arms trade between Ukraine and Iraq. RK

ESTONIAN TRADE UNIONS DEMAND HIGHER UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
On 10 July, the Estonian Central Trade Unions Association (EAKL) rejected the government's offer to raise monthly unemployment benefits from the current 400 kroons ($25) to 500 kroons, ETA reported. The monthly benefits to an unemployed person during retraining would be raised from 600 to 750 kroons. Arguing that the unemployment benefits -- which have not been changed since 1999 -- are below the International Labor Organization requirement that they be at least half of the national minimum wage, EAKL is demanding that they be raised to at least 700 kroons and to at least 1,050 kroons during retraining. According to the Labor Market Board, unemployment benefits last year were paid to 70,440 people for an average of 143 days per person. The board also announced that the number of registered unemployed continued to decline over the last three months and was 45,200 in June, an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent. SG

LATVIA'S TAX REVENUES UP IN FIRST HALF
The State Revenue Service announced on 10 July that it collected 788 million lats ($1.31 billion) in taxes and other payments in the first half of the year, or 11.29 percent more than in the same period last year, BNS reported. Higher revenues were collected for most taxes. Excise-tax revenue rose 14 percent to 86.5 million lats and VAT collections increased by 8.4 percent to 182.3 million lats. Even the revenue for the corporate income tax, the rate of which was cut by 3 percent on 1 January 2002, rose by 2.5 million lats to 57.1 million lats. SG

LITHUANIAN PREMIER ASKS PRESIDENT TO VETO AMENDED HEALTH INSURANCE LAW
Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas held talks with President Valdas Adamkus on 10 July during which he urged a veto of the recently passed amendments to the Health Care Insurance Law, "Kauno diena" reported the next day. The amendments would require the government to increase the per capita allocation to the Compulsory Health Care Insurance Fund (PSDF) from 187 litas ($53) this year to 310 litas in 2003. Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite said the government cannot provide the needed 270 million litas and might even ask the Constitutional Court to rule the amendments unconstitutional, as they were not coordinated with the government or the parliament's Budget and Finance Committee. The amendments were proposed by the parliament's Health Care Committee, which argued that the PSDF would otherwise go bankrupt. Breaking with their coalition partners, the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals voted with opposition parties to pass the amendments. SG

EU ENLARGEMENT COMMISSIONER SAYS POLAND ON TRACK TO FINISH NEGOTIATIONS BY YEAR'S END
Speaking to a joint meeting of the Sejm's European Commission and the Senate's Foreign Affairs and European Integration Commission on 11 July, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said he thinks Poland is on schedule to finish its negotiations on joining the EU by the end of 2002, PAP reported. "I think that Poland is in an excellent situation," Verheugen told the meeting, adding, "There is a very high probability that we will finalize negotiations this December and Poland will join the EU in 2004." In related news, Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski praised the European Commission's proposed reforms of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. The reforms are intended to sever the link between farm subsidies and farm output, and tie them instead to quality, environmental, and development conditions. DW

EU LAUDS NEW CZECH CABINET
The European Union's Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen has welcomed the formation of the new Czech government and anticipates that it will continue the country's pro-EU policies, CTK reported on 10 July. The Czech Republic expects to complete EU accession talks this year and could be admitted as soon as 2004. Social Democratic Party (CSSD) leader and Prime Minister-designate Vladimir Spidla has said his government's main goal will be to lead the Czech Republic into the EU. BW

OUTGOING CZECH PREMIER NAMED AS POSSIBLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE...
Outgoing Prime Minister Milos Zeman will likely be the CSSD's candidate for president, Czech media quoted CSSD Deputy Chairman Zdenek Skromach as saying on 10 July. Zeman previously pledged to leave politics following last month's elections. Czech Ombudsman Otakar Motejl has also been mentioned as a possible CSSD presidential candidate. The two houses of the Czech parliament will jointly elect a new president when Vaclav Havel's second and final term in office ends in early 2003. BW

...AND CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES SPEAKER TO SEEK RE-ELECTION
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus will seek re-election as speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech parliament, CTK reported on 10 July. Klaus said that initially he did not want to run for re-election, but the ODS deputies' group convinced him to do so. "There is no reason for the party to merely play a role of passive opposition," Klaus said. Klaus will face CSSD candidate Lubomir Zaoralek, who is widely expected to win in the 11 July election. The newly formed coalition of the CSSD and the two-party Coalition electoral bloc, which is composed of the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) and the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL), controls 101 seats in the 200-seat chamber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2002). Included in the 101 are two independent deputies who ran on the US-DEU's party list. BW

ODS PONDERS FUTURE
Deputy ODS Chairman Jan Zahradil said the ODS needs to change its image and program if it is going to remain a force in Czech politics, CTK reported on 10 July. Zahradil suggested that the ODS come up with new ideas and stop relying on its image as the party that led the Czech Republic's transition from communism, adding that the ODS can no longer rely on appealing to the "saving" power of the right and the "evil" nature of the left. Meanwhile, Deputy Senate Chairman Premysl Sobotka (ODS) criticized Klaus for focusing the general election campaign too much on himself, CTK reported the same day. Sobotka said the members of the ODS leadership should offer their resignations, and that interparty elections should take place at a conference in September before the local elections, and not in December as Klaus wants. BW

SLOVAKIA MAKES FILES FROM COMMUNIST AND NAZI ERAS PUBLIC
The Slovak parliament adopted a "national memory bill" on 10 July that regulates access to secret documents from the communist and Nazi eras, SITA reported the same day. The bill establishes the Institute of the Memory of the Nation, which will collect, archive, and systematize information from both eras. The institute has been granted the power to initiate prosecution for crimes committed during the communist and fascist periods, and the law grants Slovak citizens access to files compiled by the communist secret police that concern them or their families. Slovakia is the last postcommunist country to approve such a law. On 9 July, the parliament adopted a law that will provide compensation to political prisoners and their surviving relatives. The law should apply to over 2,300 living former political prisoners and their nearly 5,000 relatives. AS

ITALIAN PRESIDENT WINDS UP VISIT IN SLOVAKIA
Italian President Carlo Ciampi on 10 July ended his two-day official visit to Slovakia, during which he expressed his country's support for a "large" enlargement of the European Union as well as for Slovakia joining NATO, TASR reported on 10 July. Ciampi said he considers Slovakia "a mature and reliable partner." Slovak President Rudolf Schuster assured Ciampi that the country's orientation toward the EU and NATO will not change after the September's general election. AS

HUMAN RIGHTS COURT RECEIVES HIGHEST NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS FROM SLOVAKIA
Slovakia holds first place in the number of complaints per million inhabitants that have been received by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, SITA reported on July 10. According to Laszlo Nagy, the chairman of parliament's Committee for Human Rights and Nationalities, the statistics indicate that legal guarantees for Slovaks have not improved. Slovakia's representative to the Strasbourg-based court, Peter Vrsansky, said that out of 43 countries, Slovakia is in ninth place in terms of the number of overall complaints. The court in Strasbourg received 487 complaints from Slovak citizens in 2001, of which it registered 343 and rejected 159. The court last year handed down five verdicts against Slovakia, and in three cases the country reached an agreement with the complainant. The most frequent reason cited by Slovaks for turning to the European court is delays in court procedures. AS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES APPROVE VETTING BILLS
On 10 July, parliament's Defense, Police, and Culture committees approved for general debate bills designed to explore the activity of the communist secret services, to establish a state security archive, and to make public the state-security pasts of people who hold public office, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The legislation, drafted by the Justice Ministry, would set up a Historical State Security Archive as the legal successor to the existing Historical Office, with the speaker of parliament supervising its operation. Opposition deputies object that this would only serve to remove the current leaders of the Historical Office. Coalition member Alliance of Free Democrats Chairman Gabor Kuncze said his party would prefer the bill to apply to all those who have held public office since the first free elections in May 1990, rather than only those in office at the time the law goes into effect. MSZ

COMMISSION READY TO INVESTIGATE HUNGARIAN PREMIER'S PAST
Opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum deputy Laszlo Balogh, the chairman of the commission formed to probe the counterintelligence past of Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002), on 10 July promised "a tough but fair investigation," Hungarian media reported. Balogh said he does not believe that the 15 August deadline set by parliament is sufficient for a substantive investigation. He said he will propose an extension of the deadline or seek to re-form the commission if it is unable to complete work by that date. It is inevitable that the prime minister will be summoned to testify, Balogh concluded. MSZ

HUNGARY, DENMARK AGREE ON NEED TO CLOSE EU ACCESSION TALKS THIS YEAR
Hungarian Prime Minister Medgyessy and his Danish counterpart Anders Fogh Rasmussen agreed in Copenhagen on 10 July that Hungary's negotiations with the European Union can and should be closed before the end of this year, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Denmark currently heads the rotating EU Presidency. Medgyessy told reporters that the 10-year transition period proposed by the European Commission for direct agricultural funding for new member states is unacceptably long, as Hungary prefers full-fledged EU membership upon entry. Medgyessy declared that Hungary will firmly defend its national interests, but will display the necessary flexibility in the course of accession negotiations. For his part, Rasmussen said Denmark will not tolerate delays in EU expansion, adding that if some candidate countries cause delays, the others must not be kept waiting. MSZ

U.S. SEEKS COMPROMISE OVER INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT...
"The Washington Post" reported from the United Nations on 11 July that the United States will "drop its demand that the UN Security Council grant Americans serving in UN peacekeeping missions permanent immunity from the international war crimes tribunal." Washington wants "a temporary exemption from prosecution that would buy the United States time to negotiate bilateral accords and military agreements barring individual governments from surrendering U.S. nationals" to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The daily added that "the reversal represented a significant diplomatic retreat by the United States, which had twice threatened to shut down the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia...if American peacekeepers were not placed beyond the jurisdiction" of the ICC (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 2, 3, and 8 July 2002). The paper noted that "the turnaround reflected Washington's failure to calculate the intensity of international support for the court, particularly from European governments, and its reluctance to jeopardize UN-approved missions that serve U.S. interests," such as those in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans. PM

...WITH RUSSIAN AND CHINESE BACKING...
"The Washington Post" reported from the UN on 11 July that "the U.S. compromise, backed by China and Russia, centers on a provision of the international court's charter that allows the Security Council to defer a criminal investigation or prosecution of an individual for 12 months. A U.S. resolution...would go much further, providing a blanket deferral from prosecution for one year to all nationals from countries that have not ratified the International Criminal Court. The resolution also calls on the council to express its intention to renew the deferral each year." The daily also noted that "the proposal failed to satisfy the court's strongest advocates, who maintained that any exemption not explicitly sanctioned by the tribunal would undermine its integrity." This view was expressed by diplomats from France, Germany, and Canada. PM

...THAT WOULD SAVE UN BOSNIAN MANDATE
In its report from the UN on 11 July 2002, "The Washington Post" noted that Security Council Chairman Jeremy Greenstock of Great Britain called the American suggestion "a very fair basis" for a compromise that would enable the Bosnian mandate to be renewed. The United States is now seeking to convince some of the non-permanent members of the council, namely Bulgaria, Mexico, Colombia, and Singapore. U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte reiterated that "our veto of the...[Bosnian] resolution did not reflect rejection of peacekeeping in Bosnia. But it did reflect our frustration at our inability to convince our colleagues on the Security Council to take seriously our concerns about the legal exposure of our peacekeepers under the Rome statute" that defines the operating rules for the ICC. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" noted on 11 July that the dispute between the United States and its allies has strengthened the position of those in Washington who want the European Union to take greater responsibility for managing European affairs, particularly in the Balkans, while the United States deals with other crisis regions. PM

SREBRENICA SURVIVORS MARK ANNIVERSARY
Several thousand persons -- mostly women who escaped the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim males by Serbian forces in 1995 -- are expected to attend ceremonies on 11 July in the nearby village of Potocari to mark the seventh anniversary of the killings, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Some 2,000 police are on duty along the road connecting Srebrenica with the Muslim-Croat federation. Members of the women's peace movement from Serbia and Montenegro are also expected to attend. PM

NATO SAYS CASE AGAINST ARMED MAN IN MOSTAR IS 'CLOSED'
An SFOR spokesman said in Mostar on 10 July that an investigation of an armed man recently detained by peacekeepers has indicated that there is no reason to believe that he "could be a possible terrorist," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). The alliance considers the matter closed. PM

U.S. BACKS CROATIA'S CALL TO PROSECUTE MORE WAR CRIMINALS AT HOME
Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. special envoy dealing with war crimes issues, said in Zagreb on 10 July that Washington will support Croatia's efforts to convince the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague to allow more cases involving Croats to be tried in Croatia rather than in the Netherlands, AP reported. It is not clear whether the United States has already intervened on Croatia's behalf and, if so, to what extent. Prosper said on Croatian Television (HTV) that "the United States is very satisfied with Croatia's cooperation with the [tribunal], and we see Croatia as the leading country in the [Balkans] with regard to the solving of war crime issues," dpa reported. Critics charge that Croatia's record in trying indicted war criminals has been less than stellar and that the judicial system must be depoliticized before more cases come before it. The government has pledged to work with The Hague and obtain the transfer of additional cases from the Netherlands to Croatia. PM

EU 'WOULD BE PLEASED' BY EARLY BELGRADE-PODGORICA DEAL
Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security policy chief, told Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic by telephone that the EU "would be very pleased" if Serbia and Montenegro concluded their talks on a constitutional framework for their new state by the end of July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 11 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002). In related news, the finance ministers of Serbia and Montenegro -- Bozidar Djelic and Miroslav Ivanisevic -- said in Belgrade that their joint state hopes to conclude a stabilization and association agreement with the EU in 2003 and become a candidate for full membership in 2004 or 2005, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported on 10 July. The two men added that Serbia's share of the financing of the joint state will be 94.1 percent and Montenegro's will be 5.9 percent. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroslav Labus said his country has now "completed its first phase" of projects leading to the stabilization and association agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

GENERAL PAVKOVIC SAYS KOSTUNICA IS NOT TELLING THE TRUTH
General Nebojsa Pavkovic, whom Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica recently fired as chief of the General Staff, said on 10 July in Belgrade that Kostunica "was not telling the truth" when he denied recently that his staff ordered a break-in at the Serbian government's communications department's offices in 2001, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, 27, and 28 June, and 1 July 2002). PM

BALKAN TALKS ON GAS ISSUES OPEN IN BELGRADE
Officials from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia began two-day talks in Belgrade on 11 July dealing with issues related to the supply and use of natural gas, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

CANADA TO HELP MODERNIZE MACEDONIAN POSTAL SERVICE
Officials of the Canadian and Macedonian postal administrations signed an agreement worth $40 million in Skopje on 10 July that will provide Canadian assistance for modernizing Macedonia's postal system, dpa reported. PM

ALBANIA'S MACEDONIAN MINORITY SEEKS MORE RIGHTS
Kimet Fetahu, who is coordinator of the Macedonian Society in Albania, said in Tirana on 10 July that the small Macedonian minority is unhappy with its present situation, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Fetahu added that the Macedonians want the right to an education in the Macedonian language at all levels. They also demand media in their own language as well as the right to found their own political parties. Observers note that Albanian law prohibits setting up parties on an explicitly ethnic basis, but the Greek minority has gotten around the ban by converting its party into one that is not officially Greek in name. PM

BRITAIN SUPPORTS ROMANIA'S NATO AND EU CANDIDACY...
Meeting with Romanian President Ion Iliescu in Bucharest on 10 July, visiting British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said his country hopes Romania will be invited to join NATO at the alliance's Prague summit in November, Mediafax reported. Answering a question on whether the presence in the secret service of former Securitate agents who spied on the West would hinder Romania's bid to join NATO, Straw said that shouldn't be a problem as during the Cold War "both sides spied on the other." Straw, who also met with his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana, said the United Kingdom hopes Romania will become a full member of the European Union in 2007, pending the country's closure of all negotiation chapters by 2004. Britain will give Romania a 7 million pound ($10.8 million) nonrefundable grant for social and economic projects. ZsM

...BUT ROMANY ASYLUM SEEKERS POSE A PROBLEM TO CANCELLATION OF COMPULSORY VISA
Straw also said on 10 July that Britain does not want to impose compulsory visa requirements on Romanian citizens "even a day more than is necessary," but added that the high number of Roma from Romania who seek political asylum in the United Kingdom is a problem for both countries. In related news, French and Romanian authorities are discussing the possibility of returning to Romania some 200 Roma of Romanian citizenship who were caught begging in Paris, Mediafax reported on 10 July. ZsM

OSCE CALLS ON CHISINAU, TIRASPOL TO RENEW DIALOGUE
In Berlin on 10 July, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution calling on authorities from Moldova and the Transdniester to renew political dialogue on finding a solution to the Transdniester conflict, Flux reported. The resolution calls on Russia to fulfill in time all obligations it assumed at the 1999 Istanbul OCSE summit on the withdrawal and destruction of armaments in the region. The assembly also called on Chisinau authorities to release the members of the "Ilascu group" who remain in prison. ZsM

GAGAUZ-YERI PARLIAMENT SETS DATE FOR ELECTING NEW GOVERNOR
The Gagauz-Yeri Popular Assembly on 10 July unanimously accepted Dumitru Croitor's resignation as governor of the assembly, which he requested last month, and set the date for electing a new governor for 6 October, Flux reported. The assembly also named assembly Chairman Ivan Kristioglo as interim president of the local executive. Kristioglo is to present his new team by 16 July. Opposition "For Gagauzia" deputies did not participate in the vote, arguing that following Croitor's resignation, his former deputy Valeri Ianioglo should be named to the post of president of the local executive, as Croiter had named him to succeed him as governor. According to Flux, members of the OSCE's mission to Moldova said the deputies "had no right to name Kristioglo to that position." Ianioglo himself said the assembly is trying to forcefully oust him. ZsM

BULGARIAN LAWMAKERS APPROVE 'ANTI-FILCHEV' AMENDMENTS...
Parliament on 10 July passed in its second reading an amendment to the country's judiciary act that would broaden the power of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), BTA reported. The legislation has been dubbed by some the "anti-Filchev" amendment in connection with embattled Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June and 2 July 2002) because it allows one-fifth of the council to initiate the lifting of immunity or suspension of senior members of the judiciary. That right so far has belonged solely to the prosecutor-general. Justice Minister Anton Stankov, in an appeal for legislative support for the amendments, noted that the lifting of immunity is not the same as pressing charges. Deputy Tatyana Doncheva (Coalition for Bulgaria) in floor debate argued that such exclusivity renders the prosecutor-general "untouchable," BTA reported. National Movement Simeon II deputy Konstantin Penchev, whose party overwhelmingly supported the amendment, noted that the Constitutional Court will likely have the final word on the matter, "Pari" online daily reported. AH

...WHICH INCLUDES OTHER CHECKS ON JUDICIARY
The legislation, which was passed by a 121-20 vote, also gives the SJC a stronger say in naming a prosecutor-general and puts the SJC in charge of electing the head of the national investigative service and other institutions, BTA and "Pari" reported on 10 July. Judges, prosecutors, and investigators will also have to file annual income and property declarations, the agency added. Justice Minister Stankov had argued that the Venice Commission recently signaled its backing for broader powers to be given to Bulgaria's SJC. AH

IAEA NOTES 'SIZABLE PROGRESS' AT BULGARIA'S CONTENTIOUS NUCLEAR UNITS
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 10 July cited "sizable progress at Kozloduy 3 and 4 since 1991, when the IAEA first undertook a safety review of the units" in an initial report on the findings of a late-June safety review, BTA reported. While a final report is not expected until later this month, the agency's encouraging words are likely to feed Bulgarian officials' desire to postpone a previously agreed decommissioning of two units at the facility. "The IAEA 2002 team concluded that the operational and design safety at Kozloduy now corresponds to the level of improvements seen at similar vintage plants," it said in a press release, noting that the plant's management expects total investment of more than 700 million euros into safety improvements between 1991 and 2006, the agency reported. AH

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT DRAWS CURTAIN ON 'DANCING' BEARS
Legislators passed in its second reading a bill on biodiversity that bolsters the national parks system, cracks down on the unlicensed transport of endangered species, and attempts to stamp out the commercial use of protected animals, BTA reported on 10 July. Heavy fines are also set out for the operation of unlicensed zoos. Much of the international community's attention over the law is focused on the brown bear, which was deemed a protected species in the new law. Bulgaria has stubbornly refused to crack down on the practice of the use of "dancing" bears for income, although the practice has been outlawed in the rest of Europe for nearly a decade. AH

READING THE TEA LEAVES ON RUSSIA'S IRAQ POLICY
While the "Bush doctrine" of preemptive action against Saddam Hussein rapidly gains momentum in decision-making circles in Washington, it appears that some sort of behind-the-scenes compromise has been reached between Russia and the United States on the issue of regime change in Iraq. Despite Russian officials' pronouncements of loyalty to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it is becoming increasingly clear that Russia would grudgingly acquiesce to -- if not grudgingly participate in -- a U.S.-led offensive.

Since Saddam barred UNSCOM weapons inspectors from Iraq in 1998, Russia has been Iraq's strongest advocate in the United Nations Security Council, invariably supporting Iraqi demands for the sanctions to be relaxed, criticizing military action against Iraq, and dismissing the U.S.- and British-enforced no-fly zone as illegitimate. On crucial Security Council votes that would send a strong message to Saddam regarding weapons inspections, Russia has abstained. Indeed, throughout the 1990s, Russia has used the issue of Iraqi sanctions to assert itself in the UN, as part of its strategy to forge a "multipolar" world order. Former Foreign Minister and current Duma Deputy Yevgenii Primakov -- the man who authored the multipolar approach to foreign policy -- is Iraq's most vocal supporter in Moscow.

But President Vladimir Putin's Western turn in foreign policy may signal the end of the Russia-Iraqi relationship. On 14 May, the Security Council unanimously approved a new sanctions regime -- the result of protracted negotiations between U.S. diplomats and their Russian counterparts. The Russian UN delegation led by Sergei Lavrov reached a compromise with the United States on the so-called "goods review list," which spells out items that must be reviewed for potential dual-use application. Perhaps more importantly, Lavrov and his colleagues barely mentioned the time frame for Iraq regaining control of its oil revenues, an issue that is reviewed, along with the sanctions, every six months. Traditionally, the issue of Iraqi oil revenues is a cause for angry rhetoric from the Russian side. This time around, the Russians were silent. The message was clear: Russian support for regime change in Iraq has a price. That price, it appears, has been paid.

In other words, Russia has made clear that its economic concerns in Iraq are far more important than its plans for using Iraq as a strategic bargaining chip. Lavrov's silence at the UN appears to be part of the new Russian foreign policy, one that combines economic pragmatism with a pro-Western strategy. According to a report in the "Los Angeles Times" on 22 May, U.S. diplomats have assured Moscow that Russia's economic interests will not be harmed by a post-Hussein regime. Those interests are quite considerable.

There is the $8 billion in Iraqi debt to Moscow left over from the Soviet era. But more importantly, there are Russian-Iraqi oil-related business ties. Some experts estimate long-term Russian benefits of $40 billion -- about two-thirds of Russia's national budget for 2002 -- from developing Iraqi oil fields. In 1997, Baghdad awarded LUKoil, the largest Russian oil company, a contract to develop Iraq's West Qurna field, which contains 667 million tons of crude. According to Leonid Fedun, the vice president for development at LUKoil, the field could yield $20 billion. But LUKoil has been prevented from developing the field by UN sanctions, so profits have yet to be realized.

According to the "Los Angeles Times" report, Russia has been offered assurances from the United States that both its debts and its oil contracts would be honored by a new regime in Baghdad. Such an agreement, if it really does exist, could offer an easy way for Putin to abandon Saddam, while saving face and keeping his big businesses happy. The recent U.S. decision to certify Russia as a market economy may possibly have been similarly intended to ensure Russian cooperation on Iraq. The benefits Moscow will reap from the certification will certainly amount to more than the $1.3 billion made last year fulfilling Iraqi contracts under the UN oil-for-food program.

Clearly, Russia would prefer that the United States not take military action against Baghdad. At a joint press conference with his French counterpart on 8 July, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov voiced Moscow's opposition to unilateral U.S. military action by saying, "We think the only path to resolving the Iraq problem can be and should be a political settlement." But pronouncements from Russian officials other than Putin have come to mean less and less since Putin made the decision to push Russia closer to the West, given that they often say one thing while their president does another.

A deal with the United States on Iraq fits neatly into the framework of Putin's new foreign policy. Economics and closer ties with the West, which often go hand in hand, have replaced "mulipolarity" and not-so-subtle attempts to thwart U.S. influence as Russia's central geostrategic priorities. Putin will go along with the United States, provided he sees palpable benefits that would satisfy powerful business interests. Given the inevitability of some sort of U.S. action against Saddam and his continued rejection of weapons inspections, supporting Saddam has become a zero-sum game for Putin. Recent developments would suggest that Russian support for a regime change in Iraq had a price -- one that the U.S. was willing to pay.

Samuel Charap is a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. (sgcharap@yahoo.com)

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