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Newsline - August 5, 2002


UNIFIED RUSSIA LEADER SAYS PUTIN WILL JOIN PARTY
Unified Russia intends to seek an amendment to the law on political parties during the fall State Duma session that would allow bureaucrats to become members of political parties, regions.ru reported on 2 August, citing Unified Russia General Council Chairman Aleksandr Bespalov. Bespalov, who was visiting Ufa at the time, added that he is certain that President Vladimir Putin will join Unified Russia in the near future. The previous day, speaking from Kazan, Bespalov announced that Unified Russia has completed the creation of its regional branches, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that 87 regional branches have been created and around 100,000 people have become party members. JAC

ANALYST: RUSSIA IS DIVIDED BETWEEN 'DOLLAR ELITE' AND 'RUBLE MASSES'
The main result of the last decade for Russia has been the economic division of the nation into a small, dollar-earning elite and the ruble-earning masses, respected foreign-affairs observer and former "Izvestiya" Washington correspondent Stanislav Kondrashov wrote in "Vremya MN" on 3 August. During this time, the income gap in Russia reached levels of disparity characteristic of many African countries, while life expectancy fell so precipitously that Russia now ranks 60th in the world, according to UN statistics. Kondrashov continued that the state has been beggared, as shown by the miserable levels of pensions and salaries to state-sector workers. He asserts that President Putin speaks to the masses using the language of the cheap ruble, while saving the language of dollars for the business elite. He noted that some economists warn that the budget might be broken by privileges and benefits that the state is creating for business interests, whose capital continues to go abroad rather than returning to the state treasury. VY

OLIGARCH/GOVERNOR STILL HAS TO CLOSE GAP WITH LEADER TO WIN SIBERIAN RACE
Aleksandr Uss, chairman of Krasnoyarsk Krai's legislature, continues to lead in opinion polls taken in advance of the 8 September Krasnoyarsk Krai gubernatorial election, Interfax reported on 2 August, citing the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). According to the polling group, which surveyed 1,000 people over the age of 18, Uss has 26.6 percent of the vote compared with 16.3 percent for his closest contender, Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin. Khloponin is a former head of metals giant Norilsk Nickel. At the same time, more than 23 percent said they would definitely not vote for Uss. On 3 August, the deadline for candidates to submit their registration papers expired, and on 8 August the krai's election commission will announce the final list of candidates based on its review of the submitted materials. JAC

ANOTHER ETHNICALLY MOTIVATED FIGHT IN MOSCOW MARKET
What TV-6 described as a "mass brawl" and other sources as a "pogrom" took place on 2 August in a market in Moscow's Zelenograd Raion. According to TV-6, more than 200 people were involved -- most of whom were former paratroopers who celebrated their professional holiday by smashing market stalls and beating up ethnic Azeri traders. However, later in the day, RIA-Novosti reported that Zelenograd's police department had revised downward the number of people estimated to have been involved in the "pogrom" from 40 people to seven. According to the agency, seven former servicemen provoked the confrontation. Two people were hospitalized with knife wounds. JAC

ALLEGED AMERICAN-SOVIET DOUBLE AGENT DIES IN MOSCOW
Security authorities confirmed the death in Moscow on 22 July of former CIA agent Edward Lee Howard, who allegedly worked for the KGB and defected to the Soviet Union in 1985 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002), "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 5 August. Leonid Sheba, former chief of the KGB's foreign-intelligence unit, told the daily that he has no reason to doubt the death of Howard, who reportedly fell down a set of stairs at his house outside of Moscow and broke his neck, or to suspect that someone "helped" him in this. "[Howard] posed no threat anymore to the national interests of either Russia or the United States," Sheba said. The U.S. authorities believe that information provided to the KGB by Howard led to the unmasking of one of the CIA's most valuable agents inside the USSR, Alfred Tolkashev, who was executed in 1988. Howard steadfastly denied working for the KGB. VY

MUSLIM WOMEN LOSE LEGAL FIGHT TO APPEAR WITH HEADS COVERED IN PASSPORT PHOTOS
A raion-level court in Kazan ruled on 2 August against a lawsuit filed by three Muslim women from Nizhnekamsk who were seeking the right to be photographed for their passports wearing their headscarves, polit.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). According to RFE/RL's Russian Service, the Interior Ministry originally allowed women to be photographed with headgear, but in February the rule was changed. The women plan to appeal to the republic's Supreme Court. JAC

CONSPIRATOR IN TULEEV ASSASSINATION PLOT SENTENCED
The Novosibirsk Oblast Court on 2 August sentenced Viktor Tikhonov, the brother of four-time Olympic biathlon champion Aleksandr Tikhonov, to four years in prison for his involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000), Russian and Western news agencies reported. Investigators claimed that Viktor Tikhonov hired contract killers to assassinate Tuleev at the request of Mikhail Zhivilo, the head of the Moscow-based metals company MIKOM who was reportedly angry at Tuleev's attempts to squeeze his company out of the region, ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksandr Tikhonov has also been charged in the case, but he is currently abroad and Russian officials have been unable to locate him, AP reported. Zhivilo was arrested last year in France, but was released after a French court refused to extradite him. JAC

PALACE FOR PUTIN IN PREPARATION...
Vladimir Kozhin, head of the property department of the presidential administration, has arrived in St. Petersburg to personally oversee restoration work on the Konstantinovskii Palace, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 August. According to the daily, the palace is supposed to be ready to function as the official residence of the head of the Russian government in time for St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary in May 2003 and the Russian-EU summit that is expected to occur around the same time. Kozhin told the daily that not one kopek of federal budgetary funds is being used to pay for the $200 million restoration, and all the necessary funds have been raised from private individuals and public organizations. JAC

...AS MOSCOW FALLS BEHIND ON FUNDS FOR KAZAN CELEBRATION...
The Russian federal government has fallen behind in its disbursement of funds for the preparations for the city of Kazan's 1,000th anniversary on 30 August 2005, rosbalt.ru reported on 4 August. Boris Pavlov, the chairman of the local Economy and Industry Committee, told reporters in Kazan on 4 August that the federal government has so far provided only 26 percent of the total cost per year for jubilee preparations, rather than the 33 percent it pledged. According to Pavlov, a significant amount of work remains to be done to prepare for the celebration, including improving roads and hotels, opening new supermarkets, and renovating historical monuments. JAC

...ALTHOUGH KAZAN DOING ITS BIT FOR PETERSBURG
In connection with the upcoming celebration of St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary, the Republic of Tatarstan has agreed to renovate St. Petersburg's Kazan Street and the surrounding neighborhood, fontanka.ru reported on 5 August. According to the report, 112 workers have arrived from the republic and are working seven days a week on the project. The work will include the complete restoration of the facades of 34 buildings, and it is being personally monitored by Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov. RC

ST. PETERSBURGERS RALLY FOR KALININGRADERS...
An unspecified number of protesters gathered near the Lithuanian Consulate in St. Petersburg on 4 August to demand that residents of Kaliningrad Oblast be given visa-free access to the rest of Russia after the Baltic country joins the European Union, rosbalt.ru reported. According to the agency, the demonstration was organized by writer Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party. JAC

...AND PROTEST CORRUPTION IN PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE
Around 1,000 people gathered in front of the city prosecutor's office in St. Petersburg on 2 August to protest corruption in the prosecutor's office and the use of torture, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported. According to the organizers of the action -- representatives of the Democratic Russia Party -- the prosecutor's office is guilty not only of failing to observe human rights but also of regularly violating them. According to the correspondent, members of the city's Legislative Assembly, along with activists from public and human rights organizations and local residents, participated in the protest. JAC

'LIMONKA' LIVES
Despite a Moscow court order granting a Media Ministry request to close down the nationalist newspaper "Limonka," the paper continues to publish, with its 201st edition appearing this week, dni.ru reported on 5 August. "Limonka" is the official organ of Limonov's National Bolshevik Party, and it was ordered closed on 26 July after receiving two warnings for publishing materials that inflamed ethnic tension and called for the violent overthrow of the constitutional system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May and 26 July 2002). The paper will continue to come out legally as it pursues its case through the appeals process. According to RIA-Novosti on 5 August, an article in "Limonka" said that if it loses its case, the paper will continue to appear in electronic form on the apn.ru website, which is associated with controversial journalist Sergei Dorenko. RC

ANYONE CAN BE A COSSACK
For the first time since the tsarist era, Cossacks will be included in the national census in 2002 as a separate "nationality," "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 August. According to the daily, the motivation for the Cossacks in participating in the census in this fashion is financial. As General Ataman Viktor Vodolatskii explained, "If the census shows that a large number of Cossacks live compactly on the territory of the All-Great Forces of the Don, then we can compete for federal allocations." He noted that the people of the Engels Raion in Saratov Oblast live well "with good roads, gas, and electricity," because that region has been designated an area inhabited by Volga Germans and is therefore eligible for additional federal funds. The All-Great Forces of the Don unites Cossacks living in Rostov, Voronezh, and Volgograd oblasts, and the forces' apparatus intends to launch a wide-scale campaign among residents of those oblasts to identify themselves as Cossacks, an identification "whose authenticity Ataman Vodolatskii will promise in advance not to check." JAC

NEW RUSSIAN MILITARY COMMANDER TAKES OVER IN CHECHNYA
Lieutenant General Sergei Makarov was named commander of the Joint Federal Forces in Chechnya last week, succeeding Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, who is reportedly on leave of absence, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 2 August. The paper quotes unnamed sources as suggesting that Moltenskoi has been made the scapegoat for the recent fighting in Itum-Kale between Russian troops and border guards and Chechen militants believed to have entered Chechnya from Georgian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 July 2002). Makarov's appointment could conceivably herald an incursion into Georgia, the paper suggested. He has reportedly expressed his readiness to shift hostilities onto the territory of another state "when ordered to." LF

ARMENIA REJECTS EU CRITICISM OF KARABAKH ELECTIONS
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dziunik Aghadjanian on 3 August criticized as "inappropriate" a European Union statement released the previous day designating as illegitimate the 11 August presidential election in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Aghadjanian pointed out that the EU criticism was not coordinated with the OSCE's Minsk Group and renders "unnecessarily complicated" that body's decade-long effort to mediate a solution of the Karabakh conflict. She added that the population of the unrecognized enclave has the legitimate right to elect its leaders "without the positive or negative assessment of any outside body." LF

AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES SLAM VILLAGERS' RENEWED PROTESTS
On 31 July, between 1,500-2,000 residents of the village of Nardaran staged a demonstration to demand the release by 5 August of eight village residents arrested in the wake of a 3 June clash between villagers and Azerbaijani police, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 June 2002). The following day, the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office issued a joint statement accusing members of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan of seeking to capitalize on the villagers' discontent with abysmal social conditions in a bid to overthrow the Azerbaijani authorities and establish an Islamic state. On 2 August, Union of Baku and Baku Villages Chairman Djabrail Alizade rejected those allegations as "lies and libelous." Several Azerbaijani opposition politicians similarly criticized them as unfounded. LF

AZERBAIJANI RELIGIOUS LEADER CALLS ON VOTERS TO ENDORSE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Addressing a seminar in Baku on 1 August devoted to the planned 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments, Muslim Religious Board Chairman Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade urged believers to endorse those amendments and local village mullahs to persuade the rural population to do so, Turan reported. But Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Zardusht Alizade criticized that appeal as going against Allah, according to "Ekho" on 3 August, as cited by Turan. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL LEAVE RUSSIA
In an interview with Turan on 31 July, Ayaz Mutalibov disclosed that he is planning to leave Russia for an undisclosed destination lest the Azerbaijani leadership attempt unspecified reprisals against him. Mutalibov has lived in Russia since fleeing Baku in May 1992 after a failed bid to regain the presidency from which he resigned under pressure two months earlier. In a separate statement on 1 August, Mutalibov also expressed gratitude to the 20 opposition parties that on 30 July issued a statement condemning the National Security Ministry's 26 July claim that Mutalibov planned to stage a coup in October 2001 and return to power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29, 30, and 31 July 2002). LF

RUSSIA CALLS FOR MILITARY ACTION AGAINST CHECHEN MILITANTS IN GEORGIA...
Senior Russian officials continue to criticize Georgia's tolerance of Chechen militants and "international terrorists" on its territory and its failure to prevent those fighters from crossing the border from Georgia into the Russian Federation. Meeting in Brunei on 31 July with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov characterized Georgia's passivity as aggression and hinted that Moscow might ask the international community to help Tbilisi neutralize the threat posed by the presence of militants in the Pankisi gorge. Three days later, Ivanov again said Moscow is willing to help Georgia tackle the Chechen threat, Reuters reported. He expressed regret that Tbilisi responds to Russian complaints only with unconvincing excuses and promises of future action, according to Interfax. Touring the Russian Far East, Russian Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said on 3 August that Russia does not rule out "preventive strikes" against Chechen bases in Georgia, and on 4 August that Moscow may request a UN mandate for such an operation, Interfax reported. Federation Council International Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov said on 4 August that as Georgia is incapable of cracking down on terrorism on its territory, the UN Security Council should be asked to plan an international antiterrorism operation in Pankisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). LF

...WHICH GEORGIA SAYS IS ILLEGAL
Georgian Deputy Security Council Secretary Djemal Gakhokidze and Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili on 3 and 4 August, respectively, rejected Mironov's call for Russian strikes against Chechen bases in Georgia as unacceptable in light of international legal norms, Interfax reported. On 2 August, Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze said Georgia will deal with the Chechen fighters on its own, without any assistance from Russia, Interfax reported. The previous day, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili similarly ruled out either Russian or joint Russian-Georgian military action in Pankisi. Meanwhile, Georgian Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze suggested on 2 August that Russia's new rhetorical offensive against Georgia may be intended to sabotage the ongoing U.S. "Train and Equip" program for the Georgian armed forces, Reuters reported. LF

U.S., OSCE CONCERNED BY MILITANT RUSSIAN STATEMENTS AGAINST GEORGIA
Reuters on 31 July quoted U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker as saying that Washington is closely monitoring the reports of fighting on the Russian-Georgian border. He again affirmed U.S. support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but urged Russia and Georgia to work together to contain the terrorist threat in Pankisi. On 3 August, OSCE Chairman in Office and Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz expressed "serious concern" over the escalation in tensions between Russia and Georgia, Turan reported. LF

GEORGIA INTERCEPTS SOME CHECHEN FIGHTERS
Georgian border guards intercepted and captured seven armed Chechen fighters on 3 August who were trying to cross the border from Russia into Georgia. Interrogated by Georgian intelligence officials, the Chechens denied they were members of the band that entered Russia from Georgia one week earlier and which were pinned down near Itum-Kale by Russian forces. Russian Border Guard Service Director Konstantin Totskii said on 2 August that the fighting in Itum-Kale was over, while a Federal Security Service official said the following day that almost all the Chechen fighters involved in that abortive incursion were killed, according to Interfax. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY OFFICIAL DENIES THAT CIS PEACEKEEPERS IN GEORGIA SELL ARMS
Aleksandr Tretyakov, who is the spokesmen for the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, told ITAR-TASS on 2 August that there is no truth to a 31 July statement by Georgian National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania that the Russian peacekeepers are engaged in illicit arms trafficking (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2002). LF

GEORGIA PLEDGES TO HUNT FOR MISSING RUSSIAN OFFICER
In a 2 August statement, the Georgian Interior Ministry said it is conducting an intensive search for Russian Colonel Igor Zaitsev, who disappeared in Tbilisi six days earlier, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). Georgian National Security Minister Khaburzania told journalists in Tbilisi the same day that he is almost certain Zaitsev was not abducted and taken to Pankisi, Interfax reported. It is not clear whether the body of a man of Slavic appearance found in Ureki on Georgia's Black Sea coast is that of Zaitsev. LF

U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION VISITS GEORGIA
Six U.S. congressmen headed by Representative David Dreier (Republican, California) met in Tbilisi on 2 and 3 August with President Eduard Shevardnadze, Defense Minister Tevzadze, and parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, Caucasus Press and Russian news agencies reported. Dreier told journalists that the United States will continue to support Georgia's territorial integrity, and to help build a democratic society, but at the same time he urged the Georgian authorities to be more forceful in cracking down on corruption, according to Interfax. He also said Georgia should take action against Chechen fighters in Pankisi on its own, in compliance with its obligations to not to condone international terrorism, according to Interfax on 3 August. LF

ABKHAZIA LEGALIZES DUAL CITIZENSHIP
The Abkhaz parliament amended the unrecognized republic's constitution on 1 August to allow its residents to acquire citizenship of another state without giving up their Abkhaz citizenship, Interfax and Apsnipress reported. Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia disclosed on 11 July that some 60 percent of the region's population has acquired Russian passports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002). LF

GEORGIA REPORTS FIRST TYPHOID CASES IN 30 YEARS
A brother and sister from the predominantly Azerbaijani-populated raion of Marneuli, southeast of Tbilisi, have been hospitalized with typhoid, Caucasus Press reported on 3 August. Those are the first cases of that disease in Georgia in three decades. The two are believed to have contracted the disease from visiting relatives from Azerbaijan. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER SENTENCED
A court in Pavlodar on 2 August sentenced Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, who was fired as governor of Pavlodar Oblast last November after cofounding the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, to seven years' imprisonment on charges of abuse of his official position, Interfax and dpa reported. The prosecutor had demanded an eight-year sentence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002). Fellow opposition leader Petr Svojk told AP that the prosecution failed to produce any evidence to substantiate the charges. LF

KYRGYZSTAN TO FORM ALL-PROFESSIONAL ARMY
Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev told a press conference in Bishkek on 2 August that over the next two-three years Kyrgyzstan will complete the process of forming an all-professional army, as only such a force will be capable of repelling renewed attacks by militants from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), ITAR-TASS reported. Topoev said servicemen will be paid up to $100 per month. He said small groups of militants from Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the IMU have evaded capture and remain in Afghanistan, but that they do not pose "a direct threat" to Kyrgyzstan, akipress.org reported. LF

TAJIK POLICE DETAIN MURDERER OF RUSSIAN SERVICEMAN
Police in Khatlon Oblast have detained a Tajik who has confessed to killing a Russian serviceman in Qurghon Teppa last month following a quarrel, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 5 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2002). LF

TAJIK HEALTH OFFICIAL DENIES REPORTS OF TYPHOID EPIDEMIC
Media reports of a typhoid epidemic in Tajikistan are exaggerated, Asia Plus-Blitz quoted First Deputy Health Minister Asomiddin Latipov as saying on 5 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002). But he admitted that those exaggerated reports are based on data supplied by his ministry. LF

UZBEK SECURITY OFFICIAL PUBLICIZES MILITANTS' CONFESSIONS
One IMU fighter extradited from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan has confessed to having fought on the Chechen side in Daghestan in 1999, and on the side of the Taliban in Afghanistan the following year, while a second said he underwent training at a camp in Tajikistan, a spokesman for the Uzbek National Security Ministry told Interfax on 2 August. The two men were among seven who were extradited to Uzbekistan in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2002). LF

BELARUSIAN COURT FINES OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER
A district court in Minsk on 2 August fined independent newspaper "Nasha svaboda" some $55,000 in a libel case brought by Anatol Tozik, the chairman of the State Monitoring Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2002), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The court also ordered "Nasha svaboda" staff writer Mikhail Padalyak, who wrote the article that led to Tozik's objections, to pay Tozik some $2,700 in damages. Some commentators say the damages are exorbitant in the country where the average monthly wage is around $100, and claim that the verdict may be tantamount to the liquidation of "Nasha svaboda." In the past, the authorities shut down two periodicals run by "Nasha svaboda" Editor in Chief Pavel Zhuk -- "Svaboda" and "Nashy naviny." "The court has fulfilled [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka's order," Zhuk told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. Padalyak claimed in his article that the Kremlin is now working on a strategy to replace Lukashenka with some other politician who could be as politically loyal to Moscow as Lukashenka but more compliant regarding economic issues. JM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES DESTROY CHURCH...
Authorities of the town of Paharanichny (Hrodna Oblast) on 1 August began destroying the house and chapel built without official permission by Yan Spasyuk, a priest who represents the officially unrecognized Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Belarusian and international news agencies reported on 2 August. Spasyuk claims the real motive behind the destruction order is the "threat" his church poses to the official Russian Orthodox Church in Belarus. "It is possible to ruin the walls, but it is impossible to ruin the souls of the people who saw these walls," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Spasyuk as saying in Hrodna on 2 August. Spasyuk is reportedly hiding from the authorities. JM

...AND BLOCK MINSK'S LARGEST MCDONALD'S RESTAURANT
The Minsk city authorities have taken steps to temporarily close off the capital's biggest McDonald's restaurant by erecting a 2-meter-high fence around the three-story restaurant located near the city's railroad station, AP reported on 2 August. On 2 August, city construction workers began letting McDonald's customers through an entrance to the construction site around the restaurant, but McDonald's spokeswoman Volha Trayan said it is uncertain how long access will be allowed. "The rights of a foreign investor are threatened," Trayan added. In 1997, McDonald's signed an agreement to lease the land for its restaurant until 2036. However, officials later said the land the city rented actually belongs to Belarus State University. Last year, the university announced its intention to build on the land where the McDonald's restaurant stands and began construction last week. "Investors should be concerned that it is not safe to invest money in this country," U.S. Ambassador Michael Kozak commented on the situation. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL LAUNCHES CRIMINAL PROBE AGAINST TYMOSHENKO...
Prosecutor-General Svatoslav Piskun on 2 August initiated a criminal case against lawmaker Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the eponymous opposition bloc, UNIAN reported. Tymoshenko is accused of embezzling funds while she headed Ukraine's Unified Energy Systems in 1995-97. Other charges include forgery and abuse of office. Deputy Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin told the "Segodnya" newspaper on 5 August that his office will call on the Verkhovna Rada to strip Tymoshenko of her parliamentary immunity if "at the time the parliament reconvenes we have enough reasons" to make such an appeal. A criminal investigation against Tymoshenko was already opened by former Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko in 2001, but in April 2002 a court in Kyiv closed all criminal proceedings against her and canceled the ban on her travels outside Kyiv. JM

...WHICH IS SEEN AS ATTEMPT TO DEFUSE PLANNED OPPOSITION PROTEST
Tymoshenko commented on 2 August that Piskun is fulfilling an "order" to remove her from Ukrainian politics. "This is the reaction of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his entourage to my announcement in Lviv of an opposition protest action in September," UNIAN quoted Tymoshenko as saying. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz also said the opening of the criminal investigation against Tymoshenko was inspired by the president. "It is not accidental that [the Tymoshenko case] surfaced now when the opposition, including Tymoshenko, voices its protest against the current situation and calls on the population to openly hold protest actions," UNIAN quoted Moroz as saying on 3 August. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE SHRUGS OFF THREAT OF OPPOSITION PROTEST
Presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk told journalists on 2 August that some opposition leaders' recently announced plan to hold a protest action in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002) was motivated by their desire to achieve "political dividends," UNIAN reported. "It is likely that some political forces, taking into account their failure during recent political developments, have decided to compensate [this failure] and to call for a revolution," Medvedchuk said. He said that "there will be no revolution," adding that "our Ukrainian society is ready and able to give an adequate answer to those seeking to destabilize the situation in Ukraine." JM

NEW POLITICAL PARTY FORMED IN ESTONIA
The Conservative Club and Farmers' Assembly established a new political party, the National Conservative Party-Farmers Assembly, on 4 August, ETA reported. Conservative Club Chairman Mart Helme, a historian and former ambassador to Moscow, was elected the new party's chairman. Its program calls for a more democratic election system by introducing the direct election of the president and parliamentary elections based on majority. The party favors joining the European Union only on equal terms, without rushing the accession. The new party has approximately 1,700 members and intends to participate in local elections in October. SG

REQUEST MADE TO EXCLUDE LATVIAN PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES FROM ELECTION
The Totalitarian Legacy Documentation Center has informed the Central Election Commission in writing that Tatyana Zhdanoka and Janis Adamsons should not be allowed to be candidates in the parliamentary elections in October, LETA reported on 2 August. Zhdanoka is the candidate in Kurzeme of the National Harmony Party, one of the three components of the union For Human Rights in a United Latvia. Adamsons is a candidate of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party. Central Election Commission Chairman Arnis Cimdars said that the center's statement will be reviewed at one of the upcoming meetings of the commission when a vote will be held on striking Zhdanoka and Adamsons from the lists of parliamentary candidates. He also said that the center has checked the list of candidates from the People's Party, Latvia's Way, New Era, and political union Centrs, and found all of them to be acceptable. SG

POLISH, BALTIC PRESIDENTS MEET IN LITHUANIA
Presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski (Poland), Arnold Ruutel (Estonia), Vaira Vike-Freiberga (Latvia), and Valdas Adamkus (Lithuania) held talks in Palanga on 2 August on European Union and NATO expansion and greater mutual cooperation, BNS reported. Kwasniewski spoke about his recent meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and said he is sure that the Baltic states will receive invitations to join NATO at the alliance's Prague summit in November. The participants expressed support for Kwasniewski's proposal to form a new association combining the "Vilnius 10" countries seeking NATO accession and the three Visegrad countries that are already NATO members (Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic). After a working lunch that was also attended by St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev and Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov, the presidents attended celebrations marking the 750th anniversary of the port of Klaipeda. SG

POLISH FARMERS BLOCK ROAD TO KALININGRAD OVER INSUFFICIENT GRAIN PROCUREMENT
Some 150 farmers from Andrzej Lepper's Self-Defense organization on 1 and 2 August blocked the road in Bartoszyce (northern Poland) leading to the border checkpoint Bezledy on the border with Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast, Polish media reported. The farmers were protesting what they claim to be insufficient grain procurement by the state. The protesters removed the blockade on 2 August after receiving a pledge that a local firm will purchase grain from them for the state-run Agricultural Market Agency. Police did not intervene in the protest. Independent TVN television commented the same day that the government is avoiding tough measures in handling farmers' protests in view of the upcoming local elections in Poland. Meanwhile, Lepper announced on 4 August that his organization will soon organize road blockades at several other localities. JM

POLES TO HAVE CHEAPER ALCOHOL
The Finance Ministry has lowered the excise tax on alcoholic beverages by 30 percent, from 6,278 zlotys ($1,500) to 4,400 zlotys for 100 liters of pure alcohol. The ministry said the cut is intended to discourage illegal imports of alcohol and increase the competitiveness of domestic firms when Poland joins the European Union. JM

FORMER CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS EUROPEAN CONVENT POSITION
Former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, who has been elected to be UN General Assembly president, announced on Czech television on 4 August that he has resigned his post as a Czech delegate to the European Union Convent, CTK and dpa reported. Kavan said he sent his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and it was approved. Kavan denied any link between this step and the ongoing investigation into the scandal surrounding Karel Srba and his alleged plot to have a Czech journalist killed (see below), citing time constraints as grounds for his decision. Kavan is due to take up his UN post in September and is also a deputy representing the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) in parliament. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY SAYS CSSD RESPONSIBLE FOR SRBA AFFAIR...
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) parliamentary group leader Vladimir Tlusty said on 2 August that the governing CSSD as a whole is responsible for the Karel Srba scandal, CTK and Czech Radio reported. Tlusty said personal responsibility should be borne by Kavan, who hired Srba as secretary-general of the ministry; by Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, who is responsible for military intelligence for which Srba worked as an agent; and by Prime Minister Spidla, who was in charge of the intelligence services in the previous cabinet. ODS Chairman Vaclav Klaus said the same day that the Srba affair is not an isolated incident, being rather part and parcel of what he called a "system of organs infected under the former and the new government." MS

...AS SRBA, ASSOCIATES CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF FIREARMS
In Ceske Budejovice on 2 August, Karel Srba and his suspected three associates in the alleged plot to kill journalist Sabina Slonkova were charged with illegal possession of firearms, CTK reported. MS

CZECH ROMANY REPRESENTATIVES AT ODDS OVER GOVERNMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
The Board of Romany Regional Representatives on 4 August rejected the recent recommendations of the Government Council for Romany Community Affairs, CTK reported. The board said that suspending the payment of social benefits to Roma over the time they spend abroad while seeking asylum would be discriminatory. The board also said the council's proposal to set up a special police unit to combat usury among Roma is unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). Contrary to the board, Dzeno Association Chairman Ivan Vesely and Stefan Licartovsky, chairman of Romany Civic Initiative, said on 2 August that they agreed with the council's proposal to cut social benefits for asylum seekers but opposed the proposal for the special police unit. The two said that the practice of usury is entrenched in Romany traditions and reflects solidarity with those in need. Vesely said that instead of combating it, the activity of the lenders should be legalized by having them pay taxes after they set up "cooperative credit businesses." MS

...AS IOM STARTS HELPING SURVIVORS OF ROMANY HOLOCAUST
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has begun to implement projects aimed at helping elderly people, particularly Roma in the Czech Republic and Ukraine who survived Nazi persecution during World War II and have not been compensated for their suffering, CTK reported on 3 August, citing AFP. The survivors are to receive via local humanitarian organizations social and legal assistance, health and home-care help, and in some cases financial assistance as well. MS

SUDETEN GERMANS HELP RECONSTRUCT CHURCH IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Reconstruction work was resumed on 2 August of a baroque Roman Catholic church in Stara Voda, near Olomouc, that Soviet and Czechoslovak troops used for target practice in the 1970s and '80s, CTK reported. The church had been off-limits to parishioners after the area was declared a military training ground following World War II. A Sudeten German emigre organization of former inhabitants of the region has donated $56,000 for the reconstruction of the church. Work to repair the roof and facade of the church was begun in the mid-1990s, but was halted when local and church authorities ran out of funding. The total costs of reconstructing the former pilgrimage Church of St. Anne and St. James is estimated at several hundred thousand U.S. dollars. MS

NEO-NAZI ATTACKS IN SLOVAKIA ON THE RISE
More incidents involving Slovak neo-Nazis were registered in Slovakia last week, CTK reported on 3 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002). Five neo-Nazis attacked with clubs two Roma at a gas station in Bratislava. One of the victims suffered broken ribs and was hospitalized but refused to report the incident to police out of fear. In another attack carried out by neo-Nazis, a 23-year-old man was pushed to the ground and kicked for five minutes at a bus station in Bratislava. The victim was not a Rom. MS

ROMANY FAMILY ATTACKED IN SOUTHERN SLOVAKIA...
An unknown perpetrator last week threw a Molotov cocktail into the bedroom of a flat inhabited by a Romany family in Velky Krtis, southern Slovakia, CTK reported on 2 August, citing Radio Twist. No one was injured but the flat suffered fire damage. A similar incident was registered in Velky Krtis in May. MS

...AS SLOVAKIA COMMEMORATES ROMANY HOLOCAUST
Slovakia on 2 August marked the 53rd anniversary of the Porraimose, the Romany Holocaust during World War II, CTK reported. In the night of 2 and 3 August 1944, nearly 3,000 Slovak Roma were gassed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. In a statement released in remembrance of the massacre, Deputy Premier Pal Csaky said, "We must admit with sincere regret that the political regime of the first Slovak Republic -- partly under Germany's pressure and partly out of its own will -- allowed the so-called 'solution' of the non-Aryan citizens' problem." Csaky also said that the cultivation of the victims' historical memory will strengthen the democratic system. He reiterated that later this month the government will debate ways to compensate Holocaust victims. In a separate statement, government commissioner for Romany affairs Klara Orgovanova said that not enough people are aware of the Romany Holocaust and that even in today's Slovakia there are people who call for the expulsion of the Roma. MS

CONFLICTING REPORTS IN HUNGARY ABOUT FORMER MINISTERS' COMMUNIST AGENT PAST
Imre Mecs, the Free Democrat chairman of the parliamentary commission investigating current and former ministers' links with the communist secret services, told the daily "Magyar Hirlap" on 4 August that as many as 30 former cabinet members may have worked for the communist regime's secret services. Mecs said that names included on lists submitted by the Historical Office and by the National Security Office were to be examined on 5 August. On 3 August, the daily "Nepszabadsag" reported that three more names of former ministers who had links with the communist-era secret services had been discovered, bringing the total to 15. According to "Magyar Hirlap" of 3 August, one member of the Viktor Orban cabinet has had contacts with the Military Security Office and another with the Military Intelligence Office. Opposition FIDESZ members on the commission said they want to examine whether state secrecy laws have been broken by leaks to the media that were based on letters sent to the commission. Mecs replied that no one has mentioned specific names and that "facts pertaining to implications" do not constitute state secrets. MS

FORMER HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS HE REFUSED COMMUNIST OFFER TO BE AN AGENT
Janos Martonyi said he refused an offer to work for the secret services in 1979, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 3 August. Martonyi said the offer came prior to his taking up the post of commercial secretary at the Hungarian Embassy in Brussels, where he served until 1984. Martonyi also said that the left is trying to paint the right as radicals, a tactic he described as "old, unequivocal, and nothing new." He said the right did not suffer a defeat in the elections conducted earlier this year, but was put at a disadvantage "at a minimum level." He also described an article denying the Holocaust in "Magyar Demokrata" as "unacceptable," saying the article was as accurate as it would be to describe the treatment of prisoners in Soviet labor camps as humane. MS

MEDGYESSY'S VISIT TO U.S. IN DOUBT?
An unidentified U.S. diplomatic source was quoted by the opposition daily "Magyar Nemzet" on 3 August as saying Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's planned visit to the United States is in jeopardy as long as the investigation into his past links with communist-era secret services continues. Foreign Ministry spokesman Tamas Toth denied the report the next day, according to "Magyar Hirlap." Toth said Medgyessy's visit is likely to take place shortly after the U.S. congressional elections in November, as U.S. President George W. Bush will leave for a visit to Europe on 17-18 November. Toth also said the planned meeting between Bush and Medgyessy is important for both countries and that the United States intends to hold meetings with the leaders of the three newest NATO members ahead of the November Prague summit. MS

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE SPENDING TO INCREASE
Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz said on 2 August after a cabinet meeting that the government will increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2006, Hungarian media reported. Hungary currently allocates 1.81 percent of GDP to defense spending and has been repeatedly criticized by NATO for its low level of military expenditure and failure to fulfill pledges to increase defense spending. MS

EXPERT SAYS HUNGARY'S JEWISH POPULATION CONSIDERABLY HIGHER THAN CENSUS SHOWS
The number of Jews living in Hungary is "drastically higher" than the 13,000 reported in last year's census, the daily "Nepszava" reported, citing Peter Tordai of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities. The daily also reported that Andras Kovacs, a sociologist with the Lorand Eotvos University, has estimated that the number of Jews currently living in Hungary is between 100,000 and 120,000. MS

TOUGH TALK ABOUT CROATIA FROM KOSTUNICA...
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in a statement in Belgrade on 3 August that the Croatian offensive known as Storm was a "brutal police and military operation" aimed at expelling the Serbian minority, Hina reported. He added that unnamed countries in the "democratic world" either supported the Croatian action or turned a blind eye toward it. Kostunica's statement was linked to the seventh anniversary of Storm, which ended a four-year armed rebellion by the Serbian minority with the support and encouragement of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. But Kostunica said in his statement that "Krajina was a victim, as much of conflicting radical national ideas and the exclusiveness of Croatia's policy at the time, as of the longstanding Serbian discord, gullibility, and inability of many Serbian politicians to...put the common good above petty personal interests." He added that Serbia and Croatia today must put their relations on "sound foundations...of polite neighborly relations [that] respect the basic rules of conduct among civilized people." It is not clear if he includes the behavior of Serbian border troops in a recent incident as part of civilized behavior (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). PM

...AND FROM DJINDJIC
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told RFE/RL in Prague on 3 August that the recent border incident is regrettable. He added, however, that "nobody has the right to tell Yugoslavia how to defend its borders." Djindjic called on Western powers to rethink the size of their military presence in the Balkans. He also expressed displeasure that Bosnia has become a "protectorate" of the international community and that many problems remain unresolved there. Djindjic argued that "if one foreigner can change the constitution and sack legally elected officials, then one cannot call it anything but a protectorate." Observers note that the tough talk by Kostunica and Djindjic is probably linked to the Serbian presidential vote on 29 September and to possible parliamentary elections later in the year. In related news, Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj became the first candidate for the presidential vote to be formally certified by the Serbian election commission. The main contenders are expected to be Kostunica and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, who is an ally of Djindjic. PM

COVIC REJECTS CALLS FOR HIS OUSTER...
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for southern Serbia and Kosova, said on 3 August that he is not bothered by calls from Serbs in Bujanovac for him to step down as point man, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). Covic had suggested that Serbs who complained of alleged irregularities leading to the election of an ethnic Albanian mayor there were simply sore losers. Local Serbs subsequently launched a petition drive against Covic, charging that Belgrade had "sold out Bujanovac." Covic called such charges "a lie." PM

...AND MAYOR-ELECT ARIFI CALLS FOR COOPERATION
Nagip Arifi, who won the election in Bujanovac, told Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service on 1 August that the era of "extremism" in all of Serbia is over. He called for cooperation between all citizens and parties in Bujanovac, adding that he will put together a team of experts to draft a plan for the community's economic development. Arifi suggested that the Serbs who object to his victory are sore losers and recalled a Serbian proverb to the effect that losers have a right to get angry. PM

COVIC SAYS U.S. DEMANDS COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE
Covic said in Washington that it is unlikely that Serbia will qualify for additional U.S. assistance before the approval of the next federal budget in October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 2 August. He noted that Belgrade must improve its cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague if it wants more U.S. support. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER REBUFFS OSCE
Vesna Perovic said in Podgorica on 2 August that recent criticism of the new media and electoral laws by the OSCE amounts to treating the parliament with disdain and goes beyond the legitimate offering of advice, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). PM

EIGHT INJURED IN KOSOVA INCIDENT
A KFOR spokesman told dpa in Prishtina on 4 August that eight people were wounded when unidentified persons fired an automatic weapon the previous night into a restaurant in Peja. Three people were arrested. The attackers also threw a grenade into the restaurant, but it did not explode. The KFOR spokesman could not confirm local media reports that a former ethnic Albanian guerrilla commander was the target of the attack. In other news, KFOR seized a large quantity of arms and arrested eight persons in Klokot in the wake of a recent incident there in which six Serbian-owned homes were damaged or destroyed, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 3 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). PM

KOSOVA AND ALBANIA SEEK CRIME-FIGHTING COOPERATION
Meeting in Saranda, Albania, Prime Minister Fatos Nano and his Kosovar counterpart Bajram Rexhepi agreed on the need to promote cooperation in fighting crime and promoting economic development, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 3 August. They stressed the importance of building a highway linking Durres and Prishtina. Michael Steiner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), has previously warned Kosovar officials against undertaking initiatives with foreign governments, pointing out that UNMIK is legally responsible for Kosova's external relations. PM

BALKAN MEETING CALLS FOR RULE OF LAW AND FREER TRADE
Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, met over the weekend in Salzburg, Austria, with other top international officials dealing with the Balkans, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 5 August. Present were Steiner, EU envoy to Macedonia Alain Le Roy, and Paddy Ashdown, the international community's high representative in Bosnia. They called for strengthening the rule of law and promoting free trade throughout the region, as well as for fighting organized crime and improving education. Steiner stressed that the increase of returns by refugees and displaced persons in Bosnia in recent years is grounds for optimism that a similar trend could develop in Kosova. All four men are citizens of EU countries, reflecting a shift in recent months of toward a greater role for Brussels in the Balkans because Washington and Moscow have turned their attention elsewhere (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May 2002). PM

ROMANIA DENIES TAPPING EU AMBASSADOR'S PHONE
The Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) on 5 August officially denied that it is tapping the telephone of EU Ambassador to Romania Jonathan Scheele and said no illegal wire-tapping is being conducted by the service, Romanian radio reported. On 2 August, governmental spokesman Serban Mihailescu told journalists that an investigation will be launched into whether Scheele's telephone conversations have been illegally tapped. The same day, European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak told Mediafax that she has received a letter from Scheele expressing concern about reports in the media that his phone calls are being monitored and that Scheele, in a conversation with her, raised questions as to whether the alleged incident shows Romania is not yet prepared to join the EU. On 28 July, "Evenimentul zilei" quoted Iasi Prefect Corneliu Rusu Banu as saying he was told by the SRI that journalists had leaked to Scheele statements Banu made that Roma be banned from entering public buildings. Banu later claimed he was misquoted, denying that he proposed forbidding Roma entrance to public buildings and that the SRI had told him the identity of the journalists who alerted Scheele. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER INTERVIEWED IN 'LE MONDE'
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in an interview to the French daily "Le Monde" on 2 August that Romania finds itself in an "extremely delicate and difficult situation" as a result of the Romany criminal networks allegedly engaging in human trafficking and forcing handicapped children into begging in France. Nastase said close cooperation with France will solve the problem and that since the visa requirement for Romanian citizens visiting "Schengen-area countries" was lifted in early 2002, Romania has made considerable progress in securing its frontiers against illegal immigration. He also said that since the visa requirement was lifted nearly 200,000 Romanian citizens intending to travel to EU countries who were unable to "present sufficient guarantees" to border authorities have been denied permission to leave Romania. On 5 August, Romanian radio reported that EU officials in Brussels are denying a report published in "Le Monde" on 2 July according to which French authorities have made discreet inquiries in Brussels aimed at reimposing visa requirements on Romanian citizens in the wake of the recent scandal involving forced begging by handicapped children. MS

ROMANIAN TOWN COUNCIL GIVES IN ON MARSHAL ANTONESCU STREET
The Botosani municipal council on 2 August heeded the appeal of the Public Administration Ministry and revoked its earlier refusal to change the name of a street named after Marshal Ion Antonescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2002). The street will henceforth be named after writer Ion Pillat, Romanian radio reported, citing Rompres. MS

CORRECTION:
The 30 July "RFE/RL Newsline" item titled "Romanian Town Council Told to Change Antonescu Street Name" should have identified Oradea, and not Calarasi, as the second town that had refused to change the name of a street named after Marshal Antonescu.

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT LINKS SHOOTING TO ANTICORRUPTION CAMPAIGN, TRANSDNIESTER
In a press release issued on 2 August, the presidential office said the incident in which shots were fired at President Vladimir Voronin's apartment the previous night "coincides with the new struggle against corruption and efforts to settle the conflict in Transdniester," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). The press release stated that the timing of the shooting "is not accidental." MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SETS UP 'REINTEGRATION COMMISSION'...
President Voronin issued a decree on 2 August setting up the State Commission for the Reintegration of the Republic of Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The commission is to be chaired by Deputy Premier Vasile Iovv. Its most important task will be to work out proposals on legislative reforms aimed at stimulating reintegration with the Transdniester and establishing a joint legislative, financial, currency, energy, and cultural framework with the separatist region. Speaking in parliament, Voronin said he hopes Transdniester representatives -- although not included on the commission as members -- will participate in its deliberations alongside other "national and foreign experts." MS

...AND COMMISSION FOR PREPARING MOLDOVAN EUROPEAN COUNCIL CHAIRMANSHIP
Also on 2 August, Voronin signed a decree setting up the National Commission for the Preparation of the Moldovan Chairmanship of the European Council's Committee of Ministers, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Moldova is scheduled to take over the rotating six-month chairmanship of the council in May 2003. The commission will be chaired by Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev. MS

RUSSIAN COMPANY SELECTED FOR MOLDTELCOM PRIVATIZATION
The Privatization Department has selected the Moscow Municipal Telephone Network (MGTS) for the privatization of a 51 percent stake in the national telephone operator Moldtelcom, Romanian radio reported on 3 August, citing BASA-press. The MGTS offer was selected in a tender in which the only other bidder was a consortium of the U.S. company GlobalTelcom and a local Moldovan operator. MS

MOLDOVAN PROSECUTOR PLACED ON 'WANTED' LIST
The Chisinau tribunal on 2 August issued a warrant for the 30-day detention of Cocana Sector Deputy-Prosecutor Vitalie Ostrovari, who was reportedly caught red-handed accepting a $6,500 bribe from a local entrepreneur on 24 July, Infotag reported. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRAISES RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA...
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said on 2 August that relations between his country and Russia are now "better than ever," BTA reported. Pasi spoke after receiving Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Vladimir Titov on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty between the two countries. At the meeting, Titov handed Pasi a letter from his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov and the two sides reconfirmed that President Georgi Parvanov will visit Moscow next month and Ivanov will pay an official visit to Sofia in the fall of 2002. Pasi said the Bulgartabac privatization issue was not on the meeting's agenda, as "there are no new elements" to warrant a discussion on that issue. However, Titov said Bulgaria requested that Russia present the document that serves as the basis for its position regarding partial Russian ownership of Bulgartabac assets. He said the document will be handed over "at the soonest possible date." MS

...WILL BECOME HONORARY MEMBER OF RAOUL WALLENBERG FOUNDATION
Foreign Minister Pasi has received an invitation to become a honorary member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, BTA reported on 2 August. The foundation was set up in 1966 to promote dialogue, understanding, and peace among nations. It engages in research on, and promoting the image of, those who engaged in the rescue of Jews and other people whom the Nazis intended to exterminate during World War II. The Foreign Ministry said in a press release that Pasi's honorary membership is a "recognition for the Bulgarian people, who saved their Jewish community," and an "acknowledgment of the centuries-old tradition of ethnic and cultural-diversity tolerance" in Bulgaria. MS

BULGARIAN PROTESTS AGAINST MISSILE DESTRUCTION CONTINUE
On 2 August, some 300 cars blocked the Stara Zagora-Kazanluk road in southern Bulgaria for one hour to protest the planned destruction of missiles at the nearby Zmeyovo military compound, BTA and dpa reported. The protest was organized by the extraparliamentary Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO). IMRO Chairman Yavor Piperov told journalists his formation supports Bulgaria's efforts to join NATO and the European Union but is opposed to the missile destruction because of environmental concerns. The same day, Chief of Staff General Nikola Kolev said the destruction of the missiles must be conducted within the scheduled time frame, but experts are still examining alternative ways of destroying SS-23 missile engines. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES REPORT ON DEFENSE, ARMED FORCES
Parliament on 2 August approved a government-submitted report on "The State of the Defense and Armed Forces," BTA reported. The vote was 127 in favor to 13 against, with 24 abstentions. The report says that the armed forces' performance in 2001 and plans for further military reforms are grounds for Bulgaria to be optimistic that it will be invited to join NATO at the organization's November Prague summit. MS

FRANCE TO AGREE TO KOZLODUY SHUTDOWN POSTPONEMENT?
Returning from a visit to Paris, Energy Minister Milko Kovachev told journalists on 2 August that France is now acknowledging the possibility that blocks No. 3 and No. 4 at the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant will not be closed in 2006, BTA reported. "France will consider more flexibly the question of units three and four after the information on their modernization is presented," Kovachev said. MS

There is no End Note today.


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