PUTIN SUGGESTS MAKING LOCAL ADMINISTRATIONS MORE TRANSPARENT...
At a government meeting on 5 August, President Vladimir Putin called for making public the details of regional budgets and regional-level backlogs of unpaid wages to state-sector workers, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin suggested that such a measure is necessary so that the public can know the real state of affairs, Interfax reported. Trade union leaders have been suggesting for some time that greater transparency of regional government finances might help eliminate situations in which regional governments use money earmarked for the wages of teachers and doctors for other purposes (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 March 1999). They have argued that if information about budget transfers from Moscow was reported in local newspapers, then it might be possible to track how the money is spent. Also at the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko reported that 16 regions are currently behind in paying wages. However, she added, these backlogs will be completely paid off by 1 September. JAC
...AS LAID-OFF WORKERS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE FOR UNPAID WAGES
Seven workers who were dismissed from the Lenarchenergo enterprise several days ago have launched a hunger strike until back wages worth more than 13 million rubles ($412,000) are paid, ITAR-TASS reported. One of the strikers, Aleksei Chernigovskii, who started his fast 10 days ago, is in critical condition. The enterprise is based in Ust-Kut in Irkutsk Oblast, the same city where 14 doctors who worked for the local emergency service also staged a hunger strike for back wages earlier in the month. JAC
OPEC SECRETARY SEEKS COMPROMISE ON QUOTAS, PRICES
OPEC Secretary-General Alvaro Calderon arrived in Moscow on 6 August for talks with Energy Minister Igor Yusufov, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Calderon said that he wants to minimize the current disagreements over the volume of Russia's oil exports and the ideal global market price for oil, RTR reported. Calderon told journalists that while OPEC believes that oil should cost from $22-$28 a barrel, Russia prefers a lower range of $20-$25. However, Calderon believes that compromise is possible, as both sides are united in their desire to stabilize prices. VY
LEBED'S BROTHER BOWS OUT OF KRASNOYARSK RACE
Khakasia President Aleksei Lebed will not participate in the 8 September gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russian news agencies reported on 6 August. Lebed made the announcement at a press conference in Krasnoyarsk, claiming that he was bowing out because the election campaign had become too dirty. "I don't want to participate in this," Lebed said. He added that he believes plans to honor his brother, former Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed who died in a helicopter accident on 28 April, by naming a local street after him are being held up in Moscow by bureaucrats who oppose Aleksei Lebed's candidacy. Recent opinion polls showed Aleksei Lebed running in fourth place with a high negative rating (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). RC
LUKOIL HEAD WANTS TO EXPAND IN EUROPE...
LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov said his company participated in the tender to privatize the oil refinery in Gdansk, one of the biggest in the country, gzt.ru and "Vedomosti" reported on 5 August. However, Alekperov added that the Polish authorities are -- "without reason" -- suspicious of LUKoil's bid and might ignore it. He added that LUKoil does not intend to purchase any other refineries in Europe and is concentrating on its program of buying gasoline stations throughout Central and Eastern Europe. "Vedomosti," citing Bloomberg, reported that LUKoil is seeking to expand its presence on the Spanish market and wants to purchase Austria's Avanti International, which owns 329 gas stations in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. VY
...AND ADMITS COMPANY CONTROLLED BY STATE
In the same interview with "Vedomosti," Alekperov said that he approves the government's recent decision to postpone the sale of a 5.9 percent state-held stake in LUKoil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2002). "We are proud that the state is the biggest shareholder in our company and do not want it to leave," Alekperov said. He also said that he does not see any reason to create state reserves of hydrocarbons. The goal of such a reserve is to provide oil in case of a critical shortage. However, Alekperov argued, Russia presently has more oil than it needs and excess production capacity. VY
RUSSIAN CUSTOMS LIBERALIZES EXPORT OF PERSONAL ITEMS
The State Customs Committee as of 4 August eased the procedure for declaring goods exported from and imported into Russia for values less than 500 euros ($490), polit.ru reported on 5 August. Goods in this value range that are intended for personal consumption are now free from custom duties and other levies. Previously, only 100 euros worth of goods could be imported or exported duty free. VY
IDEOLOGUE OF GLASNOST COMMENTS ON SERVILITY OF RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS...
Aleksandr Yakovlev, the ideologue of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of liberalizing the mass media and a former Politburo member, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 August that freedom of speech in Russia is going through a difficult time both because of government policies and the behavior of journalists. "I am enraged by certain ursine actions of the government toward the mass media, but one should not expect anything else. It is much more unpleasant, however, to see how some journalists themselves are trying to serve the authorities, to line up with them. This is a real misfortune," said Yakovlev, who is now a member of the board of trustees of the TVS television company. Another powerful blow against freedom of the press came in the 1990s when the mass media were involved in a "war of kompromat" among financial clans, Yakovlev continued. "If journalists write and tell lies, freedom of speech is perceived as the freedom to lie," Yakovlev noted. "Aggressive cynicism murders freedom of speech." VY
...AND HOLDS OUT LITTLE HOPE FOR THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
In the same interview, Yakovlev said that Russia has neither a pluralism of opinions nor a pluralism of interests but a pluralism of demagoguery, and that this situation is encouraged by existing election laws. Yakovlev decried the influence of money in election campaigns, saying that efforts to buy votes merely encourage apathy among the electorate. He admitted that he himself did not vote in last December's Moscow City Council election because he "understood that all the mandates had already been handed out." RC
SIBUR OFFICIALS TO REMAIN IN CUSTODY
A municipal court in Moscow on 6 August refused to release from jail any of the defendants in the Sibur trial, despite the fact that the original plaintiff in the case, Gazprom, has dropped its complaint and stated that it has no claims against them, gazeta.ru reported. Former Sibur officials Yakov Goldovskii, Yevgenii Koshits, Larisa Abramenko, and Austrian citizen Boris Blagerman are accused of embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, and abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 2 July 2002). Their lawyers had asked that they be released on bond pending their criminal trial in view of Gazprom's decision to drop its civil complaints. The website reported that a spokesman for Sibur, which is a Gazprom subsidiary, repeated earlier statements that the company had suffered no losses as a result of the activities of the accused. The trial will continue with the testimony of witnesses on 7 August. RC
INTELLECTUAL-PROPERTY THEFT AT EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS
Forty percent of all musical compact discs produced in Russia are illegal, pirate copies, RosBalt reported on 5 August, citing an Ekho Moskvy interview with the head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's intellectual property commission, Oleg Gordiiko. Gordiiko said that this represents enormous losses for the Russian economy. Commenting on a recent letter from U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow claiming that Russian defense plants, including one headed by Gordiiko himself, are largely responsible for producing pirate discs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2002), Gordiiko said that U.S. producers currently have no presence in the Russian market and "they just want to clean up the market for themselves." RC
URALS METALS OLIGARCH SAID TO BE NEXT SEASON'S POLITICAL LEADER
Yekaterinburg-based political analyst Ilya Gorfinkel is predicting that Sergei Nosov, the director of the firm Nizhnii Tagil Iron and Steel (NTMK) and leader of Sverdlovsk Oblast's Unified Russia party, will occupy one of the top three places on the pro-Kremlin party's list for the 2003 State Duma elections, regions.ru reported on 5 August. According to Gorfinkel, the party has a marked deficit of new faces and the "old" leaders of Unity and Fatherland have noticeably lost the trust of voters. According to Gorfinkel, members of nearly all social strata react positively to Nosov, and he is also "photogenic" (for photo, see http://www.3-millenium.ru/tagil.htm). JAC
SON OF AFRICAN DIPLOMAT BEATEN BY YOUTHS...
Moscow police arrested six drunken youths on 5 August after they severely beat the son of the first secretary of Cameroon's embassy in Moscow, ntvru.com and other news agencies reported on 6 August. Sixteen-year-old Defe Jon Nzale was hospitalized after the attack. Police said that none of the youths are skinheads and, for that reason, they are treating the incident as "hooliganism." A spokesman for the Cameroon Embassy told NTV that the attack was racially motivated. According to dni.ru, the embassy intends to send a formal note of protest to the Foreign Ministry. RC
...AND MORE THAN A DOZEN ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS TALLIED ACROSS RUSSIA THIS SUMMER...
A box bearing the phrase "Death to yids and Caucasians" was discovered on the evening of 4 August in the elevator of an apartment building in Moscow, ntvru.com reported the next day, citing "MK-Novosti." The building was evacuated, and specialists who examined the box found no explosives. The website listed more than a dozen similar anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred across Russia since 27 May. JAC
...AS ANOTHER CEMETERY IN ST. PETERSBURG DAMAGED
More than 40 graves were damaged at St. Petersburg's Serafimovskoe Cemetery during the night of 3-4 August, ntvru.com reported on 5 August. The cemetery contains the graves of numerous local heroes, including those of more than 30 crewmembers of the ill-fated "Kursk" nuclear submarine and soldiers killed in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The vandals damaged the graves of at least three firefighters who died putting out a blaze at the Leningrad Hotel in 1991 and those of 10 sailors who died when the merchant ship "Mekhanik Tarasov" sank in 1982. According to NTV, the police believe it was an act of hooliganism committed by drunken teenagers. Earlier in the month, at least 10 Jewish graves were destroyed at the city's Preobrazhenskoe Cemetery during construction of a railway line (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2002). JAC
GOVERNOR INTRODUCES PRICE CONTROLS ON BREAD
Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub has taken control over the prices of bread and grain products in his region, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 August. The governor issued an instruction creating a special commission that will control the formation of wholesale prices for grain, flour, bread, and bread products to ensure the price of bread does not jump sharply. Included in the commission will be representatives of the local inspection agency Roskhlebinspektsii, the oblast's legislature, and various oblast ministries. The current price of a loaf of bread in the oblast is 6 rubles (19 cents). JAC
FINAL AMENDMENTS MADE TO DRAFT CHECHEN CONSTITUTION
At a session on 5 August, the Chechen government made final amendments to, and then approved, the republic's new draft constitution, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 17, 17 May 2002). Participants agreed to remove from the draft the reference to Chechnya's sovereignty; administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov noted that the sovereignty granted to Chechnya and other federation subjects by former President Boris Yeltsin "turned into war, poverty, and destruction," according to "The Moscow Times" on 6 August. Added to the draft was a stipulation that presidential candidates must have lived in Chechnya for the past 10 years, a requirement that may have been directed specifically against former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, who claims to enjoy wide support among the Chechen population (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 21, 26 May 2000). The draft constitution will be published for public discussion and submitted to a referendum in late October, according to ITAR-TASS. Kadyrov said presidential elections could then be held in the spring or summer of 2003. LF
An item in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 5 August titled "Alleged American-Soviet Double Agent Dies in Moscow," misidentified the former head of KGB foreign intelligence who was quoted by "Moskovskii komsomolets." His name is Leonid Shebarshin.
ARMENIAN POLITICIAN ABDUCTED
Two armed men wearing military uniforms forcibly abducted Union of Technocrats Chairman Samvel Sarkisian from his Yerevan apartment on 5 August, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. The kidnappers' motive remains unclear. LF
SENIOR AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS MEET WITH NARDARAN RESIDENTS
Four village elders from Nardaran met on 5 August with senior Azerbaijani officials to discuss their grievances, zerkalo.az reported the following day. The villagers had earlier demanded that the authorities release by 5 August eight residents arrested during or after the clashes between police and villagers in Nardaran on 3 June. Some of those detained are suffering from serious health problems. The two sides agreed not to divulge either details of the talks, which lasted five hours, or the identity of the Azerbaijani officials participating. But Gadji-aga Nuriev, a leading member of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan who took part in the talks, told "Zerkalo" that the villagers still insist that the detainees be released. Only after that are they prepared to discuss other issues, he said. Turan on 6 August identified the Azerbaijani officials as Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and Prosecutor-General Zakir Garalov, and said a further round of talks will take place on 7 August. LF
PRESIDENT ORDERS RE-SUBORDINATION OF AZERBAIJANI SECURITY AGENCIES
President Heidar Aliev signed a decree on 31 July stipulating changes in the subordination of various security agencies, Turan reported. Military counterintelligence is in future to be subordinate to the National Security Ministry, while the border guards service is to be separated from that ministry and granted independent status. The ministry was instructed to prepare within one month new proposals on its revised structure and staffing strength. The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" on 1 August interpreted that realignment as directed against National Security Minister Namig Abbasov whose resignation the paper claims Aliev is seeking to expedite. LF
GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS APPREHEND MORE CHECHENS...
Georgian border guards apprehended late on 4 August a second group of seven Chechen militants who had just crossed into Georgian territory from the Kerigo Gorge in southern Chechnya, Russian agencies and Caucasus Press reported the following day. The first such group of seven Chechens, who were detained on 3 August, have been charged with entering Georgia illegally and illegal possession of arms and explosives, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). Several of them are being treated for wounds in a Tbilisi hospital. They have formally requested that they not be sent back to Russia. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 5 August that they will be handed over to Moscow only if the Russian authorities furnish evidence that they are "criminals and terrorists," Interfax reported. LF
...BUT GEORGIA REFUSES TO EXTRADITE THEM TO RUSSIA
Addressing a government session on 5 August, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the speedy extradition to Russia of the detained Chechens, stressing that the Russian leadership will judge how seriously the Georgian authorities intend to crack down on terrorism by how long it takes Tbilisi to deliver up the Chechens to Russian justice, Reuters reported. Later on 5 August, Putin discussed the Chechens' extradition with Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, who flew to Tbilisi on 6 August to discuss the Chechens' extradition with his Georgian counterpart Nugzar Gabrichidze. Gabrichidze told journalists after his meeting with Ustinov that the latter had failed to furnish documentary evidence that the 14 Chechens had engaged in terrorist activities in Russia, and for that reason they would not be extradited, unlike Adam Dekkushev who was handed over to the Russian authorities last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). Also on 5 August, the Russian Foreign Ministry sent a formal proposal to Georgia to establish a joint commission to investigate how the first group of detained Chechens managed to cross the Russian-Georgian frontier undetected, Caucasus Press reported. LF
RUSSIA SENDS ADDITIONAL TROOPS TO GEORGIAN BORDER
The newly appointed commander of Russia's Combined Federal Forces in Chechnya, Lieutenant General Sergei Makarov, has ordered the dispatch to the Chechen-Georgian frontier of an additional 500 servicemen, Interfax reported on 5 August. Also on 5 August, an unnamed officer of the Russian armed forces General Staff denied that plans are being drafted to mount a military operation in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, Interfax reported. That source said the Defense Ministry hopes that Georgia will acknowledge Moscow's concern over the presence of Chechen militants in Pankisi and will intensify its efforts to prevent them from returning to Chechnya. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DOUBTS UN WOULD ENDORSE RUSSIAN MILITARY ACTION IN PANKISI...
Speaking at a press briefing in Tbilisi on 5 August, President Shevardnadze predicted that Moscow will not formally request a mandate from the UN Security Council to launch a military operation against "terrorists" in Pankisi, Interfax reported. And if Moscow did make such a request, it would be refused, Shevardnadze added. Two Russian Federation Council officials have suggested in recent days that Russia might raise with the UN the question of an international operation against "terrorists" in Pankisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). Shevardnadze said Georgian law enforcement agencies are preparing to launch an operation against "criminals" in Pankisi, and that "a breakthrough" in restoring order in the district will be achieved within four to six weeks, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. LF
...REJECTS CALLS TO SHOOT DOWN INTRUDING RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT
Speaking at the same 5 August press briefing, Shevardnadze said he does not consider it appropriate to take "extreme measures" against repeated violations of Georgian airspace by Russian military aircraft, as no human casualties have been registered in the three such incursions registered since 29 July, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze told journalists earlier on 5 August that parliament should amend existing legislation to empower the Georgian Air Force to shoot down aircraft that violate Georgian airspace. LF
KAZAKH OPPOSITION ENDORSES FORMER PREMIER'S PROPOSED TACTICS
In an open letter posted on forumkz.org on 2 August, Gulzhan Ergalieva, a leading member of the United Democratic Party (ODP) and the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK), hails the proposals outlined last month by self-exiled former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin in response to the passage of Kazakhstan's new law on political parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002). Ergalieva said that leaders of most opposition parties support Kazhegeldin's call not to comply with the mandatory reregistration stipulated in that law. She added, however, that she does not doubt that the ODP would succeed in collecting the required minimum 50,000 signatures required for reregistration. She expressed support for Kazhegeldin's call for the opposition to close ranks and coordinate its actions. Finally, Ergalieva appealed to Kazhegeldin to help establish an international committee for the defense of political prisoners in Kazakhstan that would lobby for the annulment of the criminal charges brought against leading DVK members Mukhtar Abliyazov and Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov. LF
KAZAKH PRESIDENT PROPOSES LIQUIDATING UNVIABLE VILLAGES
In a proposal reminiscent of arbitrary Soviet-style planning, President Nursultan Nazarbaev has proposed liquidating small villages and settlements and resettling their inhabitants in larger rural communities, Interfax reported on 5 August. Nazarbaev argued that it is not cost-effective to provide education and medical services and water and electricity to all the country's small settlements. LF
SUPPORTERS PROTEST LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AGAINST KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY
Some 100 people attended a meeting in Naryn on 5 August in support of their parliament deputy Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, who heads the independent "Kyrgyzstan" parliament faction, akipress.org reported. Kadyrbekov went on trial in a Bishkek district court the same day on charges of slander: 76 residents of a city hostel claim he insulted them by referring to them during a parliament session as having no fixed abode. The protesters have drafted an appeal to President Askar Akaev and Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev calling for the case against Kadyrbekov to be dropped and for a halt to pressure on the independent media, including RFE/RL (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002). LF
TAJIKISTAN TO VET ISLAMIC CLERICS
A commission comprising members of the governmental Council on Religious Affairs and the Council of Islamic Scholars has embarked on its annual assessment of the professional knowledge of Islamic clerics and teachers at Islamic schools and universities, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 6 August. This year for the first time clerics' familiarity with Tajikistan's laws relating to religious practice will also be tested. The commission is to focus this year on clerics in Sughd Oblast in northern Tajikistan. Visiting Sughd last month, President Imomali Rakhmonov criticized the construction of unsanctioned mosques and the activity in the region of militant Islamic groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002, and "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," Vol. 2, No. 27, 18 July 2002). LF
INDEPENDENT-NEWSPAPER OFFICE BURGLARIZED IN BELARUS
The office of the Minsk-based private weekly "Zhoda" (Accord) was burglarized early on 5 August, Belapan reported. "Zhoda" Editor in Chief Alyaksey Karol told the news agency that the thieves stole hard discs, video adapters, and memory modules from four computers, as well as a modem, but did not take money, video cameras, or other expensive equipment in the office. Karol did not rule out that the burglary may have been masterminded by Belarus's secret services, noting that it would fit well into a broader context of relations between the government and the independent press. "Zhoda" was established in 1992 by Belarusian social-democratic activists, but now it is an independent periodical with a circulation of 3,000 copies per week. JM
UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS TO PARTICIPATE IN ANTIPRESIDENTIAL PROTESTS, BUT WITH CONDITIONS
Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko has listed conditions for the participation of his comrades in the opposition protest actions planned for this fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002), UNIAN reported on 6 August. According to Symonenko, the protests should focus on forcing early presidential elections and forming a "democratic and efficient political system" in Ukraine. Symonenko stressed that the Communist Party has different "strategic goals" than the right-wing opposition and added that the Communists are not going to decide "at the present stage" on an opposition presidential candidate for a possible early ballot. Symonenko said he is aware that Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc as well as the Socialist Party will support Viktor Yushchenko for the post of Ukraine's president. According to Symonenko, the promotion of Yushchenko as a presidential candidate during the planned protest would run "counter not only the needs of the leftist movement but, first and foremost, those of the Ukrainian people." Simultaneously, Symonenko warned opposition parties against attempts by "the ruling regime to use ideological differences between opposition groups [to pursue] its dirty and greedy interests." JM
FIRST CASPIAN OIL FLOWS INTO ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE
A tanker carrying 30,000 tons of Caspian oil arrived at the Southern (Pivdennyy) oil terminal in Odesa on 4 August and began unloading the following day, UNIAN reported on 5 August. This is the first oil received by the Southern terminal of the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline, which are part of Ukraine's ambitious Eurasian Oil-Transporting Corridor for supplying Caspian oil to Europe. JM
U.S.-DONATED HELICOPTERS ARRIVE IN ESTONIA
Estonian Air Force commander Colonel Teo Kruuner said that the four U.S.-made Robinson R44 helicopters that were delivered to Estonia on 2 August are an important gift to the entire country, ETA reported on 5 August. Two of the helicopters are equipped with photo, video, and infrared cameras and will be used for search-and-rescue missions as well as police work. Kruuner said that six pilots, two of them women, received training at Robinson Helicopter Co.'s production plant in Torrance, California, and that two more pilots will be trained in Estonia. The helicopters are unarmed, but can be fitted with machine guns if necessary and will likely participate in the international Baltic Eagle military exercises in September. SG
LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITING ESTONIA'S SAAREMAA ISLAND
Accompanied by her husband Imants Freibergs, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga began a three-day working visit to Estonia's largest island, Saaremaa, on 5 August, LETA reported. Estonian President Arnold Ruutel, who was born on Saaremaa, invited his Latvian counterpart to visit the island and the presidents agreed that future presidential meetings should occur more often outside their respective capitals in order to draw attention to regional development and tourism. The two presidents also discussed the need for a common stance in agriculture negotiations with the European Union. Jaanus Tammkivi, the mayor of Saaremaa's capital Kuressaare, discussed with Vike-Freiberga the possibilities of launching regular ferry service between Latvia and Saaremaa. Saaremaa Governor Juri Saar later told the presidents about projects for establishing regular ferry traffic between the Estonian islands and Finland. SG
KALININGRAD GOVERNOR SUPPORTS LITHUANIAN SUGGESTION ON TRANSIT ID CARDS
Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov said on 5 August that Russia and the EU should resolve potential problems in implementing Schengen visa requirements for travel between Russia and its western exclave by accepting Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus's suggestion of issuing ID cards, BNS reported. During a recent meeting with Yegorov in Palanga, Adamkus proposed issuing five-year visas or magnetic ID cards to Kaliningrad residents in order to ease border-crossing problems after Lithuania ends its visa-free policy next year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). Yegorov said, "The most promising way of resolving the issues of cargo transit and movement of people is to get away from the word 'visa' in the negotiating process." He suggested that it should not be very difficult to issue ID cards to the 1 million Kaliningrad residents as well as other Russian citizens wishing to travel to the region. SG
POLAND'S SELF-DEFENSE, MINOR PARTY SIGN COOPERATION ACCORD
The radical and populist Self-Defense farmers' trade union led by Andrzej Lepper on 5 August signed an agreement on cooperation in pursuing common goals with the Polish Economic Union (PUG), PAP reported. Lepper said his organization intends to attract parties and groups that are close to its program, and added that the pro-business PUG is one such group. Lepper said that Self-Defense wants to bring about an agreement between all who want neither capitalism nor communism in Poland. "A new road is necessary that places top priority on man, family, work, and decent life," he said. PUG leader Wojciech Kornowski said his party considers many of Self-Defense's ideas to be very good. JM
POLISH AGRICULTURE MINISTER WANTS LARGER GRAIN PROCUREMENT
Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski said on 5 August that next week he will propose to the cabinet to increase the quota of grain purchases by the government-run Agricultural Market Agency (ARR) in order to alleviate long delays for farmers unloading at grain elevators, PAP reported. Kalinowski wants the ARR to immediately purchase the quota of 300,000 tons of grain planned for November and December along with an additional 400,000 tons. The same day, Self-Defense leader Lepper called on Prime Minister Leszek Miller to dismiss Kalinowski and "his team" over what Lepper believes to be "the worst-prepared harvest campaign" Poland has experienced. "If they are unable to resolve such a simple problem as grain procurement, give them pitchforks and teach them to remove manure from cowsheds," Lepper said. JM
CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES POLICY PROGRAM...
The government on 5 August unanimously approved its four-year policy program, CTK and international news agencies reported. The program mentions as priorities EU accession, implementing the "principles of a European welfare state," and combating crime and corruption, according to CTK. The program also says the government will pay special attention to the integration of the Romany minority in Czech society and launch programs aimed at solving Romany housing and unemployment problems. The cabinet pledges to gradually reduce budget deficits, which should be between 4.9 and 5.5 percent of GDP by the end of its term in 2006. The cabinet headed by Vladimir Spidla has a slim 101 majority in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies. MS
...AND REJECTS SENATE-SPONSORED AMENDMENT ON FREE ACCESS TO INFORMATION...
Also on 5 August, the cabinet rejected a Senate-sponsored amendment to the law on free access to information under which people would have easier access to information they demand from the authorities, CTK reported. Under the rejected amendment, costs individuals have to cover for information demanded from civil servants would have been substantially reduced and civil servants would not have been allowed to refuse information on the grounds of protecting business secrets or personal data. MS
...AND BANS TOBACCO ADVERTISING
The cabinet also approved on 5 August a ban on all tobacco advertising and the sponsorship of events by tobacco firms, Reuters reported. The Chamber of Deputies in May approved a law to do so, but the law was rejected by the Senate several weeks later. MS
CZECH POSTELECTION POLL SHOWS 'WHO DESERTED WHOM'
A public-opinion survey conducted by the CVVM polling institute shows most of the new votes in support of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) in the June elections came from people who four years earlier voted for the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), CTK reported. The KSCM emerged from the ballot as a virtual winner, garnering 18.5 percent and 41 seats in the lower house, which is 17 seats more than it won in 1998. Of the votes lost by the opposition Civic Democratic Party, 10 percent went to the CSSD and almost 15 percent to the Coalition. MS
SMER CANDIDATE OUTLINES HIS VISION FOR SLOVAK PREMIERSHIP...
Robert Fico, leader of Smer (Direction), said in an interview with CTK on 5 August that if he becomes Slovakia's next prime minister, he will strive to include in the cabinet people who have never served as ministers. Fico also said that those included in the cabinet would have to resign from the parliament if they were also elected as deputies. He said that Smer intends to implement in practice its program, which is called "100 decisions in 100 days." Fico also said that Slovakia's next government should resign after one year if it has not managed to implement the main points in its program by then. The Smer leader said a cabinet headed by himself would see as its first priorities cutting the number of civil servants and reforming the tax system. MS
...AS FORMER SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER'S CHANCES APPEAR TO BE PLUMMETING
A public-opinion poll conduced by the DICIO polling institute in July shows that backing for Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has dropped by nine percentage points, CTK reported. The agency said the drop was mainly due to the setting up of the Movement for Democracy (HZD) by former parliamentary speaker Ivan Gasparovic a few weeks earlier. The poll has the HZDS still winning the September elections, but with a meager 18.7 percent support as opposed to 27.7 in June. The HZDS is closely followed by Smer, which would garner 15.8 percent if the elections were conducted today. The Alliance for a New Citizen headed by media mogul Pavol Rusko is third (11.8 percent) and the Hungarian Coalition Party is fourth (9.7 percent). The poll also suggests that the Christian Democratic Movement (7.7 percent) and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (7.6 percent) will gain parliamentary representation. Neither of the two extreme nationalist parties, the Slovak National Party and the Real Slovak National Party, is likely to reach the legislature in September, according to the poll's findings. MS
HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION WALKS OUT OF COMMISSION HEARINGS...
Members of FIDESZ and the Democratic Forum on 5 August walked out of a meeting of the parliamentary commission probing possible links of current and former ministers with the communist secret services, Hungarian media reported. The deputies said they no longer trust the commission and refuse to "participate in its unlawful proceedings." The two opposition parties say the Socialists are only using the commission to divert attention from Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's past and that the procedure for handling state secrets was violated. FIDESZ and the Democratic Forum charge that the commission's chairman, Free Democrat Imre Mecs, spent a holiday in a non-NATO country and during that time he left classified documents in the hands of a commission secretary. The documents, they claim, were leaked to the media. Mecs has denied that in a telephone conversation from his vacation spot he authorized releasing the information to the MTI news agency. MS
...AND CALLS ON MECS TO RESIGN
The opposition daily "Magyar Nemzet" on 5 July reported that FIDESZ and the Democratic Forum are calling on Mecs to resign over his handling of the secret information. FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Robert Repassy said a complaint will be filed with police against an unidentified perpetrator in connection with the leak, accusing him or her of disclosing state secrets. Socialist parliamentary deputy Karoly Toth said the commission can continue to work without the FIDESZ and Democratic Forum representatives but will not be able to cast a vote on its final report. MS
FIDESZ ACCUSES HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT OF CENSORING MEDIA
FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Maria Szalai on 5 August said the government is engaging in "intellectual machine-gunning" reminiscent of the darkest communist period, Hungarian media reported. Szalai said there is strong censorship by the two governing parties at Hungarian Television (MTV) and at Hungarian radio. Meanwhile, "Nepszabadsag" on 6 August reported that personnel changes are continuing at MTV, and "Magyar Nemzet" reported that the editor in chief of a morning talk show has been fired without explanation. MS
HUNGARIAN PREMIER BLASTS PREDECESSOR ON EU MEMBERSHIP
Prime Minister Medgyessy on 5 August told a Budapest meeting of Hungarian diplomats posted abroad that there might be life outside the EU, but Hungary must choose the path leading to the union, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy was alluding to a remark made by his predecessor, Viktor Orban, who said earlier this year that while Hungary wants to join the EU, it should not do so at any costs and it should remember that there is "life outside the EU" as well. Medgyessy said accession talks should be conducted so as to benefit the average Hungarian after their successful completion, adding that the majority of Hungarians support joining the union. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told the same meeting that Hungary must concentrate on concluding the negotiations by the end of 2002 rather than worrying how many candidates will be admitted in the expansion. He also said Hungary must be granted identical rights, obligations, and competition terms as those of current EU members and that a transition period on agricultural subsidies must not extend beyond 2006. MS
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER AMBIGUOUS ON TRIANON TREATY, BENES DECREES
Foreign Minister Kovacs also said at the same forum that international debates should begin over the significance of the Trianon Treaty and the Benes Decrees, but at the same time he added that "past grievances must not spill over [into] today's political discourse," Hungarian media reported. He stressed that Hungarian politics must show "no trace of nationalist rhetoric." Kovacs also said that ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries should enjoy full minority rights and be able to preserve their national identity while pursuing well-being in their own homeland. MS
SFOR SEARCHES BOSNIAN SERB BASE
NATO-led peacekeepers searched a Bosnian Serb military base known as No. 711 near Foca late on 5 August, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. SFOR did not give a reason for the search or explain what the troops did or did not find. NATO helicopters flew over the area during the night. PM
ASHDOWN WARNS AGAINST PESSIMISM ON BOSNIA...
Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 6 August that he does not understand why "Europe" always takes a dim view of trends in Bosnia and feels compelled to lecture Bosnians on how to run their affairs. He added that Bosnia has achieved much more in many fields, including refugee return, in the past few years than Northern Ireland managed to do in 30 years. Ashdown noted the links between political leaders and organized crime in Bosnia, but added that the situation there is no worse than it was in Western Europe after World War II, where the problem was largely overcome. He stressed that the international community must continue to help Bosnia lest it become a "vacuum" and open to terrorist elements, as happened in Afghanistan. Ashdown called on the Bosnian Serb authorities to do more to arrest indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic if they want to attract foreign investment to their impoverished communities. PM
...AND CITES THREE IMPORTANT CHANGES
Ashdown also told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 6 August that there have been three major changes in the former Yugoslavia over the past 10 years. The first is that "the two great godfathers of chaos" are gone from the scene, namely Presidents Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman. Second, the United States has made it clear that it wants to give up its former leading role in the region to a willing "Europe," by which he presumably means the European Union. Third, there is a growing trend among ordinary people in the region to put the past behind them and look toward the future. Asked if he personally felt any resentment by Bosnians toward him, he answered that he has not. But the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported from Sarajevo on 6 August that Bosnia remains in danger of becoming a long-term dependent of the international community as long as meaningful change is brought about only by decrees of the high representative. PM
ELECTION SEASON BEGINS IN BOSNIA
The election commission announced in Sarajevo on 5 August that the campaign for the 5 October general election has begun, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Fifty-two parties are taking part with a total of nearly 7,500 candidates. The offices at stake are: the three-member presidency; the parliaments of Bosnia, the Republika Srpska, and the Croat-Muslim federation; the presidency and vice presidency of the Republika Srpska; and the legislative assemblies of 10 cantons in the federation. This is the first election since the war ended at the close of 1995 that will be run by Bosnian authorities and not the OSCE. PM
NO EU INTEREST IN COMBATING ILLEGAL PROSTITUTION IN BOSNIA?
The UN-led police force's (IPTF) campaign to end forced prostitution in Bosnian brothels is expected to come to an end when the EU takes control of police operations in Bosnia from the UN, Hina reported from Sarajevo on 5 August. The UN campaign has led to 600 raids and the closure of 124 brothels, but complicity of local police and judges with the brothel owners has limited the effectiveness of the operations. Representatives of the IPTF told Hina that the EU "is not interested in [continuing] the program due to a lack of staff and funding." A British police officer noted that the brothel owners are aware of this and "not in the least upset." Belgrade is the main center of human trafficking in the region. Young women are often sold for between $1,250 and $1,750. PM
TOUGH TALKS FOR SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
The subcommission tasked with hammering out the Constitutional Charter for the new loose union of Serbia and Montenegro has concluded its work on the provisions dealing with foreign affairs, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade on 5 August. Many points remain on other issues, however, regarding which Montenegro on the one hand and Serbia and Yugoslavia on the other hand take opposite views. Subcommission member Dragan Jocic said that he doubts it will be possible to work out a mutually acceptable compromise on many issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July and 1 August 2002). PM
NO RETURN TO SERBIAN PARLIAMENT FOR KOSTUNICA'S DEPUTIES?
Bosko Ristic, who heads the Serbian parliament's Administrative Committee, said in Belgrade on 5 August that the deputies from the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) cannot reclaim their seats in the legislature because the DSS has been excluded from the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2002). He was apparently responding to suggestions that the DSS could return to the parliament as part of a deal between it and DOS. PM
YUGOSLAV BANK CHIEF SAYS KOSTUNICA BELONGS TO THE PAST
Mladjan Dinkic, who is governor of the Yugoslav National Bank, said in Nis on 5 August that President Vojislav Kostunica is a man who belongs to history, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Dinkic added that it will mean the end of Kostunica's political career if he runs for the Serbian presidency on 29 September and loses. The bank governor formally endorsed the candidacy of Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus for the Serbian presidency. PM
KOSTUNICA'S ADVISER BLAMES 'ALBANIAN LOBBY' FOR BELGRADE'S POOR STANDING IN WASHINGTON
Predrag Simic, one of President Kostunica's advisers for foreign affairs, told the BBC's Serbian Service on 5 August that well-organized work by the "Albanian lobby" in Washington is responsible for the tough attitude of the U.S. government toward Belgrade's failure to cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). Simic added that the "Serbian lobby" is unable to compete with its rival because the Serbian diaspora continues to be split into two rival camps, one linked to the monarchist and Orthodox tradition and the other associated with the former communist regime. PM
SERBIAN GOVERNMENT WARNS SORE LOSERS IN BUJANOVAC
The government called on citizens of Bujanovac to "refrain from protests and inciting unrest," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 5 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). The government endorsed the polices of its own Coordination Center for Southern Serbia headed by Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, whom some Serbian nationalists in the region have accused of "selling out" their interests to the local ethnic Albanian majority. PM
MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT CHARGES PARLIAMENTARY COALITION WITH SPOOK COUP
The governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of President Milo Djukanovic has accused the new coalition of pro-Belgrade and pro-independence forces that make up the majority in the legislature of trying to take control of the intelligence services, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The new coalition plans to debate its own proposal for parliamentary control over a reconstituted security agency at the 19 August legislative session. PM
INTERIOR MINISTRY HANDS OUT PASSPORTS TO MACEDONIANS ABROAD...
The Interior Ministry is conducting a campaign of issuing passports to ethnic Macedonians living abroad, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 5 August. Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski of the nationalist Interior Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) said: "This is only the beginning. As of today, we have handed out some 10,000 passports. We expect to issue about 3 or 4 million passports to people of Macedonian origin living abroad. For [ethnic Macedonians] living in Albania, we will issue some 1,600 passports. The process is to be continued in Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and in Vojvodina." Critics from the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) accuse Boskovski of trying to artificially raise the number of voters for the VMRO-DPMNE during the parliamentary elections slated for 15 September. UB
...AND PROVOKES PROTEST BY ALBANIAN PRESIDENT
President Alfred Moisiu protested Boskovski's visit to the Albanian town of Liqenas on 4 August, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Moisiu asked the Macedonian government to explain how Boskovski managed to enter Albania accompanied by his armed bodyguards. After diplomatic consultations, the Macedonian Foreign Ministry declared on 5 August that Boskovski's visit was officially announced, the daily "Dnevnik" reported. During his stay in Albania, Boskovski met with representatives of the ethnic Macedonian minority. He promised them Macedonian passports and encouraged them to demand more rights in Albania. UB
ALBANIAN COMMANDOS FOR AFGHANISTAN
Thirty specially trained commandos from the Albanian armed forces have joined peacekeeping operations at Kabul airport, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana on 5 August. The Albanian platoon will focus on security at the airport, the site of the assassination of interim Civil Aviation Minister Abdul Rahman in February. The 30 men spent two weeks training in Turkey before joining the ranks of the 5,000-strong International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, which is currently under Turkish command. The mission marks the second time Albanian troops have participated in Western-led peacekeeping. Albanian special forces soldiers are also serving in Bosnia with SFOR troops. Albania wants to broaden the experience of its military and demonstrate its ability to take part in operations led by NATO, which it hopes to join in the next round following the expected expansion of the alliance in November 2002. PM
ROMANIAN THINK TANK WARNS AGAINST GROWING PERCEPTIONS OF PRM AS 'ALTERNATIVE'
An analysis released last weekend by the Bucharest-based Romanian Academic Society (SAR) warned that the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) is increasingly perceived as a viable alternative to the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD). In a press release, SAR said that although only 24 percent of respondents to a survey conducted in July by the Center for Urban and Rural Sociology (CURS) said they can envisage another party as a viable alternative to the ruling PSD, a large plurality among respondents who did so (36.9 percent) singled out the PRM as being that alternative. The extremist party is followed at distance by the Democratic Party with 17.4 percent. The SAR said that general support for the PRM is also growing -- from 15 percent in March to 17 percent in June and 19 percent in July (in the 2000 parliamentary elections the PRM took 20.2 percent of the vote). MS
ROMANIAN LIBERALS DEMAND 'SUSPENSION' OF IASI PREFECT
National Liberal Party (PNL) First Deputy Chairman Theodor Melescanu demanded on 5 July that Prime Minister Adrian Nastase should "immediately suspend" Iasi Prefect Corneliu Rusu Banu from his position, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The PNL leader said the suspension should remain in effect until the parliamentary commission supervising the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) concludes its investigation into the affair. According to media reports, Banu has said that SRI sources have told him the names of journalists who allegedly leaked to EU Ambassador to Romania Jonathan Scheele information regarding comments Banu made suggesting that Roma be forbidden entrance to public buildings. While denying that he received such information from Romanian journalists, Scheele has officially asked whether his telephone calls are being monitored by the SRI (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). MS
MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL KIDNAPPED IN CHISINAU
Piotr Dimitrov, deputy director of the government Information and Technologies Department, was kidnapped in Chisinau on 2 August, Moldovan news agencies and ITAR-TASS reported. Dimitrov's son told journalists that his father left his home to switch off his car's alarm system after it was set off, and was forced by two people into another car and driven away. Reports said Piotr Dimitrov's department is currently introducing a new system aimed at preventing smuggling and illegal immigration and that police suspect his kidnapping may be connected with that activity. Criminal investigations have been launched. MS
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS OSCE PLAN CAN SERVE AS BASIS FOR TRANSDNIESTER...
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 5 August that the plan proposed in Kyiv in July by the OSCE for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict "can be used as the basis" by experts representing the two sides in working out a "mutually acceptable version" of the plan, Infotag reported. Yakovenko said the idea of Moldova's federalization, on which the OSCE plan is based, "has been welcomed in both Chisinau and Tiraspol." MS
...AS SEPARATIST LEADER PRAISES IT
Separatist leader Igor Smirnov, speaking on Tiraspol television on 5 August, said that the July meeting in Kyiv has resulted in the elaboration of "absolutely new conceptual principles concerning the construction of relations between Transdniester and Moldova" and the "full rejection of the obsolete views of the Republic of Moldova's statehood," Infotag reported. Smirnov said the new concepts "correspond to the stance consistently upheld by Transdniester in the negotiation process" and added that the dialogue between the two sides must now proceed. He said remaining differences can be overcome, leading to "a balanced and responsible political solution for the full-scale normalization of relations between Transdniester and Moldova. " MS
BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ON OFFICIAL VISIT TO LEBANON
On 5 August, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski arrived for a two-day official visit to Lebanon, where he met with his counterpart Rafiq Hariri, President Emile Lahud, and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, BTA reported. Saxecoburggotski's trip to Lebanon and Jordan will focus on the improvement of Bulgarian-Arab relations. UB
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT RETURNS ENVIRONMENTAL-PROTECTION BILL
President Georgi Parvanov on 5 August returned a new bill on environmental protection and demanded that parliament revise several provisions of the draft law, news.bg reported. Parvanov criticized provisions in the bill pertaining to information policy to be followed by state authorities. The draft law stipulates that citizens will have to request information about environmental issues, rather than obliging authorities to provide the public with information on a daily basis. Parvanov said this could lead to information blackouts on vital issues, as was the case with Chornobyl in Ukraine. UB
BULGARIAN PRIVATIZATION AGENCY ASKS BULGARTABAC BIDDERS FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
The working group for the privatization of the state tobacco company Bulgartabac that includes representatives from the state Privatization Agency as well as Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev and Agriculture Minister Mehmed Dikme, on 5 August decided to ask the four bidders for Bulgartabac to answer some 70 additional questions regarding the offers they submitted, BTA reported. "Clearly, if the candidate buyers do not revise their bids, we will hardly proceed [with the deal]," Dikme said before the meeting. Dikme, a member of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), has repeatedly criticized the low bids offered thus far. However, Vasilev denied that the working group discussed requesting that the bids be revised. UB
There is no End Note today.