REPUTED RUSSIAN MOBSTER TO CHALLENGE EXTRADITION...
Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov, the reputed Russian mafia figure accused of rigging figure skating events at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 August 2002), has refused his consent to be extradited to the United States, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 6 August. "I want to have the complete extradition procedure under Italian law," Tokhtakhunov's defense lawyer, Luca Saldarelli, quoted him as saying, AP reported. Tokhtakhunov's decision to refuse voluntary extradition means the case will likely be held up in the Italian judicial system for weeks. Meanwhile, Tokhtakhunov received moral support from his friend and fellow businessman Mikhail Chernoi, who told "Moskovskiye novosti" on 6 August, "I am confident that Tokhtakhunov could not have done and did not try to do anything of this kind." Saldarelli has requested that Tokhtakhunov be allowed to leave the Italian prison where he is being held and placed under house arrest. As of 6 August, the United States had not filed a formal extradition request for Tokhtakhunov to face conspiracy charges in a U.S. federal court. The request must be filed within 40 days of his 31 July arrest. MES
...AS FRENCH GOLD MEDALLIST DENIES COLLUSION...
In a press conference in Arles on 5 August, Olympic ice dance champion Marina Anissina admitted that she knows Tokhtakhunov, but denied any wrongdoing, AFP reported. "We spoke on the telephone now and then, but never about anything related to our Olympic victory," the news agency quoted her as saying. "I'm sure this has all been cooked up," she added. Anissina competes for France but is a native of Russia. Meanwhile, French figure skating judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne, who was suspended for three years by the International Skating Union for her role in the controversial decision to award the gold medal to Russian pairs skaters Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2002), has been contacted by the FBI for an interview in the case. According to AFP on 6 August, her lawyer said no decision has yet been made regarding the request. MES
...AND RUSSIAN SPORTS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION
Vyacheslav Fetisov said at a Moscow press conference on 6 August that "experts have to look into this case and provide their assessment on whether unfair judging actually took place at these competitions," Interfax reported. However, Fetisov said that the investigation should only center on the pairs competition because the ice dance event is more subjective. "[In ice dancing,] a judge chooses whether he likes a performance or not," Fetisov said. Meanwhile, AP reported on 6 August that Russian Figure Skating Federation President Valentin Piseev told Ekho Moskvy radio, "I have never seen [Tokhtakhunov], have never spoken to him, and I do not know anything about him except for the information that appeared in the Russian press." MES
PUTIN VETOES BANKRUPTCY LAW
President Vladimir Putin on 6 August vetoed a federal bill on bankruptcy, Russian news agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS, Putin said the law needed to be fundamentally reworked because it is inconsistent with other federal laws. For example, the current version established only three kinds of priority creditors, while the Civil Code lists five. The law was approved by the State Duma in its final reading on 1 July and was adopted by the Federation Council on 10 July. JAC
FINAL CHARGES FILED AGAINST SUTYAGIN
The Federal Security Service (FSB) has issued the final version of its charges against Igor Sutyagin, a scholar at the Moscow-based U.S.A. and Canada Institute, Interfax reported on 6 August, citing Sutyagin's lawyer Vladimir Vasiltsov. According to Vasiltsov, the essence of the charges against Sutyagin remains unchanged, and he is charged with "high treason in the form of espionage for the United States." The charges were sent to him last week. According to polit.ru on 6 August, the team investigating Sutyagin's case has been partially replaced following a Kaluga court's decision last December to send Sutyagin's case back for further investigation. Sutyagin has been held in prison without trial since 27 October 1999 and was recently unexpectedly transferred to Moscow's Lefortovo Prison, according to the site. JAC
SMOLENSK OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED
First Deputy Governor of Smolensk Oblast Vladimir Prokhorov was murdered on 7 August as he left his home on the way to work, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. According to RIA-Novosti, which cited police sources, Prokhorov was attacked by two unidentified assailants who shot him with a foreign-made handgun. Six shots were fired, but it is unclear how many struck Prokhorov. Prokhorov's wife, who was with him at the time of the attack, was not injured. Prokhorov had a wide range of responsibilities overseeing the oblast's administration, ntvru.com reported. "We are looking into several motives, including that it was a contract killing," an unidentified police source was quoted as telling RIA-Novost. The 55-year-old Prokhorov previously served as the election campaign manager of Governor Viktor Maslov, a former local FSB chief who was elected in a controversial vote in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). During the campaign, a deputy of former Governor Aleksandr Prokhorov was attacked by unidentified gunmen. RC
RUSSIA TO PUSH STUDY OF INTERNET, FOREIGN LANGUAGES IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS
Svetlana Ivanova, a spokeswoman for the Education Ministry, announced that in the upcoming school year, the ministry will introduce a program of foreign-language and Internet studies beginning with the second grade, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. She did not specify which foreign languages would be required. Ivanova said some Russian schools already require the study of a foreign language from the second grade, but beginning 1 September, it will be mandatory. As for Internet studies, the course designed for the second graders is called "Information-Communication Technologies" and aims to teach them basic computer skills and how to find information on the Internet. VY
'TIS THE SEASON FOR VIGILANTES
As harvest season approaches, "Izvestiya" on 7 August ran a long feature on the growing problem of vigilantism. Each year, numerous people are attacked and some are killed by farmers and dacha residents trying to protect their ripening crops of potatoes and other vegetables. The paper notes that in many cases the thieves are homeless people or alcoholics and gives details of two recent cases in Khabarovsk Krai and near the city of Amursk. The paper also conducted a small vox pop on the issue and found considerable support for those who take justice into their own hands. "It is impossible to rely on the authorities," said bookkeeper Aleksei Ustinov. "I would take revenge in accord with the amount of harm done to me and forgive small transgressions." Translator Vladimir Nesterenko told the paper: "After all, you can rely on yourself more than on the police. However, we aren't living in a jungle." RC
TOP OFFICIAL TO HEAD ENERGY SUBSIDIARY
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko was named chairman of the board of directors of Systems Operator-Central Dispatch Control of Unified Energy System (SO-TsDU EES) at the first meeting of the board on 6 August, abn.ru reported the next day. EES head Anatolii Chubais was elected deputy chairman. SO-TsDU EES was formed in June as a wholly owned subsidiary of the state-controlled EES. "Creating a strict vertical structure for dispatching will ensure the reliable work of EES, which is an issue of primary importance for the government," Khristenko was quoted as saying. RC
NEW ACCUSATION AGAINST FORMER MILITARY FINANCIAL CHIEF
The Main Military Prosecutor has brought a new indictment against former Defense Ministry Chief Financial Officer Georgii Oleinik, who was sentenced in April to three years in prison for embezzling $450 million (see "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch," 1 May 2002), RIA-Novosti reported on 6 August. According to the new indictment, Oleinik illegally sold Defense Ministry military bonds under his management to a bank and caused the state damages of $60 million. Prosecutors also sought Oleinik's arrest, but this motion was refused by the Moscow Military District Court on the grounds that he is already serving a prison term. Analysts explained the unusual request to arrest a person already in custody by noting that prosecutors fear Oleinik may be released soon when an appeals court reviews his original conviction. VY
INTERIOR MINISTRY TAKES CONTROL OF CENSUS
In an interview in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 August, Interior Ministry (MVD) Colonel General Aleksandr Chekalin, a member of the State Census Commission, detailed his ministry's role in conducting the upcoming national census. Chekalin noted that the MVD is responsible for counting several categories of people, including military personnel, people living in closed cities and towns, foreigners, the homeless, and people without citizenship. The MVD will also be protecting census takers who are working "in residences where poor and socially dangerous people live." In addition, Chekalin said, the MVD will be protecting the population from people who might pose as census takers for criminal purposes. Finally, the MVD will be responsible for ensuring the confidentiality of the information gathered by census takers. It will provide 24-hour security for all census offices. Chekalin noted that police officers themselves will not have access to census information. RC
ANALYST COMMENTS ON STATE CORRUPTION
In a 7 August interview in "Rossiiskaya gazeta," INDEM think tank head Georgii Satarov analyzed the results of a May study that his organization conducted on corruption in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2002). Satarov highlights the role of corrupt law enforcement officials in maintaining high levels of official corruption, noting that the country has reached a stage of "developed corruption networks." "Any corruption network consists of three components: a commercial or financial structure, which sells officials' services; a group of officials who make the necessary decisions; and a security group consisting of officials working in law enforcement agencies," Satarov said. He noted that corruption is so widespread now in part because of the unfair and often illegal ways that state property was privatized in the 1990s, leaving many hidden secrets and vulnerable officials and businessmen. He added that increasing state salaries will not immediately affect the corruption problem, since many officials have bought or been placed in their positions specifically to practice corruption. The INDEM study found political parties to be the most corrupt organizations in Russia, followed by the traffic police, the State Duma, and prosecutors' offices. RC
RUSSIA, NATO BEGIN 'OPEN SKIES' PROGRAM
The Defense Ministry announced that a group of Russian military inspectors aboard an An-30 reconnaissance aircraft will begin monitoring military installations in several NATO countries between 5-10 August under the framework of the Open Skies Treaty, Russian news agencies reported on 7 August. The treaty has been signed by all NATO members, the East European members of the former Warsaw Pact, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. Although it was signed in 1992, it only came into force this year and envisages the visual inspection of military facilities of the former antagonists in the Cold War. The Defense Ministry added that the German Air Force will make similar overflights of Russia later this month. VY
THE DEATH OF POLITICAL SATIRE?
Making fun of the authorities seems to be going out of style, according to a long feature in "Izvestiya" on 5 August. "In the West, there is another culture in which comedians make fun of everyone and everything. Here we only make fun of those who aren't dangerous," Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia party co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov was quoted as saying. The paper noted that the satirical program "Kukly," which was wildly popular during the era of former President Boris Yeltsin, has "turned into a bedtime story for grownups." "Practicing satire today is a joke," said comedian Vladimir Vinokurov. "I can't make myself beat the downtrodden communists. Everything that can be stolen has already been stolen. What is there to joke about?" RC
SOVIETS PLANNED 'ALL-WOMAN' SPACE FLIGHT
Former Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Ponamoreva told the Defense Ministry daily "Krasnaya zvezda" on 6 August that she had been trained to be the commander of an all-woman space crew that was a proposed project within the Soviet space program. Ponamoreva -- who never flew in space and was the back-up for Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space -- said that from 1962-69 she was in constant preparedness to head an all-woman flight that had been approved by Mstislav Keldysh, who was then the head of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and the chief of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolev. However, under the pressure of her male colleagues, the idea of an all-woman flight was eventually abandoned. VY
FOREIGN MINISTRY DEPLOYS NEW REPS TO FEDERAL DISTRICTS...
The Foreign Ministry has appointed ambassadors at large to three of the seven federal districts, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. The envoys will oversee relations between the federal districts and foreign countries. Nikolai Pavlov was assigned to the Siberian Federal District; Anatolii Ashikhmin to the Urals Federal District; and Vladimir Solotsinskii to the Southern Federal District. Pavlov is former deputy director of the First Asia Department at the Foreign Ministry. And Solotsinskii was formerly deputy director of the third European Department at the ministry, according to strana.ru. According to "Novyi region" on 30 July, the envoys are being dispatched in part to prevent "diplomatic scandals" such as that which occurred a year ago, when a delegation from Yekaterinburg tried to fly to Baku to meet with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev without first getting the permission of the Foreign Ministry. They were detained at the airport for four hours, and then the visit was cancelled. JAC
...AS PUBLIC APPEARS UNENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL ENVOYS
In a survey carried out last month, the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found that only about 30 percent of respondents have confidence in the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts, regions.ru reported on 6 August, citing Region-Inform. Thirty-eight percent said that they did not approve of their activities. In contrast, 50 percent of the respondents said they trust governors, and 73 percent said that they approve of President Putin. JAC
POLICE FORCE IN NORTHERN CAPITAL GETS FAILING GRADE
A special commission set up by the Interior Ministry has completed its review of the police department of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast and concluded that the majority of its police officers are doing a poor job, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). Deputy Interior Minister Major General Vitalii Mozyakov told reporters in St. Petersburg that the problem of maintaining order in the city is especially important in light of the 300th anniversary in 2003. Mozyakov also noted the commission has sent materials to the local prosecutor that could result in criminal charges against senior members of the area's police force, RIA-Novosti reported. JAC
BUREAUCRATS PUT KIBOSH ON 'PUTIN TOMATO'...
Officials at the Russian Patent Bureau have rejected the petition of Chelyabinsk pensioner Nikolai Yegorov to register a new type of tomato under the name "Vova Putin," ntvru.com reported on 6 August, citing the BBC. Vova was President Putin's nickname as a boy. Yegorov has developed 13 different types of tomato and was hoping to name this new type -- which produces a healthy, red fruit -- after the president. However, bureau officials found his idea to be excessively servile. JAC
...AND TATARSTAN VILLAGER CONTINUES TO HONOR YELTSIN'S TRUNKS
TV-6 reported on 5 August that the village of Raifa in Tatarstan has preserved a historical memento from former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's visit to the Tatarstan in 1991 -- his swimming trunks. During that trip, Yeltsin swam in a local lake with borrowed swimwear. Vladimir Chernov, a former director of a special vocational school for juvenile delinquents near the Raifa Monastery, keeps the trunks Yeltsin donned wrapped in newspaper in a cupboard. According to the station, he takes them out only on special occasions. JAC
NATIONALIST CALLS FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST GEORGIA...
Deputy Speaker of the Duma and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovskii commented on the Russian-Georgian diplomatic spat concerning the problem of Chechen militants in the Pankisi Gorge, polit.ru reported on 6 August. Speaking to journalists in Moscow, Zhirinovskii called for the expulsion from Russia of all Georgian nationals who have no valid Russian visa. He also called for increasing the cost of energy supplied by Moscow to Tbilisi. "We are selling Georgia gas and electricity at 50 percent of world prices, and, in return, are importing terrorists," Zhirinovskii said. VY
...AND LIBERAL RUSSIA CALLS FOR CHECHEN PEACE TALKS
In a statement released on 6 August, the Liberal Russia Party urged the Russian leadership to begin talks with "the legitimately elected president of Chechnya," Aslan Maskhadov, as the sole way of resolving the Chechen conflict. The statement argues that the conflict in Chechnya is not "terrorism" but a collision between the desire of some Chechens to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to self-determination, including the right to secede from the Russian Federation, and the desire to preserve Russia's territorial integrity. The statement further condemns recent calls by some Russian politicians for military intervention to destroy Chechen fighters ensconced in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. The statement was posted on the party's website (http://www.librussia.ru) and signed by its five co-Chairmen Sergei Yushenkov, Viktor Pokhmelkin, Vladimir Golovlev, Boris Zolotukhin, and Boris Berezovskii. It was also printed in full in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is controlled by Berezovskii. LF
CONSCRIPTS KILLED BY LANDMINE
Eleven Chechen conscripts were killed and seven injured on 6 August when the truck in which they were traveling was blown up by a remote-controlled mine in Shatoi Raion, hitherto regarded as one on the most peaceful in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. The dead included three nephews of Chechen mufti Akhmed-Hadji Shamaev. In a breach of normal security procedure, the truck was not accompanied by Russian armored vehicles. LF
EMBATTLED ARMENIAN TV STATION MAY FACE DELAY IN RESUMING BROADCASTS
The independent television station A1+, which was forced to cease broadcasting in April after losing a tender for its broadcast frequency, may be unable to resume broadcasts before the end of this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Following criticism by the international community for the way the tender was held, President Robert Kocharian told Council of Europe officials in May that A1+ may participate in tenders planned for October 2002 for four other frequencies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2002). But Grigor Amalian, head of the government commission charged with organizing the new tenders, said they may be postponed, as "there are concerns that this does not seem to be the right time" to hold them. He did not elaborate. A1+ owner Mesrop Movsisian told RFE/RL he believes the decision on whether or not to postpone the tender will depend on how the campaign for next year's presidential poll, in which Kocharian is seeking a second term, will develop. LF
ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS SCHEDULE NEW MEETING
During a telephone conversation on 6 August, Kocharian and Heidar Aliev agreed to meet on 14 August in Sadarak, on the border between the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan and Armenia, for a further round of talks on the Karabakh conflict, Turan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. No further details of the planned talks were divulged. Aliev and Kocharian have met one-on-one at least 11 times since July 1999 to discuss the Karabakh conflict, but next week's meeting will be the first since November 2001. Zerkalo.az on 7 August quoted OSCE Minsk Group Russian co-Chairman Nikolai Gribkov as saying that he was not informed in advance of the planned meeting. LF
KARABAKH AUTHORITIES REJECT CRITICISM OF PRESIDENTIAL POLL
The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic issued a statement on 6 August rejecting criticism by the European Union and the Council of Europe of the presidential elections in the enclave scheduled for 11 August, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). The statement said such criticism is tantamount to an attack on democratic processes in the unrecognized republic and could even be construed as support for "a regime that expresses its readiness to use force against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh," meaning Azerbaijan. In Baku, the Karabakh Liberation Organization picketed the offices of the EU and the OSCE Mission on 6 August to protest the planned ballot and burned Armenian flags, Turan and Interfax reported. Police prevented a third such protest outside the Constitutional Court. LF
RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR HOPES FOR GEORGIAN COOPERATION ON CHECHENS' EXTRADITION
Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said in Tbilisi on 6 August that he still hopes Georgia will agree to extradite to Moscow 13 Chechen fighters detained on 4-5 August after having entered Georgia illegally, Russian agencies reported. Ustinov's Georgian counterpart Nugzar Gabrichidze had refused earlier that day to hand over the men on the grounds that Ustinov presented only a formal extradition request but no written evidence that the men had committed any serious crimes in the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). Ustinov for his part pointed out that it was not possible to produce such documentation because the Georgian side had not informed his office of the men's identity. Also on 6 August, a spokesman for Russia's Federal Border Guard Service told Interfax that the Chechens detained in Georgia did not belong to the band that entered Russia on 27 July and suffered heavy losses in fighting in Itum-Kale with Russian borders guards and federal troops. LF
GEORGIA DENIES OVERFLYING KODORI GORGE...
A Georgian Defense Ministry official denied on 6 August that any Georgian military helicopters have flown over the Kodori Gorge, Russian agencies reported. He said that only transport helicopters belonging to the Georgian border guards have flown missions in Kodori. Earlier on 6 August a Russian Foreign Ministry official told journalists in Moscow that U.S.-made Iroquois helicopters meant for use against terrorist bands had recently flown missions in Kodori and Chkhalta. He said such flights undermine efforts to build trust between the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships and violate agreements under which Georgia abjured any military presence in the region. LF
...AS RUSSIAN MILITARY OFFICIAL AGAIN DEMANDS PEACEKEEPING POST THERE
Major General Aleksandr Yevteev, who commands the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, said on 7 August that Russia still wants to open a permanent peacekeeping post in the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge, in order to prevent Chechen fighters from entering the Russian Federation via Kodori, Caucasus Press reported. He did not explain why the Chechens should travel hundreds of kilometers across Georgia from Pankisi to Kodori in order to do so. An attempt by the Russian peacekeepers in April to establish such a permanent post precipitated a standoff with Georgian troops and was abandoned after telephone talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2002). LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CALLS FOR DIALOGUE BETWEEN OSCE, OIC
Speaking in Kuala Lumpur on a state visit to Malaysia, Askar Akaev advocated establishing a forum for dialogue between the OSCE and the Organization of the Islamic Congress in order to address frequent misunderstandings between the West and Muslim countries, ITAR-TASS reported. Akaev also affirmed once again that Kyrgyzstan will not permit any country to establish permanent military bases on its territory, AP reported on 6 August. LF
KYRGYZ YOUTH PARTY ENDORSES CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
The Youth Party of Kyrgyzstan (MPKR) has expressed support for President Akaev's proposal at a roundtable discussion last month to convene a constitutional assembly to discuss reforms of the country's political system, akipress.org reported on 6 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002). The MPKR called for convening such an assembly to draft a new constitution that would be published in the press for nationwide discussion and then submitted to a referendum. LF
TWENTY KILLED BY MUDSLIDE IN TAJIKISTAN
At least 20 people died in the early morning of 7 August when a mudslide hit the village of Dasht in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Reuters and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The mudslide also blocked the Shokhdara River, which may burst through a dam and flood neighboring villages. LF
TAJIK RAILWAY MEN SENTENCED FOR DRUG SMUGGLING
Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 6 August handed down prison terms ranging from 13 to 22 years on six former employees of Tajik Railways who regularly smuggled drugs from Tajikistan to Russia concealed in freight loads of cotton, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The men were apprehended in Astrakhan in June 2001. LF
TURKMENISTAN NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN CASPIAN MANEUVERS
In a statement released on 6 August, Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov said that as a neutral country, Turkmenistan will not participate in the ongoing large-scale Caspian naval maneuvers, nor will it be an observer at those maneuvers, Interfax and turkmenistan.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). Azerbaijani warships and Kazakh aircraft are participating alongside the Russian Navy; Iran has sent observers. LF
UZBEKISTAN TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER DISTRIBUTION OF HUMANITARIAN AID
The Uzbek government has issued a decree imposing more stringent controls on the distribution of international humanitarian aid, Interfax reported on 6 August. At the same time, it will issue multientry visas for foreign aid workers and streamline the process for their registration. LF
U.S. CONGRESSMAN CONDEMNS DESTRUCTION OF CHURCH IN BELARUS
U.S. Representative Christopher H. Smith (Republican, New Jersey), co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, said on 6 August that he is "shocked, but not surprised" that the Belarusian authorities demolished the newly built shrine of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in the town of Pahranichny in Hrodna Oblast (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 August 2002), the Helsinki Commission website reported. "This outrageous crime further demonstrates how ruthless, corrupt, and immoral [Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rule has become," Smith said. "This [act of demolition]...strengthens my resolve to pass the Belarus Democracy Act," Smith added. The Belarus Democracy Act of 2002 calls for an increase in assistance for democracy-building activities, encourages free and fair parliamentary elections, and would impose sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, including denying his high-ranking officials entry to the United States. JM
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS CREATION OF PRESIDENTIAL ORCHESTRA...
President Lukashenka has given the Culture Ministry three months to set up a presidential orchestra, Belapan reported on 6 August, quoting the presidential press service. The orchestra is to rehearse in the Palace of the Republic in Minsk. JM
...URGES HEAVY SENTENCES FOR POACHERS
President Lukashenka has voiced the need for a new law that would allow authorities to efficiently combat poaching, Belarusian television reported on 6 August. "This is the president's business to preserve these possessions -- the river [Prypyats], the beautiful marshes -- that mean oxygen and life," Lukashenka said during a visit to the marshy Palesse region in southern Belarus. "But there is a problem with those flying visitors who come here in bunches from north, west, and east [to poach fish]. This [criminal offence] should entail a prison term of 10 years -- at a minimum. I've given instructions to draft a new law," the president added. JM
THREE BELARUSIANS SEEK ASYLUM IN UKRAINE
Three Belarusian citizens on 6 August applied for political asylum in Ukraine, claiming they were persecuted in Belarus for opposition views and activities, AP and UNIAN reported. Uladzimir Bukhanau, Svyataslau Shapavalau, and Syarhey Korneu said in a statement to the media that Belarusian prosecutors frequently questioned them and that they were subject to police beatings and had friends who died under strange circumstances. They also said their opposition activities included the dissemination of antigovernment leaflets. The Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv did not comment on the request, but noted that the men are not political or public leaders in Belarus and had previously been denied political asylum in Russia and Germany, AP reported. JM
YULIYA TYMOSHENKO BLOC CONCURS WITH COMMUNISTS ON PROTEST GOALS
Responding to the 6 August statement by Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002), the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (BYT) said the same day that it agrees with many proposals by the Communist Party regarding the goals of the protest campaign planned for this fall, UNIAN reported. In particular, the BYT stresses that the main goal of the planned protest campaign is to "form an efficient political system and a professional governing team" as well as to force an early presidential election in Ukraine. The BYT, like the Communist Party, believes that the issue of whom the opposition should support in a possible early presidential election should not be raised during the upcoming protest campaign. JM
COMMISSION REJECTS UFO HIT AS CAUSE OF UKRAINIAN AIR-SHOW TRAGEDY
The government commission investigating the tragic crash of a fighter jet at an air show in Lviv on 27 July (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 30 July 2002) flatly denied media reports that an unknown object in the air caused the disaster, AP reported on 6 August. "The reasons are known. Military and civil organizers of the event caused the tragedy," 1+1 Television quoted commission Chairman Yevhen Marchuk as saying. Marchuk's comments came after German RTL television showed video footage of an unidentified cylindrical object speeding under the plane just seconds before the crash. Calling for an end to "cheap sensationalism," Marchuk said investigators analyzed every possible cause and concluded that organizational failures and pilot error caused the crash. On 7 August, Marchuk said the two pilots of the jet are primarily to blame for the tragedy. "The pilots failed to follow the flight plan and performed four difficult maneuvers that they had not done before," he said at a press conference announcing results of the investigation. JM
UKRAINIAN PRISONERS END HUNGER STRIKE IN PRAGUE
Several dozen Ukrainian citizens serving their terms at the Pankrac prison in Prague, the Czech Republic, ended a one-week hunger strike on 5 August, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 6 August. "They protested the conditions in which they are kept, [they protested] the level of health care, they complained that it takes a long time for Czech authorities to review their cases, or they protested their imprisonment since they consider themselves innocent," an official from the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague told RFE/RL in commenting on the reasons for the strike. More than 500 Ukrainians are incarcerated in Czech prisons. JM
ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT DECIDES TO MARK HOLOCAUST DAY
The cabinet decided on 6 August to name 27 January as the day of the remembrance of the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity, ETA reported. The date, which is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, was suggested by the Council of Europe. Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Great Britain have also decided to mark that date as Holocaust Day. Prime Minister Siim Kallas told a press conference after the meeting that no one had pressured the government to introduce Holocaust Day in schools. It was also not related to the recent criticism of Estonia by Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Jerusalem Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, or the controversy over the World War II monument in Parnu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). Kallas pointed out that former Education Minister Tonis Lukas signed the convention on commemorating Holocaust Day much earlier, on 17 October 2000. SG
CANDIDATES ANNOUNCED FOR LATVIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
The Central Election Commission announced on 6 August that 21 political parties or unions submitted candidate lists for the 5 October parliamentary elections, LETA reported. This is the same number of lists that were entered in the previous election. Among the 1,024 candidates are 164 individuals who are or have been members of parliament. The results of a poll of 1,000 people conducted on 17-26 July by the SKDS polling center indicated that just six parties will pass the 5 percent voting hurdle for parliamentary representation. They are: New Era (21 percent), For Human Rights in a United Latvia (12.3 percent), Latvia's Way (10.3 percent), People's Party (10.2 percent), Latvian Green Party and Latvia's Farmers' Union (7.1 percent), and the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (6.7 percent). SG
GAZPROM DELAYS SUBMITTING REVISED BID FOR LITHUANIAN GAS PURCHASE
Although the Russian natural-gas giant Gazprom submitted the only application to the State Property Fund for purchasing the 34 percent share in the natural-gas utility Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) earmarked for a gas supplier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002), it has not yet responded to the request to list what share of the purchase would be assumed by its local strategic partner, Dujotekana, and to identify its shareholders, BNS reported on 6 August. Lithuanian government officials have unofficially expressed the opinion that the government would prefer that Gazprom supply the gas directly to Lietuvos Dujos without employing the local partner. Economy Minister Petras Cesna said that if Gazprom does not submit the revised application by the 12 August deadline, Lithuania might begin talks with the Russian government on an international gas-supply agreement. SG
POLISH COMMANDER PROPOSES 'VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE' IN MILITARY LEADERSHIP
Colonel Ryszard Chwastek, the commander of the 12th Mechanized Division (which is part of the NATO Danish-German-Polish corps in Szczecin), has proposed what he calls a "vote of no confidence" in the leadership of the Defense Ministry, PAP reported on 6 August. Chwastek demands that the president, the commander in chief of the armed forces, "hold an extraordinary meeting of trusted delegates from the army" in Warsaw on 12 August to give them an opportunity to decide on their possible support for his motion. Chwastek blames Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and the army's top brass for "humiliations" of professional servicemen and the "mess" that in his view reigns inside the armed forces. "In 2001, the previous minister of national defense and the present leadership of the Polish Army carried out a barbarous reduction of personnel. In 2002, the new minister of national defense and the same generals have been preparing in secret, mafia-style, successive changes in organizational structures with the aim of assuring for themselves successive terms in office and fast promotions," Chwastek wrote in an open letter to Polish officers. In response, the Defense Ministry has suspended Chwastek from duty. JM
POLISH CABINET INTERVENES TO OVERCOME GRAIN-PROCUREMENT PROBLEMS
Following an announcement by Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski on 5 August, the cabinet on 6 August ordered the Agriculture Market Agency (ARR) to immediately start grain procurement under quotas planned for November and December, Polish media reported on 6 August. The ARR will additionally purchase 300 tons of grain (270,000 tons of wheat and 30,000 tons of rye) in a bid to alleviate long delays for farmers unloading at grain elevators. JM
SOLIDARITY PROTEST LABOR CODE AMENDMENTS
Several hundred Solidarity activists gathered at the parliamentary building in Warsaw on 6 August to protest amendments to the Labor Code that were being discussed by the Senate, Polish media reported. "The [Solidarity] national commission requests the Senate of the Polish Republic to prevent the adoption of a law that attacks the circles of working people and that is burdened with significant faults," Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski read from a petition to the Senate. Earlier this year, the government proposed liberalizing amendments to the Labor Code in a bid to encourage entrepreneurship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 2002). JM
FORMER CHIEF ADVISER TO CZECH PREMIER REPORTEDLY FINGERED IN SRBA AFFAIR
The daily "Pravo" on 7 August wrote that Miroslav Slouf, the controversial chief adviser to former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, may have been involved in alleged bribery and corruption operations in which Karel Srba is suspected of having played a chief role, CTK reported. The daily cites information provided by an investigator who said that Srba's associate, Eva Tomsovicova, testified that Slouf masterminded alleged bribe-taking operations at the Foreign Ministry, where Srba was secretary. Srba, Tomsovicova, and two other suspects were detained on 22 July on suspicion of plotting to assassinate journalist Sabina Slonkova. Local media reports have in the past hinted at connections between Slouf, on the one hand, and the Russian mafia and illicit arms traders on the other. On 7 August, the daily "Hospodarske noviny" wrote that Srba's investigation is bound to lead to probing his relations with some arms dealers. MS
FORMER CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS PROPOSAL FOR PARLIAMENTARY PROBE 'POLITICALLY MOTIVATED'
Former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 6 August that a proposal made earlier this week by the opposition Civic Democratic Party to set up a parliamentary commission to probe alleged corruption in the Foreign Ministry is "politically motivated," CTK reported. Kavan added that he is not afraid of such an investigation, if it is launched, but that he is convinced police are thoroughly pursuing the matter. He also said he deplores the "nearly hysterical media campaign [currently under way], in which anyone who knew Karel Srba is automatically [viewed as being] guilty of all the things of which Srba is suspected." MS
CZECH DEFENSE CHIEF AGREES WITH PARLIAMENTARY OVERSIGHT OF MILITARY INTELLIGENCE
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on 6 August that he agrees with placing the Military Intelligence Service (VZS) under the control of the Chamber of Deputies' Defense and Security Commission, CTK reported. Calls to do so emerged after it surfaced last month that Srba for years has been a secret agent working for the VZS and that he was still listed as an agent when he is alleged to have commissioned journalist Slonkova's murder. At a Defense and Security Commission meeting on 6 August, Tvrdik said that several officers of the VZS acted unprofessionally and will be dismissed as a consequence, but he denied the forthcoming dismissals are in any way linked to the Srba affair. MS
CZECH POLICE DETAIN SUSPECTS IN ATTACKS ON ROMA
Police in Prerov, North Moravia, on 6 August detained two men suspected of having attacked two Roma in a local bar on 2 August, CTK reported. The local police chief said the two have been charged with breach of peace and "violence against a group of people," but charges might also include racial motivation. One of the two suspects is the owner of the bar. A Prerov police spokeswoman said a quarrel started after a waiter refused to serve the two Roma and that they were then beaten up. One of the Roma was also taken by car to the outskirts of town and left there. The next day, some 150 Roma gathered in front of the bar and wanted to take the matter into their own hands. They insulted the bar owner and waiters and "threatened to kill them," according to the spokeswoman. Police intervened and managed to calm the crowd. MS
UP-AND-COMING SLOVAK PARTY INSISTS ON TOUGHER POSITION IN EU NEGOTIATIONS
Smer (Direction) party leader Robert Fico told TASR on 6 August that his party will not abandon its intention to seek better conditions in European Union accession negotiations. He was reacting to criticism by Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Miklos of Smer's positions on negotiations with the EU, public-administration reform, and nuclear-energy policy. Fico said that instead of criticizing Smer, Miklos would do better to think of the legacy he is leaving behind as deputy premier in charge of the economy. Fico said the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union led by Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, of which Miklos is deputy chairman, has made it clear that it is ready to agree to disadvantageous conditions in EU negotiations and that it opposes legislation that would ensure an effective struggle against corruption. He also said Miklos is personally afraid of a Smer-proposed law obliging officials to reveal how they acquired their assets. MS
FORMER HUNGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTERS TESTIFY IN MEDGYESSY PROBE
Istvan Horvath, the last communist-era interior minister, on 6 August told the parliamentary commission probing Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's links to the communist secret services, that he first learned about Medgyessy's counterintelligence past in 1982, when he signed Medgyessy's demobilization order, Hungarian media reported. Horvath said he sees nothing remarkable in the fact that Medgyessy, a former member of the Socialist Worker's Party Central Committee, is now prime minister, since, he claimed, there were many reformers who contributed to the change of regime among the party's leaders. Horvath also said that when Medgyessy was a counterintelligence officer, he played a big role in helping Hungary out of an economic crisis. Meanwhile, former Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze said that during his tenure as interior minister he was unaware of Medgyessy's counterintelligence past and first learned about it when the daily "Magyar Nemzet" revealed the fact on 18 June. MS
SEVERAL FORMER HUNGARIAN MINISTERS CLEARED OF SUSPICION
Imre Mecs, head of the parliamentary commission probing possible links of members of Hungary's postcommunist cabinets with the communist secret services, on 6 August said the commission concluded at its meeting that day that there were no such links in the several cases examined, Hungarian media reported. Mecs said several people mentioned in reports submitted to the commission by the Historical Office and the National Security Office turned out not to have collaborated. Mecs refused to say how many such cases were involved. The opposition FIDESZ and Democratic Forum are boycotting the commission's sessions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). Attila Peterfalvi, data protection ombudsman, said on 6 August that he will draft a paper this week stipulating the conditions under which information on the secret-service past of cabinet members can be made public. MS
FIDESZ SAYS FREEDOM OF PRESS IN DANGER IN HUNGARY
The Civic Group for the Nation, among whose founders are leading FIDESZ figures such as former Prime Minister Viktor Orban and former Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, announced on 6 August that it will hold a rally in defense of freedom of the press unless "the legality and the independence" of Hungarian Television (MTV) are restored by 30 August, Hungarian media reported. The group claims that MTV's coverage has been biased in favor of the government since the recent dismissals and demotions of several executives and program producers. It also said that responsibility for the recent moves at MTV rests with acting Deputy Chairman Imre Rogats and demanded that Rogats resign immediately. MS
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES TO DISCUSS AMENDMENTS AHEAD OF EU ACCESSION?
Pal Vastagh, chairman of parliament's Constitutional and Judicial Commission and member of the Socialist Party, said on 6 August that consultations should be held among the four parties represented in parliament to discuss amendments related to Hungary's likely EU accession, Hungarian media reported. Vastagh said the constitution must be amended, as well as laws dealing with the electoral process, governmental acts, local government, the court system, and the National Bank. Joszef Szajer, who is in charge of foreign affairs for FIDESZ, said multiparty discussions on the EU were conducted regularly until May and that it is regrettable they were halted after the change of government. Szajer said he supports the renewal of consultations, provided that they are limited only to discussions of constitutional amendments related to EU membership and that other aspects of amending the basic law are not raised. MS
NATO RAID ON BOSNIAN SERB BASE COMES OUT EMPTY-HANDED
SFOR spokesman Scott Lundy said in Sarajevo on 6 August that peacekeepers entered Base 711 of the Bosnian Serb Army near Foca to investigate reports that three vehicles with SFOR markings were parked in the compound, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). SFOR had hoped to see if the vehicles were stolen or used for unspecified "illegal purposes" but did not find them. It is not clear if SFOR hoped to catch indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Hina quoted an unnamed Bosnian official in Mostar as saying that Karadzic sometimes uses vehicles with SFOR markings to elude capture when traveling between Foca and Montenegro. PM
AMERICAN POLICEWOMAN WINS CASE OVER BOSNIAN SEX-TRADE REVELATIONS
"The Times" reported from London on 7 August that "a damning dossier sent by Kathryn Bolkovac to her employers, detailing UN workers' involvement in the sex trade in Bosnia, cost the American her job with the international police force [over two years ago]. She was sacked after disclosing that UN peacekeepers went to nightclubs where girls as young as 15 were forced to dance naked and have sex with customers, and that UN personnel and international aid workers were linked to prostitution rings in the Balkans." The daily added that "after a two-year battle, an employment tribunal ruled yesterday that Ms. Bolkovac was unfairly dismissed by DynCorp, an American company whose branch in Salisbury, Wiltshire, dealt with the contracts of the American officers working for the international police force in Bosnia. There will be a further hearing at Southampton to decide the amount of compensation DynCorp must pay Ms. Bolkovac." A mother of three now living in the Netherlands, Ms. Bolkovac said that she hopes the ruling will make more people aware of the sex-trade problem. PM
MORE VICTIMS OF SREBRENICA MASSACRE FOUND
Forensics experts of the Muslim-led Commission for Missing Persons have uncovered a mass grave containing the remains of about 200 Muslim males massacred by Serbian forces after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995, Reuters reported on 6 August. The exhumation took place at the village of Kamenica, 20 kilometers from the Serbian border. The remains of about 6,000 of the estimated 8,000 victims have been recovered to date. PM
RESOLUTION OF BOSNIAN-CROATIAN BORDER ISSUE CLOSE AT HAND?
RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 7 August that Croatian and Bosnian experts have agreed on the location of a new joint border-crossing station at Kostajnica between the Una and Unica rivers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2002). The Bosnian government must still give its approval before the agreement becomes valid. PM
STILL NO AGREEMENT FOR SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
The subcommission tasked with drawing up the Constitutional Charter for the future loose confederation of Serbia and Montenegro has failed to resolve questions regarding the new state's territorial divisions, frontiers, flag, coat of arms, and anthem, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). PM
SERBIAN ELECTION COMMISSION BANS MILOSEVIC CANDIDACY
The election commission ruled on 6 August that former President Slobodan Milosevic may not stand in the 29 September Serbian presidential vote, AP reported. The commission based its ruling on the fact that he has already served the legal maximum of two terms in that office, not on the fact that he is on trial for war crimes in The Hague. PM
MONTENEGRO TO CHANGE ELECTORAL AND MEDIA LAWS?
Leaders of all parliamentary political parties agreed in Podgorica on 6 August to seek a consensus on media and election laws, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). The OSCE will propose "by the end of the week" a list of recommended changes to the legislation recently passed by the new coalition of pro-Belgrade and pro-independence parties over the objections of President Milo Djukanovic and his supporters. Parliamentary elections will take place on 6 October. PM
BILDT CALLS FOR TALKS ON KOSOVA'S STATUS
Carl Bildt, who served as the international community's high representative in Bosnia from 1996-97, wrote in the "International Herald Tribune" of 7 August that time has come "for an international dialogue on where to go with the status of Kosovo. With a [UN] resolution necessary in at most a couple of years, it is high time for the European Union, the United States, and Russia to sit down and discuss where to go. At the end of the day, the issue rests with the UN Security Council.... [There also] has to be a rapprochement between Belgrade and Prishtina. Any durable peace has to meet the minimum demands of both, and is unlikely to meet the maximum demands of either. But neither the initial rapprochement nor the eventual peace agreement can be achieved without a clear international facilitation based on a clear international policy" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002). PM
ALBANIA PROTESTS MACEDONIAN MINISTER'S ILLEGAL VISIT
The Albanian parliament has passed a resolution charging that the recent visit to members of the Macedonian minority in Albania by hard-line Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski and his armed bodyguards was detrimental to bilateral relations and regional security, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 6 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). The Albanian Foreign Ministry has sent a formal protest to the Macedonian government, which is headed by Boskovski's political ally, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. PM
DISINFORMATION ABOUT A NEW ALBANIAN GUERILLA FORCE IN MACEDONIA?
Georgievski announced on 31 July that NATO has informed the Macedonian ambassador to Belgium about the existence of a new clandestine ethnic Albanian guerilla army called Ilirida, Macedonian media reported. On 7 August, the daily "Dnevnik" quoted a "classified report," according to which radical ethnic Albanian groups -- including the Ilirida Republican Army [Armata Republikes Ilerida (sic); there is a photograph with the emblem of the alleged army in that spelling and the initials ARISH] and the purported Albanian National Army (AKSH) -- held a meeting in the Kosovar town of Gjilan. At the meeting, the groups reportedly agreed on a new strategy to create a Greater Albania. The newspaper speculates that behind the new attempt to destabilize the region through attacks on Macedonian security forces is Leka Zogu, the pretender to the Albanian throne. Observers note that no mainstream Albanian party in the Balkans calls for a Greater Albania as a practical goal, and that Zogu's following is small if not insignificant. Georgievski is trailing badly in the opinion polls for the 15 September parliamentary elections. UB
MACEDONIAN ARMY AND POLICE THREATEN TO STRIKE
At a joint press conference on 6 August, representatives of the Independent Union of Defense Ministry Employees (SSVO) and the Macedonian Police Union (MPS) announced that they are considering staging a general strike following Prime Minister Georgievski's refusal to meet with them, "Dnevnik" reported. The unions demand the implementation of an agreement signed by the Union of Trade Unions in Macedonia and the government earlier this year, which envisions higher wages for the employees of the Interior and Defense ministries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 31 May 2002). The strike could start on 27 or 28 August and would last about 10 days. UB
ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana met in Washington on 6 August with Secretary of State Colin Powell and, separately, with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Romanian radio reported. After the meetings, Geoana said Powell urged Romania to "continue its road to NATO with the same intensity and the same good results" as it has to this point. They also discussed the "strategic partnership" between the two countries and ways of developing the "economic dimension" of that partnership, according to a Mediafax report. Powell thanked Romania for participating in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and for its contributions to Balkan and Black Sea regional stability and cooperation. Among the issues discussed with Armitage was the OSCE's proposed plan for settling the Transdniester conflict. Geoana said that both the United States and Romania believe that "Moldova's destiny is a European, fully democratic destiny...in which Romania has a particular historical interest." He said consultations between Washington and Bucharest on the OSCE's plan will continue. MS
ROMANIAN MINISTER CRITICIZES IASI PREFECT
Public Administration Minister Octavian Cozmanca disapproves of the controversial statements allegedly made by Iasi Prefect Corneliu Rusu Banu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 August 2002), Romanian radio reported on 6 August, citing a ministry press release. Banu has denied making the statements that have been attributed to him. The ministry's press release said that Cozmanca has ordered an investigation of the affair and emphasizes that "under no circumstances" does Cozmanca intend to cover for the prefect or exonerate him of responsibility. MS
ROMANIAN ARMS-INDUSTRY WORKERS DEMONSTRATE FOR WAGES
Thousands of workers in the arms industry demonstrated in several Romanian towns on 6 August, demanding that the government drop plans to cut salaries and jobs in the industry, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau and AP reported. In Brasov, where workers blocked a main highway and clashed with police, an agreement was reached to stop the protests and start countrywide negotiations between representatives of the government and defense-industry trade unions. Romanian radio reported on 7 August that the negotiations have begun. MS
CAPITALS OF 'TWO MOLDOVAS' TO GET NEW RAIL LINK
A new railway link is to be constructed between Iasi, the "capital" of the Romanian province of Moldavia, and the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, Infotag reported on 6 August. The agency said the project, which will cost an estimated 250 million euros ($245.4 million), is to be financed in cooperation with the Balkan Stability Pact. Details were recently discussed at a meeting between Moldovan Transportation Minister Anatolii Kuptsov and Mihail Necolaiciuc, the director of Romanian Railways. The new rail link will cut travel time between Bucharest and Chisinau to four hours, as opposed to the current 12 hours, according to the news agency. MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT FIRES SECURITY CHIEF
President Vladimir Voronin on 6 August dismissed Vasile Dragomir as head of the Security and Protection Service and replaced him with Vladimir Preguza, AP reported. Preguza previously headed the police rapid-response force. Presidential spokesman Virgil Andreev said Dragomir's dismissal reflects the need "to improve the performance of the department in charge of protecting the president and visiting foreign dignitaries." Andreev also said the move is "linked" to the incident in which gun shots were fired on Voronin's residence in the night of 1-2 August. Flux reported that the presidential apartment was left unguarded that night for reasons that are still unclear. MS
MOLDOVAN NEWS AGENCY DEMANDS DISMISSAL OF EDUCATION MINISTER
The independent Flux news agency on 5 August sent letters to President Voronin and Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev demanding the immediate dismissal of Education Minister George Sima. At a meeting between Sima and students who hope to benefit from scholarships to Romanian universities, the minister tore a tape recorder from the hands of Flux reporter Natalia Florea and confiscated the cassette recording his conversation with the students. Flux said Sima is guilty of "gross misconduct" and of violating several articles of the constitution and the Penal Code. MS
IMF RECOMMENDS THAT BULGARIA CONTINUE REFORMS
In its annual report the International Monetary Fund (IMF) acknowledged positive trends in the Bulgaria's economic development but also recommended that the country continue its structural reforms in order to improve the economy and living standards, BTA reported on 6 August. The report stated that Bulgaria has rapidly recovered from the economic crisis it suffered in 1996-97, but it also said that despite the success of the IMF Currency Board, unemployment remains high and the poverty rate is greater than it was prior to the 1996-97 crisis. The IMF lauded the government's successes in reducing the country's budget deficit and foreign debt as well as in carrying out a flexible fiscal policy. UB
UKRAINE APPOINTS NEW PROSECUTOR-GENERAL AS KUCHMA TARGETS OPPOSITION
The Ukrainian parliament on 4 July approved by 347 votes President Leonid Kuchma's candidate for prosecutor-general, Svyatoslav Pyskun. Less than a month into his new position, Pyskun's first major move was to reopen the case against anti-Kuchma oppositionist Yuliya Tymoshenko, accusing her of violating eight articles of the Criminal Code. This follows the arrest of four of her former colleagues from Unified Energy Systems, which she headed in the mid-1990s, in Turkey on 1 June. The Ukrainian authorities are demanding their extradition to Ukraine.
Pyskun is a former lieutenant general in the State Tax Administration (DPA) and served since May as that organization's deputy head. Pyskun's appointment consolidates the growing power of the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-united (SDPU-o), whose leader, Viktor Medvedchuk, is now head of the presidential administration. Pyskun and Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh have close ties to Medvedchuk's SDPU-o clan.
The Prosecutor-General's Office had long been discredited under its previous head, Mykhaylo Potebenko, who was elected to parliament on the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) list, because of his failure to reduce the extent of oligarchic and executive corruption. He had also failed to make any progress in solving the murder of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.
Pyskun promised shortly after his appointment to rid Ukraine of corruption and resolve Gongadze's murder. But as a Kuchma appointee, Pyskun is unlikely to succeed in eradicating corruption, which has always been targeted in a highly selective manner. Corrupt oligarchs who have supported Kuchma financially or politically have never been investigated.
Yuliya Tymoshenko and, after he was allowed to flee Ukraine, former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko were only accused of corruption charges after they went into political opposition to Kuchma. A Kyiv court ruled on 30 April that criminal charges against Tymoshenko and her husband, Oleksandr, who was arrested earlier in August 2000, were "groundless."
In reopening the case against Tymoshenko, Pyskun is continuing his predecessor's policy of only accusing of "corruption" individuals who are in opposition to the executive. As the newspaper "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya" noted in its 6-13 July edition, "People from the world of big money have become the major driving force behind Pyskun's success." Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz accused Kuchma of being directly behind Pyskun's new move against Tymoshenko, which, according to Moroz, is an attempt to intimidate the opposition ahead of an announced protest action in September. Pyskun is further discrediting the Prosecutor-General's Office, Moroz believes, by refusing to investigate the oligarchs' involvement in corruption. But opening any cases against oligarchs would be impossible now that Medvedchuk is head of the presidential administration.
As for the Gongadze case, President Kuchma said in a BBC Television documentary aired in April, "Killing the Story," that he is interested above all in resolving the murder. The most contentious issue will be whether Pyskun utilizes the tapes made illicitly by security guard Mykola Melnychenko in Kuchma's office, the FBI expert reports on the tapes, and the testimony Melnychenko has offered to give in the United States in the investigation. Pyskun has created a new investigative group on Gongadze and has hinted at undertaking a fifth autopsy on the headless corpse found in November 2000.
Why is Pyskun in such a hurry to deal with this case, which is not the only example of political repression or intimidation of journalists? And why is Pyskun in such a hurry to establish his credentials as an "anticorruption" fighter? Two factors may have a bearing on this urgency.
The first is the presidential elections due in October 2004. The Gongadze scandal is one of the main reasons why Kuchma is so discredited domestically. The "Kuchmagate" affair that erupted after November 2000 led to the creation of Ukraine's largest protest movements and the defeat of the pro-Kuchma For a United Ukraine (ZYU) in the March elections. Any candidate proposed by Kuchma to replace him as his chosen successor would stand little chance of being elected, unless Kuchma succeeds in salvaging his image.
Ukraine's political spectrum is now evenly divided into two camps. Four ideologically driven opposition groups on the left and right (Socialists, Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Bloc, and the Communists) are pitted against an ideologically amorphous, pro-Kuchma, oligarchic center that has grown out of ZYU and the SDPU-o. The latter is working with Kuchma to ensure stage-managed presidential elections that would lead to a victory by Kuchma's hand-picked successor and his immunity from prosecution. The former seeks to push for early elections, and most want Kuchma impeached. Each side has 218 deputies in parliament, a factor that may make it difficult for Pyskun to obtain the required 226 votes to remove Tymoshenko's immunity unless the Communists switch sides and back the move.
Second, Pyskun was heavily involved in launching a trumped-up criminal case of "corruption" against Borys Feldman's Slovyanskyy bank and Tymoshenko (which is why her bloc voted against Pyskun's appointment). The executive tried every method to prevent the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc from entering parliament but failed. In a May poll conducted by the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies, Tymoshenko was seen by Ukrainians as the most radical of the four opposition groups. The poll found that her popularity had increased from 5.7 in December 2001 to 14.2 percent today, just 13 percentage points fewer than Yushchenko. She is ready to replace Yushchenko as opposition presidential candidate if he fails to rise to the challenge. Interviewed in "Moloda Ukrayina" on July 25, Tymoshenko warned that, "If we see that Mr. Yushchenko's team is not able to protect Ukraine, then we will strive to attain power independently. A potential candidate should prove his right to lay claim to this post through consistent and decisive actions and through responsibility before the people."
Pyskun's new case against Tymoshenko is Kuchma's response to Tymoshenko's prioritization of impeachment proceedings in the newly elected Verkhovna Rada, the creation of the Tymoshenko-backed Citizens Defense Committee Against Tyranny, and the threat felt by Kuchma from the uniting of four opposition groups for the first time. The opposition plans to launch mass protests calling for early presidential elections on 16 September, the second anniversary of Gongadze's abduction. During the "Kuchmagate" scandal of 2000-01, the Communists did not back the opposition, while Yushchenko was forced to be neutral as he was then prime minister and had not yet united Ukraine's national democrats into the Our Ukraine Bloc.
Pyskun's appointment to the position of prosecutor-general is not a sign of progress in the rule of law in Ukraine, as the executive has now combined two state institutions -- the State Tax Administration and the Prosecutor-General's Office -- into one office that is already being used to pursue political repression ahead of the presidential elections.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow and adjunct professor at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.