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Newsline - August 8, 2002


PUTIN, KUCHMA EXTEND ENERGY COOPERATION AND PERSONAL FRIENDSHIP...
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma arrived in Moscow on 8 August for talks with President Vladimir Putin about implementing the Russian-German-Ukrainian agreement on forming a consortium for transporting Russian natural gas to Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002), Russian and Western news agencies reported. State-run ORT television and the daily "Izvestiya" both stressed Kuchma's policy of closer ties with Russia and noted in this context that Kuchma will also discuss the participation of Russian capital in the privatization of Ukraine's energy infrastructure, as well as the coordination of the two countries' economic polices in order to accede to the World Trade Organization. Russian media also mentioned Kuchma's desire to make Ukraine a full member of the Eurasian Economic Commonwealth (EEC), the trade alliance created by Moscow, and the fact that Kuchma arrived in Moscow with his wife, Lyudmila, on the eve of his 64th birthday, which he will celebrate with Putin. VY

...AS RUSSIA SHOWS INTEREST IN DEVELOPING A STRATEGIC PIPELINE IN AFGHANISTAN...
Experts from several Russian energy companies, including Itera and Rosneft, arrived in Kabul to investigate Russia's possible participation in the construction of a planned trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline that should stretch from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002). Meanwhile, Rosneft's representative in Kabul, Zakir Kadyrov, said his company is already operating in Afghanistan. VY

...AND AFRICAN COUNTRIES
Yukos, Slavneft, and other Russian firms have shown active interest in developing the energy infrastructures of some oil-rich African countries, the August edition of the electronic version of "World Energy Policy" magazine reported (http://www.wep.ru). Slavneft hopes to invest up to $200 million in Sudan's oil sector, and Stroitransgaz is building a $79 million pipeline in Algeria. Stroitransgaz is also looking at energy projects in Mozambique and Ethiopia, according to the report. Meanwhile, Yukos is in negotiations with Libya and South Africa, while Tatneft is developing an oil project in Egypt. VY

INTERIOR MINISTRY ARRESTS MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY POSED AS POLICE GENERAL
Officers of the Internal Security Directorate of the Interior Ministry (MVD) have arrested a man who allegedly extorted money from businessmen by posing as an MVD general and a Hero of Russia, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 August. According to the police, Aleksei Sharokhvostov moved from Kazakhstan to Moscow in 2000, where he purchased at a market a complete general's uniform with a genuine Hero of Russia medal that belonged to a veteran of the fighting in Chechnya. Then, posing as an MVD general, he allegedly took bribes from businessmen in exchange for promising to help them settle various matters. Police are now investigating the origin of Sharokhvostov's armored Mercedes, which is reportedly so heavy that the MVD tow truck was unable to remove it. VY

MEDIA MINISTRY SETS UP SPECIAL EQUIPMENT TO COMBAT SUBLIMINAL MANIPULATION...
Deputy Media Minister Valerii Sirozhenko announced that his agency has set up special devices capable of detecting the illegal use of the so-called "25th frame" to send subliminal messages to television viewers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2002), ITAR-TASS and other Russian agencies reported on 8 August. Sirozhenko claimed that many channels use the 25th frame, and if such usage is proven by the new equipment, they will be subject to stiff fines or the revocation of their broadcasting licenses. He also mentioned that the practice was used in the Soviet era "for unclear reasons." VY

...AND GOES AFTER ANOTHER NATIONALIST NEWSPAPER, MAGAZINE
The Media Ministry on 8 August issued a warning to the Novosibirsk newspaper "Russkaya Sibir" in connection to two articles that it published this spring, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. The ministry judged that the articles inflamed ethnic tensions, which is a violation of Article 4 of the mass-media law. After a second warning, the ministry may ask a court to revoke a publication's registration. Meanwhile, a municipal court in Moscow granted a Media Ministry request to close down the nationalist magazine "Russkii khozyain." The magazine's deputy editor, Andrei Semiletnikov, has been charged with inciting racially motivated violence at a market in Yasenevo on 21 April 2001. The latest moves come in the wake of ministry efforts to close down the nationalist papers "Limonka" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002) and "Russkie vedomosti." RC

AIRPORT OFFICIALS CHARGED WITH EXTORTION
Three officials of Yekaterinburg's airport have been arrested on charges of extorting money from seasonal workers from Tajikistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 8 August. According to the report, the three officials -- who were identified only as A. Lukanin, the head of the local migration-service post; L. Konyov, Lukanin's deputy; and I. Zakharov, deputy head of the airport's customs service -- reportedly charged arriving Tajiks 400-500 rubles ($13-$16) each to pass through airport checkpoints. The arrests came in response to complaints from the victims and were the result of a joint operation between the Tajik Interior Ministry and Russia's Transport Police. Tens of thousands of young Tajik men travel to Russia each summer in search of work. RC

HACKERS STRIKE AT SATELLITE TV COMPANY
The NTV-Plus satellite television company has lost as much as $300,000 to computer hackers in Ivanovo who learned how to create false smart cards, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. Genuine smart cards are produced in France and were developed for the banking industry. They had been believed to be 100 percent secure until false ones began appearing at markets in Ivanovo, Moscow, Vladimir, Kostroma, and Nizhnii Novgorod. According to the report, which cited local Interior Ministry sources, an unspecified number of hackers have been arrested and a criminal case against them is being developed. RC

NEWSPAPER CONSIDERS FUTURE OF RUSSIA WITH CHINESE AS SECOND-LARGEST ETHNIC GROUP...
Russian migration officials have said that by 2010 Russia could have as many as 8 million to 10 million Chinese residents, which would make them Russia's second-largest ethnic group, moving ahead of Tatars, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 7 August, citing tatnews.ru. In an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 August on the coming "yellow wave," Natalya Airapetova, a professor at the Institute of Asia and Africa at Moscow State University, was quoted as saying that in China considerable pressure is being created by the large number of unemployed people -- a number that is only going to get larger over the next 10 years. "It is impossible to exclude the possibility that Russian territory could become an attractive area for these millions of unemployed [Chinese]," she said. "We should at long last develop Eastern Siberia and the Far East, if we don't want to lose these territories forever. This is a quite real danger, although we refuse to think of it because of our 'strategic partnership' with China." JAC

...AS SECURITY COUNCIL TO CONSIDER NEW MIGRATION BILL
Meanwhile, presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii has prepared a new draft federal bill on migration policy, "Vremya novostei" reported on 7 August. According to the daily, Pulikovskii will present the draft bill at one of the Security Council's fall sessions. Pulikovskii's press secretary, Yevgenii Anoshin, said that the bill attempts to offer solutions to a number of problems such as how to keep Russian citizens in the Far East and how to attract more migrants, particularly ethnic Russians, to the area. In addition, the bill aims to provide a regulatory basis for using foreign workers, particularly in areas where the population is declining and shortages of workers are predicted. JAC

STATE RESERVES HEAD SPEAKS OUT
The head of the state agency Rosrezerv, which maintains the country's strategic reserves of many commodities, gave a rare interview to the daily "Trud" on 8 August. Rosrezerv General Director Aleksandr Grigorev stated that the interview was the first one a Rosrezerv head has ever given. Grigorev said that Rosrezerv's primary missions are to be prepared to extend assistance in case of natural disasters and "if necessary to exercise a regularizing influence on the markets to support various sectors of industry or agriculture." He said that Rosrezerv is an integral part of the country's national-security system, on a par with the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the Federal Security Service (FSB). "If you ask what we store, merely listing the items would take hours," Grigorev said. He mentioned, however, foodstuffs, oil products, metals, transportation equipment, telecommunications and electrical-energy equipment, medicines, and medical equipment. He stated that the collapse of the Soviet Union had not prevented the country from maintaining its complete system of state reserves. Finally, he added that the value of state reserves in the United States is placed at about $4 billion, and that he estimates the value of Rosrezerv's holdings at nearly the same amount. RC

DIRTY TRICKS DEPLOYED IN SIBERIAN ELECTION...
TV-6 reported on 7 August that although the 8 September gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai is still a month away, local voters have already twice found compromising materials about leading candidates in their mailboxes. In the most recent case, copies of the newspaper "Nashe Delo" were distributed that carried an embarrassing article about Krasnoyarsk Krai legislature speaker Aleksandr Uss. Before that, copies of another newspaper were circulated with articles about Uss's main rivals, Krasnoyarsk Mayor Peter Pimashkov and Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin. JAC

...ALTHOUGH ELECTIONS HEAD PROMISES A CLEAN FIGHT
A delegation headed by Central Elections Commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov arrived in Krasnoyarsk on 8 August to oversee the election campaign, ORT reported. Veshnyakov told ORT that his commission intends to work out new organizational approaches to holding elections during this campaign. He said that the finances of all the candidates will be thoroughly examined, all complaints will be investigated, and commission members will meet regularly with candidates and voters. Veshnyakov also said that, although the campaign so far has not gone completely smoothly, there have been no serious violations yet. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 7 August, Veshnyakov added that the commission has "worked out a new project for monitoring the media" in order to ensure that all stories and advertisements correspond to election law. RC

IS BYKOV FINALLY READY TO GET OUT OF THE ALUMINUM BUSINESS?
Former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov has again expressed his willingness to sell his shares in Krasnoyarsk Aluminum, Interfax reported on 6 August, citing "Kommersant-Vlast." Bykov said he is ready to sell his stake to anyone, even Russian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska, with whom he has tangled in the past. Bykov declined to specify the size of his stake, but according to polit.ru on 7 August, he owns about 5-6 percent of the company. Bykov also declined to specify which candidate in the 8 September gubernatorial election he supports. Some sources believe that he supports Uss, who is also reportedly supported by Russian Aluminum. Two years ago, Bykov similarly said that he was willing to sell his stake, saying, "Until I sell my shares in Krasnoyarsk Aluminum, I will not be left in peace" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). JAC

LEGISLATOR SAYS IT'S TIME TO STOP HONORING YAKOV SVERDLOV
State Duma Deputy Yevgenii Zyablitsev (People's Deputy) sent an appeal to legislators in Sverdlovsk Oblast's assembly asking them to restore the oblast's previous name, Yekaterinburg, regions.ru reported on 7 August. Zyablitsev represents a single-mandate district in the oblast. The name of the oblast's capital, Yekaterinburg, has already been restored from its Soviet-era name of Sverdlovsk. The oblast bore the name Yekaterinburg Oblast from 1918-23 after the region was separated from the Perm Guberniya. Zyablitsev also suggested that, to save costs, the name change could be gradually implemented over a period of three to five years. Yakov Sverdlov was an early Bolshevik leader and protege of Vladimir Lenin who died during an influenza epidemic in 1919. JAC

LOCAL NGOS TAKE UP PUTIN SUGGESTION ON TRANSPARENCY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Following President Putin's call for public disclosure of budget practices at the local level (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002), a group of nongovernment organizations in Yaroslavl Oblast is preparing to monitor the activities of local officials at all levels of power, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 6 August. At each municipal raion, public organizations in the oblast are forming partnerships called the Citizens Coalition to promote transparency and openness about the budget resources of municipal organizations. As part of this effort, Citizens Coalition has organized seminars and master classes on budget analysis and on conducting public hearings in local legislatures. The group is supported in part by the British Westminster Foundation for Democracy. JAC

SHADES OF JURASSIC PARK
A group of Russian and Japanese scientists has arrived in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic on an expedition to recover DNA samples from prehistoric animals with the goal of eventually cloning them, rtr-vesti.ru reported on 7 August. The expedition is working near the village of Chokurdakh, where remains of Siberian tigers, cave lions, giant deer, mammoths, and wooly rhinoceroses have been found. It is the first step in a project to build a Siberian safari park of prehistoric creatures. "People will be able to visit this park, although it will be necessary to build an infrastructure, since Siberian winters are very cold," one of the expedition members was quoted as saying by Interfax. RC

KVASHNIN ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO SHATOI ATTACK
Chief of the armed forces General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin on 7 August ordered an investigation into the deaths the previous day of 10 Chechen conscripts in Shatoi Raion, dpa reported. Some Russian media claimed that Russian troops opened fire after the truck in which the conscripts were traveling ran over a landmine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). But Colonel Boris Podopriga, who is a spokesman for the Russian Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, said on 7 August that the attack was launched by Chechen fighters as an act of revenge, according to ITAR-TASS. Security measures have been intensified throughout Chechnya in the wake of the Shatoi attack, Interfax reported on 7 August. LF

MOSCOW PSYCHIATRISTS REFUSE TO EXAMINE BUDANOV
An unspecified number of psychiatrists and psychologists at Moscow's Serbskii Institute have refused to examine Colonel Yurii Budanov, Interfax reported on 7 August, quoting the institute's press service. The North Caucasus Military Court ordered a new psychiatric examination of Budanov last month. A previous examination determined that Budanov was "temporarily insane" when he murdered a young Chechen woman in March 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June and 2 October 2001). The reluctant institute specialists say they fear negative public reaction if they question that finding, but do not wish to lay themselves open to charges of allowing themselves to be manipulated. LF

ARMENIAN ELECTION DATES SET
At its first session on 7 August, Armenia's newly constituted Central Election Commission scheduled presidential elections for 19 February 2003 and parliamentary elections for 25 May 2003, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The nine members of the reconstituted commission were named earlier that day. Three of them, including previous Chairman Artak Sahradian, were nominated by President Robert Kocharian, and six by political parties represented in parliament. LF

AZERBAIJAN ASKS IRAN TO PRESSURE ARMENIA OVER KARABAKH...
Meeting in Baku on 6 August with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzade, President Heidar Aliev reasoned that as Iran maintains "broad economic ties" with Armenia, it is in a position to "influence" Yerevan's stance on the Karabakh conflict, Interfax and Turan reported. Aliev said that in its future relations with Iran, Azerbaijan will abide by the bilateral treaty on friendship, cooperation, and mutual security signed during his visit to Tehran in May. But at the same time he stressed that under that accord, both countries pledge to respect the sovereignty of the other and refrain from interfering in its internal affairs. That latter remark is a clear allusion to Azerbaijani allegations that Iranian intelligence may have been behind the clashes in June between police and residents of the village of Nardaran. During talks the previous day with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev, Aminzade said the planned 11 August presidential elections in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are not conducive to reaching a political solution to the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. LF

...CONDEMNS KARABAKH PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT
In a statement released on 7 August, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry condemned as "a provocation and a gross violation of international norms" and "a new challenge to Azerbaijan's territorial integrity" the planned presidential election in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Interfax reported. It said legitimate state organs can be elected in Karabakh only after the conflict has been resolved peacefully and the Azerbaijani population of Karabakh has been allowed to return, according to Turan on 8 August. The statement said Armenia "will bear the responsibility" for allowing the ballot to take place. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES PLAN PROTEST AGAINST REFERENDUM
Leaders of almost all the 27 political parties that on 30 July vowed to boycott the planned 24 August referendum on sweeping changes to the country's constitution met in Baku on 7 August to discuss preparations for a Consultative Council that will coordinate future opposition actions, zerkalo.az reported on 8 August. That council will comprise leaders of political parties that succeed in collecting 500 signatures in their support. The participants also agreed to stage a protest on 20 August against the referendum. Meanwhile, representatives of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party reformist wing, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, the Musavat Party, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, and the U.S. National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, set up a group on 7 August that will monitor the voting on 24 August. LF

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ACCUSES GEORGIA OF INCONSISTENCY...
In a statement on 7 August, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov expressed "bewilderment and concern" at the "inconsistency" between Georgian statements of readiness to crack down on terrorism and its 6 August refusal "on a pretext" to extradite to Russia Chechen militants detained on 3-4 August after entering Georgia illegally from Russian territory, Russian news agencies reported. Ivanov said Georgia's inconsistency calls into question its commitment "to struggle against terrorism in earnest." Also on 7 August, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov similarly argued that the apprehended Chechens should be handed over to the Russian authorities "without delay" as they have twice violated Russian law by crossing the Russian border illegally, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a district court in Tbilisi has ruled that the Chechens be remanded in pretrial custody for a period of three months, Caucasus Press reported on 7 August. LF

...AND FEDERATION COUNCIL OFFICIAL -- OF HARBORING 'TERRORISTS'
Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov on 7 August compared Georgia's failure to take resolute action against Chechen militants ensconced in the Pankisi Gorge with the Taliban's tolerance of Al-Qaeda fighters on Afghan territory, ITAR-TASS reported. He argued that "if [Georgian President] Eduard Shevardnadze does not understand how one should deal with terrorists, he should consult his American colleagues." Failure to eradicate the Chechen "terrorist presence," Margelov warned, could result in Georgia becoming "a rogue state." LF

GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIAN MILITANT RHETORIC UNHELPFUL
Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze said in Tbilisi on 7 August that militant rhetoric does not contribute to resolving the existing problems in Georgian-Russian relations, Russian agencies reported. He advocated seeking solutions to those problems "in compliance with international norms." Djaparidze also welcomed U.S. offers to assist Georgia in cracking down on terrorism, Caucasus Press reported. LF

RUSSIA AGAIN DENIES BOMBING PANKISI
A Russian Air Force spokesman on 7 August denied a statement made earlier the same day by Georgian National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania accusing Russian aircraft of mounting a further bombing raid on the Pankisi Gorge the previous night, Interfax reported. On 8 August, a spokesman for the Tbilisi OSCE mission said OSCE observers deployed along the border between Georgia and Chechnya have confirmed earlier reports, which Russia likewise denied, of a Russian bombing raid on Georgian territory on 2 August. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS CALLS FOR NEW WAR IN ABKHAZIA...
President Shevardnadze on 7 August condemned as "dangerous" calls by Abkhaz parliament in exile Chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili and others for a new war to restore Georgian control over the breakaway unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Caucasus Press and Russian news agencies reported. Shevardnadze noted that the botched attempt by Georgian guerrilla formations in May 1998 to launch such a military operation "cost us $15 million, not to mention the human victims." LF

...AS GEORGIAN MINISTER REJECTS CALL FOR ADDITIONAL PEACEKEEPING POST
Also on 7 August, Georgian Emergency Situations Minister Malkhaz Kakabadze said he does not consider it necessary to establish a permanent CIS peacekeepers post in the upper, Georgian-controlled reaches of the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. UN special envoy for Abkhazia Heidi Tagliavini had reportedly suggested during a 4 August meeting with Georgian Minister Avtandil Djorbenadze that doing so would contribute to restoring mutual trust between the Georgians and Abkhaz. The commander of the CIS peacekeeping force, Major General Aleksandr Yevteev, has argued that such a post would prevent Chechen militants from entering Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). LF

MISSING RUSSIAN COLONEL FOUND DEAD
Forensic experts have established that a body found in woodland on the outskirts of Tbilisi on 7 August is that of Russian Army Colonel Igor Zaitsev, who disappeared in the city in late July, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 5 August 2002). The agency did not specify the cause of death, but said Zaitsev's son could not initially identify the body as that of his father. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT, PREMIER ASSESS ECONOMIC TRENDS
Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmagambetov told a cabinet session on 7 August that Kazakhstan's GDP increased by 9.2 percent during the first six months of this year, while industrial output rose by 8.7 percent over the same period compared with 2001, Interfax reported. President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who attended the session, praised Tasmagambetov's government for focusing more on the country's regions than did its predecessor, but at the same time criticized its lack of a clear-cut policy for developing the industrial sector. As he has done previously, Nazarbaev singled out as priorities sustained economic growth based on the development of small and medium-sized businesses, reducing imports, and developing machine-building for the oil and gas sector. But a "Eurasia View" commentator pointed out on 7 August that Nazarbaev's family and close entourage control virtually all the most lucrative sectors of the economy, and many Kazakh businessmen are considering selling up and moving to Russia. Those parallel trends, he argued, may negatively affect the prospects for continued economic growth, especially in the private sector. LF

DATE SET FOR SENATE ELECTIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN
Nazarbaev issued a decree on 7 August scheduling elections to the Senate (the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) for 8 October, Interfax reported. The Senate has 39 members, of whom seven are appointed by the president and the remainder are elected from the country's 14 oblasts and the cities of Astana and Almaty. Senators serve for a period of five years, and of those popularly elected, half are elected every three years. LF

U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
General Peter Race, who is deputy chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met in Bishkek on 7 August with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev and Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov to discuss the situation in Central Asia, and possible U.S. assistance during the planned transition to a professional army, including free supplies of unspecified equipment, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). LF

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS
Meeting in Dushanbe on 7 August, Tajik and Uzbek government ministers signed a series of protocols on ownership of power-transmission lines, opening air and bus services between the two countries, cooperation in television broadcasting, transit of Tajik special and military cargos across Uzbek territory, and implementing an agreement signed in April 1994 to establish a free-trade zone, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 7 August. LF

UZBEK MUSLIM SCHOLAR DECRIES USE OF FORCE AGAINST ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS
Islamic scholar Sheikh Mohammad Sodik Mohammad Yusuf told journalists in Tashkent on 7 August that he believes the repressive measures routinely employed by the Uzbek authorities against practicing Muslims suspected of belonging to the banned Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir are counterproductive, AP reported. He argued that "religious extremism should be fought through education. A person can be put in prison, but one cannot jail an idea." Uzbek human rights organizations estimate that at least 7,000 Muslims are serving jail terms for their religious beliefs. Yusuf served prior to the collapse of the USSR as a senior Muslim cleric, but left Uzbekistan in the early 1990s, returning in 1999 from his voluntary exile in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Turkey. LF

BELARUSIAN DEMONSTRATOR JAILED FOR 10 DAYS
A court in Hrodna has sentenced Svyatlana Nekh, the leader of the local branch of the opposition Youth Front, to 10 days in prison for her part in a demonstration to mark two years since the disappearance of journalist Dzmitry Zavadski, Belapan reported. Fifteen young people formed a "chain of concerned people" in Hrodna on 8 July and stood in silence, holding photos of the missing journalist. After an hour, when a Polish television crew had left the scene, the police arrested 10 of the demonstrators. They were all charged with violating regulations for holding street demonstrations. Most of them received warnings, while Uladzimir Chervanenka was fined 200,000 rubles ($110). Dzmitry Ivanouski and Yury Istomin have yet to be tried. The judge said 22-year-old Nekh received the harshest sentence because of her record of participating in unauthorized demonstrations. JM

BELARUS'S FOREIGN-EXCHANGE RESERVES EXCEED $250 MILLION
National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich told journalists on 7 August that the bank's net foreign-exchange reserves rose by $48.5 million since the beginning of the year to $252.9 million as of 1 August, Belapan reported. The currency-stabilization fund, which consists of the bank's foreign-exchange reserves and Russian Central Bank loans, increased by $94.5 million to $348.5 million over the same period. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DISCHARGES KGB GENERALS, SUPREME COURT JUDGES
Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 7 August dismissed Major General Alyaksandr Kulesh and Major General Valyantsin Nikitsin from their posts as KGB deputy chairmen, Belapan reported. Lukashenka also relieved three judges of the Supreme Court -- Alyaksandr Nichyparovich, Vasil Rusakovich, and Natalya Sanko -- from their duties in connection with their retirement. JM

IMF REFUSES LOAN TRANCHE TO UKRAINE
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has refused to disburse the last of a $2.2 billion loan program that expires on 3 September 2002, UNIAN reported on 7 August, quoting an official IMF statement. The IMF said Ukraine has failed to fulfill a number of IMF conditions to qualify for the tranche. In particular, the government has failed to reduce the number of tax breaks and the volume of VAT-refund debts. Kyiv has thus far received some $1.5 billion of the planned $2.2 billion. Ukraine expected to receive $550 million this year but negotiations with the IMF brought no result. Meanwhile, the "Financial Times" reported on 8 August that the Ukrainian government has persuaded the National Bank to issue an additional $500 million. Deputy Premier Vasil Rohovyy said the money will be issued to commercial banks to fund investment projects, but analysts claim most of the money will be funneled back to government coffers to patch up a growing revenue shortfall. JM

UKRAINIAN COURT REDUCES SENTENCES FOR COMPOSER'S DEATH
The Lviv Oblast Appeals Court on 7 August reduced the prison terms of two men convicted of beating to death popular composer Ihor Bilozir in Lviv in May 2000, which subsequently fuelled Russian-Ukrainian tensions in the city, UNIAN reported. The court cut the sentences of Dmytro Voronov and Yury Kalinin to 10 and eight years in prison, respectively. The Lviv Oblast Court had sentenced the two men to 15 and 12 years for premeditated murder but the Supreme Court, following an appeal, sent the case for review. JM

BANK OF ESTONIA MAY TAKE STEPS TO CURB LENDING
Bank of Estonia public relations head Kaja Kell told the daily "Eesti Paevaleht" on 7 August that the bank is concerned with the country's high current-account deficit and is considering measures to reduce bank loans, ETA reported. In the first quarter of the year the current-account deficit amounted to 15 percent of GDP. It was slightly reduced in the second quarter, but still remained at a high 12 percent of GDP. Hansapank board Chairman Indrek Neivelt commented that the central bank should seriously analyze the situation and take action that will send a message to society. Several analysts claim that the central bank intends to set a higher mandatory-reserve requirement for commercial banks and insist that they raise interest rates in an effort to reduce lending and excessive imports. SG

TWO CANDIDATES REMOVED FROM LATVIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
The Central Election Commission voted six to one on 7 August to remove Janis Adamsons and Tatjana Zdanoka from the lists of candidates to the 5 October parliamentary elections, LETA reported. It thus accepted the recommendations of the Totalitarian Legacy Documentation Center (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). A court had ruled that Adamsons, a leading member of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party, had been on the staff of the USSR's KGB border guard after 13 January 1991, and was thus ineligible under the parliamentary law. Adamsons said he will appeal that decision. Zdanoka, who had been barred from the previous parliamentary elections and had even lost her seat in the Riga City Council in 1999 because of her post-January 1991 Communist Party membership, welcomed the decision, saying it would buttress her argument in her ongoing case against Latvia in the European Court of Human Rights. SG

LITHUANIA'S SECURITY CALLS FOR PROSECUTION FOR ANTI-SEMITIC ACTIONS
The Lithuanian State Security Department has sent a request to the Taurage area chief prosecutor asking that criminal charges be brought against Saulius Ozelis, the leader of the Lithuanian Freedom Union's branch in Taurage, for inflaming ethnic tension during several anti-Semitic actions this year, BNS reported on 7 August. Ozelis tore up and tried to burn an Israeli flag in Taurage on 17 April, but was stopped by police. On 28 July he burned a mock Israeli flag, allegedly to protest the offer made by Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Jerusalem Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to provide a $10,000 award for information leading to conviction of a Nazi war criminal in Lithuania. The department concluded that as the Israeli flag is universally recognized as the symbol of the Jewish nation, Ozelis intentionally attempted to incite public violence against Jews, a crime under the Lithuanian Criminal Code. SG

POLISH SHIPYARD WORKERS BEAT HEAD OF CLOTHING COMPANY OVER UNPAID WAGES
A group of shipyard workers on 7 August beat up Henryk Walus, the manager of the Odra clothing manufacturer in Szczecin, Polish media reported. Odra employees (mostly women), who have not been paid since March, asked Szczecin shipyard workers for help after their talks with Walus failed to bring a satisfactory result. Around 1,000 shipyard workers arrived on the company premises, and some of them dragged Walus out from his office, pelted him with eggs, tore his clothes, and beat him up. All major television stations in Poland showed footage of the beating in which police did not intervene. Two high-ranking police executives in Szczecin have been suspended over the incident. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CONTROVERSIAL AMENDMENTS TO LABOR CODE
Following a two-day debate, the Senate on 7 August endorsed without any changes the amendments to the Labor Code that were passed by the Sejm in July, PAP reported. The amendments introduce stricter sick leave and recruitment requirements and allow employers to cut employee wages. The amendments are seen as a compromise between organizations of employers and the leftist National Trade Unions Alliance. The Solidarity trade union opposed the amendments, saying they are too liberal and harmful to workers' interests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). Since the Senate did not introduce any changes to the bill, it will not return to the Sejm but will be submitted directly to the president for approval. JM

POLISH CUSTOMS SEIZE HEROIN, OPIUM AT BELARUSIAN BORDER
Customs officers from the Polish-Belarusian border crossing in Kukuryki (Lublin Province) on 7 August foiled an attempt to smuggle three kilograms of heroin and 13 kilograms of opium worth an estimated 400,000 zlotys ($96,000), PAP reported. The drugs were hidden in a truck that was traveling from Iran to Poznan Province (western Poland) with a 20-ton cargo of raisins. The driver of the truck fled. In other news, the same day border guards in Swietokrzyskie Province (southern Poland) detained a group of 34 illegal Bulgarian immigrants, who were to be immediately deported to Bulgaria. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT WINS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE...
The cabinet headed by Vladimir Spidla on 7 August won a tight vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies, CTK and international news agencies reported. The vote was 101 in favor to 98 against, with deputies representing the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia casting their votes against the cabinet. Prime Minister Spidla said after the vote that he is confident the government will serve its full four-year mandate. President Vaclav Havel who is vacationing in Portugal, congratulated the government in a message, saying the vote allows the cabinet to immediately embark upon its tasks and emphasizing that "the Czech Republic is within reach of EU membership, and it is desirable to maintain the dynamics of the ongoing integration processes." MS

...APPROVES 2003 DRAFT BUDGET
The cabinet on 7 August approved the draft budget for 2003, CTK reported, citing governmental spokeswoman Anna Starkova. The budget envisages a deficit of 157.3 billion crowns ($5.23 billion). CTK said the budget's approval by the Chamber of Deputies may be problematic, as the ruling coalition has only a slim majority of one deputy and Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) deputy Hana Marvanova has said that while she supports the government's program, she disagrees with its financial policies. Also on 7 August, the cabinet reached agreement that decisions on financing UN General Assembly President Jan Kavan's trips to New York will be made by Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, and that decisions pertaining to Kavan's other trips abroad that are taken in the country's "general interest" will be made by Svoboda on Prime Minister Spidla's recommendations. MS

FORMER US-DEU CHAIRWOMAN REBUFFED IN BID TO HEAD MEDIA COMMISSION
US-DEU deputy Marvanova, who previously chaired the minor coalition member, failed on 7 August in her bid to head the Chamber of Deputies' Media Commission, CTK reported. In a secret ballot, Marvanova's candidacy was supported by only 73 deputies, while she needed a majority of the 197 present deputies to be elected. CTK reported that the result of the vote places the ruling coalition in a delicate position, as the coalition agreement stipulates that the chairmanship of the Media Commission go to a US-DEU member. A second vote is to be conducted on 8 August and Marvanova is the only candidate for the position. MS

CZECH POLICE CHIEF SAYS SRBA INVESTIGATION SHOULD BE SPLIT
Police President Jiri Kolar told Radio Frekvence 1 on 7 August that the investigation into the alleged conspiracy by Karel Srba and his associates to assassinate Czech journalist Sabina Slonkova should be conducted separately from the investigation into Srba's alleged economic crimes, which is "more complicated," CTK reported. Kolar said that while the investigation into the suspected assassination attempt could be concluded within several weeks, that on Srba's involvement in suspicious transactions while he was Foreign Ministry secretary could last years. MS

PRAGUE POLICE LAUNCH SWEEPS TO ROOT OUT ILLEGAL ALIENS...
Police on 5 August began a major dragnet to round up illegal aliens in Prague following the murder of a police officer by a Russian-speaking man in the city's metro on 2 August, local media reported. The suspect is believed to be a down-and-out, 53-year-old Russian citizen who has resided in the country since 1996. The resulting controls have included random document checks and resulted in more than 80 detentions of foreigners in the first two days, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 8 August. The inspections, along with a highly visible police presence in the city center, will continue, the paper quoted a police spokeswoman as saying. AH

...AS DEADLY RAMPAGE HIGHLIGHTS PRESENCE, PLIGHT OF FOREIGNERS
Czech Police President Kolar told Frekvence 1 radio on 7 August that the suspect, believed to be former Muscovite Aleksandr Kruchinin, had a Czech residency permit until March, when Czech authorities rejected his request for a renewal. Kolar said the suspect's world "crumbled" and he was psychologically exhausted after that rejection. Media have reported that the man's actions were aimed at drawing attention to the difficulty of obtaining Czech residency. Kolar also told the station that Kruchinin's wife was apparently murdered in Moscow one year ago, adding that he lived in Prague with his son. City police chief Radislav Charvat said the crime will be probed by a special commission that could signal a need to amend the law on foreigners' stays in the country, CTK reported. On 29 July, about a dozen Belarusian asylum seekers demonstrated in front of the Czech Interior Ministry to protest alleged incompetence and arrogance on the part of immigration officers. AH

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER DEFENDS CABINET'S RECORD
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 7 August that the cabinet he heads will at the end of its mandate "leave the country in a better state" than it was before he took his post in 1998, CTK reported. After a meeting of the cabinet that evaluated the government's four-year performance, Dzurinda said Slovakia has become a democratic country with a working market economy, has been accepted into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and has a good chance of joining NATO and the European Union. Dzurinda admitted that the government has not fulfilled its pledge to reduce the unemployment rate to under 10 percent. He also said respect for law and order is unsatisfactory and that greater progress should have been made in the social sphere and in education and health care. MS

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER SAID TO HAVE SOFT SPOT FOR BLONDES...
The Czech daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" wrote on 7 August that Vladimir Meciar prefers blonde women, CTK reported. The daily scrutinized the career of Diana Dubrovska, who is on the candidate lists of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) for the September parliamentary elections. The daily reminded readers that other fair-haired women have often been seen at Meciar's side and made careers for themselves in the HZDS, mentioning Anna Nagyova, former head of the Slovak Government Office; Blazena Martinkova, who used to be called "adviser for everything" and who eventually committed suicide; and former Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova. Dubrovska is the wife of businessman Jozef Majski, who allegedly financed the construction of Meciar's villa in Trencianske Teplice. Police are investigating how Meciar financed the villa's construction, which cost an estimated 41 million crowns ($904,000 at today's rate). Meciar said "a friend" financed the construction as a gift. Dubrovska was elected to the parliament in 1998 on the lists of the Party of Civic Understanding but later switched to the HZDS. MS

...BUT HZDS HAS NO SOFT SPOT FOR UNFRIENDLY POLLS
HZDS Deputy Chairman Sergej Kozlik said on 6 August that a recent public-opinion poll showing that his party is rapidly losing popularity is part of "a political game," TASR and CTK reported. The DICIO poll showed that the HZDS's support fell some nine percentage points over the course of a month and attributed the drop mainly to the emergence of the Movement for Democracy led by former Meciar ally and parliamentary speaker Ivan Gasparovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). Vojtech Tkac, also an HZDS deputy chairman, said the DICIO poll is "suspicious." He said that in reality, political preferences do not change so rapidly, but added that he does not rule out that other polling institutions will be used by his party's political adversaries to produce similarly incorrect electoral forecasts. MS

SLOVAK ROMA RETURN FROM NORWAY
A group of Roma who unsuccessfully sought asylum in Norway returned to Kosice on 7 August, CTK reported. The 20 asylum seekers arrived on a special flight from Sofia because the Norwegian authorities deported them together with a group of Bulgarian Roma. Radio Twist reported that more asylum seekers are expected to be returned from Norway shortly. It said some 250 Slovak Roma, as well as some Czech Roma, are in Norway awaiting a decision on their requests for asylum. Norway recently simplified the procedure for processing asylum requests, which are now to be decided upon within two weeks after applications are submitted. During that time, asylum seekers receive shelter and food but very little money. MS

HUNGARIAN 'MEDGYESSY COMMISSION' CHAIRMAN SAYS BULLET IS 'A MESSAGE'
Laszlo Balogh, chairman of the parliamentary commission investigating Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's past as a counterintelligence officer, on 7 August said a live bullet was found on one of the chairs in his office, Hungarian media reported. Balogh, who is a member of the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum, said the bullet was placed there as "a message." Police launched an investigation and did not find any indication that Balogh's office was broken into. In related news, Balogh on 7 August released documents related to Medgyessy's activities as a counterintelligence officer after having received Medgyessy's consent to do so. Balogh said the documents are inconsistent and that he will initiate another hearing with the prime minister. Balogh said the documents indicate that Medgyessy wrote reports while working for the secret services and detail specific training Medgyessy underwent for counterintelligence activity, which the prime minister denies. MS

HUNGARIAN OMBUDSMAN SAYS DATA ON MINISTERS' PASTS SHOULD BE KEPT PRIVATE
Attila Peterfalvi, Hungary's data-protection ombudsman, recommended on 7 August that the parliamentary commission probing possible links of former ministers to the communist secret services not make its findings public, Hungarian media reported. At the same time, Peterfalvi said the constitution does not stipulate that personal data can be released only upon the consent of those involved. He said that if the person involved refuses to give his or her consent, parliamentary regulations on how investigative commissions work automatically grant those commissions the right to do so. Imre Mecs, the chairman of the commission, said the public has a right to receive such information, especially when it refers to present or former cabinet members, and Socialist Gyula David, a member of the commission, said that the public's right to such information supercedes the ombudsman's recommendation. MS

HUNGARY UNDECIDED ON U.S. EXEMPTION FROM ICC PROVISIONS
"The New York Times" on 7 August reported that Hungary has not yet decided whether to sign an agreement with the United States on exempting U.S. forces from prosecution under the provisions of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Romania and Israel are the only states to have done so thus far. "Magyar Hirlap" on 8 August cited Foreign Ministry spokesman Tamas Toth as saying that the U.S. request was made to Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs during his visit to Washington in early July. "Magyar Hirlap" said that the matter was, in fact, raised prior to Kovacs's trip and that at the time Hungary responded that it was still studying the request. An anonymous official at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest confirmed that issue has been raised with the Hungarian Foreign Ministry. MS

NATO TRIES TO CAPTURE KOSOVA SERB VIGILANTE...
Accompanied by two armored vehicles and a helicopter, French troops searched the northern Mitrovica home of Milan Ivanovic, one of the leaders of the armed Serbian vigilante group known as the Bridge Watchers, AP reported on 8 August. He and his Serbian National Council are believed to have played a role in an April riot that left 22 mainly Polish police injured (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 15, and 16 April 2002). Ivanovic, who was not at home at the time, said the raid was an attempt by Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), to intimidate the local Serbs and force them to flee in the run-up to the 26 October local elections. An UNMIK spokeswoman said Ivanovic knows that a warrant is out for his arrest and should turn himself in. PM

...AND ARRESTS 18 'EXTREMISTS'
U.S. KFOR troops have arrested 18 suspected members of armed "extremist" groups whom the U.S. military said were a threat to the security of the border with Macedonia, dpa reported from Prishtina on 8 August. The arrests are not connected with the recent incident in Klokot, in which six abandoned Serbian homes were damaged or destroyed, dpa reported from Prishtina on 8 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 5 August 2002). PM

REPORT CITES PLIGHT OF KOSOVA'S MENTALLY ILL
The Washington-based Mental Disability Rights International has concluded in a report that patients at three UN-supervised institutions for the mentally ill often live in degrading conditions and are subject to physical and sexual abuse, AP reported on 8 August. The study accused UNMIK "of violating the very human rights that the UN works to protect and uphold throughout the world." The report called for urgent reforms aimed at replacing institutionalization with community-based care. Observers note that patients in former Yugoslavia's mental institutions have suffered greatly from the disruption and impoverishment that has characterized the region since President Slobodan Milosevic forced the breakup of that country in 1991. Some reports have noted that the patients themselves have generally been immune from the nationalist viruses infecting those outside their institutions. PM

KOSTUNICA AIDE SAYS U.S. IS WRONG TO ATTACH CONDITIONS TO ASSISTANCE
Predrag Simic, who is an adviser to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, said that U.S. Congress may make future aid to Belgrade conditional on Serbia's ending its support for "parallel structures" in Kosova, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported on 6 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 July 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 June 2002). Simic added that such conditions burden not only Yugoslav-American relations, but also U.S. policy in the Balkans. He did not elaborate. Washington currently makes its assistance to Serbia dependent primarily on the latter's cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. "Parallel structures" include the Bridge Watchers, whom many observers believe receive support and encouragement from Belgrade. Simic once headed a Belgrade research institute under Milosevic and later became an adviser to Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic. He is not known for his pro-U.S. views or support for an American role in the Balkans. PM

KOSOVA'S SERBS TO VOTE IN SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS?
Kosovar Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic said in Jagodina on 7 August that members of the province's Serbian minority will take part in the 29 September Serbian presidential vote, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that UNMIK and the Serbian election commission will soon give their approval, and the OSCE will work out the details. PM

KOSTUNICA TO RUN FOR SERBIAN PRESIDENCY
Marko Jaksic, the vice president of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), said in Belgrade on 7 August that Kostunica will be a candidate in the 29 September Serbian presidential vote, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Jaksic added that he expects that Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus will be Kostunica's strongest challenger. Other candidates include Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, as well as individuals from at least two smaller parties from the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition. PM

MACEDONIAN STATE ELECTION COMMISSION CLOSES REGISTRATION OF CANDIDATE LISTS
Political parties and coalitions filed their lists of candidates with regional election commissions on 6 August, dpa reported. A total of 152 lists of candidates have been filed, but some have since been returned to the filers for clarifications. One such case involved the list of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) in Bitola. In related news, the State Election Commission announced that the elections will be monitored by some 850 foreign observers from the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the European Union, as well as by some 6,000 domestic observers coordinated by NGOs. Some 4,200 specially trained police will be in charge of security on election day. UB

ASHDOWN ORDERS BOSNIAN JUDICIAL REFORMS
Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, announced the establishment of a system of councils that will appoint and monitor the work of judges and prosecutors, AP reported from Sarajevo on 7 August. His aim is to free the judiciary from the influence of nationalist leaders, organized crime, and corruption. Local and international officials will make up the councils, which start work in September. Observers note that all significant reforms or decisions in Bosnia since the Dayton agreements were signed at the end of 1995 have been the result of decrees by the high representative (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 April 2002). PM

NEW HEAD OF USAID IN BOSNIA
Howard Sumka has been named the head of USAID's program for Bosnia, Hina reported from Washington on 7 August. He will be in charge of a $47 million program aimed at promoting the return of refugees and displaced persons. Sumka said he will pay special attention to the construction of infrastructure in return areas. PM

CROATIA AND BOSNIA AGREE ON BORDER
The new joint border post at Kostajnica will be located 50 meters inside Croatian territory along the Uncica River, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported from Zagreb on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). PM

CROATIA MUST IMPLEMENT REFORMS TO JOIN NATO
President Stipe Mesic has received a letter from NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, who said Croatia must carry out a package of reforms if it wants to join the Atlantic alliance, Hina reported from Zagreb on 7 August. Robertson noted that NATO will still have its doors open to candidates after its summit in Prague in November. Croatia, Albania, and Macedonia hope to join NATO in the next round of enlargement following the November summit. PM

WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN SLOVENIA AND CROATIA
The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has sent a sharp protest to its counterpart in Zagreb in response to a Croatian note over a recent incident involving a Croatian patrol boat and Slovenian fishermen in disputed waters in the Bay of Piran (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 May 2002). PM

IS ROMANIA'S PRIME MINISTER ATTACKING HIMSELF?
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 7 August deplored what he dubbed "pseudo-sensational revelations" pertaining to the "private lives of simple people who have nothing to do with politics," the daily "Curierul" reported the next day. Nastase did not say who disseminated such reports, but characterized them as "dirty and senseless" in general. He said they are aimed at "winning political capital" and that while in the past the use of such information was typical only of "extremist leaders," the practice is now becoming widespread. Nastase said he hopes that Romanian politics will not follow "the rules established by Vadim" -- a reference to Greater Romanian Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor. In response to Nastase's comments, the daily "Curentul" on 8 August reminded readers that Nastase himself recently leaked similar "sensations" to the media regarding an affair between former President Emil Constantinescu and a Bucharest doctor. MS

FINLAND SENDS ROMANIAN ROMA HOME
Finnish authorities rejected all 525 requests for political asylum submitted by Roma from Romania since 1 January 2002, Mediafax reported on 8 August, citing AFP. Finnish sources said some 300 of the Roma from Romania have already left Finland, 100 by their own means and the others flown out. In related news, on 7 August Romania's Interior Ministry announced it has set up a special police squad to disrupt criminal groups that recruit handicapped Roma and force them to beg in Western Europe, Mediafax reported. MS

NATIONAL COUNCIL AGAINST DISCRIMINATION BEGINS WORK IN ROMANIA
Cristian Jura, director of the newly established National Council Against Discrimination, told journalists on 7 August that the council has a staff of 50 and will impose fines on any employer found guilty of practicing ethnic, religious, gender, or other forms of discrimination when hiring, the daily "Jurnalul national" reported the next day. The council will act on complaints received by those affected but will also initiate its own investigations. MS

MOLDOVANS TO STUDY AT 21 ROMANIAN UNIVERSITIES
The Romanian Education Ministry on 7 August announced that Moldovan students will be able to study at 21 universities in Romania, Flux reported. The ministry said grants for study at those universities will be offered to Moldovan students despite the recent failure of negotiations between the Romanian and Moldovan Education ministries. The ministry said four different categories of grants will be offered and that applications must be submitted between 12 and 30 August in either Iasi, Galati, or Suceava. MS

TRADE UNION STARTS TALKS WITH POTENTIAL BULGARTABAC BUYERS...
The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KNSB) began talks on 6 August with representatives of the candidates in the privatization of the state tobacco company Bulgartabac, BTA reported. The talks are focusing on the social aspects of the privatization. According to the state Privatization Agency's recommendations, bidders for the tobacco company should guarantee some 6,000 of the current 9,600 jobs after its restructuring. "We [will] urge the working group on the deal and the Privatization Agency to ask [the candidates] that the bids be updated in favor of the state economic interest and of the employees. If we are not given security and guarantees, the trade union in the tobacco industry will prepare for a strike," KNSB Chairman Zhelyazko Hristov said. Meanwhile, workers of two Bulgartabac subsidiaries on 5 August launched strikes to protest possible job cuts. UB

...AND DEMANDS CONTRACT BETWEEN STATE AND BUYER
The KNSB demanded that the state and the winning bidder reach a contractual agreement on conditions of the deal, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service reported. KNSB Chairman Zhelyazko Hristov said the document should include provisions regarding the preservation of jobs, legal regulations, the collective bargaining agreement, the payment of outstanding wages, and guarantees on the amount of tobacco products and cigars that the company is to produce. UB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VETOES NEW BANKING LAW
President Georgi Parvanov on 7 August returned a draft law that would have amended and supplemented the Banking Act, demanding that parliament revise some provisions, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service reported. Parvanov said the provisions in question are unconstitutional, because the Council of Ministers cannot enact legally binding instruments or amend laws approved by parliament. The chairman of the parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee, Ivan Iskrov, said he will recommend that parliament override Parvanov's veto. UB

There is no End Note today.


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