PUTIN, KUCHMA SAY TRADE DISPUTE IS SETTLED...
President Vladimir Putin announced after his talks with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002) that he is grateful to Kuchma for quickly responding to his invitation to come to Moscow and resolve recent trade tensions between the two countries, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 9 August. Relations have been strained since Russia introduced restrictions on imports of Ukrainian pipes earlier this month and Ukraine retaliated with barriers against 19 categories of Russian goods, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin announced that during the latest meetings, he and Kuchma decided to lift most of the new restrictions. He also said that he will sign the final accord on joint Russian-German-Ukrainian cooperation in natural-gas transportation at the CIS summit in Chisinau in October. The two presidents continued their talks on 9 August at Putin's residence outside Moscow. VY
...BUT OTHERS DISAGREE
Despite the optimistic declarations, Putin and Kuchma have failed to end the trade war that has raged in recent weeks, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 August. Although the barriers against Ukrainian pipes and Russia goods were lifted, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, who took part in the talks, said that Ukraine has not agreed to lift a 30 percent duty on Russian-made automobiles, which is a sharp blow to Russian automakers. The BBC commented on 8 August that Kuchma's desire for closer links with Moscow conflicts with Ukraine's improving relations with the European Union. Kuchma is now faced with the choice of either complying with EU economic standards or moving toward a closer economic partnership with Russia. VY
THE PUTIN ERA SO FAR...
Writing on 8 August in "Novye izvestiya," which is owned by self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovskii, commentator Otto Latsis argued that the era of President Putin has been characterized by a laudably liberal approach to economic policy combined with a creeping authoritarianism. According to Latsis, the government managed to "get by without making any serious mistakes between 1999 and 2001." And due to the lucky circumstances -- "rather than the efforts of reformers" -- the prices of Russia's exports rose and imports dropped. As a result, budget revenues rose, and foreign debt was diminished somewhat. At the same time, Latsis wrote, there has been a "campaign against free speech," the subversion of the Federation Council, the paralysis of the political opposition in the State Duma, the revival of Stalin-era music for the national anthem, and the abolition of the Presidential Pardons Commission. "All this forms the almost finished picture of a managed [upravlyaemaya] democracy," he wrote. JAC
...AS ANALYST COMPARES PUTIN TO MUSSOLINI RATHER THAN DE GAULLE OR PINOCHET...
"What follows is fascism, the elements of which are already a hard fact of life, particularly in Chechnya," Latsis continued, "but it is unlikely to take the form of Stalin's or Hitler's fascism throughout the rest of the country. That is too difficult and absolutely unnecessary. But a corporate state of the Mussolini type, with 'socialist' phraseology, is a grim possibility." With such a state, Putin can't expect stable or solid public support or a reliable political party behind him, Latsis argued. However, "the periodic winking at the chekists -- a plaque in memory of [former CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Yurii] Andropov, the rehabilitation of [former KGB official Yurii] Plekhanov -- will seem completely logical." Latsis concluded that Putin's alliance with the United States after 11 September gave Russia a "unique opportunity," but the period following makes Latsis uneasy about whether the opportunity will really be seized. "The transformation of Russia into a modern European state cannot be combined with restoring the atavisms of Stalinism -- even if Russia retains its eight seat among the G-7." JAC
...AND OLIGARCH WARNS OF COMING NATIONALIZATION
In an opinion piece for "Vedomosti" on 9 August that was reprinted in "The Moscow Times," Berezovskii lashed out at Putin's imputed goal of "the reconstruction of a full-fledged authoritarian state." Berezovskii wrote that the Kremlin now intends to "supplement 'managed democracy' with a controlled economy." The oligarch stated that the first step in this plan was the taming of the Duma, the governors, and the Federation Council. The second stage was making "the media...subordinate to the state." The final stage, which is now being played out, is complete state control over the economy, including the nationalization of the natural-resources sector. RC
DEFENSE MINISTER TAKES CHARGE OF CASPIAN MILITARY EXERCISES...
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will personally direct the second stage of the Russian military exercises on Caspian Sea, the country's biggest maneuvers since the fall of the Soviet Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002), RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported on 8 August. The agency's report stressed the participation of a special task group that has been created to cope with damage to seabed pipelines. It said that the overall purpose of the exercise is to secure the region's oil production and transportation facilities. VY
...AND OFFICIALS STRESS RUSSIA'S PRESENCE IN THE REGION
Speaking in Astrakhan at a 9 August joint press conference with Astrakhan Oblast Governor Anatolii Guzhvin, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, and Caspian Fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Masorgin, Ivanov said that the exercises are designed to test the combat readiness of the Caspian Fleet, Russian news agencies reported. Colonel General Konstantin Totskii, commander of the Federal Border Guards Service, said the exercises demonstrate Moscow's determination to face up to the challenges of terrorism and poaching in the region. "We have no aggressive intentions here, but are positioning ourselves as the guarantor of security. Russia's presence there is recognized and respected by all the states in the region," Totskii said. VY
DRAFT BUDGET GIVES PRIORITY TO MILITARY, JUDICIAL REFORM
The Finance Ministry on 8 August submitted its draft of the 2003 budget to the government, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported the next day. The draft predicts revenues of nearly 2.37 trillion rubles ($69.7 billion), or 18.45 percent of GDP, and expenses of 2.27 trillion rubles ($66.8 billion), or 17.67 percent of GDP. It assumes that GDP will be 12.85 trillion rubles ($378 billion), that the ruble-dollar exchange rate will be 34, and that inflation will be 10-12 percent. In presenting the budget, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that advancing military reform is a top state priority. He said President Putin has asked the ministry "to allocate sufficient resources for carrying out the Defense Ministry reforms related to increasing the number of volunteer service personnel." The draft also includes funding to continue judicial reforms and, particularly, to increase the number of judges. The government is expected to discuss the draft at a session on 15 August and to submit it to the State Duma on 26 August. RC
RUSSIA TO INTRODUCE NEW CERTIFICATION, QUOTAS ON U.S. POULTRY
Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev announced that as of 15 September his agency will require new certificates for importing U.S. poultry that will correspond to "Russian sanitary norms," polit.ru on 8 August. Gordeev added that he has informed the United States about this decision and his ministry is now briefing U.S. producers on how to comply with Russian standards. He also said that Russia intends to introduce quotas on poultry imports from all countries in order to support domestic producers. VY
RUSSIAN SKATING ELITE CIRCLES THE WAGONS TO FEND OFF 'UNFOUNDED ATTACKS'...
During a news conference in Moscow on 8 August titled "The incessant campaign of unfounded attacks on Russian skaters launched in North America," Russia's skating community denied having anything to do with the recent Olympics scandal other than fielding the world's best figure skaters, Russian and international news agencies reported. In the increasingly competitive world of figure skating, "some people use dirty tricks, but we behave in a noble manner and suffer for it," said Tamara Moskvina, the coach of Russia's co-Olympic pairs champions Anton Sikharulidze and Yelena Berezhnaya, "The Moscow Times" reported. Russian Skating Federation head Valentin Piseev denied that the contingent of Russian officials at the Salt Lake City games "ever set eyes on the man known as 'Taivanchik' [Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov], whom foreign media are describing as the mastermind behind a setup," ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 2, and 7 August 2002). Russian coach Yelena Chaikovskaya said, "The mafia never helped us, and we never needed their help because we are the indisputable leaders in figure skating," the Moscow daily reported. MES
...AS ALLEGATIONS OF U.S. CONSPIRACY ARISE
At the same Moscow news conference, Russia's Maria Sanaya and Alla Shekhovtsova, who judged the pairs and ice-dance competitions in Salt Lake City, claimed that U.S. referee Ronald Pfenning showed partiality toward North American figure skaters. According to Sanaya, Pfenning requested before the pairs short program that judges not award Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, who skated third out of 20 couples, scores higher than 5.8 in order to give later skaters a chance, AP reported. Pfenning denied the same day that he had mentioned any pair by name, and said that his request was common practice. Meanwhile, French Skating Federation President Didier Gailhaguet told the daily "Le Figaro" on 9 August that the scandal was orchestrated by the FBI in order to entrap Tokhtakhunov, dpa reported. In St. Petersburg on 8 August, Russian Figure Skating Federation President Oleg Nilov said the scandal is a "pin-pointed psychological attack mounted against judges on the eve of a tight sports season," ITAR-TASS reported. MES
TENSIONS RISE IN RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN KAZAN, MOSCOW
"Argumenty i fakty," No. 32, argues that tensions between Kazan and Moscow are continuing to ratchet up in the ongoing battle over Tatarstan's 1994 power-sharing agreement, which Moscow would like to abandon. According to the weekly, Kazan is refusing to drop the agreement and has "essentially slammed the door" in the face of federal officials. The situation, according to the weekly, resembles that which existed in 1993, during which Moscow contemplated the use of armed force. As evidence of the republic's "hardened" stance, the weekly noted that President Shaimiev recently met with Tatarstan nationalist leaders, while a number of local Muslim women have appealed a federal Interior Ministry policy that does not allow them to wear headscarves in passport photos (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 5 August 2002). Meanwhile, Moscow is applying counter-pressure on local authorities through its promotion of a draft law on setting up an oil-quality bank, which Tatarstan vigorously opposes. If adopted, the bill would restrict access to export pipelines for producers of oil with a high sulfur content, such as Tatarstan. JAC
POLICE OFFICIAL: LEGALIZING PROSTITUTION WILL NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM
A senior Interior Ministry (MVD) official on 8 August sharply denounced efforts by some Duma deputies to legalize prostitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2002), strana.ru reported the next day. Anatolii Polyakov, head of the 8th section of the MVD's criminal manhunt department, said that "if we legalize prostitution, yet one more monster will grow up with which it will be very difficult for us to struggle." He said that, far from legalizing prostitution, the country needs stronger laws against organizing and engaging in the practice. One of the co-authors of the bill that would legalize prostitution, Andrei Vulf (Union of Rightist Forces), responded to the remarks by saying, "We support the struggle against prostitution through its legalization." According to the website, the number of crimes related to prostitution has risen sharply. In 2001, there were 42 murders, 21 drug-related arrests, and 10 cases of illegal weapons possession. One hundred forty-five people were charged with running brothels. RC
GOVERNORS STEP IN TO PROTECT FARMERS AHEAD OF THEIR FEDERAL COUNTERPARTS...
Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev has signed a decree that calls on local authorities to impose temporary controls over the supply of bread and bread products to the oblast population, "Krestyanskie vedomosti" reported on 8 August. According to the newspaper, the decree establishes a monthly volume of expenditures from a regional resource fund for wheat and rye and flour, so that the supply of bread at stable prices will be guaranteed for the third quarter of this year. Stroev is the latest governor to attempt to control prices or imports in bread or dairy products (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August and 31 July 2002). On 7 August, President Putin met with Agriculture Minister Gordeev to discuss steps to prevent a plunge in grain prices this autumn and stabilize the domestic grain market, Prime-TASS reported. JAC
...AS LOWER GRAIN PRICES EXPECTED
Analysts predict the average grain price in the 2002-03 market year will be 15 percent below the previous year's due to large unsold stocks from the previous year's harvest, according to Prime-TASS. There is a grain surplus despite the fact that this year's grain harvest is expected to be 5.2 million tons lower than last year's level of 85.2 million tons. According to the agency, last autumn the federal government managed to keep prices relatively stable by carrying out "intervention buying." JAC
AA CELEBRATES 15 YEARS IN MOSCOW
The Moscow fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) will celebrate its 15th anniversary on 10 August, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 August. There are 29 AA groups in Moscow and 300 nationwide. The total number of members is unknown because the group does not maintain such statistics, according to the daily. According to three members who addressed reporters in Moscow on 7 August, during their 15 years of work with AA in Moscow, they have witnessed a few changes, such as the presence of more young people at their meetings who arrive at the meetings "not sliding under the fence but in Jeeps." One member identified only as Andrei O. remarked that it is a little bit harder for young people to quit drinking since "they have still lost little in life and do not know how horrible the consequence of alcoholism can be." According to the daily, there are 500,000 children under the age of 14 who already suffer from alcoholism. JAC
'BLACK PR' GOES ON TRIAL...
One of the first -- if not the first -- criminal cases brought against a practitioner of "black PR" will reopen in the Lenin Raion Court in Perm on 13 August, regions.ru reported on 8 August. Dmitrii Mikhailov of Yekaterinburg is accused of extortion and the dissemination of falsehoods via advertisements. Mikhailov allegedly started a campaign to discredit the local Tolstyak brand beer. After articles started appearing in the local press about the discovery of intestinal bacteria in the beer, Mikhailov reportedly demanded $15,000 from the directors of producer to stop the campaign. However, the managers instead turned to the police, who arrested Mikhailov. The company reckons it sustained 16 million rubles ($507,000) in damages from the campaign. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," one reason Mikhailov's case is considered the first is because there is a gap in federal law prohibiting so-called black PR that makes the prosecution of such cases difficult. JAC
...AS ELECTION CHIEF CALLS FOR PR LICENSES, MEDIA RESTRICTIONS...
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, speaking at a press conference in Krasnoyarsk on 8 August, proposed issuing state licenses to public-relations companies, strana.ru reported. He said that his observations of the gubernatorial campaign in Krasnoyarsk Krai have convinced him of the urgent necessity for such a measure. Veshnyakov said that certain unnamed public-relations companies "have already become dangerous for the election process and they must be eliminated." He also called for unspecified changes to the law on mass media that would "limit the freedom to lie and to earn money by dishonest means." RC
...SAYS TIMING OF CHECHEN CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM IN DOUBT...
At the same press conference, Veshnyakov said the referendum on the new Chechen constitution that Chechen officials have said will be held late this fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002) can take place only early next year, Interfax reported. Veshnyakov pointed out that the minimum period that must elapse between the registration of the referendum initiative and the date the referendum takes place is 100 days. But in Grozny, Chechen Deputy Administration Head Taus Djabrailov said on 8 August that the referendum will be held in November, Interfax reported. LF
...AND TELLS ST. PETERSBURG TO GET ITS RULES IN ORDER
Veshnyakov has also told the St. Petersburg election commission that the local law regulating elections to the city's Legislative Assembly does not correspond to federal laws, RosBalt reported on 8 August. Veshnyakov suggested a series of changes, including introducing a proportional system with the use of lists of candidates nominated by election associations or blocs. Elections will be held for the city legislature in December 2002. JAC
PUTIN BACKS RED GOVERNOR ON FISH QUOTAS
President Putin has supported Kamchatka Oblast Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev in a dispute over fishing quotas with federal officials, such as Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Chaika and deputy presidential envoy to the district Gennadii Apanasenko, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 August. On 6 August, Mashkovtsev gave local fisherman permission to catch more than the legal limit of salmon. Chaika and Apanasenko warned Mashkovtsev that he would be held criminally responsible, but President Putin ordered the State Fisheries Committee and the Natural Resources Ministry immediately to work up new quotas for the salmon catch. The committee responded by raising the limit from 40,000 tons to 100,000 tons. Kamchatka's rivers are reportedly full of salmon at the moment. JAC
OREL PROSECUTOR FINDS ONE WAY TO STOP THE COMPLAINTS
The nongovernmental organization Unified Europe appealed on 7 August to the chief federal inspector of Orel Oblast, Anatolii Mertsalov, complaining of pressure from the local prosecutor's office, "Vremya novostei" reported the next day. After lodging several complaints to "indifferent" employees at the prosecutor's office about the antics of nationalists in the city and oblast -- most recently fascist slogans were painted on the doors of the building next to their establishment -- Unified Europe found itself the subject of an inspection by local prosecutors. Unified Europe Director Dmitrii Krayukhin believes the prosecutor's office may be trying to settle an old score. Last year, the NGO won 18 local legal cases for violations of the rights of victims of political repression. JAC
CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD ACCUSES PRESIDENT OF BEING BEHIND SHATOI ATTACK
Irrespective of who planted the landmine that killed 10 Chechen conscripts on 6 August, blame for their deaths lies with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told Interfax on 8 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 August 2002). He added that Maskhadov has issued written orders to his men to kill pro-Moscow Chechen officials and representatives of the Chechen police. Kadyrov said failure to determine precisely who succeeded in laying the landmine in the immediate vicinity of a military base will negatively affect young Chechens' willingness to volunteer for the fight against "terrorists." Meanwhile, Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, who is a spokesman for the joint Russian forces in Chechnya, said on 8 August that Chechen fighters loyal to field commander Doku Umarov were responsible for the Shatoi landmine, Interfax reported. LF
ECOLOGICAL BALANCE OF UNIQUE ARMENIAN LAKE IMPROVING
The water level of Armenia's Lake Sevan is currently 36 centimeters higher than one year ago, Deputy Environment Minister Artashes Ziroyan told journalists on 8 August, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In early May, Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian said the level of the lake had risen 23 centimeters since the beginning of the year due to unusually heavy rain; and this summer the volume of lake water used for irrigation was only one seventh of that used for that purpose last year. But on 25 December 2001 the water level was 14 centimeters lower, and on 10 April 2002 16 centimeters lower, than one year earlier. Armenian ecologists have been struggling since the late 1970s to reverse damage to the lake's ecosystem caused by the excessive use of its waters for irrigation purposes and generating hydroelectric power. LF
AZERBAIJANI OFFICER SHOT DEAD ON FRONT LINE
An Azerbaijani Army lieutenant was shot dead on 7 August by Armenian troops while fulfilling "a military mission" on the front line between the two countries' forces, Turan reported on 8 August, quoting the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press service. No further details are available. LF
TALKS BETWEEN AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES, NARDARAN VILLAGERS MAKE NO PROGRESS
Two rounds of talks, on 5 and 7 August, between senior Azerbaijani officials and residents of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku failed to make any progress toward resolving the tensions between them, Turan reported on 8 August. Djabrail Alizade, who is chairman of the Union of Baku and Baku Villages, said the officials demanded "concessions" from the villagers, who continue to insist that eight residents detained during and after the 3 June clashes between villagers and police be released. Alizade said the villagers are no longer prepared to negotiate with anyone except President Heidar Aliev, and that they plan to stage a new protest demonstration on 10 August. LF
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ECHOES CHARGES OF GEORGIAN INCONSISTENCY...
Speaking on 8 August on his arrival in Astrakhan to oversee major maneuvers by Russia's Caspian flotilla, Sergei Ivanov accused Georgia of "duplicity" in its approach to fighting terrorism, Russian news agencies reported. As Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had done the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002), Sergei Ivanov pointed to the discrepancy between repeated Georgian officials' pledges to crack down on the Chechen militant presence in the Pankisi Gorge and their failure to take any measures to that end. He said that once the Caspian maneuvers are ended he will travel to the Russian-Georgian border, accompanied by Federal Border Service Director Colonel General Konstantin Totskii, to assess the situation there. Ivanov denied media reports that the Russian Defense Ministry has drafted plans for a military strike against Chechen fighters on Georgian territory. LF
...AS FOREIGN MINISTRY BLAMES GEORGIA FOR MURDER OF RUSSIAN COLONEL...
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Malakhov said on 8 August that the Georgian authorities "are fully to blame" for the "brutal" murder in Tbilisi of Russian Colonel Igor Zaitsev, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). Zaitsev was killed by repeated blows to the head with a blunt instrument, Caucasus Press quoted a Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman as saying on 8 August. The spokesman added that a suspect has been detained, but did not disclose his identity. But Caucasus Press on 9 August identified the presumed murderer, who has denied killing Zaitsev, as David Zazashvili, an ethnic Georgian citizen of Russia who was one of Zaitsev's colleagues. LF
...AND GEORGIA DOES NOT EXCLUDE CHECHENS' EXTRADITION
Georgia will not create any obstacles to the extradition to Russia of 13 Chechen fighters, but the appropriate international procedures must be complied with, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 8 August. The 13 men were detained on 3-4 August after illegally entering Georgia from Russia, and have been remanded in custody. In a move that Georgian Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze insisted was "not a political decision," Georgia refused on 6 August to hand them over to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on the grounds that Moscow had not furnished documentary evidence that they had committed any crimes in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 August 2002). LF
RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN ANTAGONISM HITS AIRLINES
Georgia on 8 August banned flights by Russian airlines over its territory except during the hours of 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., Russian agencies reported. That move came in response to a similar Russian decision on 1 August to prohibit flights over Russian territory by Georgian airlines except during night hours until 31 October due to Russian military training in the North Caucasus. That ban threatens to bankrupt the already cash-strapped Georgian carrier Airzena, its director, Tamaz Gaiashvili, told Caucasus Press on 7 August. It is not clear whether the Georgian ban extends to flights from Russia to Armenia, which Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said on 6 August would not be affected by any Georgian countermeasure. LF
RUSSIA SLAMS GEORGIAN THREATS TO ABKHAZIA...
In a statement released on 8 August, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned as "irresponsible" and liable to destabilize the situation in the Abkhaz conflict zone calls by members of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government and parliament in exile for a new war in Abkhazia, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2002). The statement also expressed concern over recent threats by Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia to Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze, who is President Eduard Shevardnadze's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict. It accused the Georgian authorities of doing nothing to counter such threats of violence. Georgia's Ambassador to Russia Zurab Abashidze responded the same day that Shevardnadze has already condemned calls for a new war in Abkhazia, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). Abashidze further argued that the displaced persons' anger and impatience are understandable, as they still see no prospect of being able to return to the homes they were forced to abandon 10 years ago. LF
...AS PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY MEETS WITH ABKHAZ PREMIER
Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, who is Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, met in Sukhum on 7 August with Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba to discuss prospects for resolving the conflict, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported the following day. Loshchinin told journalists that the Abkhaz side has put forward new ideas and proposals, but he did not elaborate. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION ACCUSES LEADERSHIP OF FORCING POPULATION TO RESORT TO VIOLENCE
National Movement leader Mikhail Saakashvili and United Democratic Party Chairman Zurab Zhvania have accused the Georgian authorities of leaving the population no alternative to violence to overthrow the present leadership, Caucasus Press reported on 8 August. They noted in particular efforts to prevent local and municipal councils that were elected on 2 June from embarking on their official duties, and expressed the hope that the Tbilisi municipal council will be able to do so within two weeks. Votes cast for seats on that council are currently being recounted following complaints of falsification by the National Movement and other parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June and 30 July 2002). Saakashvili and Zhvania warned of "a dreadful outcome" in the event of a popular uprising. LF
KYRGYZ POLICE ATTACKED WHEN TRYING TO ARREST ISLAMIST
Police in a village in Kyrgyzstan's southern Djalalabad Oblast were forced to open fire when they were attacked while trying to arrest a man suspected of belonging to the banned Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, Russian agencies reported on 8 August. One villager received a gunshot wound. Deputy Interior Minister Kalmurat Sadiyev told journalists in Bishkek on 6 August that 35 Hizb ut-Tahrir sympathizers have been arrested in Kyrgyzstan since the beginning of the year, but he added that a recent slowdown has been registered in the activities of such outlawed Islamic organizations, Interfax reported. LF
TAJIKISTAN OFFERS LAST WORD IN RADICAL CHIC?
T-shirts featuring the image of Osama bin Laden are on sale in Dushanbe's bazaar for between $8-10, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. Said Abdullo Nuri, chairman of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party, has condemned as an act of sacrilege the trade in T-shirts featuring a man who has discredited Islam, the agency noted. LF
NIYAZOV REJECTS PROPOSAL TO MAKE HIM TURKMEN PRESIDENT FOR LIFE...
Addressing a session of the People's Council in Turkmenabad (former Charzhou) on 9 August, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov rejected a proposal enthusiastically endorsed by its 3,000 delegates the previous day to make him president for life, turkmenistan.ru reported. He noted that the council already approved in December 1999 abolishing all constitutional limitations on his presidential term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1999). Niyazov said in February 2001 that he will step down in 2010, and in June 2002 he said that presidential elections may be held in 2007-08 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 2001 and 24 June 2002). Also on 9 August, Niyazov declined the three-fold "Golden Age" order the People's Council voted to award him the previous day. LF
...BUT RENAMES MONTHS AND DAYS OF WEEK
In keeping with his predilection for returning to the roots of Turkmen culture, Niyazov instructed the People's Council on 8 August to rename the months and the days of the week, Reuters and Interfax reported. January will henceforth be known as Turkmenbashi (one of Niyazov's titles), April will be renamed after his late mother, and September after the Rukhname, his volume of spiritual writings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2001). During his address to the council on 8 August, Niyazov affirmed that Turkmenistan "is on the right path" and that "everything in our country is calm and bright," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that he sees no need "to copy European or oriental models of state development." LF
TWO UZBEK PRISONERS DIE OF MISTREATMENT
The bodies of two Uzbek men jailed for their alleged membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir were handed over to their relatives for burial on 8 August, AP reported. Both had reportedly been subjected to beatings for continuing their religious observance in detention; one of the men, Muzafar Avazov, had suffered a fractured skull. Avazov was sentenced two years ago to a 20-year prison term, and Khusnuddin Olimov to 15 years' imprisonment. Both were serving their sentences in the Zhaslyk colony in Karakalpakistan. LF
JAILED BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST ON HUNGER STRIKE
Svyatlana Nekh, a 22-year-old activist of the opposition organization Young Hramada who was recently jailed in Hrodna, went on hunger strike on 7 August to protest her incarceration, Belapan reported on 8 August. Nekh was sentenced to 10 days in jail for her part in a protest demonstration last month to mark two years since the disappearance of journalist Dzmitry Zavadski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). JM
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PROVIDES LOAN GUARANTEE, DEBT RELIEF TO TRACTOR MANUFACTURER
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has decreed a government guarantee for a $30 million loan for the Minsk Tractor Plant (MTZ), Belapan reported on 8 August. Additionally, the decree delayed until July 2008 the payment of MTZ debts accumulated by July 2002 and postponed until the end of 2002 the payment of the $20 million that MTZ owes the state budget. Lukashenka ordered MTZ Director Alyaksandr Pukhavy to increase MTZ's annual output to 50,000 tractors and raise profitability (the relation of profit to total production costs) to 20-25 percent. MTZ employs more than 20,000 people, while another 150,000 work for MTZ subcontractors, suppliers, and servicing companies. JM
BELARUSIAN TRADE UNION BOSS SACKS EDITOR OF PRESS ORGAN
Leanid Kozik, the newly appointed head of the Belarusian Trade Union Federation (FPB) (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 July 2002), has fired Alyaksandr Starykevich from the post of editor in chief of the FPB press organ, "Belaruski chas," Belapan reported on 8 August. Last month the FPB Presidium voted down Kozik's proposal to sack Starykevich. "I cannot work with a newspaper that does not share my views," Kozik said in explaining his reasons for getting rid of Starykevich. "The dismissal order is an eloquent example of what has happened to collective decision-making in the FPB," Starykevich said of his ouster. Kozik, previously deputy chief of the presidential administration, is widely believed to have been sent by President Lukashenka to stifle antigovernment dissent in Belarus's trade union movement. The FPB is expected to hold a national congress in September. JM
MORE THAN 13 MILLION UKRAINIANS LIVE BELOW POVERTY LINE
The government on 8 August released a report stating that 13.1 million people in Ukraine (27.2 percent of the population) live below the poverty line, which is officially set at a monthly income of 175 hryvnas ($33) per person, UNIAN reported. Ukraine's worst poverty-stricken regions are Transcarpathian Oblast (46.6 percent were below the poverty line in 2001), Crimea (38.4 percent), and Khmelnytskyy Oblast (36.8 percent). A recent World Bank report on the global economy in 2001 includes Ukraine in a group of the world's 65 poorest countries, where GDP per capita does not exceed $745. JM
INVESTIGATORS SAID TO FOCUS ON BUSINESSES RUN BY OUR UKRAINE LAWMAKERS
Our Ukraine lawmaker Oleh Ryabchuk told UNIAN on 8 August that within the past week Ukrainian law enforcement bodies launched 20 criminal investigations against companies founded by Our Ukraine lawmakers or those in which Our Ukraine lawmakers have stakes. Ryabchuk said representatives of the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime "openly demand [that Our Ukraine lawmakers involved in those companies] leave Our Ukraine" since, Ryabchuk added, "a head-on onslaught on the part of the directorate is under way." JM
IMF AGAIN VOICES CONCERN OVER ESTONIA'S SECOND EXTRA BUDGET
Visiting International Monetary Fund delegation head Rick Haas advised Finance Minister Harri Ounapuu in Tallinn on 8 August that Estonia should drop its plans to compile a second supplementary budget and place the budget surplus in reserve, as the global economy is expected to weaken in the second half of the year, ETA reported. Ounapuu said Estonia had a more than 1 billion kroon ($62 million) budget surplus in the first half of the year, but is planning to spend only 788 million kroons for the extra budget. Moreover, most of the funds would be for expenditures that won't burden next year's budget such as the purchase of an office building in Brussels, the renovation of border-guard stations on the eastern border, and drought relief for farmers. The office building is particularly important since the number of officials stationed in the EU capital is expected to rise from the current 24 to at least 66 upon the country's EU accession. SG
BALTIC STATES' CONSUMER PRICE INDEXES FALL IN JULY
The consumer price index (CPI) in each of the Baltic states decreased in July, BNS reported on 8 August. The greatest fall was in Latvia, where the CPI was 0.4 percent lower than in June, but still 1.0 percent higher than in July 2001. In July the 9.4 percent price drop for fruits and vegetables led to a 0.6 percent fall in the price of goods, but the costs of services rose by 0.3 percent. The CPIs in Estonia and Lithuania fell by 0.3 percent compared to June, but were 3.1 and 0.1 percent, respectively, higher than in July 2001. In both countries there were seasonal drops in food and footwear prices, and the fall in the value of the U.S. dollar led to lower prices for gasoline. SG
U.S. CONGRESSMAN VISITS LITHUANIA
Representative Elton Gallegly, (Republican, California), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe of the Committee on International Relations, is visiting Lithuania on 6-11 August, ELTA reported. On 8 August he told Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas that he is impressed by the country's endeavors to join NATO and is satisfied with its contribution to the fight against international terrorism. Gallegly said he sees no reason why Lithuania would not receive an invitation to join NATO at the Prague summit in November. That day he also held meetings with Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis and Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius. Gallegly is scheduled to travel to Palanga on 9 August to meet with vacationing President Valdas Adamkus and Tom Schneider, the head of the U.S.-operated Mazeikiai Oil concern. SG
POLISH POLICE CHIEF DISMISSES REGIONAL EXECUTIVE OVER BEATING OF MANAGER...
The commander of the Polish police has fired the deputy provincial police chief in Szczecin following the police inaction during the brutal beating of Henryk Walus, the head of the Odra clothing company, by shipyard workers on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002), Polish media reported on 8 August. "Yesterday, fundamental moral and legal norms were violated, our state's authority was undermined," Interior Minister Krzysztof Janik commented on the beating. "I want to say clearly that lynching will never be a method for improving people's welfare and at the same time it cannot be in any way justified by a need to vent stress and frustration," he added. The Szczecin police have arrested five shipyard workers suspected of participating in the beating. JM
...AS TRADE UNIONS SAY VIOLENT PROTESTS INDICATE GROWING CRISIS...
"We are deeply concerned about the events at the Odra plant since they are a sign of a growing crisis in Poland," the leftist National Trade Unions Alliance (OPZZ) said in a statement on 8 August. The OPZZ simultaneously recalled that "for months many companies do not pay wages to their workers, forcing people to live on the verge of the bread line [and] depriving them of basic human dignity." JM
...AND OPPOSITION LEADER BLAMES INTERIOR MINISTER
Civic Platform leader Maciej Plazynski told journalists on 8 August that Interior Minister Janik should also bear some of the responsibility for the police inaction during the beating incident in Szczecin, PAP reported. Plazynski recalled Janik's public comment on the lack of police intervention during the road blockade by Self-Defense farmers on 1-2 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). Polish media quoted Janik as saying on 2 August that the police would not use force during the blockade as long as the law was not broken. "[The] police are not blind and deaf to people's problems," Janik said on Radio Zet the same day, spawning much media speculation that police will not intervene in protests deemed "right" by the Interior Ministry. "The police and the Interior Ministry are not for [exercising] social sensitivity," Plazynski commented. JM
CZECH LOWER HOUSE REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION ON FOREIGN MINISTRY INVESTIGATION...
The Chamber of Deputies rejected on 8 July a motion submitted by the opposition Civic Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia to set up an investigative commission probing illicit deals pertaining to contracts awarded by the Foreign Ministry, CTK reported. The motion was submitted in connection with media reports questioning the role played by Karel Srba, former secretary at the ministry, who is currently under investigation for allegedly contracting the murder of journalist Sabina Slonkova. The motion was supported by 96 deputies -- three short of the minimum number of votes needed for its approval. In related news, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on 8 August that he will resign if any proof of interference on his part or on the part of other politicians is produced regarding Srba's current investigation. MS
...AND FAILS AGAIN TO BACK MARVANOVA AS COMMISSION HEAD
For a second time, the Chamber of Deputies failed on 8 August to elect Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) deputy Hana Marvanova as chairwoman of its Media Commission, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). The news agency said that the new government coalition is apparently facing its first crisis and cited US-DEU parliamentary group leader Karel Kuehnl as calling for negotiations among the coalition parties regarding the matter. Under the coalition agreement, the post is to go to a US-DEU representative. MS
CZECH NBU BEGINS KAVAN VETTING PROCESS
The National Security Office (NBU) began on 8 August the process of vetting former Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, CTK reported. In September, Kavan is to begin his one-year term as UN General Assembly president. He is also a deputy representing the Social Democratic Party in Czech parliament. However, he must become a regular employee of the Foreign Ministry as ambassador at large in order to take up his UN post, and, in turn, Czech legislation stipulates that as ambassador Kavan must be vetted. After Kavan's return from exile in 1989, there were reports that he was suspected of having collaborated with the communist-era secret service (StB). The case reached the courts, and after five years the Interior Ministry gave Kavan a "negative certificate" attesting that he had not "knowingly" collaborated with the StB. MS
CZECH GOVERNMENT TO SELL CESKY TELECOM
The Czech government on 8 August agreed to sell its 51 percent stake in Cesky Telecom to a German-Danish consortium, dpa reported. The stake is to be sold for 55 billion crowns ($1.83 billion) to a consortium formed by Deutsche Bank and Tele Dankmark (TDC). Details of the contract are to be finalized by the end of September. TDC Vice President Tolbert Holm told dpa that the consortium is also negotiating for the stake in Cesky Telecom controlled by the Dutch company Royal KPN. Royal KPN controls 6 percent outright and another 27 percent as part of a consortium with Swisscom. MS
SEVERE FLOODING HITS CZECH REPUBLIC
Four people are feared to have been killed in floods that hit the southern Czech Republic on 8 August, Reuters reported. One of the confirmed killed, a young woman in Pisek, died when an oak tree uprooted and fell on a cabin where she was spending her vacation. Some 2,000 people were evacuated from the region. In Prague, an alert was declared on 8 August and the authorities evacuated low-lying parks and islands on the Vltava River. CTK reported that water had flooded some streets in the city's Old Town and that some roads were closed. MS
NEW SLOVAK SOCIAL DEMOCRATS BRACE FOR ELECTIONS...
Milan Ftacnik, chairman of the newly formed Social Democratic Alternative (SDA) said on 8 August that the SDA has a good chance of becoming a member of the next coalition, but added that this is not the party's goal, TASR reported. Ftacnik said the SDA will support any stable majority government that embraces social-democratic principles. He also said that the SDA's goal is to help form a "pro-European, pro-[European Union] integration, and democratic parliamentary majority." Ftacnik said the SDA rules out any cooperation with the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) or with the Slovak National Party (SNS). SDA Deputy Chairman Peter Weiss said the SDA is different from the "paternalistic" Party of the Democratic Left, as well as from rightist parties that "believe that the market solves all problems." Public opinion polls indicate that the SDA's prospects of passing the 5 percent electoral hurdle are minimal. MS
...AS DO FORMER HZDS LEADERS RUNNING ON OWN TICKET...
Movement for Democracy (HZD) Chairman Ivan Gasparovic said on 8 August that under the leadership of Vladimir Meciar, the HZDS has become a "typical one-man party seeking enemies within its own ranks," TASR reported. Gasparovic told journalists in Kosice that "we did not leave the HZDS, we were thrown out." He said many of those who signed the petition backing HZD's registration ahead of the elections did so because they are looking for an alternative to Meciar. Gasparovic, a former HZDS deputy chairman and parliamentary speaker, described his formation as being "centrist -- but slightly to the left." He and other former HZDS leaders left that party last month after failing to be included on its lists for the September elections. MS
...AND SLOVAK NATIONALISTS
SNS Chairwoman Anna Malikova said on 8 August that her favored coalition partners would be the HZDS and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), TASR reported. She said in Banska Bystrica that there are similarities between the programs of the SNS and those two formations. However, Malikova rejected HZDS recriminations that the SNS is to blame for Slovakia's failure to accede to NATO and the EU when they were coalition partners in 1994-98. "We were against Slovakia joining NATO," she said, "but we did not take the Defense Ministry by force," she said in reference to the SNS's tenure as a minor coalition partner. She also criticized the KDH for presenting itself as the only genuine defender of Slovak values. "The KDH camouflages itself ahead of the elections as protector of the national interest. Evidence, however, indicates that the KDH has damaged national interests" as a member of the current coalition, she said. MS
SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION RECOMMENDS REPLACING TV DIRECTOR...
The parliament's Media Commission on 8 August recommended that parliament heed the Slovak Television Council's recommendation in July to replace Slovak Television Director Milan Materak, TASR reported. The commission recommended that Materak be replaced by Marian Kleis, director of Slovak Television's Kosice programs. On 23 July, the Slovak Television Council recommended that Materak be fired, criticizing him for having signed a collective contract that grants managers large severance payment in exchange for having agreed with the unions on a 10 percent pay raise for employees. MS
...AND MARKIZA TV ACCUSED OF BIASED COVERAGE
The government's Press and Information Office on 8 August said the private Markiza TV has violated its obligation to provide broad news coverage by failing to report on a government press conference one day earlier, TASR reported. The conference featured Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and other members of his cabinet positively evaluating the government's four-year performance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). "If the news service of Markiza TV regularly provides information, commentary and analysis of the government's decisions and fulfillment of its program, then failing to inform about how the government itself evaluates its fulfillment of the program...can be considered to be a violation of objectivity," the Press and Information Office said. Markiza TV is co-owned by Pavol Rusko, who is also leader of the Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) and has often been criticized for giving extended coverage to ANO in its news coverage. MS
SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTRY DIRECTOR FAILS VETTING
The National Security Office (NBU) on 8 August reconfirmed an earlier decision to deny Jan Michalko, director of the Interior Ministry, access to classified information, TASR reported. Interior Minister Ivan Simko, who had earlier contested the NBU's decision, said he will accept it now. A decision on Michalko's case is expected after Simko returns from vacation. TASR said Michalko has "probably" was not vetted because he had not reported his attendance of summer training courses for the former Soviet secret service (KGB). Michalko said in the past that he never cooperated with Czechoslovakia's communist-era secret service, the StB. MS
MORE FORMER HUNGARIAN MINISTERS CLEARED IN COMMISSION PROBE
The parliamentary commission probing possible links between former Hungarian members of postcommunist governments and communist-era secret services cleared more former ministers of any suspicion on 8 August, Hungarian media reported. Several other ministers were cleared earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). The commission did not indicate how many cases are involved. In related news, Lukacs Szabo, chairman of the extraparliamentary National People's Party, told journalists in Debrecen on 8 August that he has passed on to Imre Mecs, chairman of the commission, information related to former Prime Minister Viktor Orban's past. MS
ARE EXPERTS FOR HUNGARY'S 'MEDGYESSY COMMISSION' A SECURITY RISK?
The daily "Nepszabadsag" wrote on 9 August that Gabor Kiszely, an expert called upon to assist the parliamentary commission probing Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's past, has been defined by the National Security Office as a "special national security risk." "Nepszabadsag" is in general critical of the opposition FIDESZ and Democratic Forum and the commission is headed by Democratic Forum deputy Laszlo Balogh. Kiszely is a German citizen and an executive at the recently inaugurated House of Terror museum in Budapest. Earlier this week, media reports said Sebestyen Gorka, another expert on the Medgyessy commission, has also been deemed to be a "security risk" by the National Security Office. Gorka told the pro-FIDESZ daily "Magyar Nemzet" on 9 August that a recent "Nepszabadsag" report on him was full of errors. He denied having U.S. and Hungarian citizenship, as " Nepszabadsag" reported, and said he is a dual British-Hungarian citizen. He also said he is not a "FIDESZ-expert," and said that his work for the investigative commission has been approved by all its members. MS
ONE MORE PROBE LAUNCHED IN HUNGARY
Police on 8 August launched an investigation into possible election fraud by FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Ferenc Papcsak in Szabolcs County, Hungarian media reported. The decision on the probe was taken after a local weekly reported that during the campaign for the second round of the elections in that county voters were offered money to support Papcsak. Papcsak, who won the round with 55.43 percent of the vote, has denied the allegation and said the cash offer in exchange for voting for "a certain candidate" was made on behalf of his Socialist rival. A local couple recorded the offer, which was printed in the weekly "NyirTer." MS
TWO MORE CANDIDATES JOIN BUDAPEST MAYORAL RACE
The Centrum Party on 8 August nominated environmentalist Gyorgy Droppa as its candidate for the mayoral elections in Budapest this fall, Hungarian media reported. A second candidate, Agoston Kmetty, chairman of the Federation for the Protection of the Interests of Budapest Dealers, has also joined the race. Meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Gabor Demszky on 9 August criticized Pal Schmitt, an independent candidate backed by FIDESZ-Democratic Forum, for having pledged to implement environmental initiatives if elected. Demszky said that if Schmitt's pledges are fulfilled it would mean that no new roads, bridges, or tunnels will be built in the capital for several years, and existing network roads will not be upgraded. MS
STOIBER RULES OUT NEW MILITARY MISSIONS FOR GERMANY
Speaking on a visit to German KFOR troops in Prizren on 8 August, conservative chancellor candidate and Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber said that Germany does not have the means to undertake any further military missions abroad, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. At one point in his journey, Stoiber flew in a U.S. military helicopter because there was no serviceable German helicopter available. He blamed the problem on the current government's failure to give the military sufficient funding. His remarks came as Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sought to reverse his sagging poll figures for the 22 September election by playing upon anti-American sentiments and saying repeatedly that Germany will not participate in any U.S. military action against Iraq. The Frankfurt daily likened Schroeder's behavior to the Balkan-war parody film "Wag the Dog," saying that Schroeder is creating his own "war" to divert attention from domestic issues. In Prizren, Stoiber called the discussion about Iraq "hypothetical." It is not clear whether Stoiber would rule out shifting the command of the Macedonian peacekeeping mission from NATO to the European Union (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 August 2002). PM
COVIC REBUFFS UNMIK SPOKESWOMAN OVER SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS...
Susan Manuel, who is spokeswoman for the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said in Prishtina on 6 August that the international community has not yet decided whether the province's Serbs will be able to take part in the 29 September Serbian presidential elections, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). In response, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said that her remarks "are among the most hypocritical that I have heard lately. I tell you, the Serbs will definitely take part in the presidential elections. Manuel would do well to take note of this point and remember it." PM
...AND DEMANDS EXPLANATION FOR ATTEMPTED ARREST OF SERBIAN VIGILANTE LEADER
Speaking in Belgrade on 8 August, Covic said that he demands an explanation from UNMIK and its head, Michael Steiner, regarding NATO's recent attempt to arrest Mitrovica Serbian leader Milan Ivanic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). Covic called the attempted arrest a "provocation." Meanwhile, in Prishtina, UNMIK appealed to Ivanic to turn himself in after a judge issued an arrest warrant for attempted murder. Ivanic told a press conference in Mitrovica that the charges are unfounded and that he is a victim of a plot involving local Albanians on one side and UNMIK and KFOR on the other. PM
UN ACKNOWLEDGES PROBLEMS IN CARE FOR KOSOVA'S MENTALLY ILL
Speaking in New York on 8 August, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said that a lack of funding from international donors is chiefly responsible for the problems in mental-health care in Kosova as outlined by a recent study, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). Eckhard added that UNMIK "has been aware of the abuses and failings in the mental-health field...and it agrees that there are serious problems.... The mission needs resources to improve staffing, training, and facilities. So far however, donor response in dealing with mental-health priorities has been poor." Susan Manuel told the BBC that while much of the report is true, UNMIK does not know of any cases of sexual abuse of patients, as mentioned in the study. There is also a problem with the study's recommendation that the patients be reintegrated into local society, because few of them are ethnic Albanians. PM
DJUKANOVIC TO MEET WITH SOLANA
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said that he will meet soon with Javier Solana, the EU's security-policy chief, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 9 August. The future of economic relations between Serbia and Montenegro will top the agenda. Djukanovic stressed that he expects both sides to stick to the terms they agreed to in March. Chris Patten, the EU's commissioner for foreign policy, subsequently said that the two should forge closer economic links than what they agreed in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2002). PM
MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY REPEATS CLAIMS ABOUT ALLEGED GUERILLA ORGANIZATION...
The Macedonian Interior Ministry said again on 8 August that a new ethnic Albanian guerrilla organization -- the so-called Army of the Republic of Ilirida (ARISH) -- plans to destabilize the country in the coming months, Macedonian media reported. Already on 31 July, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski made similar charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). Unlike Georgievski, who quoted NATO as his primary source of information, the opposition daily "Utrinski vesnik" wrote that high-ranking Interior Ministry officials this time cited unspecified "friendly intelligence services" from the region. The officials added, however, that they heard about the new organization for the first time from Georgievski and then checked the information. UB
...WHILE NATO SPOKESMAN DENIES MACEDONIAN REPORTS
Speaking at a news conference on 8 August, NATO Spokesman Craig Ratcliff denied that NATO has confirmed the existence of the ARISH, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Ratcliff said that neither NATO in Skopje nor NATO in Brussels has any knowledge of the group. He added that the only information provided by NATO about the possible existence of smaller armed groups was based on media reports from the region. Ratcliff also denied media reports that NATO Task Force Fox troops no longer conduct patrols in the crisis regions and in Skopje. In related news, UNMIK head Steiner dismissed as "unfounded" Macedonian claims that there are armed bands in Kosova aimed at destabilizing Macedonia, Hina reported from Prishtina on 8 August. UB/PM
ALBANIAN SECURITY CHIEF SACKED
Prime Minister Fatos Nano has sacked Fatos Klosi as head of the secret service (SHISH), ATA reported from Tirana on 7 August. A government statement suggested that Klosi, who has held the post since 1997, has not always been up to the task. Opposition leader Sali Berisha hailed the move, saying that time has come for a judicial investigation of Klosi's possible role in alleged political murders and economic crime. Reuters reported that local media suggest that Klosi's sacking was part of a deal between Berisha and Nano aimed at avoiding early elections, which Berisha had previously demanded. AP cited local media reports alleging that Klosi had bugged talks in June between the major political parties aimed at reaching a consensus on a new president. PM
BOSNIA CHARGES ISLAMIC CHARITY OFFICIALS WITH TAX FRAUD
In Sarajevo on 9 August, Bosnian prosecutors presented evidence that Enaam Arnaout, who heads the Chicago-based Benevolence International Foundation, and three other senior charity leaders -- Munib Zahiragic, Mohammed Anas Tallawi, and Alen Cosic -- failed to file tax returns for 1999-2001, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April and 2 August 2002). They are suspected of having embezzled some $950,000 in charitable donations. Ivica Misic, who heads Bosnia's antiterrorism operation, said: "Our investigation in this case is ongoing, and so far what we have confirmed our suspicions about this organization. We are not finished yet and will track down how this money was spent." PM
EU CRITICIZES ROMANIA OVER ICC ACCORD WITH U.S.
The European Union said on 8 August that it "regrets" Romania's decision to sign with the United States an accord preventing the handing over of U.S. citizens to the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC), international news agencies reported. EU Commission spokesman Michael Curtis said in Brussels that the EU regrets that "a candidate country has not waited for the EU to establish its final position" on the matter. Romania was the first country to heed the U.S. request for such an agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). EU officials cited by Reuters said they are concerned that other East European candidates for NATO and the EU might follow suit due to pressure from Washington. Romania responded by saying it does not see why its being the first to sign the accord with the United States should affect its EU candidacy. Foreign Ministry spokesman Victor Micula told Reuters that "there have been suggestions to wait for a common position [of the EU], but, because this would have been in September...we did not see strong enough reasons to postpone the agreement." MS
ROMANIA'S UDMR HONORARY CHAIRMAN RESUMES CRITICISM OF LEADERSHIP
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Honorary Chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes said on 8 August that the UDMR leadership is "collaborating with an oppressive regime" in Romania, Mediafax reported. He said the UDMR leadership indulges in "self-pity" when deploring the confiscation of church properties by the communist-era regime instead of "telling the truth and demanding immediate restitution." Toekes spoke in Budapest at a meeting of the World Federation of Hungarian Calvinists, of which he is chairman. In related news, Mures County UDMR Chairman Attila Kelemen said on 8 August that his organization is demanding that the county prefect fine three mayors. Kelemen said the mayors of Sighisoara, Ludus, and Iernut have not displayed bilingual street signs, as stipulated by the Law on Local Public Administration for localities where national minorities make up 20 percent or more of the local population. MS
ROMANIAN MINERS ON HUNGER STRIKE
Twenty miners at the Lupac pits near Resita are on hunger strike protesting the Industry Ministry's failure to allocate money for the pit's safety improvement, Romanian radio and Mediafax reported on 8 August. Thirty-four miners began the strike two weeks ago, but several had to halt their protest due to the deterioration of their health. Four miners have been hospitalized. MS
FLOODING HITS ROMANIA, BULGARIA
A child and an elderly man were killed by flooding resulting from heavy rainfall in southern Romania this week, Reuters reported on 8 August. The Environment Ministry said an 8-year-old boy and the man were swept away by swollen floodwaters of a river in Gorj County. The ministry said the floods have damaged more than 70 households in seven counties across Romania. In Bulgaria, BTA reported that torrential rainfall caused the flooding of hundreds of homes and left dozens of small villages without electricity. Two farmers were killed by lightning. MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES OSCE PLAN WITH PARTY LEADERS...
President Vladimir Voronin met on 8 August with leaders of centrist and left-of-center political parties to discuss the OSCE's plan for Moldova's federalization, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. No leaders of rightist parties were invited to the meeting. Voronin said there can be no task that is more important than the country's reunification, "which must be achieved both for the sake of our forefathers and for future generations." He said party differences must disappear when "statehood is at stake." Voronin said that the resolution of the Transdniester conflict would be the most significant step in the direction of consolidating Moldovan statehood. The meeting was also attended by leaders of Transdniester opposition parties. MS
...AND FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS A SPLIT MOLDOVA WILL NEVER ACHIEVE EU INTEGRATION
Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau said in an interview on Moldovan television on 8 August that the OSCE proposals for settling the Transdniester conflict ought to be widely debated and that he does not rule out a referendum on whether to accept them, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Dudau said that without achieving full reunification as a result of the conflict's resolution, one cannot envisage any significant foreign investments in Moldova or the country's integration into "the family of European nations." MS
MOLDOVA RESTRUCTURES EUROBOND DEBT
First Deputy Finance Minister Mariana Durlesteanu on 8 August told Infotag in a telephone conversation from Washington that negotiations on the restructuring of Moldova's $75 million Eurobond debt have been successfully completed. The debt, carrying a 9.75 percent interest rate, matured in July. Durlesteanu said an accord has been reached with the major bond-holders to reschedule redemption for seven years at the lower interest rate of 6.8 percent per year. Durlesteanu said the agreement pertains to only $39.6 million, since Moldova bought out the rest of the debt ahead of time. She also said that it was agreed that 10 percent of the remaining debt will be paid by the end 2002. MS
MOLDOVAN POLICE DETAIN SUSPECT IN OFFICIAL'S KIDNAPPING
Police on 8 August detained a suspect in the 2 August kidnapping of Piotr Dimitrov, deputy director of the government Information and Technologies Department, Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. The suspect allegedly drove the van that was used during Dimitrov's abduction. The suspect was detained near Chisinau after witnesses reported the van's license-plate number to police. Police are withholding the suspect's name until they complete the investigation. MS
BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER WRAPS UP VISIT TO MIDDLE EAST
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski continued his trip to the Middle East with a three-day official visit to Jordan, where he met with King Abdullah II and government officials, BTA reported on 8 August. The talks focused on the improvement of economic cooperation between Bulgaria and Jordan, as well as on efforts to halt violence and encourage peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Saxecoburggotski was to return to Bulgaria on 9 August. UB
BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT EXTENDS EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS
Minister for Labor and Social Affairs Lidia Shuleva announced on 7 August that the government has launched a special program for university graduates, BTA reported. Under the program, about 180 new jobs have been created in the public administration for qualified students who graduated from university either this or last year and are under 29 years old. Shuleva also said that the Harvest Protection 2002 program will be expanded to provide 6,300 jobs for seasonal field guards, instead of the initially planned 4,426. The government employment initiatives also include programs for welfare recipients and training and internship programs for the unemployed. UB
BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS ACTION PLAN AGAINST CHILD LABOR
The government approved a national action plan against child labor on 7 August, BTA reported. The key objective of the plan is to reduce the number of teenagers and children who do not attend school at all or not on a regular basis. According to a national survey, only 14 percent of the 1.3 million children under the age of 18 in Bulgaria do not work at all. The majority of the country's working children is engaged in housework (41.8 percent) and farm work (31.8 percent), while 6.4 percent work in the private sector, mostly in trade and services. The government action plan also aims to eliminate the worst forms of child labor such as prostitution, drug trafficking, and begging. UB
WARSAW OBLIGES ITSELF TO BUILD EU'S 'BERLIN WALL'
Last week, Poland concluded the Administration of Justice and Internal Affairs Chapter in its European Union accession talks in Brussels. Warsaw pledged to beef up control of its 1,200-kilometer border with Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast, Belarus, and Ukraine to prevent illegal migration, as well as smuggling of goods and trafficking of drugs and arms, after Poland joins the EU. Some Western media commented that Poland's obligations under this negotiation chapter -- the country's 26th closed chapter -- are tantamount to erecting a new "Berlin Wall" on the country's eastern and northern frontiers, which are expected to become the EU's external frontiers as early as 1 January 2004.
Poland's obligations under this chapter involve a serious overhaul of its border guards and, understandably, mean making sizeable expenditures from the state budget. Interior Minister Krzysztof Janik said in a recent press interview that in order to qualify for joining the Schengen agreements, which may take place around 2007, Poland needs $250 million euros ($245 million) to refurbish its border-guard force and infrastructure. Janik hopes that up to 75 percent of this sum may be covered by various EU funds and programs.
Last week, Poland committed itself to increasing its current border-guard force of some 12,000 servicemen and civilians to 18,000. By 2006, the country will increase the force by 3,200, hiring 5,300 professional frontier guards and 1,000 more civil servants while phasing out 3,100 army conscripts who are currently deployed.
The government plans to buy and equip seven helicopters and two light aircraft for the border guards, as well as night-vision surveillance devices and other necessary equipment. The number of frontier watchtowers will be increased in order to space them at a distance not exceeding 20 kilometers.
Poland's accession to the EU will, of course, mean tougher restrictions on travelers from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Warsaw will introduce visa requirements for them as of 1 July 2003. At present, nobody is able to imagine the scale of technical difficulties or the political and socioeconomic consequences of this upcoming operation.
Chief EU negotiator Jan Truszczynski said last year in Brussels that in 2000, Poland was visited by 5.9 million Belarusians, 2.8 million Russians, and 6.1 million Ukrainians. The same year, Truszczynski added, Polish consulates all over the world issued only 185,000 visas.
But Truszczynski's estimates of eastern visitors to Poland may be much lower than the real figures. According to the Warsaw-based government-sponsored Center for Eastern Studies, in 2000, Poland was visited by 4.4 million Russians from Kaliningrad Oblast alone (it should be noted here that Russia's Kaliningrad exclave is inhabited by some 1 million people). Some 90 percent of these visits, the center asserts, were made by people engaged in petty cross-border trade, which primarily means smuggling of alcohol, cigarettes, and other goods.
Such cross-border business is the main source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands, if not for millions, of people in both Poland and the three above-mentioned post-Soviet countries. When Poland tightens its eastern and northern borders, there will unavoidably occur "local economic disasters" in the borderland regions of the four countries. As for Poland's eastern and northern regions, they still may hope for some assistance from Brussels under various development and restructuring programs. But who will help people living under the penury of the Lukashenka and Kuchma economies? And what about the Kaliningrad region with its highest rates of criminality and HIV infection in all of Russia?
Poland officially advertises its role as a promoter of European integration values on post-Soviet territory -- particularly in Ukraine and Belarus -- but it is hardly believable that it will be able to perform this role seriously after the line of European prosperity and affluence moves some 600 kilometers eastward and becomes a new "Berlin Wall" for Belarusians and Ukrainians for a decade or longer. It is clear even today that not only Poland but the entire EU will not be able to influence transformation processes in the "forgotten Europe" -- Belarus and Ukraine -- if Brussels focuses on tightening Poland's frontiers and fails to draw up attractive and comprehensive programs to make Belarusians and Ukrainians maintain their hope that some day they will also find themselves in Europe not only geographically, but also politically and economically.