Accessibility links

Newsline - August 13, 2002


ORGANIZED CRIME ACCUSED OF STEALING MILLIONS OF BARRELS OF OIL
General Boris Gavrilov, deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's Investigative Committee, announced that over 10 million tons -- roughly 60 million barrels -- of oil are stolen each year as a result of various machinations on the Russian oil-products market, RIA-Novosti reported on 13 August. In 2001, Gavrilov's agency closed down 395 local pipelines that illegally diverted oil from the state oil network Transneft and arrested 158 people, Gavrilov said. In the first half of 2002, his agency investigated over 3,000 crimes in involving oil recovery, processing, transportation and sale, he said. VY

RUSSIA SAYS 'NO THANKS' TO PEACE CORPS
The Russian authorities intend to reduce the number of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers working in Russia, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian news agencies reported on 13 August. According to "Kommersant-Daily," 30 of 64 volunteers currently working in Russia have been refused visa extensions, in many cases because regional authorities complained about their lack of qualifications. According to "The Moscow Times" on 13 August, the Peace Corps has responded by deciding not to send an additional group of volunteers that had been scheduled to arrive in Russia in September. According to lenta.ru, the administration of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast sent a letter to the Education Ministry complaining that "volunteers do not know Russian and, in many cases, have little education." The site claimed that the Peace Corps acknowledges that about 90 percent of volunteers have no experience or certification for teaching, which is the main activity that the Peace Corps is engaged in Russia. Ekho Moskvy reported that "waiters and truckers" were teaching business in Khabarovsk and one volunteer in Voronezh was "more interested in UFOs than working with his students." "Kommersant-Daily" reported that one volunteer was a former officer of the CIA and another was arrested in Khabarovsk for being "overly curious." RC

DUTCH AID WORKER KIDNAPPED IN DAGHESTAN
A Dutch citizen who works for Doctors Without Borders in Daghestan was kidnapped at gunpoint on 12 August, Western and Russian news agencies reported the next day. Argan Erkal was seized by three armed men late in the evening in the capital of Makhachkala. He had been working in the republic for about one year. No ransom demands have yet been issued, and Doctors Without Borders has declined to comment on the incident, Reuters reported. RC

SIBUR EXECUTIVES RELEASED ON BAIL, TRIAL CLOSED TO PUBLIC
Former Sibur President Yakov Goldovskii on 12 August was released on 20 million rubles ($630,000) bail, the highest bond ever demanded by a Russian court, Russian news agencies reported the next day. Goldovskii, together with former Sibur Vice President Yevgenii Koshchits, is on trial in a Moscow court for abuse of authority, money laundering, and other charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2002). Koshchits was released on 2 million rubles bond on 8 August. The judge also ordered that future hearings of the case be closed to the public, citing articles in the press that "insulted the honor and dignity of the court," RIA-Novosti reported. Pravda.ru, however, noted that closing the hearings will not prevent the press from writing about the case and speculated that there must be some elements to the case that "the general public must not know about." RC

OFFICIAL: GORNYI FACILITY OPENING TO BE DELAYED AGAIN
Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov said that he believes the chemical-weapons destruction facility at Gornyi will not begin operation earlier than the end of the year, RosBalt reported on 12 August. At a news conference, Ayatskov said that a state inspection commission is now working at the facility and will complete its assessment by 20 August. Only then will an exact date for the beginning of operations be determined. The commissioning of the plant has been delayed numerous times (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 2002), and officials announced as recently as last month that it would begin operation in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002). Ayatskov said that the opening of the plant is being delayed by problems connected with the reprocessing of radioactive substances removed from the weapons. He said that the plant must be completely safe for local residents. RC

PUTIN URGES GOVERNMENT TO THINK AHEAD
President Vladimir Putin on 12 August rebuked the cabinet for the lack of preparation for the upcoming winter heating season, RosBalt reported. "Preparation for the winter heating season so far is going unsatisfactorily," Putin said. "So far there is nothing to be alarmed about, but already the matter deserves attention." Putin also expressed concern that many rural schools are not prepared for the beginning of the school year on 1 September. RC

MORE LIGHT SHED ON PENDING REFORMS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
An unidentified local government official in St. Petersburg was quoted by the East-West Institute's "Russian Regional Report" on 12 August as saying that a "major recentralization of power" is being planned for Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002). According to the official, the commission led by presidential administration deputy head Dmitrii Kozak on demarcating responsibilities between various levels of government is sending out "trial balloons" to various local government officials to determine just how negative their reaction will be. The fortnightly publication also noted that before moving to the presidential administration, Kozak developed the local government system for St. Petersburg. Under that system there are 11 local government councils that deal with a limited set of issues, and their funding accounts for only 2 percent of the city's consolidated budget. According to the publication, Afgat Altynbaev, chairman of the Federation Council's Local Government Committee, has said that local government will become a reality in Russia only when it controls 30-35 percent of the country's revenues, not the 5-7 percent it controls on average today. JAC

PUNDIT BELIEVES KREMLIN READY TO REDUCE NUMBER OF REGIONS
Writing in "Trud" on 10 August, Vyachslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation, argued that the Kremlin appears ready to take on the long-discussed problem of consolidating Russia's 89 regions. As evidence, Nikonov cited the fact that presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii recently said that he considers it necessary to reduce the number of regions. According to Nikonov, none of the official representatives of the president "have earlier gone on the record against Putin's position." He wrote that Drachevskii's statement suggests that he supports Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin in the 8 September gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai, since Khloponin has been a consistent advocate of a merger between Krasnoyarsk Krai and Taimyr Autonomous Okrug. Nikonov himself concluded that Russia's current political structure is not justified from "either a scientific or practical point of view" and is instead an "intricate combination representing orders issued by Russian emperors, Bolshevik nationality policies, the spontaneous disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent 'parade of sovereignties'" that occurred when individual regions declared their independence not only from the Soviet Union but also from the Russian Federation. JAC

TURKISH CITIZENS ACCUSED OF SPREADING RADICAL ISLAM IN BASHKORTOSTAN
Law enforcement officials in Bashkortostan issued a warrant on 9 August seeking the deportation of three Turkish citizens from the Russian Federation for taking "actions contrary to Russia's national interests," such as allegedly teaching a radical version of Islam, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 12 August, citing BashInform and "Izvestiya." The three Turks, Caliskan Seydi and two associates who were not named, are reportedly followers of the radical Suleymanji and Nurdjular Islamic sects, which are banned in Turkey. Seydi began his activities in Oktyabrskii, where he opened up a boarding school in September 2001. The branch of the Federal Security Service in Bashkortostan told "Izvestiya" that the children attending the school came mostly from Oktyabrskii's orphanages and from poor families, suffered from malnutrition, and that the only type of literature allowed at the school was of the extremist Islamic variety. JAC

GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO BOLSTER REGIONAL BUDGETS...
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced on 12 August that the joint commission on improving interbudgetary policy, composed of members of the government, the Federation Council, and the State Duma, reached agreement on the basic parameters of the 2003 federal budget, Interfax-AFI reported. According to Khristenko, the regions will be compensated for the fall in their revenues resulting from the cancellation of the road-use tax and the 60 percent fall in revenue collections for the excise tax on oil products. In addition, the government will extend its current practice of sending regional budgets 60 percent of revenues collected from a tax on tobacco products instead of cutting regional budgets' share down to 50 percent as had been previously announced. Commission members also recommended that the State Duma adopt before 15 October in its second reading a bill amending the law on the bases of federal housing policy. JAC

...AND EARMARK MORE FUNDS FOR JUDICIARY
The government plans to allocate nearly one-third more in funding for judicial reforms in next year's budget, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. According to the news agency, the government plans to allocate 25.5 billion rubles ($807,000) in 2003 for measures such as higher salaries for judges and repairs to courthouses. In order to attract more qualified specialists to the judiciary, judges' salaries will be considerably increased beginning on 1 October 2003. Earlier in the month, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov announced that his office staff will be increased by 4,000 employees, an increase that Ustinov said is connected to the adoption of the new Criminal Procedures Code, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 August. JAC

COAL MINERS LAUNCH SUMMER PROTEST
A group of coal miners from Vorkuta in the Republic of Komi launched a protest rally in Moscow on 12 August in front of the Energy Ministry, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. According to Yevgenii Shumeiko, the deputy chairman of the Independent Union of Coal Miners of Vorkuta, 25 miners are participating in the picket. The miners are demanding a meeting with President Putin as well as limits on coal imports, increased state regulation of the production and sale of coal, and higher pensions for retired miners. According to Interfax, from time to time the miners struck their helmets on the city pavement in the same manner as during the large-scale miners' protests held in Moscow in the summer of 1998. JAC

BUT NO RELATION TO CHUBAIS, THE FATHER OF PRIVATIZATION
A family in Nizhnii Tagil has named its daughter, "Privatizatsiya" (privatization), ntvru.com reported on 12 August, citing Yekaterinburg's Fourth Channel. According to the agency for registering births in the Dzerzhinsk Raion of Nizhnii Tagil, babies in the area have been named not only "Privatizatsiya" but also "Rossiya" and "Prakhlada," a word that has spiritual significance in the Sanskrit language (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2002). The happy parents of Prakhlada are members of the local Hare Krishna community and believe their son's name will bring him everything good in life. JAC

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CONGRATULATES KARABAKH COLLEAGUE ON HIS RE-ELECTION
President Robert Kocharian sent congratulations on 12 August to his successor as president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadii Ghukasian, who won re-election for a second term the previous day, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Also on 12 August, retired U.S. officials who monitored the Karabakh ballot lauded the enclave's "demonstrable progress in building democracy." Ghukasian reaffirmed his readiness for talks with Baku on "all problems of mutual interest," according to Mediamax, as cited by Groong. At the same time, he stressed that "no serious Azerbaijani politician seriously thinks that Nagorno-Karabakh can again be made subordinate to Azerbaijan." LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS CLAIM GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ TROOPS CLASH IN KODORI...
The planned 13 June meeting in southern Abkhazia between Georgian Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze and Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia was cancelled at short notice after word reached Tbilisi earlier that day that fighting had broken out in the upper, Georgian-controlled reaches of the Kodori Gorge between the Abkhaz troops that Georgian officials say entered the district on 11 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2002) and Georgian border guards already deployed there, Caucasus Press reported. On 12 August, Kodori Governor Emzar Kvitsiani issued an ultimatum to the Abkhaz to withdraw by midday on 13 August. But Djergenia and Abkhaz First Vice President Valerii Arshba denied on 12 August that any Abkhaz troops had entered the upper reaches of the gorge, while Georgian border guard press spokesman Shalva Londaridze told Interfax that the 40 Abkhaz had already left the Georgian-controlled section of the gorge. LF

...AS RUSSIAN MILITARY DENIES INVOLVEMENT
Major General Aleksandr Yevteev, who commands the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the aegis of the CIS in the Abkhaz conflict zone, denied on 12 August that any of his men were among the armed contingent that Tbilisi claimed infiltrated the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge on 11 August, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. LF

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER BLAMES PANKISI PROBLEM ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT
Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Nalchik on 12 August that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze agreed in August 1999 to a proposal by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin to deploy Russian special forces and airborne troops on Georgian territory to strengthen the Chechen section of the Russian-Georgian border, but that Shevardnadze reneged on that agreement the following day, Russian agencies reported. Ivanov did not explain why Yeltsin should have made such a proposal in August 1999, weeks before the fighting in Chechnya began, and when the only hostilities underway were in Daghestan. LF

'UNIFIED RUSSIA' CRITICIZES GEORGIAN PRESIDENT...
Speaking at a Moscow press conference on 12 August, leading members of the pro-Kremlin party Unified Russia criticized President Shevardnadze's policy toward the Chechen militant presence in the Pankisi Gorge, Interfax reported. Aleksandr Bespalov accused Georgia of "double-dealing," while Duma Deputy Frants Klintsevich accused Shevardnadze of seeking at all costs to cling to power and of ignoring the best interests of Georgia and its people. LF

...WHILE ITS GEORGIAN PARTNER PARTY CALLS ON HIM TO RESIGN
Also on 12 August, the Ertoba (Unity) Party headed by Shevardnadze's successor as Georgian Communist Party first secretary, Djumber Patiashvili, released a statement expressing concern at the recent deterioration in Georgian-Russian relations, Caucasus Press reported. The statement criticized Shevardnadze's alleged "incompetence" in foreign policy issues, in particular the crises in relations with Russia precipitated by developments in the Pankisi and Kodori gorges, and accused him of indifference to Georgian national interests and the aspirations of the Georgian people. It advised Shevardnadze to acknowledge his inability to resolve the present crisis and to resign forthwith. Ertoba signed a partnership and cooperation agreement with Unified Russia in early June. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CANCELS SOUTH AFRICA VISIT
President Shevardnadze said in his traditional Monday radio broadcast on 12 August that for financial reasons, he will not travel to Johannesburg later this month to attend the world summit on sustainable development, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He said a small Georgian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili will attend the summit. On 9 August, the Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Shevardnadze planned to attend the summit at the head of a 90-person Georgian delegation. LF

EU QUESTIONS FAIRNESS OF KAZAKH OPPOSITIONIST'S TRIAL
In a statement released in Brussels on 12 August, the European Union expressed concern over the seven-year prison sentence handed down 10 days earlier to Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002), one of the co-founders of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK), Reuters reported. The statement called on the president and government of Kazakhstan "to adhere to their international obligations of respect for democracy, the principles of international law, and human rights." LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION POLITICIANS, VISITS AKSY...
Askar Akaev met in Bishkek on 9 August with opposition parliament deputies Adaham Madumarov and Omurbek Tekebaev and with People's Party Chairman Melis Eshimkanov and Emil Aliev, a leading member of the Ar-Namys Party, akipress.org reported. No details of the talks were disclosed. On 10 August, accompanied by Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov, Akaev traveled to Aksy Raion, the scene of violent clashes between police and demonstrators in March. He visited a monument to the five people killed when police opened fire of the demonstrators and again affirmed that those responsible will soon be brought to trial. LF

...AS SUPPORTERS OF JAILED PARLIAMENTARIAN PLAN NEW PROTEST
Supporters of opposition Kyrgyzstan faction leader Ishenbai Kadyrbekov announced in Naryn on 12 August that they will stage a new protest on 30 August unless the court case against Kadyrbekov is shelved, akipress.org reported. Kadyrbekov is accused of slandering residents of a Bishkek hostel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). His supporters claim that libel suit and similar cases brought against other Kyrgyzstan faction deputies are politically motivated. LF

TURKMEN OPPOSITION STAGES PROTEST DEMONSTRATIONS
The National Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan organized six separate protests in various districts of Ashgabat on 11 August against the policies of President Saparmurat Niyazov, its website (http://www.gundogar.org) and RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported on 11 and 12 August. The movement's activists distributed leaflets in the capital early on 11 August appealing to the population to struggle against Niyazov's regime and affirming its readiness to bring about the "normalization" of the political situation in the country. Police tried but failed to prevent the gatherings. On 13 August, Niyazov told a session of the Cabinet of Ministers that the 8-9 August session of the People's Council demonstrated "the unity and cohesion of the Turkmen people" and their determination to implement his projects to transform their lives, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO MATCH MOSCOW IN UNION WITH RUSSIA
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told his government on 12 August that Belarus is ready to go as far as the Russian leadership is prepared to go in integration of the two countries, Belapan reported. Lukashenka was referring to his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 14 August. Lukashenka's press service reported that he will focus on economic issues in his talks with Putin, including on value-added tax collection and Russian natural-gas supplies to Belarus. Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Uladzimir Hryhoryeu told Belarusian television the same day that Belarus is going to ask Russia "to increase to some extent" its gas deliveries. Meanwhile, Russia's Gazprom and Itera recently announced that they may reduce their gas supplies to Belarus. According to "Izvestiya," despite the fact that Belarus has been receiving Russian gas at Russia's domestic prices since 1 May, Belarus's gas debt has increased to $280 million. JM

U.S. OFFICIAL CRITICIZES MINSK FOR LACK OF DEMOCRATIC PROGRESS
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer told Belarusian journalists in a video linkup from Washington on 12 August that, in the five months that have elapsed since his visit to Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2002), the country has failed to take any steps toward democracy, AP and Belapan reported. "In fact, the actions of the last five months have only increased our concerns about the state of democracy in Belarus," Pifer said, citing continuing pressure on nongovernmental organizations and the independent media and efforts by the Belarusian regime to close the OSCE mission in Minsk. Pifer also said Minsk makes no effort to prevent arms from Belarus from being delivered to rogue states. "Since 11 September last year, there is a global campaign against international terrorism.... When we look at some Belarusian acts since then, we have questions as to whether the Lukashenka regime has made the right decision in terms of which side it is going to be on in the struggle against international terrorism," Belapan quoted Pifer as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN TOP INVESTIGATOR SPREADS BLAME FOR AIR-SHOW TRAGEDY
National Defense and Security Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk, who heads the commission investigating the tragic crash in Lviv on 27 July, said on 12 August that air force commanders, pilots, and city authorities must share the blame for the death of 85 spectators, Ukrainian media reported. Marchuk reportedly told President Leonid Kuchma that "numerous violations and shortcomings by the show's organizers, servicemen, Lviv city authorities, and the pilots' deviation from the flight plan" caused the crash. Kuchma ordered Marchuk to prepare a final conclusion regarding the reasons for the crash by 15 September. JM

UKRAINE'S INTERNATIONAL RESERVES ON THE RISE
The Ukrainian National Bank's international reserves increased by 14 percent in July and amounted to the equivalent of $3.8 billion, UNIAN reported on 12 August, quoting a government memo. International reserves comprise a country's monetary gold, foreign-currency reserves, and reserves allocated within the IMF. JM

RUSSIA, UKRAINE START TALKS ON SHARING FORMER SOVIET PROPERTY ABROAD
Deputy Foreign Minister Anatolii Potapov has begun talks in Kyiv with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksandr Motsyk about the fate of former Soviet assets abroad, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 August. Ukraine is the only former Soviet republic that has not signed the so -called "zero variant" agreement, according to which Russia took upon itself both the foreign debts and assets of the former USSR. Instead, Kyiv asked Moscow to present a list showing the full value of Soviet gold and diamond reserves, the foreign assets of Russian banks, and Russian debts to Ukrainian organizations and citizens. Some observers in Moscow and Kyiv believe that some concessions on both sides might now be made because of the special relationship emerging between presidents Putin and Leonid Kuchma. Russia, in order to keep Ukraine in its orbit might offer Ukraine 16 percent of former Soviet real estate abroad, the BBC commented on 13 August. VY

PARTS LIKELY TO BE NEW CHAIRMAN OF ESTONIA'S RES PUBLICA
Juhan Parts, who recently resigned as the head of the Estonian State Audit Office in order to join the Res Publica party, appears likely to be elected the party's chairman at its congress on 24 August, BNS reported on 12 August. The party, which was founded in December 2001, is currently headed by emigre political-science Professor Rein Taagepera, who only agreed head the party during its founding period. After Parts announced his intention to run for the party's leadership, the leading candidates for the post -- former Tallinn Mayor Tons Palts, party board Chairman Urmas Reinsalu, and former party Secretary-General Ken-Marti Vaher -- decided to withdraw their candidacies, BNS reported on 12 August. Palts and Vaher offered their full support for Palts. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ICELAND
In Reykjavik on 12 August, Vaira Vike-Freiberga and her Icelandic counterpart Olafur Ragnar Grimsson discussed bilateral cooperation and the upcoming enlargement of NATO and the European Union, LETA reported. The Latvian president expressed her appreciation that Iceland was the first country to recognize the reestablishment of Latvia's independence in 1991 and remains a firm supporter of the country's efforts to join NATO. Grimsson said the delegation of nearly 40 businessmen that accompanied Vike-Freiberga is an indication of Latvia's interest in expanding bilateral economic ties and that both countries should also cooperate in the cultural sphere. Iceland's Prime Minister David Oddsson told Vike-Freiberga that the admission of the Baltic states into NATO would improve security in Europe and that although Iceland is not a member of the EU, it supports Baltic membership in the union. The Latvian president also participated in a roundtable discussion with Icelandic politicians on the role of small countries in NATO. SG

RUSSIAN ENVOY INSISTS ON VISA-FREE TRAVEL VIA LITHUANIA TO KALININGRAD
Dmitrii Rogozin, Russia's presidential envoy for Kaliningrad and Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, held talks in Vilnius on 11 August with his Lithuanian counterpart Gediminas Kirkilas and other members of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. The next day he told President Valdas Adamkus that Russia opposes the recent proposal Adamkus made to Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov that special identification cards be issued to Kaliningrad Oblast residents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002), as such a card would be a "simplified visa document" and no foreign "officials and computers" should interfere with the right of Russian citizens to travel from one Russian region to another, BNS reported. In subsequent talks with Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis, Rogozin expressed support for Lithuania's desire to join the Schengen agreement. However, he said he regrets that the European Commission was not willing to accept that the situation in Europe has changed since the agreement was signed in 1985. Valionis rejected Rogozin's claims that Lithuania would not be able to issue the large number of visas that would be needed for travel to Kaliningrad. SG

POLISH RADICAL AGRARIAN CALLS FOR 'CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE'
Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper on 12 August urged Poles to manifest "civil disobedience" against the state by not paying rent and gas and electricity bills, PAP reported. "People have been driven to despair and pushed to the limit. They don't have jobs, and those who do are often not paid and do not receive sufficient benefits. As a result Poland is facing an explosion of social disorder," according to Lepper. "The government, which is responsible for such a state of affairs, doesn't do anything to change it. In this situation, we are calling for passive civil disobedience against the lawless state. It means that people should not pay their dues like rents, electricity, and gas bills. Recipients of pensions and disability pensions, who get 500 zlotys ($120) a month, should not pay for anything," Lepper said. JM

PRAGUE EVACUATES RESIDENTS IN FLOOD ALERT...
Some 50,000 Prague residents were urged to evacuate low-lying areas on 12-13 August, hours before officials were expecting the worst flooding in over a century to hit the city, CTK and international agencies reported. Authorities warned the Vltava River could swell to 3,700 cubic meters per second in Prague, where the average flow during the year is just 143 cubic meters per second, CTK and local media reported on 13 August. By late-morning only about 2,000 people had been evacuated, the agency reported, prompting Mayor Igor Nemec to plea with residents to comply with the request. Civil-defense sirens were alerting residents to the approaching floods throughout the early hours of 13 August, and the mayor asked people to avoid traveling and to stay away from downtown. City officials also closed the famous 14th-century Charles Bridge to the public to allow cranes to remove tree trunks and other debris that the river might sweep into bridges or other structures. MS

...AS CZECH LEADER DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on 12 August declared a state of emergency in four of the country's regions and in Prague, CTK reported. Seven people have lost their lives in the western part of the Czech Republic in flooding that began more than a week ago. Thousands were also evacuated on 12-13 August in Ceske Budejovice, Cesky Krumlov, and many smaller communities throughout Bohemia. MS

CZECH PREMIER INSISTS THAT MINISTERS DECLARE ASSETS
Prime Minister Spidla is insisting that all cabinet members make declarations on their current assets, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes," cited by CTK, reported on 12 August. The daily wrote that Spidla wants ministers to declare their assets again on leaving the cabinet or at the end of its mandate. Former Premier Milos Zeman also asked ministers to declare their assets upon taking office in 1998, but most of them refused to do so and Zeman gave up on the request. According to "Mlada fronta Dnes," Spidla has charged Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky with drawing up a standardized asset-declaration form, and the ministers' declarations are to be made public in September. The move is aimed at avoiding perceived corruption. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES SMER LEADER...
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told journalists on 12 August that politicians who mention the possibility of reopening chapters closed in accession negotiations with the EU are damaging Slovakia's reputation ahead of the conclusion of parleys, TASR and CTK reported. Kukan specifically mentioned Robert Fico, leader of Smer (Direction), saying his statements are "irresponsible, damaging our interests and raising doubts in EU member countries." Kukan stressed that Slovakia has closed the chapters under "good or acceptable conditions" and "not at any price," as claimed by Fico. Kukan also said that after the September elections, Slovakia needs to quickly form a new government in order to pursue the goals of EU and NATO membership. He said the proposals presented by his own Slovak Democratic and Christian Union to its potential coalition partners have been rejected and that he hopes these "misunderstandings" will be cleared ahead of the ballot. MS

...WHO PLEDGES TO RESIGN WITHIN ONE YEAR IF HE FAILS AS PREMIER
Fico on 12 August reiterated that if he becomes premier after the elections and fails to implement the main points of the Smer program by 31 December 2003, he will resign, CTK reported. Fico said one of the main points of the program is to have parliament approve legislation obliging people to declare how they obtained their assets. He said the law would allow for the confiscation of property illegally acquired. He also said Smer wants to change the system of proportional representation with a mixed system and drastically curb the number of civil servants. These and other points are included in the Smer party program, which was approved by the formation's national conference over the weekend. MS

SLOVAKIA ADJOURNS TRIAL OF FORMER SIS DEPUTY DIRECTOR
A regional court in Bratislava on 12 August adjourned the trial of former Slovak Information Service Deputy Director Jaroslav Svechota, TASR and CTK reported. The postponement of the trial is due to Svechota's failing health. He suffers from a heart condition and has been hospitalized. Svechota is accused of "abuse of office" for having allegedly embezzled 13 million crowns ($286,205 at the current exchange rate) from the SIS funds in 1998. If convicted, he faces between three and 10 years in jail. MS

HUNGARIAN MINISTERS AUTHORIZE RELEASE OF INFORMATION ON PAST LINKS WITH COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICES
All members of the current cabinet headed by Peter Medgyessy on 12 August authorized that the investigative commission headed by Imre Mecs make public any information that links them to communist-era secret services, Hungarian media reported. Elemer Kiss, head of the premier's office, said he hopes the move sets a precedent for all former ministers as well. Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said he is confident that members of the cabinet headed by former Socialist Premier Gyula Horn between 1994 and 1998 will likewise authorize the Mecs commission to release any information relevant to their own pasts. Csaba Hende, chief of staff in the office of former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said members of the Orban-led cabinet are no longer under any obligation to cooperate with the Mecs commission, whose functioning he called "legally and constitutionally questionable." Imre Boros, who was minister for PHARE funds in that cabinet, said on 12 August that he is not prepared to comment on alleged links with the communist-era secret services until he receives charges in official form. MS

FORMER COMMUNIST FINANCE MINISTERS CLAIM IGNORANCE OF MEDGYESSY'S PAST
Two former communist finance ministers on 12 August told the parliamentary commission probing Prime Minister Medgyessy's past as a counterintelligence officer that they were unaware of that past while serving in office, Hungarian media reported. Istvan Hetenyi, who was finance minister in 1980-86, said that while he knew Medgyessy had some links with the Interior Ministry, he was unaware of their nature. Hetenyi flatly denied that Medgyessy's quick advance in the ministry's hierarchy was due to those connections. Laszlo Bekesi, who was finance minister in 1989-90 and again in 1994-95, told the commission he only learned of Medgyessy's past from recent media reports. The commission is due to end its work on 15 August. MS

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER MEETS PRESIDENT OVER MEDIA COMPLAINTS
Former Premier Orban met with President Ferenc Madl on 12 August for talks that included the situation among state media, according to reports in the Hungarian press. Orban said the independence of the media has come under increasing attack in recent weeks and described the situation as "serious." In a statement released by his chief of staff, Csaba Hende, Orban said he is concerned about the impartiality of state-owned Hungarian Television (MTV) following a spate of personnel changes there. An increasingly less impartial MTV, he said, will also lead to further bias within the media in general, which might have "far-reaching consequences for both democracy and for foreign appraisal of developments in Hungary." MS

HUNGARIANS MULL WORKING ABROAD AFTER EU ENTRY
As many as 800,000 Hungarians may seek jobs in other countries of the EU after Hungary becomes a member of the union, Reuters reported on 12 August, citing polling by the Tarki Institute in May. Four percent of respondents said they "definitely intend" to try to work in another EU country, while a further 6 percent said they are "likely" to seek a job there after accession. Most of those making such plans are young or middle-aged, and many are skilled male workers. Despite a growth of over 10 percent in wages this year, salaries in Hungary are some 30-40 percent below the EU average. But the poll also showed an increase among those saying they will "definitely not" seek a job abroad after accession: While in March 57 percent of respondents gave this answer, 63 percent replied so in May. MS

KOSOVARS BELITTLE WESTERN MOVES AGAINST SERBIAN EXTREMIST
Officials of Kosova's three largest ethnic Albanian parties told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 11 August that recent efforts by UN police and KFOR to arrest Mitrovica Serb politician and vigilante leader Milan Ivanic resembled a theatrical performance more than a sincere effort to catch him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 August). Faruk Spahija of President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) argued that UNMIK has not done enough to uproot the Serbian parallel government structures based in Mitrovica and supported by Belgrade. Spahija added that UNMIK risks losing the trust of the ethnic Albanian majority and radicalizing Albanian public opinion. Halit Berani of the Council for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (KMDLNJ) charged that Ivanic was in his office at the hospital he heads and giving telephone interviews to Albanian journalists on the day that UNMIK tried to arrest him at home. PM

UN PROSECUTOR FILES CHARGE AGAINST EX-GUERRILLA LEADER
UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said in Prishtina on 12 August that a UN prosecutor has charged Ramush Haradinaj with endangering the safety of others in an incident in 2000, Reuters reported. Haradinaj, who is a former guerrilla commander and now the head of the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK), has claimed he was trying to resolve a dispute within a family he knows in his home region. Manuel said the charge is minor and that Haradinaj will not be detained. Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service noted that KFOR has launched a series of operations in recent days, saying for the first time that its actions are part of the war against terror (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2002). PM

MACEDONIAN IMBROGLIO OVER CITIZENSHIP FOR KOSOVAR ALBANIANS
Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski announced on the weekend of 3-4 August that he plans to review the claims to Macedonian citizenship of some 150,000 ethnic Albanians, mainly from neighboring Kosova, "Dnevnik" reported on 7 August. Many Albanians living in Macedonia received citizenship in the mid-1990s under the government of Social Democratic Union (SDSM) leader Branko Crvenkovski. Ethnic Albanian party leaders and unnamed SDSM sources denounced Boskovski's statement as electioneering. They noted that his figures are incorrect and said there is no legal basis for a review of citizenship once it has been granted. The citizenship question has also been discussed in connection with the census slated for April 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 April 2001). UB

MODERATES WIN IN SOUTHERN SERBIAN VOTE
Zoran Jovanovic of the Serbian election commission announced in Bujanovac on 12 August that Nagip Arifi was elected mayor with 54 percent of the vote, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2002). Another moderate ethnic Albanian politician, Risa Halimi, was elected mayor of Presevo with 57 percent of all ballots cast. Jovanovic told reporters: "The people have won in Bujanovac. Power-sharing will follow, and the mayor will be an Albanian." OSCE monitors said in a statement that "the elections were conducted in accordance with international standards and the laws of the republic of Serbia." PM

KOSTUNICA OPPOSED TO AGREEMENT WITH U.S.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 12 August that he is against signing a bilateral agreement with the United States pledging not to turn U.S. citizens over to the new International Criminal Court (ICC), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Kostunica added that such an agreement would undermine the international legal order. PM

NO END IN SIGHT TO SERBIAN-MONTENEGRIN DEADLOCK
The commission charged with drafting the Constitutional Charter for the proposed loose confederation of Serbia and Montenegro has appealed to the signatories of the 14 March agreement to meet and hammer out the differences between Belgrade and Podgorica over several key issues, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2002). Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic endorsed the suggestion. PM

MILOSEVIC BACKS SESELJ IN SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Former President Slobodan Milosevic has sent a formal statement to the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) endorsing its candidate in the 29 September Serbian presidential race, Vojislav Seselj, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) said that it has received a copy of the letter and will discuss it shortly. The SPS planned to run Milosevic as its candidate, but a court recently ruled that he cannot legally seek a third term as Serbian president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). In his letter, Milosevic called for "the opposition" to unite behind a single candidate. PM

CONSTRUCTION BEGINS ON BOSNIAN-CROATIAN BORDER CROSSING
The Croatian Foreign Ministry announced in Zagreb on 12 August that construction has begun on the joint border crossing at Kostajnica, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The facility is expected to be open by the end of August. PM

U.S. SEEKS AGREEMENT WITH BOSNIA
The United States has approached Bosnia for a bilateral agreement to prevent the extradition of U.S. citizens to the ICC, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Sarajevo on 13 August. The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that the matter does not affect U.S. troops in SFOR or their mission in Bosnia. Observers in Sarajevo noted that Bosnia's situation regarding the ICC is "delicate" in view of the extent to which that country is dependent on U.S. military assistance. PM

EUROPEAN COMMISSION TELLS CANDIDATES NOT TO FOLLOW ROMANIAN EXAMPLE
The European Commission on 12 August asked European Union candidate countries to refrain from following the precedent set by Romania when it signed its accord with the United States agreeing not to extradited U.S. citizens to the International Criminal Court, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. European Commission President Romano Prodi said the candidate countries should wait for the EU to officially adopt a position on the matter on 15 September. Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase discussed the accord on 12 August with EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen to provide background for Romania's decision to sign the agreement. Verheugen said that "beyond the differences of opinion concerning the utility of such an accord," he is confident that good relations between Romania and the EU will continue to develop "at an accelerated pace." MS

LIBERAL ROMANIAN POLITICIAN QUITS COMMISSION ORGANIZING PNL CONGRESS
Ludovic Orban resigned on 12 August from the National Liberal Party (PNL) commission that is in charge of organizing the 24-25 August congress of the PNL, Romanian media reported. Orban is challenging Theodor Stolojan for the position of PNL chairman, which will be decided at the congress. Orban said his resignation is necessary because his membership of the PNL commission is "incompatible" with his candidacy for the PNL chairmanship. But he also said he objects to the fact that the venue of the forum has been moved from Brasov to Bucharest and that the hall chosen for the purpose is not large enough to accommodate all of the PNL delegates. Last week Orban published his program and a draft PNL statute as party chairman, challenging those of Stolojan. MS

ROMANIA SAYS HUNGARIAN ROMA COULD TAKE OVER AUTONOMOUS ROMANIAN LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Public Information Ministry State Secretary Doru Ionescu said on 12 August that Hungary must modify its electoral laws to make possible genuine government representation of minorities in both parliament and at the local level. Ionescu, who is in charge of ethnic Romanian minority issues abroad, said the current legislation in Hungary allows anyone to declare themselves a member of a national minority. As a result, he said, Roma in Hungary have been declaring themselves Romanians even though they do not speak the Romanian language. This would allow them to take over the autonomous local governmental minority representations while posing as Romanians. It would deprive genuine Romanians of funds allocated by the Hungarian government to national minorities and it would also "spoil the image" of Romanians in Hungary. Ionescu said that although the number of those declaring themselves as Romanians has been dropping in Hungary, the number of so-called "Romanian autonomous local-government representations" has increased and this year there will be 48 such alleged representations, as compared to 33 in 1998. Ionescu said the Hungarian and Romanian governments should coordinate policies to solve this problem. MS

ROMANIAN NEWSPAPERS APPEALS FOR AID IN TRACKING REPORTER
The daily "Timisoara" on 11 August appealed to international human rights and media groups to help find journalist Iosif Costinas, who disappeared two months ago, AP reported. Costinas had written articles about sensitive subjects, such as the unresolved killings during the December 1989 anticommunist revolt and the continued presence in high positions of former Securitate officers. Prior to his appearance he was about to complete a book on the shady business underworld in Timisoara, which is located near the Yugoslav and Hungarian borders. MS

ROMANIA EXCAVATES SUSPECTED JEWISH MASS GRAVE
Excavations began on 12 August at a suspected mass-grave site in the village of Popricani, near Iasi, where bodies of Jews massacred during the July 1941 pogrom in Iasi may be buried, Reuters reported. As many as 12,000 are estimated to have perished in the massacre, although the communist-era authorities and nationalist Romanian historians claim that only a few hundred were killed, allegedly in revenge for the behavior of Jews in Bessarabia during the enforced withdrawal of Romanian troops in 1940 from the province under a Soviet ultimatum. Romanian nationalist historians, among them Senate Deputy Chairman Gheorghe Buzatu from the Greater Romania Party, also claim the Jews in Iasi were signaling to Soviet planes soon after Romania became a Nazi ally. Eyewitnesses cited by Reuters say Jews were forced to dig their own graves and were then machine-gunned down. Other Jews were loaded onto overcrowded cattle trucks and were driven aimlessly around Romania for days, causing many to die from starvation and thirst. MS

MOLDOVAN POLICE DETAIN SUSPECT FOR SHOOTING AT PRESIDENT'S APARTMENT
Moldovan police have detained a young man suspected of having shot at President Vladimir Voronin's apartment in Chisinau on the night of 1-2 August, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). The agency said the suspect claims he fired the shots in celebration of Paratroops Day, and that he was not attempting to harm the president. MS

MOLDOVAN CAPITAL APPROVES PPCD RALLY
The Chisinau Mayor's Office announced on 12 August that it has approved a request from the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) to organize a rally in the capital, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The approval came after the PPCD changed the rally's venue from 31 August to 1 September. Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean said the authorization was conditional on assurances from the PPCD that the rally be peaceful. The request to hold the rally on 31 August, when Moldova celebrates Language Day, was denied because festivities on that day cannot have a political character. The PPCD plans to discuss at the rally the implementation by Moldova's leadership of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's 24 April resolution regarding Moldova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2002). MS

BULGARIAN ECONOMY MINISTER CRITICIZES COMMERCIAL ATTACHES
Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev roundly criticized the country's commercial attaches at their annual meeting in Boyana on 12 August, mediapool.bg reported. In his address, Vasilev accused the commercial attaches of not doing enough to attract foreign investment and improve conditions for Bulgarian exports. In order to overcome the shortcomings of the representatives of the country's economy, the Economy Ministry plans to deploy additional staff to trade missions abroad as well as to introduce monthly evaluations of the commercial attaches' work. UB

BULGARIAN DOMESTIC TRADE FALLS
According to the latest statistics released by the National Statistics Institute (NSI) on 12 August, net domestic-trade revenue fell 1.5 percent during the first six months of 2002 compared to the same period in 2001, BTA reported. The drop is mainly due to a 2.4 percent fall in wholesale trade revenue, although retail trade increased by 1.6 percent and trade in automobiles and fuel rose by 1 percent. UB

There is no End Note today.


XS
SM
MD
LG