PUTIN TAKES A SOBER LOOK AT UNION WITH BELARUS...
President Vladimir Putin said on 14 August at a Kremlin meeting with his Belarus counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka that "building a united state is a tense process that will not move along without disputes and difficulties," Russian news agencies reported. Hinting at Lukashenka's adherence to a state-controlled economy, Putin also said that the two countries should establish equal market conditions and ensure the rights of both citizens and enterprises. Furthermore, Putin mentioned that Russia and Belarus have already introduced unified tariffs on railroad transportation and electricity, but that Belarus has failed to take this step concerning Russian transit cargos. Finally, in line with his earlier criticisms of Lukashenka's proposal to build the united state on the basis of the experience of the Soviet Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002), Putin remarked that the two countries will build a "unique state that has no analogue in history." VY
...AND MAKES FIRST STEP IN REFORM OF CIVIL SERVICE...
President Putin signed a decree on 13 August laying out 16 general principles for the conduct of civil servants, Russian news agencies reported, citing the presidential press service. The declarative document calls on civil servants to perform their official duties professionally and "to carry out their activities within the bounds of the competence of state bodies as defined by the law," ITAR-TASS reported. It also advises state employees to maintain "political neutrality," avoid conflicts of interest, and refrain from making public comments unless that constitutes part of their official duties. According to "Izvestiya," the decree is only the first step in a broader reform of Russia's civil service, which will be followed by the introduction of three new laws governing the behavior of bureaucrats in the civil service, military, and law enforcement agencies. The laws are being prepared by a special group on reform of the state administration led by first deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Medvedev and will be introduced this fall. JAC
...AS GOVERNMENT STILL UNSURE HOW MANY BUREAUCRATS RUSSIA NEEDS
According to Medvedev, the group has not yet resolved the question of how many bureaucrats Russia needs. In an interview with "Izvestiya" last month, Medvedev promised the reforms will be "radical" and eventually "will transform Russia's state administration system beyond recognition" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2002). JAC
ENVOY BARGAINS WITH LITHUANIA OVER KALININGRAD
President Putin's special envoy on Kaliningrad, Dmitrii Rogozin, told journalists after his visit to the region and his talks with Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on 11-13 August that he traveled to Kaliningrad by car in order to better understand the exclave's problems, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported on 14 August. Rogozin also said that Russia may attempt to block Lithuania's entry into the European Union by not ratifying a bilateral accord on border delineation. Such a measure would make it impossible for Vilnius to comply with a European Union requirement that members have no outstanding border disputes. Rogozin added, however, that he hopes that Lithuania will agree to a compromise that will allow Russians free access to Kaliningrad. VY
MOSCOW TO PAY DEBTS TO SOUTH KOREA WITH WEAPONS
Moscow and Seoul have reached an agreement to partially repay Soviet debts to South Korea with supplies of Russian heavy military equipment, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 August. The deal includes helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and ships worth $1.95 billion. Russia is also ready to transfer to South Korea advanced military know-how and is already training Korean submarine-building specialists in St. Petersburg. Seoul is interested in Russian weaponry in part because rival North Korea's military is equipped with Russian hardware, albeit obsolete. VY
SOUTHERN RUSSIA THREATENED BY EVEN MORE FLOODING...
Forecasters were predicting on 13 August that more storms could hit Krasnodar Krai's flood-ravaged Black Sea Coast on 14-15 August, Russian news agencies reported. The latest warning follows flash flooding on 9 August in the Novorossiisk area, which left at least 58 people dead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2002). According to NTV on 13 August, authorities are planning to drain all reservoirs around Novorossiisk. Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Gennadii Korotkin told the station that the reservoirs "are not performing any useful function" and "pose a threat to the people living below [them]." The same day, another deputy emergency situations minister, Yurii Brazhnikov, told a conference in St. Petersburg that much of the death and destruction caused by flooding in June and July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2001) could have been avoided, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Brazhnikov, the existing system of warning the local population about pending emergency situations is inadequate. JAC
...AS MORE HEADS TO ROLL?
On 12 August, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev held a meeting on the preliminary results of the reconstruction efforts in his district, VolgaInform reported. Kazantsev declared that many civil servants have not performed up to the level required of them in the situation and that he intends to conduct a cadre reshuffle in his own apparatus. He said he will hold a competition to fill key posts in his office. JAC
REAL FOREIGN INVESTMENT DECREASING
Despite optimistic reports by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, real investment in the Russian economy is not increasing, but declining, according to this month's data from the State Statistics Committee, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 August. According to the figures, total foreign investment in the first half of the year increased by 25 percent over the same period in 2001, but 60 percent of this sum (over $6 billion) comprises credits from foreign banks. At the same time, capital investment -- the basic indictor of trust in the national economy -- fell by slightly more than 25 percent to $1.87 billion. Portfolio foreign investment decreased by 16.7 percent to $199 million. VY
POPE TO BEATIFY FOUNDER OF RUSSIAN CATHOLICISM
Pope John Paul II will beatify the founder of Russian Catholicism on 18 August, AFP reported on 12 August, citing the Vatican's press service. According to the agency, Zygmunt Felinski served as an archbishop of Warsaw for 16 months, after which he was exiled during the 1863 Polish uprising against the tsar. The agency suggested that the pope's move could further strain relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, which has accused the former of proselytizing in traditionally Orthodox territories. Felinski wrote a letter to Aleksandr II in March 1863 insisting on the rights of the Catholic Church and of Poles, for which he was exiled for 20 years, infonews.ru reported, citing the Catholic Information Service. After his release, Felinski was banned from entering Warsaw and spent his remaining years in poverty in a Galician village. JAC
MOSCOW POLICE CLASH AGAIN WITH TRADERS FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA
Vietnamese traders again gathered on 13 August to protest another attempted seizure of their goods by Moscow police, Interfax reported. About 200 traders gathered at the Salyut-3 market and blocked the police from entering the market to seize clothing bearing the trademarks of Adidas and Hugo Boss. According to polit.ru, police officials say the goods are counterfeit. RTR reported the previous day that an earlier clash between traders and police resulted in the hospitalization of two police officers, according to the website. JAC
BRYANSK GOVERNOR THINKS THE FSB IS PLOTTING AGAINST HIM
Interior shots of a lavish apartment owned by Sergei Antoshin, the former head of security for Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin, have appeared on an open-access website, regions.ru reported on 13 August. The oblast's prosecutor launched an investigation on suspicion of bribery last year against Antoshin, who is now deputy general director of Bryanskkholod (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 May 2001). According to regions.ru, an article about Antoshin's apartment appeared earlier in a local publication, which estimated that the property must have cost at least $200,000, while the renovations and furnishings were estimated at another $63,000. The website reported that there are two theories about how the "compromising" photographs suddenly appeared on the Internet, and both involve the local office of the Federal Security Service (FSB). According to the website, Lodkin declared at a press conference last month that the controversy around Antoshin is illustrative of mainly one thing: "The Federal Security Service is against Lodkin." JAC
TURKISH AMBASSADOR URGES RUSSIA TO GRANT MESKHETIANS CITIZENSHIP
Kurtulus Taskent, who is the new Turkish ambassador to Russia, urged the Russian authorities to grant citizenship to the estimated 21,000 Meskhetians who settled in Krasnodar Krai following clashes in the Ferghana Valley in 1989, Interfax reported on 12 August. He said refusal to do so constitutes a violation of Russia's citizenship legislation of 1992 and 2002. Once they have received Russian passports, Taskent continued, those Meskhetians who wish to do so should be allowed to emigrate to Georgia or Turkey. Since the spring of this year, the Krasnodar authorities have been exerting pressure on the Meskhetians to leave the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 14 and 21 June 2002, and 3 and 11 July 2002). LF
TATAR LEADER SUGGESTS THAT BASHKIRS BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY
Referring to a long-standing drive by some officials that ethnic Tatars in Bashkortostan be officially registered as ethnic Bashkirs, Milli Mejlis Marat Ramazanov said at the 10 August Congress of Tatar Public Organizations that instead of "Bashkirizing" Tatars, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov should legalize polygamy so that Bashkirs can "multiply," RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 12 August. The Milli Mejlis is an alternative public body that declares itself a "shadow government" of the Republic of Tatarstan. The controversy over the status of the ethnic Tatars in Bashkortostan has intensified during the run-up to the national census in October. JAC
CHECHEN EXPLOSIONS KILL SIX
Three people were killed on 13 August and eight injured in a series of explosions in the Chechen town of Shali, southeast of Grozny, AP reported. A spokesman for the Chechen Prosecutor-General's Office said later the same day that the explosions might have been caused by "negligence" on the part of the Russian military, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 13 August, three people were killed and eight injured in Grozny when a passenger bus hit a landmine, Interfax reported. LF
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS CHECHENS' ROLE IN SHATOI DEATHS PROVEN
Speaking in Nalchik on 12 August, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that three Chechen militants identified as having laid the landmine that killed 10 Chechen servicemen in Shatoi on 6 August were killed in a clash with Russian troops on the outskirts of Komsomolskoe during the night of 9-10 August, Interfax reported. Russian armed forces Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin ordered an investigation into the Shatoi incident last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 August 2002). On 13 August, Ivanov announced that the families of the 10 men killed in Shatoi and of the eight Russian border guards killed late last month in fighting in Itum-Kale Raion will receive compensation payments of at least 100,000 rubles ($3,167), Interfax reported. LF
AID GROUP SUSPENDS WORK IN NORTH CAUCASUS
Doctors Without Borders has suspended its work in Daghestan and Ingushetia following the 12 August kidnapping of one of its employees in Makhachkala (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 13 August 2002), Russian news agencies reported on 14 August. The organization had already stopped work in Chechnya on 29 July after the head of a local nongovernmental organization was kidnapped there, ntvru.com reported. According to that report, the Interior Ministry is conducting an all-out search, including the use of helicopters, to locate Dutch citizen Argan Erkal, who is the head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Daghestan. The report also stated that Erkal's driver has been detained and is being questioned as a suspect in the abduction. Ntvru.com also reported that Erkal had received numerous threats in the past and had repeatedly refused protection from local law enforcement. RC
CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER BEGINS LIFE PRISON TERM
Salman Raduev, who was sentenced in December 2001 to life imprisonment for his role in the Pervomaiskoe mass hostage taking in January 1996, has been transported to the maximum-security prison in Solikamsk, Perm Oblast, where he is to serve out that sentence, Interfax reported on 13 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). LF
ARMENIAN LEFT-WING OPPOSITION CONTINUES TALKS ON FORMING BLOC
The Communist Party of Armenia and the Socialist Armenia bloc have initiated talks with other left-wing parties, including Hanrapetutiun, the People's Party of Armenia, and Artashes Geghamian's National Accord Party, on forming a bloc to contest next year's presidential and parliamentary elections, Democratic Party of Armenia Chairman Aram Sarkisian told journalists in Yerevan on 13 August, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Sarkisian said the planned left-wing bloc, which may soon name a shadow cabinet, does not plan to compete with the existing broader alignment of 13 opposition parties. "Haykakan zhamanak" on 14 August reported that some shadow cabinet posts have already been allocated, and that Sarkisian has been named shadow foreign minister. LF
COMPOSITION OF NEW ARMENIAN RELIGIOUS COUNCIL UNVEILED
The new consultative council that will advise the Armenian government on religious matters will include representatives of the Prosecutor-General's Office, as well as of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Catholic and Protestant churches, and of the government, but not of the more than 40 nontraditional religious groups with a presence in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 13 August, quoting a government press release. The new council replaces the government department on religious affairs abolished earlier this year. Its function is to "boost the effectiveness of Armenian state policy in the sphere of religion," according to the prime minister's office. LF
ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS BEGIN TALKS...
Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev began talks on the Karabakh conflict on 14 August in the village of Sadarak on the border between Armenia and Nakhichevan, Turan reported. Aliev told journalists in the town of Nakhichevan the previous day that he does not consider such talks "useless," Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. But he added that the talks became less substantive after the October 1999 Armenian parliament shootings. Numerous Azerbaijani observers have predicted that the 14 August meeting will not yield substantive progress toward resolving the Karabakh conflict. LF
...AS OIC CALLS FOR ARMENIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM AZERBAIJANI TERRITORIES
Fifty-five states that are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference have signed a statement calling on Armenia to withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories in compliance with a series of UN resolutions, Turan reported on 13 August, citing the International Islamic News Agency. The statement also urged Azerbaijan to refrain from a new military confrontation with Armenia. LF
GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TENSIONS IN KODORI EASE
The exchange of fire between Georgian and Abkhaz troops in the Kodori Gorge on 13 August ended after 40 minutes, Caucasus Press reported. Neither side reported any casualties, and each side accused the other of being the first to fire. The meeting planned for earlier that day between Georgian and Abkhaz government delegations headed, respectively, by Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze and Prime Minister Anri Djergenia took place after the shooting subsided, but it is not clear if any agreement was reached. The two men were to meet again late on 14 August. Djorbenadze told a government meeting in Tbilisi on 14 August that the Georgian side has demanded that Georgian border guards be deployed at Marukhi Pass and that Abkhaz forces withdraw from their current position some 15-20 kilometers inside the Georgian-controlled sector of the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. He said Djergenia has asked for time to consider those demands. The Abkhaz National Security Council is to meet on 14 August. LF
KAZAKHSTAN, IRAN DISCUSS OIL TRANSPORTATION
Mehdi Safari, the Iranian Foreign Ministry official with special responsibility for Caspian affairs, met in Astana on 12 August with Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev and Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik to discuss regional developments, Kazakhstan's possible involvement in the North-South transport project, and bilateral cooperation in the oil-and-gas field, Interfax-Kazakhstan and Caspian News Agency reported. The two men focused specifically on the participation of Iranian companies in extracting hydrocarbons in Kazakhstan and on the possibility of increasing the volume of Kazakhstan's oil exports via Iran. They acknowledged, however, that such an increase is contingent on the construction of a new pipeline via Turkmenistan. LF
EMBATTLED KYRGYZ PARLIAMENTARIAN SAYS HIS TRIAL IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Addressing a district court in Bishkek on 13 August, Ishenbai Kadyrbekov argued that his trial on charges of slander is unconstitutional as parliament deputies are guaranteed immunity from prosecution, akipress.org reported. Kadyrbekov pointed out that he has already apologized for an unflattering remark he made in parliament about residents of a hostel in Bishkek who brought the defamation suit against him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). LF
TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH DEFENSE, POLICE CHIEFS
Meeting on 12 August with senior defense and law enforcement officials, Imomali Rakhmonov expressed discontent that directives he issued at an earlier such meeting in late May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002) have not been fully implemented, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 13 August. Specific shortcomings were not mentioned. LF
UZBEKISTAN SENDS HUMANITARIAN AID TO TAJIKISTAN
The Uzbek government has sent five freight cars of building materials, together with several tons of flour and sugar, to the inhabitants of the Tajik village of Dasht, which was devastated by a mudslide last week, uza.uz and Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 14 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). LF
MINSK CURTAILS RUSSIAN BROADCASTING, THEN BACKS DOWN
The Belarusian authorities on 13 August halted retransmission of the Russian radio stations Yunost and Mayak and cut back airtime of the RTR, NTV, and Kultura television networks, Belarusian media reported. The Belarusian State Television and Radio Company, which covers the costs of transmitting Russian television and radio programs in Belarus, said the previous day that the financial burden connected with these retransmissions is much to bear. "The reasons given by the Belarusian side hide the real causes behind the switch-off," Ekho Moskvy quoted Gennadii Sklyar, general director of the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting System, as saying. "Lukashenka is flexing his ideological muscles on the eve of his meeting with Putin [on 14 August]," Belarusian Association of Journalists Chairwoman Zhana Litvina told AP. Belarusian television reported late on 13 August that the broadcasting of Russian radio and television networks in Belarus has been fully restored. JM
BELARUSIAN JOURNALIST INTERROGATED OVER ARTICLE INVOLVING PROSECUTOR-GENERAL
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 13 August interrogated journalist Iryna Khalip in connection with an article she published last week in the "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" supplement "Dlya sluzhebnogo polzovaniya" (For Official Use), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Referring to an audio recording made by the KGB, Khalip alleged that Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman may have accepted a bribe for closing a criminal investigation. "I think I hit the bull's-eye with my article," Khalip told RFE/RL. "Sheyman's position is insecure now. Society has already learned a lot about Sheyman's role in different cases. And here is a new case involving him in criminal business.... Now Sheyman simply wants to know whether I know more and intend to go on with this topic," Khalip added. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DECREES LARGER EXPENDITURES ON ARMED FORCES...
Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree obliging the government to increase by "nearly twofold," budget allocations for the armed forces in 2003 compared with those in 2002, UNIAN reported on 13 August, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. JM
...APPOINTS NEW GENERAL STAFF CHIEF
President Kuchma appointed Colonel General Oleksandr Zatynayko as chief of General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces, UNIAN reported the same day. Kuchma fired the previous chief of the General Staff, Petro Shulyak, following the tragic air crash in Lviv on 27 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002). JM
UKRAINIAN TOP INVESTIGATOR SAYS PILOTS LACKED INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE AIR-SHOW CRASH
National Defense and Security Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk, who heads the commission investigating the jet crash in Lviv on 27 July, told journalists on 13 August that flight commanders did not give pilots adequate instructions for maneuvers that led to the deaths of 85 spectators, AP reported. Marchuk said the two pilots trained for three days prior to the show, but flight commanders and the show's organizers did not conduct a rehearsal of the event. Marchuk added that commanders failed to call off the performance after the pilots deviated from the flight plan on their first pass. Marchuk also rejected pilot Volodymyr Toponar's claim that technical failures caused him to lose control of the Su-27 jet seconds before the crash. JM
U.S. CONGRESSMAN OPTIMISTIC ON LATVIA'S NATO CHANCES
Representative Elton Gallegly (Republican, California), the chairman of the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Europe of the Committee on International Relations, told Prime Minister Andris Berzins in Riga on 13 August that Latvia will be at the top of the list of countries expected to receive invitations to join NATO in Prague in November, LETA reported. Gallegly said the expansion of NATO would promote stability in Europe. Gallegly noted that the achievements of Latvian divers and field engineers suggest that these fields could be the country's specialization in NATO. The congressman also discussed integration and naturalization processes in Latvia with Justice Ministry officials and inquired about the competition for the head of the Corruption Prevention Bureau, stressing the importance of fighting corruption. Gallegly completed his three-day trip to Latvia on 13 August and traveled on to Tallinn. SG
LITHUANIAN HEALTH MINISTER FIRES TOP MEDICINE-CONTROL OFFICIAL
Relying on the results of a special commission investigation, Romualdas Dobrovolskis fired the head of the State Medicine Control Service (VVKT), Vytautas Budnikas, on 13 August for violating the law on public and private interests, ELTA reported. The dismissal was not unexpected as President Valdas Adamkus expressed his lack of confidence in Budnikas several weeks ago and Budnikas did not help his case by making false statements about his vacation. Although the commission did not confirm that he had met secretly with Russian pharmaceuticals magnate Vladimir Bryntsalov, it concluded that his vacations in Norway and Astrakhan appeared to have been partially financed by foreign pharmaceutical companies. In addition, the commission determined that he had illegally used a state car and driver to return to Vilnius from Riga, to which he had flown from Russia, allegedly in an attempt to evade journalists. Budnikas said that he will regain his job through court proceedings. SG
POLISH CABINET WANTS CHANGES IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEDURES
The government on 13 August adopted a package of bills relating to Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko's anti-crisis program (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 30 July 2002), Polish television reported. The package provides opportunities for state assistance to companies facing bankruptcy. Enterprises employing over 1,000 people and "of particular importance to the economy" can count on state help after they prepare a revitalization program; the implementation of the revitalization program is to take place under the supervision of a court and with the cooperation of creditors. The government also endorsed changes in the bankruptcy law that has been in force for 70 years. Under these changes, a firm declared bankrupt will not be able to sell off its assets in order to pay off its obligations. "The bankruptcy law is revolutionary, since it surrenders the bankruptcy procedure to the audit of creditors and not to the commissioner for bankruptcy, who [has always] sought the sale of the company assets. In this way, an opportunity is given for the cleansing and reconstruction of the enterprise, and under the supervision of the creditors," Polish television quoted an unidentified government official as saying. JM
POPE TO MEET WITH POLISH POLITICIANS THIS WEEK
During his ninth trip to the homeland on 16-19 August, Pope John Paul II will meet leading Polish statesmen and politicians, including President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Leszek Miller, and several government ministers, PAP reported on 13 August. On 17 August, the pope will hold private talks with Kwasniewski and Miller and receive also the president's wife, Jolanta Kwasniewska, Deputy Prime Ministers Jaroslaw Kalinowski and Marek Pol, Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, and Interior Minister Krzysztof Janik. On 19 August, the pope will serve Mass on the outskirts of Krakow in the presence of President Kwasniewski as well as the presidents of Lithuania and Slovakia, Valdas Adamkus and Rudolf Schuster, respectively. JM
POLAND'S RULING PARTY TOPS OPINION SURVEY BEFORE LOCAL ELECTIONS
According to a poll conducted by OBOP on 3-5 August among 956 adult Poles, the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) would win local elections with 31 percent of the vote, PAP reported. The SLD was followed by Law and Justice (15 percent), Self-Defense (15 percent), Civic Platform (12 percent), the League of Polish Families (11 percent), and the Peasant Party (9 percent). Poland will hold local elections this fall, but the date of the ballot has not been set. An amended local-election law calls for city mayors and commune heads to be elected by direct ballot along with local councilors. JM
PRAGUE'S 'FLOOD OF CENTURY' SAID TO BE WORST IN CITY'S HISTORY...
Water levels continued to rise in Prague on 14 August as Mayor Igor Nemec reported that the flow of the Vltava River through the capital could no longer be gauged, having exceeded the measurable limit of 5,000 cubic meters per second, CTK reported. During a flood in 1890, the rate reached 3,700 cubic meters per second and was considered the highest in the city's history. Experts also revised their forecast of when levels in the city will peak, predicting on Czech Television that the river will continue a gradual rise into the evening of 14 August. The city began the evacuation of additional downtown areas, such as the historic Jewish Quarter and streets around Old Town Square, in the early hours of 14 August. Low-lying sections of the city are inundated and metro lines are operating only outside the city center, while all but one bridge over the Vltava are closed to private vehicles. Gas and electricity supplies have also been shut off to sections of the city as both major distributors declared a state of emergency in some areas. City police have refuted media reports of significant looting in areas already evacuated or swamped, according to CTK. So far, more than 50,000 have been evacuated from their homes in Prague. MS/AH
...AS LARGEST CZECH EVACUATION SINCE WORLD WAR II CONTINUES...
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on 13 August that some 200,000 people have been evacuated throughout the country, making the evacuation the largest since World War II, CTK and international news agencies reported. Nine deaths have been reported in the two weeks since the flooding began, including two victims on 13 August, Czech media reported on 14 August. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on 14 August commended the country's emergency response, saying: "Few people realize just how little loss of life [there has been] and how few injured people there have been.... What it means is that decisions were made in time on evacuations." Damages are estimated so far at some $2 billion, but Spidla said after a cabinet meeting on 13 August that the extent of damages will only become known some 14 days after the waters have receded. Spidla announced that the government approved the state of emergency he declared one day earlier in six of the country's regions and announced that 380 million crowns (nearly $11.9 million) was released for immediate aid. He said the parliamentary Budget Committee will approve an additional 1.15 billion crowns by the end of the week. MS/AH
...AMID MASSIVE RESCUE AND EMERGENCY EFFORTS
Some 4,000 policemen, 9,000 firemen, and 2,000 soldiers are battling the effects of flooding in the Czech Republic, particularly in the western part of the country, a government spokeswoman told CTK on 14 August. The hardest-hit major cities include Ceske Budejovice and Plzen, while scores of smaller towns and villages have been devastated. Some 30 bridges have been swept away, according to the daily "Hospodarske noviny." Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda added that offers of technical and financial assistance have come in from Sweden, Poland, France, the United States, Norway, Japan, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, and other countries as well as NATO and the EU, according to CTK the same day. The country will accept offers of assistance from abroad, Svoboda added, stressing that Czechs particularly need medicines, vaccines, and drying devices. President Vaclav Havel cut short a vacation in Portugal and was expected to arrive in Prague in the afternoon of 14 August and meet with Prime Minister Spidla. MS/AH
INVESTIGATION OF FORMER CZECH FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL ON HOLD DUE TO FLOODING
Investigators from the special police squad conducting an investigation into charges of corruption and serious economic crimes against Karel Srba had to postpone questioning of witnesses because of the floods, the daily "Pravo," cited by CTK, reported on 14 August. A police official said the offices where the investigation is being conducted had to be evacuated due to the floods. Srba is also under investigation on suspicion of having commissioned the attempt to murder journalist Sabina Slonkova and for the illegal possession of firearms. One of Srba's lawyers told "Pravo" that two executives from the Certos company, who have been charged with bribing Srba and who are not in custody during the investigation, informed the authorities they will not be able to attend the investigation due to the floods. Another Srba lawyer told the paper that one of the two Certos officials, Jiri Sitar, has admitted that 5.5 million crowns ($172,160) of the 30 million crowns confiscated by police during a search of Srba's house is his money. Sitar reportedly said he "just kept it there." MS
SLOVAKS OFFER HELP TO HARD-HIT CZECH REPUBLIC...
President Rudolf Schuster on 13 August phoned Czech President Havel, pledging any aid Slovakia can offer to the neighboring country. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda confirmed his country's readiness to help, saying Slovakia is merely waiting for the Czech Republic to specify its needs. Dzurinda said the offer is also valid for neighboring Austria. MS
...EVEN AS DANUBE WATERS THREATEN SLOVAK CAPITAL
Authorities in Bratislava declared a state of emergency in the early hours of 14 August as the bloated Danube River threatened the Slovak capital, CTK reported the same day. Barriers were being erected on the riverbanks as the waters rose to 8.5 meters overnight. Experts forecast that levels will peak on the morning of 15 August. There is a ban on navigation of the Danube in Bratislava, and a handful of foreign vessels have had to anchor there. President Schuster and parliamentary Chairman Jozef Migas returned to the capital from eastern Slovakia, where flooding has wrought havoc in particular in the area around Poprad. The government was expected to meet on 14 August to address the crisis. AH
SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER DEPLORES 'PARTY ATOMIZATION'
Parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas told journalists on 13 August that the biggest problem of the outgoing parliament has been "party atomization," TASR reported. Migas said the process started when Prime Minister Dzurinda split the Slovak Democratic Coalition to form his own party and continued with several other major splits, among them those of the Slovak National Party and the recent split of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Migas said that apart from these negative developments, the outgoing parliament also registered some successes -- the wall-to-wall party support for Slovakia's integration into the EU and NATO and the passage of 540 laws paramount among them. MS
SLOVAK PREMIER DEPLORES OPPOSITION ELECTORAL TACTICS
Prime Minister Dzurinda said on 13 August that both parliamentary and extraparliamentary opposition parties are basing their election campaigns on attacking the government's policy and called these policies "shortsighted," TASR reported. Dzurinda told journalists in Bratislava that "Smer Chairman Robert Fico attacks us from the left and Alliance of New Citizens [ANO] Chairman Pavol Rusko from the right, and both describe the country as devastated, as if the legacy of the current government is similar to the former cabinet's legacy." He predicted that Fico will become a victim of his own "statements and billboards" and Rusko that of "his own manipulations and promises." MS
TEN FORMER, CURRENT HUNGARIAN MINISTERS LINKED TO COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICES...
Imre Mecs, who heads the commission investigating the links of post-1989 cabinet members with the communist-era secret services, said on 13 August that the commission found that 10 ministers had such links, Hungarian media reported. Mecs revealed that five of them served in the 1990-94 cabinet headed by Jozsef Antall and then -- after Antall's death -- by Peter Boross. Two served in the government headed by Gyula Horn between 1994-98, and four were members of the 1998-2002 government headed by Viktor Orban. One current government member -- presumably Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy himself -- had links with the communist services. He added that two of these ministers have served in more than one post-1989 cabinet. Mecs said he consulted with a number of experts and concluded that the commission is justified in its decision to release the names of those involved, since the information is "in the public's interest." MS
...WHILE SOCIALISTS ARE DETERMINED TO RELEASE THEIR NAMES...
Karoly Toth, a Socialist member of the Mecs commission, said on 13 August that the commission will release the names of the ministers, even if those affected do not give their consent, Hungarian media reported. Regarding the opposition members' decision to withdraw from the commission, Toth said that parliamentary regulations stipulate that commission members cannot do so unless they renounce their membership in parliament. If the opposition continues to boycott the commission's sessions, Toth said, the commission will not be able to vote on a decision, but this will not prevent it from releasing its findings to the media. MS
...AND FORMER PREMIERS CONSENT TO PUBLICATION OF FINDINGS ON THEMSELVES
Former prime ministers Boross and Orban announced on 13 August that they are willing to authorize the Mecs commission to release its findings on them, Hungarian media reported. Orban added that he cannot speak on behalf of his former cabinet colleagues, and they will have to decide for themselves if they want the information released. MS
HUNGARIAN RIGHT PLANS RALLIES ON DEFENSE OF PRESS FREEDOM
Csaba Hende, who is former Prime Minister Orban's chief of staff, said on 13 August that civic (polgari) groups identifying themselves with the right are planning large-scale demonstrations in defense of freedom of the press on 30 August, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Hende said the protests aim to bring about the dismissal of Hungarian Television (MTV) Deputy Chairman Imre Ragats and to reinstate dismissed MTV journalists. He said other protest rallies are also planned, but refused to give details. Istvan Wisinger, head of the largest Hungarian journalists' association, MUOSZ, said in response that he is surprised by the "sudden and passionate interest" in press freedom displayed by FIDESZ supporters. Wisinger pointed out that when Orban was prime minister, he said nothing in reaction to the International Federation of Journalists' negative evaluation of Hungarian media freedom at MTV that was issued in 2001. Orban also did not react to later criticism by an international monitoring commission that noted MTV's clear pro-FIDESZ bias during the 2002 parliamentary elections, Wisinger said. MS
MACEDONIAN POLITICIANS SEE OHRID PEACE AGREEMENT AS NECESSARY EVIL...
On the first anniversary of the 13 August 2001 Ohrid peace agreement, most ethnic Macedonian politicians said that they consider the accord a necessary evil to end the violence, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Vlatko Gjorcev, the spokesman of the ruling nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), said that the peace agreement led to a certain stabilization of the country. He added, however, that peace is constantly threatened by "Albanian extremism and daily attacks by terrorist groups." Jani Makraduli of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) stressed that the peace agreement was a compromise, and as such it is not ideal. "For us, it is important that the political will exists to live together in Macedonia. [If that holds true,] the [Ohrid] agreement will be enough," Makraduli said. Some representatives of smaller parties -- such as Pavle Trajanov of the Democratic Union -- called for the agreement and subsequent constitutional changes to be revised. UB
...WHILE MACEDONIA'S ALBANIANS EXPECT MORE CHANGES
Judging from statements cited by the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" on 14 August, ethnic Albanian politicians believe that the peace agreement is the basis for further democratization. Zahir Bekteshi of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) said there is no room for complacency, even if parliament has passed a large number of laws as a result of the agreement. Unnamed sources of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) stress that the agreement is only a start and that the next steps will be difficult. Ali Ahmeti, chairman of the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) and former political leader of the National Liberation Army (UCK), said in Tetovo that "today is a special day because it is the anniversary of...the Ohrid peace agreement, which is a result of our legitimate struggle." Ahmeti added that his party will fight for a democracy based on consensus. UB
KOSOVARS PROTEST LEADER'S ARREST
Thousands of ethnic Albanians demonstrated in Podujeva on 13 August to protest the recent arrest of local wartime leader Rustem Mustafa, better known as Remi, by KFOR peacekeepers, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 August 2002). The demonstrators dispersed peacefully after about one hour. In Prishtina, an international judge ordered that Remi be detained for at least 30 days while the case is investigated. In related news, Kosovar politician Ramush Haradinaj said in Prishtina that the recent charges filed against him are unfounded, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2002). Susan Manuel, who is spokeswoman for the UN civilian authority in Kosova (UNMIK), said that the charges are well founded. Finally, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 14 August that KFOR has recently arrested a total of 21 individuals in a series of sweeps, including 13 individuals charged with being "armed extremists." PM
TENSIONS MOUNT BETWEEN SLOVENIA AND CROATIA
At least five Slovenian fishing boats accompanied by a police patrol boat entered disputed waters between Croatia and Slovenia in the Bay of Piran on 13 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2002). Slovenian sources said that an unspecified incident resulted when Croatian police appeared on the scene. The Slovenian craft subsequently withdrew. The Croatian Foreign Ministry sent the Slovenian Embassy in Zagreb what the ministry described as a "strong protest" over the latest in what it called a series of incidents in which Slovenian craft violate the maritime border in the Bay of Piran. Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said nonetheless that Croatia will do its best to prevent an escalation of tensions and hopes that Slovenia will do the same. On 14 August, a joint commission on local border traffic met in Mokrice Castle in Slovenia, Hina reported. PM
CROATIA TO TURN DOWN U.S. REQUEST...
Picula said in Pula that Croatia has received a U.S. request calling for a bilateral agreement pledging not to turn U.S. citizens over to the new International Criminal Court (ICC), "Vjesnik" reported on 14 August. He added, however, that Zagreb will most likely turn down the proposal on the grounds that it sends its own citizens to The Hague and cannot be expected to give foreigners more privileged treatment. PM
...WHILE BOSNIAN LEADER SAYS NO PRESSURE FROM U.S.
Beriz Belkic, who heads the rotating joint presidency, denied recent media reports suggesting that Washington has threatened to bar Sarajevo's membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace program if Bosnia does not sign a bilateral agreement, "Dnevni avaz" reported on 14 August. Belkic stressed that the United States "fully understands" Bosnia's position and has not applied pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2002). PM
KOSTUNICA'S PARTY SLAMS LEADERS IN BELGRADE AND PODGORICA
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) said in a statement in Belgrade on 13 August that the recent failure of a joint Serbian and Montenegrin commission to agree on a Constitutional Charter shows that the two leaderships do not really want a joint state, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2002). The statement added that those two leaderships pay lip service to the idea of a joint state but work in practice to destroy it. The Podgorica daily "Vijesti" reported on 14 August that Kostunica wants the joint commission to continue its work on the Constitutional Charter, but that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic wants matters handled through direct talks between the Serbian and Montenegrin governments. PM
UNEASE IN MILOSEVIC'S PARTY OVER SESELJ'S CANDIDACY
Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj hailed the recent proposal by former President Slobodan Milosevic that Seselj be the joint candidate of the opposition in the 29 September Serbian presidential vote, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported from Belgrade on 14 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2002). But the Belgrade daily "Danas" noted that the leadership of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) is unhappy with their chief's recommendation. The SPS leadership is considering nominating Milutin Mrkonjic or Velimir Bata Zivojinovic instead of endorsing Seselj. The daily "Politika," which is close to Kostunica, wrote that it is strange that the supposedly leftist Milosevic has endorsed the leader of the far right for the highest office in Serbia. The editorial asked: "If Milosevic represents the past, does that mean that Seselj represents the future?" PM
ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SLAMS DOOR ON DEFENDER'S FACE
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana on 13 August said Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu was "tempted by uninspired politicking" when he came to Geoana's defense against Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and former foreign ministers Petre Roman and Teodor Melescanu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Basescu the previous day praised Geoana for promoting an accord between Romania and the United States on the non-extradition of U.S. citizens to the International Criminal Court and said it was to be deplored that three former foreign ministers -- Nastase has also held that portfolio -- are incapable of overcoming their personal antipathies toward Geoana and placing the national interest at the top of their priorities. In a press release, Geoana said in response that the decision on the accord was not his own, as Basescu claims, but that of the governmental team as a whole. Geoana denied any friction between himself and the prime minister. Basescu responded by saying he had backed not Geoana personally, but Romania's national interest in order not to jeopardize the country's NATO bid. He added that Geoana's reaction is an illustration of the foreign minister's "excessive servility" toward Nastase. MS
ROMANIAN WEATHER CATASTROPHE MAKES MORE VICTIMS
Three people were killed and more than a dozen hospitalized in eastern Romania after a brief and violent storm, AP reported. A woman and her 17-month-old child were killed on 12 August when their house collapsed under the force of winds gusting up to 100 kilometers an hour in the village of Facaeni, some 190 kilometers east of Bucharest. On the same day, a driver was killed in a storm in the nearby town of Fetesti. MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SCHEDULES 'MARATHON SUMMIT' ON OSCE SETTLEMENT PLAN
President Vladimir Voronin on 13 August invited separatist leader Igor Smirnov and the mediators in the Transdniester conflict -- Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE -- to a "marathon summit" in Chisinau on 15 August, AP reported. A Flux report from Chisinau said that Voronin's initiative envisages negotiations until an accord is reached on a "final version" of an OSCE plan that provides for Moldova's federalization. Voronin said the plan should be the only point on the summit's agenda. The initiative was endorsed by Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, according to the AP report. Matti Sidoroff, OSCE mission spokesman, saluted the initiative but said that he believes the proposed summit cannot take place on 15 August, as OSCE mission chief David Schwartz will return to Chisinau only on the evening of 15 August. MS
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO MOLDOVA SAYS INVESTMENT INCREASING
Russian investment in Moldova has increased since Voronin took office in April 2001, according to Russian Ambassador to Chisinau Pavel Petrovskii. In an interview with the governmental Russian-language publication "Nezavisimaya Moldova" that was cited by ITAR-TASS on 13 August, Petrovskii said the signing of the basic treaty between the two countries in May has made Russian business confident of the stability of ties and the prospects offered by the Moldovan market. Petrovskii said that the improvement in relations "does not alienate Moldova from Europe, as some Moldovan leaders claim." Quite the opposite, he said, the good relations contribute to the improvement of Moldova's image in Europe, because "Russia itself is moving toward Europe faster than some other CIS members." MS
BULGARIA STEPS UP DIPLOMACY OVER INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
In response to the European Commission's recommendation that Bulgaria not sign a bilateral treaty with the United States by which Bulgaria would agree not to extradite U.S. citizens to the International Criminal Court, Deputy Foreign Minister Petko Draganov on 13 August left for Copenhagen to hold bilateral talks with representatives of the Danish government, BTA reported. Denmark currently holds the rotating EU Presidency. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew told journalists in the southern Bulgarian town of Haskovo the same day that Bulgaria will face no negative consequences regardless of the decision it makes on signing the treaty, mediapool.bg reported. Bulgarian media reported that the government has yet to formulate its own position on the question, as it faces the dilemma of either endangering its NATO membership if it refuses the U.S. proposal or it hoped-for EU membership if it signs the agreement. UB
BULGARIA'S FOREIGN-TRADE BALANCE IS DETERIORATING
Speaking at a meeting of business representatives on 13 August, Bulgarian Industrial Association Chairman Bozhidar Danev said that the Bulgarian foreign-trade balance is deteriorating, BTA reported. This year's trade deficit is already some $600 million and will probably reach $1.1 billion by the end of the year, Danev said. The rising foreign deficit is due to falling exports to the European Union and Russia as well as increased imports from those areas. The Industrial Association and the Foreign Ministry will hold a roundtable discussion in September pertaining to requirements for trade with the EU, as the EU is to introduce a number of new regulations that will directly or indirectly affect Bulgarian exports. UB
BIDDER FOR BULGARTABAC WITHDRAWS OFFER
One of the bidders for the state tobacco company Bulgartabac, the Metatabak Consortium, announced on 13 August its withdrawal from the tender, BTA reported. Metatabak lawyer Georgi Tasev and consortium partner Garegin Gevondian of the Russia-based Soyuzkontrakt Tabak told a joint news conference that there were formal and legal violations during the competitive bidding procedure and that the bidder Tobacco Capital Partners is receiving preferential treatment. "The prime minister's statement on [9 August] was the last straw. In his convoluted parlance, he made it clear that the matter is decided in favor of Tobacco Capital Partners.... After [this] statement, on [11 August] we made a decision to withdraw from this dirty game," Gevondian said. UB
There is no End Note today.