MORE TOUGH TALK ON PANKISI GORGE...
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 19 September met with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington to discuss cooperation in the area of strategic stability, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Ivanov repeated his uncompromising position on the Pankisi Gorge situation, saying that Russia has "tons of evidence" that terrorists from Chechnya, as well as from Arab and Muslim countries, are operating in the Georgian region. Ivanov alleged that some of them have links to Al-Qaeda and said that he has handed this information over to the United States, RIA-Novosti and ORT reported on 19 September. However, Ivanov commented, even publicly available information is sufficient to prove this. VY
...AS FOREIGN-POLICY ADVISER SUGGEST JOINT U.S.-RUSSIAN OPERATION...
Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, told RTR on 19 September that it would be good for Russia if Washington agreed to conduct a joint military operation to combat terrorism in the Pankisi Gorge. Karaganov said that the idea of a joint operation is useful if it is intended to put pressure on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, but that the two countries should be cautious about actually launching a military operation because it might easily escalate out of control. VY
...AND SAYS IRAQ WON'T LEAD TO U.S.-RUSSIA SPLIT
In the same interview, Karaganov said that he does not think the United States needs Russia's consent to act against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. If the United States decides to act, it can do so alone, Karaganov remarked. He added that even if such action led to a split between the two countries in the UN, it would not lead to a serious deterioration of bilateral relations. Both countries have long understood in which areas they can cooperate and in which areas they will differ, and they will proceed to interact within this framework, Karaganov said. VY
DEFENSE MINISTER'S BAGS ARE PACKED
Following his current visit to the United States, Defense Minister Ivanov will visit Portugal, Spain, and Poland, "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 19 September. He will also attend an informal Russia-NATO meeting to discuss international security and the fight against international terrorism. He will be out of Russia for 10 days. VY
ECONOMICS ADVISER CALLS EES A 'NATIONAL SHAME'
Speaking at the Baikal Economic Forum in Irkutsk, Andrei Illarionov, economic-policy adviser to President Vladimir Putin, lashed out at Unified Energy Systems (EES) and its head, Anatolii Chubais, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 19 September. Illarionov said that incompetence and lack of professionalism in the EES management has led to a critical situation in the country's largest monopoly. Over the last 18 months, EES shares have dropped 60 percent and the company has lost $6 billion in assets and market capitalization, Illarionov said. He described the situation as "a national disaster and a national shame" and said that it indicates management's disregard for its shareholders -- including its biggest shareholder, the state. "Four years managing a company is enough time to show what is what," Illarionov said. In any other country, he added, the management of such a company would resign. EES board member Andrei Trapeznikov was quoted by "The Moscow Times" as saying that "management has made some miscalculations," but that the company's operations are sound. Trapeznikov said Illarionov is "incompetent in this subject." VY
INVESTIGATOR NAMES NAMES IN STAROVOITOVA, MANEVICH CASES
Police have identified two suspects in the 1998 murder of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian news agencies reported on 20 September. The head of the Interior Ministry's (MVD) Criminal Police, General Mikhail Nikoforov, said in St. Petersburg on 19 September that domestic and international arrest warrants have been issued for two Russian citizens that he identified only as Musin and Stekhovskii in connection with the case. He also said that "there is information" that two other Russians -- identified only as Kalyagin and Maksimov -- were involved in the 1997 murder of St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Mikhail Manevich. Other unidentified MVD officials with whom "Kommersant-Daily" spoke were completely surprised by Nikoforov's statements and said that he had spoken prematurely. "By giving out this information, the general has, in the opinion of investigators, literally warned those who are wanted and now getting to them -- and, through them, to those who ordered the murder -- will be more difficult," the newspaper commented. RC
KREMLIN SPEAKS OUT AGAINST DZERZHINSKII RESTORATION
A senior official in the Putin administration has spoken out against a proposal to return the monument to Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii to Moscow's Lubyanka Square (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 17, and 18 September 2002), NTV reported on 19 September. Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration, said the proposal "is not good" and can only bring "unnecessary disruption to society." Russian Patriarch Aleksii II also spoke out against the proposal as being unnecessarily divisive, Interfax reported on 20 September. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that he supports the idea, RosBalt reported on 19 September. He noted that the monument is in excellent condition and that its restoration will not turn Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov "into a second Dzerzhinskii." VY
PRESIDENT WISHES INTERIOR MINISTRY A HAPPY BIRTHDAY...
President Putin sent his congratulations to the MVD on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of its founding, Russian news agencies reported on 20 September. He called on the ministry "to protect the country's stability, its citizens' freedoms, and a favorable business climate." Over its long history, the ministry has been headed by such different and controversial figures as Count Viktor Kochubei, tsarist minister Petr Stolypin and Joseph Stalin's henchman Lavrentii Beria. VY
...AND MINISTER CALLS FOR TOUGHER FIGHT AGAINST POLICE CORRUPTION
In his speech to a St. Petersburg conference marking the anniversary, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov called for an end to police corruption, RosBalt reported on 20 September. He said that the ministry must "quickly and pitilessly get rid of" those in its ranks who take bribes and do not manifest the utmost professionalism. "There must not be any monetary relations between employees of the law enforcement organs and the citizenry," Gryzlov said. RC
ELITE FOREIGN-POLICY JOURNAL TO BE LAUNCHED
Russia's foreign-policy elite will soon have its own journal, "The Moscow Times" reported on 19 September. The bi-monthly magazine will be published in English as "Russia in Global Affairs" as well as in Russian, and will have an initial print run of 7,000 copies. It is a joint project of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and "Izvestiya." The new magazine has also acquired the right to reprint articles from the American journal "Foreign Affairs." It will be edited by former "Vremya novostei" editor Fedor Lukyanov, and its editorial board includes Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, President Putin's foreign-policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, and Duma deputy speakers Irina Khakamada and Vladimir Lukin. Foreign board members include former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Harvard academic Graham Allison, and "Foreign Affairs" editor James Hoge. The first issue will appear in November. RC
COURT UPHOLDS 'LIMONKA' BAN
The Moscow Municipal Court on 20 September upheld a lower-court ruling annulling the registration of the National Bolshevik Party newspaper "Limonka" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002), Ekho Moskvy reported. According to "Limonka" editor Aleksei Volynets, the paper will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Lenta.ru quoted Volynets as saying that "Limonka," as of 9 September, has been registered as a Russian-language publication in Ukraine and will continue publishing from Kyiv. Volynets also said that the party has registered two other newspaper titles in Moscow, one of which is "The General Line." RC
CYPRUS TO REQUIRE VISAS FOR RUSSIANS
At the beginning of next year, Cyprus will introduce visas for Russian citizens, polit.ru reported on 20 September, citing RTR. Visas are being introduced as part of Cyprus's efforts to join the European Union. More than 150,000 Russians visit the island country each year, adding about $170 million to the local economy. Therefore, the government intends to make the new visa procedure as simple as possible. Ntvru.com cited the Cypriot Trade, Industry, and Tourism Ministry in reporting that the new visas will not cost more than 10 Cypriot pounds ($17) and will be issued immediately upon application. RC
CRISIS IS OVER FOR RUSSIAN FARMERS
The Russian agricultural sector has passed through its crisis and is now developing, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov declared at a government meeting on 20 September, polit.ru reported. Kasyanov said that the grain harvest this year will amount to more than 85 million tons and that Russia will export 5-8 million tons this year. Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev reported after the meeting that the government will spend 6 billion rubles ($194 million) to support grain prices this year, and the intervention could begin as soon as next month. Gordeev reiterated Kasyanov's statements about the recovery of Russian agriculture, noting that this year is the fourth straight year of rising agricultural production. Both Kasyanov and Gordeev said that the government is prepared to protect Russian producers from unfair foreign competition. RC
ACTIVISTS CLAIM TO HAVE UNEARTHED STALIN-ERA VICTIMS
The human rights group Memorial believes that it has identified a mass grave of Stalin-era terror victims near the Leningrad Oblast town of Toksovo, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 20 September. The group believes that as many as 30,000 victims might be buried in the grave, most of them killed in 1937-38. The grave is located on the territory of an army artillery range. Memorial has been looking for the grave for the last five years and unearthed the first remains last month. According to the group, the Federal Security Service -- successor to the Soviet-era NKVD and KGB -- refused to assist in its investigation. RC
REFERENDUM EXPECTED NEXT YEAR ON MERGING OF TWO REGIONS
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov told legislators in Irkutsk Oblast on 18 September that the upper legislative chamber will create a working group on the question of merging subjects of the federation, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. He also said that he believes that Irkutsk Oblast and the Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug have all the necessary preconditions to form a single administrative unit. On 17 September, Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin and Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug Governor Valerii Maleev reportedly expressed their desire to move more decisively toward a union of the territories during a meeting with presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii, the daily reported on 18 September. According to Interfax-Eurasia, Maleev told local legislators that if the two regions are merged, then the resulting new entity should have a new name and elect new leaders. He suggested that it might be called Pribaikalskii Krai. The chairman of the okrug legislature, Aleksei Khorinoev, said that he believes a referendum on the question will most likely be held next year. JAC
PSYCHIATRIST SUGGESTS HOLDING TV JOURNALISTS RESPONSIBLE FOR BEING DEPRESSING
Data suggest that the mental health of Russians has worsened in recent years, and Yurii Polishchuk, director of the clinical department of the Moscow Scientific Research Institute of Psychiatry, believes that the press and television have played a significant role in this process by increasing the flow of "negative information," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 19 September. At a recent meeting at Moscow's House of Journalists, Polishchuk called for "enforcing the articles in the law on mass media that assign responsibility for inflicting damage to people's health." "The Russian Constitution has articles that confirm the right of Russians to protect their health, not only their physical but also their psychological and spiritual, moral and intellectual well-being," he said. However, Tamara Naumenko, a sociologist at Moscow State University, suggested that if the actual number of crimes in the country declined, then the coverage of crime in the media would also decline. JAC
FOREIGN TOURISTS LIKE MOSCOW, BUT NOT ITS SKINHEADS...
At a press conference in Moscow on 18 September, Georgii Muradov, director of the city government's international-relations department, released the results of a study of how foreigners view Moscow, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 September. The majority of those surveyed said they believe Moscow's main architectural monuments have been well preserved and the city has many beautiful new structures, but they would hesitate to call the city "European." They particularly like the metro, but prefer to ride in private cars, although they do not consider Muscovites good drivers. The survey also showed that foreigners would like to become better acquainted with city residents, who appear friendly although they "rarely speak English." According to a representative of the ROMIR agency, which conducted the research, one survey respondent complained about witnessing a group of adolescent skinheads assaulting a Jewish boy. However, Muradov said that he didn't believe in the existence of the skinheads or that the boy was Jewish. "He certainly didn't cry out in Hebrew," he commented. JAC
...AS MORE 'FOREIGNERS' ATTACKED IN MOSCOW METRO
Moscow police detained five men for allegedly beating up "foreigners" in the Moscow subway, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 September. Two 20-year-old Muscovites reportedly beat up two Chinese citizens, and a resident of the republic of Buryatia -- which is part of the Russian Federation -- on the metro the previous day. Around the same time, three other men between the ages of 18-28 beat up an Indian national in the metro. The men are being charged with "hooliganism." JAC
TRAFFIC INCIDENTS, FATALITIES RISE AS COURTS SOFT ON BAD DRIVERS?
The number of traffic accidents nationwide climbed by 34 percent in the last two months compared with the same period last year, RosBalt reported on 19 September, citing Lieutenant General Vladimir Fedorov, an official with the MVD's traffic police. The number deaths in accidents also rose by 14 percent, while injuries increased by 2 percent. According to Fedorov, since the new Administrative Code came into effect this summer, the number of arrests for drunken driving has increased by 11 percent. Fedorov criticized the courts because in 110 cases, they deprived drivers of their licenses for gross violations only seven times. JAC
ENVOY CONTINUES MOVE INTO SHAIMIEV'S TERRITORY
Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko has opened his third public-reception office in the republic of Tatarstan, RosBalt reported on 19 September. At the office in Nizhnekamsk, local citizens can directly lodge complaints and make appeals to Kirienko. According to the agency, in the first half of the year, Kirienko's offices received some 995 appeals from the public. JAC
DEATH TOLL FROM SOUTHERN FLOODING FINALIZED, AS LOCAL OFFICIALS GET LION'S SHARE OF BLAME
Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev reported on 19 September that 167 people were killed in the flooding that hit his district last month according to official statistics, RIA-Novosti reported. Some 280,000 people were affected and 16 billion rubles ($516 million) in damages were sustained. Kazantsev commented that the reasons for what happened are now completely understood: the heads of raion administrations showed themselves to be incapable of acting under emergency conditions. JAC
CANINE CARRIES PARTY MESSAGE
Twelve-year old Sveta Zorkina of Yekaterinburg has received a two-month-old German shepherd puppy from the Sverdlovsk Oblast branch of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, regions.ru reported on 19 September. This spring Sveta wrote a letter to President Putin asking for a dog. Her letter was then forwarded to the party's local branch, which decided to grant her wish at the beginning of the new school year. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on the same day that an opinion poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found that 25 percent of Unified Russia supporters feel hatred toward the wealthy compared with 44 percent of Communist Party supporters. The daily concluded that this trend explains why the Communist Party has maintained its position as Russia's most popular party in recent polls. JAC
CHECHEN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES NEW LARGE-SCALE OFFENSIVE
In a televised address to the Chechen people, Aslan Maskhadov announced that Chechen armed forces will abandon their current tactics of partisan warfare and launch broad-scale military operations aimed at forcing the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya, chechenpress.com reported on 20 September. At the same time, Maskhadov appealed to the international community to help bring about a cessation of hostilities and resolve the conflict peacefully. LF
...AS INTERIOR MINISTER RULES OUT PEACE TALKS
Any negotiations with Chechen gunmen are unacceptable, Gryzlov affirmed on 20 September at a conference in St. Petersburg to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Interior Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. Gryzlov argued that the experience of the first Chechen war demonstrated that the Chechen militants construe Russia's readiness for such talks as a signal to intensify armed resistance. LF
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POSTPONES DISCUSSION OF JOINT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Meeting in Yerevan on 19 September, representatives of the 16 aligned opposition parties decided to draft a joint election program based on proposals submitted by each of them, but declined to discuss a program unveiled last week by National Accord Party Chairman Artashes Geghamian, which Geghamian wants to serve as the basis for that common platform, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. They also again failed to address the problem of selecting a single presidential candidate to run against incumbent Robert Kocharian in the February 2003 elections. "Hayastani Hanrapetutiun" predicted on 19 September that the 16 parties will soon split into two opposition groups, one headed by Geghamian and the second by People's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian. LF
POLICE DETAIN AZERBAIJANI COMMUNITY LEADER
Djabrail Alizade, who is the chairman of the Union of Baku and Baku Villages, was detained at gunpoint in the village of Nardaran during the morning of 20 September by some 15 men in civilian clothes, Turan reported. The population of the village has congregated on the village square to demand Alizade's release, and planned to stage a demonstration later in the day. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S SON TERMS COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPORT 'PREJUDICED'
Turan on 20 September quoted Ilham Aliev, who heads Azerbaijan's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as saying in an interview with the newspaper "Azerbaycan" that the recent report compiled by the PACE Monitoring Committee on Azerbaijan's compliance with its human rights commitments shows prejudice in several respects. That report notes a lack of progress in developing local self-government, failure to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the legislature, and failure to discuss with the OSCE the 39 constitutional amendments put to a nationwide referendum last month. It also expresses concern at reports of widespread procedural violations during that vote, and challenges official claims that over 80 percent of the electorate participated in the referendum, of whom 90 percent endorsed the proposed changes. LF
AUTHORITIES LAUNCH SOCIOECONOMIC PROGRAM IN AZERBAIJAN'S SECOND CITY
Following protests by angry residents during a visit last week by President Heidar Aliev to Gyandja (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2002), the city authorities have begun paving the streets, planting trees, and preparing to reopen industrial enterprises currently standing idle, Turan reported on 19 September. LF
GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SLAMS RUSSIAN THREATS OF 'AGGRESSION'
In an address to the UN General Assembly on 19 September, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili condemned statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he said constitute an open threat of aggression against Georgia, Reuters reported. Menagharishvili said such statements, in conjunction with a Russian media campaign that depicts Georgia as abetting terrorists and thus fuelling the conflict in Chechnya, "gravely endanger peace and security in the region." He rejected as absurd Russian claims that Georgia is unable to crack down on Chechen militants on its territory, adding that Russia is using those accusations as "a smoke screen" to conceal its own inability to end the war in Chechnya. LF
GEORGIAN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY FLIES TO U.S.
Tedo Djaparidze departed for the United States on 19 September to participate in talks scheduled for the following day between the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Caucasus Press reported on 20 September, quoting Menagharishvili. The talks will focus on Russian-Georgian tensions over the presence of Chechen militants in the Pankisi Gorge. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TASKS DEFENSE MINISTRY WITH RESPONDING TO IVANOV'S NATO COMMENT
Upon his return on 19 September from Baku, Eduard Shevardnadze refused to comment on Russian Defense Minister Ivanov's comments on Georgia's aspiration to join NATO, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze said the Georgian Defense Ministry will respond to Ivanov's remarks. Ivanov said that Russia "does not care" what organizations Georgia chooses to join. "Let them join anything, even the League for Sexual Reform, if they wish," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying. LF
GEORGIA DENIES RUSSIAN REPORTS OF NEW CHECHEN INCURSION INTO RUSSIA
Georgian Border Guards Commander Lieutenant General Valeri Chkheidze on 19 September denied Russian media reports that a group of between 10-12 Chechen fighters entered Russian territory from Georgia earlier that day, Caucasus Press reported. Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, who is spokesman for the joint federal forces in Chechnya, told ITAR-TASS that Russian border guards in Itum-Kale are subjecting the intruders to artillery bombardment. LF
GEORGIAN AUTHORITIES RELEASE FIVE PANKISI DETAINEES
Five of the 12 Chechens detained in the Pankisi Gorge on 18 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002) were released the following day after Georgian authorities established they are bona fide displaced persons, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 19 September, Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili said the Interior and State Security ministries have decided to impose an information blackout on the antiterrorism operation in Pankisi. LF
PEACEKEEPING COMMANDER SAYS NO RUSSIAN TROOP BUILDUP IN ABKHAZIA
Major General Aleksandr Yevteev, who commands the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, rejected on 19 September Georgian allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002) of a buildup of Russian and Abkhaz troops in the vicinity of the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press reported on 20 September. Also on 19 September, the Georgian Foreign Ministry released a statement accusing Russia of preparing an armed attack on Kodori to enable the Abkhaz "extend control" over the gorge, Interfax reported. Abkhazia currently controls only the lower reaches of the gorge. LF
KAZAKH JOURNALIST ACQUITTED OF LIBEL CHARGE
In a one-day court hearing in Atyrau on 18 September, Saghynghaliy Khafizov, who is editor of the local newspaper "Altyn ghasyr," was found not guilty of insulting President Nursultan Nazarbaev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 19 September. Khafizov rejected a presidential award earlier this year, saying he could not accept an award from someone he believes is guilty of taking bribes. LF
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CONCERNED BY SITUATION IN KYRGYZSTAN
In a 19 September letter addressed to U.S. President George W. Bush, Human Rights Watch deplored what it termed the "dramatic disintegration of basic freedoms" in Kyrgyzstan. The letter noted that, "During the past year the Kyrgyz government has displayed growing intolerance for its political opposition, enacted draconian laws and used brutal methods to deprive citizens of their right to free assembly and expression, intensified the persecution of religious dissidents, and taken an aggressive stance against human rights defenders." It noted that the cooperation between the United States and Kyrgyzstan in the global antiterrorism campaign has not prevented a deterioration in the human rights situation in that country, and urges President Bush to address human rights violations during his upcoming meeting with visiting Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev. LF
PUBLIC COMMISSION ADVOCATES EXTENDING DEBATE ON KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
The public commission on constitutional reform appealed on 19 September to President Akaev and the Constitutional Council to extend from 23 September to 25 October the ongoing discussion of proposed amendments to the country's constitution, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The commission also proposed co-opting more experts to the Constitutional Council, whose 40-plus members are mostly parliament deputies, political party leaders, or members of the Kyrgyz leadership. LF
TAJIKISTAN HOLDS ANTITERRORISM EXERCISES
Some 1,000 Interior Ministry troops stationed in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast launched an antiterrorism drill on 17 September aimed at strengthening coordination in combating armed terrorist bands and securing the release of hostages, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 19 September. The second stage of the exercise will begin on 21 September. LF
TURKMENISTAN, RUSSIA INITIAL NEW GAS-EXPORT AGREEMENT
A Russian government delegation headed by Energy Minister Igor Yusupov held talks in Ashgabat on 19 September with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov, Russian news agencies and turkmenistan.ru reported. Yusupov told journalists after those talks that in 2003-04 Russia will purchase from Turkmenistan as much gas as it can export via existing pipelines after having met its commitments to Ukraine and Itera. Ashgabat's current agreement to sell gas to Ukraine expires in 2006. From 2005, Russia will buy 10 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas annually, rising to 20 billion beginning in 2008. No mention was made of the price Russia will pay, but Turkmenistan's Minister of the Petrochemical Industry and Natural Resources, Kurbannazar Nazarov, told journalists in Ashgabat last month that the price will be not less than $44-$45 per 1,000 cubic meters. The agreement is to be signed at a meeting between Niyazov and Russian President Putin for which no date has yet been set. LF
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CO-OPTS TRADE UNIONS TO BUTTRESS STATE...
The Belarusian Trade Union Federation (FPB) on 18-19 September held an extraordinary congress at which it changed its name to the Trade Union Federation of Belarus (FPB) and approved former deputy chief of the presidential administration Leanid Kozik at its head, Belarusian media reported. The congress was addressed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who defined the role of the FPB in Belarus. "I came to the conclusion that we need to [place our society] on three powerful pillars: the renewed trade unions, the powerful youth organization, and the [system of] soviets," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. He stressed that the unity of actions of the authorities and the trade unions is "very important." Lukashenka tackled the problem of "renewal" of the trade-union movement after the 2001 presidential election in which he was challenged by former FPB leader Uladzimir Hancharyk. Hancharyk resigned in 2001, while his successor, Frants Vitko, was forced to do the same in July 2002. The "powerful youth organization," the Belarusian National Youth Organization, was created earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002). The issue of soviets will apparently be addressed during next year's local elections. JM
...AND SAYS SOCIETY NOT YET READY FOR POLITICAL PARTIES
President Lukashenka also suggested that some day the state may get a fourth pillar for its support: political parties. He noted, however, that society has shown that it has not yet "matured" enough to handle having political parties, Belarusian Television reported. "This is not a prop, this is something incomprehensible," Lukashenka said about the current political parties in Belarus. "We will do everything to introduce a civilized type of relations among political parties in Belarus," he promised. "If only I see -- provided that I am still your president -- or you let me know that such [comprehensible political parties] have crystallized themselves, we will make them the fourth pillar of our -- as it is trendy to say nowadays -- civic society," Lukashenka told the trade-union congress. JM
NO CLARITY ON FORMATION OF PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY IN UKRAINE...
The nine pro-presidential parliamentary groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2002) are trying to woo Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine in order to create a parliamentary majority, but Our Ukraine refuses to cooperate in such a format, Interfax reported on 19 September. On 15 September, Our Ukraine signed a declaration to seek a parliamentary majority with only four of the pro-presidential groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). Meanwhile, UNIAN reported that Yuriy Kostenko from Our Ukraine and Serhiy Tyhypko from Labor Ukraine/Party of Entrepreneurs have agreed on a draft coalition accord. According to the draft, a future coalition cabinet will be appointed proportionally to the number of deputies in parliamentary coalition groups. The draft also stipulates that each group will propose its own candidate for the post of prime minister, while the premier will be selected by the entire coalition through a vote. JM
...AS OUR UKRAINE LEADER PRAISES PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER
Yushchenko said in an interview with Public Radio on 19 September that parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn is "the only figure who can constructively work in the parliament," UNIAN reported. Yushchenko also said he continues to believe that Lytvyn was appointed the parliamentary speaker in a way that was "a dishonor to Ukrainian democracy." He added, however, that Lytvyn has now "become more realistic" and "experienced a colossal deficit of the consolidation of forces in the parliament." Speaking about the current political crisis in the country, Yushchenko said the flawed system of power is more responsible for it than individual statesmen. "If we remove Kuchma, the existing political system will tomorrow produce a second Kuchma, a third Kuchma, a fourth Kuchma. Obviously, we need systemic changes," he noted. JM
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS LAUNCH FIRST LAWSUIT AGAINST TYMOSHENKO
The Prosecutor-General's Office has filed the first of the several planned lawsuits against opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko and her business partners, Interfax and AP reported on 19 September. Prosecutors accuse Tymoshenko, her husband, father-in-law, and other colleagues of large-scale misappropriation of state funds when they ran the now-defunct Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Verkhovna Rada turned down a motion to lift Tymoshenko's parliamentary immunity. JM
UKRAINIAN LEADERSHIP PAYS TRIBUTE TO SOVIET PARTISANS
President Leonid Kuchma, Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, Verkhovna Rada deputy speaker Hennadiy Vasilyev, and other officials on 20 September honored the Soviet partisan movement in Ukraine during the Nazi occupation (1941-44) by laying flowers on the graves of two partisan commanders, Sydir Kovpak (1887-1967) and Oleksiy Fedorov (1901-89), UNIAN reported. Both commanders have been given the status of legendary heroes in the Soviet historiography. Later the same day, Kuchma awarded medals to a group of former partisans. In keeping with a June presidential decree, Ukraine is to mark for the first time the Day of Partisan Glory on 22 September. There are currently 4.57 million people in Ukraine with the status of war veteran. JM
BALTIC ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS MEET IN ESTONIA
Environment Ministers Heiki Kranich (Estonia), Vladimirs Makarovs (Latvia), and Arunas Kundrotas (Lithuania) held their annual meeting in Tartu on 19 September, ETA reported. They discussed the development of renewable energy resources and balancing environmental standards and economic expenditures among the Baltic states. Recognizing the importance of cooperation with Russia in solving problems in the Baltic Sea, the ministers suggested that Latvia as the current chairman of HELCOM (Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission) should ask Russia to provide more information about possible sources of pollution there. They also considered greater cooperation in seeking European Union membership and in the post-accession period. The ministers also talked about forest protection, firefighting, and the future of the Baltic Environmental Forum. SG
LATVIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PROPOSED ANTICORRUPTION CHIEF
By a vote of five to 45, with 46 abstentions, the parliament on 19 September rejected the candidacy of lawyer Janis Jonass as the head of the new Office for Prevention and Abatement of Corruption, LETA reported. The post was to have been filled by 1 August, but the parliament rejected two previously proposed candidates. Jonass was selected from 13 candidates by a special government selection committee in August and approved by the cabinet on 3 September. However, he failed to receive support in the parliament, and the parliament's Defense and Internal Affairs Commission as well as the State Administration and Local Government Commission decided that he was not suited for the post. It is unclear whether the current parliament will be able to approve a suitable candidate as parliament elections will be held on 5 October. SG
NORWAY TO DONATE AIR-DEFENSE SYSTEM TO LITHUANIA
Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold told his Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevicius in Oslo on 19 September that Norway will give Lithuania a RBS 70 anti-aircraft defense system to strengthen its ability to protect strategic facilities, ELTA reported. Norway also agreed to prepare training courses for Lithuanian personnel and send a consignment of spare parts for the defense system. Devold also made a commitment to expand the capabilities of the BALTNET air-surveillance network and consult Baltic countries on incorporating this system into the NATO air-defense system. The two countries signed a defense-cooperation agreement in 1995 under which Norway last year gave the Lithuanian Navy two patrol boats and actively supported joint Baltic projects, such as BALTBAT (peacekeeping battalion), BALTNET (air surveillance system), BALTRON (naval squadron), and BALTDEFCOL (defense college). SG
YUKOS, WILLIAMS CLOSE LITHUANIAN MAZEIKIAI OIL DEAL
Williams International Managing Director Randy Majors and Yukos Vice President Mikhail Brudno signed a final agreement in Vilnius on 19 September on the sale of Williams' 26.85 percent stake in Mazeikiai Oil to Yukos for $85 million, ELTA reported. Yukos also paid Williams $75 million in order to assume a loan the latter gave Mazeikiai. Yukos now has a 53.7 percent stake in the company; Lithuania, 40.66 percent; and various minor shareholders a total of 5.64 percent. Mazeikiai Oil shareholders are expected to appoint a new nine-member supervisory board on 21 September, raising the number of Yukos representatives from three to six. SG
POLAND WANTS RECIPROCAL VISA REGIME FROM RUSSIA...
Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 19 September repeated Poland's position that visas will be introduced for Russians (as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians) on 1 July 2003, Polish Radio reported. Cimoszewicz noted that the Polish government wants the new visa regime to be implemented with the least difficulty. "We want to use types of visas that would create the fewest difficulties for travelers...[that is], multiple and long-term visas. We are also telling our Russian partners that our intention is not to make money on the introduction of visas and that we are ready to apply payments that are just as low as is indispensable from the point of view of financing the [visa] system itself," Cimoszewicz said. He added, however, that Poland wants reciprocal action on the part of Russia: "Today, Russian visas are very expensive and we tell our neighbors openly that the principle of reciprocity must be in force here." JM
...SEES IRAQI DECISION ON UN INSPECTORS AS RIGHT MOVE
The Foreign Ministry has said the Iraqi decision to agree to an unconditional return of UN inspectors is a first step in the right direction, Polish Radio reported on 19 September, quoting ministry spokesman Boguslaw Majewski. Majewski emphasized, however, that this decision must be followed by action. Meanwhile, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who is also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has proposed that he and a group of other Nobel Prize laureates could inspect plants in Iraq suspected of producing weapons of mass destruction. Walesa said he has already discussed the idea with a few fellow Nobel Prize winners, but declined to go into detail. JM
U.S. PRESIDENT OFFERS CREDIT TO POLAND FOR F-16 FIGHTERS
The U.S. government is prepared to loan $3.6 billion to Poland for the purchase of 48 F-16 fighters to upgrade the Polish Air Force to NATO standards, PAP reported on 19 September. The assignation of such a sum is envisioned in the 2003 draft budget submitted by President George W. Bush to Congress. The loan would be paid back over 15 years with an eight-year grace period. Bush's move seems to significantly strengthen the chances of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., which produces the F-16, to win the contract to supply Poland with NATO-compatible fighter jets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2002). JM
CZECH PRESIDENT REITERATES POSITION ON IRAQ
In an interview with AP on 19 September, President Vaclav Havel, who is currently visiting the United States, reiterated that military action against Iraq should only be taken if Baghdad fails again to meet UN Security Council demands. Havel added that "it would not be desirable" if the United States were to act alone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002). He said an international coalition "should be formed and will be formed" in the event that Iraq fails to meet the UN conditions, and that "NATO will be an important pillar within this coalition, including the Czech Republic." At an event sponsored by the American Friends of the Czech Republic association on 19 September, Havel thanked the group for the support it has extended to his county following the August floods. CTK reported the same day that famous Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa is supporting Havel's proposal that the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya Sardinias. Havel will visit Miami on 22-23 September and will meet with representatives of Cuban organizations in exile. MS
CZECH SENATE APPROVES EU REFERENDUM LEGISLATION...
The Senate on 19 September rejected a government-sponsored bill that would have made possible referendums on "fundamental home and foreign-policy matters," but approved legislation allowing for a plebiscite on European Union membership, CTK and international news agencies reported. The approved bill was initiated by the upper house's Commission for the Constitution and was approved unanimously by all 66 senators present. It comes in the form of a constitutional amendment and stipulates that a referendum on joining the EU is to be held before the Czech Republic joins the organization, if invited to do so. To pass, at least 50 percent of those participating in the referendum must approve accession. The bill must now be approved by the Chamber of Deputies. MS
...AS WELL AS FLOOD-RELATED BILLS...
The Senate on 19 September also approved two bills initiated by the government and geared to facilitate reconstruction in the wake of the August floods, CTK reported. The approval came as a surprise, as only one day earlier the Senate had rejected a government request to debate the two bills in fast-track procedure. MS
...BUT BILL ON DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS STAGNATES
Two rounds of votes held in the Senate on 18 and 19 September on a bill that would have introduced direct presidential elections failed to produce either a vote in favor or against the bill, CTK reported. The bill was sponsored by a group of senators from the Christian Democratic Party-People's Party, Freedom Union-Democratic Union, and the Civic Democratic Alliance. On 18 September it came five votes short of being rejected and in the vote held the next day it was supported by only 19 of the 64 senators present. As a result, the next president, to be elected in early 2003, will again be chosen by parliament. MS
CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER WOULD LIKE EARLY ELECTIONS
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus told the BBC on 19 September that the ODS would welcome early parliamentary elections, CTK reported. Klaus expressed confidence that in the event of early elections the ODS would fare better than it did in June. He emphasized that the ruling coalition's majority is very weak, adding that government crises such as those recently overcome could recur. MS
CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS U.S. JETS WILL HELP PROTECT AIRSPACE DURING SUMMIT
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told CTK on 19 September that the Czech Air Force will be reinforced by two U.S. F-16 fighters from German air bases during the November NATO summit in Prague. Tvrdik said that two fighters will be in the air at all times during the summit, either alternating with other fighters or being refueled in flight. Czech airspace will be monitored by ground radar and by an AWACS communications and surveillance jet, Tvrdik said. Tvrdik also said that for the long-term, joining the U.S. missile-defense shield project is a cheaper alternative than purchasing supersonic jet fighters. Tvrdik said that consultations on this option have already begun during his current visit to Washington and that a Czech expert team will be set up to continue talks with U.S. representatives. MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT REVEALS THOUGHTS ON APPOINTING NEXT PREMIER
As Slovaks prepared to cast ballots on 20 and 21 September for the country's next legislature, President Rudolf Schuster on 19 September shared with the readers of the daily "Pravda" his plans for appointing the country's next premier, TASR and CTK reported. Schuster said he will let political parties negotiate among themselves rather than first appoint a politician to form the government. He said it is important that the new cabinet be in place well ahead of the November NATO summit in Prague and, for that reason, he will appoint as premier the first politician who can produce a parliamentary majority, and not necessarily the one whose party garners most votes. He also said he intends to consult with all parties, including Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. MS
SLOVAKIA'S SDL LAUNCHES COMPLAINT AGAINST 'ELECTORAL MORATORIUM' INFRINGEMENT
The Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) officially complained to the Central Election Commission on 19 September against what it alleges to be a violation of the legal provision that institutes a moratorium on electioneering during the 48 hours before of the ballot, TASR reported. In its complaint, the SDL says the publication of interviews in the daily "Pravda" with Slovak Democratic and Christian Union Chairman and Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, and with Smer (Direction) Chairman Robert Fico amounts to violating the "blackout" provision of the Election Act, and demands that the commission officially react. The SDL claims that both Dzurinda and Fico promoted their parties and criticized political rivals in the interviews. MS
SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER ADDRESSES UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told the UN General Assembly in New York on 19 September that his country supports the policy of halting the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction, TASR reported. Kukan said the Iraqi government's recent announcement that it will allow UN inspectors to return to Iraq must be followed by specific steps leading to the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq. Kukan also said that Slovakia has fully supported the international antiterrorism effort from the day it was launched and has contributed troops to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. MS
JOINT MILITARY UNIT DISCUSSED BY GENERALS IN SLOVAKIA
Representatives of the Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, and Ukrainian general staffs met on 19 September in Presov, eastern Slovakia, to discuss details of an earlier-reached agreement to set up a joint battalion that would respond in the event of natural disasters, CTK reported. The defense ministers of the four countries agreed to establish the Tisa battalion, which will respond to natural disasters in the Tisa River basin. Each country is to contribute 200 troops to the battalion. MS
HUNGARIAN PARTIES SIGN EU DECLARATION...
Leaders of Hungary's four parliamentary groups signed a declaration on 19 September that, in principle, commits them to support Hungary's accession to the European Union and formed the European Integration Grand Commission, Hungarian dailies reported. The commission is led by parliament speaker Katalin Szili and is composed of the four parliamentary group leaders, the chairmen of Foreign Affairs and European Integration committees, Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy, and cabinet representatives. The text of the declaration clearly points out that the required amendment to the constitution must be approved before a decisive referendum on EU accession is staged. The parliamentary group leaders and Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs pledged at the meeting not to link domestic political conflicts to European integration. The next session of the grand commission will be in November, when it will discuss the EU country report and work out a timetable for accession. MSZ
...AS FORMER PREMIER REITERATES CONDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR EU ACCESSION
Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban told a news conference on 19 September that FIDESZ will support constitutional changes required for EU membership only if the government meets a series of his party's demands, AP reported. Orban said his party's main demands are "drastic and speedy" wage increases, support for Hungary's small and medium-size enterprises, and greater subsidies for agricultural producers. "Hungary can join the EU well or badly. For it to happen well, some conditions have to be met," Orban said. He also said it is necessary to warn Hungarians about unfavorable aspects they could face during the transition period following EU enlargement, such as higher prices and restrictions to getting jobs in Western Europe. The government needs the opposition's consent, as enactment of constitutional changes requires a two-thirds majority in parliament. MSZ
FORMER PREMIER CALLS ON SUPPORTERS TO MOBILIZE AHEAD OF HUNGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS
Speaking to his supporters in the Hungarian town of Rackeve, Orban on 19 September urged right-wing "polgari" groups to better organize themselves, to go door to door before the local elections, and to encourage their neighbors to cast their votes for the candidates of "right-wing unity," "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Orban stressed that otherwise votes will be lost to the left wing. He promised that the local elections will be "the first major success of our return." MSZ
U.S. AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES HUNGARY'S LUKEWARM FOREIGN POLICY
Nancy Goodman Brinker criticized Hungary on 19 September for not taking part in either the international stabilization force in Afghanistan or Operation Enduring Freedom, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Speaking at a meeting of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, the U.S. ambassador urged a four-party debate to decide whether Hungary is capable of contributing to those missions in some way. Brinker said the United States will closely consult its friends and allies in the coming days and weeks as it considers moves related to Iraq. MSZ
EU ANNOUNCES MAJOR REDUCTION OF AID TO KOSOVA
EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said in Prishtina on 19 September that the union will give Kosova only 50 million euros ($49 million) in aid next year, nearly a two-thirds cut from its 2002 support, dpa reported. Patten said: "Kosovo has been a terrific success story, but the story isn't over.... As Kosovo moves from crisis to normality, our help is shifting from a focus on physical reconstruction to building strong institutions to help your politicians deliver effective government, justice, and a robust economy." The EU has been the largest donor to Kosova, giving it some 1 billion euros. It gave the province 320 million euros in 2001 and 134 million euros last year. Patten met with Kosova President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi. British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon met separately on 18 September with UN Kosova mission chief Michael Steiner and Rugova. Rugova told Hoon that independence for Kosova would speed up economic and political reforms in the region. PB
SERBIA URGES UN MISSION TO HELP SERBS RETURN TO KOSOVA...
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic sent an urgent letter to Steiner on 19 September as some 40,000 displaced Serbs threatened protest actions if their requests to return to their homes in Kosova are ignored, AP reported. Covic's letter urged the UN mission to accelerate the return of the displaced Serbs "before we are no longer able to control the situation." Steiner has cautioned against a mass return by Serbs, saying that the Serbs should only return when their security can be guaranteed. Simon Haselock, a spokesman for the UN mission in Kosova, said: "This is a political gesture motivated by people who don't have the best interests of the displaced people in mind. Mass returns threaten the return process...dumping vulnerable people into places that have not been properly prepared." Covic rejected claims that the Serbian government was organizing the protest. He added that displaced Serbs are disillusioned with the slow pace of returns thus far and said that only some 5,000 Serbs have been able to return in the past three years. PB
...AS AMBASSADOR SAYS U.S. SUPPORTS RETURNS
U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia William Montgomery said in Nis on 20 September that the United States fully supports all refugees and displaced persons who wish to return to Kosova, Tanjug reported. Montgomery said confrontations will not achieve results but that patiently working with government officials is the only effective approach. Montgomery said he is dismayed by the rather small number of displaced Kosovar Serbs who have expressed a desire to return to Kosova and said the refugees should never stop thinking about returning to the province. PB
SERBIAN POLICE OFFICERS TO FACE WAR CRIMES TRIAL IN YUGOSLAVIA
A district judge in Prokuplje ruled on 19 September that two former Serbian police officers will stand trial for allegedly committing atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosova, Reuters reported. The two men, Sasa Cvjetan and Dejan Demirovic, are accused of killing 19 ethnic Albanians in the northern Kosovar town of Podujeva in March 1999. They face prison terms of up to 40 years if convicted. Cvjetan is in custody, but Demirovic is at large and will be tried in absentia. Both were members of the Special Antiterrorism Unit of the Serbian police. The trial is scheduled to start on 9 October. The first domestic war-crimes trial in Serbia was held in Prokuplje in June 2001. PB
DRASKOVIC ON THE STUMP
Vuk Draskovic, the presidential candidate of the Serbian Renewal Movement, called on voters on 19 September to "elect the candidate who knows how to restore pride to the country and themselves," Tanjug reported. Speaking at a rally in Pozarevac, Draskovic pledged that no Serbian government officials would receive their salaries until all pensioners, state workers, farmers, and soldiers had received their pay. He added that instead of selling "cement factories [to foreign investors], I will sell cement; instead [of selling] dairies, I will sell milk; instead [of selling] breweries, I will sell beer." "I will not sell the enterprises that are Serbia's strategic and national interest," he said. Once the leading figure in opposition to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Draskovic has assumed a lower profile lately and has become far less popular since Milosevic was deposed. PB
SERBIA-MONTENEGRO CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION TO MEET
The co-chairmen of the commission charged with drafting the Constitutional Charter of the union of Serbia and Montenegro will meet on 21 September in Belgrade, Tanjug reported. Dragoljub Micunovic, the speaker of the lower house of the Yugoslav parliament who will head a Yugoslav delegation to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg the following day, said he will "try and hopefully succeed to persuade the other colleagues that we should not go to the meeting with differing stands and allow haggling on our admission there, which would leave a very bad impression." Micunovic was invited to Strasbourg to discuss Yugoslavia's readmission into the Council of Europe. PB
REBUILT MOSQUE DESTROYED IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
UN and Bosnian Serb police reported that unidentified perpetrators blew up a recently rebuilt mosque in southern Bosnia on the evening of 18 September, local and international news agencies reported. No one was injured in the blast, which occurred at about 9 p.m. local time in the village of Kljuc, some 30 miles south of Sarajevo. One of around 600 mosques destroyed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the Kljuc mosque's renewal was completed just three months ago. Explosives toppled the minaret of the structure, which was reconstructed with donations from Bosnian Muslims returning to their homes in the wake of the war, according to dpa. UN police are investigating the case along with local officers, AP reported. UN spokeswoman Kristin Haupt called it "the most serious incident in a long period in this area," according to the news agency, adding that Bosnian Serb authorities reacted quickly to the incident. Muslim-Croat federation Prime Minister Alija Behmen called this "latest terrorist action...a severe blow to the return of refugees and to the revival of unity in our country," Reuters reported. AH
HAGUE TRIAL OF FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER'S ALLIES DELAYED
Chief war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte said on 19 September that the trial of two of wartime leader Radovan Karadzic's closest allies will "probably start in January" rather than the proposed start date of November, Reuters reported. A spokeswoman was quoted as saying the delay was probably technical in nature. Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic and ex-parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik -- the latter of whom remains in custody -- have been indicted for crimes that include genocide during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Del Ponte, who was speaking at Belgium's Liege University to accept an honorary doctorate, said she is "still pressuring the international community, especially NATO," to apprehend Karadzic. Del Ponte has expressed hopes of trying the three together in connection with their alleged efforts at ethnic cleansing. AH
EU, NATO URGE FURTHER REFORMS IN BOSNIA...
In separate visits on 19 September, representatives of the European Union and NATO noted that while progress has been made in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the fledgling country has some heavy lifting ahead, dpa reported. European Commissioner for External Relations Patten, on a two-day visit to the country, said Bosnia has made "progress towards democracy, peace, economic reform and self-sustainability" but added that "much remains to be done, and Bosnia-Herzegovina must continue to intensify reform." He noted that the country has completed the first step of the Stabilization and Association Process aimed at deeper integration with the EU, dpa reported. Patten said work on "a feasibility report on opening negotiations for a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia" could begin after the 5 October general elections. AH
...INCLUDING UNIFIED CONTROL OVER THE MILITARY
NATO Director for the Balkans Robert Serry meanwhile stressed on 19 September that Bosnia must impose state control over the armed forces if it hopes to join the Partnership for Peace, according to dpa. Serry was in Sarajevo at the head of a NATO delegation there to assess Bosnian progress toward joining the Atlantic alliance. Bosnia currently has parallel Muslim-Croat and Serb structures with no single, state-level ministry. He called such a feature "the key condition" for entry. "There is a particular problem here in Bosnia, because usually a country has one ministry of defense and one army. NATO needs to be assured that the state has control over its armed forces even if these two armed forces are two entities," Serry said, according to dpa. Chairman Beriz Belkic emphasized that the tripartite Bosnian Presidency's decision to redefine a standing committee for military affairs as equivalent to a state-level defense ministry comes into effect next week, dpa reported. AH
RETIRED CROATIAN GENERAL, HAGUE INDICTEE WILL FIGHT DETENTION
An attorney for retired General Janko Bobetko said the former military chief of staff will "insist that no detention be set" ahead of a possible trial at The Hague, Hina reported on 20 September. The defense will cite reasons that include the health of the 83-year-old Bobetko, whose indictment by The Hague for crimes during the 1991-95 war was confirmed by Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan on 19 September, according to Hina and international news agencies. Bobetko is the highest-ranking Croat ever indicted in The Hague. He recently vowed "never to surrender" if indicted by the international tribunal, and some observers fear his intransigence could eventually spark protests in the military and among nationalists, and even threaten the reformist government. "The real scandal will ensue if he refuses to talk to the prosecutors and then police have to arrest him," Reuters quoted political analyst Zeljko Trkanjec as saying. Racan said his government will not seek to extradite Bobetko without a thorough discussion in parliament, according to Reuters. "We are aware that this case is a test for the government, and for Croatia," the agency quoted Racan as saying. AH
CROATIAN PRESIDENT URGES BOSNIAN CROATS TO VOTE IN UPCOMING ELECTIONS
Stipe Mesic implored Bosnian Croats to participate in the 5 October elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina in an interview published in the Sarajevo-based daily "Dnevni avaz" on 20 September, Hina reported. Mesic said voters should scrutinize candidates' programs and opt for guarantees on fostering democracy and civil society, the agency reported. The Croatian president also noted that the days of conflict in the former Yugoslavia are over, adding that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's recent statements concerning Bosnian territorial integrity should be viewed in light of upcoming Serbian presidential elections. Mesic also confirmed he will testify at The Hague trial of Milosevic. AH
MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER TO FILE CHARGES BECAUSE OF ELECTION FRAUD...
Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski told a press conference on 19 September that his party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) is to file charges with the Supreme Court, Makfax news agency reported. According to Boskovski, pens with disappearing ink were provided in ballot booths, presumably to facilitate subsequent falsification. Boskovski also claimed that a printing house in Prilep burned a huge number of ballots (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002). "The election process was marred by forgery carried out in the most sophisticated way. [The Social Democratic Union and the ethnic Albanian Union for Democratic Integration] cheated us and made us concede defeat," Boskovski said, adding that he does not expect the charges to be processed soon, as he considers the State Election Commission and the Supreme Court to be biased against the VMRO-DPMNE. UB
...AS STATE ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIRWOMAN SAYS INTERIOR MINISTRY HAS TRIED TO INFLUENCE DECISIONS
State Election Commission (DIK) Chairwoman Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska told Makfax news agency on 19 September that high-ranking police officials as well as VMRO-DPMNE representatives have pressured the commission. Trajkovska said Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski and his party's campaign manager, Marjan Gjorcev, urged the commission for information about the burned ballots and the printed election material. The talks were also attended by Julian Peel Yates, the head of the OSCE Election Observation mission and Ambassador Craig Jenness, the head of the OSCE Spillover Monitoring Mission to Skopje. Trajkovska said she explained to Boskovski that he can file charges with the Supreme Court against the DIK's decision to turn down complaints regarding election irregularities. Meanwhile, a group of journalists and NGO representatives have announced that they will sue Boskovski for conspiring to influence the DIK's decisions, "Vest" reported. UB
MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT RECEIVES AWARD FOR PROMOTING PEACE
The World Methodist Council has awarded President Boris Trajkovski the 2002 World Methodist Peace Award, Makfax news agency reported. With the award, the council recognizes Trajkovski's efforts to secure peace and stability in Macedonia and the region in 2001, when he initiated peace talks between Macedonia's political leaders and ethnic Albanian rebels. The award ceremony took place in Oslo, where Trajkovski also met with Norway's King Harald V. UB
ROMANIA LAUNCHES NATIONAL ANTIPOVERTY PLAN
The National Antipoverty Plan approved by the government earlier this year was officially launched on 20 September in Bucharest by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Labor and Social Solidarity Minister Marian Sarbu, Romanian Radio reported. Also present at the launching ceremony was EU Ambassador to Romania Jonathan Scheele and World Bank representative in Romania Ziad al Ahdad. Both organizations have contributed to the plan. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SEND COUNSELOR TO MOSCOW
President Ion Iliescu on 19 September told journalists that Presidential Counselor Ioan Talpes, who is chief of the presidential staff, will go to Moscow to prepare Iliescu's upcoming visit to Russia, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said that it is "customary" that counselors meet to prepare presidential visits and to establish the details of the schedule. He said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's office has invited Talpes to discuss "when and how the visit will take place." During the summit, the signing of the Romanian-Russian basic treaty is scheduled to take place, and Iliescu said all negotiations on the treaty have been finalized. Romanian media reports said Russia has repeatedly postponed the visit and that the postponement is probably due to the November NATO summit in Prague. Russia opposes NATO expansion and, according to some reports, hopes to obstruct Romania's admission to the organization through the absence of the treaty. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, however, pointed out last month that bilateral treaties with neighbors are not among the conditions for NATO admission. MS
ROMANIAN AUDIOVISUAL COUNCIL RECONFIRMS OTV LICENSE REVOCATION
Following criticism in the Senate's Commission on Culture of its decision to revoke the license of Oglinda TV (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002), the National Audiovisual Council on 19 September reexamined its earlier decision and unanimously decided that there are no grounds to change it, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Council member Ralu Filip said the Senate commission's members "summoned us to listen to them and would not even listen to what we have to say." MS
ROMANIA PROTESTS MINORITY DISCRIMINATION IN BULGARIA
In a statement released on 19 September, the Public Information Ministry protested what it called the "persecution of members of the Romanian-Vlach minority" in neighboring Bulgaria, the daily "Curentul" reported on 20 September. The protest was triggered after a Romanian-Vlach priest in the village of Rabova, near Vidin, was disciplined by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church for using Romanian during a service. The ministry said it regards this measure as an infringement of the Convention on the Defense of Minority Rights that was ratified by the Bulgarian parliament in May 1994. It also said that the "Romanian-Vlach minority" is Bulgaria's second largest, but is not recognized by the authorities, has not even figured in the last census, and is not represented in parliament. The Bulgarian minority in Romania, the ministry said, is represented in the legislature, has four schools teaching in Bulgarian, and Bulgarian is taught at Bucharest University. In contrast, in none of the 32 localities with a "Romanian-Vlach minority" in Bulgaria are there any Romanian-language schools. "The Romanian government wishes to remind Sofia that current international treaties on minority rights stipulate reciprocity," the statement said. MS
NEXT ROUND OF MOLDOVAN NEGOTIATIONS TO BE HELD IN CHISINAU
Matty Sidoroff, spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, announced on 19 September that the next round of negotiations on OSCE proposals for a solution to the Transdniester conflict will be held in Chisinau on 25 September, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Flux said the negotiations held in Tiraspol the previous day ended "without concrete results." MS
MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HEARS APPEAL AGAINST AGREEMENT WITH UKRAINE
The Constitutional Court on 19 September began hearings on the appeal of Popular Party Christian Democratic leaders Iurie Rosca and Stefan Secareanu against the border re-delimitation agreement reached last year with Ukraine, Infotag reported. The plaintiffs said the Moldovan authorities have no right to cede to Ukraine part of a highway near the village of Palanca, since this is "unalienable Moldovan territory" and the agreement thus infringes on Article 10 of the constitution. Yurii Stoikov, chairman of the parliament's State Security Commission, told the court that Moldova has received much larger chunks of land in exchange for the ceded territory. MS
BULGARIAN TRADE-UNION LEADERS AGREE TO PROTEST AGAINST GOVERNMENT
Meeting on 19 September, the leaders of the two largest trade-union organizations, Zhelyazko Hristov of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions and Konstantin Trenchev of the Labor Confederation Podkrepa, agreed to conduct joint protests by their organizations in the upcoming months, the daily "Sega" reported. Hristov and Trenchev criticized the government for not carrying out its electoral promises. They demanded the government raise wages in the public sector by 20 percent and provide Easter and Christmas bonuses, as well increase the country's minimum wage. Hristov also complained about the lack of dialogue between the trade unions and the ministers. "How can one hold a dialogue with an arrogant youth [meaning Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev], who claims that [Bulgaria] is No. 1 in Europe in economic growth," Hristov said. Trenchev added that the only chance to change things is to reshuffle the cabinet. UB
FORMER BULGARIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF QUESTIONED
Former National Security Service Director General Atanas Atanasov was questioned by an examining magistrate at the Military Prosecutor's Office in Sofia on 19 September, mediapool.bg reported. Atanasov declined to answer journalists' question, but media reported that Atanasov is charged in connection with the stopover of a Ukrainian airplane at Burgas airport on 24 April 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). The airplane carrying 30 tons of arms was officially bound for Georgia, but was suspected to be heading for Eritrea, which is under a UN embargo on military supplies. The plane was released on 30 June 2001 by the Bulgarian Prosecutor-General's Office after Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev met with his Ukrainian counterpart Mihail Potebenko. UB
BULGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER PROPOSES FOUNDING NEW AIRLINE
Finance Minister Milen Velchev proposed on 19 September to replace the bankrupt state Balkan Air with a new national airline, BTA reported. Velchev was reacting to the announcement of Sofia airport authorities to suspend all flight operations of Balkan Air on 19 October should the airline fail to repay a $736,000 debt. "The state should not be financially committed to the future company any more than by virtue of the receivables, which it currently expects to collect from Balkan Air," Velchev said. UB
THE UZBEKS OF TURKMENISTAN: POTENTIAL FOR CONFLICT?
Both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan consistently deny that division of the water of the Amu-Darya River is a point of contention between them, even in drought years such as those that have plagued Central Asia recently. Outside observers have nonetheless long suspected that water division could bring the two countries into some degree of conflict, especially as both are trying to salvage their economies at least partly by expanding cotton production.
But there is another, less well-known source of potential friction between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and that is the growing dissatisfaction of Turkmenistan's ethnic Uzbek population over the discrimination they believe they are experiencing as a result of President Saparmurat Niyazov's Turkmenization campaign.
Even before the dissolution of the USSR, the outmigration of Turkmenistan's Slavic population, particularly the ethnic Russians, was slowly but steadily increasing. Within a few years of Turkmenistan's independence, the Uzbeks became the country's largest ethnic minority. Exact numbers are unknown, but there has been speculation that ethnic Uzbeks could make up as much as 20 percent of Turkmenistan's population. Uzbek sources assert that a mini-census scheduled to be held in October 2000 was cancelled because the Turkmen authorities were reluctant to have the actual size of the Uzbek minority exposed.
Unlike the Slavic population of Turkmenistan, the country's ethnic Uzbeks are not immigrants but have historically resided in the areas where they currently live, finding themselves on the Turkmen side of the border when the region was divided up in the early years of the Soviet era. Almost all of Turkmenistan's Uzbek population is concentrated in areas along the border with Uzbekistan. The portion of the Lebap region (welayat) that lies between the Amu-Darya River and the Uzbek frontier almost certainly has an ethnic Uzbek majority, and there are Uzbek majorities or large minorities in many of the agricultural villages of both the Lebap and Dashoguz regions. Local officials assert privately that at least half of the inhabitants of the cities of Dashoguz and Turkmenabad (the former Charjew in Turkmen, Charjou in Uzbek) are ethnic Uzbeks.
With a large ethnic minority concentrated on the border of the country with which the group has close ties of family, language, and ethnicity, it would seem that the sensible course for the Turkmen authorities would be to seek to minimize the possibility for disaffection on the part of that minority. Unfortunately, since the late 1990s Ashgabat has been intensifying the post-independence campaign to promote Turkmenistan as a homogenous Turkmen state. Some Uzbek citizens of Turkmenistan have sought to escape what the country's ethnic minorities perceive as discrimination against non-Turkmen by declaring themselves ethnic Turkmen. Most of those who do so apparently hope that changing their nationality will give them a chance to obtain a government job or better opportunities for their children.
Officials in Uzbekistan constantly monitor the situation of the Uzbek minority in Turkmenistan, taking note of instances in which schools with Uzbek as the language of instruction are forced to gradually adopt Turkmen as the primary language of instruction. According to Uzbek sources, Uzbekistan is still allowed to provide Uzbek-language textbooks to Uzbek-language schools and classes. But there was reported to be considerable irritation in the ethnic Uzbek community when all schoolchildren were required to wear ethnic Turkmen attire to school. Uzbeks in Turkmenistan have also expressed their displeasure with the practice of giving Turkmen names to towns that were traditionally Uzbek and that still have significant Uzbek populations.
The reaction of the Uzbeks of Dashoguz, a Turkmen name that implies that the city is a historically Turkmen entity, to the renaming of their town from the Uzbek name Tashauz has been fairly mild in comparison with that of Uzbeks of the former Charjou. The new name, Turkmenabad, "city of the Turkmen," is viewed by many as a direct provocation, considering that at least half the city's population is ethnic Uzbek. Though the word Charjou (the "four ways" or "crossroads") is from Farsi, Uzbek residents of the city claim that this name has been in use for 4,000 years (possibly an exaggeration) and to call it Turkmenabad is to deny the city's past. Many Uzbeks show their disdain for new name by refusing to use it for any but official purposes.
A further irritant to the ethnic Uzbek population of Turkmenistan has been the notorious new law requiring that a foreigner deposit $50,000 with the Turkmen State Insurance firm in order to marry a citizen of Turkmenistan. When the law was first issued as a decree in 2001, citizens of Uzbekistan who wanted to marry relatives in the ethnic Uzbek community of Turkmenistan asked where they were supposed to obtain $50,000 in a country where the average per capita income is less than $400 a year. There were fears that individuals caught in an impossible situation would simply fail to register their marriages, which would then lack legitimacy in the eyes of the state.
Yet another aggravation was the unilateral Turkmen decision in 1999 to require that citizens of other CIS states obtain visas in order to enter Turkmenistan. Uzbekistan retaliated, demanding visas from citizens of Turkmenistan regardless of their ethnicity. The two countries eventually reached agreement on a border regime that permitted persons living near the common frontier to cross without visas. But following incidents in which Uzbek smugglers became involved in altercations, including gun battles, with Turkmen border guards, Niyazov recently issued a degree requiring that citizens of Turkmenistan obtain official permission to visit Uzbekistan. The charge for a certificate giving the permission is $6, the same amount as the "customs fee" charged by Turkmen border guards to citizens of Uzbekistan wishing to cross into Turkmenistan. This customs fee was the cause of a major civil disturbance in Dashoguz in January, when in connection with a Muslim holiday Uzbeks from the Uzbek side of the border wanted to visit the graves of relatives buried on the Turkmen side. When their request that the fee be waived for the holiday was refused, a crowd reported to have numbered several hundred blocked the Dashoguz-Urgench rail line in retaliation.
In the areas of Turkmenistan with large concentrations of ethnic Uzbeks, both Uzbeks and Turkmen insist that the two nationalities live together in harmony, drawing attention to the large number of ethnically mixed families to make their point. Certainly the Uzbek community of Turkmenistan seems well aware that the aggravations they are enduring are not the fault of their Turkmen neighbors, but rather are the deliberate policy of the government of Turkmenistan, more specifically of the country's leader. In his zeal to create a Turkmen state, Niyazov risks causing the disaffection of Turkmenistan's largest minority, which is concentrated on the border of the country to which they might turn if either the political and economic pressures suffered by all citizens of Turkmenistan and/or the irritations aimed specifically at the Uzbeks, become intolerable.
Uzbek officials say they are closely monitoring the situation of their ethnic kin in Turkmenistan, and the presidents of the two countries are reported to have fairly frequent telephone conversations aimed at keeping relations smooth. But so far none of these exchanges has alleviated any of the problems experienced by the Uzbeks of Turkmenistan. And it is not difficult to imagine a situation arising -- possibly in connection with the division of the waters of the Amu-Darya -- in which a disaffected Uzbek minority could become an element in a potential conflict.
Bess A. Brown is an independent analyst specializing in political and economic developments in Central Asia.