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Newsline - September 27, 2002


ARMY CLAIMS GALASHKI FIGHTING IS OVER...
Lieutenant General Valerii Gerasimov, commander of the 58th Division in the North Caucasus, said his troops have destroyed most of the Chechen detachment reportedly led by Chechen field commander Adul-Malik near the Ingush village of Galashki (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002), Russian news agencies reported. He added that the rest of the Chechen band has dispersed into a forested area along the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. Gerasimov added that Russian troops had captured six fighters, two of whom are Arabs. The prisoners reportedly said the unit had been based in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge and had entered Russia by paying $7,000 to local residents. They reportedly said that field commander Ruslan Gelaev was in overall command of the operation. Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii said his office has opened a criminal investigation into the Galashki fighting, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported on 26 September. Fridinskii said that preliminary evidence indicates the detachment of about 200 fighters crossed the Russian-Georgian border on 15 September. VY

...AS DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS THE BATTLE MIGHT BE THE LAST STRAW...
Speaking to journalists in Warsaw, Sergei Ivanov said that if it is confirmed that the Chechen fighters entered Russia from Georgia, it might consume the "last drop of Russia's patience," Western and Russian news agencies reported on 27 September. "We will use all the avenues accepted by international law and United Nations resolutions on combating international terrorism," Ivanov said. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii reacted to a statement by Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Lasha Natsvlishvili, who told RTR on 26 September that his country's main task is to get rid of "unwanted guests" on its territory. "If they want to go back to where they came from, we find that natural and cannot prevent them from doing so," Natsvlishvili said. "Natsvlishvili's statement attests to either complete helplessness or extreme arrogance," Yastrzhembskii retorted. Gazeta.ru commented on 27 September that the Ingushetia fighting is a godsend for Russian generals who have been seeking a pretext for a military incursion into Georgia. VY

...AND REPORTS OF CASUALTIES VARY
Ivanov also said that 14 Russian servicemen were killed in the fighting and that about 40 Chechen fighters had been killed or wounded. Meanwhile, Chechen sources also reported that the fighting has subsided and that the fighters are retreating to their bases. According to chechenpress.com, about 30 Russian troops were killed or wounded during the fighting. The website also claims that seven pieces of heavy equipment were destroyed, as was one helicopter. The website also claimed that the Chechens attacked a group of Federal Security Service (FSB) officers near the village of Guni, killing five and wounding seven. RIA-Novosti reported that the FSB acknowledged the loss of four officers near Vedeno in Chechnya. Chechenpress.com also said that losses among the Chechen fighters amounted to seven killed and 10 wounded. VY

LEADING CHECHEN OFFICIAL CRITICIZES GEORGIAN LEADERSHIP...
Commenting on the 26 September fighting in Ingushetia, Chechen deputy administration head Tauz Dzhabrailov condemned Georgia's tolerance of "international terrorists" on its territory, which he termed the primary reason why the "antiterrorism" operation in Chechnya has lasted so long, Interfax reported. Dzhabrailov claimed that only prompt action by the Russian military prevented the Chechen fighters from crossing into Chechen territory where, he claimed, they planned acts of sabotage and terrorism. LF

...AND INGUSH OFFICIAL SAYS FIGHTERS CAME FROM CHECHNYA
As more and more increasingly contradictory details of the 26 September fighting in Galashki emerge, Ingushetian officials and Chechen Vice President Akhmed Zakaev have both denied official Russian claims that the fighters reached Ingushetia from the Pankisi Gorge. "Vremya MN" on 27 September pointed out that Galashki is 60-70 kilometers from the Georgian-Ingushetian border and questions how the fighters managed to travel so far north undetected. It quotes other, unidentified Ingush officials as saying the Chechens enterer Ingushetia from Chechnya. The same paper, referring to the website ingushetia.ru, quoted Ingushetian presidential administration official Alikhan Dudarov as saying the Chechen fighters numbered only 10-15 men and that the Russian helicopter was not shot down but crashed due to a technical malfunction. "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 September quoted Chechen Vice Premier Zakaev as pointing out that Galashki is almost 200 kilometers from the Pankisi Gorge. Zakaev asserted that claims that the Chechen fighters reached Galashki from Pankisi are simply "a pretext for Russian aggression against Georgia." LF

PIPELINE EXPLODES, OFFICIAL KILLED IN DAGHESTAN
A natural-gas pipeline exploded on 26 September outside of Makhachkala, Russian and Western news agencies reported the next day. More than 400 villages and settlements were left without gas, although no one was reported injured in the explosion. Authorities are investigating the cause of the incident and have not ruled out that it was a terrorist act. On 27 September, Colonel Akhberdilav Akilov, the head of the Interior Ministry's antiterrorism unit in Daghestan, was killed by unidentified gunmen who strafed his car in downtown Makhachkala, AP and Russian news agencies reported. Akilov, his driver, and a female passerby were killed instantly in the attack. Akilov had earned a reputation for his campaign against kidnapping and terrorism in the region. RC

PUTIN CALLS FOR SPEEDY RETURN OF UN INSPECTORS TO IRAQ...
During a Kremlin reception for foreign ambassadors, including the ambassador from Iraq, on 26 September, President Vladimir Putin said Russia is for "the rapid settlement of the Iraq problem by political and diplomatic means on the basis of United Nations resolutions," Russian news agencies reported. He added that Baghdad's recent decision to allow UN weapons inspectors to return "has opened up a real opportunity for such progress," and he called for Iraq to implement the decision as quickly as possible. The same day, Putin discussed Iraq with French President Jacques Chirac, rusenergy.ru reported. The leaders discussed France's intention to submit its own resolution on Iraq to the UN Security Council, which France views as an alternative to a harsh U.S.-drafted resolution calling for the rapid forced disarmament of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime. The draft French resolution calls for "the gradual, multistage resolution of the Iraq crisis," according to rusenergy.ru. VY

...AS POLITICAL SCIENTIST EXPLAINS PUTIN'S TACTICS
As the United States pushes its initiative to remove President Hussein, Russia should adopt the tactic of buying time, said Yurii Fedorov, director of the Moscow Institute of Applied International Studies, speaking to the BBC on 27 September. On the one hand, because of its strong pro-Iraq lobby, Russia cannot vote in favor of the U.S.-sponsored resolution on Iraq. On the other, Putin cannot allow himself to antagonize the United States by voting against it. Russia's best tactic is to avoid voting at all, which is why Moscow is calling for a settlement based on existing resolutions, Fedorov said. VY

PRIME MINISTER DISMISSES EU'S KALININGRAD PROPOSALS
Mikhail Kasyanov, on a visit to Finland, said on 27 September that Russia cannot accept the latest European Union proposals regarding access to the Kaliningrad exclave after Poland and Lithuania join the union, RIA-Novosti reported. EU Commission Chairman Romano Prodi sent the proposals, which envisage issuing free EU transit documents to all residents of Kaliningrad Oblast and to Russian citizens who travel frequently between the exclave and the rest of Russia, to President Putin on 18 September. According to the proposals, the travel documents would be issued to all citizens appearing on a list compiled by the Russian government. However, Kasyanov said, "This offer, in fact, solves nothing and is just a well-packaged multiple-entry visa." Putin telephoned Prodi on 26 September and called on him to join "a joint search for a solution to the Kaliningrad problem despite existing differences," Russian news agencies reported. VY

FOREIGN MINISTRY DISCOUNTS TALK OF CHINESE EXPANSION...
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement to Interfax on 26 September criticizing domestic and foreign reports about the alleged "Chinese expansion" into Russia's Far East and the Baikal region. According to the ministry, the number of Chinese citizens in Russia does not exceed 150,000-200,000, compared with 6 million ethnic Chinese in the United States. The ministry said press reports claiming otherwise are based on incorrect statistics. Last June, "Versiya" reported that while the Interior Ministry estimates that there are 2 million Chinese in all of Russia, other unnamed sources believe that there are 5 million, compared with just 250,000 five years ago, according to Carnegie Moscow Center figures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2002). JAC

...AS ENVOY SAYS NOT ALL TIMBER TRADE WITH CHINA IS IN RUSSIA'S INTERESTS
Meanwhile, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 September, presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii discussed Russian-Chinese economic relations. According to Drachevskii, the claim that much of China's economic growth over the past few years has come as a result of trade with Russia is "exaggerated." Trade between Russia and China amounts to about $10 billion annually -- of which one-fifth is with the Siberian Federal District. "Therefore it is natural that many Chinese firms work primarily in the Russian market," Drachevskii was quoted as saying. At the same time, he noted there are many instances of economic cooperation with China that are not in Russia's interests. For example, he said, West Siberian timber is sold to China at "extremely low prices." According to trade statistics, Russia sells timber to China at $52.70 per cubic meter compared with $80 per cubic meter to Eastern and Western Europe. In addition, he said, "It is no secret that a significant proportion of Chinese firms' goods reach Russian territory by illegal means." JAC

MORE NEW FACES FOR THE FEDERATION COUNCIL
The Federation Council confirmed three new members on 25 September, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Leonid Lebedev of the Moscow-based Syntez corporation now represents Chavashia's legislature. Former First Deputy Governor of Tomsk Oblast Vladimir Zhidkikh replaced Nikolai Gurdin, who served less than a year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2002). And Aleksandr Skorobogatko will represent Kaliningrad Oblast, replacing Valerii Ustyugov. Skorobogatko, who has a higher degree in law from the St. Petersburg Interior Ministry Academy, previously represented Karachaevo-Cherkessia in the upper legislative chamber, the newspaper "Kaskad" reported. JAC

FORMER SENATOR TAKES A PARTING SHOT...
In an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 26 September, Ustyugov explained his reasons for leaving the Federation Council. Ustyugov said that one reason for his departure was that his approach to the issue of travel to and from Kaliningrad is less hard-line than those of his colleagues. "Russia insists on visa-free travel, but I believe this will lead the talks into a deadlock," he said. An additional reason for his departure is that, in the current Federation Council, no one can be an "independent" political figure. He added that he believes 80 percent of his colleagues would not be elected to the upper chamber if free elections were held. However, the senators are "mainly Moscow residents," and, according to Ustyugov, they hope that the elections will be held with 50 percent of the mandates allocated according to party lists. "Every party is in Moscow," he noted, so those who wish to return to the upper chamber will maneuver to place themselves on one or another party list. Ustyugov is former chairman of the oblast's legislature and served in the previous Federation Council. JAC

...AND YET ANOTHER REP TO LEAVE AFTER LESS THAN A YEAR
Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 September that legislators in Primorskii Krai voted on 26 September to recall their representative, Mikhail Glubokovskii, who is reportedly a close associate of krai Governor Sergei Darkin. Glubokovskii is a former State Duma deputy from the Yabloko faction, and he was only appointed in January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2002). According to the daily, the decision to recall Glubokovskii was only one of a series of measures by the legislature "expressing a clear anti-gubernatorial tendency." A new legislature was elected this summer. JAC

NIZHNII ELECTIONS AS PROTOTYPE...
In an article in "Vremya MN" on 26 September, analyst Dmitrii Furman writes that the present mayoral election cycle in Nizhnii Novgorod can be viewed as a template for processes occurring nationally. With the last-minute cancellation of former Mayor Andrei Klimentiev's registration as a candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002), the authorities once again showed they can decide that someone should not win and that to struggle against them is futile. Some polls showed Klimentiev leading in the race prior to his exclusion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2002). However, the Kremlin's victory in this case, according to Furman, will be "Pyrrhic." "In the eyes of Nizhnii Novgorod residents, whoever becomes the next mayor will be seen as illegitimate and cannot rule without the support of federal authorities," Furman concluded. JAC

...AS KREMLIN STRIVES FOR LESS SPONTANEITY IN PUBLIC REALM
Furman also argues that the federal authorities are striving for more control and predictability in politics and in elections, but this attempt "to turn something living -- which is therefore unpredictable, irrational, and dangerous -- into something dead and safe" is not likely to succeed. "Society is alive just the same; it changes and develops," he writes. "Therefore, if from above the surface everything appears peaceful, then that means the real processes are taking place underneath the surface." JAC

LARGE PROTEST VOTE EXPECTED IN NIZHNII
Just two days before the second round of voting in Nizhnii Novgorod's mayoral election, fears that the winner could be "against all" and that the election will be voided are mounting, "Vremya novostei" reported on 27 September. Former Mayor Klimentiev, whose candidacy was annulled on the eve of the first round of voting, has called on his supporters to vote "against all" as a protest. Current Mayor Yurii Lebedev, who narrowly won the first round, has publicly stated that he will resign if the election is voided. His second-round opponent, Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov, has been distancing himself recently from presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko in order "to prove that he is independent," the daily reported. "If the majority of Nizhnii Novgorod voters vote 'against all,' the elections will be declared invalid, and in that case new elections will be scheduled" within six months, said Central Election Commission member Sergei Danilenko. If this happens, analysts believe that Klimentiev's chances of winning are considered good, the paper commented. RC

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL STILL DOESN'T LIKE TATARSTAN'S CONSTITUTION
More than 50 points in the newest version of the constitution of Tatarstan have been deemed to contradict federal legislation, polit.ru and RIA-Novosti reported on 26 September. Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev has sent a complete list to the republic's Supreme Court. The news agency cited him as saying that the republican legislature refused to consider a similar list that he sent to that body earlier this month. Zvyagintsev added that although the new version of the constitution, which was adopted in March, has eliminated a number of articles pertaining to republican sovereignty, it still contains problematic articles regarding the separation of powers between republican bodies and the office of the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District. RC

LATEST SURVEY RANKS POLITICIANS, PARTIES
The All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) has presented the results of its latest survey asking respondents to rate the performance of leading political figures, polit.ru reported on 27 September. Seventy-seven percent of respondents approve of President Putin's performance, while 20 percent disapprove. Fifty-one percent approve of their local governors, while 41 percent disapprove. Thirty-nine percent approve of the presidential envoys to the federal districts, while 45 percent disapprove. Asked which politicians they trust most, 53 percent named Putin, 22 percent named Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, 15 percent named Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and 12 percent named Prime Minister Kasyanov. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was named by 10 percent of respondents, which represents a 300 percent increase in his popularity compared to a similar survey taken in the spring. Among political parties, the communists ranked first with 31 percent support, while Unified Russia came in second with 28 percent. RC

PRESIDENT NAMES NEW STATE COUNCIL PRESIDIUM
President Putin has signed an order naming the new composition of the rotating Presidium of the State Council, gazeta.ru reported on 26 September. According to the order, the Presidium will comprise Chukotka Autonomous Oblast Governor Roman Abramovich, Vladimir Oblast Governor Nikolai Vinogradov, Vologda Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev, Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin, Novosibirsk Oblast Governor Viktor Tolokonskii, Chavash Republic President Nikolai Fedorov, and Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub. RC

SECOND WRITER TO FACE PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES
Prosecutors have filed a criminal case on charges of disseminating pornography against writer Kirill Vorobev, who writes under the penname Bayan Shiryanov, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 26 September. The case is the second stemming from complaints against writers filed by the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together. In July, similar charges were filed against Vladimir Sorokin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002). Vorobev was expected to answer prosecutors' questions on 27 September. Earlier this week, Vorobev filed a complaint against Walking Together alleging that members of the group publicly insulted him and threw tomatoes at his photograph during a demonstration. RC

AIR FORCE OFFICER MURDERED; SECRET PAPERS MISSING
Air Force Colonel Nikolai Panachuk has been murdered in Kaluga Oblast and unspecified secret documents were stolen from him, gazeta.ru reported on 26 September. According to the report, Panachuk left his base near the town of Vorotynsk for Vyazma several days ago, but he never arrived there. His Mercedes was discovered wrecked and abandoned on 18 September near the village of Nikolaev. His body was found nearby two days later, and police suspect that robbery was the motive. RC

ROLE OF HANDICAPPED IN RUSSIA REVIEWED
An international film festival devoted to the problems of handicapped people will run in Moscow from 26-29 September, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Some 140 art films and documentaries from around the world featuring themes such as discrimination against the handicapped will be screened. Sergei Miroshnichenko, documentary film director and chairman of the festival, explained that he hopes the festival will help explain how WWII veterans, many of whom are disabled, had to learn to readapt to Russian society. "My father returned from the World War II blind," Miroshnichenko said. "And I remember very well his stories about the huge number of handicapped in our country; that is, people without hands, noses...They were called 'samovars.' These people were simply thrown away. In our country for some reason, everywhere health, strength, and courage are honored -- even at the House of Cinematography." He explained that the festival could not be held at that prestigious venue because it is not handicapped accessible. JAC

PUTIN FOR SALE
The former Putin Cafe in Chelyabinsk is for sale for $10,000, regions.ru reported on 26 September, citing Region-Inform-Perm. Ntvru.com reported earlier that the owners of the bar were forced by local officials to change its name because they feared displeasing federal officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 9 July 2002). But now the young cafe owners are moving on and have placed an advertisement for the cafe on the Internet. JAC

PUTIN MEETS WITH CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD
President Putin met on 26 September with Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov to discuss the economic situation in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Kadyrov told journalists after those talks that the current pace of reconstruction in Chechnya is not satisfactory but that steps are being taken to speed it up. He also claimed that this year's Chechen grain harvest amounted to 340,000 tons, which, he said, is "unprecedented." LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE WARNS ARMENIA OVER DEATH-PENALTY ABOLITION
In a resolution adopted on 26 September at its ongoing session, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) warned that Armenia's membership in the Council of Europe might be suspended if its parliament fails to abolish the death penalty unconditionally before June 2003, AFP and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Most Armenian parliament deputies oppose abolishing recent amendments to the Criminal Code that would provide for handing down the death penalty to the five gunmen currently on trial for murdering eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 25 June, 8 and 9 July, and 22 August 2002). LF

MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN HOLD TALKS WITH ARMENIAN LEADERS...
The French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group together with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov met in Yerevan on 26 September with President Robert Kocharian, who briefed them on his talks last month with his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Trubnikov described the results of the Aliev-Kocharian summit as "encouraging" and said the "strategic direction" of the negotiating process remains unchanged, although upcoming presidential elections in both Armenia and Azerbaijan are having an impact on it. He also said that both Aliev and Kocharian remain committed to the so-called "Paris principles" agreed on last year. In June, Aliev accused Armenia of reneging on those principles, while Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev has denied their existence on several occasions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June and 11 July 2002). As widely anticipated, the co-chairmen did not unveil any new proposals for resolving the conflict. LF

...AS AZERBAIJANIS ISSUE ULTIMATUM
Some 100 members of the Karabakh Liberation Organization, which advocates a new war to restore Azerbaijan's hegemony over Karabakh, picketed the OSCE office in Baku on 26 September to protest the Minsk Group's failure to mediate a settlement of the conflict, Turan and Interfax reported. They demanded that the Minsk Group formally designate Armenia "the aggressor" in the conflict and either radically change its tactics or abandon its mediation mission. The co-chairmen are to meet in Baku with the Azerbaijani leadership on 28 September. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE SLAMS AZERBAIJAN'S FAILURE TO MEET COMMITMENTS
The PACE session on 26 September adopted a report criticizing Azerbaijan's failures to met its commitments in the spheres of human rights and democratization, Turan reported. PACE deputies rejected most amendments proposed by Azerbaijan's PACE delegation aimed at softening that criticism. The report, which Azerbaijan's PACE delegation head Ilham Aliev termed "prejudiced in certain respects," noted the plight of political prisoners, 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 national referendum last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2002). Deputy Georges Clerfeyt rejected Azerbaijani criticism of Swiss rapporteur for Azerbaijan Andreas Gross, whom the Azerbaijani government has accused of pro-Armenian bias. LF

DETAINED AZERBAIJANI VILLAGE LEADER BEGINS HUNGER STRIKE
Hadji Djebrail Alizade, the chairman of the Union of Baku and Baku Villages who was forcibly detained on 20 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2002), declared a hunger strike on 26 September to protest his arrest, Turan reported. He has been charged with involvement in mass disorder, violation of public order, and resisting officials. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR 'CONSOLIDATION'
Former Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, who now heads the opposition United Democrats, appealed on 26 September to fellow parliament deputies to close ranks behind embattled President Eduard Shevardnadze, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. He advocated a moratorium on discussing domestic political issues in order to focus exclusively on "resisting Russia's possible military aggression," according to Interfax. LF

EDITORS OF KAZAKH ECONOMIC PUBLICATION PROTEST HARASSMENT
The editors of the privately owned newspaper "Economy, Finance, Markets" have written to Prosecutor-General Rashid Tusupbekov complaining of illegal actions by customs officials, police, and national-security officials which, they claim, are intended to prevent the production and distribution of the newspaper, Interfax reported on 26 September. LF

FORMER KYRGYZ VICE PRESIDENT ADDRESSES APPEALS COURT
In his final statement on 26 September to the Bishkek City Court that is considering his appeal against a sentence handed down in May, former Vice President Feliks Kulov said he is not guilty of the charges of which he was convicted, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said the charges were politically motivated. The court sentenced Kulov to 10 years' imprisonment on charges of embezzlement dating from 1993-1997 when he was governor of Chu Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002). He will serve that sentence concurrently with one handed down last year on charges of abuse of his official position when he served as national security minister in 1997-1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). LF

TAJIKISTAN WELCOMES NEW RUSSIAN ANTI-DRUG TRAFFICKING BODY
Rustam Nazarov, who heads the drug-control agency within the Tajik presidential administration, on 26 September lauded the creation of the State Committee for Combating Drug Trafficking within the Russian Interior Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2002). Nazarov admitted that there has been no marked decrease in the amount of drugs smuggled from Afghanistan into Tajikistan despite the deployment of additional Tajik and Russian border guards along Tajikistan's frontier with Afghanistan when Operation Enduring Freedom got under way last year. He said that during the first eight months of this year, border guards confiscated 2.5 tons of heroin illegally imported from Afghanistan, which is marginally less than during the corresponding period last year. LF

UZBEK SENTENCED FOR ESPIONAGE IN TAJIKISTAN
The Sughd Oblast court has sentenced a 51-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan to 12 years' imprisonment for espionage, Interfax reported on 26 September. The man was reportedly apprehended in March in possession of a map showing ammunition depots in the oblast. He is said to have attempted to recruit senior regional officials. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE REMINDS BELARUS OF CONDITIONS FOR ENDING SELF-ISOLATION
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Lydie Polfer, who chairs the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, told the ongoing session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 26 September that Belarus has thus far not showed any signs that it is ready to end its self-isolation, Belapan reported. According to Polfer, the first such sign could be the restoration of relations between Belarus and the OSCE. She said the Council of Europe would insist that the Belarusian government abolish the death penalty, give more powers to the legislature, establish the ombudsman's office, account for the disappearances of opposition figures, and adopt a new media law. Polfer also urged Belarus to ensure independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression as well as to end political persecution. Polfer added that the Council of Europe will expand contacts with Belarus's civil society, nongovernmental organizations, and nonstate media. JM

BELARUS'S DEMOCRATIC TRADE UNIONS BACK CONVICTED JOURNALISTS
The Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions on 25 September approved a resolution supporting Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the independent trade-union newspaper "Rabochy," who was recently convicted of defaming Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and sentenced to two years' confinement, Belapan reported. The congress vowed to make every effort to ensure that "Rabochy" continues to be published. Ivashkevich said the newspaper's future depends on whether the democratic unions need it and are willing to finance it. Ivashkevich has appealed his sentence, which in the meantime has been reduced under an amnesty law to one year in an "open-type corrective labor institution," as in the case of journalists Pavel Mazheyka and Mikola Markevich. JM

LUKASHENKA MAKES HIMSELF SOLE TAX BENEFACTOR OF BELARUSIAN BUSINESSES
President Lukashenka has decreed that the president is the only authority in the country allowed to grant tax breaks and other payment exemptions to Belarusian businesses, both state-run and private, Belapan reported on 26 September. "We have around 300,000 companies in this country," Syarhey Balykin, the head of the pro-business NGO Alternative XXI, told the agency. "The president will not be able to pay due attention to all of them. So one may conclude that the exemptions will be selective and given mostly to large state-run enterprises or private companies close to the government, rather than to small businesses." JM

BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL CONVICTED FOR ATTEMPT TO BETRAY SECRETS TO RUSSIAN COMPANIES
A district court in Minsk has convicted Yauhen Kukushkin, the head of the Cabinet of Minister's Committee for Securities, for a foiled attempt at selling state secrets to two Russian companies, NOUFOR and RosBiznesKonsalting, and sentenced him to five years in prison, Belarusian Television reported on 25 September. Kukushkin, who was fired from his government post, will not be allowed to take up state positions for three years after he served his prison term. A KGB officer went under cover and arrested Kukushkin as the latter -- while believing the officer to be a representative of the Russian firms -- tried to sell "several [computer] discs," allegedly containing information about "the operation of some Belarusian defense enterprises," for $4,300. JM

MORE THAN HALF OF BELARUSIANS WANT TO BE IN EU, ONE-THIRD IN RUSSIA
According to a poll of a representative sample of 1,509 adults conducted earlier this month by the Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI), 53.4 percent of respondents said they would support their country's accession to the European Union, Belapan reported on 26 September. Asked if they would vote for Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to make Belarus a part of the Russian Federation, 32.3 percent said "yes" and 26.3 percent answered "no." JM

UKRAINIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL GROUPS PROCLAIM FORMATION OF PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY...
Lawmaker Volodymyr Pekhota read a statement in the Verkhovna Rada on 27 September saying that the nine pro-presidential groups -- the Party of Entrepreneurs-Labor Ukraine, Ukraine's Regions, Social Democratic Party-united, European Choice, Democratic Initiatives, Popular Democratic Party, Power of the People, Ukraine's Agrarians, and People's Choice -- and independent deputies set up a parliamentary majority that "will assume the responsibility for legislative activities and the creation of a coalition government in accordance with the president's proposals regarding the implementation of political reform," UNIAN reported. The statement threatens that if the opposition continues to disrupt the work of the parliament, the newly created majority will reappoint parliamentary committees. Presidential representative Oleksandr Zadorozhnyy said the majority currently consists of 226 deputies (the minimum amount required to adopt laws) and is open for other lawmakers. According to UNIAN, the majority includes 216 deputies from the pro-presidential caucuses, nine independent lawmakers, and one legislator from the opposition Communist Party, Heorhiy Kryuchkov. JM

...BUT ITS PRACTICALITY MAY BE DUBIOUS
The previous day, the Verkhovna Rada passed several resolutions and bills with votes of 226-228 from the pro-presidential groups and some other deputies, but speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn has not sent any of them to the president for approval, UNIAN reported on 27 September. The parliamentary Regulations Committee, headed by Communist lawmaker Valentyn Matveyev, protested that some deputies illegally voted for 14 colleagues (using their magnetic voting cards) who are currently either in official trips or on sick leave. According to Matveyev, the voting in the parliament on 26 September was invalid. The opposition Communist Party, Socialist Party, and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc caucuses as well as Our Ukraine continue to boycott voting, demanding that the parliament immediately address the current political crisis in its debate. JM

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER PRESENTS 2003 DRAFT BUDGET TO PARLIAMENT
In presenting the draft 2003 budget to the parliament on 26 September, Siim Kallas said that its priorities are state defense, science, and education, ETA and BNS reported. Unlike previous budgets, it foresees a deficit of 384 million kroons ($24 million) with expenditures amounting to 38.7 billion kroons and income of 38.4 billion kroons. Kallas explained that there is no need for excessive spending and the state won't spend more than the growth of the economy will allow. Opposition Pro Patria Union Chairman Mart Laar noted that some of the budget's articles are wasteful and that "The areas that don't directly bring votes to politicians in the elections have been shoved to the back burner." SG

LATVIA ADOPTS LAW CHANGING SUPERVISION OVER STATE-OWNED COMPANIES
The parliament passed a law on state and municipal equity stakes in state-owned companies on 26 September, BNS reported. It envisages the elimination of the post of state trustee in these companies beginning on 1 January 2003. The supervision of companies under the management of ministries will be conducted by the state secretary of the respective ministry, while those controlled by local governments will be conducted by the chairmen of the local councils. Under the new law, these payments are expected to be about 220,000 lats ($360,000), or only a third of the 630,000 lats that was paid to the state trustees in 2000. SG

FINNISH PRESIDENT SUPPORTS LATVIA ON AGRICULTURE QUOTAS
In Helsinki on 26 September, Finnish President Tarja Halonen told her visiting Latvian counterpart Vaira Vike-Freiberga that she is aware of and supports Latvia's efforts to achieve higher agricultural quotas in its negotiations with the European Union, LETA reported. She said that each country must have the right to produce at least enough farm products to meet the demand of the local market and that candidate countries are entitled to a fair offer from the EU. The primary aim of Vike-Freiberga's visit is to participate in the Helsinki Women Business Leaders Summit on 27 September, which was to be attended by businesswomen from the United States, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia. SG

LITHUANIA, AZERBAIJAN SIGN PROGRAM ON INFORMATION EXCHANGE
In Vilnius on 26 September, Justice Minister Vytautas Markevicius and his Azerbaijani counterpart Fikrat Mamedov signed a cooperation program that envisages the regular exchange of information regarding adopted legislation and law enforcement structures, BNS reported. Azerbaijan expressed interest in Lithuania's program under which its citizens are provided state-guaranteed legal assistance, and will send a delegation to Lithuania next summer to study its implementation. Lithuania intends to send a delegation to Baku next year to become acquainted with the work of Azerbaijan's courts. The two countries previously signed agreements on legal assistance and the handover of convicted persons to complete their sentences in their native countries. SG

POLAND, RUSSIA SIGN DEAL TO UPGRADE MIG AIRCRAFT
On 26 September in Bydgoszcz (north-central Poland), Poland and Russia signed an accord whereby Russia's MiG aircraft manufacturer will provide spare parts and safety certificates for maintaining and upgrading Poland's MiG-29 jet fighters at a Bydgoszcz-based aviation plant, Polish and Russian media reported. Poland currently has 20 MiG fighters and is soon expected to receive another 23 MiG-29s from Germany. The signing ceremony was attended by the defense ministers of both countries, Poland's Jerzy Szmajdzinski and Russia's Sergei Ivanov. Later the same day, Ivanov told journalists that contacts between the Kaliningrad-based Russian military group and Poland's Pomeranian Military District will be a major area of Russian-Polish military cooperation. "We exchanged views on the course of military reform in Poland and Russia, and became convinced that we have a lot in common," ITAR-TASS quoted Ivanov as saying. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL TAX AMNESTY
The Sejm on 26 September voted by 221-155, with three abstentions, to adopt a contentious tax-amnesty bill allowing tax dodgers the chance to come clean and pay a 12 percent tax on any hidden personal income that is reported to the tax authorities before 2003, Polish media reported. The parliament increased the rate from the 7.5 percent proposed by Prime Minister Leszek Miller's cabinet. The tax amnesty does not apply to state officials. Opponents of the bill proposed amnesty rates of up to 40 percent (the highest personal-income tax rate in Poland), arguing that the bill actually rewards fraudulence and punishes honest taxpayers. JM

CZECHS MIGHT SEND COMBAT TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on 26 September that the Czech Republic has been asked by the United States to dispatch to Afghanistan an elite unit of 120 troops, dpa reported. Tvrdik said parliament will be asked to approve funds for the unit, which would operate under U.S. command as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He said the unit could be sent to Afghanistan on or about 1 February. Also on 26 September, CTK reported that Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla will visit Afghanistan in early October accompanied by Tvrdik. On the same day, the agency said that Chief of Staff General Jaroslav Sedivy is leaving on 27 September for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to visit Czech troops stationed in Kuwait and to discuss Czech assistance in training Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian troops in antichemical warfare. MS

AGREEMENT NEAR ON NEXT SLOVAK CABINET
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 26 September that an agreement is "on the horizon" between the four formations that are to set up the next Slovak coalition, TASR and international agencies reported. Dzurinda said the leaders of the four parties -- his own Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Alliance for the New Citizens (ANO) -- have neared agreement on the division of portfolios and on assigning individual ministerial seats to their members. Presidential spokesman Jan Fuele the same day said President Rudolf Schuster is to entrust Dzurinda with forming the next cabinet on 27 September, as the president is now persuaded that this "reflects the political reality." CTK reported that the four leaders agreed that Vladimir Palko (KDH) will replace Ivan Simko (SDKU) as interior minister but that no decision has yet been made on the post of parliamentary speaker, which is sought by both SMK Chairman Bela Bugar and KDH Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky. MS

BUSH, BLAIR, PRODI CONGRATULATE SLOVAKS ON ELECTORAL OUTCOME
U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and European Commission President Romano Prodi on 26 September congratulated Dzurinda on his and his party's electoral success, TASR and CTK reported. Bush said in a letter to President Schuster that he appreciates the responsible decision of the Slovak electorate and that he is convinced the electoral outcome will serve the Slovak drive for Euro-Atlantic integration and the continuation of reforms. Blair wrote to Dzurinda, congratulating him on the election result and on the high voter turnout. In Brussels, Prodi said the electoral outcome "clearly indicated the will of the Slovak people to become members of the EU," according to TASR. He added that he has sent a congratulatory telegram to Dzurinda. MS

HUNGARY WORKING TO PERSUADE HUSSEIN TO CEASE WEAPONS-DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS
Foreign Ministry spokesman Tamas Toth told journalists on 26 September that his country "is participating in international efforts to persuade Iraq" to halt its efforts to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, AP reported. Toth added that Hungary has not received a request from the United States to participate in a possible attack against Iraq, "nor have we made any commitment to do so." MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER EXPECTS COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE TO END BY 2006
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said on 26 September that he expects compulsory military service to be ended by 2006, Hungarian media reported. He said Hungary will have the first fully professional army in Central Europe and this will enhance NATO's strength in the region. MS

MECS CLAIMS 'PARTIAL SUCCESS'
Imre Mecs, chairman of the parliamentary commission that investigated government officials' secret-service pasts, on 26 September said that although the commission's final report did not specify any names, its work was "partially successful," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002). Mecs said that the commission has established that "in all [postcommunist] governments...there were people who collaborated" with the communist-era secret services and that this is "a historically and politically important conclusion." In the report submitted to the legislature, the commission said that much of the information about communist-era secret services' activities was difficult to find in the official archive or had been tampered with or destroyed. MS

CONTENDER FOR SERBIAN PRESIDENCY HOLDS FINAL RALLY
Miroljub Labus said on 26 September in Belgrade that he will lead Serbia into the European Union if he is elected president in the upcoming election, AP reported. Labus, cheered by some 10,000 supporters, said he has the best chance to carry out economic reforms in Serbia. Labus, an economist and a Yugoslav deputy prime minister, is in a close race for Serbian president with current Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. The election, which will be held on 29 September, is being contested by 11 candidates. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic -- an archrival of Kostunica -- stood next to Labus, 55, at the rally on Belgrade's main square. An election event for Kostunica the previous day on the same square attracted roughly half of the crowd that came to see Labus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002). PB

ULTRANATIONALIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DENIED ENTRY INTO KOSOVA
UN police prevented Serbian presidential candidate Vojislav Seselj from entering Kosova on 26 September, Reuters reported. Seselj was slated to attend an election rally in the divided city of Mitrovica, which is populated by ethnic Albanians in the south and Serbs in the north. UN officials cited security concerns as the reason for denying entry to Seselj, the leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party and former President Milosevic's choice for president. Kosovar Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic said UN officials "don't want to have a conflict with Albanian political leaders." Ivanovic said he expects a high turnout among the roughly 65,000 Serbs in Kosova who are eligible to vote at some 292 polling places being set up by Serbian authorities. Serbs who fled Kosova and live in other parts of Serbia are eligible to cast their votes where they currently live. PB

BELGRADE COURT CONVICTS MILOSEVIC'S DAUGHTER
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's daughter, Marija, was convicted on 26 September of disturbing public safety and illegal possession of weapons connected to gunshots she fired on the night of her father's detention in April 2001, Reuters and other news agencies reported. She said she fired "out of despair," according to AP. The Belgrade court gave Milosevic an eight-month suspended sentence after she testified that she fired shots into the air following the consumption of seven or eight tranquilizers and a bottle of brandy, Reuters reported. Some reports at the time said Milosevic fired in the direction of the car of a government negotiator during the tense, 26-hour standoff. Milosevic will thus not serve prison time provided she does not commit a punishable offense in the next two years, AP reported. AH

YUGOSLAVIA, UNICEF SIGN REFORM-MINDED DEAL
The UN's agency for children and the Belgrade government on 26 September signed a three-year plan that a UNICEF representative said marks a shift from humanitarian programs toward policy and system reform, dpa reported. Democratic developments in the country have allowed UNICEF to concentrate on policies in the social, education, health and welfare, and juvenile-justice spheres, the news agency reported, citing UNICEF's Belgrade representative Jean-Michel Delmotte. "Since 1992, UNICEF programs [in Yugoslavia] have been mostly of humanitarian nature, as the country was experiencing war, civil conflict, mass migrations, international sanctions and economic crisis," Delmotte said. He also said he hoped the "current negative donor trend will be overcome," according to dpa. AH

EU'S SOLANA URGES REFORM VOTE IN BOSNIA
EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana on 26 September appealed to Bosnians to turn out for national elections on 5 October, dpa reported. During a one-day visit to Sarajevo, during which he met with Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, Solana called the vote a "key element for this country to keep on moving toward Europe." "My appeal to the citizens of this country is to go to vote and to vote for those who will continue the process of reforms," he was quoted by the news agency as saying. He praised the government elected in 2000 and said he hoped the new government will continue in the same vein. The international high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, this week also urged voters to "give us a mandate for reform," the "Balkan Times" reported on 25 September. AH

CROATIAN CONSERVATIVES CALL FOR PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT...
The party established by deceased President Franjo Tudjman on 26 September said it will seek the impeachment of Croatian President Stipe Mesic, after he urged the country to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, dpa reported. The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) would need the support of other parties to win an impeachment vote in parliament. Mesic provoked the ire of nationalists and veterans' groups by implicitly calling for the extradition of indicted former chief of Main Staff General Janko Bobetko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002). The HDZ issued a statement saying Mesic of "prejudg[ed] that Bobetko is guilty, and everybody is innocent until proven guilty," dpa reported. Mesic repeated his position in an interview in the weekly "Slobodna Bosna" on 27 September, adding, "Unfortunately some from the Croatian side committed crimes, and those who perpetrated them should answer for it." AH

...AS CROATIAN DIPLOMACY SEEKS TO FEND OFF INTERNATIONAL SCORN...
Foreign Minister Tonino Picula on 26 September told foreign diplomats assembled in Zagreb that the Bobetko indictment "could have a destabilizing effect on Croatia and potentially the wider region," Hina and AP reported, citing a statement by the Croatian Foreign Ministry. Picula's reported statements echoed previous warnings of instability stemming from the Bobetko indictment by Croatia's minister for European integration, Neven Mimica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2002). Picula described the Croatian government's approach as challenging the legality of the UN tribunal's actions but "in no way discontinuing cooperation and dialogue with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague," Hina reported. AH

...AND BRITISH GOVERNMENT CALLS ON CROATIA TO COMPLY 'UNCONDITIONALLY' WITH BOBETKO INDICTMENT
British Foreign Office official Denis MacShane appealed to the Croatian government to "ensure [General Bobetko's] immediate arrest and transfer to The Hague" in a strongly worded statement on 26 September that was quoted by Hina and dpa. "We urge the Government of Croatia to fulfill its international obligations, and comply unconditionally with the indictment against General Bobetko," MacShane said in the press release, according to Hina. The statement reminded Croatians that their possible entry into the EU and NATO are conditioned on cooperation with tribunal. AH

HAGUE CHIEF PROSECUTOR FAILS TO SWAY MACEDONIA TO GIVE UP WAR CRIMES CASES
Speaking at a session of the international war crimes tribunal's judicial council at The Hague on 25 September, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte urged Macedonian Prosecutor-General Stavre Dzikov to transfer a number of war crimes cases to The Hague-based tribunal, Macedonian media reported. Del Ponte substantiated her request with the fact that under Macedonian jurisdiction there is no provision for witness protection. She also underscored that war crimes committed during last year's conflict, which the tribunal is empowered to hear, do not fall under the amnesty granted by the Macedonian state in late 2001. Dzikov later described the session as a duel between himself and the chief prosecutor. "[Del Ponte] wanted to take over all these cases. She even wanted to take over all future cases that could follow last year's conflict. I opposed that. In Macedonia, both the prosecution and the courts work normally," Dzikov told "Dnevnik." UB

ROMANIA 'SALUTES' U.S. HOUSE EUROPE SUBCOMMITTEE RESOLUTION ON NATO ENLARGEMENT
The Foreign Ministry stated in a press release on 26 September that it "salutes" a bipartisan resolution passed by the House of Representatives' Europe Subcommittee on 25 September endorsing seven countries for NATO membership, Romanian Radio reported. U.S. Representative Elton Gallegly (Republican, California), who chairs the Europe Subcommittee, proposed an amendment to the resolution endorsing Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, citing "their accomplishments thus far in meeting the criteria established by NATO for membership," according to a press release on the representative's website. Romanian media reported extensively on an article published by "The Washington Post" on 26 September, according to which NATO has decided in favor of so-called "big-bang expansion" and will offer invitations to seven countries, Romania included, at its November NATO summit in Prague on 21-22 November. MS/MES

PRESIDENT DOES NOT ENVISION REQUEST FOR ROMANIAN TROOPS IF IRAQ IS ATTACKED
President Ion Iliescu said on Romanian Television on 26 September that he does not expect that his country will be asked to provide troops in the event that a military intervention is launched against Iraq. Iliescu said Romania could be asked to allow overflights and to offer logistic support, as well as to participate in post-action peacekeeping operations. Earlier in the day, Iliescu told journalists that his country is determined to be "on the side of the international community" in the event of a military operation against Iraq. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER TOLD ICC STAND WILL NOT AFFECT EU REPORT ON MEMBERSHIP PROGRESS
European Commission President Romano Prodi told Prime Minister Adrian Nastase in Brussels on 26 September that the accord Romania signed with the United States under which Romania agreed not to extradite U.S. citizens to the proposed International Criminal Court (ICC) will not be reflected in the annual progress report on EU candidates, Reuters reported. "The ICC is not something that concerns the negotiations. we never blackmail anybody, it is not our style," Prodi said. But he added that the EU expects Romania to adhere to the organization's international policies in the future. He lauded Romania's reforms over the last 18 months, saying they will be noted in the report, which will be published on 9 October. Iliescu said in Bucharest on 26 September that he does not rule out that Romania will renegotiate the accord with the United States after Washington and Brussels reach agreement on the issue, dpa reported. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES QUIT BUCHAREST CITY COUNCIL
Bucharest Municipal Councilors representing the opposition Greater Romania Party, National Liberal Party, and Democratic Party on 26 September announced in a joint press conference that they are collectively submitting their resignations and that their parties will not designate replacements, Mediafax reported. The councilors said the Municipal Council's activity is "paralyzed" by the Social Democratic Party majority and that the council has ceased to serve the interests of those who elected it. Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca responded that the gesture is one of "politicking" and that, by law, collective resignations are not accepted and resignations must be submitted individually. Cozmanca noted that the Supreme Court is to examine an appeal by minor opposition parties against the government's January 2002 decision to dissolve the council and to hold new local elections in Bucharest. He expressed the hope that the court will rule in favor of the cabinet's decision, Romanian Radio reported. MS

ROMANIAN ROMANY EXODUS FROM FRANCE TO SWITZERLAND
Some 600 Roma from Romania have recently left France and entered Switzerland, Romanian Television reported on 26 September. The report said the exodus is taking place against the background of measures recently agreed between Bucharest and Paris to curb illegal immigration and to return illegal Romany immigrants and delinquents in France to Romania. The Foreign Ministry responded to the report by saying it is cooperating with the Swiss authorities and that a team of Romanian experts is to leave for Switzerland to discuss with their Swiss counterparts how to repatriate the Roma. MS

TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT NEGOTIATIONS ONCE AGAIN AT IMPASSE...
A new round of negotiations on the Organization for Security and Economic Cooperation's (OSCE) draft for resolving the Transdniester conflict ended in Bendery-Tighina on 26 September with no agreement in sight, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. OSCE mission chief David Schwartz reiterated after the new round that until "concrete results are achieved [in the talks], no information will be released." OSCE mission spokesman Matti Sidoroff told Flux that "several aspects cannot, for the time being, be solved" and added that "something new has intervened in the negotiation process." Sidoroff declined to elaborate further. MS

...AND RUSSIAN NEGOTIATORS IN TIRASPOL HARDLY DO ANY BETTER
A delegation in Tiraspol headed by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Isakov has failed to reach an agreement with the separatist leadership on the resumption of the withdrawal of Russian military equipment from the Transdniester, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 September. The news agency cited a spokesman for the Russian Army contingent as saying that the failure was due to the unconstructive position of Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov's team. The sides agreed, however, on a one-time train convoy carrying Russian equipment to leave the region on 2 October. Smirnov rejected a Russian offer to write off $50 million of the debt owed by Tiraspol for gas deliveries and $50 million from the interest owed on the debt, which totals $350 million, insisting that $100 million be written off of the former. The delegation also included representatives of Russia's natural-gas giant Gazprom and of the Russian Finance Ministry. MS

PACE SAYS HALF-EMPTY MOLDOVAN GLASS MUST BE FILLED
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 26 September approved a resolution saying that "not all commitments" made by Moldova after PACE made its April recommendations have been met, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The resolution said that while three recommendations have been fulfilled -- namely, the registration of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, the ending of harassment targeting opposition deputies, and a moratorium on introducing compulsory Russian-language and "History of Moldova" classes in schools -- other recommendations have been met only in part or not at all. The PACE resolution calls for the Moldovan authorities to amend the law on transforming Teleradio Moldova into a public company to make the company genuinely free of government controls, and to refrain from infringing on the freedoms of press, religion, and association. In interviews with RFE/RL, Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca said the resolution marks a victory for his party, while Party of Moldovan Communists parliamentary group leader Vladimir Stepaniuc called the resolution "a compromise." MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REAPPOINTS NATIONAL BANK CHAIRMAN
The parliament on 26 September reappointed Leonid Talmaci for an additional seven-year term as National Bank chairman, Infotag reported. Talmaci's mandate would have expired on 28 September. Talmaci was the only candidate for the position. He has headed the bank ever since Moldova declared independence 11 years ago. Also on 26 September, the National Bank announced that it has revoked the licenses of the International Commercial Bank of Moldova and of the Municipal Commercial Bank. The International Commercial Bank's sole shareholder, the Commercial Bank of Greece, had earlier announced its intention to liquidate its investments in Moldova, including in the bank. As for the Municipal Commercial Bank, a decree signed by Talmaci on 26 September said that the bank has been involved in very risky operations and has failed to observe legal regulations and its own charter. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS BILL TO STEM FINANCING OF TERRORISM
Parliament passed on first reading a bill intended to combat the financing of terrorism, BTA reported on 26 September. The bill bans the provision of monetary resources, financial assets, property, and financial services to legal and physical entities suspected of having links to terrorism. Bulgarian authorities will use information provided by the UN Security Council as well as other sources to compile a list of such entities. "Lists compiled by the UN Security Council and the EU currently include some 260 names of firms and persons, but none of them is Bulgarian," Deputy Interior Minister Boyko Kotsev said, adding that "Bulgaria has no information about Bulgarian people or firms that could be added to these lists." UB

STATE PRIVATIZATION AGENCY DIRECTOR INSISTS ON PRIVATIZATION OF BULGARTABAC
State Privatization Agency Director Apostol Apostolov said on 26 September that if the recently suspended tender for selling Bulgartabac fails, the Privatization Agency will prepare a new tender for the state-owned tobacco company, BTA reported. The Supreme Administrative Court earlier this month halted the process for selling Bulgartabac after three bidders challenged the naming of Tobacco Capital Partners as the winner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2002). Referring to recent complaints that bids for the state telecommunications company BTK are too low, Apostolov said he doubts that a new tender would yield better results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002). UB

BULGARIA COMPLETES DESTRUCTION OF SS-23 WARHEADS
U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew attended the destruction of the last of Bulgaria's SS-23 warheads at the military training area in Zmeyovo on 26 September, BTA reported. Pardew noted that the destruction was carried out in a safe and transparent way and that it will not have any consequences for the local population, which protested the scrapping of the missiles earlier this year on health grounds. A controversy over the scrapping of missile engines nearly paralyzed the Bulgarian government during the summer (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2002). The warheads of Bulgaria's Frog and Scud missiles will be destroyed by the end of October, according to an army representative. UB

There is no End Note today.


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