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Newsline - October 1, 2002


LEGISLATORS TALK TOUGH ON KALININGRAD...
The State Duma held hearings on the issue of Kaliningrad Oblast and international aspects of Russia's national security on 30 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the Russia-EU summit scheduled for November might be in jeopardy because of the continued stalemate over Kaliningrad Oblast. He said that "if the summit [were to be] held tomorrow, then there [would be] nothing to discuss." At the same time, Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman and presidential envoy to the EU for Kaliningrad Dmitrii Rogozin reiterated that Russia will not drop its insistence on visa-free travel between Russia and the Kaliningrad exclave. Rogozin called EU proposals offensive to Russia and said the only concession Russia is ready to make to the EU is to close its southern borders entirely in order to stem the tide of illegal migration, gazeta.ru reported. Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels the same day continued to insist that Kaliningrad residents will need a special "travel pass" to cross EU territory after Lithuania and Poland join the EU, Reuters reported. According to the agency, the foreign ministers took note of a Russian proposal for nonstop trains between Kaliningrad and Russia but said a feasibility study for such a project will be undertaken only after EU enlargement. JAC/RC

...AND THREATEN TO REVIEW TERRITORIAL AGREEMENTS WITH LITHUANIA
During the same hearings, Vladimir Nikitin (Russian Regions) and Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) called on the Duma not to ratify a border agreement with Lithuania if Vilnius continues to resist Russian demands for visa-free access to Kaliningrad Oblast, gazeta.ru and RosBalt reported on 30 September. They also said that Russia should raise territorial issues concerning the area around the Lithuanian city of Klaipeda. Formerly a part of Germany, the area was designated an "international territory" following World War I and had a disputed status in the interwar period. The Soviet Union unilaterally gave this territory to Lithuania following World War II, and the deputies argued that this decision should be reviewed. Speaking after the Duma session, Russian Ambassador at Large Valentin Bogomazov stated that because the European Union is reluctant to meet Russian needs, Russia should make "extraordinary decisions" as far as Kaliningrad is concerned. VY

U.S.-RUSSIAN ENERGY FORUM OPENS IN HOUSTON...
Speaking in Washington, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that at an upcoming energy forum in Houston the United States and Russia will attempt to coordinate their positions regarding world oil prices in the context of a possible U.S. military strike against Iraq, Russian news agencies reported on 30 September. The forum, which was initiated during the May U.S.-Russia summit in Moscow and opened on 1 October, is co-chaired by Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov, U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, and U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. It will bring together leading oil-industry experts, investors, and executives from both countries, including the heads of Russia's energy giants Yukos, Rosneft, and TNK. It is expected that participants will discuss the sale of Russian oil on U.S. markets and the coordination of U.S. and Russian interests if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is toppled, the BBC commented on 1 October. VY

...AS RUSSIAN COMPANIES LOBBY FOR OIL EXPORTS TO U.S.
At the forum, Russia will present proposals regarding the supply of Russian oil to U.S. markets, strana.ru reported on 1 October. One proposal drafted by LUKoil is known by the name "northern supplies" and includes the construction of a modern supertanker terminal in Murmansk. From there, oil would be transported via Arctic routes to the United States. The plan also calls for the exploitation of a new oil terminal in the Leningrad Oblast town of Vysotsk, which is being built by LUKoil. A second proposal is being lobbied by Yukos and envisages using the existing Druzhba-Adria continental oil pipeline and -- following reconstruction -- the Croatian port of Omishal as an oil terminal. Yukos already sent three oil tanker loads of oil to the United States this year. Russian oilmen realize that because of high transportation costs, Russian supplies to the United States will only make economic sense during periods of high world oil prices. However, they believe that political considerations could make the possibility more realistic, strana.ru commented. VY

OIL-EXPORT DUTIES HIKED...
The State Customs Committee increased oil-export duties on 1 October in accordance with a government order issued in September, ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Duties were raised from $21.90 to $29.20 per ton and will apply to all exports to countries outside Russia's customs union with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. RC

...BUT INCREASES ON AUTOMOBILE-IMPORT DUTIES POSTPONED
The State Customs Committee has postponed until 4 October the implementation of increases on duties for imported automobiles that were due to take effect on 1 October, izvestia.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. The new duties will apply to foreign-made automobiles more than seven years old. The delay was explained by the fact that the government decree ordering the increases was officially printed in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 3 September and can only be enforced one month after its publication. According to RBK, a number of Russian automobile importers, particularly in the Far East, intend to file suit against the hikes. RC

SOME DETAILS EMERGE IN LUKOIL KIDNAPPING
LUKoil First Vice President Sergei Kukura, who was kidnapped near Moscow on 12 September and released on 25 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 26 September 2002), was kidnapped by a criminal group that specializes in abducting businessmen for ransom, the head of the Interior Ministry's Organized Crime Department, Aleksandr Ovchinnikov, told journalists on 1 October, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Ovchinnikov said the alleged leader of the group and two other men are now wanted by Interpol. Ovchinnikov also said that no ransom was paid, despite earlier media reports that the company paid $3 million and 3 million euros. Ovchinnikov said that this amount was demanded, but that the kidnappers apparently felt the police were closing in on them and so released their hostage, strana.ru reported. "Izvestiya," citing the results of its own investigation and interviews with unidentified law enforcement officials, alleged on 1 October that Kukura was kidnapped by members of the Moscow Oblast police and that most of the time he was held in a village in Belarus. RC

IS MOSCOW MAYOR USING DZERZHINSKII AS A POLITICAL TOOL?
Yurii Luzhkov reiterated his desire to see the downtown Moscow monument to Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii restored and called for a citywide referendum on the issue, izvestia.ru reported on 29 September. Luzhkov's proposal was endorsed by Moscow City Duma Speaker Vladimir Platonov, who said he believes the majority of Muscovites support the restoration. In addition, the idea of a referendum was supported by Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov, who has opposed restoring the monument and who believes city residents support his position. He said that SPS has collected 110,000 signatures opposing restoration of the statue. According to Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Endowment, Luzhkov is using Dzerzhinskii as a political tool in his confrontation with the right wing of the Russian political establishment -- particularly, Unified Energy Systems chief Anatolii Chubais and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. By raising the symbol of Dzerzhinskii, Luzhkov hopes to mobilize the political left, Ryabov said, according izvestia.ru. VY

POLICE SAY TULA OBLAST EXPLOSION WAS NOT A TERRORIST ACT
An explosive in a booby-trapped wallet that killed a man and injured his son in the Tula Oblast town of Aleksin on 29 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002) was not a terrorist act, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 October, citing a police spokesman. The wallet was discovered by the driver of a private mini-bus taxi and exploded when he opened it. Police said that the driver, Vladimir Ganin, was the likely target of the attack and that the motive was competition among private taxi drivers. A local Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman said that there is no connection between the explosion and the fact that a suspect in the 9 May terrorist bombing in Kaspiisk was arrested in Aleksin recently. RC

MOSCOW EXPECTS KRASNOYARSK COURT DECISION TO BE OVERTURNED...
Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin, who was initially declared the winner of the 22 September gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai, filed a legal appeal with a krai-level court on 30 September challenging the local election commission's decision the previous day to annul the election results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002), ITAR-TASS reported. "Kommersant-Daily" commented on 1 October that the only question now is who will manage to cancel the krai commission's decision first -- the krai court or the Central Election Commission (TsIK). According to ntvru.com, the TsIK will consider the issue for five days, while the court is expected to consider Khloponin's appeal on 1 October. TsIK secretary Olga Zastrozhnaya told reporters on 30 September that the law clearly defines all the situations under which it is possible to make such a "radical decision," and the decision of the krai commission "can be or should be overturned by a court or the Central Election Commission." JAC

...AS LOCAL OFFICIALS REMAIN DEFIANT
Meanwhile, the head of the krai election commission, Georgii Kostrykin, told Krasnoyarsk State Television on 30 September that his office has been receiving congratulatory telegrams all day long. Voters in Krasnoyarsk are reportedly thanking him for being "so brave and resolute." Kostrykin, who was reportedly hospitalized earlier for heart problems, said that he now feels "perfectly fine" and is back in charge. JAC

PHOTO FINISH IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD
Less than 1 percent of the total vote separates the two candidates in Nizhnii Novgorod's 29 September mayoral elections, RFE/RL's Nizhnii Novgorod correspondent reported the next day. According to the correspondent, State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov won the most votes in three of the city's districts, while incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev also won in three districts, and the choice "against all candidates" won in two districts with 29.5 percent of the total vote. At one point, when Bulavinov and Lebedev each had about 35 percent, Bulavinov asked a local court to stop the count (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002), but he subsequently withdrew that appeal and the counting resumed. According to Interfax, with all the votes counted, election officials estimated that Bulavinov garnered 35.75 percent of the votes compared with 34.93 percent for Lebedev. Anatolii Kozeradskii, chief federal inspector for Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, said officials have seven days to tally the final results according to the law, but it is possible the name of the next mayor might be announced this week, ntvru.com reported. JAC

IS RUSSIA BEING LEFT BEHIND IN ECONOMIC GLOBALIZATION?
Speaking at a trade forum in Helsinki on 30 September, Sergei Aleksashenko, deputy general director of Interros and former deputy chairman of the Central Bank, observed that Russia is being left on the sidelines in the process of economic globalization, RosBalt reported. Asked how he evaluates the current cohort of members of the national political elite from St. Petersburg, Aleksashenko said that, unfortunately, Russia's political elite has little competence with regard to the most important questions -- such as globalization -- which, he said, are simply not discussed among the elite. JAC

FEDERAL PROSECUTOR TARGETS DEPUTY GOVERNOR IN KUBAN REGION
The Prosecutor-General's Office has filed a request for the dismissal of Krasnodar Krai Deputy Governor Leonid Baklitskii, "Novaya gazeta," no. 71 reported. According to accounts in the central press, Baklitskii has violated a number of laws and presidential decrees and has actively lobbied the commercial interests of third parties. The Prosecutor-General's Office believes that Baklitskii might also be guilty of misappropriating state property and budgetary funds, according to the weekly. JAC

ALMOST THREE YEARS LATER, SUPREME COURT DECLARES SHUTOV ARREST ILLEGAL
The Supreme Court ruled on 30 September that the 1999 arrest of St. Petersburg legislator Yurii Shutov was illegal, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported. Shutov has been in prison since the spring of 1999, when he was arrested on suspicion of organizing a criminal group to commit a series of contract murders. In November 1999, Shutov was freed on bail but immediately arrested again. That arrest triggered condemnation from the presidium of the Council of Judges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November and 17 December 1999). Shutov's lawyer told RFE/RL that the latest decision does not mean that Shutov will be immediately released, but it does provide a basis for stepping up the struggle to free him. JAC

LENINGRAD PROSECUTOR HANDS OVER INVESTIGATION OF MASS GRAVE TO MILITARY COLLEAGUE
The Leningrad Oblast prosecutor's office will not investigate the possible mass grave of Stalin-era terror victims recently discovered near the oblast town of Toksovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2002), Interfax-Northwest reported on 30 September. According to Irina Flige, an official with the human rights group Memorial, the grave -- which might contain as many as 32,000 bodies -- was discovered in the jurisdiction of the department of the prosecutor for the Leningrad Military District. Flige told the agency that she does not rule out the possibility that the military prosecutor will also refuse to undertake an investigation. She recalled a similar case in July 2001 when Memorial found a mass grave in the Kovalevskii District, and the prosecutor's office declined to investigate. The body of poet Nikolai Gumilev is thought to be buried at the Kovalevskii site, and that of philosopher Pavel Florenskii might be buried at Toksovo. JAC

PUTIN YOUTH MOVEMENT TURNS FROM PORNOGRAPHY TO ARMY SERVICE
The pro-Kremlin youth organization Walking Together will hold a rally on 1 October in central Moscow near the building housing the armed forces' General Staff with the aim of encouraging young men to serve in the Russian Army, RosBalt reported on 30 September. The military's fall conscription campaign began on 1 October and, according to ITAR-TASS, 170,280 young men will be enlisted before the end of the year. According to the group's press release, many young men consider serving in the army "stupid" and "dangerous," and an underground industry exists to help them avoid the draft. Walking Together is also engaged in a campaign against what it called the pornographic works of novelists Vladimir Sorokin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002) and Kirill Vorobev. Meanwhile, the SPS organized rallies on 28 September in 40 Russian cities, including Moscow, to call for the acceleration of military reform, ntvru.com reported. JAC

PROMISES, PROMISES
There will be no more large-scale "sweeps" of Chechen villages involving house-to-house searches, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny on 30 September. In the future, only "targeted checks" will be carried out, he added. Kadyrov said an agreement to that effect was reached during his talks in Moscow last week with President Vladimir Putin, who called three months ago for such sweep operations to be ended as soon as possible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). LF

CHECHEN ANTIWAR ACTIVIST DETAINED IN NAZRAN
Lyoma Shakhmurzaev, chairman of the National Unity political coalition, was detained in Nazran on 30 September, chechenpress.com reported. It is not known what, if any, charges have been brought against him. A prominent antiwar campaigner, Shakhmurzaev has expressed his support for Chechen human rights activist Sulumbek Tashtamirov, who has begun an indefinite hunger strike to demand from the Russian government guarantees of immunity for the Chechen president and parliament. Chechen Antiwar Congress Chairman Salambek Maigov has also expressed his support for Tashtamirov, as has former Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, who on 26 September was elected chairman of National Unity's Oversight Committee. LF

ARMENIA REJECTS AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT
Armenian President Robert Kocharian's press secretary Vahe Gabrielian denied on 30 September that during their four-hour talks in Sadarak on 14 August Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev discussed the resumption of rail traffic from Azerbaijan via Nakhichevan to Armenia in return for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from four occupied Azerbaijani raions, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Gabrielian said that possibility has been raised in the past -- most recently at talks in Prague this summer between Armenian and Azerbaijani deputy foreign ministers -- but that Armenia has consistently rejected it. He added that Armenia will consider only a "package," but not a "phased" solution to the conflict. Aliev told the visiting OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen in Baku on 28 September that he proposed such a deal to Kocharian in Sadarak, but Kocharian rejected it outright (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002). LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT HINTS AT RETURN OF SOME AZERBAIJANI TERRITORY
Visiting the Tavush Raion of northeastern Armenia on 28 September, President Kocharian said Armenia might return to Azerbaijan land adjacent to the stretch of the Idjevan-Noemberian highway between the villages of Baghanis and Voskepar once a new road, which is now under construction and will bypass that section of the highway, is completed, according to Armenpress as cited by Groong. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CALLS FOR NEW KARABAKH WAR
On 30 September, the first day of the Azerbaijani parliament's autumn session, opposition deputies criticized what they termed "provocative" statements made by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen in Yerevan last week and demanded that the Azerbaijani leadership eschew further international mediation of the Karabakh conflict, according to the independent television station ANS TV, as cited by Groong. The deputies advocated a new war to restore Azerbaijani control over Karabakh. LF

AZERBAIJANI VILLAGERS APPEAL TO U.S.
Residents of the village of Nardaran near Baku have appealed to the U.S. president and State Department and to the Helsinki Commission to persuade Azerbaijani authorities to release detained village elders and embark on a civilized discussion of the villagers' problems, Turan reported on 30 September. The villagers deny they are motivated by religious extremism. Also on 30 September, a lawyer for Djebrail Alizade, the arrested chairman of the Union of Baku and Baku Villages, told Turan that the Court of Appeals has rejected Alizade's appeal against his three-month prison sentence on charges of participation in mass demonstrations, violation of public order, and resisting officials. Meanwhile, Alizade's son, Nadir, told journalists on 30 September that when he was taken into custody on 21 September he was beaten and forced to sign a statement claiming that village elders fueled the unrest in Nardaran, Turan reported. Nadir Alizade said he disavows that statement. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO KNOW HOW CLASSIFIED DOCUMENT WAS LEAKED...
Eduard Shevardnadze said on 30 September during his traditional Monday radio broadcast that he intends to find out how and by whom parts of a classified document drafted by the National Security Council were made public, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 September 2002). He added that Article 27 of that document, which would provide for holding parliament deputies responsible for actions deemed to pose a threat to Georgian state interests, should be extended to apply to all government officials. LF

...AND LOOKS AHEAD TO RETIREMENT
Speaking on 30 September at his traditional Monday press briefing, Shevardnadze said that he will retire from politics when his second term expires in 2005 and devote himself to writing his memoirs, Caucasus Press reported. On 27 September, "Akhali taoba" quoted Deputy Minister of State Akaki Zoidze as declining to comment on media claims that the State Chancellery has drafted legislation that would permit Shevardnadze to be named prime minister after he steps down as president. LF

GEORGIA NOT TO QUIT CIS 'YET'
Shevardnadze also said at his 30 September press conference that he will not raise at the 7 October CIS summit in Chisinau the possibility of Georgia quitting the CIS, Interfax reported. He said the organization could play "a positive role in overcoming the current difficulties in Georgian-Russian relations." Both Shevardnadze and the Georgian parliament have previously suggested Georgia might withdraw from the CIS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2001 and 27 August 2002). Shevardnadze also admitted that the Georgian Army and Air Force are not strong enough to repel a Russian military attack, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SUMMONS HIS ENVOY FOR ABKHAZIA...
Shevardnadze said on 30 September that he will dismiss Adjar State Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze as his special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict unless Abashidze comes to Tbilisi "soon" to discuss with him "a broad range" of Abkhaz-related issues, Caucasus Press reported. But Djemal Gogitidze, who heads the Georgian parliamentary faction of Abashidze's Revival Union, told journalists the same day that if Shevardnadze wants to talk to Abashidze, he can travel to Batumi to do so there, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...WHO DETAILS HIS MEDIATION SUCCESS
Abashidze, for his part, said in Batumi on 30 September that he intends to brief Shevardnadze "soon" on his talks in Moscow with Russian presidential envoy for Abkhazia Valerii Loshchinin but did not specify where. Abashidze added that he and Loshchinin have made some progress toward a settlement of the conflict by avoiding discussion of Abkhazia's status vis-a-vis the central Georgian government and focusing instead on eliminating the economic blockade of the unrecognized republic. He said he will formally ask Shevardnadze and the Georgian parliament to lift that blockade. Speaking on Adjar State Television on 29 September, Abashidze again called for the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament-in-exile to be dissolved on the grounds that it is not legitimate, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2002). On 30 September, Abashidze said the head of the exile legislature, Tamaz Nadareishvili, is not interested in resolving the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported. LF

ENVOY DENIES GEORGIA ABOUT TO ACQUIRE ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILES FROM UKRAINE
Georgia's Ambassador to Kyiv Grigol Katamadze and an unnamed spokesman for Ukraine's arms-export company Ukrspetseksport told Interfax in separate conversations on 30 September that Georgian Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Djoni Pirtskhalaishvili's 28 September statement that Tbilisi will soon acquire Ukrainian antiaircraft missiles is "premature." Katamadze said no contract to purchase such missiles has been signed but that the possibility might be discussed during an upcoming visit to Tbilisi by Ukrainian Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko. LF

SOUTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST NEW 'ANTICRIME' OPERATION
Georgia might launch a new anticrime operation, this time in districts bordering on the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Shevardnadze told journalists on 30 September. He characterized the crime situation in the region as "very complicated." South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoyty responded the same day that he will not permit any operation by Georgian forces on the territory of his republic but that South Ossetian police are prepared to cooperate with their Georgian counterparts in a crackdown on criminal activity along South Ossetia's borders. Also on 30 September, Georgian parliament Deputy Irakli Gogava predicted armed clashes in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali between supporters of Kokoyty and of former President Lyudvig Chibirov, whom Kokoyty defeated in last year's presidential ballot (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 39, 29 November 2001), Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN POLICE ARREST SUSPECT IN MURDER OF U.S. ENERGY COMPANY DIRECTOR
A Tbilisi district court has remanded for three months' pretrial detention police officer David Mchedlidze, who is suspected of the murder of energy-distribution company AES-TELASI head Niko Lominadze in August, Caucasus Press reported on 30 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2002). FBI agents who participated in the murder investigation reportedly established that Lominadze was killed by a bullet fired from Mchedlidze's gun. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S OMBUDSMAN, SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN DISAGREE OVER DEATH PENALTY
Bolat Baykadamov, whom President Nursultan Nazarbaev recently named as ombudsman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2002), told a conference in Almaty on 30 September on the issue of abolishing capital punishment that "there is no room for capital punishment in a civilized country," Interfax reported. He added that life imprisonment is a more appropriate punishment for serious crimes. But Supreme Court Chairman Kairat Mami called at the same conference for preserving the death penalty as a deterrent, Interfax reported. Sergei Zhalybin, the chairman of the parliamentary committee for legislation and court reform, told Interfax in January that the government in 2001 drafted legislative amendments that provide for the imposition of either the death penalty or life imprisonment for attempts to assassinate the president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2002). But in June a member of the presidential administration said a moratorium will soon be imposed on capital punishment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). LF

HOMELESS KYRGYZ ARRESTED FOR BISHKEK PROTEST
Sixteen young Kyrgyz were arrested in Bishkek on 29 September during a demonstration on the outskirts of the city by some 150 people who demanded that municipal authorities provide them with land on which to build homes, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Police used force to disperse the protest. Ten of the detainees were fined 300 soms (about $6.50) each, and one was sentenced to five days' administrative imprisonment. Thousands of young Kyrgyz move each year to Bishkek in search of employment and are unable to find permanent accommodations. LF

AKSY SHOOTING TRIAL OPENS, ADJOURNS IN KYRGYZSTAN
The trial of two local officials accused of ordering police to open fire on demonstrators in Aksy Raion in southern Kyrgyzstan on 17-18 March opened on 30 September, but the hearing was immediately adjourned after those present in the courtroom began taunting the accused, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. LF

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES TAJIKISTAN OVER CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
In a report released on 30 September, Amnesty International slammed the Tajik legal system for handing down the death penalty after unfair and secret trials. Many people sentenced to death say they were tortured to extract evidence. The relatives of convicted people often do not know whether or when the death sentence has been carried out. The report said that at least 133 people are known to have been convicted and sentenced to death since 1998 and suggested that President Imomali Rakhmonov "may be using the so-called international 'war against terrorism' as a pretext for settling scores" with political opponents. LF

TURKMEN-CHINESE TRADE TURNOVER DOUBLES
In an interview pegged to the 53rd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, that country's ambassador in Ashgabat, Gao Yushen, told turkmenistan.ru on 1 October that bilateral trade between the two countries almost doubled over the past year to reach $52.9 million. He added that the two countries have signed more than 30 intergovernmental agreements and praised in particular bilateral cooperation in the oil-and-gas sector. LF

BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE REJECTS PROBE OF DISAPPEARANCES...
The Council of the Chamber of Representatives on 30 September unanimously rejected a proposal by legislator Valery Frolau to set up a commission to investigate high-profile disappearances in Belarus, Belapan reported. Vasil Khrol, the chairman of the Committee for Housing Policy, Construction, Trade, and Privatization, called Frolau's proposal mere politicking. Barys Bikinin, the chairman of the Committee for National Security, dismissed the motion as an attempt to interfere with executive powers. Frolau argued that the legislature's regulations allow for the formation of such a commission and recalled that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) last week set up a commission to look into disappearances in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2002). JM

...WHILE MINSK COURT REFUSES TO DECLARE MISSING POLITICIAN DEAD
The Minsk City Court has rejected an appeal by the wife of opposition politician Yury Zakharanka aimed at forcing a court decision on the legal status of her missing husband, Belapan reported on 30 September. A district court has suspended a hearing to respond to Volha Zakharanka's request that her husband be declared dead. The courts reasoned that her husband cannot be declared dead because the Prosecutor-General's Office is still investigating his disappearance. "This is an absurd ruling, since under the law, following a certain procedure, a disappeared person may be declared dead three years after his disappearance, irrespective of whether the investigation is over or not," Zakharanka's lawyer, Aleh Volchak, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. "It is evident that [the ruling] was politically motivated. The authorities do not want to admit to the world that Zakharanka is dead." A former interior minister, Yury Zakharanka tried to form an independent union of law enforcement officers before his 1999 disappearance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 1999). JM

U.S. EXPERT PREDICTS UKRAINE'S NATO MEMBERSHIP IN FOUR YEARS
Bruce Jackson, the head of the Washington-based think tank U.S. Committee on NATO, predicted at a meeting with Ukrainian lawmakers in Kyiv on 30 September that Ukraine will be accepted as a member of NATO within four years, AP reported. "The final definition of Europe's security system is going to happen in the next five years. Ukraine is [NATO's] most important 'new relationship.'" AP quoted Jackson as saying. "I'm very optimistic about what we can achieve in Ukraine in the next 42 months." A NATO summit in November is expected to determine whether Ukraine will be invited to start the accession process or remain in the Partnership for Peace program. JM

U.S. OFFICIAL IN UKRAINE TO DISCUSS KOLCHUGA CONCERNS
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones arrived in Ukraine on 1 October to discuss what she said would be "U.S.-Ukrainian relations in the context of the ongoing U.S. policy review toward Ukraine," which was launched on the basis of a tape recording suggesting that President Leonid Kuchma approved the sale of Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq in contravention of a UN embargo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2002), AP reported. Jones was expected to meet with Kuchma and Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko later in the day. JM

ESTONIA PROMISED RAPID NATO ACCESSION TALKS
NATO Deputy Secretary-General Guenter Altenburg met with Estonian Ambassador to NATO Sulev Kannike in Brussels on 30 September to discuss Estonia's fourth annual national plan (ANP) for NATO membership, which was presented a week earlier, BNS reported. Altenburg noted that accession talks with the countries that are considered likely to be invited to join the alliance at the Prague summit in November will proceed rapidly, and NATO is already preparing to take in new members. He said NATO member states will ratify the candidates' membership agreements swiftly so that they can be officially admitted at the next NATO summit in the summer of 2004. SG

LATVIAN INTERIOR MINISTER DISMISSED
Prime Minister Andris Berzins dismissed Mareks Seglins after an hour-long meeting on 30 September, Baltic agencies reported. The action was likely related to parliamentary elections to be held on 5 October. Earlier the same day, the Organized Crime and Anticorruption Bureau detained two staff members of the Riga office of Latvia's Way on suspicion of disseminating false information about People's Party candidates for parliament. Latvia's Way Chairman Berzins charged that People's Party member Seglins had used "facts that have not been established...to undermine the reputation of Latvia's Way for political purposes." Seglins countered by saying that Berzins acted hastily in firing him without waiting for evidence that could be unfavorable for Latvia's Way. Seglins explained that his ministry had reported the detention of the Latvia's Way members "so that the community would know for whom to vote." Berzins has appointed Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis of the For the Fatherland and Freedom party (LNNK) as acting interior minister. SG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE JUDGES CONFERENCE OPENS IN VILNIUS
Justice Minister Vytautas Markevicius opened a three-day conference entitled "Professional Improvement of Judges and Prosecutors" for representatives of Council of Europe member countries on 30 September in Vilnius, ELTA reported. This is the first of a planned series of five conferences organized by the Council of Europe to improve training for judges and prosecutors. Markevicius said that too little attention has been devoted to improving the professionalism of judges and prosecutors. The ultimate cost of not investing properly in legal training for lawyers working for the state has been demonstrated by the rulings against Lithuania by the European Court of Human Rights. Markevicius stressed that society would trust law enforcement structures more if it received enough information about them. Markevicius cited as progress the passage of new Civil, Civil Procedural, Criminal, and Criminal Procedural codes and improved relations between the executive and judicial branches in Lithuania. SG

TRIAL REOPENS IN POLAND'S LARGEST EMBEZZLEMENT CASE
Six defendants went on trial on 30 September for a second time on charges of embezzling 357 million zlotys ($85 million) from the Foreign Debt Servicing Fund (FOZZ) in 1989-1990, the chaotic initial period of Poland's transition from communism to capitalism, Polish media reported. FOZZ was established by the communist regime in 1985 and was in charge of buying back Poland's foreign debt on the free market through various intermediary companies. Former FOZZ head Grzegorz Zemek, his deputy head Janina Chim, and four businessmen, who have all pled not guilty, face 10 years in prison if convicted. Polish media tend to believe, however, that no verdict in this largest embezzlement case in the country's history will be reached before 2005, when most charges will be dropped under the statute of limitations. Some circles in Poland hold that Prime Minister Leszek Miller deliberately delayed the proceedings in October 2001, when he appointed Judge Barbara Piwnik, then presiding over the FOZZ case, to the post of justice minister. This resulted in a yearlong delay in the case. JM

CZECH OFFICIAL WELCOMES REPORT ON BENES DECREES
Pavel Telicka, who is chief Czech negotiator with the EU, welcomed on 30 September the conclusions of a report on the Benes Decrees submitted on 30 September to the European Parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002), CTK and Reuters reported. Telicka was quoted by Reuters as saying he hopes that those who "felt the need for an independent analysis" will take the report "seriously and that this will help calm the situation." Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner told journalists that Austria intends to continue talks with the Czech Republic on the Benes Decrees and that the report's conclusions will be taken into consideration during those talks. She said the report, authored by German legal expert Jochen Frowein, deals only with the legal aspects of the decrees, "but it is also necessary to take into consideration political and moral aspects," according to CTK. Far-right Austrian Freedom Party Chairman Mathias Reichhold, cited by Reuters, said in a statement that "expropriation, murder, and expulsion cannot be compatible with EU values." MS

CZECH AMBASSADOR AND REPUTED MILITARY-INTELLIGENCE OFFICER RELIEVED OF DUTIES
President Vaclav Havel on 30 September relieved Czech Ambassador to Kazakhstan Miroslav Andr of his duties following a recommendation by the government, CTK and dpa reported. Andr came under scrutiny during an investigation into the activities of former Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Karel Srba, with whom defense and intelligence sources in the Czech Republic and Kazakh media have suggested Andr cooperated as a military-intelligence officer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 September 2002). Andr has vehemently denied allegations that he is a spy and told CTK on 30 September that he will request an explanation from Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, since he has been "a good ambassador." Srba is in detention on suspicion of corruption and of plotting to kill a Czech journalist. MS

SLOVAK CENTER-RIGHT MOVES CLOSER TO FORMING GOVERNMENT
The four center-right parties negotiating to form Slovakia's next coalition government said on 30 September that they have reached an agreement on the structure of the future cabinet, TASR and Reuters reported. But Premier-designate Mikulas Dzurinda said no agreement has been reached on the government's program, which he called a more important issue. The agreement on the cabinet's structure envisages Dzurinda's own Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) controlling the portfolios of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Defense, Labor, Social Affairs and Family, and Transportation and Telecommunications. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) is to have the only deputy premiership in the cabinet, together with the ministries of Agriculture, Environment, and Construction and Regional Development. The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) would head the Education, Justice, and Interior ministries, while the Alliance for New Citizens (ANO) would be in charge of the Health, Culture, and Economy portfolios. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan is expected to retain his post, while Ivan Miklos, currently a deputy premier in charge of economic reforms, is expected to take over as finance minister, according to Reuters. Dzurinda refused, however, to disclose the names of likely ministers, saying the agreement is not yet final. MS

SLOVAKIA'S HZDS DENIES THAT CHAIRMAN IS UNDER PRESSURE TO RESIGN
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Secretary-General Eva Antosova denied on 30 September that former Prime Minister and current HZDS Chairman Vladimir Meciar is under pressure to resign, TASR and CTK reported. Antosova said that, contrary to media reports, no regional HZDS branches have submitted a written demand that an extraordinary HZDS congress be called to discuss Meciar's dismissal as party chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002). She added that Meciar is not opposed to a special congress but that regional leaders are, CTK reported. Also on 30 September, the HZDS leadership selected Antosova and parliamentary deputy Viliam Veteska as the party's candidates for deputy speaker in the newly elected parliament. Former Interior Minister Gustav Krajci resigned as chairman of the HZDS Kosice regional branch, according to CTK. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS THE DEFICIT MUST BE KEPT IN CHECK...
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 30 September told a conference of the Employers and Industrialists Federation that the budget deficit for 2003 should not exceed 4.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product, "Vilaggazdasag" reported. Medgyessy warned that only relatively small tax cuts are possible next year. At the same time, he said, the government is working on measures to stimulate capital markets and attract more investment. He said a government can only carry out two major reforms during a four-year term, adding that his cabinet plans to reform health care and local-government financing. Medgyessy also asserted a need for improved employee training, saying foreign investors will otherwise start moving elsewhere. MSZ

...AS HE PROMISES MORE MONEY FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Addressing a gathering of mayors on 30 September, Medgyessy said local revenues are expected to increase, and the state will fully finance those obligations that have been transferred to local authorities, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Medgyessy promised to support "depoliticized and decentralized local authorities" and envisaged changes to what he called "the untenable situation" in which local budgets are not sufficiently financed by the central government. He also promised to place great emphasis on reducing regional differences. MSZ

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LAUNCHES NEW ATTACK ON GOVERNMENT
"The hide and seek" is over and the "prestidigitation has come to an end," FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Janos Ader said at a public meeting of his party's deputies on 30 September, openly lambasting the government. He alleged that the Socialists and Free Democrats promised tax cuts in their election campaign but have not fulfilled that promise. Ader pointed out that the anticipated average monthly salary of 125,000 forints ($500) in 2003 will be in the highest income-tax bracket of 40 percent. Ader warned that real wages could drop by 2 percent in 2003, leading to a decline in the purchasing power of pensions. He also objected to the increase in the price of excise stamps, Budapest dailies reported. MSZ

FIDESZ DEPUTY LEADS INQUIRY INTO MISSING HUNGARIAN INTELLIGENCE FILE
Parliament's National Security Committee on 30 September heard testimony from four people in an effort to determine what happened to the missing file on Free Democrat Gabor Szalay, a state secretary at the Economy Ministry who admitted that he collaborated with communist-era counterintelligence from 1978-88, Hungarian media reported. The committee heard from Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze, who was interior minister in 1995 when the file on Szalay reportedly disappeared, among others. Committee Chairman Laszlo Kover of FIDESZ claimed at the hearing that the Free Democrats' "intellectual entourage" got its hands on the ministry's records office during Kuncze's tenure as interior minister. Kuncze rejected what he called Kover's "paranoid mentality" and claimed he was not aware of any file on Szalay at the ministry's records office. MSZ

ANNOUNCEMENT ON HUNGARIAN PARTY'S NAME CHANGE BADLY TIMED
Commenting on Socialist Party (MSZP) Chairman Laszlo Kovacs's recent statement suggesting the party will change its name to the Hungarian Social Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002), several unidentified party officials were quoted by "Magyar Hirlap" as saying that the timing of the announcement was unfortunate, coming in the middle of local election campaigns. Backing away from his original statement, Kovacs told the daily on 30 September that the MSZP will not change its name to that of an existing party, and any name change will have to be decided by a party conference. Kovacs said the topic is very important, but he admitted it was "not absolutely necessary" to discuss a name change three weeks before local elections. MSZ

CROATIAN PRESIDENT TESTIFIES AGAINST MILOSEVIC...
Stipe Mesic on 1 October began his testimony in The Hague regarding the policies of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic toward Croatia and other former Yugoslav republics, RFE/RL reported. Echoing statements he has made previously in the media, Mesic argued that Milosevic sought from the outset to create a greater Serbia through force. When Milosevic forced the breakup of the Yugoslav federation in 1991, Mesic was Croatia's representative on the joint Presidency. Milosevic and his allies prevented Mesic from assuming the rotating chair, prompting Croatia and Slovenia to conclude that the federation had ceased to function. Mesic is one of the highest-ranking people to testify against Milosevic in The Hague, another being Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova. PM

...SAYING THE FORMER YUGOSLAV LEADER PLANNED A GREATER SERBIA
Speaking in The Hague on 1 October, Mesic recalled, according to RFE/RL: "Milosevic said [in 1991]: 'Let Slovenia leave [Yugoslavia], along with Croatia.' We know why he said that: because there were no indigenous Serbs in Slovenia. He said, 'Let Croatia also leave Yugoslavia, but not those Serbs who want to remain in Croatia.' The territory on which the Serbs live was, according to him, to remain in Yugoslavia. So Croatia could leave, the Croats could leave, but without the territory inhabited by Serbs." Mesic then noted that "the [Yugoslav] army came in [to Croatia] after acts of provocation had been committed. The army [occupied] territory, and it was quite clear that official Serbia was paying those [local Serbian rebels who rose against the Zagreb authorities.]...[This was clear] because you could not imagine a terrorist group getting hold of tanks, getting hold of weapons that only the army had," but which local Serb rebels also acquired. Mesic concluded that, "They were acting together -- the army, Serbia, and the so-called [rebel] Krajina -- which were to...establish the new borders of a greater Serbia." PM

EU CALLS ON CROATIA TO COOPERATE WITH THE HAGUE
Meeting in Brussels on 30 September, the EU foreign ministers said in a statement that Croatia must cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague if it wants to move closer to the EU, Hina reported. The warning came in response to a refusal by the government to extradite former General Janko Bobetko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2002). PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SAYS SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE VINDICATES HIM
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 30 September that the results of the previous day's presidential vote prove that the electorate shares his cautious attitude toward reform and his resentment of Western "dictates," RFE/RL and AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002). He argued that the "results have shown something that to me is very encouraging, and that is that Serbia does not want to take any shortcuts and [favor] extremes.... It is my deepest conviction that both [reformist] Mr. [Miroljub] Labus and [rightist] Mr. [Vojislav] Seselj are extremists. There is a stereotypical opinion that only Mr. Seselj is an extremist, but so is Mr. Labus for uncritically accepting all demands by international financial institutions, regardless of the social situation in the country and the absence of a democratic legislative framework." PM

KOSOVAR SERBS GIVE SESELJ AN OUTRIGHT MAJORITY
In the 29 September Serbian presidential election, some 57.2 percent of Kosovar Serb voters cast their ballots for hard-line nationalist candidate Vojislav Seselj, "Vesti" reported on 1 October (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). Kostunica took 26 percent of the vote, while Labus got only 4.4 percent. In central Serbia, the breakdown was 33.4 percent for Kostunica, 21.6 percent for Seselj, and 21.4 percent for Labus. In Belgrade, Kostunica won 38.3 percent, Labus took 31.6 percent, and Seselj got 18 percent. In Vojvodina, the breakdown was 38.3 percent for Labus, 26.4 percent for Seselj, and 21.1 percent for Kostunica. Kostunica hopes to win the 13 October runoff vote and then try to bring about new parliamentary elections, even though he will not have the power to order them. He wants a new constitution that will embody his moderate nationalist philosophy and augment his authority. Labus favors a pro-Western reform philosophy but has not explicitly condemned nationalist agendas in Kosova or Bosnia. PM

YUGOSLAV MILITARY PROSECUTORS CHARGE EX-GENERAL WITH SPYING
Military prosecutors filed formal charges in Belgrade on 30 September against former General Momcilo Perisic for allegedly spying for the United States, AP reported. He was arrested in March, and a U.S. diplomat was briefly held during the incident. Perisic has called the charges politically motivated. The case is widely regarded as part of the feud between Kostunica, who is not friendly toward the United States, and pro-Western Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. PM

MONTENEGRIN JOURNALISTS RESIST POLITICAL MANIPULATION
The Association of Professional Journalists (UPN) issued a statement in Podgorica slamming the recent changes in top management of state-run media as politically motivated, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 29 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 September 2002). Elsewhere, the Independent Union of Journalists of Montenegro (NSNCG) called on journalists to be critical in their coverage of politicians in the run-up to the 20 October parliamentary elections. The union appealed to journalists not to simply repeat what politicians say. PM

PREVLAKA SOLUTION IN SIGHT?
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica that Yugoslav, Montenegrin, and Croatian authorities are conducting intense negotiations to resolve the dispute over the Prevlaka Peninsula, Beta news agency reported on 1 October. He added that a solution is in sight but did not elaborate. Prevlaka is Croatian territory but controls access to Kotor Bay, the site of Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base. The peninsula is currently demilitarized, and UN monitors are deployed. PM

MACEDONIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST VIOLENCE
Several hundred journalists staged a protest in front of the Macedonian Interior Ministry on 30 September, Makfax news agency reported. The protesters demanded an end to violence against journalists, recalling that over the past three years there have been more than 40 attacks on journalists. A protest letter to the Interior Ministry argued that "the authorities...did nothing to track down the perpetrators. They also did nothing to prevent the wrongdoers from resorting to their twisted methods of keeping the public and journalists silent." The protest follows the recent assault on Zoran Bozinovski, a journalist from the private local Radio Tumba in Kumanovo, who was severely beaten by a group of masked men armed with iron bars on 26 September. Bozinovski later accused a member of the special police unit known as the Lions of having been among the perpetrators. Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski assured the journalists that an investigation is under way. The Lions are widely regarded as an arm of Boskovski's Internal Macedonian Revolution Organization (VMRO-DPNME). UB

MACEDONIAN CENSUS BEGINS
The long-overdue census is scheduled to start on 1 October, beginning with soldiers and inmates of correctional facilities, "Dnevnik" reported. The census for the rest of the population will begin on 1 November, State Census Commission spokeswoman Tatjana Mitevska noted. The survey will be carried out by some 9,000 census-takers. Forms will be available in the Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Vlach, and Romany languages (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 April 2001, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2002). UB

BOSNIAN JOINT BORDER SERVICE TAKES CONTROL OF ANOTHER REGION
The joint border service took control of an additional 105 kilometers of the border with Croatia in the Bosansko Grahovo and Bihac area, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 1 October. The joint service now controls about 1,500 kilometers of Bosnia's frontiers, which were formerly controlled by the authorities of the two entities. PM

UN POLICE SACK BOSNIAN SERB POLICE OFFICER
UN spokeswoman Kirsten Haupt said in Sarajevo on 1 October that UN police have fired Jovan Oklobdzija from Sanski Most for having taken part in crimes against Muslim civilians during the 1992-95 conflict, AP reported. An investigation into the charges is under way. PM

TRIBUNAL MAKES CHARGES AGAINST BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL PUBLIC
The war crimes tribunal on 30 September made public an indictment against former Bosnian Serb commander Ljubomir Borovcanin in conjunction with his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Reuters reported. The tribunal indicted him in secret on 6 September and began negotiations for his voluntary surrender. Shortly before he was expected to turn himself in, however, he "disappeared," the news agency added. During the Srebrenica campaign, Borovcanin was a subordinate of General Radislav Krstic, who was sentenced to 46 years in prison in 2001 for his role in the massacre. PM

ALBANIAN BANKING BOSS ARRESTED
Police arrested Bank of Albania Deputy Governor Dhame Pite following the issuing of a warrant by state prosecutors, dpa reported from Tirana on 1 October. He is charged with pocketing $600,000 in conjunction with a tender for printing new banknotes. Pite is the highest-ranking official to be charged with corruption since the Socialists came to office in 1997, the news agency added. PM

PRESIDENT SAYS ROMANIA WILL 'ADAPT' TO EU RECOMMENDATIONS ON ICC
President Ion Iliescu said on 30 September that his country will find a way to "adapt itself" to the guidelines for EU members approved the same day by the European Commission concerning the contentious International Criminal Court, Mediafax reported. Under the European Commission's compromise recommendation, which is aimed at overcoming U.S. objections, EU members and candidates may sign separate accords with the United States provided the accords are limited to covering U.S. troops and diplomatic staff, and any U.S. citizen accused of grave crimes will be prosecuted by U.S. authorities. The recommendation also says EU nationals are not to benefit from any reciprocal immunity, AFP reported. That agency also cited Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, representing the EU presidency, as saying: "It is up to Romania to see whether they want to revise their answer to the United States after this." MS

ROMANIAN LEADER WARNS AGAINST DANGER OF EXTREMISM SPREADING IN CENTRAL EUROPE
President Iliescu also warned on 30 September against the danger of "the rebirth of aggressive nationalism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, intolerance, and extremism" in Central Europe, Mediafax reported. Addressing a student forum in Bucharest, the president said that "to minimize the dangers posed by these phenomena would be mistaken, as would be attributing them only to electoral causes." He said extremism is "giving vent to a deeply imbedded social evil, unhealed wounds, and identity insecurity," adding that only "concerted action" across Europe can sufficiently counter extremism. Iliescu said that those whose priorities are "national or regional egoism" must not be allowed to take advantage of democratic freedoms. MS

BRASOV WORKERS DEMONSTRATE IN CENTRAL ROMANIA
More than 6,000 workers on 30 September blocked a major highway linking Brasov with Bucharest to protest the planned privatization of the Roman truck plant in Brasov, AP reported. The workers fear layoffs and demand guarantees for job security or severance pay equal to 50 months' pay. The workers dispersed after receiving promises that a government minister will come to Brasov to resume negotiations with them. Talks were held in Bucharest last week, but the plant's management and unions failed to reach agreement. Romanian Radio said on 1 October that the unions at Roman and representatives of the Finance Ministry are to work out a plan for the plant's restructuring, which is to be discussed later this week with Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu. A similar protest was held on 30 September by 5,000 workers at tractor maker Tractorul's plant, also in Brasov. MS

SWITZERLAND TURNS DOWN ROMANIAN ASYLUM REQUESTS
Swiss authorities have so far rejected 46 requests for asylum from Romanians who entered the country via France, Romanian Radio reported on 1 October. Some 600 Romanian citizens, mostly Roma, have entered Swiss territory since the beginning of August, when French and Romanian authorities reached agreement on the deportation to Romania of illegal immigrants and individuals suspected of breaking the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). Swiss authorities also intend to deport those who were denied asylum, and a Romanian delegation of experts from the Interior and Foreign ministries is currently in Bern discussing with Swiss authorities joint measures to facilitate the speedy expulsion of the illegal immigrants. MS

TRANSDNIESTER DELEGATION A NO-SHOW FOR PLANNED TALKS
A new round of negotiations on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) proposal for resolving the Transdniestrian conflict, scheduled for 30 September in Tiraspol, failed to take place when the Transdniester delegation did not show up, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Moldovan delegation and representatives of the three mediators -- the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine -- nonetheless scheduled a new round of negotiations at the OSCE mission in Chisinau on 1 October. Moldovan delegation chief Vasile Sturza said the separatists' failure to turn up for the negotiations is "unacceptable," adding that it is high time the mediators adopt a tougher position toward Tiraspol. Earlier, Romanian Radio cited Sturza as saying the separatists are returning to a previous demand that Moldova be a confederation of two equal states recognized by international law, rather than a federation, as proposed by the OSCE. MS

MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL SAYS PACE RESOLUTION WILL BE IMPLEMENTED
Andrei Neguta, chairman of the Moldovan parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission, said on 30 September that the government will implement in its entirety a sweeping resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on civil liberties and institutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002), RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Neguta said parliament will amend the legislation on Teleradio Moldova and enact new legislation to ensure local-administration autonomy. He said the PACE resolution is "neither a victory for the government nor one for the opposition, but a victory for Moldova's citizens." MS

RENEWED CONFUSION OVER MISSILE DESTRUCTION IN BULGARIA
The Defense and Environment ministries issued conflicting statements over the possibility of conducting a safety test for the incineration of Frog missile engines, mediapool.bg reported on 30 September. While the Defense Ministry stated that the experimental incineration of one missile engine is to take place on 1 October, the Environment Ministry said it has not yet given the green light for such a test. Similar rifts between the same ministries have delayed the scrapping of Bulgaria's stockpile of SS-23, Frog, and Scud missiles for much of the summer (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2002). UB

BULGARIA SEEKS INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION AS 'FUNCTIONING MARKET ECONOMY'
Speaking on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington on 30 September, Bulgarian Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev said he will ask representatives of the U.S. Commerce Department to recognize Bulgaria as a "functioning market economy," BTA reported. Vasilev said such recognition could help promote bilateral business, but he added that he does not expect direct material benefit from it. Meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen in Brussels the same day, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi also raised the issue. "If Bulgaria's economy receives such a mark, it will really open toward Europe and the world," Pasi said. UB

IS RUSSIA HELL-BENT ON WAR 'TO THE LAST CHECHEN'?
Two years after Russia sent troops into Chechnya in December 1994 in a bid to thwart President Djokhar Dudaev's drive to create an independent Chechen state, Dudaev was dead and the last of those Russian troops were preparing to leave the republic, having been routed by Chechen forces that triumphantly recaptured Grozny in August 1996. Less than one month after that, Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov had signed a cease-fire and a further agreement that gave both parties a period of five years (until 31 December 2001) to reach consensus on the status of Chechnya within -- and vis-a-vis -- the Russian Federation.

In January 1997, Maskhadov was elected Chechen president in elections acknowledged as legitimate by both Moscow and the international community. In May 1997, Maskhadov and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a "Treaty on Peace and the Principles of Mutual Relations Between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic Ichkeria" under which they abjured the use of force against one another and agreed to structure bilateral relations "in accordance with the generally accepted principles and norms of international law."

By contrast, three years after Russian troops entered Chechnya on 1 October 1999, the two conflicting sides are bogged down in what Russian President Vladimir Putin describes as an operation to neutralize scattered and ineffective bands of "terrorists," but in which the primary victims are the civilian population. Between 60,000-80,000 civilians have died in Chechnya over the past three years. The Russian military high command and some Russian civilian politicians are adamant that there can be no repeat of the Lebed-Maskhadov Khasavyurt accord, which they consider both a humiliation and a major strategic blunder in that it precluded hunting down and destroying the remaining Chechen forces.

True, Putin has advocated cutting the number of federal troops in Chechnya from its present level -- estimated at around 80,000, of whom some half are believed to be Defense Ministry forces -- in order to upgrade the role of the Chechen Interior Ministry in neutralizing the remaining Chechen fighters. But Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov indicated on 22 September that he considers it unlikely that the present troop level in Chechnya will be substantially reduced in the next two years. Such pronouncements substantiate the impression that Russia is in Chechnya for the long haul -- until, as one observer grimly put it -- it has succeeded in slaughtering the last Chechen.

Although support among the Russian public for the "antiterrorism" campaign in Chechnya has fallen dramatically, neither the civilian nor the military leadership shows any sign of feeling pressure, whether domestic or from the international community, to end the war. One respected British military observer estimates Russian military losses at around 30 soldiers per month. And many senior Russian military officers only stand to benefit from a continuation of hostilities, either in terms of promotions or through their involvement in the clandestine theft and export of Chechen oil. At a lower level, the Russian rank and file continues to plunder Chechen homes and seize civilians for ransom, in defiance of orders by successive Russian troop commanders to avoid any such human rights violations during "sweep" operations to locate and apprehend Chechen fighters.

Putin, for his part, rejects any criticism of the military's tactics. But at the same time, the Russian leadership appears anxious at least to create the impression of caring about the restoration of law and order and about the repatriation of the estimated 170,000-200,000 displaced persons who fled to Ingushetia over the last three years of hostilities.

But even if Moscow wanted to negotiate an end to the fighting in Chechnya, it has, some observers say, maneuvered itself into a situation where it is difficult to do so. Even prior to the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, the Russian leadership consistently ruled out -- at least in its public statements -- negotiations with Maskhadov except on the terms for his surrender, claiming that he neither controls all field commanders nor enjoys the unqualified support of the Chechen population. The single officially sanctioned publicized attempt at starting peace talks -- last November's meeting between Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev and presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev -- reportedly failed to find common ground. The recent closing of ranks between Maskhadov and his radical Islamist former opponents Movladi Udugov and Zelimkhan Yandarbiev only plays into the hands of those Russia factions that consider talks with him anathema. Moreover, Russia's insistence on the need to wipe out the "terrorist threat" on its southern border is too convenient a weapon to use against Georgia as that country prepares its case for NATO membership for Moscow to discard it lightly.

Lebed's successor as Security Council secretary, Ivan Rybkin, who has emerged as the possible leader of an informal "anti-war" party in Russia, has publicly reminded Putin that all wars in history have ended at the negotiating table. Following the downing of two Russian helicopters with a loss of over 120 lives, Maskhadov announced that the current tactics of low-level partisan warfare will soon give way to large-scale military activities. Whether the Chechens are capable of making good on that threat is, however, debatable; and even if they do, it is difficult to predict precisely what losses they would need to inflict to coerce the Russian leadership to embark on new peace talks.

Ironically, from the point of view of preserving Russia's territorial integrity (which was the rationale for the first Chechen war), Maskhadov could prove a more accommodating negotiating partner than some of his would-be rivals. He recently made clear that he no longer insists on independent status for Chechnya: in an interview in "Novye izvestiya" on 24 September, Rybkin claimed that at a conference in Liechtenstein in August, Zakaev read out a 15-point settlement plan, the first point of which is that the Chechen resistance would agree to direct presidential rule for an unspecified "transition period" following the cessation of hostilities. According to chechenpress.com on 25 September, the reasoning behind that apparent major concession is that presidential rule is the only way to guarantee an end to reprisals against the civilian population by federal troops and the military formation loyal to current Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov.

By contrast, former Russian Supreme Soviet Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov's proposal to grant Chechnya an internationally guaranteed special status would be far harder for the Russian leadership to swallow -- or so one would think. But according to Rybkin, while the settlement proposal he drafted together with Zakaev on the basis of agreements formulated in 1997 has encountered fierce opposition from the Kremlin, Khasbulatov's is viewed rather favorably.

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