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Newsline - October 2, 2002


RUSSIA TO CREATE OIL RESERVE TO STABILIZE GLOBAL MARKETS
Speaking at the U.S.-Russian energy forum in Houston, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said on 1 October that Russia has sharply increased oil production this year to 378 million tons, compared to 348 million last year, Russian news agencies reported. Likewise, gas production increased to 588.5 billion cubic meters, up from 581.3 billion in 2001. Yusufov also said that oil production will continue to grow over the next few years to enable Russia to develop a strategic oil reserve. During a visit to the U.S. strategic oil reserve in Freeport, Texas, Yusufov said Russia's reserve will not be created just to meet the country's domestic needs but also to help stabilize international energy markets. TNK head Semen Kukes said that Russia will lobby to have Urals crude -- which is lower in quality than Brent crude -- quoted on the London Oil Stock Exchange soon. Kukes said that Russia could be capable of supplying up to 1.1 million barrels of oil per day to U.S. markets by 2007. VY

LOCAL COURT UPHOLDS KRASNOYARSK ELECTION RESULTS...
A krai-level court in Krasnoyarsk on 1 October overturned the recent decision of the krai's election commission to annul the results of the 22 September gubernatorial election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002), Russian agencies reported. Commenting on that decision, Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that if the krai's election commission does not comply with the court's verdict, then the TsIK will step in, according to Interfax. Speaking to reporters, Veshnyakov compared the situation in the krai to a hostile corporate takeover: "There was an attempt to use the technique of taking over a company while tallying the election results. [Election] observers were used as shareholders to declare the enterprise bankrupt." Veshnyakov also alleged that a large number of the observers were mobilized by the race's apparent loser, Aleksandr Uss, chairman of the Krasnoyarsk Krai legislature. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 October, the krai election commission has 10 days to appeal the court's decision. NTV reported on 2 October that the krai election commission will meet that day and once again annul the election results. "The election commission's position on this matter has not changed," commission Chairman Georgii Kotrykin was quoted as saying. He added that the commission will obey the court's order to complete the vote count but will then proceed to void the ballot. JAC

...BUT THE BATTLE MIGHT NOT BE OVER
In an interview with ORT, Aleksandr Khloponin, who was named the winner of the 22 September ballot, accused "Uss, representatives of Russian Aluminum, and the criminal underworld in Krasnoyarsk" of disregarding the will of the voters. While Moscow-based officials -- including Duma members and government spokesman Aleksei Gorshkov -- hailed news of the local court's decision, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev told reporters in Kemerovo on 1 October that he considers the election commission's decision justified, regions.ru reported. Tuleev commented that events in Krasnoyarsk "show once again that elections in our country have finally transformed from democratic procedures to games without rules." President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with Tuleev the same day. JAC

KREMLIN'S CANDIDATE WINS BY A HAIR IN NIZHNII
The city election commission for Nizhnii Novgorod confirmed on 1 October that State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov (People's Deputy) won the 29 September mayoral elections by a narrow margin -- some 2,200 votes, Interfax reported. Bulavinov received 35.9 percent (138,647 votes) of the total vote, compared with 34.53 percent (136,412) for incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev. Almost 2,000 ballots were declared invalid, while 110,061 voters rejected all candidates. Bulavinov was widely considered to be supported by both the regional and federal authorities. JAC

ELECTION SHENANIGANS CALLED THREAT TO DEMOCRACY
Meanwhile, an article in "Vremya novostei" on 1 October charged that the election scandals in Krasnoyarsk Krai and Nizhnii Novgorod represent the latest attempts to discredit the election process. According to the daily, the two races show that it is not important how people vote but rather what kind of arguments one finds to persuade judges and election commission members. Articles in "Novye izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on the same day made similar arguments. According to the latter daily, "the latest events in Russian politics might logically be followed by the abolition of democratic ways of expressing the people's will." Also on 1 October, the general council of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party called for immediate changes to election legislation so that "a single criterion for conducting elections at all levels is established," Interfax reported. According to the party's council, heads of cities and regions should be elected by at least 50 percent plus one vote of registered voters, and if this does not happen then they would be appointed by the president. The party made similar suggestions in the form of a draft bill discussed earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 February 2002). JAC

COURT THROWS COLD WATER ON ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR'S THIRD-TERM PROSPECTS
A St. Petersburg court that decides matters relating to the City Charter ruled on 1 October that St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev is currently serving his second term of office and is therefore not eligible to run for another term, NTV and other Russian news agencies reported on 2 October. On 1 October, a group of "honored citizens" of St. Petersburg introduced a proposal to the city's Legislative Assembly asking it to amend the charter so as to allow Yakovlev to seek a third term. Yakovlev told NTV that he has "not made any official announcements" about whether he intends to seek a third term and so it is "premature" for him to comment on the court's decision. Yakovlev told RosBalt on 2 October that he "does not intend to challenge the court." He added, however, that the voters are "a more powerful organ" than the courts and that "if they gather together and say, 'You have to run,' I will say 'Yes' and run." RC

MORE DEMOGRAPHIC BAD NEWS
Russia's demographic crisis got worse in the first half of 2002, according to the government's Center for Economic Reforms, mednovosti.ru reported on 2 October. During this period, the country's population decreased by 385,600 to 143.3 million. In the same period, the death rate increased by 5.3 percent to 49,900, including 35,600 deaths from heart and circulatory-system diseases, 4,400 from respiratory ailments, 2,700 from digestive-system illnesses, and 1,300 from alcoholism. The marriage rate during the period fell 4.1 percent, and divorces were up 20.3 percent. The statistics showed that small increases in the birth rate and in migration are not significantly affecting the general demographic decline. VY

QUOTAS ON FOREIGN WORKERS TO COME IN 2003
Russia will introduce quotas for foreign workers, polit.ru and RosBalt reported on 2 October, citing Minister Vladimir Zorin, who oversees the government's nationalities policies. Zorin said that an overall quota of 500,000-700,000 workers will be introduced next year, with the exact number and timing to be determined at a meeting of the government's migration-policy commission on 7 October. Zorin said the commission will create a working group to set sub-quotas for particular regions in cooperation with local authorities. He added that there are an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants currently in Russia, while about 350,000 ethnic Russians legally migrate to the country each year. VY

MVD GENERAL FOUND DEAD
Interior Minister (MVD) Major General Nikolai Nino, who was director of Moscow's TsSKA sports club, was found dead on 1 October in a hotel room in Nizhnii Novgorod, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported on 2 October. According to RosBalt, Nino was scheduled to defend his dissertation at the Interior Ministry's Nizhnii Novgorod Academy on 2 October on the subject of defending Russia's economic security. Prior to his appointment to head TsSKA on 6 June, Nino headed the Interior Ministry's economic-crime department. RosBalt reported that a note was found in Nino's hotel room that read, "It seems that I am incurably ill." There were no signs of violence, and the cause of death has not yet been determined. Local prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation. RC

MINISTRY TO EXAMINE NATIONAL POWER PARTY
Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said that his agency intends to investigate the National Power Party of Russia (NDPR), which the ministry legally registered on 16 September, polit.ru reported on 2 October. Two of the party's three co-chairmen -- former Press Minister Boris Mironov and nationalist newspaper Editor Aleksandr Sevasyanov -- have long-standing reputations as anti-Semites, and the party's registration created a minor stir in the Russian press. The third co-chairman, Stanislav Terekhov, is best-remembered for his active role in the October 1993 attempt to remove then-President Boris Yeltsin. According to "The Moscow Times" on 27 September, the party's website contains numerous openly anti-Semitic documents, including a statement by Mironov that, "We must unite all indigenous peoples in the struggle against yids." Chaika said that the Justice Ministry's probe of the party was initiated following media reports of the co-chairmen's alleged anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements. "The Moscow Times" cited a party official as saying that NDPR has 11,000 members and offices in 70 subjects of the federation. RC

SUSPECT NAMED IN LUKOIL KIDNAPPING CASE PROCLAIMS HIS INNOCENCE
One of the three men named by investigators as suspects in the kidnapping case of LUKoil First Vice President Sergei Kukura appeared in Moscow on 1 October and vehemently denied any involvement, NTV and other Russian news agencies reported. Armenian businessman Gagik Bgdoyan, who along with two Ukrainian citizens was named publicly as a suspect in the case, told NTV that he was in Armenia during the time that Kukura was missing. He said that he will go to prosecutors accompanied by NTV journalists to declare his innocence. He admitted that he knows one of the other suspects named, a man who once worked for Bgdoyan as a driver. RC

COURT RULES SUSPENDED SENTENCE SUFFICIENT FOR CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT MURDER
The Moscow Municipal Court on 1 October upheld an earlier court decision sentencing former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov to a 6 1/2-year suspended sentence for organizing an attempted murder, Radio Mayak reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002). Bykov was found guilty of plotting to kill his former business partner, Pavel Struganov. JAC

ANOTHER SENATOR GETS THE SACK
Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov has recalled his representative to the Federation Council, Yurii Volkov, after less than eight months at his post, Russian agencies reported on 1 October. The press service for the okrug's administration said Volkov was recalled for "being insufficiently active in defending the region's interests," RIA-Novosti reported. Butov added that the okrug "needs someone to lobby more seriously for its interests at the federal level." Volkov is a former KGB administrator and former deputy presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2002). He also previously represented the Komi Republic's president in the upper legislative chamber. His replacement has not yet been named. JAC

LOCAL EFFORTS TO HOLD REFERENDUMS THWARTED AT THE OUTSET...
The Bryansk City Council has refused to register a citizens' initiative group formed to collect signatures calling for the dismissal of Bryansk Oblast Governor Yurii Lodkin, regions.ru reported on 1 October. The group is made up of members of the Independent Public Chamber. Nikolai Barsukov, deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Russia's regional branch and a member of the initiative group, said the council's decision is a clear violation of local law. In addition, lawyers in the office of the Unified Russia party also found the council's decision legally faulty. Meanwhile, in Krasnodar Krai, the krai election commission refused to register another citizens' initiative group that is calling for a national referendum on a series of questions including the buying and selling of agricultural land, Interfax reported on 1 October. The citizens' group included nationally known figures from the Communist Party, such as party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. That party's effort to conduct such a referendum prompted the recent passage of a bill in the Duma prohibiting holding referendums 12 months prior to federal elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 26 September 2002). JAC

...AS COMMUNISTS VOW TO CARRY ON WITH REFERENDUM DRIVE
Despite recently adopted amendments to the law on referendums, the Communist Party will proceed with its drive to hold a national referendum on land sales and other issues, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 1 October. Communist Party Duma faction coordinator Sergei Reshulskii said the government's action provided an excellent pretext for protest and the party will attempt to gather 10 million to 12 million signatures in favor of the referendum. Reshulskii said he believes the protest will be peaceful. VY

DUMA TO CONSIDER ABOLISHING DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME
The Duma is ready to debate a bill that would cancel daylight savings time in Russia and bring the country's 11 time zones into accord with world standard time zones, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 2 October. At present, the country's time zones are one hour ahead of global standards, and this difference increases to two hours during the summer. City legislators from the Siberian city of Tomsk drafted the new bill, arguing that changing the time has a negative impact on people's biological clocks and can damage their health. They also argue that changing the clocks has only a tiny impact on the economy. VY

NEW ETHNIC GROUP DISCOVERED
Radio Rossii reported on 1 October that census-takers working in the Taimyr Autonomous Okrug have discovered a previously unknown ethnic group called the Chalymtsy. There are 130 of the Chalymtsy living in the nearly inaccessible village of Pasechnoe. They know little of their own history and are engaged mostly in hunting and subsistence farming. JAC

EMPTIES LITTER MOSCOW METRO
The Moscow city government's Council of Elders suggested at a city government meeting on 1 October that the consumption of alcohol be banned on the city's metro, Russian agencies reported. According to the council, more than 10,000 tons of trash, the bulk of which is empty beer bottles, was collected on the metro during the past six months. The council was created last year to tap the expertise of the most highly qualified city government workers, according to ntvru.com. JAC

HAS PUTIN CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
RTR will broadcast a film about President Putin on 7 October, his 50th birthday, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 October. Igor Shadkhan, a St. Petersburg-based film director, made the film, which is entitled, "Vladimir Putin: A Conversation in the Evening." Shadkhan said it "was my destiny to meet Vladimir Putin 11 years ago when he had just started work [for the St. Petersburg city administration] in the Smolnyi Palace." He continued, "When working on the new television film, I wondered whether he had changed over the years." JAC

MAYBE THAT'S NOT SUCH A GOOD ANALOGY
According to RIA-Novosti on 1 October, Denmark's ambassador to Russia, Lars Vissing, speaking at the 11th parliamentary conference on the Baltic Sea region, advised Russians to consider U.S. experience with Alaska when thinking about the problem of travel to and from Kaliningrad Oblast after Poland and Lithuania join the European Union. According to Vissing, the idea of visa-free travel for Russian citizens to the EU is a matter for the future. "First of all, much work will have to be done for that possibility to occur," the agency quoted Vissing as saying. He then claimed that Americans who want to visit Alaska receive visas for this from Canada, and the United States does not consider this an infringement of its sovereignty. Vissing did not seem to be aware that U.S. citizens have never needed visas to travel to Canada or Alaska. JAC

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD BLAMES RUSSIA FOR PROLONGING HOSTILITIES
Speaking in Grozny on 1 October, the third anniversary of the beginning of the second Chechen war, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov argued that hostilities would already have ended had the Russian military not fueled the ranks of the Chechen resistance by their brutal behavior toward the civilian population during sweep operations, Interfax reported. The previous day, he had announced a halt to house-to-house searches during such sweeps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002). But in an indication that even if sweeps are ended the war will not end soon, Kadyrov also said on 1 October that the referendum on Chechnya's new draft constitution originally planned for November-December 2002 should not take place before spring 2003, Russian agencies reported. He said it would be ethically wrong to conduct the referendum while people are still being killed. Kadyrov added that it might not be possible to hold elections for a new Chechen leader until two or three years after the referendum. LF

CHECHEN LEADER'S SON UNSCATHED IN ASSASSINATION BID
Ramazan Kadyrov escaped injury when an unidentified man opened fire on his car in the Novogroznenskii District of Gudermes late on 30 September, Russian agencies reported on 1 October. The gunman managed to escape. Ramazan Kadyrov reportedly oversees a concentration camp for Chechen civilians abducted by a paramilitary gang subordinate to his father, according to an article published in "Novaya gazeta" last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2002). LF

GELAEV SAYS HE'S 'FITTER THAN EVER BEFORE'
Russian military spokesmen continued on 1 October to state that the remnants of Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev's band of fighters are surrounded and pinned down by Russian troops close to the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya, according to Russian agencies. Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, said no other group of Chechen fighters has attempted to come to their aid, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian spokesmen also said reports that Gelaev was wounded in last week's fighting in Galashki are unconfirmed. But chechenpress.com on 2 October quoted Gelaev as saying that he is "not far away from Kadyrov's residence" and that far from being wounded, he feels "fitter then ever before." LF

CHECHEN ANTIWAR ACTIVIST RELEASED
Lyoma Shakhmurzaev, chairman of the Chechen antiwar coalition National Unity, who was detained in Nazran on 30 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002), was released later the same day, chechenpress.com reported on 1 October. Shakhmurzaev was warned that National Unity's activities are illegal because the group has not been formally registered. LF

ARMENIA, RUSSIA REAFFIRM COMMITMENT TO MILITARY COOPERATION
Visiting Moscow for the fourth time since April, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian met on 1 October with Russian Army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin, Russian presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Russian and Armenian news agencies reported. Sarkisian and Ivanov signed two bilateral agreements -- one on the joint use of military infrastructure and the second on information exchanges, according to Armenpress, as cited by Groong. Speaking to journalists after the signing ceremony, Ivanov characterized bilateral cooperation as "stable" and "serious," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He said the special Russian-Armenian military contingent based at Gyumri in northern Armenia is supplied with everything it needs and that it plays "a stabilizing role in the military-political situation in the Caucasus." LF

ARMENIA, EU MAP OUT FUTURE COOPERATION
Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian headed an Armenian delegation that attended a meeting in Brussels on 1 October of the Armenia-EU coordinating council, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Agreement was reached on creating "new mechanisms for broader EU engagement and political consultation" with a view toward stepping up "bilateral dialogue." The EU countries collectively are Armenia's largest trading partner, accounting for more than one-third of its total foreign trade. Oskanian also met on 1 October with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten. LF

ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS ELECTION-LAW AMENDMENT
Armenia's Constitutional Court ruled on 1 October that one of the amendments to the election law that were passed in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002) is unconstitutional, Noyan Tapan reported. The amendment would have barred any changes to voter lists less than 48 hours prior to an election, whereas the previous wording had empowered voters to appeal to a court at any time prior to and on the day of elections if they found that their names had been omitted from voter lists and allowed courts to order that any missing names be added. LF

EIGHT OPPOSITION PARTY ACTIVISTS ARRESTED IN AZERBAIJAN
In separate incidents, two secretaries of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) and six members of the Musavat Party were arrested in Baku on 1 October, Turan reported. The two DPA officials have been charged with resisting the police and sentenced to 10 days' administrative detention. It is not known what charges, if any, have been brought against the Musavat party members. On 2 October, police occupied the headquarters of one of the DPA's district offices in Baku, damaging some furniture. Spokesmen for both parties told Turan they believe the reprisals are linked to plans to convene an opposition demonstration in Baku on 5 October. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON STATE LANGUAGE
The Milli Mezhlis passed the law on the state language in its third and final reading on 30 September, Turan reported on 1 October. That law stipulates that all government business and correspondence must be conducted in the Azerbaijani language. That requirement might cause problems for some senior officials -- including Prime Minister Artur Rasizade -- who do not speak Azerbaijani fluently, Turan commented on 3 May when the bill passed its second reading. The new law also requires that new dictionaries be compiled every five years and that no more than one sixth of broadcasting by any television or radio station may be in a language other than Azerbaijani. LF

GEORGIA HALTS RUSSIAN MILITARY CONVOY
On orders from Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, a convoy transporting staff members of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus -- which had been halted on 30 September by Georgian road police in Svimoneti, near Kutaisi -- was allowed on 1 October to proceed to its destination, the 12th Russian military base in Batumi, Russian agencies reported. Georgian military officials claimed the convoy did not have permission from the Defense Ministry to proceed from Tbilisi to Batumi. But in Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Ivanov denied that the convoy had violated agreed procedures, Interfax reported. Ivanov said he is "very pleased" that the standoff was resolved. LF

EU WARNS GEORGIA OVER ABDUCTIONS
The EU may suspend financial aid to Georgia unless that country takes urgent action to secure the release of citizens of EU states abducted for ransom, according to an official EU communique quoted by AFP and ITAR-TASS on 1 October. British banking consultant Peter Shaw was kidnapped in Tbilisi in June, and a German businessman disappeared in Tbilisi shortly afterwards. The communique, which was released following the fourth session of the EU-Georgian Cooperation Commission, also urged both Georgia and Russia to resume efforts to police their common border and to "exercise restraint" in their ongoing dispute over the alleged presence of Chechen militants in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, Reuters reported. LF

U.S. MEDIATOR DISCUSSES ABKHAZ, SOUTH OSSETIAN CONFLICTS WITH GEORGIAN LEADERS
Ambassador Rudolf Perina, who is U.S. envoy for special assignments, met in Tbilisi on 1 October with President Shevardnadze to discuss "new ideas and approaches" to resolving the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts, ITAR-TASS reported. Perina endorsed the draft document "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies Between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" drafted by Dieter Boden, who served from November 1999 until July 2002 as the UN's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict. Perina told journalists that he does not intend to visit the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia at this juncture. He is to meet on 2 October with Boden's successor, Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini. LF

ABKHAZ OFFICIAL CONCERNED AT POSSIBLE COLLAPSE OF MEDIATION EFFORT
Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's adviser Astamur Tania told Caucasus Press on 1 October that he is concerned that relations between President Shevardnadze and Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze, whom Shevardnadze named 11 months ago as his envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, have deteriorated to the point that Shevardnadze no longer trusts Abashidze as a mediator (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002). On 2 October, lenta.ru quoted Abashidze's press service as saying he has left Batumi for an unspecified destination. LF

SOUTH OSSETIA REJECTS GEORGIAN REPORTS OF POLITICAL STANDOFF
Statements by Alliance for a New Georgia parliament faction leader Irakli Gogava that tensions between supporters of South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoyty and those of his predecessor Lyudvig Chibirov could soon escalate into violence are untrue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002), South Ossetia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alan Pliev told Caucasus Press on 1 October. Gogava had urged the Georgian leadership to be ready to exploit the window of opportunity such clashes could open in order to restore control over the breakaway republic. LF

GEORGIAN BORDER-GUARD COMMANDER MULLS RESIGNATION
The funds allocated from the Georgian budget to protect the country's borders are inadequate for that purpose, Lieutenant General Valeri Chkheidze said in an interview published in "Akhali taoba" on 30 September. He said he cannot continue to deceive the Georgian president and people and might resign unless the financial situation improves. Also on 30 September, Interfax quoted the head of the Federal Border Service's North Caucasus Division, Valerii Putov, as saying that several hundred Chechen militants and foreign mercenaries remain in the Pankisi Gorge. President Shevardnadze, for his part, said in his radio broadcast the same day that Pankisi has been totally cleared of Chechen fighters, Reuters reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, SIBERIAN OBLASTS TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
A Russian delegation headed by presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii and including the governors of Novosibirsk, Omsk, and Tomsk oblasts held talks on 30 September with Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev and on 1 October with Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev on expanding bilateral economic cooperation and trade, ITAR-TASS and akipress.org reported. Trade turnover between Kyrgyzstan and the Siberian Federal District currently stands at $36.3 million. The timber and agro-industrial sectors, chemical and petrochemical industries, food processing and machine building were named as the most promising sectors for expanding cooperation. LF

U.S. AID TO KYRGYZSTAN AUGMENTED
Total U.S. financial aid to Kyrgyzstan this year will amount to $92 million, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 30 September, quoting a U.S. Embassy official in Bishkek. The money will be spent on supporting democratic and market reforms, environmental projects, and strengthening security, including the purchase of Mi-8 helicopters for use by Kyrgyzstan's customs service, according to ITAR-TASS on 1 October. LF

TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE REACH GAS-SALES AGREEMENT
During talks in Ashgabat on 1 October, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov and Naftohaz Ukrayiny board Chairman Yurii Boyko reached agreement that in 2003 Ukraine will purchase 36 billion cubic meters of Turkmen natural gas at a price of $44 per thousand cubic meters, Interfax and turkmenistan.ru reported. That price will be paid half in cash and half in goods. The two also discussed expediting construction of a bridge over the Amu-Darya River and other building projects in which Ukrainian specialists are engaged. LF

UNHCR DESIGNATES TURKMEN OPPOSITION FIGURE POLITICAL REFUGEE
The UNHCR has designated Turkmen oppositionist Gulgeldy Annaniyazov a political refugee, Interfax reported on 1 October quoting the UNHCR office in Almaty. Annaniyazov was extradited last month from Moscow to Kazakhstan. He had crossed the Turkmen-Kazakh border secretly and flew from Aqtau to Moscow, where he was detained for having a false passport and sent back to detention in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 September 2002). Human rights organizations have appealed to the Kazakh leadership not to hand him over to the Turkmen authorities on the grounds that he could be subjected to reprisals and imprisonment. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT THREATENS TO FLOOD EUROPE WITH MIGRANTS
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 1 October held a conference devoted to a recent inspection of the Border Troops, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka said the performance of Belarusian border guards is "the best in this region, not to mention the CIS," but added that it is only 50 percent of what he expects of them. Lukashenka threatened that Belarusian border guards will stop catching illegal migrants next year unless European countries reimburse Belarus for its expenses on border control. "The West wants to engage all of our financial and human resources [in combating illegal migration] without proposing anything to compensate Belarus for its expenses," the Belarusian president said. "We should warn our colleagues and partners in the West that if [they fail to start] compensating us for our expenses as of 1 January 2003, we will not be able to fully ensure Europe's security. One must pay for everything." JM

BELARUSIAN VENDORS GO ON STRIKE, REFUSE TO PAY TAXES
Some 150,000 outdoor-market traders throughout the country began an indefinite strike on 1 October to protest tax increases, insurance fees, and regulations they say will destroy small business in Belarus, Belarusian and international news agencies reported, quoting strike committee leader Valery Levaneuski. "The essence of the strike is in [our refusal] to pay taxes. I think no less than half the participants in the strike will not pay taxes," Belapan quoted Levaneuski as saying. The strike committee led by Levaneuski also demands President Lukashenka's ouster. This political demand is not supported by the United Council of Entrepreneurs (ASP), an organization of vendors led by Anatol Shumchanka, which is also participating in the strike. Some 1,500 ASP members from across Belarus held a rally in Minsk the same day, at which they voiced their economic demands. JM

PRO-INDEPENDENCE DEMONSTRATORS IN MINSK JAILED FOR THREE DAYS
A district court in Minsk on 30 September and 1 October sentenced five activists of the Conservative Christian Party (KKhP) to three days in jail each for their participation in an unauthorized rally in Minsk on 29 September to protest Belarus's integration with Russia and what they called "Russia's aggression" against Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002), Belapan reported. Jailhouse accommodation for three days will be provided to KKhP acting Chairman Yuras Belenki, Uladzimir Plotnikau, Zdzislau Ablamski, Valery Buyval, and Kanstantsin Koshel. JM

UNIAN JOURNALISTS COMPLAIN OF POLITICAL PRESSURE, CENSORSHIP...
Journalists of the Kyiv-based independent news agency UNIAN on 1 October posted a statement on the UNIAN website (http://www.unian.net) saying they have been subjected to censorship and have come under "fierce pressure regarding the formation of [our] independent information activity" since the appointment of a new UNIAN executive director, Vasyl Yurychko, a week ago. "We feel that people representing the political interests of the authorities -- in particular, those of the administration of the president of Ukraine -- are interfering with journalistic matters at the agency," the statement reads. The journalists warn that they will go on strike if "the situation does not change and if the authorities continue to grossly interfere with UNIAN's editorial policy." JM

...AFTER INCIDENT INVOLVING OPPOSITION LEADERS
AP reported that the UNIAN journalists' statement appeared after a dispute between Yurychko and three Ukrainian opposition leaders over whether the opposition could hold a news conference at the agency's headquarters. In its regular news issue on the afternoon of 1 October, UNIAN carried a message saying that opposition lawmakers Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko "have begun brutally to pressure" the agency. Quoting UNIAN General Director Oleh Nalyvayko, the agency said Petro Yakobchuk from "Yuliya Tymoshenko's press service" demanded earlier the same day, "in the form of an ultimatum," that the agency provide its premises at 1 p.m. for a news conference featuring Tymoshenko, Moroz, and Symonenko. Nalyvayko reportedly refused, saying it was the first time he faced "such a brazen and gross [example of] pressure on the independent media." JM

UKRAINE PLEDGES TO ASSIST U.S. PROBE OF KOLCHUGA ALLEGATIONS
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Elizabeth Jones in Kyiv on 1 October that he will cooperate with any probe into allegations that Ukraine might have sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq, Reuters reported. Presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska quoted Kuchma as saying he is ready to investigate the Kolchuga charges together with U.S. experts. Kuchma denied that Ukraine sold any weapons to Iraq in contravention of UN sanctions. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said later the same day that Jones in Kyiv "pressed the seriousness" with which Washington views evidence that Kuchma approved the sale of Kolchugas to Iraq. "We will now look at the reports that we get and make our assessment on the next steps," Boucher added. ITAR-TASS reported that Ukrainian Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko promised Jones that Ukraine will show Kolchuga radars to U.S. experts as soon as they arrive in Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS PLAN COUNTRYWIDE PROTEST ON 12 OCTOBER...
Three opposition leaders -- Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko -- announced on 1 October that they will organize another nationwide protest on 12 October to demand President Kuchma's ouster and will stage "people's tribunals" across the country to judge him, AP reported. "The protest action 'Rise Up, Ukraine!' has not yet reached its climax, as was claimed by some pro-presidential political scientists and some media," UNIAN quoted Moroz as saying. JM

...AND WANT TO TALK WITH RUSSIAN PRESIDENT...
The three opposition leaders, as well as Our Ukraine head Viktor Yushchenko, have sent a letter to Russian President Putin asking him to meet with them during his visit to Ukraine on 6 October, UNIAN reported on 1 October. "We asked Putin not to interfere in the domestic affairs of our people, [and] we just informed him about our situation," Symonenko said. The opposition leaders said they want to talk with Putin about a planned Russian-Ukrainian agreement creating a consortium for the transport of Russian natural gas through Ukraine to the rest of Europe. They said they fear that private companies dominated by the Russian gas giant Gazprom will gain control of Ukraine's gas pipelines, AP reported. JM

...WHILE RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TELLS THEM TO MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS
Later on 1 October, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin said he is sure the Ukrainian opposition is unable to block the creation of the gas-transport consortium. "I don't think this is a question for the opposition. Let the opposition take care of its own business," AP quoted Chernomyrdin as saying. JM

RUSSIAN COAL FIRM TO BUILD EXPORT TERMINAL IN ESTONIA
Russia's second-largest coal producer, Kuzbasrazrezugol, signed an agreement on 30 September to build a coal-export terminal at Tallinn's Muuga Port, ETA reported on 2 October. Tallinn Port Marketing Director Erik Sakkov said the contract was secured when the port promised a more rapid construction time -- the initial 120,000-ton facility is to be completed by 1 January 2005 -- than the competing Lithuanian port of Klaipeda. The terminal will create about 100 new jobs and is expected to export 5 million tons of coal a year. Sakkov noted that the agreement will help to reduce the port's dependence on oil shipping, which currently accounts for 65 percent of its turnover. SG

FRENCH PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH DYNAMIC RELATIONS WITH LATVIA
During a meeting with his Latvian counterpart Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Paris on 1 October, Jacques Chirac voiced satisfaction over the dynamic relations between the two countries and welcomed Latvia's expected membership in the EU and NATO, LETA reported. He said that Latvia's requests for higher agricultural quotas from the EU are well-founded and require a concrete response. In talks the previous day with French Minister for European Affairs Noelle Lenoir, Vike-Freiberga stressed the need to continue internal reforms within the EU and the enlargement processes in order to reach the goal of a united Europe. On 2 October, she is scheduled to address the French Senate, a distinction given previously only to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Czech President Vaclav Havel. SG

LITHUANIA AGREES TO SEND SOLDIERS TO AFGHANISTAN
By a vote of 65 to 21 with eight abstentions, parliament approved on 1 October the sending of up to 40 volunteer servicemen to serve in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Peace in Afghanistan for six months, ELTA reported. Many of the soldiers will be from the special Aitvaras (Kite) unit, which has received training from the U.S. Green Berets. In proposing the mission in September, Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said the troops would have a special intelligence mission in Afghanistan. They will help identify possible targets and possible threats in order to ensure the safety of other forces participating in the operation. The cost of the mission will be about 1 million litas ($285,000), which will be covered from the Defense Ministry's budget. SG

POLAND CLOSES REGIONAL-POLICY CHAPTER IN EU TALKS...
Warsaw on 1 October "formally" concluded its 27th chapter, on regional policy, in its EU membership talks with Brussels, Polish media reported. The word "formally" means that both sides agreed on the procedural and institutional aspects of regional policy but have not yet specified how much money Poland will get from EU regional-development funds. Poland still needs to close EU membership talks on competition, agriculture, and budget. JM

...AND SEEKS GRADUAL INTRODUCTION OF EU DUES
Poland's chief EU negotiator Jan Truszczynski said in Brussels on 1 October that Poland will insist on the gradual introduction of full EU membership dues for new members, PAP reported. According to Truszczynski, forcing new EU members to pay full dues from the moment they join the EU without giving them full subsidies for farmers would make Poland the fifth-largest contributor to the EU farm budget (after Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Belgium). Truszczynski said that Polish net payments into the EU farm budget in the first year of membership could be as high as 500 million euros ($493 million). A meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels the previous day failed to agree on a deal allowing all new members to receive more money than they pay into the EU budget. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER NONCOMMITTAL ON APOLOGY FOR BENES DECREES...
Cyril Svoboda said on 1 October after talks in Brussels with European Parliament Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman Elmar Brok that the report submitted this week to the European Parliament on the Benes Decrees deems the Czech Republic "completely legally qualified to be a member of the EU," CTK reported. Svoboda meanwhile refused to say whether Prague might be prepared to express regret over the amnesty granted in the decrees to those involved in crimes against expelled Sudeten Germans. "It is true that Mr. Brok brought up the question of some sort of gesture. We only listened," Svoboda said, according to CTK. Brok said the report shows that there are "no irremovable obstacles" that would hinder Czech accession to the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 1 October 2002). In Vienna, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said the report "brings the solution of the problem one step closer." Meanwhile, European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said on 1 October that no one has asked him to mediate between the Czech Republic and Austria over this issue and that he hopes no one ever will, CTK reported, citing the Austrian news agency APA. MS

...AND MEETS NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL
Svoboda said after meeting in Brussels with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson that preparations for the November summit in Prague are going ahead as planned and that "both of us and NATO headquarters are sure...that there should be no fear when it comes to [the summit's] security," CTK reported. Svoboda said the summit will be "secured from the air, on the ground, everywhere." He also predicted that the summit will decide in favor of a "robust" enlargement of the organization and that the possibility of accepting as many as seven new members has been discussed. Svoboda said he and Robertson also discussed NATO reforms -- envisaging a drop by as much as one-third in the number of the organization's standing committees -- and the reform of the Czech armed forces. He said military reform is still a high priority for his government but that it involves high costs that "should be taken into account" by NATO. MS

CZECH PREMIER CONFIRMS THREE CSSD PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES, FOURTH POSSIBLE
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Czech Radio on 1 September that former Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures, Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, and sociologist Martin Potucek have all confirmed their intentions to seek the nomination of Spidla's Social Democratic Party (CSSD) for the post of Czech president, CTK reported. Spidla said it cannot be ruled out that former Premier Milos Zeman's name will also appear on the ballot by 4 October, when the deadline for entering a 22 October-25 November CSSD primary for the nomination ends. President Havel's term expires in January. MS

CZECH PREMIER DENIES MISMANAGEMENT AS LABOR MINISTER
Premier Spidla on 1 October denied on Czech radio that as labor and social affairs minister in the previous cabinet he presided over mismanagement of public funds, CTK reported. Spidla was reacting to a recent report by the Supreme Audit Office (NKU), which detected shortcomings in the ministry's financial management. "No money was squandered. I adopted a number of measures, and I must say that my approach was praised as very coherent by an NKU representative," he said. The NKU report said a number of luxurious cars purchased by the ministry were sold after just a few years at prices well under their market value and that funds allocated by the ministry to social-care centers did not reflect the purpose for which the spending was earmarked. Spidla said the cars were purchased under the tenure of this predecessor, Jindrich Vodicka (ODS), and were sold because their maintenance was far too costly. He called the allocation of funds to the centers an "administrative mistake." MS

FINAL ESTIMATES OF CZECH FLOOD DAMAGE EMERGE
Prague City Hall spokesman Martin Kupka said on 1 October that the cost of damages caused by the August floods will be around 24 billion crowns ($779 million), well above previous estimates, Reuters reported. Some 11 billion crowns represents damage to city assets, including the subway system, while the rest is personal and commercial losses. Finance Ministry officials said they expect damage costs from regions outside Prague to be around 42 billion crowns, putting the nationwide tally at 66 billion crowns, according to Reuters. But the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 2 October reported total Czech damages of 79.5 billion crowns, based on final estimates from eight affected regions. MS

THIRD CASE OF BSE CONFIRMED IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Czech veterinary authorities on 1 October confirmed a third case of BSE (mad-cow disease) in the Czech Republic, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002). State Veterinary Office Director Josef Holejsovski emphasized that this is only the third case detected by tests on roughly 250,000 animals since the Czech Republic launched its BSE-detection program. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS SLOVAKS TO SAY 'YES' TO EU AHEAD OF OWN COUNTRYMEN
Czech Foreign Minister Svoboda said on 1 October in Brussels that he wants a referendum on EU accession to take place in Slovakia ahead of the plebiscite in his own country, TASR and CTK reported. "If Slovaks say 'yes,' Czechs will also do so," he said. TASR reported that the foreign ministers of candidate countries agreed in Brussels that the first plebiscite is to be held in Malta in February. Hungary should be second, followed by Slovakia and, soon after, the Czech Republic. Referendums on EU accession are to take place in Latvia in August and in Estonia in the fall of 2003, the agency said. MS

SLOVAKIA, CZECH REPUBLIC OPPOSED TO 'ARTIFICIAL ALLOCATION' OF EU MONEY
Following negotiations in Brussels, Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said on 1 October that Slovakia does not want to find itself "in a worse position than one year earlier" after accession to the EU, TASR reported. Kukan joined his Czech counterpart Cyril Svoboda in saying they are against an EU proposal on the budgetary chapter of the acquis communautaire under which, instead of receiving direct compensation from the EU budget, new members would receive higher allocations from current funds that finance specific programs. Kukan called the proposal an "artificial allocation of money." EU Enlargement Commissioner Verheugen said after negotiations with the EU candidates on 1 October that "a compromise is very close" and that the EU will take into consideration the various positions expressed during the negotiations. He said all sides agree that candidate countries must be better off after accession. According to Hungarian media reports, no agreement was reached on 1 October on the chapter on free competition either, as both Hungary and Poland have rejected an EU-proposed compromise on granting tax breaks to foreign companies. MS

SLOVAK COURT TELLS PROSECUTOR TO DEFEND REQUEST TO DETAIN LEXA
The Bratislava Regional Court on 1 October said Prosecutor Michal Serbin must justify his request that former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa be taken into custody again before it will issue a ruling, TASR reported. Lexa was taken into custody in July after being arrested in South Africa on an international warrant, but was subsequently freed on procedural grounds and is being prosecuted while at liberty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). On 30 September, Serbin indicted Lexa on charges of "abuse of authority." Earlier charges against the former SIS chief for organizing the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995 and thwarting a referendum on joining NATO were dropped under the terms of an amnesty by Lexa's former boss, ex-Premier Vladimir Meciar, who briefly wielded presidential powers. MS

SLOVAK TRANSPORTATION MINISTRY OFFICIAL DENIES IRREGULARITIES IN TENDER
Transportation Ministry State Secretary Michal Balog on 1 October told TASR that he did not break any law in connection with a tender for the purchase of engines for Slovak railway operator ZSSK. Balog said he only tended to the "technical side" of the tender at the request of former Transportation Minister Jozef Macejko. On 30 September, Macejko (who was dismissed in the wake of the scandal in June), Balog, ministry office head Peter Klucka, and former Czechoslovak Foreign Trade Minister Jozef Baksay were charged in connection with the deal. Baksay is charged with bribery, and the three other defendants are charged with misusing confidential information to the advantage of the French company Alstom, one of the bidders in the tender. Klucka has been suspended from office during the investigation. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT TO INVESTIGATE TAX OFFICE'S PERFORMANCE UNDER PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT
Parliament on 1 October voted to establish a commission to investigate the activities of the Tax Office (APEH) in 1998-2002, Hungarian media reported. The move was proposed by Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze and fellow parliamentarian Gabor Fodor to determine whether data regarding the tax debts of companies said to be close to the former ruling party FIDESZ were altered while APEH was headed by Lajos Simicska, a former financial adviser to FIDESZ. Opposition deputies abstained from voting. The commission cannot begin its work yet, as opposition parties have not named any representatives to it. MSZ

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER 'NO LONGER INTERESTED IN POLITICAL PARTIES'
Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban told a local forum on 30 September that he does not care about parties but wants to provide programs, "Nepszava" reported. Orban said he is not interested in the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party, the Democratic Forum, the Christian Democrats, nor even FIDESZ as parties -- although he added that he pays membership dues to FIDESZ. Orban's spokesman, Andras Doncsev, said those who like Orban's programs, be they Socialist or Free Democrat voters, can join him. FIDESZ officials told the daily that Orban is a member of the party's leadership and what he says reflects the party's position. MSZ

HUNGARIAN RIGHT TO LAUNCH OWN TELEVISION STATION...
A new television station with a center-right orientation will start broadcasting 17 hours of programming daily via cable in early December, former government spokesman Gabor Borokai told "Nepszabadsag" on 1 October. He said funding for Hir TV (News TV) will be provided by Hungarian hotel- and catering-industry investors, adding that the owner is a Hungarian-born foreigner. The station could reach as many as 1.8 million households, and it will broadcast news every 20 minutes. Its editor in chief is Imre Dlusztus, a former newspaper editor who said he wants "a moderate television station that will remind viewers that the past 12 years have not been in vain." He also said a survey found that 69 percent of Socialist supporters and 71 percent of FIDESZ voters say Hir TV is necessary.

...WHILE PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CHALLENGES FORMER TELEVISION DIRECTOR'S DISMISSAL
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 1 October challenged the appointment of Hungarian Television (MTV) interim President Imre Ragats, arguing that the chairman of the MTV board of trustees should not have accepted the resignation of former MTV President Karoly Mendreczky in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 30 July 2002). The prosecutor's office initiated a lawsuit with the Metropolitan Court to void Mendreczky's resignation and Ragats's appointment as interim president, Hungarian media reported. The move came one day after MTV's board of trustees on 30 September failed to elect a new MTV president. The board has announced that it will invite new bids for the post. MSZ

HUNGARIAN ROMA SET UP COALITION AHEAD OF LOCAL ELECTIONS
Ten Roma groups on 1 October announced the formation of a coalition under the aegis of the Lungo Drom organization ahead of local elections, Hungarian dailies reported. Lungo Drom Chairman Florian Farkas, who is also the head of the National Gypsy Authority and a FIDESZ parliamentary deputy, said the coalition includes more than 90 percent of all Romany candidates and is fielding the largest number of candidates after the governing coalition. MSZ

LEADING BOSNIAN SERB INDICTEE ENTERS 'GUILTY' PLEA
Former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, who was also one of the top Bosnian Serb leaders during the 1992-95 conflict, told a special hearing of the tribunal in The Hague by video linkup to change her "not guilty" plea to "guilty" on one charge of crimes against humanity, AP and Reuters reported on 2 October. The tribunal then dropped all other charges against her. Plavsic surrendered voluntarily in early 2001. She was released to Belgrade nine months later, following the Serbian government's decision to guarantee that she will return to The Hague for trial. She will remain free until her sentencing. Presiding Judge Richard May told her on the video linkup: "Mrs. Plavsic, we are taking a wholly exceptional course in your case, and for reasons of security we shall continue your provisional release." The Serbian and Bosnian press have been speculating for years that she will provide damning evidence against the wartime Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaderships in return for her freedom or a minimal sentence. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT CONFIRMS TUDJMAN-MILOSEVIC DEAL TO SPLIT UP BOSNIA...
Testifying as a prosecution witness in The Hague at the trial of former President Slobodan Milosevic, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that Milosevic and his Croatian colleague, Franjo Tudjman, agreed in Karadjordjevo in March 1991 to divide up Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 1 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002). Mesic said that Tudjman told him after returning from the meeting that Croatia would receive the boundaries agreed to in a 1938 compromise between Zagreb and Belgrade. Croatia would also receive the Cazin, Bihac, and Velika Kladusa districts under the Tudjman-Milosevic deal. Mesic added that the Yugoslav Army decided to support Milosevic's greater Serbia project in 1991 because he agreed to generous funding for the military. Milosevic will cross-examine Mesic on 2 October. He had previously objected to the prosecution's decision to call Mesic, who frequently said he would relish the opportunity to testify against his erstwhile nemesis. The Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote on 2 October that Mesic's testimony confirms that Milosevic wanted war. The Zagreb daily "Jutarnji list," however, slammed Mesic for linking Tudjman to the partition of Bosnia. PM

...AND RECALLS CONVERSATION WITH CROATIAN SERB LEADER
Mesic told the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on 1 October that he told Krajina Serb leader Milan Babic "in the early 1990s" that Milosevic and his ally Borisav Jovic were deceiving Babic when they told him that Belgrade would back autonomy for Krajina, Hina reported. Mesic recalled that Babic, a dentist, "laughed at this and said that he would have a state sooner or later, to which I told him: 'You will have nothing, not even your own practice.'... And this is what happened." PM

SERBIAN ELECTION COMMISSION RELEASES FINAL TALLY
Authorities in Belgrade announced the final figures in the recent Serbian presidential ballot on 1 October, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 1 October 2002). Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica won 1,123,420 votes, or 30.89 percent of all votes cast. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus got 995,200 votes, or 27.36 percent. Third place went to Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, with 845,308 votes and 23.24 percent. A distant fourth was one-time opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, with 159,959 votes and 4.40 percent. No other candidate received more than 4 percent of the votes. In Prishtina, Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said that the strong vote by Kosovar Serbs for Seselj shows their "support for the forces of darkness," Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. PM

DJINDJIC BELITTLES KOSTUNICA'S SHOWING IN SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told Reuters in Belgrade on 1 October that Kostunica is not justified in claiming that his first-place finish is a vindication of his policies. Djindjic argued that Kostunica got the support of only 18 percent of registered voters, which is not enough to prompt the Serbian government to change its policies to fit Kostunica's views. Djindjic said: "A candidate who got 18 percent of the electorate should really not act as if he got an absolute majority to speak about reshaping the political scene." The Serbian prime minister also repeated his opposition to holding early parliamentary elections, which he regards as detrimental to the reform process. PM

WILL THE SECOND ROUND OF SERBIAN VOTING BE VALID?
Kostunica called for a high voter turnout in the second round of presidential voting on 13 October, the BBC's Serbian Service reported on 2 October. Many observers fear that smaller parties might boycott the second round. If less than 50 percent of registered voters cast their ballots, the vote is invalid and must be repeated. In the first round of voting, ethnic Albanian voters in the Presevo Valley area appear to have largely heeded a call by former rebels to boycott the vote, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported on 30 September. Boycott leaders said they want to protest what they called the militarization of the region, Belgrade's failure to keep its promises toward the Albanians, and the absence of any ethnic Albanian candidates in the race. PM

MONTENEGRIN ALBANIANS TO BOYCOTT LOCAL VOTE
Ferhat Dinosha, who heads a coalition of three ethnic Albanian parties, said in Podgorica on 1 October that members of the ethnic Albanian minority will boycott the 20 October local elections in Podgorica, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Dinosha said the Albanians are unhappy because they have no guaranteed representation in the Podgorica city council and did not receive guarantees from the authorities that the community of Tuzi near the Albanian border will have its status as a municipality restored. The Albanians are supporters of President Milo Djukanovic and his governing coalition. Their backing has sometimes been crucial to Djukanovic in the past, because ethnic Montenegrin voters are almost evenly split between his supporters and pro-Belgrade elements. PM

CROATIA CONFIRMS PROGRESS IN PREVLAKA TALKS
Josko Paro, who is assistant foreign minister of Croatia, told RFE/RL in Zagreb that talks on the Prevlaka Peninsula with Belgrade and Podgorica "are nearing the end" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002). He added that progress in reaching a final agreement will depend on the political situation in Montenegro and on the conclusion of a constitutional agreement between Belgrade and Podgorica. PM

CROATIA AND U.S. HOLD JOINT NAVAL EXERCISE
Croatian media reported on 1 October that a four-day exercise called Adriatic Phiblex-2002 has begun on the Adriatic coast. The exercise includes several Croatian warships, an amphibious battalion, Croatian Air Force helicopters, and three U.S. warships. Its purpose is to protect maritime communications and prevent smuggling in the Adriatic islands. The Croatian Navy made it clear that the exercise is not related to the situations in Iraq or Afghanistan. PM

STEINER WANTS TO TAKE CONTROL OF ALL MITROVICA
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian authority in Kosova (UNMIK), outlined a plan in Prishtina on 1 October to integrate the divided city of Mitrovica, AP reported. He told an audience of young Serbs that they have a choice of "stagnation or change." Steiner wants to replace the authority of unauthorized Serbian structures in northern Mitrovica with that of UNMIK. His plan includes measures to prevent a mass influx of Albanians into the northern half of the city. It also calls for administrative decentralization, improved police work, and a donors' conference. Steiner stressed that Serbs must participate in the 26 October local election if the plan is to succeed. PM

MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER PROTESTS TROOP WITHDRAWAL
Outgoing Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski issued a protest note against a recent decision by the General Staff to withdraw troops from the former crisis regions in the north and northwest, "Nova Makedonija" reported on 2 October. The General Staff ordered the troops out because of the improved security situation. The move was also seen as a confidence-building measure toward the ethnic Albanian minority. Georgievski said the army withdrawal was unconstitutional because it was coordinated with neither the Interior Ministry nor the Security Council. He added that he was not informed of the General Staff's decision in advance. "This government will resign within three days, but that does not give the General Staff the right to ignore the constitution and...state institutions as provided by law," Georgievski's statement added. UB

TORRENTIAL RAINS BRING BAD NEWS FOR MACEDONIAN HARVEST
Recent torrential rains have destroyed large parts of Macedonia's tobacco, vegetable, and fruit harvest, "Dnevnik" reported on 2 October. In the country's western regions, the bean harvest suffered losses of up to 40 percent, while in the Prilep region, half of the tobacco harvest has been destroyed. According to Farmers Union Chairman Veljo Tantarov, the apple harvest as well as the sowing of fall wheat have been delayed by the bad weather. Tantarov added that the farmers will seek financial support from the government to compensate them for losses. UB

ROMANIA OFFERS BASES FOR POSSIBLE U.S. STRIKES ON IRAQ
Citing "a senior Foreign Ministry official," Reuters reported on 1 October that Romania has offered its air bases and Black Sea ports to the United States to use in the event of an attack against Iraq. The agency said the offer refers in particular to the Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Black Sea port of Constanta, which can be used by NATO warplanes. Military analyst Cornel Codita told Reuters that the Romanian bases could not alone support an attack against Iraq but could "supplement the existing U.S. strongholds in Turkey and Saudi Arabia." Codita said that ahead of the envisaged NATO enlargement "each [prospective new] member seeks to highlight and take advantage of its own strong points" and that "Romania could be excellent in providing logistics." MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER SALUTES EU COMPROMISE PROPOSAL ON INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 1 October that he welcomes the recent compromise proposal from the EU for settling the dispute with Washington over the International Criminal Court (ICC), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002). Nastase called the proposal "very useful" and said it will allow Romania to "relegate the dispute [with the EU] to history" and regard it as a "road accident." He said the accord with the United States excluding extradition of that country's citizens to the ICC will be amended accordingly. MS

ROMANIA OPENS AGRICULTURE CHAPTER, CLOSES TWO OTHERS IN EU NEGOTIATIONS
Romania on 1 October opened negotiations with the EU on the agriculture chapter of the acquis communautaire, which is considered to be the most difficult chapter in the negotiations with candidates for joining the organization, Romanian Television reported. At the same time, it closed the chapters on economic and monetary union and on industrial policy. Chief Romanian negotiator Vasile Puscas said in an interview that Romania, which is the last EU candidate to open negotiations on the agriculture chapter, intends to take advantage of this fact, since it will benefit from the experience of other candidates. MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS IMMUNITY OF RULING-PARTY DEPUTY
Romania's Chamber of Deputies on 1 October lifted the parliamentary immunity of Social Democratic Party (PSD) deputy Viorel Gheorghiu, who is suspected of insurance fraud, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Gheorghiu has been accused of faking the theft of his own car in 2001 to cash in on his insurance. The vote was 178 in favor and 88 against. Gheorghiu voted in favor of the resolution. He denies any wrongdoing and says he wants to prove his innocence in court. After the vote, deputies representing the PSD and the Greater Romania Party accused each other of having voted against lifting Gheorghiu's immunity in the secret ballot. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS NEGOTIATIONS MUST CONTINUE WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS...
President Vladimir Voronin on 1 October criticized the separatist position in negotiations over the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) project for solving the conflict with Transdniester, Infotag reported. At a meeting with representatives of the three mediators in the conflict -- the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine -- Voronin said that while Moldova is ready to negotiate without preliminary conditions, Tiraspol has again raised the problem of the so-called "economic blockade" imposed by Chisinau when it withdrew the rights of Tiraspol to issue customs certificates. Voronin said the "all-embracing Transdniester-settlement problem should not be linked with the specific problem of customs stamps," according to Infotag. He added that "the economic blockade can be solved only after the signing of an agreement on Transdniester's status within the Moldovan Republic." Voronin said he is confident that international support from the OSCE and the other mediators, and in particular the fact that at their last meeting U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin included in their joint declaration a statement on cooperation in the Transdniester settlement, are proof that the conflict will find a solution. MS

...AS PARLEYS ARE RESUMED IN CHISINAU
Negotiations over the OSCE plan resumed in Chisinau on 1 October, Infotag reported. The separatist delegation was represented by its deputy leader Ruslan Slobodeniuk, as Foreign Minister Valerii Litskay was reportedly ill. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT SENDS DRAFT 2003 BUDGET TO PARLIAMENT
Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev on 1 October sent parliament his draft bill for the 2003 budget, Infotag reported. The budget is based on the assumption that revenues will total 5.56 billion lei ($409 million), expenditures 5.76 billion lei, and that the deficit will not exceed 201 million lei. MS

BULGARIA CLOSES FINANCIAL-CONTROL CHAPTER WITH EU
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi announced in Brussels on 1 October that Bulgaria has closed the acquis communautaire chapter on financial control, BTA reported. With the closure of the chapter, the EU officially recognizes Bulgaria's capability for internal financial control and external auditing, and thus its ability to safeguard the EU's financial interests. "We [have] passed the psychological barrier of 22 chapters; only eight are still open, which implies that we are progressing at a very good pace," Pasi said. Agriculture, energy, transport, and environment are among the chapters that remain open, according to the EU's official website. UB

BULGARIAN AND ROMANIAN ARMIES LAUNCH JOINT EXERCISE
The Bulgarian-Romanian joint command-post exercise Blue Danube 2002 started at the Charalitsa Training Center on 1 October, BTA reported. Major General Kalcho Tanev of the Bulgarian General Staff said at the opening ceremony that the goal of the exercise is to "contribute to the improvement of interoperability" between the two countries' troops. The Romanian joint commander of the exercise, Colonel Septimiu Caceu, said: "The idea is to prove that Bulgarian and Romanian military are capable of performing any tasks under NATO command and UN auspices in situations of conflict and emergency." The exercise, in which 150 servicemen from the two countries are participating, will end on 6 October. UB

BULGARIAN TV ANCHOR JOINS GOVERNMENT TEAM
The well-known TV journalist Dimitar Tsonev will replace Tsvetelina Uzunova as the Bulgarian government's spokesman, local media reported on 2 October. Forty-three-year-old Tsonev, who was the anchorman of the political television show "Po sveta i u nas" (Around The World And Here At Home), was asked by Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski to take over the position. Journalists have recently chided Saxecoburggotski and other members of the government for poor relations with the media. UB

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DOES NOT WANT TO STEP DOWN


President Leonid Kuchma addressed the country on ICTV television on 28 September and accused the opposition of resorting to violence to unseat him. "It is one thing to express one's dissatisfaction but another thing to [try to] force a violent change of power and the social system," the president said. Kuchma called for an end to the opposition protests that began on 16 September, saying that previous demonstrations damaged Ukraine's image and stalled social progress. "[Opposition leaders] must think about whether to discharge the responsibilities for which they were elected by some 50 million citizens during the elections or to execute the demands of close to 50,000 people who participated in nationwide demonstrations," he said. "I refuse categorically to resign...because I was elected by the people as the head of state, and I feel fully responsible for all that happens in the country."

It appears that the Ukrainian president is beginning to regain control of the political situation in the country despite the two huge antipresidential rallies in Kyiv on 16 and 24 September, as well as numerous, albeit less well-attended, protests in the provinces. There is also no sign that Kuchma has been affected to any degree by the recent allegations from Washington that Ukraine might have illegally sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq following Kuchma's personal authorization.

Last week, the nine pro-presidential groups in the Verkhovna Rada -- 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 -- announced that they have created a 226-strong parliamentary majority to "assume responsibility for legislative activities and the creation of a coalition government in accordance with the president's proposals regarding the implementation of political reform." The practicality of such a razor-thin majority -- 226 is the minimum number of votes necessary to pass laws -- is dubious, as witnessed by several abortive votes on legislation in parliament last week. But the announcement shows that Kuchma does not intend to bow to the demands of former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko that a parliamentary coalition be created around his grouping, Our Ukraine, which won the most parliamentary seats contested under a proportional party-list system in the 31 March parliamentary elections.

According to Roman Bezsmertnyy, Our Ukraine's political coordinator, a viable majority in the Verkhovna Rada should consist of at least 270 deputies. Until now, the opposition Communist Party, Socialist Party, and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- as well as Our Ukraine -- have been able to disrupt parlaiment's work by boycotting votes. But such tactics seem to play into the hands of the presidential administration. In his 28 September address, Kuchma accused the opposition of sabotaging the current parliamentary session by refusing to participate in voting. He castigated opposition groups for failing last week to support a law on money laundering and suggested that Ukraine's international image might be severely damaged and international organizations might impose sanctions on Ukraine because of this failure. He also lashed out at opposition legislators for not voting on a bill to provide assistance to the families of disabled people. These are arguments with some populist appeal.

It seems that Kuchma's primary intention is to persuade Yushchenko that Our Ukraine -- if not as a whole, then in part -- should join the pro-presidential majority and provide the necessary support for the legislative activities of the Verkhovna Rada. Mykhaylo Pohrebynskyy, a political analyst with links to the presidential administration, described for the "Ukrayinska pravda" website how Yushchenko could make such a move toward Kuchma. "[Yushchenko] could create two factions on the basis of his [Our Ukraine] mega-faction," Pohrebynskyy noted. "One faction could be more resolute and consistent in pursuing [Our Ukraine's] opposition line. The other could be more prone to compromise and ready for more active cooperation." According to Pohrebynskyy, the "radical part" of Our Ukraine could "maintain room to maneuver for Yushchenko, and he would not have to go between [Yuliya] Tymoshenko, [Oleksandr] Moroz, [Petro] Symonenko, and Kuchma, but would be able to move among his own people."

It is for Yushchenko to judge whether he wants to join a majority in which he will not play the main role, as well as whether such a scheme would not actually mean a split within Our Ukraine. But it is also obvious that the time for making his crucial political choice -- moving to the radical antipresidential opposition or joining the pro-presidential coalition -- is already at hand. Any further wavering and maneuvering on the part of Ukraine's most popular politician could irrevocably alienate his current and/or future allies.

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