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Newsline - October 3, 2002


RUSSIA'S POSITION ON IRAQ SHIFTING
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 2 October that Russia does not object to new UN resolutions on Iraq, Russian and Western news agencies reported. "If new resolutions are necessary for the work of UN weapons inspectors, we will be ready to adopt them," Ivanov said, according to RIA-Novosti. Russian and foreign analysts interpreted Ivanov's statement as a step toward the U.S. position on the Iraq controversy. Previously, Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin had said Russia seeks a settlement of the dispute on the basis of existing UN resolutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). However, dpa reported on 3 October that Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov announced Russia is considering presenting its own resolution to the Security Council, which would offer a "package solution" to the dispute including terms for the eventual lifting of economic sanctions. Saltanov also said that Russia categorically opposes the harsh U.S.-U.K. draft resolution, ITAR-TASS reported. VY

U.S., RUSSIA AGREE ON JOINT ENERGY POLICIES
In a joint statement following the conclusion of a U.S.-Russia energy forum in Houston, Texas, representatives of the two countries pledged cooperation in boosting global energy security and stabilizing world energy prices, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 2 October. Both countries will work to diversify oil supplies and to create a good investment climate for joint projects in Russia and in third countries. The U.S. Export-Import Bank signed deals with LUKoil, Yukos, and Sibneft under which each company will receive a $100 million loan to purchase U.S. drilling equipment, NTV reported. Rex Tillerson, a senior vice president at ExxonMobil, which is involved in a project to develop oil fields near Russia's Sakhalin Island, said that -- with U.S. expertise -- Russia can double its oil production, polit.ru reported on 3 October. VY

GOVERNMENT TO ROOT OUT ILLEGAL MULTIMEDIA PRODUCTION
Speaking at a government session devoted to the protection of intellectual property, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that 50 percent of videocassettes, 65 percent of audiocassettes, and 95 percent of DVDs produced in Russia are made illegally, while the illegal multimedia market is worth about $5 billion a year, RTR reported on 3 October. He said it is remarkable that while in the past most unlicensed multimedia products were imported into Russia, now they are produced domestically. This booming black market is robbing the state of significant tax revenues, Kasyanov noted. He urged the government to address the problem systematically by keeping better track of audio and video production, creating an efficient legislative framework for copyright issues, and improving the coordination of government agencies dealing with intellectual-property protection. VY

ATTITUDES TOWARD OCTOBER 1993 CHANGING
On the eve of the ninth anniversary of a bloody confrontation in downtown Moscow on 3-4 October 1993 between then-President Boris Yeltsin and supporters of the Russian Federation Supreme Soviet led by then-Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov and then-Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, Russians appear to be rethinking their view of those events, polit.ru reported on 3 October. The All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) asked 1,600 respondents from 33 regions about the causes of the confrontation. In a similar survey shortly after the events, 46 percent said the conflict was caused by the desire of Khasbulatov and Rutskoi to hold on to power by any means, 32 percent said it was sparked by the general disorder in the country initiated by the reforms of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and 28 percent blamed Yeltsin and his entourage. In the latest survey, however, just 22 percent blame Khasbulatov and Rutskoi, while 36 percent blame Gorbachev and 31 percent blame Yeltsin. In 1993, 51 percent of respondents said that Yeltsin's use of military force to suppress the uprising was justified, while 30 percent said it was not. Now, only 22 percent say that Yeltsin's decision was justified, and 59 percent say that it was not. VY

SIBERIAN ELECTION OFFICIALS THUMB THEIR NOSES AT MOSCOW...
Despite a warning from Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002), the Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission refused on 2 October to certify the 22 September gubernatorial elections and instead insisted on 2 March 2003 as the date for new elections, Russian news agencies reported. Also on 2 October, the commission filed an appeal challenging a krai court's decision the previous day overturning the commission's annulment of that ballot. According to commentator Yuliya Latynina writing in "The Moscow Times," the TsIK is in a "curious bind" because it cannot repeal the decision of a regional commission. It can dissolve the local commission, but only at the end of the election process. JAC

...AS MOSCOW PREPARES A COUNTERSTRIKE
Veshnyakov said on 3 October that the crisis will likely be resolved within the next two days, NTV reported. Veshnyakov said four members of the Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission have filed a complaint with the TsIK against 10 fellow commission members for again refusing to certify the 22 September ballot, and that the complaint gives the TsIK the opportunity to act. Although he said the TsIK will consider all the documentation before making a decision, Veshnyakov's comments indicate that he has already made up his mind. "Essentially, [the krai election commission] has ignored the court's decision and violated the voting rights of Krasnoyarsk citizens, and for that it is essential that the guilty be brought to account, including facing criminal charges," Veshnyakov was quoted as saying. RosBalt reported on 3 October that presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii has arrived in Krasnoyarsk and is holding a series of closed-door meetings with local officials. RC

SUTYAGIN SCORES LEGAL VICTORY WITH SUPREME COURT BUT REMAINS BEHIND BARS
The Supreme Court on 2 October overruled the Moscow Municipal Court's August decision to prolong until 8 October the imprisonment of Igor Sutyagin, a researcher at the Moscow-based USA and Canada Institute, RIA-Novosti reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002). Although the court did not grant Sutyagin's request to be released immediately, Sutyagin's lawyers nevertheless called the decision a legal "breakthrough," according to Ekho Moskvy. Sutyagin was arrested in October 1999 on accusations of passing secret information to the United States. Last December, a court in Kaluga Oblast agreed to a prosecution request for a new investigation of the case against him, during which time he was ordered to remain in custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). JAC

EMBATTLED WRITER MAKES SHORTLIST FOR PRESTIGIOUS PRIZE
Novelist Vladimir Sorokin, who is facing criminal charges of disseminating pornography based on complaints filed by the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together, was named one of six finalists on the shortlist for the 2002 Booker-Open Russia prize, RosBalt and other news agencies reported. "Including Vladimir Sorokin on the shortlist is in this case the only way we could protest the persecution of this writer and the legal threat against him," said prize jury Chairman Vladimir Makanin. Other finalists include Dmitrii Bortnikov, Sergei Gandlevskii, Vadim Mesyats, and Oleg Pavlov. The winner of the $12,500 prize will be announced on 5 December. RC

THIEVES CONDUCT THEIR OWN AUDIT
Unidentified thieves broke into the Moscow apartment of the head of the State Audit Chamber Inspectorate, Aleksandr Ryabenko, and made off with cash and jewelry worth $120,000, RosBalt reported on 3 October. Ryabenko filed a report with the police on 2 October saying that the robbery occurred sometime between 30 September and 2 October. In his report, Ryabenko confirmed the value of the stolen property. RC

NEXT STAGE OF FEDERAL REFORMS ON HOLD?
"Izvestiya" reported on 2 October that the creation of a State Council working group on local-government reforms might indicate that the implementation of the reforms drafted by the commission headed by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak will be delayed if not derailed. According to the daily, the working group, which is headed by Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin, has no intention of putting forward its own proposals for reforming local government, but the governors are likely to put forward objections of an ideological "rather than text-related nature," if only because no final version of the Kozak commission's bill exists so far. The daily concludes that the Kremlin finds itself at a crossroads and must decide whether to initiate reform of local governments now or wait a few years until after Duma and presidential elections. "EWI's Russian Regional Report" argued on 27 September that the Putin administration has probably decided to avoid a battle with local leaders and sent the entire package of laws on the reform of local government to the State Council in order to soften the positions of both sides and find a compromise. JAC

HOPES FADE FOR FINDING SURVIVORS FROM LAST MONTH'S GLACIER SLIDE
The head of the Emergency Situations Ministry's southern regional center, Ivan Teterin, announced on 2 October that no hope remains of finding anyone alive in the wake of the 20 September glacier slide in North Ossetia, Interfax reported. AP reported on 3 October that one more body was recovered that day, bringing the total to 17. The search will continue, Teterin said, noting that the search teams are trying to clear the entrance to a tunnel where people might have sought shelter. One hundred twenty-four people are still missing, including 24 members of a movie crew led by the well-known director and actor Sergei Bodrov. According to the republic's Emergency Situations Ministry, ice from the glacier will continue melting for the next 10-12 years. JAC

RUSSIA TAKES CONTROL OF SPACE STATION
Russia's Mission Control Center near Moscow took control of the International Space Station on 3 October as U.S. Mission Control in Houston, Texas, braces for the effects of Hurricane Lili, ITAR-TASS and other news agencies reported. The Russians will remain in operational control at least until 6 October, mission control spokesman Valerii Lyndin was quoted as saying. According to Sergei Puzanov, a spokesman for NASA in Moscow, the only other time such a handover of control has occurred was for "a few hours" following the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001. RC

INFORMATION-AGENCY HEAD KILLED IN VLADIVOSTOK
Sergei Akhapkin, general director of the Primore Information Analysis Agency and a former krai administration official, was shot dead near his home in Vladivostok on 2 October, Russian news agencies reported on 3 October. According to lenta.ru, Akhapkin was shot six times from a handgun by an unidentified assailant who fled the scene. Akhapkin served as the chairman of the krai's Architecture and Capital Reconstruction Committee until February, when he left to head the information agency. His company is developing a cross-border trade facility between Pogranichnii and the Chinese town of Suifenhe that will feature a hotel, a shopping mall, and a business center. On 20 June 2000, while he was heading the architecture committee, Akhapkin narrowly escaped a murder attempt in which a still-unidentified gunman fired eight shots at him, all of them missing their target. RC

DEATH GOES PRIVATE
One of Samara Oblast's first privately owned cemeteries will be opened in Tolyatti on 1 November, RFE/RL's Samara correspondent reported on 2 October. Under an agreement with the city, the owners of the new cemetery will have to devote at least 20 percent of the cemetery's land to free burials for indigents. A standard funeral is currently projected to cost 3,000 rubles ($97), a pre-arranged package of services will cost 15,000, and an "elite" or deluxe funeral will cost 30,000 rubles. Backers of the cemetery project believe they have already identified their future customer base -- businesspeople and representatives of the so-called middle class. Around 10 private funeral homes are already operating in Moscow, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. They are more or less subordinated to the state unitary enterprise, Ritual, which owns all cemeteries, crematoriums, workshops, and associated parking lots in the city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast. As a result, the funeral business continues to resemble a state monopoly, and small private firms survive only with great difficulty. JAC

THE FEDERAL DISTRICTS EXPLAINED
At a meeting on 1 October with Sweden's ambassador to Russia, Sven Hirdman, chief federal inspector for Perm Oblast Nikolai Fadeev reportedly explained why Perm Oblast and the Republic of Bashkortostan were included in the Volga Federal District rather than the Urals Federal District, regions.ru reported. According to Fadeev, when the federal districts were set up in 2000, Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel had not yet given up his idea of creating a Urals Republic; therefore, the government did not want Perm and Bashkortostan, two regions with "great economic and natural resource potential," to fall into Rossel's hands. In the Soviet period, Perm and Bashkortostan were part of the Urals administrative unit. JAC

GOVERNOR WANTS BUREAUCRATS TO BE 'REAL MEN'
A group of male civil servants in Primorskii Krai are currently undergoing military training, TV-6 reported on 2 October. According to the station, the officials are undergoing training in a naval infantry unit not because they are members of the navy's reserve, but because of a tradition that every year heads of local administration, raions, and municipalities "get together to do some firing practice, talk to the military, and reminisce about their own service in the army." Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin was quoted as saying, "I want our administration heads to be real men and to carry out a function that they have had from birth -- that of defenders of their motherland, Primorskii Krai." JAC

IMF RELEASES LOAN FOR ARMENIA
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released the second and third tranches -- worth a combined $26 million -- of a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility Loan to Armenia that was frozen late last year due to the Armenian government's failure to meet tax-collection targets, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 2001). Announcing the release of the loan, IMF Deputy Managing Director and acting Chairman Eduardo Aninat noted that "in recent years Armenia has experienced rapid growth, low inflation, [and] an increase in real incomes" and that "corrective measures" undertaken by the government of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to improve revenue collection have "yielded some positive results." Tax revenues grew by 14 percent in the first six months of 2002 compared with the same period last year. LF

ARMENIAN STUDENTS PROTEST APPOINTMENT OF NEW RECTOR
Several hundred students staged a demonstration on 2 October outside the State Pedagogical University in Yerevan to protest the appointment as rector of Artyusha Ghukasian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The students pointed out that Ghukasian has never worked at the university and suggested that he owes the appointment to his friendship with Deputy Education Minister Ara Avetisian. LF

LEADER OF GUNMEN WHO STORMED ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT PLANS TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Nairi Hunuanian, the leader of the five gunmen who in October 1999 shot dead eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament, announced on 2 October at his trial in Yerevan that he intends to compete in the presidential election scheduled for February, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEMANDS RELEASE OF ARRESTED ACTIVISTS
Meeting in Baku on 2 October, representatives of eight opposition parties adopted a statement demanding the release of two members of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan and six Musavat party activists arrested the previous day, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). Press commentaries attributed the arrests to the authorities' fear of mass attendance at the opposition demonstration planned for 5 October, for which the Baku municipal authorities have not yet granted permission. Also on 2 October, the Gyandja city authorities rejected a formal application by opposition parties to stage a parallel demonstration in Gyandja on 5 October, Turan reported. LF

EMBATTLED VILLAGERS PICKET AZERBAIJANI INTERIOR MINISTRY
Representatives of the Union of Baku and Baku Villages on 2 October picketed the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office to protest the arrest and sentencing to three months' imprisonment of union Chairman Hadji Djebrail Alizade, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. Also on 2 October, Alizade was transferred from an Interior Ministry facility to the high-security Bayil Prison, and a Baku district court extended for a further two months the pretrial detention of five Nardaran village elders, Turan reported. LF

SENIOR FRENCH DIPLOMAT VISITS AZERBAIJAN...
Renaud Muselier, who is state secretary at the French Foreign Ministry, met in Baku on 1 October with Azerbaijan's senior Islamic clergyman, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, and with President Heidar Aliev, according to Turan and ANS TV as cited by Groong. Muselier handed Aliev a letter from French President Jacques Chirac in which Chirac reaffirmed France's readiness to continue its efforts to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Aliev commented that the presidential elections in Armenia in February and Azerbaijan in October of next year might slow the process of settling the conflict. LF

...AND GEORGIA
Muselier flew to Tbilisi on 2 October, where he met the same day with President Eduard Shevardnadze and handed him a missive from President Chirac affirming France's support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, ITAR-TASS reported. AFP quoted Shevardnadze as appealing to Muselier for France to intervene with Russia over the ongoing tensions resulting from the alleged presence of Chechen fighters on Georgian territory. Shevardnadze reportedly said the United States is "hesitating" to do so. LF

POLICE ATTACK ON GEORGIAN TV STATION CONDEMNED
In a 2 October press release, Reporters Without Borders called for the punishment of some 30 police officials who the report claims broke into an independent television station in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 27 September and beat up journalists. The attack took place hours after the station broadcast a report criticizing police action against demonstrators in Zugdidi. Three senior local police officials were reported to have participated in the attack. LF

COMMUNIST DEPUTY DEMANDS DETAILS OF 'KAZAKHGATE'
Speaking in the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of parliament) on 2 October, Communist Party of Kazakhstan First Secretary Serikbolsyn Abdildin said that this week he asked Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmagambetov for the third time to supply details of the persons and sums of money involved in the "Kazakhgate" scandal, in which Western oil companies are alleged to have channeled millions of dollars in kickbacks to top Kazakh leaders, including President Nursultan Nazarbaev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Mazhilis speaker Zharmakhan Tuyaqbaev refused to include the issue on the agenda. LF

KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS
President Askar Akaev on 2 October chaired the final session of the Constitutional Assembly, which finalized its draft proposals on the redistribution of powers between the legislative and executive branches, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Those proposals will now be published for nationwide debate. They include replacing the present bicameral legislature with a unicameral parliament, half of whose deputies would be elected from party lists and the other half from single-mandate constituencies. LF

DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST TRIAL OF KYRGYZ OFFICIALS
Relatives and supporters of the six Aksy district officials facing trial for their alleged role in ordering police to open fire on demonstrators in Aksy in March held an unsanctioned protest on 2 October, akipress.org reported. The protesters claim those officials are being made scapegoats for a decision made at a higher level. Similar protests took place the same day in Osh and Bishkek, where Deputy Prime Minister Bazarbay Mambetov met with participants who demanded ending the legal proceedings. LF

FRENCH ANTITERRORISM CONTINGENT LEAVES KYRGYZSTAN
The French Air Force contingent of six Mirage fighter jets and 400 service personnel has completed its tour of duty in Kyrgyzstan within the framework of Operation Enduring Freedom, Reuters and Interfax reported on 2 October. Nine fighters from Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands have already arrived in Bishkek to replace the French contingent. LF

OPPOSITION PARTY TO BOYCOTT TAJIK BY-ELECTION
The board of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan has announced that it will not field a candidate in the 27 October by-election in Sughd Oblast, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 30 September. The chairman of the party's Sughd Oblast committee said that although the Tajik Constitution stipulates that elections at all levels should be free and democratic, in practice local election committees frequently violate the law and refuse to register any candidates other than those of the ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT -- the former Communist Party). On 1 October, a Central Commission for Elections and Referendums official told Asia Plus-Blitz that two candidates have been registered to contest the Sughd ballot -- one from the PDPT and the other from the Islamic Renaissance Party. He added that a DPT member who wished to register as an independent candidate was refused registration under the pretext that the documents he submitted were not in order. LF

TAJIKISTAN SUMS UP EIGHT MONTHS' ECONOMIC RESULTS
During the first eight months of this year, Tajikistan's gross domestic product grew by 8.1 percent compared with the same period in 2001 to reach 1.749 billion somonis ($599.2 million), Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 2 October. Industrial production grew over the same eight-month period by 5.5 percent and agricultural output by 10.6 percent. External-trade turnover totaled $952.2 million, a 2 percent increase over 2001. Exports of electricity accounted for more than 10 percent of trade turnover, the main energy-trading partner being Uzbekistan. Aluminum accounted for 53.3 percent of all exports and cotton 14.7 percent. LF

TURKMENISTAN PUBLISHES DEMOGRAPHIC DATA
The current population of Turkmenistan is 5.799 million, turkmenistan.ru reported on 2 October. The average birthrate is 17.2 per 1,000. In Lebap Oblast, one of the country's most-heavily populated which has a large Uzbek minority, the birthrate is 18.8 per 1,000. LF

BELARUSIAN UPPER HOUSE APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL BILL ON RELIGIONS...
The Council of the Republic on 2 October voted by 46 to two with four abstentions to approve a bill on religions that would considerably curb the activities of smaller denominations and bolster the Russian Orthodox Church's dominant position in Belarus, Belapan and international news agencies reported. The bill bans organized prayer by religious communities of fewer than 20 citizens and prohibits religions that have been in Belarus for less than 20 years from publishing literature or setting up missions. The Keston Institute, which monitors religious freedom in former communist countries, called it "the most repressive religion law in Europe," AP reported. JM

...AS GOVERNMENT SAYS BILL STRENGTHENS 'TRADITIONAL' BELIEFS
Stanislau Buko, the chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers' Committee on Religious and National Affairs, said during the debate that the bill would erect a barrier to the expansion of "untraditional" religions. Buko stressed that Orthodox believers, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Evangelists, and Lutherans in Belarus have supported the bill. "These are our traditional religions," he added. However, some Protestant denominations -- including the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists, the Union of Evangelical Faith Christians, the Association of Communities of Full Gospel Christians, and the Conference of Christian Adventists -- condemned the bill, saying it would favor some religious organizations and limit opportunities for worship. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES POSSIBLE ATTACK ON IRAQ
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 2 October met with a visiting Iraqi delegation led by Deputy Premier and Minister for Military Industrialization Abd-al-Tawwab Abdallah al-Mullah Huwaysh (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002), Belarusian media reported. "If in these difficult times for Iraq, some people try to present our cooperation as a friendship aimed against all peace-loving and -- as it is trendy to say nowadays -- antiterrorist forces, then they are deeply mistaken," Lukashenka said, adding that contacts between Belarus and Iraq violate no international treaties. The Belarusian president stressed that Belarus categorically opposes any attack against Iraq, saying that "the charges against Iraq are unfounded or, at least, unproven." JM

U.S. TO SEND EXPERTS TO UKRAINE TO PROBE KOLCHUGA SUSPICIONS...
Washington on 2 October said it will send investigators to Ukraine to probe charges that President Leonid Kuchma flouted UN sanctions by authorizing the sale of a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq, Reuters reported. "We are making preparations to send a team of experts to Ukraine in the near future. We are still working out details of such a visit," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told journalists. "We do welcome Ukraine's offer to make available all information on sales or transfers of the Kolchuga system and grant experts access to all Kolchuga sites and the manufacturing plant as a sign of transparency," Reeker added. JM

...WHILE UKRAINE DEMANDS TAPES ON ALLEGED DEAL WITH IRAQ
Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun on 2 October called on U.S. officials to hand over audio recordings that Washington says indicate that Ukraine might have sold Kolchugas to Iraq with President Kuchma's approval. "We are ready to invite any expert to check [the Kolchuga allegations], but do not treat us like fools -- give us the original [tapes made by Mykola Melnychenko]. They are offering us only edited versions," Reuters quoted Piskun as saying. Piskun said he is sure Ukraine has not sold arms to Iraq. Piskun also cast doubts on Melnychenko's assertion that he secretly taped Kuchma using a tape recorder placed under a sofa in the presidential office. According to Piskun, only much more sensitive equipment could have been used to record conversations across the "huge" presidential office. JM

OUR UKRAINE READY FOR 'RADICAL' STEPS TO ENFORCE POLITICAL DIALOGUE
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said on NBM television on 2 October that his bloc will resort to actions of a "radical character" if the authorities fail to launch a dialogue over how to overcome the current political crisis, Interfax reported. According to Yushchenko, following such a dialogue, the power in the country should be transferred to the forces that obtained most support in this year's parliamentary election. "If our initiatives continue to be fended off, we will do everything possible -- including the organization of and participation in actions of a radical character -- to make the Ukrainian authorities sit down at a negotiating table or hold early elections in the country," Yushchenko said. JM

ESTONIA, TURKEY SIGN AGREEMENT ON PROTECTION OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
Estonian Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor Vaino Reinart and his counterpart from the Turkish Defense Ministry, Suleiman Arikan, signed an agreement on the protection of classified information on 2 October in Ankara, BNS reported. Earlier that day, Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal assured Reinart of Turkey's support for Estonian membership in NATO and expressed the hope that the two countries "will soon be sitting at the same table in both the European Union and NATO." Reinart is scheduled to hold talks with Turkish businessmen and participate in the opening of Estonia's second honorary consulate, after Istanbul, in the resort of Antalya on 4 October. SG

LATVIAN CRIMINAL POLICE CHIEF ON LEAVE AS SLANDER INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
State Police Chief Juris Reksna on 2 October accepted Criminal Police Chief Valdis Pumpurs' request to be relieved of his duties while an investigation continues into a possible slander campaign directed at People's Party's deputies, LETA reported. Prime Minister Andris Berzins has already dismissed Interior Minister Mareks Seglins (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002) over alleged misuse of the police force for political aims. Berzins on 2 October filed a request by Latvia's Way parliamentary deputies for prosecutors to investigate allegations that two of its employees ordered the printing of defamatory leaflets, according to a BNS report the same day. Earlier in the day, People's Party Chairman Andris Skele and Latvia's Way Deputy Chairman Ivars Godmanis in interviews with Latvian State Radio urged voters to disregard the slander scandal and cast their ballots on 5 October based on party platforms. SG

LITHUANIA, UNDP SIGN ANTICORRUPTION PROJECT
Special Investigations Service Director Valentinas Junokas and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative in Lithuania Cihan Sultanoglu signed an agreement on a joint, two-year anticorruption project in Vilnius on 2 October, BNS reported. The project's budget will exceed 300,000 litas ($86,000) -- two-thirds of it from the UNDP and one-third from the Lithuanian state budget. A roundtable will be held in December on transparency in financing political parties. Plans are also being made to launch a television program on combating corruption. A long-term education program for university-level students is being prepared to involve the younger generation in anticorruption initiatives. The project also calls for public-opinion polls and comprehensive studies of corruption. SG

FORMER SOLIDARITY LEADER CLEARED OF VIOLATING POLISH LUSTRATION LAW
The Polish Supreme Court on 2 October annulled a lower-court ruling that Marian Jurczyk, the leader of Solidarity protests in Szczecin in 1980, was an agent of the communist-era secret services, Polish media reported. The lower court found that Jurczyk was forced to work with the security service in the 1970s out of fear for his life and that he broke the 1997 lustration law by not disclosing that fact when he ran for the Senate. That ruling cost Jurczyk his Senate seat. "This is the most beautiful day of my life," Jurczyk told journalists after the Supreme Court verdict. In overturning the lower-court ruling, Judge Piotr Hoffman did not find that Jurczyk was never an agent. However, he noted that the law requires the court to look not only at whether someone voluntarily cooperated but whether the information they provided was useful. Hoffman ruled that information passed along by Jurczyk "did not have any effect." JM

CZECHS CAUTIOUS ABOUT MILITARY OPERATION AGAINST IRAQ
Forty-nine percent of Czechs oppose a military operation against Iraq that would include Czech participation, CTK reported on 2 October, citing the results of a poll conducted by the TNS Factum polling agency. Thirty-one percent say they agree with Czech participation in an auxiliary capacity without any risk of loss of life, and 13 percent believe Czech troops should participate in combat in the event of an attack on Iraq. Forty-eight percent of respondents are opposed to any military operation against Baghdad, regardless of whether Czech troops participate, while 33 percent believe the United States should strike against Iraq but only if the operation is conducted under a UN mandate. Only 9 percent agree with a unilateral attack by the United States. MS

CZECH NEWS AGENCY SAYS REPORTS ON BENES DECREES CONTRADICT ONE ANOTHER...
In reports on the Benes Decrees prepared for the European Parliament and made public on 2 October, two legal experts contradicted one another to a considerable extent, CTK reported. Both reports are part of the general study on the decrees submitted by German legal expert Jochen Frowein (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 October 2001). British expert Christopher Prout said the EU should avoid using legislation ensuing from World War II, including the Benes Decrees, to prevent countries from joining the organization, as this would undermine the EU's legal foundations. Stockholm University Professor Ulf Berniz, on the other hand, expressed the opinion that Frowein's position is, as CTK put it, very careful and too tactful. Berniz said the decrees deserve criticism under current human rights standards and that current Czech restitution laws do not allow restitution of property to many people who might have been wrongly deprived of their assets and of their citizenship under the Benes Decrees because of alleged disloyalty, even though their lack of loyalty to the country was never proven. MS

...WHILE EU COMMISSIONER SAYS AUSTRIA ISOLATED OVER DECREES
Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner for enlargement, told the Austrian news agency APA on 2 October that Austria is isolated in its position on the Benes Decrees, according to a CTK report. He said he does not believe the Czech parliament would be willing to meet Austrian demands to issue an apology for the decrees. Such an apology might have been possible if things had been worked out "in quiet diplomacy," but no country is willing to give in under foreign pressure, Verheugen said. He added that he understands "it may be too much" to ask Austrian parties not to us the issue in the upcoming elections. Also on 2 October, Austrian Freedom party parliamentary group leader Karl Schweizer said his formation is willing to veto the Czech Republic's and Slovakia's accession to the EU over the Benes Decrees, dpa reported. Austrian People's Party Secretary-General Maria Rauch-Kallat said her formation is still hoping the Czech Republic finds a way to "use the right liberating words" ahead of accession, according to a CTK report. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT PROTESTS POLISH DEPUTY'S 'ENCROACHMENT ON SOVEREIGNTY'
Polish Ambassador to the Czech Republic Andrzej Krawczyk was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Prague on 2 October and handed an official protest over what the Czech government considers to be a violation of Czech sovereignty and of international law, CTK and international agencies reported. The protest was triggered by the arrest in the Czech border town of Cesky Tesin on 29 September by Polish Sejm deputy and private detective Krzystof Rutkowski of a man wanted for murder in Poland -- under the glare of lights from a Polish television crew. Rutkowski then returned to Poland with the suspect. Famous in his country as the swashbuckling head of a private detective agency, Rutkowski won a Sejm seat on the lists of the populist Self-Defense farmers union but quit the party afterward and joined the Peasant Democratic Party lawmakers' circle. MS

BRITISH MUSEUM ACKNOWLEDGES POSSESSION OF CZECH DRAWINGS LOOTED BY NAZIS
The British Museum on 1 October acknowledged that four of its old master drawings dating back to between the 15th and the 18th centuries were looted by the Nazis from a private art collection in the occupied Czech lands during World War II, CTK reported the next day. The announcement follows a May claim on the drawings by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe on behalf of the heirs of Arthur Feldmann. The museum said it acquired three of the drawings at an auction in 1946 and the fourth was bequeathed to it in 1948. It also said it will work for a speedy resolution of the claim. Feldmann, a Brno lawyer, had a collection of more than 700 old master drawings that the Gestapo seized in March 1939. Feldmann himself was imprisoned and died in 1941. His wife perished at Auschwitz. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NATO, EU CLOSER THAN EVER
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 2 October asserted that the parliamentary elections last month removed the last possible obstacle to Slovak admission to NATO and the EU. In an interview with Reuters, Kukan said he expects Slovakia to conclude EU accession talks later this year. Kukan added that if either EU accession or NATO enlargement is to be postponed, it could only be due to "some unexpected development" that has nothing to do with his country, and the postponement would then affect all the candidates to the two organizations. He said he believes EU candidates and Brussels will soon resolve their protracted disagreements over development funds and farm subsidies. "There have been many dramatic situations where there was skepticism that no solution can be found, but all of these cases ended in compromises accepted by everyone," Kukan said, according to Reuters. MS

CHALLENGES TO FORMER SLOVAK LEADER'S PARTY CHAIRMANSHIP MOUNT
Former Slovak Labor Minister Olga Keltosova said on 2 October that she supports the convocation of a special convention of her own Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) to discuss the current crisis in the party. Keltosova told TASR that the way out of the crisis is to be found in some "self-reflection of the entire party leadership." She said the evaluation of last month's election results should not be postponed and the HZDS National Executive must deal with the electoral outcome at its 12 October meeting. Keltosova is considered to be a reformer and an opponent of HZDS Chairman and former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. In turn, HZDS parliamentary deputy Jozef Brehl told the daily "Pravda" on 2 October that members of the HZDS are disappointed with the election results and the party must call a special convention to address this issue. He said that Meciar interprets appeals for an internal party debate as criticism of his leadership, but that the call for such a debate "should be seen in a wider context." MS

SLOVAK COMMUNISTS OPPOSE JOINING NATO
Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) Secretary Ladislav Jaca told TASR on 2 October that his formation is opposed to Slovak membership in NATO and wants a referendum to be held by the end of the year to decide whether it should do so. Jaca said NATO has become an instrument used by the United States to "become the world's policeman." He added that if Slovaks decide in the plebiscite to join NATO, the KSS will respect that decision. Also on 2 October, the daily "Sme" quoted Jaca as saying the KSS is seeking the return of property confiscated from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia after 1989. If property is returned to churches, he said, there is no reason why it should not be returned to his party as well. MS

SLOVAKIA'S POPULATION DECREASING, AGING
A report released on 2 October by the Slovak Statistics Office (SSU) on demographic trends up to the year 2025 says Slovakia's population will continue to decrease and to age mainly due to changes in the population's reproductive behavior, CTK reported. Last year for the first time, the death rate in Slovakia exceeded the birthrate. The report forecasts that by 2025 the population will drop by as much as 300,000 from the current 5.4 million despite an expected increase in the birthrate. It also predicts a growth in life expectancy and in the number of immigrants. The report says the proportion of children aged 14 and under is likely to drop from the current 20 percent of the population to some 12 percent, while the proportion of those aged 65 and over is likely to grow from 11.6 percent to nearly 20 percent. The Statistics Office's Michal Tiprak said the working population, now 63.4 percent, might drop to as low as 58.5 percent. "It is quite clear that the ratio of those working to those collecting pension will worsen" and that there will be "fewer people to create resources," Tiprak said. MS

HUNGARIAN DAILY ON 'BIG-BANG' EU ENLARGEMENT
The Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" reported on 3 October that the European Commission announced after an extended meeting in Brussels the previous day that it would like to see a "big-bang" enlargement. This would signal that Hungary and nine other candidates will be considered capable of successfully completing accession talks and becoming full EU members by 2004. The daily also observed that the EU on 23 October will likely invite the 10 candidates to reach agreement with the EU on financial conditions of enlargement before a 13 December summit in Copenhagen. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told Hungarian Radio on 2 October it is unfortunate that Hungarians have not been informed in recent years of the advantages and drawbacks of EU accession. If the opposition does not vote for the planned constitutional amendments, Medgyessy added, then the government should appeal directly to the people on the issue. MSZ

HUNGARY'S FIDESZ ALSO CONTEMPLATING NAME CHANGE?
Leading circles within the opposition FIDESZ party plan to unite the Hungarian right wing under a new party to be called the National Unity Party or something similar, "Vilaggazdasag" reported on 3 October. The daily said the planning process will accelerate after the 20 October local elections, and the Democratic Forum will be excluded initially. The news comes just a few days after leaders of the coalition Socialist Party hinted at their intention to change the party's name to the Hungarian Social Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 1 October 2002). MSZ

BUDAPEST MAYOR VOWS TO SUE FIDESZ POLITICIAN...
Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky on 2 October said he will sue FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Tamas Deutsch over allegations the latter made in parliament recently, Budapest dailies reported the next day. Deutsch claimed that in 1999 and 2000 the mayor's office granted 100 million forints' ($400,000) worth of contracts to a public-relations company run by Gabor Bruck, Demszky's campaign chief in 1994 and 1998, according to the reports. MSZ

...BUT UNFAZED, FIDEZS LEADER PREDICTS STRONG ELECTORAL SHOWING
Deutsch, who is also head of the Budapest chapter of FIDESZ, told "Magyar Hirlap" on 2 October that he is optimistic about the outcome of local elections, as opinion polls show that the party's popularity "has barely decreased" across the country. The daily also reported that Socialists are fielding 8,000 candidates for mayoral and local-council seats, more than any other party. MSZ

PRAISE FOR BOSNIAN SERB LEADER'S ADMISSION OF GUILT...
Speaking in The Hague on 2 October, prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said the decision by former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic to admit guilt in persecuting non-Serbs was a "brave decision that will contribute to truth and reconciliation," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). Eugene O'Sullivan, who is Plavsic's lawyer, said that by "expressing her remorse fully and unconditionally, Mrs. Plavsic hopes to offer some consolation to the innocent victims -- Muslim, Croat, and Serb." He said Plavsic calls on other leaders to "examine their own conduct" during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. O'Sullivan added that "her acknowledgement of...responsibility will, she hopes, enable her people to move past the carnage of the past decade, to reconcile with their neighbors, and, ultimately, to restore their dignity as a respected people," Reuters reported. PM

...WHICH IS A MILESTONE IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA...
O'Sullivan also said in The Hague on 2 October that, "Mrs. Plavsic understands...that she is subjecting herself to a possible sentence of life imprisonment" by admitting guilt, AP reported. She is the first former top-level Serbian leader to acknowledge guilt. Most Serbs argue that they were victims or that all sides were to blame. Plavsic broke with former President Slobodan Milosevic in 1994 -- even before the end of the Bosnian war in 1995 -- accusing him of selling out Bosnian Serb interests. Plavsic is part of the monarchist and Serbian Orthodox tradition in Serbian politics, while Milosevic belongs to the rival communist tradition. In Bosnia, reaction to Plavsic's guilty plea ranged from pleasant surprise to suspicion that the tribunal somehow compromised its values by making a deal with her. Many expect that she will eventually testify against Milosevic at his war crimes trial. PM

...EVEN IF IT IS UNPOPULAR IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
In Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic said Plavsic was acting on her own in "making a deal" with the tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 3 October. Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said her decision to plead guilty "will not have any consequences whatsoever for the Republika Srpska." In The Hague, Plavsic's lawyers said she decided to change her plea on her own and did not cut any deal with the tribunal. Her sentencing could take place as early as 16 December. PM

MILOSEVIC CHALLENGES CROATIAN PRESIDENT
Milosevic cross-examined prosecution witness and Croatian President Stipe Mesic in The Hague on 2 October, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 October 2002). Milosevic called Mesic a "Croatian fascist" and told him: "You betrayed Yugoslavia." Milosevic denied that there were prison camps in Serbia during the 1991-95 conflict, saying instead that there were "221 camps in Croatia." The court repeatedly warned Milosevic to concentrate on the charges against him and not to make accusations against Mesic. At one juncture, Mesic reminded Milosevic: "I am not the person on trial." The Serb replied: "That is the point." Presiding Judge Richard May asked both men to speak more slowly because the interpreters could not keep up with their heated exchange in Serbo-Croatian. PM

MONTENEGRINS ORGANIZE A 'FORGIVE US FOR DUBROVNIK' CAMPAIGN
The Montenegrin Social Democratic Party (SDP) and several NGOs marked the 11th anniversary of Montenegrin participation in the Yugoslav Army's attack on Dubrovnik by launching a campaign aimed at asking the people of Dubrovnik, Montenegro, and Europe for forgiveness, Hina reported from Podgorica on 2 October. The campaign will consist of staging peaceful walks in Montenegro and collecting signatures across that republic. The action will begin in Herceg Novi, Tivat, Kotor, Budva, and Cetinje. The sponsors hope to remind Montenegrins of their role in the attack on Dubrovnik and provide a foundation for reconciliation between Montenegro and Croatia. President Milo Djukanovic has previously apologized to Croatian leaders for the attacks, which included the ransacking of residences, luxury hotels, and Dubrovnik airport by drunken troops. PM

NATO CALLS ON CROATIA TO EXTRADITE GENERAL BOBETKO
NATO joined the chorus of voices on both sides of the Atlantic calling on the government of Prime Minister Ivica Racan to reverse its earlier decision and send former General Janko Bobetko to The Hague, dpa reported from Zagreb on 2 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September and 1 October 2002). Secretary-General Lord George Robertson argued that it is the duty of all Yugoslav successor states to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal. A NATO spokesman added that "failing to do so is not only unacceptable, but it could also have a negative impact on the international community's effort to establish peace and stability in the region," Reuters reported. PM

MACEDONIA TO DECLAW AMBER FOX?
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski wants NATO's Amber Fox peacekeeping mission to be replaced by a civilian security-advisory body in 2003, Reuters reported from Brussels and Skopje on 2 October. Amber Fox's current mandate runs out on 26 October. It had been widely predicted that the EU would take over from NATO at that point, but continuing bickering between Greece and Turkey has made it likely that NATO's mandate will be extended to the end of the year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 30 September 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May and 9 August 2002). The EU is likely to have little difficulty managing a civilian advisory mission, but many in the EU had hoped for a military one in order to prove that the EU can deal with such tasks. PM

POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS MACEDONIA
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski arrived for a two-day official visit in Skopje on 2 October, "Nova Makedonija" reported. On the first day of his visit, Kwasniewski discussed bilateral issues with his Macedonian counterpart Boris Trajkovski. After the talks, Trajkovski said he hopes Poland will support Macedonia's bid for NATO accession. "I believe that Macedonia will be able meet criteria for NATO membership in the years to come," Kwasniewski said. He thereby suggested -- as is widely believed -- that Macedonia will not receive an invitation for NATO membership during the Prague summit in November. Kwasniewski, who is being accompanied by Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski, is the first Polish president to visit Macedonia. UB

NEW PARLIAMENT SPEAKER FOR MACEDONIA
Social Democratic Union (SDSM) leader Branko Crvenkovski said in Skopje on 2 October that Nikola Popovski is his party's nominee to replace Stojan Andov as speaker of the new parliament, dpa reported. The SDSM holds 60 of the 120 seats in the legislature. PM

SERBIAN RADICAL LEADER CALLS FOR ELECTION BOYCOTT
Vojislav Seselj, who finished third in the recent first round of Serbian presidential voting, called on his supporters to boycott the second round, which is slated for 13 October, Reuters reported from Belgrade on 3 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 1 and 2 October 2002). "The Serbian Radical Party has decided to boycott the second round of the Serbian presidential elections," he told a press conference. "This decision was reached unanimously." Seselj's decision will cost Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica potential votes and increase chances that the voter turnout will be too low for the balloting to be valid. Kostunica's opponent is pro-reform candidate Miroljub Labus, who is anathema to Seselj. The Radical leader said at his press conference that he hopes the second round will be invalid and that general elections will follow. PM

LABUS AGREES TO SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL TV DEBATES
Labus has accepted an invitation from state-run television to debate Kostunica on 8 and 10 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade on 2 October. Kostunica has yet to accept or reject the invitation. In the run-up to the first round on 29 September, Kostunica refused to debate his opponents but said he will participate in a debate in the second round. PM

ROMANIA RECEIVES HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT IN HISTORIC FIRST VISIT...
President Ferenc Madl, in the first-ever official visit to Romania by a Hungarian head of state, on 2 October conducted talks with his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said there has been "continuous improvement" in relations between the two countries since the signing of a basic treaty between them in 1996, adding that Hungary is currently Romania's most important trade partner in Central Europe. He also said Romania and Hungary have the "political will necessary to solve sensitive issues" such as the minority problem. He said the Hungarian Status Law was among the subjects discussed with Madl, adding that Romania has suggested in the past possible ways to amend the law to eliminate discrimination and make it compatible with European standards. Madl replied that the law does not discriminate, it merely grants additional rights to ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries. Madl added that the Hungarian government is examining amendments to the law, which will be discussed by parliament. Iliescu also said Romania "appreciates" the help extended by Hungary in its quest to join NATO and emphasized that cooperation on this issue must extend beyond the NATO Prague summit in November. Madl called for improving mutual infrastructure links to facilitate both trade and communication. He said more border checkpoints should be opened, and more consulates should exist on both sides of the common border. MS

...WHICH INCLUDES TALKS WITH ROMANIAN PREMIER
Madl on 2 October also met with Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, discussing ways to improve cooperation between the two countries, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said the agreement that his Social Democratic Party concluded with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania has contributed much to the country's political stability over the last two years. He said Romania is interested in the outcome of the 20 October Hungarian local elections and particularly in having the Romanian minority in Hungary gain genuine representation in national minorities' autonomous local-government structures. There have been Romanian complaints that Roma run as ethnic Romanians in the elections to gain access to funds provided by the Hungarian government to such structures. In turn, Madl emphasized the need to further improve Hungarian-language teaching in Romania, particularly at university level. MS

ROMANIA CRITICIZES CHIEF BULGARIAN NEGOTIATOR WITH EU
Romanian European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak on 2 October called a statement by Bulgarian European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva "a gesture lacking elegance and fair play," Mediafax reported. Kuneva was quoted by Reuters as having said earlier in the day that her country does not want to be linked with Romania in EU accession talks because Romania's progress is considerably slower than Bulgaria's and the link might hinder Bulgaria's accession to the organization. Kuneva said the difference in performances is acknowledged in the EU's forthcoming country-evaluation report. Puwak said the EU's evaluation is based on individual country performances and on the implementation of EU legislation. "We are surprised that a Bulgarian official disregards this essential principle in the EU accession process, and we are surprised that Bulgaria knows the content of the report ahead of its release, which is due on 9 October," Puwak said. She added that Romania continues to regard the year 2007 as its target accession date, and "it is Bulgaria's internal problem if it wishes to join earlier." MS

ROMANIA EXTENDS MORATORIUM ON FOREIGN ADOPTIONS
The government on 2 October decided to extend to 15 November a moratorium declared last year on foreign adoptions of Romanian children, Reuters reported. Government spokesman Claudiu Lucaciu said the moratorium might be further extended if a package of laws on reforming the adoption system is not in place by then. MS

ROMANIAN JOURNALIST ACQUITTED OF LIBEL
Journalist Dumitru Tinu was found innocent on 2 October by a Bucharest court of libel charges brought against him by miners' leader Miron Cozma, AP reported. Cozma, who is serving an 18-year sentence for leading a rampage through the capital by miners in 1991, sued Tinu after the journalist described Cozma in 1999 in an editorial in the daily "Adevarul" as "a notorious terrorist." The editorial referred to an additional attempt by Cozma's supporters to reach the capital and overthrow the government by force. MS

ROMANIAN TV BROADCASTS TO BE RESUMED IN MOLDOVA
The Moldovan cabinet on 2 October approved a draft law on the ratification of a memorandum of understanding with Romania, making possible the resumption of Romanian Television's Channel 1 broadcasts in Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Under the memorandum, Romania should grant Moldova a long-term loan of 20 billion Romanian lei ($623,092) to cover costs related to the broadcasts. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said the suspension of the broadcasts on 10 August has been "misinterpreted" in Moldovan media reports, which suggested it was politically motivated. MS

CHISINAU-TIRASPOL NEGOTIATIONS CREEP AHEAD
The next round of negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol over the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) proposal on solving the Transdniester conflict is to be held in Tiraspol on 10 October, Infotag reported on 2 October. The agency said that the sides did not discuss contentious issues but only how to accelerate the negotiations at talks the previous day in Chisinau. MS

RUSSIA PREPARES TO RESUME EVACUATION OF MILITARY EQUIPMENT FROM TRANSDNIESTER
The Operative Group of Russian Troops (formerly the 14th Army) deployed in Transdniester has finished loading a 24-car train with military equipment -- mostly artillery shells -- and the train is ready to leave the region, Infotag reported on 2 October. OSCE mission spokesman Matti Sidoroff said the OSCE "regrets" that its observers were not allowed by Tiraspol authorities to monitor the loading process and that the mission hopes its observers will be allowed to inspect the train before its departure. Sidoroff said that any financing by the OSCE of subsequent arsenal removal will depend on such inspections being allowed. He emphasized that since the evacuation is part of the obligations assumed by Russia at the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, the OSCE negotiates with Russia and not with Transdniester. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS TO BE 'TRANSFIGURED' INTO SOCIAL DEMOCRATS?
Democratic Party Chairman Dumitru Diacov, a former speaker of the Moldovan parliament, told journalists on 2 October that a new social democratic party might soon be formed that would include the current Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In June, Moldovan media reported that a merger is envisaged between the PCM, the Democrats, and the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova (PDAM) and that President Vladimir Voronin has discussed the merger with Diacov and PDAM Chairman Anatol Papusoi. Diacov said that "a transfiguration" would be important for the currently ruling PCM and that Voronin is a leader who "understands what democracy means and is aware of the fact that the communist idea has no perspects [for success] in Moldova." MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT SETS NEW CONDITIONS FOR NUCLEAR CLOSURE
On the strength of votes from both the ruling coalition and the opposition, legislators approved a measure on 2 October stipulating that the No. 3 and No. 4 blocks of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant should not be shut down before Bulgaria has become a full EU member, BTA reported. It was not immediately clear whether the measure is binding, but opposition Socialist Party (BSP) representatives have threatened to bring the matter before the Supreme Court. The legislature's position contradicts the government's stated position -- which is that the European Commission's (EC) request that those blocks be closed down by 2006 can be negotiated after a renewed safety check (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2002). President Georgi Parvanov, who met with EC President Romano Prodi and EU Enlargement Commissioner Verheugen in Brussels the same day, criticized both positions. He said he considers it a mistake to link the fate of Bulgaria's nuclear-power industry with EU accession talks. Parvanov also noted that the Bulgarian parliament's decision does not make talks with EU representatives any easier. UB

BULGARIA SHUNS JOINT EU CONSIDERATION WITH ROMANIA
European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva said on 2 October that Bulgaria should not be in the same group of prospective EU members with Romania, mediapool.bg reported. "I [hope] Romania makes progress so that we can accede to the EU together, but at present the reforms in Bulgaria have gone much further [than in Romania] -- and that is the opinion of the European Commission, not me," Kuneva said, according to the website. She noted that Bulgaria has closed 22 chapters of the acquis communautaire, while Romania has closed just 13 chapters (see also "Romania" item above). UB

BULGARIA DEFINES POSITION OVER POSSIBLE MILITARY STRIKE AGAINST IRAQ
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lyubomir Todorov said on 2 October that Bulgaria might provide logistical or other support in the event of a military strike against Iraq under the condition that the UN Security Council has adopted a resolution against that country, mediapool.bg reported. If Bulgaria is asked by the U.S. government for support in the absence of a new Security Council resolution, Todorov said, Bulgaria will make a decision once it knows what kind of assistance is being requested. UB

VARIATIONS ON A HANGMAN
Feliks Dzerzhinskii, who nursed from its infancy the extraordinarily influential Soviet institution that would outlive and eclipse its creator to become the KGB, died a richly symbolic second death on 22 August 1991, his bronze effigy toppled before a jubilant throng from its pedestal on the Moscow square whose name had become synonymous with political repression and the rule of the secret police. Instant and unanimous commentary affirmed the death of all things Soviet and the rebirth of all things Western in Russia's vast expanse. In retrospect, one notes also Russia's first true media moment -- a self-explanatory image beamed live around the world because it is historic and seemingly rendered historic because it is beamed live around the world.

When Dzerzhinskii recently resurfaced, in connection with both the 125th anniversary of his birth and a suggestion by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov that reinstating him on Lubyanka Square might not be such a bad idea, no unambiguous commentary presented itself, nor have any analogous media moments emerged. The anniversary came and went, a voice from the Kremlin administration dubbed the mayor's idea "inopportune," and that was that. Nothing shocking. After all, proposals to return Dzerzhinskii to his place on Lubyanka Square have echoed from various crannies in the State Duma for several years -- although Luzhkov always weighed in against them. Moreover, some might ask, with an ex-KGB agent in the Kremlin and the music to the ex-Soviet national anthem ringing out at the Olympics again, isn't this all of a piece?

Perhaps. Let's listen, however, to exactly what the mayor said. Luzhkov called the statue of Dzerzhinskii a "marvelous monument that was the dominant element of Lubyanka Square," adding that it was "irreproachable as a sculptural composition."

This is an exceedingly odd thing to say about a monument to a man best known for his ruthless suppression of all opposition to Bolshevik rule in his role as commissar for internal affairs and head of the Cheka, the abbreviation for the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Sabotage. A firm consensus among scholars of Soviet communism pronounces Dzerzhinskii a villain par excellence. In a 1999 review of "The Black Book of Communism" for "The New Republic," Solzhenitsyn biographer Michael Scammell prepares the reader for the observation that the Bolsheviks "did not hesitate to kill without mercy" with a suitably hair-raising quotation from Dzerzhinskii: "Do not imagine, comrades, that I am...looking for a revolutionary form of justice. We have no concern for justice at this hour."

Regardless of whether Dzerzhinskii regains his place, Luzhkov's aesthetic reverie about the sculpture of the Bolshevik ur-executioner is indicative of a curious change that Soviet symbolism has undergone as it seeps back into post-Soviet life. In the absence of any meaningful national consensus on the import of the Soviet experience, the symbols of that time and place have somehow lost whatever tie they once had to the actual history of the Soviet Union, with its specific institutions, accomplishments, and crimes. Instead, they have come to serve as portals to some amorphous Soviet/Russian wellspring from which one can select whatever elements one wishes to sound as keynotes for a desired Russian future. A national anthem that once glorified Stalin and the Bolsheviks can be refitted with new words to herald a hoped-for national rebirth after a dismal decade. A statue of a revolutionary hangman, reinterpreted as a purely sculptural composition, can provide urban planners with the needed "dominant element" for a large square.

Luzhkov is not the only one to apply this radical shift of context to Dzerzhinskii. In an interview that one can find on the Federal Security Service's (FSB) website (http://www.fsb.ru/history/autors/plehanov.html), Dr. Aleksandr Plekhanov, a professor at the FSB Academy, makes the following assertion: "If Dzerzhinskii today held a high post in government, even if he were a supporter of a market economy, he wouldn't take the path of radically weakening the state's role in the economy. He wouldn't permit 'voucher privatization,' the pillaging of state property, the reduced role of science." The mind-boggling fantasy of Dzerzhinskii as a proponent of the free market is our clue that the signifier -- the concrete figure of Feliks Edmundovich Dzerzhinskii -- has come unmoored from what he historically signifies -- the head of the secret police in the nascent Bolshevik state and a key figure in the Red Terror. That bit of semiotic sorcery behind him, Plekhanov is free to "read" Dzerzhinskii as he will, using him in this case to add muscle to a negative take on several contested developments of the 1990s.

Is there a touch of the postmodern in all this free play of decontextualized symbols? Or is it just conceptual chaos? Vladimir Nabokov's description of an emigre couple in his novel "Pnin" hints at one possible answer: "Only another Russian could understand the reactionary and Sovietophile blend presented by the pseudo-colorful Komarovs, for whom an ideal Russia consisted of the Red Army, an anointed monarch, collective farms, anthroposophy, the Russian Church and the Hydro-Electric Dam...." Although some of Nabokov's terms have not stood the test of time (anthroposophy is not much in evidence these days), the peculiar cocktail he mixes for the Komarovs seems increasingly popular in Moscow. The intriguing question is why so many find it not merely palatable, but potent.

We should not lose sight of the fact that very real decisions emerge from all of this effervescent semiotic activity -- old music and new words can come together to form an officially recognized national anthem that ordinary people may one day sing with real emotion; schoolchildren will be gathered around monuments to glean something of their country's history. And Lubyanka Square, still home to Dzerzhinskii's renamed and reconstituted Cheka-KGB-FSB, will hardly remain empty much longer.

Daniel Kimmage is a Washington-based analyst of Russian and Arab affairs.

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