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Newsline - October 10, 2002


DEPUTIES OKAY GOVERNMENT'S ELECTRICITY SECTOR REFORMS...
State Duma deputies took up the controversial issue of reforming the country's electricity sector on 9 October, Russian news agencies reported. Deputies passed a government-sponsored package of six bills in their first reading; each of them collected more than 250 votes in favor, according to polit.ru. Included in the package were bills on electricity and the regulation of electricity and heating rates, along with amendments to the law on natural monopolies and energy supply and the Civil Code. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 10 October, prior to the bills' consideration, the government satisfied all of the demands of the Duma's centrist factions. Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Andrei Sharonov told the Duma on 9 October that the bills would liberalize the energy industry while, at the same time, allowing the government to retain control of the sector. If the bills are enacted in their current form, then the electrical-energy industry will make the transition to market operation by 2005, the newspaper reported. JAC

...AND YABLOKO LEADER ISN'T HAPPY
The energy bills were opposed by the Communist and Yabloko factions. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii predicted that the new laws "will guarantee an endless rise in electricity rates," lead to the "creation of electricity oligarchs in the regions," and establish a "basis for political-corporate authoritarianism" in Russia. JAC

BLAIR TO TALK IRAQ IN MOSCOW
British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Moscow on 10 October for two days of talks with President Vladimir Putin that are expected to focus on the Iraq conflict, Russian and Western news media reported. In a predeparture interview with the BBC on 10 October, Blair said Russia has been combating Al-Qaeda since long before 11 September 2001 and that it has the right to defend itself from "terrorism coming from extremists operating out of Chechnya." Igor Bunin, director of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies, told strana.ru that Blair will likely try to entice Russia into moving closer to the U.S.-British position on Iraq. "It is possible that they will present us some sort of gift -- negotiations with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait concerning the purchase of our technology," Bunin said. "This means that for concessions they might allow us into this weapons market, since I don't think that Kuwait would reach an agreement with Russia without the approval of the United States." Gleb Pavlovskii of the Foundation for Effective Politics told AP that Blair will try to convince Putin that Moscow will be allowed to play a role in Iraq if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is deposed. RC

ROBBERIES, VIOLENCE MAR CENSUS...
Additional incidents of violence against census takers conducting Russia's first national census in 13 years have been reported, according to Russian news agencies on 10 October. An 18-year-old student working on the census in Saransk was threatened by assailants in an alley and had his jacket stolen, strana.ru reported. Three unidentified robbers mugged a census worker in Syktyvkar and stole from him 300 rubles ($9), 30 completed census questionnaires, and 40 blank ones, according to the same report. More than 60 completed questionnaires and 200 blank ones were stolen from a census worker in the Moscow Oblast town of Korolev, ntvru.com reported. Also in Moscow Oblast, a 28-year-old monk allegedly broke into the apartment of a 54-year-old census taker and destroyed four questionnaires that had been filled out by his parents. An investigation into that incident is under way. In Moscow, two men posing as census workers and using false identification cards broke into an apartment and robbed a 23-year-old woman of 3,000 rubles and $96. Several cases of census takers being attacked by dogs were also reported, and census workers in Bashkortostan have been issued pepper spray to use in self-defense, ntvru.com reported. RC

...AS DOES LACK OF EQUIPMENT
In the far northern city of Murmansk, census workers have complained that they have not been issued flashlights and are having trouble navigating the poorly lit streets and apartment-building stairways, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 10 October. They also said they had to buy their own ink refills for their pens, since the three or four issued are clearly insufficient and said the cheap folders provided were constantly breaking and papers were falling out of them. The workers expressed surprise that census organizers were economizing on such items in view of the fact that they had arranged for more than 30 local billboards to advertise the census at an estimated cost of $2,000 each. According to ntvru.com, 173 census workers in Voronezh quit, citing low pay and "the negative attitude of the public toward census takers." They claimed that many residents were refusing to answer census questions until census workers completed menial tasks such as cleaning stairways or taking out the trash. RC

CENSUS FINDINGS COULD NECESSITATE AMENDING POLITICAL SYSTEM IN DAGHESTAN
Census takers in Daghestan have discovered 15 ethnic groups that previously have been classified as Avars, to whom those groups are related, ntvru.com reported on 9 October. The Avars hitherto constituted the largest ethnic group in Daghestan, numbering approximately 500,000, or 27 percent, of the republic's total population. The newly discovered ethnic groups together total 150,000, which might mean that the Dargins, who in 1989 numbered 280,431 persons, have now overtaken the Avars as the republic's largest ethnic group. The discovery of the new ethnic groups will necessitate amendments to the republic's constitution, given that hitherto the 34 recognized ethnic groups were all represented on the State Council, the highest organ of state power. LF

NATO, RUSSIA DISCUSS MILITARY REFORM
A NATO-Russia conference on military reform opened in Rome on 10 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia is represented at the forum by Deputy Defense Minister Lyubov Kudelina and First Deputy Chief of the General Staff Major General Yurii Baluevskii. The conference will discuss the personnel and equipment requirements of a modern army and the process of controlling military reform. RC

DOES THE KREMLIN HAVE ITS OWN SOFT-MONEY PROBLEM?
In a column in "The Moscow Times" on 9 October and an article in "Novaya gazeta," No. 74, commentator Yuliya Latynina alleges that the Kremlin controls a multimillion dollar "slush fund" to finance the candidates its supports in State Duma and local elections. According to Latynina, the money for the fund comes from "the oligarchs" whose tax payments "fill the official coffers" and whose gifts "keep the black budget afloat." Latynina estimates that, on average, supporting 100 pro-government State Duma deputies costs the Kremlin $20 million, while a single governor's campaign usually runs between $1.5 million-$2 million. She suggests that "the entire Russian economy is built around the black budget," while "the Russian elite is composed of those who have access to it." She concludes that the overall social and economic costs of the fund are huge, since "an oligarch who contributes a million to the Kremlin slush fund receives by way of compensation a presidential decree that brings him hundreds of millions." JAC

VIETNAMESE LEADER IN THE KREMLIN
President Putin on 10 October met with Vietnam's Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh in Moscow, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Manh is on a five-day visit to Russia that will include a trip to St. Petersburg. The two leaders discussed bilateral political and economic relations. After completing his Russia trip Manh will travel on to Belarus. RC

BEREZOVSKII'S MEDDLING COULD FRACTURE THE LEFT
Duma Speaker and Rossiya movement head Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 10 October that Rossiya will likely break with the leftist People's Patriotic Union of Aleksandr Prokhanov unless Prokhanov renounces earlier statements that he intends to accept financing from self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October 2002), strana.ru reported. A decision to leave the union will likely be made at Rossiya's 22 October congress, Seleznev said. "Many Russians are in shock [over Prokhanov's announcement]," Seleznev said. "Russians do not consider that using Berezovskii's money to finance Prokhanov's newspaper counts as returning the oligarchs' money to Russia." Meanwhile, Berezovskii told Radio-1 on 10 October that a decision the previous day to expel him from the Liberal Russia party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002) "demonstrates the weakness of the party's leadership," which fears contacts with its opponents. RC

FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN PREDICTS REDRAWING OF INTERNAL BORDERS...
At a press conference on 9 October, Sergei Mironov said the results of the national census might lead to a review of the boundaries of the subjects of the federation, ITAR-TASS reported. "We will find out how many of us live in this country [and] where they live, and I think the results might prompt realistic proposals for redrawing territories," he said. Meanwhile, some residents of the village of Molodezhnyi in Irkutsk Oblast are refusing to participate in the census, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 9 October. The residents, most of whom are professors and students from a local agricultural academy, believe their town will be no longer be considered part of the city of Irkutsk and will become part of the Irkutsk Raion after the census is conducted. According to the agency, they do not want to become "rural residents." JAC

...AND A SHORT LIFE FOR PARTY OF POWER...
In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day, Mironov suggested that the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party does not necessarily have a long future ahead of it. "Nobody doubts that in the 2003 [parliamentary] elections Unified Russia will gain a significant share of the vote. However, it is not certain that the party will still exist in 2007," he said. According to Mironov, the party's recent proposal to raise the barrier for entering the State Duma to 12.5 percent of the total vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 October 2002) resulted from the party's "sense of its own strength" and "a wish to eliminate its rivals." But he continued, "Nobody knows who will be whose rival in a year's time." Mironov is associated with the St. Petersburg-based Party of Life, which some analysts believe is competing with Unified Russia to become a new "party of power" (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 26 September 2002). JAC

...AND UNVEILS HIS NEW WEBSITE
Mironov has launched a personal website (http://www.mironov.ru), Russian agencies reported on 9 October. Visitors can see 25 different headshots of Mironov -- smiling, frowning, smiling with teeth, with clasped hands, and jacketless -- as well as a dozen photos of Mironov fishing and wearing a variety of hats. Also accessible are announcements of the upper legislative chamber's press service, as well as news about legislative initiatives. In an interview with TV-6 on 3 October, Mironov denied that he has hired a personal image-maker since his arrival in Moscow in December 2001, but he did admit that he got his hair cut and has now started combing his hair "more thoroughly in the morning." JAC

CORRUPTION RESEARCHERS RANK THE REGIONS
Residents of Bashkortostan have the greatest trust in federal and regional officials, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 October, citing a poll of 5,666 citizens and 1,838 representatives of small and medium-sized businesses conducted in 40 regions. Residents of Novgorod Oblast have the lowest level of trust of federal authorities, while Saratov Oblast citizens have the least trust in regional officials. The research was headed by Georgii Satarov, president of the INDEM think tank, and Yelena Panfilova, director of the Russian department of the Center for Anti-Corruption Research and Initiatives of Transparency International. Satarov told reporters on 9 October that he disagrees with the cliche that "in order to fight corruption, there must be [sufficient] political will." According to Satarov, one can battle corruption with the help of public pressure on the authorities: "The first function of our project is to help the public see this problem, become angry, and as a result turn on the pressure." JAC

BASHKIR DEPUTIES TAKE UP THE NEW CONSTITUTION
The legislature of Bashkortostan has begun consideration of a new redaction of the republic's constitution, RosBalt reported on 9 October. The new version eliminates any mention of the republic's "sovereignty" and the concept of republican "citizenship." The draft also expands the authority of the legislature over the drafting and implementation of the budget. Analysts believe that the new version conforms to the Russian Constitution and federal legislation. RC

LOCAL JOURNALIST LOSES BATTLE TO OVERTURN HARSH PUNISHMENT
The Lenin Raion Court in Ulyanovsk on 8 October upheld a lower-court ruling sentencing Yuliya Shelamydova, editor of "Simbirskie izvestiya," to a year of corrective labor and large fine for an article she published about Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov's entourage, VolgaInform reported. Fellow journalists, public activists, and members of local political organizations such as Liberal Democratic Russia and the New Communist Party picketed the court before her hearing. During the court hearing, Shelamydova charged that the case against her was part of a larger effort to intimidate members of the oblast's independent press, so that they will keep silent about cases of abuse of office and mistakes involving regional officials. JAC

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
Vandals in Karelia have destroyed an important group of prehistoric cliff drawings, gazeta.ru reported on 10 October, citing officials of the republic's local history museum. The petroglyphs were located on the Kochnavolok Peninsula in Lake Onega and were considered to be of global significance. According to the report, the vandals scratched out many of the drawings with a sharp instrument and etched new inscriptions over them. According to museum officials, the lost petroglyphs cannot be restored. RC

CONTROVERSIAL CROWN TO BE SOLD FOR CHARITY
An exact copy of the Cap of Monomakh that was made by Urals jewelers for President Putin's 50th birthday (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2002) will be auctioned and the proceeds donated to children's charities, RosBalt reported on 9 October. Anatolii Klimin, president of the Russian Jewelers Association, denied reports that the valuable crown was not given to Putin because of "ironic commentaries" in the press or because officials of the National Seal and Flag Institute expressed the opinion that presenting a symbol of autocracy to the head of a democratic state would be "incorrect." However, he added that selling the copy and giving the money to charity is a "healthy and correct idea." He estimated that the jeweled crown will fetch about $50,000. RC

IF EVER ANYONE DESERVED A MONUMENT
The Baikal Amazons Club in Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia, has started collecting money to erect a statue in Mongolia honoring the first wife of Genghis (Chingiz) Khan, who lived at the end of 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 9 October. The Ulan-Ude club is responding to an appeal to erect the statue that was issued by a women's movement in the city of Darkhan, Mongolia, according to the agency. Meanwhile, on 16 October, the Moscow City Duma will consider a proposal to erect a monument to Tsar Nicholas II on Lubyanka Square, on the spot where the statue of Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii formerly stood. The proposal is sponsored by independent Deputy Aleksandr Fedulov and is intended to signal the state's "repentance" regarding the Bolsheviks' "crimes" against the former royal family, gazeta.ru reported. JAC/RC

SECOND OFFICIAL BACKS POSTPONING REFERENDUM ON NEW CHECHEN CONSTITUTION
Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii suggested in Moscow on 9 October that scheduling the planned referendum on the new Chechen draft constitution simultaneously with the December 2003 elections to the Russian State Duma would be a "good option," ITAR-TASS reported. He said it will take at least one year to finalize the draft but at the same time denied that there are any "fundamental differences" over the issues between the Russian presidential administration and Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said last month he thinks the referendum should take place in December 2003 at the very latest. But Russian human rights commissioner for Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov said it will take place before the end of this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002). LF

INGUSH PRESIDENT RULES OUT REUNIFICATION WITH CHECHNYA
Speaking in Moscow on 9 October, Murat Zyazikov made clear that he will not agree to his republic's reunification with Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. "Today Chechnya and Ingushetia have the status of sovereign republics, and it would be inexpedient for us to merge," he said. The two entities constituted a single Checheno-Ingush ASSR between January 1934-June 1946 and February 1957-June 1992. Rumors that Moscow might again merge them have been circulating since early 2001, when Zyazikov's predecessor Ruslan Aushev denied that there was any substance to them. LF

INGUSH PARLIAMENT DEPUTY MURDERED
Magomed-Bashir Aushev and his driver were found shot dead in Aushev's automobile near the village of Surkhakhi on the outskirts of Nazran on the evening of 8 October, Russian news agencies reported. Aushev was a member of the Ingush legislature and imam of a mosque in Surkhakhi. The motive for the killings is not clear. LF

CORRECTION:
An "RFE/RL Newsline" item entitled "Population Attrition in Murmansk Will Affect Natural-Resource Extraction" on 9 October misparaphrased a statement by the director of the Foundation for Strategic Development-Northwest, Andrei Zasypkin. Zasypkin said that the region might be able to cope with the loss of workers if the latest technology and equipment is introduced.

ARMENIAN PREMIER ENDORSES PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION BID
Andranik Markarian told journalists in Yerevan on 9 October that his Republican Party of Armenia will back incumbent President Robert Kocharian's bid for re-election in the presidential ballot scheduled for February 2003, Noyan Tapan reported. Meanwhile, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun has embarked on talks with other political parties aimed at ensuring that the upcoming local, presidential, and parliamentary elections are free and fair, according to "Yerkir" on 8 and 9 October, as cited by Groong. LF

ARMENIA'S ENTRY TO WTO NOT CONTINGENT ON AZERBAIJAN
The United States has not demanded that Armenia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) be delayed so that Armenia and Azerbaijan may join that body simultaneously, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 9 October. Armenian Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian claimed last week that the reason Armenia's accession had been delayed yet again was that the United States wanted both Armenia and Azerbaijan to join the WTO together (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2002). LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEMANDS PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION
Meeting in Baku on 9 October, 10 Azerbaijani opposition parties (including the Azerbaijan National Independence, Musavat, Democratic, Civic Unity, Adolat parties, and both wings of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party) signed a joint statement on 9 October calling on President Heidar Aliev to step down voluntarily to "avoid resistance and civic confrontation," Turan reported. The parties also expressed their thanks to all participants in the 5 October mass demonstration in Baku, and reaffirmed their intention to hold another such protest on 26 October. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT 'NOT IN IRAN'
There is no truth to reports that Ayaz Mutalibov is in Iran, Sabir Hadjiev, secretary-general of the Civic Solidarity party, which supports the former president, told Turan on 9 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). Hadjiev said Mutalibov is in southern Russia and will return to Moscow soon. He has lived in the Russian capital since fleeing Baku in May 1992. LF

NINE CADETS EXPELLED FROM AZERBAIJAN'S HIGHER MILITARY COLLEGE
Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev has signed a decree on the expulsion of nine cadets from the Baku Higher Military College for alleged repeated violations of discipline, zerkalo.az reported on 10 October. The nine have been sent to the front line in Barda and Agdam. College officials denied any connection between the expulsions and the mass walkout of cadets from the college last month to protest declining teaching standards and harsh and unfair treatment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 5, 6, and 9 September 2002). Parents of the nine young men told zerkalo.az that their sons were not among the cadets who staged the walkout, but that as sergeants they were being held responsible for not preventing the protest by their subordinates. LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER WARNS CHECHEN REFUGEES
Georgian Minister for Refugee Affairs Valeri Vashakidze on 9 October warned Chechen refugees in Georgia to desist from any further attempt to "pressure" the Georgian authorities, Caucasus Press reported. Some of the refugees embarked on a hunger strike several days ago to protest the extradition to Moscow of five suspected Chechen militants apprehended in August after crossing the Georgian border illegally and demand that eight further Chechens not be handed over (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). On 10 October, Caucasus Press reported, quoting "Alia," that Hussein Aziev, one of the five Chechens who faced extradition, died en route for Tbilisi airport from injuries received during a fight with prison personnel, and that another, unidentified Chechen was sent to Moscow in his place. The head of the Georgian detention prison where the men were being held confirmed that all the men were "lightly wounded," but denied that any of them died. LF

GEORGIA FACES BUDGET SEQUESTER FOR LACK OF EU FUNDS
Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze admitted at a meeting with finance and economy ministers on 9 October that the non-receipt of two anticipated European Union grants worth a total of 23.5 million euros ($23.25 million), and of a further $20 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan tranche, could necessitate a budget sequester, Caucasus Press reported. He said the revenue shortfall during the first nine months of this year amounted to 70 million laris ($31.9 million). The EU has made disbursement of the grants contingent on the release of British banking expert Peter Shaw, who was kidnapped in Tbilisi in June while on secondment to the EU office there. Djorbenadze said he has written to the EU asking that that condition be waived. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIAL DESCRIBES FORMER OFFICIALS' PRISON CONDITIONS
A senior Kazakh Justice Ministry official told a press conference in Astana on 9 October that former Energy, Industry, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov and former Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov are serving their respective prison terms under the same conditions as other prisoners, Interfax reported. The two men, both cofounders of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, were sentenced to six and seven years' imprisonment, respectively, on charges of financial malpractice that most observers believe were fabricated. Abliyazov is serving his term in Kokshetau and is working as a packer in a sewing shop; Zhaqiyanov is incarcerated in Qostanai, and is not currently employed, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Both men's lawyers have visited them on several occasions in the two-three months since they were sentenced, the officials said. LF

KYRGYZ LEADERS BRIEF INTERNATIONAL DONORS
Askar Akaev addressed the opening session on 9 October of the third international donors conference for Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev and Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev outlined Kyrgyzstan's progress in economic reform, Interfax and akipress.org reported. Akaev noted that real incomes have increased by 37 percent in recent years, while annual inflation has fallen from 33 percent to 3.7 percent. GDP growth averages 5 percent. But he added that his country will need some $500 million to implement its planned three-year program to eradicate poverty. He also highlighted the ecological threat to the Ferghana Valley posed by dilapidated Soviet-era storage facilities on Kyrgyz territory for radioactive uranium waste. He estimated the cost of repairing those storage facilities to prevent a leak of radioactive uranium at $15 million. Some 85 experts from 16 donor-states and 15 international organizations are attending the conference. LF

KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATORS DEMAND RECALL OF AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY
Some 100 relatives and friends of six local officials charged in connection with their alleged role in ordering police to open fire on participants in a protest march in March picketed the government building in Bishkek on 9 October to demand the recall of Kyrgyzstan's Ambassador to Turkey Amanbek Karypkulov, akipress.org reported. At the time of the March protests Karypkulov headed the presidential administration; he is believed to have issued the orders to police to open fire on the protesters, five of whom were killed. Karypkulov resigned from the presidential apparatus in May and was named ambassador to Ankara two months later (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May and 17 July 2002). LF

IMF DELEGATION URGES TOUGHER MONETARY POLICY IN TAJIKISTAN
During talks in Dushanbe with President Imomali Rakhmonov, IMF official Rupert Christiansen commended Tajikistan's impressive economic growth, particularly in the agricultural sector, Interfax reported on 9 October, quoting presidential Press Secretary Zafar Saidov. But Christiansen reportedly expressed concern over rising inflation and advocated adopting a tougher monetary policy. Inflation for the first seven months of 2002 was 6.6 percent, according to Interfax on 23 August. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARNS LEGISLATURE AGAINST POWER REDISTRIBUTION...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 9 October met with legislators of the Chamber of Representatives (Belarus's lower house) and presented his vision of the bill on the National Assembly that they are soon to discuss in the second reading, Belarusian media reported. Lukashenka advised legislators to strictly follow the constitution in defining the powers of the legislature and warned them against encroaching on the president's prerogatives. "I am afraid of a chain reaction [leading to] a redistribution of powers in the Republic of Belarus," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. "We are a strong presidential republic, where the president is the head of state, and there is absolutely no need for counterbalancing the presidential powers," Lukashenka added. Under the 1996 constitution adopted in a referendum that is widely believed to have been grossly falsified by the executive, Belarus's National Assembly has extremely limited powers. It does not have any control whatsoever over the implementation of laws and the state budget. The country is ruled almost exclusively by presidential decrees that are subsequently "redeveloped" into laws. JM

...PRAISES NEW BILL ON RELIGIONS
During a meeting later the same day with Patriarch Volodymyr, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Lukashenka suggested that he will sign the recently adopted controversial bill on religions in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 8 October 2002). "Some people here reacted to this bill ambiguously, but to be fair, I must say that it does not contain any infringements on the rights of other confessions," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. "It assigns an important role to our traditional confessions that have played and are playing an important role in the culture of our state. Therefore, I think that it is a well-balanced bill...and that it will most likely be signed by the president." JM

BELARUSIAN VENDORS TO STOP STRIKE ON 10 OCTOBER?
The United Council of Entrepreneurs (ASP), an organization of small traders in Belarus, has appealed to outdoor-market vendors to stop their ongoing strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 4 October 2002) as of 10 October, Belapan reported on 9 October. The ASP said in a statement that more than 100,000 vendors joined the protest, forcing the authorities to yield to some of the strikers' demands. "However, in general, the government has shown reluctance to meet the demands that vendors put forward during the strike," the statement noted. The striking vendors wanted the authorities to abolish the requirements that they use cash registers, pay social-insurance fees, and keep receipts on bank accounts. The strikers also demanded that authorities lower the rates of the so-called single tax (fixed amount paid on a monthly basis irrespective of the volume of sales revenue); lift a ban on the sale of household appliances, fur, and leather clothes at outdoor markets; and declare a one-year moratorium on tax inspections of traders who pay the single tax. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FORMS TEAM TO HELP INVESTIGATE KOLCHUGA ALLEGATIONS
President Leonid Kuchma has set up a commission intended to assist international experts in Ukraine in investigating the allegations that Kyiv may have illegally sold Kolchuga radar systems to Baghdad, UNIAN reported on 9 October. The commission is headed by presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk and includes presidential-administration officials responsible for military, security, and trade issues. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have decided not to place Ukraine under scrutiny of a UN Security Council committee pending a U.S. investigation into the Kolchuga allegations, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported the same day. U.S. investigators are expected to arrive in Ukraine later this month. JM

FORMER UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER GETS U.S. ASYLUM
Former Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Yelyashkevych told Reuters on 9 October that he has obtained political asylum in the United States. Yelyashkevych was a deputy of the previous Verkhovna Rada and participated in the work of a special parliamentary commission investigating the death of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. "I was granted political asylum because of a serious threat to my life that existed and still exists from Kuchma and his entourage," Yelyashkevych told Reuters. In February 2000, Yelyashkevych was attacked by unknown assailants and suffered a concussion. He later maintained that the attack was ordered by President Kuchma. Earlier this year, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website published a transcript of Mykola Melnychenko's secret audio recording on which voices similar to those of Kuchma and then-Security Service chief Leonid Derkach discuss the organization of an attack on Yelyashkevych. JM

EUROPEAN COMMISSION RECOMMENDS BALTIC STATES FOR 2004 EU ADMISSION
EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen presented to the European Parliament on 9 October an EC report recommending that 10 candidate countries, including the three Baltic states, be admitted to the European Union in 2004, BNS reported. It calls for the completion of membership talks with those 10 states prior to the EU Copenhagen summit on 12-13 December. While praising the progress of the Baltic states, the report also pointed out areas where they could improve. Fisheries and customs were mentioned as the most problematic areas for Estonia, along with the high rate of unemployment and large current-accounts deficit. The EC urged Latvia to intensify its fight against corruption, strengthen its administration, accelerate integration of its Russian minority, introduce a uniform payment system for the civil service, reduce backlogs on court cases, and improve food-safety supervision. The report recommended that Lithuania should overhaul its judicial system by "improving professional capacity of judges and prosecutors", and take measures to reduce unemployment, complete pension reform, strengthen the public procurement office, and ensure better data protection. SG

NATO LOGISTICS EXERCISE BEGINS IN ESTONIA
The NATO logistics exercise Cooperative Support 2002 was opened in Tallinn on 9 October with 150 officers from 26 NATO and Partnership for Peace countries in attendance, BNS reported. This is the largest number of participating countries in any international exercise held in Estonia since the restoration of independence. The aim of the exercise, which was mainly organized by NATO Regional Headquarters Allied Forces-South Atlantic in Portugal, is to introduce NATO logistics doctrine, policy, and procedures that could be used in multinational joint operations to alliance and partner countries' officers. The exercise will last until 16 October. SG

RIGA FREE PORT'S BOARD TO UNDERWRITE LOAN FOR PURCHASING FERRY
After receiving a letter from Transportation Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs stating that he does not have the right to decide on matters the Riga Free Port's board fail to decide unanimously, board Chairman and Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars said on 9 October that the board will underwrite a loan of $7.75 million for the joint-stock company Riga Sea Line (Rigas juras linija) to purchase the "Baltic Kristina" ferry, LETA reported. He thus ignored the objections presented the previous day by representatives of the Finance and Economy ministries that the purchase of the ferry to travel between Riga and Stockholm is not economically justifiable. SG

SYRIAN PRESIDENT SEES LITHUANIA AS GOOD PARTNER
Bashar Al-Assad told visiting Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis in Damascus that Lithuania's progress in seeking European Union and NATO membership makes it a more attractive partner, BNS reported on 9 October. The two discussed the need for closer economic ties, which could be facilitated by bilateral treaties on promotion and protection of investments and economic cooperation. Accompanied by a delegation of businesspeople, Valionis is on a tour of three Middle East states that began in Egypt on 5 October and will end in Jordan on 14 October. An important reason for the visit was Valionis's participation on 7 October in the official opening of the Lithuanian Embassy in Cairo that began operations in December 2001. Valionis held talks after the ceremony with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Maheron on promoting tourism and increasing bilateral trade. SG

CORRECTION:
In the 9 October "End Note" titled "Latvia at a Crossroads -- Again," the percentage of Latvian citizens who are ethnic Russians should be 29.6 percent, and the percentage of ethnic Latvians should be 57.7 percent.

POLAND UPBEAT OVER REPORT ON EU-ACCESSION PROGRESS
Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has said the 9 October report by the European Commission (EC) recommending Poland and nine other countries for admission to the European Union in 2004 is "good" for Warsaw, PAP reported on 9 October. "I think it is a bit more than good with emphasis on the fact that it is more than good," Cimoszewicz added. "We do not perceive the elements pointing out what needs to be done as criticism -- that would be foolish. Personally, I see it as a mobilizing factor," European Affairs Minister Danuta Huebner noted. Among other concerns voiced in the report, the EC chided Poland for foot-dragging on reforms in the judiciary, civil administration, and agriculture. "We're among the top 10 and the talks are still on. We have some difficult debating ahead but I think we'll manage to reach solutions that will please both us, the other candidates, and the EU," President Aleksander Kwasniewski commented on the report. JM

WARSAW BACKS DOWN ON PROPOSAL OF UKRAINIAN 'ROUNDTABLE'
President Kwasniewski on 9 October said the conference in Warsaw on 15-16 October that is to be devoted to Ukraine's relations with NATO and the European Union cannot play the role of "roundtable" talks for the Ukrainian authorities and the opposition, PAP reported. Kwasniewski added that calling the conference a "roundtable" is a "misunderstanding." He noted that such talks on Ukrainian affairs "may take place in Kyiv or another place in Ukraine, but not abroad." Many news agencies reported that Polish Premier Leszek Miller during his visit to Lviv last week proposed that representatives of the Ukrainian government and the opposition meet in Warsaw to discuss the current political standoff in Ukraine. In response to this proposal, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma accused Warsaw of interfering in Ukrainian domestic affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). The same day, Foreign Minister Cimoszewicz also stressed that Miller did not propose to hold "roundtable" talks on the situation on Ukraine in Warsaw, and called the affair a "misunderstanding." JM

CHILEAN PRESIDENT IN POLAND
Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar met with his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski in Warsaw on 9 October, PAP reported. The agency said both statesmen "voiced disappointment" over the unsatisfactory level of economic cooperation between the two countries and resolved to set up a bilateral working group that will have three months to find ways to boost economic cooperation. Later the same day, Escobar met with Premier Miller to discuss ways of developing Polish-Chilean relations and prospects for boosting cooperation in copper mining, aviation, science, and culture. JM

FORMER CZECH LEADER WILL SURRENDER PARTY CHAIRMANSHIP...
Former Czech Prime Minister and current Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus on 10 October hinted at a presidential bid in early 2003 and said he will not seek re-election at a party conference in December, CTK reported the same day. Klaus, who was prime minister in 1992-97 and is the only chairman in his center-right party's 11-year history, told an extraordinary press conference that he wishes to avoid speculation about his future. Klaus has come under pressure within the party since the ODS lost national elections to the Social Democratic Party in mid-June, and his continued presence at the party's helm is generally viewed as an obstacle to consolidation of the political right. Regional Commissioner Evzen Tosenovsky has already announced his intention to run for ODS chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2002). AH

...CITING PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATIONS
Klaus added on 10 October that he will accept nomination for president if his candidacy is "earnestly and seriously" proposed, according to his party website (http://www.ods.cz). "It is inconceivable that a candidate for the function of president be the sitting chairman of any political party," Klaus said. Polls consistently show strong popular support for a Klaus presidency, though the current fractiousness of the Czech political landscape is likely to necessitate serious horse trading before any new president is named. Under the Czech Constitution, the president is elected by a majority vote of both chambers of parliament. AH

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS EU COMMISSION REPORT IS OBJECTIVE, 'TICKET TO EU'...
"The Czech Republic has obtained an assessment...that we can call an entry ticket to the EU," Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said after the release of the European Commission's candidate-country assessment on 9 October, according to CTK. The commission recommended the accession of the Czech Republic and nine other candidates in 2004. It praised the fulfillment by the Czech Republic of EU political criteria for admission and expressed satisfaction on progress achieved in the reform of the judiciary. The commission said the Czech economy has improved against a general background of a "challenging international [economic] environment," macroeconomic stability has been achieved, and reforms have intensified. It also said the Czech Republic has a "functioning market economy" and that, if reforms continue, the country will be able to face the challenge of competitive market forces in the EU. But the report adds that Prague must still fight corruption, accelerate reforms of the judiciary, and offer the Romany minority better access to education. It also says reforms are needed in social expenditure, including the pension system and health-care schemes. MS

...WHILE OPPOSITION LEADER DISPLAYS 'EURO-REALIST' CREDENTIALS
ODS Chairman Klaus on 9 October described the commission's report as "not a scenario for EU accession, but rather playing the accession game," CTK reported. Klaus, who is attending an annual conference of the Conservative Party in Bournemouth, Great Britain, said the admission of the Czech Republic and the other nine candidates into the EU has already been decided and the report is nothing but "an annual game of clerks, with officials on both sides playing roles that have no real importance in European decision making." But the self-described "Euro-realist" added that the upcoming phase of final negotiations is an important one in which the Czech government will need to display all its skills. "It would be criminal," Klaus said, if the Czech government failed to display a tough position at this decisive stage. MS

LONGTIME RIVAL OFFERS FORMAL PRAISE FOR OUTGOING CZECH PRESIDENT
In what observers described as a surprising move, ODS deputies on 9 October praised President Vaclav Havel, who on that day visited the Chamber of Deputies as Czech president for the last time. ODS parliamentary group leader Vlastimil Tlusty, who occupied key economic roles for the party throughout an era that Havel has labeled a period of "mafia capitalism," thanked the president for his positive contribution to Czech politics and wished him good health, CTK reported. Havel delivered a short speech to the lower house. MS

CZECH CHIEF OF STAFF BIDS COMMANDERS FAREWELL
Chief of Staff General Jiri Sedivy, who is ending his mandate after four years of service, on 9 October met with military commanders to bid them farewell, CTK reported. He thanked all those who served under him for their contribution to the Czech military and its good reputation. Sedivy is to be replaced on 1 December by General Pavel Stefka. Sedivy said he intends to enter neither politics nor the diplomatic service. MS

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS CZECH CAPITAL
Visiting Estonian Foreign Minister Kristina Ojuland and Senate Chairman Petr Pithart said on 9 October that both countries want Euro-Atlantic solidarity to be safeguarded within NATO and the EU, CTK reported. Historical experience, Pithart said, warns "against the risks of separating Europe and America." Postcommunist countries remember something "that West Europeans seem to have forgotten" when it comes to solidarity with the United States, Pithart said in an apparent reference to disagreements over U.S. policies toward Iraq. The two politicians discussed bilateral relations and NATO enlargement. Ojuland also met with her Czech counterpart, Cyril Svoboda, who assured her of Czech support for Estonia's drive to gain NATO and EU membership. Ojuland spoke at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague about her country's quest for NATO membership. MS

CARDINAL SAYS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTRICTED IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Roman Catholic Prague Archbishop Cardinal Miroslav Vlk on 9 October told CTK that religious freedom in the Czech Republic is restricted. He was reacting to opposition encountered in parliament to the ratification of a treaty signed with the Vatican in late July. Vlk said the treaty has been turned by parties into a tool to fight political battles. He warned that if the treaty is not ratified, the move may influence Catholics' voting in the expected referendum on EU accession because they might feel "treated as second-class citizens." MS

'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER WINS APPEAL IN CZECH SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court on 9 October ruled that Michal Zitko, the publisher of a Czech-language translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," cannot be prosecuted for the propagation of Nazism or fascism, since these movements are "dead," CTK reported the next day, citing the daily "Pravo." Last year, a Prague district court convicted Zitko for "supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms" and sentenced him to a suspended sentence of three years and a 2 million crown ($64,000) fine. Zitko's appeal was rejected by a Prague city court in April, but he appealed again to the country's Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. Legal experts were quoted as saying the Supreme Court ruling sets a precedent that will make it impossible to charge right-wing extremists, according to "Pravo." Interior Minister Stanislav Gross described the verdict as "shocking and crazy." MS

SLOVAK PREMIER WELCOMES EU COMMISSION REPORT
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 9 October that the EC's progress report confirms the correctness of the course Slovakia embarked on four years earlier, CTK, TASR, and international news agencies reported. Dzurinda said the EU had to be persuaded that Slovakia, which "had been sidetracked for not fulfilling the political criteria" of membership, nevertheless "belongs to Europe." Now, he said, "Slovakia is standing at the gates of Europe's historic enlargement and unification" and is about to become part of that unified Europe, according to CTK. Dpa quoted him as saying, "We have reached our goal." The EC said in its report that Slovakia and the other nine candidates should sign the accession agreement in spring 2003. While praising Slovakia's progress, the commission also said Bratislava needs to continue its anti-fraud drive, fight money laundering, and counter discrimination against Roma. MS

FUTURE SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER SAYS BUDGET DEFICIT WILL BE REDUCED
Outgoing Deputy Premier Ivan Miklos, who is expected to become finance minister when the cabinet is officially appointed, said on 9 October that Slovakia will "strictly implement" the recommendations of the EC report and reduce the country's budget deficit, TASR reported. Miklos also said the struggle against corruption will be one of the highest priorities of the new government and that the cabinet will appoint a special prosecutor in charge of fighting bribery. MS

U.S. NATO AMBASSADOR TELLS SLOVAK PRESIDENT THAT HIS COUNTRY IS 'STRONG CANDIDATE'
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, currently on a tour of candidate countries for NATO membership, on 9 October told President Rudolf Schuster in Bratislava that Slovakia is a "strong candidate" to join the organization at its November Prague summit, TASR reported. Burns added, however, that the exact dimensions of the expansion will only be decided at the summit itself. He said the results of the recent Slovak elections demonstrated the Slovaks' will to integrate into NATO. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT DISMISSES OFFICIAL OVER LOCOMOTIVES SCANDAL
The outgoing Slovak government on 9 October dismissed Transportation Ministry State Secretary Michal Balog, TASR reported. Balog has been charged with "misuse of information in commercial contracts" over the tender, won by a French company, to supply 35 locomotives to Slovak railway company ZSSK. The tender led to the dismissal of Transportation Minister Jozef Macejko in June and the result was canceled. Apart from Macejko and Balog, suspended Transportation Ministry office head Peter Klucka is also under investigation, facing possible charges of misuse of information, while former Czechoslovak Foreign Trade Minister Jozef Baksay has been charged with attempted bribery. MS

HUNGARIAN LEADERS, OPPOSITION REACT TO EU REPORT
Hungary will be prepared for admission to the EU in 2004, according to EC's 9 October report issued in Brussels. The generally positive assessment was dampened by criticism primarily regarding corruption, obstacles to the social integration of Roma, and a lack of institutions needed to receive EU subsidies. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told local media that it shows great headway that Hungary was not "warned" on any subjects. He pointed out that the report urges Hungary to reach an agreement on implementing the controversial Status Law with neighboring Romania and Slovakia. For his part, Jozsef Szajer, leader of the opposition FIDESZ party's foreign affairs section, said the previous government led the country to the threshold of the EU and it is now up to the Socialist-Free Democrat government to represent national interests in the final stage of accession negotiations. MSZ

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION DIVIDED OVER 23 OCTOBER CEREMONIES
The opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) announced on 9 October that it will attend a planned solemn session of parliament on 23 October that will mark the anniversaries of the proclamation of the Republic of Hungary in 1989 and of the 1956 Uprising, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The MDF announcement came one day after the opposition FIDESZ party said it will not attend the session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). MDF Spokesman Karoly Herenyi said those who do not respect parliamentary democracy "do not understand the message of [the] 1848 [revolution against Habsburg rule] and 1956." MDF Chairwoman Ibolya David told the daily that she will give a speech in parliament on 23 October. MSZ

SQUABBLE CONTINUES OVER HUNGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS
FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Janos Ader told a press conference on 9 October that his party will file complaints with the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, charging that Interior Minister Monika Lamperth committed election fraud when she decided on the format of ballot sheets, Hungarian dailies reported. Ader said the two opposition parties, FIDESZ and the Hungarian Democratic Forum, complained to the National Election Commission that their emblem on ballot sheets is not of the appropriate size. Lamperth said she is sorry to see the dispute precede the elections, saying the decree on the size and placement of the emblem of nominating organizations was made public on 1 August and it was available for all to see. MSZ

LACKLUSTER PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE IN SERBIA...
On 9 October, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus held the sole televised debate in the Serbian presidential election, round two of which will take place on 13 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 October 2002). Although it was the first such debate in Serbian history, many observers felt it was lackluster. AP reported that the two-hour exchange consisted primarily of "polite debate," while the daily "Blic" wrote that there were two monologues rather than a debate. Labus said that Kostunica would not make a good president because he would scare off foreign investors. Kostunica responded that the United States and EU have already made it clear that it does not matter to them which of the two men wins. He stressed that his first priority as president would be to draft a new constitution. Several Serbian television broadcasters carried the debate live, as did state-run television in Bosnia and Montenegro. PM

...AS KOSTUNICA PREDICTS THAT SERBS WILL VOTE OUT OF 'INAT'
One thing that both Kostunica and Labus agreed on in their 9 October televised debate was that citizens should vote so that the turnout is high enough for the ballot to be valid, AP reported from Belgrade. Labus said voting is not only "a right but also a moral obligation." Kostunica warned that an invalid vote will "trigger chaos and instability in the country." Earlier, Kostunica said he believes that voters will prove wrong the pundits and politicians who predict a low turnout, "Vesti" reported on 10 October. Kostunica added that Serbs will cast their ballots out of a spirit of "inat," or spiteful defiance, which he called "our national characteristic." Elsewhere, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle issued his second appeal in less than two weeks for citizens to cast their ballots on 13 October. PM

TRIAL BEGINS OF TWO SERBIAN POLICEMEN
In a Serbian court in Prokuplje on 9 October, the trial began of Sasa Cvjetan and Dejan Demirovic, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported. The two former members of an "antiterrorist unit" are accused of killing ethnic Albanian civilians in Podujeva during the Kosova conflict in March 1999. Cvjetan was present at the trial and denied the charges, but Demirovic is being tried in absentia. This is the second war crimes trial of Serbs to be held in Serbia, Reuters noted. PM

KOSOVAR SERB LEADER SAYS STEINER NOT DOING ENOUGH
Rada Trajkovic, who heads the Serbian Povratak (Return) faction in the Kosovar parliament, told Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service on 8 October that Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration (UNMIK), must offer the Serbs of Kosova more prospect of self-rule than he has thus far if he wants them to participate in the 26 October local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). She added that Serbs must have every possibility to cast their vote in the Serbian presidential election and that charges against extremist politician Milan Ivanovic must be dropped. Trajkovic described the overall situation of Kosova's Serbs as "very difficult," adding that the deputies are under "enormous pressure" to ensure that "irregularities" in the first round of the Serbian presidential elections are not repeated. In related news, Ivanovic was released from prison on 9 October after turning himself in earlier that day, Hina reported. The circumstances of his release are not clear. PM

KOSOVAR GOVERNMENT AGAIN REBUFFS TEACHERS
The government announced on 9 October that it will not raise teachers' salaries from the current level of about $125 per month, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2002). The teachers began an open-ended strike on 1 October for better pay. PM

NATIONWIDE STUDENT PROTESTS IN MACEDONIA
Several thousand high-school students, teachers, and parents staged street protests in Skopje and other Macedonian towns on 9 October, "Nova Makedonija" reported. The mostly ethnic Macedonian demonstrators were protesting an incident in the village of Semsevo near Tetovo, where Albanian activists renamed the local high school after Jomnuz Jonuzi, a World War II ethnic Albanian guerrilla fighter. The protesters also demanded an end to what they called "attempts to ethnically cleanse" that village of Macedonians. Harald Schenker, who is the minority affairs officer of the OSCE mission to Skopje, told a press conference the same day that schools can only be renamed in accordance with existing laws, Makfax news agency reported. Schenker added that the renaming was a clear breach of the spirit of the Ohrid peace agreement. UB

NATO MISSION IN MACEDONIA TO BE EXTENDED
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson confirmed in Brussels on 9 October that the alliance will extend Operation Amber Fox in Macedonia until 15 December, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Robertson added that the extension has to be approved first by the Dutch parliament because the Netherlands currently leads the mission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). UB

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER CONFIDENT OVER BOBETKO CASE
Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 9 October that he believes a mutually acceptable arrangement can be worked out between his government and the war crimes tribunal in The Hague over the extradition of former General Janko Bobetko, "Jutarnji list" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4, and 7 October 2002). He added that he is in contact with NATO, the EU, the OSCE, and other international institutions about the matter and is convinced that the extradition dispute will not harm Croatia's international standing. Racan said he will resign if he fails to resolve the problem in a satisfactory way. Also on 9 October, Racan won a vote of confidence in the parliament. The opposition Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) had called for the vote to protest the government's policies toward Slovenia. PM

EU INVITES SLOVENIA TO JOIN
Slovenia was among the 10 countries recommended for EU membership in 2004 by the European Commission in Brussels on 9 October, international and Slovenian media reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 October 2002). Speaking in Ljubljana, Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek hailed the EU's decision as well as indications by NATO that Slovenia will be invited to join that organization at its Prague summit in November, Hina reported. He stressed that years of hard work by Slovenian authorities to meet EU membership criteria have now paid off. PM

BOSNIAN AMBASSADOR TO BELGRADE RESIGNS
Zeljko Komsic has resigned as Bosnian ambassador to Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 10 October. Komsic said that he took this step as a result of the defeat of his Social Democratic Party in the 5 October general elections. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER DISPLAYS 'RABBINICAL WISDOM' IN REACTION TO EU REPORT...
Reacting to the European Commission's 9 October report that did not include Romania among the 10 countries it recommended for European Union admission in 2004, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the same day that those who say that the report is positive and those who claim it is negative are both right, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said Romania's main objectives have been achieved in the report; namely, that the EU has accepted 2007 as a target date for accession and will provide Romania with a "road map" that will enable it to strictly follow calendar target dates in achieving every objective. The premier said the criticism of Romania included in the report reflects the last five years, whereas his own government has been in charge for only two years, during which the situation has improved considerably. He also said that if Romania is accepted into NATO in November, achieving EU membership will become the country's first priority as of next year. Nastase also said that comparisons between Romania's and Bulgaria's respective performances in meeting EU targets are out of place, because the Bulgarians started negotiations earlier and pursued them "with stronger determination." MS

...BUT PNL CHAIRMAN POURS COLD WATER ON PREMIER'S BALANCING ACT
National Liberal Party Chairman Theodor Stolojan said on 9 October that the report demonstrates that the main achievement of the governing Social Democratic Party in the two years of its rule has been to "consolidate Romania's last place among [EU] candidate countries" and to "push it to the first place" among candidate countries ravaged by corruption. Stolojan said that Romania is the only candidate country described by the report as lacking a functioning market economy. He said that no other candidate country suffers from an inflation rate of over 20 percent and nowhere else among candidate states are foreign investments as low as in Romania, where the business climate is affected by the government's economic policy. MS

ROMANIANS HIGHLY SUPPORTIVE OF NATO, EU MEMBERSHIP
A public opinion survey conducted by the INSOMAR polling institute shows that 88 percent of Romanians back NATO membership and 86 percent are in favor of joining the EU, Romanian Radio reported on 9 October. MS

ROMANIAN SENATE SPEAKER REJECTS CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
Romanian Senate speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu said on 9 October that the recent report in the daily "Romania libera" alleging that he is corrupt is part of a scenario intended to discredit him politically, and that he will prove this in court "in due time," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said he has launched a civil suit against "Romania libera" Editor in Chief Petre Mihai Bacanu and intends to donate the damages won in court to an orphanage. Vacaroiu said he will resign if just 1 percent of Bacanu's allegations can be proved in court. He said that the monthly installments he received from the Investment and Development Bank (BID) after quitting as bank director and taking over the Senate's chairmanship do not, as claimed by Bacanu, reflect a continuation of his being on the BID payroll but are installments paid by his successor, Corneliu Croitoru, for repaying a private loan Vacaroiu had given him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2002). MS

UDMR HONORARY CHAIRMAN LAUNCHES SUIT AGAINST LEADERSHIP
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Honorary Chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes has filed a lawsuit against the party's leadership, Mediafax reported on 9 October. Toekes is demanding that the decision to call a UDMR congress on 1-2 February, which was recently adopted by the UDMR's Council of Union Representatives (CRU), be nullified. He said that at its 1999 party congress, the UDMR decided that elections will be held for the CRU and that only that elected body will be entitled to set the date of the next UDMR congress. However, the elections have not taken place, according to Toekes, and the tribunal should oblige the UDMR to hold them. UDMR Chairman Bela Marko responded that it is "very sad" to see that the UDMR's honorary chairman is not acquainted with the formation's statutes and that Toekes has "sadly turned into a tragicomic figure." MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER DENIES CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev denied on 9 October allegations that he was involved in corruption and abuse of office during his tenure as director of the Bucuria (Joy) candy factory before becoming premier, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The factory's current director, Pavel Filip, said Tarlev unlawfully underwrote a loan taken out by the private Feodosia enterprise, which now faces bankruptcy. As a result, Bucuria might have to pay nearly $2 million to the bank, according to Filip. Tarlev said that all his actions as Bucuria director were strictly in line with legal stipulations. Bucuria has appealed to the Supreme Court, demanding that the agreement between Tarlev and Feodosia be annulled. MS

PACE DEPUTY CLAIMS MOLDOVAN POLITICIANS, POLICE INVOLVED IN TRAFFICKING OF HUMAN ORGANS
Ruth Gaby Vermont-Mangold, a Swiss member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), told RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau on 9 October that influential Moldovan politicians and Moldovan police are involved in the trafficking of human organs. Vermont-Mangold is currently visiting Chisinau ahead of a report on human-organ trafficking in Moldova that she is to submit to PACE. She said members of the Moldovan parliament are aware of the situation and have approved legislation to combat the phenomenon, but that crime and corruption are so entrenched in Moldova that "no law can help." MS

MOLDOVAN JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS COUNTRY SHOULD JOIN EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY
Justice Minister Ion Morei said on 9 October that he hopes Moldova will become a member of the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC) "at the soonest possible date," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Morei said membership of the EEC would facilitate the access of Moldovan products to the markets of that organization's members. Morei spoke upon returning from Moscow, where he participated in a meeting of Eurasian justice ministers. Moldova currently has observer status in the organization, whose full members are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. MS

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BULGARIAN, EU ACCESSION IN 2007...
Unlike the other 10 aspirant countries for EU accession, Bulgaria and Romania did not receive a specific target date for joining the European Union, the European Commission announced in a press release issued on 9 October. However, the report said that "The commission will strongly support Bulgaria and Romania in achieving their objective to join the [European Union] in 2007. The commission will propose, before the Copenhagen European Council, and on the basis of the analysis in the 2002 Regular Report, detailed roadmaps for Bulgaria and Romania to complete their preparations. In order to ensure Bulgaria and Romania are ready for membership in the European Union, an increased focus will be put on judicial and administrative reform. Furthermore, pre-accession assistance provided to Bulgaria and Romania should be increased gradually but considerably from the date of the first round of accessions, and linked to progress in implementing the roadmaps," the press release stated. UB

...AS BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN MEETING TARGET
Speaking in London on 9 October, government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev gave a positive assessment of the European Commission's recommendations for European Union enlargement, BTA reported. "The formulation concerning Bulgaria's accession to the EU in 2007 is rather good. Both sides are willing to achieve this target. The [European Commission] declares it will support Bulgaria's effort to meet its aim of entry to the EU in 2007," Tsonev said. Dimitris Kourkoulas, the Head of the European Commission's delegation in Sofia, lauded Bulgaria's progress toward EU membership. But he added that much remains to be done in Bulgaria, specifically mentioning the need for reforms in the public-administration and legal systems. In addition, Kourkoulas put the spotlight on fighting organized crime and corruption and strengthening efforts to integrate its large Romany minority. According to Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, the report's conclusions are "the best that Bulgaria could hope for at the moment." UB

BULGARIAN SOCCER STAR TO BE NAMED ADVISER TO FOREIGN MINISTRY
Soccer star Krasimir Balakov will be named special adviser to Foreign Minister Pasi for German-Bulgarian relations, Mariana Kostadinova of the ruling National Movement Simeon II announced in Veliko Tarnovo on 9 October, BTA reported. Balakov -- the captain of the Bulgarian national soccer team -- resides in Germany, where he leads the German Bundesliga team VfB Stuttgart. UB

HONORING A SAMIZDAT PIONEER


The death on 21 September this year of Tatyana Velikanova, the editor of "Khronika tekushchykh sobytii" ("A Chronicle of Current Events"), draws a line under the most remarkable publishing venture of the Soviet era. Although it concentrated on reporting the here-and-now, "Khronika" actually reached far into the future. Some of the issues it highlighted have not been resolved even today.

"Khronika" gave an uncensored account of what was going on in the Soviet Union, and thus prefigured the events of the late 1980s that so surprised the world in a way that "Izvestiya" never could. Before then-CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev launched his policy of "Glasnost" in the late 1980s, you could scour the official press in vain for indications of nationalism in Georgia or Ukraine. By contrast, the pages of "Khronika" traced the lives of some individuals who later became the first to head their republics as independent states, and others who became Nobel laureates or members of the new Russian government.

"Khronika" was the only samizdat journal devoted to human-rights issues (Article 19 of the UN civil rights covenant was its masthead) throughout the Soviet Union and it ran for 14 years -- longer than almost any other. It began as a brief record of what happened to the seven people who demonstrated in Red Square against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, among them Velikanova's husband Konstantin Babitskii. By the time the authorities finally suppressed the publication in 1983, it had regular rubrics on emigration, religion, nationalities, psychiatry, prisoners, and the media.

Compared with the websites available now, the legal fragments in "Khronika" look like shards of ancient pottery. In the chronicle's day though, Soviet readers had no right to see the laws that governed them, and what was not expressly permitted was wisest assumed forbidden. "Khronika" published whatever secret decrees came its way, some with enormous implications for human rights -- such as instructions on forcible psychiatric confinement from 1972, residency restrictions on ex-offenders, and rules on prison punishments. It was not until the USSR had collapsed that the new 1991 Russian Constitution included the idea that laws must be accessible to the public if they are to be legal.

Journalists in democracies have a duty to impart information, not merely the right to do so, according to international standards accepted by Russia in 1998 and by those other ex-Soviet republics that have been accepted into the Council of Europe. "Khronika" chose to write in that same spirit 34 years ago, but under the constraints of Soviet censorship. An early issue advises: "Our journal is by no means illegal, but the peculiar notion of freedom of information that has been bred over many years in Soviet institutions prevents us from putting a return address on the back page. If you want the public to know what is going on in the country, give your information to the person who gave you 'Khronika,' and they will pass it on to the person who gave it to them. Only don't try to follow the trail to the end or people will take you for an informer."

In 1979 that trail led to Velikanova and her arrest, but by then it had evidently become a long and intricate one. (Soon afterward a Pentecostalist living 11 time zones away in the Pacific town of Nakhodka was questioned about Velikanova's case.) Well-versed in political trials, Velikanova took no part in the investigation of her own case, refused a defense lawyer, and did not appeal against her nine-year sentence in 1980 for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" -- her only response to the verdict being "The farce is over." She served four years in a Mordovian labor camp, then was exiled to a camel station in Kazakhstan where she worked as a bookkeeper. The first information about women political prisoners and their conditions emerged when she was in Mordovia.

"Khronika" did not anticipate the explosion in information technology that has ripped through the world since 1990, carrying the Russian Federation with it. The chroniclers were caught in an era when Soviet typewriters were identifiable by their registration numbers, photocopiers did not exist, and no one had dreamt of a fax or electronic mail. Velikanova took enormous risks as editor of "Khronika." Apart from the constant danger of arrest, there were the problems of protecting sources, distributing material to trusted people and guarding against fake information supplied by the KGB to discredit the journal. Contributors too took risks. How did they know the journal would represent them fairly? And protect their identity when needed? The continual growth in the chronicle's depth and scope is a counterpoint to Velikanova's own integrity and skill. From the first issue to the last, the same neutral and unassuming voice speaks through its pages -- a voice that must have been very close to her own.

"Khronika" foreshadowed many changes, but two causes it espoused have not been resolved. The Meskhetians and the Crimean Tatars, who were expelled from their homes by Stalin during the Second World War still struggle for full civil rights. The Tatars feature in the chronicle's earliest issues. Their leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev, was a member of the Initiative Group for the Defense of Human Rights set up by Velikanova and her fellow "Khronika" founders Sergei Kovalev and Tatyana Khodorovich in 1969.

Until she was sacked from the Academy of Sciences in 1977 and began work as a cleaner in a children's hospital, Velikanova engaged in mathematical research. After her release in 1987, she united her two great loves and became a mathematics teacher in a Moscow school, where she still worked at the time of her death at 71. She was shy in public, and in the1990s never became known as a magnet for the foreign media and financiers. A complete set of her edited works survives her, however. "A Chronicle of Current Events" is available in Russian on the website of the human rights group Memorial (http://www.memo.ru) and in English from Amnesty International.Marjorie Farquharson writes on human rights issues.

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