RUSSIA, JAPAN WORK TO NORMALIZE RELATIONS
Speaking to journalists after a Kremlin meeting on 14 October with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, President Vladimir Putin said both countries are prepared to sign "a very solid document" during a January 2003 visit to Moscow by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Russian news agencies reported. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov added that both sides are moving toward signing a peace treaty that would formally end World War II and mean the complete normalization of relations between the two countries. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said an accord has been reached concerning the expansion of energy and transportation cooperation, ORT reported on 14 October. In addition to several oil-extraction projects near Sakhalin Island, in which Japan has invested a total of nearly $1 billion, Japanese companies will help transport oil from the island to the mainland. The two countries also reached a preliminary agreement on Japanese investment in a Russian-sponsored project to connect the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Korean railroads. VY
TNK BEGINS TRIAL OIL DELIVERY TO UNITED STATES
Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) President Semen Kukes has announced that TNK sent 840,000 barrels of oil to the United States strategic reserve last month, gazeta.ru reported on 14 October. Kukes said the oil was shipped to Corpus Christi, Texas, from Novorossiisk aboard two tankers. He added that by the end of 2003, TNK -- together with Yukos and LUKoil -- hope to supply about 400,000 barrels a day to the United States. VY
GOVERNMENT TORN ON EASING FOREIGN-EXCHANGE REQUIREMENTS
A controversy has erupted in the cabinet concerning a recent proposal by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to cut the mandatory foreign-currency exchange rate from 50 percent to 30 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002), strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 15 October. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov withdrew a draft law that Kudrin had submitted to the government for consideration, sending it back for reworking and stating that it will be considered at a cabinet session on 24 October if ministers have reached a consensus. According to strana.ru, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry is holding out for an even more sweeping reform, which would include a timetable for eliminating the mandatory foreign-currency exchange requirement entirely as well as for eliminating most other restrictions on hard-currency transactions. The ministry reportedly seeks to allow Russian citizens freely to open accounts abroad and to eliminate the requirement that they receive Central Bank authorization to purchase more than $75,000 on hard-currency markets. President Putin has spoken out in favor of eliminating the restrictions in order to place Russian firms on an equal footing with foreign competitors. RC
RUSSIA, GEORGIA DRAFT AGREEMENT ON JOINT BORDER PATROLS...
During talks in Tbilisi last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002), Federal Security Service (FSB) Deputy Director Vladimir Pronichev, who heads the FSB's antiterrorism center, and Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania prepared measures for joint patrols of the Russian-Georgian border and regular exchanges of relevant information, Russian news agencies and Caucasus Press reported on 12 October. Russian Federal Border Guard Service Director Colonel General Konstantin Totskii and his Georgian counterpart Lieutenant General Valeri Chkheidze will sign the agreement during a meeting in Yerevan of CIS border-troops commanders on 17-18 October. LF
...TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER DELAY EXTRADITION IN EXTRADITING CHECHENS...
Russia has lodged a formal protest with the European Court of Human Rights over that body's recommendation that Georgia suspend the extradition to Russia of eight suspected Chechen militants, Russia's representative to the court, Pavel Laptev, told journalists in Moscow on 11 October, Russian news agencies reported. Also on 11 October, a representative of Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office rejected as untrue media reports that one of the five Chechens due to be extradited from Georgia to Russia on 3 October died of injuries received during a fight with guards at a Tbilisi detention center, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2002). In his weekly radio broadcast, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 14 October that the eight Chechens will be sent back to Russia "if their participation in grave crimes" in that country is proven, Caucasus Press reported. LF
...AND OVER ABORTIVE SOCCER MATCH
Shevardnadze also said on 14 October he hopes Russian soccer fans will "treat with understanding" the anticlimactic ending to the Russian-Georgian 2004 European Championship qualifying soccer match in Tbilisi on 12 October, Caucasus Press reported. The match was abandoned in the final minutes of the first half after the lighting at Lokomotiv stadium in Tbilisi failed for the second time. The score at that juncture was 0-0. The Georgian Interior Ministry has launched a criminal investigation, and some Russian observers have dubbed the incident sabotage. Georgia's Ambassador to Moscow Zurab Abashidze, whose late father Irakli was one of Georgia's most famous Soviet-era poets, told Interfax on 14 October that he perceives "an element of mysticism" in the power failure. LF
CATHOLIC CHURCH INCENSED OVER BROTHEL SCANDAL
The Roman Catholic Church has protested Russian media reports alleging that part of a Catholic monastery in Moscow had been used as a brothel, AP reported on 14 October. The Vatican charged that the reports are part of a coordinated "despicable campaign" against the church in Russia. The Vatican said that an apartment had been rented from the Franciscan Order and used as a house of prostitution. The story made the front page of the 7 October issue of "Komsomolskaya pravda." A Vatican spokesman linked the story to the denial of Russian visas to five Catholic priests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 22 April, and 10 and 11 September 2002) and the fact that the church has been repeatedly refused permission to build new churches. RC
RUSSIA REOPENS CONSULATE IN MAZAR-I-SHARIF
The Russian Consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif officially opened in new premises on 14 October, which is six weeks later than originally planned, Interfax reported. The former consulate, which was closed for security reasons in May 1997, was destroyed during fighting for the city between Taliban and northern alliance forces. The consulate will have a total of some 40 personnel, who will rotate between Mazar-i-Sharif and a mission in the border town of Khairaton. Aleksandr Zedgenizov has been named consul-general. LF
ELECTION CZAR TO OVERSEE RACE IN KALMYKIA PERSONALLY
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov has promised to supervise presidential elections in Kalmykia personally, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 October. According to Veshnyakov, the republic's election commission has already received 88 complaints against incumbent President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov for improper campaign tactics. One of Ilyumzhinov's opponents charged earlier that local media is saturated with images of Ilyumzhinov -- and only of him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). JAC
KRASNOYARSK ELECTION OFFICIALS FINALLY GIVE UP?
Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission on 14 October certified the election of Aleksandr Khloponin as governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai, RIA-Novosti reported. Krai commission Chairman Georgii Kostrykin wished the new head of the krai success in fulfilling the wishes of the electorate. According to the agency, Khloponin confessed to being "constantly surprised" by the commission since it launched court proceedings to annul the much-contested 22 September gubernatorial race. The Central Election Commission declared Khloponin the winner earlier in the month but stopped short of disbanding the regional commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 October, Kostrykin said the krai's commission has sent a complaint about the central commission's actions to the Supreme Court. JAC
RUSSIA, MOROCCO SEAL STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP...
President Putin and Moroccan King Mohammed VI met on 15 October in the Kremlin and signed a strategic-partnership declaration, Russian news agencies reported. According to the document, the two countries will cooperate to combat international terrorism, including working together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to promote peace in the Middle East. VY
...AS RUSSIA COURTS SAUDI INVESTMENT
Also in Moscow on 15 October, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov told a meeting of the newly formed Russian-Saudi Joint Commission on Trade and Economic and Technical Cooperation that Russia is interested in attracting more investment from Saudi Arabia and in opening Russian markets to Saudi goods, strana.ru reported. Yusufov also said that Russia would like to offer the Saudis Russian oil-extraction technology and defense products. VY
ANALYST PREDICTS NEW POLITICAL STRUGGLES BETWEEN OLIGARCHIC GROUPS
Writing in "Vek" on 11 October, political analyst Aleksei Bogaturov argues that Russia's oligarchs have split into different groups and will go into upcoming national elections in opposing groups as they did in recent regional elections such as those in Krasnoyarsk Krai. According to Bogaturov, two powerful business groups have formed: One is led by Interros Chairman Vladimir Potanin, and the other is led by Russian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska and former Sibneft head and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. These groups have already clashed, and new conflicts between them in the future could have unexpected consequences for the Duma election campaign in 2003, Bogaturov concludes (see also "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 10 October 2002). JAC
CENSUS TAKERS DISCOVER ELVES, HOBBITS, AND SCYTHIANS...
A group of adolescents in Perm Oblast have identified themselves as hobbits and elves, regions.ru reported on 14 October. In Rostov-na-Donu, some 30 people have identified themselves as Scythians. Fedor Mikushkin, chairman of the Rostov branch of the Scythian National Congress, said that this is the first census in 100 years that allowed such a designation. According to ntvru.com, Vladimir Zorin, minister without portfolio for nationalities issues, has stated that the question of which nationality one belongs to is "a matter of choice and is an independent decision of each citizen." JAC
...AS ARMENIANS PREDICTED TO BE ONE OF LARGEST ETHNIC GROUPS...
In an interview with "Trud" on 12 October, Zorin said that the census provides a unique opportunity to study Russia's ethnic composition and a basis for "improving migration laws." According to Zorin, Armenians have become one of Russia's 10 largest ethnic groups over the past decade. At the same time, he predicted there will be fewer ethnic Germans and Jews. JAC
...AND HOMELESS LIKELY TO BE UNDERCOUNTED
Ivan Klemenkov, a senior Interior Ministry official, told journalists in Moscow that according to the best data available, there are about 4 million homeless people in Russia, polit.ru reported on 15 October. The figures are difficult to check since the Interior Ministry is the only agency charged with counting the homeless, the website noted. Only a fraction of the country's homeless are expected to participate in the current national census, and the Interior Ministry is responsible for counting them. VY
PUTIN ORDERS NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA
President Putin has signed a decree ordering the preparation and publication of a new Big Russian Encyclopedia, polit.ru reported on 15 October. According to RIA-Novosti, the project will be headed by Academician Yurii Osipov, who has been given one month to form an editorial board. Putin's decree also orders all state agencies at all levels to cooperate in preparing the major reference work. The work will become the first complete encyclopedia published in Russia since the Big Soviet Encyclopedia of 1978. RC
MIRONOV SAYS RUSSIA SHOULD HAVE JUST ONE PRESIDENT
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said only the highest official in the country should be called president, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 October, citing strana.ru reported. "Russia should have only one president," Mironov said. Now people, when they hear that a president said something, begin trying to figure out which president did so, Mironov added. At the same time, the issue of what to call the head of a region -- governor, administration head, or something else -- is "an internal matter of each federation subject," Mironov said. But it would be better for them to be called something other than president, he said. The same day, Sergei Markov, director of the Institute for Political Studies, lauded the possible move by ethnic republics -- led by Bashkortostan -- to transform themselves into parliamentary republics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). He told Interfax, "A parliamentary system of authority, undoubtedly, creates significantly better competition among elite groups and better possibilities for pluralism." JAC
ZOO ANIMALS ASKING FOR HANDOUT
Animals in the Yelizovo Zoo in Kamchatka Oblast are hungry, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 October, citing zoo Director Anatolii Shevlyagin. Shevlyagin said zoo workers have to buy food for the animals with their own money and are therefore appealing to the local population for donations. The shortfall has occurred because municipal authorities have only designated half of the nearly 80,000 rubles ($2,580) a month that the zoo needs to operate normally, according to the agency. There are more than 200 different species at the zoo, including birds, reptiles, and fish. JAC
NORTH OSSETIA, INGUSHETIA SIGN LANDMARK COOPERATION AGREEMENT
At separate ceremonies in Vladikavkaz and Magas on 11 October, the presidents of North Ossetia and Ingushetia, Aleksandr Dzasokhov and Murat Zyazikov, signed two documents intended to "mark the beginning of a new stage" in bilateral relations and to draw a line under the interethnic clashes of October 1992, during which some 700 people were killed and between 35,000-65,000 Ingush fled or were forcibly expelled from North Ossetia. An "Agreement on the Development of Cooperation and Good-Neighborly Relations" obliges both sides to adopt necessary measures to eliminate the consequences of those clashes, including expediting the repatriation of the displaced Ingush, preventing the formation of illegal armed or separatist groups, and establishing mechanisms for consultation to prevent the emergence and escalation of new tensions, according to ingushetia.ru. The agreement, which exists only in Russian, also stresses the commitment of both republics to peace throughout the North Caucasus and to preserving the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. In a subsequent declaration, the two presidents affirm their commitment to "a policy of constructive dialogue"; to peace, mutual understanding, and economic cooperation among all regions of the North Caucasus; and to protecting the rights of all citizens of both republics regardless of their ethnicity. LF
SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN CHECHEN POLICE-STATION BOMBING...
Two police officers have been arrested in connection with the 10 October explosion at the Zavod Raion police station in Grozny, Chechen Police Chief Said-Selim Peshkhoev said on 14 October, Interfax reported. Peshkhoev gave the death toll from the blast as 22, with nine people still hospitalized. Those killed were all department heads or senior officers from the Zavod Raion police station and not, as erroneously reported in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 11 October, district police chiefs from all over Chechnya. The debris of the building has been cleared, making it possible to ascertain that the bomb was planted in the office of station chief Magomed Sibaev, who for reasons that are unclear was summoned to attend a meeting in the building on 10 October although he was on vacation, Interfax on 12 October quoted an official from the North Caucasus branch of the Russian Prosecutor-General's office as saying. Chechen Prosecutor Nikolai Kostyuchenko told an emergency Chechen Security Council meeting on 12 October that the blast might have been perpetrated to avert a planned purge by the Grozny police department of officers deemed incompetent or unreliable, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
...AS SECOND BLAST AVERTED...
Peshkhoev also told Interfax on 14 October that a second blast was averted earlier that day after a car packed with some 20 kilograms of TNT was discovered outside another police station in Grozny. The car was towed to a vacant lot where the explosive was detonated. The car's owner has not yet been traced. LF
...AND SECURITY OFFICIALS DISAGREE OVER PERSONNEL POLICY
Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 11 October blamed the blast on "negligence" and "treachery" on the part of top police officials who failed to prevent the infiltration into their ranks of resistance sympathizers, Interfax reported. Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev similarly blamed the Zavod Raion blast on inadequate security on the part of the police-station personnel and said the Chechen leadership will embark on "more active measures" to identify and apprehend supporters of the Chechen resistance who have managed to infiltrate the police force, Interfax reported. But Peshkhoev argued against any purge of police ranks, according to Interfax on 12 October. "Our staff demonstrates their honesty, risking their lives daily, and we are suffering the heaviest losses, which is evidence that the Chechen Interior Administration is really fighting banditry in the republic," Interfax quoted him as saying. LF
FORMER RUSSIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS VISIT TO ARMENIA
Boris Yeltsin and his wife Naina arrived in Yerevan on 12 October for a six-day unofficial visit at the invitation of Armenian President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Yeltsin participated the same day in celebrations to mark the 2,784th anniversary of the founding of the city of Yerevan and visited the Armenian Genocide monument and museum. A member of former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian's entourage told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 14 October on condition of anonymity that Yeltsin is likely to meet with Ter-Petrossian on 15 October, although, he claimed, Kocharian is trying hard to prevent any such meeting. LF
NEW KARABAKH FOREIGN MINISTER NAMED
On 11 October Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, named as the enclave's new Foreign Minister Ashot Ghulian, head of the pro-Ghukasian Democratic Artsakh Movement, which holds the majority of seats in the enclave's parliament, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Ghulian, who is 37, has worked in the Foreign Ministry since 1995 and served as deputy foreign minister from December 1998 until the summer of 2001, according to Mediamax, as cited by Groong. Ghukasian denied any personal disagreements between himself and outgoing Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian, whom he has named his foreign policy adviser in Yerevan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). Ghukasian also named Lenston Gulian as social security minister, Zoya Lazarian as health minister, Robert Hayrapetian as head of the State Justice Department, and Hakob Ghahramanian as the head of the State Tax Department, Noyan Tapan reported. The sole cabinet post still unfilled is that of deputy premier and minister of industrial infrastructure and urban development. LF
DIRECTOR OF AZERBAIJANI MILITARY ACADEMY FIRED
Tofik Gasymov has been dismissed from the post of director of the Baku Higher Military College, the majority of whose students staged a walkout five week ago to protest ill treatment by teaching staff, Turan and Interfax reported on 12 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 5, 6, and 9 September 2002). Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev introduced the academy's new head, Colonel Heidar Piriev, to the staff on 11 October. LF
EXPLOITATION OF MAJOR AZERBAIJANI GAS DEPOSIT TO BE DELAYED
Ilham Aliev, who is vice president of the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR, told journalists in Baku on 14 October that the development of the offshore Caspian Shah Deniz oil-and-gas field will be delayed until early 2003, Turan and Russian news agencies reported. In June, British Petroleum, which is the operator of the project, announced that the projected cost had risen from $2.6 billion to $3.1 billion. Aliev said that if the project is launched in early 2003, the first gas could be exported to Turkey in 2006. When the original agreement to export gas from Azerbaijan via Georgia to Turkey was signed, it was envisioned that exports would begin in 2002-03. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS NEW PRESIDENTIAL PROGRAM
Eighty parliamentary deputies from five opposition factions (the National Movement, the New Rightists, the United Democrats, the Union of Traditionalists, and the New Abkhazia-Christian Democrats) walked out of the legislature on 11 October to signify their rejection of the socioeconomic development program unveiled by President Eduard Shevardnadze in his annual address to the nation, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Former parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania said Shevardnadze "sidestepped" all the most pressing problems facing Georgia, according to ITAR-TASS. In his two-hour address, Shevardnadze advocated strategic partnership with both the United States and Russia, resolving the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts on the basis of a federal model, reintroducing the post of prime minister and reducing the number of ministries, and creating a bicameral parliament. Describing the opposition walkout as "unfounded," Shevardnadze said he has no intention of resigning and will devote his final two years as president to accomplishing "many useful things for my country," Interfax reported. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, PATRIARCH SIGN CONCORDAT
Shevardnadze and Georgian Patriarch Ilia II signed a constitutional agreement between the state and the Georgian Orthodox Church at the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta on 14 October, Caucasus Press reported. The document confirms the church's ownership of all churches and monasteries on Georgian territory except for those now privately owned, and acknowledges and pledges to recompense at least part of the material damage inflicted on the church since the loss of autocephaly in 1811. Georgia has still not passed legislation on religion, although a draft bill on the subject was reported to have been completed last month. LF
ABKHAZ OFFICIALS SHRUG OFF GEORGIAN VOTE ON AUTONOMY
The 10 October vote by the Georgian parliament to amend the constitution to designate Abkhazia an autonomous republic within Georgia "is of no significance for us," Caucasus Press quoted Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia as saying on 11 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). Djergenia added that Abkhazia's status as an independent sovereign state is enshrined in its constitution, as endorsed by the republic's population, and the Abkhaz leadership will not discuss the option of autonomy within Georgia. Abkhaz presidential aide Astamur Tania similarly told Interfax that the Georgian parliament's vote will not have any legal or political implications for Sukhum. LF
GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS DEMAND PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION
At a conference in Tbilisi on 14 October convened by parliament deputy and former Soviet-era dissident Boris Kakubava, some 3,000 Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia demanded Shevardnadze's resignation on the grounds that he has not succeeded in resolving the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press and Russian news agencies reported. They also called for the dissolution of both the Georgian parliament and the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile. At the same time, they expressed support for Adjar State Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze's proposals for resolving the conflict, which entail a resumption of rail and road communication and economic cooperation between Abkhazia and the central Georgian government (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 34, 11 October 2002). On 11 October, Kakubava delayed Shevardnadze's state of the nation address in the legislature by entering the parliament building armed with a pistol, Caucasus Press reported. LF
SOUTH OSSETIA LAUNCHES ANTICRIME OPERATION
In a bid to preempt a Georgian anticrime operation on its borders, Eduard Kokoyty, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, launched an anticrime operation that netted 14 "dangerous criminals" within the space of two days, Interfax reported on 14 October. Kokoyty welcomed a statement by Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili that Tbilisi will not send Interior Ministry troops to undertake an anticrime operation in South Ossetia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 8 October 2002). Also on 14 October, Kokoyty announced that his republic will create its own professional armed forces, which will have some 6,000 servicemen serving on a contract basis, Interfax reported. LF
SOUTH CAUCASUS, RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKERS MEET IN GEORGIA
The speakers of the Russian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian parliaments -- Sergei Mironov, Armen Khachatrian, Murtuz Alesqerov, and Nino Burdjanadze -- met behind closed doors in Tbilisi on 12 October, Caucasus Press reported. No details of the talks were divulged. The four speakers also met the same day with President Shevardnadze. Khachatrian and Alesqerov held a separate two-hour discussion, which they termed "constructive," that focused on the need for "common approaches" to resolving the Karabakh conflict. LF
EC TO FUND SECURITY MEASURES FOR NUCLEAR-WASTE STORAGE IN KAZAKHSTAN
A European Commission (EC) expert told journalists in Almaty on 11 October that the EC will provide 2 million euros ($1.96 million) over the next two years toward the cost of improving control over the storage of nuclear waste at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in East Kazakhstan Oblast, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The plant produces beryllium and dry fuel for nuclear reactors, and is the largest single producer of nuclear fuel in the entire CIS. LF
FORMER KYRGYZ VICE PRESIDENT'S APPEAL REJECTED
The Bishkek City Court on 11 October upheld the guilty verdict it handed down in May to former Vice President Feliks Kulov, but reduced his 10-year sentence by one third, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and akipress.org reported. Police frog-marched Kulov out of the courtroom as his supporters outside threw stones at the building. Some 150 supporters temporarily blocked traffic at a crossroads in the city center to protest the court ruling. On 12 October, Kulov's Ar-Namys Party and the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan issued separate statements condemning the court ruling and claiming that the embezzlement charges brought against Kulov were fabricated. The Committee for Kulov's Defense issued a similar statement on 14 October saying the court ruling proves that the judiciary is wholly controlled by President Askar Akaev and the Kyrgyz government. It called on opposition politicians to quit the Constitutional Council established by Akaev for drafting amendments to the constitution. LF
PROTESTS CONTINUE IN KYRGYZSTAN OVER AKSY TRIAL
Some 150 relatives and friends of six Kyrgyz officials facing trial in connection with the police violence against demonstrators in Aksy in March staged a further picket of the government building in Bishkek on 11 October, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. They are demanding that several senior officials including the former head of the presidential staff, Amanbek Karypkulov, and former Interior Minister Temirbek Akmataliev be brought to trial for their alleged instructions to local police to open fire on the Aksy protest march. On 14 October, police dispersed a similar protest picket in Bishkek, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a separate group of relatives and supporters of the six accused men began a protest march to Bishkek from Osh Oblast, akipress.org reported. LF
TWO SENTENCED TO DEATH IN TAJIKISTAN FOR BANDITRY
The trial of 19 members of an armed formation subordinate to rebel Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev ended on 14 October, Russian news agencies reported. Tajikistan's Supreme Court sentenced two of the men to death on charges of murder, hostage taking, and banditry, and the remaining 17 to jail sentences ranging from two to 25 years. The men reportedly all participated in Khudoiberdiev's abortive attempt to seize power in November 1998. LF
NETHERLANDS LOOKS AHEAD TO OSCE CHAIRMANSHIP, FOCUSING ON CENTRAL ASIA
In a 14 October address, made available to "RFE/RL Newsline," to a conference in Dushanbe on the threat posed by AIDS, Dutch Foreign Ministry official Robbert van Lanschot outlined his country's approach to the chairmanship of the OSCE that it will occupy in 2003, and to the potential role of the OSCE in Central Asia in particular. He pointed out that the OSCE is uniquely qualified to assume an "umbrella" role among its 55 members, especially in securing regional stability and security. He noted among the existing problems bedeviling Central Asia unresolved conflicts, the lack of good governance and independent judiciaries, poverty and unemployment, and minimal investment. But the region also faces new problems, van Lanschot argued, in the form of international terrorism, drug trafficking and international crime, endemic corruption, and the stark economic imbalance between OSCE member states. He argued that the OSCE could play a major role as a facilitator, by encouraging "those countries that are lagging behind," especially the states of Central Asia, to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law win order to become "suitable partners" for bilateral and international donors. LF
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR VIETNAMESE INVESTMENT
On 14 October in Minsk, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Nong Duc Manh, the general secretary of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, and called on Vietnam to expand bilateral economic cooperation, Belarusian Television reported. "I want to publicly declare that we are ready today to offer the most favorable tax [incentives] to Vietnam, we are ready to create joint ventures in Belarus, we are even ready to sell part of our shares in the factories that today produce for the Vietnamese market," Lukashenka said. Lukashenka and Manh reportedly agreed to task their governments with working out specific proposals to expand cooperation. JM
BELARUSIAN LAWYER GETS SUSPENDED PRISON TERM FOR SLANDERING PROSECUTOR-GENERAL
A district court in Minsk on 11 October sentenced former lawyer Ihar Aksyonchyk to a 1 1/2 year prison term suspended for two years for slandering Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002), Belarusian media reported. The trial was held behind closed doors. Earlier this year, Aksyonchyk alleged that Sheyman might have had a role in the abductions and murders of journalist Dzmitry Zavadski and opposition politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka. JM
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION SENTENCES PRESIDENT TO 'PUBLIC CONDEMNATION'...
Some 20,000 demonstrators took part in a "people's tribunal" on President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 12 October, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. The unauthorized antipresidential rally on Kyiv's European Square was organized by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Communist Party, and the Socialist Party. Participants in the rally "sentenced" President Kuchma in a mock trial to "the highest form of people's punishment -- public condemnation" for a number of alleged crimes, including corruption, abuse of office, money laundering, issuance of threats to journalists and politicians, and harmful economic policies that purportedly led to "genocide" in Ukraine. Following the rally, opposition representatives passed to the Prosecutor-General's Office their demand to bring Kuchma to court trial (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 October 2002). JM
...AS JUDGE OPENS CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST KUCHMA
Kyiv Court of Appeals Judge Yuriy Vasylenko has opened a criminal case against President Kuchma in connection with charges by opposition lawmakers that he violated 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including his alleged involvement in the illegal sale of military technology to Iraq and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported on 15 October. Vasylenko said he made his decision on the basis of an appeal by lawmakers, documents from the ad hoc parliamentary commission set up to investigate the murder of Heorhiy Gongadze, and evidence included in the secret audio recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. JM
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS VISIT TO UKRAINE
Estonian President Arnold Ruutel said in Kyiv on 14 October that Estonia supports Ukraine's efforts to integrate with Europe and NATO, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Following his meeting with President Kuchma, Ruutel pledged to develop closer ties with Ukraine after Estonia, as widely expected, becomes a NATO member in November and an EU member in 2004. UNIAN quoted Kuchma as saying that all that is taking place in Ukraine today "confirms the opinion of the European Union that it is still too early for us to [join the EU]." The two sides signed a cooperation accord on environmental protection. JM
U.S., BRITISH EXPERTS PROBE KOLCHUGA-SALE ALLEGATIONS
U.S. and British nonproliferation experts met with Ukrainian officials on 14 October at the start of a 10-day mission to investigate whether Ukraine sold a sophisticated Kolchuga radar system to Iraq in violation of UN sanctions, AP reported. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual said the main task of the team of 13 investigators is "to determine, in conjunction with the Ukrainian side, whether there's any information on whether there has been a transfer and whether there's information we can get that would help us protect both British and American pilots who are protecting the no-fly zone in Iraq." The same day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko denied allegations made by opposition lawmaker Yuliya Tymoshenko that Ukraine secretly imported a Kolchuga system from Belarus last week in an effort to furnish evidence that none of Ukraine's systems have been shipped to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). JM
OUR UKRAINE LEADER WANTS PARLIAMENTARY COALITION WITH LABOR UKRAINE, UKRAINE'S REGIONS
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told journalists on 14 October that he hopes a democratic majority in the Verkhovna Rada can be created around the three caucuses -- Our Ukraine, Labor Ukraine, and Ukraine's regions, UNIAN reported. "These [three] democratic forces are able to propose the idea of a democratic coalition as an open [proposal] around which other forces could group," Yushchenko said. Answering a question whether Our Ukraine is in opposition to the current government, Yushchenko said, "The force that is not in power can only be in opposition, there is no third option." JM
ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT DELAYS DEBATE ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
The parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee decided on 14 October to remove from the week's agenda proposed amendments to the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2002) that would provide for the direct election of the president, but with diminished powers, BNS reported. The committee's chairman, Indrek Meelak, said President Arnold Ruutel has invited the committee to meet with him on 22 October to present his position on the matter. National Defense Committee Chairman Tiit Tammsaar expressed the committee's opposition to the amendments, claiming they violate the principle of checks and balances by reducing the president's role as regards the armed forces. SG
LATVIA'S WAY EXPELS MEMBER FOR INVOLVEMENT IN SMEAR CAMPAIGN
The board of Latvia's Way decided unanimously to expel parliament deputy Peteris Apinis from the party following a meeting with him on 14 October, BNS and LETA reported the next day. During the meeting, Apinis admitted that he authored the text mocking members of the People's Party that was later printed on leaflets and distributed. Apinis said that he had written the text for other purposes and that it was printed without his permission or even knowledge. He told reporters that the text to some extent expressed the truth, and therefore no charges should be brought against him, but he refused to provide more information because the police investigation is still under way. Party Chairman and Prime Minister Andris Berzins said Apinis was expelled for discrediting the party and violating its charter, as he had not informed the board about his involvement in the matter. The leaflet scandal, which prompted Berzins to dismiss Interior Minister Mareks Seglins (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002), probably factored into why Latvia's Way candidates were not elected to the new parliament on 5 October. SG
LITHUANIAN CONSERVATIVES AND BELARUSIAN POPULAR FRONT SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and Belarusian Popular Front Chairman Vinstuk Vyachorka signed an agreement in Vilnius on 12 October on strengthening democracy in Belarus and maintaining close cooperation between their parties, ELTA reported on 14 October. It provides for establishing direct contacts among the parties' local organizations, continuous exchange of information, and holding joint conferences. The signing came toward the end of the two-day conference entitled Belarus and Lithuania -- European Way, which the two parties had organized. At a press conference on 14 October, Landsbergis said that the conference was united in the belief that only the restoration of democracy could guarantee the survival of Belarus. He also noted that the conference's resolution "On the Role of Belarus in Europe" called on Belarus to perform the important role of a multilateral bridge connecting Russia and the European Union. SG
POLISH PRESIDENT SENDS TAX-AMNESTY BILL TO CONSTITUTIONAL TRIBUNAL
President Aleksander Kwasniewski has sent a controversial tax-amnesty bill to the Constitutional Tribunal for evaluation, PAP reported on 15 October. The bill, passed by the parliament last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002), would allow tax dodgers to come clean after paying a 12 percent tax on any hidden personal income they report to tax authorities before 2003. If the tribunal finds that the bill is in line with the constitution, as many as 3.5 million taxpayers would have to make special financial statements regarding their assets by the end of April 2003. Last week, Poland's Helsinki Committee asked Kwasniewski to seek a Constitutional Tribunal ruling on the tax-amnesty bill, arguing that the requirement to make financial statements is unconstitutional. JM
CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY REVERSES ITSELF, SUPPORTS POPULAR ELECTION OF PRESIDENT
The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) has dropped its opposition to direct presidential elections, Czech media reported on 14 October. The ODS has long opposed the popular election of the president, who is currently selected by both chambers of parliament. Direct elections require amendment of the Czech Constitution, which would be difficult before President Vaclav Havel's term ends in late January. "Mlada fronta Dnes" the same day editorialized that the ODS is seeking to give its outgoing leader, former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, an improved chance of winning the presidency since he does not enjoy sufficient support in parliament. A poll published by "Hospodarske noviny" on 14 October showed 16 percent of Czech voters supporting Klaus for president. A poll for "Mlada fronta Dnes" published on 15 October showed 27.6 percent support for Klaus, followed by Senate President Petr Pithart (21.4 percent), Ombudsman Otakar Motejl (17.9 percent), and former Prime Minister Milos Zeman (10.2 percent). BW
CZECH GOVERNMENT HALTS CHEMICAL PLANT'S PRIVATIZATION
The government officially halted the sale of chemical conglomerate Unipetrol to the homegrown Agrofert group. Agrofert won a tender for a 63 percent stake in the state-controlled chemical giant in September, but it failed to pay the agreed 11 billion-crown sale price and said factors have since negatively affected the value of Unipetrol. The government gave the Finance and the Trade and Industry ministries until 15 November to submit a new plan for Unipetrol's privatization. BW
NEW CHEMICAL LEAK AT CZECH SPOLANA
A first-degree chemical alert was issued in Neratovice on 14 October after a leak of sulfuric oxide from the Spolana chemical factory north of Prague, Czech media reported the same day. The alert was called off after 2 1/2 hours, when chemical experts secured the factory and concluded that the leak did not extend beyond Spolana's grounds. Spolana was the site of a number of leaks during August flooding, when it was harshly criticized for its information-disclosure policies. BW
SLOVAK POLICE DETAIN EIGHT SOCCER ROWDIES, WHILE TWO OTHERS ARE WOUNDED OUTSIDE BRATISLAVA PUB...
Slovak police detained eight English soccer fans after a fight on 12 October at a Bratislava restaurant, TASR reported on 14 October. Meanwhile, two English soccer tourists suffered gunshot wounds when private security guards allegedly opened fire outside a Bratislava pub. One man was treated for a gunshot wound to the neck, while the other man refused hospitalization for a wound in the thigh, news agencies reported. Three of those arrested -- aged 30, 38, and 46 -- could face charges for assaulting a police officer, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 12 years' imprisonment. If the men are not charged, they could be expelled from the country for at least five years. The three men were part of a group that allegedly assaulted a policeman who responded to a call after fans smashed chairs and glasses. English soccer fans clashed with Slovak supporters at a Euro 2004 qualifier in Bratislava on 12 October. BW
...AS POLICE CHIEF PRAISES HIS OFFICERS
Slovakia's police chief, Pavel Zajac, praised the way police handled the 14 October football match between England and Slovakia in Bratislava, "Slovakia," reported on 14 October. Zajac said police were "exemplary" in fulfilling their duties, although the English Football Association accused Slovak law enforcement of using "excessive force" in quelling an outbreak of violence in England's section of the stadium. Police have also questioned two private security guards for the shooting of two English football fans on 12 October, TASR reported on 14 October. No charges have been filed in the case. BW
SLOVAK GOVERNMENT PREDICTS GDP GROWTH
The Slovak Finance Ministry estimated that the country's economic growth for 2002 will be 3.8 percent in a report published on 14 October, TASR reported the same day. The ministry forecast inflation of 3.7 percent, unemployment of 18.3 percent, and real wage growth of 6 percent. The economic-growth forecast reflects increased domestic demand and a gradual rise in foreign demand. The European Union, meanwhile, announced on 14 October that it believes Slovakia will be prepared to join the EU on schedule in 2004, TASR reported the same day. "We agree, Slovakia is not prepared today but will be prepared by the day of the entry. The [European] Commission is convinced of that -- otherwise it would not have given its recommendation last week," said EU spokesman for enlargement Jean-Christophe Filori (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2002). BW
OUTGOING SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER ASKED TO HEAD PRESIDENT'S OFFICE
Outgoing Defense Minister Jozef Stank is considering an offer from President Rudolf Schuster to become the head of the Slovak Presidential Office, TASR reported on 11 October. Stank said he is honored by the offer and will decide whether to accept it after he gets acquainted with the structure of the office. He will submit his own proposal about its functioning, he added. "It is a very important institution that should become prestigious," Stank said, according to TASR. BW
HUNGARIAN PARTIES ARGUE OVER CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT VITAL FOR EU ACCESSION
Justice Minister Peter Barandy on 14 October said that, despite an opposition boycott, the government will submit to parliament a motion for a constitutional amendment that is needed for the country's EU accession, Hungarian media reported. Opposition parties stayed away from consultations on the matter the previous day. The opposition FIDESZ and Hungarian Democratic Forum parties said they did not receive the motion in time for adequate debate or preparation. Some representatives of the coalition parties have objected to a number of issues in Barandy's proposal, such as staging a referendum on EU accession on 15 March, which is a national holiday. MSZ
BUDAPEST MAYOR CALLS RIVAL A 'FIDESZ TROJAN HORSE'...
Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky on 13 October told a Free Democrat campaign rally that independent candidate Pal Schmitt is a "FIDESZ Trojan horse," Budapest dailies reported. Demszky said a Schmitt victory "would ensure that people such as [FIDESZ leaders] Tamas Deutsch and Laszlo Kover invaded Budapest City Hall." He said FIDESZ leaders are wrong "if they believe that if they push a diplomat from afar into the foreground, the people of Budapest will forget the past four years." He added that, under the FIDESZ-led government, no subway lines, bridges, nor incinerators were built in the capital. MSZ
...AS SOCIALIST CANDIDATE REMAINS IN THE RACE
Erzsebet Nemeth, the Socialist Party's candidate for Budapest mayor, will not withdraw from the 20 October race, Laszlo Mandur, the chairman of the party's Budapest chapter, announced on 14 October, Hungarian media reported the next day. Mandur said the local party leadership has determined that "there is neither a Schmitt nor a right-wing danger" and thus there is no reason to withdraw Nemeth's candidacy to benefit incumbent Mayor Demszky. Former Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn, however, told Hungarian television earlier on 14 October that it is time for Nemeth to withdraw in favor of Demszky. Socialist Party Chairman Kovacs countered in "Nepszabadsag" that the national leadership is not entitled to decide on Nemeth's withdrawal, but it is a decision for the local chapter. MSZ
KOSTUNICA VOWS TO BRING DOWN THE SERBIAN GOVERNMENT...
The second round of Serbian presidential voting on 13 October was invalid because only 45.5 percent of registered voters -- less than the 50 percent minimum -- took part, RFE/RL reported from Belgrade. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica won with 66.4 percent of the votes, an increase of 800,000 votes over his showing in the first round two weeks before. He placed first in Vojvodina, where he finished third in the first round, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. His challenger, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, attracted even fewer votes than he did on 29 September. Kostunica blamed his arch-rival, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, for the low turnout, AP reported. Kostunica accused Djindjic of leading a "silent boycott" of a poll that he knew that his ally, Labus, could not win. Kostunica said: "I want to see the end of Djindjic's regime. The political crisis has deepened." For its part, Djindjic's Democratic Party (DP) called on Kostunica to recognize that he cannot win a majority of the electorate and resign as Yugoslav president. PM
...AND CHALLENGES THE ELECTION COMMISSION...
Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) said it will challenge the decision of the Serbian Election Commission that the election was invalid because fewer than half of registered voters cast their ballots, AP reported from Belgrade on 14 October. The DSS maintains that the electoral rolls are padded with the names of 630,000 dead or nonexistent people, and that more than 50 percent of the actual voters did indeed cast a ballot. DSS leader Nebojsa Bakarac argued, "We have proof that the elections actually succeeded." It is not clear why the DSS did not raise the matter of the 630,000 "dead souls" before the election. Elsewhere, Hrair Balian, a spokesman for the OSCE monitors, criticized the nationalist-led boycott of the vote and called on authorities to drop the 50 percent requirement in time for the next ballot. He stressed that "uncertainty is the last thing Serbia needs. Serbia needs certainty, reforms, and development." PM
...AS SERBIA ENTERS A POLITICAL 'TWILIGHT ZONE'...
The Serbian presidential election must be repeated from the start by 5 December, international and regional media reported on 14 October. If no president is elected by 5 January, when the term of incumbent Milan Milutinovic expires, the duties of the president will be carried out by Natasa Micic, the president of parliament. She belongs to the Civic Alliance of Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, who is a close ally of Djindjic. One observer called this nebulous legal state of affairs a "twilight zone" for Serbian politics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 11 October 2000). Several observers have suggested that political uncertainty in Serbia will do nothing to help that country attract foreign investment or promote its integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. PM
...WHERE THERE ARE MORE QUESTIONS...
The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 11 October that an invalid presidential vote might play into the hands of Djindjic, who wants to get Kostunica out of power and delay parliamentary elections, which Kostunica wants. Other observers suggested that Labus will not run in new elections and might even strike a deal with Kostunica. This would place Labus and some of his supporters on the apparently winning bandwagon and provide Kostunica's camp with the economic expertise it lacks. Such a political realignment would be detrimental to Djindjic, who has seen several of his key allies endorse Kostunica in recent weeks. In any event, Djindjic and his allies will most likely have to find a new candidate to run against Kostunica. Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, who came in third in the first round, hailed the outcome of the second round as a victory for himself, RFE/RL reported on 14 October. Seselj had called for a boycott of the second round in order to force new elections. PM
Svilanovic suggested after the second round that it now might be best to change the electoral law to remove the 50 percent requirement, as Kostunica has urged, RFE/RL reported from Belgrade on 14 October. Svilanovic also suggested that it might be wise to draft a new constitution before holding a presidential vote, although that would take several months. It is not clear how any legal or constitutional changes would affect the key problem in the Serbian -- and recent Bosnian -- elections, namely voter apathy as a result of disappointment with continuing poverty and feuding politicians. A further problem in Serbia is that the voter-registration lists include Kosovar Albanians, who want nothing to do with Serbia and have no intention of voting in its elections, making it that much harder for any ballot to meet the 50 percent requirement. Most Serbian politicians would prefer to drop the 50 percent clause rather than eliminate the Albanians from the rolls, since that would appear tantamount to renouncing Serbian sovereignty over Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2002). PM
SERBIAN AND MONTENEGRIN POLITICIANS AGREE ON NAME OF NEW STATE
It is not clear what effect, if any, the outcome of the latest presidential vote in Serbia will have on plans to complete a draft Constitutional Charter for Serbia and Montenegro in the near future, RFE/RL reported from Belgrade on 14 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). In any event, Kostunica, Djindjic, Labus, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, and Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic have agreed that the name of the new state comprising their two republics will be Serbia and Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 13 October. Some pro-Belgrade Montenegrin hard-liners favor preserving the name Yugoslavia, which most observers consider an anachronism (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 February 2002). PM
KOSOVAR TEACHERS WIN PAY RAISE
More than 22,000 teachers ended their two-week strike after winning a raise, dpa reported from Prishtina on 14 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2002). Their pay will be increased by about $42 per month over the next six months. Kosova's 440,000 pupils and students will return to their classes immediately. PM
SFOR INVESTIGATES BOSNIAN SERB AIRCRAFT PLANT
Workers at the Orao aircraft plant in Bijeljina returned to their jobs on 14 October following a three-day inspection of the premises by SFOR troops, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Orao is suspected of having had illegal dealings with Iraq that may be continuing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, 11,13, and 16 September 2002). SFOR has not made its findings public and called the inspection a routine operation. PM
SARAJEVO POLICE ARREST BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT
Judge Ibrahim Hadzic told AP in Sarajevo on 15 October that police have arrested Zarko Pandurevic at his home in downtown Sarajevo. Pandurevic is wanted by Bosnian authorities for alleged crimes against civilians in Sarajevo's Grbavica district in 1992. Charges include torture, especially of women, and rounding up civilians for forced labor. The war crimes tribunal in The Hague previously gave Bosnian authorities its approval to proceed with the case. PM
HAGUE PROSECUTOR TO SEEK GENERAL BOBETKO'S EXTRADITION FROM CROATIA
Carla Del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, will visit Croatia soon in an attempt to persuade the government to extradite retired General Janko Bobetko, dpa reported on 14 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4, 7, and 10 October 2002). On 11 October, EU diplomats delivered a formal demarche to the Croatian government, calling on it to cooperate with The Hague, Reuters reported. Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Bobetko the next day, Hina reported. The tribunal is considering an appeal by Prime Minister Ivica Racan to reconsider its indictment of Bobetko. Racan does not want to risk international isolation, but he knows that many Croats would regard the extradition of the general as an insult to the memory of their 1991-95 war of independence. Racan met with Bobetko on 14 October and told reporters afterward: "I am optimistic that we have a chance to avoid a conflict with the tribunal and international sanctions," Reuters reported. He did not elaborate. PM
CROATIAN PROSECUTOR CHARGES TUDJMAN'S DAUGHTER WITH CORRUPTION
Zeljko Zganjer, who heads the Anticorruption and Organized Crime Office, announced in Zagreb on 14 October that his office has indicted Nevenka Tudjman, the daughter of the late President Franjo Tudjman, for misusing her "social status and reputation" to engage in corrupt business practices, Croatian and international media reported. She is charged with helping her business partner, Igor Knezevic, land lucrative government contracts to install communications systems in government buildings, including universities, between 1996 and 1999. She is suspected of receiving a 15 percent kickback on the deal, worth about $240,000. Her attorney, Ante Vukorepa, called the charges "unfounded and contradictory," adding that the indictment "is a result of public pressure placed on the office and the court for a scapegoat." Critics argue that she should have been indicted long ago on a variety of charges. They note that even after the change of government in 2000, former state prosecutor Radovan Ortynski and others were reluctant to prosecute members of the Tudjman family, which seems to have accumulated much wealth during the decade that Franjo Tudjman was president. PM
NATO TO STAY ON IN MACEDONIA
NATO announced in Brussels on 14 October that it will extend the mission known as Amber Fox in Macedonia until 15 December, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 30 September and 3 and 10 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May and 9 August 2002). The announcement follows the confirmation by the Netherlands that it will continue to lead the mission. The EU had hoped to take it over from NATO for some time. Continued haggling between Greece and Turkey, however, over the EU's use of NATO planning, intelligence, and logistics has hamstrung the EU's plans. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 12 October that Washington considers the political situation in Macedonia to be stable and would like to wind up Amber Fox in favor of a civilian monitoring mission. Germany and some other European NATO members, however, believe that Western troops should continue to be present in Macedonia. PM
VIOLENT ABDUCTION OF TRAFFICKED WOMEN IN MACEDONIA
A group of heavily armed ethnic Albanians kidnapped five young Moldovan and Ukrainian women from a bar in Tetovo, dpa reported on 14 October. The incident underscored the role played by human traffickers in western Macedonia and elsewhere in the Balkans in bringing women from the former Soviet Union, Romania, and elsewhere and selling them to pimps in former Yugoslav republics and Western Europe. PM
ROMANIAN RULING PARTY PREPARES FOR ELECTIONS, EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN VACAROIU
On 12 October, the Social Democratic Party's (PSD) National Council expelled from the party four deputies who accused their colleagues of corruption, Mediafax reported. The council initiated a process of evaluating every PSD leader and public officer, and requires that by 30 November the party's central bodies are to punish and replace all those found to have negatively affected the party's image. Speaking at the meeting, PSD Chairman and Premier Adrian Nastase praised his government's successes during its two years of rule, arguing that the PSD has won the electorate's confidence and external credibility and has "profoundly changed" the way of doing politics in Romania. Deputy Chairman Viorel Hrebenciuc said on 14 October that the party's electoral strategy is based on the fact that the PSD "is the only party respecting its electoral promises." On 11 October, the party's permanent delegation passed a vote of confidence in support of PSD Deputy Chairman and Senate Chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu, who was recently accused of corruption by the "Romania libera" daily (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 October 2002). ZsM
EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER FOR REGIONAL POLICIES SATISFIED WITH ISPA PROGRAM IN ROMANIA
Ending a two-day visit to Bucharest on 11 October, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Michel Barnier expressed his satisfaction with the implementation of the EU's Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) program in Romania, Romanian media reported. He announced that the EC intends to raise ISPA funding to Romania, which currently stands at 240 million euros ($235 million) and is intended primarily for infrastructure and media programs. During his talks with Romanian authorities Barnier insisted on greater transparency in the use of EU funds, according to Rompres. The commissioner also met Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana to discuss Romania's role in Southeastern Europe and the future structure of the European Union. ZsM
ROMANIAN PATRIARCH WRAPS UP VISIT TO VATICAN
Romanian Greek Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist ended a weeklong visit to the Vatican on 13 October by praying in Romanian with Pope John Paul II at the San Pietro Basilica, Romanian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2002). On 12 October, Teoctist and Pope John Paul II signed a declaration that calls for unity among Christians, Romanian media reported. The declaration states that the two churches strive for "communion" that is based on "truth and love." The document also calls on all Christian faiths to take example from the good relations between the two churches. ZsM
ANTI-SEMITIC VANDALISM CAUSES OUTCRY IN BUCHAREST
The Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania on 14 October criticized the police for not having taken sufficient measures to prevent "anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and racist" incidents after the Bucharest Jewish Theater was defaced with Nazi symbols and slogans, Mediafax reported. The vandalism, which included swastikas and the "Arbeit macht Frei" slogan, was discovered on the morning of 12 October. Israeli Ambassador to Bucharest Sandu Mazor has requested that the theater be guarded by a specialized company. Romanian Culture Minister Razvan Theodorescu called the incident "a serious provocation" and asked the police to immediately "do their job." ZsM
WORLD BANK BACKS AWAY FROM PLANS TO FUND ROMANIAN GOLD MINE
World Bank President James Wolfensohn asked the bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) to stop negotiations regarding $250 million for financing a planned gold mine at Rosia Montana, Mediafax reported on 11 October. The IFC has been negotiating financing Canada-based Gabriel Resources' project for opening what would be Europe's largest gold mine. The $400 million project involves relocating more than 2,000 inhabitants and demolishing some 900 homes in the Western Romanian city of Rosia Montana by 2005. Although original reports claimed that Wolfensohn had blocked the investment due to the potential for cyanide spills resulting from the gold-extraction processes, the IFC said in an 11 October press release that it halted negotiations to allow the project develop more quickly, "Adevarul" reported on 14 October. Gabriel Resources has announced that it will continue the project using private financing. ZsM
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS TO EXAMINE ILASCU CASE
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is to send four judges to Moldova to examine the legitimacy of Ilie Ilascu's conviction by a Tiraspol court, Mediafax reported on 11 October, citing AFP. Now a Romanian citizen and senator, Ilascu was sentenced to death in 1993 by Transdniester authorities on charges of terrorism. He was released in May 2001. Three members of Ilascu's group -- each sentenced to 12-15 years' imprisonment -- are still being detained in Tiraspol. The four filed a complaint in 1999 with the ECHR against illegal detention and inhuman treatment, and argued they did not receive a fair trial. ZsM
COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES MOLDOVA TO IMPLEMENT DEMOCRATIC REFORMS
Visiting Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said in Chisinau on 14 October that "there is a kind of emergency for the implementation of democratic reforms," BASA-Press reported. He argued that taking over the council's Committee of Ministers next May "will bring more responsibility for the Moldovan government." He added that Moldova must fully meet the 24 April Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) resolutions before it takes over the chairmanship. Meeting with representatives of political parties participating in the permanent roundtable, Schwimmer said that "Moldova must reach a consensus that would make the political majority listen to the minority, and vice versa." Schwimmer announced the appointment of Jorgen Grunnet as his representative in Chisinau. ZsM
GREECE URGES BULGARIA TO CLOSE EU ACCESSION CHAPTER ON ENERGY...
Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Papandreou said at a press conference at the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas on 14 October that Bulgaria should strive to close the energy chapter of the EU acquis communautaire by the end of this year, BTA reported. Papandreou said the that when Greece takes over the rotating EU Presidency in January 2003, accession talks can thus focus on remaining chapters. Bulgaria wants to keep the energy chapter open, as it opposes the European Commission's (EC) stance that the older blocks of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant should be decommissioned by 2006. On 13 October, Dimitris Kourkoulas, the head of the EC's delegation to Bulgaria, said the commission is not opposed to Bulgaria having a nuclear-power industry. However, he said, "The discussion would be more productive if citizens were informed about the arguments of both sides. I am concerned...by the fact that the public in your country receives one-sided information on the condition of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant." UB
...AS NEW PROBLEMS ARISE WITH KOZLODUY NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT
Atomic Energy Regulation Agency Director Emil Vapirev said on 14 October that his agency will not allow the decommissioning of blocks No. 1 and No. 2 of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant by the end of this year should the government fail to provide necessary funding, mediapool.bg reported. According to Vapirev, the agency needs about $600 million to $700 million to close down the reactors. The process of decommissioning lasts about 40 years. Bulgaria and the European Commission signed an agreement in 1999 according to which blocks No. 1 and No. 2 should be taken off the grid by the end of 2002 (see "End Note"). UB
BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE FUNDING FOR STATE HEALTH INSURANCE
Finance Minister Milen Velchev said on 14 October that the government will increase state subsidies for the ailing health care sector from 3.8 percent of GDP this year to 4.2 percent next year, bnn news agency reported. Velchev added that the move is intended to bail out the National Health Insurance Fund, which has accumulated a deficit of approximately $45 million because many companies and individuals have failed to pay mandatory health-insurance fees. UB
BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES NEW MEDIA POLICY
Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev announced on 14 October that only four radio and television stations will be invited to attend monthly media briefings with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, mediapool.bg reported. The media briefings will be open for journalists of state-owned Bulgarian National Radio and Bulgarian National Television as well as for the private Darik Radio and bTV. Newspaper editors, who felt excluded, have criticized the decision as "unwise." UB
BULGARIA'S SACRED COW -- CONFUSION OVER THE KOZLODUY NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT
"We can live without a tsar -- but not without a nuclear-power plant!" Under this slogan, Bulgaria's small nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) some time ago protested against the government led by former Bulgarian monarch and current Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski. The motto reflects popular sentiment over what can be described as Bulgaria's sacred cow -- the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant on the Danube River in northern Bulgaria.
Bulgaria's only nuclear-power plant, Kozloduy produces about 45 percent of the country's electrical energy. It produces not only for the domestic market, but also ensures Bulgaria's position as a regional supplier of energy, mainly to Greece and Turkey.
The construction of the six-block Soviet-designed Kozloduy power plant began in the 1970s as a pet project of the then-ruling Communist Party (BKP). The first four blocks of the VVER-440/V-230 type were put into operation between 1974-82. Later, in 1988 and 1993, two blocks of the more modern VVER-1000/V-320 type were added. In 1981, the construction of a second nuclear-power plant started in Belene, but that project was halted in 1990 because of lack of funding and protests from environmentalists.
International concern over the safety of Kozloduy and other Soviet-built nuclear-power plants in Eastern Europe rose after the 1986 Chornobyl catastrophe. Ever since, the Bulgarian government has regularly undertaken measures to upgrade the safety of Kozloduy, but pressure to decommission the outdated first four blocks of the plant remains and has played an important role in Bulgaria's negotiations for EU accession.
In 1999, the Bulgarian government under Ivan Kostov signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Commission (EC) over the future of Kozloduy. In the memorandum, the Bulgarian side agreed to shut down blocks No. 1 and No. 2 by 2003, while the EC pledged financial support for the decommissioning of these blocks. According to the memorandum, blocks No. 3 and No. 4 should be shut down no later than 2006. The memorandum thus revised an earlier decision of the EC that these blocks should be shut down in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
With the closing date approaching, the shortcomings of Bulgarian energy policies have become apparent. Because there is no alternative to Kozloduy in sight, Bulgaria's politicians -- regardless of their party affiliation -- want the lifespan of all of the plant's blocks to be extended as long as possible. The population supports this unwillingness to shut down the older blocks, as politicians have convinced them that Kozloduy is the only producer of clean and, what is more important, inexpensive energy in the country. The politicians also underscore that decommissioning Kozloduy would endanger Bulgaria's role as a regional energy supplier, as Romania recently completed a new nuclear-power plant with Western technology.
But the consensus among the politicians was recently shattered. On 2 October, the parliament unanimously adopted a decision that blocks No. 3 and No. 4 should not be decommissioned before Bulgaria becomes a full member of the EU. Thus, the parliament to some extent revised the government's position, which was to shut down the blocks in question in 2006 as envisioned in the 1999 memorandum. As the only precondition for complying with the 2006 deadline, the government demands that a safety inspection first be carried out by EU experts. The government hoped that the expected positive results of this safety inspection could make the EC revise its position.
The parliamentary decision came at a moment when Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov was in Brussels to hold talks with EC President Romano Prodi over Bulgaria's bid for EU membership. But as Parvanov was not informed about the parliament's decision, he promoted the government's position. After he learned about the parliament's decision, he changed his stance, and has since supported the parliament's decision.
The government, however, argued that there are no substantial differences between the parliamentary decision and its own stance. It is reluctant to accept the opposition's view that there are indeed differences between what the parliament decided and what the government promotes. As a result, the conservative opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) has threatened to call for a vote of no confidence should the government fail to accept the parliamentary decision. The Socialist Party (BSP), for its part, filed a lawsuit against the government for allegedly violating the constitutional provisions that parliamentary decisions are binding for the government.
To overcome this situation, Parvanov decided to write a letter to the heads of the 15 EU member states in order to clarify Bulgaria's position on the decommissioning of blocks No. 3 and No. 4. But before he could send the letter reflecting a united stance, Parvanov had to discuss the matter with representatives of the government, the parliament, and experts.
While Parvanov's move may contribute to a clearer picture of what the Bulgarian stance over the decommissioning might be, it certainly has not triggered a public debate over alternatives to Kozloduy -- for instance over completing the Belene plant, as proposed by Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski in April 2002, or over the exploitation of alternative energy sources such as wind or water. Some commentators also demand a public debate over realistic energy prices that account for the costs of disposing of nuclear waste, and over the improvement of energy efficiency. As long as these problems remain unresolved, Kozloduy will retain its status as Bulgaria's sacred cow.