Accessibility links

Newsline - October 16, 2002


BERLUSCONI IN MOSCOW TO DISCUSS IRAQ...
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrived in Moscow on 16 October in an effort to persuade President Vladimir Putin to support a tough UN Security Council resolution on Iraq drafted by the United States and Britain, "Izvestiya" and other Russian news agencies reported. Unlike German and French leaders, Berlusconi unconditionally supports U.S. President George W. Bush's position on Iraq and his call for military intervention to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Berlusconi is known to have developed especially good personal relations with Putin. The present visit is his fourth to Moscow this year, and Putin's daughters spent part of their summer vacations this year in Italy with Berlusconi's family. "Izvestiya" called Berlusconi's visit Bush's "last hope" of changing Putin's position, following a similar mission by British Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 October 2002). VY

...AS PUTIN INDICATES RUSSIA READY FOR NEW RESOLUTION
President Putin stated on 16 October after talks with Prime Minister Berlusconi that Russia is prepared to discuss "with its partners" a new UN resolution on Iraq. However, he added that he is convinced that all the international community's concerns about President Hussein can be addressed by United Nations weapons inspectors, who should be dispatched "as soon as possible." VY

FINANCE MINISTER PROMISES RUSSIA WILL PAY DEBTS ON SCHEDULE
Speaking in London on 15 October at a session of the Russian-British Committee on Trade and Investment, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said his government is in complete control of the situation concerning record-high foreign-debt payments due in 2003, Russian news agencies reported. Kudrin justified his confidence by saying that sufficient resources for the payments have been incorporated into the federal budget. He also noted that Russia has extremely high gold and hard-currency reserves, some of which has been set aside for foreign-debt payments. Finally, he said Russian experts predict world oil prices will not fall below $20 a barrel during the first half of 2003, which is sufficient for the government to meet the budget's revenue projections. VY

FIRE DETONATES FLEET'S ARSENAL
A fire broke out during the planned destruction of surplus ammunition at a Pacific Fleet arsenal in Vladivostok on 16 October, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to a regional Interior Ministry spokesman, fire brigades had managed to control the fire, but not to extinguish it, by nightfall. The fire caused the explosion of 12 railroad cars of old artillery shells, and police evacuated residents from the area. In 1992, several local residents were killed or injured during an arsenal fire. Primore Governor Sergei Darkin said on 16 October that he will push to remove all fleet weaponry and ammunition from the city limits, data.ru reported. VY

HACKERS TARGET FSB SITE
A spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) told ITAR-TASS on15 October that the number of hacker attacks this year on his agency's website (http://www.fsb.ru) might exceed 1 million, about twice as many as the agency experienced in 2001. He added that the attempted break-ins are not "the machinations of foreign intelligence organizations," but the work of domestic hackers. In one case, the FSB traced an attack to a hacker in Krasnoyarsk Krai, and he was subsequently sentenced to one year's probation. The spokesman noted that global cybercrime is growing at a rate of about 10 percent per year. VY

MORE IRREGULARITIES IN CENSUS ALLEGED...
The federal inspector to Tatarstan, Denis Akhmadullin, has said that federal authorities have registered more than 60 complaints from republic residents concerning the ongoing national census, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 October, citing "Vremya novostei." The residents reported that census takers either "didn't use the official polling sheets during the procedure or filled in the questionnaires with pencils." Akhmadullin emphasized that these alleged violations "were mostly linked with the nationality section" of the questionnaire. Earlier, a Tatar nationalist group in Bashkortostan reported irregularities in census taking in that republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). In an interview with RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, ethnologist Kamir Iskhaqov said that the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences adopted a new list of nationalities in Russia in September. According to Iskhaqov, the new list of nationalities, used in the recent census, mentions more than 800 different ethnic groups, whereas the list used for the 1989 census contained only 200 choices. JAC

...AS NEW WINNERS AND LOSERS LIKELY TO EMERGE...
Cossack leaders are pleased that the category "Cossack" has been included in the new census questionnaire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). According to ORT on 15 October, Cossack leaders in Rostov Oblast believe the census results will prove "it is too early to erect headstones on historic Cossack settlements." According to preliminary data from the oblast's statistics committee, in some rural regions up to 70 percent of locals have declared they are Cossacks in the census. TV-6 reported the same day that the ethnic group of Didois, who were not previously considered a distinct ethnic group from the Avars, might now be able to demand seats in the Republic of Daghestan's legislature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2002). JAC

...AND CENSUS RESULTS SHOW CHECHNYA'S POPULATION LARGER THAN EXPECTED
According to preliminary census results, Chechnya's present population is 1.088 million, of whom some 205,000 live in Grozny, Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov announced on 14 October, Interfax reported the following day. Ilyasov added that this figure is only marginally less than the 1.27 million registered in the 1989 Soviet census as the total population of the combined Checheno-Ingush ASSR. Sultygov said on 15 October, however, that the 1989 figures "were greatly underreported," and at that time Chechens already numbered more than 2 million. He pointed out that population growth alone could not account for the current census figures. The combined death toll in the 1994-96 and the present Chechen war is estimated at 100,000-140,000. LF

BASHKORTOSTAN HEAD SEES NO NEW CONFLICT LOOMING WITH FEDERAL OFFICIALS...
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov has said that he sees no potential conflicts between his plan to abolish the republican post of president and existing federal legislation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 October, citing "Kommersant-Daily" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). A spokesman for Rakhimov, Marat Yamalov, told "The Moscow Times" on 14 October that legal experts are drawing up a new Bashkortostan Constitution that transfers executive-branch powers to parliament, adding that the draft should be completed by the end of the year. Yamalov said it is unclear whether the constitution must be approved by a republic-wide referendum. "It could be approved by our parliament, or maybe only its major points will have to be approved [by a referendum]," Yamalov said. He said the transition faces no legal roadblocks "because Daghestan has this sort of government, and it has proven to be very suitable for multiethnic republics." Yamalov added the draft has not yet been sent for approval to the commission headed by deputy presidential administration chief Dmitrii Kozak. JAC

...AS ANALYSTS BEG TO DIFFER
However, Aleksandr Postnikov, head of the constitutional-law department at the federal government's Institute of Legislation and Comparative Law, said Daghestan is a lone exception under federal law, with an executive branch that resembles a parliament, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 October. "[Such a reform] could only happen in Bashkortostan if the republic initiates amendments to the federal law, and the law is changed," Postnikov continued. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day that according to unidentified sources close to Rakhimov, the incumbent plans to give up his office because that position would have powers like those "wielded by the British queen" under the new draft constitution currently being considered by the legislature. Rakhimov instead reportedly plans to become head of the republic's parliament. According to the daily, Rakhimov's plan -- at least superficially -- appears to be a response to the objections of Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, who "blamed Rakhimov for the fact that local legislation gives him excessively broad powers." JAC

REGIONAL LIBERALS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR BEREZOVSKII
The republican-level political council of Liberal Russia in Bashkortostan and the regional branch of the party in Tyumen Oblast have objected to a decision by the party's central political council to eject party co-founder and tycoon Boris Berezovskii from the party's ranks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau and regions.ru reported on 15 October. The Bashkir branch issued a statement saying that Berezovskii's recent interview with the pro-Communist newspaper "Zavtra" in which he said he is willing to cooperate with anyone who is opposed to the Putin regime was necessary, timely, and useful (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). Members of the Tyumen branch said that party leaders failed to specify which section of the party's charter was violated by the interview. JAC

LAUNCH ACCIDENT DESTROYS INTERNATIONAL SATELLITE
One serviceman was killed and eight others injured on 16 October when a Soyuz-5 rocket carrying the international "Foton-M" satellite exploded during a launch at the Plesetsk cosmodrome, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to dpa, the 300-ton rocket crashed about 20 seconds after ignition when one of its engines broke away. The accident destroyed the $600 million "Foton-M" space laboratory, which was built by an international consortium headed by the European Space Agency (ESA). An ESA spokesperson said the accident will not delay a scheduled launch on 17 October of a Russian Proton-K rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan that will carry the European Integral Space Telescope into orbit. The accident is also not expected to affect the support program for the International Space Station. RC

WAR OF MONUMENTS CONTINUES
The Duma on 16 October included on its agenda a bill put forward by Deputy Aleksandr Fedulov (independent) calling for the erection of a monument to Tsar Nicholas II on Lubyanka Square on the site where a statue of Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii once stood, RIA-Novosti and the BBC reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2002). Fedulov said he hopes his proposal will eventually lead to the removal of the body of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin from his mausoleum on Red Square and to "a Nuremberg trial against the Communist Party for crimes committed when it was in power." Deputy Duma Speaker and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovskii expressed strong opposition to the proposal, calling Nicholas II "the worst tsar in Russian history." He also said he supports the restoration of the Dzerzhinskii monument and praised him for "setting up the most powerful intelligence system in the world." VY

UPPER CHAMBER CONFIRMS SEVEN SUPREME COURT JUSTICES
The Federation Council on 16 October confirmed seven new judges to the Supreme Court, ntvru.com reported. The new judges are Deputy Chairwoman of the Ulyanovsk Oblast Court Zoya Bespalova, Assistant to the Chairman of the Supreme Court Tatyana Yermolaeva; Saratov Oblast Court Judge Aleksei Zelepukin, former Kursk Oblast Court Judge Nikita Kolokolov, Kursk Oblast Judge Vladimir Merkulov, Deputy Chairman of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Oblast Court Yurii Savvich, and Buryatia Supreme Court Judge Eduard Erdyniev. RC

ANOTHER SENATOR GETS YANKED HOME
Ingushetia's legislature decided on 15 October to recall its representative to the Federation Council, Sergei Bekov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 October. Bekov was a supporter of the republic's former president, Ruslan Aushev. He began serving in the upper legislative chamber in March 2001. According to the newspaper, one legislator explained the decision to recall Bekov before his term expired by saying legislators believed they should find "their own" senator. A replacement for Bekov has not yet been named. JAC

PRO-KREMLIN PARTY ACCUSED OF TRYING TO TAKE OVER REGIONAL ELECTION COMMISSION
The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party in Velikii Novgorod has invited all of the recently appointed members of the city's election commission to join the party's ranks, "Novaya gazeta" reported on 14 October. This invitation has prompted the party's political opponents to charge that the party is trying to place the commission under its control on the eve of mayoral elections. Sergei Bessonov, deputy chairman of the party's regional political council, dismissed those concerns. "We are not going to compel anyone to join our ranks by force. Everything is done on a strictly voluntary basis," he said. "And regarding the issue of our possible influence on the decisions of the commission, it should be noted that other political parties and movements can delegate their own representatives to the commission." However, the weekly noted that as a result of the "special role" election commissions have played in recent elections such as those in Nizhnii Novgorod and Krasnoyarsk Krai, not everyone is willing to take Bessonov's argument at face value, pointing out that Bessonov is himself a candidate in the upcoming mayoral race. JAC

COMMUNIST DEPUTY TO TRY AGAIN?
After finishing third in recent gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Duma Deputy Sergei Glaziev (Communist) is reportedly ready to vie for the governor's post in Ulyanovsk Oblast, regions.ru reported on 15 October, citing Yenisei-Inform. According to the website, Glaziev was interested in participating in the last gubernatorial race there in December 2000 but was afraid of challenging the well-known commander in Chechnya Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, who in fact won the race. Now, however, Glaziev reportedly is one of the founders of the oblast's Goryachev Fund, which was created by former oblast Governor Yurii Goryachev to fund the political opposition to Shamanov. Glaziev's name has recently been mentioned as a contender for a top leadership post in the Communist Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). JAC

WOMEN APPEAL TO GOVERNMENT REGARDING POVERTY
The Union of Women of Russia intends to present the government with a letter protesting the impoverishment of Russian citizens, RosBalt reported on 15 October. According to union Chairwoman Alevtina Fedulova, the group has collected more than 500,000 signatures from women across Russia supporting the initiative. Fedulova said the group is concerned about rising unemployment among women, the "elimination" of women from "prestigious" jobs, the growing wage differential between men and women, and inadequate state subsidies for women supporting children. The protest was timed to coincide with the United Nation's International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October. RC

YABLOKO OFFSHOOT CALLS ITSELF ELEPHANT PARTY
The organizing committee of a new political party -- the Union of People for Education and Science (SLON) -- informed the Justice Ministry on 15 October that it will hold its founding congress on 16-17 November, RosBalt reported. The party, whose acronym means elephant in Russian, is led by former Yabloko members Vyacheslav Igrunov and Andrei Sharomov. Igrunov is a Duma deputy, and Sharomov is the former head of Yabloko's youth organization. According to Sharomov, SLON has formed 50 regional groups with a total membership of 8,000. JAC

NEW JEWISH ORGANIZATION CREATED
Writer Arkadii Vainer has been elected president of the Association of Jewish Public Organizations of Russia, Russian news agencies reported on 15 October. The organization held its founding congress in Moscow on 15 October. Aleksandr Boroda, who is executive vice president of the Federation of Jewish Communities, was elected as the new group's vice president, according to Interfax. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 October, chief rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar decided to create the new organization after he was excluded from any leadership role in the Conference of Directors of Jewish Organizations, which is reportedly controlled by Alfa Group head Mikhail Fridman and Russian Jewish Congress head Yevgenii Satanovskii. According to the daily, both organizations now consider themselves a kind of "trade union for Jewish organizations." JAC

REGIONAL LEGISLATIVE LEADER DIES IN ACCIDENT
Tomsk City Duma Speaker Oleg Pletnev, who also headed the local Yabloko branch, drowned in a scuba-diving accident on 15 October in Egypt, polit.ru reported the next day. No further information was available. RC

NEWLY ELECTED GOVERNOR/OLIGARCH AVOIDS RUN-IN WITH NEIGHBORING OLIGARCH/GOVERNOR
The driver of Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin's Toyota Land Cruiser Prado narrowly avoided running into the Audi of Evenk Autonomous Okrug Governor Boris Zolatarev during a snowstorm on a highway in Krasnoyarsk Krai on 15 October, regions.ru reported, citing the okrug administration's press service. According to the report, Khloponin's vehicle emerged unscathed, while the bumper of Zolatarev's Audi sustained a few dents and scrapes. Both governors were on their way to the airport at the time of the incident, according to lenta.ru. Meanwhile, in Moscow on 16 October, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref was briefly hospitalized after his car collided with another vehicle at an intersection, Russian news agencies reported. Strana.ru cited a ministry spokesman as saying that Gref returned to work after being treated for bruises. JAC

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER MEETS WITH CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARIANS
Russia's human rights commissioner for Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov met for more than three hours on 13 October in Znamenskoye with 14 deputies to the Chechen parliament elected in the summer of 1997, Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. The discussion focused on human rights violations and a draft agreement on public accord that outlines the principles for a possible political settlement of the Chechen conflict and for Chechnya's development within the parameters of the Russian Constitution, Interfax quoted Sultygov as saying. The two sides agreed to coordinate their positions on working for a settlement of the conflict and for a referendum on Chechnya's new draft constitution. LF

NEW FIGHTING ERUPTS IN SOUTHERN CHECHNYA
Fierce fighting took place from 14-15 October in Nozhai-Yurt Raion, but Russian reports of Chechen casualties are untrue, chechenpress.com reported on 16 October. Interfax quoted a Russian military spokesman as saying on 15 October that nine Chechen fighters from a contingent subordinate to field commander Abu Al-Walid were killed during the clash. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST FALSIFICATION OF LOCAL ELECTIONS
Robert Kocharian met on 15 October with senior government ministers and regional officials to impress upon them the importance of ensuring that the 20 October local elections are free and fair, according to Noyan Tapan and Armenian Public Television, as cited by Groong. "Nobody has the right to compromise the country," he said. "I prohibit you all from trying to help any candidate or lobby for him or her. You can express your attitude toward a candidate by voting in his or her favor," Armenpress quoted Kocharian as saying. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION FINALIZES JOINT ELECTION MANIFESTO
At a two-hour meeting in Yerevan on 15 October, representatives of 16 Armenian opposition parties put the final touches to a joint manifesto that may serve as the basis for the program of their joint candidate for the presidential elections to be held in February 2003, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The 22-point document repeats traditional opposition accusations against the current authorities and promises a swift improvement in the difficult socioeconomic situation in the event of a regime change. The foreign policy section of the program calls for a "deepening of the allied relationship with Russia" and Armenia's continued "integration into the European structures." LF

FORMER ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET
Continuing his unofficial visit to Armenia, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin met in Yerevan on 15 October with former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). No details of their talks were divulged. Earlier on 15 October, Yeltsin visited a Russian border-guard unit serving on the Armenian-Turkish border, and was designated an honorary border guard. LF

ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT DELEGATIONS PLEDGE TO EXPAND BILATERAL ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Former USSR Council of Ministers Chairman Nikolai Ryzhkov headed a Russian Federation Council delegation that participated in the fifth session of the Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation Commission in Yerevan on 15 October, Noyan Tapan reported. Ryzhkov and Armenian parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian agreed on the need to expand bilateral economic cooperation, which, they said, is not as intensive as political ties between the two countries. Ryzhkov is held in great respect in Armenia for his role in coordinating relief aid in the aftermath of the December 1988 earthquake. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AGAIN ADVOCATES PEACEFUL SOLUTION TO KARABAKH CONFLICT
Addressing Turkish businessmen in Istanbul on 15 October, Heidar Aliev again warned that support is growing in Azerbaijan for a military solution to the Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS and zerkalo.az reported. He added that he is trying to quell such sentiments and still advocates a peaceful solution to the conflict. He added that the OSCE should "support Azerbaijan in its just cause," and stressed that Azerbaijan will never reconcile itself to the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh. Aliev also ruled out any economic cooperation with Armenia before Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is restored and those Azerbaijanis who fled either Nagorno-Karabakh or districts adjacent to it currently occupied by Armenian troops have been enabled to return to their homes. LF

TURKISH COMPANY REJECTS BLAME FOR POWER FAILURE AT GEORGIAN SOCCER MATCH
A Georgian State Security Ministry official said on 15 October that the electricity failure that halted the Russian-Georgian soccer match in Tbilisi on 12 October was due to the malfunction, whether as a result of sabotage or a technical defect, of a Turkish-manufactured transformer, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). The Turkish manufacturer denied any responsibility and claimed the transformer malfunctioned as a result of excessive voltage. Also on 15 October, the international soccer governing body FIFA informed the Georgian Football Federation that it will conduct its own investigation into the outage that resulted in the match being cancelled. LF

RUSSIA CONTINUES TO INSIST GEORGIA EXTRADITE PRESUMED CHECHEN MILITANTS
Russia is now pressuring Georgia to extradite immediately six suspected Chechen militants whose identity has already been established, rather than wait until the identity of two more is also clarified so that all eight men can be deported to Russia simultaneously, Deputy Russian Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii told Interfax on 15 October. Georgia has suspended the extradition of all eight men, who have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Fridinskii dismissed that appeal as "political blackmail." Also on 15 October, Georgian Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze denied media reports that one of five Chechens deported on 3 October died in transit, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 15 October 2002). LF

MORE ISLAMIST ACTIVISTS ARRESTED IN KAZAKHSTAN
Two Kazakh students have been arrested for distributing leaflets propagating the banned Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir party, Interfax reported on 15 October. One was studying in Almaty and the second in Shymkent. Also on 15 October, akipress.org quoted unnamed analysts in Kyrgyzstan's Djalalabad Oblast as saying that the number of women sympathizers of Hizb ut-Tahrir is increasing, that that women now account for some 10 percent of the organization's members. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIALS' TRIAL AGAIN POSTPONED
The trial of six local officials in connection with the shooting by police of participants in a protest march in Aksy Raion in March has been postponed to allow for further investigation into the circumstances of the deaths of five marchers, Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev told the Kyrgyz parliament on 15 October, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

SUPPORTERS OF JAILED KYRGYZ FORMER VICE PRESIDENT CONTINUE HUNGER STRIKE
Thirty-two people are currently on hunger strike to demand the release from jail of former Vice President and opposition Ar-Namys Party leader Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 15 October. Also on 15 October, three political parties issued a statement denouncing the Bishkek City Court's 11 October ruling to uphold the sentence it handed down on Kulov in May. They argued that the court ruling shows that the regime of President Askar Akaev is becoming more repressive, and called on Akaev to resign. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN FAVORS PRESERVING BICAMERAL LEGISLATURE
Altay Borubaev, who is speaker of the People's Assembly (the upper chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament), said in an interview with "Vechernii Bishkek" that he believes the present bicameral legislature should be preserved for at least the next 10 years, according to akipress.org on 14 October. Borubaev added that he respects the views of the majority of members of the Constitutional Assembly who earlier this month proposed to President Akaev that the constitution be amended to create a unicameral parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). But, he continued, the system of political parties in Kyrgyzstan is not yet developed enough to sustain what he termed a "classic" parliament with a clear majority and minority. At present, Borubaev concluded, only a bicameral legislature can provide for "a balance of power" within parliament. LF

FRANCE TRANSFERS EQUIPMENT TO KYRGYZ ARMED FORCES
The French military contingent that recently left Kyrgyzstan after a tour of duty within the framework of Operation Enduring Freedom has given the Kyrgyz armed forces vehicles and other equipment worth some $200,000, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 15 October. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL RULES OUT INCREASE IN PENSIONS
Social Fund Chairman Orozmat Abdykalykov warned in Bishkek on 15 October that it will not be possible to raise pensions in the near future because the unemployment rate remains high, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The average monthly pension is currently 559 soms (approximately $12), which is a little over one-third of the minimum subsistence level of 1,473 soms. Officially registered unemployment in Kyrgyzstan is only 5 percent, but hundreds of thousands of people either work abroad or are engaged in shuttle trading, and thus pay no taxes. LF

UZBEK JUDGE SENTENCED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES
Uzbekistan's Supreme Court has sentenced Tohirdjon Choriev, a criminal court judge from Surkhandarya Oblast, to 13 years' imprisonment for accepting a $11,000 bribe to prolong the investigation of a criminal case, uza.uz reported on 15 October. LF

UZBEKISTAN, POLAND SEEK TO EXPAND BILATERAL TRADE
Uzbek entrepreneurs have completed discussions with a visiting Polish government delegation on ways to expand bilateral trade, which in 2001 amounted to $110 million, uza.uz reported on 15 October. Poland exports to Uzbekistan sugar, chemical products, and machinery, and imports cotton and minerals. LF

BELARUSIAN COURT UPHOLDS CONVICTION OF EDITOR FOR LIBELING LUKASHENKA
The Minsk City Court on 15 October rejected the appeal of Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Rabochy," against the ruling of a district court sentencing him to two years in a corrective-labor facility for libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka during the presidential election campaign in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 16, and 27 September 2002), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. A September 2001 issue of "Rabochy," all copies of which were seized by authorities before they hit the newsstands, alleged that Lukashenka made money by exploiting the Russia-Belarus custom union and giving trade preferences to some firms and organizations, including Torgexpo and the so-called Esambaev Fund. The KGB refused to provide any information regarding the allegations, asserting that all materials from its investigations into these firms and organizations have been destroyed. "I'm sure the court will rule to acquit me after the political situation in Belarus changes," Ivashkevich commented. JM

IRANIAN PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami arrived in Kyiv on 15 October for a two-day official visit, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Khatami and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma agreed on the creation of a joint aircraft-construction consortium and discussed the possibility for constructing a gas pipeline from Iran to Europe transiting Ukraine, UNIAN reported. The two sides signed accords on bilateral trade and cooperation in health care as well as an anti-drug trafficking memorandum. Khatami told journalists that Iraq poses a threat to other countries if it possesses weapons of mass destruction, but called for a peaceful solution to the conflict between Baghdad and Washington. '"We are against unilateral action by the United States," Khatami added. Kuchma said Ukraine too supports a peaceful solution to the Iraq problem. JM

CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAID TO BE ILLEGAL
The administration of Ukrainian President Kuchma believes the criminal case instigated against Kuchma by Judge Yuriy Vasylenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002) is illegal and anticonstitutional, UNIAN reported on 15 October, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. Presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk called the case an example of "legal nihilism." According to the Ukrainian Constitution, the president of Ukraine enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office and may be held accountable before a court of law only after a procedure of impeachment has been initiated against the president. However, there are no laws in Ukraine defining the procedure for impeachment. Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych also said the case against Kuchma is "beneath all criticism from a legal point of view." Lavrynovych admitted, however, that bringing to court persons shielded by immunity from prosecution has not been clearly regulated in Ukraine. JM

NORWAY SUPPORTS ESTONIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen told parliament Chairman Toomas Savi in Tallinn on 15 October that Norway is pleased with the progress Estonia is making in its efforts to gain membership of NATO and the European Union, BNS reported. He noted that Norway wants to promote bilateral cooperation with Estonia in the framework of NATO. In talks with Prime Minister Siim Kallas, Petersen said that the small countries in NATO can make a significant contribution in guaranteeing international security. He assured his Estonian counterpart Kristiina Ojuland that although Norway is not a member of the EU, it supports Estonia joining the union. Petersen said he views Estonia as a possible mediator between the EU and Norway and a defender of Norway's interests. They agreed that economic relations between their countries should be further developed. SG

LATVIAN MEDICAL WORKERS POSTPONE PLANNED STRIKE
The Latvian Health and Social Care Employees Union decided on 15 October to postpone their planned one-day strike in November until after the new government is formed and next year's budget is approved, BNS reported. The medical workers staged one-day strikes in June, July, and September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002) but they were only partially successful. Demands concerning wage increases and improvements to legislative acts governing the health care sector seem to have been met, but standards for establishing the prices of health care services were not and the Finance Ministry has yet to compensate the 1.7 million lats ($2.7 million) owed to the health care budget. Union Chairwoman Ruta Viksna said it makes no sense to strike while the current government is still in office and that it is not clear whether the new government will recognize health care as a priority in practice by allocating an additional 25.7 million lats for health care. SG

LITHUANIA, U.S. SIGN PACT ON PROTECTING CULTURAL HERITAGE OF HOLOCAUST VICTIMS
In Vilnius on 15 October, Culture Minister Roma Dovydeniene and U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad Chairman Warren Miller signed a cooperation agreement on protecting the cultural heritage of Jews and other ethnic and religious groups persecuted during the Holocaust, BNS reported. The agreement covers the protection of gravesites, monuments, churches, and documents of Jews, Roma, and Old Believers. The agreement also provides for the establishment of a Joint Cultural Heritage Commission to supervise the work and resolve any issues that may arise. Miller held talks the previous day with President Valdas Adamkus and Director of the International Commission for the Evaluation of Crimes of Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes Ronaldas Racinskas. SG

LITHUANIAN COURT RULES MEDICINE QUOTAS ILLEGAL
The Chief Administrative Court issued a ruling on 15 October declaring that the order issued by Health Minister Romualdas Dobrovolskis on 14 February establishing quotas on the distribution of reimbursable medicines violates the constitution, laws on health insurance, and patients' rights, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. In an effort to balance the books in the Mandatory Health Care Insurance Fund, the order limited the budget that health care institutions use to prescribe medicines for patients, and even threatened doctors that any excess money spent for prescriptions would be taken from their wages. Supporting the complaints by the Lithuanian Medical Doctors Union, former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius asked the court on 23 April to rule if the order was legal. SG

SOLIDARITY STAGES VIOLENT DEMONSTRATION IN WARSAW
On 15 October, some 7,500 Solidarity trade unionists from Silesia (southern Poland) staged a violent protest in front of the prime minister's office in Warsaw against the government's socioeconomic policies, Polish media reported. Protesters threw firecrackers and eggs at the building and scuffled with police. Five policemen were reportedly injured and two of them were hospitalized. Demonstrators protested the government's restructuring plans in the mining and metallurgical sectors, health care, and the state railroads. The same day, some 700 shipyard workers in Szczecin blocked the city center for about two hours in protest against what they call the government's reluctance to provide promised support for their troubled company. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT SIGNS AMENDED LUSTRATION LAW
Aleksander Kwasniewski on 15 October signed an amended lustration law that excludes from the country's lustration process those who collaborated with the communist-era intelligence and counterintelligence services, PAP reported. Kazimierz Ujazdowski from the opposition Law and Justice said he will soon appeal to the Constitutional Tribunal to rule whether the amendment is constitutional. "It is inadmissible for Polish lawmakers to endorse collaboration with the intelligence and counterintelligence services of the Polish People's Republic as a better form of collaboration [than that] with the [communist-era] security service," Ujazdowski commented. The opposition believes the amendment is primarily intended to shield some prominent activists of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance of being accused of lying during the lustration process. JM

POLISH RIGHT-WING PARTY WANTS REFERENDUM ON LAND SALES TO FOREIGNERS
The opposition League of Polish Families (LPR) submitted a citizens' motion to the Sejm on 15 October calling for a referendum on land sales to foreigners, PAP reported. Marek Kotlinowski from the LPR said the motion is supported by some 600,000 signatures. The motion proposes the following question for the referendum: "Do you oppose the sale of Polish land to foreigners?" Sejm deputy speaker Tadeusz Nalecz said the parliament will review the motion "as soon as possible" but ruled out that the referendum could be held on 10 November, as suggested by the LPR. JM

POLAND HOSTS CONFERENCE ON UKRAINE'S RELATIONS WITH EU...
On 15 October in Warsaw, President Kwasniewski opened a two-day conference devoted to relations between the European Union and Ukraine and stressed that a democratic Ukraine is essential for European security, PAP reported. The conference was organized under the patronage of Kwasniewski and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and gathered representatives of the Ukrainian authorities (including presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk and National Defense and Security Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk) and the opposition (including Oleksandr Moroz and Viktor Yushchenko), as well as participants from Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary. Ukrainian President Kuchma was expected to arrive in Warsaw on 16 October to meet with Kwasniewski and Solana. Warsaw originally intended to use the conference to initiate dialogue between the Ukrainian authorities and the opposition, but backed down after Kuchma charged that this could constitute "interference" in Ukraine's domestic affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). JM

...AS SOLANA SLAMS KYIV FOR 'PLAYING WITH THE RULES'
"Europe won't be stable and secure if Ukraine is not stable and secure," AP quoted Solana as saying at the conference. Solana said his main concern is that Ukraine is not making progress on its democratic path. He called for allowing freedom of the media and eliminating murky links between politics and business. "Ukraine is not playing by the rules but playing with the rules. We would like one day to embrace your country, but we have to know what country you are," Solana said. "But at this time I have to tell you this is impossible," he added. JM

CZECH INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS HE WILL RESIGN IF SECURITY AT NATO SUMMIT FAILS
Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross on 15 October offered a qualified pledge to resign from his post if security is not maintained in Prague during the NATO summit on 21-22 November, CTK reported. "If security measures as a whole prove a failure -- not one policeman or some part of the whole system -- and if events occur that are otherwise inconceivable in the conditions of the Czech Republic -- I will resign from the post of interior minister the very same moment," Gross said, according to the news agency. Over 1,000 specially trained officers will be protecting delegates during the meeting, the first NATO summit held in a former communist country, and about 12,000 police officers will be on the streets to deal with potential disturbances. Additionally, 2,000 soldiers from the Czech Army will be assigned to patrol Prague's international airport, hotels, and the conference center where the summit is taking place. About 12,000 protesters are expected to descend on Prague for the event. BW

DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS GAIN POLITICAL MOMENTUM IN CZECH REPUBLIC
A group of 10 lawmakers from the ruling coalition of the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), the Christian Democrat Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL), and the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) officially submitted a draft constitutional amendment on direct presidential elections to the lower house of the Czech parliament on 15 October, CTK reported. US-DEU lawmaker Hana Marvanova said passage with the required two-thirds majority is theoretically possible but unlikely in time to name a successor to President Vaclav Havel, whose term ends early next year. The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which has dropped its objections to direct presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002), announced the same day that it will submit its own bill on the matter. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) continues to oppose direct presidential elections. Both houses of parliament currently elect the Czech president. BW

CZECH PRIME MINISTER VISITS PREDECESSOR TO DISCUSS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla visited his predecessor, Milos Zeman, on 14 October to discuss the latter's participation in presidential elections, "Pravo" reported on 15 October. He said Zeman remains a candidate in an upcoming CSSD "primary," but he also stressed that the party's central committee will make a final decision on its candidate. Zeman would not participate in the first round of the presidential vote in parliament, according to "Pravo," but would be prepared to run in a second round if one is required. Three other candidates join Zeman on the CSSD primary list approved on 15 October, including former Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures, Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, and sociologist Martin Potucek. BW

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER REAPPOINTED...
The outgoing Slovak government convened for the last time on 15 October and formally resigned, TASR reported the same day. After accepting the cabinet's resignation, President Rudolf Schuster immediately reappointed Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, whose Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) is one of four center-right parties represented in the new government. The other parties include the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), and media mogul Pavol Rusko's New Citizens Alliance (ANO). The SDKU will have six seats in the 16-member cabinet and the SMK four, while the KDH and ANO will have three seats each. BW

...FOLLOWED BY HIS NEW CABINET
President Schuster formally appointed the remainder of the new government on 16 October, according to TASR. In addition to Dzurinda, the cabinet includes: Deputy Premier Pal Csaky (SMK); Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Ivan Miklos (SDKU); Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Robert Nemcsics (ANO); Deputy Premier and Justice Minister Daniel Lipsic (KDH); Interior Minister Vladimir Palko (KDH); Defense Minister Ivan Simko (SDKU); Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan (SDKU); Minister of Transport, Posts, and Telecommunications Pavol Prokopovic (SDKU); Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, and the Family Ludovit Kanik (Democratic Party); Health Minister Rudolf Zajac (ANO); Education Minister Martin Fronc (KDH); Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon (SMK); Minister of Construction and Regional Development Minister Laszlo Gyurovszky (SMK); Culture Minister Rudolf Chmel (ANO); and Environment Minister Laszlo Miklos (SMK). AH

NEW SPEAKER SAYS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT NEEDS TO REGAIN PUBLIC TRUST...
The new Slovak parliament was opened on 15 October as outgoing speaker Jozef Migas swore in 150 deputies in the presence of Premier Dzurinda and President Schuster, TASR reported the same day. KDH Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky was elected the parliament's new speaker. In comments to the media, Hrusovsky said parliament needs to work to regain the trust of society, TASR reported, adding that he wants to meet with the leaders of each party's caucus to ensure that the legislature operates smoothly. The speaker also said he does not want this parliament to be marked by special sessions and parliamentary discussions lasting late into the night in which opposition parties seek unsuccessfully to unseat government ministers. Such special sessions were commonplace in the outgoing parliament. BW

...AS LAWMAKERS BEGIN TO FILL LEADERSHIP POSTS
The Slovak parliament elected its four deputy speakers in a secret vote on 15 October, TASR reported the same day. The four deputy speakers are Bela Bugar (SMK), Zuzana Martinakova (SDKU), Pavol Rusko (ANO), and Viliam Veteska (HZDS). The new parliament also decided that the legislature will have 17 committees, eight of which will be chaired by lawmakers from opposition parties Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Smer, and the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS). BW

SLOVAK SOCCER AUTHORITIES APOLOGIZE TO BRITISH PLAYERS
The president of the Slovak Soccer Union (SFZ), Frantisek Laurinec, has apologized in a letter to the chief of the English Football Association, Geoffrey Thompson, for the behavior of Slovak fans during a Euro 2004 qualifier on 12 October, TASR reported on 15 October. A number of Slovak fans reportedly hurled racial abuse at England's Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole throughout the match. Both players have received letters of apology from the Slovak ambassador to Great Britain. The Slovak Police Directorate also issued a statement rejecting claims of police brutality during the game (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). The statement also said English soccer fans are dreaded all over the world and confirmed their reputation in Slovakia. BW

HUNGARIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF 1956 UPRISING
After holding consultations with leaders of organizations that formed to mark Hungary's 1956 Uprising, Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 15 October told reporters that the government will establish a monument to that anti-Soviet effort and increase payments to one-time freedom fighters and victims of political persecution. Medgyessy told "Magyar Hirlap" that representatives of related groups will be invited to a 23 October parliamentary session commemorating the 1956 Uprising. "Nepszabadsag" reported, however, that Vilmos Vasvari, president of the Organization of Political Prisoners, and Gyula Sinkovics, president of the 1956 Federation, said they will attend the session only if opposition Democratic Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David reads a statement that they prepare. MSZ

HUNGARIANS DECORATED FOR HELPING JEWS IN WWII
Interior Minister Monika Lamperth on 15 October presented medals to 24 Hungarians who, according to the Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem Institute, helped rescue Jews in Hungary during World War II, Budapest dailies reported. "These Hungarians proved to be humanitarian in an era when hatred and lies were the key factors of political life, and when the most profound crisis of values in the 20th century was developing," Lamperth said. Since the Hungarian section of The Righteous Among The Nations was formed at the Yad Vashem Institute in 1993, hundreds of Hungarians have been given the award. MSZ

KOSTUNICA'S PARTY CHALLENGES SERBIAN ELECTION COMMISSION
The Election Commission ruled on 15 October that the recent second round of the Serbian presidential election was invalid because fewer than 50 percent of all registered voters cast their ballots, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). The commission announced that 45.46 percent of registered voters turned out, and that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica received 1,991,947 votes while Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus won 921,094 votes. Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) contested the ruling. The DSS maintains that the election was valid because the voters lists contain over 630,000 dead or nonexistent people, who should be deleted from any tally. The DSS said it will take the matter to court if the commission does not reverse its ruling. PM

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT TO CHANGE ELECTION LAWS?
Speaking in Washington on 15 October, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Serbia should change its election laws to drop the 50 percent voting threshold, Reuters reported. He added, "We strongly support the OSCE recommendation that changes need to be made in Serbian election laws to allow the democratic process to continue. When new elections are scheduled, we urge the Serbian people to participate." The Serbian parliament is scheduled to meet on 18 October, when changes in the electoral law will be considered, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition has proposed dropping the 50 percent requirement. The DSS and other critics of current legislation note that it dates from the era of former President Slobodan Milosevic. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT SAYS GENERAL BOBETKO SHOULD GO TO THE HAGUE
Stipe Mesic said again that former General Janko Bobetko should go to The Hague and face war crimes charges whether he is guilty or not, dpa reported from Zagreb on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). Mesic argued that "Bobetko has been indicted." He added: "This does not necessarily mean that he is guilty. He must appear before the [war crimes tribunal] and answer the charges." Mesic's statement came shortly after the British government announced that it is suspending ratification of Croatia's stabilization and association agreement with the EU over the Bobetko affair. In response to the British move, the Croatian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it regrets the decision, arguing that Croatia has indeed fulfilled its obligations to The Hague. PM

HAGUE PROSECUTOR SAYS YUGOSLAVIA IS NOT COOPERATING
Florence Hartmann -- who is spokeswoman for Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal -- told RFE/RL in a telephone interview on 15 October that Del Ponte wants Claude Jorda, the president of the tribunal, to inform the UN Security Council that Belgrade is not cooperating with the tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June and 4 and 8 October 2002). For her part, Del Ponte said in Luxembourg she wants European governments to exert pressure on Belgrade to arrest General Ratko Mladic, who, she maintains, is under the protection of some elements of the Yugoslav Army, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. She called on EU governments to support the tribunal in its demands that all indicted war criminals be brought to justice. She was speaking at a meeting of EU justice and interior ministers. PM

ASHDOWN WARNS NATIONALISTS IN BOSNIA
Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 15 October that he will block any attempts by the newly elected Bosnian authorities to replace current officials on political grounds, Hina reported. He specifically mentioned that he will not allow politically motivated changes in the police, military, and the intelligence services, nor does he want a large-scale replacement of civil servants. Ashdown added that he will provide details of his views soon. He believes that appointments should be based on merit. PM

IS FRANCE SET TO PRESS FOR EU-ONLY MISSION IN MACEDONIA?
The "Frankfurter Rundschau" reported on 16 October that French President Jacques Chirac wants the EU to assume control of the Western armed military presence in Macedonia from NATO when the current mandate of mission Amber Fox expires on 15 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). France wants the EU to act even without an agreement with NATO on use of the alliance's planning, intelligence, and logistics, which is being held up by a Greek-Turkish dispute. Germany is reluctant to move without an agreement between the EU and NATO and wants to give EU security policy chief Javier Solana more time to conclude one, the daily added. The United States and Britain want NATO to wind down its military presence in Macedonia. The daily reported that "France was never enthusiastic" about a close military link between the EU and NATO and that Chirac wants to discuss the EU 's role in Macedonia at the EU summit on 24 October. PM

MACEDONIA JOINS WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION
The General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) approved Macedonia's accession on 15 October, the WTO's website (http://www.wto.org) reported. Economy Minister Besnik Fetai and WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi then signed the accession protocol and thus formally completed the negotiating process (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2002). The protocol now has to be ratified by the Macedonian parliament by 31 March, MIA news agency reported. Fetai said after the ceremony that he expects an increase in foreign investment as a result of WTO membership. Domestic experts acknowledge the advantages of membership but also warn of potential losses through increased imports of certain products such as beer and sugar, for which the customs tariffs will be reduced by 35 and 30 percent, respectively, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported. UB

BOMB EXPLODES AT ALBANIAN PARTY'S OFFICE IN MACEDONIAN CAPITAL
A bomb exploded in the early hours of 16 October at the Skopje branch office of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), dpa reported. Police said a car and several windows were damaged but nobody was hurt. It is not clear who was responsible for the attack. The BDI is led by former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti and won two-thirds of the Albanian vote in the 15 September elections. PM

MACEDONIAN COALITION PLEDGES ANTICORRUPTION MEASURES
Social Democratic (SDSM) spokesman Jani Makraduli announced on 15 October that a state Anticorruption Commission will be formed by 4 November at the latest, "Dnevnik" reported. The legal basis for the commission was set down in an anticorruption law passed in April by the previous government under Ljubco Georgievski. The commission will examine the property holdings of all government officials. Legal experts do not agree as to whether the law should be applied from the moment of its adoption in April or from the moment of the formation of the commission. Under the first interpretation, the property of members of Georgievski's government would also be subject to review. UB

ALBANIA TELLS SERBIA THAT KOSOVA SHOULD HAVE STRONGER INSTITUTIONS
Prime Minister Fatos Nano told Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miodrag Isakov in Tirana on 15 October that, "Kosova will become part of a Western European [-style] integrated future in the region only by having consolidated institutions," AP reported. Under current agreements, the UN has the power to transfer authority to Kosovar institutions once it deems they are ready. Nano was recently criticized in the Albanian media after telling "RFE/RL Newsline" that Albania's road to Europe goes through Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002). PM

SPAIN DEPORTS ILLEGAL MIGRANTS TO ROMANIA
Spanish authorities on 15 October deported a group of 72 illegal migrants to Romania, Romanian media reported. They were returned in line with the "readmission" agreements Romania recently signed with Spain. Some were deported for not possessing passports and other had been charged in Spain with human trafficking or other crimes. According to Romanian Television, more than 6,000 Romanians, most of them Roma, have been expelled from various European countries this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 9, and 11 October 2002). ZsM

ROMANIA AND BULGARIA INAUGURATE ENVIRONMENT-MONITORING SYSTEM
Romanian Environment Minister Petru Lificiu and his Bulgarian counterpart Dolores Arsenova on 15 October inaugurated a common system for monitoring air quality in cities along the countries' common border, Mediafax reported. The two ministers first inaugurated the system in the Bulgarian town of Ruse then in the Romanian city of Giurgiu. Speaking at a press conference in Ruse, Lificiu said the monitoring program represents the two countries' "common wish" to join the European Union. He admitted Romania still has much to do in the field of environment protection. Arsenova added the system will be helpful for "both peoples, for their health." The system was set up with $2 million in PHARE funds. ZsM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL OUTLINES STEPS MOLDOVA SHOULD TAKE ON ROAD TO DEMOCRACY
Visiting Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said in Chisinau on 15 October that more political will is needed to ensure that Moldova fulfills the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) resolutions so it can be prepared to take over the council's Committee of Ministers next May, Flux reported. He added that, by implementing democratic reforms, Moldova can advance toward European integration and that the chairing the committee offers a great opportunity in that respect. He said it is very important that Moldovan authorities revise the law on transforming Teleradio Moldova into a public company, to respect the rights of the parliamentary opposition, and to ensure an independent judiciary, freedom of expression, and media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). Schwimmer added that in order to solve the case of opposition deputy Vlad Cubreacov's kidnapping, President Vladimir Voronin agreed that more precise measures need to be taken and that international assistance should be employed. ZsM

MOLDOVAN WEEKLY'S STAFF PROTEST AGAINST 'POLICE ABUSE'
The staff of the "Accente" weekly on 14 October began a 24-hour hunger strike to protest the arrest of the publication's editor in chief, Sergiu Afanasiu, Flux reported. Afanasiu was detained on 9 October and was charged with blackmail and accepting bribes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). On 15 October, authorities arrested "Accente" journalist Valeriu Manea, who had earlier been detained and released. The Union of Moldovan Journalists on 14 October issued a declaration calling the "Accente case" an "extremely serious attack against the democratic principles" of a constitutional state and a flagrant breach of the freedom of speech, as well as "an attempt to intimidate" Moldovan media. Schwimmer said the Council of Europe will carefully monitor the case. He said "arresting a journalist is a very serious problem," and added that Moldovan authorities should only do this if they have "very serious" evidence of wrongdoing. ZsM

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS OPPONENTS TO KOZLODUY NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT LACK ARGUMENTS
Speaking at a meeting of ministers, members of parliament, and nuclear experts, President Georgi Parvanov said on 15 October that those who want to shut down blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant do not have any strong arguments to support their stance, BTA reported. Parvanov convened the meeting in order to find a common position between the government and the parliament over the destiny of blocks No. 3 and No. 4 (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). Parvanov intends to send a letter clarifying Bulgaria's position to the heads of the 15 EU member states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). The EU wants the blocks in question to be decommissioned by 2006, while Bulgaria wants to extend their lifespan as long as possible. UB

BULGARIAN JUDGES CRITICIZE INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL
In a letter to the Supreme Judicial Council, the Union of Judges openly accused Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov of having exerted pressure on the judiciary, mediapool.bg reported on 15 October. The letter stated that "nobody has the right to exert pressure on the courts, including through the media, and the court is subject solely to the law." The judges accuse Borisov of having made statements to the media in which he used incorrect data and, as a result, negatively influenced public opinion against the courts. Borisov, who is in charge of the country's police services, has repeatedly criticized the magistrates for releasing apprehended criminals on bail despite overwhelming evidence against them. UB

BULGARIA, ROMANIA OPEN CROSS-BORDER UNIVERSITY CENTER
The Bulgarian-Romanian Interuniversity Europe Center (BRIEC) opened its gates in the Danube ports of Ruse in Bulgaria and Giurgiu in Romania on 14 October, BTA reported. BRIEC was set up with funds from the European Union's Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, and is supported by the German Education Ministry and the German Rector's Conference, the association of Germany's universities. In its first academic year, 57 students from Southeastern Europe, Russia, Azerbaijan, India, and Nigeria will attend BRIEC. The lecturers come from Romania, Bulgaria, and Germany. The new interuniversity center is modeled after the cooperation between the European University Viadrina in the German town of Frankfurt an der Oder and the Collegium Polonicum in the Polish town of Slubice on the opposite bank of the Odra. UB

There is no End Note today.


XS
SM
MD
LG