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Newsline - October 18, 2002


FAR EAST GOVERNOR GUNNED DOWN IN MOSCOW...
Magadan Oblast Governor Valentin Tsvetkov was shot dead by an unidentified gunman on a downtown Moscow street on the morning of 18 October, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to ntvru.com, police are looking for a "Slavic man" aged 30-35. The murderer dropped his Makarov pistol and silencer at the scene of the crime and made his escape in a Zhiguli automobile, in which a second man was reportedly waiting. According to strana.ru, police later found the car abandoned not far away. Ntvru.com reported that the entire incident was caught on videotape by cameras on a nearby building housing offices associated with the Federation Council. Tsvetkov, 54, was accompanied by his wife, an aide, and a bodyguard when he was killed, but no one else was injured in the incident. According to Interfax, President Vladimir Putin ordered Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov and Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov to take personal control of the investigation. First Deputy Governor of Magadan Oblast Nikolai Dudov will serve as acting governor until new elections are held within three months, strana.ru reported. RC

...AS ASSOCIATES SPECULATE ON THE MOTIVES...
Police characterized the murder as "a contract hit" and believe it was likely associated with Tsvetkov's "professional activity," ntvru.com reported. Tsvetkov "clearly touched someone's economic interests," said Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov. "After all, Magadan is fish and gold and [Tsvetkov] recently made a correct decision about the work of gold-processing plants." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov also told ntvru.com that the murder "is connected with gold mining in Magadan." Duma Deputy from Magadan Vladimir Butkeev, however, alleged that Tsvetkov "came to politics from business and continued to pursue commercial activity, including in Moscow," pravda.ru reported. "He might have been murdered because of these [activities]." RC

...AND DUMA SPEAKER SAYS CRIME SITUATION CONTINUES TO WORSEN
Commenting on Tsvetkov's murder, Gennadii Seleznev said on 18 October that although the legislature provides ever more funding for law enforcement each year, the results are increasingly disappointing, RosBalt reported. "The criminal world feels completely invulnerable in Russia, and I cannot remember a case in which the murder of a politician has been investigated and the killers sentenced in a court," Seleznev said. Although Tsvetkov is the first governor to be murdered in post-Soviet Russia, eight Duma deputies have been murdered, as have numerous other regional political figures. VY

NEMTSOV SNEAKS INTO KALMYKIA ON EVE OF ELECTIONS...
After his plane was not allowed to land in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov landed in Volgograd on 17 October and took a four hour bus ride to Elista in order to campaign for SPS's candidate in the 20 October presidential elections, Natalya Manzhikova, TV-6 reported. Elista airport officials said poor weather was to blame for Nemtsov's plane not being allowed to land, but TV-6 reported that other planes were taking off and landing from the city at the time. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 October, Nemtsov took locals by surprise by showing up unexpectedly at a meeting being held in support of incumbent President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and those persons present, rather than ejecting him, asked for his autograph. JAC

...REPORTEDLY WITH THE BLESSING OF SOME IN THE KREMLIN
Before leaving Moscow, Nemtsov reportedly spoke by telephone with deputy presidential administration head Viktor Ivanov, who reportedly opposes Ilyumzhinov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002), "Kommersant-Daily" reported, citing an unnamed source close to Nemtsov. Ivanov allegedly asked whether Nemtsov was going to Elista to "piss on" Ilyumzhinov and expressed his support for such an endeavor. According to the daily, Nemtsov did not deny that such a conversation took place. Earlier, members of SPS's Kalmykia branch alleged that their lives and livelihoods were being threatened because of their support for Manzhikova and opposition to Ilyumzhinov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 24 September 2002). JAC

WITH OLIGARCH OUT, LIBERAL RUSSIA IS IN
Just days after its political council voted to eject oligarch Boris Berezovskii from its ranks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002), the Liberal Russia party received news on 17 October that the Justice Ministry has decided to register it, Russian news agencies reported. In July, the ministry rejected the party's application, citing numerous "incorrect" passages from the party's charter (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 24 July 2002). Vladimir Tomarkovskii, head of the ministry's department for public and religious associations, announced that no violations had been found in Liberal Russia's resubmitted documents, polit.ru reported. JAC

RUSSIAN-THAILAND ARMS DEAL IMMINENT?
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters following a 17 October meeting with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Moscow that the two countries are in intense negotiations concerning the purchase of Russian military aircraft, ships, and tanks, Russian news agencies reported on 17 and 18 October. Kasyanov said that the chiefs of the three main branches of Thailand's armed forces accompanied Shinawatra on his visit and that they are discussing details of possible deals with their Russian counterparts. President Putin also met with Shinawatra in the Kremlin and asked for Thailand's support for Russia's quick accession to the World Trade Organization. VY

BANKERS WANT TO 'SQUEEZE' RUSSIAN CAPITAL OUT OF WESTERN BANKS
Aleksandr Lebedev, president of National Reserve Bank and head of the National Investment Council (NIS), said the NIS intends to compile a list of Western banks involved in laundering capital illegally exported from Russia, pravda.ru reported on 18 October. Since Russia was removed from the Financial Action Task Force's "black list" of countries that do not sufficiently combat money laundering on 11 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002), Russian financial groups have been discussing measures for "squeezing" Russian capital out of Western banks and repatriating it. Lebedev, a former officer in the Russian foreign-intelligence service, said that a simple amnesty for such capital is not sufficient without resolving legal issues abroad and instituting real guarantees at home, as well as establishing domestic political and economic stimuli. He estimated that there are five to 10 banks in Switzerland, France, and Luxemburg from which Russia can "squeeze" up to $15 billion each if it develops an effective repatriation program. VY

SECURITIES COMMISSION SATISFIED WITH EQUITIES MARKETS
Speaking at a conference in St. Petersburg, Federal Securities Commission head Igor Kostikov reported that the capitalization of the country's stock market dropped by 30 percent -- from $137 billion to $106 billion -- between May-October, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 17 October. However, he added that he is not overly concerned. He said the commission's analysis of the stock market shows no worrying trends, and it is growing at a faster rate than the gross domestic product. Commission member Aleksandr Sharonov told journalists that a World Bank study has found that Russians are currently keeping about $75 billion outside of the banking system, polit.ru reported. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER AGAIN CALLS FOR BALTIC STATES TO JOIN CFE TREATY
Sergei Ivanov on 18 October reiterated Russia's position that the only real objection Moscow has to NATO membership for Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia is that the three countries have not signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), RIA-Novosti reported on 18 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2001, 9 and 29 July, and 19 September 2002).

THIEVES HIT PAY DIRT IN DEPUTY'S OFFICE
Thieves stole cash and valuables worth about $80,000 from the Moscow office of Duma Deputy Andrei Vulf (SPS) on 18 October, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. The thieves reportedly stole $60,000 in cash, several theatrical costumes, a sewing machine, a notebook computer, and an unspecified number of fox furs. In addition, they took two draft laws that Vulf intended to introduce in the Duma later in the current session. According to Yelena Demchenko, an aide to Vulf, it appears as if the thieves "took the most valuable things" in the office. She added that she "got the impression the criminals were looking for something in the office." Earlier this summer, thieves stole Vulf's briefcase and documents from his car, ntvru.com reported. RC

BASHKORTOSTAN PASSES YET ANOTHER CONSTITUTION...
Bashkortostan's Constitutional Assembly on 16 October approved a new draft constitution, the second in the past two weeks, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2002). The latest version abolishes the post of republican president and stipulates the establishment of a parliamentary republic. According to the draft, the current presidential powers will be shared between the government and the legislature. It raises the status of the parliament speaker, who will represent the republic in relations with the Russian president, the Federation Council, the State Duma, and the Russian government. The head of the executive branch will be elected for a four-year term and cannot serve more than two consecutive terms, while the draft does not stipulate term limits for the head of the parliament. On the same day, Interfax-Eurasia reported that Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov will resign from the post of president when his current term expires in June 2003. Rakhimov told the agency he has not yet considered whether he will seek election to the State Assembly, saying both he and the republic face more important tasks in the transition from a presidential to a parliamentary republic. JAC

...AS ANALYSTS CHARGE THAT REFORM WILL GIVE RAKHIMOV POWER FOR LIFE
Rakhimov said he discussed the planned changes by telephone with deputy chief of staff of President Putin's administration Vladislav Surkov on 14 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing Bashinform. He said he informed him: "Everything we do is within our powers. It in no way contradicts federal law and has received complete approval of our initiatives." However, Dmitrii Oreshkin, head of the Merkator analytic group, told "Vedomosti" on 17 October that the republic's leadership found an "elegant method" to evade all laws, since "it is the right of republics to decide on a local system of power, while the law on main guarantees for electoral rights has been formally observed since parliament is elected by popular vote." Oreshkin said he believes the reform is a way to legitimize Rakhimov's rule for life, adding that Moscow won't hinder Rakhimov since "if the center tries to change the ruling clan, there will be high risk of sabotage by bureaucrats." JAC

...AND DUMA TO RECONSIDER ISSUE OF THIRD AND FOURTH TERMS FOR GOVERNORS
Meanwhile, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 17 October that SPS has submitted a bill that would close the loophole allowing the majority of regional leaders to serve third and, in some cases, fourth terms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). Under current laws, Rakhimov, for example, who has led Bashkortostan since 1993 and who will turn 69 in February, could remain in office, if re-elected, until 2013. Interestingly, the bill to close these loopholes itself includes one loophole that would allow Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to seek a third term. The daily reported that its unidentified sources in the Duma say the Kremlin has not yet made up "its mind" about the initiative. JAC

NEWSPAPER ALLEGES KUCHMA HELPED FINANCE PUTIN'S 2000 CAMPAIGN
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma allegedly provided $50 million to $60 million dollars to help finance President Putin's 2000 election campaign, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 October. The daily's report is based on the controversial tapes that former Kuchma bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko claims to have recorded in Kuchma's office between November 1999 and September 2000. The Kuchma administration has repeatedly denied that the tapes are authentic. The newspaper printed what it alleges to be a transcript of a conversation between Kuchma and two officials that was recorded on 15 July 2000. "Before the elections we paid Russia at Putin's request, I don't know, about $50 million or $60 million," Kuchma is quoted as saying. The transcript also says the money was allegedly laundered through Itera, a controversial offshore company tied to Russian natural-gas giant Gazprom. RC

KRASNOYARSK INAUGURATION A STAR-STUDDED AFFAIR...
Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin was inaugurated at a ceremony in Krasnoyarsk on 17 October, Russian news agencies reported. In attendance were fellow oligarchs such Interros head Vladimir Potanin, Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, Siberian Coal and Energy Company head Oleg Misevra, and former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head and convicted felon Anatolii Bykov, ntvru.com reported. Aleksei Lebed, president of Khakasia and brother of former Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed; Murmansk Oblast Governor Yurii Yevdokimov; Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Yurii Neelov, and Khazret Sovmen, president of the Adygei Republic, were also present. Presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii brought greetings from President Putin. Krasnoyarsk Krai legislature speaker Aleksandr Uss, who was Khloponin's chief challenger for the governorship, was on vacation and could not attend the ceremony. JAC

...AS OLIGARCH/GOVERNOR TRANSFERS COMPANY OFFICIALS TO GOVERNMENT RANKS
Meanwhile, Krasnoyarsk TV reported on 14 October that "two-thirds of the second rank people in the [new gubernatorial administration] are either close to Norilsk Nickel or have some direct connection to the city of Norilsk." Khloponin is the former head of Norilsk Nickel, which is owned by Potanin's Interros group. The deputy governor responsible for the fuel-and-energy complex is Sergei Sokol, who was formerly the managing general director of Norilsk Gazprom. The new head of the krai's Main Financial Directorate is Aleksandr Novak, who worked at Norilsk Nickel. And the first deputy governor in charge of industry is Lev Kuznetsov, who used to work with Khloponin at the Norilsk Nickel Mining and Metallurgical Integrated Works. JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL HEAD WANTS TO HOLD UPPER-CHAMBER ELECTIONS SOONER RATHER THAN LATER
Sergei Mironov said on 17 October that of the upper legislative chamber's 177 members, some 120 perform their tasks in earnest, while the rest appear to spending their time on matters that have nothing to do with the Federation Council's activities, ITAR-TASS reported. Mironov also said that next month a bill mandating the direct popular election of senators will be introduced in the Duma, polit.ru reported, citing RIA-Novosti. According to the website, Mironov stated in June that he thinks making the transition to an elected body would require two to three years. However, he has now decided to "force through improvements to the upper chamber." JAC

MEMBERS OF ILLEGAL ARMED FORMATION NABBED IN ALLEGED WAHHABI STRONGHOLD
Police have detained nine individuals in the Neftekum Raion of Stavropol Krai for participating in an illegal armed formation, Interfax reported on 17 October. According to the agency, members of the Nogai ethnic group are predominant in the region, and unidentified sources claim that the influence of Wahhabites is strong among them. According to the agency, an automatic Kalashnikov with 40 cartridges and a portable radio transmitter were discovered not far from a local mosque. However, the local prosecutor's office denied that OMON forces stormed the mosque itself, as had been reported in some local media. JAC

YABLOKO DEPUTY PROPOSES MORE TRANSPARENCY REGARDING OFFICIALS' INCOMES
Deputy head of the Yabloko faction in the State Duma Sergei Mitrokhin has suggested to the Duma Council that amendments to the law on the federal government be considered by the lower legislative chamber, Interfax reported on 17 October. According to the agency, the amendment would require members of the government to publish in the government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" annual declarations of income and assets. Mitrokhin said there is already a norm on the books that recommends officials do this, but it is never observed. "It is no secret that today many civil servants receive two wages: their state pay and an unofficial salary for 'services' rendered," he said. JAC

NEW FIRST DEPUTY NAMED AT MINATOM
Igor Borovkov has been named first deputy atomic energy minister, Interfax reported on 17 October. Borovkov previously served as deputy head of the government's department for the defense sector and worked at the Atomic Energy Ministry from 1982-87. Borovkov will replace Lev Ryabev, who has retired. JAC

KHANTY-MANSII DEPORTS NON-RUSSIANS
A total of 228 non-Russians have been deported from the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Oblast since the beginning of this year for "gross violations" of local residency regulations, compared with 128 for the whole of 2001, zerkalo.az reported on 17 October. Of the 228, 84 were Tajiks, 46 Azerbaijanis, 32 Uzbeks, 30 Georgians and 23 Pakistanis. LF

SUSPECTS DETAINED IN GROZNY POLICE STATION BOMBING
Two suspects have been apprehended on suspicion of involvement in the Grozny police-station blast that killed 22 officers on 11 October, chief Said-Selim Peshkhoev told Interfax on 17 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 16 October 2002). He said the two men are not themselves police officers as some had surmised, but residents of a rural district close to Grozny. Peshkhoev stressed that "there is no evidence" that any of his subordinates was involved in the blast. Peshkhoev also again argued that there is no need to bring more Interior Ministry forces to serve in Grozny. LF

ONE KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH IN CHECHNYA
A Russian Mi-8 military transport helicopter crashed near Gudermes on 17 October after hitting a power line, killing at least one serviceman and injuring five, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to AP, one soldier is missing, although some Russian reports said that three are missing. There were reportedly 24 people on board at the time of the crash. Interfax cited an unidentified source in the Chechen administration as saying the helicopter had come under heavy enemy fire shortly before hitting the power line. Military sources denied the helicopter had been shot down. It is the sixth crash of a Russian helicopter in Chechnya so far this year, according to Interfax. RC

YELTSIN ENDORSES INCUMBENT ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION BID
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 17 October publicly endorsed Robert Kocharian's candidacy in the Armenian presidential ballot scheduled for February 2002, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Yeltsin also said he was informed by Kocharian's predecessor Levon Ter-Petrossian, with whom he met in Yerevan earlier this week, that Ter-Petrossian will not contest that ballot. Armenian media have speculated for several months that Ter-Petrossian might do so (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 23, 1 July 2002 and No. 29, 4 September 2002). LF

PARENTS OF EXPELLED AZERBAIJANI MILITARY CADETS MEET WITH PRESIDENTIAL-ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
Parents of some of the 62 military cadets expelled earlier this month from Baku's Higher Military College in the wake of the mass walkout by students in early September picketed the presidential administration on 16 October, Turan reported. Vakhid Aliev, who is assistant for military issues to President Heidar Aliev, met with eight of the picketers the same day and agreed to inform the president of their grievances. The former cadets have been sent to serve on the front line (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 October 2002). LF

FINDINGS OF INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO AZERBAIJANI VILLAGE SHOOTINGS UNVEILED
An investigation launched by Azerbaijani NGOs and human rights activists has confirmed that police opened fire on protesters in the village of Nardaran near Baku on 3 June, killing one person and injuring several others, Turan reported on 17 October. Fifteen villagers detained by police for their role in the standoff have still not been released. Azerbaijan Human Rights Center Director Eldar Zeynalov said a report summarizing the investigation's conclusions will be translated into English and forwarded to international organizations and foreign embassies in Baku. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA SIGN BORDER PROTOCOL
At a meeting in Yerevan on 17 October on the sidelines of the CIS border-guard commanders' meeting, the directors of the Russian and Georgian border-protection services, Colonel General Konstantin Totskii and Lieutenant General Valeri Chkheidze, signed a protocol on cooperation, including information sharing and conducting joint patrols of the two countries' common border, Russian news agencies and Caucasus Press reported. The protocol was drafted during talks in Tbilisi last week between Russian Federal Security Service First Deputy Director Vladimir Pronichev and Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). Chkheidze stressed that the protocol will help defuse tensions and restore trust between the two countries, which has been undermined by the unhindered passage across the border in both directions of Chechen militants. "We will search for, detect, and destroy militant formations if they try to break through the border," Chkheidze affirmed. LF

NATO COMMANDER VISITS GEORGIA
General Joseph Ralston, who is NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, met in Tbilisi on 17 October with Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze to discuss Georgia's cooperation with NATO within the parameters of the Partnership for Peace program, Georgia's anticipated application for NATO membership, and possible U.S. assistance to Georgia in creating an effective air-defense system, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Ralston also visited the Krtsanisi training center where he positively assessed progress in the ongoing U.S. "Train and Equip" program for the Georgian military. LF

SOUTH OSSETIA PROTESTS NEW GEORGIAN POLICE POSTS
South Ossetian officials attending a meeting on 17 October with Russian peacekeepers and OSCE representatives formally protested the creation of three new Georgian police checkpoints in the district adjacent to the internal border between the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). LF

UN PATROL FAILS TO CONFIRM GEORGIAN WEAPONS DEPLOYMENT IN KODORI
Interfax on 17 October quoted a member of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia as saying that a recent patrol of Abkhazia's Kodori Gorge failed to detect any buildup of heavy weaponry or antiaircraft systems in the Georgian-controlled upper reaches of the gorge. Abkhaz First Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Raul Khadjimba recently alleged that Georgia had deployed such equipment in Kodori, presumably in preparation for a new offensive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). LF

GEORGIAN POLICE TO REMAIN IN PANKISI FOR DURATION OF WAR IN CHECHNYA?
The Georgian anticrime operation in the Pankisi Gorge will be scaled back and some Interior Ministry troops withdrawn, Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 17 October. He dodged the question whether the withdrawal was prompted by financial constraints. He added that Georgian police will "probably" remain in Pankisi until Russian forces leave Chechnya upon completion of the "antiterrorism" operation there. On 16 October, Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze repeated the proposal made in Chisinau 10 days earlier by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to invite international monitors, including some from Russia, to inspect the Pankisi Gorge, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIAN GUERRILLA LEADER THREATENS TO SABOTAGE RESUMPTION OF RAIL TRAFFIC VIA ABKHAZIA
Zurab Samushia, leader of the White Legion Georgian guerrilla formation, told a press conference in Kutaisi on 17 October that if Georgia restores rail communication between Russia and Armenia via Abkhazia, his men will blow up the tracks, according to "Rezonansi" on 18 October, as quoted by Caucasus Press. In recent months, Armenian officials have repeatedly raised with their Georgian counterparts the question of restoring rail traffic, which would greatly facilitate Armenia's imports and exports. The Georgian paper "Dghe" on 15 October estimated the cost of restoring the Abkhaz stretch of the railway at $70 million. LF

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev assured visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Astana on 17 October that he values cooperation with United Nations' agencies and programs, especially those intended to alleviate environmental problems such as the shrinking of the Aral Sea, Russian news agencies reported. Nazarbaev suggested that the UN could facilitate the emergence of a regional security mechanism in Asia and called for the creation of a UN center for the prevention of regional conflicts. He also said Kazakhstan is ready to allow the UN to use its facilities and infrastructure in order to deliver humanitarian and economic aid to Afghanistan. Nazarbaev bestowed on Annan the Dostyq (Friendship) Order in recognition of his contribution to strengthening peace and international cooperation. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PROPOSES SYSTEMIC CHANGES...
In his two-hour annual State of the Nation Address to both chambers of Kyrgyzstan's parliament on 17 October, President Askar Akaev argued that Kyrgyzstan should become a parliamentary-presidential republic in which "presidential power will be enhanced by means of constitutional reforms and the strengthening of the parliament's and government's authority," Interfax reported. He said the proposed constitutional reforms that would redistribute prerogatives among the president, the parliament, and the government will be published for national discussion between 18 October and 18 November, after which they will be put to a referendum. Akaev observed that most of the country's more than 30 opposition parties do not reflect dominant political sentiments, akipress.org reported. LF

...OUTLINES FOREIGN-POLICY PRIORITIES...
Akaev said during his State of the Nation Address that the increasingly friendly relations with the United States will not eclipse Kyrgyzstan's long-established friendships with Russia and China, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 17 October. He named cooperation with the international antiterrorism coalition and relations with Russia as the two cornerstones of the country's foreign policy. He noted in particular the expansion of economic ties with Siberia. LF

...PLEDGES TO REDUCE POVERTY BY 30 PERCENT
Akaev further pledged to reduce the poverty rate by 15-17 percent annually over the next three years so that by 2005 no more than 30 percent of the population falls into that category, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said the $700 million allocated by an international donors conference last week will contribute to achieving that objective. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WANTS EVERY ORGANIZATION TO PAY INTO SOCIAL-SECURITY FUND
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said at a training seminar for government officials in Minsk on 17 October that every enterprise and organization, private or state-owned, should contribute to the state-run social-security fund, Belapan and Belarusian Television reported. "Why should we not make everybody pay? Those small traders, [for instance]. You see, they staged strikes, while [claiming to be] the most advanced part of society, free-market supporters. They should understand that it is necessary to pay for everything," Lukashenka said. During the recent strike action that ended last week, outdoor-market vendors protested new requirements obliging them to pay social-insurance fees, among others (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October). JM

BELARUS TO DEMAND COMPENSATION FOR BRAIN DRAIN?
Mikhail Myasnikovich, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, told journalists on 16 October that Belarus might raise with international organizations the issue of receiving compensation for brain drain, Belapan reported on 17 October. Myasnikovich stressed that Western countries should compensate Belarus's government and education establishments for Belarusian scientists lured away. Professor Yury Khadyka, a member of the Academy of Sciences, commented that Myasnikovich's suggestion is groundless. According to Khadyka, the current exodus of scientists from Belarus testifies only to "unfavorable conditions for pursuing scientific activities in the country." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 2003 DRAFT BUDGET ON FIRST READING...
The Verkhovna Rada on 17 October passed the first reading of a surplus-budget bill for 2003, Ukrainian media reported. The bill calls for revenues of 55.2 billion hryvnyas ($10.4 billion) and expenditures of 53.3 billion hryvnyas. The bill was supported by lawmakers from pro-presidential caucuses and Our Ukraine, while the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc did not participate in the vote. JM

...AND FORMS COMMISSION TO PROBE ALLEGED ARMS DEALS WITH IRAQ
The same day, 221 lawmakers -- well above the required 150 -- endorsed a resolution creating a 12-member temporary commission to investigate whether Ukraine illegally sold arms to Iraq, UNIAN reported. The resolution did not specifically mention President Leonid Kuchma, whom the U.S. State Department accused last month of authorizing the sale of a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq. The commission is headed by deputy Borys Andresyuk from the Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o). JM

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE TO SPEAK WITH YUSHCHENKO ABOUT STANDOFF IN UKRAINE?
Presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk, who also heads the SDPU-o, has told journalists that his party is prepared to enter a dialogue with Our Ukraine regarding the current political crisis, UNIAN reported on 17 October. Medvedchuk was responding to Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko, who said following the "Ukraine in Europe" conference in Warsaw (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 October 2002) that Our Ukraine could sit at a negotiating table with the SDPU-o. "Medvedchuk is a Ukrainian reality. He is a fact, pardon my saying so," UNIAN quoted Yushchenko as saying on 16 October. Medvedchuk said he has "only one personal request" to Yushchenko and explained that he wants Yushchenko to withdraw his signature under the opposition's 16 September resolution calling on President Kuchma to resign (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 September 2002). It is not clear from the UNIAN report whether Medvedchuk considers this withdrawal a necessary condition for entering talks with Our Ukraine. JM

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR PROMISES IMPROVED RELATIONS WITH ESTONIA
During a lecture at Concordia University in Viimsi on 17 October, Russian Ambassador to Estonia Konstantin Provalov promised that Russia will sign the proposed border agreement with Estonia, abolish double tariffs on Estonian goods, and sign a most-favored-nation trade agreement in the first half of 2003, ETA reported the next day. He said these agreements will not be affected by Estonia's likely membership of the European Union and NATO. Provalov noted that Estonia has passed various measures to improve the situation of its Russian-speaking population but that some important issues, such as ending state-financed high-school education in the Russian language beginning in 2007, continue to be a matter of concern. However, Provalov added, "If you live in Estonia, you must be able to speak Estonian," BNS reported on 17 October. SG

LEADERS OF LATVIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC WORKERS PARTY SUBMIT THEIR RESIGNATIONS
At a press conference on 17 October, Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (LSDSP) Chairman Juris Bojars, Deputy Chairmen Janis Adamsons and Valdis Lauskis, and Secretary-General Janis Dinevics submitted their resignations, LETA reported. Bojars said that the LSDSP board might also submit their resignations at the party's council meeting on 19 October that will set the exact date of the next party congress in late November. The leaders will remain at their posts until the congress. The resignations were apparently prompted by the LSDSP's poor showing in the parliamentary elections on 5 October, in which the party failed to overcome the 5 percent barrier (the LSDSP garnered 4.02 percent) needed for parliamentary representation. An important factor influencing the election result was the split in the party that led to the founding of the Union of Social Democrats (SDS) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 2002). SDS took 1.53 percent of the vote in the elections. SG

SOROS FAVORS BILINGUAL EDUCATION IN LATVIA
Influential financier and philanthropist George Soros visited Latvia on 16-17 October to mark the 10th anniversary of Soros Foundation Latvia, LETA and BNS reported. Since its establishment, the foundation has contributed more than 30.5 million lats ($50 million) to projects for developing art and culture, reforming the education system, fighting corruption, and strengthening nongovernmental organizations and human rights. During a discussion at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga on 17 October, Soros said that, after 12 years of Latvian independence, the Latvian language is no longer threatened, and the government should allow the large Russian-speaking population "to retain [its] national identity and become loyal citizens." Soros recommend that bilingual education should remain an option, and students themselves should be allowed to choose their language of instruction. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN REITERATES IMPORTANCE OF SCHENGEN MEMBERSHIP
At a 17 October press conference, Arturas Paulauskas said that during a meeting in Brussels earlier this week of the heads of the European Parliament and the Lithuanian, Polish, and Russian parliaments, he stressed that although relations with Russia are "vitally important" to Lithuania, it is even more important that Lithuanian citizens be allowed the travel privileges of the Schengen zone, BNS reported. He said Lithuania must carry out the obligations agreed to in its membership negotiations with the EU requiring visas for transiting its territory beginning next year. Paulauskas reiterated that Russia's call for visa-free trains transiting Lithuania between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia can only be discussed after Lithuania joins the Schengen agreement. He dismissed as inaccurate Russian media reports that the three parliaments had formed a joint working group on the Kaliningrad issue at the meeting. SG

POLISH PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER FACES DISMISSAL VOTE...
The Sejm went into turmoil on 17 October following the early morning removal by force of deputy Gabriel Jankowski from the session hall by Sejm guards, Polish media reported. The removal was ordered by Sejm speaker Marek Borowski after he failed to persuade Janowski to stop his sit-in at the parliament's rostrum in protest against the government's privatization deal with the German concern RWE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). The opposition League of Polish Families filed a motion to recall Borowski as speaker, arguing that by ordering the removal he violated Janowski's parliamentary immunity. The motion reportedly will be supported by three other opposition groups: Self-Defense, Law and Justice, and Civic Platform. Whether Borowski remains in office seems to depend on the position of the Peasant Party (PSL), which has so far not declared whether it will vote against the motion along with Borowski's party, the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). The Sejm's debate on 17 October was terminated after a group of Self-Defense lawmakers blocked the rostrum, demanding that the government annul the RWE deal. JM

...WHILE PRESIDENT, PREMIER SAY PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS THREATENS DEMOCRACY, COALITION
President Aleksander Kwasniewski said on Polish Radio on 18 October that he does not rule out the possibility of dissolving the present parliament if it continues to squabble and misses the deadline for adopting the 2003 budget. Kwasniewski said he supports Borowski's decision to remove Janowski from the session hall by force. "It is not a question of speaker Borowski at the moment, but the Polish parliament that is the issue here: its quality, the way it is perceived in Poland and abroad. And as a consequence, Polish democracy is at stake," Kwasniewski said. Premier Leszek Miller told PAP the same day that the future of the ruling SLD-PSL coalition depends on whether the PSL supports Borowski. "I do not know what the PSL will do, but first it has to make clear whether it wants to stay in this coalition. This will depend on the outcome of the vote on Borowski's dismissal," Miller said. JM

CZECH VOTERS WANT DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
An overwhelming majority of Czechs voters favor direct presidential elections according to a poll by the STEM agency released on 17 October, Czech media reported the same day. Some 85 percent of respondents said they support replacing the current system, in which both chambers of parliament elect the president, with a direct popular vote. Recent polls have varied widely, but the STEM poll concluded that the most popular candidate is Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, who received 27 percent support. Senate President Petr Pithart was second at 19 percent, and outgoing Civic Democratic Party Chairman Vaclav Klaus was third with 15 percent. President Vaclav Havel's second and final term as Czech president ends in early 2003. BW

CZECH, U.S. FIGHTER JETS PREPARE FOR SUMMIT DEFENSE
U.S. F-16s and Czech MiG-21 fighter jets conducted joint training exercises on 17 October in preparation for the upcoming NATO summit in Prague, CTK reported. The exercises, which simulated the shooting down of a hijacked airliner and responding to an attack on a nuclear-power station, were part of the antiterrorism security measures being taken for the 21-22 November event. "Although this was just an exercise, it was unforgettable. I can hardly describe what I had in mind when a fighter behind a passenger plane full of people was waiting for an order to fire. It is incredible," Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said. A total of 925 soldiers and 1,350 security-force members participated in the exercises. BW

CZECH LOWER HOUSE PASSES BILL ON EU REFERENDUM
A bill handing Czech voters the chance to decide whether the country should join the European Union easily passed in the lower house of parliament on 17 October, Czech media reported the same day. According to the bill, which passed by a vote of 180 to two, a referendum on joining the EU will be held sometime in the second quarter of 2003. To become law, the bill must still pass in the Senate and be signed by the president. BW

SLOVAK SUPPORT FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP STABLE
Some 52.1 percent of Slovaks support that country's membership in NATO, according to an opinion poll by Focus agency released on 17 October, TASR reported the same day. The survey was conducted from 2-8 October among 1,089 adult respondents. Some 38.8 percent of respondents were opposed and 9.2 percent were undecided. Support was 53 percent in January. BW

EX-SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER TO HEAD PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE
Former Defense Minister Jozef Stank has accepted an offer to run President Rudolf Schuster's office and will assume the post on 1 November, TASR reported on 17 October. Stank resigned as defense minister on 15 October, when Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's first government resigned ahead of the appointment of his new cabinet on 16 October. The Presidential Office has been without a director since November, when Ludovit Machacek resigned. Stank has already recommended changes to the office's personnel and structure and says he wants to improve its prestige and professionalism. BW

SLOVAK PROSECUTOR UNDER POLICE PROTECTION FOLLOWING THREATS
Prosecutor Michal Serbin has been under police protection since last month because of written threats, "Novy cas" reported on 18 October. Serbin is heading up several high-profile prosecutions, including the case against former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September and 2 October 2002). Lexa was taken into custody in July after being arrested in South Africa on an international warrant, but he was later freed on procedural grounds. On 30 September, Serbin indicted Lexa on charges of abuse of authority during his tenure as SIS head from 1994-98. He was previously charged with organizing the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son but was amnestied by former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. BW

HUNGARIAN PARTIES HOLD FINAL RALLIES AHEAD OF LOCAL ELECTIONS...
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy and Socialist Party (MSZP) Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 17 October told a campaign rally in Budapest that the MSZP is a genuine social democratic party and the MSZP-led government will take Hungary into the EU, Budapest dailies reported. MSZP's candidate for mayor in Budapest, Erzsebet Nemeth, said she has kept her word by not withdrawing from the race (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7,8,9,11, and 15 October 2002) and encouraged voters to turn out in as large numbers as possible, since the "victory will be all the greater." Opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) Chairwoman Ibolya David told a rally of right-wing parties that there is no historical alternative to EU accession, and therefore it is important to consider the advantages and drawbacks of membership. For his part, Tamas Deutsch, chairman of the FIDESZ Budapest chapter, said the last 12 years in Budapest were marked by "division, quarreling, and deteriorating living conditions." He expressed the hope that right-wing voter turnout is high at the 20 October local elections. MSZ

...AND ARGUE OVER EU ACCESSION ISSUES
Prime Minister Medgyessy on 17 October told Hungarian television that he trusts the opposition FIDESZ will vote in favor of the constitutional changes necessary for EU accession (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). But he stressed, "The government will not let itself be blackmailed." For his part, FIDESZ Executive Chairman Janos Ader told reporters the same day that MSZP Chairman Kovacs's accusation that FIDESZ betrayed the cause of EU accession represents the "ultimate impudence," Hungarian media reported. Ader pointed out that the FIDESZ-led cabinet successfully closed 24 acquis communautaire chapters in accession talks in 2002. "No referendum [on EU membership] will be held on 15 March," he said, explaining that FIDESZ considers it more appropriate for a referendum to be held in April, once the accession treaty has been signed. MSZ

HUNGARIAN NOBEL LAUREATE BECOMES HONORARY BUDAPEST CITIZEN, WARNS OF OLD AND NEW DIVISIONS
Mayor Gabor Demszky on 17 October awarded honorary Budapest citizenship to Hungary's first-ever Nobel Prize winner for literature Imre Kertesz, Hungarian media reported. "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 16 October the government will partly cover the production costs of a feature film based on Kertesz' best-known novel, "Sorstalansag" (Fateless), which relates his experiences as a teenager in the Auschwitz death camp during World War II. In an interview with "Die Zeit" quoted by "Nepszabadsag" on 18 October, Kertesz said he feels it is his duty to help bring about peace in a divided Hungary, where "liberals and nationalists are facing each other implacably." He warned that open anti-Semitism prevails in Hungary, as "overt Nazis and aggressive nationalists are shown in the media." "It is almost as disgusting as it was in the late 1930s," Kertesz concluded. MSZ

HUNGARIAN STATE TO INCREASE COMPENSATION TO VICTIMS OF HOLOCAUST
The Justice Ministry intends to raise compensation for families of Hungarians killed in the Holocaust from 30,000 forints ($120) to 600,000 forints ($2,400), the MTI news agency reported on 18 October. Justice Minister Peter Barandy said he is awaiting authorization for the government to hold official talks on the matter with interest groups and relevant organizations. Peter Tordai, president of the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary, said his group agrees with the amount of the compensation but would like to see payment begin next year and be completed in the first half of 2004. MSZ

MACEDONIA GETS A COALITION GOVERNMENT
The Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) announced on 18 October that they have formed a coalition government and divided the 14 ministries between themselves, AP reported from Skopje. BDI leader Agron Buxhaku said his party will control the Justice, Education, Health, and Transport ministries. It will have a deputy premier's post as well as deputy positions in the Interior, Defense, Economics, and Agriculture ministries. The cabinet will be led by SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski and is not likely to include any former guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK), who make up much of the BDI's leadership. The news agency added that unspecified "international officials...talked [the BDI] out" of its demand for the Foreign Ministry. The BDI had previously dropped demands for control of either the Defense Ministry or Interior Ministry (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 October 2002). PM

MACEDONIAN TRADE UNIONS TO HAVE A WORD IN COALITION TALKS
Union of Macedonian Trade Unions (SSM) leader Vanco Muratovski said on 17 October that his organization will have a say in coalition talks, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. According to Muratovski, the SSM has suggested people to head the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Health Ministry. Muratovski said the SSM has the right to a say in selecting these ministers, because it urged its membership to vote for the winning SDSM-led Together for Macedonia coalition. Muratovski also pointed out that the SSM wants amendments to several laws affecting workers, as well as health and social insurance. UB

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON ARMY TO CLEAN UP FLOOD DAMAGE
President Boris Trajkovski decided on 17 October to send army engineering units to help clean up damage caused by torrential rains in recent weeks, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Trajkovski's decision came after he visited the regions of Kavadarci, Veles, and Strumica, which were worst affected by the rains. The daily quoted sources in Trajkovski's cabinet as saying much of the damage could have been avoided if local authorities had kept riverbeds clear of debris. UB

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT SESSION POSTPONED
Serbian parliament speaker Natasa Micic announced on 17 October that the session planned for the following day to discuss changes in electoral laws has been postponed until the Serbian Supreme Court rules on which deputies are entitled to take part, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). The Yugoslav Constitutional Court ruled on 16 October that ousted members of Serbian parliament belonging to the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) must be reinstated, but the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition argues that only the Serbian court has jurisdiction in the matter. Reuters reported that "the postponement prevented a power struggle among the politicians who ousted [former President] Slobodan Milosevic from descending into pure farce. [The DSS] had vowed to attend the session, but its rivals insisted it had no right to be there." In related news, the Serbian Election Commission rejected a challenge by the DSS to its decision to invalidate the 13 October second round of Serbian presidential balloting, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 October 2002). PM

DJINDJIC SAYS U.S. SYSTEM IS NOT FOR SERBIA
Speaking in Novi Sad on 17 October, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said direct presidential elections work in the United States, but Serbia needs a parliamentary system in which the legislature chooses the chief executive, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

STEINER GETS COOL RESPONSE IN APPEAL FOR SERBIAN PARTICIPATION IN LOCAL VOTE
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), has come up empty-handed after a visit to Belgrade to seek support from political and religious leaders in urging Kosova's Serbs to take part in the 26 October local elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 17 October. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said the security and human rights situations have not improved for Serbs under the present system. The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church said in a statement that it neither supports nor opposes the vote. The Synod added, however, that it fears Serbian participation in the elections could turn out to be "window-dressing for the benefit of the domestic and international publics...like Serbian participation in the parliament has for the most part shown itself to be." Bishop Amfilohije Radovic was more blunt, saying Serbs would "despise" him if he called on them to vote, AP reported. PM

BELGRADE PROTESTS OPENING OF BORDER CROSSINGS BETWEEN KOSOVA AND ALBANIA
The Yugoslav government sent a formal protest to the UN Security Council on 17 October to object that it was not consulted over UNMIK's recent decision to open two additional border crossings between Kosova and Albania, Beta news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). PM

KOSOVARS NAME STREET AFTER FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT
Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova presided at a ceremony on 17 October in which a Prishtina street was named after former U.S. President Bill Clinton, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Kosovars' affection for Clinton and the United States stems from Washington's and NATO's role in freeing Kosova from Serbian control in 1999. PM

WILL CROATIA ASK THE HAGUE TO TRY SMALLER FRY INSTEAD OF BOBETKO?
The Croatian government has identified people directly responsible for the killings of ethnic Serb civilians in the Medak Pocket in 1993, dpa reported from Zagreb on 18 October, citing "Vecernji list." According to the daily, the government hopes the war crimes tribunal based in The Hague will agree to prosecute those directly responsible for the atrocities rather than their commanding officer, General Janko Bobetko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). It is not clear how many suspects are involved or whether the government intends to arrest them. PM

BOSNIAN POLICE SACKED FOR TIPPING OFF BROTHEL OWNERS
The UN-led police in Bosnia have fired 11 local police officers for frequenting brothels and alerting owners to police raids, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 17 October. One police chief who was involved in a crackdown on human trafficking and forced prostitution reportedly tipped off a bar owner regarding raids in return for sex with several women. PM

BOSNIAN SERB SENTENCED IN THE HAGUE
The war crimes tribunal sentenced Milan Simic to five years in prison on 17 October for his role in mistreating Muslims and Croats in the Bosanski Samac region in 1992 and 1993, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. PM

ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS SIGN AGREEMENTS
Meeting in the western Romanian city of Arad, Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu and his Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Juhasz signed a cooperation agreement concerning the two countries' air forces, Mediafax reported. They also signed an agreement on the exchange of classified military information. Pascu said information exchange is a basic requirement of cooperation among NATO member states, "and we took this step ahead of the NATO summit [on 21-22 November in Prague] at which we expect an invitation [to join the organization]." Juhasz said Hungary is a "supporter" of Romanian accession to NATO, and he pledged to do "all he can" to ensure that Hungary is among the first states to ratify Romanian accession to the alliance if an invitation is offered. ZsM

ROMANIAN ARMY TO CUT PERSONNEL
Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu announced on 17 October that the army is to reduce its rank-and-file personnel from 96,000 to 75,000 by 2007, Mediafax reported. Pascu also said the country's 2003 budget provides for the Defense Ministry to receive 2.3 percent of the country's GDP, which means an additional $100 million compared to the ministry's 2002 budget. ZsM

U.S. HISTORIAN ARRESTED IN ROMANIA ON PEDOPHILIA CHARGES...
U.S. historian Kurt Treptow and his alleged accomplice Tatiana Popovici were arrested on 17 October on charges of "sexual corruption" and "sexual perversion" involving a minor, AP reported. The two were first arrested on 11 September, but they were later released pending an investigation, according to Mediafax. Due to the lack of official information on the case and to Treptow's well-known relations with high-ranking Romanian officials, the media accused the authorities of seeking to put a lid on the case and to exonerate Treptow. Ioan Talpes, President Ion Iliescu's adviser on national security issues who is reportedly a close acquaintance of Treptow's, publicly supported Treptow on 30 September and attacked the media, Mediafax reported. Treptow, who heads the Center for Romanian Studies in Iasi, faces five years in prison on the corruption charge and seven on the sexual-perversion count, according to AP. ZsM

...AS PREMIER CALLS FOR MORE SEVERE PUNISHMENT IN PEDOPHILIA CASES
Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase on 18 October asked the Justice Ministry to examine the possibility of more severe punishments for child-sex crimes, Mediafax reported. He argued the Romanian system is "not enough of a deterrent" and Romania "could be perceived as a paradise for pedophiles around the world." He added that he personally prefers the reintroduction of the death penalty in such cases. ZsM

BULGARIA TO IMPLEMENT MEASURES TO STEM ILLEGAL MIGRATION TO EU
Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said on 17 October that, in an effort to reduce the number of Bulgarians who illegally migrate to the European Union, his ministry plans to introduce strict measures against breaches of passport regulations, mediapool.bg reported. The measures include higher fines for losing one's passport, as many deportees claim upon their return to Bulgaria that their marked passports have been lost. Those who have resided illegally in the European Union and were subsequently deported to Bulgaria will be barred from leaving the country for two years. During a recent meeting of Interior Ministers in Luxemburg, Petkanov also reached an agreement with his counterparts from Belgium and the Netherlands, according to which Belgian and Dutch authorities will provide information about illegal Bulgarian immigrants to the Bulgarian Interior Ministry. UB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LABOR-LEGISLATION, AMENDMENTS, PROMPTS PROTESTS
On 17 October, parliament adopted on first reading a number of amendments to labor legislation that are aimed at reducing the influence of trade unions, bnn news agency reported. According to the amendments, the government would be allowed to act on more social and labor issues without consulting trade unions. Trade unions currently must be consulted on all issues related to workers' living standards. "We are being deprived of our right to publicly express our opinion about issues related to living standards," said Confederation of Independent Trade Unions leader Chavdar Hristov. The Labor Confederation Podkrepa announced it will withdraw from a partnership pact with the government should the legislators adopt the amendments. Protests also came also from employers. "The more the state gets involved with the problems of living standards, the worse [things are]," said Employers Union President Vasil Vasilev. UB

There is no End Note today.


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