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Newsline - November 6, 2002


PUTIN WARNS AGAINST INDISCRIMINATE VIOLENCE IN CHECHNYA...
Visiting Maikop on 5 November, President Vladimir Putin instructed the Federal Security Service (FSB) to devise new approaches to the problem of combating terrorism, warning that large-scale indiscriminate military operations in Chechnya are unnecessary and could prove counterproductive, Reuters and Russian news agencies reported. Such operations should be "well-directed and targeted," Putin said. Putin met separately in Maikop with Grozny administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, whom he thanked for his support during last month's hostage taking in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Kadyrov was in Moscow at that time but rejected the hostage takers' proposal to free 50 hostages if he agreed to take their place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2002). LF

...AS FEDERAL FORCES DESTROY APARTMENT BUILDINGS IN GROZNY
Russian troops evicted residents from two apartment buildings in the vicinity of the Russian military base at Khankala on the outskirts of Grozny on 5 November and blew up both buildings, Interfax reported. Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, a spokesman for the combined federal forces in Chechnya, explained that Chechen fighters regularly used the buildings, from which they could have targeted aircraft landing at Khankala. Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev told Interfax the Russian military did not inform the pro-Moscow Chechen authorities before destroying the buildings. LF

FOREIGN JOURNALISTS BLOCKED FROM VISITING CHECHNYA?
A little-noticed government directive signed on 11 October has made it much more difficult for foreign journalists to visit Chechnya, according to Oleg Panfilov, director of the watchdog Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, writing in the 5 November edition of "Nezavisimaya gazeta." The directive approves a list of territories, organizations, and establishments that foreign citizens need special permission to enter, including "zones where antiterrorist operations are being conducted." Panfilov noted that the directive does not specify how foreign journalists can obtain the necessary permission to enter Chechnya or for what period of time it would be issued. Panfilov also quoted the center's legal expert Boris Panteleev as saying Russia's law on terrorism does not include any formal bureaucratic procedure for granting permission to enter such zones. Under Russia's constitution, "sub-legal acts" like presidential decrees and government directives may not contradict existing legislation. LB

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA IS AT WAR...
In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 5 November, Sergei Ivanov said that "war has been declared on Russia, a war without frontlines, borders, or visible enemies." Ivanov said Russia must adopt new strategies and weapons in the response to this new type of war. He said President Putin's recent statement that Russia will strike the organizers and financiers of terrorism wherever they might be (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2002) does not mean that Russian troops will be sent abroad. Instead, Putin meant that Russia reserves the right to use precision-guided weapons to strike training bases or other objects related to international terrorism, Ivanov said. He confirmed the FSB will take the lead in combating terrorism, and the armed forces -- particularly the airborne forces -- will stand by to assist. VY

...AND COMMENTS ON NATIONAL-SECURITY DOCTRINE
Asked about the latest revision of the national-security doctrine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2002), Ivanov said it must take into consideration the fact that most terrorist threats, as well as their financial, organizational, and informational support, come from abroad. Ivanov also denied that the increased political role being played by former KGB officers in government is a potential threat to democracy. "Military, law enforcement, and special-services officers should be able to work under normal conditions and should enjoy all the rights guaranteed them by the constitution," Ivanov said. VY

DUMA DRAFTS BILL OUTLAWING DEALING WITH TERRORISTS
State Duma Deputy and Deputy Chairman of the Security Committee Gennadii Gudkov (People's Deputy) announced on 5 November that he will introduce a bill that would regulate the process of negotiating with terrorists and ban the payment of ransoms for hostages, lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Gudkov said that only authorized state agents should be allowed to talk with terrorists and making deals with them should be illegal. Ransoms paid to terrorists are a direct way of funding terrorism and are used to purchase weapons and explosives and to pay bribes to officials, Gudkov said. He said talks with terrorists should only touch upon the terms of their surrender and punishment. VY

ANTI-CHECHEN INCIDENTS ON RISE IN MOSCOW...
Anti-Chechen stickers were found at a Moscow metro station on 5 November, newsru.com reported. The stickers -- which read, "There are 380,000 Chechens in Moscow. Do you want to be the next hostage?" -- were placed on escalators at the Novokuznetskaya station by unknown people some time during the day. Analysts noted that the text of the message seems to have been specially written to avoid conflicting with the letter of the law on extremism, which forbids directly "inciting ethnic conflict." Meanwhile, human rights activists in Moscow on 5 November held a news conference at which they outlined incidents of anti-Chechen persecution by police since the 23-26 October hostage crisis, Interfax reported. Activists described illegal searches and detentions, saying that police in many cases illegally photographed and fingerprinted detainees. The activists also described harassment of Chechen children in schools. RC

...AS SPS LEADER CALLS FOR PEACE TALKS...
Duma Deputy and Union of Rightist Forces co-Chairman Boris Nemtsov harshly criticized a bill adopted by the Duma on 1 November that would authorize the government not to return to relatives the bodies of those killed during antiterrorism operations, RosBalt reported. Speaking to journalists in Nizhnii Novgorod, Nemtsov said "it is wrong to wage war with corpses" and that withholding bodies "would give the Chechen people yet another reason to hate us." He added that the recent Moscow hostage crisis was a "direct consequence of the war in Chechnya and that until it is over, we will be under the threat of terrorism." He called for immediate multilateral talks between the federal government and the Chechen fighters. RC

...AND HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY FOR CHECHNYA CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PEACE CONFERENCE
In a written statement released in Moscow on 5 November, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, who is the Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya, called for the postponement of an international conference on Chechnya whose organizers advocate peace talks between the Russian leadership and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev, Memorial head Oleg Orlov, and Lev Ponomarev, who heads the For Human Rights movement, announced the conference, scheduled for 9-10 November, in Moscow on 4 November. Sultygov argued the conference is aimed, whether deliberately or unintentionally, at whitewashing terrorism, and that it discredits plans to hold a referendum and elections in Chechnya to enable the republic's population to determine their fate without violence or intimidation for the first time in history. LF

RUSSIA ASKS FOR OLIGARCH'S EXTRADITION
The Prosecutor-General's Office has formally asked Great Britain to extradite self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, Russian news agencies reported on 5 November. Berezovskii and two associates -- Badri Patarkatsishvili and Yulii Dubov -- face charges of massive embezzlement stemming from an alleged car-sales scam at LogoVAZ in 1994-95. In an interview with strana.ru, Berezovskii said he has not been informed of a formal extradition request. He also said that he has applied for permanent residency in Great Britain and will resist extradition to Russia. RC

READY FOR A REVOLUTION?
A majority of Russians would not oppose a Bolshevik revolution if one happened today, Russian news agencies reported on 5 November, citing a new poll by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). On the eve of the anniversary of the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which is now celebrated in Russia as the Days of Reconciliation and Accord on 7-8 November, VTsIOM found that 23 percent of respondents would "actively support" the Bolsheviks if the revolution happened today. Twenty percent said they would give "some support," and 28 percent said they would "wait and see." Eighteen percent of respondents said they would emigrate and just 8 percent said they would resist the Bolsheviks. In addition, 26 percent of those surveyed said that if the October Revolution had not happened, some other extremist group would have seized power and would likely have done even more harm than the Bolshevik's did. Twenty-two percent said it would have been good if the tsar had remained in power, and another 22 percent said it would have been best if Russia had developed a Western-style democracy. VY

EDUCATION MINISTRY DECLARES WAR ON BARBIE
The Education Ministry has drafted a bill that bans the import of children's toys and computer games that are violent, sexually suggestive, or promote "fear," gzt.ru reported on 5 November. The ministry will ask the government to create a special commission that, "with the help of a specially developed methodology," will evaluate toys and impose restrictions. Reportedly, among the first toys to be blacklisted is the perennial favorite Barbie, which ministry specialists believe is capable of producing negative psychological effects on girls and provoking "premature sexual manifestations." VY

A NEW HOME FOR THE UPPER CHAMBER?
The State Construction Committee has developed blueprints for a new Federation Council center to be built on the site of the Moskva Hotel next to the State Duma's building, gazeta.ru reported on 6 November, citing an unidentified committee source. According to the report, the plan will be submitted to a cabinet session for approval on 27 November. RC

MASS FOOD POISONING IN SOUTHERN RUSSIA
More than 350 people -- including more than 200 children -- have been hospitalized with acute food poisoning in Krasnodar Krai, Russian news agencies reported on 6 November. Many of the victims are in serious condition and at least seven have been diagnosed with dysentery. According to initial reports, the outbreak was apparently caused by yogurt and sour cream produced by the Kropotkin Diary Plant, and the governor of neighboring Rostov Oblast has advised residents not to consume any products produced by the plant. According to strana.ru, the Kropotkin plant has been closed down. A local health official told the website that tests show tainted drinking water was not the cause of the illnesses. RC

EXPERT QUESTIONS DRAFT LAW ON VOTING MACHINES
The proposed law on the use of electronic voting machines will not make Russian elections transparent and reliable, according to Aleksandr Firsov, deputy director of the Institute for the Development of Electoral Systems. The Duma recently passed that bill in its first reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2002). "Novye izvestiya" on 5 November quoted Firsov as outlining three potential problems with the proposal. First, although election observers can monitor vote counts at polling stations, data would be entered into the automated system at the level of territorial electoral commissions, without the scrutiny of observers. Second, the automated voting system contains tens of thousands of doubles and "dead souls" listed as registered voters. Third, no independent organizations will be able to monitor the voting machines, which will operate under the purview of the Central Election Commission and the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI). LB

RUSSIAN, GEORGIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARIES MEET
Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo met in Moscow on 5 November with his Georgian counterpart, Tedo Djaparidze, to discuss cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, Russian agencies reported. Rushailo formally requested that Georgia extradite eight Chechen militants apprehended after illegally entering Georgia from Russia in August and that it capture and hand over Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev. Rushailo said Russia has provided Georgia with incontrovertible proof the eight men engaged in criminal activities in Russia. Djaparidze said the extradition proceedings are complicated, and the issue should be resolved in ongoing talks between Russian and Georgian prosecutors, ITAR-TASS reported. Djaparidze announced that the unofficial Chechen mission in Georgia has been closed down, adding that he hopes Russia will reciprocate by closing the representation in Moscow of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia. On 6 November, Caucasus Press quoted Djaparidze's deputy, Djemal Gakhokidze, as denying that Gelaev is in Georgia. LF

ARMENIA, RUSSIA FINALIZE ASSETS FOR DEBT DEAL...
After nearly two years of negotiations, Russian Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov and Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian signed in Yerevan on 5 November an agreement under which Armenia cedes to Russia five state-owned enterprises in payment of its $98 million debt to Moscow, Russian agencies and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 July 2002). The five enterprises in question are the Mars Electronics Plant in Yerevan, three research institutes that used to work for the Soviet military-industrial complex, and the Hrazdan Thermal-Power Station. The deal does not encompass the unfinished fifth unit of that station, and Russia will decide by 2005 whether to acquire it separately. Armenian President Robert Kocharian hailed the agreement, saying the deal means that Armenia has now completely discharged its debts to Russia. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who traveled to Yerevan to attend the signing ceremony, said the acquisition of the research facilities will contribute to the development of Russia's computer industry, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

...ANTICIPATE INCREASED COOPERATION
Kasyanov also said in Yerevan that the completion of the assets-for-debt deal is mutually beneficial and has raised economic cooperation between the two countries almost to the level of political and military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. He singled out as promising areas for future cooperation the energy and machine-building sectors and the military-industrial complex. At the same time, Kasyanov noted that the lack of direct transportation links is a major obstacle to expanding economic cooperation. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES WANT CLOSED SESSION TO DISCUSS KARABAKH CONFLICT
Twenty-seven parliament deputies have signed a request to convene a closed session of parliament to discuss the Karabakh conflict once the 2003 state budget has been approved, according to Turan and ANS on 5 November as cited by Groong. A total of 63 signatures (50 percent of the total number of deputies, plus one) is needed for the issue to be included on the legislature's agenda. Deputies from the majority Yeni Azerbaycan Party reportedly oppose the proposal, according to ANS. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN ANTAGONISTS TO ALIGN
The former paramilitary organization Mkhedrioni, which played a major role in the December 1991 ouster of then-Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, is to align with supporters of the late president to form a Union of Patriots, Caucasus Press reported on 5 November. LF

KAZAKH HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST BRIEFS FRENCH DIPLOMAT ON DETAINED JOURNALIST'S CASE
Yevgenii Zhovtis, who heads the Kazakh office of the International Bureau for Human Rights, told journalists in Almaty on 5 November that he briefed visiting French State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Renaud Muselier earlier that day on the detention of independent journalist Sergei Duvanov, Interfax reported. He did not elaborate. Duvanov, who has repeatedly criticized the Kazakh leadership, faces charges -- which are widely believed to be fabricated -- of raping an underage girl (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 October 2002). LF

INTRUDER APPREHENDED IN KAZAKH BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS FACILITY
An unidentified man was arrested on 4 November after entering a former biological-weapons research facility in Almaty, allegedly with the intention of stealing potentially dangerous viruses, AP reported the following day. The center no longer conducts such research but still stores deadly pathogens. LF

KYRGYZ PROTEST MARCH CONTINUES
Supporters of former Deputy Prime Minister Usen Sydykov on 5 November continued their protest march to demand that he be allowed to contest a runoff by-election, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The 300 marchers reached the town of Tash-Komur. Also on 5 November, President Askar Akaev dismissed two regional administrators from Osh Oblast, Rustam Anabotoev and Akasbek Abdurashitov, both of whom participated in the early stages of the march (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2002). LF

KYRGYZSTAN SOLICITS FRENCH INVESTMENT
Muselier flew to Bishkek later on 5 November where he met with Kyrgyz President Akaev, to whom he handed a message of thanks from French President Jacques Chirac for Kyrgyzstan's willingness to host a contingent of French troops participating in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Interfax and akipress.org reported. Akaev called for the further development and intensification of bilateral relations, stressing that the necessary legal basis has been created for French private investment in Kyrgyzstan. He said Kyrgyzstan is interested in establishing joint ventures in mining, machine-building, light industry, and agriculture. LF

EMBATTLED TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY APPEALS TO PRESIDENT
The Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) has addressed an open letter to President Imomali Rakhmonov complaining that the Justice Ministry has repeatedly refused its registration, claiming the SDPT has violated national legislation on political parties, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 5 November. The SDPT, which describes itself as supporting democracy and the rule of law and operating within the framework of the Tajik Constitution, first applied for registration in March 1998, but was not registered until almost a year later. That registration was then revoked after six months. The SDPT appealed to Rakhmonov as the guarantor of the constitution and basic rights and freedoms to facilitate the party's registration. LF

TAJIKISTAN, MOLDOVA SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY
President Rakhmonov and his visiting Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation in Dushanbe on 5 November, ITAR-TASS reported. In a written statement, the two presidents affirmed their intention of expanding political, economic, and scientific cooperation and of working together within the framework of international organizations to combat terrorism, drug trafficking, separatism, and extremism. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT BLASTS LOCAL OFFICIALS OVER POOR COTTON HARVEST
Addressing a session on 4 November, Saparmurat Niyazov criticized local administration heads and government ministers for this year's poor cotton harvest, Interfax and turkmenistan.ru reported. Turkmenistan.ru reported on 4 November that to date only some 500,000 tons of cotton have been harvested, which is approximately one-quarter of the planned target of 2 million tons. Niyazov warned officials they will be held responsible for their failures, including for the waste of budgetary resources and bank credits. Niyazov had criticized the heads of the Mary, Dashoguz, and Balkan oblasts and several government officials last month for the anticipated harvest shortfall and ordered that cotton pickers be paid higher prices immediately after the harvest as an incentive to meet the planned target figure. LF

UZBEKISTAN ADOPTS NEW SHORT-TERM INVESTMENT PROGRAM
At a session chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov, the Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics adopted its Investment Program for 2003-05, uza.uz reported on 5 November. The program envisages increasing investment in the economy by 4 percent annually over that time and doubling foreign direct investment in 2003. It is anticipated that that investment will result in an annual 2 percent increase in GDP. The program prioritizes the reconstruction and retooling of industrial enterprises; investment in the processing of local resources and those branches of the economy that provide goods for export; and extending financial support to small and medium businesses. LF

UZBEKISTAN PLANS TO DEVELOP CREDIT UNIONS
On 5 November, the Uzbek parliament held a seminar attended by representatives of USAID, the Asian Development Bank, and the Uzbek Central Bank at which it was agreed to amend the country's Civil Code and relevant tax and other legislation in order to facilitate the creation of a network of credit unions, uza.uz reported. LF

POLAND LAUDS UZBEKISTAN'S ROLE IN PRESERVING REGIONAL SECURITY
Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski, who visited Uzbekistan last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2002) has written to Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov praising Uzbekistan's efforts to promote security and democratization throughout Central Asia, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. Kwasniewski noted in particular Tashkent's role in the global fight against terrorism. LF

BELARUSIAN KGB DETAINS OPPOSITION LEADER, WARNS HIM AGAINST FOREIGN CONTACTS
Four KGB officers detained United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka on 5 November as he was leaving the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, Belarusian and international news agencies reported. They forced Lyabedzka into a car and took him to a KGB office, where he reportedly was warned that his contacts with foreign citizens might constitute criminal acts, including under an article pertaining to treason. The KGB distributed a statement saying an investigation has turned up material indicating Lyabedzka's "confidential contacts with foreign citizens having the position of spies" or with foreigners suspected of affiliation with foreign intelligence services. The statement also said his "financial dependence on Western sponsors...means that he may be involved in illegal activity and may commit...high treason in the future." At a news conference later the same day, Lyabedzka called the KGB action an example of "political schizophrenia," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "When the head of state is sick, the special services are sick as well," Lyabedzka added. JM

OSCE PLEDGES 'FLEXIBILITY' TO KEEP MISSION IN MINSK
"We are prepared to show some flexibility in terms of the mandate of [our] mission [in Minsk] and in other aspects of its work," the OSCE website (http://www.osce.org/) quoted OSCE Chairman in Office and Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz as saying on 5 November. "But it is quite clear that the core of the mandate should be respected. A future mission must have the possibility to monitor and report on the internal situation, including human rights," da Cruz added. The Portuguese chairmanship of the OSCE said the organization is prepared to start negotiations on a new mandate for its mission in Minsk with Belarusian authorities at any time. JM

U.S., BRITAIN DELIVER REPORT ON KOLCHUGA PROBE TO UKRAINE...
Ukrainian authorities on 5 November received a U.S.-British report on last month's investigation by 13 U.S. and British experts into allegations that Ukraine sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq in violation of UN sanctions, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Quoting an unidentified "senior official," Reuters reported that the experts were unable to determine whether Ukrainian officials transferred a radar system to Iraq. "The report will be analyzed and studied in detail, and we will make a decision on further interaction with the American and British sides," Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's spokeswoman, Olena Hromnytska, said later the same day, according to AP. Meanwhile, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, who claimed to have seen the U.S.-British report, said it criticizes Ukraine for not presenting convincing evidence that it did not sell a Kolchuga to Iraq. JM

...AND REQUEST MORE INFORMATION...
The United States and Britain on 5 November asked Ukraine for more information to show whether or not it sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq, Reuters reported, quoting U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "We've asked the government to answer some follow-up questions. So once we get that back, we'll be looking at their answers, as well as the report itself, and factor that into our policy review in terms of our relationship and our future assistance and programs," Boucher said. Reuters quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying, "The cooperation [U.S. and British investigators] got [in Ukraine] was mixed. They didn't get everything that they wanted. They didn't get information to confirm at this point whether the transfer actually took place, so that remains a point of uncertainty." JM

...AS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REMAINS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT TIES WITH NATO
President Kuchma said at a meeting with the Defense Ministry leadership on 5 November that allegations that Ukraine illegally sold arms to Iraq will not affect cooperation between Ukraine and NATO, UNIAN reported. "It is no secret that we are experiencing temporary difficulties in [our] relations with the North Atlantic alliance," Kuchma said. "[However], I dismiss the logic that some kinds of suspicions, which are unfounded, can destroy the process of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO," he added. "This [U.S.-British] report is simply impertinent.... Ukraine should not have to prove that it did not sell [arms], those who accuse the country should prove it did," said Heorhiy Kryuchkov, the head of the parliamentary Committee for National Security and Defense. JM

LAWSUIT TARGETS UKRAINE IN WAKE OF AIRLINE DISASTER
A district court in Kyiv on 5 November opened hearings on a suit filed by the widow of a crewmember on the Tu-154 passenger airliner downed by a stray Ukrainian S-200 missile over the Black Sea on 4 October 2001, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001). Alena Laptev has demanded more than 2.8 million hryvnyas ($520,000) in compensation for the death of her husband, who was one of 78 victims. Laptev was the first of several Russian relatives of crash victims expected to sue Ukraine. Last month, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said it was near agreement on compensation for Israeli relatives and was awaiting information from the Russian government about its citizens to resolve the compensation issue. Kyiv said it will offer reasonable compensation in equal amounts for Israeli and Russian families to prevent private suits by victims' relatives. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY RESIGNS OVER SON'S SHOPLIFTING
The Reform Party's parliamentary-group leader, Jurgen Ligi, announced on 5 November that he is resigning from parliament because his son was arrested for shoplifting in a Tallinn store, BNS reported. The tabloid "SL Ohtuleht" on 4 and 5 November reported the arrest, without giving the minor's or the deputy's name, for the alleged theft of clothes worth 3,263 kroons ($206). "As a father, I want to protect my son, but it is clear there is no justification for his conduct," Ligi said. "I find that it is my duty to take time off and devote more time to my family." He did not say whether he plans to run again in the March parliamentary elections. The Reform Party faction is meeting on 6 November to discuss the election of a new deputy-group chairman. SG

RUSSIA DEMANDS CLOSURE OF CHECHEN MISSION IN LITHUANIA
Russian Ambassador to Lithuania Yurii Zubakov told Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis on 5 November that the Chechen Information and Culture Center in Vilnius should be closed, BNS reported. The previous day, Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Rimantas Sidlauskas said he received inquiries from the Russian government about the Chechen mission working in Vilnius but heard no demands for its closure. After the end of the hostage drama in Moscow, Zubakov said in interviews to Lithuanian television stations that he could not understand the presence in Vilnius of representatives of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, whose leadership is not acknowledged by Moscow. Valionis replied that the center was a public institution, founded in accordance with Lithuanian laws, and headed by a Lithuanian citizen engaged in "mainly humanitarian" activities. SG

WOULD-BE LATVIAN GOVERNMENT SIGNS DECLARATION
After the first plenary session of the new Latvian parliament on 5 November, the leaders of four right-of-center parties signed a joint government declaration, LETA reported. At the legislative session, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga invited Einars Repse of New Era to be the country's next prime minister. The signatories included Repse for New Era, Ingrida Udre of the Union of Greens and Farmers Union, Eriks Jekabsons of Latvia's First Party, and Roberts Zile of For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK. The parties declared that the goals of the government are responsible and efficient public administration, full NATO and EU membership for Latvia, a strong and independent court system, and combating corruption and crime. Other goals include a national economy based on an information society and knowledge, an integrated society with equitable development of Latvia's regions, and high employment. The four parties also agreed to support Vike-Freiberga for another four-year term as president. SG

GERMAN CHANCELLOR IN POLAND
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller and President Aleksander Kwasniewski in Warsaw on 5 November, Polish media reported. "I am certain we will all see positive results at the Copenhagen summit, that we will be able to greet 10 new members, and especially Poland, in the European Union," PAP quoted Schroeder as saying. Schroeder also said there is some room for maneuver on the financial terms of the European Union's enlargement, Polish Radio reported on 6 November. Schroeder declined to comment on recent speculation in German media that Poland will contribute more to the EU coffers than it will receive during the first year of EU membership. JM

CZECH PREMIER TRIES TO PERSUADE COALITION PARTNER ON BUDGET
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on 5 November met with the parliamentary group of the junior coalition Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) to secure its support for the government-drafted budget bill, CTK reported. US-DEU deputy Hana Marvanova provoked a cabinet crisis in September when she refused to back a tax package. An addendum to the coalition agreement was subsequently signed, stipulating that all members of the ruling coalition must support the 2003 budget. Under that agreement, if the US-DEU fails to enlist all its deputies' support, it must leave the coalition but cannot support a measure of no confidence. After the talks, Spidla said only, "The budget is a complicated thing," according to CTK. US-DEU parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Karel Kuehnl told CTK, "Everything speaks in favor of a successful conclusion" to the talks. Marvanova declined to comment. Also on 5 November, the Chamber of Deputies' Budget Committee approved a resolution calling on deputies to vote in favor of the government-proposed budget. MS

BRITAIN RETURNS MORE ASYLUM SEEKERS TO CZECH REPUBLIC
Another group of 53 unsuccessful applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom was returned to the Czech Republic on 5 November, CTK reported. The group was sent back on a specially chartered airplane. This was the sixth deportation of (mostly Romany) asylum seekers to the Czech Republic from the United Kingdom, bringing the total to 174. MS

REPORT CLAIMS CZECH SOLDIERS SUFFERING UPON RETURN FROM AFGHANISTAN
Soldiers who have returned from service with the Czech field hospital in Afghanistan are suffering from "war syndrome," CTK reported on 5 November, citing TV Nova. According to the report, the soldiers suffer from illnesses resulting from their exposure to various diseases while in Kabul as well as psychological effects that have led to relationship problems. The Czech contingent will operate until the end of this year, after which only 20 Czech medical staffers will continue to work at a planned international field hospital, CTK reported. AT

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE SAYS BENES DECREES ARE NO OBSTACLE TO ENLARGEMENT...
The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on 5 November approved a draft resolution calling on the European Parliament to set the date of the organization's enlargement for early 2004. The draft, which faces a parliamentary vote on 19 November, stipulates that the Benes Decrees are not an obstacle to admitting the Czech Republic into the union, CTK reported. At the same time, the draft mentions the Czech-German declaration of 1997, emphasizing that, in its spirit, a political gesture expressing regret for the suffering caused by the Benes Decrees to expelled Germans would be desirable. EU rapporteur for the Czech Republic Juergen Schroeder told CTK that, if the measure is approved by the European Parliament, the issue of the Benes Decrees will have been exhausted. The draft also calls on Prague to submit by December a clear and binding plan on resolving Romany minority issues within a decade. It also said the Czech Republic must fulfill all its obligations assumed in the agreement with Austria on the Temelin nuclear power plant, continue the struggle against corruption, and strengthen local administration. MS

...AND OUTLINES SLOVAKIA'S TASKS AHEAD
In its draft resolution approved on 5 November (see above), the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee said Slovakia must intensify the struggle against corruption and pass antidiscrimination laws aimed at improving the situation of the country's Romany minority, TASR reported. The committee identified a gap between "declared policies and their implementation" insofar as the Romany minority is concerned and called on the government to assume, ahead of completing accession talks, obligations on how it intends to address the Romany minority's situation by the end of this decade. The committee also said it expects Slovakia to fulfill its obligation to shut down the first nuclear-reactor bloc at the Jaslovske Bohunice plant. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT PONDERS HIS POLITICAL FUTURE
President Rudolf Schuster said on 5 November that if he decides to run for a second term in 2004, he will do so as a politically independent candidate, TASR reported. Schuster said party backing is less important in presidential elections than in parliamentary ones. He was speaking during a visit to the offices of the daily "Narodna obroda." Schuster, 68, said health considerations might affect his decision on whether to run, but age considerations will not. "Look around the world: Italian President [Carlo Azeglio] Ciampi is not a bad president, despite being the same age as Pope John Paul II," he said. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER CONCLUDES BRIEF FRENCH VISIT...
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on 5 November told his visiting Hungarian counterpart Peter Medgyessy that France "will make an effort to support Hungarians" in their bid to join the EU, Hungarian media reported. Raffarin also reportedly described bilateral relations as "excellent." For his part, Medgyessy asked the French government to agree to certain Hungarian demands, including that new member states have access to additional EU subsidies. According to Medgyessy, French President Jacques Chirac gave him "promising signals" regarding EU competition law, agricultural subsidies, and the number of Hungarian deputies in the European Parliament. MSZ

...BEFORE DEPARTING FOR U.S.
Medgyessy on 6 November was expected to leave Paris for New York, where he is scheduled to meet Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Hungarian-born New York Governor George Pataki, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 5 November. Medgyessy also will meet President Bush in Washington on 8 November and will confer with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. During his U.S. visit, Medgyessy will present his hosts with several military offers, the daily reported. First, he plans to assure his hosts that Hungary will help establish a European rapid-reaction corps. Second, he will confirm Hungary's readiness to establish a health unit for NATO. It is unclear what message Medgyessy will deliver regarding the delicate issue of Hungary's possible contribution to NATO operations in Afghanistan, which would require parliamentary approval. MSZ

HUNGARY TO SEND MILITARY POLICE TO AFGHANISTAN?
Germany has requested that a Hungarian platoon of 25-40 military-police officers take part in peacekeeping operations as part of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Defense Ministry Spokesman Peter Matyuc told Hungarian MTI news agency on 5 November. Matyuc said the Hungarian unit would not take part in combat operations, as it has not been trained for mountain combat. The unit would comprise volunteers, and the costs would be borne by Germany. In parliamentary interpellation, FIDESZ defense expert Istvan Simicsko asked Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs what offers he made regarding Hungary's role in Afghanistan or Iraq during his U.S. visit in July that would induce "the top man in the world's leading power to allow a communist secret policeman to get close to him?" "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Simicsko was alluding to Medgyessy's counterintelligence activities under the communist regime. Kovacs replied by saying he "did not have to make any offer in order to start a new chapter in U.S.-Hungarian bilateral relations." He said no decision has been reached on a possible war against Iraq but added that Hungary will not send forces to that region in any event, as it does not have sufficiently well-trained troops. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS SOCIALIST DEPUTY'S IMMUNITY
Parliament on 5 November suspended the immunity from prosecution of Budapest's 18th District Mayor and Socialist parliamentary deputy Laszlo Mester, Budapest dailies reported. He is accused of document forgery and attempting to gain unfair economic advantage. MSZ

COUNCIL OF EUROPE BARS YUGOSLAVIA FROM EARLY MEMBERSHIP...
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said in Belgrade on 5 November that his country will not be invited to join the Council of Europe this week as had been hoped, dpa reported. May 2003 is the next possible date for discussions about Belgrade's possible membership in the council. Svilanovic said the main reason for the council's move is the failure of Serbia and Montenegro to agree on a new Constitutional Charter to redefine their relationship as a loose confederation. He added that Belgrade's poor relations with the international war crimes tribunal based in The Hague and the issue of Yugoslav arms exports to Iraq might compound Yugoslavia's problems with the council in coming months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002). Svilanovic said his country's international standing now is worse than it was one year ago, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe specializes in promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. It is widely seen as a first step to further integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. PM

...AS BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY DELIVERS A WARNING...
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade on 6 November that Yugoslavia must stop arms sales to Iraq and cooperate with the war crimes tribunal or lose Western support, AP reported. The previous day, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said he wants assurances from Straw that the scandal over illegal arms sales will not affect Serbia's weapons trade with countries not under sanctions. It is not clear what Straw told him. In related news, the Yugoslav government appointed Stevan Nikcevic director general of the Yugoimport-SDPR firm that has been at the center of the arms-export scandal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He is currently deputy interior minister. PM

...AND HAGUE PROSECUTOR SAYS SHE IS 'FED UP'
Carla Del Ponte, the war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, told the German weekly "Stern" that she has "finally had enough of waiting" for the arrest and extradition of former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic and Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, AP reported from Belgrade on 6 November. Del Ponte added: "Mladic is in Serbia, I have evidence of that. In July, I gave the responsible authority -- the Interior Ministry in Belgrade -- exact information on where Mladic would be at a particular point. But nothing happened." Del Ponte noted, "There is no movement either on other people who have been indicted and are in Serbia and Montenegro." She added: "I cannot get it into my head that NATO, the most powerful military alliance in the world," is unable to apprehend Karadzic. PM

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT CHANGES ELECTION LAW
Legislators from the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition and Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) passed legislation on 5 November on the rules governing elections for the Serbian presidency, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. A turnout of 50 percent of all registered voters will still be required for the first round of a presidential ballot to be valid, but a second round will be decided by a simple majority of those casting their ballots. Parliament speaker Natasa Micic announced a new presidential election for 8 December. Kostunica is widely expected to run, but so far only Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj has announced his candidacy. Reuters reported that the DSS and DOS have also agreed to cooperate in negotiations with Montenegro over the Constitutional Charter. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT ELECTS OUTGOING PRIME MINISTER AS SPEAKER
The legislature voted in Podgorica on 5 November to elect outgoing Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic its new speaker, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002). President Milo Djukanovic said his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has not decided on a candidate for the 22 December presidential vote. Predrag Bulatovic, who heads the opposition Socialist People's Party (SNP), hailed the DPS's recent decision to make Djukanovic prime minister, adding that the move makes it clear that power will now rest with the government and not with the president. The "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" wrote on 6 November that Djukanovic has strengthened his position by moving to the prime minister's job. PM

KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER WARNS OF INDEPENDENCE DRIVE IF NEW BELGRADE CONSTITUTION APPROVED
Speaking at a donors' conference in Brussels on 5 November, Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said the inclusion of Kosova as a province of Serbia in the preamble to the draft Constitutional Charter between Serbia and Montenegro is unacceptable to Kosova's ethnic Albanian majority, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002). He told a news conference: "We do believe the [EU] will not accept this kind of preamble. If accepted,... we will probably go to parliament to make a declaration about independence." Michael Steiner, who heads the UN's civilian mission in Kosova, said he is "confident the EU shares the view that whatever is written in the draft does not affect the future of Kosovo, which in the end will be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations." In Prishtina, Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova told UN human rights envoy Jose Cutilheiro that recognizing the independence of Kosova will help calm the situation in the region, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Many observers have stressed that the biggest source of instability in the region is the failure to clarify Kosova's status (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 February 2001). PM

PROMINENT KOSOVAR LAWYER KILLED
An unidentified gunman ambushed and killed human rights lawyer Ibish Hoti as he was walking home in Peja on 4 November, AP reported. He was an associate at a Belgrade-based human rights group, the Humanitarian Law Center led by Natasa Kandic. Kandic told the news agency: "Initial police reports have indicated Hoti's death was not politically motivated but a criminal murder." Police have declined to provide any details on the case. PM

MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR ARMS-COLLECTION OPERATION
Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said on 5 November in Skopje that an operation to collect illegal arms will be among the new government's major tasks, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Emerging from a meeting with French Chief of the General Staff Henri Bentegeat, Buckovski said the large number of illegal arms in circulation threatens security not only in Macedonia but in the whole region. "If [NATO's] operation Essential Harvest was the symbolic start of the peace process, then we will enter a period of additional stabilization of our country with an arms-collection operation that will be carried out by the Interior Ministry, with the assistance of the army and the OSCE," Buckovski said. UB

EU GIVES CROATIA THE BRUSH-OFF
Jacques Wunnenburger, who heads the European Commission's mission to Croatia, said in Zagreb on 5 November, "Although the [Croatian] government intends to apply for the full membership next year, our advice is that Croatia should be cautious, because the EU is not ready for new rounds of enlargement," dpa reported. He stressed that a major stumbling block is the government's reluctance to extradite former General Janko Bobetko to The Hague, where he is wanted for war crimes: "Croatia says that it cooperates [with the tribunal], but the impression is that it's doing it only because of the international pressure, which means that the country has not adopted European standards" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002). PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL WANTS TO INTERVIEW THREE MORE CROATS
Prime Minister Ivica Racan discussed the Bobetko case with opposition-party leaders in Zagreb on 5 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He noted that the case has already caused unspecified damage to the Croatian economy. Racan added that the government has received a request from the tribunal to make three individuals available for interviews regarding their possible involvement in war crimes. Two names are secret, but the third is former Admiral Davor Domazet, who headed the military's intelligence service from 1991 to 1997. Domazet told reporters he is surprised by the request because foreign intelligence chiefs are "by law not allowed to testify before the court in The Hague," dpa reported. He added that he will nonetheless "respond" to the call for an interview. PM

FORMER BOSNIAN LEADER UNDERGOES HEART SURGERY
Alija Izetbegovic underwent an operation in Ljubljana to implant a pacemaker on 6 November, dpa reported. The former political prisoner has a long history of heart problems. PM

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WARNS OF ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT'S PRESSURE ON MEDIA
New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on 5 November that the Socialist-led government of Prime Minister Fatos Nano has recently harassed some media that have published articles critical of him. HRW called on the EU to take such issues into consideration in launching association talks with Tirana (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 November 2002). The statement referred specifically to recent pressure on the daily "Koha Jone." The NGO noted, "Inspectors have seized possession of all financial documentation of the 'Koha' media group -- which includes two dailies, one television station, and one radio station -- making it difficult for the group to conduct everyday transactions." Such inspections usually take place in the spring. PM

TENSIONS RISE IN ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The National Standing Bureau of the Democratic Party said on 5 November that the position taken by one of its members, Bogdan Niculescu-Duvaz, toward the party's decision to rule out any alliance with the ruling Social Democratic Party is non-statutory, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Niculescu-Duvaz, a veteran Democratic Party leader, criticized that decision one day earlier. He also announced he is withdrawing from the party's Standing Bureau but will not resign from the party. Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu responded that all members must respect the decisions of the party's leading bodies and that Niculescu-Duvaz should be "consistent with himself" and leave the party altogether. MS

CZECH BUSINESSMAN GETS PRISON TERM IN ROMANIA
Czech businessman Frantisek Priplata was sentenced on 5 November to six years in prison for his involvement in the September 2000 assassination of a Romanian trade-union leader, Mediafax and CTK reported. Virgil Sahleanu, who had claimed the privatization of the Iasi-based Tepro manufacturing company was fraudulent, died from stab wounds he suffered in a 7 September 2000 attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). Priplata and Tepro General Director Victor Balan were found guilty of being the "spiritual fathers" of the murder, as the Satu Mare tribunal wrote in its verdict. Balan was sentenced to six years in prison and the man who was found guilty of carrying out the assassination was sentenced to 23 years' imprisonment. Other prison sentences handed down to those involved in the murder ranged from 3 1/2 to 21 years in jail. Priplata said he will appeal. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION REJECTS RESTRICTING PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY
On 5 November, the parliament's ad hoc commission for modifying the constitution rejected the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists' (PCM) initiative to restrict the parliamentary immunity of the legislature's members, Infotag reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002). However, the commission approved the PCM-backed amendment that would introduce a three-layer hierarchy in the courts of justice, replacing the current four-level hierarchy. MS

PPCD THREATENS TO RESUME PROTESTS IN MOLDOVA
The Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) announced on 5 November that it is prepared to resume the street protests that were conducted earlier this year if the authorities continue to distribute "History of Moldova" textbooks at schools, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. PPCD Deputy Chairman Stefan Secareanu said the distribution of the textbook infringes on the moratorium stipulated in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's April recommendations. He also said the PPCD will appeal to the Council of Europe's two rapporteurs for Moldova if distribution is not stopped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2002). MS

MOLDOVAN JOURNALIST CALLS ON PROSECUTOR-GENERAL TO INITIATE PROCEEDINGS AGAINST ILLEGAL DETENTION
Sergiu Afanasiu, editor in chief of the weekly "Accente," sent a letter to the Prosecutor-General's Office on 5 November demanding that criminal proceedings be launched against those responsible for his detention and the confiscation of the weekly's archives last month, Infotag reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 16, and 25 October 2002). Afanasiu said that if the office refuses to heed his demand he will appeal to "international justice." MS

MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL SAYS JOINING EEC DEPENDS ON UKRAINE
Andrei Neguta, chairman of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission, on 5 November said Moldova wants to join the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC) but doing so depends on Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. Neguta, who was in Dushanbe for an EEC Interparliamentary Assembly meeting, said: "Moldova is interested in integration with the Eurasian EC, because this would open for us broad prospects of cooperation with our main economic partners -- Russia and other CIS members. Our country, however, can join the EEC only after we have a common border with it, which only Ukraine can secure [by also joining that organization]." He added that Ukraine, like Moldova, has the status of an observer in the EEC, and its failure to attend the Dushanbe meeting "astonished" participants. MS

TRANSDNIESTER 'RETALIATES' ON MOLDOVAN GOODS
The government of the self-proclaimed Transdniester Republic announced on 5 November that it has imposed restrictions on the "import" of goods from Moldova in what it said was a retaliatory measure against Chisinau's blockade of the region, ITAR-TASS reported. Separatist leader Igor Smirnov signed a decree on "retaliation against Moldova in the field of foreign trade." The decree imposes a 20 percent import tax on Moldovan goods. MS

GERMAN CHANCELLOR PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BULGARIA'S NATO, EU BIDS
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told visiting President Georgi Parvanov in Berlin on 5 November that Germany will support Bulgaria's efforts to join NATO and the EU, according to the chancellor's official website (http://www.bundeskanzler.de). Schroeder lauded excellent bilateral relations and said Bulgaria's expectations of receiving an invitation to join NATO at the alliance's 21-22 Prague summit are justified, as the country is "a factor of stability in the region and in Europe," AFP reported. Parvanov asked Schroeder for more direct German investment in Bulgaria and the two discussed the participation of German companies in infrastructure projects such as the construction of a second bridge spanning the Danube River between Romania and Bulgaria. UB

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN DEMANDS THAT PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S IMMUNITY BE LIFTED
Edvin Sugarev, a prominent member of the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), told a press conference on 5 November that he has sent an open letter to the president, the prime minister, and to the leaders of all parliamentary factions demanding that Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev's immunity from prosecution be lifted, "Dnevnik" reported. In the letter, Sugarev accused Filchev of using his office to exert pressure on those who do not share his views. Justice Minister Anton Stankov announced the same day that Sugarev's letter will be discussed in the Supreme Judicial Council. While Filchev refused to comment on the letter, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office claimed that Sugarev is being used by criminal circles to discredit Filchev. UB

PUTIN AND HUMAN RIGHTS: TENACIOUSLY MUDDLING THROUGH
Once President Vladimir Putin has made up his mind about something, he tenaciously pursues his goal despite all obstacles. That is a characteristic of the Russian president's that has become very apparent over the last few years, and for better or for worse it has reshaped the country's human rights landscape.

One of the major goals of Putin's first term has been to reform the way Russia is governed. He wanted to recreate a "vertical line of power," claiming that effective government of Russia was otherwise impossible. Once elected, Putin vigorously pursued these reforms and was probably more successful than anyone had thought possible. He created the seven federal districts run by handpicked appointees, reined in the governors and the Federation Council, and established effective control over the previously rebellious State Duma. Inevitably, this recentralization process has raised questions: Are Putin's endeavors a legitimate effort to make the country governable or an attempt on the model of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to subordinate everyone and everything to one person?

Advocates of each point of view can cite developments that seem to confirm their positions. Putin supporters say reform of the political system was necessary for the government effectively to push through desperately needed reforms in many spheres. They remind us of the spectacularly unproductive Yeltsin era when key legislation was stalled for years on end. They say that while Putin's reforms have given him the power to push through this legislation, he does not have -- or aspire to -- the kind of complete control that Lukashenka has in Belarus.

The president's critics support their charge of "creeping authoritarianism" by referring to blatant Kremlin interference in one regional election after another as evidence that the Kremlin is trying to install its henchmen throughout the country. And they have a point. For example, the presidential elections in Ingushetia this spring, which the pro-Kremlin candidate won despite trailing heavily in the polls right before the election, had little in common with democracy.

Putin's opponents also cite developments in the media. The scandals involving the national television channels NTV and TV-6 aroused strong suspicions, as did the return of the NTV/TV-6 team to the airwaves. Supporters say these conflicts were "just business" or that Putin merely pushed the "destructive oligarchs" Boris Berezovskii and Vladimir Gusinskii out of the political arena. After all, hasn't Putin stated on numerous occasions that press freedom is a key to healthy democracy? It is hard to know which side is right. Russian television still provides some sort of plurality of views, although access to independent information for most Russians has certainly become more limited over the last two years.

For many of Russia's decaying state institutions, Putin's determination to push through change could be a long-awaited blessing. Russia inherited numerous large and ineffective institutions from the Soviet Union: an immense prison system, vast numbers of rundown orphanages, armed forces engaged in violent hazing, a massive and corrupt police force, an ineffective and corrupt judiciary, and others. When the Soviet Union collapsed, each of these institutions was already in desperate need of structural reforms, but former President Boris Yeltsin was largely unable to accomplish anything, while the economic crisis of the 1990s severely exacerbated the problems. The most talented and experienced personnel left state institutions en masse for the more lucrative private sector, while those remaining became increasingly corrupt and cynical.

With Putin in power, many now long-overdue reforms seem possible. For example, over the last two years, the legislature and the president have cooperated to pass a number of crucial reforms to the judiciary and the criminal-justice system. The new Criminal Procedure Code, which came into force in July, is a momentous break from Soviet-style criminal proceedings and allows for cautious optimism that criminal trials will soon correspond more closely to international fair-trial standards. Over the past few years, the government has also managed to reduce the prison population, somewhat relieving overcrowding in pretrial detention. However, reforms in other state institutions -- most notably, the armed forces -- have not gotten off the ground, and the government has barely even begun discussing some others, such as the country's orphanages.

Unfortunately, Putin's tenacious nature has had profound and tragic consequences for Chechnya. The war there has now entered its fourth year and shows no sign of ending. While almost all outside observers and many Russian ones have held for years that the military approach cannot succeed there, Putin apparently refuses to even entertain the thought of changing policies.

Meanwhile, Russian troops continue to commit war crimes against the civilian population in Chechnya, having summarily executed hundreds and "disappeared" many more. To most observers, the 23-26 October hostage crisis in Moscow served as a reminder that pretending the war in Chechnya is over, as Putin has been doing for almost two years now, has not made it go away. Yet it appears that Putin has not learned that lesson. He has instructed Russian forcers to crack down even harder in upcoming weeks.

Human rights developments under Putin are a mixed bag, and it is hard to predict what the situation will look like two years from now. However, Putin's risky decision to pursue a pro-Western foreign policy sets limits to the restrictions on human rights he can impose, if indeed he wants to. Of course, the West's response to the war in Chechnya has shown these boundaries are relative and not particularly restrictive. However, although Putin can likely get away with the disappearance and killing of hundreds of Chechen civilians each year, the West will adopt firmer positions on less complicated and politically sensitive issues such as freedom of the press, freedom of conscience, and the death penalty. Putin certainly understands that political reality.

Diederik Lohman is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. The views expressed in this article are his own.

AFGHAN JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS WARLORDS IMPEDING RULE OF LAW
According to Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan Justice Minister Abdul Rahim Karimi, government laws are enforced "in different parts of the country, except in places where warlords are still in power," the Voice of America (VOA) reported on 4 November. Karimi said that "a judge cannot make a fair decision" in areas controlled by the warlords. The VOA report contends that, despite the formation of a Constitutional Commission and a Judicial Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 November 2002), in "much of Afghanistan, the rule of the gun continues to prevail over the rule of law." Beyond the lawlessness, the debate on the impact Shariat (Islamic jurisprudence) is having on new laws is creating problems for the Afghan Justice Ministry, Karimi explained. According to Karimi, Islamists want to see a legal system drawn solely from Shariat, but the government intends for no more than 20 percent of the new legal code to be based on Islamic jurisprudence -- emphasizing "moderate Islam" -- and the rest derived from the "international community's experience." AT

AFGHAN CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION MEMBERS LISTED
"RFE/RL Newsline" has obtained the names of the members of Afghanistan's nine-member Constitutional Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2002). The nine-member commission is headed by Nematullah Shahrani, one of President Hamid Karzai's four deputies, and has two female members. Members include: Abdul Salam Azimi, Sayed Qasim Fazili, Musa Ashhari, Musa Marufi, Mukarama, Asifa Kakar, Sarwar Danish, and Rahim Sherzoy. AT

AFGHAN PAPER LAUDS PRESS FREEDOMS, DECRIES FINANCIAL WOES
Calling press freedoms an inseparable part of Afghanistan's move toward democratization, Kabul's Dari-language daily "Anis" commented on 28 October that the freedoms the Afghan media currently enjoy resulted from years of struggle by the Afghan people and the media sector should be supported as it grows. Praising the fact that media in Afghanistan are free from state censorship, the paper pointed to the fact that many newspapers and magazines that emerged on the scene following the formation of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan were unable to succeed because of financial problems, according to "Anis." AT

GERMAN SPECIAL FORCES TASKED WITH DEFENDING KABUL AGAINST MISSILE ATTACKS...
German special-forces units recently moved into hidden positions south of Kabul to protect strategic sites from missile attacks, ddp news agency reported on 5 November. According to the report, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) is particularly concerned about a possible attack on Kabul airport, which serves as a supply center for the international force. The situation has been assessed by a German special-forces officer as "critical," according to ddp. AT

...AS AFGHAN SECURITY SEIZES ROCKETS AIMED AT KABUL
Two armed rocket launchers have been seized in the Kabul suburbs, Bakhtar news agency reported on 5 November. The launchers were reportedly positioned for an attack on residential areas in Kabul. AT

AFGHANS HALT RIVER FLOW TO IRAN
Afghanistan has halted the flow of the Hirmand (Helmand) River into Iran, according to a 6 November report in "Iran," the official Islamic Republic News Agency daily. The river's water resumed flowing to Iran on 25 October, but even then there were official complaints about inadequate supplies (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 November 2002). "Iran," as cited by IRNA, reported that Kabul agreed to release 1,000 hours of water flow, but turned off the tap after just 240 hours. An "informed source" from Iran's drought-stricken Sistan va Baluchistan Province, into which the waters would flow, explained that the water cutoff was connected with the autumn harvest season in Afghanistan's Helmand and Nimruz provinces, and the source speculated that the flow might resume in two months. A 1973 Tehran-Kabul agreement establishes how much Hirmand River water should reach Iran. BS

TEHRAN ACCUSES ISRAEL OF MILITARISM
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi said on 5 November that Israel is exploiting the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States to encourage militarism within the international community, IRNA reported. Assefi added that Israel is encouraging militarism because its survival is based on military confrontation and regional conflict. "While regional countries call for settlement of crises through peaceful means, the Zionist regime calls for escalation of war and violence. That's why the Islamic Republic of Iran regards Israel as the source of tension and conflict in the Middle East." Assefi was reacting to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's 5 November interview with "The Times" of London, in which he said that because Tehran is a "center of world terror," it should be put under pressure "the day after" action against Baghdad ends. Sharon said Iran is trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. BS

DAMASCUS, TEHRAN DISCUSS INTIFADA
The speaker of the Syrian People's Assembly, Abd-al-Qadir Qaddurah, on 5 November received a letter from his Iranian counterpart, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, in which the Iranian legislature condemned "Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people" and reiterated Iran's support for "the Palestinian people and the brave intifada," Syria's official SANA news agency reported. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said in a 5 November interview with "The Times" of London that Tehran sponsors Lebanese Hizballah, which, Sharon claimed, now is equipped with 10,000 short-range missiles. In a 30 October interview with Milan's "Corriere della Sera," Sharon predicted, "If the United States were to attack Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the Hizballah would swing into action in support of Baghdad, creating dangerous decoys." BS

STRAW DEFENDS U.K.'S APPROACH TO IRAN
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in a 5 November interview with BBC radio said he "profoundly" disagrees with Prime Minister Sharon about Iran. Straw acknowledged Iranian hostility to Israel but said Iran is "a nation in a state of transition." Straw explained that Iran's elected government is trying to assert control over the rest of the state, "including the armed forces and the security apparatus, which at the moment are effectively controlled by the religious authority under the leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, rather than President [Mohammad] Khatami." Therefore, Straw said, making threats against Iran will accomplish less than "the process and strategy of constructed and critical engagement that we're involved in." BS

PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDED ELECTION-LAW OUTLINE
The Iranian legislature on 6 November approved the general principles of a bill amending the election law, according to IRNA. The legislation would effectively eliminate the Guardians Council's function of "approbatory supervision" of elections, through which it vets candidates for elected office. The parliamentary vote was scheduled to take place on 5 November, but due to an extensive debate, the voting was postponed for a day. Some parliamentarians said the changes would facilitate the democratic process, IRNA reported on 5 November, while others countered that the changes could permit opponents of the Islamic republic system to enter parliament. Tehran parliamentarian Elahe Kulyai said the amendments would increase public participation and prevent right-wingers from influencing elections. Hamedan parliamentarian Hamid Reza Haji-Babai said the amendments run counter to six articles of the constitution. BS

EXECUTIVE BRANCH DEFENDS LEGISLATION
Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said on 6 November that President Khatami is determined to defend legislation that would amend the election law and strengthen presidential powers, IRNA reported. Musavi-Lari said the Guardians Council will approve the legislation if it examines it realistically. "I do not see any reason why these bills should be rejected," he said. "There is no reason why these bills should be rejected by the Guardians Council," said Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad-Ali Abtahi on 6 November, according to the Iranian Students News Agency. Abtahi did not reject the possibility of changes to the legislative proposals, saying, "The spirit of the two bills has to be safeguarded, but we are not insisting that the phrasing of the bills must remain exactly as it is." BS

OPPOSITION SAYS IRAQ STORING CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL SUBSTANCES...
According to "Al-Watan" on 5 November, Iraq has built an above-ground, "fake water network" in Madinet Al-Thawra (Revolution City). Bayan Jabr, a representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told the Saudi daily that "information leaked out that this network is one that is designated for the storage of chemical and biological substances in the event that the relevant Iraqi government agencies reach a decision along with UNMOVIC and the Security Council that leads to the international inspectors entering Iraq and engaging in their work." The article also detailed Iraqi opposition reports on Republican Guard troop movements, including in the area of Al-Ramadi, reportedly in anticipation of a U.S.-led assault from the west. KR

...AS OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS HE IS READY TO COOPERATE WITH 'ANYBODY'
In Tehran on 5 November, Abd-al-Aziz Baqir al-Hakim, brother of SCIRI leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, told Tokyo's NHK Television, "Our goal is to bring about a change in the Iraqi regime, and we are ready to cooperate with anybody" -- including the United States -- to achieve that goal. Hakim stipulated however, that he would not accept a foreign state's attempts to occupy Iraq or to control the Iraqi opposition in any way, NHK reported. KR

JORDAN BANS IRAQI MEN FROM ENTERING COUNTRY
The Jordanian weekly "Al-Sabil" reported on 6 November that the Jordanian government instructed its border posts several weeks ago to deny entry to Iraqi men under the age of 45. "Informed diplomatic sources," told "Al-Sabil" that the Jordanian government did not give any justification for the decision. The weekly also noted that the Jordanian government also recently began a "search and investigation" campaign to check the residency permits of Iraqis now residing in Jordan. KR

PUK LEADER DENIES MEETING IRANIAN OFFICIALS...
Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani spoke with several news agencies during his tour of neighboring countries this week. Talabani said his visits to Turkey, Iran, and Syria had a "common point," adding, "We are trying to reassure these countries that we are Iraqis and are keen on preserving Iraqi national unity, and oppose partition of Iraq," the PUK newspaper "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 31 October. It was speculated that Talabani would meet with Iranian officials to discuss the elimination of the Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam), an extremist Kurdish group allegedly linked with Al-Qaeda (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report" 1 November 2002). But Talabani told Abu Dhabi TV, "My visit to Teheran is private.... But I will take the opportunity to meet His Excellency Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim [head of the Teheran-based Iraqi opposition group SCIRI] and some Iraqi brothers. I have not met any Iranian official," "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 31 October. KR

...BUT LATER SAYS IRAN WILL HELP FIGHT ISLAMIC MILITANTS
Talabani told "The New York Times" of 6 November that Iran has promised the PUK military assistance in ousting Islamic militants from northern Iraq. Speaking from Damascus, Talabani said he has not informed the U.S. administration of the plan, adding, "We are planning to do it with the support from our brothers in Iran to clean the area of this terrorist group." Islamic militants attacked a PUK checkpoint outside Halabja on 5 November, leaving two Kurds dead, and two wounded, the daily reported. The Islamic militants in northern Iraq reportedly include Arabs who came from Afghanistan and Kurds belonging to Ansar al-Islam. Talabani also told "Al-Watan" that it is "feasible" for the Iraqi opposition to achieve regime change in Iraq without the assistance of outside forces, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 31 October. KR

INTERPARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION VISITS IRAQ
Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has received an interparliamentary delegation from Europe, the Iraqi news agency INA's website reported on 5 November. The delegation included representatives from the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, and Ukraine. According to INA, Finnish delegate Bakko Lakkso, speaking on behalf of the delegation, expressed the group's solidarity with Iraq and its rejection of the "military aggression" of the United States. Lakkso reportedly also told Aziz that the U.S. goal is to sideline the UN and replace it with NATO. KR

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