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Newsline - July 3, 2003


PROSECUTORS DETAIN YUKOS CO-OWNER FOR QUESTIONING ON EMBEZZLEMENT...
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 2 July announced that it is questioning billionaire Platon Lebedev, chairman of the board of directors of Menatep and chief financial strategist for oil giant Yukos, Russian media reported. Lebedev, who is also a major Yukos shareholder and whose net worth was estimated by "Forbes" magazine in March at $1 billion, has been detained without charge for 48 hours and is being questioned in connection with the alleged embezzlement in 1994 of $283 million from a Murmansk-based state-owned company called Apapit, RBK reported. A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office said the questioning of Lebedev was initiated by a request from Duma Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship Committee Deputy Chairman Vladimir Yudin (Russian Regions), who alleged that a Duma probe found that Lebedev misappropriated 20 percent of Apapit's shares, newsru.com and gazeta.ru reported. Lebedev was invited to join Menatep in 1989 by oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovskii, who founded Menatep a year earlier and who is currently the head of Yukos. The prosecutors' spokesman also said that police several days ago arrested Aleksei Pichugin, a senior member of the Yukos security force, on suspicion that he organized the murders of two unspecified people in an unspecified region of Russia. The Prosecutor-General's Office has also opened a criminal investigation into charges of embezzlement against Ramil Burganov, the general director of Eastern Oil Company, a Yukos subsidiary. Police are searching for Burganov. VY

...BUT EXPERTS SEE YUKOS HEAD AS THE REAL TARGET...
Many analysts see the events at Yukos as an attack against Yukos CEO Khodorkovskii, who was listed by "Forbes" in March as the richest person in Russia, with a net worth estimated at $8 billion, and who has made no secret of his political ambitions. In an article released before the latest announcements from the Prosecutor-General's Office, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 27, wrote that unspecified hard-line elements within the security services were determined to initiate a campaign against Khodorkovskii's empire during Putin's recent trip to the United Kingdom. The article drew a parallel to the launching of a campaign against former oligarch Vladimir Gusinskii in 2000 while Putin was on visit to Spain. The weekly hinted that Khodorkovskii was able to head off that assault at the last moment, but analysts believe he was only buying time. VY

...BECAUSE OF HIS GROWING POLITICAL AMBITIONS
Newsru.com on 2 July commented that Platon Lebedev, who is 46, is believed to be "the chief financial specialist of the Khodorkovskii empire," and Menatep is the empire's main financial arm. Khodorkovskii said on 2 July that the events "look similar to the actions of the groups of security officers who were arrested for corruption and blackmailing small businesses," newsru.com reported. Ekho Moskvy reported on 3 July that Khodorkovskii has provided considerable financial support for the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko, helping these parties to compete against the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party in regional races. The radio station commented that Lebedev's detention is "the third warning" for Khodorkovskii. VY

YABLOKO DEPUTY, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST DIES UNDER MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES
State Duma Deputy and journalist Yurii Shchekochikhin (Yabloko) died under mysterious circumstances in Moscow on the night of 2-3 July, Russian media reported on 3 July. According to gazeta.ru, the official cause of death was "an acute allergic reaction," although the cause of the reaction is unknown. Shchekochikhin, who was 53 and was first deputy editor of "Novaya gazeta," was renown for decades for his investigative journalism, particularly for reports on corruption in the Moscow municipal administration, the Defense Ministry, the Prosecutor-General's Office, and the Russian military forces in Chechnya. He was an outspoken opponent of the government's military operation in Chechnya. According to "Novaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Dmitrii Muratov, Shchekochikhin recently returned from a trip to Ryazan, where he was investigating customs-duties fraud. Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) called for an inquiry into the death, Ekho Moskvy reported. "It is essential that an independent and authoritative commission of medical and other professionals be created to answer the question of what caused this death, this strange, sudden illness," Lukin said. RC

PROSECUTORS FILE INDICTMENTS IN CASE OF ALLEGEDLY CORRUPT POLICE...
Prosecutors on 2 July filed indictments against Lieutenant General Vladimir Ganeev and six other senior law enforcement officials who were arrested on 23 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003), Russian media reported. Ganeev, who is the head of security at the Emergency Situations Ministry, faces charges of organizing a criminal group, abuse of office, and illegally trafficking in precious stones, and faces a possible prison term of up to 20 years. According to his lawyer, Ganeev maintains his innocence and is not cooperating with the investigation. He is demanding that his case be transferred to the Military Prosecutor's Office in order to minimize publicity. Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said that he has doubts that Ganeev is guilty. "Only the courts can decide this," Shoigu added, according to ORT on 2 July. Prosecutors also brought charges against the other six officers involved: Yevgenii Taratorkin, Yurii Samolkin, Igor Ostrovskii, Aleksandr Breshchanov, Vadim Vladimirov, and Nikolai Demin. The six all face seven-count indictments on charges ranging from ordering murders to extortion and fabricating evidence in criminal cases. They face a maximum sentence of life in prison. VY

...AND IN CASE OF DUMA DEPUTY'S KILLING
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 2 July also filed an indictment against Mikhail Kodanev, the co-chairman of the Liberal Russia splinter group that supports self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, and his aide, Aleksandr Vinnik, in connection with the 17 April killing of Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov, lenta.ru and other Russian media reported. Kodanev's lawyer, Yurii Khavronin, said that Kodanev, who is being held in Lefortovo prison in Moscow, maintains his innocence and is not cooperating with the investigation, newsru.com reported on 2 July. Viktor Kurochkin, another official with Kodanev's branch of Liberal Russia, said that Vinnik admitted while under the influence of unknown drugs that were given to him by investigators to killing Yushenkov, gazeta.ru reported on 2 July. Kurochkin added that investigators are looking into economic and criminal motives for Yushenkov's killing, while he believes that it is clearly a political murder. VY

DEPUTY DUMA SPEAKER OUTLINES PLAN FOR MERGING FEDERATION SUBJECTS
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on 2 July, Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii repeated his longstanding proposal to reduce the number of constituent subjects of the Russian Federation from 89 to 15, each of which would have a population of about 10 million people, strana.ru reported. He proposed accomplishing this by dividing the existing seven federal districts into two parts, each of which would be headed by a governor appointed by the president. Zhirinovskii also repeated his calls for abolishing the Federation Council and creating a unicameral parliament. He said that making these changes would save the country up to 10 percent of its current budget expenditures. For more than a decade, Zhirinovskii has advocated such reforms, including abolishing the so-called ethnic republics, such as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. In 1999, Zhirinovskii proposed dividing the country into seven large regions, a proposal that was partially realized by President Putin a year later. VY

PUTIN EXTENDS GREETINGS TO BUSH ON INDEPENDENCE DAY
President Putin spoke by telephone on 2 July with U.S. President George W. Bush, polit.ru and RIA-Novosti reported. The presidents discussed a wide range of bilateral and international issues ranging from trade relations to combating international terrorism. They also discussed practical measures to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the agenda of the U.S.-Russia summit to be held in September. Putin also took the opportunity to convey his best wishes on the occasion of the 4th of July holiday in the United States. VY

TRAIN PASSENGERS EXPERIENCE A FEW HITCHES DURING TRAVEL TO KALININGRAD...
More than 80 Russian citizens were taken off trains heading for Kaliningrad within the first 30 hours after new rules requiring Russians traveling to Kaliningrad through Lithuania to have transit documents took effect on 1 July, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 July. All of the passengers, except one who was reportedly inebriated, were subsequently allowed to transit through Lithuania. According to ORT, Lithuanian border officials said the main problem is with Russian passengers coming from regions other than Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kaliningrad, who are not aware of the new rules. On 2 July, President Putin urged Railways Minister Gennadii Fadaev to redouble his efforts to ensure that Russian citizens can travel to Kaliningrad freely. Fadaev responded by issuing instructions that railway cashiers should not sell tickets to Kaliningrad unless they are sure that the passenger has the necessary transit documents. According to REN-TV, the transit documents have been given the nickname of "rogozinki," after Duma Deputy and presidential envoy on Kaliningrad issues Dmitrii Rogozin. JAC

...AS KALININGRAD ENVOY TO GIVE UP POST
Rogozin, who is also chairman of the Duma's Foreign Relations Committee, intends to resign as President Putin's envoy for Kaliningrad issues, RosBalt reported on 2 July, citing the committee's press office. Also on 2 July, Rogozin told Interfax that he is going to participate in an election coalition for the 7 December State Duma elections comprising "new political forces" featuring politicians with a "patriotic orientation." JAC

JUSTICE MINISTRY DECLINES TO REPRIMAND PRO-KREMLIN PARTY
The Justice Ministry has decided that it has no grounds to issue a warning to Unified Russia over the activities of its leader, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Radio Rossii reported on 2 July, citing Justice Ministry public-relations department head Boris Kalyagin. A group of State Duma deputies had charged that Gryzlov is violating a law that prohibits senior government officials from engaging in political-party activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). According to RosBalt, the ministry ruled that Gryzlov is a supporter of the party, but not a member. Therefore, he is not in violation of the law. JAC

ST. PETERSBURG RACE GETS MORE CROWDED
The campaign for the St. Petersburg governor's seat officially began on 2 July, as two more politicians declared their intention to run in the 21 September race, Russian media reported. Former Lipetsk Oblast Governor Gennadii Kuptsov and two deputies from St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly -- Aleksandr Gabitov and Aleksei Timofeev -- have declared that they will start gathering signatures in support of their candidacies for governor, RosBalt and RIA-Novosti reported. Kuptsov's bid to regain the governor's seat in Lipetsk last year failed. Legislative Assembly Chairman Vadim Tyulpanov told RosBalt that he thinks there will be some "serious candidates" in the race, since people who are not well known would hardly have a chance at the seat because the election is being held so soon. Last month, President Putin endorsed the candidacy of presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District Valentina Matvienko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). JAC

ZHIGULI BECOMES HOT COMMODITY IN FAR EASTERN PORT CITY
Around 1,000 drivers in the Primorskii Krai port of Nakhodka blocked federal highways on 2 July to protest mandatory car insurance and an increase in the duty paid on imported second-hand automobiles, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). A resolution increasing that duty by 30 percent-40 percent will come into effect later this month and will cost purchasers of used foreign cars $1,000-$3,000 more, on average. In addition to blocking traffic, the protestors set a first-generation Zhiguli on fire. According to NTV, traffic in the city was brought to a virtual halt for several hours. Nakhodka gets one-third of its revenues from the sale of used foreign cars, and if the market collapses, then thousands of people will lose their jobs, ORT reported. According to the station, similar protests are planned for the Far Eastern cities of Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. JAC

SOUTHERN MAYOR AND PRIVATE NEWSPAPERS DECLARE WAR...
Representatives of the opposition newspapers "Chastnaya lavochka" and "Znamya kommuny" in Novocherkassk held a press conference on 30 June in neighboring Rostov-na-Donu to complain about their treatment by Novocherkassk Mayor Anatolii Volkov, regions.ru reported on 2 July. They were joined at the conference by representatives of the local human rights organization Interra. During his 2 1/2 years in office, Volkov has reportedly held just one press conference for all local media, and that was during his first month in office. City officials give information only to the municipally controlled newspaper "Novocherkasskii vedomosti" and to a municipally controlled television channel. On 17 June, Volkov allegedly told deputies in the city legislature that city newspapers are taking bribes, and that legal proceedings should be initiated to punish them. "We have been silent for two years, but now we will not remain silent and will continue to file lawsuits against local newspapers," Volkov reportedly told the lawmakers. JAC

...AS THE BATTLE MOVES TO THE COURTS
Mayor Volkov noted that "Chastnaya lavochka" has been fined 65,000 rubles ($2,100), and that damages of 200,000 rubles are being sought from another paper. Local analysts believe that one factor contributing to the steadily worsening relations between the private newspapers and the mayor is that Volkov plans to participate in the 7 December State Duma elections and has begun a "purge," the website reported. JAC

ARMENIAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR KILLED
Karen Mkrtchian, dean of the Russian Language Department at Yerevan State University, was shot dead on a street in downtown Yerevan on 2 July, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The killer reportedly escaped in a car with foreign license plates. The son of a famous literary critic, Mkrtchian, who was 43, was characterized by colleagues as a peaceable and polite man with no connections to either politics or business. Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian expressed outrage at the killing. LF

ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ANNULS ELECTION RETURNS IN ANOTHER CONSTITUENCY
In response to an appeal by opposition politician Shavarsh Kocharian (Artarutiun bloc), the Constitutional Court invalidated the outcome of the 25 May parliamentary election in another Yerevan constituency, Noyan Tapan reported on 2 July. Kocharian had appealed the official results, according to which independent candidate Vladimir Badalian received the greatest number of votes. Badalian will therefore be deprived of his deputy's mandate and a repeat election held. LF

ARMENIA REGISTERS DOUBLE-DIGIT ECONOMIC GROWTH
The Armenian economy grew by 13.3 percent during the first six months of 2003, compared with the target figure on 8.6 percent, Noyan Tapan reported on 2 July, quoting statistics announced at a meeting of the Central Bank Board with the heads of commercial banks. The higher-than-anticipated growth was attributed primarily to growth rates of 43.3 percent in the construction sector and 21 percent in industry. At 6.8 percent, the inflation rate was more than double the target figure of 3.3 percent. LF

KARABAKH CLAIMS TO HAVE REPULSED AZERBAIJANI OFFENSIVE
The armed forces of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) repulsed an attempt on 28 June by Azerbaijani troops to break through the Line of Contact at an unspecified location, Noyan Tapan reported on 2 July quoting an NKR Defense Ministry press release. The Karabakh forces did not incur casualties. Turan reported on 2 July that an Azerbaijani lieutenant was killed when Armenian forces opened fire in the early morning on 28 June in the vicinity of Garakhanbeyli in Fizuli Raion. Two days earlier, an Azerbaijani serviceman was reported to have been killed in an exchange of fire in the same location late on the evening of 28 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2003). LF

FORMER PARLIAMENT SPEAKER BARRED FROM CONTESTING AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT...
Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission on 2 July confirmed two more presidential candidates, Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) Chairman Etibar Mamedov and former Liberal Party leader Lala Shovket Gadjieva, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. But five other registration applications were rejected. Former parliament speaker and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR) Chairman Rasul Guliev, who left Azerbaijan in 1996 after a major disagreement with President Heidar Aliev, was refused registration on the grounds that he is a U.S. permanent resident and thus barred from leaving the United States for longer than one year, and that his registration documents were incomplete. Also rejected were the applications of former Interior Minister Iskander Hamidov, who was sentenced the previous day to 11 years' imprisonment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003); National Statehood Party Chairman Neimat Panakhly; National Democratic Party candidate Elshad Musaev, who was refused on the grounds that his party has not been officially registered by the Justice Ministry; and independent candidate Zakir Tagiev, refused on the grounds that he has a conviction for hooliganism. LF

...AND VOWS TO PROTEST DECISION
In an interview with Turan on 2 July, ADR Chairman Guliev condemned the CEC ruling as "the beginning of the process of falsifying the outcome of the presidential ballot," which is scheduled for 15 October. He said he will urge the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Parliament, and the UN to step up their pressure on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure that the election is free and fair. He also said that his ADR will continue to stage protest demonstrations to demand that he be allowed to participate in the ballot. Guliev said he will return to Azerbaijan from the United States, but did not say when. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENT
The nine opposition parties aligned in the Opposition Coordinating Center (MKM) signed an agreement in Baku on 2 July pledging to refrain from negative campaigning against one another for the duration of the presidential-election campaign and to form a joint commission for monitoring the ballot, Turan reported. The nine parties in question are the ADR, AMIP, the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, the People's Party, and the Taraggi, Adalet, Musavat, Civic Unity, and Civic Solidarity parties. LF

PARLIAMENT BACKS SOUTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT
Eduard Kokoyty, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, admitted in an address to parliament on 2 July that shooting took place in Tskhinvali, the unrecognized republic's capital, the previous day, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). Kokoyty said that former Defense Minister Valerii Tedeev and former State Security Minister Robert Taboev had engaged in criminal activities, as, he claimed, had Security Council Secretary Albert Tedeev, who has fled Tskhinvali. Kokoyty fired all three men the previous day. "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 July that an unspecified number of people were killed and wounded during the exchange of fire in Tskhinvali between Interior Ministry and State Security Ministry troops. Kokoyty also pledged that he has no intention of doing anything that would exacerbate relations with the Georgian leadership. Georgian State Security Minister Valerii Khaburzania and Major General Svyatoslav Nabdzorov, commander of the Russian peacekeeping force in South Ossetia, both assessed the situation in the region on 2 July as calm, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. LF

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES HIS MEN SELL EQUIPMENT TO ABKHAZ
Caucasus Press on 2 July quoted Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze as denying that Georgian servicemen have sold to servicemen of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia military equipment supplied by the United States within the framework of the "Train and Equip" program. Abkhaz Defense Minister Raul Khadjimba claimed in an interview published on 1 July in "Vremya novostei" that Georgian troops had sold his men "NATO equipment." On 3 July, the independent newspaper "Akhali taoba" reported that a drunken Tevzadze had confronted Finance Minister Mirian Gogiashvili in the latter's office to demand that the Finance Ministry release funds allocated for the armed forces. The confrontation reportedly degenerated into a fistfight. Caucasus Press reported on 23 June that during the first five months of this year, the Defense Ministry received 12 million laris ($5.69 million) less than was allocated. LF

KAZAKH SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO REVIEW OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S CASE
Kazakhstan's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by the lawyer of former Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov requesting it to review an oblast court's conviction of her client on charges of abuse of office, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 2 July, quoting defense lawyer Yelena Rebenchuk. The lower court sentenced Zhaqiyanov to seven years' imprisonment in 2002 for alleged abuse of office during his term as governor. However, the Kazakh opposition believes the charges were politically motivated, because Zhaqiyanov is a co-founder of the opposition coalition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK). Unlike fellow DVK co-founder Mukhtar Ablyazov, who asked President Nursultan Nazarbaev for pardon after spending about one year in jail on similar charges, Zhaqiyanov has refused to ask for pardon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2003) and has asked his lawyers to take his case to an international court, where he intends to sue the Kazakh government for allowing an illegitimate case to be brought against him, according to Rebenchuk. The lawyer added that Zhaqiyanov has contracted tuberculosis in prison. BB

PLIGHT OF REFUGEES IN KAZAKHSTAN DESCRIBED
There are about 2,350 Afghan refugees presently living in Kazakhstan, along with some 12,000 refugees from Chechnya, more than 4,000 from Tajikistan, and an unspecified number of Uighurs from China, gazeta.kz reported on 3 July. Most of them have been recognized as refugees by the UNHCR office in Kazakhstan, but not by the government, although Kazakhstan acceded to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol in February 1999. The UNHCR has concluded an agreement with the Kazakh authorities under which Chechen refugees are admitted into Kazakhstan as long as the situation in Chechnya remains unstable. Persons recognized as refugees by the UNHCR obtain certificates of their status from that agency. However, according to the article, some Kazakh authorities are refusing to register refugees as residents, which means that they cannot work legally or send their children to school. Identity documents provided to the Chechens by the Russian Embassy in Kazakhstan are not being accepted either. A protection officer in the UNHCR office in Kazakhstan was quoted as saying that authorities in some parts of the country, including Almaty, are trying to force the Chechens to leave. The article reports that the attitude of the general population to all refugees is "cool" -- neither friendly nor antagonistic. BB

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL CHARGES THAT IMU HAS RECEIVED $400,000 FROM INTERNATIONAL TERRORISTS
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has received $400,000 so far this year from international terrorist organizations to carry out "diversionary actions" in the Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service Deputy Chairman Tokon Mamytov told journalists on 2 July, according to Interfax. He was quoted as saying that the IMU intends to send armed militants into Central Asia to engage in terrorist activities. He added that security officials have learned that the IMU is trying to establish ties with the banned Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir and has already joined with Uighur separatists and other Central Asian terrorists to form a united Islamic Movement of Turkestan. Mamytov added that the security services of the Central Asian states are attempting to identify the sources of IMU funding. BB

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION GROUP REFUSES DIALOGUE WITH AUTHORITIES
The Kyrgyz opposition movement For the Resignation of [President Askar] Akaev, For Reforms for the People has announced that it will not participate in a forum organized by the authorities to promote partnership between the government and civil society, or in a roundtable organized by the nongovernmental Foundation for the Development of Democracy, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 2 July. Parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov, leader of the movement, told journalists that the group is more interested in studying ways to force Akaev's resignation than in dialogue with the authorities. A number of representatives of nongovernmental organizations are devising a set of principles for partnership between the government and civil society that are to be presented at the roundtable scheduled for 12 July. BB

TAJIKISTAN RESUMES FLIGHTS TO CHINA
Tajikistan's national airline has resumed flights to Urumqi, China, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 2 July, quoting Tajik Transport Ministry Aviation Department head Firuz Hamroev. Flights from Tajikistan to China were suspended on 28 April as a measure to prevent the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). According to Hamroev, the first Tajik flight to Urumqi took place on 28 June. The 2 July flight to Urumqi was reported by ITAR-TASS to have been full of the first group of shuttle traders -- people who travel abroad to purchase consumer goods to sell in small shops and markets back home -- able to travel to China for six weeks. BB

TAJIK SLAVES DISCOVERED IN RUSSIAN PROVINCE
A group of some 50 Tajik women who had gone to Russia in search of work was found in a knitwear factory in Russia's Saratov Oblast where they were working without receiving wages, the newspaper "Tribuna" reported on 2 July, quoting the Saratov Oblast ombudsman. The factory's owners had taken away the women's passports and were housing them in an unfinished building in what Ombudsman Aleksandr Lando described as "horrible, inhumane conditions." The Tajiks had been recruited in Saratov and promised wages of 12,000 rubles ($387) a month. However, they have received nothing for the six months they worked in the factory. When local police learned what was going on, they fined both the factory owners and the Tajik workers, according to the report. It was unclear how oblast human rights officials became involved in the case. BB

RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER PROMISES TO HELP RUSSIANS IN TURKMENISTAN
Russian Human Rights Omsbudsmen Oleg Mironov has met with Russian citizens from Turkmenistan to discuss the situation in that country after Turkmen authorities unilaterally revoked dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship as of 22 June, Interfax reported on 2 July, quoting a statement from Mironov's press service. According to the report, Mironov promised to help after hearing that Russians who had retained their Russian citizenship and who wanted to move to Russia were being forced to sell their homes in Turkmenistan for such low prices that it was impossible for them to buy homes in Russia. Mironov's interlocutors reportedly said that psychological and physical pressure is being exerted on Russian citizens to leave Turkmenistan. BB

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT MAKES MILITARY, JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 2 July appointed Stanislau Smolski to command the country's land forces, Anatol Sahakyants as first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, and Alyaksandr Anisimau as chief of the Main Intelligence Office and deputy chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces, Belapan reported. The president also appointed Alyaksandr Fedartsou as a judge and deputy chairman of the Supreme Court. JM

...AND SETS UP GROUP TO DRAFT NEW VERSION OF UNION CONSTITUTION
Following his meeting with Chamber of Representatives speaker Vadzim Papou and Constitutional Court Chairman Ryhor Vasilevich on 2 July, Lukashenka ordered the creation of a working group to prepare a new draft Constitutional Act of the Russia-Belarus Union, Belapan reported, quoting the presidential press service. The new draft is to be submitted by Minsk to the Russian side in the event that Moscow rejects the version prepared by a joint Belarusian-Russian commission earlier this year; it will be viewed by both sides later this month. Lukashenka requested that the new document be drafted by September and subsequently published in the media. "This should be our well-considered point of view regarding the future of the Belarus-Russia Union," Lukashenka said. JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET WANTS $200 MILLION LOAN TO BUY GRAIN
Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov requested on 3 July that the Verkhovna Rada allow the cabinet to borrow $200 million abroad for replenishing state grain reserves, Interfax reported. "The current situation on external financial markets is extremely favorable," Azarov told lawmakers. "We could borrow $200 million at a 7 percent interest rate for 10 years and purchase grain for the state reserves for this sum. We would have the store [of grain] that the state needs to control such serious situations [as now]." Ukraine has seen a consumer run on grain products and considerable hikes in food prices in recent weeks, reportedly in anticipation of a poor harvest this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July and 27 and 30 June 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS MAY NOT BE ARRESTED WITHOUT PARLIAMENTARY CONSENT
The Ukrainian Constitutional Court ruled on 3 July that law-enforcement bodies may arrest or detain a parliamentary deputy in criminal or administrative proceedings only with the express permission of the Verkhovna Rada, Interfax reported. The ruling came in response to requests from a group of deputies and the Interior Ministry for judicial guidance regarding some provisions of the constitution and a law on parliamentary immunity. JM

GUUAM TO LAUNCH TWO-DAY SUMMIT IN CRIMEA
Delegations from Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova (GUUAM) were gathering on 3 July for a two-day GUUAM summit in Yalta, Crimea, that was set to open later in the day, Interfax reported. Only two presidents, Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma and Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze, are expected to attend. Azerbaijan will be represented by Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Uzbekistan by former Foreign Minister and presidential adviser Abdulaziz Komilov. Ukraine has also invited delegations from 19 other countries, including the United States, Russia, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Hungary, and Bulgaria. GUUAM representatives plan to discuss creating a free-trade zone and endorse a number of agreements, including on customs, trade, and transport. JM

NATO ADMIRAL COMMENDS ESTONIAN DEFENSE PLANS
NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral Rainer Feist paid a fact-finding visit to Estonia on 1 and 2 July, BNS reported. He held talks with Estonian armed forces commander Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts and other high-ranking military officers. After being informed about the Estonian defense forces' development plan for the period up to 2010, Feist said: "Congratulations, your aims have been sensibly picked and coincide with what we are doing in NATO." He said Estonia could contribute to NATO with small, specialized units in the fields of logistics, communications, and special services. Before traveling to Vilnius, Feist also met with Defense Ministry Chancellor Indrek Kannik and Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor Tiina Intelmann. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT SAYS SUSPENSION OF MILITARY AID WILL NOT HARM RELATIONS WITH U.S.
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Einars Repse said on 2 July that the United States' 1 July decision to suspend military aid to Latvia will not harm bilateral relations, LETA reported. The Baltic states were not among the 22 countries that received waivers sparing them from sanctions the United States on 1 July imposed on 35 countries that failed to ratify bilateral extradition-immunity agreements with the United States pertaining to the extradition of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). Vike-Freiberga and Repse said the issue must be resolved by the United States and the EU, and that in the meantime Latvia will continue to side with the EU's position. Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis said the country has prepared for the U.S. action and will receive at least 85 percent of the $7.2 million worth of U.S. military aid slated for Latvia this year. SG

LITHUANIA APPROVES REVISIONS TO AGREEMENTS ON MAZEIKIAI OIL MANAGEMENT
The government approved on 2 July revisions to its agreement with Mazeikiai Oil that will enable the company to save approximately 200 million litas ($66.7 million) per year, BNS reported. The revisions will take effect the day of their signing, which is scheduled for 8 July. The Russian oil company Yukos agreed to revise the agreement when it purchased the shares of Mazeikiai Oil from the U.S. company Williams International last fall. Economy Minister Petras Cesna said the government agreed to cut the interest rate on the loans it granted to Mazeikiai Oil from 10 percent to 8 percent this year and to 7 percent beginning next March. Yukos agreed to give up the premium of 15 percent of all operating expenses for managing the company. Mazeikiai Oil posted a loss of 114.3 million litas last year when calculated with the U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). SG

POLES BEGIN THEIR 'BIGGEST MILITARY OPERATION SINCE WWII'
An advance group of 250 Polish troops left for Iraq on 2 July to pave the way for the deployment of a 9,000-strong international division in the Polish-administered stabilization sector in Iraq, Polish media reported. The group, which included division commander General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, was seen off by Premier Leszek Miller, Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski, and Chief of General Staff Czeslaw Piatas. "The Polish forces are beginning their biggest military operation since the end of World War II," Miller said. JM

POLAND HAS NEW AGRICULTURE MINISTER
President Aleksander Kwasniewski appointed 29-year-old Andrzej Olejniczak, hitherto an undersecretary in the Agriculture Ministry, to the post of agricultural minister on 2 July, Polish media reported. Premier Miller designated Olejniczak to replace Adam Tanski, who resigned last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). Olejniczak is facing the uphill task of setting up a system for managing EU farm subsidies before Poland's EU accession in May 2004. JM

POLAND'S SILESIANS TAKE THEIR CASE TO EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg heard an appeal on 2 July by representatives of the Union of People of Silesian Nationality in connection with Polish authorities' refusal to register the group, PAP reported. A verdict is several months away, however. "The chances of a positive outcome are still 50 percent, but I am prepared for any verdict," the Silesian Autonomy Movement's Jerzy Gorzelik told the news agency. Polish authorities object both to the name of the organization and to some provisions in the union's statute that characterize Silesians as an ethnic minority. More than 170,000 people declared Silesian ethnicity in a national census in 2002 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 June 2003). JM

MEETING IN PRAGUE, IOC ANNOUNCES VENUE FOR 2010 WINTER GAMES
An International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Prague voted by a three-vote margin on 2 July to grant the 2010 Winter Olympics to Vancouver, Canada, local and international media reported. The Canadian bid prevailed in the second round of voting, defeating rival bids from Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Salzburg, Austria. Czech media have highlighted the cast of world leaders and high-profile visitors that the IOC summit has attracted to Prague. The daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 3 July reported that Prague Mayor Pavel Bem was preparing to announce his city's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. However, Czech Olympic Committee head Milan Jirasek was quoted the same day by "Hospodarske noviny" as saying a Czech decision on whether to bid to host future Olympics won't come until next spring. AH

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES CONTENTIOUS ABORTION AMENDMENT...
Opposition deputies joined forces with the junior governing Alliance of a New Citizen (ANO) party on 2 July to approve an amendment that would ease abortion restrictions in specific cases, TASR and CTK reported. Seventy of the 132 lawmakers present backed the bill, while 32 opposed it, 11 abstained, and 19 deputies did not participate in the vote. The amendment extends the permissible period for an abortion in cases when the fetus has genetic defects from the 12th to the 24th week of pregnancy. It was proposed by the ANO party despite vehement opposition from within the four-party coalition government. President Rudolf Schuster will study the bill thoroughly before deciding whether to sign it into law, TASR quoted his spokesman as saying. The president has 15 days to act on legislation under Slovak law. Overriding a presidential veto would require at least 76 votes in the 150-seat chamber. AH

...PROMPTING A 'GOVERNMENT CRISIS'...
The coalition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) has called for a meeting of the Coalition Council on 3 July to discuss the passage of the abortion amendment on 2 July, TASR reported. A KDH spokeswoman said the Coalition Council will address what that party believes is a breach of the coalition agreement by the ANO party in initiating and pushing the bill through. KDH Chairman and parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky said the vote has sparked a "government crisis," TASR reported. ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko countered that if the country is dragged into a government crisis, it will be on the basis of a KDH decision, not ANO's actions. AH

...AND RAISING THE IRE OF CATHOLICS
Slovak Bishops Conference head Frantisek Tondra expressed his disappointment on 3 July with the legislature's approval of the abortion amendment, adding that it is "a betrayal of voters' faith," TASR reported. Tondra called it a challenge to the electorate to "vote more responsibly in the future." He said that church leaders are exploring whether the excommunication of deputies who backed the measure is appropriate, adding, "In my personal opinion, they are excommunicated." Tondra said the vote is an "unpleasant surprise" for Pope John Paul II, who is expected to visit Slovakia in September. Slovakia is roughly 60 percent Roman Catholic. AH

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS HUNGARY
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and his visiting Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov agreed in Budapest on 2 July that their respective countries should bring their bilateral treaties into line with EU legislation and simplify visa procedures, "Nepszabadsag" reported. In a presumed reference to recently expressed fears concerning Gazprom efforts to buy into the Hungarian oil and gas sector, Ivanov said he hopes issues around the participation of Russian companies in Hungarian privatization can be resolved. Ivanov added that Russian-Hungarian relations returned to normal in May 2002 after four years of stagnation. Ivanov said Russia respects the decisions of Central European countries in general, and Hungary in particular, to join NATO and the EU, adding that such steps "will not necessarily harm bilateral relations." He said the return of Hungarian art treasures taken to Russia during World War II will take time, as the matter needs to be resolved in accordance with Russian laws and Hungarian expectations. For his part, Kovacs said Hungary welcomes Russian investors and wants to boost both economic and cultural relations. MSZ

BUDAPEST CONFERENCE SETS UP INTERNATIONAL GROUP FOR ADVANCEMENT OF ROMA
Officials from nine East-Central European countries participating in an international conference on Romany issues in Budapest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2003) formed a working team at the prime-ministerial level to coordinate efforts to end discrimination against Roma in the next decade, Hungarian dailies reported on 2 July. World Bank President James Wolfensohn announced that an education fund for European Roma has been established with support from the EU. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told the conference that Hungary's EU accession is the most effective means for ensuring that Hungarian Roma join the majority in a new Hungary, Hungarian television reported. MSZ

CROATIAN PRESIDENT HINTS AT INTRODUCTION OF 'POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION'
Speaking at an international conference on minority integration in Southeast Europe and the Baltics in Zagreb on 2 July, Croatian President Stipe Mesic proposed introducing a system of "positive discrimination" for ethnic minorities, Hina reported. "Members of minorities enjoy absolutely the same rights as the [ethnic Croatian] majority," Mesic said. "I would take a step further and apply the principle of positive discrimination; however, by all indications, conditions for that have not been created yet." Mesic added that in times of improving regional cooperation, and in light of Croatian efforts toward refugee return, "we rightfully expect the same conduct toward minorities from our neighbors." UB

MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION CALLS ON PRIME MINISTER TO APPEAR BEFORE ITALIAN COURT
Following reports by the Italian news agency Ansa that a court in Naples has issued an arrest warrant for Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic for his alleged involvement in cigarette smuggling, Zoran Zizic of the opposition Socialist People's Party (SNP) on 2 July called on Djukanovic to give evidence in that court process, Tanjug reported. "Djukanovic has so far heroically ignored the charges coming from the other side of the Adriatic Sea, thus allowing the serious and unpleasant information to be a burden for all of Montenegro," Zizic said. "Now is the right moment for him to care for the clearing up of all controversial questions and to offer his services to the prosecutor's offices in Bari and Naples." UB

MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER LAUDS 'GREAT STEP FORWARD' IN NAME DISPUTE...
Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski told MIA news agency on 2 July that he believes signing an extradition-immunity agreement with the United States under the name Macedonia could be a major breakthrough in the country's long-standing name dispute with Greece. Responding to criticism that the country's constitutional name is Republic of Macedonia, Crvenkovski said: "We have never had problems with the term 'republic' regarding the name dispute with Greece,... but the problem was in regard to the term 'Macedonia.'" He cautioned, however, against expecting a quick resolution of the name dispute, saying it will be "a battle that will last." Under Greek pressure, the country was recognized by the UN and other international institutions under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June and 2 July 2003). UB

...AS GREEK GOVERNMENT VOICES CONCERN
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Biglitis has expressed concern that the term Macedonia was used in the Republic of Macedonia's extradition-immunity agreement with the United States, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 2 July. According to Biglitis, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou has contacted U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller and has also written a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in connection with the matter. Biglitis underscored that using the term Macedonia in a bilateral agreement cannot be a "test for the final resolution of the name dispute," which can only be achieved under the auspices of the UN. UB

UNMIK HEAD WELCOMES KOSOVAR DECLARATION ON REFUGEE RETURNS
Michael Steiner, who is the outgoing head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), welcomed a joint declaration on 2 July by Kosovar Albanian leaders, who called on displaced persons from Kosova now living in Serbia and Montenegro or Macedonia to leave behind the past and return to the province, according to a UNMIK press release. The appeal was signed by all non-Serb leaders of Kosova, including President Ibrahim Rugova, parliamentary speaker Nexhat Daci, Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi, as well as Hashim Thaci of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) and Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) Chairman Ramush Haradinaj. "This is just what we need for return," Steiner said. "This appeal is an unprecedented break with the language of the past and a positive step toward building a multiethnic Kosovo for all its residents, on its way to Europe." UB

ALBANIAN POLICE DETAIN SUSPECTS CHARGED WITH 'INCITING HATRED'
Police have detained Gafur Adili and three other suspected members of the shadowy Albanian National Army (AKSH) on charges of "inciting nationalistic hatred," Reuters reported on 2 July. (Conflicting reports among international media identify the detentions as having taken place variously in Liqenas on 30 June or in Tirana on 1 July.) Adili is believed to be the political leader of the AKSH, which has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Macedonia and southern Serbia. UNMIK head Steiner has labeled the AKSH a "terrorist" organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February, 18 and 23 April, and 9 May 2003). UB

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS TO INCREASE EXPORTS OUTSIDE EU
Speaking to a meeting of the Alliance for the Economic Development of Romania, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana recommended that Romanian businesses focus more on markets outside the European Union, Mediafax reported. Geoana mentioned Russia as a potential target, saying he expects Russian-Romanian relations to improve after the countries sign their basic treaty on 4 July. He also said the Middle East could be a "privileged market" for Romanian goods and services, starting with participation in the reconstruction of Iraq. Geoana added that although the Balkans is considered a "small and complicated" market, Romanian businesses should have better representation in Macedonia, Albania, and Croatia. ZsM

ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST UKRAINIAN INTERDICTIONS
The Convention of Romanian Media Organizations released a press release on 1 July protesting the Ukrainian authorities' recent decision to deny entry to two Romanian journalists. The press release stated that "Ziua" reporter Victor Roncea and "Bucovina Culturala" journalist Ion Beldeanu were recently denied entry to Ukraine without cause and were banned from entering the country for five years. The media organization argued that the measures violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which refers to the right to receive and disseminate information regardless of frontiers. The press release calls for Ukraine's Ambassador to Romania Anton Buteyko to rescind the bans imposed on Roncea and Beldeanu. The Romanian Press Club also protested the treatment of two journalists in a 1 July press release. ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES TWO MINISTERS
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on 1 July dismissed Economy Minister and Deputy Premier Stefan Odagiu's and Education Minister Gheorghe Sima, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Odagiu was dismissed at his own request, according to a presidential office press release, which did not indicate the motivation for the president's decision to release Sima. Voronin also dismissed Security and Protection Service head Vladimir Preguza, Deputy Justice Minister Victor Cretu, and Deputy Culture Minister Sergiu Cuciuc, according to Flux. Since 2001, Voronin has dismissed a total of 12 ministers from Vasile Tarlev's cabinet. ZsM

CHISINAU COURT REJECTS COMMUNIST APPEAL AGAINST LOCAL-ELECTION RESULTS
An appellate court in Chisinau on 2 July confirmed the mandates of Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean and Chisinau Council members following the 8 June local elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The court thus rejected the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) appeal against a recent lower-court ruling to approve the mandates. The PCM protested that the election results in several Chisinau voting districts were invalid due to fraud. Incumbent Mayor Urechean defeated PCM candidate Vasile Zgardan in the elections. ZsM

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW ELECTION LAW IN ITS FIRST READING
With a broad majority of 160-1 and 14 abstentions, lawmakers from across the political spectrum on 2 July approved the draft election law in its first reading, mediapool.bg reported. The draft law introduces a mixed election system for parliamentary elections, under which half of the 240 lawmakers will be elected by majority vote in their constituencies, while the remaining half will be elected by a system of proportional-representation from a nationwide lists of candidates. The new legislation also lowers the minimum number of inhabitants needed for a municipality to hold mayoral elections from the current 500 to 100 inhabitants. It is expected that a revised version of the draft law will come into effect after the nationwide municipal elections in October. President Georgi Parvanov has already warned that he might veto the bill, as it strips him of his exclusive right to nominate the members of the Central Election Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). UB

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PESSIMISTIC ABOUT U.S. MILITARY AID
Saying that the United States' decision on 1 July to suspend military aid to Bulgaria was expected, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told journalists on 2 July that there is little chance that the United States will change its position, mediapool.bg reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2002). "We had talks with our colleagues in the U.S. and I do not believe that everything is lost, but I think that during the next 10 months chances are slight that we will succeed" in getting the Unites States to revise its decision, Pasi said. Bulgaria is expected to become a full member of NATO in 2004. UB

NEW HEAD NOMINATED FOR BULGARIA'S SUPREME ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
Outgoing Supreme Administrative Court head Vladislav Slavov on 2 July proposed that Constitutional Judge Georgi Markov be chosen as his successor by the 25-member Supreme Judicial Council (VSS), mediapool.bg reported. Media speculate that the surprisingly quick nomination of Markov is due to the draft Judiciary Act that is currently being discussed by a parliamentary working group. The act would change the election procedure. The heads of Bulgaria's supreme courts are elected by a simple majority of VSS members; the draft amendments to the constitution called for under the Judiciary Act envision a three-fourths majority for the election of those judicial officials. The VSS currently reflects the composition of the previous parliament, in which the now-opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) held a majority. UB

CAN UKRAINE'S NEW DEFENSE MINISTER JUMP-START MILITARY REFORM?
The ouster of Ukrainian Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko last week was not unexpected. President Leonid Kuchma had upbraided him several times recently for failing to initiate reforms to modernize the country's huge but inefficient army. Kuchma had also blamed Shkidchenko for what he said was evidence of widespread corruption seen during a surprise visit to Ukrainian military units in Crimea. There also has been speculation that Shkidchenko was removed because his political enemies thought he was too pro-Western.

Kuchma accepted Shkidchenko's resignation and on 25 June appointed the secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, Yevhen Marchuk, as Ukraine's new defense minister.

Leonid Polyakov is the military programs director at the independent Razumkov Center think tank in Kyiv. Polyakov believes Shkidchenko did not have -- or chose not to exercise -- the political skills to defend himself. "General Shkidchenko stood out by his professionalism and decency," Polyakov told RFE/RL. "Therefore, I think that the main reason for the changes is political. I'm not sure about the exact reason for the change, but it seemed inevitable it would happen sooner or later because it was difficult for a military personage like Shkidchenko to remain in the political role of minister of defense. He tried to avoid politics, but the defense minister is a political role and sooner or later he was going to be sacrificed."

Kuchma says Marchuk's tasks are to bring the army under civilian control and to transform Europe's second-largest military force -- after Germany -- into a much smaller and more modern volunteer force. Presently, the Ukrainian Army is made up mainly of poorly motivated and badly paid conscripts. They live in shoddy barracks where they are often bullied and where even proper food is lacking.

Politicians and soldiers agree the Ukrainian military is grossly under-funded, which has lead to poor training and sloppy standards blamed for a string of fatal accidents in recent years. These accidents include a stray missile that exploded in an apartment block in the capital, and another missile error that destroyed a Russian civilian airliner, killing 78 people. Last year, 80 spectators died when a military plane crashed at an air show in the western city of Lviv.

In contrast to his predecessor, the man now responsible for restoring the military's reputation and introducing radical reforms has proven himself to be -- since Ukraine's independence in 1991 -- one of the country's most ambitious and skilful politicians.

The 62-year-old Marchuk has displayed not only an ability to adapt to different circumstances but extensive political survival skills, as well. Marchuk spent most of his career working for the Soviet secret police, the KGB, which he joined in 1963 after graduating from a pedagogical institute. In 1990, he became first deputy chairman of the KGB in Ukraine. From November 1991 to July 1994, Marchuk worked as the head of the newly formed Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), where he achieved the rank of general.

But the world of politics beckoned in 1994. He served as prime minister from June 1995 to May 1996, when he was fired by Kuchma.

Marchuk ran for president against Kuchma in 1999. On the eve of the first round of elections, he spoke on RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, condemning Kuchma and warning of disaster for Ukraine if Kuchma won. But after Marchuk failed to gain enough votes to proceed into the second round, he switched his support to Kuchma, who was re-elected. Kuchma appointed Marchuk as secretary of the National Defense and Security Council in November 1999.

Polyakov from the Razumkov think tank said that, at first glance, Marchuk's background suits his new job. "Mister Marchuk, General Marchuk, is an experienced and intelligent man. In principle, if other factors didn't intervene, he'd be a good candidate for the post of defense minister," he said.

But Polyakov said Marchuk is not affiliated with any powerful political grouping in parliament and that without political support, he will be unable to get the large financial resources needed to bring about significant reforms in the in the army. Polyakov said this lack of support in parliament may doom Marchuk.

"They [parliament] determine financial questions and enact the relevant legislation, and if there isn't going to be support from parliament, then what happened earlier -- when the president announced reform programs which were not backed by financial resources -- will continue. And if that continues, it will be difficult to introduce any radical changes. There might be some changes that don't require much cash, but it's impossible to build a modern army without big investments," Polyakov said.

But Marchuk is not without political clout. He controls one of Ukraine's largest newspapers, "Den," and is rumored to have influence over many leading politicians because of what he knows about them from intelligence files.

Marchuk has been one of the main proponents of Ukraine's entry into NATO since Kuchma last year announced his country's intention to join the military alliance. Marchuk's appointment has been welcomed by NATO, where he is known as an erudite and well-informed member of Ukraine's political elite. However, Ukraine has not gotten far in its efforts to join NATO, due mainly to Kuchma's battles against allegations of corruption, abuse of human rights and an offer to sell weapons to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Polyakov said other issues also make Ukraine unattractive to NATO at the moment. "It's not just a question of individuals or the issue of selling weapons to Iraq. The problem is that it's impossible to separate the military sphere from the political and economic aspects of entry into NATO because political and economic issues are the most important in this respect. And here [in Ukraine], we have dishonest elections, the abuse of power by officials and problems in the justice and law enforcement systems. So I'd say that although it's a military alliance, when NATO sees how we behave, especially in the military sphere, then there obviously isn't much trust toward such a country," he said.

Marchuk, fluent in English and German, seems at ease when dealing with international issues and has demonstrated that he is realistic about Ukraine's chances of joining NATO. He says it will take at least eight to 10 years and that Ukraine must double the amount it spends on the military before entry can conceivably occur.

Askold Krushelnycky is an RFE/RL correspondent.

FORMER IRAQI SPY BOSS ANNOUNCES PERSONAL HUNT FOR HUSSEIN
The former head of Iraq's Military Intelligence has launched a personal hunt for deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, AFP reported on 1 July. Major General Wafiq al-Samarra'i, who defected in 1994 and joined the Iraqi opposition movement, told reporters on 29 June that he decided to embark on the hunt after an overnight attack on his home by what he identified as Hussein loyalists. "My house was attacked at 1:45 a.m. with an antitank rocket. There was only material damage," al-Samarra'i told reporters in his hometown of Samarra, located 125 kilometers north of Baghdad. Al-Samarra'i was surrounded by a number of local tribal chiefs when he made the announcement. "We have various pieces of information saying [Hussein is] present in the region, even if no one's seen him," Samarra'i said. "I'm leaving today to search for Saddam and his partisans.... We will share information we'll gather with the Americans." Al-Samarra'i is the founder and secretary-general of the National Salvation Movement. According to AFP, he has no military forces under his control except some personal security guards. KR

MORE ATTACKS ON U.S. SOLDIERS LEAVE SEVEN WOUNDED
Seven U.S. soldiers were wounded in two separate attacks on 3 July, Reuters reported. One soldier was wounded when a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) stuck a vehicle he was traveling in on 3 July, Reuters reported. An Iraqi bystander was killed and 11 others wounded in that attack. Iraqi militants reportedly set fire to the soldiers' Humvee after the strike and threw stones and their shoes at the vehicle. Meanwhile, six U.S. soldiers were wounded when an explosion struck their two-vehicle convoy in the Iraqi town of Al-Ramadi, located 100 kilometers west of Baghdad. In other incidents, one U.S. Marine was killed and three others injured during a mine-clearing operation in Karbala on 2 July, according to a press release on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil). An Iraqi fire-department technician assisting the Marines was also injured. CENTCOM also announced that the 30 July explosion in an Al-Fallujah mosque was related to a bomb-manufacturing class that was being taught inside the mosque. Iraqi police are investigating the incident. Twenty-three U.S. troops and six British soldiers have been killed in Iraq since major combat ended in May. KR

OPERATION SIDEWINDER CONTINUES
Soldiers from the U.S. 4th Infantry Division have carried out five raids as part of the coalition's ongoing operations to root out militants in Iraq, according to a CENTCOM press release on 2 July. Three individuals were detained and a number of weapons were confiscated, including 28 hand grenades, three AK-47 assault rifles, five mortar fuses, and one crate of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), according to the release. Some 200 RPGs were also seized during a routine patrol in an unnamed city located 20 kilometers east of Al-Taji. The press release stated that 20 "high-value targeted individuals" have been detained in the operation, which opened nearly one week ago. The targeted individuals are described as former Ba'ath Party leaders and members, former Fedayeen leaders, and a former Military Intelligence officer. Meanwhile, U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters on 2 July that militant attacks against coalition troops will not deter the U.S.-led mission in Iraq, "The Washington Post" reported on 3 July. "There are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us there," Bush said. "My answer is: Bring 'em on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." KR

BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY MEETS WITH COALITION, IRAQI LEADERS IN BAGHDAD
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met with Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer and several Iraqi political leaders in Baghdad on 2 July, international news agencies reported. According to ft.com, Bremer told Straw, the most senior coalition official to visit Baghdad since the fall of the Hussein regime, that the coalition's planning for the postwar period had fallen short. Straw said that the United Kingdom will consider an appeal for more resources to train local police. "Overall, the security situation across Iraq is better than it was two months ago, but there's obviously a long way to go," Straw said. "July is a bad month because it gets hotter and hotter," telegraph.co.uk quoted the foreign minister as saying. "I believe that we will be able to tell next month whether the security situation is going to get worse or better," he added. Straw also visited the U.K.-controlled southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah. His visit to Iraq followed a three-day visit to Tehran, and an unannounced one-day visit to Kandahar, Afghanistan. KR

IRAQI KURDS MARK U.S. INDEPENDENCE DAY
Iraqi Kurdish leaders hosted a music festival in Salah Al-Din on 2 July in celebration of U.S. Independence Day (4 July), Kurdistan Satellite Television reported the same day. Kurdistan Democratic Party head Mas'ud Barzani led the festivities. U.S. Brigadier General David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, and U.S. Ambassador William Eagleton, head of the fact-finding commission on the Arabization policy, also attended. Barzani reportedly called the celebration an eloquent expression of the Kurdish people's stance toward U.S. forces and the American people. He also expressed his gratitude to U.S. forces for their role in liberating the Iraqi people from the Hussein regime. KR

IRANIAN-AZERI IRREDENTIST ARRIVES IN BAKU
Mahmudali Chehragani, an ethnic Azeri from Iran who heads the Southern Azerbaijan National Awareness Movement, arrived in Baku on 2 July, Interfax and Baku's ANS television reported the same day. He said his movement's goals are limited at present, but future generations might take the struggle farther. "We will unite Azerbaijan and live in a modern, developed state," he declared. Chehragani also called for regime change in Iran and warned that his movement will not stand idly by if the regime sheds the blood of its members. Chehragani met with U.S. officials last month in an effort to promote his objectives (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 9 June 2003). Ezatollah Jalali, Iran's deputy ambassador to Azerbaijan, dismissed Chehragani in an interview with ANS. "One cannot be great by speaking arrogantly," Jalali said of Chehragani. "America's teat is sweet as long as it is in your mouth. God knows what will happen after that." BS

IRANIAN PROFESSOR'S PRISON SENTENCE REDUCED
Saleh Nikbakht, the attorney representing political activist and university Professor Hashem Aghajari, said his client's eight-year prison term has been reduced to three years and 11 months, "Iran" newspaper reported on 2 July. In August 2002, the Hamedan Public Court sentenced Aghajari to death, eight years in prison, and banned him from teaching for 10 years for giving what the court determined was a blasphemous speech in June 2002 (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 July and 11 November 2002). After serving time in Hamedan, he was transferred to Tehran (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 June 2003). He is confined at Evin Prison, and his attorney said he visited him on 1 July and that he is in "good physical shape." Although the prison sentence has been cut, according to Nikbakht, the death sentence has not been changed because the preliminary court (in Hamedan) has not yet sent the case to the Supreme Court. BS

FRENCH COURT RELEASES MKO TERRORIST ON BAIL
A Paris court on 3 July released on bail Maryam Rajavi, who served as joint leader of the Iranian opposition Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) in the late 1980s and was nominated as the "president-elect" for a future Iranian government in 1993 by an MKO front known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Reuters reported. The EU, like the United States, has designated the MKO as a terrorist group, and French security forces on 17 June raided MKO facilities in and around Paris and arrested some 165 MKO members (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 23 June 2003). Bail for Rajavi was set at 80,000 euros ($92,350), she must stay at the MKO base at Auvers-sur-Oise, and she cannot leave France. Bail was also set for eight other members of the MKO. BS

IRAN'S 'DAY OF GLOBAL ARROGANCE' TO BECOME DAY OF DIALOGUE
Iran Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution decided at a recent session that the annual commemoration of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy, known as the "Day of Global Arrogance," will from now on be known as the "Day of Dialogue Among Civilizations," the Baztab website reported on 3 July. BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR U.S. TO LET UP...
During a 2 July press conference, President Mohammad Khatami called for the United States to adopt a less aggressive tone toward Iran and suggested that the two sides would be able to communicate under such circumstances, state television reported. "America should change its ways; it should abandon its hostility and nit-picking, its needless pressures and interference,... and it should stop adopting hostile stances against us, against our nation," Khatami said. "We are men of logic and rational dialogue," he added, "but we do not accept force and pressure in any way." As long as Iran is being pressured its politicians are unable to act, according to Khatami. BS

...AND ACCUSES U.S. OF INTERFERENCE IN RECENT UNREST
President Khatami accused U.S. President Bush of inciting the recent unrest in Iran. In response to a reporter's question regarding the street protests in Iran, President Bush said on 18 June that "I appreciate those courageous souls who speak out for freedom in Iran. They need to know America stands squarely by their side. And I would urge the Iranian administration to treat them with the utmost of respect" (http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/summit/text2003/0618bush.htm). Secretary of State Colin Powell on 22 June said: "We encouraged the demonstrations, not as a way of fomenting trouble, but as a way to say that people should be free to speak out. People should be free to express their desires, to express their hopes, to express their concerns. That's what Iranian people are now doing and we encourage that, and that's our policy." Powell went on to say that the United States has no aggressive intentions toward Iran (http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/summit/text2003/0622pwl.htm). Powell went further in a 2 July radio interview, describing Khatami as "freely elected" and adding, "The best thing we can do right now is not get in the middle of this family fight too deeply," Reuters reported. BS

FIGHTING IN AFGHANISTAN'S ZABUL PROVINCE INTENSIFIES...
Zabul Province Governor Hamidullah Tokhi said on 2 July that 700 of his troops are involved in an ongoing battle in Ata Ghar District with about 60 fighters loyal to the ousted Taliban regime, Reuters reported. "The Taliban have no chance, except dying or surrendering," he said, adding that he does not see "any chance" that the Taliban loyalists will surrender. Tokhi said the fighting at Ata Ghar, which was first reported on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003), had been going on for four days as of 2 July. According to Mulla Abdul Rauf, a senior official during the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, Hafiz Abdul Rahim, a senior commander loyal to the ousted regime, is leading the Taliban fighters whose number he estimated at 200, Reuters reported. While Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has stated that the Taliban are no longer a viable force, most Afghan officials in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan have continued to blame the Taliban for recent clashes (for more on the Taliban, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July 2003). AT

...AS A SENIOR TALIBAN COMMANDER, AFGHAN SOLDIERS ARE REPORTED KILLED
The chief of police of Zabul Province, who was not identified, said three Taliban fighters and six soldiers loyal to the Transitional Administration have been killed in the fighting in Ata Ghar District, Reuters reported on 2 July. Hindukosh news agency reported on 2 July that three "government soldiers" were killed, but did not mention any Taliban casualties. Earlier reports said one unidentified Taliban leader was killed, according to the Pakistan-based "Wahdat" on 30 June. "Wahdat" reported that 500 Taliban fighters are participating in the fighting in Zabul Province. AT

KABUL PAPER LAUDS ROLE OF RECONSTRUCTION TEAMS, BRITISH IN AFGHANISTAN
"The Kabul Times" commented on 2 July that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said during his two-day visit to Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 July 2003) that his country will facilitate Afghanistan's efforts to eliminate poppy cultivation and will lead one of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) that are to be established in Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh Province. The paper said these pledges by Britain "add another challenging task" to the United Kingdom's commitment to Afghanistan, adding that that Straw's visit took place at a "time when the need for more security is becoming a growing concern in the country." The commentary recommended that the United Kingdom and the United States "and other friendly countries" expand the PRT initiative to other Afghan cities to help the central administration in Afghanistan maintain security until the Afghan National Army is fully developed. To date there are three U.S.-led PRTs operating in Afghanistan (for more on PRTs, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003). AT

HEAD OF MOSQUE KILLED IN KANDAHAR
Mawlawi Hamdollah, the imam of Nakodak village in Dand District of Kandahar Province, was killed on 2 July, Radio Afghanistan reported. Security officials in Kandahar believe said people near the mosque reported hearing three gunshots at the time of his killing. The officials believe people loyal to the ousted Taliban regime or to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the radical leader of Hizb-e Islami, are responsible for Hamdollah's death. The killing came just a day after a bomb blast injured 23 people at the Abd al-Rabb Akhond mosque in Kandahar city on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). AT

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