Accessibility links

Newsline - July 25, 2003


TERRORIST BOMBS FOUND IN VILLAGE NEAR MOSCOW
Federal Security Service (FSB) bomb-disposal specialists have defused explosive devices found in the garage of a home in the village of Tolstopaltsevo on the outskirts of Moscow, newsru.com reported on 25 July. The devices, which were discovered on the evening of 24 July, were allegedly being stored for future use in attacks in Moscow. Among the devices were at least three explosive belts of the type that have been used by Chechen suicide bombers, including the two female suicide bombers who blew themselves up at a rock festival outside Moscow on 5 July, killing 14 people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2003). On 10 July, another such belt exploded when an FSB bomb-disposal expert tried to defuse it after its owner, whom the FSB later identified as a 22-year-old Chechen woman, threw it on a street outside a restaurant in downtown Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003). JB

PRIME MINISTER AGAIN CRITICIZES MOVES AGAINST YUKOS
Two top government officials on 24 July criticized the ongoing criminal probes by the Prosecutor-Generals' Office into the Yukos oil company and its parent company, Menatep. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the Yukos scandal, which began with the arrest of Menatep board chairman Platon Lebedev in early July, "is not to the advantage of the country's image and is negatively influencing the mood of investors," Interfax reported on 24 July. Kasyanov reiterated his belief that economic-crime suspects should not be kept in jail while their cases are being investigated. Lebedev was denied bail on 23 July and remains in Lefortovo prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). Kasyanov earlier said he considers Lebedev's arrest an "excessive measure" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003). While not referring specifically to Yukos or Menatep, First Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Andrei Sharonov told reporters on 24 July that "law-enforcement structures must not be players on the economic field" and should "protect the constitutional rights of citizens...and nothing more." He called the Prosecutor-General's Office "a double-edged sword," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 July. Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii said in a news conference on 23 July that he fears the company could be subject to more arrests and searches. "The tension is rising," Reuters quoted him as saying. JB

PROSECUTORS SAY DETAINED MENATEP BOARD CHAIRMAN IS NOT AILING...
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 24 July denied reports that Menatep board chairman Lebedev's health has deteriorated while in pretrial detention. A spokeswoman for the office, Natalya Vishnyakova, told Interfax that the investigation of Lebedev, who is accused of embezzling a 20 percent stake in a state-owned fertilizer company back in 1994, "has numerous medical reports saying Lebedev feels well enough to work with investigators" and that Lebedev's lawyers have read these documents. One of Lebedev's lawyers said on 23 July that Lebedev looked unwell and was experiencing constant dizziness (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). Interfax on 24 July quoted an unidentified source as saying that Lebedev did not appear sick or weak and was in fact behaving in an "openly defiant" and disrespectful manner toward investigators. JB

...WHILE YUKOS SECURITY OFFICER IS REPORTEDLY DRUGGED IN PRISON
Tatyana Akimtseva, a lawyer for Aleksei Pichugin, the senior Yukos security officer jailed on double-murder charges, alleged on 24 July that FSB interrogators had put "physical and psychological pressure" on her client, including the use of some type of narcotic. In one case, she said, Pichugin's coffee was apparently spiked, causing him to lose consciousness for a time and making him very ill. In addition, hypodermic needle tracks were found on her client's arm, Akimtseva claimed. Earlier in July, a group of State Duma deputies sent a request to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the FSB, and presidential human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov asking them to investigate complaints by Pichugin's wife and lawyers that police had used psychotropic drugs on Pichugin in jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). JB

BRITISH FINANCIAL WATCHDOG PROBES CHELSEA SALE...
Great Britain's Financial Services Authority (FSA) has announced that it is investigating the ownership of Chelsea Village, the company that owns the Chelsea Football Club, London's "Evening Standard" reported on 24 July. Roman Abramovich, the Chukotka governor and leading tycoon, announced earlier this month that he had bought a 50.09 percent stake in the soccer club (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). Investors who own more than 3 percent of a firm in the United Kingdom are legally required to disclose this fact publicly. The FSA, however, said it has received evidence "that some of this information may have been inaccurate" and that it is "concerned that as a consequence the market may have been misled as to the true ownership of Chelsea Village." However, "there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by any of the parties involved in the takeover," the evening daily reported. JB

...WHILE WEEKLY SUGGESTS ABRAMOVICH IS PACKING HIS BAGS
On 23 July, "Sobesednik," No. 28, reported that Abramovich's relations with the Kremlin have become "very much cooler" of late and that he might be planning to sell off his assets and leave Russia. The weekly cited an article published in another weekly, "Versiya," in March of this year. That article claimed the Prosecutor-General's Office had reactivated its investigation into charges that Abramovich's Swiss-based company, Runicom, had "appropriated" $1.4 billion from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) tranche sent to Russia in 1998. While "Sobesednik" did not confirm that Russian prosecutors had reactivated the probe, it reported that the Swiss authorities are continuing to investigate the alleged diversion of the IMF credit. The weekly also reported that Abramovich owns a 172-hectare estate outside London that was once owned by Jordan's King Hussein, and an apartment in London's exclusive Knightsbridge district. JB

FORMER DEFENSE MINISTRY CFO GETS FIVE YEARS
The Moscow Garrison Military Court on 24 July convicted Colonel General Georgii Oleinik, formerly the Defense Ministry's chief financial officer (CFO), of abuse of office and sentenced him to five years in prison, Interfax reported. Oleinik, who was also stripped of his rank and state awards, was found guilty of selling $54 million in Defense Ministry domestic bonds to Voyenbank for $4.5 million in 1998 and doing so without getting permission from the Central Bank and then-Defense Minster Igor Sergeev. Oleinik intends to appeal the verdict and the court did not accept a $60 million civil claim against him by the Defense Ministry, Interfax reported. Oleinik was convicted and sentenced in 2000 to two years in prison for embezzling $450 million from the Defense Ministry, but he was amnestied last August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 August and 4 October 2002). JB

SOLDIERS' MOTHERS UNDER PRESSURE IN PUTIN'S HOMETOWN...
The St. Petersburg branch of the human rights group Soldiers' Mothers has received a warning from the Justice Ministry, one of RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondents reported on 24 July. According to the warning, the activities of the group qualify as religious and do not correspond to the group's charter, as illustrated by the fact that the group's office has religious posters and icons on its office walls. Soldiers' Mothers co-Chairwoman Yelena Vilenskaya said she believes the warning represents the fulfillment of a political order. At the beginning of the year, the military prosecutor for the Leningrad military district sent a letter to the St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office, asking that it investigate the group's compliance with its charter. As a result, the group now has one month to bring its activities into correspondence with, or change, its charter. Earlier this month, a human rights group in Krasnodar Krai received a similar warning regarding its charter, which specifies that it has three founders while, if fact, it only has one (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 23 July 2004). JAC

...AS ENVIRONMENTALIST IS DENIED PASSPORT
The Lyublino Raion Court in Moscow confirmed on 24 July the legality of a decision by the raion's visa and registration department to deny a passport for foreign travel to former military journalist Grigorii Pasko, Interfax reported. A military court convicted Pasko of treason in December 2001 and sentenced him to four years in prison, but he was released on parole this January for good behavior (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2003). Pasko's conviction stemmed from material he published about the contamination of the Sea of Japan resulting from nuclear waste generated by Russia's Pacific Fleet. Pasko is seeking a foreign-travel passport because has been invited abroad by international NGOs such as Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International. "I think the only problem is my name," Pasko told REN-TV. "If I were a Pupkin, or Ivanov, or Sidorov, I would have been issued this passport." JAC

NEW COMMISSION, DIRECTORATE CREATED TO BATTLE GROWTH OF GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY...
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin will head a new special commission on administrative reforms, "Vremya novostei" reported on 24 July. The daily argued that the commission should be very influential, judging by the priorities allotted to it under the 23 July presidential decree that established it. Among these priorities is abolishing "surplus functions" among the federal ministries and departments. According to Prime Minister Kasyanov, a special directorate for the administrative reforms will also be formed within the government. JAC

...AS DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER REPORTEDLY ON THE RISE
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 24 July that Aleshin also received another new appointment: he has been named chairman of the Export Control Commission. That daily also reported that the pro-Kremlin party Unified Russia is poised to offer Aleshin a membership slot on its ruling Supreme Council. Aleshin was appointed last April to oversee industrial policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003). The analytical website politkom.ru concluded the same day that Aleshin is becoming a "super deputy prime minister" because "such intensely powerful levers" of influence are now in his hands. JAC

NATIONAL ADVERTISING MARKET CONTINUES STEADY RECOVERY...
The size of the advertising market in Russia during the first six months of 2003 was between $1.16 billion-$1.18 billion, which represents a 32 percent increase over the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the Russian Association of Advertising Agencies. Internet advertising experienced the biggest jump -- 75 percent, but television advertising continued to constitute the biggest share with 38 percent of the total market. Before the economic crash of 1998, nearly $2.5 billion a year was being spent on advertising in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002). Advertising in Russian media totaled the ruble equivalent of some $1.5 billion in 2001, up about 43 percent from the previous year. JAC

...BUT BENEFITS SLOW TO TRICKLE DOWN TO REGIONAL MEDIA OUTLETS
The regional advertising market did not experience any growth in the first six months of 2003, according to ITAR-TASS. It remained at its previous level, accounting for a 25 percent share of all media spending. JAC

PROSECUTOR ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR FAR NORTH GOVERNOR
St. Petersburg prosecutor Nikolai Vinnichenko told reporters on 24 July that a federal arrest warrant has been issued for Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov, Russian media reported. Butov is suspected of using violence against a police officer on 11 April, when Butov was in town to attend a meeting of Northwest Federal District governors and President Vladimir Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 2003). According to NTV, a traffic cop stopped Butov's car for trying to drive immediately behind Putin's motorcade. Responding to news of the warrant, Butov announced that he would be ready to meet with the prosecutor on 25 July, Interfax reported. JAC

SEVEN CANDIDATES VIE FOR NOVGOROD GOVERNORSHIP
On 23 July, seven candidates managed to either turn in the necessary signatures or pay the election tax for registration as a candidate in the 7 September gubernatorial race in Novgorod Oblast, RosBalt reported. They are incumbent Governor Mikhail Prusak; Vladimir Dugentsev, director of the Union of Industrialist and Entrepreneurs in St. Petersburg; private entrepreneur and People's Party candidate Nikolai Zakharov; Yurii Danik, director of the Krasnoyarsk-based company Rosa; oblast legislature staffer Olga Yefimova; Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Novgorod branch leader Yurii Yakovlev; and Aleksandr Sevastyanov, co-chairman of the National Power Party. Sevastyanov told a press conference on 21 June that he decided to run because he is concerned about the general conviction that there will not be any real alternative to Prusak on election day, regions.ru reported. JAC

TAJIKS DEPORTED FROM CENTRAL RUSSIA
Twelve citizens from Tajikistan have been expelled from Ryazan Oblast as a result of a joint operation conducted by the department for migration affairs of the oblast's Interior Ministry and the local branch of the FSB, regions.ru reported on 24 July, citing "Ryazanskie vedomosti." According to the newspaper, this is the first such operation in which illegal immigrants have been sent out of the oblast. The Tajiks reportedly received numerous warnings and fines for working and living in the oblast without registration or necessary labor documents. Local police rounded up the immigrants and transferred them by train into the custody of raion-level Interior Ministry officials, who were to verify their expulsion from Russia. Other media accounts from the regions have noted that no federal funds have been earmarked to pay for transportation of illegal immigrants beyond Russia's borders. JAC

CASPIAN LITTORAL STATES HOLD FURTHER ROUND OF TALKS
The 10th round of talks at deputy-foreign-minister level among the five Caspian littoral states (Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan) took place in Moscow on 22-24 July, Russian and Azerbaijani news agencies reported. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and presidential envoy for Caspian issues Viktor Kalyuzhnyi said on the eve of the talks that they would focus on narrowing disagreements over the draft Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian, Turan reported. Following the previous round of talks in mid-May, Kalyuzhnyi said consensus was reached on some 30 percent of that document. Kalyuzhnyi on 24 July played down the other littoral states' rejection of a Russian proposal to introduce a 15-mile (25-kilometer) coastal zone, saying that such disagreements are "normal." He said the next round of talks will take place on 8-9 September in Ashgabat. Interfax quoted Kazakhstan's First Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Abuseitov as predicting that a compromise version of the Russian proposal will be discussed in late 2003 or early 2004. Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov told journalists on 24 July that Baku is happy with the outcome of the talks, and praised what he termed Iran's "constructive" position, Turan reported. LF

CHECHEN BUSINESSMAN SAYS HE WILL RUN FOR PRESIDENT...
Malik Saidullaev, who was elected in 1999 to head a Moscow-based Chechen State Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999), told a 24 July press conference at Interfax headquarters in Moscow that he will travel to Chechnya on 25 July to submit to the Chechen Central Election Commission his application for registration as a candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for 5 October, Russian news agencies reported. Saidullaev, who was born in Chechnya in 1964, said his business associates in the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Russia are prepared to invest between $7 billion-$8 billion in Chechnya. He added that he will also contribute from funds he has set aside "for a rainy day," hinting that his personal fortune exceeds $500 million. Saidullaev said he has cooperated for some time with Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the State Duma, and implied that he might withdraw his candidacy in favor of Aslakhanov or vice versa. Aslakhanov has not yet formally announced whether he will contest the ballot. An opinion poll conducted in Chechnya in late June, the results of which were summarized in "Izvestiya" on 22 July, ranked Saidullaev as the most popular potential presidential candidate with 20.1 percent support, followed by former Russian Supreme Soviet Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov (19.2 percent), Aslakhanov (17.6 percent), and current Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov (12.5 percent). More than 60 percent of respondents said they will vote against Kadyrov. LF

...AS OFFICIAL SAYS INCUMBENT COULD SEEK RE-ELECTION
There are no legal obstacles to Aslan Maskhadov's participation in the 15 October Chechen presidential ballot, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 July quoted Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov as saying. Veshnyakov adduced the article of the Russian Constitution according to which any citizen of the Russian Federation who has attained the age of consent and is not serving a prison sentence is entitled to nominate his candidacy for the post of the leader of any federation subject. Veshnyakov pointed out, however, that Maskhadov has been formally accused of criminal offenses that do not entitle him to amnesty, and that if he wishes to contest the ballot he must hurry, as registration of candidates ends on 1 August. On 23 July, Interfax quoted Akhmar Zavgaev, who represents Chechnya on the Federation Council, as saying that even if Maskhadov registers to contest the presidential ballot, he has no chance of winning. Zavgaev expressed his support for Kadyrov, saying out that none of the Moscow-based Chechen businessmen has done anything to help Chechnya. LF

SENIOR ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS CRITICIZE BROADCASTING COMMISSION HEAD
Parliament deputy speaker Tigran Torosian (Republican Party of Armenia) and parliament Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Armen Rustamian (Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun, or HHD) both took issue on 24 July with remarks made the previous day by Grigor Amalian, chairman of the government commission that allocates broadcasting frequencies, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. On 23 July, Amalian shrugged off as unfounded domestic and international criticism of his commission's 18 July decision to reject tender bids for television frequencies by the independent broadcasters A1+ and Noyan Tapan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18, 21, 22, and 24 July 2003). Amalian had suggested earlier that instead of protesting the refusal to grant A1+ a frequency, international agencies should provide the station with cash and broadcasting equipment. Torosian and Rustamian said on 24 July they will lobby for amendments to the law on broadcasting that regulates tenders for broadcast frequencies. LF

CORRECTION:
The Vladimir Badalian who was elected to the Armenian parliament in a repeat election on 20 July, as reported in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 22 July, is not the parliamentarian of the same name whose daughter recently married President Robert Kocharian's son.

ARMENIAN OFFICIAL SAYS AZERBAIJANI COMPLAINT OVER CEASE-FIRE VIOLATIONS GROUNDLESS
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dziunik Aghadjanian told Armenian Public Television on 24 July that a recent formal complaint by Azerbaijan to the UN Security Council accusing Armenia of repeatedly violating in recent weeks the cease-fire agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in 1994 is groundless, according to Groong. She predicted that the UN Security Council will ignore the Azerbaijani missive, just as it has ignored earlier such Azerbaijani complaints. LF

AZERBAIJANI DIPLOMAT DENIES PRESIDENT'S HEALTH HAS DETERIORATED...
Mamed Aliev, who is Azerbaijan's ambassador to Turkey, told a press conference on 24 July that media reports that Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's health has deteriorated and that he is close to death are untrue, Russian news agencies and zerkalo.az reported on 24 and 25 July, respectively. He added that the president still intends to run for a third term in the ballot scheduled for 15 October. Heidar Aliev, who is 80, has been hospitalized in Ankara's Gulhane military clinic since 8 July. Mamed Aliev also rejected as untrue a report aired on 22 July by Turkey's Star TV station claiming that the president is suffering from prostate cancer as well as several incurable diseases, and that millions of dollars are being spent on drugs to keep him alive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). He said under a bilateral agreement with the Turkish government, President Aliev is being treated at Gulhane free of charge, Interfax reported. Mamed Aliev said he hopes the Turkish authorities will comply with his request to close Star TV, whose journalists he accused of disseminating false information and seeking to undermine Azerbaijani-Turkish relations. The head of Star TV's Ankara bureau, Murad Baykar, was quoted on 25 July by zerkalo.az as saying that the information his station has broadcast is correct and was provided by "physicians, intelligence officials, and local and foreign political circles." The same online paper also cited the Azerbaijani news agency Trend, which on 24 July quoted a Gulhane doctor as saying that the president's condition is "serious, but stable," and has not deteriorated since he entered the clinic on 8 July. LF

...AS AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY CALLS FOR LEGAL ACTION AGAINST OPPOSITION PRESS
The press office of the Yeni Azerbaycan Party issued a statement on 24 July accusing the opposition newspapers "Yeni Musavat," "Azadlig," Cumhurriyet," "Muhalifat," "Yeni Zaman," and others of spreading "defamatory rumors" and "insulting the honor and dignity of the president" by publishing unverified and erroneous information concerning President Aliev's health, Turan reported. The statement called on Justice Minister Fikret Mamedov and the Press Council to take "appropriate measures" against the newspapers in question. LF

TRAFFIC POLICE AGAIN FLAG DOWN AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER'S CAR
Traffic police in Baku halted a car carrying several of Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar's bodyguards in the early evening of 24 July and temporarily detained three of them, Turan reported. It was the third such incident within 10 days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2003). "Yeni Musavat" claimed on 24 July that an attempt is being prepared to assassinate Gambar, who was quoted on 25 July by zerkalo.az as saying that he does not exclude the possibility of an attempt on his life. LF

INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EXERCISES END IN KAZAKHSTAN
Military exercises involving Kazakh, British, and U.S. troops ended in Almaty Oblast on 24 July, khabar.kz reported the same day. The exercises, known as "Steppe Eagle 2003," began on 17 July. Five hundred Kazakh airborne troops and the Kazakh peacekeeping battalion Kazbat were joined by U.S. Special Forces and Scots Guards to practice repelling an incursion into Kazakh territory by armed groups. Kazakh First Deputy Defense Minister Bulat Darbekov was quoted by khabar.kz as noting that such international exercises are standard practice in coalitions. In August, Kazakhstan is scheduled to host large-scale exercises of troops from Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states. Assessing "Steppe Eagle 2003," a British warrant officer noted to khabar.kz that Kazakh servicemen will be serving in Iraq along with British forces, so it was very important for the Kazakhs to have a chance to learn how to work with their future partners. BB

TRAMPS EVICTED FROM KAZAKHSTAN COSMODROME
A police operation located more than 60 persons with no fixed abode on the territory of the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 23 July, citing lenta.ru. Thirteen of them have been turned over to police to establish their identities, and criminal proceedings have been opened against the others. Under an agreement signed in 1994, Russia rents the cosmodrome from the Kazakh government for an annual fee of $115 million. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION OFFICIAL DENIES EMBEZZLEMENT ALLEGATIONS
Emil Aliev, senior leader of the opposition Ar-Namys Party while party Chairman Feliks Kulov remains in prison, told journalists on 24 July that the accusations made against him the previous day by presidential administrator Bolot Djanuzakov were false, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the same day. Djanuzakov, who heads the department of defense and security in the office of President Askar Akaev, told journalists that Aliev had embezzled $80,000 from farmers in Batken Oblast. Djanuzakov used Aliev to illustrate his point that a wide range of political figures had been able to take part in a government-organized roundtable on 19 July. Aliev told the journalists that he had been involved in a case in Tajikistan in 1997 but had been exonerated by the court while the real culprits were punished. He added that Djanuzakov had apparently been given incomplete information. BB

UN FUNDS RESOURCE CENTER FOR KYRGYZ OMBUDSMAN'S OFFICE
The financially strapped Kyrgyz Ombudsman's Office has obtained funding through a UN Development Program project to open a resource center, kabar.kz reported on 24 July, the day the creation of the center was formally announced. Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu was quoted as saying that when complete, the center will contain a library and reading room with materials on human rights that will be available to any citizen. The center will also be equipped with computers with Internet access. According to Bakir-uulu, much of the equipment has already been assembled. He said he hopes that nongovernmental activists and government officials alike will use the center to improve their knowledge of human rights. The project represents an upturn in the fortunes of the Ombudsman's Office; in June Bakir-uulu announced that his office was running out of money and might have to close (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003). BB

U.S. AND RUSSIA REPORTED TO BE DISCUSSING JOINT USE OF KYRGYZ AIRSPACE
A Russian air base is scheduled to open in October in the Kyrgyz town of Kant, some 20 kilometers east of Bishkek. Among the final details that have to be worked out by the Russian military in discussions now under way with U.S. officials is joint use of Kyrgyz airspace by the Russian base at Kant and the U.S.-led coalition air base on the western edge of Bishkek, akipress.org reported on 25 July, quoting a statement made by CIS Collective Security Council Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha in Moscow the previous day. The Russian base, officially described as part of the Collective Security Organization's rapid reaction force for Central Asia, was originally scheduled to open in July. The delays have led to speculation in the Kyrgyz press that the United States is opposed to the Russian base. Kyrgyz military officials have insisted that the antiterrorism coalition base at Bishkek's Manas airport and the Russian facility have very different functions. BB

SEX-EDUCATION BOOK WITHDRAWN FROM KYRGYZ SCHOOLS; AUTHOR SUED
The sex-education textbook that has been in use in Kyrgyz schools for several years has been withdrawn and its author is being sued in a Bishkek court by a group called the Public Committee for Defense of the Honor and Dignity of the Kyrgyz People, akipress.org and Deutsche Welle reported on 24 July. The suit was filed on 22 July against author Boris Shapiro, head of the national AIDS center and president of the Jewish Culture Society; two of his co-authors, Gulnara Kurmanova and Larisa Bashmakova; and the publishing house that produced the book. According to the plaintiff, who is demanding "compensation" of $1 million, the book violates the mentality, traditions, and customs of the Kyrgyz people. Education Minister Ishenkul Boldzhurova had already ordered that the book be withdrawn, supposedly because of numerous complaints from parents, though students who used the book said they found it very helpful because it dealt with issues that they felt unable to bring up with their parents, and that their parents were too shy to discuss with them. BB

GAZPROM HEAD PROMISES SUPPORT FOR RUSSIAN CULTURE IN TURKMENISTAN
Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller told RIA-Novosti in Ashgabat on 24 July that his company is prepared to provide financial support for Russian cultural activities in Turkmenistan, the news agency reported the same day. Miller was quoted as saying that Gazprom normally provides support to Russian cultural facilities in countries where the firm operates that have Russian-speaking populations. Gazprom's 25-year contract for gas deliveries, signed with Turkmenistan in April, and the accompanying agreement signed by President Vladimir Putin on ending dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship have been described in some Russian political circles as "trading gas for people." While Gazprom assistance to Ashgabat's Russian Theater will be much appreciated -- the theater has not been closed, despite Russian press reports to the contrary -- there is probably little the company can do about the prohibition on importing Russian media and the lack of Russian-language schools throughout Turkmenistan. BB

UZBEK FOREIGN MINISTRY DEMANDS PUNISHMENT OF KYRGYZ BORDER-CROSSERS...
Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry has demanded that Kyrgyzstan punish the young men involved in the 16 July border incident in which one Kyrgyz was killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2003), Interfax reported on 24 July, quoting the Foreign Ministry's press service. According to the Uzbek account of the incident, some 40 Kyrgyz attempted to cross the border illegally and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Uzbek border guards who tried to stop them. The Uzbek guards fired into the air, but in the melee one Kyrgyz was shot. The latest version adds metal chains to the Kyrgyz arsenal and asserts that the Kyrgyz tried to disarm the Uzbek guards. The Kyrgyz side says that four men tried to cross the border stream on a makeshift bridge and became involved in a quarrel with border guards, one of whom produced a weapon and shot one of the Kyrgyz. Neither side shows any willingness to change its assessment of the event. The Uzbek Foreign Ministry insists that the border guards were doing their duty. The ministry statement also demands that Kyrgyzstan take steps to prevent the infiltration of Uzbek territory by Kyrgyz citizens. BB

...BUT AGREES TO OPEN CONSULATE IN OSH
Despite current strains on the relationship between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, an Uzbek consulate is being opened in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, the Asrushon-Asia news service reported on 25 July, quoting Bektur Adanov, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry's representative in Osh. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev reportedly has instructed the authorities in Osh to find an appropriate building for the Uzbek consulate. At the same time, Kyrgyzstan is making preparations to open a consulate in the Uzbek city of Andijan. The consulate in Osh will enable citizens of southern Kyrgyzstan to obtain an Uzbek visa without having to travel to Bishkek. BB

STATE IDEOLOGY WILL BE REQUIRED AT BELARUSIAN UNIVERSITIES
All Belarusian universities, public and private, will be required to introduce a mandatory course in 2004 called "The Fundamentals of the Ideology of the Belarusian State," Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 24 July. Education Minister Pyotr Bryhadzin told journalists on 24 July that the Presidential Academy of Management is working on a syllabus and textbooks for the course. The initiator of the course is President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who earlier this year compared a state's ideology to the immune system in a living organism (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 April 2003). Political scientist and lecturer Uladzimir Rouda told RFE/RL that the Belarusian State University in Minsk will launch an ideology course for its students this year. Rouda called the course nothing more than "brainwashing" ahead of a possible referendum on extending Lukashenka's term in power. "In general, there is no ideology," Rouda said, noting that he refused to deliver this course to students. "I have read the text [of the course] very carefully -- it contains no substance.... Lecturers will be ashamed to retransmit those ideas because, generally speaking, there are no ideas at all." JM

UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST ATTACKED
Two unidentified men on 24 July attacked Oleh Yeltsov, a journalist reporting on corruption in government and business for the "Ukrayina kryminalna" (Criminal Ukraine) website (http://www.cripo.com.ua), Ukrainian media reported. The pair ambushed Yeltsov with a stun gun and a metal pipe as he was leaving his apartment in Kyiv. Yeltsov was hospitalized, according to "Ukrayina kryminalna." Police have opened an investigation into the incident. JM

ESTONIAN CITY TO REPLACE CONTROVERSIAL MONUMENT
A roundtable meeting of the Parnu city government and representatives of several veterans' organizations decided on 24 July to replace the controversial monument featuring a World War II soldier in a German Waffen-SS uniform that was erected last summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2002), BNS reported. The monument, which was privately funded by individuals who fought in the German army during World War II, was dedicated "to all Estonian servicemen who fell fighting in the second war for the liberation of Estonia for their homeland and free Europe in 1941-1945." The monument will be replaced by a new one dedicated to all Estonians who fought in various armies for Estonia's freedom during World War II. SG

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY RELUCTANT TO CLOSE EMBASSIES
Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins told BNS on 24 July that the recent decision by the Latvian government to cut spending at all ministries by 6.4 percent next year will force the closure of some embassies. He said there is no other way to fulfill this decision and noted that the choice of which specific embassies to close is a political issue that the government will have to decide. Latvia currently has a total of 37 diplomatic and consular offices, including 26 embassies. The Foreign Ministry's request for additional funding in 2004 to open new embassies in Turkey, Hungary, Kazakhstan, and Japan is unlikely to be fulfilled. Prime Minister Einars Repse seems unwilling to make any exceptions, saying, "It's painful for all of us -- the Foreign Ministry will have to decide on closing embassies, and the Interior Ministry will have to reduce police staff." SG

U.S. UNLIKELY TO RESTORE MILITARY AID TO LITHUANIA
Visiting U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim said at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Vilnius on 24 July that the United States will only restore military assistance to Lithuania if it signs an accord exempting U.S. citizens from prosecution at the International Criminal Court, BNS reported. The United States suspended military aid to countries that had not signed such agreements at the beginning of the month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). During his two-day visit, Zakheim had meetings with armed forces commander Major General Jonas Kronkaitis, Deputy Defense Minister Jonas Gecas, and other ministry officials. He noted that the suspension of military assistance would not have any effect on the support given to Lithuanian troops serving in peacekeeping operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lithuania will pay only the wages of these soldiers, and all other expenses will be covered by the United States. SG

POLISH MINISTER WARNS POTENTIAL GERMAN LAND CLAIMS WOULD BE 'FRUITLESS'
Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told the Sejm on 24 July that he cannot rule out associations of expelled Germans claiming rights to property in western Poland after Poland joins the EU, PAP reported. Cimoszewicz added, however, that "these attempts would be fruitless." Law and Justice lawmaker Marek Jurek had asked Cimoszewicz what the government intends to do about Germans casting doubt on Polish ownership rights to land in western Poland. According to Jurek, such claims are supported by some German politicians and state institutions. Cimoszewicz said some circles in Germany are trying to undermine the legal order with regard to such claims, but added, "Polish authorities are unaware of [evidence] that official German authorities have had anything to do with this." JM

POLISH COORDINATOR SAYS SITUATION IN IRAQ NOT WORSENING
Professor Marek Belka, head of the International Coordinating Team in Iraq, told journalists in Warsaw on 24 July that the situation in Iraq is not good but is not deteriorating either, PAP reported. According to Belka, opposition by people associated with the former regime does not threaten political normalization or economic reconstruction in Iraq. Belka also said there is no chance that Iraq will become an "El Dorado" for Polish companies. "There are no chances, because Poles will never again be exporters of cheap labor. We have already grown out of that," Belka said. "On the other hand, in the fierce competitive struggle that is only just beginning, only large companies or those firms that will be parts of great international consortia have an opportunity. There might be a share for a few or a dozen or so Polish enterprises. No one could ever have presumed that Iraq would become an economic colony." JM

FUGITIVE POLISH BUSINESSMAN ARRESTED IN ISRAEL
Israeli police arrested 31-year-old Polish national Jozef Jedruch in Jaffa on 24 July, Polish Television reported. Jedruch, director of the Colloseum Financial and Investment Consortium in Ornontowice, southern Poland, has been outside Poland for more than a year in the wake of his indictment on 19 criminal counts, including the alleged embezzlement of 345 million zlotys ($90 million) from energy works Bedzinski Zaklad Energetyczny and power-grid operator Polskie Sieci Energetyczne. JM

CZECH LOWER HOUSE APPROVES FIRST READING OF PUBLIC-FINANCE REFORM BILLS...
The Chamber of Deputies approved in their first reading 11 draft bills relating to the center-left government's planned budget reforms on 24 July, CTK reported. The third and final vote is slated for 22 September. Deputy Josef Hojdar, whose resignation from the senior coalition Social Democratic Party's (CSSD) parliamentary group on 22 July cost the government its one-seat majority, did not participate in the vote despite a vow to back the legislation in its early stages. Hojdar said after the vote that he does not rule out a return to the CSSD group if his proposed amendments to the bills are accepted by the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla expressed confidence that the bills will be approved, saying "the reforms must be passed as a whole, [but] that does not mean that every letter must be approved [as it stands]. He said differences of opinion must be overcome through a "constructive" approach. Spidla rejected Hojdar's claim that the proposed reforms deviate from the social-democratic doctrine, saying that the bills are the only way to save the existing social-welfare state. MS

...AND NATO ENLARGEMENT
The Czech lower house on 24 July also approved the protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty that extend NATO membership to seven states invited to join the alliance at the Prague summit in November 2002, CTK reported. The upper house must still approve the accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. MS

CZECH DAILY SAYS HOMELESS CHILDREN FROM ALL OVER EASTERN EUROPE ARE COMING TO PRAGUE
The daily "Lidove noviny" reported on 24 July said Prague is attracting an increasing number of homeless children from across Eastern Europe, dpa reported. The report said hundreds of children are sleeping on the streets of the Czech capital. While most are Czech victims of broken homes or sexual abuse, about one in five has traveled to Prague from Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, or Ukraine, according to a social worker quoted in the article. The same source said Czech authorities try to return such homeless children to their parents, adding that often "no one is interested in them." MS

SLOVAKIA, TAIWAN TO EXCHANGE TRADE REPRESENTATIONS
Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel confirmed on 24 July that Taiwan will open a business office in Bratislava on 1 August and Slovakia will do the same in Taipei in the near future, TASR reported. Gandel rejected reports in the Taiwanese media that diplomatic relations will be established between Taiwan and Slovakia. Gandel said Slovakia continues to abide by the "one China policy." He said Slovakia is the last of the Visegrad Four (which includes the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland) to open such an office. Gandel also said the move is not unusual, as 13 EU countries have done likewise and the European Commission set up a business office in Taipei in March 2002. In Taipei, Foreign Minister Eugene Chien said the office in Bratislava will be opened despite objections from communist China, AP reported. Chien announced that Chen Cheng-chin, currently Taiwan's deputy representative in Germany, will head the trade office in Slovakia. MS

SLOVAK BUSINESSMAN ALLEGES THAT ANO LEADER BLACKMAILED HIM
Frantisek Mojzis alleged on 24 July that the chairman of the governing Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO), TV Markiza founder Pavol Rusko, blackmailed him more than two years ago, TASR reported. The statements came after police, accompanied by Rusko, had confronted Mojzis earlier the same day. Mojzis has claimed that Rusko forced him to provide loans to friendly firms and that his bankrupt company, Drukos, was compelled to pay 1 million crowns ($25,000) a month to ANO through a firm specified by Rusko. Mojzis has volunteered to undergo a lie-detector test to back his claims, and said he waited 2 1/2 years to file a criminal complaint because he did not trust investigators. Mojzis faces prosecution in connection with the bankruptcy of an unlicensed financial enterprise, BDV Druzstvo, which caused millions of crowns in damages to clients. Rusko has denied the allegations, and says he finds it odd that police would trust a man suspected of major financial crimes. MS

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS TURN AGAINST OWN GOVERNMENT
The Socialist Party leadership objects to the cabinet's intention to increase taxes and is demanding that Finance Minister Csaba Laszlo clarify proposed tax reforms, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 25 July. The Socialists' junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats, have already voiced strong opposition to the government's plans. In related news, National Bank Governor Zsigmond Jarai on 24 July called last month's forint devaluation "a colossal mistake" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5, 20, and 25 June 2003). In an interview with the German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Jarai said he now hopes the subsequent announcement by Premier Peter Medgyessy and the Finance Ministry that Hungary intends to adopt the euro in 2008 does not also backfire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2003). "The forint will only be stabilized...when we [demonstrate] that we are serious about fiscal discipline and structural reforms," Jarai said. MS

HUNGARY ASKS AUSTRIA TO EXTRADITE SUSPECT IN FINANCIAL SCANDAL
Hungarian Justice Minister Peter Barandy signed an extradition request on 24 July for Attila Kulcsar, the chief suspect in the financial scandal at K&H Equities detained recently in Austria, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 10, 11, 15, and 18 July). The process could take months since, according to Hungarian media reports on 25 July, Kulcsar rejected a proposal by the Austrian judicial authorities to allow a simplified procedure. The case has received wide coverage in Hungary not merely due to the size of the alleged embezzlement, but also because of its political overtones. Key government and opposition figures have traded public accusations of links to Kulcsar. The chief executive and a deputy director of K&H Bank, Hungary's second-largest retail bank, resigned when news of the suspected improprieties surfaced, but neither man has been charged and the bank has claimed neither knew of the alleged fraud. MS

HUNGARIAN CONSERVATIVES RALLY TO DEFEND RADIO PRESIDENT
A group of conservative intellectuals and entertainers countered a recent public demand for the resignation of Hungarian Radio President Katalin Kondor on 24 July, expressing "shock" at claims that the state broadcaster regularly airs anti-Semitic and racist programs, "Magyar Nemzet" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). The group claimed Kondor has consistently been the target of politically motivated attacks. It added that after "the politically inspired reorganization at Hungarian Television," those currently in power and "their loyal mercenaries" want Hungarian Radio to become their mouthpiece. The letter was signed by opera singer Denes Gyulas, former soccer stars Gyula Grosics and Jeno Buzanszky, and several conservative intellectuals, among others. MS

CROATIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS PUBLISH REPORT ON WAR CRIMES
The Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights released a report on 24 July asserting that war crimes were committed by Croatian police and army forces during a 1995 operation in Western Slavonia, Hina reported. According to the report, more than 80 ethnic Serbian civilians were killed during Operation Flash, which was aimed at restoring Croatian control over the region. The group also claims that the Serbs of Western Slavonia were subjected to a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing as part of an agreement between Croatian and Serbian leaders and an unidentified segment of the international community. The report is a follow-up to a previous report on Operation Storm in August 1995 to restore Croatian sovereignty throughout Croatian territory, during which similar crimes were committed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May and 5 June 2002 and 18 July 2003). UB

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER ON OFFICIAL VISIT TO WASHINGTON
Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic arrived in Washington on 24 July on a two-day official visit to the United States, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Zivkovic met the same day with Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. In a short statement after the meeting with Zivkovic, Powell praised the Serbian government for its reform efforts and thanked Zivkovic "for the solid cooperation that we're receiving from Serbia on the war against terrorism and other bilateral issues of mutual interest," according to the U.S. State Department website (http://www.state.gov). UB

NEW TWIST IN SERBIAN, MACEDONIAN CHURCH DISPUTE
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac told RFE/RL on 24 July that his government does not want to jeopardize excellent Serbian-Macedonian political relations over the ongoing dispute between their respective churches. The latest problem arose when the Macedonian government asked the Serbian government in mid-July to return a plaque commemorating the first meeting of the Anti-Fascist National Liberation Council of Macedonia (ASNOM) at the Prohor Pcinjski Monastery in southern Serbia on 2 August 1944. After the monks of that monastery rebuffed that request, the Serbian government ordered the return of the commemorative plaque. The ASNOM was the first government of the Macedonian state within socialist Yugoslavia. The Serbian Orthodox Church does not recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church and therefore removed the commemorative plaque (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 July 2002 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002 and 28 May 2003). UB

ALBANIAN PREMIER DETAILS CABINET RESHUFFLE
Prime Minister Fatos Nano on 23 July announced his nomination of former Integration Minister Marko Bello to become the country's new foreign minister, and of former Economy Minister Ermelinda Meksi as deputy prime minister and integration minister, the "Southeast European Times" reported. The nominations must still be approved by parliament. Foreign Minister Ilir Meta and Integration Minister Sokol Nako resigned on 18 July to protest perceived efforts by Nano to consolidate too much power in his own hands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). UB

ROMANIAN PREMIER UNDERGOES SURGERY IN GERMANY
A government communique on 24 July reported that Prime Minister Adrian Nastase underwent successful surgery in Germany for an infection of his thyroid. The release did not specify when the operation took place, but added that Nastase has returned to Romania and will spend the next few days in the mountain resort of Predeal. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REASSURED BY HUNGARIAN COUNTERPART
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs gave assurances to his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana in a telephone conversation on 24 July that his country is not demanding to participate in the accession negotiations currently under way between Romania and the EU, the Romanian news agency Mediafax reported. Kovacs told Geoana that Budapest merely wishes to be informed of the course of the negotiations because the two countries have shared interests, including border security, the agency said. Kovacs added that Hungary wants a successful completion of negotiations between Romania and Brussels in line with decisions reached at the EU summits in Copenhagen last year and in Thessaloniki this year. Tensions arose after Hungarian EU Integration Minister Endre Juhasz made statements interpreted in Bucharest as being aimed at involving Budapest in Romania's accession negotiations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 22, 23, and 24 July 2003). MS

BUCHAREST MAYOR TO SEEK SECOND TERM, NOT PRESIDENCY
Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu said on 24 July that he does not intend to run for president in the 2004 elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Basescu said he wants to seek a second term as Bucharest mayor in local elections due in mid-2004, and he attributed statements by two of his deputies that he might seek both positions to the "summer heat." Basescu said that after National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan pledged not to enter into a coalition with the Social Democratic Party after the next parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003), he is optimistic that the PNL and the Democrats will succeed in forging an alliance ahead of parliamentary voting in late 2004 or early 2005. MD

TIRASPOL WANTS THREE CONSTITUTIONS, MOLDOVA ONE -- OR MAYBE TWO?
Evgenii Shevchuk, Transdniestrian co-chairman of the joint Moldovan-Transdniester commission charged with drafting the future federal constitution, told journalists in Chisinau on 24 July that the separatist authorities want each of the two components of the federal state to have its own constitution in addition to the federal one, Flux and BASA-press reported. Shevchuk said that Tiraspol cannot be satisfied with autonomous status. It wants the federal state to be based on two distinct subjects, with a joint currency, customs, and defense space. All other aspects of administration, he said, must be subordinated to the two subjects separately. Ion Creanga, Moldovan joint chairman of the constitutional commission, said that Chisinau envisages the federation as a "classic one," with a single constitution. He said that the Moldovan authorities are ready to offer Tiraspol broad powers within this joint structure, adding that these powers should be specified in a document describing the status of Transdniester or even in a Transdniestrian constitution. Thomas Market, a representative of the Venice Commission, which organized a seminar on federalism in Chisinau, urged the sides to proceed pragmatically, leaving thorny theoretical issues such as the nature of the future federation to a later stage in the negotiations. MS

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION BACKS PACE DRAFT RESOLUTION CONDEMNING COMMUNIST TOTALITARIANISM
The two representatives of Moldovan opposition parties at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said on 24 July that they are backing a draft resolution condemning communist totalitarianism, Flux and BASA-press reported. The draft was submitted earlier this month by Dutch deputy Rene van der Linden and is backed by 28 other PACE deputies. The proposed resolution calls on states to document violations of human rights that occurred under communist rule, and on former communist countries to set up national commissions to investigate those crimes. The draft also draws attention to the danger posed by "populist forces" in former communist countries, saying that they contribute to cultivating nostalgia for the former totalitarian regimes. Unlike the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) and Braghis Alliance, the representatives of the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) in the Moldovan delegation to PACE refused to comment on the draft resolution. The PCM has said several times in the past that as a democratically elected government it has nothing in common with communist totalitarianism and its atrocities. MS

PPCD BACKS EU PARTICIPATION IN TRANSDNIESTER PEACEKEEPING FORCE...
The parliamentary group of the PPCD said on 24 July that it supports the idea of having EU peacekeepers participate in an OSCE force overseeing the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, BASA-press and Flux reported. The group said it "takes note with satisfaction" of the initiative, which is attributed to the OSCE chairman in office, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. In a statement read out to journalists by PPCD Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov, the PPCD said that "only a multinational military presence under OSCE auspices can bring about an efficient, equitable, and viable solution of the conflict, restoring the country's full territorial unity after the full and unconditional withdrawal of the Russian troops and arsenal [from Transdniester] at the end of this year." The PPCD called on parliament to ask President Vladimir Voronin and the Foreign Ministry to initiate an appeal to the EU, calling on its member countries to participate in international efforts for a viable solution to the conflict. MS

...WHILE PCM OFFICIAL DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM THE MOVE
In reaction to the PPCD statement, Victor Stepaniuc, head of the PCM parliamentary group, said on 24 July that the PCM parliamentary majority has no intention of calling on Voronin to ask for EU participation in peacekeeping in Transdniester. In an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service the same day, Stepaniuc said the current formula of Russian peacekeeping forces should be maintained. He also emphasized that "there is no official initiative" to call on the EU to participate in peacekeeping. Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau said the same day that the initiative reportedly put forward by Scheffer has not been thus far officially presented and the EU has taken no official position on it. Moldova, he said, will wait for an official presentation before reacting to the initiative, since the problem "is far too important and serious" to consider any other response, Flux reported. MS

MOLDOVAN-ROMANIAN DICTIONARY PUBLISHED IN CHISINAU
A 19,000-word, 340-page Moldovan-Romanian dictionary authored by Vasile Stati went on sale in Chisinau on 24 July, Flux reported. Stati is also the author of "History of Moldova," published in Chisinau last year. In his introduction to the dictionary, the author harshly attacks Romanian authorities, including Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, for claiming that Moldovan and Romanian are one and the same language. Ion Barbuta, director of the Moldovan Academy of Sciences' Institute of Linguistics, described the dictionary as an "absurdity" serving political purposes. Barbuta said that "only a sick mind" could publish such a work, in which the 19,000 words alleged to be Moldovan are either "regionalisms" or derived Russian words introduced during the Soviet period. MS

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER CELEBRATES TWO YEARS IN OFFICE...
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, currently on holiday in Madrid, on 24 July sent congratulations to his ministers on the occasion of the government's first two years in office, mediapool.bg reported. The ministers themselves assessed their own work positively, although former Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev admitted to mistakes but did not elaborate. Finance Minister Milen Velchev said not all electoral promises, such as the elimination of the tax on profits, have been fulfilled. European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva underscored that the government's successes depend on the work of every single minister. She added that the negotiations with the EU are progressing according to schedule. UB

...AS OPPOSITION CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT POLICIES
Nadezhda Mihailova, chairwoman of the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces, on 24 July slammed the government for not delivering on its major electoral promises, namely in the spheres where the government promised the biggest improvements -- social policy, the economy, health care, education, and internal stability, mediapool.bg reported. Deputy Socialist Party (BSP) Chairman Rumen Ovcharov said the crisis in society is deepening as the population becomes more and more impoverished, while the government remains powerless. Ovcharov called on Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski to make way for a more competent, better-prepared, and more responsible person, as he said citizens have lost confidence in the premier. UB

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT TO IMPROVE EMPLOYEES' RIGHTS
The government on 24 July approved draft amendments to the Labor Code, which are aimed at strengthening the rights of employees, "Standart" reported. The amendments grant more rights to pregnant women and young parents; they also include provisions about sexual discrimination at the workplace. Other regulations pertain to working hours and holiday regulations. The Union of Employers criticized the draft amendments, which have yet to be approved by the parliament, as granting the employees too many rights, novinite.com reported. The employers also charge that the amendments will allow the state to interfere with business. UB

TIME BOMB OF LITIGATION DELAYS THREATENS RUSSIAN PRIVATIZATIONS
Self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii blasted President Vladimir Putin in an open letter published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 July, accusing him of pursuing a "creeping anticonstitutional coup" by attempting to redistribute private property almost 10 years after it was privatized under President Boris Yeltsin's administration. Berezovskii argued that Putin has considerable support within the state bureaucracy and that possible expropriations by the state could lead to a civil war, just as the Bolsheviks' policies did after the October 1917 revolution.

However, Berezovskii's claim that Russia is on the verge of civil war does not necessarily mean the country is indeed facing such a danger. He failed to mention that the Russian Civil War broke out, first and foremost, as a result of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty the Bolsheviks signed with Germany in 1918, not because of expropriations. However, one should not overlook the fact that prominent businessmen and even politicians are increasingly emotional when describing the situation that has arisen as a result of the lawsuits brought against the oil giant Yukos. That move has engendered serious concern about Russia's future political stability not only among the oligarchs but throughout the political elite.

In the weekly "Yezhenedelnii zhurnal" earlier this month, Rosbank analyst Valerii Petrov described the current atmosphere in the Russian market as genuine "panic." Meanwhile, Union of Rightist Forces State Duma Deputy Boris Nadezhdin in a 22 July press conference raised some of the structural issues Berezovskii mentioned in his open letter. Nadezhdin highlighted what he termed the dangerous trend of letting the state bureaucracy and various security services review former privatization bids. Addressing Putin's call for consolidation of the state and society, Nadezhdin said: "This is not consolidation. This is a war of all against all. It is a war of bureaucrats against businessmen. It is an attempt by businessmen to shape their own politics. It is finally a war of bureaucrats against political parties, as they consider one of them to be a priority and harass all others," iamik.ru reported.

The Yukos affair has reminded all investors that ownership is not a sacrosanct right in today's Russia. Although they are now resigned to the coerciveness of Russia's Customs and Tax police, many Russian businessmen openly fear that the latest developments are a sign that some privatization bids could be revised in the next few months. The reason for this, as is often the case in Russia, is to be found in the timing of the Yukos affair.

Interestingly enough, the Prosecutor-General's Office opened seven cases against Yukos just a few months before the "litigation delay" -- the 10-year period for challenging the outcome of the privatization tender -- expires. When then-First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais launched the privatization program in 1994, most strategic privatization deals stipulated a 10-year litigation delay. Ten years after, that time bomb is about to explode and poses a serious threat to private ownership in Russia.

The privatization of state enterprises officially started in 1991-92 and was conducted in two phases. The first, known as "mass privatization," was originally intended to symbolize "popular capitalism." "What we need is millions of owners, not a handful of billionaires," then-President Yeltsin said at the time. Each Russian citizen, young and old, received a 10,000 ruble privatization voucher and the government emphasized the need to educate the population about the market economy. The creation of a system of corporate governance was considered an issue of secondary importance.

The end of the "voucher privatization" of medium and large enterprises did not mark the end of privatization. On 22 July 1994, Yeltsin issued a decree on the second phase of privatization: the remaining state holdings were to be sold for cash at competitive auctions, with part of the proceeds going to the companies as capital for their restructuring and the rest going to the government. Chubais's privatization plan implied that state companies would be privatized as quickly as possible and the process became something of a national sport.

Now, 10 years on Russia faces a crucial challenge as the legal deadlines for challenging tender results approach. This loophole in the privatization legislation now opens the way for the country's most strategic enterprises to be selectively targeted. As the Russian authorities will never be able to review all litigation cases, one can expect to see charges filed against private, strategic enterprises that are not controlled by the power elite. As is now traditional in Russia, this process will develop both at the federal and regional levels, thus allowing the power elite to strengthen its position. This is bad news for all Russian investors who attempted to eliminate the omnipresent clan logic and implement rules of transparent business.

On 22 July, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref declared he is against "de-privatization." However, he recently told "Vedomosti" that "one should keep in mind that there is no clear boundary between a revision of history and a crime investigation. If there were [economic] crimes committed during the privatization process, nobody will be able to stop their investigation until the litigation delay is over." Therefore, he added, "If we all can remain calm during this emotional and intense time, I am convinced that all will be fine."

This is precisely what investors are afraid of -- that the Russian state will expropriate their businesses while they are asked to "remain calm."

FORCES IN HERAT PROVINCE WILL CONTINUE 'RESISTANCE' ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN
A spokesman for Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan said on 23 July that the current military structure in the province will continue to function as part of a "resistance force," even after the disarmament process is completed, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported on 24 July. Spokesman Mawlawi Gholam Mohammad Masun described the Herat military force not as a local army, but as part of the Afghan Defense Ministry. He added that an unspecified government commission envisages a "resistance force" of 100,000 to function alongside the 70,000-strong Afghan National Army (ANA). It is unclear from the Iranian radio report what commission Masun might be referring to. The ANA has so far managed to train just 5,000 soldiers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2003), while warlords in various parts of Afghanistan, including Herat, have much larger forces at their disposal. AT

AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY TRAINING IS PASSED TO AFGHANS...
A spokesman for the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition's forces said on 24 July that the bulk of ANA training, which until July was being conducted by the United States, is being handed over to Afghan officers, Hindukosh news agency reported. Spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis said the United Kingdom, France, and Romania are running programs to train ANA officers, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and mechanized forces, respectively. Germany is expected to train ANA medical personnel. According to a British military source, the training of NCOs will also be handed over to Afghans by 17 August, Hindukosh reported. With Afghan Defense Ministry reforms still incomplete, the termination of foreign training programs for the ANA might prolong the formation of the force and could render it less a "national" military than a factional army. AT

...AS DESERTION IN ITS RANKS IS CONFIRMED
Also on 24 July, Davis confirmed recent reports that some newly trained soldiers have deserted from the ANA, calling it a problem that exists in every country around the world, Hindukosh reported on 24 July. In its first-ever combat mission, 1,000 ANA troops have been engaged in Zormat District since early July; some troops have reportedly gone absent without leave because of low pay (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). Afghan warlords can arguably recruit more soldiers -- and pay them better wages -- than the Afghan Transitional Administration. AT

U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER MEETS AFGHAN LEADER AND DEFENSE MINISTER
The commander of U.S. Central Command, Lieutenant General John Abizaid, met with Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai in Kabul on 24 July, Radio Afghanistan reported. Abizaid also met with Afghan Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, discussing reforms within the Afghan Defense Ministry, the organization and structure of the ANA, and ongoing disarmament and demilitarization programs, Afghanistan Television reported on 24 July. AT

AFGHAN ADMINISTRATION INCREASES OVERSIGHT OF PROVINCIAL RECONSTRUCTION
A senior commission to coordinate and supervise the activities of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) throughout the country has been formed in accordance with a decree by Chairman Karzai, Radio Afghanistan reported on 24 July. The commission is headed by Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali and includes Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, National Security Adviser Zalmay Rasul, Urban Planning Minister Yusof Pashtun, Rural Development Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar, and a deputy finance minister who was not identified in the report. PRTs are part of a U.S. plan to promote reconstruction projects in Afghanistan while safeguarding security (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003). AT

IRANIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES LEGISLATIVE MEASURES
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said in a 24 July speech in Firuzkuh, a town near Tehran, that working in line with the constitution will strengthen the nation, IRNA reported. In a reference to legislation introduced in September that would strengthen the executive branch vis-a-vis the Guardians Council and the judiciary (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 30 September 2002), he said, "That's why I earnestly insist on executive procedure to guarantee the constitutional rights of the people." "The legal provision will enable the president to stop violations of the constitution and give confidence to the people that everything is being done within the boundaries of the constitution," Khatami said. BS

IRANIAN AND CUBAN MILITARY OFFICIALS IN NORTH KOREA
Abdullah Hamidi Benam, the Iranian military attache to Pyongyang, and Giraldo Abreu Morales, his Cuban counterpart, on 25 July visited the site from where President Kim Il-Sung led the Communist Party and the North Korean Army from 1951-53, the official KCNA news agency reported. The Iranian military official wrote in the visitors' book, according to KCNA, that "thanks to the wise leadership of [Kim Il-Sung], the people and the army of the DPRK could achieve a brilliant victory in the war." BS

TEHRAN ACCUSES OTTAWA OF COVERING UP ETHNIC IRANIAN'S KILLING...
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 24 July accused the Canadian government of covering up the killing by police of one ethnic Iranian male and the wounding of another -- Keyvan Tabesh and Amir Aqai, respectively -- in Vancouver on 22 July, IRNA and state television reported. Assefi accused Ottawa of imposing strict censorship following the incident, and he added that this has frightened the Iranian community in Canada. BS

...BUT APPARENTLY GETS THE FACTS WRONG
Keyvan Tabesh was shot on 14 July by a plainclothes police officer he was attacking with a machete in the Vancouver suburb of Port Moody, Toronto's "The Globe and Mail" reported on 25 July. Port Moody police spokesman Constable Brian Soles said Tabesh used the machete to rip into the side of a vehicle that had blocked his way, and police began looking for his vehicle after the incident was reported, "The Globe and Mail" reported on 18 July. Tabesh's parents acknowledged that he always carried something to defend himself because he had been attacked previously and the family received death threats. Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said the Tabesh case and the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who was in Iranian custody, are not legitimately comparable, according to the 25 July report. Tabesh's family expressed surprise at the Iranian government's interest in the case and has asked relatives in Iran to contact the broadcast media there and tell it to stop broadcasting the story. "We don't want the government to use our family," said Rita Tabesh, a sister of Keyvan's. BS

MILITARY COURT WASHES HANDS OF KAZEMI CASE
The head of the Armed Forces Judicial Organization, Hojatoleslam Mohammad Niazi, said on 24 July that the case of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Tehran Military Court, Fars News Agency reported. Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hussein Elham had said two days earlier that the Tehran Prosecutor's Office has completed its work and any further work is within the jurisdiction of the military court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2003). The case has been returned to the branch that was dealing with the case previously, Niazi said. BS

RECRUITMENT BEGINS FOR AL-SADR'S IRAQI ARMY
Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr continues to recruit volunteers for his Imam Al-Mahdi Army (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report, 24 July 2003), according to a 22 July report in Baghdad's "Al-Anba" newspaper. The report notes that volunteers between the ages of 10 and 50 have been lining up at the Muhsin Mosque in the Baghdad suburb of Al-Sadr City to join the force. Imam Hasan Naji, who is heading the recruitment drive there, told "Al-Anba" that local mosques are using their loudspeakers to recruit Shi'ites for the contingent. "There will be no problem concerning financing of the Al-Mahdi Army," he said. Naji said the role of the militia will be to maintain security, and he claimed its members will not be armed. Al-Sadr announced plans to establish the army, and an Islamic state in Iraq, during his Friday prayer sermon on 18 July. KR

SADDAM FEDAYEEN VOW TO AVENGE DEATHS OF UDAY, QUSAY
The paramilitary Saddam Fedayeen in the Al-Anbar Governorate have reportedly delivered a videocassette to Al-Arabiyah Television in which they pledge to avenge the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, the satellite channel reported on 24 July. "We are ready to sacrifice our blood for the sake of Iraq's soil. We pledge to our people's sons that we will continue with the jihad against the infidels, and that the end of the two sons, their martyrdom, will strengthen our determination and support," the speaker said. Uday Hussein established the Fedayeen in 1995, but briefly lost control of the organization to his younger brother Qusay after he transferred vast amounts of weapons to the Fedayeen without the knowledge of their father, President Saddam Hussein. The punishment did not last long, however, and control was soon passed back to Uday. The Fedayeen operated completely outside the law under Hussein's regime. A prewar estimate by globalsecurity.org set its membership at 18,000-40,000 troops, including a notorious death squad known to have publicly beheaded female family members of those opposed to the regime. KR

U.S. SHOWS HUSSEIN BROTHERS' CORPSES TO MEDIA
The U.S.-led administration in Iraq allowed international media to view and videotape the bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein on 25 July to dispel doubts about U.S. claims that the men are dead, according to international news agencies. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) released photographs of the corpses to the press on 24 July. But in Baghdad, some Iraqis continued to express doubt that the men are dead. "We will believe they are dead when Uday and Qusay's bodies are tied to cars and dragged through the streets so everybody can see them," one Iraqi, identified only as Muhammad, told Reuters on 25 July. "They should have been hung up on poles in a square in Baghdad so all Iraqis could see them," businessman Khalil Ali said. Iraq Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Al-Jazeera Television on 24 July that he viewed the corpses and has no doubt that the bodies were those of Uday and Qusay. KR

CIA SAYS AUDIOTAPE OF SADDAM HUSSEIN LIKELY AUTHENTIC
CIA analysts have said an audiotape purportedly made by deposed President Hussein and released earlier this week is "likely" authentic, Reuters reported on 24 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). "Although it cannot be determined with absolute certainty, CIA's assessment after a technical analysis of the tape is that it is likely that it is Saddam Hussein's voice," a U.S. intelligence official reportedly told Reuters. The speaker in the tape claims that the tape was recorded on 20 July, two days before U.S. forces killed the deposed leader's sons, Uday and Qusay, in a gun battle in Mosul. However, the unidentified intelligence official said, "The exact date of the recording cannot be determined." KR

IRAQI WOMEN TRAINING IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
Fourteen Iraqi women have been trained by international coalition forces to serve in the Facility Protection Service (FPS), according to a 24 July press release posted on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil). The women completed a two-day FPS training session on 22 July, learning techniques in hand-to-hand combat, weapons familiarization, professional conduct, personal interaction, and vehicle and body searches, the press release stated. Five female U.S. soldiers from the 1st Armored Division trained the Iraqi women, who will participate in a force of more than 4,500 Iraqis who have volunteered to join the FPS guards. They will join U.S. military task forces around Baghdad to guard critical sites such as schools, hospitals, and power plants, the press release stated. KR

FORMER IRAQI INTELLIGENCE CHIEF TALKS ABOUT ATTACKS ON COALITION, HUSSEIN DEATHS
Former Iraqi Intelligence chief Wafiq al-Samarra'i told Al-Jazeera Television on 24 July that attacks on coalition troops are being carried out by numerous Islamist groups and that the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein will not impact the number of attacks. "The resistance operations are not linked to [Uday and Qusay] and not linked to Saddam Hussein. The indications...show that other Islamist groups are involved. I do not mean the simple Islamist groups, but the other groups, such as Ansar Al-Islam [Supporters of Islam], Jund Al-Islam [Soldiers of Islam], Jaysh Muhammad [Muhammad's Army], and other extremist groups," he said. "These are the ones that are carrying out the operations." Al-Samarra'i said he believes that former regime members have also been involved in attacks on coalition troops, but said they were "very few" in number. Asked about the release of photographs of the dead Hussein brothers, he said, "I cannot consider them to be evidence that those two bodies are of Uday and Qusay. The pictures are not clear. The two men are disfigured.... However, according to the available information and many other indications, I began to believe that Uday and Qusay have been killed." KR

XS
SM
MD
LG