OLIGARCHS OFFER GOVERNMENT AN OLIVE BRANCH...
Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists (RSPP) President Arkadii Volskii said on 30 July that Russia's leading businesspeople are prepared to do more to help the government to combat widespread poverty, strana.ru, "Kommersant-Daily," and other Russian media reported on 31 July. "I'll tell you honestly," Volskii told journalists following an RSPP meeting, "among the major businesspeople there is an atmosphere of bewilderment. It isn't even just the Yukos matter, but the fact that in the country an atmosphere of hatred toward big business...is being artificially created." Volskii said that in 2000, business leaders agreed with President Vladimir Putin that they would pay taxes and help the country overcome its economic crisis and, in exchange, the government would not revisit or revise the privatizations of the 1990s, strana.ru reported. Volskii said he is arranging a meeting with Putin at which he will propose a series of initiatives by business to assist the government in fighting poverty. He said the RSPP might even be prepared to endorse tax increases for certain sectors of the economy. Volskii also repeated his previous statements that "de-privatization" would be "an enormous mistake" and that the Yukos affair is doing tremendous harm to Russia's international business reputation, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 31 July. RC
...WHILE ECONOMY MINISTER, PRESIDENTIAL ECONOMIC ADVISER FINALLY FIND SOMETHING TO AGREE ON
In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 July, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref restated his opposition to reversing the results of previous privatizations. "There will be no campaign to revise the results of privatization in Russia. Such a campaign would be suicidal for the government," Gref said. Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told Interfax on 30 July that "revising the results of privatization would return Russia to a totalitarian system." Ayatskov nevertheless advocated adopting a law under which major businesses would have to pay 50 percent of their profits into a fund "for redistribution." "If the laws enabled them to become superrich people in a short time, then why shouldn't they turn over their capital for the benefit of their country?" Ayatskov said. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 July quoted presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov as saying, "Revising the results of privatization in today's situation would lead the country to civil war." RC
BUSINESS SPOKESMAN CONCERNED ABOUT ONGOING 'DE-PRIVATIZATION' IN THE REGIONS
RSPP President Volskii also told journalists that he is worried about creeping "de-privatization" in the regions, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 31 July. "In the regions, massive de-privatization has begun," Volskii said. "Today in the courts there are 41,000 bankruptcy cases, and I am completely confident in saying that half of them have been ordered." RC
PROSECUTORS SAY YUKOS OFFICIAL WAS NOT DRUGGED WHILE IN CUSTODY
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 30 July announced the results of its investigation into a complaint filed by State Duma deputies and human rights activists alleging that senior Yukos security official Aleksei Pichugin, who was arrested on 19 June and is facing double-murder charges, was given psychotropic drugs while in custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2001), "Vremya novostei," utro.ru, and other Russian media reported on 31 July. Prosecutor said a medical examination of Pichugin failed to reveal any evidence of injections, and blood and other tests failed to turn up any sign of drugs. Moreover, a physical examination determined that Pichugin is in good health and there are no health grounds for releasing him from custody. An additional probe by prosecutors failed to uncover any evidence to substantiate allegations included in the Duma deputies' complaint that Pichugin had been mistreated and illegally interrogated. Meanwhile, Menatep board Chairman and Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev, who is under arrest and facing charges of embezzlement and tax evasion, announced on 30 July that he will no longer cooperate with prosecutors because officials have failed to provide him with adequate medical care, Russian media reported on 31 July. RC
DO PROSECUTORS HAVE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THEIR SIGHTS?
The Prosecutor-General's Office and the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 30 July began investigating Trast Investment Bank, which belongs to Menatep, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian media reported on 31 July. According to the daily, investigators are not interested primarily in Trast itself, but in its clients, and the focus of their inquiries has been the state-owned Russian Development Bank (RosBR). RosBR President Tatyana Ryskina is considered "a creature of [Prime Minister] Mikhail Kasyanov," "Kommersant-Daily" wrote. Kasyanov himself until recently was chairman of the RosBR oversight board. "It is possible that by analyzing the bank's records, prosecutors hope to get to the personal foreign accounts of the prime minister himself and his closest associates," the paper commented. The weekly "Dengi," No. 28, which is published by the same company as "Kommersant-Daily," reported last week that when investigators searched the Moscow offices of Menatep-SPb earlier this month, they also seized documents related to RosBR. At that time, an unidentified Yukos official was quoted as saying, "It is very strange that they were looking for RosBR documents at Menatep and not at Trast." RC
PUTIN ANNULS REQUIREMENT TO REPORT TRANSACTIONS ABOVE $10,000
President Putin has signed a decree canceling a 1994 executive order requiring banks to report to the tax authorities all individual transactions exceeding $10,000, utro.ru and RTR reported on 31 July. The website noted that the 1994 order was very unevenly observed and that the law on banking and banking secrets obligated banks only to reveal such information to courts and prosecutors. The Tax Code does not include any mention of the 1994 order. As a result of Putin's latest order, banks are now required only to report private transactions worth more than 600,000 rubles ($19,800) to the Financial Monitoring Committee, as required by the 2001 law on money laundering. RC
MOSCOW CITY PROSECUTOR STEPS DOWN AMID SCANDAL IN HIS OFFICE...
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on 31 July accepted the resignation of Moscow City Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov, Interfax and other Russian media reported. Avdyukov has been named an adviser to Ustinov and will begin working in his office on 4 August, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office was quoted as saying. Also on 31 July, representatives of the Moscow Prosecutor's Office met with representatives of the Prosecutor-General's Office to discuss the results of an audit of the Moscow office that found legal violations and incompetence. According to the spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, the audit found "massive" violations of the law, particularly concerning the registration of crime reports. "I can say that a definite system of the mass concealing of crimes was developed," the spokeswoman said, according to newsru.com on 31 July. The report also alleges that city prosecutors have done a poor job of overseeing the work of the Moscow police, "Izvestiya" reported on 31 July. Gazeta.ru reported that Avdyukov was asked to step down quietly in the spring, but refused to do so. JAC/RC
...WHILE DEPUTY PROSECUTOR SEEKS PRESIDENT'S PROTECTION
First Deputy Moscow City Prosecutor Yurii Sinelshchikov has appealed to President Putin for protection against the Prosecutor-General's Office, Ekho Moskvy reported on 30 July. According to Sinelshchikov, the audit report about his office is full of malicious assertions, distortions, falsifications, and juggled statistics. Sinelshchikov has asked Putin to create an independent commission to investigate the audit report, strana.ru reported on 31 July. JAC/RC
FACTORY WORKERS DUST OFF THE DICTATOR
Workers at the Uralgrafit factory in the Urals town of Taiginka have erected a monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, utro.ru and gzt.ru reported on 31 July. The workers reportedly found a statue of Stalin that had been dismantled during the late-1950s anti-Stalin campaign in a warehouse on the factory's grounds. They proceeded to reassemble it, build a pedestal for it, and erect it. RC
SECOND CIVIC FORUM SCHEDULED FOR FALL
A second Civic Forum will be held in October, presidential Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova announced on 30 July, Russian media reported. According to Pamfilova, who met with President Putin the same day, the president urged law enforcement officials to participate in the meeting. The first Civic Forum took place in November 2001 and gathered public officials and members of NGOs in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 November 2001). In an interview with "Moskovskie novosti," No. 29, Pamfilova also described a recent meeting she had with Prosecutor-General Ustinov. She said she told Ustinov that his underlings are regularly fulfilling the orders of people who are not necessarily associated with his office. She added that, of course, he knows this. "He wasn't born yesterday," she said, and "all directors of the security and law enforcement departments are well informed about the degree of corruption among workers in their departments." However, she also found that he did not want to talk about specifics. JAC
TOP LEFTIST LEADER SEES YELTSIN AS TRUMP CARD IN 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
In an interview with gazeta.ru on 30 July, State Duma Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) predicted that Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, who is also head of the Unified Russia party, will become the next State Duma speaker. According to Ilyukhin, who did not identify his sources, the Kremlin is not interested in having Gennadii Seleznev stay on as Duma speaker. The current deputy interior minister, Vladimir Vasilev, is also expected to run in a single-mandate district in Tver Oblast, according to Ilyukhin. Ilyukhin also suggested that one sure way to ensure Putin's victory would be for former President Boris Yeltsin to announce that he is running again. "Then, in horror, everyone would vote again for Putin," he said. Ilyukhin is also head of the Movement to Support the Army. JAC
FORMER YELTSIN AIDE SLAMS KOZAK REFORMS
In an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 30 July, Sergei Filatov, a presidential administration head under former President Yeltsin, criticized recent efforts to reform center-regional relations. According to Filatov, the law on local self-rule that was drafted by the presidential commission demarcating responsibilities among various levels of government is flawed. The Russian Constitution already establishes citizens' right to choose which form of self-government they favor, he said. Filatov also characterized the Federation Council as "featureless." Providing an example of the body's "professionalism," Filatov said he asked Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov why the upper legislative chamber rejected a draft law on the minimum monthly wage. According to Filatov, Mironov responded that the draft they voted on gave local legislators the right to establish the minimum wage, and that was why it was rejected. "This isn't normal," Filatov concluded. "In a country as huge as Russia there cannot be a single minimum consumer basket. And the minimum wage should be established not by the center but in the regions." JAC
VOLGA MAYOR BEHIND BARS
Volzhsk Mayor Nikolai Svistunov has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling "large" sums of money, Russian media reported on 30 July. Criminal proceedings were launched against him more than a month ago. Police reportedly went to arrest him but he had left town, NTV reported. He was later found in Moscow, but a court in Ioshkar-Ola, the capital of the Republic of Marii-El, ordered him released. Now he has been arrested again and is currently located in a Ioshkar-Ola jail, according to Interfax. Volzhsk Deputy Mayor Dzhepar Ablyazov said he believes the arrest resulted from a political "order," although he declined to specify who might have issued the order. Svistunov is also a legislator in the republican parliament. JAC
CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY
Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov announced in Grozny on 30 July that he will run for president of Chechnya in the ballot scheduled for 5 October, Russian news agencies reported. However, he added that he will participate in the ballot as an independent candidate because he does not want to be bound by obligations to any political party or movement. Kadyrov expressed his gratitude nonetheless to the leaders of Unified Russia and the People's Party, Boris Gryzlov and Gennadii Raikin, respectively. The Chechen regional branches of both parties planned to nominate Kadyrov as a presidential candidate. LF
PUTIN MEETS WITH NEW COMMANDER OF OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA
President Putin met in Moscow on 30 July with Interior Minister Gryzlov and with Rear Admiral and Deputy Interior Minister Yurii Maltsev, who was named several days earlier to command the ongoing "antiterrorism" operation in Chechnya, responsibility for which is being transferred from the FSB to the Interior Ministry, Russian news agencies reported. A former department head in the FSB, Maltsev earlier spent two years in Chechnya. He assessed the situation there as stable and gave a positive assessment of the Chechen police force which, he said, will play the major role in restoring law and order in Chechnya, supported by the military. LF
BOMB KILLS FIVE RUSSIAN TROOPS IN INGUSHETIA
Four Russian servicemen were killed outright and a fifth died later in hospital from injuries received when two KamAZ trucks hit a land mine near the village of Galashki, close to the border with Chechnya, in the evening of 29 July, Russian news agencies reported. Ingushetia's President Murat Zyazikov told Interfax on 30 July he sees no need to deploy additional troops in Ingushetia in the wake of the blast. He said unnamed forces both in Chechnya and abroad would like to export the Chechen conflict to Ingushetia, but will not succeed in doing so. LF
ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES CASH PARDONS FOR DRAFT DODGERS
The Armenian government approved on 30 July a parliament bill under which young men aged 27 and over who have consistently avoided military service may obtain immunity from prosecution by paying a large fee, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The bill was passed in the first reading last November, and its author, parliament deputy speaker Vahan Hovannisian, told RFE/RL he will push for its passage in the second and third readings before the end of this year. A Defense Ministry lawyer, Sedrak Sedrakian, said his ministry favors the bill and hopes it will permit a large number of young men who left Armenia to avoid military service to return home. LF
ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS NAGORNO-KARABAKH...
Accompanied by the ambassadors to Yerevan of a number of unnamed countries, Vartan Oskanian traveled on 29 July to Stepanakert for talks with the president and foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), according to Noyan Tapan and Armenian Public Television as cited by Groong. President Arkadii Ghukasian thanked Armenian diplomats for their efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Oskanian said it is time the international community recognized Nagorno-Karabakh's de facto independence. He also said the process of negotiating a settlement of the Karabakh conflict has been suspended due to "objective reasons," including uncertainty over the health of 80-year-old Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and the outcome of the Azerbaijani presidential election scheduled for 15 October, according to ITAR-TASS and Mediamax as cited by Groong. Oskanian and his NKR counterpart Ashot Ghulian signed a protocol on 30 July on cooperation between their respective ministries. LF
...TRIGGERING PROTESTS IN BAKU BY AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION
In Baku, members of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) picketed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) office on 30 July to protest Oskanian's visit to Stepanakert, according to Azerbaijan News Service as cited by Groong. They accused the OSCE of failing to actively mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict and demanded that the organization leave Azerbaijan. LF
RUMORS ABOUT AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S HEALTH INTENSIFY
Turan and Azerbaijani opposition newspapers reported on 31 July, citing unnamed Turkish sources, that Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer paid a brief visit to the Gulhane military clinic in Ankara on 30 July to say farewell to President Aliev prior to Aliev's planned return to Baku. According to Turan, however, Aliev's physicians advised him to return to the clinic after he reached Ankara's Esenboga airport. Members of the presidential administration in Baku have not yet commented publicly on those reports. Aliev has been undergoing medical treatment at Gulhane since 8 July. LF
AZERBAIJANI INTELLIGENTSIA APPEALS TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
In a statement released in Baku on 30 July, Amal, a group representing the Azerbaijani intelligentsia, accused the country's authorities of deliberately exacerbating domestic political tensions in order to create a pretext for police and military intervention in politics with the aim of neutralizing "influential opposition presidential candidates Ayaz Mutalibov and Rasul Guliev," Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 30 and 31 July, respectively. The Central Election Commission has, however, refused to register either Guliev or Mutalibov as a candidate for the 15 October presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 15, and 22 July 2003). Amal called on the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the U.S. State Department to take unspecified urgent measures to stabilize the situation in Azerbaijan. Amal Chairman Halid Alimirzoev attributed the recent detentions of journalists and opposition activists to the power vacuum that has emerged as a result of President Aliev's incapacitation. He said police in rural areas are pressuring opposition sympathizers, threatening to steal their cattle and burn their crops. LF
AZERBAIJANI ROAD POLICE TARGET ANOTHER OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER
Traffic police halted a car escorting Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov in Baku on 30 July and detained the driver and three passengers, Turan reported. Cars escorting AHCP leader Ali Kerimli and Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar have also been halted on several occasions in recent weeks for allegedly violating traffic regulations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 25 July 2003). LF
AZERBAIJAN'S INTERIOR MINISTER DEPLORES DETENTION OF JOURNALISTS
Meeting on 30 July in Baku with Aflatun Amashov, chairman of the Press Council, and Arif Aliev, head of the Yeni Nesil journalists' union, Interior Minister Ramil Usubov expressed regret over the illegal detention on 26 July of a number of prominent journalists, including his two interlocutors, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2003). Conceding that the detentions could have been ordered by a senior official, Usubov pledged to investigate the incident and punish those responsible. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO PASS ELECTION LAW
Parliament adjourned after 4 a.m. local time on 31 July after a lengthy debate but having failed to pass amendments to the election code in the second and third reading, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Representatives of the opposition Revival Union rejected the suggested allocation of seats on the Central Election Commission (CEC) and proposed an alternative division that would favor the Revival Union, the Industrialists, and the pro-presidential faction. Parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze telephoned President Eduard Shevardnadze and with Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze in an unsuccessful attempt to break the deadlock. Should the parliament fail to agree by 2 August on the composition of the new CEC, the outgoing CEC, several of whose members have already submitted their resignations, must oversee the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2 November. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION ACCUSES PRESIDENT OVER PRIVATIZATION DEAL
The opposition National Movement has brought a lawsuit against President Shevardnadze in a Tbilisi district court, accusing him of condoning legal irregularities during the sale to an Austrian investor of the Zestafon Ferrous Alloys Plant, Caucasus Press reported. The opposition party claims that Shevardnadze's daughter Manana and his nephew Nugzar Shevardnadze lobbied the sale on behalf of Austria's DK Ferro AG, which has acquired a 51 percent stake in the Zestafon plant for $7.1 million, according to Caucasus Press on 1 July. LF
UN EXTENDS MANDATE OF ITS MISSION IN ABKHAZIA
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on 30 July prolonging until January 2004 the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), Caucasus Press reported. The resolution hailed the agreements reached during talks in Sochi in March between the presidents of Georgia and Russia on expediting the return of Georgian displaced persons to Abkhazia, and endorsed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal to establish a group of 20 police officers to assist UNOMIG in providing security for those Georgian repatriates (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 25 July 2003). The resolution condemned as unacceptable the failure to apprehend and bring to justice the individuals responsible for the abduction of several UNOMIG personnel in the Kodori Gorge last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5, 6, and 10 June 2003). Echoing several earlier resolutions, the most recent one expressed regret at the Abkhaz refusal to discuss a UN-drafted document intended to serve as the basis of a political settlement of the conflict, and appealed to both sides to refrain from militant rhetoric or calls for a military solution to the conflict. It did not comment directly on the Georgian parliament's resolution calling on the government to demand that the UN launch a peace-enforcement operation in Abkhazia in accordance with Article 7 of the UN Charter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2003). LF
RUSSIA REJECTS GEORGIAN CRITICISM OVER ABKHAZ FERRY
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 30 July rejecting a protest by its Georgian counterpart against the resumption of ferry traffic between the Russian Black Sea port of Sochi and the Abkhaz capital, Sukhum, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). The Russian statement noted that the ferry, which is registered in Panama and sails under the Bolivian flag, docked in Sochi in compliance with international procedures and its crew produced the required documentation. LF
EU ENVOY VISITS TBILISI
Recently appointed EU special envoy for the South Caucasus Heikki Talvitie held talks in Tbilisi on 30 July with President Shevardnadze and parliament speaker Burdjanadze, Caucasus Press reported. Talks focused on Georgia's closer cooperation with the EU, along with possible EU assistance both in ensuring that the November parliamentary elections are free and democratic and to the Friends of the UN Secretary-General group engaged in trying to mediate a solution of the Abkhaz conflict. LF
KAZAKHSTAN ATTACKS HUMAN TRAFFICKING
In reaction to a U.S. State Department charge that Kazakhstan has done little to stop trafficking in human beings, the country's law enforcement agencies have drawn up a series of measures for fighting this type of crime, khabar.kz reported on 30 July, quoting Sergei Dospolov, head of the foreign relations department of the Prosecutor-General's Office. According to khabar.kz, human trafficking is the third most profitable crime in Kazakhstan, after drug and arms trafficking. Dospolov said that the State Department assertion was based partly on the fact that no sentences were handed down in 2002 for crimes related to human trafficking, but he argued that such crimes can be difficult to investigate because the victims are sent abroad. He asserted that Kazakh police receive tips from nongovernmental organizations indicating that hundreds of Kazakh citizens are trafficked every year. He said police constantly check tourist agencies, which are most frequently involved in trafficking, but he admitted that there have been almost no prosecutions for trafficking-related crimes. Five criminal cases of this type are now under investigation, he added. The country's law enforcement agencies are now awaiting government confirmation of their proposed anti-trafficking measures. BB
KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER DESCRIBES CONCEPT FOR ANTICORRUPTION AGENCY
Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev has instructed Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, head of the National Council for Conscientious Government, which was formed earlier in the year, to devise a structure for an agency to fight corruption, centran.ru reported on 30 July. The establishment of the anti-corruption agency was announced with considerable fanfare after international donor organizations and domestic critics pointed out the immense damage being done to Kyrgyzstan's economy and the country's reform plans by widespread corruption. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, as much as 30 percent of the funds that should go to the national budget are diverted by corrupt officials, and the extent of corruption in the country is discouraging foreign investment. Tanaev was quoted as saying that the anticorruption agency is intended to be a mobile organization that will work with authorities all over the country. Its main task will be to fight bribery, embezzlement, and cronyism. Centran.ru noted that since Kyrgyzstan gained independence, not a single case of high-level corruption has reached the courts. BB
KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY SAYS GOVERNMENT HAS ORDERED LEADER'S ARREST
The opposition Ar-Namys Party has issued a statement asserting that the Kyrgyz government has ordered the arrest of its acting leader, Emil Aliev, because he criticized the authorities and President Akaev personally at a government-organized roundtable on 19 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003), akipress.org reported on 30 July. Reportedly Aliev was the only roundtable participant to be so outspoken. He is serving as Ar-Namys leader while party chairman Feliks Kulov remains in prison on charges of abuse of government office. The Ar-Namys statement said that harassment of party members has increased since Aliev told the roundtable that there was a direct link between cases of political harassment and President Akaev. In the statement, the party also complained that Bolot Djanuzakov, the official in the president's office responsible for defense and security matters, had called for a guilty verdict against Aliev in a criminal case in which Aliev says he was exonerated by a court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2003). BB
TAJIKISTAN DESTROYS OWN LAND MINES
In keeping with its commitments under the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines, Tajikistan has begun destroying its stocks of land mines, Asia-Plus Blitz and centran.ru reported on 30 July. The first stage, involving 400 antipersonnel mines and other explosive devices, was carried out on 29 July at a military base outside Dushanbe in the presence of government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of international organizations, and foreign military observers. The Tajik Defense Ministry was quoted as saying that it has more than 30,000 land mines in its stores that should be destroyed, but that the country lacks the funds to get rid of all of them. The destruction of the land mines was the first action of the newly established Center for Land-Mine Problems, which was set up with international financing and technical support to help Tajikistan rid itself of land mines left from the 1992-97 civil war. BB
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS DUAL-CITIZENSHIP ISSUE IN TURKMENISTAN HAS 'SOMEWHAT STABILIZED'
The Russian Foreign Ministry stated in a 30 July press release that the situation regarding dual citizenship has somewhat stabilized but that a number of issues remain unresolved. The press release reported on a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksei Fedotov, head of the joint Russian-Turkmen commission on problems of dual citizenship, and Turkmen Ambassador to Russia Khalnazar Agakhanov, at which they discussed problems related to the revocation of dual citizenship. The text of the press release is available on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website (http://www.mid.ru). The unresolved issues include in particular the failure of the Turkmen authorities to drop a requirement that holders of Russian citizenship residing in Turkmenistan obtain exit visas in order to travel to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003). According to the Foreign Ministry, Fedotov also told the Turkmen ambassador that a delegation of Russian parliamentarians, journalists, and human rights activists is being assembled to investigate the situation of Russian citizens living in Turkmenistan. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov had earlier proposed that such a delegation be sent. BB
UZBEK POLICE BREAK UP HUMAN RIGHTS PICKET
Law enforcement officers broke up a picket organized by the Uzbek Human Rights Society outside the Cabinet of Ministers building in Tashkent on 30 July, Deutsche Welle reported the next day. According to the report, about 20 people took part in the picketing. The report noted that this was the first time in almost two months that a picket in Tashkent has been broken up by the authorities, although protests have been a near-daily occurrence in the Uzbek capital during that time. Some of the demonstrators reportedly carried slogans protesting against poverty, while others complained of corruption in the court system. Those carrying signs calling for the resignation of President Islam Karimov were particular targets of plainclothes special services officers. One picketer was quoted as explaining that the police would not attack picketers if foreigners were present, but that no diplomats had braved the summer sun to observe the demonstration, so law enforcement officials had reacted in the usual way. BB
BELARUSIAN FAMILIES LAUNCH EFFORT TO PROBE HIGH-PROFILE DISAPPEARANCES
Relatives of politician Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski -- all of whom are missing -- intend to set up a foundation to coordinate various organizations' and individuals' efforts to investigate those disappearances, Belapan reported on 30 July. The main goal of the foundation is to "find out what happened to our husbands and children" rather than to engender publicity, Hanchar's wife Zinaida said at a meeting the same day with foundation backers. Other participants in the meeting included Krasouski's wife Iryna, Zavadski's mother Volha and his wife Svyatlana, members of the Respublika caucus in the Chamber of Representatives, and representatives from the Belarusian opposition. The foundation is expected to establish cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's ad hoc subcommittee on Belarus's high-profile disappearances and to raise funds for gathering information about those and other disappearances. AM
OFFICIAL BELARUS DISAGREES WITH PRIVATIZING PIPELINE ON RUSSIAN TERMS
The deputy head of the Belarusian Energy Ministry's investment department said on 30 July that the privatization on Russia's terms of Belarus's monopoly pipeline operator Beltranshaz would be pointless, Belapan reported. "Gas accounts for 80 percent of all energy resources that we consume," the ministry's Valyantsin Matskevich said. "If we sold control of Beltranshaz, we would sell control of the country." The Belarusian government has estimated the value of Beltranshaz at $5 billion and wants to sell a minority stake, while Russian giant Gazprom maintains that the Beltranshaz price is inflated and wants a controlling interest. Matskevich also called media reports that Gazprom is considering bypassing Belarus with gas shipments if authorities there do not change their stance a "bluff." If there were other bidders, he added, Gazprom would accept Minsk's conditions. AM
UKRAINE, POLAND SIGN VISA AGREEMENT
Ukraine and Poland signed an intergovernmental agreement on 30 July regulating travel between those countries by their respective citizens, Ukrainian media reported. The agreement provides for free visas for Ukrainians and visa-free travel to Ukraine for Poles. The new regime should come into force on 1 October. The document was signed on the first day of Polish Premier Leszek Miller's visit to Ukraine. Miller said Poland intends to maintain free visas for Ukrainians after it joins the Schengen zone in 2006. AM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT UNSEATS MORE GOVERNORS
President Leonid Kuchma further asserted Kyiv's authority over regional governments on 30 July, sacking the governors of the Dnipropetrovsk (Mykola Shvets) and Zaporizhia (Yevhen Kartoshov) oblasts, Interfax reported. The move came one day after Kuchma dismissed the governors of the Poltava and Chernivtsi oblasts, and one week after the government recommended those and other dismissals over perceived failings in agricultural and economic policymaking (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 30 July 2003). Kuchma also named individuals to succeed all four governors. The replacements are: Oleksandr Udovichenko (a senior bank official in Poltava prior to his appointment) in Poltava; Mykhailo Romaniv (a senior official in Ukraine's state monitoring department) in Chernivtsi; Volodymyr Yatsuba (a minister without portfolio) in Dnipropetrovsk; and Volodymyr Berezovsky (chairman of the regional council of Zaporizhia Oblast) in Zaporizhia. AM
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT TO CHOOSE TEXT OF NATIONAL ACCORD
Arnold Ruutel will in the near future decide whether to base the final text of what has become known as the memorandum of national accord on a document compiled by nearly 30 experts or on a more concise text drawn up by rectors of three Estonian universities, BNS reported on 30 July. Both versions emphasize raising living standards and reducing social inequality. The first version, which was compiled by the National Accord Foundation under the leadership of Andra Veidemann and Agu Laius, deals with spheres including children and families, education, science and development, economy, rural life, and social cohesion. The version by the rectors of Tallinn Technical University, Tartu University, and Tallinn Pedagogical University is more compact and, in the opinion of its authors, more feasible. Veidemann criticized the rectors' document for leaving out "social dialogue, civic society, and rural life." SG
LATVIAN POLL SHOWS DROP IN SUPPORT FOR EU MEMBERSHIP
A July survey by pollster Latvijas Fakti indicated that 49.6 percent of Latvian citizens are prepared to support Latvia's membership of the EU, 7.5 percentage points less than the 57.1 percent figure in June, BNS reported on 30 July. The portion of citizens opposed to EU membership rose from 24.5 percent to 34.4 percent, while those undecided declined from 18.4 percent to 15.9 percent. The head of the Latvia's EU referendum task force, Ramona Umblija, said the decline might be due to the increased activity of Euroskeptics, but added that it is more likely influenced by domestic and international political factors that are not directly linked with the EU. Prime Minister Einars Repse predicted that support for EU membership will increase prior to the 20 September referendum. SG
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO LITHUANIA HAS FAREWELL MEETING WITH PRESIDENT
Ambassador Yurii Zubakov and Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas discussed a number of sensitive issues in Vilnius on 30 July, BNS reported. They included the plans of the Russian oil giant LUKoil to extract oil from the Baltic Sea near the Curonian Spit and the prosecution of the murderers of Lithuanian border guards at Medininkai in July 1991. Zubakov said that the oil extraction plans has become too politicized and that the Russian and Lithuanian environment ministers should meet before any decisions are made. He noted that he has not received any information that would confirm claims that the drilling will begin this year, and promised that Lithuania will be provided with the environmental studies carried out by Russian and international experts. In regard to the Medininkai massacre, Zubakov said that Russia has not fulfilled Lithuanian requests for the extradition of Riga OMON (Soviet paramilitary force) suspects because insufficient incriminating evidence was presented. Zubakov is scheduled to leave Lithuania on 20 August and will reportedly be replaced by former Russian Ambassador to Kenya Boris Tsepov. SG
POLISH PARLIAMENT REJECTS CONTROVERSIAL MEDIA AMENDMENTS...
The Sejm voted 375-2 with five abstentions on 30 July to reject the draft of sweeping new amendments to Poland's media law, PAP reported. Premier Miller last week asked the speaker of the Sejm to suspend work on the amendments and ordered Culture Minister Waldemar Dabrowski to prepare new drafts. Work on the draft has taken years and given rise to the so-called Rywingate bribery scandal (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 January 2003). Prosecutors in Warsaw said last week that there are grounds for suspecting illegal activities during the preparation of the amendments and officially launched an investigation into the case, according to PAP. Tomasz Nalecz, head of the special commission investigating Rywingate, filed the motion with prosecutors to launch the probe. AM
...AND CONSENTS TO POSSIBLE ARREST OF SEJM DEPUTY
The Sejm voted 332-13 with 32 abstentions on 30 July to allow for the possible detention and arrest of deputy Andrzej Jagiello, Polish Radio reported. Jagiello is accused of warning local government officials in Starachowice with alleged links to organized crime of a pending police operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). Jagiello's case marks the first instance in Poland's postcommunist history of a deputy's immunity being lifted to allow for arrest. The final decision will be made by a court. Sejm speaker Marek Borowski said that if Jagiello is arrested, he will not be able to fulfill his parliamentary mandate. AM
POLISH STEELWORKERS' PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT
Around 1,500 steelworkers facing the loss of their jobs at struggling Ostrowiec Steelmill held a protest march through the city of Ostrowiec in southern Poland on 30 July, burning effigies of executives they blame for the plant's problems and pelting Mayor Krzysztof Targowski with eggs, PAP reported. The protest started on 29 July with a sit-in strike against layoffs planned by the steelworks' new owner -- Spain's Celsa, which won a government tender for the plant earlier this month. Protesters want Celsa to assume greater obligations with respect to the plant's current employees. Celsa has declared it might not restart operations at the plant right away and is not interested in keeping its present work force. The contracts of 2,000 steelworkers expire on 31 August. AM
U.S. PRESIDENT 'UNINTERESTED' IN MEETING WITH CZECH COUNTERPART?
U.S. President George W. Bush told former Czech President Vaclav Havel in a meeting last week that he is not interested in meeting Havel's successor, Vaclav Klaus, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 31 July. "Regarding V. Havel's successor in the presidential office, the American president has no interest in a meeting," the diplomatic communique reportedly stated, according to the daily. Havel -- a longtime political rival of Klaus -- was in Washington to receive the presidential Medal of Freedom on 23 July. "Mlada fronta Dnes" based its report on purported minutes of that 30-minute meeting sent to the Czech Foreign Ministry by the Czech Embassy in Washington. Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar "indirectly confirmed" the authenticity of the document, according to the daily, while a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman declined to confirm the accuracy of the report. Klaus's chief of staff, Peter Hajek, dismissed the report as "rumors." The daily suggested that remarks to U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Craig Stapleton regarding the conflict in Iraq attributed to Klaus have strained the Czech president's relations with Washington (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). MS/AH
CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER ENDORSES U.S. MISSILE-DEFENSE PROGRAM...
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda on 30 July endorsed the Czech Republic's possible participation in a missile-defense program proposed by Washington, dpa and CTK reported, citing a spokesman. Svoboda was speaking at a meeting of Czech Senate leaders and members of the National Security Council. Svoboda reportedly said the Czech government is considering a range of options linked to the proposed defense system, from simple political backing to allowing the United States to deploy missiles on Czech territory. The spokesman said Svoboda backed "more than just political support" for the project. Defense issues were covered during talks between Premier Vladimir Spidla and senior U.S. officials in Washington in mid-July, but Spidla said the missile-defense issue was not discussed. Svoboda stressed that the government and parliament would have to vote on Czech participation in such a plan, according to CTK. MS
...AND PREDICTS NATO ROLE IN MIDEAST PEACE SETTLEMENT
Foreign Minister Svoboda told a Czech Senate committee on 30 July that NATO could assume a role in enforcing peacekeeping in the Middle East following the implementation of the international "road map, which envisages that a Palestinian state should be established in 2005," CTK reported. Svoboda was speaking before the Czech Senate's Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Security Committee. He said he is convinced NATO should operate outside the Euro-Atlantic area if the need arises, and noted that the organization is already participating in stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. Svoboda visited Israel in July and is now planning a visit to areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. MS
HUNGARIAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS PROTEST PLAN FOR NATO RADAR'S CONSTRUCTION
Environmentalists representing local council and residents near Zengo Hill in southern Hungary delivered a petition protesting the planned construction of a NATO radar in the area to parliamentary speaker Katalin Szili on 30 July, AP and Hungarian state radio reported. The petition contains 6,000 signatures, according to the group, which calls itself Civil Groups for the Zengo after the name of the peak where the radar is to be built. A representative said the area is an untouched nature reserve and constructing the radar there would deprive locals of their livelihood from tourism and deprive Hungary of one of its "few area of rare natural beauty and fauna." The group does not oppose the construction of the radar stations elsewhere in the country. Two more stations are planned with NATO funding as part of the alliance's early warning defense system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). Szili pledged to raise the issue with parliamentary committees dealing with environmental and defense issues, and to find out whether any alternative locations are possible. MS
HUNGARIAN OIL COMPANY EXPANDS INTO ROMANIA
MOL Romania, a subsidiary of Hungarian petrochemical concern MOL, has concluded an agreement for the purchase of 23 filling stations from Shell Romania, Hungarian media reported on 31 July. If the purchase is approved by Romanian antitrust authorities, MOL will have 73 filling stations in Romania, becoming the second-largest company on that market. MOL hopes to establish a nationwide filling station network in Romania -- as it has in Hungary -- that commands at least a 10 percent market share. MS
BALKAN LEADERS DISCUSS SECURITY AND CRIME
The prime ministers of Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia began an informal meeting in Salzburg on 30 July at the invitation of their Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Schuessel, "Die Presse" and RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The theme of the gathering is "Stability in Southeastern Europe in the 21st Century," which means that the talks will center on issues such as promoting security and combating organized crime. A similar meeting in 2002 stressed the importance of the rule of law and free trade, while the integration of the Balkans into the European Union is likely to play a similar role in the current talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). The prime ministers of Albania and Macedonia declined to attend because of the government crisis in Tirana and the politically charged national holiday in Macedonia, respectively. PM
ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER NAMES ACTING FOREIGN MINISTER
Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 29 July that Deputy Foreign Minister Luan Hajdaraga will head the ministry until September, thereby temporarily defusing a government crisis, the "Southeast European Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2003). Nano stressed that the replacement of former Foreign Minister Ilir Meta, who resigned recently to protest a perceived power grab by Nano, will not affect the country's foreign policy. PM
MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY PROMOTES WEAPONS BAN
The Macedonian Interior Ministry informed the public on 30 July that a new law banning carrying weapons in public places will take effect on 1 August, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The ministry warned that the legislation will be rigorously implemented and those violating it will be punished with the full force of the law. The new measure is part of a campaign aimed at disarming civilians in a country that has a long-established gun culture and experienced internal unrest in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14, 23, and 24 July 2003). UB
MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER
The Montenegrin parliament voted on 30 July to elect Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Ranko Krivokapic speaker, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The legislature also voted to make Vesna Medenica state prosecutor. PM
SERBIAN NGO TO BECOME POLITICAL PARTY
Stanko Lazendic, who heads the Novi Sad branch of the Otpor (Resistance) Serbian students' movement, said on 30 July that Otpor will officially become a political party in September, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported. He charged that the government ignores the activities and suggestions of the NGOs that want Serbia to become a democratic state, adding the only way an NGO like Otpor can put its ideas into practice is by taking an active part in politics. Otpor played an important role in the ouster of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. PM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S PRESIDENT WARNS WAGGING TONGUES
Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic said in Belgrade on 30 July that all government ministers and other officials should be careful when presenting their personal views in public so as not to call into question the joint state's commitment to European integration, the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro, or spirit of the Belgrade agreement on which the joint state is based, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
ISRAELI PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO ROMANIAN PRESIDENT'S LETTER ON HOLOCAUST
Responding to President Ion Iliescu's "explanatory" letter on statements he made last week in which he said the Holocaust was not "unique to the Jewish people," Israeli President Moshe Katzav wrote on 30 July that "while the Nazi regime brutalized many [other] nations, only Jews were persecuted and massacred because of their [ethnic] origin and because of the morbid ideology called 'Racial Theory,'" Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28, 29, and 30 July 2003). "Not all the war's victims were Jews, but all Jews were war victims," Katzav wrote. "The Nazi genocidal plan was directed only against the Jewish people and it was the Jewish people alone about whom the Nazis used the terrible expression 'Final Solution' in reference to its annihilation." Katzav also said Israel "expects Romania to show courage in looking its tragic past during the Holocaust in the face." He said that "the condemnation of this horrid and singular crime against the Jewish people is necessary to ensure a better future for the coming generations" and avoid "distorting historical truth." The daily "Curentul" on 31 July called Katzav's letter "a gratuitous lesson in history." MS
ROMANIA'S LIBERALS JOIN IN CALL FOR MINISTER'S DISMISSAL
National Liberal Party spokesman and parliamentary deputy Eugen Nicolaescu on 31 July joined calls by the Democratic Party for the dismissal of European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak for allegedly facilitating access to EU funds to companies headed by her husband and her son, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). MS
U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION LEADER URGES ROMANIA TO APPROVE PENAL CODE AMENDMENTS
Representative Christopher Smith (Republican, New Jersey), co-chairman of the U.S. Congressional Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), on 30 July called on Romania's lawmakers to approve the 21 May government-proposed amendments to the Penal Code, according to a press release issued by Smith's office. In his statement, Smith said he has been "heartened by the many positive changes that have taken place in Romania since the fall of [dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu and disappointed by the many squandered opportunities to implement more meaningful reforms." Smith said he has "long urged postcommunist governments to repeal insult and criminal defamation laws." The proposed amendments would eliminate an article in the current code making "insult" punishable by up to two years in prison; make "defamation" punishable by a fine instead of the currently allowed three-year jail sentence; and eliminate an article making "defamation of national symbols" punishable by up to three years' imprisonment. The amendments would also repeal an article making "insult" or "defamation" of public authorities punishable by up to seven years in prison, replacing it with an article in which the scope of the offense is narrowed to threats or violence. MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS TALK ON PEACEKEEPING FORCE IS 'PREMATURE'
President Vladimir Voronin told journalists in Chisinau on 30 July that speculation over who should man the Transdniester peacekeeping force is "premature," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Without mentioning by name the initiative attributed to OSCE Chairman in Office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that envisages the possible participation of OSCE forces in Transdniester peacekeeping operations, Voronin said that before deciding who would participate it should be decided what sort of peace that force would guarantee. "We are ready to discuss these problems only with those forces that can guarantee to help us achieve reintegration. There will be no military presence for its own sake," Voronin said. He also described current relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol as "worse than ever," saying this results from the separatist leadership's "self-isolation policy" and its insistence on preserving the status quo. MS
FEDERAL MOLDOVA TO HAVE CITIZENS OR CITIZENSHIPS?
A new bone of contention emerged at the 29 July meeting of the Moldova-Transdniester joint constitutional commission in Bendery-Tighina, BASA-press and Flux reported the next day. While the Transdniester side insists on having two classifications of citizenship in the federation, corresponding to the number of the federation's subjects, Chisinau wants a unified citizenry. Valerii Litskay, who headed the Transdniester delegation at the meeting, told journalists that the process of drafting the joint constitution could take about one year, and that the previously agreed six-month drafting process is clearly too short for an agreement to be reached. MS
U.S. ENVOY SAYS TRANSDNIESTER POLITICAL SOLUTION POSSIBLE BY END 2003
Rudolf Perina, who heads the U.S. State Department's negotiators' group for conflicts in the former USSR, told journalists in Chisinau at the end of a two-day visit that he believes a political solution to the Transdniester conflict can be reached by the end of 2003, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau and Infotag reported. He said a solution mainly depends on the political will of the sides involved. Perina stressed his confidence that Russia will fulfill its obligation to withdraw its troops from Transdniester by the end of this year, despite delays in that process. He said he does not rule out the imposition of new sanctions on the part of the international community if the Transdniester authorities obstruct the negotiations again, but added that the United States and the EU would rather promote cooperation by providing incentives, such as economic aid, than by imposing sanctions. Perina also said the forces that replace the Russian troops in Transdniester must be multinational and act under an international mandate. He stressed that the EU has not yet decided whether to dispatch such forces, and added that even if the EU decides in favor of sending troops, this does not mean the peacekeeping force would be made up of forces from EU countries alone. Perina held talks with President Voronin on 29 July. MS
IMF REPRESENTATIVE TO MOLDOVA SAYS CHISINAU LOST 2003 CHANCE
The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) permanent representative to Moldova, Edgardo Ruggiero, said on 30 July that the IMF's board of governors at its meeting on 10 September will not discuss resuming lending to Moldova, meaning Chisinau has lost its chance of seeing IMF lending resumed this year, Infotag reported. Ruggiero said Moldova failed to meet the 21 July deadline for fulfilling conditions the IMF set to resume payment of a $147 million loan inked in December 2002. The loan, which was frozen earlier this year, expires in December. The approval of a new loan, he said, would have to be negotiated. Ruggiero also said Moldova will not be able to apply this year to the Paris Club for a restructuring of its international debt because the application will not be considered without IMF consent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2003). MS
BULGARIA MAY CHANGE STRUCTURE OF ADMINISTRATION
Newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister Plamen Panayotov told journalists on 30 July that he will propose a change in the status of state agencies, the daily "Sega" reported. Currently, the agencies handling civil defense, protection of children, refugee issues, wartime reserves, natural disasters, standards and norms, and meteorology operate independently. Panayotov wants to put them under the control of their respective ministries to improve coordination with government policies. Panayotov also denied media speculation that he will take over portions of the prime minister's duties. UB
BULGARIAN ECONOMY MINISTER UPBEAT ABOUT TELECOM PRIVATIZATION
Commenting on the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court to push back the privatization of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK) to an earlier stage, Transport and Communication Minister Nikolay Vasilev said on 30 July that the sale is in the national interest and that it does not matter which of the two competitors -- the Vienna-based Viva Ventures or the Turkish consortium Koc Holding/Turk Telecom -- buys the company, mediapool.bg reported. Vasilev added that it is now up to the supervisory council of the State Privatization Agency to decide how to proceed with the privatization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). UB
BULGARIAN OPPOSITION COALITION SHRINKS
Protesting the dominating role of the Socialist Party (BSP) in the opposition Coalition for Bulgaria, Alliance for Social and Liberal Progress (ASP) Chairman Vasil Velinov told mediapool.bg on 30 July that his party will leave the coalition. Velinov charged that the BSP is trying to "monopolize the left." Complaining about the lack of a coalition culture, Velinov added, "[The BSP] imposes private interests as ideas of the left." The tiny ASP is not represented in the parliament. UB
AFTER ONE YEAR, NEW RUSSIAN CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE IS SHOWING RESULTS
One year after Russia's new Criminal Procedure Code came into force in July 2002, the courts are acquitting up to 13 percent of the people they try, and the number of people being held in investigative detention has fallen by one-third, according to the Russian Supreme Court and the Justice Ministry, which have been reviewing the code's impact.
Until 2002, Soviet and, later, Russian courts bumped along with an acquittal rate of about 0.4 percent -- far below the European average of around 10 percent. There are several reasons for the recent rise. First, the new code gives defendants the right to opt for a jury trial, and, since January, 60 additional regions have joined the nine regions that have already been offering jury trials since 1993. One year from now, jury trials should be available in all but two of the federation's 89 regions.
Like jurors in other countries, Russians have tended to take a dim view of cases that are poorly prepared or that have a whiff of illegality, and they have often reacted by throwing them out. In an interview about the jury system with "Vremya novostei" on 2 July, Supreme Court Judge Aleksei Shurydin directed some especially harsh words at the Moscow City Prosecutor's Office for the way it prepares cases. Juries began work in Moscow this month.
Even in non-jury trials courts now acquit more defendants then ever before: around 2 percent of the cases they hear. One reason might be that prosecutors have been slow to grasp the new rules of the game. Since January, prosecutors have been obliged to attend all trials and to argue their cases on an adversarial basis with the defense. In "Vremya novostei" interview, Shurydin said defense lawyers have so far been far better prepared than prosecutors and, consequently, have been far more persuasive in court. That gap, he said, is now closing. In this respect, prosecutors have clearly felt the impact of the new code. Under the old procedures, they were under no obligation even to turn up at hearings, and the prosecution's case was often -- literally -- taken from the documentation as read.
Courts have acquired a new importance under the new code. Since July 2002, they must review the detention of all suspects within 48 hours of their arrest, and they are obligated to free them if they find no convincing grounds for keeping them in prison. The release figures published by the Justice Ministry for July-September 2002 speak volumes about police standards. During the new code's first three months, courts released 3,000 suspects -- 1,000 more than for the whole of 2001. Since then, numbers have steadied dropped off, leaving the Supreme Court to conclude that the police and prosecutors are using arrest warrants more carefully. Over the past year, arrests as a whole are down by 50 percent, according to the Justice Ministry, and on average courts have freed 10 percent of people detained within 48 hours.
Like Poland and Hungary, which brought in court supervision of arrests in the 1990s, Russia has seen a striking change in its penitentiaries as a result of the change. With fewer people entering the system, the problem of prison overcrowding has begun to improve, at least on paper. In March, the Justice Ministry reported that the number of prisoners has fallen by more than 10 percent, with a 32.7 percent decrease in the number of people being held in pretrial detention. This should mean more space for the prisoners remaining, and the ministry says that in some regions detainees now have their statutory allowance of four square meters per person. In other regions, this figure has averaged 3.5 square meters. However, before the changes, detainees awaiting trial in big cities commonly had just 0.2 square meters of space to themselves.
The intervention of a judge within 48 hours of arrest was also intended to protect suspects from being compelled to "confess," since any signs of physical ill-treatment would be immediately apparent to an outsider. This reform was urged on Russia by torture experts from the United Nations and the Council of Europe. In an interview with "Vedomosti" on 1 July, Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev said that prosecutors have pressed charges less often, because "they are being more careful, and because suspects now appear before a judge." In the first year of the new code, however, 68 people renounced testimony that they had given before their trial, according to the Supreme Court's figures. Future statistics should track how many of them made claims of ill-treatment, how many of these claims were investigated, and how many officials were disciplined or prosecuted as a result. Whether the monitoring will venture into these contentious waters is not yet clear.
The new Criminal Procedure Code is a bold step toward reforming Russia's justice system. It is the product of years of wrangling, which still continues. Agencies like the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, and the Justice Ministry are unhappy with the new powers of the courts. In the week when the Supreme Court published its roundup of the year, FSB Deputy Director Viktor Kolmogorov complained to "Moskovskii komsomolets" that cases are collapsing in the courts, despite the defendants' "objective guilt." Kolmogorov put the phenomenon down to what he called the courts' "bias toward acquittal."
Some parts of the code are proving problematic even as they are being phased in. The political situation in Chechnya has made it impossible to find juries by random computerized selection to hear cases in federal courts. The introduction of jury trial there and in Ingushetia has therefore had to be postponed, most recently until January 2007.
As long as the courts remain short of money, it is possible that the code could run like clockwork and people would still not get fair trials. Supreme Court Chairman Lebedev made this point in his roundup of the year. Many regional governments still pay for judges' housing and give them bonuses, which casts serious doubt on their independence. In the future, the Supreme Court would like to see all payments to judges channeled through the federal budget, and regional grants restricted to the construction of courts. Some question whether even this would be enough. The introduction of juries in Moscow this month will be a litmus test for the new code, according to Svetlana Gannushkina of the Civic Assistance network, in a comment published in "Vremya novostei." Gannushkina works on behalf of the many ethnic Chechens who were rounded up from their homes -- reportedly on instructions from Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov-- after the October 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis.
Marjorie Farquharson writes on human rights issues.
AFGHAN LEADER ANNOUNCES DEFENSE MINISTRY REFORMS
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai told a National Security Council meeting on 30 July that "changes will be made in the Defense Ministry in a few days' time," Hindukosh news agency reported. Karzai added that following the reforms, "the disarmament and demobilization process [of militias] will begin." Hindukosh noted that two powerful rivals in northern Afghanistan -- Generals Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammad -- in addition to Kandahar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai did not attend the meeting. Karzai's comments coincided with a visit to Kabul by the United States' most senior military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers, Reuters reported on 30 July. Attempts to reform the Defense Ministry, which is dominated by Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim's fellow ethnic Tajiks, have failed, allowing warlords and regional leaders outside of Kabul to maintain their own armed militias. AT
NORTHERN WARLORDS TO WITHDRAW FORCES FROM BALKH PROVINCE
Army Corps No. 7 commander General Ata Mohammad has said his forces and those loyal to his rival General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is Chairman Karzai's special adviser on security and military affairs and commands Army Corps No. 8, will be withdrawn from Balkh Province, Balkh TV reported on 29 July. Ata Mohammad said his forces are to be based in Baghlan Province's Nahrin District and Army Corps No. 8 will be withdrawn to Jangal Bagh-e Shebarghan, in Dostum's home province, Jowzjan. Forces loyal to Ata Mohammad, who represents the Jamiat-e Islami party in northern Afghanistan, and those of Dostum's Junbish-e Melli party have been battling each other in the neighboring Balkh and Samangan provinces for more than a year, and Kabul's efforts to disband the forces have thus far proved unsuccessful. It is possible that the decision to move the two army corps is part of a renewed effort on the part of the central government to halt military conflicts in the country. AT
KANDAHAR CITY COUNCIL MEMBER ASSASSINATED
Mawlawi Jenab was killed by an unidentified assailant on 29 July, Hindukosh news agency reported the next day. Jenab's death was the second killing of a Kandahar City Council member in recent months, and another council member survived a third attack. According to the report, Jenab consistently voiced his opposition to decrees issued by the ousted Taliban regime against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Hindukosh believes that all three attacks were carried out by elements loyal to the Taliban, or neo-Taliban. AT
ITALIAN LEGAL ORGANIZATION TO TRAIN AFGHAN LAWYERS
A team of Afghan lawyers on 29 July began training courses in Kabul that were organized by the Rome-based International Development Law Organization (IDLO) (http://www.idlo.int), Hindukosh news agency reported on 30 July. Approximately 450 Afghan lawyers and prosecutors will attend the 50-day courses and will receive training in civil, criminal, and commercial law. One hundred and fifty of the trainees are from Kabul. The establishment of the IDLO Training Center and the initiation of the program are the result of Italian cooperation with the Transitional Administration in reestablishing Afghanistan's judiciary, IDLO noted. AT
GERMAN AIRLINE TO LAUNCH FIRST DIRECT EUROPE-KABUL ROUTE
Germany's LTU airline on 5 August will begin a direct flight between Duesseldorf and Kabul, ddp reported on 30 July. LTU will have one flight a week, every Tuesday. According to the airline, the route will enable many relief organizations and cargo flights to reach Afghanistan more quickly. AT
IRAN'S INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH OF CANADIAN JOURNALIST CONTINUES...
Justice Minister Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ismail Shushtari told reporters after a 30 July cabinet meeting that the investigation into the case of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 11 July after the authorities detained her on 23 June, has so far yielded no results, Fars News Agency reported. "The case is still being investigated, and no particular person has confessed to being the main culprit, and it has not produced results yet," he said. Shushtari said he has not seen Kazemi's corpse and cannot respond to reports that the body bore bruises. Health, Treatment, and Medical Education Minister Masud Pezeshkian told reporters how the bruises got there, according to another dispatch from Fars. Pezeshkian said injections a patient usually gets in intensive care can cause bruising at the injection site. "The bruises that Zahra Kazemi's mother mentioned relate to the effects of the injections, and this is a totally technical and specialist opinion," Pezeshkian said. "A film of the body is available and all the stages of the autopsy are on film, and, if anyone makes a claim of this kind, we are ready to show them the film." BS
...WHILE VICE PRESIDENT HINTS AT MURDER...
Iranian Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Ali Abtahi told reporters after the 30 July cabinet meeting that it is increasingly likely that Kazemi's hemorrhage was caused by a blow to the head, dpa and Reuters reported. Abtahi made the same assertion previously (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 July 2003). BS
...AND BEREAVED MOTHER ALLEGES OFFICIAL INTIMIDATION
Ezat Kazemi, the mother of Zahra Kazemi, said in an interview that appeared in the 30 July "Yas-i No" daily that she was coerced into having her daughter buried in Shiraz, Reuters reported. Kazemi said she initially signed a document at the Canadian Embassy saying she wants her daughter's remains to be returned to Canada. But during her stay at a friend's house in Tehran, unidentified personnel paid nightly visits, she is quoted as saying. "Every day, four or five people came and talked to the owner of the house [where I was staying], and they created problems for them, and I was obliged to accept her burial in Iran," Kazemi said, according to Reuters. "I had no other choice. I didn't have money, I was alone, and I had no other place to go.... They wanted the burial to take place as soon as possible. They wanted to get rid of it [the body]." Kazemi said she wants her daughter's killer to be found and executed. BS
FISTICUFFS ERUPT IN IRANIAN PARLIAMENT
During the 29 July parliamentary session, Shiraz representative Seyyed Ahmad Azimi punched Tabriz's Akbar Alami in the back of the neck, prompting Alami to punch Azimi in the face, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported. Azimi fled when other legislators intervened, but Alami followed him to the cafeteria and the fight resumed. The fight apparently stemmed from Alami's allegations that Azimi, who serves on the parliamentary energy committee, is getting money from the Petroleum Ministry. BS
ARRESTED ASSOCIATE OF DISSIDENT IRANIAN CLERIC GETS SUPPORT
Members of the household of former Isfahan Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Jalal Taheri visited the family of his recently arrested associate, Mohammad Madah, on 29 July, ISNA reported the next day. The ayatollah's wife reportedly recalled the prison years they endured under the monarchy, stressed the importance of patience and composure, and expressed gratitude for Mohammad Madah's hard work since the 1979 revolution. Ayatollah Taheri visited the family on 21 July and said, "I was the target, and they can come and arrest me if they want to do so," ILNA reported on 23 July. "I have not committed any crimes for which I can be prosecuted or arrested." Members of the Islamic Society of Isfahan University and Isfahan Medical Sciences University visited the Madah family on 23 July, ILNA reported. Madah was arrested on 19 July on the basis of a warrant issued by the Special Court for the Clergy. The arrest is presumably connected with his allowing the Central Council of the Office for Strengthening Unity student organization to hold a meeting at the Husseinabad mausoleum. BS
TEHRAN DENIES SUPPORTING TERRORIST FAMILIES
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi said on 30 July that Israeli allegations that Tehran provides financial support to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers are "ridiculous," IRNA reported. Assefi termed Palestinian terrorism a resistance that has deep and historical roots, and he said that Israel should concede to what he termed the natural and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Reuters had cited anonymous "Israeli officials" on 29 July as saying that intelligence suggests Iran is offering $50,000 to suicide bombers' families. These officials said Iran is trying to fill a void left by Iraq's Ba'athist regime, which was reportedly paying suicide bombers' families. BS
IRAQ'S GOVERNING COUNCIL SELECTS FIRST CHAIRMAN...
The Iraqi Governing Council chose Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, the spokesman for the Al-Da'wah Party, to become the first chairman of the council's nine-member leadership committee, Reuters reported on 30 July. The 25-member council elected the committee on 29 July after nearly three weeks of deliberation over the future structure of its leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). The council is now expected to move on to issues that include the drafting of an Iraqi constitution and the appointment of ministers, which al-Ja'fari said will be on next week's agenda. Al-Ja'fari, a medical doctor, will hold the post for 30 days before the chairmanship rotates to another member, reportedly INC head Ahmad Chalabi. Governing Council member Nasir al-Chadirchi told Al-Jazeera on 30 July that the committee members will rotate in alphabetical order. KR
...LEAVING NEW LEADER TO DISCUSS HIS DUTIES...
Governing Council Chairman Ibrahim al-Ja'fari told Al-Jazeera in a 30 July interview that each chairman's 30-day rotation will build on that of his or her predecessor. "The chairman of the council will not assume his responsibilities separately from his eight colleagues," he said. "The process is an integrated one. The presidential body will consult and hold its sessions regularly from time to time for the sake of consultation and cooperation with the incumbent chairman." Al-Ja'fari dismissed the perception that the rotating nature of the chairman's post reflects an inability of council members to place their trust in any single member of the committee, adding, "It shows that the council and the chairman are determined to be representatives of the [political] spectrum present on the council." KR
...AND DEFEND HIS PARTY'S AGENDA
Al-Jazeera asked al-Ja'fari in the 30 July interview whether his Al-Da'wah Party's "religious mentality," which advocates an Islamic state in Iraq, will affect his leadership. He replied that "there is not conflict between the ideas I subscribe to and assuming the tasks [of the Governing Council]. The Islamic Al-Da'wah Party is an Islamic party that has a political dimension and deals with political issues with complete openness and an open mentality." Al-Ja'fari later added, "We [have] master[ed] the art of political coordination between us and the other Iraqi political parties as well as the art of implementation." KR
WORLD BANK SAYS LOANS WILL COME AFTER IRAQI CONSTITUTION
World Bank President James Wolfensohn met with members of the Iraqi Governing Council on 30 July and suggested that his institution will only lend money to Iraq once a constitution is approved and national elections are held, "The New York Times" reported on 31 July. A press release posted on the World Bank website (http://www.worldbank.org) made no mention of the prerequisites, but rather focused on Wolfensohn's support for international efforts aimed at rebuilding Iraq. According to the press release, more than 25 World Bank staff are taking part in a needs-assessment study for Iraq, in coordination with various UN development agencies. The study evaluates reconstruction needs in sectors ranging from agriculture and education to economic management and investment. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union are cooperating on the assessment study, which will be released at a donors' conference scheduled for October. The study should help determine funding requirements in Iraq for 2004. The World Bank press release also stated that the institution will open a Baghdad office in September. Faris Haddad-Zervos will be the World Bank's head of mission there. He previous managed a technical-assistance program for Persian Gulf states. KR
IRAQ ADMINISTRATOR PREDICTS ELECTIONS AS EARLY AS MID-2004
The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said on 31 July that general elections in Iraq might come as early as mid-2004, ending the coalition occupation of Iraq, Reuters reported. Speaking to guests at a reopening ceremony at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, which was looted and set ablaze during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bremer said Iraqis can expect a government to be in place next year. "Your ministry is back at work...and gradually it will move to diplomacy. I know your work will expand as the steps we are putting in place to establish an Iraqi government progress," he said. "It is not unrealistic to think we could possibly have general elections by mid-2004, and that is when [the coalition's] work will be done." KR
COALITION CONTINUES SECURITY RAIDS IN IRAQ
Coalition forces have continued their raids on designated pro-regime sites as part of their ongoing effort to establish security in Iraq, according to a 30 July press release posted on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil). "In the last 24 hours, coalition forces conducted 51 raids, 953 day patrols and 737 night patrols," the press release stated. In addition, 142 day and 145 night patrols were carried out jointly with Iraqi police forces, CENTCOM said. Iraqi police officers working independently conducted 16 daytime patrols and nine nighttime patrols, the statement added. The raids and patrols reportedly resulted in 559 arrests, "including two for murder, four for robbery, five for aggravated assault, 39 for theft, two for controlled substance violation, 235 for weapons violations, and 272 for various other crimes." One day earlier, CENTCOM reported that multiple raids on 28 July led to the confiscation of large amounts of weapons. A full list of coalition activities is available on the CENTCOM website. KR