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Newsline - September 24, 2003


PUTIN ARRIVES IN U.S. FOR TALKS ON IRAQ, ENERGY...
President Vladimir Putin arrived in New York on 24 September for his third official visit to the United States, Russian media reported. Putin is scheduled to deliver a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September, and to hold a two-day summit with U.S. President George W. Bush at Camp David on 26-27 September. Postwar Iraq is expected to dominate the discussions. In addition, Bush and Putin will focus on energy issues, Russian media reported on 24 September, citing Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref. Gref predicted that Russian oil supplies to the United States might be increased in 2007, and that in 2010 Russia might start supplying U.S. markets with liquefied natural gas. BW

...AS FORMER OLIGARCH ATTACKS HIM IN NEWSPAPER ADVERTISEMENTS
Russian tycoon Boris Berezovskii took out full-page advertisements in major U.S. newspapers on 23 September warning Washington not to trust President Putin, international media reported. Under the headline "Seven questions to President George Bush about his friend President Vladimir Putin," the advertisement accuses Putin of undermining democracy; suppressing the legislative branch, the judiciary, and the media; and overseeing genocide in war-torn Chechnya. "Any person is free to choose his friends," the advertisement read. "But friendship is based on shared values." It appeared in "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," and "The Wall Street Journal." Berezovskii, who is wanted in Russia on fraud charges and who was recently granted political asylum in Great Britain, said he paid $1 million for the advertisements, which he said had two goals. "One is to point out to the American president that there are people in Russia who understand that the current regime has committed crimes," Berezovskii, a former ally of Putin's, told Reuters. "President Putin should also understand that these crimes will not go unpunished, that not everyone has a short memory, that he has to answer for them." BW

RUSSIA, CHINA DISCUS OIL PIPELINE...
During an official visit to China, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 25 September that Moscow will continue studying long-delayed plans to build an oil pipeline from Angarsk to the Chinese city of Datsin, but stressed that the project will be completed, Russian and international media reported. "We will continue to respect all the commitments of the Russian side on providing China's oil and gas needs," Kasyanov said. "We again stress that the most logical way to provide China with oil is through a pipeline. So we will continue to study the issue of an oil pipeline from Russia to China." Kasyanov spoke after meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Kasyanov said the exact route for the pipeline is being reviewed due to ecological concerns, a process that could take three or four months. The current proposal is to construct the pipeline from Angarsk to Datsin, with a spur to the Russian port of Nakhodka to supply oil to Japan. The $2.5 billion project has been delayed by the Natural Resources Ministry due to ecological concerns near the Lake Baikal region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003). BW

...AND WTO MEMBERSHIP...
Russia has begun consultations with China aimed at securing Beijing's support for Russia's membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Russian media reported on 24 September. "We welcome the Chinese government's readiness to become one of the first, or even the first, country with which Russia will sign a protocol on the completion of consultations on our admission to the World Trade Organization," Interfax quoted Prime Minister Kasyanov as saying. Kasyanov spoke after meeting with Chinese Premier Wen in Beijing. Kasyanov said he appreciates China's support for Russia's WTO bid, adding that so far Moscow's efforts to join the organization "have not been simple at all." BW

...AS MOSCOW REFUSES DALAI LAMA'S REQUEST TO VISIT
Russia on 23 September turned down a request from Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to visit Russian Buddhists, Reuters reported. "When looking at the question of a visit by the Dalai Lama, we had to take into account all of Russia's interests and strictly follow Russia's international obligations, including our treaty of friendship with China," a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said. "China looks negatively upon the Dalai Lama's international activities." China claims that Tibet, which it invaded in 1950, is part of its territory and considers the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, a dangerous separatist. Beijing regularly issues strong diplomatic protests to countries that allow the Dalai Lama to visit. Russia has around 1 million Buddhist citizens, mainly in Siberia and near the Caspian Sea, who consider the Dalai Lama their spiritual leader. BW

INTERIOR MINISTER SEEKS BROADER DETENTION POWERS TO BATTLE TERRORISM
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov has proposed increasing the length of time terrorism suspects may be detained before charges are filed, Russian media reported on 23 September. "We want the Criminal Procedural Code to allow 30 days for preliminarily detention of persons suspected of terrorism," Gryzlov said, according to RIA-Novosti. "It is the minimum necessary time for identifying them and investigating their involvement in bandit formations," RIA-Novosti quoted Gryzlov as saying. Currently, suspects may be held for 48 hours. "An excessive tilt toward defendants has been made in many respects" in the new Criminal Procedural Code, Gryzlov added. "Victims have less chance to defend themselves." BW

RUSSIA ACCUSES LATVIA, ESTONIA OF DISCRIMINATION IN EU VOTES
The Foreign Ministry has accused Latvia and Estonia of discriminating against their Russian minorities by not allowing non-citizens to vote in referendums on joining the European Union, RIA-Novosti reported on 24 September. Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Malakhov said on 23 September that 662,000 people in the two Baltic countries were unable to vote in the recent referendums, in which EU membership was approved. "These people...earlier enjoyed equal rights with other citizens. In the early 1990s they were deprived of citizenship," said Malakhov. "With Latvia's and Estonia's entry into the European Union, this problem will become [the EU's], and we will again put it in focus within the framework of the Russia-EU political dialogue." When Latvia and Estonia won their independence in 1991, ethnic Russians who moved there after Moscow annexed those countries during World War II were required to pass language tests to become naturalized citizens. BW

SHOCK-THERAPY GURU SAYS IRAQ CAN LEARN FROM RUSSIA
Yegor Gaidar, the former Yeltsin-era acting prime minister and the architect of Russia's first post-Soviet economic reforms, said postwar Iraq could learn a lot from Russia, Reuters reported on 24 September. After visiting Iraq to offer advice on restoring its economy, Gaidar said the country "works very strangely, but if anything it is similar to Russia." "Liberalization of prices in Iraq is unavoidable, but there is unlikely to be the 'shock therapy' there was in Russia," Gaidar said. The United States had many qualified experts, he added. "But none has had the experience of liberalizing prices. We have experience solving these problems." (Also see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2003.) BW

FEDERATION COUNCIL HEAD WEIGHS IN ON PRIVATIZATION...
Sergei Mironov, Federation Council chairman and head of the Russian Party of Life, said on 23 September that it would be wrong to guarantee legally that the results of privatizations will not be revised, Interfax reported. Statements by President Putin and Prime Minister Kasyanov that privatization results will not be reversed are "more than enough," and it would be "difficult and inadvisable" to give such statements legislative backing, Mironov said. He added that he opposes revising privatization results in general, but that there could be "individual exceptions" in cases involving specific criminal charges. Mironov also said he supports legislative action to redistribute the unearned income from natural resources so that they "work for the people." Specifically, half that income from natural resources should go to a development budget for Russia, while the other half should go to finance social programs, the military, health care, and education, Mironov said. JB

...AS DOES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE HEAD...
Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is now president of Russia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said on 22 September that while "very many violations" of the law were committed during privatization, this should not be used to justify "a universal revision of the results of privatization," gtnews.ru reported on 23 September. Privatization has allowed hundreds of thousands of Russians to become owners of apartments, dachas, and garages, Primakov noted. Unlike Federation Council Chairman Mironov, however, Primakov called for a legal prohibition of any revision of rights to property acquired before a certain year -- he suggested 1998 -- "with the exception of cases in which the property owner committed criminally punishable acts." Like Mironov, Primakov called for legislative action to redistribute natural-resource profits -- most of which he said are being "appropriated" by "raw-materials monopolists" -- to "the whole of society," Prime-TASS reported on 23 September. JB

...AS IDEA OF REDISTRIBUTING RESOURCE WEALTH GAINS CURRENCY
Neither Primakov's nor Mironov's comments on privatization diverged sharply from those made recently by presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin and President Putin, both of whom have spoken out against a wholesale revision of privatization results while also indicating that privatizations that involved serious crimes must be prosecuted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 22 September 2003). At the same time, Mironov's and Primakov's suggestions about redistributing profits earned from exploiting natural resources echo those made by State Duma Deputy Sergei Glazev, who heads the newly formed Motherland National-Patriotic Union leftist electoral bloc (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 18 September 2003). Similar discussions took place during the founding congress of the Great Russia-Eurasian Union bloc, led by Russia-Belarus Union Secretary Pavel Borodin, former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, and retired General Leonid Ivashov (see "Russian Political Weekly," 18 September 2003). JB

'VEDOMOSTI' REPORTS OLIGARCH SELLING OFF
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor and oligarch Roman Abramovich recently concluded a deal to sell his 50 percent stake in Russian Aluminum (Rusal) to the man who owns the other half of the company, fellow oligarch Oleg Deripaska, "Vedomosti" reported on 24 September. The sale of the stake, which analysts value at $2.5 billion-$3 billion, would leave Deripaska the sole owner of Russia's largest aluminum holding. According to "Vedomosti," Abramovich started selling off his assets this spring, first selling a 26 percent stake in Aeroflot to National Reserve Bank and then agreeing to merge his Sibneft oil company with Mikhail Khodorkovskii's Yukos. The United Financial Group's Aleksandr Pukhaev told "Vedomosti" that the criminal probes of Yukos might have convinced Abramovich to sell off his higher-profile holdings or even to get rid of his Russian assets altogether and do business exclusively in the West. Russian media speculation earlier this year that Abramovich was in the Kremlin's crosshairs and preparing to emigrate was fueled further by his purchase of Britain's Chelsea soccer club (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July and 7 August 2003). JB

MOSCOW MAYOR SAYS HE'LL RUN FOR A THIRD TERM
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 23 September that he will seek re-election for a third term, Russian media reported. Luzhkov, who made his announcement during a city government meeting, said he will run in the capital's 7 December mayoral election "as an independent candidate," despite being a leading member of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, Interfax reported. Luzhkov said he is not ignoring the party, but is underscoring his desire "to serve Muscovites and not parties." The city government, he added, is "a de-politicized organ of power, which allows it complete freedom to solve city problems." In keeping with his image as an efficient manager, Luzhkov said that in the -- highly likely -- event he is re-elected, his priorities will include "serving Muscovites, solving social problems,...and strengthening the city's economic potential." Among the other candidates who have announced they will run for mayor of Moscow are Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia); Dmitrii Berdnikov, who leads a nongovernmental organization in Kazan; Moscow city official Yelena Guseva; and businessman German Sterligov. JB

ARBITRATION COURT UPHOLDS VERDICT AGAINST 'VERSIYA'
The Moscow Arbitration Court's appeals instance on 23 September upheld a 10 July Moscow Appeals Court verdict ordering the weekly "Versiya" to pay 3 million rubles ($99,000) to Alfa-Bank Director Petr Aven and Alfa Group head Mikhail Fridman, Interfax reported. Aven and Fridman sued the newspaper for publishing two articles by investigative journalist Oleg Lure in 1999 and 2000 alleging that Alfa Group had links to international criminal networks. The 10 July ruling also ordered "Versiya" to pay 170,000 British pounds ($282,000) to the British investigative agency Kroll Associates, ruling that the firm's reputation was also damaged by Lure's articles. "Versiya" Editor in Chief Rustam Arifjanov subsequently stepped down from his post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 July 2003). JB

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DOES NOT ANTICIPATE SWIFT OPENING OF BORDER WITH TURKEY
Robert Kocharian would consider the opening of Armenia's border with Turkey a positive development, but doubts that it will happen in the near future, his spokesman, Ashot Kocharian (no relation to the president), told journalists in Yerevan on 23 September, Interfax and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. On 16 September, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian similarly said he considers predictions that Turkey will soon lift its blockade of Armenia "extremely exaggerated." Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul assured his visiting Azerbaijani counterpart Vilayat Guliev earlier this month that opening the border "is not on the agenda." LF

ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST NEW MEDIA BILL
A group of Armenian journalists picketed the parliament building on 23 September to protest the anticipated passage in its first reading the following day of a controversial media bill, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Debate on the bill in the previous parliament was postponed indefinitely in late March following similar protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March and 2 April 2003). The National Press Club issued a statement on 20 September suggesting that the rationale for passing a new media law at this juncture is to preclude broad public discussion of new proposals on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported on 23 September. The same agency reported on 12 September that the National Press Club has drafted an alternative media bill. LF

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS BLAME OPPOSITION FOR CLASHES WITH POLICE...
Azerbaijan's Prosecutor-General's Office issued a statement on 23 September condemning "illegal acts" during 21 September meetings in Baku and two districts of southern Azerbaijan of opposition candidates in the 15 October presidential election and voters, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 23 and 24 September, respectively. The statement said investigations will be conducted into the clashes that took place between police and participants in the campaign rallies, and that any officials found to have exceeded their authority will be "strictly punished." Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission, by contrast, issued a statement the same day, which it said was based on information received from district police and election commissions, blaming the violence on the opposition candidates themselves and their supporters, according to zerkalo.az. The statement said opposition leaders insisted on conducting campaign rallies at locations other than those agreed to by local authorities. Local authorities rendered access to those agreed-upon locations impossible, however (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2003) The online paper further quoted the election commission statement as accusing supporters of Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar of calling for the overthrow of the current Azerbaijani leadership. LF

...AS USE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS CONDEMNED
The Paris-based international organization Reporters Without Borders issued a statement on 22 September condemning the use of violence by police against journalists attending the campaign rallies of Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (reformist wing) leader Ali Kerimli in Masally and Lenkoran the previous day, Turan reported on 23 September. The statement named five journalists for opposition or independent publications who were injured in the clashes, and deplored the arrest on dubious pretexts of two other journalists present at the rallies. LF

NINE BLOCS REGISTERED TO CONTEST GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY BALLOT
As of the 23 September deadline, Georgia's Central Election Commission has registered nine blocs wishing to contest the 2 November parliamentary elections, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. They are the pro-presidential For a New Georgia bloc; the opposition Burdjanadze-Democrats; the Saakashvili-National Movement; the New Rightists; Industry Will Save Georgia; Djumber Patiashvili-Ertoba; Samshoblo; Peaceful Caucasus; and National Accord. Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze's Revival Union, which was the nucleus of an opposition bloc that won the second-largest number of seats in the outgoing parliament, will contest the ballot independently. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER'S ELECTION REGISTRATION ANNULLED
The Georgian Central Election Commission on 23 September annulled the registration as a parliamentary candidate of former National Security Minister Igor Giorgadze on the grounds that his registration document did not specify his address and was signed by a local official not authorized to do so, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. In a subsequent interview with Rustavi-2, a man claiming to be Giorgadze denounced the election commission decision as politically motivated. Giorgadze fled Georgia in September 1995 after being accused of masterminding a car-bomb attack on then-Georgian parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2003). Also on 23 September, Giorgadze's campaign manager told journalists that Giorgadze has been living in a village in Znauri Raion for the past two years. But Georgia's Frontier Protection Department said it has no record of Giorgadze having entered Georgia during that time, while State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania said Giorgadze is currently abroad, Caucasus Press reported on 24 September. LF

GEORGIA UNABLE TO REPAY DEBT TO ARMENIA
Georgia has failed to repay $20 million it owes Armenia, arguing that it cannot afford to do so following the suspension of further loan tranches from the International Monetary Fund (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 22 August 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003), Armenian Finance Minister Vardan Khachatrian told RBK on 23 September, according to Groong. Khachatrian added that Armenia's draft budget for 2004 is predicated on the repayment of that sum, but the Armenian government will try to find alternative sources of revenue to preclude a budget deficit. LF

KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY 'PUZZLED' AT UZBEK BIAS CHARGE
Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry has issued a press statement expressing "puzzlement" at an assertion by the Uzbek ambassador in Almaty that the Kazakh media is inflaming tensions between the two countries through biased reporting of incidents on the Kazakh-Uzbek border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2003), centrasia.ru reported on 23 September. The Foreign Ministry's statement describes as "unfounded" Uzbek charges that the Kazakh government and public figures are using the border incidents, particularly the shooting of a Kazakh citizen by Uzbek border guards on 4 September, to provoke anti-Uzbek feelings among the population and to create tensions in bilateral relations. It describes the Uzbek ambassador's assertions as "irresponsible," a violation of normal diplomatic practices, and interference in the internal affairs of Kazakhstan. The statement pointed out that in 2003 there have been more than 1,000 instances of Uzbek citizens crossing the border illegally, but Kazakh guards have never resorted to use of firearms, while Uzbek guards do so on a regular basis, and their actions could seriously damage relations between the two countries. BB

U.S. SUPPORTS KAZAKHSTAN'S REQUEST TO CHAIR OSCE IN 2009
U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Stephen Minikes told journalists in Almaty on 23 September that the United States supports Kazakhstan's request to assume the post of annual OSCE chairman-in-office in 2009, but said the country needs to demonstrate its adherence to the organization's principles in the implementation of human rights standards, civil-society development, and the transition to a market economy, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Minikes added that the country that chairs the OSCE must serve as an example for other member states. Kazakhstan is the first country of the former Soviet Union to seek the post. BB

KAZAKH LOCAL-ELECTION RESULTS REPORTED
Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission has announced the outcome of the 20 September local council elections by political parties, insofar as candidates specified their party affiliation, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 23 September. According to election commission figures, 1,696 candidates who specified their party affiliations were elected out of 2,852. The majority of candidates who declared their party affiliations were members of the pro-government Otan (Fatherland) Party -- 2,164 candidates, of whom 1,477 won council seats. Of the 257 candidates from the centrist Azamat Party, 87 won, as did 18 of the 42 Aul (Village) Party candidates, 109 of the Agrarian Party candidates, and five of the 48 candidates of the mildly opposition Ak Zhol party. The report noted that many candidates did not declare party affiliations. BB

KYRGYZ POLICE INVESTIGATE DEATH OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST
Police in the town of Kara-Suu in southern Kyrgyzstan are investigating the death of journalist Ernis Nazalov, whose body was found in the area on 15 September, the "Moya stolitsa" website (http://www.msn.kg) reported on 22 September. A medical examiner reported finding no signs of violence on the body. Nazalov was a correspondent for the national newspapers "Kyrgyz Ruhu" and "Kyrgyz Ordo." He reportedly wrote a resignation letter shortly before his death, but it was left unsigned. Human rights activists are particularly interested in the case because Nazalov was known to be preparing to publish material on high-level corruption in Kyrgyzstan, and his records apparently have disappeared. BB

RUSSIAN-KYRGYZ AGREEMENT ON LABOR MIGRATION SIGNED
During Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev's visit to Moscow for the opening of Kyrgyz Culture Days and the signing of the Russian-Kyrgyz agreement on Russia's use of the Kant air base (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2003), an bilateral agreement on labor migration was also signed, according to kabar.kg on 22 September. The agreement, according to Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov, obliges the Russian side to provide benefits to Kyrgyz citizens who take jobs in the Russian Federation and allows Kyrgyz workers to stay in Russia indefinitely. Aitmatov noted that the exact number of Kyrgyz citizens now working in Russia is not known, but Kyrgyz migration services have estimated that it is between 300,000 and 500,000 people. BB

NGO COALITION SET UP IN TAJIKISTAN
A Civil Democratic Forum held in Dushanbe on 22 September under the sponsorship of the National Democratic Institute, a U.S. party-based foundation, ended with the setting up of a Coalition of Nongovernmental Organizations, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 23 September. The report quoted participants at the forum as saying the objective of the coalition is to expand the role of NGOs in the process of democratization, including the independent monitoring of elections. The Tajik coalition is patterned on a similar NGO coalition in Kyrgyzstan. Two representatives of the Kyrgyz Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society -- coalition founder Tolekan Ismailova and coalition member Dinara Ashurkhanova -- attended the Tajik forum to explain how their association works. More than 60 members of Tajik NGOs, Tajik journalists, and representatives of international organizations participated in the forum. BB

MORE THAN 200 HIZB UT-TAHRIR ACTIVISTS ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN IN LAST TWO YEARS, SAYS INTERIOR MINISTER
Tajik Interior Minister Khumdin Sharipov told a news conference in Dushanbe on 22 September that more than 200 members of the banned extremist Muslim movement Hizb ut-Tahrir have been arrested in Tajikistan in the last two years, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier, law enforcement agencies said that 30 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been arrested in Tajikistan in 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003). According to Sharipov, many detained activists have been charged not only with distributing seditious literature and seeking to overthrow the constitutional system, but also with more serious crimes including murder, kidnapping, and robbery. He also asserted that "tons" of Hizb ut-Tahrir literature was confiscated during the same two-year period. BB

HAS BELARUS PLUNGED INTO ECONOMIC CRIMINALITY?
Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman reported to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 23 September that Belarusian investigators registered 10,229 economic crimes and identified more than 4,000 suspects in the first eight months of the year, Belapan reported. Sheyman said more than 40 former senior executives at major enterprises were charged with crimes or convicted in the same period. JM

BELARUSIANS LINE UP FOR POLISH VISAS
As many as 150 Belarusians are arriving every day at the Polish consulate in Brest in southwestern Belarus to apply for visas, which will be required from 1 October, Belapan reported on 23 September. The agency reported that lines start forming as early as 3-4 a.m. for applications. It normally takes more than a week to get a visa in Brest. Consular staff say the lines are likely to shorten with time, since most people are applying for long-term visas. They say they will be able to handle 200 applications per day in the future, reducing the process to three or four days or a single day in some urgent cases. Belarus and Poland signed a visa agreement on 26 August under which the price of multiple- and single-entry visas were set at 50 euros ($57) and 10 euros, respectively. JM

OFFICIAL SAYS UKRAINE SHOULD NOT ENTER CUSTOMS, CURRENCY UNIONS IN CIS
Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chalyy said at a conference on EU-Ukrainian relations in Kyiv on 23 September that Ukraine should limit its participation in the newly formed CIS Single Economic Space with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 September 2003) to the formation of an efficient free-trade zone that could promote Ukrainian goods and services, UNIAN reported. Chalyy added that those four countries' free-trade zone should be based on principles of the World Trade Organization. He said Ukraine cannot form a customs or a currency union with CIS countries if the country wants to pursue its declared goal of integration with Euro-Atlantic structures. Meanwhile, Oleksandr Motsyk, another Ukrainian deputy foreign minister, told journalists the same day that Ukraine will aim at extending EU norms to the operation of the CIS Single Economic Space, Interfax reported. JM

UKRAINE WANTS TO PARTICIPATE IN UN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York on 23 September that Kyiv regards the United Nations as the principal arbiter in international security issues, and declared Ukraine's readiness to actively participate in peacekeeping operations under the UN aegis, Interfax reported. In particular, Kuchma promised to provide technical aid to a UN peacekeeping operation in Liberia. The previous day, Kuchma addressed the 58th session of the UN General Assembly in a speech devoted to Ukraine's efforts in combating AIDS. JM

ESTONIAN CENTER PARTY CHAIRMAN SUFFERS HEART ATTACK
Edgar Savisaar had a heart attack on the evening of 22 September shortly after his return from a four-day visit to Germany, BNS reported the next day. The 53-year-old mayor of Tallinn has long suffered from high blood pressure, but had had no previous heart problems. Savisaar was transferred on 23 September to the Tartu University clinic, where he is expected to stay for a couple of weeks. Doctors have refused to comment on his condition, but his wife said it is stable. Allan Alakula, the head of the Tallinn press service, said telephone conversations Savisaar had with him, Tallinn Deputy Mayor Toomas Vitsut, and Center Party officials indicated that "the worst was over," LETA reported on 24 September. SG

LATVIA'S RULING COALITION PARTNERS AGREE TO TRUCE
A meeting of the parliament faction heads of the New Era party, Latvia's First Party (LPP), Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS), and For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) on 23 September agreed to a truce in their dispute over Prime Minister Einars Repse, BNS and LETA reported. Although the LPP and ZZS reiterated their views that Repse should be replaced, they agreed to conclude an agreement on adopting decisions and preparing issues for review by the cabinet and parliament. New Era faction head Krisjanis Karins said the agreement should place emphasis on democratic decision-making methods. TB/LNNK faction head Juris Dobelis said that such a document could stabilize the situation within the government, but that the coalition will still face several significant obstacles, such as the adoption of the budget. SG

KNESSET CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR PROPERTY RESTITUTION IN LITHUANIA
Israeli Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin said during his speech to the Lithuanian parliament on 23 September on the occasion of Jewish Holocaust Day and the 60th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto that looted Jewish properties should be returned to the descendants of their original owners, BNS reported. Rivlin lauded former President Algirdas Brazauskas's 1995 apology in Israel for Lithuanians' involvement in the Holocaust, and he noted Lithuania's efforts to teach its youth the history of the Holocaust. Rivlin's speech differed sharply than one made by Israeli Ambassador Oded ben Hur in 1997 in which he accused Lithuanians of massacring Jews weeks before the Nazis arrived. In separate talks with Prime Minister Brazauskas and parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas on 22 September, Rivlin asked that Jews who moved to Israel from Lithuania be granted Lithuanian citizenship. SG

POLISH POLICE, FIREFIGHTERS PROTEST OVER LOW PAY
Some 2,000 Polish police officers, firefighters, and border guards blew whistles and sounded sirens in front of the prime minister's office in Warsaw on 23 September to protest low wages and underfunding of their services, Polish media reported. A group of protesters met with Interior Minister Krzysztof Janik. "More than 30,000 police officers, plus 60,000 of their family members, live on the verge of poverty," Polish Television quoted one protester as saying. The entry-level monthly wage for a policeman is equal to some $325, or 30 percent less than the national average, Reuters reported. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT RECEIVES NCPA HONOR
President Vaclav Klaus received the U.S.-based National Center for Policy Analysis's (NCPA) Crystal Eagle award in Dallas on 23 September, CTK reported. Klaus received a letter from U.S. President George W. Bush congratulating him on the award. Bush praised Klaus's leadership ability and his support of a market economy, and called the Czech president a worthy recipient of the NCPA honor, as the center promotes freedom and the reduction of the role played by state in society. Bush also said the Czech Republic is a good friend of the United States and an important ally in the fight against international terrorism and in advancing peace and stability in the Middle East. Bush's letter was read out at a ceremony at which the Czech president was awarded honorary Texas citizenship by Governor Rick Perry. MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE APPROVES BILL ON DUAL CZECH-SLOVAK CITIZENSHIP...
The Chamber of Deputies approved a government-sponsored bill on 23 September under which former Czechoslovak citizens may regain Czech citizenship that was lost by opting for Slovak citizenship after the 1993 "velvet divorce" between the two countries, CTK reported. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said the bill affects some 23,000 former Czechoslovak citizens of Czech origin, including children of marriages between Czech and Slovaks who are residents of Slovakia. MS

...AND STRIPS CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT OF PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY
The lower house also voted on 23 September to lift the parliamentary immunity of deputy Jaroslav Lobkowicz, CTK reported. Lobkowicz is a member of the junior coalition Christian Democratic Union-People's Party. He is charged with having caused severe injury to a woman in a traffic accident. Lobkowicz voted in favor of lifting his own immunity and said he is prepared to compensate the injured woman. MS

SLOVAK SIS DIRECTOR ADMITS HE GAVE PREMIER CLASSIFIED FILE
Ladislav Pittner, director of the Slovak Information Service (SIS), admitted on 23 September that he gave Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda the classified security file of National Security Office (NBU) head Jan Mojzis, whom the premier is seeking to dismiss, TASR reported the next day. Pittner made the admission before the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, which has launched an inquiry into allegations that the premier has seen the file on Mojzis's security vetting, thus infringing on legal provisions. Pittner confirmed that he offered the file to the premier, saying he believes it was necessary to inform him of possible security risks linked with Mojzis. He did not specify what those risks might be. Pittner said he is confident he acted in line with the law. The committee's session was also attended by Mojzis and Prosecutor-General Milan Hanzel, who confirmed that his office has received a copy of Mojzis's file and said the documents will be returned to the SIS on 24 September. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT ASKS CABINET TO SEEK CHANGES TO EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION
Parliament adopted a resolution on 23 September instructing the Slovak cabinet to seek changes to the draft European Constitution, TASR reported. The draft will be discussed at the Intergovernmental Conference slated to begin in Rome on 4 October. Lawmakers said they support changing the document's title to "Constitutional Treaty," including a reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the preamble, and maintaining the current "one country -- one commissioner" representation on the European Commission. The Slovak government should also strive to change the proposed voting mechanism of a "qualified majority" in order to safeguard the rights of smaller EU members, according to the resolution, and the cabinet must regularly report to parliament on negotiations at the Intergovernmental Conference. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT STARTS DEBATING CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Parliament began on 23 September debating a package of constitutional amendments proposed by the senior ruling Socialist Party, Hungarian media reported. The main opposition party, FIDESZ, asked the cabinet to withdraw the package and submit each amendment for separate debate. The junior ruling Free Democrats said they would have preferred consultations among all parliamentary parties prior to the debate. The proposed amendments envisage giving the Constitutional Court responsibility for reviewing international treaties and domestic legislation to ensure that they conform to commitments to international organizations of which Hungary is or will be a member -- such as NATO and the EU. Another amendment envisages transferring the right to approve Hungarian participation in international peacekeeping missions and humanitarian operations to the cabinet rather than parliament. MS

HUNGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST REFERENDUM ON FARMLAND OWNERSHIP
The Constitutional Court ruled on 23 September that no referendum may be called regarding the right of foreigners to own Hungarian farmland, "Nepszabadsag" reported the next day. Hajra Magyarorszag (Go, Hungary), a movement linked to the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party, has gathered signatures in favor of such a referendum to challenge stipulations in Hungary's accession treaty with the EU. The court ruled that the Hungarian Constitution allows no national plebiscites on commitments resulting from valid international treaties, nor does it allow for referendums to overturn domestic legislation arising from such commitments. The court also upheld a related ruling by the National Election Commission, which refused to verify the signatures gathered by the referendum's backers. MS

HUNGARIAN POLICE SEEK FREEZE ON ASSETS IN K&H SCANDAL
Hungarian police moved to freeze the assets of nine suspects in the embezzlement and money-laundering scandal involving K&H Equities, "Nepszabadsag" and "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 24 September. The move must still be approved by a judge before it may take effect. Police officials said on 23 September that 10 percent of the 10 billion forints ($45.1 million) allegedly embezzled by chief suspect Attila Kulcsar has already been secured "in one way or another." Investigators have questioned 82 of Kulcsar's 200 "VIP clients" as well as 21 other people involved in the case. In a related development, police determined that Kulcsar's brokerage certificate and his high-school diploma are forgeries. MS

KOSOVA TALKS APPEAR SET...
Representatives of the six-member international Contact Group for the Balkans agreed on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York on 23 September to back a proposal for Belgrade-Prishtina talks put forward by Harri Holkeri, the head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), regional and international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 22 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June and 1 and 15 August 2003). Diplomats from the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy said in a statement that "the Contact Group reiterated that the international community [will] not accept attempts by any party to preempt or circumscribe the question of Kosovo's eventual final status," adding that the international community remains committed to the principle of "standards before status." PM

...FOR MID-OCTOBER
Diplomats from the international Contact Group agreed in New York on 23 September that the Belgrade-Prishtina talks on practical issues will take place in mid-October in Vienna, international and regional media reported. The Serbian private news agency Beta reported that the exact date will depend on the schedules of unnamed EU representatives. Officials of the EU, NATO, the Contact Group, and the United States will be present at the talks, which Holkeri will chair. Several Kosovar leaders have argued that there is no point in their holding talks with Belgrade as long as UNMIK has the final say in many areas of concern to the Serbs. Those Kosovars add that UNMIK should either transfer more powers to the Prishtina authorities or join the Kosovar delegation at the talks, rather than act as a mediator. The ethnic Albanians insist, moreover, on a central role for the United States in the talks. The Serbs of Kosova will be part of the Prishtina delegation, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. PM

FORMER SERBIAN LEADER CHARGED WITH ROLE IN MURDER
Jovan Prijic, who is the Serbian special prosecutor, announced indictments in Belgrade on 23 September against former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for his alleged role in instigating the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic in August 2000 and the attempted murder of opposition leader Vuk Draskovic in an October 1999 car crash that killed four of Draskovic's companions, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August and 22 September 2003). Prijic said in a statement that Milosevic "fostered among the perpetrators of the crimes the decision to commit both crimes." Also indicted were former commander of Red Berets Special Operations Unit (JSO) Milorad Ulemek "Legija," former State Security chief Radomir Markovic, former Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic, and former JSO security adviser Milorad Bracanovic. Prijic is scheduled to file the indictments with the special court dealing with organized crime on 24 September. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNING COALITION PICKS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition agreed in Belgrade on 23 September that Dragoljub Micunovic of the Democratic Center (DC) will be its candidate in the 16 November Serbian presidential elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The opposition has criticized the vote as a ploy to delay holding parliamentary elections. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 20 September that the presidential election seems designed to fail because the DOS-led parliament has not approved changes to the electoral law that would enable a president to be elected even with a voter turnout of less than 50 percent, as the Montenegrin parliament did in early 2003. Previous Serbian presidential elections in October and December 2002 were inconclusive or invalid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 and 18 October and 13 December 2002). PM

RUSSIA AGAIN CALLS FOR BALKAN BORDER CONFERENCE
In an exclusive interview with MIA news agency, Russian Ambassador to Macedonia Agaron Asatur said in Skopje on 23 September that an international conference dealing with borders in Southeast Europe should be convened. The purpose would be to fix the existing borders in the region once and for all and to regulate the status of national minorities, Asatur said. He stressed that this conference with participants from the UN, the EU, the United States, Russia, and the Balkan countries will have nothing in common with the 1913 and 1919 peace conferences of Bucharest and Versailles, which were disastrous for Macedonia in that its territory was carved up among its neighbors Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Russia has called for conference on borders several times in recent years, finding strong support primarily in Belgrade. The region's ethnic Albanians, the Montenegrin authorities, and some Western powers have rejected the move as an attempt to predetermine the final status of Kosova and Montenegro. UB/PM

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WARNS BOSNIA ON NEED FOR MILITARY REFORM
High Representative Paddy Ashdown warned the governing Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) on 22 September that it is blocking Bosnia's chances of joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program by opposing a military reform package backed by the international community, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The reforms would permit the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat federation to retain their respective military structures, but would require all military personnel to take the same oath and wear the same uniforms. The SDA says this would perpetuate the division of Bosnia along ethnic lines. On 23 September, SFOR commander General William Ward told RFE/RL that the reforms are vital to Bosnia's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures and achieving prosperity. He noted that the reforms would put the military under civilian control for the first time and set up a single Defense Ministry and General Staff. The package is on the agenda of the Bosnian parliament. The Bosnian Serbs firmly reject the creation of a fully integrated military. PM

FORMER BOSNIAN SERB OFFICER SAYS SREBRENICA MASSACRE WAS PLANNED
Momir Nikolic, who is the former security chief of the Bosnian Serb Army's Bratunac Brigade, told the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 23 September that the head of the General Staff's security forces, Colonel Ljubisa Beara, ordered his subordinates on 14 July 1995 to send "thousands" of Bosnian Muslim males to Zvornik to be executed, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service and the "Southeast European Times" reported. Nikolic is testifying against some of his former comrades as part of a plea bargain he made with the tribunal in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 September 2002). PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT OFFERS HELP IN IRAQ
President Stipe Mesic told the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 September that the world body remains the chief forum for resolving international problems but needs reform in order to maintain its credibility and authority, particularly where the Security Council is concerned, "Jutarnji list" reported. He noted that Croatia does not have the money to become a donor to Iraqi reconstruction projects but offers its experience in postwar reconstruction work, including the training of police and security forces. Croatia hopes to become an elected member of the Security Council by 2009 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 15, and 13 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). Albanian and Macedonia have sent troops in conjunction with coalition efforts in Iraq. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic has said Belgrade should offer the United States some of its elite units. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS TO EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
President Ion Iliescu, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 23 September, vowed that his country will be a reliable member of the EU. The speech was broadcast by Romanian Radio. Iliescu said that, in Romania, the EU will have 22 million people who are "enthusiastic" about "joining the European family." He said that throughout their history, the Romanians have always been drawn to Europe and that they support the basic principles of Europe -- democracy, respect of citizens' rights and freedoms, justice, social equality, solidarity among nations, and assumption of responsibility for future generations. Iliescu said that since leaving the totalitarian system behind, Romania has turned into a functioning democracy and has become a country that serves as an example of good relations between an ethnic majority and national minorities. He admitted that Romania is less developed economically than politically, saying his country's main problems stem from the remnants of poverty. Iliescu said Europe cannot be divided into "old" and "new" Europe, or one that progresses "in different gears." Iliescu's speech marked the first time a Romanian president has addressed the European Parliament. MS

ROMANIA, HUNGARY SIGN AGREEMENT ON STATUS LAW IMPLEMENTATION
In Bucharest on 23 September, visiting Hungarian Premier Peter Medgyessy and his Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase signed a bilateral agreement on the implementation in Romania of the Hungarian Status Law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau and international news agencies reported. Nastase described the agreement as another "battle for Europe that we have won together." The agreement stipulates that Hungarian ID cards must not carry the insignia of Greater Hungary, not resemble passports, and only be issued in Hungary. Financial aid for the purpose of preserving Hungarian culture is to be granted only to institutions, not to individuals. The two premiers also discussed the issue of the Liberty Monument in Arad, but apparently no final decision was reached on the Romanian "compromise proposal" to place the monument in a "reconciliation park" alongside statues representing Romanian historical figures. Speaking in Romanian (he was born in Cluj, Transylvania), Medgyessy said he expects the Romanian government to respect its promises. He also said Romania and Hungary must follow the model of French-German reconciliation. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES INITIAL ELECTORAL ALLIANCE AGREEMENT
The two teams of negotiators representing the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party (PD) inked an agreement on 23 September to run jointly in the 2004 presidential election and in the parliamentary elections due in 2004 or 2005, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The agreement must yet be approved by the two parties' leaderships and national conferences. It stipulates that the name of the alliance will be "Alliance for Justice and Truth PNL-PD." Its abbreviated name will be DA PNL-PD, which in Romanian means "Yes PNL-PD." Meanwhile, former PNL Chairman Valeriu Stoica announced on 23 September that he will resign from the lower house on 1 October. Stoica is a supporter of the new alliance. He said he has fulfilled all his personal objectives for the current legislative session and wishes to devote more time to his profession as a lawyer. MS

ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REFUSES TO RULE ON PRM APPEAL
The Constitutional Court said on 23 September that it is not "within its competence" to rule on the appeal of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) against the constitutional amendments approved by parliament last week, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2003). MS

MIDDLE EASTERN BUSINESSMEN IN ROMANIA SUSPECTED OF MONEY LAUNDERING
A group of eight businessmen from several Middle Eastern countries are suspected by Romanian police of having illegally funneled $62.3 million and approximately 2.9 million euros ($3.3 million) out of the country, Mediafax and dpa reported on 23 September. The group's suspected leader, a Syrian citizen, has been arrested. The chief suspect was reported to have set up 15 front companies over a period of one month through which $7 million was laundered. Three other suspects -- two Syrians and a Palestinian -- were taken into custody in late August, and the accounts of 89 Romanian firms believed to be linked to the money-laundering operation were frozen by the Prosecutor-General's Office. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
In a speech delivered before the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 September, President Vladimir Voronin said Moldova is following the European Union's example of integration as his country tries to reach a settlement with the breakaway Transdniester region, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Voronin explained that the EU has been promoting the diversity of Europe as a means of strengthening its unity. By following a similar policy, he said, Moldova hopes to eventually resolve the Transdniester conflict. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH POWELL...
President Voronin, who is attending the UN General Assembly in New York, met on 23 September with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, according to a presidential press release. A presidential spokesman accompanying Voronin on his visit told RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service that Powell and Voronin discussed the Transdniester conflict. Powell said the United States backs the search for a solution that would safeguard Moldova's territorial integrity, according to the spokesman. Powell also said the current negotiations on a federal constitution are being dragged out and that the commission tasked with drafting the document has made little progress since it was set up in July. MS

...AND SOLANA
President Voronin also discussed the Transdniester conflict in New York with Javier Solana, who is in charge of EU foreign and security affairs, Infotag reported. They agreed that the current negotiations with the separatists regarding a federal constitution require great care and "political craftsmanship," without expectations of immediate results. On the other hand, they both said that procrastination would complicate the settlement process. Solana said the Transdniester conflict is a regional one and is therefore the focus of EU attention. The two politicians also agreed to hold consultations on the Transdniester conflict more often than was the case in the past. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER 'CLARIFIES' PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT ABOUT CIS
Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev denied on 23 September that President Voronin's criticism of the CIS Yalta summit and its decision to set up a Single Economic Space is tantamount to a Moldovan withdrawal from the CIS, Flux, and Infotag reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2003). According to Tarlev, the president said the decision by Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan might lead to the end of the CIS, and not that it already did so. Tarlev also said Moldova must safeguard and fortify its relationships within the CIS, while concurrently taking efficient measures to accelerate Moldova's integration with the EU. MS

OUR MOLDOVA ALLIANCE WANTS EU, U.S., ROMANIA TO JOIN MEDIATION TEAM
Dumitru Braghis, co-chairman of the Our Moldova Alliance, said on 23 September that the alliance wants the United States, the EU, and Romania to be included on the team that is mediating the resolution of the Moldova-Transdniester conflict, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The team currently comprises Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. According to Infotag, Braghis said resolving the conflict might require the use of pressure, which the United States and the EU are capable of applying. Braghis also said the alliance proposes that both Moldova and Transdniester undergo full demilitarization as a means of bringing about the conflict's resolution. He said Moldova's security could be safeguarded by a system of international treaties instead of an army. MS

'TELEPHONE WAR' STILL ON IN MOLDOVA
Telecommunications Agency Director Iurie Tabarta on 23 September denied the Transdniester authorities' claim that they have stopped jamming Moldovan mobile-telephone signals, Flux reported. Tabarta said such jamming was resumed on 22 September. He also said the Moldovan authorities "regret" that an invitation sent to the Transdniester Interdnestrcom company to attend a meeting in Chisinau with representatives of Moldtelcom has not received a response. Tabarta also said the Transdniester authorities were notified six months prior to the start of testing conducted on Moldovan digital television, which Tiraspol says jams local mobile-phone signals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 22, and 23 September 2003). MS

BULGARIAN ENERGY MINISTRY CONCERNED OVER KOZLODUY
Two top Energy Ministry officials on 23 September called on the European Commission to carry out the promised peer review of blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant, mediapool.bg reported. The Bulgarian government and the European Commission agreed on the peer review when the energy chapter of the EU's acquis communautaire was closed last fall. Energy Ministry Chief Secretary Slavcho Neykov said the review might take place in November, but added that Brussels has yet to announce any details. The peer review is to decide whether the service life of the blocks in question can be extended beyond 2006, when the EU expects them to be decommissioned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002 and 19 June 2003). UB

IMMIGRANTS WELCOME IN BULGARIA
According to a recent opinion poll carried out by Gallup International, immigrants are welcome in Bulgaria -- if they come from Europe or other Balkan states, mediapool.bg reported. While immigrants from poorer countries in Africa or the Arab world do not face any negative prejudices in Bulgaria, immigrants from regions regarded as hotbeds of militant Islamism or terrorism -- such as Kosova, Chechnya, Afghanistan, or Central Asia -- are not so well received. The largest share of immigrants, or almost 60 percent, comes from Russia, the former Soviet republics, and Central and East European countries. Fourteen percent of the immigrants are from the Middle East and about the same share from "Western" countries; that is, EU member states or the United States. Chinese immigrants make up 4 percent, while 3 percent each come from Africa and East or Southeast Asia. About one-quarter of the immigrants have a higher education, according to the study. UB

RUSSIA'S 'VERTICAL OF POWER' GOES TO THE POLLS
The 7 December State Duma election marks the beginning of the fourth round of national elections in Russia since the demise of the Soviet Union. Voting for the presidency will follow next March. These contests are less important for their results -- the new Duma majority will almost certainly be pro-Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin will be re-elected -- than for how they reflect and shape the maneuvering for power and resources within the ruling elite. This struggle is likely to intensify, rather than diminish, after the elections, as entrenched interests jockey for the ability to determine who succeeds Putin in 2008.

Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter defined democracy as an institutional arrangement for arriving at decisions in which leaders acquire the power to decide through a competitive struggle for the popular vote. This process requires that individuals and parties be able to run for office unimpeded -- that speeches, press coverage, and rallies be free, and that voters perceive that a real choice exists.

Russia's electoral process, like those in many other countries, falls well short of Schumpeter's standards. Campaigns are marred by widespread manipulation of the media and election commissions, the preeminence of candidates' personalities over their views on the issues, and officials' use of state power to ensure re-election. In addition, the unstable fusion of money and power, the central dynamic of Russian politics, imparts three additional features to its elections that guarantee voters are deprived of meaningful choices.

First, Russian parties are largely commercial fronts dependent on big business and the state for their survival. Alfa Group, Surgutneftegaz, the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK), and other business giants underwrite a large number of Duma factions and political parties, which in turn lobby the interests of their benefactors. Many parties sell places on their Duma party lists to non-party members, especially businesspeople. The cost of a good place on a party list is said to be as much as $1.5 million.

Parties also derive revenue from the state budget, individual ministries, and contributions from quasi-state enterprises such as Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems (EES). Even the Communist Party, often mistakenly viewed as an organization of outsiders, receives considerable funding from these sources. The executive branch does not try to manage some fringe parties such as Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko and Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia because their presence siphons off popular discontent with the Kremlin's policies and fosters the illusion of competitive electoral contests.

Second, the electoral process is largely a byproduct of the struggle among elite groups within the executive branch, where all key decisions about power and resources in Russia are made. Unified Russia and the People's Party, for example, both support Putin. However, Unified Russia is largely backed by the so-called Family, led by presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin and including many regional governors, Gazprom, LUKoil, Yukos, Mezhprombank, Transneft, and Interros. The People's Party receives support from a rival Kremlin bloc led by the St. Petersburg chekisti, in alliance with deputy presidential administration head Viktor Ivanov and oligarchs Sergei Pugachev and Rosneft President Sergei Bogdanchikov. Together with other pro-Putin parties, they will almost certainly win a majority in the next Duma. But they have little resonance with ordinary voters and no grassroots organizations, and will have no party discipline in the Duma other than that required by Kremlin diktat.

The elections, in turn, legitimize elite politics. The results give a competitive edge to the elite factions in the constant redistribution of property and ratify the results of that struggle. More significantly, as Russian analyst Liliya Shevtsova has recently noted, elections validate the elites' selection of a top leader in the most critical contest of all, the one for the Russian presidency. These rivalries are likely to intensify in the run-up to Putin's re-election next year and the formation of a new government, and will accelerate further as the search intensifies to anoint a successor in 2008.

For many pundits, Western analysts, candidates, and perhaps even some voters, the most interesting results of the December Duma contests will be who wins. In a system manipulated by the Kremlin, however, broad trends are more important, especially for what they suggest about Russians' voting behavior and the prospects for the country's future democratic development. In this regard, the signs are troubling.

Increasing numbers of citizens believe that voting makes no difference in their lives. A recent, national public-opinion poll showed that 68 percent of respondents are convinced that the country is in the hands of business oligarchs, the bureaucracy, or organized crime. Only 4 percent said power lies with the Duma. In addition, the number of outsider parties, -- those organized by the grassroots rather than from the top down -- has declined steadily since the Duma election in 1995. Finally, the practice of managing elections has alienated at least two key social groups: intellectuals, who have driven reform in the past, and small and medium-sized business, which -- although still relatively unorganized -- have flirted with extremist, nationalist elements in recent months.

Despite the many tools at its disposal, even the Kremlin cannot stage-manage all political activity in an increasingly complex society. On 21 September, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko, Putin's favored candidate for the governorship of St. Petersburg, failed to win the 50 percent of the vote needed for a first-round victory despite heavy intervention by Kremlin forces during the campaign. Alarmingly, almost 11 percent of voters chose to vote "against all" the candidates on the ballot, and voter turnout was less than 30 percent.

Additionally, there are indications that the Communists might do better in the December contests than Putin would like. However, such outcomes are not the norm -- Matvienko will eventually come out on top -- and pose no political threat to the ruling elite. Nor do they diminish the fact that Russia's political system is essentially electoral in form and autocratic in content.

Donald N. Jensen is RFE/RL's director of communications. He monitored the 1993 Russian Duma elections and constitutional referendum for the U.S. State Department.

U.S. PRESIDENT PRAISES UN WORK IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, URGES 'MOVE FORWARD'...
U.S. President George W. Bush praised the work of the United Nations and its agencies for their work in Iraq and Afghanistan and called on member states to set aside their differences and "move forward" in an address to the UN General Assembly on the first day of its annual high-level debate, international media reported on 23 September. Bush acknowledged that some member states disagreed with the U.S.-led coalition's decision to go to war in Iraq, but added that "there was and there remains unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations." His speech, posted on the White House website (http://www.whitehouse.gov), highlighted achievements in postwar Iraq and called on the UN to expand its role there. "As in the aftermath of other conflicts, the United Nations should assist in developing a constitution, in training civil servants, and conducting free and fair elections," Bush said. "All nations of goodwill should step forward" and provide support to Iraqis, he added. "Iraq as a democracy will have great power to inspire the Middle East," he said. KR

...AS ANNAN WARNS OF DANGERS OF UNILATERALISM
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also addressed the General Assembly on 23 September, telling member states that the UN is facing a challenge to its tenets of collective security and the principles of the UN Charter in the wake of "recent events" in the international arena that included unilateral action by states against their foes of a preemptive nature. The decision of states to take unilateral action against others or to act through ad hoc coalitions "represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years." He said the world body has come "to a fork in the road," adding that its structure might require reform. "Now we must decide whether it is possible to continue on the basis agreed then, or whether radical changes are needed." Annan noted that many UN Security Council member states agree that the council should be enlarged "but there is no agreement on the details." The secretary-general said he will address the issue by establishing a "high-level" panel to advise the world body on a number of reform issues, according to the UN website (http://www.un.org). KR

AFGHAN LEADER VOICES CONCERN OVER NEO-TALIBAN IN PAKISTAN
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai told Bush on 23 September during their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York that neo-Taliban forces are receiving encouragement in Pakistan, Reuters reported. According to an unidentified senior U.S. official who discussed the meeting between the two leaders, Karzai said "there are still people preaching a kind of 'Talibanism'" when they come to Afghanistan from Pakistan. Bush promised Karzai that he will discuss the issue with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Karzai has recently said that while the Pakistani government is on friendly terms with Afghanistan, there are elements within Pakistan -- especially in religious schools near the Afghan border -- that support the neo-Taliban movement in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 September 2003). AT

FORMER TALIBAN LEADER REPORTEDLY HOLDS MEETING WITH TOP COMMANDERS
Mullah Mohammad Omar has recently chaired a meeting of the leadership council of the former Taliban regime, Hindukosh reported on 23 September. According to the news agency, Hamed Agha was appointed during the meeting to serve as spokesman of the neo-Taliban -- the new face of the former regime that opposes the Afghan Transitional Administration and its supporters. Hamed Agha told Hindukosh that claims of defeats suffered by neo-Taliban forces in Kandahar and Zabul provinces are false, adding that his forces are continuing their militant activities in Zabul Province's Daichopan District and Kandahar Province's Maiwand and Maruf districts. Mohammad Omar established the 10-member leadership council in June to coordinate activities against the Afghan administration and coalition troops (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 June 2003). AT

NEW ZEALAND TAKES COMMAND OF AFGHAN PROVINCIAL RECONSTRUCTION TEAM
Approximately 100 military personnel from New Zealand on 23 September assumed responsibility for the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in central Afghanistan's Bamiyan Province, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. The PRT had been operated by the United States, which will continue to head PRTs in the cities of Gardayz (Paktiya Province) and Konduz (Konduz Province) for the time being. The United Kingdom operates a PRT in Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh Province. A statement from coalition headquarters at Bagram Air Base said the force is considering the establishment of five additional PRTs by the end of 2003, Reuters reported on 23 September. "Our countries may be distant, but in an increasingly interdependent world, the challenges of Afghanistan are also New Zealand's challenges," New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said in a statement that was read during the handover ceremonies. AT

CABLE TV BANNED IN AFGHANISTAN'S NANGARHAR PROVINCE
Cable-television broadcasts have been banned in Nangarhar Province at the order of the province's judicial department, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 23 September. Anyone who fails to abide by the ban will be prosecuted, according to the report. The Afghan Supreme Court banned cable television nationwide early this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2003). However, only a few provinces obeyed the law, which was eventually dropped. AT

TEHRAN, OTTAWA DISCUSS CASE OF DEAD PHOTOJOURNALIST
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham discussed the cases of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and Iranian immigrant Keyvan Tabesh on the sidelines of the United Nations conference in New York on 23 September, IRNA reported. Kazemi was beaten to death by Iranian security forces who had detained her, and Tabesh was shot dead by the Canadian police officer he was reportedly attacking with a sword. Meanwhile, an anonymous Iranian judiciary official in Tehran said on 23 September that an Iranian court will try the Ministry of Intelligence and Security official who is charged with killing Kazemi, Reuters reported. BS

PARLIAMENTARIAN CRITICIZES FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL BACKING ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL
Luristan Province parliamentary representative Alaedin Borujerdi, who serves on the National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed strong disapproval on 23 September of a Foreign Ministry official's comments on the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Fars News Agency reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh said on 22 September that Iran should have signed the Additional Protocol long ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2003). "In principle, decisions in respect of such an important issue are within the jurisdiction of the Supreme National Security Council," Borujerdi said. "Such remarks will bear adverse repercussions for Iran." Borujerdi added that Aminzadeh should have defended Iran's stance and objected to the "unprincipled and illegal action of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] Board of Governors." Turning to Iran's need for a nuclear capability, Borujerdi said, "Sooner or later, we will run out of oil." He condemned what he termed "the refusal" of other countries to help Iran's nuclear pursuits, even though Iran is a signatory of the NPT. BS

ISRAELI AND IRANIAN OFFICIALS MEET IN KAZAKHSTAN
Israeli chief Rabbi Yona Metzger met on 23 September at an interfaith conference in Kazakhstan with Ayatollah Mehdi Hadavi Moghaddam (a.k.a. Mehdi Hadavi Tehrani), who is heading a delegation from Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, according to news agencies. Their discussion lasted 10 minutes, and Moghaddam said he is ready to seek information on the whereabouts of Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force officer whose aircraft crashed in Lebanon in 1986, IDF Radio reported on 24 September. Moghaddam added that because Iran opposes Israel, not Judaism, a religious forum is the most convenient place to discuss this issue. Metzger called it a promising beginning but cautioned against expecting to see Israeli prisoners of war "tomorrow." Israel is interested in Arad, the remains of Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, and Israeli reservist Elhanan Tenenbaum, who was kidnapped by Hizballah in October 2000. Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah had said in a 16 September speech that his organization is holding "active and continuous negotiations" with Israel on the exchange of prisoners, Al-Manar television reported. Hizballah wants all Lebanese and some Palestinian detainees to be released from Israeli jails. BS

IRAQI INTERIM GOVERNMENT TAKES SEAT AT OPEC TABLE
The Iraqi interim government is taking its seat at the table of ministers representing the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna on 24 September as a "full member," international media reported. OPEC member states were divided for several weeks over whether to allow the interim Iraqi government to attend its sessions, and if so in what capacity. But OPEC President Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah confirmed to AFP following a late-night meeting on 23 September that Iraqi interim Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum will represent his country with full membership status, the news agency reported on 24 September. Venezuela was reportedly among the staunchest opponents of the decision. KR

ROADSIDE BOMB DAMAGES BUS, KILLS ONE PERSON IN BAGHDAD
A roadside bomb was detonated on a busy street in Baghdad on 24 September, killing one Iraqi and injuring some 22 people, Reuters reported. A U.S. Army spokesman said the bomb was detonated as a military convoy passed nearby. The convoy sustained little damage, but a passing commuter bus was badly damaged, according to Reuters. CNN reported that the roadside bomb was actually a series of explosions that spread in a "daisy chain" over an area of 100 meters. CNN also reported that two civilian buses were damaged in the explosion. KR

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL BANS AL-JAZEERA, AL-ARABIYAH FOR TWO WEEKS
The Iraqi Governing Council voted on 22 September to ban the Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah satellite channels from covering official activities in Iraq for two weeks, international media reported on 23 September. Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi, the council's president for the month of September, told a press conference on 23 September that the decision "has not been issued yet" because "the Governing Council is discussing this issue with the coalition troops to put it in a legal framework in order to protect the Iraqi people from the poisonous propaganda aired by these two channels and in sowing sectarian and racial sedition in Iraq." Qanbar said "a detailed decision in this regard" would be issued by 24 September. The news channels are banned from "covering council activities and official press conferences" and from entering ministries and council buildings for the next two weeks, the Governing Council said in a statement, Reuters reported on 23 September. KR

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