PUTIN DECLINES TO DISCUSS YUKOS AFFAIR...
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on 27 October, President Vladimir Putin ruled out holding any meetings to discuss the 25 October arrest of Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, Russian media reported. Several business groups, including the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), have requested such a meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). "Everyone must be equal in the eyes of the law, regardless of the billions of dollars in someone's personal or corporate bank account," Putin said. He noted that only the courts can authorize an arrest, and the court in this case "must have had sufficient reason for doing so." He concluded by saying, "I want to ask you to stop all the speculations and hysteria, and I specifically request that the government not to be drawn into the debate." Commenting on Putin's stance, analyst Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie Moscow Center told Ekho Moskvy that Putin is essentially ducking his responsibility and hiding away. She said that the most appropriate question now is no longer "'Who are you, Mr. Putin?' but 'Where are you, Mr. Putin?'" JAC
...AS STANCE SEEN AS ONE OF WEAKNESS RATHER THAN STRENGTH
Writing in "Moskovskie novosti," No. 41, analyst Dmitrii Furman noted that recently President Putin has remained silent not only regarding the Khodorkovskii arrest but also with respect to the border conflict with Ukraine over Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait. In the Tuzla case, Furman argued that "one of the most important foreign-policy decisions, putting us on the edge of war with a neighboring state, was made not by the president, but by a provincial governor." Furman suggests that the weakness resides not necessarily in the presidency itself, but in Putin's personality. After all, Furman notes, when former President Boris Yeltsin was seeking a successor, he wanted first of all a person who was neither too independent nor "uncontrollable." Furman writes that "clearly the uncontrollable billionaire Khodorkovskii was dangerous, but it was impossible to simply get rid of him -- this had to be done by the law and by others' hands." But the authorities turned out to be not so independent from these other hands, according to Furman. "The possibility of destroying Khodorkovskii and the impossibility of punishing anyone for such colossal failures as the [handling of] the Moscow hostage crisis -- these are two sides of the same coin," he writes. JAC
EU SPEAKS WITH TWO VOICES ABOUT YUKOS HEAD'S ARREST...
European Union External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said on 28 October that Russia must apply the rule of law in relation to the Yukos oil company if it wants closer trade links with the EU, Reuters reported. "The rule of law for a company is ultimately the same as the rule of law for individuals," he said. "So it shouldn't surprise anybody that this case, the details of which none of us know as much about as presumably the Russian authorities...has caused a good deal of concern." Patten said he would be "extremely surprised" if the Yukos case were not discussed when EU leaders meet with President Putin in Rome on 6 November. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who met with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow on 28 October, said The 25 October arrest of Yukos head Khodorkovskii will not negatively affect relations between Russia and the EU, RBK reported. Frattini said he would not comment on the case against Khodorkovskii, but that the situation surrounding Yukos did not figure in his talks with Ivanov. JB
...WHILE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT EXPRESSES CONCERN
Asked on 28 October about Yukos head Khodorkovskii's arrest, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that while the U.S. government is "not in a position to comment on the specific legal aspects of the case...recent events do raise questions as to whether the law is being applied selectively." The events surrounding Yukos, he said, "raise doubts on the part of companies doing business in Russia and among potential investors." Boucher said the State Department is following the Khodorkovskii case closely and is "concerned at the escalation and confrontation with Yukos," the Department's website (http://www.state.gov) reported. JB
PRESIDENTIAL CHIEF OF STAFF TO RESIGN?
Ekho Moskvy reported on 28 October that presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin had resigned, but minutes later retracted the story. Station Director Aleksei Venediktov explained that the story had been prepared in advance and a station employee mistakenly sent the story out over the air, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 October. According to Venediktov, Voloshin called and denied the report. However, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that according to its unidentified Kremlin sources, Voloshin told President Putin on 25 October that he intends to resign, complaining that he was not informed in advance about the 25 October arrest of Yukos head Khodorkovskii. Putin reportedly did not try to persuade him to stay. An announcement about Voloshin's departure was to be made on 28 October, but it was later reportedly postponed until the end of the week to minimize the appearance of political instability. According to "Kommersant-Daily" and utro.ru, the most likely successor to Voloshin is former KGB officer Vladimir Yakunin. Yakunin met Putin in the early 1990s when both were working on foreign investment in St. Petersburg. RosBalt reported on 28 October that Voloshin has submitted his resignation, but that it has not yet been accepted. JAC
DUMA DEPUTY ASKS PROSECUTORS TO PROBE SIBNEFT PRIVATIZATION...
State Duma Deputy Vladimir Yudin (Fatherland-Unified Russia) told reporters in St. Petersburg on 28 October that he has formally asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the privatization of oil giant Sibneft. Yudin said that 51-percent of Sibneft was "taken away from the state virtually for free," Interfax reported. Sibneft was formed from several state-controlled enterprises in 1995, and in an auction held in December of that year, the Neftyanaya finansovaya kompaniya (NFK), together with Stolichnii Savings Bank, won management control of a 51-percent stake in the new company with a $100.3 million bid that was guaranteed by Bank Menatep. The stake was sold to the Finansovaya neftyanaya korporatsiya (FNK) for $110 million in a 1997 auction. Both auctions, like most of those held during the controversial loans-for-shares process, were widely viewed as rigged. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 October that both NFK and FNK were controlled by an investors group headed by Boris Berezovskii and Roman Abramovich, and that Berezovskii sold his Sibneft stake to Abramovich last year. Sibneft has since merged with Yukos. JB
...WHILE NEWSPAPER PREDICTS A WIDER REVIEW OF PRIVATIZATION
Requests from Deputy Yudin have provided the formal pretext for various criminal investigations in the past, including the probe of the Apatit fertilizer company's 1994 privatization, for which Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev has been arrested. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 October that while Yudin revealed little about the details of his request for a Sibneft probe, the request lists members of the committee that approved the terms for the 1997 Sibneft privatization auction. They include Berezovskii; Abramovich; former State Property Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev; former State Property Committee Deputy Chairman Sergei Molozhavyi; Aleksandr Smolenskii, who headed the now-defunct Stolichnii Savings Bank; Andrei Vavilov, a former deputy finance minister who is now a Federation Council member; and Khodorkovskii, who founded Bank Menatep. Not only is a probe of Sibneft's privatization likely, "Kommersant-Daily" wrote, so is an investigation into Yukos's privatization, given that Menatep acquired the oil company during the same questionable loan-for-shares process. In the coming months, the newspaper predicted, the issue of "deprivatizing" the newly amalgamated YukosSibneft will "inevitably" arise. JB
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SAY MONEY IS NO PROTECTION FROM ARBITRARY POLICE ACTIONS
Russian human rights activists consider Yukos head Khodorkovskii a "political prisoner," Russian media reported on 28 October. Moscow Helsinki Group Executive Director Tatyana Lokshina told Ekho Moskvy on 28 October that anyone who is held in prison for political reasons and who never advocated violence is a political prisoner. She added that "one can see political motives behind this case with the naked eye." Duma Deputy and human rights activist Sergei Kovalev (Union of Rightist Forces) echoed Lokshina's view, noting that Khodorkovskii's case "is an example of the equality of all citizens before [the] arbitrariness [of state officials]." Lokshina and Kovalev were participating in the All-Russia Conference of Civic Organizations taking place in Moscow that day. Conference attendees issued a statement declaring that the authorities have again taken the path of open repression through the arrests of such well-known figures as Menatep head Platon Lebedev and Khodorkovskii, grani.ru reported. JAC
PRO-KREMLIN PARTY PURGES ITS RANKS OF YUKOS OFFICIALS...
Unified Russia has excluded State Duma Deputy Vladimir Dubov, former deputy head of Yukos-Moscow, from its party list, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Vedomosti" reported on 28 October. According to "Vedomosti," the party's General Council removed Dubov during a meeting on 24 October, and the question of excluding him was first raised more than a week ago. Other Yukos representatives are included on the party's party list, and unidentified party sources told the daily that a decision about their possible exclusion has not yet been made. Also on 28 October, REN-TV reported that the Natural Resources Ministry has sent a telegram to its employees in the oil-rich region of Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug asking them to investigate whether all of Yukos's enterprises are complying with the terms of their license agreements. According to the station, such inspection are carried out routinely. However, the ministry's telegram told officials to carry out the Yukos inspections in tandem with local prosecutors. JAC
...AS ANOTHER YUKOS OFFICIAL SEEKS REFUGE IN UPPER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER
Investigators from Krasnoyarsk Krai have been dispatched to Evenk Autonomous Okrug to verify the legality of the election of Yukos-Moscow President Vasilii Shakhnakovskii as one of the okrug's representatives in the Federation Council, RBK reported on 28 October. Evenk legislators elected Shakhnakovskii on 27 October, after firing their previous representative, Nikolai Anisimov, on 13 October, according to "Kommersant-Daily." Shakhnakovskii was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office in Moscow on 17 October, where he was charged with large-scale tax evasion and ordered not to leave the country. According to the daily, Evenk Governor Boris Zolotarev, a former Yukos executive himself, suggested Shakhnakovskii for the job, which carries with it immunity from criminal prosecution. The Federation Council still must confirm Shakhnakovskii's selection, but the daily reported that, according to the law on the formation of Federation Council, Shakhnakovskii acquired immunity from prosecution as soon as the local legislators elected him. JAC
DEFENSE MINISTER AMBIVALENT ABOUT THE UNITED STATES...
"Moskovskii komsomolets" on 27 October published an extensive interview with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. In the undated interview, which Ivanov gave to correspondent Yuliya Kalinina aboard his plane, Ivanov discussed, among other things, relations with the United States, Russia's new military doctrine, and Iraqi reconstruction. Asked about relations with the United States, Ivanov said Russians are not "completely clear about this" just as "the Americans are not clear what the Russians are to them." He said that while the two countries are not enemies, they are "not allies either, that is for sure." Still, the U.S. attitude toward Russia is "is entirely different from what it was during the Cold War," he said, citing the example of Chechnya, about which the "American authorities have now agreed with us." On the issue of Iraqi reconstruction, Ivanov said that if the United States wants to "share power" with the United Nations, then Russia's "political and participation is possible." Any participation of Russia's military in postwar Iraq, however, is "is 100 percent ruled out," Ivanov said. JB
...AND AMBIGUOUS ABOUT NUCLEAR FIRST STRIKES
In her interview with Defense Minister Ivanov, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reporter Kalinina referred to the assurances he gave to various Western interlocutors that the policy on preemptive military strikes in Russia's new military doctrine does not mean the possible first use of nuclear weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2003). Why shouldn't Russia declare "the right to a first nuclear strike?" she asked. Ivanov answered: "What we say is one thing. That sounds cynical, but everything that we plan does not necessarily have to be made public. We believe that from the foreign-policy viewpoint, it is better to say that. But what we actually do is an entirely different matter. If we are talking about nuclear weapons, they are the chief component of our security." Asked by Kalinina what he was listening to through his headphones, Ivanov told the journalist it was Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and indicated that he is a big fan of the British rock group. JB
MORE ALLEGED 'WEREWOLVES IN UNIFORM' BUSTED
Officers of the Interior Ministry's Internal Affairs Department on 28 October searched offices at the ministry's main building in Moscow and at the headquarters of the Moscow police department's economic-crime unit in connection with crimes allegedly carried out by a group of police officers, "Izvestiya" reported. The group comprised six current and former police officers who allegedly extorted businesspeople. Internal Affairs Department head General Konstantin Romodanovskii told "Izvestiya" that one member of the group -- a former police sergeant named Sergei Kudinov -- was arrested after he allegedly tried to force a store to pay him protection money by subjecting it to a series of inspections by members of the police's organized-crime and economic-crime units. Kudinov allegedly asked the store for a $10,000 initial payment, and $2,000 per month thereafter, but was caught in a sting after the store's director approached the Interior Ministry. The case is the latest bust of a group of alleged "werewolves in uniform," as corrupt cops have been dubbed in the Russian media. JB
'ZAVTRA' RECEIVES WARNING
The Media Ministry has issued seven warnings to media outlets that are accused violating the terms of their registration, RosBalt reported on 28 October. The newspaper "Zavtra" received a written warning for distributing extremist materials. Two private, local television stations were warned for showing "erotic" programming. JAC
REPUBLICAN ELECTION OFFICIALS DENY REGISTRATION TO INCUMBENT'S CHIEF RIVAL
Bashkortostan's election commission rejected on 27 October the registration of former Mezhprombank executive Sergei Veremeenko as a candidate in 7 December republican presidential election, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. The commission explained its decision by citing numerous alleged violations committed by Veremeenko's campaign staff. He is alleged to have already spent more than 5 percent of his official campaign fund, which, according to election law, gives the commission sufficient legal grounds to deny him registration. Veremeenko charged that incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov is trying to remove his most dangerous potential rival in the race, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 October. Veremeenko said he will appeal the ruling. JAC
RUSSIAN ELECTION BLOC OFFERS REWARD FOR BASAEV'S CAPTURE
The Motherland-Patriotic Union election bloc headed by Duma deputies Sergei Glazev and Dmitrii Rogozin is offering a 15 million-ruble ($5 million) reward for information leading to the capture by 7 January 2004 of renegade Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev, Russian media quoted Glazev as telling journalists in Moscow on 28 October. In Grozny, Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev expressed skepticism, implying that Motherland's offer is merely an attempt to boost its rating in the run-up to the 7 December State Duma election, Interfax reported. LF
UN, WHO OFFICIALS VISIT GROZNY
UN humanitarian aid specialists and World Health Organization officials have visited Grozny to discuss expanding programs to assist both the Chechen population and displaced persons still in neighboring Ingushetia who want to return to Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. Chechen Prime Minister Anatolii Popov said there are now 55,000 displaced persons in Ingushetia, approximately 20 percent fewer that at the beginning of the year, and that more are likely to return to Chechnya if humanitarian-aid programs are expanded. Ingushetia's President Murat Zyazikov briefed President Putin on 27 October on the repatriation process, stressing, as he always does, that it is purely voluntary, Interfax reported. LF
ARMENIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS
For the second consecutive year, President Robert Kocharian failed on 27 October to visit the graves of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian, the most prominent of the eight senior officials gunned down in the parliament building on 27 October 1999, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, together with other government ministers and members of his Republican Party, did visit the cemeteries where the two men are buried. The Armenian parliament marked the anniversary with one minute of silence. Opposition leaders -- including Demirchian's son, Stepan, who heads the Artarutiun bloc -- again alleged that the Armenian leadership has done all in its power to prevent an investigation into whether the five gunmen who committed the killings were acting on orders from senior Armenian officials. LF
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT AGREES THAT GUNMEN SHOULD NOT QUALIFY FOR PAROLE
The pro-presidential parliamentary majority has acceded to a request by opposition deputies to debate an amendment to the new Criminal Code that would preclude the eventual granting of parole to the five parliament gunmen, for whom a prosecutor on 24 October demanded life imprisonment, if they are convicted, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 28 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). Despite opposition objections, parliament voted last month to abolish the death penalty unconditionally, replacing it with life imprisonment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003). The new Criminal Code provides for parole for people who have served more than 20 years of a life sentence. The opposition argues that those convicted of the parliament shootings should never be released from prison. LF
ARMENIAN JUNIOR COALITION PARTNER EXPANDS
Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State), a junior member of the three-party ruling coalition, merged on 25 October with the smaller pro-establishment People's Democratic Party (ZhDK) headed by former deputy parliament speaker Gagik Aslanian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 27 October. The two leaders told an extraordinary conference of Orinats Yerkir that the reasons for the merger are the two parties' shared centrist orientation and commitment to reform. The ZhDK was formed in September 2001 by former members of Stepan Demirchian's People Party of Armenia who quit that party to protest its increasingly tough opposition to President Kocharian. It failed to win a single seat in the 25 May parliamentary elections. LF
WORLD BANK OFFICIAL OPPOSES CEDING MORE ARMENIAN ENERGY FACILITIES TO RUSSIA
The transfer to Russia's state-run Unified Energy Systems (EES) of more Armenian energy facilities would be "undesirable," World Bank official Gevorg Sargsian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 28 October. EES has acquired control of 80 percent of Armenia's power-generating capacity through a series of equity-for-debt agreements that cleared Yerevan's $100 million debt to Moscow. Sargsian stressed that "we have nothing against EES or any other foreign company," but that the bank would prefer that other owners acquire the power facilities remaining to be privatized. LF
AZERBAIJAN'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ENDORSES PRESIDENTIAL-ELECTION RESULTS
The Constitutional Court officially confirmed on 28 October the results of the 15 October presidential election in which Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev polled 76.84 percent of the vote, compared with 13.97 percent for his closest challenger, opposition Musavat Party Chairman Isa Qambar, zerkalo.az reported on 29 October. Parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov told Interfax on 28 October that Aliyev's inauguration will take place on 31 October. Meanwhile, Mubariz Gurbanli, deputy chairman of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, was quoted by zerkalo.az on 28 October as saying he has "no doubts" that Qambar, whom he characterized as "the main director and sponsor" of the postelection violence in Baku, will soon be arrested. Following the Constitutional Court's endorsement of the election results, Qambar, who has been under virtual house arrest since 16 October, no longer enjoys immunity from arrest as a presidential candidate. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION EDITOR ARRESTED, NEWS AGENCY DIRECTOR CAUTIONED
Police arrested Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" whose inaccuracies and sensationalism are a byword, on 27 October and charged him with organizing and participating in mass disorders and with violent resistance to a representative of the authorities, Turan reported. Reporters Without Borders issued a statement on 28 October condemning Arifoglu's arrest and the ongoing postelection reprisals against journalists. Also on 27 October, Mehman Aliyev, director of the news agency Turan, was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office and given written instructions to check the veracity of, and if necessary retract, Turan's reports of three incidents, all of which, according to Aliyev, subsequently proved to be true. In a written rebuttal carried by Turan on 28 October, Aliyev called on the prosecutor-general to investigate "numerous violations of the law" registered during the 15 October ballot. On 28 October, the Council of Editors of the Baku Press Club issued a statement expressing concern at both Arifoglu's arrest and the warning issued to Aliyev, Turan reported. LF
AZERBAIJANI INTERIOR MINISTER EXPLAINS RATIONALE FOR ONGOING ARRESTS
Ramil Usubov told Turan on 28 October that of an estimated 3,000 participants in the 16 October clashes with police in Baku, 625 were arrested, of whom all except 77 were released by 21 October. Usubov added, however, that more arrests are likely, as not all the estimated 300 "active participants" in the violence are in custody. Usubov admitted that 60-70 members of district election commissions are under arrest, but said they are being held because of their participation in the 16 October unrest, not because they steadfastly refused to endorse falsified election protocols. According to zerkalo.az on 28 October, 10 opposition members of local election commissions were arrested the previous day in two Baku raions. The online paper quoted the Committee to Protest Falsification of the Vote and Repressions as estimating that 3,000 local-election-commission members who represent opposition parties refused to sign allegedly falsified election protocols, and many of them are currently hiding from police. LF
EU REPRESENTATIVE MEETS WITH AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADERS
Heikki Talvitie, who is the EU's special representative for the South Caucasus, met in Baku on 28 October with unnamed opposition party leaders to discuss reported falsification that accompanied the 15 October presidential election and the reprisals against the opposition that followed the ballot, Turan quoted Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (progressive wing) Chairman Ali Kerimli as saying. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS CALLS TO POSTPONE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION...
Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, chairman of the Socialist Party, which is a leading member of the pro-presidential For a New Georgia election bloc, proposed on 27 October postponing for two weeks the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2 November to allow for further corrections to be made to inaccurate voter lists, Caucasus Press reported. But President Eduard Shevardnadze immediately rejected that proposal, according to ITAR-TASS, as did parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, one of the leaders of the opposition Burdjanadze-Democrats bloc. EU special representative Talvitie similarly said in Tbilisi on 27 October that he sees no pressing reason to postpone the ballot. On 28 October, Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili denied that his ministry is responsible for omitting the names of thousands of eligible voters from voter lists and the inclusion of names of persons who are dead or who never existed. LF
...WARNS AGAINST 'DESTABILIZATION'...
During his regular Monday radio interview, Shevardnadze warned on 27 October that the Georgian authorities will not permit destabilization in the run-up to the 2 November ballot or after the vote, and that opposition forces should therefore refrain from mobilizing their supporters in the streets, according to Georgian Radio, as cited by Groong. LF
...AS GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTY BLOCKS RAIL LINE
President Shevardnadze's 27 October warning failed to deter some 1,500 supporters of Guram Absandze, who served as Georgian finance minister in 1990-91 under now-deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and who now heads the opposition National Unity bloc, from blocking the main rail and road link with Tbilisi in the west Georgian town of Samtredia, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The demonstrators were protesting inaccuracies in voter lists, and they also demanded the resignation of both Shevardnadze and the Georgian government. They dispersed later on 27 October after several hours of talks with Imereti Governor Temur Shashiashvili. Interior Minister Narchemashvili opened a criminal case against Absandze and other leading members of National Unity, including Georgian Popular Front Chairman Nodar Natadze, on 28 October on charges of destabilization and causing financial losses to Georgian Railways estimated at several million laris ($1 equals 2.10 laris) LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS DISMISSAL OF ELECTION COMMISSION HEADS
The heads of at least 15, and possibly 17 local election commissions in the west Georgian town of Kutaisi were dismissed on 27 October for unspecified "serious irregularities," Georgian media reported. Opposition parties staged a protest against the dismissals the following day. Parliament speaker Burdjanadze, who is running in a single-mandate constituency in Kutaisi, told protest participants that the Georgian authorities are planning to falsify the outcome of the ballot in the town. LF
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CENSURES CENTRAL ASIAN STATES
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 23 October censuring the governments of the Central Asian states for human rights violations, akipress.org reported on 27 October. The text of the resolution, which calls on the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee to look into the situation and on the European Commission to support freedom of the media in the region, was posted on http://www.eurasia.org.ru on 24 October. The sharpest criticism was directed at Turkmenistan for systematically violating its human rights commitments under a number of international agreements and for having become "one of the worst totalitarian systems in the world." In addition to violating freedom of speech, assembly, and religion, Turkmenistan was censured for discriminating against minorities and keeping political prisoners in inhumane conditions. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan were censured for limiting freedom of speech, and Kyrgyzstan for harassing the political opposition. The resolution specified ways in which each state could improve its performance and called for the speedy release from prison of former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov, Kazakh journalist Sergei Duvanov, Kazakh politician Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, and Uzbek journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov, all of whom have been nominated by the parliament for the Sakharov Prize. BB
IMF TELLS KAZAKHSTAN TO REDUCE USE OF DOLLAR
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has drawn up recommendations for Kazakhstan in the field of monetary policy, calling in particular for the country to reduce the role of the U.S. dollar in its economy, KazInform reported on 27 October. The IMF specialists who drew up the report said that reducing the use of the dollar will help Kazakhstan protect itself against crises in world markets, allow the country to establish its own currency policy more effectively, and help combat inflation. At the same time, the IMF warned the Kazakh leadership against taking overly harsh measures to reduce the number of dollars in circulation, such as closing dollar accounts in the country's banks or prohibiting the sale of dollars to individuals. BB
KYRGYZ, UZBEK NGOS BEGIN PROJECT TO REDUCE BORDER TENSION
Kyrgyz and Uzbek NGOs are cooperating on a project to reduce tensions in the border areas of Kyrgyzstan's Djalal-Abad Oblast, uzreport.com reported on 28 October. Kyrgyz media also mentioned the project earlier. The project, a joint effort of the Djalal-Abad NGO Group for Building Peace and the Uzbek NGO Progress, is supported by the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development. According to the chairwoman of the Kyrgyz partner, Indira Raimberdieva, the objective is to resolve peacefully conflicts in the border area. The governmental border commissions of the two countries have been seeking to resolve disputes concerning the Djalal-Abad Oblast border with Uzbekistan for several months. According to the oblast administration, 54 areas are still under dispute. BB
TAJIKISTAN INTRODUCES GAS RATIONING
Natural-gas rationing has been introduced in Tajikistan, although for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan -- which began on 27 October -- rationing conditions are more liberal than is expected to be the case after the Ramadan ends on 24 November, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 28 October. During Ramadan, gas will be supplied to the population from 4 a.m. until 8 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. After Ramadan, gas is unlikely to be available during the day. The situation reportedly will change only if the Tajik gas firm Tojikgaz can pay promptly for the gas it receives from Uzbekistan. BB
UZBEK JUSTICE MINISTRY REFUSES REGISTRATION OF BIRLIK PARTY
Uzbekistan's Justice Ministry has refused to register the Birlik (Unity) opposition movement as a political party, centrasia.ru reported on 29 October. The ministry did not explain why it rejected Birlik's application. Members of the movement -- which has existed since the late 1980s, although it was registered for only a few years after Uzbekistan gained its independence -- wanted to register Birlik as a party in order to take part in the 2004 parliamentary elections. BB
PRISONERS AT NOTORIOUS UZBEK PRISON DECLARE HUNGER STRIKE
Prisoners at the notorious Yaslyk prison in the Karakalpakstan desert declared a hunger strike on 14 October, demanding that the authorities stop persecuting their families and friends, that violence against religious believers be stopped, and that they themselves be released, the Uzbek human rights NGO Initiative Group of Independent Defenders of Human Rights (IGNPU) and Prima-News reported on 27 October. According to the IGNPU, the prisoners were beaten by Interior Ministry troops and a number were sent to other prisons. The Yaslyk prison is notorious not only because of the extreme conditions there due to its location, but also because it is used primarily for political and religious prisoners. According to Uzbek human rights activists, Yaslyk has the highest death rate of any prison in the country, with inmates reportedly often dying as a result of torture. BB
BELARUSIAN COURT CLOSES HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER
A Belarusian Supreme Court judge ordered the liquidation of the Vyasna human rights center on 28 October, Belapan reported. The Justice Ministry sought to have the organization outlawed over alleged irregularities. In particular, the ministry accused Vyasna of producing false documents while applying for registration in 1999, violating electoral regulations during the 2001 presidential election, and representing nonmembers in court. The judge dismissed all the charges except the violation of electoral regulations during the presidential race, but determined that was sufficient reason for banning the organization. Vyasna leader Ales Byalyatski, lawyers Uladzimir Labkovich and Valyantsin Stefanovich, and five other members of the organization protested the ruling by staging a sit-in in the courtroom. "We believe this is a politically motivated decision," Byalyatski said. All eight were arrested after they refused to leave the building, and they were expected to stand trial on 29 October on charges that they disobeyed the police. JM
UKRAINIAN BORDER GUARDS HUNKER DOWN ON TUZLA ISLAND
A Ukrainian border-guard unit deployed earlier this month to Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait is preparing to spend the winter there, Interfax reported on 29 October, quoting a State Border Troops spokesman. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said after his talks with Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych in Moscow on 24 October, and repeated on 28 October, that the two men agreed that the contentious construction of a Russian dam in the Kerch Strait (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 and 28 October 2003) will not be extended any further toward Tuzla in exchange for the removal of Ukrainian border guards from the island. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on 27 October refuted Kasyanov's assertion by saying that Yanukovych only stressed during the talks that Tuzla is an inalienable part of Ukraine. JM
UKRAINIAN SECURITY SERVICE SEES NO THREAT TO OPPOSITION LEADER'S LIFE
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on 28 October said it sees no threat to the life of Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko but added that security has been provided for his protection, Interfax reported. The move was prompted by President Leonid Kuchma's order that the SBU and the Interior Ministry look into Yushchenko's recent allegations that political opponents are trying to kill him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). JM
IMF WARNS ESTONIA OVER CURRENT-ACCOUNT DEFICIT
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has published its annual report on Estonia, in which the fund expresses its concern that the country's current-account deficit might reach 12.8 percent of GDP by the end of the year, postimees.ee reported on 27 October. The IMF warns that such a deficit is not sustainable in the long term and advises the government to toughen its budgetary policy. The report also draws attention to Estonia's high unemployment rate and calls for a reduction in the number of local municipalities through consolidation. AB
ESTONIAN CUSTOMS SEIZE 20 TONS OF UNDECLARED SUGAR
Estonian customs agents arrested a Latvian truck driver after finding 20 tons of sugar in a cargo declared as mineral wool, BNS and LETA reported on 27 October. The Ikla checkpoint officials detected the undeclared, Latvia-bound sugar on 24 October and have opened a criminal investigation. Sugar is three times more expensive in Latvia than in Estonia because of national taxes. AB
EU COMMISSIONER ENCOURAGES BALTIC RUSSIANS TO APPLY FOR CITIZENSHIP
Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, told an audience at the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow that members of the Russian minority in the Baltic states who have decide to stay should seek to naturalize, BNS reported on 28 October. The European Commission's delegation to Estonia released a statement quoting Verheugen's remarks. "It is internationally accepted that certain constitutional rights are reserved for those who are citizens of the country," Verheugen said. "Stateless people in Latvia and Estonia will enjoy the rights of permanent residents in the EU, but they won't have the rights determined by citizenship and cannot automatically claim the rights given to EU citizens under EU law." He encouraged those who have decided to stay in Latvia and Estonia to apply for citizenship, noting that the younger generation is "interested in integration." One day earlier, Verheugen told Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin that the issue of the admission of Latvia to the European Union will not be reopened -- saying, "That is a decided matter" -- Interfax and BNS reported on 27 October. AB
LATVIAN GOVERNMENT TO REVISE 2003 BUDGET
The Latvian cabinet will hold an extraordinary session on 30 October to amend this year's budget in light of unexpected revenues, LETA reported on 28 October. The parliament on 23 October granted the government permission to amend its fiscal plans based on its projection of increased revenues. Any final revisions are scheduled for a vote in the parliament on 6 November. AB
YUKOS CONTROVERSY IMPEDES RUSSIAN DUMA LEADER'S TALKS IN LITHUANIA
During a two-day visit to Lithuania, Gennadii Seleznev, chairman of the Russian State Duma, sought to promote Russia's interests and better Russian-Lithuanian relations but was instead dogged by concerns over the arrest in Russia of Yukos President Mikhail Khodorkovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline Part I"), BNS and ELTA reported on 27 and 28 October. Yukos is a strategic investor and managing partner in Lithuania's Mazeikiai Oil complex. Seleznev rejected Yukos's public claims that Khodorkovskii was arrested on political grounds, saying, "The main thing is to stick to business and not to jump to conclusions." Seleznev added that Yukos "owes the state the sum of over $1 billion." In response to questions from Lithuanian lawmakers concerning a possible renationalization of Yukos, Seleznev said Russia "must be in a position to carry out de-privatization in case of need." Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas expressed concern that Russia's actions against Yukos might torpedo Mazeikiai Oil's negotiations with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to secure loans for the modernization of the oil refinery. Conservative Party leader Andrius Kubilius meanwhile urged the Lithuanian government to suspend the planned sale of Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) shares to Russia's Gazprom "until the economic and political situation in Russia clears up." Kubilius also warned that in the event of Yukos's collapse, the Lithuanian government would have to buy out the Yukos stake in Mazeikiai Oil or risk a "threat" to national security. AB
RUSSIAN DUMA LEADER'S PROMISES TO VILNIUS
Seleznev promised Lithuania's parliamentary leader Arturas Paulauskas that the Russian Duma will soon ratify bilateral treaties on avoiding double taxation and protecting mutual investments, ELTA reported on 27 October. Seleznev also pledged to "do our best to remove the cover of secrecy from such projects as 2K [a cargo transit project] or LUKoil operations in the Baltic Sea, to ensure environmental expertise and public control, as well as to remove all irritants in the development of bilateral relations." He lobbied Lithuanian officials to sign a new treaty to legalize military transit through Lithuania, and to accelerate the introduction of a bullet train to speed visa-free travel between the Kaliningrad exclave and the rest of Russia, BNS reported on 28 October. AB
OUTGOING LITHUANIAN SECURITY CHIEF GIVES PUBLIC WARNING
Mecys Laurinkus, the outgoing head of Lithuania's State Security Department, has warned that "dangerous international organized crime groups are making their way into Lithuania as the country integrates into European and trans-Atlantic structures," BNS reported on 28 October. In an address to the parliament before ending his term in office, Laurinkus cited some groups by name, including the "Czech-based Falcon Capital company, which attempted to privatize Mazeikiai Oil," the "Moscow-based Luzniki group," and the "21st Century company, whose chief, Anzori Aksentev, maintains contacts with leaders of Lithuania's criminal groups." The parliament, at the recommendation of President Rolandas Paksas, voted to end Laurinkus's term shortly after the speech. Appointed by former President Valdas Adamkus, Laurinkus had served as the head of state security since June 1998. A confirmation vote on his proposed replacement, Lieutenant Colonel Gintaras Bagdonas, is expected later in the week. AB
POLISH PREMIER REPLACES POLICE CHIEF
Prime Minister Leszek Miller on 29 October appointed General Leszek Szreder as the country's new police chief after accepting the resignation of Antoni Kowalczyk, PAP reported. Kowalczyk resigned after it emerged that he changed his testimony in a probe involving a leak of sensitive information about a planned police raid on a criminal gang (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2003). JM
GLOBAL GIANT LNM BUYS POLAND'S STEEL CONGLOMERATE
The Polish Treasury Ministry on 27 October sold the Polskie Huty Stali SA (PHS) conglomerate to LNM Holding NV, the world's number-two steelmaker, Polish and international news agencies reported. Under the deal, NML is to buy 6 million zlotys' ($1.5 million) worth of shares in PHS, raise PHS's share capital by 800 million zlotys, and invest some 2.4 billion zlotys in PHS by 2009. The Treasury Ministry will maintain a 25 percent stake until at least 2006, while its 16,000 employees will control a combined 6 percent stake. The State Treasury will also have veto power over key strategic decisions until 2009. PHS is saddled with some 4.8 billion zlotys of debt, while its value is estimated at 4 billion zlotys, dpa reported. LNM has pledged to pay off PHS's debts. JM
CZECH PRESIDENT MARKS NATIONAL DAY...
A 21-gun salute and a wreath-laying ceremony on 28 October marked the anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918, CTK reported. Czech President Vaclav Klaus laid a wreath at a statue of the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, outside Prague Castle. President Klaus said the event marks "a day of commemoration [and] of inspiration" on which Czechs remember "the lessons of history." The president later received foreign diplomats and promoted three colonels to the rank of general. He also appointed Brigadier General Jaroslav Kolkus as his first deputy chief of staff. MS
...AS CZECH, SLOVAK PREMIERS LOOK BACK WITHOUT ANGER, LOOK FORWARD WITH HOPE...
At the end of a two-day visit to Bratislava, Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda said that they are not nostalgic about their countries' common past and look forward to a joint future within a united Europe, CTK and TASR reported. Dzurinda said that without the decision 85 years earlier to establish Czechoslovakia, the two countries' current international position would not be as strong as it is now. He also announced that a public place would be named in Bratislava after the founder of the joint state, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. In response, Spidla said that Prague would give Slovakia a statue of Masaryk. Dzurinda, as well as President Rudolf Schuster, with whom Spidla met on 28 October, said they believed the anniversary should be marked in Slovakia as well. Spidla also met with parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky, with whom he discussed coordinating strategies for the ongoing negotiations on the European constitution to avoid the two states competing with one another for the posts of European commissioners. MS
...WHILE DEFENSE MINISTERS REVIVE IDEA OF JOINT AIRSPACE DEFENSE
Visiting Czech Defense Minister Miroslav Kostelka and his Slovak counterpart Juraj Liska told journalists on 27 October in Bratislava that they agree the two countries should jointly defend their airspace, CTK and TASR reported. They said the main obstacle to that project is the absence of legislation that would make it possible. The idea emerged over a year ago under the tenure of former defense ministers, Jaroslav Tvrdik and Ivan Simko, but has remained on the drawing board. According to CTK, Liska said that the command operation of the Czech and Slovak air forces should be gradually merged. The two ministers said a joint air force drill will be held in 2005. Kostelka accompanied Prime Minister Spidla on his visit to Slovakia. MS
SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES FLAT TAX
Parliament on 28 October approved the introduction of a flat tax of 19 percent on both individual and corporate earnings, TASR reported. The legislation comes into effect on 1 January 2004. Earlier this year, Slovak lawmakers approved the introduction of a 19 percent value-added tax (VAT) on all products sold. Economy Minister Ivan Miklos said the approval of the tax reforms will lead to economic growth, the creation of new jobs, and will encourage investments. Two lawmakers belonging to the opposition Smer party, as well as six independent deputies, joined the governing parliamentary majority in voting for the law, which was passed by a majority of 85 deputies. Forty-eight deputies voted against and five abstained. MS
JEWISH CEMETERY VANDALIZED IN SLOVAKIA
A Jewish cemetery in the western Slovak town of Nove Mesto nad Vahom was desecrated twice last week, CTK and AFP reported on 27 October, citing police sources. Some 20 tombstones were knocked over and damaged. CTK said a record number of incidences of vandalism of Jewish cemeteries were registered in Slovakia this year. MS
HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS SAY RADIO CHAIRWOMAN IS SUBJECT TO PUBLIC SCRUTINY
Socialist Party spokesman Istvan Nyako said on 28 October that Hungarian Radio Chairwoman Katalin Kondor, who has been recently accused of cooperation with the communist-era secret services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September and 8, 9, 14, and 27 October 2003), is a public figure and thus subject to a law on public vettings, Hungarian media reported. Kondor said the previous day that she does not consider herself a public figure, since she does not form public opinion. Nyako said the act on vetting those who hold prominent positions in public life clearly states that the heads of state-run media outlets are among those who form public opinion, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. According to Nyako, the radio chairwoman has two options: resign or accept the fact that she is a public figure, in which case data on her past may be made public. MSZ
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY, VOJVODINA MAGYARS BEGIN CONSULTATIONS ON DUAL CITIZENSHIP
Representatives of ethnic Hungarian parties in the autonomous province of Vojvodina in Serbia and Montenegro and officials from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry on 27 October began talks in Budapest on possible dual citizenship, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Representatives of Vojvodina's ethnic Hungarians said they believe the laws of Serbia and Montenegro do not ban dual citizenship, and suggested that Hungary grant dual citizenship by resorting to positive discrimination for ethnic Hungarians in Serbia. Expert-level consultations will continue in Budapest next month. MSZ
HAS FRANCE OVERCOME U.S. OBJECTIONS TO EU'S BOSNIA MISSION?
London's "Financial Times" reported on 29 October that "the French government this week assured American diplomats that any EU-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia would be planned and operated through NATO, a stance likely to ease U.S. objections to an alliance handover to European Union troops by the end of next year." The daily added that "at meetings in Paris, Robert Bradtke, one of the State Department's top Europe hands, was promised France would ensure any EU operation would use the new 'Berlin Plus' agreement. This allows the EU to access NATO assets but forces it to use the alliance's planning and operational structure to carry out operations." The EU is currently in charge of international police efforts in Bosnia. Several U.S. officials previously said it is too early to discuss NATO's exit from the Balkans, where many Muslims and ethnic Albanians trust the United States but not the EU. Many in Washington also have doubts about the EU's ability to manage the security situation in Bosnia and about the EU's ultimate goal in building up a military bloc without the participation of the United States. The "Financial Times" article noted that these doubts remain (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 14 October 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June and 19 September 2003). PM
BOSNIAN SERB SENTENCED IN THE HAGUE
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal sentenced Predrag Banovic on 28 October to eight years in prison, which was the sentence requested by both the defense and the prosecution, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Banovic pleaded guilty on 26 June to one count of crimes against humanity in a deal after prosecutors agreed to drop additional charges of murder and cruel treatment against him. All the charges stem from Banovic's activities at Prijedor's Keraterm concentration camp in 1992. In related news, Miroslav Deronjic, who chaired former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Bratunac during the 1992-95 conflict, told the tribunal on 29 October that Karadzic said to him in early July 1995 that "it is necessary to kill all the Muslims in Srebrenica," which fell to Serbian forces shortly afterwards. PM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S PRESIDENT WARNS HIS COUNTRYMEN
Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 28 October that a failure to fulfill its obligation to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal will hurt his country's chances for European integration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). PM
SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN FULL SWING
Tomislav Nikolic, who is the candidate of Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS) in the 16 November Serbian presidential election, said in Prokuplje on 27 October that police should engage in civil disobedience and not arrest people indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal if ordered to do so, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In Belgrade, the Republican Election Commission confirmed Marijan Risticevic of the small People's Peasant Party (NSS) as the fifth accredited candidate in the presidential race (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). On 28 October, the opposition pro-reform G-17 Plus political party accused Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic of an unspecified conflict of interest involving one of 13 firms he allegedly directly or indirectly controls and government business. Mihajlovic declined to comment on the charge, adding that he will prove to the public prosecutor's office that the accusation is baseless. PM
UN POLICE ARREST FIVE KOSOVARS FOR WAR CRIMES
UN police arrested five ethnic Albanians in Kacanik on 27 October in connection with war crimes charges filed against them by the Prishtina district court and signed by an international judge, Reuters reported. The five allegedly committed atrocities against unnamed civilians during the 1999 conflict, when the five were members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). A UCK veterans' organization said in a statement that the arrests do not serve the cause of "peace, freedom, and democracy" in the province and indicate that Kosovars who once collaborated with the Serbian authorities are now receiving protection from the international authorities there. PM
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY STEPS UP EFFORTS AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME IN THE BALKANS
The EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe opened a permanent office of its anticorruption initiative (SPAI) in Sarajevo on 27 October, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic said combating organized crime will make the western Balkans more attractive to foreign investors. A conference of justice ministers from the region also opened in the Bosnian capital to discuss ways of fighting organized crime. Bosnian Justice Minister Slobodan Kovac noted that the criminals are better organized than the various state authorities. In Tirana, U.S. Ambassador to Albania James Jeffrey told Albanian legal specialists that "crime is still destroying your country and challenging its ability to enter Western bodies," Reuters reported. "We also have a message for the crime lords: We know or will soon learn who you are. My government, our European partners, and the Albanians are after you," he added. PM
MACEDONIA PREPARES EU MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva on 28 October wrapped up a two-day official visit to Brussels, where she held talks on her government's plans to apply for EU membership by the end of 2003 or early in 2004, MIA news agency reported. After her talks with European Commission President Romano Prodi, EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana, and EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, Mitreva said she hopes her country's application will give the government's reform efforts new momentum. According to Macedonian journalists quoting unnamed EU diplomats, the Macedonian plans received a cool reception. Neither Patten, Solana, nor Prodi encouraged Macedonia to apply as soon as possible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2003). UB
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT RECEIVED BY BUSH AT WHITE HOUSE
Visiting Romanian President Ion Iliescu met U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on 28 October, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, with whom Iliescu met separately the previous day, also attended the meeting. After the talks, Iliescu told journalists that Bush "appreciates" the contribution made by Romania to the struggle against international terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq within the two countries' strategic partnership. He also said he received assurances from Bush that U.S. investments in Romania will grow. On 27 October, Iliescu also met in Washington with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and discussed the continuation of the Romanian military presence in Iraq and Romania's possible participation in the postwar reconstruction of that country, Mediafax reported. Iliescu also met with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Horst Koehler, requesting the organization's aid in the modernization of Romania's infrastructure. Also on 27 October, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution praising the progress made by Bucharest in economic reforms and development and saying that Romania's experience in overcoming communist dictatorship and creating a functioning democracy may serve as an example to other countries, such as Iraq. MS
HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT ENDS PRIVATE VISIT TO TRANSYLVANIA...
Hungarian President Ferenc Madl ended on 28 October a two-day private visit to several towns in Transylvania, Romanian Radio reported. On 27 October, Madl reiterated in Cluj his country's readiness to support the preservation of the national identity of members of the Hungarian minority in Romania. Madl said that the controversial Status Law has been designed with that purpose in mind and expressed the hope that the future European constitution will include provisions that will help to preserve the identities of minorities. He also urged Romania to support the reestablishment of a state-funded Hungarian university in Cluj. Madl refused to answer questions as to his position toward the recently-established Szekler National Council (see below), saying that his official position prevents him from doing so. In an apparent reference to the council, Reformed Bishop Laszlo Toekes said he expected "moral backing" from the Hungarian president. On 27-28 October, Madl met with representatives of the private Hungarian-language Sapienta University in Odorheiul Secuiesc and Miercurea-Ciuc. MS
...AS ROMANIAN PARTIES DENOUNCE ESTABLISHMENT OF SZEKLER NATIONAL COUNCIL...
The ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) said on 28 October it is "concerned" over "attempts by extremist circles to enforce territorial autonomy based on ethnic criteria," Romanian Radio reported. That statement was prompted by the setting up in Sfantu-Gheorghe on 26 October of the Szekler National Council, which represents a part of the ethnic-Hungarian minority in Romania. The PSD also praised the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) for having distanced itself from the initiative. It also said that the "competent authorities" must launch an investigation to establish whether the Szekler National Council should be outlawed. On the same day, the Democratic Party said the Constitutional Court should rule whether the council is breaching legal provisions, adding that its creation is likely to endanger peaceful interethnic relations. The Greater Romania Party said on 27 October that the setting up of the council must be discussed by the Chamber of Deputies, because it is the responsibility of parliament to defend the country's "territorial and institutional integrity." MS
...AND ARAD HUNGARIANS 'SUSPEND' AGREEMENT WITH PSD OVER LIBERTY MONUMENT
The Arad branch of the UDMR announced on 27 October it has decided to "suspend" the cooperation agreement with the PSD to protest the ruling party's position over the Liberty Monument, which commemorates the Hungarian generals executed by the Habsburg authorities in 1849, Mediafax reported. The local UDMR branch said its decision represents "a signal to Bucharest over the dissatisfaction of the Hungarian community." UDMR branch chairman Andras Kiraly said that as a result of the decision, UDMR members on the local council will support only those decisions "which truly serve the interests of the local Hungarian minority" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August and 2, 9, and 10 September 2003). MS
ROMANIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE CHALLENGES TRIBUNAL'S REFUSAL TO REGISTER IT
The Alliance for Justice and Truth announced on 28 October that it will challenge in a Bucharest appeals court last week's refusal by a Bucharest municipal judge to register the alliance, Romanian Radio reported. The alliance was formed by the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party. On 24 October, a judge refused to register the alliance's initials as DA, which in Romanian means "yes," saying that the initials could mislead voters. Instead, the judge proposed that the alliance be registered under the initials ADA. The DA stems from "Dreptate si Adevar" (Justice and Truth). The alliance says that the decision was political and demonstrates the judicial system is subservient to the ruling party, the PSD. In related news, the PNL and the Democratic Party announced on 27 October they will request the establishment of a parliamentary commission to examine alleged malpractices in the 18-19 October referendum on amending the constitution. MS
ROMANIAN RULING PARTY ADMITTED TO SOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL
The PSD became on 28 October a full member of the Socialist International, Romanian Radio reported the next day. At a meeting of the international in Sao Paulo, Brazil, attended by Prime Minister and PSD Chairman Adrian Nastase, 145 Socialist International members voted in favor of granting the PSD the status of full membership. Only Romania's Democratic Party, also a member of the international, opposed the proposal. Nastase described the Democrats' position as "clumsy" and "vain." MS
MOLDOVAN RULING PARTY CELEBRATES DECADE OF EXISTENCE
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said on 25 October that the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) is the "party of statehood and of patriotism," Infotag reported on 27 October. Voronin spoke at a meeting marking the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the PCM. He said that the party's patriotism "has nothing in common with the sullen nationalism" of Moldova's previous governments, but is based on "building a multiethnic society and the reintegration of the country based on new federal principles." Voronin also said that the PCM is a "parliamentary party" that has renounced the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and any notions of coming to power by forcible means. Voronin also said that the PCM is against the Stalinist idea of "socialism in one country," because this would lead to the country's international isolation and provoke civil war in Moldova. MS
PPCD STAGES NEW DEMONSTRATION IN CHISINAU
The opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) staged on 26 October a new protest meeting in Chisinau, Infotag reported the next day. According to police estimates, between 2,000-3,000 people participated in the protest, demanding that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ensures that Russia respects its commitment to withdraw its troops from Transdniester by the end of this year. Participants approved a resolution calling on European countries, the United States, and Canada to demand at the forthcoming OSCE summit in Maastricht on 1-2 December that "the aggressor and occupant state respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova" and expressing the opinion that an extension of the withdrawal deadline will gravely affect the prestige of the OSCE, Infotag reported. The protesters also denounced plans to set up a federal state and accused William Hill, the head of the OSCE mission in Moldova, of protecting Russian interests in the region. MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, OSCE MISSION CHIEF, DISCUSS FORTHCOMING OSCE SUMMIT
President Voronin met on 27 October in Chisinau with OSCE mission head Hill and discussed the planned OSCE summit in Maastricht on 1-2 December, Infotag and Flux reported. They exchanged views on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transdniester. Infotag reported that a press release from the presidential office made no mention of the new compromise proposals worked out by the mediators (OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine) on ways to accelerate a resolution of the conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). According to Flux, Hill met on 28 October with PPCD leaders Iurie Rosca and Vlad Cubreacov and discussed the planned summit. They requested that the new document worked out by the mediators be made public. Hill said that the document is under preparation at the OSCE headquarters and that PPCD leaders should request details from OSCE Chairman in Office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who will visit Chisinau next week. In related news, Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan said on 28 October that his country is "worried" by the halted troop withdrawal from Transdniester, which "endangers the credibility of the OSCE," Flux reported. MS
BULGARIA PREPARES FOR SECOND ROUND OF MAYORAL ELECTIONS
Sixty-five mayors were elected in the 26 October mayoral elections, while the mayoral races in up to 173 municipalities will go to a second round, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service reported, quoting data provided by the Central Election Commission for Local Elections. The most important runoff will take place in Sofia, where incumbent Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski of the Union of Liberal Democrats is holding talks with the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS). Sofiyanski will run against Socialist Party candidate Stoyan Aleksandrov. SDS Chairwoman Nadezhda Mihailova, who also ran for Sofia mayor, said she has advised SDS party members to vote against Socialist candidates in the runoffs, but declined to say whether she will support her former ally Sofiyanski, mediapool.bg reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). UB
GERMAN LAWMAKER CLAIMS BULGARIA SPIES ON WESTERN COUNTRIES
Commenting on the recent arrest of a Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) official who allegedly handed over classified information to an official of the Bulgarian general consulate in Munich, German lawmaker Markus Meckel alleged in an interview with RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service on 28 October that Bulgaria continues to spy on Western countries like Germany, France, and Spain. Meckel called on the Bulgarian government stop spying on Western countries. Meckel, who is also a deputy chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, claimed that Western countries do not trust acting National Intelligence Service Director Kircho Kirov because of his past as a member of the communist-era secret services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003). Meckel, a Social Democrat, was the foreign minister in the last, democratically elected government of the German Democratic Republic (DDR). UB
PUTIN STICKS TO THE OLD SCRIPT: A 'REVOLUTION' WITHOUT THE 'HYSTERICS'
Members of the Russian business community seemed genuinely surprised by Russian President Vladimir Putin's refusal to intervene in the ongoing legal case against oil giant Yukos, whose head Mikhail Khodorkovskii was arrested on 25 October.
Putin told his cabinet on 27 October before a bank of Russian television cameras that there will be "no meetings, no bargaining about activities of law enforcement departments." He insisted that "everyone must be equal in the eyes of the law, regardless of the billions of dollars in someone's personal or corporate bank account." Khodorkovskii is reportedly the richest person in Russia, with a personal fortune estimated at some $9 billion. Fellow Yukos-connected billionaires Platon Lebedev and Leonid Nevzlin have also been caught up in the case. The indictment against Khodorkovskii, which was released on 28 October, accuses him of creating "an organized group of individuals with the intention of taking control of the shares in Russian companies during the privatization process through deceit" -- possibly pointing to more arrests to come.
Ever since he came to power in 1999, Putin has always skillfully used the language of the rule of law while simultaneously overseeing an administration that most analysts have seen as highly arbitrary. They have been quick to analyze the Yukos events and, particularly, Khodorkovskii's arrest, in the light of many other, oligarch-related events over the past three years.
Over the course of Putin's first term -- as other wealthy and powerful businessmen or "oligarchs," such as media magnates Boris Berezovskii and Vladimir Gusinskii, were jailed or arrested and as independent media outlets such as NTV, TVS, and TV-6 were either shut down or brought under state control, Putin always insisted that -- like the 1950s U.S. television detective Joe Friday -- Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, was just doing his job. And, within a very narrow definition, Ustinov is indeed doing his job -- executing the will of the executive branch, to which his office is subordinated.
What's new in Moscow this week is not the actions of the Kremlin and law enforcement officials, but the nearly unanimous condemnation of Khodorkovskii's arrest by the country's business community, mass media, and intelligentsia. In Putin's words, Khodorkovskii's arrest has provoked "hysteria."
But why "hysteria" and why now? Is it because Khodorkovskii, unlike Berezovskii, got into the business of funding charitable organizations before, rather than after he got in trouble with the law? Is it because Khodorkovskii, unlike Gusinskii, never owned a national television station and never let his political involvement come to the center of the public's attention? Is it because Khodorkovskii -- unlike Gusinskii or Berezovskii -- spared no effort to craft an image of both Yukos and himself as relatively honest, transparent, and responsible?
Perhaps the answer is not that Khodorkovskii is so different from his predecessors, but that it is becoming harder to predict who will be next. If Russia's richest person isn't safe, who is? In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 27 October, Georgii Satarov, a political analyst and a former aide to President Boris Yeltsin, argued that the business community took up a fairly conciliatory stance in the wake of Khodorkovskii's arrest by merely seeking a meeting with Putin. But what the business leaders didn't realize, according to Satarov, is that "they were confronting an adversary that views such a position as a sign of weakness." "They need to realize that if they do not defend themselves, nobody will," he said.
If rumors of the immanent departure of presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, who has reportedly tendered his resignation in protest of Khodorkovskii's arrest, turn out to be true, the entrenched business community will lose a powerful advocate from the Yeltsin era and the country will certainly witness a dramatic shift in the political balance within the Kremlin. Voloshin is widely viewed as the most powerful remaining representative of the Yeltsin-era Family, a clan that has consistently, if self-interestedly, resisted efforts by the Putin-era siloviki to redistribute wealth by revising the results of the 1990s privatizations.
In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 October, Sergei Filatov, who served as Yeltsin's chief of staff in the mid 1990s, commented that he sees Voloshin's possible departure as a "political revolution." According to Filatov, there are two teams within the Kremlin. One uses police methods to achieve its aims, while other has tried to develop a free-market system. If Voloshin leaves, the latter group will be decimated, Filatov argues, and "Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov will be next."
AFGHANISTAN LEADS IN GLOBAL OPIUM PRODUCTION
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports in its "Afghanistan Opium Survey 2003," released on 29 October, that Afghanistan now produces three-fourths of the world's opium output. Opium production increased from 2002 to 2003 by 6 percent, from 3,400 tons to 3,600 tons, and the area under opium-poppy cultivation increased by 8 percent, from 74,000 hectares to 80,000 hectares, according to the UNODC. Twenty-eight of Afghanistan's 32 provinces now produce opium, the report asserts. The increase in production has been accompanied by a drop in prices: from $350 per kilogram in 2002 to $283 per kilogram in 2003. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 29 October, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa warned that the situation could lead to the creation of "narco-cartels and other forms of organized crime that undermine [Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid] Karzai's effort to promote democracy and rule of law," according to a UNODC press release. Costa called for "surgical drug-control measures." The survey was produced jointly with the Afghan government's Counternarcotics Directorate, and Costa noted Karzai's ban on opium cultivation and trafficking, the adoption of a 10-year National Drug Control Strategy, and the adoption of a new drug-control law. BS
HRW WARNS OF THREATS TO AFGHANISTAN'S CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai to condemn violence and minimize "the number of warlords and their proxies" at the Constitutional Loya Jirga scheduled for December, according to an open letter dated 29 October and summarized on the group's website (http://www.hrw.org). HRW said it has conducted dozens of interviews since the beginning of October "documenting regional military commanders and troops threatening Loya Jirga candidates and regional representatives, issuing death threats, and nominating themselves for the Loya Jirga, in violation of a July 2003 decree from President Karzai forbidding military commanders and local government officials from attending the Loya Jirga" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 17 July 2003). AT
TWO CIA OPERATIVES KILLED IN EASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE...
Two U.S. nationals contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were killed in Shkin in Paktika Province sometime on 25 or 26 October, international news agencies reported. The CIA identified the two as William Carlson and Christopher Glenn Mueller, saying they were killed while "tracking terrorists operating in the region" of Shkin, "The New York Times" reported on 29 October. The CIA reportedly did not provide details of how the two were killed or the exact nature of their operations. Shkin has been the scene of violence -- blamed by some Afghan officials on Al-Qaeda and neo-Taliban, or remnants of the former Taliban regime -- that has resulted in dozens of U.S. and Afghan troop and civilian deaths since December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 2002 and 22 January, 11, 25, and 28 April, and 15 May 2003). AT
...WHILE 20 SUSPECTED AL-QAEDA MEMBERS ARE KILLED IN SAME PROVINCE
U.S. troops and Afghan militiamen killed 20 suspected members of Al-Qaeda in the Gomal District of Paktika Province on 25 and 26 October, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 27 October. According Paktika police chief General Dawlat Khan, "Arab nationals, Chechens, and Afghans were among those killed in the gun battle." Mohammad Ali Jalali, the governor of Paktika, on 28 October put the number of dead in Gomal at 10, "The New York Times" reported the next day. Gomal is approximately 25 kilometers west of Shkin. AT
NATO CALLS AFGHANISTAN 'THE CHALLENGE'
While NATO is willing to help coalition forces in Iraq, "the challenge for NATO is making a success of Afghanistan," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said on 28 October, according to Reuters. NATO most likely will decide in November on the level of expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from its current strength of 5,500 troops, Shea added. Shea said NATO is hoping to increase the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan from four to eight or 10. NATO agreed in October to expand ISAF beyond Kabul (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 October 2003). AT
GERMANS STUDY DEPLOYMENT TO KONDUZ PROVINCE
An advance team of 27 German troops arrived on 25 October in the northern Afghan town of Konduz to launch the expansion of a NATO-led ISAF there, RFE/RL reported. German Colonel Kurt Schiebold said the main task for the German troops is "to cooperate with the Afghan security forces to ensure that there is a safe environment for Afghans, United Nations staff, and members of other international organizations to do reconstruction work and provide humanitarian aid." The German troops are currently under direct German command, but by January they are due to come under the command of NATO-led ISAF. The choice of Konduz, a relatively safe haven in northern Afghanistan, has prompted some analysts to question NATO's commitment to take on more challenging tasks in Afghanistan's volatile areas. NATO spokesman Shea said it is obvious that NATO needs to "take on more missions in the south of the country," Reuters reported on 28 October. AT
WASHINGTON DEEMS IRANIAN ACTIONS ON AL-QAEDA INADEQUATE...
Asked to comment on Tehran's claims that it has submitted to the United Nations the names of suspected Al-Qaeda members it has in custody or has extradited to their countries of origin, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We believe Iran needs to turn over all suspected Al-Qaeda operatives to the U.S. or to their countries of origin or to third countries for interrogation and trial," according to the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (http://usinfo.state.gov). "It's essential that other countries have direct access to information that these people may have about past and future Al-Qaeda activities." Boucher went on to say that it is unclear whether Tehran has identified the senior Al-Qaeda leaders "who may be in Iran -- who are in Iran." Tehran and Washington have discussed Al-Qaeda before, Boucher said, but he said he knows of no new developments. The next day, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage cited Iran's alleged provision of safe haven and transit to Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam personnel as aspects of "Iran's support for terrorist organizations," the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs reported. BS
...AND OUTLINES IRAN POLICY
Armitage described the potential impact of U.S. policy toward Iran in his 28 October testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "I believe American policy can affect the direction Iran will take," Armitage said. Washington seeks to counteract Tehran's "negative and destructive policies and actions," he said, namely its poor human rights record and its alleged nuclear-, chemical-, and biological-weapons programs, support for terrorism, and interference in regional politics. Armitage said Iran is interfering in Iraq and Afghanistan and, as the foremost state supporter of terrorism, it provides financial and logistical support to Hamas, Hizballah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. At the same time, Iran offers "rhetorical support" for regional stability and has pledged material support for Iraq and Afghanistan. Armitage said Washington encourages "constructive policies and actions" and engages in "a direct dialogue with the Iranian people." Armitage added: "We are prepared to engage in limited discussions with the government of Iran about areas of mutual interest, as appropriate. We have not, however, entered into any broad dialogue with the aim of normalizing relations." U.S. and Iranian officials have met in the past to discuss issues of mutual interest, he said, adding, "We are prepared to meet again, but only if that would serve U.S. interests." BS
IRANIAN PARLIAMENT CLEARS INTELLIGENCE MINISTRY IN CANADIAN PHOTOJOURNALIST'S BEATING DEATH
Tehran parliamentary representative Jamileh Kadivar on 28 October read out the report of the Article 90 Committee -- which investigates complaints against the government -- on the incarceration and death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi last summer, IRNA, ISNA, and Mehr News Agency reported. The report noted that Kazemi had a press permit from the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry, and it cleared the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) of involvement in Kazemi's death -- an MOIS employee is being tried in connection with the case. The report also noted that the MOIS had rejected initial accusations that Kazemi was a spy. "There was no justification for issuing a detention order, and the changing of the detention order to a bail order took place in circumstances in which Zahra Kazemi was in a state of brain death and without respect for the law," the report said. Tehran Public Prosecutor Said Mortazavi declined to participate in the committee's inquiry, although he did provide written answers to its queries. "The report consisted entirely of lies and slander," Mortazavi said on 28 October, according to ILNA. BS
TEHRAN CONSIDERS RENEGOTIATING TURKISH GAS DEAL
Rokneddin Javadi, managing director of the National Iranian Gas Exports Company, said on 28 October that his firm is considering a Turkish request to renegotiate the price of natural gas it imports from Iran, IRNA reported. Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Guler recently said Ankara will review its agreement with Tehran because the natural gas is too expensive, and National Iranian Gas Company Managing Director Mohammad Melaki reacted by saying that Tehran will not renegotiate its gas-export agreement with Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). Javadi added that demands for the renegotiation of such long-term contracts are expected and that Iranian officials will discuss the issue with their Turkish counterparts. Javadi noted that Ankara has made a similar request of Russia. BS
SCIRI ANNOUNCES NEW GOALS IN IRAQ
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) announced on 27 October that the group will now focus on Iraqi reconstruction efforts, as well as the rebuilding of Iraq's military forces, Al-Jazeera television reported the same day. SCIRI Chairman Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim told the news channel that his group's Badr Corps will "shoulder heavy security responsibilities." He did not elaborate on how the group will carry out its goal, except to say, "As for military operations...and the possession of weapons, there is no longer [a] need for that." Meanwhile, SCIRI political adviser Muhsin al-Hakim told Iran's Mehr news agency on 27 October that "security is one of the requirements of development and the Badr organization will participate actively in order to achieve development." KR
CAR BOMB DETONATES NEAR AL-FALLUJAH POLICE STATION
Four civilians were killed on 28 October when a car bomb detonated near a police station in Al-Fallujah, international media reported. According to AP, a Toyota vehicle exploded in front of a power station located about 30 meters from a school and 100 meters from a police station. One witness told the news agency that there were two passengers in the car. One passenger exited before the explosion while the second remained inside the car. Al-Jazeera cited an Iraqi security source as saying that some of the victims were students. The news channel also reported that the vehicle belonged to the Iraqi General Reconstruction Company. It was reportedly stolen after the fall of the Hussein regime. Al-Fallujah is located within the so-called Sunni Triangle, where coalition forces have encountered the greatest resistance since U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over on 1 May. KR
INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS DENIES REPORTS OF PULLOUT
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has denied statements by an ICRC official that the UN would begin pulling its staff out of Iraq on 28 October following the 27 October bombing of ICRC headquarters in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). Swissinfo.org on 27 October had quoted Pierre Gassman, the head of ICRC's Iraq operations, as telling Germany's ARD television after the bombing that "we will begin on [28 October] to evacuate our international staff and then see how we can continue to work with our Iraqi colleagues." However, on 28 October ICRC spokeswoman Antonella Notari told reporters that no decision such has been made. She said the ICRC is reviewing its presence in Iraq, where some 30 international staff members are stationed in Baghdad, Basrah, and Irbil. Two ICRC workers were killed in the 27 October bombing. KR
IRAQI POST-HUSSEIN OIL SALES TOP $1.4 BILLION
Iraqi oil sales under the U.S.-led provisional authority in Iraq have reached $1.4 billion, Reuters reported on 27 October. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq said on 27 October that a total of $3 billion has been deposited into the U.S.-run Development Fund for Iraq. The figure includes the above-mentioned oil revenues, $1 billion remaining from the UN oil-for-food program, and $300 million in Iraqi funds confiscated by foreign banks and repatriated to Iraq. Some $666 million from the fund has reportedly been spent, leaving some $2.4 billion. KR
TURKEY'S GUL REPORTEDLY MIFFED WITH U.S. DELAY ON TROOPS
Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is reportedly annoyed that the United States has not yet made a decision regarding Turkey's offer of some 10,000 troops for Iraq, Ankara's TRT 2 television reported on 28 October. Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Gul criticized recent remarks by CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer that noted that Iraqis might be hesitant to see Turkish troops on their soil because of the Ottoman Empire's 400-year colonial rule over Iraq, which ended with the fall of the empire after World War I. "During Ottoman times, peace reigned in the region, including in Jerusalem," Gul told reporters. Meanwhile, Anatolia news agency quoted Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz as saying Bremer's remarks are "incompatible with historical facts." KR