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Newsline - November 10, 2003


FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA WON'T TOLERATE INTERFERENCE IN YUKOS AFFAIR
Igor Ivanov said on TV-Tsentr on 8 November that the Yukos investigation is a matter for the Russian justice system and that the Russian government will not intervene. "We do not intend to intervene into their jurisdiction and, furthermore, we will not allow anyone from abroad to intervene," Ivanov said. He said that there have been no official contacts between Moscow and Washington regarding Yukos. Ivanov agreed with TV-Tsentr moderator Aleksei Pushkov, who said that "U.S. political and financial elites have been severely critical of Russia over Yukos." But Ivanov attributed this criticism to Cold War thinking. "Both in the United States and in Russia there remain officials who live by the old mentality and who don't understand how rapidly international relations are developing," Ivanov said. VY

YABLOKO, MOTHERLAND-PATRIOTIC UNION SQUARE OFF ON YUKOS, GEOPOLITICS
During a campaign debate on NTV on 7 November, Eurasia Party leader and controversial geopolitical theorist Aleksandr Dugin, who is known for his staunch anti-Americanism, accused jailed former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii of a "pro-American" tilt. "In addition to the economic dealings that are now under investigation, Khodorkovskii is known for his specific geopolitical views," including his opposition to "the integration of the post-Soviet space and a pro-American orientation," Dugin said. He then asked Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii whether he supports those positions, and Yavlinskii responded that he has never heard such opinions from Khodorkovskii and that Yabloko does not oppose further integration. Yavlinskii said that Dugin, who is a leading member of the Motherland-Patriotic Union electoral bloc together with State Duma Deputy Dmitrii Rogozin, cannot settle the problems of privatization because he simply advocates confiscating and redistributing property. He charged that the political course of President Vladimir Putin, which Motherland-Patriotic Union supports, is not one of combating oligarchy, but rather one of political repression, similar to methods used under different pretexts by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. 7 November marked the official start of campaigning for the 7 December Duma elections. VY

SPS LEADER LASHES OUT AT PUTIN OVER YUKOS...
Speaking after Yavlinskii during the same 7 November NTV debate, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov reacted harshly to statements about Yukos made by President Putin during his recent trip to Rome (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 November 2003). Putin has divided Russian society, Nemtsov said. He noted that former Yukos head Khodorkovskii has been jailed without a trial, although this has done nothing to increase anyone's salary or pension. At the same time, capital began flowing from the country, contracts were disrupted, investment has been scaled back, jobs have been cut, and budget revenues have declined. "As a result, the country is poorer and economic growth has stopped," Nemtsov said. He said that "10 million people" could theoretically be jailed on the same charges that Khodorkovskii faces, and that the SPS advocates raising taxes on the wealthy instead of putting people in prison. However, he said, this must be done in a way that will not harm business. VY

...AS MOTHERLAND LEADER SAYS COURTS BETTER FOR OLIGARCHS THAN 'SILENCERS'
During the same NTV debate on 7 November, State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rogozin said that bringing the oligarchs to court is better than letting others deal with them "with weapons equipped with silencers." SPS leader Nemtsov responded by claiming that aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska is financing Rogozin's Motherland-Patriotic Union bloc, which Rogozin denied, threatening to sue Nemtsov. Writer Tatyana Tolstaya, who represented SPS in the debate, called on Yabloko leader Yavlinskii to agree to a merger of his party with SPS, warning that otherwise the words "destroyer of Russian democracy" would be written on his tombstone, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 November. In response, Yabloko deputies Sergei Ivanvenko and Sergei Mitrokhin denounced SPS's calls for a merger as "provocations," lenta.ru reported. Election debates on state television channels ORT and RTR begin on 10 November. JB

COMMUNIST LEADER ANTICIPATES NEW REDISTRIBUTION OF PROPERTY
Speaking in St. Petersburg on 5 November, Communist Party of Russia (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that the recent investigations into oil giant Yukos are just a cover for a new redistribution of property in the country, Regnum and other Russian media reported. Zyuganov denied that the KPRF has any contacts -- including financial sponsorship -- with Yukos or jailed former Yukos CEO Khodorkovskii. He said that people like Khodorkovskii and self-exiled former oligarch Boris Berezovskii cannot provide financial support to the KPRF because the party has called for the confiscation of their property and its return to the state. He added that the KPRF is contesting the current elections under the slogans of restricting presidential power and restoring a "Soviet-type parliamentary republic." Journalist Andrei Karaulov said on TV-Tsentr on 9 November that at least five people on the KPRF party list are affiliated with Yukos. VY

MORE SIGNS THAT SIBNEFT COULD BE NEXT...
In a fresh indication that the state might be planning actions against large companies other than Yukos, Britain's "Sunday Times" on 9 November quoted "a senior official" at Russia's Audit Chamber as saying that inspectors have ordered a "review" of oil giant Sibneft's "unethical" tactics for minimizing tax payments. "This is a threatening act by the state to show who is boss," the unnamed official told the newspaper. Shortly after the arrest of Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev in early July, Russian media reported that the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Tax Police had launched a probe of Sibneft, which is controlled by Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich and which is merging with Yukos. At that time, Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin reportedly informed the government that major energy companies had underpaid their taxes by 10 billion rubles ($3.3 billion) over an unspecified period of time. Stepashin also denounced Abramovich's purchase of Britain's Chelsea soccer team as "an arrogant and demonstrative challenge to Russia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 11 July 2003). State Duma Deputy Vladimir Yudin (Fatherland-Unified Russia) recently asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the privatization of Sibneft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2003). JB

...AS PAPER REPORTS 'PANIC' AMONG THE OLIGARCHS
Russia's oligarchs are in a "panic" over "who will be next," "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 10 November. The newspaper reported that since "anyone can be next and no one wants to go to prison, rich citizens are gradually coming to the conclusion that the most comfortable place for them is abroad." According to the paper, some tycoons have been gradually moving their families, beloved property such as antiques and horses, and even their mistresses to Western Europe. There are also signs that they are moving their money abroad. Britain's "Financial Times" reported on 8 November that Russia is expecting a net private capital flight of more than $13 billion in the second half of this year, compared with a net inflow of $4.6 billion in the first half of the year. "The crisis caused by the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovskii and the attack on the Yukos oil company has contributed to the reversal of this positive trend," the paper wrote. JB

U.S., RUSSIA SIGN ACCORD ON SAFEGUARDING ENRICHED URANIUM
Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev and U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met in Washington on 8 November and signed a memorandum on transferring highly enriched uranium from former Soviet republics and Soviet-bloc countries to Russia, RIA-Novosti reported. According to the memorandum, the two countries will soon sign an agreement, according to which the United States will assist Russia in transferring the enriched uranium that has accumulated at 20 Soviet-made research reactors in 17 CIS and Central and Eastern European countries. Rumyantsev noted that such uranium could be used for major terrorist acts and the goal of the present agreement is to forestall this threat. In Russia, the uranium will be reprocessed into fuel for domestic nuclear-power plants. The radioactive waste from this reprocessing will stored at special sites in Russia. VY

PUTIN, CHIRAC CONFIRM COMMON STAND ON IRAQ
President Putin wound up his recent trip to Europe with a five-hour stopover in Paris on 7 November, during which he briefed French President Jacques Chirac on the 6 November EU-Russia summit in Rome, Russian and Western news agencies reported. After the meeting, the two presidents announced that their mutual position on events in Iraq "has not changed." The presidents expressed concern about the overall situation in the Middle East, especially about increasing tension in U.S.-Syrian relations, RIA-Novosti reported on 7 November. Although the EU issued a statement on 7 November saying that the organization is concerned that the Yukos investigations could harm economic relations between the EU and Russia, Chirac seemed to express support for Putin by -- in violation of normal protocol -- accompanying Putin to the airport in the latter's limousine. VY

COMMUNISTS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF 1917 REVOLUTION...
The Day of Reconciliation and Accord, as the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution is now officially known in Russia, was marked on 7 November with demonstrations in Moscow and elsewhere around the country, Russian media reported. Some 10,000 supporters of various communist and leftist groups gathered in Moscow to mark the revolution's 86th anniversary. KPRF leader Zyuganov and Aleida Guevara, the daughter of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, among others, addressed the demonstration. Armen Beniaminov, a State Duma deputy's aide who is running for a parliamentary seat in the 7 December Duma elections on the KPRF ticket, hoisted a hammer-and-sickle flag over the Duma building in place of the Russian tricolor as Communist demonstrators were marching by. Beniaminov said he waited all night on the roof of the Duma to raise the flag and was severely beaten by members of the Federal Protection Service who caught him, "Gazeta" reported on 10 November. JB

...AS DO UNIFIED RUSSIA, SPS, AND YABLOKO
Unified Russia on 7 November commemorated the defenders of Moscow against a 1612 invasion by Polish forces and a sponsored a pop concert near the Kremlin while its leaders addressed a party congress in Moscow, Russian media reported. Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, who is also the party's leader, told the congress that Unified Russia is "the most powerful party to emerge in our country since the fall of the Soviet Union." The party, he said, decided not to take part in televised campaign debates because the other parties running for the Duma have "no political weight," "The Moscow Times" reported on 10 November. Meanwhile, Yabloko and the SPS held a joint rally, during which Yabloko leader Yavlinskii warned that corruption is "devouring the country" and proclaimed the goal of transforming Russia "into a liberal and European country." Some in the crowd, estimated at 1,500, carried placards supporting jailed former Yukos CEO Khodorkovskii. JB

A PLURALITY OF RUSSIANS WOULD BACK THE BOLSHEVIKS
A recent poll conducted by VTsIOM-A found that 23 percent of respondents said that if the Bolshevik revolution were to happen again today, they would actively support the Bolsheviks, while 19 percent said they would "cooperate with them in some way," Interfax reported on 5 November. Twenty-seven percent said they would wait things out and not get involved, while 16 percent said they would leave the country, and 10 percent said they would fight the Bolsheviks. According to VTsIOM-A, KPRF supporters generally said they would back the Bolsheviks, while Unified Russia supporters tended to say they would wait it out and not get involved, SPS supporters tended to say they would emigrate, and Yabloko supporters tended to say they would fight the Bolsheviks. Asked what the Bolshevik revolution had brought the Russian people, 32 percent mentioned socioeconomic development, 19 percent said "a new era in Russian history," 20 percent said it had frozen Russia's development, 13 percent said it was a catastrophe for the Russian people, and 16 percent said they were not sure. JB

EU DISAVOWS BERLUSCONI'S CHECHEN COMMENTS
In a statement on 7 November, EU spokesman Reijo Kemppinen said the European Commission "does not share" the views on Chechnya expressed the previous day in Rome by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 8 November. EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten characterized Berlusconi's positive assessment of President Putin's Chechen policy as "unbelievable," according to "The Times" on 10 November. Berlusconi said during the Russia-EU summit in Rome on 6 November that Chechens are engaged in "terrorism," and that Chechens voted overwhelmingly in a "democratic referendum" to remain part of Russia. LF

ARMENIAN PRIVATIZATION POLICY UNDER FIRE
Armenian parliament Audit Chamber head Gagik Voskanian said on 7 November that the new owners of 17 of 44 privatized companies inspected by the Audit Chamber over the past year have failed to meet their contractual commitments in terms of investment and jobs creation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a report circulated last month, the Audit Chamber criticized the delays and lack of transparency in implementing the government's three-year privatization program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2003). LF

NORWEGIAN OFFICIAL CRITICIZES POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE IN AZERBAIJAN
Kim Traavik, who is a state secretary at the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, told journalists in Baku on 7 November that his government is concerned about the violations that marred the 15 October presidential election and the "police brutality" against opposition protesters that followed, Turan reported on 8 November. Traavik said he told Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Kalafov that the country "is not fulfilling its commitments to the Council of Europe and the OSCE." According to the opposition newspaper "Hurriyet" on 9 November, as cited by Groong, newly elected President Ilham Aliyev refused to meet with Traavik because of the latter's statement of support for Norwegian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Steinar Gil. A leading member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party demanded on 4 November that Gil be declared persona non grata for having offered sanctuary in the wake of the post-election clashes to Rauf Arifoglu, editor in chief of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat." LF

MORE AZERBAIJANI GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS ANNOUNCED
President Aliyev named 10 more cabinet ministers on 7 and 8 November, Interfax and Turan reported. All were reappointed to the posts they held in the outgoing government. They include Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev, Health Minister Ali Insanov, Labor and Social Security Minister Ali Nagiev, Justice Minister Fikret Mamedov, Education Minister Misir Mardanov, and Culture Minister Polad Byul-Byuloglu. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST CIVIL WAR
Two people were reported injured on 7 November when unidentified armed men opened fire on a demonstration in Zugdidi convened by the opposition National Movement (EM) to protest the apparent falsification of the outcome of the 2 November parliamentary election, Georgian and Western media reported. In an unscheduled address on national television on 7 November, Eduard Shevardnadze affirmed his readiness to meet with opposition leaders the following day to discuss "all topical issues." At the same time, he warned against allowing a "civil standoff" to develop, as it could, he said, easily degenerate into civil war. Shevardnadze further protested what he termed interference by U.S. financier George Soros, who is believed to fund the opposition youth movement Kmara, in Georgia's internal affairs, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION STAGES FURTHER PROTEST DEMONSTRATIONS
On 8 November, 8,000-10,000 supporters of the EM and the Burdjanadze-Democrats election bloc attended a demonstration in Tbilisi at which EM leader Mikhail Saakashvili again demanded that the Georgian authorities acknowledge his bloc's victory in the parliamentary elections and that the government and President Shevardnadze resign. Saakashvili said first that he does not intend to overthrow the government by force, and then that if Shevardnadze refuses to recognize the opposition's victory, he and his supporters will break through the police cordons surrounding the state chancellery and demand Shevardnadze's resignation, according to ITAR-TASS. Numerous EM supporters from other regions of Georgia were reportedly intercepted by police and prevented from traveling to Tbilisi to join the protest. Interior Ministry spokesman Paata Gomelauri told Caucasus Press on 8 November that police will use force if the situation in Tbilisi spirals out of control. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION BLOC FORFEITS NEW PARLIAMENT MANDATES
The Burdjanadze-Democrats bloc announced on 7 November that it does not recognize the validity of the 2 November ballot and demands that the elections be annulled and new ones held, rustavi2.com reported on 8 November. Djumber Patiashvili of the opposition Ertoba bloc similarly filed a lawsuit on 7 November demanding that the election results be annulled, Interfax reported. As of late on 9 November, with over 90 percent of the party-list votes counted, the pro-presidential For a New Georgia bloc was again leading with 21.1 percent of the vote, followed by Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze's Democratic Revival Union (19.6 percent), the EM (18.2 percent), the Labor Party (12.1 percent), and the Burdjanadze-Democrats bloc (8 percent). Ertoba reportedly failed to surmount the 7 percent minimum required to win parliamentary representation under the proportional system. On 8 November, Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairwoman Nana Devdariani said the violations registered during the 2 November vote were not on a mass scale and did not affect the overall outcome, ITAR-TASS reported. She said the final election returns will be made public on 20 November. LF

TALKS BETWEEN GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION FAIL...
President Shevardnadze was greeted with catcalls and shouts of "Go away!" and "Resign!" when he attempted to address protest demonstrators in Tbilisi on the morning of 9 November, Georgian media reported. Shevardnadze again offered to meet with opposition leaders for talks on how to stabilize the situation, an offer that EM leader Saakashvili initially rejected as a public-relations ploy. But Saakashvili, together with parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze and her coalition partner and predecessor Zurab Zhvania, met with Shevardnadze for two hours later on 9 November at the presidential residence in Krtsanisi, but failed to reach any agreement, rustavi2.com reported. Zhvania and Saakashvili both accused Shevardnadze of not being prepared for negotiations. Saakashvili further accused the president of having solicited Moscow's backing and of preparing for confrontation and nationwide repressions. Late on 9 November, he called on the Tbilisi protesters to disperse and rest until 11 November, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...AS PRESIDENT VOWS HE WILL NOT RESIGN
President Shevardnadze for his part described the 9 November meeting with the three opposition leaders as fruitful but tense, and said the "negotiations with the opposition will continue." Shevardnadze also pointed out that he is not empowered to accede to the opposition's demands that the election results be annulled, as that prerogative lies with the CEC and the Constitutional Court. Shevardnadze made clear that he will not resign simply because "a few dozen young people are waving banners and demanding" that he step down, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. Describing EM leader Saakashvili as "a dangerous person," Shevardnadze said he cannot allow "people who would destroy and devastate everything to come to power." LF

ADJAR LEADER DESIGNATED PRESIDENT
Meeting in emergency session on 8 November, the parliament of the Adjar Autonomous Republic voted to amend the local constitution to designate the republic's leader as "president" in its English-language version, while leaving the term "head" in the Georgian and Russian-language versions, Caucasus Press reported. Deputies also designated the republic's leader as supreme commander of its armed forces, bestowing on him the rank of brigadier general. Vakhtang Khmaladze, an expert on constitutional and election law and a co-author of the Georgian Constitution, said the latter decision violates the Georgian Constitution, under which only the president of Georgia is empowered to confer military ranks, Caucasus Press reported. LF

RUSSIA OFFERS TO TRAIN ABKHAZ OFFICERS
Fifteen officers from the Abkhaz armed forces will undergo specialized training in military academies in Russia in 2004-05, Apsnipress reported on 7 and 8 November. The officers will be trained as pilots, aircraft engineers, and air-defense specialists. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN SINGAPORE TO PROMOTE INVESTMENT
Nursultan Nazarbaev arrived in Singapore on 7 November on a state visit to promote trade with and investment in Kazakhstan, khabar.kz reported on 9 November. Nazarbaev participated in a forum of businesspeople from Singapore on 7 November, at which he discussed attracting Southeast Asian investment in Kazakhstan's industry and infrastructure. He presented Kazakhstan as not only a profitable investment opportunity, but as a means of accessing the markets of other Central Asian states. According to khabar.kz, the Singaporeans were particularly interested in expanding cooperation with Kazakhstan in the field of security. BB

FORMER KAZAKH AMBASSADOR BECOMES OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER
The third congress of the Kazakh opposition party Ak Zhol (Bright Path) on 9 November elected Altynbek Sarsenbaev, the recently recalled Kazakh ambassador to Russia, to the post of party co-chairman, along with four others, centrasia.ru reported on 10 November. Before he represented Kazakhstan in Moscow, Sarsenbaev served as secretary of the Kazakh Security Council. He has reportedly described his return to Kazakhstan as the return of a "heavyweight" to the domestic political scene. Ak Zhol was formed in early 2002 by members of the opposition coalition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan. It is legally registered as a political party, while its parent organization is not. BB

KAZAKHSTAN, TURKMENISTAN AGREE ON PRISONER EXCHANGES
The official Kazakh press published on 7 November the text of an agreement between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan on the exchange of prisoners who have asked to serve their sentences in their own countries, gazeta.kz reported. The agreement has been ratified by the Kazakh parliament and signed into law by President Nazarbaev; the Kazakh report did not say whether the same steps had been taken by Turkmenistan. The agreement specifies that convicts, their relatives, or legal representatives may submit a transfer request to their respective prosecutor-general's offices. BB

OBLAST GOVERNOR DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN ATTACK ON KYRGYZ SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY
Naken Kasiev, governor of Osh Oblast in southern Kyrgyzstan, said in an interview with the newspaper "Agym" that he had nothing to do with an assassination attempt against Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov in 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003), RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 8 November, quoting that day's issue of "Agym." Kasiev said that the person who has been arrested for the attack on Ashyrkulov, in which the official was wounded, had asserted that Kaziev had ordered the assault. Kasiev described this assertion as having originated with his political opponents. Some law enforcement officials have tried to link the Ashyrkulov assassination attempt to extremist groups. BB

TAJIK FOREIGN MINISTRY RAISES LATEST LAND-MINE INCIDENT WITH UZBEKISTAN
The Tajik Foreign Ministry has sent a note to the Uzbek Embassy in Dushanbe expressing concern over the latest incident of Tajik citizens being killed and wounded by land mines planted on the Tajik-Uzbek border by the Uzbek military, khovar.tojikiston.com reported on 8 November. Two Tajik citizens were killed by Uzbek land mines on 4 November and three others were wounded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2003). In its note, the Tajik ministry pointed out that since Uzbekistan mined the border with Tajikistan's Sughd Oblast in 2000, more than 80 Tajik citizens have been killed or injured, and appealed to the Uzbek authorities to take the necessary measures to prevent further incidents. Tajikistan has previously made it clear that it wants the land mines removed. BB

TURKMENISTAN BELATEDLY SIGNS CASPIAN ENVIRONMENTAL CONVENTION
Turkmenistan signed the Convention on Protection of the Environment of the Caspian Sea at a ceremony in Tehran on 8 November, after having failed to do so when the other four Caspian littoral states signed it in Tehran last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2003), ITAR-TASS and IRNA reported on 8 November. Turkmen Environment Minister Matkarim Rajapov signed the document, which is the first intergovernmental convention to be signed by the five Caspian states. It was reported that the Turkmen delegation at the earlier signing ceremony on 5 November was not authorized by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to sign the document, which can only be implemented with the signatures of all five littoral states. BB

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS HE WILL SEEK ANOTHER TERM
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 7 November that he might run in the next presidential election in 2006 "against five to six candidates," Belarusian Television reported. "If the situation is normal, if I see that the Belarusian people still tolerate Lukashenka, then, without changing appropriate norms in the constitution, I will come to you and say: [Are you still] tolerating me, and do you mind my running in the election?" Lukashenka said, adding that he is not considering extending his current term in office, which is his last, according to the current constitution. Meanwhile, on 9 November, police in Homel briefly detained two activists of the opposition United Civic Party after they organized a street poll on a possible third term for Lukashenka, Belapan reported. Some 90 percent of the 2,172 respondents in that survey purportedly said they are opposed to Lukashenka or any other person remaining in the president's post for more than two terms, the agency added. The activists will be tried in court for staging an unauthorized demonstration. JM

OUR UKRAINE HOLDS FORUM IN SUMY, BUT NOT WITHOUT PROBLEMS
The Our Ukraine bloc led by Viktor Yushchenko held a forum of democratic forces on a city square in Sumy on 9 November after it was rejected permission to gather in any building in the city, Interfax reported, quoting the Our Ukraine press service. Unidentified youths reportedly set off firecrackers during the rally, pelted its participants with eggs, and demolished buses transporting Our Ukraine lawmakers to Sumy. Yushchenko was not allowed to address Sumy residents on a local television station, while electricity in the editorial office of a local newspaper was disconnected during his meeting there with journalists. A week before, Our Ukraine was prevented from holding a democratic forum in Donetsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS WANT CHEAP BREAD, RETURN OF USSR
Hundreds of Communist Party supporters, pensioners, and war veterans took part in a rally in Kyiv on 7 November to mark the 86th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and called on the government to prevent bread prices from rising, Reuters and Interfax reported. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko told the crowd that Ukraine's possible entry to the World Trade Organization would ruin the country's agro-industrial complex. Symonenko also spoke against NATO entry for Ukraine. Meanwhile, some 2,000 Communist Party members and supporters in Simferopol called on the Ukrainian authorities to ratify an accord on the creation of a Single Economic Space with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus as the first step toward restoring the Soviet Union, Interfax reported. JM

KYIV TO INCREASE MILITARY HARDWARE IN IRAQ
Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski agreed with his Ukrainian counterpart Yevhen Marchuk in Kyiv on 7 November that Ukraine should send "several dozen additional" combat helicopters to the Polish-led stabilization sector in Iraq to help protect convoys and patrols, and to lead reconnaissance operations, Polish Radio reported. Szmajdzinski said neither Poland nor Ukraine envisages sending more troops to Iraq. There are currently some 1,700 Ukrainian and 2,500 Polish troops there. JM

FORMER ESTONIAN PREMIER CALLS RUSSIA DANGEROUS NEIGHBOR FOR ESTONIA
Reform Party Chairman Siim Kallas on 7 November said that if undemocratic developments in Russia continue, that country will pose a threat to Estonia, BNS reported. Kallas made his comments during an event at the National Library of Tallinn commemorating Estonia's National Day. He said that Russia has chosen the path of an authoritarian state in which the decision-making mechanism is not transparent and therefore cannot be democratically controlled or observed. Kallas noted that in Russia's recently adopted military doctrine, Russia reserves the right to use force if "compatriots are being persecuted" or if an unstable situation in a neighboring country poses a direct threat to Russian territory. "There's nothing easier than to stage a provocation in Narva [which borders Russia] with human casualties, and the Pskov [airborne] division will be here," he noted. At the same event, Defense Minister Margus Hanson stressed the importance of taking into account NATO's needs when reforming the country's military. He also said it would be dangerous for Estonia to become marginalized in NATO. SG

UNHRC SUGGESTS LATVIA DO MORE TO ELIMINATE POLICE VIOLENCE, HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The Latvian Foreign Ministry announced that the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) has suggested that Latvia carry out additional measures to stem police violence, human trafficking, domestic violence, and to alleviate overcrowding in prisons, BNS reported on 7 November. The commission called for Latvia to establish an independent mechanism to investigate allegations of police violence. It also suggested that Latvia develop translation services and prevent language policies from harming communications between the population and state or municipal institutions, as well as take measures to reduce possible negative effects planned education reforms could have on minorities. The UNHRC praised Latvia for amending its constitution by adding a section on human rights, establishing the Constitutional Court and Human Rights Office, adopting an asylum law, dropping language requirements for candidates to parliament, and approving a social-integration program with a Public Integration Fund. SG

CONSERVATIVES URGE LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT TO RESIGN
The annual congress of the Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) on 8 November in Vilnius passed a resolution calling on Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas to resign, "Kauno diena" reported on 10 November. Party Chairman Andrius Kubilius in his opening speech called Paksas "the state's greatest problem." "Born as a sparrow, you won't fly like an eagle for a long time, regardless of how much public relations flaps your wings," Kubilius said of the president. The eagle is the symbol of the Liberal Democratic Party, which Paksas founded. The congress also approved the merger into its 13,000-member ranks of the 1,000-member Lithuanian Rightist Union (LDS), which was formed in October 2001 by uniting four uninfluential right-wing parties. The congress elected LDS Chairman Vidmantas Ziemelis as a party deputy chairman. SG

POLAND READY TO COMMAND IRAQ ZONE UNTIL 2005
Polish Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke, who is currently on a Middle East tour with Prime Minister Leszek Miller, said in Lebanon on 8 November that Polish soldiers might stay in Iraq until the end of 2004, Polish Radio reported. Poland has decided to rotate its soldiers every six months and is due to begin such a rotation in January and February. Zemke also said Poland is ready to hand over command of the 9,000-strong multinational force in its stabilization sector, but no earlier than in the second half of 2004. Zemke explained that the main obstacle to the assumption of command by Spain, which made the third-largest contribution to the multinational force, is the inability of Spanish officers to speak Russian. The Russian language is used in communication between the Polish command and the Ukrainian, Kazakh, and Bulgarian contingents serving in the stabilization force. JM

POLISH RULING PARTY LOSES LEAD IN POLL
A recent poll by the OBOP polling agency found that the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has lost its popular lead for the first time since 1999, Polish media reported on 7 November. According to the poll, the centrist Civic Platform is supported by 20 percent of voters, the SLD by 18 percent, the radical populist Self-Defense by 13 percent, and the right-wing Law and Justice party by 12 percent. Civic Platform leader Jan Maria Rokita predicted that his party and Law and Justice will most likely take over in Poland after the departure of the SLD and its political ally, the Labor Union. "The SLD had been losing popularity due to scandals and high unemployment. Poles now worry, too, that its policies could lead to a financial crisis," Reuters quoted Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, head of the Public Affairs Institute think tank, as saying. JM

CZECH CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS ELECT NEW PARTY HEAD...
The Christian Democratic Movement-People's Party (KDU-CSL), a junior member of the ruling three-party commission, elected Miroslav Kalousek as party chairman during the party's 8 November national conference, CTK and AP reported. Kalousek defeated the incumbent party leader, his old rival Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, in the second round of voting. Kalousek received 164 votes from the 300 delegates at the conference, while 131 voted in favor of Svoboda. Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek and KDU-CSL parliamentary deputy Jaromir Talir also vied for the position. Prior to the second round of voting, Kalousek pledged not to undermine the KDU-CSL's membership in the current ruling coalition, but said he will take a tougher stance on issues the party considers essential to its platform. MS

...WHICH OPENS QUESTIONS OVER COALITION'S FUTURE
Observers cited by CTK on 8 November believe that the cohesion of the ruling coalition is likely to suffer as a result of the KDU-CSL's change in leadership. Just hours before the election, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla (Social Democratic Party) publicly backed incumbent party head Svoboda, but after Kalousek's election Spidla said he believes the new party leader will support the continuation of the ruling coalition. Svoboda suffered a further personal defeat during the 8 November party conference when Jan Kasal was chosen as the party's first deputy chairman. Svoboda will have to settle with a deputy-chairmanship position, alongside Ambrozek, Roman Linek, and Milan Simonovsky. MS

KDU-CSL CANDIDATE WINS SENATE BY-ELECTION
Josef Kalbac (KDU-CSL) won a Senate seat by defeating Civic Democratic Party (ODS) candidate Pavel Pavel in a 8 November by-election in southern Bohemia's Strakonice District, CTK reported. Kalbac garnered 53.45 percent of the vote in an election in which voter turnout was a mere 12.56 percent. The KDU-CSL now has 16 seats in the 81-member upper house of the Czech parliament. MS

MONUMENT TO VICTIMS OF NAZISM VANDALIZED IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Police detained two young persons under the suspicion of having vandalized on 8 November a monument to the victims of Nazism in the northern Bohemian town of Krupka, CTK reported. They were reportedly caught red-handed as they painted a swastika and the SS symbol on the monument. MS

CZECH INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS INCIDENCE OF POLITICAL EXTREMISM IS LOW BUT RISING
An Interior Ministry report submitted to parliament on 7 November said that just 0.1 percent of registered criminal acts in the Czech Republic are committed by political extremists, but the number of such incidents has been growing over the last few years, CTK reported. In 2002, 544 such cases were registered, compared to 534 in 2001; 469 in 2000; and 449 in 1999. Just 364 acts of this nature were registered by police in 1996. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS FLAT TAX IS DANGEROUS TEST OF THE PEOPLE'S RESILIENCY
President Rudolf Schuster said on 7 November that the cabinet headed by Mikulas Dzurinda is testing how much people will take as regards price increases and falling living standards, CTK reported. In an apparent reference to the 19 percent flat tax on individuals and corporations that is to go into effect on 1 January 2004, Dzurinda said during his visit to Kosice Technical University that "I am afraid that they might leave the poorest citizens no other option...than to turn to street [protests]." MS

SLOVAKIA ALLOWS USE OF UNDERCOVER AGENTS IN COMBATING CORRUPTION
President Schuster on 7 November signed into law legislation that will allow police to employ undercover agents acting as "agents provocateurs" to help combat corruption, CTK reported. Under the new legislation, failure to inform authorities about knowledge of acts of bribery will be a punishable offense. The legislation also stipulates the obligation to prove that property has been legally acquired and sets up special prosecution offices specialized in combating corruption. MS

TEN CHARGED IN SLOVAK LOAN SCANDAL
Slovak police on 8 November charged 10 people, including four former and one current board members of Vseobecna Uverova Banka (VUB), pertaining to a fraud case involving $61 million in bad loans granted by the country's second-largest bank in the mid-1990s, Reuters and CTK reported. Three of the former and current members are accused of granting loans to Konsult Real, on whose board they also sat at the time. Five employees of Konsult Real are among those charged. MS

SLOVAK COMMUNISTS REPLACE CHAIRMAN OF PARLIAMENTARY GROUP
Ivan Hopta was dismissed as leader of the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) parliamentary group and replaced by Vladimir Dado, TASR reported on 8 November, citing the daily "Narodna obroda." Hopta told the daily that he would have retained his leadership of the parliamentary group had he not recently announced his intention to challenge KSS Chairman Jozef Svec for the party's leadership. Svec has denied Hopta's allegation, according to the daily, and claimed that Hopta "is involved in the economic problems faced by his native town and wants to drag the whole party into them." MS

EU OFFICIAL CONCERNED OVER PLANS TO DISMANTLE HUNGARIAN FINANCIAL WATCHDOG
The European commissioner responsible for the internal market and taxation and customs union, Frits Bolkestein, said on 7 November that the Hungarian government's plans to transform the PSZAF financial authority are "completely shocking," as the move would weaken the agency's independence, "Magyar Nemzet" reported the next day. "Vilaggazdasag" on 11 November quoted an EU official as telling Reuters that Bolkestein intends to release an official statement on the matter. The European Commission "cannot remain silent" when a domestic financial supervisory body is transformed under questionable circumstances, the official said. MSZ

HUNGARIAN RIGHT-WING GROUPS PROTEST STATE TV MOVE
The right-wing Jobbik Magyarorszagert Mozgalom (Movement for a Better Hungary) and the Honfoglalas 2000 Egyesulet (Magyar Conquest 2000 Society) staged a demonstration outside the headquarters of Hungarian Television (MTV) on 8 November to protest the recent cancellation of the program "Ejjeli Menedek" (Night Shelter), the MTI news agency reported. The program was pulled after airing controversial British historian David Irving's claims that anti-Jewish pogroms were a feature of the first two days of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 October 2003). Jobbik Magyarorszagert Mozgalom Deputy Chairman Tamas Molnar told the crowd, which organizers estimated at "several thousand," to oust the liberals who "represent foreign interests, lisp, and are alien-hearted people," "Nepszabadsag" reported. The movement's national council chairman, Ervin Nagy, said that nationalists in Hungary had only one program on MTV, the "Ejjeli Menedek," "Magyar Nemzet" reported. MSZ

FIDESZ POLITICIAN WANTS STATE TELEVISION DIVIDED ALONG POLITICAL LINES
Former Education Minister Jozsef Palinkas said on 8 November that, in the event of a change of government, state broadcaster MTV should either be divided along political lines or another channel should be established to represent right-wing conservative values, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 10 November. Speaking at a media workshop, Palinkas said, "At the moment, I advocate reconciliation; but if need be, let it be war," MSZ

INDICTED SERBIAN GENERAL REFUSES TO SURRENDER
Former Yugoslav General Nebojsa Pavkovic, whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal recently indicted for alleged war crimes in Kosova, told the television station Palma Plus in Jagodina that he refuses to surrender to the tribunal, "Vesti" reported on 10 November. Pavkovic stressed that the army did not commit war crimes during the 1998-99 conflict, adding that he did everything in his power as commander to ensure that the army behaved correctly. The general also said that "a soldier does not surrender but is only taken prisoner." In related news, Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic said in Belgrade on 8 November that officials in all Serbian state bodies should "think over carefully" the possibility of extraditing the four recently indicted generals to The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He warned that the failure to cooperate with the tribunal would "close the doors" to Serbia and Montenegro for further Euro-Atlantic integration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22, 24, and 27 October 2003). PM

SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE VOWS EARLY PARLIAMENTARY VOTE
In an apparent concession to the opposition, the Serbian presidential candidate of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition said in Belgrade on 9 November that he will seek early parliamentary elections if he wins the 16 November ballot, Reuters reported. "When there is division in parliament, elections are the only solution," Dragoljub Micunovic said. "Democracy does not have any other procedure except elections to solve a political crisis." The DOS has a shaky legislative majority and has sought to delay new parliamentary elections as long as possible. Former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, whose Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) leads most recent political popularity polls, has repeatedly called for an early vote. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE
Following a three-day debate, the parliament on 7 November approved changes to the government that were proposed by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, MIA news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 6 November 2003). Former parliamentary speaker Nikola Popovski of Crvenkovski's Social Democratic Union (SDSM) takes over the Finance Ministry. Stevco Jakimovski of the Liberal Democrats (LDP), who is a former mayor of the Karpos municipality in Skopje, now heads the Economy Ministry. Former Justice Minister Hixhet Mehmeti returns to that position, while deputy parliamentary speaker Agron Buxhaku of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) is the new transport and communications minister. UB

BOSNIA OFFERS TROOPS FOR IRAQ
Members of the Bosnian Presidency told U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman in Sarajevo on 7 November that Bosnia is prepared to send an unspecified number of troops to Iraq, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The presidency said in a statement that Grossman informed his hosts that the United States is prepared to stay in Bosnia "as long as necessary" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2003). PM

BOSNIAN MASSACRE FAMILIES TO SUE UN AND DUTCH FOR $500 MILLION
Relatives of the up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims killed by Serbian forces following the fall of Srebrenica in 1995 plan to sue the UN and the Dutch government for approximately $500 million in damages, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported from Sarajevo on 10 November. Dutch peacekeepers were stationed in the area under a UN mandate but did not prevent the Serbs from rounding up the Muslim male civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April and 12 June 2002). PM

EU HAS TOUGH NEWS FOR ALBANIA
The European Union warned Albania in a statement on 7 November that it should stop wasting time on internal political rivalries and concentrate on implementing reforms, Reuters reported. EU chief negotiator Reinhard Priebe singled out fighting corruption, building democratic institutions, implementing legislation already on the books, and promoting sound administration in the customs service and other fields as areas of special concern (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). The EU and Albania launched negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement at the end of January. In related news, Victor Bulmer-Thomas, who heads the British Royal Institute for International Affairs, said in Zagreb on 7 November that Croatia has no chance of joining the EU in 2007, as the government wants, Hina reported. He suggested that Croatia is not particularly attractive to the EU for early membership because it has a relatively small market and is a neighbor of Bosnia, which remains politically fragile. PM

SLOVENIA PROTESTS TO CROATIA
On 7 November, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry sent a protest note to the Croatian Embassy in Ljubljana regarding Croatia's recent expansion of a shellfish farm in disputed waters in the Bay of Piran, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 October 2003). PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER WANTS ALL-PARTY FORUM, CIVIL SOCIETY TO DISCUSS EC REPORT
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 7 November proposed that President Ion Iliescu convoke a forum comprising all parliamentary political parties and representatives of civil society to discuss the European Commission's 5 November report on the country's progress toward accession to the EU, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase suggested in his "open letter" to the president that the forum could determine measures that should be taken to overcome any shortcomings mentioned in the report. A similar proposal was made earlier by the National Liberal Party (PNL) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2003). MS

ROMANIA'S LIBERALS VOW TO STOP RESPECTING CABINET'S MONOPOLY ON FOREIGN RELATIONS...
PNL Chairman Theodor Stolojan said on 7 November that his party made "two big mistakes" in not interfering in foreign-policy issues because it believed toeing the line would protect the country's image abroad, Mediafax reported. "We believed Adrian Nastase's and President Iliescu's siren song and did not tackle those problems abroad to avoid spoiling the country's [international] image," Stolojan said. The EC's progress report, Stolojan said, demonstrated that EU officials are aware of many of Romania's economic problems that "we did not hitherto believe were known abroad" and that we "did not tackle...following a request by President Iliescu." In the future, Stolojan said, opposition leaders will hold direct discussions with EU officials on Romania's real problems. Stolojan added that "the opposition has the same rights as the government to receive information about foreign perceptions of Romania's situation." MS

...WHICH INCITES GOVERNMENT'S WRATH
The cabinet said in a press release dated 8 November that the "PNL is informed and is already engaged in gathering information" on Romania's image abroad. Some of that party's members, the cabinet said, "have worked and are probably still working in the European Commission's structural institutions, including those institutions [represented] in Bucharest; consequently, they have not only the possibility to receive information, but also to provide information." The PNL should not, however, "forget that honesty toward Romania's citizens and even toward its own electorate obliges it to present political problems in a realistic perspective if it pretends to serve the national interest." The communique then went on to compare the PNL to the "boyars" under Ottoman rule, "who used to run to the Sublime Port to attempt to bring about changes in internal affairs." This behavior, the communique said, "has led Romania to the serious situation in which it found itself in 2000 [when the previous cabinet including the PNL was ousted] and its repetition shows the PNL has learned nothing from its past mistakes and would reiterate them if the opportunity arose." MS

ROMANIANS PROTEST CANADIAN MINING PROJECT
Some 200 people staged a vigil protest in front of the Romanian patriarchy in the night of 7-8 November against a Canadian open-air mining project in the Rosia Montana region of Transylvania, saying the project will "cause a disaster," AFP reported. The protesters, most of whom were local villagers, read from the Bible by candlelight. They were joined by 30 Greenpeace activists from abroad. The $450 million project of the Canadian firm Gabriel Resources calls for extracting 300 tons of gold and 1,700 tons of silver from a 20-square-kilometer area. Opponents of the project -- among them a government-assigned commission of experts of the Romanian Academy -- say the project would cause desertification and destroy Roman archeological sites and three 18th-century churches. The synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church announced on 8 November that it will discuss the project's potential impact during a meeting later this week, Romanian Radio reported. MS

MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL ACCUSES ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER OF HARMING RELATIONS
Andrei Neguta, chairman of the Moldovan parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Moldovan Radio on 8 November that Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana has contributed to a worsening of relations between the two countries, Flux reported. Neguta said that Geoana's 6 November speech in Chisinau at the gathering of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers was "out of place" and "produced perplexity" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2003). He also said Moldovan diplomats will insist that the Council of Europe address the issue, adding that Chisinau particularly objects to Bucharest's employment of terminology referring to the existence of "two Romanian states." Neguta also said that protesters picketing the Russian Embassy in Chisinau are doing so without authorization from the town's mayoralty. Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau said on 7 November that Moldova will soon send an official reply to Russia's protest against the picketing, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2003). "Measures have been taken and will be taken again," Dudau said. "Some participants in the unauthorized picket are facing administrative charges, and some organizers will be fined." MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 2004 BUDGET
Parliament on 7 November approved in two readings the draft law on the 2004 budget, Infotag and Flux reported. The draft was approved with the support of 58 deputies representing the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) and three independent deputies. Six deputies representing the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) voted against and the entire Our Moldova Alliance parliamentary group abstained. The budget envisages revenues of 5.65 billion lei (some $419 million), expenditures of 5.31 billion lei, and a surplus of 340 million lei that would cover the servicing of Moldova's international debt. Moldova's gross domestic product is forecast to grow by 5 percent and the annual rate of inflation is estimated at 4.5 percent. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SETS UP ANTICORRUPTION COMMISSION
President Vladimir Voronin on 7 November issued a decree setting up a commission in charge of elaborating a "national strategy for preventing and combating corruption," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The commission is chaired by Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev and includes 14 officials, among them ministers, department chiefs, the heads of the country's security and control organs, and the governor of Moldova's National Bank. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION
With banners carrying the inscriptions "Lenin is alive forever," "Our future is socialism," and "Glory to the great October," the ruling PCM on 7 November marked the 86th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution during a rally in Chisinau, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. President Voronin, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev and parliamentary speaker Victor Stepaniuc attended the event. Stepaniuc told the 2,000-strong crowd of collective farm peasants and workers from Chisinau industrial enterprises that the 21st century will be the century of socialism. A group of young members of the Russian National Bolshevik Party who attempted to display a banner with the inscription "Capitalism is shit" and "Our Motherland is the USSR" was forced by security forces to leave the event and several of the group's members were detained, according to Infotag. MS

COALITION PARTY DEMANDS CHANGES IN BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT...
The junior coalition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) has stepped up its pressure on Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and his National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) party, indirectly demanding a government reshuffle, "Sega" reported on 10 November. Deputy parliamentary speaker and DPS deputy Unal Lutfi said changes must be made in the Environment Ministry because that institution is not effective enough to acquire EU funds. He also charged that the Regional Development Ministry must find more effective forms of support for municipalities. DPS Chairman Ahmed Dogan also renewed his criticism of Saxecoburggotski's cabinet. "Apart from changes to the government's composition, there has to be a change in the strategy of the...ruling majority," Dogan said, adding that a failure to act will erode popular support. The governing NDSV lost considerable ground in local and mayoral elections on 26 October and 2 November, while the DPS strengthened its position among municipalities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2003). UB

...AND SENIOR PARTNER REACTS CAUTIOUSLY
Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov, who is also deputy chairman of the senior ruling NDSV, has tried to downplay the DPS criticism, "Sega" reported on 10 November. Svinarov said the coalition partners will assess the results of the October-November elections and the work of respective ministers, but he ruled out the DPS being granted greater power within the government. "I cannot accept the thesis that the [government] has been discredited by the election results in some way," Svinarov said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October and 3 November 2003 and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2003). UB

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS TAKE STOCK, SEEK SCAPEGOATS
Opposition Socialist Party (BSP) Chairman Sergey Stanishev told the party's supreme council on 8 November that despite good overall results, the BSP scored an "own goal" in the October-November balloting, mediapool.bg reported. Stanishev said that in some municipalities, such as Pernik or Yambol, the BSP fared poorly due to organizational problems, the nomination of unqualified candidates, or multiple candidates from the BSP or its coalition partners competing for mayoral posts. The BSP council ordered local chapters to hold their local leaders responsible in localities that underperformed. UB

OF PUTIN AND PROFIT: IS WHAT'S GOOD FOR CAPITAL GOOD FOR RUSSIA?
Since Mikhail Khodorkovskii's Yukos oil company came under open attack by prosecutors early last July, developments in this crucially symbolic case have often been gauged by the Russian stock-market average and appraised by analysts working for banks and funds courting Western investors.

This is understandable in a murky country like Russia, in which, as one often hears, business and politics are married. Complications arise when such evaluations become the final say, which is all too often the case. Some observers have recently characterized the Yukos affair as a possible boon for Westernizing "reform," in sharp contrast to those inside the country who deplore the event as incontrovertible proof of President Vladimir Putin's intent of instituting a form of dictatorship.

Market economies can help create conditions crucial to building democratic institutions, laying the foundation for systems in which individuals and groups are free to act in their self-interest. But the principle becomes problematic with the leap to the narrower opinion that what's good for foreign investment in the short term is also good for democracy -- or that certain economic indicators reflect the political state of affairs.

The hardy investors operating in Russia want stability. To encourage high returns, their analysts routinely ascribe to Putin the best possible intentions. They laud him as a sober reformer and congratulate him for taking on the corrupt business "oligarchs." They tout his most-discussed policy change -- the institution of a 13 percent flat tax, a massive tax cut for the country's wealthiest -- as genuinely revolutionary reform.

But Putin is anything but a modernizer. He has lessened the influence of Western models and undermined institutions that would check the presidency's power. He has crippled parliament, manipulated regional elections, shut down a free national press. He has breathed new life into that traditional Soviet-tsarist measure for professional advancement -- political loyalty -- and resurrected a degree of fear necessary for maintaining it.

Neither does Putin's interest lie in grand state building. More likely, he is concerned with the primacy of his own political power. Declaring his aim to be making Russia "great" is only a means to an end, obscuring the self-serving nature of his administration. Ultimately, a state with a bloated bureaucracy, a rent-seeking economy, and feeble competition remains weak. In Russia's case, high oil prices hold up the deck of cards.

Of Russia's dozen or so oligarchs -- all seen as having broken moral codes if not the fluid law itself -- why was Khodorkovskii singled out? No one reason suffices, even if Khodorkovskii's managerial and financial machinations rival the most fabulous of Russia's get-rich-quick legends. In a parliamentary election year, crackdowns on Russia's richest resonate with the impoverished population. Khodorkovskii -- worth a reported $8 billion --also funded opposition political parties. He trumped the president in speaking for greater economic cooperation with the West. He funded projects to help build a civil society. His company successfully lobbied parliament to vote for legislation in its favor. And he voiced high political aspirations, challenging Russia's iron-fisted presidential rule by proposing a parliamentarian one. In short, Khodorkovskii trod on political territory Putin had staked out exclusively for himself. And when Yukos came under threat, the businessman refused to continue toeing the Kremlin's political line. He said he'd face the threat of jail rather than flee abroad, a taunt that must have riled law enforcement officials. Whatever his past reputation, whatever his real motives -- vainglory or a real desire to fight authoritarianism -- in some circles, he is now regarded as brave indeed.

But those are symptoms of a deeper dynamic. The Yukos affair also exposes a split between two main pillars in Putin's administration: the "siloviki" -- former fellow KGB officers and others Putin appointed to run the so-called "power" ministries of the police, armed forces, and secret services -- and the oligarch-backed liberalizers, many left from the Yeltsin era.

Putin installed military and secret-service personnel to positions all over the state bureaucracy to shore up his own power under Russia's treacherous political climate. Russia's tragedy lies in the self-interest that kept the liberal camp from opposing them. As a result, the siloviki continue to win the day, despite warnings to Putin that they threaten to hijack his presidency and take over the country. The unappealing fact is that the president comes from the same ideological camp. Such men share the view, for example, that the Transneft state oil-pipeline monopoly should remain a means of controlling the industry (although outright renationalization has apparently become another). Khodorkovskii clamored for the government to liberalize the sector and build a pipeline to China, its biggest potential market. Russia currently makes more from oil revenues in taxes than at any point since the Soviet collapse. Yet with Yukos losing 20 percent of its share value in one day, Putin seems willing to risk market growth as well as industrial development for the sake of his own grip over the country.

Another threat to the siloviki lies in Khodorkovskii having made his company more transparent than other major Russian enterprises, helping shuck off his image as one of the most reviled oligarchs. Capital doesn't hold grudges -- it seeks to maximize profit. Share prices soared. But the move struck a massive blow to the hordes of regulators and other law enforcers who live off the bribes it takes to sustain a company pumping out 20 percent of the country's oil output. Perhaps the final straw lay in rumors that Khodorkovskii had entered talks with ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco for the sale of a strategic stake of Yukos, reputedly for as much as $25 billion. Such a deal would mean one man's appropriation of assets the officials understood to be theirs for the milking.

Russia is fundamentally not a market economy. Western investors are crucial for Russia to realize its hopes of economic revival, but Putin most likely doesn't care for them -- or maximizing profits, strengthening the state, or even his image abroad -- more than he does for his own power. Paradoxically, in their self-interest, foreign investors and their analysts have cut the president tremendous amounts of slack. But as long as the view these investors and analysts peddle prevails -- that Putin sees the stock-market average as crucially important and that the figure reflects political and economic "reform" -- the real nature of Russian politics will never be understood, and the administration's actions will continue to come as a rude surprise.

Gregory Feifer is a former RFE/RL Moscow correspondent who lives in Paris.

COMMISSION ESTABLISHED TO INVESTIGATE EXPLOSIONS IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE
The deputy governor of Zabul Province, Mawlawi Mohammad Omar, said on 9 November that a six-member commission has been established to investigate two explosions in the provincial capital of Qalat on 8 November, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. The first explosion damaged the house of Zabul Governor Hafizullah Khan but did not cause any injuries. Six minutes after the first explosion, another blast "took place in the depot of the [military] division," destroying several missiles, Mohammad Omar said. The deputy governor indicated that he is not certain who was responsible for the bombings, suggesting that the main reason behind the explosions "is that there are four districts in the south of Zabul where the government has no control." Mohammad Omar said that in Ata Ghar, Naw Bahar, Shinkay, and Shamalzai districts, "either the government does not have control...or [the provinces] are abandoned or they are controlled by people connected with the Taliban." AT

DISARMAMENT IN EASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE COULD FACE POWERFUL OPPOSITION
The central government's Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program that was to be launched in the Paktiya Province capital of Gardayz on 10 November might face opposition, the Hindukosh news agency commented on 9 November. The agency quoted Pacha Khan Zadran, a powerful commander in the province, saying that unless the DDR program starts in the Panjsher region, he will oppose it in Paktiya. Zadran was an ally of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai and the United States, as well as a signatory to the 2001 Bonn agreement; but he later took up armed opposition against the government in Kabul. His forces are based in Paktiya Province. AT

INDIAN NATIONAL KILLED IN KABUL
An unidentified Indian national was killed in the Taimani District of Kabul on 7 November, the BBC reported. The man was working for an Indian construction company that was under contract to the Afghan Wireless Communication Company, the Kabul daily "Erada," reported on 9 November. The reports did not identify the attacker or a possible motive. AT

AFGHAN WOMEN'S GROUP WANTS AMENDMENTS TO DRAFT CONSTITUTION
A women's rights group in Afghanistan has called for amendments to the Afghan draft constitution that would eliminate forced marriages and institutionalize equality in the workplace, Reuters reported on 9 November. Members of the Gender and Law Working Group have produced a list of amendments that they believe should be in the final version of the constitution. The group has called for the prohibition of cultural and customary practices that are "against the dignity, welfare, or interest of women." The proposal also calls for "fair and just working conditions, including those for working women," and an end to "slavery, or slave-like practices." Deputy Minister for Women's Affairs Suraya Subhrang acknowledged that "obstacles exist [because of] lack of awareness." Subhrang added that Afghan women "cannot achieve everything overnight." State Minister for Women's Affairs Mahbuba Hoquqmal said that if the recommendations made by the Gender and Law Working Group are positive, "then one minute should be enough" to incorporate them into the draft constitution." (For an analysis of Afghanistan's new draft constitution, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 November 2003.) AT

NEW AIRLINE BEGINS OPERATING IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Afghanistan's first private passenger airline, Kam Air, began operations on 8 November, Balkh TV reported. The Mazar-e Sharif-based carrier flew a route from its hub to Kabul following the launch ceremony. The president of Kamgar, which operates the airline, said Kam Air is being supported by the Afghan Transitional Administration's economic policies geared toward supporting private enterprise. The airline operates a fleet of four aircraft. AT

IRAN SAYS CITIZENS CAN HAVE HASSLE-FREE RETURN
The Iranian Embassy in Brussels announced in an 8 November press release that any citizen may return to Iran "without any problems or difficulties," IRNA reported. The embassy announcement came in reaction to a demonstration in Brussels that day when, according to IRNA, 2,500 people marched to protest the Belgian government's rejection of some 300 Iranians' asylum applications. Meanwhile, Dariush Zahedi, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen who was arrested during a summer visit to Iran, was released from Evin prison late on 8 November or early the next day after four months in jail. The Iranian government has not explained the scholar's detention, but people familiar with the case say he was arrested on espionage charges (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20 October 2003). Edwin Epstein, Zahedi's colleague at the University of California at Berkeley, said he learned of his release through Zahedi's stepfather and brother, Reuters reported on 9 November. "He's out of prison and he's on bail, but what the terms of the release are we don't know at this time," Epstein said. Epstein said Zahedi will be able to leave Iran, Reuters reported. BS

ICJ RULING GOES AGAINST IRAN AND U.S.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 8 November criticized a recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on a case involving Iran and the United States, IRNA reported. The ICJ ruled on 6 November that the United States does not have to pay reparations for destroying three offshore oil platforms belonging to the National Iranian Oil Company in October 1987 and April 1988, because the two platforms destroyed in the first attack were under repair and not operational, and by 1988 all Iran-U.S. trade in crude oil had been suspended, the "Financial Times" reported. The ICJ also rejected the U.S. claim that its actions were necessary to protect U.S. security interests. "There are contradictions in the ruling," Assefi said, and he stressed that the United States should compensate Iran for the damage he claims it has inflicted. BS

TEHRAN REJECTS U.S. CALL FOR DEMOCRACY
In a 7 November statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi condemned recent remarks about Iran by President George W. Bush as "obvious interference in Iran's internal affairs" that is in violation of previous U.S. commitments, IRNA reported. President Bush said in a 6 November speech at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington: "In Iran, the demand for democracy is strong and broad... The regime in Teheran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy," according to the White House website (http://www.whitehouse.gov). Assefi countered, "No individual, or group, has ever commissioned Mr. Bush to safeguard their rights, nor is he responsible for supporting anyone here, and basically, keeping in mind the dark record of the United States in suppressing the democratic movements around the globe, he is not in a position to talk about such issues." In an 8 November Iranian television roundtable, a participant identified by IRNA as Dr. Mohammadi said this is the most absurd of Bush's statements, adding that "democracy" for Bush means doing what the United States wants. American University's Professor Hamid Mowlana said Bush's remarks should not be taken seriously. BS

STATOIL INTERESTED IN DEVELOPING IRAN'S AZADEGAN OIL FIELD
Statoil spokesman Kai Nielsen on 9 November denied that the Norwegian oil giant is partnering with France's Total in a bid to develop Iran's Azadegan oil field, AFP reported. "Statoil has no relationship with Total, and there is no cooperation between the two companies," Nielsen said. Ali-Akbar Vahidi Al-Aqa, director of the engineering department at the Petroleum Engineering and Development Company (a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company), said on 8 November that Statoil and Total have announced that they will participate in the tender, as had Italy's Eni and Royal Dutch Shell, IRNA reported. Eni withdrew because it could not afford the project, the Iranian official said. Shell withdrew because it had partnered with Japanese companies; Tokyo announced in July that it will not sign a contract for the Azadegan oil-development project if Tehran fails to address international concern about its nuclear activities (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7 July 2003). Nielsen allowed that Statoil is interested in independently winning contracts to develop Azadegan. BS

U.S. DISMAY SURFACES OVER IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL'S PERFORMANCE...
Senior U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad have begun openly to express the administration's displeasure with the performance of some Iraqi Governing Council members, washingtonpost.com reported on 9 November. U.S. officials say the council has not moved quickly enough to meet its obligations. "We're unhappy with all of them. They're not acting as a legislative or governing body, and we need to get moving," an unnamed U.S. official said. Governing Council members have reportedly said the security situation in Iraq has affected the council's work. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have said council members spend much of their time traveling and do not attend scheduled meetings, instead sending representatives to sit in for them. Other U.S. officials have said council members are putting their own interests ahead of the common good. Washingtonpost.com reported that the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has warned council members on more than one occasion about their performance, and the United States is now considering establishing an alternative governing body similar to the Afgan loya jirga. KR

...AS INTERIM FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS COUNCIL WILL MEET DEADLINE
Iraqi interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters at a 9 November joint press conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio in Baghdad that the council will meet the 15 December deadline to decide on a mechanism for drafting a constitution, to be followed by national elections, Reuters reported. "The ball is now in our court, and we must deliver," he said. Palacio expressed support for the Iraqi Governing Council, telling reporters that Spain will "fight the terrorists, and we will stand with the Governing Council," dpa reported on 9 November. KR

TURKEY OFFICIALLY WITHDRAWS IRAQ TROOP OFFER
Turkey said on 7 November that it has reversed an earlier decision to offer some 10,000 Turkish troops to work with coalition forces inside Iraq, international media reported. The decision came after Iraqi Governing Council members and tribal leaders voiced their opposition to the offer of Turkish troops -- or those from any neighboring countries -- on Iraqi soil. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters at a 7 November press briefing in Washington that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul informed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell of the Turkish decision on 6 November. "We would have preferred if this all worked out very nicely to everybody's satisfaction, but let's remember that the goal is stability in Iraq. There is recognition, I think, on all our parts...that maybe this deployment at this time would not...add to that goal in the way that we had hoped that it would," Boucher said. KR

KUWAIT CLOSES NORTHERN ZONE BORDERING IRAQ
Kuwait has reportedly closed its northern zone along the Iraqi border in an effort to boost security ahead of the December Gulf Cooperation Council meeting to be held in Kuwait City, Reuters reported on 9 November. The move also aims to prevent smuggling and infiltration into Iraq by Islamist militants. The demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait is some 217 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. The UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) patrolled the zone for 12 years. The mission closed last month (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 October 2003), after determining that Iraq no longer poses a security threat to Kuwait. KR

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