YUKOS ACCOUNTS FROZEN, BANKRUPTCY LOOMS...
The Moscow Arbitration Court on 2 July rejected an appeal by Yukos against a 1 July action by court bailiffs to freeze all of the embattled company's domestic bank accounts as collateral against its $3.4 billion tax debt from 2000, Russian media reported. The bailiffs' action came shortly after news broke that the Tax Ministry had filed an additional claim of $3.4 billion against the company for taxes allegedly owed from 2001. Yukos spokesman Aleksandr Shadrin told "The Moscow Times" that the arrest of the accounts could force the company to halt production within five days. Analysts told the daily that the latest government moves could force a fire sale of Yukos assets. Shadrin added that the company had offered the government Yukos's 35 percent stake in Sibneft as collateral, but the bailiffs reportedly ignored the offer. Yukos shares fell by 12 percent on 1 July, polit.ru reported, and by another 12 percent on 2 July, Reuters reported. Analysts said that if the government's actions compel Western creditors to recall their $2.6 billion in loans to Yukos, the company would almost certainly be forced into bankruptcy. RC
...AS NEWSPAPER SPECULATES THE KREMLIN'S GOAL IS 'TEMPORARY NATIONALIZATION'
"Kommersant-Daily," which is owned by self-exiled former oligarch Boris Berezovskii, wrote on 2 July that the purpose of the government's actions against Yukos is to transfer control of the company to the state. The daily wrote that the freezing of the accounts has made Yukos "de facto bankrupt" and predicted that the government would continue to file tax claims until they total about $10 billion, which is the value of Menatep's controlling stake in the company. At that point, the paper speculates, a likely solution would be the "temporary nationalization" of the company by the transfer of Menatep's stake to the government. RC
PUTIN GIVES BUSINESS LEADERS 40 MINUTES OF HIS TIME...
President Vladimir Putin on 1 July held his first meeting with representatives of the business community since November 2003 (see "RFE/RL Business Watch," 18 November 2003), Russian media reported. According to one participant in the meeting, Aleksandr Shokhin of Renaissance Capital, the situation concerning Yukos was not discussed, although Arkadii Volskii, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), asked about the government's attitude toward big business, ITAR-TASS reported. Severstal head Aleksei Mordashev said after the meeting that the president said that people's resentment toward big business can be expected given the uneven concentration of wealth in Russia, but that "pinning labels" or passing judgment is unacceptable. Putin pledged that the state will continue removing bureaucratic and administrative obstacles to the development of Russian business. He also proposed creating a mission in Brussels that would represent Russian business associations in the EU, ITAR-TASS reported. According to "Gazeta," the meeting lasted only 40 minutes. JAC
...AS OLIGARCHS GET FREE NOTEPADS
According to "Kommersant-Daily" commentator Andrei Kolesnikov on 2 July, the meeting was hardly an easygoing exchange of views, as President Putin rather formally called on individual businessmen either to ask a question or give a comment. The gathering did have its lighter moments. While the business leaders were waiting for Putin, Alfa Bank head Mikhail Fridman called the others' attention to the fact that they each had notepads before them imprinted with the word "Kremlin." "Misha, that's so we don't forget where we are," Interros head Vladimir Potanin said. Later, Yevrazholding head Aleksandr Abramov confessed that at one point in his life he wanted to be an academic. He then said that people who work in factories today want to be Potanin. This caused Potanin to sputter, "Why me? Why me [particularly]? There are others," motioning toward Gazprom head Aleksei Miller. JAC
PUTIN MEETS WITH SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN
President Putin met on 1 July with Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev to discuss the country's judicial system, ITAR-TASS reported. Lebedev reported on the progress of the introduction of jury trials, which he said are now being conducted in all federation subjects except Chechnya. Lebedev told Putin that the main problems facing the courts today are imperfect legislation, ensuring security for courts and judges, and improving the work of court bailiffs. RC
MAJOR MEDIA HOLDING TO GET NEW DIRECTOR?
Gazprom-Media General Director Aleksandr Dybal was reportedly dismissed on 1 July, although the company did not confirm the report, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian media reported on 2 July. The daily added that Dybal will probably be replaced by Gazprom-Media Deputy General Director Tamara Gavrilova, who attended the law faculty of Leningrad State University together with President Putin. A Gazprom-Media spokesperson told "Kommersant-Daily" that Dybal can only be dismissed by the company's board of directors and that the board has not held a meeting. A Gazprom-Media shareholders meeting on 30 June elected a new board of directors, including Dybal. The daily reported, citing unnamed company sources, that Gazprom CEO Miller is unhappy with Gazprom-Media's performance and that Dybal has strained relations with NTV General Director Nikolai Senkevich. Gavrilova is reportedly "protected" by presidential administration head Dmitrii Medvedev, who is a member of Gazprom's board of directors, according to the daily. RC
COMMUNIST PARTY COUP TAKES PLACE ON EVE OF PARTY CONGRESS...
A group of Communist Party (KPRF) members who oppose party leader Gennadii Zyuganov held an alternative plenum in Moscow on 1 July, during which they voted Zyuganov out and elected in his place Ivanovo Governor Vladimir Tikhonov, Russian news agencies reported. Gennadii Semigin, a longtime rival of Zyuganov who was expelled from the party in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2004), told reporters in Moscow that some 100 people took part in the alternative plenum, ITAR-TASS reported. Semigin denied that he is trying to split up the party. "I don't have disagreements with the Communist Party, but I do have disagreements with Zyuganov and these disagreements cannot be overcome," he said. About half an hour after the alternative plenum ended, Zyuganov's supporters held their own party plenum in another part of Moscow, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 July. At that plenum, Zyuganov said that only the presidium of the party's Central Committee can call a plenum, and "they are all here." JAC
...AS DAILY WARNS PARTY MIGHT HAVE FINALLY SPLIT
"Kommersant-Daily" of 2 July concluded that the election of Tikhonov at the Semigin-led plenum "can hardly be called the final victory of the anti-Zyuganov opposition." At the 3 July congress, new members of the Central Committee will be elected and Zyuganov supporters are expected to dominate the new grouping. However, the daily speculated that it is possible that two congresses will be held on 3 July and that the organizers of each will claim legitimacy for their own undertaking. This would mean the final split of the party into two parts. "Neither of these two parties will ever be the KPRF that won the Duma elections in the 1996 and almost defeated [President] Boris Yeltsin," the daily said. Yabloko deputy leader Sergei Mitrokhin told the newspaper that "Zyuganov is an experienced apparatchik, and I think that he will be ready for a [putsch]. He will restore his leadership, but some part of the party will leave with Semigin." JAC
FORMER PRIME MINISTER FILES SUIT AGAINST LIBERAL NEWSPAPER
Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko has filed a libel suit against "Novaya gazeta," RIA-Novosti and lenta.ru reported on 2 July. Kirienko, who served as prime minister in 1998, had earlier threatened to sue the paper over a story it published this week claiming that a group of U.S. congressmen had written to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell asking him to investigate reports that Kirienko was seeking permanent residence in the Unites States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 June 2004). The case has been filed with Moscow's Koptevskii Raion Court. RC
ST. PETERSBURG LIKELY TO GET SILOVIK AS NEW DEPUTY GOVERNOR
St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko has invited Federal Protection Service First Deputy Director Lieutenant General Valerii Tikhonov to serve as deputy governor in charge of security, external affairs, information, and tourism, "Izvestiya" and other media reported on 2 July. Tikhonov graduated from a St. Petersburg university and lived in the city for many years before moving to Moscow. He worked in the KGB before transferring to the Federal Protection Service, the daily reported. The appointment must be confirmed by the city's Legislative Assembly, and a vote is expected on 7 July. RC
REPUTED GANGSTER POISED TO BECOME MAYOR OF VLADIVOSTOK...
Voters in Vladivostok will hold mayoral elections on 4 July, and an opinion poll conducted on the eve of the election shows that Unified Russia candidate and local businessman Vladimir Nikolaev is poised to win enough votes to qualify easily for a second round, "Trud" reported on 1 July. In order to win in the first round, a candidate would need to garner 50 percent plus one vote. Trailing Nikolaev in the poll are incumbent Mayor Yurii Kopylov and independent State Duma Deputy and former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. Local experts told the daily that basic conflict in the election is between two groups in the local elite: the old elite that was formed around former Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko and the new elite that has emerged around incumbent Governor Sergei Darkin. The old elite reportedly supports Kopylov and the new elite, Nikolaev. "Russian Regional Report" on 23 June argued that Darkin has been under heavy pressure to withdraw his support for Nikolaev, who has been described by local media sources as a "mid-ranking gangster." His underworld moniker is reportedly Winnie the Pooh, and he allegedly served under the late mafia boss Sergei Baulo. JAC
...AS KREMLIN'S POSITION REGARDING HIS CANDIDACY UNCLEAR
After a trip to Moscow at the beginning of June, Darkin held a press conference in Vladivostok at which he said President Putin does not support Nikolaev and then quickly left town again for a business trip to China, "Russian Regional Report" reported on 8 June. According to "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 9 June, Nikolaev was one of Putin's authorized representatives during the March presidential election. Nikolaev was captured on video taken during a speech Putin gave to his representatives that was broadcast on all the national television networks. According to the daily, Nikolaev allegedly paid $100,000 for the privilege of serving as the president's representative. On 1 July, a raion-level court rejected a suit from Mayor Kopylov, who was seeking to disqualify Nikolaev from the race because of alleged vote buying, "Zolotoi rog" reported. Because the law forbids candidates from being disqualified five days before the election, Nikolaev is now guaranteed a place on the ballot. JAC
NEW PROTEST HELD AGAINST SOCIAL-BENEFITS REFORM, AS SPS BACKS MEASURE
Around 800 people gathered in the Siberian city of Barnaul on 1 July to protest government plans to replace the social-benefits system with one based on cash payments, RFE/RL's Barnaul correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2004). Taking part in the protest were trade union and political party members, veterans, and activists from social organizations. Independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, who was elected from a single-mandate district in the city, said adoption of the legislation would cost the krai 2.8 billion rubles ($96 million). "The krai doesn't have this money, and the region's economy will come crashing down once and for all," he warned. Meanwhile, Boris Nadezhdin, secretary of the Union of Rightist Forces's (SPS) Political Council, told reporters in Moscow that his party fully supports the reform, RIA-Novosti reported. He said the current system is ineffective and unjust and is a holdover from the Soviet era. JAC
POLICE KILLED IN NEW SHOOT-OUT IN INGUSHETIA
Two Ingushetian police officers were killed and one injured in a shoot-out early on 1 July in the town of Malgobek, ingushetiya.ru and Interfax reported. The police officers had surrounded a house where militants who participated in the 21-22 June attacks on Interior Ministry targets in Ingushetia were believed to be hiding. Three of the militants were killed in the exchange of fire and two more taken into custody. Meanwhile, Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov, in a live interview broadcast on 1 July by Ekho Moskvy, characterized the June incursion as "a barbaric crime" committed by international terrorists from the "Near East and the Transcaucasus" in conjunction with militants from the North Caucasus. Zyazikov rejected as fabricated estimates by the Russian human rights group Memorial that between 3,000-4,000 people have been abducted in Ingushetia and have vanished without trace. He claimed that each reported abduction is painstakingly investigated. LF
ONE KILLED IN ACCIDENT AT ARMENIAN POWER STATION
One man was killed and seven others injured on 30 June in an explosion at the Hrazdan thermal power station that destroyed a vat containing 10 tons of sulfuric acid, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 1 July. The cause of the blast is being investigated. The plant, which continues to function, generates one-third of Armenia's energy. LF
EU ENVOY VISITS ARMENIA, NAGORNO-KARABAKH
Ambassador Heike Talvitie, the EU's special representative for the South Caucasus, met on 30 June in Stepanakert with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, according to Mediamax as cited by Groong. Ghukasian stressed that the Karabakh authorities have repeatedly proposed confidence-building measures to Baku, without receiving a response, Noyan Tapan reported on 1 July. Ghukasian further stressed that Karabakh representatives should participate on an equal basis in talks aimed at finding a solution to the conflict. Talvitie told journalists in Stepanakert on 30 June that the EU will launch reconstruction programs in the conflict zone only after "certain progress" is registered toward reaching a political settlement. On 1 July, Talvitie discussed the Karabakh conflict and Armenia's growing engagement with the EU with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. LF
KARABAKH REJECTS AZERBAIJAN'S CRITICISM OF PLANNED ELECTIONS
In a statement released on 30 June, the Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic dismissed as groundless separate statements last month by the Azerbaijani parliament and Foreign Ministry criticizing as illegal the elections to local government bodies to be held in Karabakh on 8 August, according to Armenpress as cited by Groong (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 25 June 2004). The statement reasoned that the enclave has enjoyed de facto independence from Azerbaijan for 16 years, and that only legally elected representatives have the requisite authority to act in the name of the region's population. On 1 July, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing "concern" at the decision by the U.S. Congress to allocate $5 million in aid to Nagorno-Karabakh in the 2005 fiscal year, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
AZERBAIJANI COURT UPHOLDS SENTENCE ON KARABAKH ACTIVISTS
Azerbaijan's Court of Appeal upheld on 2 July the two-month prison sentences handed down on 24 June to five members of the Karabakh Liberation Organization (QAT) who forced their way into a Baku hotel last week to protest the presence of Armenian officers at a conference to prepare for NATO maneuvers, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 25 June 2004). Speaking in Baku on 2 July, Azerbaijan's Interior Minister Ramil Usubov said he considers the sentences fair. He stressed that the police are responsible for ensuring the security of participants in international meetings on Azerbaijani soil. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DOUBLES MINIMUM WAGE
Ilham Aliyev issued a decree on 30 June raising the minimum monthly wage for some 538,000 people employed in the public sector from 60,000 to 100,000 manats ($12-$20.25), effective 1 July, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev also doubled the wages of police officers and civilian employees of the Interior Ministry. Aliyev issued a separate decree on 1 July approving a state program for improving the living conditions of refugees and displaced persons and enhancing their chances of finding employment or enrolling for higher education, Turan reported. LF
GEORGIA SAYS RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT INCOMPETENT
Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili announced on 1 July that Tbilisi will no longer negotiate with Mikhail Mayorov, who is the Russian co-chairman of the Joint Control Commission tasked with monitoring the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone, Russian and Georgian media reported. Referring to a televised debate in which Mayorov either declined or was unwilling to respond to a question from Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava, Zourabichvili said Tbilisi will demand Mayorov's replacement. A meeting of the Joint Control Commission scheduled for 1 July failed to take place because the Georgian delegation insisted that the authorities of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia first release three Georgian State Security Ministry personnel arrested on 27 June on suspicion of espionage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2004). The South Ossetian authorities in turn demand the release of three men from North Ossetia apprehended for allegedly illegally crossing the border between the Russian Federation and Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004), but Georgian Minister of State Security Vano Merabishvili said in Tbilisi on 1 July that his ministry "will not exchange its personnel for bandits," Interfax reported. LF
GEORGIA, RUSSIA VIE FOR CONTROL OF CROSS-BORDER FREIGHT
Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Khaindrava said in Moscow on 1 July that Tbilisi insists on establishing a checkpoint at the southern exit from the Roki tunnel, which straddles the border between North and South Ossetia, Interfax reported. He said doing so would enable Tbilisi to crack down on smuggling, noting that as a result of antismuggling measures implemented over the past month, budget revenues have doubled. Also on 1 July, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement affirming that Russian customs strictly monitor all merchandise being transported from Russia to Georgia via the Roki tunnel, especially grain, flour, oil, and lubricants, Interfax reported. The statement further warned Georgia against any attempt to resolve its differences with the South Ossetian leadership by force, noting that "many" inhabitants of South Ossetia have acquired Russian citizenship, and Moscow would not remain indifferent if their lives were threatened by the eruption of a new conflict, Interfax reported. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW LAW ON ADJARA
By a vote of 174 in favor and 13 against, deputies adopted on 1 July in the third and final reading the Law on the Status of the Adjaran Autonomous Republic, Georgian media reported. The new law empowers the president of Georgia to dismiss the Adjaran government, dissolve the parliament, and annul legislation passed by that parliament. It also lists the ministries comprising the new Adjaran government, which do not include security or defense ministries. In mid-May, the Provisional Council named by President Mikheil Saakashvili to administer the republic pending new elections reduced the number of ministries from 18 to four or five (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2004). LF
KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER GIVES UP MEDIA POST UNTIL AFTER ELECTIONS
The pro-presidential Asar party announced in a 1 July press release that party leader Darigha Nazarbaeva, the daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, will give up her post as CEO of Khabar news agency from 1 July to 30 September. Asar will field candidates in 19 September parliamentary elections, and Nazarbaeva is temporarily relinquishing her post "to avoid possible speculation by [Nazarbaeva's] political opponents over the situation." Nazarbaeva said that while legal advisers told her that it would be legal to retain her position at Khabar, she decided against it nonetheless, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. She also predicted that the upcoming elections will be hotly contested and are likely to involve dirty tricks. Nazarbaeva stated that Asar will not employ such methods. DK
KAZAKH NEWSPAPER APOLOGIZES TO PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION
The opposition online newspaper "Navigator" published a retraction on 1 July of its 2 June claim that the Kazakh presidential administration was behind a forged edition of the opposition newspaper "Assandi-Times" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2004). The newspaper also apologized for making the allegation. "We hereby affirm that the above-mentioned information was published on the basis of facts we did not check," the retraction stated. "It damages the professional reputation of the administration of the president of Kazakhstan and harms the authority and reputation of the state." After the 2 June charge, the presidential administration filed suit against "Navigator" and "Assandi-Times," which leveled the same allegation. The editors of "Navigator" noted that they published their retraction in response to the suit. DK
TWO HIZB UT-TAHRIR MEMBERS CONVICTED IN KAZAKHSTAN
A court in Pavlodar on 1 July sentenced two men to two years' imprisonment for distributing leaflets for the Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Arman Kamzin, 29, and Ruslan Ginatullin, 22, were found guilty of inciting social, interethnic, and interfaith enmity, Kazinform reported. The two men were detained in November 2003. A third man who was arrested with them is currently undergoing a psychiatric evaluation. The case drew notice because it is the first trial of Hizb ut-Tahrir activists in the Pavlodar region. DK
KYRGYZ OFFICIALS WARN OF RISING RADICALISM
National Security Service Deputy Chairman Tokon Mamytov and Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov told the Kyrgyz parliament on 1 July that Islamist radicals pose a growing threat to Kyrgyzstan and its neighbors, Interfax-AVN and Kyrgyzinfo reported. According to Mamytov, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Party of Turkestan, the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, and Hizb ut-Tahrir are all active in Kyrgyzstan. He also noted that Kyrgyz security services have recently received information about "Al-Qaeda attempts to use militants of these groups against Western diplomatic missions and military sites of the antiterrorism coalition in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan." Mamytov added, "The information that Islamic radicals acting in various parts of the region decided in 2003 to unite into a new clandestine organization, the Islamic Movement of Central Asia, is alarming for Kyrgyzstan." Subanbekov told lawmakers that Hizb ut-Tahrir in Kyrgyzstan has gained 1,800 new members over the last year, with most followers concentrated in the Osh and Jalalabad regions. DK
TAJIK, RUSSIAN NEGOTIATORS REACH DEAL ON CONTROL OF AFGHAN BORDER REGION
Tajik Border Committee Chairman Abdurahmon Azimov announced on 1 July that three detachments of border guards who monitor the Pamir section of the Tajik-Afghan border will pass from Russian to Tajik command by September, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Azimov held talks earlier with a Russian delegation headed by Aleksandr Manilov, deputy head of the Russian Federal Border Guard Service. Negotiations will continue in Tbilisi, Georgia on 6 July at a meeting of CIS border-service heads. According to Azimov, the Tajik and Russian presidents will sign a final agreement in Moscow. Interfax-AVN quoted a source in the Tajik Border Committee as saying that the Moskva border guard unit will switch to Tajik command in 2005, with the Panj unit to follow suit in 2006. Azimov noted that Russian military advisers will remain in Tajikistan after the handover. DK
RUSSIAN MINISTER DENIES RECALL OF TURKMEN ENVOY
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 1 July denied reports that Russia has recalled its ambassador from Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported. "Tragic events have taken place in [Andrei] Molochkov's family -- his spouse and his brother died within a short time of one another, and he himself has had a difficult operation," Lavrov said. "Doctors do not recommend that he continue trips abroad." Molochkov told Pakistan-based News Central Asia on 25 June that he plans to leave for Moscow "on medical grounds." Russia's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 July, however, that the Foreign Ministry is unhappy with Molochkov and is recalling him for attempting to pressure Russian media into providing more positive coverage of Turkmenistan, where Russian citizens have been raising increasingly vocal complaints of discrimination. DK
UZBEK PRESIDENT ORDERS HIGHER SALARIES, PENSIONS
President Islam Karimov has ordered a 30 percent hike in salaries for public-sector employees, Uzbek TV reported on 1 July. "As of 1 August 2004, salaries for public-sector workers, all types of pensions and social benefits, and stipends for students at higher, specialized, and vocational educational establishments are to increased by 30 percent," the report states. The new minimum monthly wage unit will be 6,530 soms ($6.40) and the minimum monthly pension will be 12,920 soms. DK
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT MARKS COUNTRY'S LIBERATION FROM NAZIS
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka attended the inauguration ceremony on 1 July for the renovated Mound of Glory near Minsk, a memorial erected to commemorate troops who liberated Belarus from the Nazi occupation, Belapan reported. The memorial was built "in the firm confidence that the state that defeated the worst evil force in human history will gain strength and prosperity." Lukashenka said. AM
U.S. VOICES CONCERN OVER ABUSE OF JOURNALISTS IN BELARUS
U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Stephan Minikes said on 29 June that the United States welcomes a court's decision to dismiss spurious tax penalties levied on the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2004), but he added that Washington is concerned over the mistreatment of journalists in Belarus, Belapan reported. "We hope that the judicial decision will be followed by other steps that will help ease the climate of fear and repression that exists in Belarus today," Minikes said. Minikes condemned the expulsion of Ukrainian journalist Mikhail Padalyak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2003) and expressed concern about the treatment of RFE/RL contributor Yury Svirko. According to Belapan, security guards at the Belarusian legislature twice prevented Svirko on 22 June from entering the building and destroyed his recording equipment despite Svirko's press credentials. AM
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION SETS UP OFFICE OF 'PUBLIC PROSECUTOR' IN GERMANY
Lyudmila Karpenka, the widow of Belarusian opposition politician Henadz Karpenka, and several former and current Belarusian legislators have set up a so-called Office of the Public Prosecutor for Belarus in Esslingen, Germany, Belapan reported on 1 July, citing a Minsk representative. The main goals of the office -- which is not sanctioned by the Belarusian state -- include scrutinizing Belarus's electoral laws and legal issues connected with the 1996 referendum that gave President Lukashenka extensive powers, as well as probes into disappearances of politicians and prominent Belarusians. The office hopes to collect evidence of authorities' misconduct and file cases to international judicial instances. AM
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL OPENS CASE INTO GONGADZE LEAKS
The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office opened a criminal case on 1 July into pretrial leaks of information from an inquiry into the slaying of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Unian reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office provided no details. A 22 June article in "The Independent" (by an RFE/RL contributor) linking Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to the slaying reportedly sparked the prosecutors' probe. AM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER REQUESTS PROTECTION FOR FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER
Heorhiy Omelchenko, head of an ad hoc parliamentary commission investigating the Gongadze killing, said on 1 July that former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko should be granted extraordinary security because of the "threat to his life," Unian reported. Kravchenko is believed to have orchestrated the unlawful surveillance of Gongadze and a search of his residence. Omelchenko also expressed his hope that other witnesses are safe. "I don't know what to do with senior criminals in our state if officers who have given evidence end up being physically liquidated," Omelchenko said. AM
REPORT REVEALS EXTENT OF CORRUPTION IN BOSNIAN SERB RULING PARTY
Following the recent decision by High Representative Paddy Ashdown to sack 59 Bosnian Serb officials, his office issued a report on 1 July on the financial dealings of the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which suggests widespread tax evasion, abuse of power, and corruption, dpa reported. In remarks referring to the SDS, Ashdown said that "the party's ties with criminality and war criminals have to be broken once and for all" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 1 July 2004). "There is a complete, even criminal, absence of proper control [in the SDS] designed to ensure the observance of the law and to prevent the passage of funds to and from criminal and war criminal networks and support structures," he added. PM
SERBIAN LEADER SLAMS SACKING OF 59 BOSNIAN SERB OFFICIALS
Commenting on Ashdown's sacking of 59 Bosnian Serb officials, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told "Vecernje novosti" of 1 July that the move will not contribute to "regional stability" and might help "radicalize the situation" in the Republika Srpska. PM
FOREIGN MINISTRY OF SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO STARTS ACTION ON WAR CRIMES INDICTMENTS...
Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said on 1 July that his ministry has sent a Belgrade court indictments issued in 2003 by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal against four generals for alleged atrocities committed during the 1999 conflict in Kosova, Reuters reported. Former Army Chief of Staff and General Nebojsa Pavkovic, former General Vladimir Lazarevic, and former police General Sreten Lukic are reportedly living openly in Serbia. Former police General Vlastimir Djordjevic is believed to be in Russia. Lazarevic told the daily "Blic": "I am not a criminal commander. I just defended the state, the people, and the weak." Draskovic has repeatedly called on all indictees to go to The Hague voluntarily so as not to be a burden on Serbia in its international relations. PM
...BUT WILL THE ACTION CONTINUE?
In announcing his decision to send the indictments to the Belgrade court, Draskovic said on 1 July: "I am absolutely for the fulfillment of our obligations towards the international [war crimes] tribunal. This country must go to Europe," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April, and 29 and 30 June 2004.) The ministry received the indictments about eight months ago but took no action until now. It is not clear what steps, if any, the court or the National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal will take. Draskovic said recently that the victory of pro-reform candidate Boris Tadic in the Serbian presidential elections means that politicians can no longer argue that domestic political considerations prevent them from extraditing war crimes indictees. But former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) has repeatedly said that it will withdraw parliamentary support from Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica's minority government if any Serbs are sent to The Hague. PM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS ARMY CHIEF SACKED
Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Draskovic told the cabinet on 1 July that General Branko Krga, who heads the General Staff, should be removed from his post or retired from the military, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Draskovic argued that Krga is a holdover from the Milosevic era who made unspecified "catastrophic omissions" in preparing the government's recent strategic-defense paper and who has helped sour relations with The Hague. On 30 June, Draskovic rejected charges by his predecessor, Goran Svilanovic, that Draskovic has reinstated Milosevic-era employees whom Svilanovic sacked from the ministry, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 June 2004). Draskovic said that he rehired only 63 "building managers, drivers, janitors, messengers, waiters, telephone operators, and secretaries." Draskovic stressed that he wants to do the proper thing "and not let these people and their families go without an income or bread." PM
BIG BALKAN MUSIC FESTIVAL OPENS IN VOJVODINA
The largest music festival in the Balkans, known as Exit, began in Novi Sad on 1 July and will run until the morning of 5 July, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported. Dozens of international and regional musicians, bands, theatrical performers, and others are expected to entertain about 150,000 guests from near and far. One of the highlights will be performances by Balkan brass bands that are very popular at weddings and other celebrations in much of the region. PM
MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT SEES NO DILEMMA BETWEEN PARTNERSHIPS WITH U.S. AND EU
Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski told VOA's Macedonian Service on 29 June that his country's support for U.S. policies -- its participation in the coalition forces in Iraq as well as its signing a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with Washington that would prohibit the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court -- has not had a negative impact on the country's relations with the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 8 July, 17 September, and 17 October 2003). "Last year, we faced difficult decisions because strengthening relations with the United States could adversely affect our relations with the EU, or with some EU members," Crvenkovski said. "Now...we can say for sure that we played this complicated game well." Crvenkovski added that it became clear that ties with the EU are solid when his country officially applied for EU membership earlier this year -- despite previous warnings from Brussels that Macedonia is not yet ready to apply (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 February and 5 March 2004). UB
MACEDONIA EXPECTS ECONOMIC BOOST THROUGH NATO MEMBERSHIP
Speaking at a conference in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on 1 July, Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said eventual NATO membership will lead to more foreign investments in his country, MIA news agency reported. "NATO membership means an increased number of foreign investors and an improvement in the economic situation. What is most important right now, it will also mean stability," Buckovski said. He added that he expects the Balkan countries to contribute substantially to the alliance's military, economic, and political potential. He also predicts that the Balkan states will contribute "fresh ideas regarding Euro-Atlantic and global security" and not just be consumers of the alliance's security guarantees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28, 29, and 30 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 May 2004). UB
SLOVENIA SEES 'STRATEGIC INTEREST' IN CROATIA'S EU MEMBERSHIP
Ivo Vajgl, who is likely to be Slovenia's next foreign minister, told the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on 1 July that his country has a "strategic interest" in Croatia's joining the EU, Hina reported. He denied charges by opposition legislator Zmago Jelincic that it was a mistake for the EU to start membership talks with Croatia. "We shall do everything to be on Croatia's side, sharing our knowledge and helping as much as Croatia wants," Vajgl said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April, and 18 and 25 June 2004). PM
ROMANIAN, MOLDOVAN LEADERS TO CELEBRATE PRINCE STEPHEN SEPARATELY
Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 1 July that no agreement has been reached on a joint declaration that would have made possible Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's participation in the ceremonies at Putna monastery marking the 500th anniversary of Prince Stephen the Great's death, Mediafax reported. Moldovan presidential adviser Sergiu Mocanu visited Bucharest to negotiate the joint statement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2004). Geoana said he "regrets" that Voronin will not attend the event, adding that the failure to reach agreement on the joint statement "should not be dramatized." He said the negotiations with Mocanu were a "useful exercise" and that the next months will bring about an "intense and very honest" dialogue between the two countries. A statement issued in Chisinau by the presidential office said time was "too short" to reach an agreement but called the parleys in Bucharest "very open and constructive," according to Flux. The Moldovan statement denied that Voronin had conditioned his visit to Putna on a joint declaration. It said, "The two presidents opted to mark the anniversary with their respective citizens" and that "the dialogue will be resumed shortly." MS
MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION LEADER CLAIMS RUSSIANS COLONIZING TRANSDNIESTER...
Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov said on 1 July in parliament that the Moldovan Information and Security Service (SIS) must investigate "ample information" that ethnic Russians are "massively colonizing the Transdniester region," Flux reported. Cubreacov said that under an alleged "Kalinin-II Plan," some 120,000 ethnic Russians are replacing ethnic Romanians who fled the region after the outbreak of the conflict with the separatist region. He said the "colonists" are allotted the dwellings left behind by Romanians and that ethnic Russians from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan are granted Russian citizenship upon arriving in Transdniester. The issue was first raised in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe by Polish representative Tadeusz Iwlinski on 25 June, according to Flux. MS
...WHILE PARLIAMENT AMENDS CITIZENSHIP LAW
Moldova's parliament on 1 July approved in the first and second reading an amendment to the citizenship law proposed by President Voronin last month, Infotag reported. The amendment stipulates that those who lived on Moldova's territory before its 23 June 1990 declaration of independence and continue to live there are automatically granted citizenship upon recognizing the existence of the state. The amendment targets primarily Transdniestrians who in the past either did not wish or were not able to claim Moldovan citizenship. It also stipulates that pensioners and invalids applying for citizenship will be spared the obligation to pass examinations on the constitution and on "Moldovan" language skills. Finally, the amendment does away with the previous prohibition on holding double citizenship. MS
MOLDOVAN NGO LEADER ATTACKED IN TIRASPOL
Moldovan Helsinki Committee Chairman Stefan Uratu was physically attacked in Tiraspol on 1 July by "representatives of Transdniester civil society," Flux reported, citing the official Olivia Press news agency. Uratu arrived in Tiraspol ahead of a planned roundtable on human rights. His assailants threw paint, eggs, and kefir at him and shouted insults. According to Olivia Press, attempts by local police to defend Uratu from the protesters failed and he was finally put into a police van and driven to the Bendery-Tighina "border" point. Uratu told Flux he believes the incident was staged by the Tiraspol authorities in order to obstruct the planned roundtable. MS
DEFAULTING MOLDOVAN ENTERPRISES TO BE FORCIBLY RESTRUCTURED
State enterprises that owe the treasury over 1 million lei ($83,682) and that fail to repay the debt for more than 90 days will undergo compulsory restructuring, Infotag reported on 1 July, citing a government press release. Economy Minister Marian Lupu told the cabinet that only 15 percent of Moldovan enterprises have been restructured and that this explains why some two-thirds of the country's factories and plants operate at 30-40 percent of their output capability. MS
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAW AGAINST MONEY LAUNDERING
Parliament amended on 1 July the law on money laundering, raising the ceiling for making obligatory reports on bank transactions to the Center for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption to 300,000 lei ($25,104) for individuals and 500,000 lei for legal entities. The previous ceiling was 100,000 and 200,000 lei, respectively. The amendment also introduces a cumulative system, under which smaller sums must also be declared if the transactions performed during one month exceed the set ceilings. MS
MACEDONIAN DECENTRALIZATION TALKS DEADLOCKED
When new Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov took office recently, he said that one of his government's focuses will be on the plans to decentralize the state administration and to substantially reduce the number of administrative districts. It was hoped that parliament would pass the necessary legislation before its summer break.
However, talks between the major coalition partners -- the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the Liberal Democrats (LDP), and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) -- on the ambitious plans are deadlocked over a number of issues. At the same time, the conservative opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), the Union of Local Self-Government Units (ZELS), as well as some legal experts complain that the talks on the redistricting plans lack transparency, warning that the decentralization efforts might fail altogether.
The government's plans envision a reduction of the number of administrative districts (opstini) from 123 to about 60. This would require that some districts merge with neighboring ones. With the decentralization of the state administration, the districts will be granted greater powers to plan their finances, health care, and educational institutions.
As could be expected, not everyone was happy with the proposal. In December, a first round of talks on the new administrative borders failed. As a consequence, many districts decided to hold referendums on the redistricting plans, citing the 1985 European Charter of Local Self-Government.
Initially, the government refused to acknowledge the referendum results as binding. But in February, Minister for Local Self-Government Aleksandar Gestakovski announced that the government will take the results into account. As of June, some 40 referendums had been held, including one in Skopje.
Initially, the protests against the redistricting plans focused on legal, administrative, and financial issues rather than on the districts' ethnic composition. But now, the talks among the coalition partners are apparently deadlocked over the new administrative borders of districts with an ethnically mixed population.
The BDI demands that the borders of the districts Struga and Kicevo be redrawn so that ethnic Albanians make up more than 20 percent of the population. If this happens, both districts must introduce Albanian as the second official language in addition to Macedonian. This is because the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement specifies that if an ethnic group makes up at least 20 percent of the population in a given administrative unit, its language must become an official one.
The same problem seems to be holding up a solution in Skopje, which is divided into several municipalities. The BDI wants to redraw the municipalities' borders so that one or two of them must introduce Albanian as an official language -- with far-reaching (and expensive) consequences, because all communication between citizens and the administration as well as within the administration itself would have be to bilingual.
The discussion about the new districts in Skopje shows, moreover, that not only language but also national symbols and landmarks are involved. Thus any new Albanian district in northern Skopje would not include the church of Sveti Spas, where the remains of Goce Delcev, a Macedonian national hero, are buried.
The shift from administrative, legal, or financial issues to ethnic and national issues in the talks about decentralization makes it more difficult to find a lasting solution, Gordana Siljanovska -- a law professor at Skopje University -- told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters on 20 June. "When you talk about things like language, names, [or] symbols, then you are talking about things charged with passion," Siljanovska said, adding, "It is difficult to reach any agreement about things that involve emotions."
But Siljanovska also complained that the talks among politicians on decentralization are taking place behind closed doors, thereby excluding the people who will be directly affected. For Siljanovska, such closed talks delegitimize the government and the administrative reform as a whole.
The opposition VMRO-DPMNE, for its part, charges that the government is only "staging" the talks to avoid a lengthy (and public) discussion in parliament, and demands that all parties be included in the talks on the territorial reorganizations.
The mayors of Kicevo and Struga, for their part, have announced that they will not accept any changes to the borders of their districts. And the ZELS demanded that independent specialists as well as representatives of the local administrations be heard in the talks, warning that any solution drawn up by the governing parties alone could create instability in the country.
Given the complexity of the reform and its importance for the future of Macedonia, any quick solution without public support and against the will of the citizens could become a Pyrrhic victory for the government.
SLIGHT DELAY IN AFGHAN ELECTION SCHEDULE...
Afghanistan's elections, scheduled for September, will be delayed until mid-October because of ongoing violence and political disagreements, "The New York Times" reported on 2 July. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva, however, said that the delay should not be seen as a "major drama." Farouk Wardak, a member of the Joint Electoral Management Body, pointed to disagreements between the Afghan government and political parties as the reason for the expected delay. In June, Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai said that elections would definitely be held in the month of Mizan in the Afghan calendar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2004). Mizan falls between 22 September-21 October this year, and so the ballot will still take place within the time frame set by Karzai. AT
...AS SPAIN PLANS INCREASE IN TROOP DEPLOYMENT DURING AFGHAN ELECTIONS
Madrid is planning to increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan by 465 to 565 personnel, Radio Nacional de Espana reported on 1 July. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Defense Minister Jose Bono presented a report on the proposed troop increase to the country's parliament on 1 July. Spain currently has 475 troops in Afghanistan. According to the report, the proposed increase is to ensure security during the upcoming Afghan elections, and the number of Spanish troops in Afghanistan would be reduced to 540 by the end of 2004. AT
NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM OF BEHEADING CLERIC DENIED
Mofti Latifullah Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, told Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) on 1 July that the militia captured Mawlawi Assadullah in Ab Band District of Ghazni Province in south-central Afghanistan and beheaded him "for preaching Christianity." Hakimi said that several copies of the Bible and other Christian-related documents were found with Assadullah. Ghazni Governor Haji Assadullah Khaled told AIP that Hakimi's claims "are all lies." Khaled added that he was in Ab Band personally and there were no reports of Mawlawi Assadullah being beheaded. AT
NEW BANK OPENED IN KABUL
The Afghanistan International Bank began operations in Kabul on 1 July, Radio Afghanistan reported. Afghan citizens established the bank with assistance from a number of foreign investors. The initial investment in the bank is $10 million. AT
TEHRAN-LONDON NAUTICAL ROW SIMMERS
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on 1 July that British boat crews detained by Iran on 21 June never actually entered Iranian waters, AFP reported. This follows a 30 June statement by Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon to Parliament that the three British vessels were "forcibly escorted" into Iranian territorial waters by Iranian forces, who subsequently paraded their British captives on television. Straw added that the government is making "strong representations" about the way the men were treated. He said the United Kingdom would like Tehran to return the navigation equipment it took from the British vessels. "We would be greatly assisted if and when we get back the global positioning equipment because that would tell us for certain where they were," Straw said. BS
EUROPEAN POLICY ON IRAN A 'FLOP'
British, French, and German hopes that a policy of engaging Iran will persuade it to give up its nuclear ambitions are fading, "The Economist" reported on 1 July. The October agreement with Tehran indicated that multilateral diplomacy could work in difficult cases, and it also suggested that inspections could facilitate nonproliferation more successfully than force could. Although Tehran has apparently not forsaken its desire to develop a nuclear-weapons capability, according to "The Economist," the Europeans have only delayed negotiations on a trade-and-cooperation agreement. Iran and Europe apparently are awaiting the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections. Tehran may believe that Europe will never get tough. "The Economist" concludes, "Iran could become a big irritant in relations between America and Europe." BS
IRANIAN BROADCASTS CONTINUE TO REACH BAGHDAD
Radio transmissions from Iran in Arabic, as well as Persian, can still be heard in Baghdad, according to a 28 June survey. The audibility of the 22 channels originating in Iran varies from poor to good, but Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting's Arabic-language services are consistently good, as is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI) Voice of the Mujahedin, which transmits from Iran in Arabic. BS
FORMER IRAQI PRESIDENT TIGHT-LIPPED IN PRISON
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was arraigned in an Iraqi courtroom on 1 July, but in the almost seven months that he was a captive of the United States he provided very little "useful" information, according to a "former senior official with the occupation authority" cited by "The New York Times" on 2 July. "We got very little, I would say almost nothing," the official said. The most eagerly sought information related to Iraq's weapons program and the current insurgency in the country, as well as possible links with Al-Qaeda. Hussein reportedly continued to behave as if he is Iraq's president, and although he was willing to discuss the origins of the Ba'ath Party, he did not cooperate on the hotter topics. Some of his information was surprising. For example, he explained the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 by saying that he wanted to keep potentially disloyal military personnel occupied. BS
HUSSEIN'S DEFENSE TEAM COMING FROM JORDAN
Former President Hussein was not represented by lawyers at his 1 July arraignment on charges that reportedly relate to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1988 chemical attacks on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2004). The panel that is tasked with defending him said in Amman on 1 July that it will go to Baghdad regardless of being threatened, Al-Jazeera satellite TV reported. Ten of the lawyers on the defense panel are Iraqi and the other 10 are Jordanian. Muhammad al-Rashdan, who heads the panel, said there are no legal grounds for the U.S. presence in Iraq and he questioned the validity of the current Iraqi government. He added that the current Iraqi ministers are not Iraqis. BS
MIXED IRAQI PUBLIC REACTION TO HUSSEIN ARRAIGNMENT
Basim al-Shaykh, editor in chief of Baghdad's "Al-Dustur," said in a 1 July telephone interview with Al-Jazeera that the Iraqi public's reaction to Saddam Hussein's arraignment has been mixed. In some parts of the country there was increased violence and a heightened level of tension, while "other areas rejoiced." The Iraqi people are determined to see Hussein punished for his crimes, "the effects of which are still apparent in their daily life." Al-Shaykh added that Hussein appeared to be in denial during the hearing. "He still shows the same arrogance and tyranny that he used to show during his rule," he said. Bushra Askar, a resident of Baghdad's predominantly Shi'a Al-Sadr City, said on 2 July: "What do I want from the trial? I want the court to sentence him to death and hang him in a square in central Baghdad, similar to what he had done to our young sons when he buried them," Reuters reported. "I have two missing nephews, he deported their family and then he took them. They did not do anything wrong. We are still searching for them." BS
JORDAN MAY SEND TROOPS TO IRAQ...
Jordan's King Abdullah II announced on 1 July that Amman is willing to send military personnel to Iraq, AP reported, citing the BBC. King Abdullah said that Jordan wants to support Iraq's new interim government. "I presume that if the Iraqis ask us for help directly, it would be very difficult for us to say no," he said. "Our message to the president or the prime minister is: 'Tell us what you want. Tell us how we can help, and you have 110 percent support from us.'" Amman initially refused to send troops to Jordan, and King Abdullah explained the policy shift by saying, "If we don't stand with them, if they fail, then we all pay the price." Thirty-three countries had troops in Iraq as of the end of April, AP reported. BS
...AND ALSO AN AMBASSADOR
Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan al-Mu'ashir said that on 30 June that Amman has decided to send an ambassador to Iraq, Petra news agency reported. He explained that this is because of the belief in the importance of helping Iraq and enhancing its sovereignty. Al-Mu'ashir went on to say that Amman and Baghdad will discuss all the related issues, especially arrangements for the embassy staff's security. BS