9 January 2002, Volume
U.S. MOST-FAVORED TRADING STATUS FOR NINE?
The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush plans to ask Congress to lift 1974 trade restrictions imposed on Russia as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, reports "The Washington Post." Newly included on this list -- apparently in reward for their help in the antiterrorism campaign -- are human rights offenders Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In 1990, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia were exempted from these trade restrictions. Autocratic Belarus -- which has not offered any assistance in the antiterrorism struggle -- would still be subject to trade restrictions. Administration backers believe that the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Trade Act linking trade status to a state's human rights record -- which first focused on emigration but has since expanded to democracy, freedom of speech and religion -- is neither effective nor relevant, says "The Washington Post." But human rights groups believe that the Bush administration is giving up a useful tool against repressive regimes and is inconsistent in its criteria, especially by including Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Although Congress has been told that the administration would like Russia to graduate within three months and the eight others in nine months, several U.S. officials insist that no decisions have been made, according to "The Washington Post." Most likely, a law will group together all the countries except Russia. Another approach would be to put the countries on different timetables. In any case, the Bush administration has said it plans to ask each government to provide written pledges on political and economic issues. Critics say that the trade restrictions can still provide useful leverage. ("The Washington Post," 6 January 2002)
PRESIDENT'S BODYGUARD PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN CAFE DEATH CASE.
The trial on charges of manslaughter began in a Yerevan district court on 7 January of Aghamal Harutiunian, one of President Robert Kocharian's bodyguards, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL reported. Harutiunian is accused of causing the death of Georgian citizen Poghos Poghosian in a Yerevan cafe last September. Witnesses at the trial, including Poghosian's friend Stepan Nalbandian, say Poghosian was beaten to death by several members of Kocharian's bodyguard after he hailed the president with the words "Hi Rob." The official investigation maintained that Poghosian made "obscene remarks" to Kocharian and died as a result of a fall during a subsequent fistfight with several bodyguards. Nalbandian told the court on 7 January that he saw Poghosian being attacked by several men, but that he could not say definitively that Harutiunian was one of them. Harutiunian has pleaded not guilty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)
COURT SENTENCES VOLUNTEERS FOR CHECHEN CAUSE.
After a six-week trial, Azerbaijan's Court for Serious War Crimes handed down sentences on 3 January of between three and five years in prison to three young Azerbaijanis who underwent military training with the objective of joining the Chechen fight for independence from Russia, Turan reported. Two others accused on the same charges were released after giving a written pledge not to leave their place of residence, and seven more received suspended sentences of between one and four years. The defense counsel for the accused had argued that the case should be closed, as there was no evidence that the accused had committed any crime. Also on 3 January, the National Security Ministry announced that on 29 December it detained four more Azerbaijanis who planned to travel to Chechnya to fight there as mercenaries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)OPPOSITION PARTY PROTESTS IMMINENT EVICTION FROM ITS HQ.
Leading members of the opposition Musavat Party staged a picket on 3 January outside the Baku Mayor's Office and the Economic Development Ministry, Turan reported. The ministry owns the building in Baku where Musavat has its headquarters, and warned the party last month that its lease will not be renewed when it expires. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
TWO JAILED, EIGHT FINED FOR ANTI-LUKASHENKA PROTEST.
A district court in Brest on 5 January sentenced Uladzimir Maley and Henadz Samoylenka to 15 days in jail for their participation in an unauthorized demonstration, Belapan reported. Eight other participants were fined some $125 each. On 9 December in Brest, some 30 persons formed a "chain of indifferent people" to remind the public and authorities about the disappearances of opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)
CALL FOR SACIRBEY ARREST.
Bosnian Foreign Ministry officials said in Sarajevo on 5 January that they have asked Interpol to issue an arrest warrant for Muhamad Sacirbey, a former ambassador to the UN and foreign minister, Reuters reported. Sacirbey, who is known locally as Sacirbegovic, is charged with embezzling at least $610,000 from the UN mission in 2000 alone, his last year in the post. He has denied the charges, claiming that "postwar chaos" led to bookkeeping mistakes. But his critics note that he has ignored two requests to appear in court in Sarajevo to answer the charges and has made contradictory remarks regarding the case. Deputy Foreign Minister Ivica Misic said that "it is up to U.S. legal institutions" to determine what will happen to Sacirbey, who holds U.S. and Bosnian citizenship and lives in the U.S., AP reported on 6 January. "Mo" Sacirbey, who played soccer for Tulane and speaks native American English, was his country's chief international spokesman during much of the 1992-95 conflict. His father spent years in communist jails as a political prisoner together with veteran Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)BOSNIAN SERB HELSINKI COMMITTEE SLAMS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS.
Branko Todorovic, who heads the Republika Srpska's Helsinki Committee, told Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service on 3 January that human rights violations continue to be "systematic" in the Bosnian Serb entity. He said the main reason for this is that the same people who previously made war and carried out "ethnic cleansing" are still in power. The only thing that has changed is that they now use more "perfidious" means than outright violence to achieve their goals, he said. Todorovic stressed that it is vital that Muslims, Serbs, and Croats all enjoy the same legal status throughout Bosnia if the power of all nationalists is to be broken. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)BOMB TOSSED AT BOSNIAN MUSLIM'S HOME.
Unidentified persons threw an explosive device at the home of a Muslim who recently returned to Trebinje in eastern Herzegovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 7 January. UN police spokesman Stefo Lehmann said the door and windows of the home were damaged. Police are investigating. The Trebinje area has long been known as a center of Serbian nationalism and was subjected to extensive ethnic cleansing during the 1992-95 conflict. There have been several nationalist-inspired incidents in recent years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)
PRIME MINISTER LOSES VOTER CONFIDENCE.
Simeon Saxecoburggotski has lost much of the voter confidence that brought him to power in June 2001, the daily "Novinar" reported on 3 January. A recent opinion poll showed that while in September some 68 percent of the voters supported Saxecoburggotski, his December rating fell to about 46 percent. Nevertheless, Saxecoburggotski's party, the National Movement Simeon II, still leads the polls, followed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party. The Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) came in third. Analysts ascribe the loss of confidence largely to the growing poverty in the country, which during the hard winter has been felt more painfully. According to the poll, some 80 percent of the population does not have any savings, about half has to cut expenses, and about 7 percent believes that it lives in misery. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)TWO-CHILD FAMILY PREFERRED.
According to a recent poll conducted by the Bulgarian National Statistics Institute, about two-thirds of respondents said they would prefer a family with two children, news.bg reported on 7 January. One-fifth of the respondents said they would prefer to have one child, and about 14 percent said that they would like to have three or more children. Among the various ethnic minorities in the country, only Romany respondents show different figures, while the responses of the Turkish minority resemble the overall results. Among the Roma, about one-third of the families said they would prefer to have three or more children. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)
PRESIDENT SAYS CHARTER 77 STILL CONTAINS LESSONS FOR SOCIETY.
Vaclav Havel commemorated the 25th anniversary of the former Czechoslovakia's best-known dissident manifesto by saying Charter 77 should still inspire people, CTK reported on 5 January. Havel, who was among the document's 242 signatories and one of its first spokesmen, said the declaration's spirit of decency, mutual respect, and solidarity carries lessons for people even today. He added that it also expresses the will to fight for good, even when such a struggle has no immediate hopes for success, the agency reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)PARLIAMENT LEADER DEFENDS COMMERCIAL APPEARANCE.
Parliament speaker and former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus responded to mounting criticism for plugging German-made skis by saying on 7 January that he thought he was promoting a restaurant that belongs to friends, CTK reported. Klaus and the promoter have insisted the avid skier and 60-year-old leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party was not paid for the spot. But the timing of the billboards, six months ahead of national elections, has prompted political rivals to accuse him of flouting conflict-of-interest legislation. The billboards urge readers to "Vote" followed by the ski maker's logo. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)PLAN TO ADDRESS PERCEIVED SEGREGATION IN 'SPECIAL SCHOOLS.'
The Education Ministry has drafted a program to enhance Romany children's education that includes the closure of "special schools," which critics say lead to de facto segregation of Roma, CTK reported on 7 January, citing a report in the daily "Hospodarske noviny." More elementary schools will include classes that target "specific needs of children with social or cultural disadvantages," the paper said, instead of forcing such children into alternative institutions. Separate schools will remain only for children with severe mental disorders, the agency said. Local advocacy groups and international organizations, including Human Rights Committee, have called on the Czech government to take resolute steps to end segregation in the education system. Figures published by the Education Information Institute estimate that 30,000 children are enrolled in 432 "special schools" across the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)ABOUT 1,000 SUSPECTS FREED UNDER NEW PENAL GUIDELINES.
Roughly one-fifth of the nearly 5,000 suspects in custody in the Czech Republic have been released in the past month to comply with new legal requirements that demand a trial within three months, CTK reported. Under the amended Penal Code, accused criminals who cooperate with authorities cannot be jailed indefinitely while awaiting court proceedings, which in the Czech Republic can take years. The move was accompanied by changes that should help authorities provide speedier investigations and justice proceedings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
NEW BLOW TO ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES.
Heavy snowfalls in Karachaevo-Cherkessia on 2 January damaged the Kavkasioni power line via which Georgia is currently receiving additional electricity supplies from Russia to compensate for the disabling of two units of the thermal power station that provides electricity for much of Tbilisi (which blew up on "Electrical Energy Day," 22 December), Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. At present, Tbilisi is supplied with only 300 megawatts of the total 600-650 it needs. To make up the shortfall, Georgia will receive 130 megawatts per day from Armenia until 10 January, and a further 100 megawatts a day from Azerbaijan, Caucasus Press reported on 4 January. According to Ghia Nordia, director of the Center for International Peace, Development, and Democracy in Tbilisi, rumors have it in Tbilisi that the power plant was sabotaged. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
PROSECUTOR-GENERAL AIMS TO END POLITICAL SCANDAL IN JUDICIARY.
"A prosecutor must never enter the political arena, even when speaking in his capacity as the president of a prosecutors' association," Prosecutor-General Peter Polt was quoted as saying on 3 January by "Nepszabadsag." Polt made the comments in response to a statement issued by leaders of the National Society of Lawyers and two chambers of lawyers in late December warning of political threats to the independence of the judiciary. A scandal resulted after Polt revoked the appointment of one of the statement's signatories, Andras Hegedus, as a senior prosecutor. As a consequence, Hegedus announced that he will leave the legal profession in the interest of judicial independence. Opposition Socialist and Free Democrat politicians alleged that the action against Hegedus is part of a campaign to intimidate the opposition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)HUNGARIAN CABINET REASSURES TRADE UNIONS OVER STATUS LAW.
The Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries' premiers on 22 December does not overwrite Hungary's Status Law, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said at a meeting of the National Labor Council on 4 January, Hungarian media reported. Martonyi said the memorandum merely states that work permits cannot be denied to Romanian citizens of any nationality if jobs are available in the Hungarian market. Romanian job seekers will not have to wait 30 days for permits, he explained. However, the Employment Act authorizes the Economy Ministry to determine the number of job permits issued, which implies that the number of foreign job seekers allowed to enter the country could not reach 100,000, Martonyi concluded. For his part, Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy told the Labor Council that 37,300 foreigners were issued job permits in Hungary last year, about half of whom were Romanian nationals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)
DETAINED POLITICIAN BEGINS HUNGER STRIKE IN UZBEK JAIL...
Oral Saulebay of the Azat movement is being held in detention in Tashkent, having been charged with organizing an unsanctioned mass gathering, a charge that carries a prison sentence of up to three years, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 3 January. Saulebay has begun a hunger strike to demand a meeting with Kazakhstan Embassy personnel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)...BUT CURRENT STATUS UNKNOWN.
RFE/RL cited officials of South Kazakhstan Oblast's Interior Affairs Ministry as saying on 7 January that Saulebay had been transferred by the Committee on National Security from the Tashkent Oblast Police Department to the Sary Aghash region police department. Saulebay was expected to be released from custody as soon as he entered Kazakhstan territory. His current whereabouts are unknown. (RFE/RL Kazakh News, 8 January)FORMER GOVERNOR OF PAVLODAR OBLAST DENIED DEMO PERMIT.
RFE/RL reported that Pavlodar city officials have denied the former governor of Pavlodar Oblast, Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, a permit to hold a demonstration on 12 January. Zhaqiyanov, a founder of the new political movement Democratic Choice, was fired in mid-November by Kazakhstan President Nazarbaev. The planned demonstration was to call for the release of two of Zhaqiyanov's former associates who were recently detained by local police for alleged abuse of power and fiscal irregularities. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 8 January)
PEACEKEEPERS TIGHTEN SECURITY AFTER SERB KILLED...
A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina on 7 January that additional forces have been sent to Kamenica and patrols there increased following the killing of a Serbian shopkeeper there the previous day, AP reported. KFOR called the killing with a booby-trap grenade a "vicious and cowardly act." A curfew from midnight to 5:00 a.m. has been extended from 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Local Serb politicians said they condemn the "loathsome terrorist act on [Orthodox] Christmas Eve, before the great Christian holiday," Reuters reported on 6 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)...WHOSE DEATH IS RULED ACCIDENT.
UN police have determined that a Serbian bakery owner was killed in Kamenica recently when he mishandled his own grenade and not when he tripped on a booby trap, as was first thought, AP reported from Prishtina on 8 January. The man's death led to protests by local Serbian politicians and the Belgrade authorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)
PARLIAMENTARIANS CALL FOR EMERGENCY SESSION...
The "Kyrgyzstan" and Communist factions in the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) on 6 January demanded that an emergency parliament session be convened on 10 January to discuss the case of parliament committee Chairman Azimbek Beknazararov, who was arrested on 5 January on charges of professional misconduct while serving as an investigator in Djalalabad Oblast in 1995-96, RFE/RL reported. The two factions further demanded that President Askar Akaev (to whom they have already addressed an appeal for Beknazarov's release) and Prosecutor Chubak Abyshkaev attend the session. Parliament deputies Ishenbai Kadyrbekov and Dooronbek Sadyrbaev have offered to post bail for Beknazarov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)...AS EVIDENCE SUGGESTS CASE AGAINST DISSIDENT DEPUTY WAS FABRICATED.
Zootbek Kudaibergenov, who is the prosecutor of Djalalabad Oblast, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau by telephone on 7 January that the case against Beknazarov is not politically motivated. Beknazarov is accused of failing to bring criminal charges against student Djaparaly Kamychbekov in connection with the February 1995 death of Djolchu Bukeev in the town of Toktogul. Kamychbekov reportedly killed Bukeev in self-defense after the latter assaulted him. Kamychbekov later graduated from the Bishkek police college and worked for several years in the police force. In November 2001, after the prosecutor-general began a search for any material that could be used to incriminate Beknazarov, Bukeev's relatives appealed to prosecutors to reopen the case of his death, and on 2 January they demanded that Beknazarov be punished for his alleged negligence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)LOSSES FROM SMUGGLING EXCEED STATE BUDGET.
The revenues lost to Kyrgyzstan as a result of smuggling during the first 10 months of 2001 exceeded the entire annual state budget for that year, according to data compiled by the presidential Commission on Economic Crimes and reported by RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 3 January. Those losses totaled 15 billion soms ($31.5 million), while the annual budget totaled 11 billion soms. Contraband alcohol amounted to 4 billion soms and smuggling of oil and gasoline accounted for a further 4 billion soms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
SPLIT EMERGES IN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC WORKERS PARTY.
Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (LSDSP) faction Chairman Egils Baldzens and deputies Risards Labanovskis, Janis Leja, Peteris Salkazanovs, and Imants Burvis announced on 7 January that they are leaving the LSDSP and forming a new faction, LETA reported. Baldzens told a press conference that they will form a new party, which will be called the Social Democratic Union. A key factor in their decision was their dissatisfaction with increasing cooperation between the LSDSP and the leftist For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL), whose leaders, they said, "deny democracy, the national state, and the Latvian nation." Baldzens asserted that the dissenters hope the views of most LSDSP members on state language, citizenship, education, voting rights to noncitizens, and NATO membership are absolutely different from those of the PCTVL. It seems likely that the New Faction will form a coalition in the parliament with the future party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)
COMMITTEE FOR 'DE-RUSSIFICATION' OF SCHOOLS ESTABLISHED.
Participants at a 3 January meeting in Chisinau protesting introduction of compulsory Russian-language classes in schools established a "Committee for De-Russification of Moldovan Schools," Flux reported. According to a press release, the committee is a response to the "dramatic situation in the educational system." The committee is to fight against the "abusive and totalitarian measures of the Communist government." The committee launched a signature-collecting campaign against the introduction of Russian classes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)PLANNED ANTI-RUSSIFICATION DEMONSTRATION HITS SNAGS.
Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) parliamentarians and Chisinau City Hall are engaged in a squabble over the venue for a proposed public meeting on 9 January to protest the "Russification policies promoted by the Moldovan government," Flux reported on 4 January. While the PPCD parliamentary group has requested that it be treated as a "meeting of voters" and allowed to be held in the Grand National Assembly Square, the Chisinau City Council has dealt with the meeting according to the Law on Public Assembly and on 3 January granted permission for it to be held in the National Opera Plaza. Upon hearing the news, PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca blasted the municipal authorities' "subordination" to the government, and announced that the meeting will be held in the Grand National Assembly Square anyway, according to the agency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)TEACHERS PROTEST RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE COURSES.
In response to the Education Ministry's decision to require the compulsory teaching of Russian-language courses in primary schools, which is to begin on 9 January, 138 teachers in Chisinau have signed a petition to protest the decision. Education Minister Ilie Vancea declared during a radio show broadcast by National Radio on 2 January that "no one will force students to study the Russian language," and that the decision "can be modified if it is not accepted by the public." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
EXTREMISTS TAKE REFUGE AT YUGOSLAV ARMY BASE IN MONTENEGRO.
Montenegrin police have arrested 16 pro-Belgrade activists of the Serbian Orthodox Church who attacked supporters of the rival Montenegrin Orthodox Church in Berane during Orthodox Christmas celebrations, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 7 January. Ten of the suspects fled to a Yugoslav army base before police could arrest them. The army refused to hand them over to the police. The arrests took place later, when police found the suspects in nearby Crni Vrh. The Montenegrin Helsinki Committee said in a statement that the extremists' attack on their rivals amounted to a "flagrant violation of human rights." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)
LEPPER CALLS ON WORKERS TO DEFEND THEIR RIGHTS.
Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper told several hundred workers of the bankrupt Daewoo Lublin plant on 7 January to fight for their rights, PAP reported. "Organize yourselves, demand [what you are entitled to], and defend yourselves," Lepper said. More than 3,000 former or still-employed workers of the plant have not received their overdue wages and layoff payments. Meanwhile, the CBOS polling center found in a poll in mid-December that the firebrand populist Lepper is losing public support: 40 percent of respondents said Lepper and his party do not serve Polish farmers well, while 57 percent claimed Leper is harming democracy in the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)
PREMIER SAYS MODIFICATIONS TO CONSTITUTION POSSIBLE.
Premier and ruling Social-Democratic Party (PSD) Chairman Adrian Nastase announced on 7 January the probable revision of the country's constitution, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase said the constitution is to be modified by the end of the year and should be approved by referendum in the first half of 2003. He added the PSD will consult with other political parties on the issue, and said the law on political parties should also be modified. According to Nastase, there is a "dominant" view within the PSD that parliament's upper house, the Senate, should be elected by direct voting, and not by party lists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)INFORMATION OFFICES ON IMPLEMENTING HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW BEGIN WORK.
Local offices giving information on implementing the provisions of the Hungarian Status Law have already started work, Mediafax reported on 4 January. Only hours after opening, hundreds of ethnic Hungarians expressed their will to get the Hungarian ID card that will grant them special rights in Hungary. In related news, the Romanian government's secretary-general, Serban Mihailescu, said Slovakia and Ukraine have told Hungary that they intend to follow Romania's example in implementing the Status Law. Romania and Hungary signed an agreement on 22 December that prohibits the law's enforcement in Romania. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)
COURT DENIES DIPLOMAT'S APPEAL ON SPY CHARGES.
On 9 January, the Russian Supreme Court denied former diplomat Valentin Moiseev's appeal on espionage charges, reported RFE/RL's Russian Service and gazeta.ru the same day. Moiseev must now serve a 4.5-year term of imprisonment for espionage. Moiseev, a former staffer in the Russian Foreign Ministry Asian department, was arrested on 4 July 1998 on charges of passing secret documents to the South Korean secret services. According to Moiseev, he gave the South Koreans a copy of a speech he was planning to give at an open conference in South Korea. In 1999, a Moscow court found Moiseev guilty of espionage and sentenced him to 12 years in prison; a 14 August 2001 trial handed down 4.5-year term.ACCUSED 'NATO COUNTRY' SPY FILES APPEAL TO RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT.
Igor Sutyagin, the researcher from the Institute of USA and Canada who is accused of espionage for "a NATO country" and whose trial has been suspended pending further investigation, submitted an appeal to the Russian Supreme Court on 3 January, RIA-Novosti reported. In the appeal Sutyagin wrote that the state prosecution failed to specify in its case what exact data he allegedly handed over to foreign special services, and what particular damage it caused to Russia's national security. Moreover, Sutyagin claimed that the Kaluga Oblast Court that heard the case failed to disprove his statement that all information he exchanged with his foreign colleagues was obtained from open sources. In conclusion, Sutyagin asked the Supreme Court to release him from custody until the additional investigation is completed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)RUSSIA BOASTS NEARLY 1 MILLION PRISON INMATES.
According to statistics released by the Justice Ministry, the Russian prison population in 2001 reached 980,000 people, including 744,000 convicts and 216,700 inmates whose cases were in the process of investigation, Interfax reported on 5 January. Included in this figure are 19,000 minors and 50,000 women. Russia's prison inmates work for 750 penitentiary enterprises. According to the statistics, the Russian penitentiary system also includes 660,300 people who were convicted but released on probation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)EU TO PUSH -- AND PAY -- FOR A CLEANER RUSSIA...
Environmental experts from the Russian government and the European Commission are developing a program to clean up energy waste, water and air pollution, and damage to the environment. Experts will meet in the near future to begin to develop a closer dialogue within the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Russia. Since 1991, the EU has already spent $312 million for environmental and nuclear safety assistance programs. Another key issue will be pollution of the Baltic, Barents, Caspian, and Black seas. A Brussels information paper noted that Russia was custodian of more than 20 percent of global water resources and forests, with vast areas of virtually untouched nature. But, the paper noted, Russia also had "severe environmental and related health problems in urban and industrial centers." "Diseases and poisoning from heavy metals and other toxic materials are a significant factor in the decline of life expectancy, which for males is now only 58 years." The program will promote more efficient generation, distribution, and use of energy resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The potential for annual energy savings in Russia is almost as great as its annual production of natural gas. Measures to improve public health will receive priority, particularly the water-supply system. According to the Russian government, one-third of the country's water pipes are in urgent need of repair. Improved management of spent fuel from nuclear power stations and nuclear-powered submarines and radioactive waste will be another focus of the program. (strana.ru, 8 January)�WHILE EQUIPMENT BEING TESTED AT CHEMICAL WEAPONS LIQUIDATION SITE.
The first Russian plant for chemical weapons liquidation, which is located at the Gornii settlement of Saratov Oblast, has begun trial tests, RIA-Novosti reported on 8 January. In addition, a sub-project, which is partly financed by the international TACIS program, will monitor the ecological situation in the territory adjacent to the installation. The plant is to be commissioned in July, RIA-Novosti added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT CRITICIZES ABOLITION OF FEDERATION MINISTRY?
Vasilii Likhachev, Russia's diplomatic envoy to the EU and a former speaker of Tatarstan's legislature referred to Vladimir Putin's recent appointment of Vladimir Zorin as a minister without portfolio overseeing nationality issues in the Russian federal government and said the appointment "begs numerous questions." According to Likhachev, interethnic relations need to become a permanent concern for the president, the presidential administration, and the federal parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)DUMA TO TAKE UP ISSUE OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY...
The State Duma will examine in its second reading four laws on intellectual property during the first quarter of 2002, Interfax reported on 7 January. The legislation would amend Russian laws on patents and trademarks, among others. According to experts on the Duma's Economic Policy Committee, the bills, if enacted, would define more precisely the legal status of participants in the buying and selling of intellectual property, and of inventors, patent holders, and other interested third parties, and provide them with the maximum defense of their rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)...AS KREMLIN TO SEEK MORE REFORMS OF LEGAL, PENSION SYSTEMS.
Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov said that during the next session his faction will seek to introduce two bills, one establishing elections to the Federation Council and another providing protection for local self-rule, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 December. For its part, Yabloko plans to seek more amendments to the Labor Code and to pension and taxation legislation. According to "Izvestiya" the same day, the presidential administration plans to seek passage of more legislation reforming the legal system and the pension system. The Duma is also expected to consider a law on alternative military service and on the buying and selling of agricultural property. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)RUSSIAN ARMY: HALF OF SOCIAL BUDGET NEEDS.
State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Andrei Nikolaev complained on 7 January that Russia�s army budget will meet just "50 percent of its real needs" for social programs, including housing, medical insurance, and transportation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)RUSSIAN TROOPS CLAIM TO INFLICT HEAVY LOSSES IN CHECHNYA.
Up to 100 Chechen fighters have been killed in a special operation in the villages of Novye and Starye Atagi, Chiri-Yurt, and Tsotan-Yurt in Chechnya's Kurchaloi district south of Grozny that began on 30 December, Russian agencies reported on 3 January, quoting a Russian military spokesman. Fighting in Argun east of Grozny intensified on 7 January after Chechen militants attacked a column of Russian army and Interior Ministry troops, Interfax and Reuters reported. ORT television reported that at least two Russian servicemen were killed and four wounded, and that the Chechens retreated from their position only after the Russian side called in military helicopters. Russian troops resumed combing the town on 8 January, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 8 January)CHECHEN PRESIDENT EXTENDS HIS TERM IN OFFICE.
Aslan Maskhadov has issued a decree extending by one year his five-year presidential term that was due to expire on 27 January 2002, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 December. Maskhadov explained that at the beginning of the current war in Chechnya the State Defense Committee banned all elections and referendums for its duration. Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii commented in Moscow the same day that as a result of Maskhadov's decision, the Chechen president's legitimacy "has now dropped to a level below zero." Maskhadov has also reportedly issued decrees stripping Vakha Arsanov of the post of Chechen vice president and demoting field commander Ruslan Gelaev for tactical errors during the retreat from Grozny in February 2000. Arsanov has the reputation of an Islamic radical and is believed to be implicated in kidnappings for ransom. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)RUSSIAN CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA DEPEND ON WHO'S COUNTING.
Speaking at the board of directors of the National Military Fund, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that since the start of the second Chechen war on 1 August 1999, some 2,355 Russian soldiers have been killed and over 6,000 wounded in military actions, strana.ru reported on 25 December. Ivanov did not elaborate on whether the figures include servicemen from the MVD, FSB, and the other agencies. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the antimilitary organization, the Union of Soldiers' Mothers, told BBC the same day that the number of soldiers killed in Chechnya was at least three times higher than Ivanov's figure. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 3 January)RUSSIAN GENERALS BESTOWED WITH NOBLE STATUS.
The Russian Noble Assembly announced that it bestowed nobility on the chief of the Russian Army General Staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, the former commander of Russian troops in Chechnya, Gennadii Troshev, and former First Deputy Defense Minister Valerii Manilov, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 December. The three generals were granted the Imperial Order of Saint Nicholas the Miracle Maker, which provides its holder with the right to noble title. The grounds for the Noble Assembly's gesture is prosaic enough: The Ministry of Property Relations would like to evict the organization from its mansion, so the Assembly picked up Kvashnin, Troshev, and Manilov as lobbyists because all three enjoy the favor of Vladimir Putin for their roles in the Chechen war, commented "Izvestiya." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 3 January)RUSSIANS ON THE ROAD.
For those who can afford to go abroad on vacation, Egypt now tops the list, followed by Turkey, Cyprus, and Dubai. Europe is still a winner, especially Germany and Spain. Thousands also are heading for Thailand. ("The Times," 7 January)HIGH FASHION RETAILERS REPORT BIG SALES GROWTH IN MOSCOW.
Leading international fashion houses increased branded sales in Russia by 50 percent in 2001, transforming Moscow into a fashion center, utro.ru reported on 28 December. Gucci's Moscow boutique was second in revenues behind its New York store, Dolce & Gabbana's presence in the Russian capital was second after its flagship shop in Milan, and Fendi's Moscow shop was third behind its shops in New York and Rome. Chanel's Moscow outlet was third after Paris and New York. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 3 January)CRIMINAL WORLD SAID TO SPEND MASSIVE REVENUES BRIBING OFFICIALS.
A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office told Interfax on 2 January that in 2001 his agency has investigated 8,000 incidents of corruption among Russian officials, representing growth of 14 percent in comparison with the previous year. In particular, criminal cases were opened against heads or deputy heads of administrations in the Vladimir, Tver, Kurgan, Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Kemerovo oblasts and Evenk Autonomous Krug. In addition, the heads of 18 federal agencies were under investigation of corruption or other economic crimes. The spokesman remarked that, in Russia today, up to the 50 percent of criminal revenues is spent bribing corrupt officials. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 3 January)MVD BREAKS UP SYNDICATE FOR MAKING FALSE IDENTITY PAPERS.
An Interior Ministry spokesman announced that the office of the agency's Directorate for Combating Organized Crime has disrupted the activity of a criminal syndicate for fabricating identification papers of various Russian state and public institutions, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 December. The syndicate was operating from Makhachkala, Dagestan, and produced over 60 types of forged documents including identification cards of the State Duma, the Prosecutor-General's Office, as well as university diplomas and pension cards. The spokesman noted the very high quality of the false identity papers and did not exclude their possible use by members of criminal and terrorist groups. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
BANK EMPLOYEES CONTINUE PROTEST...
Several hundred employees of Beogradska Banka, Beobanka, Jugobanka, and Investbanka remain in their offices to protest a decision by Yugoslav National Bank Director Mladjan Dinkic to close the four debt-ridden institutions, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported on 7 January. Police have succeeded in preventing employees from returning to join the lockout at Investbanka by allowing persons to leave the premises but not to enter them. In keeping with reforms sponsored by the World Bank, Dinkic has ruled out a bailout of the four banks, which would cost an estimated one-third of the GDP, Reuters reported on 4 January. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica disagrees with the decision to close the banks but will not contest it. However, Yugoslav Finance Minister Jovan Rankovic quit his post to protest the move. He belongs to Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), which has often espoused populist positions at odds with the Serbian government's more reform-minded approach. Meanwhile, bank workers plan to continue their protests. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)...DEMAND AN END TO 'SHOCK THERAPY'...
Union leaders representing bank employees appealed to President Kostunica on 7 January to stop what they called "shock therapy" and reverse Dinkic's decision, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade. The union leaders warned of adverse social consequences if the four banks' 8,500 employees lose their jobs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)...AND TAKE TO THE STREETS.
Some 100 employees of four defunct banks brought traffic to a halt in central Belgrade on 8 January, AP reported. Police diverted traffic to other streets. Leaders of the bank employees' union said that protests will continue, including an ongoing lockout in the bank buildings. The employees want a restructuring in place of a shutdown. The authorities say that the banks are beyond saving. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)
PARLIAMENT TO VOTE ON FIRST-EVER OMBUDSMAN IN MID-FEBRUARY.
Deputies in the Slovak lower house have scheduled a vote to name an ombudsman on 19 February, a move prompted by the passage late last year of a law establishing the office, TASR-Slovakia reported on 7 January. Parliament Chairman Jozef Migas said candidates may be proposed until 8 February, after which the chamber's Human and Minority Rights Committee will assess their qualifications. The law states that the position should not be filled by a member of any political party. Banska Bystrica Regional Court Chairwoman Jana Dubovcova, Confederation of Labor Unions Vice President Igor Lensky, and writer Ladislav Tazky have thus far been nominated by political parties, while Tibor Loran is the official candidate of the Slovak Roma Parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)APPLICATIONS 'TRICKLE IN' FOR HUNGARIAN DESCENT STATUS.
Applications for the so-called "Hungarian licenses" have gradually started flowing in to Hungarian officials in Slovakia since the Hungarian Status Law granting privileges took effect on 1 January, TASR-Slovakia reported on 3 January. The consular department in Bratislava reported five inquiries early on 2 January, CTK reported, while TASR said a consulate in Kosice had received 20 applications by the following day. Only Hungarian embassies and consulates are accepting the applications thus far, though there are plans to distribute the forms through Hungarian compatriot organizations in the coming days. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
COMMUNISTS STRIVE FOR MAJORITY IN FUTURE PARLIAMENT.
At a congress on 5 January, the Communist Party of Ukraine approved its parliamentary election program and 225 candidates who will seek parliamentary mandates on a countrywide list, Interfax and UNIAN reported. The list is topped by Communist Party head Petro Symonenko and includes Crimean parliamentary speaker Leonid Hrach (No. 11) and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko (No. 20). Symonenko told the congress that the party's task in the 31 March election is to win more than 50 percent of parliamentary seats in order to take control of the parliament and form a new government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January)
HUMAN RIGHTS TO BE LEFT OUT OF U.S.-UZBEKISTAN TIES?
The United States will provide assistance in return for Uzbekistan's economic and political reforms, but several international observers express concern that the United States will not enforce the deal. For more information, please see http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/rights/articles/eav010702.shtml'BIGGEST-EVER' HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS' MEETING.
A mid-December conference in Almaty -- the largest gathering of human rights activists from Uzbekistan in a decade -- was organized by Russia's "Memorial" Human Rights Center and Kazakhstan�s International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law. Along with 55 human rights activists, eight well-known international organizations took part. Several participants noted that denial of official registration of human rights organizations in Uzbekistan is the main obstacle to their activity. They were hopeful that this issue could be resolved in light of closer cooperation between the Uzbek government and the West. For more, see http://www.ilhr.org/ilhr/events/kurultai.htm or contact Peter Zalmayev at the International League for Human Rights at email@example.com.U.S. TROOPS HELP CLEAN UP BIO-WEAPONS DUMP.
A contingent of U.S. troops have deployed on Vozroshdenie Island in the Aral Sea to help clean up Soviet-era biological weapons. For more information, please see http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/environment/articles/eav010302.shtml.
'SHANGHAI SIX' ADOPTS COMMUNIQUE ON SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN.
Foreign ministers from the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization published a joint statement following the completion of their extraordinary meeting in Beijing on 7 January in which they pledged to expand their role in the international antiterrorist coalition led by the United States, Interfax and RIA-Novosti reported. The organization's members -- Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan -- said that they will contribute on national, regional, and global levels to help prevent any terrorism, extremism, separatism, and drug trafficking that might originate from Afghanistan. At the same time, the statement opposed "any efforts to impose political order in Afghanistan from the outside." The group also called for the quick adoption of an international agreement on the prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism. It should be noted that these governments might choose to define "extremism" and "separatism" in self-serving ways. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January)PUTIN COMPARES RUSSIANS IN BALTICS TO ALBANIANS IN MACEDONIA.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in a live broadcast on the ORT and RTR television channels on 24 December compared Russian residents in the Baltic countries with Albanians in Macedonia and said his countrymen there should have rights equal to those Albanians have in Macedonia, BNS reported. He noted that pressure from the EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) convinced Macedonia to pass a constitutional amendment that the 20 percent Albanian community should have a 20 percent representation in power organs and asserted that Russians should also have representation in the Baltics that reflects their numbers. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 4 January)BELARUS CRITICAL OF OSCE BALTIC MISSIONS CLOSURE.
Belarus Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushko on 20 December criticized the decision by the OSCE to close its missions to Estonia and Latvia ,saying that this reduced confidence in this organization as an "objective and unbiased" international institution, BNS reported. He claimed that "these countries still continue mass violation of rights of their Russian-speaking residents." ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 4 January)