PUTIN TELLS NTV STAFF HE WANTS STATION TO REMAIN INDEPENDENT...
During a two-hour meeting on 29 January, President Vladimir Putin told NTV staffers that he wants the station and its reporters to remain independent, privately-owned, and critical, but that the station's financial situation, including Media-MOST debts, is something he could not intervene on, Russian and Western agencies reported. NTV Director Yevgenii Kiselev said Putin had denied there were any political motives behind recent legal moves against Media-MOST -- prosecutors continued on 29 January to confiscate financial documents at that holding company's headquarters -- but Kiselev said he and his colleagues remained unimpressed. In addition, Putin's spokesman said that the Russian leader said he would welcome foreign investment in the station, a statement that came as financier George Soros told Reuters that he is joining U.S. media magnate Ted Turner in bidding for a 25 percent stake in the company. PG
...BUT SOME DOUBT HE'S FOR MEDIA FREEDOM
In its question of the day feature on 27 January, "Segodnya" reported that 1,069 people had said that President Vladimir Putin is "a convinced supporter of media freedom," but 2,755 said that he isn't. On 29 January, the same paper reported that if Kremlin-backed modifications to the press law go through, press freedom in Russia will have to be put in quotes. But Unity deputies in the Duma said that the modifications are nothing more than improvements in the press law, "Vremya MN" reported on 27 January. PG
PUTIN WELCOMES RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN COOPERATION
President Putin said on 29 January that he is pleased that Belarus has decided to introduce oil export duties corresponding to Russian ones, Interfax reported. That means that the union of the two countries now "has a single customs border" and thus is in a position to develop a joint customs accord. Meanwhile, on the same day, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that Moscow and Minsk have approved a Union budget for 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. But Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the two countries face "a challenging task of forming a union state," the Russian news agency said. PG
MOSCOW PROMISES ALL POSSIBLE SUPPORT TO BORODIN...
Prime Minister Kasyanov said on 29 January that the Russian government is "taking all possible measures" to resolve the case of detained Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin, Interfax reported. He said he will raise the case with Swiss officials during an upcoming visit there. (Meanwhile, Belarusian Prime Minister Uladzimir Yarmoshyn said that Moscow and Minsk have "a joint and coordinated position" on the Borodin case.) But Duma international affairs committee chairman Dmitrii Rogozin said that Moscow should push the issue much harder and "create a climate of intolerance of such circumstances." He said that his committee has formed a special group to help Borodin's lawyers and to come up with a list of countries "Russians should abstain from visiting." PG
...AS BORODIN SAYS HE'S PREPARED TO GO TO SWITZERLAND
Ivan Makushok, press secretary to Pavel Borodin, told ITAR-TASS on 29 January that his boss is ready to go to Switzerland immediately. He said Borodin is "fairly fed up" with his detention by U.S. officials and is ready to clear himself in Swiss courts. For its part, the Russian government said on the same day that it hopes the Borodin case will be settled by the end of February or the beginning of March, ITAR-TASS reported. PG
RUSSIA, GERMANY NEGOTIATE ON DEBT ISSUES
Russian and German officials met in Berlin on 29 January to discuss converting at least part of Russia's debt to Germany into shares in Russian enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported. Talks are to continue on 30 January, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin, the head of the delegation, said. Meanwhile, in an article published in the "Berliner Zeitung" on the same day, Kolotukhin said that "if Moscow were to pay today everything its creditors want, financial and fiscal deficits would be created that would mean Russia in the future would be in no position to service its debt." PG
PUTIN REPORTEDLY PLANS TO PUT DISTRICT HEADS UNDER HIS CHIEF OF STAFF...
An unidentified source in the Kremlin told ITAR-TASS on 29 January that President Putin will soon issue a decree empowering his chief of staff, Aleksandr Voloshin, to coordinate the work of the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts. The news service said that Putin had discussed this measure with the district heads on 27 January. PG
...AS KASYANOV, LUZHKOV PLAN CHANGES IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH
"Vremya MN" reported on 27 January that Prime Minister Kasyanov plans to simplify the structure of his cabinet in order to improve efficiency. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on the same day that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov -- at the head of a special working group for reforming the executive branch -- wants to reduce the powers of the presidential administration and transfer the powers of some deputy prime ministers to individual ministries. Meanwhile, "Versiya," no. 2, reported that Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov hopes to consolidate control over Russia's largest defense industries. PG
KASYANOV ORDERS FINALIZATION OF LAND LAW
Prime Minister Kasyanov on 29 January directed his government to complete preparation of a draft law on land and trading in it by early February, Russian agencies reported. But a government spokesman did not provide details on what kind of land trading would be allowed by the legislation. PG
STROEV CALLS FOR ELECTED FEDERATION COUNCIL
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said on 29 January that Russia should retain its bicameral legislature and that the upper chamber should be directly elected by the population, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. He also welcomed the Duma-passed measure that will allow governors to run for re-election since "law cannot be used retroactively" and thus the number of terms governors can seek can be set only from now on. In other comments, Stroev said he is pleased by the law on the rights of former presidents but said he believed it should have been extended to the first Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev. PG
ZYUGANOV PREDICTS EARLY ELECTIONS
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov believes that the Kremlin plans to dissolve the Duma in the spring of 2002 in order to hold elections before conditions deteriorate in 2003, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 27 January. Meanwhile, "Argumenty I fakty," no. 4, reported that the results of regional elections have reduced the role of governors in Moscow, turning them into "modest regional managers." PG
CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD ESCAPES NEW ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov escaped injury on 29 January when a powerful bomb exploded on the outskirts of Gudermes as his car drove past, Caucasus Press reported. Seven of Kadyrov's bodyguards received minor injuries. It was at least the third attempt on Kadyrov's life since he was appointed to that post last summer. LF
MUSCOVITES AGAINST STATE FUNDING OF PARTIES
According to an Ekho Moskvy report cited by "Vremya MN" on 27 January, only 2 percent of Muscovites questioned in a recent poll favor state financing of political parties. Eighty-nine percent oppose the idea. PG
ACADEMY ECONOMISTS BACK DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
The economic section of the Russian Academy of Sciences on 29 January approved a strategic plan for the country's development through 2010, ITAR-TASS reported. The strategy itself was developed by a working group under the State Council's Presidium at the order of President Putin and under the chairmanship of Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev. Ishaev said that the plan anticipates the growth of the country's middle class to 50-55 percent of the population to allow for sustainable economic growth and the shrinking of the percentage of people living below subsistence levels to 10-15 percent. PG
BENEFITS IMPROVED FOR MILITARY
Prime Minister Kasyanov has approved the payment of monthly monetary compensation to servicemen and officers in law enforcement agencies in connection with the cancellation of their former tax privileges, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 January that the Defense Ministry has persuaded the Duma to approve on first reading on 25 January a measure that will make the pay of officers commensurate with that of senior civil servants. PG
CORRUPTION COSTS RUSSIA $15 BILLION A YEAR
Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Kulikov said that corruption and organized crime cost the country's economy approximately $15 billion a year, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 January. He said that criminal structures currently control some 40 percent of private businesses and approximately two-thirds of state-owned ones. PG
ECONOMIC PROBLEMS HIT REGIONS FIRST
According to a UN report cited by "Vremya MN" on 27 January, economic problems including unemployment have hit not the major cities as Russian officials had predicted, but rather the weakest regions and population groups. Moreover, the paper said that the Economics Ministry calculates that overall unemployment is likely to rise from an actual rate of 11.8 percent to 15 percent in the next three years. PG
KALININGRAD PORT HURT BY LITHUANIA, BELARUS
The Kaliningrad Oblast administration told ITAR-TASS that the merchant sea port has been working at less than half capacity in recent months because of the transit practices of Belarus and Lithuania, which make its use more expensive. PG
KARELIA TO COOPERATE WITH SWEDISH REGION
Karelian Foreign Minister Valerii Shlyamin said on 29 January that his republic has signed a cooperation protocol with the Swedish territory of Westrerbotten for expanding ties over the next three years, ITAR-TASS reported. Shlyamikn said that Petrozavodsk hoped to use this accord to attract Swedish investment. PG
BP TO SELL LUKOIL STAKE
BP announced on 29 January that it plans to sell its 7 percent share in LUKoil because it does not have a say in the management of the Russian company, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the minority stockholders of UES announced that they are "basically satisfied" with proposals announced by United Energy Systems chief Anatolii Chubais last week, the Russian agency said. On the same day, Glen Waller, the president of the Petroleum Advisory Forum, said in Khanty-Mansiisk that the combined stock market valuation of Russian oil companies now amounts to $34 billion. PG
MOSCOW WON'T LIFT IMMUNITY IN CANADA CASE
Russian officials said that Moscow will not lift the diplomatic immunity of two diplomats involved in automobile accidents in Canada, one of which resulted in a fatality, but that the two will be "held responsible in accordance with Russian laws," ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov expressed his regrets to the family of the pedestrian who was struck and killed. PG
MOSCOW REACHES OUT TO IRAQ, IRAN
Two Russian delegations departed for Iraq and one for Iran on 29 January. Energy Minister Aleksandr Gavrin and Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov headed the two going to Baghdad to discuss developing energy cooperation, and Duma Deputy Chairman and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky led a group to Tehran to visit an auto plant, ITAR-TASS reported. PG
SHOIGU SAYS BLAME FOR FAR EAST ENERGY CRISIS MUST BE SHARED...
Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu wrapped up a visit to Primorskii Krai, where he led an interdepartmental government commission tasked with overcoming the region's energy crisis. Shoigu told reporters told reporters that the crisis has a "systemic" character and it is necessary to resolve it at the federal as well as local level, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 29 January. According to ITAR-TASS, Shoigu said that the main reason for the energy crisis is the krai's troubled coal industry, which has received little financing over the last 7-8 years. On the same day, the Luchegorsk Fuel and Energy Complex announced that Unified Energy Systems will invest 500 million rubles ($17.6 million) in the development of the coal industry in the territory's northern region. On 28 January, Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who has made comments about the local coal industry similar to Shoigu's, told Interfax-Eurasia that he is not planning to resign. "During the krai's last elections, in which 87 percent of the population participated, 82 percent supported me," Nazdratenko noted. JAC
...AS DEADLINE FOR RESOLUTION GETS PUSHED FORWARD
Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported on 29 January that some 16,000 residents remain without heat, but Shoigu pledged that all homes would be heated by 6 February. Last month, during a similar mission to the krai, Shoigu claimed that all heating would be functioning in the krai by 18 December (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 January 2001). Viktor Gnezdilov, the mayor of Nakhodka, who is also the chairman of the association of heads of municipal organizations in the krai, was skeptical of Shoigu's claim and told Interfax-Eurasia that it will be difficult to stabilize the krai's energy system by the beginning of February, chiefly because of the lack of sufficient fuel resources for the area's power stations. JAC
COLD APARTMENT DWELLERS GET SMALL BREAK
The city council of Ulan Ude in Buryatia has decided to partially compensate city residents for the insufficient heat that flowed to their apartments, "Vremya MN" reported on 26 January. Rent will be reduced by two kopeks for each degree lower than the standard of 18 degree Celsius for each square meter of an apartment. In other words, rent for a 32 square meter apartment in which the temperature fell to 17 degrees Celsius will be lowered by 66 kopeks. Buryatia was part of the swathe of territories in Siberia affected by the long spell of cold weather. The rent reduction should provide some small comfort to city residents, whose rents have recently more than doubled (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 January 2001). JAC
OPPONENTS OF IMPORTING NUCLEAR WASTES WRITE TO PUTIN
Hundreds of Russian organizations opposed to a Duma-approved measure that would allow Russia to import nuclear wastes for profit issued an appeal to President Putin on 29 January to block the measure, Interfax reported. The letter said that such imports will lead to "shoving millions of cubic meters of radioactive waste underground and will result in the radioactive contamination of vast territories." PG
RUSSIAN NUCLEAR PLANTS INCREASE OUTPUT
Russian nuclear power plants generated 130.76 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2000, up 7.25 percent from the year before, Interfax reported on 29 January. PG
OLEINIK SAYS HE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT EMBEZZLEMENT
Georgii Oleinik, a colonel general who headed the Defense Ministry's Finance Department and is under investigation for theft, said in an interview published in "Moskovskii Komsomolets" on 25 January that he had no knowledge that the embezzlement was taking place on his staff. PG
MAJOR PLUTONIUM THEFT IN ST. PETERSBURG
Police in St. Petersburg reported on 29 January that thieves made off with 270 kilograms of plutonium worth almost $5 million from a research institute there, AP reported. PG
RUSSIA TO FIGHT CORRUPTION IN SOCCER LEAGUE
Vladimir Rodionov, the secretary general of the Russian Football Union, told Reuters on 29 January that his group will punish up to the point of expulsion any team "found guilty of bribing or attempting to bribe a referee." Only one Russian team has been found guilty andast, and it was reinstated. Meanwhile, another Russian sportsman, the president of the Atlant sport club in Novocherkassk, was shot dead on 28 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. PG
DUMA DEPUTY PROPOSES DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG DEALERS
Arguing that "all attempts to fight drugs have failed," Duma Deputy (LDPR) Vladislav Ignatov has proposed introducing capital punishment for those convicted of dealing in drugs or assisting in their distribution, "Versiya," no. 2, reported. PG
THREE-FOURTHS OF RUSSIANS NEVER USED A COMPUTER
A ROMIR poll reported by ITAR-TASS on 28 January found that 74 percent of Russians have never used a computer and 73.5 percent said they have never used the Internet. PG
YOUTH GROUP TO SUPPORT NATO IDEA IN RUSSIA
Citing a BBC report, "Izvestiya" on 29 January said that activists from the young section of Russia's Democratic Choice have formed a group to propagandize the idea of NATO on the territory of Russia. The group's leader, Sergei Vladimirov, said that it did not have as its goal "convincing the Russian political establishment of the progressive role of NATO but rather feels that it is necessary to convince society of that fact." PG
ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DISCLOSES CASUALTY FIGURES
Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 29 January, Serzh Sarkisian for the first time divulged the number of Armenian troops killed since the 1994 Karabakh ceasefire, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sarkisian said that 72 servicemen died last year, eight of them in shooting incidents on the border with Azerbaijan and the remainder from accidents, illness, and hazing. He gave the number of Armenian fatalities in border exchanges of fire in 1998 and 1999 as 33 and 14, respectively. Sarkisian said Armenia is creating its own peacekeeping force under an agreement signed between Armenia and the UN. He also stressed that the Russian military base and border guards currently deployed in Armenia will remain there as long as Turkey poses a threat to Armenia, according to ITAR-TASS. LF
ARMENIAN ARMED FORCES BETTER EQUIPPED THAN GEORGIAN COUNTERPARTS?
Sarkisian told the same press conference that the Armenian armed forces are currently better trained and equipped than in the past, and continue to improve their combat readiness, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He had said last November that the level of funding for the armed forces is "satisfactory" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2000). In neighboring Georgia, by contrast, funding for the armed forces is so low that recruits are issued with only one set of underwear which they never have a chance to launder, Major-General Temuri Loria told journalists in Tbilisi on 26 January. In addition, Georgian servicemen's meals amount to only 4,400 calories per day, compared with the NATO norm of 8,000 calories. Desertion from the Georgian armed forces is estimated at 10 percent. LF
ARMENIA TO RECEIVE NEW IMF LOAN
Following months of negotiations, Armenian government officials and IMF representatives reached agreement on 29 January on the main terms of a new IMF loan to support continued macroeconomic stability and further structural reforms, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Poverty Reduction and Growth Loan, worth some $90 million, will be disbursed in three tranches over a three-year period, beginning in late March or early April. Speaking at a joint press conference with Armenian Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian, IMF official Thomas Wolf noted "a considerable improvement" in the economic situation in Armenia since June 2000, as evidenced by accelerated economic growth, tighter fiscal discipline, and progress in energy sector privatization. LF
ONE KILLED BY PARCEL BOMB IN GEORGIAN CAPITAL
One Georgian National Security Ministry specialist was killed on 30 January and a second seriously injured when a parcel bomb they had been summoned by a Tbilisi post office to investigate exploded, Caucasus Press reported. The suspicious parcel was addressed to a private company. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS OFFICIAL VISIT TO TURKEY
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Ankara on 29 January on a two-day official visit. Shevardnadze met with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, to discuss bilateral relations, the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, the Tbilisi-Kars railway, and various proposals for creating a South Caucasus stability pact. The two presidents signed a joint declaration on bilateral cooperation and a pledge to remove anti-personnel, but not anti-tank mines laid along their shared border. Also on 29 January, Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze and his Turkish counterpart Sabahattin Cakmakoglu signed an agreement on cooperation between the two countries' military-industrial sectors, Reuters reported. Details of that agreement were not made available. LF
GEORGIA DEPORTS TWO RUSSIAN OFFICERS
The Georgian authorities on 29 January deported two senior Russian military officers who had arrived in Tbilisi the previous day, Caucasus Press reported. The two colonels applied at the Tbilisi airport for Georgian entry visas but were refused, apparently because their names did not figure on a list earlier submitted to the Georgian Foreign Ministry. In a statement issued on 28 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry again affirmed that Moscow had been constrained to impose the visa requirement for Georgian citizens wishing to enter the Russian Federation in order to safeguard its own security, Russian agencies reported. The statement argued that the visa requirement does not violate international law, and that extending it to the inhabitants of the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia would be tantamount to imposing on them an economic blockade that could have serious humanitarian consequences, Interfax reported. LF
GEORGIAN SUPREME COURT ACQUITS IMPRISONED BATUMI MAYOR
The Georgian Supreme Court ruled on 29 January that former Batumi Mayor Tengiz Asanidze is not guilty and should be released from prison, Caucasus Press reported. Asanidze was sentenced to 12 years in jail on charges of misappropriating state funds. He was pardoned by President Shevardnadze in 1999, but the Adjar authorities refused to release him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 12 October 1999). LF
CENTRAL ASIAN STATES ASSESS NARCOTICS THREAT
Kyrgyz police confiscated 5,370 kilograms of contraband drugs in 2000, an increase of some 50 percent over the previous year's figure of 3,555 kilograms, Interfax reported on 29 January quoting a Kyrgyz government official. The amount of heroin from Afghanistan confiscated was 216.7 kilograms, which represents a tenfold increase over 1999. That figures pales, however, in comparison with neighboring Tajikistan: Tajik presidential press spokesman Zafar Saidov told Asia Plus-Blitz on 29 January that last year Tajik police intercepted 7,128 kilos of drugs, of which 1,882 kilos was heroin. Addressing a session of the Tajik Security Council on 26 January, President Imomali Rakhmonov had criticized police ineffectiveness and warned of unspecified disciplinary measures unless police succeeded in reversing the upward trend. In Turkmenistan, 2,200 kilograms of drugs were confiscated in 2000, of which 10 percent was heroin, Interfax reported on 29 January. LF
KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR ARGUES KULOV SENTENCE JUSTIFIED
Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 29 January that the seven-year jail sentence handed down one week earlier on former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov was "fair" and in accordance with the country's laws. He said that Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov made "a big mistake" in acquitting Kulov last August while pronouncing three of his subordinates guilty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). Also on 29 January, some 30 supporters of Kulov staged a further protest picket outside the trade union building in Bishkek. Kulov's lawyer, Lyubov Ivanova, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that she is experiencing problems trying to discuss with Kulov the text of his appeal against last week's sentence as she is allowed to communicate with him only through a glass window and may not submit any papers to him personally. LF
KYRGYZSTAN EYES GAS SUPPLIES FROM RUSSIA, TURKMENISTAN
Following the cutoff of gas supplies from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzgas General-Director Turgunbek Kulmurzaev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 29 January that the Kyrgyz authorities have begun talks with Kazakhstan and Russia on resuming construction of a pipeline to supply Russian gas to Kyrgyzstan. Construction of that 115 kilometer pipeline was halted in 1991. Bishkek is also discussing possible gas supplies from Turkmenistan, Kulmurzaev said. LF
TAJIK PRESIDENT FIRES SEVERAL MINISTERS, REGIONAL BOSSES
President Rakhmonov issued decrees on 25 January dismissing the Ministers of Culture, Justice, and Social Security, two deputy ministers of culture, two deputy chairman of the Tajik National Bank, and the mayors of Taboshar, Panjakent, and Kulyab, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov simultaneously appointed Khalifabobo Homidov to be minister of justice and Abdurahim Rahimov as minister of culture. LF
UZBEK FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS PAKISTAN
Visiting Islamabad on 25-26 January, Abdulaziz Komilov met with his Pakistani counterpart, Abdul Sattar, to discuss regional security, terrorism, and the situation in Afghanistan. Sattar told journalists after those talks that he had assured Komilov that Pakistan will round up and deport any Uzbek Islamic militants operating from Pakistani territory, Reuters reported. Komilov, for his part, repeated that while Tashkent does not recognize the Taliban government or approve of its ideology, it acknowledges that the Taliban control some 90-95 percent of Afghanistan. He added that Tashkent believes the recent arms embargo imposed on the Taliban by the UN Security Council should also be extended to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Komilov also met in Islamabad with Taliban diplomat Mulla Abdul Salam Zaeef, to whom he proposed hosting talks in Uzbekistan between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, dpa reported. LF
OSCE DENIES LUKASHENKA'S CHARGES OF ANTI-STATE CONSPIRACY...
The OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk has denied Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's accusation of conspiring with the Belarusian opposition in order to destabilize Belarus with "a corps of 14,000-18,000 militants" disguised as election monitors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2001), Belapan reported on 29 January. The OSCE mission said its activities in Belarus "promote the establishment of democratic institutions according to OSCE standards." The group stressed in a statement that under Belarus's electoral code all citizens have the right "to undertake domestic election observation." The statement also denied Lukashenka's claim that he has put the OSCE mission's budget under his control. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry said it has requested that the OSCE mission submit all projects it has planned this year in Belarus for preliminary "coordination" with the government. JM
...WHILE OPPOSITION FIGURE SLIGHTS THEM
Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir told Belapan the same day that Lukashenka will soon back down on his anti-OSCE rhetoric. Chyhir added that such situations have happened "more than once." According to Chyhir, Lukashenka makes his "extravagant statements" because of a feeling of political impasse and his uncertainty whether he will win this year's presidential ballot. Commenting on Lukashenka's claim that the president controls the OSCE mission's budget, Chyhir said "this is not far from saying that Belarus will control the Pentagon's budget." Simultaneously, Chyhir admitted that Lukashenka's recent anti-OSCE charges are the most "scandalous" pronouncement in the entire history of this organization (see also "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 30 January 2001). JM
OFFICIAL: UKRAINIAN CABINET'S SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON FUEL, ENERGY SECTOR REFORM
"Fundamental reforms in the fuel and energy sector is a question of the survival of the government and the premier," the 30 January "Eastern Economist Daily" quoted Volodymyr Lanovyy as saying. According to Lanovyy, who is the presidential representative in Viktor Yuschenko's cabinet, Ukraine is threatened with an energy consumption crisis. In his opinion, the government has nearly lost its political initiative in conducting reforms in the country. Lanovyy added that the situation was far more favorable in the beginning of 2000, when Yushchenko was installed as Ukraine's "first" reformist premier. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TELLS PREMIER TO PAY OFF COAL MINERS
Leonid Kuchma has instructed Premier Yushchenko to resolve the problem of wage arrears and payment for coal deliveries in the coal mining sector within one month, Interfax reported on 29 January. The presidential service told the agency that as of 26 January, the government paid only for 13.2 percent of supplied coal and 52.5 percent of the wages owed to the sector. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT NOT IN FULL CONTROL?
Political scientist Volodymyr Polokhalo has said President Kuchma controls only "30 to 40 percent of the situation" in the country, the 30 January "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Polokhalo added that his conclusion is evident from Kuchma's long-standing desire to dismiss Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko and the way in which this ouster was eventually accomplished. JM
'UKRAINE WITHOUT KUCHMA' PROTEST IN KYIV FENCED IN
The Socialist Party renewed its Ukraine Without Kuchma protest action on Independence Square in Kyiv by pitching five tents there on 29 January. Interfax reported the next day that the city authorities fenced in the tents as well as a part of the square at night, saying the move was caused by the beginning of construction works to erect a monument to Ukraine's independence. JM
GROWTH IN BANK LOANS REACHES DANGEROUS LEVEL IN ESTONIA
The Bank of Estonia said on 29 January that the 30 percent growth in loans issued by Estonian commercial banks last year could lead to serious imbalances in the future, ETA reported on 29 January. The combined loan portfolio of Estonian commercial banks surged last year to 34.13 billion kroons ($2 billion) at the end of December from 26.6 billion kroons at the end of 1999. AAP
'LASCO' SCANDAL POLARIZES LATVIAN PRIVATIZATION DEBATE...
Eizen Cepurnieks, the state proxy representing ruling coalition partner For Fatherland and Freedom (TB/LNNK) at the state-owned joint-stock shipping company Latvijas kugnieciba (LASCO), told LETA on 29 January that he will resign his office. Cepurnieks made his decision in accordance with a decision reached by the board of TB/LNNK, which recommended that Cepurnieks resign to avert a situation in which his statements could be used to blame the party for an unsuccessful public tender of LASCO. An official of Transparency International-Latvia made public charges by Cepurnieks that former Prime Minister Andris Skele, chairman of the Peoples' Party, attempted to bribe officials in the LASCO privatization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2001). Skele filed a request on 29 January that the prosecutor's office investigate the allegations made against himself and other officials, which he termed slanderous. Cepurnieks told reporters he was disassociating himself from statements made by Inese Voika, president of Transparency International-Latvia, concerning the bribery attempt, saying she "has spread hearsay." AB
...AS NEWSPAPER EDITORS ASK LATVIAN PRESIDENT FOR HELP
The editors in chief of several Latvian newspapers sent an open letter to President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on 29 January demanding that the Latvian Privatization Agency (LPA) adjust the LASCO tender requirements to make them "advantageous not only for the privatizers, but also for the state," LETA reported. The letter concludes that Latvia has a "label of a rather corrupt state" and that the LASCO case could "harm Latvia in the eyes of honest foreign investors." AB
DEBATE SET FOR RATIFYING LITHUANIAN WTO MEMBERSHIP
Lithuanian parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas said ratification of the agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be a top priority for lawmakers when they return for their spring session in mid-February, ELTA reported 29 January. Paulauskas told visiting WTO Deputy Director-General Paul Henri Ravier that Lithuania will actively participate in the WTO and not be "a gray mouse." Ravier stressed the need for regulations which assure equal rights for big and small states in the global trading system. "If there were no such rules, the law of the jungle would prevail with the biggest and strongest winning the fight," he said. Lithuania was the last of the three Baltic states to be approved for WTO membership, when President Valdas Adamkus signed official accession documents in Geneva on 8 December. The Lithuanian parliament is expected to ratify the 25 agreements by 1 May, officially making Lithuania a WTO member. AAP
LITHUANIAN ELECTRICITY EXPORTS TO BELARUS RENEWED
Lithuania restarted the first block of the Ignalina nuclear reactor on 29 January and renewed electricity exports to neighboring Belarus, BNS reported. The first power unit was stopped and put into reserve on 31 December following the termination of electricity exports to Belarus because of non-payments. The Soviet-style Ignalina power plant generates about 70 percent of Lithuania's electricity, but its first reactor is scheduled to be decommissioned by 2005. AAP
PROSECUTORS PROBE SALE OF POLAND'S LARGEST INSURER
Prosecutors have launched an investigation into the partial privatization of PZU, the country's largest insurance company, AP reported on 29 January. The Warsaw Prosecutor's Office said the probe intends to determine whether the Treasury Ministry neglected its duties during the sale process "in a way harmful to state interests." The government sold 30 percent of PZU to the European insurer Eureko and its Polish partner, BIG Bank Gdanski, for 3 billion zlotys ($730 million). The Treasury Ministry later accused Eureko of misleading the government about its intentions toward PZU and filed a court motion to invalidate the sale. Former Treasury Minister Emil Wasacz lost his job last year over the PZU privatization controversy. JM
POLAND'S TELECOMMUNICATIONS GIANT FINED FOR MONOPOLISTIC PRACTICES
The Competition and Consumer Protection Office has levied a fine of 54.1 million zlotys ($13.2 million) on Telekomunikacja Polska SA for the company's failure to abandon monopolistic practices, as demanded by the office in 1998, Polish media reported on 29 January. According to the anti-monopoly office, Telekomunikacja Polska SA -- which controls 98 percent of the fixed-line market and is the only long-distance provider in Poland -- has imposed excessive charges for long-distance calls, in this way covering a shortfall brought about by low charges for standard, monthly bills as well as for local call tariffs. The company announced it will dispute the office's decision in court, adding that it plans to cut long-distance charges by 14 percent as of 1 February. JM
TWO SEATS IN POLISH SENATE GO TO OPPOSITION CANDIDATES
Adam Rychliczek from the Peasant Party and Boguslaw Liwiniec, who is supported by the Democratic Left Alliance, won the 28 January by-elections to the Senate in the former Chelm and Wroclaw provinces, respectively, PAP reported on 29 January. Turnout was extremely low in both electoral districts: 11 percent and 4.5 percent respectively. JM
CZECH SENATE CHAIRMAN ARRIVES IN CUBA TO MEET WITH CASTRO OVER DETAINED CZECHS
Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart arrived in Havana on 29 January at the personal invitation of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, CTK reported. He said he was not aware of what the two Czech citizens, parliamentary deputy Ivan Pilip and former student leader Jan Bubenik, were doing in Cuba when they were detained 12 January, but that they did not represent "either the Czech people or the country" on their trip. On 18 January, Pithart wrote to Castro and personally assured him that neither of the two men is a U.S. agent. Castro responded on 24 January, inviting Pithart to Cuba to explain the details of the case to him in person. Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Hynek Kmonicek said that "This is the dialogue that we have waited for from the very beginning." DW
CUBANS CLAIM TO HAVE VIDEOTAPED CONFESSION BY DETAINED CZECH
Cuban authorities claim to have a videotaped confession made by Ivan Pilip, one of the two Czechs detained on charges of subversion, "Lidove noviny" reported on 29 January. On that tape, which was allegedly made during one of his first interrogations, Pilip gives details of who he met when and where in the U.S. before coming to Cuba, which Cuban authorities consider a "confession" of his "anti-Cuban" activities. DW
SVOBODA'S ELECTION TO HEAD FOUR PARTY COALITION NOT RESULT OF INTERNAL SPLIT
Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) Chairman Jan Kasal and the now former deputy chairman, Cyril Svoboda, who was surprisingly elected joint leader of the opposition Four Party Coalition last weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2001), dismissed speculation that the election of Svoboda to the post amounted to a defeat of Kasal, CTK reported on 29 January. Svoboda emerged as a compromise candidate after the Coalition's Political Council deadlocked on the original three candidates: Kasal's choice from the KDU-CSL, Jaroslav Kopriva; the chairman of the Freedom Union, Karel Kuehnl; and Michael Zantovsky of the Civic Democratic Alliance. Ratibor Majzlik, chairman of the Coalition's fourth member, the extraparliamentary Democratic Union, said that Svoboda's sympathies for the ruling Social Democrats had not harmed him, but that possible coalition partners would only be considered after the parliamentary elections in 2002. DW
SLOVAK PRESIDENT URGES ACCELERATED, RESPONSIBLE ADOPTION OF EU-RELATED LAWS
Rudolf Schuster on 29 January said the pace and quality of legislative work on the country's EU-related laws should improve, TASR reported. Schuster complained that newly passed laws often contradict the constitution or existing laws. Schuster met with Slovakia's deputy premier for European integration, Pavol Hamzik, who gave the president a list of 176 government priority tasks in 2001 in connection with EU integration. JM
SIXTH HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDER LEAVES PARLIAMENTARY GROUP
Laszlo Molnar on 29 January left the parliamentary group of the coalition partner Independent Smallholders' Party, saying he disagrees with the party's current affairs. Molnar has contacted the party's former deputy chairman, Zsolt Lanyi, and signed a statement of solidarity with those five, including Lanyi, who left the group last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2001). In other news, the Prosecutor-General's Office has received a tape recording indicating that Attila Torgyan, son of Smallholder chairman and Agriculture Minister Jozsef Torgyan, may have illegally received 3 million forints ($10,400) from a non-profit company owned by the Ministry of Agriculture. MSZ
U.S. APPEALS FOR PEACEFUL RESOLUTION IN SOUTHWEST SERBIA
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior State Department official said in Washington on 29 January that the U.S. condemns recent violence in the Presevo region and commends Serbian forces for using "restraint," Reuters reported. The official called for a full investigation into recent armed incidents. He added: "We strongly condemn all attempts to inflame tensions in the[buffer] zone and the surrounding areas. The United States again repeats to all parties that there is no military solution to this dispute, and we call on all parties to pursue political means to resolve their differences." The UN Security Council is slated to meet on 30 January to consider the Presevo violence. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and some other ranking Belgrade officials have suggested that the solution lies in allowing Serbian forces to enter the demilitarized zone. Ethnic Albanian leaders have called for reducing tensions by expanding the demilitarized area (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2001). PM
NATO: CONFIDENCE-BUILDING IS SOLUTION IN SOUTHWEST SERBIA
Unnamed NATO diplomats called for "confidence-building measures" and a "change of faces on the Serbian side" as steps toward reducing tensions in the Presevo region, Reuters reported from Brussels on 29 January. One diplomat added that local Serbs should replace outside Serbs in the local administration in order "to improve human rights" in the region. Ethnic Albanians have charged that Serbian forces moved into the area and exacerbated tensions following Belgrade's withdrawal from Kosova in 1999. PM
EX-YUGOSLAV OFFICIALS TO ATTEND U.S.
PRAYER BREAKFAST. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, and Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic have been invited to the upcoming traditional prayer breakfast in Washington with President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney, "Danas" reported on 30 January. This will be the first meeting of top-ranking former Yugoslav officials with the new chief executives of the United States. Croatian President Stipe Mesic also planned to attend but will not "because of a flu," "Jutarnji list" reported on 30 January. PM
MESIC, BILDT CLASH OVER EX-YUGOSLAV SELF-DETERMINATION
Mesic and UN Balkan envoy Carl Bildt took different stands regarding the right of peoples in the former Yugoslavia to self-determination, "Jutarnji list" reported from Davos on 30 January. Bildt said that further moves toward independence could lead to "destabilization" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2001). Mesic defended the rights of all former Yugoslav republics and provinces -- presumably meaning Montenegro and Kosova -- to independence on the basis of the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani also defended the right of Montenegro and Kosova to determine their own fates. He said that neither Yugoslavia nor Serbia can be truly democratic as long as their leaders try to keep control of territories whose people want self-determination. He said such a policy will lead to continued instability and possibly to violence, an RFE/RL correspondent reported (see "End Note" below). Bildt has been taking an increasingly visible profile in regional affairs in recent weeks. He wrote an article on the Balkans for the latest issue of "Foreign Affairs" that some observers believe outlines a major new role for himself. PM
OSCE NEEDS SIX MONTHS TO ORGANIZE KOSOVA VOTE
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana of Romania, which currently chairs the OSCE, told the UN Security Council that his organization will require six months to prepare for elections in Kosova. He stressed that it is vital that the UN first decide what kind of institutions and offices it intends to create before the vote can be organized, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 January 2001). PM
SERBIA TO HAVE LAW ON COOPERATION WITH HAGUE
Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Belgrade that his Yugoslav colleague Momcilo Grubac is preparing a text to define and regulate cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, "Danas" reported on 30 January. The daily added that Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte approves of the idea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2001). Batic argued that "The Hague is a political reality whether we recognize this or not. Ignoring the Hague tribunal is politically damaging," Reuters reported. Elsewhere, Kostunica said that Belgrade is developing its cooperation with the court on a "step by step" basis, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He told "The Wall Street Journal" in Davos that the matter of Milosevic will be clarified "in a few days." He stressed that his priority is establishing a democratic Serbia with secure borders, adding that "most of the other things are rubbish." PM
HAGUE, CROATIA DIVIDE WAR CRIMES CASES
Matijas Hellman, who heads the Zagreb office of the Hague court, said on 29 January that the tribunal will process up to 250 cases in Croatia. The court will "leave" an unspecified additional number of cases to the Croatian courts, dpa reported. Mesic recently decided not to release to the state archives presidential documents belonging to his predecessor, Franjo Tudjman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2001). His decision effectively bars the tribunal from access to Tudjman's tapes and transcripts, the news agency added. PM
MONTENEGRO TO ARREST VISITING KARADZIC
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a top Montenegrin police official told "Dnevni avaz" of 29 January that the police will arrest former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic if he tries to enter Montenegro. Karadzic's mother is seriously ill near Niksic, dpa reported. The Karadzic family, like the Milosevic family, is originally from Montenegro. PM
MONTENEGRIN PARTY BREAKS WITH ITS PRO-MILOSEVIC PAST
That is how "Danas" of 30 January reported the decision of Milosevic-loyalist Momir Bulatovic to resign the chairmanship of the Socialist People's Party (SNP), which will discuss its future at a congress on 24 February. The SNP's daily "Dan" carries the full text of Bulatovic's resignation, including a handwritten text. Predrag Bulatovic (no relation to Momir) said in Podgorica that the most important thing now is to maintain party unity, "Vijesti" reported. Predrag Bulatovic and Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic led the party in recent months out of Milosevic's camp and into that of Kostunica. PM
PETRITSCH: NO NEW PARTITION OF BOSNIA
Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the chief representative of the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, wrote in "The New York Times" that any new attempt at partitioning Bosnia would simply play into the hands of nationalists, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 29 January. He stressed that a multiethnic Bosnia is not an illusion. PM
ROMANIA TO TRY TO INVIGORATE THE ECONOMY BY CUTTING CORPORATE TAXES
Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase said on 29 January that the government will slash corporate taxes in an effort to induce private investment and stimulate the economy, AP reported. Nastase said after a government meeting in Bucharest on economic policy that his government wants to "open the field for private investment to create jobs and offer protection to the unemployed." He said the current 25 percent tax on corporate profits could be cut to as low as 5 percent for profits reinvested in the company. Nastase also pledged to simplify the tax system and the bureaucratic procedure for registering companies. PB
ROMANIA EXPECTS NEW LOAN AGREEMENT WITH IMF BY MAY
Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu said in Bucharest that he expects Romania to sign a new stand-by credit agreement with the International Monetary Fund by early May, AFP reported on 29 January. Tanasescu, fresh from a visit with IMF officials in Washington, said an IMF delegation will arrive in Bucharest soon to begin negotiations. Tanasescu said a new agreement with the IMF is important for boosting the country's credibility with foreign investors. Romania and the IMF had agreed to a $535 million credit arrangement in August 1999, but only slightly more than one-third of it has been disbursed before it was frozen last autumn because of Bucharest's slow pace in reforming the economy as prescribed by the IMF. PB
ROMANIAN PARTY OFFICIAL KILLED IN ROAD ACCIDENT
Horia Mircea Rusu, a parliamentarian from Sibiu and the vice president of the National Liberal Party, died on 29 January when his car collided with a truck near Talmaciu, Romanian Radio reported. Rusu, 47, was first elected to parliament in 1990, and was an early supporter of market and democratic changes in Romania after the 1989 revolution. PB
COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO EVALUATE MOLDOVAN SITUATION AFTER PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
Council of Europe officials monitoring Moldova have delayed their evaluation of the political situation until after the 25 February parliamentary elections. Vasile Nedelciuc, chairman of the Moldovan parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe, told Basa-Press on 29 January that the European legislators believe that a possible return of the Communists to power in Moldova could complicate relations with the rest of Europe. "We could face difficulties in our bid to join the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe," he said. He also said that Moldova needs to pay its membership dues to the Council of Europe -- which it has not paid since it joined in 1995 -- or risk losing its voting rights. DW
THREE PARTIES ACCUSE BRAGHIS ALLIANCE OF DISHONEST CAMPAIGNING
The leaders of the Democratic Party (DPM), Communist Party (MCP) and Party of Revival and Accord (PRAM) have complained to the Central Electoral Commission that the Braghis Alliance is violating democratic principles in its campaigning for the 25 February parliamentary elections, Infotag reported on 29 January. In a letter to the Commission, they charge that "electoral headquarters have been set up in the localities headed by deputy ministers, governmental department directors, or senior officials from the State Chancellery Office. Practically the entire system of the central executive power...[is] campaigning in favor of the Braghis team, and are continuing to perform their official duties." DW
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT HOLD URGENT MEETING WITH INTERIOR MINISTER OVER CRIME
Petar Stoyanov convened an emergency meeting on 30 January with Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov and other security officials to discuss ways to fight a growing crime wave in the country, AP reported. The meeting came hours after a 16-year-old girl was shot to death in downtown Sofia. Stoyanov called the recent upsurge in violent crimes "alarming facts that should not be underestimated," and called for "fast and decisive measures" to stop the violence. Last week, five men were killed in various parts of the country in what seemingly is a battle between criminal syndicates. Yordanov denied the existence of "a gangster war in Bulgaria" but did admit that the crime rate rose 4.7 percent in 2000 as compared to the previous year. PB
Balkan Leaders Debate Conditions For Stability
By Breffi O'Rourke
On 28 January, Presidents Vojislav Kostunica of Yugoslavia, Rexhep Meidani of Albania, Stipe Mesic of Croatia, Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria, and Boris Trajkovski of Macedonia plus Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek of Slovenia gathered within the framework of the Davos World Economic Forum to discuss how to create stability in their region. While the six men took turns to present their views, the attention of the audience -- perhaps naturally -- was focused on Vojislav Kostunica, the man carrying the responsibility of bringing Serbia back to good standing in the world community.
In the event, Kostunica's comments were low-key and cautious. He started by saying that at last the Balkans might be turning a page in its history toward stability because of the continuing involvement of the European Union. He spoke about the difficulties Yugoslavia faces in trying to contribute to Balkan stability. He mentioned the legacy of a planned economy, the burden of international sanctions, and the damage done by the conflict with NATO over Kosova.
Kostunica said in view of these circumstances Yugoslavia's main contribution to regional stability lies in the restraint it is exercising in various situations, such as in the Presevo Valley, where international peacekeepers are trying to contain a guerrilla campaign by ethnic Albanians. He said Yugoslavia also looks to have good relations with all its neighbors.
Answering a question from the audience about nationalism in Serbia, Kostunica said Serbia is still able to call itself a multiethnic country, unlike Bosnia, which has been divided. And he praised the role of Russia in the Balkans, which he said balances the influence of the EU and United States.
By contrast, the comments by Albanian President Rexhep Meidani were more to the point. Meidani, who was sitting next to Kostunica, said the region continues to have a problem of political instability. He referred to Kosova and Montenegro, the independence-minded junior partner of Serbia in the Yugoslav federation. He said neither Yugoslavia nor Serbia can be truly democratic as long as their leaders seek to keep control of territories whose people want self-determination. He said such a policy would lead to continued instability and possibly to violence. He said the future of Kosova and Montenegro cannot be built on what he called concoctions of federalism.
Meidani said Serbian leaders also need to be reminded of their international obligations, including those to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Croatian President Stipe Mesic said the first condition for stability in the region is to face the truth of what really happened during the past decade. He said full cooperation with the Hague tribunal is necessary, and will clear the way for the future to develop.
Macedonia's Trajkovski said that for stability, there must be reconciliation among the Balkan countries themselves. He explained that in Macedonia's view, the Balkan situation is not definitely settled, and he pointed to the fragility of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the status of Kosova and the Yugoslav federation. He called for dialogue on these matters, and said the region will need constant attention from the EU. He also said regional cooperation was no substitute for eventual EU membership for Balkan nations.
In answer to a question about the risks of rising ethnic tension inside Macedonia, Trajkovski said his country has a long tradition of interethnic tolerance which he said will continue: Bulgarian President Stoyanov said he fears the issue of Kosova's status, if it remains unresolved, could be a stumbling block in the way of continued democratization in Serbia, because of the tension it would produce in political life. And he said that it was originally thought that democracy in Serbia would solve the problem of the status of Kosova, in that it would satisfy the ethnic Albanian Kosovars. But Stoyanov said that no longer appeared true.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who also participated in the debate, spoke of the greater maturity of the whole region, saying that there now exists the political framework for building regional stability.
Speaking in the capacity of Greece as an EU member, he reiterated that the EU is in principle not in favor of further fragmentation of states in the Balkans. He said that's Brussels' position on Montenegro, but that if it and Serbia wanted to go ahead and separate, then that was up to them.
He also asserted Greece's role as a bridge-builder between the EU and the Balkans: "We have lived through a transition over the past 20 years in becoming part of Europe and recently part of the monetary union, we know both sides of the coin, and I think that is a unique experience from our side to help both Europe and the Balkans in this integrative process," Papandreou said.
Breffni O'Rourke is a senior editor with RFE/RL in Prague.