DUMA APPROVES LAW ON ADMISSION OF NEW MEMBERS INTO RUSSIAN FEDERATION
The Duma adopted on final reading on 30 November legislation on the procedure for accepting new members into the Russian Federation and the creation of new constituent entities, RIA-Novosti reported. According to the law, new constituent entities do not require "common borders with the Russian Federation." Another provision states that no new member of the federation can hold special status or privileges over old constituents. Valerii Goreglyad, the leader of the Federation faction within the Federation Council, said the new law will allow four to five new countries to join the Russia-Belarus Union, and that the most likely candidates are Moldova, Armenia, and Kazakhstan, Interfax reported the same day. Abkhazia asked in October to be admitted. VY
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES MERGER OF UNITY AND FATHERLAND INTO PRO-KREMLIN PARTY
In his address to participants of the inauguration of the new political coalition Unity and Fatherland, which consists of members of the Unity, All Russia, and Fatherland political parties, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted on 1 December that "the period of political radicalism in Russia has passed into history," and "consolidation of centrist political forces is a sign of the times," Russian news agencies reported. "Today Russia needs parties that...will consistently defend the rights and interests of the citizens. Only then will you truly be able to become the party of the majority, "The Moscow Times" quoted Putin as saying. However, Putin avoided associating himself directly with the new party or agreeing to chair it as some members of the convention proposed. "Although this party has members with high positions in the state hierarchy, it still has to earn the right to be called a party of power," Putin said in explaining his position. VY
PUTIN DISMISSES NAVAL COMMANDERS OF NORTHERN FLEET
President Putin announced after meeting on 1 December with Russian naval commander Vladimir Kuroyedov and Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov that he has dismissed Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, the commander of Northern Fleet; Vice Admiral Mikhail Motsak, the fleet's chief of staff; and 12 other admirals for "serious violations in the functioning of the navy discovered during the investigation of the incident with the nuclear submarine "Kursk," Russian news agencies reported. Although the investigation into the sinking of the "Kursk" is continuing, there is no substantiated proof that the catastrophe was caused by a collision with another vessel, Putin added. The two dismissed admirals and their subordinates were known as staunch proponents of the "foreign submarine" explanation for the sinking, and lost their jobs because they continue to see NATO as the "Russian navy's only threat and enemy," the BBC reported on 1 December. Meanwhile, Chief of the armed forces General Anatolii Kvashnin confirmed to Ekho Moskvy radio on 1 December that Popov and Motsak were punished not for the "Kursk" disaster, but for general mistakes in commanding the fleet. VY
GENERAL STAFF SAYS RUSSIA DOES NOT NEED NATO
Russia's entrance into NATO is not feasible, since the country can defend itself on her own. However, Russia wants to have direct participation in security decision-making in Europe, Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii, the chief of the main operational directorate of the general staff, told "Krasnaya zvezda" on 30 November. At the same time, the Russian military is engaged in a dialogue with its American counterpart that will intensify in 2002, Baluevskii said. He said that in purely military terms, the success of the campaign of the antiterrorist alliance in Afghanistan is predetermined, but [made it clear that] this does not mean victory over terrorism. The Islamic extremists, especially foreign mercenaries, will continue to resist, and restoring security will not an easy matter, Baluevskii concluded. VY
RUSSIA AND U.S. REACH COMPROMISE ON IRAQI SANCTIONS
A compromise reached by the Russian and U.S. delegations to the UN concerning so called "smart sanctions" against Iraq have allowed the UN Security Council to extend the sanctions until the second half of 2002, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 November. In a compromise, Moscow agreed to adopt more severe restrictions on imports to Iraq of dual-use civil and military technology, including equipment from Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry. In return, the United States softened its position on conditions for lifting the embargo against Saddam Hussein's regime. VY
SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS NOTE CIS ACHIEVEMENTS OVER FIRST DECADE...
Russian President Putin told fellow CIS presidents (including Turkmenistan's Saparmurat Niyazov, who was absent from the last three summits in November 2000 and June and August 2001) at the CIS 10th anniversary summit in Moscow on 30 November that in the 10 years of its existence the CIS has served as "a necessary and inevitable" vehicle for integration between the post-Soviet states, and that it has scored successes in the fight against terrorism, cross-border crime, and drug trafficking, Russian agencies reported. The summit participants, who at Putin's invitation included his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, adopted several joint statements, including one that identified as the commonwealth's overriding priority "the common quest of its members states for stable socioeconomic development and dignified integration into the world community." They also called for improved cooperation among their security agencies to provide concrete support for the CIS antiterror center. LF
...BACK PLANS FOR CIS ECONOMIC ZONE
A further major priority for the CIS, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov told the summit participants on 30 November, is expediting the creation of a CIS economic zone that would embrace all CIS states, ITAR-TASS reported. CIS presidents endorsed a draft program on creating such a zone in April 1994, but little was done to implement those plans until Boris Berezovsky undertook an energetic campaign to revive the scheme during his brief tenure in 1998 as CIS Executive Secretary (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1998). Meanwhile, on the eve of the Moscow summit, Kazakh Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev again raised the prospect, discussed at length by Kazakhstan's National Bank Chairman Grigorii Marchenko in an article in "Izvestiya" in February 2001, of introducing a single CIS currency. LF
ARABS WANT TO INVEST IN RUSSIAN MEDIA
The ambassador of the Palestinian Autonomy in Moscow, Khairi Oridi, told "Izvestiya" on 30 November that many Russian newspapers are too pro-Israeli, and that in an effort to change this situation Arab capital might be used to invest in Russian mass media. Oridi added that such investment would go to "purely Russian newspapers, friendly to Arabs." VY
RUSSIA PROMISES TO SUPPORT OPEC
Speaking in Tokyo on 2 December, where he headed a visiting Russian business delegation to Japan, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, said that next month Russia may meet OPEC demands and reduce exports of oil substantially more than the current reduction of 50,000 barrels per day, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia is concerned not by the amount of the reduction in production, but that oil prices stay within a price range of $20-25 per barrel, Khristenko said. VY
GOVERNOR OF SAKHALIN TAKES HARD LINE ON KURILES ACCORD
Sakhalin Oblast Governor Igor Farkhutdinov, who is visiting Japan with Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko, said that any Japanese protest about Russia's sale of fishing quotas around the disputed Kurile Islands is "interference in Russia's internal affairs," regions.ru reported on 30 November. Moreover, the validity of the Soviet-Japanese Declaration of 1956, under which Moscow undertook an obligation to return two of the islands to Japan, is doubtful, Farkhutdinov said. VY
RUSSIAN INVESTMENT ABROAD EXCEEDS FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN RUSSIA
The State Statistics Committee has announced that Russian companies invested $13.41 billion abroad in the first nine months of the year, while only $9.72 billion was invested in Russia by foreign companies, RBK reported on 30 November. In 2000, the amount of direct Russian investment abroad ($11.52 billion) similarly exceeded the sum of foreign capital into Russia ($7.89 billion). VY
TOP SECRET HEAD DENIES CHANGE OF OWNER
Veronika Borovik-Khilcheskaya, the head of the mass media holding Top Secret, which owns the investigative weekly "Versiya," said that media leaks about the purchase of the magazine by Russian steel magnate Aleksei Mordasov are not true, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 30 November. She also denied that "Versiya" has instigated an investigative campaign directed against President Putin. The source of those rumors is Mezhprombank head Sergei Pugachev, who has a commercial interest in destroying the reputation of Top Secret in order to gain favor with the president, Borovik-Khilcheskaya told the daily. VY
DEPUTIES PASS 2002 BUDGET...
State Duma deputies passed the 2002 budget on third reading on 30 November. The bill was approved with 291 votes in favor, 16 against, and one abstention, RIA-Novosti reported. Changes introduced to the bill since the second reading include an amendment providing for a mechanism that protects the budget from sharp fluctuations in world fuel prices. According to the amendment, the government will delay the spending of 68.6 billion rubles ($2.3 billion) from the budget if revenues fall short of projections. According to "The Moscow Times" on 30 November, if the world oil price drops below $16.50 per barrel, the government will forego setting up a planned financial reserve for future debt payments. Currently, the draft budget assumes the average price of oil will be $23.50 per barrel. JAC
...BUT TACK ON AN ITEM ON ELECTRICITY RATES
Additional changes made during the reading include increasing spending on certain items if budget revenues are higher than projected. For example, some 8.2 billion rubles ($275.5 million) more will be spent on the energy industry and construction in that sphere, 14 billion rubles for road infrastructure, 4.5 billion rubles for agriculture and fishing, and 1.9 billion rubles for education. According to polit.ru, deputies made one change over the government's objections by passing an amendment to the budget bill that requires the government to confirm by 15 January 2002 limits on electricity and heating rates for the remainder of the year. The budget, unlike other pieces of legislation, must go through four readings. The final reading is scheduled for 14 December. JAC
ANOTHER REGIONAL LEADER CALLS FOR ELECTING SENATORS
In an interview with Interfax on 1 December, Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev said he does not approve of the current system for forming the Federation Council. He said the current principles "do not express the spirit of parliamentarism, and today's chamber cannot fully express the interests of the regions" because the majority of the new senators live in Moscow and have "only an approximate understanding of how people in the regions really live." Aushev called for introducing amendments to the Federal Constitution that would make membership in the Federation Council an elected position like that of Duma deputies. Meanwhile, Mordovia's legislature confirmed on 22 November YUKOS deputy board Chairman Leonid Nevzlin and German Petrov, the deputy presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, as the republic's representatives to the Federation Council, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 30 November. JAC
DIAMOND OLIGARCH BACK IN THE RACE...
The Federal Supreme Court reinstated on 30 November the candidacy of ALROSA head Vyacheslav Shtyrov in the 23 December presidential race in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic. And on 1 December, Sakha's Electoral Commission fulfilled the court's decision, Interfax reported. The commission is also holding off on canceling the registration of three other candidates, which Sakha's Supreme Court had ordered until the Federal Supreme Court renders its decision. Commenting on the election situation in the republic, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov charged that the Sakha Supreme Court's recent rulings have "discredited" it. He noted that the consideration of complaints against incumbent President Mikhail Nikolaev have been "artificially delayed," since the maximum time for considering a complaint is 10 days while the delay in Sakha has lasted for one month. JAC
...AS MOSCOW CUTS OFF MONEY FLOW
Also on 30 November, the Audit Chamber announced results of its investigation into how the city of Lensk was restored following a devastating flood in May. Auditor Mikhail Surkov announced that as a result of the audit, more than 500,000 rubles ($16,801) from the republic's budget have been frozen. RTR television noted that the auditors have not named those "guilty of financial violations," but for the time being, "the whole Yakutian government occupies the role of unscrupulous customer." In a report on 22 November, Mikhail Sokolov, political correspondent for RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, citing an unnamed Kremlin source, reported that opinion about the election is divided within the presidential administration. There is a minority that is willing to resign itself to the re-election of Nikolaev to a third term, while there is another faction that supports ALROSA head Shtyrov. These officials are convinced that Shtyrov is ready to transfer a significant package of shares in ALROSA to Moscow. JAC
DUMA DEPUTY SAYS MOSCOW CONDUCTING CAMPAIGN OF PRESSURE AGAINST TATARSTAN
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 November, State Duma deputy Fandas Safiullin (Russian Regions) said Moscow is guilty of using pressure and legal attacks during the process of seeking the harmonization of the constitutions of Tatarstan and Russia. According to Safiullin, Moscow is trying "to drive all of the republics into one barn," and thus form a unitary state. Safiullin added that a recent article in the newspaper "Zavtra" represented a direct call for an anti-Tatar pogrom addressed to Russians living outside of Tatarstan, many of whom he claims are ignorant about Tatarstan and Tatars. The daily claimed that Tatars have destroyed a monument to Ivan the Terrible in Kazan; Safiullin noted that most Russian citizens are unaware that such a monument has never existed in the city. Meanwhile, several of Safiullin's colleagues in the State Duma have filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court challenging the provision of the Tatar Constitution that requires the president to speak both Russian and Tatar. JAC
DEPUTY MILITARY PROSECUTOR GUNNED DOWN IN CHECHNYA
Lieutenant Colonel Roman Grigorian, the deputy military prosecutor of the combined Russian forces in Chechnya, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Argun on the evening of 2 December, Russian agencies reported. LF
CHECHENS DENY LINK BETWEEN KHATTAB, CAPTURED FIELD COMMANDER
Chechen spokesmen have denied that field commander Abu Sayakh, whose capture President Putin announced at the CIS summit on 30 November, was an aide to Jordanian-born field commander Khattab, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 2 December. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed on 1 December that Abu Sayakh, who was seriously wounded in fighting near Bachi-Yurt, was in charge of transferring foreign funds from Georgia to Chechnya and was implicated in the kidnapping of several Georgian citizens, Interfax reported. But Georgian local police chief Menzer Berukashvili told Caucasus Press the same day that he knows by name all those persons engaged in such abductions, and Abu Sayakh is not one of them. LF
RUSSIAN, SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS MEET
Russian President Vladimir Putin met 30 November on the sidelines of the CIS summit in Moscow with the presidents of the three South Caucasus states to discusses regional conflicts, security issues, and the international fight against terrorism. Putin held a separate 90-minute meeting with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev, to discuss the Karabakh conflict, but Aliev told journalists on his return to Baku the following day that those talks yielded no results, according to Turan. Aliev also expressed regret that at all CIS summits to date Armenia has managed to prevent the adoption of a formal condemnation of "aggressive separatism and terrorism" in Karabakh, according to Interfax. Contrary to expectations, Aliev and Kocharian did not meet one-on-one to discuss Karabakh. Putin also met separately with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and various aspects of bilateral relations, including the fate of the remaining Russian military bases in Georgia, energy cooperation, and the planned new framework treaty between the two countries. Shevardnadze subsequently told journalists that the meeting constituted "a turning point in Georgian-Russian relations." LF
ARMENIAN ENERGY PRIVATIZATION FAILS FOR SECOND TIME
The second attempt by the Armenian government to privatize four energy distribution networks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 April 2001) failed when no foreign company submitted a bid by the 30 November deadline, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Energy Minister Karen Galstian told journalists in Yerevan that the sole bidder to have expressed serious interest, Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES), informed the Armenian government on 29 November of its intention to withdraw from the tender on the grounds that it had not had enough time to prepare a proposal. Galstian denied that EES withdrew because the Armenian government turned down its proposal to take over the four networks in return for writing off most of Armenia's $94 million debt to Russia. LF
AZERBAIJAN EXTRADITES SUSPECTED SAUDI TERRORISTS
Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry, acting together with its counterparts from other unnamed countries, has extradited three citizens of Saudi Arabia believed to be involved in terrorist activities, Turan reported on 1 December. The men were in Azerbaijan illegally. Last month Azerbaijan extradited two Egyptian citizens on similar grounds. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS CIS PEACEKEEPERS MAY REMAIN IN ABKHAZIA...
In a major concession to Russian interests that may exacerbate his relations with the Georgian parliament, President Shevardnadze told a press conference in Moscow on 30 November that the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone should remain there "as long as necessary," Caucasus Press reported on 1 December. The Georgian parliament voted in October to demand the peacekeepers' immediate withdrawal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2001). But Shevardnadze pointed out that at present "neither the Georgian nor the Abkhaz people are so far prepared to live in peace," and that no other international contingent is available to fill the vacuum that would be created by the withdrawal of the CIS force, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze also denied at the same press conference that Georgia intends to quit the CIS. LF
...AS DISAPPEARANCE OF FUNDS TO PAY THEIR ALLOWANCES REGISTERED
Over $50 million intended to pay the daily $20 allowance due to each member of the Russian armed forces serving under the CIS aegis in the peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone has disappeared without a trace, according to "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 29 November. It is not clear whether the funds were never transferred by the Finance Ministry to the Defense Ministry, or whether they were diverted by the Defense Ministry for other purposes. That force numbers some 1,600 men and has been deployed in Georgia since mid-1994. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES CANDIDATE FOR PROSECUTOR-GENERAL...
By a vote of 196 to four, parliament deputies approved Nugzar Gabrichidze as prosecutor-general on 30 November, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2001). Gabrichidze, a 51-year-old trained lawyer, began his career in the Interior Ministry, transferring in 1980 to the Prosecutor-General's Office. LF
...BUT NOT ECONOMIC MINISTERS
Although the parliament bureau endorsed on 30 November President Shevardnadze's candidates for the posts of Finance, Economy, and Tax Revenues Ministers (Zurab Nogaideli, Giorgi Gachechiladze, and Levan Dzneladze), a vote on their suitability was thwarted for lack of a quorum, Caucasus Press reported. Meanwhile, former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili accused his fellow parliament deputies of lacking principles by endorsing candidates from the outgoing government whom Shevardnadze nominated to their old posts. Also on 30 November, Giorgi Pruidze withdrew his candidacy for the post of State Property Management minister, saying he prefers to remain first deputy minister. LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S OPPOSITION DEMANDS PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION
Meeting in Almaty on 30 November, the opposition parties aligned in the Forum of Democratic Forces for the first time publicly demanded the resignation of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. They also condemned the pressure exerted on parliament deputy Bolat Abilov, who was expelled last week from the pro-Nazarbaev OTAN party for expressing support for the new opposition movement Democratic Choice (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November 2001), to surrender his deputy's mandate. LF
KYRGYZSTAN TO CONSULT WITH CIS STATES ON GRANTING ANTITERRORISM COALITION USE OF ITS AIR BASES...
Kyrgyzstan will consult with Russia and other CIS states before making a decision on how to respond to requests by France, Italy, and Canada for the use of its air bases for the duration of the fighting in Afghanistan, presidential foreign policy adviser Askar Aitmatov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 30 November. Aitmatov said that no Western military experts have yet inspected either the airfield at Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan or that at Kant near Bishkek in the north. On 1 December, however, the Kabar news agency reported that U.S. experts have inspected Kant and pronounced it unsuitable for use by Western aircraft, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF
UZBEKISTAN PLEDGES REFORM IN RETURN FOR U.S. AID
Visiting senior Uzbek government officials pledged in a joint statement signed on 30 November with the U.S. Export-Import Bank to accelerate economic reform in return for U.S. aid, Reuters and dpa reported. Those reforms will include making Uzbekistan's currency fully convertible, something that President Islam Karimov has repeatedly pledged but never implemented. Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister Sodyq Safarov said the U.S. aid package in question is worth $100 million. It is not clear whether that aid is contingent on Uzbekistan abandoning its systemic abuses of human rights. The "Frankfurter Rundschau" on 3 December quoted European experts as arguing that the amounts of Western aid currently being channeled to the Central Asian states far exceed what can be immediately used. LF
BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS WARN AGAINST RESTRICTIVE DRAFT MEDIA LAW
The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) said that the draft media law that will soon be debated by the National Assembly calls for serious curbs on the freedom of the press, Belapan reported on 30 November. BAJ lawyer Mikhail Pastukhou said the bill, if adopted in its current form, would ban any mentioning of the activities of unregistered political parties and nongovernmental organizations in the media, whereas the current law only bans publishing statements on behalf of such parties and organizations. The draft bill provides for a simplified court procedure for closing a newspaper. To ban a newspaper, a judge would only have to establish the lawfulness and validity of warnings issued to the newspaper by an authorized governmental agency. The draft bill also bans media outlets from receiving financial support or equipment from foreign organizations and individuals as well as from anonymous sources. JM
BELARUS TO OBTAIN $70 MILLION FROM RUSSIA, BUT ON CONDITIONS
The Russian government is planning to provide a total of $70 million in state loans to Belarus in 2001 and 2002, Belapan reported on 1 December. Minsk may receive up to $30 million in 2001 if the government sets customs duties on the export of crude oil and oil products on a level with the rates applied in Russia. Moscow also made its loans conditional on Belarus's switchover to a competitive procedure of state purchases and stopping credit support to loss-producing agricultural enterprises. JM
NEW SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY LAUNCHED IN BELARUS
Some 130 delegates, all defectors from Mikalay Statkevich's Belarusian Social Democratic Party (National Assembly), set up a Belarusian Social Democratic Party at their congress in Minsk on 2 December, Belapan reported. Alyaksey Karol, who was elected leader of the new party, criticized Statkevich for pursuing an authoritarian style, abandoning social democratic positions, and seeking unjustified compromises with the authorities. Apart from Statkevich's and Karol's organizations, there is one more social democratic party in Belarus, which is led by Stanislau Shushkevich. JM
UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY'S REGIONAL OFFICE PLEDGES PROTECTION TO JOURNALISTS
"Holos Ukrayiny" reported on 1 December that the Interior Ministry's directorate in Cherkasy Oblast has taken "unprecedented measures" to protect local journalists. According to the Cherkasy police department, every editorial board and every local correspondent working for a national paper "will permanently be protected by the heads of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's directorate in Cherkasy Oblast, the chief of the ministry's special services, and the ministry's district and city directors." Thirty-six journalists in Cherkasy have already received protective aerosol gasses from law-enforcement agencies, while the police department is pledging to issue permits that would allow members of the media to carry guns that fire rubber bullets. JM
NTV-UKRAINE TO START IN JANUARY 2002
Ukrainian media mogul Vadym Rabynovych has announced that a new television company, NTV-Ukraine, will go on air in January 2002, Interfax reported on 30 November. Rabynovych said 90 percent of the company's staff will be made up of Ukrainians and 10 percent of Russians. "The new channel will be an information channel, the policy of [Russia's] NTV will be preserved, this is the main thing. We will select topics together when we do the news. We consider ourselves the junior partner of the Russian [NTV television]," Rabynovych said. Rabynovych also said NTV-Ukraine will be bilingual, but added: "Making a new television program, we know that 99 percent of Ukraine's people want to watch Russian channels and read Russian newspapers." JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT HAILS 1991 INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM AS HISTORIC EVENT
Leonid Kuchma said the 1 December 1991 referendum in which more than 90 percent of Ukrainians supported the country's independence was "a historic event not only for Ukraine but also the world," Interfax reported. "If there had been no referendum, there would have been no independence," was a comment from independent Ukraine's first president, Leonid Kravchuk, who was elected to his post by some 62 percent of voters on the referendum day (see "End Note" below). JM
KUCHMA'S AIDE CONFIRMS HE WILL HEAD ELECTION BLOC
Presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn on 1 December said he will head the For a United Ukraine election bloc, Interfax reported. Rumors and announcements that Lytvyn will lead the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine in the 31 March 2002 parliamentary election have been reported in Ukrainian media for several weeks (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, Ukraine Report," 27 November 2001). Asked why he was so slow in confirming his decision, Lytvyn said: "I have been reading the press [where everybody seemed to know] what I was thinking while I actually did not." President Kuchma said the same day that Lytvyn's main task in the parliamentary election campaign is to ensure the creation of a pro-government majority in the new parliament. JM
EUROPEAN SOCIALISTS GATHER IN ESTONIAN CAPITAL
The Party of European Socialists (PES) held a conference in Tallinn on 30 November and 1 December to discuss the foreign and security policy aspects of EU enlargement and the role of the Baltic states in it, BNS reported. The Moderates, a PES associate party, was a co-organizer of the event, the first PES conference in the Baltic states. Moderates Chairman and Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves called on the EU to fulfill its promises in the final stage of the talks on admission of new members as "It won't be fair to seek additional excuses and pretexts to put the brakes on the accession process." PES Chairman and former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, while admitting that no country should be allowed to join the EU before being completely prepared, said that Estonia will have no problems being ready for entrance to the EU in 2004. SG
LATVIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 2002 BUDGET
The parliament by a vote of 62 to 31, with six abstentions, approved the national budget for 2002, LETA reported on 30 November. The budget is based on the predictions that GDP will rise by 6 percent and inflation will be 3 percent in 2002. It envisions revenue of 1.52 billion lats ($2.43 billion) and expenditures of 1.66 billion lats ($2.66 billion). The anticipated budget deficit of 140 million lats is around 2.45 percent of GDP. The deficit is the largest in recent years, and is deemed to be excessive by the International Monetary Fund (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2001), which noted that Latvia earlier agreed that the deficit would not exceed 1 percent of GDP. SG
LITHUANIAN, POLISH FOREIGN MINISTERS HOLD TALKS
Antanas Valionis and Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz met informally in the resort city of Druskininkai on 1 December, BNS reported. It was Cimoszewicz's first trip to Lithuania as foreign minister, although he visited in 1996-1997 when he was premier. The ministers discussed a wide range of issues including the integration of their countries into the European Union and Polish support for Lithuania's membership in NATO. They set a date to meet with experts later this month to discuss an agreement on the spelling of Lithuanian and Polish names. Lithuania suggests that all names should be transliterated without using diacritics, while Poland supports the use of diacritics. The discussions on establishing a spelling system were opened in 1997, but were discontinued in 1999 following disagreements. The ministers also spoke about relations with neighboring Belarus and Russia, and Russia's bordering Kaliningrad exclave. SG
POLISH MINISTERS QUESTIONED OVER BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS
Prosecutors have questioned Foreign Minister Cimoszewicz and Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski in connection with Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper's allegations that they accepted bribes, PAP reported on 2 December. Speaking to the Sejm on 29 November, Lepper suggested that Cimoszewicz accepted $120,000 and Szmajdzinski at least $50,000 in illicit payments earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2001). Meanwhile, the youth wings of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance and the opposition Law and Justice, as well as other youth groups, have called on journalists to "isolate" Lepper, who is a threat to Polish democracy in their opinions. "Today, using ploys such as 'I am just asking and not accusing,' it is possible to libel people with anything. The severest accusations can see the light of day without any proven bases," the groups said in a joint statement in reference to Lepper's charges. JM
POLISH, CZECH PREMIERS DISCUSS ECONOMY, EU
Polish Premier Leszek Miller and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman discussed EU integration, economic cooperation, and prospects for joint defense projects during their meeting in Warsaw on 30 November, PAP reported. "Poland is vitally interested in fast integration. We talked about streamlining our activity in this respect so the accession talks can end next year and our countries could join the EU in 2004," Miller said. Zeman called the Polish government's recent concessions regarding the EU talks "courageous and helpful in speeding up the negotiations." JM
U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT UZBEK DISSIDENT'S DETENTION IN PRAGUE
The U.S. Congress's Helsinki Commission on 2 December said it is "concerned" about the detention in Prague of Uzbek dissident Mohammad Solih and his possible extradition, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2001). Michael Ochs, the commission staff adviser responsible for the Caucasus and Central Asia, said in an e-mail to the news agency that Uzbekistan does not have an independent judiciary and the commission fears his trial in that country will not be fair and that he might be tortured. On 30 November, a Prague court ordered Solih's detention pending the arrival of documentation demanding his extradition, which must reach the court within 40 days, CTK and international agencies reported. A decision will be made by the court after those documents arrive or Solih will be freed on the 41st day after his detention, a spokeswoman for the court said. Meanwhile, a lawyer representing Solih said he is requesting political asylum in the Czech Republic. Solih has already been granted political asylum by Norway, which earlier refused to extradite him to Uzbekistan. MS
CZECH PRESIDENT WOULD SUPPORT STRIKE AGAINST IRAQ
In an interview with CNN on 2 December, Vaclav Havel said he would support a strike against Iraq if the world community decided such action was necessary in its efforts to combat international terrorism. Havel said he is "no friend of bombing," but does not rule it out if, "in extreme cases," such steps are necessary to protect human rights and freedom. Havel also said suspected terrorist Muhammad Atta, who died in the attacks against the United States on 11 September, visited the Czech Republic on two occasions -- once in 2000 and once this year -- but that he cannot confirm that Atta was planning a terrorist attack against the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague because there are no recordings of his conversations with the Iraqi diplomat who was later expelled from the Czech Republic. Havel also said he welcomes the improvement in relations between NATO and Russia, but that it is necessary to "consider how this friendship should be organized in practice." He also said former Soviet Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian Boris Yeltsin are among his "personal friends," and that "they are not yet appreciated as they should be." MS
TEMELIN UPGRADE TO COST $27 MILLION
Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 30 November denied media reports that the upgrades to the Temelin nuclear power plant agreed on with Austria one day earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2001) will cost $2.7 billion, and accused the media of "sensationalism," CTK reported. Zeman said the actual expenditures will be some $27 million. On 2 December, Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer told Austrian TV that Vienna will not cover the upgrading expenses, since "safety standards are part of the investment," and that the costs should be borne by the Czech power utility CEZ, which owns Temelin. On 30 November, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said the Brussels agreement on Temelin is "certainly not the last step" in the dispute, as his country and the EU will now have to make sure commitments undertaken by Prague will be implemented. Deputy Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer, the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, said the Brussels deal is a "first step" that can serve as the basis for further negotiations. MS
PRIVATE CZECH TV DISCONTINUES BROADCASTS
The private TV-3 Czech channel discontinued broadcasts on 2 December and ran text onscreen saying it was doing so as a result of a 20 November decision by the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasts, CTK reported. The text said broadcasts will be "definitely ended" on 6 December. On 20 November, the council began debates on allegations that TV-3 has been involved in illegal broadcasts, and the council's Deputy Chairman Petr Stepanek said fines of millions of crowns might be imposed on the station. Council Chairman Martin Muchka told CTK the decision to interrupt the broadcasts was "hasty." He said TV-3 had been warned that its broadcasts were not respecting legislation and that corrective measures should be taken by 5 December. In September, a dispute reminiscent of that at Nova TV broke out between TV-3 and the holder of the station's broadcasting license, Martin Kindernay, after the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasts refused to transfer the license to the Luxembourg firm KTV, which is owned entirely by Kindernay. Kindernay later asked for a license transfer to the Czech RTV Galaxie, and that request was approved. Experts said the new dispute may end in international arbitration, as the council did not have the right to refuse the transfer of Kinernay's license to KTV. MS
MECIAR'S PARTY AHEAD IN SLOVAK REGIONAL ELECTIONS
Former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has won -- either independently or in alliances with other parties -- most of the seats in Slovakia's regional parliaments in 1 December elections, CTK reported. The HZDS won all 45 seats in the Trencin region, 24 out of 40 mandates in the Trnava region, and 31 out of 52 seats in the Zilina region. In the Banska Bystrica region, where the HZDS ran in coalition with Smer (Direction), the alliance won 22 out of 49 seats, and in the Presov region the same alliance took 30 out of 60 seats. In the Kosice region, an alliance of the HZDS with the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) and the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) won 10 out of 57 seats, placing second after the alliance formed by the Slovak Democratic Christian Union (SDKU) with the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and Smer (24 seats). In the Nitra region, the SMK won 31 out of 52 seats, followed by a local HZDS-SDL-Smer-SOP-Center Party alliance. The right-wing alliance formed in the Bratislava region by the SDKU, the Christian Democratic Movement, the SMK, the Democratic Party, and ANO won 40 out 46 seats, with the HZDS in second place with five seats. The HZDS thus has 76 out of the 401 by itself and alliances of which the HZDS is a member hold 115 more seats. Only one regional head, Lubo Roman of the right-wing alliance, won an absolute majority and was elected in the first round in the Bratislava region. A runoff is to be held between the top two candidates in the seven other regions on 15 December. Turnout was 26 percent. MS
HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS LAMENT 'FOUR LOST YEARS'...
The opposition Socialist Party on 30 November presented a list of charges against the current FIDESZ-led government under the title "Facts and Lies." The document, which is based on data from the Central Statistics Office, was presented during a video conference in Budapest and 19 other cities. Party Deputy Chairman Ferenc Juhasz described the past four years as "lost years," and said that the government is misleading Hungarian society with its unrealistic statements. He recalled that the government promised 7 percent economic growth for 1998, which became 4.2 percent in 1999, 5.2 percent last year, and 3.9 percent this year. The missed opportunities have cost the country 1,000 billion forints ($3.5 billion), which, Juhasz said, could have doubled the salaries of teachers and health care workers, or built 800 kilometers of highways. He also recalled that inflation was 9.8 percent last year, not the 6.3 percent promised by the government. The latest Gallup public opinion poll gives the FIDESZ-Democratic Forum alliance a 49-37 percent lead over the Socialists among decided voters, and a 34-26 lead among all respondents. Another survey, carried out by TNS Modus polling agency, shows that the alliance is supported by 45 percent of decided voters, as opposed to 40 percent for the Socialists. MSZ
...MAKE U-TURN ON CAMPAIGN FUNDING
The Socialist Party will not vote to raise campaign spending limits, as agreed earlier with FIDESZ, because other parties do not support the change, "Vilaggazdasag" reported on 3 December. FIDESZ and the Socialists had agreed to double the ceiling on party campaign spending from the present 386 million forints ($1.3 million) to 772 million forints, and in case of individual candidates from 1 million forints to 2 million forints (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2001). FIDESZ Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader Robert Repassy said this is not the first time that the Socialists have reneged on an agreement. In other news, consultations among all six parliamentary parties on 30 November failed to reach agreement on amending the constitution to facilitate the movement of allied troops in Hungary and the deployment of Hungarian soldiers abroad. However, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi remained optimistic that an agreement can be reached. A possible compromise is that the deployment of Hungarian troops abroad would remain under the authority of parliament, but a decision on the matter could be made with immediate effect and with a simple majority, instead of the present two-thirds minimum. MSZ
CSURKA SLAMS DECISION BY HUNGARIAN CALVINIST CHURCH SYNOD
Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) spokesman Bela Gyori said on 30 November that more than 10 Calvinist pastors who are MIEP candidates for the 2002 parliamentary elections decided to suspend their pastoral activities rather than withdraw from politics. The Calvinist Church synod decided last week that pastors must not engage in political activity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 November 2001). MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka called the synod's decision "a sad fact and a sick distortion of the past, atheist 45 years." He said the synod stigmatized Calvinist pastor Lorant Hegedus Jr., a MIEP deputy, as if it had been "directly done on orders from the World Bank and according to Free Democrat requirements." Observers said the MIEP often uses "Free Democrats" as a synonym for "Jewish." MSZ
BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER: KARADZIC, MLADIC SHOULD TURN SELVES IN
Speaking to Bosnian federation television from Banja Luka on 2 December, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said that Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic should voluntarily surrender to the UN's war crimes tribunal in The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 November 2001). Ivanic stressed that this would be the best way for the two men to "defend their ideas." The prime minister also called on the media to launch an open discussion about what happened during the 1992-1995 conflict, AP reported. PM
MLADIC LIVING ON SERBIAN ARMY BASE?
Reporting from Belgrade on 1 December, Reuters quoted an unnamed "Serbian source" as saying that Mladic briefly returned to Bosnia from Belgrade after the Serbian authorities extradited former President Slobodan Milosevic in June. The general has allegedly since come back to Serbia and is living on an unspecified army base under military protection. Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 3 December that the story has attracted the attention of the Belgrade media, even though its source is unclear. PM
BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT: NO WAR CRIMINALS HERE
Bosnian Serb President Mirko Sarovic said that neither Karadzic nor Mladic are in the Republika Srpska, AP reported from Belgrade on 1 December. He added: "We have stressed to all international organizations, including the tribunal that...our findings indicate that no one of those publicly indicted for war crimes is in [the] Republika Srpska... I can say with full responsibility that not a single state body, not a single institution in [the] Republika Srpska, is helping anyone publicly indicted by the tribunal." PM
OSCE: KARADZIC STILL ADVISING BOSNIAN SERB PARTY
Robert Beecroft, who heads the OSCE mission to Bosnia, told "Dnevni avaz" that the leadership of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) continues to maintain contact with Karadzic, who was its founder, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Sarajevo on 1 December. PM
NATO TROOPS, UN POLICE ARREST BOSNIAN EXPLOSIVES DEALERS
Italian SFOR troops and international police arrested two Bosnian Croats, one Bosnian Muslim, and one Yugoslav citizen in Kiseljak near Sarajevo for illegal trading in arms and explosives, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Sarajevo on 1 December 2001. Police denied earlier reports that the men were in possession of radioactive materials. Kiseljak was a center for mafia activities, including arms trading, during the Bosnian war. The town was Croatian-held, but criminals of all three nationalities openly did business with each other during the conflict. PM
MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CABINET
The legislature voted on 30 November to approve Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's new cabinet, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2001). Dosta Dimovska, who is a former interior minister and now deputy prime minister, will take charge of organizing the gradual return of Macedonian civilians and police to formerly guerrilla-held areas. She stressed that this will take place in close coordination with OSCE monitors and the NATO troops who guard the civilian monitors. PM
MACEDONIA RECOGNIZES KOSOVAR PASSPORTS
The government in Skopje has decided to recognize the passports issued to Kosovars by the UN civilian administration in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 1 December. The passports are accepted by most West European countries, the U.S., and Australia, but not by Belgrade. PM
NATO DETAINS SIX IN KOSOVA ARMS SWEEP
KFOR troops conducted Operation Iron Fist at several locations in Kosova on 1-2 December, Reuters reported. They collected a quantity of small arms and arrested six men for illegal possession of weapons. The purpose of the exercise was to show that KFOR has "become unpredictable" and plans to focus on fighting organized crime and terrorism. PM
KOSOVA'S SERBS PLAN POLITICAL STRATEGY
Politicians and media in Kosova and Serbia are freely speculating about possible coalitions in the newly elected legislature, "Vesti" reported from Belgrade on 3 December. Rasim Ljajic, who deals with interethnic relations for the Belgrade government, noted that many options are under discussion by the political parties and coalitions represented in the parliament. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for Kosova and Presevo, stressed that the Serbian Povratak (Return) coalition is "a serious coalition, and we demand offers in writing," Reuters reported. Local Serbian leader Oliver Ivanovic said that "our aim is the return of displaced persons and the economic development of Kosovo as a region of Serbia." He stressed that the local Serbs "have the support of the Yugoslav authorities and the international community" to take an active role in the parliament. Kosovar Serb leader Rada Trajkovic said time has come for Serbs and Albanians to overcome the "bloody war and bloody wall between us" and jointly "resolve problems of crime, human trafficking, and illegal trade in arms, drugs, and property." PM
SERBIAN PATRIARCH TO VISIT KOSOVA
Leaders of the Povratak coalition met with Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle in conjunction with their political strategy meeting in Belgrade, "Vesti" reported on 3 December. It was decided that Pavle will visit Pec, the site of the medieval patriarchate, on 9 December to administer the oath of office to the 22 Serbian deputies in the Kosova parliament. He told his visitors that the times awaiting them in Kosova are arguably the toughest in the history of the Serbian people in the province. PM
EX-GENERAL RETURNS TO MONTENEGRO FROM THE HAGUE
Retired Yugoslav General Pavle Strugar returned to Podgorica from The Hague on 1 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The general surrendered to the tribunal voluntarily in October and was released against guarantees from the Montenegrin government pending the start of his trial, which is expected to be in late 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001). Strugar, who suffers from kidney problems, is one of four former top commanders wanted in conjunction with the 1991 shelling of Dubrovnik. He maintains that he is innocent and that he will win his case. PM
HAGUE SAYS SERBIA FINANCED WARS THROUGH GREEK, CYPRIOT BANKS
Reuters reported from The Hague on 30 November that chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte will soon call on several banks in Cyprus and Greece to provide records of accounts allegedly used by Milosevic to finance his wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova. Several Greek and Cypriot banks have previously claimed that they did not serve as channels for Milosevic's funding projects. In related news, the tribunal plans to try Milosevic under all three indictments -- one each for Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova -- in a single trial. PM
ALBANIAN POLICE ARREST HUMAN TRAFFICKERS
Police have arrested a couple after discovering that they were housing 10 illegal immigrants -- all Turkish Kurds -- in their home near Tirana, AP reported from the Albanian capital on 1 December. The Kurds have since been deported back to Turkey. Meanwhile in Vlora, police have detained 30 Kurds waiting to cross the Adriatic Sea to Italy. The government is under strong pressure from Italy and other EU countries to stem the flow of human traffic and smuggled goods across its territory. PM
ROMANIAN PREMIER PLEADS AGAINST ISOLATION
On the last day of his visit to France, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 30 November said Romania has already paid a heavy price for Europe's post World War II division among the great powers and could suffer once again if EU expansion does not include all candidate countries, Romanian radio reported. Nastase said Romania has also paid a price for the West having used dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to drive a wedge in the Warsaw Pact while closing its eyes to Ceausescu's internal policies. The price for those "autarchic" policies in the economic realm, Nastase said, was paid for by Romanian society, which now finds itself lagging behind candidates that did not have to go through this experience. Nastase said he is not pleading for allowing Romania to forego the "technical criteria" for EU membership, but expects from the EU "a clear message of encouragement, bearing in mind the [economic] sacrifices still lying ahead." He praised the proposals of French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, calling them "an appeal to coherence" in the policies of EU enlargement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2001). MS
ROMANIAN NATIONAL DAY MARKED WITHOUT INCIDENTS IN TRANSYLVANIAN TOWN
Romania's National Day was marked without incident in Miercurea Ciuc in the presence of Chamber of Deputy Chairman Valer Dorneanu and Sports and Youth Minister Georgiu Gingaras, Romanian media reported. Miercurea Ciuc Mayor Csaba Istvan Csedo, one of the signatories to the appeal to boycott the festivities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2001) participated in the ceremony wearing an armband with the colors of the national flag rather than the black armband the appeal had urged ethnic Hungarians to wear in mourning on 1 December. Csedo said on 30 November he "made a mistake" in signing the appeal, and attributed the mistake to "pressure" exerted by UDMR Senator Csaba Sogor, a member of that formation's "radical group." UDMR Honorary Chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes, considered to be the actual leader of the group, told MTI on 30 November that the celebrations organized in Miercurea Ciuc may trigger an interethnic conflict against the background of "the latest propaganda campaign launched against the Szeklers" by the central authorities. On 30 November, President Ion Iliescu said the appeal was "an infringement of the law, which calls for appropriate legal measures," and "a strident display of an unacceptable extremist nationalism." MS
TRANSYLVANIAN CHURCH LEADERS DEMAND THAT ROMANIA BE MONITORED AGAIN
While meeting in Cluj on 2 December, the leaders of the Hungarian "historical churches" in Transylvania asked the European Parliament to resume its monitoring of Romania, Mediafax reported. The leaders of the Reformed, Evangelical, Lutheran, Unitarian, and Roman Catholic Hungarian churches in Transylvania said the parliament must monitor the situation of the national minorities' churches, as well as the government's delay in restituting confiscated church properties. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT OPENS OSCE MINISTERIAL MEETING
President Iliescu told OSCE foreign ministers meeting in Bucharest on 3 December that Romania's current OSCE rotating presidency offers an opportunity to display the country's "responsibility, maturity, and capability to solve the problems confronting the Euro-Atlantic region," Mediafax reported. He said the OSCE must develop a "common system of pledges and values that are essential for the development of democracy and to become a main instrument of "preventive diplomacy" in the event of conflicts. In regard to international terrorism, the organization must improve "political solidarity" among its members, readiness to take joint action against terrorist networks, elimination of the sources of terrorism, and encourage regional initiatives for preventing terrorism. Prior to his speech, Iliescu received French Foreign Minister Vedrine and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. The OSCE is meeting to debate ways to counter the global terrorist threat and will issue a joint declaration on the matter. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will arrive in Bucharest on 4 December to attend the gathering. MS
EUROPEAN COMMISSION RECOMMENDS LIFTING VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR ROMANIANS
The European Commission on 30 November recommended lifting the visa requirement on Romanian citizens who visit EU countries as of 1 January 2002, Romanian radio reported. The recommendation is to be discussed by an ad hoc EU committee of interior ministers, which in turn will have to consult with the European Parliament before making a decision on the matter. The commission's report said Romania has made "significant progress" in meeting the conditions imposed by the EU for lifting the requirement. MS
ROMANIA DECORATES RFE/RL PRESIDENT, DIRECTOR, VETERAN JOURNALISTS
President Iliescu on 30 November decorated with different orders RFE/RL President Thomas Dine, Director of Broadcasting Jeff Trimble, and five veteran journalists of the Romanian Service, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The ceremony commemorated 50 years of RFE/RL broadcasts. Iliescu said the honors represent "a sincere, though perhaps belated" acknowledgment of the fact that "Romania's history in the years of the totalitarian regime cannot be written without emphasizing the role played by the station on our lives under the conditions then prevailing." He said RFE/RL had been Romania's "window to the normal world outside," and a source of "adequate and pluralist information." In his speech, the president mentioned the still-unclarified circumstances surrounding the deaths of three directors of the Romanian Service (Noel Bernard, Mihai Cizmarescu, and Vlad Georgescu), physical attacks on other journalists working for RFE/RL, and the 21 February 1981 terrorist attack on RFE/RL when it was headquartered in Munich. Iliescu said the authorities are fully collaborating with "competent international forums" to fully explain the circumstances of those incidents. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DENIES INTENTION TO VISIT MOLDOVA
Presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu denied that President Iliescu will pay an official visit to Moldova in December, Flux reported on 30 November, citing Mediafax. Cretu said Iliescu's agenda for December "is already heavily loaded." Last week, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin announced that Iliescu would be visiting in December. MS
MOLDOVA TO ACCEPT 'TATARSTAN MODEL?'
Andrei Neguta, chairman of the Foreign Policy Commission of the Moldovan Parliament, told RFE/RL on 30 November that Moldova can apply the "Tatarstan model, with some reservations," as an instrument to solve the conflict with the separatists. Neguta said the "reservations" are in reference to the stipulation of "two subjects." He said that in Moldova there can be "only one subject -- Moldova itself." Tatarstan is a subject of the Russian Federation, whose own constitution declares that its republican legislation supercedes federal legislation. However, in 2000, the Russian Constitutional Court declared that the republic's provision was in conflict with the Federal Constitution, and ruled that the articles in Tatarstan's Constitution stipulating the independence and sovereignty of Tatarstan must be revised. Returning from his last visit to Moscow, President Voronin said the "federalization solution" based on the Tatarstan model may be considered, and that the same solution has been advocated by Russian Ambassador to Moldova Pavel Petrovskii. MS/JAC
MOLDOVA DEMANDS THAT NO OBSERVERS BE SENT TO TRANSDNIESTER 'PRESIDENTIAL' ELECTIONS
The Foreign Ministry in Chisinau distributed among diplomatic missions and international organizations working in Moldova a note calling on them not to delegate any observers "to the so-called presidential elections in the Transdniester" on 9 December, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. "This election is a renewed attempt by the region's leadership to prove the Transdniester regime's legitimacy, a proof of the separatist leaders' intention to establish an independent state," the note said. It further stated that the elections "undermine efforts by the Moldovan authorities, backed by the EU, to politically resolve the conflict by working out a special status for the Transdniester region as an integral part of Moldova." MS
RUSSIA BEGINS ARMS WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA
The first trainload carrying rockets for Uragan multiple rocket-launchers left the separatist region on 1 December, ITAR-TASS and Flux reported. The separatist authorities refrained from preventing OSCE mission members from reaching Kolbasna, as they had in the past, and the members of the mission were able to verify the departure of the train. OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff said three more trainloads carrying ammunition will leave over the next three days, in line with the provisions of the OSCE Istanbul November 1999 summit. The withdrawal of heavy arms has already been completed and Russia must now withdraw or destroy its 42,000 rounds of ammunition stationed in the region by the end of 2002. MS
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENT OF RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
President-elect Georgi Parvanov, in an interview with ITAR-TASS on 30 November, said he "would be glad to see [Russian] President Vladimir Putin in Bulgaria." Parvanov said he hopes that by "joint efforts," he and Putin "will be able to do all in our power to revive the [good] relations between the two countries." He said it is important that the dialogue between Sofia and Moscow be "frank," adding that the Bulgarians "are concerned by the serious deficit in foreign trade with Russia in the last few years." A deficit of $1.2 billion, Parvanov said, "is a heavy burden for a small state such as Bulgaria." In order to improve relations, he added, both sides should "show readiness for mutual compromises." MS
ROMANIAN MINISTERS VISIT BULGARIA
Visiting Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu and his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Svinarov told journalists on 30 November that the decision by the United States to use the Bulgarian airfield at Burgas as a refueling base during the conflict in Afghanistan serves the interests of both Bulgaria and Romania by highlighting the strategic importance of the region as a whole, BTA and Mediafax reported. The two ministers discussed cooperation in the struggle against international terrorism and said they are ready to cooperate with Greece and Turkey in providing aid to Afghan citizens affected by the crisis. Svinarov and Pascu also said their air forces will cooperate in airspace management and in guarding important industrial and strategic facilities in their border region, such as the Kozloduy and the Cernavoda nuclear power plants. The same day, visiting Romanian Interior Minister Ioan Rus and his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Petkanov signed a cooperation agreement in Russe on combating organized crime, human trafficking, narcotics trading, and international terrorism, and a second agreement on cooperation between the countries' border police. MS
UKRAINE'S INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM 10 YEARS ON
On 1 December 1991, the fate of the USSR was sealed when 90.3 percent of Ukrainians voted in favor of confirming the declaration of independence from the USSR adopted by the Ukrainian parliament on 24 August. The failure of the badly organized hard-line putsch on 19 August irrevocably weakened unelected Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. At the same time, it bolstered the importance within the collapsing Soviet state of the Russian Federation and its president, Boris Yeltsin.
The Russian Federation was the only republic of the USSR that failed to declare independence between August and December 1991. Right up until the fateful meeting at the Belavezha Forest hunting lodge in Belarus on 7-8 December between the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, Russia continued to support the transformation of the USSR into a confederate Union of Sovereign States (USS). The meeting at Belavezha Forest led to the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the jubilee summit of which was celebrated in Moscow last week.
As the second-largest Soviet republic, Ukraine's 1 December referendum on independence pushed Russia to reluctantly accept that the "renewed federal" USSR and confederate USS options were dead in the water. Leonid Kravchuk, the wily high-ranking Ukrainian communist who shifted to the national cause in 1990, was elected president on the same day as the referendum. The national democrats and Rukh initially opposed the idea of a referendum because they feared that it would not obtain the constitutionally required two-thirds support, especially in Russified Eastern Ukraine. But the referendum went ahead and obtained majority support in every oblast of Ukraine, even in the Crimea, although there it received its lowest support.
The referendum was important psychologically because it annulled the outcome of the March 1991 all-Union referendum on preserving a "renewed federation" and gave legitimacy to the Ukrainian state. The preamble of the June 1996 Ukrainian Constitution refers to the August and December 1991 declaration and referendum as "guiding" the Ukrainian state.
On the 10th anniversary of the signing of the declaration of independence on 24 August, 6,000 military and security forces and 300 pieces of military equipment paraded through downtown Kyiv. A giant obelisk bearing the inscription "Glory to Ukraine" was unveiled in the same spot where Kyiv's largest statue of Lenin had stood until 1991. A gala concert and the third World Congress of Ukrainians also took place on the same date.
These festivities failed to hide the somber mood on the 10th anniversary, as domestic and foreign commentators discussed the last decade in terms of "lost opportunities." Opinion polls on the anniversary found that two-thirds of Ukrainians would again vote for independence, but that one-third would oppose it. This third of Ukrainians, according to a June poll, would support Ukraine's unification with Russia and are probably the same who in a January poll identified themselves as belonging to the "Soviet people." This two-thirds/one-third division has remained consistent throughout the 1990s.
Ukrainian-language use overall has increased over the past decade, not at the expense of Russian, but by Ukrainians becoming more bilingual outside the Donbas and Crimea, where Russian dominates, and Western Ukraine, where Ukrainian does. Russian has been squeezed out only in Galicia. Ukrainian-language education has made tremendous strides outside the Donbas and the Crimea, especially in kindergartens and schools, and less so in higher education. In the print and broadcast media and book publishing though, use of the Ukrainian-language has declined proportionately to Russian. President Leonid Kuchma made clear in his anniversary speech that Ukrainian will remain the only state language.
The two-thirds of the Ukrainian population who support independence do not necessarily hold a positive view of what transpired over the last decade, but rather consider that the alternative (a return to the USSR) would be far worse. An August poll found that 69.3 percent of Ukrainians believe the economic situation has worsened in the last decade. The collapse of GDP by one-half until last year's growth, the high rates of hidden unemployment, large wage arrears, and worsening health services have together served to discourage families from having children. Male life expectancy has fallen and the population has plummeted by 3 million. Some 80.5 percent believe crime has increased, and 79.8 that corruption has risen. Annual capital flight is estimated at $3 billion.
At an gala concert held in commemoration of the anniversary of the 24 August confirmation of the declaration of independence, President Kuchma claimed that he has "demonstrated to Ukrainian society and the entire world my dedication to the lawful, generally accepted democratic principles of resolving problems." But the nongovernmental organization Freedom House's authoritative annual "Nations in Transit" survey for 2001 shows an alarming trend in Ukraine's democratic regression (and that of other CIS states) since 1997, when the survey began. According to the August poll, 44.1 percent of Ukrainians believe that democracy in Ukraine is even worse than in the former USSR. Only 6.6 percent hold a positive view of the last decade, while a striking 61.4 percent feel a sense of shame for Ukraine.
Although Ukraine has many democratic trappings, it still remains very Soviet. Its leaders feel they have no need to take responsibility for their actions or have any duty toward their citizens and electors. A personality cult has steadily grown, in which portraits of President Kuchma adorn every official office, medals and honorary doctorates are handed out to the faithful, books by Kuchma authored by ghost writers are published, and delegates to congresses are hand-picked.
These policies have both contributed to, and fail to conceal, Kuchma's growing unpopularity. As he admitted in his anniversary address on 24 August: "There is still much to be done to strengthen the public's confidence in the authorities." If this was a difficult task prior to the "Kuchmagate" crisis that erupted in November 2000, it now seems Herculean. When Kuchma told the World Congress of Ukrainians that he had nothing to do with the death of Heorhiy Gongadze, the opposition journalist found dead in November 2000, he was heckled with cries of "Shame!" and "Kuchma Out!" Kuchma left the podium before Levko Lukyanenko, a former dissident who spent three decades in the Gulag and is now a member of the Yuliya Tymoshenko opposition election bloc, gave an impromptu speech that called for the president's resignation.
Ten years on, there is no question that Ukraine will remain an independent state. Its borders are recognized by all of its neighbors, a post-Soviet constitution is in place, and the illegality of Soviet passports since 1998 all testify that there is no going back to the USSR. But, if Ukraine is not going backward, it continues to remain unclear where the country is in fact going, both domestically and internationally, or whether it is standing still while others are moving forward. Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Centre for International and Security Studies, York University.