U.S. TO PROVIDE $50 MILLION TO RUSSIA FOR DESTRUCTION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy to the Volga federal district and head of the State Commission for Chemical Disarmament, said following his talks in Washington with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that the U.S. agreed to allot $50 million to speed up the destruction Russia's chemical weapons arsenal, NTV reported on 30 January. The bulk of the funds will be invested in the construction of a facility for that purpose, according to Kirienko. The U.S. had earmarked $600 million to help Russia destroy over 40,000 tons of chemical weapons, but stopped bankrolling the project because Russia had failed to keep its obligations within the framework of the agreement. VY
SKEPTICS QUESTION PREMIER'S ECONOMIC COURSE
Yabloko faction leader Grigorii Yavlinsky told "Vremya novostei" on 30 January that the economic measures developed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's government merely imitate reforms. "Does raising railroad tariffs by 35 percent, or cutting electrical power from customers [indicate] a sign of economic reform?" he asked rhetorically. Yavlinsky claimed that the perceived economic success of Kasyanov's government is in fact based on favorable prices of hydrocarbons and a "cheap" ruble resulting from its devaluation in 1998. While many Russian exporters became richer, the country as a whole has become poorer, Yavlinsky concluded. Meanwhile, Institute of Globalization Director Mikhail Delyagin told an economic symposium in Moscow that the "time of spontaneous economic growth has expired," a reality he said Kasyanov's government has refused to grasp, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 January. VY
SPORTS CHANNEL EYES TV-6'S FREQUENCY...
LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov and Russian Olympics Committee President Leonid Tyagachev have signed a cooperation agreement under which the oil major will be an official partner of the Olympics Committee and be allowed use of its official logo, Interfax-AFI reported on 30 January. However, the same day, LUKoil announced that it will not participate in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting rights, although it did not discount the possibility that one of its sister companies, such as LUKoil-Garant, might do so, according to polit.ru. The same day, the TV sports channel 7-TV announced that it intends to participate in the TV-6 tender, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said she thinks it would be expedient to establish a new federal sports channel on the basis of the 7-TV station, Interfax reported. JAC
...AS MOSCOW COURT REJECTS TV-6 COMPLAINT
Also on 30 January, a Moscow arbitration court rejected a complaint by the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK), TV-6's parent company. MNVK had complained about court bailiffs' actions in turning off the station's electricity on 21 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 22 January 2002). JAC
RUSSIA CONSIDERS FOREIGN POLICY OPTIONS
Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy head of the Duma Foreign Relations Committee, said in response to U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union address that Russia and the world community hope that the United States will seek "more political, but not forceful, solutions to international security issues," polit.ru reported on 30 January. He went on to say that Russia has three options for its own foreign policy strategy: to accept U.S. global leadership without argument; to adapt Russian policy to that of the U.S. while keeping its own interests in mind; or to try to create its own security system in alliance with China, India, and Japan. VY
PRESIDENT DECRIES HEALTH DEGRADATION IN RUSSIA...
Speaking on 30 January at the meeting of the State Council devoted to national health and sport issues, President Vladimir Putin said the decline of the population's health has seriously harmed Russia's economy and demographic balance, Russian news services reported. Putin cited a World Health Organization report that gave Russia a 1.4 rating on a five-point scale for "coefficient of a population's vitality" -- a ranking lower than those received by Somali and Haiti. He added that as a result of the poor health of Russia's workforce, the country is spending 3 percent of salary funds on sick pay. In addition, the number of people suffering from chronic diseases continues to grow, and the number of men up to age 40 who smoke has increased from 25 to 70 percent over the last five years, according to Putin. VY
...AND URGES REVIVAL THROUGH SPORTS
At the same meeting, Putin also noted the declining health of Russia's youth, a trend he said can only be reversed through the development of the country's sports programs. In this context he proposed the creation of a national Sports Council to be overseen by the presidential administration. In addition, the president said he will sign a decree to provide financial support to 1,000 leading Russian athletes as well as for the construction of 1,000 sport and recreation centers in the regions. The costs of the latter project will be covered from both state and local budgets. Finally, Putin proposed that in 2003 the Soviet-era athletic games known as Spartakia be revived, and announced that he has directed the government to adopt a federal program aimed at training young athletes. VY
BEREZOVSKY'S BUSINESS PARTNER STRIKES BACK AT FSB
Badri Patarkatsishvili, the business partner of Boris Berezovsky who has been accused by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of embezzling Aeroflot funds and using them to help finance "terrorists" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2002), struck back in a letter published in "The New York Times" on 30 January. Patarkatsishvili compared Putin with former Peruvian strongman Alberto K. Fujimori, who in 1997 forced independent Frecuencia Latina TV owner Baruch Iher to leave Peru after he had criticized Fujimori's regime. "Similarly, the Russian Federal Security Service -- the real power behind President Vladimir V. Putin -- declared war against NTV and TV-6 for reporting on carnage in Chechnya," Patarkatsishvili wrote. "Thus, Boris A. Berezovsky, Vladimir V. Gusinsky, and I, owners of the independent Russian networks, are living abroad and are facing extradition requests on trumped-up charges." He expressed optimism that, as was the case in Peru, the Russian people "will eventually reject the transformation of their country into a banana republic." VY
RUSSIAN CUSTOMS INTERCEPTS ILLEGAL NUCLEAR WASTE FROM JAPAN
The Customs Service intercepted an illegal shipment of nuclear waste at a Primorskii Krai port on 30 January, RIA-Novosti reported. The 346-ton shipment originated from Japan and had been declared as aviation motors and spare parts to be sent to a local import-export company. However, during a routine inspection the customs officers detected that the cargo had a radioactivity level that was 150 times higher that normal. After opening the cargo and discovering nuclear waste, they sent the shipment back at the expense of the addressee. VY
CHANGES IN STORE FOR STATE DUMA
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 29 January that a "real" change of power in the State Duma is expected to occur in February, as the pro-Kremlin majority challenges the leadership of the lower house's apparatus, Nikolai Troshkin. Troshkin was originally appointed by State Duma speaker and member of the Communist faction Gennadii Seleznev. Troshkin is suspected of conducting "political intrigues" that benefited the Communists, according to Sergei Ivanenko, a Yabloko deputy. According to Mikhail Sokolov, chief political correspondent of RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Vasilii Volkovskii was recently deposed as chairman of the Duma's Regulations Committee and was expelled from the Unity faction because Volkovskii was "either unwilling or unable to pass a resolution deeming Troshkin's work unsatisfactory." JAC
FEDERATION COUNCIL CHOOSES ITS LEADERS...
Members of the Federation Council voted on 30 January to approve a new set of standing rules of order. The vote was 151 in favor to three against, with four abstentions. Also approved were nominations for leadership posts in the upper chamber. The first deputy chairman is now Valerii Goreglyad (Sakhalin Oblast), while the deputy chairs are Andrei Vikharev (Kurgan Oblast), Mikhail Nikolaev (Sakha Republic), and Aleksandr Torshin (Marii-El Republic). Also confirmed were the new heads of the chamber's 16 committees and seven commissions (for a full listing, see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 4 February 2002). Five new committees were created, according to Interfax. The new rules forbid the creation of political factions or groups and require the chamber to convene no less than twice a month. Senator/oligarch Sergei Pugachev was not given the chairmanship of a committee, although earlier news reports suggested that he was campaigning energetically for such a posting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2002). JAC
...AMID COMPLAINTS OVER LACK OF ALTERNATIVES...
Ramazan Adulatipov, the representative from Saratov and a member of the Federation group, told Interfax that he is dissatisfied with the leadership elections, as they were not elections in the true sense because no alternatives were offered. He also asserted that the new rules unnecessarily limit the range of responsibilities of Federation Council members. The same day, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov repeated his belief that the upper chamber should become an elected body. Regarding the distribution of leadership posts, Mironov said that the final list of candidates was the result of "a compromise" and represented candidates with the most experience and professionalism. He added that it is necessary to "have equal representation of senators appointed by the executive and legislative branches." However, of the leadership posts on the committees, 13 are representatives of the executive branch and only three are from the legislative branch. And of the leadership posts on the commissions, five are from the executive and only two are from the legislative branch. Of the four deputy speakers, three are from the executive and one from the legislative branch. JAC
...AS FAR EAST REGION SELECTS ITS REPRESENTATIVE
On 30 January, Primorskii Krai's legislature finally managed to select a candidate to represent it in the Federation Council. According to Interfax-Eurasia, regional legislators selected Mikhail Glubokovskii, a former State Duma deputy from the Yabloko faction. The same day, council members approved bills amending the law on military responsibility and service, and the law on education, which gives students up to 20 years of age who are seeking secondary education a deferment from military service. JAC
FEDERAL PROPAGANDA EFFORT AMONG MUSLIMS STYMIED BY LACK OF FUNDS?
Ravil Gainutdin, the chair of the Muslim Religious Board for European Russia, has alleged that financial difficulties at RTR and Kultura were behind the recent failure to air a number of Islam-related programs, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 30 January, citing islam.ru. Gainutdin revealed that he has persuaded executives at Kultura to resume one program, while his board has allocated $4,000 to maintain the "Voice of Islam" program on Radio Rossii. JAC
DIRECT AIR LINK BETWEEN LONDON AND SVERDLOVSK IN THE WORKS
British Airways has reached an agreement with Urals Aviation to open an airline route between London and Yekaterinburg starting before the end of this year, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 30 January. According to a British Airways official, the route was in the works for some time but was slowed by the economic crisis in Russia and terrorist acts in the United States. JAC
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT TELEPHONES KAZAKH, UZBEK COUNTERPARTS
Vladimir Putin telephoned President Nazarbaev on 30 January to discuss unspecified aspects of bilateral relations, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin also telephoned Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov to congratulate him on this 64th birthday that day, according to Interfax. Putin and Karimov also discussed bilateral and multilateral cooperation in Central Asia. LF
ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS DECLINE TO JOIN NEW LEFT-WING BLOC
The Armenian Communist Party (HHK) announced on 30 January that it will not, after all, become a member of the recently formed Socialist Armenia bloc that groups together five other small extraparliamentary left-wing parties, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. HHK First Secretary Vladimir Darpinian told journalists that some provisions of Socialist Armenia's founding manifesto contradict the HHK's ideology. He specifically objected to the use of the term "democratic socialism," arguing that "socialism cannot fail to be democratic." The HHK was represented at the press conference last month at which the founding of Socialist Armenia was announced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). Meanwhile, leading members of other parties aligned in Socialist Armenia accused the Armenian National Security Ministry of thwarting its efforts to find suitable premises to hold the bloc's founding congress, which was scheduled for 30 January, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
GEORGIA, RUSSIA AGREE TO LAUNCH JOINT OPERATION IN PANKISI GORGE...
During talks in Tbilisi on 30 January, visiting Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo and his Georgian counterpart Nugzar Sadzhaya reached agreement on launching a joint operation to neutralize criminals and Islamic extremists in the Pankisi Gorge in northeastern Georgia, Russian agencies reported. Georgian officials have hitherto ruled out a combined operation in Pankisi involving Russian army troops. Rushailo also told a press conference after his talks with Sadzhaya that a joint Georgian-Russian commission will be established to organize the return to Chechnya of an estimated 7,000 Chechen refugees currently living in Pankisi. It is not clear whether that repatriation will be voluntary. Also on 30 January, Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili said he sees no need to send any more Interior Ministry troops to Pankisi. On 31 January, Georgian Deputy National Security Minister Giorgi Todua was killed during an exchange of fire in the Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. Details of the incident are unclear. LF
...AS REPORTS OF NEW AIR RAIDS IN WESTERN GEORGIA NOT CONFIRMED
Georgian parliament deputy Iveri Chelidze claimed on 31 January that several unidentified aircraft entered Georgian airspace early that day and dropped bombs in the Georgian-inhabited upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge, which was the target of similar bombing during fighting last fall between Abkhaz government troops and what is believed to have been a detachment composed of Chechen militants and Georgian guerrillas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 17 October 2001). The Georgian Frontier Guards have not confirmed the 31 January report. LF
FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER SENTENCED FOR JAILBREAK
A Tbilisi district court on 30 January sentenced Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister under deceased former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, to an additional 10 months in jail for his escape in October 2000 from a Tbilisi prison hospital, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 3, 4, and 13 October 2000). Absandze and five other fugitives were recaptured within two weeks; six others remain at large. Absandze is serving a six-year sentence on charges of embezzlement and of participating in Gamsakhurdia's abortive 1993 attempt to return to power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2001). LF
ANOTHER KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY UNVEILS DEMANDS TO LEADERSHIP...
Leading members of the National Alash Party told journalists in Almaty on 30 January that they have sent a list of demands to the Kazakh government, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Those demands are: to establish a multiparty government of national reconciliation; to increase usage of the state language (Kazakh) in official bodies; to switch from using the Cyrillic alphabet for writing Kazakh to the Latin alphabet; to hold elections for all regional officials except for oblast governors; to adopt a law on the state border; and to reintroduce the centuries-old system of judges' courts at the raion level. Party Chairman Savetqazy Aqatay said meeting those demands would enable Kazakhstan to solve the political and economic problems the country currently faces. LF
...AS PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY PROPOSES CENTRIST ALLIANCE
Also on 30 January, the pro-presidential OTAN party urged all "constructive forces" to join a "centrist alliance" to support President Nursultan Nazarbaev's development plan for Kazakhstan for the period until 2030, Interfax reported. As possible members of that alliance, leading OTAN member Alban Balghymbaev named the Labor, Revival, Civil, Agrarian, and Popular-Cooperative parties. He said the proposed new bloc will promote "balance and harmonization" in Kazakh politics, but will not try to "counterbalance other political forces," by which he presumably meant the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan and the United Democratic Party. Balghymbaev criticized both those groups for having criticized the Kazakh leadership without proposing "constructive solutions" to the problems the country faces. LF
LAST MEMBERS OF NEW KAZAKH CABINET NAMED
President Nazarbaev named the final members of the new cabinet on 30 January, Interfax reported. Kairbek Suleimenov, 52, was named interior minister, replacing Bulat Iskakov. Suleimenov had held that post for five years until his appointment as head of the Interior Ministry troops in December 2000. Mukhtar Kul-Mukhammed was named minister of culture, information, and public resources, and Andar Skhukputo as minister of natural resources and environmental protection, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
INVESTIGATION OF ARRESTED KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY COMPLETED...
Prosecutors in Djalalabad Oblast presented the completed investigation into the case of arrested parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov to the Toktogul district court on 29 January, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the following day. Beknazarov is charged with abuse of power for having failed while working as an investigator in 1995 to bring murder charges against a man who killed another in self-defense (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 January 2002). Meanwhile, 329 people across Kyrgyzstan are still on hunger strike to demand Beknazarov's release. President Askar Akaev's adviser Askar Aitmatov met with leading Kyrgyz human rights activists on 29 January to discuss Beknazarov's case. LF
...AS ODIHR CALLS FOR HIS RELEASE
In a press release dated 30 January and posted on its website, the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights expressed its concern over Beknazarov's continued detention. ODIHR Director Ambassador Gerard Stoudmann called on the Kyrgyz authorities to release Beknazarov and "allow for an impartial, transparent, and independent investigation of his case." He warned that the domestic political situation in Kyrgyzstan may deteriorate if the authorities fail to resolve the case swiftly in line with Kyrgyzstan's commitments as a member of the OSCE. LF
KYRGYZ STATE PUBLISHING HOUSE ORDERED TO RESUME PRINTING INDEPENDENT PAPER
Bishkek's Arbitration Court ruled on 29 January that the state-run Uchkun publishing house must continue to print the newspaper "Moya stolitsa-Novosti," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported the following day. Uchkun informed the paper's editors on 19 January that it would not print further issues as the paper had not yet signed a contract for 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). "Moya stolitsa-Novosti" recently published several articles criticizing President Akaev's son-in-law, Adil Toigonbaev. LF
U.S. DIPLOMAT VISITS TURKMENISTAN
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 30 January to discuss the ongoing antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan as well as Central Asian security, AP and Russian agencies reported. Also discussed were options for the export of Turkmenistan's natural gas to international markets. Jones told journalists after her talks with Niyazov and other senior Turkmen officials that she also stressed the need to encourage more foreign investment in Turkmenistan and for closer U.S.-Turkmen cooperation in combating drug trafficking. LF
UZBEKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Following talks in Tashkent on 30 January, Uzbek Foreign Ministry officials and an Afghan interim government delegation headed by Planning Minister Hadji Mohammad Muhadeq signed a joint statement on cooperation in unspecified fields, Interfax reported. The two sides also discussed foreign policy, the repair of old and construction of new highways linking the two countries, joint actions to combat drug trafficking, the possibility of Uzbekistan providing energy supplies to Afghanistan, and the training of teachers, agronomists, and irrigation engineers. LF
BELARUS TO LAUNCH SECOND NATIONAL TV CHANNEL IN MAY
Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny said on 30 January that Belarus's second national television channel will begin broadcasting on 1 May, Belapan reported. According to Padhayny, there are many companies that are ready to be among the new channel's founders. The channel will be run by a closed joint-stock company in which the state will hold a 51 percent stake. Padhayny added that he is conducting negotiations with Aleksandr Lyubimov, the first deputy director general of Russia's ORT public television network, on assistance in the establishment of the channel and on the purchase of some ORT programs. JM
BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT EDITOR PUNISHED
The Shklou District Court (Mahileu Oblast) has fined Alyaksandr Shcharbak, the editor in chief of the independent and unregistered periodical "Shklouskiya naviny," Belapan reported on 30 January. In September, law enforcement officers found 300 copies of a fresh issue of "Shklouskiya naviny" in Shcharbak's house and charged him with violating the media law, which stipulates that the maximum circulation of unregistered publications is 299 copies. Shcharbak is to pay a fine of some $60, while the court also ordered the confiscation of the computer equipment used to prepare the periodical, as well as the destruction of the seized issue. JM
BELARUSIAN UPPER HOUSE RUBBERSTAMPS REAPPOINTMENT OF CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION HEAD
At an emergency session on 31 January, the Council of the Republic unanimously approved President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decision to reappoint Lidziya Yarmoshyna as the chairwoman of the Central Election Commission, Belapan reported. Presidential administration head Ural Latypau told the upper house that Yarmoshyna oversaw three major election campaigns in Belarus: the local election in 1999, the general election in 2000, and the presidential election in 2001. "She did a wonderful job even though she was pressured by international organizations and from within the country," Latypau said. European election watchdogs have concluded that all the three ballots fell short of democratic standards. JM
CZECH PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES ELECTION DATE...
Vaclav Havel, speaking after consultations with Prime Minister Milos Zeman, announced on 30 January that the elections for the Chamber of Deputies will be held on 14-15 June, CTK and AP reported. Havel also said that the elections for one-third of the Senate seats will take place on 25-26 October, and municipal elections will take place on 1-2 November. MS
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT STIFFENS CONTROLS ON CD PRODUCTION
Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree intended to curb CD piracy in the country in a move aimed at halting $75 million of U.S. trade sanctions, Interfax reported on 30 January. The decree orders the government to designate state officials to monitor CD production and sales, and requires that every CD be stamped with a special identification code. Meanwhile, Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets has said that an investigation of five Ukrainians plants determined that those plants did not have the facilities to produce the large number of pirated CDs claimed by the United States. JM
HEADQUARTERS OF UKRAINE'S RUSSIAN BLOC FIREBOMBED
The headquarters of the Russian Bloc in Kyiv has been subjected to an arson attack, Ukrainian media reported on 30 January. Unknown attackers broke the windows of the headquarters, which is also the site of the newspaper "Russkii Mir," and threw Molotov cocktails into the premises. The fire destroyed some furniture and a computer. The Russian Bloc has appealed to President Kuchma and law enforcement bodies for protection, saying the attack was an attempt at "intimidating the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and depriving it of moral support" in the ongoing election campaign, Interfax reported. JM
NEW OIL DEPOSIT DISCOVERED IN CENTRAL UKRAINE
The Ukrnafta oil company has discovered a new industrial oil deposit in Poltava Oblast, Ukrainian Television reported on 30 January. The new deposit was revealed at the Reshetnyakivske oilfield, from where oil has been extracted for the past 30 years. "At this oilfield, we successfully used horizontal drilling in veins that had been left untapped in previous years. This enabled us to find new oil reserves," an Ukrnafta official said of the discovery. JM
RFE/RL'S UKRAINIAN SERVICE TO HOST MORE POLITICAL DEBATES
Communist Party head Petro Symonenko and Our Ukraine election bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko have agreed to meet for a discussion that will be broadcast live by RFE/RL on 4 February, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 30 January. Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz and For a United Ukraine election bloc leader Volodymyr Lytvyn are reportedly negotiating the date of their meeting in RFE/RL's Kyiv studio. These moves follow a highly popular debate by Yuliya Tymoshenko and Viktor Medvedchuk that was broadcast live by RFE/RL last week (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 January 2002). JM
ESTONIA, SWEDEN SIGN PACT ON PROTECTING CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
Defense Minister Sven Mikser and his Swedish counterpart, Bjorn von Sydow, signed an agreement in Tallinn on 30 January on the protection of classified information, BNS reported. The agreement lays down the conditions for exchanging classified information and its protection in each country. Estonia has signed similar agreements with the United States, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Poland, and Finland, and is preparing them with a dozen additional countries, including Britain and Greece. SG
LATVIAN MINISTER URGES JOINT PLATFORM FOR EU AGRICULTURE NEGOTIATIONS
Agriculture Minister Atis Slakteris called for a meeting with his Estonian and Lithuanian counterparts to discuss a possible joint Baltic stance on EU agricultural issues, BNS reported on 30 January. His action was prompted by a European Commission draft proposal released the same day that foresees that, upon admission, new EU members would receive just 25 percent of the agricultural subsidies given to current EU members, and that it would take 10 years for new members to reach an equal standing. Slakteris complained that the EC recommendations are discriminatory, and asked how Latvian farmers can possibly compete in a single common market while receiving 75 percent less in subsidies than their colleagues. Estonian EU negotiations head Alar Streimann said the EU's 25 percent support will actually be lower than the subsidies currently paid by Estonia on its own, and that any transition period during which lower subsidies would be paid should not last past 2006. Lithuanian EU negotiations head Petras Austrevicius admitted that the promised EU support is much less than farmers desired, but noted that the EC report only contains recommendations and that the EU members must still approve them. SG
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT PLEASED WITH U.S. SUPPORT FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP
In an interview broadcast on Lithuanian radio on 30 January, Valdas Adamkus expressed satisfaction with his meetings the previous day in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and House of Representative Speaker Dennis Hastert, BNS reported. It was the president's third visit to Washington in two weeks. Adamkus interrupted his vacation in Mexico to take President George W. Bush up on his invitation to attend the State of the Union Address, which he listened to as a guest of honor in Hastert's box. In earlier talks, Powell praised Lithuania's preparation for NATO membership and inquired about its relations with Russia. He also approved of Lithuania's decision to hand over to the world Jewish community 309 Torahs scrolls that were rescued during the Nazi and Soviet occupations. Powell also accepted an invitation to visit Lithuania. Adamkus also heard support for Lithuania's entry into NATO at a meeting with Hastert, which was also attended by Doug Bereuter, the head of the House delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. SG
POLISH GOVERNMENT SAYS DELAY IN EU FARM AID 'UNSATISFACTORY'
Leszek Miller's cabinet on 30 January termed "unsatisfactory" the European Commission's proposals that new EU members are to wait a decade to obtain farming subsidies on par with veteran EU members, PAP reported. According to the European Commission's plans announced earlier the same day, direct farming subsidies to new EU member states are to begin in 2004 at 25 percent of the level enjoyed by current EU members, will increase to 35 percent in 2006, and then up to 100 percent in 2013. Miller described the proposed transition period as "definitely too long," adding that Poland will push for full payments by 2006, when the EU's Common Agricultural Policy is slated to come up for review. JM
POLISH POPULIST AGRARIAN FINED FOR INSULTING PRESIDENT
The Appeals Court in Gdansk imposed a fine of 20,000 zlotys ($4,800) on Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper on 30 January for insulting President Aleksander Kwasniewski and two deputy prime ministers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2002), Polish media reported. The ruling came as a response to Lepper's appeal in May 2001 against the previous verdict that had sentenced him to 16 months imprisonment. Lepper said he will appeal the new sentence to the Supreme Court. JM
POLAND'S MONETARY POLICY COUNCIL CUTS INTEREST RATES
The Monetary Policy Council on 30 January cut the National Bank's intervention rate from 11.5 to 10 percent, the discount rate from 14 to 12 percent, the Lombard rate from 15.5 to 13.5 percent, and the deposit rate from 7.5 to 6.5 percent, PAP reported. The decision partially meets the expectations of Miller's government, which has been pressuring for even deeper cuts in order to boost the slowing economy by reducing the cost of borrowing. JM
...REPRIMANDS PREMIER ON SUDETEN GERMANS STATEMENT
Havel told journalists following the meeting that he told the premier he should not have used such harsh wording when he recently referred to the Sudeten Germans as a "fifth column" and "traitors" serving Adolf Hitler's interests, CTK reported. Havel said Zeman could have used "less colorful language," and that it would have "better served good neighborly relations with Austria and Germany" if he had expressed his views in private with those countries' leaders instead of making a public statement. Zeman said that he "took note" of Havel's position. Also on 30 January, government spokesman Libor Roucek said Zeman is preparing a reply to Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, but does not intend to apologize for his statement. MS
CZECHS DISAGREE WITH EU ON 'UNEQUAL AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES'
Premier Zeman said on 30 January that his country disagrees with the draft policy on agricultural subsidies made public by the EU in Brussels earlier that day, CTK reported. The EU decided that new member states will receive only one-quarter of the amount of agricultural subsidies allocated per capita to current members, and will benefit from full subsidies only after a 10-year "transition period." Zeman told journalists the draft demands that current candidates make the same contribution to the joint EU treasury as current members after their accession, but will not get the same subsidies. He said the Visegrad Four should strive to formulate a joint position on the matter. MS
CZECH PRESIDENT SPEAKS WITH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE ABOUT DEBT SETTLEMENT...
President Havel met separately on 30 January with the leaders of the three parties that make up the Four Party Coalition, CTK reported. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel called on the three leaders to take the necessary steps to ensure that their financial commitments are duly paid. Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) Chairman Cyril Svoboda told CTK that Havel emphasized the importance of transparent financing for all political parties. "Havel did not propose any solution and did not tell us what to do," Svoboda said. MS
...AS FREEDOM UNION-DEMOCRATIC UNION LOSES PATIENCE WITH ODA
Freedom Union-Democratic Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova said on 30 January that "further problems have emerged" concerning the debts of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), and that this "could harm the Four Party Coalition as a whole." Marvanova was referring to a 6 million crown ($162,000) sponsorship gift from the mid-1990s, whose existence emerged after the members of the alliance agreed on 27 January on how the ODA should settle its debts. In 1998, the ODA said it would transfer all sponsorship gifts whose donors were anonymous to charity, but due to its financial difficulties it failed to do so with the 6 million debt. Marvanova said that if the problem is not solved soon, "the ODA cannot run on the joint lists together with us." She said her party is now willing to consider "negotiating a double coalition [only] with the KDU-CSL." MS
CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR UNITY IN FIGHTING TERRORISM
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on 30 January that the Czech police and the intelligence and health services should all join the military in protecting the country from terrorism, dpa reported. Addressing the Czech Senate, Tvrdik said the costs of the struggle should be spread out among several agencies because combating terrorism "is not the responsibility of the military alone." The Health Ministry, he said, should be in charge of handling domestic threats and emergencies involving possible biological attacks, while the Interior Ministry and the various intelligence services should be capable of tracking terrorists and cooperating with foreign intelligence agencies. Also on 30 January, Tvrdik and representatives of civilian army workers signed an agreement that will lead to the elimination of 12,000 civilian jobs by 2006 as part of the ministry's plan to professionalize the army. Under the agreement, the civil workers will receive high severance payments. MS
NATO DISSATISFIED WITH SLOVAK VETTING PROCESS
NATO's Office for Security (NOS) has expressed dissatisfaction that some 5,000 Slovak officials with potential access to classified information have been exempted from vetting, CTK quoted Slovak Security Office (NBU) head Jan Mojzis as saying on 30 January. Mojzis, who spoke after an NOS inspection visit to Bratislava, said Slovakia must change its law on classified information. Under the current law, not only the country's president, members of the cabinet, parliamentary deputies, judges, and prosecutors are exempt from vetting, but town mayors are as well. Mojzis said the law should be amended, allowing only the president, cabinet members, deputies, and Constitutional Court judges to be exempt from the process. He said that while Slovakia has no lustration law similar to that of the Czech Republic, the NBU will investigate whether any of those vetted had contacts with the Czechoslovak communist secret police in the past. MS
HUNGARIAN PREMIER, RADICAL LEADER SHARPLY OPPOSED TO EU'S AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES PROPOSAL
The European Commission's proposal on agricultural subsidies for new members is at variance with Hungary's interests, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on 30 January, Hungarian media reported. Orban told his Finnish counterpart Paavo Lipponen in Helsinki that Hungary will do its best to see that the subsidies are increased and that the transition period is reduced. For his part, Hungarian Justice and Life Party Chairman Istvan Csurka said Hungary and the EU will have to renegotiate the chapter on the free flow of capital if the reports on EU's proposal on agricultural subsidies are implemented. Agriculture is the Hungarian people's "Lebensraum" and No. 1 source of income, Csurka said, and is not to be sacrificed for political ends. He said Hungary must declare unambiguously that there will be no accession on such terms, as otherwise new members would serve only as colonies to the EU. MSZ
HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRATS SAY FIDESZ INTIMIDATES MEDIA
Opposition Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze told reporters on 30 January that over the past four years the Orban government has attempted to intimidate and influence the media and has engaged in "covert blackmail," Hungarian media reported. Kuncze said the government's policy is well demonstrated by the list drawn up by the university student organization Kontroll Group criticizing foreign journalists, as well as by the continued presence on air of the Hungarian radio program "Vasarnapi Ujsag," which is considered to be a mouthpiece of extremist views. In other news, Orban accepted an invitation from the Hungarian International Press Association to meet with foreign correspondents, government spokesman Gabor Borokai told "Nepszabadsag." Borokai reiterated that the government has nothing to do with Kontroll Group, and admitted that the group has made some "unfortunate comments." The controversy will not do Hungary's image abroad any good, Borokai added. MSZ
HUNGARIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY RESPONDS TO JEWISH PROTEST
The Justice Ministry responded on 30 January to criticism from Jewish organizations that it has not done enough to introduce legislation against hate speech into parliament, Hungarian media reported. Ministry official Zoltan Marki said legislation is in the works. In the meantime, provisions to the criminal law can be used to prosecute Holocaust denial, hate speech, or incitement against a community, he added. Marki was responding to a letter from the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities that criticized Justice Minister Ibolya David for saying that special legislation prohibiting incitement against a community cannot be passed this year. The federation stressed that government officials have not distanced themselves from numerous instances of anti-Semitic discourse in public media, and that observers wonder whether the government is courting the far-right in advance of the April parliamentary elections, Hungarian and international media reported. MSZ
MACEDONIAN PARTIES AGREE ON AMNESTY LAW
EU envoy Alain Le Roy said in Skopje on 30 January that the two largest ethnic Macedonian and two largest ethnic Albanian parties have agreed on an amnesty law, Western news agencies reported. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski will begin work immediately on drafting legislation. Le Roy stressed that the agreement is "very important" and that the bill should go to the parliament "as soon as possible." The amnesty law is necessary to give former guerrillas the necessary confidence to return fully to normal civilian life. Georgievski and his hard-line backers had long insisted that an amnesty decree issued by President Boris Trajkovski was sufficient, but the Albanians want a law. He has pardoned 64 individuals, but at least 24 more still await an amnesty. In other news, ethnically mixed police patrols returned to 10 villages. Ethnic Albanian civilians prevented their return to five additional villages, while snow barred the way to two more, AP reported. PM
YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT CALLS FOR EARLY SERBIAN ELECTIONS
Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 30 January that early elections should take place soon in Serbia so that the new parliament can draw up a long-planned constitution, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that the federal parliament acted without cause recently in refusing to approve a member of his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) as finance minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2002). Kostunica and his DSS have repeatedly called for early elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 15 January 2002). He had a commanding lead over all other Serbian politicians in polls at the beginning of 2001, but several of those politicians narrowed the gap considerably by the end of that year. PM
SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES MORE EXTRADITIONS
Zoran Djindjic told Reuters in Belgrade on 30 January that Serbia will need to deliver "three or four" additional indicted war criminals to The Hague to prove that it is democratic and a serious member of the international community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002). He warned his countrymen that "if we hesitate [in making extraditions], if we don't meet our international obligations [to cooperate with the tribunal], we risk losing our credibility and being pushed into a slow pace of international integration." Djindjic said that those extradited will have to include "Milosevic's closest allies, and [Radovan] Karadzic and [General Ratko] Mladic." This is the second time in less than a week that Djindjic has conceded that Mladic might be in Serbia, but probably the first time he has publicly suggested that Karadzic might be there as well. He did not name the names of "Milosevic's allies," but four top leaders were indicted in 1999 together with Milosevic. One of them, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, is still in office. PM
SERBIAN EX-DICTATOR WANTS TO LEAVE PRISON
Speaking at a hearing regarding his upcoming trial, Slobodan Milosevic told the The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 30 January: "What I want from you is that I want to be freed. I demand to be released and given freedom, because it is clear to the whole world that I won't run from the battle being waged against my country and my nation, and I have no intention of running away," RFE/RL reported. He added: "The fact is that you are keeping me here in these undignified conditions, jailed... I don't want to serve time in this institution, even if it were legal, but you know yourselves that it is not legal." PM
ALBANIAN STALEMATE CONTINUES
Supporters of opposition leader Sali Berisha took their seats in the parliament on 31 January, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2002). A vote among Socialist Party (PS) leaders for a new nominee for prime minister is slated for 5 February, but the outcome is difficult to predict. Former Prime Minister Ilir Meta has not ruled out a new bid for the job and may seek to return with a fresh mandate. But both he and his rival, party leader Fatos Nano, control enough votes in the Steering Committee to block anyone from winning the nomination. Reuters reported, however, that Meta has already secured a fresh mandate. For his part, Nano wants the party's nomination for the presidency, which Meta -- and many in the international community -- oppose. Political analyst Remzi Lani said the country needs an effective government, but this is unlikely before a presidential vote takes place in June. PM
FORMER KOSOVAR LEADER OFFERS TO TESTIFY AGAINST MILOSEVIC
Communist-era Kosovar leader Mahmut Bakalli told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 30 January that he is willing to go to The Hague to testify against Milosevic if asked. He added that the tribunal has already been in contact with him but did not give details. Bakalli was ousted as head of the Kosova branch of the League of Communists following the ethnic Albanian nationalist riots in 1981. He has returned to the public eye in recent years as a commentator and adviser. PM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER HOPES DISPUTE WITH ROMANIA TO BE SOLVED THIS YEAR
Visiting Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh said on 30 January that he hopes the dispute with Romania over the Black Sea shelf and Serpents' Island will be solved in negotiations by the two countries' experts before President Ion Iliescu pays a scheduled visit to Kyiv in the first half of 2002, Mediafax reported. "Prime Minister [Adrian] Nastase and myself agreed that the problem must be solved in a constructive manner and its solution must be in line with international legislation, territorial integrity, and [earlier] bilateral agreements," Kinakh said. MS
MOLDOVA TO HOLD EARLY LOCAL ELECTIONS IN APRIL
President Vladimir Voronin announced after chairing a meeting of the cabinet on 30 January that early local elections will be held in Moldova on 7 April, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Voronin said the decision stems from the recent amendment of the law on the country's territorial administration, which reintroduced the Soviet-style system in Moldova. He also said that newly appointed First Deputy Premier Vasile Iovv will be in charge of coordinating the elections. Claude Casagrande, deputy chairman of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, said the same day in Chisinau that the council will examine the new legislation on the administrative division this week and will make recommendations for changes if it concludes that the legislation is not in line with the provisions of the European Charter on Local Autonomy. MS
ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW ON CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
The Chamber of Deputies approved the Law on the Protection of Classified Information on 30 January amid protests from opposition parties, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Those formations protested against stipulations in the law that could facilitate the authorities' ability to hide administrative errors and to limit access to information that is of public interest. They said the legislation does not provide for any sanctions against officials found guilty of such behavior. The opposition also opposed an article obliging "unauthorized persons" who accidentally come into contact with classified information to refrain from making that information public or pass it on, and to instantly notify the authorities. Failure to do so can result in a fine or prison sentence. MS
EU SAYS MOLDOVA SHOULD ANNUL SUSPENSION OF PPCD...
The European Commission sent a letter to the Moldovan government on 30 January urging it to annul Justice Minister Ion Morei's decision to suspend the activity of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) for one month, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The commission said it is "seriously concerned" that Morei's decision could prevent the PPCD from participating in the early local elections. It also said that "political pluralism and the freedom of speech are essential values in any democratic society," and that consequently, "suspending a political party represented in the parliament is incompatible with Moldova's democratic character and contravenes the values to which Moldova subscribed when it joined the Council of Europe." MS
...AND PPCD ASKS GOVERNMENT TO DO SO
The PPCD on 30 January petitioned the government, demanding the nullification of Morei's decision to suspend the party, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. PPCD Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov said the party will ask the Chisinau Court of Appeal to nullify the decision only if and after the government refuses to do so. Cubreacov criticized the decision by the Supreme Court one day earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2002) to "decline competence" in hearing its appeal against Morei's decision. He said the law stipulates that political parties may appeal to the Supreme Court without first filing a complaint to the Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, some 93,000 people have signed the PPCD protest against the introduction of compulsory Russian-language classes in schools. MS
TURKISH PREMIER ASKS BULGARIANS TO HELP FIGHT PKK
On 30 January, visiting Turkish Premier Bulent Ecevit pledged support for Bulgaria's NATO membership and asked Bulgarian officials to share intelligence with his country in order to assist the Turkish struggle against the Kurdish rebels, AP reported. Ecevit said that there "should be wider cooperation" between the two countries' services that "handle the fight against terrorism." He spoke after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Simeon Saxecoburggotski. The Turkish premier said he is confident that both Bulgaria and Romania will be invited to join NATO at the Prague summit later this year. MS
SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS BOSNIA
On a previously planned visit, Dimitrij Rupel spoke to Bosnian leaders in Sarajevo on 30 January but did not persuade them to lift their ban on the entry of fuel trucks from Croatia, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2002). The ban was intended primarily to bar Croatian vehicles, but Slovenian ones are affected as well. Rupel said there are no "open questions" in Slovenian-Bosnian relations, which he called "good." He added, however, that legislation is needed to protect Slovenian property rights in Bosnia and called on the Bosnian parliament to ratify a free-trade agreement that went into effect at the beginning of 2002. His hosts asked Rupel for an agreement on pre-1991 hard-currency deposits by Bosnian citizens in Ljubljanska Banka, but Rupel said Slovenia wants the question of bank deposits settled as part of a blanket agreement between all successor states to former Yugoslavia in what is known as the "Basel process." PM
ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER'S RESIGNATION HIGHLIGHTS SPLIT IN SOCIALIST PARTY
Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta resigned on 29 January, having failed in his efforts to put an end to four months of feuding within the ruling Socialist Party leadership. Meta, who is just 32 years old and who had been in office for 26 months, accused the party's chairman, Fatos Nano, of forcing him to quit after Meta refused to support Nano in this year's race for a new president of Albania. The opposition applauded Meta's resignation and is demanding the formation of a broad-based coalition government.
At a press conference, Meta accused Nano of what he described as "destructive pressure," "unprecedented aggression," "cheating," and "immoral attitudes" toward his government. "In this situation, after my last motion to agree on a new legal structure of the government -- and being totally open to including in it most of the well-known names of the Socialist Party in order to guarantee a long-lasting governance -- all I got for an answer were destructive conditions, which are aimed at keeping the government hostage to the personal intentions of the Socialist Party leader, Fatos Nano," Meta said. "I am forced to give up my function as prime minister, expressing my confidence that such a step will pave the way for the creation of a new government."
Meta expressed concern that Nano's decision to run for president will isolate the country and prevent it from opening talks in March on an association and stabilization agreement with the European Union. "I cannot vote for closing down Albania's integration and putting the country in quarantine," he said.
He went on to say that "the future of a government cannot depend on...who chairs it, or on conditions which counter the country's stability, which will produce an interim cabinet, a government kept hostage by the presidential elections in a few months' time or by the party's referendum initiated by Mr. Nano. Furthermore, the message made in Brussels [in recent talks with the EU] is very clear: The new president should be elected with a large consensus," he concluded.
Meta said he is confident the Socialist Party will overcome its leadership crisis. He called on the party structures to take action against what he called irresponsible politicians, rather than "permit anyone to make it a hostage or keep Albania hostage to an irresponsible group of people."
Opposition parties welcomed Meta's decision, stressing the need for a broad-based coalition government. Democratic Party leader and former President Sali Berisha applauded what he called Meta's maturity and asked Nano to give up his desire to be president in direct elections expected to be held in July.
Berisha said that he is "convinced [Meta] resigned in order to help the country. I consider this the result of profound learning by a politician, who realized that no one should or could play with the free will of the Albanians."
Berisha also told journalists that the opposition intends to take advantage of the apparent split in the Socialist Party to create majorities with some dissident Socialist parliamentarians on certain issues. He said the aim will be to stop any challenges to the country's main priorities, especially European integration.
Berisha's party, together with the other four opposition parties grouped in the Union for Victory, have boycotted parliament since last June's parliamentary elections over allegations of ballot tampering. Deputies from the five Union for Victory parties are expected to take their seats in parliament for the first time on 31 January.
The ruling Socialist Party's public relations chief told journalists after an emergency meeting of the Socialist Steering Committee that Meta has lost a battle but not the war. Deputy Bardhyl Agasi admitted that Meta's supporters appealed for him to be reappointed. But Agasi noted that after last June's parliamentary elections, the procedure by which the Socialist Party was elected Meta as prime minister had been manipulated.
"You should be asking it to the prime minister himself [that is, whether he'd be willing to serve again as prime minister]. He has not defined his resigning as irrevocable. He just resigned. We'll continue the meeting [of the Steering Committee] to reach the solutions we mentioned. The Socialist Party's Statute Warranties Commission found irregularities [in the voting process for electing Meta as prime minister]. Of course, this commission cannot be contradicted, neither by the Steering Committee, nor by anyone else," Agasi said.
In announcing his resignation, Meta did not deny that he may be re-elected to head a new Socialist government, since he controls most of the party's leading structures.
Political analysts in Tirana foresee the growing risk of an eventual Socialist Party split. The party is due to hold an emergency congress soon to address this challenge.Alban Bala is an RFE/RL correspondent.