PRIME MINISTER PAINTS ROSY PICTURE OF ECONOMY...
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on 18 July, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov outlined a number of favorable trends in the Russian economy, Russian news agencies reported the same day. Kasyanov said GDP is up 3.8 percent for the first half of the year, "slightly more than we expected." Industrial output is up 3.2 percent, and personal income is up 8 percent, Kasyanov said, citing statistics from the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. Tax collections were 13 billion rubles ($434 million) more than anticipated. Investment grew 1.7 percent, slightly less than the government had predicted, and inflation was 9 percent, Kasyanov said. He added, however, that he is worried by a 7 percent decline in exports. RC
...AND LAUDS COOPERATION WITH THE LEGISLATURE
At the same cabinet meeting, Kasyanov praised the government and both chambers of the legislature for adopting a number of crucial bills during the last session, ITAR-TASS reported. Andrei Loginov, the cabinet's representative to the Duma, and Andrei Sebentsov, the cabinet's representative to the Federation Council, reported their views on how such cooperation can be improved still further during the next session. Kasyanov noted that 42 percent of all bills passed in the last session were government-sponsored, 16 percent more than last year. RC
DEFENSE MINISTER LASHES OUT AGAINST NATO EXPANSION...
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, on a visit to Helsinki for talks with his Finnish counterpart Jan-Erik Enestam, told the Finnish daily "Hufvudstadsbladet" on 17 July that Moscow will review its military posture if the Baltic states join NATO, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. "Russia will then be forced to review not only its own military positions, but also the entire spectrum of international relations both with the alliance as a whole and with the mentioned Baltic states," Ivanov was quoted as saying. Ivanov added that NATO expansion "could also be a factor that essentially destabilizes the situation in the Baltic region and in the whole of Europe." RC
...AND WORRIES ABOUT INFLUENCE OF EXPANSION ON KALININGRAD...
Ivanov in the same interview also lamented the possible influence of NATO expansion to include the Baltic states on the status of the western exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast, strana.ru reported on 18 July. "At present Russia has no guarantees that the development of the situation along the lines of this scenario will have a beneficial effect on the situation around the westernmost part of Russia -- Kaliningrad Oblast," Ivanov said. He added, though, that the Baltic region presently has every opportunity to become "an effective model, visibly demonstrating the goodwill of countries trying to realize effective and mutually beneficial cooperation." RC
...AS OTHERS WORK TO END EXCLAVE'S ISOLATION
Deputy Transport Minister Nikolai Negodov announced on 17 July that a regular ferry service will be initiated between Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg by the end of the year, Interfax reported. The ministry is spending $10 million to launch the service and work has already begun to upgrade the terminal at Baltiisk in Kaliningrad Oblast. The trip between the cities will take 24 hours, and tickets will cost the same as rail service currently does. Meanwhile, Yurii Yurgens, vice president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, said that one solution to the Kaliningrad problem might be subsidized air service, RosBalt reported on 18 July. He suggested that the government organize passenger air service between the exclave and the rest of Russia for prices comparable to the current railroad rates. Yurgens added that he believes the European Union is willing to help pay for such a solution to the Kaliningrad problem. He said experts are also studying the possibility of building a high-speed train service to the exclave that would travel through EU territory without stopping. RC
COURT MAKES ANOTHER RULING ON CRIMINAL PROCEDURES
The Constitutional Court ruled on 17 July that the existing practice by certain supervisory authorities such as prosecutors and the chairmen of the Supreme Court and regional courts to make court verdicts tougher violates the Russian Constitution, Ekho Moskvy reported. According to the station, the court ruled that sentences should not be increased on appeal and that acquittals should not be overturned. Such practices are allowed under certain provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and the law on prosecutors. Lawyer Anatolii Kucheren called the Constitutional Court verdict "a revolutionary decision." "The ruling should have been made long ago. It is absolutely justified," he told the station. According to ITAR-TASS, this is the court's second decision on the country's criminal procedures in the past three months. JAC
GAZPROM TO RENEGE ON PLEDGE TO SELL MEDIA PROPERTIES...
Boris Jordan, general director of Gazprom-Media, said on 17 July that he believes the natural-gas giant will indefinitely postpone a sell-off of its media assets, ntvru.com reported, citing gzt.ru. "I don't believe that anything will be sold by the end of the year. Sometime early in 2003 there may be some announcement of plans or some parts may be sold," Jordan is quoted as saying. "Selling just for the sake of selling, in my opinion, is not worth it." Since Gazprom, which is 38 percent state-controlled, took over the media properties of Vladimir Gusinskii, its managers have said repeatedly that they intend to divest the company of its non-core assets, including Gazprom-Media. Jordan also repeated his assertions that Gazprom "does not interfere in the creative part of our work or in our business." RC
...AS MEDIA MINISTRY GIVES STAMP OF APPROVAL TO U.S. MEDIA
The Media Ministry has finally released its long-awaited report on violations of freedom of the press in the United States, wrote analyst Aleksei Pankin in a column for "The Moscow Times" on 16 July. On 27 February 2001, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin pledged that his ministry would release the report "within two weeks" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2001). According to Pankin, the report -- which will appear in full for the first time in the July issue of "Sreda" magazine -- covers topics such as the monopolization of the U.S. media by a small number of corporations, corporate censorship and self-censorship, double standards, and violence and lawlessness. However, the report's conclusions are tame. "The question of whether or not free speech exists in the United States can be answered in the affirmative," it reads. RC
PETERSBURG GOVERNOR TO SEEK THIRD TERM
St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev stated publicly for the first time that he would like to run for a third term, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported on 18 July. Speaking at an investment forum in St. Petersburg, Yakovlev expressed the hope that local residents "will help him be re-elected to a third term." It remains unclear whether the St. Petersburg city charter will need to be amended to allow Yakovlev to seek another term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). RC
RUSSIAN FEATHERS STILL RUFFLED OVER POULTRY IMPORTS
The market-protection department at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry has launched an inquiry into rising imports of poultry to the Russian market, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 July. An unidentified source in the department told the agency that the results of the inquiry might prompt the ministry to take "special protective measures" in the poultry market. According to the agency, the inquiry was prompted by the Russian Union of Poultry Producers, which claims that imports of foreign poultry have climbed by a factor of six from 1999 to 2001, while market share rose from 24 percent to 61 percent. Earlier this month, representatives of the office of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council in Moscow told Interfax that the licenses issued to U.S. importers by the Russian Agriculture Ministry's Veterinary Department will expire on 31 July. JAC
NORTHWEST GOVERNOR SLAMS ABSENTEE COLLEAGUE
Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Anatolii Yefremov told RosBalt on 17 July that the governor of neighboring Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Vladimir Butov, is "simply inactive." "When the leader of a region is simply not there for several months, where he should be working, then this doesn't speak well for the life of the region," he continued. "In Nenets Okrug, it is in fact impossible to resolve any issue because Vladimir Yakovlevich Butov is not in his place." According to Yefremov, Butov's inactivity "interferes with the work of business structures that are registered in Arkhangelsk but conduct most of their activities in Nenets," such as oil-exploration firms Arkhangelskgeoldobych and Polyarnoe Siyanie. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 4 July, Butov said he was absent from the okrug for three months -- not six months as some sources alleged -- because he was "on vacation for the first time in four years and then had health problems" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). JAC
EX-IM BANK INCREASES ROLE IN RUSSIA
The U.S. Export-Import Bank will issue guarantees worth $1 billion over the next 12 months to finance U.S. exports to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. Ex-Im Bank Vice Chairman Eduardo Aguirre, speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 17 July, said the bank intends to expand its cooperation not just with the federal government, but with a number of regions, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara Oblast, Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and the Komi Republic. RC
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE RUMBLE
The trial of five men aged 17 to 23 who are accused of participating in ethnically motivated violence at the Tsaritsino Market in Moscow in October 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001) opened in a Moscow city court on 16 July, "Vremya novostei" and other Russian media reported the next day. The newspaper described the incident as "the largest rumble by skinheads in modern Russian history," an incident in which some 30 people were injured. According to various estimates, some 150 to 300 youths took part in the rampage, but prosecutors could find only five men to charge after its investigation. According to prosecutors, one of the accused, 19-year-old Mikhail Volkov, decided that he wanted to teach some of the antiglobalists who were arriving in Moscow in those days a lesson. He called some of his acquaintances from an informal group of soccer fans and skinheads and organized a "march" to the Sevastopol Hotel where foreigners stay (see "End Note"). However, the raid went awry as the skinheads who were amassed to march to the hotel were distracted by traders at the Tsaritsino Market who were ethnic Caucasians and decided to beat them up instead. According to the daily, some Moscow police detectives doubt that Volkov would have been able to organize such a large gathering by himself without "serious financial support" and the help of "older friends" JAC
CHELYABINSK TO TRACK MOVEMENTS OF FOREIGNERS MORE CLOSELY
Control over the arrivals, registrations, and stays of foreign citizens will be strengthened in Chelyabinsk Oblast, announced Sergei Petrov, the deputy head of the administration for the passport-visa service of the Interior Ministry in the oblast, regions.ru reported on 17 July. According to Petrov, it was decided to adopt new measures after the massive inflow of Tajiks and Azerbaijanis into the Kashirinskii Market in the oblast's center. According to Petrov, immigrants from the former Soviet Union are the cheapest work force in the oblast and are used to build roads and buildings and do gardening. Petrov added that special attention will also be paid to places where immigrants live, such as dormitories, and to people who provide foreigners with housing and transportation. Last April, legislators in the oblast city of Magnitogorsk adopted a joint appeal to the oblast governor and legislature to close the city to foreigners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2002). JAC
MONARCHISTS MARCH TO REMEMBER ROMANOVS...
All members of the Romanov family will be invited to attend St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary next summer, regions.ru reported on 17 July, citing RIA-Novosti. A number of Romanovs were already in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities that day to remember Tsar Nikolai II and his family, who were killed in Yekaterinburg on 17 July 1918. This year in Moscow, over 1,000 people gathered for a procession through downtown streets, according to ITAR-TASS. Some monarchists in the procession demanded that the Moscow city government rename the metro station and street currently named after Petr Voikov, a logistics commissar in the Yekaterinburg Soviet who reportedly played an important role in arranging for the executions of Tsar Nikolai II and his family. JAC
...WHILE SOME PROPOSE MORE PERMANENT MEMORIALS
According to ntvru.com, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has signed an order creating a working group for the construction of a monument to Aleksandr II. The project was suggested by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), which wants to give the monument to the city of Moscow as a gift. Meanwhile, the local chapter of the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together appealed to authorities in Yekaterinburg to rename the city's Sverdlov Street, named in honor of Bolshevik leader Yakov Sverdlov, as Romanov Street. JAC/RC
MAYOR TAKES NOVEL APPROACH TO UNEMPLOYMENT, HEALTH PROBLEMS
Vorkuta Mayor Igor Shpektor has declared that if Russia legalizes prostitution, then the first public brothel will be opened in his city, nns.ru reported on 17 July, citing KomiInform. Shpektor, who is also acting president of the Russian Union of Cities in the Polar Region and Far North, fully shares the opinion of the head of the Moscow Oblast's Internal Affairs Department Nikolai Golovkin, who believes that if prostitution were legalized, then a number of problems would be solved such as the rising infection rate of venereal diseases and AIDS and violence against women, according to the website. Shpektor also raised the issue last year when he suggested that his city could solve the problem of high unemployment among females there by legalizing prostitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001). He may have more hope for his cause now that the SPS has suggested that it will propose legislation legalizing prostitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2002). JAC
NEWSPAPER CLOSED FOR EXTREMIST VIEWS
A Moscow city court ruled on 17 July that the newspaper "Russkie Vedomosti" should be shut down because the paper published materials of an extremist, nationalist, and anti-Semitic nature, regions.ru reported, citing RIA-Novosti. The paper was registered in September 1990, appears every three months, and has a print run of 10,000 copies, according to Interfax. The chief editor of the newspaper, Viktor Korchagin, said that he published the newspaper with his own money. The Media Ministry had issued the paper two warnings for fomenting ethnic violence in May 2001. It then filed a court case last November, which culminated in the 17 July verdict. JAC
ANOTHER BOOK SPARKS CONTROVERSY
Duma Deputies are looking into whether a new novel featuring President Putin contains any state secrets, Ekho Moskvy reported on 18 July. The novel "President" by Latvian writer Aleksandr Olbik depicts a rugged Putin taking up arms and going to Chechnya -- armed with a grenade launcher and accompanied by presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin and Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev -- for a showdown with Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev. Some in the Duma believe that the novel demonstrates a suspiciously intimate knowledge of the workings of Russia's special forces. In addition, deputies are investigating whether the author has the right to use the names of government officials. RC
TIME FRAME SET FOR ADOPTION OF CHECHEN CONSTITUTION, HOLDING ELECTIONS...
The final touches are being put to the draft constitution proposed by Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, and it will be put to a referendum in December, Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov told journalists on 17 July, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 17, 17 May 2002). But strana.ru on 17 July quoted Kadyrov's press service as saying the referendum will take place in November, while Interfax quoted Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Gantemirov as saying that the constitution might be endorsed by a constitutional assembly or by the Russian State Duma. Gantemirov added that a new Chechen parliament will be elected six months after the constitution is adopted. LF
...AS RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE PROPOSES MASSIVE INVESTMENT
In an interview published on 17 July in "Komsomolskaya pravda," Sergei Yastrzhembskii likewise argued that a referendum and elections should be held in Chechnya as soon as possible to enable the Chechens themselves to take over responsibility for their affairs. In that context, he said the Russian authorities should not be afraid to train and arm those Chechen police who have demonstrated their loyalty to Moscow. At the same time, he continued, the Russian government must "invest, invest, invest" in the reconstruction of Chechnya's infrastructure, because "if we do not restore the economy and create jobs, new problems will arise." LF
ARMENIA, RUSSIA FINALLY SIGN 'ASSETS-FOR-DEBT' DEAL
The co-chairmen of the Armenian-Russian intergovernmental commission, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Russian Industry, Science, and Technology Minister Ilya Klebanov, signed an agreement in Yerevan on 17 July under which Russia will write off Armenia's $98 million debt in return for a controlling stake in at least four Armenian enterprises, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Russia will commission an independent audit of the enterprises in question to determine their precise value. The agreement must be ratified by the two countries' parliaments. According to Noyan Tapan, Klebanov did not specify which enterprises Russia will acquire, but observers believe they are the Hrazdan thermal-power station, which will become the property of Unified Energy Systems; the "Mars" joint-stock company; and two Yerevan research institutes. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION THREATENS TO BOYCOTT REFERENDUM...
Meeting in Baku on 17 July, representatives of some 25 opposition parties and movements adopted a statement listing the conditions under which they are prepared to participate in the planned 24 August referendum on amendments to the country's constitution, Turan reported. They demand that an emergency session of parliament be convened to amend the laws on elections, referenda and the Central Election Commission (CEC), after which a new CEC is to be chosen; that the referendum be postponed for one month; that the proposed abolition of proportional system voting be dropped; and that voters be required to approve each of the planned amendments separately. The nine parties aligned in the "conservative" wing of the Democratic Congress already agreed last week to peg their participation in the referendum to those demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2002). LF
...AS SCHWIMMER REGRETS COUNCIL OF EUROPE NOT CONSULTED...
In an extensive interview circulated by Turan on 17 July, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer expressed his regret that the Azerbaijani authorities did not either consult the council when drafting the amendments or submit them to it for comment. He noted that if President Heidar Aliev intends to seek a third presidential term, the constitution must be amended to permit him to do so. That amendment is not among the 39 to be voted on in the upcoming referendum. Schwimmer also expressed concern that Azerbaijan has not yet released all its political prisoners, and called for the creation of "a truly independent regulating body" for the broadcast media. LF
...AND EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR PACE RAPPORTEUR
In his Turan interview, Schwimmer also affirmed that the Council of Europe "does not have any reason to doubt the objectivity" of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur Andreas Gross, whom some senior Azerbaijani officials have accused of bias. Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev and parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov have refused to meet with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 10, 12, and 16 July 2002). Gross arrived in Baku on 16 July and has met with political prisoner and former Prime Minister Suret Huseinov and with representatives of Azerbaijan's Mountain Jews. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION STAGES BAKU DEMONSTRATION
Some 700 members of the three opposition parties aligned in the Union of Azerbaijani Forces -- the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (IPA), and Vahdat -- staged a sanctioned demonstration in Baku on 17 July, Turan and "Zerkalo" reported. The participants expressed their opposition to the planned 24 August referendum, and demanded President Aliev's resignation and the release of IPA leader Alikram Aliev, who was detained last month for his imputed role in the 3 June clashes between police and angry residents of the village of Nardaran (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002). LF
GEORGIA HOPES RUSSIA WILL EXTRADITE FORMER SECURITY CHIEF
The Georgian leadership hopes that in return for the arrest and extradition to Russia of a North Caucasian suspected of involvement in the apartment-building bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 July 2002), Moscow will deliver to Tbilisi former Security Service chief Igor Giorgadze, who is believed to have masterminded the 1995 car-bomb attack on then-Georgian parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze, Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze told Caucasus Press on 17 July. Giorgadze gives regular interviews to the Russian media, but it is not clear whether he is currently living in Russia. Speaking in Oslo the same day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov praised as "a step in the right direction" Georgia's cooperation in apprehending and handing over Adam Dongushev. LF
GEORGIA, UKRAINE SIGN ECONOMIC-COOPERATION AGREEMENTS
A Ukrainian government delegation headed by Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh participated in a two-day session in Tbilisi on 16 and 17 July of the Georgian-Ukrainian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides signed a total of eight agreements, including one on restructuring Georgia's debts to Ukraine, one on the protection of classified information, and others on education and culture. The two delegations discussed coordinating transport tariffs, establishing a joint venture to manufacture arms, and the possibility of Georgian participation in the international consortium to build and operate the Odesa-Brody-Gdansk oil-export pipeline. Kinakh on 17 July underscored the "shared strategic interests" uniting the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER OPTIMISTIC THAT ABDUCTED BANKING CONSULTANT WILL BE RELEASED
Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 17 July, Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili said his ministry "is close" to identifying the men who abducted British banking consultant Peter Shaw in Tbilisi last month, Interfax reported. He said the kidnapping was probably undertaken with the express objective of tarnishing Georgia's international image. Tbilisi Chief of Police Levan Maisuradze told Caucasus Press the same day that Shaw is alive and investigators have obtained information concerning his whereabouts. LF
RIVAL CANDIDATES DISPUTE OUTCOME OF GEORGIAN LOCAL ELECTION
At a two-hour session on 17 July, the Zugdidi local election commission requested the Central Election Commission to rule on the outcome of the 14 July ballot for the local mayor, Caucasus Press reported. Independent candidate Vakhtang Tskhadaya, who lost to businessman Tariel Kantaria by 500 votes, has demanded that the vote be annulled on the grounds that less than the minimum one-third of all registered voters participated in the ballot, according to "24 saati" on 17 July. LF
TWO MEN DETAINED FOR ATTACK ON GEORGIAN NGO
Police in Tbilisi detained two men late on 17 July on suspicion of carrying out the violent attack one week earlier on the Liberty Institute in which several of its staff members were badly beaten, Caucasus Press reported on 18 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002). The men are members of a radical Georgian religious group; one of them has reportedly already admitted his participation in the attack, and denied that he and his 10 companions were acting on orders from others. But institute staffer David Zurabashvili said on 18 July he does not believe that the attack was the work of religious fanatics, Caucasus Press reported. He claimed the perpetrators were acting on orders from the National Security Ministry. LF
FORMER KAZAKH MINISTER SENTENCED
Kazakhstan's Supreme Court on 18 July sentenced former Industry, Energy, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov to six years' imprisonment and fined him 500 million tenges ($3.6 million) on charges of abuse of office and financial crimes, Western agencies reported. Abliyazov, who is a leading member of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, has consistently argued that those charges were politically motivated. In an open letter posted on 28 June on forumkz.org, Abliyazov predicted he would be found guilty, and called on his friends and allies "not to despair," but to continue fighting for their shared goals of democracy, justice, and freedom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002). LF
CHEVRON TO INVEST $3 BILLION IN KAZAKH OIL AND GAS FIELD
Following talks in Astana on 17 July with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmagambetov, Chevron President George Kirkland said his company will invest $3 billion in the joint venture TengizChevroil, in which Chevron owns a 50 percent stake, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Kirkland said Chevron will build a new oil and gas refinery at Atyrau in western Kazakhstan that upon completion in 2005 will make it possible to increase Kazakhstan's annual oil extraction from the current 12.5 million tons to 19 million tons, Interfax reported. LF
KAZAKHSTAN, CHINA INSPECT MUTUAL COMPLIANCE WITH BORDER-TROOP REDUCTIONS
Kazakh and Chinese military inspectors have verified the compliance of each country with agreements signed in 1996 on military confidence-building measures and in 1997 on mutual cuts in the number of troops to be stationed in border regions, Interfax reported on 17 July. No violations of those agreements were registered. LF
MONUMENT UNVEILED TO VICTIMS OF KYRGYZ UNREST
Some 10,000 people attended the unveiling in Boz-Piek, southern Kyrgyzstan, of a monument to the five people who died on 17-18 March in clashes between police and demonstrators in nearby Aksy, AP reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov was repeatedly interrupted when he tried to address the gathering. Participants expressed displeasure that President Askar Akaev, who left the previous day on an official visit to Khakassia and Mongolia, did not attend. LF
TAJIKISTAN DRAFTS PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM
The Tajik government has completed a three-year draft privatization program, Interfax reported on 17 July, quoting presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov. In 2002-03 cultural and health care facilities, construction companies, poultry and fish producers, and pharmaceutical firms are to be sold off; in 2004, major companies such as Tajik Airlines, Tajik Aluminum, Tajik Railways, and a meat-packing plant in Dushanbe, together with coal mines and mines for precious stones, will also be privatized. LF
U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY ENDS VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN
Paul O'Neill held talks in Tashkent on 17 July with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Central Bank Chairman Faizulla Mulladjanov, and several other members of the government, uza.uz reported. The talks focused on Uzbekistan's economic reforms, increasing foreign investment, bilateral economic relations, and the ongoing international antiterrorism campaign. AP quoted O'Neill as expressing confidence that Karimov will comply with his pledge to make the som fully convertible. Karimov for his part said that by the end of this year he will sign an agreement with the IMF on doing so, Interfax reported. LF
RELATIVES OF MISSING BELARUSIANS APPEAL TO POLISH PARLIAMENT
The wives of businessman Anatol Krasouski, who disappeared in September 1999, and television cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski, who went missing in July 2000, delivered an appeal to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Polish parliament on 16 July, requesting assistance in investigating the disappearances of their husbands, Belapan reported the next day. The letter asks the parliament to adopt a resolution concerning Belarus and to urge Belarusian authorities to allow an independent international commission to investigate the cases of missing persons in the country. This appeal follows a similar one made to the Russian State Duma on 1 July and another made to the Supreme Court of Belarus on 16 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 17 July 2002). CB
DEPUTY HEAD OF BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION REPLACED
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka dismissed Leanid Kozik as deputy chief of the presidential administration on 17 July following Kozik's election as the new head of the Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions, Belapan reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). In place of Kozik, Lukashenka appointed Nikolai Ivanchenka, the former general director of Belresursy, the Belarusian natural-resources concern. CB
PRESIDENT SUGGESTS MERGER OF BELARUS'S TWO COMMUNIST PARTIES
President Lukashenka met with a group of parliamentarians from the Communist Party of Belarus (KPB) on 17 July, telling them that the existence of two communist parties in Belarus is "unhealthy" and that the Belarusian Party of Communists should merge with the KPB, Belapan reported the same day, citing the presidential press service. Lukashenka added that the merger would serve as an example for the consolidation of the country's political forces. CB
EU SEES PROGRESS IN UKRAINE'S WTO BID
Speaking after a meeting of the joint EU-Ukrainian commission in Kyiv on 17 July, Gustavo Prada, the head of the EU's trade-analysis body, said that "it is clear that economic reforms are taking place in Ukraine, but not everything is perfect," AP reported. According to the news agency, the agenda of the EU-Ukrainian meeting included Ukraine's trade with European countries, cooperation in steel and agriculture sectors, and Ukraine's bid for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership. Prada said Ukraine's accession to the WTO "depends on how quickly Ukraine's government wants to adapt its legislation to WTO standards." He urged the government to enforce existing laws, especially in the sphere of copyright protection. RK
MEDCEUR 2002 EXERCISES LAUNCHED IN ESTONIA
MEDCEUR 2002, the third stage of the largest international military exercises in the Baltic states this year, was opened in Paldiski on 17 July by Estonian armed forces commander Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts, BNS reported. Other stages, RESCUER 2002 and SAREX, were opened earlier in the week in Klaipeda and Riga, respectively. The exercises, involving 3,500 troops from 12 countries and lasting through 29 July, are part of NATO's Partnership for Peace. The exercise in Estonia simulates an emergency situation in which the country is hit by a flood that destroys the entire infrastructure. Troops will be required to evacuate civilian victims to the U.S. hospital ship "Comfort" for medical treatment. The medical staff of the 1,000-bed "Comfort" will provide free medical treatment and surgery to local residents. SG
U.S. OFFICIAL DISCUSSES LATVIAN ARMY DEVELOPMENT
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones completed her tour of the Baltic states in Riga on 17 July, BNS reported. In talks with Defense Ministry State Secretary Edgars Rinkevics, she discussed the development of Latvia's armed forces and its future involvement in NATO. Jones praised the successful cooperation of the Baltic states in BALTBAT and other joint Baltic military projects and noted that NATO's management structure will have to be changed after the upcoming expansion to ensure there is no division between old and new member states. She congratulated Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins on the excellent organization of the recent meeting in Riga of prime ministers of NATO candidate countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002), and spoke about preparations for the NATO Prague summit in November as well as U.S.-Latvian bilateral relations and the upcoming Latvian parliament elections. SG
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ITALY
Valdas Adamkus completed a very busy day in Rome on 17 July with a meeting with his Italian counterpart Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised that he will personally take under his personal attention the issue of Lithuania's pre-World War II embassy building that was handed over to the USSR and which Russia currently uses for its consulate. The premier also called for increasing bilateral economic relations, and stressed the need for Italian banks to open offices in Lithuania. Senate Chairman Marcello Pera told Adamkus that Lithuania is among the best-prepared candidate countries for NATO, noting that the Italian Alpine brigade has participated in maneuvers in Lithuania for the past three years. The president also awarded the Cross of the Great Duke Gediminas Order to Italian Chamber of Deputies Chairman Pier Ferdinando Casini for his efforts in developing bilateral relations. SG
POLISH PRESIDENT WELCOMED IN WASHINGTON
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski was welcomed in Washington, D.C., by U.S. President George W. Bush on the first day of his three-day state visit, the first by a Polish president since 1991, Western news agencies reported on 17 July. Bush and Kwasniewski called for increased cooperation between their two countries in NATO expansion and the U.S.-led war on terrorism. "On this issue, Poland and America stand united: We believe in NATO membership for all European democracies ready to share in NATO's responsibilities," Bush said. Bush also promised U.S. help for Poland in modernizing its military to meet NATO standards, while Kwasniewski said Poland is committed to remaining part of the antiterrorism coalition. "In the war on terror, even if it lasts many decades, we shall go to every battle, take up every risk until the victory," Kwasniewski said. Bush and Kwasniewski are to visit Polish-American communities outside Detroit, Michigan, on 18 July. DW
CZECH PRESIDENT TO BE HOSPITALIZED FOR SEVERAL DAYS...
President Vaclav Havel will remain hospitalized "for two or three days" while undergoing medical examinations, Czech media quoted his personal physician as saying on 17 July. Havel's doctor, Ilja Kotik, said the president is suffering from the early stages of bronchitis and is being treated with antibiotics. The illness forced Havel to cut short his trip to France and return to Prague on 17 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). MS
...EXPRESSES SOLIDARITY WITH DISSIDENTS IN CHINA, BURMA, AND BELARUS
President Havel in a letter expressed solidarity on 17 July with dissidents jailed for their political views in China, Burma, and Belarus, CTK reported. Havel's letter was read at the Avignon Theater Festival, which he had been scheduled to attend. The festival on 17 July commemorated the 20th anniversary of "Vaclav Havel Night," which took place 20 years earlier at the festival in solidarity with Havel, who was then a political prisoner. In his letter Havel wrote that the evening marks "the solidarity of free thinkers" and that dissidents such as Wu Shi-shen and Ju Tong-ju in China, Win Tin in Burma, and journalists Mikola Markevich and Pavel Mazheyka in Belarus, are held in prison for their opinions, "just as I was 20 years ago." He said that "the struggle for freedom of thought and speech is far from being over." MS
CZECHS MORE SATISFIED WITH POLITICAL SITUATION AFTER ELECTIONS
Satisfaction with the country's political situation has slightly risen in the wake of last month's elections, CTK reported on 17 July, citing a poll carried out by the Center for Public Opinion Research (CVVM). According to the poll, 38 percent of those surveyed said they are satisfied with the situation, 4 percent more than just prior to the ballot. It is the highest level of satisfaction registered in the CVVM poll over the past four years, but an absolute majority of 56 percent remains dissatisfied. MS
CZECH GOVERNMENT TO HAVE SPOKESWOMAN
Anna Starkova will be appointed spokeswoman of the Czech cabinet, CTK reported on 18 July, citing the daily "Pravo." She is to replace Libor Roucek, who last month was elected a deputy representing the Social Democratic Party. The 40-year-old Starkova is a former reporter for Czech television and was the spokeswoman for the Industry and Trade Ministry under the previous cabinet headed by Milos Zeman. MS
CZECH TABLOID GOES OUT OF BUSINESS
The Czech tabloid "Super" was shut down on 17 July, 15 months after it was launched, dpa reported. The paper's circulation had fallen to about 100,000 copies -- half of what it was a year ago. "Super" mixed gossip and sex with political coverage that attacked political opponents of the Civic Democratic Party, and had commercial and indirect ties to TV Nova. MS/AH
HZDS ALONE CELEBRATES ANNIVERSARY OF SLOVAK INDEPENDENCE
The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) was the only Slovak political party that marked the 10th anniversary of Slovakia's Declaration of Independence on 17 July, CTK reported. In a statement issued for the occasion, the HZDS, which played a major role in adopting the declaration, described it as "a revolutionary moment, when Slovakia and its citizens returned to the family of European nations forever." Interior Minister Ivan Simko said the declaration has lost much of its significance, and added that the subsequent approval of the Slovak Constitution in September 1992 was a more important watershed than the declaration. In July 1992, Simko headed in parliament the group representing the Christian Democratic Movement, which opposed the declaration. MS
SMER LAUNCHES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN SLOVAKIA
A controversial election campaign that includes billboards displaying four naked bottoms has been launched by Smer (Direction) in what AP said marks a change to what had been a relatively dull election campaign in Slovakia. A slogan above the four naked bottoms of what appears to be a family with two children sitting on a bench proclaims: "Into the European Union!" and underneath, another phrase reads: "But not with naked backsides!" "Having a naked backside" means to be dirt poor in Slovak, and the billboards appear to suggest that the incumbent government is giving away too much in negotiations for joining the European Union, leaving the country poorer in the process. Eric van der Linden, the European Commission's chief representative in Slovakia, called the poster "cheap populism." MS
LEXA ON HIS WAY TO SLOVAKIA...
Interior Minister Simko on 18 July confirmed to SITA that former Slovak Information Service chief Ivan Lexa has been extradited from South Africa and was expected to arrive in Slovakia in the early afternoon. Simko said Lexa was put on a flight from Johannesburg to Zurich. Lawyers representing Lexa reacted differently to the news. One of them, Lubomir Hlbocan, said the extradition infringes on the ruling of a court in South Africa that had ruled that the extradition documents were incomplete. Another lawyer, Juraj Trokan, said his client was abducted and sent to Slovakia just like former President Michal Kovac's son was when he was sent from Slovakia to Austria in 1995. He also said Lexa's basic human rights have been violated. MS
...WHILE SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS AUTHORITIES KNEW ABOUT HIS WHEREABOUTS
Interior Minister Simko told journalists in Bratislava one day earlier that Slovak authorities had information on Lexa's movements and that "it was no coincidence" that Lexa was arrested in South Africa, CTK reported. Simko said the information about Lexa was passed on by Slovak authorities to Interpol, which then "contacted their colleagues in Pretoria." In a statement released the same day, the HZDS said it sees "no reason" to dissociate itself from Lexa, who is an HZDS deputy, although his immunity has been lifted several times in the past. The HZDS said his extradition was planned to coincide with the election campaign and is intended to mobilize support for the governing coalition parties. MS
HUNGARIAN PREMIER ADDRESSES MAERT MEETING
Addressing the fifth meeting of the Permanent Hungarian Forum (MAERT) in Budapest on 17 July, Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said the fate of ethnic Hungarians abroad is an issue that cuts across party lines and that MAERT needs to continue its work, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy stressed that deeds are more important than rhetoric and outlined a number of proposals to help preserve and foster the identity of ethnic Hungarians abroad. Among these is the setting up of a "National House," an institution aimed at preserving Hungarian traditions in neighboring countries. Alluding to the former cabinet, Medgyessy said that while Hungarians in neighboring countries have the right to expect support from Budapest, Hungarian taxpayers also have the right to know how their money is spent. Medgyessy and Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, who also addressed the MAERT meeting, emphasized the need for transparency in the allocation of the funds, although they also emphasized that the decision on how to spend those funds belongs to the ethnic communities abroad (see also "Romania"). MS
JAPANESE ROYAL COUPLE IN HUNGARY
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, on a four-day visit to Hungary, on 17 July visited Visegrad and the Esztergom Cathedral, Hungarian media reported. The royal couple was accompanied by President Ferenc Madl and Cardinal Laszlo Paskai, the archbishop of Esztergom. On 16 July, President Madl received the emperor and the empress in the parliament building, showing them the Holy Crown of Hungary's first king, St. Stephen. The royal couple later laid a wreath at the Hungarian Heroes' Monument in Budapest. MS
OUSTED YUGOSLAV GENERAL DEFENDS MILOSEVIC...
General Nebojsa Pavkovic said on 17 July in Belgrade that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "never ordered anyone to commit crimes in Kosovo," AP reported. Pavkovic, who added that he is willing to go to The Hague to testify in Milosevic's trial, was fired by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica last month. Pavkovic did not deny that war crimes were committed in Kosova by Serbian forces in 1998-99, but said "no commander ever ordered the killing of civilians or expulsion of [ethnic] Albanians." That contrasts with the testimony the same day from a Yugoslav soldier at The Hague, who said in court that Serbian forces were ordered to kill villagers in Kosova and "cleanse" the province. Pavkovic added that he secretly met with UN war crimes chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in April. PB
...FILES LAWSUITS AGAINST KOSTUNICA
Pavkovic also said on 17 July that his lawyer has begun filing lawsuits for slander against President Kostunica because the Yugoslav leader and his top aides accused him of corruption, AP reported. Pavkovic said Kostunica's comments the previous day in the daily "Cacanski glas," in which he was quoted as saying that Pavkovic has a "soaring business career" and "tendencies to amass real estate during wartime." Pavkovic challenged Kostunica to provide evidence supporting the claims. "I do not accept these allegations," Pavkovic said. "These are just ordinary lies." PB/DW
HAGUE PROSECUTORS DEMAND ACCESS TO MILOSEVIC APPEAL TO BELGRADE COURT
Prosecutors at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague have demanded access to an appeal filed by former Yugoslav President Milosevic in a Belgrade court against his detention and arrest in April 2001, Radio B92 reported on 18 July. In the appeal, believed to have been written by Milosevic himself, he claims that state funds were used to purchase arms and finance special forces in Bosnia and Croatia and that these did not appear in the official budget because the matter was a state secret. In its request that the tribunal formally demand the document, the prosecution said that it has already asked for this and other documents from Belgrade but did not receive an answer until 28 June. It then received a letter signed by an assistant to the Yugoslav justice minister promising access to the documents "once legal matters between Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Bosnia presently before the International Court of Justice" are completed. The prosecution described this as an inadequate justification for denying access to the documents. DW
SON OF LAST KING MARKS ANNIVERSARY IN YUGOSLAVIA
Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, the son of former Yugoslav King Peter II, said on 17 July that he has noticed an increased "interest in the country for constitutional monarchy," AP reported. Aleksandar was celebrating the first anniversary of his return to Yugoslavia at his family's ancestral home in Belgrade. At the celebration, attended by supporters of the monarchy, Aleksandar said that the examples "of Spain, Great Britain, and other monarchies in Europe and elsewhere should not" go unnoticed, and added that "stability in those countries is quite remarkable." The leader of the League of Social Democrats, Nenad Canak, said that "although the issue of restoring the monarchy is not crucial now, I would not rule it out in the long run." The event also marked Aleksandar's 57th birthday. King Peter II fled Yugoslavia ahead of the Nazis in 1941 and settled in London. PB
MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT AND HIS PARTY ATTACK PROPOSED MEDIA AND ELECTION LAWS
Milo Djukanovic said on 17 July that the changes to the media and election laws proposed by the Liberal Alliance (LSCG) and the Together for Yugoslavia coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002) not only violate fundamental constitutional principles, but are also "a step back into the past" and will open "fresh conflicts between Montenegro and the international community," Montenegrin media reported. Predrag Boskovic, a parliamentarian from Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, told Montenegrin radio that the proposed changes "ban the freedom of media in Montenegro and introduce political control over the public and private media." DW
KOSOVA AID MONEY FOUND IN GIBRALTAR BANK ACCOUNTS
European Union officials said on 17 July in Prishtina that they have traced some 4.5 million euros ($4.53 million) in international aid earmarked for Kosova in several bank accounts in the British colony of Gibraltar, AP reported the same day. The money was taken from a fund that aids the Power Corporation of Kosovo. Andy Bearpark, who heads the EU office for Kosova and is in charge of reconstruction and economic development in the province for the UN mission, said, "The money has been frozen and will [be returned] to Kosovo." He said that the Supreme Court of Gibraltar froze the accounts upon a request from the UN mission in Kosova and the EU antifraud office. Officials said several people are under investigation, including an official who worked with the UN mission in Kosova. PB/CB
ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER SETS OUT DEMANDS...
Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha on 17 July threatened to boycott confidence motions in the People's Assembly if such votes are not by secret ballot, also adding that his party will "vote against every socialist government," ATA's website and Albanian radio reported. Both the embattled government of Socialist Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and the prospective cabinet of Majko's party rival, Fatos Nano, should be subject to secret votes, Berisha said. "My aim is not to help create a socialist government. My aim is to ensure respect for the constitution and parliamentarianism," he told Albanian radio. Meanwhile, the head of the ethnic Greek Human Rights Union Party, Vangjel Dule, said on 17 July that his party will participate in a new Nano government, and will ask for increased representation in the cabinet, ATA reported. AH
...THAT OUSTED SOCIALIST SAYS ARE RECIPE FOR GOVERNMENT OF TECHNOCRATS
The Socialist Party's recently ousted secretary, Petro Koci, meanwhile warned on 17 July on Albanian radio that such an approach -- combined with a "fluid alliance" between members of his own party and Berisha's Democratic Party -- could result in a stalemate followed by a government of technocrats. That alliance, exploiting division within the Socialist Party, will vote out the Majko government and then reject the Nano cabinet as well, he warned. A faction in the Socialist Party has had "longstanding alliances" with the Democratic Party, and those groups currently have tendencies toward a technical government, the broadcaster quoted Koci as saying. Koci was ousted from the Socialist Party General Steering Committee on 15 July, the same day the party opted to back Socialist Party Chairman Nano in his bid to take up the prime minister's seat for a fifth time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 16 July 2002). AH
FORMER BOSNIAN SERB SOLDIER FREED BY BOSNIAN COURT
A Sarajevo court on 15 July ordered the immediate release on the basis of time served for a Bosnian Serb initially sentenced to death for war crimes, AP reported. The new trial was prompted by the discovery that two of Sretko Damjanovic's alleged murder victims are alive and well (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 1995 and 16 June 1997). The court found Damjanovic guilty of other war-related crimes and sentenced him to nine years in prison, but released him because he has already spent 9 1/2 years behind bars. AH
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINIAN ASSEMBLY FORMS BODY TO PROBE ISRAELI ARMS SALES, MOSTAR WEAPONS CACHE
The federation's House of Representatives on 17 July established an ad hoc committee to investigate alleged arms sales to Israel by the federation's Defense Ministry, FENA reported. The same committee will also look into the circumstances surrounding a cache of weapons discovered in Mostar, the agency added. AH
SLOVENIAN AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS STRIKE, QUICKLY RETURN TO WORK
Union leaders abandoned a labor stoppage just three hours after ordering members to walk out on 17 July in support of demands for salary increases, local and international media reported. All Slovenian airports were to be reopened on 18 July, local radio reported. The strike came after labor leaders failed to reach agreement with a government determined not to cave in to the threat, citing a wage freeze agreed recently within the tripartite framework. "The strike is indefinite, and we will strike until our demands are met," Ziga Ogrizek, a leader of the Flight Controllers Trade Union, had vowed on 17 July. Flights were rerouted through the Croatian capital, Zagreb, during the strike, AP and Hina reported. AH
MACEDONIAN STATE ELECTION COMMISSION ADOPTS ELECTION TIMETABLE
The State Election Commission (DIK) on 16 July adopted the timetable for the upcoming parliamentary elections slated for 15 September, MIA reported. According to the timetable, the members of the six regional election commissions are to be appointed by 26 July and the members of the municipal electoral committees by 5 August. The municipal electoral committees have to name the members of the electoral boards by 26 August. Political parties that want to participate in the parliamentary elections have to submit their lists of candidates by 5 August. The pre-election campaign officially starts on 14 August and ends on 14 September. Foreign organizations interested in monitoring the election process have until 5 September to submit their requests to the DIK. UB
ROMANIA, IMF AGREE ON ADDITIONAL MEMORANDUM OF INTENT
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Neven Mates, chief IMF negotiator with Romania, told journalists on 17 July that they have agreed on an additional memorandum of intent and that the IMF 's executive board will examine the memorandum at the end of August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The board is to decide whether to release two pending tranches of the standby loan agreed with Bucharest last year. The sides agreed that the 2002 budget deficit will remain at 3 percent of GDP, but the 2003 deficit is to be 2.65 percent of GDP. Real wages will increase by 3 percent in 2003 over 2002 wages. The sides also agreed that the current budget will be amended in two stages, pending an improvement in revenue collecting. The budget's amendment will allow allocating additional funds to the armed forces and local authorities, as well as stockpiling energy for winter. Mates said the IMF is "worried" about developments in the state-wages sector, by the low pace of the privatization process, and by low revenue collection in the energy sector. MS
ROMANIA TO SHORTEN MILITARY SERVICE
The Supreme Council on National Defense on 17 July decided to shorten as of 2003 compulsory military service from the current 12 to eight months, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. University graduates are to serve five instead of six months. The council said the decision is a "first step" toward transforming the Romanian Army into a professional one. Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu presented a report to the council on the unsuitable equipment of the Romanian contingent dispatched to Afghanistan. MS
ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY CHAIRMAN
Prime Minister Nastase on 17 July received Rafael Estrella, who is chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Romanian radio reported. He told the guest that among the priorities in Romania's preparations for joining NATO are the struggle against corruption and strengthening the independence of the judiciary. Estrella also met with Defense Minister Pascu, who outlined for him Romania's envisaged military reforms, as well as with Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana and Chambers of Deputies speaker Valer Dorneanu. Estrella was to meet with President Ion Iliescu on 18 July. MS
ROMANIA NOMINATES NATIONAL ANTICORRUPTION PROSECUTION CHIEF
The Supreme Council of Magistrates on 17 July nominated Ioan Anamarie to head the newly established National Anticorruption Prosecution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The nomination must yet be endorsed by President Iliescu. Anamarie, 50, had been a prosecutor with the Suceava Appeals Court, and is a graduate of the Bucharest University Law Faculty. The National Anticorruption Prosecution will begin functioning on 1 September. MS
RIFT IN UDMR COMES TO A HEAD
In Budapest on 17 July, Bishop Laszlo Toekes, honorary chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), slammed the current leadership of the UDMR, Hungarian media reported. Toekes said while opening a new exhibition at the House of Terror museum that the fact that he was not invited to attend the MAERT meeting the same day was illegal. Breaking with tradition, the Hungarian government this year did not send personal invitations to participants, leaving it to the organizations representing ethnic Hungarians abroad to decide who should represent them. The UDMR leadership did not include Bishop Toekes among the list of guests. Toekes, who is the actual leader of the "radical wing" in the UDMR, said that in so doing, the UDMR leadership was complying with the orders of Romanian authorities. He said many of the UDMR delegates at the MAERT meeting were "on the other side of the barricade" during the 1989 uprising in Romania. The bishop, whom observers consider to be a supporter of former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, also said he does not want to participate in the new Hungarian-Romanian dialogue proclaimed by Medgyessy during his recent visit to Cluj (see also "Hungary"). MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON CITIZENS TO BACK OSCE FEDERALIZATION PLAN
President Vladimir Voronin on 17 July called on the country's citizens to back the OSCE's plan for solving the Transdniester conflict through Moldova's federalization, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said the OSCE draft proposal "will go down in history," adding that for the first time in a territorial conflict such as that in the Transdniester, a plan has been worked out that instead of a "civilized divorce" of the opponents, provides for a solution "meant to bring together rather than draw apart, to settle the conflict and produce historically tested and reliable forms of state institutions." Voronin said that "never before has there been proposed an option...that impairs the interests of neither side and paves the way for the country's consolidation for the benefit of the nation as a whole, rather than at the expense of one of the sides." He added that "it is important to bear in mind the positive spirit" of the OSCE document, even if some details included in the plan may be objectionable and will necessitate revision. Voronin said that "the logic of reintegration" can no longer be based on "mutual ultimata and endless appeals to external forces." MS
COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SEND REPRESENTATIVE TO MOLDOVA
Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said on 17 July that by the end of this summer he will dispatch to Moldova a personal representative to monitor the evolution of the country's political situation, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Schwimmer also said he intends to ask the Venice Commission of constitutional experts to examine the draft submitted by the OSCE. He said after talks with the heads of Moldovan parliamentary political parties represented in the parliament that all these parties pledged to support the implementation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's April recommendations. Schwimmer also announced he has accepted an invitation from President Voronin to visit Moldova. MS
GAGAUZ-YERI PARLIAMENT APPROVES COMMITTEE TO OVERSEE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS
The Popular Assembly of Gagauz-Yeri on 17 July approved the membership of the Central Election Committee that will supervise the 6 October elections for the post of Gagauz-Yeri governor, Infotag reported. One day earlier, Ivan Kristioglo, the assembly's speaker and acting head of the region's Executive Committee (the government), appointed several new members of the committee. Acting Governor Valerii Ianioglo told Infotag that the appointments are part of a "string of illegitimate acts" and stressed that the positions of governor and chairman of the Executive Committee are combined, in line with current constitutional provisions. Former Governor Dumitru Croitor, who resigned on 6 July, delegated his powers to his deputy Ianioglo, but the majority in the Popular Assembly refuses to accept the decision and has set a new date for elections. MS
PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER QUESTIONS BULGARTABAC PRIVATIZATION...
Presidential adviser on economic issues Dimitar Ivanov, a London-based financial expert, raised doubts on 17 July regarding the transparency and fairness of the Bulgartabac privatization process, Bulgarian newspapers reported. Ivanov told journalists at a news conference that about one month ago he was asked by a representative of the consortium Tobacco Capital Partners to help find strategic investors for the Bulgartabac privatization deal. The person, whose identity Ivanov refused to reveal, said it was a certainty that Tobacco Capital Partners would win the tender. Bulgarian media report that Tobacco Capital Partners, which includes the London branch of Deutsche Bank, has close ties to Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev and Finance Minister Milen Velchev. UB
...WHILE BULGARIAN ECONOMY MINISTER DENIES INVOLVEMENT
On 17 July, Economy Minister Vasilev told "Monitor" that he does not believe that information about the outcome of the privatization deal was leaked from the Privatization Agency. Vasilev refused to comment on Ivanov's allegations that the winner of the Bulgartabac tender may have been known at the beginning of the bidding process. Regarding the recent Russian claims on some Bulgartabac property, Vasilev said the Bulgarian government will resolve the problem with the Russian side and that the issue will not affect the privatization process. UB
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS NEW ENERGY STRATEGY
With the votes of the governing coalition of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), parliament adopted a new energy strategy on 17 July, BTA reported. The strategy envisions the strengthening of the energy market and fixes long-term energy rates. Parliament also recommended that the government hold consultations with the European Commission over the controversial Kozloduy nuclear-power plant. Both the conservative United Democratic Forces (ODS) and the Socialist-led Coalition for Bulgaria denounced the strategy bill as being incomplete. While the ODS said the strategy lacks provisions for investment and privatization, the Coalition for Bulgaria wants to see consumer interests defended. UB
BULGARIAN ARMY BEGINS ANTITERRORISM EXERCISE
The Bulgarian Army started its regular exercise Mountain Guard 2002 on 17 July, BTA reported. According to the news agency, the exercise is a simulation of a military operation against a terrorist group. It involves some 1,600 servicemen and more than 340 combat units. UB
GETTING RADICAL ABOUT EXTREMISM
On 21 June, President Vladimir Putin made an important symbolic gesture by awarding the Order of Courage to Tatyana Sapunova, the 28-year-old woman who was severely wounded on 27 May when a booby trap exploded while she attempted to tear down an anti-Semitic sign outside Moscow. According to ITAR-TASS, Sapunova was as startled as anyone by Putin's move: "The news was entirely surprising," she was quoted as saying.
One reason why Sapunova and others were so surprised is that Putin's public track record on the problems of nationalism and extremism -- like that of former President Boris Yeltsin -- is unimpressive. To take just one example, on 27 April 2000, Putin awarded a medal for "distinguished service to the fatherland" to then-Krasnodar Krai Governor Nikolai Kondratenko. The award came less than one year after the Moscow Helsinki group listed Krasnodar Krai as "the most infamous region [of Russia] when it comes to state-supported extremism." The krai "has become the saddest example of the installation of a regime of extreme xenophobia and ethnic discrimination in a major Russian region. Without a doubt, the major factor is the head of the administration, Nikolai Kondratenko," the report reads. But instead of being reviled, Kondratenko was quietly removed to the Federation Council. Most recently, he was heard from in February when he sent an envoy to the founding conference of the openly anti-Semitic People's Patriotic Party.
Now, seemingly, Putin has changed his mind, and since mid-May extremism has become one of the most discussed topics in Russia. Since then, a controversial new bill on extremist crimes has been drafted and then pushed through the legislature with lightning speed, while the country has been rocked by a number of high-visibility hate crimes from Kaliningrad Oblast to the Far East.
Critics of the new law, however, contend that the bill is too vague, making it potentially a weapon against almost any kind of political activity. Given that local prosecutors are notoriously under the thumb of local officials, and that many of those officials have an odious record of abusing their "administrative resources" to further their own political ends, activists are wary of handing them yet another weapon to use against the country's fragile civil society.
Moreover, critics note that Russia already has enough laws to prosecute extremist groups, but that law enforcement officials have been inexplicably reluctant to use them. Putin and Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov have repeatedly publicly acknowledged this fact. On 11 July, Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasiliev likewise admitted that regional officials take extremist and racist crimes far too lightly, "tending to describe them as mere childish naughtiness or hooliganism." (In 1998, then-Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin made almost exactly the same criticism and ordered officials to pay closer attention to extremist and anti-Semitic organizations.) As if on cue, a local police official in Irkutsk told journalists the same day that there was no evidence that an incident in which a gunman fired into a mosque during a prayer service was an extremist crime and, therefore, his department is treating it as "hooliganism."
It remains to be seen whether gestures such as Putin's recent public statements or bestowing the award on Sapunova will be able to change these long-entrenched attitudes.
Solving the problem is much more a matter of education and leadership than of law enforcement. Speaking one day after a rampage in Moscow following Russia's World Cup loss to Japan during which rioters targeted Asian tourists and businesses, a senior official in the Education Ministry made exactly this point. "The roots of yesterday's events lie in the complex, overall social situation in the country. Spiritually, we have lost an entire generation, and now it is practically impossible to reach their hearts and minds," Valentina Berezina, head of the ministry's Supplementary Education Department, was quoted by RosBalt as saying. "On the state level, we must create and implement complex programs that bring together the strengths of all social institutes, including, first of all, the family."
Notably, the recent parliamentary debate on the new anti-extremism law did not include an examination of the federal program on "forming the conditions of tolerance and preventing extremism in Russian society" that was adopted in August 2001. That four-year plan, although far from perfect, is under the auspices of the Education Ministry, but foresees the involvement of nearly a dozen other agencies from the Media Ministry to the now-defunct Nationalities Ministry to the Culture Ministry and the Academy of Sciences. By the end of this year, the program should already have developed experimental educational programs to promote tolerance, programs that should be part of the national curriculum by 2004. During the admittedly cursory discussion of the new law on combating extremism, no one in the legislature considered it useful to check up on the progress of this initiative.
Another crucial factor that has allowed extremist groups to fester in the regions is the weakness of the local media. Local media, ideally, should cast light on such phenomena at the earliest stages when mere public outrage can be enough to have a decisive effect. In Russia, however, state-controlled local media have shown little interest in covering such groups, and independent media have generally been kept too weak and vulnerable to be effective.
Throughout the 1990s, Russia's leading extremist group, Russian National Unity (RNE), waged an unrelenting national campaign of intimidation and lawsuits against journalists who dared to report on its activities or tag it with the label "fascist." In 2000, the Glasnost Defense Foundation published a book detailing typical cases from the second half of the 1990s in Voronezh, Stavropol, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk that ranks among some of the most compelling reading to come out of post-Soviet Russia. One is equally impressed by the courage of journalists such as Voronezh's Natalya Novozhilova and aghast at the helplessness of the law to protect them from the intimidations of fascists who, as often as not, seem to be at least tacitly in league with local officials. This book makes a persuasive case for the argument that a real independent press would do far more to combat extremism in Russia than any number of laws or police officers.