KALININGRAD TALKS OFF TO 'TENSE' START
Talks in Brussels between Russia and the European Union over the status of the Kaliningrad exclave after expected EU expansion in 2004 were described as "rather tense" by a Russian participant, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. "Russia has made no concessions," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Razov said, adding that the EU also remained intransigent on the issue of visa-free travel between the exclave and the rest of Russia. Meanwhile, a public opinion poll in Kaliningrad Oblast revealed that 46 percent of residents believe their life will become worse after neighboring Lithuania and Poland join the EU and that bonds between the oblast and the rest of Russia will be weakened, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Sixty-eight percent believe that Russia should insist on visa-free transit. Just 8 percent said that expansion will be beneficial for the oblast. RC
CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT REPORTEDLY CLOSE IN CHICKEN WAR
Russian and U.S. officials have reached an understanding on the conditions for the full resumption of U.S. poultry exports to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported from Washington on 23 July, citing unidentified sources. According to the agency, officials from the Russian Agriculture Ministry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture hammered out compromises on issues such as the proper handling of chicken influenza cases during telephone consultations that day. Russia expressed a willingness to extend a 1 August deadline to give U.S. manufactures more time to prepare new veterinary certificates, AP reported on 24 July. Russia will continue accepting the old certificates for one or two months, Agriculture Ministry spokesman Sergei Kuznetsov was reported as saying. JAC
BUSINESS BACKS THE KREMLIN ON WTO MEMBERSHIP...
The business community fully supports the government's policy on accession to the World Trade Organization, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July, citing the results of a meeting of the government's Council on Entrepreneurship on 23 July. Russia should join the organization after it negotiates favorable accession terms, said Aleksei Mordashov, president of steelmaker Severstal, who attended the session chaired by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. "We must convince the general public and other members of the cabinet of ministers now that Russia should join the WTO," Mordashov added. The businessmen also generally approved of an economic forecast for the 2003-05 period prepared by Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002). However, Gref told ITAR-TASS that they found "systemic flaws" in the way the forecast was prepared, complaining that it relies too much on official statistics without factoring in the shadow economy. RC
...AND ANALYST URGES 'DEVELOPMENT' OVER 'GROWTH'
In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 24 July, Yevgenii Yasin, head of the Academy of Science's Higher School of Economics and a former adviser to President Boris Yeltsin, urged Russia's accession to the WTO. "As a person who has spent his whole life adding up economic accounts, I can say that it is impossible to count up the advantages and disadvantages of joining the WTO. You can add up short-term figures, but no one can say what will happen in 10 or 15 years. And those results are far more important," Yasin said. He added that the key to Russia's future is "development," as opposed to "growth," and urged a focus on "innovation based on modern technology." He said that such development is only possible "if we build a free-market economy that is based on a strong democratic state." RC
RUSSIA RESPONDS TO FALLING U.S. MARKETS
Russia's RTS stock index fell sharply on 24 July, following the lead of U.S. markets, Interfax reported. The index dropped 5 percent, falling below the psychologically important 350-point level. Blue chips were hard hit, with natural-gas giant Gazprom falling 11 percent. Leading oil majors also fell: LUKoil (by 6.5 percent), Sibneft (11 percent), Surgutneftegaz (7.8 percent), and Yukos (6.7 percent). RC
PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY SEES THREATS IN FAR EAST
In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 23 July, presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii emphasized the threats to Russia's national security in and around his region. "In the Far East, like nowhere else, there are practically all possible threats to national security," Pulikovskii said. "We live in a unique region -- a sparsely populated krai with open expanses that is surrounded by the strongest powers in the world." Among the threats to the region, Pulikovskii highlighted the "information threat" posed by the lack of information about national and international events, as well as information from other parts of the region. "In this region...rumors are widespread, particularly rumors about managers and high-ranking officials," Pulikovskii said. He also stressed the region's continuing energy woes and problems in the transportation sector. RC
FEDERAL INSPECTOR THREATENS TO INTERVENE IN UPCOMING ELECTION...
Anatolii Kozeradskii, chief federal inspector for Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, told a local television program that federal authorities will intervene in the mayoral campaign in the city of Nizhnii Novgorod if candidates in the 15 September race use "dirty tricks" against one another, regions.ru reported on 23 July. According to Kozeradskii, many such tricks were used during the oblast's earlier gubernatorial campaign. Recent opinion polls put State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov (People's Deputy) in the lead among the 10 candidates with 23 percent support, "Izvestiya" reported on 17 July. Bulavinov has the support of the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, Sergei Kirienko, the daily reported. In second place is former mayor and convicted felon Andrei Klimentiev with 13 percent. Bulavinov narrowly missed qualifying for the second round of gubernatorial elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 July 2001). JAC
...AS ELECTION OFFICIAL CALLS FOR STIFFER PENALTIES FOR MEDIA ELECTION INFRINGEMENTS
Speaking to reporters in Saratov on 23 July, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that he intends to lobby for changes to the law on the mass media, RosBalt reported. "Many mass media outlets, including regional ones, are actively participating in election campaigns and are receiving from candidates huge sums that remain in the shadows," Veshnyakov was quoted as saying. He complained that under the current law, authorities are only able to fine media outlets "5,000 rubles" for violations, while the outlets are able to collect up to "$5,000" for a single article of "black PR." Veshnyakov called for stiffer penalties, including the power to suspend media licenses for the duration of a campaign. RC
RUSSIA A NO-SHOW AT MAJOR AIR SHOW
For the first time in 14 years, Russia sent no aircraft to the biennial international air show in Farnborough, England, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 23 July. Leading aircraft manufacturers MiG and Sukhoi decided to skip the show for fear that Swiss manufacturer Noga would again try to seize their planes as part of its long campaign to seize Russian assets abroad as a debt settlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July, 14 and 18 August, and 5 December 2000, and 25 June and 2 October 2001). Russia's absence from Farnborough will not harm the country's aviation industry, Aleksei Volin, a government deputy chief of staff, told ITAR-TASS. Some experts suggested that the absence will help arms exporters focus on upgrading technologies, rather than developing new ones. "In Russia, the upgrade theme has long remained in the background, although this market has a very large capacity," said Viktor Komardin, deputy general director of the arms-export agency Rosoboroneksport. The show opened on 22 July and runs through 28 July. LG
NO ROOM AT THE INN IN ST. PETERSBURG
The federal government has asked hotels in St. Petersburg to stop accepting reservations for the period around next summer's celebration of the city's 300th anniversary, RosBalt reported on 23 July. According to Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Vladimir Strazhlkovskii, as many as 12,000 to 15,000 members of foreign delegations attending the celebrations are expected to be in St. Petersburg between 15 May and 5 June 2003. "In connection with this, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry has asked the main city hotels to stop accepting reservations for this period," Strazhlkovskii was quoted as saying. He also said that "tourism firms should warn their foreign and Russian partners that sales of packages during the celebration of the 300th anniversary will be limited." RC
U.S. 'CONCERNED' ABOUT WRITER CASE
The U.S. State Department has expressed its concern over pornography charges recently leveled against writer Vladimir Sorokin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 July 2002), lenta.ru reported on 24 July. "We share the concern expressed by one of President Vladimir Putin's aides and by local human rights organizations that have criticized the filing of a criminal case against Sorokin," an unidentified State Department spokesman said. Apparently, the official was referring to statements about the case made recently by presidential adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2002). RC
GERMANS TO PERFORM ALTERNATIVE SERVICE IN NIZHNII
Three German citizens will perform 12 months of alternative civilian service in the city of Nizhnii Novgorod, RosBalt reported on 23 July. According to the agency, the three young men will work at the First Municipal Hospital and local school No. 39. The newcomers are the fourth group of Germans to perform their alternative service in the city. They arrive in the midst of a controversy over alternative civilian service in Russia and an experimental program in Nizhnii Novgorod in which 20 young Russian men were working at a local hospital instead of being inducted into the military (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). RC
MOBILE-PHONE USAGE GOING UP...
The number of mobile phones in Russia currently totals 10.7 million, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman told reporters on 23 July after a meeting with President Putin, Interfax reported. According to Reiman, the penetration of land-line phones, primarily in agricultural settlements, continues to grow; however, in general the development of the telephone network remains inadequate. Last October, Reiman reported that there would be 6 million cellular phones in Russia by the end of 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2001). He noted at that time that 5 million of these would be in Moscow, 500,000 in St. Petersburg, and the remaining 500,000 spread over the rest of the country. As of mid-2000, the ministry estimated the number of mobile phones at 2.9 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2000). JAC
...AND GOING DOWN
Two Moscow cellular operators, Mobile Telecom Systems (MTS) and VimpelCom, have begun providing coverage within the Moscow metro system, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 July. While just five years ago cell-phone penetration was so low that talk of providing coverage in the metro was unthinkable, usage and competition have increased now to the point where such service is inevitable, the daily commented. MTS intends to expand its service to include coverage between stations. VimpelCom is currently offering coverage at four downtown stations and plans to add five more before the end of the year. RC
KEY PLAYER IN MEDIA-MOST AFFAIR DIES IN LONDON
Andrei Tsimailo, former deputy chairman of the board of directors of Media-Most, died in London on 23 July after a period of poor health, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported the next day. The 44-year-old Tsimailo played a key role in Vladimir Gusinskii's unsuccessful struggle to prevent gas giant Gazprom from taking over his empire. Tsimailo prepared the necessary documentation for Media-Most's ill-fated effort to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and conducted most of Media-Most's negotiations with then-Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh. According to RosBalt, Tsimailo actively tried to find Western investors to purchase shares of Media-Most in order to ward off the Gazprom takeover, but he was repeatedly prevented by the Russian authorities from traveling abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, 15, and 18 January 2001). According to "Izvestiya," the Prosecutor-General's Office continued to seek his extradition from Britain right up until his death. Tsimailo left Media-Most in January 2001. RC
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP DOCUMENTS SCALE OF ILLEGAL TIMBER EXPORTS
The World Wildlife Fund announced at a press conference in Moscow on 23 July that, according to a study it has just released, illegal exports of timber to Japan are equal to or even greater than legal exports, Interfax reported on 23 July. Included in the illegal export flow is wood from endangered species such as the Manchurian nut tree. The group concludes that illegal felling has assumed a catastrophic scale, particularly in the Russian Far East. JAC
ONE GOVERNOR CALLS FOR RESTORATION OF UNION OF GOVERNORS...
Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev has called for recreating the Union of Governors "in order to show support for the president of the Russian Federation and carrying out his reforms," Interfax-Eurasia reported on 23 July. Ishaev said that the union worked effectively under former President Yeltsin and resolved problems not only of governors and individual regions, but of Russia as a whole. Ishaev acknowledged that, "Of course, there is the State Council, where global problems are discussed many years in advance, but today there are a series of other problems." Among them, he listed concerns about the budget, the road fund, and energy issues. JAC
...AS ANOTHER COMPLAINS ABOUT ENVOYS
In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 July, Novgorod Oblast Governor and Democratic Party of Russia head Mikhail Prusak voiced new criticism of President Putin's policies and appealed to him to turn to the regions for support. According to Prusak, Putin "has to rely on the regions" because he cannot rely on Moscow and his political base of support is too narrow. Prusak said that Putin "was promoted by two or three men, and a single person financed his campaign," apparently referring to self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovskii. Prusak also called for the creation of a law on the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts. According to Prusak, the envoys were "appointed in the first place to help oligarchs take over the territories entirely." "They have performed their task. They should now be thanked and dismissed," he continued. Prusak has criticized the institution of presidential envoys on a number of occasions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2001). JAC
COURT CASE AGAINST JOURNALIST IN FAR NORTH CLOSED
The city court of Naryan-Mar in Nenets Autonomous Okrug decided on 23 July to close the criminal case launched against the editor of "Krasnyi tundrovik," Olga Cheburina, on suspicion of abuse of office and exceeding official responsibilities, Interfax-Northwest reported. Cheburina achieved national fame after she was fired following a question by Aleksei Vasilivetskii, who introduced himself as one of her correspondents at a 24 June presidential press conference (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 3, and 9 July 2002). However, the board of the newspaper claimed that Cheburina's dismissal had no connection with Vasilivetskii's question. The criminal case was launched against Cheburina in August 2001. Under Cheburina's leadership, the newspaper published a series of articles about criminal cases against Nenets Governor Vladimir Butov that local journalists believe were behind the decision to dismiss Cheburina, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 July. After the court hearing, Cheburina said that her next step will be to challenge as illegal the appointment of a new editor in her place. JAC
PATRUSHEV ASSURES PUTIN SITUATION IN CHECHNYA DEVELOPING POSITIVELY...
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev briefed President Putin on 23 July on the ongoing investigation into several terrorist attacks in Russia in 1999, "Vremya novostei" and other Russian news agencies reported on 24 July. Patrushev lauded the extradition last week from Georgia and Azerbaijan of persons suspected of involvement in such acts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 17, and 22 July 2002) as reflecting improved relations with those countries. He also said 16 people have been arrested in connection with the 9 May terrorist bombing in Kaspiisk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 May 2002). Patrushev characterized the overall situation in Chechnya as showing a tendency toward improvement, but declined to predict when the ongoing "antiterrorism" campaign might be successfully concluded. LF
...WHILE HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SAY SITUATION UNCHANGED...
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 23 July, Moscow Helsinki Group chair Lyudmila Alekseeva said that the human rights situation in Chechnya has not improved over the past 12 months, Interfax reported. Both Alekseeva and International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Executive Director Aaron Rhodes advised that no additional displaced persons should be encouraged to return from Ingushetia to Chechnya until search operations by Russian troops end. Rhodes questioned Chechen official claims that the displaced persons are returning to Chechnya voluntarily. He estimated that over the past six months between 50 and 80 Chechen civilians have been killed each month during such searches. LF
...AND CHECHEN PREMIER EXONERATES RUSSIAN TROOPS OVER CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
In separate comments to Interfax and ITAR-TASS on 23 July, Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov dismissed as "a sick man's fantasy" Rhodes's estimate of the number of civilians who die monthly at the hands of Russian servicemen. He said that 80 percent of those deaths are the work of "criminals." Ilyasov also denied that Chechen displaced persons are being forced to return to Chechnya from Ingushetia. LF
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DEMOTES FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER
Robert Kocharian signed a decree on 22 July demoting former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian from lieutenant general to major general, Noyan Tapan reported the following day. Kocharian had harshly criticized Harutiunian 10 days earlier, claiming that during his tenure as minister the armed forces accumulated huge debts and their efficiency decreased dramatically (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 15 July 2002). Legal experts claimed that by demoting Harutiunian, Kocharian violated the constitution, which empowers the president only to promote senior officers. Opposition politicians, who had protested Kocharian's original criticism of the former minister, on 23 July accused the president of unleashing "psychological warfare" against his political opponents. Harutiunian told RFE/RL he plans to continue his cooperation with political forces in opposition to Kocharian. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS DETAINED
Police in Sumgait on 20 July detained six members of the city branch of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) who planned to participate in a sanctioned demonstration in Baku that day, Turan reported on 23 July. Five were fined, and the sixth sentenced to five days' administrative arrest. Several thousand people took part in the 20 July demonstration to demand that President Heidar Aliev resign and that DPA Chairman and former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev be permitted to return to Azerbaijan from his voluntary exile in the United States, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported. LF
FOUR AZERBAIJANI CONSCRIPTS DIE OF HEATSTROKE
Four Azerbaijani servicemen deployed on the Line of Contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces died between 20-22 July after having been hospitalized with heatstroke, Turan and ITAR--TASS reported. ITAR-TASS on 23 July quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Ramiz Melikov as saying that the fatalities were the first recorded in the armed forces attributable to sunstroke, but Azerbaijani media reported three such deaths last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2001). LF
FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S SUPPORTERS DENY HE HAS BEEN EXPELLED FROM RUSSIA
Civic Unity Party General Secretary Sabir Hadjiev on 24 July rejected as untrue a report circulated the previous day by the news agency Olaylar that former President Ayaz Mutalibov has been expelled from Russia for persistently engaging in anti-Azerbaijani activities that negatively affect Russian-Azerbaijani relations, Turan reported. "Zerkalo" on 24 July quoted Hadjiev as saying that Mutalibov is currently vacationing in southern Russia. Mutalibov was ousted in May 1992 by the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front and fled to Moscow, but still retains his Azerbaijani citizenship. LF
U.S. AMBASSADOR WARNS GEORGIA OVER CRIME, RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE...
Echoing statements made by German diplomats one day earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002), Richard Miles on 23 July warned Georgia's Justice Minister Roland Giligashvili that failure to clarify a series of high-profile crimes and to put an end to violence against religious minorities may negatively affect U.S. investment in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. LF
...AS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES FILE SUIT AGAINST GEORGIA IN EUROPEAN COURT
Jehovah's Witnesses have filed a total of 30 suits with the European Human Rights Court in connection with the refusal by Georgian prosecutors to open investigations into violent assaults by religious extremists against, or police harassment of, members of that denomination, Caucasus Press reported on 23 July. LF
GEORGIAN POLICE CHIEF REPORTS 'HEADWAY' IN SEARCH FOR ABDUCTED BRITON
"Significant headway" has been made toward locating and releasing Peter Shaw, the British banking consultant abducted in Tbilisi last month, Tbilisi police chief Levan Maisuradze told journalists on 23 July, according to Caucasus Press. He did not elaborate. But the same agency quoted European Commission official Denis Corboy as telling journalists on 23 July after meeting twice with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss the kidnapping that the Georgian authorities have no new information on Shaw. LF
EU CRITICIZES HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN
In a statement on 23 July, Danish Minister for European Affairs Bertel Haarder said Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan must make greater efforts to promote democracy, a free market, and the rule of law, and to safeguard human rights and the independent functioning of the media, Reuters reported. At the same time, he lauded the role played by both countries in making airfields available to the international antiterrorism coalition. Denmark currently holds the rotating EU chairmanship. Haarder headed the EU delegation to the fourth session of the EU-Kyrgyzstan Cooperation Council, which took place in Brussels on 23 July, and at which the EU expressed support for Kyrgyzstan's efforts to draft and implement an antipoverty program, akipress.org reported on 24 July. Also discussed were the parameters for continued EU assistance for 2002-03, including technical assistance and financial support for Kyrgyzstan's food-security program. LF
U.S. TO FUND NEW INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS IN TAJIKISTAN...
U.S. Ambassador to Dushanbe Frankin Huddle announced on 23 July the launch of a new USAID program for Central Asia, within the framework of which the United States will provide $4 million for infrastructure projects in Khatlon Oblast and the Rasht Valley proposed by the local population, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Half of that sum will be spent on education and the remainder on building and repair of roads and bridges, rebuilding water mains, and installing water-purification equipment. LF
...ASSIST TAJIK MILITARY
At a meting on 24 July with Tajikistan's Defense Minister Colonel-General Sherali Khairulloev, Huddle said Washington is ready to expand military cooperation with Tajikistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Huddle mentioned specifically information exchange, U.S. training for Tajik officers, and assistance in demining Tajik territory. LF
TURKMEN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES CRACKDOWN ON CABLE TV
Saparmurat Niyazov has ordered more stringent controls on broadcasting by Russian cable channels, one of the few uncensored sources of information to which Turkmenistan's population still has access, Reuters reported on 23 July. He noted that the state cannot control the content of such broadcasts and derives no profit from them. Niyazov also criticized as deceptive many advertisements aired by Turkmen state television and ordered the creation of an independent commission to monitor such advertising, Interfax reported. LF
TURKMENISTAN STILL AMBIVALENT OVER 'CIS OPEC'
The Turkmen government has not yet reached a formal decision on whether to join the CIS gas export cartel proposed by Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev late last year, Interfax reported on 23 July, quoting a Turkmen government statement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2001). Until such an agreement is reached, the statement said, Ashgabat will rely on bilateral agreements on the sale and export of natural gas. LF
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SENTENCED FOR TAX EVASION
A district court in Minsk on 23 July handed former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir a 3 1/2 year sentence suspended for two years and ordered him to pay back taxes of some $4,600 on money he earned while working in Moscow for a German firm, Belarusian and Western news agencies reported. The verdict also banned Chyhir from taking a leading position in a business for the next five years. "This is the personal revenge of [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka because I joined the opposition," Chyhir said after the verdict. Chyhir, who served as prime minister between 1994-96, took part as a candidate in the opposition-organized presidential election in 1999 and supported opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk in the 2001 presidential ballot. Chyhir spent seven months in prison in 1999 and was given a suspended sentence of three years in 2000 for abuse of office that the Supreme Court subsequently annulled. Chyhir said he will appeal the latest verdict. JM
UKRAINIAN COMMUNIST LEADER APPEALS FOR 'CIVIC PROTEST CAMPAIGN'
Communist Party head Petro Symonenko has called for launching a "broad and powerful civic protest campaign" against the expanding pauperization of Ukrainians, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 23 July. "[Ukraine's] political system needs not a correction but a radical change," Symonenko said in a statement. According to him, one of the key goals of the proposed protest campaign could be holding an early presidential election in the country. "All of us should have a clear understanding that the early election is not a goal in itself but one of the tools for building a democratic and efficient political system in Ukraine," Symonenko added. JM
UKRAINE WANTS TO SELL 2 MILLION TONS OF 2002 GRAIN TO EU
Deputy Prime Minister Leonid Kozachenko told journalists on 23 July that the government is currently negotiating this year's Ukrainian grain exports to the European Union, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Kozachenko said Ukraine wants EU countries to buy some 2 million tons of Ukrainian grain out of this year's harvest, which is approximately equal to Ukraine's grain exports to the EU last year. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh said the same day that Ukraine has harvested 21.2 million tons of grain to date from 61 percent of its grain-producing regions. Ukrainian farmers are counting on a harvest of 35 million tons of grain this year (last year Ukraine harvested 39.7 million tons). JM
ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT DISMISSES FOREIGN MINISTRY CHANCELLOR
The cabinet unanimously decided on 23 July to accept Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland's proposal to dismiss Foreign Ministry Chancellor Indrek Tarand, ETA reported. Tarand was accused of insulting Ojuland at the ministry's summer meeting in Valga County on 10 July and was cited in Tallinn two days later for drunk driving. Ojuland and Tarand's relationship has been strained ever since Tarand dismissed Ojuland as a rank-and-file foreign ministry official several years ago, after which she regained her position following a court decision. Ojuland herself was arrested for drunk driving in the past. SG
ESTONIAN SECURITY POLICE SAY PARTICIPATION IN NAZI ATROCITIES UNPROVEN...
Security Police spokesman Olar Valtin said on 23 July that his organization has uncovered no evidence that the 36th Estonian Police Battalion participated in the execution of thousands of Jews in Novogrudok in 1942, BNS reported. Valtin stressed that "the Security Police must prove the fact of a crime in criminal proceedings and the guilt of concrete persons in the perpetration of crimes." The Estonian Security Police earlier in the day said no criminal action will be taken over the allegations (see next item). Valtin referred to the findings of an International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity initiated by President Lennart Meri in 1998 as "a historical appraisal of World War II events," according to BNA. AH
...AFTER NAZI HUNTERS, U.S. EMBASSY QUESTION INITIAL DENIAL
Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff and a U.S. Embassy official in Tallinn noted a contradiction between Estonian Security Police statements early on 23 July and conclusions by a special commission that Estonian authorities participated in the mass murder of Jews on the town of Novogrudok, BNA reported. Each quoted a 2001 report by the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity stating that "the 36th Police Battalion participated on August 7, 1942 in the gathering together and shooting of almost all the Jews still surviving in the town of Novogrudok." Zuroff has sent a letter to Estonian Security Police chief Juri Pihl demanding a retraction and the launch of a complete investigation into the culpability of 16 men listed by the Wiesenthal Center as participants in the Novogrudok massacre, BNA reported. "The unprofessional and incompetent results of the investigation carried out in this case raises serious doubts as to the ability of the Security Police Board to properly investigate the cases of Estonian Nazi war criminals," Zuroff said in a statement sent to BNS. Thomas Hodges from the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn said the Security Police statement "appears to contradict" the findings of the Estonian commission, according to BNS. He added that the U.S. government "remains ready to work with the Estonian government on the investigation and prosecution of war criminals," the agency added. AH
ESTONIAN CITY OFFICIALS ORDER 'REVISION' OF CONTROVERSIAL MONUMENT...
Officials in Parnu on 23 July ordered that a privately funded monument featuring a World War II soldier in a German Waffen-SS uniform be redesigned following objections that it misrepresents the Estonian struggle for liberation, BNS and Western agencies reported. The controversy revolves around a bas-relief image, including a soldier whose helmet originally bore an SS symbol and whose submachine gun points east toward Russia, and the accompanying text: "to all Estonian servicemen who fell fighting in the second war for the liberation of Estonia for their homeland and free Europe in 1941-1945," according to BNS. Nazi forces were welcomed as liberators by many Estonians in 1941, driving out brutal Soviet occupiers before unleashing their own terror against the population and later being pushed back themselves. Prime Minister Siim Kallas on 23 July condemned the monument in its current form, saying, "It is extremely regrettable, and such monuments should not be born," according to BNS. "It will certainly cause a lot of trouble in Estonia and abroad," Reuters quoted him saying at the same press conference. AH
...AND DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM ITS PLANNING
City planners on 17 June approved the site for the memorial, but officials only recently learned the details despite its planned unveiling in less than a week, BNS quoted a spokesman saying on 23 July. The text will be changed, while the bas-relief is still a matter of negotiations, the agency reported the following day, quoting Parnu spokesman Romek Kosenkranius. "We agreed that he is ready to revise the text on the monument and we will continue talks so the whole complex would take a slightly different shape," Deputy Mayor Taimi Vilgats said on 23 July, according to BNS. The monument should depict Estonia's freedom fight, Vilgats reportedly said, not the way we view it today. The monument was initiated by the creator of a museum on the Estonian Legion, Leo Tammiksaar, and others, BNA reported. "Of course Europeans will not understand us," Tammiksaar said, according to Reuters. "We made this [monument] for our soldiers and not for Brussels." AH
LATVIAN GOVERNMENT ALLOCATES FUNDS FOR EUROVISION SONG CONTEST
The cabinet adopted a decree on 23 July on allotting 547,000 lats ($875,000) from privatization revenues to Latvian State Television (LTV) for launching the organization of next year's Eurovision song contest, LETA reported. Culture Minister Karina Petersone said the Economy Ministry intends to ask for 2.38 million lats for the contest in the first quarter of 2003, but there are a number of activities that require funding this year. For example, LTV needs funds to prepare promotional films for Latvia that will be televised in countries participating in the Eurovision contest. LTV also wants to purchase some needed technical equipment and must prepare the draw that will determine the order for participants in the contest. SG
EU TO PAY HEED TO LITHUANIA'S VIEW ON TRANSIT TO KALININGRAD
EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten has sent a letter to Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis asserting that the European Commission will first seek the approval of Lithuania and Poland before making any proposals to EU member countries on transit between mainland Russia and the Kaliningrad Oblast, BNS reported on 23 July. Patten was responding to a letter Valionis sent him on 28 June declaring that Lithuania will abide by its agreements reached with the EU on visa policy in order to join the Schengen agreement as soon as possible. It is not clear if Patten's response was influenced by French President Jacques Chirac's recent comments in Sochi supporting Russia's position of no visas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2002). Meanwhile, Lithuanian War Academy Professor Algimantas Ambrazevicius has offered another alternative -- building a 70-kilometer underground railroad tunnel from Belarus to Kaliningrad via Poland, at an estimated cost of 2 billion euros ($2 billion). SG
POLISH WORKERS HOLD PICKETS IN DEFENSE OF JOBS
The National Protest Committee (OKP) on 23 July organized pickets in front of provincial government offices in several Polish cities, demanding "the preservation of jobs and the halting of criminal privatization and manipulations of the Labor Code," PAP reported. The OKP, which was recently set up on the initiative of workers of the Szczecin shipyard, includes representatives of companies that face liquidation and of professional groups that are threatened with layoffs. The largest picket was staged in Szczecin, where some 2,000 shipyard workers demanded early parliamentary elections. JM
POLISH CABINET APPROVES ECONOMIC ANTI-CRISIS PLAN
Leszek Miller's cabinet on 23 July approved an "anti-crisis package" proposed by newly appointed Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko to revive economic growth by promoting restructuring for troubled companies, Polish media reported. The plan allows indebted companies to write off their tax, customs, and other arrears to the state in exchange for one-time payments (15 percent of their debts) and a pledge to restructure. Deputy Finance Minister Irena Ozog told journalists that the anti-crisis plan will primarily benefit troubled enterprises in such sectors such as mining, metallurgy, and arms production. JM
POLISH CENTRAL BANK CHIEF CALLS FOR REDUCING BUDGET DEFICIT
National Bank Governor Leszek Balcerowicz on 23 July called for lowering Poland's budget deficit in order to ensure permanent economic growth, PAP reported. "If this problem is not resolved, then chances for achieving permanent economic growth are close to zero," Balcerowicz said at a sitting of the parliamentary Public Finances Committee. Earlier this month the government assumed that the 2003 budget deficit will grow to 43 billion zlotys ($10.6 billion) from 40 billion zlotys this year. JM
DANISH ENVOY PRESENTS EU TALKS TIMETABLE TO POLISH LAWMAKERS
Danish Ambassador to Poland Laurids Mikaelsen on 23 July presented the 2002 timetable of European Union negotiations to deputies of the parliamentary European Affairs Committee, PAP reported. Mikaelsen said the priorities of the current Danish rotating presidency of the EU include the conclusion in 2002 of negotiations with 10 EU-aspiring countries and the preparation of EU membership treaties for countries that will successfully end negotiations. According to the ambassador, negotiations on all areas not related to finances should be concluded before the EU summit in Brussels in October, which means Poland should conclude the justice and internal affairs EU negotiations chapter in July and the competition chapter in September or the beginning of October at the latest. JM
CZECH PRESIDENT DISCHARGED FROM HOSPITAL...
President Vaclav Havel was discharged from Prague's Central Military Hospital on 23 July, a week after being admitted with a respiratory infection, CTK and international agencies reported. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel will spend at least one week convalescing at his official summer residence at Lany, near Prague. MS
...SAYS KAVAN SHOULD CONSIDER RESIGNATION OVER SRBA AFFAIR
In a statement released to the media, presidential spokesman Spacek on 23 July said President Havel is "shocked and appalled" by the reports that former Foreign Ministry official Karel Srba is a suspect in the alleged plot to assassinate journalist Sabina Slonkova and that it "would be appropriate for [UN General Assembly Chairman and former Foreign Minister] Jan Kavan to reconsider his ability to carry out some of the functions he holds," CTK and international media reported. Srba was brought on at the ministry by Kavan, whom media reports describe as a close friend of Srba. Earlier on 23 July, Kavan's predecessor as foreign minister, Jozef Zieleniec, also said Kavan should resign, lest he damage the country's international reputation. MS
FORMER CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL SUGGESTION THAT HE RESIGN UN POST
Kavan told CTK in New York that he is "very much surprised" by Havel's suggestion and sees no reason why he or any of Srba's former hierarchical superiors should have to resign. He stressed he had "nothing to do" with Srba and is not aware of his activities following his departure from the Foreign Ministry in March 2001. Current Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said he wants to speak with Kavan about the affair and will also raise it with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. Spidla said he does not consider it necessary to comment on Havel's suggestion that Kavan resign from his current international post, adding that "it was not clear at all" that Kavan was in any way linked to Srba's case and that Srba, a former secretary-general in the Foreign Ministry, left that post 18 months ago. Spidla also said the UN chairmanship is important for the Czech Republic, adding that Kavan was personally elected to it and the government cannot dismiss him. MS
PRIME SUSPECT IN CZECH MURDER PLOT REPORTEDLY BELIEVES HE WAS FRAMED...
"Mlada fronta Dnes" journalist Slonkova told Czech radio on 23 July that Srba refuses to speak to investigators and is claiming to be the victim of a frame-up, CTK reported. Sources from the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) have also mentioned that possibility, pointing out that the target of the frame-up could be CSSD deputy Kavan. Slonkova said there are "no logical arguments" to support such speculation. MS
...AS SEARCH OF HIS PROPERTY REVEALS HUGE AMOUNT OF CASH
A police search of Srba's home uncovered two guns, and more than 30 million crowns ($989,300) in cash was found in his car, CTK reported on 24 July, citing "Mlada fronta Dnes." According to the daily, Srba was unable to tell investigators how he acquired the money, and told police he could not find anyone to whom he could entrust it. Sources from the Prosecutor-General's Office cited by "Mlada fronta Dnes" said the price that was to be paid for Slonkova's killing was about 500,000 crowns. The search of Srba's home also led to the discovery of a photo of Slonkova, on the back of which was written "Liquidation." Srba is claiming that the inscription was prompted by his desire to become a journalist and "liquidate" Slonkova professionally, the daily reported. MS
ANOTHER INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS' ORGANIZATION 'DISTURBED' OVER SLONKOVA CASE
The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) said on 23 July that it is "greatly disturbed" by the alleged plot to murder Slonkova, adding that such incidents "create an atmosphere of fear that impedes investigative journalism and can lead to self-censorship," CTK reported. WAN called on the Czech government to do everything in its power to protect journalists' right to inform. MS
SLOVAK JUSTICE MINISTER DISMISSES LEXA'S ARGUMENTS AGAINST DETENTION
Reacting to arguments made by lawyers of former Slovak Information Service chief Ivan Lexa against his detention, Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky said on 23 July that there would have been no need to detain Lexa if he had not fled the country and gone into hiding while he was being investigated in 2000, CTK reported. Carnogursky said Lexa was "flattering" him when he claimed to be the prisoner of the justice minister and of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. Carnogursky also dismissed the lawyers' claim that their client's detention is intended to politically harm Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), of which Lexa is a member. Nor, according to Carnogursky, was Lexa threatened during his flight from South Africa that he would be injected with the HIV virus if he refused not cooperate. "When the Slovak authorities transported Lexa to Slovakia, they did so in line with international law and Slovak law," he said. MS
NEW TRENDS IN SLOVAK POLLS
A public-opinion poll conducted by the Focus polling institute at the end of June shows the popularity of the HZDS has dropped to 25.1 percent, which is 3.3 percent less than in April. Support for the second-placed Smer (Direction) party has also fallen from 17.7 to 16.6 percent. The third-placed Hungarian Coalition Party has 11.3 percent support, whereas in April it registered 12 percent. Also losing support is Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (7.8 percent as compared to 9.3 in April). The Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) headed by Markiza television co-owner Pavel Rusko increased its backing from 2.5 to 10 percent. The Communist Party also registered increased backing with 4.9 percent, thus nearing the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation. According to the poll, the Christian Democratic Movement and the chauvinist Slovak National Party (both backed by 5.7 percent) would also make it to the parliament. MS
SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER EMBARRASSED BY SDA YOUTH WING ANTI-SERVICE CAMPAIGN
Defense Ministry sources said on 23 July that Defense Minister Jozef Stank is "outraged" by a campaign launched by young Social Democratic Alternative (SDA) members against military service, CTK reported. Stank has agreed to run on the SDA lists in the September elections, although he is not a member of the recently formed party. The campaigners have distributed leaflets against military service showing a turtle making love to a military helmet and carrying the logos "F**k the Army!" The ministry officially protested against the campaign and quoted Stank as saying that it discredits the military, reforms in the Slovak Army, and efforts to join NATO. SDA Chairman Peter Weiss said he identifies with Stank's position and that the SDA youth wing had not informed him of its plans to launch the campaign. Meanwhile, Stank left on a one-month holiday without mentioning whether he will change his decision to run on the SDA lists. MS
SLOVAK TELEVISION COUNCIL CALLS FOR DISMISSING MANAGER
Slovak Television (STV) Council Chairman Jaroslav Franek told journalists on 23 July that STV has called on parliament to dismiss STV Director Milan Materak over a clause in the STV collective agreement that grants managers excessive severance pay, CTK reported. Materak said some 80 managers could benefit from severance pay as high as 600,000 crowns ($13,475). Materak was appointed to the position following the 1998 general elections. MS
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP U.S. VISIT
Speaking to Hungarian reporters in Washington on 22 July, Laszlo Kovacs said after meeting with Colin Powell that the U.S. secretary of state asked him whether Hungary might reconsider its decision to purchase Swedish/British-made Gripen fighter jets instead of U.S. aircraft. Kovacs said he told Powell that a reconsideration is impossible for legal reasons, but that Hungary is interested in U.S. assistance to arm the Gripens. As for Powell's questions about incidences of anti-Semitism and racism in Hungary, Kovacs pledged that the new government will take firm action in "each and every case." He added that the Foreign Ministry plans to appoint an official of Romany origin as an ambassador in an effort to promote integration. Kovacs also told reporters that the United States would like to see the parliamentary investigation into Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's past in counterintelligence concluded as early as possible, Hungarian media reported. MSZ
INVESTIGATIVE COMMISSION AGREES ON AGENDA FOR MEDGYESSY PROBE
After a long dispute, the parliamentary investigative commission set up to probe Prime Minister Medgyessy's past in counterintelligence agreed on an agenda on 23 July, Hungarian media reported. The commission decided that on 25 and 26 July it will start hearing Interior Ministry and secret service leaders who served before and after the change of regime. During the debate, opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum parliamentary deputy Laszlo Balogh, the commission's chairman, said he and his family received death threats on 20 and 21 July by telephone, apparently related to his work on the commission. MSZ
FIDESZ EXPECTS SOCIALIST APOLOGY OVER HUNGARY'S STATUS LAW
FIDESZ deputy parliamentary group leader Mihaly Varga said on 23 July that his party expects an apology from Employment and Labor Minister Peter Kiss for comments made by Socialist Party officials at the time of the signing of the Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding on Hungary's Status Law, Hungarian dailies reported. Varga said the Socialists warned that the agreement signed on 22 December 2001 would result in 23 million foreigners, mostly Romanians, invading the Hungarian labor market. Varga said that, in fact, just 134 work permits have been issued to foreigners based on the memorandum of understanding. MSZ
DEADLOCK IN SERBIA-MONTENEGRO TALKS
The subcommittee preparing the Constitutional Charter for the new loose confederation of Serbia and Montenegro has finished its work without producing a final document, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade on 23 July. The negotiators proved unable to reconcile the differences between the Serbian and Montenegrin proposed texts. Dragan Kujovic, who heads the Montenegrin team, called on those political leaders who reached a compromise under European Union prodding in March to work out the differences. "The Wall Street Journal Europe" reported that the EU is having difficulties imposing its will on reluctant politicians in both republics, who are having second thoughts about the project. Montenegro believes that Brussels is trying to bully it into accepting a unified market, which it did not agree to in the March compromise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2002). PM
BELGRADE GIVES LILIC GREEN LIGHT TO TESTIFY AGAINST MILOSEVIC
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, who heads the government's committee on cooperation with the war crimes tribunal based in The Hague, said in Belgrade on 23 July that government has released former President Zoran Lilic from his obligation not to discuss state or military secrets in public, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2002). Meanwhile, in The Hague, former President Slobodan Milosevic said that the dead bodies found in 1999 in a refrigerator truck dumped in the Danube River were victims of human traffickers and not of his security forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002). PM
DEL PONTE WANTS KEY U.S. WITNESSES
Carla Del Ponte, who is the tribunal's chief prosecutor, told the London-based "Financial Times" of 24 July that she intends to remain at her post until the Milosevic trial is over, probably in 2004. She added that the tribunal must continue its work until all indictees are brought to trial, even if that means extending its life past 2008. The United States, which provides much of the funding for the court, wants it to wrap up its work by that date. The daily also reported that Del Ponte is working to reach an agreement with the Bush administration so that former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke and former General Wesley Clark, who commanded NATO forces in Kosova in 1999, can testify before the tribunal. The administration is concerned lest sensitive information becomes public. PM
KOSTUNICA'S PARTY CHALLENGES SERBIAN GOVERNMENT'S PAVKOVIC COMMISSION
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) has called on the Yugoslav Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the Serbian parliament's commission that is investigating the Pavkovic affair, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 23 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002). The DSS also demanded a temporary injunction against the commission. Ljiljana Nedeljkovic, who is Kostunica's chief of staff, refused to testify before the commission on the grounds that the Serbian parliament that appointed it is illegitimate following the recent sacking of some DSS legislators. The Yugoslav Army General Staff, for its part, refused a demand by the commission to send five officers to testify before it. Elsewhere, Vladimir Popovic, who heads the Serbian government's communications department, told the commission that his department does not possess bugging equipment and could not have tapped Kostunica's conversations, as the president has charged. The head of the department's web team, Aleksandar Gavrilovic, made the same point. PM
EU TO FUND REBUILDING DANUBE BRIDGE
The EU will provide about $34 million to help fund the reconstruction of Novi Sad's Sloboda Bridge, Reuters reported. Some 40 percent of the old structure can be used in the new one, which is expected to be completed in 2004. The former structure was hit during NATO air strikes in the 1999 campaign to stop Milosevic's aggression in Kosova. Reconstruction has been held up by several factors, including local vested interests that profit from fees related to use of a temporary pontoon bridge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2002). PM
YUGOSLAV MINSTER CONCERNED ABOUT BIGOTRY
Rasim Ljajic, who is an ethnic Muslim politician from Sandzak and minister for ethnic minorities, said in Belgrade on 22 July that he is concerned about a high level of intolerance toward national minorities among young people in Serbia, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor " reported. Ljajic argued that existence of higher levels of bigotry among youth than among those over 50 shows the extent to which the nationalism of the Milosevic era poisoned the political culture for young people who knew no alternative. PM
SERBIAN POLICE MAKE AMMUNITION HAUL IN PRESEVO REGION
In the biggest arms discovery in the Presevo valley in over one year, police found a cache of ammunition, mines, mortar rounds, and hand grenades in the home of an ethnic Albanian in Dobrosin near the Kosova border, Reuters reported from Belgrade on 23 July. Dobrosin was the headquarters of local insurgents who began fighting Serbian forces in October 2000 and concluded a NATO-brokered deal with the Serbian authorities in 2001. Municipal elections are slated to be held in the region on 28 July. PM
DID A MONTENEGRIN PARTY SELL ITSELF?
Ljubica-Beba Dzakovic told the Montenegrin parliament on 23 July that the Liberal Alliance (LSCG) previously demanded a payment of about $10 million from her Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in return for tolerating a DPS-led minority government with the Social Democrats, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She said that when the DPS refused, the LSCG "sold itself to somebody else," meaning the pro-Belgrade Together for Yugoslavia coalition. PM
OSCE ORGANIZES SPECIAL ELECTION-DAY TRAINING FOR MACEDONIAN POLICE
The OSCE mission to Skopje will organize a special training course for some 4,200 Macedonian policemen, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 24 July. The 10-day course will enable the police to cope with possible difficulties during the upcoming parliamentary elections slated for 15 September. The training includes seminars about the role of elections for democracy, the role of the police during the campaign and on election day, and about security in polling stations. Specialists from the OSCE and the Interior Ministry, as well as outside legal specialists, will teach the courses, which start on 5 August. UB
MACEDONIAN TO PARTICIPATE IN AFGHANISTAN PEACE MISSION WITH TURKISH UNIT
The government has decided to deploy Macedonian soldiers to Afghanistan, MIA news agency reported on 23 July. "The decision is in compliance with the commitment of Macedonia and the efforts of the Defense Ministry and the Macedonian Army General Headquarters to [meet] NATO standards," government Spokesman Gjorgji Trendafilov said. The Macedonian Army will send two officers to Kabul, where they will participate in the 4,500-strong Turkish ISAF contingent. UB
ITALIAN FINANCIAL POLICE TO KOSOVA
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, signed an agreement in Prishtina on 23 July with Italian authorities for Italy to supply 10 inspectors from its Financial Police in September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
A 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' FOR CROATIA AND SLOVENIA?
Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula hosted his Slovenian counterpart Dimitrij Rupel at Dvorac Bezanec in the Zagorje region to discuss a "strategic partnership" between the two neighboring countries, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 23 July. The two foreign ministries announced that they expect to sign an agreement on bilateral partnership and cooperation and a protocol on cooperation between the two ministries in September. But as the "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" noted on 24 July, relations between Ljubljana and Zagreb continue to be beset by problems, many of which have remained unsolved since the two countries won independence in 1991. PM
FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT LAUNCHES ATTACK ON NASTASE...
Former President Emil Constantinescu on 23 July told journalists that Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is shielding corruption in his Social Democratic Party (PSD); has no authority vis-a-vis the PSD "barons" (oligarchs), who defy him without punishment; is a danger to the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression; and is incapable of defending the country's independence and sovereignty, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Constantinescu said Nastase can be compared not only with former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but also with extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor. He accused Nastase of making use of information illegally obtained through eavesdropping and of defaming him using materials from the PRM weekly "Romania mare." Constantinescu also said that, on orders from Nastase, he is being censored on Romanian radio and television. He threatened to sue the two institutions if they will not fully report his political statements and refuse to grant him the "right of reply" when he is criticized by Nastase. MS
...SAYS STOLOJAN IS UNFIT TO BE PNL CHAIRMAN...
Constantinescu also said that interim National Liberal Party (PNL) leader Theodor Stolojan is "a man of the left" and therefore unfit to become the next PNL chairman, according to the same RFE/RL report. He said that if the PNL wins the next elections, it would be led by two people whose political roots are in the PSD -- Stolojan and former Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, who is now PNL's first deputy chairman. In order for Romania to gain EU membership, Constantinescu added, the country needs a "strong rightist European party." He said he intends at some time in the future to become the leader of a movement "of honest people, who do not accept being robbed." MS
...AND ROMANIAN PREMIER RESPONDS...
In response to Constantinescu's attacks, Nastase said on 23 July that the former president is "exiting history in an ugly manner," RFE/RL reported. He said that during his tenure as president, Constantinescu presided over "the dissolution of state authority" and demonstrated his "cowardice" when he opted not to run again in 2000. Nastase also said that Constantinescu is trying to create an image of himself as an austere and lonely politician, while in reality he is hiding behind a nongovernmental organization that issues attacks on Nastase as prime minister. He said these attacks do not refer to "doctrinal disputes," and refer to personal rather than public affairs. Romanian Television and Dragos Sauleanu, chairman of Romanian Radio, issued statements the same day rejecting Constantinescu's criticism as unfounded. MS
...SAYS ROMANIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRACY MUST BE UNIFIED...
Nastase told a PSD forum in Suceava on 23 July that Romania's social democrats must be united into a single party, Mediafax reported. He said the PSD cannot but notice that in the rival Democratic Party, which is also a social-democratic formation, there are "different trends" and called on those Democratic Party members who "believe in social democracy rather than in alliances with rightist parties like the PNL" to join the PSD. In response, Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu said that instead of attempting to recruit members from other formations, the governing PSD would do better to cope with growing poverty in the country. Basescu also said the PSD is a party that has been described as "corrupt" by its own leader and that those corrupt Democratic Party members who wished to join Nastase's party "did so long ago." MS
...AND WONDERS WHY TOEKES IS STILL A MEMBER OF THE UDMR
Nastase also said in Suceava that in view of the recent "extremely strong" attacks on the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) by its honorary chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes, he cannot help wondering why Toekes remains a UDMR member, Mediafax reported. He said that in view of Toekes's tone when criticizing the UDMR leadership, "It would perhaps be more fitting for him to join the PRM." Nastase added that Toekes's declarations in favor of Hungarian self-determination in Transylvania and encouraging "segregation" must be condemned. Nastase said that Romanians and ethnic Hungarians must act together to avoid the "pitfalls of extremism" and that "if Toekes had been born Romanian, his name would have been Corneliu Vadim Tudor." The bishop's rejection "of toleration, generosity, and coexistence" cannot be accepted today, and "we must make crystal clear our motivations" for reacting as we do, Nastase said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002). MS
IS THE U.S. PROMOTING NEW PLAN FOR TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENT?
Transdniester "Foreign Minister" Valerii Litskay on 23 July told journalists in Tiraspol that at a meeting between separatist leader Igor Smirnov and U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Pamela Hyde Smith on 22 July, "The U.S. envoy presented several new proposals [for settling the Transdniester conflict] that are now to be carefully considered by Tiraspol," Infotag reported on the same day. David Schwartz, head of the OSCE mission in Moldova, also attended the meeting. Hyde Smith was cited by local media as saying that the United States will intensify its diplomatic efforts to expedite the negotiation process and achieve positive results. MS
PPCD LEADER SAYS OSCE PLAN 'NULLIFIES CONSTITUTION AND SOVEREIGNTY'
Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov said on Antena C radio on 23 July that the Transdniester plan proposed by the OSCE "nullifies" the Moldovan Constitution and endangers the country's sovereignty, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cubreacov said the plan is a reflection of Russia's interests in Moldova. "It is the Russian Federation's right to promote its interests as well as it can, but when international organizations are being transformed into an instrument for promoting those interests, we cannot but criticize and reject such trends," he said. Cubreacov added that the sides involved in the Transdniester conflict are not negotiating as equals and that "only after the withdrawal of the Russian Army, of the Cossacks, and the effective dismemberment of the Transdniester guards, which are more numerous than the Moldovan National Army, can one start talking about negotiations among equals." Cubreacov also said Russia is involved in the Transdniester conflict, on one hand, as a military occupier of a large part of Moldova and as an advocate and protector of the separatist interests and, on the other, as a formal mediator. Combining both roles is unacceptable, Cubreacov was reported as saying. MS
MOLDOVAN CHURCH PROTESTS CHANGE OF LEGISLATION ON CHURCH REGISTRATION
The Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, on 23 July protested a government-sponsored law on cult registration that shortens and simplifies the registration procedure, Infotag and Flux reported. The government submitted the amendment to parliament in order to comply with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and make possible the registration of the Bucharest-subordinated Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, which welcomed the initiative. In its protest, the Moldovan Orthodox Church said it is surprised that the Bessarabian Church has done so "without any regard to the threats" posed by the amendments. It says they would "introduce politics" into religious life "via the backdoor," and that they disregard "the danger associated with the penetration" of "alien, retrograde, and harmful values" into a country that has been "for ages a citadel of high morality." MS
MOLDOVAN, RUSSIAN FORCES CONDUCT PEACEKEEPING EXERCISE
Peacekeeping exercises involving Russian and Moldovan troops began on 23 July at the Bulboaca military base, Flux reported. The exercise involves the participation of some 30 Russian and 150 Moldovan soldiers and is part of the bilateral accord on military collaboration for 2002. A similar exercise was held at Bulboaca last year. MS
BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER HAILS SUCCESSES OF FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE...
Speaking on the occasion of the completion of his first year in office on 23 July, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski addressed the nation in a nationally broadcast speech, Bulgarian media reported. Saxecoburggotski highlighted his government's successes in reducing unemployment, corruption, and the country's tax burden, and pledged to continue investing in infrastructure projects such as the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, the Gorna Arda hydroelectric-power plant, and upgrading Sofia airport. Saxecoburggotski also emphasized that the climate for foreign investment in Bulgaria has improved considerably, even though investment in the country has decreased due to global economic problems. UB
Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski also admitted in his address, published on novotovreme.bg, that his government faces a number of hurdles. Apart from economic problems stemming from companies such as Balkancar in Sofia and the Plama oil refinery in Pleven, Saxecoburggotski said his government is working hard to carry out promised administrative and legal reforms. "The state will be reinforced by a more transparent, more efficient, and faster judicial system. Our judicial system does not yet meet these requirements and citizens' discontent is growing. Its complexity discourages them. The judicial system and the Interior Ministry must be closer to the people," Saxecoburggotski said. UB
...AND RECEIVES BAD MARKS FROM TRADE UNION
Dimitar Manolov, the chairman of the Podkrepa Labor Confederation, said on 23 July that his organization gives the government the lowest passing grade for its first-year performance, and only out of mercy, BTA reported. Unemployment remains high and the standard of health care is falling, Manolov concluded. According to Manolov, 75 percent of Bulgarians are living in poverty, while the financial situation of 46 percent of the population has steadily deteriorated over the past year. UB
BULGARIAN OPPOSITION RAISES QUESTIONS OVER BULGARTABAC PRIVATIZATION
Ergin Emin, a leading politician of the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces, said on 23 July that the initial bids offered in the Bulgartabac privatization are far too low, BTA reported. Emin said an international audit conducted in 2000 estimated the total value of the company at $370 million. "If the offered price of $110 million [the original top bids of 110 million euros offered by two bidders] is accepted, that would mean that the Council of Ministers is just giving the [company] away to buyers that have no experience in the tobacco industry," Emin said. Atanas Paparizov of the Socialist-led Coalition for Bulgaria said his parliamentary faction will insist on receiving a written copy of the final contract between the top bidder and the Privatization Agency, as doubts persist regarding guarantees over the amount of Bulgarian-grown tobacco to be purchased by the company's new owners and the question of whether the buyers will keep the company intact for five years. Paparizov added that Russian claims to Bulgartabac property must still be clarified. UB
CZECH LEADER FACES TOUGH 'GOVERNMENT 101' TEST
Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Chairman Vladimir Spidla wasted little time in hammering out a coalition agreement and a cabinet following national elections in mid-June. The result is a fractious alliance of left, right, and center whose stated aims and cabinet appointments suggest utter dominance on the part of Prime Minister Spidla and his party.
But the curbs on Spidla's powers from outside the executive branch are considerable, and will test his government from its inception, challenge its pro-EU credentials, and discourage radically left-wing inclinations.
There are clear hurdles right out of the starting blocks for Spidla's tripartite coalition, which includes the CSSD and the two-party Coalition made up of the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU). The most immediate dilemma for Spidla's government is its one-seat majority, which has prompted the "101" nickname corresponding to its mandates in the 200-seat lower house. The coalition benches include three snubbed ex-ministers, two independent deputies, and one disaffected former party chairwoman, to name just a few of the potential renegades. Spidla's parliamentary arithmetic is even bleaker in light of the voting discipline within both of the opposition parties, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM).
Embattled ODS leader Vaclav Klaus is also likely to use every opportunity to challenge the coalition's solidarity, as evidenced by his unsuccessful candidacy for a new term as parliamentary speaker. Disgruntled CSSD ministers from the outgoing Zeman cabinet were blamed for holding up the election as parliament speaker of CSSD Deputy Lubomir Zaoralek in the first real test of the new alliance on 11 July. "Two of [Spidla's] people decided to give him a clear signal that if he does not respect the party minority, it need not end well for him or his government," political scientist Bohumil Dolezal commented in "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 12 July. The power of the "Zeman wing" of the CSSD, still skeptical of Spidla and in some cases bitter at being left outside the cabinet, should not be underestimated.
Meanwhile, the Communists are eager to present themselves as silent partners in the government and will no doubt provide votes or simply leverage on some occasions. Such a tactic cannot be invoked too frequently, however, since it could prompt a crisis within the Social Democratic Party, the government, or both. First, Spidla knows Communist gains are potential CSSD losses among voters on the left. Second, within his own party, Spidla cannot afford to alienate anti-Communist moderates like the influential Interior Minister Stanislav Gross or Education Minister Petra Buzkova. Third, reliance on the Communists could quickly devour the coalition's credibility and undermine the junior partners' positions, particularly that of the right-wing US-DEU. Finally, the virulently anti-European Union position adopted by KSCM Chairman Miroslav Grebenicek's unreformed Communists makes even their silent support unpalatable in Brussels. The greatest threat to the Spidla government thus arises from the risk that it will find itself unable to pass major tests -- such as budget votes or the looming presidential election -- without turning to the Communists for help.
With the deck stacked so heavily against him, it might seem puzzling that pundits are already heaping praise on the new prime minister and his team. "So far it appears possible to believe that Spidla, his ministers, and his deputies will not succumb to the uncontrolled passion for maintaining power at any cost and that, on the contrary, they are going to govern sensibly," the editor in chief of the weekly "Respekt," Petr Holub, effused on 15 July.
Such comments are rooted in the perceived emasculation of the ballot box that accompanied the past four years of government under the CSSD-ODS power-sharing deal. The electorate, increasingly disenchanted with that marriage of convenience, has also dropped its guard slightly. A lightning poll issued on the day that President Vaclav Havel appointed the cabinet suggested that one-third of Czechs expect Spidla's cabinet to perform better than outgoing Prime Minister Milos Zeman's "suicide cabinet," CTK reported on 15 July, adding that one-quarter of respondents expressed such optimism when Zeman took power in 1998.
At this stage, it appears that these elections have indeed prompted a break with the Zeman era (1998-2002) and with that of former government leader Klaus (1992-97). This is the youngest cabinet in the country's brief history, with seven ministers under 40 and none over 60, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 8 July. President Havel has worked hard to secure a changing of the political guard in the run-up to his retirement in January 2003. His efforts directed against Zeman and Klaus have blinded him at times to the fragility of a "101" cabinet, but they will have paid off if Spidla is able to walk the fine line he has marked off for himself.
If he expects to remain in office for any appreciable amount of time, Spidla's leftist bark must be worse than his fiscal bite. His own legislative initiatives failed miserably in the legislature during his term as labor minister and deputy prime minister, and his plans reflected in the coalition agreement could prove expensive. But "Spidla's dream" is Sweden, not the Lenin- or Stalin-style redistribution that ODS Deputy Chairman Ivan Langer tried to suggest in the left-wing daily "Pravo" on 13 July.
Still, excessive spending threatens to keep the Czech Republic out of the euro-zone, providing firm ground for critics who accuse Spidla of cloaking less popular initiatives in the blue and gold mantle of the EU. Commentator Jana Bendova noted in the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 8 July that the coalition agreement includes plans to "spend a five-year package of money in a four-year electoral term." Spidla's wholesale acceptance of EU directives may provide some momentum, but it will collide with the Maastricht criteria if Spidla's junior coalition partners cannot convince him to maintain fiscal discipline.
"Reference to Europe in every second sentence is a transparent pretext that is designed to conceal the path backward," Klaus, an unapologetic "Euro-realist," told CTK through an adviser on 7 July. While one can certainly argue over the trajectory of the Spidla government, there is some resonance in Klaus's characterization of the government's EU aspirations as a flag of convenience as it seeks greater ballast.