PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA READY TO USE SECURITY COUNCIL VETO...
In an interview with French national television on 11 February, President Vladimir Putin said Russia might use its United Nations Security Council veto to block a military intervention against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Russian and Western news agencies reported. "Although we highly value the unity of the Security Council, if something is initiated that could lead to the unfounded use of force against Iraq, we will [impose a veto], either with France or alone," Putin said. He added, however, that Russia, France, and Germany still hope to persuade U.S. President George W. Bush not to launch a military strike against Baghdad. Putin said that Russia has no information about possible links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda but is checking data provided by the United States. He agreed with Bush's recent statements that Russia is not an adversary of the United States and added that he is pleased to call Bush his friend. VY
...HAILS ADVANCE OF 'MULTIPOLAR WORLD'...
In the same interview, President Putin called the 11 February joint statement by Russia, France, and Germany on Iraq "the first brick in the construction of a multipolar world," RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. He hailed the effort "to resolve an acute security crisis by thinking outside of [political] blocs." The joint statement signed in Paris says "there is an alternative to war with Iraq" and that Russia, France, and Germany are determined to work together toward that alternative. Putin said the joint statement was adopted spontaneously on the initiative of French President Jacques Chirac. "Paris is the best place for it," Putin said. "If it had been done in Russia, everybody would be saying that we are trying to split Europe and the United States." The joint statement does not, however, mark the emergence of a new political axis, Putin remarked. "We are not working against anybody, but for a peaceful resolution to this problem," Putin said. VY
...AND VOWS NOT TO SURRENDER TO 'TERRORISTS' IN CHECHNYA
In response to a question about Chechnya during the same interview with French television, President Putin asserted that there are links between Chechen separatist fighters and Al-Qaeda, RIA-Novosti reported. "Although there are no more Al-Qaeda camps in Chechnya, its money and instructors are still there, and Russia will fight until their complete destruction," Putin said. "Nobody can expect Russia to surrender to terrorists in Chechnya." He added that he supports a "political solution" to the crisis and expressed support for the 23 March referendum on a new Chechen constitution. In response to another question, Putin said Russia's movement toward democracy is continuing, albeit with difficulties. He attributed those difficulties primarily to an ingrained socialist mentality among the people, who continue to expect the maximum from the state without considering how many resources the state has. VY
BP TO INVEST $6.75 BILLION IN RUSSIAN/UKRAINIAN OIL SECTOR
British Petroleum and the Russian financial-industrial concerns Alfa Group and Access/Renova have announced the biggest business partnership in Russia's postcommunist history, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 12 February. The partners will create a new company that will merge all the oil-sector assets of the three participants on the territory of Russia and Ukraine. According to the deal, 50 percent of the still-unnamed new company will belong to BP, and 50 percent will belong to the Russian partners. Alfa Group and Access/Renova control oil majors Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) and Sidanko. The new company will be the third-largest player in the Russian oil sector, following Yukos and LUKoil. BP will invest $3 billion in cash and $3.75 billion in BP shares in the venture. Alfa Group CEO Mikhail Fridman said the deal would not have been possible without the support of the Russian government. He said the new company will serve as "a locomotive to pull the Russian economy," nns.ru reported. Speaking to reporters during his trip to Paris, President Putin said the deal demonstrates the growing attractiveness of the Russian economy. VY
COURT REJECTS APPEAL FOR MORE PRISON TIME FOR CONVICTED SPY...
The Supreme Court's Military Collegium on 11 February rejected an appeal filed by Chief Military Prosecutor Aleksandr Savenkov in the case of former Military Intelligence (GRU) Colonel Aleksandr Sypachev, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported. Sypachev was sentenced in November to eight years in prison and stripped of his rank after being convicted of spying for the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002). At his trial, prosecutors asked the court for a 15-year sentence, but the court ruled Sypachev was guilty of "attempted espionage" rather than of "espionage" and handed down the reduced sentence. In his appeal, Savenkov argued that the eight-year term is "too mild" and asked the court to increase it. VY
...AS ACADEMIC'S ESPIONAGE CASE UNDER WAY
At a closed session of a Moscow court on 11 February, prosecutors asked for eight years' imprisonment for Anatolii Babkin, a 72-year-old Moscow State Technical University professor who stands accused of espionage, strana.ru reported. Babkin's trial opened on 16 December, and he is accused of helping retired U.S. Navy officer Edmund Pope obtain classified information about a high-speed Russian torpedo. Pope was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison but was pardoned by President Putin in December 2001. Babkin has pleaded not guilty and has said that the allegedly secret documents obtained by Pope were not provided by himself, but by another Russian colleague. A naval officer testifying at the trial for the prosecution argued that Babkin should pay 26 million rubles ($700,000) to compensate for the harm to Russian national security that he allegedly caused. VY
RUSSIAN REGIONS TO HOLD RALLIES AGAINST U.S. STRIKES IN IRAQ...
On 15 February, members of Sverdlovsk Oblast's Communist Party intend to hold another picket of the U.S. Consulate in Yekaterinburg to demand that the United States refrain from military activities in Iraq, regions.ru reported on 11 February, citing Uralinformburo. Vladimir Starichenko, the oblast's party secretary, told the agency he expects about 50 people to take part in the demonstration. Last month, around 50 activists from the Communist Party and the Russian Communist Workers Party held a rally in front of the consulate as part of global protests against a war in Iraq, regions.ru reported on 18 January. Last month, members of the oblast's branch of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) were reported to be considering their own picket of the consulate and expressed their willingness to fly to Iraq to serve as human shields if so ordered by party leaders, regions.ru reported on 27 January. JAC
...BUT NO EFFIGIES ON THE BUS, PLEASE
Leftist party organizers in Perm are also planning a rally against possible U.S. military strikes in Iraq for 15 February, at which they expect some 400 participants, regions.ru reported on 6 February. Organizers of a similar rally last month intended to burn an effigy of the United States, but the young Communist in charge of effigy-burning was not allowed to bring her straw offering to the rally on a public bus, according to the agency. The bus driver and fellow passengers reportedly considered it a safety hazard. Communists in Bryansk Oblast are planning a demonstration for 14 February. Bryansk Communist Party official Viktor Gubenko explained his party's thinking to "Nash Bryansk." "Take the situation in [North] Korea. The American president is afraid they have nuclear weapons.... But why doesn't Israel have to show what it has and doesn't have? Everything that is going on now is simply preparation. First Iraq, then Korea, and then Russia," Gubenko said, according to regions.ru on 5 February. JAC
ANOTHER SENATOR GETS THE BOOT...
Legislators in the Komi Republic voted on 11 February to support the decision of republican head Vladimir Torlopov to recall Rakhim Azimov as the executive branch's representative to the Federation Council, RosBalt reported. Aleksei Grishin, who previously served as the first deputy head of the republic, will take Azimov's place. Grishin is also a former executive with the KomiTEK oil company. Azimov, who graduated from the Leningrad Mining Institute, served less than one year in office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2002). Torlopov commented that, although Azimov had made many promises and proposals, "the residents of Komi actually received nothing." JAC
...AS FORMER REPUBLICAN LEADER SAYS APPOINTMENT WAS BOUGHT
Nikolai Levitskii, a 30-year-old representative of the MDM Group, has been named to replace Grishin in the Komi government, RosBalt reported, citing former head of the republic Yurii Spiridonov. Spiridonov, who lost a re-election bid to Torlopov in December 2001, said that Levitskii's appointment should be immediately examined by prosecutors because the nomination is a clear example of "one debt in exchange for another, or as the people say a 'blat' appointment." "Blat" refers to a system of informal contacts and personal networks used to obtain goods and services under the Soviet-era goods-distribution system, according to scholar Alena Ledeneva in her 1998 book "Russia's Economy of Favours." JAC
REPORTS ABOUT NEW LEFTIST PARTY TURN OUT TO BE GREATLY EXAGGERATED
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 February issued a clarification of a story that ran the previous day about the Union (Soyuz) party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2003). According to the daily, Duma Deputy Viktor Alksnis (Russian Regions) was not elected co-chairman of the party and, in fact, refused to run. Although it was widely reported that "Zavtra" Editor in Chief Aleksandr Prokhanov had also been elected a party co-chairman, Prokhanov said that while he is sympathetic to the party, he has also not agreed to become one of its leaders. When asked whether he might change his mind in the future, Prokhanov ruled out such a possibility. "I am convinced that my colleagues, in particular [Communist Party leader Gennadii] Zyuganov, would not like this. And second, I do not like to sit in presidiums," Prokhanov was quoted as saying. Prokhanov also told TV-Tsentr that he considers the reports about his role in Union a "provocation" and disinformation spread by the presidential administration. JAC
DUMA LEADER SAYS GOVERNMENT STILL NEEDS TO DREDGE UP SUPPORT FOR ELECTRICITY REFORMS
Deputy Oleg Morozov, leader of the Russian Regions group in the Duma, told reporters on 11 February the government does not have enough support in the Duma to secure passage of a package of bills reforming the electricity sector, RosBalt reported. The bills are scheduled to be considered on 14 February. The Russian Regions group is considered one of four pro-presidential groupings in the lower legislative chamber. According to Morozov, only the Unity and Union of Rightist Forces factions are ready to support the bills. The remaining groups are waiting to hear a 12 February presentation by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov before making up their minds. JAC
FARMERS IN AGRICULTURAL REGION THREATEN TO KILL ALREADY DWINDLING LIVESTOCK HERDS
Farmers in Kurgan Oblast's Katai Raion have sent a letter to oblast Governor Oleg Bogomolov informing him that they do not intend to carry out a sowing campaign this year and that if the poor economic situation plaguing the agro-industrial sector is not improved, they will slaughter their remaining cattle, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. The heads of agricultural enterprises wrote that agriculture has become "unprofitable" in the region because of the sharp decrease in grain prices and increases in fuel prices. According to the agency, the number of collective farms in the district has dropped from 16 to eight in the past six years and of the eight remaining, only three are not on the verge of bankruptcy. The number of cattle and pigs has already plunged dramatically. Kurgan Oblast is frequently mentioned as one of Russia's least solvent regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2002). JAC
AN ENVOY'S WORK IS NEVER DONE
Speaking at a meeting of district prosecutors in Nizhnii Novgorod on 10 February, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko said there is not a single federation subject in his district in which federal law does not dominate local legislation, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 11 February. However, Kirienko noted that work on harmonizing regional legislation with federal laws cannot be considered complete, because "if we stop that work, norms contradicting federal law will again appear in the regions." Earlier, some analysts and policymakers, including Kirienko himself, suggested that once regional laws have been brought into conformity, then the office of presidential envoy to the seven federal districts might be abolished, since this was one of the envoys' main tasks (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 January 2001). In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in October 2000, Kirienko said the position of the presidential envoy is by no means permanent and should be considered an instrument to further the government's strategy (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000). JAC
DIRTY TRICKSTERS ENABLE PUBLIC TO REACH LOCAL OFFICIALS -- AT HOME
Yekaterinburg, the capital of Sverdlovsk Oblast, has been plastered with flyers bearing the home phone number of Sverdlovsk Oblast Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Osintsev, regions.ru reported on 11 February, citing Novyi region. According to the agency, city officials are vigorously denying any involvement in the prank, although the oblast and city administrations are frequently at loggerheads. Sergei Tushin, chairman of the city administration's Analytical and Public Relations Committee, told Novyi region that "interference with [a person's] private life is unacceptable." "The organizers of this provocation must be found and punished," Tushin declared. An unidentified city administration official told the agency that Osintsev is not the first victim of "black public relations." Tushin's mobile-phone number was printed on posters during the last regional elections, the source noted. JAC
DUMA COMMITTEE SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH AZERBAIJANI DIASPORA ORGANIZATION
The State Duma's Nationalities Committee has signed a cooperation agreement with the All-Russia Azerbaijani Congress, one of several bodies that claim to represent the interests of the Azerbaijani diaspora in the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. The congress, which Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev described as having great potential, was established in March 2001, and has more than 500,000 members. LF
INGUSH PRESIDENT SOLICITS FRENCH INVESTMENT
Murat Zyazikov, who is accompanying President Putin on his trip to Germany and France, met on 10 February with French businessmen whom he encouraged to invest in Ingushetia's economy, Interfax and ingushetia.ru reported on 11 February. Zyazikov acknowledged that the presence in Ingushetia of displaced persons from Chechnya has negatively affected the economic situation but stressed that the displaced persons will not be forcibly returned to Chechnya. LF
RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS WANT CHECHEN REFERENDUM POSTPONED...
Prominent Russian human rights activists including independent State Duma Deputies Yulii Rybakov and Sergei Yushenkov and Memorial human rights center head Yurii Orlov issued a statement on 11 February backing the call by Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur for Chechnya Lord Frank Judd for a postponement of the planned 23 March referendum on a new draft constitution and election laws, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29, 30, and 31 January 2003). They argued that the referendum should not be held until a cease-fire is in place and all major factions within Chechen society, including supporters of President Aslan Maskhadov, sign an agreement on future priorities. Holding the referendum now as scheduled, they argued, will only deepen the civil confrontation in Chechnya. LF
...AS DOES YABLOKO HEAD
In an article published on 10 February in "Novaya gazeta," Grigorii Yavlinskii likewise argues that the planned Chechen referendum should be postponed. Yavlinskii pointed out that half of Chechnya's population still regards Maskhadov as the legitimate president and that most people are not familiar with the content of the new draft basic law. Yavlinskii also expressed concern that European bodies are being excluded from the search for a settlement of the Chechen conflict, as the mandate of the OSCE mission will not be renewed, and Lord Judd's threat to resign should the referendum go ahead as scheduled was used as the rationale for disbanding the PACE-Duma working group on Chechnya. Yavlinskii argued that holding the referendum could exacerbate the situation in Chechnya and could trigger new terrorist attacks elsewhere in Russia. He also called for talks among all warring factions in Chechnya and for a peace conference to be chaired by President Putin. LF
ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT WILL MEET 'HIGHEST EUROPEAN STANDARDS'
Serzh Sarkisian, who is incumbent President Robert Kocharian's presidential election campaign manager, said in an interview published on 10 February in the daily "Hayots askharh" and reposted on Groong that he is convinced the 19 February presidential ballot will be free, fair, transparent, and conform to "the highest European standards." Sarkisian also said that law enforcement agencies are fully capable of maintaining political stability, although he conceded the possibility that "somewhere a window might be broken, somewhere else one or two shots might be fired." On 11 February, a consignment of 2,000 transparent plastic ballot boxes was delivered to Yerevan from Germany, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. They are intended to minimize the possibility of ballot-box stuffing. LF
ARMENIA CALLS ON IRAQ TO DISARM 'COMPLETELY'
The Armenian government supports the complete and unconditional disarmament of Iraq and the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dzyunik Aghadjanian told Arminfo on 11 February, Groong reported. She said that as one of the countries in the region affected by the confrontation in Iraq, Armenia is "deeply anxious" about the current situation. LF
AZERBAIJAN INVESTIGATES TERRORISM SUSPECTS
Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry is investigating three Azerbaijanis detained on 29 January by the Georgian State Security Ministry's antiterrorism center and subsequently handed over to the Azerbaijani authorities, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported on 11 February. The men are suspected of having undergone training in terrorist activities at a camp in the Pankisi Gorge. LF
GEORGIAN SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES ABKHAZIA
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze convened a meeting of the National Security Council late on 11 February, Caucasus Press reported. Participants discussed possible courses of action following the failure of Russian and Georgian officials to reach agreement at talks in Moscow last week on the extension of the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2003). The force's mandate expired on 31 December, and the Security Council ruled on 26 January that Georgia will approve its renewal only on condition that the conflict zone is expanded to encompass all of Gali Raion and that Russia halt the commuter-train service between Sochi and the Abkhaz capital, Sukhum, and the granting of Russian citizenship to residents of Abkhazia. No final decision was made at the 11 February meeting, but Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharshvili and Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze were charged with renewing talks with the Russian side. Caucasus Press quoted Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze as saying Moscow has already suspended granting Russian citizenship to the Abkhaz, which she described as "a positive step." She predicted that Russia would also agree to Georgia's remaining conditions. LF
GEORGIAN POLITICIAN DENIES MAINTAINING PRIVATE ARMY
Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament-in-exile, rejected on 11 February as lies and intrigues a letter read to parliament by Djemal Gogitidze of the Revival faction, Caucasus Press reported. The letter, addressed to State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania from his counterpart in the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile, claimed Nadareishvili has an illegal private armed formation codenamed Jupiter that exerts pressure on any political organizations that do not support the positions of the parliament-in-exile. Nadareishvili and Gogitidze were prevented from coming to blows only by the intervention of Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili. An anticipated retaliatory assault by Nadareishvili's supporters on the Tbilisi headquarters of the Batumi-based Revival faction failed to take place. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES SEARCHED FOR WEAPONS
Georgian parliament speaker Burdjanadze formally reminded deputies on 11 February that according to Article 201 of the parliamentary statutes, weapons are not permitted in the parliament chamber, Caucasus Press reported. She added that her warning was prompted by a talk with State Security Minister Khaburzania and the head of the State Guard Service, Sultan Papashvili. Guards searched all deputies entering the parliament building on 12 February, to the indignation of many, Caucasus Press reported. LF
STRIKING GEORGIAN MINERS TO BE PAID FROM PRESIDENTIAL FUND
President Shevardnadze issued instructions on 11 February to allocate 800,000 laris ($380,734) from the presidential fund to pay the wage arrears of miners from the Chiatura Manganese Plant in western Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Deputy Minister of State Akaki Zoidze is to transport the money to Chiatura personally on 12 February. The miners launched a strike on 27 January to demand payment of five months' back wages. Between 12 and 20 female miners began a hunger strike inside the mine on 6 February. Operations at the mine were halted after the power supply was cut because management owes $25,000 in unpaid electricity bills. On 11 February, local teachers, traders, and transport workers joined the strike. Imereti Governor Temur Shashiashvili was quoted by Caucasus Press on 12 February as telling the independent television station Rustavi-2 that the strike was organized by people he declined to name but who he said have influential patrons in Tbilisi and who want to bankrupt the mine in order to buy it cheaply. LF
RUSSIAN PAPER TO SUSPEND REPORTING ON GEORGIA
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" announced in its 12 February edition that it is suspending publication of further dispatches from its correspondent in Tbilisi, Anatolii Gordienko, after Gordienko received threats to his life and his family. The paper did not specify who, in its opinion, made those threats. LF
DIPLOMAT DENIES U.S. WILL USE GEORGIAN AIRFIELD IN ATTACK ON IRAQ
Following talks in Tbilisi on 10 February with President Shevardnadze and other senior Georgian officials, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker told journalists there is no truth to media reports that topics discussed included the possible use of the military airfield at Vaziani in possible military operations against Iraq, ITAR-TASS reported. Rademaker conveyed to Shevardnadze a message of gratitude from U.S. President George W. Bush for Shevardnadze's stated support for the U.S. position on Iraq, Interfax reported on 11 February. LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES SENATOR'S SENTENCE LEGAL
Kazakhstan's Constitutional Court ruled on 11 February that the 5 1/2 year suspended sentence for embezzlement handed down to Senator Marat Koishibaev does not constitute a violation of his immunity from prosecution, khabar.kz reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2003). Koishibaev was arrested immediately after being elected to the upper chamber of parliament from an Aqmola constituency in October 2002, but before his election win was formally registered by the Central Election Commission. LF
KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL COURT AGAIN POSTPONES APPEAL AGAINST BORDER ACCORD
Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court will consider next week the appeal by a group of opposition parliament deputies against the ratification by both parliament chambers in May 2002 of a 1999 border agreement under which Kyrgyzstan ceded territory to China, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 11 February, quoting one of the parliament deputies in question (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2002). The hearing was originally scheduled for 27 January but was postponed for one week due to the illness of one of the judges. LF
GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Peter Struck met in Tashkent on 11 February with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and how to strengthen military and technical cooperation, ITAR-TASS and uzreport.com reported. Struck handed Karimov a letter from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder thanking him for Uzbekistan's support for the international antiterrorism coalition. German troops are deployed at Termez on the Uzbek-Afghan border. Struck told journalists after the meeting that he and Karimov agree that the International Security Assistance Force should remain in Afghanistan to help stabilize the country and support the Transitional Administration of President Hamid Karzai, Interfax reported. Germany and the Netherlands took over joint command of that force on 10 February. LF
LUKASHENKA VOWS TO DEFEND BELARUSIANS FROM GOVERNMENT
Belarusian ministers on 11 February briefed President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on their performances in 2002, Belarusian media reported. Lukashenka severely criticized the cabinet of Premier Henadz Navitski for failing to meet half of 16 key economic targets set for the year. He ordered his ministers to catch up with current economic targets by the end of March, threatening to sack them all if they fail. He declared that from now on he will protect the population from the government. "This year will become a year of protection of our population, including from our own government, from the revelry in which you indulge with regard to our population -- taking what is left from their pockets, sometimes getting into empty pockets where you have put nothing at all," Lukashenka said. The president also forbade the government to increase prices. "Not a step forward [as regards] prices! Enough, [you] have robbed [the population] to a larger extent than was necessary," he stressed. JM
KYIV EVACUATES DIPLOMATS FROM BAGHDAD
All diplomats of the Ukrainian Embassy in Baghdad except from charge d'affaires Valentyn Novikov have been evacuated, Interfax reported on 11 February, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Serhiy Borodenkov. Borodenkov added that Novikov is currently in Kyiv for consultations, after which he will fly back to Iraq. "The temporary charge d'affaires himself will decide when he has to leave that country," Borodenkov added with regard to when the Ukrainian mission might be closed entirely. He disclosed that there are currently 231 Ukrainian citizens in Iraq. Borodenkov noted that the Foreign Ministry has not yet released a statement recommending that Ukrainian citizens leave Iraq. JM
UKRAINE'S CHIEF BANKER SAYS IMPACT OF FATF SANCTIONS 'INSIGNIFICANT'
National Bank head Serhiy Tyhypko told journalists on 11 February that recent sanctions recommended by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Money Laundering (see "End Note" below) have had an "insignificant" effect on Ukraine's banking system, UNIAN reported. Tyhypko added that the sanctions affected "only" 40 of the country's 153 banks. He did not elaborate. Referring to an FATF conference expected to begin on 12 February in Paris, Tyhypko said a decision not to expand FATF sanctions against Ukraine would be perceived by Kyiv as "positive." JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TAX AMNESTY FOR SHADOW PROFITS
President Leonid Kuchma is in favor of applying a tax amnesty to legalize hidden revenues that were "not [obtained] in a criminal way," Interfax reported on 12 February, quoting presidential administration deputy head Pavlo Haydutskyy. Haydutskyy said such revenues in Ukraine are estimated at 35 billion hryvnyas ($6.5 billion). He said a tax amnesty does not contradict the "basic principles" of combating money laundering and would not be opposed by the FATF. He added that Kuchma ordered the government and the National Bank to work out by 1 March a plan for implementing such an amnesty. JM
ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS COUNTRY MUST BE ON THE SIDE OF U.S. ON IRAQ
In an article in the daily "Postimees" of 11 February, Siim Kallas expressed support for the United States in the current dispute with Iraq, BNS reported. "I do not want war.... But I believe we must pick a side. And I believe it is the side where the United States is," he said. Kallas claimed that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and the missiles required for their delivery, adding, "The danger will disappear only after [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein has been removed from power." He said Estonia's fate might be affected in that, if a new Stalin were to gain power in Russia, "isn't it absurd to imagine that hiding behind the wardrobe and wagging a reproaching finger at America would better ensure our defense from Stalin Jr. than being an outright and public friend and ally of the United States?" Kallas criticized a recent open letter to him from the People's Union that called for a neutral position on Iraq, saying it is naive to believe that Estonia can avoid taking sides. SG
SWEDISH STATE SECRETARY FOR DEFENSE VISITS LATVIA
During a one-day visit to Riga on 11 February, Yvonne Gustafsson met with Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Defense Ministry State Secretary Edgars Rinkevics, and National Armed Forces Commander Rear Admiral Gaidis Zeibots, LETA reported. Talks focused on the reform of the Latvian armed forces and military cooperation between the two countries before and after Latvia joins NATO. They also discussed the development of the Baltic Security Assistance Forum (BALTSEA) project, launched in 1997, which in addition to Sweden and the three Baltic states includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Some attention was also paid to the "Riga Initiative," a project launched last year for developing a strategy for cooperation among Baltic Sea-region countries' military institutions to protect the environment. SG
UNITING LITHUANIAN PARTIES TO PROPOSE COMMON CANDIDATES FOR PARLIAMENT
The Political Council of the center-right Liberal Union, Center Union, and Modern Christian Democratic Union (MKDS), who signed a merger agreement last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2003), agreed on 11 February to field joint candidates in any by-elections this year, "Kauno diena" reported the next day. Elections will be held in single-mandate districts in Vilnius to replace President-elect Rolandas Paksas and two of his likely advisers, Dalia Kutraite-Giedraitiene and Alvydas Medalinskas. Other deputies might also give up their parliamentary seats to take up posts on local councils or in the president's office. The council also decided that the creation of a new parliamentary faction, comprising 22 Liberal, three Center, and three MKDS deputies, will be officially announced at a special parliamentary session on 24 February. The three groups are scheduled to hold separate congresses on 29 March and a unifying congress at the end of May. They have decided that the new party's leader should come from the Liberal Union, but it is unclear whether he will be current Chairman Eugenijus Gentvilas or Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas. SG
POLISH EMPLOYERS URGE GOVERNMENT TO IMPROVE BUSINESS CLIMATE
Henryka Bochniarz, president of the Confederation of Private Employers, accused the government on 11 February of failing to implement its 2002 program intended to support the development of small and medium-sized businesses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February and 20 March 2002), PAP reported. "On the contrary, we are going in the opposite direction [from that] planned a year ago," Bochniarz stressed. She said Poland must urgently find solutions to prepare for EU competition in 2004. She said it is necessary to lower the tax burden and create better conditions for business development. She quoted a recent poll among 1,200 private companies that found that 42 percent of respondents noted the deterioration of their situation while only 18 percent said their situation has improved. The poll also concluded that 90 percent of businessmen will vote for Poland's EU accession and that 25 percent of polled companies think they will not be able successfully to face the EU's competition. JM
POLISH GOVERNMENT TO BUY MORE PORK
The government has decided to intervene on the agricultural market with the purchase of 50,000 tons of pork, Polish Radio reported on 11 February, quoting Deputy Premier and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski. Kalinowski cited the tough situation on the pork market as justifying the government decision. The move will involve spending 235 million zlotys ($60 million) from the Agricultural Market Agency. Meanwhile, on 11 February, Polish farmers entered the seventh day of their road blockades in various parts of the country to protest the government's agricultural policies, PAP reported. Their demands include government intervention on the pork market and higher prices for their products. JM
U.S. HOUSE HONORS CZECH PRESIDENT
The U.S. House of Representatives on 11 February approved a resolution honoring former Czech President Vaclav Havel's lifelong achievements as a playwright promoting humanistic values, an anticommunist dissident, and a postcommunist politician, CTK reported the next day. Senate approval would make Havel the first Czech in history to be individually honored by the U.S. Congress in such a resolution. The resolution was proposed by Representative Ron Kind (Democrat-Wisconsin). It says Havel is "widely respected throughout the world as a proponent of democratic principles" and notes that the Czech Republic has become "an important and valued member of the world community" under his stewardship. The resolution adds that Havel's "superb skills as a playwright and essayist helped promote democracy in Eastern Europe during the Cold War...bringing international attention to the struggle for democracy in Czechoslovakia." Today, it states, the Czech Republic is "a valuable ally of the United States in the war against terrorism." Speaking through his secretary, Jakub Hladik, Havel said he is "very much surprised" and considers the resolution to be "a big honor." MS
CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS TROOPS IN KUWAIT
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik on 11 February visited the Czech antichemical-, antibacteriological-, and antinuclear-warfare unit, CTK reported. Tvrdik told the soldiers that their mission is helping the Czech Republic fulfill its commitments to the international community. He presented the soldiers with a special distinction for serving abroad and said he is confident they will all return home safely. When Tvrdik last visited the unit, on 20 January, he offered the troops cash bonuses in the event of conflict and granted permission for 27 members to return home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2003). MS
CZECH PUBLICATION DISMISSED AS DANGEROUSLY ANTI-SEMITIC PSEUDOSCIENCE
The publication of a controversial Czech book has led critics to charge that its author "defames a nation and a race" with references to race-based intelligence levels and allegations that Jews dominate U.S. media, universities, and the film industry, CTK reported on 12 February, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." The book, titled "Taboos in Social Sciences," is the work of psychologist and author Petr Bakalar. Sociologist Tomas Kamin, who called the book "pseudoscience in search of enemies" in the same newspaper article, has filed a criminal defamation complaint over the book. Kamin said it is the book's appearance as a serious scientific work, including footnoting, that constitutes the main danger. He accuses the author of seeking "to present racist and anti-Semitic views" in the guise of science. Tomas Jelinek, president of the Prague Jewish Community, described the book as "more dangerous than the publication of "Mein Kampf'" and commented that it could become a manual for racists and anti-Semites in the Czech Republic. MS
SLOVAK PREMIER MEETS WITH BELGIAN COUNTERPART...
Visiting Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 11 February discussed the Iraq crisis, European differences on how to confront it, and bilateral relations with his Belgian counterpart Guy Verhofstadt, TASR and CTK reported. Dzurinda sought to downplay the apparent gap between their positions highlighted by his endorsement of U.S. policy on Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2003) and Belgium's decision along with France with Germany on 10 February to block NATO assistance to Turkey. He said both countries agree that the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein represents a global threat and it is necessary for the EU to agree on a joint stand. Verhofstadt said both Belgium and Slovakia welcome the initiative of the Greek EU Presidency to convene a summit meeting of EU leaders on 17 February in an attempt to bridge differences. Verhofstadt refused to comment on Slovakia's decision to dispatch troops to the Persian Gulf at the request of the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2003). He reiterated the Belgian position that a possible military strike against Iraq must be endorsed by the UN Security Council. Dzurinda also said he believes Belgium will ratify Slovakia's accession to both the EU and NATO. MS
...AND CONFRONTS BELGIAN LAWMAKERS OVER IRAQ
Premier Dzurinda, addressing the Belgian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on 11 February, said NATO's response to hatred and terrorist attacks must be "determined and united action," TASR reported. Dzurinda said the last century has provided a lesson on the cost of yielding to dictators. In response to a question concerning public opinion and the dispatch of Slovak troops to the Persian Gulf, Dzurinda said that "a responsible politician who is not a populist cannot always look at the polls." He said that if the public mood had been taken into account when Slovakia allowed NATO forces to use its airspace during the 1999 Kosova crisis, "The Danube would be full of blood even today." He said support for NATO in Slovakia dropped from 60 to 30 percent during that crisis but subsequently rebounded. Dzurinda also said he believes the United States and Europe have much more in common than not, adding that NATO is strong enough to overcome its current problems. MS
SLOVAK UNIT DEPLOYS IN KUWAIT SOPHISTICATED CHEMICAL-AGENTS DETECTOR
The Slovak antichemical-warfare unit being deployed to Kuwait uses a unique detector of chemical agents, Slovak Defense Ministry sources cited by CTK told journalists on 11 February. The sources said the detector has a range of over 2 kilometers and no other army in the world is equipped with the instrument, "which belongs to the high-tech category." The device reportedly has received high praise from NATO officials. MS
EMBATTLED SLOVAK PARTY LEADER TELLS DISSIDENTS TO LEAVE
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Chairman and former Premier Vladimir Meciar on 11 February gave a group of deputies who recently announced the formation of their own parliamentary faction three days to make up their minds on staying or leaving the opposition HZDS, TASR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2003). Meciar said the group cannot form an independent parliamentary faction and at the same time remain HZDS members. In a telegram to Vojtech Tkac, the leader of the group, Meciar said: "If you made a mistake and wish to correct it, I demand that you notify me within three days." Ladislav Polka, a member of the dissenting group of lawmakers, called Meciar's move "nonsense." MS
HUNGARIAN PREMIER DELIVERS STATE-OF-THE-NATION SPEECH
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy outlined a 10-point program that he called "the Europe plan" in his state-of-the-nation speech before the 11 February session of parliament, Hungarian media reported. Among other things, Medgyessy promised to provide more favorable credit opportunities to small and medium-sized enterprises and those in the agricultural sector. He also pledged to upgrade the country's health-care system, start construction of Budapest's fourth metro line, and spend over 800 billion forints ($3.5 billion) on constructing new motorways. The keynotes of his speech were unconditional support for EU accession and pointing out that the government is on the side of peace in the Iraqi crisis. The "Europe plan" program will require some 1 trillion forints ($4.3 billion) in budgetary outlays, according to "Nepszabadsag." Opposition speakers said Medgyessy did not sincerely face the real problems, and consequently could not provide any answers to important questions. MSZ
HUNGARIAN POLICE APPROVE PEACE DEMONSTRATION
Budapest police approved an application by the Civilians for Peace to stage a march in downtown Budapest on 15 February against war with Iraq, but made it clear that the march may only proceed on a different route than originally planned by the organizers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2003), Budapest dailies reported on 12 February. The police decision came after Premier Medgyessy expressed hope that the organization would be able to stage its demonstration. At a press briefing, Civilians for Peace organizers said the demonstration will only turn into a protest against the Hungarian government if the government continues supporting possible U.S. aggression against Iraq. Organizers said the goal of the demonstration is to protest war, racism, and all forms of oppression, and to speak out in favor of social justice and democracy. MSZ
LOCAL RESIDENTS PROTEST NATO RADAR CONSTRUCTION IN HUNGARY
Residents from the Hungarian towns of Pecsvarad, Bekescsaba, and Bankut continue to protest NATO's planned deployment of three major radar stations in southern, southeastern, and northern Hungary, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 12 February. NATO is spending approximately 3 billion forints ($13 million) on the new radar stations. Construction is scheduled to start in the spring, and all three stations are to be operational by late 2006. The radar systems will form a part of NATO's cross-border defense system, the daily reported. MSZ
MONTENEGRO PREPARING TO CHANGE ELECTION LAW
The governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) on 11 February introduced a bill in the parliament abolishing the 50 percent minimum-turnout requirement for an election to be valid, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The bill is expected to be passed within 15-20 days and would enable a new presidential election to be held without fear that it might fail for a lack of voters, as was the case with the two previous ballots (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2003). PM
MONTENEGRIN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS PROTEST ARMY'S SALE OF LAND TO CHURCH
The SDP has objected to the Yugoslav Army's recent sale of property in Cetinje to the Serbian Orthodox Church for a "symbolic sum," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 11 February. The SDP called on the authorities to block the sale and appealed to citizens to protest the deal. Under the new Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro, the army is not permitted to own any property. It recently sold land in the Tivat area to the church. There are no known cases of the army selling property in Serbia to the church. Most Montenegrin believers belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church, but it faces a challenge from the rival pro-independence Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The SDP is also a firm backer of Montenegrin independence. PM
SERBIAN BISHOP QUESTIONED IN SEXUAL-ABUSE CASE
Attorneys from the district court in Vranje questioned Serbian Orthodox Bishop Pahomije on 11 February in conjunction with sexual-abuse charges brought against him by three young men, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Results of the session have not been made public. Pahomije did not attend three previously scheduled hearings with the attorneys, citing ill health. The Belgrade daily "Danas," the weekly "Vreme," and the Beta news agency previously reported that the Serbian Orthodox Church has suspended Pahomije from the Synod (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2003). PM
A SERBIAN RED HERRING FOR KOSOVA?
Serbian State Television reported on 11 February that units of a shadowy Albanian National Army have crossed from Kosova into the Presevo Valley region of southern Serbia, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported. But in Prishtina, United Nations civilian administration (UNMIK) spokesman Simon Haselock told RFE/RL that the UN has no information on the formation of paramilitary units in Kosova and their crossing into Serbia. Meanwhile, in Belgrade, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic called on UNMIK to extradite to Serbia for war-related crimes three of Kosova's most prominent public figures and former guerrilla leaders: Hashim Thaci, Ramush Haradinaj, and Agim Ceku. Finally, KFOR commander General Fabio Mini told RFE/RL in Prishtina that conditions are not right for Serbian forces to reenter Kosova, as Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has demanded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 February 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 January 2003).
VOJVODINA PARLIAMENT URGES COOPERATION WITH WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL
The legislature in Novi Sad passed a declaration on 11 February calling on the Belgrade authorities to cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Nenad Canak, speaker of the parliament, recently gave testimony to the tribunal about war crimes allegedly committed in Vojvodina over the past decade. He specifically referred to atrocities allegedly committed by Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj against non-Serbian minorities. PM
POLL SUGGESTS CROATS OPPOSE GOVERNMENT'S POLICY ON IRAQ
A poll in the Zagreb daily "Jutarnji list" of 12 February suggests that the overwhelming majority of Croats do not approve of the government's support for the U.S. position on Iraq. The poll of 600 people indicates that 81 percent of respondents oppose a war in Iraq and 72 percent say that Croatia should not offer the United States logistical support. The government has offered such assistance and signed the declaration of 10 former communist countries in support of the U.S. stand (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2003). PM
U.S. PROVIDES COMMUNICATIONS AID TO CROATIAN MILITARY
The United States will provide Croatia with $7 million in radio equipment to help bring the Croatian military up to NATO standards, Reuters reported. Previous U.S. grants to the Croatian military total nearly $13 million. PM
STOLEN-CAR ROUNDUP ENDS IN BOSNIA
EU Police Mission spokesman Jan Oscar Solnes said in Sarajevo on 11 February that an investigation across Bosnia to identify stolen cars has ended with seven vehicles immediately identified as stolen and an additional 80 held for further investigation, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2003). He noted that Interpol data played a big role in the search but added that the work of Bosnian police often proved "too fragmented" to be truly effective. PM
FOREIGN MINISTER ANNOUNCES RESHUFFLE IN MACEDONIAN DIPLOMATIC SERVICE
Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva announced on 11 February that her ministry will propose that President Boris Trajkovski recall a number of ambassadors whose mandates expire soon, MIA news agency reported. In addition, Mitreva informed the government that 14 ambassadors will have to be recalled because of "incompetence," according to dpa. Filip Petrovski, the consul general in New York, will reportedly have to give up his position because of his involvement in several bar brawls. Mitreva stressed that the ministry has reintroduced a system of internal competition for ambassadors' posts that was suspended by her predecessor, Slobodan Casule. UB
ROMANIA VOWS TO BE A TEAM PLAYER
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana told Romanian Radio on 11 February that Romania believes it is important to demonstrate its readiness to be a major ally of the United States in Europe, while at the same time doing all in its power to contribute to EU cohesion, NATO coherence, and to supporting the UN Security Council's role as a global decision-making forum. Geoana said it is natural for Romania to offer troops to its partners and allies, but added that the Romanian troops offered at the request of the United States for a possible military action against Iraq are noncombat forces. He also said Romania must take into consideration the possibility of participating in the reconstruction of Iraq after the current crisis is over. MS
ROMANIA STARTS EVACUATING BAGHDAD EMBASSY PERSONNEL
A group of seven people comprising wives and children of diplomatic staff of the Romanian Embassy in Baghdad was evacuated on 11 February from the Iraqi capital to Amman, Jordan, Romanian Radio reported the next day. On 7 February, the Foreign Ministry said measures were under way to recall some members of the embassy's staff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2002). MS
MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES PRESIDENT'S CALLS FOR NEW CONSTITUTION...
Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov told RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 11 February that President Vladimir Voronin's proposal to develop a new constitution in cooperation with the Transdniester authorities is a "dangerous step" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2003). Cubreacov said Voronin coordinated the proposal with Russian President Vladimir Putin and, while adding nothing new to the OSCE draft on Moldova's federalization, the initiative is aimed at transforming Moldova into a "Russian protectorate" because it would grant Russian troops a permanent status on Moldovan territory. Former Premier Dumitru Braghis, leader of the Braghis Alliance, said he is inclined to view the proposal positively, provided that the new constitution is approved by the people in a referendum, rather than by parliament, Infotag reported. Braghis also deplored the fact that Voronin consulted with Putin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma regarding the proposal before discussing the matter with opposition parties at home. MS
...WHILE REINTEGRATION MINISTER HANDS PROPOSAL TO TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIAL
Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova on 11 February handed the proposal for a constitutional change to Valerii Litskay, who is Transdniester Foreign Minister and head of its delegation at the negotiations with Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Litskay said Tiraspol welcomes Voronin's initiative. MS
VORONIN PROPOSES CHANGE TO PARTY REGISTRATION LAW
President Voronin on 11 February sent a letter to the Party of Moldovan Communists' parliamentary group, asking for an amendment to the law passed last year that obliges parties to reregister annually and to indicate the number of members they have, Infotag reported. Opposition parties have criticized the law, saying it was passed shortly before the spring 2003 local elections and is aimed at changing the electoral rules. In his letter, Voronin proposed changing the date for the obligatory annual reregistration from 1 January-1 March to 1 October-1 December. He said Justice Minister Ion Morei is "incompetent" for having proposed a law that cannot be put into practice. MS
MOLDOVAN RADIO STATION, TV REISSUED SUSPENDED LICENSE
The National Audiovisual Coordinating Council on 11 February restored the broadcasting license of the Voice of Bessarabia radio station, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The license was withdrawn last November (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 13 November 2002). Also on 11 February, the ORT-Moldova television station reached an agreement with the authorities on paying part of its debts for local broadcasts and on negotiating other parts of the debt. ORT-Moldova's broadcasts, which were recently suspended, are to be resumed as a result (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2003). MS
BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER CALLS ON CITIZENS NOT TO PAY BRIBES
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said in a written address to the Socio-Political Forum on the Fight against Corruption in Sofia on 11 February that Bulgarian citizens should take a more proactive stance against corruption under the motto "I don't corrupt," BTA reported. Saxecoburggotski, who did not attend the meeting, stressed that society should build up its tolerance against corruption, because "it is very important for a politician or a civil servant to have high moral standards, but it is just as important for every Bulgarian citizen to refuse to tolerate corruption." UB
BULGARIAN RULING PARTY LAWMAKER WITHDRAWS DECISION TO DEFECT
Dimitar Stefanov, one of six National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) legislators who left the ruling coalition on 10 February with the intention of uniting with other former NDSV members to form a new parliamentary group called National Ideal for Unity (NIE) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2003), withdrew his decision on 11 February, mediapool.bg reported. Stefanov thus placed the formation of the NIE into question. Under the house rules, a minimum of 10 lawmakers is necessary to form a parliamentary group. UB
OPINION POLL SHOWS THAT BULGARIANS ARE DIVIDED OVER IRAQ
An opinion poll carried out on 8 and 9 February by the Skala polling agency showed that almost 54 percent of respondents oppose the parliament's decision to allow the deployment of Bulgarian troops to countries neighboring Iraq, BTA reported. More than 47 percent oppose the decision to grant overflight rights to U.S. aircraft and to allow the presence of U.S. troops on Bulgarian territory, while almost 44 percent support this decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 10 February 2003). According to a separate poll carried out by the website of the daily "Monitor" on 17 January, more than 84 percent of respondents believe that a war with Iraq is inevitable. On 11 February, more than 91 percent told "Monitor" they believe the United States will start a war with Iraq, while about two-thirds do not believe the current differences France, Germany, and Belgium have with the United States will lead to a permanent split of NATO. UB
KYIV HIT BY INTERNATIONAL SANCTIONS FOR MONEY LAUNDERING
In December, a normally inconspicuous organization called the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) hit the headlines of news agencies reporting on Ukraine. The FATF recommended that its members apply "countermeasures" to Ukraine in response to the country's failure "to enact anti-money-laundering legislation that meets international standards." It was yet another mighty blow to Ukraine's tarnished international image, following the much-publicized and unsolved case of the killing of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (2000) and the U.S. allegations (2002) that Kyiv sold early-warning radar systems to Baghdad in contravention of UN sanctions.
The FATF is an independent international body with headquarters in Paris. It has 29 member countries and governments -- including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, China, and Japan -- and two international organizations: the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council. South Africa and Russia have observer status in the FATF.
After reviewing Ukraine's anti-money-laundering regime in June 2001, the FATF placed Ukraine on its blacklist of "noncooperative countries and territories" that fail to adopt and/or apply efficient legal measures to combat money laundering. The FATF has only blacklisted two other states -- Nauru and Nigeria -- for their failure to deal efficiently with money laundering. The FATF also applied Recommendation 21 from its set of 40 recommendations constituting the "basic framework for anti-money-laundering efforts." Recommendation 21 advises that the financial institutions of FATF members "give special attention to business relations and transactions" of persons and companies from blacklisted ("noncooperative") countries. It also calls for the examination and recording of transactions that "have no apparent economic or visible lawful purpose" in order to make the findings available to auditing and law-enforcement bodies.
Having found the "Law of Ukraine on the Prevention and Counteraction of the Legalization (Laundering) of Proceeds from Crime" enacted on 7 December insufficient, the FATF on 20 December recommended that its members apply additional "countermeasures" against that country. In particular, these additional countermeasures call on FATF members to apply "stringent requirements" for identifying clients before establishing business relationships with individuals or companies from Ukraine; to enhance reporting mechanisms regarding financial transactions with Ukrainian clients; to be more considerate in establishing subsidiaries, branches, and representative offices of Ukrainian banks in FATF countries; and to warn non-financial-sector businesses that transactions with Ukrainian entities might run the risk of money laundering.
According to media reports, the United States and Canada in mid-January were the first countries to heed the FATF recommendations with regard to Ukraine. Other FATF members reportedly followed suit. It remains to be seen what impact the FATF sanctions have on Ukraine's financial and business sector (see Ukraine item above). According to an estimate by the Kyiv-based weekly "Zerkalo nedeli" on 25 January, foreign banks have suspended some $300 million worth of transactions with Ukrainian clients, while checking to see who is paying with what money. However, apart from such immediate barriers erected by the FATF to Ukrainian businesses, it seems that the FATF recommendations will also have long-term consequences by gravely eroding the trustworthiness of global financial circles in Ukrainian financial and business partners even beyond the date when the FATF decides to strike Ukraine off its blacklist.
It is noteworthy that Kyiv, knowing for more than a year that it is considered internationally to be "noncooperative" in combating money laundering, reacted to this disgraceful categorization only after the FATF called for harsher international sanctions. In January and February, the Verkhovna Rada hastily passed a number of bills introducing amendments to the anti-money-laundering law, the Criminal Code, and banking laws intended to curb money laundering in line with FATF requirements. In particular, the legislature reduced the minimum sum subject to financial monitoring to 80,000 hryvnyas ($15,000). Another major legislative change prohibited banks from opening anonymous bank accounts and obliged them to identify customers who perform banking operations that exceed 50,000 hryvnyas and do not involve bank accounts. In addition, Interfax reported on 7 February that President Leonid Kuchma recently signed a decree on "strengthening the fight against organized crime and corruption."
According to some Ukrainian commentators, the international focus on financial transactions involving Ukrainian individuals and financial institutions might influence the 2004 presidential campaign in Ukraine to the extent that it will be much more difficult to use campaign slush funds -- which are purportedly used on an increasingly extensive scale with each election campaign -- from offshore banks. Therefore, those observers argue, the role of covert funds from Russia will become dominant in the 2004 election. Some have even implied that the ruling regime might use the newly adopted anti-money-laundering legislation as a convenient tool to harass those businessmen who support a challenger to the presidential candidate proposed by the "party of power."
This week, the FATF is holding a conference at which its experts are expected to discuss whether Ukraine's fresh anti-money-laundering legislation meets international standards. Although some Ukrainian government officials have declared that the country's legislature did everything necessary to meet the FATF requirements, it is rather unlikely that the organization will automatically withdraw its recommendations of a tougher course toward Ukraine by international financial institutions. Ukraine has repeatedly proven to the world community in the past that writing laws is one thing and obeying them is another.
MYSTERIOUS GROUP CALLS FOR JIHAD AGAINST U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN
A hitherto unknown group in Chaman, Pakistan, calling itself Tanzim al-Fatah Afghanistan (Afghanistan Victory Organization) on 10 February called for holy war against U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, the Islamabad daily "The News" reported the next day. The group also published what it claimed was a fatwa (Islamic legal opinion) issued by Islamic scholars in Afghanistan saying that Muslims who help the United States and Britain "in killing thousands of Taliban and Arab mujahedin [Al-Qaeda] do not remain Muslims anymore, and their murder is allowed," the paper reported. The daily indicated that the call for holy war was issued on behalf of former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has already called for jihad against U.S. forces in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2003). The name of the new group suggests that it is of Arab origin. AT
AFGHAN PAPER CALLS FOR PATIENCE IN CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS
The Kabul-based "Erada" newspaper on 8 February cautioned Afghanistan's Transitional Administration against hastily drafting a new constitution and pushing it through by October, as President Hamiz Karzai's government has pledged to do (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003). "Erada" compared the United States, which it said has had the same constitution since the days of President George Washington, to Afghanistan, adding, "Unfortunately, when regimes in Afghanistan change,... their first attack is on the constitution." The commentary then traced the history of various Afghanistan constitutions and proposed that the Karzai administration "should bravely announce that we should ensure credible peace in our country and then we will make the constitution and other laws." "Erada" suggested that the 1964 Constitution be used until that time. AT
SPECULATION CONTINUES OVER INCREASED NATO ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN
NATO might assume leadership of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan after the six-month German-Dutch command runs out in October, the London-based "Financial Times" suggested on 11 February. The paper quoted German Defense Minister Peter Struck during ISAF change-of-command ceremonies in Kabul on 10 February saying that, "for the first time, NATO capabilities are being employed in Afghanistan -- perhaps an initial step to an extended NATO responsibility." Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu of Turkey, who led the ISAF command until 10 February, recently said he thinks the force will be needed for another two or three years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2003), adding that it is "a shame" the ISAF has not been expanded beyond Kabul. AT
AFGHAN POLICE DESTROY DRUGS
Police in the eastern Paktiya Province recently discovered 500 kilograms of hashish and burned it publicly in Gardayz, the provincial capital, Afghan Television reported on 11 February. Police have discovered and destroyed 6,700 kilograms of hashish from different parts of the province thus far in the current Afghan year, which ends on 21 March. Illegal-drug production in some parts of Afghanistan has risen in 2002 because of lawlessness and encouragement from local warlords who are the main beneficiaries of drug trafficking. AT
RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS IRAN UNABLE TO CREATE URANIUM FUEL CYCLE
Russian Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Valerii Govorukhin said on 11 February that Iran has no capabilities to create its own uranium fuel cycle, ITAR-TASS reported. He dismissed President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's recent statement about Iran beginning uranium mining (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 February 2003) as "political," because Iran lacks the technological and financial resources to do so. Govorukhin said Iran had asked for Russia's help in developing Iran's uranium deposits, but asserted that Russian cooperation is limited to the "construction of one nuclear power unit in Bushehr, nuclear fuel supplies throughout the unit's life cycle, and recycling of spent fuel in Russia." However, Atomstroieksport, the construction department of Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry, has already started a technical assessment of the possible building of a second power unit at the Bushehr nuclear-power plant, Atomstroieksport Deputy General Director Igor Prikhidko told Interfax on 11 February. The feasibility research on a second power unit was stated in a protocol signed during Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev's December 2002 visit to Tehran, according to Interfax. SF
CIA DIRECTOR SAYS IRAN SECURE BUT 'INCREASINGLY FRAGILE'
In a national threat briefing to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on 11 February, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet described the Iranian regime as secure but "increasingly fragile," international news agencies reported. He said the conservative and reformist factions are heading for a "showdown" that will likely "determine the pace and direction of political change in Iran," and that violent unrest is increasingly possible. Tenet warned that "no Iranian government, regardless of its ideological leanings, is likely to willingly abandon WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs that are seen as guaranteeing Iran's security." He did not indicate what a future Iranian government might look like, and even acknowledged that the CIA at present is unable to identify a "leader, organization, or issue capable of uniting the widespread desire for change into a coherent political movement that could challenge the regime." Tehran, however, apparently believes Washington is looking to Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to lead a new Iran. In an address marking the 11 February anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution, Khatami said he hoped that Washington would not "support the remnants of the former regime," IRNA reported. SF
POSSIBLE IRAQI OFFER ON MKO
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered to end support for the Iranian opposition Mujahedin-i Khalq Organization (MKO) if Tehran pledges to back Iraq against its Kurdish and Shiite opponents, London's Arabic "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" newspaper reported on 11 February. Citing what it called Iranian government sources, the report said Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri delivered the offer to President Khatami on 10 February during his two-day visit to Tehran. The paper said Hussein also suggested that border issues between the two countries could be solved. SF
IRAN CRACKS DOWN ON VALENTINES
Plainclothes police this week launched a "massive crackdown" on Valentine's Day celebrations, according to AP on 11 February. They have ordered heart-themed decorations and Valentine's Day cards removed from shops. Offending shopkeepers have been ordered to go to the vice-police headquarters and pledge not to sell such products that promote Western values. SF
BIN LADEN TAPE URGES SUPPORT FOR IRAQ
An audiotape message, allegedly by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, to the Iraqi people was aired by Al-Jazeera television on 11 February. Al-Qaeda has been "following with great concern...the crusaders' preparations for war to occupy a former capital of Islam [Baghdad], loot Muslims' wealth, and install an agent government," bin Laden said. He encouraged Iraqis to fight the United States, saying, "Muslims in general, and the Iraqis in particular, must brace themselves for jihad against this unjust campaign and acquire ammunition and weapons." The message also warned Iraqis that the United States relies heavily on psychological warfare, recommended ways to fight U.S. military forces, and stressed "the importance of the martyrdom operations against the enemy." During testimony before the Senate Budget Committee on 11 February, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell described the message as bin Laden claiming "partnership with Iraq," according to a transcript of the testimony (http://www.state.gov). Powell also stated that it "is just a matter of time before coincident interests between the Iraqi regime and organizations such as Al-Qaeda will raise the likelihood that these kinds of weapons [of mass destruction] could fall into their hand." SH
KURDISH GROUP REFUTES CLAIM THAT KHORMAL IS SITE OF WMD PLANT
The Media Bureau of the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) issued a statement on 8 February denying U.S. Secretary of State Powell's claim during his 5 February UN address (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2003) that a plant for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is located in Khormal, the group's Al-Sulaymaniyah-based "Komal" newspaper reported. The town of Khormal is located in the PUK-controlled Halabja district and does not contain any factories, according to the group. Many peshmergas (Kurdish fighters) live in the town but otherwise "the inhabitants of Khormal are ordinary Kurdistani citizens, busy with their own daily affairs," the statement read. A picture of Khormal shown as evidence of Iraq's possession of WMD during Powell's UN address "was not that of Khormal in any shape or form," the KIG alleged. SH
UNMOVIC TO DESTROY MUSTARD GAS
UN spokesman Hiro Ueki announced on 11 February that chemical-weapons inspectors for the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) are to begin the process of destroying four containers of mustard gas on 12 February, AFP reported. UN weapons inspectors earlier discovered the containers north of Baghdad (see RFE/RL's "Tracking Inspections," 4 December 2002; http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraq-inspec/4_dec.asp). The complete destruction of the plastic containers and 10 artillery shells is anticipated to take four or five days, Ueki said. SH
IRAQ'S BA'ATH PARTY ACCUSED OF 'TERROR OPERATIONS'...
Iraq's ruling Ba'ath Party has been accused of conducting "terror operations," "Tariq al-Sha'b," a newspaper of the Iraqi Communist Party, reported on 11 February. The operations allegedly include night patrols in districts adjacent to Kurdish-controlled regions and threats to Iraqis "that their houses would be demolished with them inside, if any shots were fired from them" in the event of a military attack on the part of Iraqi forces. SH
...AND STAYS BUSY ISSUING AND ABOLISHING DECREES
New decrees have been issued by the Iraqi regime listing new offenses that will carry the death penalty, "Tariq al-Sha'b" reported on 11 February. The new offences, which concern members of Iraq's Air Defense Force, include desertion, damaging equipment, spreading rumors, carrying pamphlets dropped by U.S. aircraft, and revealing information on casualties. The decrees were issued by the military bureau of the Ba'ath Party and signed by President Saddam Hussein's son, Qusay Hussein. The Iraqi regime also abolished 14 decrees, including the decree to cut off army deserters' ears. SH
LIBYA TO OFFER IRAQI PRESIDENT ASYLUM?
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has urged Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi "to intercede with Saddam [Hussein], to get him to temper his stance and accept the international community's ultimatum," the Milan daily "Corriere della Sera" reported on 11 February. The Internet version of the newspaper (http://www.corriere.it) also reported that it is believed that Berlusconi has requested that Qadhafi offer Hussein asylum in Libya as a last alternative to war. In an address to members of the Italian government on 9 February, Berlusconi said President Hussein's exile is the only way for Iraq to avoid war. Libyan Television reported that Qadhafi and Berlusconi discussed during an 11 February telephone conversation joint efforts "to find peaceful and political solutions to the Iraqi problem." Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is expected to arrive in Rome on 13 February to meet with Pope John Paul II and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, but might also meet with Berlusconi. SH