|Friday, 24 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 02-07-19
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 CABINET PROMISES 'FAIRLY RADICAL' CIVIL-SERVICE REFORMThe cabinet will submit to the Duma a draft program on reforming the civil service in the near future, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 July. First Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Mikhail Dmitriev said that although the package "of fairly radical adjustments" will be phased in over decades, it will "transform Russia's state administration system beyond recognition." He continued that not only will the rules of the game change, but also the public mentality will improve as citizens gain "legislative methods of influencing public servants who go too far." Last August, President Putin signed a decree establishing a civil-service reform commission that was asked to produce an action plan by the end of 2001, according to "Izvestiya" on 22 August 2001. JAC
 MINISTER OUTLINES STRATEGY FOR REPATRIATING CAPITALSpeaking at a press conference in Ufa, Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev laid out three measures for increasing the return of capital that has flown the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union and encouraging citizens to stop keeping their savings at home, polit.ru reported on 19 July. First, Bukaev said that it is essential to implement a deposit-insurance program. Second, measures must be taken to increase interest rates paid on bank deposits. Third, the government must stop asking individuals "where did the money come from," Bukaev said. He also said that the state should not impose any taxes on capital coming into the country from abroad, since the most important thing is "getting that money into the economy." RC
 PUBLIC RUSHES TO READ BELEAGUERED AUTHOR...Public interest in the novels of avant-garde writer Vladimir Sorokin has soared since criminal pornography charges were filed against him on 11 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002), Ekho Moskvy reported on 19 July. "Interest in Sorokin is enormous now," said Natalya Tyurina, deputy commercial director for Moscow's Dom Knigi bookstore. "In recent days we have been selling more than 120 copies of [Sorokin's] 'Blue Lard' a day, while before we were lucky to sell 16." She added that copies of Sorokin's latest novel "Ice" are no longer available at all, and that the store has placed a large order for all of Sorokin's novels with his publisher Ad Marginem. RC
 ...BUT PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DOES NOT...Meanwhile, in an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 19 July, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov commented on the Sorokin case. "Regardless of whether elements of pornography are found [in Sorokin's novels], to me it is clear that there is a problem. It is time to screen out second-rate 'art,'" Ustinov said. Asked whether he had read "Blue Lard," Ustinov said: "No and, I must admit, I don't plan to. What I've heard about the novel hasn't made me want to take it up." RC
 ...ALTHOUGH HE CONFIRMS INDEPENDENCE OF HIS OFFICEIn the same interview, Ustinov asserted that he is governed only by "the letter of the law." "I regularly -- not less than once a week -- report to [President Vladimir Putin], but neither he nor anyone else has ever tried to give us an order. Our prosecutors are independent in their actions," Ustinov said. "In all the time that I have worked in the Prosecutor-General's Office, there has not been a single case when Vladimir Putin interfered in the investigation of a specific criminal case." He added that he will not allow his office to become a pawn in the upcoming presidential election campaign. "If the prosecutors become instruments in the struggle for the presidency, then that will mean the situation in the country is bad to the core." RC
 ANOTHER MOSCOW OFFICIAL ATTACKEDTwo unidentified gunmen on 19 July seriously injured Aleksei Busalov, a senior official in the Moscow municipal property department, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Busalov was hit by four bullets and is in intensive care at a Moscow hospital, according to AP. A police spokesman said that Busalov was lured out of his apartment at about 1:30 a.m. local time when the attackers set off his car alarm. The attack came exactly one month after unidentified gunmen attacked the car of Moscow Deputy Mayor Iosif Ordzhonikidze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002), who oversees international economic relations, casinos, and gaming for the city. Ordzhonikidze was not injured in that incident. Police are reportedly investigating the possibility that both attacks are related to the officials' professional duties. RC
 GOVERNMENT ADOPTS CONCEPT FOR DOMESTIC AUTO INDUSTRY AT ODDS WITH PUTIN'S...In contrast to President Putin's expressed support for protectionist measures for the domestic auto industry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002), Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 18 July signed a concept for the development of Russia's automobile industry that will reduce tariffs on all imported foreign cars -- regardless of their age -- from the proposed 35 percent to 25 percent for a period of seven years, the transition period for Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, gazeta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Kasyanov criticized protectionism, saying that "the government cannot solve the industry's problems at the expense of consumers," according to gazeta.ru. MD
 ...AS SPS POLITICIANS CRITICIZE TARIFF LEVELS...Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) Duma faction, stated that the reduced government-proposed automobile import tariff is still too high, rbc.ru reported on 18 July. "The current high import tariff and the absence of competition are impeding the inflow of investment to the Russian automobile industry, which sooner or later will cause stagnation in the industry," Nemtsov wrote in a statement circulated by SPS's press service. Nemtsov suggested that the tariff should be lowered to 15-20 percent, which would be sufficient to protect the domestic market and to minimize corruption in the customs service. MD
 ...AND RUSSIAN AUTOMAKERS EXPAND ABROADTwo of Russia's leading automakers announced plans to launch production lines abroad, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. AvtoVAZ plans to launch a spare-parts assembly line in Egypt on 20 July. Also, the Ulyanovsk Automobile Works (UAZ) said that it has reached an agreement to open a plant in Venezuela. The plant, which will be a joint project with Venezuela's Agamar Group, is expected to produce as many as 500 autos by the end of the year. RC
 DUMA DEPUTIES TO SEEK MORE UNIFORM SYSTEM OF MUNICIPAL ADMINISTRATIONIn an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 July, Gennadii Raikov, head of the People's Deputy faction in the Duma, discussed a new legislative initiative that he and other deputies plan to introduce on the reform of local and municipal government. According to Raikov, the goal of the legislation is to create a "single standard" for municipal government, because at present "each local self-government is different." "In each village, there is a separate municipal formation, and another one at the raion level," he continued. He also complained, "We have been waiting a long time for [deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii] Kozak's commission to propose something concrete." Kozak heads the presidential commission for demarcating the responsibilities of various levels of government. Kozak's commission has reportedly suggested a structural reorganization of local government, establishing two tiers: municipalities, at the lowest level, and municipal districts above them (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 10 July 2002). JAC
 FORMER ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TO BE EXTRADITEDMoscow will extradite to Lithuania Larisa Serebryannikova, a former official with the Russian presidential administration who is charged with financial fraud in the Baltic country, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 July. Serebryannikova, a 51-year-old Russian-born Lithuanian citizen, was arrested on 19 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2002) under an international warrant that was issued in 1999. She is accused of creating the DiLar company in the early 1990s, which evolved into a pyramid-type financial scheme that defrauded thousands of investors. She worked for a time in the press office of President Putin's administration, but was dismissed earlier this year. According to ITAR-TASS, Serebryannikova is the ninth person extradited by Russia this year. RC
 DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS 'KURSK' REMAINS TO BE DESTROYED SOONDuring a visit to Oslo on 18 July, Defense Minster Sergei Ivanov said that the fragments of the first compartment of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine that remain on the bottom of the Barents Sea will be destroyed within the next two months, ORT reported. According to Ivanov, the sooner it is done, the better, as it will open up the area where the "Kursk" sank to shipping. Ivanov also said the bow of the "Kursk" could be destroyed because it is no longer of interest to investigators, according to AP. According to an unidentified Moscow military source cited by Interfax, the Prosecutor-General's Office will announce the results of its investigation of the sinking before 12 August, which will be the second anniversary of the disaster that left 118 crewmembers dead. MD
 SARATOV LEADER CLEARED FOR THIRD TERMThe Saratov Oblast legislature approved on 17 July a law that allows Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov to seek a third term, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. In addition, the legislation provides Ayatskov with a personal pension equal to 75 percent of his current salary for the rest of his life after he leaves office. According to a recent Constitutional Court decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002), the regions are allowed to determine whether the term the current governor is serving should be considered as starting in October 1999, the date on which the law on general principles for organizing legislative and executive organs of power in the subjects of the federation came into force, or from the moment of the introduction of an analogous local law on regional leaders' term. According to the daily, the oblast's charter limits governors to two terms, and local legislators had the legal right to consider Ayatskov's current term his last one. However, the legislature, which enjoys a close relationship with the oblast executive branch, decided to keep Ayatskov. JAC
 LITHUANIAN PREMIER PLEDGES LIBERAL VISA REGIME FOR KALININGRAD RESIDENTSLithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas held talks with Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov in the oblast town of Chistie Prudy on 18 July, BNS reported. Brazauskas noted that Lithuania has completed the justice and home affairs chapter of its EU membership negotiations and will end the visa-free travel regime for Kaliningrad residents on 1 July 2003. However, he said that Lithuania wants to be liberal in issuing visas to Kaliningrad residents, but warned that decisions on the matter are subject to EU approval. Yegorov said he will personally look into why Lithuania has not yet received a response to its November request to open a Lithuanian consulate in the oblast town of Sovetsk. Brazauskas expressed dissatisfaction that the cellulose factories in Sovetsk and Neman discharge unprocessed waste into the Nemunas River and repeated Lithuania's offer to sponsor a feasibility study on constructing waste-processing facilities. SG
 SIBERIAN LOCALS WANT TO RUN ROMA OUT OF TOWN...Residents of the town of Pashino in Novosibirsk Oblast are protesting the presence of a Romany camp near their homes, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 18 July. About 70 Moldovan Roma moved to the town in May from Kemerovo Oblast, where they had lived for more than 20 years. According to the agency, the Roma plan to move to Chisinau, Moldova, eventually, but asked the raion administration head for permission to stay in Novosibirsk until the end of winter. Some local residents, however, don't want them to stay that long, and nearly 600 held a rally outside of the local House of Culture demanding that the Roma move immediately and threatening to burn down their encampment. They claim that the Roma are selling narcotics and have given their children packets of white powder. JAC
 ...AS OUTSIDE EXTREMISTS' INVOLVEMENT SUSPECTEDSome of the rally participants appeared to be members of criminal or extremist groups and not residents of the town, according to ntvru.com, citing "IA Regnum." Vadim Dron, deputy head of the Kalininskii Raion administration, told reporters that he believes outside forces are trying to stir up the situation. Yanush Mikhei, head of the Romany camp, assured local police that no one in his community is doing anything illegal and that most of their income comes from doing roofing work. According to "IA Regnum," law enforcement officials are investigating the incident, and it is possible they will launch a criminal case for inciting ethnic violence and extremism. Last June, a local newspaper in Kemerovo reported that 100 Romany families had been forced to flee to Novosibirsk after a group of local "businessmen" entered their camp with weapons and opened fire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). JAC
 MOSCOW CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY SPARED LIQUIDATIONThe Moscow Municipal Court rejected on 18 July an appeal by the Justice Ministry against a 30 April ruling by the capital's Nikulin Raion court that spared the Church of Scientology from being liquidated, Interfax reported. Justice Ministry officials were requesting the church's liquidation on the grounds that it failed to register anew in accordance with the 1997 law on freedom of conscience and religious associations. Ministry officials also alleged that the Scientologists have all but ceased functioning as an organization. However, Galina Krylova, an attorney representing the church, said the court ruled the church is still operating and did not find that its activities violate any laws, thus upholding the lower court's decision, according to Interfax. The Scientologists have had numerous run-ins with local law enforcement officials in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999, 16 February 2000, and 21 May 2001). MD
 NATURE GIVES KRASNOYARSK OFFICIALS TROUBLE DURING ELECTION SEASONTorrential rain in the city of Krasnoyarsk left more than 200,000 people without water and electricity on 18 July, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to NTV, the city experienced the equivalent of almost a month's rainfall during the night of 17 July, inundating several pumping stations. A similar storm last month left about 500,000 residents without water for about 10 days, according to the agency. Meanwhile, VolgaInform reported on 18 July that the krai branch of Unified Russia has decided to support all three of the most popular candidates in the 8 September election rather than endorsing just one, in part because members of the local branch have varying loyalties. JAC
 CADRE RESHUFFLING AT CENTRAL BANK, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRYCentral Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatiev signed on 17 July an order appointing Konstantin Korishchenko as his deputy, Interfax reported the next day. Korishchenko most recently was managing director of Troika Dialog and, before that, worked at the Central Bank from 1992-2000. On 16 July, First Deputy Communications Minister Yurii Pavlenko resigned, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Boris Antonyuk, who previously headed the state enterprise Kosmicheskaya Svyaz, will replace him. Also, Mikhail Alekseev, previously deputy general director of Telekominvest Holding, was named deputy communications minister. JAC
 PARTY DECLARES DEPUTY PERSONA NON GRATA IN MOSCOW AND NOW AT HOMEState Duma Deputy Aleksandr Fedulov, who was recently expelled from Unity's faction in the Duma, is now facing problems in his home district in Kursk Oblast, regions.ru reported on 18 July. Fedulov, a former deputy governor of the oblast, was originally elected to the Duma from Unity's party list and won the post of deputy chairman of the Legislation Committee. However, he quickly fell out of favor when he introduced a bill to ban the Communist Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2002). Now, according to the website, the Unity party is officially seeking to strip Fedulov of the right to represent it in Kursk. JAC
 CULTURE MINISTER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST QUOTAS ON FOREIGN MOVIESCulture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi has denounced proposals to impose quotas on foreign films shown in Russian movie theaters, Russian news agencies reported on 18 July. According to Shvydkoi, the Culture Ministry is working to increase the share of domestically produced movies in the market, especially among films shown in new-generation movie theaters, where Russian films comprise as little as 2 percent of all the movies shown. However, even though imposing quotas on foreign movies is "an ideologically attractive position," "in reality, it will be a tragedy for Russian cinematography and will kill off the movie distribution industry," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. If quotas are introduced, there won't be any films to show, Shvydkoi said, adding that imposing quotas might hinder Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. As one solution to encouraging domestic production, Shvydkoi proposed increasing state support to domestic filmmakers. MD
 NEW CHECHEN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER AIMS TO END DISAPPEARANCES...Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, whom President Putin named last week as human rights commissioner for Chechnya, told journalists in Moscow on 18 July that his top priority is to devise ways of cooperating with the Russian military command to ensure that Chechen civilians are no longer arbitrarily detained during Russian search operations and then ransomed or killed, Reuters and Russian media reported. He said he is ready to cooperate with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Russian human rights organizations concerned by human rights violations in Chechnya. In an interview with "Novye izvestiya" on 19 July, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who is Chechnya's deputy to the Russian State Duma, again condemned systematic human rights violations during Russian search operations and the information blockade intended to prevent details of such operations from filtering out. LF
 ...AS CHECHEN WOMEN BLOCKADE HIGHWAY TO PROTEST DETENTIONSWomen from the villages of Assinovskaya and Sernovodsk blocked the main Caucasus highway in western Chechnya on 18 July for the third consecutive day to demand that the local authorities take steps to locate five men detained by in connection with an attack on Chechen police in Achkhoi-Martan in the early morning of 15 July, Interfax reported. LF
 RUSSIAN ANALYST LAUDS CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S READINESS FOR COMPROMISEWriting in the 18 July issue of "Moskovkie novosti," Emil Pain characterized Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's positive reaction to former Russian State Duma Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov's latest Chechen peace plan as the most conciliatory statement Maskhadov has made to date. Under Khasbulatov's proposal, Chechnya would be granted the status of an international autonomous formation within the Russian Federation, to which Maskhadov has reportedly agreed (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 25, 19 July 2002). Pain proposed creating a Chechen opposition movement comparable to the Afghan "Northern Alliance" that would include Maskhadov himself and unite those Chechens opposed to the radical field commanders believed to be beyond Maskhadov's control. LF
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL MEETS WITH ARMENIAN LEADERSLuxembourg's Foreign Minister Lydie Polfer, who chairs the Council of Europe's Council of Ministers, met in Yerevan on 18 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The talks focused on Armenia's compliance with its commitments to the council, and approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Polfer also met with Armenian parliament deputies to discuss political and judicial reform and their desire to retain the death penalty for the five gunmen currently on trial for the October 1999 parliament shootings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 25 June and 8 July 2002). LF
 U.S. ADVISES AZERBAIJAN TO POSTPONE PLANNED REFERENDUM...Speaking at a press briefing in Washington on 18 July, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher advocated that the referendum on proposed amendments to Azerbaijan's Constitution scheduled for 24 August be postponed to allow more time for debate, Reuters reported. Azerbaijani opposition parties have said they will boycott the referendum unless their conditions, which include its postponement for one month, are met (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2002). Boucher also advised the Azerbaijani leadership to consult with the OSCE and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights "to ensure that the proposed constitutional amendments are consistent with Baku's OSCE commitments." But President Heidar Aliev told journalists on 19 July that the referendum will take place on 24 July as originally scheduled, Turan reported. LF
 ...AS AZERBAIJAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN SAYS PRESIDENT MAY SEEK THIRD TERMPresident Aliev is entitled to run for a third term in the presidential election due in October 2003, "Zerkalo" on 19 July quoted Azerbaijan's Constitutional Court Chairman Khanlar Gadjiev as saying. Gadjiev explained that the article stipulating that one individual may serve only two consecutive terms applies only to persons whose first presidential term began after the current constitution was adopted in November 1995. Aliev was first elected president in 1993. Gadjiev was commenting on a statement by Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer, whom Turan on 17 July quoted as saying that the constitution would have to be amended to entitle Aliev to run for a third term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2002). LF
 PACE RAPPORTEURS MEETS WITH AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONParliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteurs Andreas Gross and Martinez Casan met in Baku on 18 July with opposition party leaders to discuss the Karabakh conflict, political prisoners, the planned referendum on constitutional amendments, and the 2003 presidential election, Turan reported. Musavat party Chairman Isa Gambar described the talks as "rather fruitful." But Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov criticized PACE for failing to devote sufficient attention to building a free and democratic society and creating conditions for free elections. LF
 AZERBAIJAN'S POWER UTILITY ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO BAKU HOSPITALSTurkey's Barmek Holding, which late last year acquired Azerbaijan's energy-distribution network, has warned hospitals in Baku that their electricity supplies will be cut off unless they pay off their outstanding "multimillion" manat electricity bills within three days, "Zerkalo" reported on 19 July. Barmek has issued a similar warning to the Baku metro. LF
 OVER 100 GEORGIAN OFFICERS, NCOS RESIGN COMMISSIONS...Citing poor conditions, 102 officers and sergeants from Georgia's crack Kodjori regiment have applied for transfer to the reserve, Caucasus Press reported on 19 July. Most of them were trained abroad. One of them was quoted as saying that "we have become convinced that it is impossible to speak of building a Georgian army under current conditions." National Security Council member Givi Iukuberdze told journalists on 19 July that the officers' statement should not be construed as a mutiny. Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze is to meet with the men later on 19 July. A unit of the Georgian National Guard quit its base without permission a year ago to protest the condition under which its members served (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 29 May 2001). LF
 ...AS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE DEPLORES UNDERFUNDING FOR MILITARYChairman Irakli Batiashvili told a session of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee on 18 July that during the first six months of the year the Defense and State Security ministries received only 80 percent of their planned funding, the Department of State Border Protection 77 percent, the Interior Ministry 85 percent, and the Intelligence Service 61 percent, Caucasus Press reported. The shortfall in the case of the Defense Ministry was 4 million laris ($1.8 million), according to Caucasus Press on 5 July. Despite its financial constraints, the Interior Ministry has recently taken delivery of an Mi-8 helicopter from the Kaunas Aircraft Works, the interior fittings of which alone cost $300,000, Caucasus Press reported on 17 July, citing "24 saati." LF
 RUSSIA'S ABKHAZ ENVOY CONSULTS WITH GEORGIAN LEADERS IN TBILISI...Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, whom President Vladimir Putin named in March as his personal envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, met in Tbilisi on 18 July with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Loshchinin told journalists after that meeting that he hopes for renewed economic cooperation between Tbilisi and Sukhum that could contribute to resolving the conflict. He also characterized as "extremely dangerous" the calls by Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile, for a military campaign to restore Tbilisi's control over Abkhazia should the UN Security Council fail at its 31 July session to endorse a "peace enforcement" operation in Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 23 May 2002). LF
 ...AND BATUMI...Later on 18 July, Loshchinin met in Batumi with Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Asan Abashidze, who is Shevardnadze's special representative for the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Loshchinin said the UN-drafted document "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi," which the Abkhaz authorities have refused to consider, is intended as an invitation to dialogue and not a final definition of the status of Abkhazia vis-a-vis the Georgian state. LF
 ...AS EXILED ABKHAZ OFFICIAL HOPES FOR TERRORIST CAMPAIGN"24 saati" on 19 July quoted Nadareishvili as saying he hopes the Georgian guerrillas operating in the south of Abkhazia will stage terrorist attacks in the crowded tourist resorts of Gagra and Pitsunda, Caucasus Press reported. But he added that he will not officially appeal to the guerrillas to do so lest he be charged with inciting military activities. The paper commented that some guerrillas would only agree to embark on a new offensive if Nadareishvili provided them with arms, food supplies, and drugs and participated in the fighting himself. LF
 GEORGIAN BUSINESSMAN'S DISAPPEARANCE LINKED TO ABDUCTION OF BRITISH CONSULTANT?Police in Tbilisi have launched a search for Vita Bank President Temur Datikashvili, who disappeared a week ago, Caucasus Press reported on 18 July. But "Akhali taoba" on 19 July quoted Deputy National Security Minister Lasha Natsvlishvili as saying there are no grounds for suspecting that Datikashvili has been either kidnapped or murdered. Natsvlishvili did not, however, rule out a link between Datikashvili's disappearance and the abduction last month of British banking consultant Peter Shaw. LF
 U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY WRAPS UP GEORGIA VISITPaul O'Neill on 18 July ended a two-day visit to Georgia during which he met with top officials and traveled to Rustavi to inspect the town's Azot chemical plant, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. In talks with President Shevardnadze and Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze, O'Neill stressed the need for the Georgian government to devote greater attention to developing small and medium-sized businesses, raising living standards, and creating jobs. He also called for more resolute action to combat corruption and money laundering in order to cut off sources of finance for terrorism. LF
 GEORGIA HOSTS MEETING OF CAUCASUS RELIGIOUS LEADERSGeorgian President Shevardnadze on 18 July attended the opening session in Tbilisi of a two-day conference of religious leaders from the North and South Caucasus, Turan and Caucasus Press reported. Turkey's Minister for Religious Afairs Yilmaz Nuri is also attending, together with representatives from Iran and Kuwait. Participants will focus on promoting religious tolerance and ways to resolve conflicts in the Caucasus. LF
 U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN AT 'ANTIDEMOCRATIC' TREND IN KAZAKHSTAN...U.S. State Department spokesman Boucher told a press briefing in Washington on 18 July that "we're increasingly concerned" about recent developments in Kazakhstan, including the new "restrictive" law on political parties, Reuters reported. He said harassment of opposition figures poses "a serious threat to the democratic process," and that Washington would like to see the Kazakh authorities reverse the current "antidemocratic trend." LF
 ...AS KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADERS CONDEMN SENTENCE ON FORMER MINISTERTwo Kazakh opposition politicians on 18 July condemned as a political reprisal the six-year jail sentence handed down earlier that day by Kazakhstan's Supreme Court on former Industry, Energy, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Communist Party of Kazakhstan Chairman and parliament deputy Serikbolsyn Abdildin said Abliyazov and former Pavlodar Oblast Chairman Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, who is also on trial on charges of abuse of power and financial crimes, are becoming "national heroes." Gulzhan Ergalieva, who is deputy chair of the National Congress Party, said that "reliable sources" whom she declined to name informed her that President Nursultan Nazarbaev issued instructions to the Supreme Court before departing on vacation earlier this week to sentence Abliyazov and Zhaqiyanov to the harshest possible punishment. The prosecutor had asked that Abliyazov be sentenced to seven years' imprisonment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2002). LF
 KYRGYZ OPPOSITION DEMANDS PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATIONRepresentatives of Kyrgyzstan's major opposition parties convened a second public congress on 18 July in the southern village of Kerben, Interfax reported. Estimates of the number of participants range from 700 to 5,000. They adopted a resolution naming President Askar Akaev personally responsible for the deaths of five demonstrators in a clash with police in Aksy Raion on 17-18 March, and called on him to resign and not sign the amnesty law passed last month for police and local officials involved in that standoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002). They also pledged to stage a protest march in September from Kerben to Bishkek, a distance of some 400 kilometers. LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SEEKS TO REVIVE ECONOMIC TIES WITH SIBERIAOn a three-day official visit to the Republic of Khakasia, President Akaev told Leonid Drachevskii, Russian presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District, on 18 July that he hopes to revive trade and economic ties with the region, especially in the chemical and metallurgical sectors, Russian agencies reported. Among the enterprises Akaev visited was the aluminum plant in Sayanogorsk. LF
 TAJIKISTAN SENTENCES SCHOOLTEACHER FOR ISLAMIC PROPAGANDADushanbe schoolteacher Vakhob Khalilov was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on 18 July for heading a local cell of the banned Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, Interfax reported. Khalilov was said to have disseminated "reactionary" and "subversive" literature among young people. Also on 18 July, police in Dushanbe detained another Hizb activist in the city's Frunze Raion, ITAR-TASS reported. The chairman of the government's Committee for Religious Affairs, Said Akhmedov, was quoted earlier this week as saying that the majority of Tajikistan's Hizb ut-Tahrir members live in the north of the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2002). LF
 UZBEK PRESIDENT SEEKS TO ENCOURAGE SMALL BUSINESSESAddressing a government meeting on 18 July to review economic progress during the first six months of 2002, President Islam Karimov ordered government officials to crack down on interference by local officials in the work of small and medium-sized businesses and to lighten their tax burden in order to remove the incentive to withhold taxes, Interfax and uza.uz reported. Karimov said that GDP grew by 4.2 percent during the first half of the year, while industrial production increased by 7.8 percent and agricultural output by 4.5 percent compared with the same period in 2001. LF
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 HEAD OF BELARUSIAN PARTY OF COMMUNISTS REACTS TO MERGER PROPOSALReacting to the suggestion made by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 17 July that the opposition Belarusian Party of Communists merge with the pro-government Communist Party of Belarus, Syarhey Kalyakin, leader of the opposition party, said on 18 July that "the theater of the absurd continues in this country," Belapan reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 18 July 2002). Kalyakin dismissed Lukashenka's proposal as "madness" and the product of a "sick imagination." "We are two completely different parties," Kalyakin said, adding, "We want a new political direction and we want a new government." CB
 AUSTRIA, BELARUS HOLD TRADE TALKSThe Belarusian-Austrian Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation held its third meeting in Minsk on 18 July, Belapan reported the same day. The Austrian delegation was led by Johann Sachs, head of the Economy and Labor Ministry's Department of Foreign Economic Relations. Sachs said, "Belarus remains an interesting trading partner for Austria [and] Austrian enterprises are interested in launching joint projects with Belarusian partners." Austria is Belarus's 15th-largest European trading partner, with trade totaling $54 million in 2001. CB
 PROTESTING UKRAINIAN COAL MINERS PROMISED BACK WAGESHundreds of coal miners brought traffic to a standstill in downtown Kyiv on 18 July during a 40-minute rally to demand back wages, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. The protesters demanded that President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh pay the miners 1.2 billion hryvnas ($230 million) in unpaid wages. Ukrainian coal miners have staged a number of protests over wage arrears in recent months, including a three-week hunger strike. According to Oleksandr Bondarchuk, a member of parliament and representative of the Ukrainian Worker's Union, the government has not made good on promises to pay the back wages, AP reported. Kinakh met with Union of Coal Industry Workers head Viktor Turmanov and other union representatives following the 18 July protest and the prime minister promised to personally ensure that $25 million is paid to the miners by the end of this year, according to AP. "We have trusted our prime minister yet again," ITAR-TASS quoted Turmanov as saying. MES
 RUSSIA'S BLACK SEA FLEET TO RETAIN USE OF UKRAINIAN NAVAL BASEForeign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said on 18 July that Ukraine will abide by its agreement allowing Russia use of the Sevastopol naval base, AFP reported the same day. Under a 20-year lease signed with Ukraine in 1997, Russia is allowed use of 80 percent of the base, which houses the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine announced earlier this month that it intends to seek NATO membership, but Zlenko said, "This issue is not relevant today. We have 15 years ahead of us," AFP reported, citing local media. MES
 ESTONIAN ENERGY DECIDES IN FAVOR OF BOND ISSUEEesti Energia (Estonian Energy) Financial Director Sandor Liive announced on 18 July that the company will arrange a 200 million euro ($209 million) bond issue with a term of seven years, BNS reported. He said the issuing of bonds, which are needed to finance the renovation of the shale-oil-driven Narva Power Plants, will be arranged by SchrodersSalomonSmithBarney and pay a fixed-interest rate of 6 percent. Although financial markets are very unstable at the moment, interest in the bond issue is high and offers amounting to 300 million euros have been received. The investors will come from Great Britain (35 percent), Germany (25 percent), Scandinavian states (11 percent), Ireland (10 percent), and other European countries. SG
 LATVIA'S MEDICAL WORKERS STAGE SECOND STRIKEAbout 4,200 health care workers in hospitals throughout Latvia participated in an eight-hour strike on 18 July, LETA reported. Latvian Health and Social Care Employees Union Chairwoman Ruta Viksna admitted that the number of participants was about 1,000 fewer than in the first strike on 20 June because many medical workers are on vacation. She said the union has not received any document from the government affirming that its demands will be met. The government's decision earlier in the month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2002) to increase medical workers' salaries by 3.2 million lats ($5.3 million) beginning on 1 October is not set in stone because the source of the funding has not been determined. Welfare Minister Viktors Jaksons spoke with about 750 medical workers and supporters who rallied in front of the Cabinet of Ministers building for two hours and admitted that salaries for medical professionals are "totally insufficient." SG
 POLISH GOVERNMENT TO SECURE CREDIT TO SHIPBUILDERSPolish Economy Minister Jacek Piechota told parliament on 18 July that the government will provide credit guarantees to two of Poland's largest shipbuilding companies, AP reported. Guarantees of up to $150 million will be extended to privately owned Gdynia Shipyard, which is Poland's largest, and state-owned ship-engine producer Zaklady Henryka Cegielskiego, based in Poznan, to help them continue production. Both companies have found it difficult to secure new credit after the Stocznia Szczecinska shipyard filed for bankruptcy protection in June. The new state-owned company, Stocznia Szczecinska Nowa, was established on 17 July, and Piechota said it will be able to employ up to 5,500 workers. The shipyard, the second-largest in Poland and the largest employer in Szczecin, employed some 6,000 workers. DW
 ODS CHAIRMAN SAYS CZECH PREMIER'S VIEWS ARE EXTREME-LEFTISTCivic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus, in an interview with the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 19 July, said the political views expressed by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla are "extreme-left" and that for him Spidla's opinions "do not differ much from what we experienced under the communist regime," CTK reported. Klaus also said that many ministers in the new cabinet lack any managerial experience whatever. In response to a question concerning his own possible presidential candidacy, Klaus said he "firmly believes" he is qualified to serve as president. Asked to comment on the possible presidential candidacy of former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Klaus responded: "I have heard other names mentioned, and they seem even more shocking to me." In related news, Klaus said on 18 July in an interview with the BBC that it cannot be ruled out that he would continue heading the ODS for about one year after the party's national conference scheduled for December. During this time, he said, a search for his possible successor would go on. MS
 THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM FOR DEPUTY SPEAKER NEMCOVAThe Chamber of Deputies on 18 July elected its last new deputy speaker, CTK reported. Miroslava Nemcova of the ODS, who last week and earlier this week failed to garner the majority needed for election to the post, succeeded the third time around with support from 132 out of the 194 deputies present. Also on 18 July, Milan Urban was elected the new leader of the Social Democratic Party's parliamentary group in the chamber. He replaces Bohuslav Sobotka, who is finance minister in Spidla's cabinet. MS
 FIRST TEST OF CZECH COALITION IN OFFING?Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told CTK on 18 July that his Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL) wants "a share" in the government's coordination of the country's secret services. Svoboda, who is also a deputy prime minister, stressed that in the previous cabinet it was the foreign minister who was in charge of coordinating the country's several secret services. On 16 July, Prime Minister Spidla said on Czech television that he will continue to supervise the Security Information Service (BIS) and unofficial reports said Spidla intends to coordinate the activity of all secret services. "The coalition partners must have an opportunity to be a part of the [control] process," Svoboda was quoted as saying by CTK. MS
 US-DEU, KDU-CSL TO RUN SEPARATELY IN CZECH SENATE ELECTIONSThe Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) and the KDU-CSL will run on separate lists in the November Senate elections, CTK reported on 18 July, citing US-DEU Deputy Chairman Robert Kolar. However, Kolar said that the two formations, which ran on joint lists in the June elections for the Chamber of Deputies, will not compete with each other and will divide the 27 constituencies between themselves. "In each district, either a US-DEU or a KDU-CSL member will run as a candidate," he said. KDU-CSL Senator Josef Kana confirmed the decision, adding that neither of the two parties has the financial resources to run in each of the 27 districts. Kana said that a meeting of the two formations' leadership will decide by 27 July how to divide the constituencies. The KDU-CSL currently has 19 senators and the US-DEU has eight. MS
 KAVAN BECOMES LSE HONORARY FELLOWUN General Assembly Chairman Jan Kavan, former Czech foreign minister, on 18 July became the 149th person to be awarded the title of Honorary Fellow by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), CTK reported. LSE Professor Margot Light noted that Kavan is an LSE graduate, having later studied at St. Anthony's College in Oxford. Before the fall of the communist regime, she said, while in exile in Britain, Kavan founded news agencies and foundations that aided Czech political prisoners and the signatories of Charter 77, and smuggled samizdat literature into and Charter 77 materials out of Czechoslovakia. Light said Kavan "embodies the cause of reform socialism and 'Third Way' thinking." MS
 SUDETEN LEAFLETS POP UP AGAIN...Two leaflets demanding the return of the Sudeten lands to Germany and compensation to expelled Germans were delivered by mail on 18 July to the town hall of the southern Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov, CTK reported. Their text read: "The Sudetenland was German and will be again." Police have opened an investigation. Identical leaflets were discovered in February and March in different places and a 25-year-old skinhead has been charged with distributing them. MS
 ...WHILE CZECH POLICE DESTROY NEO-NAZI POSTERSPolice in Jihlava, southern Moravia, on 19 July destroyed several dozen neo-Nazi posters calling for a struggle in defense of "our race, nation, and culture," CTK reported, citing a local police spokeswoman. The posters were signed National Resistance, which is an extreme-right group considered by the Interior Ministry to belong to Czech neo-Nazi formations. The posters said the struggle is "a war" in which Europeans must defend themselves against a flood of "foreigners of non-European extraction." In related news, Czech radio, cited by CTK, reported on 19 July that a branch of the British neo-Nazi Combat 18 organization is apparently operating in the Czech Republic. The report said the Combat 18 website mentions Vietnamese immigrants, Romany organizations, Jewish synagogues and museums, homosexuals' clubs, mosques, and refugee centers in the Czech Republic as possible targets for attacks. The website features a two-tailed lion (which is a Bohemian symbol) holding a swastika and provides guidelines for potential terrorists. Combat 18 was founded in Britain in 1992. MS
 FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE CHIEF IN DETENTIONOn 18 July, former Slovak Information Service (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa was placed in detention shortly after he landed in Bratislava following his extradition from South Africa, CTK reported. He is charged with abuse of power and corruption. A judge is to rule on 19 July whether Lexa will remain in detention while being investigated. CTK quoted Lexa, who has been a fugitive since 2000, as saying in an interview during the flight that he did not escape from Slovakia but "simply left." He is charged with several offenses, including the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son (see below). During the in-flight interview, Lexa again denied his participation in the abduction of Kovac's son or in the setting up of a fictitious auction for the sale of the painting "The Adoration of the Magi" in order to discredit the Roman Catholic Church. He also said the government, and in particular Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky, are pursuing a personal vendetta against him. MS
 FORMER SLOVAK PRESIDENT REACTS TO LEXA'S ARRESTFormer President Kovac on 18 July welcomed the news of Lexa's arrest and said he should stand trail in order to prove that Slovakia is a state that abides by the rule of law, CTK reported. Lexa is charged, among other things, with masterminding the abduction to Austria of Kovac's son in August 1995. Kovac said that "no one from our family is seeking revenge," but added that "there is naturally a wish that justice be served." He said he suspected from the very beginning that the Lexa-led SIS was behind the abduction. Kovac added that the incident severely damaged Slovakia's reputation abroad and was one of the reasons why the country was not invited to join NATO two years later. Kovac also said the amnesty granted to the abductors by former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar was "immoral," and criticized the current cabinet headed by Dzurinda for failing to rescind the amnesty and punish those involved in it. MS
 29 PARTIES RUNNING IN SLOVAK ELECTIONSTwenty-nine political parties and movements intend to run in the September parliamentary elections in Slovakia, CTK reported on 18 July, citing Interior Ministry official Marian Koren. The deadline for registration expired on 17 July, but Koren said the final decision on which parties can run will be made by the Central Election Commission in the next few days. In order to be registered, extraparliamentary formations must submit lists of 10,000 supporting signatures or proof that they have at least 10,000 members. The threshold for gaining representation is 5 percent. In 1998, 17 parties ran in the elections. MS
 PANNON RADIO WARNED AGAIN BY HUNGARIAN RADIO, TV BOARDThe National Radio and Television Board (ORTT) has issued an additional, but stronger-formulated warning to Pannon Radio, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 19 July. Following a check on the station's broadcasts of 22 May, the ORTT concluded that Pannon radio has not toned down its pro-Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) bias, despite a series of earlier warnings from the board. The ORTT is also investigating what role the station played in organizing the 4 July blockade of a Budapest bridge. In related news, MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka told a rally of supporters in Budapest on 19 July that the party will run candidates in almost every district in the local elections this autumn, and that he himself will run for mayor of Budapest. MS
 DEL PONTE ARRIVES IN BELGRADE TO PRESS FOR GREATER COOPERATION...Carla Del Ponte, the UN war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, arrived in Belgrade on 19 July to discuss Yugoslavia's increased cooperation with the tribunal, AP reported. Del Ponte is scheduled to meet with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic and Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic. The visit led President Vojislav Kostunica to convene a session of the country's Supreme Defense Council to consider demands by The Hague court for access to military files on former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. A key document sought by the tribunal is one in which he reportedly admits diverting $390 million to support Serbian armies in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Del Ponte is also urging some of the estimated 17 indicted war criminals believed to be in Yugoslavia, foremost among them former Bosnian Serb military leader General Ratko Mladic, to turn themselves in. Del Ponte said on 16 July that she knows where Mladic is hiding out (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). PB
 ...AS YUGOSLAVIA ALLOWS TOP OFFICIALS TO TESTIFY AGAINST MILOSEVICThe Yugoslav government said on 18 July that it will allow top officials from the Milosevic era to testify against the former Yugoslav president, Reuters reported. The decision frees the officials from the vows of secrecy they made while in office. This will allow Rade Markovic, the head of the secret service under Milosevic, to appear before the war crimes tribunal. Markovic is currently jailed in Belgrade on charges that he was involved in political assassinations of Milosevic's opponents. The government's decision will also allow former Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic to testify against Milosevic, his former ally. Lilic, the deputy prime minister during the war in Kosova, was summoned by the UN war crimes tribunal to take the stand in the Milosevic trial, and was detained in Yugoslavia and flown to The Hague last week for that purpose. PB
 DATE SET FOR SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONNatasa Micic, the speaker of the Serbian parliament, announced on 18 July that the Serbian presidential election will be held on 29 September, Hina reported. The two main contenders for the post are expected to be Yugoslav President Kostunica and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, an economist and the candidate who would be supported by Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Kostunica has argued that he can legally hold the Serbian presidency concurrently with the Yugoslav presidency, which is likely to be dissolved after the establishment of "Serbia and Montenegro." The current Serbian president, Milan Milutinovic, has been indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal and is expected to surrender to The Hague court after leaving office. PB
 SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL LAW ON ELECTRONIC MEDIA...Serbian deputies approved a media law on 18 July with a 117 to 44 vote that critics predict will harm free speech and force many radio and television stations off the air, AP reported. The law will force all broadcast stations to apply for a permit to use a frequency. A council -- with four of its nine members appointed by the Serbian government -- will decide which of some 1,200 radio and television stations will receive licenses for the approximately 300 frequencies available. Zarko Korac, Serbia's deputy prime minister, said the current media scene is a "jungle" that will be "rehashed from scratch" by the new law. The Belgrade-based Association of Independent Electronic Media protested the law, saying that "the excessive state influence" of the Milosevic era remains unchanged. PB
 ...AS WELL AS ANTI-MAFIA, SECRET POLICE LEGISLATIONThe parliament on 18 July also passed a law establishing a new intelligence agency as well as legislation designed to fight organized crime, Reuters reported. The anti-mafia law is similar to legislation in Italy and Croatia. It creates a special prosecutor's office, police service, and detention unit, and gives the prosecutors sweeping powers to crack down on organized-crime bosses. The State Security Service -- which was a shadowy organization under Milosevic -- will be transformed into a separate Security and Information Agency that will no longer be under the control of the Interior Ministry. PB
 MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT DISSOLVES ITSELFNew parliamentary elections are expected in Montenegro in October after the republic's parliament voted to dissolve itself, AFP reported on 19 July. The vote came after Prime Minister-designate Filip Vujanovic failed earlier this month to form a new government. Vujanovic's government -- which had a mandate to rule until 2005 -- lost its working majority after two pro-independence parties withdrew their support. The parties -- the Liberal Alliance and the Social Democrats -- withdrew in protest of the parliament's adoption of an agreement to replace Yugoslavia with "Serbia and Montenegro." President Milo Djukanovic is expected to set the election date for 6 October. PB
 CROATIAN POLICEMAN ARRESTED FOR ALLEGED WAR CRIMESPolice on 18 July announced their arrest the same day of an alleged war criminal in the eastern town of Tovarnik, where the suspect is a member of the police force, Hina reported. That agency identified the individual only as "M.Z.," while dpa reported that he "is believed to be a Croatian Serb who is suspected of abusing Croatian prisoners of war in a camp in Serbia in 1991." Hina reported that the crimes were committed against civilians at a detention camp in Sremska Mitrovica, adding that the suspect will be brought before an investigating judge. AH
 BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT SENDS DRAFT CRIMINAL CODE TO LEGISLATUREThe Bosnia-Herzegovinian Council of Ministers on 18 July approved a bill on the Criminal Code aimed at approximating European standards and complying with international conventions, FENA reported the same day. The draft must still be approved by legislators. AH
 RIFT OVER FOREIGN-CURRENCY DEPOSITS CASTS PALL OVER KUCAN'S BOSNIA VISIT...Slovenian President Milan Kucan visited Sarajevo on 18 July and met with the multiethnic Bosnian presidency's three members and discussed political and economic relations, according to local and international media. Continuing differences were reported over the return of prewar deposits in Ljubljanska Banka by Bosnia-Herzegovinian savers, according to Bosnian radio. Presidency Chairman Beriz Belkic said, "Attempts to find a solution through the Bank for International Settlement have not borne fruit, and it is evident that the governments of the two states will have to find a solution in bilateral talks," according to the state broadcaster. AH
 ...DESPITE SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT'S ATTEMPTS TO EASE BOSNIAN FEARS"People have the right to get their money," Kucan said on 18 July, reiterating his position that the matter requires a state-backed solution. "How states will solve that problem is irrelevant for ordinary people." Responding to some calls within the federation for a boycott of Slovenian goods until the deposits are returned, Kucan said Ljubljana hopes it is not viewed as a would-be imperial state. "Slovenia has no ambition to be viewed in Bosnia-Herzegovina as an imperialist state that is keen to turn Bosnia-Herzegovina into its colony," he said, according to Bosnia-Herzegovinian radio. Kucan took time out during his one-day visit to attend the opening ceremony of a Sarajevo casino being launched by a Slovenian company, AP reported. AH
 FORMER ETHNIC ALBANIAN REBEL PARTY TO JOIN GOVERNMENT?The leader of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), Abdurrahman Aliti, told VOA journalists in Washington on 17 July that his party will presumably join a new government led by its old allies in the ethnic Macedonian Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). He also announced that in the run-up to the parliamentary elections slated for 15 September the PPD will cooperate with the ethnic Albanian National Democratic Party (PDK) as well as the Union for Democratic Integration (BDI). The BDI was formed by Ali Ahmeti, the political leader of the disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK). Aliti said it remains to be seen whether the BDI will also join a new, SDSM-led government. PPD and SDSM delegations held consultations with representatives of the U.S. State Department. UB
 ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE DAILY IN MACEDONIAN ACCUSES WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL OF SLUGGISHNESSThe Skopje-based Albanian-language daily "Fakti" on 15 July accused the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague of inactivity in connection with the prosecution of alleged war crimes during last year's conflict in Macedonia, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The daily admitted that the tribunal faces hindrances from the Macedonian side, but said the tribunal's behavior might undermine its credibility. The daily also accused Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski of having ordered the courts and the Institute for Forensic Medicine to obstruct the tribunal's investigations into the alleged war crime cases of Ljuboten, the shooting of five civilian ethnic Albanians in the Gazi Baba suburb of Skopje, as well as into the abduction and ill-treatment of ethnic Albanians by police. UB
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SPEAKS AT ANNUAL BBG MEETING IN PRAGUEForeign Minister Mircea Geoana, speaking at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague at the annual meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, said that with the November NATO summit in Prague and the December EU summit in Copenhagen, the transition period that began after the fall of communism ends and the post-Cold War world is coming into shape. Geoana said his country hopes to be invited to join NATO in November and that since the 1997 Madrid summit Romania has learned several lessons. One of them, he said, is that promises should only be made when they can also be kept. An additional lesson is that candidates for NATO and EU membership should cooperate rather than compete with each other. Geoana also said that prior to the international antiterrorism effort prompted by the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States, Romania had already proven its ability to contribute to Western security as well as its allegiance to Western values, citing the country's role in the Balkan crisis and its contributions to finding solutions to several other conflicts while it held the OSCE rotating chairmanship. MS
 ROMANIAN PREMIER TO COMPLAIN TO HUNGARY ABOUT INFRINGEMENTS ON MEMORANDUMPrime Minister Adrian Nastase will send a letter to his Hungarian counterpart Peter Medgyessy to protest infringements on provisions of a December 2001 memorandum on the implementation of the Hungarian Status Law, Mediafax reported on 19 July, citing governmental spokesman Claudiu Lucaciu. Lucaciu said the letter follows the findings of a governmental monitoring commission that visited the counties of Alba, Arad, Bihor, Cluj, Covasna, Harghita, and Salaj. He said the infringements pertain to the "extraterritoriality" stipulations of the memorandum, which prohibit the issuing of Hungarian I.D. cards by ethnic Hungarian organizations in Romania proper. The memorandum stipulates that the issuing of the I.D. cards is to take place in Hungary and that ethnic organizations can only make recommendations on the matter. MS
 MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION DEPUTY RETURNS TO CHISINAU AFTER CAUSING UPROAR IN BELGIUMValeriu Plesca, a deputy representing the opposition Braghis Alliance in parliament, returned to Chisinau on 19 July, Flux reported. Plesca told journalists that he never intended to seek political asylum in Belgium. On 12 July, Plesca sent from Brussels a fax announcing he would not be returning home because he believed his safety was endangered by the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2002). At Chisinau airport Plesca reiterated that two pro-government newspapers had wrongly accused companies run by his family of illegal activities and said he has grounds to believe the newspapers acted at the behest of government officials. He said he has "received certain assurances" from the country's parliamentary leadership that the case will be "objectively examined." MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS LICENSE REGULATIONS FOR ARMS TRADERS AND PRODUCERSParliament on 18 July passed amendments to a bill that regulates foreign trade in arms and dual-use products and technologies, BTA reported. According to the amendments, arms traders along with shipping companies would require a license to transport arms to and from Bulgaria, as would companies brokering arms trades between third countries. There will be separate licenses for companies and individuals. Licenses for companies will be issued by the interdepartmental Council on the Military-Industrial Complex, while individuals would obtain licenses from the Commission on Export Control and Nonproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The decision was criticized by legislators of the opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS), who fear that the setting up of interdepartmental commissions would blur responsibilities. The legislators' proposal to form a state commission was turned down by the ruling majority. UB
 BULGARIAN ENERGY MINISTER ASKS EU FOR NEW ASSESSMENT OF KOZLODUYDuring a parliamentary debate 18 July on the future of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant, Energy Minister Milko Kovachev asked the EU Council of Ministers' working group on nuclear energy to carry out in October a new assessment of the security standards of the power plant, mediapool.bg reported. Kovachev said he believes that should the working group confirm the positive results of the recent security check conducted by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the EU will have to revise its position on the closure of blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the power plant. The Bulgarian government hopes to extend the use of the two blocks for as long as possible. UB
 TWO DEPUTY MINISTERS LEAVE BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT?Deputy Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure Belin Mollov has resigned from his office because of health problems, the daily "Standart" reported on 19 July. The newspaper also reported that Culture Minister Bozhidar Abrashev will ask Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski to remove Deputy Culture Minister Rumen Dimitrov from his office, since Dimitrov -- an actor -- and Abrashev can no longer cooperate. UB
 AUTONOMIST AND SEPARATIST SENTIMENT GROWS IN WESTERN UKRAINEBy Taras Kuzio
Autonomy and even separatism, subjects that were long taboo in Ukraine, are now being openly discussed in mainstream Ukrainian publications. Unlike the earlier association of this phenomenon with Russophone eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, it is now to be found in Ukrainophone western Ukraine. Although calls for autonomy are more common than separatist demands, a recent poll found that 40 percent of western Ukrainians would support separatism if Ukraine were to join the Russia-Belarus Union.
In 1990-1991, Galicia led the way for a federalized Ukraine when three oblast councils in which the Democratic (Rukh) Bloc won a majority in the March 1990 republican elections and created the Galician Assembly. This move was seen by its ideological leader, now deceased Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, as a way to defend anticommunist and pro-reformist western Ukraine from communist-controlled eastern Ukraine. Chornovil dropped the idea when Ukraine became independent in 1992 because federalism became secondary to preserving Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Eastern Ukraine first seriously promoted the idea of a federalized Ukraine as a way of opposing the highly exaggerated threat of Ukrainianization in the Leonid Kravchuk era from 1991-94. Some of Leonid Kuchma's closest advisers in the 1994 presidential elections, such as Vladimir Grynev, were among the strongest proponents of federalism. Kuchma went on to win these elections. Again, the demand for federalism was soon dropped in the interest of preserving territorial integrity.
Autonomist and pro-federalist tendencies began to again manifest themselves in western Ukraine after Kuchma was re-elected for a second term in November 1999. Taras Wozniak, editor of the Lviv journal "Ya" (I), recently published a special issue of his journal devoted to questions of western Ukrainian autonomy and a federalized Ukraine. Wozniak, who has been termed Lviv's unofficial "minister of foreign affairs" because he heads the department of international affairs of Lviv's City Council, has propagated his views to a wide audience. As a result, his intellectual circle in Lviv has found itself under the scrutiny of the Security Service. The Lviv newspaper "Postup" also provides space for authors to discuss these views.
Wozniak recently wrote that "the Ukrainian nomenklatura -- with its sovietized and Russified mentality -- is contributing to the neo-colonization of Ukraine by Russia, which is proceeding at a ferocious pace." Another author, writing in "Ukrayinska pravda," believes that the only choice for western Ukraine is either "autonomization" or "assimilation," because Kuchma is continuing Soviet-era Russification policies. The author believes that by 2010, western Ukraine will look no different from Kuchma's Russified and sovietized home city of Dnipropetrovsk.
Yuriy Andrukhovych, who lives in Galicia and is considered one of Ukraine's best and most influential writers, has poked fun at Russian-speaking Kyiv in writings such as "My Last Territory" in the newspaper "Krytyka." Andrukhovych visits Kyiv to take part in literary affairs but dislikes the city and prefers his "real" Ukraine in Galicia.
These growing demands in western Ukraine for regional autonomy and, in a minority of cases separatism, are due to three interrelated factors.
First, although western Ukraine propelled Ukraine to independence in 1987-91, residents believe the region has lost out since then. Some 100 officials from the presidential administration, government, and National Security and Defense Council visited Lviv in July 2000 to investigate regional problems following large nationalist riots. The unemployment rate in Lviv Oblast is one of the highest in Ukraine and entire industrial sectors have lain dormant for many years.
Many western Ukrainians have either emigrated to North America, work illegally in Central and Western Europe, or are involved in daily shuttle trade to Poland. The shuttle trade will be badly affected by the imposition of visas on all CIS countries by Poland on 1 July 1 2003, which will create a feeling among pro-European western Ukrainians of being isolated within Europe.
Second, under Kuchma there has been stagnation in Ukraine's domestic and foreign policies. Western Ukrainians feel that the country they propelled to independence is being transformed not into a more nationally conscious Ukraine that is "returning to Europe" but into a "Little Russia" they fear will be subjected to "Belarusianization." Writing in a recent issue of the prestigious journal "Suchasnist," the academic Borys Bakhteyev complained that it is the "Little Russian" and Sovietized east that formulates the state's international image and the manner in which it develops." According to Bakhteyev, eastern Ukraine threatens western Ukraine with its "oligarchization."
Presidential support for the Russian Orthodox Church rather than a united Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church, the planned commemoration in 2004 of the 1654 Periaslav Treaty that placed Ukraine under Russian rule, the creation of a joint Russian-Ukrainian historical commission on textbooks, and the refusal to "rehabilitate" the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) that fought the Nazis and Soviets from 1942-53 all play a part in influencing the western Ukrainian view of government policies as "Little Russian." The writer Volodymyr Pavliv commented in "Ukrayinska pravda" that the Lviv City Council's refusal to accept a Kyiv-brokered compromise over inscriptions on graves of Polish soldiers is seen as its "revenge" against Kyiv's refusal to rehabilitate the UPA.
Third, western Ukraine has a very different view of Ukraine's future than does eastern Ukraine. Bakhteyev wrote in "Suchasnist" that he views Ukraine as similar to Germany in its division into westernized and sovietized halves. But although western Ukrainians look to emulate Central Europe's drive to "return to Western Europe," eastern Ukraine has created an authoritarian, one-party regime in Donetsk Oblast where the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine (ZYU) finished first in the March elections. Oligarchic clans are only to be found in eastern Ukraine.
The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) was removed from power in Galicia in March 1990 and was never able to rebuild its support base there. In the March elections, the pro-presidential ZYU, oligarchs, and Communists failed to win support outside eastern Ukraine, while pro-Western reformist Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine and the anti-Kuchma Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc swept western Ukraine.
Kuchma has ensured that ZYU and its allies, which lost the election, continue to control the government and through bribery and blackmail have taken control of the parliamentary leadership, factors that further fuel western Ukrainian anger at Kuchma's undemocratic policies. Our Ukraine's victory in the elections has been "stolen" by Kuchma.
The straw that may yet break the camel's back will be the October 2004 presidential elections. If Kuchma succeeds in thwarting a Yushchenko victory by ensuring his chosen successor is elected, autonomist (and in a minority of cases even separatist tendencies) are likely to grow stronger in western Ukraine, which will not wish to experience another five or 10 years under another "Little Russian" groomed in Kuchma's image.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.