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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 143 Part I, 28 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 143 Part I, 28 July 1998 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * FOUR RUSSIAN POLITICIANS CALL FOR NEW CHECHEN POLICY * KIRIENKO SAYS FSB TO FOCUS ON ECONOMIC SECURITY * GEORGIAN AMBASSADOR TO MOSCOW OFFERED POST OF STATE MINISTER End Note: NO PROGRESS ON CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION WITHOUT FIXED BORDER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA FOUR RUSSIAN POLITICIANS CALL FOR NEW CHECHEN POLICY. In a statement addressed to the Russian government on issued on 27 July, former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev expressed their alarm at the deteriorating situation in Chechnya and the North Caucasus in general. The four urged the Russian government "immediately to adopt and implement a position on the region that is clear to [Russian] society." In April, acting Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov unveiled Russia's new draft program on the North Caucasus, which was criticized as inadequate by several North Caucasian leaders, including Ingush President Ruslan Aushev. Berezovskii complained in early July that Russia still lacks a comprehensive North Caucasus policy. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which Berezovskii funds, has interpreted the statement as evidence of a possible pre-election coalition. LF RUSSIAN-SOUTH KOREAN SPY SCANDAL HAS "RUN ITS COURSE." Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met again with his South Korean counterpart, Park Chung soo, on 28 July in Manila, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov said after the meeting that the series of expulsions of Russian and South Korean diplomats can be considered to have "run its course." Primakov also said he had invited Park and the South Korean minister of foreign trade to visit Moscow and that the invitation "was gratefully accepted." The previous evening, Primakov met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The two gave a press conference before that meeting, at which Primakov said the planned summit between Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton in Moscow this September is already "programmed for success." He added "that doesn't mean the leaders of the two countries will find solutions to every problem..., but it will allow development of relations between Russia and the United States." BP U.S. NEWSPAPER ALLEGES RUSSIAN ACTIVITY IN AFGHANISTAN. An article in the 27 July issue of "The New York Times" claims that Russia is secretly engaged in the "new Afghan war" but that "the Russians are after oil, as well as protection of their border." Its engagement is part of a larger Russian strategy to reassert influence over Central Asia, according to the newspaper. The article argues that Russia is working together with Iran in supporting the alliance fighting the Taliban religious movement, which currently controls some 80 percent of Afghanistan. It also quotes Ahmed Shah Masoud, a key commander in the anti-Taliban alliance, as admitting that he receives most of his equipment from the Russian mafia, not the Russian government. Interfax on 28 July quoted sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying "these assertions are absolutely untrue" and that "Russia strictly adheres to its position of noninterference in Afghanistan's internal affairs." BP KIRIENKO SAYS FSB TO FOCUS ON ECONOMIC SECURITY... Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko says that under its new director, Vladimir Putin, the "most important" task of the Federal Security Service (FSB) will be to ensure Russia's economic security, Russian news agencies reported on 27 July. Introducing Putin to top FSB staff, Kirienko praised the work of Putin's predecessor, Nikolai Kovalev, but said "conditions are changing, people are changing." An unnamed source in the government apparatus told Russian news agencies that Putin's appointment signifies "enhancement of the [FSB's] status." The source said "the fact that the new FSB chief used to serve as the first deputy head of the presidential administration demonstrates the attention paid by the Russian leadership to the problems of the service." LB ...BUT NEWSPAPERS LINK APPOINTMENT TO POLITICAL CONCERNS. "Tribuna" on 28 July argued that the decision to appoint Putin as FSB director suggests that the Kremlin wanted a more loyal figure for that position. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated the same day that the decision to replace Kovalev with Putin was taken for purely political rather than "professional" reasons. The newspaper pointed out that Unified Energy System head Anatolii Chubais has been a "patron" of Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 July cast doubt on Putin's political skills, saying he did a poor job organizing the 1995 parliamentary campaign as head of the St. Petersburg branch of the Our Home Is Russia movement. The newspaper also charged that Putin contributed to former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak's June 1996 election loss. LB DEFENSE INDUSTRY IN DIRE STRAITS. Owing to strained budget resources, the government has reduced the number of enterprises fulfilling the state defense order from roughly 1,700 in 1997 to 1,000 in 1998, according to the Deputy Economics Minister Vladimir Salo, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. At the League for Aid to the Defense Industry's 24 July meeting, President Anatolii Dolgolaptev blasted the government for driving defense enterprises into bankruptcy and said that under the Civil Code, the league will try to force the government to pay unfulfilled defense contracts, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Dolgolaptev said that government conversion projects have completely failed, and restructuring of the defense complex has not gotten under way. The 1998 defense order was delayed by four months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1998). Meanwhile, recently appointed Industry and Trade Minister Yurii Maslyukov, who seeks authority to oversee the defense industry, did not attend the league's 24 July meeting, "Segodnya" noted. BT OFFICIAL CRITICIZES U.S. OVER URANIUM DEAL. The U.S. is failing to fulfill its agreement to buy diluted uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons, according to Aleksei Grigoriev, deputy director of the uranium export agency Tekhsnabeksport and the official in charge of the program. Under a $12 billion agreement signed in 1993, the U.S. agreed to help Russia convert and export to the U.S. 500 tons of uranium over 20 years, Reuters reported on 27 July. According to Grigoriev, the U.S. has been paying for only enriched uranium, and not the "natural" component, as was stipulated in the 1993 agreement. The U.S. government recently privatized the corporation in charge of treating uranium for use as fuel in nuclear reactors. Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov said this threatens the U.S.'s further participation in the program and will flood the world uranium market, hurting Russian uranium sales, ITAR- TASS reported on 24 July. BT OUR HOME IS RUSSIA WANTS TO OVERRIDE VETO ON OIL EXCISE DUTIES. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction in the State Duma, says his faction will seek to override the presidential veto of a law that would more than halve excise duties on oil, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July. Yeltsin rejected that law because the parliament did not approve other measures that would have increased budget revenues. Shokhin claimed that the Our Home Is Russia faction, not the government, proposed the law, adding that it is crucial for Russia to help stimulate exports now. Commenting on the recent appeal to Yeltsin and the government by several oil companies, Shokhin said that "perhaps [the companies] spoke out too emotionally and too sharply concerning the president's veto, but in essence we share their view" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 July 1998). LB SAMARA GOVERNOR TO CHALLENGE GOVERNMENT ACTIONS. Konstantin Titov, the governor of Samara Oblast and chairman of the Federation Council Budget Committee, says he will ask the Constitutional Court to assess the legality of some recent government measures to boost budget revenues, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 28 July. Titov believes the government usurped functions of the legislature when it unilaterally increased individual contributions to the Pension Fund and shortened the list of goods subject to a reduced rate of value-added tax (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 22 July 1998). The Samara Oblast administration is preparing legal documents that will be sent to the Constitutional Court in the next few days. LB HIKE IN CUSTOMS DUTIES TO AFFECT IMPORTS AGREED EARLIER. The recent government directive raising customs duties will affect goods brought to Russia after 15 August regardless of when import contracts have been signed, sources in the State Customs Committee told Russian news agencies on 24 July. In order to increase revenues, the government has levied an additional 3 percent charge on most imports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1998). Previous rules allowed imports to be taxed at whatever rate was in effect when the contract for the shipment was signed, according to ITAR-TASS. LB IMPEACHMENT COMMISSION CONSIDERS TREASON CHARGE. The State Duma's impeachment commission on 27 July held hearings on the first of five possible charges against the president, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov and Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, both prominent members of the Communist faction, summarized the first charge against Yeltsin. They said he committed treason in December 1991, when he (as then president of the RSFSR) and leaders of the Ukrainian and Belarusian republics signed the Belavezha accords on dissolving the USSR. Among other things, Ilyukhin said Yeltsin and the other signatories lacked the authority to break up the USSR and ignored the will of the Soviet people, as expressed in a March 1991 referendum. (Although six Soviet republics boycotted that referendum, some 80 percent of the electorate in the remaining republics participated, of whom 76 percent voted in favor of preserving the USSR.) Presidential representatives did not turn up for the hearings. The impeachment commission postponed further consideration of the charge until 17 August. LB LUZHKOV SUPPORTERS FORM NEW COALITION. Political groups supporting Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov have met behind closed doors to form a new electoral alliance, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July. The bloc, to be called Unity, will organize nationwide protests this fall before turning its attention to the State Duma elections scheduled for December 1999. It will then support Luzhkov in the 2000 presidential election. The mayor is not "advertising" his connection to the alliance, "Kommersant-Daily" said, but organizers have coordinated their actions with him. The Unity alliance will include Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi and his Derzhava movement, Duma deputy Andrei Nikolaev and his Union of Labor and Popular Power, Duma deputy Dmitrii Rogozin and his Congress of Russian Communities, and Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin and his Russian All-National Union. LB LEBED DOES NOT RULE OUT PRESIDENTIAL BID IN 2000. Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Lebed told ITAR-TASS on 27 July that if the political and economic situation in Russia deteriorates, he may run for president in 2000. Earlier this year, Lebed repeatedly said he will not run for president until after he has sorted out the economic problems of Krasnoyarsk Krai, a task that could take several years. Lebed finished third in the 1996 presidential election with 15 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Lebed's Honor and Motherland movement is to hold a congress in Krasnoyarsk on 30 and 31 July. Lebed told ITAR-TASS that the movement will focus on the 1999 parliamentary elections. Lebed ran for the Duma in 1995 on the ticket of the Congress of Russian Communities, which did worse than analysts expected and won only five seats in the Duma. LB HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER, PROSECUTOR AGREE TO COOPERATE. Oleg Mironov, Russia's human rights commissioner, and Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov on 24 July signed a cooperation agreement, Russian news agencies reported. They promised to work together to fight human rights violations committed against prison inmates, citizens involved in criminal investigations, and workers (including the chronic wage arrears problem). Human rights watchdogs in Russia and abroad have repeatedly denounced conditions in Russian prisons and pre-trial detention centers, and Skuratov has called on the Interior Ministry to take more steps to improve the situation. (The prison system is to be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry later this year.) The Prosecutor-General's Office and Mironov's staff also agreed to conduct joint actions to check on possible violations of citizens' rights in the regions. LB CULTURAL TV CHANNEL BEGINS TO RUN ADVERTISING. The television network Kultura, which is a division of the fully state-owned All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), ran advertising for the first time on 27 July. The network has an exclusive arrangement with the Japanese firm Sony and will show two commercials for Sony products each afternoon. When Yeltsin ordered the creation of Kultura last year, he promised that the network would focus on cultural and educational programming and would not run advertising. However, from the beginning some observers expressed skepticism that Kultura could survive for long without either advertising or some form of corporate sponsorship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997). "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 July quoted VGTRK Chairman Mikhail Shvydkoi as saying that "we would be happy if domestic producers or bankers helped the channel, but the first and only company that offered Kultura serious help turned out to be Sony." LB MINERS PROTEST IN CHELYABINSK, SAKHALIN. Some 300 coal miners near Chelyabinsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, blockaded the Trans-Siberian Railroad on 28 July for the second consecutive day to protest non-payment of wages, Russian news agencies reported. The Railroad Ministry warned that Chelyabinsk's defense facilities and metallurgical plants will be severely affected by the blockade, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July. Meanwhile, more than 50 miners in Sakhalin Oblast are blocking coal supplies by rail and road to the region's main power station for the fourth consecutive day; as a result, there have been power cuts among local residences and some businesses. The protesters demand the plant pay them 50 million rubles ($8 million) for delivered coal, while the plant's management argues that they are owed 80 million rubles from consumers that rely on the federal budget. Meanwhile, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev on 27 July failed to convince coal miners to lift the 23-day blockade of the Novokuznetsk-Tashtagol railroad in Osinniki. BT TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN AMBASSADOR TO MOSCOW OFFERED POST OF STATE MINISTER. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has asked Vazha Lortkipanidze to succeed Niko Lekishvili, who resigned as minister of state on 26 July, Caucasus Press reported on 28 July. Lortkipanidze, 48, has asked for two days to decide whether to accept that post. He began his political career in the Georgian Komsomol, serving as first secretary from 1983-1986, when Shevardnadze was Georgian Communist Party first secretary. He then served as first secretary of the Kalinin (Tbilisi) Raion Party Committee of the Georgian Communist Party. After Shevardnadze returned to Georgia in March 1992, Lortkipanidze served first as deputy prime minister and then as head of the head of state's administration. He was named ambassador to Russia in early 1995. LF MOST GEORGIAN MINISTERS RESIGN. Almost the entire cabinet of ministers submitted their resignations on 27 July, with the exception of Agriculture Minister Bakur Gulua and Communications Minister Pridon Indjia, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Indjia is under attack for allegedly misappropriating a $4 million credit. Reuters reported on 27 July that the defense, national security, and interior ministers would be exempt from the cabinet reshuffle. LF RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS AGAIN FALL VICTIM TO LAND MINE. An armored personnel carrier belonging to the Russian peacekeeping contingent deployed in Abkhazia under CIS auspices was blown up by a land mine on 27 July in Abkhazia's Gali Raion. Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Konstantin Adleiba told Interfax that two Russian servicemen had been killed and three injured in the explosion, but a Russian military spokesman said that three peacekeepers were injured, one of whom subsequently died. Zurab Samushia, head of the "White Legion" Georgian guerrilla organization, disclaimed any responsibility for mining roads in Gali, Interfax reported. A spokesman for the Georgian National Security Minister, which the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused of abetting the White Legion, similarly denied that Georgia was to blame for the incident. LF TRUBNIKOV IN YEREVAN. Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Vyacheslav Trubnikov held talks in Yerevan on 27 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and National Security and Interior Minister Serzh Sarkisian, Russian agencies reported. The presidential press service told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that it has no information on Trubnikov's itinerary or the agenda of his talks with Kocharian, but Interfax quoted a counselor at the Russian embassy in Yerevan as saying that they discussed cooperation in combating drug trafficking and organized crime. LF RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS EXPELLED FROM TAJIKISTAN. NTV's Yelena Masyuk has been declared "persona non grata" by the Tajik authorities in Tajikistan, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July. The head of the Tajik Foreign Ministry's Information Department, Igor Sattarov, said Masyuk's reports were damaging to the country's leadership and the peace process. Sattarov singled out a recent NTV report on Tajik- Uzbek relations, which Sattarov said was aimed at "breaking up the fraternal ties between the two countries." "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July that Masyuk had engaged in other activities that displeased the Tajik government, such as traveling to the site where four UN employees were murdered on 20 July without informing the authorities of her plans. According to Russian daily, if Masyuk were to apologize, Dushanbe would be "prepared to forgive." But "if NTV blows this issue out of proportion," the Tajik authorities will close down the NTV office in Dushanbe. BP KAZAKH OIL WORKERS APPEAL TO PRESIDENT. Kazakhstan's Union of Oil and Gas Workers has sent a letter to President Nursultan Nazarbayev urging that he seek to stabilize the situation in the Mangistau oil field, Interfax reported on 27 July. Workers there say that they have not been paid since May and that this is the third consecutive year in which payments have been delayed. Some have been requested by the management to take three months' leave, while others have been laid off. Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev said last week that falling oil prices on world markets have already led Kazakhstan into a "pre-crisis" situation. President Nazarbayev is unlikely to respond to the letter until mid-August, when he returns from vacation in Switzerland, where he is writing a book. BP MAJOR INCREASE IN HEROIN BUSTS IN KYRGYZSTAN. So far this year, law enforcement agencies in Kyrgyzstan have confiscated more than 24 kilograms of heroin, compared with 4.5 kilograms for all of 1997, Interfax reported on 26 July. The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry blames the large increase on new laboratories in northeastern Afghanistan. Previously, most narcotics confiscated were raw opium, but those laboratories are now producing the finished product. A special government commission concluded that only 5 percent of the heroin transiting Kyrgyzstan is intercepted by law enforcement agencies. BP END NOTE NO PROGRESS ON CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION WITHOUT FIXED BORDER by Wim van Meurs and Iris Kempe Negotiations on an Estonian-Russian border treaty began in 1994, three years after then RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin recognized Estonian independence. Both the Estonian and the Russian parties have changed their positions and amended their arguments since then. In early 1996, some progress was made on the maritime border, but the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty remained a stumbling block to the land frontier. Estonia insisted on the validity of that treaty without--as Estonian diplomats claimed--any "territorial strings" attached. Moscow, for its part, rejected that stance and linked the signing of the treaty to the treatment of the Russian minority in Estonia. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann finally opted for a treaty containing no reference to Tartu, but in early 1998, the Russian side pushed for negotiations to be reopened. Several inconclusive meetings followed, and talks are scheduled to continue after the summer recess. Under the Tartu treaty, Soviet Russia recognized Estonian independence and accepted a border demarcation somewhat east of the frontier between the former tsarist provinces. In the north, Narva had joined Estonia by referendum in late 1917, and the treaty added several villages on the left bank of the Narva River. In the south, the region around Petseri, previously part of Pskov Oblast, was incorporated into the Estonian state. When Stalin occupied Estonia in fall 1944, he restored the tsarist border, this time as a demarcation between the Estonian SSR and Leningrad Oblast to the north and Pskov Oblast to the south. Evidently, the current conflict is about national symbols rather than minor Russian-inhabited territories (totaling 2,322 square kilometers)--above all, the continuity of the Estonian nation-state within its 1920 borders. No nationalist conservative politician in Tallinn expects Russia to cede any piece of Russian territory, which in any case would only increase the size of the Russian minority in Estonia. Nevertheless, with the perception of statehood continuity acting as such a potent legitimizing symbol in contemporary Estonian politics, Siimann's decision to formally cede territories was surprising, more so than conservative politicians' insistence on historical rights. The consequences of the delay in signing the Estonian- Russian border treaty are threefold. First, the conflict has a European dimension. It was definitely no coincidence that Siimann made his compromise on the eve of the NATO and EU enlargement decisions. And Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's recent demand that Estonia guarantee that Tartu will not be mentioned in connection with the Estonian parliament's ratification of the treaty can be understood only as an attempt to mobilize national conservative forces within Estonia against the treaty. With parliamentary elections due in Estonia next spring, more of the same can be expected from Moscow. While keeping its relations with Estonia in a state of limbo, Moscow overlooks negative consequences at the local and regional levels. Surprisingly, the same applies to Tallinn: the Estonian government, for example, seems to worry more about the Setu, an Estonian-speaking, Russian- Orthodox minority in the Petseri region, than about the socio-economic situation in the backward Estonian border regions: In 1997, the government allocated a total of 60 million kroons (some $4 million) for regional policies and no less than 10 million kroons for the Setu community across the border. Second, there are also economic and administrative consequences at the local or regional level. As a result of the 1991 border, the northeastern part of Estonia, with its derelict industrial complexes and its 90 percent Russian population, faces the same economic collapse as the agrarian, Estonian-populated southeastern. So far, initiatives for improving cross-border infrastructure, trade, and administrative regulations have come from regional authorities and the business community. Among those initiatives are the introduction of a ferry line between Mustvee and Pskov, Estonian participation at trade fairs in Pskov, and the 1997 cooperation between three Latvian and three Estonian provinces as well as three border raions of Pskov Oblast. Third, the unsolved border issue has practical consequences in the immediate frontier area. Inhabitants of Narva-Ivangorod regularly demonstrate against the visa payment still needed to visit family members or one's dacha across the border. Social and cultural cross-border contacts in the south have also been seriously hampered by the border issue, in particular for the small Setu minority living on both sides of the frontier. It appears that setting up a special border regime for locals of the immediate border region depends on the signing of the border treaty. In sum, the border treaty is a football in Russian- Estonian relations at the state level. For Moscow, it is an effective instrument to destabilize Estonian national politics and hamper the EU integration process. Tallinn seems to be more troubled by the possible consequences in foreign policy (EU accession) and in party politics (the symbol of Tartu) than by the practical implications at a regional and local level. Indeed, problems at the future EU border not solved on a bilateral or regional level might become European problems. Thus, the "direct neighborhood" between the future EU member state and Russia also ought to include regional and local cross-border cooperation, which might help sustainable socio-economic development on both sides and reduce existing asymmetries and enmities. The drive for such cooperation exists at a regional level, in Tartu and Pskov. But what is missing is a signed border treaty between Tallinn and Moscow. After all, there can be no progress on cross-border cooperation without a fixed border. The authors are senior analysts at the Direct Neighborhood program at the Center for Applied Policy Research, Munich. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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