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Newsline - July 23, 1999




PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES MOSCOW MAYOR...

Sergei Stepashin has rebuked Yurii Luzhkov for his recent statements alleging that the Kremlin is conspiring against the Moscow mayor and has orchestrated a Federal Security Service (FSB) probe into his wife's firm, Inteka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999). Stepashin said on 22 July that "I understand Yurii Mikhailovich [Luzhkov] to be a man who is defending his wife, but the way he has chosen to defend her is incorrect. If there are claims against security organs, then he should go to court, to lawyers, and finally to the prosecutor-general." In an interview in the July issue of "Sobesednik," Gleb Pavlovskii, the political consultant, who according to that publication was reportedly the "major initiator of the anti- Luzhkov campaign," said Luzhkov would make a "weak and cruel" president. Luzhkov, according to Pavlovskii, is "the candidate of the strong and wealthy" and the only opposition that will be allowed "will be that built into the system's design." JAC

...AS CAPITAL'S FIRST LADY HINTS AT RUN FOR STATE DUMA

Luzhkov's wife, Elena Baturina, told "Izvestiya" on 22 July that she has received proposals to run for the State Duma in two constituencies, the Ust-Ordinskii Buryat Autonomous Okrug and the Republic of Kalmykia, where her brother is prime minister. Baturina, who would be eligible for immunity from criminal prosecution as a deputy, hinted that she is seriously considering a run. "The anarchy in which I have found myself makes me hesitate to say that there is no sense in running for the Duma and fighting at least somehow," she said. However, in an interview with NTV on 17 July, Baturina said "I have already chosen my vocation. It's business.... As it is, I have too much on my plate to think about going in for other activities either in Russia or abroad." JAC

ZYUGANOV CONTINUES TO ASSERT LEFTIST FORCES WILL UNITE

Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters on 22 July that the Communist Party, People's Power, the Agrarians, and the People's Patriotic Union win run for the parliament in "one powerful column." Zyuganov's comments follow statements by leaders of the Agrarian Party and the Movement to Support the Army that they will participate in Duma elections independently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 22 July 1999). When asked how he will unite forces that are now determined to run separately, he said "you will see in the near future," according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

NEW MEDIA LEGISLATION TO OFFER STATE 'PROTECTION' FROM PRESS?

In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 July, Minister for Press, Broadcasting, and Mass Communications Mikhail Lesin revealed that his ministry has drafted amendments to the law on media and on political advertisements. When asked to describe the amendments, Lesin said only that they "concern the rights of the media and the rights of control over them." He added that "the media currently have more powers and opportunities than the state." Lesin denied plans are afoot to "nationalize NTV," and he stressed that ORT and NTV "still exist," even though they "discredit the media" with their latest analytical programs. He concluded that "the media currently have more opportunities to influence the state than vice versa. Therefore, protection of the state from the 'free media' is a more vital problem today," perhaps because "the state does not have its own newsmakers." JAC

NEMTSOV TO JOIN BEREZOVSKII AND OTHERS IN LOWER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER?

Former Deputy Prime Minister and one of the leaders of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) Boris Nemtsov may run in Duma elections in a single-mandate constituency in the Avtozavodskii district in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 July. According to the daily, Nemtsov will decide whether to seek the seat by the beginning of August. Meanwhile, influential businessman Boris Berezovskii will shortly visit Primorskii Krai, from which he may be considering seeking a Duma seat, "Tribuna" speculated on 23 July. On 15 July, Berezovskii told "Kommersant-Daily" that if elected, he will suggest abolishing deputies' immunity. Some media sources, not controlled by Berezovskii, speculated earlier that he is himself seeking a seat to gain immunity from criminal investigations such as the one that recently drove him to Paris. JAC

RUSSIA, BRITAIN MENDING FENCES

Speaking at the end of his two-day visit to London, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia is interested in "greater cooperation with Britain in all spheres of mutual interest, including defense," Russian agencies reported on 22 July. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, with whom Ivanov held talks lasting some five hours, said the visit marked a "step change" in bilateral ties, adding that London wants a "new and stronger relation for the new millennium," Reuters reported. But while the ministers agreed over boosting relations, Ivanov highlighted one remaining difference by stressing Yugoslavia should be given reconstruction aid to avert a "real humanitarian catastrophe ahead of the winter." Britain and the U.S., in particular, oppose such assistance as long as Slobodan Milosevic remains in power. Ivanov had cancelled a planned trip to London in May to protest the alliance's accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. JC

U.S. TO HELP FUND NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL

The U.S. Defense Department and the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry have signed an agreement on U.S. assistance in the disposal of spent nuclear fuel rods from Russian submarines, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 July. The U.S. will help pay some of the costs of transporting the nuclear waste to an enterprise in Chelyabinsk Oblast, where enriched uranium will be extracted for use in nuclear power plants. Also on 22 July, the "Wall Street Journal Europe" reported that Russia is looking to the U.S. for help in seeking customers for its proposed nuclear- waste storage business. Russian legislation from 1992 bans the import of nuclear waste, but Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told the newspaper that his government is drafting amendments to that legislation. The project is due to be discussed by the Gore-Stepashin commission next week during the Russian prime minister's visit to the U.S. JC

NEW MEANS OF DECOMMISSIONING CHEMICAL WEAPONS DISCOVERED?

"Izvestiya" on 22 July reported that the Vyatka-Eco firm in Kirov Oblast has discovered a means of decommissioning chemical weapons that obviates the need to dismantle the covering of shells, thereby making the process safer. A test is scheduled to be carried out on a Defense Ministry testing site in Saratov, but funds are lacking. According to the newspaper, local experts are hoping that the U.S. will help foot the bill to carry out the experiment. JC

POPKOVICH WARNS COLLAPSE OF ARMED FORCES MAY BE 'IRREVERSIBLE'

In an interview with "Segodnya" published on 22 July, State Duma Defense Committee Secretary Roman Popkovich of Our Home Is Russia said that if the government does not take effective measures, the collapse of the armed forces will become irreversible. He slammed the Finance Ministry for not carrying out the president's order to allocate funds equal to 3.5 percent of GDP for national defense. The state owes the armed forces nearly 15 billion rubles ($619 million), he noted, and that figure may grow owing to "unexpected expenditures" in the Balkans. Popkovich ridiculed the recent West '99 exercises as "an advertising stunt." In reality, he commented, combat training programs have been drastically curtailed for lack of funds. JC

FSB SPYING ON INTERNET?

Many, "if not all," Internet providers in Moscow have voluntarily agreed to grant the FSB access to their servers to "spy on their clients," "Segodnya" reported on 22 July, citing only "evidence" from an undisclosed source. Moscow-based Internet service providers reportedly maintain almost 60 percent of the Russian internet. According to the daily, only one provider, Volgograd-based Baiyard-Slavia Communications, has publicly refused to comply with a June 1998 FSB regulation requiring providers not only to give the FSB full access to their servers but also to provide the necessary equipment for the FSB to monitor their systems. The remaining Internet service providers "want to keep their licenses," the newspaper concludes. JAC

SVERDLOVSK ASKS FOR PRIMAKOV, GETS BREZHNEV

Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 19 July officially declined an invitation from Sverdlovsk Oblast to seek the governor's office there in elections scheduled for 29 August. On 22 July, Andrei Brezhnev, the grandson of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and head of the All- Russian Communist Socio- Political Movement, arrived in Yekaterinburg to register as a candidate for gubernatorial elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The previous day, the oblast's election commission sent all signatures collected in support of the candidacy of Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii to a handwriting expert for verification, because all members of the commission expressed doubts about the signatures' authenticity, according to the commission's chairman. So far, officially registered candidates include incumbent Eduard Rossel, Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, State Duma Deputy and member of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) Andrei Selvanov, and Igor Kovpak, president of a local supermarket chain. JAC

STEPASHIN SAYS NO NEW WAR IN CHECHNYA

Prime Minister Stepashin said in Yekaterinburg on 23 July that there will not be another war in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. "Nobody wants to repeat the mistakes twice," he said. At the same time, he reaffirmed that a meeting between the Chechen and Russian presidents will take place. And he dismissed frequent suggestions that the Chechens were a uniquely criminal group: "Bandits have no nationality," he said, "and we must fight against them as against bandits and not as representatives of this or that nationality." Most of the problem in the North Caucasus arises from "joint gangs" that include Chechens, Armenians, and Russians operating in Stavropol Krai. PG

CHECHNYA ACCEPTS MOSCOW EXPLANATION

Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and the Chechen government on 22 July accepted Moscow's explanation for the temporary detention of Chechen security chief Turpal Atgeriyev last weekend and now consider the matter closed, ITAR-TASS reported. As a result, Chechnya will not close its mission in Moscow, as its chief, Mairbek Vachagayev, had announced on 21 July. Meanwhile, Chechen Deputy Premier Kazbek Makhashev and Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov met in Pyatigorsk to discuss both current problems and a future meeting between the Russian and Chechen presidents. PG

RUSSIAN PROSECUTORS EXAMINING INGUSH POLYGAMY DECREE

Russian prosecutors on 22 July began to examine the legality of an Ingush decree permitting polygamy in that region, dpa reported. Representatives of other Muslim regions inside the Russian Federation and the central Muslim Spiritual Directorate issued statements that the polygamy decree is consistent with Islam. Meanwhile, Izvestiya reported on 23 July that the Russian Constitutional Court may consider the question as well. PG

DAGESTANIS ATTACK AZERBAIJANI POLICE

Some 200 Dagestanis attacked Azerbaijani police who had arrested a Sadval movement activist on Dagestani territory and were escorting him toward the Azerbaijani border, Baku's ANS television station reported on 22 July. The attackers were able to free Gasym Mahmudov, the station said. PG




RUSSIAN JEWS CONVERTED TO ARMENIAN CHURCH TO AVOID POGROMS BEFORE WWI, NEW BOOK SAYS

According to a new book published this week in Yerevan, thousands of Russian Jews sought to join the Armenian Apostolic Church before World War I in order to escape growing Russian anti-Semitic attacks at that time, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. The book, by Armenian Academician Vardges Mikaeelian, is based on archival sources, but the author acknowledges that "it is difficult to say how many Jews in fact adopted the Armenian Apostolic faith." PG

AZERBAIJAN TO SEND PEACEKEEPERS TO KOSOVA

NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana has invited Baku to send 30 peacekeepers to Kosova, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov told ITAR-TASS on 22 July. Turkey had participated in consultations with NATO that led to this agreement. PG

AZERBAIJAN'S Aliyev PURSUES TWO-TRACK PEACE PROCESS

President Heidar Aliyev told visiting French Senate chairman Christian Poncelet that Baku will seek to settle the Armenian- Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh "both within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and by direct talks between heads of state," ITAR-TASS reported. Poncelet welcomed this move, invited Baku to participate in Caucasus-wide talks in Paris later this year, and called for the establishment of a common market in the southern Caucasus. PG

NEW SLANDER TRIAL MARS AZERBAIJAN'S PRESS DAY

The trial of a journalist accused of slandering the brother of President Aliyev opened in Baku on 22 July, thus casting a shadow over the country's National Press Day, AP reported. Speaking on Azerbaijani television ANS, Aliyev said that the country's mass media is strong and "operating freely." Meanwhile, the Trend news agency reported that the country's Russian- language press on 21 July created a new association to help resolve problems that Russian publications face in Azerbaijan. PG

ABKHAZ ELECTION PLANS DRAW GEORGIAN CRITICISM

The breakaway region of Abkhazia will hold a presidential election on 3 October, Abkhazpress reported on 22 July. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze denounced the move on 19 July, saying "this is an illegal election. A region from which three- quarters of the population has been evicted.... What kind of legality can we speak of in these conditions?" PG

FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY CHIEF BLAMED FOR COUP

Vakhtang Kutateladze, Georgia's minister of state security, has identified former Georgian security chief Igor Giorgadze as the organizer of a recent coup plot against President Shevardnadze, Prime News reported on 22 July. Kutateladze said that Giorgadze wanted to subvert Georgian independence by leading it into the Russia-Belarus union not as a single country but rather as a set of regions. PG

KAZEHGELDIN TO RUN FOR KAZAKHSTAN PARLIAMENT

Former Kazakhstan Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, will run for the parliament, even though he and his party doubt the vote will be democratic, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 22 July. But there was one positive step with regard to that vote: RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported on 22 July that the Kazakhstan authorities have registered the Republican People's Party, thereby making it fully eligible to participate in the election. PG

RUSSIAN SMUGGLING NUCLEAR MATERIALS DETAINED AT KAZAKHSTAN BORDER

Kazakhstan customs officials detained a Russian officer who was attempting to take radioactive materials into Uzbekistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 July. The materials, used as a power source for nuclear reactors, came from the Baikonur space center. PG

CLARIFICATION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" reported on 22 July that there is a hunger strike at Kazakhstan's Ekibastuz Power Station. There are in fact two power stations there. The strike is taking place at GRES-2, which remains state-owned, not at GRES-1, which has been privatized.

RUSSIA TO OPEN MILITARY BASE IN TAJIKISTAN

Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov told Interfax on 22 July that Russia plans to establish a military base in Tajikistan. He added that Tajikistan "maintains balanced relations with all countries but views Russia as a strategically important partner." PG

RUSSIAN-KYRGYZ JOINT VENTURE STEALS MEDICAL AID

A Russian- Kyrgyz joint venture that was to deliver humanitarian aid totaling $1.6 million to Kyrgyzstan in fact delivered only $47,000 worth, the Kyrgyz National Security Ministry told Interfax on 22 July. PG




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT LAMBASTES TELEVISION FOR SHOWING PROTEST...

Speaking at a 22 July nationally televised conference on this year's harvest, Alyaksandr Lukashenka scolded Belarusian Television for showing the previous day's opposition rally protesting his remaining in power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). "A harvester must be the main hero for the mass media. But they show those unhinged people loitering around Minsk streets, and 600 out of this 1,000-strong crowd are plainclothes policemen," AP quoted Lukashenka as saying. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported that courts have begun trying those detained after anti-presidential rallies in Minsk and Hrodna on 21 July. According to the opposition, more than 70 people were detained in Minsk on 21 July. JM

...SETS AGRICULTURAL TARGETS

Lukashenka told local agricultural leaders at the 22 July conference that this year, the state agricultural sector should produce 6.5 million tons of grain, 7 million tons of potatoes, 1.5 million tons of sugar beet, 162,000 tons of rape-seed oil, 995,000 tons of meat, and 5.5 million tons of milk. The state has granted 43.5 trillion Belarusian rubles ($164 million) in preferential credits to the agricultural sector to achieve those results. JM

COURT DECLARES KYIV MAYORAL ELECTIONS VOID

The district court in Vyshhorod, Kyiv Oblast, has annulled the results of the Kyiv mayoral elections on 30 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1999). The court, which was responding to an appeal by two losing candidates, Hryhoriy Surkis and Mykola Hrabar, found various violations in the campaign, including financial irregularities and the lack of media access for candidates other than the winner, Oleksandr Omelchenko. Omelchenko scored a landslide victory with 76.5 percent of the vote , while Surkis gained 16.5 percent. President Leonid Kuchma blasted the court decision saying through a spokesman that it "trampled the will of thousands of Kyiv voters," AP reported. JM

UKRAINIAN MINERS STAGE PROTEST MARCHES

Some 1,000 miners' wives and children began a protest march on 22 July from Krasnodon, Luhansk Oblast, to the oblast center 40 kilometers away, to demand back wages for their husbands and fathers. Meanwhile, hundreds of miners from the Krasnodon area continued their protest march, which was begun earlier this month, to Kyiv, some 800 kilometers from Krasnodon. Official reports say Ukrainian miners are owed a total of 1.9 billion hryvni ($478 million). JM

POLLS SAY KUCHMA LEADS IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE

A poll conducted last week by the independent Institute of Social Research and Socis-Gallup said 18 percent of respondents plan to vote for the incumbent in the October presidential elections. Progressive Socialist Party leader Natalya Vitrenko has 15 percent backing and Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko 12 percent. A recent poll conducted by the Academy of Sciences' Sociology institute found that Kuchma is supported by 21.8 percent of respondents, Vitrenko 17.9 percent, and Symonenko 14.8 percent. JM

U.S. AID OFFICE CLOSES IN LATVIA

The office of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) closed in Riga on 22 July. Over eight years, the USAID implemented 60 programs in Latvia, with funding totaling $57 million. Estonia "graduated" from the U.S. aid program several years ago, and that program will wrap up in Lithuania in the near future. MH

LITHUANIAN OIL TERMINAL OFFICIALLY OPENED

The Butinge Oil Terminal, a key part of Lithuania's oil industry, was opened officially on 22 July. President Valdas Adamkus, former President Algirdas Brazauskas, and Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas attended the festivities. Construction of the terminal took three years, and its estimated cost is one billion litas ($250 million). On 21 July the terminal began operations, despite protests by Latvian environmentalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). Adamkus, a long-time environmental official in the U.S., stressed that Butinge "poses no threat to nature," ELTA reported. MH

POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW TO PROTECT LANGUAGE

By a vote of 200 to 179 with 15 abstentions, the lower house of the parliament on 22 July passed a bill intended to shield the Polish language against the influx of obscenities and foreign words, PAP reported. Under the bill, companies selling or advertising foreign goods and services must provide Polish language translations of all leaflets, instructions, or commercials. The brand names of foreign products for which there are Polish equivalents should be translated into Polish. Unspecified fines will be handed down to those violating the law. The bill must be approved by the upper house and the president. JM

POLISH CABINET OKAYS EARLY SEVERANCE PAYMENTS TO MINERS

Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz on 22 July approved the immediate release of $52 million in severance payments to coal miners in order to accelerate restructuring of the coal industry. The money, along with another $52 million to be released in September, was originally scheduled to have been paid out over several years. The government decided to make the payment this year, after miners protested in May to demand increased spending on severance payments and retraining programs. JM

CZECH DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS EU ACCESSION PROCESS IMPROVED

Egon Lansky on 22 July said there has recently been a "marked improvement" in bringing Czech legislation in line with that of EU members. He conceded that in the past there had been some "lagging behind" but now Czech progress is "undoubtedly comparable" to that of other states included in the fast- track accession talks. Lansky said he saw no reason for the Czech Republic to move back the EU accession target date of 2003. MS

SLOVAK ROMA TOLD 'NO CHANCE' OF ASYLUM IN AUSTRIA

Eleven Slovak Roma on 23 July asked for political asylum in Austria, CTK reported, citing the Slovak Foreign Ministry's press department. The Austrian authorities told the applicants that they have no chance of being granted asylum, whereupon the Roma withdrew their applications. They were driven to the frontier by police and crossed back into Slovakia. MS

HUNGARY FILES OBJECTION TO SLOVAK LANGUAGE LAW

"The new Slovak law on minority languages does not satisfy the commitments that Slovakia undertook in the [Hungarian-Slovak] basic treaty," Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth wrote in a 21 July letter to his Slovak counterpart, Jan Figel. Nemeth expressed regret that the law ignores the proposals submitted by Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party. He added that it is important that the Hungarian minority be allowed to use its native language in official matters not only in localities where it constitutes at least 20 percent of the population but also "in higher levels of public administration." MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTREME-RIGHT PARTY GETS POP STAR CANDIDATE

Pop star Lorant Schuster, the lead singer of the Hungarian rock group P.Mobil, announced on 22 July that he has accepted the offer of Istvan Csurka, chairman of the extreme-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), to be the MIEP's candidate in parliamentary by-elections in Siofok. MSZ




HOMBACH: AID FOR SERBIA ONLY WITHOUT MILOSEVIC

Leading representatives of European socialist and social democratic parties gathered in Vienna on 22 July for a two-day conference to discuss the political, social, legal, and economic development of the Balkans, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Participants include the presidents of Slovenia and Montenegro and the prime ministers of Germany, Austria, Greece, Albania, and the Republika Srpska. Several Serbian opposition leaders are also present. Bodo Hombach, who is the EU's chief aid coordinator for the Balkans, said reconstruction aid will be available for Serbia once "the Serbs oust [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic," whom he called "the main problem" for the region. PM

NATO: NO MORE UCK IN TWO MONTHS

An unnamed official of the Atlantic alliance told "The Daily Telegraph" of 23 July that the disarmament of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) is proceeding successfully. The official added that "in two months there will be no more [UCK]. There will be only one military force in [Kosova], and that will be NATO." Elsewhere, KFOR commander General Sir Mike Jackson postponed a meeting with UCK General Agim Ceku from 23 to 24 July to enable the UCK to "check its tallies" of armaments before Jackson officially confirms that the guerrillas have met their disarmament obligations to NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). PM

AGREEMENT ON MITROVICA REACHED

Representatives of ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Mitrovica concluded an agreement on 22 July to guarantee freedom of movement across the Ibri River, which divides Mitrovica into Serbian and Albanian sides. Leaders from both communities will sign the agreement on 24 July. PM

OJDANIC STRESSES ARMY'S LOYALTY TO MILOSEVIC

General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who is the army's chief of staff and a firm supporter of Milosevic, said during the president's visit to the General Staff's headquarters on 21 July that the army is "ready to carry out all tasks in keeping with the constitution." It was his second public declaration of the army's support for Milosevic in as many days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). PM

RESERVISTS RESUME PROTESTS IN NIS

Some 100 army reservists resumed blocking traffic in southern Serbia's largest city after a break of three days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999). They demanded immediate payment of back wages for the time they served in Kosova. Enthusiastic crowds cheered the reservists. The reservists taunted the well-paid paramilitary police by chanting "You got yours, now let us get ours." In Kragujevac, about 1,000 anti-Milosevic protesters chanted "Off you go to The Hague." Several hundred anti-government demonstrators gathered in Leskovac and in Valjevo, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

OPPOSITION: MILOSEVIC MUST GO BY FALL

Nenad Canak, who heads the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, told reporters at the Vienna conference on 23 July that several opposition leaders have "agreed to coordinate our street demonstrations." He added that he believes "that the last bloody dictatorship of this century could be destroyed by the autumn. If [Milosevic] remains any longer [than then], he will [regain control of the situation], and all our efforts will be useless. In November, the one who will have a loaf of bread and a finger on electricity will rule Serbia," Reuters reported. PM

PODGORICA REJECTS BELGRADE AID REQUEST

Justice Minister Dragan Soc said in Podgorica on 22 July that the Montenegrin government rejects a request by the Socialist People's Party of Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic that the government "send 1 percent of all income in Montenegro" to Serbia to help repair the damage caused by NATO air strikes, dpa reported. Soc stressed that the Montenegrin government will not help the government of Milosevic but that it will find ways of helping the Serbian people. The Montenegrin authorities do not recognize the government of Bulatovic, who is the arch-rival of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. PM

MONTENEGRO TAKES CONTROL OF AIRPORTS

A Transportation Ministry spokesman said in Podgorica on 22 July that Montenegro Airports, which is a new public company, has taken over control of the republic's four airports from JAT, which is the Belgrade-based Yugoslav national airline. The spokesman added that the airports are now "property of Montenegro" and that JAT staff who wish to retain their jobs at the airports may do so. The U.S. and EU have banned JAT from landing on their territory. The ban does not apply to Montenegro Airlines. Podgorica is anxious to revive Montenegro's tourist industry. Most tourists arrive at the Podgorica or Tivat airports. PM

MONTENEGRIN DELGATION IN SARAJEVO

Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic, Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda, and the ministers of foreign affairs, trade, and finance arrived in Sarajevo on 22 July. The discussed economic cooperation with Muslim leaders Alija Izetbegovic, Haris Silajdzic, and Edhem Bicakcic. The Montenegrin and Muslim leaders also called for political change in Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. This is the first top-level official meeting between officials from Podgorica and Sarajevo since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia in 1991. PM

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER SEEKS WESTERN AID

Before leaving for Vienna, Pandeli Majko told "Zeri i Popullit" of 22 July that "Albania carried a heavy burden during the [Kosova] crisis and we hope that we shall be rewarded for that." Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said before leaving Tirana for an aid donors' conference in Brussels that "we have made great progress since the total dissolution of the state in Albania in 1997, but the crisis in Kosova has hampered our efforts for even better results." He appealed to the donors--known as Friends of Albania--to "continue their assistance." Elsewhere, the "Washington Post" reported that the Albanian authorities have "a blunt message for the Western powers: show me the money." PM

ALBANIA'S DEMOCRATS RETURN TO PARLIAMENT

Legislators from Albania's largest opposition party took part in a legislative session on 22 July for the first time in more than 10 months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999). Genc Pollo, who is one of the Democrats' top leaders, told Reuters: "Returning to parliament is an attempt by the Democratic Party to restore the normality the country needs. The main responsibilities [for the political polarization] lie with the Socialist government. In due time we believe the Socialist gentlemen will not be afraid of new elections." The Democrats launched a parliamentary boycott after the killing of Democratic legislator Azem Hajdari in September 1998. The party charged the Socialist-led government with being behind the murder. PM

UNCERTAINTY OVER APPROVAL OF IMF LOAN TO ROMANIA

John Hill, the IMF's representative in Romania, told Romanian Radio on 22 July that the fund's executive board has not yet scheduled its meeting to approve the $500 million stand-by loan agreed with an IMF delegation in Bucharest last April. Hill said Romania "still has to meet some conditions." Finance Minister Decebal Train Remes the same day said that Credit Swiss First Boston has now inquired about the progress made in meeting the funds' conditions. Earlier, it said it is ready to approve a $200 million credit. In an interview with state radio, former Premier Theodor Stolojan explained that the fund's new loan policy is to make approval conditional on borrowing on international financial markets as well. Observers say Romania may find itself in a vicious circle where each creditor makes loaning conditional on progress made with other creditors. MS

MAVERICK SERB LEADER IN ROMANIA

Vuk Draskovic, leader of Serbian Renewal Movement, told journalists on 22 July after talks with President Emil Constantinescu that "Slobodan Milosevic's most powerful backers are the U.S. and the EU," both of which contribute to Milosevic's popularity in Serbia by condoning "the infringement of Serb rights...with KFOR troops acquiescence" in Kosova. He added that KFOR troops have "practically done away with the border between Kosova and Albania" and the province has "became part of Greater Albania." Constantinescu did not attend Draskovic's press conference, and the Serbian opposition leader's statement was described by Romanian Radio as "somewhat surprising." Prime Minster Radu Vasile said after meeting with Draskovic that he agrees with his view that "Serbia must not be isolated." He added that he supports Draskovic's demand for a transitional government in Serbia headed by a Montenegrin politician. MS

YUGOSLAV VLACHS REQUEST ROMANIAN HELP

President Constantinescu on 22 July received a delegation of the Movement of Romanian Vlachs of Yugoslavia, Mediafax reported. Dimitrie Craciunovic, chairman of the movement, requested Romania to intervene with the Yugoslav authorities in order for the community to be "officially recognized as a national minority and granted collective rights." Craciunovic said the authorities have been procrastinating for eight years on answering the demand. He added that official statistics in Yugoslavia put the number of Romanian Vlachs at 32,000 at most, whereas unofficial statistics show that "no less than 800,000 Romanians live in eastern Serbia." And he said that Constantinescu "promised to help more than in the past." MS

FATE OF MOLDOVAN, ROMANIAN DEBT-SETTLING DEAL UNCERTAIN

The fate of the deal envisaging a Romanian consortium's takeover of a 51 percent stake in the Tirex-Petrol company in exchange for writing off Moldova's $5 million debt to Romania for electricity deliveries is uncertain, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 22 July. The Moldovan government asked the parliament to amend the law on the deal, which specifically mentioned Romania. The amended law is to state that the stake goes to "the highest bidder." Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov said the amendment is necessary to avoid infringing on Moldovan privatization laws. Eugen Garla, chairman of the Economy, Industry, and Privatization Commission, said it paves the way for "money-laundering by phantom companies from Germany or Greece" and accused Diacov of acting "in league with the Communists" to exclude Romania from the deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999). MS

BULGARIA'S NATIONAL BANK OPENS UP COMMUNIST ARCHIVES

The National Bank is the first state institution that will open its secret files from the communist-era, board member Rumen Avramov told journalists on 22 July. He said that the bank's archive comprising 80,000 pages will be made available to the public as of 1 September. The archives cover Bulgarian financial and economic history from 1945 to 1989, Reuters reported. Avramov said that the records will offer information on the accumulation of the country's foreign debt, the debt crises, and the siphoning off of money through the National Bank in the 1980s. MS




CZECH 'PSYCHOLOGICAL THRESHOLDS' AND 'VELVET REVOLUTIONS'


by Michael Shafir

Political markets have many vendors. As in the economic sphere, those vendors tries to promote their merchandise to the best of their ability. But the political stock market is more fuzzy than the stock market proper because "shares" are difficult to trade and cash in, except at election time.

The closest thing to a stock exchange that politics can offer in-between balloting are public opinion polls. Sky- rocketing share prices (a boost in polling results) create euphoria that may be dangerous if not reflecting political reality. Likewise, a drop in prices may result in panic- selling and that panic, in turn, acts to increase the prices of competitors' shares. One may even speak of "psychological thresholds" functioning as political milestones, just as such thresholds (which usually are more or less fictitious) are encountered in the realm of the economy proper.

The results of a public opinion survey conducted by the Czech STEM polling institute and released last weekend might have been expected to lead to the creation of a "psychological threshold." The poll shows that for the first time since the "velvet revolution" of 1989, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) is the second-strongest political force in the Czech Republic, enjoying 17.8 percent backing. In the elections to the Chamber of Deputies in June 1998, the KSCM polled 11 percent, making it the third- strongest parliamentary group in the chamber. Opinion polls have consistently shown in the last few months that the party's popularity is rising. What is more, in recent local by-elections held in 19 districts and in the municipality of Ceske Budejovice, the KSCM finished second behind the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). This is precisely what the STEM poll of July 1999 suggests would be the result of parliamentary elections were such a ballot to be held now.

While the ODS is leading the field--it received 23.4 percent of the vote in the STEM poll--it is questionable whether this is good news for party leader and former Premier Vaclav Klaus, given that in the 1998 general elections the ODS scored 27.7 percent. More dramatic is the drop in support for the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD), which, according to the poll, would fall from the first place it secured in the June 1998 elections, with 32.2 percent of the vote, to a worrisome third place, losing nearly half of its former strength (16.8 percent).

This may explain the panic displayed by the democratic forces of various political persuasions in the face of the survey's results. Perhaps the daily "Pravo" best summed up that panic when it wrote on 19 July that the "self-appointed best pupil" in the post-communist school for democracy, that is the Czech Republic, has proved some 10 years after the school was opened that it is ready to give the "unreformed and un-reformable Communists" their strongest-backing registered among the 1989 "graduates" (obviously "Pravo" was leaving out the East Germans).

Panic notwithstanding, mutual bickering among democratic forces intensified, rather than diminished, as a result of the poll. President Vaclav Havel, a known opponent of the "opposition agreement" that enabled the CSSD to rule as a minority government in exchange for prominent parliamentary posts for the ODS, blamed the poll's results on that agreement. Havel is forgetting that it is only natural for dissatisfied voters to flock to the opposition and that the ODS cannot be counted in that category because of its "unholy alliance" with the CSSD. Indeed, the Freedom Union, which in June 1998 scored 8.6 percent in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies, is now backed by 12.7 percent--in other words, its support has increased more than 50 percent. The third force that is not part of the CSSD-ODS agreement, namely the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), are also doing better than in the 1998 elections, but only slightly so (compared with 10.4 percent, 9 percent).

The STEM poll might have been expected to encourage the forces on the right to overcome their differences. A coalition of the ODS, the Freedom Union, and the KDU-CSL would command a majority of 115 in the 200-seats chamber, and increase political stability, to the likely dissatisfaction of the Communists. Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml and KDU-CSL deputy chairman Karel Kuehnl did call for such a coalition, but both seemed more preoccupied with pointing a finger at the ODS for its alliance with the CSSD than with putting the center-right's post-1998 relations on a new footing

In turn, the ODS (through its deputy parliamentary group leader Vlastimil Tlusty) rushed to identify the KDU-CSL and the union as the main culprits for having rejected the ODS's overtures to form a coalition after the 1998 elections. The CSSD, while admitting that the alliance with the ODS might be one of the reasons for the growth in communist support, noted (through Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla) that this was no reason to halt the constitutional changes currently being examined by a joint CSSD-ODS commission. Those changes also provide for curtailing the president's powers.

In other words, machinations to undermine adversaries (and Havel is perceived as an adversary by both the CSSD and the ODS) are more important than the looming prospect of an eventual communist election victory. Some "psychological thresholds," it seems, are more difficult to overcome than others. And for some people, this may recall the days preceding the February 1948 communist takeover--except that the Communists no longer have militias to lean on. Is, however, a "velvet counter-revolution" inconceivable?


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