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Newsline - July 30, 1999




NEW DISMISSAL RUMORS FOLLOW YELTSIN'S RETURN

Recently returned from vacation, Russian President Boris Yeltsin is reported to have signed a decree dismissing Sergei Zverev, deputy to presidential administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin, according to Interfax and Reuters on 29 July. "Kommersant-Daily" wrote the next day that Zverev, a former Most Bank executive, is being sacked primarily because he is too closely associated with Media-Most Group head Vladimir Gusinskii. Zverev joined the Kremlin only some three months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 1999). Yeltsin has reportedly also signed a decree dismissing Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok, according to Ekho Moskvy on 29 July. "Segodnya" claimed the next day that Pochinok is under pressure from the Kremlin for not being "active enough in auditing companies close to [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov and other figures disliked by the presidential administration." Both "Segodnya" and Ekho Moskvy are owned by Media-Most. On 30 July, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin denied that any documents have been prepared dismissing either official. JAC

GOVERNMENT ASKS FUEL PRODUCERS TO QUIT SMUGGLING

As fuel shortages threaten to paralyze harvesting, fire-fighting, and other activities across the country (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 July 1999), federal government officials have decided against increasing the export tax on oil and have instead asked oil companies and refineries to ensure sufficient supplies of gasoline to retailers. One reason for this decision may be that the sharp increase in the production and export of "unregistered" gasoline. According to "Vremya MN" on 29 July, economist Mikhail Delyagin concluded that since gasoline output sank by 17 percent in April and 12 percent in March, according to official figures, for no apparent reason, it is likely being secretly transported across Russian borders to avoid customs and tax duties. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told reporters the same day that gasoline is being smuggled to Ukraine and other places, where it fetches $2 a liter compared with $0.20 in Russia. JAC

HIGHER INFLATION FEARED...

State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told Ekho Moskvy on 29 July that inflation could reach 60 percent this year, rather than the 30 percent projected in the 1999 budget. Earlier this week, the Economics Ministry released a report concluding that the conditions for a steeper rise in consumer prices and an "inflationary potential" have recently emerged, according to Interfax. An unidentified source at the ministry told the agency that inflation will likely reach 45 percent by year's end but a sharp jump in prices could occur toward the close of 1999. Zhukov also predicted that the ruble will gradually devalue, allowing exporters to increase their revenues and consequently their tax payments. JAC

...AND WEAKER RUBLE

Traders and analysts also believe that the ruble will fall, as the Central Bank is expected to stop defending the currency, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30 July. According to the daily, the Central Bank spent $100 million a week this month to bolster the ruble's exchange rate against the dollar. According to Zhukov, such expenditures were necessary because of the foreign debt payments the country had to make in July, but now there are no economic grounds to continue propping up the ruble. However, an analyst at MFK Renaissance told the daily that it is always possible that the Central Bank will act in defiance of economic good sense: "Since there is no capital inflow, the government must be looking to commodity exporters to finance the elections and might try to keep the ruble stable to buy dollars from them at lower rates," Parvoleta Shtereva said. JAC

VODKA PRODUCTION SOARS, BUT TAX COLLECTION TARGET MISSED

Russia increased production of vodka by 65 percent during the first half of the year, compared with the same period the previous year, ITAR-TASS reported 28 July. Total alcohol production went up by 29.1 percent. However, revenues from the excise tax on alcohol products amounted to only 10.6 billion rubles ($438 million), compared with the target of 13 billion rubles. Among the regions with the worst performance collecting the tax are the Republics of Altai and Kalmykia, Kaliningrad Oblast, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 July. In the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, only 8.9 percent of expected revenues were collected. JAC

STEPASHIN ADVOCATES INCREASED EU ROLE...

Speaking to journalists after meetings with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen and EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek in Moscow on 29 July, Russian Premier Sergei Stepashin argued that given recent "changes" in the international arena, "the role of the EU must be sharply increased in deciding international problems," particularly in the "military-political" sphere, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He also urged that Russia be regarded as an "equal partner" in Europe. Lipponen, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said he believes the planned EU-Russia summit in Helsinki in October will put cooperation between the union and Moscow on a "new level." And Van den Broek commented that of the various scientific and technological cooperation projects Russia and the EU are preparing, the satellite navigation project could become "one of the most important cooperation programs that the EU will have with Russia," according to AP. JC

...AND EQUAL ROLE FOR RUSSIA IN YUGOSLAV RECONSTRUCTION

At the same 29 July press conference, Stepashin argued that Russia must be an "equal participant" in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia, although he admitted that this raises "problems." He later told a cabinet meeting that this topic is to be discussed at the Sarajevo summit on Balkan reconstruction, which he and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov are due to attend on 30 July. Another topic to be dealt with during the summit, according to the premier after his meeting with President Yeltsin on 29 July, will be extending aid not just to Kosova but all Yugoslavia. He added that this subject will have to be discussed "particularly thoroughly" with France and Germany. JC

RUSSIA PROPOSES BARTER ARRANGEMENT FOR INDIA TO REPAY DEBT

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, speaking to the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi on 29 July, proposed that India pay off its Soviet-era $14 billion debt by setting up joint ventures with Russia to manufacture and modernize civilian aircraft. He added that discussions have already been held on how such ventures might be created, AFP reported. Ukraine has proposed repaying part of its gas debt to Russia with 10 strategic bombers, while Moscow recently suggested barter trade with the Association of South East Asian States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 July 1999). Also on 29 July, Khristenko met with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who approved the proposal that trade between the two countries be increased fourfold by 2005. The current volume of bilateral trade stands at $1.5 billion, ITAR-TASS reported. JC

LEFTIST BLOC LOSES MOVEMENT TO OTECHESTVO?

Moscow Mayor and Otechestvo head Luzhkov has formally invited Spiritual Heritage to join his movement, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 July. Spiritual Heritage had been considered a potential member of a leftist bloc, according to the daily. Spiritual Heritage leader Aleksei Podberezkin said his group will make a decision at its congress in September, but he added that the programs of both organizations "practically coincide exactly." JAC

LEBED LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN?

At a recent press conference, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed appealed to regions to pool their collective strengths and talents to resist misguided policies emanating from Moscow, Interfax reported on 28 July. Lebed declared that he is worried by the Kremlin's efforts to harm Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. He continued that by engineering a default for Moscow, the center may bring about a default for the whole country, since 84 percent of the country's financial resources are concentrated in its capital. According to "Vremya MN" on 28 July, Lebed will develop his ideas on this subject at a 13 August meeting of the interregional association, Siberian Accord. "Izvestiya" concluded on 28 July that with this appeal, Lebed has unofficially started his presidential campaign. Lebed himself recently hinted that he might not run in that ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). JAC

THE HOUSE THAT BEER BUILT

Krasnoyarsk Krai resident Arkadii Lytkin constructed a two-story dacha out of 6,000 beer bottles, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July, citing "Krasnoyarsk komsomolets." When Lytkin first built the dacha 20 years ago, his family spent only the summers there, but now they reside there all year round because it is warmer than their apartment in the city. The structure, which took three years, to build has a balcony on the second floor with a impressive view of Krasnoyarsk, according to the daily. Also dramatic are sunsets, as the rays of light filter through the multi-colored glass. JAC

CHECHEN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY ABDUCTED

Chechen police have launched a search for Adburakhman Suleimanov, who was kidnapped on 30 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Security officials do not believe the abduction was politically motivated and anticipate that the kidnappers will demand a ransom to release Suleimanov. LF

PROTESTS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA GATHER MOMENTUM

In several towns in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, some 10,000 supporters of Vladimir Semenov continue to protest President Yeltsin's appointment of Valentin Vlasov as temporary republican head, arguing that the move violates the Russian Constitution, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 July. Semenov's apparent victory in the 16 May republican presidential runoff was called into question by a 23 July Russian Supreme Court ruling. The protesters are demanding that a referendum be held in the republic on whether the Russian president should have the right to appoint the Karachaevo-Cherkessia president. In addition, some 8,000 women are picketing the Interior Ministry headquarters in the republican capital, Cherkessk, to protest Aleksandr Volkodav's appointment as interior minister. Volkodav previously served in that capacity until his dismissal in 1995 for incompetence and compromising behavior. LF




NAKHICHEVAN OFFICIAL SAYS AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SPREADING DISINFORMATION

Nakhichevan senior Foreign Ministry official Azer Alesqerov told journalists on 29 July that activists of the Musavat, Azerbaijan National Independence, and Azerbaijan Popular Front parties are to blame for the 13 July clashes at the Sadarak customs post on the border between the Azerbaijani exclave and Turkey, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 28 July 1999). He added that 99 percent of the information on the clashes published in the Azerbaijani opposition press is untrue and aimed at exacerbating tensions. Alesqerov denied opposition allegations that the head of the Sadarak customs post was responsible for the clashes. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS ALLEGED ELECTION LAW CHANGES

The 20 opposition parliamentary deputies who constitute the Democratic Bloc issued a statement on 29 July calling for an emergency session of the parliament to discuss the changes they believe were made to the law on municipal elections after its adoption by the parliament, Turan reported. They also demanded that those responsible for making those changes be punished. Parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov on 25 July denied that any such changes were made (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). LF

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IN TBILISI

Vladimir Rushailo and his Georgian counterpart, Kakha Targamadze, agreed during talks in Tbilisi on 29 July to set up joint groups to seek the release of Russian and Georgian citizens held hostage in Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported. They also agreed to cooperate more closely in stamping out trade in counterfeit goods. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS POSTPONING RELIGIOUS ARTIFACT EXHIBIT IN U.S.

Eduard Shevardnadze has proposed postponing for several years the planned exhibit in three U.S. and one Italian city of Georgian religious artifacts and manuscripts, Caucasus Press reported on 29 July. Senior Georgian clerics oppose allowing the relics to be taken out of the country. Dozens of students took part in a hunger strike in late April to protest the planned exhibit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 May 1999), prompting Shevardnadze to create a special commission, composed of prominent academics and clerics, that is to rule on the advisability of proceeding with the exhibit. In response to an appeal by the opposition Ilia Chavchavadze Society, a Georgian district court on 29 July issued a ban on taking the artifacts out of Georgia. LF

BP AMOCO TO QUIT KAZAKH PROJECT

A senior official for BP Amoco told Interfax on 29 July that the company will sell its 9.5 percent stake in the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC), even if the first test well yields hydrocarbons. Kazakhstan's national oil company threatened in June to end relations with the consortium because of delays in drilling the first test well. Drilling is now expected to begin next month. Hydrocarbon reserves in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea are estimated at 12 billion tons. LF

KAZAKHSTAN DISCUSSES PURCHASE OF TURKMEN NATURAL GAS

A Kazakh government delegation held talks in Ashgabat on 29 July on purchasing Turkmen natural gas and cooperating in exporting it to European markets, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan's Minister for Power Engineering, Industry, and Trade Mukhtar Ablyazov said that regions of southern Kazakhstan need to purchase up to 2 billion cubic meters of Turkmen natural gas annually in order to meet demand, adding that Astana might also purchase a further 1 billion cubic meters for resale to Kyrgyzstan. Also discussed was the possibility of exporting oil from Kazakhstan via the Pavlodar-Chimkent-Seidi pipeline and the Turkmen port of Turkmenbashi. LF

KYRGYZ LEADERS DISCUSS CORRUPTION, ECONOMY

Addressing a national conference of police officers in Bishkek on 29 July, President Askar Akaev proposed drafting a 10-year program to combat corruption and economic crime, Interfax reported. Akaev said that the shadow economy accounts for approximately 10-12 percent of GDP, adding that some experts believe the true figure is 25-26 percent. He said that losses to the budget from economic crime over the past year amount to 600 million soms (some $15 million), and he termed corruption "one of the most dangerous threats" to the country. Also on 29 July, Prime Minister Amangeldy MurAliyev chaired a cabinet meeting called to discuss the economic situation, at which it was announced that the planned 10 percent increase in agricultural output for 1999 will not be met. Unpaid wages are estimated at 808 million soms, pensions at 265 million soms, and other benefits at 167 million soms. LF

KYRGYZSTAN VALUES DEFENSE COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA, CIS

Echoing Akaev's assertion in his 7 July interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that Russia and Kyrgyzstan are "strategic partners" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999), Kyrgyzstan's Defense Minister Colonel-General Myrzakan Subanov told the same newspaper on 29 July that Russia is his country's main partner in defense cooperation. Subanov also noted the importance to Kyrgyzstan of participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty and of cooperation with the other member states of the Central Asian Union in upholding regional security. LF




BELARUSIAN EX-PREMIER TO REMAIN IN JAIL FOR ANOTHER TWO MONTHS

The Prosecutor-General's Office has extended the detention of former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir by another two months, until the end of September, Belapan reported on 29 July. Chyhir was arrested on 30 April on charges of "grand larceny" in connection with a loan to a Canadian firm that he approved in 1994 in his capacity as a bank head. Chyhir's wife told the agency that, apart from the Canadian loan issue, there have been "no new episodes" in the criminal investigation against her husband. Meanwhile, Belarusian human rights and opposition activists have set up a nationwide committee to fight for Chyhir's release. JM

MINSK UNHAPPY ABOUT BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER'S STAY IN VILNIUS

At a meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas on 29 July, Belarusian Ambassador to Lithuania Uladzimir Harkun voiced Minsk's dissatisfaction with the "circumstances" surrounding Belarusian Supreme Soviet Chairman Syamyon Sharetski's stay in Vilnius (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 1999), BNS reported. Saudargas assured Harkun that Lithuania wants to continue developing good-neighborly relations with Belarus. Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikalay Barysevich said the same day that Sharetski's stay in Vilnius is regarded by Minsk as a "private trip." JM

TWO MORE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS REGISTERED

The Central Electoral Commission has registered two more candidates to vie for the Ukrainian presidency, bringing the total so far to eight. The new candidates are Natalya Vitrenko, chairwoman of the Progressive Socialist Party, and former Environmental Minister Yuriy Kostenko, leader of one of the two splinter groups of the Rukh party. JM

CLARK IN LATVIA

NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark, during his visit to Latvia on 28-29 July, met with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Prime Minister Andris Skele, Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, and armed forces Commander Colonel Raimonds Graube. Clark told the press that NATO is "happy with the progress Latvia has achieved," BNS reported. At a press conference Clark surprised Defense Minister Kristovskis when he said "there are no pre-conditions of a military nature for the countries wishing to join NATO." Kristovskis immediately queried that statement, which Clark reconfirmed, adding that the last round of NATO enlargement "did not take into account pre-conditions of a military nature." MH

POLAND'S SOLIDARITY COALITION DISTRIBUTES VOTING POWER AMONG PARTNERS

The National Council of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), meeting in Gdansk on 29 July, announced that 25 percent of the votes on the council will go to the Solidarity trade union, 23 percent to the Solidarity Electoral Action Social Movement, and 16 percent each to the Christian National Union, the Conservative Peasant Party, and the Center-Accord Party of Christian Democrats. The remaining 4 percent of the votes will be divided later among the AWS's smaller groups. The council elected Marian Krzaklewski as AWS chairman. Krzaklewski is also chairman of the Solidarity trade union. JM

CZECH SENATE PASSES ANTI-FORGERY LAW...

The Senate on 29 July approved a government-sponsored bill aimed at cracking down on the import and export of imitations of brand products, CTK reported. The law enables custom officials to destroy goods declared as forgeries by a court of law and to impose a fine of up to 20 million crowns ($577,200). The law is in line with EU legislation. The Senate also approved the new citizenship law, which allows former emigres to hold dual citizenship and facilitates the citizenship process for Slovaks living in the Czech Republic since the 1993 split. Both bills were approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 9 July. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER LAUDS U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE RESOLUTION ON VOJVODINA...

Viktor Orban said on 29 July before departing for the Sarajevo summit on Balkan reconstruction that it is "a major success" for Hungarian diplomacy to have the future status of Vojvodina on the summit's agenda. Orban was responding to a 28 July U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution saying that President Bill Clinton should "express deep concern" over reports about threats against and intimidation of ethnic Hungarians in the province. The same resolution called on the secretary of state to "regularly monitor" the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina and said negotiations on Kosova's future status must also establish "satisfactory guarantees" for the rights of ethnic minorities in Vojvodina, "including consultations with elected leaders [from the province] about their proposals for self-administration," Hungarian media reported. MS

...WHILE U.S. AMBASSADOR TO HUNGARY SAYS RESOLUTION IS NOT ON THAT PROVINCE

In an interview with Hungarian Radio on 29 July, Peter Tufo explained that the Senate committee's resolution did not deal with Vojvodina but with the democratization of Yugoslavia as a whole. He said the paragraph on the province was introduced to emphasize recognition of the "interest of the Vojvodina people in [a possible measure] of autonomy." But he said that the resolution does not deal with Hungarian proposals for "three- pronged" autonomy for the region's ethnic Hungarians. He also said that "one must wait and see" what issues will be raised in Sarajevo "and in what context." MS




CROATIAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS HAGUE COURT'S CHARGES AGAINST TUDJMAN

The Croatian government on 29 July denied that President Franjo Tudjman and other top Croatian officials were responsible for atrocities in central Bosnia in 1993 (see "RFER/RL Balkan Report," 27 July 1999). The government statement charged that recent remarks by a Hague tribunal prosecutor on Croatia's alleged involvement in the Bosnian conflict are incorrect and politically motivated. Elsewhere, Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic said "we reject all insinuations against President Tudjman." Separovic added that his ministry is continuing negotiations with the court over documents regarding Croatian military operations in Krajina in 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). PM

BALKAN SUMMIT OPENS IN SARAJEVO

Heads of state or government from 39 countries and representatives of 17 international organizations meet in the Bosnian capital on 30 July to discuss Balkan reconstruction. The previous day, a smaller group of leaders from Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey, Albania, and Montenegro heard an appeal by Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari to put an end to old hatreds and work together for a better future. Ahtisaari, whose country holds the rotating EU chair, warned that "the ability of countries within the region to cooperate and establish good neighborly relations...will be an important criterion for evaluating their prospects of full integration with the EU," the "Financial Times" reported. He added that "the EU and NATO will not look favorably at anyone dashing headlong towards Brussels without even a backward glance" at their neighbors. The daily noted that this is a criticism of Slovenia. In separate remarks, EU aid coordinator Bodo Hombach stressed the need to formulate and implement practical programs. PM

ATTENTION FOCUSES ON SUMMIT'S 'EMPTY CHAIR'

U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said in Washington on 28 July that Serbia will be the only Balkan country not represented by its leaders at the summit. He stressed that Serbia cannot take part in international reconstruction efforts as long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remains in office. The conference organizers invited as guests respected Serbian banker Dragoslav Avramovic and several opposition leaders, including Zoran Djindjic and Nenad Canak, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 29 July. When questioned by a BBC reporter the following day, Avramovic refused to say whether he thinks the organizers are justified in excluding Milosevic's representatives. Avramovic stressed that the conference will not deal with concrete proposals and that therefore it is unimportant whether Belgrade's representatives attend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). PM

SUMMIT NOT TO CONDEMN MILOSEVIC?

"The Daily Telegraph" reported on 30 July that "a row between Russia and the NATO countries...frustrated [U.K.-led] attempts...to secure a [final resolution] insisting on an end to the Milosevic regime before any aid can flow to Serbia." The text will simply "call on the people of Serbia to embrace democratic change," the daily reported. An unnamed diplomat told the newspaper that "this [formulation] is woolly even by the standards of international organizations." PM

SKEPTICISM SURROUNDS SUMMIT

Also on 30 July, "The Daily Telegraph" noted that many experts are skeptical whether the summit will go beyond "wordy exhortations" and lead to any practical results. The daily reported that unnamed "senior officials from Britain, France, and Finland, which is organizing the summit, say the whole affair is a waste of time." It also quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying that the "Germans dreamt up this thing, got [U.S. President Bill] Clinton to agree, and then dumped it into the lap of the Finns. It's too soon [after the Kosova crisis] and too vague, and the Bosnian government is such a shambles that it doesn't deserve a summit." PM

KOSOVARS CHEER 'MOTHER' ALBRIGHT

Some 2,000 ethnic Albanians welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Prishtina on 29 July. Members of the crowd cheered her as "nona," or mother, a term ethnic Albanians often reserve for the late Mother Teresa. Albright told the Kosovars that she hopes that "never again will people with guns come in the night, never again will houses and villages be burned, and never again will there be massacres and mass graves," AP reported. She met with the Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) Hashim Thaci, with representatives of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), and with local Serbian leaders Momcilo Trajkovic and Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije. Some 200 pro-Milosevic demonstrators heckled both her and Artemije after their meeting. PM

RUGOVA RETURNS TO KOSOVA

LDK leader Ibrahim Rugova arrived without fanfare at Prishtina airport on 30 July. He later told AP that he and his family will stay in the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 1999). PM

UCK DENIES POWER-GRAB IN KOSOVA

The "International Herald Tribune" reported on 30 July that the UCK has taken power in much of Kosova by setting up government bodies in a "fait accompli." The UN's fledgling civilian administration has not yet extended its authority to many places outside Prishtina, the "Financial Times" added. Thaci told the London-based daily that the UCK "did not exploit the vacuum, which already existed. It took on an obligation to bring back normality and order. If we had not acted, there would have been anarchy ruling Kosova." Observers note that the Kosova peace agreement gives the UN exclusive control over civilian administration. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER ADMITS LOSS OF KOSOVA

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Ratko Markovic said that the June peace agreement meant that "Kosova was taken from Serbia," the Belgrade weekly "NIN" reported on 29 July. He compared Serbia's agreement on the loss of the province to the decision of an injured person to have a leg or arm amputated in order to save his life. Observers note this is the first time that a top-ranking Belgrade official has publicly admitted that Serbia lost Kosova as a result of the recent conflict. Officials generally claim that Serbia won the war because Kosova legally remains part of Serbia and because the administration there is in the hands of the UN, not of NATO or the UCK. PM

MONTNEGRO GIVES SERBIA SEPTEMBER DEADLINE

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perovic told AP at the Sarajevo summit on 29 July that his government will hold a referendum on independence unless the Belgrade authorities agree to changes in the rules governing the Yugoslav federation by early to mid-September. Elsewhere, Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 30 July that Milosevic must resign. Vujanovic stressed that "the country has no future with a president like Milosevic." The previous day, Vujanovic told the Madrid daily "El Pais" that there is no danger of a pro-Milosevic coup in Montenegro. He said that opposition by "our citizens, state bodies, and the international community" would block any coup attempt. PM

MONTENEGRIN RAILWAYS CHIEF SAYS SERBIA BLOCKING KEY PROJECT

Rajko Medenica, who heads Montenegrin Railways, said in Podgorica on 29 July that the Belgrade authorities are "deliberately blocking" Montenegrin proposals to revive traffic along the Belgrade-Bar railway line. The Montenegrin authorities want to quickly restore transportation along the bomb-damaged line by introducing a combination of rail and bus connections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The communist authorities built the line linking Belgrade to the coast in the 1980s at great expense. It involves many complex engineering projects through difficult territory. Critics at the time charged that the government built it as a concession to greater Serbian nationalism. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES IMF

In an interview with Reuters on 29 July, Radu Vasile accused the IMF of using "double standards" and of constantly imposing new conditions on Romania for the resumption of lending. Vasile said Romania is being treated differently from Russia or Ukraine and has been "put in the same basket with Pakistan." He said he is ready to lead the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic into the next elections only if he is elected chairman of the party, noting that he is also willing to form a coalition with leftist parties. The electorate has turned to those parties, he commented, because it is disillusioned with other formations. Bickering among the coalition partners has made matters worse, according to Vasile. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN STATE-OWNED BANK

In compliance with one of the IMF's demands, the government on 29 July decided to close down Bancorex, which over the years has issued $1.2 billion in non-performing loans. The bank will be merged into the Romanian Commercial Bank. The government also decided to instruct the Prosecutor-General's Office to open an investigation to find out who is responsible for the bank's "disastrous performance." Meanwhile, Romania is encountering difficulties in meeting the IMF's demand to secure $350 million in loans from private international lenders. Credit Suisse First Boston, which earlier offered a $200 million loan at a 12 percent interest rate, is now demanding an interest rate of 17 percent, Mediafax reported. MS

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA

Janos Martonyi, who is on a three-day visit to Romania, told his counterpart, Andrei Plesu, that during the Kosova crisis, Romania behaved like a "real NATO member" and thus considerably enhanced its chances of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. The two ministers said the crisis has had a "positive effect" on Romanian-Hungarian relations. Martonyi also met with Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, whom he informed that Budapest wants to open a consulate in Miercurea Ciuc. Babiuc said that in his opinion the two consulates in Cluj and Constanta adequately cover Hungary's consular needs but that the request will be examined as a "good-will gesture." MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPOINTS NEW PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

The parliament on 29 July voted to accept the resignation of Prosecutor-General Valeriu Catana (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999) and to appoint Mircea Iuga as his successor, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Until now, Iuga has served as a judge at the Supreme Court. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMISSION DRAFTS CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE PROPOSAL

The presidential commission on amending the constitution has ended its work and will publish its proposals on 2 August, BASA-press reported. The commission envisages a "radical growth" of presidential prerogatives and a "drastic reduction" of the legislature's, the agency reported, citing commission secretary Raisa Grecu. The cabinet is to be subordinated to the president, rather than to the parliament, and will be entitled to legislate. The president will have the prerogative of dissolving the parliament. The draft also envisages reducing the number of deputies from present 101 to 71 and changing the electoral system. Also, the president is to be elected for five years, instead of the current four. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER IN BULGARIA

Vladimir Vetchy, who is on a two-day visit to Sofia, met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Georgi Ananiev, on 29 July to discuss NATO enlargement, BTA and CTK reported. Vetchy said Prague supports NATO's "open-door policy" in general, but he added that it gives priority to Slovakia's candidacy for membership in the alliance. He stressed that candidates need to draw up a clear military-reform program as well as five-year and 10- year programs for its implementation. Vetchy and Ananiev also discussed the situation in Kosova, agreeing that the region must be given autonomy but must remain within Yugoslavia's borders. MS




RESPONDING TO ANTI-SEMITISM IN RUSSIA


By Paul Goble

In the wake of two attacks on Moscow synagogues, a prominent Russian Jewish organization has decried the increasing incidence of such activities as well as what it said are the reasons behind that rise.

In a statement released on 27 July, the Russian Jewish Congress said that the mounting number of attacks on Jewish institutions now represents "a threat to all Russian citizens regardless of their nationality" and argued that such crimes "should not remain unpunished."

The organization blamed the increase on chauvinistic appeals by some Russian politicians, the indifference of many ordinary Russian citizens to such attacks, and the inability or unwillingness of the government to identify and punish those responsible.

The Russian Jewish Congress issued the appeal after a 12 July attack on the Moscow Choral synagogue left Leopold Kaimovskii, the executive director of Moscow's Jewish Arts Center, badly wounded and after reports earlier this week that a bomb had been planted near another Moscow synagogue.

The Congress argued that "such incidents cease to be something extraordinary and are committed with the connivance of those who are in charge of the formation of our society's moral climate." It provided three explanations for this increase, which comes after a period in which many Russian Jews felt anti-Semitism there had been declining.

First, the Congress put the blame on the increasing number of political figures who have with impunity issued anti-Semitic statements as part of their effort to win popular support. It noted that "there is nothing strange in the escalation of such violence when members of the Federation Council and State Duma deputies make chauvinistic statements," particularly when they escape censure for such statements.

Second, the Congress criticized the indifference of many Russians to what is taking place. All too many Russian citizens, the group indicated, have failed to react at all to such outrages against Jewish groups, an indifference that sometimes extends to attacks on other national minorities.

This Russian indifference, the Congress noted, has prompted Jews and other minorities to "raise the question of whether it is possible to live on Russian territory" and, in the absence of domestic support, to issue "appeals to the international community" as the only means of defense.

And third, the Congress denounced what it said is the "impotence of the Russian authorities" in the face of such acts, an impotence that reflects either their inability or their unwillingness to bring those responsible to justice. The failure of the Russian government to do so, the Congress noted, has only emboldened those responsible for such behavior.

To counter these factors, the Congress called on Russian leaders to denounce racists and anti-Semites "no matter how high their posts are." It demanded that the Russian people recognize the danger to themselves of anti-Semitic actions left unpunished. And it called on the authorities to work harder to identify and convict those guilty of such crimes.

But it is a measure of the difficulties Jews in Russia now face that this organization has directed its appeal to foreign governments and human rights activists as well, virtually inviting both to put pressure on Moscow to change its current approach.

Several Jewish groups and human rights organizations in the U.S. and other Western countries recently have begun campaigns to attract attention to what many people had assumed was no longer a major problem in post-Soviet Russia.

The appeal of the Russian Jewish Congress from Moscow is likely to give additional impetus to these Western efforts. And its identification of the sources of the new tide of anti-Semitic violence in Russia is likely to lead ever more people to consider not only why anti-Semitism has re-emerged but also the ways in which it can be combated.

To the extent that happens, this appeal may mark a turning point in Russian social development. To the extent that it does not, the appeal may come to be viewed as a barometer of how bad things now are and how much worse they could become.


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