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Newsline - August 11, 1999




WILL PUTIN BE YELTSIN'S PINOCHET?

As Russian newspapers and political analysts continue to spin a variety of theories for Russian President Boris Yeltsin's recent dismissal of Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, an increasingly popular hypothesis is that Stepashin was simply too weak. For example, "Kommersant-Daily" suggested on 11 August that acting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is "far more suitable for the role" of introducing a state of emergency and canceling presidential elections than was his predecessor. State Duma deputy and Fatherland Political Council member Vladimir Lysenko told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that "making public the name of the preferred successor one year ahead of elections either means that Putin will be eaten alive in the next few months or that Yeltsin has decided that all power will go to an emergency organ and Putin will become, for instance, a dictator, without any presidential election." In an interview with NTV on 9 August, Putin himself denied that "declaring a state of emergency has ever been discussed." JAC

MORE DUMA FACTIONS COME OUT IN SUPPORT OF PUTIN

Our Home Is Russia head Viktor Chernomyrdin told reporters on 11 August that his faction will vote in favor of acting Prime Minister Putin's candidacy in the State Duma, while Russian Regions faction head Oleg Morozov said the previous day that his group is unlikely to oppose Putin. And Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin added that his group "is not interested in dragging out the country's political crisis," "Vremya MN" reported on 10 August. "Izvestiya" reported the next day that the Communist Party, which has the largest Duma faction, is "prepared to vote for the devil himself as long as it does not make their election preparations any harder." The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia is also expected to support Putin. However, its head, Vladimir Zhirinovskii, said this support is conditional on the removal of Lenin's corpse from Red Square and the banning of communist organizations. JAC

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS EASING FOR MEDIA GROUP?

A Moscow court has reversed the ruling under which bank accounts of the Media-Most Group and NTV-Plus worth some $60 million were frozen, Interfax reported on 10 August. A Media-Most official told the agency that his company has already repaid a Vneshekonombank loan and therefore the accounts should not have been frozen. "Kommersant-Daily" reported earlier the Federal Tax Police Service has decided not to institute criminal proceedings against Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii for tax evasion because Gusinskii has paid the entire amount he owed plus fines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July and 6 August 1999). A lawsuit by Vneshekonombank, which is seeking some $60 million from the media organization, will be heard on 16-17 August, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

LUZHKOV CLAIMS KREMLIN PRESSURING HIS ALLIES...

In an interview with "Obshchaya gazeta" in its most recent issue, Moscow Mayor and Fatherland head Yurii Luzhkov said that leaders from the All Russia movement have "found themselves under pressure from the Kremlin" and were promised "all kinds of support" if they "forget Fatherland." Fatherland recently formed an alliance with All Russia, whose informal head is Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev. Luzhkov added, "Of course, it would have been better had it all been revealed here by Shaimiev and not by me." "Vremya MN" suggested on 10 August that Luzhkov's alliance with All Russia may force him to temper the flamboyance of his anti- Kremlin statements, since the governors tend to adopt a more reserved tone when communicating with and about federal authorities. But toning down his rhetoric, the daily concludes, might "deprive the mayor of an aura of martyrdom, which is so attractive to the electorate and which has already started to form around him." JAC

...AND MOSCOW-BASED OFFICIALS

Luzhkov also claimed that federal authorities are pressuring a number of officials whom they perceive as "pro-Luzhkov," such as the director of the Municipal Directorate of the Interior Ministry as well as the head of the Moscow Directorate for Combating Organized Crime. According to Luzhkov, the latter agency has the "highest success rate in Russia and the director faces the prospect of losing his job." JAC

NEW ALLIANCE HITS STUMBLING BLOCK?

Members of the Political Council of Voice of Russia have rejected the proposed alliance with Right Cause and New Force, which was announced by their informal leader, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, on 23 July, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 10 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). According to the newspaper, the council consists of members of the Democratic Party of Russia, the Union of Russian Christian Democrats, and other movements. They allegedly support joining a coalition of centrist powers only if "prominent" politicians, such as former Prime Minister Stepashin, Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, Duma deputy Yurii Boldyrev, are members and perhaps former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov heads it. Right Cause is led by Unified Energy Systems Chairman Anatolii Chubais and New Force by former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. JAC

TULA MINERS TO MARCH ON MOSCOW

Coal miners in Tula Oblast announced on 10 August that they will march on Moscow to protest wage arrears, "Izvestiya" reported. According to the daily, the main culprits for the miners' miseries are consumers, who owe some 250 million rubles (some $10 million) to Tula coal mining companies. The federal government, the newspaper notes, is fulfilling its obligations vis-a-vis the miners by making up the difference between the cost and sale prices. JC

ONLY A HANDFUL OF BANKS TO COMPETE FOR LUCRATIVE GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 9 August that the government supports the recent proposal of so- called oligarch and Interros Group head Vladimir Potanin to end the practice of giving certain commercial banks the lucrative business of handling the State Customs Committee's accounts, Interfax reported. According to Potanin, the process has become too politicized, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 August. Rosbank, which is owned by Interros, currently handles about 40 percent of all the committee's business. However, Khristenko added that Potanin's suggestion that this business be transferred to the Federal Treasury system could not be implemented before the end of 2000. In the meantime, according to "The Moscow Times," the conditions for participating in the new tender to handle the committee's accounts, such as a minimum level of equity of more than 800 million rubles ($32 million), might limit the tender to only three to five banks. JAC

RUSSIAN KFOR TROOPS NOW AT FULL STRENGTH

Acting Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told ITAR-TASS on 10 August that all 3,616 Russian KFOR troops have arrived in Kosova. They arrived aboard nine naval convoys, 75 flights, and 17 trains carrying a total of 4,000 tons of equipment. The Russian troops are operating in the French, U.S., and German sectors of Kosova and also have a logistical and supply base in the British sector. Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, who is the head of the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International Military Cooperation, told Interfax on 9 August in Moscow that recent attacks by ethnic Albanians on Russian peacekeepers "will have no effect on the implementation of the peacekeeping mission by the Russian contingent." He added that cooperation between Russian and other KFOR troops is "rather close" and that such incidents "are stimulating the peacekeepers of all states involved to strengthen their cooperation." FS

RUSSIAN MINE CLEARING UNIT BEGINS WORK IN KOSOVA

Emergency Ministry officials told Interfax on 10 August that 18 Russian specialists began clearing mines around Prishtina recently. They are acting within the framework of the Focus program--an Austrian-Greek-Russian-Swiss operation to deliver humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia and Kosova. Russian and Swiss engineers last weekend examined the Belgrade heating, energy, and water-supply systems, all of which were damaged by NATO air strikes. Focus has so far delivered more than 1,300 tons of humanitarian cargo to Kosova aboard 52 flights. FS

RUSSIA RANKS FOURTH AMONG ARMS EXPORTERS

A report by the Congressional Research Service shows that Russia was the fourth largest arms exporter last year, "Segodnya" reported on 7 August. With military hardware sales worth $1.7 billion in 1998, Russia trailed the U.S. ($7.1 billion), Germany ($5.5 billion), and France ($3 billion). According to Yevgenii Ananev, former director of Russia's main arms exporter, Rosvooruzhenie, Russian arms exports in 1997 totaled $2.5 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1998). JC

AUTOMOBILE CLUB TO PUT VOTERS IN DRIVER'S SEAT?

Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov announced on 10 August that 139 organizations have registered with the Justice Ministry and are eligible to participate in parliamentary elections on 19 December. "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 29 July that some exotic parties, such as the Automobile Club of Russia and Russia's Engineering Progress movement are registered, alongside the Party of Spiritual Revival, which is headed by Lyubov Andreevna, the elder sister of Liberal Democratic Party leader Zhirinovskii. JAC

MAVERICK SHURA DECLARES INDEPENDENT ISLAMIC STATE IN DAGESTAN...

The Islamic Shura (Council) of Dagestan issued a statement in Grozny on 10 August in the name of Dagestan's Muslims declaring the restoration of an independent Islamic state in Dagestan. According to Interfax, the statement called upon Chechnya's Muslims to support their co-religionists in Dagestan and demanded the withdrawal from Dagestan of all Russian troops based there. Spokesmen for the Dagestan Prosecutor-General's Office told ITAR-TASS that the Shura is not known in Dagestan and that its call to overthrow the existing constitutional system is punishable under Russian law. Also on 10 August, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov denied any Chechen connection with the Islamic Shura of Dagestan, whose declaration of an independent state he termed an internal affair of that republic, according to Interfax. LF

...AS RUSSIAN FORCES LAUNCH ATTACKS ON ISLAMIC MILITANTS

Russian forces launched more air and artillery strikes on 10 August on the Islamic militants who seized several villages in Botlikh and Tsumadin Raions three days earlier. Russian Air Force commander General Anatolii Kornukov told journalists in Moscow on 10 August that three air regiments are involved in the Dagestan campaign and have flown 78 reconnaissance and bombing sorties to date, according to Interfax. ITAR-TASS reported that two tanks and one anti-tank gun deployed by the militants in Botlikh Raion were destroyed during those raids. The militants have reportedly abandoned two villages they occupied in Tsumadin Raion and regrouped in Botlikh. Meanwhile the number of residents who fled from Botlikh to Makhachkala has reached 6,000, according to ITAR-TASS. LF




ALLY OF ARMENIAN PREMIER APPOINTED YEREVAN MAYOR

President Robert Kocharian has named deputy parliamentary speaker Albert Bazeyan mayor of Yerevan, Noyan Tapan reported on 11 August. Bazeyan, who is 43, was a prominent member of the Yerkrapah Union, which was founded in 1993 by then Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian and whose members are primarily veterans of the Karabakh war. Also on 11 August, Noyan Tapan reported that Eduard Yegorian, a former leading member of the Armenian Pan- National Movement who quit that party in 1997 to form the Hairenik parliamentary faction, died suddenly the previous day. Yegorian was one of the authors of the Armenian Constitution. LF

ARMENTEL CASE MAY BE SETTLED OUT OF COURT

A Yerevan court has postponed until 20 September consideration of the case brought by the Armenian government against Greece's state-controlled OTE and the U.S.-registered Trans-World Telecom, which owned a 49 percent stake in Armenia's telecommunications monopoly ArmenTel before the latter's acquisition by OTE in 1998, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 10 August. The Armenian government claims that the Trans-World Telecom owes some $8 million in profit tax on the proceeds of the sale of its stake to OTE. The delay is intended to give the three parties the opportunity to settle the dispute out of court. LF

U.S. CONGRESSMEN ADVOCATE DIRECT TALKS BETWEEN KARABAKH, BAKU

Meeting in Stepanakert on 10 August with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a visiting delegation of five U.S. Congressmen said they will urge Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev to engage in direct talks with the Karabakh leadership on resolving the conflict over the enclave's status, Interfax reported. The congressmen also met with Karabakh Premier Anushavan Danielyan, who echoed Ghukasian's expression of thanks for U.S. direct aid to the enclave. But Danielyan added that humanitarian programs should be replaced by mutually beneficial economic cooperation, noting that Nagorno-Karabakh has created a beneficial climate for foreign investment. LF

RUSSIA TO INVESTIGATE GEORGIAN BOMBING

The Georgian Foreign Ministry addressed a diplomatic note to Russia on 10 August protesting the bombing of a Georgian border village by Russian aircraft and demanding an investigation of the incident, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1999). Spokesmen for the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries told Interfax that Moscow is prepared to send experts to Georgia to conduct an investigation. LF

IMF URGES KAZAKHSTAN TO SPEED UP REFORMS

In a document released on 9 August summarizing its annual review of the Kazakh economy, IMF directors expressed regret that the fund has been unable to reach an agreement with Kazakhstan's government on measures that would enable the country to qualify for further Extended Fund Facility loans, Reuters and Interfax reported. The fund had urged the Kazakh leadership to speed up reforms, cut budget spending, improve tax collection, keep interest rates high, and remove import controls in order to curb inflation. It had also stressed the importance of timely payments of wages and pensions. LF

KAZAKHSTAN ELECTION OFFICIAL FAILS TO CLARIFY CANDIDATES' RIGHT TO MEDIA ACCESS

Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission chairwomen Zaghipa Balieva met with editors of Kazakh periodicals in Almaty on 10 August, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. Balieva was unable to say whether the new Kazakh election law places any restrictions on the use by political parties and individual candidates of independent media outlets to publicize their election programs. The law gives candidates the right to 15 minutes free access on state TV and 10 minutes on state radio, plus two articles in the state-run press. But under cost-cutting measures announced last week, the number of state-run newspapers that receive government funding has been reduced to three (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). Journalists at the press conference argued that the reduction in the number of state- run newspapers may deprive some candidates of free access to the print media. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S COSSACKS AT ODDS OVER EMIGRATION

Semirechie Cossack Community leader Gennadii Belyaev told a press conference in Almaty on 10 August that he disagrees with the assertion by rival Cossack leader Vladimir Ovsyannikov that the Semirechie Cossacks are planning to leave Kazakhstan if the country's leadership continues its policy of discrimination toward them, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). Belyaev further took issue with Ovsyannikov's claim that some 150,000 Semirechie Cossacks wish to leave Kazakhstan. According to Belyaev, Ovsyannikov's Semirechie Cossack Union has no more than 60,000 members, while his own Semirechie Cossack Community numbers 250,000. The community's press secretary, Fedor Miroglov, said at a press conference that the community plans to picket President Nursultan Nazarbaev's Almaty residence on 14 August to protest the Kazakh authorities' refusal to register the organization. LF

KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TALKS WITH GUERRILLAS

The Kyrgyz authorities on 10 August continued negotiations with the 21 Uzbek guerrillas who have taken up positions in southern Kyrgyzstan's Batken district and are holding four Kyrgyz officials hostage there, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Presidential administration official Bolot Dzhanuzakov told AP that the Kyrgyz leadership does not want to use force against the guerrillas. Interfax reported that the Kyrgyz authorities are maintaining contact with the governments of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The guerrillas were based in Tajikistan but are demanding free passage to Uzbekistan. Meanwhile some 1,000 civilians have been evacuated from Batken and 200 police sent to the region. LF

TAJIKISTAN EXTENDS DEMILITARIZATION PROCESS

Meeting in Dushanbe on 10 August, representatives of the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) agreed on the creation of joint working groups charged with disarming maverick groups that are not subordinate to the UTO, Interfax and AP-Blitz reported. President Imomali Rakhmonov decreed on 4 August that no criminal proceedings will be brought against fighters who surrender their weapons by 24 August. Also on 10 August, OSCE Chairman-in-Office Knut Vollebaek issued a statement welcoming the completion of the disarmament of UTO armed formations. Vollebaek also urged the government to lift the existing bans on opposition political parties and media outlets and speed up preparations both for the 26 September referendum on amendments to the country's constitution and for the subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION EMPOWERS SUPREME SOVIET TO TALK WITH REGIME

Leaders of seven major opposition parties on 10 August signed a memorandum on the planned talks with the government over the 2000 parliamentary elections. Belapan quoted an unnamed oppositionist as saying that the memorandum empowers the Supreme Soviet to approve an opposition delegation to the talks and to hold negotiations. The document stresses that the Supreme Soviet is the democratically elected and internationally recognized legislature of Belarus. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported that the Belarusian Popular Front and the Social Democratic Party Narodnaya Hramada signed the memorandum but expressed reservation about the transfer to the Supreme Soviet of full powers to negotiate with the regime. JM

FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER DEFIES LUKASHENKA FROM JAIL

Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir, who was jailed at the end of March on charges of "grand larceny," has sent an open letter to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belapan reported on 10 August. According to that letter, Lukashenka's recent public accusation that Chyhir committed multiple thefts is a "lie." Chyhir demanded that he be officially indicted, adding that he is guilty only "of trusting Lukashenka in July 1994 and of agreeing to head the government." Chyhir also rejected a recent offer from the authorities to make a public demonstration of repentance. He said he will not appeal to Lukashenka to be pardoned even if he has to remain in prison for seven years (Lukashenka recently pledged to stay in power until 2006). JM

UKRAINIAN CHIEF BANKER VOWS TO RETURN HRYVNYA TO EXCHANGE CORRIDOR

National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko on 10 August pledged to reverse the recent fall of the hryvnya, which has slipped outside the trading band set for this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1999). "The government and the National Bank see no reasons to revise our monetary policies for 1999," AP quoted Yushchenko as saying. Yushchenko added that the situation in the currency market will improve in the "coming days," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. However, Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko said the same day that the bank must intervene on the currency market in order to stabilize the hryvnya. "The government has exhausted all possible measures as to stabilization of the oil products market and now this factor of influence on the hryvnya's devaluation has been weakened," Tyhypko added. JM

UKRAINE UPBEAT ON GRAIN HARVEST

Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko said on 10 August that Ukraine has so far harvested 21 million tons of grain. Pustovoytenko added that this year's crop will be "much better" than in 1998, Interfax reported. Last year's harvest totaled 28 million tons. JM

DOZEN CANDIDATES FOR UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY

The Supreme Court on 10 August ordered the Central Electoral Commission to register Oleksandr Rzhavskyy as a presidential candidate. The commission had denied registration to Rzhavskyy, rejecting more than 700,000 signatures out of the 1.68 million he had submitted. The previous day, the Supreme Court ordered the commission to register Mykola Haber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1999). Reuters reported on 11 August that the commission has complied with the court's decisions and registered both Haber and Rzhavskyy, bringing the total number of presidential hopefuls to 12. The Supreme Court is now considering cases of another three aspirants. JM

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS SHIPPING FIRM PRIVATISATION PLAN

The Latvian government has rejected the Latvian Privatization Agency's (LPA) proposal on the sale of the Latvian Shipping Company. This decision means the Latvian budget will be denied the anticipated 30- 40 million lats (some $51-68 million) in revenues from the sale, LETA reported. LPA head Janis Naglis voiced surprise at that decision. Economics Minister Vladimirs Makarovs was among those who voted against the draft plan. An earlier attempt to privatize the company failed because the proposed price per share was deemed too high to attract serious bids. MH

YUKOS WANTS TO EXPAND IN LITHUANIA

Russia's second-largest oil company, Yukos, is planning to expand its activities in Lithuania. Yukos Vice President Boris Zolotarev said at a meeting with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus that the company plans to export 2.5 million tons of crude via the recently completed Butinge Oil Terminal over the next 18 months. Zolotarev also suggested that Yukos will enter the retail market in Lithuania, but he did not disclose details. ELTA reported that Zolotarev denied discussing alleged cooperation between Yukos and Williams International over the sale of state-owned Mazeikiai Oil. MH

POLAND'S COMMUNIST SECRET FILES TO BE OPENED NEXT YEAR

The Institute of National Remembrance will open Communist-era secret police files six months after it elects its chairman, Polish media reported on 10 August. Historian Andrzej Paczkowski, a member of the institute's 11-strong board, which was elected last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999), said the board will meet in September to propose a candidate for the institute's chairman. The chairman must be approved by at least 60 percent of parliamentary deputies. JM

POLAND ASKS U.S. COURT TO REJECT JEWISH PROPERTY CLAIMS

Poland has appealed to the federal court in Chicago to reject a claim by four U.S. citizens of Jewish origin who are demanding the return of property confiscated by the Polish state after World War II, PAP reported on 10 August. Poland argues that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction to examine claims against the sovereign state. JM

NEW CZECH FINANCE MINISTER 'DOES NOT REGRET' COMMUNIST PAST

Pavel Mertlik told the weekly "Respekt" that he has "no reason to regret" his earlier membership in the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSC). Mertlik said that although the KSC "was not a democratic organization," it nonetheless had "some democratic elements," which, he commented, is more than he can say about the Catholic Church, CTK reported on 10 August. Mertlik said he is "a left- oriented Social Democrat, which, as you know, is not that far- removed from Communist ideology." He admitted that KSC practice had little to do with the "ideological foundations of socialist thought" and that "the party committed a number of crimes during the 40 years of its rule." At the same time, he noted that his father was a political prisoner whose works were banned from publication for many years. MS

CZECH CIVIC INITIATIVE APOLOGIZES TO SUPREME COURT JUDGE

The organizers of the civic initiative Impulse 99 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999) have apologized to Supreme Court judge chairwoman Eliska Wagnerova, whose name was included "by mistake" on a list of the initiatives' supporters, Impulse 99 spokeswoman Jana Smidova told CTK on 9 August. Wagnerova the previous day had told CTK that she felt "honored" that the initiative's organizers have asked for her support, but she said she has not signed the petition because "the ethical code of a judge prevents me from participating in initiatives of a political nature." A total of 1,700 people have signed the petition so far (see also "End Note" below). MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT ACCEPTS TRANSPORT MINISTER'S RESIGNATION

The cabinet on 10 August accepted the resignation of Transport Minister Gabriel Palacka, Reuters and CTK reported. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda later told journalists that Palacka's replacement would be Jozef Macejko, the director of the Slovak Roads Authority. Dzurinda also said he is rejecting allegations that Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak is responsible for the Nafta Gbely privatization affair. He said that responsibility lies with the National Property Fund and that if Cernak played any role in the affair, it was "a positive one." MS

HUNGARIAN CABINET RELEASES ECONOMIC GROWTH FORECAST

The government expects economic growth in 2000 to be 4-5 percent, Hungarian media reported on 11 August. Inflation is expected to be 6 percent and the budget deficit 2.5-3.5 percent of GDP. MS

NOTORIOUS ANTI-SEMITIC FORGERY PUBLISHED IN HUNGARY

The "Protocols of the Elder of Zion," a notorious anti-Semitic forgery by the Russian Tsarist secret police, has gone on sale in Hungary, AP reported on 10 August. This is the first time that the book, which appears in Hungarian translation and can be bought for 600 forints ($2.50), has been published in Hungary since World War II. Lawyer Peter Feldmajer, a prominent member of the Hungarian Jewish community, told the daily "Nepszabadsag" that the publication is tantamount to anti-Semitic incitement and must be banned. The Jewish community in Nagykoeroes, central Hungary, has filed a complaint with the Prosecutor-General's Office. A spokesman for the Flex 95 publishing house, which has brought out the book, told MTI that the book's publication is not aimed at incitement but at "informing the public." Banning the book, the company argues, would infringe on the freedoms of speech and information. MS




UCK'S CEKU SAYS SERBIAN PARAMILITARIES STILL ACTIVE IN KOSOVA...

General Agim Ceku, who is chief of the General Staff of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 10 August that the Serbian government has secret service agents and paramilitary forces in Kosova "in order to create an unstable and insecure situation." "The UCK has guaranteed all citizens of Kosova peace and security," he noted. "We are concerned about any incident that takes place because there are many people who blame every incident on the UCK. The UCK is therefore very interested in catching those who commit the crimes." He stressed that "there were accusations recently that [some] UCK commanders do not have their people under control, but I can assure you that we do have control over the army. The military hierarchy is functioning." FS

...DENIES ORGANIZING MITROVICA PROTESTS

Ceku also denied recent charges by French KFOR officials that the UCK organized the recent Mitrovica protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 1999). "This is not true," he said, adding that "the UCK commander of that region has done very much to ease the tensions there." Ceku stressed that "we want to solve every problem in Kosova in cooperation with KFOR. It is the obligation of KFOR [however] to deal with the situation in Mitrovica." He added that his group will not agree to a partition of Kosova. "KFOR is supposed to create security on the ground," he commented. "We do agree to that but have to say that [their efforts have] been insufficient so far. In our history, someone else has always held our fate in his hands.... KFOR is not always going to be here and we wish to build our own security system...to make sure that everybody...can return to Kosova." FS

RICHARD VISITS MITROVICA

French Defense Minister Alain Richard and Kosovar leaders Hashim Thaci and Ibrahim Rugova agreed in Prishtina on 10 August that all ethnic groups in Mitrovica must be able to live there in security, Reuters reported. They failed to agree, however, on how to reach that goal. Richard said that "this has to take time... We know that to achieve [a safe environment] in Mitrovica is fairly difficult." He added that "several hundred" persons have been able to cross between northern and southern Mitrovica freely in the recent past, but he warned that allowing large crowds of ethnic Albanians to cross into the north will trigger fighting with Serbs there. He argued that only a political accord between the two sides can open the way for reunification. Richard predicted that "the efforts made by French troops there will be successful in the end." FS

UN POLICE KEEPS NEPALESE, BANGLADESHI POLICEMEN 'ON HOLD'

Swedish Colonel Michael Jorsback, who is the chief of staff of the UN police in Kosova, told AP on 10 August that he has put the deployment of 50 policemen from Nepal and 36 from Bangladesh "on hold" because they are poorly qualified. He said that the Nepalese arrived without handguns and that the Bangladeshi policemen are administrative personnel who lack the training as "street cops." Jorsback said the men failed to meet "UN standards." Another group of 13 Bangladeshi police will be deployed in the force, however. FS

RECONSTRUCTION OF GJAKOVA'S BAZAAR BEGINS

Ethnic Albanian workers began clearing away the rubble of Gjakova's medieval Ottoman bazaar on 10 August, launching a U.S.- funded project to rebuild it, Reuters reported. Serbian forces firebombed the Old Town of Gjakova on 25 March, razing it to the ground. The bazaar boasted more than 700 businesses and 200 homes. The reconstruction project, named "Gjakova 2000," is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. About 1,500 residents of Gjakova were killed by Serbian forces or remain unaccounted for. FS

NEW NATO FORCE FOR ALBANIA

Lieutenant-Colonel Helge Eriksen told Reuters in Tirana on 10 August that NATO plans to deploy a new force of some 2,500 troops--codenamed AFOR-2--in Albania in September. That force will provide logistical support to KFOR and will be led by KFOR commander General Sir Mike Jackson. AFOR-2 will replace the outgoing AFOR, which provided humanitarian assistance during the Kosova war and still has some 4,500 troops in Albania. AFOR will end its operations by the end of August. Eriksen said that AFOR-2 will continue to carry out infrastructure work, including repairs to the road linking Durres and Kukes. FS

SERBIAN CHURCH LIMITS SUPPORT FOR OPPOSITION

The bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church from Serbia, Montenegro, and the Republika Srpska decided on 10 August not to take part in the opposition-led demonstration slated for 19 August in Belgrade. The Church leaders nonetheless appealed in a statement to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian President Milan Milutinovic to resign. The bishops stressed that the time has come for new leaders to take Serbia out of its isolation and deal with its myriad domestic problems. The bishops called on the international community to end sanctions against Serbia and to protect Serbs and their holy places in Kosova. PM

ARTEMIJE: RALLY IS 'NO PLACE' FOR SERBIAN PATRIARCH

Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije said in Belgrade on 11 August that the bishops decided that a political rally is "not the place" for Patriarch Pavle to appear. Artemije stressed that the bishops' statement "is a sufficient message for those who want to listen." Artemije is Kosova's leading Orthodox cleric and frequently speaks at political gatherings. Observers note that the bishops' decision to limit their political role to moral support for the opposition stems partly from a reluctance to become identified too closely with any individual opposition leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1999). Furthermore, several bishops support the regime and may have forced pro-opposition bishops to agree to a compromise. Pro-government media have recently criticized the Church for "taking the same position and using the same vocabulary as the opposition." PM

SERBIAN BIRTHDAY PRESENT FOR CLINTON?

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party charged in a statement on 10 August that the opposition has slated its rally for 19 August "because that is U.S. President Bill Clinton's birthday." PM

PROTESTERS RALLY IN PIROT

Some 3,000 people attended an anti-Milosevic protest in Pirot, which is in eastern Serbia, on 10 August. Demonstrations attended by several hundred people also took place in both Leskovac and Kragujevac. PM

LESKOVAC TELEVISION SUSPENDS NOVKOVIC

The management of Leskovac Television has decided to lay off technician Ivan Novkovic, who recently completed a 30-day sentence for broadcasting a call for an anti-Milosevic demonstration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). The management said in a statement that Novkovic remains suspended until an investigation against him for "violating work rules" is finished. The statement added that management "seriously doubts" that Novkovic acted alone. The Belgrade daily "Danas" of 11 August points out that the management statement is dated 22 July but that the director who signed it quit his job on 15 July. PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL TO EXPAND INDICTMENT OF MILOSEVIC?

A spokesman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal said on 10 August that the court may expand its indictment of Milosevic to include charges of genocide and forced expulsion, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. New evidence linking Milosevic to those crimes has recently come to light in Kosova, the spokesman added. In May, the tribunal indicted Milosevic on three counts of crimes against humanity and one count of violating the laws or customs of war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). PM

SREBRENICA VICTIMS FOUND IN MASS GRAVE

A UN spokeswoman said in Sarajevo on 10 August that UN forensic experts have confirmed that a mass grave in northeastern Bosnia contains the remains of about 250 victims of the Srebrenica massacre. She described area near the grave as an "execution site" and noted that many of the victims had their hands tied behind their backs. The spokeswoman stressed that the UN appeals to Bosnian Serb authorities to arrest indicted war criminals still at large. Some 7,414 people- -mainly Muslim males--are still officially classified as "missing" from Srebrenica, which fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995. PM

CROATIA UNLIKELY TO EXTRADITE 'TUTA' TO HAGUE

A Zagreb district judge said on 10 August that Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic is seriously ill with tuberculosis and a heart condition and hence is unable to stand trial, "Vjesnik" reported. Observers note that if a panel of legal experts upholds the court's ruling, "Tuta" is unlikely to complete his current trial and will remain in hospital. Chances would then be slim that the Zagreb authorities will extradite him to The Hague, where the international war crimes tribunal wants to try him for atrocities committed against Muslims during the 1993-1994 Croatian-Muslim conflict. Croatian authorities placed Vinko "Stela" Martinovic, who was a colleague of "Tuta" in Bosnia, on a flight bound for The Hague on 9 August. PM

ITALIAN STAR TENOR TO OUTSHINE ECLIPSE IN ROMANIA

Luciano Pavaroti is the main attraction of the solar eclipse in Bucharest, the only European capital from which the phenomenon could be watched in its full magnitude. The Italian tenor will sing in the evening of 11 August on Bucharest's Constitution Square. With tickets costing $200 a piece, it is highly unlikely that many Romanians will be able to attend the concert. Foreign tourists besieged Ramnicu Valcea, a mountainous resort 150 kilometers northwest of Bucharest, where the full eclipse was of the longest duration. The town's church bells rang during the eclipse to scare away evil spirits, in line with Romanian folklore. Meanwhile in neighboring Bulgaria, Communist Party leader Vladimir Spasov on 10 August told Reuters that the phenomenon heralds the collapse of capitalism: "The world will be covered with darkness and then the sun will rise again, to bring back to life the ideal of communism, the most humane system," he said. MS

ROMANIAN MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC CONTINUES TO SPREAD

The Health Ministry on 10 August said that more than 1,000 people have been affected by the current meningitis epidemic, with the largest number of cases, 381, registered in Iasi County. It said the postponement of the school year is being considered since most of those who have contracted the illness are young people, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. So far, no deaths from the illness have been registered in this latest epidemic. MS

MOLDOVAN POLITICIANS REACT TO STEPASHIN'S DISMISSAL

Prime Minister Ion Sturza told journalists in Chisinau on 9 August that he was "shocked" to learn about the dismissal of his Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin. Sturza said he had " very good personal contacts" with both Stepashin and the latter's predecessor, Yevgenii Primakov. He said he expects Stepashin's dismissal to have "a negative impact on Moldova" because it will "nullify all Moldovan-Russian agreements on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Transdniester." And he added that it will negatively impact on Moldovan exports to Russia. Party of Democratic Forces leader Valeriu Matei said on 10 August that the main lesson to be learned is "to beware that political system in which the head of state does as he pleases." He said this may happen in Moldova, too, if a presidential system is introduced. MS

BULGARIA SEEKS LIBYAN REPLY ON DETAINED NATIONALS

The Foreign Ministry on 10 August said it is seeking an official reply from Libya on the fate of six Bulgarian citizens held in detention for more than six months, Reuters reported. In early February, 19 Bulgarian medical personnel were detained in connection with an investigation by Libyan authorities into how children in a Benghazi hospital became infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Thirteen were later freed, but five doctors and a nurse remain in custody. Officials in Sofia said the six were questioned as witnesses, not as suspected criminals. "Now that the investigation has been completed we expect Libyan authorities to inform us over its results," a senior Foreign Ministry official told the agency. MS




IMPULSE 99: LOOKING AHEAD OR GLANCING BEHIND?


by Michael Shafir

On 23 July, a heterogeneous group of Czech intellectuals issued an invitation "to all members of society" to discuss where the Czech polity is headed 10 years after the "velvet revolution." Cutting across party lines as well as social strata, the group unites people with backgrounds as different as those of Prague Archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vlk and trade union leader and Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Senator Richard Falbr.

What obviously brought together these individuals is disappointment. One year after coming to power, Milos Zeman's minority government has seemingly reached a dead- end, and an alternative to it is unlikely to emerge owing to the so-called "opposition agreement" signed by the CSSD and the main opposition formation, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Faced with that state of affairs, the group, which calls itself Impulse 99, is hoping to compel politicians to face up to their responsibilities by inviting the country's citizens to enter a dialogue among themselves and with the country's political class. In such a case, the intellectuals hope, an "impulse" would be given to move the political chariot out of the mud it is seemingly stuck in.

The 200 initial signatories to Impulse 99 make no secret of their critical views. "Our republic," they say in the group's manifesto, "is headed in a direction that may stifle the hope for rapid integration into European structures and lead to a further decline in the economic, legal, social, and moral spheres." The public, according to the intellectuals, has shied away from political participation, leaving the arena under the sole control of political parties, which "are primarily preoccupied with internal party politics and with increasing their power." This situation has led many to "lose faith in political parties and in democratic institutions." Moreover, "politics and economics have become hindered by a lack of transparency."

Professing themselves to be "disturbed by the inability and unwillingness of politicians to communicate with society and to heed critical voices," the signatories "challenge politicians to finally begin to concern themselves with the real problems of our country and not merely with power games." They declare themselves to be "tired of the eternal bickering of politicians and of populist attempts to cull public opinion."

Not surprisingly, Impulse 99 has met with criticism from those it criticizes. With the notable exception of CSSD deputy chairwoman Petra Buzkova, Czech politicians claimed that the criticism is unfounded or sought to "uncover" who is behind Impulse 99 and what personal or group interests it serves. Zeman responded that the initiative is just an "empty declaration" and argued that one only had take a look at the names of the signatories to know what they were up to.

That statement was doubtless alluding to Jiri Pehe, one of the spokespersons of the initiative, who in summer 1997 was appointed adviser to President Vaclav Havel. That Impulse 99 is permeated with the "Havelian spirit," none of its supporters is likely to deny. On 2 August, presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told journalists that Havel is "honored that whenever something sensible and interesting appears in society, he is seen as being behind the initiative." But Spacek stressed that the president was "not the moving force" behind Impulse 99.

This makes the document even more suspect in the eyes of its opponents, who wonder whose personal interests a "collective Havel" serves. Jan Sula, the leader of the minor Czech National Social Party, maintained that Impulse 99 was launched as an electoral platform for Tomas Halik, a former dissident, a sociologist, and a Catholic priest who is a signatory to the initiative. That assertion, however, has been denied by the signatories.

The Impulse 99 group has also denied that it intends to form a political party. Critics, for their part, have reproached the group for seeking to avoid the "ultimate trial" of politics-- namely, elections--by refusing to turn into such a party. According to ODS deputy Jan Zahradil, that refusal makes Impulse 99 an "embarrassing affair." Impulse 99, however, argues that if a new party came into being each time a critical voice is heard, the deterioration of the public sphere would be expedited, rather than halted.

Yet the road chosen by the group gives pause for thought. Both Czech and foreign observers have drawn parallels between Charter 77 or the short lived Civic Forum of 1989, on the one hand, and Impulse 99, on the other. The new group would probably agree that their inspiration comes from the country's civic roots, which they would like resuscitated in a post-communist context as a kind of new "anti-politics" (to quote Gyorgy Konrad).

While no one would deny the tremendous role played by civic "parallel politics"--as the late dissident Vaclav Benda put it--in the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and (to much lesser extent) elsewhere, the post-communist context is different. It is no longer--or should no longer be--about "freeing" the public sphere but about "filling it with democratic content." In other words, today's political game is, by definition, one of "compromise."

In their manifesto, the Impulse 99 initiators twice mention "moral values" as an ultimate aim. But how can compromise be reached on moral values? Unless they come up with an answer, these intellectuals risk transforming themselves into either one more irrelevant actor on the post- communist scene or, worse, into a frustrated collective Savonarola. As Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan showed in their seminal work on transitions worldwide, this danger is often faced by civic groupings that would rather remember a grand past than face a gray present.


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