Accessibility links

Newsline - September 1, 1999




EXPLOSION HITS CENTRAL MOSCOW

A powerful explosion ripped through an underground shopping center near the Kremlin on 31 August, It left some 41 people injured, of whom 24 had to be hospitalized, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September. Police sealed off the area, and the Moscow Prosecutor's Office said it is opening an investigation into the possibility that this was a terrorist bombing. PG

IMF TO TREAT RUSSIA 'EXACTLY LIKE BURKINA FASO'

In an interview published in the Paris daily "Liberation" on 31 August, IMF head Michel Camdessus said there is no reason to block the next tranche of aid to Russia since the money only "goes from one IMF account to another." In other comments, he said "we want only control over what we can check: whether the Russian Central Bank is abiding by the conditions for our aid. We can't follow every dollar," he said, adding that in order to do so, "we would need an army of controllers." And Camdessus rejected charges that the IMF has given Russian special treatment: "I alerted President [Boris] Yeltsin that Russia will be treated exactly like Burkina Faso." PG

MOSCOW MAY RETALIATE FOR SCANDAL CHARGES

Without naming its sources, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August that the Russian leadership and the Russian Foreign Ministry are preparing to "retaliate" against the U.S. for the scandal around the Bank of New York. The news service said that "Moscow believes that the publicity around the U.S. bank is, in fact, an act of playing a certain 'Russian card' in the interests of the election campaign in the United States." It did not specify what form this retaliation might take. PG

BORODIN SAYS MABETEX CHARGES 'INVENTIONS, LIES'

Kremlin aide Pavel Borodin, one of the key figures in charges that a Swiss firm paid bribes to Yeltsin and his entourage, said such charges are "inventions and lies," Interfax reported on 31 August. He said that "the results of the investigation will come up with nothing." Meanwhile, Russian prosecutor Nikolai Volkov continued to discuss the Mabetex case with his Swiss counterparts. A Swiss official told ITAR-TASS that Swiss law enforcement agencies want to help but do not want to "intervene in Russian political discussions." That position was echoed by Semen Mogilevich, who told "Moskovskii komsomolets" that the charges are the result of "career tricks" by the FBI and reflect the concern of many about Russia's strengthened position after it deployed paratroopers in Prishtina. PG

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA'S PRESIDENT-ELECT MEETS PUTIN

Vladimir Semenov held a second round of talks in Moscow on 31 August on how to defuse the tensions resulting from the 27 August ruling by the republic's Supreme Court that his victory in the 16 May presidential runoff poll is valid, Interfax reported. An initial round of talks the previous day failed to produce a consensus. Also on 31 August, supporters of defeated presidential candidate Stanislav Derev proclaimed an independent Cherkess Autonomous region at their ongoing protest demonstration in Cherkess, Interfax reported, quoting Russian Deputy Interior Minister Colonel-General Ivan Golubev. Some 60 members of the republic's government who back Derev have resigned their posts, Golubev added. LF

RUSSIAN TROOPS SUSTAIN LOSSES IN DAGHESTAN FIGHTING

Russian forces launched air attacks on guerrilla positions near the villages of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi on 31 August. Meanwhile, two Russian troops were killed and 29 wounded in the most serious ground fighting for days with the rebels, who succeeded in destroying eight armored vehicles, Russian agencies reported. Daghestan's State Council chairman Magomedali Magomedov said in Makhachkala the same day that a dialogue with the militants aimed at resolving the conflict is possible provided they first lay down their arms, according to ITAR-TASS. But in Grozny, Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev, who commanded the Chechen-led incursion into Daghestan three weeks ago, vowed to continue military operations. Russian and Daghestani Interior Ministry spokesmen said on 31 August that Chechen reinforcements are gathering on the border with Daghestan's Novolak Raion. LF

YELTSIN REPEATS CALL FOR MULTIPOLAR WORLD...

Speaking at a ceremony at which 12 ambassadors to Moscow presented their credentials, President Boris Yeltsin said on 31 August that the "main task" of foreign policy now is "the creation of a multipolar world that must be based on the principles and norms of international law and the mutual interests of all states," Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin added that " Russia has advanced serious initiatives in this area." PG

...RESTRUCTURES FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE

Yeltsin on 26 August signed a decree reorganizing the Federal Security Service (FSB) to make it more efficient, ITAR-TASS reported five days later. The news service said that a new department with three subdivisions will be established on the basis of two existing groups--the directorate of constitutional security and the department for the protection of the constitutional system. It noted that the reorganization will not lead to any increase in the number of FSB officers. PG

HUMAN RIGHTS HEAD URGES YELTSIN TO BLOCK USE OF FORCE FOR POLITICAL ENDS

Speaking in Moscow on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the start of World War II, Oleg Mironov, Russia's commissioner for human rights, called on Yeltsin to "ensure that military force is not used as a political means," ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. PG

IVANOV STRESSES CONCERN ABOUT BOSNIA

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 31 August that Moscow remains concerned that the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina could deteriorate and flare up at any time, ITAR-TASS reported. He suggested that the problems in Kosova--including the unresolved standoff at Rahovec--should not lead the international community to ignore Bosnia. PG

LEFT-WING LEADERS CALL ON PATRIOTS TO JOIN COMMUNISTS

In an appeal published in "Sovetskaya Rossiya" on 31 August under the title "Rise, Great Country," Communist and other left-wing leaders have called on Russian patriots to rally around the Communists, as they did during World War II, in order to elect a new People's Duma, "a respected and efficient president," and a government capable of reviving "a devastated and ravaged country." The appeal was signed by Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, Popular Rule parliamentary leader Nikolai Ryzhkov, Agrarian Group leader Nikolai Kharitonov, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, and General Valentin Varennikov, among others. PG

KORZHAKOV FORMS NEW POLITICAL BLOC

Former Yeltsin bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov has formed a new political bloc with Aleksandr Bazhenov of the Russian People's Movement, Otchizna [Fatherland] leader Boris Tarasov and Christian Revival Union leader Vladimir Osipov, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. Leaders of the new bloc, to be called Russia's House, announced that it will not form an alliance with the KPRF but will work with individual KPRF members. They said that they will seek "to establish a people's patriotic power" and advocate Russian historical traditions in public life. Meanwhile, Interfax reported, Korzhakov is ready to answer any questions the prosecutor- general may have about the financial status of President Yeltsin. "There is much information I know but I don't want to speak about," he said, noting that "if you are not in power, it is better to leave the information for another date." PG

GOVERNOR INVITES RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT TO MOVE TO ST. PETERSBURG

Anatolii Yakovlev, the governor of St. Petersburg and a leader of the All Russia movement, has called for both the legislative and executive branches of the Russian government to move to his city, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. He said that Peter the Great was "undoubtedly right" when he moved the Russian government there and that in the future, Russian government institutions could "work in St. Petersburg no less efficiently than they do in Moscow." PG

EES DENIES CHUBAIS WILL HEAD YELTSIN'S STAFF...

A spokesman for Unified Energy Systems said the company's head, Anatolii Chubais, will not become President Yeltsin's chief of staff in September, as some press outlets have suggested, Interfax reported on 31 August. PG

...CUTS OFF POWER TO 20,000 DEBTORS

The EES has cut off power to some 20,000 customers, including hospitals and schools, as part of its effort to build up fuel reserves for the winter months, AP reported on 31 August. The debtor customers currently owe 147 billion rubles ($5.9 billion dollars). As a result, the company cannot pay for fuel to keep its plants running. EES itself currently owes 66.5 billion rubles ($2.7 billion) for fuel supplies. PG

RUSSIA TO REACH BILATERAL ACCORDS WITH PARIS CLUB COUNTRIES

The Russian Finance Ministry told Interfax on 31 August that Moscow plans to sign bilateral restructuring agreements with all 18 member states of the Paris Club about its debt due in the period 1998-2000. Moscow plans a schedule during which it would pay only interest for the first five years of a 20-year term and begin paying the principal and interest only after that time. PG

CENTRAL BANK TO ISSUE NO MORE THAN 15 BILLION RUBLES IN BONDS BEFORE YEAR'S END

The deputy chairman of the State Duma Budget Committee, Vladimir Tarachev, told Interfax on 31 August that the Central Bank of Russia will not issue more than 15 billion rubles ($600 million) before the end of this year. The bonds it does issue will have very short maturities. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said the second half of 2000 will likely be the "most favorable period" for issuing new Russian government securities, the Russian agency reported. PG

MOSCOW COMPENSATES KAZAKHSTAN FOR ROCKET ACCIDENT

The Russian authorities have paid Kazakhstan $270,000 to compensate for damages inflicted on that country as a result of a rocket accident at the Baikonur launch site on 5 July, Interfax reported on 31 August. For its part, Kazakhstan lifted the ban it imposed on further Proton rocket launches after that crash, according to ITAR-TASS. PG/LF

FRESCOS TO UKRAINE, BOMBERS TO RUSSIA

Russia will return sections of frescos and mosaics taken from Kyiv's 12th century St. Michael Zolotoverkhyy Cathedral, dpa reported on 31 August. Meanwhile, Ukraine plans to turn over bombers to Moscow as part of its payment on debts for natural gas, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. PG

NATO FLIGHTS NEAR KALININGRAD CONCERN MILITARY

Major General Fedor Krisanov, the chief of the Kaliningrad Air Defense District, told "Krasnaya zvezda" on 31 August that his agency is concerned about what he called NATO's increased attention to the Russian enclave, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that there have been "more than 560 combat and reconnaissance" flights by foreign aircraft-- including Polish, German, Danish, Swedish, and British planes--approaching within 2 or 3 kilometers of the Russian border. PG




ARMENIAN JOURNALIST SENTENCED FOR 'DEFAMATION'

A Yerevan district court handed down a one-year prison sentence to Nikolai Pashinian, editor of the daily "Oragir," on 31 August, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Pashinian was found guilty of insulting a law enforcement official carrying out his duties, refusing to publish a refutation of earlier reports printed in the newspaper, and two counts of slander. Pashinian said he will appeal the sentence, which is the first handed down to a journalist in a criminal, rather than civil, suit. "Oragir" was closed in June after it refused to pay $25,000 in damages to the trade company Mika-Armenia, which it alleged had links with Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian. "Oragir" also lost a libel suit for damages brought by Sarkisian. LF

AZERBAIJAN 'CLOSE TO AGREEMENT' ON OIL EXPORT PIPELINE

Valeh Aleskerov, who heads the department for foreign investment at Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, told journalists in Baku on 31 August that talks in Washington last week between Azerbaijani and Turkish government working groups "were a success," Turan reported. Those talks focused on four draft documents that constitute the legal frame work for proceeding with construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline. But Interfax reported that the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), the largest Western consortium operating in Azerbaijan, and the Turkish government have not yet reached agreement on Turkish guarantees to meet additional costs if construction exceeds the planned $2.4 billion. Nor are they agreed, according to the news agency, on the construction schedule or the division of shares in the company that will operate the completed pipeline. Azerbaijani Deputy Premier Abid Sharifov had told journalists in early August that the four main framework agreements could be signed within one month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). LF

AZERBAIJAN TO MONTOR TURKISH CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES

Noting that shoddy construction compounded the devastation wrought by the earthquake in western Turkey last month, the Baku Mayor's Office has given instructions to stop granting permission to Turkish companies to engage in construction projects in the city, according to "Vremya MN" on 31 August. Up to 90 percent of construction projects currently under way in Azerbaijan are being carried out by private Turkish firms, which have completed more than 5,000 buildings in 10 Azerbaijani cities in recent years, some of them of dubious quality. The newspaper quoted a leading Baku city architect as saying that already completed buildings will be carefully inspected and the practice of issuing building licenses to Turkish construction companies reviewed. LF

GEORGIA BLASTS PLANS FOR ABKHAZ REFERENDUM

Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba on 31 August signed a decree on holding a referendum simultaneously with the 3 October presidential poll, in which he is the sole candidate, ITAR- TASS reported. Voters will be asked whether they approve the constitution adopted by the breakaway republic's parliament on 26 November 1994, which describes Abkhazia as "a sovereign and democratic republic." They will also be asked to approve or reject a planned constitutional amendment reducing the term for which judges are appointed from life-long to five years, according to Caucasus Press. In Tbilisi, Georgian presidential foreign policy adviser Levan Aleksidze termed the proposed referendum "an abuse of moral and international law," given that the ethnic Georgian population of Abkhazia fled in 1992-1993. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S CABINET DISCUSSES BUDGET FOR 2000

Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev told cabinet members on 31 August that the budget for next year will be fulfilled by 101 percent, and that revenues are likely to total 22.7 percent of GDP, Interfax reported. Terming the budget as a whole "difficult and rigorous, but absolutely realistic," Balghymbaev said the budget deficit will be gradually reduced from 3.6 percent in 1999 to 2 percent by 2002. He added that the 2000 draft budget contains a provision barring cuts in expenditure on pensions and on medical services in rural areas. He predicted that the 1999 budget will be fulfilled by 98 percent. LF

ANOTHER KAZAKH OFFICIAL OPPOSES SALE OF STAKE IN OIL JOINT VENTURE

Imanghali Tasmagambetov, who is governor of Western Kazakhstan Oblast, told Interfax on 31 August that the government should find alternative ways to cover this year's budget deficit rather than sell part of the country's stake in the Tengizchevroil consortium. Tasmagambetov said that beginning in 2001, Kazakhstan stands to make an annual profit of up to $150 million from its involvement in that joint venture. Kazakhstan has reportedly invited 20 international oil companies to bid for a 10 percent stake, worth between $800 million and $1.6 billion, in Tengizchevroil, which is equivalent to 40 percent of the Kazakh government's share in the consortium. The chairman of Kazakhstan's state oil company was fired last week for expressing his opposition to the planned sale (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1999). LF

THREE MORE HOSTAGES RELEASED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN...

General Bolot Djanuzakov, who heads the defense and security department within the Kyrgyz presidential administration, told journalists in Bishkek on 1 September that the previous night, ethnic Uzbek guerrillas entrenched in southern Kyrgyzstan released three of the police officials they took hostage on 22 August, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Djanuzakov said the release was negotiated during talks between the Uzbek militants and local village elders. He added that the militants' headquarters are in the village of Kojo-Achkan in Batken Raion. Kyrgyz government troops had sustained an unknown number of casualties during a two-hour gun battle with the militants earlier on 31 August, Interfax and AP reported. LF

...AS BISHKEK VETOES EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS WITH UZBEKISTAN...

Reuters on 1 September quoted Djanuzakov as saying that a man claiming to represent the militants had proposed the previous day exchanging the Kyrgyz hostages for prisoners held in Uzbekistan. But Dzhanuzakov said Kyrgyzstan has no power to conduct talks over such an exchange. "We cannot meddle in Uzbekistan's affairs," he said. "In terms of a prisoner swap, they must put this question to Uzbekistan." LF

...AND MOSCOW RULES OUT SENDING TROOPS

Kyrgyzstan's First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev told journalists after talks in Moscow on 31 August with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin that Moscow is ready to provide Bishkek with materiel support but will not send troops to assist the Kyrgyz armed forces in neutralizing the militants, Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Silaev said the Kyrgyz forces need uniforms and ammunition. In Almaty, a spokesman for the Kazakh airforce told Interfax on 31 August that plans are being drafted to transfer aircraft and ammunition to Kyrgyzstan. LF

KYRGYZ PAPER APPEALS TO PRESIDENT TO QUASH HARASSMENT

The editorial board of the independent daily "Vechernii Bishkek" announced in Bishkek on 31 August that it has appealed to President Askar Akayev to stop government pressure on the newspaper, RFE/RL's correspondent in the Kyrgyz capital reported. The board members said that although the newspaper's finances are in order, presidential administration head Medet Sadyrkulov has organized a campaign against the paper. The State Tax Inspection accused the chief editor of the newspaper, Alexandr Kim, of tax evasion and opened a criminal case against him last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1999). LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER VISITS IRAN

Tajikistan's First Deputy Premier Ali Akbar Turadjonzoda met with Iranian President Muhammad Khatami during a working visit to Iran, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 31 August. Turadjonzoda briefed the Iranian leader on the current political situation in Tajikistan, in particular on preparations for the 26 September referendum on amendments to the constitution and the subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections. LF

TURKMENISTAN PRESIDENT FOLLOWS IN FOOTSTEPS OF HAROUN AL- RASHID

President Saparmurat Niyazov toured Ashgabat and Geoktepe on 28-29 August, disguised in a wig and false beard, presidential press service head Kakamurad Balliev told Turan on 31 August. Niyazov met with local peasants and enquired about their living conditions. According to Balliev, Niyazov frequently conducts such fact-finding tours. LF




'NEW GENERATION' TO LEAD WAY WITHIN BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION?

Younger members of Belarusian opposition parties have pledged to join forces to launch a large-scale campaign against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime this fall, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 31 August. The oppositionists of the "new generation," as they call themselves, said they intend to organize a 100,000-strong "freedom march" on 17 October. "An agreement has been reached among those who can actually influence specific events. Not in terms of political declarations, but in terms of specific work methods--newspapers, structures, money," Viktar Ivashkevich, one of the "new generation" oppositionists, told RFE/RL. JM

EXILED SPEAKER SAYS BELARUSIAN LEADER NOT SERIOUS ABOUT TALKS WITH OPPOSITION

Supreme Soviet speaker Syamyon Sharetski, who fled to Vilnius in July, has said he does not believe that the planned talks between the opposition and the authorities will be successful, Belapan reported on 31 August. Sharetski said that even the text of Lukashenka's resolution to set up a negotiation group testifies to the Belarusian president's "non-serious approach" to the talks. The text "does not include the words 'opposition' and 'negotiations.' It mentions only some 'improvement' of the electoral system," Belapan quoted Sharetski as saying. JM

UKRAINE SAYS MOODY'S DEFAULT PREDICTION 'PREMATURE'

Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko on 31 August said Moody's prediction that Ukraine will probably default on its foreign debt is "premature," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. Tyhypko was commenting on Moody's statement earlier this month that of the countries with transition economies, Ukraine, Ecuador, and Moldova are closest to defaulting on their external debt. According to Tyhypko, the 2000 draft budget provides for all necessary funds with which to pay off Ukraine's debt, including interest payments. Next year, Ukraine has to repay $3.3 billion in foreign debt, according to UNIAN. JM

CHORNOBYL NOT TO BE CLOSED IN 2000?

Ukraine is likely to miss the 2000 deadline to close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant because the country needs electricity for the coming winter, Reuters reported on 31 August, quoting officials from the Enerhoatom state agency. Ukraine pledged in 1995 to close Chornobyl by 2000 in exchange for Western aid to finish building two replacement reactors in Rivne and Khmelnytskyy. However, Western countries seem to be reluctant to provide such aid. "Irrespective of whether we get the assistance or not, these reactors will be built," an Enerhoatom official told AP, adding that construction may take more than two years. JM

LATVIA ENCOURAGED IN EU BID

Reuters reported on 31 August that Latvia has received encouraging signals from current EU chairman and President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari about its bid to start negotiations on EU membership. Following her talks with Ahtisaari in Helsinki on 31 August, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said, "We are encouraged by the extremely positive attitude of the presiding EU country." A recently approved law aiming to enforce the use of the Latvian language has been criticized by the EU for being too stringent, and Vike-Freiberga recently asked the parliament to fine-tune the legislation to conform to EU requirements. 'Nobody disagrees with the principle and the substance of the language law, with the right of the Latvian people to promote and restore the use of their national language' she said. AB

'BIGGER OR LOUDER' NEIGHBOR WON'T INTIMIDATE LATVIA

During her two-day working visit to Helsinki, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that Latvia will decide on its own national defense policies, including possible NATO membership, despite the objections of neighboring Russia. As reported by AP, Vike-Freiberga told journalists that "each nation has the inherent right of sovereignty in its decision-making and...choosing how it will be defended." She said that "the complaints of a bigger and louder neighbor" could not be allowed to shape a country's policy. AB

LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT CONCEDES TO RUSSIAN OIL INTERESTS

RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reported on 31 August that the Lithuanian Defense Council, chaired by President Valdas Adamkus, bowed to Russian oil interests and voted to allow them to eventually purchase a 19 percent share in Mazeikiu Nafta, Lithuania's oil refinery complex. Lithuanian Economy Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis told reporters that the U.S.- based energy company Williams International can remain the strategic investor but will acquire "considerably less than the 66 percent share allowed under current legislation." While the Lithuanian government retains 25 percent of the industrial complex, the shares to be acquired by the EBRD, among others, may eventually be sold to such Russian oil companies as LUKoil. The negotiations with Williams International have experienced difficulties over the past year as LUKoil, the major oil supplier for the refinery, has periodically halted oil supplies to the plant. AB

BELARUS STILL UNABLE TO PAY FOR LITHUANIAN ELECTRICITY

BNS reported on 31 August that senior Lithuanian energy officials have left for Minsk to continue talks on the nearly $100 million owed by Belarus to Lithuania for electricity supplies. Lithuanian electricity exports have virtually halted because Belarus seems unable to pay its debt even under an earlier barter arrangement. According to the daily "Lietuvos Rytas," Lithuania is now proposing the "free-of-charge" transit of Lithuanian electricity via Belarus to Poland, as a way for Belarus to pay some of its debt. Lithuania wants to export 2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity to Poland. AB

POLAND, GERMANY TAKE RECONCILIATORY STEPS MARKING WORLD WAR II ANNIVERSARY

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his German counterpart, Johannes Rau, shook hands on a bridge over the Odra/Oder River on 1 September, the 60th anniversary of the Nazi Germany attack on Poland, which started World War II. Another Polish-German reconciliatory gesture was made at the Westerplatte depot, near Gdansk, the site of the battle in that war. Kwasniewski and Rau took part in a commemoration ceremony at the depot. JM

CZECH PREMIER CLEARED IN 'BAMBERG AFFAIR'

The Czech Secret Service (BIS) has cleared Prime Minister Milos Zeman and his Social Democratic Party of corruption allegations in connection with a scandal over party financing, CTK quoted presidential spokesman Martin Krafl as saying on 31 August. Krafl said the BIS determined that Zeman's signature was forged on documents leaked to the media in March 1998. The documents included an alleged agreement signed by Zeman and businessmen in Bamberg, Germany, in 1995, whereby the latter would receive government posts in return for 10 million Swiss francs ($6.61 million). Krafl said the BIS established that Czech businessmen leaked the forged documents after Zeman had rejected such a deal. He added that the BIS knows the identity of the forgers and that President Vaclav Havel, who demanded an investigation into the affair, has asked the BIS to submit its findings to the police. MS

FORMER CZECH COMMUNIST OFFICIALS TO BE INDICTED?

An investigator for the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes on 31 August asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to indict Milos Jakes and Jozef Lenart, CTK reported. Jakes and Lenart attended a meeting at the Soviet Embassy in Prague one day after the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion and discussed setting up a "government of workers and farmers" to replace the country's legal government. The plan failed to win the approval of President Ludvik Svoboda. Jakes and Lenart are to be charged with high treason. In 1998, the Supreme Court overruled a September 1997 verdict of a lower court halting the prosecution of the two former officials. MS

CZECH LOCAL AUTHORITY REFUSES TO ACCEPT DECISION ON ANTI- ROMA WALL

A spokesman for the Usti nad Labem Mayor's Office said on 31 August that the office considers the order to halt the construction of a wall fencing off Roma "invalid" and sees "no reason why it should obey it," CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1999). MS

AUSTRIA SAYS 'NO' TO CZECH EU MEMBERSHIP WITH TEMELIN...

The Austrian federal government will support the demand of Upper Austria not to admit the Czech Republic to the EU if the controversial nuclear power plant at Temelin starts functioning, Upper Austrian Premier Josef Puehringer told CTK on 31 August. He said the Czech government must understand that "that admission of new members to the EU will be decided not in Brussels alone but also in the parliament of each EU member state." MS

...AND 'NO' TO SLOVAK EU MEMBERSHIP WITH JASLOVSKE BOHUNICE

Austrian Consumer Protection Minister Barbara Prammer said on 31 August that Slovakia will not join the EU if the nuclear power station at Jaslovske Bohunice is not shut down, CTK reported. In a letter to Slovak Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak, Prammer said Slovakia must submit a binding timetable for the plant's closure before the EU Helsinki summit in December. MS

CONTROVERSIAL TAX OFFICE HEAD RESIGNS IN HUNGARY

Head of the Hungarian Tax Office Lajos Simicska on 31 August unexpectedly resigned his post, citing tragic events in his family and continued political attacks on him. A spokesman for the office denied that Simicska's resignation was related to an article in "Napi Magyarorszag" in which Simicska was quoted as telling critics that "in the past three months you have killed my father and my father-in- law. May God have mercy on you." Cabinet spokesman Gabor Borokai said Simicska himself initiated his resignation, but "Magyar Hirlap" reports that Prime Minister Viktor Orban telephoned him to ask him to resign. Before his appointment in August 1998, Simicska was a lawyer for FIDESZ and founded several firms that were later implicated in allegedly illegal deals. MSZ




CROATIAN ELECTION TALKS COLLAPSE

Vlado Gotovac, who heads the Liberal Party and is a spokesman for the six-party opposition coalition, said in Zagreb on 31 August that talks between the coalition and the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) have broken down and will not be continued. The talks were aimed at revising the electoral law in time for the parliamentary elections expected by the end of 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). Gotovac said that the reason for the breakdown was the refusal of HDZ negotiator Vladimir Seks to discuss a revision of legislation governing state-run television (HTV) as part of the talks on the electoral law. The opposition, the EU, and the U.S. insist on changes to the current electoral law and on the transformation of HTV into a public broadcaster based on the West European model. PM

KOSOVA'S SCHOOLS REOPEN

A new school year began in Kosova on 1 September. Most ethnic Albanian children have not attended a government-run school since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ended the province's autonomy in 1989. Rather, they attended classes in a private school system organized by Ibrahim Rugova's shadow state. Serbian government schools closed during NATO's bombing campaign in the spring. Albanian and Serbian children will now share the same school buildings. Pupils of one nationality will have classes in the morning, while those of the other will receive instruction in the afternoon. PM

RUGOVA'S PARLIAMENT MEETS

Kosova's unofficially elected parliament met in Prishtina on 31 August. It was the first session of the legislative body elected in March 1998 and the first session of any Kosovar assembly in years. Rugova, whose Democratic League of Kosova has a majority in the legislature, said the assembly must begin to prepare new legislation for the province in close cooperation with Bernard Kouchner's UN administration and with KFOR. Critics charged, however, that the composition of the assembly does not reflect changed political realities after more than one year of armed conflict. Critics called for a new election. Most observers expect the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) to emerge as the strongest party in any such vote. PM

THACI MEETS WITH JACKSON

Hashim Thaci, who heads the UCK's provisional government, held a closed-door meeting with KFOR commander General Sir Michael Jackson on 31 August. They discussed the stalemate in Rahovec, where ethnic Albanian civilians have blocked the main road for more than one week in an effort to prevent Russian peacekeepers from taking up positions in the town. Thaci is slated to make a speech in Rahovec on 1 September. He later leaves on a trip to five European capitals, AP reported. PM

SCHARPING: KFOR TO STAY FOR FIVE YEARS

German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Dresden on 31 August that he expects Germany's peacekeepers to remain in Kosova for approximately five years. Germany contributes 8,500 soldiers to the 40,000-strong force. The Germans control KFOR's southwestern sector, which is centered on Prizren. PM

KOUCHNER SWEARS IN NEW KOSOVA JUDGES...

Kouchner swore in seven new judges and two prosecutors in Mitrovica on 31 August. He stressed the need to build up a completely new legal and judicial system in the province. Kouchner argued that Kosova needs laws in line with "international conventions, including that on human rights." He ruled out a return to the previous Serbian legal system, which discriminated against ethnic Albanians. PM

...BUT FORGETS ESCORT FOR COUNCIL MEMBERS

Kouchner said in Prishtina on 1 September that Serbian representatives did not attend a meeting of his advisory council that morning because he forgot to send them an escort. He stressed: "It was my mistake." Turning to other topics, he said he will dispatch an international police force to Rahovec. However, he did not elaborate, AP reported. PM

WHY DID HOLBROOKE SKIP ALBANIA?

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke cancelled a planned trip from Prishtina to Tirana on 31 August. He flew instead to Skopje and then to Sarajevo. In the Macedonian capital, he met with President Kiro Gligorov and praised Gligorov's policies for having kept Macedonia out of war. A spokeswoman for Holbrooke said that he cancelled the trip to Albania because of heavy rain. In Tirana, opposition spokesmen said that the real reason was because of dissatisfaction with the Albanian government or because of security concerns. Observers note that regional media have been speculating for days as to what the "real mission" of Holbrooke in the Balkans might be. His sudden cancellation of a key segment of his trip is bound to fuel further speculation about possible changes in U.S. policy in the Balkans. PM

NORWAY DEMANDS MACEDONIA FREE PEACEKEEPER

A Norwegian military spokesman told Reuters in Skopje on 31 August that the Norwegian government insists that the Macedonian authorities hand over to KFOR Military Police a Norwegian KFOR soldier they are holding (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1999). Macedonian Deputy Justice Minister Rubin Dvojkov told the news agency, however, that the government will treat the soldier as any other foreigner who breaks Macedonian law. The minister argued that the soldier is part of KFOR and based in Kosova and therefore not covered under an agreement between Macedonia and NATO regarding peacekeepers based in Macedonia. PM

DID MILOSEVIC HEAD FOR THE HILLS?

Miki Janosevic, who is president of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement in the eastern Serbian town of Bor, told the private Beta news agency on 31 August that Milosevic has spent the past two months at his home on a nearby mountain close to the town of Zlot. Janosevic added that Zlot has been under tight police security controls during that time. He said Milosevic has made the mountain residence his permanent home and travels to Belgrade only for meetings. PM

DJUKANOVIC BLASTS 'DICTATORSHIP'

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Athens on 30 August that federal Yugoslavia "is ruled by the dictatorship of one man," namely Milosevic. In Podgorica, a spokesman for Djukanovic called for Serbia and Montenegro to compete separately in international sporting events, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 31 August. PM

TALIC PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY'

Bosnian Serb General Momir Talic pleaded "not guilty" to charges of war crimes at the Hague- based tribunal on 31 August (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 August 1999). PM

MUSLIMS WITHDRAWING SUPPORT FROM DODIK?

A spokesman for the mainly Muslim Coalition for a Single and Democratic Bosnia- Herzegovina told Reuters in Sarajevo on 31 August that the coalition "has decided to withdraw" its parliamentary backing from the moderate Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik. The coalition wants Dodik to give it some cabinet posts and to speed up the return of non-Serbian refugees to their pre-1992 homes as a condition for continuing support. The news agency suggested, however, that the coalition has no real intention of abandoning Dodik lest he join forces with Serbian hard-liners. Reuters quoted an unnamed Western diplomat as saying that "I don't think we've heard the last" about the coalition's bargaining with Dodik. PM

SLOVENIAN POLICE HOLD GREENPEACE ACTIVISTS

Slovenian police on 1 September detained 16 Greenpeace members who tried to block the shipment of a 666-ton generator from the port of Koper to the nuclear power plant at Krsko. The 16 included 12 Austrians, two Swiss, one Slovak, and one Slovene, AP reported. Police in Postojna charged them with blocking traffic. An Austrian Greenpeace spokesman told Reuters that Krsko is a "time bomb...for Central Europe" because it lies close to a major geological fault line. The generator will extend the life of the communist-era nuclear plant until 2023. PM

WORLD BANK APPROVES ROMANIAN LOAN

The World Bank on 31 August approved a $44.5 million loan for closing down 29 loss-making mines in Romania, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The bank said the loan is intended to help reduce the burden on the national budget. Some of the money is to be used to provide compensation for laid-off miners. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT USES NEW DESIGNATION FOR STATE LANGUAGE...

In a speech delivered on the occasion of Moldova's Language Day, Petru Lucinschi on 31 August for the first time spoke of "our Romanian language" RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. "Moldovan" remains the official designation for the country's state language. MS

...BUT SAYS 'NO SPECIAL RELATIONS' WITH ROMANIA

In an interview with the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" on 31 August, Lucinschi said that although Moldova and Romania have a "nearly identical" language, culture, and tradition, these are insufficient to "transform our relationship into a special one," as "some Romanians would like." He said that raising the status of Moldova's relations with Romania to a "special one" might "irritate" the 35 percent of the Moldovan population who belong to the country's national minorities, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Reports in the Romanian press say Bucharest wants mention of a "special relationship" to be included in the pending basic treaty between the two countries. MS

BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS PROMPT PARTY REALIGNMENT

Socialist Party (BSP) leader Georgi Parvanov said in the second round of the local elections scheduled for October, his party will back opposition candidates who fare better than BSP ones, BTA reported on 30 August. He said he believes that cooperation between the BSP, the Euro-Left, the Social Democracy Union, and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms will bring about the defeat of the ruling United Democratic Forces. On 31 August, BTA quoted BSP spokesman Angel Naidenov as saying that in the first round the BSP will field Socialist candidates for 121 mayoralties. It will also support candidates for 28 mayoralties who run in coalition with other parties and candidates for 11 mayoralties who are nominated by other opposition parties. MS




HUNGARIAN 'BUNDISM': CAN IT WORK?


by Michael Shafir



When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at the 19 August inauguration of the Office for Hungarians Beyond Borders that "all citizens of Hungary and Hungarians beyond its borders are members of a single and indivisible nation," many must have recalled the late Joszef Antall's 1991 statement that he was not merely the premier of Hungary but of "15 million Hungarians." Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi commented the next day that the government "does not want to change borders, but the nature of borders."

Changing the nature of borders, as envisaged by the Hungarian government, has to do with the link between Magyars beyond borders and "territorial Hungary" or, in other words, ethnic Hungarians' relationship to their "kin- state." As Orban told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 26 August, this kinship must extend beyond the envisaged European integration. The Hungarians, he said, are "a small nation, culturally unrelated to any other in Europe." Their language makes them "conscious on a daily basis" that "despite their European allies, they are nonetheless alone."

Without naming it by name, Orban was, in fact, speaking about "ethnicity." But how can ethnicity survive in a context of renouncing territorial claims and of an integrated Europe in which the dominant nations will likely be the larger and economically stronger entities?

The Hungarian solution, as it has evolved over the last several years, could be said to be a "Bundist" one. Unlike Zionism, which offered a political solution to the Jewish national identity problem, Bundism sought at the turn of the century to provide a cultural solution. Preserving a separate identity (based on the Yiddish language) in a multinational environment of shared socialist values was how the Jewish socialist Bundists envisaged their future in Russia, Poland, and other places. The Jewish-Hungarian parallel can be drawn further. The extreme nationalist Justice and Life Party and some irredentist Hungarian emigres could be viewed as the Hungarian version of "revisionist" Zionism, for which only a Jewish state established within its biblical borders can redress "historical injustice." Why a "Zionist" solution is unacceptable to the Budapest leadership is not difficult to understand. Not only would the mass immigration of ethnic Hungarians from Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine plunge Hungary's economy into havoc; nothing would be more welcome to the nationalists in those countries than this elegant form of "ethnic cleansing." "Let my people stay," rather than "Let my people go," is the plea in the Orban-conducted Hungarian choir.

Safeguarding ethnicity while foregoing irredentism requires, however, political and social instruments. The participation of parties representing ethnic Hungarians in ruling coalitions (as in the case of Romania since 1996 and of Slovakia since 1998) and the envisaged participation of such parties in an autonomous Vojvodina government could be viewed as a device for representing specific ethnic interests while sharing the burden of responsibility for the general (Romanian, Slovak, Vojvodinian) interest. Yet ethnicity in a multicultural environment lives, agonizes or dies on the "periphery", not at the center.

To be able to use a minority language in arguing with a policeman writing a traffic ticket and to post local council decisions in such a language ("local autonomy"); to self-manage funds for cultural preservation in areas with a large minority population ("territorial autonomy"); and to participate in electing minority representatives regardless of place of residence ("personal autonomy")--all are as important for the survival of ethnicity as is access to higher education in minority languages.

This three-pronged autonomy concept developed by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania comes close to offering a "Bundist" solution. Budapest embraced it as a possible solution for Vojvodina Hungarians, and it is likely to "spill over" into Slovakia soon.

Can "Hungarian Bundism" work? There is one possible precedent--interwar Estonia, where Germans, Jews, and Russians, though territorially scattered, were allowed to establish self-governing bodies with powers over culture and education, as well as some limited taxation capacity. Like the Jewish Bundists, the Estonians were influenced by the ideas of Karl Renner and Otto Bauer. But for "Hungarian Bundism" to work in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe, numerous problems would have to be overcome.

First, the envisaged solution is unacceptable not only to the Romanian, Slovak, or Serbian partisans of "exclusive nationalism"--for whom ethnic minorities are "historical intruders" without entitlement to any rights--but also to the more moderate "inclusive nationalists." The latter accept equality of rights but reject any form of "positive discrimination," without which ethnicity islands cannot survive.

Second, the "Bundist" solution might well suit the economically and culturally more developed ethnic Hungarians, but they are not the only minority around. And unlike in interwar Estonia, levels of national minorities' social development are strikingly unequal.

Can "Bundism" be applied unilaterally? What about the Roma, for instance? Would the solution not exacerbate, rather than alleviate, divisions among the already overly partitioned Romany political representation? And does it not carry the risk of offering the Roma that "Birobidjan- like" solution that racialists advocate when wanting to send them off to enclaves?

Zionism continues to pay a heavy price for ignoring the realities of "the others." It would be tragic if the revived "Bundism" made the same mistake.


XS
SM
MD
LG