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Newsline - September 2, 1999




IVANOV SAYS MOSCOW WON'T TOLERATE WEST'S 'CASTING SHADOW' ON RUSSIA

Speaking to students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on 1 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the Russian government will not accept "the use of unverified facts to cast a shadow on our country," Interfax reported. While acknowledging that corruption remains a problem in Russia, Ivanov said the current manner of addressing it in "some Western mass media is not about fighting corruption but rather targeted politics." He said that the entire scandal about "Russian money laundering" had been developed by "certain circles that do not want Russia to reclaim its role as a great power in the international arena." PG

SCANDAL COVERAGE DOMINATES MOSCOW PRESS

Russian newspapers continued to focus on the money-laundering scandal. "Segodnya" said "Russia has no place to retreat to in the bank scandal--next are economic sanctions." It quoted Our Home Is Russia faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov as saying that "Russia shouldn't pretend that it doesn't notice anything" and that Moscow should investigate the charges fully Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said that "the investigation of the Russian financial scandal has already had one result--a blow to the reputation of all domestic banks and companies." PG

RUBLE FALLS OWING TO U.S. PLAN TO PROBE IMF LOANS

The ruble fell sharply against the dollar on 1 September following a statement by U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers that Washington will not support the extension of any new IMF credits to Russia until there has been an examination of what happened to earlier monies sent to Moscow, Interfax reported. Aleksandr Livshits, Moscow's special envoy to international financial institutions, said he is bewildered by Summers's statement: "I am not sure at the moment what Summers wants to check," he told Interfax. And First Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said on 1 September that he believes Summers's statement reflects political pressures in the U.S. PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY ACCUSES U.S. OF KOSOVA COVER-UP

In a statement released on 1 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused U.S. forces of engaging in a month-long cover-up of the murder of 15 ethnic Serbs there, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that "we are speaking about an odious occurrence" involving the concealment of a crime committed in the village of Ugljar, which is within the U.S. zone of responsibility. The statement said Moscow believes that "this cover-up must be a subject of detailed discussion at the upcoming UN Security Council meeting." But the Russian news agency said there has been no progress in resolving the stand-off between Russian troops and ethnic Albanians in Rahovec. PG

YELTSIN OUTRAGED BY MANEZH EXPLOSION

Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told Interfax on 31 August that Boris Yeltsin is outraged by what he called the barbaric terrorist act at Moscow's Manezh square Shopping mall. Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was equally angry: he called the still- unidentified attackers "beasts" and said that "these people need to be shot," ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September. The authorities reported finding materials linking the bombing to an anti-consumer goods group called the Union of Revolutionary Writers, about which no one has heard until now. But various officials suggested that those responsible might range from the Chechens to economic or political groups in the Russian capital. In Grozny, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev denied any Chechen involvement in the bombing, Interfax reported. PG/LF

AIR FORCE SETS UP SPECIAL UNITS POR NORTH CAUCASUS FIGHTING

The Russian air force has established several experimental units as part of its effort to combat guerrillas in the North Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September, citing a source in the defense industry. These groups will include specially outfitted Mi-24 gunships and Mi-8 cargo helicopters. PG

IVANOV WARNS RUSSIA WILL PROTECT ITS INTERESTS IN CAUCASUS...

Foreign Minister Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 1 September that "Russia has been and will be a power in the Caucasus" and that conflicts in the region will not be resolved without Russian input or to the detriment of Russian interests, Interfax reported. He said it is in Russia' s interest to develop comprehensive, balanced and mutually beneficial relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. He added that Moscow expects those countries to cooperate in helping to fight terrorism in Daghestan, which, he said, poses a threat to the Transcaucasus as well as Russia. Sergeev said Russian will continue playing an effective peacekeeping role in Georgia, and he welcomed the dialogue between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. But he also warned that Russia "will draw the appropriate conclusions" if the GUUAM alignment, of which both Georgia and Azerbaijan are members, "becomes explicitly military by nature." Ivanov departs on 2 September for a tour of all three South Caucasus states, but he admitted that he does not anticipate "any breakthroughs" during his talks there. LF

...SLAMS BAKU-CEYHAN, TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINES

Also on 1 September, Ivanov questioned the economic viability of the oil export pipeline from Baku to Ceyhan and that of the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, arguing that if those projects were indeed viable, work on their implementation would have begun long ago. Ivanov said that no pipeline routes are a priori unacceptable to Moscow, but they become so if political, rather than economic, considerations prevail to Russia's disadvantage, according to Interfax. Ivanov added that the presence of military bases in Georgia is in the interests of that country. LF

RUSSIAN FORCES TAKE KARAMAKHI

Russian and Daghestani Interior Ministry forces took control of the village of Karamakhi in Daghestan's Buinaksk Raion late on 1 September after hours of heavy fighting, Russian agencies reported. The following day, they also took the village of Chabanmakhi, Caucasus Press reported, quoting Russian Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov. In Moscow, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said operations are continuing in the district of Kadar. He predicted that the "second stage" of the Russian military operation in Daghestan will be completed "in the next few days." LF

STALIN ELECTORAL BLOC APPLIES FOR REGISTRATION

The Central Election Commission on 1 September announced that it will review the registration application submitted by the electoral Stalin Bloc: Workers' Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The new bloc is lead by Trudovaya Rossiya's Viktor Anpilov, the Union of Officers' Stanislav Terekhov, and the grandson of Joseph Stalin, Yevgenii Dzhugashvili. PG

INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT, INFLATION RISE

The Ministry of Economics said industrial output in Russia grew by nearly 5.3 percent in the period from July to August 1999, compared with the same period in 1998, Interfax reported on 1 September. The ministry predicted that the 1999 annual inflation rate will be 45 percent, with real incomes falling 15-18 percent over that period. PG

TAX POLICE OPEN CASES AGAINST THREE OIL COMPANIES

The Russian Federal Tax Police has opened criminal cases for tax evasion against Rosneft, Sidanko, and an unnamed third oil company, Interfax reported on 1 September. The police said the amounts of money involved are substantial. PG

GOVERNMENT TO SEEK DUMA RATIFICATION OF START-2

Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said the Russian government will press the State Duma to ratify the START-2 arms limitation treaty when the parliament resumes work later this month, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "ratification of the START-2 treaty meets the interests of strategic stability," and he also called for proceeding with START-3 talks. PG

MOSCOW PLEDGES NOT TO DUMP RADIOACTIVE WASTE INTO SEA OF JAPAN

Primore Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko said in Tokyo on 1 September that Russia will never dump liquid radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan, ITAR-TASS reported. He then cut short his visit to the Japanese capital because of the impact of torrential rains in his home area. PG

RUSSIA SEIZE SIX TRYING TO SELL RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS

Authorities in Vladivostok arrested six people who sought to sell 6 kilograms of Uranium 238 and nickel to undercover officers, AP reported on 1 September. The six had stolen the material from a plant that repairs and dismantles nuclear submarines and wanted to sell it for $130,000. PG

MOSCOW TO SELL TWO NUCLEAR SUBS TO CHINA

According to the "Hong Kong Standard," as reported by dpa on 1 September, China has reached a tentative agreement with Russia to purchase two Typhoon-class nuclear submarines. Such ships can carry up to 20 SSN-20 ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 8,300 kilometers. PG

ITAR-TASS TRACES ITS ORIGINS TO NICHOLAS II

ITAR-TASS on 1 September marked what it said was its 95th birthday. According to a press release, today's ITAR-TASS began as the St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency with the approval of Tsar Nicholas II, who wanted the agency "to report within the Empire and abroad political, financial, economic, trade and other news of public interest." The St. Petersburg agency was renamed the Petrograd Telegraph Agency in 1914 and became the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) after the Communist revolution. It was rechristened TASS in 1925 and assumed its current name in January 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to ITAR-TASS, it is one of four world news agencies. Its motto is: "Accuracy and Efficiency First!" PG




ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA

Visiting Tokyo on 29-31 August at the head of a government delegation, Vartan Oskanian met with government and banking officials and the heads of major corporations to discuss establishing a Japanese-Armenian economic committee and improving bilateral relations, Noyan Tapan reported. On 31 August, Oskanian and his Japanese counterpart, Masahiko Komura, signed a joint communique pledging to boost ties through regular dialogue. Oskanian thanked Komura for Tokyo's economic assistance to Armenia and stressed the importance of a balanced approach toward the three South Caucasus states. He reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the South Caucasus. On 1 September, Oskanian met with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Hon Sun-Yeng in Seoul to discuss international and regional affairs and the prospects for political and economic cooperation. LF

CONVICTED ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR CONSIDERS SERVING PRISON TERM

Nikol Pashinian, who was sentenced to one year in jail on 31 August by a Yerevan district court, told a news conference on 1 September that he may considering going to jail, rather than appealing that sentence, as a gesture of protest against the present Armenian leadership, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1999). Pashinian was found guilty of obstructing the police, of refusing to comply with a court order that he publish a retraction of materials printed in his newspaper, "Oragir," and of two counts of libel. The independent daily "Aravot" on 1 September condemned the sentence as "provincial-style repression," while National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian termed it "intimidation" that could set "a dangerous precedent." LF

AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT BLASTS OSCE FOR INACTIVITY

Meeting in Baku on 1 September with Carey Cavanaugh, the new U.S. co-chairman to the OSCE Minsk Group, Heidar Aliyev complained that the hopes generated by the 1997 appointment of U.S. and French co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group have not borne fruit and that the Minsk Group has been "passive" since last year, Turan reported. Aliyev added that the Minsk Group's proposal that Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic form a "common state" is unacceptable to Baku as it constitutes a "concealed form" of recognition of the enclave's independence, according to ITAR-TASS. Cavanaugh had said at a meeting earlier on 1 September with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov that he believes the recent meetings in Geneva between Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, will contribute to the peace process, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS OPENED AGAINST HIM

Safar Abiev told Turan on 1 September there is no truth to a report published that day in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that the Azerbaijani military prosecutor has opened criminal proceedings against him. In July, President Aliyev decreed the creation of a special commission to investigate the finances of the Defense Ministry following allegations that Abiev had engaged in embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 35, 26 August 1999). LF

AZERBAIJANI, GEORGIAN PEACEKEEPING CONTINGENTS LEAVE FOR KOSOVA

An Azerbaijani platoon of 32 soldiers, together with one senior lieutenant and one warrant officer, and a Georgian platoon of 34 soldiers and one officer departed for Turkey on 1 September for one month's training with the Turkish army. Thereafter, the two detachments will be deployed in Kosova as part of the Turkish contingent with KFOR in the German sector, Turan and Caucasus Press reported on 1 September. The Georgian contingent will remain in Kosova for eight months. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 30 August that Georgia decided to participate in the Kosova peacekeeping operation partly as a matter of prestige and partly in the hope that the international community may decide to deploy a similar force in Abkhazia if one is needed, Caucasus Press reported. LF

LEADING AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES DECIDE TO PARTICIPATE IN LOCAL ELECTIONS

Meeting in Baku on 1 September, the opposition parties united in the Democratic Congress, including the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and the Musavat Party, announced they will field candidates in the 12 December local elections, Turan reported. The same day, Gerard Stoudman, who is director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, urged Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov to amend the law on the Central Electoral Commission to ensure that all political forces are represented on that body. Stoudman also offered assistance in drafting amendments to the law on municipal elections to "eliminate ambiguities," according to Turan, and urged Alesqerov to bring other legislation into line with OSCE principles. Opposition representatives claim that the municipal election law is undemocratic. But Alesqerov insisted to Stoudman that it takes account of recommendations by the OSCE and other international organizations and complies with international standards. LF

CUSTOMS OFFICER SHOT DEAD IN ABKHAZIA

One Abkhaz customs officer was shot dead and three wounded in an ambush on 1 September, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The incident took place 5 kilometers from the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia in the security zone patrolled by CIS peacekeepers. A local Abkhaz official blamed Georgian guerrillas for the shootings. The previous day, an Abkhaz military court sentenced a Georgian to death on charges of organizing terrorist attacks in Tkvarcheli in January 1998, Interfax reported. Two other Georgians received prison sentences of 12 and 15 years. LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS OPPOSE EXTENSION OF PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE

Vakhtang Orzhonia, who is a spokesman for ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and who now live in Zugdidi Raion, told Caucasus Press on 1 September that the displaced persons are unhappy with the Georgian leadership's 29 August decision to endorse an extension of the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). The displaced persons have no faith in the peacekeepers' ability to guarantee the safety of Georgians wishing to return to Abkhazia. Orzhonia said the displaced persons will register their dissatisfaction with the Georgian leadership's decision when casting their votes in the 31 October parliamentary election. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT LOOKS AHEAD TO ELECTIONS...

Addressing a parliamentary session on 1 September, Nursultan Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan will enter the 21st century "as a country respecting democratic principles," RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. He said the parliamentary elections scheduled for 17 September and 10 October will be held according to "real democratic principles." But Nazarbaev warned that unnamed politicians contending the poll have no creative programs and seek only to satisfy personal ambitions that might "lead to the collapse of the Kazakhstan"s unity, its sovereignty, and statehood." In a possible allusion to former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, whose participation in the poll is uncertain, Nazarbaev castigated "those who want revenge,...politicians who used to be officials until just recently, and who failed to meet their duties and obligations, who committed numerous mistakes." LF

...ASSESSES ECONOMY

While giving an overall positive assessment of the country's economic performance in 1999, Nazarbaev criticized the cabinet and the National Bank for what he termed "tactical mistakes" in 1998 and 1999, in particular the de facto devaluation of the national currency in April of this year. "It was a big mistake to let the tenge float," Nazarbaev said. He called on the cabinet and National Bank to formulate a more flexible and fruitful policy in keeping with the current world economic situation. Given the impact of world economic processes on Kazakhstan's economy, he said, it is inappropriate to continue implementing reforms in the pension and taxation systems. Nazarbaev downplayed fears of a further deterioration of the economic situation, affirming that "there will be no hunger and cold in Kazakhstan. We will pay our debts," Reuters reported. LF

ELEVEN POLITICAL PARTIES REGISTERED FOR KAZAKH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

Speaking at a press conference in Astana on 1 September, Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva said that a total of 11 political parties have registered to contend the 10 October elections to the lower house of the parliament, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. Ten of the 77 seats in the lower house will be allocated under the proportional (party list) system. According to Nazarbaev, an average of nine candidates will compete for each seat in the lower house, while 35 candidates will contest the 16 seats in the Senate (upper house) elections on 17 September. LF

KAZAKH, RUSSIAN OFFICIALS BEGIN TALKS ON BORDER DEMARCATION

The first round of Kazakh-Russian talks on delineating the state frontier between the two countries opened in Moscow on 31 August, RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported the following day, citing a Kazakh Foreign Ministry press release. LF

UZBEK GUERRILLAS IN KYRGYZSTAN RELEASE ANOTHER HOSTAGE...

Late on 1 September, the Uzbek guerrillas entrenched in southern Kyrgyzstan released another of the Kyrgyz police officers they took hostage 10 days earlier, Reuters reported. They continue to hold 13 hostages, including four Japanese geologists and a Kyrgyz Interior Ministry general. National Guard commander Abdygul Chotbaev told RFE/RL in Bishkek on 1 September that there has been no fighting between Kyrgyz forces and the guerrillas for several days. He added that several residents of villages in Batken and Chon-Alai Raions that are occupied by the guerrillas have managed to escape. LF

...AMID CONFUSION OVER THEIR OBJECTIVES

Kyrgyzstan's acting Defense Minister General Esen Topoev said in Bishkek on 2 September that the guerrillas have still not made any demands on the Kyrgyz leadership, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. On 31 August, a man claiming to be a spokesman for Tohir Yuldashev, military commander of the Uzbek Islamic Movement, told the BBC that the guerrillas want to exchange their hostages for members of the Uzbek Islamic Movement currently imprisoned in Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1999). LF

RUSSIA, UZBEKISTAN DISCUSS RESPONSE TO KYRGYZ HOSTAGE CRISIS

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev flew to Tashkent on 1 September at President Yeltsin's behest to discuss the Kyrgyz hostage taking with President Islam Karimov. He told Interfax on arriving in Tashkent that "it will be very difficult to solve the problem of Islamic extremism and terrorism in Central Asia if regional leaders do not coordinate their moves." Sergeev later told journalists that a special team of military experts from Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan has been charged with assessing the situation, including the number of the guerrillas, and formulating a plan of action. He added that Russia will supply Kyrgyzstan with arms, ammunition, Su-24 bombers and Su-25 fighter aircraft and teach Kyrgyz troops how to wage war in mountain conditions, according to Interfax. Sergeev stressed that "Uzbekistan, the largest Central Asian state, cannot distance itself from the situation in Kyrgyzstan." LF

UZBEKISTAN CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY

In a 1 September address to the people of Uzbekistan to mark the eighth anniversary of the country's independence, President Karimov said "we will have to do a lot of work and overcome numerous obstacles" in order to achieve the country's top priority of creating " a just and civilized democratic society," Interfax reported. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION TO NOMINATE JOINT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE?

At a five-hour meeting in Dushanbe on 31 August, representatives of the political parties and movements aligned in the United Tajik Opposition agreed that they will each nominate a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. They will then agree on a single candidate to represent the opposition in that poll. LF




LUKASHENKA STRESSES ECONOMY IN BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 1 September admitted that the current draft treaty on a union with Russia does not provide for a full union state, Reuters reported. "There is no union state [in the draft], but this is what we, or rather Russia, can afford today," he said. Lukashenka stressed that economics rather than politics should form the backbone of the future treaty. "Primarily, equal conditions for companies and organizations must be put into practice," Interfax quoted Lukashenka as saying. The Belarusian president added that a supplement of a "purely economic nature" was drawn up for the treaty and that the supplement "must be reflected in Russian law the way it was done in Belarus." JM

BELARUS INTRODUCES 5 MILLION RUBLE NOTE

Beginning 6 September, Belarus's National Bank will put into circulation a banknote worth 5 million Belarusian rubles or some $10, according to the street exchange rate. Four months ago, the bank introduced a banknote worth 1 million rubles. JM

KUCHMA URGES 'CENTRIST PARTY POLICY'

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told a 31 August meeting of the political bloc Our Choice--Leonid Kuchma! that he advocates a "centrist party policy," Interfax reported. "Establishing centrist politics and a middle class will signify a breakthrough toward a better life and pulling Ukraine out of the crisis," Kuchma noted. He said that Ukraine has 76 registered political parties but most people do not want to join any of them. In his opinion, Our Choice--Leonid Kuchma! could become instrumental in forming a government coalition and a parliamentary majority after the presidential elections. According to Yevhen Kushnarov, coordinator of the pro-Kuchma bloc, 19 parties with a combined membership of 800,000 belong to the grouping. JM

UKRAINE, CZECH REPUBLIC SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION DEAL

On 1 September in Kyiv, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk and his Czech counterpart, Vladimir Vetchy, signed a protocol on cooperation in military aviation, CTK reported. Vetchy said Ukraine could supply engines for the new Czech L-159 plane. Vetchy added that Ukraine has a lot of experience in the production of aviation engines. He noted that U.S.'s Boeing company, the Czech Republic's strategic partner in the L-159 project, has been consulted about Ukraine's possible cooperation. JM

ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER PLANS SHAKE-UP

"Eesti Paevaleht" on 2 September reported that Interior Minister Juri Mois is planning a major reorganization at the Interior Ministry. The daily said the plan entails halving the ministry's workforce, curtailing the autonomy of the various departments under the ministry, and abolishing three deputy under-secretary posts. Stressing the need to move quickly due to a cut of 70 million kroons ($4.7 million) in the ministry's 2000 budget, Mois said he believes the move will double the efficiency of the ministry's work. MH

ESTONIAN CHIEF-OF-STAFF RESIGNS

Major General Ants Laaneots officially submitted his resignation on 31 August. Earlier the same month, Laaneots had announced his intention to quit that post, saying he had accepted a teaching post at the Baltic Defense College in Tartu. MH

LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES NATO INTEGRATION PLAN

The Lithuanian government on 1 September approved the country's NATO Integration plan. Stating that the plan contains specific measures aimed at securing Lithuania's NATO membership, a high ranking Foreign Ministry official said Lithuania will "act jointly with NATO in preparing Lithuania for membership in the alliance," BNS reported. The document, which is classified, covers various areas, including military, political, legal, economic, and information protection. MH

POLISH PREMIER SACKS DEPUTY OVER ALLEGED SECRET SERVICE TIES

Jerzy Buzek has dismissed Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski, PAP informed on 1 September. Buzek said he lost trust in Tomaszewski after the latter refused to confirm whether his lustration statement is currently being examined by the Lustration Court. Polish media recently alleged that Tomaszewski's statement denying his collaboration with Communist-era secret services has been queried and sent to the Lustration Court for examination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1999). Tomaszewski told TVN Television the same day that he was never a Communist secret service collaborator, otherwise he "would have [resigned] much earlier or even refused to join the government altogether." JM

EU COMMISSIONER-DESIGNATE SAYS CZECHS MUST ABOLISH BENES DECREES...

Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner designate for enlargement, told the European Parliament on 1 September that the process of Czech integration into the union "could benefit" if the Czech parliament were to declare that the 1945 Benes decrees on expelling Germans are "obsolete," CTK reported. The Czech government has already made such a declaration. Speaking at his confirmation hearings, Verheugen warned against hastiness in admitting new members and against "unfeasible promises." He said he considers the membership of Slovakia, Lithuania, and Bulgaria to be conditional on the closure of those country's obsolete nuclear plants. MS

...WHILE CZECH EU NEGOTIATOR FEARS DERAILING OF 'FAST- TRACK' TALKS

In an interview with Reuters on 1 September, Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Telicka warned that unless the Czech Republic continues the course it embarked on several months ago, the EU's negotiations with the "fast track" countries "could definitely become 4 plus 1, not 5 plus 1." Telicka, who is the chief Czech negotiator with the EU, said that EU warnings are "taken very seriously" and that "it would be unfair to derail the Czech bid just now, as problems begin to be resolved." He said the EU's dissatisfaction with the Czech Republic's performance stemmed from "long delays in preparing legislation, a deep recession that has thrown economic reform into doubt while other candidates show growth, and a Czech image problem in Brussels." MS

PRO-DZURINDA APPEAL LAUNCHED IN SLOVAKIA

Some 70 prominent members of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) published an appeal to the party's leadership on 1 September, Slovakia's Constitution Day, demanding a halt to debates on the future of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), CTK reported. The signatories, who are KDH mayors, managers, and senior civil servants, said that the dispute on the SDK's future weakens the coalition's position in the government at a time when Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda is facing the "historical task of coping with the transition from Meciarism to democracy and prosperity." The premier, they said, should not be "obstructed, but helped." The SDK has been torn by the conflict between Dzurinda and KDH leader Jan Carnogursky, who wants the SDK to return to being a loose alliance of its individual components, of which the KDH is the strongest. MS

SLOVAK MONUMENT DEFACED BY HUNGARIAN GRAFFITI

Unknown perpetrators in Bradlo, western Slovakia, have defaced a memorial to Milan Rastislav Stefanik, co-founder of Czechoslovakia, by writing anti-Slovak graffiti in Hungarian on it, CTK reported on 31 August. The graffiti reads "The Slovak is not a human being." The opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia said the blame must be taken by the Hungarian Coalition Party, whose "escalating demands," it argued, demonstrate "racism, chauvinism, and provocation." MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT WITHDRAWS AMENDMENT TO PRIVATIZATION LAW

Dzurinda's cabinet on 30 August withdrew from the parliament's agenda an amendment to the Privatization Act that would have allowed the privatization of large-scale enterprises, SITA reported. The Party of the Democratic Left, a member of the ruling coalition, insists that the state must keep a 51 percent stake in those enterprises. Several rounds of debate among cabinet members failed to achieve a compromise. MS




CROATIA TO EXTRADITE 'TUTA'

The Zagreb County Court ruled on 2 September that there are no legal obstacles to sending indicted war criminal Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic to The Hague for trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1999). The court said in a statement that it has "decided to comply with the International Criminal Tribunal's demand for the handover of indicted...Tuta [because] legal conditions [for doing so] have been fulfilled." Tuta told the court the previous day that he is guilty of the charges "only if defending one's homeland is a crime." The U.S. had threatened Croatia with sanctions if it did not agree to extradite Tuta and provide documents that the tribunal has requested. PM

HAGUE COURT: TUDJMAN NOT INDICTED

In The Hague, tribunal spokesman Paul Risley said on 1 September that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is "not under a sealed indictment" at present. The announcement came in response to repeated speculation in the Croatian and international media that the tribunal may have issued a secret indictment against Tudjman in conjunction with Croatian policies in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 July 1999). Observers note that it will nonetheless be interesting to see whether Tudjman undertakes any foreign travel in the coming weeks. PM

HOLBROOKE: UCK MUST DISARM BY 19 SEPTEMBER

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said in Sarajevo on 1 September that he recently told ethnic Albanian leaders in Prishtina that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) must meet its 19 September disarmament deadline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). Holbrooke added that he warned General Agim Ceku, who heads the UCK's general staff, that KFOR commander General Sir Michael Jackson has the legal right to "take all necessary measures" if the UCK does not comply. In Prishtina, Ceku told "Koha Ditore" that he will meet all his obligations under the UCK's agreement with NATO. He asked, however, that NATO give him a 10-day extension to complete the "transformation" of the UCK from a fighting force to its post-war role (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1999). He added that 5,000 out of the present 20,000 guerrillas will enter a new Kosovar National Guard, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

U.K. POLICE FIND 50 BODIES IN GARBAGE DUMP

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the UCK's Hashim Thaci in London on 2 September that the U.K. expects the UCK to meet its disarmament deadline. Thaci replied: "There is nothing perfect in this world. But I'm more than sure we will work in accordance with the agreement we've signed," AP reported. Cook also said that British KFOR police have found 50 bodies in a garbage dump in Ljubidza and are investigating. Cook promised to send all evidence to the Hague tribunal. The latest discovery brings to a total of 200 the number of bodies found by British KFOR in mass graves in their central sector. PM

UCK MOVING TOWARD COMPROMISE ON RAHOVEC?

On 1 September, Thaci met with local ethnic Albanians in Rahovec, where 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. He expressed support for the roadblock but also told his hosts: "In the town of Rahovec you won't have Russian soldiers, but we can't guarantee that for the whole municipality and the whole thing is not definite yet." Local Albanians firmly oppose any Russian presence in the area, including in Serb-inhabited communities. PM

TENSIONS MOUNT IN GRACANICA

A dozen or so Serbs set up a roadblock in Gracanica near Prishtina on 1 September to protest what they said was the recent kidnapping of a local Serb by ethnic Albanians. An ethnic Albanian doctor said the next day that an unspecified number of Serbs and Roma "beat up" five ethnic Albanians and the Bulgarian wife of one of the Albanians near the roadblock. The road-block protest continued on 2 September. Gracanica has a Serbian majority and is home to an important medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery. Elsewhere, Reuters reported from Paris that Kosova Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic told "L'Humanite" that UN administrator Bernard Kouchner "has failed" to protect Serbs in Kosova. PM

NAUMANN: MILOSEVIC PLANNED TO EXPEL ALL ALBANIANS

German General Klaus Naumann, who headed NATO's military affairs committee until his retirement in May, said in Brussels on 1 September that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic told him he planned to expel all ethnic Albanians from Kosova in his recent Operation Horseshoe campaign, Belgrade's "Danas" reported. Milosevic told Naumann and Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark in Belgrade before NATO's bombing campaign began that he intended to "solve the Kosova problem once and for all." Naumann said in Brussels that he realized at that time that NATO could not sit by and watch the mass expulsion of Kosovars, "much as we sat back during the [1991 Serbian] shelling of Dubrovnik." In Washington on 1 September, Clark said that Milosevic made peace in June because his intelligence sources told him that a NATO ground attack was imminent, AP reported. PM

MILOSEVIC FREES AUSTRIALIAN CARE WORKERS

Milosevic pardoned two Australian employees of the international aid organization CARE on 1 September. A Serbian spokesman said that the release of the men, who have been held since late March on charges of spying, came in response to appeals by ethnic Serbs living in Australia. Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and former South African President Nelson Mandela have also appealed to Belgrade for their release. In Atlanta in the U.S., a CARE spokesman said that the organization will not resume its activities in Serbia until Belgrade frees the two Australians' Serbian colleague, who remains in prison. PM

CLINTON, HOLBROOKE HAIL BOSNIAN NATIONAL DAY

Holbrooke announced in Sarajevo on 1 September that the three members of the joint Bosnian presidency have agreed that 21 November will be Bosnia's first national holiday. The date marks the conclusion in 1995 of the Dayton peace agreement, of which Holbrooke was the principal architect. In Auburn, N.Y., U.S. President Bill Clinton congratulated Bosnia on its new holiday. He added that the Dayton agreement is "the beginning of a new country and a blueprint for its future." PM

NATO STARTS NEW MISSION IN ALBANIA

At Tirana airport on 1 September, NATO's General John Reith formally announced the end of the Atlantic alliance's mission to help Albania cope with the Kosovar refugee influx. AFOR, as the mission was known, will be followed by a new Italian-led force, called COMMZ W (Communication Zone West). Italy will contribute 1,400 soldiers to the 2,400-strong contingent under the command of General Pietro Frisone. The purpose of the new mission will be to provide support for KFOR and to show NATO's commitment to securing social stability in Albania. PM

AIDE TO CHALLENGE ALBANIA'S BERISHA

Genc Pollo, who is a long-time spokesman for the Democratic Party and its leader Sali Berisha, said in Tirana on 1 September that he intends to challenge Berisha for the party chair. Pollo said that he wants to "present a serious and credible alternative" to Berisha at home and abroad. The vote will take place at the party congress on 30 September. Many observers regard Berisha as combative and at least partly responsible for the high degree of polarization that characterizes Albanian politics. Both Berisha and Pollo have their roots in the former communist-era nomenklatura and are highly educated. Pollo studied in Austria and is fluent in English and German. PM

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY ON VERGE OF BANKRUPTCY

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Simona Miculescu on 1 September warned that the ministry might be forced to minimize its activities unless its budget is supplemented by 187 billion lei (nearly $10 million) in the immediate future. Miculescu said the ministry might be forced to cut diplomatic representation by 25-30 percent, leaving only "skeleton staff" at representations abroad, and officially notify international organizations such as the UN and the Council of Europe that it is unable to pay fees. MS

MAUSOLEUM DEMOLITION DOMINATES NEW SESSION OF BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT

Opening the fall-winter session of the Bulgarian parliament on 1 September, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said that immediate priorities of his cabinet are to ensure a "low-key" and "correct" campaign for the October local elections and to receive an invitation at the EU Helsinki summit in December to open accession talks. Criticizing the government, Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov said the "new political season" is dominated by the "confrontation policies" of the cabinet, which, he said, are reflected in the amended local election law and the demolition of the Dimitrov mausoleum. Alliance for National Salvation deputy Kemal Eyup said "the Berlin wall was destroyed to unify Germany, whereas the mausoleum was destroyed to divide Bulgaria" because the government is "frightened by any political situation other than a bipolar one," BTA reported. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY

The parliament on 1 September ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which Bulgaria signed in September 1996, BTA reported. One day earlier, Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev said that next week the government will debate the plan for restructuring the country's defense forces. Under that plan, those forces will be halved by 2004 to 45,000 troops. Ananiev noted that by that date, Bulgaria will have 590 generals and colonels, 1,250 lieutenant-colonels, 1,950 majors, and 4,500 officers of lower rank. A total of 62,120 personnel will be discharged, including 10,620 officers, 12,530 sergeants, 18,630 soldiers, and 20,340 civilian employees. MS




LENNART MERI: 'A LIFE FOR ESTONIA'


By Jan Cleave

In February 1991, Hungarian-born journalist Andreas Oplatka visited Estonia to interview the then foreign minister of that country. Returning there in July 1997 and again in January 1998, Oplatka was granted permission to record extended conversations with the same interlocutor, who had since been elected and re-elected president. Out of those conversations was born "Lennart Meri: Ein Leben fuer Estland" [Lennart Meri: A Life for Estonia] (Verlag Neue Zuercher Zeitung: Zuerich, 1999).

As Oplatka explains in his introduction, the intention of everyone involved in the book's publication was to render not only Meri's life story but also the history of 20th century Estonia. Consequently, "A Life for Estonia" is both an autobiography and, to use Meri's own term, a chronology. Reminiscences, anecdotes, and digressions are all on hand, revealing the inner world of the memoirist. At the same time, the chronology--the account of the world that the memoirist inhabits--is faithfully adhered to, defining the book's structure and, to a certain extent, its tenor.

That Meri is supremely qualified to render this "Estonian chronology" is beyond doubt. By his own admission, he was "born into the history" of his country, and by universal acknowledgment, he has played a major role in shaping that history. His depiction of pre-World War II Estonia is based to a large extent on the experiences of his father, who fought against the Red Army in 1919 and later became a high-ranking diplomat, holding posts in Berlin and Paris in the 1930s before returning to Estonia shortly before the outbreak of war. Through his father's first-hand knowledge of events in Moscow and Tallinn during the summer of 1939, when Lennart Meri was just 10 years old, the reader is presented with a behind-the-scenes account of the futile struggle of a small, inexperienced, and, in Lennart Meri's own estimation, naive country about to be sacrificed to the Soviet Union.

Beginning with the year 1945, when the Meri family returned to Estonia following four years of enforced exile in Russia, Lennart Meri gives his own eye-witness account of Estonian history. His student years at Tartu University (where he proved masterful at passing exams in Marxist- Leninism with minimal preparation), his early career as a radio journalist and author of travelogues, his writings on the origins of the Estonian people and his films on Finno- Ugric communities (for which he came to be regarded as a "bourgeois nationalist"), and his growing involvement in politics in the late 1980s--all these are described within the context of major developments in postwar Soviet Union and their direct impact on Estonia.

Meri is a gifted raconteur who tells his story, as well as that of Estonia, in a matter-of-fact manner--one that allows the autobiographical and the chronological to merge effortlessly. Characteristically, his description of the family's exile in Russia focuses on the Russian countryside, its peoples, and the means of survival, rather than the sufferings and deprivations that he and his family experienced. By the same token, he often chooses to highlight the absurdities of Soviet rule, rather than dwelling on its gloomier manifestations, thereby revealing his renowned sense of humor. Particularly memorable is Meri's discovery of his own name on "ersatz" toilet paper in the "gentlemen's room" at Estonian state radio; that paper turned out to be the protocol of a Communist Party meeting at which Meri's "nationalist" inclinations had been discussed at length.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, however, Meri repeatedly sounds a somber note in recalling how the "double standards" (Doppelmoral) of Western democracies led to the acceptance of a divided Europe after World War II. Implicit in those reminders is a warning about the possible ramifications if the West again chooses not to defend the principles that it espouses. Against the background of the Baltic States' current bid to become members of NATO, Meri's descriptions of how he and other Estonians viewed Western inaction over the Soviet interventions in Budapest, Prague, and Afghanistan are especially resonant.

Indeed, were Estonian diplomats looking for a few brief paragraphs to promote their country's bid to join the Atlantic alliance, they would be hard pressed to find more eloquent ones than those with which the book concludes: "If one sacrifices even a small country against its will, then one also sacrifices principles," Meri argues. "Now is not the best time in Europe to talk about principles. Most people would rather hear about material goods.... However, well-being and harmony...are linked to principles that democracies must never give up. That Europe will remain Europe only as long this connection is understood and respected, that is our common problem of the next century."

Published to coincide with Meri's 70th birthday earlier this year, "A Life for Estonia" is a fitting tribute to that country's president as his second term in office begins to near its end. Readers may regret that more space was not devoted to Meri's experiences as head of state and to Estonia's transition following the regaining of independence, not least because of the obvious parallels--to which Meri himself alludes--between this period and the interwar one. Many will also regret, particularly in view of the book's scope, that no index is provided. This latter omission could easily be rectified, however, should the book appear in translation, which it indisputably deserves to do.


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