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Newsline - September 8, 1999




FEDERAL FORCES HALT ADVANCE ON KHASAVYURT

Russian Defense and Interior Ministry forces, together with Daghestani Interior Ministry troops, succeeded on 7 September in halting some 1,000 advancing Chechen militants 5 kilometers south of the strategic town of Khasavyurt, Interfax reported, citing the Russian Defense Ministry press center in Makhachkala. In Vladikavkaz, the commander of the Russian 58th Army, General Shamanov said Russian military forces are being concentrated in Khasavyurt, from where a key highway leads to Makhachkala. He added that some of the town's estimated 100,000 population are ethnic Chechens who support the invading force. The Chechens still occupy six villages in Novolaksk Raion, south of Khasavyurt, but Russian forces managed to dislodge the Chechens from their fortified positions on a strategic mountain. LF

HEAVY FIGHTING CONTINUES FOR CHABANMAKHI, KARAMAKHI

Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their intensive air and artillery bombardment of Chechen positions near the villages of Chabanmakhi and Karamakhi on 7 September. Later the same day, ground forces entered Karamakhi, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Daghestani Interior Ministry forces repelled two attempts by Chechen forces to cross the border into Daghestan's Kazbek and Kizlyar Raions, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September. In Grozny, Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev's press service said the attacks on Novolaksk were intended to divert federal forces from their punitive operations against Wahhabis in Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi. LF

MORE RUSSIAN AIR RAIDS ON CHECHNYA

Russian air force planes again bombed Nozhai Yurt and Vedeno, in southeastern Chechnya, early on 7 September, killing two people and injuring seven, Interfax reported, citing the office of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Later the same day, the Chechen Foreign Ministry protested to the Russian government over the bombings, which Russian officials say are directed against Chechen guerrilla bases. Chechen Presidential Spokesman Selim Abdulmuslimov told Interfax that no such bases exist in Chechnya and that the militants currently fighting in Daghestan have no links with Chechnya. LF

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY CLAIMS CHECHEN GUERRILLAS USING FEDERAL FUNDS

Major General Kuzma Shalenkov, who is first deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry's anti-economic crime department, said on 7 September that the Chechen guerrillas receive funding from official and unofficial sources both in Russia and abroad, ITAR-TASS reported. Those sources include federal funds allocated for the development of the education and health sectors in the North Caucasus; donations from Russian businessmen who sympathize with the Chechens, and "extremist organizations" that aim to destabilize the situation in Daghestan, Shalenkov said. LF

RIVAL PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA CONTINUE TALKS

Vladimir Semenov, whose victory in the 16 May presidential runoff poll was endorsed last month by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, continued talks in Cherkessk on 7 September with his defeated rival, Stanislav Derev. Derev refuses to recognize either the poll outcome or the court ruling. His supporters have staged daily demonstrations to demand the restoration of the Cherkess Autonomous Oblast, abolished in 1957. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted Derev on 8 September as stressing that neither the Cherkess (of whom he is one) nor the Karachais (including Semenov) want to secede from the Russian Federation. But the newspaper also quoted a spokesman for the republic's Cossack community as saying that the Cossacks oppose any division of the republic, even though they theoretically have the right to demand the restoration of the territorial autonomy they enjoyed until 1927. LF

YELTSIN DEMANDS TOUGHER ACTION AGAINST INSURGENTS

At a meeting of the Russian Security Council on 7 September, President Boris Yeltsin demanded greater coordination among and more effective action by Russian forces operating in Daghestan, Russian agencies reported. He lashed out at the insurgents, saying that "it is incorrect to call those bandits Islamists. They are fighting against Muslim peoples in Daghestan." He added that "the terrorists have no faith and no Allah." In other comments, Yeltsin said that he has drawn three conclusions about the Daghestani events: "First, the defeat of the bandits has led them to resort to especially cruel actions.... Second, we have not been able to destroy the roots of the virus of terrorism.... And third, up to now federal forces have been acting in a favorable information environment, but the longer the confrontation takes place and the more victims there are, the less trust there will be." PG

SECURITY COUNCIL MAKES NO PERSONNEL CHANGES

Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that the Russian Security Council sharply criticized the heads of the country's defense and law enforcement agencies but decided not to dismiss anyone for now. "It is time to coordinate efforts, not dismiss officials," Stroev said. He added that the council decided to expand "work with neighboring countries" from which a large quantity of weaponry enters Russia. But he added that "there can be no combat operations against Chechnya." PG

PUTIN SAYS MOSCOW MUST 'BRUSH AWAY' GUILT SYNDROME

Calling for harsh measures in Daghestan, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Interfax on 7 September that "we must brush away the syndrome of guilt developed in previous years," an apparent reference to reluctance to use force after the Chechen war. "We have been attacked," Putin said, arguing that Russia should move quickly to eliminate the bandits in Daghestan. He said that "much time" will be needed to resolve the socioeconomic problems in the North Caucasus but "we cannot afford to spend too much time on eliminating the bandits." Meanwhile, Oleg Mironov, Moscow's human rights ombudsman, said in London on 7 September that Russia has already prepared a package of aid for Daghestan, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

YELTSIN, AUSHEV FEAR FOR INTEGRITY OF RUSSIA

Presidential press spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said on Russian Television on 7 September that Yeltsin believes the developments in Daghestan constitute "a real threat to the integrity of Russia," Interfax reported. Yakushkin added that there are no simple or quick solutions to the problems in the North Caucasus. Meanwhile, Ingushetia President and Federation Council member Ruslan Aushev told ITAR-TASS the same day that "the latest events in Daghestan and the scandal over the elections in Karachaevo-Cherkessia may trigger a total Caucasian war," as a result of which the entire region "will then be lost to Russia, despite heavy sacrifice and bloodshed." In other comments, he rejected suggestions that Chechen President Maskhadov has been passive, noting that the Chechen leader has expelled Movladi Udugov and Shamil Basaev from the republic's Security Council. PG

DAGHESTAN FIGHTING CONTINUES TO CAUSE CONCERN IN MOSCOW

Russian politicians and news outlets continued to focus on the events in Daghestan and their implications for Russia as a whole. State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev repeated his view that there is no need to impose a state of emergency in Moscow, Interfax reported on 7 September. He lashed out at Yeltsin's criticism of the military, noting that "the easiest thing is to accuse servicemen of being negligent." Meanwhile, Vladimir Ryzhkov, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction in the Duma, warned that the war in Daghestan will go on for a long time, ITAR-TASS reported. And Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said the army is fighting a "just war" in Daghestan and deserves the country's support, according to Interfax. PG

GOVERNMENT SETS UP MEDIA CENTER, HOTLINE

In order to ensure that its message gets out on Daghestan, the Russian government has established a media center to coordinate reporting, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. The news agency also said that a special telephone hotline has been set up to allow families to learn about the status of their relatives in the fighting. According to a press spokesman in the North Caucasus military district, it takes only a few minutes for family members to find about the fate, health, and whereabouts of Russian soldiers there. PG

MORE CHARGES THAT NEW YORK SCANDAL POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

Presidential spokesman Yakushkin told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that people interested in making the political situation worse in both Russia and the U.S. are responsible for coverage of the Bank of New York scandal. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Putin said corruption is "transnational" and that Russia will cooperate with the U.S. in investigating the current charges, Interfax reported. These comments were echoed by other Russian political figures. Duma Speaker Seleznev said that "Russiangate" is "undermining the prestige of Russia" as a whole, a development that he said is "absolutely groundless and unfair." PG

YABLOKO BLAMES REGIME, CHUBAIS DENIES INVOLVEMENT

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told Interfax on 7 September that the Yeltsin regime is behind the current scandal, having "abused the patience of the whole world." He suggested that the West is simply waking up to what has been going on for a long time. "For 10 years, the West has found Russian partners whom Russia itself considered absolutely useless. This has ended in such a scandal." Meanwhile, Unified Energy Systems Chairman Anatolii Chubais has denied any involvement with Treasury bill fraud and said he will sue those who have suggested otherwise, Interfax reported on 7 September. PG

COLLINS SAYS SCANDAL WON'T HARM U.S.-RUSSIA TIES

Speaking on Ekho Moskvy on 7 September, U.S. Ambassador James Collins said the scandal about money-laundering at the Bank of New York will not harm U.S.-Russian relations. He said that these are based on a solid foundation, although he acknowledged that corruption and crime are serious problems. PG

SCANDAL AFFECTS INVESTORS, RUSSIAN BANKING ABROAD

The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank group, told Interfax on 7 September that it will be "more prudent in selecting investments in the Russian banking market" following the ongoing scandal charges. Meanwhile, Interfax reported, at least one U.S. bank has refused to honor a payment made through one of its Russian correspondent banks. PG

VOLKOV RETURNS FROM SWITZERLAND, DOCUMENTS TO FOLLOW

Nikolai Volkov, who is investigating the Aeroflot case, returned to Moscow on 7 September, Interfax reported. He said that the Swiss authorities will be sending documents seized by police there but that these documents are unlikely to reach Russia prosecutors before the end of 1999. PG

SKURATOV CLARIFIES HIS CHARGES

Suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov told Interfax on 7 September that he did not tell journalists that Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, was involved in the alleged theft of IMF loans. Such assertions, he said, "are too straightforward and not entirely precise." In other remarks, he said that Mabetex President Behgjet Pacolli gave more than 15 million Swiss francs ($10 million) in bribes to senior Russian officials and their families. And he called for a thorough investigation, although he expressed doubts about whether this will be possible given that he does not know the fate of documents he had before being suspended from office. PG

SELEZNEV SEES NO CHANCE OF EARLY PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

Duma speaker Seleznev told Interfax on 7 September that he does not believe that Yeltsin will hand over office to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 19 September, as some have suggested, and thus trigger a presidential vote at the same time as the Duma elections. But he said "Russia would benefit" if Yeltsin took that step. In other comments, he said the Duma may soon take up a number of constitutional amendments aimed at limiting the power of the presidency. PG

LIBEL CHARGES LODGED AGAINST ST. PETERSBURG NEWSPAPER

Leningrad Oblast prosecutors have brought libel charges against a St. Petersburg newspaper for materials the officials alleged defame Fedor Shkrudnev, former presidential representative to the city and a candidate in the 19 September gubernatorial ballot in Leningrad, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. PG

MOSCOW LOOKS TOWARD ASIA

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 7 September issued a statement saying that "acts of violence in East Timor must be stopped immediately," Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, shortly before departing for the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in New Zealand, Prime Minister Putin signed a directive for increasing oil supplies to China over the next year, And Moscow received the first $50 million of a $1.5 billion Japanese credit line on 7 September, Interfax reported, while First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said that no date has been set for Yeltsin's visit to Japan. PG

MOSCOW UNHAPPY WITH WEST'S APPROACH ON KOSOVA

Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International Military Cooperation, told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that Moscow is unhappy with KFOR operations in Kosova. He argued that KFOR has not moved to disarm the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). According to unnamed Russian diplomats cited by Interfax, Moscow believes the UCK must be disbanded as well as disarmed and will oppose "all plans to retain the UCK as an organization of any kind." PG

NIKITIN CASE SENT BACK TO COURT

The St. Petersburg Prosecutor-General's Office has returned the case of naval officer Aleksandr Nikitin to the courts for trial, Interfax- Northwest reported on 7 September. According to that office, a new examination of the facts of the case revealed that Nikitin handed over secret information to a foreign outlet, in this case the Norwegian Bellona organization. Nikitin was first arrested in February 1996, but at his trial, the judge sent the case back to prosecutors for further consideration. PG

NEW RUSSIAN BUSINESS NEWSPAPER LAUNCHED

The "Financial Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" have joined forces with a Dutch publisher to launch a new Russian-language business paper, "Vedomosti," in Moscow, Reuters reported on 7 September. The newspaper claims to be the only "truly independent" publication of its type in the Russian capital. PG




AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION OBJECTS TO THIRD PRESIDENTIAL TERM FOR ALIEV

The leaders of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, Musavat Party, Democratic Party and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Etibar Mamedov, Isa Gambar, Ilias Ismailov and Abulfaz Elchibey, told Turan on 7 September that they do not consider the results of the October1998 presidential elections valid. They added that President Heidar Aliev's statement that he may run in 2003 for a third term is therefore inappropriate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1999). Elchibey noted that many Azerbaijani citizens likewise believe that Aliev's re-election was not legitimate. LF

AZERBAIJAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY PROTESTS FALSE REPORTS OF LEADER'S DETENTION

Also on 7 September, the Democratic Party announced it will hold a demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy on 14 September to protest the erroneous report circulated by the Azerbaijani authorities that the party's co-chairman, Rasul Guliev, was detained in the U.S. by immigration officials, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1999). Senior Democratic Party official Nuraddin Mamedli has filed suit against the Prosecutor-General's Office and demanded a published official refutation of the report. LF

NO ARMS REACHING DAGHESTAN VIA AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA

Georgian Border Guard Service chief Valerii Chkheidze on 7 September rejected Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev's call earlier that day to close Russia's borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan in order to prevent the shipment of arms to the Chechen militants fighting in Daghestan, Caucasus Press reported. Chkheidze said that Georgia's borders with Chechnya and Daghestan are reliably controlled. There are no longer any Russian border guards deployed along the Chechen side of that border. In Baku, a National Security Ministry official similarly told Interfax that Seleznev's charges are unsubstantiated. Moscow closed its borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan in December 1994 at the start of the war in Chechnya. LF

GEORGIA SAYS RUSSIAN OBJECTIONS TO WARGAMES UNFOUNDED

Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze said on 7 September that the two-day military maneuvers that began the same day at the Kulevi training ground in western Georgia do not violate any regional peace agreements, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Colonel-General Sergei Korobko, who commands the Russian peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, wrote to Tevzadze to object that the maneuvers entail bringing heavy military equipment into a zone from which such weapons are banned under the Georgian-Abkhaz cease-fire agreement of May 1994. Russian Foreign Ministry special envoy for Abkhazia Lev Mironov termed the maneuvers an "outrageous violation" of the 1994 agreement. But Georgian parliamentary defense and security committee chairman Revaz Adamia pointed out to Caucasus Press that Kulevi is the only suitable training ground available to the Georgian forces. LF

DATE SET FOR PAPAL VISIT TO GEORGIA

Pope John Paul II will visit Georgia on 8-9 November, Caucasus Press reported on 8 September. The visit had originally been planned for early summer but was postponed because of the pontiff's poor health. Agreement that the pope would visit Georgia before the end of 1999 was reached during a visit to Tbilisi last month by Vatican Assistant Secretary of State Giovanni Battista Re (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION TERMS ELECTION PROSPECTS DISCOURAGING

Alash Party leader Zhaqsybay told journalists in Almaty on 7 September that he has decided to withdraw his candidacy for the 10 October elections to the lower house of the parliament, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Bazylbaev explained he has received telephone threats. At another press conference in Almaty, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, who heads the Kazakh Communist Party, said he does not believe his party has any chance of success in that poll. He predicted that international observers, including the OSCE, will prove incapable of ensuring free and fair elections since the existing election law enables election commissions to falsify the vote count in favor of the two "parties of power," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September. Those parties are Otan (Fatherland) and the Citizens' Party. A recent opinion poll showed 21.4 percent support for Otan, 9.4 percent for the Communists, and 4.6 percent for the Citizens' Party, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 2 September. LF

KAZAKH DEPUTY PREMIER DISCUSSES TENGIZCHEVROIL SALE

Daniyar Abulgazin told journalists in Astana on 7 September that the precise date for the sale of part of Kazakhstan's 40 percent stake in the Tengizchevroil consortium will depend on fulfillment of the state budget, Interfax reported. "If the budget situation is okay, the Kazakh stake will not be sold before the end of 1999," he said, adding that current tax revenues "give grounds for optimism." Abulgazin confirmed that Kazakhstan will sell 40 percent of its stake, which is equal to a 10 percent stake in the consortium, and that some 20 oil companies have been invited to participate in the tender. But he declined to specify the asking price. LF

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT MULLS MEETING WITH MILITANTS

General Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 7 September, after President Askar Akaev named him to head the Kyrgyz Security Council, that the government will not conduct official negotiations with the ethnic Uzbek guerrillas who still hold a dozen hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Djanuzakov did not rule out lower-level talks with the guerrillas and suggested that some members of the Kyrgyz government might participate. The guerrillas have sent a letter to the Kyrgyz authorities, via intermediary Tursunbek Akunov, proposing talks either in southern Kyrgyzstan or the Djirgtal region of neighboring Tajikistan to discuss the release of the hostages. Four Japanese geologists who are among the hostages have also sent a letter to the Kyrgyz leadership urging that everything possible be done to secure their release, Reuters reported. Meanwhile the situation in the south of the country remained calm on 7 September. LF

UZBEKISTAN REJECTS MILITANTS' DEMANDS...

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 7 September rejecting as a "provocation" and "scandalous outrage" the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan's demand for the release of 50,000 Muslims imprisoned in Uzbekistan in exchange for freeing the hostages held by the movement's guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan, Reuters and Interfax reported. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan faxed that demand to the Kyrgyz leadership on 4 September, insisting that the Kyrgyz leadership allow the guerrillas to cross unimpeded into Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 1999). Uzbek National Security Council Secretary Mirakbar Rakhmankulov told Uzbek Television on 7 September that the militants aim to destabilize the whole of Central Asia, according to Interfax. He added that they are supported by the Afghan Taliban movement and other organizations with the same goal. LF

...WHILE CHINA OFFERS HELP

An unnamed government official told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 7 September that China has offered help to Kyrgyzstan to resolve the hostage crisis. The official said Beijing is ready to block the state frontiers between China and Kyrgyzstan and between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. An agreement on strengthening frontier security measures was signed by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan in April 1996. LF

TAJIK RENEGADES SENTENCED

Tajikistan's Supreme Court has handed down sentences ranging from three to 15 years in prison to 12 members of a gang headed by Rezvon Sodirov, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. The gang was charged with murder, gangsterism, and hostage-taking in 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 10 October 1997). LF




RUSSIA'S PUTIN IN BELARUS TO DISCUSS INTEGRATION

Russian Premier Vladimir Putin arrived in Minsk on 8 September to chair a session of the Belarus-Russian Union Executive Committee. "Regardless of any domestic problems in Russia and regardless of who heads the government, Russia's policy toward Belarus remains unchanged," Belapan quoted Putin as saying on his arrival. It is expected that Putin will discuss economic integration issues with Premier Syarhey Linh and a draft union treaty with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. JM

IMF APPROVES RELEASE OF $184 MILLION TRANCHE TO UKRAINE

The IMF on 7 September approved the release of an $184 million tranche to Ukraine after the fund completed its third review of the country's economic policy under a three-year $2.6 billion loan program, dpa reported. IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer commented that the IMF Board of Directors noted that so far in 1999 macroeconomic developments have exceeded expectations and that fiscal adjustment has been encouraging. Meanwhile, National Bank head Viktor Yushchenko said Ukraine will be able to pay off its mounting foreign debts in 2000 provided the parliament approves a deficit-free budget and the IMF continues its financial aid. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER BLASTS KUCHMA

Opening the parliament's fall session on 7 September, speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko accused President Leonid Kuchma of using improper measures against his rivals ahead of the 31 October presidential ballot. "The government has grown into the incumbent's campaign headquarters," Tkachenko said, adding that regional authorities were told to work for Kuchma's re- election. The media, he continued, are used by the government to spread "false information" about other candidates. During its current session, the parliament intends to consider 490 draft laws, including the 2000 draft budget as well as budget and tax codes. Since 13 presidential candidates are parliamentary deputies, it is widely expected that the session will be turbulent. JM

LATVIAN PRESIDENT IN LITHUANIA

Vaira Vike-Freiberga paid a two-day visit to Lithuania on 6-7 September. She met with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to discuss EU and NATO integration as well as bilateral ties. The two presidents voiced the hope that the EU will begin accession negotiations with their countries. They also discussed the lagging maritime border agreement between Latvia and Lithuania (see below), but ELTA noted that the controversial Butinge oil terminal did not feature in the talks. Vike-Freiberga also met with Lithuanian Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas and Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas. MH

LATVIAN-LITHUANIAN MARITIME BORDER PACT IN TROUBLE?

The Latvian parliament's Economic Committee has voted against ratification of the Latvian-Lithuanian maritime border treaty, BNS reported on 7 September. ELTA noted that the committee argued the agreement is not in Latvia's economic interests. Latvian President Vike-Freiberga regretted the unfortunate timing of the decision, which was made while she was in Lithuania, but voiced optimism that agreement will soon be reached. Lithuanian President Adamkus noted that the lack of an agreement on the issue is the only thing overshadowing relations between Latvia and Lithuania," BNS reported. Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins and a large number of Latvian lawmakers also expressed their support for the border treaty, which was signed earlier this summer in Palanga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 1999). MH

POLAND'S LEFTIST TRADE UNIONS WANTS CHANGE OF CABINET

The National Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ), Solidarity's left-wing rival, has called on all those dissatisfied with Jerzy Buzek's cabinet to take part in an anti-government demonstration in Warsaw on 24 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September and 27 August 1999). According to the OPZZ, the government "has exhausted the possibilities of ruling and is in a state of permanent crisis." The alliance also criticized the government's proposals for changing the tax rates as well as its property restitution bill and 2000 budget draft. "This government will not change itself--so let us change the government," the OPZZ urged. JM

PREMIER FORESEES DIFFICULT NEGOTIATIONS ON POLAND'S EU BID

Jerzy Buzek told the parliament on 8 September that the country is ready for "tough" negotiations on joining the EU by 2003, AP reported. Buzek said that by the end of November, Poland will complete all the required 30 reports on various issues regarding EU membership, and he stressed that the 2003 entry date is attainable. According to Buzek, his parliamentary address launched a nationwide dialogue on EU entry. That dialogue will conclude with a referendum, presumably in 2002. JM

POLISH CABINET AGREES TO RESTRUCTURE STATE RAILWAY

Transport Minister Tadeusz Syryjczyk said on 7 September that the government has approved a plan to restructure the state-owned railway (PKP), Poland's largest employer. Under that plan, the PKP will be divided into a company responsible for the trains and another for the tracks. Strategic investors will be required for both companies. "Rzeczpospolita" said some 59,000 workers out of the 204,000 currently employed by the PKP may be laid off by 2003. The plan also provides for severance payments of up to 30,000 zlotys ($7,500) for those who lose their jobs. JM

CZECH EU NEGOTIATOR SAYS ENTRY IN 2003 STILL POSSIBLE

After meeting with European Commission chief negotiator Francois Lamoureux in Prague on 7 September, Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Telicka said he expects the commission's October report to be "critical" of the Czech Republic. Telicka said the target accession date 2003 is "ambitious" but "not unrealistic," CTK reported. He added that it is "not enough" to pass laws in line with EU legislation but also to implement them. The commission, he said, is interested to see how the courts will apply the laws on protecting intellectual property and combating corruption as well as anti-monopoly legislation. MS

CZECH POLICEMAN INVOLVED IN RACIST INCIDENT

A police cadet is to be dismissed and faces a prison term for requesting donations to "exterminate Gypsies", CTK and AP reported. The drunken cadet tried to collect the money in a cafe in Novy Jicin, 350 kilometers east of Prague, on 4 September. A local policeman who said he would not support racists suffered brain concussion after the cadet attacked him. On 7 September, Romany representatives at a meeting with OSCE officials in Vienna threatened another mass exodus if persecution of Romany minorities in European countries is not ended. Czech Romany activist Ondrej Gina said the planned construction of a wall in Usti nad Labem will "become an impulse for further migration" and signals that "we are not welcome in the Czech Republic." MS

HUNGARIAN DAILY'S STAFF COMPLAIN ABOUT POLICE QUESTIONING

Andras Banki, chief editor of "Vilaggazdasag," and two of his staff members have filed a complaint with the Prosecutor- General's Office after police questioned them for several hours on 7 September on suspicion of disclosing banking secrets. Last week, the newspaper published a list of Postabank's "'VIP account holders" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 1999). The three journalists told police that the list was mailed by an unidentified person. MSZ




SERBIAN GENERAL THREATENS TO RETAKE KOSOVA BY FORCE

General Vladimir Lazarevic told the independent weekly "Nedeljni Telegraf" of 8 September that "the refusal of the international community to fulfill its obligations according to the [Kosova peace] agreement [leads the Serbian authorities to conclude] that we will have to retake our territory by force." He added that NATO has turned Kosova into an "occupation zone," AP reported. "This state has a right to protect its own territory and people. We are ready," the general stressed. Lazarevic noted that the army is "constantly deliberating its reengagement" in the province and is only "awaiting for the appropriate command" from the authorities. PM

EXPLOSIONS ROCK U.S. SECTOR IN KOSOVA

A NATO spokesman said in Prishtina on 8 September that two persons were killed and four injured in a "series of explosions" in the Gjilan area the previous night. He did not specify the nationality of the victims, AP reported. PM

ATTACKERS TRY TO BLOW UP CHAPEL IN KOSOVA

A Serbian Orthodox school chapel in Prizren was damaged by unidentified attackers who exploded five antitank mines on 6 September, Reuters reported. The attackers had placed a total of 20 mines around the chapel but 15 did not explode. In Vushtrri, a French soldiers stopped a man from setting fire to a church. The arsonist then shot at the soldier, slightly injuring him before fleeing. The church was only slightly damaged. In eastern Kosova, Russian KFOR soldiers found a Serbian man who had been shot dead on his tractor. And near Peja, unidentified attackers threw a grenade at a Serbian house. No one was injured. FS

OSCE OPENS POLICE ACADEMY IN KOSOVA

Sven Fredrikson, the Danish chief of the international police force in Kosova, inaugurated the Kosova police academy in Vushtrri on 7 September. The academy will be directed by Steve Bennett, a former U.S. marine. The first 200 cadets are 166 Albanians, 26 Serbs, and eight members of other ethnic communities. Forty of the students are women. Only one Serb attended the opening ceremony, "The New York Times" reported. There were 19,000 applicants for positions at the academy. The academy will eventually train between 3,500 and 4,000 police officers. Fredrikson told the students: "You must understand that without justice for everyone there will not be justice for anyone. You are the future, you'll protect the weak and innocent." FS

DJINDJIC SEEKS PROTECTION FOR KOSOVA SERBS

Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said during a visit to Bucharest on 7 September that the international community must take steps to protect Serbs living in Kosova and to enable refugees to return. He added: "It is not safe to be in [Kosova] now as non-Albanian citizen. We expect the international community to take the initiative to bring back 200,000 Serbs to [the province] to have a multi-ethnic, not an ethnically-cleansed [Kosova], this time done by the Albanian side," Reuters reported. Djindjic stressed that NATO does not need more troops but rather "a different kind of involvement." He did not elaborate. PM

AVDEEV MEETS MILOSEVIC...

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev met with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 7 September, AP reported. Milosevic's office issued a statement after the meeting saying that "Russia supports Yugoslavia in its principled efforts and condemns violations of the UN Security Council resolution [on Kosova].... The greatest threat to a political solution...and the stabilization of relations in the region is the unhindered continuation of crimes by Albanian bandit groups." The statement also called on KFOR to combat "terrorism, lawlessness, and crime" and urged an end to the "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs in Kosova. Milosevic is wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for masterminding war crimes in Kosova. Avdeev is the highest-ranking foreign official to meet with Milosevic since the end of the Kosova war. FS

...AND SESELJ

Avdeev also met with ultranationalist Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj in Belgrade on 7 September. AP quoted Tanjug as saying that the two had a "lengthy and friendly discussion" and condemned "efforts by some Western countries to create an international protectorate" in Kosova. Avdeev told ITAR-TASS after the meetings that "we voiced the need to draw lessons from the [Kosova] tragedy. It would be a pity if politicians are the last to do that." FS

SERBIAN UNIONS CALL FOR GENERAL STRIKE

A spokesman for the Association of Independent Trade Unions said in Belgrade on 7 September that it will launch a general strike in conjunction with the mass protests slated for 21 September in Belgrade and 20 other cities and towns. The spokesman urged "artists, scholars, self-employed people, and unemployed persons" to support the strike, "Danas" reported. In Serbian usage, a general strike usually means a series of work stoppages rather than an attempt to shut down all businesses. PM

LEADING SERBIAN BANKER WARNS OF INFLATION

Dragoslav Avramovic said in Belgrade on 7 September that the authorities' recent decision to raise the prices of 700 consumer items by some 30 to 40 percent could lead to a renewal of the hyperinflation that he stopped when he headed the National Bank in 1994. Avramovic noted that the system he put in place "was based on low wages and low prices of staples and electricity. Now this has been disrupted," "Danas" reported. PM

BOSNIAN SERB OFFICERS TO GO ABROAD ONLY WITH GUARANTEE

Manojlo Milovanovic, who is the Republika Srpska's defense minister, said in Banja Luka that Bosnian Serb officers may travel abroad only if they have written guarantees from SFOR and the Hague-based war crimes tribunal that they will not be arrested for war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 7 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1999). He added that the court's policy of indicting persons in secret is against "international practice" and unduly makes innocent persons feel insecure, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported. Milovanovic stressed that the recent arrest of General Momir Talic in Austria for war crimes will not affect "very much" the Bosnian Serb army's relations with SFOR. PM

CROATIAN NGO WANTS LEGAL MEASURES AGAINST RIGHTIST LEADER

The Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights has sent a letter to Prosecutor-General Berislav Zivkovic calling on him to take legal measures against right-wing politician Ante Djapic for allegedly urging the army to stage a coup if the government extradites any Croatian generals to The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 7 September. Opposition politician Vlado Gotovac has also called for legal measures against Djapic. In Vojnic, Djapic denied that he urged the army to stage a coup. He said that he only sought to protect "persons who helped create the Croatian state." He suggested his critics are unpatriotic, "Novi List" reported on 8 September. PM

BERISHA CHARGES INVESTIGATORS WITH DESTROYING EVIDENCE ON HAJDARI KILLING

Opposition Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha on 7 September accused unspecified investigators of destroying evidence about the killing of Democratic legislator Azem Hajdari on 14 September 1998, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported from Tirana. Berisha also said that several witnesses have left Albania to avoid giving testimony and that others involved in the murder have been killed recently. He intimated that the government is trying to eliminate possible witnesses, but he did not elaborate. Berisha has repeatedly turned down calls from investigators to testify in the Hajdari investigation. FS

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER IN ROMANIA

Serbian Democratic Party leader Djindjic and Petre Roman, leader of Romania's Democratic Party, have signed a cooperation agreement between their respective parties, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 7 September. Djindjic agreed with President Emil Constantinescu to "establish permanent contacts" between the Serbian opposition and "Romanian authorities." Prime Minister Radu Vasile told Djindjic that Romania would "welcome a process of coagulation--not necessarily unification--to increase the efficiency" of the Serbian opposition and that the "first condition for solving Yugoslavia's problem is the change of the Milosevic regime." Vasile also said that Romania is "worried by certain [Hungarian] declarations about the situation of the Magyar minority in Vojvodina." He said Romania "can by no means agree to modifications of borders." MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CONVENES MEETING OF PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES

Constantinescu has called for a meeting of parliamentary parties to discuss ways of overcoming differences over the restitution laws being debated in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau. The meeting is to take place on 9 September. Party of Social Democracy in Romania chairman Ion Iliescu has also called for such a meeting. Meanwhile, data released by the National Statistics Commission on 7 September shows Romania's GDP in the first six month of 1999 dropped by 3.9 percent compared with same period last year. Foreign investment since 1990 totals $5.77 billion. The figure includes direct foreign investment, portfolio investments, investments in private companies, as well as privatization contracts not yet finalized. Holland is Romania's largest investor, with $658 million. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY LOSES PARLIAMENTARY GROUP STATUS

Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) Senator Iustin Tambozie announced on 6 September that he is leaving the PUNR and becoming an independent senator. That move deprives the PUNR of its parliamentary group status and consequently of representation in the chamber's Permanent Bureau. Tambozie is the third PUNR senator to leave the formation since the 1996 elections (see also "End Note" below). MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS ATTACK PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN OVER OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

In a 7 September statement, the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) said parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov is "provoking a new explosion of passions" over the issue of changing the country's official language. The PCM also accused him of "destabilizing" the country. On 31 August, Moldova's Language Day, Diacov called for amending the constitution to change the designation of the country's official language from "Moldovan" to Romanian. The PCM says Diacov's proposal is a "new harsh attack by the pseudo- democrats on the ethnic and linguistic singularity of the Moldovan people [aimed at] undermining its self- determination...and promoting Romanianization and [Moldovan- Romanian] unionism," Infotag reported. MS

BULGARIA RESPONDS TO BLOCKING OF ROMANIAN DANUBE

Dimiter Stanchev, executive director of the Bulgarian River Shipping Corporation, said on 7 September in the River Danube port of Russe that Serbia's obstruction of traffic on the river must be punished by "sanctions that match their steps." Stanchev said the Romanian protests launched one day earlier are "logical" but "there are other ways to bring international pressure" on Serbia. He said that if Romanian claims that the Serbian authorities are letting only Russian and Ukrainian ships navigate a canal around Novi Sad are substantiated, Bulgarian ports should introduce "licensing requirements" for Serbian vessels, BTA reported. MS

ZHIVKOV GETS MEMORIAL PLAQUE IN BULGARIAN HOMETOWN

Local officials in Pravets, some 50 kilometers north of Sofia, marked the birthday of former communist dictator Todor Zhivkov on 7 September by unveiling a memorial plaque and naming a central square after him. Members of Zhivkov's family attended the ceremony. Zhivkov died last year aged 87. MS




TRANSYLVANIA'S 'COSI FAN TUTTE'


By Michael Shafir



Parliamentary and presidential elections in Romania are not due until the fall of 2000, but the electoral campaign has already begun. Democratic Party Chairman Petre Roman announced his candidacy for the presidency in mid-August in the Transylvanian town of Targu Mures, and his party simultaneously launched its "Message to Transylvania."

Introducing that manifesto, Roman called for cooperation between the region's ethnic minorities and the Romanian majority, which he said is now possible because "no one questions Romania's territorial integrity today." But visiting the headquarters of the Targu Mures garrison, Roman professed that the officer corps' concern about an alleged attempt to bring about "Transylvania's destabilization" had made a big impression on him. Those familiar with the Democratic Party chairman's double-talk were hardly surprised.

The specter of the "destabilization attempt" was raised by Adrian Nastase, first deputy chairman of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). In mid-July, Nastase told journalists in Cluj, Transylvania's capital, that an "explosive situation" might develop in Transylvania this fall against the background of the country's "increasing economic, political and social vulnerability." He claimed to have "information" on the plans of the "Magyar revisionists" to create such a situation. Later, he called on the Romanian Intelligence Service to investigate and make public the plots allegedly under way.

But Roman and Nastase were not the only ones ready to play the Romanian nationalist card in Transylvania. In early June, President Emil Constantinescu--the likely presidential candidate of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR--rushed to respond to a document of unclear origin in which a handful of "Transylvanian intellectuals" demanded autonomy for the region. As "guarantor of the constitution", Constantinescu said, he would never agree to "separatist ideas." The fact that this statement was also made in Targu Mures is no coincidence. Transylvania has become the main testing ground for the arsenal likely to be used by political competitors in election year 2000.

There are several reasons for this development. First, the PDSR is well aware that it lost the 1996 elections to a great extent owing to its unpopularity in Transylvania. The CDR won almost the entire western and central parts of Romania in 1996. Now leading in opinion polls, the main opposition party would strengthen its position overall if it were able to turn the tables on its main competitors-- particularly the PNTCD--in what was their bastion.

Second, the PNTCD has made it easier for the PDSR to do just that by showing signs of disintegration at the local level. Former Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, himself a Transylvanian, split the party in April, when he set up the National Christian Democratic Alliance (ANCD). The Boila brothers, two pillars of the Transylvanian PNTCD, who for many years dominated the important Cluj branch of the party, joined Ciorbea in the ANCD, while Ciorbea recently announced he will run for president in 2000.

Third, the PDSR is also trying to pick up where the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) left off. Polls indicate that the PUNR, whose strength in the Romanian parliament fell from 7.7 percent in 1992 to 4.4 percent in 1996, may fail to pass the electoral hurdle in 2000. Once the darling of Romanian nationalists in Transylvania, the PUNR is a regional party par excellence.

Even more than the PNTCD, however, the PUNR has suffered from political schisms. Following his dismissal as PUNR leader in February 1997, Cluj extreme nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar in April 1998 set up a rival Party of Romanian Unity Alliance (PAUR), only to join the Greater Romania Party (PRM) as its secretary-general in November. Those members of the PAUR who did not follow Funar into the PRM recently joined the PDSR. More important, Vatra romaneasca (Romanian cradle) leaders also joined that party, securing for themselves a place on the PDSR lists for the 2000 parliamentary elections. Vatra romaneasca, which, claims to be a "cultural organization," played a major role in provoking the inter-ethnic clashes in Targu Mures in March 1990.

Mihaila Cofariu, the Romanian "hero" of those clashes, who was badly beaten by ethnic Hungarians and was later recruited into the PRM, attended a recent PDSR meeting in Bucharest as guest of honor. PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor immediately protested the PDSR's co-opting Cofariu, which he dubbed an "Abduction from the Seraglio." Threatening to retaliate, Tudor said that many PDSR sympathizers are knocking on his party's door.

It is not an "abduction" that is being staged in Transylvania, however. Rather, with most Romanian parties trying to court nationalism, it is "Cosi fan tutte." The Romanian National Party (PNR), which took the name of a 19th century forerunner of the PNTCD in Transylvania, is obviously targeting the same nationalist-inclined Romanian electorate as are other parties. Former Romanian Intelligence Service chief Virgil Magureanu, the party's acting chairman and a Romanian Transylvanian, is believed to have masterminded the Targu Mures riots.

Headed by former Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu-- whose diplomatic career often put him at the center of Romanian-Hungarian disputes both under communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu and his successor, Ion Iliescu--the Alliance for Romania is also attempting to score points using anti-Hungarian rhetoric taken from the nationalists' verbal arsenal. That this arsenal is old-fashioned speaks volumes about the paucity of political discourse in Romania 10 years after the country began its "transition."


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