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Newsline - September 30, 1999




PUTIN SPELLS OUT TERMS FOR TALKS WITH CHECHNYA

Visiting Cheboksary on 29 September, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia is still prepared to begin negotiations with the Chechen leadership on certain conditions. Those conditions are that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov condemns terrorism "clearly and firmly," that he rids Chechen territory of armed bands, and that he expresses his readiness to extradite "criminals," Interfax and Reuters reported. Putin said that the Russian leadership "will never allow a replay" of the 1994-1996 Chechen war, which, he added, could lead to "unnecessary casualties among troops." But he added that he still does not exclude a ground attack to "solve the main task--destroy the bandits, their camps and infrastructure," ITAR-TASS reported. LF

OTHER RUSSIAN POLITICIANS OPPOSE GROUND ATTACK

Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said in Arkhangelsk on 29 September that he opposes any ground attack on Chechnya because numerous Russian soldiers would be killed, Interfax reported. Russian Communist Party Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov on 29 September argued that there is "no military solution" to the crisis in the North Caucasus, according to ITAR-TASS. State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich conceded that a ground operation is feasible but argued that it is "inexpedient" at present. He ruled out any territorial division of Chechnya. Popkovich added that if Maskhadov is incapable of disbanding the "guerrillas," he should step down and make way for a new government. Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev advised against Russian troops invading Chechnya "like a bull in a china shop." He suggested that instead Moscow should coopt those forces in Chechnya that also seek to fight terrorism, Reuters reported. LF

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER BOMBINGS

U.S. State Department Spokesman James Foley said in Washington on 29 September that the U.S. does not question Moscow's right to crack down on those responsible for terrorist attacks, Reuters reported. But Foley added that Washington considers the ongoing Russian bombing of Chechnya inappropriate as the Chechen leadership has no jurisdiction over the militants. The German Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 29 September expressing concern that the bombing puts civilians' lives at risk and could lead to further military escalation that could destabilize the entire Caucasus. Czech Presidential Spokesman Ladislav Spacek told CTK that President Vaclav Havel is concerned that a further escalation of the Chechen conflict could ultimately threaten not only Russia but also Europe. LF

AIR RAIDS ON CHECHEN TARGETS CONTINUE

Russian aircraft continued bombing raids and artillery strikes against Chechen targets on 29 September, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Ten people were killed in bombing raids on the town of Argun and on a state farm between the villages of Mesker-Yurt and Belgatoi. An unconfirmed report claimed that 11 people died when planes strafed a highway near Germenchuk. All those locations are east or southeast of Grozny. Two bridges on the Grozny-Georgia highway, one bridge on the Grozny-Shali road, and a fourth bridge over the River Terek at Znamenskoye in the northwest were destroyed. LF

INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT DENIES REQUESTING UN HELP FOR DISPLACED PERSONS

Aushev told Interfax on 29 September that he has requested assistance in coping with the influx of displaced persons fleeing Chechnya only from the Russian authorities and Prime Minister Putin, Interfax reported. Reuters on 28 September had quoted a spokeswoman for the UNHCR office in Moscow as saying that the Ingushetian authorities asked them for such assistance, but Putin later said it was not needed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). AP quoted an UNHCR spokesman in Geneva as saying that the organization is still waiting for a formal request for aid from the Russian government. A second UNHCR official in Moscow told that he still has no precise information on the number of fugitives or the type of emergency aid they need, Interfax reported. LF

MEETING OF CHECHEN, DAGESTANI LEADERS THWARTED

Chechen President Maskhadov was prevented from travelling to Khasavyurt on 29 September for talks with Daghestan's State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov by residents of Daghestan's Novolaksk and Khasavyurt Raions who blocked all roads leading into the town. They argued that Maskhadov should have met with Magomedov earlier, meaning when Chechen militants invaded those raions in early September. ITAR-TASS quoted Magomedov as saying that he had been unable to persuade the protesters to reconsider. He also expressed regret that the meeting could not take place, Interfax reported. LF

MOSCOW CLAIMS 10,000 DEPORTED...

Moscow Deputy Mayor Valerii Shantsev told reporters on 29 September that 10,000 non- Muscovites have been deported from the city and 526 have left it of their own free will, according to ITAR-TASS. According to the agency, Shantsev admitted that in some cases, law enforcement agencies used unnecessary force and exceeded their powers. However, according to "Novye izvestiya", Russia's presidential plenipotentiary for human rights Oleg Mironov, Moscow's Municipal Court, and the Constitutional Court have so far received no complaints from citizens who have been deported from Moscow. The newspaper, which is owned by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, concludes that "taught by bitter experience, our citizens prefer not to be indignant at the tyranny of the police and authorities, even when their constitutional rights are violated." Berezovskii is a political rival of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. JAC

...AS RE-REGISTRATION POLICY TO CONTINUE

Mayor Luzhkov stated that the current process of re-registering nonresidents in Moscow will continue until the situation in the country, including in the North Caucasus, becomes less tense, "Vremya MN" reported on 29 September. He added that 19,000 non-residents have been denied registration because they could not explain their reason for living in the capital. According to "Novye izvestiya," 12 Moscow confinement cells are ready to accept people who are not in compliance with city registration requirements. JAC

TOP BANK IS NO MORE...

A Moscow court declared Menatep bank bankrupt on 29 September. Menatep was the country's seventh largest in terms of assets, before last August's economic crisis. The same day, a top official with the Agency for Restructuring Credit Organization (ARKO) announced that it would be unable to revive SBS-Agro without a further injection of government monies, ITAR-TASS reported. According to "The Moscow Times" on 30 September, the Central Bank has already disbursed 6.5 billion rubles in soft credits to SBS- Agro to try to keep the failing bank alive. JAC

...AS TAX AGENCY DECLARES WAR ON DEADBEAT BANKS

Meanwhile, the State Tax Committee announced that a number of commercial banks owe customs authorities $242 million and that it will take harsh measures to force the banks to return state monies, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 September. Rossiiskii Kredit and Most Bank are the largest debtors, owing 746 million rubles ($30 milion) and 650 million rubles respectively. Other debtors are Mosbisnessbank, Inkombank, Promstroibank, and Menatep. The daily noted that of all the banks owing money, only Rossiiskii Kredit and Most Bank still have a banking license; therefore, the newspaper continues, the announcement must be primarily directed at Most Bank, which is close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. It predicts that as elections grow closer, the Kremlin will intensify its efforts to interfere with financing for the Mayor's campaign. "Kommersant-Daily" is controlled by Berezovskii. JAC

GOVERNMENT MISSES SEPTEMBER REVENUE TARGETS

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 30 September that the chief revenue- collecting agencies of the federal government--the Tax Ministry and State Customs Committee--managed to collect only 64 percent of targeted revenues. Citing Finance Ministry data, it claims that the Tax Ministry collected only 30.9 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) or 71 percent of planned amounts, while the State Customs Committee gathered 8.9 billion rubles or 49.5 percent. ITAR-TASS quoted State Customs Committee Chairman Mikhail Vanin the same day as saying that customs agencies collected 12 billion rubles in September instead of the 17.5 billion rubles planned. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily," Vanin explained that the gap occurred because imports have now fallen in dollar terms by 50 percent compared with the same period last year. JAC

FUEL PUMP PRICES STABILIZE

The price of gasoline increased by less than 1 percent from 20 to 26 September, Interfax reported on 29 September. In August, it was rising 3 percent each week, compared with less than 2 percent a week at the beginning of September. Regions that have recently experienced the biggest leaps in gasoline prices were Kalmykia and Kemerovo, which both saw leaps of 10 percent a week. JAC

OVR ACCUSED OF MOSCOW BIAS

State Duma deputy Vladimir Tetelmin, who is a member the Russian Regions faction, announced on 29 September that he is resigning as a member of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) bloc and will run in State Duma elections as an independent. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 30 September, Tetelmin, who was originally a member of All Russia, said that he and many of his regional colleagues feared that his party's merger with Fatherland would be a mistake. Now, he says, 50 of 100 people on the bloc's federal list are Moscow city or oblast residents, and a Moscow resident even has the top spot on the regional list for his home base, Krasnoyarsk Krai. JAC

CRIME RATE GROWING

Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo announced on 29 September that the country's crime rate jumped by 28 percent during the first eight months of this year, compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported. According to the agency, the number of premeditated murders increased, while crimes against property and fraud are the most frequent offenses. JAC

U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY TOURS THE NORTH

Speaking to ITAR-TASS in Murmansk on 29 September, Bill Richardson said that he is satisfied with cooperation between the U.S. Energy Department and the Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry in ensuring the security of nuclear materials in Russia's North. Richardson toured Site 49, near Severomorsk, where nuclear fuel for Russia's Northern Fleet is stored and where the Energy Department recently concluded a security upgrade. "The New York Times" the next day quoted Richardson as saying that Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, commander in chief of the Russian Navy, asked the U.S. to expand the joint projects on securing nuclear materials. In return, Kuroedov said, Moscow is offering greater access for the U.S. to highly sensitive sites from which Moscow has barred foreigners or allowed limited entry only. Richardson arrived in Ulyanovsk on 30 September following a stopover in Vologda. JC

BORODIN TO RUN FOR DEPUTY?

"Izvestiya" reported on 30 September that Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin's facilities directorate, is rumored to be planning to run for a State Duma seat from Tula. Those rumors surfaced after Borodin visited children's centers in the city, making donations to those facilities and promising more funds in the future. And according to "Izvestiya," his visit was preceded by a spate of articles in the local press depicting him as a "hard worker, ardent patriot, and charitable man." Borodin has been under investigation for his alleged involvement in accepting bribes from the Swiss firm, Mabetex. Aleksandr Korzhakov, Yeltsin's former bodyguard, and former Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev are also expected to run for the Duma from Tula. "Izvestiya" is owned by Interros financial group and LUKoil. JC




ARMENIA, GEORGIA PLEDGE CLOSER TIES

Following talks in Yerevan on 29 September, Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his visiting Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, signed a "Declaration on the Main Principles of Cooperation at the New Stage of Georgian-Armenian relations," Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze said the document raises those bilateral relations to a new level of friendship and cooperation, while Kocharian added that they clarify the two states' foreign policy and bring their respective reforms into closer harmony with one another. The two presidents also discussed the situation in the North Caucasus and in Georgia's southern, predominantly Armenian-populated region of Djavakhetia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Georgian businessmen accompanying the Georgian delegation met in Yerevan the same day with Armenian business circles to discuss expanding cooperation, including joint ventures. LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET

Vartan Oskanian and Tofik Zulfugarov met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 29 September in a continued effort to find a mutually acceptable framework for resuming OSCE- mediated talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Reuters reported. The agency quoted a senior U.S. diplomat as saying that those talks reflect both sides' desire to reach a solution to that conflict. Zulfugarov had said the previous day that Azerbaijan is not prepared to make any compromises over its territorial integrity, according to Turan. He also denied any knowledge of plans to hold a referendum on Karabakh simultaneously with the 12 December municipal elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT LOBBIES FOR REGIONAL UNITY...

Addressing a gathering of prominent scientists and cultural figures from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in Astana on 29 September, Nursultan Nazarbaev argued that although those countries will enter the 21st century as independent states, there are no obstacles to their becoming "a single region geopolitically and economically," Interfax reported. "Our strategic, economic goal is to form a single economic environment, a single trade and customs zone, a single currency union and a single economic strategy," he said. However, he did not specify how that objective can be reconciled with the creation of a single economic space by members of the CIS Customs Union, of which Russia and Belarus are also members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999). LF

...WARNS AGAINST NATIONALISM

Nazarbaev told the same gathering on 29 September that while a process of national awakening is only natural, the states of Central Asia should make every effort to harmonize their national interests in order to preclude "the national supremacy disease," Interfax reported. He said that part of the Soviet legacy is "a huge mass of negative stereotypes" that contributes to each state in the region perceiving its culture as unique and isolated. Also, Nazarbaev warned that political terrorism could pose a real threat to the region in the 21st century, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S CIVIC PARTY DENIES RECEIVING FOREIGN FUNDING

Azat Peruashev, leader of the pro-presidential Civic Party, told journalists in the northern city of Pavlodar on 29 September that there is no truth to the Azamat Party's allegations that his party is using funds provided by foreign investors to finance its parliamentary election campaign, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 30 September. Azamat party leader Ghalym Abilseitov made those allegations at a press conference earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1999). But Peruashev admitted that the Civic Party has received financial support from heads of industrial enterprises in Aqmola, Aqtobe, Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk, and Qostanay Oblasts. LF

KYRGYZ TROOPS INTERCEPT INFILTRATORS

The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry issued a statement in Bishkek on 29 September saying that its forces intercepted nine people, one of them armed, in Batken Raion the previous night, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The nine are suspected of having illegally crossed the border from neighboring Tajikistan. Also on 29 September, senior Kyrgyz Defense Ministry officials meeting in Batken gave the go-ahead for air raids on the guerrillas who are holding 13 hostages in that district, Interfax reported. At the same time, they said that caution is to be exercised in order to avoid harming either local residents or the hostages. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY RE-REGISTERED

A spokesman for the Islamic Renaissance Party told Reuters on 29 September that the previous day the party had successfully completed the process of re-registering with the Ministry of Justice. Continuing its emergency congress on 29 September, the party again endorsed Minister of Foreign Economic Relations Davlat Usmon as its candidate for the 6 November presidential elections. LF




FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER INDICTED AFTER SIX MONTHS IN JAIL

Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir, arrested on 30 March on suspicion of grand larceny and abuse of office, has been indicted on charges of exceeding his authority, abusing office, and negligence, Belapan reported on 29 September. Investigators accuse Chyhir of issuing dubious credits when he headed a bank before becoming premier and of allowing a company to postpone paying customs duties when he headed the government from 1994-1996. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka publicly accused Chyhir of embezzling $10 million, but investigators could not confirm that allegation and withdrew the charge of grand larceny. JM

BELARUS'S SHARETSKI DENIES HE MET WITH MISSING OPPOSITIONIST

Supreme Soviet Chairman Syamyon Sharetski, currently living in exile in Vilnius, has denied a report in the state-run newspaper "Belorusskaya niva" that he has met with Viktar Hanchar since the latter's disappearance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1999), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 29 September. In a reference to Lukashenka's praise for the Hitler regime in an interview with a German journalist in 1996, Sharetski commented that "Belorusskaya niva" serves the man who "once called Hitler his idol. Therefore, they do everything like Hitler did--they shamelessly lie." JM

UKRAINE REINFORCES SECURITY IN WAKE OF CHECHEN CONFLICT

Security Service Deputy Chairman Yuriy Zemlyanskyy on 29 September said Russia's recent military action in Chechnya is also "likely" to affect Ukraine. He said Chechen militants are now trying to settle in Ukraine. "I can cite specific examples of their envoys coming to Odesa and purchasing [or] leasing apartments for the resettlement of Chechen militants to Ukraine," Interfax quoted Zemlyanskyy as saying. He added that Ukraine's Security Service is taking extra measures to prevent terrorist acts and detect possible terrorists. The same day, Border Troops Commander Pavlo Shysholin announced the introduction of additional security measures at the border with Russia, including an increase in the number of border guard units. JM

UKRAINE'S KUCHMA WINS MOCK ELECTIONS AMONG STUDENTS

Winning 31.73 percent of the vote, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma came first in a mock presidential ballot organized at some 200 institutions of higher education throughout the country on 28 September. Natalya Vitrenko received 12.57 percent backing, Yevhen Marchuk 9.55 percent, Oleksandr Moroz 7.37 percent, Petro Symonenko 4.06 percent, Yuriy Kostenko 3.55 percent, and Hennadiy Udovenko 3.09 percent. Of the 111,000 students who participated in the ballot, 16.42 percent did not support any of the 15 presidential hopefuls. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES WTO ACCESSION PROTOCOL

The Estonian parliament on 29 September voted by 48 to seven to approve the protocol of accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Many opposition parliamentary deputies did not vote, while 33 of them signed a declaration opposing the passage of the protocol, which they said is against Estonia's national interests, ETA reported. The group added that they are not opposed to WTO membership but to what they described poor accession conditions and negotiated terms, according to "Postimees." Estonia signed the WTO accession protocol on 21 May and was required to ratify all necessary agreements and pass all relevant legislation by 31 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). Several more pieces of legislation must be ratified before that deadline. MH

LATVIAN REGION IS 'POOREST' AMONG EU CANDIDATES

According to a report published on 29 September by the EU statistical office Eurostat, the eastern Latgale region of Latvia is the poorest region of any among the EU candidate states, LETA reported. GDP per capita in Latgale is only 16 percent of the EU average, while Latvia itself also has the lowest GDP per capita of all candidate states--26 percent of the EU average, while the figure is 37 percent for Riga. Lithuania's GDP per capita is 29 percent of EU average and Estonia's 34 percent, according to ETA. Analysts, however, point out that the report is based on information dating from 1996. MH

LITHUANIA TO CHANGE BACK TO OLD TIME ZONE

The Lithuanian government on 29 September agreed that the country will revert to the same time zone as Latvia and Estonia. For the past 18 months, Lithuania had opted to be in the Central European Time zone. The change will go into effect on 31 October, since Lithuania will not put back its clock by an hour when most other countries in the region do so. The government decided to return to the old time zone after public opinion clearly demonstrated a preference for that zone. The government is also contemplating ceasing to change to summer time, as Estonia has already done. MH

POLISH CABINET APPROVES 2000 BUDGET DRAFT

The 2000 budget draft adopted by the government on 28 September projects 5.2 percent growth in GDP, compared with 4 percent expected this year. Inflation is expected to drop to 5 percent from the projected 7.7 percent in 1999. Budget revenues are put at 141.4 billion zlotys ($35.3 billion) and expenditures 154.1 billion zlotys. Poland expects to obtain 11.7 billion zlotys from selling off state assets in 2000, compared with the 13 billion zlotys slated for this year. The government also plans to increase spending on agriculture by 49 percent, on transportation by 40 percent, and on scientific research by 5.2 percent, compared with this year. The budget draft now goes to the parliament for approval. JM

POLAND'S 1999 GRAIN HARVEST SMALLER THAN LAST YEAR

The Main Statistical Office (GUS) reported on 29 September that Poland's grain harvest may be down 1.3-1.6 million tons on last year's level, as some crops have fallen prey to bad weather, pests, and grain diseases. According to GUS, 9.2 million tons of wheat, 5.2 million tons of rye, and 3.4 million tons of barley will be harvested this year. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

The Czech government on 29 September approved a package of draft changes to the constitution, including measures that curtail certain presidential powers, (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999), Czech media reported. President Vaclav Havel attended the cabinet meeting in order to explain his objections to the draft. The cabinet made one change to the proposed amendment obliging the president to call on the party that wins the elections to form a government: according to that change, the lower house of the parliament would confirm a prime ministerial candidate. The change is designed to prevent the Communists from being able to form a government should they win the most votes in an election. VG

EU COMMISSIONER SEES EXPANSION IN 2004

EU Enlargment Commissioner Guenter Verheugen on 29 September told the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that the EU could accept new members in 2004. He refused to say if some countries are lagging behind others among the candidates for the first wave of enlargement. VG

ARCHEOLOGICAL DIG STOPPED AT PRAGUE JEWISH CEMETERY

Czech Culture Minister Pavel Dostal on 29 September called for an archeological dig at a 13th century Jewish cemetery in Prague to be halted, Czech Television reported. Dostal's request came just one day after some 100 people demonstrated in front of the site, located on Vladislavova Street, to protest the removal of the cemetery. The insurance company Ceska Pojistovna plans to build an underground garage on that site. So far, the remains of some 100 gravesites have been removed and transferred to another cemetery following an anthropological analysis. Dostal asked the director of the Prague Heritage Institute to stop the dig and take steps toward turning the cemetery into a heritage site. Prague Rabbi Karol Sidon welcomed Dostal's decision. VG

BELGIUM TO SEND BACK SLOVAK ROMA

Belgium and Slovakia are working together to have some 500 Slovak Roma flown back to Slovakia, CTK reported on 29 September. Belgium has rejected applications for asylum from the Slovak citizens. The Belgium Immigration Office noted that 541 Slovaks applied for asylum in August alone and another 204 arrived during the first three weeks of September. Last year, 985 Slovak Roma applied for asylum in Belgium, and authorities believe that as many as five times that number could apply by the end of this year. VG

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT STRENGTHENS POLICE

The Slovak government on 29 September approved draft amendments designed to strengthen the powers of the police, TASR reported. Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said the changes will enable police to enter houses, workplaces, and other buildings to check whether foreigners have residence or working permits. VG

HUNGARY'S FIDESZ SUES WEEKLY

FIDESZ, the main coalition partner, is suing the "Elet es Irodalom" weekly for failing to publish a correction to an article on mines owned by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's family. FIDESZ press officer Attila Farkas told Hungarian media on 29 September that instead of an official correction, the weekly decided to publish the letter FIDESZ sent to the editor requesting that the mistake be corrected. Farkas added that this decision raises other legal questions, since the published letter includes the addresses of a number of FIDESZ politicians who signed it. MSZ




DOZENS INJURED AS POLICE USE FORCE TO END BELGRADE RALLY

At least 60 people were injured on 29 September when Serbian riot police beat back protesters who were marching to the Belgrade home of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported. Some 30,000 people took part in the march to the capital's Dedinje district. Some 300 riot police, backed by water cannon, turned on the protesters before they reached the Milosevic residence. At least four demonstrators were seriously injured. Five policemen and several journalists, including a CNN cameraman, also sustained injuries. Eleven people were reported arrested, including some opposition officials. Alliance for Change leader Zoran Djindjic said at a subsequent downtown rally that Milosevic "made this protest a popular uprising because you use such force only when you see the protests as a big threat to your regime." The Interior Ministry commented that "a large group of hooligans...including known criminals [and] drug addicts" had attacked police with bricks, stones, and sticks. Protest organizers vowed to attempt to march to Dedinje again the following day. Large demonstrations were also held in Nis, Novi Sad, and several other towns. PB

YUGOSLAV ECONOMISTS ASKS EU TO SEND ENERGY TO CITIES

At an EU meeting in Helsinki on 29 September, the independent group of Yugoslav economists called Group 17 urged the EU to help the democratic process in Serbia by providing gas to cities that have opposition-led administrations, Reuters reported. The economists said they need $3.5 million to begin heating oil projects in the southeastern Serbian cities of Nis and Pirot. Group 17 coordinator Mladjan Dinkic said the message to the EU is "that the cost of not acting would surely be higher to the EU than the cost of acting, so give us a chance to show what we can do." He added that if Milosevic tried to stop a fuel shipment from arriving in a Serbian town, "he will face the animosity of citizens who will not have heating." The economists will also visit Paris, Berlin, London, and The Hague. PB

NEW WAR CRIMES CHIEF TO FOCUS ON MILOSEVIC

Carla del Ponte, the new chief prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, said on 29 September that the court will concentrate on gathering evidence against Yugoslav President Milosevic and others suspected of ordering atrocities to be committed in Kosova, AP reported. The tribunal indicted Milosevic and four top advisers in May for crimes against humanity. Del Ponte said the cases against those indictees will be strengthened. Formerly the federal prosecutor for Switzerland, Del Ponte replaced Louise Arbour, who accepted an appointment to the Canadian Supreme Court. PB

BELGRADE DAILY FINED

A judge in Belgrade levied a 130,000 dinar ($21,600 at the official exchange rate) fine on the daily "Glas javnosti" for a story it published on alleged corruption in the distribution of humanitarian aid, Radio B2- 92 reported on 29 September. In addition, the newspaper's editor in chief, Srecko Petric, was fined 70,000 dinars. In other news, Milosevic named Major-General Milen Simic as head of the Yugoslav Army's General Staff for Information and Morale. He replaces General Aleksandar Bakocevic, who Tanjug said will return to "civilian service." PB

UN HEAD IN KOSOVA CONDEMNS HATRED

One day after a grenade attack in an outdoor market killed two and left nearly 50 people injured, Bernard Kouchner decried the "massive hatred" between ethnic Albanians and Serbs, AFP reported on 29 September. "We have tanks, troops, and police, but this is not enough," Kouchner said at a hospital where he visited people injured in the incident. A UN spokeswoman said two people arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack have been questioned and released. She said reports the previous day that four people had been detained were erroneous. In Prishtina, Zivojin Mitrovic, the president of the Serbian National Assembly of Kosova, said that "if similar crimes continue, the Serbs...will be forced to find appropriate forms of self-organization in order to protect their lives and homes." PB

UN OFFICIAL SAYS KOSOVA FACES TOUGH WINTER

Dennis McNamara, a deputy representative in Kosova's UN administration, said the lack of major reconstruction in the Serbian province of Kosova means many people will not have proper housing this winter, Reuters reported. McNamara said the UN and other agencies will provide enough "repair kits" to patch up one room each in 50,000 damaged homes. He said some 300,000 to 400,000 people whose homes will not be repaired will have to seek accommodation with family and friends over the winter. McNamara added that 44 people have been killed and 194 injured by landmines and unexploded bombs since the war ended in June. PB

OSCE, WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL SLAM CROATIA

The OSCE said in a report on 29 September that although Zagreb has made some progress toward Western standards of democracy, it remains far behind in many important areas, AP reported. It cited difficulties in property restitution, an ambiguous amnesty law, discriminatory legislation, and flawed media and electoral laws ahead of the December parliamentary elections. It also said that monitoring of Croatian television shows "a continuing pattern of unbalanced news and...reporting in favor of the ruling party." The same day, the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague said in a letter to the UN Security Council that Zagreb is still not cooperating with the tribunal's efforts to apprehend and prosecute suspects. The court is seeking the extradition of suspected war criminal Mladen Naletilic, who is being detained in Zagreb. PB

SAKIC PLEADS INNOCENCE AT END OF TRIAL

In the closing statement at his trial on charges of crimes against humanity, Dinko Sakic, the commander of a concentration camp in Croatia during World War II, claimed that the trial is politically motivated and influenced by international pressure on Croatia, Hina reported. Sakic, 77, said he believes he "was convicted before the process started." He said his voluntary return to Croatia from Argentina is proof of his innocence. Sakic said that he was only carrying out orders "that corresponded to my beliefs about national interests and the biological survival of the Croatian people." He was in charge of the Jasenovac camp from May to October 1944 and is accused of being responsible for the deaths of 2,000 prisoners. A verdict is expected on 4 October. PB

MRS. KARADZIC DOESN'T KNOW WHERE HER HUSBAND IS

The wife of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said on 29 September that she has not seen her husband for three months, Reuters reported, citing an interview in the Belgrade weekly "Nedeljni Telegraf." She said he moves around a lot and that she receives reports that he is doing alright. Karadzic is wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal for crimes committed during the Bosnian war. In other news, U.S. citizen Charles Kim was found guilty in New York on 29 September of defrauding the UN mission in Bosnia of some $800,000. Kim headed the mission's Zagreb-based transport and travel office from 1995-1998. He will be sentenced in December. PB

CANDIDATES FOR MACEDONIAN PRESIDENCY APPROVED

Macedonia's Election Commission approved six candidates to run in the country's third presidential elections, which will take place on 31 October, AP reported on 29 September. Among the six are two ethnic Albanians, Muarem Nexhipi of the Albanian Democratic Party and Muhamed Halili of the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity. The frontrunner in the election is Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski. The other candidates are Vasil Tupurkovski of the Democratic Alternative, Tito Petkovski of the opposition Social Democratic Union, and Stojan Andov of the Liberal Democrats. PB

ALBANIA'S POLLO DECIDES NOT TO CHALLENGE BERISHA

Genc Pollo, a leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said on 29 September that he will not challenge former Albanian President Sali Berisha for the leadership of the party, Reuters reported. Pollo said gross violations in the election of delegates to the party's convention set to open on 30 September were the reason for his decision. He blamed Berisha for "stimulating and ordering such acts." Pollo also resigned from all of his party functions although he will remain in the party. PB

ROMANIA, HUNGARY AGREE TO SET UP BATTALION

Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc and his visiting Hungarian counterpart, Janos Szabo, agreed on 29 September to set up a Romanian-Hungarian peacekeeping battalion by 1 January 2000, according to an MTI report cited by the BBC. The two ministers said that the "excellent" relationships between the two countries' military forces could serve as a model for bilateral relations in other areas. In other news, Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, the chairman of the Hungarian parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, told a visiting Romanian parliamentary delegation that Hungary supports the quick accession of Romania to NATO and the EU. He said the fact that Hungary will have to impose visa restrictions on Romanians as part of the EU's Schengen convention could endanger relations between the two countries in the long term. VG

FBI DIRECTOR IMPRESSED WITH ROMANIA'S FIGHT AGAINST CRIME

FBI Director Louis Freeh on 29 September said he is "impressed" with Romania's "determination to fight against crime and organized crime," AP reported. Freeh was in Bucharest for talks with Romanian Interior Minister Dudu Ionescu and Intelligence Service head Costin Georgescu. Freeh said the FBI will open a permanent residence in Bucharest, the 38th such residence in a foreign capital. VG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE DEMANDS ACCESS TO IMPRISONED MOLDOVAN DEPUTY

The president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, Lord Russell Johnston, has urgently requested that the Red Cross be permitted to visit an imprisoned Moldovan deputy in the breakaway Transdniester region, Infotag reported on 29 September. The so-called Supreme Court of Tiraspol convicted Ilie Ilascu and three other Moldovans of terrorism in 1992. The court is not recognized by the international community. VG

BULGARIA CALLS FOR RAPID REOPENING OF DANUBE

Bulgarian Transport Minister Wilhelm Kraus has rejected a proposal by the Danube Commission to reopen the Danube River to boat traffic no earlier than next spring, BTA reported on 29 September. Describing the proposals as "absolutely unacceptable," Kraus demanded that the river be re-opened to traffic sooner. He also called on Yugoslavia to cooperate with other countries in the region to find a solution acceptable to all. He added that if Yugoslavia refuses to provide access to its destroyed bridges on the River Danube, Bulgaria will invoke the Convention on the Regime of Navigation on the Danube. Under the convention, a country's refusal to grant such access can be "ignored." Bulgaria claims it has lost millions of dollars as a result of the war in Kosova, which disrupted trade on the Danube. VG




CONTROVERSY DOESN'T END WITH SACRED TEXT'S RETURN


by Julie A. Corwin

The Atlas of Tibetan Medicine is back in Buryatia, the southern Russian republic bordering Mongolia, but a dispute over the atlas is likely to resurface and spill over into regional politics.

Local Buddhists, who consider the atlas sacred, last year objected to the republic's decision to send it to North American art museums without what they believed sufficient safeguards and a guarantee of its eventual return to Ulan Ude, Buryatia's capital. At the time, their objections led to a clash between police and Buddhist monks, which many predicted (wrongly, as it turned out) would cost Buryatia President Leonid Potapov reelection.

The atlas in question is not an atlas in a conventional sense, but a series of 76 paintings, measuring 32 by 26 inches, copied by Tibetan artists in the 1920s from a 17th century medical treatise that was subsequently lost. It somehow survived former Soviet leader Josef Stalin's assault on the Buddhist Church in the 1930s. And the U.S.-based Pro Cultura foundation, which sponsored the atlas's tour of North America, is working with Ulan Ude's Museum of the History of Buryatia to ensure its future preservation.

Museum workers say that the paintings should and will remain at the museum. But the head of Russia's Buddhist Church, Pandito Xambo Lama, also known as Damba Ausheev, apparently has other ideas. When asked about the museum's likely opposition to having the atlas removed, he told RFE/RL in Ulan Ude this month that "museum directors and government heads change. New people will take over and our republic will have democratic leaders who understand the values of democracy.... State officials have no moral or spiritual right to control this property."

At the present time, the atlas is formally the property of the Russian federal government, but Ausheev says that "it would be very desirable for the atlas to become our property again and return to our possession." He also reported that the head of the Aginskii datsan (temple), which originally commissioned the work, is gathering documents and will file a petition to have the atlas returned to the temple.

But Lidia Nimaeva, head of the Department for the North, Siberia and Far East at the federal Ministry for Nationalities Policy, says just the opposite. She told RFE/RL in Moscow that the head of the datsan understands that it "would be too much of a burden" to care for the atlas and provide "adequately for its storage and safekeeping." The head of the datsan and the Museum of the History of Buryatia, she added, are in complete agreement on this issue.

She also suggested that Ausheev's past and present stance regarding the atlas is based more on political grounds than religious ones and that it was no coincidence that the monks challenged Buryatia President Leonid Potapov's decision to send some of the paintings abroad just weeks before presidential elections took place in the republic.

Ausheev counters that taking the atlas out of the country "would have been a problem for us at any time, although perhaps we were lucky that the conflict occurred when it did." Noting that neither the Aginskii datsan nor the Buddhist Church received one ruble from the proceeds of the exhibition, he argues that the primary motivation for President Potapov's agreeing to the atlas's exhibition was monetary, since the federal Ministry of Culture, the republic's government, and the museum all received hard currency in return. Nimaeva, however, says the amount of money involved was small since the atlas was shown only at university museums, each of which paid only $5,000.

A renewed conflict over the atlas would likely affect not only local politics in Buryatia but could also deepen the rift that currently exists within Russia's Buddhist Church. Ausheev's chief rival, Lama Nimazhap Ilyukhinov, head of the Spiritual Agency of Buddhists of Russia, came out in support of Potapov following the clash with police last year. Ilyukhinov, who leads the Buddhist communities in St. Petersburg and Moscow, criticizes what he calls Ausheev's nationalist tendencies and suggests that Ausheev and his followers should be more open to exchanges with Buddhists in other regions and countries and less confrontational with political authorities, such as Potapov.

Ausheev, on the other hand, remains adamant not only that the atlas be returned to its original owner but that Buryat Buddhism be allowed to develop independently of the influence of other traditions. "We do not like it very much when missionaries come over from other Buddhist countries," he told RFE/RL. At the same time, he stressed that it is wrong to accuse him of being undemocratic for opposing their incursions into his territory.

"I understand the word democracy to mean the right of a person to live in a traditional milieu, in the embrace of the religion practice by his parents, the religion that helped them to survive," he says. "If you want Russia to become a democratic state, then you must give its traditional religions a chance to develop on their own."


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