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Newsline - October 4, 1999




YELTSIN PLANS TO SEND DISPLACED PERSONS BACK TO CHECHNYA

Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 4 October approved a plan to repatriate Chechens who have fled to neighboring republics to escape Russian bombing raids. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told journalists that Yeltsin has approved the creation of a special commission to oversee the repatriation process. On 3 October, the Ministry for Emergency Situations told Interfax that the number of displaced persons in Ingushetia alone has reached 88,000. Reuters interpreted Yeltsin's order as corroborating speculation that Moscow intends to split Chechnya into a northern, Russian-controlled and a southern, Chechen-controlled zone. All except one bridge over the Argun River, which divides lowland and upland Chechnya, had been destroyed in bomb attacks by 1 October, according to Interfax. LF

RUSSIAN FORCES ADVANCE SLOWLY

Having crossed the border from Daghestan, Stavropol Krai, and Ingushetia on 1 October, Russian troops advanced into Chechen territory the following day, taking the village of Borodinovskaya in Chechnya's eastern Shelkovskii Raion. On 2 October, Russian Army First Deputy Chief Of Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov said that "minor clashes" had occurred between federal and Chechen forces, while Chechen Security Minister Turpal-ali Atgeriev told Reuters in Grozny that "there have been battles and casualties." Chechen officials said the next day that 28 people were killed and 100 injured in Russian air raids on the town of Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny, on the night of 2 October. Russian aircraft also bombed the towns of Argun and Vedeno, where the local hospital was destroyed, according to Turan on 4 October. Artillery bombardment of presumed militant positions continued on 3 October. As of late 3 October, Russian forces had advanced some 10 kilometers into Chechen territory. LF

MOSCOW RESSURECTS CHECHEN PUPPET PARLIAMENT

Following the Russian incursion into Chechnya, Prime Minister Putin met in Moscow on 1 October with exiled deputies to the Chechen parliament elected in 1996, whom he termed the only legitimate authority representing Chechnya, Interfax reported. One of the exiled deputies, Ali Alavdinov, said after that meeting that those deputies will constitute the backbone of a Chechen government in exile. Moscow's decision to ditch Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov elicited an extremely harsh condemnation from Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev, who predicted that the creation of a provisional government will only aggravate the situation. The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement on 1 October arguing that Maskhadov's nomination of Shamil Basaev (presumably at his 28 September meeting with field commanders) to command the Chechen eastern front constitutes active support for an internationally wanted terrorist, Interfax reported. LF

RUSSIAN POLITICAL LEADERS ENDORSE TACTICS VIS-A-VIS CHECHNYA

Russian Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin all expressed approval of the Russian military's stated objective to create a buffer zone in Chechnya to contain the putative Islamic terrorist threat. Luzhkov also expressed support for the proposal to split Chechnya into two zones (see above), noting that the region north of the Terek River had earlier been part of Stavropol Krai. Stepashin expressed his willingness to go to Grozny as a hostage in return for the surrender of Basaev and his fellow-field commander Khattab and the release of abducted Russian Interior Ministry General Gennadii Shpigun and some 180 other Russian hostages. But both Stepashin and former Premier Yevgenii Primakov warned against a full- fledged Russian ground offensive in Chechnya, which Stepashin told Interfax could lead to "a political catastrophe." LF

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CALLS FOR RESTRAINT

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on 2 October expressed understanding for Moscow's crackdown on terrorists but called for "restraint and wisdom" and advocated dialogue with "more pragmatic leaders" in the North Caucasus, according to ITAR- TASS. Lord Russell Johnston, chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, released a statement on 1 October similarly expressing support for the Russian crackdown on terrorism and stressing the need to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms while doing so. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer telephoned with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, on 3 October, and the two men agreed that "the conflict in the Caucasus can only be solved through political means," Reuters reported. The Turkish Embassy in Moscow issued a statement on 1 October calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the resumption of dialogue. It also expressed concern over civilian casualties, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL MEDIATE ONLY WITH RUSSIA'S CONSENT

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 4 October that he will agree to mediate between Moscow and Chechnya only with the consent of the Russian authorities, Caucasus Press reported. Chechen President Maskhadov had called for such mediation last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). On 1 October, Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov had said that dialogue between Moscow and Maskhadov is contingent on the latter publicly condemning terrorists and disassociating himself from Basaev and Khattab. Speaking in Tbilisi the next day, Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov said Grozny is counting on Shevardnadze's help in arranging a dialogue with Moscow. He said that Shevardnadze is capable of convincing President Yeltsin that Russia risks "losing the Caucasus" if it launches a full-scale war in Chechnya, according to Interfax. Arsanov added that the Chechen leadership would be able to restore order in Chechnya within three months and is ready to hand Basaev and Khattab over to Interpol. LF

NEW BUDGET ALLOCATES MORE FOR DEFENSE

The conciliatory commission has worked out a compromise version of the 2000 budget, State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov announced on 1 October. According to ITAR-TASS, in the new draft revenues amount to 791.3 billion rubles ($31.4 billion) and expenditures 849.2 billion rubles. The previous draft, which the Duma rejected on 28 September, provided for revenues totaling 745.1 billion rubles and outlays of 803 billion rubles. More than half of the additional 46.2 billion rubles found for expenditures--26 billion rubles--will be devoted to defense needs, according to Zhukov. This represents a 22 percent hike in the defense budget. The revenue increase was accomplished by raising the target for tax collection next year by 11.8 billion rubles and increasing estimated GDP from 5.1 trillion rubles to 5.35 trillion rubles. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, the commission did not discuss the issue of the distribution of revenues between federal and local budgets. JAC

RUSSIA, U.S. OPEN CRISIS CENTER IN MOSCOW...

In Moscow on 2 October, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov opened a crisis center that will allow U.S. and Russian officials to communicate by voice and video during nuclear-related emergencies. The inauguration came two days after Richardson and Adamov had offered joint assistance to Japan in cleaning up after the nuclear accident at a reprocessing plant near Tokyo. Adamov was quoted as saying on 2 October that Japan has so far not accepted that offer. The two ministers also signed agreements on the monitoring and safeguarding of nuclear materials and on U.S. experts conducting millennium-bug tests on various key facilities in Russia, including nuclear reactors. JC

...RESOLVE DISPUTE OVER SALE OF IBM COMPUTERS...

One day earlier in Sarov, Richardson inaugurated a civilian computer center incorporating high-performance computers that Russia bought from IBM in 1996 for nuclear weapons research without applying for the required export license. Moscow initially rejected U.S. demands that the computers be either returned or used for non-weapons research but eventually agreed to their incorporation into the computer center. The center, one of five projects planned in Sarov under the U.S. Nuclear Cities Initiative, is a joint project of the U.S. Energy Department and the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry. It is intended to provide employment outside the weapons industry for local scientists and engineers. Sarov was called Arzamas- 16 during the Soviet era and is home to a major nuclear research laboratory and nuclear weapons production center. JC

...AGREE TO PONDER NEW WAYS TO MONITOR TEST BAN TREATY

"The New York Times" on 4 October quotes Richardson as saying in Moscow that he proposed to Russian officials several measures that would boost monitoring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Among those measures would be a visit by U.S. experts to Russia's closed nuclear test site at Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic. Adamov is reported to have agreed to discuss such proposals. But at the same time he made clear that in return Russia would want such cooperation to include Russian access to U.S. supercomputers to ensure the safety and reliability of Russia's nuclear weapons. A recent Central Intelligence Agency report warns that the agency's monitoring of low-level nuclear tests by Russia is not precise enough to ensure compliance with the test ban treaty. Both the U.S. and Russia have signed the treaty but have not yet ratified it. The U.S. Senate is expected to debate ratification later this week. JC

KALYUZHNYI PRAISES 'COURAGEOUS' SADDAM

Russian Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi told reporters in Baghdad on 1 October that Moscow condemns U.S. and British bombing attacks against Iraq and wants to see the Iraqi people "resist and progress...under the leadership of President Saddam Hussein, who is a courageous leader capable of making Iraq a developed country," AFP reported. The previous day, the minister had met with Saddam and delivered a message from Russian President Yeltsin confirming that Moscow will work for the lifting of UN sanctions against Iraq, according to the official Iraqi News Agency. AP quoted unnamed Russian officials as saying on 1 October that Iraq has consented to give LUKoil another three months to explore ways of developing the massive West Qurna oil field. They added that Kalyuzhnyi made that request in the hope that the U.S. Security Council will soon remove restrictions on foreign companies involved in Iraq's oil industry. JC

DUMA APPROVES TAX BREAK FOR GAS PIPELINE PROJECT

State Duma deputies voted overwhelmingly on 1 October to urge the Russian government to expedite the signing of a Russian- Turkish agreement under which the company engaged in construction of the Blue Stream pipeline would be exempt from taxes connected with implementation of that project, Interfax reported. Russia's Gazprom and Italy's ENI are to form a joint venture to build that pipeline, which will run from Russia's Black Sea coast to the Turkish town of Samsun. It will supply Turkey with 8-15 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually beginning in early 2001. First Deputy Premier Khristenko told deputies in late August that the project is likely to earn Russia $3-4 billion annually. LF

MORE SCRUTINY OF YELTSIN'S SON-IN-LAW

"U.S. News & World Report" said in its 11 October issue that it has obtained Russian law enforcement documents containing information allegedly linking President Boris Yeltsin's son-in-law, Aleksei Dyachenko, with a tax-evasion scheme. According to the magazine, "high level Russian officials" attempted to obstruct a Russian police inquiry into the involvement of Belka Trading, which Dyachenko allegedly heads, in an elaborate effort to channel profits from the sale of refined products abroad into foreign bank accounts. At the center of the scheme is Sibneft, which is headed by Roman Abramovich, a figure reportedly close to Yeltsin's family. The magazine also reported that while Kremlin officials refer to Tatyana Dyachenko's husband as Aleksei, his Russian identify documents bear the name "Leonid." JAC

UNITY PICKS MVD OFFICER FOR NUMBER THREE SLOT...

The interregional movement Unity (Edinstvo) held its founding congress in Moscow on 3 October and chose police Major- General Aleksandr Gurov for the number three slot on its federal party list for the upcoming State Duma elections. Gurov told reporters later that candidates with criminal records should not be allowed to run for State Duma. Unity leader and Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said on 3 October that the party's federal list will be limited to three names and other places will be given to candidates in single-mandate districts. JAC

...AS NDR LEADER SAYS ALLIANCE STILL POSSIBILE

Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who heads Our Home Is Russia (NDR), told reporters on 1 October that it is too early to say that efforts to join NDR with Unity have proven unsuccessful (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). Chernomyrdin said that "formal unification is not a simple matter--the negotiating process is just beginning," according to Interfax. In the meantime, seven small organizations have agreed to ally with Unity: the Movement for Supporting Independent Deputies, the All-Russian Union for Supporting and Promoting Small Businesses, the movements Prosperity, My Family, and Generation of Freedom as well as the People's Patriotic and Russian Christian-Democratic Parties, "Vremya MN" reported on 4 October. According to the daily, among those regional leaders who confirmed their participation in Unity at its congress were the governors of Omsk, Kursk, and Tver Oblasts and of Primorskii Krai and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, together with the president of Kalmykia. JAC

FEWER OFFICERS REPRESENTED ON PARTY LISTS?

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 2 October that the number of active officers on the various parties' electoral lists in 1999 has considerably decreased, compared with the 1995 election. According to the newspaper, the Fatherland-All Russia alliance so far has the largest number of acting officers on its list. Colonel General Boris Gromov, who is a Duma deputy, for example, ranks number seven. Also included are Major General Nikolai Stolyarov, who is also a Duma deputy, General Aleksandr Piskunov, who is deputy chairman of the government apparatus, and Marshal Viktor Kulikov, adviser to the defense minister. Ironically, the Movement to Support the Army has only a few active senior officers, according to the newspaper, which receives funding from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC

DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS TO BE EXTENDED

The Committee for Religious Organizations has approved the federal Justice Ministry's proposal to have the controversial 1997 law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations" amended in order to prolong until 2001 the period during which religious organizations must register with the ministry, "Vremya MN" reported on 1 October. According to the daily, three months before the deadline is set to expire, only 20 percent of the country's religious organizations had received the necessary documents. A Justice Ministry official told the newspaper that while the majority of large religious organization have registered, many local and territorial branches are experiencing problems. JAC




ARMENIAN PREMIER IN WASHINGTON

On the sidelines of the annual IMF and World Bank meeting in Washington last week, Vazgen Sargsian held talks with senior officials from both organizations and with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, ITAR-TASS and Armenpress reported. ITAR-TASS quoted Sargsian as telling Gore that Armenia believes the U.S. occasionally pursues "a policy of double standards" in the South Caucasus, for example in promoting the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline while opposing construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia. At a 30 September meeting with Sargsian, World Bank President James Wolfensohn agreed to act as patron for a meeting in London in May 2000 to promote business contacts between Armenia and the diaspora, according to Armenpress. LF

RUSSIA DENIES BOMBING NORTHERN AZERBAIJAN

Russian Air Force Commander Colonel General Anatolii Kornukov on 2 October denied that a Russian fighter aircraft dropped a bomb on the village of Gymir in Zakatala Raion, northern Azerbaijan, the previous day, Interfax reported. No one was injured in that incident, but several houses in the village were damaged. Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev dispatched Defense Ministry experts to the village to investigate. Opposition party leaders condemned the incident as showing disrespect for Azerbaijan's sovereign status, according to Turan. They also noted that it testifies to the Russian leadership's inability to control the armed forces. LF

ABKHAZIA HOLDS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Some 69.7 percent of Abkhazia's estimated 209,000 voters participated in the 3 October presidential poll and referendum, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting Central Electoral Commission Chairman Vladimir Tsugba. The central Georgian government, Russia and the U.S. have condemned as illegal both the referendum and the poll, in which incumbent president Vladislav Ardzinba ran unopposed for a second term. No data are available on how voters responded to the referendum questions. Voters were asked to approve or reject the breakaway republic's 1994 constitution, which defines Abkhazia as an independent sovereign state, and a constitutional amendment whereby judges are to be elected for a five-year term. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT AMNESTIES PRISONERS

Eduard Shevardnadze has signed a decree pardoning 1,759 prisoners who have served two-thirds of their respective terms, Russian agencies reported on 1 October. The amnesty does not extend to persons convicted for murder, terrorism, kidnapping, rape, or drug- related crimes. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF GIORGADZE'S WHEREABOUTS

Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gela Dumbadze told Caucasus Press on 1 October that the ministry has no evidence that former security chief Igor Giorgadze is currently in Syria. Rumors to that effect surfaced early this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January and 24 February 1999) but were never confirmed. On 30 September, Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze said that Georgia's efforts to extradite Giorgadze from Syria have been thwarted by Russian intelligence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). Giorgadze is suspected of masterminding an August 1995 attempt to assassinate then Georgian State Council Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze. LF

MORE DETAILS EMERGE OF SALE OF KAZAKH MIGS TO NORTH KOREA

Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrenko told journalists in Almaty on 29 September that criminal proceedings have been opened against all those involved in the sale of 40 MiG-21 aircraft from Kazakhstan to North Korea, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported the following day. Khitrenko said the man arrested two weeks earlier on suspicion of masterminding the $8 million deal is company director Aleksandr Petrenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1999). AP quoted Petrenko's lawyer as saying the sale was not illegal as it was based on earlier framework agreements covering military cooperation with North Korea. The Kazakh government has disclaimed any involvement in the deal. LF

KYRGYZ TROOPS CLOSE IN ON HOSTAGE-TAKERS...

Kyrgyz Defense Ministry sources said on 1 October that army troops have occupied strategic heights and are blocking all escape routes open to the Uzbek guerrillas who took 13 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan in late August, ITAR-TASS reported. Meeting with visiting OSCE Chairman in Office Knut Vollebaek in Bishkek on 1 October, Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev said that efforts to eradicate terrorism and religious extremism in Central Asia may take time, according to Interfax. The same day, the news agency quoted an unnamed source in Kyrgyzstan's National Security Ministry as saying that the radical Islamic Hizb-i-Takhrir party is intensifying its activities in the Osh and Djalilabad Oblasts of southern Kyrgyzstan. The source added that an underground printing press belonging to that party was recently discovered in Osh. It had reportedly been used to publish leaflets calling for the overthrow of existing governments in Central Asia and the creation of a pan-Islamic state. LF

...AS CIS OFFERS ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE

On 2 October, President Akaev and CIS Collective Security Council Secretary General Vladimir Zemksii discussed the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported two days later. They signed an agreement on collective CIS military assistance to Kyrgyzstan that has already been signed by the presidents of several CIS member states, including Russia and Kazakhstan. On 1 October, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov also promised more assistance to Kyrgyzstan in fighting the guerrillas, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S PARLIAMENT AMENDS PENSIONS LAW

Kyrgyzstan's parliament on 29 September voted in the final reading to approve amendments proposed by the government to the pensions law, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Parliamentary deputy Alevtina Pronenko told RFE/RL that under those amendments, the basic pension rate will not be raised before 2005. That basic rate is 12 percent of the average monthly salary of 957 soms (about $23), the official subsistence level being 1,123 soms a month. Some $18 million in aid from international financial organizations was pegged to the passage of the amendments. LF

KYRGYZ, UZBEK PLANES LAUNCH AIRRAIDS AGAINST GUERRILLAS

Unidentified aircraft dropped bombs on villages in Tajikistan's Garm and Tajikabad regions on 2 and 3 October, but no deaths or injuries were reported, according to ITAR- TASS. On 4 October, Kyrgyz Presidential Press Secretary Kanybek ImanAliyev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that "the joint air forces of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan" bombed some areas in southern Kyrgyzstan as well as neighboring Tajikistan the previous evening. He did not elaborate. Uzbek warplanes inadvertently dropped bombs in Tajikistan in mid- August while targeting the guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). LF

TAJIKISTAN'S PRESIDENT URGES NEW EFFORT TO END AFGHAN WAR...

Addressing the UN General Assembly on 1 October, Imomali Rakhmonov called on the international community to launch a new effort to end the civil war in Afghanistan by political means, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Rakhmonov expressed his support for the so-called Six-Plus-Two group, which comprises the six states that border Afghanistan (China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) as well as Russia and the UN. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 27 September criticized unnamed members of that group for supporting one or the other faction in Afghanistan. Rakhmonov added that the CIS is doing everything in its power to prevent the spread of the Taliban's "militant ideology" as well as the export of drugs and arms. LF

...CALLS FOR INCREASED HUMANITARIAN AID

Rakhmonov also appealed for humanitarian aid to assist Tajikistan in overcoming the legacy of the civil war, noting that to date donors have given "only a few percent" of the funds they promised for that purpose, AP reported. Rakhmonov said that the 26 September referendum demonstrated his country's unswerving commitment to building a democratic, law-based secular state. But on 2 October, Said Abdullo Nuri, United Tajik Opposition leader and chairman of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party, told Interfax that the Tajik government is trying to prevent that party's activists from collecting the required 145,000 signatures to register its candidate, Foreign Economic Relations Minister Davlat Usmon, as a candidate for the 6 November presidential elections. LF




UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE INJURED IN GRENADE ATTACK...

Two assailants hurled two grenades into a crowd surrounding presidential candidate Natalya Vitrenko as she was leaving an electoral rally in Inhuletsk, near the city of Kryvyy Rih, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, on 2 October. Vitrenko, her aide Volodymyr Marchenko, and some 30 people in the crowd were injured in the blasts, and 18 people had to be hospitalized. "It was a terrorist attack aimed at eliminating Vitrenko," Marchenko commented. Police arrested two suspects from Rostov, Russia. The next day Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko said police suspect that the head of the Kryvyy Rih election team of Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz was involved in the attempt on Vitrenko's life. JM

...PROMPTING KUCHMA TO ORDER IMPROVED PROTECTION FOR ALL CANDIDATES

One day after the attack on Vitrenko, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma instructed the police to improve protection for all 14 candidates in the 31 October presidential elections. "President Kuchma is angered by what has happened. In this difficult situation, the president considers ensuring order and calm in the country during the election campaign a priority," Kuchma's spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko told Reuters. JM

UKRAINE, GEORGIA PLEDGE CLOSER COOPERATION

During Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's visit to Kyiv on 2 October, Ukraine and Georgia signed a declaration on increasing mutual support in all cooperation spheres and several intergovernmental agreements, Interfax reported. Both Shevardnadze and Kuchma emphasized the importance of developing cooperation within GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova), adding that GUUAM is primarily an economic alliance, not a political-military bloc. JM

UKRAINIAN MINERS STOP COAL DELIVERIES IN PROTEST

More than half of Ukraine's 209 coal mines ceased coal deliveries on 1 October, launching a seven-day protest to demand the payment of wage arrears and increased state support for the industry, Interfax reported. Leonid Davydov, a trade union leader, told Reuters that the miners want state subsidies raised to 4.8 billion hryvni ($1.06 billion) from the 1.8 million hryvni envisaged in the 2000 budget draft. Other demands include the payment of some 2 billion hryvni in wage arrears, a ban on the privatization of coal mines, a pension hike, and jobs for laid-off miners. JM

SPLIT WITHIN BELARUSIAN POPULAR FRONT WIDENS

Activists of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) who support BNF acting chairman Lyavon Barshcheuski convened a session of the BNF Board on 3 October, Belapan reported. The activists said the recent creation of the Conservative Christian Party of the BNF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999) was illegal. They argued that the Conservative Christian Party of the BNF, which is headed by BNF exiled leader Zyanon Paznyak, cannot be considered a legal successor to the existing BNF. The BNF expects to resolve the problem of its leadership at a 30-31 October meeting, which will formally conclude the BNF congress held this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 August 1999). JM

LATVIAN AGENCY DROPS CASE OF ALLEGED BRIBES DURING PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

The Constitutional Protection Bureau has dropped the case of alleged bribery during Latvia's presidential election in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 1999). Uldis Dzenitis, the bureau's deputy director, said there are no grounds to initiate court proceedings, LETA reported. Immediately after the 18 June presidential elections, the leader of the Social Democratic Workers Party, Juris Bojars, told the press that there had been several attempts of bribery to win the faction's vote in the parliament for candidates supported by Latvia's Way. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga won the contest as a compromise candidate after the first slate of candidates failed to gain the necessary majority. MH

LATVIAN BUDGET SENT TO PARLIAMENT

The government on 1 October submitted the 2000 budget to the Latvian parliament. The debate of that bill is scheduled to begin on 21 October, and the final reading is expected to take place in early December, LETA reported. The consolidated national budget totals 1.43 billion lats ($2.47 billion), while income is projected at 1.36 billion lats, resulting in a deficit of some 2 percent of GDP. The so-called master state budget (which excludes municipalities) totals 755.7 million lats, while income is projected at 733.9 million lats. MH

POLISH PREMIER APPOINTS NEW INTERIOR MINISTER

Jerzy Buzek on 4 October appointed Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) parliamentary deputy Marek Biernacki as interior minister, PAP reported. Biernacki replaces Janusz Tomaszewski, who lost his job last month over allegations of collaboration with the communist-era secret services. Buzek had promised to make personnel and structural changes to the cabinet last week but failed to do so. The Freedom Union, the AWS's partner in the ruling coalition, voted on 3 October to give Buzek one more week to restructure his cabinet. It also authorized party Leszek Balcerowicz to conduct talks with AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski over a "radical change" in the government lineup. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT AGAIN CRITICIZES PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS...

Vaclav Havel said on Prima television on 3 October that the proposed constitutional amendments curbing the presidential powers are "dangerous" and would abolish "the autonomous role of the president at a time when governments alternate [and] parliaments alternate." He added that the proposals also undermine "the fundamental reason for the president's existence in a parliamentary democracy," CTK reported. Havel explained that the amendments oblige the president to name a representative of the largest parliamentary group to form a new government. If that representative refuses, the president must appoint a representative of the second-largest parliamentary group; and if that person refuses the undertaking, he must appoint a candidate proposed by the parliament's chairman. But since the legislature is dissolved after elections, the formation of a new government can take a very long time, Havel added. MS

...SAYS CZECH REPUBLIC UNABLE TO COME TO TERMS WITH PAST

Havel also said that Czech Republic has proven unable to come to terms with its communist past and lacks a vision for the future. He said that coming to terms with the past does not mean "self-flagellation" or a "witch hunt" but that crimes must be punished "for the sake of historical hygiene." At the same time, he said that he does not support the idea that those sentenced should serve their prison terms. MS

SLOVAKS NATIONALISTS ELECT WOMAN AS LEADER

A 2 October congress of the opposition Slovak National Party (SNS) elected Anna Malikova as party leader, SITA and CTK reported. Malikova received the backing of 251 delegates, while former Defense Minister Jan Sitek garnered 52 votes and honorary SNS chairman Vitazoslav Moric 31. Former chairman Jan Slota had interrupted the congress on 25 September by switching off lights after he was voted out of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 28 September 1999). He went on vacation to Croatia saying he does not want to "bother with the idiots in the parliament" who recently dismissed him as head of the parliamentary committee overseeing the Slovak Intelligence Service. Before his departure, Slota vowed to respect the decision of the SNS Supervisory Committee, which later ruled that his 25 September dismissal was in line with party statutes. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN CRITICIZED FOR STATEMENT ON CHECHNYA

Frantisek Sebej, chairman of the parliament's Integration Committee, said on 1 October that parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas's statement in support of the Russian bombing of Chechnya was a "serious error" that infringed on the "political philosophy of a democratic state," CTK reported. During a visit to Moscow on 30 September, Migas had said that "force must be met by force" and that the military conflict there was the result of "bandit and mafia-like structures" that want to provoke the conflict in order to engage in money laundering. Sebej said the bombing of Chechnya cannot be compared with the airstrikes in Kosova because "in Chechnya violence is unjustified." MS

BUDAPEST MAYOR TO SUE EXTREMIST LEADER

Gabor Demszky, a member of the opposition Free Democrats (SZDSZ), will file suit against Istvan Csurka, chairman of the extreme-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), Hungarian media reported on 4 October. In a newspaper article last week, Csurka accused Demszky of having been an informer for the communist secret services. Demszky denied that allegation and reminded reporters that he has been screened and deemed to have a clean past. SZDSZ National Council chairman Balint Magyar said "the affair is not simply about Csurka," as the major coalition party FIDESZ "gets MIEP to do their dirty work." MSZ




DRASKOVIC SAYS HE SURVIVED ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic said that a road accident that he survived on 3 October was "an obvious assassination attempt," the Serbian dailies "Glas" and "Blic" reported. Draskovic said it was a "pure miracle" that he sustained only slight injuries in that accident, in which a truck from the oncoming traffic suddenly swerved into Draskovic's car. Draskovic's aide and brother-in-law, Veselin Boskovic, was killed. A second car carrying two of Draskovic's bodyguards and his security adviser, Zvonko Osmajlic, drove under the truck and exploded into flames. A third car carrying Draskovic's wife managed to avoid the accident. The incident took place about 40 kilometers southwest of Belgrade, near the village of Petka. The driver of the truck reportedly fled the scene, and witnesses said the truck did not brake. Draskovic is the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement and served in the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic earlier this year. He has refused to take part in opposition rallies, saying they are ineffective, and instead has called for early elections. PB

OPPOSITION PROTESTS IN BELGRADE, OTHER CITIES CONTINUE

Opposition protests organized by the Alliance for Change (SZP) continued, with some 15,000 people marching in Belgrade on 3 October, Reuters reported. Similar-sized marches were held the previous two days--all without any clashes with riot police, who blocked and altered the march routes on all those days. Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the SZP, said the government will provoke violence using its own agents in order to have a pretext to crack down on demonstrators. He said such "troublemakers" have been spotted marching with the protesters. Large rallies of up to 10,000 people were held in Nis and Novi Sad on 1-3 October. Various other protests took place in more than a dozen smaller towns, although a march in Canak was called off on 2 October owing to a strong police presence, the Belgrade-based Beta news agency reported. Nikola Djurickovic, an opposition leader who was arrested last week, was released from prison on 2 October. PB

SERBIAN ACADEMICIANS CALL FOR NEW GOVERNMENT

Forty-five members of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences signed a letter on 2 October demanding the resignation of the Serbian and Yugoslav governments, Radio B2-92 reported. Ljubomir Simovic said that the letter calls for new governments to lead the "people and the country...out of this abyss and embark on the road of recovery and return to the modern world." In other news, Radio B2-92 reported that the Belgrade daily "Glas javnosti," which was shut down last week, will resume publishing again on 4 October after Serbian authorities unsealed the newspaper's offices. PB

THACI: BELGRADE WILL NEVER HAVE A SAY IN KOSOVA

Kosovar Albanian leader Hashim Thaci said on 3 October that "Belgrade will never again make decisions about Kosova," AP reported. Thaci, speaking to some 2,000 ethnic Albanians in the town of Gjilan, said "we will never again allow anyone outside of Kosova to decide about Kosova." Hydajet Hyseni, a former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) officer, told the crowd that Kosova will be a "part of Europe...and with a defense force like everywhere else in Europe." Thaci said earlier that day that a military academy will be set up in Kosova to train officers for a future army of Kosova. He added that that the former UCK has agreed to set up a political party with the Party of Democratic Unity. The name of that party will be made public soon, he added. PB

CLARK SAYS NATO HAS NO DATE FOR WITHDRAWING FROM BOSNIA, KOSOVA

NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe General Wesley Clark said on 1 October that the alliance has not set a date for withdrawing from either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Kosova, AP reported. Clark said NATO has a "strategy for success" in the Balkans and will continue to work to bring stability and peace to the region. Clark said he is satisfied with the UCK's compliance in demilitarizing. NATO has some 30,000 peacekeeping troops in Bosnia and nearly 50,000 in Kosova. PB

TOWN IN KOSOVA UNDER BLOCKADE

NATO peacekeeping troops in Kosova (KFOR) continue to maintain a "total blockade" on the mainly Serbian town of Kosova Polje and the surrounding area, Beta reported on 3 October. Large groups of Serbs and ethnic Albanians are maintaining barricades on a road leading to the town and are only a few hundred meters away from each other. A grenade attack on an outdoor market in Kosova Polje killed two and left dozens injured (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). KFOR troops are not allowing anyone to leave or enter the area except for journalists. Ethnic Albanians briefly set up a roadblock on the railroad line leading into the town. Around Kosova, three Serbs were reported killed: an elderly couple shot dead in their home near Prizren and a man attacked near his cornfield in the town of Vitina. PB

HIGH COMMISSIONER REJECTS VICE PRESIDENT FOR TOP POST IN SRPSKA

Bosnian High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch rejected an application for the vacant presidential post of the Republika Srpska, AP reported on 1 October. Mirko Sarovic, who had served as deposed President Nikola Poplasen's vice president, will not be allowed to take the post, which has been open since Poplasen was sacked in March. Poplasen has refused to recognize his dismissal. Both Poplasen and Sarovic are leading members of the Serbian Democratic Party of war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. PB

DODIK PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH TRIBUNAL

Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik said upon returning from a visit to the U.S. on 3 October that the Republika Srpska will start cooperating with the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, AP reported. Dodik said "there will be no secret indictments if the Republika Srpska establishes cooperation with the tribunal." Bosnian Serbs have thus far refused to detain or hand over indicted war-crimes suspects, thereby limiting international aid to that portion of Bosnia. PB

SLOVENIAN POLITICIAN FOUND DEAD

Janez Gajsek, a Slovenian parliamentary deputy and prominent member of the Christian Democratic Party, was found dead on 1 October about 500 meters from where his car was parked, Croatian Radio reported. Reports say a suicide note was found with the body. Gajsek was reported missing a week or so ago. PB

CROATIAN COURT CONVICTS SAKIC

Dinko Sakic, the last known living commander of a World War II concentration camp, was found guilty in Zagreb on 4 October of crimes against humanity and sentenced to the maximum sentence of 20 years, AP reported. Chief Judge Drazen Tripalo said the seven-member panel found Sakic guilty of all charges, saying he "maltreated, tortured, and killed inmates and did nothing to prevent his subordinates from doing the same." He was also found guilty of personally killing four inmates. Sakic can appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court. PB

BERISHA RE-ELECTED PARTY HEAD

Former Albanian President Sali Berisha was re-elected chairman of the opposition Democratic Party on 1 October, Reuters reported. The vote followed a purge of moderate leaders in the party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). Berisha received 594 out of 693 votes. Berisha called for Genc Pollo, who withdrew his challenge to Berisha, to remain a member of the party. In other news, Albanian Premier Pandeli Majko, upon returning from an official visit to the U.S., dismissed Berisha's calls for early elections, saying the 2001 ballot will take place as scheduled. Majko said his trip to the U.S. was "very successful." He met with IMF and World Bank officials as well as with many U.S. politicians. PB

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS AGAINST 'RECONCILIATION PARK'

The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and the Greater Romania Party on 1 October criticized the government's intention to create together with the Hungarian government a "park of historic reconciliation" in Arad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The PDSR said that a monument to displayed in the park commemorating the 13 Hungarian generals executed by the Austrians in 1848 has "a profound anti-national and anti-Romanian character." PDSR First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase said the ruling coalition is an "accomplice in serving the interests of Hungarian revisionism." On 4 October, the Vatra romaneasca cultural organization is to protest the planned monument, which it called "a symbol of the Hungarian state." MS

FORMER BULGARIAN KING TO TAKE POSSESSION OF RESTORED PROPERTIES

Exiled King Simeon II arrived in Bulgaria on 1 October for a 10-day visit during which he will take possession of the properties that were returned to him under a Constitutional Court ruling last year, BTA reported. The former monarch said on arriving that he has not yet decided what to do with the restored properties, which include palaces near Sofia and in Tsarska Bistrica, as well as hunting lodges, a farm, and a village house. During a visit in 1998, Simeon said he might consider having the properties run "for the public benefit," AP reported. MS

SOCIALIST MAYOR CANDIDATE MURDERED IN BULGARIA

The Socialist Party candidate for mayor of the village of Starevetsi in the Pleven district, northern Bulgaria, was found murdered on 2 October, BTA reported, citing Bulgarian police. Police said Yanko Kozhoukarov was injured "with a sharp object in the region of the heart." Meanwhile, the campaign for the 16 October local elections is heating up. Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov said in the parliament on 3 October that the opposition is subjected to "intimidation," while Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Ahmed Dogan remarked at a meeting with voters that the government's campaign is "imprudent." Interior Minister Bogumil Bonev dismissed as "absurd" claims by Dogan's party that mosques will be demolished if his party's candidates are not elected in Turkish villages. MS




ENTITLEMENTS, RIGHTS, AND DEMOCRACY


by Paul Goble

A major obstacle to the building of democracy in Russia and other post-communist countries is that many people there appear to be concerned more about what their governments can give them than about what control they have over those governments via democratic procedures.

As a result, many of them may be inclined to support political figures and movements that promise to guarantee what they see as their substantive rights, even if these individuals and groups are prepared to violate the norms of democratic governance such as regular elections, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.

That is the sobering message of the results of a recent poll taken by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion. When asked what is the most important factor defining a democratic society, 75 percent of Russians replied that it was a system of government that provides equal rights for all.

Seventy-one percent said that democracy meant having the opportunity to influence the government in the interests of the people; 62 percent said that it involves the chance to choose leaders in free elections; and 58 percent said that democracy is a system that provides opportunities for expressing one's own opinion and criticizing the authorities.

But when the same sample of Russians was asked which human rights were most important to them, 68 percent said that the right to free education, medical care, and financial support in old age; 57 percent opted for the right to life; 53 percent chose the right to a well-paid job; and 46 percent said it is the right to privacy.

Only 23 percent said named the right to own property; 14 percent freedom of speech; 9 percent right to information; 8 percent freedom of worship; 8 percent the right to travel abroad; and 8 percent the right to elect one's leaders.

This combination of answers about democracy and human rights suggests that many people in post-communist Russia define democracy less as a system of government than as a system that will protect what they see as entitlements--less a question of procedures than one of substantive outcomes.

On the one hand, such attitudes reflect the influence of Soviet-sponsored values, of the communist-sponsored notion that a government should be judged not by the procedures it follows--as Western democracies maintain--but by what that system provides for the mass of the population.

And on the other, these views reflect the very real and severe problems that many people in Russia and elsewhere are experiencing during the transition. Even in long-established democratic countries, people tend to focus on procedures only when times are relatively good. When times are bad, people tend to worry far more about outcomes.

This poll and others like it do not provide sufficient evidence to allow anyone to decide which of these factors is the more important. But such samplings of opinion in Russia point to a more general problem that many, if not all, post- communist societies now face: namely, an understanding of democracy that may allow some to subvert democracy as it is understood in the West.

To the extent that leaders can deliver the substantive rights that many people in these countries want, they may be able to violate democratic norms such as freedom of speech and religion with impunity, as long as they cover what they are doing with invocations of their commitment to democracy as a general principle.

But this combination of violations of democratic norms with invocations of democracy as a guiding principle may have three consequences that could undercut the possibility of institutionalizing democracy in these countries.

First, such a combination of actions by post-communist leaders is likely to reduce the attractiveness of democracy for many of their citizens precisely because it will undermine the fundamental meaning of democracy itself.

Second, actions of this kind may open the door to ever less scrupulous leaders who are likely to be able to argue that they can guarantee entitlements if only the people allow them to ignore some procedural rights that are clearly less highly-valued by the population.

And third, such actions by post-communist governments may lead Western governments to decide that it is more important to support leaders who claim to be democrats than to criticize the ways in which these leaders fail to live up to democratic norms.

Such decisions in turn will make it ever more likely that these post-communist leaders will decide they can violate procedural rights with impunity not only at home but abroad as well.

And that conclusion could further erode not only the possibilities for establishing democratic systems in these countries but even the attractiveness of democracy as an idea, at least in the eyes of populations undergoing the difficult transition from communism.


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