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Newsline - October 6, 1999




CHECHEN PRESIDENT DECLARES MARTIAL LAW...

Aslan Maskhadov signed a decree on 5 October imposing martial law in Chechnya as of midnight that night, Reuters reported. The decree removes the legal obstacles to the Chechen armed forces' participation in hostilities against federal troops. Maskhadov had earlier resisted pressure from his rival field commanders to impose martial law in the hope of avoiding an all-out war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1999). On 6 October, Mikhail Mityukov, who is Russian President Boris Yeltsin's envoy to the Constitutional Court, told ITAR-TASS that Maskhadov's decree is illegal. Mityukov explained that only President Yeltsin is empowered to declare martial law on all or part of the territory of the Russian Federation. LF

...CRITICIZES BEREZOVSKII, BASAEV, KHATTAB

In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" of 5 October, Maskhadov linked the new campaign against Chechnya with the political situation in Russia. He accused business magnate Boris Berezovskii of expending "a lot of energy and money" in inciting the war. Maskhadov also denied approving the August incursion into neighboring Daghestan by field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab. LF

PUTIN BRIEFS LEADING POLITICIANS ON CHECHEN TACTICS

At a 5 October meeting in Moscow with his predecessors Sergei Stepashin, Yevgenii Primakov, Sergei Kirienko, and Viktor Chernomyrdin and with the leaders of most State Duma factions, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that federal forces now control one-third of Chechnya's territory, ITAR-TASS reported. But Putin added that the process of creating a security zone and destroying "terrorists and their bases" is "far from finished." He said that once that process is complete, Chechnya's status will be determined by means of negotiations, but he declined to specify with whom those talks will be conducted. He added that a government commission will be created to address the social problems of the Chechen population and that "wages and pensions will be paid" in the zone controlled by Moscow. LF

NO ROLE IN CHECHNYA FOR LEBED?

Reporting on Putin's meeting, ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying that the discussion was "confidential." But an unnamed participant told Interfax that Communist Party chairman Gennadii Zyuganov and Yabloko faction leader Grigorii Yavlinskii both steadfastly opposed Putin's suggestion that Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed be named Russian envoy to Chechnya with the powers of a deputy premier. In an interview with "Le Figaro" on 29 September, Lebed, who along with then Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov signed the 1996 agreements ending the Chechen war, had predicted that the Russian leadership would again call on his services to resolve the present Chechen crisis. Whether he could do so is, however, doubtful: "Der Spiegel" in its 27 September issue quoted Maskhadov as saying that he no longer trusts Lebed. LF

IVANOV RULES OUT INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCE FOR CHECHNYA

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 5 October that Moscow does not need the help of any international troops or observers to resolve its "problems" in Chechnya, Reuters reported. He dismissed Chechen President Maskhadov's call for such a force as "a propaganda stunt," according to Interfax, adding that if Chechen leaders want a political solution to the crisis, then they should "disarm gangs" and extradite those responsible for terrorist attacks in Moscow and other Russian cities. Also on 5 October, Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow that while "a dialogue with bandits is impossible," Russia "is not giving up on contacts with moderate groups in Chechnya, [with] legitimate representatives of the people of that member of the Russian Federation," according to Interfax. LF

MOSCOW CRITICIZED FOR TREATMENT OF FUGITIVES FROM CHECHNYA

As of 5 October, the number of fugitives from Chechnya had reached 118,000, of whom more than 110,000 are currently in neighboring Ingushetia, Reuters reported. Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev told Interfax on 5 October that only 8,000 of them are housed in tent camps. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement on 5 October expressing concern at the humanitarian plight of the displaced persons, according to Reuters. Human Rights Watch also issued a statement the same day describing the Russian authorities' relief efforts as "inadequate" and condemning Russia's plans to return the displaced persons to the federal-controlled zone of Chechnya as "a blatant violation by Russia of its international obligations to protect the displaced against forcible return to any place where their lives or safety would be at risk," according to the "Financial Times" on 6 October. LF

RUSSIAN BANKING INVESTIGATION GATHERS STEAM

Russian law enforcement officials' investigation into the involvement of Russian banks in the Bank of New York scandal is expanding to include larger domestic banks, "Vremya MN" reported on 6 October, noting that Moscow police had raided the Sobinbank the previous day. According to the daily, officers were interested in any documents connected with the activities of Flamingo Bank, an obscure bank that Russian federal prosecutors said earlier they were investigating on suspicion that it assisted exporters to avoid paying Russian taxes by funneling money through foreign banks. Andrei Serebrennikov, deputy chairman of the Sobinbank board, told "Kommersant- Daily" the same day that his bank has no relationship with Flamingo Bank other than through the interbank market. According to that daily, one member of Sobinbank's board of directors, Aleksandr Mamut, is an adviser to the head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin. JAC

U.S. GRAND JURY WANTS TO TALK WITH YELTSIN'S SON-IN-LAW?

"Vedomosti" reported on 4 October that a grand jury that is to convene in New York on 14 October may summon Russian President Boris Yeltsin's son-in-law Aleksei/Leonid Dyachenko to ask him questions regarding his banking transactions with the Bank of New York and the firm Belka Trading. According to the newspaper, Yeltsin's press service continues to identify the president's son-in-law as Aleksei, but according to its source, which it did not identify, his passport lists his first name as Leonid. "Segodnya" reported the next day that federal investigators have demanded that Belka Trading and a number of sister companies hand over all documents concerning payments to Dyachenko. Belka Trading attorney Irwin Rochman told "The Washington Post" on 1 October that Dyachenko received money for operations connected with the oil trade. "He did real work" and was "well paid" for it, he said. JAC

MOSCOW CRITICIZES U.S. ANTI-MISSILE TEST...

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Rakhmanin said on 5 October that the U.S. undermined the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by testing a proposed missile defense system several days earlier. ITAR- TASS quoted Rakhmanin as saying that the test poses a threat to arms control, non-proliferation, and the system of strategic stability and that the U.S. will have to shoulder the responsibility for "all the negative consequences." On 2 October, U.S. forces launched an unarmed strategic missile from the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, to intercept a missile fired from California. JC

...WHILE ANOTHER WARNING MADE AGAINST ABM TREATY REVISION

Commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 5 October that if the U.S. "writes off the ABM Treaty, then it will be virtually to blame for wrecking the nuclear arms limitation process." Russia and the U.S., he added, would become "unpredictable" for each other and the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty would be jeopardized. Yakovlev added that Russia is currently considering some 20 "countermeasures that could be taken without a significant increase in expenditures. In this context, he said that limitations imposed on the Topol missile system by "understandings related to START-1" could be "abandoned." In past statements, Russian military officials have suggested that Topol could be equipped with multiple warheads. JC

NEW NATIONAL SECURITY CONCEPT IN THE OFFING

The Russian Security Council on 5 October adopted a blueprint for a new National Security Concept that envisages an increase in defense expenditures in the federal budget, Russian media reported. Prime Minister Putin, who attended the council meeting, commented that a new concept is needed because since 1997, when the current concept was adopted, major changes have taken place in the Balkans and international terrorism has become increasingly widespread. He added that the Chechen administration has proven unable to fight against terrorism, end the "constant sorties by bandit formations from its territory," and rid the republic of international terrorists, prompting the Russian authorities to "think about" the basic aspects of national security, Russian Public Television reported. JC

PUTIN ADDRESSES VISITING JAPANESE PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION

Meeting with a group of Japanese parliamentary deputies in Moscow on 5 October, Prime Minister Putin hailed bilateral relations but noted that "there are a number of problems that require our particular attention and joint effort." Foreign Minister Ivanov told the same delegation that Russia wants to continue the process of building a constructive partnership with Japan--a process that was launched by Russian President Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi last fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1998). President Yeltsin is reportedly expected to pay a state visit Japan before the end of this year. JC

NEW ROUND OF DEBT TALKS BEGINS

Another round of negotiations between Russia and London Club creditors was scheduled to begin on 6 October, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day. According to the newspaper, this round will largely involve technical bargaining about the size of the Russian debt to be written off in exchange for issuing Eurobonds to Club creditors. On 4 October, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov confirmed that creditors have agreed to a debt write-off in exchange for Eurobonds, but he said that the Russian government is still only considering their proposals. Vneshekonombank Chairman Andrei Kostin, who is representing Kasyanov at the talks, said earlier that London Club creditors hope to resolve the problem of Soviet-era debt by 2 December, when the next $600 million principal and interest payment is due. JAC

SKURATOV'S CASE MOVES FORWARD

The Prosecutor-General's Office on 1 October acknowledged that suspended Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov is a plaintiff in a blackmail case, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 6 October. According to the newspaper, the office continues to pursue two cases involving Skuratov--one to prove his innocence, another his guilt. The daily, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, also reported that one of the prostitutes seen on a videotape dallying with a man that looks like Skuratov had a police identify card. And a prostitute confessed her activities to the police "under threats, blackmail, and deceptions," according to the newspaper. JAC

ANOTHER LEBED FOE FACING CRIMINAL CHARGES TO RUN FOR DUMA

Prosecutors in Krasnoyarsk Krai have charged former Governor Valerii Zubov with abuse of office, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 October. Zubov allegedly diverted 6.8 million old rubles in federal funds allocated to the region to a private firm. The previous day, Zubov announced that he will seek a seat in the State Duma as an independent candidate, according to Interfax-Eurasia. Anatolii Bykov, head of Krasnoyarsk Aluminum, has the number two slot on the Liberal Democratic Party's party list for State Duma elections. He is also the subject of a probe on money-laundering charges. "Vremya MN" reported on 5 October that although Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Lebed has announced that his party, Honor and Motherland, will not participate in the State Duma elections, candidates "close" to the governor are running for three of the krai's four seats in the Duma. JAC

SOME REGIONS EXPERIENCING AIDS OUTBREAKS

Aleksandr Goliusov, the chief AIDS prevention specialist at the federal Ministry of Health, told ITAR-TASS on 5 October that Russia currently has 19,000 HIV-infected persons. According to Goliusov, there have been outbreaks in a number of cities, such as Tver, Saratov, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar, and Novorossiisk. Other regions, such as the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, which now has two HIV-infected patients, are witnessing their first cases, "Novye Izvestiya" reported last month. In Buryatia, local officials are alarmed by the outbreak in neighboring Irkutsk and that in their republic the number of cases there has grown from nine to 15 in the last 10 months, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 September. According to the daily, Irkutsk has 1,500 persons infected with HIV, including 24 school-age children. JAC




ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS IN JEOPARDY

Armenia's Central Electoral Commission on 5 October issued a warning that local courts risk sabotaging 24 October local elections by registering candidates who are not eligible to participate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The commission has ruled that a provision in the election law stating that only candidates who have lived in a community for at least one year may be elected to its local government bodies has already taken effect. The author of that law argues that the ruling takes effect only in March 2000. Under the latter interpretation, local courts have reinstated dozens of candidates whom local electoral commissions had refused to register. On 4 October, members of the Yerevan Municipal Election Commission failed to agree on how to interpret the residency requirement and consequently failed to register any candidates for the poll in two Yerevan districts before the deadline for doing so expired that evening. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER REPORTS ON NEW WORLD BANK LOAN

Vazgen Sargsian told journalists in Yerevan on 5 October that during his talks last week in Washington with World Bank President James Wolfensohn, the latter pledged a further $238 million to fund development projects in Armenia over the next three years, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The World Bank also agreed to disburse the third and final tranche, worth $23.5 million, of a structural adjustment credit aimed at helping offset the country's budget deficit. Sargsian said that in return, the Armenian government will submit to the bank a medium-term program outlining economic policy priorities. He added that talks with the IMF were similarly fruitful and that the fund is likely to approve the final $28 million tranche of a three-year loan later this week. Sargsian confessed to being "very ashamed" by Western leaders' perceptions of the extent of corruption in Armenia. He vowed to crack down on it more effectively. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION AGREES ON VENUE FOR DEMONSTRATION

Following talks with the Baku city administration on 5 October, Azerbaijani opposition representatives accepted Mayor Rafael Allakhverdiev's proposal to hold their planned 9 October demonstration at the motor sports stadium on the northern outskirts of Baku, Turan reported. Last month, the opposition had rejected holding a mass rally at the stadium (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999). The 9 October demonstration is intended to protest the Azerbaijani leadership's stated willingness to accept a compromise solution of the Karabakh conflict. Smaller demonstrations will be held in seven other cities. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION CONDEMNS RUSSIAN BOMBING OF CHECHNYA

The Democratic Bloc, which is composed of 20 opposition parliamentary deputies, issued a statement on 5 October condemning the "inhuman" bombing of Chechen towns and villages and calling on the Russian leadership to put a stop to the attacks, Turan reported. The deputies advocated talks between the Russian and Chechen leaderships in order to preclude further civilian casualties. They noted that the Russian government had responded inappropriately to the invasion of Daghestan by armed groups not subordinate to the Chechen leadership. And they condemned "all acts of terrorism connected with the conflict in the North Caucasus." The same day, parliamentary deputies adopted a statement addressed to the Russian State Duma protesting the 1 October bombing by a Russian aircraft of Azerbaijan's Zakatala Raion and reprisals against ethnic Azerbaijanis in Moscow, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI CABINET APPROVES 2000 BUDGET INDICATORS

Azerbaijan's cabinet on 1 October endorsed the parameters of next year's budget, Interfax reported three days later. The 2000 budget foresees GDP growth of 8 percent, increases in industrial output and agricultural production of 3 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively, a 10.5 percent increase in investment, 3 percent annual inflation, and a budget deficit equivalent to 2.6 percent of GDP. LF

GEORGIAN RULING PARTY UNVEILS ELECTION PROGRAM

On 4 October, Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and President Eduard Shevardnadze outlined the main tenets of the Union of Citizens of Georgia's program for the 31 October parliamentary elections, Interfax and Reuters reported. Lortkipanidze affirmed that "we have overcome crisis and stopped collapse." In an apparent contradiction, he went on to pledge that "we will finally get over the economic crisis, create an effective fiscal system, increase wages to 200-230 lari ($127) and increase pensions three-fold," Reuters reported. The current minimum pension is 10 lari. LF

CHEVRON EXPRESSES INTEREST IN INCREASING STAKE IN KAZAKH OIL COMPANY

Kenneth Derr, outgoing chairman of the U.S. oil company Chevron, told journalists in Astana on 5 October after a meeting with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev that Chevron may acquire part of Kazakhstan's equity share in the Tengizchevroil project if the Kazakh government decides to sell part of its 25 percent stake, Interfax reported. He added that Kazakhstan is considering selling a 5 percent or 10 percent stake and has received offers from several companies. "Vedomosti" had reported on 4 October that the only company that has officially expressed an interest in acquiring a share is Russia's LUKoil, which together with ARCO already has a 5 percent stake in Tengizchevroil. LF

KYRGYZSTAN ANTICIPATES NEW INCURSION...

Kyrgyzstan's Security Council Secretary General Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 5 October that "international terrorist groups" based in Afghanistan and Pakistan are ready to enter Kyrgyz territory in order to regain control of drug-smuggling routes, Interfax reported. He added that Kyrgyz troops have closed in on the base where ethnic Uzbek guerrillas are believed to be holding hostages in the south of the country, leaving the guerrillas no option but to retreat into neighboring Tajikistan. LF

...EXPANDS SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP

Also on 5 October, the composition of the Security Council was broadened to include the mayor of Bishkek and the heads of the country's seven oblasts, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The former Batken Raion of Osh Oblast was granted oblast status the same day and will incorporate the Lyalyak and Kadamjai Raions of Osh Oblast. Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev on 5 October charged Djanuzakov with overseeing government actions to strengthen the guarding of the country's borders, reforms in the army, fighting against organized crime and international terrorism, and monitoring the religious situation in the country. LF

BOMBING RAIDS ON TAJIKISTAN CONTINUE

Unidentified aircraft dropped bombs on the Djirgatal district of eastern Tajikistan on 5 October for the fourth consecutive day, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 October 1999). National Reconciliation Commission spokesman Akhmadsho Kamilzoda told the agency that the aircraft in question belonged to Uzbekistan and that the death toll in those raids has risen to five. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri issued an official statement on 6 October condemning the bombing and demanding that Uzbekistan stop such attacks, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed senior Tajik government official as saying the previous day that Tajikistan "will respond in an appropriate way" once an investigation into the raids is completed. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW

Returning from the U.S., where he addressed the UN General Assembly last week, Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov made a stopover in Moscow for talks on 4 October with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on regional security and military cooperation, Asia Plus- Blitz reported. Rakhmonov also met with St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev to discuss establishing trade, economic, and scientific ties. LF

RUSSIA WARNS TURKMENISTAN OVER MERCENARIES

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow on 5 October that Russia hopes Turkmenistan is taking measures to prevent Afghan mercenaries transiting its territory en route for the North Caucasus, Interfax reported. Rakhmanin said that Moscow has received a note from the Turkmen Foreign Ministry protesting reports in several Russian newspapers of an alleged plan to create a "window" on the Afghan-Turkmen border to enable Afghan mercenaries to cross into Turkmen territory. LF

UZBEKISTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS SOUTH KOREA

Meeting in Seoul on 5 October, Islam Karimov and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Dae-Jung, pledged to expand trade and economic cooperation between their countries, AP reported. South Korea is one of the leading foreign investors in Uzbekistan, focusing primarily on the automobile and textile industries. The two presidents also agreed to expand cooperation in other fields, including culture, education, sport, and tourism. LF




BELARUSIAN POLICE RAIDS OFFICE OF HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP

Belarusian police officers, some of which were in plainclothes, entered the office of the Spring-96 human rights group in Minsk on 4 October without a search warrant and confiscated its office equipment, Belapan reported on 5 October. Ales Byalatski, head of the Spring-96 group, said the confiscated computers stored data on human rights violations in Belarus. Byalatski is an expert for the opposition delegation to the OSCE-mediated talks with the authorities. Byalatski added that Deputy Interior Minister Mikhail Udovikau was among those searching the office but did not identify himself. JM

BELARUS, RUSSIA AGREE TO PUBLISH UNION TREATY DRAFT NEXT WEEK

Russian Minister for CIS Affairs Leonid Drachevskii and Belarusian Premier Syarhey Linh, meeting in Minsk on 5 October, agreed that the draft of a Russia-Belarus union treaty and a program for its implementation will be published in both countries' press next week, ITAR-TASS reported. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said last week that the treaty draft is a "laughing stock" and that he does not intend to publish it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). Following the publication of the draft, the Executive Committee of the Russia-Belarus Union will consider all comments and proposals on the treaty. Drachevskii said the two sides expect the treaty to be signed and ratified this year. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SETS UP GROUP TO LOOK INTO ATTACK ON VITRENKO...

The Supreme Council on 5 October set up a special commission of 16 lawmakers to investigate the 2 October grenade attack on presidential candidate Natalya Vitrenko. Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko told the parliament the same day that the attack on Vitrenko was masterminded by Serhiy Ivanchenko, a campaign organizer for Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz. The police arrested two suspects immediately after the attack and spotted Ivanchenko in Rostov Oblast, Russia, but failed to detain him. Meanwhile, the OSCE has issued a statement saying that the attack is a "horrible crime" and "fully contradicts the spirit and letter of OSCE principles for free elections." JM

...OVERRIDES KUCHMA'S VETO ON ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS

Also on 5 October, the parliament overrode President Leonid Kuchma's veto on amendments to the presidential election law. One amendment stipulates that every member of the district and territorial electoral commissions be given a copy of the protocol listing voting results. Lawmaker Oleksandr Yelyashkevich urged his colleagues to override the veto by saying that without the above-mentioned amendment, Ukraine will face a "large-scale falsification" of the vote. The same day, the parliament failed to override Kuchma's veto on a bill introducing immunity for local council deputies. JM

SEPTEMBER POLL SAYS KUCHMA STILL TOP HOPEFUL

In a poll conducted from 17-24 September by the Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies and the Social Monitoring Center among 3,079 Ukrainians, 24.8 percent or respondents said they will vote for incumbent President Leonid Kuchma, Interfax reported. Natalya Vitrenko has 12.2 percent support, Petro Symonenko 9.9 percent, Oleksandr Moroz 8.6 percent, Yevhen Marchuk 4.9 percent, Oleksandr Tkachenko 2.8 percent, and Hennadiy Udovenko 1.2 percent. According to the poll, 81.5 percent of respondents want to participate in the ballot, while 14.4 percent said they do not want to. JM

BALTIC MILITARY LEADERS MEET IN ESTONIA

The acting commander of Estonia's Defense Forces, Colonel Urmas Roosimagi, met with his Baltic counterparts, Colonel Raimonds Graube of Latvia and Brigadier General Jonas Kronkaitis of Lithuania, in Tallinn on 4-5 October. The three commanders discussed various cooperation projects, such as the joint airspace monitoring program BALTNET and the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, Estonia. They also discussed preliminary plans to set up a joint naval training center in the Latvian port city of Liepaja. Graube spoke out in favor of joint training of troops from the three countries and of opening joint training centers in Latvia and Lithuania, BNS reported. Kronkaitis announced that the BALTNET headquarters in Lithuania will be opened in January 2000. MH

LATVIAN REFERENDUM PETITION DRIVE ENDS

The petition drive for a referendum on government-proposed changes to the pension system ended on 5 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1999). One-tenth of Latvia's electorate--about 135,000 individuals--have to sign the petition for the measures to go to referendum. The results will not be announced until 12 October. Both supporters and detractors of the petition drive believe a sufficient number of signatures were obtained, with preliminary information suggesting about 185,000 signatures were collected, "Neatkariga Rita Avize" reported. The controversial amendments would raise the retirement age to 62 and restrict pension payments to working pensioners. MH

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAWS ON MAZEIKIAI SALE...

The parliament on 5 October passed a package of laws providing for the sale of a stake in Mazeikiai Oil to the U.S. company Williams International. Under the legislation, international financiers and suppliers will also take smaller stakes. The amendments also provide a state guarantee for loans totaling up to $650 million for Mazeikiai's reconstruction. The opposition has said it will contest the legislation in court. MH

...BUT WILL CRUDE ALSO COME FROM IRAN?

Following a trip to Iran, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates, Lithuanian Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis has suggested that Lithuania could get crude from Iran, BNS reported on 4 October. A Foreign Ministry representative subsequently told journalists that the idea is not a "sensation." He added that Lithuania concurs with the EU's "critical dialogue policy" toward Iran. However, observers believe that given U.S. policies toward Iran, such a deal could derail the teetering negotiations between Williams International and Lithuania over Mazeikiai Oil. MH

POLAND'S SOCIAL SECURITY AGENCY CHIEF RESIGNS

Stanislaw Alot, head of the social security agency (ZUS), resigned on 5 October after criticizing the government for providing too little money for pensions in the 2000 budget draft. Both Premier Jerzy Buzek and Deputy Premier Leszek Balcerowicz had expressed anger over Alot's criticism, saying it was "inexcusable" and "outrageous." Alot's resignation, if accepted, will likely facilitate the current talks between the Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union (UW) on restructuring the cabinet. The UW's Balcerowicz has repeatedly demanded Alot's dismissal, arguing that the ZUS is mismanaged. JM

U.S. FIRST LADY APPLAUDS POLISH REFORMS

Hillary Rodham Clinton said on 5 October in Warsaw that the results of Poland's transition to democracy and the free market economy are admired "not only in the U.S. but around the world." She added that "the enterprise, the intelligence, and the hard work of the Polish people will make Poland a leader...of people looking for democracy and freedom all over the world." The U.S. first lady met with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, visited a newly opened Jewish school in Warsaw, and toured a clothing factory. JM

CZECH ROMA OBSTRUCT CONSTRUCTION OF CONTROVERSIAL WALL

Romany residents of Usti nad Labem on 5 October obstructed the start of construction of a wall intended to separate Roma from other residents. Ondrej Gina, spokesman for the association of Roma regional representatives, told CTK that the protesters "prevented the construction with [their] own bodies" because the wall is "proof that Roma are persecuted in the Czech Republic." He added that Roma intend to file a criminal suit against the town's mayor. A spokesman for the local police said there are no grounds for the police to interfere in the protest. MS

CZECHS 'UNDERSTAND' AUSTRIA'S APPREHENSION OVER TEMELIN

Chief Czech negotiator with the EU Pavel Telicka on 5 October said the Czech Republic "understands" the apprehensions in Austria about the completion of the controversial nuclear plant in Temelin, but he added that the intention is to operate the plant with Western "state-of-the-art technology," CTK reported. On 1 October, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan commented that "one state" has blocked the latest round of negotiations in Brussels on nuclear energy and accession to the EU. The previous day, Slovenian negotiator Janez Potocnik said in Brussels that Austria demands that accession candidates pledge to respect the "highest existing standards" of nuclear safety. MS

SLOVAK ROMA DEPORTED FROM BELGIUM

A Slovak plane carrying 74 Roma deported from Belgium landed in Kosice on 5 October, CTK reported. The Roma were expelled, despite the fact that the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg upheld a complaint by the Belgian League for Human Rights and asked Belgium to postpone the deportation by eight days pending a verdict. A spokesman for the Belgian Interior Ministry said that the ruling is nonbinding and that Belgium is acting in accordance with the law since it is convinced that the court would have reached the same conclusion. Earlier, parliamentary deputies from the Ecolo (Green) party and the Flemish Socialist Party, both members of the ruling coalition, protested the Belgian police's alleged use of a pretext to lure the Roma to police stations and then detain them. MS

EU COMMISSIONER URGES ACCESSION TALKS WITH SLOVAKIA

Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in change of expansion, told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 5 October that accession talks with Slovakia must begin. Verheugen said that Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet has "eliminated" the political reasons that hindered the beginning of the talks under the previous government, CTK reported. MS

SLOVAKIA STARTS LOADING SECOND NUCLEAR REACTOR AT MOCHOVCE PLANT

A spokesman for the Mochovce nuclear plant on 5 October told SITA that loading of the second nuclear reactor at the plant began one day earlier. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jan Figel on 5 October told journalists that he does not believe Austria will seek to undermine negotiations with Slovakia on EU integration. Figel said all EU members with the exception of Austria welcome the plan to close down the Jaslovske Bohunice plant by 2008. He added that Slovakia rejects Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima's position that Bratislava broke its promise to shut down Jaslovske Bohunice by 2000. Figel said the previous government made the pledge on the assumption that it would receive a loan for this purpose but the new government canceled the loan and the pledge is therefore void, CTK and SITA reported. MS

HUNGARY, POLAND DISCUSS EU ADMISSION, AGRICULTURE TARIFFS

Visiting Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Hungarian counterpart, Arpad Goncz, told reporters in Budapest on 5 October that both countries will be ready for EU admission by 2002. The two sides agreed to make mutual concessions in their dispute over tariffs on agricultural products, Goncz said. Poland has imposed a special tariff on wheat imports from Hungary to protect its domestic market, a move that Budapest considers a violation of the Central European Free Trade Agreement. MSZ




ONE DEAD, SEVERAL INJURED AFTER CLASH IN DIVIDED KOSOVAR TOWN

One Serb was killed and 15 peacekeepers injured after fighting broke out in Mitrovica between Serbs and ethnic Albanians on 5 October, AP reported. The clash occurred when a group of Serbs drove by a memorial service for 18 ethnic Albanians found in a mass grave last week. The service was attended by several thousand ethnic Albanians, who clashed with the Serbs upon leaving the funeral. A Serbian man was stoned to death. Four Russian and at least 10 French peacekeepers were injured trying to separate the sides. Officials from the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) arrived at the scene and restrained the ethnic Albanians. The northern part of Mitrovica is controlled by the Serbs, while ethnic Albanians are in the southern part of the town. French peacekeepers separate the two. PB

UCK PRESS ORGAN ACCUSES KOSOVAR PUBLISHER OF SPYING

Kosovapress, the Prishtina-based press service of the disbanded UCK, accused two prominent ethnic Albanians of being spies for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 5 October. Publisher Veton Surroi, a member of the Kosova transitional council, and Aton Haxhiu, the chief editor of the Kosovar daily "Koha Ditore," were called "dregs" for "spying and cooperating with Milosevic's regime." Surroi said the accusation comes after he recently said that "fascists are in power in Kosova now and what is being done to the Serbs [in Kosova] is a form of fascism." Surroi and his newspaper, "Koha Ditore," have consistently spoken out against the treatment of Serbs in Kosovar since the return of ethnic Albanians after NATO troops took control of the province. Surroi said the condemnations are "an invitation to kill both me and Haxhiu." PB

SEVERAL HUNDRED PAY RESPECTS TO OPPOSITIONIST KILLED IN ROAD ACCIDENT

Several hundred people attended the funeral on 5 October of Veselin Boskovic, the adviser and brother-in-law of Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, AP reported. Boskovic was killed in a traffic accident on 3 October, which Draskovic and other members of his Serbian Renewal Movement have termed an assassination attempt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). Draskovic said at the service that President Milosevic's government has "destroyed our state and caused the death of millions...let them be damned, the devils who have built their happiness on other people's misery for 10 years." Three other people were killed in the accident. Neither the owner nor the driver of the truck that veered into the cars carrying the SPO members has been identified. PB

ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELGRADE DWINDLING

Several thousand people took part in opposition led protests against the government on 5 October, the 15th straight day of marches, Reuters reported. The crowd was one of the smallest since the protests began on 21 September. Some 10,000 people protested in Novi Sad and about 5,000 in Nis, the country's second-and third-largest cities. Demonstrations were also held in more than a dozen other towns. Around 400 employees of the Zastava Namenska weapons plant in Kragujevac walked off the job and rallied to demand higher wages and the resignation of the Yugoslav government. PB

SERBIAN MINISTER FILES SUIT AGAINST OPPOSITION LEADERS

Serbian Deputy Premier Milovan Bojic filed suit against the leaders of the opposition movement the Alliance for Change (SZP) on 5 October, AFP reported. Bojic complained that he had been ridiculed at a mock trial held during a Belgrade demonstration and is suing 11 people for 10 million dinars ($1 million) for the "moral damage" inflicted on him. Vuk Obradovic, an SZP official who is being sued, said he will not appear at court on 7 October because the proceedings are illegal and he has not been allotted the eight days usually given to prepare a defense. Vladan Batic, another SZP leader, said "we should be the ones suing the regime for all the insults and humiliation, not the other way around." PB

UN ENVOY WARNS THAT TROUBLE BREWING IN SANDZAK

Jiri Dienstbier, the UN special commissioner for human rights in the former Yugoslavia, said on 5 October that there is a "certain danger" in the mostly Muslim region of Sandzak that Yugoslav President Milosevic could exploit, CTK reported. Dienstbier, speaking in the Sandzak capital of Novi Pazar, said Milosevic could use the Sandzak Muslims in his political struggle against Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. He noted that while 80 percent of the city's residents are Muslim, about 95 percent of the police force is Serbian. Similar proportions exist in other spheres, including health care, according to Dienstbier, adding that "there are 1,000 little things which, if put together and incited, could lead to a conflict." The same day in Podgorica, Montenegrin Premier Filip Vucanovic rejected a call from a Sandzak group for the region--which lies partly within Montenegro--to be given a special status. PB

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT GETTING IMPATIENT WITH BELGRADE

Milo Djukanovic said on 5 October that Montenegro can only wait so long for Belgrade to respond to Podgorica's call to redefine federal relations, dpa reported. Djukanovic said the government has set a deadline and that if Serbian authorities fail to address the issue soon, Montenegro "will democratically go its own way." He added that he "knows the majority [of Montenegrins] is for independence, but there are also 40 percent opposing it, and there are warmongers on all sides." He said "our democratic consciousness obliges us not to ignore this minority." In Washington, the U.S. State Department said that Montenegrin leaders have used a "measured and rational approach" to political and economic reforms in Yugoslavia but that the U.S. opposes independence for Montenegro. PB

CROATIA GETS WORLD BANK LOAN

The World Bank has approved a $29 million loan to Croatia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 5 October. The loan will be used to improve the country's health care system, including training, technical assistance, and purchasing of medical equipment. It is the 18th loan the bank has made to Croatia since 1993. PB

PETRITSCH ORDERS RADICAL PARTY TO RE-REGISTER WITHOUT TOP CANDIDATES

Wolfgang Petritsch, the high commissioner for Bosnia-Herzegovina, ordered the Serbian Radical Party to reapply to participate in next year's elections without its top three candidates, AP reported. The decision in effect bars former Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen and two of his aides, Mirko Blagojevic, and Ognjen Tadic, from participating in politics. The elections are scheduled for 8 April 2000. Petritsch's office said the decision was made because the three officials have obstructed the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement. PB

FORMER ALBANIAN PREMIER ACQUITTED OF CORRUPTION CHARGES

Fatos Nano was acquitted of charges of corruption and abuse of power by a Tirana court on 5 October, dpa reported. A court spokesman said the court decided that a 12-year sentence given to him five years ago was not "based on facts." Nano was arrested in 1993 and sentenced a year later for allegedly misusing funds given by the Italian government in 1991, when he was premier. Nano has claimed the charges were politically motivated. He served three years in prison and was appointed premier again in July 1997, although he resigned following unrest in the fall of 1998. PB

RECONCILIATION PARK HIGHLIGHTS EMBITTERED ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN RELATIONS...

The foundation stone of the Romanian-Hungarian reconciliation park is being laid on 6 October in the presence of a low-level delegation from either side, Romanian Radio reported. Shortly after Prime Minister Radu Vasile's decision not to attend, Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban arrived in Arad on 5 October, where he attended a ceremony commemorating the 13 Hungarian generals executed by the Austrians in 1848 and a play on the generals staged by the Oradea Hungarian-language theater. Orban said Vasile's cancellation was prompted by the desire to avoid a "confrontation" with Arad local council members who are opposed to the park. He, too, decided not to take part in the 6 October ceremony and delegated Justice Minister Ibolya David to attend as a "fittingly appropriate" representation. On learning of Orban's decision, Deputy Premier Valeriu Stoica, who was to have represented Vasile, also opted not to be present. MS

...AS FATE OF CONTROVERSIAL SCULPTURE GROUP REMAINS UNCLEAR

According to a Hungarian-Romanian decision, the reconciliation park is to include the "Hungarian Liberty" group of statues of the 13 generals. The monument was dismantled in 1925 and kept in storage until recently. Speaking on Romanian Radio on 5 October, Victor Chiujdea, governmental state counselor for bilateral relations, said no decision has yet been taken on displaying the monument in the park. Romanian nationalists object to such a move, claiming the monument represents the "executioners" of Romanians in Transylvania. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania rejects such an interpretation. Party of Social Democracy in Romania Chairman Ion Iliescu on 5 October said he "warned" Vasile to stay away from the ceremony, since the Hungarians are "setting a trap" to make claims on Transylvania. The Party of Romanian National Unity and the National Romanian Party have demanded that the generals' monument does not go on display. MS

TRANSDNIESTER SEPARATISTS LOOK FOR ALLIES IN ABKHAZIA

The Transdniester separatists are seeking to establish relations with other breakaway territories in the former Soviet Union and is focusing in particular on Abkhazia, Flux reported on 5 October. The agency said delegates from Abkhazia participated in the ceremonies last month marking the ninth anniversary of Transdniester "independence." Two Transdniester Supreme Soviet deputies were present as "observers" during the recent Abkhaz presidential elections. MS




OSCE SEEKS RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS, FAIR ELECTIONS


By Roland Eggleston

On his tour of Central Asia, OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek has urged the five countries to continue their progress toward full democracy. He asked the governments to free all those jailed for political offenses. And he called on them to implement the pledges they have repeatedly made to make elections fairer.

Fair elections were Vollebaek's main theme in Kazakhstan on 4 October, the last day of his tour. He expressed the OSCE's concerns about preparations for Kazakhstan's parliamentary elections on 10 October.

Vollebaek spoke with reporters in the capital, Astana, about his talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev and other Kazakh officials. Those talks followed a meeting with non- governmental organizations (NGOs) active in Kazakhstan that have been critical of the government.

"We discussed the election, the election laws, the amendments made, but in maybe a little bit more general terms with the president," Vollebaek said. "But some of the specific criticism that came up in the meeting with the NGOs I raised with the chairwoman of the Central Election Commission [on 3 October] when I met with her, the minister of justice and the acting prime minister."

Vollebaek said that during his trip, he told all five governments that the OSCE insists on the right of every citizen to express political opinions without fear of repression: "No government is happy to have its actions criticized. But unless political opponents commit a criminal offense, they should not be penalized for their opinions." Vollebaek said he had told government leaders that democracy requires a multi-party system and laws that allow all parties to freely seek election.

Vollebaek said the OSCE is not disheartened at the slow progress toward these goals in some Central Asian countries and that the organization will continue its programs to educate citizens about how democracy works.

In Uzbekistan, Vollebaek asked President Islam Karimov about reports of repression against Islamic activists. He also handed over a list of about 12 people whom the OSCE considers to have been unfairly convicted. He asked for their cases to be reviewed and for information about four people who disappeared in recent years.

Vollebaek received reports of other human rights problems, including the status of women, at a meeting in Tashkent with members of Uzbek non-governmental organizations. Among those present was the chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Talib Jakubov, who was denied an exit visa to attend an OSCE conference in Vienna this month.

Jakubov told Vollebaek that among the political parties now banned from participating in elections are some that played an important part in winning democratic elections for Uzbekistan after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He said there was a return to the Soviet model in the 1994 election. Vollebaek told the meeting that the OSCE mission in Uzbekistan will continue to assist political parties whose activities have been suspended.

In Turkmenistan, the OSCE chairman had a long meeting with President Saparmurad Niyazov. Niyazov told Vollebaek there are no political prisoners in the country and no instruments for oppressing political opponents. According to people attending the meeting, Vollebaek told Niyazov the OSCE has details of several cases of people imprisoned for what appear to be political crimes.

Vollebaek also asked for details about the death of Khoshali Garaev, who was found dead in his cell last month. Garaev was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment in 1995 on charges of conducting anti-state activity.

For almost a year, the OSCE and Turkmenistan have been discussing an agreement that would allow greater OSCE activity in the country, including election monitoring. OSCE officials said shortly before Vollebaek arrived in Turkmenistan that they thought they have an acceptable agreement, but the government rejected it at the last moment. OSCE officials said Turkmenistan does not want the OSCE's department for democratic institutions, known as ODIHR, to initiate any projects in the country. In other Central Asian countries, ODIHR holds seminars on the rights of the voter, the right of all political parties to campaign, and similar topics. OSCE officials said it is unlikely that monitors will be sent to the parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan in December because the elections do not meet the minimum OSCE standards of democracy.

Despite the differences, Niyazov told journalists accompanying the OSCE mission that Vollebaek's visit had been worthwhile. He said 2010 is his personal target date for introducing what he called a new democratic society in Turkmenistan.

In Tajikistan, Vollebaek conferred with government and opposition leaders about upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. The elections are part of the implementation of a peace agreement that ended years of civil war.

Vollebaek said Tajikistan will remain stable only if the elections are seen to be fair. He said OSCE monitors have found many flaws in the conduct of the 26 September referendum on constitutional changes. Opposition parties have requested an OSCE presence at the elections. But Vollebaek said he has not yet decided whether to send monitors because of doubts whether the elections will be conducted in accordance with OSCE standards.

At a private meeting, the main opposition leader, Said Nuri, accused the government of trying to create difficulties for his group, the United Tajik Opposition.

Vollebaek said his discussions convinced him that the OSCE must pay more attention to the problems of the Central Asian states, including their considerable economic problems, and find ways to offer practical assistance. He added that Central Asia will be an important issue at the OSCE summit in Istanbul in November. The author is a Munich-based RFE/RL correspondent.


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