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Newsline - October 7, 1999




RUSSIAN MILITARY ASSESSES OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA

Russian forces continued their air and artillery bombardment of northern and eastern Chechnya on 6 October, as President Aslan Maskhadov called on Chechnya's religious leaders to declare a holy war "to defend the country's sovereignty," Reuters reported. In Moscow, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told journalists that the first stage of the operation, in which a security zone is to be created around Chechnya, is not yet over. He said federal forces have advanced as far as the Terek River "in some places" and that plans have been approved to cross that river if and when circumstances dictate. Chief of General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin said in Moscow that the first phase of the Chechen operation also includes establishing a new administration in the zone controlled by Moscow. He cast doubt on the expediency of trying to negotiate with the Chechen leadership in Grozny, according to Interfax. In Mozdok, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said the federal forces are proceeding "successfully," but he added that his ministry is also engaged in maintaining law and order in the north of Chechnya and screening fugitives to identify potential "terrorists." LF

POLITICIANS ADVISE AGAINST EXTENDED GROUND OPERATION

Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told journalists on 6 October that federal forces should not advance across the Terek, as doing so would incur large-scale battles and heavy losses. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii issued a statement expressing support for the Russian government's actions to combat terrorism but warning that they should not evolve into "a large-scale war against the population of the Chechen republic." Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin similarly backed government policy but predicted that there will be no storming of Grozny such as took place in 1994. LF

INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR TALKS

Speaking at a news conference in Magas on 6 October, Ruslan Aushev called for "intensive talks between the federal center and Chechen leaders represented by President [Aslan] Maskhadov," ITAR- TASS reported. "We should make the Chechen nation our ally in the fight against terrorism," Aushev added. Yavlinskii similarly argued that Maskhadov is incapable of coping single-handedly with "terrorist groups" in Chechnya but that Russia could and should help him to do so, even though Maskhadov "cannot turn directly to Russia for help for political reasons," Interfax reported. LF

EXODUS FROM CHECHNYA CONTINUES

As of early 6 October, the number of displaced persons who had arrived in Ingushetia from Chechnya had reached 124,000, while that republic had food supplies for only 5,000, President Aushev told Interfax. Radzhab Abdulatipov, head of Daghestan's Migration Service, told the same news agency that there are currently 3,200 fugitives from Chechnya in Daghestan, most of them ethnic Nogais and Kumyks. Another 1,000 fugitives are waiting at the Chechen-Daghestan border, which Daghestan closed last week. President Maskhadov's wife Kusami has fled to Tbilisi with some members of her family, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting Mamuka Areshidze, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary group for relations with the North Caucasus. LF

IRAN CONDEMNS VIOLENCE IN CHECHNYA

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman has described Russia's recent policy in Daghestan and Chechnya as "inappropriate," while stressing that Tehran respects the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, Reuters reported on 6 October quoting the "Iran News." The Foreign Ministry statement affirmed Iran's readiness to cooperate with Moscow to resolve the Chechen crisis through peaceful means. LF

RUSSIA FEARS CONSEQUENCES OF IMF LOAN DELAY...

Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin told "Vedomosti" on 6 October that the delay in disbursing the next tranche of an IMF loan to Russia could fuel inflation and weaken the ruble. The same day, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that he is concerned about the postponement of an IMF board meeting to discuss releasing the $640 installment. "We are doing everything and receiving nothing," he noted. "We cannot go on this way for long. We will have to cut something from the budget." JAC

...AS IMF CONCERNED ABOUT COST OF CHECHEN ACTION

Meanwhile, an IMF official in Washington told RFE/RL that the fund is troubled by the economic cost of the Chechnya operation: "We're concerned that it could undermine progress in improving public finances," the official said. Last week, the State Duma's conciliatory commission recommended a 22 percent hike in defense spending in the 2000 draft budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich said on 7 October that given the latest developments in Chechnya and Dagestan, "the state defense order has been completely reviewed, and an additional 4 billion rubles ($154 million) has been allocated to it." He said that the money would be spent on buying new weapons, including fire arms, armored vehicles, and personal protection equipment for armed forces personnel. JAC

STAVROPOL TO ACCEPT NO MORE CHECHEN FUGITIVES

Stavropol Krai will not offer shelter to any more refugees from Chechnya, according to a joint decision of the krai authorities and migration service, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 October. Those who are arriving in Mineralnye Vody and in the krai's Kursk Raion will be given the means to travel to one of 17 other regions in the country. The rationale for the decision, according to the daily, is that the krai already received about 370,000 fugitives and migrants from Chechnya during the mid-1990s. This increased the krai's population by about 25 percent and strained local infrastructure. JAC

GRAIN HARVEST FORECAST AGAIN ADJUSTED DOWNWARD...

Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbak said on 6 October that this year's grain harvest will be about 57 million metric tons, some 5 percent lower than the official forecast of 60 million metric tons, according to ITAR-TASS. Shcherbak added that Russia will not need to import food grain and will buy about 8-10 million tons of fodder grain. According to Interfax the same day, Russia imported $69.3 million worth of grain in September, 1.8 percent less than in August. Imports of food and tobacco products soared in September by 65.9 percent, compared with the same period last year. JAC

...AS SOME REGIONS CONTINUE TO IMPOSE GRAIN EMBARGOS

Meanwhile, Russia will negotiate a package of humanitarian food aid from the U.S. that might include 1.5 million tons of fodder grain, 1.5 million tons of fodder corn, 500,000 tons of soybeans and 500,000 tons of soy meal as well as 1 million tons of food grain for the Far East, where delivery of grain from the European part of Russia is prohibitively expensive, according to Interfax. Shcherbak said that 15 Russian regions have produced enough grain to meet their own needs and share with other parts of the country, but some regional administrations have banned the shipping of any excess grain outside these regions. He called such actions illegal and said the country's prosecutors are demanding that such decisions be rescinded (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 6 October 1999). JAC

NEW MEDIA POLICY TAKING SHAPE

Minister for the Press, Television, and Radio and Mass Communications Facilities Mikhail Lesin told ITAR-TASS on 6 October that he shares the view of some regional leaders that "there is much aggressiveness in the mass media" and that "things happening now are consequences of an imperfect policy vis-a-vis the mass media." He continued that his ministry will propose a new state policy and strategy toward the media. According to Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, the upper chamber will consider two new bills on the mass media that will "clearly define the limits of what is permissible," "Izvestiya" reported the same day that the draft of the new national security doctrine discussed recently by the Security Council includes the new concept of "information security," which could entail the introduction of centralized military censorship as a result of the war in the North Caucasus. JAC

BELKA TRADING DENIES CONNECTION WITH BONY

Belka Trading's Moscow office issued a statement on 6 October saying that reports that Russian President Boris Yeltsin's son-in-law Leonid/Aleksei Dyachenko has been subpoenaed to appear before a New York grand jury are false (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999), ITAR-TASS reported. The statement acknowledged that Dyachenko works for one of Belka's companies in Russia but said he has never headed a company identified as East Coast Petroleum. The statement also denied any link with the Bank of New York scandal. "The New York Times" reported from Omsk the next day that Dyachenko has "either overseen or played a leading role in Belka's dealings with the Omsk refinery" and that the Omsk government and the management of Belka and Sibneft enjoy close relations. JAC

ELECTION REGISTRATION PROCEEDING WITH A FEW HITCHES

The Central Election Commission on 6 October delayed registering the election list of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance because the State Traffic Police had queries regarding certain candidates and their cars. According to ITAR-TASS, traffic police said that some high-ranking OVR officials have not given the exact details about their cars. On 4 October, the commission deleted one name from the OVR's list of top 20 candidates; earlier, nine others had been deleted. Five names have been dropped from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's list and 10 from the Communist Party's list. According to commission chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, "our review of data relating to the candidates is probably one of the grounds for candidates to apply for dropping their names, but there are other grounds as well such as political differences in party ranks." JAC

COMMUNISTS WANT DUMA DEBATE ON POSSIBLE U.S. REVISION OF ABM TREATY

The Communist Party faction in the State Duma has said it will submit to the lower house "in the very near future" a proposal on "revising some of the provisions of Russia's national security doctrine" in the light of the U.S.'s possible revision of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 October. The faction stressed that such a revision would "not remain unanswered in Russia" and that it would call on legislative bodies to take "urgent measures." JC

MOSCOW WON'T GIVE UP IRAQI 'TASTY MORSEL'

Speaking to "Vremya MN" on 6 October, Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi expressed the opinion that Russian oil companies must be allowed to work in Iraq. The minister, who was in Baghdad last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999), commented that the government cannot prevent a largely private company such as LUKoil from operating in Iraq. "Oil there is cheap and easy to obtain," he noted, "Why should we give up such a tasty morsel?" Kalyuzhnyi noted that in two months' time, the government will make clear its position on the UN sanctions against Iraq. And he also accused the U.S. of violating the embargo by not exercising control over countries such as Turkey that buy oil from Iraq. Meanwhile, the "Financial Times" of 7 October quoted a LUKoil spokesman as saying that the company has no intention of breaking the embargo. JC

IVANOV SUGGESTS CASTRO TILTING AT WINDMILLS?

Following his visit to Cuba last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999), Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told "Komsomolskaya pravda" of 6 October that it was a "mistake" of Russian foreign policy to have underestimated relations with Cuba, which, he stressed, is a "very active player in the international arena." With regard to Cuba's leader, Fidel Castro, whom Ivanov had met in Havana, the minister commented that he is "probably one of the last Don Quixotes of the 20th century." JC/JAC




AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS RUSSIAN MISSILE STRIKE

Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry on 6 October protested the Russian denial of any responsibility for an explosion in the village of Gymir in Azerbaijan's northern Zakatala Raion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999), Turan and Interfax reported. Initial reports claimed that a bomb dropped by a Russian aircraft caused the explosion, which damaged several houses, but a subsequent Azerbaijan Defense Ministry investigation established that the cause was a ground-to-ground missile. The Azerbaijani statement called on the Russian Defense Ministry to acknowledge responsibility for the attack and launch an investigation. LF

GEORGIA POISED TO JOIN WTO

A meeting of the World Trade Organization General Council in Geneva on 6 October ruled that Georgia has fulfilled all requirements for membership in that organization, Reuters reported. The Georgian parliament must now ratify the terms of entry agreed with the WTO, according to AP. LF

TBILISI, BATUMI AT ODDS OVER AMNESTY

Georgia's Deputy Prosecutor-General Anzor Baluashvili said in Tbilisi on 6 October that the Prosecutor-General's Office will open criminal proceedings against the governors of prisons in Batumi, the capital of the Adjar Autonomous republic, if they fail to release 28 prisoners pardoned under Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's 1 October amnesty, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS QUERY ACCURACY OF ABKHAZ POLL DATA...

The Tbilisi-based Information Center of the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic, which represents ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war, told Caucasus Press on 6 October that the Abkhaz authorities overstated the number of voters eligible to participate in the 3 October presidential elections by including in voter registers the names of 2,500 residents of the Russian Federation. The center also disputed official poll returns according to which turnout in the predominantly Georgian-populated Gali Raion was 65 percent. The White Legion Georgian guerrilla organization claimed that no more than 13 percent of Abkhazia's population participated in the poll. A turnout of 50 percent was required for the election to be valid. Meanwhile the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry have issued statements terming the poll illegal, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...AS ABKHAZ OFFICIAL SAYS REPATRIATION SUCCESSFUL

Otar Kakalia, who heads the Abkhaz presidential commission overseeing the repatriation of ethnic Georgian displaced persons to Gali Raion, issued a statement on 6 October claiming that the process is now completed, ITAR-TASS reported. Kakalia said some 65,000 ethnic Georgians have returned to Gali in response to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's appeal to them to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 8 March 1999). He added that schools have been opened for thousands of Georgian children and that water-supplies and roads in the district are being repaired. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION WARNS PRO- PRESIDENTIAL PARTY...

The Central Electoral Commission warned the Civic Party on 6 October to stop distributing free gifts to voters in the runup to the 10 October elections to the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament, Interfax reported, quoting commission deputy chairman Kuandyk Turgankulov. He added that the Azamat (Citizen) and Communist Parties and an OSCE mission have complained about those activities. But Kuandykov rejected as untrue claims by the Azamat Party that the Civic Party used foreign funds to finance its election campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 30 September 1999). LF

...AS DOUBTS EXPRESSED THAT POLL WILL BE FREE AND FAIR

Azamat party leader Petr Svojk, speaking to journalists in Almaty on 6 October, said he expects that local administrators will falsify the outcome of the 10 October polls, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Svojk urged that domestic observers be permitted to monitor the vote count. An RFE/RL correspondent who accompanied OCSE Chairman-In-Office Knut Vollebaek on his recent tour of Central Asian capitals quoted ODIHR official Hrair Balian as expressing concern that some local Kazakh election officials may be either ignorant of the new improved election law or may simply choose not to observe those articles of the law providing for monitoring of the vote count and tabulation. LF

KAZAKH FINANCE MINISTER ASSESSES ECONOMIC SITUATION

Oraz Zhandosov told journalists in Almaty on 6 October that the IMF believes Kazakhstan is experiencing a deep economic crisis and will consider the possibility of further loans and credits only after sending a team to the country later this month, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The fund and the Kazakh government failed to reach agreement on a new loan program two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1999). Zhandosov said that Kazakhstan's current deficit is $550 million and that it is unlikely that the country can get through the next fiscal year without new foreign credits. Zhandosov said no final decision has yet been taken on whether to sell part of Kazakhstan's 25 percent equity stake in the Tengizchevroil project, but he proposed privatizing KazTelecom and the People's Bank as soon as possible in order to help bridge the budget deficit. Zhandosov estimated Kazakh citizens' combined deposits in foreign banks at $3-4 billion. LF

PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY REGISTERED IN KYRGYZSTAN

The Adilet Party, which supports President Askar Akaev, was registered by the Minister of Justice on 22 September, five days after holding its founding conference, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 6 October. The party already has 33,000 members, including oblast and city heads. The party's chairman is former Finance Minister Marat Sultanov. LF

KYRGYZ MEDIATORS CONTINUE EFFORTS TO SECURE HOSTAGES' RELEASE

A prominent Kyrgyz religious leader, International Islamic Center Director Sadykzhan Kamalov, has arrived in Dushanbe on a private visit to meet with Tajik religious leaders in an attempt to secure the release of 13 hostages held by ethnic Uzbek militants in southern Kyrgyzstan, ITAR- TASS reported on 6 October. Kamalov met in Dushanbe with Tajikistan's Minister for the Economy and Foreign Economic Relations Davlat Usmon, who last week was nominated as presidential candidate for the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party. Also on 6 October, Kyrgyz Human Rights Movement Chairman Tursunbek Akunov told RFE/RL by telephone that he has still failed to make contact in Pakistan with representatives of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who had promised to help him travel to Afghanistan to meet with the hostage takers' leaders there. LF

TAJIKISTAN PROTESTS UZBEK BOMBING RAIDS

The Tajik Foreign Ministry on 6 October sent an official note to its Uzbek counterpart protesting the air raids by Uzbek aircraft on villages in eastern Tajikistan, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 October 1999). AP quoted Tajik officials as estimating that 80 bombs were dropped from 2-4 October. LF

TURKMENISTAN WILL EXPORT GAS VIA RUSSIA, IRAN IF TRANS- CASPIAN PIPELINE DELAYED

Meeting in Ashgabat on 6 October with Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov said that if construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline to export Turkmen gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia is not begun within six or seven months, then his country will begin exporting gas via Iran and Russia, Turan reported. Niyazov held talks in Ashgabat on 4 October with representatives of the U.S. company PSG, which will be the pipeline operator. He also met with representatives of Royal Dutch/Shell, which is the upstream partner in the project. Construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline is contingent on the signing of a political agreement by Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are at odds over how much Azerbaijani gas will be exported via that pipeline. LF




BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO PUT PRESSURE ON INDEPENDENT MEDIA

Minsk tax inspectors have requested that the State Press Committee close the independent weekly "Belaruskaya maladzyozhnaya," Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 6 October. According to those inspectors, the weekly's editorial office is not located at the official address that it registered with the committee, which, they said, violates the press law. Tatsyana Melnichuk, chief editor of "Belaruskaya maladzyozhnaya," said she was told in a private conversation with a tax inspector that there is "an instruction from the top" to close down the weekly. "Belaruskaya maladzyozhnaya" appeared in 1994 and was run by radio journalists after the authorities closed down the radio station of the same name. JM

PACE LAYS DOWN CONDITIONS FOR READMISSION OF BELARUS

Wolfgang Behrendt, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for Belarus, said in Minsk on 6 October that Belarus can regain its special guest status in the PACE only after fulfilling three conditions. According to Behrendt, Belarus must hold free and democratic parliamentary elections in 2000, increase the powers of the parliament, and improve its human rights record. Behrendt said the election code currently discussed in Belarus's National Assembly must be improved, and he offered help from Strasbourg experts. Behrendt also expressed concern over the disappearance of prominent oppositionists in Belarus. "How was this possible in a country where state control over all the spheres of public life is so extremely strong?" RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted him as saying. JM

UKRAINE'S VITRENKO CONFIDENT SHE'LL REACH RUNOFF AGAINST KUCHMA

In her first news conference since the 2 October grenade attack, presidential candidate Natalya Vitrenko said in Kyiv on 6 October that she hopes to defeat President Leonid Kuchma in the second round of the presidential elections, scheduled for 14 November. "I know that in the final stage I will have a fierce fight with Leonid Kuchma," she noted, having dismissed the other candidates as "weak politicians." Vitrenko said she does not accuse anybody of staging the attempt on her life, but she added that "practically" all other candidates are interested in removing her from the political arena. JM

PACE SAYS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE 'NOT FULLY OPEN OR FAIR'

Anne Severinsen, PACE rapporteur for Ukraine, said at a meeting with parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko in Kyiv on 6 October that the presidential campaign in Ukraine "has so far not been fully open or fair," Interfax reported. Severinsen cited threats to presidential candidates and journalists, administration interference in the election campaign, and unequal media access for candidates. She asked President Kuchma "to guarantee freedom of the press" in Ukraine and, in particular, to ban tax inspectors from investigating media outlets until after the presidential ballot. Kuchma's spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said the PACE's recommendation will be carefully studied, but he dismissed the monitor's conclusions as superficial, Reuters reported. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS VOTERS TO MAKE 'ONLY RIGHT CHOICE' ON 31 OCTOBER

The Supreme Council on 6 October appealed to the Ukrainian people to make the "only right choice" in the 31 October presidential ballot. That choice, they said, is one of "your conscience and reason." The appeal accused Kuchma and his entourage of violating the principle of equal possibilities for all candidates in the campaign and of monopolizing the state-controlled media. Ukraine's economy is "a ruin on which only a handful of oligarchs and state officials flourish...thanks to preferences granted to them by the president," it added. JM

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PARTIAL IGNALINA SHUTDOWN

The Lithuanian parliament on 5 October approved the government's energy strategy for 2000-2005, which calls for the closure of the first unit at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant by 2005. The measure, which passed by a 63 to 31 vote, is conditional on foreign assistance, Reuters reported. During the heated session, former Premier Gediminas Vagnorius called for the document to be further revised to ensure foreign funding support for the shutdown before setting a timetable, but the measure was defeated. The next energy strategy, due in 2004, will deal with the fate of the second unit at Ignalina. The implementation plan for the 2000-2005 strategy will be submitted in March 2000, according to BNS. MH

LITHUANIAN ECONOMICS MINISTER EXPLAINS IRANIAN OIL STORY

Under pressure from the media, the parliament, and the government, Eugenijus Maldeikis explained on 6 October that his comments about purchasing Iranian crude oil have been "blown out of proportion," BNS reported. Maldeikis had suggested that Lithuania will discuss crude purchases from Iran(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). He explained that there have been no negotiations, just an "elementary general discussion." Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas, apparently caught off guard by the comments on Iran, stressed that Lithuania has not held and will not be holding talks with Iran over crude purchases. The parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee is also calling for an inquiry into Maldeikis's comments. MH

POLISH COALITION CONTINUE TO DISCUSS CABINET CHANGES

The Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union are continuing talks on the restructuring of Jerzy Buzek's cabinet, PAP reported on 6 October. AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski said the coalition will continue in office until its term ends in 2001 and added he does not believe there will be early parliamentary elections. Krzaklewski also said the coalition has considered several options for a cabinet reshuffle but did not discuss a change of the prime minister. Meanwhile, a September survey by the OBOP polling agency showed that 68 percent of respondents believe Poland has taken a "wrong turn." A late September survey by the CBOS polling agency said Jerzy Buzek's cabinet has only 16 percent support, down from 24 percent in July. JM

CZECH ROMA CONTINUE PROTEST IN USTI NAD LABEM

Romany protesters from Usti nad Labem and other Czech towns continued their protest on 6 October against the construction of the wall that would separate Roma from other residents, CTK reported. Ondrej Gina, spokesman for the association of Romany regional representatives, said the Roma intend to take their case to the Constitutional Court. He also said that they are advised on legal matters by the Budapest-based Center for Romany Rights. Gina said he has received a fax from former South African President Nelson Mandela, which he considers to be "great encouragement." The Novy Bor Cultural Union of Roma issued a statement demanding that the parliament use "all constitutional means" to stop the construction of the fence. Otherwise, the statement said, "hundreds of Roma" will travel to the site and "violate the law." MS

CZECH PRESIDENT ADDRESSES HOLOCAUST CONFERENCE

"Czech skinheads who shout Nazi slogans do not realize that if Nazism had prevailed, they would not exist," Vaclav Havel told a conference on the Jewish and Romany Holocaust in Prague on 6 October. Havel said that "whoever denies the past or casts doubt on it, be it an American neo-Nazi, a member of the German Witiko-Bund, or a Czech skinhead, is equally dangerous to democracy." Karel Holomek, chairman of the Association of Moravian Roma, said the Romany Holocaust remains "relatively unknown" both because the communist regime's policy was assimilationist and because of a "deep- rooted aversion toward Roma in Czech society, which refuses to admit that Roma suffered owing to their cultural difference during World War II." MS

U.S. FIRST LADY IN SLOVAKIA

Hillary Rodham Clinton met with President Rudolf Schuster and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda in Bratislava on 6 October, AP reported. Clinton encouraged the government to continue to work for the improvement of the situation of the country's national minorities. She said that by signing an agreement with Hungary on reconstructing the bridge linking the two countries over the River Danube, "you are making a statement about the world Slovakia wants to be part of." MS

SLOVAKIA APPROVES PLAN FOR JOINING NATO

The government on 6 October approved the National Program for NATO Accession, which is based on the Membership Action Plan approved by NATO at its summit in Washington earlier this year. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told journalists that Slovakia "is interested in becoming a NATO member as soon as possible." He added that U.S. President Bill Clinton promised Dzurinda that Slovakia's accession could take place by 2001. Jan Figel and Jozef Pivarci, state secretaries in the Foreign and Defense Ministries, are to submit the plan to NATO headquarters in Brussels on 11 October and NATO is to assess it by March, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN PARTIES WITHDRAW FROM BY-ELECTIONS

Istvan Csurka, chairman of the extreme-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), announced on 6 October that his party is withdrawing its candidates for the local by-elections in Szekesfehervar and Siofok in order to benefit the "national side." MIEP spokesman Bela Gyori said the party had not received a request for support from the governing coalition, but he added that MIEP supporters "will know for whom to vote on 10 October." Prime Minister Viktor Orban, chairman of FIDESZ, and Ibolya David, chairwoman of the Democratic Forum (MDF), have agreed that the MDF-People's Party candidate in Szekesfehervar will step down in order to benefit the FIDESZ- Smallholders' candidate. MSZ




VOJVODINA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF 'YOGURT REVOLUTION'

As many as 8,000 protesters gathered in Novi Sad on 6 October to mark the 11th anniversary of the seizure of power in Vojvodina by supporters of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. In 1988, pro-Milosevic demonstrators threw pots of yogurt at government buildings, but 11 years later protesters lit candles to honor victims of Milosevic's rule. Vojvodina opposition leader Nenad Canak told the crowd: "We cannot escape from Milosevic because he is not human, he is pollution," Reuters reported. Elsewhere, some 5,000 anti- Milosevic demonstrators turned out in Belgrade, as did a few hundred people in Cacak and Pancevo. PM

DRASKOVIC BLASTS MILOSEVIC'S 'EVIL EMPIRE'

The Serbian Renewal Movement's (SPO) leader Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 6 October that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's rule is "an empire of evil, which causes only death and has destroyed everything," AP reported. The SPO leader spoke at the funeral of three of his aides, who died recently in a mysterious traffic accident. Draskovic has called the accident an "assassination attempt" against him that was organized by the authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). Elsewhere, SPO officials said the police are planning to issue a report saying that the unidentified driver of the truck that caused the accident did so in an attempt to pass another vehicle. Draskovic has charged that the driver deliberately swerved into his lane for no apparent reason. Finally, the state-run Tanjug news agency reported that police have detained Draskovic aide Vladimir Nikolic in custody on charges of "revealing official secrets." Nikolic is a former employee of the secret service. PM

DJUKANOVIC: 'NO ORDINARY ACCIDENT'

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said he does "not want to add to the tensions" in Serbia by commenting on Draskovic's accident, London's "The Independent" reported on 7 October. He stressed nonetheless that it "was no ordinary traffic accident if the leader of the most important opposition party...barely survives a car crash at this very sensitive political moment." PM

DRASKOVIC KEY TO OPPOSITION SUCCESS?

Many observers in Belgrade believe that opposition protests are unlikely to become large enough to threaten Milosevic's hold on power unless Draskovic joins them, VOA's Serbian Service reported on 7 October. The previous day, Social Democratic leader Vuk Obradovic appealed to Draskovic to take part in the protests and thereby help transform them into an expression of the will "of the entire nation." The SPO leader had previously criticized the demonstrations as ineffective. VOA added that some observers expect former General Momcilo Perisic, who heads the Movement for Democratic Serbia, to soon join the opposition's protests (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 August 1999). PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER HOPES FOR FUEL DELIVERIES

Mladjan Dinkic, who is a spokesman for the opposition G-17 group of economists, said in Belgrade on 6 October that foreign ministers of Finland, France, and Germany support his call for winter fuel deliveries to Serbia. The G-17's "energy for democracy" program calls for private firms to deliver fuel to Serbian cities and towns under independent supervision. The program would involve all municipalities, regardless of whether they are controlled by the opposition or by Milosevic. EU foreign ministers are slated to vote on 11 October on a Greek and Dutch proposal to provide winter fuel to Serbia. PM

VOLLEBAEK CONDEMNS ETHNIC CLASHES IN MITROVICA...

OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek, speaking to students at the Vushtrri police academy on 6 October, condemned an incident the previous day near Mitrovica in which ethnic Albanians attacked Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). Vollebaek stressed that "security for each and every citizen is basic if we want to rebuild society.... I'm also happy that we have some representatives of minorities [in the police force]," AP reported. There are about a dozen Serbs among the 176 police students. Vollebaek added that he will urge ethnic Albanian political leaders "to have a very clear stand when it comes to the atrocities now committed against Serbs. I think that is unacceptable." At least one Serb was killed and 26 people injured in the violence, including 15 peacekeepers and 11 Serbs. The private Serbian news agency Beta noted that three Serbs are still reported missing since the incident. FS

...AS DOES JACKSON

KFOR commander General Sir Mike Jackson told Reuters on 6 October that the Mitrovica violence "was an appalling incident.... As far as I can work out, a group of civilians attacked another group of civilians, completely unprovoked, which ended in a very ugly scene." He concluded: "It does tell me that, I'm afraid, ethnic hatred is still just below the surface, which is a shame. But it's a fact." Meanwhile, an unidentified man threw a hand grenade into a shop in Vitina, injuring two Serbs, according to Beta. And KFOR arrested three uniformed members of the Kosova Protection Corps on 5 October, who "threatened" unspecified people in the Prishtina hospital, AP reported. FS

BOSNIAN MILITARY COMMITTEE NAMES REPRESENTATIVES

Members of the Standing Committee for Military Questions agreed in Sarajevo on 6 October that a Muslim will be Bosnia's military attache in Washington. They also decided that a Serb will be the chief military representative to NATO and a Croat will hold a similar position at the OSCE headquarters in Vienna. The committee also agreed to set up an unspecified number of working groups to draw up by the end of October concrete plans on security and on demilitarization, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service Reported. PM

BAN ON HARD-LINE BOSNIAN SERB PARTY IN THE OFFING?

The OSCE and the office of the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch issued a joint statement in Sarajevo on 6 October threatening to bar the Bosnian branch of Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS) from taking part in local elections in 2000. The statement said the ban will come into effect unless the SRS drops three prominent hard-liners from its leadership. They are Nikola Poplasen, Mirko Blagojevic, and Ognjen Tadic. In response, the SRS issued a statement, signed by Poplasen, calling the decision "fascist." PM

KLEIN PLANS JOINT BORDER POLICE

Jacques Klein, who is the UN's chief representative in Bosnia, spoke with Bosnian Serb leaders in Banja Luka on 6 October about establishing a joint border police force. That body would include police from both the Republika Srpska and the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation. Its first task would be to take charge of police work at Sarajevo airport, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. It is unclear when the force would begin work. PM

CROATIAN WEEKLY SUES NATIONALIST LEADER

Ivo Pukanic, who is editor-in-chief of the independent weekly "Nacional," told Reuters in Zagreb on 6 October that his newspaper is suing right-wing politician Anto Djapic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). Pukanic charged that Djapic has threatened his publication and other independent media with physical violence. PM

ALBANIA'S MAJKO REJECTS CRITICISM BY PREDECESSOR

Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, speaking at a Socialist Party gathering in Tirana on 5 October, dismissed party leader Fatos Nano's recent criticism of his efforts to achieve a reconciliation with the opposition. Majko argued that "it was necessary to reach out [to the opposition] at a time when the Serbs were preparing the massacre [of the Kosovar Albanians]," the "Albanian Daily News" reported on 7 October. He argued that the Socialists must be open to contacts with "a constructive opposition that knows and respects state institutions and constitutional laws." And he added that Nano's "accusations create a spiral of uncertainty, verbal violence, lack of confidence, and suspicion that targets...solidarity" within the Socialist Party. Majko will challenge Nano for the party leadership at the party's 9 October congress. FS

ALBANIA, ITALY PLEDGE BETTER COOPERATION

Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and his Italian counterpart, Lamberto Dini, pledged in Rome on 5 October to launch several joint regional projects within the framework of the Balkan Stability Pact, the "Albanian Daily News" reported on 7 October. Both countries will present proposals for those projects at an upcoming donors conference in Bari. One key proposal will be the construction of an east-west "corridor" linking the port of Durres via Macedonia with Bulgarian Black Sea ports and Istanbul. The corridor includes improved telecommunications, road and railway links, and oil and gas pipelines. The ministers also agreed to create a permanent working group to coordinate their efforts in promoting political, economic, and social development and strengthening public order. FS

NO FOUNDATION STONE LAID AT 'RECONCILIATION PARK' IN ROMANIA

The 6 October ceremony at which the foundation stone of the Romanian-Hungarian reconciliation park was to have been laid was cancelled without explanation. The same day, a Hungarian delegation headed by Justice Minister Ibolya David attended a Mass in memory of the 13 generals executed by Austria in 1848; later, they laid wreaths at an obelisk commemorating the generals. The delegation was heckled by some 100 Greater Romania Party sympathizers, who shouted obscenities and called for the death of Reformed Bishop Laszlo Toekes, an RFE/RL correspondent in Arad reported. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Simona Miculescu said the ministry considers "the manipulation of national sentiment for the purpose of building political capital irresponsible." She said relations between the two countries are "irreversibly good" and must not be influenced by "fear of historical shadows or the shadows [cast by] statues." MS

ROMANIA SLAMS ABKHAZIA 'ELECTIONS'

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Miculescu said on 6 October that Romania is "worried" about the recent presdidential elections and referendum in "the separatist province of Abkhazia, [which is] an integral part of Georgia, a sovereign and independent state with which Romania has friendly and good neighborly relations," Mediafax reported (see also Part 1). Miculescu said Romania is joining "the international community in refusing to recognize the independence of the so-called Abkhaz Republic." MS

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN FRANCE

Victor Babiuc met in Paris on 6 October with his French counterpart, Alain Richard, and with representatives of the French military industries, Mediafax reported. Richard noted that France's Thomson company is collaborating with Romania's Aerostar aircraft company in the production of military and civilian planes and that the Eurocopter firm is interested in the privatization of the Brasov-based IAR-Ghimbav aircraft company A deal with Bell Helicopter Textron on privatizing IAR-Ghimbav was called off earlier this year. Also on 6 October, Chief of Staff General Constantin Degeratu and British Ambassador to Bucharest Richard Ralph signed a military agreement for the year 2000, which Degeratu called "the most comprehensive military program Romania shares with a NATO member country," AP reported. MS

FORMER BULGARIAN KING DONATES PART OF RETURNED PROPERTY

Former King Simeon II on 6 October donated a park on the outskirts of Sofia to the city's municipality in a "sign of appreciation for the [recent] restitution of property nationalized by the communists," AP reported, citing BTA. The former monarch asked that the park, which includes a small castle, be named after his grandfather, King Ferdinand, who ruled from 1896 to 1918. MS




A TIME FOR SERGEANTS


By Paul Goble

A new and important figure is appearing in the armies of the three Baltic States, one who is likely to prove more important for those countries' integration into NATO and the West than any of the declarations by political figures east or west.

That figure is the professional non-commissioned officer, the well-trained and career sergeant or corporal, on whom Western militaries have long depended but who seldom existed in the militaries of the former Warsaw Pact.

And nowhere is the rise of this new class of leaders anymore obvious or impressive than at the Rukla Training Area of the Lithuanian defense forces.

Located approximately 100 kilometers west of Vilnius, Rukla now serves as the headquarters both for the training of new soldiers and for the seasoning of non-commissioned officers prepared by the Non-Commissioned Officer School in the nearby city of Kaunas.

Operating in accordance with Western standards in terms of facilities and of training and doctrine, the Rukla Training Area prepared more than 1,000 new Lithuanian soldiers during the past year and is scheduled to expand to train up to 4,000 a year in the future.

No one can visit the site without being struck by the quality of the facilities themselves--many of the buildings and much of the equipment surpass what is found in countries that have been members of NATO for many years.

But even more important is the shift in attitudes between officers and soldiers, a change that commanders there and in Vilnius suggest reflect the ever-expanding role of sergeants in this training enterprise and throughout the Lithuanian army.

In the view of these commanders, the professional sergeants and other non-commissioned officers, many of whom are competing for permanent positions and a large percentage of whom are women, play three key roles. Each of those roles is more important than pay grades might suggest.

First, they perform many of the jobs that junior officers had to do in Soviet-style armies, thereby allowing the latter to be leaders rather than operators.

Second, these sergeants and corporals represent an element of continuity, passing on military traditions to soldiers even as officers are shifted from one billet to another. They thus promote the professionalization of both the soldiers under them and the officers under whom they serve.

And third, the sergeants help transform the image of soldiers among officers and of officers among soldiers, thus serving as a brake against the kind of hazing that was all too common in Soviet-era armies. This is almost certainly their most important contribution.

Precisely because they are professionals, well-trained and often better paid than some junior officers, the non- commissioned officers enjoy remarkable respect from the men and women they lead and thus guarantee that officers respect not only themselves but the soldiers.

That shift in attitudes has had a profound impact on the nature of the Lithuanian defense forces. In the past, few Lithuanians saw the military as a profession to be pursued and military rank as a status to be envied.

Instead, in a hangover from the Soviet period, until relatively recently many people saw military service as something to be avoided precisely because officers could be counted on to make life miserable for conscripts. Now these attitudes have changed, less because of declarations by senior government officials and military commanders than because of the day-to-day work of sergeants and corporals.

Consequently, it may well be the sergeants rather than the generals who will improve the prospects for the inclusion of Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors not only into the world of modern Western militaries but into NATO as well.


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