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Newsline - October 11, 1999




YELTSIN LEAVES HOSPITAL AS PUTIN CHEERS

President Boris Yeltsin checked out of a Moscow hospital on 11 October, two days after being admitted with influenza. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin reported that Yeltsin's temperature has normalized. He dismissed a report in "Segodnya" on 9 October that Yeltsin requires an operation. The newspaper, which is owned by the Media-Most group, a Kremlin foe, added that Yeltsin requires painkillers every week. Meanwhile, Russian Public Television repeatedly showed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cheering during Russia's soccer match against Ukraine on 9 October in what is likely an effort to boost Putin's already growing popularity, "The Boston Globe" reported on 10 October. According to NTV the same day, Russian media and public are so used to Yeltsin's frequent illnesses that the soccer match, which resulted in a 1-1 draw, was the evening news' top story, not Yeltsin's hospitalization. NTV is also owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most. JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW PEACE PLAN

Aslan Maskhadov has called for a halt to Russian air raids and the withdrawal of federal forces from the regions they have occupied over the past two-and-a-half weeks, in return for which he undertook to neutralize the Chechen radicals, Reuters reported on 10 October. But the following day, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo both denied any knowledge of Maskhadov's initiative. LF

PUTIN, SERGEEV VOW TO LIQUIDATE CHECHEN 'TERRORISTS'...

Interviewed on 10 October on Russian Television's "Zerkalo" program, Prime Minister Putin again said that the federal forces' goal in Chechnya is to "restore order" and "eliminate all gangs on Chechen territory," Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Both Putin and Defense Minister Sergeev stressed that Russian military losses will be kept to a minimum. On 9 October, Putin had told RTR that the federal forces' top priority is to create a security zone around Chechnya and to expand the extent of Chechen territory currently controlled by Russian forces. LF

...WHILE AIR RAIDS CONTINUE

Russia continued its intensive air and artillery bombardment of selected targets in Chechnya over the past three days. On 10 October, it attacked the villages of Meskety, Nozhai-Yurt, Zandak, Serzhen-Yurt, Goragorsky, Gerzel, Bamut, and Yandi, Chechen sources told Turan. Nine people were killed in similar attacks the previous day. Russian agencies claimed that federal forces are still tightening their control over Shelkovskii, Nauri and Nadterechnyi Raions, and have taken the strategic rail junction of Chervlennaya-uzlovaya. But Turan on 11 October reported that fighting for control of that junction has been going on for three days and is still continuing. On 9 October, Chechen militants burned the home in Alkhan-Yurt of newly appointed Chechen puppet government head Malik Saidullaev and beat up several of his female relatives, ITAR- TASS reported. LF

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WARNS ARAB COUNTRIES NOT TO ABET CHECHENS

The ambassadors in Moscow of a number of unidentified Arab countries have been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry and acquainted with evidence that foreign Islamic organizations are organizing aid to the Chechen radicals from the territory of those states, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Citing Foreign Ministry sources, Interfax also reported that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov plans to send envoys to Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to hand over a message explaining Russia's policy in Chechnya and seeking support for it. Speaking in Kyiv on 9 October, Ivanov admitted that the Russian incursion into Chechnya has resulted in what he termed "minor civilian casualties," but he added that Moscow is endeavoring to keep those casualties to a minimum, according to Interfax. Ivanov also rejected an 8 October U.S. claim that Russia is violating the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe by deploying in Chechnya hundreds more pieces of military equipment than is provided for by that accord. LF

THOUSANDS CONTINUE TO FLEE CHECHNYA

Some 5,000 Chechens fled to Ingushetia on 10 October, raising the total number currently in Ingushetia to 155,000, Reuters reported on 11 October. Some 9,000 people had fled Chechnya on 8 October, according to Interfax. The pre-war population of Ingushetia was approximately 340,000. Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev told Interfax on 9 October that his republic cannot cope with the influx. Reuters the next day quoted a border guard on the internal border between Ingushetia and neighboring North Ossetia as saying he has orders from Russian chief of staff General Anatolii Kvashnin not to allow persons to leave Ingushetia if they are registered as residents of Grozny. LF

TAX POLICE BEING DEPLOYED TO ISOLATE CHECHNYA ECONOMICALLY

The Moscow Department of the Federal Tax Service has started examining the activities of some 15 Russian companies suspected of financing and supporting Chechen insurgents, "Segodnya" reported on 9 October. According to the daily, all the companies are registered in Tatarstan. Unidentified sources within the tax service told the newspaper that money is being transferred to Chechen "guerillas along a very long but well thought out chain," including "pocket banks" created specifically for this purpose. According to the same sources, tax inspectors will soon turn their attention to various banks located in Moscow and the regions as well as certain companies registered in the Republic of Ingushetia and Kaliningrad Oblast. JAC

MOST OVR CANDIDATES REGISTERED FOR ELECTIONS...

The Central Election Committee registered the party list of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance on 9 October. According to Interfax, 261 names remained on the list for upcoming State Duma elections after the commission removed 10 candidates who had submitted false reports on their cars and real estate. In addition, 27 candidates, including Russian Regions faction leader Oleg Morozov, Sistema head Vladimir Yevtushenkov, and Union of Russian Industrialists and Entrepreneurs head Arkadii Volskii, will be submitted to further scrutiny, "Vremya MN" reported on 11 October. According to the daily, OVR is in a somewhat precarious position, since if 25 percent of its candidates (65) are rejected, it will be unable to participate in the elections. A total of 21 candidates have already been removed from the list or have withdrawn their names voluntarily. Also on 9 October, the commission gave preliminary approval to OVR's list of candidates for single-mandate districts. JAC

...AS MOSCOW LOSES A MAYORAL CANDIDATE

The commission will consider the party list of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party at a meeting on 11 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Convicted felon and St. Petersburg lawyer Dmitrii Yakubskii withdrew his name from the party's list on 9 October. Two days earlier, the City of Moscow's Election Commission refused to register LDPR member and Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov for mayoral elections in the capital. Mitrofanov allegedly violated campaign fund regulations, according to "Segodnya" on 8 October. Also eliminated from the race was Mitrofanov's running mate, deputy-mayoral would-be Andrei Brezhnev, who is the grandson of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. JAC

ST. PETE GOVERNOR GETS OWN WAY OVER ELECTIONS--FOR TIME BEING

The St. Petersburg legislature on 8 October voted to bring forward gubernatorial elections from April 2000 to 19 December 1999, after deputies in the 50-member chamber lowered the quorum from 34 to 26. That latter figure corresponds roughly to the number of supporters of incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, who is expected to benefit from an early ballot. Opposition deputies representing Yabloko and the Yurii Boldyrev Bloc, who walked out before the vote took place, claim the electronic voting system was tampered with so that votes were "cast" by opposition deputies who were not present. The opposition has filed a complaint with the Prosecutor-General's Office, accusing Yakovlev of attempting to seize legislative power in the northern capital, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 October. Earlier, opposition deputies repeatedly prevented a vote on the issue by ensuring there was no two-thirds quorum (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 September 1999). JC

SOBINBANK OFFICIAL SAYS HE'S OBJECT OF SMEAR CAMPAIGN

In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 October, Aleksandr Mamut, a member of the board of directors of Sobinbank, accused the Moscow-based media of spreading false rumors about himself and the banks he is associated with in order to discredit the executive branch (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). Mamut is an adviser to presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin and is chairman of the board of directors of MDM-bank, which also has been accused of exporting capital to the Bank of New York (BONY). He said that although MDM-bank has had a correspondent account with the BONY for almost two years, it has never used it for any active transactions. He also said reports that Sobinbank was involved in dubious transactions with the BONY are "lies." JAC

INKOMBANK DEPOSITORS SEEKING MONEY FROM BONY

Four individuals and a Bulgarian firm that had accounts in the insolvent Inkombank filed suit in a New York court against the BONY on 8 October, "Vremya MN" reported. They accuse the BONY of playing a leading role in the illegal removal of assets from Inkombank. They are seeking $165 million in compensation, according to the daily. Inkombank's depositors have faced long delays in getting their money returned as Inkombank's bankruptcy case makes its way through the Russian legal system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). JAC

BEREZOVSKII'S TRAVEL PLANS THWARTED

Switzerland refused an entry visa to media magnate Boris Berezovskii three weeks ago, AFP reported on 9 October. According to the agency, Swiss legal authorities are currently conducting an investigation into what assets Berezovskii may have in their country. On 10 October, Swiss officials told the agency that aluminum magnate Lev Chernyi, who is reportedly close to Berezovskii, is also being investigated. JAC

YELTSIN CONFIRMS DRIVE FOR START 2 RATIFICATION

In a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, President Yeltsin confirmed that Moscow is making "considerable efforts" to achieve the speedy ratification of START 2, Interfax reported on 8 October, citing the presidential press service. He added that Russia is prepared to begin negotiations on START 3 if the 1972 ABM Treaty is complied with. And he noted that the government has almost finished drawing up documents necessary for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). Yeltsin also praised Russian-Japanese relations, particularly joint economic projects. JC

RUSSIA TO EQUIP SECOND TOPOL-M UNIT

Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Aleksandr Kosovan told journalists on 8 October that in the second half of December, another strategic rocket regiment will be equipped with the Topol-M ballistic missile, Interfax reported. Like the first such regiment, equipped in December 1998, this second unit will have 10 Topol- M missiles. The report did not specify where the second unit is located. JC

IVANOV DENIES MOSCOW, BEIJING SEEKING TO FORM 'POWER CENTER'

Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told the Chinese news agency Xinhua on 8 October that there is no basis to speculation that Russia and China want to create a "kind of independent power center" that might grow into a military and political alliance, according to Interfax. Ivanov stressed that both Moscow and Beijing favor a "multipolar" world, and he argued that Russian-Chinese relations have entered their "best period." From 7-10 October, Communist Party of the Russian Federation leader Gennadii Zyuganov was in China heading a KPRF delegation that had been invited by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 October. JC

GORBACHEV TO MAKE ANOTHER POLITICAL COMEBACK BID?

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev confirmed on 9 October that he will participate in the formation of a united Social Democratic party, according to Interfax. Former Moscow Mayor and leader of the Social Democratic movement Gavriil Popov said Gorbachev has been offered the opportunity to head a commission to establish the new party. Gorbachev, however, said that he is uncertain about whether he will accept that offer since he is already committed to a number of international projects that he cannot abandon, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Popov, the Social Democratic movement will participate in the upcoming State Duma elections. JAC

TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT CONCURS WITH ACCUSATIONS AGAINST MEDRESE

In interviews with the "Moscow Times" and Tatarstan's radio and television, President Mintimer Shaimiev conceded that charges that the Islamic religious school in Chally has contributed to the propagation of radical Islamic views are not unfounded, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 October. Shaimiev said that representatives of unnamed Arab countries were deported from Tatarstan but had returned and resumed teaching at the medrese. He said that loopholes in Russian immigration legislation have facilitated the return of such individuals to Tatarstan. On 6 October, the chairman of Tatarstan's Council on Religious Affairs, Renat Nabiev, had told Tatarstan Radio that there are no grounds to close the medrese, and that an investigation has concluded that it did not "train extremists." The school was closed last month after one of its former students was implicated in the apartment bombings in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 September 1999). LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN PLEDGES NO INTERFERENCE IN ELECTION OF CATHOLICOS

Meeting on 8 October with members of the board of the Republican Party of Armenia, one of the partners in the majority Miasnutyun coalition, Robert Kocharian again ruled out any interference by the Armenian leadership in the election later this month of a new head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Noyan Tapan reported. Several senior clerics have recently claimed that the Armenian leadership has made clear that it wants the present archbishop of the Ararat diocese elected to that post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September and 8 October 1999). Kocharian also called for "every effort" to be made to preclude fraud, violence, or falsification during local elections scheduled for 24 October. Candidates from Miasnutyun heavily outnumber opposition candidates in the elections for heads of 936 towns and villages, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

ARMENIA PROPOSES PAN-ARMENIAN TV STATION

Armenian state television has submitted to the government plans to create a diaspora-funded "pan-Armenian television channel," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 8 October. The proposal was endorsed by all participants at the Armenia-diaspora conference held in Yerevan last month. Armenian state television director Tigran Naghdalian estimated the cost of launching the channel at $7 million. He added that at present Armenian state television can be accessed with satellite dishes in Europe and the Middle East but that his top priority is to extend its range to North America. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONVENES DEMONSTRATION

Some 5,000 people attended a 9 October rally on the outskirts of Baku to protest the Azerbaijani leadership's Karabakh policy, ITAR- TASS and Turan reported. Participants adopted a 16-point resolution calling, among other things, for Armenian compliance with UN Security Council resolutions on Karabakh; the repatriation to Armenia of Azerbaijani refugees and the creation of an autonomous formation for them; stripping Russia, which is seen as pro-Armenian, of its the co- chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group; and barring the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from participating in the peace process. The demonstrators also condemned the Baku police's intervention on 9 October to halt broadcasting by the private Sara TV station, Turan reported. On 8 October, Sara TV had broadcast an appeal by two opposition party leaders to take part in the rally. LF

AZERBAIJANI COURT RULES NEWSPAPER SLANDERED OPPOSITION LEADER

A Baku district court has ordered "Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous ruling party, to apologize to opposition Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar. It also order the newspaper to publish a refutation of two articles it printed in July and August 1999 alleging that Gambar and his brother Rovshan have connections with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Turan reported on 8 October. LF

GEORGIA BEGINS REGISTERING REFUGEES FROM CHECHNYA...

The Georgian authorities will begin formally registering refugees from Chechnya on 11 October, Caucasus Press reported. Since 26 September, an estimated 1,500 people have fled south from Chechnya into Georgia; some 500 of those people are Georgian citizens who had earlier sought employment in Chechnya. An unspecified number of the refugees have traveled from Georgia to Azerbaijan or Turkey. Also on 11 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio broadcast, that "there are no misunderstandings" between Moscow and Tbilisi over Chechnya thanks to talks between Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Interfax on 9 October similarly quoted Shevardnadze's adviser Levan Aleksidze as affirming that "Georgia wants to maintain friendly relations with Russia while refraining from a quarrel with the Chechen people and their President Aslan Maskhadov." LF

...AS CHECHEN OFFICIAL CLAIMS GEORGIAN MILITARY SUPPLIED ARMS TO CHECHNYA

Newly appointed Chechen State Council Chairman Malik Saidullaev told journalists in Moscow on 8 October that he has information that arms were airlifted from Georgia to Chechnya by helicopters with Georgian Defense Ministry markings, ITAR-TASS reported. But Colonel General Leonid Ivashev, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International Military Cooperation, told Interfax the same day that "one cannot speak of a mass flow of mercenaries" from Georgia and Azerbaijan to Chechnya. Ivashev said both those countries' leaderships appreciate the danger posed by terrorism and extremism and are taking all possible measures to tighten control over their borders and preclude the transit of terrorists to Russia. LF

KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY, LOCAL ELECTIONS

Some 61.5 percent of Kazakhstan's 8 million voters participated in the 10 October elections to the lower chamber of the parliament and to city and local councils, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting an unnamed Central Electoral Commission official. A total of 65 candidates representing nine political parties contested the 10 seats that are to be allocated under the proportional system, while 484 candidates competed for 67 seats in single- mandate constituencies. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 October cited a recent opinion poll suggesting that the pro- presidential OTAN party enjoys 23.6 percent support, followed by the Civic Party (8.6 percent), the Communist Party (8.1 percent), and the Agrarians (3.4 percent). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WRAPS UP IRAN VISIT

During his visit to Iran from 5-7 October, Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Hatami, on bilateral and regional cooperation and bilateral economic ties, Interfax reported. The two presidents expressed concern that bilateral trade fell from $160 million in 1997 to $120 million the following year, and they discussed increasing sales to Iran of Kazakhstan's oil, metals, coke and grain. Kazakh officials expressed preliminary approval of plans to expand oil exchanges whereby Kazakhstan delivers crude to northern Iran and takes delivery of refined oil at the Persian Gulf, but they noted that the price Iran is demanding for transporting that oil is "too high," according to Interfax. Plans were also approved on the supply of electricity from Kazakhstan via Iran to Turkey. Nazarbaev is reported to have visited the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. LF

U.S. SEEKS TO WIN KAZAKH COMMITMENT TO BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE...

U.S. State Department special envoy for Caspian energy issues John Wolf told journalists in Astana on 8 October that the U.S. wants Kazakhstan to play "a major role" in the development of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil, Interfax reported. Wolf said he told President Nazarbaev that that pipeline would enable Kazakhstan to begin developing new oilfields and expand production at those currently operating. But in order to export oil via that pipeline, Kazakhstan would have to transport crude to Baku by tanker or a Trans-Caspian oil pipeline would have to be built in tandem with the planned Tras-Caspian gas pipeline. LF

...WHILE ASTANA FAVORS DIVERSIFICATION

Also on 8 October, Kazakhstan's acting Deputy Foreign Minister Medina Djarbusynova told a meeting of Caspian oil and gas sector executives in Astana that Kazakhstan takes a "pragmatic and non-political approach" to the export of hydrocarbons by multiple pipelines. Acting Energy, Industry and Trade Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov told the same gathering that by 2010, the member state of the Economic Cooperation Organization will become a major producer of oil. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS SOUTH...

Askar Akaev traveled on 9 October to the Batken and Leilek Raions of southern Kyrgyzstan, the scene of hostilities over the past two months between government troops and ethnic Uzbek guerrillas who continue to hold 13 hostages, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev told local officials that raising the status of those two raions and another district to that of an oblast will strengthen security in the region. He called for the swiftest possible expulsion of the guerrillas from Kyrgyz territory, warning that intelligence reports indicate that up to 5,000 guerrillas could enter Kyrgyzstan next spring, according to Interfax. But the previous day, General Abdygul Khotbaev, who commands the Kyrgyz troops deployed in the south, said that he cannot begin military operations against the guerrillas without endangering the hostages, AP and ITAR- TASS reported. Khotbaev accused Tajikistan of failing to take any measures to prevent gunmen and arms entering Kyrgyzstan from Tajik territory. LF

...AS NEGOTIATIONS ON HOSTAGES' RELEASE CONTINUE

Kyrgyz parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu met with representatives of the United Tajik Opposition in Tajikistan on 9 October to enlist their help in securing the release of the hostages, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri had assured Japan's ambassador to Dushanbe the previous day that he is willing to try to assist in negotiating the release of the four Japanese geologists among the 13 hostages. A second mediator, human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov, returned to Bishkek on 9 October following an abortive trip to Pakistan, where he failed to establish contact with members of the exiled Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which masterminded the hostage-takings. LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS CONDEMN AFGHAN SHELLING OF TAJIK TERRITORY

A spokesman for the Russian Border Guards contingent deployed along Tajikistan's frontier with Afghanistan expressed concern on 8 October over the recent explosion in Tajikistan of a mine and eight tank shells fired from Afghan territory amid the ongoing fighting between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces, ITAR-TASS reported. Two shells exploded on the Tajik side of the border late on 8 October. No one was injured in any of the explosions. LF




DRAFT TREATY ON BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION UP FOR DISCUSSION...

Leanid Kozik, Belarusian representative to the Belarus-Russia Union structures, said on 8 October that public discussion of the union treaty draft, which was published last week, will be continued until the end of October. According to Kozik, media debates will be held, and the Union Executive Committee offices in Minsk and Moscow will collect comments by public associations and individuals. Belarusian presidential aide Mikhail Sazonau said that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, "will discuss the draft, taking into account public opinion, by the end of November." Sazonau added that they may sign the treaty then. Meanwhile, a Belapan poll held in Minsk in late September showed that 56 percent of respondents oppose the union state while 21 percent support it. JM

...WHILE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION SAYS DRAFT 'SURRENDERING INDEPENDENCE'

The Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) has issued a statement saying that the draft treaty of the Belarus- Russian "surrenders independence of our country," Belapan reported on 10 October. According to the BNF, Belarusian "traitors" are planning to unite Belarus with the country that "has got stuck in a bloody imperialistic war in the Caucasus and disgraced itself through corruption scandals." The BNF said the draft stipulates that Belarusian troops will have to fight on Russia's side in the Caucasus, while Russia's "occupation army" will be deployed in Belarus. The BNF believes that neither the Belarusian people nor the international community will recognize the "traitorous anti- Belarusian papers" signed by the "illegitimate usurper and his puppet pseudo-parliament." JM

CIS COUNTRIES TO COOPERATE ON FREE-TRADE ZONE, COMBAT TERRORISM

Prime ministers or their deputies from the CIS countries (with the exception of Belarus) met in Yalta, Crimea, on 8 October to discuss the introduction of a CIS trade-free zone. The participants signed an agreement on reducing customs regulations and other deals oriented toward making the CIS a free-trade zone, AP reported. CIS foreign ministers met in Yalta separately to discuss measures in combating terrorism and crime. They signed a statement pledging to join the 1998 international convention on combating terrorism. Russian Premier Vladimir Putin commented that Belarus's absence at the summit was due to "technical reasons" and "had nothing to do with the development of CIS processes," according to Interfax. JM

RUSSIA'S IVANOV HAILS RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE...

Following his 9 October visit to Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said relations between Moscow and Kyiv are nowadays characterized by a "different atmosphere" and can be called "fraternal," AP reported. Ivanov discussed with his Ukrainian counterpart, Borys Tarasyuk, the implementation of agreements on the Black Sea Fleet, consular relations, steps to combat terrorism, and the situation in Chechnya. Ivanov said Russia will support Ukraine's bid to become a temporary member of the UN Security Council in 2000-2001. Commenting on Ukraine's presidential election, Ivanov said incumbent President Kuchma's re-election would boost bilateral relations. JM

...WHILE UKRAINE'S TARASYUK BEMOANS 'LACK OF TIME' TO ADDRESS JOINT ISSUES

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said in a 9 October television link between Moscow and Kyiv that "the main problem in Ukrainian-Russian relations is lack of time to address problems that have piled up as a result of the emergence of new states," ITAR-TASS reported. Referring to speculation about Ukraine's possible accession to NATO, Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko said during the same television program that Ukraine "is not and will not be joining any blocs." He added that Ukraine's "non-bloc" status is written into the constitution and "no one will be able to change the constitution, now or in the near future." JM

LATVIAN PRESIDENT IN ICELAND

Visiting Reykjavik from 7-11 October, Vaira Vike-Freiberga met with President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and Prime Minister Davith Oddsson. Grimsson proposed that the Nordic Council be enlarged to include the Baltic States, which would mean dispensing with the current cooperation formula of "Five plus Three" and having a membership total of eight, BNS reported. Prime Minister Oddsson stressed Iceland's support for Latvia's NATO integration. Vike-Freiberga also took part in the conference "Women and Democracy at the Dawn of the New Millennium," discussing the role played by women in the Baltics. She also praised both U.S. first lady Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for their "commendable initiative and strong personal commitment" to promoting women's issues. MH

LUKOIL PULLS OUT FROM LITHUANIA

The Russian oil giant LUKoil announced on 8 October that it is pulling out of Lithuania. BNS quoted a spokesman for LUKoil as saying "we are withdrawing our proposals because we have not received any response.... Apparently, our proposals are unacceptable to the Lithuanian government." He added that LUKoil crude shipments will transit Lithuania only if they benefit the company. LUKoil insisted on acquiring a 33 percent stake in Mazeikiai Oil, Lithuania's oil-processing company, and joint operating rights. The government is currently negotiating with the U.S. company Williams International, which is seeking a majority stake in Mazeikiai Oil. President Valdas Adamkus's spokesperson noted that this is not the first time LUKoil has threatened to pull out from Lithuania, according to ELTA. MH

POLISH COALITION TALKS YIELD 'SLIGHTLY ROTTEN' COMPROMISE

In a bid to avert the collapse of Jerzy Buzek's cabinet, the coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) agreed on 10 October to minor changes in the cabinet lineup and to new government policies. "The compromise we reached is slightly rotten but we sorted out...the way the coalition is managed," Reuters quoted UW spokesman Andrzej Potocki as saying. The coalition agreed to sack only Environmental Minister Jan Szyszko and Deputy Economy Minister Jan Szlazak, both from the AWS. It also agreed to keep Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz of the UW (whom the AWS wanted removed) and not to create an AWS- proposed ministry for regional development and housing. Buzek said after the talks that "the most important problems have been resolved," but he admitted he is worried by the "lack of cohesion of the government." JM

END OF CZECH 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT' IN SIGHT?

The main opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) has called on the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) to hold talks on the country's political situation. ODS leader Vaclav Klaus said on 8 October that "time has come for a fundamental turnabout." He said the country is "less and less stable," people are "more and more dissatisfied," and there is a threat of economic stagnation, CTK reported. After meeting with President Vaclav Havel on 10 October, Klaus said his party will not be satisfied with "mere cosmetic changes" in the government. Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 8 October approved the call for talks and said that if the ODS withdraws from its agreement with the CSSD, the latter party will "immediately start talks" with other parties to form a coalition. On 11 October, Zeman told the daily "Lidove noviny" that he does not rule out a "grand coalition" with the ODS but "only as a last resort." MS

CZECH PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER DISAGREE ON CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

During their 10 October meeting, Havel and Klaus discussed constitutional changes proposed by the ODS and the CSSD that would curtail the presidential powers, CTK and AP reported. Havel said later that the talks "identified the one area where there is no agreement" between himself and the opposition leader. He also said the constitution must not be "changed in a hurry." But Klaus denied the basic document would be changed hastily, pointing out that a ODS-CSSD commission has been discussing the envisaged changes for 16 months. He said he had explained to Havel that the proposed changes do not stem from personal opposition to the president. MS

FORMER SLOVAK SIS CHIEF FILES COMPLAINT WITH EUROPEAN COURT

Ivan Lexa, former chief of the Slovak Intelligence Service, has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, saying prosecutors and investigators have violated his constitutional rights by calling him a criminal in the media, AP reported on 8 October, citing the daily "Sme." Both Interior Minister Ladislav Pinter and chief investigator Jaroslav Ivor responded by saying they have never called Lexa a criminal. Lexa is under investigation for his role in the 1995 abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son and for other suspected crimes. MS

SLOVAKIA ALLOWS CZECHS TO REGAIN CITIZENSHIP

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists on 8 October that the Interior Ministry has taken "organizational measures" to allow some 251,000 Czech citizens to get back their Slovak citizenship, CTK reported. Dzurinda said that the Czech parliament approved a law on dual citizenship last summer, but Slovakia does not need to do so and must only take "organizational measures" for such citizenship to be available. MS

BELGIAN DEPUTIES EXAMINE SLOVAK ROMA SITUATION

A delegation of Belgian deputies and representatives of non-governmental organizations met with Deputy Prime Minister in charge of human rights Pal Csaky on 9 October to discuss the situation of the Slovak Roma and the reasons for their recent exodus to Belgium, SITA reported. CTK reported the next day that after meeting with Roma representatives in Kosice, delegation member Josi Dubie said the recent deportation from Belgium of Slovak Roma violated international human rights conventions and that his Ecolo (Green) party will leave the coalition if such incidents recur. MS

SOCIALIST CANDIDATE WINS IN HUNGARIAN BY-ELECTIONS

Hungary's major opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) won a parliamentary seat at the 10 October by-elections in the town of Siofok. MSZP candidate Jozsef Hazas received 49 percent of the vote, 2.5 percent more than his major opponent, Mayor Arpad Balazs, the joint candidate of FIDESZ, the Independent Smallholders, the Democratic Forum, and the Christian Democratic Federation. MSZP chairman Laszlo Kovacs said his party's victory against the entire spectrum of the right wing indicates that the Socialists are pursuing the correct policy. The by-election in Szekesfehervar was declared invalid because turnout was less than 25 percent. MSZ




FATE OF ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT UNCERTAIN

By a vote of 295 to 261, Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano won re-election in a challenge by Prime Minister Pandeli Majko in Tirana on 10 October. Majko had previously said he would resign from the government if he failed to defeat Nano. But party officials told Reuters that Majko may reconsider in view of the narrow margin of his defeat. Observers suggested that Nano managed to hold on to power because of his control over extensive patronage networks. Similar ties recently enabled Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha to win re-election as well. Many Albanians and foreigners blame the rivalry between and authoritarian leadership styles of Berisha and Nano for the polarization of political life. FS/PM

ALBANIAN POLICE PLEDGE TO FIGHT ORGANIZED CRIME

Interior Minister Spartak Poci said on 8 October that the police will spare no efforts in their fight against powerful and often elusive criminal gangs. He noted, however, that "there has been a lot of pressure from some state officials to release some gangsters after the police have arrested them," dpa reported. Poci did not elaborate. He noted that a team of U.S. experts will soon arrive in Albania to instruct police, and that some Albanian police will receive training in the U.S. Meanwhile, a bomb damaged a central Tirana bar popular with Socialist leaders. No one was injured. PM

LEADING SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO BOYCOTT EU MEETING

Spokesmen for the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and the Democratic Party said in Belgrade on 11 October that their respective parties will not attend a meeting with EU foreign ministers later that day in Luxembourg, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The spokesmen said they object to EU demands that they promise to extradite to The Hague Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other indicted war criminals once the opposition comes to power. An SPO spokesman told the BBC that if the opposition parties agree to the EU's demands, they will open themselves to charges by Milosevic and his supporters that they have betrayed fellow Serbs to Western countries. The previous day, the pro-Milosevic "Politika" accused prospective participants in the Luxembourg meeting of being "puppets" of the Western countries that bombed Serbian targets in the spring. Observers note the opposition needs financial, political, and technical support from abroad to wage a successful election campaign. PM

HOW MANY SERBS WILL ATTEND?

Spokesmen for the Serbian Orthodox Church said in Belgrade on 11 October that the Church will not send representatives to Luxembourg. They said the reason is that the Church leadership has yet to discuss the EU's invitation to attend the gathering, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Podgorica, Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said that he and Foreign Minister Branko Perovic will represent Montenegro at the gathering. The EU had invited President Milo Djukanovic, who is an outspoken critic of Milosevic, to head the Montenegrin delegation. In Belgrade, an unnamed Serbian opposition politician told AP on 11 October that Washington pressured the EU into demanding that the Serbian opposition pledge to extradite war criminals. But representatives of several smaller opposition groups stressed that they will go to Luxembourg in any event. PM

EU TELLS SERBIA: NO MAJOR AID WITH MILOSEVIC

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the private Serbian news agency Beta that the U.K. "remains firmly resolved not to make Milosevic's position easier.... Serbia should not expect any significant help in reconstruction so long as Milosevic is in power," AP reported on 11 October. In Bari, Bodo Hombach, who is the coordinator for the EU's Balkan Stabilization Pact, said two days earlier that the EU does not want to isolate Serbia but that it is increasingly impatient for change there. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said that the international community should have acted to isolate Milosevic earlier than it did. The Italian leader stressed that Serbia is welcome to become a major actor in Balkan affairs again but only once it is no longer led by indicted war criminals. PM

DRASKOVIC DEMANDS 'RESULTS' ON ACCIDENT

SPO leader Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 9 October that he may "take matters into my own hands" if the authorities do not quickly identify and punish those responsible for the recent traffic accident that he says was an attempt to kill him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). He said the police report on the accident is a cover-up. Police officials claim that Draskovic and his colleagues were driving at 150 kilometers per hour and were thereby at least partially responsible for the deaths of four of his party. The police have yet to identify the driver or owner of the truck that swerved in front of the SPO leader. PM

SOCCER FANS PELT OPPOSITION LEADERS WITH BEER CANS

Some 20,000 people crowded central Belgrade on 9 October to celebrate the Yugoslav national team's 2-2 draw against Croatia in Zagreb in the qualifying match for the European cup championships. The draw enables Yugoslavia to advance to the next stage in the play-offs. Leaders of the opposition Alliance for Change led 5,000 people through the streets in an anti-Milosevic protest that merged with the crowds celebrating the soccer victory. Soccer fans then threw beer cans at several opposition politicians who tried to speak to the gathering. In Zagreb, police arrested 69 persons in conjunction with post-match violence, which resulted in damage to 11 trams and one bus. PM

SERBIAN AGENTS INTO KOSOVA?

A spokesman for the Kosovar provisional government, which is sponsored by the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 10 October that Serbian secret services are attempting to destabilize Kosova. He charged that the agents provocateurs have recently arrived in the province in ever increasing numbers. He added that the Yugoslav army has failed to respect the demilitarization of the border region between Serbia and Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

KOSOVARS REBURY MASSACRE VICTIMS

Some 500 ethnic Albanians attended the reburial of 27 people in Plocica on 9 October. Uniformed, armed leaders of the newly formed Kosova Protection Force, who are former UCK officers, addressed the gathering. Serbian forces shot 13 of the victims at short range after they fled the shelling of their village in 1998. PM

BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT SLAMS MILOSEVIC MEETING

The office of caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik issued a statement on 10 October saying that the government does not approve of the recent meeting of three Bosnian Serb leaders with Milosevic. The three are parliamentary speaker Petar Djokic, ousted Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen, and Zivko Radisic, who is the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency. PM

TUDJMAN'S PARTY BLOCKS AGREEMENT ON ELECTORAL LAW

Officials of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) on 8 October rejected an opposition request that top officials of state-run television resign their membership in the HDZ. The opposition has demanded the depoliticization of the only nationwide television broadcaster as a key component of electoral law reform. Opposition parties and foreign observers agree that state-run television broadcasts are heavily biased in favor of President Franjo Tudjman and the HDZ. PM

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT NOMINATED AS 2000 CANDIDATE

The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) voted at the party's national conference on 9 October to nominate former President Ion Iliescu as its candidate in next year's presidential elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu promised that when the PDSR returns to power, it will "not replace today's profiteers with its own." He harshly attacked the ruling coalition's economic policy and warned PDSR members against the "dangers of euphoria" over polls predicting the party's return to power in 2000. Adrian Nastase, who was re-elected PDSR first deputy chairman, said the party intends to "stop the process of de- industrialization and revise the role of the state in the economy." MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS ASK LUCINSCHI TO FOREGO CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

The leaders of the four parliamentary groups have called on President Petru Lucinschi to give up his plan to revise the constitution and introduce a presidential system, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 8 October. The appeal was signed by For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc leader Dumitru Diacov, Democratic Convention of Moldova leader Mircea Snegur, Party of Democratic Forces Chairman Valeriu Matei, and Communist leader Vladimir Voronin. The four warned that "society is being dragged into hot debates that only amplify political confrontation, inflicting considerable damage on the country and its international prestige." MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NATIONALISM 'USELESS'

Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, addressing students in Blagoevgrad on 8 October, said the Kosova conflict has demonstrated that it is not enough for Bulgaria to be "an enclave of stability in the region," BTA reported. She noted that the country must be "surrounded by stable, democratic countries" to avoid being held "hostage" to its neighbors' problems. In the new context of European integration, she continued, "nationalism is useless" because it "gives the false impression of protecting national interests" but in fact jeopardizes them. She pointed to the example of neighboring Serbia: "The more Serbian public opinion was pushed to uphold the slogan 'One country for all Serbs,' the more disunited the Serbs became. The more the idea of Great Serbia was raised, the less plausible it grew." MS




SHADOWS OF STATUES


by Michael Shafir

During a visit to Bucharest in late July, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi agreed with his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu, on a symbolic gesture: a "historical reconciliation park" would be set up in the Transylvanian town of Arad, and its foundation stone would be jointly laid by the two countries' premiers.

Moreover, the park would include both a monument commemorating 13 Hungarian generals executed in Arad by the Austrians in 1849 and statues of Romanian historical figures in Transylvania. Martonyi had raised the issue of the monument with Plesu, emphasizing its considerable historical significance to Hungarians. Plesu, one of the more enlightened members of the government, readily obliged. The agreement was reconfirmed at a meeting in Timisoara of the two countries' justice ministers, Valeriu Stoica and Ibolya David, who announced that the foundation stone would be laid on 6 October, the 150th anniversary of the generals' execution.

Bucharest and Budapest apparently overlooked two "small details": the part of the continent in which the neighboring states are located and the timing. As Timothy Garton Ash recently remarked in an interview on German television, when Americans say "that is history," they mean that things have lost their relevance. When it comes to Eastern Europe, Ash remarked, "that is history" means that trouble is around the corner.

Indeed, the manipulation of history has a long tradition in Eastern Europe. When an election is looming, as is the case in Romania, such manipulation is bound to be an almost irresistible temptation.

The monument to the generals is also history. Known as "Hungarian Liberty," it is composed of a group of statues of the 13 generals, whom Hungarians consider to be the "martyrs" of their nation. The monument is the work of sculptor Gyorgy Zala and was unveiled in Arad in 1890.

The trouble is that one nation's "martyrs" are the other's "villains." The Transylvanian Romanians fought on the side of the Austrians for most of the 1848-1849 Hungarian "liberation war." After World War 1, when the region became part of Romania, the National Liberal Party government of Ionel I. C. Bratianu decided in 1924 to dismantle the monument, on the grounds that the generals had massacred some 40,000 ethnic Romanians, which the Hungarians vehemently deny.

Since then, the monument has been stored in a military fort and has deteriorated considerably. Its restoration may take as long as three years.

For some time, both the ruling coalition parties--with the inevitable exception of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania--and the nationalist opposition have been courting the ethnic Romanian electorate in Transylvania ahead of the 2000 elections. The opposition could not possibly miss an opportunity to outbid the coalition.

Ever ready to contribute to the minimization of the Holocaust, Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said that the intention to open the park and reinstate the monument is comparable to "demanding that the Jews erect a statue of Hitler at the Auschwitz concentration camp." The Party of Romanian National Unity "firmly condemned" the agreement, saying it is "humiliating...for the Romanians' national dignity.'" The Alliance for Romania commented that it was "surprised by the tactless decision," which "undermines the [Romanian-Hungarian] reconciliation spirit, since it may create inter-ethnic tensions." And the Romanian National Party announced that it opposes reinstating "the Greater Hungary monument" in Arad "or anywhere else in Romania."

The main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), as usual jumping on the nationalist band wagon when it serves its purposes, said the monument has a "profound anti-national and anti-Romanian character." PDSR First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase accused the ruling coalition of being "an accomplice in serving the interests of Hungarian revisionism." PDSR leader and former President Ion Iliescu, for his part, warned Vasile to stay away from the ceremony, claiming that the Hungarians are "setting a trap" to make claims on Transylvania.

The main blow, however, came from the Democratic Party, a member of the ruling coalition. The Democrats said that reinstating the monument would "bring back the tragic memory of a Transylvania where the national rights of Romanians were not recognized." More important, Democrats on the Arad town council joined the opposition in passing a resolution expressing opposition to making available the land earmarked for the park.

In face of this opposition, Vasile backed down. Citing health reasons, he designated Stoica to represent him at the stone-laying ceremony. Orban, who on 5 October arrived in Arad and attended an evening function organized by the UDMR, left the same night, delegating David as a "fittingly appropriate" representation. Stoica responded the next morning by announcing that he would not be taking part in the ceremony and by designating the local prefect to represent the government.

In the end, the ceremony of laying the foundation stone did not take place. What did take place, however, was a demonstration by PRM sympathizers, who heckled David and members of the Hungarian delegation as they left a church where they had attended Mass and as they laid wreaths at an obelisk dedicated to the generals' memory.

Chanting nationalist slogans, the demonstrators were unlikely to have been impressed by the reaction of Plesu's ministry. Deeming "the manipulation of national sentiment for the purpose of building political capital" to be "irresponsible," spokeswoman Simona Miculescu said the two countries' relations must not be influenced by "fears of historical shadows or the shadows [cast by] statues." Perhaps they shouldn't, but they nonetheless are.


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