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Newsline - October 12, 1999




ZHIRINOVSKII'S PARTY BARRED FROM ELECTIONS...

The Central Election Commission on 11 October declined to register the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) for the upcoming State Duma elections, citing inaccurate property declarations by two of the party's top three candidates. According to ITAR-TASS, Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov did not reveal the ownership of a house and State Duma Deputy Mikhail Musatov did not disclose his three Mercedes. Bykov is currently the subject of a probe on charges of money laundering (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 August 1999). LDPR member and Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov told the agency that the party will hold a new congress very soon to revise its list of candidates. Mitrofanov, who himself was recently disqualified from competing in Moscow mayoral elections for violating campaign finance regulations, said the party will be able to prepare a new list in order to meet the 24 October deadline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). JAC

...AS APPEAL LODGED WITH SUPREME COURT

Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, however, disagreed with that view, telling Mayak Radio on 12 October that it will be "practically impossible" for the party to submit new documents before 24 October and observe all election law requirements. Also on 12 October, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii announced that his party has already lodged an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax he remains certain that the LDPR will participate in the elections because the Kremlin will push its registration through. JAC

MOSCOW OFFERS LUKEWARM RESPONSE TO CHECHEN PEACE BID

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 11 October said the peace plan unveiled by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov the previous day is a positive move, but he added that any talks with Chechnya are conditional on Grozny's first handing over the persons responsible for the August incursion into Daghestan and for the bombings of apartment buildings in Russia and other cities. Maskhadov had called for an immediate halt to Russian air and artillery bombardment and for Russian federal forces to withdraw to Chechnya's borders with other federation subjects in return for a pledge to crackdown on "illegal military formations and their training centers," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 October. Putin added that he believes Maskhadov's offer was timed to coincide with the 11 October threat by field commander Shamil Basaev to undertake new terrorist attacks against Russian citizens. LF

BASAEV REPORTED CORNERED

According to the commander of Russia's 58th Army, Major General Vladimir Shamanov, Basaev is currently not in a position to act on his threat of new terrorist attacks against Russian citizens (see above). Shamanov said at a meeting with village elders in Chechnya's northern Nadterechnyi Raion on 11 October that Basaev is trapped in the village of Garagorsk, 60 kilometers northwest of Grozny. Shamanov's claim has not been independently confirmed. LF

FUGITIVES BEGIN TO RETURN TO CHECHNYA

ITAR-TASS on 12 October quoted Russia's Ministry for Emergency Situations as saying that the number of persons who have fled Chechnya now totals 160,000, of whom 146,00 are in Ingushetia. The previous day, Russian Minister of Health Yurii Shevchenko had said that those fugitives should be required to undergo medical examinations, given the high incidence among them of tuberculosis and intestinal diseases. Also on 11 October, 20 fugitives returned from Stavropol Krai to the Nauri Raion of Chechnya, which is controlled by federal troops. A senior Stavropol official said more displaced persons will soon return to Chechnya's Shelkovskii Raion, which is also under Russian military control. LF

ANOTHER ELECTION BLOC REGISTERED

The Central Election Commission on 11 October registered an election alliance formed by the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) and the Yurii Boldyrev Movement, ITAR-TASS reported. The top names on the alliance's list are State Duma deputy and movement head Yurii Boldyrev, KRO head Dmitrii Rogozin, former Interior Minister Viktor Glukhikh, and former head of the General Staff of the armed forces General Viktor Samsonov, according to Interfax. The alliance was formed at a congress on 29 September. KRO had been a member of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzkhov's Fatherland but left that group when it formed an alliance with All Russia. JAC

EVEN HIGHER DEFENSE SPENDING CONTEMPLATED...

Although the conciliatory commission has already okayed a 26 billion ruble ($1.01 billion) hike in defense spending in the 2000 budget, Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich and others are suggesting even more funding is necessary, "The Moscow Times" reported on 12 October. Popkovich, according to the daily, is calling for expenditures totaling 37 billion rubles, which would represent a 31 percent hike over the figure proposed in the draft budget recently rejected by the Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). "Vremya MN" reported on 8 October that the government is poised to raise defense expenditures by 40-60 billion rubles between now and the end of the year. According to the daily, the Defense Ministry received 2.5 billion rubles in September just for North Caucasus operations and will receive another 4 billion rubles in October for the same purpose. JAC

...AS SOURCES FOR NEW MONEY REMAIN MYSTERIOUS

According to "The Moscow Times," the Finance Ministry reports that armed forces personnel are still owed 8.7 billion rubles ($338 million) in back wages, while Prime Minister Putin has pledged that soldiers in combat zones will earn $1,000 a month rather than the usual $300. After meeting with Putin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev to discuss funding for the Chechen conflict, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told Russian Television on 10 October that the bank will issue new state securities to fund the war effort. "Vremya MN" on the other hand reported that unnamed top officials say the new expenditures will be paid for from new duties on oil exports. In addition, new revenues may be expected from "tax legislation passed last summer and inflation." JAC

ATTRITION AMONG OFFICERS EXCEEDING PLANNED CUTS

In its latest issue (No. 40), "Argumenty i fakty" reports that the rate of attrition among career officers in the armed forces is "significantly exceeding" the rate of planned cuts. The newspaper reports that every 10th officer post is vacant and that there is a 20 percent shortfall among platoon and team commanders, with that figure rising to 30 percent in some eastern military districts. It attributes this development to the fact that one-third of officers with more than 20 years' service are seeking to retire, while almost half of newly graduated officers opt for resignation upon completing their education. In all, almost 20,000 officers under the age of 30 resigned last year. JC

SOME IFI FUNDS READY TO FLOW?

First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told reporters on 12 October that he is hopeful that the World Bank will release a new tranche of its loan to Russia's coal sector. Just two days earlier, Aleksandr Livshits, presidential envoy to the Group of Seven, said that the IMF recently presented Russia with "loan conditions that were not agreed in the program approved [earlier] by the fund." Picking up on this theme, Prime Minister Putin told Russian Television the same day that Russia "will only fulfill the demands of the IMF that we believe are fair." JAC

TOP FINANCE MINISTRY OFFICIAL QUITS

First Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin has left his post at the ministry to join the investment bank Troika-Dialog, "Vremya MN" reported on 11 October. In an interview with the daily, Vyugin denied that his departure was linked with the delay in the disbursement of the second tranche of the IMF loan. He said that the question of who will replace him is still being decided. JAC

SKURATOV SAYS YELTSIN FAMILY CREDIT CARD ALLEGATIONS TRUE...

Suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov told reporters on 11 October that reports in Swiss and Italian newspapers that credit cards were issued to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his two daughters and later found on premises of the Swiss construction firm Mabetex are true, according to AFP. Skuratov added that "the Yeltsin family has an interest in shedding light on this evidence, a part of which cannot be confirmed and another part of which could be exaggerated." JAC

...AS SENATORS RESUME CONSIDERING HIS RESIGNATION

Also on 11 October, Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, presidential representative to the Federation Council, sent a letter to that chamber's Anti-Corruption Commission noting that the president agrees with commission members that "the absence of a legitimate prosecutor-general decreases the efficiency" of the office. He asked commission members to submit their proposals on how to resolve the differences between the upper legislative chamber and the presidential administration over Skuratov, according to ITAR-TASS. On 12 October, the issue of Skuratov's resignation topped the agenda of the Anti- Corruption Commission, according to Interfax. JAC

LOMONOSOV FACTORY RENATIONALIZED

The St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast Arbitration Court has ruled that the 1993 privatization of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory, which is Russia's oldest and leading maker of fine porcelain, was invalid, Russian newspapers reported on 12 October. According to "Segodnya," the court based its ruling on the fact that the decision to found a closed joint-stock company, rather than an open one, had violated the law. The daily added that the factory must either be returned to the state or be sold for a second time. As a result of the 1993 privatization, a group of foreign investors had taken a majority stake in the factory, including the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund and the U.S. investment firm KKR. "The Moscow Times" reported that factory employees had barred investors from entering the premises, accusing them of failing to produce an investment plan and of seeking to seize the factory museum's valuable collection. JC

SIBNEFT HEAD TO EMERGE FROM THE SHADOWS?

Ekho Moskvy reported on 11 October that Sibneft head Roman Abramovich will seek a seat in the State Duma from the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The station noted that Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov was a founder of the interregional movement Unity (Edinstvo), which many, including former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, have alleged was formed with the strong support of media magnate Boris Berezovskii. Berezovskii and Abramovich are close associates. Ekho Moskvy is owned by Media-Most Group, whose head, Vladimir Gusinskii, is a Berezovskii rival. In an interview with Interfax the same day, Governor Nazarov said that he has not heard of any such plan by Abramovich and that he personally will support a candidate from Unity's list. JAC

MILLENIUM BUG TESTS UNDER WAY AT NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS

A spokesman for Rosenergoatom told Reuters on 11 October that an exercise at the Kursk nuclear power plant last weekend aimed at testing the staff's ability to respond to possible millennium bug emergencies was a "success." Only minor problems, largely related to establishing emergency communications links between various bodies, were registered, the spokesman added. Rosenergoatom, which manages all but one of Russia's nine nuclear power plants, is to carry out a comprehensive program of tests by the end of this month. "In November-December we should be totally prepared for the Y2K problem," according to the concern's spokesman. A separate Y2K response program has been prepared for the one nuclear power facility, located near St. Petersburg, that is subordinated to the Atomic Energy Ministry. JC

PRESIDENTIAL SUPPORTER WOUNDED IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA SHOOTING

Anatolii Tugov, who played a leading role in Vladimir Semenov's presidential campaign and is seen as a probable member of the republic's new government, was shot and seriously wounded outside his home in Cherkessk on 10 October, Caucasus Press reported. A man was arrested the following day in connection with the shooting. Also on 11 October, a planned session of the republic's parliament was canceled for lack of a quorum. Only Karachai and a few Russian deputies, but not Cherkess, attended, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 12 October. The parliamentary session was to have approved the candidacy of Stavropol Krai engineer Vasilii Neshchadinov as premier. LF




MILITARY NOT TO VOTE IN ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS

The Armenian parliament on 11 October voted to amend the election law to allow Armenian servicemen to cast their votes in local elections only in their place of permanent residence, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That measure will affect the majority of army conscripts who normally perform their compulsory military service away from their native towns and villages. Opposition parties and international monitors have claimed in the past that tens of thousands of soldiers are ordered by their commanders to vote for pro-government candidates. Voting by the military has consistently figured in the list of election drawbacks reported by OSCE election monitoring missions. LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET

Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliyev met on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan's exclave of Nakhichevan on 11 October for a fourth round of talks on Karabakh. The meeting, which lasted just over two hours, was held behind closed doors. Kocharian told journalists later that he and Aliyev discussed "the entire spectrum of issues" related to the settlement process, in particular "the degree of compromise." He declined, however, to give details. Aliev, for his part, noted that successive peace proposals by the UN and the OSCE have failed to yield a solution to the conflict. Aliyev termed his direct talks with Kocharian "very useful" but said "more time, meetings and talks, and of course mutual compromises" are needed to reach a peace settlement, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS CLOSURE OF TV STATION

Meeting in Baku on 11 October, representatives of leading Azerbaijani opposition parties formed a committee to defend the rights of the independent television station Sara TV, which was shut down by the Ministry of Justice on 9 October, Turan reported. Turan quoted a member of the Azerbaijani presidential administration as saying that the reason for the closure was that the station's original registration in 1994 was illegal because its owners are not citizens of Azerbaijan. But Sara TV president Rasul Rauf, who has a British passport, said on 11 October that the Justice Ministry claimed that the station "interferes in the public- political life of Azerbaijan" and has departed from its customary focus on entertainment. Rauf told Reuters that the closure was "politically motivated." LF

AZERBAIJAN MILITARY OFFICIAL ARRESTED

Djanmirza Mirzoev, a former instructor at the Baku Higher Naval Academy who incurred the wrath of Defense Minister Safar Abiev for his disclosures of corrupt practices and dissenting views within that ministry, was arrested on 10 October, Turan reported the following day quoting "Yeni Musavat" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). It is not clear what crime Mirzoev has been charged with. LF

AZERBAIJAN, IRAN SEEK TO EXPAND COOPERATION

Visiting Iran last week at the head of an Azerbaijani delegation, deputy parliamentary speaker Yashar Aliyev discussed with Iranian Majlis speaker Ali-Aqbar Nateq-Nouri and with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi the need to expand bilateral relations, which Aliyev said should not be impeded by "minor problems," IRNA reported. The talks focused on cooperation in the oil, gas, and road construction sectors as well as in cross-border trade. Yashar Aliyev also attended a session of the Tehran-Baku economic commission, which is intended to explore how to increase trade turnover between the two countries from the present level of $160 million. LF

GEORGIAN AMNESTY DISPUTE INTENSIFIES

The Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office has made good on its 6 October threat and brought criminal proceedings against the authorities of the Adjar Autonomous Republic for that region's failure to free all 28 prisoners eligible for release under Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's 1 October amnesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October 1999). Three of the 28 men remain in jail. Speaking on Georgian Radio on 11 October, Shevardnadze said the Adjar authorities' refusal to comply with his amnesty decree constitutes a threat to Georgia's territorial integrity. LF

GUARD ATTACKED AT RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN GEORGIA

Four Armenian youths attacked a guard at the Russian military base in the south Georgian district of Akhalkalaki on 11 October, Caucasus Press reported. The guard shot and mortally wounded one of the youths in self-defense. No details of the motive for the assault are available. LF

OSCE CRITICIZES KAZAKH ELECTIONS...

In its preliminary assessment released on 11 October, the OSCE observer mission to the parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan termed the poll an improvement on the January 1999 presidential elections, Reuters and dpa reported. But the monitors noted that while the actual conduct of the vote was relatively free of violations, intimidation and obstruction of opposition candidates and parties "seriously undermined" democratic principles during the election campaign and "contributed to widespread expectations that the election results would be falsified and that nothing would change as a result of the elections." LF

...AS INITIAL RESULTS DELAYED

Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva told journalists on 11 October that the preliminary results of the poll, which were to have been released that day, will be available only on 12 October, Reuters reported. Meanwhile Communist Party Chairman Serikbolsyn Abdildin said in Almaty on 11 October he believes that his party will win five or six of the 10 seats allocated under the proportional system but that none of its candidates in single-mandate constituencies received the required 50 percent of the vote to win outright in the first round, Interfax reported. Azat Peruashev, head of the pro-government Civic Party of Kazakhstan, told Interfax that eight of the party's candidates have won in single-candidate constituencies. A total of 64 candidates contested the 10 party-list seats, while 549 competed in the remaining 67 single-candidate constituencies. ("RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 11 October that 65 candidates contested the party-list seats and 484 took part in the remaining single candidate districts.) LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT NAMES NEW PREMIER

Kazakhstan's outgoing parliament on 12 October unanimously approved the candidacy of Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Toqaev as the country's new prime minister, Reuters reported. President Nursultan Nazarbaev had named Toqaev acting premier on 1 October following the resignation of Nurlan Balghymbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). Toqaev, who is 46, is a trained diplomat with little economic expertise. But parliamentary speaker Marat Ospanov, who had been fiercely critical of Balghymbaev and was regarded as a possible successor to him, told Interfax on 11 October that he considers Toqaev "a suitable figure" for the post. Ospanov argued that tensions between the parliament and the Balghymbaev cabinet deterred badly-needed foreign investment, which he hopes will now be forthcoming in the light of the international community's "recognition and trust" in Toqaev. LF

KYRGYZ TROOPS ADVANCE ON GUERRILLA BASE

Kyrgyz government forces advanced into the Khodjo-Achkhan gorge on 11 October, where ethnic Uzbek militants had retreated together with the 13 hostages they seized in August, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The Kyrgyz troops met with little resistance there. Presidential press secretary Kanybek ImanAliyev told journalists in Bishkek the same day that all but 100 of the estimated 1,000 guerrillas have retreated into Tajikistan. The whereabouts of the hostages are unclear. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION CANDIDATES CALL FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL POLL...

Economics and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Davlat Usmon (Islamic Renaissance Party), Sulton Kuvvatov (Democratic Party/Tehran Platform) and Saiffidin Turaev (Justice Party) issued a statement on 11 October calling for the postponement of the 6 November presidential elections, Interfax reported. They also asked for an emergency session of the parliament to discuss the situation. The three had threatened last week to boycott the poll to protest what they termed interference by local district administrators intended to prevent them from collecting the signatures required to register as presidential candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). Central Electoral Commission chairman Mirzoali Boluev, who met with the three candidates on 8- 9 October, rejected their criticism of local administrators as "illegal propagandist pressure" aimed at winning the support of the international community, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 11 October. He offered to extend the deadline for the submission of registration documents until 11 October. LF

...AS UTO WITHDRAWS FROM CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION

The United Tajik Opposition issued a statement on 10 October supporting the claim by the three opposition candidates that local administrators are sabotaging the election campaign, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 11 October. The UTO announced that since the Central Electoral Commission is incapable of taking measures to ensure that the poll is free and fair, the UTO will withdraw its representatives, who account for 25 percent of the commission's members. LF

SECOND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NOMINATED IN UZBEKISTAN

The People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, which is the successor organization to the Communist Party of Uzbekistan and has the largest faction (71 deputies) in Uzbekistan's 250-seat parliament, has named its leader, Abdulkhafiz Djalalov, as its candidate for the January 2000 presidential poll, Reuters and AP reported on 11 October. Djalalov, 52, is director of the department of philosophy and law of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences. The People's Democratic Party was headed until 1994 by incumbent President Islam Karimov, who has been nominated as presidential candidate by both the Social Democratic Party (Adolat) and the Fidorkorlar. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS WEAK UNION TREATY BETTER THAN NOTHING

Alyaksandr Lukashenka stressed on 11 October that the Belarus-Russia union treaty draft published in the press of both countries last week does not introduce anything that differs in essence from the 1997 Belarusian-Russian union treaty, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka complained that the new document does not provide for a single union currency or a single money-issuing center. He added that while Belarus and Russia have agreed on the document, the draft is a "Russian version." Lukashenka argued, however, that the integration process must not be stopped and that the treaty must therefore be adopted even in its imperfect form. JM

UKRAINIAN ELECTION ALLIANCE POSTPONES NAMING SINGLE CANDIDATE

The so-called "Kaniv four" alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko has postponed naming a single candidate to compete against incumbent President Leonid Kuchma in the 31 October presidential elections. Interfax on 11 October quoted Moroz as saying that the name of a single candidate will be made known on 13 or 14 October. Meanwhile, AP reported on 11 October that the postponement is intended to better ensure the safety of the single candidate. "We have information that attacks are being planned against our joint candidate," Oliynyk told the news agency, but he did not elaborate. Kuchma commented that he has "long said that the behavior of those four recalls an agony.... They have nothing to say about themselves, so they pour dirt [on the president]," according to AP. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS OPPONENTS OF IMF LOANS

Kuchma said on 11 October that breaking or limiting relations with the IMF--as proposed by presidential candidates Natalya Vitrenko and Petro Symonenko--would spell "catastrophe" for Ukraine, Reuters reported. According to Kuchma, there are no credits cheaper or longer-term than those offered by the IMF and the World Bank. He added that Ukraine has to pay $3 billion in 2000 to service its international debts. JM

KYIV MAYOR ALLOWS SALE OF LAND

Oleksandr Omelchenko recently decided to put municipal land in the Ukrainian capital on sale, AP reported on 11 October. The sale of land for non- agricultural purposes-which is opposed by Ukraine's leftist parliament--was made possible through a January presidential decree. According to the 11 October "Kievskie vedomosti," one hectare of land in Kyiv can be sold for 200,000-500,000 hryvni ($44,400-$111,000), compared with the average price of 100,000 hryvni elsewhere in Ukraine. JM

FOREIGN MINISTERS OF EU 'FAST-TRACK' CANDIDATES MEET IN TALLINN

Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 11 October hosted his counterparts from Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary along with the chief EU negotiator for Cyprus. This was the first meeting at ministerial level of the countries that are included in the fast-track negotiations for EU membership. Among the issues discussed was an agreement calling on the EU to establish a timetable for concluding the accession negotiations. Ilves said those talks should end "in 2000 and no later than 2001." The Czech Republic's Jan Kavan said that the "group of six" supports beginning accession negotiations with all other aspiring countries, but he stressed that ongoing negotiations with the six should be accelerated. MH

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS WTO LAW

Lennart Meri on 11 October signed into law the ratification of the World Trade Organization accession protocol. While the parliament had passed the protocol last month by a vote of 48 to seven, Legal Chancellor Eerik-Juhan Truuvali suggested the ballot was not legal: as membership places a financial burden upon Estonia, Truuvali argued, majority support among the 101 parliamentary members is required (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). However, the government ruled that the vote was indeed valid, according to ETA. Estonia will become a member of the WTO 30 days after the organization's Secretariat is informed of ratification. MH

OPPOSITION LOSES NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION AGAINST ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER

The opposition Center Party on 11 October initiated a no-confidence motion against Interior Minister Juri Mois that failed by a vote of 32 to 45. The embattled minister has been fending off widespread criticism since he introduced a plan to cut the number of police officers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999), which was supported by Prime Minister Mart Laar and the three-party ruling coalition. Some observers believe that the confidence vote is related to the local elections, as the head of the Center Party, Edgar Savisaar, is the incumbent Tallinn City Council chairman and the popular Mois is tipped as the mayoral candidate of the ruling Pro Patria Union. MH

LATVIAN REFERENDUM PETITION DRIVE SUCCEEDS

The Latvian Central Election Commission announced on 11 October that the petition drive to hold a referendum on the controversial changes to the pensions law has succeeded (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). The commission said it received 184,383 signatures, representing 13.7 percent of Latvia's voters. Ten percent of voters, or 134,195 individuals, must support a referendum petition for it to succeed. MH

CRUDE SUPPLY TO LITHUANIA CUT AGAIN

Russia halted crude oil shipments to Lithuania on 9 October, "Lietuvos Rytas" and news agencies reported. It is the third time this year that crude supplies have been interrupted, and officials from the Mazeikai Oil refinery said they will have to shut down operations if crude supplies are not resumed by the end of the week. A Mazeikiai Oil spokesperson told APF that the company believes the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry ordered the cessation of supplies. Last week, Russian oil giant LUKoil announced it is pulling out of Lithuania (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 11 October 1999). Lithuanian Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis noted that "it is possible that this is LUKoil's reaction" to having failed to acquire its desired stake in Mazeikiai Oil. MH

POLISH LEFTIST LEADER CRITICIZES ADMINISTRATION REFORM

Leszek Miller, leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), said on 11 October that the state administration reform introduced last year has not been completed. He added that the ruling coalition either does not want to continue decentralization or is unable to do it. He criticized the personnel surplus in central and provincial administration offices and interference of provincial governors in the work of local governments. And he said that as soon as the SLD has "more influence on the course of public affairs," it will complete the reform. Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said Miller's charges are "absurd." He recalled that the SLD did not do anything for the country's decentralization from 1993- 1997 when it shared power with the Peasant Party. JM

CZECH 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT' TO MAKE WAY FOR LARGE COALITION?

Nova television on 11 October reported that the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) envisages that the "opposition agreement" will be replaced by a government in which all parliamentary parties, except the Communists, are represented, CTK reported. ODS chairman Vaclav Klaus said on Prima television that "certain changes" must take place in the government before the ODS's December national conference. Zdenek Skromach, deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party, said the ODS's demand stems from "an internal ODS struggle" ahead of the party's national conference. He pointed out that ODS deputy chairman Ivan Langer is aiming to replace Klaus as the head of the ODS. Langer told Frekvence 1 radio that he would like to replace Klaus sometime in the future. MS

CZECH PREMIER SAYS 'PRESSURE FROM BRUSSELS' HELPS EU DRIVE...

In an interview with the German weekly "Der Spiegel," Prime Minister Milos Zeman said "pressure from Brussels" can only expedite the Czech Republic's entry into the EU. Zeman said he believes the Czech Republic will join the EU by 2003. He noted that the country's balance of payments was the best this year over the last six years and that inflation has plummeted from 10 percent to 3 percent. At the same time, he admitted that "our biggest problem is unemployment," CTK reported on 11 October. Asked whether he feared that Sudeten Germans would resettle in the Czech Republic after that country's EU accession, Zeman replied that anyone from the EU will be "allowed to buy land here, it is only a question of the price." MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT REIMPOSES VISA REQUIREMENTS ON NORTH KOREA

The government on 11 October reimposed visa requirements on citizens of North Korea, Cuba, and Cambodia, CTK reported. It also decided not to reintroduce "for now" such requirements on nationals of Russia, Belarus, and China because of the possible negative impact on trade with those countries. Zeman told journalists that the government intends to reimpose the requirement on Ukrainian nationals and will discuss the measure later this month. MS

NEW CENTER PARTY FORMED IN SLOVAKIA

Former Slovak Ambassador to Prague Ivan Mjartan was elected chairman of the newly established Democratic Center Party (SDS) on 9 October, CTK and SITA reported. The SDS, which held its first congress in Bratislava, said it is a center party. Mjartan told the gathering that Slovakia needs to become a modern, liberal state and "xenophobic isolation, envy, and economic exploitation" are not conducive to this end. He said that establishing a democracy has not in itself solved the country's problems. So far, he continued, transition has relied on "tough neo-liberalism and market tools" and has lacked a concept for establishing a democracy. He said "political privatization" and "cronyism" has "split Slovakia into many regional interests" and led to breaching electoral promises. MS

SLOVAK SKINHEADS ATTACK FOREIGN STUDENTS

Three skinheads attacked a group of foreign students in Bratislava on 10 October, CTK reported, citing Radio Twist. A Peruvian student was injured and had to be hospitalized. CTK said that the police not only failed to help but even stopped the car in which the student was being transported to the hospital, demanding driving licenses and passports. Since none of the students had documents on them, the police fined all the passengers in the car. Police President Jan Pipta said it is uncertain whether the attack was racially-motivated. "The fact that the offenders had shaved heads does not necessarily mean they were skinheads. Bodyguards of politicians also have shaved heads sometimes," SITA quoted him as saying on 11 October. MS

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS AMEND PARTY STATUTES

The Socialist Party's congress on 8 October abolished the party's executive deputy chairmanship and created the posts of first deputy chairman and party director. Analysts say the creation of the post of first deputy chairman could pave the way for the return of former Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth. The congress also voted to introduce a quota system whereby one-fifth of the members of the party's elected bodies must be under 35 and/or women. MSZ




ALBANIA'S MAJKO TO REMAIN PRIME MINISTER

Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 11 October that his government will remain in office "until a change is appropriate...while respecting the [need to preserve the] stability of the country," Reuters reported. He added that he feels "hurt in his moral and political legitimacy" by his recent defeat by Fatos Nano in the contest for the Socialist Party leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). Majko had previously threatened to resign the prime minister's post if he failed to gain the party chair. Nano, who pledged to nominate a woman for Majko's job if Majko quit, appealed to the government on 11 October "not to take any hasty decisions." He added that the government "is legitimate and has the backing of the Socialist Party." Elsewhere, opposition leader Sali Berisha said that Majko no longer enjoys the backing of his own party and should call early elections. PM

UCK COMMANDER DENIES WAR CRIMES CHARGES

General Agim Ceku, who headed the general staff of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told Zagreb's "Jutarnji list" of 12 October that only Serbs committed war crimes on Croatian territory during the 1991-1995 war. He added that he will not comment on allegations that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is investigating him for war crimes in 1993, when he was a Croatian army commander in the Medak area near Gospic. Ceku said, however, that he expects that the Croatian government will "react" to the charges, which appeared in the latest issue of London's "The Sunday Times." The general told the Croatian daily that he has no information to suggest that he might have been secretly indicted for war crimes. PM

SERBIAN NGO CALLS FOR RELEASE OF KOSOVAR PRISONERS

The Humanitarian Law Center said in a statement on 10 October that Serbian authorities continue to hold 2,000 ethnic Albanian prisoners. These include 25 minors, 11 women, about 200 wounded, and some 50 people who are sick. The statement stressed that "their immediate release is above all required on humanitarian grounds and is not subject to political debate." Some of the wounded were injured in the NATO attack on the Dubrava prison in Kosova in May. Some former inmates of Dubrava charge that Serbian security forces killed about 100 and wounded some 200 ethnic Albanian prisoners following the air attack, the statement added. Observers note that the June agreement between Belgrade and NATO did not oblige the Serbian authorities to release or provide lists of prisoners. UN and Red Cross officials argue that this was a key omission in the agreement. PM

UN ADMINISTRATOR KILLED IN PRISHTINA

The UN's Bernard Kouchner said in Paris on 12 October that the UN civilian administrator beaten and shot dead in Prishtina the previous day "was apparently an American of Bulgarian origin," Reuters reported. Kouchner suggested that Valentin Krumov, who had arrived in Kosova earlier that day, spoke Bulgarian in a restaurant and the local inhabitants mistook him for a Serb. In Prishtina, a UN police spokesman said that a crowd attacked and beat Krumov in Mother Theresa Street before killing him. It was the first killing of a civilian administrator in Kosova. AP quoted an unnamed Polish member of the UN police force as saying that he never speaks Polish in public in Prishtina because local Albanians are often unable to distinguish Serbo-Croatian from other Slavic languages and react with hostility to the sound of any Slavic language. PM

NO MASS GRAVE IN KOSOVA MINE

A spokeswoman for the Hague- based war crimes tribunal said in Prishtina on 11 October that international forensic investigators have found no bones or bodies in the Trepca lead and zinc mine near Mitrovica. She stressed that "they found absolutely nothing..., not even animal bones." Reuters noted that rumors have been circulating in Kosova that Serbian forces dumped the bodies of as many as 700 Kosovars in the important mine. PM

NEW IDEAS FOR RAHOVEC?

NATO's General Wolfgang Sauer said in Rahovec on 11 October that there has been little progress in talks between local ethnic Albanians and Russian peacekeepers. KFOR has assigned the Russians to the town, but the Kosovars say that Russians are pro-Serb and hence unwelcome. Sauer added that a former UCK commander proposed that the Russians stay out of Rahovec for one year "while the citizens rebuild their lives." After that, the local people "might" agree to a Russian presence, the UCK official argued. Elsewhere, Rahovec's Mayor Agim Thaqi suggested that Russians might immediately begin patrolling outlying villages but not the town itself, AP reported. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan again charging that the UCK "and other armed groups of Kosovar Albanians" have not yet been demilitarized, Interfax reported. PM

EU TO LAUNCH LIMITED FUEL PROGRAM FOR SERBIA

EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 11 October to try to send fuel trucks to the opposition-controlled towns of Nis and Pirot. How the EU will do this without encountering the opposition of the Yugoslav government remains unclear, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The ministers agreed to maintain a ban on civilian flights to and from Serbia. German and Finnish diplomats sought to lift the ban, arguing that it affects ordinary people more than the top regime officials. Germany's Joschka Fischer stressed that the EU's ban on visas for leading officials is its key means of pressuring the Belgrade elite. Most leading members of the Serbian opposition stayed away from the meeting because of their objections to the EU's proposed text of a joint declaration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). Elsewhere, Kouchner said that he doubts that the opposition has the strength to overthrow Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Radio Svobodna Evropa reported. PM

MILOSEVIC BLASTS OPPOSITION

In Belgrade on 11 October, Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said that the EU's demand that the opposition pledge to extradite war criminals to The Hague was "irresponsible at such a critical moment in Serbia's history." In Leskovac, Milosevic nonetheless accused his opponents of being the West's "bootlickers." He appealed to citizens not to "be fooled by those who drag themselves along the streets of our towns in the evenings," by which he apparently referred to the opposition's protest marches. Milosevic charged that the opposition wants to launch a "civil war." PM

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER 'DISAPPOINTED' BY OPPOSITION

Filip Vujanovic said in Luxembourg on 11 October that he was "disappointed" by the decision of most Serbian opposition leaders not to attend the conference. He called their decision a "wrong move," the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported. PM

PETRITSCH TO INVESTIGATE BOSNIAN SERBS' VISIT TO MILOSEVIC

A spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said that his office will ask Zivko Radisic, who is the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, to explain his recent visit to indicted war criminal Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999), Sarajevo's "Dnevni avaz" reported on 12 October. Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik criticized the visit by Radisic and two other Bosnian Serb politicians, which has led to a strain in relations between Dodik and Radisic, the daily added. PM

ROMANIAN COALITION IN DISARRAY

The Senate on 11 October voted to set up three investigation commissions to examine the management of budgetary funds, privatization, and reform. Two commissions will investigate the activities of the Ministry of Culture and the State Property Fund, while the third will examine how RomTelcom was privatized. The ministry and the fund are both headed by members of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD). The initiative to set up the commissions came from the Democratic Party, the PNTCD's minor coalition partner. In the vote on forming the new commissions, the opposition backed the Democrats, while the PNTCD and other coalition members opposed the initiative. The Democrats are also demanding that a special commission be set up to examine whether the Environment Ministry (also headed by a PNTCD member) is meeting conditions for EU membership, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF ROMANIA DEPLETED BY DESERTIONS

Deputies Romeo Trifu and Liviu Spataru from the Democratic Party announced on 11 October their resignation from the party, which is headed by Senate chairman Petre Roman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Two weeks earlier, the Democrats were deserted by deputy George Serban and Senator Radu F. Alexandru. Trifu said he is leaving the party owing to the Democrats' "arrogance" in relations with coalition partners and with rank-and-file members of the party. Spataru said his decision was prompted by the party's having distanced itself from a social-democratic orientation and by the fact that Roman is "the prisoner" of a "group of Democratic Party ministers who are demolishing the party's structures." MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER WARNS AGAINST EU 'ILLUSIONS'

Ivan Kostov on 9 October warned Bulgarians that they must not entertain "illusions" about being accepted into the EU without building a competitive economy and a modern infrastructure, AP reported, citing BTA. Addressing a public rally in Dimitrovgrad, Kostov said that "some people imagine Europe as a charity organization." BTA reported the previous day that British Premier Tony Blair has addressed a letter to Kostov saying Sofia's commitment to close down the controversial Kozloduy nuclear plant will improve its chances of EU integration. MS




A REAL BATTLE ON THE VIRTUAL FRONT


By Paul Goble

Russians and Chechens are fighting not only on the physical battlefield in the North Caucasus. They have taken their fight to the virtual world of the Internet, with each side trying to seize the advantage there as well.

Last week, Moscow officials denied that Russian forces had attacked a bus carrying Chechen fugitives and killed many of them. But before that report could be aired on central Russian television, the Chechens used their Internet Website to post photographs of the incident.

Not only did this call into question Russian claims about the way in which Moscow is conducting the current campaign, but it forced Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to focus ever more closely on the role of the Internet in deciding the outcome of conflicts.

Speaking to journalists last week, Putin openly acknowledged that Moscow was playing catch-up on this battlefield: "We surrendered this terrain some time ago," he said, "but now we are entering the game again."

The prime minister's remarks came on the heels of reports that Russia's evolving national security concept now calls for tightened control over the media during crisis situations.

Indeed, the Russian government's own newspaper "Izvestiya" noted rather critically that "the introduction of centralized military censorship regarding the war in the North Caucasus is the only new idea" in the much vaunted national security doctrine.

But if battlefield censorship is nothing new--most governments have sought to impose it in most wars--then the war in the virtual world of the Internet is. And because of that, the attackers still have significant advantages over the defenders, even though that pattern may be reversed.

Since declaring their independence from the Soviet Union in November 1991, the Chechens have pioneered the use of Website as a weapon to try to break the information blockade that the Russian authorities have tried to impose over the conflict.

In recent weeks, the Russian government responded on a number of fronts. It has tried to close down the most important of the Chechen Websites---http://www.kavkaz.org-- and even sought help from Western governments to that end.

But Moscow has not limited itself to official moves against the Chechen efforts in cyberspace. The Russian authorities or their supporters have routinely hacked into Chechen sites, destroying or distorting the materials and information they contain.

And taking a leaf from the Chechens' book, the Russian government's news agencies have expanded their activities on the web, not only increasing the number of Websites they operate but tailoring them to deliver specific messages to specific audiences.

Control of information has always been a key element in military strategy and has often determined the outcomes of military campaigns. For most of human history, commanders on the scene and their political superiors were in a position to determine what was reported and what was not.

But the rise of mass circulation newspapers in Europe during the last century and even more the appearance of radio and television in this one has limited the ability of both generals and politicians to control the situation. Now the Internet has reduced their ability to do so still further.

If Moscow eliminates one Chechen site, another is likely to replace it within hours, if not minutes. If those supporting the Russian side hack into a Chechen site, the Chechens are likely to respond by hacking into a Russian one.

Indeed, there are suspicions that the Chechens or their backers may have been behind the defacing of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Website two weeks ago precisely because of his statements against Chechnya and his efforts to expel Chechens from the Russian capital.

The Internet and the World Wide Web have thus become yet another field of battle in modern war, one in which neither side has yet been able to declare any final victory.

But this new, virtual, but all too real battlefield appears likely to be one in which those who seek to control the free flow of news are likely to suffer more defeats than those who sponsor it. And the victories of the latter in cyberspace may ultimately translate into other victories as well.


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