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Newsline - October 19, 1999




PUTIN PLEDGES TO SEAL BORDERS AGAINST 'DIRTY MONEY'...

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told justice and interior ministers from the G-7 countries in Moscow on 19 October that Russia is "interested in preventing 'dirty money' from Russia being laundered in foreign banks," ITAR-TASS reported. Putin added that corruption can be eradicated only "by methods of transparency and openness of economic ties." Meanwhile, Anatolii Kulikov of the Communist Party, who is chairman of the State Duma's Anti-Corruption Commission, who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to the U.S., told the most recent issue of "Rossiiskii izbiratel" that accounts in Swiss banks are "just the tip of the iceberg" and that his commission is investigating matters related to the Swiss construction firm Mabetex, the Bank of New York, and 16 regions of Russia including the Komi Republic as well as Tver and Kemerovo Oblasts. JAC

...AS PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR TIGHTER CAPITAL RESTRICTIONS?

Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is the head of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance, called on 18 October for the state to intervene in the country's economic processes and forge a path between dictatorship and chaos, according to Interfax. Primakov said that "it's not right when $20 billion is leaving the country in roundabout ways and we are begging for $4 billion." According to Primakov, the OVR has prepared 100 draft laws that it will submit to the State Duma should it win elections to the lower house. The main idea of the laws, according to Primakov, is to "reform the reforms themselves"--that is, to correct, rather than annul, the results of privatization, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

RUSSIAN TROOPS SAID TO CONTROL APPROACHES TO GROZNY

Federal forces have taken up position some 18-20 kilometers from Grozny and control all heights overlooking the capital as well as the roads leading to it, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. Reconnaissance forces have advanced to within 5-6 kilometers of Grozny at unspecified locations. Meanwhile, Russian bombing of suspected guerrilla bases east and west of Grozny continued on 18 and 19 October, and Russian and Chechen forces clashed near the village of Shchedrinsk and the rail junction of Chervlennaya-Uzlovaya on the Terek River north of Grozny early on 18 October. In Moscow, a spokesman for the Russian human rights group Memorial warned that indiscriminate Russian bombing of Chechen villages is engendering "a real hatred" of Russians that could fuel a violent backlash, AP reported. LF

MOSCOW CONTINUES TO CONDEMN CHECHEN 'TERRORISM'

The State Duma on 18 October rejected an appeal by Chechen parliamentary chairman Ruslan Alikhadjiev for talks on the situation in Chechnya on the grounds that the Chechen parliament has not yet unambiguously condemned terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking at a press conference at Interfax's main office the same day, Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov again called on Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to join with Russia in combating terrorism. Mikhailov said any talks with Maskhadov would be pointless unless he agrees to do so. In a telephone conversation with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, on 17 October, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that Russia's military operations in Chechnya are aimed at "eliminating international terrorism," according to Interfax. The following day, Yeltsin and Prime Minister Putin discussed aid for displaced persons who fled Chechnya and Russian media coverage of how Russia "combats terrorism in the North Caucasus." LF

PRIMAKOV AGAIN SAYS TALKS INEVITABLE

Speaking on 18 October in Kazan, where he is attending a congress of orientalists, former Prime Minister Primakov said that "talks with Chechnya will have to be held sooner or later," adding that it is desirable that Russia conduct such talks "from a position of strength," Interfax reported. Primakov repeated that he opposes both a large-scale war and large-scale military operations in the mountainous south of Chechnya. LF

CHECHENS CLAIM TO HAVE STINGERS

The Chechen forces have at their disposal over 50 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 Russian Strela weapons, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 October, citing the Chechen Caucasus Information website. Three weeks ago, former Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov had denied that Grozny had any Stingers, while last week Chechen armed forces commander Mumadi Saidaev said they have four (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 41, 14 October 1999). LF

DUMA BUDGET VOTE LIKELY TO BE CLOSE

Interfax reported on 18 October, citing a "well-informed source," that the Communist Party's Central Committee will recommend that its Duma faction vote against the budget in its first reading on 20 October. According to "Vremya MN" on 19 October, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko believes there is reason to hope that the budget will be accepted. Khristenko added that many of the changes that the Communists want are more appropriate for the budget's second and third readings, according to ITAR-TASS. The Our Home Is Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party factions have said they will support the document, while People's Power and Russian Regions faction leaders said their members can vote as they wish. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov said his group will not support the budget unless it is amended, while Yabloko is unlikely to abandon its tradition of not supporting any of the government's budgets. JAC

OVR ALLIANCE WARNS ABOUT RAMIFICATIONS OF TEST BAN TREATY VOTE IN U.S....

Joining the chorus of concern over the U.S. Senate's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 18 October 1999), the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance commented on 18 October that both the U.S. Senate vote and the possibility of a "U.S. unilateral withdrawal" from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty are raising questions about many agreements on restricting nuclear weapons, Russian news agencies reported. "If this trend continues," OVR election headquarters head Sergei Yastrzhembskii said, "the OVR cannot guarantee that once it wins the upcoming parliamentary elections its deputies will back ratification of the START-2 treaty." According to a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Fund, the OVR alliance is currently leading the field with 21 percent support, followed by the Communists (18 percent), Russian Public Television reported on 16 October. JC

...WHILE YELTSIN, CHIRAC EXPRESS CONCERN TOO

In their telephone conversation on 17 October, President Yeltsin and his French counterpart, Chirac, noted their "joint concern over the refusal of the U.S. Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the intention of Washington to revise the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," AP reported the next day, citing the Russian presidential press service. Meanwhile, a source in the same press service told Interfax on 18 October that Yeltsin has appointed Grigorii Berdennikov deputy foreign minister in charge of CIS affairs. Berdennikov was a deputy foreign minister in the early 1990s. JC

NEW ZHIRINOVSKII BLOC CLEARS ELECTION HURDLE...

The Central Election Commission on 18 October registered the party list of the newly formed Zhirinovskii's Bloc for the upcoming State Duma elections. The bloc includes the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), the Spiritual Revival party, and the Russian Union of Free Youth. However, the list contains only 84 names. According to ITAR-TASS, more than 150 names from the LDPR's original list have not been included on the new bloc's list because of the commission's objections. "Izvestiya" reported on 19 October that among the candidates omitted were some of LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii's close relatives, Lyubov and Aleksandr Zhirinovskii. The top three names on the list are Vladimir Zhirinovskii and State Duma deputies Oleg Finko and Yegor Solomatin. Duma deputy Mikhail Musatov, who had been number three on the LDPR's list, is now number 4. JAC

...AS EXTREME NATIONALIST AND ALLEGED GANGSTER ALSO REGISTERED

Sergei Mikhailov, who is allegedly known as "Mikhas" in criminal circles, is now running as a candidate in a single-mandate district on the list of the Conservative Movement of Russia, whose list was also registered on 18 October. Mikhailov had been on the LDPR's list. The commission also confirmed the party list of the Savior (Spas) election bloc, which is headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the nationalist group Russian National Unity. The list, which contains 98 names, is topped by Barkashov, Duma deputy Vladimir Davydenko, and Dmitrii Belikov, director-general of the Siberian Research and Training Center for Medical Equipment, according to Interfax. Also registered was the Peace, Labor, and May movement (Mir, Trud, Mai), headed by Aleksandr Burkov, who recently reached the second round of gubernatorial elections in Sverdlovsk, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 October. The party lists of 32 election blocs or alliances have been registered, and the commission has received no more applications, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

GOVERNMENT PREPARING ITS RESPONSE TO IMF'S EXTRA CONDITIONS...

First Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko told reporters on 18 October that the Russian government will complete its reply to the IMF this week on additional requirements for the next loan installment, Interfax reported. The fund has requested quarterly audits of the Central Bank's (TsB) gold and foreign currency reserves, a schedule for the TsB and Russian commercial banks to adopt international accounting standards, and a timetable for the sale of the TsB's stakes in three foreign subsidiaries as well as a removal of part of the TsB's reserves from those banks. "Izvestiya" reported on 19 October that the TsB would like to transfer its reserves to Vneshtorgbank, a move that the fund opposes. With regard to the sale of the TsB's stakes, the newspaper argues that TsB Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko's resistance is partly psychological since he has worked with these banks for years and their existence gives the TsB "extra flexibility." JAC

...AS KASYANOV DENIES CHECHNYA WILL BUST THE BUDGET

Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 15 October that increased military expenditures in Chechnya "don't provide grounds to change the financial policy of the government" and that Chechnya conflict has "no connection whatsoever" with release of the tranche, Reuters reported. "Kommersant-Vlast" argued in a recent issue (no. 40) that war may be cheaper than peace in Chechnya, since according to some estimates up to $10 million has been spent on ransoms annually in addition to the 15 billion undenominated rubles expended on post-war reconstruction in 1996. Mikhail Zadornov, former presidential envoy to international financial instititutions, told "Moskovskie novosti" on 19 October that the military operation in Chechnya should cost no more than 10 billion rubles ($388 million) this year and that from 1995-1996, Russia spent more than $1 billion on reconstructing Chechnya. JAC

PROTESTORS SUCCEED IN SUSPENDING MOSQUE CONSTRUCTION IN VOLGOGRAD

A ceremony for laying the foundation stone of a new mosque in Volgograd was postponed on 17 October after a group of locals staged a protest against the mosque's construction, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The ceremony had been organized by representatives of the World Congress of Tatars (WCT). Head of Russia's Council of Muftis Ravil Gainutdin and representatives of the WCT said the construction of the mosque will be suspended until agreement can be reached with the local population. Volgograd, which is home to some 30,000 Tatars, currently has no mosque in which its Muslim population can worship. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, the city's old mosque houses the local military commissioner's office. In other regions throughout the federation, there have also been protests against the construction of places of worship for congregations other than that of the Russian Orthodox Church (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 June 1999). JC

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PRESIDENT BANS MASS MEETINGS

Vladimir Semenov issued a decree on 18 October banning all mass meetings, demonstrations, and pickets the North Caucasus republic in order to preserve the territorial integrity of the republic and avoid ethnic discord. The decree was directed primarily against supporters of Semenov's defeated rival in the May presidential poll, Stanislav Derev. Derev's supporters have been picketing the government building in Cherkessk for several weeks. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said that police would not resort to violence to disperse the picketers, while a leading Derev supporter said they refuse to disperse voluntarily, according to "The Moscow Times" on 19 October. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day that Semenov has begun talks with Derev on halting the protest action. LF

RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT SAYS NO EVIDENCE TURKEY ABETTING CHECHENS

Aleksandr Lebedev, who is Russia's ambassador in Ankara, told Interfax on 18 October that there is no evidence to substantiate allegations by Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov that units of mercenaries are being formed in Turkey and sent to Chechnya. Lebedev said there is likewise no proof that the Chechen diaspora in Turkey is providing financial support for Chechen militants. Visiting Baku on 18 October, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel declared that peace and stability in the Caucasus are "of vital interest" to Turkey, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 19 October (see below). LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CONFIDENT KARABAKH SETTLEMENT IS CLOSE

Interviewed by major Armenian television channels on 16 October, Robert Kocharian expressed confidence that he and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, will succeed in concluding an agreement resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported two days later. Kocharian said he believes it would be more difficult to reach such a settlement when he and Aliyev are no longer in office. He added that as a result of four rounds of direct talks over the past three months, the cease-fire in the conflict zone has been consolidated. But Kocharian appeared resistant to international pressure to conclude a formal peace agreement with Aliyev during the November OSCE summit in Istanbul, noting that Armenia considers the venue "not quite suitable." LF

KARABAKH PRESIDENT URGES LEGAL REFORM

Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has instructed senior legal officials to draft within two weeks proposals on how to bring the republic's judicial system closer into line with that of Armenia, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 18 October. In a first step toward legal reform, the enclave has disbanded the military tribunal and military prosecutor's office, although martial law, which was imposed in 1992, remains in force. In other news, the republic's Defense Ministry announced on 18 October that it will conduct scheduled maneuvers from 22-29 October, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIA, GREECE SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT

Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian and his Greek counterpart, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, signed a military cooperation agreement in Athens on 18 October, AFP reported. The agreement covers research, training, joint exercises, and the exchange of information. LF

TURKISH PRESIDENT VISITS AZERBAIJAN

On a one-day visit to Baku on 18 October, Suleyman Demirel discussed with Azerbaijani President Aliyev the obstacles both to a Karabakh peace settlement and to construction of the planned Baku- Ceyhan oil export pipeline and Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Turan reported. Both presidents said after their talks that a final agreement on Baku-Ceyhan will be signed "in the nearest future." That agreement has been repeatedly delayed because of the reluctance of Western oil companies operating in Azerbaijan to finance the project. Aliyev subsequently presented Demirel with the Istiglal (Independence) medal in acknowledgement of his contribution to the "strategic partnership" between the two countries and to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Turkish Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Huseyn Kivrikoglu, said to be "a good friend" of Aliev, accompanied Demirel to Baku. LF

GEORGIA LOBBIES FOR NEW UN ABKHAZ ENVOY

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 18 October that Georgia supports the candidacy of German diplomat Dieter Boden as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative in Abkhazia to succeed Liviu Bota. Shevardnadze noted, however, that Russia opposes Boden's candidacy, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian president said that Boden gained "an excellent reputation" when he served in Georgia in 1995-1996 as head of the OSCE mission there, according to Interfax. That mission was primarily engaged in mediating a settlement of the conflict in South Ossetia. LF

SPOKESMAN DENIES KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT HAS SWISS BANK ACCOUNT

Presidential press spokesman Lev Tarakov denied on 18 October that President Nursultan Nazarbaev has any Swiss bank accounts, AP and Interfax reported. "The New York Times" had reported on 16 October that Swiss investigators had discovered at a Swiss branch of the French Credit Agricole Indosuez an account that was believed to be used by Nazarbaev, though not in his name. Tarakov described the article as consisting of "unchecked facts, rumors and suspicions," according to Interfax. On 17 October, Kazakh commercial television companies were ordered to halt transmission of Russia's NTV, which had aired a summary of the U.S. press article. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION ASKS OSCE TO MONITOR SECOND ROUND OF PARLIAMENTARY POLL

Communist Party of Kazakhstan leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin told journalists in Almaty on 18 October that opposition parties have asked the OSCE to monitor closely the vote count in the 24 October second round of elections to the lower chamber of the parliament, Reuters reported. He commented that in the presence of outside observers, local administrators would be less likely to falsify the outcome of that vote. And he added that the results should be made public the same day. Abdildin and other opposition leaders have charged that the outcome of the party-list voting in the 10 October first round was falsified to increase the share of the pro-presidential Otan party. LF

JAPAN DENIES IT WILL PAY RANSOM FOR HOSTAGES IN KYRGYZSTAN

Government spokesman Mikio Aoki said in Tokyo on 18 October that Japan will not pay a ransom to secure the release of four Japanese geologists seized by guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan two months ago, Reuters reported. The guerrillas are reportedly demanding $2 million for the geologists' release. Aoki added that Tokyo is working "closely" with the Kyrgyz authorities on the issue. Kyrgyz parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, who has mediated the release of seven Kyrgyz also taken captive by the guerrillas, said Kyrgyzstan will "not pay a single kopeck" for the release of the four Japanese, adding that he is confident they will be freed "soon," Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS

Elections to town and village councils throughout Kyrgyzstan took place on 17 October, Russian agencies reported. Overall voter participation was 66.4 percent, according to Central Electoral Commission Chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev. The highest turnout (78.6 percent) was in Osh Oblast, in the south of the country, where the recent hostage-taking occurred. The lowest participation (38.3 percent) was registered in Bishkek, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported on 18 October. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION ORGANIZATION EXPELS DEPUTY PREMIER

The United Tajik Opposition on 18 October expelled from its ranks First Deputy Prime Minister Khodja Akbar Turadjonzoda, accusing him of "improper behavior and actions that contradict...the policy of the party," ITAR-TASS reported. The UTO Presidium also recommended that Turadjonzoda be removed from the post of first deputy opposition leader and from his government post. Turdjonzoda had criticized three would-be opposition presidential candidates' demand that the 6 November poll be postponed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 18 October 1999). Also on 18 October, the Supreme Court began hearing testimony from the three would-be opposition candidates, all of whom were denied registration, Asia Pluz- Blitz reported the next day. A representative of the Central Electoral Commission rejected their claim that the commission failed to act on their earlier complaints that local officials were actively preventing them from collecting the necessary signatures to register as presidential candidates. LF

EXPLOSION IN TAJIK CAPITAL

At least two people were injured on 18 October in an explosion that seriously damaged a department store in central Dushanbe, close to the presidential palace, Reuters and Interfax reported. Police say the blast was caused by 300 grams of TNT. LF




BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON PROTESTERS...

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 18 October ordered law enforcement agencies "to identify organizers and active participants in the riots" that he said took place during the 17 October opposition "freedom march" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999), Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka also instructed the state media to report on the "real goals" of the opposition action. Presidential aide Mikhail Myasnikovich said on state television that the Belarusian opposition received "several hundred thousand dollars" from the West to stage the protest. Meanwhile, Minsk courts on 18 October continued to hand down fines or prison sentences to those arrested during the march, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Mikalay Statkevich, who was the main organizer of the march and is leader of the Social Democratic Party Narodnaya Hramada, faces three years in prison if convicted of organizing a "group action that grossly violated public order," a Minsk prosecutor said. JM

...WHILE OPPOSITION SAYS CLASHES PROVOKED BY POLICE

Organizers of the "freedom march" told a news conference in Minsk on 18 October that the clashes the previous day were provoked by riot police. According to Dzmitry Bandarenka, the police attacked the marching protesters after they turned back to avoid a police cordon. Bandarenka also asserted that Lukashenka personally ordered Interior Minister Yury Sivakou and presidential guard chief Uladzimir Navumau to suppress the protest action. According to the opposition, the authorities arrested some 200 people after the march, while another 100 have probably gone into hiding to avoid arrest. OSCE Minsk mission acting chief Hans-Peter Kleiner told Belapan that the authorities' refusal to allow the opposition to hold a march in downtown Minsk was the main reason behind the 17 October clashes. JM

BELARUS'S SHARETSKI REPORTEDLY MEETS WITH KUCHMA

Syamyon Sharetski, chairman of the opposition Supreme Soviet, who is now residing in Lithuania, visited Kyiv last weekend at the invitation of Ukraine's Popular Rukh, Interfax reported on 18 October. Rukh spokesman Dmytro Ponomarchuk said Sharetski traveled to Kyiv "to warn Ukraine against repeating the Belarusian experience." Ponomarchuk added that Sharetski met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. However, Kuchma's spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said the presidential staff "has no information" about Kuchma's meeting with Sharetski. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk criticized Belarus for breaking up the 17 October opposition march. "Beating people who take advantage of the right to express their opinion does not conform with international norms," Interfax quoted Tarasyuk as saying. JM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE SAYS UKRAINE NOT MEETING MEMBER OBLIGATIONS

Meeting on 18 October in Kyiv, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer and Iceland's Foreign Minister Halldor Asgrimsson criticized Ukraine for failing to fulfill its obligations as a council member. The council has repeatedly rebuked Ukraine for not abolishing the death penalty and for harassing independent media. On this occasion, council officials also expressed concern that presidential candidates have been granted unequal access to the state-controlled media. Earlier, the council postponed until January 2000 taking a decision on whether to suspend Ukraine's membership. JM

LUXEMBOURG PRIME MINISTER IN ESTONIA

During a two-day visit to Estonia on 17-18 October, Jean-Claude Juncker discussed EU issues with Prime Minister Mart Laar, Finance Minister Siim Kallas, and parliamentary Speaker Toomas Savi. Juncker stressed that membership in the EU depends on the "readiness of each individual candidate country," BNS reported. Kallas noted that switching over to the Euro would pose few problems for Estonia, as the country meets most conditions for doing so. However, he added that it would be hasty to change to that currency before joining the EU. MH

LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST OIL DEAL

In a live television address to the nation on 18 October, Rolandas Paksas expressed his opposition to the sale of a majority stake of Mazeikiai Oil to the U.S. company Williams International. Paksas noted that that under the agreement with Williams, the government would have to invest 1.4 billion litas ($350 million) in Mazeikiai, which he said would make the deal unsound because it would push the budget deficit up to a "dangerous" level. He added that he has refused to sign the deal. However, ELTA reported that the cabinet on 19 October voted to accept the Williams deal, which immediately led to both Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis and Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas submitting their resignations. Only the two resigned ministers and Paksas voted against the deal. MH

POLAND'S WALESA READY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Former President and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa has said he is ready to run for the presidency in 2001, Polish media reported on 18 October. Walesa said the decision was prompted by his negative assessment of Poland's situation, and he added that he can change his mind if the situation improves. Also on 18 October, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski said that Solidarity may support a single, right-wing candidate in the 2001 presidential elections. Krzaklewski said that he will decide whether to run in that ballot only after Solidarity convenes in December. According to a September poll by the CBOS polling agency, 56 percent of respondents would vote for the incumbent Aleksander Kwasniewski as Poland's next president. Krzaklewski received 8 percent support and Walesa 7 percent. JM

SUPPORT FOR EU IN POLAND BELOW 50 PERCENT

According to an October poll by the Social Studies Laboratory, only 46 percent of Poles are in favor of EU membership, down 18 percent from February 1998, when the country began the EU accession talks. The poll also found that students and people under 24 are most supportive of Poland's EU membership, while people aged 40-59 are most strongly opposed. JM

CZECH AIRLINES MARKED ROMA PASSENGERS WITH 'G'

For almost 18 months, Czech Airlines (CSA) kept track of passengers flying to London who appeared to be Romany by marking the letter "G," for "Gypsy," in their flight records, Czech media reported on 19 October. CSA's representative in London, David Thomas, said the practice was designed to speed up the processing of Czech Roma who were trying to emigrate to the U.K. Passengers who were marked "G" were directed to immigration officials in London. CSA President Miroslav Kula said the London branch office stopped the practice in February, but he added that until recently CSA employees continued to mark the flight records of Romany passengers owing to force of "habit." In other news, Vaclav Miko, a representative of the Board of Romany Regional Organizations, said the board believes that all Czech Roma should request asylum in Germany, which is the "nearest safe country," CTK reported on 18 October. VG

SLOVAK ECONOMY MINISTER RESIGNS

Slovak Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak on 18 October announced that he has resigned from his cabinet post, TKE reported. The Democratic Union, of which Cernak is a member, announced that it is nominating its chairman, Lubomir Harach, to the post. Cernak, who refused to comment on the reasons for his decision, has been criticized by several members of the governing coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). VG

BRITAIN PRAISES HUNGARY'S PROGRESS

Great Britain strongly supports Hungary's admission to the EU because it believes Budapest has made considerable progress in its preparations for EU accession, British Secretary of State for European Affairs Keith Vaz told Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 18 October. Vaz, who was appointed to his post last week, said he selected Budapest as the destination for his first trip abroad in order to show the importance the U.K. attributes to Hungary's bid to join the EU. In other news, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on 18 October that his cabinet will consider a request from Australia to take part in peacekeeping operations in East Timor. MSZ




KOSOVA SERBS SEEK OWN PROTECTION FORCE, CANTONS

Some 150 representatives of Kosova's Serbian minority met at the Gracanica monastery on 18 October, the private Beta news agency reported. Agreeing that the new Kosova Protection Corps will be dominated by ethnic Albanians and that Serbs cannot count on it to protect them, the delegates proposed that the Serbs set up their own protection force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). They also decided that Serbs should transform areas where they constitute a majority into self-governing cantons. The delegates called for a moratorium on activities by political parties and announced that a 49- member Serbian National Council is to be set up. PM

KFOR TO BOOST PRESENCE IN PRISHTINA

NATO peacekeepers said in a statement on 19 October that they will increase their presence on the streets of Kosova's capital. The move came hours after the killing of a Serbian man and in the wake of other recent violence, primarily against Serbs and Roma. "This barbaric behavior cannot be tolerated and all efforts will be made to arrest those who think they can take the lives of others and just walk away. As a result of such cold- blooded murders, the KFOR command has decided to step up KFOR security presence in Prishtina," the statement added. PM

HAS UCK'S POLITICAL POWER PEAKED?

Many ordinary Kosovars have come to associate the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and its leader Hashim Thaci with violence and arrogant behavior, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 18 October. The daily noted that the former guerrillas "are ensnared in a deep political crisis caused by unhappiness with their heavy- handed power grabs, rising disgust about the violence plaguing [Kosova], and the rebels' own underestimation of their political rivals." An unpublished opinion poll commissioned by an unnamed Western organization shows shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova defeating Thaci in a two-way contest by a four-to-one margin. A second poll gave Rugova 92 percent against Thaci, the daily continued. Rugova's policy of remaining out of public view has added to his "mysterious, mystical" image among Kosovars, an independent analyst told the U.S. daily. PM

MULTI-ETHNIC TEAM FROM KOSOVA IN 'TRUST-BUILDING EXERCISE'

Ten ethnic Albanians, three Serbs, two ethnic Muslims, and a Turk went to France on 19 October to begin what Major-General Jean-Claude Thomann of KFOR called a "trust-building exercise." They will receive training in fire-fighting, emergency rescue, and related activities from the French Civil Securities, AP reported. The Albanians, Muslims, and Turk belong to the Kosova Protection Force, while the Serbs were sent by the authorities in northern Mitrovica. Thomann said the participants in the program agreed to "talk to one another." He added that he feels it is too soon to expect Serbs and Albanians to serve together in the same force. Observers note that NATO and the UN regard the Civil Securities as the model for the Protection Force. The UCK, however, sees the force as its successor and the nucleus of a future Kosovar army. PM

SOME SERBIAN PARTIES FORM ELECTION COALITION...

Vladan Batic of the Alliance for Change said in Belgrade on 18 October that several of the parties belonging to the alliance will form an election coalition. Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party noted that the coalition parties will constitute a joint group of deputies in the parliament after the elections. Social Democratic leader Vuk Obradovic said that his party will remain in the alliance but not join the electoral coalition lest the Social Democrats lose their identity, Belgrade's "Danas" reported. The opposition insists that early elections be held by the end of the year based on a system of proportional representation. Batic stressed on 18 October that the alliance will not take part in any elections unless the regime introduces the electoral reforms that the opposition demands, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

...BUT WILL THERE BE ELECTIONS?

Several top officials of parties in the governing coalition said on 18 October that there will be no early elections, AP reported. However, the following day the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" quoted an unnamed official of the governing Socialist Party of Serbia as saying that elections will take place in December. Mira Markovic, who is the wife of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the head of the neo- communist United Yugoslav Left, stressed that "elections can take place tomorrow as far as [her party] is concerned." Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said that he favors elections in March. He added that if the opposition protesters block streets, "we will arrest them and turn them over to the courts.... The police must react immediately and mercilessly." PM

DJINDJIC FEARS VIOLENCE AFTER MARKOVIC STATEMENT

Djindjic fears that he may be the target of a violent attack following a recent interview by Markovic, in which she called him a "traitor," AP reported from Belgrade on 19 October. She used similar language about publisher Slavko Curuvija shortly before unknown thugs killed him in April. Djindjic said: "I'm not worried about what will happen to me, whether Mirjana Markovic will be consistent in punishing 'traitors' or only will accuse me verbally. I'm more worried that she has the power in Serbia to pronounce the sentencing." PM

SESELJ ADMITS GOVERNMENT ROLE IN INFLATION

Seselj said in Belgrade on 18 October that the government recently printed $400 million in dinar notes in addition to the $1 billion already in circulation. He said that "we simply had to print money to support [postwar] reconstruction," AP reported. Previously, Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic denied that the government had printed additional money. He charged Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik with flooding Serbia with dinars after they began to use the German mark as an unofficial currency. PM

RUSSIAN GAS ARRIVES IN SERBIA

Serbian Energy Minister Zivota Cosic said in Belgrade on 18 October that Russian gas deliveries via Hungary have resumed. Russia's Gazprom will provide some 4.5 million cubic meters of gas per day. It is unclear whether Serbia has cleared its $20 million debt to the Hungarian MOL company and signed a transit agreement, which the Hungarian authorities had demanded. Hungary observes EU sanctions against Belgrade but has agreed to limited gas deliveries on humanitarian grounds, Reuters reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN AIRPORT REOPENS

The Podgorica airport reopened for civilian traffic on 18 October following the repair of damage caused by NATO airstrikes in the spring, RFE/RL's Slavic Service reported. The government hopes that the airport will increase Montenegro's direct links to the outside world independent of Belgrade and help revive the key tourist industry. PM

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT TO STAY

Socialist Party head Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 18 October that he does not plan any changes in the government. He made the statement after meeting with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 18 October 1999). PM

TUDJMAN PREDICTS ELECTION VICTORY...

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told a press conference in Zagreb on 18 October that he is confident that his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) will win the parliamentary elections widely expected to take place before Christmas. He argued that the HDZ "created Croatia," has the best program of any party, and will go on to victory "for the eighth time." Asked about the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Tudjman said that "no Croatian general" will be sent to trial there. He stressed that those men "liberated their country from evil and cannot be held accountable" for atrocities. The president argued that the court does not take a "balanced" approach because it has indicted several Croats but none of the Serbs who shelled Zagreb during the 1991-1995 conflict. Observers note that no Croatian general has been publicly indicted. The majority of those indicted are Serbs. PM

...SEEKS CROATIAN 'ENTITY' IN BOSNIA

Tudjman added that the Bosnian state and the 1995 Dayton peace accord can continue to exist only if there is complete equality between Serbs, Muslims, and Croats. To this end, the Croats as well as the Serbs and Muslims should have their own "entity," he argued. Observers note that Tudjman has never hidden his belief that Bosnia is an artificial state that should be partitioned between Serbia and Croatia. As a signatory of the Dayton agreement, however, he is obliged to uphold the current constitutional order, in which the Serbs have one entity and the Croats and Muslims share power in a second one. PM

TUDJMAN SPARKS REACTION IN BOSNIA

In Sarajevo, a spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said on 18 October that Tudjman's statement will not lead to any revision of Dayton, "Dnevni avaz" reported. Moderate Bosnian Croat leader Kresimir Zubak argued that he has never heard Tudjman advocate setting up a separate "Croatian entity" in Bosnia and that the idea must have come from hard-liners opposed to any links to the Muslims. PM

WORLD BANK TO LEND $500 MILLION TO ROMANIA

The World Bank is preparing to grant Romania some $500 million in loans to support the country's integration into the EU, according to the bank's director for Romania, Andrew Vorkink. Vorkink told Romanian journalists on 18 October that the money will go to the mining and agricultural sectors, public administration reform, and the stimulation of industrial production. He praised Romania's success in maintaining currency stability and increasing its currency reserves. VG

ROMANIAN PARTY ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN

Delegates to the 16 October congress of the Social Democratic Party of Romania narrowly elected Alexandru Athanasiu as the party's new leader, Romanian media reported on 18 October. Athanasiu defeated the other candidate, Emil Putin, by a vote of 482- 471. Athanasiu said he will follow his predecessor's political line. VG

ROMANIA, YUGOSLAVIA SIGN HYDROELECTRIC PLANT AGREEMENT

Romania and Yugoslavia have signed an agreement to make technological improvements at the Portile Fier I hydroelectric power plant on the countries' mutual border along the River Danube, according to a 18 October Mediafax report cited by the BBC. The agreement is based on a 1998 convention to coordinate work on the plant. VG

FIVE MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES CREATE INDEPENDENT BLOC

Four parliamentary deputies from the Bloc for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova have joined a former deputy of the Party of Democratic Forces to form an independent bloc in the parliament, Infotag and Basa-Press reported on 18 October. The creation of the bloc weakens the government's support in the parliament and increases the chances that the cabinet would fall in any potential confidence vote. In other news, presidential spokesman Anatol Golea rejected recent suggestions by Prime Minister Ion Sturza that the president wants the government dismissed, Infotag reported. VG

BULGARIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR EU LOANS TO YUGOSLAVIA

Ivan Kostov on 19 October called on the EU to extend loans to small and medium-sized businesses in Yugoslavia as a means of shoring up the democratic opposition to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, AP reported. Kostov also criticized the West for delays in implementing an economic aid plan for the Balkans. He expressed concern that the post-war reconstruction of the region might be designed to serve the interests of donors or private companies. VG

MONTENEGRIN PREMIER VISITS BULGARIA

Filip Vujanovic on 18 October thanked Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandur Bozhkov for his country's stance during the Kosova crisis, according to a BTA report cited by the BBC. Vujanovic and Bozhkov also discussed ways of improving relations between Montenegro and Bulgaria. Vujanovic was in Sofia to attend the Southeast Europe Economic Forum. VG




UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATES FAIL TO PRESENT UNITED FRONT


by Lily Hyde

When four candidates announced in August that they were joining forces in the Ukrainian presidential race, the media generally welcomed that announcement. The four candidates-- socialist Oleksandr Moroz, parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, head of the mayors' association Volodymyr Oliynyk, and former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk--made their announcement in Kaniv, the rural, leafy burial-place of a national poet. They subsequently became known as the Kaniv Four. Analysts said a single candidate from the Kaniv Four could be a real challenger to President Leonid Kuchma, who is running for re-election.

Two months later, the Kaniv Four are again in the news, but the media attitude has greatly changed. Moroz, the most popular of the four candidates, has lost voter support in the wake of a scandal surrounding the attack on the life of rival candidate Natalya Vitrenko. Tkachenko has been accused of breaking election laws by campaigning on Russian television. And the failure of the four to announce a single candidate, as promised, has led to widespread speculation that the Kaniv Four have splintered into a Kaniv Three, or even Two.

The candidates delayed announcing their choice several times, saying they feared physical attacks on the chosen candidate. Finally on 15 October, Moroz's team announced that Tkachenko and Oliynyk would support Moroz, while Marchuk would continue his own campaign independently. Moroz's campaign manager said the Kaniv Four still intend to field a single candidate and it is "70 percent likely" that Moroz will be that candidate. The final announcement is expected just days before the 31 October election.

Government media greeted the delays with derision. Kuchma was widely quoted as calling the behavior of the group "agonizing." He said the four candidates were "monsters" and that Moroz was "losing face." The press speculated that the announcement was delayed because the four have no strategy.

Mykola Tomenko, head of the Kyiv Institute of Politics, told RFE/RL that he considers the delay in the announcement of a single candidate to be a reasonable response to an unstable situation. He said the decision of Oliynyk and Tkachenko to resign their candidacies in support of Moroz is significant: "It's the first serious step. I think if he remains the only one of four it will be a more serious step to a member of the Kaniv Four to have a claim on the presidency."

Tomenko added that he thinks the group was wise not name Moroz as their candidate at this juncture. The media have been linking Moroz with the grenade attack two weeks ago against Vitrenko, who split with Moroz's Socialist party several years ago and now heads the more radical Progressive Socialists.

Moroz has denied involvement and attempted to challenge the negative media coverage. The parliament last week ordered the state channel UT-1 to show Moroz defending himself against the allegations. UT-1 did not comply with the parliamentary order, which most commentators say has a dubious basis in law.

Analyst Tomenko says the state media's criticism of the Kaniv Four is an indication that Kuchma sees the alliance as a serious threat. That is a line the candidates themselves have taken. "I think this only confirms the weight of the four. The official channel UT-1 and the program "Panorama" [recently] devoted 15 minutes to criticizing the Kaniv Four and 10 minutes to criticizing Oleksandr Moroz. It seems possible to draw the conclusion that the authorities are afraid of the Kaniv Four and afraid of Oleksandr Moroz as a real candidate."

At a press conference on 18 October, the four candidates said they plan to appeal to the Central Election Commission to have Kuchma's candidacy annulled. They say he is unfairly using his government power over the media to further his campaign. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Kyiv.


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