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Newsline - October 20, 1999




PUTIN TELLS RENO RUSSIA WANTS TO COOPERATE...

After meeting with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno on 19 October, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared that the U.S. and Russia have combined efforts to combat money-laundering and "experts" from both countries have exchanged information that is currently being analyzed, Interfax reported. Putin added that State Duma deputies and government officials are working on a new version of a draft law on money-laundering. Aleksandr Livshits, presidential envoy to the Group of Seven, told NTV that Duma deputies intend to pass the money- laundering legislation before the end of the year. Reno commented that she is "very gratified by the commitment of [Putin], by the introduction of legislation and most of all by his thoughtful appreciation of our comments and suggestions," according to AP. JAC

...AS TALBOTT SAYS MISTAKES WERE MADE

Addressing a U.S. congressional committee on 19 October, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott acknowledged that there have been mistakes in the Clinton administration's policy toward Russia, such as its weak support for bills passed by the Duma that would have fought money laundering, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. However, Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (Republican) responded that "your goals are certainly laudable, but your policies to achieve those goals have been miserable failures." At the same hearing, Congressman Tom Lantos (Democrat) noted that "crime used to be a monopoly of the government; it has now become privatized. But to be surprised, to be surprised that there is crime and corruption in Russia reveals to me a degree of historical amnesia which is almost frightening." JAC.

YELTSIN SEEKS TO REASSURE CLINTON OVER CHECHNYA...

Russia "must" restore constitutional order in Chechnya and neutralize "all international terrorists and their chieftains," Russian President Boris Yeltsin told his U.S. counterpart Bill Clinton in a 19 October letter. Yeltsin said the entire international community should unite in the face of the "global challenge" posed by terrorism. He added that Russia will seek to resolve the political aspects of relations with Chechnya, including the republic's status within the Russian Federation, in "talks with those Chechen leaders who reject violence and terrorism," Reuters and Interfax reported. LF

...AS RUSSIAN AIR ATTACKS CONTINUE

Meanwhile, Russian aircraft bombed the town of Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny, on 19 October, killing six people, including three children, a Reuters correspondent who witnessed the attack reported. Russian aircraft also targeted suspected guerrilla positions in four locations near Grozny, AP reported. Chechen officials claimed to have repulsed a Russian assault on the town of Gudermes, east of Grozny, killing 25 Russian troops. But Russian officials denied any such attack took place, according to AP. LF

INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT VISITS CAMPS FOR DISPLACED PERSONS

After inspecting several camps for Chechen fugitives on 19 October, Ruslan Aushev said his republic is experiencing serious problems in providing them with accommodation, food, and medical supplies, ITAR-TASS reported. Aushev said that Russia's Federal Migration Service has not sent any humanitarian aid over the past few days. A spokesman for the Ministry for Emergency Situations said on 19 October that in Ingushetia, 8,000 fugitives from Chechnya are still sleeping in the open air or in cars and buses, according to Interfax. LF

MOSCOW REJECTS U.S. PRESS REPORTS ON ABM TALKS...

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 19 October rejected as groundless U.S. press reports that Washington has offered to help Russia complete a radar station in Siberia in exchange for its consent to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). A ministry spokesman stressed that the Foreign Ministry is holding "consultations on strategic stability with the Americans, including ABM and START," and coordinates all arms talks. The same day, General Makhmud Gareev, the president of Russia's Academy of Military Sciences, told ITAR-TASS that the ABM treaty must not be used for "political bargaining." Saying that the treaty is an integral part of the global security system and therefore affects all states, Gareev argued that "it would be wrong to reduce everything to a particular problem--the construction of a radar station with fairly limited use." JC

...WHILE RUSSIAN PRESS POINTS FINGER AT U.S. WHITE HOUSE

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 October commented that the U.S. press reports on Washington's alleged offer to Russia over the ABM Treaty constituted the White House's "latest attack" in its "massive offensive against Russia's stance on the question of revising the ABM Treaty." Noting that U.S. efforts to "punch a hole" in the treaty at the diplomatic level have come to naught, the daily remarked that Washington now seems to have decided on "measures of public pressure that are unbecoming in the world of diplomacy." The same day, "Kommersant-Daily" asserted that the time of the purported U.S. offer is :"easy to understand": Vice President Al Gore, "who is rapidly losing points in the pre-election race," must "demonstrate firmness in defending U.S. national interests" but must do so "as tactfully as possible in order not to alienate Russia." Both "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" are controlled by media magnate Boris Berezovskii. JC

YELTSIN TO HANG OUT UNTIL ELECTIONS

In an interview with "Segodnya" on 19 October, Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin revised his forecast that President Yeltsin would resign on that date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). Now Shokhin is suggesting that if Yeltsin wants to ensure that his anointed successor, Putin, is "invulnerable to the Duma," then he will resign following Duma elections but before it assembles for its first meeting. Shokhin added that he bases his predications on Kremlin officials' thinking "rationally" but does not exclude the possibility that Yeltsin's inner circle will encourage him to stay on. According to Shokhin, the chances of the Communist Party forming the largest faction in the Duma have been increasing as Kremlin efforts to undermine the Fatherland-All Russia alliance and promote the Unity bloc are succeeding. JAC

NEW EFFORTS TO PROMOTE INVESTMENT LAUNCHED

A group of Russian business leaders and public figures have announced the formation of a National Investment Council, which will be headed by Vneshekonombank Chairman Andrei Kostin during its first six months, Interfax reported on 19 October. Organizer of the council and head of the National Reserve Bank Aleksandr Lebedev said the council will try to counteract the negative image of Russian business in the West and create an investment rating system for Russian regions. Also on 19 October, the Coordination Center for the Protection of the Legal Rights of Investors announced that it has established a center to defend shareholders' rights in Russia, which will be headed by the former Federal Securities Commission chief Dmitrii Vasiliev, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. During the first half of 1999, indirect foreign investment dropped 44 percent compared with the same period last year, Deputy Economics Ministers Vladimir Kossov told reporters the same day. JAC

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION CONTINUES TO SOAR...

Industrial production jumped 7 percent during the first nine months of 1999 compared with the same period the previous year, Interfax reported on 20 October, citing the Russian Statistics Agency. The agency also reported that consumer prices climbed 31.4 percent during the same period. JAC

...AS FUEL PRICES RESUME CLIMB

After appearing to stabilize late last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1999), fuel prices jumped in early October. Gasoline retail prices rose by 4 percent from 1-10 October across Russia, while certain regions, such as the Jewish Autonomous and Orel Oblasts, experienced a price spike of 26.1 and 20.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the Russian Oil Exporters Union has appealed to Prime Minister Putin to cancel restrictions on oil exports, because the current decree in force violates the law on the state regulation of foreign trade, "Vremya MN" reported on 19 October. According to that law, the government is required to issue and publish regulations three months before those regulations go into force, but the decree limiting oil exports was issued on 30 July, published on 5 August, and went into effect on 1 August. JAC

MOSCOW SAYS IT'S READY TO DELIVER ARMS TO SYRIA

Russian Ambassador to Syria Robert Markaryan told reporters in Damascus on 19 October that Russia is ready to supply Syria with "any sort of sophisticated military technology" as well as deliver new defensive weapons and upgrade military equipment bought in Russia," AFP reported. Markaryan added that Moscow wants to boost relations with Syria in other areas as well, including trade. JC

IVANOV URGES WEST TO AVERT 'HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE' IN YUGOSLAVIA

Following talks with his Bosnian counterpart, Jadranko Prlic, in the Russian capital on 19 October, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stressed Moscow's position that international aid to Yugoslavia must not be linked to a "settlement of that country's internal political situation," Interfax reported. With winter looming, Ivanov continued, "a large part of the population of Yugoslavia may find itself on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe" as a result of the NATO air strikes earlier this year. "It's the duty of all countries, primarily those that were involved in the aggression against Yugoslavia, to do everything possible" to prevent such a catastrophe," Ivanov said. JC

ST. PETERSBURG ASSASSINS SUCCEED SECOND TIME ROUND

After surviving an earlier assassination attempt that left him confined to a wheelchair, Deputy Speaker of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly Viktor Novoselov was killed by a car bomb on 20 October, Interfax-North West reported. Novoselov was one of the main candidates for the post of speaker of the assembly. The attack on Novoselov is the latest in a series of acts of political violence in St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999). JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER IN MOSCOW

Visiting Moscow for the first time since his election in June as parliamentary chairman, Karen Demirchian met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev on 18-19 October, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Ivanov characterized bilateral relations as "developing in a spirit of strategic partnership," according to ITAR-TASS. Demirchian told both Putin and Stroev that he hopes for a reversal of the decline in bilateral trade and, in particular, for more Russian investment in Armenia. Demirchian also met with Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov to discuss Armenian payment for fuel supplies to the Medzamor nuclear power station. Armenia plans to sell electricity to other countries to pay for those shipments, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

THREE ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES WANT CATHOLICOS ELECTION POSTPONED

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation- Dashnaktsutyun on 18 October issued a statement advocating postponing the election of a new Catholicos, which is scheduled for later this month, Noyan Tapan reported. The Self-Determination Union issued a similar statement the following day. Both parties argued that the allegations by some senior clerics that the Armenian authorities are seeking to secure the election to that post of a specific candidate may undermine Church unity and reflect adversely on whichever candidate is elected. On 19 October, National Democratic Union Chairman Vazgen Manukian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that he thinks the election should be delayed for a couple of years and that Archbishop Nerses Pozapalian should continue to head the Church during that period. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S MUSLIM LEADER ACCUSES MOSCOW OF GENOCIDE

Allakhshukur Pashazade, who is head of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Caucasus, has written to Russian President Boris Yeltsin to protest what he terms Moscow's deliberate policy of genocide in Chechnya, Turan reported on 19 October. He charged Russia with masterminding the August incursion into Daghestan in order to provoke a violent reaction from Chechnya that could be presented as terrorism and banditry and thus serve as the rationale for a new war against Chechnya. Pashazade expressed concern that Moscow could also accuse Azerbaijan and Georgia of aggression against Russia. LF

LAWYERS SAY CLOSURE OF AZERBAIJANI TV COMPANY ILLEGAL

Lawyers acting for the independent Sara TV company issued a statement on 19 October asserting that the Azerbaijan's Justice Ministry's 9 October decision to close the station was illegal and must be revoked, Turan reported. The station rejected the ministry's claim that under Azerbaijani law, media outlets may not be owned by foreign nationals. Also on 19 October, 34 employees of the company, including its president, Rasul Rauf, began an indefinite hunger strike to protest the imposition by the Baku City Court of a 250 million manat ($62,000) fine on the company for insulting the honor and dignity of a government official. LF

RUSSIA TO EXTRADITE SUSPECT IN GEORGIAN ASSASSINATION BID

Russian Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said in Moscow on 19 October that Russia will hand over to Georgia Nugzar Khuchua, who the Georgian authorities believe participated in the February 1998 attempt to kill Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. Khuchua was apprehended in North Ossetia last month on suspicion of involvement in the bomb attack on the Vladikavkaz central market in March 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 29 September 1999). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CONDEMNS ATTACK ON JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

Eduard Shevardnadze, Georgian NGOs, and a Tbilisi City official have all condemned the 17 October assault on the Tbilisi offices of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Caucasus Press reported two days later. A group of Georgian Christians who support a priest excommunicated for his disagreements with the leadership of the Georgian Orthodox Church broke into the offices, beat up several members of that sect, and destroyed religious literature. Representatives of the Georgian Patriarchy called on the country's leadership in July to ban Jehovah's Witnesses, terming their activities "anti-state and anti-national." LF

CONSORTIUM LEADER ENDORSES AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT PIPELINE

BP Amoco, the senior partner in the 11-member Azerbaijan International Operating Company engaged in extracting offshore Caspian oil, has signaled its backing for plans to route the main export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, Dow Jones reported on 19 October. The AIOC had earlier voiced doubts that it would ever extract large enough volumes of oil to render that project economically viable. But BP now hopes to reach the required 1 million barrels a day by using that pipeline to transport oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. BP has a 9.5 percent stake in the Kazakh OKIOC consortium. AFP on 19 October quoted Turkish President Suleyman Demirel as saying in Baku the previous day that Turkey and Azerbaijan could sign a final agreement on building the pipeline at the November OSCE summit in Istanbul. Turkey has agreed to cover construction costs in excess of the estimated $2.4 billion. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADERS DEPLORE 'CRISIS'

Former Customs Committee chairman Ghany Qasymov, who unsuccessfully contended the January presidential elections, told journalists in Almaty on 19 October that Kazakhstan is facing "a systemic total crisis," Interfax reported. He called for changes to the constitution to strengthen the role of the parliament and ensure that the party that wins parliamentary elections is able to form a government and its leader become prime minister. At a news conference in Almaty the same day, Orleu (Progress) party chairman Seydakhmet Quttyqadam similarly characterized the present situation as "a deep social and economic crisis," RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. Quttyqadam argued that presidential elections should be held next year and that the country's 1993 constitution should be revised and reinstated. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER SPELLS OUT ECONOMIC PRIORITIES

Kasymzhomart Toqaev told cabinet members on 19 October that his policies are aimed at implementing "the long-term strategy of the head of state," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He said the cabinet will pursue an austerity course aimed at boosting budget revenues and reducing the country's trade deficit. Toqaev said he hopes an agreement with the IMF on terms for a new loan can be reached by the end of this year. He added that he opposes any renationalization of privatized enterprises. LF

SOME COSSACKS READY TO MOVE FROM KAZAKHSTAN TO CHECHNYA

Interfax on 19 October quoted an unnamed senior Russian official in Stavropol Krai as saying that some Semirechie Cossacks from southern Kazakhstan have volunteered to settle in Chechnya on the left (northern) bank of the Terek River. Two rival organizations in Kazakhstan claim to represent the Semirechie Cossacks. The leader of one of those organizations has said the entire Cossack community may emigrate if the Kazakh authorities continue to discriminate against them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 11 August 1999). Stavropol Krai official Vassilii Belchenko told ITAR-TASS on 19 October that two companies of Cossacks from Stavropol will be sent to Chechnya's Nauri and Shelkovo Raions, which are under federal control, to keep the peace and protect civilians there. LF

KYRGYZ MEDIATOR OPTIMISTIC ON RELEASE OF JAPANESES HOSTAGES

Parliamentary deputy Tursunbek Bakir Uulu told journalists in Bishkek on 19 October that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, whose members are holding four Japanese geologists they seized two months ago, may release those hostages soon, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Tajikistan's Minister for Emergency Situations Mirzo Zieev, who helped Bakir Uulu negotiate with the Uzbek guerrillas in Tajikistan the release of several Kyrgyz hostages, similarly expressed optimism that the Japanese will be freed by the end of this week, Reuters reported. Zieev denied media reports that the guerillas are demanding a $2 million ransom for the four Japanese. In Bishkek, parliamentary deputy Baiaman Erkinbaev told an RFE/RL correspondent on 19 October that he, too, is engaged in talks with the guerillas aimed at securing the hostages' release. He did not elaborate. LF

OSCE APPEALS TO TAJIK OPPOSITION TO RESUME COOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT

Meeting in Dushanbe on 19 October with United Tajik Opposition chairman Said Abdullo Nuri, head of the OSCE mission in Tajikistan Marin Buchoara handed over a letter from several OSCE member states asking that he reconsider the UTO's decision to suspend participation in the work of the National Reconciliation Commission, ITAR-TASS reported. The UTO had recalled its representatives on that commission to protest the government's refusal to convene an emergency parliamentary session to discuss the 6 November presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). Nuri rejected the OSCE request, accusing the Tajik government of seeking to undermine the UTO's efforts to implement the 1997 peace agreement. LF

SOUTH KOREAN COMPANY TO SUSPEND PRODUCTION IN UZBEKISTAN

Samsung Electronics has suspended indefinitely the production of household appliances in Uzbekistan, Interfax reported on 19 October, quoting an Uzbek official. The decision was prompted by problems in ensuring the regular import of components owing to the non-convertibility of Uzbekistan's currency. LF




BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CONTINUE CRACKDOWN ON OPPOSITION

Of the 93 people arrested for taking part in the opposition's 17 October "freedom march," 17 have been sentenced to short prison terms and 19 fined, while 23 cases have been transferred to municipal commissions dealing with minors, according to a Minsk authorities statement quoted by Belapan on 19 October. The same day, Valery Shchukin, one of the march's organizers, was seized by police, beaten, and put in pre-trial detention. Police also detained Anatol Lyabedzka, another organizer of the march, but released him after four hours, ordering him to appear in court on 20 October. And a Minsk court sentenced Yauhen Afnahel, an activist of the opposition Youth Front, to 15 days in prison for organizing the march, despite the fact that Afnahel had withdrawn his name from the list of organizers before the march and did not participate in it, according to Belapan. JM

U.S. CONDEMNS BEATING OF BELARUSIAN PROTESTERS, WHILE RUSSIA SHRUGS IT OFF

The U.S. State Department on 18 October issued a statement condemning the violent suppression of the freedom march in Minsk the previous day. The U.S. State Department said the beating and arrests of participants in the peaceful march was another violation by Belarus of its OSCE commitments and a "further demonstration of the constitutional and political crisis" in the country. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 19 October that the Minsk "incident" was Belarus's domestic matter, adding that Russia will not "intervene" in it. The same day the Russian State Duma invited Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to address Russian lawmakers on 22 October in connection with the "recent developments" in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. Simultaneously, Russian lawmakers rejected the Yabloko faction's proposal that Belarusian oppositionists also be invited to address the lower house. JM

UKRAINE'S SECURITY SERVICE CLAIMS TO HAVE PREVENTED RIOTS...

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said in an 18 October statement to Interfax that "certain forces linked to the election staffs of the so-called Kaniv Four" were preparing riots in Kyiv on 19 October. The Kaniv Four is a presidential election alliance composed of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko, The SBU added that the riots were organized by a "dozen hired Russian image-makers who are ready to use Russian media to announce a 'mutiny' in Kyiv." An SBU official said on 19 October that measures taken by the SBU had prevented the riots from taking place, but he did not elaborate. The same day President Leonid Kuchma praised the SBU for its timely action to stave off the planned unrest. JM

...WHILE KUCHMA RIVAL SAY REGIME USES 'PROVOCATIONS'

Moroz said the SBU statement on the alleged riots is a "provocation" intended "to introduce elements of a state of emergency" or discredit his candidacy, Interfax reported. Marchuk commented that the methods used against Kuchma's rivals in the presidential race remind him of "special services' techniques" used in staging coups in Nicaragua and Angola or used by Nazis before the attack on the USSR. Marchuk accused the authorities of arranging other "provocations," such as printing a fake issue of the "Silski visti" newspaper that contained criticism of the Kaniv Four or disseminating anti-Semitic leaflets in which he was described as Jewish. JM

TRADE UNION PROTESTS BUT CLAIMS NO TIES WITH KANIV FOUR

According to Yuriy Pyvovarov, head of the Solidarnist trade union federation, some 750 unionists from around the country picketed government and parliament buildings in Kyiv on 19 October to protest against the Kuchma administration and demand back wages. Pyvovarov added that the action was in no way linked to the Kaniv Four. Some 400 unionists picketed the parliament with placards expressing support for parliamentary speaker Tkachenko in his bid for the presidency. Tkachenko said the Solidarnist protests were a surprise to him, adding that the Kaniv Four was not involved in their organization. JM

ESTONIAN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL READY FOR Y2K, CONTROLLERS SAY

BNS reported on 19 October that the Estonian Air Traffic Control Service is ready to deal with any disruptions that may be caused by the millennium computer bug. "We have practically completed tests of all of our software and gear," Air Traffic Control Service representative Mati Tarlap said, adding there will be a "backup at hand if a part of the system should fail." Airplanes enter Estonian airspace 200- 300 times each day. MJZ

RUSSIA ACCUSES LATVIA OF 'WITCH HUNT'...

Russian Ambassador to Latvia Alexander Udaltsov told BNS on 19 October that he believes the charges of genocide brought by Latvian prosecutors against two former Soviet security officers signal the beginning of a "witch hunt" in Latvia. "It creates an impression that a true 'witch hunt' has been launched in Latvia and once again people of quite respectable age, suffering from serious health problems, have become the hunted," Udaltsov said. The diplomat warned that the genocide accusations would "affect bilateral relations, as in most cases those involved are the citizens of the Russian Federation." Russian citizen Yevgenii Savenko, 85, was arrested on 12 October, while charges have been filed against Latvian citizen Nikolai Larionov, 78. Both have been accused of crimes against humanity in connection with their alleged roles in forced deportations of Latvian citizens in the 1940s. MJZ

...WHILE LATVIA APPEALS FOR CALM

Latvian Foreign Ministry spokesman Janis Silis responded on 19 October that "legal proceedings in cases concerning crimes against humanity and genocide conducted in line with effective legislation must not impact on interstate relations," according to BNS. "The Foreign Ministry has stressed on several occasions that crimes against humanity and genocide crimes have no statute of limitation and cannot be justified with ideology," he added. MJZ

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRAISES RUSSIA ON RADAR DISMANTLING

In an interview broadcast on Latvian Radio on 19 October, Indulis Berzins said that the successful dismantling of the former Soviet early warning radar facility at Skrunda is a positive example of Latvian-Russian cooperation and proves that positive trends can be found in bilateral relations with Russia. OSCE inspectors began their final inspection of the radar facility on 19 October, more than two months before the site is due to return to Latvian control. MJZ

LITHUANIA RATIFIES BORDER TREATY WITH RUSSIA

ELTA reported that on 19 October the Lithuanian parliament voted 89 to three with nine abstentions to ratify the Lithuanian-Russian border treaty, which the two countries concluded in October 1997. The treaty establishes the border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast. Lawmakers also approved the Lithuanian-Russian agreement on delimitation of the economic zone on the continental shelf in the Baltic Sea. This latter agreement is not only important for issues of fishing rights but also future oil drilling in the Baltic Sea. AB

LITHUANIAN-U.S. OIL DEAL TO PROCEED

ELTA reported on 19 October that the Lithuanian cabinet voted 11 to three to proceed with final preparations for the deal under which U.S. based Williams International is to buy 33 percent of the stock of Lithuania's oil sector complex, which includes the Mazeikiai Nafta refinery, an oil pipeline, and the new oil terminal at Butinge. "Lietuvos Rytas" reported that following a televised speech by Rolandas Paksas in which the premier explained his reasons for refusing to sign the draft contract (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999), President Valdas Adamkus urged Paksas not to resign. Meanwhile, ELTA reported that representatives from Yukos, Russia's second-largest oil exporter, have arrived in Vilnius to begin tripartite negotiations with the Lithuanian government and Williams International concerning a purchase of 12 percent of stock in the oil sector complex. Yukos would guarantee to supply oil to the refinery for 10 years. AB

POLISH MINISTER SAYS DECLINING SUPPORT FOR EU MEMBERSHIP 'ALARMING'

Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek on 19 October told the parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission that the recent decrease in support among Poles for EU membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999) is "alarming" and should be countered by a government campaign of "information and persuasion," PAP reported. The commission proposed that the cabinet earmark some $9 million for "goals related to integration." The right-wing pro-Catholic Christian National Union said support for Poland's integration with the EU has dropped because people responsible for foreign policy do not defend Polish interests in negotiations with the EU. JM

POLISH OPPOSITION TO SEEK REFERENDUM ON REPRIVATIZATION

The opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Polish Peasant Party, and the Union of Labor will join forces to collect 500,000 signatures supporting a referendum on property restitution, PAP reported on 19 October. The government bill on reprivatization, which was sent to the parliament last month, provides for returning 50 percent of the value of assets that the state confiscated from former owners. "Since reprivatization would be at the cost of all of society, it is necessary to ask citizens for their opinion," SLD leader Leszek Miller said. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTIES REJECT 'SUPER-COALITION'

The opposition "coalition of four" parties has rejected Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus's proposal to set up a governing coalition of all parliamentary parties except for the Communists, Czech media reported on 20 October. Klaus had proposed that the "coalition of four"-- comprised of the Freedom Union, the Christian Democrats, and two smaller parties --join the ODS and the ruling Social Democrats to form a "super-grand coalition" government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). According to a poll released on 19 October by the STEM agency, 23 percent of respondents said they would vote for the "coalition of four," compared with almost 22 percent for the ODS, 20 percent for the Communists, and just 11 percent for the Social Democrats. VG

SLOVAK POLICE CHARGE NEW SUSPECTS IN KOVAC KIDNAPPING

Police have charged three former members of the Slovak Information Service with crimes related to the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son, Slovak media reported on 19 October. The three men are at large after fleeing their homes. VG

SLOVAK ARMY TO CUT STAFF

Slovak Defense Minister Pavol Kanis on 19 October announced that the Slovak army will be cut from its present strength of 38,500 soldiers to 35,000 by the end of this year, TKE reported. Kanis said that the army will be cut further to 30,000 by 2002. He added that other reforms, such as a reduction in the length of military service, are being prepared as part of the effort to transform the army into a professional force. VG

SLOVAK PRIEMYSELNA BANKA UNDER ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROL

The Slovak National Bank on 19 October announced that it has placed Priemyselna banka (PB) under forced administration, TKE reported. The National Bank said it had taken the step due to PB's liquidity problems and its failure to maintain minimum reserves. VG

HUNGARY'S TOP OFFICIALS IN BRUSSELS TALKS

"Hungary's main challenge is to bring closer the date of its being ready for EU membership and to hasten the date of accession," Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on 19 October after meeting with European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi. Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told Prodi that "Hungary could live with an accession date of 1 January 2003" but would prefer meeting its own 1 January 2002 target date. Martonyi added that Hungary would be prepared to accept an EU decision to grant Poland membership first. However, Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for expansion, said that the five Eastern European countries that were selected for fast-track negotiations should be encouraged not to aim for different accession dates. MSZ




'SERBIAN ADOLF' NOT GUILTY OF GENOCIDE

The Hague-based war crimes tribunal ruled on 19 October that Goran Jelisic, who calls himself the "Serbian Adolf," is not guilty of genocide. The tribunal nonetheless convicted him on 31 counts of torture and murder of Muslim and Croatian inmates of the Luka prison camp near Brcko in 1992. The three judges noted that Jelisic was a killer and enjoyed killing, but they stressed that there was no evidence to suggest that his violence was part of a premeditated, orchestrated campaign of genocide. Observers noted that the case shows how difficult it will be for the tribunal to convict indicted persons of genocide. Jelisic has admitted to killing 12 people. One witness said that Jelisic bragged at the camp that he killed up to 30 Muslims each day before breakfast, AP reported. PM

MORE CRITICISM OF TUDJMAN'S STATEMENTS ON BOSNIA

U.S. Balkan envoy James Pardew said that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's call for a separate Croatian "entity" in Bosnia is not acceptable, VOA's Croatian Service reported on 20 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999). In Sarajevo, "Oslobodjenje" noted that officials of the OSCE as well as of the international community's high representative's office have criticized Tudjman's remarks as being incompatible with the 1995 Dayton agreement, which he signed. PM

GRANIC WARNS CROATS AGAINST SELF-ISOLATION

Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Zagreb on 19 October that participation in the EU's Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe is a condition his country must meet if it is to join NATO's Partnership for Peace and eventually the Atlantic alliance itself. Granic conceded that the idea of participating in a project encompassing the Balkan region may be distasteful to many Croats, who fear that the Western powers may force them to join a revived Yugoslav state or regional federation. The minister warned, however, that Croatia will be as isolated as Serbia if it does not join the pact, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Geneva, Vladimir Drobnjak, who is Croatia's chief "coordinator" for the pact, said that Croatia's participation will depend on whether it receives sufficient concrete benefits for doing so, "Vecernji list" reported on 20 October. PM

GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER LAUDS SLOVENIA, ALBANIA

Rudolf Scharping said in Ljubljana on 19 October that Slovenia is a "certain candidate for NATO and the EU." He added that "it is realistic to expect that Slovenia will become a NATO member soon." Asked by journalists about possible Slovenian plans to buy the German Roland missile system, Scharping said that talks will begin once the Slovenian parliament has finished its debate on the annual budget. Later in Tirana, Scharping stressed that Albania's stability "contributes to the peace of the Balkans," AP reported. He met with President Rexhep Meidani, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, and Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga. Germany is the Albanian army's "first partner," Hajdaraga noted. PM

SLOVENE EX-MINISTER FACES YEAR IN PRISON

Prosecutors in Ljubljana formally charged Alojz Krapez on 19 October with abusing his position as defense minister before his sacking in February. Krapez had sold his own flat and sought to move into one reserved for uniformed military personnel, AP reported. If convicted, Krapez faces one year in prison and will be the first prominent politician convicted for abuse of office in independent Slovenia. Scandals involving top officials are no rarity there, however. PM

MONTENEGRO IN 'NO HURRY' TO INTRODUCE OWN CURRENCY

Social Affairs Minister Predrag Drecun said in Podgorica on 19 October that the government will not "hurry" to introduce a Montenegrin currency independent of the Yugoslav dinar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). He added that the government nonetheless understands citizens' fears of a new wave of inflation of the Yugoslav currency. In Belgrade, Yugoslav National Bank Governor Dusan Vlatkovic denied a recent statement by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj that the bank has put into circulation an additional printed $400 million in dinar notes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999). PM

CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER SERBIAN CANTON PROPOSAL IN KOSOVA

Archbishop Artemije, who is the leading Serbian Orthodox cleric in Kosova, told the private Beta news agency on 19 October in Mitrovica that setting up Serbian cantons is the only way to preserve multi-ethnicity in the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999). Artemije argued that local Serbs will leave unless they have their own self- governing communities. In Prishtina, the former Kosova Liberation Army's Hashim Thaci called the proposal to establish the cantons and a Serbian defense force "unacceptable." His colleague Mehmet Hajriz warned that cantonization could "lead to conflict," AP reported. PM

SERBIAN REGIME SUES YET ANOTHER NEWSPAPER...

A state-run tobacco company in Nis is suing the independent "Niske Novine" because of a story that the newspaper printed about the salaries of the company's directors. The Belgrade-based Association of Independent Electronic Media said in a statement on 19 October that the legal action against "Niske Novine" and a similar suit against the publisher ABC Grafika show that the regime is determined to use the courts to shut down independent publications (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). PM

...THREATENS DOMESTIC OPPONENTS

Army chief-of-staff General Dragoljub Ojdanic said at a Belgrade ceremony to mark the 55th anniversary of the end of German occupation of that city that opposition parties demonstrating on the streets of the capital are allies of NATO. He stressed that "Belgrade and Serbia will prevail in a struggle against those who promote their own interests and fool our citizens." The general added that the government will resist any attempt to separate Kosova from Serbia. PM

SERBIAN STUDENTS PROTEST COLD CLASSROOMS

Several hundred high schools students in Uzice staged street protests to complain about the lack of heating in their schools, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 20 October. Similar protests took place in Bor, according to AP. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION MEETS FROWICK

The Social Democrats' Vuk Obradovic and several other leaders of the Serbian opposition held what Obradovic called "long and ample talks" with U.S. Balkan envoy Robert Frowick at an unspecified place in the Republika Srpska on 18 October. Obradovic later told reporters that the Americans made it clear that "there will be no substantial aid to Serbia so long as [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic is in power," AP reported. PM

BOSNIAN SERB TV FOR SERBIA

The opposition leaders also met with Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik in Banja Luka, "Vesti" reported on 20 October. Dodik promised them that Bosnian Serb television will broadcast a program on the activities of the opposition. Alliance for Change leader Vladan Batic said that the opposition will seek to rebroadcast the program within Serbia. It is unclear how often the program will be aired. PM

WHAT IS THE 'SERBIAN LIBERATION ARMY'?

A previously unknown group calling itself the Serbian Liberation Army (OSA) recently sent a letter to the Montenegrin weekly "Glas Crnogoraca" claiming responsibility for the 3 October car accident that killed four aides of the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic. On 18 October, the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA carried the statement, in which the organization declared itself to be in the monarchist- nationalist Chetnik tradition. The statement said that nationalist leaders like Draskovic "are worse than the open enemies of the Serbian people" because people like Draskovic "lead the people astray." "Vesti" two days later carried a photo of men in Chetnik dress, which the newspaper said the OSA allegedly sent to the "Belgrade media." PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES PROPOSAL TO INVITE FORMER KING

Emil Constantinescu sent a letter to Chamber of Deputies Chairman Ion Diaconescu welcoming a proposal by a group of deputies that former King Michael I be invited to address the parliament on 1 December, Romania's national day, Rompres reported on 19 October. VG

GREECE PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR ROMANIA EU ACCESSION

Greek President Costas Simitis told his visiting Romanian counterpart, Radu Vasile, on 19 October that Greece supports Romania's bid to enter the EU as part of the effort to integrate the Balkans into European structures. During the talks, Vasile asked for a relaxation of Greece's visa policy toward his country, according to a Rompres report cited by the BBC. Vasile asked for "the greatest possible relaxation" of visa restrictions on so-called "low emigration risk" categories of travelers, such as entrepreneurs. He added that the two countries have agreed to create joint committees composed of Foreign Ministry representatives. VG

U.S. TO URGE RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA

U.S. Ambassador at Large Stephen Sestanovich on 19 October said his country will support Moldova in its bid to secure the withdrawal of Russian troops from the breakaway region of Transdniester, Infotag and BASA-Press reported. Sestanovich, who was on a one-day visit to Moldova, said the U.S. will urge Russia to meet its obligations on troop withdrawals at the November OSCE meeting in Istanbul. On 19 October, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi urged Romania to support its attempts to have the Russian troops withdrawn, according to ITAR-TASS. Sestanovich also praised Moldova's economic transition, calling it a "reform leader in the post-Soviet area." VG

STABILITY PACT COORDINATOR IN BULGARIA

The special coordinator of the Balkan Stability Pact, Bodo Hombach, said on 19 October in Sofia that Western donors should specify concrete investment projects for the region by the end of 1999 or early 2000. In the meantime, Hombach said donors will send recipient countries in the Balkans an "investment charter" outlining the main impediments to foreign investment in their countries. Hombach emphasized that countries in the region must address crime and corruption. VG

EU INSPECTS BULGARIAN NUCLEAR PLANT

A team of EU nuclear experts inspected four nuclear reactors at Bulgaria's Kozloduy plant on 19-20 October. The EU team is checking whether recent upgrades at the plant meet the specifications of international watchdog agencies. VG




OSCE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ELECTIONS IN CENTRAL ASIA


By Roland Eggleston

The OSCE says it expects to issue this week a new report on the 10 October parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan that will be sharply critical of some aspects of the way the ballot was conducted.

A senior OSCE official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the OSCE election mission reported several instances of falsification of results. It also cited a lack of transparency in vote counting and other breaches of international standards.

On 17 October, Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission said that preliminary results indicated that the OTAN party-- which is closely identified with Kazakhstan's power structures--had garnered nearly 31 percent of the vote. Its closest rival was the Communist Party with nearly 18 percent, followed by the Agrarian Party (some 13 percent) and the Civic Party (about 11 percent).

The election commission has said that the majority of districts in the country will hold a second round of voting on 24 October.

An interim report issued by the OSCE immediately after the elections pointed to several areas in which the first poll failed to meet international standards. However it said the election was an improvement on the heavily criticized presidential vote last January.

In its interim report, the OSCE noted what it called "serious violations" in vote counting, despite new rules by the Central Election Commission intended to make the process more transparent. The interim report was particularly skeptical of vote counting in the Almaty constituency. It said that in one case, forged returns were uncovered in Almaty reflecting different results for the same polling station. This took place in clear view of international observers.

The OSCE also complained about the lack of neutrality among commissioners administrating the elections. It said that in many cases the commissions were directed by regional and local government authorities and were made up of individuals who were dependent on the favor of those authorities for their livelihood. It added that many members of the election commissions were affiliated with the OTAN party.

The OSCE also said it is disappointed in the preparations for the 6 November presidential elections in Tajikistan and the parliamentary elections there early next year. A senior OSCE official told RFE/RL on 19 October that if there is no improvement, the OSCE will drop plans for a full-scale election-monitoring team in Tajikistan even though opposition parties have requested such a mission.

The official said that despite this appeal, the OSCE might send only one expert to assist the local OSCE mission in monitoring the vote. Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov visited OSCE headquarters in Vienna last week to urge it to send a mission.

On 15 October, the main opposition group, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), said the presidential election should be postponed because of irregularities in the way it was being conducted. In particular, the UTO complained that opposition candidates have been prevented from collecting signatures required to register. Earlier last week, the election commission had ruled that three opposition candidates failed to meet the requirement, thereby leaving incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov as the sole candidate.

The UTO also wants a new Central Election Commission to be formed and has urged that all presidential candidates have equal access to state media.

Meanwhile, the OSCE has expressed concern about the preparations for elections in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. An assessment team left for Uzbekistan on 19 October to see whether the conditions for the 5 December parliamentary elections sufficiently meet international standards for the OSCE to send a full election team.

Uzbekistan has formally asked the OSCE to send a full- scale monitoring team for the elections. In a visit to that country last month, OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek told President Islam Karimov that the OSCE is not satisfied with some of the preparations for the elections.

Vollebaek later told journalists that there are "flaws" in the process and cited election laws. He also pointed to the whole area of human rights, including "freedom of speech [and] freedom of religion where we see clear shortcomings."

But he told Karimov that the OSCE did not expect that countries in transition--like those in Central Asia--would be able to conform immediately with international standards on elections. He also said that the assessment mission will make an "objective assessment" of whether a full observation team should be sent to the elections.

Meanwhile, an assessment team is scheduled to travel to Turkmenistan on 8 November to examine whether a monitoring team should be sent for that country's 12 December parliamentary elections. President Saparmurat Niyazov urged the OSCE to do so when he met Vollebaek last month. But OSCE officials are already skeptical of whether conditions will permit the presence of a monitoring team.

There are no political parties in Turkmenistan. Niyazov told the OSCE last month that political parties will appear when the people want them, adding that there is not sign of that.. He also denied that there are any political prisoners but said he is planning another amnesty for some other prisoners shortly before the election.

OSCE officials in Vienna said it could be years before conditions for democratic elections appear in Turkmenistan. Niyazov told Vollebaek during last month's visit that he hopes to introduce what he called a "new, democratic society" by the year 2010. But he did not spell out what sort of society he has in mind.


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