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Newsline - October 26, 1999




RUSSIAN FORCES ADVANCE ON GROZNY

Federal forces deployed along the Terek ridge north of Grozny advanced south and eastward on 25 October and clashed the following day with Chechen defenders in the villages of Sadovoe and Pervomaiskoe, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Russian artillery and warplanes continued to bombard Grozny's suburbs and airport, and the towns of Vedeno and Tolstoi-Yurt. Reuters on 26 October quoted Lieutenant General Gennadii Troshev, who commands one of the sectors of the Russian front, as telling "Moskovskii komsomolets" that "the ring being drawn around Chechnya will be gradually tightened until the full territory of Chechnya is under the control of federal forces." He added that "the main task is to avoid excessive casualties and prevent the guerrillas from escaping." He said that operation may last three months or two years. Troshev also disclosed that a $1 million reward has been offered for field commander Shamil Basaev. LF

UNHCR CONCERNED OVER CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata on 25 October expressed concern both at rising civilian casualties in Chechnya and at the Russian military's closure of border crossings to persons fleeing the fighting, AP reported. Tens of thousands of uprooted civilians are trapped within Chechnya following the 23 October closure of the border crossing with Ingushetia. Interfax on 25 October quoted an unidentified Russian Interior Ministry source as saying that four corridors through the "security zone" surrounding Chechnya will be opened on 29 October to allow forcibly displaced persons to leave. Russia's Ministry for Emergency Situations on 26 October estimated the number of displaced persons from Chechnya in Ingushetia, Daghestan, North Ossetia, and Stavropol Krai at 187,000, according to ITAR- TASS. LF

AFTER LAST-MINUTE HAGGLING, BUDGETS PASSES IN FIRST READING

State Duma deputies on 26 October voted 244 to 86 with 11 abstentions to approve the 2000 budget in its first reading. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, budget revenues have been increased by 20.1 billion rubles ($780 million) to 797.2 billion rubles and spending to 855.1 billion rubles. Khristenko suggested that more revenues would be made available by making better use of state property abroad and by improving tax collection, according to Interfax. An unidentified source told the agency that the budget is expected to state that 6 billion rubles in revenue will be directed toward priority spending programs only if additional revenues are collected. The Communist and Agrarian factions earlier withheld their support for the budget in order to win increased funds for agriculture, science, and industry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). JAC

TONE OF U.S. STATEMENTS ON CHECHNYA HARDENS

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters on 25 October that she informed Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in two telephone calls last weekend that Washington views current Russian military activities in Chechnya as "ominous" and "deplorable," RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. She added that she also told Ivanov that Russia is making "a significant step in the wrong direction" in Chechnya and that she was not particularly encouraged by Ivanov's response. Ivanov said the same day that he hopes the U.S., when it is assessing Russia's Chechen policy, "will proceed from objective information, being guided by our joint goals of the struggle against international terrorism and the development of bilateral relations," ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

MOSCOW SAYS IT CAN 'OVERCOME' ANY ABM SYSTEM...

First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov told journalists in Moscow on 25 October that Russia has the technical capabilities to "overcome" any anti-ballistic missile system, Interfax reported. Such technology can "realistically be used and will be used if the U.S. pushes us toward it," Mikhailov warned, in a reference to U.S. plans to set up a limited national ABM system. He added that the expenses entailed for Russia would be several times lower than the cost of constructing a national defense system. JC

...WHILE PRIMAKOV SAYS 'ASYMETRY' IN ARMS RACE MUST BE AVOIDED

Also on 25 October, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is a leader of the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, told a roundtable of the Council for Foreign Defense Policy that if the U.S. goes ahead with plans to implement a national ABM system, Russia will have to develop "its own [deterrent] strategic forces but in such a way that would avoid an asymmetrical approach to the arms race," Interfax reported. He added that such forces should have "great penetration capabilities" to ward off possible attacks. Primakov also said that the West still sees Russia as a potential enemy, claiming that a CIA report issued several months ago directly identifies Moscow as such. JC

CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION BEHIND SCHEDULE

Visiting Kirov Oblast on 25 October, Lieutenant General Valerii Kapashin, the director of the federal special program for the destruction of chemical weapons, announced that the program is two years behind schedule because of insufficient funding, "Izvestiya" reported. The governor of six regions, including Kirov, where plants for the weapons' destruction are planned recently urged the government to find additional funds for the implementation of the program, according to "The Moscow Times" on 14 October. Kapashin said on 25 October that the governors will request some 3.8 billion rubles ($148 million) for this purpose. The Chemical Weapons Convention requires Russia to destroy its stockpiles by 2008, but Kapashin had already warned last year that Russia may have recourse to a provision of the convention allowing an additional five years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1998). JC

FEDERAL AUTHORITIES SEEK TO BAN NATIONALIST GROUP

Justice Ministry officials on 25 October sent a petition to the Supreme Court asking it to bar the Savior (Spas) movement for violating the law on public associations, ITAR-TASS reported. The Central Election Commission recently registered Savior's party list for participation in upcoming State Duma elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). According to a Justice Ministry spokeswoman, the movement provided false information about regional branches that do not in fact exist, according to Reuters. Savior is headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, the head of the ultra-nationalist Russian National Unity (RNE). On 26 October, a court in Primorskii Krai passed a resolution banning the activities of RNE on the region's territory, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA LEADERS SET SIGHTS ON SIBERIA...

Our Home Is Russia (NDR) head Viktor Chernomyrdin will seek a seat in the State Duma from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 25 October. Former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will have to compete against six candidates, including the head of a local geological enterprise. NDR Duma faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov will compete against 17 candidates in a district in Altai Krai. JAC

...AS SIBNEFT HEAD TO COMPETE AGAINST UNITY CANDIDATE IN FAR NORTH

According to the election commission in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Sibneft head Roman Abramovich has submitted 679 signatures--89 more than necessary--to support his registration for State Duma elections in a single-mandate district in that region, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 25 October. Abramovich will compete against seven candidates including Deputy Governor Igor Shishkin. In an earlier interview, Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov said that he is unaware of any plans by Abramovich to run in his region and that he personally will support a candidate from the list of the interregional bloc Unity. Presumably, he meant Deputy Governor Shishkin. Abramovich is considered a close ally of media magnate Boris Berezovskii, who allegedly played a role in forming Unity, one of whose founders was Nazarov. JAC

LDPR CANDIDATES STILL BARRED FROM MOSCOW MAYORAL RACE

A Moscow court upheld on 25 October the decision of the city's election commission to bar Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) member Aleksei Mitrofanov and his would-be deputy mayor, Andrei Brezhnev, from participating in the Moscow mayoral election, Russian Public Television reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). The commission found that Mitrofanov, who heads the Duma Geopolitics Committee, violated campaign finance regulations when setting up his election fund. JAC

FURTHER DECLINES IN MEAT CONSUMPTION FORECAST

Russia will import 1.8 million tons of meat and meat products this year, a decline of 0.5 percent compared with the previous year, Interfax reported on 25 October, citing the Agriculture Ministry. Per capita consumption of meat will amount to 42 kilograms in 1999, compared with a 12 percent drop over last year. Per capita consumption of milk and dairy products is also expected to show a decline of 8 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned recently that Russia will have to boost its imports of meat next year or risk a further decline in the population's meat consumption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1999). JAC

RADICALS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA REJECT COMPROMISE

Some Cherkess and Abazin supporters of Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev have rejected the compromise agreement reached in talks in Moscow on 23 October between Derev and the republic's president, Vladimir Semenov, Caucasus Press reported on 26 October. Under that agreement, a republic-wide referendum on confidence in Semenov will be held next fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). The radical wing of Derev's supporters continue to insist on the creation of a separate Cherkess Autonomous Oblast that would administratively be part of Stavropol Krai. LF

MORE ELECTION INTRIGUES IN VLADIVOSTOK

NTV reported on 24 October that according to the Interior Ministry, lists of signatures in support of the candidacy of Viktor Cherepkov for upcoming Vladivostok mayoral elections are currently being calculated and verified. Cherepkov, who is a former mayor of that city, accused the police of stealing his lists of signatures during a raid on his campaign headquarters on 21 October, "The Moscow Times" reported two days later. During that raid, police arrested Cherepkov's campaign manager and former deputy, Sergei Markelov. Cherepkov said that the raid was organized by his political foe, Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. "The Moscow Times" could not reach Nazdratenko or his aides for comment. However, the deputy chairman of the krai's election commission suggested that Cherepkov was to blame, saying that "when Viktor Ivanovich [Cherepkov] was gone, everything was quiet, but now he is back, the intrigues have started again." JAC

LIKE GOVERNOR, LIKE GOVERNMENT?

Penza Governor Vasilii Bochkarev has dismissed the oblast's government, saying he needs "like-minded' people in the cabinet who will work for the good of the oblast rather than for their own ends, ITAR- TASS reported on 25 October. Bochkarev was also quoted as saying that the actions of the dismissed government had threatened to lead to a "crisis" in industrial output, which, he noted, has registered stable growth lately. JC

ST. PETE POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS

Lieutenant General Viktor Vlasov, head of the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast police force, has tendered his resignation to Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, saying he considered it his duty to do so following recent inspections that had revealed shortcomings in the work of the St. Petersburg police force. According to "The St. Petersburg Times" on 26 October, during the ant-terrorist operation "Whirlwind," federal Interior Ministry officials had criticized the city police for "serious violations" of federal orders regarding the prevention of terrorism. A police statement claimed that Vlasov's resignation is "not related" to the assassination last week of local deputy Viktor Novoselov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999). Since Vasilov's appointment as police chief in summer 1998, there have been a string of high-profile contract killings, including that of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova last November. JC

HE'LL HAVE THAT ORDER 'TO GO'

An inebriated customer at a food kiosk in Novosibirsk inserted his head through the stall's narrow window to flirt with the salesclerk on the evening of 23 October, ITAR-TASS reported. After his and the clerk's efforts to free him failed, he remained there until the morning of 24 October, when another customer suggested telephoning the city's rescue service. JAC




REPUBLICAN PARTY LEADING IN ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS

Andranik Markarian, whose Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) forms the ruling Miasnutyun (Unity) coalition with the People's Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 25 October that in the previous day's nationwide local elections in more than 900 communities, candidates affiliated with or endorsed by the HHK were elected mayor in at least 25 of more than 40 towns, cities, and administrative districts in Yerevan. No major incidents or protests by candidates were reported. Nationwide voter turnout was around 30 percent a few hours before polls closed, according to the Central Election Commission. The turnout in Yerevan was just 20 percent. In what Markarian termed "our main defeat," a well- funded Republican candidate failed to unseat the incumbent head of Yerevan's central district, Ararat Zurabian of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement. Zurabian won by a comfortable margin. LF

AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER RESIGN

At a meeting of Azerbaijan's Security Council on 24 October, Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov submitted his resignation to President Heidar Aliev, with whom he has disagreed on the optimum approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Eldar Namazov, who heads the presidential Secretariat, told Reuters on 25 October he has also informed Aliyev of his desire to step down, but he declined to explain why. Aliyev has not yet accepted either resignation. LF

KARABAKH ARMENIANS RELEASE TWO POWS

The government of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic announced on 25 October that it will release two Azerbaijani prisoners of war as a gesture of goodwill, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia released three and Azerbaijan four POWs last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). Armenia and Karabakh admit still holding seven and three Azerbaijani POWs, respectively. Azerbaijan, for its part, says it no longer has Armenian captives on its territory. LF

KAZAKHSTAN ANNOUNCES PRELIMINARY ELECTION RESULTS...

Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva told journalists in Astana on 25 October that results are available in 44 of the 47 constituencies where a second round of voting for the lower chamber of the parliament took place the previous day, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported. She added that the results in some constituencies may be ruled invalid, according to ITAR-TASS. In almost all 44 constituencies, candidates from the pro-presidential Otan Party were elected. Exceptions were Marat Qabanbaev of former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, Valeryan Zemlyanov of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, and former presidential candidate Gani Qasymov. The last-named was backed by the Pokolenie movement, which defends the rights of the elderly. LF

...WHILE OSCE SLAMS IRREGULARITIES

In an interim assessment released on 25 October, the OSCE Monitoring Mission said the two rounds of voting fell short of OSCE commitments to free, fair, and accountable elections. The mission noted that shortcomings identified in its preliminary statement after the first round of voting on 10 October were not rectified in all precincts; in particular, it noted restrictions on allowing international observers to the vote tabulation process. Dos Koshim, chairman of the Kazakh Local Observers' Center, told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau that the 865 observers deployed by his organization had registered instances where local officials interfered in the vote count and tabulation. LF

KYRGYZ PREMIER HOLDS TALKS IN MOSCOW

Amangeldy MurAliyev discussed bilateral military and military-technical cooperation with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in Moscow on 25 October, Interfax reported. Those talks also focused on joint measures to eliminate terrorism and to prevent further incursions into Kyrgyzstan by ethnic Uzbek guerrillas. Colonel General Leonid Ivashev, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International Ties, said that the two men agreed that there is a connection between the Muslim guerrilla operations in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and the events in Chechnya. The guerrilla threat also figured in Muraliev's talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who assured him of Moscow's support in efforts to contain that threat. MurAliyev is also scheduled to meet with Economics Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to discuss the payment of Kyrgyzstan's $150 million debt to Russia. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DEFENDS GRADUAL DEMOCRATIZATION

Meeting on 22 October with the heads of diplomatic missions in Ashgabat, Saparmurat Niyazov denied that he has imposed a dictatorial regime in Turkmenistan, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. Niyazov stressed his success in preserving the country's national sovereignty, adding that Turkmenistan will proceed along the path of democratization and market reform, but at its own pace. He promised to unveil in December a new plan for gradual political and economic development over the next 11 years. LF

UZBEK LEADER PLEDGES TO COMPLY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS NORMS

Islam Karimov told visiting OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel in Tashkent on 25 October that Uzbekistan "will implement the international community's human rights requirements," Interfax reported. Van der Stoel told journalists after the talks that Karimov had briefed him in detail on preparations for the 5 December parliamentary elections. He said that he also discussed with Karimov the threat posed to Uzbekistan by terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. Interfax on 21 October quoted U.S. Ambassador David Johnson as calling for amending the election law to reduce the number of signatures a candidate must collect to register. Johnson added that the Uzbek leadership should meet minimum standards in allowing international observers to monitor the poll. LF

WORLD BANK CONCERNED OVER SLOW PACE OF UZBEK ECONOMIC REFORM

In an assessment released on 21 October, the World Bank's mission to Uzbekistan warned that failure to proceed resolutely with comprehensive economic restructuring, including privatization, could pose a threat to medium- and long-term macro-economic stability, Interfax reported four days later. Noting that economic decline in Uzbekistan during the years immediately following the collapse of the USSR was less than in other former Soviet republics, the report pointed to factors that could undermine economic stability. Those factors include a drop in exports since mid-1998, falling world market prices for the country's main exports of cotton and gold, an increase in foreign debt, and the growing divergence between official and black market exchange rates for the national currency. LF




SHARETSKI APPEALS TO WEST, RUSSIA TO 'RESPECT' BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENCE

Syamyon Sharetski, exiled chairman of the opposition Supreme Soviet, has sent a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin asking them "to respect the independence and sovereignty of Belarus," Belapan reported on 25 October. Sharetski referred to the memorandum on security guarantees to Belarus that the U.S., the U.K., and Russia signed in Budapest in 1994. The signatories pledged in that memorandum to respect Belarus's political independence. According to Sharetski, the recently published Belarus-Russia union treaty draft means the incorporation of Belarus into Russia in contravention of international law. JM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES TO PROSECUTE MORE PROTESTERS

The Belarusian authorities on 25 October announced that they have instituted criminal proceedings "in general" against participants in the opposition 17 October "freedom march," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The authorities, however, have not specified how many people have been accused. They have so far jailed six people in connection with the 17 October protest, including Social Democratic Party leader Mikola Statkevich and Supreme Soviet deputy Valery Shchukin. Statkevich has been on a hunger strike since 17 October. Last week, the Minsk authorities banned a 31 October march organized by the opposition to commemorate the victims of the Stalinist terror in the 1930s and 1940s. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION SAYS REGIME VIOLATING OSCE RESOLUTION

The opposition United Civic Party on 25 October accused the Belarusian authorities of violating the OSCE resolution on political dialogue in Belarus, which was adopted in St. Petersburg on 10 July. The party said the Belarusian regime pledged to the OSCE at that time to begin the process of democratizing the country's political life but has failed to keep that pledge. The party noted that the authorities have failed to give oppositionists access to the state-controlled media or to begin negotiations with them on future parliamentary elections. It also pointed out that since the OSCE resolution, the number of political prisoners has increased. JM

UKRAINE'S MOROZ NOT TO QUIT PRESIDENTIAL RACE IN FAVOR OF MARCHUK

Despite the announcement that the so-called Kaniv Four election alliance will support Yevhen Marchuk as a single presidential candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999), Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said the same day that he will not withdraw from the race. Moroz's statement came after a meeting of his party's leadership and other groups that support his presidential bid. Moroz said the meeting confirmed that those political forces want him "to continue the struggle to reach the second round" and to deprive incumbent President Leonid Kuchma of leftist votes. Simultaneously Moroz said he "fully backs" the alliance's decision to uphold Marchuk as the most likely candidate of the Kaniv Four to win support among right-wing voters and prevent Kuchma from reaching the second round, according to Interfax. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER SAYS HIS LIFE UNDER THREAT

Oleksandr Tkachenko on 25 October said that a terrorist act is being planned against him. "This is not a provocation, and I have reported the names and telephone numbers of terrorists to the appropriate bodies," Interfax quoted Tkachenko as saying. He added that attackers want to assassinate him by planting a bomb near the parliamentary building or in his car. The same day, Tkachenko issued a statement to the Ukrainian people in which he appealed to President Kuchma to withdraw from the presidential elections. "This is the only good deed that [Kuchma] is still able to do for the people. Then, I think, the elections will be completed in the first round, and the millions of hryvni he is so worried about on television will be spared," Tkachenko said. JM

UKRAINE'S KUCHMA REJECTS DIRTY CAMPAIGN ALLEGATIONS

The president on 25 October denounced allegations that his re- election campaign is engaged in dirty tricks and pressure on the media, Reuters reported. "I am leading an honest campaign," Kuchma said in Dnipropetrovsk where he was greeted, according to the agency, by "thousands of supporters" on the streets. At the same time, Kuchma noted that "a dirtier campaign than the one unleashed against me has never existed in a single country of the world." JM

RUSSIA TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM BALTIC BORDERS?

First Deputy Chief of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff General Valerii Manilov said in an article published in the 25 October "Vremya MN'" that Russia may pull its troops away from the borders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in an effort to persuade NATO to reject membership applications by the three Baltic countries, according to BNS. Manilov claimed that such a withdrawal "would deprive NATO of the least excuse to consider Russia a threat." Commenting on the Baltics' bids for NATO membership, Manilov stressed Moscow's official policy that while each country has the sovereign right to decide which bloc to join, Russia reserves the right to take countermeasures. MJZ

ESTONIAN ECONOMY GROWING

Central Bank Governor Vahur Kraft told ETA on 25 October that the Estonian economy has overcome the crisis that gripped the region following Russia's financial collapse in August 1998. Although Estonia may end the year with a 1.5 percent decline, the economy is expected to grow 4.5 percent in 2000. Kraft cautioned that Estonia's state budget deficit remains large, but he added that he expects the adoption of the new austerity budget for 2000 to be a first step toward balancing last year's expansive fiscal policy. AB

ESTONIAN FARM SECTOR IN CRISIS

ETA on 25 October quoted World Bank expert Willem Zijp as saying that Estonian farming is in crisis. The low prices being paid to farmers are driving them to subsistence farming rather than production for the market, Zijp remarked. He added that the farm sector was hard hit by the bankruptcy of Maapank, a bank that had issued farm credit, the loss of the Russian market, last year's flooding, and this year's drought. Zijp visited Estonia from 11-16 October to inspect the use of a recent 176 million kroon ($11 million) World Bank loan for Estonian farming. AB

U.S. COMPANIES TO INVEST $70 MILLION TO BUILD POWER PLANT IN LIEPAJA

The U.S.-based companies CME International and Caterpillar announced on 25 October that they plan to invest $70 million in a new natural gas-fired co-generation power station in the western Latvian city of Liepaja, according to BNS. The two companies, which bought 4.43 million lats ($7.69 million) of Latvian government debt in the insolvent Liepaja Heat utility, plan to begin construction next spring and hope that the power plant will go on online in the fall of 2001. MJZ

LITHUANIA'S MAZEIKIAI OPPONENTS STEP UP PRESSURE

Social Democratic Party Chairman Vytenis Andriukaitis said he is confident he can force a referendum on the government's planned contract with U.S. investor Williams International, ELTA reported on 25 October. Andriukaitis said he is having no difficulty collecting the 48 signatures of parliamentary deputies that are necessary for such a vote. The referendum would ask the question: "Do you approve of the parliament's and government's action to give up management control and decision-making in the reorganized stock company Mazeikiu Nafta?" Joining the opposition to the Williams deal, the Lithuanian Industrialists' Confederation, a major trade group, sent an open appeal to President Valdas Adamkus, the parliament, and the government urging them to refrain from signing the agreement. The appeal calls for the creation of a commission of independent experts to assess Williams' offer and to make their findings public. AB

LITHUANIA'S 'FRIEND FROM ABROAD' REQUESTS MEETING WITH ADAMKUS

ELTA reported on 25 October that former Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who currently heads the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, has asked President Adamkus for a meeting next week in Vilnius. The report has set off speculation in the Lithuanian media about Primakov's visit. Russian Ambassador to Lithuania Yurii Zubakov is known to be close to Primakov and served as his deputy at the Russian Foreign Ministry and later as chief of staff to Primakov during the latter's premiership. Zubakov, though recently appointed to Vilnius, has been very active in promoting Russian business interests in Lithuania. AB

POLISH MINERS STAGE UNDERGROUND STRIKE AGAINST CLOSURE

Sixty miners at the Siersza coal mine in Trzebinia, southern Poland, continued an underground protest against plans to close the mine on 1 November, PAP reported on 25 October. Other miners locked management representatives into a conference room after negotiations had failed to yield results. The mine's management guarantees jobs or social cushions for all 1,600 workers at the mine, but trade unionists are opposed to the mine's closure. JM

POLAND BACKS BULGARIA'S NATO, EU ASPIRATIONS

Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told his Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, in Warsaw on 25 October that Poland "understands and supports" Bulgaria's bid to join NATO and the EU, PAP reported. Geremek added that Poland sees Bulgaria as a "great stabilizing factor" in the Balkans. Mihailova noted that there are no political problems between Bulgaria and Poland, adding that it is now time to develop economic cooperation, both bilateral and within the Central European Free Trade Agreement, which Bulgaria joined this year. JM

EXODUS OF CZECH ROMA TO U.K. EASING

A total of 195 Romany families applied for asylum in the U.K. last month, down from a record 255 families in August, Czech media reported on 26 October. A total of 1,240 Romany families have left for Britain so far this year. The British Home Office said the U.K. will not impose visa restrictions on the Czech Republic for the time being but added that it would continue to monitor the situation closely. In other news, criminal charges have been pressed against a Romany woman from Usti nad Labem. The woman allegedly screamed racist insults at a group of ethnic Czechs during an argument over the construction of a wall separating a Romany housing development from four houses inhabited by ethnic Czechs in Usti nad Labem. VG

SLOVAKS SUPPORT EU ENTRY

Sixty percent of Slovaks say their country's entry into the EU would be "useful," while 24 percent say it would be "useless" and 16 percent have no opinion, according to a poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research, cited by TASR on 25 October. Seventy-six percent of respondents said their country fulfills EU requirements on the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities, while only 16 percent said it does not. But 54 percent of respondents said Slovakia meets EU human rights standards; 36 percent believe it does not. Only 25 percent of Slovaks think their country has a functioning market economy, compared with 60 percent who say it does not. VG

MECIAR'S PARTY LEADS POLLS IN SLOVAKIA

Former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia received 28 percent support in a recent poll conducted by FOCUS, TASR reported on 25 October. The Slovak Democratic Coalition and the Party of the Democratic Left, both key members of the governing coalition, received 18 percent and 14.5 percent in the poll, respectively. The extremist Slovak National Party garnered almost 13 percent support. The parties of the governing coalition received the combined support of 51.6 percent in the poll, compared with almost 41 percent for the opposition. VG

'FAST-TRACK' COUNTRIES' FINANCE MINISTERS MEET IN BUDAPEST

The finance ministers of the five countries that had been included in the fast-track group for accession to the EU on 25 October agreed in Budapest to set up working groups that would coordinate public finance reforms in their countries. Jarai Zsigmond of Hungary, Pavel Mertlik of the Czech Republic, Leszek Balcerowicz of Poland, Siim Kallas of Estonia, and Mitja Gaspari of Slovenia also agreed that special attention should be paid to the development and harmonization of tax systems in their countries, as well as to bringing currency exchange systems into line with EU practices. MSZ

FORMER HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER DIES

Andras Hegedues died on 23 October at the age of 76. In 1956, Hegedues had signed a request asking for Soviet troops to intervene during the Hungarian uprising. Later, he became a leading critic of the Hungarian regime, and, in 1968, spoke out against the Soviet- led invasion of Czechoslovakia. VG




ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER QUITS

Pandeli Majko handed his resignation to President Rexhep Meidani in Tirana on 26 October. Information Minister Musa Ulcini said the previous night that Majko decided to quit because he recently lost a battle for the leadership of the Socialist Party to former Prime Minister Fatos Nano (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). Observers note that it was unclear until late on 25 October that Majko would indeed give up his government post. PM

NANO PLEDGES CONTINUITY, PROGRESS

Nano told the BBC on 26 October that he wants Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta to form a new government that includes many individuals who served in Majko's cabinet. Nano made little effort to conceal his pleasure at Majko's departure. The party leader did not rule out his own possible return to the prime minister's job at some future date but stressed that his main interest now is preparing the Socialists "for the 2001 elections." Nano said that the Meta government would continue the policy of drawing closer to Albania's Western allies, and he praised Meta as "young and charismatic." Observers note that these are precisely the characteristics for which Majko was known and that his departure is unlikely to lead to any significant change in domestic or foreign policy. The main reason for Majko's ouster appears to be the rivalry between him and Nano for political power. Majko's departure after only one year in office is likely to reinforce Albania's image abroad as an unstable country. PM

EU GIVES THUMBS DOWN TO ALBANIA, THUMBS UP MACEDONIA

Fabrizio Barbaso, who heads the EU's department for the Western Balkans, said in Helsinki on 25 October that Albania needs more "institutional and political reform" before it can sign an association agreement with the EU. He added that "the situation there is still unstable." Barbaso praised Macedonia, however, and said that it will be ready to sign an association agreement in 2000. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that "we will not disappoint the EU," Reuters reported. Signing an association agreement with Brussels has been a major goal of the Georgievski government and of most Macedonian political parties. PM

DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE IN SERBIA

Some 15,000 people demonstrated in several Serbian cities and towns on 25 October to demand the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and free and fair elections. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told 10,000 protesters in Nis that he urged U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia James Dobbins to end sanctions against Serbia as soon as proper elections are held, Beta reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). The U.S. remains opposed to lifting sanctions as long as Milosevic remains in power. PM

SERBIAN-MONTENGRIN TALKS END IN STALEMATE

A discussion between representatives of Montenegro's governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj's Radicals ended in Sveti Stefan on 25 October after only 90 minutes. Serbia's Tomislav Nikolic said that the talks should be transferred to the federal parliament in Belgrade. The Montenegrins did not publicly respond to that idea but have previously opposed such a move. They want direct talks between the two republics' respective governments. Filip Vujanovic, who is deputy chairman of the DPS, said after the talks that "we will continue on the course we have charted," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

KFOR ARRESTS YUGOSLAV SOLDIERS...

KFOR peacekeepers arrested three Yugoslav army soldiers just inside the border between Kosova and Montenegro after the three crossed into the province on 25 October. The NATO troops took the three to Peja until they can be "handed over to the Yugoslav authorities," AP reported. All Serbian forces were obliged to leave Kosova in June under an agreement between Belgrade and NATO. PM

...TEMPORARILY CLOSES SCHOOL

Norwegian peacekeepers on 25 October closed the Serbian-held school in the village of Plemetina after the Serbs repeatedly refused to share the facility with ethnic Albanians. The school will be reopened once a separate school is available for the Albanian children. A KFOR spokesman said that would be "soon," Reuters reported. PM

SFOR ARRESTS BOSNIAN SERB FOR WAR CRIMES

NATO peacekeepers arrested Damir Dosen near Prijedor on 25 October. The Hague- based war crimes tribunal has indicted him for crimes against humanity because of his activities at the Keraterm concentration camp, where he commanded guards in 1992. PM

SESELJ'S PARTY BANNED FROM BOSNIAN VOTE

Representatives of the OSCE, which organizes elections in Bosnia under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, said in Sarajevo on 25 October that the Bosnian branch of Seselj's party cannot participate in local elections slated for 2000. The reason for the ban was the Radicals' failure to remove three ultra-nationalists from party offices, including former Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen. PM

THOUSANDS DEMONSTRATE IN SARAJEVO

Some 30,000 workers marched in central Sarajevo on 25 October "for greater social justice," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Federal Deputy Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic declined an invitation from unions to speak to the workers, saying that mass protests are not the way to solve social problems. PM

PETRITSCH'S OFFICE SLAMS JELAVIC

A spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said in Sarajevo on 25 October that Ante Jelavic, who is the ethnic Croatian representative on the joint presidency, is wrong in alleging that the republic's Croats are victims of discrimination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). She stressed that the Croats have the same rights as the Serbs and Muslims to block legislation in the federal parliament, "Dnevni avaz" reported. PM

EUROPEAN CRITICISM OF CROATIAN ELECTIONS

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said in Zagreb on 25 October that the international community will soon send two formal protests to the Croatian government. One will object to the timing of parliamentary elections on 22 December and the other will criticize the electoral law, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1999). Elsewhere, opposition representatives boycotted a meeting with the governing Croatian Democratic Community that was to discuss the electoral law. An opposition spokesman said there is no purpose in talking about the law until President Franjo Tudjman makes it clear that he will accept the results of the ballot. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS CALL FOR EARLY ELECTIONS

Emil Constantinescu rejected a call by the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) for early elections, Mediafax reported on 25 October, citing the BBC. Constantinescu described PDSR leader Ion Iliescu's proposal as "a simple electoral maneuver" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). On 22 October, the president had criticized the governing National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), saying they are not giving him enough support. He also said the opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM) is waging "a campaign aimed at intimidating" him. Constantinescu noted that "tiny groups" of PRM supporters follow him everywhere. He said one PRM group recently hurled insults at him during his visit to Cluj-Napoca. VG

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS AGREEMENTS IN KUWAIT

Constantinescu was in Kuwait on 25 October for a meeting with Emir Jabir al- Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, Rompres reported. The reported purpose of the meeting is to increase bilateral economic relations between the two countries and to attract greater Kuwaiti investment in the Constanta free zone on the Black Sea. VG

BULGARIA, ALBANIA AGAINST BORDER CHANGES

Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and his visiting Albanian counterpart, Pandeli Majko, said on 25 October that multiethnic states in the Balkans should remain intact and that borders should not be changed along ethnic lines. Both said they are committed to the stability and territorial integrity of their common neighbor, Macedonia. Kostov added that Bulgaria will support regional infrastructure projects in Albania and Macedonia, Reuters reported. The projects are aimed at connecting the Black and Adriatic seas by highway and railway links as well as constructing oil and gas pipelines that would run through Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania. VG

FINAL RESULTS OF BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS

According to final results of the local election released on 25 October, the governing United Democratic Forces won 31.30 percent of the total vote and the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party 29.39 percent, according to a Bulgarian Radio report cited by the BBC. The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom and the Euro-Left took 11.06 percent and 7 percent, respectively. VG




THE PROBLEM IS MORE THAN JUST ONE MAN


by Patrick Moore

The ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is the top priority of the Serbian opposition and of NATO's Balkan policy. While the removal of the man most responsible for the destruction of Tito's state and for four bloody wars will be a great step forward, it will hardly be the end of Serbia's problems or of other countries' Serbian problem.

Once Milosevic is removed--however that may come about-- there remains, above, all, the matter of his henchmen. Some 300 prominent men and women from Serbia-Montenegro are banned from receiving EU visas, which suggests the approximate number of members of the elite closest to Milosevic. Particularly important are the four men whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted in May along with the Yugoslav president.

The Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), among others, is counting on peacefully undermining Milosevic by appealing to some members of his power structure to save their own skins and defect to the opposition. There was much speculation at the end of the summer that no less a person than Serbian President Milan Milutinovic--who is one of the four indicted war criminals--may have unsuccessfully tried to do just that. Meanwhile, any successful defections remain very cleverly concealed.

And even if the fractious opposition of some 150 parties and 800 NGOs were to oust Milosevic along with the most die- hard of his lieutenants, there is no telling what it would put in their place. The opposition, with its squabbling egos, took weeks to agree on a common platform on the vital issue of elections--the first such agreement in 10 years. Party leaders still fight among themselves over matters such as who will march or speak at whose rally and who will speak before whom.

Thus, there is little likelihood that the rise to power of the opposition will prove a panacea for Serbia's ills. The squabbling that beset the Slovak cabinet once former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar was out of the way offers a possible example of what might come to pass in a post-Milosevic Serbia. And it should also be noted that the governing coalition's behavior has been such that Meciar was able to make political capital out of the cabinet's disarray and prepare to launch his come-back.

In all likelihood, Serbia's problem has less to do with the presence of one man than with the nature of its political culture. One aspect is the tendency to rely on strong leaders. Even foreign observers fall prey to this approach when they bemoan the lack of "an alternative" (read: another strongman) to Milosevic. Democracy, however, grows from the bottom up. The real alternative to "caudillo" rule is likely to come from the opposition-run cities and towns and their mayors and other elected officials. It is there that Western countries have wisely begun to concentrate their hopes and attention, not on the well-known egos of Belgrade.

Another issue in the political culture is the all- pervasiveness of nationalism. Many of his once fervent supporters have turned on Milosevic not because they have become good democrats, but because he failed to live up to his promises to create a Greater Serbia. He is responsible for a disaster for the Serbian people that is as huge as Adolf Hitler's for the Germans in terms of territorial losses and migrations of Biblical proportions. It is primarily because of this that many opposition politicians seek his ouster. It is difficult to say how much peace and progress in the Balkans one could hope for if disgruntled nationalists are in power in Serbia (not to mention the problems Bosnia and Kosova will have regardless of who governs in Belgrade).

A third problem is the lack of civic consciousness, which is another term for political immaturity. Many among the ranks of the opposition and intellectuals provide good examples of this. In the course of the Milosevic years, many Western governments and NGOs have spent tidy sums supporting Serbian NGOs and the independent media. But when Milosevic launched his full-fledged campaign of genocide in Kosova this spring, the private media for the most part censored themselves or generally fell into line. It is true that one could not expect them to write editorials in praise of NATO air raids or the Kosova Liberation Army. But it is telling that barely three dozen individuals were willing to sign a document that, though repeatedly slamming NATO, dared to criticize the genocide, if only in one short passage.

At a recent OSCE-sponsored conference in Montenegro, several leading figures from the Serbian private media showed a high degree of defensiveness when Westerners criticized them for their docility during the genocide. Some of the journalists showed touches of the paranoia and xenophobia that is characteristic of the regime and its propaganda. Knee-jerk mistrust of the major powers--the Americans in particular--has never been far beneath the surface in Serbia.

Perhaps the best that will come of gatherings such as the OSCE one is what an observer called the beginnings of a "thinking process" on the part of the Serbian intellectuals, opposition politicians, and journalists regarding their roles and responsibilities. This could lead to what some observers have called a "cleansing" or "denazification" of public life. Similar reflection by those foreigners who would promote the democratization of Serbia might also be of value. Perhaps they should not expect too much too soon from a society imbued with authoritarianism and nationalism and where the average per capita income is $50 per month.


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