Accessibility links

Newsline - November 4, 1999




YELTSIN'S BACK...

President Boris Yeltsin's unexpected return to Moscow on 3 November from a vacation in Sochi triggered the usual speculation about whether a personnel reshuffle should soon be expected. The website argues that Yeltsin will soon replace Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu. It notes that Shoigu was recently recalled from his trip to the Far East and Siberia to cope with the influx of Chechen displaced persons into Ingushetia. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which receives funding from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, suggested Yeltsin may want to play a "more active" role in the election process. On the other hand, "Izvestiya," which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, suggested that Yeltsin will not oust the premier since the "Kremlin is holding onto Putin too tightly" to let him go now. JAC

...AS PUTIN'S POPULARITY REPORTEDLY SOARS

According to a recent survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation among 1,500 people in 29 regions, 29 percent of Russians would vote for Prime Minister Putin in presidential elections if those elections were held on 6-7 November 1999, AP reported. Foundation director Aleksandr Olson said the rating exceeds the previous record, held by General Aleksandr Lebed in 1996. According to AFP, the polling group VTsIOM will soon release a survey also showing strong support for Putin. Addressing a meeting of rectors of higher-education institutions in Russia on 3 November, Putin suggested that Russia needs a new national ideology based on patriotism, Interfax reported. "One ideology was lost and nothing new was suggested to replace it," Putin said. "Patriotism in the most positive sense of this word" must be the backbone of the new ideology. JAC

INFLATION TICKS DOWN, WHILE GASOLINE PRICES CONTINUE RISING

Addressing cabinet members on 4 November, Putin said that the country's macroeconomic indices for the current year are "rather good," according to ITAR-TASS. Putin noted high growth in industrial output, controlled inflation, and increasing success collecting revenues for the budget, Interfax reported. The same day, the Russian Statistics Agency reported that inflation in October averaged 1.4 percent, compared with 1.5 percent in September, 1.2 percent in August, and 2.8 percent in June. Prices of consumer goods rose only 0.9 percent, but gasoline prices jumped 7.7 percent in October. Some regions have witnessed sharper increases; in Buryatia, for example, the price of various types of gasoline rose 9-11 percent, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 November. Nationwide, the price of gasoline has increased 2.7 times since the beginning of the year. JAC

MORE DISPLACED CHECHENS ALLOWED TO ENTER INGUSHETIA

Some 1,300 fleeing Chechens were allowed across the border into Ingushetia on 3 November, 10 times the number who crossed the previous day, Reuters reported. Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev again appealed to President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Putin to ensure the normal functioning of the border checkpoint, while an Ingush migration official told ITAR-TASS that the delay in admitting the Chechens is due to the complicated and time-consuming process of checking their identification. Putin, for his part, ordered Minister for Emergency Situations Shoigu to travel to Ingushetia and evaluate the situation there. On 4 November, traffic at the crossing point was moving far more swiftly after the requirement that women and children fill out official papers was suspended, Reuters reported. Ingushetia's border guard commander said he hopes the estimated 50,000 Chechens still waiting to enter Ingushetia will be able to do so by the end of the day. LF

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA PLANS TO EXTEND CONTROL THROUGHOUT CHECHNYA

Speaking on 3 November in Ferghana, where he met with Central Asian colleagues to review joint military exercises (see below), Igor Sergeev said that Russian troops "are planning to free from terrorists not only Grozny but the whole of Chechnya. This is the task set for us by the president," ITAR-TASS reported. Sergeev predicted that Russian forces will take control of the town of Gudermes within days. He denied, however, that they will take Grozny by storm. Sergeev also claimed that the Chechen fighters have up to 70 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, although he added that "we are taking measures to reduce the supply" of those weapons. Sergeev did not specify how those missiles are transported to Chechnya. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY CLAIMS CHECHENS RETREATING SOUTHWARD

Chechen defenders are abandoning the towns of Gudermes and Sunzha and retreating south into the mountains, where they are setting up winter camps, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November, quoting unnamed Russian military spokesmen. The same day, Russian forces took control of the main highway east from Gudermes to Daghestan, while Russian artillery continued to shell Gudermes and the village of Berkat-Yurt just east of Grozny. LF

NORTH CAUCASUS LEADERS AGAIN CALL ON MOSCOW TO BEGIN TALKS WITH GROZNY

Adam Malsagov, who is an official Ingushetian representative in Moscow, said on 4 November that Ingushetia, Daghestan, and North Ossetia want the Russian leadership to start negotiations immediately with unnamed "moderate" Chechen leaders, as failure to begin such talks prolongs hostilities and increases the number of casualties, Caucasus Press reported. A meeting of North Caucasus leaders with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov planned for 28 October failed to take place. LF

JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS TROOP DEPLOYMENT IN INGUSHETIA IS LEGAL

Russian Deputy Minister of Justice Yevgenii Sidorenko ruled on 3 November that the deployment of Russian troops in Ingushetia is provided for by the law on terrorism, which allows the use of the armed forces to combat a terrorist threat, Interfax reported. Earlier that day, Ingushetia's President Aushev had said that his republic's Ministry of Justice was trying to determine whether the actions of federal forces in Ingushetia are legal. Sidorenko denied that the Ingushetian Justice Ministry has the authority to challenge the legitimacy of the Russian Defense Ministry's actions. LF

YELTSIN REWARDS SERGEEV AND CO?

Reports are circulating that President Yeltsin has conferred the Hero of Russia award on Defense Minister Sergeev. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 November quoted a source at the Defense Ministry's press service as saying that such information is "highly plausible" and that the title has also been conferred on Armed Forces General Staff Chief Anatolii Kvashnin, Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev, Internal Affairs Minister Vladimir Rushailo. and Foreign Intelligence Service Director Vyacheslav Trubnikov. The newspaper commented that it is unclear whether Yeltsin wants to "boost his prestige" in the eyes of the power structures ahead of the State Duma elections or reward those structures for their part in the "anti-terrorist operation" in Chechnya. Earlier this year, Yeltsin awarded Emergencies Minister Shoigu the same title, shortly before reportedly asking him to head the interregional movement Unity. JC/JAC

ANOTHER PARTY BARRED FROM REGISTRATION...

The Central Election Commission on 3 November refused to register the Russian Conservative Movement of Businessmen (RKPP) because one of its top three candidates, singer and composer Yurii Antonov, failed to declare all of his 1998 income, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the election law, disqualification of one of a party or bloc's top three candidates disqualifies the entire party. RKPP was the fourth election association to excluded. The others were Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Nur, and the National Salvation Front. Zhirinovskii, however, succeeded in registering his own eponymous bloc. JAC

...AS REFORM OF ELECTION LAW SUGGESTED...

RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reports that election commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov has been criticized for being a strict legalist while neglecting the larger mission of ensuring a fair election process. Sergei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center told RFE/RL that "Veshnyakov's tactic is to stick to the letter of the law" and this gives "imperfect results because the law is imperfect." In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 4 November, Veshnyakov admitted that the law needs to be fine- tuned but not overhauled. "Kommersant-Daily" suggested the same day that certain provisions of the law may be amended, particularly the one that requires an entire party to be barred if any of the top three candidates are disqualified. JAC

...AND FINAL TALLY SHOWS 35 PERCENT FEWER GROUPS THAN LAST ELECTION

Also on 3 November, the commission registered seven groups, including the Social Democrats, the Peace, Labor and May movement, the Cedar (Kedr), movement, All Russian Party of the People, Viktor Anpilov's Stalinist Bloc, Communists for the Soviet Union and Ivan Rybkin's Socialist Party of Russia. However, the commission excluded 25 percent of the last-named party's list of candidates, according to "Vremya MN" on 4 November. When the registration process concluded, a total of five blocs and 23 associations had been registered, compared with 43 blocs and associations in the last elections. JAC

RUSSIA TEST-FIRES ANTI-MISSILE ROCKET

Commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev said that the 3 November launch of an anti-missile rocket from the Sary-Shagan test site in Kazakhstan may be seen in the context of "possible symmetrical and asymmetrical response measures" if the U.S. withdraws from the 1972 Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty. Yakovlev noted that "this latest successful launch" was the first since 1993, adding that it showed the missile is combat-ready, Interfax reported. Reuters quoted a senior U.S. State Department official as saying it is "distressing that Russia is raising the specter of arms competition when what we're trying to do is work cooperatively with them to focus on rogue states." JC

ALLEGED MOSCOW BOMBER CHARGED...

Police in Moscow have filed charges against one unidentified man in connection with the explosions this summer of two apartment buildings in that city, Interfax reported on 3 November. Aleksandr Tsarenko, head of the Federal Security Service's Moscow directorate, told the agency that the investigation into the bombings is almost complete and the FSB believes the acts were carried out by a group loyal to Chechen field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab. He added that the FSB is searching for two other suspects who are believed to be hiding in Chechnya. JAC

...AS MOSCOW POPULATION LOSES SEVERAL THOUSAND

Almost 500 person have been deported from Moscow, while almost 8,000 left of their own accord, "Moskovskaya pravda" reported on 4 November. According to the daily, Moscow's municipal immigration service pressed charges against 147 local companies for illegal employment of "foreign" workers. The deportations occurred, despite a recent ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court Judge Gaddis Gadzhiev, who said that as long as there is no emergency regime in place in the country, "any restriction of citizens' rights and freedom is intolerable." He added that the internal deportation of citizens is "illegal" (see "RFE/RL Watchlist," 7 October 1999). JAC

MINERS TO STRIKE JUST IN TIME FOR ELECTIONS?

The Kemerovo Oblast Workers Council is planning a Kuzbass-wide protest action in the near future, delegates to the All-Kuzbass Congress of Workers Collectives told reporters on 3 November. According to "Izvestiya" the next day, delegates believe such a protest is justified to call attention to the continuing deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the oblast. They did not rule out also staging a protest in Moscow, possibly on the bridge next to the government building. Council chairman Vitalii Malanin expressed confidence that the upcoming protest action will spark similar protests across the country. He added that media in the Kemerovo region "do not dare express their own opinion" against [Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev]" because they are dependent on him for financial support. JAC

PUTIN CALLS FOR VISA REGIME FOR AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA

Speaking at a cabinet session on 4 November, Prime Minister Putin ordered the Foreign Ministry to begin negotiations with Azerbaijan and Georgia on imposing a temporary visa requirement for citizens of those countries wishing to enter Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin argued that such a step is necessary to prevent Chechen gunmen freely crossing into the Russian Federation from those two countries. Russian Border Guard Commander Konstantin Totskii reported to the meeting on his talks two days earlier with his Georgian counterpart, Valerii Chkheidze. At those talks, Chkheidze refused to agree to Russian and Georgian frontier guards joint patrolling the Chechen sector of the Russian-Georgian border. Totskii said that at present only 70 Georgian border guards patrol the 80- kilometer stretch of border but that number will be increased to 100. LF

POLAND REFUSES TO RANSOM RESEARCHERS ABDUCTED IN DAGHESTAN

The Polish government has rejected a demand for a ransom of $1 million for each of the two women researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences who were kidnapped in Daghestan in August, Interfax reported on 3 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). The two women are currently being held captive in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan, according to Caucasus Press. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW PREMIER...

Robert Kocharian on 3 November appointed Aram Sargsian to succeed his murdered elder brother, Vazgen, as prime minister, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sargsian's candidacy was proposed by the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary faction, one of whose leaders, Andranik Markarian, said there will be no changes in Armenia's economic policy or its approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Sargsian, who is 38, is a construction engineer who, like his brother, fought as a volunteer in Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s. Since 1993, he has been employed at the Ararat cement plant and became its director in 1998, according to Noyan Tapan. A member of the Republican Party, Sargsian was elected a deputy to the parliament in May but has no other political experience. LF

...PLEDGES ECONOMIC CONTINUITY

Meeting on 3 November with a group of Armenian bankers, President Kocharian vowed that last week's murders of senior officials will not affect the country's commitment to economic reform, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. "We are able to overcome the existing problems and continue the country's development in a constitutional way," he said. Central Bank Chairman Tigran Sarkisian told the gathering that the IMF and World Bank have expressed their readiness to discuss possible additional economic and technical assistance to help Armenia recover from the aftermath of the shootings. The national currency continues to strengthen gradually against the U.S. dollar, but some analysts have expressed concern that the killings may deter potential foreign investors. LF

MORE ARRESTS IN CONNECTION WITH ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS

Military police have detained an unspecified number of people in connection with the 27 October shootings in the parliament, Noyan Tapan reported on 3 November, citing an unnamed source close to the country's law enforcement agencies. The five gunmen directly responsible for the killings were taken into custody after surrendering on 28 October. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S OPPOSITION DEMANDS CLARIFICATION OF KARABAKH NEGOTIATING STANCE

Members of the opposition parliamentary Democratic Bloc called on parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov on 2 November to answer questions related to the ongoing negotiations with Armenia on a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Those questions include which precise concessions the Azerbaijani leadership is prepared to make; whether the degree of self-government given to Nagorno-Karabakh includes the right to a separate constitution, legal system, and national army; whether the peace agreement under discussion provides for the return of displaced persons to Shusha, Lachin, and Kelbadjar; and whether the Azerbaijani leadership has taken into consideration the possibility that concessions could spark massive protests among the country's population. LF

GEORGIA EXPRESSES CONCERN AT RUSSIA'S VIOLATION OF CFE CEILING

Shalva Pichkhadze, who is foreign policy adviser to President Eduard Shevardnadze, said on 3 November that if Russia continues its arms buildup in Chechnya in violation of the limits imposed by the CFE treaty, then Georgia will intensify its campaign for NATO membership, AP and Interfax reported. Shevardnadze said last week that he hopes for Georgian accession to the alliance by 2005. Also on 3 November, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow that Russian will withdraw from the North Caucasus military equipment in excess of its CFE quotas as soon as the situation in Chechnya is "under control," according to Interfax. LF

TALKS ON CLOSURE OF RUSSIAN BASES IN GEORGIA DEADLOCKED

Georgian parliamentary Defense and Security Commission Chairman Revaz Adamia told Interfax on 3 November that Moscow and Tbilisi are at odds over the timeframe for the closure of Russia's military bases in Georgia. Adamia said that Georgia wants those bases to be closed within six to 18 months, while Russia insists they should remain for 25 years as provided for under the terms of a 1995 bilateral treaty, which the Georgian parliament has not ratified. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIAL PREDICTS CANCER CASES WILL DOUBLE AS RESULT OF ROCKET EXPLOSION

A senior medical official predicted on 2 November that the incidence of cancer in the regions of central Kazakhstan affected by the 27 October explosion of a Russian Proton rocket will double over the next two or three years, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported the following day. Russian scientists have claimed that the adverse consequences of the blast will be minimal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1999). LF

KAZAKH LEADERSHIP WANTS TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH GERMANY, JAPAN

President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev met separately on 2 and 3 November, respectively, with a visiting German delegation from Sachsen-Anhalt, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Delegation head Gerhard Glogowski told both Kazakh officials in response to their plea for greater German investment in Kazakhstan that the country should enact legislation protecting foreign investors. Germany is one of Kazakhstan's main trade partners, with annual trade turnover estimated at $650 million. Also on 3 November, Toqaev told a visiting delegation from Japan's Marubeni Corporation that Kazakhstan considers expanding economic relations with Japan "a priority," Interfax reported. Marubeni is interested in a $300-400 million project for reconstructing the Atyrau oil refinery. A feasibility plan for the plant's reconstruction is nearing completion. An agreement on the project is likely to be signed during Nazarbaev's visit to Japan at the end of the year. LF

HEAD OF KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL STAFF NAMED TO HEAD AUDIT COMMISSION

President Askar Akaev on 3 November named Medet Sadyrkulov to head the Auditing Commission, a post that Akaev said entails coordinating the activities of all public organizations that support reform in the runup to the February 2000 parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Interfax quoted Akaev as saying that those elections are crucial to Kyrgyzstan's image as a democratic country. He told Sadyrkulov to ensure that criminal elements are prevented from entering the new parliament and that governors and ministers do not use budget funds to finance their associates' election campaigns. LF

OSCE DECIDES AGAINST MONITORING TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL POLL

A spokesman for the OSCE has said that organization will not send a delegation to Tajikistan to monitor the 6 November presidential poll, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 3 November. The spokesman said that given the restrictions on candidates and the activities of political parties, the election process does not meet the standards set by the OSCE for a democratic poll. Economics and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Davlat Usmon, whom the Central Electoral Commission has registered as a candidate, despite his failure to submit the required 145,000 signatures in his support, said on 3 November he will not formally withdraw his candidacy as it is illegal, ITAR-TASS reported. The Central Electoral Commission has confirmed that Usmon has not withdrawn from the poll and that his name is on the ballot sheet together with that of incumbent Imomali Rakhmonov. LF

DEFENSE MINISTERS REVIEW CENTRAL ASIAN JOINT MANEUVERS

The defense ministers of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have assessed the five-day joint exercises held in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Those maneuvers, which ended on 1 November, were aimed at coordinating measures to repulse a terrorist attack. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told his colleagues that Russian and Uzbek forces will be ready by next spring to launch cross-border attacks into Tajik territory in order to preempt an anticipated strike by Uzbek Islamist forces. Sergeev added that Russia will extend assistance to Kyrgyzstan within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty if those guerrillas launch a further incursion into Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile in Astana, a Kazakh Interior Ministry press secretary denied that unidentified gunmen have crossed into southern Kazakhstan from neighboring Uzbekistan, Interfax reported on 3 November. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO BE ALLOWED ACCESS TO STATE MEDIA?

Representatives of the government and the opposition on 3 November discussed "technical details" of the opposition's access to the state-controlled electronic media in the run-up to the planned OSCE-mediated talks on free parliamentary elections in 2000. According to Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, the opposition will be allowed to present its pre-recorded videos four times a week in two analytical programs on national television and will receive up to 90 seconds of coverage every day in the television's main newscast. The agreement on the opposition's access to the state media is expected to be signed next week. JM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES TO RESTORE LICENSES TO INDEPENDENT PRESS?

State Press Committee Chairman Mikhail Padhayny on 3 November promised chief editors of the seven independent newspapers and magazines whose licenses were revoked in early October that the committee will "resolve" the issue of their re-registration in a week, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. In particular, Padhayny admitted that the authorities were "unjust" in canceling the registration of "Nasha svaboda"--a publication that was to have succeeded "Naviny" after the authorities closed down the latter--and "Kuryer," a magazine registered by "Naviny" former chief editor Ihar Hermyanchuk. Hermyanchuk told RFE/RL that the authorities have begun to ease their pressure on the independent press in Belarus most likely because Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's is seeking to avoid criticism at the OSCE summit in Istanbul later this month. JM

VODKA PRICE AGAIN INCREASES IN BELARUS

The price of Belarusian-made vodka increased by 25 percent on 3 November, Belapan reported. It was the eighth such hike this year. Since January, the price of vodka has gone by 180 percent in Belarus. Rumors about the latest hike caused a vodka shortage in Minsk in late October. JM

KUCHMA FIRES REGIONAL LEADERS FOR POOR ELECTION SHOWING

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has dismissed the governors of the central oblasts of Kirovohrad, Poltava, and Vynnytsya, where he scored badly in the 31 October presidential polls. In Kirovohrad Oblast, Kuchma won 22.9 percent of the vote, losing to Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko (27.6 percent). In Poltava and Vynnytsya Oblasts Kuchma lost to Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz. "The evaluation obtained by the president in the elections is automatically an evaluation of the style of work of [regional] administrations," Interfax quoted Kuchma's spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko as saying on 3 November. JM

KUCHMA SAID TO FACE 'VERY TENSE' DUEL WITH SYMONENKO

Presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said on 3 November that the presidential election runoff between the incumbent and Petro Symonenko will be "very tense," Interfax reported. "[Symonenko] has a certain electorate that supports Communist ideas," Martynenko commented. He added that Ukrainians on 31 October "voted either for Kuchma, or the Communist idea, or [some] prominent personality." The "myth about the existence in Ukraine of a significant protest electorate is far-fetched," Martynenko argued. JM

OSCE MISSION IN ESTONIA BACKS POLICY ON EX-RUSSIAN OFFICERS

BNS reported on 3 November that Uwe Mahrenholtz, a representative with the OSCE mission in Estonia, backs the Estonian government's policy toward former Russian military servicemen currently in Estonia. Mahrenholtz commented that recent changes to the law on aliens do not affect the authorities' treatment of those servicemen, refuting allegations by Russian State Duma members that Estonia is pursuing an increasingly discriminatory policy toward Russian ex-military personnel. At the same time, the OSCE representative criticized those servicemen who have failed to leave Estonia, despite earlier having agreed to do so and receive housing in Russia built with foreign assistance. Mahrenholtz commented that they "should not receive Estonian residence permits." MH

DID RUSSIAN CHECHNYA INFO CENTER MISUSE LATVIAN JOURNALIST'S PHOTOS?

Latvia's "Diena" on 3 November alleged that the Russian government's center for information on the Chechen conflict misused photos taken by "Diena" correspondent Atis Klimovics. Czech journalist Petra Prohazkova told "Diena" that she gave several of Klimovics's photos to Mikhail Margelov, the director of the Russian information center. The photos depicted the central market in Grozny, one day before more than 100 people were killed there in a Russian rocket attack. One photo showed, among a number of stalls in the market selling food and other goods, a single individual selling weapons. Prohazkova said she gave Margelov the pictures to prove that the Russian military had attacked a civilian market. Margelov, however, posted the pictures, cropped to show only the weapons peddler, onto the information center's Website and "published completely opposite information, asserting that a terrorist base had been destroyed in the center of Grozny," the Czech journalist said. Klimovics's uncropped picture had previously been published both in "Diena" and in the German magazine "Focus". MJZ

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS NEW PREMIER

By a vote of 82 to 20 with 18 abstentions, the parliament approved Andrius Kubilius, a leading member of legislature, as Lithuania's 10th prime minister since the restoration of independence, in March 1990, Reuters reported on 3 November. Kubilius, a member of the ruling Conservative Party, said that the guiding principle of his government will be continuity. His first task will be to stabilize Lithuania's financial situation through austerity measures and to continue the program of his Conservative Party predecessors. He has 15 days to form a cabinet, which is expected to include many of the current ministers. AB

WESTERN LOAN BUYS TIME FOR LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT

ELTA reported on 3 November that U.S.-based Credit Suisse First Boston has agreed to provide the Lithuanian government with a five-year loan of 100 million euros ($105 million) to cover budget shortfalls, investment programs, and maturing government securities. The loan also buys the new government time to put the country's finances in order. "Lietuvos Aidas" reported on 3 November that Lithuania's Central Bank board chairman Reinoldijus Sarkinas told the IMF mission currently in Lithuania that the country's financial situation is difficult but there is no crisis. Sarkinas has urged the government to reduce its foreign borrowing, saying "we must learn to live within our means." AB

POLISH PREMIER TO PROMOTE 'TRUE IMAGE' OF EU INTEGRATION

Jerzy Buzek told the first meeting of the National Council for European Integration that Poles should be familiarized with the "true image" of the EU, PAP reported on 3 November. The 47-strong council is a consultative body subordinated to the premier, who also chairs the Committee for European Integration. According to Buzek, the council's purpose is to reverse the decline in public support for integration with the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 1999). JM

BELARUSIAN RADIO IN POLAND TESTS SIGNAL

On 3 November, the Belarusian-language Radio Racja, based in Bialystok (northeastern Poland), began testing its signal before launching regular programs, PAP reported. Eugeniusz Wappa-- chairman of the Belarusian Union in Poland, which owns a majority stake in Radio Racja--told PAP that the station will launch its first program on VHF by the end of November. Wappa told "RFE/RL Newsline" last week that Radio Racja's program on short-wave, which will be broadcast from a transmitter near Warsaw, is expected to start "within a week." The short- wave signal is expected to reach the Belarusian capital, Minsk. JM

CZECH OFFICIAL RESIGNS OVER 'STIRIN CASE'

Jaroslav Novotny, who is adviser to Premier Milos Zeman, told CTK on 3 November that he will submit his resignation the next day. The move comes after Zeman had told him he will be fired if he does not resign. Novotny allegedly demanded that Vaclav Hruby, a former Foreign Ministry official in charge of the ministry's congress center at Stirin Castle, near Prague, fabricate evidence showing that former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec has bribed journalists to promote a positive image of himself. Zeman, however, said he considered the "Stirin scandal" to be no more than an "artificially blown bubble" designed to cover up Hruby's mismanagement of the center. He said he is still waiting for a report on the Foreign Ministry investigation into the allegation against Zieleniec. MS

CZECH DEPUTIES DISAGREE WITH SANCTIONS AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA

Twenty-four deputies from the ruling Social Democratic Party and the opposition Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia said on 3 November they are opposed to international sanctions against Yugoslavia, CTK reported. The Czech Republic is expected to join that embargo once it has been discussed by the parliament. The deputies are members of the Czech-Yugoslav parliamentary friendship group. They said they consider the sanctions to be "a continuation of NATO's military action, which we have considered from the very beginning to be military aggression." MS

SLOVAKIA WANTS COMPENSATION FOR CLOSING NUCLEAR PLANT

Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Hamzik told Reuters on 3 November that Slovakia wants the EU to compensate it for the losses it will suffer through the early closure of the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear plant. Hamzik said that the closure will have large- scale social and economic consequences, as it brings an annual profit of 5.5 billion crowns ($132.2 million) and meets 20 percent of the country's electricity needs. Hamzik also said that in order to accelerate economic reforms, the government intends to privatize the banking, telecommunications, and energy sectors. It also plans to lure investors by granting tax exemptions for five years if they invest at least 2 million euros ($2.10 million) and buy a 75 percent stake in a Slovak company. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES COMPENSATION FOR WWII VICTIMS

The parliament on 3 November approved a law compensating Slovaks who were imprisoned, persecuted, or forcibly sent to work in Germany during World War II, CTK reported. Those entitled to compensation will receive 3,000 crowns (some $72) for every month of imprisonment, while relatives of prisoners who died there are to receive a one-time payment of 100,000 crowns. Unlike the draft approved earlier by the government, the law extends eligibility for compensation to participants in the Slovak National Uprising of 1944 and to Jews who hid to escape persecution. But the law does not apply to citizens who lived in Hungarian-occupied southern Slovakia, nor are Jews living there entitled to compensation from the Hungarian government since they are not citizens of Hungary. MS

ORBAN, HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY EXPLAIN MISSILE STATEMENT

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 3 November said he had told a reporter in Canada only that the cabinet "would consider" allowing NATO nuclear missiles to be stationed in Hungary in the event of an "international crisis," adding that "Hungarians would not be pleased at all" if such a situation arose. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry told a Russian embassy official the same day that Hungary has "a vested interest" in developing broad relations with Russia and that Hungary's NATO membership is not directed against any single state, including Russia. A Foreign Ministry statement said Hungary continues to fully agree with the NATO stance described in the founding documents of the NATO-Russia Permanent Council, according to which the alliance does not plan to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new member states. MSZ

HUNGARY TO ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC MISSION IN PALESTINE

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 3 November told visiting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that Hungary will open a diplomatic office in Palestine next year, as "the time has come to raise Palestinian-Hungarian relations to a qualitatively higher level." MSZ




U.S. TO LIFT SOME SANCTIONS IF FREE ELECTIONS HELD IN YUGOSLAVIA

Flanked by members of the Serbian opposition, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on 3 November the U.S. will lift a ban on oil sales and flights to Serbia if free elections are held there, AP reported. Members of the Serbian opposition Alliance for Change were in Washington for talks with Albright. They also met with U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Albright said the strategy is aimed at assisting the opposition's struggle "for the right of people to choose their own leaders." Albright dismissed the possibility that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic would win such an election, saying "I find it really, really hard to believe that Milosevic might win a free and fair election." VG

DJINDJIC EXPRESSES SATISFACTION...

Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said in Washington he is pleased with Albright's announcement. "It was more than we expected because we got a clear message about lifting sanctions after elections." He added that the opposition will continue their protests and work toward the ouster of Milosevic from power. VG

...WHILE YUGOSLAV OFFICIAL SCOFFS

In Belgrade, Yugoslav Federal Information Minister Goran Matic said the opposition leaders would win "less than 1 percent of the vote in Serbia." He added: " It seems that Washington is trying to prepare a jackass to win the horse races." The government also said there is no need to hold elections earlier than those that are scheduled for 2001. VG

DRASKOVIC'S PARTY TO CALL FOR EARLY ELECTIONS

Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement on 3 November announced that it will officially demand early elections at the next parliamentary session on 9 November, Reuters reported. The party also demanded talks with the government on what measures can be taken to ensure that the elections are fair. Earlier, the Serbian Renewal Movement said that it would not make a call in the parliament for early elections, arguing that such a call was sure to be rejected. VG

OSCE WARNS VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA COULD DISCOURAGE DONORS

The OSCE on 3 November warned that recent violence against ethnic Serbs and other minorities in Kosova could discourage potential donors from financing reconstruction projects in the province. The OSCE statement said the violence "jeopardizes the international reputation and standing" of Kosova. It called on Kosova's political leaders to join the international community in efforts to stop the violence. VG

THACI GIVES AWARD TO U.S. DIPLOMAT

Ethnic Albanian leader Hashim Thaci on 3 November awarded a gold plate and honorary Kosova citizenship to U.S. diplomat William Walker, Reuters reported. Thaci thanked Walker, who is on a visit to Kosova, for alerting the world to the Serbian atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosova last winter. Walker said he is glad to have played a role in ridding Kosova of Milosevic "and his gang." However, he stressed his dismay at a recent spate of attacks against ethnic Serbs in the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1999). VG

YUGOSLAV GENERALS MEET MONTENGRO'S INTERIOR MINISTER

A group of generals from Yugoslavia's Army on 3 November met Montenegro's Interior Minister Vukasin Maras in Podgorica. The two sides pledged to work together to remove any barriers to future cooperation. Maras said that the situation in Montenegro is "very complex" but that the Montenegrin police will work to maintain good relations with the Yugoslav military. Yugoslav chief of staff Dragoljub Ojdanic, who visited military units in Montenegro the same day, did not attend the meeting. VG

UN SPECIAL ENVOY ASSESSES BALKAN SITUATION

UN human rights envoy Jiri Dienstbier has submitted a report to the UN arguing that the current international presence in Kosova should not be restricted to a mere "holding operation," AP reported on 3 November. Dienstbier said Kosova should be viewed in the "overall context of the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia." He praised the expanded approach of the Stability Pact initiative for the Balkan region and noted that the primary goal in Bosnia-Herzegovina remains the creation of a multiethnic police force and judiciary. He also criticized the delays and "lack of transparency" in Croatian judicial proceedings as well as discrimination against Muslims in Republika Srpska and Serbia. VG

DODIK SAYS WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL CAN OPEN OFFICE IN BANJA LUKA

Republika Srpska caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik on 3 November said the Bosnian Serbs will allow the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to set up an office in Banja Luka. Dodik's comments came after a meeting in Banja Luka with the tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte. He described the opening of the office as the first step in the Republika Srpska's cooperation with the tribunal. He added that "all those who have committed war crimes have to stand trial. There is no collective guilt, crimes are individual," AP reported. VG

PETRITSCH INSISTS THAT CROATIAN SERBS GET FAIR CHANCE TO VOTE

The international community's envoy to Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, urged officials in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia to ensure that displaced Croatian citizens have equal and fair access to Croatia's parliamentary elections, Reuters reported. Petritsch said he wants to ensure that there will be an "equal chance for all those eligible to vote," especially ethnic Serbs originally from Croatia and now living in Bosnia. Petritsch made the statement after a meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa in Zagreb. VG

WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL AGREES TO DELAY EXTRADITION OF 'TUTA'

The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 3 November agreed to delay extradition proceedings against indicted war criminal Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic on the grounds that he is "unfit to travel to The Hague." The tribunal has received a report from two Dutch doctors who confirmed that his health problems will prevent him from travelling to the Netherlands for some two to three weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 1999). VG

CROATIAN PRESIDENT STILL RECOVERING IN HOSPITAL

Franjo Tudjman was still in hospital on 3 November recovering from a recent intestinal operation, Hina reported. Doctors said he is in "good" condition. VG

MACEDONIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES CABINET RESHUFFLE

Ljubco Georgievski on 3 November announced plans to reshuffle his cabinet, AP reported. The announcement comes after the presidential candidate of Georgievski's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), Boris Trajkovski, finished second in the first round of voting on 31 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1999). The VMRO has 13 ministers in the coalition government, while Vasil Tupurkovski's Democratic Alternative has eight and the Democratic Party of the Albanians five. Georgievski also replaced nine local VMRO heads in municipalities where Trajkovski failed to win a majority of the vote. VG

ALBANIAN SOCIALIST PARTY PAPER CALLS BERISHA A 'CRIMINAL'

The ruling Albanian Socialist Party's newspaper "Zeri i Popullit" ran an editorial on 3 November comparing former President Sali Berisha to a "criminal." The editorial accused the leader of the opposition Democratic Party of gathering support from a group of "well-known criminals" and plotting to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Ilir Meta. The editorial also warned that the authorities might arrest Berisha. Berisha has said the Democratic Party will boycott a parliamentary session this week that is expected to give a vote of confidence to the new government. VG

U.S. SENATE VOTES TO GRANT NORMAL TRADE STATUS TO ALBANIA

The U.S. Senate on 3 November agreed to grant permanent Normal Trade Relations status to Albania, citing that country's progress on setting up a free market economy. VG

MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REBUKES PRESIDENT

The Constitutional Court on 3 November ruled that President Petru Lucinschi cannot order a referendum on changing the country's basic law. The court said that the holding of such a plebiscite must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the parliament and that therefore the president must submit his proposal to the legislature, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. It added that before submitting to the parliament a proposal that envisages changing the constitution, the president must receive the approval of the Constitutional Court. Lucinschi responded that "the court's decision is final and we are obliged to abide by it." MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER THREATENS TO QUIT

Ion Sturza on 3 November said the cabinet will resign "within 10 days" if the parliament fails again to approve the laws on privatization and on amending this year's budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1999). Sturza said the laws will be re-submitted to the legislature this week and "if they are not approved, this will be tantamount to a vote of no-confidence and...the government will resign," Reuters reported. MS

BULGARIA PROTESTS AIR POLLUTION FROM ROMANIA

Bulgaria on 3 November protested air pollution in Nikopol that is produced by a Romanian chemical plant in Turnu Magurele, located on the opposite bank of the River Danube. Environment Minister Evdokia Maneva said that after Nikopol was shrouded in a cloud of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, she sent a protest letter to the Romanian authorities. Ammonia concentration in the air around Nikopol was 20.4 times above safety levels and hydrogen sulfide exceeded those levels by 2.3 times, AP reported, citing the daily "Trud." Maneva said she has received no response from her Romanian counterpart, Romica Tomescu. However, the Romanian Environment Agency said on 2 November that over the previous 48 hours, pollution levels in Romania were "normal." MS




WHEN 'SALVATION' IS DAMNATION


by Michael Shafir

It hardly matters whether the neo-Nazi group in Russia that calls itself Spas (Salvation) managed to have its list approved by the Russian Central Electoral Commission (CEC) for the 19 December State Duma elections as a result of official incompetence or because its leader, Aleksandr Barkashov, has cunningly calculated his moves. The second scenario would be nothing more than yet another example of the ongoing exploitation by extremist leaders of the weaknesses of the system they want to destroy--democracy.

On 18 October, the CEC registered the list of Spas, which thereby became one of 31 organizations to submit registration documents before the 24 October deadline. On 25 October, the Justice Ministry appealed to the Supreme Court to bar Spas from running on the grounds that the group has violated the law on public association. The ministry argued that Spas provided false information about the number of its regional branches. The law requires that nationwide movements have organizations in at least half of the 89 federation subjects, and Spas submitted data on 47 such organizations. A check carried out by the ministry, however, failed to locate such organizations in at least 10 of those regions, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 November. That begs the question as to what the ministry was doing up to 25 October.

It was certainly not in the dark about Barkashov's lack of scruples. His Russian National Unity (RNE) party had been set up in 1990, and if it acquired some notoriety, it was precisely because it played "the democratic game" and at the same time undermined democracy by, among other things, setting up illegal paramilitary formations. Spas was registered one year ago, to include RNE and two other small and unknown groups. Those facts again raise the question as to what Justice Ministry was doing until now.

Justice Minister Yurii Chaika told Interfax on 2 November that Barkashov must be stopped because "people sharing Nazi ideology cannot run for elected government bodies in Russia." But Barkashov's identification with that ideology is nothing new. In accordance with the law, the ministry should have warned Spas twice before asking for the organization to be outlawed. It failed to do so even once, however. Had it taken those steps, appealing to the Supreme Court to cancel Spas's registration might have been rendered unnecessary. Hence the question: what has the ministry been doing until now?

After all, it could have followed the example set by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who last December prevented RNE from holding a congress in Moscow and, in response to Barkashov's threats to stage a march by 100,000 sympathizers, complained to the Prosecutor-General's Office. That agency pressed charges against Barkashov for instigation to violence. Furthermore, a court outlawed the Moscow branch of RNE, and another court in the capital annulled the registration of one of Barkashov's publications. While Luzhkov is hardly the personification of democracy, in this instance he acted correctly.

To make matters even worse, the Russian Federation Supreme Court on 1 November refused to examine the ministry's appeal against the group's registration, referring it to a raion court. But the lower court did not rule by 3 November, meaning that the list approved by the CEC remains valid. Does this mean that the bureaucrats at the Justice Ministry are unaware of how justice is administered in their country?

The name "Spas," chosen by Barkashov for his group, speaks volumes about what he himself stands for. Roger Griffin, a leading scholar on the history of fascism, defines that movement as "a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism". The unusual term "palingenetic," according to Griffin, expresses "the myth of rebirth, regeneration." This myth is common to all fascists--old and new, eastern or western, southern or northern. What it amounts to is a belief that democracy is a form of social and moral decay and that "regeneration" or "revival" not only justifies "drastic means" but is achieved by using such means. And thus it is no accident that a recently published book by Vladimir Tismaneanu, a Romanian-born political scientist, dealing with this phenomenon in the post-communist world, is called "Fantasies of Salvation."

Spas is not the only dangerous fantasy to haunt Russia. Among the no fewer than 81 parties, movements or associations with extremist postures, there are groups called the Russian Party of Spiritual Revival, the Union for the Revival of the Fatherland, the Union of the Fatherland, and, of course, the Front of National Salvation. Post-communist Poland has its own National Rebirth of Poland party. In all likelihood, there are more.

And thus the final question: Do officials at the Russian Justice Ministry understand that there comes a point in history at which "salvation" almost certainly leads to damnation?


XS
SM
MD
LG