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Newsline - November 8, 1999




RUSSIAN MILITARY DENY SCHISM OVER CHECHEN WAR

In a joint statement released in Moscow on 6 November, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Chief of General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin rejected as "lies, slander, and misinformation" Russian media reports that some senior generals have threatened to resign to protest plans by the presidential administration to begin peace talks in Chechnya. The previous day, Kvashnin's first deputy, Colonel-General Valerii Manilov, had said that he is confident that the Russian military and civilian leadership will act in tandem and that the military operation will continue until "terrorists" and "bandits" on Chechen territory are wiped out. But the next day, the commander of the western Chechen front, Major-General Vladimir Shamanov, again affirmed in an interview with Russian state television that he will resign if ordered to halt his troops' advance in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CLINTON, UN...

Aslan Maskhadov has written to U.S. President Bill Clinton to ask the U.S. to "use its influence as a defender of the rights...of peoples" to stop "the genocide of the Chechen people," Reuters and Interfax reported on 7 November. Maskhadov said in that missive that Moscow launched the war in Chechnya to deflect attention from internal problems within the Russian leadership. That move, he said, was in violation of the May 1997 bilateral agreement, in which Moscow pledged not to use force against Chechnya. Maskhadov has also sent a similar appeal to the UN and has written to the leaders of states that will attend the OSCE Istanbul summit in 18-19 November to ask them to raise the Chechen issue at that forum. LF

...EXPRESSES READINESS FOR PEACE TALKS

On 6 November, Chechen Premier Kazbek Makhashev quoted Maskhadov as saying at a cabinet session that he is ready for "any form of negotiations" to stop the war and the death of civilians" Interfax reported. Maskhadov added that his North Caucasus colleagues could contribute to resolving the crisis. But the "Frankfurter Rundschau" on 4 November quoted Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev as saying that the Russian Defense Ministry sabotaged a meeting between Maskhadov and other North Caucasus leaders scheduled for late October by refusing to guarantee Makhsadov's safe transit to Yessentuki, in Stavropol Krai, where that meeting was to take place. Speaking in Moscow on 5 November, Russian First Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel-General Manilov said Maskhadov must first distance himself from "terrorists" such as Basaev and Khattab before any peace talks can begin, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. LF

RUSSIA RESUMES BOMBING OF GROZNY

Russian aircraft and artillery subjected Grozny and other Chechen towns, including Bamut, Gudermes, Urus-Martan, and Gekhi, to intensive bombing and artillery attack on 6- 7 November. Chechen spokesmen said that 38 civilians were killed and more than 100 injured in Grozny, while Reuters reported that four died in Gekhi. Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev said on 6 November that few Chechen fighters have been hit by the bombing, but other Chechen military sources told Reuters the following day that they have withdrawn from Bamut, west of Grozny, and 28 of their men were killed and 26 wounded in heavy fighting in the villages of Samashki, Alkhan-kala, and Zakan-Yurt. In Mozdok, a spokesman for the Russian military command told Interfax on 5 November that Russian troops control approximately 40 percent of Chechnya. LF

SHOIGU PLANS TO SEND DISPLACED PERSONS BACK TO CHECHNYA

Russia's Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu told journalists in Moscow on 6 November that a list is shortly to be made public of 17 localities in the Russian-controlled districts of Chechnya to which displaced persons may return from Ingushetia and North Ossetia, ITAR-TASS reported. Shoigu added that there is a reserve of tents, bedding, and equipment to house 30,000 people in those localities, and that the Russian authorities will guarantee the safety of those who choose to return. The previous day, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo had said that the "main task" of Russian federal agencies in the "liberated" districts of Chechnya is to create a "normal standard of living" for the Chechen population there. Despite such assurances, another 4,000 civilians crossed the border from Chechnya into Ingushetia on 6 November, raising the number of displaced persons to more than 199,000, according to Interfax. LF

FORMER GROZNY MAYOR PARDONED...

President Boris Yeltsin has pardoned former Grozny mayor Beslan Gantemirov, who was sentenced in 1998 to six years' imprisonment on charges of having embezzled 54 billion undenominated rubles allocated to Chechnya from the state budget for reconstruction, Caucasus Press reported. Gantemirov is a former commander of the late Djokhar Dudaev's bodyguards. He split with Dudaev in 1993 and joined the domestic Chechen opposition. He has repeatedly claimed that the charges against him were fabricated to protect senior Russian officials. In a lengthy interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" last December, Gantemirov said he believes that at some stage he will be in a position again "to serve Chechnya" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 43, 23 December 1998). LF

...AND IS IN LINE FOR LEADING POSITION?

Malik Saidullaev, who heads the pro-Moscow Chechen State Council, told Interfax on 5 November that he considers Gantemirov "a most acceptable figure" for the post of Chechen premier. "An energetic and courageous person must hold the post of the prime minister and restore order in the republic," Saidullaev said. He added that he considers Gantemirov was made "a scapegoat." Gantemirov might be named premier at a congress of the Chechen diaspora to be held in Moscow on 12 November, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

OVR RELEASES PARTY PLATFORM

The Fatherland-All Russia alliance released its election manifesto on 5 November. The alliance, which is headed by former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, declared its goals as promoting a strong government, socially oriented market reform, the crackdown on crime, and powerful armed forces, according to Interfax. More specifically, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 November, the group calls for lowering taxes and freezing rents and gasoline prices. The daily, which is controlled by business magnate Boris Berezovskii, a prominent foe of OVR, concluded that the party's economic policy promises to be "no more destructive than the November theses of [Soviet leader] Vladimir Illyich [Lenin]." However, Mikhail Dmitriev of the Carnegie Moscow Center suggested recently that all major parties appear to have more realistic tax policies than was the case during the last State Duma election. Those parties believe that a priority of economic reform should be reducing some of the tax burden on producers at the expense of consumers. JAC

INVESTIGATORS DROP BEREZOVSKII CASE...

An investigator at the Prosecutor-General's Office, Nikolai Volkov, announced on 5 November that his office has dropped the criminal investigation" into business magnate Berezovskii on charges of money laundering and "illegal entrepreneurship." The investigation of two former executives of Aeroflot, Nikolai Glushkov and Boris Krasnenker, will continue, Volkov said. Suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov told "The Moscow Times" the next day that he was aware of "pressure applied to Volkov" by Berezovskii. Volkov denied that either the instigation of charges against Berezovskii or the subsequent dropping of those charges was politically motivated. JAC

...AS BEREZOVSKII DUBS PUTIN PRESIDENTIAL SUCCESSOR

Berezovskii told reporters on 6 November that Prime Minister Putin "is better than the other candidates on today's political market." He added that Yeltsin's successor must be strong-willed and that Putin is the most suitable person from that point of view. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" the same day, Putin rejected some media outlets' attempts to portray him exclusively as a law-enforcement official. He noted that he also spends a significant amount of time on economy policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). Also on 6 November, Russian newspapers continued to speculate on Putin's possible dismissal, with "Izvestiya" suggesting that Emergencies Minister Shoigu or Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo might replace him. JAC

COMMUNISTS GATHER TO REMEMBER REVOLUTION

The 82nd anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on 7 November drew crowds across Russia, the largest of which appeared to be in St. Petersburg. Around 18,000 people marched down that city's Nevskii Prospekt to Dvortsovoi Square and sang the "Internationale," Interfax reported. In Moscow, according to that agency, some 5,000-7,000 people gathered to hear Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and others on the square located opposite the former KGB headquarters. The western city of Belgorod and the industrial Urals city of Chelyabinsk also attracted crowds of 5,000 and 4,000, respectively, ITAR-TASS reported. Attendance was thinner in the Far Northern cities of Murmansk and Petrozavodsk, where about 500 turned out. Also on 7 November, Western agencies reported that the granddaughter of former Soviet leader Iosif Stalin, Nadezhda Stalin, died. Stalin's second wife, who was her grandmother, also died on 7 November. JAC

HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES EXPLORE NEW AREAS

Human rights activists in Ufa, the capital of the Bashkortostan Republic, filed a lawsuit in a Moscow district court saying that the rights of Russian television viewers are being violated, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 November. Those activists claim that television commercials on Russian Public Television, Russian Television, and NTV account for 30-50 percent of air time, compared with the world average of only 10-13 percent. The district court has refused to hear the case and referred it to a municipal court. If rejected there, the activists plan to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile in Ulan Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia, a human rights center succeeded in arranging for a telephone to be installed in the home of local resident Ivan Tabituev, according to "Izvestiya" on 6 November. Tabituev first applied for a phone in 1965. JAC

GERMANY URGES RUSSIA, NATO TO REPAIR RELATIONS

Speaking two days before the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, German Ambassador to Moscow Ernst-Joerg von Studnitz urged Russia and NATO to seek to improve their relations. The ambassador told Interfax on 7 November that if one side refuses to do so, the situation in the world "may become complicated again." "We have tried to make relations between the West and Russia move for the better but have been unable to make this come true so far," the agency quoted him as saying. JC

BALLOT ORDER READIED FOR DUMA ELECTIONS

Representatives of 28 movements or blocs drew lots on 5 November to determine the order in which their groups will appear on the ballot for the 19 December State Duma elections. The small Conservative Party of Russia drew the top spot, followed by Duma Deputy Sergei Baburin's Russian All-People's Union and Women of Russia. None of these parties is expected to attract enough votes to overcome the 5 percent barrier for entry to the Duma. Of the major parties, Yabloko is listed sixth, Unity 14th, OVR 19th, the Communist Party 20th, and Our Home Is Russia 25th. JAC

U.S. EMBASSY'S Y2K PLANS CRITICIZED

"The New York Times" reported on 8 November that "although the State Department is planning to withdraw hundreds of government employees and their families from Russia and other former Soviet republics before 1 January, experts at the U.S. embassy in Moscow have concluded there is virtually no risk to diplomats from the year 2000 computer problem." The daily also reports that the estimated cost to the U.S. government is $5,000 per person for 15 days of leave and that estimates for the total cost of withdrawing personnel range from $8-$1.25 million. The newspaper noted that "the U.S. is spending $7.5 million this year under its program to create civilian jobs for scientists in Russia's closed nuclear cities." Interfax reported on 5 November that the U.S. appears to be the only leading Western country considering changes to the operation of its embassy in Russia during the millennium transition. JAC




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW

Robert Kocharian met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov Moscow on 5 November. Kocharian also had what ITAR-TASS described as a "very warm and cordial" meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the latter's Ogarevo residence, at which Kocharian expressed thanks for Russia's expressions of support following the killings of eight senior Armenian officials in late October. The talks focused on bilateral relations and the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian, who accompanied the Armenian president, held meetings with their Russian counterparts. LF

NEW SUSPECT DETAINED IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS

Armenian parliamentary deputy Mushegh Movsisian was detained for questioning on 4 November in connection with the 27 October shootings in the Armenian parliament, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 6 November. On 5 November, opposition parliamentary deputy Arshak Sadoyan told RFE/RL that legislators will propose creating an ad hoc committee to conduct an independent investigation into the killings and deliver a "political assessment." Also on 5 November, replacements were named for five of the slain Miasnutyun deputies who were elected to the parliament on the bloc's party list in the 31 May poll. LF

AKSENENKO DISCUSSES CHECHNYA, VISAS WITH AZERBIJANI PRESIDENT...

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi met with senior Azerbaijani officials in Baku on 5 November. President Heidar Aliyev told Aksenenko that Azerbaijan condemns terrorism and regards the fighting in Chechnya as Russia's internal affair, according top Interfax. But Aliyev also denied that arms and mercenaries are entering Chechnya via Azerbaijani territory. He said the proposed introduction of visas for Azerbaijanis wishing to enter Russia will aggravate the situation on Azerbaijan's border with the Russian Federation as the large Lezgin, Dargin, and Avar minorities are divided between the two countries. Aliyev added that according to the Bishkek agreement on visa-free travel between CIS states, Azerbaijan should be notified 90 days in advance of the introduction of a visa requirement. LF

...FAILS TO PERSUADE AZERBAIJAN TO SHIP MORE OIL VIA RUSSIA

Meeting with Natik Aliev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, Aksenenko failed to persuade the oil chief that it would be advantageous for Azerbaijan to agree to export oil via the northern pipeline bypassing Chechnya, which is scheduled for completion by mid-2000, rather than to continue lobbying for construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline. (Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are scheduled to sign a framework legal agreement on that project at the upcoming OSCE Istanbul summit, and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze discussed the project with his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, in a telephone conversation on 6 November, ITAR-TASS reported.) Kalyuzhnyi offered to allow Azerbaijan to increase from 5 million tons to 12-15 million tons the amount of oil it exports annually via Russia. But SOCAR President Aliyev said his company will abide by its agreement to export 5 million tons annually until 2003, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

GEORGIA AGAIN CONDEMNS RUSSIAN VISA REQUIREMENT

Speaking on Georgian state television, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze said Russia's plans to introduce visas for Georgian citizens wishing to enter Russia is aimed at drawing Georgia into the conflict in the North Caucasus, Caucasus Press reported on 6 November. The previous day, Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Malkhaz Kakabadze said Russia proposed introducing those visas as of 1 January. Kakabadze added that Georgia sees no reason for the visa requirement but will begin talks with Moscow on its implementation. Of the 2,202 Russians who took part in a recent poll, the overwhelming majority (2,048) expressed support for the introduction of visas for citizens of Georgia and Azerbaijan entering the Russian Federation, according to "Segodnya" on 5 November. LF

THIRD PARTY QUALIFIES FOR REPRESENTATION IN GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT

Georgian Central Electoral Commission officials on 7 November announced updated results of the party-list vote in the 31 October parliamentary elections, Caucasus Press reported. According to those data, three parties will be represented in the new parliament. The Union of Citizens of Georgia will retain its absolute majority, having polled 41.85 percent of the party list vote to receive 85 of the 150 seats allocated under the proportional system. The Union for the Democratic Revival of Georgia polled 25.65 percent (51 seats) and the bloc Industry Will Save Georgia 7.8 percent (14 seats). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT PASSES DRAFT BUDGET FOR 2000

A joint session of both chambers of Kazakhstan's parliament passed next year's budget in the second and final reading on 5 November, Interfax reported. The budget provides for expenditures of 404.8 billion tenge ($276 million) and revenues of 340.3 billion tenge, the deficit being equal to 3 percent of GDP. Passage of the budget removes the final obstacle to a new three-year IMF loan program. Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev thanked parliamentary deputies for their "realism" in endorsing the draft, adding that it might have to be amended to meet social requirements. But "Nezavisimaya gazeta" predicted on 4 November that the IMF demand for more effective tax collection will drive many Kazakh industrial enterprises to bankruptcy. LF

ARCHIVES OF HUMAN RIGHTS BUREAU IN KAZAKHSTAN DESTROYED BY FIRE

Records dating back six years were destroyed by fire at the Human Rights and Legality Bureau in Almaty on 4 November, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported on 8 November, quoting the bureau's director, Yevgenii Zhovtis. The cause of the blaze is unclear. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS AGAINST ISLAMIC THREAT

Speaking in Moscow on 6 November, Yerlan Idrisov said that Kazakh security forces have launched an operation against "foreign bandit formations" that infiltrated southern Kazakhstan from neighboring Uzbekistan, AP reported. Three days earlier, a Kazakh Interior Ministry press secretary in Astana denied that unidentified gunmen crossed into Kazakhstan from neighboring Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1999). LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT RE-ELECTED...

Imomali Rakhmonov polled 96 percent of the vote in the 6 November presidential poll, in which 98 percent of the country's 2.8 million electorate participated, Reuters reported on 7 November, quoting Central Electoral Commission spokesman Davlatali Davlatov. Russian and CIS observers said they registered no violations of voting procedure. The OSCE did not send election observers, saying that democratic conditions had not been created for the vote. LF

...AFTER TAJIK OPPOSITION WITHDRAWS BOYCOTT

Hours before polling stations opened on 6 November, United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri lifted the opposition boycott on the poll in return for the release from prison of 93 Tajik fighters and for unspecified concessions related to the conduct of the parliamentary elections scheduled for February 2000, Reuters and AP reported. Affirming that "peace and reconciliation are more important than personal ambition," Nuri also agreed that the UTO will resume its participation in the work of the Commission for National Reconciliation. The opposition had withdrawn from that body and declared a boycott of the elections to protest restrictions on the participation of opposition candidates in the presidential poll. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION FIGURE CLAIMS POLL WAS RIGGED

Davlat Usmon of the Islamic Renaissance Party, which forms the backbone of the UTO, told journalists in Dushanbe on 7 November that he believes the outcome of the poll was rigged and that only 20- 30 percent of voters had participated. A minimum turnout of 50 percent is required for the poll to be valid. Usmon said he will call for the poll to be annulled. Usmon had been registered as a candidate by the Central Electoral Commission, despite having failed to collect the required 145,000 signatures in his support, and insists that his registration was illegal According to official returns, Usmon garnered just 2 percent of the vote, losing even in the Karategin valley in eastern Tajikistan where support for the Islamic Renaissance Party is traditionally strong, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

UZBEK GUERRILLAS WITHDRAW FROM TAJIKISTAN

Some 450 Uzbek Islamic militants who had seized a dozen hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan in August left Tajik territory on 5-6 November, together with some 100 Uzbek civilians, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. The militants belong to a group headed by Djuma Namangani, who had promised during talks on 4 November with UTO leader Nuri to withdraw from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan. Tajikistan's Minister for Emergency Situations Mirzo Zieyev, a former UTO commander who helped negotiate the release of the hostages seized in Kyrgyzstan, monitored the Uzbek withdrawal. According to him, the withdrawal proceeded without incident, according to ITAR-TASS. LF




BELARUS MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF 1917 REVOLUTION

Some 10,000 people took part in a state-sponsored rally in Minsk on 7 November to mark the 82nd anniversary of the 1917 October revolution, which is observed as a state holiday in Belarus, Belapan reported. With the exception of parliamentary speaker Anatol Malafeyeu, a Soviet-era Belarusian Communist leader, no top officials took part in the demonstration. Participants carried placards reading "Long Live Socialism" and "Lenin, Stalin, Lukashenka." At a rally in Homel, police detained three oppositionists who tried to display slogans other than those officially approved. Other opposition activists, however, succeeded in displaying a quote from Lenin: "Russia Is a Prison of Nations." JM

MINSK TO OBTAIN $60 MILLION FROM PRAGUE TO BUY GRAIN

Belarusian Premier Syarhey Linh told Belarusian Television on 7 November that the Czech Republic has agreed to provide Belarus with a $60 million loan "on favorable conditions" to buy some 500,000 tons of grain, including 40,000 tons of food grain. Owing to the poor harvest this year, Belarus has a grain shortfall of some 2 million tons. JM

UKRAINIANS STAGE RIVAL RALLIES TO MARK 1917 ANNIVERSARY

Supporters of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his competitor in the 14 November presidential runoff, Communist Petro Symonenko, held rival demonstrations across Ukraine to mark the anniversary of the 1917 revolution and to back the presidential bids of both candidates. "In these elections, we should return power to the people...and change the country's ruinous socio-economic course," Symonenko told a 3,500-strong crowd of Communist supporters in Kyiv. "Some call [the 1917 revolution] the dawn of a new era and others--a coup marking the beginning of the long rule of dictatorship and violence.... A look at the past should prevent us from repeating tragic mistakes," Kuchma said on television. In Lviv, nationalists threw eggs and bags with paint at Communists and burned the flags of the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR. JM

BALTIC WOMEN RECEIVE FAR LOWER WAGES THAN MALE COUNTERPARTS

BNS reported that a Finnish Labor Ministry study on the Baltic States shows that women receive significantly lower wages than their male counterparts. The report noted that the discrepancy is largest in Estonia, where women's wages are on average 37 percent lower than men's. The discrepancy is 30 percent in Latvia and 23 percent in Lithuania. The study also showed that workers under the age of 30 in Latvia have the highest average income, while those aged 30-39 in both Estonia and Lithuania earn the most. MH

CONFUSION CONTINUES OVER TALLINN MAYORAL VOTE

Juri Mois's election as mayor of Tallinn continues to cause confusion in the Estonian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). President Lennart Meri on 5 November reluctantly accepted Mois's resignation as interior minister, citing confusion over the mayoral election, BNS reported. The opposition in the Tallinn City Council called the vote illegal, as Mois failed to win an outright majority in the first round and won only in a second vote. And "Postimees" reported that parts of the transcript tape have since disappeared. Tarmo Loodus, who until recently was the mayor of Viljandi, has been nominated as interior minister. MH

AHTISAARI DISCUSSES ESTONIAN LANGUAGE LAW

Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, speaking in Tallinn at the conference "Estonia and the EU" on 5 November, stressed the importance for Estonia of a language law harmonized with EU norms, BNS and "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. Ahtisaari said that "it is extremely essential to businesses, foreign investors and also from the point of view of the state's development." Ahtisaari also praised the rapid pace of development in the Baltics, in particular, the high educational standards, the strong work motivation, and the fact that "mutual investment between the countries of northern Europe is growing." Finland currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. MH

NEW LITHUANIAN CABINET FORMED

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius on 5 November submitted the list of new government ministers, and President Valdas Adamkus soon after issued a decree approving the new cabinet. The only changes are at the Economics and Finance Ministries, as former Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis and Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas both resigned just ahead of Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas's resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999). Kubilius nominated current parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Vytautas Dudenas as finance minister and president of the computer firm Alna, Valentinas Milaknis, as economics minister. Justice Minister Gintaras Balciunas chose to remain in the cabinet and suspended his membership in the Center Union, which is now fully in opposition, ELTA reported. The government is scheduled to present its program to the parliament on 8 November. A vote is take place within a week. MH

POLISH COALITION AGREES ON PRO-FAMILY TAX RELIEF

Freedom Union (UW) head Leszek Balcerowicz and Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) leader Marian Krzaklewski agreed on 5 November to grant tax relief to the lowest-income families, PAP reported. The agreement paves the way for submitting a tax reform bill to the parliament. The aim of that reform is to reduce and change the current system of three income tax brackets of 19 percent, 29 percent, and 36 percent to one composed of two brackets of 18 percent and 28 percent in 2002. While the UW is pushing for reductions in income and corporate taxes, the AWS stresses the need for tax preferences for those who have both the lowest income and at least two children. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance and Peasant Party have criticized the Balcerowicz-proposed plan to reduce taxes for people with high incomes. JM

CEI TO TAKE ACTIVE PART IN BALKAN STABILITY PACT

Meeting in Prague on 5 and 6 November, the premiers of the Central European Initiative issued a declaration saying the CEI intends to "actively participate" in the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, CTK and BTA reported. The CEI premiers expressed concern over continuing cases of ethnic violence and intolerance in Kosova. They emphasized the high priority of creating conditions for the free, safe, and voluntary return of all refugees to their homes. They noted their "concern" over the situation in the Yugoslav section of River Danube and the urgent necessity of removing from the river debris caused by the NATO bombings. And they called for the "prompt start" of EU accession talks with Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia." The CEI is composed 16 Western and Eastern European countries. MS.

SUSPECT IN SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON ABDUCTION TURNS HIMSELF IN

Lubos Kosic, one of three suspects in the 1995 abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son, surrendered to the police on 5 November, SITA reported. The two other suspects, Martin Liesovsky and Miroslav Segita, had turned themselves in on 19 October, one day after Slovak police launched a national search for the three men. None of the suspects worked for the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), but the operation was led by a former SIS agent known as "Michal H, " who was detained in June after former SIS official Jaroslav Svechota gave testimony on the abduction. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION 'MOVEMENT' TO BECOME 'PARTY'

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) intends to transform itself into a political party at a HZDS congress in March 2000, CTK and SITA reported. Former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told a meeting of the HZDS leadership in Piestany on 6 November that the new party will be based "on four pillars--Christian, national, civic, and social." He said that as a party, the HZDS will be able to provide Slovakia's citizens with "a vision" for solving society's problems. Meciar harshly criticized Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet, saying that after one year, its performance has exceeded "the gloomiest vision painted by the HZDS" after last year's parliamentary elections. MS

HUNGARIAN COURT REINSTATES DISMISSED HEALTH FUND HEAD

The Budapest Metropolitan Court on 5 November ruled that the dismissal of Agnes Cser, former director-general of the National Health Insurance Fund was unlawful, Hungarian media report. The court ordered that she be reinstated. Cser was dismissed in July 1998, shortly after the new government took office. According to the court ruling, she was not offered a suitable post after her dismissal, despite the fact that such a post could have been offered her at some 150 state organizations. MSZ




KOSOVARS REBURY MASSACRE VICTIMS

Several hundred ethnic Albanians attended a reburial ceremony on 7 November for 46 people killed by Serbian forces in Stutica in April. The village, which is in the Drenica region west of Prishtina, was a stronghold of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). PM

KOSOVA SERBS MEET WITH RUSSIAN ENVOY

Father Sava, who is the spokesman for Kosovar Serb leader Archbishop Artemije, told visiting Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov that Kosova "is exposed to severe ethnic cleansing [and] to extreme ethnic discrimination, not only against Serbs but against all Slav-speaking people." Father Sava added that ethnic Albanian extremists also discriminate against other Albanians who do not hold nationalist views, AP reported on 7 November. Momcilo Trajkovic, who heads the Serbian National Council's Executive Board, told the Russian visitor that KFOR and the province's UN-backed administration have, in effect, become instruments of the Albanian nationalists. Lavrov also met with representatives of the Serbian government. PM

KFOR TO STAY FOR UP TO 10 YEARS?

Daan Everts, who is the OSCE's chief representative in Kosova, told a Dutch television station in The Hague on 7 November that peacekeepers will probably be needed in Kosova for up to another 10 years. He condemned increasing attacks on the Serbian and Roma minorities in the province. Everts also slammed what he called attempts to partition Kosova into northern and southern halves, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

WHO TRIED TO BLOW UP KOSOVA RAILWAY BRIDGE?

Unknown persons used up to 50 kilograms of explosives to damage a railway bridge near the divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica on 5 November. It is unclear who planted the charge, nor is it clear whether they intended to blow up a passenger train en route from Serbia or simply to damage the bridge, Reuters reported. UN spokesmen called the blast an act of sabotage. Spokesmen for local Serbs charged that ethnic Albanian nationalists set off the explosion. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT GETS WASHINGTON'S BACKING

Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 7 November that he is pleased with the results of his recent trip to the U.S. Djukanovic stressed that he received pledges of $40 million in financial support so that he can carry out key reform projects, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. He added that his hosts endorsed his recent introduction of the German mark as legal tender alongside the Yugoslav dinar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). PM

MONTENEGRO TAKES MEASURES FOR ECONOMIC STABILITY

Economics Minister Vojin Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 5 November that his country is moving toward a "single currency system, which means that the [Yugoslav] dinar may be taken out of circulation," Reuters reported. The following day, the monetary council decided to limit payments in dinars from Serbia to Montenegro to prevent the authorities in Belgrade from "undermining Montenegro's monetary stability" by flooding the republic with dinars. PM

FIRST MONTENEGRIN SALARIES PAID IN MARKS

An unspecified number of civil servants received their pay in German marks on 6 November. The previous day, some 34.5 tons of German coins and banknotes arrived from Germany by air in the Croatian port of Dubrovnik. Two trucks with Montenegrin license plates then took the marks across the border into Montenegro, AP reported. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS PLEASED WITH U.S. VISIT

Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 5 November that he and several fellow opposition leaders "achieved every point" on their agenda during their recent visit to Washington, AP reported. He noted that he and his colleagues received pledges of $1 billion in aid for Serbia once democratic changes take place there. PM

MYSTERY DEATH OF SERBIAN OPPOSITION FIGURE

In Belgrade on 6 November, Djindjic demanded that the authorities "conduct a detailed investigation" into the recent death of his aide Branko Vasiljevic. Djindjic noted that the dead man's "only business was politics," AP reported. Police officials previously said that they are treating the case as suicide. Vasiljevic was shot in the back of the head. PM

SERBIAN STUDENTS CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF CLASSES

Vukasin Petrovic, who heads the Otpor (Resistance) student movement, said in Belgrade on 7 November that his organization will hold a large protest on 9 November. He added that Otpor's goal is to launch a boycott of classes by all university students with the aim of bringing down the government. Petrovic said that his group will stage joint protests with other opposition organizations only if the demonstrations are endorsed by all opposition parties. In Nis, representatives of Otpor signed a joint declaration with several opposition parties. Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement did not endorse the document. PM

TUDJMAN GIVES GO-AHEAD TO CROATIAN ELECTIONS

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman issued a document from his Zagreb hospital bed on 6 November announcing that parliamentary elections will take place on 22 December. The previous day, the upper house of the legislature endorsed new electoral legislation (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 November 1999). The Croatian government, for its part, rejected EU criticism of the electoral law. PM

SPECULATION CONTINUES OVER TUDJMAN'S HEALTH

Tudjman's doctors said in a statement on 6 November that the Croatian president remains under intensive care following recent emergency surgery for what was officially described as a perforated large intestine. The doctors previously said that the president is suffering from complications. Tudjman is widely believed to have been suffering from cancer for at least two years. Zagreb's independent "Jutarnji list" wrote on 8 November that the authorities have not informed the public very well about Tudjman's condition. As a result, speculation about his health and its impact on his political future has been rife, the daily noted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). PM

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT WINS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

Prime Minister Ilir Meta's new cabinet won a vote of confidence in the parliament on 5 November. Meta told legislators that his approach in governing will be pragmatic and that he will continue the fight against corruption and crime. Six legislators from the opposition Democratic Party defied party leader Sali Berisha's call for a boycott and attended the session. Berisha demands new elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). PM

ROMANIAN WORKERS RAID OFFICE OF BRASOV PREFECTURE

Thousands of workers from the state-owned Roman truckmaker in Brasov raided the building of the local prefecture on 5 November to protest layoffs and unfulfilled promises of wage increases, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brasov reported. Some 1,800 employees of the company, which has large debts, have been made redundant, while another 2,600 are to be laid off next year. Owing to the company's poor performance, a June 1999 agreement with the government providing for a 15 percent wage hike in October and November has not been implemented. The Brasov mayor has banned any further demonstrations. Seventeen policemen were injured in the riots. A team from the Bucharest Prosecutor General's Office has opened an investigation into the incident. So far one person has been arrested and 20 detained for questioning. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER VISITS RFE/RL HEADQUARTERS

Radu Vasile, who attended the CEI summit in Prague (see above), said on 6 November that the meeting's most important result from a Romanian perspective was the consensus reached on the need to remove debris from the River Danube and reopen it for navigation. Vasile made the comment during a visit to RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. He said he wanted to "pay his respects" to RFE/RL for its work in the past as well as in the present. MS

ROMANIAN MINORITIES MINISTER PROTESTS PLANNED ANTONESCU STATUE

Peter Eckstein Kovacs said he learned "with indignation" about the decision of the Cluj city council to erect a statue commemorating wartime leader and convicted war criminal Marshal Ion Antonescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 1999). In a facsimile dated 2 November, a copy of which was obtained by RFE/RL, Eckstein Kovacs said the decision is "an insult" to the memory of Jews and Roma killed or persecuted under Antonescu's rule "solely" on grounds of their ethnicity or nationality. He appealed to the city council to reconsider its decision, saying that "otherwise" he will demand that the "responsible state authorities" annul it for violating several laws. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT ABOUT TO BE DISMISSED

A 5 November no confidence motion backed by a majority of 52 deputies is likely to trigger the government's dismissal when the legislature meets again on 9 November, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The motion was supported by the Communists, the Popular Front, and five independent deputies who had recently left the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc. Also on 5 November, the parliament again rejected the government's bill to privatize Moldova's two main industries--wine and tobacco. IMF representative to Chisinau Hassan Al-Atrash said the decision means the fund will now freeze loans to Moldova. He said the World Bank and the EU are likely to follow the IMF, meaning that Moldova will forfeit some $150 million in loans next year. MS

CEI TO SEND MISSION TO MOLDOVA

The CEI summit in Prague on 6 November approved a proposal by Czech President Vaclav Havel, whose country holds the organization's rotating chairmanship, to send a fact-finding mission to Moldova, CTK reported. The mission is to explore possibilities for a peaceful solution of the conflict with the separatist authorities in Tiraspol and for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country. On 7 November, separatist leader Igor Smirnov met with Premier Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the conflict with Chisinau and the proposed withdrawal from the Transdniester of the Russian contingent, Romanian radio reported. MS

BULGARIA, ROMANIA FAIL TO AGREE ON RIVER DANUBE BRIDGE

Meeting in Borovets on 5 November, Presidents Petar Stoyanov and Emil Constantinescu again failed to reach agreement over the location of a second bridge over the River Danube, BTA reported. Constantinescu said the meeting was "not confrontational" and that Romania would be willing to consider an option whereby the country disadvantaged by the location of the bridge would receive compensation from the EU. Romanian Premier Radu Vasile, speaking in Bucharest the same day, said that compensation could come in the form of "free of charge or token price" transit of Romanian electricity deliveries to Greece and Turkey via Bulgaria. Reflecting the irritation of Bulgarians at Romania's position, the Bulgarian daily "Demokratsiya" on 6 November ran the headline "Let Us Build a Bridge Over, or a Tunnel Under, Romania." MS




RUSSIAN ECONOMY IMPROVING WHILE MOSCOW REMAINS STUBBORN


by Sophie Lambroschini

The IMF delegation arriving in Moscow on 8 November will seek to determine the extent of Russia's progress in making its financial transactions easily traceable or what economists call "transparent."

The world lending institution has set conditions that Russia must meet in order to receive the second installment, worth $640 million, of a $4.5 billion loan. The IMF released the first installment in July, but the second one was frozen in September after several financial scandals suggested possible misuse of previous loans.

The conditions include tighter spending policy, regular audits of the Russian Central Bank's dealings with its affiliated structures in other countries, an audit of the Russian Savings Bank, and the adoption of international accounting standards.

According to Russian media reports, Russian authorities have balked at these new conditions. Aleksandr Livshits, the Russian minister responsible for relations with international financial organizations, complained last month that the West is imposing higher standards of transparency on Russia than it is applying to itself.

Russia's relations with the fund have been increasingly strained over the past several months amid allegations that the country has misused earlier loans and increased its military budget to finance the war in Chechnya.

But Russian authorities express optimism that they will receive the installment. And they also express a stiff-necked determination to continue their economic policies, despite IMF criticism.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced at a cabinet meeting last week that positive economic trends are continuing: GDP growth totaled 1.8 percent in the third quarter of 1999, inflation is under control, and tax revenues are higher than expected. All these indicators are plus points for a country struggling to emerge from the economic crisis of 1998.

John Paul Smith is a London-based expert in emerging markets with the investment firm Morgan Stanley. In a presentation to investors last week, he was guardedly optimistic about the Russian economy, saying "there is a clear potential for a shift to more positive factors." He noted that the economic situation is better than anyone could have predicted.

Smith attributed this to a pick-up in industrial production and the rise in global oil prices. He added that there has been an improvement in the fiscal situation owing to small-scale reform in collecting taxes.

Smith warned, however, that Russian policymakers should not interpret this improvement as the start of an overall economic regeneration. He said the rise in industrial production is mainly owing to the devaluation of the ruble and the resulting cheapness of Russian goods on world markets.

Smith also noted that Russia should build on the benefits of the devaluation by implementing further economic reforms. He warned that if the federal government increases expenditures too much, these advantages might be squandered.

This is precisely what the IMF is worried about. A tough budgetary policy was one of the IMF's conditions for releasing the loan installment. But budgetary restraint is one of Russia's main "little sins," as the finance minister puts it.

Last month, Russia increased its military budget to fund the war in Chechnya, triggering complaints from the IMF. Russia argued that the Chechen war is being financed by the extra revenues collected. And this month, the State Duma approved an extra $6 billion rubles on spending. The government said it has to accept the increase to get the budget past the leftist-dominated Duma.

So far, these explanations have not convinced the IMF. Russian officials are suspecting the West of using financial blackmail to force Moscow to compromise on Chechnya. Putin, for his part, has said that Russia will not sacrifice its national interests for what he called "financial lollipops."

Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, who is also a former prime minister and former Russian contact person for the international financial organizations, has tried to defuse these tensions.

"In the list of conditions it is not written that the Bank of New York will not work with Russian importers," he commented at a press conference in Moscow last week. 'In the list of conditions it does not say that Russia should not fight terrorism in Chechnya. I am categorically against pulling the IMF into semi-political decisions on that [issue]. If this does not happen, if the IMF fulfills its obligations, if Russia fulfills its obligations in regard to its interest, then there is a real chance of solving the problem [of releasing the second loan installment] by early December.

But even if the second installment of the loan is released, it will not provide Russia with any cash. The loan would be used exclusively to repay Russia's debt to the fund, bypassing Russian institutions completely and ending up back in IMF coffers. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


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