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Newsline - November 18, 1999




YELTSIN REJECTS CRITICISM OVER CHECHNYA...

Asserting that "we are Europeans," Russian President Boris Yeltsin said in Istanbul on 18 November that Western countries have "no right to criticize Russia for Chechnya," ITAR-TASS reported. "Both Russia and other OSCE member states need today a respectful dialogue instead of reproaches and preaching," he argued. Yeltsin also called for the signing of the new European Security Charter and said that Russia is ready for "joint work" to overcome what he called "international terrorism." The Russian delegation then returned to Moscow. PG

...HOPES FOR 'COMMON SENSE' AT OSCE SUMMIT

The previous day, Yeltsin had said he hoped for "common sense" to prevail at the OSCE summit in Istanbul. Noting that his mission to Istanbul would not be easy, he said he was going there "in a good business-like mood," Interfax reported on 17 November. Meanwhile, Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov said that he had high hopes that the European Security Charter would be signed at Istanbul, Russian agencies said. But Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the Federation Council's Security and Defense Committee told ITAR-TASS that the Istanbul summit might not go as well. He said the meeting would serve as a "litmus test for Russia's ties with NATO in the 21st century." If NATO countries stick to their current positions, he said, one can envisage "'a cold winter' if not the Cold War with all the ensuring consequences." PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY SEES NO RETURN TO COLD WAR...

Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev, meanwhile, told Interfax on 17 November that Moscow does not expect a return to the Cold War, despite recent disagreements between Russia and the West over Chechnya and other issues. He "categorically [denied] any alleged anti-U.S. direction in our politics" but said Moscow "does not accept and openly opposes" the West's efforts "aimed at a unipolar world, at the dissolution of separate but extremely important principles and norms of international law." PG

...BUT RUSSIA SEEN MOVING TOWARD 'SELF-ISOLATION'

Igor Malashenko, the deputy chairman of Media MOST holding company, told Ekho Moskvy on 17 November that "today things are advancing to the self-isolation of Russia." He said that certain groups in Russia are interested in promoting this isolation because "they have not learned to play according to the rules of the West, beginning with settling conflicts such as in Chechnya and ending with election organization and attitude to the media." And he concluded "the West is a devilish hindrance to them. They want to create in Russia a regime that could function without minding the West and then their interests would be guaranteed." PG

UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES HOLDS TALKS ON CHECHEN SITUATION IN MOSCOW

Sadako Ogata met in Moscow on 17 November with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Ivanov, Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu and Chechen Mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin told Ogata that Russia does not object to international humanitarian aid to alleviate the plight of civilian displaced persons from Chechnya. Ivanov expressed the hope that Ogata's 18 November trip to Ingushetia and the "liberated" districts of Chechnya will result in a better understanding by the international community of the situation in the North Caucasus. Both at his meeting with Ogata and at a press conference in Istanbul later that day, Shoigu again denied that Russian military action in Chechnya has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe. LF

SECOND UN OFFICIAL DENIED PERMISSION TO VISIT NORTH CAUCASUS

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 17 November accusing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson of misunderstanding the situation in Chechnya, Interfax reported. On 16 November, Robinson had said she believes the Russian incursion into Chechnya has resulted in serious human rights violations. The statement pointed out that Robinson did not condemn as human rights violations instances of hostage-takings, slave trading, torture, and murder by Chechen militants or the bombings of apartment houses in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buinaksk. Russian officials blame Chechen terrorists for those bombings but have produced no evidence to substantiate those accusations. The Foreign Ministry statement concluded that Moscow sees no need to grant Robinson permission to visit the North Caucasus. LF

RUSSIAN ADVANCE CONTINUES

Russian forces continued their aerial and artillery bombardment of Urus Martan and surrounding villages southwest of Grozny on 17 November, killing 11 people and wounding 18, AP reported. But in Moscow, Air Force commander Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov again insisted that Russian planes meticulously target only Chechen guerrillas, not civilians, according to ITAR-TASS. Also in Moscow, First Deputy Chief of the Russian Army General Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov said that the Russian forces will continue to pressure the population of Chechen towns and villages to force the Chechen defenders to leave, according to Interfax. LF

RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS BOMB GEORGIAN TERRITORY...

Three Russian military helicopters entered Georgian airspace on 17 November and bombed the village of Shatili, close to Georgia's frontier with Chechnya. No damage or injuries were reported. Georgia's ambassador in Moscow, Malkhaz Kakabadze, delivered a formal protest note to the Russian Foreign Ministry the same day. Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze said the bombing was "inadmissible" and a violation of international law and common sense, according to Caucasus Press. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in Istanbul that the attack was "a provocation," Reuters reported. Shatili is close to the Argun River valley, which Russian officials have repeatedly claimed is the route taken to transport arms and mercenaries into Chechnya from Georgia. LF

...WHILE RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DENY BOMBING

Speaking in Moscow on 17 November, Prime Minister Putin admitted that "there was a violation of the air border" but said he did not know the details, AP reported, citing Interfax. Russian military spokesmen on 17 November said that the helicopters targeted a Chechen guerrilla base 5 kilometers north of the border but denied that they crossed into Georgian air space. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman on 18 November denied that Russian helicopters dropped the bombs, Reuters reported. He described the Georgian charges as malicious disinformation aimed at complicating relations between Russia and Georgia and misleading world opinion over the action of Russian troops in Chechnya. He said the Russian helicopters were carrying out combat reconnaissance of a section of road on Russian territory leading from Itum-Kale to the Russian-Georgian state border. LF

RUSSIAN NAVY STAGES THIRD TEST MISSILE LAUNCH THIS MONTH

A Russian submarine in the Barents Seat launched two missiles that successfully hit their targets on the Kamchatka Peninsula, AP reported on 17 November. It was the third missile test this month. Meanwhile, Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, told ITAR-TASS on 17 November that a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system would not save the U.S. "even from limited nuclear strikes." Another defense official said Russia would not put back into operation the Krasnoyarsk radar site, regardless of what the U.S. does. And Sergei Rogov, the director of the Institute of U.S. and Canada Studies in Moscow, said that Russia should not sign the adapted Conventional Forces in Europe treaty at the OSCE summit. "There are serious reasons not to hurry," Rogov said in an article entitled "The West is Reviving the Cold War" published in the 17 November "Nezavisimaya gazeta." PG

YELTSIN CALLS FOR RATIFICATION OF TEST BAN TREATY

Following a meeting with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel in Istanbul on 17 November, Yeltsin said he hopes the State Duma will ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "in the near future," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that in this way, "Russia is thus making a concrete contribution to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime and strategic stability in the world." Asked about his meeting with the Turkish leader, Yeltsin replied that "the discussion was held in a good, offensive tone on the part of Russia." PG

DUMA BACKS PUTIN OVER CHECHEN OPERATION

By a vote of 49 to one with one abstention, the State Duma approved a resolution proposed by Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia supporting the Russian government's actions in the North Caucasus, Interfax reported on 17 November. The resolution calls on the government "to take necessary measures for the speedy disarmament of gangs" and urges the Foreign Ministry to prevent foreign governments from financing the Chechen militants. PG

RUSSIA DISCUSSES EXPANDED NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH IRAN

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and Iranian Vice President for Atomic Energy Qolam Reza Aqazadeh- Khoi have met in Moscow to discuss Russian-Iranian cooperation in the nuclear power area, Interfax reported on 17 November. PG

MOSCOW CITY TIGHTENS SECURITY AROUND UTILITIES

In preparation for possible Chechen attacks, the Moscow city government has called for increased security around public utilities, Interfax reported on 17 November. In addition, close cooperation will continue between the city's police force and a group known as "Regime-Arsenal," which is responsible for preventing gun and explosive-related crimes. Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told ITAR-TASS that the police are seeking to combat what he called an unfavorable trading situation in city markets caused by the "tone" set by "people from the Caucasus." PG

PRIMAKOV PRAISES PUTIN, WORRIES ABOUT NATIONALISM

Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, the leader of the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, told ITAR-TASS on 17 November that he regards Prime Minister Putin "as a worthy figure" but has not decided whether he will support him for president. In other comments reported by Interfax, Primakov said he backs Putin's campaign in Chechnya but is worried that a growing anti-Chechen mood may let "the genie of nationalism" out of the multiethnic Russian bottle, which he said would be "extremely dangerous." He also said that "fanning anti- Western sentiment" in Russia is a problem, as is the "anti- Russian campaign launched by the West over Chechnya." PG

U.S. JEWISH GROUPS CONDEMN ANTI-SEMITISM ON RUSSIAN TV

The National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on 17 November condemned a Russian Public Television report four days earlier that had characterized the Russian Jewish community as a "fifth column" working for and financed by the West. In a press release, conference chairman Ronald S. Lauder said "we had hoped this kind of attack was relegated to the past." PG

MINISTRY TO BE ABLE TO INCREASE CONTROL OVER PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS

The Justice Ministry has prepared a draft law that will enable it to increase its control over public associations, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 November. The new bill, if approved, would allow the ministry to unilaterally cancel the registration of public associations if they are deemed to have violated the law. The ministry would not need to give those associations any warnings. At present, the ministry is required to give two warnings, which Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said is slowing down law enforcement efforts. But he said groups that lost their registration under the new provision could appeal to the courts. In another comment, Chaika said that he had never accused the Spas movement of propagating fascist ideology. "I did not mention Spas. I just said that persons sharing fascist ideology cannot enter representative bodies of power." PG

RUSSIAN GRAIN HARVEST UP FROM LAST YEAR

As of 1 November, Russia had harvested 57.8 million tons of grain, up from 51.9 million tons at the same time one year ago, the Russian Statistics Agency told Interfax on 17 November. PG

DEBT REDUCTION TALKS WITH WEST STALL

Russia has not yet persuaded Western creditors to forgive it $12 billion in debt, AP reported on 17 September. Following 12 hours of discussions in Germany, Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the discussions are "complicated," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

COMMISSION FOR TIES WITH WESTERN FINANCIAL GROUPS NAMED

The Russian government on 17 November approved the lineup of the Inter-Departmental Commission for Ties with International financial and Economic Organizations, ITAR-TASS reported. Headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, the commission also includes the finance minister, the economics minister, the chairman of the Russian Central Bank, and other officials. PG

MORE CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST SHUTOV

The St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office has brought another four charges against Yurii Shutov, a deputy of the local legislature who earlier this week was arrested in a courtroom just minutes after being released on bail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1999). "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 November that Shutov has now been accused of involvement in four robberies with assault. Earlier, he was charged with the organization of eight contract murders and one attempted murder. Shutov is registered to run from St. Petersburg in the 19 December State Duma elections. JC

TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT DENIES ELECTIONS WILL BE BROUGHT FORWARD

Mintimer Shaimiev on 17 November denied Russian media reports that the Tatarstan presidential elections scheduled for March 2001 will be held at the same time as the June 2000 Russian presidential elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). Shaimiev said it is up to the parliament of the Tatarstan Republic to set the date for the poll. He added that "elections will be held according to the republic's constitution, but I would not make guesses who would run for the office and for what term." Shaimiev is currently serving his second presidential term, but the republic's constitution sets no limits on the number of terms one individual can serve. LF

VLADIVOSTOK COURT HEARS CASE AGAINST U.S. DIPLOMAT

A district court in Vladivostok on 17 November heard an appeal by the city prosecutor calling for U.S. Consul General Douglas Kent to pay compensation for allegedly damaging the health of a Russian citizen, Interfax reported. The prosecutor said diplomatic immunity should not apply for what he called a traffic accident. Kent is no longer in Vladivostok. He has been reassigned to the U.S. consulate in Kosova. PG




ARMENIAN, TURKISH PRESIDENTS MEET

Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, met for 30 minutes in Istanbul on 17 November, on the eve of the OSCE summit a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Demirel said after the talks that the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries is contingent on resolving the Karabakh conflict. He added that reaching such a settlement depends not only on Armenia but also on Azerbaijan. Turkey will do its best to bring about such a settlement, he noted. Demirel also said that at present Turkey is not considering routing an oil pipeline via Armenian territory, but he did not exclude that possibility in the future. LF

AZERBAIJAN WILL NOT PUSH FOR LARGER CFE QUOTA

President Heidar Aliyev said in Baku on 17 November before departing for the OSCE summit in Istanbul that Azerbaijan will not demand an increase in the quota of arms it is permitted under the revised CFE treaty, according to Reuters. Aliyev said that if Baku were to do so, "it would mean a corresponding increase in Russia's quota in the Caucasus region." The previous day, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev had argued that as individual countries' quotas are proportional to the size of their territory and population, Azerbaijan should be entitled to almost double Armenia's quota, according to Interfax. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT PARDONS FOUR ISLAMISTS

President Aliyev on 17 November issued a decree pardoning four leading members of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan who had been convicted in April 1997 of espionage on behalf of Iran, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 1997). In May 1998 Aliyev had rejected a plea for clemency for three of those four men on the grounds that they "pose a threat to society." LF

GEORGIA'S LABOR PARTY TO APPEAL ELECTION RESULTS IN INTERNATIONAL COURT

Georgia's Supreme Court on 18 November rejected an appeal by the Labor Party to review the official returns from the 31 October parliamentary elections, according to which that party failed to garner the 7 percent minimum of the vote required for parliamentary representation, Caucasus Press reported. Natelashvili said that verdict indicates that the court is not objective. He had earlier claimed that the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia had "appropriated" 700,000 votes cast for his party. He predicted that "the injustice will drive people out on the street to demand President Shevardnadze's resignation," adding that he will take his case to the International Court in The Hague. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT SESSION ADJOURNED

After parliamentary deputies once again rejected as unrealistic the government's draft budget for 2000, the lower house of the parliament adjourned on 17 November until next month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Some deputies argued that the envisaged increase in tax revenues could throttle the development of the country's industry, according to Interfax. Deputies had rejected the budget in the first reading on 15 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1999). LF

EU CRITICIZES TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION...

In a statement issued in Helsinki on 17 November, the EU termed the 6 November presidential poll "not compatible with democratic principles and values," Reuters reported. "The EU does not see any progress in the democratic development of Tajikistan if basic rules of civil society are not respected but even violated," the statement continued. Incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov received 96 percent of the vote in that poll against opposition candidate Davlat Usmon. Usmon denied his registration as a candidate was legal as he had failed to collect the required 145,000 signatures in his support. The EU statement called for unspecified measures to ensure that the upcoming parliamentary poll is free and fair. LF

...AS PREPARATIONS ON TRACK FOR PARLIAMENTARY POLL

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 November quoted Tajik presidential adviser Khalifabobo Khamidov as saying that the Commission for National Reconciliation is trying to reconcile recommendations from both the government and the opposition concerning the country's future electoral system. Khamidov said that the commission hopes to resolve the remaining disagreements over 12 articles of the draft election law by 20 November. That deadline was specified in a protocol signed on the eve of the presidential poll by Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). The government proposes that the upper house have 35 deputies and the lower chamber 55, whereas the opposition advocates 45 and 91, respectively, according to Asia Plus-Blitz on 18 November. LF




BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO ELECTION CODE

The Chamber of Representatives on 17 November passed in the first reading an election code that Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna described as securing "the equality of candidates irrespective of their material situation and official status," Interfax reported. Belarusian lawmakers, however, rejected many amendments to the code submitted by the Minsk OSCE mission. The Belarusian opposition, for its part, submitted no proposals, saying it is waiting for OSCE-mediated talks with the authorities on free parliamentary elections in 2000 to begin. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported that the second reading of the code will likely be postponed until the spring. An RFE/RL Minsk correspondent said it is rumored that the authorities want to hold parliamentary elections in the fall of 2000, after Russia has elected a new president. JM

BELARUSIAN BUSINESSMEN URGED TO MAKE DONATIONS FOR GRAIN IMPORTS

Three Minsk organizations of entrepreneurs have called on local business-people to donate money to the city authorities for grain imports, Belapan reported on 17 November. The organizers of the money-raising campaign note that this year's poor harvest has caused "difficulties in supplying Minsk residents with bread products." They point out that the campaign "will improve the image of entrepreneurs and uphold the traditions of charity and patronage." In a widely quoted statement, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka once called private businessmen and entrepreneurs in Belarus "lousy fleas." JM

UKRAINE'S KUCHMA PROPOSES FREE-TRADE ZONE IN BLACK SEA REGION

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma addressed a 17 November informal summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSECO), which took place shortly before the OSCE summit in Istanbul, Interfax reported. Kuchma suggested that the creation of a free-trade zone in the region could give a "powerful impetus" to regional cooperation. He also noted that increased cooperation with the EU and membership in that organization is an "objective necessity for most members" of the BSECO. "We should synchronize to the maximum extent our actions with the EU, primarily in the economic sphere, and pool our efforts in order to prevent the appearance of new dividing lines on the Continent," he said. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PROPOSES PARLIAMENTARY COALITION LINEUP

Valeriy Pustovoytenko on 17 November said a parliamentary pro-government majority can be set up with the participation of the Green Party, the Social Democratic Party (United), the two factions of the Popular Rukh, the Popular Democratic Party, the Rebirth of Regions group, the Labor Ukraine group, the Reform-Congress group, the Independents group, and non- aligned deputies. Kuchma's inauguration as president for a second term will take place on 30 November. According to Ukraine's Constitution, the old cabinet must resign immediately after the president's inauguration. The president appoints a new prime minister, who must be approved by at least 226 parliamentary deputies. The Popular Democratic Party on 17 November proposed its leader, current Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko, as head of a new cabinet. JM

TALLINN TAKES LARGE LOAN FROM HANSAPANK

Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois on 18 November signed an agreement for a 130 million kroon ($8.65 million) credit line with Hansapank. Mois stressed that Tallinn may not need the entire amount and that the loan may end up being much smaller, BNS reported. The move is controversial, as the previous city government, which was controlled by the opposition, was banned by the Finance Ministry from taking a similar loan from Hansapank. The composition of the current Tallinn City Government is similar to that of the ruling national coalition. Juri Mois, before entering politics, was a founder and chief executive officer of Hansapank. MH

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" on 15 November reported that for a referendum to be valid, 50 percent of all registered voters must cast their ballot. In fact, under Latvian law, turnout must exceed 50 percent of the number of people who voted at the previous general election. Final turnout at the 13 November referendum on changes to the pension law was 339,879 voters, which is equal to 32.25 percent of the turnout at the last general election and 25 percent of all eligible voters.

LITHUANIA PLACES JOB RESTRICTIONS ON 87 FORMER KGB OPERATIVES

Lithuania has so far placed employment restrictions on 87 people who had ties to the former KGB, ELTA reported on 17 November. The lustration law, passed in 1998 and amended in 1999, restricts former KGB operatives from working in legally defined sensitive jobs in both the public and private sectors. Dalia Kuodyte, the head of the Lithuanian Citizens' Genocide and Resistance Center, said that since the enactment of such restrictions, there have been 303 investigations. Kuodyte added that of the 20 individuals who appealed the ban, five were successful. The law is enforced by the State Security Department, which works in conjunction with the Genocide and Resistance Center. MH

POLISH CENTRAL BANK RAISES INTEREST RATES TO CURB INFLATION

Poland's National Bank on 17 November increased three key interest rates in a bid to curb a recent rise in inflation, PAP reported. National Bank Chairwoman Hanna Gronkiewicz- Waltz said the bank's intervention rate (on loans of up to 28 days) will increase from 16.5 percent from 14 percent, its Lombard rate to 20.5 percent from 17 percent, and its discount rate to 19 percent from 15.5 percent. According to bank officials quoted by AP, the increase means that this year's inflation target of 6.6-7.8 percent will be exceeded. Last year, inflation stood at 8.6 percent. JM

POLAND'S LUSTRATION COURT SAYS SENATOR WAS SECRET SERVICE AGENT

The Lustration Court on 17 November ruled that Senator Jerzy Mokrzycki, who represents the Democratic Left Alliance in Poland's upper house, lied in his lustration statement, adding that "he was a deliberate and secret collaborator of the [Communist-era] security bodies," PAP reported. Mokrzycki is the first politician in Poland to be found guilty of a so- called lustration lie. "This is a politically motivated verdict," Mokrzycki commented, adding that he will appeal. The court ruled the same day that Jacek Hofman, a Warsaw lawyer, was also a collaborator of the communist-era secret services and lied in his lustration statement. JM

CZECH, SLOVAK REPUBLICS MARK ANNIVERSARY

Thousands of people marked the 10th anniversary of the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia by attending various ceremonies or gatherings on the main squares of Prague, Bratislava, and smaller cities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Czech and Slovak media reported. In Prague, a group of former student leaders who demonstrated against the regime in 1989 led a march of several hundred demonstrators from Wenceslas Square to the Prague Castle. They read out a statement calling on the leaders of the main Czech political parties to resign, saying the country's politicians are no longer receptive to the needs of the people. In Slovakia, a group of former political prisoners and politicians attended a ceremony in one of Bratislava's cemeteries to pay tribute to the victims of communism. VG

MILOSEVIC RECEIVES DELEGATION FROM MECIAR'S PARTY

A delegation of deputies from former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) met in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, CTK reported on 17 November. HZDS spokesman Marian Kardos said the meeting was not planned and that the delegation was in Serbia at the invitation of the local ethnic Slovak community. He said the HZDS deputies asked Milosevic to "increase support" for the Slovak minority in the Vojvodina province of Serbia. However, Tanjug reported that the meeting was aimed at developing "relations" between Meciar and Milosevic's parties. Meciar recently said he is thinking of inviting Milosevic to Slovakia, CTK reported. VG

OECD REPORT PREDICTS GROWTH IN SLOVAKIA

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that the Slovak economy will grow in the next two years if the country sticks to structural reforms, TASR reported on 17 November. According to a report released the same day, the OECD projects GDP growth of 2 percent in both 1999 and 2000 and 3 percent in 2001. It also predicts inflation will fall from 13 percent in 1999 to 7 percent in 2001. The organization noted that Slovakia will benefit from export markets in Western Europe. In other news, the Slovak government on 17 November released some 42 million crowns (some $1 million) in 1999 university funds that had been frozen. The government also said that all schools would be exempt from spending freezes for the 1999-2000 academic year. The news came as elementary and secondary schools teachers staged a one-hour strike on 17 November to protest education sector budget cuts. VG

STATUS OF ETHNIC HUNGARIANS TO BE SETTLED IN TWO YEARS

Tibor Szabo, the chairman of the Office for Hungarians Beyond the Borders, said on 17 November that the cabinet intends to resolve the legal status of ethnic Hungarians abroad within two years, Hungarian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the planned bills would grant ethnic Hungarians a status of "more than tourist but less than citizen." He said an amendment to the electoral law that would give voting rights to Hungarians living abroad has no chance of being passed as it would require the support of two-thirds of deputies in the parliament. MSZ




SERBIAN OPPOSITIONISTS PREDICT OPPOSITION GOVERNMENT WILL BE RECOGNIZED

SZP coordinator Vladan Batic said on 17 November that the group's "transition government," led by former World Bank official Dragoslav Avramovic, will soon become the de facto representatives of Yugoslavia in international affairs, AP reported. Batic said he made that statement based on "assurances we have received from the U.S. and the EU, the transitional government will be gaining official verification." Batic said the current government under Milosevic is "incompetent and unable to perform its duties of representing the country." In other news, Dragan Veselinov, the leader of the Vojvodina Coalition, said in the Banja Luka weekly "Nezavisne novine" that Montenegro "has to leave" Yugoslavia and that Vojvodina "will go its own way." He said Belgrade was "pushing Vojvodina into separatism." PB

SERBIAN OPPOSITION GROUP CUTTING BACK ON RALLIES

The opposition movement Alliance of Change (SZP) said on 17 November that it will end its daily street protests and organize a weekly Saturday rally, Reuters reported. The SZP- led rallies calling for the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic took place for 59 straight days but had recently been attracting only a few hundred participants. At the rallies' peak, tens of thousands of people joined in the demonstrations. Vladan Batic, the coordinator of the SZP, said the first Saturday rally will take place on 20 November. Batic said rallies will continue to be held in other Serbian cities, however. PB

YUGOSLAV ARMY RESERVISTS CHARGED WITH WAR CRIMES, ESPIONAGE

Five Yugoslav Army reservists have been charged with crimes against civilians in Kosova and spying for a NATO country, Beta news agency reported, citing the daily "Blic." The daily said the five, who are all Serbs, were arrested on 11 November and brought before a Belgrade judge three days later. The Serbian State Security Service has reportedly filed charges against the accused. The daily said the main defendant is a captain who commanded an army unit in Kosova during the air campaign against Yugoslavia. PB

LOSING CANDIDATE CRIES FOUL AS FINAL RESULTS OF MACEDONIAN POLL RELEASED

Macedonia's electoral commission announced on 17 November that Boris Trajkovski won 52.85 percent of the vote in the 14 November election, compared with 45.94 percent for his rival, Tito Petkovski, Reuters reported. Turnout was 69.9 percent. The commission has to rule on some 249 official complaints of irregularities and fraud by 18 November. If Petkovski's Socialist Democratic Alliance (SDSM) disagrees with the commission's verdict, it can appeal to the Supreme Court. The SDSM has asked for the results to be annulled, alleging that Trajkovski's party and one of the main ethnic Albanian parties committed fraud by tampering with the vote count. International observers have said there were some irregularities but have stopped short of proclaiming they were widespread or changed the result of the election. Mark Almond of the British Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, told the daily "Utrinksi Vesnik" that election rules "were badly violated" in Tetovo and Gostivar. PB

THOUSANDS MOURN MASS GRAVE VICTIMS IN BOSNIA

Several thousand people attended an emotional funeral in the northeastern Bosnian town of Kalesija on 17 November for 264 Muslims exhumed from the largest mass grave yet uncovered in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Reuters reported. The remains were discovered in October 1998 at a village near Glumina, close to the Yugoslav border. Forensic experts say most of the victims were male civilians from Zvornik and had been shot by Serbian forces early in the 1992-1995 war. Nearly one-third of the bodies have not been identified. PB

BOSNIAN MUSLIM LEADER MISSES OSCE SUMMIT

The office of the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina said on 17 November that Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the presidency, will not attend the OSCE summit in Istanbul, SRNA reported. The office said Izetbegovic will attend to "work-related commitments" and that his failure to attend is not related to his visit to the Walter Reed military hospital in Washington late last week. Haris Silajdzic, the co-chairman of Bosnia's Council of Ministers, will be present, along with Croat Ante Jelavic and Serb Zivko Radisic of the presidency. In other news, Jelavic said a decision to ban Erotel TV by the International Media Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1999) is "unacceptable" and "its timing misjudged." PB

OSCE HEAD CALLS ON KOSOVAR ALBANIANS TO END VIOLENCE

Knut Vollebaek, the chairman of the OSCE, urged ethnic Albanians on 18 November to end the escalation of violence in the Serbian province, Reuters reported. in the opening address to the OSCE summit in Istanbul, Vollebaek said the goal of a stable multiethnic Kosova is not close to being realized. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his opening address that building a safe, pluralistic Kosova has been "an appallingly difficult task." Vollebaek added that he hopes Yugoslavia will begin democratic reforms and will end its self-imposed international isolation. PB

DONORS EARMARK MORE THAN $1 BILLION FOR KOSOVA

International donors on 17 November pledged to give more than $1 billion in aid for Kosova over the next year, AP reported. The money was donated at a conference in Brussels sponsored by the EU and the World Bank. A bank official said the total was "in excess of the expectations that we had." The pledges include $970 million for reconstruction and $47 million for projects to support free media and local elections, and $18 million in humanitarian aid. PB

UN TAKES STEP TOWARD CENTRAL BANK FOR KOSOVA

The UN administration in Kosova took steps on 17 November toward setting up a banking system for the province by establishing the Banking and Payments Authority of Kosova (BPK), Reuters reported. The institution will act as a banker to the UN administration and will supervise the banking sector in Kosova. Nick Brentnall, the managing director of the bank, said the BPK will be a "banking system in which the people of Kosovo can place their trust." The bank is expected to be operational by the end of the year. PB

CROATIAN PREMIER VISITS TUDJMAN

Zlatko Matesa said that he visited ailing President Franjo Tudjman in hospital on 17 November, Reuters reported. Matesa said doctors told him Tudjman's condition is stable. The premier said he saw Tudjman "and wished him a speedy recovery." Matesa did not say if Tudjman responded. He gave no further details of his visit. PB

ALBANIAN SAYS CRIMINALS FLED TO KOSOVA

Albanian police said on 17 November that some 40 alleged criminals from Albania are hiding in Kosova, dpa reported. A police spokesman said police have identified "all persons who have committed crimes in Albania and have fled to Kosova." He added that most are wanted for serious crimes, including murder and bank robbery. Some are alleged to have taken part in violent attacks against government and public buildings during street riots in spring 1997 and September 1998. Albanian newspapers reported the same day that Jaho Salihi, a policeman suspected of involvement in the murder of opposition deputy Azem Hajdari recently fled to Kosova. PB

ROMANIAN PREMIER AGREES TO REASSESS SALE OF PETROTUB

Prime Minister Radu Vasile announced on 17 November that he will appoint a committee to reassess the sale of a 70 percent stake in the Petrotub steel pipe manufacturer to a Gibraltar- based company, Mediafax reported. Petrotub's employees have been protesting the sale of the company to Tubman International Ltd. for the past week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 1999). VG

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY HEADING IN RIGHT DIRECTION

Emil Constantinescu on 17 November said the current wave of discontent in the country has nothing to do with the political and economic direction in which Romania is heading but rather with the speed of its evolution, Romanian radio reported. A series of protests by workers, students, and other groups has taken place across the country in recent weeks. Constantinescu said the population's discontent is "correct and real" since prices have been rising faster than incomes. He said his greatest shortcoming in his three years as president was his failure to communicate adequately with the Romanian people. He called for the development of a culture of fighting against corruption. VG

MOST ROMANIANS BELIEVE 'REVOLUTION HAS SUCCEEDED'

A total of 62 percent of Romanians say the revolution of 1989 has succeeded so far, while 27 percent believe it has failed, according to a poll cited by Mediafax on 17 November. However, respondents to the poll, which was conducted by the Center for Urban and Regional Sociology, were divided on how to describe what happened in 1989 in Romania. While 41 percent describe it as a "revolution," 36 percent say it was a coup and 19 percent say they don't know. VG

BALKAN CRIME FIGHTING CENTER OPENS IN BUCHAREST

The Southeast European Cooperation Initiative (SECI) formally opened its headquarters in Bucharest on 16 November, Reuters reported. The center will coordinate information from its 10 member states to facilitate the regional fight against organized crime. The U.S.-sponsored SECI comprises Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Turkey, and Romania. SECI President Richard Schifter said the U.S. will contribute $400,000 to equip the new center. VG

LEADER OF MOLDOVAN GREENS EXPELLED FROM DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

The Democratic Convention of Moldova (DCM) parliamentary faction expelled Green Alliance leader Ion Dediu from its ranks on 16 November for "inadequate behavior," BASA-Press reported. Dediu said he was expelled for supporting the Communists and the Christian Democratic Popular Front in a vote to establish an environment ministry. In other news, union leader Serafim Turcanu said on 17 November that some 850 teachers in 20 schools across Moldova have gone on strike to demand wage arrears dating back one year. VG

STOYANOV: BULGARIA'S TOP PRIORITY IS EU ACCESSION TALKS

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on 17 November said his country's top priority is currently securing an invitation at the EU's December summit in Helsinki to start accession talks, BTA reported. He said he will focus on this issue at the 18-19 November OSCE summit in Istanbul. Both Stoyanov and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mikhailova, who returned from a visit to Brussels on 16 November, said the two conditions recently stipulated by the EU for membership talks to begin will not necessarily prevent the country from being invited to accession talks next month. The two conditions are the closure of four reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant and further progress in economic reforms. VG

PRIVATIZATION OF INDUSTRY IN BULGARIA TO END IN MID-2000

The parliamentary Economic Committee on 17 November approved the government's privatization program for the year 2000, BTA reported. The director of the Privatization Agency, Zakhari Zhelyazkov, said privatization in industry will be completed in mid-2000. A total of 673 privatization projects are expected to be wrapped up next year. VG




UKRAINE'S VOTE OF WEARINESS


by Jan Maksymiuk

Leonid Kuchma won a seemingly easy victory in the 14 November presidential runoff, gaining more than 56 percent of the vote, while his communist rival, Petro Symonenko, received some 38 percent backing. Kuchma commented the following day that nobody in Ukraine expected the incumbent to win by such a wide margin. And he suggested that his re- election means Ukrainians have chosen a "democratic way to build their country based on a market economy." Few observers of the Ukrainian political scene are likely to agree in full with Kuchma's interpretation of the ballot.

One reason for objecting to such an interpretation is that during his five years in office, Kuchma has shown himself to be neither a truly democratic head of state nor a true advocate of market economy. Both at home and abroad, he has been described as a half-hearted democrat and a half- hearted reformer.

Another reason is the large number of violations of voting and campaigning procedures that were pointed out not only by the incumbent's rivals in the race or his political foes but also by international observers. The executive's almost total control over the electronic media and its involvement in the incumbent's re-election campaign appear to have been the most instrumental in determining the final election outcome.

Despite these violations, no international body will question Kuchma's re-election. The OSCE--whose opinion on elections in post-communist Europe seems to play a leading role in determining their legitimacy--reported that 31 October first round of voting was fair. With regard to the second round, the OSCE reported many irregularities but did not suggest that they had a decisive affect on the outcome. "Serious violations"--including the executive's stifling the media and public officials' campaigning for Kuchma--were noted during the election campaign, but, again, the European election watchdog indicated no immediate link between them and the final result.

Still, the scent of foul play remains in the air. "The runoff result is not [the Communists'] defeat but the defeat of democracy in Ukraine," Symonenko commented. That opinion is clearly exaggerated, but it nevertheless underscores the fact that Kuchma did not give the Communists in Ukraine a fair chance.

Instead, the president's election team modeled his duel with Symonenko on Russia's 1996 runoff between Boris Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov, scaring the electorate with the prospect of a Communist comeback and "red revenge." Between the first and second rounds, Ukraine's television fed voters with documentaries and films about Soviet-era repression and terror. The issue of building the country "based on a market economy" was present, if at all, only in the deepest background of the media campaign.

Under these circumstances, Ukrainians voted on 14 November for what appeared the more secure option--namely, for the country's fragile socio-economic status quo under Kuchma--and against any radical changes in the country's course that were linked with Symonenko (or with his media image).

In 1991, Leonid Kravchuk's installment as the head of state took place on a nationwide wave of enthusiasm for an independent Ukraine. The 1994 election of Leonid Kuchma was an equally emotional event, marking a considerable ebb in national enthusiasm. Independent Ukraine's third presidential election--though bustling and enthusiastically fought by the presidential hopefuls--was a vote of weariness on the part of the electorate. Rather than enthusiasm for Kuchma's reformist effort, voters displayed skepticism about the ability of politicians to improve the economic situation by systemic change.

By the same token, Symonenko's not unimpressive electoral showing should not be interpreted as a sign that 10 million politically active Ukrainians want the return of communism. By casting their votes for Symonenko, many Ukrainians were in fact protesting their country's current economic plight, which is widely associated with Ukraine's failed attempts (under both Kravchuk and Kuchma) to follow a "Western path."

As expected, the presidential elections showed once again that Ukraine remains politically split into a Western, "nationalist" part and an Eastern, "socialist" one. This time, Kuchma received overwhelming support in western Ukraine. The dividing lines between east and west in Ukraine are somewhat blurred by Kuchma's fairly strong showing in such eastern regions as Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, or Kharkiv (where he beat Symonenko), but the overall "two- nations-in-one" pattern has not changed. It seems that only a definite improvement in Ukraine's economy can heal the political, social, and--as Samuel Huntington put it-- "civilizational" cleft between these two parts of one country.

However, even if the full message of the Ukrainian presidential ballot is not easily identifiable, there is nonetheless strong ground for optimism, at least among Democrats. The re-election of Kuchma--a proponent of Ukraine's rapprochement with the West--is a good omen for all those in the post-Soviet area (notably in Russia and Belarus) who oppose the Communist-sponsored idea of restoring some kind of USSR in the form of a "Slavic union." Without Ukraine, such a union makes no sense, either politically or economically. And it appears that Kuchma is bent on continuing to strongly oppose that restoration effort.


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