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Newsline - November 19, 1999




MOSCOW LASHES OUT AT FOREIGN SUPPORT FOR CHECHENS

The Russian Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Pakistan for expressing concerns about a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Chechnya and recommended that Islamabad "pay more attention to its own problems," Interfax reported on 18 November. It also criticized the Czech Republic for allowing Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov to visit Prague, saying that "such unfriendly acts will prompt a corresponding reaction from the Russian side," Reuters reported. And the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax the same day that "international extremist organizations" in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere have sent approximately $30 million in aid to the Chechen fighters. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 November carried an article suggesting that the West has formed a "united front" with radical Muslim groups to declare a "jihad" against Russia. "Kommersant-Daily" is controlled by media magnate Boris Berezovskii. PG

YELTSIN MEETS WORLD LEADERS, LEAVES IVANOV TO SIGN ACCORD

Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 18 November met with U.S. President Bill Clinton and very briefly--for eight minutes rather than the scheduled 45--with French and German leaders at the OSCE summit in Istanbul before departing for Moscow. He left Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov behind to sign the European Security Charter on 19 November. Russian spokesman suggested that at the summit, Yeltsin and Ivanov found "understanding" for Moscow's campaign in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. PG

RUSSIAN FORCES TAKE ACHKHOI-MARTAN

Following talks with local elders, federal forces took the town of Achkhoi Martan, southwest of Grozny, "without firing a shot," Caucasus Press reported on 18 November, quoting the commander of the western contingent of Russian forces in Chechnya, Major-General Vladimir Shamanov. The Russian Defense Ministry press service said that Chechen defenders of Achkhoi Martan had retreated either to the south or toward Grozny but that hostilities are continuing in Urus Martan and Shali. Air and artillery strikes on towns across southern Chechnya, including Alkhan Yurt, Meskety, Serzhen Yurt, Shali, and Alleroi continued on 18 November. LF

UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES VISITS INGUSHETIA

Sadako Ogata visited two camps in Ingushetia for displaced persons from Chechnya on 18 November. She also met in the Ingushetian capital, Magas, with President Ruslan Aushev. Interfax quoted Aushev after that meeting as saying that Ogata told him UN aid to the displaced persons is insufficient and may be increased. She also assured him that the UNHCR is confident that Ingushetia can distribute such aid efficiently. Aushev warned that a further exodus of civilians from Chechnya can be expected if hostilities continue and that food supplies for the estimated 200,000 displaced persons who have already fled are dwindling fast. LF

PUTIN, BEREZOVSKII DISCUSS NORTH CAUCASUS

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 18 November met with media magnate Berezovskii to discuss a possible political settlement for the North Caucasus, Interfax reported. Berezovskii has drawn up seven-point plan based on the notion that "Russia is one and indivisible and Chechnya is an integral part of Russia" and that "terrorists should be brought to justice in keeping with international law" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1999). But Putin in a separate statement made clear that there will be no role for international judicial bodies in that process. PG

PUTIN CELEBRATED AS 'RUSSIAN BRUCE WILLIS'

In its evaluation of the first 100 days of Putin's premiership, "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 18 November said that his soaring support meant he is now "the Russian Bruce Willis." According to the newspaper, the hitherto little-known former KGB officer has become "not only one of the candidates for president of Russia but the most realistic candidate." The newspaper linked his popularity with the Russian military campaign against Chechnya. According to polls reported by ITAR-TASS, more than 65 percent of Russians back the use of force in Chechnya, while only 10.9 percent are opposed. PG

CTB TREATY RATIFICATION POSSIBLE ONLY AFTER ELECTIONS?

Aleksei Mitrofanov, chairman of the State Duma Geopolitical Affairs Committee, told Interfax on 18 November that the Russian parliament will not have time before the 19 December elections to take up the question of ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, He added that "I am afraid this treaty will share the fate of START II." Also on 18 November, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich said his committee is unlikely to support ratification of either the CTB treaty or the revised Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. He added that the new Duma should not rush to put the ratification of those accords on its agenda. PG/JC

'SEGODNYA': ABM TREATY IS NOT 'HOLY WRIT'

An article published in the 18 November "Segodnya" and co-authored by Director of the Center for Strategic Studies Andrei Piontkovskii argues that the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty should be amended to respond to current realities. The treaty is not "Holy Writ, nor an embodiment of the Russian idea of national security," according to the article. Rather, it was an instrument to realize the "idea of strategic stability invented by some politicians in 1972." The authors conclude that since the "spectrum of threats and nature of relations" between Russia and the U.S. are different today, both countries should realize that "certain acceptable modifications" are in their own national security interests." "Segodnya" is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group. JC

ARMS CONTROL SPECIALIST CHARGED WITH SPYING

Igor Sutyagin, the head of the military studies department at Moscow's Institute of the USA and Canada, was arrested on 27 October and has been charged with espionage on behalf of a foreign power, Interfax reported on 18 November. IUSAC director Sergei Rogov told AP that Sutyagin spied for the U.S. In connection with the case, security officials searched the apartment of a U.S. Ph.D. student in Moscow, who has since left Russia. PG

MOSCOW DENOUNCES CONVICTION OF EAST GERMAN LEADER

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 18 November sharply criticized the decision of a German court to uphold a manslaughter conviction against former East German leader Egon Krenz for his role in the shooting of those who tried to escape from East Germany. The Moscow statement said that "we are left with the impression that the stubborn persistence with which reunited Germany brings politicians of the former East Germany to trial is aimed at settling political scores, and at presenting a once sovereign and internationally recognized state as illegitimate and its leaders as a bunch of criminals." PG

PUTIN CALLS URGES INCREASED STATE SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESS

At a cabinet meeting on 18 November, Prime Minister Putin said the Russian government should provide more support to small and medium-sized businesses, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin said that such concerns account for 50-60 percent of GDP in developed countries and about half of all jobs. "There are 25-30 such enterprises per 1,000 residents in European Union countries, but only seven in Russia," Putin noted. The main reasons for this Russian shortfall, he said, are "a low level of legal protection" and "the existing tax system." PG

NO BREAKTHROUGH IN DEBT TALKS OR WITH IMF

Despite three days of meetings, Russia and its Western creditors failed to reach agreement on restructuring $30 billion in Russian debt, Western agencies reported on 18 November. At the same time, Interfax reported, the IMF indicated that it will not release another tranche of loans to Moscow until the Russian government produces internationally acceptable quarterly reports on major monopolies. PG

SWISS PROSECUTOR SAYS KICKBACKS PAID TO YELTSIN AIDE

Swiss prosecutors are convinced that the Mabetex construction firm paid $11 million to Kremlin manager Pavel Borodin, Switzerland's top court said on 18 November, AP reported. Meanwhile, however, both the Kremlin and a Swiss bank have denied a report in Moscow's "Versiya" newspaper that it had proof Yeltsin had a bank account in Switzerland. PG

S&P TO RATE RUSSIA AS BEING IN SELECTIVE DEFAULT

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 November that the Standard & Poor's rating agency will soon lower Russia's credit rating to SD, or selective default." Only Pakistan has a lower credit rating. This rating indicates that the agency believes Russia is technically bankrupt and could default at any time. PG

RUSSIAN FINANCIAL RESERVES FALL

Moscow's gold and hard currency reserves fell by 5.7 percent over the last 12 months and now amount to $11.5 billion, PRIME-Tass reported on 18 November. PG

RUSSIAN GAS EXPORTS CONTINUE TO DECLINE

Gazprom will produce 540 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 1999, 20 billion less than last year, Interfax reported on 18 November. The natural gas monopoly expects production next year will be down 45-50 billion cubic meters on this year's level. The Russian Trade Ministry said it is fighting discrimination against Russian exports, discrimination that is costing Russia $1.5-2 billion a year, ITAR-Tass reported. PG

MOSCOW MAYORAL HOPEFULS TURN IN PETITIONS TO ELECTION BODY

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and former Premier Sergei Kirienko have submitted lists of signatures to the Moscow City Election Commission to run in the 19 December mayoral election, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. In addition, electoral security deposits have been made by Dmitrii Berdennikov, Vladimir Voronin, Pavel Borodin, and Aleksei Mitrofanov. The deadline for registration is 23 November. PG

ROSTOV CITY FORMS VOLUNTARY MILITIA

The city of Volgodonsk in Rostov Oblast has decided to re-establish voluntary military units to patrol districts in the city, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. The units may be compensated by reduction in rents for housing, the news service added. In September, a truck parked next to an apartment building in that city exploded, killing 17 people and injuring scores. PG

PRIVATE REGIONAL TV CHIEF MURDERED

In what authorities said was an apparent contract murder, the director of a private television chief in Yekaterinburg was found dead near his home on 18 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Igor Mironyuk, 35, had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest, officials said. No suspects have been identified. PG




ARMENIA STRUGGLES TO MEET TAX REVENUE TARGET

The Armenian government adopted unspecified urgent measures on 18 November to ensure that the remaining 35 billion drams ($67 million) needed to meet the annual tax revenue target of 191 billion drams are collected, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Minister for State Revenues Smbat Ayvazian told RFE/RL that the third tranche of a $65 million World Bank loan is contingent on meeting tax revenue targets. The second, $25 million tranche of that loan was disbursed in late September after a three-month delay caused by Yerevan's higher-than- projected budget deficit. Ayvazian said tax collection slowed down after the 27 October assassination of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and other top officials and the delay in naming a new cabinet. In addition, the August increase in excise duties on cigarettes and gasoline has not brought as much additional money to the budget as was expected, Ayvazian added. LF

FRAMEWORK DOCUMENTS SIGNED ON AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT PIPELINE...

On the sidelines of the OSCE Istanbul summit, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey on 18 November signed agreements that constitute the legal framework for the construction and operation of a oil pipeline from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan. Those agreements are a bilateral treaty between Turkey and Azerbaijan establishing the principles regulating transit issues; an agreement between pipeline investors and the governments of the countries through which the pipeline will pass; an agreement on construction of the pipeline with Turkey's state-owned pipeline company Botas; and Turkish government guarantees on the agreement with Botas. Construction of the 1,730 km pipeline will begin after a feasibility study is completed, probably in 2001, and must be completed in three years. The Turkish government will meet costs exceeding $2.4 billion, which no oil company has yet committed. The presidents of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed a separate declaration with their Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Georgian counterparts pledging to export oil via the pipeline. LF

...TO RUSSIA'S CLEAR DISPLEASURE

While the presidents of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia as well as U.S. President Bill Clinton greeted the signing of the agreements on Baku- Ceyhan as "a historic event," Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi predicted that the project will be difficult to implement, Interfax reported. He also noted that the tariffs agreed on are twice as high as those for the transport of Azerbaijan's oil via the northern Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline. Meanwhile in Moscow, a member of the board of Kalyuzhnyi's ministry told Russian State Duma deputies on 18 November that Russia may halt exports of Azerbaijan's oil via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline "for purely political reasons," according to Interfax. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, meanwhile, said that the U.S. resorted to "political pressure" to secure the multi-state agreement on the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, according to Interfax on 19 November. He added that the World Bank and other experts doubt that the project is economically viable. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS MAKE CONTRADICTORY STATEMENTS OVER AZERBAIJANI AID FOR CHECHNYA

Turan on 18 November quoted Russia's Minister for Emergency Situations, Sergei Shoigu, as telling Azerbaijani journalists in Istanbul on the sidelines of the OSCE summit that there is no evidence to substantiate Russian charges that arms and mercenaries have entered Chechnya via Azerbaijan. But he did suggest that criminals wanted by the Azerbaijani authorities may have sought refuge in Chechnya. A Russian Defense Ministry statement issued in Moscow on 18 November, however, named among international organizations said to have provided aid to Chechnya the Grey Wolves organization which it claims still operates in Azerbaijan, Interfax reported. The statement said that the Grey Wolves trained 16 gunmen, three of them from Afghanistan, whom they then sent to Chechnya. The Azerbaijani Grey Wolves were founded by former Premier Iskander Hamidov in the early 1990s and reportedly sent fighters to Chechnya in early 1995. Their name was changed in 1995 to Party of National Democracy. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA TO CONDUCT JOINT INVESTIGATION INTO HELICOPTER ATTACK

A Russian Air Force commission is due to travel to Georgia on 19 November to investigate, together with Georgian officials, the circumstances under which three Rusian helicopters dropped landmines on a remote Georgian mountain village close to Georgia's frontier with Chechnya on 17 November, Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. On 18 November, Russian air force commander Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov denied that his aircraft carried out the attack but added that Russian army helicopters may have been responsible. Speaking at the OSCE summit in Istanbul on 18 November, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called on his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, to take measures to prevent a repeat of the incident, Caucasus Press reported. LF

TWO MORE GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES DISPUTE RESULTS OF PARLIAMENTARY POLL

Mamuka Giorgadze, leader of the People's Party of Georgia, said in Tbilisi on 18 November that contrary to the official electoral returns released by the Central Electoral Commission, his party succeeded in polling the minimum 7 percent of the vote to qualify for representation in the parliament, Caucasus Press reported. He accused the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia of "usurping power" in the 31 October parliamentary poll. But Giorgadze added that he does not see any point in appealing the results in court. At an 18 November congress of the National Democratic Party of Georgia, chairwoman Irina Sarishvili- Chanturia similarly termed the 31 October poll "a devaluation of the concept of elections," according to Caucasus Pres. She said her party will immediately begin preparing for the next parliamentary elections in 2003 but will not propose a candidate for the presidential elections in April 2000. LF

LABOR LEADER ANNOUNCES PLAN TO RUN FOR GEORGIAN PRESIDENT

Also on 18 November, Labor Party chairman Shalva Natelashvili said he will contend the presidential poll due next April, Caucasus Press reported. Natelashvili said he counts on receiving the votes of those "who are sick and tired of the fruitless promises of the ruling regime." While arguing that "fair elections are impossible in Georgia as long as Shevardnadze is in power," Natelashvili stressed that is crucial that Shevardnadze should be replaced as president by elections, rather than by force. He suggested that the election victory of the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia was rigged in order to introduce amendments to the constitution to allow one individual to serve more than two consecutive presidential terms. Shevardnadze was first elected president in November 1995 and has announced his intention for running for a second term next year. LF

ABKHAZ GOVERNMENT IN EXILE REJECTS CHARGES OF EMBEZZLEMENT

Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 18 November, Londer Tsaava, who is chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile, denied claims by the Georgian Finance Ministry that the government misappropriated budget funds, Caucasus Press reported. He added that the government has received only 65 percent of the monies it has been allocated, resulting in delays in the payment of salaries to government officials and of pensions and other allowances to displaced persons. LF

CENTRAL ASIAN PRESIDENTS AIR SECURITY CONCERNS IN ISTANBUL

In their speeches to the OSCE Istanbul summit on 18 November, Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbaev, Kyrgyzstan's Askar Akaev, and Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov called on the OSCE to do more to boost security in Central Asia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Istanbul reported. Karimov said regional security in Central Asia is as important as security in Europe, and he proposed the OSCE open an international center for fighting terrorism. Before departing for Istanbul, Karimov had accused the OSCE of focusing exclusively on human rights and ignoring security, economic, and humanitarian issues, according to ITAR-TASS. Akaev said Kyrgyzstan has become the front line in the battle against international terrorism following an incursion by Islamic militants this summer. In an allusion to OSCE criticism of this year's elections, Nazarbaev stressed that Kazakhstan is an "Asian state" and should not be judged by the same standards as Western countries. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA REACH AGREEMENT ON BAIKONUR LAUNCHES

During talks in Astana on 18 November, Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov and his Russian counterpart, Ilya Klebanov, agreed to resume rocket launches from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome, with the exception of Proton rockets of the type that exploded after blastoff in July and late October of this year, AP reported. The government of Kazakhstan had banned all further launches until February 2000 following the October blast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). The two deputy premiers also signed related agreements on coordinating the schedules for launches from Baikonur and environmental protection measures close to that site, Interfax reported. LF

OPPOSITION NEWSAPER IN KAZAKHSTAN AGAIN PREVENTED FROM PUBLISHING

Bigeldy Gabdullin, chairman of the independent daily "XXI vek," told RFE/RL's Almaty correspondent on 18 November that the head of the Agricultural Ministry's publishing house informed him, on orders from the Kazakh National Security Committee, that the ministry is no longer prepared to print his newspaper. The ministry has printed "XXI vek" over the past few months after a private company had refused to continue doing so without offering any explanations for that decision. Gabdullin said he is seeking alternative possibilities to continue publication either in Kazakhstan or abroad. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT ADVOCATES OSCE ENGAGEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN

Meeting in Istanbul on 18 November with OSCE Chairman in Office Knut Vollebaek, Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov suggested that the OSCE should join forces with the UN to assist the latter in its attempts to mediate between the warring parties in Afghanistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. In a clear reference to the OSCE's refusal to send observers to monitor the 6 November presidential poll, in which he was reelected for a second term, Rakhmonov argue that in promoting democratization in Central Asian states the OSCE should bear in mind their specific traditions and cultural and moral values. He affirmed that efforts are being made to ensure that the February parliamentary poll will be free and democratic. LF

TRANSCASPIAN GAS PIPELINE ACCORD SIGNED

At the same ceremony in Istanbul at which the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey signed the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline framework agreements, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov and his Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Turkish counterparts signed a letter of intent on building an underwater Trans-Caspian pipeline to export natural gas from Turkmenistan via Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey, Reuters and Interfax reported. That pipeline will cost an estimated $3 billion, which the project operator PSG must now raise. Until recently, disagreements between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan threatened to torpedo implementation of the project. The Turkmen and Turkish presidents and Turkey's Minister of Fuel and Energy Resources also signed a separate agreement on natural gas exports to Turkey beginning in 2002. Turkmenistan will eventually export 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually via the Trans-Caspian pipeline, of which 14 billion cubic meters will be destined for European markets. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN COUNTERPARTS

Saparmurat Niyazov met with Boris Yeltsin in Istanbul on 18 November on the sidelines of the OSCE summit, Interfax reported. Yeltsin underscored Russia's willingness to expand and strengthen mutually advantageous relations with Turkmenistan. The two presidents also reached tentative agreement that the next CIS summit will be held in Ashgabat in May 2000. (The most recent summit was in Moscow in April.) Meanwhile, Niyazov agreed with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, that a Ukrainian delegation headed by Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko will travel to Ashgabat in the near future to discuss the terms for resuming shipments of Turkmen gas to Ukraine. Ashgabat suspended those shipments in May 1999 in a dispute with Ukraine over that country's debts to Turkmenistan for earlier gas supplies and to Russia in transit fees for that gas. LF




BELARUSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ARRESTED

Police on 18 November arrested Ales Byalatski, leader of the human rights organization Spring-96, Belapan reported. Byalatski was reportedly asked to come to a Minsk district police department to pick up computers that had been confiscated from his organization in early October. He was arrested, however, and told he will stand trial the next day as one of the organizers of the 17 October opposition "freedom march." JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO STAGE PROTEST ON 24 NOVEMBER

The Minsk city authorities have refused permission for the opposition to stage a "chain of freedom" along Minsk's central avenue on 24 November. They said the action may be held only on a square on the outskirts of the city. The Coordination Council of Democratic Forces--which unites several opposition parties and NGOs--decided on 18 November to drop the idea of a "chain of freedom" and observe instead an "hour of sorrow and solidarity" on 24 November. It is expected that some 2,000 people holding candles will stand along Minsk's central avenue to commemorate victims of the Soviet regime and express solidarity with prisoners of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime. The council adopted an appeal to the Minsk police "not to organize provocations against participants in the peaceful action." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO ZERO-DEFICIT BUDGET

The parliament on 18 November approved in the first reading a zero-deficit draft budget for 2000 and sent it to the government for fine-tuning, Interfax reported. The government originally proposed a budget with a 0.4 percent surplus. Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the parliamentary Budget Committee, commented that the approval of the budget was a "colossal victory for the parliament." Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov said the government and the parliament continue to disagree over budget revenues and expenditure targets. He added that the budget cannot be submitted for a second reading before 10 December. JM

UKRAINIAN REGIONAL LEADERS WANT PUSTOVOYTENKO AS PREMIER

Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Dyomin told Interfax on 18 November that oblast administration heads, the Crimean prime minister, and heads of the Kyiv and Sevastopol city administrations have asked President Leonid Kuchma to re- appoint Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko as head of a new cabinet. "We have no right to experiment, since [Pustovoytenko's] government has achieved positive results in its work, in particular, industrial growth," Dyomin said. Meanwhile, press speculation is rife as to who will be appointed prime minister. Apart from Pustovoytenko, newspapers mention deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk, Deputy Premier Anatol Kinakh, Deputy Premier Serhiy Tyhypko, State Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov, and Security Service chief Leonid Derkach as the most likely candidates for the post. JM

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER SLAMS RUSSIA OVER CHECHNYA

In a speech to the OSCE Istanbul summit on 18 November, Mart Laar slammed Russia's military campaign in Chechnya. Laar said that the "excessive use of force will cause an endless cycle of violence" and that "the international community knows of other ways to fight alleged terrorism than the one employed at present in Chechnya." Laar stressed that "no one may demonize a whole nation. That is racism, pure and simple." He warned that if the OSCE cannot stop the Russian military action, "the future of this organization will come under question." The same day, the Estonian parliament passed by a vote of 57 to one a resolution on the crisis in Chechnya. The statement condemned terrorism in every way and expressed concern and dismay over the violence against civilians in Chechnya, ETA added. MH

SMOKING KILLS 2,000 A YEAR IN ESTONIA

An average of 2,000 people die every year from diseases caused by smoking. The Social Ministry's public health department head Andres Lipand told the press on 18 November that in addition, some 3,000 smokers fall seriously ill each year due to smoking-related illnesses. The specialist said that there are approximately 355,000 smokers in Estonia (out of a population of about 1.5 million) and that 70 percent wants to quit. MH

LATVIA CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE DAY

Latvia celebrated the 81st anniversary of its independence on 18 November. In speaking to the country's military, which celebrated its 80th anniversary several days earlier, President Vaira Vike- Freiberga said "independent Latvia would never have been able to last if its fearless sons had not been ready to sacrifice themselves to win freedom for their native country," BNS reported. In a special session of parliament, speaker Janis Straume said "freedom means responsibility, and it is often difficult for a person to adhere to this." He urged Latvians to "take responsibility and develop the nation together, making it better, more trustworthy, cleaner, and more European," LETA reported. MH

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS CFE ENTRY

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, speaking at the OSCE summit in Istanbul on 18 November, said Lithuania might accede to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Adamkus, however, stressed it must be in the country's interest to take that step, ELTA reported. He noted that the "processes of European and transatlantic integration [is becoming an] indispensable element in building comprehensive security, stability and, confidence for the whole OSCE area." With regard to Chechnya, Adamkus stressed that the "protracted armed conflict and deteriorating humanitarian situation" is a cause for "deep concern." And on the subject of Belarus, Adamkus said, "It is of utmost importance to assist in developing a genuine dialogue between the Belarus authorities and the opposition leading to free and democratic elections." MH

POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL TAX REFORM BILL

By a vote of 231 to 182, the lower house passed a tax reform bill that cuts income tax rates and eliminates some tax exemptions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1999). In order to take effect on 1 January 2000, the bill must be approved by the upper house and signed by the president by the end of this month. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance obstructed the passage of the bill, saying it gives priority to high income earners and widens the gap between the poor and the rich. By a vote of 235 to 179 with three abstentions, the parliament also decided to gradually lower the current corporate tax rate from 34 percent to 22 percent by 2004. JM

CZECH STATE ATTORNEY CONSIDERS PROSECUTING NAZI WAR CRIMINAL

The Czech Republic's Supreme State Attorney on 18 November sent new evidence implicating the former commander of the Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Anton Malloth, in war crimes, CTK reported. State Attorney Jaroslav Fenyk said he has sent the materials to Germany, where Malloth currently resides. Earlier this year, German prosecutors said there is not enough evidence to bring Malloth to court. Fenyk said Malloth may also be prosecuted in the Czech Republic. In other news, senior Social Democrat Jaroslav Foldyna said he intends to file a lawsuit against an American of Czech descent for sawing in half a wooden board with a painting of the Czech flag on it in Usti nad Labem, CTK reported. The man was protesting against the construction of a wall on Maticni Street that divides local ethnic Czechs from Romany inhabitants. VG

RUSSIA, YUGOSLAVIA PROTEST CZECH 'INTERFERENCE'

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 18 November called in the acting Czech ambassador to Russia to protest the visit of Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov to Prague, CTK reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry described Akhmadov's meetings with Czech officials as "gross interference in Russia's internal affairs" (see Part 1). The same day, Yugoslav Ambassador to the Czech Republic Djoko Stojicic described President Vaclav Havel's decision to invite Serbian opposition leaders and the Montenegrin president to the OSCE summit in Istanbul as "rude interference in the internal affairs" of Yugoslavia. VG

SLOVAK COALITION PARTNERS DEBATE OVER MINISTERS

The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), a member of the governing coalition, has called for the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister for Legislation Lubomir Fogas and Agriculture Minister Pavol Kocos, "Narodna Obroda" reported on 19 November. Both ministers are members of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL). SDL chairman Jozef Migas rejected the SMK's calls. CTK reported that the SMK did not support Fogas's bill on minority languages and that it was upset at Koncos's refusal to fulfill an agreement according to which an SMK member is to be appointed to head the State Land Fund. Cabinet discussions on the performance of the coalition government during its first year in office are to continue next week. VG

SLOVAK POLITICIANS BLAST MECIAR'S PARTY FOR MILOSEVIC VISIT

Various Slovak politicians on 18 November slammed a decision by a delegation from Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) to meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, TASR-SLOVAKIA reported. Deputy Prime Minister Pavol Hamzik said the visit "reveals the nature of the HZDS's foreign policy priorities." Deputy Prime Minister Jan Budaj described the visit as a "provocation" and said it damaged Slovakia's reputation ahead of the December EU summit in Helsinki. Democratic Party chairman Jan Langos said the meeting was an expression of political extremism on the part of the HZDS, but he added that it was not surprising. VG

ORBAN URGES MINORITY ACTION AT OSCE SUMMIT

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 18 November urged OSCE member countries at the Istanbul summit to grant local government rights and autonomy to national minorities. He said a lesson of the Kosova crisis is that genocide cannot be averted without a system of defending minorities. Orban urged the OSCE to send observers to Vojvodina and Muslim-inhabited regions of Serbia to monitor the situation of minorities. MSZ




U.S., EU, SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO PLAN FOR FUTURE

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Istanbul on 18 November that representatives of her country, the EU, and the Serbian opposition will soon meet to begin making concrete plans aimed at promoting democratic change in Serbia. She stressed that "Yugoslavia, too, will soon begin the journey [to democracy] under new leadership." In Belgrade, Ivica Dacic, who is a spokesman for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party, said that the opposition leaders are foreign puppets who "went to do the bidding of the murderers of our children while the graves of all [those] killed in [NATO's] aggression are still fresh," AP reported. Dacic called on the OSCE summit to "condemn NATO's illegal aggression against Yugoslavia." PM

MONTENEGRIAN PRESIDENT DJUKANOVIC ASKS OSCE FOR HELP

Milo Djukanovic told the OSCE summit in Istanbul on 18 November that moves toward democratization in his country "are in a critical phase," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He appealed for unspecified "effective help." PM

BRITISH EXPERTS: SERBS HID WAR CRIMES EVIDENCE

Catherine Nettleton, who coordinates British investigations into war crimes, said that Serbian forces tried to hide evidence of atrocities by burning the bodies of their victims, dropping them into rivers, or burying them in cemeteries, London's "The Guardian" reported on 19 November. She added that the real number of victims of the Serbian forces may never be known. British experts remain convinced that their original estimate of 10,000 victims is accurate, the daily added. PM

MACEDONIAN ELECTION COMMISSION TO RECONVENE

The commission ruling on complaints of irregularities in the recent presidential vote suspended its work on 18 November. Chairman Josif Lukovski said the commission was unable to do its work with at least 25,000 angry protesters outside its building, who claimed that defeated Social Democratic candidate Tito Petkovski was cheated of victory. The commission will reconvene on 19 November to examine charges by the Social Democrats of extensive fraud, particularly in western Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1999). Elsewhere in Skopje, French Ambassador to Macedonia Jacques Huntzinger said that the "election was not rigged," Reuters reported. Western officials have stressed in recent days that the election had some irregularities but was not basically flawed. Social Democratic leader Branko Crvenkovski nonetheless said in Skopje on 18 November that "we shall fight to topple this government...by democratic means...and call new elections," AP added. PM

NATO, MACEDONIA AGREE TO END BORDER BOTTLENECK

Macedonian Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov and NATO's Hans Jorg Eiff agreed on 18 November in Skopje to ease traffic congestion at the Blace border crossing between Macedonia and Kosova. An additional lane will soon be added to the existing highway in order to speed up humanitarian aid shipments. The measure is an emergency one designed to relieve pressure until an $18 million project to completely reconstruct the crossing can be carried out. Macedonian officials and NATO representatives have accused one another of being responsible for the bottleneck. PM

BREAKTHROUGH IN MACEDONIAN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT CASE?

A Czech police spokesman said in Prague on 17 November that police have "detained" a 35-year-old Macedonian citizen whom the spokesman described as an "internationally wanted drug boss," CTK reported. The spokesman added that Macedonian police are "interested" in the detainee in conjunction with the October 1996 attempt on the life of President Kiro Gligorov. Macedonia has not requested the extradition of the man, whom the spokesman identified only by the initials A.N. Investigations into the assassination attempt have not yielded any results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1999). PM

CROATIA TO AVERT CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS?

Parliamentary speaker Vlatko Pavletic said on 19 November that he will meet later in the day with representatives of the parties represented in the legislature. An unnamed parliamentary official told Reuters: "They will be discussing the possibility of holding another parliament session. I assume they will be seeking a consensus to pass a law whereby Pavletic would act as temporary president." The legislature's mandate runs out on 27 November. Key issues requiring immediate presidential attention include issuing a call for parliamentary elections on 22 December and approving the budget for 2000. President Franjo Tudjman has been hospitalized since 1 November, and most observers do not expect him to recover. The constitution is widely regarded to have been written for Tudjman and provides for sweeping powers for the president. PM

BUDISA CALLS FOR SWEEPING REVISION OF CROATIAN CONSTITUTION

Opposition leader Drazen Budisa told the Rijeka daily "Novi List" of 19 November that time has come to change the constitution and reduce the powers of the president. He added that continuing the present system would mean "turning the government into a circus." Leaders of all six main opposition parties agree that the constitution must be changed quickly if a political crisis is to be averted, the daily added. PM

OPPOSITION HEADING FOR VICTORY IN CROATIAN ELECTIONS?

The independent Zagreb daily "Jutarnji list" reported on 19 November that a new poll by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute suggests that the main opposition coalition will win in eight out of 10 electoral districts. The coalition of the Social Democrats and Budisa's Croatian Social Liberal Party will take 35 percent of the overall vote, compared with 24 percent for the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), according to the poll. A coalition of four small opposition parties is in third place. Recent polls published in the same daily suggest that the top vote-getters in any future race to replace Tudjman would be the Social Democrats' Ivica Racan, followed by the moderate HDZ leader Mate Granic, who is currently foreign minister. PM

POLL: MOST ROMANIANS SAY THEY WERE BETTER OFF UNDER COMMUNISM

A poll released by the Open Society Fund on 18 November found that 61 percent of Romanians say they were better off under former communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu, Reuters reported. The poll of 2,019 Romanians showed 84 percent of respondents saying they lack confidence in the current government. More than 80 percent of respondents said they had lost confidence in the parliament and in political parties. The poll also found that 77 percent of Romanians favor a market economy. The results come after an earlier poll conducted by the Center for Urban and Regional Sociology found that most Romanians believe the switch from communism in 1989 has been a "success" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1999). VG

ROMANIAN WORKERS DEMONSTRATE

Thousands of Romanian workers marched through several major cities on 18 November to protest falling living standards, Reuters reported. Demonstrations took place in Constanta, Timisoara, Ploiesti, and Turnu Severin. Meanwhile, on 17 November, four major Romanian trade unions agreed to coordinate their protests against the government in the coming days, Mediafax reported. VG

ROMANIAN-LANGUAGE TESTS FOR MOLDOVAN STUDENTS

Moldovan Education Ministry officials on 18 November announced that beginning next year, all university applicants will have to pass tests of their knowledge of the Romanian language and literature, BASA-Press reported. VG

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT DELAYS VOTE ON GOVERNMENT

Prime Minister-designate Valeriu Bobutac on 18 November asked the parliament to postpone a confidence vote in the cabinet until next week, BASA-Press reported. Communist deputy Victor Stepaniuc said the vote was put off because of "some small misunderstandings." In other news, the Moldovan prosecutor- general asked the parliament to lift deputy speaker Iurie Rosca's immunity in connection with a September car accident. Also, the Democratic Convention of Moldova expelled parliamentary deputy Ala Mandacanu for supporting the new government structure proposed by the Communists and the Christian Democratic Popular Front. VG

OSCE CONSIDERS FUNDING RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA

OSCE mission head to Moldova William Hill said the organization is prepared to fund the withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova, but he added that the cost must first be determined, Reuters reported. A number of OSCE countries have proposed that the organization carry out an inventory of Russian arms and equipment in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester VG

USAID EXTENDS GRANT TO BULGARIA

The United States Agency for International Development has extended a $25 million grant to Bulgaria to deal with the effects of the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia earlier this year as well as to ease the impact of economic reforms, AP reported on 18 November. In other news, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party expressed reservations about preparations for U.S. President Bill Clinton's upcoming visit to Bulgaria. The party on 18 November protested plans to ban street traffic in parts of Sofia during the visit and complained that Clinton does not plan to address the parliament. VG




FORMER LEADERS ARGUE OVER MEANING OF 1989


By Jeremy Bransten

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former U.S. President George Bush, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, former Polish President and Solidarity union leader Lech Walesa, and the wife of the late French President Francois Mitterrand were all awarded high state honors in Prague on 17 November. The awards were conferred by former dissident and current Czech President Vaclav Havel.

The visit of the former leaders was planned as a largely ceremonial occasion. But at a panel discussion that preceded the award ceremony, participants sharply disagreed over the significance of the anti-communist revolutions and their aftermath. The talk laid bare the ideological rifts that still exist among some former adversaries and that could threaten to bring more divisions between East and West next century.

Thatcher called the fall of communism a triumph of freedom and capitalism, especially as espoused by Britain and the U.S. She took a large measure of credit for the collapse of communism and said the two countries provided a shining example for the East to follow. Thatcher said the best thing the U.S. and Britain could do would be to continue exporting their values and way of life abroad. "I think our task today is not to ponder on what happened in the last 10 years but to see how we extend liberty to those countries that do not know it," she commented.

Thatcher's views earned a gentle rebuke from the moderator, Oxford history professor Timothy Garton Ash, who noted that other European democracies had also perhaps contributed to inspiring the East's quest for freedom.

But it was Gorbachev who took on Thatcher directly, accusing her of communist-style rhetoric in the service of a narrow ideology. He said that if anything, the past 10 years have proven that new ideas are needed--something approaching a synthesis between capitalism and communism, to solve problems in an increasingly global world economy: "I think that just as an inferiority complex is a bad thing, a victor's complex is no less harmful. I think we should say that no single ideology at the end of the 20th century can answer the challenges of the 21st century and the global problems that stand before us--neither liberal, nor communist, nor conservative."

Gorbachev also reminded Thatcher that it was the Communists who saw everything in black and white, and he questioned whether she had not stumbled down the same path.

Former union leader and ex-President Walesa chastised the West for congratulating itself over the end of communism without providing sufficient aid and assistance to those countries now trying to transform their economies. He drew a parallel with the end of World War II and said Western Europe has benefited from U.S. assistance through the generosity of the Marshall Plan.

But Walesa noted that 10 years after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, no comprehensive assistance has been forthcoming from the U.S. and a now prosperous Western Europe. He warned that in many countries across the East, democracy is now endangered by the failure of economic reform, crime, corruption, and a nostalgia among some people for the old regime.

Czech President Havel called the year of revolutions a magic moment. But he said that it was not, as some once predicted, the end of history. The revolutions of Eastern Europe, he said, marked a victory for human dignity and universal human values, not any particular ideology.

"If I posed myself the question: what triumphed over what or who triumphed over whom 10 years ago, then I wouldn't answer that it was the victory of one ideology over another, of one state over another state, or of one superpower over another," he said. "But I'd say certain values triumphed. Freedom triumphed over oppression. Respect for human dignity triumphed over humiliation. Respect for human rights triumphed over disdain for human rights. But it was one small battle in an unending chain of battles, because the war continues."

Kohl said the revolutions of 1989 were clearly interconnected, and he praised the bravery of those Central and Eastern Europeans who stood up against communism and overthrew it. But Kohl noted that both the former Soviet and U.S. leaders deserve recognition for their role as catalysts to the process. "No one in Europe, and this is my considered opinion, should think there would have been success had it not been that the two great powers set out on a rational road."

Bush, like Thatcher, noted the leadership of Britain and the United States in ending the Cold War. But he also spoke of Washington's initially cautious approach to the momentous events of 1989: "The U.S. was concerned that if we provoke, needlessly provoke, then President Gorbachev, who knows how the forces to his right, his military, might have reacted. And so we tried to be very careful about not dancing on the [Berlin] Wall, for example."

Bush paid homage to his host, Havel, and to Walesa. He called both men heroes of the democratic revolutions of 1989, whose example inspired the U.S. people. He argued that what "got through" to the U.S. people were the "symbols" of the new-won freedom, in this case, Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.


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