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Newsline - December 6, 1999




RUSSIA GETS NEW REBUFF FROM IMF...

After a 3 December meeting between IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus and Aleksandr Livshits, presidential envoy to the G-7, IMF spokeswoman Kathleen White told reporters that the two officials reviewed the "required structural measures that have not been met," adding that "it is likely that these technical measures will take a few weeks to resolve." The same day, IMF external affairs chief Thomas Dawson said that "the broad macroeconomic performance of the economy has been satisfactory, but there are a number of structural issues," which are "largely in the financial sector relating to transparency and governance." Stanley Fischer, first deputy managing director of the fund, said on 3 December that "unless a date for the IMF board meeting is determined next week, this issue will not be considered this year." JAC

...AS EUROPE, NOT U.S., CONSIDERED CULPRIT

Before the meeting, Livshits said that pressure on the fund has come from European capitals, telling reporters that "a cold wind blows into Russia, not from the Atlantic; it blows from Europe." According to "The Washington Post" on 4 December, the Clinton administration has insisted on keeping the issue of IMF loans to Russia separate from its criticism of the conflict in Chechnya. U.S. State Department Spokesman James Rubin said on 3 December that the U.S. commends Russia "for its macroeconomic progress" but notes that Moscow is still working on structural measures, so "I think the issue of [a link with Chechnya] is at this point a moot point." JAC

YELTSIN LEAVES SICK BED TO MEET UKRAINE'S PRESIDENT

Russian President Boris Yeltsin checked out of the hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia to meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 6 December. Kuchma also met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. After the talks, Yeltsin was expected to leave for his Gorky-9 residence outside Moscow, Interfax reported. Yeltsin checked into the hospital on 29 November, four days after a ceremony to sign the treaty of the Union of Russia and Belarus had to be delayed. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said on 3 December that Yeltsin still plans to visit China later his month but may postpone if his health worsens. JAC

FEDERAL TROOPS CONSOLIDATE HOLD ON ARGUN

Russian forces consolidated their control of Argun, east of Grozny, on 4 December. The following day, they deployed east of Urus Martan, cutting communications between that town and Grozny, Gekhi, and Goity. Air and artillery bombardment of villages south of Grozny continued on 3-5 December. Having surrounded Grozny on 4-5 December, Russian aircraft on 6 December began dropping leaflets on Grozny calling on the town's inhabitants and defenders to leave by 11 December via a "safe corridor," Reuters reported. LF

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES BOMBING FLEEING CIVILIANS

Defense Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) officials on 4 December rejected as slanderous and an outright lie reports that Russian troops had opened fire at close range the previous day on a convoy of cars carrying fleeing civilians near the village of Goity, south of Grozny. An RFE/RL correspondent had quoted a survivor of that attack as saying that up to 40 people were killed. FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich suggested that Chechen militants could have staged the attack in an attempt to compromise Russian troops, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

DATE SET FOR OSCE VISIT TO NORTH CAUCASUS

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 5 December that he has proposed 14-15 December as the date for OSCE Chairman in Office Knut Vollebaek's visit to the North Caucasus. Two days earlier, Ivanov had stressed that Vollebaek would not meet during that trip with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, since such a meeting "would not help" to normalize the situation in the region, according to Interfax. At the same time, Ivanov repeated Moscow's commitment to reaching a political solution of the conflict. Reuters quoted Vollebaek as saying on 4 December that he is "satisfied" that a firm date has been set for his visit. Vollebaek traveled to Moscow on 29 November in the hope of proceeding to the North Caucasus but was refused permission to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November and 3 December 1999). LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT PREPARES NEW PEACE PROPOSAL

Maskhadov's press secretary, Selim Abdumuslimov, told Interfax on 3 December that the Chechen president has drafted a new peace plan, which he hopes "will be acceptable to...political and military leaders who care for Russia, rather than their clannish or personal interests." He did not elaborate, except to say that the plan excludes the stationing of Russian troops in Chechnya. Abdumuslimov said Maskhadov is prepared to unveil the plan and send it to international organizations if peace talks begin. He added that if Moscow turns down negotiations on an end to the conflict, Chechnya will appeal to the international community for military aid. Also on 3 December, Russian Prime Minister Putin told the State Duma that he is in contact with representatives of some Chechen militant formations who are considering laying down their arms, according to Interfax. LF

GANTEMIROV RECRUITS FIGHTERS, TAKES THREE VILLAGES

Chechen fighters recruited by amnestied former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov occupied the villages of Valerik and Katyr-Urt on 4 December and Gekhi in Urus Martan Raion the following day, Interfax reported. Describing Urus Martan as "a center of Wahhabism," Gantemirov said that the fall of the town, which has been bombarded for weeks by Russian artillery and aviation, will be "a turning point" in the military campaign. ITAR-TASS on 4 December cited "Severnaya Osetiya" as estimating the strength of Gantemirov's troops at 160 men, with more volunteers joining him daily. LF

DISSIDENT RUSSIAN GENERAL RETURNS TO FRONT

Major- General Vladimir Shamanov, who was hospitalized last week, returned to active duty on 4 December, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1999). Shamanov had told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" last month that he and many other officers would resign if military operations in Chechnya were stopped before the Chechen militants had been totally routed. LF

KREMLIN DISMISSES LUZHKOV ALLY...

President Yeltsin signed a decree dismissing Nikolai Kulikov as deputy interior minister and Moscow city police chief on 4 December. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov called the dismissal "groundless" and noted that by law, the appointment and dismissal of a regional police chief is subject to the regional governor's consent, according to Interfax. Kulikov is considered an ally of Luzhkov, who is also a leader of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance. On 3 December, Luzhkov won his libel cases against Russian Public Television (ORT) and its anchorman Sergei Dorenko, who were given seven days to refute Dorenko's reports that had "blackened [Luzhkov's] honor and dignity," ITAR-TASS reported. According to the court, ORT must pay 50,000 rubles ($1,870) and Dorenko 100,000 rubles in damages. JAC

...PUTS PRESSURE ON YAKOVLEV...

The federal Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the source of funding of a conference of the All Russia movement in St. Petersburg in May, the Russian press reported on 3 December. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the ministry says it is acting on the initiative of a St. Petersburg independent parliamentary deputy who alleges that Governor Vladimir Yakovlev used city budget funds to finance that meeting. It is currently investigating the false registration documents of a company that paid a sizeable sum to a hotel where the conference delegates were lodged, and it claims to have evidence that money from the city budget was paid directly to that company, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported. Yakovlev is the number three candidate on the OVR's list for the upcoming State Duma elections. JC

...AS PRIMAKOV LEVELS NEW CHARGES

On 5 December, OVR head Yevgenii Primakov said that "criminal cases are being planned against individual members of the Moscow government," coinciding with Kulikov's dismissal, and he warned that "if such a provocation is staged on the eve of parliamentary elections, we shall change our attitude to the government." Presidential spokesman Yakushkin said on 3 December that Primakov's accusations of bribery are "scandal-mongering" and aimed at "pressuring those who would like to opt out of the OVR." Earlier that day, Primakov accused banker and non-official adviser to the presidential staff Aleksander Mamut of orchestrating a campaign to bribe members of the OVR to drop out of the alliance before State Duma elections on 19 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1999). Mamut announced that he will file a law suit against Primakov, Interfax reported. JAC

ZHIRINOVSKII'S ELECTION PLANS HIT NEW SNAG

The Central Election Commission banned 71 candidates on 4 December from participating in the 19 December State Duma elections because they had their names on the list of two groups, Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and the Zhirinovskii Bloc. According to ITAR- TASS, candidates on both lists had 24 hours to inform the commission which list they wished to remain on, but none responded. Zhirinovskii commented on the latest move by saying that the inclusion of both movements on the ballot could lead to the annulment of the election results and push the country toward a constitutional crisis. On 6 December, LDPR member and Duma deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov told Interfax that his party has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to protest the commission's actions. On 3 December, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said some political extremist groups are hoping to render the outcome of the poll invalid by appealing to voters with the slogan, "Vote against everyone." JAC

BUDGET CLEARS DUMA...

Duma deputies passed the 2000 draft budget in its fourth and final reading on 3 December. Under the legislation, revenues are set at 797.2 billion rubles ($29.8 billion) and expenditures at 855.07 billion rubles. Annual inflation is projected at 18 percent and GDP at 5.350 trillion rubles. In the event that additional revenues are found, up to 9.4 billion rubles will be spent on national defense, 8.4 billion rubles on social policy, 18.1 billion rubles on regional budgets, 4.7 billion rubles on the energy and construction industries, and 4.1 million rubles on the coal sector, according to ITAR-TASS. Deputies reached a compromise with the government on tax breaks for closed-administrative territorial administrations (ZATOs), formerly secret cities. Two of the 42 ZATOs will retain their tax-free status, while the rest will have partial tax breaks. JAC

...AS CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES MAY MAKE IT OBSOLETE

More than one quarter of spending will be devoted to debt servicing. ING Barings Bank's Philip Poole told AP that this amount is too small, since "there is virtually nothing built into the budget specifically to make payments on London Club debt." Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov also noted that unless new loans are forthcoming, the government will either have to revise the budget or take money from the Central Bank. In an interview with "Segodnya" on 4 December, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said that the Russian government could manage to pay all its foreign debts without IMF money, but "we would have to considerably reduce all expenditures and consequently reconsider the whole 2000 budget." Khristenko also acknowledged that the absence of an agreement with the IMF would give the government more freedom in the economic sphere. JAC

DEFENSE SPENDING TO GET BIG BOOST NEXT YEAR

Under the 2000 budget, spending on national defense, which is put at 140.852 billion rubles ($5.3 billion), has risen by 50 percent compared with the amount designated in the 1999 budget, according to ITAR-TASS on 30 November. In an interview with "Krasnaya zvezda" on 2 December, Georgii Oleinik, head of the Defense Ministry's budget department, said that increased budget appropriations for the ministry in 2000 may allow it for the first time in a long while to overcome the disproportion between spending on the upkeep of the armed forces and on their equipment, which needs to be modernized. The same day, "Kommersant-Daily" struck a different note, complaining that Prime Minister Putin has this year "broken promises of higher pay for servicemen in Yugoslavia and the Caucasus." According to the daily, Putin said recently that while he believes that "servicemen fighting in Chechnya should be paid better than others who are not risking their lives," the government is still "looking for ways to handle the problem." JAC

RUSSIA, CYPRUS AGREE TO EXPAND MILITARY COOPERATION

At their meeting in Moscow on 3 December, the Russian and Cypriot defense ministers, Igor Sergeev and Socrates Hasikos, agreed to boost military cooperation and weapons deliveries to the Greek half of Cyprus. The two ministers discussed a new military treaty but postponed signing that document, Interfax reported. Also attending the talks was Rosvooruzhenie official Aleksei Ogarev. The news agency quoted unidentified sources in Russia's military- industrial complex as saying Russia is prepared to sell Cyprus a modified version of the Buk air-defense missile system as well as T-80U tanks. Earlier this year, yielding to pressure by Turkey and other countries, Russia and Cyprus agreed to deploy on Crete Buk-M1 air defense missile complexes--also known as S-300s--that Cyprus had originally ordered for deployment on that island (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1999). JC

SUPREME COURT CONFIRMS ELECTION BAN ON SPAS

The Russian Supreme Court on 3 December upheld a ruling by the Central Election Commission canceling the registration of the Spas (Savior) movement. Spas is headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the ultranationalist group Russian National Unity. Spas attorneys claimed at the Supreme Court session that the cancellation of the group's registration was politically motivated and orchestrated by a powerful Jewish lobby, according to Interfax. JAC

RUSSIAN TV REVEALS WHAT SPIES ARE CARRYING THIS SEASON

Russian Public Television (ORT) and NTV showed film footage on 4 December of the detention of U.S. diplomat Cheri Leberknight on suspicion of spying. According to ITAR- TASS, the footage revealed Federal Security Service officers discovering an anti-radar device around her waist that was "specially developed by the CIA to control counterintelligence by means of radiocommunication." Agents also took some water-soluble paper that was in her possession and demonstrated for cameras how it can dissolve in ordinary mineral water. ORT called Leberknight's detention "one of the most successful Russian counterintelligence operations of the past few decades." JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES NEW GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM

The parliament on 3 December failed to challenge the program submitted the previous day by Prime Minister Aram Sargsian's new cabinet, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sargsian, for his part, expressed thanks for deputies' unanimous support, which he said "gives me more strength." His program draws heavily on the policies outlined by his murdered brother and predecessor, Vazgen Sargsian. It focuses on a continuation of market reforms, a crackdown on corruption and the shadow economy, and the restoration of political and economic stability. LF

ARMENIAN KARABAKH VETERANS CRITICIZE PRESIDENT

At the fourth congress of the Yerkrapah Union of Veterans of the Karabakh war, which took place in Yerevan on 2-3 December, the organization's deputy chairman, Albert Bazeyan, accused President Robert Kocharian of exacerbating political disputes and of failing to guarantee political stability in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bazeyan also strongly condemned what he termed official media "propaganda" directed against the army in the wake of the 27 October parliamentary shootings in which Premier Vazgen Sargsian, Yerkrapah's first leader, was killed. Addressing the 800 delegates to the congress on 3 December, Minister for Industrial Infrastructure Vahan Shirkhanian, a former deputy defense minister, called for Kocharian's resignation and new presidential elections. But that demand did not figure in the final resolution adopted by the congress. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION COMMENT ON U.S. CONCERN

President Heidar Aliyev told journalists in Baku on 2 December that he believes the concern over human rights violations in Azerbaijan expressed in a 10 November letter from a group of 14 U.S. Congressmen is misplaced, Turan reported. Aliyev likewise rejected the congressmen's fears that the 12 December municipal elections will not be democratic, adding that Azerbaijan will not bow to instructions from other countries. Opposition Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar told Turan the following day that Aliyev was wrong to argue that the elections are Azerbaijan's internal affair. Azerbaijan National Independence Party chairman Etibar Mamedov predicted that falsification of the poll is inevitable. LF

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CONCLUDES AZERBAIJAN VISIT

Visiting Baku on 2-3 December, Petar Stoyanov held talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Aliyev and parliamentary chairman Murtuz Alesqerov on expanding bilateral cooperation, especially in the sphere of transportation within the framework of the EU TRACECA program, Turan reported. Stoyanov also affirmed Bulgaria's willingness to participate in the transportation of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil shipped from the Georgian terminal at Supsa to the Bulgarian port of Burgas, noting that the signing last month of framework agreements on the construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline do not render redundant plans for a Burgas- Aleksandropoulis pipeline. Stoyanov said Bulgaria will support Azerbaijan's efforts to be admitted as a full member of the Council of Europe. LF

CONFUSION OVER ALLEGED CHECHEN THREAT TO MOSCOW'S EMBASSY IN GEORGIA

Quoting an unidentified source in the Russian Foreign Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 December that Moscow is considering evacuating dependents of the staff of its Tbilisi embassy because of an anticipated Chechen terrorist threat. The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement the same day saying that it has increased security measures at the embassy's request but that the measures requested by the embassy far exceed those required to deflect a potential attack and are aimed at creating the impression that the Georgian authorities cannot ensure security in the country. But an embassy spokesman denied any knowledge of any heightened danger or that instructions were received to evacuate non-essential personnel. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT MEETS WITH FOREIGN INVESTORS

Speaking at a session in Almaty on 3 December of the Foreign Investors' Council, Nursultan Nazarbaev predicted that GDP should increase by 1 percent in 1999, compared with a fall of 2.5 percent the previous year, Reuters reported. He further noted that gold and foreign currency reserves are rising and that the national currency is stable, but also conceded that economic recovery could be jeopardized by the negative trade balance or by acute social problems. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO RECEIVE NEW EBRD LOANS

Nazarbaev also met on 3 December in Almaty with EBRD head Horst Koehler to discuss cooperation, Interfax reported. Agreements were signed whereby the EBRD will advance loans totaling $160 million to Kazakhstan's railways and energy sectors and Kazakhtelecom. LF

KAZAKHSTAN NOT TO DEPORT SEPARATISTS TO RUSSIA

The Russian citizens arrested last month in Ust-Kamenogorsk for allegedly plotting to seize administrative buildings in eastern Kazakhstan and declare a Russian Altai Republic will not be deported to Russia, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 3 December quoting a local Kazakh security official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 November 1999). Nor does Kazakhstan plan additional security on its border with Russia, another Kazakh security official told the agency. LF

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT SUBMITS AMENDED DRAFT BUDGET

The Kyrgyz parliamentary press service announced on 3 December that the government has amended the draft budget for 2000, which deputies had rejected on 15 November, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1999). Projected revenues and expenditures are cut by some 10 percent and now stand at 9.769 billion soms ($217 million) and 9.58 billion soms respectively. Deputy Dosbol Nur Uulu told RFE/RL that the new draft does not address deputies' demands for an increase in pensions and the minimum monthly wage. Also on 3 December, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev ordered ministers and enterprise heads to pay all wage and pension arrears and social allowances by the end of the year. Those debts total $12.3 million. LF

ANOTHER PROTEST DEMONSTRATION IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL

Groups of 200-300 Bishkek residents blocked major highways in the city on 2-3 December to protest the government's failure to negotiate an agreement with Uzbekistan on the resumption of natural gas supplies for heating purposes, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. A similar protest took place one week earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 1999). Uzbekistan halted gas supplies in mid-November in retaliation for Kyrgyzstan's $4 million unpaid debts for previous supplies. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY RE-REGISTERED

The Ministry of Justice on 3 December formally registered the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (Almaty platform), Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The Democratic Party of Tajikistan first registered in September 1991 but was banned in June 1993, after which it split into two groups. One group distanced itself from the United Tajik Opposition and was registered in 1995 as a new organization, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (Tehran platform.) The Ministry of Justice lifted its ban on the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (Almaty platform) and three other parties in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1999). LF

UZBEKISTAN HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

More than 93 percent of Uzbekistan's 12.7 million electorate cast their votes on 5 December in elections to the 250-deputy parliament. All seats were contested in single-mandate constituencies. Five political parties, none of which is in opposition to the country's leadership, contended the poll. The OSCE sent only a 17-person assessment mission, rather than a fully-fledged observer mission, saying that given the ban on two opposition parties the election process could not be considered democratic. LF




NEW BELARUSIAN MOVEMENT TO SEEK DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS

Some 120 delegates from throughout Belarus took part in the constituent congress in Minsk on 4 December of a Movement for Democratic and Free Elections, Belapan reported. The movement's declared goals are to promote civil society and to ensure that free and democratic elections are held in Belarus. The congress elected Mechaslau Hryb, former speaker of the Supreme Soviet, as chairman of the new group. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATOR DISMISSED

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has dismissed Ivan Tsitsyankou, head of the Presidential Administrative Department, at the latter's request, Belarusian Television reported on 3 December without any further comment. Tsitsyankou was widely believed to be one of the most influential officials in Belarus and one of Lukashenka's closest associates. Belarusian independent press repeatedly suggested that Tsitsyankou was involved in shady economic operations, building his department into an "empire" of handicraft industries, health and vacation resorts, national parks, and hundreds of buildings available for rent. "I think this is the first of a series of forthcoming dismissals," Mikhail Chyhir, former premier in Lukashenka's administration, commented to Belapan. Chyhir added that the Presidential Administrative Department enjoyed some economic privileges and "reaped huge profits from the multiplicity of exchange rates" in Belarus. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ABOLISHES COLLECTIVE FARMS

Leonid Kuchma on 4 December issued a decree reforming the agricultural sector on "the principles of land ownership," Interfax reported. Under the decree, the land and property of collective farms must be divided among their workers by the end of April 2000. Collective farm workers can subsequently organize private enterprises or agricultural cooperatives on their plots. The decree also orders the government to supply the plots' owners with ownership certificates by the end of 2002. "The main point of this document is to announce collective farms as ineffective forms of property," AP quoted Deputy Prime Minister Mykhaylo Hladiy as saying. JM

IMF UNCERTAIN ABOUT LOAN RESUMPTION TO UKRAINE

IMF official John Odling-Smee said in Kyiv on 4 December that the IMF has not yet decided whether to resume the $2.6 billion loan program suspended in September, Interfax reported. Ukraine has so far received $965 million under the program. The IMF makes further credits conditional on economic reform and liberalization in Ukraine. "Ukraine's economy is over-regulated, over-licensed and over- inspected," AP quoted Odling-Smee as saying. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus is expected in Kyiv on 17-18 December. Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko said Ukraine can count on the IMF's next tranche of some $300 million no sooner than in February 2000, according to Interfax. JM

EU TO OFFER STRATEGY, BUT NO MEMBERSHIP PROSPECT FOR UKRAINE

Reuters reported on 3 December that an EU draft strategy for Ukraine to be approved at the EU Helsinki summit on 10-11 December stresses Ukraine's "unique position" in Europe but gives no indication of the country's prospects for joining the EU. The draft strategy, which largely resembles one adopted for Russia in June, pledges EU assistance in political and economic reform and encourages Ukraine to reform its energy sector, decommission the Chornobyl nuclear plant, and eliminate corruption and poor governance as the main barriers to foreign investment. JM

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER ADVOCATES HOLIDAY E- GREETINGS

Mart Laar's spokesman, Priit Poiklik, has announced that the prime minister will not be sending holiday greeting cards this year, opting instead to send greetings via the Internet. Poiklik told "Eesti Paevaleht" that "the prime minister is innovative and considers it right to send Christmas cards by computer," adding that it is considerably cheaper "in a year of austerity." Saying the state is "one whole organism," Poiklik commented that "the lungs do not have to congratulate the liver and the liver does not have to congratulate the spleen." The Foreign Ministry added that greeting card costs will drop to 8,570 kroons ($550) this year from 30,700 kroons last year, but it noted that some cards will need to be sent owing to protocol. MH

BALTIC ASSEMBLY MEETS IN RIGA

The Baltic Assembly, the joint body composed of parliamentary deputies from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, gathered in Riga on 2-4 December for its 15th session. Latvian President Vaira Vike- Freiberga opened the session, stressing the important role played by the assembly in promoting Baltic cooperation, BNS reported. She said that cooperation must intensify in the economic, security, and education spheres. The assembly adopted several resolutions, calling for cooperation in spheres ranging from agriculture to relations with the U.S. congress. One resolution also called on Russia to begin talks over the Chechnya crisis. However, the body decided that at this session it would not pursue a resolution on the situation in Belarus. MH

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER REAFFIRMS COOPERATION WITH LITHUANIA

Mart Laar was in Lithuania on 2-4 December on a visit aimed at reaffirming bilateral cooperation. After meeting with Laar, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius described the continuing cooperation between the two countries as "cooperation linked with competition," BNS reported. Laar said Estonia is following Lithuania's example in boosting its defense spending. Estonia will spend some 1.6 percent of GDP next year on defense needs. However, Kubilius also admitted that Vilnius had been slow to respond to the Russian economic crisis, saying that Lithuania is following Estonia's example in cutting back expenditures. According to "Postimees," Laar and Kubilius agreed that joint purchases of airspace surveillance equipment would be more practical since the Baltic States' air defense system will be unified as BALTNET. Laar also met with President Valdas Adamkus, with whom he discussed cooperation on NATO integration and joint lobbying efforts, especially in the U.S. MH

POLISH PARLIAMENT FAILS TO SHORTEN WORKWEEK

By a vote of 249 to 164 with 14 abstentions, the parliament on 3 December defeated a motion by the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) to cut Poland's workweek from the current 42 hours to 40 hours in 2002. The AWS's coalition partner, Freedom Union, whose deputies voted against the motion with the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, wanted the shorter workweek to be introduced in 2004. JM

POLISH POST-COMMUNISTS PROPOSE LEFTIST ELECTION COALITION

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, a leader of the post- communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), has proposed the creation of a left-wing coalition ahead of the 2001 parliamentary elections, PAP reported on 4 December. According to Cimoszewicz, the coalition could be made up of the SLD, the Labor Union (UP), and "other organizations close to the Left." Cimoszewicz recalled that in the 1997 parliamentary elections, almost 5 percent of votes cast for left-wing politicians "were wasted" because the UP could not muster the 5 percent of the vote required for entry into the parliament. JM

CZECH DEMONSTRATORS DEMAND END TO OPPOSITION AGREEMENT

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in several cities across the Czech Republic on 3 December to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Milos Zeman and parliamentary chairman Vaclav Klaus, Czech media reported. The demonstrators called for an end to the "opposition agreement" between Zeman's Social Democrats and Klaus's Civic Democrats. The demonstrations were organized by a group of former student leaders from the 1989 Velvet Revolution. The largest demonstration took place in Prague where an estimated 50,000-80,000 people gathered on Wenceslas Square. Several prominent public figures addressed the Prague demonstrators, including Catholic priest and Impulse-99 representative Tomas Halik, Senator Vaclav Fischer, and film director Jan Hrebejk. Klaus reacted by saying the scrapping of the opposition agreement would not solve anything, CTK reported. VG

KLAUS CONFIRMED AS LEADER AT ODS CONGRESS

Delegates at the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) congress in Liberec on 5 December rejected a motion to end the party's "opposition agreement" with the governing Social Democrats, Czech media reported. The congress delegates also expressed support for the creation of a super-grand coalition of all parliamentary parties, except for the Communists, by a vote of 128 to 78 with 48 abstentions. Delegates re-elected parliamentary chairman Vaclav Klaus to the post of party leader. Klaus received the support of 215 of the congress's 265 delegates. No one ran against him. Immediately after the announcement that Klaus had been confirmed as leader, the congress received an anonymous bomb threat. The threat turned out to be a false alarm. VG

LEADING CZECH PARTIES HINT AT CHANGES

The chairman of the Social Democratic caucus in the Senate, Zdenek Vojir, said on 3 December that his party discussed possible replacements for cabinet ministers as well as Prime Minister and party chairman Milos Zeman the day before, CTK reported. He said Zeman himself took part in the discussions, but Vojir did not elaborate. Meanwhile, Klaus on 5 December indicated in a speech to delegates to the ODS congress that his party might allow "modifications in its relations with the Social Democrats," but did not elaborate, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 6 December. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on a TV Nova debate show on 5 December that the opposition agreement should be expanded to include other areas, such as preparations for accession to the EU, CTK reported. VG

NORWAY INTRODUCES VISAS FOR SLOVAKS

Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 6 December said that Norway is to impose visa restrictions on Slovaks owing to the growing number of Slovak Roma seeking refugee status in the Scandinavian country, TASR reported. There are currently 98 Slovak Roma in Norway, according to the agency. VG

AUSTRIA: SLOVAKIA READY TO TALK ABOUT NUCLEAR PLANT

Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel on 5 December said he has received a fax from his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, indicating that Slovakia is ready to discuss an earlier closure date for two reactors at the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant, TASR reported. Slovakia has pledged to close the reactors between 2006 and 2008, and the EU has endorsed those dates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1999). Kukan's letter reportedly states that Slovakia would be willing to discuss earlier closure dates if it received financial compensation. On 3 December, during a visit to Vienna, Finnish Premier Paavo Lipponen criticized Austria's attitude toward Slovakia. VG

VISEGRAD PRESIDENTS MEET IN SLOVAKIA

The presidents of the Visegrad group, which is composed of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, issued a joint declaration on 3 December in which they expressed support for Slovakia's efforts to catch up with its neighbors in the process of accession to NATO and the EU, TASR reported. The meeting, which took place in the Slovak town of Gerlachov, also focused on the creation of a Visegrad Fund. VG




TRAJKOVSKI WINS MACEDONIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE...

Boris Trajkovski of the center-right Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-VPMNE) defeated Social Democrat Tito Petkovski on 5 December by a margin of some 69,000 votes. Trajkovski told supporters in Skopje: "It is time for us to deal with a serious matters now that this long, long process is over. The stability and security of the country have been preserved," Reuters reported. The election was a partial re-run of the 14 November ballot, which the Social Democrats claimed involved fraud in some 230 polling stations, primarily ones in areas inhabited by the ethnic Albanian minority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 1999). The latest vote yielded almost identical results to the earlier ballot. Trajkovski's party is the senior partner in the governing coalition, which also includes the Democratic Alternative and Democratic Party of the Albanians. PM

...BUT WILL SOCIAL DEMOCRATS ACCEPT?

Social Democratic officials said in Skopje on 5 December that the latest round of voting contained "widespread irregularities," AP reported. They added that they will demand that the Supreme Court declare the ballot invalid. Earlier that day, several Albanians told Western news agencies that they believe the Social Democrats do not recognize the Albanians' right to take part in political life. Observers suggested that a victory for Petkovski could have strained relations between the ethnic Macedonians and the Albanians, who constitute about 23 percent of the population. During the campaign, Petkovski made many statements that offended Albanian public opinion. PM

OSCE REPORT: SERBIAN VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA WAS PLANNED

The OSCE released a report in Vienna on 6 December that argues that the "cycle of violence has not yet been broken" in Kosova. The study shows that the violence committed by Serbian forces in the first half of 1999 was part of a deliberate, planned campaign aimed at driving the ethnic Albanian majority from the province. "Everywhere the attacks on communities appear to have been dictated by strategy, not by breakdown in command and control," the report noted. Violence by ethnic Albanians is also discussed, but the study notes that "the sheer scale and the involvement of the [Serbian] state make the [violence carried out by Serbian forces] of a structurally different order" than that committed by Albanians. The report highlights the deliberate killing of children, the elderly, and the disabled by Serbian forces as well as violence against elderly Serbs by Albanians. PM

SERBIAN POLICE ARREST KOSOVAR DEFENSE LAWYER

Natasa Kandic, who is one of Serbia's leading human rights activists, told Reuters in Belgrade on 5 December that police arrested Teki Bokshi two days earlier. The ethnic Albanian is a defense attorney for some 2,000 Kosovars being held in Serbian jails. He was travelling back to Belgrade from visiting clients in Sremska Mitrovica at the time of his arrest. Kandic added that she does not know where Bokshi is being held. She stressed that she believes that the police are trying to "stop our work" in defending ethnic Albanians in court. PM

KOSOVAR 'GOVERNMENT' TO ISSUE PASSPORTS

The self- styled "provisional government of Kosova," which is backed by the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in a statement in Prishtina on 4 December that it will soon issue passports. The move follows an earlier announcement by the UCK-backed government that it will issue identity cards, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Neither the government nor its documents are recognized by the international community, including the UN civilian administration in Kosova. The Belgrade authorities recently reported that they have issued 5,000 Yugoslav passports and 600 identity cards to Kosovars in the past three months. PM

EU OIL TRUCKS REMAIN STUCK ON SERBIAN BORDER

EU officials decided in Brussels on 3 December to send the 14 trucks carrying fuel oil for Nis and Pirot back to Macedonia from the border crossing into Serbia, where Serbian customs officials have blocked their entry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 1999). Serbian customs personnel refused, however, to allow the trucks to return to Macedonia. Meanwhile, the EU must pay Serbian customs $64 per truck each day in "parking fees," Reuters reported. Michael Graham, head of the EU mission in Belgrade, told AP on 5 December that the incident is an expression of Belgrade's "ill will." He commented that "if this were an isolated question, I wouldn't be so worried, but it's not. This delay came after a series of other obstacles." Nis Mayor Zoran Zivkovic added that "the dirty game continues." PM

DRASKOVIC PARTY TO SHUN SERBIAN SHADOW CABINET

Dragoslav Avramovic, who is former governor of the National Bank and one of Serbia's most popular public figures, said in Belgrade on 4 December that he does not object to proposals from some opposition leaders to form a shadow cabinet. Avramovic has been widely discussed as the most likely candidate to head any government formed by the opposition. Predrag Simic, who is an adviser to the Serbian Renewal Movement's (SPO) Vuk Draskovic, said his party will not participate in a shadow government, which Simic called "a waste of time and energy." Observers suggest that the SPO still hopes to cut a deal with the regime, with which it shares a nationalist and anti-Western outlook. Draskovic served as Yugoslav deputy prime minister until 28 April 1999. PM

ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS TRADE CHARGES OF CORRUPTION

Genc Pollo, who is a former top aide to Democratic Party leader and ex-President Sali Berisha, said in Tirana on 5 December that Berisha "used family members to pocket large amounts of money from local businessmen and buy property in New York," dpa reported. Pollo also charged that Berisha made $100,000 from a now defunct pyramid investment company and had other questionable business interests. The Democratic Party said in a statement that Pollo's charges are "fabrications." Two days earlier, a spokesman for Berisha said that Pollo has dubious business connections and illegally acquired two "luxury apartments" in central Tirana. Pollo is a member of the parliament but resigned his party offices after failing to defeat Berisha for the party chairmanship in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). PM

CROATIAN GOVERNING PARTY WANTS VALENTIC AS PRIME MINISTER...

The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) said in a statement on 3 December that it will nominate former Prime Minister Nikica Valentic to head a HDZ-led government after the 3 January elections. The statement added that Vladimir Seks will become speaker of the parliament if the HDZ wins the vote. The BBC's Croatian Service noted on 6 December that the HDZ is apparently influenced by unspecified recent public opinion polls that rate Valentic as the most popular prime minister and Seks as the most competent faction manager in the parliament. PM

...BUT WHAT ABOUT GRANIC?

RFE/RL's South Slavic Service noted on 3 December that missing from the list of top candidates is Foreign Minister Mate Granic. Recent polls in "Jutarnji list" show that he is the only HDZ leader who could possibly defeat Social Democrat Ivica Racan in a presidential election. Valentic told "Jutarnji list" of 6 December that Granic would be the best presidential candidate for the HDZ in a post-Tudjman era. Valentic added that he is confident that he and Granic as top candidates will enable the HDZ to "obtain 5 to 10 percent more votes" than would otherwise be the case. PM

ROMANIAN RAILWAY WORKERS GO ON STRIKE

Railway workers throughout Romania went on strike on 6 December to demand a 70 percent wage increase and improved working conditions. As a result of their action, some 60 percent of railway traffic in the country came to a standstill. The previous day, Transportation Minister Traian Basescu offered to raise wages by 20 percent, but the unions rejected the offer. Basescu said if the government met the union's demands, prices for train tickets would go up by 40 percent, which he described as "unacceptable now, when Christmas is coming," AP reported. While passenger train conductors have declared an unlimited strike, freight train conductors were expected to go back to work later in the day on 6 December. VG

ROMANIA HOOKED UP TO SOYUZ PIPELINE

Romanian President Emil Constantinescu on 3 December attended a ceremony to open a new pipeline connection to the Soyuz gas pipeline that runs from Russia through Ukraine to Romania, ITAR-TASS reported. The new pipeline connection will allow Romanian to increase the annual amount of gas it imports from Russia by 2.3-4 billion cubic meters. VG

OSCE MISSION HEAD REACTS TO TRANSDNIESTER COMPLAINTS

The head of the OSCE permanent mission to Moldova, William Hill, said the fact that Transdniester officials did not sign the OSCE agreement on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the breakaway region of Moldova does not mean that the agreement does not apply to the region, Infotag reported on 3 December. Hill was responding to complaints about the deal by Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov, who declared it "invalid" because no representatives from the region signed it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 1999). "Not all countries signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Helsinki document either, but they are binding for all," Hill said. VG

BULGARIA ASKS TO BE REMOVED FROM EU VISA BLACKLIST

Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 3 December said his country's accession to the EU would secure greater public support if the EU eased visa restrictions on Bulgarians, BTA reported. Kostov was speaking upon his return from a visit to the Netherlands and Belgium, where he brought up the issue with the leaders of those two countries and European Commissioner Romano Prodi. VG




A DECADE OF DISAPPOINTMENTS


By Paul Goble

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 unleashed great expectations that the world was entering a new period of democracy, free markets, peace, and stability.

But despite the undeniable progress almost everyone has made, the decade since that time has brought even greater disappointments, both in the countries that languished under communist domination as well as in those that had actively fought that political system.

Such a sequence, of course, is typical of periods of massive change. As the Polish writer Adam Michnik points out in the current issue of the American journal "Dissent," "any great social change unleashes great expectations. And therefore, of course, it leads to great disappointments.

This particular decade of disappointed expectations has had the unintended consequence of focusing attention on three aspects of the communist experience in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that many participants in and analysts of these developments have until now been largely unwilling to confront.

First, communism was far more insidious, pervasive, and evil than even many of its sharpest critics have been prepared to acknowledge. As a result, overcoming its consequences requires a far greater effort over a longer period than many had earlier assumed.

Not only did the communist regimes of the region kill millions of people and destroy their physical environment in the name of a supposedly higher good--something even former Communists now acknowledge; these regimes deformed the mental and moral make-up of the people living under them.

The communist authorities were ultimately unsuccessful in reducing everyone to the status of "Homo Sovieticus." Had they been able to achieve that objective, these regimes might have survived far longer than they did. But they did have a major impact on those over whom they exercised their power, as any comparison of pre-communist and post- communist periods in these countries shows. Many of the most committed anti-Communists, however, had assumed that formally replacing communism as the ruling ideological system with democracy and free market economics would be sufficient to overcome up to seven decades of communist indoctrination.

Second, Soviet domination of this region was never only about communism, and resistance to that domination was never only about communism, either. Instead, it was about nationalism and patriotism, values that the Soviet system sometimes actively exploited and at other times even more actively opposed.

There remain enormous differences between those countries where indigenous groups imposed communism and those where a foreign occupying power did so. In the former, many people viewed the communist government as somehow their own, even if they hated it for what it did. In the latter, far more people viewed it as what it was, an occupying force that they would ultimately overthrow.

During the communist period, this difference helped explain the pride many Russians took in the achievements of the Soviet state, even if they were suffering as much as anyone else from its rule. And it explains some of the impetus behind East European resistance to communist occupation, not only in 1956 and 1968 but in the struggle to overthrow communism a decade ago.

But as important as these differences were in Soviet times, they have become even more significant in the post- communist period. It has proved far less difficult for those societies that always viewed communism as something foreign to turn away from than it has been for those that saw communism as part of their own national patrimony.

To a large extent, this national dimension of communism and its collapse has been either ignored or downplayed by all involved. Any mention of it inevitably reopens the question of just what the Cold War was in fact about. And any discussion of this dimension of that conflict opens a variety of broader historical issues that political leaders both in the East and West believe are best resolved by being ignored.

Third, the struggle between those who did the oppressing and those who were oppressed did not end just because the Berlin Wall fell and those who had called themselves Communists now call themselves something else.

Largely because neither the international community nor the people in many post-communist countries were prepared to acknowledge the impact of communism on the minds and behavior of people living under it, there has been no genuine de-communization either of personnel or of ideas in the governing stratum.

In many post-communist countries, especially those in which communism was viewed as something indigenous rather than imposed, the same people are in office today as under communism. They now style themselves as democrats, but in many cases they behave in ways little or no different from when they called themselves something else.

And equally important, the people living under their rule continue to suffer from many of the things they suffered from in the past, even if those responsible now use different words. In some countries, like Uzbekistan, a new GULAG is being constructed; in others, the continuities with the past are less striking but equally significant.

As a result, those concerned about human freedom are increasingly being forced to recognize that the defeat of communism did not mark the final victory in that struggle. Not surprisingly, some of them have grown discouraged and even opted out. But a growing number of people now understand that they must continue the fight, lest the victory of a decade ago be undermined by their own inaction or the actions of others.


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