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Newsline - January 13, 2000




MORE GOVERNORS, BUSINESS LEADERS JUMP ON PUTIN BANDWAGON...

On 12 January, 197 prominent political leaders and businessmen, including Gazprom Chairman Rem Vyakhirev, Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii, and Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, formally requested that acting President Vladimir Putin run for the presidency in elections scheduled for 26 March. The same day, the twelve regional leaders who belong to the Northwest interregional association adopted a statement supporting Putin's candidacy. A number of governors had earlier pledged their support for Putin, including Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 12 January 1999). A researcher with the ROMIR polling agency, Natalya Laidinen, told AP that Putin's popularity has not been damaged by recent setbacks in the military campaign against Chechnya and even further reverses are unlikely to diminish his appeal to the electorate. JAC

...AS OTHER POTENTIAL CANDIDATES JOIN THE FIELD

Citizen initiative groups in Ryazan and Rostov Oblasts have nominated Samara Governor Konstantin Titov for president, "Tribuna" reported on 13 January. Titov, who ran on the party list of the Union of Rightist Forces in the 19 December State Duma elections, was credited by some analysts with winning support for the alliance in a variety of regions--not just his own. Titov, who is also chairman of the Federation Council's Budget Committee, had earlier expressed a desire to seek the presidency. According to "Izvestiya," Lev Ubozhko, leader of the Russian Conservative Movement, and Anatolii Nazeikin, head of group of unemployed people, have also expressed their desire to run. The Conservative Movement attracted less than 1 percent of votes during State Duma elections. JAC

CANDIDATE PUTIN CALLS FOR NEW INDUSTRIAL POLICY...

Addressing members of the Northwest interregional association, acting President Putin urged Russian industry to concentrate its efforts on exports of finished products rather than selling off the country's valuable natural resources as raw materials, ITAR-TASS reported. He suggested that Russia's fur industry needs modernization and that Russia should use coal in addition to natural gas. He also noted that insufficient energy supplies in some regions acts as a curb on the "country's economic momentum." JAC

...SUGGESTS WAGE HIKE FOR STATE SECTOR WORKERS

Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 12 January announced that the Russian government will increase wages for state sector workers by 20 percent as of 1 April. During a visit to a children's hospital in the Republic of Karelia, Putin lamented the low salaries of some nurses and doctors, who make only 400-500 rubles ($14-18) and 1,100- 1,200 rubles a month, respectively, ITAR-TASS reported. Last week, Education Minister Vladimir Filippov told Ekho Moskvy that teachers in some regions of Russia, such as Altai Krai, have not been paid for up to 12 months. More than 4,000 teachers in that region began a four-day strike on 12 January to demand unpaid wages, according to Interfax-Eurasia. The same day, 7,000 teachers went on strike in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast to demand five months of unpaid wages totaling some 6 million rubles. JAC

FEDERAL FORCES IMPOSE NEW RESTRICTIONS ON CHECHEN MEN

Chechen males aged 10-60 have been barred from leaving Chechnya for neighboring Ingushetia following orders that the entire Chechen male population be screened to identify guerrillas, Reuters and AP reported on 12 January. On 13 January, Russian troops were checking identification papers in Shali and Argun and in the villages of Khati-Ara and Baitarki near the Chechen border with Daghestan, according to AP. Meanwhile Russian spokesmen claimed that in addition to Shali, federal forces have also retaken control of the towns of Argun, Achkhoi Martan, and Gudermes. Security in Gudermes, however, is being increased in anticipation of another Chechen attack, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

SERGEEV, PUTIN AGREE ON CHECHEN TACTICS...

Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told journalists in Moscow on 12 January that acting President Putin approved a "coordinated plan" of military actions in Chechnya at a meeting with security ministers the previous day. That plan takes into account the "changed situation" in Chechnya, in particular the extension of the security zone, he said. Sergeev added that the military operation in Chechnya will not be suspended but carried through to its logical conclusion. "Sooner or later," he said, the Russian force will capture Grozny. Sergeev also noted that since paratroopers occupied the strategic heights overlooking Sharoi early on 12 January, Russian forces now control one-third of the Argun gorge and have blocked the main highway through it from Itum- Kale to the Georgian village of Shatili. LF

...BUT NOT ON PEACE TALKS

In contrast to Putin, who has expressed his readiness for peace talks with any Chechen representative who acknowledges the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, Sergeev on 12 January rejected such talks, saying it is pointless to conduct a dialogue with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov or field commander Shamil Basaev, ITAR-TASS reported, He added that even Western leaders who have accused Moscow of using excessive force in Chechnya cannot suggest a suitable Chechen negotiating partner. LF

RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIAN APARTMENT BOMBS MANUFACTURED IN CHECHNYA

Russian Security Council secretary Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 12 January that federal forces have discovered explosives in the Chechen town of Urus Martan that are identical to those used to blow up Russian apartment buildings last summer and in the February 1999 bombs in Tashkent, AP and dpa reported. Western media claims that the Russian bombings were staged by Russian intelligence to create a pretext for the invasion of Chechnya are "wild journalistic fantasy," Ivanov added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 2000). LF

CHECHEN REPRESENTATIVE DENIES RADUEV, UDUGOV IN GEORGIA

Vakha Ibragimov, who heads the Chechen Information center in Georgia, has denied that Chechen field commander Salman Raduev and a spokesman Movladi Udugov are currently in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported on 13 January. Ibragimov said Raduev is commanding a detachment of fighters near Gudermes, while Udugov is in Grozny. On 12 January, ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed official on the staff of the Russian government envoy to Chechnya as claiming that Raduev and Udugov were in Georgia holding talks with "local extremists" about a Chechen government in exile. LF

GOVERNMENT WANTS START-2 RATIFIED BEFORE END OF MARCH

Defense Minister Sergeev has called on the State Duma to ratify the START-2 treaty before the 26 March presidential elections, Interfax reported on 12 January. Ratification of that document, he noted, would help persuade Washington not to contravene the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the U.S. wants amended to allow it to set up a limited national defense system. Also on 12 January, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told his British counterpart, Robin Cook, in a telephone conversation that the Russian government will urge the Duma to ratify START-2. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is scheduled to visit Moscow at the end of this month for talks that are expected to focus on progress toward ratifying START-2, according to ITAR-TASS. JC

PUTIN SIGNS REVISED NATIONAL SECURITY CONCEPT...

Acting President Putin has signed a decree amending the new national security concept to give more emphasis to the idea of a multipolar world, Interfax and AP reported on 12 January, citing the presidential press service. The concept stresses that Moscow promotes strengthening the economic and political positions of various countries and improving the "multilateral oversight of international political processes," primarily under the aegis of the UN Security Council. With regard to the use of nuclear weapons, the concept notes that Russia must possess such weapons to repel an attack by an aggressor state but that nuclear forces are to be used only if there is no other way to resolve a crisis. And with regard to organized crime, the amended concept shifts the emphasis from the "purely criminal to the political," noting that international terrorism poses a serious threat to Russian security. JC

...WHILE SECURITY COUNCIL TO TACKLE INFORMATION POLICY?

Also on 12 January, Reuters quoted Security Council Secretary Ivanov as telling journalists that the council will soon discuss information policy for the first time. Ivanov said that the current fighting in Chechnya, last year's NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, and the "dirty tricks" during last month's parliamentary elections in Russia all indicate that "it is time to take a close look at information policy." But he stressed that "nobody wants to resurrect 'agitprop' or Central Committee departments" engaged in censorship. Ivanov also noted that following Putin's signing of the national security concept, the new military doctrine may be ready for submission to the Security Council by the end of this month or early February. JC

ENERGY SECTOR GETS NEW SUPERVISOR...

Acting President Putin has put Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko in charge of overseeing the energy sector, Interfax reported on 13 January. That sector had been overseen by former First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, who was dismissed earlier this week. In an interview with "Segodnya" on 12 January, Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii, who is seen as a protege of Aksenenko, did not exclude the possibility of his own dismissal. Khristenko will also oversee regional economic development and anti-monopoly policy. New Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shoigu, in addition to maintaining his position at the Emergencies Ministry, will manage migration and sports policy. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who was overseeing the military industrial complex, will now also be responsible for general industry issues, including transportation and communications. JAC

...AS KASYANOV CHOSEN AS PUTIN'S SUBSTITUTE

First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov will fill in for Putin when he is temporarily away. Interfax reported on 12 January that Sergei Shatalov will return to the Finance Ministry as first deputy finance minister in charge of negotiations with international creditors. Vladimir Makarov, who recently dismissed from his post in the presidential administration, will become first deputy chairman of the State Customs Committee. JAC

PUTIN INSTALLS HIS OWN MEN...

Acting President Putin on 12 January appointed Vladimir Kozhin as head of the Kremlin's facilities directorate, a position recently vacated by Pavel Borodin. Kozhin is the former head of the federal Currency and Export Control Service and spent most of his professional life in St. Petersburg, Putin's home base. According to "Segodnya" on 11 January, the new head of the economic department of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Strelkov, is a former colleague of Putin's at the Federal Security Service, where Strelkov was deputy supplies director. JAC

...AS 'INTERNATIONAL' POST FOR YELTSIN PONDERED

"Segodnya" speculated in its 11 January issue that Borodin's new status as an "international official"--he has been proposed for the post of state secretary of the Union of Belarus and Russia--will provide him with immunity from criminal prosecution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2000). That newspaper reported the next day that Putin's nomination of Borodin could cause some friction with Belarus, since Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has his own candidate for the post of secretary of state. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated on 12 January that the nomination of Borodin, one of former President Boris Yeltsin's most trusted associates, may indicate that Yeltsin will be tapped for the head of the union. JAC

UNITY PICKS NEW LEADER

The pro-Kremlin movement Unity on 12 January chose the leader of its faction in the new State Duma: Boris Gryzhlov, a deputy from St. Petersburg and president of an interregional business cooperation fund called Development of the Regions. The same day, Unity leader Sergei Shoigu, who had earlier turned down his seat in the Duma to maintain his cabinet position, said Unity is conducting merger talks with Our Home Is Russia (NDR). The NDR did not surpass the 5 percent barrier to enter the Duma, but nine of its candidates in single-mandate districts were elected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 2000). Regional heads who are members of the NDR, such as Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii and Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak, have expressed their support for Putin as president. JAC

ALL ABOARD FOR NEXT 'MIR' MISSION?

The Russian Space Agency has backed the proposal to send another crew to the "Mir" space station, which has remained unmanned since last summer. Earlier this week, international and Russia media reported that a U.S. company has pledged $20 million to help continue the space station program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2000). A spokesman for the agency said that two cosmonauts might leave for "Mir" on 30 March and, if more private funds are raised, be accompanied by actor Vladimir Steklov, who is slated to star in a movie about a cosmonaut who refuses to leave the space station. The government must still approve the plan to send another crew to "Mir." JC

RUSSIA FINALLY REPORTS A Y2K PROBLEM

The e-mail system at the Kremlin's press office has been shut down by the year 2000 computer bug problem, a press office spokesman told AFP on 12 January, adding that the problem should be sorted out by the end of the month. The former head of Gostelekom, Aleksandr Ivanov, told "Segodnya" on 31 December that Western intelligence services were hoping to use the Y2K problem as an excuse to install monitoring programs into the computers of Russian state organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2000). But Russian government agencies wisely resisted, he commented. JAC




ARMENIAN OFFICIAL SAYS PARLIAMENT KILLINGS MAY HAVE BEEN COUP ATTEMPT

Armenia's chief military prosecutor, Gagik Jahangiran, told journalists in Yerevan on 12 January that investigators are close to concluding that the 27 October parliament shootings constituted a coup attempt, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He characterized the killings as "part of a single scenario" that was not implemented in full. The five gunmen, led by Nairi Hunanian, were given "false promises," Jahangirian said. He did not elaborate. He added that he cannot exclude that one or two more officials will be arrested in connection with the shootings. Sixteen persons have been detained to date on suspicion of involvement in the killings. Reuters quoted Jahangirian as saying that the shootings had originally been planned for 13 October but the gunmen had not been able to get past security guards and enter the parliament building on that day. LF

AZERBAIJAN SUSPENDS OIL EXPORTS VIA RUSSIA

Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR on 10 January halted crude exports through the Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline because of inadequate supplies, Interfax reported on 12 January. An aide to SOCAR President Natik Aliyev told the agency that SOCAR is delivering the 10,000-11,000 tons of crude it currently produces daily to domestic refineries so that fuel oil for electricity-generating purposes can be produced. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijan International Operating Company has informed the Russian pipeline concern Transneft of its interest in using the available Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline capacity. AIOC already exports its offshore oil via the pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea terminal at Supsa. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS SAY GEORGIAN CLAIMS OF ARMS SMUGGLING FABRICATED

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said on 12 January that judging by information he has at his disposal, Georgian claims that Russian troops stationed in that country attempted to sell weapons to the Chechens are untrue. After talks earlier that day with Georgian security officials, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Andreev, who commands the Russian forces stationed in Georgia, told ITAR-TASS that those officials had failed to present any evidence to substantiate the charges. Andreev pointed out that the truck allegedly transporting the arms, which featured in video footage shown on Georgian Television on 11 January, bore Georgian, rather than Russian military license plates. Colonel Aleksandr Lutskevich, who heads the press service of the Transcaucasus Group of Russian Forces, said the Georgian officials were unable to name either the persons who supplied the weapons or their clients in Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported. LF

PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES IN KAZAKHSTAN DEMAND GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATION INTO MIG SALES

An unspecified number of parliamentary deputies signed a statement on 12 January demanding that the government investigate whether two men charged with the illegal sale to North Korea of 40 MiG fighter aircraft were acting at the government's behest, Reuters reported. Defendant and Chief of General Staff General Bakhytzhan Ertaev had told the court the previous day that in arranging the deal he was simply acting on orders from his superiors, including then Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 January 2000). Parliamentary deputy Serik Abdrakhmanov argued that Ertaev should not be prosecuted for following government instructions. The trial was adjourned to 18 January after Ertaev was hospitalized on 11 January with heart problems. LF

OPPOSITION PARTIES UNDER PRESSURE IN KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan's Central Electoral Commission has warned Feliks Kulov, chairman of the Ar-Namys (Dignity) Party, not to engage in premature electoral campaigning, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 12 January. The warning came after an interview with Kulov was published in the "Asaba" weekly newspaper on 12 January. The commission has refused either to register the party list, which Kulov heads, submitted by Ar-Namys for the 20 February parliamentary elections, or to register Kulov as a candidate in a single-mandate constituency in Talas Oblast. Also on 12 January, Alevtina Pronenko, a leading member of the El (Bei-Bechara) opposition party, told RFE/RL that her party has still not received a formal ruling from the Supreme Court barring El (Bei-Bechara) from contesting the elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 5 January 2000) . Until the party receives such a written ruling, it cannot appeal the ban. LF

U.S. CONDEMNS UZBEK PRESIDENTIAL POLL

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin on 12 January described the Uzbek presidential election three days earlier as "neither free nor fair," adding that voters were offered "no real choice" and opposition parties were not permitted to register or nominate presidential candidates. He said the U.S. regrets that the Uzbek leadership failed to comply with its commitments as an OSCE member state. Incumbent Islam Karimov was reelected in the 9 January poll with 91.9 percent of the vote. His only opponent, philosophy professor Abdulkhafiz Djalalov, received 4.17 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2000). LF

U.S. WATCHDOG APPEALS FOR IMPRISONED UZBEK JOURNALIST'S RELEASE

The Committee to Protect Journalists on 12 January sent a letter to President Karimov asking him to ensure the release from jail of ailing 63-year-old journalist Shadi Mardiev. Mardiev, who worked for the state-run Samarkand radio station, was sentenced in June 1998 to an 11-year prison term on charges of defamation and extortion. He was arrested in November 1997 after airing a program implicating a Samarkand prosecutor in corruption. LF




WIFE APPEALS TO UN OVER MISSING BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST

Zinaida Hanchar, wife of Belarusian oppositionist Viktar Hanchar, who disappeared on 16 September 1999, has appealed to the UN Commission for Human Rights to help clarify the reasons for husband's disappearance. She told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 12 January that she has asked Belarusian law enforcement agencies to investigate her husband's disappearance, which she attributes to a "crime," but has received no satisfying answer. "I hope the fact that Belarus is a UN member will make [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka stick to the norms of international law," she said. Meanwhile, some 40 Belarusian women whose husbands or children have been persecuted by Lukashenka regime have set up a Women's Initiative to assist and defend those who are oppressed in Belarus for political reasons. JM

BELARUS APPROVES 2000 BUDGET IN SECOND READING

The Chamber of Representatives on 12 January adopted the 2000 budget in the second reading, Belapan reported. The bill projects budgetary revenues at 1.49 trillion redenominated Belarusian rubles ($1.84 billion, according to the exchange rate in commercial banks) and spending at 1.61 trillion rubles. It also stipulates that the country's foreign debt should not exceed $2 billion by the end of 2000. JM

PRICE OF BREAD GOES UP IN UKRAINE

The price of bread recently increased by 10-20 percent in Lviv and by 20-40 percent in Kharkiv, Interfax reported on 12 January. City officials quoted hikes in grain prices as the main reason for the more expensive bread. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Mykhaylo Hladiy assured oblast deputy governors in Kyiv the same day that available grain reserves are "sufficient to avoid any tension in supplying bread," according to the agency. JM

UKRAINE'S TYMOSHENKO REVISES RUSSIAN GAS DEBT FIGURE...

Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko said on 12 January that Naftohaz Ukrainy's debt to Russia's Gazprom now stands at $2.23 billion, Interfax reported. The previous day, she had put Ukraine's gas debt to Russia at $2.8 billion (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 12 January 2000). "Ukraine can in no way disclaim [having] this debt," she noted on 12 January. She added that during the 10 January talks in Moscow she did not officially acknowledge the debt. And she added that she had managed to strike a deal in Moscow on the supply of 30 billion cubic meters of Russian gas in 2000 at $40 per 1,000 cubic meters. JM

...PROPOSES DECLARING 'STATE OF EMERGENCY' IN ENERGY SECTOR

Tymoshenko also told journalists that she has proposed to the president and the premier to introduce a "state of emergency" in the energy sector for three months in order to "sharply" reform the sector, Interfax reported. She said that the total debt for electricity consumption in Ukraine stands at 26.5 billion hryvni ($4.9 billion). She noted that fuel reserves at Ukrainian thermal power plants are one-third of the norm, adding that four out of Ukraine's six oil refineries have halted production. JM

LESS THAN 15 PERCENT OF CASES SOLVED BY TALLINN POLICE

BNS reported on 12 January that the Tallinn Police solved only 14.7 percent of criminal cases in 1999, down from 15.6 percent the previous year. The number of such cases in 1999 totaled 26,550, up 13.8 percent from 1998. Meanwhile, the percentage of solved murder and attempted murder cases was higher than the national average, at 55.3 percent (21 out of 38 cases) and 80 percent (eight out of 10), respectively. However, only five out of 20 rape cases were solved in the past year. MH

CONVICTED DEPORTATION CHIEF ADMITS GUILT, HAS SENTENCE REDUCED

Mikhail Farbtukh, convicted of ordering deportations in the eastern Latvian town of Daugavpils during the Soviet occupation, has had his seven-year jail sentence reduced to five years, BNS reported on 12 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1999). The Latvian Supreme Court ordered his sentence commuted after Farbtukh made a new confession about the deportation of 31 families in 1941: "I admit my guilt and apologize to the victims. I did everything I could to reduce the number of victims." During his trial, Farbtukh admitted to deporting only one family. Farbtukh, who is a Latvian citizen, had informed the Supreme Court about his frail health before the ruling. MH

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT WEBSITE HACKED

Hackers broke into the website of the Latvian government () on 12 January, paralyzing the website and posting a message about the Latvian authorities' fight against hacking. BNS reported. Government computer experts reportedly repaired the site within an hour, and Prime Minister Andris Skele is demanding an investigation into possible data protection problems. BNS also reported that an unidentified individual claiming to be the hacker said the point of the exercise was to show the lack of protection against hackers in Latvia. MH

NORDIC BANKING GIANT MAKES BIG BALTIC MOVE

The Nordic banking conglomerate MeritaNordbanken has announced the purchase of the branches of French bank Societe Generale in both Riga and Vilnius, BNS reported on 12 January. The official transfer of ownership is to take place on 31 March. MeritaNordbanken officials said they want to acquire 15-20 percent of the Latvian market in the next few years. Its new acquisition in Latvia will be merged into the conglomerate's existing bank in Riga, while the branch in Lithuania will be renamed. MH

POSSIBLE REPRIEVE FOR LITHUANIAN MOBSTER IN STRASBOURG

The European Court of Human Rights announced on 11 January that it will investigate whether jailed Lithuanian underworld figure Henrikas Daktaras's human rights were violated. The court is to pursue two of the nine complaints filed by representatives of the convicted mobster, one involving the impartiality of the Lithuanian Supreme Court and the other violations of the presumption of innocence on the part of prosecutors. Lithuania's Deputy Justice Minister Gintaras Svedas told ELTA that it is premature to suggest that Lithuania violated Daktaras's rights, as the court in Strasbourg has ruled only to investigate the two issues. Daktaras, reputedly the head of an organized criminal group, was sentenced to seven-and-a- half years in jail for extortion and intimidation in February 1997. MH

POLISH CATHOLIC RADICAL FOUND GUILTY OF INCITING ETHNIC HATRED

A district court in Oswiecim has found Kazimierz Switon guilty of insulting the parliament and handed down a suspended sentence of six months and a fine totaling 400 zlotys ($98 dollars), PAP reported on 12 January. The court also said Switon was guilty of inciting hatred against Jews and insulting both Jews and Germans. Switon was behind the action by radical Catholic groups of planting crosses at the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1998-1999. JM

POLAND'S GDP GREW BY 4 PERCENT IN 1999

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz said on 12 January that last year Poland's GDP grew by 4 percent, down 0.8 percent from 1998. He added that the 1999 inflation rate was 7.3 percent, compared with 11.8 percent the previous year. JM

FAR-RIGHT CZECH PARTY APPEALS TO HAVEL TO AMNESTY MEMBER

Cyril Malec, a member of the far-right Republican Party (SPR-RSC), handed over to President Vaclav Havel on 12 January an appeal by his party to pardon a SPR-RSC member under investigation by the police for "racial defamation," CTK reported. Malec approached Havel as the president was leaving his hotel in the spa of Karlova Studanka, where he is undergoing a cure, and placed documents on the case into the president's hands. The SPR-RSC argues that Havel should show the same leniency toward its member, who last month organized an exhibition in Decin in which Czech politicians were presented as being Jewish or partly Jewish, as that he showed toward a Roma woman whom he recently pardoned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 December 1999). The woman had insulted officials in connection with the anti- Roma wall that had been erected in Usti nad Labem. MS

NEW WAVE OF CZECH ROMA ASYLUM SEEKERS IN BRITAIN

Zbynek Havranek, press secretary at the Czech Embassy in London, told CTK on 12 January that the number of Roma from the Czech Republic seeking asylum in Britain peaked again in December 1999 and that the U.K. may consider re-introducing visa requirements for Czech citizens. CTK said that according to "unofficial information," as many as 200 Roma arrived in the U.K. last month demanding political asylum. Meanwhile, Human Rights Government Commissioner Petr Uhl on 12 January submitted to the Chamber of Deputies a plan for setting up an Office for Ethnic Equality and Integration of Roma. The office will replace the Council on Ethnic Minorities and the interministerial Commission on Roma Affairs. Its tasks are to be defined in a draft bill that Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky will submit to the government later this month. MS

FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE CHIEF COMPLAINS TO EUROPEAN COURT

Ivan Lexa, former chief of the Slovak Intelligence Service, has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in connection with his continued investigation for alleged abuse of power and participation in the kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. Lexa had been amnestied by former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, whose successor, Mikulas Dzurinda, revoked that pardon. A panel of judges on Slovakia's Constitutional Court examining the case of Lexa's former deputy said the revoking of the amnesty was unconstitutional. Earlier, however, a panel of judges examining Lexa's own case said that move was legal. The Slovak authorities are proceeding with Lexa's investigation. In his appeal, Lexa says his constitutional rights are being infringed, as is the principle of presumption of innocence before being proved guilty, CTK reported on 12 January. MS

HUNGARIAN POLICE SUSPECTS FRAUD BEHIND LAND SALES

An inquiry into the sale of land by state agricultural cooperatives to national parks is likely to raise the suspicion of fraud, police spokesman Laszlo Garamvolgyi told Hungarian media on 12 January. The police investigation began after Agriculture Minister Jozsef Torgyan said earlier this month that the cooperatives had sold properties that were in private hands, thus swindling some 57,000 landowners. Experts believe that some 94,000 hectares may have been affected by the illegal purchases. MSZ




UN SECURITY COUNCIL BLASTS BOSNIAN LEADERSHIP

The Security Council on 12 January voted unanimously to demand that the members of the three-strong Bosnian joint presidency implement pledges they made in New York last November to further develop joint institutions in keeping with the 1995 Dayton agreement (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 13 January 2000). Council President and U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke told reporters: "I am here today to express our considerable annoyance at the delays.... The joint presidency, its central institutions, and many attributes of a single, sovereign, centrally-governed state...have not been fulfilled," Reuters reported. Holbrooke, who was the architect of the 1995 peace agreement, noted that the return of refugees and displaced persons is proceeding too slowly. He also criticized powerful local nationalist warlords for blocking implementation of the Dayton agreement. Holbrooke stressed that such individuals are "just criminals, crooks, disguising their crookedness under the guise of...nationalism." PM

BOSNIAN SERBS BLOCK JOINT BORDER PATROL FORCE

Ethnic Serbian deputies in the joint legislature voted on 12 January to block the establishment of a multi-ethnic border police force for all of Bosnia-Herzegovina (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2000). Alexandra Stiglmayer, who is the spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch, said in Sarajevo that Petritsch is likely to soon set up the force by decree. Petritsch and his predecessor Carlos Westendorp have used their wide-ranging powers to implement key measures blocked by nationalists in the legislature. The joint border police force is one of the central institutions that the three members of the presidency promised last November to set up. On 13 January, Petritsch said that he will set up the force by decree and will not allow "a few individuals" to stand in the way of "an entire country's progress." PM

BOSNIAN POLICE TO EAST TIMOR

Bosnian Ambassador to the UN Muhamed Sacirbey said in New York on 12 January that 21 civilian police, including Muslims, Serbs, and Croats, will soon join UN peace- keeping operations in East Timor. Critics charge that the rules governing the selection process made it impossible for young men, among whom unemployment is a particularly serious problem, to qualify. PM

BOSNIAN SERB WEEKLY TO SUE DODIK

The directors of the independent "Reporter" said in Banja Luka on 12 January that they will sue Prime Minister Milorad Dodik for recently saying that the weekly "works against the interests of the Republika Srpska," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

OSCE WARNS HERZEGOVINIAN HDZ

OSCE spokeswoman Tanya Domi said in Sarajevo on 12 January that the international community may disqualify the Herzegovinian branch of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) from participating in the April local elections in five districts it controls. She said that the HDZ has failed to remove from office five mayors whom Petritsch and the OSCE previously fired. PM

CROATIA'S GRANIC: 'I'D DO BETTER WITHOUT THE HDZ'

Mate Granic, who is the HDZ's candidate in the 24 January Croatian presidential elections, said in Zagreb on 12 January that he has appealed to leading HDZ politicians to end their public feuding (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2000). Granic added that the daily arguments between prominent HDZ politicians are harming his candidacy and that he has slipped into third place in the opinion polls as a result. He told "Jutarnji list" that he is confident that he could have won the presidency in the first round had he run as an independent. As recently as early December, Granic led in opinion polls. PM

RACAN: CROATIAN GOVERNMENT COALITION PACT IN PLACE

Prime Minister- designate Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 12 January that his two- party coalition and its smaller four-party coalition ally have reached a six-point agreement on the functioning of the new government. The text will be made public soon, ahead of the nomination of individuals to fill the 17 cabinet posts. He added that the government will make decisions by majority vote, rather than by consensus, and that no party will have more seats than are justified by the results of the 3 January parliamentary elections. He did not provide any details or mention the names of any prospective cabinet members. Observers note that Racan previously refused demands by the four smaller parties that decisions be reached by consensus and that each of the six parties have an equal number of cabinet posts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2000). PM

ANNAN CALLS FOR RENEWAL OF PREVLAKA MANDATE

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 12 January proposed to the Security Council that it extend by six months its mandate for peacekeepers on the Prevlaka peninsula. Prevlaka is Croatian territory that controls access to Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base, which is in Montenegro's Kotor Bay. Montenegrin officials recently proposed that Zagreb and Podgorica settle the dispute between themselves, charging that Belgrade has deliberately blocked a solution, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

EU OIL DELIVERIES REACH SERBIAN CITIES

Some 14 trucks carrying EU heating oil reached Nis while another four arrived in Pirot on 12 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2000). Reuters reported from Belgrade that the EU is unlikely to expand its Energy for Democracy program to include other cities, as opposition political leaders have urged it to do. PM

GENERAL PERISIC TAKES ISSUE WITH SERBIAN OPPOSITION

Former Chief- of-Staff General Momcilo Perisic, who is now an opposition politician, told "Vesti" of 12 January that he did not sign the recent opposition declaration because the signatories did not call for ousting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by "using institutions provided by the political system" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 January 2000). Perisic noted that he nonetheless agrees with most of the opposition declaration and will continue to work with the signatories. Perisic stressed that Milosevic should be made to answer to the parliament for having violated the constitution. Once that process is completed, then there will be a legal basis for calling elections, the general continued. He added, however, that if democratic means prove ineffective in ousting Milosevic, then "other methods" remain. He did not elaborate. PM

MONTENEGRO TO TRY WAR CRIMES SUSPECT

Justice Minister Dragan Soc said in Podgorica on 12 January that Montenegrin authorities will try Veselin Vlahovic, who is otherwise known as Batko, for having allegedly committed war crimes in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1999). Soc added that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal informed the Montenegrin authorities that the tribunal "is not interested" in trying Vlahovic itself, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

THREE MACEDONIAN POLICE KILLED IN ALBANIAN DISTRICT

Unknown gunmen fatally shot three Macedonian police in the primarily ethnic Albanian village of Aracinovo near Skopje on 11 January. The police were checking for stolen vehicles in the village, which is believed to be the center of a Kosova-based crime and smuggling network, AP reported. President Boris Trajkovski met later with Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska and urged an "uncompromising" approach toward crime. Arben Xhaferi, who heads the ethnic Albanian party that belongs to the governing coalition, said it would be "dangerous and irresponsible" to give "political connotations" to the incident. PM

VATICAN: ROMAN CATHOLICS UNDER PRESSURE IN KOSOVA

Vatican Radio reported on 12 January that Roman Catholic Kosovars say they are under increasing pressure from "Muslim extremists" among their fellow ethnic Albanians. The broadcast added that Roman Catholic churches in Peja and Prizren have been desecrated recently. Kosova's Roman Catholic community is small but influential because of its links to its co-religionists abroad. PM

EU COMMISSION PRESIDENT TELLS ROMANIA EU INTEGRATION WILL BE DIFFCULT

Arriving in Bucharest on 12 January, EU Commission President Romano Prodi said the union is "fully committed" to enlargement but no one must be surprised "if the integration process is difficult." Prodi, who is accompanied by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, is to meet with members of the cabinet and President Emil Constantinescu on 13 January, Romanian radio reported. Also on 12 January, Constantinescu met with Foreign Minister Petre Roman to discuss ways of coordinating EU integration between the office of the president and the ministry. MS

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY CONTINUES TO BE TORN BY CONFLICT

The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) leadership failed on 12 January to agree on a date for electing a new Standing Bureau, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. Party chairman Ion Diaconescu favors postponing the vote on a new bureau until after the 2000 parliamentary elections. Other members of the leadership, however, want the bureau to be elected by the party's highest forum, the Permanent Delegation, at the end of January. The party is to elect, among others, a new secretary-general, replacing former Premier Radu Vasile, who has been expelled from the PNTCD. Following the six-to- six vote on 12 January, the decision will be left to the Permanent Delegation meeting at the end of the month. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER LEAVES RIGHTIST UMBRELLA-FORUM

National Alliance Christian Democratic (ANCD) Chairman Victor Ciorbea on 12 January said his party will no longer participate in the forum of center-right parties that is being sponsored by the Civic Alliance Movement. Noting that these parties continue " to make concessions" to their coalition partners, he said the ANCD is not willing to participate in the forum simply "to shoot a family photo." Ciorbea also said the choice of Mugur Isarescu as premier demonstrates that the Democratic Convention of Romania and President Constantinescu "continue to make concessions" to the Democratic Party and that "the leader of the present cabinet is in fact Petre Roman," who, together with then President Ion Iliescu, had appointed Isarescu as National Bank governor in 1990. MS

BULGARIA SUSPENDS PRIVATIZATION OF DEFENSE INDUSTRY PLANTS

Defense Minister Boyko Noev has ordered a temporary halt to the privatization of military industries pending a review by his ministry of the privatization process, BTA reported on 12 January. The decision was taken following a meeting between Noev and representatives of trade unions in the defense sector. Noev noted that once privatization is resumed, the process will be "as transparent as possible." He said that it is "certain" that none of the military repairs companies will be sold, adding that possibilities for securing contracts from Germany to modernize and overhaul MiG-29 aircraft are being investigated. MS




RUSSIANS SHOW LITTLE FAITH IN TRADE UNIONS


by Tuck Wesolowsky

For many Russians, trade unions are a curiosity at best and an irritant at worst. With membership down, trade unions in Russia are struggling to regain the faith of the rank and file. A 1996 poll showed only 7 percent of Russians trusted labor unions.

Much of the Russian public has grown weary and lost hope following 10 years of mostly unsuccessful economic reforms. Millions of people go without pay for months on end. Millions more are unemployed. Just how many are currently jobless is unclear because tens of thousands have been ordered to take unpaid administrative leave, swelling the ranks of the "hidden unemployed." Others work part-time at crumbling industries.

Many Russians interviewed on the streets of Moscow say they feel a sense of utter hopelessness, and few have any faith in organizations, such as unions, that promise to make things better.

That sense of hopelessness extends to many union members themselves. Workers are leaving unions in growing numbers. Russia's Federation of Independent Trade Unions boasted of representing 60 million of Russia's 73 million workers in 1992. Reliable figures put the number now at below 40 million, and independent studies confirm a decline of some 25 percent.

Russia is not alone in seeing a decline in union membership. Membership figures are down worldwide as the economy moves away from the industrial sector--a traditional union stronghold--to the service sector. But some of the biggest declines have taken place in Eastern Europe, where unions are still tainted by their association with former Communist regimes.

The number of workers in labor unions in Eastern Europe has fallen by around 36 percent in recent years. A report by the International Labor Organization says much of the decline can be attributed to the fact that union membership in many countries is no longer seen as virtually obligatory.

But even if more employees in Russia wanted to join unions, it's uncertain whether employers will be keen to allow them. According to a 1998 report on worldwide labor rights by the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), employers typically obstruct unionization, especially in newly created commercial organizations.

In Yekaterinburg, Russia, the 250 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant voted last June to form a union. But just months after creating the union, the same employees withdrew their support. The workers say they backed down after the multinational soft-drink manufacturer made it clear they must quit the union or lose their jobs.

The company even barred their elected shop steward from the shop floor, according to the Moscow bureau of the Geneva-based International Union of Food and Allied Workers' Association (IUF), with which the Coca-Cola bottlers were affiliated.

The workers complained to the local prosecutor's office, which, following an investigation, backed their charges that Coca- Cola management had violated their rights by pressuring them to abandon the union. The case took on an international dimension when the IUF's Geneva leadership sent an official complaint to Coca-Cola. Despite these efforts, the union has not been reinstated.

Workers are not the only ones being intimidated. Union activists trying to organize their colleagues routinely face being sacked, demoted, or even killed, according to the ICFTU report.

Last January, Gennadii Borisov, the leader of Moscow's Vnukovo Airlines Technical and Ground Personnel Union, was found murdered in the entrance to his apartment. He was the second union leader at Vnukovo to be killed in less than five years.

To many Russian labor specialists, the country's current labor woes are rooted in the Soviet past, when under the all-encompassing All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, unions formed a "troika" with management and party apparatchiks to ensure fulfillment of the five-year economic plan. As U.S. academic Linda Cook of Brown University notes in her book "Labor and Liberalization: Trade Unions in the New Russia," the major responsibility of trade unions in Soviet times was to mobilize workers for production, not to defend their interests against management.

But during the Soviet era, trade unions had relatively few levers to motivate workers to produce better or more, according to Frank Hoffer, the ILO Workers Activities Senior Specialist in Moscow. Hoffer says in his paper "Traditional Trade Unions During Transition and Economic Reform in Russia" that working harder and better rarely meant higher wages, which were tightly controlled by plan requirements. On the other hand, poor work performance, with few exceptions, did not result in an employee's being sacked.

The unions' main role was to oversee and dispense the carrots- -valued goods and services--to employees at the workplace. Among other things, unions determined and paid pensions, controlled benefits from social insurance funds, and established eligibility for state welfare benefits. They also looked to management for cooperation, not for conflict. Strikes were unheard of.

Brown University's Cook says the image of a cozy union- management relationship lingers till this day.

But, she says, some recently created independent unions have succeeded in attracting new members. Cook notes independents have done well among workers who have demonstrated solidarity and militancy in the past--like the coal miners. The independents have also had some success in industries that employ well-educated workers or produce goods that are essential for the economy. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.


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