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Newsline - January 24, 2000




MISSING RUSSIAN GENERAL FOUND DEAD IN GROZNY

Russian troops in Grozny on 23 January located and recovered the body of General Mikhail Malofeev, who was reported missing during fighting in the city on 18 January. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and a deputy commander of the Russian forces in Chechnya, Lieutenant-General Gennadii Troshin, both paid tribute to Malofeev's courage. Chechen spokesmen had claimed on 21 January to have taken the general captive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2000). LF

FEDERAL FORCES TAKE VEDENO, GAIN GROUND IN GROZNY

Russian Defense Ministry spokesmen said on 22 January that Russian marines brought into Chechnya from neighboring Daghestan had succeeded in taking control of Vedeno, the largest town in southern Chechnya and home of field commander Shamil Basaev, earlier that day. Also on 22 January, federal forces claimed to have made further advances in fierce fighting in Grozny, one-third of which they claimed to control, according to AP. But on 24 January, Chechen spokesmen said that the Russian forces are pinned down, and fighting is continuing for control of Minutka Square. LF

PUTIN, MILITARY DIFFER OVER LIKELY DURATION OF FIGHTING

On 23 January, acting Russian President Vladimir Putin told RTR television that there is no deadline set for completing military operations in Chechnya, Reuters reported. Four days earlier, Troshin had predicted that the war would be over by 26 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2000). On 24 January, former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov predicted that federal forces will take complete control of Grozny by the end of this week, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S WIFE DENIES HE IS WOUNDED

Aslan Maskhadov's wife Kusama told Reuters in Ingushetia on 23 January that Russian claims he has been wounded are not true. Chechen military official Mumadi Saidaev likewise told Interfax on 23 January that the reports were false, adding that he had met with Maskhadov that morning to discuss the situation in Grozny. Colonel-General Viktor Kazantsev, who commands the joint group of Russian forces in Chechnya, had confirmed rumors in an interview with NTV television on 22 January that Maskhadov had been injured, according to dpa. LF

SAIDULLAEV POSTPONES TRIP TO CHECHNYA

Pro-Moscow Chechen State Council Chairman Malik Saidullaev said on 23 January that he has postponed his planned visit to Chechnya for talks with President Maskhadov, ITAR-TASS reported. A spokesman for Maskhadov had said on 20 January that no such talks are planned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2000). On 21 January, Saidullaev met in Moscow with Russian government and Defense Ministry officials. The previous day, he reached an agreement with the Russian Army chief of general staff, Colonel-General Anatolii Kvashnin, that Russian forces will assist Saidullaev and his supporters in setting up local administrations in the districts of Chechnya under Russian control. Acting Russian President Putin said on 21 January that local government and law enforcement bodies should be established in Chechnya "in the shortest possible time," Interfax reported. LF

PUTIN CONSIDERS DUMA STANDOFF ABNORMAL...

Breaking his silence on the split that occurred in the new State Duma, acting President Putin told Russian Television on 23 January that "it is impossible to consider it a normal situation, when one third of the Duma has left its hall" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2000). However, he added that he does not intend to intervene in the situation. He said that in his personal opinion the best leader of the international affairs committee would be its former head, Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin. On 19 January, Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) was named to head the committee. Putin also acknowledged that he will need the support of deputies in the boycotting factions in order to pass legislation "aimed at promoting a market economy." JAC

...AS COMPROMISE FLOATED

In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 January, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev suggested that the committee heads already elected keep their posts but "two or three" new committees be created in addition to the three that had been left for the factions boycotting Duma sessions. According to Interfax, these would include a committee for legislation for the Union of Belarus and Russia, one on electoral law, and one for refugees. "Segodnya" concluded on 21 January that although the Communist Party had garnered a significant number of committee posts, Unity had won the most prestigious committee post assignments. On 23 January, Seleznev met with the leaders of Fatherland-All Russia, Union of Rightist Forces, and Yabloko. JAC

MOSCOW EXPELS NINE POLISH DIPLOMATS

In response to Warsaw's decision to expel nine Russian diplomats who were accused of spying, the Russian government announced on 21 January that it was expelling nine Polish diplomats on the same charge, ITAR-TASS reported. The Polish diplomats must leave Russia by 28 January. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 22 January that he found it hard to believe that Warsaw had taken the initial step on its own, a charge Warsaw promptly rejected. Meanwhile, Russian police announced that they had determined that a "suspicious object resembling a bomb" seen in a U.S. embassy car on 21 January had turned out to be an unknown mechanical device but was not a bomb, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

TALBOTT FINDS PUTIN'S FUTURE MOVES "AN OPEN QUESTION"

In a speech to an audience at Oxford University on 21 January, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said that where acting President Putin intends to lead Russia "is a genuinely open question." Talbott noted that Putin sends different signals to different audiences, leaving the U.S. to only speculate about his intended course of action. He added that the U.S. "must use such influence as we have, even if it's at the margins, to encourage Russian democratization." JAC

PUTIN PR EFFORT LAUNCHED IN U.S.?

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 January that one of the main aims of a trip by former President Boris Yeltsin's press secretary Dmitrii Yakushkin to the U.S. is to "sound out the attitudes of U.S. politicians, political analysts and business leaders toward" acting President Putin. According to the daily, Yakushkin told an audience at Harvard University that Putin is a "pragmatic" person and that he does not rule out the possibility that Putin will include a member of the Communist Party in the government "if necessary." Yakushkin added that if elected, Putin will most probably rely on those who are known in Russia as "the young reformers" for his economic policy. Former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar has also left for a tour of the U.S., where he will try to build a positive image for Putin, according to the newspaper. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" is financed by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC

MIXED REVIEWS FOR RUSSIA AT G-7 MEETING

At a meeting of G-7 finance ministers and central bankers in Tokyo on 22 January, Russia received mixed reviews, Reuters reported. Russia drew praise in the G-7 statement for recent improvements in its economic performance. The G-7 also urged Russia to create conditions for sustainable economic growth via "enhanced transparency, budgetary and financial accountability, structural and institutional reform, and combating corruption and money laundering." According to press reports, the meeting did not discuss Moscow's campaign in Chechnya. PG

PUTIN SEES TIES WITH NATO IMPROVING

Acting President Putin said on RTR television that the upcoming visit of NATO Secretary-General George Robertson to Moscow is a sign that relations between the Western alliance and Russia are improving, Reuters reported on 23 January. The interview broadcast on 23 January had been recorded a day earlier. PG

RUSSIA'S BEST PLACE TO LIVE BECOMES COMPARATIVELY MORE EXPENSIVE

Moscow rose 50 places in a ranking of the world's most expensive cites compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Reuters reported on 22 January. This year Moscow shares the 38th spot with Brussels; last year it was in the 88th place. In a survey of regions within Russia, Moscow ranked the first in terms of quality of life, Interfax reported on 23 January. The republic of Bashkortostan ranked second and Krasnodar Krai came in third. The rankings were based on three criteria: percentage of cash revenues to the minimum wage, the number of square meters of housing space per person, and the number of registered crimes per thousand persons. Among the areas that scored the worst in terms of quality of life were Primorskii Krai, Ust Ordinskii Buryat Autonomous Okrug, and the Altai Republic, which occupied the last place. JAC

CENTRAL BANK CUTS REFINANCING RATE

The Central Bank decided on 21 January to cut 10 percent off its chief lending rate. The bank's first deputy governor, Tatyana Paramonova, told reporters that the reduction is intended to stem the outflow of capital and promote domestic investment. However, banking analysts predict that the cut will not lead to an improvement in share prices or boost lending volumes. They believe that the rate cut will have more of a psychological than a practical impact, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 22 January. JAC

NEW FACE FOR FINANCE MINISTRY

Acting President Putin signed a decree naming Sergei Shatalov first deputy finance minister, Interfax reported on 24 January. Shatalov was previously deputy finance minister and one of the authors of the Russian tax code. Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters the same day that Kasyanov will be heading Russia's delegation to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. First Deputy Trade Minister Georgii Gabuniya died on 22 January of a heart attack. Gabuniya, who was 47, oversaw such issues as Russia's bid to become a member of the World Trade Organization. JAC

PUTIN SEEN AS HEAD OF NEW UNITY PARTY

Unity's faction leader Boris Gryzhlov has said that acting President Putin may become head of the political party that will be created on the basis of the Unity movement, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 January. Gryzhlov added that this is an option after presidential elections are held. Unity's spokesman announced earlier that Unity intends to transform itself into a political party with regional branches at a second Unity congress to be held after presidential elections. According to Gryzhlov, Sergei Shoigu will be elected the movement's leader at its founding congress, to be held in the second of half of February. JAC

ANOTHER OVR MEMBER SAYS PRIMAKOV WILL NOT RUN

The Tax Ministry has begun checking the income and property declarations of candidates in the 26 March presidential election, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 22 January. "Izvestiya" reported the same day that the commission has registered initiative groups for 12 potential candidates. Film director and actor Stanislav Govorukhin, who announced his own plans to run for president on 20 January, said on 22 January that he expects Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) leader Yevgenii Primakov will not seek the presidency. He added that he would drop out of the race if Primakov were to run. On the same day, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that he would like to see "more candidates" in the upcoming race, particularly former Prime Minister Primakov. JAC

CZECHS SAY MOSCOW HAS NOT ADJUSTED TO PRO-WESTERN EASTERN EUROPE

Two senior members of the Czech parliament told CTK on 23 January that Moscow has failed to come to terms with the pro-Western direction of its former satellites in Eastern Europe. Lubomir Zaoralek, the chairman of the lower house's foreign affairs committee, and his deputy, Jiri Payne, were commenting on the exchange of spy charges between Poland and the Russian Federation. PG

MOSCOW AGAIN LASHES OUT AT LATVIA ON CHECHNYA

On 22 January, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko accused the Latvian parliament of providing direct support to Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. The Latvian parliament had called on Moscow to begin negotiations with the Chechens, but Yakovenko said that "we cannot conduct talks with terrorists who kill thousands of peaceful citizens and hostages." PG

FIRST EU-RUSSIAN FORUM TAKES PLACE

The constituent session of Forum EU-Russia took place in Berlin on 21-22 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The forum, which will alternate between Moscow and EU capitals in the future, drew scholars, diplomats, and government officials from EU countries and Russia. But deputies of the Russian Duma did not come as planned because of what they said was "the present complex situation in the lower house of the Russian parliament." PG

MOSCOW CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIC RESOLUTION IN ECUADOR

In a statement released on 22 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry urged that the crisis in Ecuador be resolved via constitutional and democratic means. "Russia believes that the acute social and political crisis in Ecuador should be solved in a way that would respect the constitution, enforce law and order, and ensure commitment to democratic principles." PG

FOREIGN SHAREHOLDERS WIN ONE BATTLE IN ST. PETERSBURG

A court on 20 January lifted a previous injunction against holding shareholder meetings of the embattled Lomonosov porcelain factory. According to AP, 5 minutes after the injunction was lifted, foreign investors who hold 83 percent of the shares in Lomonosov voted to dismiss the factory's manager, Yevgenii Barkov. However, the next day, the newly- elected director, Douglas Boyce, was unable to enter the factory, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 January. According to the daily, Barkov is refusing to leave the plant and says he is the director of a state enterprise which has no board of directors. Foreign investors are also continuing to fight an earlier decision by the State Property Ministry to renationalize some plant property (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 1999). JAC

GOVERNMENT VOTES TO KEEP 'LENIN' ON ICE

The Murmansk Oblast government has allocated 500,000 rubles ($18,000) to convert what is reportedly the world's first nuclear-propelled ice- breaker, "Lenin" into a floating museum to be moored in Murmansk's port, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January. Although a number of local workers have volunteered to donate their services to carry out dock repairs and ship refurbishments, Murmansk Oblast official Anatolii Malinin said that more money will be needed to turn the ship, which was decommissioned ten years ago, into a museum. Project sponsors are hoping for more money from other Russian regions and Western countries. JAC




U.S. DIPLOMATS DISCUSS KARABAKH CONFLICT IN ARMENIA...

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Steven Sestanovich and the U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Carey Cavanaugh, met in Yerevan on 21-22 January with President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Aram Sargsian and other senior officials to discuss how to speed up the stalled Karabakh peace process, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said that to that end, the Minsk Group is preparing a new peace proposal, but did not divulge details. Sestanovich told journalists in Yerevan on 22 January that the unresolved Karabakh conflict remains an obstacle to improvement in Armenian-Turkish relations. LF

...AND AZERBAIJAN

On 22 January Sestanovich and Cavanaugh flew to Baku for talks with President Heidar Aliyev and other senior officials, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev greeted the news that the Minsk Group is preparing a new peace proposal, and expressed his hope that the conflict will be resolved by the end of this year. LF

GUUAM DEFENSE MINISTERS' MEETING SHELVED

The meeting planned for early this year of the defense ministers of the five GUUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) has been postponed indefinitely, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January, quoting the Georgian Defense Ministry. The meeting was originally to have taken place in Tbilisi on 28-30 January, but then rescheduled for 24-25 January on the sidelines of the CIS summit in Moscow. Western observers have suggested that the reason for the postponement may be the recent rapprochement between Uzbekistan and Russia. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS ANTI-TERRORISM MEASURES

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo held talks in Tbilisi on 22-23 January with his Georgian counterpart Kakha Targamadze and with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Rushailo told journalists that his talks focused on the situation in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, on cooperation with Georgia in fighting crime and terrorism, and that he had provided Tbilisi with lists of wanted Chechen "terrorists." Also on 22 January, the deputy head of the Georgian National Security Ministry's Anti-Terrorism Department, Giorgi Mandaria, told Caucasus Press that the ministry has information that Shevardnadze may be the object of a terrorist attack in the immediate future. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S INTERIOR MINISTER REVIEWS CRIME SITUATION

Karibek Sulaimanov told an Interior Ministry session in Astana that the crime rate fell by 1.9 percent in Kazakhstan in 1999 compared with the previous year, while the incidence of serious crime declined by 11.5 percent, Interfax reported. He said that more than 360 organized criminal groups were neutralized in 1999. But Sulaimanov expressed concern at the frequency of weapon thefts by army personnel from Defense Ministry depots. He said that such thefts are the main source of arms for criminal groups. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DIES

Marat Ospanov died on 23 January at the age of 50, two and a half months after suffering a brain hemorrhage, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. A member of the OTAN party, he had been tipped last fall as a possible successor to Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev. LF

KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR DENIES OPPOSITION LEADER'S ARREST POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

Deputy Prosecutor General Japar Mukashev told a press conference in Bishkek on 21 January that the arrest of El (Bei Bechara) Party Chairman Daniyar Usenov was not politically motivated, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Usenov was placed under arrest in a Bishkek hospital late on 19 January for having ignored a court summons which he said he never received (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2000). The summons was in connection with charges of assault and battery brought against Usenov in 1996 but shelved after an initial investigation. Also on 21 January, some 200 Kyrgyz opposition supporters demonstrated for the second consecutive day in Bishkek to protest Usenov's arrest. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTIES TO ALIGN

Five opposition political parties issued a statement in Bishkek on 22 January announcing their intention to join forces in order to protect democracy and constitutional rights and freedoms, Interfax reported. They claimed that in the runup to the parliamentary elections scheduled for 20 February the Kyrgyz authorities are harassing opposition parties and their leaders and the independent media. The five parties are the People's Party, the Republican Party, El (Bei Bechara), the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, and the Ar-Namys party. The latter two parties created a bloc earlier this month to contest the party list seats in the 20 February poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 2000). LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT SWORN IN

Speaking at his inauguration in Tashkent on 22 January, Islam Karimov pledged further moves towards market liberalization and towards making the country's currency fully convertible, Reuters reported. Karimov also hinted that the current authoritarian system may be relaxed, saying that "we must clearly understand the power of a government is not in excessive concentration of authority within a state system used as a mechanism of suppression and coercion." He also hinted that the leadership may agree to dialogue with the opposition. The new Uzbek parliament elected on 12 December also held its first session on 22 January. LF




BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS NO TIME FOR TALKS WITH OPPOSITION

Uladzimir Kanaplyou, deputy chairman of the Chamber of Representatives, told the 22 January "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" that the opposition "has already lost its chance to begin a dialogue" on holding parliamentary elections. According to Kanaplyou, the legislature must now urgently adopt an Electoral Code in order to make parliamentary elections possible this year. Kanaplyou said the opposition has not provided any proposals for the code but offered a different election bill which, in his opinion, contradicts the 1996 constitution. The Belarusian opposition does not recognize the constitution adopted in the 1996 controversial referendum and argues that Belarus's current legislature has no real power. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SPLITS, HOLDS TWO SEPARATE SESSIONS

The center-right, pro-government parliamentary majority consisting of 241 deputies held a separate session in the Ukrainian House exhibition center in Kyiv on 21 January . The split within the parliament occurred after a majority failed last week to adopt amendments to parliamentary regulations and to unseat speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko and his deputy, Adam Martynyuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2000). The majority voted on 21 January by 239 to zero to oust both Tkachenko and Martynyuk. It also approved Volodymyr Stelmakh as National Bank head. According to another resolution, the majority will reconvene on 1 February in the parliamentary building. Meanwhile, 180 leftist deputies loyal to Tkachenko held their session in the parliamentary building. Both warring factions claim to be Ukraine's legitimate legislatures. JM

UKRAINIAN SPEAKER BRANDS RIVAL SESSION AS ILLEGAL

Oleksandr Tkachenko on 21 January said the alternate session held by the parliamentary majority is illegal, Interfax reported. Tkachenko noted that according to the constitution and the parliamentary regulations, only the parliamentary speaker has the right to convene legislative sessions. Therefore, he added, all resolutions adopted at other sessions are illegitimate, even if they were adopted by a constitutional majority of deputies. Tkachenko noted that he does not intend to resign his post of parliamentary speaker. In an appeal to the nation adopted the same day, Tkachenko accused President Leonid Kuchma of causing the parliamentary crisis in Ukraine, saying that Kuchma intends to create a puppet legislature in order "to legalize the dictatorship of oligarchs." JM

UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS APPEAL TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE OVER PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS

Ukraine's leftist parliamentary minority has adopted an appeal to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, urging the council "to speak in the defense of parliamentarism in Ukraine," Interfax reported on 22 January. The appeal wants the European body "to prevent the violation of freedom and democracy in the very center of Europe." The appeal warns that President Leonid Kuchma intends to establish an "unrestrained presidential authority" in Ukraine through a constitutional referendum. JM

UKRAINIAN SPEAKER DEPRIVED OF BODYGUARDS, CAR, TELEPHONES

Parliamentary deputy Yaroslav Kendzor from the Popular Rukh told Interfax on 22 January that he has signed an order to deprive Tkachenko of official bodyguards and a business car as well as to disconnect telephone lines from Tkachenko's office in the parliamentary building. Kendzor said he had the right to sign such an order as head of a temporary commission for investigating Tkachenko's activities, which was set up at the parliamentary majority session the previous day. Communist leader Petro Symonenko told Interfax that similar restrictive measures have also been taken against deputy speaker Martynyuk, a member of the Communist Party. JM

ESTONIA NOT USING ALL MILITARY AID?

Outgoing U.S. military attache Peter Hendrikson suggested that Estonia may lose out on future military aid if current funds are not used. Hendrikson told "Postimees" on 22 January that "three million dollars in aid funding remains and if that is not used up, it may not be received in the future." This comes as Hendrikson again offered a gift of four Robinson R44 helicopters to Estonia, as the report said the offer was originally made six months ago though the Defense Ministry had yet to decide whether to accept them. Hendrikson said he "hopes very much that the helicopters will be accepted," pointing to their usefulness in training and rescue missions. The aid package for the helicopter is worth $1.8 million and includes training for pilots and maintenance crew. MH

EURO FOR ESTONIA BEFORE EU MEMBERSHIP?

European Commission President Romano Prodi thinks the idea of Estonia adopting the euro before membership in the EU is "very intellectual and interesting" according to Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar, as quoted by BNS on 21 January. However, Prodi told Reuters the idea "is not possible," "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. Estonia's Central Bank head, Vahur Kraft, wrote an op-ed in "Postimees" blasting the suggestion, saying there are "no economic or political reasons" for the early introduction of the euro. Laar, who was in Brussels to present the annual EU integration plan for Estonia, also met with other commission members. Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen reassured Laar that the pace of negotiations will not slow down for the six countries that began negotiations in 1998, adding that the conclusion of negotiations by 2001 "cannot be ruled out," ETA added. MH

LATVIAN WAR CRIMINAL FOUND GUILTY, SENTENCED

The Riga District Court on 21 January found Vasili Kononov guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to six years in jail. The conviction stems from an attack by Soviet partisans, led by Kononov, on the Latvian village of Mazie Bati on 27 May 1944. Kononov was deemed responsible for nine deaths from the raid, though he stressed those deaths took place during a war. Kononov's lawyer told BNS that he will definitely appeal the verdict. The charged case has been the focus of many protests for and against Kononov, typified by angry outbursts and unruly behavior in the courtroom after the verdict's announcement. MH

POLITICAL PRESSURE FORCES AUSTRIAN ENVOY IN LITHUANIA TO CANCEL CHARITY BALL

Austrian Ambassador to Lithuania Florian Haug canceled on 21 January the second annual Vienna Ball in Vilnius due to pressure from a non-mainstream political group, the Lithuanian Freedom League (LLL). The statement by Haug reads: "Most of the likely guests had been frightened by threats to their lives and their dignity and decided not to come to the ball and give money to a boarding school for handicapped children," BNS reported. LLL leader Vytautas Sustauskas responded that the "'fat cats' have realized that they cannot ridicule the nation." A similar event last year also faced protest from the LLL, which staged a "feast of the poor" next to the Vilnius City Hall, the site of the event. MH

POLISH TREASURY MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

The Polish parliament on 22 January failed to sack Treasury Minister Emil Wasacz, falling short by just two votes. The parliamentary opposition together with 21 of Wasacz's colleagues from the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) mustered 229 votes in support of a no-confidence motion, which was filed by 74 AWS deputies last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1999). Since then the AWS leadership persuaded most of AWS's rebellious deputies not to support their own motion to oust Wasacz. AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski said after the vote that there is no crisis in the AWS. However, AWS activist Andrzej Szkaradek said the AWS parliamentary caucus "is no more," adding that Premier Jerzy Buzek's government is now a minority cabinet. JM

TOP CZECH PARTIES AGREE...

High-ranking representatives of the governing Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the top opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on 21 January approved five supplementary agreements to their "opposition agreement," Czech media reported. The two parties do not want to reveal complete details of the supplementary deals until both parties' leaderships officially approve them on 25 January. VG

...ON BUDGET, ELECTORAL LAW, OTHER MATTERS

Statements by representatives of both parties indicate that the ODS delegation agreed to allow the minority CSSD government's budget to pass through parliament. In exchange, the CSSD delegation reportedly agreed not to raise the overall tax burden and take steps to decrease social security spending during the rest of its term in office, which ends in 2002. The two delegations also agreed to introduce a new electoral law that should benefit large and popular parties by expanding the number of electoral constituencies from eight to 35. The ODS and CSSD also agreed to work together on bills that deal with the implementation of EU norms. The two delegations also reached agreement on other issues such as the deregulation of prices and communication between their two parliamentary factions. VG

TWO PARTIES IN SLOVAK COALITION CALL FOR MEETING

The Social Democratic Party of Slovakia (SDSS) and the Slovak Green Party on 21 January called for discussions on interparty relations within the Slovak Democratic Coalition to be held on 24 January, TASR reported. The two parties, which are both members of the SDK, said the discussion should focus on establishing a decision-making mechanism that fairly represents the SDK parliamentary caucus. SDSS caucus leader Frantisek Halmes said he believes the SDK will survive the current electoral term, despite confusion over the newly created Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU). In other news, Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) caucus leader Frantisek Miklosko said 10 of the party's deputies in parliament want to remain in the KDH, while six want to join the SDKU. VG

NEW SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGES SWORN IN

Slovak President Rudolf Schuster on 22 January swore in nine new Constitutional Court judges, CTK reported. Jan Mazak has replaced Milan Cic as Constitutional Court chairman. Mazak said the new court will have three senates instead of the two in the previous court. Mazak said the new structure should enable the court to function better and provide expertise to the president. Meanwhile, Cic on 23 January announced his decision to join the Party of the Democratic Center (SDS), where he will serve as deputy chairman. The SDS does not have any seats in the current parliament. VG

SHELTON SAYS SLOVAKIA ON PATH TO POTENTIAL NATO MEMBERSHIP

Henry Shelton, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Slovakia is following a path that could lead to an invitation to join NATO, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 21 January. Shelton, who was in Slovakia last week, said the country has demonstrated a commitment to military reforms that are necessary for improved cooperation with NATO. VG

ORBAN OPPOSES TORGYAN'S NOMINATION FOR PRESIDENT

Prime Minister and FIDESZ chairman Viktor Orban said on 21 January "it would be better if Jozsef Torgyan remained as chairman of the Independent Smallholder's Party (FKGP) than if he were nominated to the post of president of the republic," Hungarian media reported. Attila Bank, FKGP parliamentary group leader, replied by saying that Torgyan's nomination to that post is "not subject to any bargain," since a coalition agreement between the FKGP and FIDESZ gives the FKGP the right to nominate the candidate for president. MSZ

MORE SPIES IN HUNGARY THAN BEFORE NATO MEMBERSHIP

Secret Services Minister Laszlo Kover said there are more spies at work in Hungary than before the country joined NATO in March 1999, "Vilaggazdasag" reported on 24 January. He said the secret services were not taken by surprise since they knew that Hungary's NATO membership represents a challenge to the interests of certain large powers and several regional states. In other news, Kover launched a complaint against the prosecutor-general's decision to terminate criminal proceedings against journalist Laszlo Juszt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2000). Juszt was accused of divulging state secrets last May when he published data on the FIDESZ surveillance case. MSZ




CROATIANS ELECTING A NEW PRESIDENT

Polls opened across Croatia at 7 a.m. on 24 January in the first round of voting for a successor to President Franjo Tudjman, who died in December. Leading in the polls is Stipe Mesic of the small four-party opposition coalition (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2000). He is followed by Drazen Budisa of the larger two-party coalition, which includes Prime Minister-designate Ivica Racan's Social Democrats as well as Budisa's Social Liberals. The only other candidate with a serious chance of being elected is Foreign Minister Mate Granic of the Croatian Democratic Community, which governed the country from 1990 until its defeat in the 3 January parliamentary elections. There are few, if any, substantial policy differences between the three leading candidates. Interest in the election centers on the prospective future power relationship between the government and the presidency. A second round of voting will take place on 7 February if, as expected, no candidate secures more than 50 percent in the first round. PM

SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER QUITS

Boris Frlec announced in Ljubljana on 21 January that he is leaving office. He cited personal reasons as well as repeated attacks in the media against him and his policies. In particular, he has been criticized for failing to clear up a long-standing series of problems with Croatia. Some writers also claim that he gave too much ground to the Vatican in recent negotiations for a treaty with the Holy See that will return some property to the Roman Catholic Church and reinstate religious instruction in public schools, AP reported. The Church enjoyed a politically powerful position in pre-communist Slovenia, but society is now highly secular after 45 years of communist rule. PM

MONTENEGRIN COALITION: NO PARTICIPATION IN YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS

A spokesman for the three-member parties of the governing "For a Better Life" coalition told the private Beta news agency on 22 January that they will not participate in any Yugoslav-wide general elections until Belgrade and Podgorica redefine the terms of their relationship. PM

SESELJ REELECTED PARTY CHIEF

Delegates to a congress of the Serbian Radical Party on 23 January in Belgrade re-elected Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj as party chair and Tomislav Nikolic as his deputy. In his address, Seselj lambasted the opposition as lackeys of the U.S. Guests of the congress included Serbian Orthodox Bishop Filaret, former Russian Deputy Duma Speaker Sergei Baburin, and a delegation from France's National Front. Elsewhere, a bus carrying party delegates from Prokuplje to Belgrade went off the road, killing one and seriously injuring 15, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN PARTY SKEPTICAL OF ARKAN MURDER ARRESTS

The New Democracy party said in a statement in Belgrade on 23 January that the arrest by Yugoslav police of three men the day before for the recent murder of Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan" leaves more questions open than it answers (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 January 2000). The statement added that the three men are most likely only pawns of the individuals or groups who really planned the murder, but that the police said nothing about those plotters, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The arrested men are Dobrosav Gavric (23), Dejan Pitulic (33), and Vujadin Krstic (36). Gavric and Pitulic are former policemen, Reuters reported. A police spokesman said that "beyond any doubt, we have those who committed the crime," AP reported. He added that Gavric had a history of underworld connections even while serving as a policeman. PM

PERISIC URGES YUGOSLAV ARMY TO ACT AGAINST PARAMILITARIES

Former General Momcilo Perisic, who now heads the opposition Movement for a Democratic Serbia, said in Belgrade on 23 January that the authorities are preparing to use paramilitaries against the civilian population in Serbia and Montenegro. He did not elaborate. He called on the army to prevent the establishment of paramilitary formations, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, Perisic repeated his call that the opposition must be prepared to fight the regime "both inside and outside political institutions," "Blic" reported on 24 January. The former army chief-of-staff also urged the opposition to solve Serbia's problems itself and not to depend on the West to do so. PM

BREAKTHROUGH IN RELATIONS BETWEEN UN, KOSOVA SERBS?

Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije, who is one of the leaders of the Kosova Serbs, said in Prishtina that local Serbian representatives are discussing possibilities for self-rule with the UN civilian administration in the province, "Vesti" reported on 23 January. He suggested that Serbs will participate in the UN's interim councils if they receive a "certain degree of local self-government," but not until then. The UN has repeatedly rejected Serbian calls for a "cantonization" of the province to enable Serbs and other non-Albanians to rule the areas in which they form a majority. The next day in Rahovec, UN and NATO officials opened an information office in hopes of providing local Serbs and Roma a place to go when they have problems. Artemije, his assistant Father Sava, and political leader Momcilo Trajkovic took the UN's Bernard Kouchner and NATO's General Klaus Reinhardt on a tour of Serbian and Romany homes in the area. PM

UN FIRM ON NO MILITARY RANKS FOR KOSOVA CORPS

On 21 January in Prishtina, General Reinhardt swore in 44 former officers of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) as officials in the new civilian Kosova Protection Corps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2000). Two days later, a KFOR spokesman said that the corps' commander, General Agim Ceku, is the only member of that body entitled to use a military title. The former UCK regional commanders are now to be known as "regional directors," the spokesman added. Ceku is a career military officer who served in the Yugoslav and especially Croatian armies. PM

CONTINUED THREATS TO ROMAN CATHOLICS IN KOSOVA

A Jesuit spokesman said in Belgrade on 23 January that Roman Catholic buildings and individuals are coming under increasing threat in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He did not elaborate, but said that the unnamed attackers appear to have singled out clergy and their families as particular targets of violence. Vatican Radio recently blamed "Muslim extremists" for the violence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 2000). Some 70,000 Kosovar Albanians are Roman Catholic. On the average, they tend to be better educated, wealthier, and better connected abroad than many of their Muslim neighbors. Many have worked and lived in Croatia and also hold Croatian passports. PM

ALBANIAN OPERA PERFORMERS ON HUNGER STRIKE

Seven members of Tirana's National Ballet and Opera Theater began a hunger strike on 21 January to demand the resignation of Culture Minister Edi Rama and opera Managing Director Zana Cela. The conductor, singer, and five musicians charge the two with mismanagement. They also object to government plans to privatize the opera. The dispute has split the professional musical community, dpa reported. Last week, singers performed Bellini's "Norma" accompanied only by a piano. PM

BALKAN LEADERS CALL FOR MORE EFFECTIVE SANCTIONS AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA

The leaders of seven states bordering Yugoslavia on 22 January called for UN sanctions against Belgrade to be made more effective at a summit meeting in the Bulgarian town of Hissar. The meeting was attended by the leaders of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albania as well as high-ranking EU and NATO representatives. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said the sanctions are "hitting ordinary people" while having little effect on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He added that the poor states in the region are also being hit by the sanctions. VG

...DISCUSS YUGOSLAV PROBLEM...

At the same time, the summit leaders stressed the need to promote democracy in Yugoslavia and many of them said sanctions against Belgrade are an "important political instrument," BTA reported. Bosnia- Herzegovina's Haris Silajdzic warned that if the current regime stays in power in Belgrade, Yugoslavia will remain a "black hole" that the rest of the countries will have to skirt. He also emphasized that NATO must remain in his country "because Bosnia is a job half done." Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski noted that Belgrade is a source of instability in the region, saying "the internal problems of Serbia have become Macedonian problems." He said he supports the idea of helping Montenegro serve as an example to Serbia of the benefits of democracy. VG

...AND COMPLAIN ABOUT SLOW IMPLEMENTATION OF STABILITY PACT

The leaders at the summit also complained at the slow implementation of the Stability Pact for the Balkan region. Kostov said the countries of the region demonstrated a "growing impatience over the pace of progress of the Stability Pact," BTA reported. Georgievski warned that if the upcoming donors' conference in March "fails, the Balkan states will be profoundly dissatisfied." The EU's envoy on foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, said the EU is making "extraordinary efforts" to stabilize the region but added that regional stability is a "responsibility we must share with the region's states." The summit leaders also discussed the upcoming meeting of the Danube Commission and efforts to clear the river of debris from the bridges destroyed during the NATO bombing campaign last year. VG

THOUSANDS OF ROMANIANS ATTEND POLITICIAN'S FUNERAL

Some 2,500 people attended the funeral of former politician Ion Ratiu on 23 January in Turda northwest of Bucharest, AP reported. Ratiu was a diplomat before World War II. He left Romania in 1940 and settled in Britain. He returned to Romania after 1989 and ran unsuccessfully for president the following year. Ratiu died last week in London at the age of 82 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2000). VG

MOLDOVA FACES DEFAULT?

The deputy speaker of Moldova's parliament, Iurie Rosca, said on 21 January that Moldova may default on its debt payments if it does not privatize the wine and tobacco industries this year, BASA-Press reported. He said the privatization could bring in some $80 million for the budget. The communists have expressed opposition to the privatization. On 20 January, the World Bank's country director for Moldova, Roger Grawe, said Chisinau could receive $55-60 million from the bank in 2000 if it meets the commitments of the previous Moldovan government, which include the privatization of wine and tobacco companies, Infotag reported. VG




Slovak Premier Announces Controversial New Party


By Jolyon Naegele

On 16 January, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda held a secret three-hour meeting in his office with several government ministers and deputies at which 11 of those present signed a declaration on forming a new political party--the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU).

Dzurinda announced the declaration the following day. No date has been set for the formal establishment of the new party.

Dzurinda says he envisions the party as the eventual successor to the ruling Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) in parliamentary elections in 2002.

"The new political party will clearly carry on according to the ideals of the SDK, regardless of how it was formed," he said. "Its ideals are very clear: first of all to continue to integrate democratic forces in the country. It is apparent that the next parliamentary elections will decide once and for all about Slovak membership in the EU. At the same time, it upholds the goal of concluding all reform processes."

The SDK was formed two years ago by five opposition parties: three right-wing parties (the Democratic Party, the Democratic Union and the Christian Democratic Movement) and two left-of-center parties (the Social Democrats and the Greens).

The formula proved successful in winning parliamentary elections in 1998 and ending the populist rule of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. The vote put the SDK in power with three other parties (the post-Communist Party of the Democratic Left, the populist Party of Civic Understanding, and a coalition of ethnic Hungarian parties). Meciar's downfall and Slovakia's return to democratic practices resulted in a rapid turnaround in the attitudes of NATO and the European Union toward Slovakia. Both bodies now fully support Slovakia's integration.

The 11 signatories say they oppose breaking up the SDK right away because that would violate the trust of the voters. But they say that, over the longer term, the new SDKU will promote the integration of reform forces in Slovakia and better serve the needs of voters.

In addition to Dzurinda, the founding members of the SDKU include Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Simko, and the ministers of foreign affairs (Eduard Kukan), interior (Ladislav Pittner), culture (Milan Knazko), health (Tibor Sagat), and transportation, post and telecommunications (Jozef Macejko).

One of those at the founding meeting who did not sign the declaration was Jan Figel of the Democratic Party, a state secretary at the Foreign Ministry.

Figel says Slovakia already has too many political parties. He says what the country needs are fewer functionaries and a greater interest in citizens' needs. He told reporters in Bratislava that integrating Slovakia into European structures cannot succeed as long as the country is splintered and individual and group interests prevail over those of society as a whole.

No one from the Democratic Party has signed the declaration. But the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Dzurinda's original party, is split, with nine of its MPs opposing the new party, three having signed the new party's declaration, and three expected to support it. KDH Chairman and Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky was among the first to criticize formation of the new party.

"It is with regret that the KDH takes note of the declaration by Mikulas Dzurinda and the other signatories announcing the foundation of a new political party, SDKU," Carnogursky said. "This step further splinters the right in Slovakia. For the second time in the 10 years of its existence, the KDH is splintered. This declaration unilaterally ends the SDK's existence without even informing the parent parties in advance. It also unilaterally ends the negotiations on reorganizing relations between the SDK and its parent parties."

Nevertheless, Carnogursky did pledge to continue to support both the government and Prime Minister Dzurinda. The prime minister, for his part, says he intends to resign shortly from Carnogursky's party.

As Carnogursky suggests, the SDK faction in parliament appears to be on the verge of an institutional split. Deputies loyal to SDK want to draw up an agreement on cooperation with those who back SDKU.

One curious footnote is that the location of the meeting where the declaration was drawn up (Dzurinda's office) remained secret for two days, apparently due to ethical questions over the suitability of the prime minister's office as a site for founding a political party.

For its part, Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) describes the SDKU as signaling SDK's disintegration and in HZDS's view "confirming once and for all that SDK was a matter of electoral fraud toward the citizens, with a single goal: to place parties in parliament which the voters had already ruled out."

The HZDS is reiterating its call for early elections, this time on the grounds that as a result of the establishment of SDKU, the SDK has lost the legitimacy of its mandate in parliament.


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