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Newsline - February 14, 2000




RUSSIA TO PUSH PARIS CLUB FOR DEBT WRITE-OFF...

First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 14 February that Russia will seek terms for rescheduling its Soviet-era debt to Paris Club creditors similar to those agreed on three days earlier with the London Club (see below), Interfax reported. Kasyanov said Russia will pursue negotiations with the Paris Club in the second half of 2000. In an interview with "Vremya MN" the same day, Vneshekonombank Chairman Andrei Kostin said "Russia now has convincing arguments in its favor for talks with the Paris Club, whose members are known to be much more reluctant to write off debts." JAC

...AS RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB REACH DEAL

After months of negotiations, Russia and London Club creditors reached agreement on 11 February to write off 36.5 percent of Russia's $32 billion Soviet-era debt and reschedule payments over 30 years following a seven-year grace period. First Deputy Prime Minister Kasyanov told Interfax on 13 February that the verbal agreement may be made into an official legal document at the end of May. Acting President Vladimir Putin praised the deal on 13 February, saying the agreement contains "really good terms" and that Kasyanov should be congratulated. Duma Banking Committee Chairman Aleksandr Shokhin suggested that the deal will ease pressure on the federal coffers, noting that "at least for two presidential terms, Vladimir Putin can be relatively calm about the budget." JAC

MOSCOW DISCOUNTS CHECHEN THREAT OF GUERRILLA WAR

Kremlin Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists on 11 February he does not consider that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's warning of an all-out guerrilla war in Chechnya is serious, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii also disclosed that, with Moscow's consent, unnamed leaders of North Caucasus republics have intermittent contacts with Maskhadov. But he denied that those contacts could lead to a negotiated end to hostilities, saying that "the anti-terrorist campaign will be taken to its logical end." First Deputy Chief of Army General Staff Colonel-General Valerii Manilov told journalists in Moscow on 11 February that "the groundwork is being prepared" for political talks on resolving the Chechen conflict but that the time for such talks is not yet ripe, according to Interfax. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS MAKE NEW ACCUSATIONS AGAINST BABITSKII

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo told a State Duma hearing on 11 February that he believes photographs of dead and mutilated Russian soldiers found in the possession of detained RFE/RL journalists Andrei Babitskii were taken by Babitskii himself. But Babitskii's wife, Lyudmila, told Interfax the same day that her husband does not have a camera, and photographer Yurii Bagrov told Interfax on 13 February that he had taken the photographs himself and given them to Babitskii to take to Moscow. Also on 11 February, Yurii Biryukov, head of the North Caucasus branch of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, told Interfax that law enforcement agencies have evidence that Babitskii passed to Chechen commanders information on the deployment of Russian troops in Chechnya, Interfax reported. LF

PUTIN TO FACE NO MORE THAN 14 COMPETITORS...

The deadline for submitting signatures to support presidential candidates in 26 March elections expired at 6:00 p.m. on 13 February. According to the Central Election Commission, supporters of 15 candidates had submitted signatures by the deadline. These include the two candidates who are now officially registered: Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Spiritual Heritage head Aleksei Podberezkin. Other candidates with supporting signatures are acting President Putin, suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, Duma deputy Stanislav Govorukhin, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, Movement for Civil Dignity head Ella Pamfilova, Moscow Duma deputy German Khurstalev, Moscow Foundation for Presidential Programs head Yevgenii Savostyanov, well-known Moscow businessman Umar Dzhabrailov, All-Russian Party of the People leader Anzori Aksentev-Kikalishvili, and Tishkino director Ismail Tagi-zade. The signatures still must be verified by the commission in order for the candidates to be registered. JAC

...AS YABLOKO CLAIMS INVIGORATED SUPPORT

Supporters of Yabloko leader Yavlinskii submitted 575,000 signatures supporting his candidacy on 12 February. Vyacheslav Igrunov, Yabloko's deputy chairman for party membership, told "Novye izvestiya" that the signature drive exceeded original expectations and in some regions activists gathered four or five times as many signatures as planned. He suggested that "many voters were shocked by Yabloko's results in parliamentary elections--only 6 percent--and now they want to give us support." He explained that many voted for the Union of Rightist Forces, assuming that Yabloko would get into the Duma in any case, and that the intelligentsia is alarmed at current political prospects. The same day, "Moskovskii komsomolets," a newspaper close to Luzhkov, reported that Fatherland will support Yabloko leader Yavlinskii. JAC

RUSSIA WANTS TO SHUT DOWN MILITARY NUCLEAR REACTORS

"The Washington Post" reported on 13 February that the Russian government has told U.S. officials it wants to scrap a 1997 joint project to convert Russian military nuclear reactors to civilian use. According to the newspaper, Moscow cited delays in implementing the joint project, cost overruns, and nuclear experts' warning of a possible Chornobyl-type catastrophe. Under a new Russian proposal, the reactors would be shut down instead of converted, and conventional energy sources would be used for local cities at an estimated cost of $230 million, which would be provided by the U.S. The 1997 agreement had committed Moscow to ending the production of weapons-grade plutonium by the end of 2000. The newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying such production will not be halted before 2004, regardless of whether Moscow's latest proposal is approved. Last week, the Russian government agreed to stop making plutonium out of spent fuel from its civilian nuclear reactors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2000). JC

PRIMAKOV SAYS OVR MAY BACK PUTIN, DEPENDING ON PROGRAM...

Yevgenii Primakov, the faction leader of Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), told reporters on 12 February that the OVR will support the candidacy of acting President Putin if Putin "comes up with a program that matches and is in unison with the basic points that Fatherland espouses." Primakov added that Putin "should take a firm position on the negative activity of people from the former Russian president's entourage." Unidentified sources close to Primakov told Interfax the previous day that Primakov may resign his post in the State Duma after presidential elections in order to retire if the Kremlin's current alliance with the Communists in the lower house does not dissolve and the political balance in the lower legislative house does not shift more in OVR's favor. Fatherland leader and Moscow Mayor Luzhkov said on 12 February that Fatherland's regional branches should nominate their own candidates for president. JAC

...AS NDR PUTS ORGANIZATIONAL RESOURCES BEHIND PUTIN

"Segodnya" reported on 12 February that the executive committee of Our Home Is Russia (NDR) has sent more than 10,000 of the party's members to participate in 79 of Russia's 89 district election commissions. NDR members participating in 57 of the 79 commissions support Putin. The daily also reported that of the more than 500,000 signatures collected in support of Putin's candidacy, some 265,070 were collected by NDR members. Meanwhile, in an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 14 February, NDR former faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said Russia has "no immunity" against authoritarianism. He predicted that under Putin, the Russian government will be "more stable but much less autonomous." He added that the government will be "more active in the economy, and political decision-making will be taken over completely by the Kremlin." He also predicted that the role of oligarchs will be sharply reduced JAC

ULTRA-NATIONALIST LEADER FAILS TO REGISTER...

By 13 February, no signatures had been submitted for Russian National Unity leader Aleksandr Barkashov to run as president, although his supporters had said earlier that enough would be gathered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2000). According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 12 February, Barkashov failed to open a campaign account at Sberbank by 9 February, as required by law. JAC

...AS KEMEROVO GOVERNOR HAS BIGGEST CAMPAIGN FUND

Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 13 February that Kemerovo Governor Tuleev has the largest amount of money in his campaign account with 12 million rubles ($417,000) compared with Communist Party leader Zyuganov's 9,797,000 rubles and acting President Putin's 7,905,000 rubles. JAC

PUTIN SPEAKS OUT AGAIN ON AGRICULTURAL POLICY...

Addressing the All-Russia Conference of Workers from the Agroindustrial Complex on 11 February, Acting President Putin declared that "it is first necessary to restore agricultural production at least to the level of the late 1980s and early 1990s." He noted that in the last few years, livestock has plunged by 50 percent while production in the processed food industry has slumped 73 percent, Interfax reported. He noted that effective reform of the agricultural sector has been stymied by a "lack of consistency and political will." Many laws were adopted and presidential decrees signed but without being backed up with the proper resources. Saying that "qualified analysis and diagnosis of the situation in the agricultural sector is [still] needed," he pledged that his government will hold special sessions over the next one to two months and that he will introduce concrete documents such as presidential decrees and resolutions. JAC

...AS AGRARIAN POLITICIANS SLAM REFERENDUM IDEA

"Vremya MN" reported on 10 February that members of various agrarian groups have unanimously criticized Putin's approval of the idea to hold a national referendum on the sale of land (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2000). State Duma Agriculture Committee Chairman Vladimir Plotnikov of the Agroindustrial group said, "It isn't necessary to hold a referendum but to finally approve the compromise version of the Land Code that both the parliamentary and Kremlin agreed upon in 1998." JAC

RUSSIA, JAPAN TO CONTINUE TO WORK TOWARD PEACE TREATY...

Speaking in Tokyo on 11 February following a meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Yohei Kono, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the two countries have agreed they will "actively and constructively" pursue the conclusion of a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities. Earlier last week, Ivanov had been quoted as saying that such an accord is "unlikely" to be signed this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2000). While noting that acting President Putin has accepted an invitation to visit Japan, Ivanov said the date of that visit will not be set until after Russia's 26 March presidential elections. Meanwhile, Tokyo has pledged $120 million to assist in the decommissioning of old Russian nuclear submarines. JC

...WHILE MOSCOW, HANOI SEEK TO BOOST TIES

Wrapping up his tour of Asia, which has been viewed as a bid to boost Russian influence in the region, not least because of a possible Japanese-U.S. missile defense agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said in Hanoi on 14 February that he handed over a letter from Putin to Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong reaffirming Russia's policy to develop "strategic relations" with Vietnam. He also noted that he had discussed with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Dy Nien, improving economic, trade, military, and technical cooperation. With regard to Hanoi's Soviet-era debt totaling some 10 billion rubles ($350 million at the current exchange rate), Ivanov said that the two sides "touched upon" the issue and that he hopes an "adequate solution" can be found. Hanoi argues that the sum it owes is lower because of the devaluation of the ruble. JC

GOVERNMENT GIVES GO-AHEAD TO BALTIC PIPELINE SYSTEM

At a 10 February meeting, the cabinet officially approved beginning construction of the Baltic Pipeline System. That system is intended to link oil deposits in western Siberia and the Far North with a new port at Primorsk, on the Gulf of Finland. But questions remain as to how the project will be funded. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters in Moscow on 11 February that a levy on oil transports as of April is expected to raise $130 million this year, and he noted that $103 million was collected in 1999 from a similar surcharge. But while Russian oil exporters are considered likely to provide their part of the funds, "The Moscow Times" on 12 February quoted analysts as raising doubts about Transneft's ability to meet its financial obligations. The state oil pipeline monopoly is to have a 50 percent plus one share in the project, according to Interfax on 11 February. JC

HIGHER OIL PRICES BRING HIGHER REVENUE, DESPITE VOLUME DECLINE

Russia's revenues from oil exports climbed 41 percent in 1999 to $13.3 billion, compared with $9.454 billion in 1998, Interfax reported on 14 February. Exports totaled 123.9 million tons, down 2.3 percent compared with the previous year. JAC




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS...

In an interview with Armenian National Television on 11 February, Robert Kocharian said that he and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, have discussed "all possible variants and questions" relating to a possible solution to the Karabakh conflict but that over the past year they have not yet reached agreement on a concrete formula for resolving that issue, ITAR-TASS reported. Kocharian said if it proves impossible to do so in direct talks, the two presidents will solicit the help of international mediators, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Responding to statement one week earlier by the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war warning against a settlement that would require the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2000), Kocharian said any draft peace settlement should be approved by the governments of Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and might also be submitted to a nationwide referendum in Armenia. LF

...RULES OUT TERRITORIAL EXCHANGE

Kocharian also said during his 11 February interview that the OSCE mediators have proposed an exchange of territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan as one way of resolving the Karabakh conflict but that he rejected that proposal, Caucasus Press and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Such an exchange would have enabled Yerevan to retain Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin corridor linking it with Armenia, while Armenia would have ceded its southern Meghri region, which lies between Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhcichevan. The Yerkrapah union had made clear its opposition to such an exchange of territory. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DIVIDED OVER KARABAKH REFERENDUM PROPOSAL

The newspaper "Haykakan Zhamanak," which is sympathetic to former President Levon Ter-Petrossian and the Armenian Pan-National Movement, commented on 12 February that Kocharian's referendum proposal indicates that his leadership is not ready to accept responsibility for resolving the Karabakh conflict. The newspaper added that a referendum would be easier to falsify than either presidential or parliamentary elections. On 10 February, Arshak Sadoyan of the opposition National Democratic Union told parliamentary deputies that it would not be "correct" to ask the Armenian people to evaluate and approve a "highly complex" document on resolving the conflict. But Artur Baghdasarian, leader of the Orinats yerkir party, which is sympathetic to Kocharian, expressed support for the idea of a referendum, reasoning that "no one, not even the president," should take sole responsibility for a peace settlement, Armenpres reported. LF

OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER RELEASED IN NAKHICHEVAN

Husein Djavadli, the leader of the Nakhichevan branch of the Azerbaijan Popular Front, was released from detention late on 10 February, Turan reported the following day, citing "Yeni Musavat." Djavadli had been detained several days earlier and severely beaten. Representatives of several opposition parties had picketed the office of the Nakhichevan prosecutor-general on 10 February to demand his release. LF

SEVERAL INJURED IN GEORGIAN BLAST

According to various agency reports, between two and four people were injured on 14 February when either a bomb or a grenade exploded in a Tbilisi metro station. It is unclear whether the Georgian authorities hold terrorists responsible for the blast. LF

PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT REACHED ON LINEUP OF GEORGIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION

The inter-factional group charged with approving proposed amendments to Georgia's election law reached tentative agreement on 10 February on the future composition of the Central Electoral Commission, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 5, 4 February 2000). Under the compromise proposal, which must be approved by both majority and minority parliamentary factions, seven of the 16 members of the commission will be selected by the parliament majority faction and another seven by opposition parties, including those not represented in parliament. Abkhazia and Adjaria will each be represented by one member. All members of the commission must be elected by a two-thirds majority, while the commission chairman will be a member of the majority nominated by President Eduard Shevardnadze. LF

THIRTEENTH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NOMINATED IN GEORGIA

The Communist Party of Georgia on 11 February nominated 46-year- old Ivane Tsiklauri as its candidate for the 9 April presidential election, Caucasus Press reported. By 29 February, Tsiklauri and his fellow nominees must collect and submit to the Central Electoral Commission at least 50,000 signatures in their support. LF

GEORGIAN NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION FORMS NEW ALLIANCE

Twenty-two right-wing political parties that are not represented in the Georgian parliament elected last October have aligned in a bloc named For Freedom and Democracy, Interfax and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 February. Those parties, including the Labor Party and the National Independence Party of Georgia, are demanding that the 9 April presidential elections be postponed and a census conducted to determine the precise number of people in Georgia entitled to vote. The Labor Party says that its failure in last October's poll to surmount the 7 percent minimum required for representation in the parliament can be attributed to vote falsification by the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia. On 14 February, Shevardnadze said that postponing the elections would be unconstitutional. He added that a postponement could jeopardize the granting of new loans by international financial organizations, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES FREE TRADE AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIA

Deputies on 11 February voted by 150 to nine to ratify the February 1994 between Moscow and Tbilisi exempting imports from customs duties, ITAR-TASS reported. In December, the Russian Foreign Ministry had accused the Georgian Supreme Court of declaring that treaty null and void and threatened to impose customs duties on Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 1999). Also on 11 February, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze denied Russian media reports that Georgia has disavowed the February 1994 bilateral agreement allowing Russian to maintain military bases in Georgia. according to ITAR-TASS. The Georgian parliament has not yet ratified that agreement. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO ACQUIRE RUSSIAN ARMS, EXPORT ITS OWN

Kazakhstan's Defense Minister General Sat Tokpakbaev said on 11 February that Russia is supplying military hardware to Kazakhstan to replace equipment withdrawn when some Russian units left that country after the collapse of the USSR, ITAR- TASS reported. Kazakhstan has already received two SU-27 fighter aircraft, together with various other aircraft and one S-300 air defense system. It will also receive a second S-300 system that will become part of the capital city Astana's air defense. The same day, Kazakhstan's Defense Industry Committee Chairman Bekbulat Baigarin told Interfax that this year Kazakhstan's defense plants plan to export arms worth more than $20 million. Those exports are channeled almost exclusively through the Russian arms export concern Rosvooruzhenie. LF

KYRGYZSTAN UPS SECURITY IN ANTICIPATION OF NEW INCURSION

Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 11 February that some 700 guerrillas subordinate to banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader Djuma Namangani have gathered on Kyrgyzstan's southern border with Tajikistan in preparation for a new incursion into Kyrgyz territory, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Djanuzakov said that Kyrgyz Defense and Security Ministry troops have been posted at those points on the border through which the Islamists might try to enter Kyrgyzstan. He added that those troops will prevent a repeat of last summer's incursion. LF

KYRGYZ TV JOURNALIST SAID HE WAS ASKED TO SLANDER OPPOSITION LEADERS

Erkin TurAliyev told a press conference in Bishkek on 11 February that presidential press secretary Osmonarkun Ibraimov asked him to produce programs slandering Djypar Djeksheev and Feliks Kulov, the leaders of the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan and the Ar-Namys Party, respectively, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Both of those parties have been barred from contending the 20 February parliamentary election, TurAliyev produced a recording of the telephone conversation in which Ibraimov made that request. He added that at Ibraimov's request, he had also prepared footage on opposition parliamentary deputy Adaham Madumarov. That profile was shown on national television even though Ibraimov considered it was not negative enough in its portrayal of Madumarov. LF

U.S. PRESIDENT SEEKS TO PERSUADE TURKMENISTAN OVER TRANS- CASPIAN PROJECT

Bill Clinton has written to Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov to ask him to extend the mandate of the U.S. company PSG, which heads the consortium to build the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Russian agencies reported. That mandate expires on 19 February. Clinton also asked Niyazov to grant the project sponsors greater flexibility in concluding mutual agreements and to invite Azerbaijan to join the project. At present Ashgabat and Baku are deadlocked over the amount of gas that Azerbaijan will be permitted to export via the Trans-Caspian pipeline. Representatives of PSG and its upstream partner, Shell, held talks in Tbilisi on 10-11 February with Georgian oil and gas officials on construction of the pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. At the same time, Georgia is considering a separate agreement with Russia on a pipeline to export Russian gas via Georgia to Turkey, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 February. LF

NEW UZBEK CABINET APPROVED

Uzbekistan's parliament on 11 February approved the new streamlined cabinet named by President Islam Karimov, Reuters and Interfax reported. Utkir Sultanov retained his post as prime minister, while new ministers of justice and energy were named and the post of defense minister remains vacant. As commander-in-chief of Uzbekistan's armed forces, Karimov assumes the duties of defense minister until a successor is named to Colonel- General Khikmatulla Tursunov. The total number of cabinet ministers has been cut from 37 to 34. Karimov admitted that the majority of ministers retained their posts not because of their efficiency but because of a dearth of qualified candidates to replace them, according to ITAR-TASS. LF




BELARUS, RUSSIA FORM WEAPONS PRODUCTION GROUP

Belarus on 11 February signed an agreement with Russia to set up a financial-industrial group called Defense Systems. The group, which merges two Belarusian and 17 Russian weapons companies, will produce and sell modern air defense equipment. Russian Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov said Russia will sell $4.5 billion worth of weapons in 2000, and he proposed that Minsk help produce them. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accepted that proposal, saying the military-industrial complex of Belarus and Russia will become "a knot that will tie both countries into a union state," according to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. JM

UKRAINIAN COURT ORDERS INVESTIGATION OF LEFTIST LAWMAKERS

A Kyiv district court has ordered prosecutors to open a criminal case against ousted parliamentary speaker, Oleksandr Tkachenko and leftist deputies for "derailing" parliamentary sessions, Interfax reported on 11 February. The ruling adds that the leftist minority prevented the new parliamentary leadership from entering parliamentary offices and "created discomfort and inconveniences in the work of the Supreme Council administration in general." Complying with an earlier court ruling, Tkachenko on 11 February gave back the speaker's seals to the parliamentary Secretariat. JM

UKRAINE'S TKACHENKO SAYS PARLIAMENT CANNOT BAN COMMUNISTS

Oleksandr Tkachenko has said that the parliament has no right to ban the Communist Party, Interfax reported on 11 February. The ex-speaker was commenting on a draft bill--submitted to the parliament last week--that would prohibit the Communist Party. Tkachenko called the legislative initiative "extremist," adding that the Communists received more than 10 million votes in the last parliamentary elections. Independent deputy Serhiy Holovatyy told the agency that a political party may be banned only by a court decision. The Communist Party of Ukraine, which was registered in 1993, is the country's largest party, with more than 120,000 members. JM

IMF REQUESTS EXPANDED PROBE OF UKRAINE'S CENTRAL BANK

The IMF has asked Ukraine to expand the probe of its National Bank following a report by the "Financial Times" on 11 February that the government placed bank reserves in high- risk ventures against IMF advice. The newspaper alleged that the bank bought government treasury bills in an attempt to prop up the domestic debt market and moved $150 million through several accounts to make its reserves seem larger than they were. "Such a transaction would clearly violate the spirit of Ukraine's [IMF loan] because it would have enabled the National Bank of Ukraine to give an inaccurate picture of its external position," Reuters quoted an IMF spokesperson as saying. The "Financial Times" alleged last month that the bank misused IMF funds, after which Kyiv asked an international audit firm to check the allegation. JM

ESTONIAN MILITARY CRITICIZED FOR LEAFLETS CAMPAIGN

Politicians have strongly criticized a leaflets campaign initiated by the Estonian Defense Forces as a "blatant politicization" of the military. "Eesti Paevaleht" reported that on 9 February, uniformed soldiers distributed leaflets outside the Tallinn main post office about the ongoing debate over conscription for university students before matriculation. One leaflet said: "Students who hide their personal fear of military service are spreading the myth that military service damages their brain potential." Marek Miil, organizer of the campaign and head of the Defense Forces PR office, said the campaign was welcomed on the streets. However, acting commander of the Defense Forces Colonel Mart Tiru immediately ordered it to cease. "This is totally unacceptable," Defense Minister Juri Luik said in criticizing the campaign, adding that "soldiers are not allowed to engage in political propaganda." MH

LATVIA FOLLOWS UP REQUEST BY WIESENTHAL CENTER

Both the Latvian Supreme Court and the Office of the Prosecutor- General are currently investigating 17 cases of overturned convictions of "crimes against humanity." The Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center raised the issue with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga during the Holocaust conference in Stockholm last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2000). After the restoration of independence, courts in Latvia overturned some 13,000 convictions by Soviet courts on various "crimes against humanity"--mostly fighting against the Soviet army and opposing the occupation. The Wiesenthal Center suggested that the names on the list were those of former members of the security forces and the Arajs Commando death squad. However, the Supreme Court has said that there is no evidence of an erroneous overturning. MH

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT ENCOURAGES LITHUANIA

Visiting Vilnius on 10-11 February, Romano Prodi praised Lithuania's progress in EU integration but stressed the need for caution and prudence. While speaking to the parliament, Prodi said, "be fast, but do not hurry," ELTA reported. Prodi also urged doing more to inform the public about Lithuania's EU integration, noting that "it is a process, which concerns the society as a whole." Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen told politicians that the same five chapters will be opened for negotiations with all the recent invitees to negotiations, suggesting that there would be complications if more areas were examined at this time. Prodi also praised Lithuania for deciding to partly decommission the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. He promised assistance for this process, but Verheugen stressed the need for legislation that deals with the actual process. MH

FRINGE LITHUANIAN PARTY DENIED REGISTRATION

The small Independence Party has filed an appeal to overturn a decision by the Central Electoral Commission not to register the party for the upcoming local elections, ELTA reported. The commission ruled that the party's application was incomplete. An administrative court is scheduled to hear the complaint on 14 February. The Independence Party, which is not represented on any local council, caught the attention of many when it listed Mindaugas Murza, the head of the Union of National Socialist Unity, as its leading candidate in Siauliai (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 3 February 2000). Meanwhile on 11 February, Murza said the National Socialist Unity party will become subsumed into the Lithuanian National Labor Union, BNS added. MH

POLISH RADICAL FARMERS' LEADER SAYS EU 'ANOTHER KOLKHOZ'

Andrzej Lepper, leader of the Self-Defense farmers' union, said on 12 February that his organization believes that the EU does not treat Poland like a partner but as a market for EU products, PAP reported. "The EU is another kolkhoz--one had its headquarters in Moscow, the second has its headquarters in Brussels. Nothing has changed," Lepper noted. Lepper added that Self-Defense is waiting for an answer from the prime minister to its letter demanding that "firm decisions improve the situation in agriculture." Lepper is threatening to resort to protest actions aimed at early parliamentary elections if government decisions do not satisfy the farmers. JM

CZECH PREMIER SAYS OFFICIAL CONTACTS WITH AUSTRIA WILL BE REDUCED...

Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 11 February told journalists that there is "no justification" for having official contacts with the new Austrian government, "particularly if the contact partners are to be ministers from Joerg Haider's party," CTK reported. He said he is "pleased" that Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel did not include in his policy statement to the parliament the points that had met with criticism in the Czech Republic, but he added that this does not necessarily mean that those controversial points "have disappeared" from the Austrian government's program. Zeman also said he has sent a letter to former Chancellor Viktor Klima assuring him he does not "identify Austria with Haider." Far-right Republican Party leader Miroslav Sladek on 12 February said the EU reaction is "exaggerated, hysterical, and absolutely unnecessary." MS

...WHILE MEETING IS CANCELED

Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said a planned Czech-Austrian meeting has been postponed "and no new date has been set yet," the daily "Hospodarske noviny" reported on 14 February. The meeting, which historians and legal experts were to have attended, was to have dealt with "problematic issues" in the two countries' past. On 12 February, the Austrian members of the commission said that any comparison between victims of Nazism and the Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia under the 1945 Benes decrees is "inadmissible" and poses the danger that Austrian compensation to Nazi victims will be postponed. MS

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR DOES NOT LINK BENES DECREES TO CZECH EU ADMISSION

In an interview with the daily "Kurier" on 12 February, Schuessel said Austria will not link the admission of the Czech Republic to the EU with the abolition of the 1945 Benes decrees, CTK and AP reported. However, he added that Vienna will continue to raise the issue of compensation for the German-speaking minority expelled from Czechoslovakia. "As we are settling accounts with our own past, other countries have to settle accounts with their past," he commented. MS

CZECH DEPUTY RESPONDS TO ZEMAN'S SEXIST REMARKS

Social Democratic Party (CSSD) parliamentary deputy Jana Volfova told "Lidove noviny" on 12 February that she will set up a shadow-cabinet composed entirely of women in response to the sexist remarks made last week by the leader of her party, Zeman. Zeman had told journalists that the reason his cabinet does not include women-ministers is that "male contenders proved to be better than female contenders." Volfova said the shadow cabinet would include, among others, popular CSSD politician Petra Buzkova and sociologist Jirina Siklova. On 10 February, the CSSD women's organization protested Zeman's statement. Buzkova said in response to the same statement that Zeman "prefers cooperation with that kind of man who has no counterparts among women." MS

SLOVAK SDL TO PURSUE 'MORE LEFTIST POLICIES' IN FUTURE

Democratic Left Party (SDL) Chairman Josef Migas on 12 February told journalists that his formation, a member of the ruling coalition, intends to pursue a considerably more leftist stance in the future. "The government's austerity measures are excessive and must be changed. We must preserve our leftist image," CTK cited him as saying. Migas said there is no need to convene a special party conference to consider withdrawing from the coalition, as proposed by several SDL local organizations. He explained that the party's last national conference gave the leadership such a mandate to withdraw. MS

THOUSANDS ATTEND ANTI-FASCIST RALLY IN HUNGARY

President Arpad Goncz and former Prime Minister Gyula Horn of the opposition Socialist Party joined an estimated 10,000 people in a 13 February Budapest rally denouncing fascism and hate- mongering. The demonstration was organized by the Civil Forum, a grouping of 17 organizations, to mark the anniversary of the end of the siege of Buda castle in 1945. Also on 13 February, some 1,000 people gathered outside the Austrian Embassy in Budapest to express support for Joerg Haider and the new Austrian government. The demonstration was organized by the youth section of the extreme-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party. MSZ




NATO ARRESTS 40 AFTER MITROVICA VIOLENCE

A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina on 14 February that peacekeepers arrested 39 ethnic Albanians and one Serb following several days of violence in primarily Serbian northern Mitrovica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2000). Two ethnic Albanians died-- including one sniper--and a total of at least 15 people were injured on 13 February. They include French peacekeepers, Serbs, and Albanians. The authorities imposed a curfew from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. until further notice. The UN and KFOR said in a joint statement that "the only people who have benefited from this shameful day are those who have an interest in preventing the return of peace and order." The spokesman stressed that the latest clashes marked "the first time that we were a target of such widespread attacks," Reuters reported. Observers note that this was the most violent confrontation between KFOR and ethnic Albanians. NATO intervened in Kosova in 1999 primarily to protect the lives and safety of the province's ethnic Albanian majority. PM

FRANCE'S VEDRINE DENIES PRO-SERBIAN BIAS

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said in Paris on 14 February that France does not have a policy of its own vis-a-vis Kosova, stressing that it carries out the common policy of all countries participating in KFOR, AP reported. Vedrine noted, however, that the situation in Mitrovica is more tense than in most cities in the province because a large Serbian population has remained there. He argued that "our objective is not to guarantee the ethnic homogeneity of [Kosova] solely on an Albanian basis. We should make this clear. We also have to protect the rights of the Serbs who have remained." He was responding to charges by ethnic Albanians that France follows a pro-Serbian policy in Mitrovica by condoning the de facto partition of the city into Serbian and Albanian halves. The Albanians oppose partition, which they see as part of a Serbian plan to divide all of Kosova. PM

EU PREPARES TO SEND MORE POLICE TO KOSOVA

Unnamed EU sources told Reuters in Brussels on 14 February that EU foreign ministers will soon agree to send another 400 police to Kosova. Spain, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and Germany will thereby fulfill or increase their earlier pledges. The UN's Bernard Kouchner and NATO's General Klaus Reinhardt have frequently complained that they need more police and that many countries have not made good on their pledges to send police. Only 2,055 police out of a total of 4,718 promised are currently serving in the province. In related news, the ministers are expected to agree to a six-month suspension of a ban on civilian air flights to Serbia. The ministers are also slated to meet with Ivica Racan, who is Croatia's new prime minister. PM

ANOTHER UNDERWORLD FIGURE GUNNED DOWN IN BELGRADE

Unknown gunmen in a passing car killed Mirko "Bosanac" Tomic, 28, in the Novi Beograd section of the Serbian capital on 13 February. Tomic was a well-known gambler and underworld personality. His death is the latest in a series of gangland- style killings in Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 February 2000). PM

SERBIA WANTS COMPENSATION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE...

The Serbian government will appeal to the International Court of Justice at The Hague for compensation for losses caused by the recent pollution of the Tisa and Danube rivers, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 13 February. The Serbian authorities fear long-lasting damage to agriculture in Vojvodina as a result of cyanide and heavy-metal pollution that originated in a mining accident in northwestern Romania. Spokesmen for the Australian Green Party told the BBC that safety conditions at the mine, which is half Australian- owned, do not meet Australian standards. PM

...LASHES OUT AT 'MEDIA TERRORISM'

Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said in Belgrade on 13 February that unnamed independent media and NGOs receive financial support "from the same aggressors who bombed us" during the 1999 Kosova conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2000). He drew attention to recent remarks by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj against the independent media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2000). In Vienna, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights called on the Serbian public prosecutor's office to "take legal action" against Seselj. The Vienna-based NGO's statement stressed that Seselj had "threatened" civil society in Serbia when he warned several independent media and NGOs that "you can't really think that you will survive our possible liquidation." PM

BURZAN SEES MONTENEGRIN FUTURE WITHOUT SERBIA

Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan told Reuters in Banja Luka on 13 February that "there is no possibility for Montenegro and Serbia to co-exist in any functioning federation." The previous day, he told the private Serbian news agency Beta: "I don't think that a civil war is possible in Montenegro, as it was in Bosnia, but even if something like that happens, it would be a series of local incidents." PM

MACEDONIA RETIRES OLD-GUARD MILITARY

President Boris Trajkovski announced the retirement of army chief General Trajce Krstevski and two other top commanders on 12 February. General Jovan Andreevski replaces Krstevski, who was close to former President Kiro Gligorov and who opposed Macedonia's cooperation with NATO during the 1999 Kosova conflict. Trajkovski also named General Sava Janev as deputy chief-of- staff, AP reported. General Djordji Karakutovski will head the First Corps and General Ilija Nikolovski the Second Corps. PM

BALKAN NEIGHBORS SIGN CHARTER IN BUCHAREST...

Attending the third meeting of the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process, President Emil Constantinescu and the premiers of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, and Turkey signed a 21-point "Charter on Good-Neighborly Relations, Stability, Security, and Cooperation in Southeast Europe," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 12 February. Yugoslavia, which is a member of the organization, was not invited to attend, but the participants expressed the hope that the country will resume participation when it has "democratically elected leaders." The participants pledged to promote the principles of the UN charter and to work for creating "conditions for the prosperity of our nations in an environment of peace, security, good-neighborliness, and stability." MS

...WHILE ROMANIA, BULGARIA SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION ACCORD

Meeting in Bucharest on 11 February, the premiers of Romania and Bulgaria signed an accord to cooperate in seeking to expedite their countries' integration into NATO and to boost bilateral political-military cooperation. Mugur Isarescu and Ivan Kostov said consultation mechanisms will be set up, joint exercises conducted, and cooperation in air-defense, logistics, and improving compatibility with NATO promoted. The two countries' defense industries will also cooperate. Isarescu and Transportation Minister Traian Basescu met with Bodo Hombach, EU coordinator of the Stability Pact, to discuss how to improve access routes to a second bridge over the River Danube, which is to be built by Bulgaria. Hombach said the construction of the bridge will begin this year. MS

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOLDOVA

Lord Robertson told journalists on 11 February after talks with President Petru Lucinschi, Premier Dumitru Barghis, and other government officials that NATO does not intend to play a role in settling the Transdniester conflict, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Rather, he said, this role must be "primarily" played by the OSCE. Robertson praised Moldova's participation in the Partnership for Peace program. He also said it was "up to each neutral country," such as Moldova, to define how it envisages its collaboration with NATO, adding that it is important to work toward "extending the zone of European stability" to as many countries as possible. Responding to Lucinschi's statement that Moldova wants to become a member of the South East European Stability Pact, Robertson pointed out that such a decision is not within the competence of NATO, but of the EU. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER SETS NEW CHALLENGE

Addressing the parliament on 11 February, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said that by having secured an invitation to start accession talks with the EU, his cabinet has fulfilled the main objective of its medium-term program, BTA and AP reported. Kostov said the next challenge is to increase competitiveness of the economy, achieve sustainable economic growth, and increase living standards. He said during its two-and-a half years in office, the cabinet has privatized 70 percent of state assets and restored 95 percent of communist-nationalized land. The parliament later approved the government's report by a vote of 125-76 but recommenced it take measures to improve living standards. MS




LITHUANIA ASKS KGB COLLABORATORS TO CONFESS


By Ahto Lobjakas

In general, the Baltic experience of coming to terms with Communist collaborators sharply contrasts with that of the rest of Eastern Europe.

Countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary had their own secret services. The post-communist governments of those countries set up procedures to make the files available to the public. The Baltic countries, on the other hand, were Soviet republics and fell within the jurisdiction of the KGB. As the Soviet Union began to disintegrate and the KGB withdrew from the Baltic region, it took with it a large part of the Estonian, Latvian, and, to a lesser extent, Lithuanian secret files.

Since the Baltic countries had no access to the bulk of the KGB records, they have had to seek out collaborators. Both Estonia and Lithuania have passed laws requiring collaborators to come forward and register themselves.

As of 1 February, all Lithuanian citizens who collaborated with the KGB have six months to report to a special commission. Lithuania's deputy minister of justice, Gintaras Svadas, explained to RFE/RL how this process will work: "Those citizens who took part in the secret activities of the KGB are required, as it were, to use any means to inform the commission of that fact. They will then have to visit the Committee of National Security of the Republic of Lithuania, where they will fill out a special form providing details of their collaboration with the KGB."

Svadas said that the identities of those who come forward will not be revealed. But collaborators who do not come forward within six months risk having their names disclosed to the public. Some of their identities are known to the authorities from salvaged KGB files, while others may be identified by other collaborators.

Dalia Kuodite, the director of Lithuania's Genocide and Resistance Research Center, which is represented on the special commission, says the law will be an important means of setting the historical record straight. But she says that from a practical point of view, it may come too late either to limit the effect of collaborators on society or to punish them.

Last November, the Lithuanian parliament adopted a law banning former KGB operatives from certain government positions. The new law on collaborators is expected to help monitor compliance with that ban.

RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service Director Kestutis Girnius says Lithuania took so long to address the role of collaborators because, after independence, the Communist Party transformed itself into a major force in the country. The often dominant role of that party in the 1990s has hindered the process of lustration.

In contrast to Lithuania's Communists, Estonia's local Communist Party was widely seen as an agent of Russification. When the country regained independence in 1991, the party found itself out of favor, and Estonia swiftly passed a law banning former KGB operatives from high office. Alone among the Baltic states, Estonia requires anyone seeking such office to take an "oath of conscience," declaring that they did not collaborate with the KGB. The ban expires in 2002.

Lithuania's new law on collaborators follows the example set by Estonia five years ago, when Estonia passed a law requiring people those who collaborated with the security services of any occupying power to register themselves with the security police within a year. The information gleaned from collaborators was treated as confidential, and those who did not comply faced public exposure.

The author is an RFE/RL correspondent currently based in Prague.


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