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Newsline - July 3, 2000




DOZENS KILLED BY CAR BOMBS IN CHECHNYA

Up to 50 people died in suicide bombings by Chechen fighters in four Chechen towns during the night of 2-3 July. At least 25 Russian servicemen were killed and 81 wounded when a lorry exploded outside their quarters in Argun, according to AP. Two Russian soldiers and eight civilians died in a similar attack in Gudermes. There were further dead and injured in other attacks in the towns of Urus-Martan and Novogrozny, but the death toll there is not clear. On 1 July, nine Russian soldiers were killed and seven injured when their lorry hit a landmine near the town of Avtury. LF

KADYROV CLAIMS 90 PERCENT SUPPORT

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 1 July, interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov estimated that 90 percent of the Chechen population supports him. He predicted that it will take approximately three years to restore the damage incurred during the Russian aggression of the past nine months, and he hinted that it may prove impossible to rebuild Grozny for ecological reasons. He explained that the new Chechen administration that he heads consists of six sections, including the oil sector, the economy, and social and that each of these sections is headed by one of his deputies. Kadyrov said that a new Chechen parliament will be elected and will decide whether Chechnya should be a presidential or a parliamentary republic. But Interfax on 2 July quoted a deputy to the Chechen parliament elected in 1997 as saying that legislature may be revived, in which case it will seek to bring Chechnya's laws into conformity with those of the Russian Federation and to impeach President Aslan Maskhadov. LF

INGUSHETIA TAKES ISSUE WITH RUSSIAN MILITARY CLAIMS

Ingushetian Prime Minister Akhmed Malsagov on 1 July rejected the statement made earlier that day by Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, who commands the joint federal forces in Chechnya, that federal troops destroyed a 50-strong Chechen force in Ingushetia two weeks earlier. Malsagov said that only Ingushetian Interior Ministry forces took part in the operation to destroy the Chechen force, according to ITAR- TASS. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY COMMANDER SLAMS CHECHEN CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATION

Troshev criticized the civilian bodies charged with reconstruction, agriculture, and education in Chechnya, claiming their efforts are ineffective, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 July. Troshev also slammed the Russian media for reproducing unverified and false information that he said undermines federal authority in Chechnya. LF

MORE SUSPECTS DETAINED IN ZVEREV KILLING

Grozny Mayor Vakhid Mokhchaev told Interfax on 30 June that three people have been detained in the city on suspicion of involvement in the 31 May killing of Russian deputy government representative Sergei Zverev. Several people were arrested in connection with that attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May and 7 June 2000). LF

KASYANOV DENIES PUTIN IS AUTHORITARIAN...

Speaking on Russian Public Television (ORT) on 1 July, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that "there is no sign that authoritarianism prevails in our country." "When we speak about strengthening power in the country," he said, "it is completely different. Our life and the problems we have lived through show that the older system of government should be improved." He said that disagreements with the Federation Council do not signal a political crisis. In other comments, Kasyanov said that "only half of the positive change [in Russia] is due to the favorable situation on the world market. The other half is linked to fundamental changes in the structure of our economy.... This growth will solve our deep problems." PG

...SAYS THERE'S NO PLAN TO REVERSE PRIVATIZATION

Prime Minister Kasyanov also said that his government will not reverse privatization but will make sure that the existing laws are followed. "Despite the fact that many think privatization was carried out unfairly..., the main point is that privatization was conducted according to the law," Kasyanov said. "Good or bad as they were, even if we can criticize those laws, we cannot revise the results," he added. PG

GUSINSKII SAYS HIS ARREST A WARNING TO CLINTON

In remarks published in the "Jerusalem Post" on 30 June, Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii said that his recent arrest was intended as a message to U.S. President Bill Clinton, who had appeared on one of Gusinskii's radio stations. Gusinskii said that the "great danger" now is that Russian President Vladimir Putin will seek to create "manageable democracy" and that Russian society is too weak to stop it. The same day, Gusinskii was again denied permission to leave Russia, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Media-MOST announced that it is talking to foreign investors to take over Gazprom's shares in the media giant. PG

ZHIRINOVSKII SEES PUTIN IMPLEMENTING ZHIRINOVSKII'S PROGRAM

Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii told Interfax on 1 July that Putin is implementing his, Zhirinovskii's, ideas. He said that he had called for the division of Russia into federal districts and the development of an information security concept long before Putin implemented those ideas, and he added that Putin and Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo are now considering his proposal to set up special units to fight terrorism and banditry inside Russia. PG

GROWING ECONOMY ALLOWS FOR MILITARY MODERNIZATION

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said on 30 June that Russia's strengthening economy will allow the country to modernize its military, reduce the number of defense plants from 1,700 to 400-500, and increase its competitiveness as an arms exporter, AP reported. He said that military payments will be fulfilled "100 percent" in 2000 and in future years. And he indicated that Russia expects to sell $4.3 billion in arms abroad this year. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kasyanov said that the government will put more money into defense technology because such investments will pay off across the entire economy. PG

GDP, MONEY SUPPLY GROW

Russian GDP grew 8.4 percent in the first quarter of 2000, compared with the previous year, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, in May alone, the money supply increased by 4.2 percent. PG

CENTRAL BANK SEEKS TO HOLD RUBLE STABLE

If it were not for Central Bank interventions, the ruble/dollar rate would be 26:1 or even 20:1, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko said on 30 June, Interfax reported. But the first deputy chairman of the bank, Tatyana Paramonova, said that the bank will do what it can to prevent "sharp fluctuations in either direction." In other comments, Gerashchenko said that Russia is unlikely to receive the $1.5 billion tranche from the IMF that the fund is scheduled to release. PG

GRAIN SHORTAGE NOW, BUT EXPORTS TO COME

Aleksei Gordeev, Russian deputy prime minister and agriculture minister, said in Rostov-na-Donu on 30 June that Russia will have a 6-8 million ton shortfall in fodder grain this year, Interfax reported. But Prime Minister Kasyanov said that the situation will change and Russia will not only grow enough food for itself but will export to the world. In his speech to agricultural experts, Kasyanov outlined plans to forgive or postpone agrarian debt in order to help more rural producers turn a profit. PG

RUSSIA, U.S. READY FOR START III TALKS...

Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov said in Moscow on 30 June that Russia and the U.S. are ready to begin START III talks, Interfax reported. His comment came after Russian and U.S. experts held consultations on that subject in Geneva from 28-30 June, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

...TO DISCUSS COMBATING AFGHAN TERRORISM

Moscow and Washington plan to have at least four meetings on how the two countries can cooperate to neutralize terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 July. PG

PUTIN SIGNS NEW FOREIGN POLICY CONCEPT

President Putin on 30 June approved a new foreign policy concept, Interfax reported. The text, which will replace a document approved in 1993, will be published within a week. PG

RUSSIA, IRAN BOOST MILITARY TIES, PLAN SUMMIT

Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, who led the first high-level Russian military delegation to Tehran since 1991, said on 30 June that Russia and Iran plan to expand military cooperation, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, a Russian Foreign Ministry report said that work on a friendship treaty between the two is under way and that a summit may take place either this year or next, Interfax reported (see also "End Note" below). PG

MOSCOW LASHES OUT AT PACE ON CHECHNYA

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of refusing "to take into account the real situation" in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 30 June. The statement said that PACE refused to consider Moscow-supplied information, preferring "sources of information and reports of doubtful character." Meanwhile, the head of the Russian delegation to PACE Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) said he is optimistic that PACE will restore Russia's voting rights in September. But State Duma deputy Gadzhi Makhachev (Agro-industrial) denounced the behavior of Russian parliamentary deputies at PACE as "reprehensible," Russian agencies reported. PG

RUSSIA TO WORK WITH EU ON DEFENSE ISSUES

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has said that Moscow is interested in working with the EU on defense and security questions, Interfax reported on 30 June. Ivanov's comments came two weeks after EU officials at Lisbon discussed establishing a permanent joint council with Moscow modeled on the NATO-Moscow one. PG

PUTIN, JIANG TO DISCUSS TERRORISM, OTHER ISSUES

Both at the Shanghai Five meeting in Dushanbe on 5 July and in Beijing on 18-19 July, Russian President Putin is scheduled to meet with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin to discuss nuclear non-proliferation and combating "national separatists, international terrorists, and religious extremists," Interfax reported on 30 June. The Russian agency said the two leaders may also discuss demarcation of the border between their respective countries. PG

RUSSIA'S MUSLIMS UNCERTAIN ABOUT WAHHABISM

The Council of Russia's Muftis on 30 June proposed convening an all- Russian Muslim congress, ITAR-TASS reported. The council had been meeting to discuss a possible ban on Wahhabism in Russia, but council chairman Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin said that there is no clear definition in Russia of what constitutes Wahhabism, despite calls from power ministries for banning the movement. "It is important not to infringe on the rights of believers," he said. PG

MIRONOV CALLS FOR CIS HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN

Oleg Mironov, the human rights ombudsman for the Russian Federation, has called for the creation of a CIS human rights commissioner, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. His press service said that the idea enjoys the support of the UN, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe and would provide for "practical cooperation in the sphere of human rights and freedoms on the entire territory of the former USSR." PG

RUSSIANS UPSET BY GROWING INCOME DIFFERENTIALS

More than half of all Russians believe that the gap in income between the richest and poorest citizens should be cut, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. But the poorest may see their incomes cut further by three possible moves: an increase in the Moscow metro fare, the introduction of new and much higher fees for university students, and a hike in the gas rate, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kasyanov told ORT on 1 July that the government does not plan "any cuts in the social guarantees that are now enjoyed by the population." PG

STUDENT REPORTEDLY EXPELLED FOR REFUSING TO COLLABORATE WITH FSB

"Segodnya" reported on 1 July that Dmitrii Barkovskii was called into the St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office last week to be informed that his dismissal from the Baltic State Technical University was "legal and correct from the state's point of view of recruiting and dismissing [people] from university for refusing to work with organs of the Federal Security Service [FSB]." Barkovskii was expelled from the university by order of rector Yurii Savelev after he and a fellow student revealed that FSB agents had sought to recruit them to collect information on the St. Petersburg branch of Yabloko, in whose election campaigns they had participated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2000). The official reason for Barkovskii's dismissal was "poor progress" in his studies, according to the daily. JC

TITOV LEADS IN SAMARA POLL

Former Governor Konstantin Titov is ahead in the 2 July gubernatorial ballot in Samara Oblast, according to preliminary results, ITAR- TASS reported the next day. Titov has gathered 53.2 percent of the vote, while his nearest rival, Viktor Tarkhov, has 29.4 percent backing. Turnout is estimated at 44.5 percent. Titov resigned his post as governor following his poor showing in the oblast during the March presidential elections. As a result, the gubernatorial ballot was brought forward six months. JC

TUVA REVAMPS ITS CONSTITUTION

To bring the constitution of the Tuva Republic into line with the federal basic law, the Great Khural has adopted 26 constitutional amendments, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. The amended document, which retains the right to self-determination and secession, will be voted on in a referendum on 8 October. PG

NO BOMB AT YELTSIN CLASS REUNION

A false bomb threat failed to break up former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's participation in his 45th class reunion of the Urals Polytechnic Institute, from which he graduated, Interfax reported on 30 June. PG




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT IN PARIS

Robert Kocharian met with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, in Paris on 30 June to discuss the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict and bilateral relations, which Chirac termed "important" in the light of France's large Armenian community, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Kocharian also met the same day with French Premier Lionel Jospin to discuss economic cooperation. LF

ARMENIA DEPLORES DELEGATION'S EXPULSION FROM TURKEY

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan expressed "regret" at the expulsion from Turkey on 28 June of a four-strong Armenian delegation from the northern town of Gyumri, Interfax reported. The delegation had traveled to the Turkish town of Kars to attend a discussion of the planned South Caucasus regional security pact. The "Turkish Daily News" on 30 June quoted Kars city officials as saying that the men's papers were in order but that they had not been formally invited to attend the meeting. Anatolian News Agency on 29 June quoted an unnamed Turkish Foreign Ministry official as saying that Armenians are not in general permitted to participate in international gatherings in Turkey. Anatolia also quoted Azerbaijan's Ambassador in Ankara, Mehmet Nevrozoglu, as saying that the opening of an Armenian-Turkish border crossing near Kars, which has been under discussion for several years, would not benefit the region. LF

CHARGES AGAINST ANOTHER ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECT DROPPED

Prosecutors on 30 June dropped charges against parliamentary deputy Mushegh Movsisian, who had been arrested last November on suspicion of complicity in the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings, AP reported. Movsisian had been released from detention a month ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2000). LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS U.S., IRANIAN DIPLOMATS

Serzh Sarkisian met in Yerevan on 30 June with the U.S. deputy ambassador in Yerevan to discuss this week's tour of the South Caucasus by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen and Sarkisian's upcoming visit to the U.S., Groong reported, citing Snark. The following day, Sarkisian met with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Farhad Koleini to discuss regional security issues and the upcoming visit to Armenia by an Iranian military delegation. LF

ARMENIAN SECURITY MINISTER CALLS FOR SURRENDER OF WEAPONRY

Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Petrosian on 30 June appealed to all Armenian veterans of the Karabakh war to surrender illegally stored armaments and ammunition, ITAR-TASS reported. Petrosian was speaking at a meeting of the Union of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle established in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 11 May 2000). He stressed that that organization must operate strictly within the framework of Armenia's laws and constitution. LF

ARMENIA ASSESSES PROSPECTS FOR KARABAKH PROGRESS...

Armenian President Kocharian told journalists in Paris on 30 June that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen have given him and Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev carte blanche to seek an agreement between themselves on the optimum solution to the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The Minsk Group will then do all in its power to help implement that settlement, Kocharian said. Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Martirosian told Interfax on 29 June that "nobody, especially the Council of Europe, will force Karabakh into accepting a peace plan that does not fit its national interests." LF

...AS DOES AZERBAIJAN

Meeting with the Minsk Group co- chairmen in Baku on 2 July, Aliyev characterized that body as "the leading and strongest means for settling the conflict," ITAR-TASS reported. But he added that economic cooperation between Armenia and Azerbaijan is contingent on such a settlement. The Russian Minsk Group representative, Nikolai Gribkov, told ITAR-TASS on 1 July that the group "is working on very interesting initiatives" with the aim of resolving the disagreements between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He refused to elaborate. LF

RUSSIA DEMANDS COMPENSATION FROM AZERBAIJAN OVER OIL EXPORTS

Transneft has demanded $29 million from Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR for failing to honor a commitment made in January 1997 to export a total of 5 million tons of oil through the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline by 2002, Turan and "Vremya novostei" reported on 30 June, quoting Transneft chairman Semen Vainshtok. Baku has shipped only some 334,000 tons of oil through the pipeline since 1 January. It halted all such exports late last month, citing the need to meet domestic consumption and stockpile heating oil for the coming winter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2000). LF

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA DISCUSS GAS PIPELINE PROJECT...

Georgian and Azerbaijani gas sector officials and representatives of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), the international consortium developing the off-shore Shah Deniz oil and gas field, held talks in Baku on 30 June on building a gas export pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. The planned pipeline would take two to three years to build and have an initial throughput capacity of 5 billion cubic meters per year. Georgia President Eduard Shevardnadze discussed the project the previous day in Tbilisi with AIOC president David Woodward. LF

...AS SHELL SEEKS DECISION FROM TURKMENISTAN ON TRANSCASPIAN PIPELINE

Executives from Royal Dutch/Shell met with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 30 June but failed to remove obstacles to construction of the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which would transport gas from Turkmenistan via Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey, AP reported. Niyazov reportedly said there is no haste in reaching a final agreement to proceed with construction of that pipeline. Royal Dutch/Shell's partner in that proposed undertaking, PSG International, was reported last week to be on the verge of quitting the project because of Niyazov's inconsistency and his demand for up-front cash payments of several million dollars, according to the "Wall Street Journal." LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY AGAIN SLAMS RUSSIAN RHETORIC ON CHECHNYA

In a statement released on 1 July, the Georgian Foreign Ministry again expressed concern at ongoing Russian allegations that Georgia is abetting Chechen fighters. Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. The statement termed those allegations a reflection of the Russian military's desire to draw Georgia into the Chechen conflict. It stressed that Georgia has voluntarily provided aid to thousands of unarmed Chechen refugees. The statement also affirmed Tbilisi's readiness for talks with Moscow on the possible return of those refugees to Chechnya. Russian First Deputy Chief of Army General Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov had said in Moscow last week that despite "long and painful" talks, Tbilisi had shown no willingness to expel alleged Chechen fighters from its territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2000). LF

GEORGIAN BORDER VILLAGERS DEMAND TO RETURN HOME

The inhabitants of Pichvni and Atskheti, who were expelled from their home earlier this year, when Russian border guards occupied the two disputed villages on the Russian-Georgian border, have sent a representative to Tbilisi to demand that the Georgian government allow them to return home, Caucasus Press reported on 30 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 19 June 2000). LF

GEORGIAN-UKRAINIAN TALKS CONCLUDE

A Georgian delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze held talks in Kyiv last week on the legal basis for political and economic cooperation and the prospects for expanding those ties, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Regional security in the South Caucasus and the unresolved Abkhaz conflict were also on the agenda. Ukraine has offered to send peacekeepers to Abkhazia under a UN mandate. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OPTS OUT OF NATIONAL DIALOGUE

Ermukhambet Ertisbaev, a member of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's administration, told journalists in Astana on 30 June that he will represent the president at the "National Dialogue" to be held later this year. RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He added that pro-presidential as well as opposition political parties will be invited to take part in that dialogue. But opposition parties are unlikely to participate in Nazarbaev's absence. Following the flawed parliamentary elections last fall, exiled former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin had offered to mediate a dialogue between the Kazakh leadership and the opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER FORCED TO ATTEND COURT PROCEEDINGS

Opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov and three co-defendants were forced to attend their ongoing trial on 30 June, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. All four men had refused to attend the proceedings on the grounds that their defense lawyers' requests to the military court have been rejected. Speaking at a press conference in Bishkek the same day, the defense lawyers said that the charges against all four defendants are unsubstantiated and that in Kulov's case, the accusations are aimed solely at preventing him from contending the 29 October presidential poll. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT TERMS RUSSIA 'MAIN STRATEGIC ALLY'

Addressing the Assembly of Peoples of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek on 30 June, President Askar Akaev said Russia always has been and will remain Kyrgyzstan's principal strategic partner, Interfax reported. He added that ongoing political, economic, and cultural cooperation with Russia will contribute to Kyrgyzstan's progress and prosperity. Akaev also vowed that Kyrgyzstan will continue to implement democratic market- oriented reform. But he warned that unspecified forces are intent on destabilizing the country by inciting inter-ethnic tensions. LF




BELARUS OPPOSITION CALLS FOR ELECTION BOYCOTT

More than 1,000 representatives of the Belarusian opposition on 2 July called for the boycott of upcoming parliamentary elections in order to put pressure on the government to organize fair and free ones, ITAR-TASS reported. Stanislau Shushkevich, former parliamentary speaker, said that "we cannot legitimize the current regime, which has called into question the country's sovereignty." The previous day, Semyon Sharetsky, the chairman of the parliament that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has supplanted, said things have reached a point where he cannot rule out the possibility of an armed uprising against the regime. "This is a fearful price," he said; "this is bloodshed. But a dictatorship-- Lukashenka's regime--cannot otherwise be overthrown," Interfax reported. PG

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DENIES UNDERMINING SOVEREIGNTY

Speaking on the eve of Belarusian Independence Day, Lukashenka said on 2 July that he is not undermining Belarusian sovereignty but rather building a "democratic" and "law-governed" country in the middle of Europe, ITAR- TASS reported. He added that he will ignore the boycott of the parliamentary elections that his opponents have called for. PG

BELARUS SEEKS AID TO BLOCK ILLEGAL MIGRANTS

Belarusian Prime Minister Uladzimir Yarmoshyn told visiting UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata that Minsk needs international assistance to meet the "considerable burden" that illegal migration imposes on his country, Interfax reported on 30 June. Ogata reportedly praised Minsk for its approach and said that international assistance might be forthcoming. PG

IMF CALLS FOR TIGHTER MONETARY POLICY IN BELARUS

Noting the strengthening of the Belarusian currency, Marta de Costello-Branko, the deputy head of the western section of the IMF's Second European Department, told Belarusian Prime Minister Yarmoshyn on 1 July that his government should do more to tighten monetary and credit policies and begin structural reforms, Interfax-West reported. She also called on the government to reduce its interference in the activities of commercial banks. PG

KUCHMA CALLS ON U.S. TO EXTRADITE LAZARENKO

President Leonid Kuchma on 30 June called on Washington to extradite former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko to face corruption charges in Ukraine, AP reported. Kuchma said that because there is no extradition treaty between the two countries, he is prepared to sign whatever documents are necessary. If the U.S. does not act, he said, "what kind of trust would our society have for the American legal system?... If Lazarenko has no money, he would have been thrown out of America." In Switzerland on 29 June, Lazarenko was convicted in absentia of money-laundering. PG

KUCHMA URGES REFORM OF UKRAINE'S BANKING SYSTEM

Arguing that Ukraine's banks have failed to win the trust of the population, President Kuchma has called for new legislation and regulation to improve the situation, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 July. Kuchma also expressed concern about capital flight from Ukraine. He noted that in early June 2000, some $1.6 billion was transferred from Ukraine to Latvia, even though trade between the two countries amounted to only $45 million. "I am surprised that the national bank does not see this," the president said. But officials at the central bank said that things are better than Kuchma suggested: they noted that they are meeting debt payment schedules, supporting the national currency, and building hard currency reserves. PG

KYIV REJECTS CHARGE THAT UKRAINIANS ARE AIDING CHECHNYA

Leonid Dergach, the chairman of Ukraine's Security Service, told ITAR-TASS on 30 June that Russian Colonel General Valerii Manilov's suggestion that Ukrainian citizens and organizations are aiding the Chechen fighters is completely untrue. Meanwhile, AP reported that ethnic Chechens in Odesa staged a demonstration to protest what they said was police persecution of refugees from the war. PG

KYIV TO PURCHASE GRAIN FROM UKRAINIAN FARMERS

In order to ensure that Ukrainian farmers sell their grain, the Ukrainian government is to purchase their produce at the average market price but the farmers retain the option to repurchase it and sell it on the market if prices rise. That measure is provided for a decree signed on 30 June by President Kuchma, Reuters reported. PG

GAZPROM SAYS UKRAINE SELLING STOLEN RUSSIAN GAS

A Gazprom board member on 30 June said that Kyiv is illegally exporting stolen Russian gas at dumping prices, ITAR-TASS reported. The official said that Ukraine is stealing 10 billion cubic meters of gas and selling a quarter to a third of it to Hungary, Poland, and Romania. To counter this, Gazprom plans to put pressure on Ukraine and also diversify its export routes around that republic. PG

POLAND GETS NEW FOREIGN MINISTER

Following the resignation of Bronislaw Geremek after his party withdrew from the governing coalition, Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski swore in Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, 78, as the country's new foreign minister on 30 June, dpa reported. Bartoszewski earlier served in the same capacity but most recently had been ambassador in Vienna. A survivor of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, the new minister promised continuity in Warsaw's relations with other countries. PG

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE SEEKS MINISTER'S OUSTER

The parliamentary Finance Committee on 30 June called on Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek to dismiss Treasury Minister Emil Wasacz because of deputies' concerns about the way in which he handled the sale of Poland's largest state- owned insurance company, AP reported. The Polish zloty fell on the news, but Buzek said he will not do anything immediately, noting that Wasacz is out of the country. PG

SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S CONDITION 'STABILIZED'

Austrian doctors treating ailing Slovak President Rudolf Schuster in Innsbruck say his condition has "stabilized" and that the medication keeping him in "artificial sleep" since his arrival at the clinic may be reduced. But they added that a deterioration in Schuster's condition cannot be ruled out either, CTK reported on 1 July. Health Minister Tibor Sagat confirmed the previous day that Schuster's family has hired a lawyer to conduct an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the failure of treatment Schuster received at three Slovak hospitals. Also on 30 June, the governmental commission set up to examine these circumstances said it has not yet gathered all necessary data and will resume its work on 3 July. MS

BELGIUM 'SUSPENDS' VISA REQUIREMENT FOR SLOVAKS

The Belgian government has announced that as of 1 August it will "suspend" the visa requirement imposed on Slovak nationals in April 2000, CTK reported on 30 June. It said this will be a "trial measure" and the requirement will be re-imposed if the flow of asylum applicants from Slovakia "again reaches alarming numbers." According to the Belgian Interior Ministry, nearly 3,200 Slovak Roma have requested asylum since 1993. In April, Belgium shortened the procedure for processing such requests, and during the last few weeks, several hundred Slovak Roma have left that country with the help of the International Organization for Migration, which offers air tickets and a sum of money to those voluntarily returning home. Visa requirements imposed by the U.K., Ireland, Finland, Denmark, and Norway remain in place, but The Netherlands and Luxembourg have abolished those requirements. MS

SLOVAK GANG BEHIND BUDAPEST BOMBINGS

Budapest police on 30 June said a gang headed by Slovak citizen Jozef Rohac is suspected to have carried out several bomb attacks in the Hungarian capital over the last three years, Hungarian media reported. Police officials told journalists that the gang was responsible for about 10 such incidents, including one in which Tamas Boros, an entrepreneur and secret services collaborator, was killed in July 1998. An international warrant has been issued for Rohac, who is also wanted in Slovakia for the murder of Robert Remias, a witness in the case of the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. MSZ




PATTEN: MACEDONIA, EU TO SIGN PACT THIS YEAR

Chris Patten, who is the EU's commissioner for external relations, said in Skopje on 30 June that he expects Macedonia to sign an Agreement on Stabilization and Association with Brussels before the end of 2000. Patten praised Macedonia's progress in recent years and noted that the EU has accepted the arguments made by Macedonian leaders for concluding the agreement. He added: "For us, the European Union, [the agreement] will be the centerpiece of our strategic partnership and relationship with the region. What we have done with you we hope to be able to do with others, beginning with perhaps Croatia," Reuters reported. The government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, which was elected in 1998, regards the agreement with Brussels as a top priority. PM

BOSNIAN COURT RULES ON ETHNIC EQUALITY

Bosnia's joint Constitutional Court has ruled that Serbs, Croats, and Muslims must enjoy full legal equality everywhere on Bosnian territory, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 2 July. At present, Serbs have a special legal status in the Republika Srpska, as do Muslims and Croats in the federation. Observers note that the effects of the ruling could be highly significant, provided that it is enforced. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION BUOYED BY DECISION ON 'ANTI-TERRORISM LAW'

Leaders of several opposition parties said in Belgrade on 30 June that the government's decision to postpone discussion in the legislature of the proposed "anti-terrorism law" is a clear sign of divisions in the governing coalition, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2000). Opposition deputy Dragoljub Micunovic said: "It was clear that the law would not get support, so the government did not want to risk putting its authority at stake. Withdrawal of the law means a kind of failure for the government. It is also obvious that the [future of the ruling] coalition has been brought into question" by its internal divisions. The Alliance for Change's leader Vladan Batic suggested that Vojislav Seselj's radicals opposed the law because they fear that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic might some day use it against them. The Serbian Renewal Movement's Ognjen Pribicevic cautioned, however, that the impasse in the discussions between the Seselj and Milosevic factions could prove only temporary. Pribicevic noted that the government has not withdrawn the proposed bill but merely postponed legislative debate on it. PM

BELGRADE REGIME CONTINUES TO HARASS STUDENT ACTIVISTS

A Belgrade court on 1 July sentenced Otpor (Resistance) student movement activist Milos Stojanovic to 10 days in prison because he "did not have valid residence papers," the private Beta news agency reported. Police briefly detained nine other activists in Belgrade, as well as two in Novi Sad. In Gornji Milanovac, police briefly detained four Otpor activists who were taking part in a garbage clean-up campaign. Police questioned them about alleged "anti-state activities," AP reported. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN FOUND DEAD IN HUNGARY

Police in Szeged recently found Nenad Mirovic, a veteran activist of the Vojvodina Reform Party, dead in a motel room, AP reported. Police Major Tibor Mucsi told AP on 2 July that Mirovic's death was "a clear case of suicide" by hanging. Mirovic had been active in the Belgrade-based Center for Anti-War Action as well as the Aspen Institute's Balkan study group. PM

SERBIAN POLICE EXTRADITE SUSPECT TO MONTENEGRO

Belgrade police on 30 June arrested a suspect in the attempted assassination of opposition leader Vuk Draskovic. The police then turned Vladimir Jovanovic over to their Montenegrin colleagues. The Montenegrin authorities recently complained of a lack of cooperation from the Serbian police in the Draskovic case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2000). Serbian police Lieutenant Colonel Miodrag Gutic told Reuters that "the moment we find those persons [wanted by the Montenegrin police] and arrest them, we will put them on the first train or plane to Podgorica." Suspect Dusan Spasojevic recently turned himself in to the Belgrade police, which said he is "too ill" to be sent to Montenegro. PM

BELGRADE, BAGHDAD CONCLUDE TRADE PACT

Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh and his Yugoslav hosts concluded a trade agreement on 2 July, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2000.). Saleh said that Iraq will use the UN's oil-for- food program, which allows it limited exports of oil in exchange for humanitarian goods, to import what he called "a wide range of products" from Yugoslavia. Iraq will import trucks, vans, agricultural vehicles, construction material, waterworks equipment, and medicines, Saleh noted. He added that Iraq is interested in buying Yugoslav wheat but noted that Belgrade may not have any wheat to sell because of a drought. Saleh stressed that "Iraq will expand cooperation as much as possible, giving the Yugoslav side special priority, according to instructions from our President [Saddam Hussein]," Reuters reported. PM

BATIC: MILOSEVIC TO SELL PART OF TELECOM TO CHINA

Opposition leader Batic said in Belgrade on 2 July that the regime plans to sell Chinese business interests a 35 percent share in Serbian Telecom in order to raise money for its upcoming election campaign, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Italian and Greek companies own a 49 percent interest in the Serbian utility. PM

U.S. TO KEEP CONVOY SUPPORT IN SHTERPCE

U.S. Major Scott Slaten, who is a KFOR spokesman, said at Camp Bondsteel on 1 July that U.S. forces will not provide further escorts for Serbian convoys from Shterpce to Serbia until local Serbs "improve their cooperation with KFOR," AP reported. He stressed that "the intent here is to say that we are not going to continue to assist the community, pay for things, when they themselves are causing us trouble and destroying what we are trying to fix" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). The next day, members of the moderate Serbian Civic Council (SNV) met with U.S. military representatives and persuaded them to continue the escorts for convoys through areas inhabited mainly by ethnic Albanians. The SNV said in a statement that the U.S. representatives accepted the SNV's argument that all Serbs should not be penalized because of the disruptive actions of a few supporters of the Belgrade regime, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

KOSOVA SERB MODERATES TO WORK WITH HAGUE TRIBUNAL

Father Sava Janjic, who is a leader of moderate Serbs in the SNV, told representatives of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal in Gracanica on 2 July about "the sufferings" of local Serbs during and after the 1999 conflict in Kosova. He pledged to provide documentation to the tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. It is not clear if the documentation will include evidence about the activities of local Serbian paramilitaries against ethnic Albanians during the conflict. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR SECOND TERM...

In an interview with the Antena 1 private television channel on 30 June, President Emil Constantinescu said he will run for a second term and will nominate incumbent Premier Mugur Isarescu to head the cabinet if he wins. Constantinescu described Isarescu as "the best premier after 1989 and one of the best Romania has ever had." The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic has already announced that it will back a Constantinescu-Isarescu team but the National Liberal Party (PNL), which is other main formation in the Democratic Convention of Romania, has made no such statement and last week failed to attend a planned meeting with Constantinescu. The PNL is contemplating running jointly with the Alliance for Romania (APR) and backing APR leader Teodor Melescanu for president and former premier Theodor Stolojan for premier. MS

...SAYS PRESIDENTIAL RIVALS BROKE UN EMBARGO ON YUGOSLAVIA

Constantinescu also said that in 1994 and 1995, there was a "massive breach" of the UN oil embargo imposed on Yugoslavia. He said that the Romanian Intelligence Service and the custom authorities were behind that breach, having followed "orders from above," and that an investigation into the affair is under way. Constantinescu said former President Ion Iliescu and Melescanu, who at the time was foreign minister, are to be held responsible, "regardless of whether they knew" what was happening. Iliescu responded that Constantinescu's allegations "carry a strong dose of electioneering" and that it is "strange, unacceptable and dangerous" for a president to comment on an investigation that has not ended. Melescanu said Constantinescu is "abusing his position" to "indulge in electoral propaganda" and, after nearly four years in office, still does not realize that the Foreign Ministry does not deal with such matters. MS

INTERNAL RIFTS PLAGUE ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARTY IN ROMANIA

The two main wings of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) openly clashed at the party's Council of Representatives meeting in Targu Mures on 30 June-2 July, Romanian media reported. UDMR chairman Bela Marko and his backers called on the "radical wing," headed by honorary chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes, to either restore UDMR unity or leave the federation. Toekes had sent a letter to the meeting demanding a change of leadership. Each side accused the other of responsibility for the loss of mayoralties in Targu Mures and Odorheiul Secuiesc in the recent local elections. Odorheiul Secuiesc Mayor-elect Jenoe Szasz, a UDMR member who ran as an independent, rejected the accusation he "self-expelled himself from the UDMR." The council endorsed the May decision to "suspend" Eloed Kincses, a Toekes supporter, as the leader of the Targu Mures branch. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES BULGARBANK SALE

The cabinet on 30 June approved the sale of Bulgaria's largest commercial bank to an Italian-German consortium, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2000). The consortium will pay 360 million euros ($340 million) for a 98 percent stake in Bulgarbank, the country's fifth bank to be privatized. The decision was taken despite President Petar Stoyanov's earlier announcement that he will meet with both proponents and opponents of the deal upon his return from Switzerland on 3 July. Earlier, dpa reported that the parliament has rejected a resolution proposed by the opposition Socialist Party to put all privatization deals under the control of the parliament. The legislature decided, however, to improve control over companies that make bids in privatization deals. MS

BULGARIA CONFIRMS INTENTION TO PURCHASE U.S. FIGHTERS

Defense Minister Boiko Noev told journalists on 30 June after his return from a visit to the U.S. that Bulgaria is considering the purchase of an unspecified number of F-16 fighters, having the discussed the matter with Pentagon officials, AP reported. Noev said Bulgaria faces growing difficulties in maintaining its Soviet-made planes, which are almost entirely grounded owing to a lack of spare parts. He also said Russia has failed to meet its commitments to pay some of its $100 million debt with spare parts for the planes. "It is only natural," Noev commented, "for Bulgaria to gradually switch to armaments that are standard with its allies and friends." MS




A RUSSIAN-IRANIAN RAPPROCHEMENT


By Paul Goble

Russia and Iran have upgraded their military ties, a move that represents both a response to growing Western influence in the countries of the southern Caucasus and a challenge to the existing balance in the Middle East.

The head of the Russian Defense Ministry's international military cooperation department, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, last week led the first Russian military delegation to Tehran since 1991. Following meetings with senior Iranian officials, he and his hosts announced their intention to move toward what they called "planned military cooperation."

That cooperation, press accounts suggested, will build on already close Russian-Iranian ties and will include regular consultations between the staffs of the armed forces of the two countries on both military questions and political issues of common concern. Among the results of this visit alone was an invitation from the Russian side for Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to visit Moscow in the near future.

But both sides clearly view these expanded ties as having a far larger meaning than simple consultations: In his remarks to the media, Ivashov suggested that Moscow and Tehran are now able not only "to determine the common menace to the security of our two states" but also to agree on "methods for its neutralization."

Iranian officials have noted the ways in which such cooperation will contribute to a further expansion of Russian involvement in the construction of nuclear power facilities at Bushehr, cooperation that many analysts have suggested could allow Tehran to build nuclear weapons.

These talks appear to have focused on three such threats: from expanded U.S. and NATO involvement in the countries of the southern Caucasus, from the existing balance of power in the Middle East, and from the uncertain developments in Afghanistan.

Russian press commentaries recently have become more explicit about how Moscow and Tehran view the situation in the southern Caucasus. They suggest that the two countries are "disturbed" by efforts of the U.S. and NATO to expand their influence in the region and to "exert influence" on conflicts there, including resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Indeed, the very timing of Ivashov's trip to Tehran underscores these concerns: last month, Washington hosted both Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev for separate talks about that conflict and expanded U.S. military cooperation with Baku, respectively.

Moreover, Iran's ambassador to Russia Mehdi Safari told the Moscow newspaper "Vek" that Western plans for constructing a gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea reflected political rather than economic calculations and that "Iran and Russia are categorically opposed" to such a pipeline as well as to "the transportation of gas to Europe via Azerbaijan and Turkey."

The meeting between defense officials from the two countries also represents a challenge to the existing power relationships in the Middle East. Not only does it challenge the cooperative relationship between Israel, Turkey, and the U.S. by creating an alternative axis of power, but it signals that Moscow may try to use its ties with Iran to expand its participation in security discussions across that region.

Indeed, lest anyone miss that aspect of the meeting's message, Iran's official news agency IRNA noted that the talks were taking place, "despite deep concern by the U.S. and Israel."

But in addition, the two sides also discussed an issue that concerns them both but for which neither has found an adequate response. That is the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the potential that instability, terrorism, and drugs from there may spread to Iran, Russia or Russia's Central Asian allies.

Iran currently is trying to tighten its border with Afghanistan. Russia has warned that it has even considered air strikes against Afghan targets. But neither country seems to have found an answer to the ideological challenge presented by Afghanistan's Taliban.

Now, the two countries are likely to be discussing that as well. But it remains to be seen whether this and the other challenges they both agree on will outweigh the cultural and political factors that often have left Russia and Iran at odds.


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