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Newsline - July 7, 2000




FEDERAL PROSECUTORS PURSUE ANOTHER MEDIA-MOST OFFICIAL...

The Prosecutor-General's Office on 6 July filed criminal charges against Mikhail Aleksandrov, an aide to Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii, ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksandrov is accused of possessing illegal firearms. Media-MOST lawyer Pavel Astakhov labeled the charges against Aleksandrov "absurd" and suggested that they are part of a broader campaign to pressure Gusinskii. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Gusinskii has asked that the Media-MOST head be allowed to visit the U.S. in order to take part in discussions with U.S. Congressmen on freedom of the press, human rights, and freedom of religion in Russia. JAC

...AS INTERIOR MINISTRY FILES FORMAL CHARGES AGAINST BABITSKII...

The Interior Ministry has filed formal charges against RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitskii, Russian agencies reported on 6 July. Babitskii is accused of knowingly using false documents. If found guilty, he could face up six months in prison, according to RFE/RL's Russian Service. Babitskii categorically denies he is guilty and has declared that he will appeal a guilty verdict to the European Court for Human Rights. Also on 6 July, Babitskii's wife, Lyudmila, was in Bucharest to accept an OSCE award for her husband for his coverage of the war in Chechnya. Babitskii himself has been barred from leaving Russia. JAC

...AND JOURNALISTS SELECT MEDIA MINISTER AS ENEMY NUMBER ONE

The Union of Russian Journalists on 5 July announced that it has compiled a list of "enemies of the Russian press" based on a poll of its members conducted in June. The enemies list includes Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, President Vladimir Putin, Tambov Governor Oleg Betin, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika, Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Federal Border Guard Service head Konstantin Totskii, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev and State Duma deputy Aleksandr Nevzorov. JAC

BEREZOVSKII MAKES GOVERNMENT AN OFFER

Business magnate Boris Berezovskii told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 29 June that he is ready to return his 49 percent stake in Russian Public Television (ORT) to the state. He explained that the transfer might not be permanent because he is not "sure that the state would manage the shares properly." According to "Vedomosti" on 6 July, a "well-informed source" in the Kremlin said that the presidential administration is eager to take up Berezovskii on his offer. The daily also notes that shares in ORT are worth considerably less now than they were before the presidential and State Duma elections. JAC

PUTIN, JIANG DISCUSS MISSILE DEFENSE...

Meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Five summit in Dushanbe on 5 July (see below), Russian President Putin and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin stressed their opposition to U.S. plans to deploy a limited national missile defense system. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Prikhodko told journalists after the meeting that the two leaders discussed the "fundamental importance" of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and expressed their concern that a U.S. missile system would lead to "distortions of the balance of power"a concern that was underlined by the Russian president in his address to the summit the same day. Putin and Jiang also discussed the former's visit to Beijing scheduled for 18-19 July. Speaking in Dushanbe on 4 July, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had told a press conference that Russia and China are boosting efforts to develop their strategic partnership. JC

...AS PUTIN URGES NEIGHBORS TO RATIFY 1997 ABM ACCORDS

Citing the Russian presidential press service, Interfax reported on 5 July that Putin has sent a message to his Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Kazakh counterparts informing them of Russia's completion of the process of ratifying the 1997 New York agreements on ABM. The Russian president said in his message that Moscow views those accords as an "important instrument designed to strengthen" the 1972 ABM Treaty. In September 1997, Russia and the U.S. signed accords establishing the distinction between strategic and non- strategic missile defense systems. The U.S. also signed an accord to extend the 1972 ABM treaty to four successor states of the former Soviet UnionRussia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstanbut agreed to send the amended treaty to the Senate only after the State Duma had ratified START-II. The Russian lower house approved START-II earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2000). JC

RUSSIA NOT TO TAKE PART IN NATO MANEUVERS THIS YEAR

Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's department for international military cooperation, told Interfax on 6 July that Russia does not intend to take part in military maneuvers to be held this year within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Russia, he stressed, must be involved in the planning of such exercises, noting that currently Russia's role and participation are "being decided for us." Ivashov also remarked that some of NATO's maneuvers are "openly anti-Russian," but he did not elaborate. Last month, Ivashov said in an interview with a Finnish newspaper that NATO's PfP program is a "mere backdrop to the rehearsing of military actions against Russia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2000). JC

RUSSIA, EU TO HOLD REGULAR TALKS ON EU EXPANSION

Speaking after informal talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Ivanov in Brussels on 4 July, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said the EU will hold regular talks with Moscow on the impact of the union's eastward expansion, dpa reported. Ivanov, for his part, noted that Moscow does not consider the enlargement of the EU to pose as big a threat as that of NATO, according to Reuters. But he told journalists after his meeting with Verheugen that Moscow wants to ensure that EU enlargement would be "trade-creative for us." JC

PUTIN SENDS MESSAGE TO QADHAFI

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin was in Tripoli on 4 July where he handed over to Abdel Shalkam, General People's Committee secretary for external relations and international cooperation, a personal message from Putin to Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, Interfax reported the next day, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry. The report said the message dealt with "bilateral relations," but it did not elaborate. On behalf of Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov, Sredin invited Shalkam to visit Moscow. JC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT WARNS OF ASSAULT ON GUDERMES

Speaking on Chechen television on 6 July, Aslan Maskhadov appealed to women and children to leave Chechnya's second largest town, Gudermes, which he said his forces plan to take between 7 July and 10 July, AFP reported. On 4 July, the Chechens had issued an ultimatum to Moscow to hand over a Russian officer wanted for the rape of a Chechen woman or face further suicide attacks such as those in which dozens of Russian troops were killed last weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2000). LF

DUMA REVISES GOVERNMENT'S TAX BILLS

State Duma deputies on 5 July voted to approve in the second reading legislation increasing taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and gasoline. The vote was 306 in favor and 30 against. Excise duties on low octane gasoline will total 1,350 rubles per ton and 1,850 rubles per ton for high octane gasoline. The government had proposed increasing the taxes to 2,500 rubles and 3,000 rubles, respectively. Under the Duma-approved legislation, taxes on cigarettes will increase by 50 percent, while duties on wine and alcohol will inch up by 5 percent. Responding to the Duma's softening of the government's proposals, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the lower excise taxes on gasoline will result in lost government revenues of more than 50 billion rubles ($1.8 billion). Kasyanov added that as a result of the Duma's action, the government may now withdraw some other proposals to reduce or eliminate other taxes. JAC

INFLATION CONTINUES TO PICK UP SPEED...

Inflation in June totaled 2.6 percent compared with 1.8 percent in May and 0.9 percent in April, the State Statistics Committee reported on 5 July. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters that the growth in inflation is "temporary." The next day, the IMF's Moscow representative, Martin Gilman, made a similar comment, telling Interfax that "a temporary growth in inflation over one or two months is not critical, given that until now the level of inflation has been lower than that included in the budget for the year." JAC

...AS BUDGET REVENUES SOAR

Finance Minister Kudrin also announced that during the first six months of this year, the government registered a primary budget surplus of 4.8 percent of GDP or 142.8 billion rubles ($5.1 billion), compared with a planned surplus of 3 percent. Kudrin attributed the growth to increased tax collection due in part to higher revenues from soaring oil prices. JAC

LUZHKOV'S FUTURE BECOMES HOT TOPIC

Citing unidentified sources in the office of Yurii Luzhkov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 July that the Moscow mayor has agreed to resign from his office in exchange for a guarantee of immunity from criminal prosecution. According to the daily, in which Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest, Luzhkov also promised the Kremlin that he would dismiss scores of city officials before resigning. In an interview with NTV the same day, Luzhkov dismissed the report as "nonsense" and a "provocation" and suggested that the publication of the article had been ordered by Berezovskii. On 4 July, Interfax reported that President Putin had signed a decree reinstating Luzhkov's ally and former Moscow police chief, Nikolai Kulikov. However, that report was denied by the Kremlin the next day. Vyacheslav Nikonov of the Politika think-tank told "The Moscow Times" on 6 July that Luzhkov is "still far too powerful" to be removed easily, but he added that "there is no smoke without fire." JAC

TV-TSENTR WINS TENDER

The Media Ministry on 6 July awarded the license to operate Channel Three to its current operator, TV-Tsentr. TV-Tsentr is considered close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, and some analysts feared that it would lose its license to operate the channel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 May 2000). TV-Tsentr, along with ORT, had to compete for their operating licenses in open tenders because they had both received two official warnings from the Media Ministry for improper election coverage. Media Minister Lesin told reporters on 6 July that he cast the decisive vote in TV- Tsentr's favor. JAC

PRO-KREMLIN FACTION EXPELS DEPUTY FOR DEVIATING FROM PARTY LINE

The Unity faction in the State Duma expelled deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov from its ranks on 4 July. Ryzhkov explained that he had expressed a different view from that of his faction colleagues on President Putin's proposed laws reforming the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2000). Unity faction leader Boris Gryzhlov said the decision to expel Ryzhkov was passed by a majority vote, ITAR-TASS reported. Gryzhlov is the former head of the Our Home Is Russia faction. JAC

RUSSIA RESISTS ASKING U.S. FOR GRAIN AID

Despite persistent reports of a shortage of fodder grain, Russia did not make an official request for more food aid during U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Gus Shumacher's recent visit to Moscow, Reuters reported on 5 July, citing a U.S. embassy spokesman. Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev announced last month that Russia will have a 6-8 million shortfall in fodder grain this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2000). JAC

DUMA DEPUTY CONDEMNS ANTI-RUSSIAN POLICIES IN UKRAINE

Duma Deputy Chairperson for the Committee on the Affairs of Nationalities (People's Deputy) Svetlana Smirnova said on 4 July that alleged attempts by the Lviv City Council to crack down on the transmission of Russian-language songs is a Russophobic policy and constitutes a deliberate attempt to create a system of cultural and linguistic discrimination in Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. Smirnova added that the Russian language "has always been and will be a language of inter- ethnic communication in the post-Soviet space. JAC

UNION PARLIAMENTARIANS TO BE ELECTED NEXT YEAR?

Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov announced on 3 July that elections to the parliament of the Union of Belarus and Russia will be held in the second half of 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Veshnyakov added that the law on the elections to the union's parliament has not yet passed the State Duma. The next day, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev told reporters on 3 July that St. Petersburg may be chosen as the location for the union's parliament. JAC




MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN ON NEW KARABAKH MEDIATION MISSION

The French, U.S., and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group met in Baku on 2-3 July with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev and Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev, both of whom termed the group's efforts to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict inadequate, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. On 3 July, the co-chairmen traveled to Stepanakert, where they discussed the ongoing cease-fire and measures to expedite regional economic development with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and the enclave's foreign minister, Naira Melkumian. The co-chairmen then met with Armenian leaders in Yerevan on 5 July. French co-chairman Jean-Jacques Gailard told journalists in Yerevan the previous day that a new peace plan is currently being drafted, but he did not divulge details, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

VOTE FOR KARABAKH PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN TRIGGERS OPPOSITION PROTEST

The nine opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) deputies to the newly- elected parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic boycotted the vote for a new parliament speaker on 5 July to protest the failure to guarantee the secrecy of that ballot, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The 13 deputies from the Democratic Artsakh Union (ZhAM), which supports President Ghukasian, and seven of the nine independent deputies nonetheless supported Oleg Yesayan's re-election as speaker The ZhAM and the HHD are also at odds over the number of parliamentary committees the latter will chair. LF

AZERBAIJAN ADOPTS ELECTION LAW

The Azerbaijani parliament adopted the controversial law on elections in the second reading on 4 July and in the third and final reading the following day, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 26, 30 June 2000). During the second reading, the pro-presidential majority rejected President Aliev's proposals, based on consultations with the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, to change from 100:25 to 75:50 the ratio of deputies elected under the majoritarian and proportional systems, respectively, and to reduce from 12 to six months the period between the official registration of a political party and its eligibility to participate in elections. Opposition parties criticized the law as undemocratic and anti-constitutional and are considering a boycott of the poll. The Azerbaijan National Independence Party has recalled its representatives on the Central Electoral Commission in protest. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT VISITS AUSTRIA

President Aliyev held talks in Vienna on 3-5 July with Austrian President Thomas Klestil and with Austrian Foreign Minister and OSCE chairwoman-in-office Benita Ferrero-Waldner, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. Aliyev termed his talks with Ferrero-Waldner "productive," although he said she is not adequately informed about the Karabakh conflict, according to Turan. Aliyev was also scheduled to hold meetings with OSCE and International Atomic Energy Agency officials. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS SITUATION 'UNDER CONTROL'

In his traditional weekly radio address on 3 July, Eduard Shevardnadze conceded that unnamed forces are intent on trying to destabilize the internal political situation, but he affirmed that the Georgian leadership is fully aware of those attempts and has the situation under control, Caucasus Press reported. He vowed that the toughest possible measures will be taken against "enemies of the Georgian state." Shevardnadze also announced that the celebrations of 3000 years of Georgia's statehood, which were to have been held later this year, have been postponed for financial reasons. LF

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS CENTRAL ASIA

Lord Robertson held talks in Astana on 3-4 July with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Defense Minister Sat Tokpakbaev. He told journalists on 4 July after those talks that the Central Asian states' diplomatic ties to Russia should be balanced by cooperation with the West, adding that the end of the Cold War means that they no longer have to choose between those two alternatives, Reuters reported. He noted that NATO and Kazakhstan have common concerns, including terrorism and drug trafficking. And he commented that Nazarbaev agreed on the need for closer cooperation with NATO, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. On 5-6 July Robertson met in Tashkent with Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov and Defense Minister Yurii Akzamov to discuss expanding Uzbekistan's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, according to dpa. On 6 July, Robertson met in Bishkek with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, Reuters reported. He again called on the Central Asian states to "work together to make the region a secure place." LF

KAZAKH OIL FIND MAY ACCELERATE PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION

President Nazarbaev told journalists in Atyrau on 4 July that the Kashagan oil field being developed by the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC) contains huge quantities of good quality oil, Reuters reported. Kazakhoil President Nurlan Balghymbaev had earlier estimated the Kashagan reserves at over seven billion tons. Anatolii Shatalov, deputy director of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, said on 5 July that the estimates of reserves at Kashagan may impel the consortium to accelerate completion of that pipeline, which is currently intended to go into operation in November 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN DISCUSS BORDERS, AGREE ON VISAS

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and his visiting Kyrgyz counterpart, Muratbek Imanaliev, signed an agreement in Tashkent on 4 July under which citizens of each country will require a visa to visit the other, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Residents of regions adjoining the common border will, however, be exempt from that requirement, which Kamilov said may be "only temporary." The two ministers also discussed the formal delimitation of their 1,300- kilometer border, along which 140 locations are disputed. LF

TAJIKISTAN HOSTS 'SHANGHAI FIVE' SUMMIT

Meeting in Dushanbe on 5 July, the presidents of Russian, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan signed a joint statement pledging to cooperate in fighting terrorism, religious extremism, and drug-trafficking and agreed to establish a joint anti- terrorism center in Bishkek, Reuters and dpa reported. The statement also repeated the commitment, added to last year's summit declaration, to refrain from intervention in one another's domestic political affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1999). Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, who for the first time attended the summit as an observer, expressed satisfaction that the "Shanghai Five" group, originally set up in 1996 to address border issues, has expanded its focus to play an increasing role in promoting regional security, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

CHINESE PRESIDENT VISITS TAJIKISTAN...

Jiang Zemin and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov held talks in Dushanbe on 3-4 July, focusing on bilateral cooperation, demarcating their common border, and regional security, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The two presidents expressed satisfaction at the continued increase in economic cooperation and bilateral trade and signed a joint declaration on the further development of good-neighborly relations and a protocol . Rakhmonov stressed his support for the People's Republic of China vis-a-vis Taiwan and noted that the Chinese and Tajik positions on the need for a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict coincide. LF

...AND TURKMENISTAN

Visiting Ashgabat on 5-7 July, Jiang discussed political and economic cooperation with his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders signed an agreement under which Beijing will lend Turkmenistan 100 million yuan ($55 million) and discussed the possibility of building a 5,700 kilometer gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to western China. Niyazov told journalists on 6 July that beginning in 2001, Turkmenistan will export 700,000 tons of liquefied gas annually by rail to China. Jiang reportedly declined to accept an honorary philosophy degree from the Turkmen State University but did accept the gift of a thoroughbred Akhal- tekke horse. LF

UZBEKISTAN DENIES JAILED POET MISTREATED

In a statement issued in Tashkent on 4 July, the Uzbek Interior Ministry rejected a Human Rights Watch report released last month claiming that Mamadali Makhmudov's health has deteriorated as a result of being tortured in jail, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2000). The ministry said that Makhmudov's health is satisfactory and that he has not requested medical treatment. LF




BELARUS MARKS VICTORY/INDEPENDENCE DAY

Some 15,000 people marched through Minsk on 3 July to mark the 56th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus at the end of World War II, ITAR-TASS reported. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has decreed 3 July the country's independence day, used the occasion to say that "the union with Russia does not endanger Belarus' sovereignty and independence." He also argued that "independence is the most valuable thing our people have." PG

U.S. ENDS DUTY FREE ACCESS FOR BELARUSIAN GOODS

U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshevsky announced on 3 July that President Bill Clinton has suspended the benefits that Belarus received under the Generalized System of Preferences for the world's poorest countries, Reuters reported. To get these privileges, she said, "a country is taking steps to provide internationally recognized worker rights. Unfortunately, the government of Belarus continues to suppress trade union rights and harass union leaders." Belarusian President Lukashenka said that his country will lose S1 million as a result of the suspension. And in a speech in Vitebsk on 5 July, Lukashenka said "Clinton will not be president tomorrow and I give him this $1 million as an addition to his pension," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

EU SAYS UNDEMOCRATIC POLL WILL ISOLATE BELARUS

The European Union has released a statement, drawn up last month, saying that Belarus will risk international isolation unless it creates conditions for genuinely free and fair parliamentary elections, Reuters reported on 5 July. "Isolation is undesirable for Belarus, and it would be a tragedy if this last opportunity for the foreseeable future to establish a democratic society is missed," the statement said. PG

KYIV WANTS MOSCOW TO REIN IN CRITICS OF UKRAINE

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on 4 July announced that it has asked the Russian authorities to stop its officials from suggestingincorrectly--that Ukraine is helping Chechen fighters, AP reported. PG

UKRAINE GIVEN MORE HELP TO CLOSE CHORNOBYL

At a donor conference in Berlin on 5-6 July, attended by Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, G-7 countries, EU states, and other countries discussed ways to help Kyiv close the reactor blocks at Chornobyl, ITAR-TASS reported. The Dutch representative to the meeting announced that The Hague will contribute $2.84 million toward closing the site of the world's worst nuclear power plant disaster. PG

UKRAINE TOLD NOT TO EXPECT EU MEMBERSHIP SOON

A spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said on 4 July that the EU will complete its current round of expansion talks before considering inviting others, including Ukraine, to start such negotiations, Reuters reported. "It's not realistic as things stand today to speak about the accession of other countries," he added. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma accepted the resignation of reformist Economics Minister Serhiy Tyhypko, who has been elected to the parliament, according to the Western news agency. PG

UKRAINE, POLAND TO SEND JOINT PEACEKEEPING UNIT TO KOSOVA

Ukraine and Poland are to dispatch a joint 850-soldier peacekeeping unit to serve in the NATO-led KFOR force in Kosova, Reuters reported. PG

VAN DER STOEL EXAMINES RUSSIAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

OSCE High Commissioner on Ethnic Minorities Max van der Stoel is to study the position of ethnic Russians in Ukraine from 6-8 July, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 July. The commission is then scheduled to visit the Russian Federation to examine the state of ethnic Ukrainians there. PG

ESTONIAN COMPANY REFUSES TO SIGN NRG PRIVATIZATION DEAL

The head of Eesti Energia, Gunnar Okk, said on 6 July that the upper management of the utility will not sign the deal to sell a minority stake in the country's power plants to U.S.- based NRG Energy, "Eesti Ekspress" reported. Calling the deal unfavorable to Estonia, Okk said "it is unlikely anyone will put us into prison for causing a loss to Estonia, but we may have to run from inquiry to inquiry in the future." Okk had earlier condemned the deal and lobbied hard against it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2000). Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins suggested that the NRG deal could hinder the talks to merge Eesti Energia and Latvenergo, BNS added. MH

LATVIAN NATIONAL GUARD CHIEF QUITS

Head of Latvia's National Guards Janis Kononovs submitted his resignation, saying he made that move owing to "the management's attitude toward an officer," BNS reported on 5 and 6 July. Kononovs did not elaborate but hinted also at personal reasons and "unacceptable management methods." Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis responded that the "personal qualities of Commander Kononovs prevent him from being sufficiently frank and energetic," noting that one major problem was Kononovs's inability to communicate in English. Commander of Latvia's armed forces Raimunds Graube suggested that Kononovs "broke down psychologically." MH

LATVIAN FARMERS LAUNCH PROTESTS

Latvian farmers blocked two customs checkpoints on 6-7 July to protest the government's agricultural policy. The protest was halted after the government agreed to the farmers' conditions, including raising subsidies to 3 percent of the state budget or by 2.4 million lats ($4 million), LETA reported. Prime Minister Andris Berzins said the local authorities where the protests took place violated legislation on protests by allowing the blockades to be organized. At one point, hundreds of cars and lorries were stuck at the checkpoints. MH

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION LAW

Lawmakers on 4 July passed a controversial change to the electoral system just months before the upcoming general elections. The change affects the 71 seats to be contested under the single-mandate system, as candidates now need to gain only a plurality to win one of those seat, ELTA reported. The opposition have accused the ruling Conservatives of tampering with the law to increase their chances in the upcoming elections. President Valdas Adamkus has not said how he will act on the law. MH

LILEIKIS CASE SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY

The Vilnius Regional Court on 3 July suspended the trial against accused Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, citing the defendant's poor state of health, BNS reported. Lileikis, who took part in Lithuania's first testimony by video-conferencing equipment, fell ill minutes after questioning began and was hospitalized (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2000). The case has been suspended indefinitely on medical advice, and the court has asked doctors to report on the defendant's condition each month. MH

POLAND AGREES TO BUY MORE NORWEGIAN GAS...

In a move Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said gives Poland "gas supplies from an alternative source," Warsaw and Oslo agreed to expand Polish purchases of Norwegian natural gas over the next decade. The accord came during a visit to the Polish capital by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. The first new deliveries are to take place in October, and the two countries plan to build a pipeline that could handle up to 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year. PG

...STEPS UP CONSULTATIONS WITH UKRAINE ON OIL PIPELINE

Polish Sejm speaker Maciej Plazinski met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 4 July to discuss finishing the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 500 kilometers of a projected 667 kilometers of that pipeline, which will carry oil from the Caspian basin to Western Europe, have already been built. PG

WARSAW UNHAPPY WITH PACE OF EU TALKS

Jacek Saryuz-Wolski, the chairman of Poland's EU Integration Committee, criticized the EU on 3 July for failing to move more quickly on membership talks with Poland, dpa reported. Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization criticized Warsaw for failing to remove obstacles to trade, AP reported. Polish Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc on 5 July announced a tight 2001 state budget, in which the public sector deficit will fall from 2.2. percent to between 1.4 percent and 1.7 percent of GDP. PG

POLES MARK VATICAN JUBILEE IN ROME

More than 30,000 Poles, led by President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, and other top officials, visited Rome this week to take part in a Mass in St. Peter's Square and to have a special audience with Pope John Paul II, PAP reported on 6 July. PG

CZECH PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE SALE OF BANK

The Chamber of Deputies on 3 July voted to set up a parliamentary commission to investigate the circumstances under which the Investicni a Postovni Banka (IPB) was placed under state control and the sale of the bank three days later, CTK reported. The commission will also investigate the role played by the state in the IPB management's decision- making since the bank's establishment in 1991. The main opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) had demanded that such a commission be set up, but ODS chairman Vaclav Klaus was the only deputy to abstain. Klaus was protesting the approval of the ruling Social Democratic Party's proposal that the investigation be extended as far back as 1991. MS

CZECHS START LOADING TEMELIN

Workers at the Temelin nuclear power plant on 6 July started the process of nuclear fuel loading, only hours after receiving permission to do so from the country's Nuclear Security Commission, CTK reported. On receiving reports that the commission was about to approve the loading, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel asked Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 5 July to halt "irreversible measures" at Temelin. Reports in the Austrian media said Schuessel wanted to meet with Zeman or have the two countries' environment ministers meet. The same day, Czech Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky said no talks are planned as "bilateral relations have been frozen" following the decision of the "EU 14" to suspend bilateral contacts with Austria. Rychetsky also rejected Austrian and Czech demands that the start-up be put to a referendum, saying Czech legislation on referenda has yet to be approved. MS

DZURINDA, MIGAS ASSUME SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL PREROGATIVES...

An emergency session of the cabinet on 3 July decided that Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas are to assume and divide the prerogatives of ailing President Rudolf Schuster, TASR and CTK reported. That decision is in line with the constitution. Dzurinda told journalists there is "nothing dramatic" about the decision and stressed that it is temporary only. Health Minister Tibor Sagat resigned from the government on 6 July following harsh criticism of Schuster's medical treatment in Slovak hospitals, CTK and Reuters reported. MS

...WHILE SLOVAK PRESIDENT UNDERGOES MINOR SURGERY

Doctors treating Schuster in Innsbruck, Austria, on 5 July performed "minor surgery" on the Slovak president to stop bleeding of the throat following the tracheotomy that Schuster underwent to ease his breathing, CTK reported. The same day, doctors began gradually awakening Schuster from his artificially-induced sleep, which had lasted 12 days. On 6 July, AP reported that the president had regained consciousness and was able to react to "simple questions" from doctors and members of his family. The doctors say Schuster's life is no longer in danger. MS

FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE CHIEF DISAPPEARS

Ivan Lexa, who is under investigation for the role he allegedly played in the 1995 abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son and other offenses, has disappeared, chief police investigator Jaroslav Ivor told CTK on 6 July. Ivor said a nationwide search has been launched to find Lexa, who failed to report for a medical check-up ordered by the police after he claimed he was unable to assist the investigation into his case on health grounds. Ivor said police have "taken all measures" to prevent Lexa from leaving the country. MS

HUNGARY TO RESTRICT FOREIGNERS' REAL ESTATE OWNERSHIP

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 5 July said that within the next few months Hungary must regulate foreign ownership of real estate. "Foreigners see Hungary as a country ready to join the EU in five years at the latest, and thus the value of real estate will increase significantly," he remarked. Orban's comments followed a recent decision by the Budapest Office of Public Administration setting up a country-by- country annual quota for property acquisitions by foreigners in the capital. MSZ




MILOSEVIC SEEKS EIGHT MORE YEARS IN OFFICE

Parliamentary deputies from parties loyal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic approved on 6 July three amendments to the federal constitution aimed at strengthening his power. The first amendment states that the president will be elected directly- -instead of by the parliament, as is now the case--for up to two terms of four years each. The second amendment specifies that members of the upper house will be elected directly by popular vote, instead of being elected in equal numbers by the Serbian and Montenegrin parliaments, as current legislation states. This will greatly reduce the influence of Montenegro, whose population is approximately only one-tenth of Serbia's. The third amendment allows the parliament to appoint or sack individual ministers. At present, the cabinet must be approved or dismissed as a body. This amendment will enable Milosevic to intimidate or remove any minister who has become politically inconvenient. PM

WHAT LIES BEHIND MILOSEVIC'S AMENDMENTS?

The 6 July debate and vote on the amendments came as a surprise to the opposition, since they had been announced by Milosevic's supporters only the previous day. His supporters say the moves are aimed at strengthening democracy. The amendments will enable Milosevic to seek two more terms in office--his current mandate runs out in 2001--and give him more leverage in dealing with his rivals in Montenegro and in the federal government. By strengthening his own position and reducing the role of Montenegro, Milosevic is placing pressure on the government of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic either to resist him or proceed with plans for a referendum on independence. Djukanovic knows, however, that his supporters in the international community do not want him to declare independence. The result could be that Djukanovic is forced into a politically untenable position. Some observers suggest, moreover, that Milosevic is anxious to remain in office so as to reduce the likelihood of his being sent to The Hague, where the international criminal tribunal has indicted him for war crimes. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION ANGERED AT CHANGES TO YUGOSLAV CONSTITUTION

Several leading opposition politicians said in Belgrade on 6 July that the amendments are in keeping with what they called Milosevic's long-standing desire to hold on to power, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Vladeta Jankovic of the Democratic Party of Serbia told London's "The Daily Telegraph" that "it is shameful that the constitution is being changed for the sake of just one man." The Serbian Renewal Movement's leader Vuk Draskovic said in Pirot that the opposition must boycott the legislative and local elections widely expected in the fall so as not to give them legitimacy, the "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" reported. Observers note that public opinion polls give Milosevic between 25 percent and 33 percent of the popular vote, were elections to be held, with Draskovic trailing well behind him. Each of the other opposition leaders would receive far fewer votes than Draskovic, the polls suggest. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT TO MEET IN EMERGENCY SESSION

The Montenegrin legislature will hold an emergency session in the evening of 7 July to discuss how to respond to the passage of the amendments, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service. The Montenegrin government withdrew its recognition of the federal government after pro-Milosevic Montenegrin leader Momir Bulatovic became federal prime minister in 1998. Speaking in Podgorica on 6 July, Djukanovic called the passage of the amendments "illegal." He added that Milosevic's move "calls into question the future of the constitutional system," arguing that Montenegro will find unspecified "mechanisms" to defend its position. The Montenegrin parliament's Deputy Vice President Predrag Popovic said that Montenegrins who voted for the amendments are "traitors." In Belgrade, the Democratic Party's leader Zoran Djindjic argued that the passage of the amendments is tantamount to the "end of the federation" between Serbia and Montenegro, "Vesti" reported. Miodrag Vukovic, who is an adviser to Djukanovic, told AP in Podgorica that the federal parliament has destroyed the federation. He added that Montenegro "is now forced into making [unspecified] inevitable moves." PM

U.S. SLAMS YUGOSLAV CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 6 July that "there appears to be a grotesque effort under way by Milosevic to stifle prospects for a democratic, peaceful change in Yugoslavia.... He is changing the rules because he cannot win fairly now. He is stripping away legal formalities behind which he's hidden. And the choice, we think, for the people of Serbia and for his coalition is stark: It's either him or democracy in Serbia," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. PM

THACI 'SUSPENDS' WORK WITH UN ADMINISTRATION IN KOSOVA...

Hashim Thaci, who was the leader of the former Kosova Liberation Army and is now a prominent Kosovar Albanian politician, said in Prishtina on 4 July that he is "temporarily suspending" cooperation with the UN's civilian advisory council, led by Bernard Kouchner. He said his move is in protest at Kouchner's recent compromise with moderate Kosovar Serb leaders, which prompted the Serbs to end their boycott of the advisory council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2000). Thaci argued that Kouchner's compromise "opens the door" to the partition of Kosova into ethnically-based cantons. He added that he is impatient with what he called Kouchner's failure to end the de facto partition of Mitrovica, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 6 July. In Tirana, the Albanian government said in a statement that it also fears that Kouchner's compromise could lead to the "cantonization" of Kosova. PM

...BUT RUGOVA STAYS ON BOARD

In Prishtina on 6 July, the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), which is led by Thaci's arch-rival Ibrahim Rugova, said in a statement that it will continue to work with Kouchner's council. The LDK also called for the protection of Kosova's ethnic minorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The moderate Serbian National Council said in a statement that Thaci's move is an "attempt to put pressure" on Kouchner's civilian administration, "Vesti" reported on 6 July. Kouchner told his advisory council that he has always taken the side of those who suffer and that it is Kosova's Serbs who are currently suffering, "Vesti" reported on 7 July. PM

TENSIONS EASED IN SHTERPCE

In Mitrovica on 6 July, KFOR freed from prison a Serb from Shterpce who was suspected of taking part in the recent destruction of the UN office there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). In Shterpce, KFOR agreed to provide escorts for convoys into Serbia following an agreement with moderate Serb leaders, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ARE FORMER YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMINALS MAKING A PROFIT IN THE HAGUE?

The Hague-based tribunal is investigating persistent but unconfirmed press reports in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere that attorneys for indicted war criminals pay their clients kick-backs. The lawyers are allegedly hired by some clients on the condition that they pay those clients some 20 percent to 40 percent of their attorney's fees, London's "The Independent" reported on 7 July. Such salaries range up to $110 per hour and are paid out of the tribunal's budget. PM

ROMANIA IN ELECTIONEERING FEVER

Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu does not intend to join any political party and believes his "political neutrality" could be advantageous if he heads the next coalition, government sources cited by Mediafax said on 3 July. Also on 3 July, the Union of Rightist Forces endorsed the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic proposal to back President Emil Constantinescu for another term in office and Isarescu as premier. But divisions have emerged in the National Liberal Party (PNL). PNL Deputy Chairman Dinu Patriciu said a PNL- Alliance for Romania electoral alliance was " just a personal viewpoint" of PNL First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica and that "common sense" calls for endorsing a Constantinescu-Isarescu ticket. Ion Iliescu, leader of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), said on 5 July PDSR First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase is the party's candidate for the premiership. MS

MOLDOVA TO BECOME PARLIAMENTARY REPUBLIC...

With vote of 92 to five, Moldova's 101-members of parliament have approved an amendment to the constitution transforming the country into a parliamentary republic, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 5 July. In an earlier reading of the bill, which took place on the same day, only four votes were cast against. The next president is to be elected by the legislature, instead of by popular vote. The parliament also voted to increase the government's prerogatives and enable it to rule by issuing decrees that have the power of law. Deputy Sergiu Burca of the Christian Democratic Popular Party, who submitted the bill, said the legislation was a response to President Petru Lucinschi's attempts to "usurp power" by transforming Moldova into a full-fledged presidential republic. MS

...DESPITE PRESIDENTIAL LAMENTS

Lucinschi on 6 July said the amendment is likely to plunge the country into chaos and could hamper efforts to settle the Transdniester conflict, but he added that he will not exercise his veto right. Such an attempt could in any case have been overridden by a two-thirds majority in the legislature. Lucinschi said, however, that he may call a referendum asking citizens if they want the country to become a parliamentary republic. MS

BULGARIA EASES REGULATIONS ON REAL ESTATE PURCHASES BY FOREIGNERS

The parliament on 6 July eased regulations for the purchase of real estate by foreigners, BTA reported. The legislature abolished the provision whereby foreigners were required to obtain permission from the Finance Ministry to purchase real estate. The move is aimed at attracting more foreign investment. Also on 6 July, the government decided to abolish custom duties on some 480 food products from the EU countries in an effort to conform with EU regulations. Bulgaria and the EU also agreed on duty-free imports of large quantities of pork, poultry, lamb. sausages, tomatoes, cheese, and other products, AP reported. MS




THE MYTH OF RUSSOPHONE UNITY IN UKRAINE


By Taras Kuzio

In the second round of Ukraine's July 1994 presidential elections, the incumbent, Leonid Kravchuk, won the majority of votes west of the River Dnipro and his main challenger, Leonid Kuchma, the majority east of that river. The larger urban and industrial centers of eastern Ukraine gave Kuchma a modest lead over Kravchuk. Since those elections, the prevailing view among many scholars and policymakers in the West has been that Ukraine is clearly divided into two linguistic halves: "nationalist, pro-European, and Ukrainophone" western Ukraine and "Russophile, pro-Eurasian and Russophone" eastern Ukraine.

Unfortunately, this framework for understanding post- Soviet Ukraine has failed when it has been applied to the Kuchma. When elected in 1994, Kuchma was an eastern Ukrainian Russophone, and it was predicted that he would return Ukraine to Eurasia. Instead, Ukrainian foreign policy has remained consistent throughout the 1990s, regardless of the language spoken by the president or his support base. The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs defined this policy in 1996 as "Integration into Europe, Cooperation with the CIS," which continues to rule out Ukraine's participation in the military and political structures of the CIS.

Under Kuchma, Ukrainian foreign policy has shifted westward more decisively, especially with regard to NATO. Ukraine has also been instrumental in preventing Russian regional hegemony through its membership in the pro-Western GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) regional group, which in effect split the CIS into two groups of an equal number of states.

Using language as the sole or main criterion by which to analyze post-soviet Ukrainian developments has proved to be flawed for two reasons. First, it assumed that Ukrainians belonged to either one or the other linguistic camp-- Ukrainophones or Russophones. Most observers argued that language data in the 1989 Soviet census were flawed and that the actual number of Ukrainophones was far smaller than the number of Russophones in Ukraine. Moreover, a large proportion of Ukrainians, perhaps even the majority, are bilingual and therefore cannot be characterized as either purely Ukrainophone or Russophone. Kuchma himself, for example, uses Ukrainian in public but has a Russian wife and almost certainly speaks Russian in the private sphere. Which of the two linguistic groups does he belong to?

Data from an Intermedia National Survey in late 1999 conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology asked "In which language is it easier for you to talk?" Of the respondents, 44.2 percent said in Ukrainian and only 38.7 percent said in Russian. In response to the question "which language do you speak at home?" 47.8 percent said Ukrainian, 36.3 percent Russian, and 14.4 percent both.

Second, there has been no evidence of the mobilization of Russophones as a group or lobby. Indeed, there is strong evidence that Russophones in Crimea, Odesa, the Donbas, Kyiv and western Ukraine have very distinct separate identities and have developed different attitudes toward the Ukrainian language, nation-building, and foreign policy. A recent study found that Russophones in Odesa and the Donbas exhibit "language retention," while in Kyiv and Lviv they favor assimilation or "language integration." A large number of Kyivites, for example, continue to use Russian as their main language but have not opposed sending their children to Ukrainian language schools, which now account for 80 percent of all schools in the city.

A recent poll conducted in Kyiv by the National Democratic Initiatives Center among a representative sample of Kyivites was aimed at gauging the attitudes of Russian speakers and demonstrated this lack of uniformity among Russophones. Five main results emerged from the poll.

First, 53 percent of Kyivites speak Russian always or most of the time. Of these respondents, 70 percent were brought up in a Russian-language environment.

Second, half of these Russophones believe that the "Ukrainian language is an attribute of Ukrainian statehood." They feel that its usage in all spheres in the capital city does not reflect its state status and that there is still a need to raise its prestige. Moreover, according to these Russophones, state officials should take exams in the Ukrainian language to prove their proficiency. Only 30 percent of Russophones in Kyiv disagreed with these views.

Three, two-thirds of Russophones in Kyiv feel that their rights as Russian speakers are not infringed on within a Ukrainian language information space.

Four, 70 percent of Russophones in Kyiv believe that Ukrainian citizens should know the Ukrainian language well and 44 percent believe that they personally should improve their Ukrainian because it is important for them to do so.

And five, only 43 percent of Russophones in Kyiv agreed raising the status of Russian to second state language.

The organizers of the poll concluded that only up to one-third of Russophones in Kyiv are opponents of Ukrainianization. Meanwhile, 50-55 percent use Russian but remain positively disposed toward increased use of the Ukrainian language and do not see such a development as in any way harming their national dignity.

Contemporary Ukrainian studies await further research into the myth of Russophone unity in Ukraine. Clearly the situation in Ukraine is far more complicated than a simplistic division of the country into two linguistic groups , one oriented toward Europe (Ukrainophones) and the other toward Eurasia (Russophones). If Ukraine's elites wish to maintain an independent state, they have no alternative but to continue with a policy of "Integration into Europe, Cooperation with the CIS." The author is a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University.


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