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Newsline - July 12, 2000




LUKOIL PLEADS INNOCENT

Responding to stories that the federal Tax Police has launched criminal cases against LUKoil officials for tax evasion, an attorney for LUKoil, Vadim Smirnov, said that "not one of the statements by the federal tax police service is even close to the actual situation" and there "is no criminal case against senior LUKoil officials" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). Smirnov added that he "is up to date on all company taxation issues" and that a recent audit confirmed "the absence of any tax violations." In an interview with Russian Public Television, LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun echoed Smirnov's statements and alleged that Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii was somehow involved in a plan to discredit LUKoil and ruin the government's plans to sell a large stake in the monopoly on world markets. LUKoil's press center said that not only did a recent audit fail to uncover any tax violations but the federal government still owes LUKoil some 2.2 billion rubles in value-added tax refunds on oil product exports. JAC

PUTIN SAYS HE WILL 'UNMUDDY' ECONOMIC WATERS...

In a 11 July interview, President Vladimir Putin commented indirectly on his administration's policies toward Russia's so-called oligarchs. "In Russian we have a saying regarding catching fish in muddy waters. There are fishermen who have already caught a lot of fish, and would like to keep the system as it is," Putin remarked. "But I do not think that this state of affairs is appreciated by our people or our partners abroad." In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 12 July, Putin's deputy chief of the presidential staff, Vladislav Surkov, suggested that the Kremlin would not punish these "fishermen" for their past activities. Surkov said that he believes that Russia "should forget what happened before. Or perhaps not so much forget as not to settle accounts." He added that pressure on oligarchs would not continue because, he said, it has not even started. JAC

...AS OLIGARCH SAYS 'TAKE ME TO COURT'

Meanwhile, Vladimir Potanin, head of the Interros Group which controls Norilsk Nickel, published in "Izvestiya" on 11 July an open letter addressed to federal Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov criticizing Ustinov for his office's investigation of the earlier privatization of Norilsk Nickel. First Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Biryukov had sent a letter to Potanin suggesting that he offer $140 million to compensate the state for the unfairly low amount for which his bank, Oneksimbank, acquired a stake in the giant metals producer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). Potanin said that he finds it "unacceptable that the changing views of those in the Prosecutor-General's Office should destabilize the work of one of Russia's most effective enterprises." He added that other legal bodies cleared the sale and that "if the prosecutor has a different view, I suggest that case be examined by an arbitration court." JAC

STOCK MARKET DROPS ON NEWS OF PUSH AGAINST OLIGARCHS

Reports that a criminal case has been brought against LUKoil officials and that Interros Group head Potanin may have to pay the government another $140 million for shares his bank bought in 1997 caused the price of shares of various Russian blue chip companies to dip 5-7 percent on 11 July, Interfax reported. LUKoil shares sunk 8 percent initially but recovered to close 3.6 percent lower than the previous day, according to AFP. JAC

PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA NOT SUPPLICANT BUT FULL MEMBER OF G-8...

In an interview with Russian Public Television, Japanese television, and Reuters on 11 July, President Putin called for Russia's full participation in the work of the Group of Seven industrial countries, noting that "when Russia began to work within the framework of this club it was called the G-7" and now it is called the G-8. He continued that Russia is no longer approaching the organization seeking credits: "Today, we abandon this format of communication with the leaders of the main industrialized countries and assume that we will discuss--as all other participants of this club--foremost global problems." "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 12 July that former presidential envoy to the G-7 Aleksandr Livshits had said back in January that the rescheduling of Russia's debts to the Paris Club will be the main issue for Russia at this month's Okinawa summit. JAC

...SEES NO QUICK RESOLUTION ON KURIL ISLANDS

Asked about the ongoing dispute between Russia and Japan over the four Kuril Islands, which were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II, Putin advised that the two sides be patient and work "on the basis of [each other's] legitimate interests." He added that he believes if Russia and Japan develop ties in trade, culture, and education, "all problems that now seem difficult...will cease to dominate our relations." Russia and Japan, he argued, are "natural partners because we are neighbors" and because the former has raw materials and the latter finished goods. AP reported on 12 July that the countries' foreign ministers, Igor Ivanov and Yohei Kono, have agreed that Putin will visit Japan in the first week of September to discuss the Kuril Islands and the signing of a peace treaty formally ending World War II hostilities. JC

GANTEMIROV NAMED KADYROV'S DEPUTY

Former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov has been appointed first deputy interim administration head in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS and dpa reported on 12 July. Gantemirov will be responsible for security in Chechnya and in that capacity will command the local police force, which Russian Interior Ministry Chechen Directorate Head Colonel Sergei Arenin said numbers 2,214. Gantemirov's personal militia was disbanded two months ago (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 33, No. 22, 1 June 2000). Neither Gantemirov nor Kadyrov has yet commented on the former's appointment. In May, Gantemirov named several other Chechen officials whom he apparently considered more qualified than Kadyrov to head the temporary administration. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY PREDICTS FURTHER CHECHEN ATTACKS...

The chief of the press center for the joint federal forces in Chechnya, Colonel Gennadii Alekhin, told Interfax on 1 July that he believes Chechen fighters are preparing to attack and take control of lowland towns, including Urus-Martan and Gudermes. He said they could also launch terrorist attacks on military and administrative facilities in Grozny, Argun, Achkhoi-Martan, and Shali. But Alekhin said that they fighters are no longer strong enough to carry out large-scale military operations. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 July that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has warned that his men will launch a "last and decisive" attack against the Russian forces in early August. LF

...AS 'IZVESTIYA' ACCUSES NATO OF ABETTING CHECHEN FIGHTERS

"Izvestiya" on 12 July reported that officers of the General Staff of an unnamed NATO member state have advised Chechen fighters and unnamed circles in Georgia about plans to stage a mass incursion into Chechnya from Georgian territory on the eve of the G-7 summit in Okinawa. The newspaper claimed that the incursion would involve some 1,500 fighters equipped with machine-guns, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, and Milan anti- tank missile complexes. Russian Border Guard officials, however, have repeatedly said that it would be impossible for such a Chechen force to cross from Georgian territory into Chechnya. LF

ELECTRICITY MONOPOLY THREATENS TO CUT OFF DEADBEATS

Unified Energy Systems (EES) is threatening to cut off or limit electricity supplies to debtors starting 15 July, "The Moscow Times" reported on 12 July. EES officials said that they are forced to "introduce unpopular measures" in order to ensure that people are not left without heat and water in the winter. According to EES board member Andrei Trapeznikov, the company has only 59 percent of the fuel it needs for winter supplies, in part because EES's fuel suppliers have been demanding that the monopoly start increasing the cash component of its payments for fuel. The Far Eastern city of Vladivostok has already experienced black-outs, with residents deprived of electricity for up to 16 hours a day last week. Local electricity supplier Dalenergo says that consumers owe the company 3 billion rubles ($107 million) while the state has not paid its electricity bills for years. JAC

INTERIOR MINISTRY PROMISES EARLY TRIAL DATE FOR BABITSKII CASE

Vladimir Martynov, head of the Interior Ministry's Center for Public Information, told Ekho Moskvy on 11 July that RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitskii will stand trial in the near future on charges of deliberately using false identity documents. According to Martynov, the case will soon be forwarded to a prosecutor's office so that the basis for and legality of the charges against Babitskii can be reviewed. JAC

JUDGES ASK PUTIN FOR HIGHER SALARIES

Following a meeting between President Putin and the heads of Russia's three top courts on 11 July, Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai told reporters that the judges have called for higher salaries for all judges in order to preserve "the judicial corps and strengthen the court system." According to Baglai, "Local judges have put forward serious demands to strengthen their powers and support their activities, and for this reason the conversation focused not only on higher wages but also [raising] the material base of the court system." Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev said that the judges also discussed with Putin the development of the Russian legal system as well as the professionalism and objectivity of judges. Higher Court for Arbitration head Veniamin Yakovlev also attended the meeting. JAC

COURT RULES DUMA HAS NO SPECIAL RIGHT TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT'S HEALTH

In answer to an earlier inquiry from the State Duma, Russia's Constitutional Court ruled on 11 July that the lower house does not necessarily have the right under the constitution to demand full information about the Russian president's health, the website reported. The Duma asked the court to consider the question in light of Article 92, which stipulates that the president should be deprived of his office in the case of physical or mental incapacity, and Article 91, which guarantees the president's inviolability. During former President Boris Yeltsin's rule, the Medical Center of the presidential affairs directorate cited Article 91 when it refused to meet a Duma request for information about Yeltsin's health. However, the court ruled that the two articles have nothing to do with each other, adding that the question of whether the Duma has the right to such information is not addressed under the current constitution and should be resolved by a special constitutional amendment. JAC

REGIONAL DEPUTY GUNNED DOWN

Unidentified assailants shot dead Sergei Kolesnikov, a member of the Smolensk legislature and chairman of the local commission for law and order, as he was travelling in his car near the city of Smolensk on 11 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The news agency reported that police are investigating whether the killing was connected to Kolesnikov's political activities, a struggle for influence among criminal groups, or personal hostilities. Dubbed the "alcohol king," Kolesnikov founded a local distillery that reportedly came under the authorities' scrutiny on account of various alleged "shady deals." JC

CAMEL-FREE ZONE DECLARED FOR 'ZVEZDA' MODULE LAUNCH

A Russian Proton-K rocket carrying the "Zvezda" service module for the International Space Station took off from the Baikonar cosmodrome early on 12 July, some two years later than planned. Russia's financial difficulties delayed the completion of the $320 million module, which contains the station's flight controls, sewage system, and sleeping quarters. The module, which is unmanned, is scheduled to dock by computer with two other station components on 26 July. Reuters reported that extra safety measures were taken for the launch following the failure of two Proton launches last year and Kazakhstan's subsequent temporary ban on all such missions after debris littered a large swathe of land, including residential areas in central Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). Those measures were in addition to the regular "fly-arounds" by Russian military helicopters warning the local population to remove both themselves and their livestock from the rocket's flight path. JC




PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION INTO ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS COMPLETED

The Armenian Military Prosecutor's office formally announced on 11 July that the preliminary investigation into the 27 October parliament shootings has been completed, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Fourteen people have been charged with either perpetrating the killings, aiding and abetting the five gunmen, or illegal possession of arms. The accused, their defense lawyers, the parliament deputies injured in the attack or held hostage during the night of 27- 28 October, and the relatives of those murdered have 50 days to acquaint themselves with the details of the case. On 10 July, the Military Prosecutor explained to the parliament his rationale for terminating criminal proceedings against five people originally charged in connection with the killings, including presidential aide Aleksan Harutiunian. LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS TO MEET IN CRIMEA

Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on 11 July that Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, will meet in Yalta on 15 August to resume their discussion of approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Interfax and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Meanwhile the OSCE Minsk Group will meet in Vienna on 12-14 July to discuss the mediation process ahead of OSCE Chairwoman in Office Benita Ferrero-Waldner's visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan on 18 July. Naira Melkumian, the foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has been invited to Vienna, but it is not clear whether she will attend the Minsk Group talks. Oskanian said that the Minsk Group co-chairmen did not propose any new approaches to resolving the conflict when they visited the region last week but that they hope next month's talks between Kocharian and Aliyev will yield new proposals that give fresh impetus to the peace process. LF

AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY REAFFIRM 'SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP'

New Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer was in Baku on 11 July on his first foreign visit, thereby underscoring what he termed the "special relationship" between the two countries, Reuters reported. During two hours of talks, Sezer and President Aliyev discussed the prospects for expanding bilateral economic relations and for resolving the Karabakh conflict. Aliyev urged Sezer to commit Turkey to import gas from Azerbaijan's off-shore Shah Deniz field, noting the delays in implementing earlier plans for Turkey to import gas from Turkmenistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). Interfax quoted Sezer as agreeing in principle to that proposal and to Aliev's request to expedite the start of construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil. LF

GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA AGREE ON STABILIZATION MEASURES...

At a 11 July meeting in Sukhum of the Coordinating Commission established in 1997 under the aegis of the UN, Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili and Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba, together with UN Special Representative Dieter Boden and the commander of the CIS peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone, Lieutenant General Sergei Korobko, signed a protocol outlining measures to prevent new destabilization in southern Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. The two sides undertook to refrain from seeking to resolve the conflict by force and agreed to reduce to no more than 600 the number of police and troops each side deployed in the conflict region and create special groups charged with cracking down on cross-border smuggling and crime. The two sides signed similar undertakings aimed at preventing hostilities in summer 1997, spring 1998, and earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997, 26 May 1998 and 20 January 2000). LF

...IN SPIRIT OF 'PRAGMATISM'

Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba on 12 July characterized the previous day's meeting as a victory for pragmatism over politics, Caucasus Press reported. Arsenishvili said the two sides agreed to focus on practical issues such as economic reconstruction in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. Arsenishvili also said that he received a favorable impression of Ardzinba, whom he had met on 11 July for the first time. He noted Ardzinba's respect for President Shevardnadze. In a related gesture of reconciliation, the central Georgian government has donated a consignment of rare books to the Dmitri Gulua Abkhaz Institute of Humanitarian Studies, which Ardzinba formerly headed, Caucasus Press reported on 12 July. LF

LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA

Visiting Tbilisi on 10-11 July, Algirdas Saudargas discussed with his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Menagharishvili, parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, and President Shevardnadze prospects for expanding bilateral relations and cooperation between the Baltic and Black Sea regions, Caucasus Press reported. Zhvania noted that the two countries' approaches to greater integration into European structures coincide, while Shevardnadze said that Lithuania's experience in that field may prove valuable to Georgia. Saudargas told journalists after his meeting with Menagharishvili that Lithuania's accession to the GUUAM alignment is "out of the question" at present, but he did not exclude that his country might join GUUAM sometime in the future. LF

NEW GEORGIAN ANTI-CORRUPTION BODY CREATED

In accordance with a presidential decree. a working group has been set up that will be chaired by Supreme Court Chairman Lado Chanturia and will draft a national program for fighting corruption, Caucasus Press reported on 11 July. Once that program is completed, a new anti-corruption agency will be established in late September. Speaking on national television the same day, President Shevardnadze said corruption in Georgia has reached the stage where it poses a threat to statehood and undermines the authority of the country's leadership, according to Reuters. Shevardnadze said that the anti- corruption policy will target primarily bureaucrats who abuse their official position. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITIONIST CALLS FOR PRE-TERM ELECTIONS

Opposition Labor Party chairman Shalva Natelashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 11 July that the Georgian Constitution should be amended to provide for the creation of a Constituent Congress on which the present parliament and government, authorities, opposition political parties and movements, and the government and parliament of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia should all be represented, Caucasus Press reported. Natelashvili said that congress should then adopt a new constitution that would introduce a cabinet of ministers and a bicameral parliament. He also called for pre-term parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on 29 April 2001. Natelashvili had argued last month that pre-term elections are needed in order to bring to power "patriotic forces" that can create improve social conditions and prevent what he termed an impending split in society. LF

U.S., KAZAKHSTAN DISCUSS OIL EXPORTS, DOMESTIC POLITICS

Stephen Sestanovich, who is special adviser on the CIS to the U.S. secretary of state, said in Astana on 11 July after talks with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev that the U.S. supports Kazakhstan's commitment to multiple oil export pipelines, Russian agencies reported. President Nursultan Nazarbaev last November signed an agreement to export some of Kazakhstan's oil via the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 1999). ITAR-TASS quoted Toqaev as saying that "the more pipelines we have to export Kazakh raw materials, the better it is for Kazakhstan." Sestanovich and Toqaev also discussed Kazakhstan's relations with international financial organizations, its planned entry into the World Trade Organization, regional security issues, and the domestic political situation. Sestanovich expressed the hope that the Kazakh authorities will begin a dialogue with the opposition this fall. LF

KYRGYZSTAN DETAINS 'ISLAMISTS'

Three citizens of Uzbekistan have been detained in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh on suspicion of engaging in clandestine activities on behalf of Djuma Namangani, one of the leaders of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Interfax reported on 11 July. LF

TURKMENISTAN REGISTERS SOLID ECONOMIC GROWTH

Turkmenistan's GDP and industrial output both increased by 14 percent during the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 1999, Interfax reported on 11 July. Output in the fuel and chemical sectors rose by 18 percent during that period. Revenues targets for the first half of the year were met by 100 percent. LF




OSCE CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT-OPPOSITION TALKS IN BELARUS

The OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly on 10 July adopted a resolution urging Minsk to begin "real" talks with the opposition instead of continuing with the dialogue the regime has so far sponsored, Belapan reported on 11 July. The resolution said that opposition participation in upcoming elections is out of the question unless the government adopts election practices that conform with international norms. The resolution garnered support from virtually all participants in the Bucharest meeting: only the Russian delegation, several delegates from Uzbekistan and one from Ukraine voted against. PG

MINSK WORRIED BY GROWTH IN CONSUMER DEBT

The Belarusian Council of Ministers on 11 July noted its concern over the growth in consumer debt owing to outstanding payments for gas, electricity, and heat, Belapan reported. The government directed the authorities to take "urgent measures" to ensure prompt payments for current consumption as well as the rapid payment of the existing debt. PG

FORMER ADVISER APPEALS TO BELARUSIAN LEADER FOR SON'S PROTECTION

Ivan Lemyasheuski, the former head of a group of advisers to the Belarusian cabinet, has sent an open letter to Alyaksandr Lukashenka demanding an end to assassination attempts against his son, Belapan reported on 11 July. The economist's son was shot on 21 June but the authorities did not begin an investigation until 11 July, Lemyasheuski said. Lemyasheuski himself resigned from government service after being blacklisted for his friendship with opposition figure Mikhail Chyhir. PG

BELARUS RECRUITS DOGS FOR ARMY

The Belarusian army has recruited 800 to 1,000 dogs to perform some of the roles it cannot find or retain soldiers to do, Reuters reported on 11 July. Colonel Uladzimir Katsnelson, the head of the defense ministry's dog training center, noted that "the army shares the same problems as civilian life. But our dogs do not have to be ordered twice to fulfill a command." Another officer noted that "the dog is the most reliable guard. It never asks for a vacation and will never be absent without leave, to say nothing of selling its own submachine gun." And still a third said that "in the long run, it is not that critical for us which side the dog's tail wags. We only need it to serve well." PG

BELARUS, RUSSIA CONSULT ON BORDER

Colonel General Konstantin Totskii, the director of Russia's Border Guard Service, and Lieutenant General Alyaksandr Paulouski, the chairman of the State Committee of the Border Troops of Belarus, are discussing the interaction of their two services at a meeting of the Board of the Union of Belarus and Russia Border Committee, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 July. They are reported to be focusing on how to put a stop to illegal cross-border migration as well as discussing a plan for developing the border over the next five years. PG

BELARUS ERECTS MORE CIVILIZED' BORDER WITH POLAND

Belarusian board control officials in Hrodna have removed the electronic alarm system and barbed wire from a section of the Polish border to save money, reduce the number of alarms being set off by wild animals, and create a "more civilized look" for the border. From now on, a raked strip of sand will become the only protection against border violators. PG

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MEETS SCHROEDER IN LEIPZIG

President Leonid Kuchma flew to Leipzig on 11 July to meet with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for discussions about post- Chornobyl power production in Ukraine and other bilateral issues, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Germany is playing a key role in an upcoming European Bank for Reconstruction and Development decision about a $1.5 billion loan to Kyiv to complete the construction of nuclear power stations at Rivne and Khmelnytskyy, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSSIAN FIRM BUYS CONTROL OF UKRAINIAN REFINERY

TNK-Ukraina, a Russian firm based in Tyumen, has purchased 67.41 percent of the shares in LiNOS, a Ukrainian refinery, AP reported on 11 July. For more than a year, Kyiv had tried to sell the plant, which has been operating at a loss. As part of the deal, which will be signed on 13 July, the Russian firm assumes responsibility for LiNOS's debts. PG

FAULTY EURO PRINTERS ALSO PRINTED LATS

Giesecke & Devrient of Munich, Germany, which printed millions of faulty 100-euro banknotes, was also the company that printed Latvia's banknotes, LETA reported on 11 July. Officials from the Latvian central bank responded to that report by issuing statements that the currency is secure and copy-proof. BBC Online, meanwhile, noted that the faulty 100 euro notes printed by the German company were found to lack a major security feature aimed at preventing color photocopiers from duplicating the notes, LETA also reported that in late March, the government chose Giesecke & Devrient to print the country's new passports and identification cards. MH

POLISH POLICE BREAK UP COUNTERFEITING RING

Poland's Central Bureau of Investigation told Polish state radio on 11 July that its officers have broken up a counterfeiting ring operating in Krakow. The gang, seven of whose members were arrested, specialized in counterfeiting U.S. visas as well as U.S., Germany, and Polish currency. PG

INCUMBENT TOPS POLLS FOR POLISH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Some 62 percent of Poles support Aleksander Kwasniewski's bid to gain re-election as president, the CBOS polling agency told Reuters on 11 July. The survey found his two major competitors, Solidarity bloc leader Marian Krzaklewski and centrist technocrat Andrzej Olechowski, trailing far behind, with 11 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Their supporters hope that Kwasniewski will fail to get 50 percent in the first round and thus be forced into a runoff. PG

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER DISSOCIATES HIMSELF FROM PRESIDENT ON MONTENEGRO

Vaclav Klaus, leader of the main opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), told CTK on 11 July that he "does not hold the view that it is good to flex muscles publicly." Klaus was responding to a statement by President Vaclav Havel, who had said the same day in Zagreb at a meeting with his Croatian, Montenegrin, and Slovenian counterparts that the "alternative of a demonstration of force" (presumably by NATO) must be considered alongside "political instruments" in solving the current Serbian-Montenegrin crisis. Havel was also criticized for that statement by leaders of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and other ODS members but received praise from Freedom Union deputy Michal Lobkowicz. Lobkowicz said the statement was "a reminder" to the international community to "start dealing with the conflict before tragedy takes place." MS

FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE CHIEF SPEAKS THROUGH LAWYERS

Ivan Lexa, for whom a search has been launched both in Slovakia and elsewhere, released a statement on 11 July saying he refuses to meet with investigators because they are violating his human rights. Lexa's lawyers, who delivered that statement to journalists, said their client is in Slovakia and added that they will not disclose his whereabouts because of "professional confidentiality." Lexa said that a Constitutional Court ruling recognizing the validity of an amnesty granted by former Premier Vladimir Meciar to Jaroslav Svechota, who was Lexa's deputy in the Intelligence Service, must apply to his case as well. He added that Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner and chief police investigator Jaroslav Ivor are infringing the Penal Code and violating the rights of "politically uncomfortable" individuals. MS

NEW SLOVAK HEATH MINISTER APPOINTED

Roman Kovac, a member of the liberal wing of the Slovak Democratic Coalition parliamentary group, has been appointed health minister, CTK and AP reported on 12 July. Kovac is a gynecologist by training. He replaces Tibor Sagat, who earlier this month resigned after harsh criticism of the treatment Slovak President Rudolf Schuster received in several Bratislava hospitals. MS

U.S. REPORTEDLY TO OFFER F-16 FIGHTERS TO HUNGARY

The U.S. government is expected to offer Hungary several used F-16 fighter planes withdrawn from service, as an alternative to the planned upgrade of Russian-built MiG-29 fighters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000), "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 12 July. The offer would be conditional on a U.S. company upgrading the F-16s at the expense of the Hungarian government. The planes would then be handed over free of charge to Hungary. Experts say that the U.S. planes could solve Budapest's problems regarding its air fleet for the next 15 years. Government spokesman Gabor Borokai said that Prime Minister Viktor Orban will not deal with the issue until early August. MSZ




DJUKANOVIC: MILOSEVIC PUSHING MONTENEGRO TOWARD INDEPENDENCE

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Dubrovnik on 11 July that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's recent constitutional changes have led to a rise in pro-independence sentiment in his republic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 July 2000). He argued that holding a "referendum on independence is a constitutional right of Montenegrin citizens.... And unfortunately, because of the irresponsible acts of the authorities in Belgrade, we are every day closer to using that [possibility]. But as you can see from the overall policies of the Montenegrin government, we haven't rushed to make that move," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. After meeting with his Czech, Slovenian, and Croatian counterparts, Djukanovic said: "Montenegro will in any case do all it can to avoid a new conflict in the Balkans, [but] we will fight and defend ourselves" if a conflict breaks out, AP reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARTY INVITES SERBIAN OPPOSITION

Djukanovic's Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) has invited representatives of "democratic" parties in Serbia to Sveti Stefan on 14 July to "exchange opinions on current political developments in Montenegro and Serbia, especially following the latest [acts of] political violence by the Belgrade regime against the constitutional structure of the state," Miodrag Vukovic of the DPS steering committee said in Podgorica on 11 July. In Belgrade, several Serbian opposition leaders expressed support for Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. "We will discuss the strategy how to preserve the joint state but only as a reformed, democratic union," said Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party. Observers note that the question of Montenegro's political status has been of only minor importance in Serbian politics. There is little enthusiasm among Serbs for tiny Montenegro's demand to be treated as the constitutional equal of much larger Serbia. Djukanovic and other Montenegrin leaders have expressed support for the Serbian opposition but stressed that change in Serbia must be the work of Serbs themselves. PM

MILOSEVIC, DUMA DELEGATION CALL FOR ABOLITION OF HAGUE TRIBUNAL

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic met in Belgrade on 11 July with a Russian State Duma delegation headed by Dimitrii Rogozin, who is the chairman of the Duma's foreign affairs committee. The guests and their host agreed "on the need to abolish the Hague[-based war crimes] tribunal, which is an instrument of defense of interests of the United States and NATO," ITAR-TASS reported. Few foreign visitors have called on Milosevic since the Hague tribunal indicted him for war crimes in May 1999. His most recent prominent guest was Chinese parliamentary speaker Li Peng (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2000). PM

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER HAILS COUNTRY'S 'PRESTIGE'

In Belgrade on 11 July, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said that "Yugoslavia's ties and cooperation with three-quarters of the world's nations--which accept it as a valid, reliable, and equal partner--and its achievements in reconstruction and development" prove that sanctions against Belgrade have failed, Reuters reported. The Milosevic-run daily "Politika" wrote that "the international position and reputation [of Yugoslavia] are growing by the day." PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIM LEADER CALLS FOR 'JUSTICE'...

Mustafa Ceric, who heads the Islamic religious community in Bosnia, said at a memorial prayer service near Srebrenica on 11 July that "we do not come here for revenge, but neither to forgive. We are here so that everyone may know that we haven't-- and that we won't-- abandon our search for justice," an RFE/RL correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). PM

...WHILE HOLBROOKE SEEKS 'RECONCILIATION'

Speaking at the UN on 11 July, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke praised the "brave" Muslims who attended the prayer meeting in Serb-held Srebrenica. He added that the "butchers" responsible for the deaths of thousands of Srebrenica's males in 1995 must be brought to justice. The architect of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement added, however, that "Srebrenica must not be forgotten, and people must learn from it. But at the same time, we must have reconciliation in the region," AP reported. He added that "the world meanwhile has shown that Srebrenica must not be forgotten, that the name Srebrenica will go down into history books along with Babi Yar, Lidice, Oradour, and other places of horrible massacres in the late 20th century," Reuters reported. Meanwhile at a conference sponsored by Bosnian Ambassador to the UN Muhamed Sacirbey, a report concluded that "the cardinal lesson of Srebrenica is that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorize, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means." PM

KOSOVA'S SERBS CALL FOR HARMONY

A broad-based delegation of Serbs from Kosova discussed the situation in the province with leaders of the Serbian opposition in Belgrade on 11 July. The Kosovar Serbs said in a statement that "the biggest responsibility and the gravest blame for the current tragic status of the Serbs and other ethnic groups in Kosovo lie with Slobodan Milosevic, his regime, and Albanian extremists," Reuters reported. The statement added that "as a part of the democratic opposition in Serbia, all representatives of the Kosovo Serbs present agreed to avoid internal clashes and verbal attacks [against each other] in the future." The delegation included hard-liners, such as Oliver Ivanovic, and moderates, such as Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije. The archbishop noted that the two groups of Kosovar Serbs have the same goals but differ on the means to achieve them. PM

HARADINAJ AIDE KILLED IN KOSOVA

A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina on 12 July that a gunman killed Sadri Ahmet Sheraj near Decan the previous day, dpa reported. Witnesses told UN police that they recognized the killer. Sheraj was close to political leader and former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) commander Ramush Haradinaj. There has been a series of violent incidents in recent months involving former UCK commanders who are now political rivals. Haradinaj himself was injured in a grenade attack on 7 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000). PM

KOUCHNER NAMES RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN...

Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 12 July that he has appointed Polish lawyer Marek Antoni Nowicki as human rights ombudsman for the province, dpa reported. The previous day, Kouchner appointed British journalist Richard Lucas to head Radio-Television Kosova. PM

...REBUFFS THACI

Kouchner said in Prishtina on 11 July he will soon sign legislation on setting up local government offices in mainly Serbian areas, Reuters reported. He argued that Kosovar leader Hashim Thaci's decision to "suspend" work with Kouchner's civilian advisory council over the issue was merely a ploy aimed at winning votes in the local elections slated for the fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2000). PM

TENSIONS MOUNT IN CROATIAN COALITION

Political differences between Social Democratic leader and Prime Minister Ivica Racan and Social Liberal leader Drazen Budisa over changes in the cabinet slated for the fall have developed into an "open conflict," "Vecernji list" reported on 12 July. Budisa said that Racan has wrongly accused him of planning to form a coalition with the late President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 22 and 29 June 2000). Racan, for his part, reminded the Social Liberals and his smaller coalition partners that his party is the largest one, adding that "our patience has its limits," "Jutarnji list" reported. He suggested that he might call early elections if the feuding within the six-party coalition continues. PM

CROATIAN SOLDIERS DESERT

Some 42 Croatian soldiers deserted their unit in Pula, dpa reported on 12 July. The men told reporters that their superiors had mistreated them. A lieutenant who allegedly stole from the recruits also disappeared from the barracks. An Defense Ministry spokesman said that authorities are investigating the two incidents. PM

ROMANIA'S LIBERALS TO FORSAKE PNTCD ALLIANCE?

National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus on 12 July said the two "realistic" options for the PNL in the fall elections are an alliance or merger with the Alliance for Romania (APR) or running on separate lists. He spoke after a meeting of the PNL Central Standing Bureau. The bureau directed the negotiating team, led by First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica, to continue talks with the APR but said it backs former Premier Theodor Stolojan--not APR chairman Theodor Melescanu--as presidential candidate. Earlier on 12 July, Stolojan repeated that he will join the alliance only if the two parties merge. In a letter to PNL members made public the same day, Stoica said a return to an alliance with the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) must be ruled out. He described the PNTCD as a "sick party, lacking vision, vigor, and imagination." MS

RUSSIAN STATE DUMA SPEAKER IN ROMANIA

Gennadii Seleznev, who is on a two-day visit to Romania, is to meet with President Emil Constantinescu on 12 July. The previous day Seleznev met with Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, Foreign Minister Petre Roman, and the chairmen of Romania's parliamentary chambers. Seleznev said the pending bilateral treaty between the two countries is unlikely to be concluded before the campaign for the fall elections in Romania is over. He said experts representing the two sides should deal with the problem of the Romanian state treasure held in Moscow since World War I but emphasized that Russia "does not want to set a precedent" that could affect problems with other states. Both sides agreed that commercial ties are unsatisfactory. MS

MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL STALEMATE EMERGING

The Constitutional Court on 11 July ruled that the amendment to the basic law proposed by President Petru Lucinschi does not infringe on the constitution. The amendment grants the president the right to call plebiscites on constitutional amendments and thus contradicts the parliament's recent decision to transform Moldova into a parliamentary republic. Under the proposed legislation, the president could call a referendum within six months after the parliament approves the initiatives. Lucinschi's term in office ends in December 2000, and observers say the parliament may not even discuss the initiative until then. The proposed constitutional amendment also calls for electing 70 percent of parliamentary deputies in single constituencies and 30 percent on party lists. At present, a proportional system based on party lists is used to elect the entire parliament, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PRISONER CASE TO BE EXAMINED BY EUROPEAN COURT

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has notified the Moldovan and Russian governments that it intends to consider the case of the "Ilascu group" detained in Tiraspol. It asked both governments to present their official position on the case. Members of the detained group and their families requested that the court make a ruling. They consider both Moldova and Russia responsible for the acts of the internationally unrecognized Tiraspol separatists, Flux reported. MS




RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS NOT UNITED TO DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM


by Floriana Fossato

According to opinion polls, public trust in the Russian media has plummeted over the past 10 years. A 1990 survey conducted by the Commission for Freedom of Access to Information--a Russian NGO--found that more than two-thirds (70 percent) of respondents believed what the media reported. Six years later, a poll by the same organization found that only 40 percent trusted journalists. Today, that figure is 13 percent.

Iosif Dzyaloshinskii, the commission's founder and a Moscow University journalism professor, told RFE/RL that several factors explain the Russian media's loss of public trust and interest. In most Western countries, he notes, news media developed parallel to a flourishing class of traders willing to make decisions based on information. Historically, he says, this was not the case in Russia.

"The press in Russia developed, from the beginning, among thinkers. They were writers, they were opposition activists or, on the contrary, they were people close to the government. These people started publishing newspapers, writing in newspapers, not because they wanted to disseminate information, but because they wanted to influence the situation. [Since then] a journalist in Russia cannot simply act as an informer. It is an accepted fact that a journalist [is somebody who] must teach how to live."

When Russia started its experiment with democracy after the breakup of the Soviet Union, journalists were eager to meet the challenge, although they were poorly prepared for it. Many journalists regard the period from 1989 to 1992 as a golden age of the Russian press. They say that in the turmoil when the communist state apparatus was crumbling, reporters had unprecedented access to all kinds of sources. But, according to Dzyaloshinskii, this was also a period of great confusion and superficiality, when few journalists could figure out what kind of information was out there and who would be interested in it.

Gradually, a new wave of promising young journalists appeared. They were interested in presenting facts gathered in a professional way. The sector of the public most interested in their product was the elite, the new businessmen, and economic reformers.

There followed the rise of large media companies controlled by business and political leaders who were interested in hiring professionals and were willing to sustain money-losing newspapers and broadcast stations in order to acquire tools of influence. Journalists, in turn, were interested in finding financial backers. It seemed a fair exchange, but some now say it turned to the journalists' disadvantage. Leading journalists started being associated-- both in the eyes of the authorities and of the public--with their outlets' owners and backers. Many were regarded as little more than well-paid propagandists engaged in slander and disinformation.

According to Dzyaloshinskii, until very recently most Russian journalists took little notice of the public's negative perception. But when the government last year began moves to control the press--banning certain coverage of Chechnya, using the granting of licenses to pressure the media, raiding a prominent media company-- journalists realized that the public was not on their side. Yet few exhibited solidarity toward their colleagues.

"At the moment, everyone believes that he or she is personally good. [In this view] there are some negative figures, but it's up to them to justify their conduct. [But] what we are now witnessing is how [people's negative] reaction to the bad work or to the immoral conduct of some journalists falls on all journalists," Dzyaloshinskii comments.

Dzyaloshinskii also argues that to defend themselves, journalists should unite and act as a professional class-- especially if the government starts to tar them all with the same brush. But he says this has yet to happen. A huge gulf between Moscow-based journalists and their colleagues in the regions has not been overcome. Egregious cases of intimidation by local authorities against regional journalists have received publicity in Moscow but have not led to solidarity among journalists. Moscow journalists often show disdain for the skills of their regional colleagues. In turn, journalists outside the capital resent what they call the "rich Moscow caste."

Sergei Parkhomenko, the editor-in-chief of the Moscow- based weekly "Itogi," says Russian journalists are wary of banding together because of Russia's bad experience with solidarity.

"In Soviet times," he says, "solidarity among workers was compulsory and false. Everybody was aware of this. That created antibodies that will last for a long time." In recent times, Parkhomenko adds, Boris Yeltsin called on Russians to show solidarity for the new cause of creating capitalism and democracy. Many felt they had been misled.

After all those developments, Parkhomenko says, solidarity among people belonging to the same professional category or solidarity in society on humanitarian issues, democratic freedoms, and access to information is next to impossible. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in London.


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