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Newsline - July 14, 2000




AUDIT CHAMBER POINTS FINGER AT ELECTRICITY GIANT...

Unified Energy System (EES) head Anatolii Chubais told reporters on 14 July that the Audit Chamber's claims of illegal activities by EES "do not follow a legal logic but a political logic." An Audit Chamber spokesman announced the previous day that the chamber has uncovered numerous violations of Russian law during the period 1992-1998. Also on 13 July, an unidentified source at the chamber told Ekho Moskvy that an investigation has found that EES shares were sold to non-Russian residents on preferential terms normally reserved for Russian citizens. Chubais called this particular charge "ridiculous" and "legally unfounded." According to Reuters, EES shares fell 6 percent on 13 July within minutes of news of the Audit Chamber's allegations. The Audit Chamber is headed by former Prime Minister and former Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin. JAC

...AS OTHER BUSINESSMEN WONDER WHO'S NEXT

Union of Rightist Forces faction leader Boris Nemtsov announced on 13 July that President Vladimir Putin has agreed to a round-table meeting with Russia's business leaders to take place after he returns from the G-8 summit. Nemtsov "half-jokingly" remarked that given the federal prosecutor-general's recent activities against a number of big businessmen, he hopes that enough of them will be left to take part in the round table, Interfax reported. Leader of the Union of the Entrepreneurs and Industrialists Arkadii Volskii said on 13 July that recent events regarding Russia's largest businesses have aroused feelings of "shock and bewilderment." He said "the country can now ask only one question, Who's next?" JAC

PUTIN SAYS BUSINESS CLIMATE BEING MADE MORE ORDERLY...

In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 14 July, Russian President Putin appeared to defend recent actions by the tax police and the federal Prosecutor-General's Office against such companies as Media-MOST, AvtoVAZ, LUKoil, and the Interros Group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 July 2000). According to Putin, "the state has the right to expect entrepreneurs to observe the rules of the game." He explained that the "state announced that it would act more vigorously toward the environment in which business operates. I am referring first and foremost to the tax sphere and the restoration of order in the economy." Noting that the defense budget totals only 140 billion rubles ($5 billion), Putin charged that last year more than 80 billion rubles evaded the state coffers through zones with special tax privileges, called ZATOs (closed autonomous territorial districts). JAC

...AS ALL RUSSIAN CITIZENS TO POSSESS EQUAL RIGHTS

Putin also defended his administrative reforms of the Russian Federation. He declared that he wants to put an end to the situation in which Russians seem to be the subjects of different regions rather than citizens of the same country. He also said that he will not tolerate the curtailing of economic freedoms in certain regions where business is divided up between clan members and where the media and independent interest groups are persecuted and suffer the surveillance of local authorities. The stress that Putin has placed on rights being equal across the Russian Federation has led some analysts to conclude that he favors a unitary Russian stateone without special rights for ethnic republics (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 14 June 2000). JAC

MILITARY LEADER SEEKS TO SCUTTLE TALK OF 'ATTEMPTED COUP' AT DEFENSE MINISTRY...

First Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov sought on 13 July to squash press reports alleging that his immediate superior, General Anatolii Kvashnin, is trying to stage a coup against the Defense Ministry leadership. "There is no conflict" among Russia's military leaders, Manilov told journalists, one day after Kvashnin had pushed for the Strategic Rocket Forces to be brought under central command and downsized so that scarce funds could be channeled to the conventional forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2000). "If there is talk of [a conflict]," he added, "then it's only a virtual one" based on mass media reports. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, a former commander of the rocket forces, and the current head of those forces, General Vladimir Yakovlev both oppose such proposals. "Kommersant-Daily" on 13 July had described Kvashnin's speech the previous day as "an attempted coup in Russia's military," while "Nezavisimaya gazeta" had deemed it "an unprecedented step." Both newspapers are owned by business magnate Boris Berezovskii. JC

...WHILE DEFENSE MINISTER STICKS TO HIS GUNS ON ROCKET FORCES

The next day in Nizhnii Tagil, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Defense Minister Sergeev underscored his opposition to bringing the Strategic Rocket Forces under central command. "I oppose the idea as it is unfounded from the political, economic, and military points of view," he said, according to ITAR-TASS on 14 July. He later said he had been "misunderstood" by the Interfax news agency, which had reported the same day that Sergeev threatened to quit if the General Staff implemented its plan to restructure the rocket forces. The same agency also quoted him as saying that chief of General Staff Kvashnin's proposal is a "psychotic attack" that would destroy the rocket forces. Sergeev, who along with President Putin was visiting the Urals Arms Exposition-2000, has long been at loggerheads with Kvashnin. Reuters on 13 July quoted Aleksandr Golts, defense analyst for "Itogi" (part of Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST group), as saying that the clash between the two men has "already reached the point where it clearly harms the functioning of the Defense Ministry's leadership," adding that "eventually, one of the two will have to go." JC

GENERAL STAFF SAYS ARMED FORCES IN CRITICAL STATE

At the 12 July meeting between Defense Ministry officials, chief of General Staff Kvashnin had expressed concern about the current state of the Russian armed forces owing to insufficient funding, Interfax reported the next day, citing unidentified military sources. According to Kvashnin, those forces are not in a position to ensure state security, and "only the tasks of nuclear deterrence and peace-keeping can be fulfilled at any acceptable level." The General Staff chief noted that "the presidential decision" to allocate at least 3.5 percent of GDP to the armed forces is not being implemented, and he concluded that there is no hope of improvement in the next five to 10 years owing to current economic difficulties. JC

PUTIN BOUND FOR PYONGYANG NEXT WEEK

The Kremlin press service confirmed on 13 July that President Putin will visit North Korea on 19-20 July, after spending two days in China and before attending the G-8 summit in Okinawa, Japan, on 21- 23 July, Interfax reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told the news agency that Putin's visit to Pyongyang will culminate in the signing of a joint declaration. Asked whether the Russian president would discuss North Korea's missile program, given U.S. concerns about developments in that country, Losyukov said that Putin will not "lobby anyone's interests or convey messages." He did add, however, that a wide range of issues, "probably including those of interest to third countries," will be discussed during Putin's talks with the North Korean leadership. JC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT AGAIN CALLS FOR PEACE TALKS

In an interview with Azerbaijan News Service released on 13 July, Aslan Maskhadov said that he is trying to persuade Moscow that the war in Chechnya may continue indefinitely, and he again proposed peace talks without stipulating any preconditions, Caucasus Press and AP reported. Maskhadov was filmed in a well-furnished room decorated with carpets and seemed relaxed. Unconfirmed reports last month suggested that he had been wounded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). LF

RUSSIAN COMMANDER IN CHECHNYA LEAVES ON VACATION

Lieutenant General Valerii Baranov has been named acting commander of the joint federal forces in Chechnya while Colonel General Gennadii Troshev is on vacation, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 July. Troshev's deputy, Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, is currently recuperating at a military hospital near Moscow after undergoing surgery, Interfax reported on 13 July. It was while Major General Konstantin Pulikovskii took over command of the federal forces in Chechnya in August 1996 during Lieutenant General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov's vacation that the Chechen forces launched the assault on Grozny that led to the cease-fire and the end of the 1994-1996 war. LF

GROZNY APPEALS FOR INTERNATIONAL AID

Grozny Mayor Supyan Mokhchaev and his deputy, Seidali Umalatov, have appealed to international relief agencies for food and medicine for the city's estimated 140,000-150,000 inhabitants, Interfax reported on 13 July. Characterizing the situation in Grozny as "disastrous," Umalatov said that 70 percent of its inhabitants have no roof over their heads, and there is a serious danger of epidemics. Interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told ITAR-TASS on 12 July that his administration will move to Grozny from its temporary quarters in Gudermes by the beginning of winter. He said administration buildings are already being restored. LF

IRREGULARITIES REPORTED IN FOOD AID DISTRIBUTION

The Audit Chamber also reported on 13 July that it has uncovered a number of irregularities in how food aid from the U.S. and EU was distributed in Russia, particularly in the conduct of the company Rosmyasomoltorg, Interfax reported. According to chamber auditor Sergei Openyshev, the Audit Chamber has raised questions with Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Gordeev about the expediency of continuing to use Rosmyasomoltorg as a government agent for the sale of Western food aid. JAC

GOVERNMENT TO ACCEPT DEFEAT ON TURNOVER TAX?

First Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov told reporters on 13 July that retention of the 1 percent turnover tax on road use is "an unavoidable evil" that the government has to face because of the "current political situation," Prime-TASS reported. The government had asked the State Duma to eliminate the turnover tax, but deputies instead shaved 3 percentage points off the 4 percent tax, leaving untouched the remaining 1 percent, which is a tax on road use. State Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov cautioned the government against taking too hard a stand on tax legislation, telling Russian Public Television that "if the government insists on its proposals it risks not finding a compromise with the Duma and freezing all tax reform." "The Moscow Times" reported analysts believe that the government's willingness to compromise is a sign that the Duma "is not going to be the rubber-stamp parliament originally envisaged after pro-Putin blocs" performed better than expected in last December's Duma elections. JAC

PUTIN SAYS PROFITABLE MEDIA ENTERPRISES WILL REFLECT REALITY...

Supplementing remarks on the media that he made in his state-of-the-nation speech last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000), President Putin suggested in his interview with "Izvestiya" on 14 July that he favors an economic approach to the issue of media freedom. He stated "I believe that if the state wants the media to be a really independent and democratic instrument in the development of society, it must give certain preferences to this segment [the media] of the market." He explained that the business is not that profitable in Russia today, given the high costs of paper and printing, and therefore "the media must be made truly independent, so that it can then reflect real life rather than the one its master would like presented." JAC

...AS INTERNATIONAL MEDIA WATCHDOGS GIVE PUTIN POOR MARKS...

Meanwhile, the previous day, James Ottaway, chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee, told reporters in Moscow that Russia has no truly free and independent media. He said that Moscow government officials actively intrude in the media's affairs and that the situation in the regions is even worse. Ottaway participated in a delegation of officials to Russia from six international organizations who monitor the press. A statement released by the group noted that President Putin has done little to support his statement that a free press is crucial for a healthy society. JAC

...AND VGTRK HEAD SAYS STATE'S INTERESTS ARE SOCIETY'S

Also on 13 July, All Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) head Oleg Dobrodeev told Interfax that the problem of restrictions on freedom of expression exists in Russia's regions but not in Moscow, and he added that it "has an exclusively economic character," Interfax reported. When asked whether VGTRK conducts an exclusively "pro-Putin policy" or whether there remains a place for opposition in the healthy sense of the word, Dobrodeev said that "at this stage, the interests of society and the president coincide." JAC




KARABAKH FOREIGN MINISTER ASSESSES PEACE PROCESS

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 13 July, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Naira Melkumian stressed the importance both of the Minsk Group mediation and the ongoing dialogue between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev. But Melkumian, who is currently in Vienna, where the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group are meeting, added that the peace process is "complex" and that she doubts whether a settlement can be reached by the end of this year. Melkumian noted that numerous Azerbaijan politicians. with the exception of President Aliev, advocate a new war to bring the unrecognized enclave back under Azerbaijan's jurisdiction. She said that the Karabakh Armenians do not want another war but added that if Azerbaijan begins hostilities, the new war "will be fought on Azerbaijani territory, considering the strength of the Karabakh armed forces." LF

AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS U.S. TERRORISM ALLEGATIONS

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has issued a statement taking issue with that part of the U.S. State Department's report on global terrorism in 1999 that relates to Azerbaijan, Turan and Reuters reported. The statement rejects as groundless the report's findings that Azerbaijan "serves as a center of material and technical supply for international gunmen linking with terrorist groups, some of which supported the Chechen revolt in Russia." The Foreign Ministry statement affirms that "Azerbaijan has always condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations." LF

AZERBAIJANI FACTIONS NAME CANDIDATES TO CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION

The majority Yeni Azerbaycan parliamentary faction on 13 July named its six representatives to the new Central Electoral Commission, Turan reported. The previous day, independent parliamentary deputies had likewise named their six representatives on the commission, one of whom must now be approved by the parliamentary majority and another by the parliamentary opposition. Of the two opposition parties that in 1995 won representation in parliament under the proportional system, the Azerbaijan Popular Front has named two candidates of its own and yielded one seat on the commission to the Musavat Party, while the Azerbaijan National Independence Party has named two candidates and ceded its third seat to the Civic Solidarity Party. LF

GEORGIA, U.S. DISCUSS OIL TRANSPORTATION

John Wolf, who is adviser to the U.S. president and secretary of state on Caspian issues, told journalists in Tbilisi on 13 July that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze assured him in talks the previous day that Georgia will abide by all its international commitments with regard to construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil, Caucasus Press reported. ITAR-TASS, however, reported the same day that the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) is currently exploring the possibility of expanding the throughput capacity of the pipeline from Baku to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast; it currently exports Azerbaijani Caspian oil through that pipeline. The AIOC has not yet made any financial commitment to the BAKU-Ceyhan project, which some analysts consider not economically viable. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET SEQUESTER, TAX LAW AMENDMENTS

Deputies on 13 July approved the revised budget in the second and final reading, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000). A total of 166 deputies approved the bill; members of the opposition Industry Will Save Georgia faction and the Union of Georgian Traditionalists boycotted the vote to protest the government's economic policies. Deputies also approved amendments to the tax law proposed by President Eduard Shevardnadze, rejecting several alternative drafts, including one prepared by the Industry Will Save Georgia faction (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 28, 13 July 2000). Deputies also approved a draft bill that allows Georgia's autonomous Adjar Republic to retain 40 percent of the taxes collected on its territory. Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze has for years refused to transfer any tax revenues to the central Georgian budget. LF

GEORGIAN JUDICIARY PERSONNEL STRIKE

Georgian Circuit Court personnel began a strike on 13 July to protest the 28 percent cut in funding for the judiciary necessitated by the budget sequester and to demand two months' salary arrears, Caucasus Press reported. Judges, who are also owed two months' salary, are forbidden to strike under the law on the courts. LF

CONFISCATED RADIO-ACTIVE MATERIALS TO BE TRANSPORTED FROM GEORGIA TO AZERBAIJAN

The container of caesium-137 confiscated by Georgian customs officials in Poti earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2000) will be transported to Azerbaijan, which apparently ordered it from Turkey, Caucasus Press reported on 13 July. The Turkish and Azerbaijani governments have apologized to Georgia for not informing Tbilisi in advance of the proposed shipment. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER DETAINED IN ROME

Akezhan Kazhegeldin was detained by police at Rome airport on arriving from London late on 12 July, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported the following day. The "Wall Street Journal" on 14 July quoted Kazhegeldin's lawyer, Charles Both, as saying that the Italian police had acted in response to an urgent request to Interpol by the Kazakh authorities, but he added that Kazhegeldin has not been arrested, nor has any request been made for his extradition. Both said the Kazakh authorities have revived earlier charges against Kazhegeldin of money- laundering, tax evasion, and abuse of power, adding that those allegations have already been disproved. In Almaty, Amirzhan Qosanov, a leading member of the opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, of which Kazhegeldin is chairman, said that Kazhegeldin also faces new charges of terrorism, Reuters reported. LF

LAWYER ARRESTED IN KAZAKHSTAN

Almaty lawyer Anatolii Ginzburg was arrested earlier this week on charges of engaging in unspecified "criminal activities" in 1994, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported on 13 July. Ginzburg had recently agreed to defend National Security Service Colonel Anatolii Adamov, who has been accused of involvement in the April murder of arms export official Talghat Ibraev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April and 6 June 2000). LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL SAYS KULOV MAY BE ABLE TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Kamil Bayalinov, an aide to Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev, has said that opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov, who is currently on trial, "has every chance" of participating in the presidential poll to be held on 29 October, Interfax reported. On 11 July, Interfax had quoted Austrian Ambassador to Bishkek Margaret Westfeld as saying that international observers will monitor the poll, provided that democratic rights and freedoms are upheld in Kyrgyzstan. LF

TAJIK, OSCE OFFICIALS DISCUSS SECURITY, AFGHANISTAN

Tajikistan's Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov met in Dushanbe on 13 July with visiting OSCE ambassadors to discuss regional security, ITAR-TASS reported. Both sides termed the situation in Afghanistan "a permanent factor of destabilization in Central Asia." Nazarov also told the delegation that the government had agreed to the retrial of a woman sentenced to death on murder charges whose conviction has been queried by the OSCE and other international organizations (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). The OSCE delegation also met with representatives of political parties and the media to evaluate the domestic social and political situation. LF

TWO POLICE KILLED BY CAR BOMB IN TAJIKISTAN

Two police officers were killed and one civilian injured late on 12 July when a bomb exploded in the car in which they were travelling, Reuters reported. The incident took place on the Dushanbe-Khorog highway in eastern Tajikistan. LF

CHINA TO PROVIDE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO TAJIK MILITARY

A Chinese military delegation that visited Dushanbe on 12 July signed an agreement with Tajikistan's Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairullaev to provide unspecified technical support valued at 5 million yuan (about $700,000), Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The delegation also met with President Imomali Rakhmonov, who expressed gratitude for that assistance, adding that he hopes for the further development of bilateral defense cooperation. Earlier this week, Khairullaev also met with China's new military attache in Dushanbe, Pu Shouguan, to discuss bilateral military and military-technical cooperation. LF

U.S. DELEGATION VISITS UZBEKISTAN

Continuing his tour of Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, who is adviser on the CIS to the U.S. secretary of state, met in Tashkent on 13 July with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Defense Minister Yurii Agzamov and Finance Minister Rustam Azimov, Interfax reported. Topics of discussion were bilateral relations and cooperation, regional security, including Afghanistan, and cooperation in countering religious extremism, international terrorism, and drug- smuggling. LF




LUKASHENKA SETS BELARUSIAN VOTE FOR 15 OCTOBER

Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka has set 15 October as the date for parliamentary elections, Belapan reported on 13 July. The 110 seats in the lower house of the parliament are to be filled by voting in single-member constituencies. Elections for the upper house are also supposed to take place before the end of the year. Meanwhile, despite criticism both in the West and in Belarus, the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation said that the Belarusian electoral code is "quite satisfactory," according to the Belarusian agency. PG

BELARUSIAN ASSEMBLY LEADER SAYS FEW BACK OPPOSITION

Alyaksandr Shpileuski, deputy chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Belarusian parliament, said in Minsk on 13 July that "the former Supreme Soviet deputies Anatol Lyabedzka and Uladzimir Nistsyuk [who were invited to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Bucharest] pretended to represent millions of Belarusians whereas 4-5 percent of the population support the opposition parties," Belapan reported. PG

SUPREME COURT, PARLIAMENT BACK UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT

The Ukrainian Supreme Council on 13 July ruled that the parliament can vote only on constitutional changes in the form submitted by President Leonid Kuchma and cannot consider an alternative and weaker version, dpa reported. Several hours later, the parliament voted by 251 to 22 in the first reading to amend the basic law to give the president the power to dissolve the parliament, create a bicameral legislature, reduce the number of deputies, and eliminate the immunity from prosecution deputies currently enjoy. The parliament must vote on the amendments again later this year, and those changes must receive 300 of the 450 votes to be incorporated into the constitution. PG

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS PRIVATIZATION OF UKRTELECOM

By a vote of 244 to zero with 141 deputies not participating, the parliament on 13 July approved a bill on privatizing the Ukrainian telecommunications company, AP reported. The bill calls for the government to retain 50 percent plus one of the shares in the company and directs the cabinet to make the final decision on how to conduct this privatization effort. PG

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET, TAX CHANGES

By a vote of 240 to one, the parliament on 13 July approved a budget code bill requiring officials to set federal and regional budgets at the same time, AP reported. The same day, a majority of deputies approved in the first reading a government-backed tax code abolishing tax rates set in other bills and setting a five-year moratorium on amendments to state taxes. Meanwhile, the parliament also passed a government bill setting the monthly subsistence level at 270.1 hryvni ($49.80). PG

WTO SAYS UKRAINE MUST DO MORE TO QUALIFY

World Trade Organization officials in Geneva told Ukrainian negotiators that Kyiv must do "a lot more to come into line with standard trade practices" before they can hope to be admitted to the WTO, Reuters reported on 13 July. The Ukrainian delegation had presented a large package of documentation, but the WTO said more is needed. PG

ESTONIA TO PUBLISH ALL CIVIL SERVANTS WAGES

Finance Minister Siim Kallas on 12 July signed a decree on publicizing the wages of the country's civil servants. Under that decree, the wages of and any bonuses and additional payments made to the roughly 100,000 state employees must be published annually on 1 April. The wage report will also appear on each ministry's website, ETA reported. MH

POLISH PARLIAMENT CREATES SPECIAL EU COMMISSION

The parliament on 13 July established a 45-member Grand Commission of European Law to promote the passage of legislation that will bring Warsaw into conformity with EU standards, PAP reported. In addition, the parliamentary deputies agreed to bundle 180 pieces of EU-related legislation in order to speed passage of these measures. The group is expected to choose former Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek as chairman, dpa suggested. PG

POLISH PARLIAMENT ALLOWS LOCALITIES TO BLOCK LARGE STORES

By a vote of 407 to three, the Sejm passed legislation allowing local governments to block the opening of major shopping centers and large supermarkets in their areas, AP reported on 13 July. The measure is intended to protect small shopkeepers from being undercut by large stores. PG

POLAND REASSURES UKRAINE ON RUSSIAN PIPELINE

President Aleksander Kwasniewski said on 13 July that Warsaw "will not support anything that could be aimed against Ukraine. Anything that could be blatantly anti-Ukrainian will not gain our backing," PAP reported. Kwasniewski's comments, made in a telephone call to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, came after an announcement that Russia's Gazprom wants to begin negotiations on the construction of a new pipeline via Poland to Western Europe, thus bypassing Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said they are working on a strategy to counter Moscow's plans to build a pipeline that bypasses Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko was quoted by the Russian agency as saying that "Ukraine is indeed worried" about such a routing. PG

CZECH POLICE DETAIN ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS

Police on 13 July detained 33 activists of the Greenpeace movement who were demonstrating in Prague against the loading of nuclear fuel at the Temelin power plant earlier this month. The detained activists, among whom were two Germans and seven Austrians, were later released. About 50 activists, from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands took part in the demonstration, which was unauthorized. Some chained themselves to the building of the State Nuclear Safety Commission, CTK reported. MS

POLICE ASK SLOVAK PARLIAMENT TO STRIP LEXA OF IMMUNITY

Police on 13 July asked the parliament to strip former Slovak Intelligence Service chief Ivan Lexa of his parliamentary immunity, CTK reported, citing Radio Twist. A search for Lexa was launched by Slovak police and Interpol last week, when he failed to turn up for a medical examination. But even if found, Lexa, a deputy representing the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, cannot be detained as long as his immunity is not removed. Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said he does not rule out that Lexa has managed to flee abroad. Lexa is suspected of participation in the kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995 and other offenses. MS

HUNGARIAN COMMISSIONER VISITS SITE OF CYANIDE SPILL

Government Commissioner Janos Gonczy on 13 July visited the Romanian Aurul mining company, which caused the cyanide spill into Hungary's Tisza River in January, and said he is not convinced that the present conditions there are technically safe. Gonczy requested the visit after recent reports said Aurul has resumed operating using the same technology under which the spill occurred. Romanian authorities claimed that Aurul has been given a license only for test runs and that the plant is working at 30-70 percent capacity in a trial that will continue through September. After his fact-finding visit, Gonczy noted that major earthworks have been carried out to restore the dike around the reservoir, Hungarian media reported. MSZ




SERBIAN OPPOSITION, MONTENEGRIN LEADERS PLAN STRATEGY

Representatives of most leading Serbian opposition parties met with supporters of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Sveti Stefan on 14 July to discuss how to respond to the constitutional changes introduced recently by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2000). The Democratic Party's Zoran Djindjic told AP that "we will try to form a joint strategy to counter Milosevic's daily challenges and remove him from power. The aim of both the Montenegrin leadership and Serbia's democratic opposition is to form a modern and democratic state in the Balkans, no matter if Serbia and Montenegro live as neighbors or in a joint state. Without a democratic Serbia and with Milosevic in power, there can be no stability in Montenegro or in the Balkans," he stressed. PM

ALBRIGHT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR MONTENEGRO

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Djukanovic on 13 July that Washington will provide Podgorica with an additional $16.5 million to help promote political and economic reform. This will bring total U.S. assistance to the mountainous republic in fiscal 2000 to $77.1 million, her spokesman said. He added that "the main thrust of the phone call was to express her support for democracy in Montenegro and appreciation for the moderate policies that Djukanovic has been following," Reuters reported. PM

MESIC URGES DJUKANOVIC NOT TO FALL INTO TRAP

Croatian President Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb on 13 July that Milosevic is trying to provoke Djukanovic into calling an early referendum on independence as a pretext for "provoking a crisis" that will enable Milosevic to keep his hold on power, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). Mesic urged Djukanovic "not to make it easy [for Milosevic] by calling a referendum now." The Croatian leader stressed, however, that Western countries "should send a message to Milosevic" not to start a new conflict. If he does, the international community "doesn't have a right to be late in responding" to a war in Montenegro. PM

BULATOVIC, SESELJ BLAST DJUKANOVIC

Momir Bulatovic, who is Yugoslav prime minister and Djukanovic's arch rival in Montenegrin politics, said in Belgrade on 13 July that the Djukanovic government is "sowing discord" in Montenegro by claiming that the Yugoslav army is planning a coup there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2000). He called such claims "untrue and unworthy," Reuters reported. Elsewhere, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told a press conference that Djukanovic "should be arrested for treason." Seselj noted that the Montenegrin president has just met with "Serbia's biggest enemies," namely his counterparts from Croatia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). PM

MONTENEGRINS DEMAND OPEN BORDER TO BOSNIA

Several dozen villagers in western Montenegro have blocked a road in the border area with Bosnia to protest the army's recent closure of the frontier. The army cited "smuggling" as the reason for closing the border, but the villagers are not convinced, Reuters reported on 13 July. The villagers own land and buildings in the Republika Srpska and complain that their hay is rotting in the fields because they cannot bring it into Montenegro. PM

BELGRADE BLOCKS EU AID FOR SOUTHERN SERBIA

Mayor Riza Halimi of Presevo in southwestern Serbia told AP on 13 July that the Belgrade authorities will not allow the EU to provide reconstruction and education funds to his mainly ethnic Albanian community. Halimi said that Presevo has been expecting some $100,000 from Brussels to rebuild schools, but that Belgrade will allow such money to be distributed only through the Education Ministry. PM

MS. MILOSEVIC CALLS FOR OPPOSITION TO GLOBALIZATION

Mira Markovic, who heads the hard-line United Yugoslav Left, said in Belgrade on 13 July that people around the world should unite to oppose globalization, which she called "a new form of colonialism," "Politika" reported. She argued that that globalization is different from previous forms of colonialism in that one single country "is now trying to colonize the entire planet." PM

U.S. COMMANDER: BELGRADE'S AGENTS ACTIVE IN KOSOVA

Brigadier General Randal M. Tieszen told AP in Camp Bondsteel, Kosova, on 13 July that Serbian government agents are active throughout the province. He added, however, that the agents have not sought to orchestrate systematic violence against NATO troops. PM

ATTACKS ON SERBIAN CHECKPOINT NEAR KOSOVA BORDER

The private Beta news agency reported on 13 July that unidentified persons fired on the Konculj border crossing in southwestern Serbia on the border with Kosova three times in the previous 24 hours. It is unclear whether there were any casualties. PM

RUSSIA WARY ON KOSOVA ELECTIONS

A Serbian spokesman in Mitrovica said on 14 July that Serbs will not register to vote for the fall local elections unless security improves so that more Serbian refugees and displaced persons can return home, AP reported. The registration deadline is 15 July. In New York on 13 July, Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov told the Security Council that elections must not be held this year lest ethnic Albanian hard-liners use them to take control of local governments. He insisted that elections can take place only when security conditions in the province have improved and members of all ethnic groups are able to take part in the ballot. PM

BALKAN MINISTERS MEET IN OHRID

Foreign ministers from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey began a meeting on 14 July to discuss regional security issues. PM

UN RENEWS PREVLAKA MANDATE

The Security Council voted unanimously on 13 July to extend the mandate for UN military observers in Croatia's Prevlaka region until 15 January 2001. The council appealed in a resolution to Belgrade and Zagreb to settle questions involving Prevlaka soon. Zagreb and Podgorica have repeatedly sought to resolve the issue but Belgrade has shown little interest. Prevlaka is Croatian territory but controls access by sea to Kotor, which is Yugoslavia's only deep-water port. PM

CROATIA SEIZES 'TERRORIST' WEAPONS

Police seized a large quantity of weapons and explosives in the Cista Provo area east of Split, near the Herzegovinian border. The confiscated materials were destined for "terrorists" in Western Europe, "Jutarnji list" reported on 14 July. Police arrested three persons after receiving a tip off from unspecified Western European police colleagues. PM

BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER CALLS SREBRENICA 'MASS CRIME'

Milorad Dodik told "Dnevni avaz" of 14 July that "we [Serbs] have to be aware that, according to available reports, a mass crime was perpetrated in Srebrenica and people whose loved ones were killed there have an absolute right to mark this." Many Serbs objected to a recent Muslim commemorative prayer meeting in Srebrenica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). PM

SREBRENICA WOMEN BLOCK HIGHWAY

Several dozen displaced women from Srebrenica blocked the main highway south of Sarajevo on 13 July to protest their eviction by the authorities from Serbian-owned homes in the capital. The women demand that the authorities provide either protection for their return to their homes in Srebrenica or alternative housing on Muslim- held territory, "Oslobodjenje" reported. PM

KLEIN DEMANDS ARREST OF KARADZIC BY NOVEMBER

Jacques Klein, who heads the UN mission in Bosnia, told "Dnevni avaz" of 13 July that the international community must muster sufficient "political will" to arrest former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Klein stressed that the West must overcome its "impotence" and arrest Karadzic before the 11 November parliamentary elections. PM

BOSNIA TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE IN 2001?

Laszlo Surjan, who is a member of the Council of Europe's political affairs committee, told Reuters in Sarajevo on 13 July that Bosnia "will become a member of the Council of Europe very soon after the adoption of the election law. If this is done this year, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be a member state next year." Politicians from ethnically-based parties fear that a new election law will weaken their power base by encouraging voting across ethnic lines. PM

ALLIANCE FOR ROMANIA TELLS LIBERALS 'NO DEAL'

The Executive Bureau of Alliance for Romania (APR) announced on 13 July that the party will run alone in the fall parliamentary elections and will field Teodor Melescanu as its presidential candidate. It said a pre-electoral alliance with the National Liberal Party (PNL) is possible only if the PNL agrees to back Melescanu for president and former Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan for premier. The APR National Council meets on 14 July to approve that decision. PNL spokesmen responded that their party is ready to run on separate lists and field its own presidential candidate but would rather wait for the APR's National Council decision before deciding what recommendation to make to its own National Council. That body is scheduled to meet on 15 July. The PNL also signaled readiness for further bargaining, saying a final decision will be postponed until 18 July, after more negotiations with the APR. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN OFFICIALS QUESTIONED ON YUGOSLAV EMBARGO BREACH

Former Romanian Intelligence Service Chief Virgil Magureanu told the Prosecutor-General's Office on 13 July that Romania did not break the oil embargo against Yugoslavia in 1994-1995 and that the 1,000 wagons transporting oil that crossed the border with Yugoslavia were delivered as "humanitarian aid" with the full knowledge of international and Romanian authorities, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Contradicting Magureanu, former Interior Minister Doru Ioan Taracila said he had no knowledge of those transports, which were never discussed by the Romanian authorities. Earlier this week, former Finance Minister Florin Georgescu and former Transportation Minister Aurel Novac also denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, the alleged breach of the embargo. MS

ROMANIA ACTS TO IMPROVE CHILD PROTECTION

Under pressure from the EU to improve the protection of thousands of abandoned children, the government on 13 July approved rules to help local authorities cope with the financial burden of orphanages, Reuters reported. The move clears the last hurdle in decentralizing the administration and financing of the 440 orphanages that shelter nearly 100,000 abandoned or sick children, some 2,000 of whom suffer from AIDS. The EU made the improvement of the state of abandoned children one of the conditions for accession talks with Romania. Last month, the government doubled budget allocations for child protection to the equivalent of $209 million annually. MS

PUTIN APPROVES TIMETABLE FOR MOLDOVAN WITHDRAWAL

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 13 July approved a timetable for the withdrawal of the Russian contingent as well as its arsenal and munitions from the Transdniester, Romanian Television reported. The withdrawal is to end by 2002, in line with the decision of the OSCE Istanbul summit of last year. Putin discussed the timetable and the acceleration of the envisaged Chisinau-Tiraspol settlement with Yevgenii Primakov, who last month was appointed head of a special commission on the Transdniester conflict. MS

EU SUPPORTS MOLDOVAN BID TO JOIN STABILITY PACT

European Commission President Romano Prodi told visiting Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi on 13 July that the commission supports Moldova's efforts to join the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, but he noted that the decision lies with EU member countries, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. BASA-press reported that France and Germany oppose Moldova's bid to join the pact. Prodi said "Moldova is a bridge between Russia, Ukraine, and Europe and between East and West and it is our common interest to intensify economic and political relations" with that country. Lucinschi told journalists after meeting with Prodi that "Moldova will continue its policy of European integration," promoting both cooperation with "all European countries" and "with [the CIS] countries with which we have had economic links for a long time." MS

BULGARIA'S CREDITORS EASE BURDEN

The Paris Club has agreed "in principle" to a partial conversion of Bulgaria's $703.4 million debt into investment in the country's infrastructure, Finance Minister Muravei Radev told Bulgarian Radio on 13 July. Details are to be worked out during Radev's visit to Paris, where he is meeting with representatives of the 14 creditor nations on 14 July, AFP reported. Bilateral discussions are to establish the exact amount of debt relief, as each creditor is free to decide how much it is prepared to write off. Germany, which is Bulgaria's largest creditor, is owed nearly one-third of the debt, while the next largest creditors are Japan, Austria, Switzerland, and France. MS




SERBIAN OPPOSITION AND ITS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTERS DISCUSS FUTURE


by Jolyon Naegele

An air of cautious optimism pervaded the two days of discussions in Bratislava over the weekend of 8-9 July between Serbian opposition activists and representatives of the international community.

Several participants expressed the belief that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic may have made a fatal mistake in pushing through constitutional changes in a bid to ensure his hold on power for another eight years.

The executive director of George Soros's Open Society Fund in Belgrade, Ivan Vejvoda, said Serbia is at present "in a typical end-of-regime situation." He added that "of course such a situation breeds many hopes for the future, but as we also know from political history, it is a very dangerous situation, because it could lead us down a very dramatic and violent path."

Citing the views of famous Central and East European dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s--including Andrei Sakharov, Adam Michnik, Vaclav Havel, and Gyoergy Konrad--Vejvoda, said that when change comes, it has to be nonviolent. Otherwise, as he put it: "All the revolutions and stormings of the Bastilles and Winter Palaces send us back into the past and not into the future."

Vejvoda called on Serbian civil society to prepare now for a future after Milosevic, saying this would be "the return of our country to normalcy, to the family of nations of Europe and the world, to the reintegration in all the multilateral organizations." Isolation and absence of communication with the world, he noted, "breed contempt, breed misunderstanding, and breed intolerance."

Vejvoda welcomed the Balkan Stability Pact and the international community's apparent attempt to speak in unison, calling it a welcome change from the disharmony of past years.

A recurrent theme during the Bratislava conference was the need to lift international sanctions against Serbia. OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis acknowledged that the international community is seeking ways to better target sanctions, which he said often hit ordinary citizens rather than the regime. The OSCE, he added, very much wants to see Yugoslavia return to the ranks of OSCE members. But he noted that a precondition for Belgrade to reclaim its seat is democratic change in Yugoslavia.

Russia's ambassador to Slovakia, Aleksandr Aksenonek, told the Bratislava meeting that the use of sanctions against Serbia is counterproductive. He also criticized the international community for discussing the Balkan peace process without Yugoslavia's participation.

The Russian diplomat went on to denounce the international war crimes tribunal on the former Yugoslavia as "obviously politicized," saying it had determined in advance the main guilty parties of the Yugoslav tragedy. Turning to the domestic scene in Yugoslavia, Aksenonek avoided the sensitive issue of Montenegro and said the Belgrade regime and the Serbian opposition should resolve their differences "through political dialogue."

U.S. diplomat Nicholas Hill, for his part, ruled out including the Belgrade regime in negotiations and stressed that the U.S. is "not negotiating with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to find him an exit strategy," as some media have reported. "The notion that we should engage Milosevic in a discussion of Balkan stability in Bosnia or wherever is something that -- Washington has come around to this view -- is not worth it," he commented. "In many respects, it is quite clear that Milosevic is a source of instability in the Balkans and not a pillar of stability." (Owing to the current break in diplomatic relations between Washington and Belgrade, Hill is based in Budapest, where he serves as the U.S. Embassy's first secretary for Serbian affairs).

Miroljub Labus, the head of the G-17, a nongovernmental Serbian opposition organization, told the gathering that specific projects to assist the Serbian people are the best way to overcome Serbs' mistrust of the international community. One of these projects, for example, was the "energy for democracy" project last winter, in which the international community supplied heating oil to the opposition-controlled cities of Nis and Pirot in southern Serbia.

But Labus noted the international community is also mistrustful of the Serbian civilian sector. It still prefers EU-originated projects over those devised by Serbian opposition groups. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


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