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Newsline - July 25, 2000




PUTIN TO MEET WITH OLIGARCHS THIS WEEK

President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with Russia's top business leaders on 28 July. Among the 18 business officials likely to attend, according to Interfax, are Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev, LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov, YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, and Alfa Group heads Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven. According to the agency, Boris Berezovskii, Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii, and former Sibneft head Roman Abramovich will not be invited to participate. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is controlled by Berezovskii, reported on 22 July that many of the businessmen expected to attend have not yet received any kind of invitation and some do not want to meet with Putin under such circumstances. Although Union of Rightist Forces faction leader Boris Nemtsov, who suggested the meeting, has said that the business leaders will reach an agreement with Putin, unidentified Kremlin sources told Interfax that it is unlikely any documents will be signed. JAC

SENATORS PREDICTED TO PAN FEDERATION REFORM BILLS...

Analysts are predicting that on 26 July the upper house will reject the compromise version of the bill reforming the Federation Council that members of the lower and upper houses have worked on. In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 22 July, both Vyacheslav Nikonov, director of the Politika Foundation, and Valerii Fedorov, deputy director of the Russian Political Situation Center, declared that the senators "will not surrender." According to Fedorov, even an apparent cave-in by the senators will come only with the guarantee of concessions on other presidential legislative initiatives, such as the tax reform bills and draft 2001 budget. Nikonov, on the other hand, predicts that more governors will support the bill than during the legislation's first appearance in the upper chamber, while governors from the so-called Red Belt and others will continue to fight it. JAC

...AND REJECT TAX REFORM LEGISLATION

Presidential representative to the Federation Council Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov said on 24 July that he doubts that the upper house will approve the draft tax laws, which are also scheduled for consideration the same day. He explained that "the government argues that these draft laws are aimed at improving the economic situation in the regions. But the regional leaders have a different opinion." Khizhnyakov added that if the bills are rejected, the president might insist on the State Duma's holding an emergency session. However, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov declared the same day that if the Federation Council does not support the laws, then "this will mean that the question is postponed until the fall." The tax reform package passed the lower house by only a narrow margin--significantly shy of the 300 votes necessary to overcome a rejection by the Federation Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000). JAC

PUTIN POOH-POOHS TALK OF MEGA SERVICE

Addressing a gathering of top officers in the Kremlin on 24 July, President Putin declared that "it is necessary to put an end to rumors about the creation of a super structure joining all of the country's force structures," Interfax reported the next day. "We don't need it," Putin concluded, but "coordinating mutual assistance and support does require special attention." "Kommersant-Vlast" alleged in its latest issue (no. 28) that "for the time being, prosecutors, policemen, and tax collectors are working together with the Federal Security Service [FSB] workers, though they pretend to be working separately." According to the weekly, the FSB was involved in the recent arrest of Media-MOST head Gusinskii. It also claimed that FSB is looking to one of its former members, Putin, to turn it into a "superorgan" capable of "performing a variety of functions." JAC

FRENCH COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF RUSSIAN TALL SHIP

The county court in Brest, France, ordered the release of the Russian tall ship "Sedov" on 24 July, 11 days after the ship was impounded by French bailiffs at the request of the Swiss trading company Noga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). According to Noga, the Russian government owes it some $800 million for oil-for-food deals dating from the early 1990s--a claim that Moscow disputes. The French court ruled that although the "Sedov" is the property of the Russian Federation, it is being operated by the Murmansk State Technical University, which the court described as an independent state establishment. The court ordered Noga to pay some $71,000 compensation to the university and $35,000 to the organizers of the Brest 2000 Sailing Festival, which had invited the "Sedov" to France. Russian Foreign Ministry sources told Interfax that Moscow welcomes the ruling, adding that "justice has prevailed." JC

MOSCOW DENIES HEAVY TROOP LOSSES, NEW CHECHEN FIGHTING

Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 25 July denied Chechen claims that dozens of Russian Interior Ministry troops were killed the previous day in a four-hour battle that followed a Chechen attack on an armored convoy near Serzhen-Yurt, AFP reported. Russian spokesmen admitted, however, that three Russian policemen died and 17 were wounded when Chechen fighters attacked their convoy in Grozny's Staropromyslovskii Raion, Interfax reported. Also on 24 July, a Chechen suicide bomber was killed in Gudermes when the explosive devise he carried apparently detonated prematurely. LF

KREMLIN AGAIN SETS CONDITIONS FOR TALKS WITH CHECHEN PRESIDENT

Yastrzhembskii said in Moscow on 24 July that the only issue on which Russian officials will conduct talks with President Aslan Maskhadov is the conditions under which he is prepared to surrender, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii interpreted Russian deputy presidential representative to South Russia Lieutenant General Vladimir Bokovikov's 23 July affirmation of readiness for talks with Maskhadov as offering Maskhadov "a chance to surrender honorably" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2000). Maskhadov had served in the Soviet Army under Bokovikov in Hungary. Bokovikov, for his part, qualified his original offer on 24 July, telling journalists in Khankala that "there can be no political dialogue with Maskhadov," who, he said, "must lay down his arms, surrender, and stop hostilities." LF

LIGHTS OUT ACROSS SIBERIA, FAR EAST

Fulfilling orders from Unified Energy Systems, electricity suppliers in Siberia, Krasnoyarskenergo, Khabarovskenergo, and Altaienergo have turned off supplies to non-paying customers, the website reported on 25 July. More than 1,500 enterprises that owe some 1 billion rubles ($36 million) in Krasnoyarsk Krai have been affected. In Primorskii Krai, in the Far East, news agencies reported that residents in Nakhodka blocked highways to protest curtailed electricity to their residences, and a two-day-old infant died in Vladivostok when an artificial respirator failed owing to an electricity shutdown. The local electricity supplier in Vladivostok said the shutdown was caused by a malfunction rather than through a deliberate decision to cut the hospital's energy supply since hospitals are exempt from electricity cut-offs. JAC

PUTIN SAYS FISH IN RUSSIAN WATERS SHOULD BE FOR RUSSIAN FISHERMEN

Addressing a conference on the problems of Kamchatka Oblast on 24 July, President Putin said that he does not understand why fishing quotas are awarded to foreign vessels when Russian fish processing plants remain idle. Blaming excessive bureaucracy, Putin also noted that fishing ships are delivering their goods to foreign ports because in Kamchatka's ports it takes three days to re-load fish, "while in Pusan [South Korea], the closest foreign port, it only takes three hours." Putin also noted that export revenues from fishing are underreported and that the federal budget receives only some $400 million from projected revenues of $2.5 billion. Last week, the State Duma passed in its third reading a law designed in part to establish full government control over exports of fish and other sea products (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2000). JAC

AGRICULTURE MINISTRY LOWERS FORECAST FOR GRAIN SHORTFALL...

Deputy Agriculture Minister Rafgat Altynbaev told reporters on 24 July that this year Russia will experience a deficit of fodder grain slightly exceeding 5 million tons, Interfax reported. Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev predicted that the shortfall would be in the range of 6-8 million tons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2000). Altynbaev added that "forecasts are a very treacherous thing--much depends on how fast the harvest is taken in." Altynbaev also pledged that the ministry will try to prevent governors from limiting the sale of grain beyond their borders, as they have done in the past, despite federal laws prohibiting such a practice (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 6 and 20 October 1999). JAC

...AS WHEAT IMPORTS CONTINUE TO GROW

Russia imported 1.4 million tons of wheat during the first five months of 2000, 37.8 percent more than during the same period last year, Interfax reported, citing the State Customs and Statistics Committees. During the first quarter of 2000, wheat imports were up more than 1,000 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). JAC

MOSCOW PLANNING 30 NEW NUCLEAR PLANTS OVER NEXT 30 YEARS

In an interview with German national radio cited by "Die Welt" of 25 July, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov announced that over the next 30 years, Moscow is planning to replace its old nuclear plants and add some 30 new plants to the network. The percentage of Russia's total electricity supplies provided by the nuclear sector would thereby rise from 14 percent to 33 percent, he noted. The modernization of Russia's existing reactors, the working life of most of which is due to expire in 2005, depends on electricity consumers' paying their bills on time, Adamov stressed. The minister also said that Russia's first floating power plant has already left port, following the cabinet's approval of that project in May. Environmentalists have expressed concern that the Far North will be at risk from these floating platforms, noting that several security questions have yet to be resolved. JC




U.S. TO PROVIDE ARMENIA WITH BORDER CONTROL EQUIPMENT

Under an agreement signed in Washington on 24 July by U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and visiting Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the U.S. will provide Yerevan with $300,000 worth of equipment and training to improve customs and border controls, the FNS reported. The equipment includes devices to detect nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons or their components. AP quoted Sarkisian as saying that Yerevan expects to develop military-to- military relations with the U.S. once the Karabakh conflict is resolved. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SETS CONDITIONS FOR ELECTION PARTICIPATION...

Twelve Azerbaijani opposition parties issued a joint statement in Baku on 24 July saying they will participate in the 5 November parliamentary poll only if the authorities amend the election law to conform with recommendations made by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ITAR-TASS reported. Those amendments include changing the ratio of seats in the new parliament allocated under the majoritarian and the proportional systems from 100:25 to 75:50 and abolishing the restriction that allows only parties that were officially registered with the Ministry of Justice six months prior to the announcement of the election date to participate in the ballot. LF

...APPEALS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE

Five opposition parties--the Azerbaijan Popular Front, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, Musavat, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, and the Civil Solidarity Party--have written to Lord Russell Johnston, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, arguing that the law on elections signed on 5 July by President Heidar Aliyev does not conform with the joint statement on democratization made to the Council of Europe in March by the Azerbaijani authorities and opposition, Turan reported. That statement included a commitment to holding elections in conformity with international standards. The opposition appealed to the PACE president to monitor more closely the Azerbaijani authorities' compliance with their commitments in that sphere. The Council of Europe voted last month to admit Azerbaijan to full membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). LF

U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER AZERBAIJANI ELECTION RESTRICTIONS

In a statement released on 24 July, deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the U.S. "regrets" the 21 July decision by the Azerbaijani parliament to amend the law on the Central Electoral Commission to deprive the opposition of the power to influence decisions taken either by that body or its local equivalents, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2000). Reeker said that move "raises questions about whether a fair and impartial vote count can be conducted" in the November poll. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION DECIDES TO ALLOW ABSENTEE VOTING

Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission decided on 24 July that Azerbaijani citizens living outside the country are eligible to cast their ballots in the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported. The six opposition representatives on the commission boycotted the session, which elected the commission's chairman and one of its two secretaries. LF

GERMAN OIL COMPANY'S OFFICE SEALED IN AZERBAIJAN

Azerbaijani police on 23 July sealed the Baku office of the Wintershall oil company, Turan reported. The agency quoted a National Security Ministry spokesman as saying a statement clarifying the motives for that move will be issued "soon." Wintershall owns a 10 percent stake in the consortium formed in January 1997 to exploit the Lenkoran-Talysh Deniz Caspian offshore oilfield. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS SIGNING OF CONTROVERSIAL ABKHAZ PROTOCOL...

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 24 July that he sees no alternative to a peaceful resolution of the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported. But Shevardnadze added that he does not exclude the possibility that some unnamed factions may be preparing secretly to resolve the issue by force. Shevardnadze also said that there are no grounds to criticize Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili for putting his signature to the 11 July joint protocol on stabilization measures in the conflict zone. Representatives of the Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia have criticized the article of that protocol that envisages legal measures against persons who advocate resolving the conflict by force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 21 July 2000). LF

...AS DISPLACED PERSONS DEMAND REPRESENTATION AT PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

Meanwhile, the participants in a round-table discussion of ways to resolve the conflict have advocated that the displaced persons be represented in the ongoing peace process, Caucasus Press reported on 24 July. In a statement addressed to Shevardnadze, they argued that the negotiations currently in progress exacerbate tensions rather than contribute to a solution. LF

OIL CONSORTIUM RELEASES DATA ON KAZAKH OIL, GAS FIND

The Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC), which is composed of nine international oil companies, officially confirmed on 24 July that its first test well has located substantial reserves of oil and gas at Kazakhstan's East Kashagan field, the "Wall Street Journal" reported. Kazakh officials have suggested that East Kashagan is one of the largest fields discovered in recent decades. An OKIOC spokesman said the oil is of good quality, although it contains some hydrogen sulfide. OKIOC will drill a second test well later this year. LF

TAJIK MINISTER EVALUATES CRIMES FIGURES

Tajikistan's Interior Minister Khumdin Sharipov told a session of the ministry's board on 21 July that the percentage of crimes solved during the first six months of 2000 was up 7.1 percent on the corresponding period in 1999, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The percentage of serious crimes solved rose by 6.7 percent and economic crimes 15.6 percent. Police confiscated 260 tons of contraband aluminum destined for illegal export and intercepted 600 kilograms of drugs, including 300 kilograms of heroin. The published account of Sharipov's address did not reveal any comparative data on the number of crimes actually committed throughout Tajikistan. In Dushanbe, however, 2,565 crimes were committed between January and June 2000, which is an increase of 295 over the first six months of the previous year, according to Interior Ministry data cited by Asia Plus-Blitz on 19 July. But at the same time, serious crimes fell by 22.1 percent. Sharipov nonetheless criticized the Dushanbe police force's failure to stem economic crime and drug-trafficking. LF

TURKMENISTAN RULES OUT DISCUSSION OF CASPIAN AT CIS SUMMIT

Turkmenistan's Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said on 24 July that his country will not take part in any discussion of Caspian issues to which Iran is not also invited, Russian agencies reported. At the same time, Shikhmuradov rejected the proposal floated by Russian diplomatic sources to convene a discussion of the Caspian, to which Iranian President Mohammad Khatami would be invited, during the October CIS summit in Minsk. Shikhmuradov said the Caspian issue is "too big" to be discussed at such a forum. He noted that Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has advocated convening a special summit of Caspian littoral states. LF




LUKASHENKA'S TOP AIDE SAYS BATURYN'S CASE STAGED BY OPPOSITION...

Mikhail Myasnikovich, head of the presidential administration, told Interfax on 22 July that the case of former police officer Aleh Baturyn (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2000) was staged by the Belarusian opposition "with direct assistance from foreign sponsors." Myasnikovich said the case demonstrated that "the so-called abductions of opposition politicians in Belarus are simply sabotage staged by the forces opposing the political course pursued by the Belarusian leadership." However, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman said on 24 July that the authorities have no evidence that foreign special services were involved in Baturyn's transfer from Warsaw to Minsk. Meanwhile, the same day Belarusian Television quoted Yauhen Novikau, whom it described as a human right activist, as saying that U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Daniel Speckhard was personally involved in Baturyn's case, which Novikau described as a "provocation against [Belarus's] prestige." JM

...WHILE OPPOSITION LEADER SUGGESTS OTHERWISE

Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 24 July that the cases of Aleh Baturyn and Russian Public Television (ORT) cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski "have certain traits of planned scenarios that in terms of their scale and provocative content exceed those [scenarios] carried out by the Lukashenka regime earlier." Vyachorka added that either the regime has now acquired more experienced advisers or the current "cynical scenarios" are prepared by advisers from Russia. JM

ORT JOURNALISTS DENY CONCEALING INFORMATION ABOUT MISSING COLLEAGUE

ORT journalists Pavel Sheremet and Dmitrii Novozhilov have denied the allegation by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that ORT is concealing information about the disappearance of ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2000). They said all information obtained by ORT in Zavadski's case was immediately passed on to Belarusian investigators. Sheremet added that he will arrive in Minsk on 25 July with an ORT "investigation team" to look for Zavadski in Belarus. Citing unofficial sources, Belapan reported that Belarus's prosecutors intend to launch a criminal case against Sheremet for slander. Sheremet earlier said that Belarus's special services and Lukashenka personally are responsible for Zavadski's disappearance. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PLANS TO COUNTER 'FALL FARCE'

The Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces has resolved to oppose this fall's parliamentary elections in Belarus with joint anti-regime actions, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 24 July. Anatol Lyabedzka, Vintsuk Vyachorka, and Uladzimir Nistsyuk told journalists that the 15 October elections, which they described as a "fall farce," will be neither free nor democratic. They said that in the fall, the opposition will conduct a poll among voters on the four requirements by the opposition and the international community to democratize the electoral process in Belarus: opposition access to the state media, democratizing the electoral code, expanding the legislature's powers, and stopping political persecution in the country. The opposition will also stage street protests in Belarusian cities to coincide with the election campaign. JM

KUCHMA ORDERS ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES FOR CRIMEA'S NAVIES

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who is currently vacationing in Crimea, made a surprise trip to Yalta during which he ordered that electricity supplies be restored to the Crimea-based naval forces of Ukraine and Russia, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 24 July. The navies' electricity supplies were cut off because earlier deliveries had not been paid for. Kuchma was also displeased by high entrance fees to Yalta beaches and ordered his aides to draft an executive order allowing disabled persons, war veterans, pensioners, Yalta residents, and children to use beaches free of charge. JM

ONLY 5 PERCENT OF UKRAINE'S NUCLEAR ENERGY PAID FOR IN CASH

The National Nuclear Energy Company "Enerhoatom" reported on 24 July that Ukraine's five nuclear power plants produced 3.18 billion hryvni ($585 million) worth of electricity and heating in the first six months of this year but only 5 percent of that energy was paid for in cash. Some 75 percent of the power generated by Ukraine's nuclear plants is sold on barter terms or used to reduce the nuclear energy industry's debts. As of 1 July, consumers owed the country's nuclear plants 2.66 billion hryvni for energy supplies. JM

ESTONIAN, LATVIAN OPPOSITION JOIN FORCES TO OPPOSE PRIVATIZATION...

The parliamentary opposition in Estonia and Latvia, after meeting in Parnu on 24 July, announced the formation of a joint working group for energy issues, which apparently is aimed at opposing the privatization of both countries' power sectors. The head of Estonia's Center Party, Edgar Savisaar, appeared to betray anti-US sentiments when he said, " It was a surprise to me that U.S. interests are coming to the fore not only in the privatization of the Narva power plants but strongly in Latvia as well," BNS reported. Estonia's ruling coalition said that although a special session of the parliament has been called for 25 July to discuss the sale of the country's power plants to the U.S. company NRG Energy, they will not participate in the session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2000). Earlier a letter signed by Estonia's opposition accused U.S. officials of heavy-handedness, charging that "the initiative of those officials has in our opinion gone by far beyond their official duties." MH

...WHILE LATVIAN ANTI-PRIVATIZATION PETITION SUCCEEDS

The Central Election Commission announced on 24 July that signatures from 307,330, or 22.9 percent of eligible voters have been collected in a petition campaign against the privatization of power utility Latvenergo. The petition supported a draft bill that would end the restructuring and privatization of the power utility, BNS reported. If the parliament amends or defeats the bill supported by the petition drive, the issue would go to a referendum. The support of at least 10 percent of the electorate is necessary to force the parliament to adopt the bill or face a referendum. The People's Party, a member of the ruling coalition, has proposed new legislation that would continue the restructuring of Latvenergo but stop the privatization process. MH

ESTONIAN CENSUS SHOWS DRAMATIC DECREASE IN POPULATION

The Statistics Department on 24 July announced that the preliminary results of the recent census shows that the population of Estonia totaled only 1,370,500 as of 31 March 2000, BNS reported. This represents a drop of more than 200,000 people since the last census, which was taken in 1989. MH

WOMEN ADMITTED TO LITHUANIAN MILITARY ACADEMY

The General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy confirmed on 24 July that among the 145 cadets accepted for the upcoming academic year, nine are women, ELTA reported. There were 540 applicants in all, of whom 62 were women. This is the first year the military academy has admitted women. MH

POLAND TO FOCUS ON CONCLUDING EU MEMBERSHIP NEGOTIATIONS

Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski said in Brussels on 24 July that Poland is more concerned about wrapping up membership negotiations on individual chapters than being given a precise date for joining the EU, Polish Television reported. Bartoszewski added that Warsaw will do everything in its power to be ready for EU membership by 2003. He noted that a special legislative committee set up last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2000) will speed up the reforms needed to bring Poland's laws into line with EU regulations. "The track is still the same, but the train will move faster," AP quoted Bartoszewski as saying. "I'm very optimistic that [Poland's] backlog in legislation will be overcome soon," EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen responded. JM

RUSSIA SHRUGS OFF POLAND'S REFUSAL TO BUILD GAS PIPELINE BYPASSING UKRAIN

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told Interfax on 24 July that Poland's refusal to build a gas pipeline on its territory enabling Russian gas to bypass Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 July 2000) "will not upset Russia's plans to create a risk-free system of supplying gas to Europe. Europe consists not only of Poland, but also of Germany, Italy, and France," Khristenko noted. He went on to say that European countries are interested in ensuring stable supplies of Russian gas, which is now frequently siphoned off by Ukraine. Commentators say Khristenko's statement suggests that European countries dependent on Russian gas might side with Moscow and press Poland to change its stance. JM

ROMA HOLD INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS IN PRAGUE

Some 250 delegates and guests are attending the Fifth World International Romany Union Congress (IRU) in Prague from 25- 27 July. The meeting is taking place at RFE/RL headquarters in the Czech capital, and the agenda includes the election of a new IRU parliament, approval of new IRU statutes, and discussion of issues such as compensation for the Roma victims of the Holocaust, the situation of Roma in Kosova, and migration among Roma. MS

U.S. WARNS PRAGUE OVER JEWISH CEMETERY...

U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic John Shattuck has warned Culture Minister Pavel Dostal that the failure to implement the agreement reached with the Jewish Community over a medieval Jewish cemetery in Prague will affect the Czech Republic's international relations and have "business repercussions" for that country. Culture Ministry spokeswoman Dita Fuchsova on 24 July said the ambassador urged Dostal to meet with representatives of the community to discuss the matter. The Jewish community says the Ceska Pojistovna insurance company is continuing to build on the site of the cemetery without honoring the agreement that graves discovered when the construction started will be encased in cement. MS

...BUT CULTURE MINISTER REJECTS WARNING

Dostal responded to Shattuck's warning by saying that "public opinion would not understand how a cemetery abolished in 1478 could influence relations between the two countries." He also said the insurance company is not violating the law or the government's decision to recognize the site as one of "cultural heritage," which means the state is obliged to preserve cultural monuments. He also emphasized that the cabinet has earmarked a large sum for the implementation of the agreement to encase the graves in cement and has been "more than obliging" toward the Jewish community. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told CTK that the ministry "is of course taking into account the opinion of the U.S., but this is an internal Czech affair." MS

SLOVAK MINISTER SAYS LEXA'S ESCAPE PROVES SUCCESS OF INVESTIGATION

Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner on 24 July told journalists that the escape abroad of former Slovak Intelligence Service chief Ivan Lexa is in itself proof that investigators have successfully solved the case of the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995, CTK reported. Pittner said it "cannot be ruled out" that Lexa managed to escape "with the help of the Russian mafia," but he added that "we do not know to what extent he was helped by the underworld and who precisely helped him." He also said Lexa is now in a country "from which there will be no problem to have him extradited." Reports in the Slovak media said Lexa is in Grenada and that he arrived there via Russia and Cuba. MS

HUNGARIAN ROMA SEEK ASYLUM IN FRANCE

A group of 50 Roma, including 27 children, from the Hungarian village of Zamoly arrived in Strasbourg on 24 July to seek political asylum, Hungarian media reported. Jozsef Kraszna, a spokesman for the group, said they are constantly harassed in Hungary and do not feel safe because of their origins. He said the group considers France a temporary refuge and that its final destination is Canada. Florian Farkas, head of the Gypsy Authority, said the group's action damages the country's reputation as most Roma do not consider it necessary to emigrate. MSZ

SOCIALISTS PROPOSE POST OF MEDIATOR WITH ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ABROAD

Socialist deputy parliamentary group leader Csaba Tabajdi said on 24 July that his party will propose the creation of the post of "mediator" with ethnic Hungarians abroad. Tabajdi criticized the government for its foreign and minority policies, which he described as "marked by overheated and ineffective pro-Hungarian rhetoric." He also said that the government is dividing Hungarians abroad by openly supporting a radical group within the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. MSZ




YUGOSLAV ARMY CLOSES MONTENEGRIN-ALBANIAN FRONTIER

Local Albanian police chief Zija Hasa said in Shkoder on 24 July that Yugoslav army troops have recently turned back at least 300 Albanians at the Bozaj border crossing because they had no Yugoslav visas, which Hasa called "a pretext," Reuters reported. He said that the Yugoslav army recently increased its presence in the border area. Montenegrin and Albanian authorities previously agreed not to require visas for cross- border traffic. The Yugoslav embassy in Tirana, which normally issues visas, has been closed since 1998. In the Albanian capital, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sokol Gjoka said that "this is a closure of Montenegro to Albanians," adding that "Belgrade wants to keep fires burning in the Balkans." PM

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER SAYS ARMY NOT 'LEGITIMATE'

Outspoken Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan told "Vijesti" of 25 July that the army has long ceased to be "legitimate." He said that Belgrade has used the army for the past two years to undermine the Montenegrin authorities. PM

KOSOVA LEADERS CALL FOR END TO VIOLENCE

Meeting in Washington, several leading personalities from Kosova agreed on the need to halt all violence in the province. The leaders included Bishop Artemije, Father Sava, and Slavica Ristic from the Serbian community and Ibrahim Rugova and Hashim Thaci from the Albanians, the BBC's Serbian Service reported on 25 July. PM

BELGRADE SEEKS TO PREVENT SERBS FROM REGISTERING IN KOSOVA

Jeff Fischer, who heads the OSCE's voter registration task force in Kosova, said that fewer than 1 percent of eligible Serbs registered to vote because the Belgrade authorities had pressured them not to do so. He added that the forms of intimidation included threats of legal prosecution should registered voters visit Serbia, arrest on espionage charges, possible violence, and suspension of pensions, London's "The Independent" reported on 25 July. Daan Everts, who is the OSCE's chief representative in Kosova, noted that "it is in the interest of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic to suppress any involvement of the Serb community in Kosovo with the democratic process." Everts also noted that about 1 million ethnic Albanians registered, which he called a "spectacular success." PM

PANIC SEES INDEPENDENT EX-YUGOSLAV REPUBLICS TOGETHER IN EUROPE

Former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic told the Rijeka daily "Novi List" of 25 July that he strongly supports Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, whom he called "our hope." Panic added that he favors independence for Kosova "but within a united Europe in which borders are no longer important. Now the most important issue is to get rid of the extremists on both sides" in that province. He predicted that bonds would become close between Serbia and Croatia once both join the EU because "they are more linked by love than by hate." PM

SERBIAN JOURNALIST GOES ON TRIAL FOR 'ESPIONAGE'

The trial of Miroslav Filipovic for "espionage and spreading false news" began in a military court in Nis on 25 July, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). He works for the independent daily "Danas" and freelances for AFP and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting. His lawyer has repeatedly stressed that Filipovic always signed all his articles, including those on military affairs and anti-military protests. Numerous international human rights and journalists' organizations have condemned the trial as a farce aimed at intimidating journalists. PM

RFE/RL JOURNALISTS: 'WE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK'

Several correspondents for RFE/RL's South Slavic Service told a press conference in Nis that they will continue to do their jobs, despite recent threats from Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic against them (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 July 2000). Belgrade bureau chief Milica Lucic-Cavic stressed that the real reason that the government opposes the station is that it is the foreign broadcaster with the largest audience in Serbia, namely 14 percent of the total population, "Danas" reported. She rejected Matic's charges that the station is a "propaganda arm" of U.S. foreign policy, adding that she and her colleagues do not consider themselves propagandists for anyone. PM

MILOSEVIC FOR ANOTHER NINE YEARS?

Both houses of the federal parliament approved new electoral legislation on 24 July. The measures are aimed at bringing the law code into line with recent constitutional amendments designed to allow Milosevic to stay in office for eight more years after his current term ends in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 July 2000). Opposition legislator Vladeta Jankovic told AP that the ruling parties are treating Milosevic like "a deity in primitive religions." Elsewhere, opposition leaders on 25 July are discussing whether to participate in the widely expected elections and, if so, who will run against Milosevic. Recent polls show that he is the most popular single candidate, receiving the support of about 15 percent of respondents. Most leading opposition candidates stand at about 6 percent. Serbian polls usually show a large percentage of undecided respondents. PM

SERBIAN COMPANIES WANT EU TO TAKE THEM OFF 'WHITE LIST'

Representatives of eight companies told the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce on 24 July that they want the EU to remove their names from its list of 189 companies exempt from sanctions lest they be regarded in Serbia as "NATO collaborators," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2000). All eight companies have majority foreign capital, and some of them do much of their business with the EU. They are Pitura, Tehnogas, Milsped, Saga, VF-TEL-Siemens, Auto Nena, Korpus, and Petro-Farma. PM

EVICTIONS OF MUSLIMS BEGIN AMID TIGHT SECURITY

Bosnian Muslim police, assisted by UN police and SFOR, began evicting Muslim squatters from Serbian homes in the Maglaj area on 24 July (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 July 2000). Foreign Islamic fighters will be last of the squatters to be evicted, Reuters reported. One of the foreign-born men now married to a Bosnian wife said that he bought his house legally from a Serb and than many other ex-fighters have bought enough land in the area to build homes for "35 families." He stressed that he has no intention of giving up property that he legally owns. PM

MUSLIM, U.S. OFFICIALS CONDEMN ARSON IN SREBRENICA

The U.S. embassy issued a statement on 24 July condemning the apparent arson attacks on three Muslim-owned homes in the Srebrenica area in the previous three days. The statement added that as a result of these incidents, "five houses [have been] burned in eight days, 10 in the past month," Reuters reported. Muslim Mayor Nesib Mandzic noted the attacks were meant to intimidate Muslims from going home, adding that in any case "we will continue with reconstruction and returns." PM

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER TO BOSNIA

Ivica Racan will arrive in Mostar on 27 July. His visit is aimed at underscoring the change in Croatia's Bosnian policy since the new government took office at the beginning of the year, "Jutarnji list" reported on 25 July. He will examine the ruins of the historical stone bridge that Croatian gunners destroyed in November 1993 and discuss Croatian aid in restoring it. PM

NO BAILOUT FOR CROATIAN SOCCER CLUBS

Finance Minister Matko Crkvenac rejected a suggestion that the government write off $72 million in debts for four soccer clubs, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Zagreb on 24 July. The teams are Dinamo, Hajduk, Rijeka, and Osijek. Dinamo and Hajduk are bitter rivals and the two best-known teams in the country. PM

PROSECUTORS QUESTION FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER OVER YUGOSLAV EMBARGO BREACH

Nicolae Vacaroiu told prosecutors in Bucharest on 24 July that all Romanian oil exports to Yugoslavia in 1994-1995 complied with UN Security Council restrictions. He said those exports were intend to keep in operation Yugoslavia's power grid and its power plant at the Iron Gates along the River Danube. Vacaroiu said he has no knowledge of the 1,000 tanker trucks that departed from the western town of Jimbolia to Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. His government had claimed at the time that only private individuals had engaged in oil smuggling, but media reports comment that 1,000 tanker trucks could not possibly have left the country without the authorities' knowledge. The investigation started in 1997, when Vacaroiu's cabinet was no longer in power. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS POSTPONEMENT OF ELECTIONS

Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) chairman Ion Iliescu on 24 July rejected the proposal that parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall be postponed for three months, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The constitution provides for postponing general elections, but not the presidential ballot. Media outlets have proposed delaying the elections, suggesting that the election campaign would impede the parliamentary debate on the country's 2001 budget. Iliescu said he had written to Premier Mugur Isarescu warning against postponing the vote. He emphasized that the cabinet and the outgoing parliament have sufficient time to meet the 1 November deadline for the budget's approval. Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor also rejected the idea, while speakers for the ruling coalition were more ambivalent, saying there are grounds both to favor a postponement and to oppose it. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TO PROMULGATE PARLIAMENTARY REPUBLIC LAW

Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea on 24 July told journalists that President Petru Lucinschi will promulgate "within a few days" the law transforming Moldova into a parliamentary republic. On 21 July, the legislature overrode Lucinschi's veto of the law, which means he must now sign the legislation within two weeks. Golea also said the parliament must debate by 13 January 2001 Lucinschi's initiative for holding a plebiscite on a law providing for the presidential powers to be increased. Lucinschi's mandate ends on 15 January 2001. MS

TRANSDNIESTER GROUP DECLARES ITSELF BRANCH OF RUSSIA'S UNITY PARTY

A group of Transdniester businessmen have set up a branch of Russia's Unity party, a Tiraspol correspondent for the Flux agency reported on 24 July. Local media reports said Unity parliamentary group deputies in the Russian State Duma participated in the founding congress of Unity-Transdniester. The 322 delegates said Unity-Transdniester will form "a bridge between Moscow and Tiraspol." Tiraspol Supreme Soviet deputy Viktor Belitchenko appealed to the Russian guests to "show courage and recognize the Transdniester." The Duma deputies told the delegates that "Russians can now count on their country's help, no matter where they live." MS




WHY THE WEST DOESN'T AND WON'T INVEST IN RUSSIA


By Victor Yasmann

A new book entitled "Why Russia Is Not America," by Andrei Parshev, has caused a sensation among intellectuals in Moscow. Published by Moscow's pro- Communist publishing house "Krymskii-Most-9D" and on several Internet sites, it has been hotly discussed in Web forums ranging from the one maintained by liberal Anatolii Chubais to the "Moskovskii komsomolets" electronic club. It has also appeared on dozens of nationalist and anti-Western Websites.

Parshev's book has attracted attention because the author considers Russian economic problems in terms of the paradigm of the emerging world market, something few other Russian writers have done. He begins by rejecting the ideas of nostalgic pro-Soviet economists who continue to believe in Russia's uniqueness as well as those of reformers who see Russia's problems in the incompleteness of its transition to capitalism.

In fact, Parshev notes, both those groups assume that the West want to buy up Russian assets, which the first sees as something bad for Russia and the second as something very good. But they are both wrong, Parshev suggests. And he argues that Russian investors actually have little interest in making such purchases because Russian assets are mostly unprofitable.

According to Parshev, the decisive indicator of the success potential of a national economy is the competitiveness of its goods and services, not their quality and certainly not their uniqueness. And this competitiveness is defined entirely by the ratio between the world price and the local production costs. Unfortunately for Russia, Parshev continues, those costs are far higher on its territory than those virtually anywhere else, reflecting the country's size and harsh climate.

In this context, he cites the conclusions of Chubais's former deputy, Alfred Kokh, who said that foreign investors will find no profit in either the production or the export of Russia's mineral wealth: "For the West it is not profitable to recover oil in Siberia, as long as there is Kuwait. There you just moor a tanker at the seashore and you can pump the oil practically directly into it. Nor is it profitable to transport coal from the Kusbass, if it can be delivered by sea from Australia. There, coal deposits are located virtually on the shore so that you load the ship directly from coal conveyor."

Kokh continues, "Timber is best obtained not from the Yenisei but from the Amazon, which does not freeze and provides better access.... Of cause if we recover all our resources and deliver them to the market, they will fetch the world price. But recovery and delivery of our natural resources cost more than anywhere else in the world... Our Western partners agree to use mines and oil fields founded in the Soviet era, but they are not willing to create new production facilities. Unfortunately, they are not fools. It is simply too expensive."

Elsewhere in his book, Parshev cites the conclusion of liberal Russian economist Vladimir Anrianov that Russian industrial production costs are far higher than anywhere else: 2.8 times those of Japan, 2.7 times those of the United States, and 2.3 times those of Western European countries.

Parshev then concludes that "we have nothing the West badly wants. Everything we have is either almost exhausted or separated from us, together with [Kazakh President Nursultan] Nazarbaev, or costs too much to recover. Those who think that our decline can be limited if we transform ourselves into a raw materials supplier to the West are incorrigible optimists."

"Enough [of such] illusions, comrades patriots," says Parshev. "We can exist as a source of raw materials only for another five to six years. But even our pensioners are planning to live a little longer than that."

The author is a senior fellow with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC.


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