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Newsline - July 26, 2000




SENATORS VOTE TO DISSOLVE UPPER HOUSE

Despite predictions to the contrary, members of the Federation Council voted overwhelmingly on 26 July to pass the compromise bill reforming the upper house. The vote was 119 votes in favor with 18 against and four abstentions, Interfax reported. Federation Council members had originally rejected the legislation and a conciliatory commission composed of members of both houses worked to forge a bill acceptable to all legislators (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000). Under the legislation, each member of the Federation Council will be replaced by two permanent representatives, one named by each region's legislature and another appointed by its executive branch. The new representatives will be dismissed in the same way as they are selected. The bill requires that the new upper house be in place by 1 January 2002. After this date, the current members of the Federation Council who are not members of local legislatures will lose their immunity from criminal prosecution. JAC

PROTESTS GROW IN FAR EAST...

Primorskii Krai's chief power supplier, Dalenergo, announced on 25 July that while the energy situation in the krai remains difficult, it improved significantly on 25 July, Interfax reported. Dalenergo chief engineer Dmitrii Tarasov said that as a result of the electricity cut-offs, over the past several days some energy consumers had paid off in cash some 5 million rubles ($180,000) of debts. However, a rally was held outside Dalenergo's headquarters on 26 July to protest the large- scale power cuts, Interfax reported. According to the agency, some 100 people attended the rally. Earlier in the week, protestors in Nakhodka blocked a highway in a similar protest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). JAC

...AS SOME RESIDENTS PROTECTED FROM BLACKOUTS

Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported on 26 July that electricity blackouts have followed an unusual pattern in the city of Vladivostok. For example, a neighbor of Deputy Governor Konstantin Tolstoshein reports that while the city of Vladivostok has been affected by constant blackouts over at least the past three years, the electricity "never never goes off" at Tolstoshein's residence. Dalenergo spokesman Igor Popkov explained to the daily that the company "would have applied the blackouts more evenly, but the city administration gave us a plan, and according to this plan we can't turn off certain buildings, no matter what. That is why some citizens have electricity all the time, and some don't have it for many hours." JAC

NORTH KOREAN LEADER TO VISIT VLADIVOSTOK IN SEPTEMBER

"The Moscow Times" on 26 July quoted Russian Foreign Ministry and Primorskii Krai officials as saying that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will visit Vladivostok from 1-4 September. Kim's visit will reportedly take place at the invitation of Primore Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who accompanied President Vladimir Putin on his visit to Pyongyang last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000). In a newspaper interview cited by the Moscow daily, Nazdratenko underlined the importance of maintaining close ties with North Korea. "As a result of brainless politics," the governor said, "we literally abandoned this country... [and] nearly created an enemy on our borders. I am glad there has been a breakthrough in relations with North Korea and that Putin did it." JC

ALLEGED SPY FOR SOUTH KOREA TO HAVE SECOND DAY IN COURT

The Supreme Court on 25 July overturned a ruling by the Moscow City Court handing down a 12-year prison sentence to Valentin Moiseev, the former deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's First Asian Department. Moiseev had been found guilty of treason for passing Russian state secrets to South Korea over several years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1998 and 17 December 1999). But the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Security Service (FSB) had broken the law during its investigation into the case, and it ordered the Moscow City Court to organize a retrial under different judges. Moiseev, for his part, had said in his appeal to the Supreme Court that his testimony "confessing" to spying for South Korea had been dictated to him by FSB officers and that he had signed it under "psychological pressure." According to Interfax, Moiseev will remain in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison until his retrial. JC

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD OUTLAWS WAHHABISM

Meeting on 24 July with local Chechen administrators and imams, Akhmed- hadji Kadyrov issued a ban on religious groups and organizations that proselytize Wahhabism, Interfax and AP reported the following day. He ordered the closure of all mosques where Wahhabis congregate and of informal religious classes for children introduced last year in Chechen schools. In Moscow, Council of Muftis of Russia Chairman Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin praised Kadyrov's ruling, saying that his Chechen colleague acted "quite reasonably," ITAR-TASS reported. But the Sheikh added that no comparable measures should be taken at federal level before a clear definition of Wahhabism has been drawn up. Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov implied on 25 July that Kadyrov's decision violates federal legislation, but he added that Moscow understands the need for "emergency measures," Interfax reported. LF

BOKOVIKOV SAYS KADYROV-GANTEMIROV DISPUTE OVER

Lieutenant General Vladimir Bokovikov, who is presidential representative to South Russia Viktor Kazantsev's deputy, told journalists in Grozny on 25 July that last week's standoff between Kadyrov and his first deputy, Beslan Gantemirov, is definitely over. He added that Gantemirov will retain command of the Chechen militia. The following day, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhemsbkii said that Gantemirov has written to Russian Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov withdrawing his candidacy for the 20 August Chechen by-election to the Russian State Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. That information has not been independently confirmed. Meanwhile Kazantsev met in Moscow on 25 July with President Putin to discuss the socio- economic situation in South Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

FOREIGNERS RETURNING TO GKO MARKET?

Foreign investors have started to participate again in the market for short-term treasury bills, London's "Financial Times" reported on 25 July. Dmitrii Dmitriev, an analyst at the Moscow-based United Financial Group, told the daily that "foreigners are definitely coming back into the market." In response to increased demand, the Central Bank introduced an evening trading session aimed mainly at foreigners that is designed to help mitigate international time differences and facilitate "large trading." Vladimir Karmashov, deputy director of the Open Market Transaction Department at the Central Bank, told "Segodnya" three days earlier that the bank believes that "Western banks are ready to invest in the GKO market, though only for a short time and in small amounts." He added that before accepting a huge influx of funds, the Bank needs to establish a system of currency regulation and protect itself against the possible departure of non-residents from the market. JAC

ECONOMIC ADVISER SAYS RUSSIA WILL PAY ITS DEBTS IN FULL

Presidential economic adviser and envoy to the G-7 countries Andrei Illarionov confirmed on 24 July that Russia did not raise the issue of debt forgiveness at the G-8 summit last weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2000). Illarionov told reporters that the issue was never intended to be mentioned in any draft of the final communique, explaining that issues of this kind cannot be discussed by heads of state. He added that Russia is not interested in rescheduling its payments to the Paris Club because this would increase the total sum not lower it. "Russia has only one way to cut the debt and that is to pay it, there is no other way," Illarionov said. At the summit, Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder agreed to a rescheduling of Russia's Soviet-era debt to Germany, extending payments through 2016. JAC

ADMIRAL PROPOSES STATE-CONTROLLED STRATEGY FOR NAVY

Defending his doctoral dissertation in front of President Putin, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, and chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin, Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov argued that the country needs a "single state-controlled naval strategy" and that a "naval collegiate" should act as such a control body, Interfax reported on 25 July. "The Navy could justifiably expect an appropriate share of what is earmarked for the Russian armed forces," he said. Kuroedov also commented that funds from the federal budget should be allocated for a military ship-building program until 2010, and, bemoaning the current state of the navy as "dismal," he warned that Russia's fleet will be reduced to only 60 ships if it is not upgraded by 2016. Also on 25 July, Putin told a group of high-ranking military officers that it is vital for Russia to maintain the defense capability of its armed forces. JC

UNITY SPREADS ITS WINGS

A delegation of State Duma deputies from the Unity faction and other Unity members plan to attend the upcoming Republican Party convention in the U.S., ITAR- TASS reported on 25 July. In an interview with "Kommersant- Daily" the next day, Unity faction leader Boris Gryzhlov said that in addition to those attending the convention, delegation members will meet with governors, mayors, businessmen, and representatives of the current [presidential] administration." He added that Unity will also send a delegation to the Democratic Party convention and had previously sent a delegation to meet with representatives of China's Communist Party. Gryzhkov explained that Unity wants to meet not only with parties to which it feels "ideologically close" but also all "ruling" parties. Recently, a group of businessmen in the Transdniester area of Moldova announced that they had set up a branch of Russia's Unity party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). JAC

PUTIN TO BE PLANE-LESS IN PARIS?

One day after a Brest court ordered the release of a Russian tall ship seized amid a dispute between the Swiss trading company Noga and the Russian government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000), a lawyer for Noga announced that the company will "seize" the airplane of President Putin when he arrives in France on 30 October to take part in a EU summit, RIA reported on 25 July, as cited by the website lenta.ru. Noga claims that the Russian government owes it some $800 million and has been seeking court orders to have Russian property confiscated. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded "calmly" to the announcement, commenting only that the lawyer's "rude demarche...is hardly worth serious attention." JC

'ZVEZDA' AND SPACE STATION BECOME ONE

The Russian-built "Zvezda" service module linked up with the International Space Station on 26 July, some two weeks after the module was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2000). Russian financial difficulties delayed the completion of the $320 million module, which contains the station's flight controls, sewage system, and sleeping quarters. JC




ARMENIA ASSESSES POLITICAL IMPACT OF PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS

Constitutional Court Chairman Gagik Harutiunian on 25 July claimed that Armenia "was on the verge of chaos" following the shooting of eight officials in the parliament on 27 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said that existing power structures proved too weak to prevent a power vacuum and that only fate prevented further violence. But Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian was more upbeat, stressing that subsequent political developments did not violate the constitutional framework. Oskanian added that the appointment in May of Andranik Markarian as premier marked the end of the "transition phase" that began with the surrender of the five gunmen the day after the killings as well as the "restoration of stability." The two men were speaking at a round table jointly convened by the German Embassy and the daily newspaper "Azg," according to Armenpress. LF

KARABAKH PROSECUTOR REJECTS GENERAL'S DEMAND TO BE TRIED IN ARMENIA

The Prosecutor-General's Office of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic issued a statement on 25 July rejecting the demand by the enclave's former Defense Minister Samvel Babayan to be tried in an Armenian court, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Babayan is accused of masterminding the 22 March attempt to assassinate Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian. The statement said Babayan's demand is at odds with the enclave's criminal legislation, and it said his claims that he was twice beaten in detention are aimed at disorienting the public and casting doubts on the fairness of the investigation. LF

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS U.S. CRITICISM OF ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS

Azerbaijani presidential administration official Ali Hasanov said on 25 July that a U.S. State Department official's criticism the previous day of the Azerbaijani parliament's amendment of the law on the Central Electoral Commission constitutes "an effort to strengthen cooperation between the authorities and the opposition," Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 July 2000). But Hasanov added that the parliament had no choice but to enact those amendments as the opposition boycott of the commission's meetings had virtually precluded cooperation. He attributed that boycott to the "political ambitions" of unnamed members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front and Azerbaijan National Independence Party. Siyavush Novruzov, a leading member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party, said that to bow to the U.S. demand that the amendments be annulled would be tantamount to denying that Azerbaijan is an independent state. LF

RUSSIA BANS ENTRY TO TRUCKS FROM AZERBAIJAN

Russian border guards have stopped allowing trucks from Azerbaijan to cross into Russian territory, Turan reported on 25 July. Some 100 vehicles are currently stranded at the border between Azerbaijan and Daghestan. A senior Azerbaijani road transport official told the agency that the Russian side is demanding that all trucks entering the country be equipped with expensive modern tachometers that cannot be used in Soviet- era vehicles. LF

U.S. PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR GEORGIA

U.S. President Bill Clinton has responded to a letter from his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, by affirming support for Georgia's efforts to overcome its economic problems, eliminate corruption, and improve tax-collection, Caucasus Press reported on 25 July. Shevardnadze's foreign policy adviser Gela Charkviani said Clinton also pledged assistance in trying to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, according to AP. Interfax quoted the Georgian State Chancellery as saying that Clinton assured Shevardnadze that Washington is closely monitoring the situation in the Caucasus and the impact on Georgian-Russian relations of the war in Chechnya (see also "End Note"). LF

BALCEROWICZ TEAM ARRIVES IN GEORGIA

Former Polish Deputy Premier Leszek Balcerowicz and a team of economic experts arrived in Georgia on 25 July, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. They will undertake a preliminary study of the Georgian economy in preparation for Balcerowicz's assuming his duties as Shevardnadze's economic adviser next month. Speaking in Tbilisi on 24 July, former Georgian Premier Tengiz Sigua predicted that Balcerowicz will be hard-pressed to repeat in Georgia the "economic miracle" he achieved in Poland, Caucasus Press reported. Sigua pointed out that the shadow economy in Poland accounted for only 15-20 percent of GDP, as compared with 70 percent in Georgia. Former Georgian Economy Minister Lado Papava, for his part, termed Shevardnadze's decision to engage Balcerowicz "insulting." But Shevardnadze argues that Balcerowicz's acceptance of the post demonstrates that "Georgia is not a hopeless case." LF

GEORGIAN INSURGENT LEADER BURIED

The family of Akaki Eliava buried the slain colonel on 25 July, 16 days after he died at the hands of Georgian security officials, Caucasus Press reported. Eliava's relatives had earlier said they would bury him only after the Georgian authorities released three of his lieutenants whom they apprehended on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 24 July 2000). Eliava's supporters will launch mass protests if those men are not released within three weeks, opposition parliamentary deputy Elizbar Djavelidze told Caucasus Press. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S CABINET NEGOTIATES RESUMPTION OF WATER SUPPLIES

Water supplies from Kyrgyzstan to southern Kazakhstan have been resumed following talks last week between the governments of the two countries, Interfax reported on 25 July. Rasul Zhumaly, who is Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev's press spokesman, told journalists in Astana that Kyrgyzstan agreed to resume water supplies in accordance with a bilateral agreement signed last year, while Kazakhstan in return will supply coal to Kyrgyzstan. It is not clear whether similar talks with Tajikistan were likewise successful (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2000). LF

PROSECUTOR DEMANDS EIGHT YEARS' IMPRISONMENT FOR KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER

At the trial of opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov, the prosecutor has demanded an eight- year prison sentence for the defendant, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 25 July. Kulov went on trial last month by a closed military court on charges of abuse of his official position while serving in the early1990s as security minister. LF

KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF HARASSMENT

Speaking at a press conference in Vienna on 25 July, Ramazan Dyryldaev, who is chairman of the Human Rights Committee of Kyrgyzstan, accused the Kyrgyz authorities of trying to silence his organization in the runup to the 29 October presidential poll, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The Human Rights Committee's Bishkek offices were temporarily sealed by police last week, trapping a committee staffer on the premises. Kyrgyz police last week also issued a warrant for Dyryldaev's arrest and detained his son Almaz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2000). International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights executive director Aaron Rhodes said the Kyrgyz authorities' move against the committee was unjustified. He said that neither human rights activists nor the media are part of the political opposition in Kyrgyzstan. "They're simply trying to do their jobs as professionals, analyzing the situation," Rhodes said. LF

TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE RESOLVE GAS DEBT DISPUTE

During talks in Ashgabat on 25 July with visiting Ukrainian Deputy Premier Yuliya Timoshenko, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov agreed to extend by two years the deadline for repayment of Kyiv's restructured debt for deliveries of natural gas in 1993-1994, Interfax reported. One third of the total $211 million debt must be paid in cash before the end of 2002, and the remainder in goods and services for Turkmenistan's oil and gas sector. In addition, before the end of this year Ukraine will pay $27 million out of a total $107 million owed to Turkmenistan by Naftohaz Ukrainy. It is not clear whether agreement was also reached on further Ukrainian purchases of Turkmen gas or when deliveries, which were halted in May 1999, will be resumed. LF

UZBEKISTAN SOLICITS TEXTBOOKS FOR ETHNIC MINORITIES

The Uzbek cabinet has written to the Education Ministries of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan requesting consignments of textbooks in those languages for use in Uzbek schools where the language of instruction is that of one of those countries, Interfax reported on 25 July. In return, Uzbekistan has offered to provide Uzbek-language text books for Uzbek communities in neighboring states. The exchange of text books is to be partly financed by foreign loans, including $20 million from the Asian Development Bank. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION SNUBS ROUND TABLE ON ELECTIONS...

The seven opposition parties grouped in the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces did not take part in the 25 July round table on this fall's parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported. The opposition parties said they welcome the authorities' round-table initiative but would prefer to participate in a meeting that is broadcast live, "given the many instances of distortion by the state media of the stance of opposition parties, tendentious reporting [by those media], and the authorities' recently launched campaign to discredit opposition political parties and a number of public organizations." "This round table was held not to inform the electorate about our stance but to tick off [another campaign item by the authorities] and present it to the Council of Europe," opposition leader Anatol Lyabedzka told RFE/RL. JM

...WHILE PRO-REGIME PARTIES SAY THEY ARE HAPPY ABOUT BALLOT

The pro-government leftist parties that attended the 25 July round table said they will participate in the 15 October elections to the Chamber of Representatives. They praised the country's electoral code, called for consolidation of all "healthy forces" in Belarus, and condemned the opposition to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The only dissonance at the forum stemmed from Syarhey Kalyakin, leader of the Belarusian Party of Communists. Kalyakin said his party has decided to take part in this fall's elections, but he added that the situation in Belarus does not provide for a democratic, fair, and transparent ballot. "Generally speaking, today's atmosphere in society is that of fear and repression by the authorities of dissent in the country," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Kalyakin as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PLEDGES TO PAY PENSION BACKLOG BY OCTOBER

Viktor Yushchenko on 25 July said the government will pay all pension debts by 1 October, three months earlier than the cabinet promised in February, Interfax reported. "The government has received a direct order from President Leonid Kuchma...who has set the task of putting an end to this shameful phenomenon," Yushchenko noted. According to figures released by Yushchenko earlier this month, the state owed a total of 1.45 billion hryvni ($268 million) as of 1 January, and only 32 percent of Ukraine's pensioners had been paid in full. As of 1 July, 62 percent had received full payments, but the government still owed some 850 million hryvni to pensioners. JM

UKRAINE TO REQUIRE FOREIGN PASSPORTS FOR TRAVEL TO RUSSIA, BELARUS

Viktor Kyryk, head of the Consular Department at the Foreign Ministry, has announced that people traveling between Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus will require passports in the near future, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 25 July. Kyryk noted that this requirement is intended to reinforce control over the border. Currently, there is no formal passport control at Ukraine's borders with Belarus and Russia, and Ukrainians can visit those countries using only internal passports or other identity cards. JM

U.S. JUDGE DENIES BAIL FOR UKRAINIAN EX-PREMIER

A U.S. judge on 25 July denied bail for former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko, who is in a federal prison outside San Francisco and is accused of money-laundering. The judge said Lazarenko might attempt to flee the country rather than stand trial on charges of laundering the $114 million that he allegedly received in bribes while serving as Ukraine's prime minister. JM

ESTONIAN SPECIAL PARLIAMENT SESSION LACKS QUORUM

An extraordinary session of the parliament on 25 July failed to produce a quorum. Only 47 members of the parliament's opposition showed up, four members short of the 51 needed for an extraordinary session, ETA reported. The ruling coalition boycotted the session, which was called on an opposition initiative to debate the government's plan to sell a minority stake in the country's main power plants to the U.S. company NRG Energy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). The parliament was picketed by about 1,000 people protesting the deal with NRG. Prime Minister Mart Laar commented that the "opposition's hysterical populism found no popular support and that's why not very many people turned out for the demonstration," BNS added. MH

MILITARY SERVICE SHORTENED IN ESTONIA

The Estonian government on 25 July approved shortening the military conscription period from 12 months to eight months for regular service. However, the training period is 11 months for those choosing the navy or the border guards or seeking specialist training in areas such as information and communications technologies. MH

POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES BILL TO OVERHAUL STATE RAILWAYS...

The Sejm on 25 July voted by 222 to 186 with 10 abstentions to endorse a bill aimed at improving the situation of the heavily indebted State Railways (PKP), Polish media reported. The bill calls for dividing the PKP into smaller companies, restructuring its $1.4 billion debt, and reducing its workforce from 185,000 to 145,000 by 2002. Transport Minister Jerzy Widzyk said the bill is necessary to help the PKP adjust to free-market rules and prepare the company for privatization. JM

...REJECTS PROBE INTO PRESIDENT'S ALLEGED MISUSE OF FUNDS

The same day, the parliament rejected a motion to investigate the alleged mismanagement of funds by Aleksander Kwasniewski when he was head of the communist- era Committee for Youth and Sport from 1987-90. On the basis of press reports, a group of Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) lawmakers alleged that Kwasniewski granted special-term loans to companies headed by high-ranking communist officials and funneled money intended for tourist development to unrelated firms. The motion was opposed by the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance and the Freedom Union, the AWS's former coalition partner. The latter said such probes are the responsibility of prosecutors rather than of the parliament. JM

FRANCE TELECOM BUYS $4.3 BILLION STAKE IN POLAND'S COMMUNICATIONS GIANT

A consortium led by France Telecom has purchased a 35 percent stake in Poland's Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. (TPSA) communication giant. Commentators say the deal, worth more than $4.3 billion, is one of the largest privatization purchases in post-communist Eastern Europe. TPSA is Poland's third-largest company and retains a near monopoly on phone services in the country. France Telecom will obtain a 25 percent stake, while Kulczyk Holding S.A., owned by Polish billionaire Jan Kulczyk, will have 10 percent of shares. JM

CZECH POLITICIANS WELCOME VERHEUGEN STATEMENT

Most Czech politicians have welcomed a statement by EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen saying that in its 2000 report on candidate countries, the commission intends to address the issue of the continued influence of former Communists on the economy. Verheugen said on 24 July that in almost all candidate countries there are "harmful links between the old political structures, which can be called the nomenklatura..., and the new economic structures," CTK reported. Parliamentary Deputy Marek Benda of the Civic Democratic Party said he is glad that the "EU is finally waking up...after being silent for 10 years." Vojcech Filip, leader of the communist parliamentary group in the Chamber of Deputies, said "now we shall discover that the money does not come from the previous regime, but from fraud under the new regime." MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DELAYS DEBATE ON LEXA'S IMMUNITY LIFTING

Parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas said on 25 July that the earliest date at which the parliament can convene to debate a request to lift the immunity of fugitive former Slovak Intelligence Chief Ivan Lexa is 20 August. Migas said most deputies are now on vacation and the legislature would thus lack the necessary quorum for such a debate. Police have asked the parliament to lift Lexa's immunity in order to issue an international arrest warrant against him. Migas also said the police's request was returned owing to "a technicality," explaining that the request must be signed by a judge, not by a police investigator, CTK reported. Lexa is suspected of involvement in the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995 and other offenses. MS

BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY URGES EU EXPANSION DATE

Robin Cook on 24 July told a conference of Hungarian ambassadors in Budapest that the EU should set firm target dates for completing accession talks with candidate countries. He said the EU must stick to its pledge to complete by 2003 the internal reforms needed to allow expansion. Cook also said that new members should not be expected to implement all the infrastructural reforms required by the EU before they join the union. "Britain will be a champion of enlargement throughout the negotiations," he said. MSZ

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL" Newsline incorrectly reported on 24 July that "journalist Attila Varga was taken into police custody in connection with a libel suit he filed against Gyula Balogh of the Independent Smallholders' Party." This should have read: "Journalist Attila Varga was taken into police custody in connection with a libel suit that Gyula Balogh of the Independent Smallholders' Party had filed against him."




CRISIS IN SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT

Some 70 out of 90 legislators voted on 25 July to keep a proportional system of voting in the parliamentary elections due in the fall. Voting for the proportional system were the opposition parties and the leading partner in the governing coalition, the People's Party (SLS/SDK). Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk, who is himself a member of the SLS/SDK, Janez Jansa's conservative Social Democrats, and the small National Party favored a majority voting system. Representatives of the two governing parties met the next day and agreed that their coalition agreement is dead, Reuters reported. The Social Democrats' spokeswoman accused the SLS/SDK of violating the coalition pact, which, she said, called for a "winner-take-all" majority voting system. She added, however, that the coalition will continue in office until the fall, stressing that "the main task of the...government is to continue Slovenia's preparations for [joining] the European Union, and this should not depend upon problems in internal politics." PM

NATO 'SENDS SIGNAL' FROM MACEDONIA

NATO's Supreme Commander Europe U.S. General Joseph Ralston visited three Macedonian army barracks on the border with Serbia on 25 July, dpa reported. He said that "it is important to send the signal to neighboring countries that Macedonia is tied to the [Atlantic] alliance." After meeting with President Boris Trajkovski and Defense Minister Nikola Kljusev, he pledged that NATO will do all it can to secure the border between Macedonia and Kosova, where there have been several incidents since the beginning of 2000. Ralston added that he expects "the Macedonian military to do the same" as NATO in guarding the frontier. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY REOPENS MONTENEGRIN-ALBANIAN FRONTIER

Federal troops pulled back to their former positions after briefly closing the Bozaj frontier between Albania and Podgorica, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). An unspecified number of Albanian citizens have meanwhile entered Montenegro without visas. In Belgrade, both houses of the federal parliament approved a hike of up to 50 percent in the sales tax to benefit the army. PM

NICE WORDS BUT NO PLEDGES FOR DJUKANOVIC

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in Berlin on 25 July that his government supports moves by Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic aimed at promoting democracy and market reforms. Fischer did not, however, make any concrete promises of assistance for his guest. For his part, Djukanovic pledged to avoid provoking Milosevic or doing anything that could lead to a new conflict. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION UNITED--ALMOST--FOR ELECTIONS

Representatives of most leading opposition parties agreed in Belgrade on 25 July to accept the recommendations of a committee of experts that they run joint lists of candidates in the local elections widely expected in the fall. The parties will decide whether to take part in the federal legislative and presidential elections after they meet with the Montenegrin leadership in the coming week, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic argued that Milosevic fears elections. Some observers suggested that Milosevic wants a vote shortly before a fresh round of hyperinflation sets in. Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement, which is the largest single opposition party, did not take part in the talks. Draskovic said in Athens that he refuses to give legitimacy to Milosevic's recent constitutional changes by taking part in the elections. On 26 July, "Blic" published the results of a recent poll suggesting that a united opposition could defeat Milosevic and his coalition. PM

FILIPOVIC DENIES 'ESPIONAGE' CHARGES

The attorney for journalist Miroslav Filipovic entered a plea of not guilty for his client in a Nis military court on 25 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). Among other things, Filipovic is charged with "spreading false information" by writing an article about atrocities committed by Serbian forces in Kosova in 1999. PM

VETERAN YUGOSLAV DIPLOMAT DIES

The funeral took place in Belgrade on 25 July of communist-era diplomat Dusan Strbac, "Danas" reported. During his long career, Strbac served as ambassador to the U.S. and to Italy and was given a top-level posting in Moscow. PM

KOSOVA SERBS PROTEST VOTING REGISTRATION

Several hundred Serbs demonstrated in Leposaviq on 25 July against the OSCE's recent voter registration drive as well as against the elections slated for the fall (see "RFR/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). AP reported that some Serbs in Leposaviq had wanted to register but that they were intimidated by pro-Belgrade hard- liners. PM

TENSE ATMOSPHERE IN NORTHEAST BOSNIA

Tensions continued in Janja on 26 July following a series of incidents between Serbs and returning Muslim residents. At least 10 people have been injured in the incidents in recent days, AP reported. PM

DODIK TO RUN AS MODERATE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Prime Minister Milorad Dodik will be the candidate of his Independent Social Democrats in the upcoming elections for Republika Srpska president. The moderate Sloga (Concord) coalition is expected to support him, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 July. PM

ALBANIAN PREMIER PLEDGES CRACKDOWN ON SMUGGLING

Ilir Meta said in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato on 25 July that his government will enact tougher legislation against smugglers operating between the two countries. The previous day, two Italian policemen were killed when an Albanian smuggler rammed his ship into the policemen's patrol boat. The incident has provoked outrage in Italy, where many consider Albania a source of crime, smuggling, and illegal immigrants, Reuters reported. Amato is due to visit Tirana on 28 July. PM

OPEN QUESTIONS ON ZAGREB SUMMIT

The EU's fall Balkan summit will include all former Yugoslav republics that have or aspire to have a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Brussels, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. These are Bosnia, Croatia, and Macedonia as well as neighboring Albania. It is not clear whether Montenegro or the Serbian opposition will be invited and, if so, in what capacity. Slovenia has expressed interest in attending, as have some other neighboring countries that are not EU members. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER RESPONDS TO OPPOSITION LEADER

Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, responding to a letter addressed to him by former President Ion Iliescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000), said on 25 July that postponing parliamentary elections "was not his idea, nor did he express support for it," government spokeswoman Gabriela Vranceanu-Firea told journalists, according to Mediafax. MS

ROMANIAN COURT SAYS SAVINGS BANK MUST COMPENSATE INVESTORS

A Bucharest court on 25 July ruled that the state-owned savings bank CEC must compensate investors who lost savings when the national Investment Fund collapsed. CEC had guaranteed investments in the fund but after the collapse claimed that the guarantee was invalid because it carried the signature only of its former manager, instead of two managers, as required by existing regulations. Former manager Camenco Petrovici is being held for questioning. The court did not specify the amount of compensation for the 3 trillion lei ($150 million) lost by investors owing to the fund's collapse. CEC has 15 days to appeal the ruling. MS

HUNGARIAN POLITICIAN WARNS AGAINST UDMR'S DISMEMBERMENT

Laszlo Koever, chairman of Hungary's ruling FIDESZ party, on 24 July warned against the possible dismemberment of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) as a result of the internal strife between the "radical" and the "moderate" wings of the party, Mediafax reported. Speaking at the opening meeting of the 11th annual session of the traditional "Balvanyos Summer University" in Baile Tusnad, Koever said the UDMR's unity must be preserved, and he criticized those "ready to wage deadly wars" within the party, regardless of the "enormous damage" such conflicts inflict on the Magyar community in Romania. He said the internal conflicts in the UDMR serve "neither the interest of the [Hungarian] government nor those of the [Hungarian] minority," but he added that UDMR's problems cannot be solved by the Hungarian cabinet or by FIDESZ. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

Speaking on television on 24 July, Petru Lucinschi said a possible way out of the present constitutional impasse is for the parliament to agree to early elections and leave the next legislature to decide what happens to his initiative on increasing the presidential powers. Lucinschi called on lawmakers "to be men" and let the electorate decide whether it agrees to their decision to change the Moldovan system from a semipresidential to a parliamentary one. He said the parliament cannot disregard the results of the non-binding referendum of 23 May 1999, in which 769,000 Moldovans backed his initiative to change the system into a full-fledged presidential one. MS

BULGARIA AMENDS LEGAL RULES TO APPEASE LIBYA

Bulgaria on 25 July amended the bar law to allow foreign lawyers to defend their compatriots in Bulgarian courts, Reuters reported. The amendment went into effect immediately. A Libyan court last week ruled that a Bulgarian lawyer could take part in the defense of the six Bulgarian nationals on trial in Libya only if Libyan lawyers were allowed to defend fellow nationals in Bulgarian courts. Defense lawyer Vladimir Sheitanov told Reuters he "hopes the Libyan side will appreciate this good-will gesture and respond by allowing me to represent my clients in court." The six Bulgarians, whose trial will resume in September, are charged with willfully infecting children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus. If found guilty, they are likely to face the death sentence. MS




MOSCOW STEPS UP PRESSURE ON GEORGIA by Paul Goble


An article in a Russian government newspaper

suggests that Moscow may be preparing to launch a new campaign to force Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to become more cooperative with the Russian Federation.

The Russian military newspaper "Krasnaya zvezda" on 25 July sharply criticized the Georgian government for allowing a Chechen information center to operate in Tbilisi, a story picked up and given broader circulation by the ITAR-TASS news agency. The newspaper said that Moscow had officially protested the existence of this center but that Georgia had ignored Russia's demand that the Chechen center be closed.

This Russian complaint is part of a broader effort by Moscow to seek the closure of pro-Chechen organizations around the world. In the last few weeks alone, the Russian authorities have criticized Ukraine, the U.S. and other countries for allowing unofficial Chechen representations to operate in their capitals. Indeed, Russian criticism of Tbilisi on this point appears to be part of a larger campaign--some of it in public, like the latest Moscow article, and some of it through diplomatic channels--against the independent approach Shevardnadze has shown in his dealings with Moscow and the Russian-sponsored Commonwealth of Independent States.

Since returning to Georgia in 1992, Shevardnadze has sought closer relations with the West, something many in Moscow view as an effort to distance his country from Russia. He has also promoted pipeline routes like Baku-Ceyhan and organizations like GUUAM (a trade and security grouping comprising Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), both of which Moscow opposes and has tried to disrupt.

Diplomats who have met with Shevardnadze since the last CIS summit in Moscow say that he has sometimes appeared shaken by the new harder line taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin. A confirmation of that may be the apparent rush of the Georgian president to appear more agreeable with Moscow. Earlier this week, for example, Shevardnadze categorically rejected Russian media reports that $34 million had passed through Chechen missions in Georgia and elsewhere to anti-Moscow Chechen fighters. He went out of his way to say that Russia is acting "absolutely correctly and without delay" in its efforts "to strengthen the border," noting that Georgia, too, is working to strengthen security along that frontier. The OSCE recently deployed several dozen observers along that border.

Shevardnadze's remarks come on the heels of three other developments that appear to be part of a new Russian campaign against him. First and perhaps most significant, an extraordinary congress of the People's Patriotic Union of Georgia last weekend called for the creation of "a fraternal and equal union between Georgia and Russia." This group, which unites 18 left-wing parties and groups in Georgia, issued an appeal to Putin saying that "in the fraternal constellation of a new union, Georgia will be able to restore its virtually lost independence and territorial integrity and revive the country's economy."

Such appeals parallel those already made by Armenian groups seeking to pressure Yerevan into joining the Russia-Belarus Union and appear to reflect a Russian effort to intervene in Georgian domestic politics.

Second, Putin used his meetings in Central Asia earlier this month to put pressure on Tashkent to devote more attention to the CIS than to GUUAM, a shift that calls into question Shevardnadze's regional policies and leaves him and his country potentially more isolated.

And third, Moscow appears to be dragging its feet on the withdrawal of some of its military bases from Georgia under the terms of the OSCE accords signed in Istanbul in 1999. While Georgian officials last week claimed that talks between the U.S. and Russia were "successful" in arranging American financing for the withdrawal, Russian agencies said that the talks did not "yield results."

Shevardnadze has long sought the removal of Russian forces from Georgia, but Moscow has been less interested in such a move. By creating difficulties in these talks with Washington, Moscow can put additional pressure on Tbilisi to accept a greater and longer Russian presence on Georgian territory than it might otherwise be willing to agree to.

Indeed, the visit to Tbilisi last week by Colonel General Vitalii Gritsan, the head of the coordinating service of the CIS border guards departments, may have been intended to signal Russia's interest in continued involvement in bilateral cooperation with Georgian units. While Moscow's immediate target of this campaign is Shevardnadze, the Russian leadership clearly intends its treatment of the independent-minded Georgian leader as an object lesson for other governments in the region.

But past Russian efforts of this kind suggest that Moscow may generate a backlash not only in Georgia but elsewhere, leading Shevardnadze to revive his efforts to gain greater Western support and other regional leaders to look outward as well.


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