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Newsline - August 1, 2000




PUTIN FIRES SERGEEV'S GENERALS...

President Vladimir Putin on 31 July sacked six senior generals considered close to Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. Recently, Sergeev became involved in a public row with chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin over the future of the Strategic Rocket Forces (see "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000). The dismissed commanders are Colonel General Anatolii Sitnov, chief of procurement and armaments at the Defense Ministry; Colonel General Stanislav Petrov, head of the radiation, chemical, and biological defense force; Colonel General Boris Dukhov, head of the air defense force; Colonel General Nikolai Karaulov, chief of the main rocket and artillery directorate; Lieutenant General Aleksandr Zobnin, chief of the central directorate for material resources and trade relations; and General Anatolii Shatalov, head of the ministry's press service. According to "The Moscow Times," all of the fired generals, with the exception of Shatalov, are either proteges or allies of Sitnov, who, like Sergeev, opposes Kvashnin's proposal to bring the Strategic Rocket Forces under direct central command. JC

...AS SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING LOOMS

The ouster of Sitnov and his allies leaves Defense Minister Sergeev in a "much weaker position" ahead of a Security Council meeting later this month that is expected to debate the fate of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Konstantin Makienko, deputy head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told "The Moscow Times" of 1 August. The same day, "Izvestiya" commented that Putin's purge at the Defense Ministry "confirms the assumption that [the president] has opted to take sides with Kvashnin" in the conflict over the rocket forces. The chief of General Staff, the newspaper continued, must now be confident that "he is that much closer to [taking over the post] of defense minister." "Izvestiya" is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil. JC

PUTIN TO VISIT LIBYA

Presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko announced on 31 July that President Putin has accepted an invitation to visit Libya. That invitation was issued by Libya's secretary of the General Committee for External Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdel Rahman Shalgam, at his meeting with Putin in Moscow earlier the same day. According to AP, Shalgam said Putin has invited Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi to visit Russia. The Russian president also called for the "definitive lifting" of sanctions against Libya. At a joint press conference with his Libyan counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that military and technical cooperation are among the spheres the two countries aim to develop. Following his talks with Shalgam the previous day, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said that Russia is likely to take part in repairing and upgrading Libya's military hardware, Interfax reported on 31 July. Klebanov added that the Libyan side did not raise the issue of buying new military equipment. JC

PUTIN TELLS INTERIOR TO SET UP REGIONAL OFFICES

President Putin has ordered the government to set up Interior Ministry offices in each of the seven new super-districts and to put these new offices in charge of preliminary investigations, Interfax reported on 31 July. Putin's press service said that this arrangement will provide "additional guarantees for the protection of individuals" as well as protecting the state from criminal elements. PG

KHRISTENKO SAYS INCOME TAX FIXED FOR THREE YEARS

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told Interfax on 31 July that Moscow will not change the flat income tax rate of 13 percent for three years. He said that the introduction of a single rate is intended to encourage citizens to pay their taxes honestly, but he noted that ultimately, the government is likely to introduce a progressive income tax, something he said would be fairer for most people. PG

GDP UP 7.3 PERCENT IN FIRST HALF

Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko told a Moscow press conference on 31 July that GDP increased 7.3 percent in the first six months of 2000 as compared to one year earlier, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He added that inflation fell to below 1 percent in July, suggesting an annual rate of 18-20 percent for this year. PG

GREF SAYS MACROECONOMIC BUDGET PARAMETERS TO CHANGE

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told Interfax on 31 July that the government will reconsider the macroeconomic parameters of the draft 2001 budget to take into account changes in the economy. In an interview published in "Vedomosti" on 31 July, Gref said that the draft budget will be sent to the Duma no later than on 26 August. He also predicted that GDP growth would fall to 5.5 percent in the second half of 2000 and would be even lower next year. PG

NAVAL COMMANDER CALLS FOR COOPERATION WITH BALTICS

Speaking in Kaliningrad Oblast on 31 July, Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov urged cooperation between the Russian navy and its counterparts in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Kuroedov proposed holding a meeting with the commanders of the three Baltic navies to discuss ways to improve security in the Baltic region. Baltic naval officials contacted by Interfax refused to comment on the offer and stressed that the development of their forces is closely linked to the three states' desire to join NATO, according to AP. JC

DUMA OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIA HAS NO ARMED FORCES

Interfax on 31 July quoted Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense Andrei Nikolaev as suggesting that the Russian armed forces are currently unable to ensure the safety of the Russian people. Nikolaev argued that those forces can solve "only separate, particular problems.... As for the armed forces as a whole..., we have no armed forces." He also expressed skepticism about relying solely on the nuclear component of the armed forces. "Nuclear weapons are not a means of war.... It is impossible to defeat an enemy with the help of nuclear missiles," he remarked. With regard to the situation in Chechnya, Nikolaev noted that the army's inability to "maintain a [military] group of 60,000 people in the North Caucasus" is indicative of that force's weakness. JC

SEVEN REPORTED KILLED IN NEW CLASH BETWEEN RIVAL CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS

Seven Chechen fighters were killed and another 12 wounded during a shoot-out near Shalazhi, southern Chechnya, on 30 July between the units loyal to Arbi Baraev and Ruslan Gelaev, according to Russian reports that have not been confirmed by the Chechen side. Gelaev allegedly accused Baraev, who is notorious for his peacetime involvement in hostage-taking, of cowardice and of abandoning him during the battle for the village of Komsomolskoe in March. The two field commanders are said to have engaged in a similar shoot- out in late May, following which Gelaev's men blew up two houses in the village of Alkhan-Kala owned by Baraev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2000). LF

CHECHENS DENY MASKHADOV SERIOUSLY WOUNDED

Russian claims that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has not recovered from wounds received during a special operation by Russian paratroopers in June are untrue, "Die Welt" reported on 1 August, citing unnamed Chechen sources in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 6 June 2000). Russian paratroop commander Colonel General Georgii Shpak had said on 31 July that his men were responsible for wounding both Maskhadov and Islamist field commander Khattab. LF

MODERATE TATAR OPPOSITION VOWS TO COUNTER RUSSIAN 'AGGRESSION'

In Kazan on 29 July, the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center adopted a resolution "on measures in response to Russian aggression" against the sovereignty of Tatarstan and other national republics of the Russian Federation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the following day. In particular, the participants condemned the ruling of the Russian Constitutional Court abolishing the sovereignty of constituent republics of the Russian Federation. Participants vowed to begin preparations for creating a confederation of ethnic republics of Idel-Ural (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," Vol. 2, No. 16, 26 April 2000). LF

KASYANOV, IVANOV START VACATIONS

Prime Minister Viktor Kasyanov began a 10-day vacation on 31 July, Interfax reported. Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko will substitute for him until 23 August, when Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin returns from Italy. Meanwhile, Foreign Minster Ivanov has left for a three-week vacation "if nothing extraordinary happens," according to his staff. Both men are expected to spend their leave in Sochi. PG

AEROFLOT INVESTIGATION REPORTEDLY EXPANDING

Nikolai Volkov, the chief investigator of the so-called Aeroflot case, told Interfax on 31 July that he expects the case to pick up speed now that he has returned from Switzerland with 20 boxes of documents. These materials were seized by the Swiss authorities from the Andava and Forus companies a year ago. PG

ALBRIGHT STOPS OVER IN YEKATERINBURG

En route from Bangkok to Rome, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a brief stopover in Yekaterinburg on 31 July, Interfax reported. At the airport, she met with local officials, including Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel, and spoke on the telephone with Foreign Minister Ivanov. PG

RICHEST TENTH GET A LITTLE LESS THIS YEAR

The 10 percent of Russians at the top of the income pyramid collected 34 percent of all monetary incomes during the first half of 2000, down from 36 percent in the same period last year, the State Committee for Statistics told Interfax on 31 July. The 10 percent of the poorest Russians received only 2.4 percent of all monetary incomes in the first six months of this year, a figure unchanged from 1999. PG

NO BIDS YET FOR ONAKO OIL COMPANY

Azat Shamsuarov, the president of the Onako oil company, told Interfax on 31 July that so far there has not been a single bid for the 85 percent of the shares still held by the government. He noted that the Onako sale could thus suffer the same fate as Moscow's earlier efforts to sell Rosneft. PG

EXPORT DUTIES ON OIL SET TO RISE

The Russian authorities will increase export duties on crude oil and other petroleum products on 2 August, Interfax reported on 31 July. The new duties, ranging from 20 euros ($18.4) to 27 euros a ton, represent a significant increase from the prevailing rates of 12 euros to 20 euros a ton. They will apply to exports outside the customs union, which now includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. PG

MOSCOW SETS TARIFF ON SUGAR IMPORTS

The Russian government has introduced a new tariff quota on raw sugar imported from developing countries, Interfax reported on 31 July. The quota of 3.65 million tons will cover the period from 16 December 2000 to 31 December 2001. A tariff of 5 percent will be charged for imports within this range. The levy will rise to 30 percent for amounts greater than that. PG

RUSSIAN VISITORS DON'T FIND REPUBLICANS ANTI-RUSSIAN

Boris Gryzlov, the head of the Unity faction in the State Duma, said in Philadelphia on 31 July that he does not have the impression that the U.S. Republican Party has a negative attitude toward Russia. "We met the leaders of the Republican Party, including in the Congress, and saw their good attitude toward Russia," Gryzlov said. The Duma deputy is leading a Russian delegation to attend the Republican Party convention at the invitation of the International Republican Institute. Gryzlov said that "we are sure that we will succeed in establishing close relations with the Republican Party." PG

EES OFFICIAL MURDERED

Vadim Samoletov, the head of the production and economic support department of United Energy Systems, has been found dead, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. The authorities have established that he was killed on 21 July, and they have a suspect in custody. PG

MOSCOW OFFERS EARTHQUAKE FORECAST SYSTEM

Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry has begun to offer its services to forecast earthquakes around the world, Interfax reported on 31 July. The system, which recently won a contest held under Council of Europe auspices, not only seeks to predict where earthquakes will occur but also how much damage they will do. A ministry official said that the system has already been successfully applied in Turkey, Japan, and Iran. PG

RUSSIANS SAY GOVERNMENT THREATENS MEDIA FREEDOM

According to the results of a poll published in "Novoe vremya" (no. 30), some 39 percent of those who think media freedom in Russia is threatened now say that the federal government is the major source of that threat. Eighteeen percent said the special services were to blame, while 18 percent blamed the oligarchs. The poll also found that the fear of a threat to media freedom varies widely across the country. In the Far East, 51 percent believe media freedom is threatened, and only 22 percent say that it is not; in the southern portion of the country, 19 percent say there is a threat while 55 percent discount that possibility. The poll, conducted by the Independent Political Research Agency, said that 34 percent of the respondents found television to be the most credible of the country's media. Thirteen percent named the press, and 10 percent said radio is the most reliable. PG

HALF OF RUSSIANS BLAME CHECHENS FOR BOMBINGS

According to a poll conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center from 20-25 July, 50 percent of Russians believe the Russian government's claim that Chechen rebels "could have been behind last fall's terrorist attacks in various Russian cities," Interfax reported on 28 July. The poll showed Russians equally divided on whether troops should have been sent to Chechnya after these bombings. Forty-nine percent back continuing the military operations, while 41 percent are in favor of peace talks. PG

THREE MILLION YOUNG RUSSIANS ADDICTED TO DRUGS

Aleksandr Kozlov, the senior official in the Health Protection Ministry, told ITAR-TASS on 28 July that more than 3 million Russians between the ages of 13 and 25 are registered as drug addicts. "Ten years ago," he said, "Russian youth knew about heroin, cocaine, hashish by hearsay, but now, more than 80 percent of teenagers have tried them." He said that in the absence of a concerted campaign, Russia will soon have 10 million drug users, posing "a real threat to the nation." PG




IS AZERBAIJAN SETTLING CHECHENS ALONG 'LINE OF CONTACT'?

The Azerbaijani leadership has begun settling Chechen guerrillas in abandoned former Azerbaijani-populated villages in Shaumyan Raion, which borders on the unrecognized Armenian- populated Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 August, without citing sources. The Chechens in question are officially said to be refugees, but the newspaper reasoned that refugees from the war in Chechnya would be unwilling to take up residence close to the Line of Contact, which separates Karabakh Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. The Moscow daily speculates that the Azerbaijani rationale is to co-opt the Chechen fighters to launch a new military campaign to bring Karabakh back under Azerbaijani control. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT HINTS AT RUSSIAN OBSTRUCTION OF ABKHAZ PEACE PROCESS

In his weekly radio broadcast on 31 July, Eduard Shevardnadze said he doubts that the resolution on Abkhazia adopted last week by the UN Security Council will lead to a breakthrough in resolving the conflict, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze expressed regret that the Russian delegation failed to endorse the UN-drafted document intended as a basis for a settlement; that document defines Abkhazia's envisaged future status within Georgia. The Russians reportedly claimed that they have no instructions from Moscow to approve the document. Also on 31 July, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a communique affirming Moscow's intention to continue its efforts to reconcile the Georgian and Abkhaz positions and reach a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES DELAYING VISA REGIME WITH RUSSIA...

Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 31 July that Russian media allegations that the Georgian leadership is deliberately delaying a decision on introducing a visa regime with Russia are untrue, Caucasus Press reported. He said his ministry has reviewed Russia's draft proposals on that issue and is ready to begin talks. Menagharishvili noted that at the last round of such talks in Moscow in June, both sides agreed that the imposition of the visa requirement should not be rushed. He added that he believes the visa regime will negatively affect bilateral relations. LF

... SAYS NATO WON'T BE OFFERED FORMER RUSSIAN BASE

At the same press conference on 31 July, Menagharishvili rejected as "fantasy" reports that NATO will be offered the use of the military base and airfield at Vaziani, near Tbilisi, after Russia withdraws from that facility by mid-2001, Caucasus Press reported. "Dilis gazeti" on 31 July had quoted the chief of Georgian army general staff, Dzhoni Pirtskhalaishvili, as saying that in the future NATO troops may be stationed at that base. Menagharishvili also denied that the airfield at Vaziani will remain under Russian control following the closure of the Russian military base. He explained that Georgia has agreed to a Russian request for continued access to and use of the airfield until the Russian military withdrawal from Georgia is complete. LF

GEORGIA DRAFTS PROGRAM TO ELIMINATE SHADOW ECONOMY

Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio address on 31 July that as part of the ongoing crackdown on corruption, a special government program has been drafted to legalize the shadow economy, Interfax reported. The government approved that program at a meeting on 28 July, Caucasus Press reported. According to Economy, Industry and Trade Minister Vano Chkhartishvili, the 'black" economy accounts for some 27 percent of GDP. He said the measures to legalize it focus on differentiated tax rates, liberalization of fiscal policy, improving auditing, and the conduct of economic experiments in specific regions. (Shevardnadze pioneered such economic experiments in Georgia in the early1980s.) LF

KAZAKHSTAN DENIES SWISS BANK ACCOUNTS FROZEN

An article in "The New York Times" of 28 July claiming that the Swiss authorities temporarily froze Kazakh government bank accounts is "absolute rubbish," Finance Minister Mazhit Esenbaev told Interfax on 31 July. Esenbaev added that banking regulations forbid national governments to hold such accounts and that all foreign transactions are carried out through correspondent accounts held by the National Bank of Kazakhstan. National Bank Chairman Grigorii Marchenko has similarly denied any knowledge of the frozen Swiss accounts. According to the U.S. newspaper, the Swiss action was taken at the request of the FBI in connection with its ongoing investigation into allegations that international oil companies paid multi-million dollar bribes to top Kazakh officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S CREDIT RATINGS UPGRADED

Standard & Poor's has raised Kazakhstan's foreign and local currency ratings from B+ to BB- and BB respectively, Interfax reported on 28 July. That move was said to be in response to the government's "pursuit of prudent fiscal and monetary policies over the past 12 months." LF

KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN, RUSSIA TO FORM URANIUM-MINING JOINT VENTURE

During Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev's visit to Russia last week, agreement was reached that Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Russia will create a joint venture to exploit the Zarechnoye uranium deposit in western Kazakhstan, a Kyrgyz mining sector official told Interfax on 31 July. Kyrgyzstan's Kara-Balta uranium-refining plant, which for years has engaged in refining uranium from Kazakhstan, has reached a related agreement on co-founding the joint venture. LF

MORE ISLAMISTS DETAINED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

Six people have been detained in Djalalabad Oblast for distributing literature prepared by the radical Muslim Hizb-ut-Tahrir party, Interfax reported on 31 July quoting Kyrgyz law enforcement officials. The literature in question called for the overthrow of the Kyrgyz government and the establishment of an Islamic state in the Ferghana valley. Some 60 people have been arrested in Djalalabad so far this year for distributing such literature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2000). LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW TRAINING SYSTEM FOR GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES

At a government session last week, President Saparmurat Niyazov called for the drafting of measures on the selection and training of future government employees, Interfax reported. Those measures include the vetting of all applicants and their family background for three generations. Following theoretical and practical training within the presidential administration, the best candidates would then be appointed to leading positions on a trial basis. Niyazov also stressed the need for government officials to be fluent in the Turkmen language, and he condemned the current practice of drafting official documentation in Russian and then translating it into Turkmen. LF

NEW TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTER PROFILED

Batyr Berdyev, whom President Niyazov appointed as foreign minister on 28 July, is a 40-year-old philology graduate of the Turkmenistan State University who began his career as a journalist writing for "Komsomolets Turkmenistana" and subsequently became that newspaper's chief editor, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 August. Berdyev served as deputy foreign minister in the early 1990s and as Turkmenistan's ambassador to Austria from 1994 until last month. It is not clear from published reports whether Berdyev attended a meeting on 31 July between Niyazov and Francesc Vendrell, who heads the UN special mission on Afghanistan. LF




PACE MISSION IN MINSK TO EXAMINE SITUATION AHEAD OF ELECTIONS

A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) led by Terry Davis arrived in Minsk on 31 July, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The delegation intends to assess the current political situation in the country and determine whether conditions are in place to hold democratic parliamentary elections on 15 October. "Our aim is to gather information about the situation in Belarus and subsequently decide--following consultations with colleagues from [the OSCE and the European Parliament]--if we are to send international observers to those elections," Davis told RFE/RL on 28 July. The delegation will hold meetings with, among others, Prime Minister Uladzimir Yarmoshyn, Foreign Minister Uladzimir Ural Latypau, and Chamber of Representatives Chairman Anatol Malafeyeu as well as with the opposition. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DECREES INTERNET DEVELOPMENT

Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree on the development of the Internet in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 31 July. That order obliges the government to provide Internet connections to scientific organizations, educational and cultural institutions, and a wider segment of the population. The government is also to draft a bill on the protection of intellectual property and copyright on the Web. The decree stipulates that by the end of 2000 the government must create websites for all central and local executive power bodies as well as for leading scientific and educational institutions in Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN CHILDREN TO TRAVEL FREE BY TRAIN

The State Department of Railroad Transportation has announced that all children under 16 may travel by train free of charge beginning on 1 August, Interfax reported the previous day. Under previous regulations, children under 10 had to pay only half fare, while all those over the age of 10 paid the full price. A department official told the agency that free train trips for children will be maintained until "parents are able to pay on their own" for them. JM

ESTONIAN OPPOSITION SUES GOVERNMENT OVER NRG DEAL

Opposition parties in the Estonian parliament filed suit on 31 July against the government over the proposed deal to sell a minority stake in the country's main power plants to U.S. company NRG Energy. Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar and Estonian People's Union leader Villu Reiljan initiated the action, which is aimed at having the deal suspended. They argued that the deal violates the constitution and various laws on energy and competition, BNS reported. And they called NRG an "illegal third party" and stressed that the parliament, not the government, has the powers to deal with the matter. MH

WARRANT ISSUED FOR ARREST OF LATVIAN PRIVATIZATION OFFICIAL

A Riga city court on 31 July ordered the arrest of Latvian Privatization Agency (LPA) board member Didzis Azanda, who is accused of abuse of office and illegal property transactions, BNS reported. Three days earlier, the Latvian State Revenue Service fined seven members of the LPA for violations of the anti-corruption act, LETA added. The seven individuals-- including members of the board of electricity utility Latvenergo--were fined for holding more than one position for which they receive remuneration. In an emergency session on 31 July, the LPA council voted to remove Azanda from the agency's board. MH

POLISH SECRET SERVICE BLAMED FOR 'INFRINGEMENTS' OVER PRESIDENT'S LUSTRATION...

The parliamentary Commission for Special Services concluded on 31 July that the State Protection Office (UOP) did not break the law when it supplied the Lustration Court with documents suggesting that President Aleksander Kwasniewski might have been a communist- era secret service agent (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 August 2000), Polish media reported. The commission, however, found "infringements" of the law by the UOP. In particular, the commission blamed the office for delaying the transfer of documents related to Kwasniewski's case and thus making it impossible for the court to interrogate witnesses and gather other evidence. Jan Litynski, a member of the commission, said the UOP also committed an "infringement" by concluding that Kwasniewski was a registered secret agent. According to Litynski, only the court can make such a conclusion. JM

...WHILE OPPOSITION ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF 'INTRIGUE' AGAINST PRESIDENT

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has said the documents submitted by the UOP in Kwasniewski's lustration case show that the case is a "planned intrigue" and "provocation" against the incumbent president, Polish Radio reported on 31 July. According to the SLD, the UOP deliberately delayed for 15 months the transfer of documents related to Kwasniewski's case to the lustration prosecutor. "The authors of this intrigue and their paymasters decided not to allow the president's lustration declaration to be checked earlier and, as a result, [decided] to create lustration confusion around Aleksander Kwasniewski during the election campaign, on the basis of highly dubious documents," the station quoted an SLD statement as saying. JM

POLAND EXPECTS POORER HARVEST THIS YEAR

The Main Statistical Office said on 31 July that the country's grain crops this year are expected to total 21.5 million tons or some 18 percent down from 1999, PAP reported. Rape crops are estimated at 850,000 tons, or 33.7 percent down from last year's level. The smaller yield is expected because of unusually hot weather in late April, May and early June followed by heavy rains in late June and July that did much crop damage. JM

IMF OFFICIAL DISCUSSES PREPARATIONS FOR PRAGUE MEETING

IMF Director Horst Koehler said in Prague on 31 July he has "full trust" in the Czech government and authorities to handle possible riots by anti-globalization opponents during the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank, which this year is to be held in Prague in September, AP reported. Koehler spoke after meeting with President Vaclav Havel, who said the "security concerns" around the meeting are being given "too much publicity." He added he will invite representatives of the protesters and officials from the IMF and the World Bank for a debate before the annual meeting opens. Koehler also met with representatives of 12 non-governmental organizations that will participate in the protests. He said the IMF is "open to discussions and dialogue" but added that "it should still be clear that governments and parliaments are in charge of countries." MS

CZECH PREMIER SAYS TEMELIN RESPECTS 'MAXIMUM SECURITY STANDARDS'

Milos Zeman on 28 July told Heinz Fischer, leader of the Austrian Social Democratic Party and Austrian parliamentary chairman, that the referendum bill under consideration by his cabinet will allow a plebiscite on the launching of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant if more than 250,000 signatures are gathered, CTK reported. But Zeman also said he cannot understand the opposition to Temelin, which meets "maximum security standards," among environmentalists who "are not bothered" about the older and less safe nuclear plant at Dukovany, southern Moravia. Fischer called the talks "beneficial" and said he is particularly satisfied with an agreement reached with Zeman to set up a "hot line" between Prague and Vienna on Temelin. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT REASSUMES PREROGATIVES

Rudolf Schuster on 31 July reassumed his presidential duties by signing a decree naming four new rectors at Slovak universities, AP and CTK reported. Schuster, who is still recovering in an Innsbruck clinic, thanked the Austrian doctors who saved his life, as well as "people who have prayed for me and those journalists who had objectively informed the public" about his illness. His comments were carried live by Radio Twist. MS

BELGIUM 'SUSPENDS' VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR SLOVAKS

As of 1 August, the visa requirement for Slovak nationals traveling to Belgium has been "suspended but not revoked," TASR quoted Belgian Interior Minister Pascal Smet as saying on 31 July. The requirement was introduced in April, following an influx of Slovak Roma seeking asylum in that country. Meanwhile in Slovakia, Dusan Maslonka, deputy chairman of the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS), said on 28 July that soldiers and police must seek to prevent theft "mainly by citizens of Gypsy origin," while former SNS leader Jan Slota spoke of "raids by Gypsy locusts on our fields." An Interior Ministry spokesman said the cause of the high incidence of theft in the country is the "lack of coercion means" and the "99 percent unemployment rate" among Roma in some regions of the country, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE SUMMONS SECRET SERVICE OFFICIALS

The special parliamentary committee investigating alleged illicit oil deals in which politicians are linked to organized crime has decided to summon all ministers who have been in charge of the country's secret services since 1988. Media reports say the decision follows an allegation by Zsolt Nogradi, the main witness in the affair, that those services have a 18,000- page document proving his claims. The daily "Vilaggazdasag," however, says such a document does not exist. Meanwhile, both former Prime Minister Peter Boross and Free Democratic Party deputy Sandor Petoe, whose names have been mentioned by Nogradi in connection with the alleged deals, said they will take legal action against him. MS




ALBRIGHT TO SOUND OUT MONTENEGRIN LEADER ON ELECTIONS...

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will ask Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Rome on 1 August to "think carefully" about whether to participate in the 24 September federal elections, Reuters reported. An unnamed "senior State Department official" told the news agency that "even if [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic is going to try to manipulate the whole process, [the election is] a chance for people to show what they think." Speaking to reporters en route to Rome, Albright said: "We're generally concerned about what Milosevic may be up to. The fact that he rejiggered the constitution in order to be able to have a more concentrated authoritarian power in what could be a phony election process, which affects Montenegro." Several Montenegrin leaders have made it clear that the governing coalition will not take part in the vote under Milosevic's new electoral legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2000). PM

...CALLS ON SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO UNITE

Albright said in Rome on 1 August that "it is very important for the democratic opposition in Serbia to unite, to present a single slate, and to participate in the elections. They need to unite on a single candidate. That is a solution," Reuters reported. She did not elaborate. Observers note that Albright is not popular in Serbia and that she may refrain from making specific recommendations in public lest they have an unintended effect in Serbia. PM

UN: KOSOVA RESIDENTS TO VOTE IN YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS

UN spokeswoman Susan Manuel told a news conference in Prishtina on 31 July that "this remains Yugoslavia and you have the right to participate in elections. We are working out a policy on Kosovo's possible participation in elections." But Oliver Ivanovic, who is a Serbian leader from northern Mitrovica, argued that "we need more security and returns [of Serbian refugees and displaced persons], but not elections," AP reported. Ivanovic was in Prishtina to discuss ways of speeding up the return of Serbs to Kosova with UN and KFOR officials. Ivanovic stressed that "this is a crucial moment. We have to coordinate all things [connected with the returns] with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, NATO, and perhaps the Albanian community." Ivanovic has generally shunned UN- and NATO-sponsored meetings in Prishtina. PM

YUGOSLAV COMMANDER: MONTENEGRO 'UNDERMINING' ARMY

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the army General Staff, said that the army is ready to return to Kosova and "settle scores with" all paramilitary and "terrorist" organizations there, "Vesti" reported on 1 August. He added that "following NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia..., the world policeman...must now contend with [unspecified] significant changes [to NATO's disadvantage] in world and regional affairs and within the international community." Pavkovic also said that the Montenegrin leadership has repeatedly "undermined the national defense system...and most energetically attacked the Yugoslav Army," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). PM

'SILLY SEASON' COMES TO SERBIA...

Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said in Belgrade on 31 July that "our police are capable of protecting our state" and to that end four Dutch males were recently arrested, London's "Financial Times" reported. Matic, who is known for his outspoken anti- Western remarks, claimed that the four are "members of the NATO military-intelligence community" who were sent into Serbia via Montenegro to deliver a "Serbian head" to U.S. President Bill Clinton at the recent Okinawa summit, London's "The Guardian" reported. Matic showed reporters a video of the men "confessing" that they are bounty-hunters who wanted to "put [Milosevic] in a ski box and drive him out of the country." Matic added that the British SAS "is training Montenegrin special units," Reuters reported. Observers note that the Belgrade regime periodically announces that it has "uncovered" alleged foreign-based conspiracies (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 February 2000). PM

...WHILE DUTCH REMAIN BAFFLED BY SERBIAN CHARGES

A Dutch embassy spokesman said in Belgrade on 31 July that the Serbian authorities have not informed the embassy about the four men, Reuters reported. In The Hague, a Foreign Ministry spokesman denied any firm knowledge of the case, "The Guardian" added. An unidentified Dutch "government source" told the London daily that the four could be tourists whom the Belgrade authorities have decided to exploit for propaganda purposes. PM

SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER SET TO LAUNCH PARTY

Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk told a press conference in Ljubljana that his New Slovenia/NSI/People's Christian Party will hold its founding meeting on 11 August, "Delo" reported on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000). Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle will also be a founding member of New Slovenia. Bajuk stressed that the country needs a new moderate party that is credible and reliable, "Dnevnik" reported. Bajuk decided to found the center-right party after differences emerged recently between him and his People's Party (SLS/SKD) over a new election law. Parliamentary elections will take place on 15 October. New Slovenia, the People's Party, the conservative Social Democrats, and the small National Party are led primarily by people with family roots in the anti- communist Domobranci (Home Guards) of World War II, including Bajuk, Peterle, and Social Democratic leader Janez Jansa. The center-left parties are led primarily by people from the former communist nomenklatura. PM

SLOVENIAN NATIONAL BANK CHIEF TO STAY OUT OF POLITICS

France Arhar, who is governor of the National Bank, has turned down an offer from the People's Party for an unspecified top position in that party, "Delo" reported on 1 August. Arhar said that he is "grateful" for the offer but will stay with the National Bank. PM

CROATS BACK EU MEMBERSHIP

The Ministry of European Integration has published the results of a poll indicating that more than 80 percent of respondents have a positive view of the EU and that 77 percent favor Croatia's joining that body, AP reported. PM

NATO NAMES NEW BOSNIAN COMMANDER

NATO has appointed U.S. General Michael L. Dodson to replace General Ronald E. Adams in command of SFOR troops in Bosnia, AP reported from Brussels on 1 August. PM

BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINE PARTY PICKS CANDIDATE

The steering committee of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party voted in Bijeljina on 31 July to nominate Republika Srpska Vice President Mirko Sarovic for the presidency of the Bosnian Serb entity, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROMANIA'S LIBERALS, PEASANTISTS, EXCHANGE MUTUAL RECRIMINATIONS...

"The National Liberal Party (PNL) has placed itself outside the ranks of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR)," National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) Chairman Ion Diaconescu told journalists after meeting with PNL negotiators on 31 July. Diaconescu said the PNTCD will "no longer bear" PNL insults directed against it. Diaconescu and the leaders of the two ecologist parties in the CDR announced they are starting negotiations with the Union of Rightist Forces (UFD) and the Christian Democratic National Alliance over enlarging the CDR. But PNL First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica said it is the PNTCD that has "placed itself outside the CDR," and he warned that if a decision is taken on the CDR's future without the agreement of the PNL, that move can be contested in court. Stoica said the three parties "are free" to set up another alliance but such a grouping will have to run under another name. MS

...WHILE NEW RIGHTIST ALLIANCE STILL FACES PROBLEMS

Otto Weber, leader of the Ecologist Party (PER), said after the 31 July meeting that his formation refuses to merge with the Ecologist Federation, Mediafax reported. The PNTCD has been urging such a move to reduce the electoral hurdle that the alliance will have to pass to gain parliamentary representation. Weber said, however, that the PER cannot merge "with a party of former [secret police] informers." Meanwhile, UFD co-chairman Adrian Iorgulescu and Diaconescu have concluded a "protocol of cooperation" to set up a new rightist alliance, but Iorgulescu said the agreement necessitates the "restructuring" of the CDR. He said the UFD will "by no means return to the same CDR it has left," and he suggested that the new alliance change its name to either the Coalition of the Romanian Right or the Coalition of the Romanian Center-Right, both of which would allow it to keep the CDR acronym. MS

UKRAINE TO RESUME GAS DELIVERIES TO BULGARIA

Visiting Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yushchenko and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, told journalists in Sofia on 28 July that Ukraine will deliver to Bulgaria 578 million cubic meters of natural gas in exchange for Bulgaria's part in laying pipelines in the 1970s, AP reported. Deliveries of natural gas started in 1998 but were interrupted earlier this year after Russia objected to Ukraine's re-exporting of those supplies. Reuters had earlier quoted Yushchenko as saying the differences with Moscow over the matter have been settled and the supplies will be resumed in August. Yushchenko also met President Petar Stoyanov, who told journalists that Ukraine and Bulgaria are "not competitors" but "partners" who "share the same Euro-Atlantic integration objectives." MS




STRANGE BEDFELLOWS IN LITHUANIA


by Paul Goble

An unusual electoral arrangement between Lithuania's largest left-of-center party and a small one on the far right raises questions about what the former group intends to do if it wins the election later this fall and what the latter hopes to achieve.

This move appears likely to raise the specter both in Lithuania and abroad that the coalition of forces operating in one Lithuanian city, which are often thought to be far apart, may now spread to the country as a whole, a development that could fundamentally change Lithuania's domestic arrangements and reorient its foreign policy goals.

Arturas Paulauskas, the leader of the leftist New Union- Social Liberal Party which is widely expected to win the October parliamentary elections, announced last week that his party will not field a candidate in a district in Kaunas where that city's mayor and leader of the radical populist Freedom Union Party Vytautas Sustauskas is running.

This is the second time that Paulauskas, who lost to Valdas Adamkus in the presidential race two years ago, has allied himself with Sustauskas, a man whose xenophobic views and authoritarian approach would appear to put him completely at odds with the left-of-center politics Paulauskas himself has publicly espoused.

In April, Sustauskas became mayor of Kaunas when the eight city council members from Paulauskas's party voted for him. That arrangement struck many people at the time as evidence of the possible emergence of an unusual coalition in Lithuania's second-largest city which some have described as red-brown: red because of Paulauskas' ties to the old communist and security elites, and brown because of Sustauskas' nationalist populism and the anti-Semitism of some of his allies.

Such fears were fueled when the Kaunas city police controlled by Sustauskas did nothing to stop a group of rowdies widely believed to have ties to the mayor from beating up student demonstrators against his rise to power there, an action that has chilled political life in the pre- war capital so thoroughly that there have been no marches or demonstrations since that time.

But because Paulauskas continued to maintain his ties with a number of centrist parties in the Lithuanian parliament and because he continued to support Lithuanian efforts to reintegrate into the West through eventual membership in NATO and the EU, suspicions about the actions of his party colleagues in Kaunas have receded into the background.

Now, however, such suspicions appear certain to increase, thus affecting Lithuanian politics both during the campaign and afterward.

By making the deal with Sustauskas, Paulauskas has effectively broken with the centrist parties with which he had been allied. They are thus likely to be ever less certain as to what he believes and thus ever less willing to cooperate with him in the future. And at least some are likely to ask why Paulauskas would be giving respectability to someone like Sustauskas, whom they have shunned.

Several centrist political figures already have pointed out the fact that Paulauskas could have helped their candidates in the same way he is helping Sustauskas. Others are now asking why the leadership of Paulauskas' party includes some who worked against Lithuania's drive to recover its independence. One of these--a failed candidate for the Vilnius city council--was even given a prison sentence for his role in the January 1991 events.

Such questions could further poison the upcoming election campaign and, more serious, make the formation of a new coalition government far more difficult after the votes are counted. Indeed, it could force Paulauskas, whose party leads the polls but is not expected to gain a clear majority in the 141-seat national legislature, to seek the support of or even build a coalition with right-wing groups like those of Sustauskas.

In addition to giving Sustauskas a greater opportunity to spread his views, any such arrangements could mean that his opposition to foreign investment in Lithuania, to spending the money that NATO membership will require, and to the respect for civil rights that democracy requires would affect Lithuanian policy and especially its relations with the West.

That possibility is all the greater because Paulauskas himself already took the lead in organizing opposition to a major U.S. investment project in Lithuania and has raised questions about defense spending.

For all these reasons, at least some in Lithuania and in the West may conclude that Lithuania may be about to follow the path of several other post-communist countries where populists of the left and the right have linked up. They may thus decide that Paulauskas and Sustauskas, as different as they appear at first glance, are not really strange political bedfellows after all.


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