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Newsline - August 3, 2000




GOVERNMENT TV: ALL CHANNELS, ALL THE TIME?

Businessman Boris Berezovskii is negotiating the sale of his 49 percent stake in Russian Public Television (ORT), Interfax reported on 2 August, citing interviews with "Kommersant-Daily" and "Vedomosti." Berezovskii said no progress in his talks with the government has yet been achieved; however, he predicted that the results of those negotiations will become clearer by the fall, "The Moscow Times" reported the same day. According to "Vedomosti," an unidentified Kremlin manager said "the Kremlin intends to get control of ORT and guide the change of ownership of NTV." Anatolii Lysenko, a veteran of the Russian television industry, told the daily that he thinks "this is the logical end of Berezovskii's affairs in ORT." "Currently," he continued, "there are no political or economic grounds in Russia for the maintenance of such a non- state TV network. A nationwide network cannot exist on advertising revenue as yet." It had been reported earlier that Vladimir Gusinskii's NTV might be bought by Gazprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000). JAC

KREMLIN OFFICIAL SAYS NO RUSH NEEDED TO CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION...

In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 August, Sergei Samoilov, head of the Main Territorial Directorate in the presidential administration, declared that the proposed State Council will likely consider "a range of questions of national significance," such as key appointments and the declaration of war and states of emergency. These functions are fulfilled now by the Federation Council, but Fatherland-All Russia faction leader Yevgenii Primakov has suggested that the constitution be amended taking these duties away from the upper house (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). And Samoilov acknowledged that "it is possible" that establishing the State Council's status "will require some legislative changes or amendments to the constitution;" however, he also said that "we don't need to be in a hurry to change the constitution." He concluded "like many others, I believe that the constitution has sufficient political and legal flexibility." JAC

...AS SOME SENATORS TO TURN TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

As some analysts predicted, some members of the Federation Council are planning to appeal to the Constitutional Court challenging President Putin's reforms of the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 June 2000). In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 August, Nikolai Federov, president of the Chuvash Republic, explained that he and other senators are going to turn to the Constitutional Court for its opinion on the law reforming the Federation Council because "all honest lawyers admit that these reforms and laws are essentially revising the existing constitutional structure of the Russian Federation, and therefore, this is a subject for professional deliberation in the Constitutional Court." He added that "many Federation Council members are with me on this matter." JAC

COMMUNIST LEADER PREDICTS BATTLE OVER ECONOMIC POLICY IN FALL...

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters on 2 August that a "stubborn covert struggle is under way at the top, which may develop into a strong confrontation in the fall." According to Zyuganov, the struggle is between ideas that the Communist Party "has advocated for the last 10 years" and a "right-wing, liberal, pro-American line that is evolving in the economy." Similarly, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 July, State Duma deputy (independent) Vladimir Ryzhkov declared that "the political fall will be difficult, hot, and saturated" as the Duma reconvenes after its summer break to consider the draft 2001 budget, the Land Code, the Criminal Procedures Code, and the law on the state of emergency. He added that he thinks the government will also propose a number of bills on pension reform and overhauling the social welfare system. JAC

...WHILE OTHER ANALYSTS SEE STRUGGLE BETWEEN CENTER, REGIONS

Ryzhkov also noted that "a reform of the relationship between the center is still being worked out" and "this reform is not in the regions' self-interest." Some analysts polled by "Vremya MN" on 29 July predicted "major battles" will take place in the fall. Valerii Fedorov, deputy director of the Russian Political Situation Center, suggested that such battles can be expected "on the budget front" because some regional leaders "will try to get some compensation" for concessions they made in the Federation Council when approving President Putin's legislation reforming the federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 July 2000). Federov also noted that the current system lies somewhere "between federalism and unitarism and therefore is unstable." He concluded that "we will soon see a lot of conflicts between governors and presidential envoys." JAC

INVESTIGATIVE CHAMBER TO SCRUTINIZE GAZPROM

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 2 August, Audit Chamber Deputy Chairman Yurii Boldyrev revealed that the investigative body has launched a new check on Gazprom and that previous probes have turned up gross legal violations, including the agreement to establish a trust management for the state's 35 percent stake in the company. (For the entire text of the interview see http://echo.msk.ru) He also revealed that on previous occasions the chamber uncovered violations in the law on selling gas abroad that were committed by Gazprom subsidiary, Itera. Boldyrev added that the earlier election of Anatolii Chubais as the chief executive of Unified Energy Systems (EES) was illegal. Last month, Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin announced that his agency is carrying out an additional probe into how EES sold its shares to foreigners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). JAC

TIMETABLE FOR SIGNING RUSSIAN-JAPANESE TREATY STILL UNCERTAIN

Japanese government officials on 3 August refuted domestic media reports that President Putin suggested in Okinawa last month that Russia and Japan cease looking for a solution to a territorial dispute that has prevented the signing of a treaty officially ending World War II hostilities between the two countries and instead seek an interim agreement. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin had agreed with Tokyo that the two sides would aim to sign that treaty by the end of this year, but his successor, Putin, has ruled out a quick breakthrough in the dispute over ownership of the four Kuril Islands, which the Soviet Union seized at the end of World War II. Reuters quoted Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono as saying that Tokyo will continue to insist that solving the territorial dispute is a precondition for signing a peace treaty. During his trip to Okinawa, Putin agreed to visit Tokyo from 3-5 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2000). JC

GOVERNMENT SETS DEADLINE TO PAY OFF DEFENSE SECTOR

The government will pay off its 5 billion rubles ($180 million) debt to domestic defense enterprises by the end of the year, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov pledged on 2 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Meeting with journalists in Novosibirsk, Klebanov said part of the debt will be paid off in cash and part of it will be reduced through government bonds to be issued before the end of the year. Klebanov also said the government has allocated additional revenue for the "counter- terrorist operation" in Chechnya. JAC

MORE HIKES ON OIL PRODUCT EXPORT DUTIES ANNOUNCED

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced on 2 August that Russia will increase export duties on gasoline and diesel fuel from 20 euros ($18.46) and 15 euros per ton, respectively, to 25 euros per ton beginning 15 September, Russian agencies reported. According to Khristenko, the duties are being increased in order to ensure adequate supplies on the domestic market. In addition, the higher duties will generate an extra $20 million a month for the budget. As of 1 August, the Russian government raised export duties on crude oil and fuel oil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2000). JAC

DOMESTIC TOBACCO PRODUCTION SOARS

The output of tobacco products in Russia increased 27 percent during the first half of 2000 compared with the same period last year, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 2 August. In June alone, 29.3 billion cigarettes and "papirosy" were produced, representing an increase of 32 percent over the same month last year. The expected introduction of excise duties on tobacco later this year might slow down this increase; nevertheless, analysts are still predicting that production for the year as a whole will be 10 percent higher than in 1999. JAC

PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY LINKED WITH NIKITIN CASE DELAY

Following the decision of the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court to postpone consideration of an appeal against the acquittal of retired Navy captain and environmental activist Alexander Nikitin (see "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000), the Bellona Foundation issued a press release alleging that the office of presidential envoy to the Northwest district Viktor Cherkesov leaked information before the Presidium announced its decision. The group also alleged that Cherkesov has followed Nikitin's case closely and was "quite upset" at the time of his acquittal. Cherkesov is a former first deputy director of the Federal Security Service. JAC

WHO GAVE STALIN WHAT?

An exhibition entitled "Pages of Gifts in History" opens at the State Central Museum of Modern Russian History (called the Revolution Museum during the Soviet era) in Moscow on 3 August, Interfax reported. On display will be numerous gifts presented to Soviet leaders and the Soviet people as a whole, including pipes carved to depict Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt and a globe-shaped telephone with a receiver in the form of a hammer and sickle. The museum has received no donations for the exhibition from former President Yeltsin. According to the news agency, those gifts remain stored in the Kremlin. JC




ARMENIAN PREMIER DEMANDS INCREASE IN TAX COLLECTION

Andranik Markarian told the staff of Armenia's Tax Ministry on 2 August that despite their laudable efforts in overfulfilling- -by 13.5 percent--last month's revenue target, monthly taxes collected must increase by 15 percent for the rest of the year in order to meet the projected figure of $320 million. Only 45 percent of that figure has been collected so far this year. Markarian also said that the tax authorities will intensify their crackdown on the shadow economy. He excluded any increase in tax rates. LF

ARMENIA HONORS DECEASED DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER

President Robert Kocharian, Premier Markarian, and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian on 2 August paid their last respects to Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant-General Anatolii Zinevich, who died the previous day at the age of 68. A former Soviet Army officer, Zinevich settled in Armenia in 1992 and played a key role in establishing and building up the country's armed forces. From 1994-1997 he served as deputy commander of the Defense Army of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

SPOKESMAN DENIES AZERBAIJANI EX-PRESIDENT'S HEALTH DETERIORATING

An unnamed assistant to Azerbaijan Popular Front chairman Abulfaz Elchibey told Turan on 31 July that Elchibey's health is "normal" and that he feels fine. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, who recently returned from visiting the former president in the Ankara clinic where he is undergoing treatment for a kidney ailment, likewise told Turan on 2 August that Elchibey feels "worse than his friends would hope, but better than his enemies would wish." Caspian Press the same day had quoted an unidentified source within the Popular Front as saying that Elchibey's condition is worsening. LF

BAKU MAYOR GIVES GO-AHEAD FOR AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION RALLY

The Baku City Administration on 2 August agreed to a request by opposition parties to convene a rally in the city on 5 August to demand amendments to the election laws, Turan reported. Dozens of people were injured in late April when demonstrators clashed with police at an unsanctioned protest. A subsequent rally planned for 17 June was postponed after the opposition and city authorities failed to reach agreement on a mutually acceptable venue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May and 19 June 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI FINANCE MINISTRY BEGINS AUDIT OF OPPOSITION PUBLICATIONS

The Finance Ministry embarked on a review of the financial records of the newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard," the journal "Monitor Weekly," and the Baku Printing House on 2 August, Turan reported. The local tax administration and the prosecutor's office had conducted similar checks over the past two months. The editor of both publications was found guilty of slander by a Baku court in May for publishing allegations that Defense Minister Safar Abiev was implicated in corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2000). LF

DISPLACED PERSONS SUE GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, STATE MINISTER

The organization "Dabruneba" (Return), which was founded last year to represent the interests of Georgian displaced persons forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war, has filed suit in the Sukhumi court in exile against President Eduard Shevardnadze, State Minister Gia Arsenishvili, and Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba, Caucasus Press reported on 2 August. The organization disputes the legality of the joint protocol on stabilization measures signed by Arsenishvili and Tsugba on 11 July. That document envisages legal actions against persons who call for the use of force to resolve the Abkhaz conflict. Dabruneba last year called for the replacement of the Georgian leadership, whom it accused of lacking any interest in creating conditions to allow the displaced persons to return to Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 27 April 1999). LF

UN OUTLINES CONDITIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS IN ABKHAZIA

Also on 2 August, Marco Borsotti, who is the UN Development Program's resident representative in Georgia, told journalists that his agency will not finance any programs in Abkhazia until the republic's status has been formally determined as an integral part of the Georgian state, Caucasus Press reported. LF

FORMER CHEVRON OFFICIAL TO ADVISE GEORGIAN PRESIDENT

Ed Chaus, a former vice president of Chevron, arrived in Tbilisi on 1 August and will take up the duties of advisor to President Shevardnadze on pipeline and energy issues, Caucasus Press reported. His salary will be paid by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. LF

KAZAKHSTAN WORKERS' MOVEMENT TO CREATE NEW COMMUNIST PARTY

The Workers' Movement leadership announced on 2 August its intention to form a new Communist Party, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. They accused Communist Party of Kazakhstan chairman Serikbolsyn Abdildin of being "a puppet of the Kazakh government." They also complained that they were constrained to hold their planned June conference in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk after the Kazakh authorities refused to allow them to do so in Kazakhstan. LF

UIGHUR ORGANIZATION IN KAZAKHSTAN WARNS AGAINST RESETTLEMENT OF KAZAKHS FROM XINJIANG

Yusufbek Mukhlisi, who heads the Almaty-based East Turkestan Liberation Front, told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau on 2 August that his organization opposes the mass repatriation to Kazakhstan of the estimated 2 million Kazakh minority in China's neighboring Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Visiting Kazakhstan last week, Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao reached agreement with the Kazakh leadership that those Kazakhs may emigrate to Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2000). But Mukhlisi argued that their departure would contribute to the "Hanization" of the region which the Uighurs consider their homeland, as the Chinese authorities would bring in more Han to replace the departing Kazakhs. LF

ASSASSINATION PLOT TRIAL OPENS IN KYRGYZSTAN

The trial began in Bishkek on 31 July, and continued on 2 August, of nine persons accused of plotting the assassination of President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The defendants, who include prominent opposition politician Topchubek Turgunaliev, were arrested in May last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1999). TurgunAliyev claims that the case was fabricated by Kyrgyzstan's National Security Ministry. LF

GOVERNMENT SALARIES RAISED IN KYRGYZSTAN

President Akaev on 2 August signed decrees increasing government employees' salaries by 20 percent to 800 soms ($17), the first increase since 1997, Interfax reported. Finance Minister Sultan Mederov denied that the increase would necessitate a monetary emission, saying that it will be financed by rising industrial production. Mederov also said that there are currently "almost no arrears" in social benefit payments. LF

NEW GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN UZBEKISTAN

President Islam Karimov on 2 August promoted two ministers to the rank of deputy premier, Interfax reported. They are Finance Minister Rustam Azimov, who had worked previously as chairman of the National Foreign Economic Affairs Bank, and Agriculture Minister Turop Kholtaev. In addition, Karimov promoted Rustam Shoabdurakhmanov to the post of minister of macroeconomics and statistics. He was previously first deputy within that ministry. LF

CORRECTION:

The minimum state sector wage in Uzbekistan, calculated on the basis of the exchange rate cited by Interfax, is now the equivalent in sum of approximately $8, not $80 as erroneously reported in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 2 August.




BELARUSIAN NGO SAYS 'CONGRESS OF SOVIETS' TO PROMOTE PRO- REGIME CANDIDATES

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has said the "Congress of Soviets" decreed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to convene in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000) is an "overt and cynical interference" in the parliamentary election campaign, Belapan reported on 2 August. According to Lukashenka's decree, the congress is to receive broad coverage in the state media, including live radio and television broadcasts. The committee believes that the congress's real aim is to promote those candidates for the Chamber of Representatives whom the authorities want to see elected on 15 October. "It should be noted that Belarus's current legislature was also formed by the president of those deputies of the 13th Supreme Soviet who pledged their loyalty to him," the committee added in a statement. JM

UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN GAS DEBT TALKS REPORTED TO BE FRUITLESS

"Novye izvestiya" reported on 2 August that talks between Russian and Ukrainian experts held in Kyiv from 31 July to 1 August failed to reach an agreement on the repayment of Ukraine's gas debt. "When decisions on the principal issues are lacking, any talks and meetings are only an imitation of the process of looking for a way out the Ukrainian- Russian gas deadlock," the newspaper commented. Meanwhile, Natalya Zarudna, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, said the same day that the Russian-Ukrainian gas debt talks were not held at a "decision-making level." Zarudna added that Russian experts will relay Ukraine's proposals to the authorities in Moscow and that the gas debt problem will then be "clearer," according to the "Eastern Economist Daily." JM

UKRAINE'S INFLATION SAID TO DEPEND ON RENEWAL OF IMF LOAN

Acting Economics Minister Viktor Kalnyk said on 2 August that the level of inflation in Ukraine in 2000 will depend on whether the IMF renews its suspended $2.6 billion loan program by November, Interfax reported. "If we restore cooperation with the IMF, the inflation rate will be moderate--no more that 24-25 percent. If we fail to do this, this figure will be much higher," Kalnyk told journalists. JM

COURT CHALLENGE OVER NRG DEAL FAILS IN ESTONIA

A Tallinn administrative court has dismissed a suit filed by the parliamentary opposition in a bid to halt the proposed sale of a minority stake in the country's power plants to the U.S. company NRG Energy, BNS reported on 2 August. The court ruled that the government decision to allow the sale was not an official legislative act but rather a protocol. It added that the protocol becomes a legislative act once a decree is issued on the matter. The opposition, led by Edgar Savisaar of the Center Union and Villu Reiljan of the Estonian People's Union, filed the suit to stop the NRG deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000). MH

POLISH PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN CHIEF SUED FOR LIBEL

Wieslaw Walendziak, head of the presidential election team of Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, has filed a libel suit against Ryszard Kalisz, who heads incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski's re-election campaign team. Kalisz formerly suggested that Walendziak may have manipulated the State Protection Office to provide the Lustration Court with documents alleging that Kwasniewski was a communist-era security service agent (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 August 2000). Walendziak is demanding that Kalisz make a public apology on national television and a donation to a Catholic charity. JM

FORMER SOLIDARITY LEADER'S LUSTRATION CASE CONTINUES

The Lustration Court on 2 August held hearings in Lech Walesa's lustration case (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 August 2000) and adjourned its next sitting until 11 August. The court heard testimony by former Interior Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who in 1992 placed Walesa on a list of collaborators with the communist-era secret services. Macierewicz told journalists that were he today to draw up such a list, he would once again put Walesa on it. Walesa denies he was a communist secret service agent. "I won with the living security police, so I will win with a dead body," Walesa commented before entering the court. According to him, the allegations against him are based not on original documents but on photocopies that, he argues, should be dismissed by the court. JM

CZECH PREMIER BREAKING LAW ON CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Deputy Chairman Karel Kobes told CTK on 2 August that Prime Minister Milos Zeman will soon "solve the problem" related to his being chairman of the joint-stock company that owns Lidovy dum, the Prague seat of the CSSD. Kobes, who is himself a member of the company's executive board, stressed that neither Zeman nor the other cabinet members who sit on the board have any financial gain from holding those posts. Earlier, CTK had quoted lawyer Petr Toma as saying the cabinet members on the company's board are breaking the law on conflict of interests. MS

PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT AT REFUGEE CAMP IN CZECH REPUBLIC

Seven refugees suffered minor injuries while protesting living conditions in the Cerveny Ujezd refugee camp on 2 August, CTK and AP reported. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the refugees were angered about having been quarantined following an outbreak of hepatitis in the camp. They clashed with police who had been called to restore order. The spokeswoman said several refugees have left the camp since the quarantine order was imposed and their whereabouts are unknown. More than 100 refugees from the camp sent a letter to Interior Minister Stanislav Gross protesting insufficient hygienic standards and the "violation of human rights" in the camp, which accommodates some 450 refugees, mostly from CIS countries and Asia. The refugees demand that a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees inspect the camp. MS

U.S. TEAM COMPLETES STUDY OF SLOVAK MILITARY REFORMS

A U.S. team of military experts has completed a study of Slovakia's defense system, AP reported on 31 July. The team said further cuts in military personnel are necessary as well as "adequate financing and long-term budgeting" for the defense structures. It also said the country's air force must undergo a "major upgrade." Defense Minister Pavol Kanis responded that his ministry is considering "borrowing 4-5 billion crowns" ($93-116 million) in order to modernize the air force. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS HE TRUSTS INTERIOR MINISTER

In an interview with Hungarian Radio on 2 August, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he is confident that the allegations linking Interior Minister Sandor Pinter to illicit oil deals are false, MTI reported. Orban said it is no accident that the allegations were made precisely when Pinter's struggle against organized crime began to show signs of success. He added that he will reveal to the public who is behind the scandal as soon as he has access to "appropriate information." Meanwhile, 76 deputies from the opposition Socialist Party have demanded that the parliament convene in a special session on 15 August to debate the affair. The signatories say that if cabinet ministers were involved they must resign and that if "a considerable number of deputies" were involved, the legislature must be dissolved. At least 78 deputies must support such a demand for a special session to be convened, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MS

HUNGARIAN ROMA MARK HOLOCAUST

Romany Holocaust victims were remembered on 2 August in ceremonies held throughout Hungary. State officials were present at several of those ceremonies. The daily "Magyar Hirlap" on 3 August cited Representative Christopher Smith, chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Committee, as saying political leaders and local authorities in countries ranging from Greece to Hungary "keep silent in a shameful way" about the plight of the Roma and "make the Romany minority feel they are not welcome." MS




MONTENEGRO FIRMLY OPPOSES YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS

Leaders of Montenegro's governing coalition told representatives of the Serbian opposition in Podgorica on 2 August that the coalition sticks by its earlier decision not to participate in the 24 September federal elections (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2000). Miodrag Vukovic, who is an adviser to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, said: "We explained to our Serbian friends our principled stand not to accept the illegitimate decisions of the illegitimate federal institutions" to hold elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that "in the coming weeks, we'll [nonetheless] do everything to help the Serbian opposition unseat the Belgrade dictator." He did not elaborate. Elsewhere, Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic told a press conference that Djukanovic made his opposition to the elections clear to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at their recent meeting in Rome (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000). For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan stressed that his Social Democratic Party will leave the coalition if Djukanovic participates in the elections. PM

WHAT COURSE FOR THE SERBIAN OPPOSITION?

Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said in Podgorica on 2 August that the opposition's talks with the Montenegrin leadership will resume shortly, AP reported. The leadership of his party maintains that it is "too soon" for the opposition to select a joint candidate for the 24 September presidential vote, the BBC's Serbian Service reported on 3 August. "Jane's Intelligence Review" offered this description of Vojislav Kostunica, who is most likely to be the joint candidate: "An anti-[Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic Serb nationalist, Kostunica would be a serious opponent of any rapprochement with the West.... He advocates the separation of the Serb-populated areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the past he supported Radovan Karadzic and the creation of Serb para-states in Croatia and Bosnia." PM

SERBIAN STUDENT MOVEMENT LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN

A spokesman for the anti-Milosevic Otpor (Resistance) student movement appealed to the Montenegrin leaders to end their boycott and join the Serbian opposition in its election campaign. On 2 August in Belgrade, Otpor launched an anti-Milosevic campaign under the slogan "he is finished." The spokesman said that some 10,000 activists are expected to take part. PM

SERBIAN COURT SENTENCES OPPOSITION ACTIVIST

A Belgrade court sentenced Cedomir Jovanovic on 2 August to five months in prison for "slandering" Serbian Deputy Information Minister Radmila Visic in an opposition leaflet. Jovanovic is an aide to Djindjic. The sentence is but the latest in a series of measures by the regime to crack down on its critics. PM

NATO SEEKING PUTIN'S HELP IN MONTENEGRO?

NATO Secretary- General Lord Robertson has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting his help in persuading Milosevic not to stage a coup against Djukanovic, "Danas" reported on 3 August. NATO spokesmen in Brussels declined to comment on the story. Meanwhile in Belgrade, a Yugoslav Army spokesman said that the army has arrested four unnamed Britons in Montenegro, Reuters reported. The spokesman added that "an investigation is in progress and an official statement will be released during the day." PM

MORE CLASHES IN SERBIA'S PODUJEVO VALLEY

A NATO spokesman said in Prishtina on 2 August that ethnic Albanian guerrillas have recently improved their defensive positions around the village of Dobrosin on the Serbian border with Kosova. In response, Serbian forces have extended nearby trenches and added checkpoints. The spokesman added that "there have been exchanges of mortar and small arms fire" in the Presevo Valley recently, AP reported. PM

MODERATE KOSOVAR POLITICIAN WOUNDED IN GUN ATTACK

Unknown assailants shot and wounded Agim Veliu, a local leader of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), in Podujeva on 2 August. Veliu was admitted to the hospital in Prishtina and was released shortly afterward. The LDK is expected to do well in the October elections, in which several parties led by veterans of the former Kosova Liberation Army are also expected to take part, Reuters reported. On 3 August, "Koha Ditore" reported that another LDK leader, Sejdi Koci, was shot and badly wounded near Skenderaj. PM

BOSNIAN FEDERAL PARLIAMENT PASSES LABOR LAW DEMANDED BY WORLD BANK

The lower house on 2 August passed a bill to sharply cut unemployment compensation for people laid off during and after the 1992-1995 conflict. The upper house approved the measure two days earlier. The World Bank called previous provisions "overgenerous," Reuters reported. The World Bank has made its $44 million financial package for 2000 conditional on the adoption of the changes in the labor law as well as on "reforms" in legislation regarding pensions. Unions say that the new labor legislation reduces workers' rights and could lead to social unrest in a country where the unemployment rate is more than 40 percent. PM

BOSNIAN SERB PARENTS OPPOSE INTER-ETHNIC SCHOOL

A group representing parents of 60 Serbian elementary school pupils in Brcko "vetoed" plans by the office of the international community's High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch to send the children to the same school as 600 Muslim refugee pupils who have returned to the region, dpa reported on 2 August. The plan called for the Serbian children to use textbooks from the Republika Srpska and for the Muslim pupils to use materials from Sarajevo. PM

BOSNIAN SERB AIRLINE AGAIN FLIES TO BELGRADE

SFOR has given permission to Air Srpska to resume flights to Belgrade on 7 August. Air Srpska will fly twice weekly between Banja Luka and Belgrade in cooperation with the Serbian carrier, JAT, Reuters reported. The Bosnian Serb carrier stopped flights on NATO orders in March 1999. PM

CROATIAN POLICE ARREST SERBIAN WAR CRIMINAL--AT HOME

Police in Sisak arrested Slavko Drobnjak on 2 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In 1999, a regional court sentenced him in absentia to 20 years' imprisonment for war crimes committed against Croats in 1991. Drobnjak recently returned to his former home in Sisak from Serbia, where he had been living as a refugee. PM

CROATIAN CHIEF-OF-STAFF TO THE HAGUE?

General Petar Stipetic said in Zagreb on 2 August that he is prepared to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal if it produces concrete evidence of his wrongdoing during the 1995 campaign in the Knin region against Serbian insurgents, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Imre Agotic, who is President Stipe Mesic's military adviser, said that Stipetic carried out his duties as a general in a professional manner. Prime Minister Ivica Racan told "Jutarnji list" of 3 August that no one, including Stipetic, need fear a witch-hunt against former commanders. He added, however, that he believes that the late President Franjo Tudjman knew much about possible improper behavior by Croatian forces. PM

SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER: EU SHOULD BE CLEAR

Andrej Bajuk told Vienna's "Der Standard" of 3 August that his country is doing its best to meet the EU's conditions for admission. In return, he added, Slovenes expect clarity from Brussels regarding their admission date and hope to join the EU in 2003. Bajuk stressed that the EU represents for Slovenia a form of security in a troubled part of Europe, adding that Slovenia "will not be a burden for anyone" in the EU. He warned that further delays in Slovenia's admission could lead to the spread of politically destabilizing "pessimism" among the population. Referring to Germany, Bajuk argued that "great nations [have] great responsibilities" in preventing a new division of Europe. PM

ALBANIAN POLICE CHIEF KILLED

Police Chief Arben Zylyftari of Shkoder died in a gunfight with a murder suspect, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on 2 August. AP notes that Zylyftari "was among the most respected members of Albania's police force, which has been struggling to establish law and order" since anarchy swept the country in early 1997. PM

'PROBLEMATIC' POLL SUGGESTS ILIESCU COULD LOSE ROMANIAN ELECTIONS

A public opinion poll published on 3 August by the daily "Adevarul" suggests that Ion Iliescu, leader of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), could lose the 2000 presidential contest. The poll shows that a team in which Iliescu runs as presidential candidate and PDSR First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase as candidate for premier would receive only 30 percent of the vote, while one formed by former Premier Theodor Stolojan and incumbent Premier Mugur Isarescu would have 44 percent backing. The poll is "problematic," however, since the premier is appointed not by the president but by the parliament. The Stolojan-Isarescu team has been proposed by the National Liberal Party, but the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic is urging Isarescu to run for president. MS

ROMANIAN NATIONALISTS CHOOSE NEW NAME

The new formation resulting from the merger of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) and the National Romanian Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000) will be called the National Alliance, PUNR chairman Valeriu Tabara told journalists on 2 August. The party's emblem will remain the same as that of the PUNR. Tabara said the merger agreement will be signed on 9 August, while the National Alliance chairman will be elected on 25 August and will be the new party's candidate in the presidential elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

PRIMAKOV SAYS CRIMEA COULD SERVE AS MODEL FOR TRANSDNIESTER

Yevgenii Primakov, chairman of the special Russian commission on solving the Transdniester conflict, said on 2 August that Crimea could serve as a model for finding a solution to that conflict, Flux reported, citing media outlets in the separatist region. Primakov said Crimea is "part of Ukraine but has a certain degree of autonomy" and enjoys "a great measure of stability" owing to the fact that the authorities there pay particular attention to "the national problem." Primakov added, however, that he doubts the conflict in the Transdniester can be solved by granting autonomy to the region because "the problems there are very complex." On 2 August, Primakov met with President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv to discuss various possible ways to solve the Transdniester conflict. MS

OSCE SAYS RUSSIAN CONTINGENT IN TRANSDNIESTER 'FULFILLED ITS MISSION'

William Hill, head of the OSCE mission in Moldova, said on 2 August that the Russian contingent in the separatist region has "fulfilled its mission" there and will be replaced "in the distant future" by international peacekeeping units that will include troops from European countries, ITAR-TASS reported. Hill told journalists that the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region will "facilitate the building of trust" between Chisinau and Tiraspol. MS

NATO COMPENSATES BULGARIAN FAMILY FOR DAMAGED HOUSE

NATO has compensated a Bulgarian family whose house in Gorna Banya, a Sofia suburb, was damaged by a missile that went astray during last year's air strikes against Yugoslavia, Reuters reported on 2 August. The agency cited President Petar Stoyanov's office as saying the alliance has agreed to pay 67,253 leva ($32,000) to cover the full costs of the damage. MS




LANGUAGE AND NATIONALISM IN THE POST-SOVIET SPACE


By Taras Kuzio

A battle is raging over language in the post-Soviet space. Soviet nationality policies left a legacy of 25 million Russians and many more "compatriots," that is, Russian speakers, in countries of the former USSR excluding Russia. Moscow sees the continued use of the Russian language in former Soviet states with large numbers of Russophones as ensuring its continued influence over these countries.

Russia has therefore praised Belarus and Kyrgyzstan for elevating Russian to second state language and official language respectively, and Kazakhstan's President Nazarbaev for proposing a CIS Fund to Promote the Russian Language. In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that if Moldova raised Russian to a second state language, Moscow would cease supporting the separatist Transdniester. And last month Russia released its new foreign policy concept, which seeks to "obtain guarantees for the rights and freedoms of compatriots" and "to develop comprehensive ties with them and their organizations." Currently, the State Duma is drafting a bill on the status of the Russian language in the CIS.

By contrast, states such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine are downgrading the status of Russian. In Ukraine, the language question has been the source of heated exchanges with Russia since last December, when the Constitutional Court ruled that all state officials should know and use Ukrainian and suggested how the constitutional provision for Ukrainian as the sole state language could be enforced. Deputy Prime Minister for the Humanities Mykola Zhulynskyi drew up a program for expanding use of the Ukrainian language, and a draft law was placed before the parliament that replaced Russian with Ukrainian as the "language for inter-communication" in Ukraine.

In fact, Ukraine's policies on enhancing the Ukrainian language are similar to those advanced by President Putin, who in January established a Council on the Russian Language that aims to enhance the use of Russian both at home and abroad. One of the council's first moves was to order the Ministry of Education to fine Russian officials who have a poor command of Russian.

This summer, Russia and Ukraine began to trade accusations after nationalist demonstrations in Lviv followed the death of Ihor Bilozir, a popular singer who was killed by two Russophones after he refused to stop singing Ukrainian songs. The Lviv Oblast Council responded by limiting the use of Russian in public places, including popular music in cafes, and in business circles. Radical nationalist parties formed volunteer squads to monitor the application of these new rules.

On 7 June, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the "anti-Russian hysteria" sweeping western Ukraine, and 10 days later, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Ivan Aboimov complained about the alleged official encouragement of the Russophobic campaign against the Russian language. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry rejected these allegations and the right of Russia to speak on behalf of Russians and "compatriots." The Russian State Duma, for its part, provoked further tensions by accusing Ukraine of having violated the provisions on national minorities in the May 1997 Russian-Ukrainian treaty. It went on to demand that Putin adopt the necessary measures to halt the alleged discrimination. The Ukrainian parliament rejected all the Duma's accusations as a "manifestation of interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state."

The increased use of Ukrainian in education throughout the 1990s has inevitably led to a commensurate decline in the use of Russian. The Ukrainian parliament sees this as "the Ukrainian authorities' intention to secure the inalienable and natural right of Ukrainian citizens to use their mother tongue," and it has rejected accusations that this is in any way "racially discriminatory." Within the CIS, according to the Ukrainian lawmakers, Kyiv's nationality policies are "balanced and far-sighted," leading to "interethnic accord and peace."

In claiming that Ukraine had violated the 1997 treaty, the State Duma pointed to Article 12, which outlines the obligation of both states to ensure the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of national minorities in each country. The status of Ukrainians in Russia and Russians in Ukraine was the subject of a visit to the two countries by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, last month.

However, it is Russia--not Ukraine--that has breached Article 12. Although the 4.5 million-strong Ukrainian community constitutes the second-largest national minority in the Russian Federation (after Tatars), they do not have a single Ukrainian school, theater, or newspaper. Parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarch have been forcibly abolished. In Ukraine, where Russians are the largest minority, constituting 22 percent of the population, 33 percent of pupils and students are enrolled in Russian- language schools and universities. And also in Ukraine, 1,193 newspapers are published in Russian, compared with 1,394 in Ukrainian. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarch continues to boast the largest number of parishes.

While the Lviv Oblast Council resolutions detailing language requirements in the private sector are excessive, the region remains more tolerant than either the Donbas or Crimea. A Sotsis-Gallup opinion poll on ethnic tolerance found Crimea to be the most intolerant among Ukraine's regions. Although Ukrainians make up a quarter of the Crimean population, only four of 582 Crimean schools (0.69 percent) are Ukrainian, and only one out of 392 publications on the peninsula is in Ukrainian. In the Donbas, where Ukrainians constitute 50 percent of the population, the proportion of pupils in Ukrainian language schools is still only 10 percent. The author is honorary research fellow, Stasiuk Program on Contemporary Ukraine at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta.


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