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Newsline - August 4, 2000




ANOTHER CRIMINAL CASE DROPPED...

The office of the Prosecutor-General halted on 3 August the criminal proceedings launched against the leaders of AvtoVAZ (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2000). The office determined that the Tax Police did not have a sufficient basis for launching the case. According to ITAR-TASS, the tax police accused the company of selling more cars than they had reported to tax authorities; however, the tax officials did not question AvtoVAZ authorities regarding the allegation nor did they conduct sufficient document checks of auto buyers and parts suppliers. "Segodnya," which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST, speculated on 4 August that the real reason for the case's closure is "political," citing deputy chief of the presidential administration Vladimir Surikov's assurances to "The New York Times" the previous day that "recent attacks on the country's leading businessmen are not part of a systematic government policy." JAC

...AS ANOTHER TELEVISION EXECUTIVE GETS OUT OF JAIL...

After spending almost two years in jail, Russian Video head Dmitrii Rozhdestvenskii was freed on 3 August, while he awaits trial on charges of misappropriating state funds and tax evasion scheduled for 28 August. Russian Video was at the center of criminal charges against Media-MOST head Gusinskii, which were recently dropped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). According to "Segodnya" on 4 August, 12 State Duma deputies, including Unity faction leader Boris Gryzhlov and Duma deputy speaker (Union of Rightist Forces) Irina Khakamada, had appealed last month to a local court to release Rozhdestvenskii. Before she was killed at the end of 1998, State Duma deputy and party leader Galina Starovoitova had also repeatedly applied for the release of Rozhdestvenskii before trial "under her guaranty" because she believed the case against him was "political," Interfax reported. JAC

...AND MEDIA-MOST ALLEGES MORE KREMLIN INTERFERENCE

A Media- MOST spokesman confirmed that his company is holding talks with Gazprom about exchanging shares in the company for a loan, but denied that control over the company will change hands. The spokesman also declared that a statement by deputy chief of the presidential administration Surikov--who in an interview with "The New York Times" said that Media-MOST would be sold to Gazprom--is a "lie," and charged that Surikov's remarks were intended to influence negotiations with Gazprom and disrupt Media-MOST's work. JAC

U.S., RUSSIA TO COOPERATE AGAINST TALIBAN

The United States and Russia have agreed to expand their cooperation to combat Afghan-sponsored terrorism, Western agencies reported on 3 August. The two governments condemned the Taliban's support for terrorism, its involvement in drug trafficking, and its refusal to extradite Saudi-born international terrorist Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement on 2 August praising Germany's condemnation of extremist acts, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

FRANCO-RUSSIAN DISPUTE CONTINUES

First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev on 3 August met with French Ambassador Claude Blanchemaison to say that Moscow appreciates French official support on the seizure of the Russian sailing vessel "Sedov" to settle claims by the Noga company but that "the dragging out of a situation around the arrest of Russian diplomatic mission accounts" is inadmissible. Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador in Paris, Nikolai Afanasievskii, blasted the French position, "Kommersant" reported the same day. PG

BRITISH OPPOSITION TO MND WINS MOSCOW'S SUPPORT

London's announcement that the 1972 ABM treaty must be preserved has won support in Moscow, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 August. The paper said that the U.K. represents "another ally" in its dispute with Washington and that "Russia is delighted to hear this." PG

BEREZOVSKII CONDUCTS MORE MEETINGS WITH GOVERNORS

In an interview with Russian Public Television (ORT) on 3 August, Boris Berezovskii revealed that he has met recently with Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel and Orel Governor Yegor Stroev. According to Berezovskii, he discussed the formation of a "constructive opposition" to the Kremlin. Last month, Berezovskii also held meetings with Rossel and other regional leaders as part of his attempt to form a new political party (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 26 July 2000). During the interview, Berezovskii also suggested that he "will probably change [his] mind" regarding the sale of his stake in ORT to the government because the possible takeover of NTV by Gazprom would mean that the state "would control all three [television] channels." JAC

NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET COULD LAND IN DUMA BEFORE FALL

The Russian government will reconsider the draft 2001 budget on 22 August, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 4 July. The deputy chairman of the State Duma Budget Committee (Fatherland-All Russia), Gennadii Kulik, said the previous day that the government may submit the budget to the Duma as early as 26 August, according to the website http://www.polit.ru. (The Duma is currently in summer recess.) Kulik said that the government has been asked to examine two different versions of the budget, one which calls for an uneven distribution of revenue between the center and the regions, and another that sets the levels at 50-50. Some analysts have predicted that members of the upper legislative chamber are expecting concessions from the government on the budget in return for their support for President Vladimir Putin's federation reforms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). JAC

PUTIN CRITICIZES MORE LOCAL LEADERS FOR PORT MANAGEMENT...

Addressing regional leaders in the Northwest federal district on 3 August, President Putin both praised and criticized their handling of the local economy. According to Putin, the Northwest region is "one of the most developed" in Russia and "around half of locally produced goods can compete on foreign markets." However, he noted that poor local port facilities and the low quality of services provided there causes Russia to lose some 70 million tons of cargo worth around $1.5 billion a year in taxable revenue to neighboring ports in the Baltic countries and Finland. While visiting Kamchatka last month, Putin also raised the issue of that port's failure to compete effectively with a nearby ports in Korea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2000). JAC

...AS SOME GOVERNORS REFUSE TO INTERRUPT THEIR VACATIONS

The Northwest district includes the Karelia and Komi republics, Arkhangelsk, Vologda, Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Murmansk, Novgorod, and Pskov oblasts, the city of St. Petersburg, and Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The leaders of three of those regions were absent from the meeting with Putin: Kaliningrad Governor Leonid Gorbenko, Murmansk Governor Yurii Evdokimov, and Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalaev, "Segodnya" reported on 3 August. Gorbenko is ill with a high temperature while Evdokimov and Pozgalaev are on vacation. The daily alleges that the latter two governors are in "presidential disfavor" while Putin is backing a challenger to Gorbenko's position in gubernatorial elections scheduled for November. Putin also commented on 3 August that he does not rule out the possibility of giving the proposed State Council constitutional status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). JAC

ADMIRAL PUSHED FOR GOVERNOR OF KALININGRAD

A party linked to the pro-Kremlin Unity is advancing the candidacy of Admiral Vladimir Yegorov to be governor of Kaliningrad, "Kommersant" reported on 3 August. His backers say that he will more forcefully defend the "military strategic importance " of this region for Russia and will avoid the shadowy economic ties of the current governor, Gorbenko. PG

JAPAN DISMISSES REPORTS THAT RUSSIAN TREATY NEAR

Chief cabinet secretary Hidenao Nakagawa told journalists in Tokyo on 3 August that Russian President Putin has not suggested reaching an accord on key points but leaving the territorial dispute between the two countries for future discussion, Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono reaffirmed Tokyo's position that the territorial dispute must be resolved before any treaty can be signed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). PG

SHELL EXPECTS TALKS WITH GAZPROM ON SIBERIAN FIELD

Royal Dutch Shell announced on 3 August that it expects to begin talks with Gazprom in the near future on the joint development of the Zapolyarnoye oil and gas field in Siberia, Reuters reported. The two companies agreed to cooperate in 1997; this will be their first joint project. PG

MANILOV SAYS FIRED GENERALS DIDN'T OPPOSE REFORM

Colonel- General Valerii Manilov, the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, told ITAR-TASS on 3 August that there were no opponents of army reform among the six recently discharged general officers. And he added that there were no "underlying politics" behind their departure. Despite his assertion, the Moscow press continues to feature articles speculating on the divisions within the Russian army. PG

TWO RUSSIAN OFFICERS MISSING IN CHECHNYA

Valerii Manilov, the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, said on 3 August that two senior officers from the military commandant's office in Vedeno, southern Chechnya, have disappeared, ITAR-TASS reported. But on 4 August, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied a subsequent ITAR-TASS report that the two men have been executed and decapitated. LF

ANOTHER PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN OFFICIAL TARGETED

The brother of Nozhai-Yurt district administrator Isita Gairbekova was killed and her mother and sister seriously injured by an explosive device that blew up at their home early on 3 August, Interfax reported. Gairbekova was in Gudermes at the time. LF

GANTEMIROV DENIES CHECHENS CAPABLE OF RETAKING GROZNY

First deputy interim administration head Beslan Gantemirov told Interfax on 3 August that Chechen forces are not capable of staging a repeat of the 6 August 1996 recapture of Grozny. Gantemirov said that four years ago Grozny "lay defenseless, and any armed man could enter it," whereas now federal forces have drawn up detailed plans to counter any Chechen assault on the city. The Chechens have, however, warned residents of Gudermes to evacuate homes located within 4-5 kilometers of federal troop locations, and to stop rendering any assistance to the Russian forces or face reprisals, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian military anticipates a full-scale assault on Gudermes on 6 or 7 August. LF

UNITY PARTY VISITORS PRAISE REPUBLICAN PLATFORM

Boris Gryzhlov, the leader of the Unity Party delegation that is attending the U.S. Republican Party convention in Philadelphia, told "Kommersant" on 3 August that "all issues can be discussed constructively with the U.S. Republican Party." The group noted that "Russia is mentioned on almost every one of the 20 pages" of the party platform's foreign policy planks and said that even Republican criticism of the Clinton administration "strikes a note that is to Moscow's advantage." Gryzhlov noted that George W. Bush's foreign policy adviser, Condoleeza Rice, had told him that Chechnya is "Russia's internal affair" and that Clinton's decision to intervene in Kosova was "incorrect." PG

PATRIARCH SAYS PAPAL VISIT A POSSIBILITY

Patriarch Aleksii II told Rome's "Corriere della Sera" on 3 August that Pope John Paul II will be able to visit Russia once the two churches settle their disagreements. He added that dialogue between the churches is "possible and extremely necessary." PG

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP TO CHALLENGE ABOLITION OF WATCHDOG AGENCY

In an interview with "Segodnya" on 3 August, Vera Mishchenko, head of the Ekoyuris Institute in Moscow, said that she plans to file a suit in the Supreme Court against the Russian central government for its decision to eliminate the State Ecology Committee, merging its functions with the Natural Resources Ministry. Environmentalists have objected to the merger because the ministry licenses the commercial exploitation of natural resources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2000). Mishchenko charged that "no civilized country in the world has such a combination [of functions]." JAC

YABLOKO LOSES DEPUTY

State Duma Deputy Nikolai Travkin announced on 2 August that he is leaving Yabloko's faction in the lower legislative house, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The chairman of the St. Petersburg Yabloko branch, Aleksandr Shishlov, told the daily that the reason for Travkin's departure is likely linked with his opposition to cooperation with the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) faction. Yabloko and SPS recently decided to merge into one political organization. According to the daily, Yabloko's faction now numbers 19. JAC

UNIDENTIFIED FLOATING OBJECT THREATENS JAPANESE FISHING

An unidentified floating craft 100 meters long and 15 meters deep has been adrift off Japan's coast and threatens fishing operations there, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 August. Neither Russian nor Japanese officials have been able to identify just what this metal structure is, beyond noting that it bears a Russian sign saying "fire hazardous." PG

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA INTERIOR MINISTER INJURED IN GRENADE ATTACK

Aleksandr Papura, who was named interior minister of the Republic of Karachevo-Cherkessia six months ago, was slightly injured by a grenade tossed into the yard of his home late on 2 August, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 August. His German shepherd dog was killed by the blast. Karachaevo-Cherkess President Vladimir Semenov told Interfax the attack was almost certainly meant as revenge for the recent arrest of the leader of a local criminal group. LF




ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN CALLS FOR SHADOW GOVERNMENT

Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 3 August, National Democratic Union (AZhM) parliament deputy Arshak Sadoyan accused President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian of creating an atmosphere of "political confrontation," Armenpress reported. Sadoyan said the present leadership is incapable of setting national priorities and pursues "selfish ends." He also argued that the 26 and 28 July parliament votes approving government proposals to privatize four energy distribution networks were not valid, as 66 votes are required but only 64 and 63 were cast in favor. Sadoyan called on all "healthy forces" to align in a shadow government with the objective of forcing-- by legal and peaceful means--the present government's resignation. LF

PREPARATIONS UNDERWAY FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO IRAN

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev met in Baku on 3 August with Tehran's ambassador, Alirza Bikdeli, to discuss the agenda for Heidar Aliev's visit to Iran next month, Turan reported. The visit had originally been scheduled for the fall of 1999 and then for March of this year (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 41, 14 October 1999 and Vol. 3, No. 12, 24 March 2000). LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE OFFICIAL SAYS MUCH MILITARY EQUIPMENT OBSOLETE

Alekper Mamedov, a former aide to Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev, told journalists in Baku on 3 August that since 1994 the country's armed forces have been using obsolete equipment, Interfax reported. He claimed that the Defense Ministry had spent millions of dollars purchasing obsolete Soviet military hardware. Mamedov also claimed that 2,000 servicemen have been killed and about 3,000 wounded in peacetime. An investigation last year failed to confirm similar allegations of corruption within the Defense Ministry (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999 and Vol. 3, No. 5, 4 February 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT AMNESTIES 44 PRISONERS

Eduard Shevardnadze pardoned 44 prisoners on 2 August out of a total of 147 whose names were submitted to him for consideration, Caucasus Press reported. All had already completed more than half the prison terms to which they had been sentenced for minor offenses, and 11 of them were former members of Tengiz Kitovani's Georgian National Guard. Shevardnadze declined, however, to amnesty 48 supporters of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia whose comrades have threatened major protests if they are not released, according to AP. Parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania met on 3 August with members of the parliament's National Reconciliation Commission and the Coordinating Council for Political Prisoners to discuss those cases but the parliament's Human Rights Committee chairwoman, Elene Tevdoradze, said on 4 August that all those Gamsakhurdia supporters eligible for amnesty have already been released. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WARNS TAX EVADERS

Speaking in the northern city of Pavlodar on 2 August, Nursultan Nazarbaev said an investigation will be launched to establish why many of the country's major industrial enterprises, including the Eurasian Bank group and KazakhMys, the country's largest copper producer, are failing to meet their tax commitments, Reuters and Interfax reported. "We need to work on getting them to open up their secrets, so that every Kazakh knows how much they produce, where they sell, what the world price was, how much profit they made, and how much tax they paid on that profit," Reuters quoted him as saying. Nazarbaev also said he has charged Deputy Premier Daniyal Akhmetov with drafting measures to persuade major enterprises to purchase locally produced rather than imported equipment. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PROSECUTOR GENERAL REJECTS BRIBE CHARGES

Yurii Khitrin told a press conference in Astana on 3 August that Western press accounts claiming that President Nazarbaev and former Premier Nurlan Balghymbaev received multimillion dollar bribes from Western oil companies are "complete nonsense and fiction," and no evidence exists to substantiate those accusations, Reuters reported. Khitrin also said he plans to travel to Belgium next month in an attempt to persuade the Belgian authorities to cooperate in efforts to secure the extradition to Kazakhstan and prosecution of former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin. LF

KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATORS DEMAND KULOV'S ACQUITTAL

Some 150 people gathered outside the Supreme Court building in Bishkek on 3 August to demand the acquittal of former Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Kulov's six-week trial on charges of abusing his official position while serving as National Security Minister ended on 31 July, but a sentence has not yet been passed. Meanwhile the trial continues of a second prominent opposition politician, Topchubek Turgunaliev, who is accused of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). LF

TAJIK SECURITY OFFICIAL SEES THREATS RECEDING

A large-scale opposition movement with significant popular support no longer exists in Tajikistan, Interfax on 3 August quoted Security Council Secretary Amirkul Azimov as saying. Azimov said almost all arms belonging to former units of the United Tajik Opposition that have been integrated into the armed forces or Interior Ministry have been registered, and that President Imomali Rakhmonov's May decree abolishing contract military service has further contributed to stabilizing the political situation. Azimov said some legally registered opposition political parties have only minimal influence. He evaluated the Tajik armed forces as the most mobile and professional in all the Central Asian Soviet successor states by virtue of their experience fighting the civil war of 1992- 1997. But he admitted that Tajikistan remains vulnerable to continued upheaval in neighboring Afghanistan, adding that the entire world community must endeavor to bring about an end to drug-smuggling from Afghanistan via Tajikistan to other CIS states and Western Europe. LF

TAJIK CABINET SEEKS TO INCREASE EXPORTS

Economy and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Yahyo Azimov said in Dushanbe on 2 August that Tajikistan intends to increase the production and export of aluminum and cotton, which are the country's two main foreign currency earners, Reuters and Asia Plus- Blitz reported. He estimated that aluminum production will increase from 230,000 tons in 1999 to 300,000 tons in 2000 and 346,000 tons in 2005. Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov told Reuters that cotton production this year will be 500,000 tons, up from 316,000 tons last year. Azimov had estimated this year's cotton harvest at 350,000 tons. Azimov also downplayed last week's UN agency claims that half of Tajikistan's population is threatened by hunger as a result of this summer's drought (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2000). Deputy Agriculture Minister Ikhtior Ashurov said only 100,000 tons of grain of an anticipated harvest of 700,000 tons have been lost. "There will be no famine," he concluded. LF




PACE DELEGATION ADVISES AGAINST SENDING OBSERVERS TO BELARUSIAN POLLS

A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 4 August advised against sending international observers to monitor Belarus's parliamentary elections on 15 October, AP reported. "We are very disappointed by the apparent lack of progress in creating adequate conditions necessary for holding free and fair elections in Belarus," the delegation's head, Terry Davis, said in a statement in Minsk. The statement noted that little has been done by the Belarusian government to meet the OSCE conditions, which included establishing a democratic election code, providing adequate access to the media for all political parties, and abstaining from political repression before the vote. "Given the existing circumstances, the delegation will not recommend the PACE to send observers to these elections," the statement said, adding that the PACE will make a decision on observers at the end of August. JM

UKRAINE REPORTS 0.1 PERCENT DEFLATION IN JULY

The State Statistics Committee on 3 August reported that the country posted a 0.1 percent deflation rate in July. The committee attributed the deflation to a seasonal drop in food prices, saying that food prices dropped 0.4 percent, while nonfood prices went up 0.6 percent. Inflation was 18.7 percent in the first six months of 2000, well above the government's projected year-end inflation rate of 15.9 percent. Officials fear that inflation may soar later this year if Kyiv fails to agree with the IMF on the renewal of the latter's $2.6 billion loan program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). A Ukrainian delegation led by Deputy Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov is currently in Washington for talks with the IMF on the restoration of the suspended loan. JM

GAZPROM SEES UKRAINIAN BOMBERS FOR GAS AS 'HEADACHE'

Gazprom has said the transfer of Ukrainian strategic bombers as repayment for Ukraine's gas debt is unprofitable for Russia, the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported on 3 August. Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yushchenko earlier confirmed that Kyiv is considering such a repayment scheme (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000). Gazprom press service head Anatolii Babaev said the possible transfer could become "a headache for Gazprom since if this proposal were implemented, Russia would not gain anything but would have to pay large amounts of taxes." Babaev added, however, that Kyiv's proposal to repay its gas debt by putting part of Ukraine's gas pipeline network at Russia's disposal is a "constructive step." JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT NOT TO ATTEND ANOTHER SPECIAL PARLIAMENT SESSION

The government on 3 August decided not to participate in a special session of the parliament, scheduled for 7 August, ETA reported. Opposition parliament members asked for the session to discuss two bills. The first calls for the state to retain a majority stake in Eesti Raudtee, the state railways, of which the state is seeking to sell a 66 percent stake. The second bill calls for an audit and report of the central bank's activities. A similar session on 25 July failed because of a lack of quorum as the ruling coalition failed to participate in the session to discuss the proposed deal to sell a minority stake of the country's main power plants to U.S. company NRG Energy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2000). The ruling coalition expressed interest in calling a special session on 14 August to discuss the energy sector. MH

PUBLIC DRAFT AMENDMENT APPROVED IN LATVIA

By a 50 to 22 vote, the Latvian parliament on 3 August approved the draft bill submitted in a public initiative to stop the privatization of power utility Latvenergo, LETA reported. The draft bill, supported by over 20 percent of Latvian voters in a petition drive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000), bans the privatization of the company and excludes the possibility of any affiliates or spinoffs from restructuring. The passage of the bill unamended, supported by the opposition and both the New Party and For Fatherland and Freedom from the ruling coalition, ensures that the issue does not have to be decided by a public referendum. The Economics Ministry, however, hinted at the need to amend the bill in the future, BNS added. MH

KAUNAS CITY COUNCIL DOOMS DALKIA DEAL

The Kaunas City Council on 3 August voted to end talks with French concern Dalkia over a deal to lease the city's heating utility, Kauno Energija, for a 15-year period, ELTA reported. A nearly unanimous vote supported the decision by the city government not to begin official negotiations with Dalkia over the heating utility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2000). Kaunas negotiators said the French company is not willing to compromise and believed that Kaunas will receive more offers for the heating utility in the near future, BNS added. MH

POLAND'S INCUMBENT PRESIDENT WELL AHEAD IN POPULARITY POLL

The OBOP polling agency reported on 3 August that President Aleksander Kwasniewski obtained 66 percent support as a presidential candidate in a poll conducted from 22-24 July. If presidential elections were held at that time, Andrzej Olechowski (independent) and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski would have obtained 9 percent of the vote each. Other hopefuls trail by more: Jaroslaw Kalinowski has 5 percent backing, Andrzej Lepper 4 percent, and Lech Walesa 2 percent. JM

ADVERSARIES FROM ELECTION TEAMS OF POLISH PRESIDENT, SOLIDARITY LEADER REACH AGREEMENT

Wieslaw Walendziak, head of the presidential election team of Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, reached a settlement with his counterpart from President Kwasniewski's election team, Ryszard Kalisz, Polish media reported on 3 August. Walendziak sued Kalisz for libel, demanding an apology (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). Kalisz agreed to publicly read the following statement: "Ryszard Kalisz publicly states that he never claimed and does not claim that Wieslaw Walendziak issues or has issued instructions to the State Protection Office." JM

JEWISH ORGANIZATION COMPLAINS IN STRASBOURG OVER PRAGUE CEMETERY

An organization calling itself the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over the continuation of construction works at the site of a medieval Jewish cemetery in Prague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). The organization urges it to "stop the desecration" of the cemetery. A Czech lawyer representing the organization told journalists on 3 August that it is asking the court to issue an injunction halting the construction, which, she said, also constituted a "violation of human rights." Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky said in reaction that he does not even know if the complaint is directed at the government and called it "absurd." MS

CZECH POLICE DETAIN REFUGEES WHO ESCAPED CAMP

Police have so far detained 30 out of the 83 refugees who left the refugee camp in Cerveny Ujezd after a quarantine was imposed on the camp due to a hepatitis outbreak, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). Some of the refugees were stopped by German border guards while attempting to cross the frontier. Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees visited the camp on 3 August and a spokeswoman for the Prague office of the commissioner said the unrest among refugees in the camp is mainly due to "communication failures." She said the camp management failed to sufficiently explain to the refugees why the quarantine was imposed. But Frantisek Svibek, deputy director of the camp, said in reaction that "both sides must be ready to communicate." MS

RUSSIAN ESPIONAGE CULTIVATES LINKS WITH CZECH EXTREMISTS

Russian spies operating on Czech territory maintain special contacts with members of both left- and right-wing extremist organizations, the daily "Lidove noviny" reported on 4 August, citing a report by the Czech Counterintelligence Service (BIS) for 1998-99. The daily says the links with leftist groups no longer derive from ideological reasons, but from the Russian Federation's opposition to NATO enlargement. This is why, according to the BIS report, Russian espionage cultivates links with neo-Bolshevik groups that promote "Slavic brotherhood." Also stemming from opposition to NATO enlargement are its links to extreme right groups opposed to it, such as the Patriotic Front. The Russians even seek to establish cooperation between the two extremes, the report concluded. MS

FIFTY SLOVAKS APPLY FOR ASYLUM IN FINLAND

Less than three weeks after Finland abolished the visa requirements for Slovak nationals, 50 Slovak citizens left for Finland to ask for political asylum there, Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel told CTK on 3 August. Gandel did not say whether the applicants were members of the Romany minority but said the attempt raises the danger of visa re-imposition. An official statement of the Foreign Ministry issued on the same day said that since 15 July, an amended Finnish law on foreigners requires that applications for asylum be processed within two to three weeks and in case of rejection applicants are to be deported within 21 days. The ministry said the new law makes what it dubbed as "asylum tourism" unprofitable, since applicants receive from the Finnish authorities less money than they invested to pay for the flight to Finland. MS

GOENCZ SUMS UP HUNGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL DECADE

"Thank you, Hungary"--this is how outgoing President Arpad Goencz on 3 August ended a speech on Hungarian Television summing up his two presidential terms. Goencz said that during his 10-year tenure as head of state Hungary underwent "a tremendous change," converting from a country of "rule over the people" and "a state-run command economy" to one of "rule by the people and a market economy." Once a Soviet "satellite," Hungary has joined NATO and will "join a united Europe in the foreseeable future," Goencz said. But he warned that Hungary is still not a country that places the individual at the center of its preoccupation and that "we seek enemies where we could easily find friends." On 4 August, Goencz will give a speech at the inauguration of his successor, Ferenc Madl. MS




BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE PROTESTS SERBIAN ARRESTS

The Foreign Office summoned Belgrade's London-based diplomats on 3 August to demand information on the recent arrest at Andrijevica-- near Montenegro's border with Kosova--of two British OSCE police trainers and two Canadian contractors, "The Independent" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). In Ottawa, the Canadian government expressed similar concerns, Reuters noted. The four were on vacation in Montenegro from their jobs in Kosova. In Vienna, a spokeswoman for the OSCE called "absolutely absurd" Yugoslav army charges that the four are "terrorists" sent to train Montenegrin police for an eventual confrontation with Belgrade, the "Guardian" reported. The arrests come shortly after the arrest of four Dutch citizens for allegedly plotting to kill Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2000). PM

GENERAL CLARK URGES PLANNING FOR MONTENEGRO

Observers note that the arrests are most likely part of a Milosevic campaign to stir up anti-Western sentiment in Serbia in the runup to the 24 September elections. That the latest arrests took place in Montenegro appears to be part of an effort to depict the Montenegrin leadership as a Western fifth column and to intimidate Podgorica. U.S. General Wesley Clark, who was NATO's supreme commander in Europe until recently, believes that Milosevic will try to move against the Montenegrin leadership at some point in the next few months when the U.S. public is absorbed in the November general elections, the "Guardian" reported on 4 August. He called on the White House and Pentagon to begin now to position aircraft in the region and to line up political support from allies. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY SHUTS SOME MONTENEGRIN BORDER CROSSINGS

The army has set up checkpoints and closed frontier crossings at several places along the Montenegrin-Bosnian border, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 August. The latest action is part of an ongoing series of cat-and-mouse moves that the army has made in recent months in an effort to assert its authority vis-a-vis the Montenegrin police and border guards. PM

ALBRIGHT: SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC 'RUNNING SCARED'

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Washington on 3 August that Milosevic is "running scared and consequently taking actions that are illegal and changing [Yugoslavia's] constitution to suit his purposes and trying to be provocative," AP reported. She added that "the important thing is for the opposition to solidify, present a single [presidential] candidate, and get on with the elections.... There is no doubt in anybody's mind that this election is going to take place...and that it will take place in unfair circumstances where the media is under control and the opposition is being intimidated," Albright noted. PM

DRASKOVIC TRYING TO PRESSURE SERBIAN OPPOSITION?

Former General Momcilo Perisic of the Movement for Democratic Serbia said on 3 August that the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk "Draskovic asked [other opposition leaders] to join him in boycotting parliamentary elections and demanded that we support his candidate for the federal president. In return, he would work with us in the local polls," Perisic added. Reuters reported that Draskovic's presidential candidate could be Vojislav Mihajlovic, who is mayor of Belgrade and a senior SPO official. SPO leaders will hold a strategy meeting on 6 August. PM

THREE SUSPECTED WAR CRIMINALS ESCAPE FROM JAIL IN KOSOVA

Three unnamed Serbs facing trial on charges of war crimes and genocide escaped from a hospital in Mitrovica in the early hours of 4 August, dpa reported. Doctors with the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) had recently recommended that the men be sent to the hospital. UNMIK said in a press release that an investigation is under way. PM

KOSOVA MODERATE PARTY SLAMS SHOOTING OF TWO LEADERS

Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova said in a statement on 4 August that "attacks against party activists and members are intensifying. As the preparations for the [October] elections are under way, this fact proves that authors of these attacks are against democratic elections, against stability, and against the independence and future of Kosova," AP reported from Prishtina. The statement referred to the recent shootings of two local LDK officials in separate incidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). PM

U.S. TO REOPEN VISA SECTION IN TIRANA EMBASSY

U.S. Ambassador to Albania Joseph Limprecht said in Tirana on 4 August that the visa section of the embassy will reopen on 5 September. He said that the decision to reopen the facility reflects the growing stability in Albania. The visa section was closed in 1998 in an effort to tighten security against a possible terrorist threat from the Middle East. PM

THE LAST YUGOSLAV?

The Zagreb daily "Vecernji list" reported on 3 August that Croatian police have completed a 16-month investigation of a major cigarette-smuggling ring headed by Marko Milosevic, who is the son of Slobodan. The young Milosevic, who is well known as a "businessman," takes cigarettes from the Croatian factory in Rovinj and gets them to Belgrade via Slovenia and via the Montenegrin port of Bar. Milosevic junior's firm is based in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The paper added that young Milosevic controls virtually the entire illicit cigarette trade in Serbia. PM

ROMANIA'S LIBERALS ISOLATING FORMER ALLIES...

National Liberal Party (PNL) negotiators are meeting on 4 August with representatives of the Union of Rightist Forces to discuss forging an electoral alliance. On 3 August, PNL representatives met with members of the civic organization represented in the disintegrating Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) and with Victor Ciorbea, leader of the Christian Democratic National Alliance (ANCD), in what observers say is an attempt to isolate the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) from its prospective allies in a restructured CDR that would not include the PNL. Ciorbea said the meeting has "laid the foundation of setting up a Liberal Democratic Alliance." He also said the ANCD rejects the PNTCD demand that their two parties merge. Constantin Ticu-Dumitrescu, who represented the civic organizations, said the forging of "a new political structure" capable of opposing the "slide to the Left," is now feasible. MS

...AND CONTINUE FEELERS WITH MELESCANU'S PARTY

Representatives of the PNL and the Alliance for Romania (APR) on 3 August agreed that contacts between negotiating teams of their parties will continue at "expert level" with the purpose of forging "a pre-electoral or a post-electoral alliance." APR leader Teodor Melescanu said if the two parties prove unable to agree on a joint presidential candidate they might support their best-placed candidate in the second runoff of the presidential contest. Also on 3 August, PNL First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica and Iasi Mayor Constantin Simirad, leader of the Party of Moldovans, agreed to merge their formations. The agreement is to be approved by extraordinary congresses of the two parties, both due to be held on 18 August. MS

EU RAPPORTEUR SAYS ROMANIA'S ROAD TO UNION 'LONG AND DIFFICULT'

Baroness Emma Nicholson, EU rapporteur on Romania in the negotiations for the country's accession to the union, said in her report that Romania's road to joining the organization is "long, difficult, and full of hindrances," Romanian Radio reported on 3 August. Among the main obstacles mentioned are the situation of abandoned children in that country, corruption in its public administration, Romania's economic situation, and the slow progress on privatization. The report emphasizes, however, that Romania's geographic position is important to stabilizing the region and that Bucharest meets all political criteria for joining the EU. It also says Romania has "taken all necessary measures for national minorities to benefit from all rights stipulated in EU Council documents." MS

ROMANIAN ROMANY ORGANIZATION TO SUE STATE

The CRISS Romany non-governmental organization on 3 August said it will sue the state for discriminating against Roma, AFP reported. The organization said a state-funded employment agency in Bucharest advertises job vacancies carrying the warning "Roma need not apply." MS

OSCE DOUBTS RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL BY END 2002

In an interview with the BBC, William Hill, head of the OSCE mission to Moldova, said Russia will not--due to "technical reasons"--be able to abide by its pledge to end the withdrawal of troops from the Transdniester region by 2002, as agreed at the OSCE's 1999 Istanbul summit. Hill says that in order for the withdrawal to be completed by then, Russia must start it in autumn 2000 "at latest," Romanian Radio reported. Also on 3 August, Vasile Sturza, chairman of the Moldovan special commission for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, told MoldPress that all Moldovan, Russian, and Transdniestrian troops in the security zone separating the two former belligerents must be replaced by OSCE troops. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN BUGGING SCANDAL

Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told a special session of the parliament on 3 August that his cabinet never ordered special surveillance means to be used against Prosecutor- General Nikola Ilichev, legislators or magistrates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 2 August 2000 ). Kostov called for a "national consensus" to eliminate once and forever the surveillance methods of the communist era. "This practice of the past should forever remain in the past," he said. Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov repeated that the check conducted by his ministry found that the listening devices were planted in 1994 in Ilichev's and the other apartments in which they were discovered last week, but that they were never used, AP reported. The legislators authorized their parliamentary National Security Committee to investigate the use of special surveillance means and requested stronger civilian control over the Interior Ministry. MS




DEATH OF A CHECHEN PRAGMATIST


By Liz Fuller

Of the quantities of journalistic and analytical materials devoted to Russia's 1994-1996 war in Chechnya, one of the most invaluable is Yusup Soslambekov's 100-page compendium "Chechnya -- The View From Inside."

Published in 1995, before the signing by then Russian Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed and then Chechen army chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov of the August 1996 ceasefire agreement and the subsequent Khasavyurt accord, Soslambekov's work comprises a chronological series of essays devoted to political developments in Chechnya from 1990-1994, together with a 1993 draft treaty on Chechen-Russian relations, and three successive peace plans drafted in 1995.

Those materials are important and useful for several reasons. Soslambekov was a key political actor in Chechnya in his own right as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chechen parliament elected in October 1991. (Soslambekov split with then President Dzhokhar Dudaev in the early summer of 1993 after the latter used force to dissolve the parliament, of which Soslambekov was subsequently elected chairman.) Soslambekov participated in talks with Moscow in 1991-1993 and was acquainted with all the Chechen and Russian political figures who collectively contributed to the escalation in tensions that resulted in the Russian invasion in December 1994.

His insights into the evolving confrontation are fascinating: he reveals, for instance, that in the late summer of 1991 then Russian Supreme Soviet speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov wanted to install his hand-picked team of Chechen leaders, but Russian President Boris Yeltsin preferred Dudaev. That choice proved fateful because, as Soslambekov writes "The methods chosen by Dudaev to attain real independence ran counter to common sense. Rather than taking as his guidelines the norms of international law, from day one of his term as president he chose the path of confrontation...in regulating relations with the Russian Federation." He attributes Dudaev's initial popularity among the Chechen people to his honesty and the fact that he was a member neither of the former Communist Party nomenklatura nor the wealthy Chechen business community in Moscow.

Despite his avowed opposition to Dudaev, Soslambekov remained committed to achieving independence for Chechnya, but at the minimum cost in human life and suffering and with the maximum effort to reduce tensions between Chechnya and Moscow and to avoid destabilizing the neighboring North Caucasus republics. To that end, he drafted a treaty "On the basis of relations between the Chechen Republic and the Russian Federation," whereby Moscow recognized Chechnya's independence, but the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation was nonetheless preserved.

Soslambekov argued repeatedly that neither the Russians nor the Chechens could achieve a military victory in Chechnya. His draft proposals for resolving the conflict, based on the phased approach, all envisaged a cessation of hostilities, the creation of a provisional Chechen government, and the conduct of a referendum in which the republic's population would be invited to choose between independence for Chechnya; a confederation with Russia; "associated membership" of the Russian Federation; and the same degree of sovereignty within the Russian Federation as enjoyed by the Republic of Tatarstan.

Soslambekov's proposed model for an independent democratic Chechen state is Switzerland: he points to similarities in mentality and traditions between two small and fiercely independent mountain peoples. He offers concise, but valuable comments on the relevance of such factors as Chechnya's teyp (clan) system, Islam in Chechnya, and the illicit export of oil.

However apposite and rational they may have been, Soslambekov's proposals were routinely ignored by a Russian leadership that proceeded to launch a new war last summer. The similarities between the present situation and that in 1995 are depressing: the Chechen president is branded as a criminal and thus not considered a valid partner for negotiations; the military situation is close to a stalemate; and the Chechen administration installed by Moscow has only minimal control over events on the ground.

As Maskhadov's designated envoy for liaison with the Russian leadership, Soslambekov was ideally qualified to craft a new peace settlement had Moscow demonstrated any interest in doing so. But he was gunned down on a Moscow street on 18 July, and died nine days later, without regaining consciousness, at the age of 44.


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