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Newsline - August 7, 2000




TAX POLICE INSTALL NEW VODKA FACTORY HEAD...

A group of tax policemen armed with machine guns installed on 4 August a new general-director, Aleksandr Romanov, at the Kristall vodka factory in Moscow, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. However, a separate group of security personnel helped acting General-Director Vladimir Svirskii, who had been running the factory since early summer, establish rival headquarters in the same factory but in a different office, according to AP. Romanov had been named to the post by Kristall's board of directors in May, but in July a Moscow court ruled that decision invalid. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the tax police had conducted an investigation into Kristall's activities from 1998-2000 which has resulted in sanctions of up to 100 million rubles ($3.6 million) against the company. JAC

...AS OLD ONE REMAINS BARRICADED IN SEPARATE DEPARTMENT

The daily also reported that Romanov claims that criminal proceedings have been launched against Svirskii. Romanov said that he plans to appeal the court decision against his appointment. Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest in "Kommersant-Daily." Analysts earlier suggested that Romanov's appointment represents an attempt by federal authorities to reassert control over one of the country's largest vodka facilities, which was de facto being run by Moscow city authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2000). JAC

TAX POLICE REMAIN DEFIANT ON AVTOVAZ?

The Federal Tax Police Service issued a statement on 4 August saying that it is not stopping its investigations into AvtoVAZ's financial and economic activities despite the judgment of the Prosecutor- General Office the previous day repealing the order to open a criminal case against the company, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). Meanwhile, AvtoVAZ head Vladimir Kadannikov said that the prosecutor-general's decision was as unexpected as the announcement of the criminal case last July. He said that after the 7 July announcement of the launching of a criminal case against the company, "no moves were made against the plant. Nobody called us, nobody came. Everything related to the opening of the criminal case seemed to happen in virtual reality," he concluded. JAC

TWO RUSSIAN OFFICERS EXECUTED IN CHECHNYA

Russian spokesmen confirmed late on 4 August that two Russian lieutenant- colonels who went missing in Chechnya several days earlier had been captured and decapitated, AFP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). Their heads were discovered at a Russian military unit. A Chechen website subsequently offered to release the bodies in exchange for a Russian officer accused of raping and murdering a Chechen girl. LF

JAPANESE, RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS DETAINED IN CHECHNYA

A male Japanese journalist and a female correspondent for the Russian agency Severnyi Kavkaz-Glasnost were detained by Russian military en route to Grozny on 4 August for travelling without the required accreditation, Russian agencies reported. A spokesman for Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the two would be sent back to Mozdok in North Ossetia. LF

INGUSHETIA DENIES CHECHEN PRESIDENT HOSPITALIZED

Kureish Buzurtanov, a spokesman for Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev, on 4 August denied media reports that Aslan Maskhadov is undergoing medical treatment at a hospital in Ingushetia, Interfax reported. Last week Chechen spokesmen in Moscow similarly denied reports that Maskhadov had been wounded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2000). LF

TWO KILLED IN EXPLOSION IN DAGHESTAN

Two women died and three people were injured on 6 August by a car bomb explosion close to police headquarters in the town of Khasavyurt, Interfax reported A second explosion the same day damaged the Khazvyurt-Botash railway line but caused no injuries. LF

SEVEN DETAINED FOR ATTACK ON KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS INTERIOR MINISTER

Seven people have been detained in connection with the 3 August grenade attack on Karachaevo-Cherkess Interior Minister Aleksandr Papura, Interfax reported on 5 August citing a ministry spokesman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). LF

ANOTHER BEREZOVSKII NEWSPAPER ALLEGES NEW MEDIA OFFENSIVE

"Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is controlled by business mogul Boris Berezovskii, reported on 4 August that according to its unidentified sources, a plan exists to redirect the activities of the Russian Information Center from providing information about Moscow's "counterterrorism" campaign in Chechnya to providing public relations support for the seven presidential envoys to the federal district. In addition, there will reportedly be seven new district newspapers and seven new district television channels. "Novye Izvestiya" reported last month about a Security Council plan to "restore order in the informational sphere" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2000). In addition, the presidential envoy to the Northwest district, Viktor Cherkesov, announced earlier that he plans to launch a television station for his district (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 12 July 2000.) JAC

MOSCOW STEPS UP MIDDLE EAST CONTACTS

In advance of the arrival of Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat on 10 August, Russian officials have increased their contacts with Arab diplomats. First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev received the newly appointed representative of the League of Arab States on 5 August, Interfax reported. Russian officials met with visiting Lebanese Water, Electricity, and Oil Minister Sulayman Trablousi to discuss expanding Russian involvement in irrigation projects in Lebanon and also developing oil exploration there. And on 6 August, Vladimir Isaev, the deputy director of the Russian Institute for Oriental Studies, outlined to Interfax what he considers to be the optimum scenario for Middle East peace. He suggested that this would require Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state without any mention of Jerusalem. At the same time, he said, Moscow will "surely try to persuade the Palestinian leader not to rush developments and not to insist on the proclamation of independence on 13 September." PG

INFLATION SLOWS

Inflation in July dipped to 1.8 percent after reaching 2.6 percent in June, 1.8 percent in May, and 0.9 percent in April, according to the State Statistics Committee on 4 August. June's increase had caused some concern--presidential envoy to the Group of Seven states Andrei Illarionov labeled the development "alarming" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). According to AP, the July inflation rate works out to an annual rate of 23.9 percent, which is an improvement over the 36.5 percent recorded last year, but is still higher than the 18 percent rate projected by the 2000 federal budget. JAC

RAILWAYS MINISTER WANTS TO FOLLOW GAZPROM'S EXAMPLE?

After a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on 4 August, Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told reporters that the president supports his plan to restructure the ministry, separating its economic and administrative functions. According to Aksenenko, economic matters will be overseen by a joint-stock company in which the state will own 100 percent of the shares. The board of the Railway Ministry is expected to adopt a restructuring plan on 9 August that will be later formally presented to the government. Aksenenko also announced that freight travel by rail increased 11.5 percent during the first half of 2000 compared with the same period the previous year, while passenger transportation also increased by 36 percent. JAC

DEFENSE MINISTRY PROBE EXPANDS

Military prosecutors are looking into the possibility that several generals may have embezzled up to $450 million dollars from a deal with British-based United Energy International, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 August. A criminal investigation has been ongoing since March 2000, and press speculation has focused on Colonel-General Georgii Oleinik as one of the targets. But Aleksandr Pikaev, a military analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center, told "The Moscow Times" that he believes such reports are part of a campaign to force the general from office. PG

RUSSIA, PORTUGAL SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION ACCORD

Defense Minister Igor Sergeev signed a military cooperation agreement in Moscow with his Portuguese counterpart Julio Castro Caldas, Interfax reported on 4 August. Caldas stressed that the agreement was "the first document of this kind signed since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries." And he added that such agreements will help to create "a common, safe Euro-Atlantic space." PG

RUSSIAN SHIP AVOIDS HARBORS, SEIZURE

The Russian barque "Sedov" remained in Atlantic waters on 4 August to avoid being seized to satisfy a court judgment against Moscow in the so-called Noga case, Interfax-Northwest reported. A lawyer for the Swiss company Noga told Interfax on 5 August that Russia's refusal to pay its debt undermines its claims to be a good partner in the world financial marketplace. Meanwhile, the owners of another Russian ship, the "Kruzenstern," said they would avoid entering Dutch harbors "if the Dutch authorities provide no guarantees of the Russian ship's immunity." PG

MOSCOW NOT CHANGING ITS ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for oceans and international and scientific affairs, David Sandalow, told journalists on 4 August that Russian National Resources Minister Boris Yatskevich had assured him that it has not changed its environmental protection policies, Interfax reported. There had been widespread concern following Russian decisions earlier this year to abolish one environmental protection agency and to transfer another to the natural resources ministry. During his Moscow visit, Sandalow also met with Russian environmentalist Aleksandr Nikitin. PG

COMMANDER SAYS RUSSIAN AIR FORCE READY TO DETER AGGRESSORS

General Anatolii Kornukov, the commander of the Russian air force, told Interfax on 5 August that his forces are combat- ready and could deter any would-be aggressor. "The armed forces are not having their best time now," he said, because of "the objective conditions of the state of the Russian economy and the lack of effective mechanisms for state control over the development of Russian aviation." In other remarks, he said that "on the whole, we are planning no significant changes in the organizational structure of the air force." PG

RUSSIAN STEEL PRODUCERS ATTACK U.S. DEAL

In a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the leaders of two Russian steel companies sharply criticized last year's agreement between Moscow and Washington restricting the amount of Russian steel to be sold in the U.S., "The Moscow Times" reported on 5 August. The steelmakers suggested that the U.S. tone was "more appropriate to the early 1990s or even in Soviet times," and that Moscow should not bow to American demands for restrictions. The U.S. had sought such restrictions because of concerns that the Russians are dumping steel on U.S. markets. PG

EARTHQUAKES, FLOODS VISIT RUSSIAN FAR EAST

An earthquake measuring 5.5 points on the Richter scaled jolted Sakhalin Oblast on 5 August, Reuters reported. According to ITAR-TASS the next day, almost 2000 buildings were damaged, but no deaths were reported. Meanwhile, on 4 August, a typhoon off Russia's Pacific coast damaged homes in Primorskii Krai, but no casualties were reported. The region reportedly had experienced three months' worth of rain during the past several days. JAC

GREENPEACE EXPANDS PROTESTS IN SIBERIA

Some 30 Greenpeace activists have set up camp at a leaking pipeline near Nizhnevartovsk, dpa reported on 4 August. In a statement released to the press, Greenpeace activists said that they hope to attract attention to problems in the Russian pipeline system whose leaks reportedly measure 15 million tons of oil each year. The statement added that this rate of leakage was the equivalent of an Exxon "Valdez" tanker spill (the infamous spill along the Alaskan coast) every day. But earlier in the week, a spokesman for TotalFinaElf told "The Moscow Times" that calls for his company to pay for the modernization of Russian pipelines are "ridiculous." PG

PUTIN WON'T GO TO CUBA THIS FALL

Interfax reported on 4 August that "knowledgeable sources" said that President Putin will not visit Havana after the UN Millennium Summit in September. Such a meeting, the sources said, "is still on the agenda but requires thorough preparation." Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, however, will make the trip. PG

PATRIARCH DENOUNCES DESTRUCTION OF HOLY PLACES IN KOSOVA

In a statement on 4 August, Aleksii II said that he is deeply concerned about the destruction of 87 churches and monasteries in Kosova, Interfax reported. The Russian Orthodox patriarch said that "just as the long-suffering Serbian people are returning to a peaceful life and trying to forget the horrors of the recent bloodshed, certain forces wish to deprive them of their spiritual mainstay." PG

PACE CRITICISM OF BELARUS SEEN DIRECTED AT RUSSIA

An article in the 5 August "Izvestiya" said that criticism of the upcoming Belarusian elections by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), is in fact directed at Russia. PG

PUTIN GREETS BRITAIN'S QUEEN MOTHER ON 100TH BIRTHDAY

Russian President Putin on 4 August sent a congratulatory message to Britain's Queen Mother on the occasion of her 100th birthday, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "in Russia, we highly esteem the kind interest You have shown towards our country and will always remember the support You offered during World War II to the inhabitants and defenders of Stalingrad." PG

GUSINSKII RENOVATES FORMER GUEST FACILITIES...

After spending three days there last June, Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii is donating money to the infamous Butyrka prison for the purchase of medicine and medical equipment, office supplies, food, bedding, kitchenware, and construction materials, Interfax reported on 4 August. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 August, the publisher is also providing 500 copies daily of "Segodnya." State Duma deputy and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii also made a proposal of his own for updating the prison. Addressing reporters on 4 August in Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin, Zhironovskii suggested that "a museum for Lenin be opened in Butyrka prison, where all revolutionaries should be placed." JAC

...AS HE WINS CITIZENSHIP ELSEWHERE

"The Times" of London reported on 7 August that Gusinskii has been granted the right to residency in Gibraltar under a new scheme that offers relaxed residency qualification rules to attract multimillionaires. JAC

RUSSIA TO TOW AWAY UNIDENTIFIED FLOATING OBJECT

Russian officials have dispatched a tugboat to retrieve an unidentified floating object off Japan, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. The officials have refused to say what the craft may be but sailors in Vladivostok told AP that the object, nearly 100 meters long, may be part of a floating dock (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). PG




ARMENIA FREES ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI PRISONER

The Armenian authorities on 5 August released an Azerbaijani servicemen taken prisoner one week earlier on the border between Armenia and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian Defense Ministry said the man's release constituted "a humanitarian step as a way of boosting mutual confidence." Armenia has freed nine Azerbaijani servicemen in recent weeks, while Baku has released what it claimed were its last two Armenian prisoners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 31 July 2000). Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic currently claim they no longer hold any prisoners from the other side, but accuse the other of still holding some prisoners. LF

KARABAKH EX-DEFENSE MINISTER RETRACTS TESTIMONY

Samvel Babayan, the former commander of the Karabakh Defense Army, has retracted the testimony he gave in connection with the 22 March attempt to assassinate Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. According to Snark on 3 August as quoted by Groong, Babayan has denied the charges of masterminding that attempted killing but admitted that he knew it was being prepared and failed to inform the enclave's authorities. The case against all those accused was sent to the court on 2 August. The Right and Accord faction within the Armenian parliament has issued a statement condemning what it terms violations of the rights of Babayan and other defendants during the preliminary investigation, Noyan Tapan reported on 4 August. The statement calls for Babayan's trial by an Armenian court, arguing that a Karabakh court would not be impartial. The Karabakh prosecutor-general last month rejected Babayan's request to be tried in Armenia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONVENES DEMONSTRATION

Between 2,000 and 5,000 people attended a rally in Baku on 5 August to demand that the country's authorities ensure that the 5 November parliamentary poll is free and fair. The demonstration was called by 19 of the country's 34 political parties from across the political spectrum. Some 300 policemen sealed off the square where the demonstration took place but no incidents were reported, according to Turan. On 4 August, presidential administration official Ali Hasanov told Turan that no further changes are likely to be made to the election legislation as "we believe that [it] provides for the holding of free, fair, and democratic elections." International organizations have urged further amendments to the laws, which they do not believe create conditions for a free and fair ballot. LF

TWO LEADING AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES FORM ELECTION BLOC

Azerbaijan Popular Front (AHCP) First Deputy chairman Ali Kerimov and Musavat (Equality) Party chairman Isa Gambar signed an agreement in Baku on 4 August creating a bloc to contend the 5 November poll, Reuters and Turan reported. They also endorsed a joint list of candidates to contest the 25 parliamentary mandates to be allocated under the proportional system. That list is headed by AHCP chairman Abulfaz Elchibey, followed by Gambar, who expressed the hope that the agreement will transform the political situation and bring the opposition to power. LF

AZERBAIJANI POPULAR FRONT DENIES CHAIRMAN SUFFERING FROM CANCER

Azerbaijan Popular Front deputy chairman Mirmahmud Fattaev on 4 August denied Turkish media reports that Elchibey is suffering from prostate cancer, Turan reported. Elchibey has been undergoing hospital treatment in Turkey reportedly for a kidney ailment for the past month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). Speaking on national television on 5 August, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev wished Elchibey a speedy recovery, Interfax reported. LF

THREE RED CROSS EMPLOYEES MISSING IN GEORGIA

The Georgian authorities on 6 August opened a criminal investigation into the disappearance two days earlier near the Georgian-Chechen border of three International Red Cross Committee employees. Their car, personal belongings, and a damaged radio transmitter were found on 5 August in the Pankisi Gorge, where they had intended to visit a camp for Chechen refugees. Georgian officials believe the three may have been kidnapped. LF

UKRAINIAN PREMIER VISITS GEORGIA

Viktor Yushchenko and Georgian State Minister Gia Arsenishvili signed four bilateral cooperation agreements in Tbilisi on 4 August, Caucasus Press reported. Yushchenko also met with parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania and with President Eduard Shevardnadze, and announced that Kyiv will donate 50,000 tons of grain to Georgia. During his talks with Zhvania, Yushchenko proposed that the GUUAM members states (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Moldova) create a free trade zone. He further complained that it is not economical for Ukraine to import oil from Georgia as the transit tariffs imposed by the latter raise the price too high. In his weekly radio broadcast on 7 August, Shevardnadze characterized Ukraine as occupying "a special place" among the states Georgia considers its friends. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ABKHAZ ENVOY

Shevardnadze met late on 6 August in Tbilisi with Anri Djergenia, the personal envoy of Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, to discuss possible approaches to resolving the Abkhaz conflict and the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons, Caucasus Press reported. Djergenia subsequently told Georgian television that the talks were characterized by an atmosphere of mutual understanding. He said he had informed Shevardnadze that Ardzinba is prepared to meet personally with the Georgian president. Djergenia had told Caucasus Press on 4 August that the drafting of a peace agreement and a protocol on repatriation will resume "soon." LF

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DISCUSS MILITARY BASE CLOSURE

President Ardzinba met in Sukhum on 5 August with senior Russian Foreign Ministry official Aleksei Borodavkin to discuss the planned closure--by 1 July 2001--of the Russian military base at Gudauta, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said that while Russia should comply with its commitment under an agreement signed last November in Istanbul to reduce its military hardware in Georgia, "Abkhazia's security must be taken into consideration." Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba said on 3 August that the Abkhaz leadership will not permit the withdrawal of Russian arms from Gudauta until Shevardnadze and Ardzinba have signed an agreement on security and the non-resumption of hostilities. LF

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ATTACKED IN GEORGIAN CAPITAL

Two Armenian Jehovah's Witnesses were attacked in Tbilisi on 2 August by a group of 12-15 members of the Georgian Orthodox church, who kicked and beat them, stole their personal documents, and destroyed religious literature they were carrying. It was the second such incident within a week. LF

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT TO CONVENE NEW ROUNDTABLE

Presidential administration official Arslan Amirbekov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 4 August that the authorities intend to hold a new roundtable discussion with opposition parties and NGOs later this month. Most opposition parties boycotted a roundtable discussion held in June after the Kyrgyz leadership expanded participation to include dozens of such bodies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 13 June 2000). LF

ISRAELI DIPLOMAT MURDERED IN KYRGYZSTAN

Brosh Elazar, an attache at the Israeli embassy in Kazakhstan, was found stabbed to death late on 4 August in an apartment building in central Bishkek, together with an unknown woman, AP and Interfax reported. Reuters quoted a Kyrgyz Interior Ministry official as saying that a suspect has been arrested. LF

TAJIKISTAN GREETS U.S.-RUSSIAN TALKS ON AFGHANISTAN

Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov on 4 August expressed satisfaction with the agreement reached during U.S.-Russian talks in Washington last week to tighten international sanctions against Afghanistan's Taliban government, Interfax reported. Nazarov quoted Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov as saying that a solution to the Afghan situation depends upon cooperation between Russia and the U.S. But Nazarov added that those consultations will bear results only if security guarantees are given to the leaders of Afghan parties and to the population groups they represent. Nazarov said that Dushanbe does not recognize the Taliban government and has held no consultations with its representatives. But he added that the Tajik leadership acknowledges that the Taliban represent "a real force" without which a solution to the civil war is impossible. LF

UN OFFICIAL ASSESSES SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN

The U.S. special representative for Tajikistan, Ivo Petrov, told Interfax on 4 August that the most urgent tasks facing Tajikistan are to revive the economy and crack down on crime. Petrov said massive investment is needed to alleviate low living standards, but that such investment is contingent on strengthening domestic stability and enacting legislation that protects the investors' interests. Petrov characterized the domestic situation as relatively stable, but noted that stability is threatened by the large numbers of unregistered weapons remaining in private hands. On 6 August, the Tajik Interior Ministry announced the arrest of 18 members of a criminal gang believed to be responsible for numerous murders and abductions, ITAR-TASS reported. LF




BELARUS SAYS PACE MISSION MADE 'UNFAIR' RECOMMENDATIONS

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 4 August expressed "disappointment and misunderstanding" regarding the decision by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation not to recommend sending international observers to the 15 October parliamentary election in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka said the PACE delegation "preferred not to notice" the fact that the Electoral Code is "much more democratic" than the law under which the country elected its former legislature, the Supreme Soviet of the 13th convocation. Latushka added that the PACE delegation's conclusions and recommendations are "unfair and biased," and he slammed the Council of Europe for pursuing a policy of "double standards." JM

NEO-NAZI LEADER STABBED TO DEATH IN BELARUS

Gleb Samoilov, leader of the Belarusian branch of the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity (RNE), was found stabbed to death at his home in Minsk on 5 August. Samoilov's mother told journalists that her son was murdered for political reasons but she did not elaborate, according to Belapan. The Russian National Unity, led by Aleksandr Barkashev in neighboring Russia, was founded in 1990 and is reported to have thousands of followers. They are known for wearing black clothes with swastika-like symbols. Human rights activists claim that RNE members are responsible for attacks on Jews, Caucasians, and Roma. JM

UKRAINIAN DELEGATION GETS NO PROMISE OF IMF LOAN RESUMPTION

A governmental delegation led by Deputy Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov has returned from Washington without a promise from the IMF that the fund will resume its $2.6 billion loan program to Ukraine, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 7 August. Yekhanurov has made no statements since his return. Before his Washington trip, Yekhanurov said he expected the IMF's acknowledgment that Kyiv "is implementing economic reforms on schedule." Ukrainian government officials maintain that the country can do without international financial assistance this year, but independent observers assert that Kyiv will need foreign funds to purchase fuel and energy resources to avoid shortages during the winter. (For more on this topic, see today's "End Note.") JM

UKRAINE REPORTS 11.7 PERCENT INDUSTRIAL GROWTH

The State Statistics Committee reported on 4 August that Ukraine's industrial production grew by 11.7 percent in the first seven months of this year compared with the same period last year. In another report on what seems to be an economic recovery after years of decline and stagnation, the State Committee for Industrial Policy said Ukraine's industrial exports in January-June increased by 22 percent compared with the same period in 1999. JM

KUCHMA ASKS PUTIN TO RETURN UKRAINIAN CHURCH FRESCOS, MOSAICS

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, asking the latter to help return to Ukraine fragments of mosaics and frescos from the Mykhaylivskiy Golden Domed Cathedral in Kyiv, Interfax reported on 4 August. Those fragments were shipped to Germany during World War II and later transferred to Russia. "This friendly gesture could be highly appreciated by our contemporaries, and it would produce a positive political resonance," the agency quoted Kuchma as saying in the letter. JM

NATO MORE POPULAR THAN EU IN ESTONIA

A poll conducted by EMOR published on 4 August indicated that public support in Estonia was higher for NATO than for the EU, ETA reported. Some 61 percent of respondents supported Estonia's membership in NATO, while only 40 percent supported entry into the EU. Another 26 percent objected to joining NATO, while 35 percent were against EU membership. NATO support is stronger among ethnic Estonians, at 63 percent, while with non-ethnic Estonians the NATO support rate is only 23 percent. Non- ethnic Estonians showed greater support for EU membership, at 58 percent, while 43 percent of ethnic Estonians supported EU entry. MH

CHARGES OF ANTI-SEMITISM AGAINST MAGAZINE ARTICLE IN LATVIA

The article "Jews Rule the World" in the Latvian magazine "Kapitals" has come under heavy criticism for having anti- Semitic sentiments. The article was condemned by a host of officials, including the office of President Vaira Vike- Freiberga, LETA reported on 4 August. The editor of the magazine, Guntis Rozenbergs, apologized for the article one day earlier and submitted his resignation due to "moral responsibility," BNS added. The Jewish community also condemned the article and asked prosecutors to investigate if the article violated laws against inciting ethnic discord. The U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying that the article "by content and characterization" raised the specter of anti- Semitism. Part of the controversy comes with the use of the Latvian word "zids," considered offensive by some but, as noted by publishers, was a commonly-used word before the Soviet occupation. MH

RECORD JOBLESS RATE IN LITHUANIA

The unemployment rate at the end of July was a record 11.6 percent. Regionally, Pasvalys has the highest rate at 21.9 percent, followed by Akmene at 20.3 percent, and Salcininkai at 20 percent. The number of jobless also increased in some smaller cities, including Siauliai (16.5 percent) and Panevezys (16 percent). MH

POLISH JUSTICE MINISTER SEEKS TOUGHER PENALTIES FOR GRAVE CRIMES

Lech Kaczynski on 4 August disclosed amendments he is preparing to the Penal Code. "Poland generally places middle in general crime rankings, but we're high up when it comes to mugging and aggravated assault. Warsaw is one of the world's most dangerous capitals alongside Belfast, Moscow, and Washington," PAP quoted Kaczynski as saying. He intends to raise the minimum sentence for murder from eight years to 10 and proposes the use of weapons in violent murders or kidnappings be punished with no less than 25 years in prison. The proposal also increases the sentence for gang membership from three to eight years, and for violent rape from 12 years to 15 years. Kaczynski was appointed in June to fill the vacancy left by Hanna Suchocka from the Freedom Union. JM

POLAND'S UPPER HOUSE WIDENS ELIGIBILITY OF REPATRIATION BILL

The Senat on 4 August passed a repatriation bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2000) that expands its eligibility to Poles residing in all the states of "the former socialist bloc," PAP reported. In the version of the bill endorsed previously by the lower house, the possibility of repatriation was related mostly to Poles from the Central Asian parts of the former USSR. In another amendment, the Senat explained the "association with Polishness" that a person seeking a repatriation visa has to demonstrate to the Polish authorities. According to this amendment, a repatriation seeker has to prove that he has cultivated "Polish speech, Polish traditions, and Polish habits." JM

OPPOSITION TO EXPOSE ILLEGAL ACTIONS OF POLAND'S RULING ELITE

The opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) is going to set up a team in the coming weeks to gather evidence of illegal actions by people in power, PAP reported on 6 August. "We want to have a closer look at the disquieting processes of handling and selling state assets, some surprising appointments, cases of nepotism, avarice, and wastefulness," the agency quoted SLD lawmaker Krzysztof Janik as saying. "If Janik knows anything about illegal operations of some people in power, he should promptly notify the Public Prosecutor's Office instead of telling reporters and the whole of Poland that he will be seeking evidence to substantiate [his suspicions]," government spokesman Krzysztof Luft commented. JM

CZECH SENATE REJECTS CONTROVERSIAL NATIONAL BANK BILL

With a vote of 26 against, 11 for and 11 abstentions, the Senate on 4 August rejected a bill that would reduce the independence of National Bank policies and give the government the right to appoint members of the banks' board of directors, CTK and AP reported. Only 48 out of 81 Senators were present at the voting. The bill is now to go back to the Chamber of Deputies, where it would need 101 out of 200 votes to be passed over the Senate's objections. The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which drafted the bill in the version passed by the chamber on 14 July, abstained from voting because it objected to amendments proposed to the chamber's version of the bill. The bill is part of the ODS and the Social Democratic Party's "opposition agreement." MS

MINOR ACCIDENT AT TEMELIN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

An unspecified amount of engine oil leaked on 4 August from one of the turbines at the Temelin nuclear power plant, but caused no environmental damage, AP reported. The oil leaked from one of the power-generating turbines into the sewage system. The leak was immediately detected by the plant's safety system and was in no way connected with any leak of the nuclear section of the plant, CTK reported, citing the plant's spokesman. Austria, which is opposed to the plant, on 6 August said its Environment Ministry will demand more detailed information about the accident and proof it was not caused by a construction fault. MS

CZECH JEWISH FEDERATION DISTANCES ITSELF FROM LAWSUIT

The Czech Jewish Federation has distanced itself from a lawsuit filed by the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over the continuation of construction works at the site of a medieval Jewish cemetery in Prague, the daily "Hospodarske noviny" wrote on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). The daily cited Czech Jewish Federation Secretary Tomas Kraus as saying the committee is "a very fringe group among Jewish communities. It is entirely misleading to present the matter as if the Jewish minority as a whole were taking the Czech Republic to court." Kraus, however, also said that like the committee, he is blaming the Czech insurance company Ceska Pojistovna for the continuation of the construction works at the cemetery's site. MS

CZECH FAR RIGHT PARTY ELECTS NEW LEADERSHIP

The far-right Patriotic Republican Party (VRS) on 5 August elected Rudolf Valenta as its new chairman, CTK reported. Valenta formerly headed the party's Prague branch. The VRS was established in 1995 and was joined in 1999 by some dissident members of the Assembly for the Republic--Czechoslovak Republican Party, which is the main far-right formation in the country. The election was attended by other leaders of radical formations, among them National Alliance head Vladimir Skoupy and Patriotic Front chairman Jan Skacel. VRS Secretary Jan Kopal said the VRS might offer these parties places on its list of candidates in the next Senate and regional elections scheduled for November. The VRS is calling for the institution of a presidential system with elements of direct democracy and for a "settling of accounts with the country's communist past." MS

SLOVAK NATIONALIST DEPUTY WANTS ROMA IN 'RESERVATIONS'

Vitazoslav Moric, a deputy representing the Slovak National Party in parliament, said on 4 August that "unadaptable Roma" must be placed in "reservations" to reduce the crime rate, CTK reported. Moric said the state must stop providing social benefits to "people who harm it," deeming the payment of such benefits to Roma "inhumane to the rest of the population." He said placing Roma in reservations would be "completely normal" as "in America there are also reservations for the Indians." He said that if Slovakia does not place "unadaptable Roma" into reservations now, "they will place us there 20 years from now." Moric also said it has been "statistically proven" that most "retarded people" come from among the Roma and asked "What is humane about morons being allowed to give birth to more morons and raise the percentage of morons and crazies in the nation?" MS

NEW HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT SWORN IN

Ferenc Madl was inaugurated as Hungary's president in a ceremony attended by some 10,000 people in front of the parliament building on 4 August. Madl, a 69-year-old law professor and member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, was elected president on 6 June by the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000) and replaces outgoing President Arpad Goencz. In his inauguration speech, Madl thanked the governing coalition for his nomination and said that his mission is to improve the atmosphere of political debate and promote a higher level of communication among parliamentary parties. MSZ




YUGOSLAV ARMY TO TRY WESTERN CAPTIVES FOR 'TERRORISM'

The Yugoslav Army has moved two British and two Canadian captives to a military prison in Podgorica, an unnamed army spokesman said on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). He added that the four "are terrorists, they are war criminals, and they will be judged by a military court. The investigation is in process and they will have all their rights," Reuters reported. Under Yugoslav military law, detainees must be charged within 48 hours or released. The four have spoken to a Montenegrin lawyer but have not been permitted contact with their respective embassies. The Britons work for the OSCE on a police training mission in Kosova, while the Canadians are employed there as contractors. PM

DRASKOVIC MOVES TO SPLIT SERBIAN OPPOSITION VOTE

Leaders of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) voted in Belgrade on 6 August to nominate Belgrade Mayor Vojislav Mihajlovic to run for the Yugoslav presidency against Slobodan Milosevic in the 24 September elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Several opposition spokesmen were incensed at the move, which effectively precludes the opposition from fielding a single candidate against the incumbent. Polls suggest that the opposition has a good chance of beating Milosevic only if it unites behind a single candidate, especially Vojislav Kostunica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 3 August 2000). Kostunica has said, however, that he will run only if he has the support of the SPO and of the Montenegrin leadership. Opposition leaders are slated to discuss their presidential election plans on 7 August. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told Reuters that he "thinks Kostunica will run," despite the SPO's decision. PM

MILOSEVIC HEADED FOR YUGOSLAV VICTORY?

Vienna's "Die Presse" wrote on 7 August that the SPO's decision to split the opposition vote all but assures Milosevic of victory. The paper added: "With enemies like this, who needs friends?" In Belgrade on 6 August, representatives of several opposition parties issued a statement saying that "this time it is clear who works for whom," referring to Draskovic's one-time stint as a Yugoslav deputy prime minister under Milosevic, AP reported. It is not clear how the SPO's decision to field its own presidential candidate will affect cooperation between opposition parties in local elections. PM

SERBIAN RENEWAL MOVEMENT DEFENDS CANDIDATE...

Draskovic's foreign policy spokesman, Predrag Simic, told the BBC's Serbian Service on 7 August, however, that the opposition will benefit from Mihajlovic's candidacy. Simic argued that Mihajlovic will enable the opposition to reach out to people that it otherwise might not attract. Observers note that this is perhaps the frankest admission to date by a top SPO official of the ideological closeness between that party and Milosevic. Both advocate a nationalistic hard-line in Kosova and toward Serbia's neighbors, and blame "NATO bombs" for many of Serbia's problems. Draskovic himself defended the choice of Mihajlovic over Kostunica--but by saying that Kostunica "frightens many citizens of Serbia, because his policies are in fact the same as those of Slobodan Milosevic," Reuters reported on 6 August. PM

...BUT HE PRESENTS PROBLEMS

Draskovic praised Mihajlovic as the "best possible choice" and said that he hopes that all of the opposition parties will unite around him, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 5 August. Observers note, however, that Mihajlovic has several problems in appealing for support. First, he is the grandson of World War II royalist chetnik leader Draza Mihajlovic, whom many Yugoslavs regard as a pro-Nazi collaborator. Second, the younger Mihajlovic's Belgrade city administration is widely seen as ineffective and corrupt. And third, he is little known. One leading Serbian pollster told the "Financial Times" of 7 August that "he's so low down in the SPO hierarchy that he hasn't registered in our opinion surveys." PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT: 'NO FEAR' OF ELECTIONS

Milo Djukanovic told the Podgorica daily "Vijesti" of 5 August that Montenegro's foreign partners are not putting pressure on his mountainous republic to take part in the 24 September elections (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2000). He added that his country's allies treat his government as a serious partner. Djukanovic also stressed that Montenegrin citizens need not worry about any "provocations" by the Yugoslav Army in the runup to the ballot. He said that "it is too bad for the army" that it has political generals whom he called "Milosevic's private generals." He did not elaborate, but it seems clear that he was referring to Milosevic's chief of the General Staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2000). PM

KOSOVAR POLITICIAN FOUND BURNED TO DEATH

In the third apparent attack upon a moderate Kosovar Albanian political leader in one week, the charred remains of Shaban Manaj have been found in a deserted part of the village of Ozrim, AP reported from Prishtina on 6 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). UN police are investigating the probable cause and time of death of Manaj, who has been missing for two weeks. The police are treating the case as a murder, but have not suggested what the motive may have been. He was a lawyer and politician belonging to Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova. PM

KOSOVAR SERB LEADER FEARS VIOLENCE FROM MILOSEVIC

Father Sava Janjic, who is a spokesman for moderate leader Archbishop Artemije, said in Gracanica on 6 August that his "Serbian National Council has received confidential information from persons close to the [Milosevic] regime that it is possible for us to expect attacks or even assassinations on our members," AP reported. Father Sava did not elaborate. He noted, however, that "the terror from the regime is worse than from the Albanians." PM

CROATIAN ARCHBISHOP, SERBIAN PATRIARCH MEET

Archbishop Josip Bozanic met in Belgrade with Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle during the Croatian cleric's pastoral visit to Roman Catholics in Vojvodina, "Jutarnji list" reported on 7 August. He told the patriarch that "people who live together need [to hear] the same message." PM

CROATIAN LEADERS OFF TO U.S.

President Stipe Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan left Zagreb on 7 August for a series of top-level meetings in Washington, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. They will meet with President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and top officials of the IMF and World Bank. The invitation to the Croatian leaders is part of a series of moves by Western governments to reward and encourage the reform-minded government that took office at the beginning of 2000. On 3 August, White House National Security Council spokesman P.J. Crowley said that the Croatian leaders "are the antithesis of what we see in Serbia." PM

KLEIN: BOSNIA MUST TIGHTEN BORDER CONTROLS

Jacques Klein, who is the UN's chief representative in Bosnia, told Reuters that Bosnia needs a tighter visa regime to prevent its territory from being used for smuggling people and goods into Western Europe, the news agency reported on 7 August. "We are talking about illegal economic immigrants, we are talking about trafficking in women, and we are talking about drugs," he said. Klein added that "we have to demonstrate in Bosnia and Herzegovina that we have secure borders, otherwise they won't let us into Europe." PM

BLACK DAYS ON THE BLACK SEA FOR ROMANIA'S PEASANTISTS...

Former Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan on 7 August announced he is officially running for president as the candidate of the National Liberal Party (PNL). Stolojan said he hopes "many friends" will follow him to help cope with the three main problems Romania faces: growing poverty, inefficiency of political structures, and corruption. One day earlier, in an interview with Romanian Radio, Stolojan said he considers Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu to be the most suitable person to carry on the government's program of reforms and accession to the EU. The announcement follows weekend meetings on the Black Sea coast by the PNL leadership with Stolojan and Isarescu. PNL First Deputy chairman Valeriu Stoica, in an interview with Romanian Radio on 7 August, hinted that both sides agreed that Stolojan will run for president and Isarescu will be backed for the premiership by the PNL. MS

...WHO HOPE AGAINST HOPE TO PERSUADE ISARESCU

National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) Chairman Ion Diaconescu is not attending the 7 August ceremony of the signing of an agreement between his party, the Union of Rightist Forces, and the Ecological Federation, to set up a new electoral alliance. Diaconescu remained on the Black Sea coast in the hope of persuading Isarescu to run as PNTCD presidential candidate, Romanian Radio reported. Premier Isarescu, who is vacationing there, met with President Emil Constantinescu and Diaconescu but rebuked on 4 August an announcement made by presidential counselor Cristian Preda that he will officially announce his candidacy for the presidency the next day. Government spokeswoman Gabriela Vranceanu-Firea said Isarescu will "personally and officially announce his decision once he made up his mind" and chief presidential counselor Zoe Petre said Preda had "overstepped his prerogatives" in making the announcement. MS

ALLIANCE FOR ROMANIA WANTS BEER FACTORY MANAGER AS PREMIER

Alliance for Romania chairman Teodor Melescanu said in Cluj on 5 August that his party intends to nominate local Ursus beer factory manager Octavian Buzoianu as its candidate for the premiership, Mediafax reported. In other electoral news, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau on 4 August cited National Alliance Christian Democratic (ANCD) chairman Victor Ciorbea as saying after a meeting with the PNTCD leadership that the PNTCD is ready to renounce its demand for a merger of the two parties and to accept ANCD as a separate component of the envisaged new center-right electoral alliance. MS

INTERNATIONAL AGENCY IMPROVES ROMANIA'S LONG-TERM CREDIT RATING

Standard & Poor's on 4 August announced that Romania's long-term credibility rate has been changed from "negative" to "stable," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The agency cited as reasons for the change the improvement of the National Bank's hard currency reserves and the implementation of reforms by the cabinet of Prime Minister Isarescu. The agency's rating for Romania's long-term servicing of its internal and foreign debt, however, remains unchanged--B and B minus, respectively. MS

'DURA LEX SED LEX' IN MOLDOVA

Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis on 4 August accused traffic police of illegally stopping and fining him for breaking the speed limit, ITAR-TASS reported. Braghis said he is being repeatedly stopped for the offense and forced to pay a fine, although he does not exceed the posted speed limit. "While I am forced to pay the fine, luxurious foreign cars are rushing by without being stopped. I called the attention of policemen to them, but they do not care," Braghis told a meeting of high-ranking Interior Ministry officials. Reacting to Braghis's accusations, sources from the ministry told ITAR-TASS that "professional staff" are leaving the police force due to low and usually late wages. He added that "under these conditions it is very difficult to fight corruption" among police. MS

FRANCE TO HOLD MILITARY EXERCISE IN BULGARIA

Bulgaria and France on 4 August signed an agreement under which French troops will hold a military exercise on Bulgarian territory, AP reported. The exercise will be held between 11 October and 12 December at the Novo Selo training compound--some 300 kilometers east of Sofia--and will involve 70 troops with 50 tanks and 300 armored vehicles. The signing of the agreement was necessary because France has not ratified NATO's Partnership for Peace program. MS

SUSPECTS IN BULGARIAN BUGGING AFFAIR RELEASED ON BAIL

All suspects detained in connection with the eavesdropping affair in Bulgaria (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 31 July, 2 and 4 August 2000) were released on bail on 4 August, after charges were filed against them, BTA reported. The agency also said that Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov has refused to accept the resignation of Colonel Svetlozar Spasov, deputy director of the National Service for Combatting Organized Crime. Yordanov asked Spasov to "remain on duty" and a spokeswoman for the ministry said Yordanov wants Spasov to complete the investigation into the bugging affair. MS




Ukrainian Official Not Disappointed By Washington Visit


By Andrew F. Tully

The head of a senior delegation from Ukraine says he is not disappointed in the meetings he held last week in Washington with officials of the U.S. government, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The delegation was in the U.S. capital from 31 July to 4 August and was led by First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov. It also included Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov and Volodymyr Stelmakh, chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine.

The Ukrainians met on 1 August with Johannes Linn, the World Bank's vice president for Europe and Central Asia. A World Bank spokeswoman says the meeting focused on the bank's country-assistance strategy for fiscal years 2001 through 2003, aimed at promoting improved governance and the reform of Ukraine's financial institutions.

On 2 August, the delegation met at the White House with Leon Fuerth, the national security adviser to Vice President Al Gore. They also met with Edwin Truman, the assistant secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. The Ukrainians also met with Alan Larson, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international finance and development.

The next day, the delegation had its most important meeting--with Horst Koehler, the managing director of the IMF. Ukraine badly needs foreign capital--whether in the form of loans or business investment--and is suffering from the suspension of a $2.2 billion IMF loan program.

The loan package was suspended last autumn after only about $580 million had been disbursed to Ukraine. The IMF said it had learned that the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) had been using accounting practices that made its foreign currency reserves appear to be greater than they actually were.

The fund said the irregularities induced it to make disbursements that it otherwise would have withheld. And the IMF has made it clear that the loan disbursements will not resume until it is satisfied with the pace of reform in Ukraine's banking and other industries, and in the privatization of Soviet-era enterprises.

On 4 August, Yekhanurov said he believed he was able to demonstrate to Koehler that Ukraine is making significant progress in these reforms. He spoke at a news conference in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington.

"During the negotiations with the IMF, we managed to settle our differences with the fund regarding the steps we are taking. And we believe that the discipline which we introduced in the government policy helped us to get good results."

Despite his optimistic demeanor, Yekhanurov stressed his country's need for foreign cash, particularly loans, if it is to meet its current obligations. And he offered an incentive to those states--and international lending institutions--that might be able to offer assistance: "If even a small amount of foreign financing were available for us, the rate of reform would increase."

The State Department's Larson pointed out that there is little foreign investment in Ukraine. But he says Kyiv could attract the interest of more businesses by modernizing its legal code--for instance, to ensure that business contracts are upheld.

"This is a big country, potentially rich, a country that I think, with the right policies, could hope to attract billions of dollars of foreign investment per year."

According to Larson, corruption is another impediment to foreign investment. He says that traditionally, it is consumers who decide the direction of their country's economy.

But the State Department official points out that Ukraine's economy is still controlled by government officials. This makes these officials susceptible to what he called "inappropriate forms of influence"--a diplomatic term for bribery.

Still, Larson says, the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton has decided not to turn its back on Ukraine. He notes that Clinton and Vice President Gore, as well as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, have all visited Kyiv this year. Therefore, Larson notes, the administration's approach to the Ukrainian government is positive, not negative.

"What we really are focusing on in the months ahead is encouraging them to get into a good relationship with those international economic institutions like the IMF and the World Bank that are in a position to provide both technical and material support for Ukraine's transformation and transition to a market economy."

But Larson stressed that Ukraine has much to do in order to ensure a bright future.

"There is a very important future [in U.S.-Ukraine relations] and they [Ukrainians] have a very important role to play in the world. But they're facing some very significant challenges, and I think...we and they have a stake in seeing them address these challenges as squarely [directly] as possible and as quickly as possible."

Yekhanurov told reporters on 4 August that Ukraine is doing just that. And he said he is not disappointed that he is returning to Kyiv without a promise from the IMF that the loan program would resume soon.

"I treat the results of this visit as not out of the ordinary. We understood that one visit would not produce decisions."

But he also returned to Kyiv without an expression of optimism from the U.S. government. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington.


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