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Newsline - August 8, 2000




PUTIN SIGNS TAX CODE INTO LAW...

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the new taxation code into law on 6 August, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. Putin, who said that the new law was "the most important event in the life of the country," expressed his thanks to all those who helped develop and pass it. The new code introduces a flat tax of 13 percent beginning next year, a rate intended to reduce the tax burden on companies and individuals and to encourage them to pay their taxes in full. PG

...AND LEGISLATION ON GOVERNMENT RESTRUCTURING

On 7 August, President Putin signed legislation which restructures the Federation Council and increases his power over the leaders of the country's regions by depriving them of their seats in the upper chamber by 2002, and requires them to appoint envoys to Moscow, Interfax reported. PG

PUTIN ISSUES DIRECTIVES ON BUDGET PRESENTATIONS

President Putin also issued specific instructions to the government on the scheduling of presentations of the new budget, Vice Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin told ITAR-TASS on 7 August. "The draft budget will arrive at the government on August 17, and the government is planning to discuss it on August 22, and then the budget is planned to be submitted to the Federation Council on August 26," Kudrin said. He added that the current budget is intended to ensure 100 percent financing of all budgetary lines. PG

SHAIMIEV, DZASOKHOV BACK PUTIN AS STATE COUNCIL HEAD

Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev told TatarInform on 7 August that the planned Russian State Council "must be headed by the Russian president and must represent the heads of the Russian territorial entities," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 8 August. He advocated amending the Russian Constitution as soon as possible to define the status and functions of the new body, which, he said, should include the right of legislative initiative. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 August, North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov similarly said that Putin should head the new State Council, adding that he should have a permanent deputy. Dzasokhov said that the heads of government of all federation subjects should be members of the state council, and that the possibility of extending membership to the government heads of smaller autonomous formations within those 89 federation subjects should also be discussed. LF

ZYUGANOV SAYS PUTIN FAILING TO SET PRIORITIES

Gennadii Zyuganov, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, writes in the 8 August "Pravda" that President Putin has failed to set priorities, that his words and deeds often do not correspond, and that many of his slogans are taken "word for word" from the communists, Interfax reported. Zyuganov said that he is sure that Putin "sees and understands everything but in order to resolve problems, one should know where to go." With respect to cooperation with the U.S., Zyuganov said that "of course we are for normal relations with the United States as two wings are also competing there: one aggressive and the other more reasonable." PG

FRENCH LAWYERS THREATEN SEIZURE OF PUTIN'S PLANE

Lawyers representing the Swiss Noga firm said on 7 August that they will demand the seizure of President Putin's airplane when he arrives in France in October as part of their efforts to recover $63 million the Russian government owes their client, Reuters reported. The Paris Appellate Court said on 7 August that it will announce on 10 August its verdict on Noga's calls for the freezing of the bank accounts of Russian diplomatic missions in France, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, officials at the Russian State Naval Academy said that the Russian sailing ship "Mir" will take part in the Sail-2000 regatta in the Netherlands only if they are given assurances that the ship will not be detained "unlawfully," the Russian news agency said. PG

GOVERNMENT OPENS 'EMBASSIES' IN FEDERAL DISTRICTS

According to Vice Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, the Russian government will open its own representative offices in the seven federal districts to coordinate the work of ministries and agencies there, according to "Segodnya" on 5 August. He said that the decree on this will be issued by 13 August. Officials told the paper that this arrangement will increase the power of the federal agencies relative to that of the governors. Meanwhile, on 7 August, President Putin appointed Gennadii Apanasenko as the first deputy to his representative in the Far Eastern Federal District and Vladislav Tumanov as first deputy presidential representative in the Urals Federal District. Prior to their appointments, Apanasenko had been first deputy head of the Khabarovsk regional administration, and Tumanov had served as first deputy minister for federation affairs, nationalities, and migration policy. PG

RUSSIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CLAIMS GEORGIA SUPPLIES ARMS TO CHECHENS

An unidentified Russian reconnaissance officer in southern Chechnya on 7 August showed journalists parachutes which he said had been used to drop arms, ammunition, food supplies, and uniforms to Chechen fighters from unmarked aircraft that cross into Russian air space after taking off from Georgian territory, Russian agencies reported. The officer also produced packaging carrying inscriptions in Arabic, Turkish, and Georgian. Caucasus Press on 8 August quoted an unnamed Georgian border guard official as rejecting the Russian allegations. He said Georgia does not have aircraft capable of dropping supplies by parachute, and that the parachutes displayed by the Russian intelligence officer belonged to Russian paratroopers who landed in southern Chechnya last year. LF

CHECHEN SECURITY OFFICIAL SURRENDERS

Field commander Ibragim Khultygov surrendered on 7 August to federal forces, Russian agencies reported. Khultygov was named head of the Sharia security service in August 1998, succeeding his brother, Lecha, who was shot dead in a standoff in Grozny two months earlier with units loyal to Salman Raduev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June and 25 August 1998). According to "Kommersant-Daily" of 8 August, it is not clear whether Khultygov has taken any part in hostilities over the past 10 months. LF

GOVERNMENT SETS UP ENTREPRENEURIAL COUNCIL

The Russian government has established a council for entrepreneurial activities in order to coordinate ties between executive agencies and private businesses, Interfax reported on 7 August. To be chaired by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, its government-appointed members will seek to improve laws affecting entrepreneurial activities in Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian parliament established an investment commission, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on the same day. PG

ISRAELI OFFICIAL ARRIVES IN MOSCOW

Israeli Attorney-General Eliyakim Rubinstein, who was a participant at Camp David, arrived in Moscow on 7 August to discuss the current stage of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Interfax reported. Rubinstein's visit comes three days before Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is expected to arrive in the Russian capital. PG

MOSCOW, WASHINGTON TO DISCUSS FUTURE OF ABM

Russian and American officials plan to hold a series of consultations on the ABM treaty prior to the mid-September meeting of Presidents Putin and Bill Clinton at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, Interfax reported on 7 August. Russian diplomatic sources told the news agency that these talks "will rely on understandings to intensify the dialogue on strategic stability" reached at the G-7 plus Russia meetings in Okinawa. PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY REGRETS BULGARIAN STATEMENTS

In a press release on 7 August, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it regrets what it called the unfriendly statements made by Bulgarian officials during a parliamentary discussion of that country's security situation, Interfax reported. Moscow was reacting to a statement by Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, who noted that Sofia did not give Russia permission to send its planes through Bulgarian air space during the Kosova crisis. (See additional story in Bulgarian section of Part II.) PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES UN ACTION ON SIERRA LEONE

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 7 August said that it welcomed the fact that UN Security Council Resolution 1313--adopted on 4 August--does not change the current mandate of UN forces in Sierra Leone or allow UN troops there to use force. Any such correction would be incompatible with Russian participation there, the ministry concluded. PG

RUSSIA, ITALY REACH ACCORD ON SOVIET-ERA DEBT

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin told Interfax on 7 August that Moscow and Rome have reached a bilateral agreement on the restructuring of Soviet-era debt payments. He also indicated that Russia has no plans at this point to seek to extend the term for exchanging Soviet-era debt for Eurobonds with London Club creditors. The deadline for exchange bids is 11 August, and Kolotukhin said that he does not see a need for extending it. PG

ACCUSED AMERICAN SPY IN FAILING HEALTH

Edmund Pope, an American accused of spying and now held in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison, is in failing health, his wife told ABC television on 7 August, according to AP. Russian officials have charged that Pope was seeking plans for a submarine-fired missile, but his supporters say that he was only seeking information about a commercially available torpedo. PG

RUSSIAN RESERVES RISE 87 PERCENT IN FIRST HALF

The Central Bank of Russia said that Russia's gold and foreign exchange reserves rose by 87.1 percent during the first half of 2000, Interfax reported on 7 August. Gold reserves fell $651 million during that period, but foreign currency holdings increased from $8.457 billion to $19.995 billion. PG

SAKHALIN EARTHQUAKE CLEANUP CONTINUES

The Emergency Situations Ministry said that the 8.5 Richter scale earthquake that hit Sakhalin on 5 August caused at least 25 million rubles ($850,000) in damages, Interfax reported on 7 August. Emergency workers have been able to restore water, electricity, and rail links, but new tremors have kept many residents from returning to their homes. PG

TATARSTAN OFFICIAL SAYS UNITARY APPROACH UNDERCUTS DEMOCRACY

Tatarstan State Council chairman Farit Mukhametshin told a conference in Ufa on 3 August that Moscow's current efforts to impose a common set of regulations for all the regions undercut both democracy and free markets, RFE/RL's Tatar- Bashkir Service reported on 7 August. Mukhametshin noted that "for 10 years in Russia they have been declaring: take your sovereignty, unload the federal center, solve your problems locally. We believed that," but now "the new president came and said to go back. We cannot call such a policy equitable." He said he believed that Russia is destined to be a federative state and to that end must avoid unitarism. "No one argues that Russian executive power must be enforced, but what does that have to do with the rights of the regions? It is impossible to form a strong family by force; one can do so only with consent and mutual affection." PG

GENERAL MAY RUN FOR ULYANOVSK GOVERNOR

General Vladimir Shamanov, the commander of the 58th army and of the western group of forces in Chechnya, is considering a race for governor of the Ulyanovsk Oblast, Interfax reported on 7 August. He told NTV on the same day that "men in uniform have proven their devotion to the country by their service" and that "some generals may be useful to the president with their activity and erudite advice." Last November, Shamanov threatened to resign his commission if the war in Chechnya was ended before the Chechen fighters' resistance was totally crushed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1999). PG

RUSSIAN SPACE STATION LAUNCH A NEAR THING

Last month's launch of the Russian module of the International Space Station was in doubt until almost the last moment because of funding problems, Interfax reported on 7 August. "Right up to the docking of the Russian service module 'Zvezda' with the ISS, financing for the further development of the Russian segment of the station was virtually frozen because it was not possible to foresee how the launch and docking would go," Khrunichev Company Director Anatolii Kiselev said. But since the launch was successful, he added, "we hope that funds will start flowing." PG

ZHIRINOVSKY DENOUNCES LENIN, HOMETOWN

During a visit last week to his hometown of Ulyanovsk, Russian nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that he "hate[d] everything about" the city, "Kommersant" reported on 5 August. "I hate your city because this is where the greatest terrorist of the 20th century was born" -- Vladimir Lenin (Ulyanov). According to Zhirinovsky, the paper reported, "Russia was the mightiest and most beautiful, the most cultured and most blooming country of the world in 1913. Ten years later, when Vladimir Lenin died, the country was already in ruins." Zhirinovsky said that was all Lenin's doing and called on the city to drop its Soviet-era name in favor of its traditional one, Simbirsk. PG

MYSTERY OBJECT IDENTIFIED AS SUB DETECTOR

Russian officials told ORT on 7 August that the mysterious object sighted by Japanese fisherman and now being towed in by a Russian tugboat was a fragment from a Russian submarine acoustical detection device (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). Part of that device broke off during a 1994 earthquake on the Kamchatka peninsula. PG




ARMENIAN STATE NEWS AGENCY STAFF DEMAND PAY ARREARS

Employees of Armenia's state news agency Armenpress staged a one-day strike on 7 August to demand back salaries, which have not been paid since March, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Of a total 36 million drams ($70,000) earmarked in this year's budget for Armenpress, only 8 million drams has been made available to date. Eduard Militonian, who heads the government department for information and publishing, which supervises Armenpress, assured the agency's staff that they will be paid on 8 August. LF

U.S., EU PRESSURE AZERBAIJAN TO AMEND ELECTION LAWS

Ambassadors from unspecified EU member states have written to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev urging him to amend the country's election legislation in accordance with recommendations from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Turan reported on 8 August. The ambassadors warn that failure to do so may jeopardize Azerbaijan's Council of Europe membership. "Azadlyg" reported on 8 August that the issue of Azerbaijan's acceptance into full membership has been removed from the agenda of the Council of Europe Council of Ministers' session scheduled for 2 September. Also on 8 August, presidential administration official Ali Hasanov confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has also written to Aliyev in connection with the 5 November parliamentary elections. On 7 August, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev said that while Azerbaijan "respects" the OSCE, it will not yield to pressure from that organization to amend its legislation, Turan reported. LF

NATO NOT TO TAKE OVER RUSSIAN AIR BASE IN GEORGIA

Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and a senior Defense Ministry official on 7 August both rejected as "fantasy" the speculation that a NATO delegation that arrived in Tbilisi that day planned to inspect the airfield at the Russian military base at Vaziani, near Tbilisi, to determine whether it is suitable for NATO needs, Caucasus Press reported. In compliance with an agreement signed in Istanbul last November, Russia began last week withdrawing excess military equipment from the Vaziani base in order to comply with the quota Russia is allowed under the revised CFE Treaty. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIAL SAYS RED CROSS WORKERS ABDUCTED

Deputy Interior Minister Kakha Bakuradze told journalists in Tbilisi on 7 August that the three Red Cross workers who disappeared on 4 August in the Pankisi gorge were abducted, Caucasus Press reported. Bakuradze added that the Georgian authorities have a good idea who the abductors are, but did not disclose their identity. He added that he is confident that the lives of the three officials are not in danger. Also on 7 August, the Tbilisi office of the International Red Cross Committee said it has suspended all humanitarian operations in the Pankisi gorge, where several thousand refugees from Chechnya have settled, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

GEORGIANS, LOCAL GREEK MINORITY CLASH IN TSALKA

Some 20 people, including some women and children, were injured in fighting on 6 August in the south Georgian district of Tsalka between Pontic Greeks and Georgians from Adjaria who tried to occupy the abandoned homes of Greeks who had emigrated, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 25, 22 June 2000). The Pontic Greeks constitute a majority of the local population. Police intervened to halt the skirmish. The local prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into the incident. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PROSECUTOR GENERAL ADVOCATES CODE OF JOURNALISTIC ETHICS

Speaking at a press conference in Astana on 5 August, Yurii Khitrin said that a journalistic code of honor and ethics is urgently needed, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 7 August. Khitrin said Kazakhstan's media "have become a battlefield" for settling scores, and claimed that of 148 critical articles checked for accuracy, 44 contained unfounded charges. Khitrin admitted that his office has registered instances in which journalists' or media outlets' rights had been violated, and that some government press centers refuse on occasion to release information to the media. He said that his office will not enforce any censorship of the media in Kazakhstan. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ACQUITTED

Presiding judge Nurlan Ashyrbekov announced late on 7 August the acquittal of former Vice President and Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The military prosecutor had demanded an eight-year sentence for Kulov on charges of abuse of his official position in 1997-1998 when he served as National Security Minister. Kulov's co-defendant, Djanybek Bakhchiev, who formerly headed the anti-terror group within the National Security Ministry, was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, and two other former ministry employees each received suspended sentences of five years. Interfax quoted Kulov as telling supporters who had gathered outside the courtroom that he will decide within one week, after consulting with other opposition candidates, whether to run against incumbent Askar Akaev in the 29 October presidential poll. The Ar-Namys party, of which Kulov is chairman, has nominated him as its candidate. LF

UZBEK FORCES SEEK TO REPEL INCURSION FROM TAJIKISTAN

Uzbek security forces clashed on 6 August with members of several groups of Islamists who penetrated the Surkhandarya Oblast of southern Kyrgyzstan from Afghanistan via Tajikistan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 August. The Islamists, whose numbers are variously estimated at between 70-100, are said to be loyal to Djuma Namangani and Takhir Yuldash, the leaders of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Tajikistan has intensified controls along its border with Uzbekistan, deputy Border Protection Committee chief Major General Safarali Saifullaev told Asia Plus-Blitz on 8 August. LF




NOMINATION OF PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES STARTS IN BELARUS

According to the schedule approved by the Central Electoral Commission, Belarus on 6 August entered the nomination phase in the parliamentary election campaign. Candidates for the 110 seats in the Chamber of Representatives may be proposed by working collectives, political parties, or groups of no less than 1,000 citizens. The registration of candidates will take place from 4-14 September, while campaigning will be allowed from 15 September to 14 October. Meanwhile, presidential aide Syarhey Posakhau told journalists on 7 August that the authorities have complied with all the requirements of the OSCE and other European organizations to make the elections democratic and free. Posakhau's assessment is not shared by the Belarusian opposition, which calls the 15 October ballot a "farce" and has decided to boycott it. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO SEEK REFERENDUM ON ELECTION CONDITIONS

The Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces on 7 August decided to seek a referendum in support of the four requirements necessary for the international recognition of Belarus's elections as democratic and free, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The OSCE demands that the Belarusian authorities upgrade the electoral legislation to meet international standards, expand the powers of the current legislature, give the opposition access to the state media, and improve the political atmosphere in the country by stopping political persecution and releasing political prisoners. Under Belarus's legislation, the opposition must collect no less than 450,000 signatures in order to launch the referendum as a popular initiative. JM

U.S. TO STOP FUNDING UKRAINE IF RUSSIAN GAS DEBT PAID WITH BOMBERS

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer said on 7 August that the U.S. will stop financing the dismantling of Ukraine's nuclear arsenal if Kyiv transfers more strategic bombers to Russia in repayment of gas debts. "We will not pay Ukraine for cutting up the bombers if it does not destroy them," Interfax quoted Pifer as saying. Pifer added that Washington would prefer the planes to be dismantled because they "were made with the sole goal--to carry nuclear arms directed at the United States." Last year Ukraine sent 11 strategic bombers to Russia to repay $285 million for delivered gas, while last week the Ukrainian premier admitted that Kyiv has offered another 10 bombers to write off part of its gas debt to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000). JM

WORLD BANK CONSIDERS THREE-YEAR LOAN PLAN FOR UKRAINE

First Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, who led a delegation for talks with the IMF and the World Bank in Washington last week, said on 7 August that the World Bank is considering a three-year loan program to Ukraine and will make a decision on it in September, Interfax reported. According to Yekhanurov, if the government fulfills its economic reform pledges, the World Bank may give Ukraine from $50 million to $200 million each year. He added that the bank's loan is dependent on the resumption of the suspended $2.6 billion loan by the IMF. Yekhanurov said the IMF will discuss this month possible sanctions against Kyiv for misinforming the fund about its hard currency reserves, while in September the fund is expected to send a "decisive" mission to Kyiv to agree on conditions for the loan resumption. JM

CRIMEAN SPEAKER SLAMS ACCORD BETWEEN PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVE, TATARS

Leonid Hrach has called the 2 August agreement between the Ukrainian president's permanent representative in Crimea, Anatoliy Korniychuk, and the Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People an "overt insult to the Crimean Constitution," Interfax reported on 7 August. Korniychuk and Crimean Tatar activist Mustafa Dzhemilev signed "a plan of joint measures oriented toward the resolution of problems of the Crimean Tatar People in the socioeconomic sphere," according to the agency. "Who delegated those functions to them, who will carry out [that accord], where is, under such circumstances, the place of the official authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea?" Hrach asked indignantly at a session of the Crimean Supreme Council. JM

ONE MORE EXTRA SESSION OF ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS

An opposition-sponsored extra session of parliament failed on 7 August due to the lack of a quorum as the ruling coalition boycotted the session. The session was called to debate both the privatization of the nation's railways, Eesti Raudtee, and the audit of the central bank, but fewer than the 51- members needed for a quorum attended, BNS reported. An earlier opposition-sponsored session failed due to a lack of quorum on 25 July. It was called to deliberate the privatization of the country's main power plants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2000). The opposition said that if such outstanding issues remain unresolved, the next regular session of the parliament, scheduled to start on 11 September, may be paralyzed. MH

LITHUANIANS VIOLATING VISAS

The number of Lithuanian citizens deported from foreign countries for violating tourist visas topped 2,000 this year as of 6 August, BNS reported on 7 August. The Border Guard Department said that just last weekend some 26 Lithuanians were deported for such violations. In 1999, there were 1,928 total Lithuanian citizens deported home for violating visa terms. MH

SOME 1,500 LITHUANIANS CONFESS TO KGB LINKS

About 1,500 Lithuanians registered themselves during a six-month mandatory registration period as having collaborated with the Soviet secret services under Soviet occupation, ELTA reported. The registration process, mandatory under a lustration law passed in 1999, ended on 4 August. Officials say that 600 of the declarations have already been checked. The law required all former collaborators to register, while such declarations, including the names of the collaborators, would be kept secret. Those failing to register could face penalties, bans from certain professions, and public disclosure. MH

FARMERS' SOLIDARITY ACTIVIST TO SERVE 15-MONTH PRISON TERM

Police have arrested Solidarity activist Mariusz Zagorny, who led farmers' protests in 1998 and 1999 against grain imports. The district court in Jastrzebie Zdroj ruled on 31 July that Zagorny must serve a 15-month prison sentence for dumping imported grain onto railway tracks in Zebrzydowice, southern Poland, in 1998. Following the verdict, Zagorny went into hiding and was detained on 6 August for exceeding the speed limit. Zagorny faces yet another trial for dumping imported grain last year. JM

BRITISH MILITARY ADVISERS TO BE PERMANENTLY STATIONED IN CZECH REPUBLIC

A British military advisory and training group consisting of 30 officers is to start operating in the Czech Republic, CTK reported on 7 August. The government has submitted a draft law to the Chamber of Deputies which makes it possible for the group to start operating by 10 October. The chamber is likely to approve the proposal next month. The group will coordinate joint British-Czech military exercises, the training of officers, and English-language courses for them. The British team will operate as a military unit under joint Czech-British command. It will wear its own uniforms, maintain its arms, and be subject to British military regulations. Its expenses are to be covered from the Czech Defense Ministry's budget. Czech units are serving under British command in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosova.

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES 'AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAN' FOR WOMEN

The Czech government has recently approved an "affirmative action plan" for Czech women, CTK, citing the daily "Lidove noviny," reported on 7 August. The daily says the program acknowledges the fact that Czech authorities are "only formally fulfilling obligations" on gender equality under international agreements and that the situation for women is worsening. "Lidove noviny" says the number of women in top managerial positions is still very low and men on average receive higher pay for doing the same jobs as women despite legislation prohibiting (among other things) gender discrimination, which was approved last October, CTK reported. The cabinet itself includes only male ministers and Premier Milos Zeman has often been accused of making sexist statements. A group in his Social Democratic Party has set up a "women's shadow cabinet" in protest against his statements. MS

CZECH POLICE USING PIRATED SOFTWARE

Police President Jiri Kolar admits that although fighting against "computer crimes" is part of the task of his force, police officers are themselves using pirated software, CTK and AP reported on 7 August, citing the weekly "Tyden." Kolar said that the origin of as much as 20 percent of software used by police is "unclear." Jaroslav Altman, who is in charge of police computers and software, said that "a thorough check of computers is under way," and that "whenever we find something that should not be in the computer, it is immediately deleted." MS

SLOVAK POLICE LAUNCH INVESTIGATION INTO SCHUSTER'S MEDICAL TREATMENT

Chief Police Investigator Jaroslav Ivor on 7 August told journalists that a criminal investigation has been launched into the medical treatment received in Slovakia by President Rudolf Schuster in June, CTK and AP reported. Ivor said Schuster had not been given appropriate health care and the correct diagnosis of his illness was not produced on time, which caused his health to deteriorate and his life to be endangered. He said Schuster himself will be asked to testify and that the investigation can only proceed after the president agrees to having the doctors who treated him relieved of their obligation to safeguard medical secrets. Schuster told TV Markiza on 6 August that he would grant a pardon to any doctor charged with harming his health and that he "does not want to retaliate." MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS LIFTING LEXA'S IMMUNITY

The Mandate and Immunity Committee of the Slovak parliament on 7 August recommended that the parliamentary immunity of fugitive former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa be lifted in order to make possible the issuance of an international arrest warrant and his detention if he is found, CTK reported. The parliament must vote on the recommendation. The former SIS chief is suspected of participation in the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995 and of other offenses. Bratislava regional state prosecutor Dusan Svaby, who testified before the committee on 7 August, said Lexa is also wanted on suspicion of economic crimes committed during his tenure in office. MS

SLOVAK NATIONALIST LEADER SEES NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE TO ROMA ACTIVISTS

Anna Malikova, chairwoman of the Slovak National Party (SNS), said on 7 August that she does not believe she must apologize over the statement made by SNS deputy Vitazoslav Moric, who called for "unadaptable Gypsies" to be placed in "reservations" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2000). Malikova said that the failure to solve the "genuine Roma problem" suits those Roma activists who "should come up with some proposals instead of strong words that solve nothing." She added that "the SNS is interested in a thorough solution of the problem of the Romany ethnic group, because it is not the Gypsies, but the rest of Slovakia's population that is discriminated against," she said. The Slovak Romany Initiative organization on 7 August launched a criminal suit against Moric, charging him with spreading racial hatred, defamation of a race, and propaganda for a movement suppressing civil liberties. MS

ROMA REPRESENTATIVE DENIES PERSECUTION IN HUNGARY

Aladar Katai, the head of Romany local authority in the town of Ozd, on 7 August told officials at the French Embassy in Budapest that the Romany community is not politically persecuted in Hungary but is leaving the country for socioeconomic reasons. He admitted, however, that current governmental programs to integrate Roma into the rest of the society are too slow and are not leading to the desired results. Meanwhile, statements made by Social and Family Affairs Minister Peter Harrach on Romany migrants seeking refugee status in France have outraged several Romany organizations. Harrach said on 5 August that "some were going abroad to discredit Hungary, not only demanding compensation but making groundless allegations against the state and government." MSZ




SERBIAN UNITED OPPOSITION PICKS KOSTUNICA FOR PRESIDENCY

Representatives of 15 opposition parties agreed in Belgrade on 7 August to field nationalist politician Vojislav Kostunica as their joint candidate. Kostunica said that "the so-called opposition" Serbian Renewal Movement's (SPO) decision to run its own candidate, Vojislav Mihajlovic, "makes it more difficult for us, but it also makes [the SPO's] future more difficult" by underscoring strategic links between the SPO and the regime, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2000). Kostunica added that the nomination of presidential candidates by the SPO and by Vojislav Seselj's Radicals are an "attempt [to reduce the chances] that the united opposition's candidate will enter the second round of voting," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN RADICAL PARTY NOMINATES 'THE GRAVEDIGGER'

Seselj's Radicals agreed in Belgrade on 7 August to run Tomislav Nikolic as their presidential candidate. He is known as "the gravedigger" because he once managed a cemetery in Kragujevac, Reuters reported. Seselj, who will be named prime minister should Nikolic win, said that Nikolic "has the best chances to be elected president considering his reputation and merits in protecting the national interests of the Serbian people." Neither he nor Mihajlovic has ever appeared in a national public opinion poll. PM

DRASKOVIC FIRM ON DIVIDING SERBIAN OPPOSITION VOTE

SPO leader Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 7 August that he sticks by Mihajlovic's candidacy. He added that he will not reply to an appeal from the united opposition to reconsider because he did not like "the tone" of their letter, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Washington, a State Department spokesman called for "a united opposition to Milosevic." PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY MOVES WESTERN CAPTIVES TO BELGRADE

Vojislav Zecevic, who is the defense lawyer appointed by the Yugoslav government, said on 8 August that the army has sent its two British and two Canadian prisoners to a military court in Belgrade, AP reported from the Serbian capital (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 August 2000). He stressed that "the only thing to determine is whether the demolition devices and a few fuses found in their car are really explosives that can cause destruction. I think those were not serious explosives." The authorities legally have six months to investigate. In London's "The Times," Balkan expert Misha Glenny wrote that those four and the four Dutch prisoners "are little more than hostages of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's election strategy...reminding his electorate that...Kosovo, remains occupied by NATO forces and suggesting that Western intelligence officers are crawling all over the country." Meanwhile, Britain has sought Russian diplomatic assistance in the case, the "Financial Times" reported. The Foreign Office has--unsuccessfully--demanded that Belgrade explain its actions. PM

OSCE BANS STAFF TRAVEL TO MONTENEGRO

The private Beta news agency reported from Prishtina on 8 August that the OSCE, for which the two Britons work, has banned its staff from traveling to Montenegro. The Slovenian Foreign Ministry urged its citizens traveling to or already in Montenegro to exercise caution and avoid staying in the frontier zone or near military bases. PM

YUGOSLAV NAVY FREES CROATIAN SHIP

The navy permitted the Croatian freighter "Dea" to leave the Montenegrin port of Zelenika where the navy had detained the ship for two days, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 7 August. The navy said in a statement that it held the ship as part of a "routine operation aimed at protecting the maritime frontier." The Croatian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the navy acted "illegally" because all the ship's papers were in order. The Montenegrin police played a key role in obtaining the "Dea's" release, "Vecernji list" reported. PM

AUSTRALIA TO BAR YUGOSLAV ELITE VISITORS

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in Canberra on 8 August that his country will join the U.S., EU, Canada, New Zealand, and several other countries in banning members of the Milosevic regime from entering the country. The U.S. list of banned persons contains over 800 names, Reuters reported. PM

IMPRISONED SERBIAN JOURNALIST MOVED TO HOSPITAL

The authorities transferred Miroslav Filipovic on 8 August to a military hospital in Belgrade because of heart problems, AP reported. He is serving a seven-year sentence for "espionage" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000). PM

MEDICAL CHARITY TO LEAVE PARTS OF KOSOVA

The French-based international medical charity Medecins sans frontiers (MSF) is removing its Belgian staff from some Serbian enclaves and northern Mitrovica, where ethnic Albanians live amid Serbs, Reuters reported. MSF stressed in a statement that its staff cannot work in areas where people are "in a state of extreme insecurity." The statement added that violence is destroying what little remains of the province's ethnic diversity. MSF stressed that "civilian populations of different ethnic groups are being terrorized by constant and organized acts of violence which target them specifically. MSF refuses to be either a passive accomplice to this process or remain silent about the lack of efficient action by the international community." The UN's civilian authority in Kosova, to which MSF has repeatedly complained, is headed by former MSF leader Bernard Kouchner. PM

PETRITSCH RULES ON BOSNIAN SUCCESSION

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, ruled in Sarajevo on 7 August that the Muslim vacancy on the joint presidency must be filled by the parliament slated to be elected in the fall and not by the current parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000). PM

U.S. 'AFRAID' TO CATCH KARADZIC?

U.S. forces in Bosnia will probably not be ordered to capture indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic because of "a political decision in Washington that there should be no American deaths in Bosnia," London's "The Times" reported on 8 August, quoting an unnamed U.S. official in that republic. The official added that "given that, probably only British troops backed by the SAS are up to the job." Jacques Klein--the U.S. general who heads the UN mission in Bosnia--stressed that "we must arrest Karadzic" if the international community is to be credible in asking Croatia to arrest its war criminals. Elsewhere, "The New York Times" wrote that Karadzic may be trying to enter Serbia from Bosnia or Montenegro. PM

NEW CENTER-RIGHT ALLIANCE SET UP IN ROMANIA

Representatives of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), the Union of Rightist Forces (UFD), and the Ecologist Federation (FER) on 7 August signed an agreement setting up a new electoral alliance, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The alliance is called Democratic Convention of Romania 2000 (CDR 2000). Under the agreement, each party preserves its separate identity, program, and structures, and pledges to respect the CDR 2000's joint political and economic strategy. The alliance will support the same presidential candidate and run on joint lists in the fall presidential and parliamentary elections. CDR 2000 will be headed by a council consisting of four PNTCD, three UFD, and two FER members. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL RIVALS REACT TO STOLOJAN'S CANDIDACY...

Party of Social Democracy in Romania chairman Ion Iliescu said on 7 August that the nomination of former Premier Theodor Stolojan as a presidential candidate of the National Liberal Party (PNL) the previous day was proof that the coalition parties lack personalities capable of running for the highest state office and are forced to appeal to "outsiders," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Alliance for Romania (APR) leader Teodor Melescanu said Stolojan is "entirely unsuitable" for the presidential office, which needs "a person with political experience, not an accountant." Melescanu also accused Stolojan of breaking the agreement under which Stolojan would be APR's candidate for the premiership and Melescanu himself its presidential contender. "This places an enormous question mark over the seriousness, credibility, and consistency of a man who is no longer a technocrat once he steps into politics," he said. MS

...WHILE SECOND POLL SHOWS ILIESCU MIGHT LOSE

Former President Iliescu would lose in a runoff against either Stolojan or Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, a public opinion poll conducted by the Bureau of Social Research shows. Iliescu leads the field of presidential contenders with 31 percent backing, but Stolojan would garner 53.4 percent of the vote in a runoff with Iliescu, while Isarescu would be backed by 51 percent. This is the second poll that shows Iliescu might fail in his presidential bid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). In a Stolojan-Isarescu runoff, the former premier would win over the incumbent at a difference of nearly 4 percentage points. The poll shows Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor being backed by 11.5 percent, followed by Democratic Party leader Petre Roman and Melescanu, both of whom are backed by 8 percent. MS

RUSSIAN, MOLDOVAN TROOPS HOLD JOINT EXERCISE

Russian and Moldovan troops are participating in a joint peacekeeping exercise at Moldova's Bulboaca base near Chisinau from 8-12 August, Flux and Infotag reported. Called "Blue Shield 2000," the exercise is being conducted within the framework of the agreement on military cooperation between the two countries for 2000. It involves 34 Russian and 150 Moldovan troopers. The first joint Russian-Moldovan exercise was held in July 1999. MS

MOLDOVA CUTS RADIO BROADCASTS

Moldovan state radio has eliminated its night broadcasts as of 8 August due to a lack of funds, Romanian Radio reported the previous day. As of 14 August, the radio's second channel is also to be eliminated, while medium-wave broadcasts will be cut from 18 to 8 hours daily. The radio will continue its regular, 18 hours of daily broadcasts only on FM. The radio's management says the measures are "temporary" and due to MoldRadio being some $1 million in debt to the state company that relays the broadcasts. MoldRadio's entire budget for 2000 is $2 million. MS

BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL VOWS TO PUNISH BUG PLANTERS

Prosecutor General Nikola Filichev, in a statement distributed by BTA, said on 7 August that those who are guilty of having planted eavesdropping devices in his apartment and the apartments of several other officials and parliamentarians "will be punished regardless of their position in society," Reuters reported. Filichev said the investigation into the scandal--dubbed in Bulgarian media as "Bug Gate"--is continuing and his office "will defend the right of all Bulgarian citizens from violation by either the criminal world or administrative bodies" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July, 2, 4 and 7 August 2000).

BULGARIA REJECTS RUSSIAN CRITICISM OF KOSTOV

"Discussing problems of national security is a sovereign right of the Bulgarian state" and "judgments or interpretations" by other states in connection with exercising this right are "inappropriate"--this is how Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov reacted to Russian criticism of statements made by Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova during a recent parliamentary debate on Bulgarian national security goals, Reuters reported. Kostov said during the debate that his country's refusal last year to allow over flights of Russian troops to Kosova helped prevent the failure of the international peace keeping mission there; Mihailova also defended that decision. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 7 August expressed regret over Kostov's "unfriendly statements" and said they demonstrated "an inadequate assessment of our actions in the region," according to an earlier ITAR-TASS report. MS




SAUDI AID WORKERS BULLDOZE BALKAN MONUMENTS


By Jolyon Naegele

The Saudi bulldozing of some of the most historically valuable architectural monuments in the western Kosova market town of Djakovica is merely the latest in a series of iconoclastic activities in the Balkans undertaken in the name of reconstruction assistance by Arab aid organizations. War- damaged historic buildings are not repaired, but rather demolished to make way for what the Arab donors consider to be more proper Islamic structures.

The destruction is a further blow to Kosova's architectural heritage, following the destruction by Serbian forces and civilians in 1998 and 1999 of over 200 mosques and other Islamic structures--about one-third of the total number in the province.

Harvard University Fine Arts librarian Andras Riedlmayer, the co-author of a survey of Kosova's war-damaged architectural sites, is outraged by the Saudi demolition program.

"Unfortunately, a Saudi aid agency got permits from the local reconstruction agency and from the local institute for the preservation of monuments to work on the restoration, so to speak, of the Hadum mosque complex in the center of the historic district."

Riedlmayer says the Saudis began on 24 July by trying to knock down all the Ottoman-era gravestones in the cemetery of the Hadum mosque.

"The Saudis were interested in removing them because they consider gravestones to be idolatrous. They are followers of Wahhabism, which is an extremist interpretation of Islam at odds with the practice of most of the Muslim world."

The Wahhabis are a purist movement founded in the 18th century by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (c. 1703-1791). He converted the Saud tribe, which now rules Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabis are the largest and most powerful Muslim sect in Saudi Arabia.

Riedlmayer says the Saudis are obsessed with having all ancient tombstones, mausoleums, and Sufi shrines located near mosques eliminated, since--unlike most Muslims in the world today--the Wahhabis believe these to be "un-Islamic" and idolatrous. He said: "the Wahhabis, with their wealth and fanaticism, are a menace to heritage, in some ways more dangerous than the [Serb paramilitary] Chetniks, since about the latter, at least, no one harbors any illusions regarding their uncharitable intentions."

The Saudi Joint Relief Committee for the People of Kosovo and Chechnya, established by royal decree, has built mosques, schools, clinics, and shelters for displaced persons. It has also supplied the province with several hundred tons of medicine, food, blankets, tents, and clothing during the last 13 months.

But spreading the message of Wahhabi Islam appears to be another aim of the committee. The new mosques are white, boxy structures devoid of detail--a far cry from the centuries-old Ottoman-style mosques that characterize the urban and village landscape in much of the Balkans.

Riedlmayer says NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers declined to intervene in Djakovica after the Saudis showed their authorized papers.

"Eventually the Department of Culture in UNMIK (the UN administration) was notified. They spoke with the Saudis on [27 July] and tried to get them to desist. However, on [28 July], the Saudis sent in a bulldozer [and] knocked down the buildings around the Hadum mosque, including the library built in 1733 and ancient gravestones in the graveyard."

The Hadum mosque itself, which survived last year's fighting largely intact--despite fire damage to its porch and grenade damage to its minaret--remains endangered. If the past is prologue, the frescoes could soon be whitewashed by Wahhabi purists.

Attempts by RFE/RL to contact the UNMIK-Joint Interim Administration's Department of Culture, the Kosovo Institute for the Protection of Monuments, or the Saudi Joint Relief Committee in Kosovo were unsuccessful.

However, Peruvian Alvaro Higueras, from the UNMIK Culture Department, confirmed in a telephone call to Riedlmayer on 3 August that the Saudis had razed the library and Koran school.

Higueras said the Saudis planned to build a reinforced concrete Islamic center on the cleared site. But the UNMIK official says the Saudis applied for permission for a restoration project, not for new construction. Higueras says an order has now been issued to stop construction indefinitely. He says the Saudis will have to "undo the damage" and restore the Ottoman-era buildings using traditional materials and techniques.

Riedlmayer has documented cases in which the Saudi and other Arab aid agencies have destroyed other historic Islamic buildings elsewhere in Kosova, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Bulgaria.

Last October, while Riedlmayer was in Kosova conducting a survey of war-damaged architectural heritage, he witnessed the destruction of Muslim cemeteries in Vushtrri. He says an Islamic aid agency from the United Arab Emirates had pressured local Albanian residents to sledgehammer the graves of their ancestors, completely clearing two historic graveyards next to the Gazi Ali Beg and Karamanli mosques of more than 100 gravestones dating back to the 15th century. Only the grave marker of Gazi Ali Beg himself remained, as the locals refused to allow that one to be smashed.

Riedlmayer says the UAE aid agency promised to rebuild the damaged mosques "twice as big and twice as Islamic," but only if the gravestones were removed. He says the agency, the largest aid organization in the town, also made an implicit threat to withhold humanitarian aid if the donors' request was ignored.

Riedlmayer notes that during and immediately after the war in Bosnia (1992-95), a Saudi aid agency took charge of the restoration of the Gazi Husrev Beg mosque (Begova dzamija) as well as other historic mosques in Sarajevo and in many other towns and villages.

At the Beg mosque, the Saudis ordered the Ottoman tile work and painted wall decorations stripped off and discarded and had the whole building redone, as Riedlmayer puts it "in gleaming hospital white, even the minaret slathered in white plaster." He says that in scores of villages, the Saudis had war-damaged but restorable historic Ottoman-style Bosnian mosques demolished and redone Saudi-style. All of the colorful Balkan-Muslim interior decor was eliminated, and separate entrances were added to segregate women.

To drive home the significance of the Saudi destruction in the Balkans, Riedlmayer says, "Imagine, if you will, some terrible catastrophe affecting the historic churches of Rome and Tuscany, and then having" modern-day U.S. Christian sects coming in and insisting that they be redone in "proper Christian style."

The author is a senior RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague. To view photos of some of the structures described in the article go to:


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