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Newsline - August 10, 2000




PUTIN CALLS FOR FINISHING OFF TERRORISTS WHERE THEY BEGIN...

Following the explosion in the Pushkinskaya metro station on 8 August, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that law enforcement officials are considering at least two scenarios: that the blast was the "consequence of a rivalry between criminal groups or was a terrorist act." He continued that if one views the bombing as a terrorist act, then "it would be wrong to seek a Chechen or any other [ethnic] connection. One cannot put a stamp on an entire nation because crime has no nationality nor religious affiliation." However, Putin also said that Russia has "allowed an enclave of terrorism inside" its borders. He continued that the military campaign in Chechnya will be taken to its completion and that "the terrorists [there] will be finished off in their breeding grounds." JAC

...AS SUSPECTS FROM NORTH CAUCASUS ARE PROVISIONALLY CLEARED

Also on 9 August, Boris Berezovskii, the recently self- declared head of "constructive opposition" to the Putin government, called for negotiations to end the military campaign in Chechnya, arguing that the bombings "will happen again more than once if the policy of 'smashing the bandits in their lairs' continues." Russian agencies reported on 9 August that two men were detained after the bombing, one from Chechnya and the other from Daghestan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2000). However, later that day, Federal Security Service officials said that the men have not been definitively linked to the metro bombing, while a Moscow prosecutor, Aleksandr Buksman, told Russian Public Television that the two individuals were detained after narcotics were found in their possession, and "nothing links these individuals directly to the crime at hand." According to Reuters on 10 August, the Interior Ministry has released composite sketches of four male suspects, two of which show men with dark hair and eyes. JAC

AGENCIES CONFIRM DEATH TOLL FROM BLAST

According to the Emergency Ministry and Federal Security Service on 10 August, 8 people died from the metro bombing while some 97 people were injured, Russian agencies reported that morning. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, around 20 of those hospitalized are in serious condition. The bureau also reported that hundreds of volunteers have rushed to donate blood at Moscow's Sklifosovoskii hospital. A variety of foreign leaders have conveyed their condolences to the Russian government following the explosion including U.S. President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Interfax reported. JAC

MOSCOW INCREASES SECURITY MEASURES...

Following the 9 August blast, Deputy Mayor of Moscow Valerii Shantsev said that more than 20,000 police officers and Interior Ministry troops will work 12-hour days patrolling Moscow's metro system, train stations, airports, and other places where large numbers of people congregate. City police have also resumed blanket checks of basements and cellars where explosives were stored during last year's apartment bombings in Russia's capital. JAC

...AND REGIONS FOLLOW SUIT

St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that police in his city have stepped up security following the explosion in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Interfax reported that officials in the Federal Security Service's directorate in Saratov have detained three Chechens for their possible involvement in planning a terrorist attack similar to the one that occurred in Moscow, Interfax reported. The suspects reportedly had 200 grams of plastic explosives in their possession as well as a hand grenade and portable army radio. JAC

PREPARATIONS ON COURSE FOR DUMA BY-ELECTION IN CHECHNYA

Central Election chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov announced on 8 August that preterm voting to elect a deputy to the State Duma will take place in Chechnya on 12 August. Veshnyakov revealed that only some 500,000 people are currently on the voting list for the elections; however, those forced to resettle in Ingushetia are legally allowed to participate in the voting, ITAR-TASS reported. Acknowledging that Chechen field commanders have threatened to disrupt the voting, Veshnyakov told "Ekho Moskvy" on 9 August that only "exceptional circumstances" could cause a postponement of the ballot on 20 August. Fourteen candidates are contesting the poll. JAC/LF

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD CONDEMNS MOSCOW BOMBING

Akhmed- hadji Kadyrov on 9 August expressed condemnation of the previous day's bombing in Moscow and offered condolences to the families of the victims, Russian agencies reported. At the same time, Kadyrov warned against making "hasty conclusions and ascribing the attack to the Chechen people." Speaking in Moscow on 9 August, Chechen State Council chairman Malik Saidullaev said the emigre Chechen community there is considering filing suit against Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia chairman Vladimir Zhirinovskii for what Saidullaev termed their "inadmissible" statements implying that Chechens were responsible for the blast. Saidullaev said such statements "hurt the national dignity of the Chechen people," Interfax reported. LF

ISRAEL TURNS TO RUSSIA FOR HELP WITH ARAFAT...

Concluding a two-day visit to Moscow on 9 August, Israeli Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein told reporters that Russia could give Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "useful advice" during the latter's upcoming trip to Moscow and urge him to adopt a "more flexible stance" at upcoming peace talks. Rubinstein explained that at Middle East peace talks last month Arafat had been "closed to all of our proposals." The same day, Russian deputy foreign minister and presidential envoy in charge of Middle East peace talks, Vasilii Sredin, told Interfax that Russia "is determined to make its contribution to the search for compromises and mutually acceptable decisions" in an Palestinian-Israeli settlement. He added that Russia considers Palestine's wish to ensure agreement on the final status of the Palestinian territories by 13 September "understandable." JAC

...AS IVANOV, ALBRIGHT DISCUSS MIDDLE EAST BY PHONE

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed a "number of topical international and regional problems, as well as some issues on the bilateral agenda" during a phone discussion on 9 August, Interfax reported citing a Foreign Ministry press release. Ivanov and Albright paid "special attention" to the "current state of affairs in the Middle East Peace Process and the situation in the Balkans." JAC

RUSSIA TO BOOST SPENDING ON FOREIGN DEBT REPAYMENTS NEXT YEAR...

Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 9 August that the draft 2001 budget calls for a 25 percent hike in spending on foreign debt--$6 billion compared with $4.8 billion this year. Kudrin added that without an agreement with the Paris Club to restructure its Soviet-era debt, Russia will also have to pay $14.5 billion in loan payments. Russia's foreign debt totaled $158 billion as of 1 January 2000, according to Kudrin. Regarding loans from international financial institutions, Kudrin said that the government does not rule out the possibility that Russia "will not need" to resort to borrowing from the International Monetary Fund this year; however, next year it is "discussing the possibility" of borrowing $1.8 billion from the International Monetary Fund and $900 million from the World Bank. JAC

...AS DRAFT 2001 BUDGET PARAMETERS SHIFT

In remarks to reporters, Kudrin also outlined the basic parameters of the draft 2001 budget. Revenues next year are being projected at 1.187 trillion rubles ($43 billion) with expenditures at the same level for a zero deficit. The ruble's exchange rate is forecast at 30 rubles per dollar, annual inflation at 12 percent, and GDP at 7.75 trillion rubles. The world price of crude oil is expected to hover between $18-$19 a barrel. When the Finance Ministry submitted its key parameters last May, it was forecasting annual inflation of 11 percent, an exchange rate of 32 rubles per $1, and GDP of 6.8 trillion rubles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2000). Expenditures were set at 15.5 percent of GDP or 1.054 trillion rubles. JAC

APPEAL FAILS TO CONVERT POLITICAL ELITE

Moscow-based politicians have reacted dismissively to the appeal published on 9 August protesting Russia's drift towards authoritarianism that was signed by Boris Berezovskii and former deputy head of the presidential administration Igor Shabdurasulov, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2000). Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov noted that "this is not the first time that Berezovskii is trying to create his own movement." Zyuganov continued, "he wanted to gather a more impressive team but he failed." Berezovskii told reporters the same day that no governors had signed the appeal despite his meetings with them because they "want to see the authorities' reaction to make up their minds how to participate." He added "I can assure you many of them will participate, but it's not clear if it will be in an open or secret fashion." Meanwhile, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev called the appeal something "incomprehensible," according to "Izvestiya." JAC

STROEV SAYS SENATORS NOT INSISTING THAT CONSTITUTION BE AMENDED

After meeting with President Putin the previous day, Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev told reporters on 9 August that "Both the president and members of the Federation Council have expressed the opinion that the first and second articles of the constitution should not be amended," and that therefore the proposed State Council will be created by a presidential decree. Stroev said that he believes that the functions of the State Council should include the development of economic strategies for the regions and the country in general and that its members should participate in the federal budget process and weigh in on key government cadre issues. Stroev's remarks follow recent comments by Sergei Samoilov, head of the Main Territorial Directorate in the presidential administration, that there is no hurry to amend the constitution in order to provide the legal basis for the creation of the council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000.) JAC

YUKOS, SIBNEFT JOIN FORCES IN BID FOR THIRD COMPANY

Two Russian oil firms, YUKOS and Sibneft, announced on 9 August that they will bid jointly for the 85 percent stake in the state-owned oil firm Onako, Reuters reported. The Federal Property Fund announced the same day that the winner of the tender will be announced on 19 September. Bidding for ONAKO began on 21 July. Analysts expect LUKoil to participate in the tender as well, but the company declined to comment about its plans. JAC

MORE THAN A FEW PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO SEE KEMEROVO GOVERNOR DEAD

Four people were arrested in Moscow and Novosibirsk for planning to murder Kemerovo Oblast Governor Tuleev, "Segodnya" reported on 9 August. Tuleev issued a press release alleging that the assassins were hired by "a financial-industrial group that had to leave the region because of a dispute over the redistribution of some property in the Kuzbass." Meanwhile, on 8 August, Mikhail Zhivilo, general director of MIKOM, a Moscow-based metallurgical company, was reported missing. MIKOM and Tuleev had locked horns frequently over the disposition of an important local plant (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 December 1999). An unidentified law enforcement official told Interfax that police believe that Zhivilo's disappearance "might not be accidental" and is connected with the recent discovery of plans to kill Tuleev. Last year, a group of Muslim clerics sentenced Tuleev to death for his alleged conversion from Islam to Christianity (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 26 July 2000 and 21 July 1999). JAC

ADMIRAL DECLARES HIS INTENTIONS

Baltic Fleet Commander Admiral Vladimir Yegorov announced on 9 August that he will run for the governor's seat in Kaliningrad Oblast, Interfax- Northwest reported. Russian newspapers had been speculating recently that Yegorov would run and that President Putin will support his effort to unseat incumbent Leonid Gorbenko (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 August 2000). The ballot will take place in November. JAC




UNKNOWN GROUP PROTESTS DELAY IN SOLVING ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS

Leaflets distributed in Yerevan on 10 August and signed by the hitherto unknown "Avengers of October 27" express concern that "it is becoming clear that under the present authorities the terrorist act of 27 October last year will not be solved, and we by our silence are participants in that malicious crime," ITAR-TASS reported. The preliminary investigation into the shooting by five gunmen of eight senior government officials and parliament deputies was completed last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2000). LF

ARMENIAN MINISTER DENOUNCES PROPOSED NEW POLITICAL ALLIANCE

Agriculture Minister Zaven Gevorgian told a press conference in Yerevan on 9 August that he categorically opposes the emerging alliance between Stepan Demirchian's center-left People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), with which he is aligned, and the nationalist Right and Accord bloc headed by Artashes Geghamian (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 31, 3 August 2000), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Gevorgian said he has nothing against "cooperation," provided that it is not "directed against the president of the republic or aims to destabilize the political situation." A former senior Armenian Communist Party functionary, Gevorgian was close to HZhK founder and former Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian. The HZhK board has decided to expel Hmayak Hovannisian, one of the authors of the party's 1998 manifesto, from the party's ranks for "going against the party line." Hovannisian told RFE/RL on 8 August he believes the HZhK is being manipulated by other political groups. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE SPOKESMAN REFUTES AZERBAIJANI PRESS ALLEGATIONS

Robert Massie, deputy head of the Council of Europe Press Service, on 8 August denied reports in the Azerbaijani press that the issue of Azerbaijan's full membership in that organization had been removed from the agenda of a planned 6 September meeting of the Council of Europe's Council of Ministers, ANS and Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). LF

GEORGIA DENIES SUPPLYING ARMS TO CHECHENS

The Georgian National Security Ministry on 9 August issued a statement rejecting as "groundless" Russian allegations that unmarked Georgian planes regularly conduct air-drops of arms, food, and ammunition to Chechnya, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). The statement termed the Russian allegations an attempt by the Russian Defense Ministry to conceal its own incompetence. LF

BALCEROWICZ PROMISES SWIFT IMPROVEMENT IN GEORGIAN ECONOMY

Polish economist Leszek Balcerowicz said in Tbilisi on 9 August after meeting with President Eduard Shevardnadze that he does not consider the economic situation in Georgia "absolutely hopeless," noting that the country's geographical location, stability, allies, and friends constitute "significant economic development capital," Caucasus Press reported. He said that the Georgian leadership should develop a more precise model of the type of society they hope to build, redefine the role of the state in the economy, and develop the necessary legislative base. Balcerowicz, who has accepted the post of Shevardnadze's economic advisor, promised a "fast and efficient" economic upswing. LF

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CRITICIZES MINISTERS FOR 'ILLITERACY'

Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 8 August, Serik Abdrakhmanov, a member of the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, complained that the Kazakh-language text of a bilateral agreement with Iran on combatting crime signed last year by Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Erlan Idrisov, contained no less than 150 spelling and grammatical errors, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. A Kazakh-Indian agreement signed by Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev contains numerous similar mistakes, Abdrakhmanov said, branding the two ministers as "illiterate." LF

ACQUITTED KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN REVIEWS ELECTION TACTICS

Former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov told journalists in Bishkek on 9 August that he does not intend to withdraw from the 29 October presidential poll, although he may wait to announce his candidacy formally. He told Reuters that his first priority is to reactivate the district network of his Ar-Namys party, many of whose activists went underground following his arrest in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2000). "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 August quoted Kulov as saying that Ar-Namys is likely at its upcoming congress to endorse both his presidential candidacy and that of Omurbek Suvanaliev. Kulov added that he does not rule out an attempt by the authorities to disqualify him from the poll on the grounds of his less-than-perfect mastery of the Kyrgyz language. All presidential candidates must undergo a written and oral test to demonstrate their fluency in Kyrgyz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). LF

KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR TO APPEAL KULOV'S ACQUITTAL

Sharapidin Sheishenaliev, who acted as prosecutor at Kulov's trial on charges of abusing his official position while serving as National Security Minister in 1997-1998, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 9 August that he intends to appeal Kulov's acquittal on the grounds that the presiding judge ignored evidence produced by the investigators. SheishenAliyev said he considers it strange that the court acquitted Kulov while handing down sentences of up to seven years' imprisonment on three co-defendants who were his former subordinates at the ministry. LF

TWELFTH CANDIDATE ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO CONTEST KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL

Parliament deputy and ambassador Tursunbai Bakir Uulu announced his candidacy for the 29 October presidential poll in Bishkek on 9 August, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. He is the twelfth candidate to do so. LF

UZBEKISTAN CLAIMS TO HAVE KILLED 15 ISLAMISTS

A spokesman for the Uzbek Defense Ministry told Interfax on 9 August that Uzbek forces had killed 15 members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in an attack using combat helicopters and grenade launchers. He said the remaining Islamists, whose numbers are estimated at around 80-90, are surrounded in a mountain gorge 450 kilometers southwest of Tashkent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 August 2000). He denied media reports that the Islamists had shot down an Uzbek air force plane on 9 August. During a telephone conversation on 9 August, Uzbek President Islam Karimov assured his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev that "the situation is under complete control," and there is no danger that the conflict could escalate, according to Interfax. Also on 9 August, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko condemned unverified and sensational media reports of the fighting, advocating "a more cautious approach to information from unverified sources." LF




OSCE ELECTION EXPERTS ARRIVE IN MINSK

A delegation of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on 9 August arrived in Minsk on a three-day visit to study the situation in the runup to the 15 October parliamentary elections in Belarus, Belapan reported. The delegation consists of three experts of the office's election section: Hrair Balian, Andrew Bruce, and Jessie Pilgrim. Following the advise of this section, the OSCE did not recognize the 1996 November constitutional referendum in Belarus. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WORKS ON REFERENDUM INITIATIVE

Viktar Ivashkevich, deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that in two weeks the Belarusian opposition may begin collecting signatures in support of a referendum on free and democratic elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). Ivashkevich added that questions for the plebiscite will be approved next week by the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces. Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the opposition United Civic Party, said the referendum initiative is a political action rather than a legal one, and aims at explaining to the electorate that the 15 October ballot in Belarus is not free and democratic. According to Lyabedzka, the regime will not allow to hold the referendum even if the opposition collects the required number of 450,000 signatures, therefore the opposition is not going to register groups for collecting signatures with the Central Electoral Commission. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS ECONOMICS MINISTER

Leonid Kuchma on 9 August appointed Vasyl Rohovyy as economics minister, Interfax reported. Rohovyy was economics minister from April 1998 to January 2000, when he was appointed first deputy head of the presidential administration. Rohovyy's predecessor, Serhiy Tyhypko, resigned in June and won a parliamentary seat in by-elections held the same month. JM

UKRAINE'S POPULATION CONTINUES TO DECREASE

The State Statistics Committee reported on 9 August that the Ukrainian population fell to 49.47 million from 49.71 million at the beginning of this year. The committee said deaths are outpacing births in the country by more than two to one. Ukraine's population has been declining steadily since independence in 1991, when it stood at 52.06 million. JM

FIRST VIRTUAL CRIMINAL CONVICTED IN ESTONIA

A Tallinn City Court on 8 August convicted a man for promoting anti-social acts on his website, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. The 20-year- old student, Aleksandr Linkov, was forced to pay nearly 4,600 kroons ($265) in fines and restitution for the website "Protiv" ("Against" in Russian), which called for a "struggle" against the Estonian state. Linkov, detained in July, put his site on a server in Russia, thus giving Estonian officials no way of removing it without assistance from the Russian government. Linkov, who repented, was not given a prison sentence. MH

LATVIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY FINISHES CONTROVERSIAL LANGUAGE REGULATIONS

The Justice Ministry announced on 9 August that they have completed a draft set of implementation regulations for the language law and have taken into consideration all recommendations made by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel. The regulations, which have sparked controversy in Latvia, will be sent to government committees as well as the OSCE, BNS reported. Olafs Bruvers, head of the State Human Rights Office, said that all of van der Stoel's recommendations were accepted either fully or in part, and the letter to the commissioner includes justification for any partial non-acceptance of the recommendations. Van der Stoel earlier sent a list of recommendations to the Latvian government due to concern about the regulation of language use in the private sphere and the transliteration of non-Latvian names into Latvian. The law, to which the OSCE has no objections, goes into effect 1 September. MH

LITHUANIAN POLL LEADER ACCUSED OF FASCISM

Parliament member Rasa Jukneviciene of the ruling Conservatives accused the center-left opposition New Alliance (Social Liberals) of being a "mediator of fascist forces," ELTA reported on 9 August. Jukneviciene called the party a "menace to Lithuania" for bringing in "fascist forces" and urged President Valdas Adamkus to distance himself from the party--one that he is expected to support in the October general elections. She cited a recent rally in the town of Siauliai by the unregistered radical Lithuanian National Social Union in which city mayor and party member Vida Stasiunaite participated, as well as the party's cooperation to elect Vytautas Sustauskas--who is known for radical protests and anti-Semitic statements--as mayor of Kaunas. The New Alliance recently polled at 16.5 percent, more than double any other party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2000). MH

FORMER SECURITY OFFICERS SAY POLISH PRESIDENT WAS NOT SECRET AGENT

Four communist-era security officers appeared before the Lustration Court on 9 August to testify in the lustration trial of President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Polish media reported. The State Security Office provided the court with documents suggesting that Kwasniewski may have been a communist-era secret service collaborator under the code name "Alek." Captain Zygmunt Wytrwal, who supervised the agent "Alek," told the court that "Alek" was not Kwasniewski. "If Kwasniewski had been our source, I would have known about that," Wytrwal's former supervisor, Florian Uryzaj, testified, adding that the security service was forbidden to recruit members of the Polish United Workers' Party, to which Kwasniewski belonged. Lustration Prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski asked the court to close Kwasniewski's case for lack of evidence. The court is expected to pass its verdict on 10 August. JM

RUSSIA ADDRESSES POLAND OVER GAS PIPELINE PROJECT

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko has sent a letter to Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek with a proposal to boost Polish- Russian cooperation regarding the planned construction of a gas pipeline to Western Europe via Poland, PAP reported on 9 August. Khristenko told journalists in Moscow the same day that the letter proposes a meeting between representatives of Russian and Polish ministries, as well as those of Russia's Gazprom and Poland's Oil and Gas Concern to discuss the construction of a southwestern segment of the Yamal-Western Europe pipeline and to work out plans for further cooperation in sending Russian gas to Western Europe. Khristenko noted that the governments of both countries concluded an agreement in 1993 relating to similar plans (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 July 2000). JM

CZECH SENATE APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

The Senate on 9 August approved a constitutional amendment making it possible for the government to send Czech peacekeeping troops abroad or approve the deployment of foreign troops on Czech territory for up to 60 days without the prior approval of the legislature, CTK and AP reported. Deployment beyond this period would still require parliamentary approval. The amendment was earlier approved by the Chamber of Deputies and will become effective once promulgated by President Vaclav Havel. It stems from the obligations assumed by the Czech Republic as a NATO member since 1999. The Senate also approved a government bill making it possible for a British military group to be permanently stationed in the Czech Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). The lower house will debate this proposal in September. MS

SUPPORTERS, OPPONENTS OF GLOBALIZATION TO MEET AT PRAGUE CASTLE

A meeting of supporters and opponents of globalization will take place at the Prague Castle, the official seat of the Czech president, on 23 September, a few days before an annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank opens in the Czech capital, CTK reported on 9 August, citing presidential spokesman Martin Kraftl. The idea of a dialogue between the sides was first launched by President Vaclav Havel two months ago. Some 250 people will participate in the discussions, including influential figures from the international finance world and representatives of non- governmental organizations. Large-scale protests involving some 20,000 globalization opponents from the Czech Republic and from abroad are expected during the annual session. Representatives of the Czech police and the FBI discussed on 9 August in Prague how to best cope with the expected protests and possible violence. MS

SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER CRITICIZES REFERENDUM INITIATIVE

"I congratulate everyone who signed the petition [in support of a plebiscite calling for early elections]. Now they will also have to pay the costs in the form of increased taxes. Unfortunately, the rest of us will have to join them in this," Slovak Finance Minister Brigita Schmoegnerova told journalists on 9 August in reaction to the petition handed by the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia to President Rudolf Schuster (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). She estimated the costs of the referendum at 200 million crowns ($4.7 million). Schmoegnerova said she does not expect the referendum to end differently from similar initiatives in the past, all of which failed due to a low turnout. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT ESTABLISHES REMEMBRANCE DAY FOR HOLOCAUST VICTIMS

The government on 9 August decided that Slovakia will observe a Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Nazi Holocaust and racial hatred, AP and CTK reported. The day will be marked on 9 September, the date when the country's puppet government in 1941 issued the so-called "Jewish Code" that instituted repressive and discriminatory measures against Jews. Some 70,000 Slovak Jews were deported to concentration camps by the Nazi-allied regime of Jozef Tiso. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER'S REMARKS ON ROMA DRAW CRITICISM

Commenting on the case of Romany families from Zamoly currently seeking asylum in France, Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio on 9 August that "Roma in Hungary should try to learn and work more." Orban also backed the controversial statements made last week by Social and Family Affairs Minister Peter Harrach, who said "the government has done more to help Roma than the Roma have done to help themselves." Magda Kovacs Kosa, Socialist chairwoman of the parliamentary National and Ethnic Minorities Committee, reacted by saying that Orban's remarks served to intensify the existing anti-Romany sentiments in Hungary. Jozsef Krasznai, spokesman of the Zamoly group, said Orban will be entitled to make such comments only when all Romany children are able to go to standard schools and Roma are not discriminated against on the labor market. MSZ




CLINTON HAILS CROATIA'S PROGRESS UNDER NEW LEADERS

U.S. President Bill Clinton met with Croatian President Stipe Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan in Washington on 9 August. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said that "the president wants to use this meeting to praise the Croatian government for the important work they've done over the last six months, the good start they've gotten...and to continue our efforts to promote both economic and political reform in Croatia." Clinton offered his guests nearly $30 million in economic assistance, Reuters reported. The money will be used to help small and medium-sized businesses, implement programs for refugee returns, and modernize the military. Clinton stressed that Croatia must continue to implement economic reforms and serve as an example of democracy to countries of the region. PM

MESIC: CROATIA CAN BE EXAMPLE FOR SERBS

Mesic said that Croatia can help promote democracy in Serbia by treating its own Serbian minority well, the VOA's Croatian Service reported on 10 August. He stressed that if Croatia succeeds, it will have shown people in Serbia that it is not necessary for all Serbs to live in one state, as Serbian nationalists have argued. He also told the VOA that he intends to publish all important transcripts of recorded conversations by the late President Franjo Tudjman. PM

ALBRIGHT: SERBIAN ELECTIONS OFFER OPPORTUNITY

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Washington on 9 August after meeting the Croatian guests that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will try to cheat in the 24 September elections, but added that Yugoslavs can still decide their destiny if they truly want to. She called the election an opportunity to repudiate "Milosevic's policies of isolation and ethnic hatred," Reuters reported. PM

GUARDIAN ANGELS FOR MONTENEGRO?

Zeljko Perovic, who is Montenegro's chief diplomatic representative at the UN, told Montena-fax news agency on 9 August that the international community is closely following developments in and around Montenegro. He added that he has met with more than 40 foreign diplomats in the three months that he has been in New York, noting that all of his interlocutors, "without exception," appreciate the policies of the Montenegrin government. Perovic noted that many diplomats have told him that Montenegro should not take Milosevic's provocations seriously. PM

BELGRADE SLAMS STRASBOURG MISSION TO MONTENEGRO

The Yugoslav authorities have formally protested to the Council of Europe for its decision to send a representative to Montenegro without obtaining Belgrade's permission, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 August. The council opened an office in Podgorica on 6 July with Slovenia's Eva Tomic as its representative. PM

EU'S SERBIAN 'WHITE LIST' A FLOP

London's "Financial Times" reported on 10 August that the EU's plan to exempt from sanctions Serbian businesses it deems free of Milosevic's influence "is failing" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2000). Many of the businesses on the list have asked Brussels to remove them because Belgrade has branded them traitors and imposed restrictions on them. An unnamed Western diplomat told the London daily that "there is a perception [in the EU] that something is very wrong--that the whole system needs a thorough review. But Brussels is on holiday in August and nothing can be considered until September." PM

VETERAN SERBIAN NATIONALIST 'DISTURBED' BY OPPOSITION DEVELOPMENTS

Nationalist writer Dobrica Cosic, whom many consider the spiritual father of the Serbian nationalist movement that has bloomed since the mid-1980s, says that he is "deeply unhappy" with the latest developments in the Serbian opposition, "Vesti" reported on 10 August. He declined to be specific, but stressed that he has "a very critical attitude toward the whole situation." PM

SESELJ BLASTS SERBIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE...

Serbian Radical Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said on 9 August that united opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica is "NATO's candidate." As evidence of his claim, Seselj argued that the "Voice of America, Free Europe, Deutsche Welle, and the BBC have all praised Kostunica over the past few days in Serbian language broadcasts," London's "The Guardian" reported. Seselj argued that Kostunica is "more cunning" than other opposition leaders at hiding his alleged pro-NATO views, but that Serbs will never vote for "NATO candidates." PM

...SUES INDEPENDENT BELGRADE DAILY

Seselj has launched legal proceedings against the daily "Danas." He wants $7,500 in damages because the paper quoted an opposition press statement claiming that Seselj has already spent $1 million for 8 million campaign posters, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 August. Such lawsuits have long been used by the regime to harass or even bankrupt its critics. Meanwhile, government financial inspectors closed the Belgrade anti- Milosevic Center for Cultural Decontamination. PM

KOSOVA SERBIAN LEADER BACKS KOSTUNICA

Momcilo Trajkovic told the BBC's Serbian Service in Mitrovica on 9 August that Kostunica is the best presidential candidate from the point of view of the Serbs of Kosova. He urged his fellow Serbs to vote for the united opposition candidate, and also appealed to ethnic Albanians to vote for Kostunica to "help bring about change." The Serbian opposition has frequently argued that the long-standing Kosova Albanian boycott of Serbian and Yugoslav elections has deprived the opposition of needed votes against the dictator. The Albanians argue that they do not accept Serbian authority over Kosova and that the Serbian opposition does not have a policy on Kosova that the Albanians can accept. PM

SERBIAN AUTHORITIES USING WESTERN CAPTIVES AS POLITICAL PAWNS?

London's "The Guardian" quoted an unnamed "senior Yugoslav official" on 10 August as saying that the eight Western prisoners of the Belgrade regime are "in effect hostages to [Milosevic's election] effort to present Yugoslavia as being under threat" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2000). Milosevic is seeking to win the nationalist vote, even though Kostunica is "a man who strongly criticized NATO's Kosovo campaign and who refuses to meet officials from NATO countries," the paper added. Independent lawyer Gradimir Nalic told the "Financial Times" that he does not expect that the military court will "hurry" to resolve the case before the 24 September elections. PM

DIPLOMATS FINALLY SEE WESTERN CAPTIVES

British diplomat Robert Gordon, who heads his country's interest section in the Brazilian embassy in Belgrade, met with the two British prisoners on 10 August, Reuters reported. "I was able to meet them, they look fine, in good health. They're looking forward to receiving some reading material. I'll be in touch with them again soon," Gordon said. Meanwhile, Canada's acting Charge d'affaires, Craig Bale, met with the two Canadian captives. "We have seen them, they're healthy, and they've been well-treated," he noted. PM

MORE VIOLENCE AGAINST KOSOVAR MODERATES

A bomb went off in the home of moderate Kosovar politician Avni Salihu near Prizren on 9 August, killing his wife and seriously injuring him and his son, dpa reported. This is but the latest in a series of attacks against members of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2000). PM

KOSOVA COURT SENTENCES SERB FOR KILLING ALBANIANS

A court in Mitrovica sentenced Zvezdan Simic to eight years and four months in prison for killing two Albanian neighbors during the 1999 conflict. One of his lawyers said that this was a "staged political trial," AP reported. The UN civilian administration said in a statement that the court system is functioning in a "professional" manner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2000). PM

FIRST BOSNIAN MUSLIM POLICEMAN DEPLOYED IN SREBRENICA

On 7 August, Kadrija Avdic became the first Muslim to join the police force in Srebrenica since Serbian forces took control of the town in July of 1995, Reuters reported two days later. UN spokesman Douglas Coffman said that the 26 year-old Avdic "is the first, but certainly not the last one." Coffman did not specify when other Muslims will join the force. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER STILL ELUSIVE ON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY

In an interview with Rompres and Mediafax on 9 August, Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu said he might decide to run for president, but only as an independent enjoying "large popular backing." Isarescu said he was not responsible for the "timetable" set by others on his definitive decision. He revealed that the National Liberal Party (PNL) had offered to back his presidential candidacy on the condition that he join the PNL, but he refused. He would be "betraying" those who believe in him, Isarescu said, if he became involved in party politics. The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) leadership on the same day voted to back Isarescu's candidacy as an independent and PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said his party had never demanded that the premier join its ranks. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER READY TO JOIN NEW CENTER-RIGHT ALLIANCE

National Alliance Christian Democratic (ANCD) chairman Victor Ciorbea said on 9 August after a meeting with PNTCD representatives that his party is ready to join the newly-established Democratic Convention of Romania 2000, provided it safeguards its own separate identity in the alliance. Ciorbea said several times in the past that the ANCD is not willing to merge with the PNTCD, from which it had split after the former premier's dismissal. MS

TOEKES DENIES LINKS WITH ROMANIAN SECURITATE

Reformed Church Bishop Laszlo Toekes, honorary chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, admitted that "he was approached and almost recruited" as an informer of the communist-time Romanian secret services, but insisted that he never worked for the Securitate or denounced anyone. Toekes told the Cluj Hungarian language daily "Kronika," that in 1975 he was taken by Securitate for questioning but refused to cooperate when he realized that he was actually being recruited, Hungarian media report on 10 August. Toekes is currently trying to clear his name in a libel trial, after an Associated Press correspondent accused him of having been an informer. MSZ

MORE FORMER ROMANIAN OFFICIALS CHARGED IN MONEY LAUNDERING AFFAIR

Viorel Hrebenciuc, former governmental secretary in the Nicolae Vacaroiu cabinet, is charged with complicity in the Adrian Costea money-laundering affair and with "abuse of office" in this connection, Mediafax reported on 9 August. Also charged are his former deputies, Mihai Unghianu and Dan Nicolae Fruntelata (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2000). Hrebenciuc was summoned for questioning by the Prosecutor- General's Office but failed to respond to the summons. MS

MOLDOVAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS

Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis on 9 August said the cabinet will examine next week the resignation "recently" tendered by Finance Minister Mihai Manole, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In an interview with Infotag the same day, Braghis said the resignation is "likely to be approved." Braghis praised Manole's expertise but added that the performance of some departments subordinate to his ministry, and the Internal Revenue Service in particular, has been unsatisfactory. Manole did not specify any reason for his decision to leave the cabinet. The government will also examine the resignation tendered by Environment Minister Arcadie Capcelea, who has been offered a position with the World Bank. MS

SMIRNOV TO U.S. ENVOY: 'NO DEAL WITHOUT OUR APPROVAL'

The arsenal of the Russian contingent stationed in the Transdniester is "the public property of the Transdniester people and its withdrawal can only follow negotiations between Russia and the Transdniester," separatist leader Igor Smirnov told William Taylor, U.S. special ambassador in charge of coordination of aid to CIS states in Tiraspol, on 9 August. Smirnov said the U.S. offer to contribute $30 million to cover the costs of the withdrawal may become relevant only after the conclusion of the parleys with Moscow. He said it is "much too early" to discuss the withdrawal, as Tiraspol is not bound by decisions of fora in which it has not participated. Smirnov mentioned in this connection the OSCE 1999 Istanbul summit and the recent OSCE meeting in Vienna. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER WANTS OFFICIAL SACKED IN BUGGING ROW

Prime Minister Ivan Kostov says President Petar Stoyanov should dismiss Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Bozhidar Popov for failure to remove listening devices illegally placed in apartments and offices of officials and other Bulgarian citizens, Reuters and AP reported. The demand comes after the interior, justice, and defense ministries submitted reports to the cabinet following the discovery of eavesdropping devices planted in Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev's apartment in 1993-1994. Kostov said Popov had failed to track and remove devices after a law forbidding their use was passed in 1997. He said listening devices were planted indiscriminately under the communist regime and the Interior Ministry has lost part of the information on those devices and documents on those devices. The government has now ordered that the homes of some 700 senior officials be checked for "bugs." MS




ALTAIANS CELEBRATE CULTURAL FREEDOM IN SIBERIA


By Lily Hyde

It's nighttime, and stars are shining through the holes in the roof of the ail, an Altai yurt (tent dwelling). Arzhan Kezerekov is demonstrating the different styles of throat- singing, a kind of singing unique to the Russian Siberian republics of Altai and Tuva.

Kezerekov is only 23 years old, but he is already one of Altai's foremost storytellers. In addition to folk songs, he can sing the Altai heroic epic, an ancient poem which takes many nights to perform in full--Altaians boast it is longer than the Indian epic, Mahabarata. But a true storyteller, Kezerekov explains, is not only responsible for remembering the oral traditions of the Altaians. He also communicates with the spirits that govern the Altai religion and can work good or harm through his music.

Most Altai storytellers--along with the republic's shamans, artists, and local leaders--disappeared in the 1930s under Soviet repression. That was followed by a long period of deliberate cultural assimilation imposed by Moscow. But since the end of the 1980s, Altaians have been devoting much of their energy to reviving their culture before it is too late.

The Turkic-speaking Altaians make up only about 30 percent of the population of the republic. Altai has been a part of Russia since the 18th century, and many Altaians converted to Orthodox Christianity and married Russians.

So it's not surprising the Altai national revival is lagging far behind similar revivals in neighboring Tuva and Kazakhstan, with whom the Altaians have much in common culturally. In Tuva, for example, throat-singing is taught in special schools and Tuvan throat singers have traveled all over the world on tour.

But Altai singers and musicians are self-taught, while storytellers usually acquire their skills from a relative. Some Altaians say this has kept the tradition pure, claiming that Altai throat-singing is closer to its original form. Others say this means Altai traditional music is simply unsophisticated.

Mikhail Chubulchin is a member of the folk ensemble Charas, which he says was founded to try and develop folk music from its present primitive form.

"Our people don't play national instruments, or typically they are self-taught and unprofessional. They play the accordion, or play and sing very primitively. We are trying to widen the use of national instruments. When we play they listen with interest, but generally our people, Altaians, are not yet really engaged in their national music. It's linked with their economic difficulties. Kazakhs, for example, have their national pride and ambition, practically each one from childhood plays on his own instrument, the Kazakh domra. That doesn't happen here. We want young people to listen, if they listen maybe they'll like it and will want to play."

Charas and singer Kezerekov were among the hundreds of singers and musicians performing at a national cultural festival, El Oyin, last month. The traditional summer festival, whose name translates as "national games," was a milestone in the revival of Altai culture when it was first celebrated nationally in 1988.

Before then, the festival had been celebrated throughout the republic--but only on a local level. According to one of El Oyin's original organizers, Aleksandr Selbikov, when the first festival was held nationally many were doubtful that it could succeed.

"There was a lack of faith. People thought it would only be a place for drunks to gather--that was the attitude. It was still the Soviet era, and many were afraid that if we held this festival, if we gathered together, they'd say we were nationalists."

In fact, El Oyin--now held every two years in a different part of Altai--did give birth to a whole new national consciousness. Altai's 10 regions have different dialects and cultural traditions, but the festival gave them a chance to unite in a great celebration of national sport, music, costume, and food. Selbikov says:

"After the first El Oyin, the whole Altaian social- political movement started. People saw that it was possible to gather together, walk, enjoy themselves, voice opinions and knowledge. And after that they started to gather together and started to found social organizations. I think the significance of El Oyin, especially the first one, is very great. It revived the feeling, the understanding that there is such a people as the Altaians."

El Oyin has also led to the founding of national sports clubs and music groups such as Charas throughout the republic. Twelve years after it began, the two-day festival this year included horse races, a local kind of wrestling called Kuresh, yak-lifting competitions and parades, concerts of new, young singers and dancers, and even fashion shows based on national costumes. Some 20,000 people traveled to the republic's furthest southern corner, on the border with Mongolia--a bleakly beautiful steppe-land plagued by mosquitoes--simply to demonstrate that Altai culture is alive and thriving. Lily Hyde is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Kyiv.


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