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Newsline - August 14, 2000




DID KIM JONG-IL MISLEAD PUTIN?

Seoul newspapers have quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as saying he was not serious when he remarked to Russian President Vladimir Putin last month in Pyongyang that his country might stop developing rockets for peaceful space research if it received assistance in launching its satellites, according to AP on 14 August. At a meeting with a group of South Korean media executives, Kim revealed he had told the Russian leader that if the U.S. launched North Korea's satellites, Pyongyang would stop developing missiles. "I made this and other remarks regarding scientific technology research of rockets as a passing, laughing matter. Putin did not respond at that time but he later seized on it firmly and things happened like that," Kim was quoted as saying. Putin had relayed Kim's remark at a press conference after meeting with the North Korean leader (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000). JC

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING ENDS IN DRAW FOR BATTLING MILITARY BRASS

Decisions reached by the Security Council at its 11 August meeting have not been made public, but Interfax, citing only unidentified "Moscow sources," reported that the council decided to retain the Strategic Rocket Forces as an independent service until at least 2006. According to the agency, the rocket forces will be gradually reduced as intercontinental ballistic missiles whose service life has expired are decommissioned. On 12 August, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that according to its sources, both Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and head of the Armed Forces' General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin have retained their jobs, and neither has emerged a clear winner. The daily also reported that the council decided to limit Russia's arsenal of nuclear missiles to 1,500; Kvashnin had suggested that figure be as low as 1,400. In addition, more Topol-M rockets will be built than Kvashnin had proposed. JAC

...AS PUTIN CALLS FOR 'BALANCED' DECISION

Addressing the meeting, President Putin said that while he has viewed the "polemics within the Defense Ministry" with tolerance, it is now time "to wrap up the discussion" and make a "balanced decision." He concluded that the "current structure of the armed forces can hardly be considered optimal...pilots virtually do not fly and sailors virtually do not put out to sea." JAC

NUCLEAR SUB STRANDED ON SEABED

The Russian nuclear submarine "Kursk" is trapped on the bed of the Barents Sea following what Navy press spokesman Igor Dygalo described as "malfunctions" during training exercises on 13 August. According to Dygalo, the vessel is carrying no nuclear weapons and its two nuclear reactors have been shut down. He stressed that no nuclear leaks have been reported from the submarine, which belongs to the Oscar-2 type of vessels. Rescue ships were on their way to seek to free them. Interfax reported on 14 August that the "Kursk" went into operation in 1995, carries torpedoes and "Granit" cruise missiles, and has a 107-strong crew. Meanwhile, NTV cited unnamed sources as saying that the vessel has been partly flooded and a power blackout is threatening the crew's oxygen supply, according to AFP. JC

DEATH TOLL RISES IN MOSCOW BLAST...

The 8 August explosion in the underground passageway near the Pushkinskaya metro station in Moscow had claimed 12 lives as of the morning of 14 August. According to Interfax, 56 victims of the blast are still hospitalized, 19 of whom are in a very serious or critical condition. JAC

...AS INTERIOR MINISTRY ASKS FOR FOREIGN AGENCIES' HELP...

President Putin on 12 August called on the heads of Russia's power ministries to intensify their efforts to find the culprits behind the bombing. First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kozlov told Russian Public Television on 12 August that investigators have come up with three theories for the explosion: one, extremists in Chechnya organized the explosion; two, the explosion was the result of a disagreement between commercial structures operating in the passageway; and three, the explosion was organized in order to kill one of those persons who died during the bombing. Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo announced on 11 August that he has asked for the help of the U.S.'s FBI and other foreign intelligence agencies to help apprehend the organizers of the explosion. JAC

...AND OPERATION WHIRLWIND CONTINUES

Following the blast, heightened security measures continued to be in place in Moscow and across the country. The Interior Ministry reported on 12 August that it has seized large amounts of explosives in four regions. For example, in Ufa, Bashkortostan, a railway carriage containing some 16 tons of TNT was found, while in Kursk Oblast two persons were detained in possession of more than a dozen 400-gram TNT sticks. According to "The Sunday Times" of 13 August, the device used in the Pushkinskaya bombing consisted of a highly flammable mixture of saltpeter and magnesium with a strength equivalent to 800 grams of TNT. JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT REJECTS CALL TO SURRENDER

A member of Aslan Maskhadov's press service told AFP on 13 August that the Chechen president will not leave Chechnya as long as Russian troops remain there. He added that "neither Akhmed Kadyrov nor any other ethnic Chechen has any moral, ethical or legal right to tell Chechnya's lawfully elected president to leave until a new president is elected." Earlier that day Chechen interim administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov had appealed to Maskhadov in a broadcast on local television to surrender and go into exile to join his son, who lives in Malaysia. But Kadyrov had suggested that Maskhadov could be permitted to remain in Chechnya if he complies with unspecified conditions set by the Chechen people. LF

RUSSIANS, CHECHENS CLAIM TO INFLICT CASUALTIES IN NEW FIGHTING

Russian Interior Ministry troops commander Colonel General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov told journalists on 12 August that his men had killed some 30 Chechen fighters in a three- day special operation after surrounding some 80-85 Chechens in the village of Gekhi, southwest of Grozny, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Tikhomirov said field commanders Arbi Baraev, Ruslan Gelaev, and Akhmed Zakaev were wounded during that fighting. On 13 August, Chechens ambushed a column of Russian Interior Ministry armored personnel carriers, killing three Russians and injuring 10 more, AP reported, quoting an unnamed member of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration. LF

RUSSIA CLAIMS CHECHENS KILLED IN FIGHTING IN INGUSHETIA

A spokesman for Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 11 August that federal forces had killed at least six people from among "large group" of Chechen fighters in a clash near the village of Nizhnii Alkan in Ingushetia late the previous day, Reuters and Interfax reported. Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev, who rejected earlier Russian claims to have engaged with Chechen fighters on Ingushetian territory, told Interfax that one Chechen and one Russian had been killed in a clash "right on the border" with Chechnya, not far from Novyi Alkun. Reuters quoted Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov as saying the Russian claim reflects Moscow's desire "to drag Ingushetia into the war." LF

FSB DENIES CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER RELEASED FROM PRISON

Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zhdanov on 11 August denied media reports that renegade field commander Salman Raduev has been released from Moscow's Lefortovo prison, Russian agencies reported. The previous day, a member of the Moscow-based Chechen State Council had claimed that Raduev is currently conducting talks with the Moscow-backed Chechen interim administration in Gudermes. Raduev was captured by federal forces in Chechnya in March and is being questioned about his possible connection to the February 1998 assassination attempt on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 21 March 2000). LF

RUSSIA URGES ARAFAT TO BE CAUTIOUS

Following a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on 11 August, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told a press conference that "Russia has no problems with recognizing Palestinian statehood." "As concerns the optimal moment for declaring statehood, we consider that all possible developments of the situation need to be thoroughly considered," the Russian minister stressed. Arafat, who met with President Putin earlier in the day, said that he told the Russian leadership about "the kind of actions the Palestinian side expects from the Russian Federation for stabilizing and rescuing the [Middle East] peace process." Specifically, Arafat asked Russia to intensify its efforts in all spheres relating to the peace process, including preparations for a quadrilateral meeting between Palestine, Israel, Russia, and the U.S. During his visit to Moscow, Arafat also met with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II. JAC

ELECTRICITY MONOPOLY WANTS RAILROAD MONOPOLY TO PAY UP

Unified Energy Systems (EES) issued a statement on 11 August threatening to cut off electricity supplies to the country's railroad system unless the Railways Ministry pays off its 3.5 billion ruble ($126 million) debt. The Railways Ministry, on the other hand, claims that it owes only 500 million rubles. First Deputy Railways Minister Aleksandr Misharin told reporters on 11 August that he has called on Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to ensure that the country's trains keep running. Misharin has suggested that the first deputy heads of the ministry and top officials meet at the EES headquarters on 15 August with the aim of reaching an agreement by 24 August on the railways' payments to the EES for the second half of this year. JAC

PUTIN CONTINUES CONSULTATIONS ON STATE COUNCIL

After a meeting with President Putin on 12 August that focused on the proposed State Council and the State Duma's legislative agenda for the fall, Seleznev told reporters that while Putin "is considering all possibilities" with regard to the new council, the president said that "the absolute majority of the governors, if not all of them, must be represented in the State Council." Seleznev added that in his opinion, the council must be a "compact consultative body with about 50 members chaired by the president" since "a body of 200-300 members will not be able to work productively." Putin's 10 August meeting with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev also focused primarily on the new State Council. Gorbachev told reporters that he supports giving the council "real content" but stressed that the new body "must be compact and must reflect the interests of the regions." He added that it should "resemble the German Bundesrat." JAC

GOVERNMENT TO MULL FOUR BIDS FOR OIL COMPANY STAKE

Four applications have been submitted in the tender for an 85 percent stake in the state-owned ONAKO oil company, Interfax reported on 11 August, citing the Anti-Monopoly Ministry. The bidders are YUKOS, Tyumen Oil company, Profit House, and Evrotek. But according to "The Moscow Times" on 12 August, YUKOS, Sibneft, and the pipeline company Stroitransgaz submitted a joint bid under the auspices of Profit House. Results of the tender will be announced on 19 September. LUKoil apparently did not make a bid, contrary to the expectations of some analysts. JAC

FOREIGN TRADE SURPLUS SOARS

Russia's foreign trade surplus swelled to $32.2 billion during the first six months of 2000- - a 95 percent rise compared with same period the previous year, Interfax reported on 11 August. Exports rose 38.7 percent while imports increased 6.8 percent. During the second quarter, trade turnover increased 2.9 percent compared with the first quarter. JAC

SWISS FIRM PROMISES MORE TROUBLE FOR RUSSIAN ASSETS

The French Foreign Ministry announced on 11 August that it is "very pleased" with a Paris appeals court ruling the previous day that the Russian embassy's bank accounts in France be unfrozen, Reuters reported. The embassy's account had been blocked since mid-May following a law suit brought by the Swiss company Noga against the Russian government for unpaid debts. The French Foreign Ministry provided the embassy with some legal assistance in resolving its conflict with Noga. Noga's lawyers have promised not only to appeal the case to the Cour de Cassation--a supreme court that can rule only on legal technicalities--but also to continue the hunt for Russian property abroad. JAC

SOVIET-ERA DEBT HOLDERS GIVEN MORE TIME TO APPLY FOR EUROBONDS

The Finance Ministry has extended until 16 August the period for accepting bids for the exchange of Soviet-era debt owed to the London Club of creditors, Russian agencies reported on 12 August. Originally, all such bids were to have been accepted by 11 August. According to Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin, bids worth $27.70 billion have now been submitted, about 95 percent of all securities up for exchange, Interfax reported. The Soviet-era debt will be swapped for new 30-year and 10-year Russian Eurobonds. The final date for the swap remains 25 August. JAC

TATAR OPPOSITIONIST CALLS FOR UNANIMITY WITH AUTHORITIES

In an interview with TatarInform on 11 August, Rafis Kashapov, who heads the Chally branch of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center, argued that the republic's authorities and democratic organizations should combine forces as a first step toward defending the republic's sovereignty, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 August. Then, he said, they should align with other republics in the Volga-Urals region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2000). Kashapov blamed security forces for thwarting earlier attempts to create a united front. "If things continue the way they are going, Tatarstan will become a 'guberniya,' we'll lose our president and constitution. If we remain silent, we'll face baptism, the annihilation of our language, culture, religion, and national traditions," he said. LF

WIN A TRIP TO 'MIR'

In its latest bid to find funds to keep "Mir" in orbit, MirCorp announced on 12 August that it has signed a deal with a U.S. television producer to launch a game show in which the winner gets to visit the aging space station. Mark Burnett, who is behind the highly successful "Survivor" show on U.S. television, was unable for comment, according to AP, but his manager was quoted as saying Burnett will develop a project at the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow. Eighteen or so U.S. citizens would be selected to train for the mission, and Russian specialists would eliminate those considered not fit to undertake the launch. The successful candidate would be part of a mission to the space station on the Russian spacecraft "Soyuz TM," Interfax reported. Two months ago, it was announced that U.S. businessman and former rocket scientist Dennis Tito was undergoing training to take part in a mission to "Mir" and thereby become the first space tourist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2000). JC




ARMENIAN PREMIER, WORLD BANK DISCUSS DELAYED LOANS

Andranik Markarian met with World Bank officials in Yerevan on 11 August to discuss terms for the release by the bank of some $46 million in two structural adjustment credits intended to cover much of the anticipated budget deficit for this year, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. The World Bank had earlier made disbursement of the two new tranches contingent on privatization of four energy distribution networks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2000). LF

ARMENIAN GENERAL QUITS AS LEADER OF NEW WAR VETERANS' UNION

Major General Arkadii Ter-Tadevossian announced his decision to step down as head of the recently created Union of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle on 10 August, Noyan Tapan reported. That organization was established as a counterpart to the increasingly politicized Yerkrapah Union of Veterans of the Karabakh war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2000). Ter-Tadevossian said in a statement that while the new organization is already "fully fledged," he wishes to devote himself to other, unspecified activities. LF

KARABAKH OFFICIALS DENY ENCLAVE USED FOR DRUGS TRANSIT

Bako Sahakian, who is interior minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has rejected allegations by Azerbaijani presidential apparatus official Ali Hasanov that the enclave is used for the transit of drugs from Asia to Europe, Noyan Tapan reported on 11 August. Hasanov blamed a 100 percent increase in drug addiction in Azerbaijan over the last three years on the increased availability of drugs transiting Karabakh. Sahakian said that his ministry fully controls the situation in Karabakh. He affirmed his readiness to cooperate with the Azerbaijani central authorities to crack down on drugs smuggling. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION AGAIN DEMANDS ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS

Between 1,000 and 5,000 people attended a government- sanctioned demonstration in Baku on 12 August demanding amendments to the election laws to ensure that the 5 November parliamentary poll is democratic and fair, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. They also demanded changes to the election law of Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic that would allocate at least a number of seats in the exclave's new legislature under the proportional system (see "RFE./RL Newsline," 2 August 2000). Some members of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan who attended the demonstration carried green banners, according to ITAR-TASS. Police confiscated portraits of imprisoned former Interior Minister Iskander Hamidov from rally participants. Speaking at a press conference in Baku the previous day, parliament secretariat head Safa Mirzoev said he does not consider necessary any changes to either the national or the Nakhichevan electoral laws. He termed the failure of the Nakhichevan election law to allocate any mandates under the proportional system "an internal affairs" of that republic. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE DENY JOURNALISTS ACCESS TO DISPLACED PERSONS' CAMP

Police and local officials resorted to violence and insults to prevent six journalists representing non-government funded newspapers from entering a camp for displaced persons in Azerbaijan's southern Sabirabad Raion on 11 August, Turan reported. The journalists were herded into a bus and driven to the raion border. LF

ABDUCTED RED CROSS WORKERS RELEASED IN GEORGIA

The three Red Cross workers abducted in Georgia's Pankisi gorge on 4 August were released unharmed early on 13 August. Former Georgian parliamentary deputy Mamuka Areshidze, who negotiated with the abductors, said they had agreed to release their captives without any ransom payment in exchange for guarantees that the criminal case opened against them will be shelved, according to "The Independent" on 14 August. Georgian authorities have not disclosed the identity or nationality of the hostage-takers, but AP quoted Italian Ambassador to Georgia, Michelangelo Pipan as saying that they "were not Chechen rebels but in all probability common criminals." The persons responsible for two earlier abductions of UN observers in western Georgia have likewise never been identified or apprehended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1999 and 6 June 2000). LF

EXPLOSION DESTROYS MONUMENT TO ABKHAZ WRITER

A bomb destroyed the monument in Sukhum to Dmitri Gulia early on12 August, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Gulia is regarded as the founder of modern Abkhaz literature. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT 'SATISFIED' WITH MACRO-ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Nursultan Nazarbaev told a cabinet session in Astana on 11 August that "we should all be satisfied" with "unprecedented" high indicators for GDP growth and industrial output during the first half of the year, Interfax reported. Industrial output increased by 116.3 percent during that period compared with the first six months of 1999. Nazarbaev said that last year's devaluation of the tenge and "the successful work of the government" contributed to that upswing. He denied that any further cabinet reshuffle is imminent. As future priorities he singled out combating poverty and unemployment. He also warned against "reinventing the wheel" in drafting programs for medium- and long-term economic development, advocating close attention to the experience of Australia and Canada in substituting domestic production for imports. LF

UZBEK ISLAMISTS INVADE KYRGYZSTAN

A detachment of approximately 100 Islamic insurgents invaded southern Kyrgyzstan's Batken Oblast on the morning of 11 August. Since then, at least 10 Kyrgyz troops and 30 of the militants have been killed in heavy fighting involving combat helicopters. Reuters on 13 August quoted a Kyrgyz Defense Ministry spokesman as saying that "the majority of the bandit groups have been destroyed." ITAR-TASS on 14 August quoted Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Osmonakun Ibraimov as saying that at this stage Bishkek will not ask its CIS allies for military assistance to fight the invaders. On 12 August, an Uzbek Defense Ministry official denied media reports that the country's armed forces had incurred "mass casualties" fighting the Islamists last week. On 11 August, General Amirqul Azimov, who is Tajik Security Council secretary, denied that the Islamists had entered Uzbekistan from Tajik territory, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. He also ruled out the possibility that they could reach Kyrgyzstan via Tajik territory. But the region of Kyrgyzstan where the current fighting is taking place is surrounded by Tajik territory and does not border on Uzbekistan. LF

TWO MILITARY PHYSICIANS SHOT DEAD IN TAJIK CAPITAL

Two military doctors, one of them a woman, were shot dead in a residential district of Dushanbe on the night of 11 August, AP and ITAR-TASS reported the following day, citing the Tajik Interior Ministry. Police have not yet established the motive for the killings. LF




FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER TO RUN IN LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS

Mikhail Chyhir will run as a candidate in a Minsk constituency in the 15 October ballot to the Chamber of Representatives, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 12 August. Chyhir, who had appealed a three-year prison sentence handed down earlier this year for alleged abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2000), said he will take part in the ballot because of the need for protection against pressure and persecution from the regime. "I should defend myself. If I am elected, it will be more difficult for the authorities to deal with me, since a deputy's mandate is a protecting means to some extent," Belapan quoted Chyhir as saying. According to Chyhir, his decision to run does not harm the Belarusian opposition, which has declared it is boycotting the elections, because he does not belong to any political party. Chyhir's wife, Yuliya, will run as a candidate in a provincial constituency in the October ballot. JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET PLEDGES SUPPORT TO COAL INDUSTRY

Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko told the Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers on 12 August that the government will soon earmark 55 million hryvni ($10.1 million) to support domestic coal mines and 25 million hryvni to buy coal from them for power plants, Interfax reported. Tymoshenko also said that in September the government will be able to pay in cash for all coal purchased from domestic mines for electricity and heat- generating plants. Last month, the government selected 15 Polish and Russian companies to deliver coal to Ukrainian power plants for this winter. It is estimated that by the end of the year those plants will buy a total of some 3 million tons of imported coal worth 400 million hryvni. JM

EESTI ENERGIA BOARD CONTINUES TO OPPOSE NRG DEAL

The supervisory board of the Estonian power utility Eesti Energia remains opposed to the planned deal to sell 49 percent of the country's power plants to U.S. company NRG Energy, ETA reported on 11 August. The board said it is not satisfied with the sale terms and wants some of them changed. Government ministers, who have noted that the deal is "final," said they will issue orders to the board members since the latter are representatives of the state and must act in accordance with their mandate, BNS added. Board chairman Juri Kao replied that members will not vote against their conscience. Those opposed to the sale have often appealed to anti-American sentiments. MH

U.S. CONGRESSMAN CALLS FOR JOINT BALTIC ENTRY INTO NATO

Herbert Bateman (Republican) said during a visit to Latvia on 11 August that the three Baltic countries should enter NATO at the same time to avoid problems, but he emphasized that membership will depend on the achievement of the individual country, BNS reported. After meeting with Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovksis, Bateman commended the process of building the Latvian military "from scratch." MH

LUSTRATION COURT RULES WALESA WAS NOT COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICE AGENT

The Lustration Court on 11 August ruled that former Solidarity leader and ex-President Lech Walesa did not lie in his lustration statement when he declared that he had not been a communist-era secret service collaborator. The court passed its verdict after documents supplied by the State Protection Office (UOP) indicated that the communist secret police had forged files to discredit Walesa in the 1980s, in particular, to prevent him from winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Walesa said he is pleased with the ruling but added that he has a grievance against former Interior Antoni Macierewicz and former UOP chief Piotr Naimski, his former political allies, who testified that he had been an agent under the code name "Bolek" (see also "End Note" below). JM

FEWER CZECHS THINK DEMOCRACY IRREVERSIBLE

According to an IVVM poll reported by CTK on 11 August, 40 percent of Czechs do not believe that their country could revert to communism, down from 51 percent who held that conviction in 1991. Twenty-one percent said they are now uncertain that democracy will continue to develop in the Czech Republic. Eighteen percent said that they consider political pluralism and free elections to be the best guarantees, while only 7 percent thought that freedom of the press and other liberties are the best guarantors of democratic society. PG

CZECH GOVERNMENT'S PENSION PLAN SPARKS DEBATE

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla on 11 August proposed reforming the country's pension plan to separate it from the state budget, CTK reported. This proposal was immediately attacked by Civic Democratic Party (ODS) spokesmen as well as by Christian Democratic deputy Miroslav Kalousek. Spidla's proposal is part of a broader review of pensions now being undertaken by a special commission established by the parliament in May 2000 and scheduled to report by the end of 2001. PG

CZECH PRESIDENT TO VISIT U.S.

Vaclav Havel will visit the U.S. to participate in the UN Millennium Summit from 6-8 September, CTK reported on 13 August. While in the U.S., he will also receive an honorary doctorate in Michigan and open two exhibitions, including one on "Czech and Slovak Immigrants" at Ellis Island. PG

MORE SLOVAKS SEEKING ASYLUM IN CZECH REPUBLIC

The Czech Interior Ministry announced on 11 August that 527 people from Slovakia have applied for asylum in the Czech Republic so far this year, CTK reported. Between 1993 and 1999, only 49 Slovaks had applied for asylum. Most of them cited racial discrimination as the reason for those claims. Up to now, the Czech authorities have never granted asylum to a Slovak citizen. PG

MECIAR'S PARTY CRITICIZES SLOVAK PRESIDENT ON REFERENDUM

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the party of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, sharply criticized President Rudolf Schuster's statement that a referendum calling for early elections will not succeed, CTK reported on 11 August. The HZDS has collected more than 700,000 signatures on a petition to force early elections. PG

SCHUSTER SUGGESTS SLOVAK DOCTORS MADE MISTAKES

Schuster told Radio Twist on 13 August that Slovak doctors failed to correctly diagnose his condition and that he was therefore forced to go to Austria for treatment, CTK reported. The news service said the Slovak police have begun an investigation to see whether criminal charges should be brought against any of the medical practitioners. PG

HUNGARIAN WWII VETERAN RETURNS FROM RUSSIA

Andras Tamas, 75, returned to Budapest on 11 August after being held in Russia since the end of World War II, dpa reported. For almost all of that period, Tamas, an ethnic Hungarian from Slovakia who fought on the side of the Nazis, was confined to a psychiatric clinic, apparently because he could not communicate with his jailers. In 1998, Russian medical officials contacted the Hungarian Embassy in Moscow asking that Budapest arrange for Tamas to be taken home. PG




SERBIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE SEEKS 'THIRD PATH' BETWEEN MILOSEVIC, U.S....

Vojislav Kostunica, who is the united opposition's candidate for the Yugoslav presidency in the 24 September elections, said in Belgrade on 13 August that he does not want any help from the U.S. in his campaign against President Slobodan Milosevic. "Serbia and this unfortunate nation do not need any help coming from the White House. I do not want any kind of support that may serve as an excuse for any foreign intervention," Reuters reported. Kostunica added that he wants Serbia to follow what he called a "third path" between Milosevic and the U.S., which he described as "the two extremes...that are slowly tightening the noose around the neck of the Serbian opposition." He argued that Washington has been "evil" toward the Serbs, AP reported. PM

...CALLS FOR 'EUROPEAN' AID...

Kostunica stressed in Belgrade on 13 August that "our path must be the one where Serbia was born, namely Europe. We need...the kind of assistance that has been coming from Europe for some time, in the form of energy [and] asphalt..., the assistance that helps to ease life of people who suffer from sanctions and NATO bombing," Reuters reported. Observers note that Milosevic and Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) also place most of the blame for Serbia's problems on the U.S. and NATO rather than on mismanagement by Serbia's own elected authorities. Kostunica and many other nationalists seem to hope that the EU will soon return to providing generous trade benefits and credits, as Western countries did during much of the rule of Josip Broz Tito. PM

...CRITICIZES MONTENEGRIN LEADERS

Kostunica said in Belgrade on 13 August that he "will not be able to accept any help from the Montenegrin leaders [around President Milo Djukanovic] if they boycott the elections." Kostunica added that it would be "hypocrisy" for him to accept assistance from Djukanovic, whom he taunted for not taking part in the vote: "By boycotting the ballot, these parties help Milosevic out of fear that they might lose. They say they are democratic authorities. But a democratic leadership allows itself to be tested at the polls. If [a governing party] is strong, it will win," Reuters reported. Kostunica added, however, that he is prepared to stand aside as opposition presidential candidate in favor of "someone" from Montenegro if the Montenegrin leadership reverses its decision to boycott the ballot. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARTY LEADERS TO MEET

Delegations from Djukanovic's Democratic Socialist Party and the opposition Socialist People's Party of Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic will meet on 17 August in Podgorica, Montena-fax news agency reported on 12 August. On the agenda will be a discussion of the general political situation in Montenegro and the need to maintain peace amid growing political tensions in the run-up to the federal elections. Djukanovic told representatives of the Montenegrin diaspora in Cetinje recently that he wants neither the elections nor internal strife, the Belgrade daily "Blic" reported on 14 August. Bulatovic and his supporters have said they will participate in the elections. Elsewhere, the authorities of some two- thirds of Montenegro's districts have informed the federal Election Commission that they will not hold elections in their respective districts on 24 September, Montena-fax reported on 12 August. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO RUN CANDIDATES IN MONTENEGRO?

Leaders of the united opposition in the Alliance for Change are slated to meet in Belgrade on 14 August to decide whether to put forward lists of candidates in Montenegro, Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told "Blic." The alliance hopes to win votes of Montenegrins opposed both to Milosevic and to the boycott. PM

MILOSEVIC ADOPTS NEW DEFENSE STRATEGY

Meeting with top military leaders in Belgrade on 12 August, Milosevic announced the adoption of a "new defense strategy," "Vesti" reported. Serbian authorities provided few details about the doctrine. Reuters quoted political analyst Bratislav Grubacic in Belgrade as saying that Milosevic's announcement means that the military will be increasingly used against internal enemies. PM

PEACEKEEPERS TAKE CONTROL OF MINING COMPLEX IN NORTHERN KOSOVA

In the early hours of 14 August, some 800 KFOR troops occupied the Serbian-run Trepca mining complex near Zvecan. The UN recently reported that levels of lead pollution and other forms of contamination from the plant have reached "very dangerous" levels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). After the occupation of the mine, crowds of local Serbs threw stones at peacekeepers, AP reported. Unconfirmed reports suggest that some Serbian engineers inside the mine may have barricaded themselves in their offices. Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator for Kosova, said: "As a doctor and as chief administrator..., I would be derelict if I let this threat to the health of children and pregnant women continue for one more day." PM

KOSOVA TO VOTE ON 28 OCTOBER

Kouchner announced in Prishtina on 12 August that local elections will take place on 28 October. He stressed that these will be the "first free, democratic and well-controlled elections" in the province's history," London's "The Times" reported. Observers note, however, that most Serbian voters refused to register for the poll. On 13 August, leaders of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League (LDK) of Kosova appealed to representatives of international organizations in Kosova to help end the recent wave of violence against its members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2000). The previous night, unknown persons threw a hand grenade into the Prizren home of a journalist close to the LDK, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN RADIO IN MITROVICA REJECTS UN ORDER

A spokesman for the pro-Milosevic Radio S said in Mitrovica on 13 August that his station will continue to broadcast, despite an order from the UN civilian administration to cease transmissions. The spokesman said that he suspects that the UN is angry that his station has refused to broadcast UN announcements for the coming elections. Radio S often refers to UN peacekeepers as an "occupying force," Reuters reported on 13 August. PM

ROMANIA INVESTMENT FUND MANAGER ARRESTED

Romanian police on 10 August arrested Marian Petrescu, the manager of the SOV Invest company, which administers the collapsed National Investment Fund (FNI), Romanian media reported. Petrescu is accused of having committed fraud between 1997 and 1998 and issuing fictitious reports to the National Securities Commission on the number of FNI issues in circulation, thus inflating the value of the FNI shares. Police estimate the losses to FNI investors at 1,057 billion lei (some $47.4 million). ZsM/PG

TOP NATIONAL PEASANT PARTY OFFICIALS JOIN LIBERAL PARTY

Three leading National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) officials, expelled from that party on 9 August for their support of National Liberal Party (PNL) presidential candidate Teodor Stolojan, joined the PNL on 11 August, Romanian media reported on 12 August. Norica Nicolai, chair of the Economic and Social Council and the Labor Ministry's secretary of state, and Alexandru Ciocalteu, chairman of the National Health Insurance House, said they will not leave their current positions and accused the PNTCD leadership of dictatorial behavior. Former State Ownership Fund president and parliament deputy Sorin Dimitriu said he has nothing against the PNTCD leadership but added that he always believed "the only guarantee for the Romanian civilization's modernization is the liberal way." Another PNTCD expellee, Romanian Development Agency President Sorin Fodoreanu, has not yet expressed his party preference. ZsM

OSCE URGES CONFIDENCE-BUILDING BETWEEN MOLDOVA, TRANSDNIESTER

The OSCE mission to Moldova released a statement on 11 August saying that Moldova and the breakaway Transdniester region should work on measures to build confidence, Infotag reported. The mission released the statement after the "Peacekeeper" newspaper, which is run by the joint control commission, refused to publish it. "Such an approach," the mission said, "violates the underlying principles of the freedom of speech and to all appearances resembles censorship." PG

MALFUNCTION LEADS TO TEMPORARY CLOSING OF BULGARIAN NUCLEAR REACTORS

A failure of electrical equipment led to the temporary shutting down of two reactors at the controversial Kozloduy nuclear power plant on 12 August, BTA reported the following day. The plant is located 200 kilometers north of Sofia. Officials said the malfunction had not posed a threat to nuclear safety. Bulgaria has agreed to permanently shut down the two oldest of Kozloduy's six reactors in 2002, three years before their 30-year lifespan is to expire. PB

BULGARIAN MINERS STRIKE FOR BACK WAGES

Miners at the Bobov Dol coal mine went on strike on 11 August to demand payment of their June and July salaries, Reuters reported. The Bobov Dol mine, 70 kilometers west of Sofia, is one of 10 mines being offered for privatization by the government. The average monthly wage there is the equivalent of $110. PB




LEFT IN THE FILES


By Paul Goble

A Polish court concluded last week that neither former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa nor President Aleksander Kwasniewski had collaborated with communist-era security services. Those findings highlight both the continuing impact of this aspect of the communist past and the enormous difficulties people in Eastern Europe have in overcoming it.

Under the terms of a new Polish law that requires candidates for public office to declare whether they ever collaborated with the security services during the communist period, Walesa was forced to defend his reputation against charges that he had worked as an agent with the code name "Bolek." On 11 August, a special screening court concluded that documents suggesting that Walesa had done so had been planted in his files to discredit him when he was the leader of the anti-communist Solidarity movement. The decision came less than a day after the same court cleared current Polish President Kwasniewski of similar allegations.

Had either man been found to have cooperated with the communist security services, despite his claims to the contrary, he would have been excluded from serving in any public office for a period of 10 years. Because of that possibility, many in Poland appear ready to make such charges to advance their own political agendas at the expense of someone else. Indeed, Walesa was very clear in expressing his disappointment that the screening process--which he had backed--had failed to convince everyone that he had not worked in some capacity with communist security agencies.

The political use of such charges now is only one of many reasons people in these countries and abroad have argued against this or any other effort to expose senior communist officials and especially communist-era security officers so that they will not be able to subvert democratic efforts to overcome that past. Opponents of such efforts suggest that the communist-era secret police files are not an especially reliable source. Not only did secret policemen in communist times have an interest in claiming greater successes than they may have had, but on at least some occasions, they may have inserted false information in files to compromise people.

The introduction of such fabrications likely became even more common at the end of the communist period in Eastern Europe. On the one hand, the secret police would have wanted to appear even more successful as things fell apart. And on the other hand, some of them may have been ordered by the Soviet KGB at the time to plant documents that could be used against democratic leaders in the future.

Moreover, those who speak out against lustration frequently argue that any focus on the past will almost inevitably lead to witch hunts against innocent people and thus poison public attitudes at precisely the time that the stability of the countries involved is most at risk.

And finally, opponents of lustration argue that such screenings fail to take into account the fact that people can and do change, that many who were swept up into the net of the communist-era security services had no real choice, and that what people should be most concerned about is the views of people in the present and future rather than their actions in the past.

But despite these arguments, frequently made not only in Eastern Europe but in the West and in Russia as well, many people in that region believe that some effort at lustration is necessary for both practical and moral reasons. In practice, the supporters of the process Walesa and Kwasniewski went through often suggest that such efforts to expose those who did collaborate have the effect of calling attention to the fact that most people did not, even if others assume that they did.

And morally, lustration of the Polish kind in particular does not so much punish individuals for their past action as allow Polish society to express clearly its abhorrence at the activities of the communist-era secret police and the communist past more generally. A rejection of that past, many in these countries argue, is absolutely essential if these societies are to be able to build a future not undermined by the past.

As Walesa and Kwasniewski learned last week, such a process is almost inevitably awkward for individuals as well as the societies they live in. And given the high visibility of these two cases, Poles and others appear likely to have deal again with how to face the past and thereby overcome it.


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