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Newsline - August 17, 2000




RUSSIA ACCEPTS WESTERN HELP IN BID TO SAVE 'KURSK' CREW...

Shortly before 10:00 a.m. CET on 17 August, British forces equipped with a rescue submarine set sail from the Norwegian port of Trondheim for the Barents Sea, where more than 100 Russian sailors remain trapped on the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine. Following a telephone conversation with U.S. President Bill Clinton the previous day, Russian President Vladimir Putin had given the order to accept help "wherever it comes from," Navy Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Ilyin told Russian Television. That order notwithstanding, U.S. offers of assistance have not been accepted, unidentified officials in Washington pointed out to Reuters. Meanwhile, in addition to British forces, Norwegian divers and possibly ships will take part in the rescue mission. Russian attempts to dock with the "Kursk" continued throughout the night of 16-17 August, but to no avail. According to Interfax, a Russian government commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov will meet in Severomorsk at 13:00 CET on 17 August to debate how to proceed with the rescue mission. Weather conditions were reported to have improved in recent hours. JC

...BUT FEARS GROW THAT AID COMES TOO LATE...

The British rescue submarine, called an LR5, is not expected to reach the scene of the "Kursk" accident before mid-day CET on 19 August. Analysts fear that by then, it will be too late to save any surviving members of the crew, which is now reported to number 118. Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov had announced earlier that oxygen supplies on the submarine would run out on 18 August but was quoted on 16 August as saying that those supplies could last until next week. He did not explain, however, on what grounds that prediction had been changed. Meanwhile, Russian accounts over whether the crew is still tapping out signals differ. Washington intelligence sources told CNN on 17 August that U.S. surveillance ships in the area at the time of the accident have heard no sounds aboard the "Kursk" since 12 August. Those same sources said that two explosions had been recorded on that day, the second much stronger than the first. The Russian navy command, for its part, is reported to be studying video footage showing massive damage to the first and second compartments in the submarine's bow, Interfax reported on 17 August. JC

...AND CRITICISM OF GOVERNMENT BECOMES EVER MORE AUDIBLE

The Russian government--and President Putin, in particular--is increasingly being subjected to scathing criticism over the operation to save the "Kursk" crew. "Komsomolskaya pravda," whose major shareholders are Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, and "Moskovskii komsomolets," which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, both chided the president for making no comment on the accident until 16 August, several days after the event, while Murmansk residents interviewed by CNN expressed disbelief that the president remains on vacation in Sochi at a time of national crisis. "Kommersant-Daily," controlled by businessman Boris Berezovskii, remarked that Putin and other senior government officials have avoided taking any responsibility because they would prefer that those leading the rescue operation ultimately shoulder the blame for any deaths. "Izvestiya," which is owned by Interros and LUKoil, similarly accused the government of seeking to save face rather than lives, commenting that the authorities have "hit the bottom" along with the "Kursk." JC

ECONOMY POISED FOR GROWTH TWO YEAR AFTER CRISIS...

Two years after the financial crisis during which the Russian government had revealed it would default on its domestic and foreign debts, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov declared on 17 August that Russia's "economic situation is rather stable now" and GDP is expected to rise by more than 5 percent by the end of the year, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, the State Statistics Committee revealed that wage arrears grew last month by 3.3 percent to total 40.5 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) as of 1 August, according to AP. Of that figure, 7.1 billion rubles is owed to workers by the federal or local governments. JAC

...AS BANKING SECTOR REMAINS UNREFORMED

Meanwhile, Kim Iskyan, a banking analyst at Renaissance Capital, told "The Moscow Times" of 17 August that "the banking sector is a big time bomb waiting to go off." Noting that bank chiefs continue to believe that they will be saved by the state, he said that "if things go belly up, [banks] know that they can either move assets elsewhere or wait for the government to step in and bail them out," he said. "There is no incentive not to engage in risky operations." The daily noted that in the two years since the crisis, only two major banks-- Inkombank and Menatep--have been officially declared bankrupt. JAC

UNITY WANTS TO RAISE BARRIER TO DUMA MEMBERSHIP...

The pro- Kremlin party Unity plans to submit a bill on political parties in the State Duma's fall session, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 August. According to the daily, the draft legislation is still being worked on but some of its key features are known. Reportedly, the bill would raise from 5 percent to 7 percent the share of the popular vote that parties would be required to win in order to enter the Duma. In addition, only parties with at least 10,000 members would be allowed to field candidates in Duma elections. President Putin had suggested earlier that candidates for president be nominated only by political parties. According to "Izvestiya," Yabloko, which barely surpassed the 5 percent barrier during 1999 elections, is opposed to the measure and is preparing its own alternative version of the bill. JAC

...WHILE THREAT MAY FORCE RIGHT FACTIONS TOGETHER FASTER

The daily also notes that if the 7 percent rule had been in place during the last elections, only the Communist Party, Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) would have entered the Duma. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 15 August, SPS leader Boris Nemtsov predicted that Unity's bill will never pass because parties "will defend their own interests." However, he noted that raising the barrier would not necessarily be a bad thing and that it "certainly will make discussions on merging Yabloko with the SPS more concrete." JAC

PRIME MINISTER GIVES GOVERNORS-GENERAL RIGHT TO ATTEND CABINET MEETINGS...

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a decree on 16 August establishing the framework for cooperation between the government and the office of the presidential envoys in the seven federal districts, ITAR-TASS reported. According to decree, the envoys can be invited to attend meetings of the cabinet of ministers with the right of consultative voice and to participate in sessions of the government commissions and councils. The decree also orders that a sub-division be created at all ministries and departments to oversee coordination activities with the presidential representatives and that the deputy prime minister responsible for the regions, who is currently Viktor Khristenko, should meet with the governors-general no less than once a month. The envoys also have the right to confirm all candidates nominated for positions in the territorial branches of all federal ministries and departments. JAC

...AS ENVOYS THEMSELVES ENVISAGE GREATER POWERS

"Kommersant- Daily" on 16 August provided some background to the decree, reporting that some members of the government opposed a plan by deputy head of the presidential administration Vladislav Surikov to task presidential envoys with devising economic programs for their districts. According to the daily, in which Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest, at least some of the presidential envoys were already aware of Surikov's intention: Envoy to the Northwest District Viktor Cherkesov reportedly sent a document ordering the Finance Ministry to earmark 12 billion rubles ($433 million) in 2001 for the construction of a gas pipeline from Yamal to Arkhangelsk. However, next year's budget foresees spending of only 6 billion rubles for investment in all sectors. In its coverage of the decree the next day, "Segodnya" concluded that by empowering the envoys, the presidential administration is increasing its own power while diminishing that of the government and the prime minister. JAC

RAILWAYS REFORM MOVES ONE STEP FORWARD

Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko's plan to turn parts of his ministry into a state-owned corporation won limited approval at a meeting of railway officials, representatives of regional administrations, and federal officials on 16 August, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. Under the plan, the ministry would retain its regulatory role, while the divisions that carry cargo and passengers would become a wholly state-owned company and private businesses would be allowed to operate existing infrastructure provided they purchased their own trains. The plan is partly an attempt by the ministry to cope with the country's deteriorating railway infrastructure: according to Aksenenko, 600 billion rubles ($21.6 billion) are needed over the next five years to modernize the railway system. In addition, the railways are owed some 16 billion rubles by their customers. Also on 16 August, Unified Energy Systems gave the Railways Ministry until 1 September to eliminate its own debt to the electricity monopoly, "Kommersant-Daily" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2000). JAC

RUSSIAN, U.S. ARMS NEGOTIATORS MEET IN GENEVA

Arms negotiators from the U.S. and Russia met in Geneva on 16 August for three days of talks "following up on the joint statement of President Clinton and President Putin in Okinawa on cooperation on strategic stability," according to a statement issued by the U.S. mission in Geneva, AP reported. The U.S. team is being led by chief arms negotiator John Holm and the Russian team by Russian Arms Control Directorate head Yurii Kapralov. Washington is seeking Moscow's agreement on changes to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that would allow the U.S. to deploy a limited national missile defense system. To date, Russia has strongly opposed any such amendments. Also on the agenda of the Geneva talks are plans for a U.S.-Russian project designed to improve sensors in early warning satellites and joint exercises in missile defense. JC

IVANOV KEEPS UP MOSCOW'S MID-EAST DIPLOMACY

On the heels of telephone calls between President Putin and Egyptian and Israeli leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 August 2000), Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov telephoned his counterparts in Egypt, the U.S., Syria, Spain, Israel, the Vatican, Italy, and France to confirm Moscow's desire for a "comprehensive and just Middle East settlement," ITAR-TASS reported on 16 August, citing a Russian Foreign Ministry dispatch. The document also noted that President Putin's special envoy for the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin will visit that region in the near future. JC

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION NAMES NEW POLICE ADVISER

Khamid Inalov, who served in 1995 as Chechen interior minister, has been appointed adviser to interim administration head Akhmed- hadji Kadyrov, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. Inalov will coordinate the work of the pro-Moscow Chechen power structures and set up a Chechen police force. It is not clear to what extent those duties overlap with those of Kadyrov's first deputy, Beslan Gantemirov, who was nominally in charge of police and security matters. On 16 August, Russian presidential envoy to the federal district of South Russia Viktor Kazantsev told journalists in Khankala that "a cardinal decision" will be taken in the near future on restructuring and improving the system of interaction between the interim Chechen administration and the Russian government, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

VARIOUS FORCES TO BE TRIMMED, TRANSFERRED

Air Force Commander Anatolii Kornukov said on 16 August that the country's air defense duty forces will be trimmed somewhat as a result of the government's reform of the armed forces, ITAR-TASS reported. In particular, he said that the strength of the duty forces "will be somewhat changed" in the regions, since keeping a large duty force there is "ineffective in terms of cost." In other upcoming measures, Russia's Interior Troops will become federal guards by 2005, "Vremya MN" reported on 16 August. According to the daily, the Interior Ministry insists that the reorganization of the Interior Troops will be carried out within the framework of the Interior Ministry and that there will be no radical changes in the functions of those troops. However, the daily noted that the aim of the reforms is to make the troops directly subordinate to the armed forces' General Staff. JAC

ECONOMIC CRIME RATE SOARS, MURDERS DECLINE

The number of economic crimes registered in Russia increased almost 23 percent during the first seven months of 2000 (to 242,000) compared with the same period the previous year, "Trud" reported on 16 August, citing the Interior Ministry. Regions experiencing the greatest growth in these types of crimes were Moscow (73.2 percent), Mordovia (62.3 percent), Adygeya (62.0 percent), Tyumen (52.2 percent), Novgorod (47.8 percent), and Tuva (46.4 percent). "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day, citing the Office of the Prosecutor- General, that the number of murders nationwide committed over the first six months of 2000 fell by 1 percent to total 13,719. JAC




NEW ARMENIAN VETERANS' UNION DEPLORES LEADER'S RESIGNATION

Members of the Union of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle (AVM) founded in May have issued a statement condemning the resignation of Major General Arkadii Ter-Tadevossian as leader of that organization, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 16 August. Ter-Tadevossian announced his resignation last week without clarifying his motives for doing so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2000). He later told RFE/RL that he quit to protest the AVM's transformation into "a second Yerkrapah," referring to the increasingly politicized union of veterans of the Karabakh war, which is aligned with the Republican Party of Armenia. Observers believe the AVM was created as a counterpart to Yerkrapah. AVM sources accused unspecified "forces" of coercing Ter-Tadevossian to resign as the union's leader. The AVM will create a commission charged with clarifying the circumstances that prompted him to do so. It has also elected four co-chairmen who will lead the organization until its founding congress next month. LF

ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN ENGAGE IN POLEMIC OVER POWS

The Armenian National Security Ministry issued a statement on 16 August rejecting as "lies and falsification" a statement made in Baku two days earlier by Ramiz Gurbanov, a spokesman for its Azerbaijani counterpart, Noyan Tapan reported. Gurbanov had claimed that Armenia still holds a total of 783 Azerbaijani hostages and prisoners of war. He also accused Armenia of reneging on a promise to release two prisoners of war on 14 August. The Armenian National Security Ministry asserted that there are still an unspecified number of Azerbaijani prisoners in Armenia, but it added that some of them do not wish to return to Azerbaijan. The ministry also said that unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia allows the International Committee of the Red Cross free access to all prisoners of war. LF

IRAN THREATENS TO REDUCE ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES TO AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE

Iran's Energy Ministry has warned that it will halt supplies of electricity to the Republic of Nakhichevan unless Baku pays its energy debts, Turan reported on 16 August. Under an agreement concluded between Baku and Tehran in 1992, Iran supplies 60 percent of Nakhichevan's electricity. LF

GEORGIAN JOURNALIST ASSAULTED

Sozar Subeliani, editor of the newspaper "Kavkazioni" and a correspondent for RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau, was assaulted and beaten in a Tbilisi district courtroom on 16 August. His assailants were members of the congregation of an unfrocked Georgian priest who are seeking a nationwide ban on the Jehovah's Witnesses. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT TO DRAFT LAW ON RELIGION

The Georgian parliament will create a special group charged with drafting a law on religion, deputy speaker Giga Tsereteli told Caucasus Press on 16 August. He said that bill would be based on the constitutionally-guaranteed principle of freedom of belief but would "regulate" the activities of religious organizations that engage in "anti-national activity and infringe human rights." LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY'S CASH CRUNCH AVERTED

Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told a government session on 16 August that the danger that some of Georgia's 29 diplomatic representations abroad might have to be closed for lack of funds has been averted by assistance from international organizations, Caucasus Press reported. He added, however, that there have been "personnel changes" at some embassies. A Foreign Ministry spokesman had said in early August that two-thirds of the country's diplomatic personnel would be recalled. He also said that Greece had made the ministry a grant of $2 million toward financing its diplomatic missions abroad. LF

DROUGHT DELAYS BEGINNING OF GEORGIAN SCHOOL YEAR

The Georgian Ministry of Education decided on 16 August to postpone from 1 September until 18 September the beginning of the new academic year, Caucasus Press reported. That decision was prompted by the shortage of drinking water resulting from this summer's severe drought and its anticipated impact on sanitary standards. LF

OSCE CONCERNED AT RETREAT FROM DEMOCRACY IN KAZAKHSTAN

Ulrich Schoening, the outgoing head of the OSCE office in Kazakhstan, met in Astana on 16 August with First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov to discuss the political situation in the country, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Schoening noted "ebbs and flows" in the democratization process and a lack of mutual respect between the government and political parties and pressure groups. He endorsed the proposal, made last year by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, to convene a roundtable discussion between the authorities and the opposition. Pavlov, for his part, singled out as promising areas for cooperation fighting poverty and unemployment, which President Nursultan Nazarbaev last week termed a priority for the government. LF

ANOTHER KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FAILS LANGUAGE TEST

Businessman Anarbek Usupbaev, proposed on 10 August by the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan as its candidate for the 29 October presidential poll, has failed the mandatory proficiency examination in spoken and written Kyrgyz set by the Central Electoral Commission's linguistic commission, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 16 August. He is the second presidential-hopeful to be thus disqualified from contending that ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000). LF

IMF MISSION HOLDS TALKS IN TAJIKISTAN

An IMF delegation led by Tapio Saavalainen, head of the fund's Second European Department, held talks in Dushanbe on 14 and 16 August with Tajik Prime Minister Aqil Aqilov, Asia Plus Blitz reported. The aim of the IMF visit is to review the current economic situation and draft a joint memorandum on economic policy for the third year of the fund's program for alleviating poverty. Interfax on 16 August quoted the Tajik Finance Ministry as reporting that the budget deficit in the first six months of 2000 was reduced to 257.7 million Tajik rubles ($102,000), which is the equivalent of 0.01 percent of GDP. Tajikistan posted a 6.5 percent increase in GDP and a 9 percent rise in industrial output during the first six months of this year, compared with the corresponding period of 1999. During the first half of 2000, inflation stood at 16.6 percent. But in the first week of August, however, the Tajik ruble dropped by 1.3 percent against the U.S. dollar. LF

ISLAMIC MILITANTS LAUNCH SECOND INCURSION INTO KYRGYZSTAN...

Another group of some 40-50 Islamic militants entered Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan early on 16 August, less than 24 hours after Kyrgyz spokesmen claimed to have expelled the surviving members of a first group of invaders, Reuters reported. In a television address to the Kyrgyz population, President Askar Akaev said fierce fighting is under way between the invading militants and Kyrgyz government forces. Like Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000), Akaev has cancelled his participation in the informal CIS summit in Yalta on 18-19 August, the presidential press service told ITAR-TASS on 16 August. LF

...WHILE KYRGYZ OFFICIALS BLAME TAJIKISTAN FOR ATTACKS

In his television address, Akaev blamed the two militant attacks on Kyrgyz territory on Tajikistan, which, he said, had failed to fulfill its obligation to prevent them from crossing its frontiers, Interfax reported. General Bolot Djanuzakov, who is secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, said on 16 August that the militants include foreign mercenaries, and that they have penetrated 8-10 kilometers into Kyrgyz territory. He criticized the Tajik government's refusal to allow either Kyrgyz or Uzbek troops to pursue the retreating Islamists into Tajikistan and eliminate their bases there, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. But a Kyrgyz fighter of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) to which the militants belong told RFE/RL the same day that the IMU forces did not enter Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan but had spent the entire winter in Kyrgyzstan. LF

DEATH TOLL IN CLASHES WITH MILITANTS UNCLEAR

Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Djanuzakov said on 16 August that a total of 18 Kyrgyz government troops have been killed and 11 wounded since the first incursion last week, Reuters reported. But local officials in Batken Oblast in the south of Kyrgyzstan told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that 26 Kyrgyz servicemen are either dead or missing. Uzbek Defense Ministry spokesmen told Interfax on 16 August that 12 servicemen have been killed or died from wounds since the Islamists launched their attack in early August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). The Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office has begun a criminal investigation into the attack on Uzbek territory, Interfax reported. Meanwhile Tajik intelligence has handed over to Uzbekistan an IMU member detained in Tajikistan's northern Leninabad Oblast and wanted in Uzbekistan on suspicion of involvement in the February 1999 bombings in Tashkent, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

PUTIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER CENTRAL ASIAN FIGHTING

Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists in Sochi on 16 August that the fighting in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is a cause of concern to Moscow. Putin again discussed the situation with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000). Also on 16 August, Putin telephoned Uzbek President Karimov and offered to cooperate to restore regional stability, Interfax reported. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT'S OFFER TO DEMOCRATIZE ELECTIONS DEEMED 'INSIGNIFICANT'

Mikalay Statkevich, leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Popular Assembly), has said that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent initiative to democratize the election process in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2000) is "insignificant" and "cosmetic," Belapan reported on 16 August. Alena Skryhan, secretary of the Belarusian Communist Party, told the agency that Lukashenka's proposals constitute a propaganda move aimed at the OSCE and other European organizations, adding that there is no time to implement those proposals before the 15 October ballot. Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party, recalled that in April 1997, official Minsk sent a letter to the European Council promising to discuss the balance of power branches in Belarus with the opposition but has failed to keep that pledge. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CONSIDERS ELECTION BOYCOTT A 'MISTAKE'

Mikalay Statkevich told Belapan on 16 August that the boycott of the 15 October elections to the Chamber of Representatives, which was announced by six opposition groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000), is a mistake and may cause "very dangerous consequences." Statkevich said the authorities may respond by either "blocking" the boycott or "helping" the opposition organize it. In the first case, he argued, the regime will be able to ensure that election turnout is sufficiently high to disprove that the opposition has any significant leverage in society. And if the authorities choose to help the opposition stage a boycott, Lukashenka will begin to rule the country by decree without any legislature, he added. Statkevich said he believes the elections will create a "new opposition center" in the Chamber of Representatives. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PROPOSES INTERNATIONAL JOINT VENTURE TO OPERATE GAS PIPELINES...

Viktor Yushchenko said in a 16 August interview with the Moscow-based "Trud" that Ukraine could hand over control of its gas transit pipelines to an international joint venture on conditions of a long-term concession. According to Yushchenko, the joint venture could be created by Naftohaz Ukrayiny, Russia's Gazprom, and another foreign oil and gas company. He said Gazprom would participate in the joint venture in exchange for writing off Ukraine's gas debt to Russia and for "investing other assets." JM

...DENIES HIS CABINET AUTHORIZED GAS THEFT

Yushchenko said the same day that his cabinet made no decision to allow the siphoning off of Russian gas transiting Ukrainian territory. Yushchenko was commenting on reports in some Russian media saying that he had authorized the theft of Russian gas and on a statement by Dmitrii Rogozin, head of the Russian Duma Committee for International Affairs. Rogozin said on 15 August that Russia may sue Ukraine in an international court for the continued theft of Russian transit gas, according to ITAR-TASS. JM

UKRAINIAN EX-PREMIER CRITICIZES CABINET POLICIES

Valeriy Pustovoytenko has criticized the cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko for its agricultural and energy policies as well as for poor cooperation with the IMF, Interfax reported on 16 August. Pustovoytenko said the recently announced government program to boost grain production in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000) is aimed at diverting public attention from the poor harvest this year. According to Pustovoytenko, this year's grain output will be "much lower" than last year's. He also slammed Yushchenko for not supporting the coal industry and for proposing to hand over part of the country's pipeline system to Russia as repayment of gas debts. Pustovoytenko noted that the current government "has totally wrecked" Ukraine's cooperation with international financial institution, particularly the IMF. "There were hopes that following Viktor Yushchenko's appointment [as prime minister] we would easily obtain IMF credits, but [the IMF] has nagged about irregularities that took place earlier," Pustovoytenko said. JM

BOMBING SUSPECT FOUND IN ESTONIAN PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL

The prime suspect in the May bombing of the Stockmann department store in Tallinn, who has been missing since being released from pre-trial detention in July, has been discovered in Tallinn's psychiatric hospital, BNS reported on 16 August. Denis Balynski, who confessed to planting the two small bombs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2000), was released on his own recognizance by Judge Valeri Loonik in a Tallinn City Court. It was only on 7 August, when a higher court ordered the release order revoked, that Balynski was found to have absconded, and it was feared at first that he had fled to Russia. However, a doctor at the psychiatric hospital said that Balynski had been there for nearly a week and that he had recognized the suspect from a newspaper photo. Balynski has since been returned to prison. MH

FUNDS FOUND TO FIX CRUMBLING LATVIAN PRESIDENTIAL PALACE

Latvian Finance Minister Gundars Berzins, after touring the presidential palace on 16 August, announced that this year's profits from the State Real Estate Agency will be earmarked for repairs to the palace. Berzins estimated that 300-350,000 lats ($496-578,000) will be made available to renovate the palace. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has complained that the building is in a state of disrepair, including cracks in walls and unsafe foundations, LETA reported. Berzins also said he will seek additional funding for the palace's renovation. MH

POLISH PRESIDENT LOSES TRUST IN SECRET SERVICE

Marek Siwiec, presidential adviser on national security issues, told Polish Radio on 16 August that Aleksander Kwasniewski has lost confidence in the State Protection Office (UOP). After Kwasniewski was cleared of allegations that he spied for the communist secret services, he vowed to find out why the UOP passed documents connected with his lustration case to the Lustration Court only during the presidential campaign, when in his opinion this could have been done sooner. Meanwhile, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 16 August that the UOP handed over crucial documents clearing ex-Solidarity leader Lech Walesa of collaboration charges only hours before the Lustration Court ruled in Walesa's case. The same day, Premier Jerzy Buzek asked Minister for Special Services Janusz Palubicki to cut short his vacation in order to "clarify all the issues that might arouse doubt" in connection with the lustration of presidential candidates. JM

JEWISH CEMETERY DISPUTE TO BE RESOLVED SOON?

Jiri Danicek, the chairman of the Prague Jewish community, told CTK on 16 August that he expects the dispute over how to deal with the issue of a medieval Jewish cemetery where an insurance company hopes to construct its headquarters to be resolved by September. "It is necessary that all the details be agreed by all the parties involved beforehand so that no different interpretations arise," Danicek said. PG

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT AGREES TO REFUSE MECIAR-APPOINTED JUSTICE

The Slovak government on 16 August approved a proposal by Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky to seek the dismissal of Supreme Court chairman Stefan Harabin, who was appointed by former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, CTK reported. Harabin said the proposal is unconstitutional and an attack on judicial independence. Carnogursky said that the proposed mechanism of dismissal has been used before and is fully legal. PG

SLOVAKIA TURNS DOWN HUNGARIAN REQUEST FOR MORE WATER

Slovak officials rejected a Hungarian request that more water be channeled into the River Danube along the border between the two countries, "Praca" reported on 16 August. They said that such an increase would require negotiations after Budapest appoints a new representative on the mixed commission. PG

U.S. EMBASSY IN HUNGARY TO SUPPORT SERBIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES

The U.S. State Department has opened a new office at its Budapest embassy to support democratic forces during Yugoslavia's election campaign, Hungarian media reported on 17 August. State Department deputy spokesman Philip T. Reeker said the office will provide support for the "entire Yugoslav opposition" until its long-term objective, the democratic transformation of Serbia, has been met. Vojislav Kostunica, the presidential candidate of the Serb Democratic Opposition, said the creation of the office is "a gross interference in Serbia's domestic affairs and another colonialist endeavor on the part of the U.S. government." MSZ

HUNGARIAN INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT UP 23 PERCENT

Hungary's industrial output in June was up 23.1 percent on the same month last year, Budapest newspapers reported on 16 August. Meanwhile, the Hungarian government announces plans to begin the privatization of Hungary's national airline Malev, the papers said. PG




KOUCHNER BLASTS 'FASCISM' AMONG KOSOVA'S SERBS

Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, told the BBC on 17 August that KFOR peacekeepers are confronted by "a sort of fascism" on the part of Kosova's Serbs and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's agents in the province. Kouchner stressed that it was necessary for the UN to take over the Serbian-run Trepca mining and metallurgy complex to stop it from polluting the environment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000). He added that as a medical doctor and administrator, he had "no choice" but to shut down Trepca, which was the cause of unusually high levels of lead in the blood of many local people. The workers are being paid and the complex will soon reopen "in the interests of all people of Kosovo," Kouchner said. PM

KOSOVA SERBS PROTEST SHUT-DOWN OF TREPCA

Oliver Ivanovic, who is a leader of the Serbs of Mitrovica, told some 300 Serbs at the Trepca complex on 17 August that "we will continue our protests, we shall not give up our struggle for Trepca to remain Serbian," AP reported. "If we continue to protest and struggle for our cause through democratic means, we stand a chance to retain our jobs," he added. Another rally is slated for the evening of 17 August. PM

UN DEFENDS MOVE AGAINST POLLUTION IN KOSOVA

UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said on 16 August in New York that "the levels of lead in the atmosphere [at Trepca] were absolutely beyond any levels that are acceptable. They are 200 times higher than what World Health Organization recognizes, or sees as acceptable." He pointed out that the workers are being paid and that the complex will reopen. "It's all part of a larger project, of course that takes time, to modernize and make that entire complex more productive within modern norms of environmental protection," the spokesman said. PM

SERBS HOLD BELGIAN KOSOVA PEACEKEEPERS

Serbian police detained seven Belgian KFOR peacekeepers on the border between Serbia and Kosova and held them for 15 hours in Raska, a Belgian army spokesman said in Brussels on 16 August. The Belgians were released following negotiations between KFOR headquarters and Serbian authorities. PM

MEDICAL CHARITY LEAVES PARTS OF KOSOVA

The French-based international medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has removed its staff from three minority enclaves, MSF leader James Orbinski said in Prishtina on 16 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). The spokesman criticized UN administrators and NATO peacekeepers, saying that "there has been a passive acceptance of acts of violence against minorities. A culture of impunity has emerged," Reuters reported. Kouchner is the founder of MSF. PM

SERBIAN JOURNALIST ARRESTED

Police arrested Zoran Lukovic in Belgrade on 16 August and ordered him to serve a five-month prison sentence. A court sentenced him in 1999 for an article he wrote in the former daily "Dnevni telegraf," which was critical of Health Minister Milovan Bojic. The opposition Social Democratic Union said in a statement that the arrest is part of the regime's "intimidation of the public--and independent journalists in particular--ahead of the national elections" slated for 24 September, AP reported. PM

YUGOSLAV MILITARY COURT FREES SLOVENIAN COUPLE

A military court in Podgorica freed two Slovenes suspected of spying on a military facility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000). The couple's lawyer told Reuters on 16 August that "Milos Glisovic and his wife Natasa Zorz have already left for Slovenia. Military court judge Milan Vujovic decided to punish Glisovic with a three-month sentence suspended for one year, while charges against his wife were dropped." Slovenian media previously reported that the couple were tourists who were arrested while vacationing in Montenegro. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT: MILOSEVIC TO CAUSE 'CHAOS'

Milo Djukanovic wrote in an article published in Podgorica on 16 August that the Yugoslav president has frequently provoked crises with his neighbors and will soon seek to cause "chaos" in Montenegro, Montena-fax reported. Djukanovic stressed that Montenegro and its political future are now Milosevic's chief preoccupation. Montenegrin citizens have the right to determine their own future, including holding a referendum on independence, Djukanovic added. PM

MONTENEGRIN ACADEMIC BLASTS KOSTUNICA

Prominent Podgorica law professor Radovan Radonjic said that Vojislav Kostunica, who is the Serbian opposition's presidential candidate against Milosevic, is more anti-Montenegrin "than even the regime in Belgrade," Montena-fax reported on 16 August. Radonjic was referring to some recent remarks by Kostunica in which he belittled Montenegro as an unequal partner of Serbia. Novak Kilibarda, who is Montenegro's diplomatic representative in Bosnia and an independent-minded politician, said that Kostunica and Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic do not respect Montenegrin equality with Serbia. PM

MORE BODIES FOUND IN BOSNIA

A forensics team has uncovered the bodies of 11 people in a pit near the Serb-held village of Kalimanici, just east of Sarajevo, AP reported. The deputy head of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons, Jasmin Odobasic, said in Sarajevo on 16 August that the victims are believed to be Muslims from Visegrad in eastern Bosnia. Serbian paramilitaries, including Arkan's Tigers, quickly and brutally "ethnically cleansed" Visegrad and several other towns near the Serbian border of their Muslim populations in 1992. Some 20,000 people are still missing as a result of the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict. PM

RENEWED TENSIONS IN CROATIAN GOVERNING COALITION

Drazen Budisa, who heads the Croatian Social Liberal Party, said that Prime Minister Ivica Racan and President Stipe Mesic know that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is investigating the chief of the General Staff, General Petar Stipetic, even if Racan and Mesic claim otherwise in public, "Jutarnji list" reported on 17 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). Budisa recently told the weekly "Globus" that Racan said to him privately that he is aware of the tribunal's investigations, the daily added. "Novi List" interviewed several leading opposition and government politicians, who said that Racan and Budisa should clear up the matter quickly. Budisa's party and Racan's Social Democrats make up the larger of the two coalitions in the government. Many Social Democrats suspect that Budisa wants to bring down the cabinet and set up a right-of-center coalition government. PM

ISARESCU TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Romanian Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu said on 16 August that if his support group gathers the necessary 300,000 signatures, he will officially announce his bid for the presidential elections, Reuters reported. Isarescu said the lineup of the "Isarescu For President Support Group," which has been formed by 300 respected intellectuals, is "impressive," and he ended weeks of speculation by declaring his intention to run as an independent candidate. The leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, which previously courted Isarescu to run on its party ticket, said it supports his candidacy and will begin gathering signatures for him. The latest opinion poll showed National Liberal Party candidate Theodor Stolojan and Isarescu closing in on Party of Social Democracy in Romania Chairman and former President Ion Iliescu. Iliescu has some 36 percent backing, Stolojan 20 percent, and Isarescu 15 percent. ZsM

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION SAYS OFFICIALS SPYING ON THEM

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) told Bulgarian Radio on 16 August that it has information that official structures have been set up in the Interior Ministry to monitor opposition parliamentary candidates. PG

BULGARIAN DEPUTY KILLED IN CAR CRASH

Petar Krustev Stoyanov, 48, a deputy of Bulgaria's center-right governing coalition, died in a car crash on 16 August, AP reported. A theater director, Stoyanov had been part of the Union of Democratic Forces since 1997. He was not related to Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov. PG




BOSNIA MARKS REFORMS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT


By Robert McMahon

Nearly five years of peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina have allowed the international community to focus its latest efforts on establishing the rule of law in the country.

The latest UN estimates of the number of Bosnians returning this year indicate that those efforts are making some progress. The UN's undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, Bernard Miyet, told the UN Security Council on 15 August that so far this year 19,500 refugees and internally displaced people have returned to areas of Bosnia- Herzegovina where they are minorities. By comparison, he said, just 2,000 people returned during the same period last year.

It is a clear sign, Miyet says, that confidence is growing among Bosnia's large displaced population. "It can be noted that UNMIBH--the UN Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina-- continues to move ahead in the implementation of its mandate in a positive fashion," he notes. "There has been progress in all areas such as inter-entity law enforcement arrangements and growing day-to-day cooperation between the interior ministries of the Bosnian Federation and of the Republic of Srpska."

Miyet says there have been recent cases of cooperation involving Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian police units in combating two of Bosnia's biggest problems--illegal immigration and organized crime. He said inter-ethnic police task forces have joined to break up a smuggling and counterfeit money operation in Doboj as well as investigate a group producing false passports in Mostar.

The UN Mission in Bosnia is also trying to ensure that larger numbers of minority candidates are admitted to police academies in Bosnia's two entities. Miyet says that more than 450 minority officers are attending or have now graduated from such academies. In an important symbolic gesture last week, a Muslim officer was assigned to work in Serb- controlled Srebrenica, site of a massacre of Bosnian Muslims five years ago.

The mission has also instituted a stricter policy against local police illegally occupying residential premises. They now face a loss of their police powers if they do not vacate those premises after a court decision is taken.

Miyet says such developments may help explain why nearly 300 Bosnian Muslim families this year have returned to communities in Republika Srpska that were seen as hard-line, including Prijedor, Doboj and Foca. On 15 August, Security Council members said they are encouraged by the high rate of returning minorities. But many of them said it is important for the UN mission to maintain pressure on Bosnia's collective leadership to tackle perennial problems such as smuggling, organized crime, and ethnic tensions.

The Netherlands' ambassador to the United Nations, Arnold Van Walsum, expressed concern about shortfalls in Bosnia's budget. He said part of the deficit could be attributed to the hundreds of millions of dollars lost to smuggling. He said that activity is on such a large scale that it likely involves high-level officials. The Bosnian authorities, he said, must redouble their efforts to stamp out crime and corruption and be aware that foreign aid is not "an infinite commodity."

Bosnian officials acknowledge the slow pace of progress in areas such as crime and corruption. But they say greater attention by the international community to economic progress in Bosnia could help strengthen the rule of law there. In particular, Bosnian officials say, they would like a stronger commitment from European bodies--particularly the EU--that they are regarded as potential members.

Bosnia's ambassador to the United Nations, Muhamed Sacirbey, told RFE/RL in an interview that he would like to see Bosnia move from being what he calls a protectorate to a partner with its European neighbors. The real question, he said, is "who is going to make investments in Bosnia if it is somehow set out as this no-man's land in a new Europe?"

UN officials say that Bosnia needs money to help sustain its reforms. For example, an estimated $40 million is needed by the UN mission in Bosnia to support the State Border Service and carry out police restructuring and training. Meanwhile, there is deep concern that donor fatigue will hurt Bosnia before it is stable enough to follow through on reforms.


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