Accessibility links

Newsline - August 22, 2000




SERGEEV SAYS NO 'FUNDAMENTAL MISTAKES' IN 'KURSK' RESCUE OPERATION...

Following announcements by Norwegian and Russian officials that the entire crew of the sunken "Kursk" submarine is dead, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told Russian Public Television (ORT) on 21 August that while it cannot be ruled out that some mistakes occurred during the rescue operation, he believed that "in the heat of the moment, fundamental mistakes were not made." He maintained that there had been no delay either in starting the rescue operation or in accepting foreign assistance, but he did make the point that the armed forces have received less than 50 percent of funds allocated in the state budget. Sergeev also asserted that he had advised President Vladimir Putin not to travel to the scene of the disaster, arguing that it was not necessary for the head of state to appear there. He expressed his condolences to the relatives of those who had died and noted that Russia would "never forget the sailors who did everything possible and impossible." Also on 21 August, in an emotional address to the "Kursk" crew's families broadcast by Russian Television, commander of the Northern Fleet Admiral Vyacheslav Popov asked for forgiveness "for failing to save and protect your men." JC

...CLINGS TO COLLISION THEORY

In the same interview with ORT, Sergeev asserted that a collision with "an underwater object" the same size as the "Kursk" was the cause of the disaster. He said that Russia has "localized" the object but was unable to identify it. NATO, he continued, had denied that any of its vessels were in the area at the time of the disaster, but Sergeev added that "they have told us that even it that had happened, they would never acknowledge it." The same day, Interfax cited unidentified "military sources" as saying that an object resembling part of a "foreign submarine tower" had been discovered 330 meters from the "Kursk" on the bed of the Barents Sea. According to those sources, a collision with another submarine, "most likely British," remains the most likely reason for the sinking of the "Kursk." Russian navy spokesman Vladimir Navrotskii later rejected the Interfax report as false, as did the British Defense Ministry. JC

PUTIN ORDERS DAY OF MOURNING...

President Putin has decreed 23 August a day of mourning for the 118 crew members of the "Kursk" submarine, according to a statement released by the Kremlin on 22 August. Expressing his sorrow for those killed and his condolences to their relatives and friends, Putin urged the government to offer all necessary assistance to the sailors' families. Meanwhile, Russia has asked for Norwegian help to recover the bodies of the crew and, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov has said Moscow will make an international appeal for funds to raise the "Kursk," adding that it will takes weeks to prepare plans for salvaging the submarine. AP quoted the U.S. Defense Department as saying it will consider any Russian request for help in recovering the sunken vessel. JC

...PREPARES TO FLY TO SEVEROMORSK...

Also on 22 August, the Kremlin announced that President Putin will fly to Severomorsk, Murmansk Oblast, later the same day to pay tribute to the crew of the "Kursk." Severomorsk is the base of Russia's Northern Fleet, to which the "Kursk" belonged. Interfax quoted the Northern Fleet headquarters as saying that the main purpose of Putin's visit is to meet with relatives of the victims. JC

...AS MEDIA CRITICISM CONTINUES UNABATED

Following confirmation of the death of the "Kursk" crew, there has been no let-up in the media criticism of Russian officials' handling of the rescue operation. "Novye izvestiya," which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, accused those officials of having concealed the truth from the public, saying that the "Norwegian divers broke through the lies and sabotage." "Segodnya," which is part of Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST group, argued that the "Kursk" tragedy had shown the "catastrophic" weakness of the Russian state, while "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is owned by Berezovskii, criticized Putin for taking his spin doctors' advice not to travel to the scene of the disaster, adding that after the successes of his first 100 days in office, the president now appears to be "running on the spot." "Vremya MN," which reportedly receives indirect financing from the Central Bank, predicted that "a hot political autumn" awaits Putin: "The catastrophe in the Barents Sea is becoming a cause to create a united opposition against the president" (see also "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). JC

DUMA DEPUTIES CALL FOR INVESTIGATION INTO 'KURSK' DISASTER...

Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev and the State Duma factions of Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces called on 21 August for an independent parliamentary investigation into the reasons for the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine, RFE/RL's Russian service and ITAR-TASS reported on 21 August. Stroev told reporters that "a tragedy must not be turned into a political farce that some may use to gain political mileage." He added that the upper house's Committee for Security and Defense may hold an emergency session on 22 August to consider not just the accident itself but also "the general conditions of the armed forces." JAC

...AS DUMA SPEAKER SAYS PUTIN WAS MISINFORMED

The same day, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev said that the political situation in the country "has not changed" because of the incident He also suggested that, in his opinion, the navy command did not fully inform Putin in a timely manner about everything that happened in the Barents Sea. JAC

REGIONS RESPOND WITH MONEY, HELP TO VICTIMS FAMILIES...

A number of regions around Russia have offered money and assistance to the families of the victims of the "Kursk" submarine disaster. In Khakassia, the republic's government has offered to pay for the education at a local university of one victim's younger sister, ITAR-TASS reported. A sailor aboard the "Kursk" had extended the term of his military service in order to pay her university fees. According to the Website http://www.regions.ru, the administration of Kamchatka Oblast has collected some 500,000 rubles ($18,000), despite the fact that no one from the oblast was onboard the submarine. However, in 1983, 16 people died in a similar submarine accident off the oblast's coastline. On 18 August, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov called for the prompt allocation of 500,000 rubles from the central government to help defray families' travel expenses to Severomorsk. JAC ...AS OLIGARCHS ALSO PITCH IN Business magnate Boris Berezovskii announced on 21 August that top Russian business officials have collected more than $1 million to help the families of the Kursk crew. Berezovskii also called for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the disaster. Berezovskii criticized Putin's actions during the crisis, noting that "I think that Putin acted unexpectedly callously: he made decisions in his mind, not his heart. Evidently he forgot that first of all, he is a human being and only after that the president and supreme commander-in- chief." Last week, LUKoil pledged to cover all the travel expenses of relatives of Kursk victims to Severomorsk, and Slavneft also reportedly provided free flights for victims' families. JAC

DEFENSE SPENDING TO JUMP BY SOME 50 BILLION RUBLES NEXT YEAR...

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 18 August that under the draft 2001 budget submitted to the government, 2.0632 trillion rubles ($74 billion at today's exchange rate) has been earmarked for national defense. This amounts to 2.66 percent of next year's projected GDP, compared with 2.39 percent in this year's budget. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 19 August that taking into account that the government is expecting an annual inflation rate of 12 percent next year, the increase from 2.39 percent of GDP to 2.66 percent is "not that impressive." On the other hand, it argued that the amount is not insignificant either when one recalls that the State Duma always raises the government's figure for defense spending when it considers the budget. According to the newspaper, despite the increase, the 2001 budget's defense spending levels are not sufficient to cover the army's weapons development program. JAC

...AS LACK OF FUNDS ALLEGEDLY AFFECTED 'KURSK' SUBMARINE'S OPERATION

"Vek" reported in its issue no. 33 that last year, the Northern Fleet, to which the Kursk submarine belonged, received less than 10 percent of "its funding requirements." According to the publication, lack of financing meant that the crew numbered 118 rather than the 130 members that the craft's design required to make sure all its systems were operating appropriately. In addition, the navy reportedly lack funds to buy new batteries for its submarines and mini- subs or to hold more than one submarine rescue training exercise during the last nine years. JAC

UKRAINIAN NATIONALIST SAYS 'KURSK' SUBMARINE DESTROYED BY CHECHEN SABOTAGE

Dmytro Korchynskyy, the head of the nationalist Ukrainian Political Association "Brotherhood" and previously a leader of the nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense, has said the "Kursk" submarine was destroyed by an act of Chechen sabotage. In a comment published at http://part.org.ua, Korchynskyy said two explosive devices equivalent to 800 grams of TNT were planted in the submarine during repair work carried out on the vessel. According to Korchynskyy, "people close to [Chechen field commander] Ruslan Gelaev" were responsible for the act of sabotage. And he commented that the Chechens paid only $6,000 to a member of the repair team to plant the explosive devices in the submarine. Korchynski said Russia's Federal Security Service was informed about a possible sabotage act in Severomorsk two weeks before the "Kursk" tragedy but ignored the warning since the informer was from the entourage of Chechen interim administration head Akhmed Kadyrov who, according to Korchynskyy, is not trusted by Russian military leaders. JM

U.S. COMMENTS ON CHECHNYA DUMA ELECTIONS

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 21 August that it is difficult to assess the previous day's elections in Chechnya for a State Duma deputy because of the absence of international observers, Reuters reported. Boucher said the U.S. thinks elections in Chechnya could contribute to reconciliation and the strengthening of democratic institutions, but he added that it would have been better to wait and hold the poll "in conjunction with a political settlement." In Moscow, a Chechen representative of the Russian presidential bureau for human rights in Chechnya told ITAR-TASS on 21 August that an unspecified number of Council of Europe experts accompanied members of his commission who toured polling stations in Chechnya's Nadterechnyi Raion. He said those experts "have no complaint" about the conduct of the poll. LF

RUSSIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH ROBUST IN FIRST HALF OF 2000

GDP grew 7.5 percent during the first six months of 2000 or 2.9464 trillion rubles ($106 billion), compared with the same period last year, the State Statistics Committee reported on 21 August. During the second quarter alone, GDP grew 6.7 percent or 1.5573 trillion rubles, compared with the same period last year. JAC

BANK TO REISSUE 1,000 RUBLE NOTE

Russia will reintroduce a new 1,000 ($36) ruble banknote as of 1 January 2001, the Central Bank announced on 21 August. The notes have been out of circulation since the currency reform in 1998, according to Reuters. The bank did not explain its decision to reintroduce the note, but "Kommersant-Daily" concluded that the likely reason is inflation, nothing that the bank has increased the country's money supply by more than 30 percent since the beginning of the year. JAC

EDUCATION MINISTRY TALKS TO RUSSIAN TEACHERS ONLINE

Teachers across Russia got a chance to meet "online" with the First Deputy Education Minister Aleksandr Kiselev and the head of the department for secondary education, Margarita Leontievaya, on 21 August, during the first Internet- conference "Pedsovet-2000," "Segodnya" reported. Education Minister Vladimir Filippov said that his ministry hopes to connect with all regions of Russia to discuss the problems of the new school year. The daily notes that although only teachers in a few schools in large cites have access to computers at work, the number of teachers signed up to participate in the conference is "not small." According to the newspaper, 70 percent of schools do not have even one computer--let alone access to the World Wide Web. The ministry has tried to find computers for village schools, but even fairly "rich" companies such as Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems have offered nothing better than outdated IBM 386s. The Internet conference will conclude on 30 August. JAC

QUIETLY FLOWS THE BACTERIA AND OIL

After examining water samples from along the Volga River, scientists have determined that stretches of the river running between the cities of Rybinsk and Yaroslavl in Yaroslavl Oblast have unacceptable levels of bacteria, "Versty" reported in its issue no. 95. The water is unfit even for swimming, according to those specialists. Meanwhile, some 45 tons of diesel fuel have spilled into the section of the Irtyush River running through the city of Omsk. A transport police official said that the spill does not threaten the river's ecosystem. JAC




KARABAKH PRESIDENT APPEALS TO PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION

In an interview published in "Azat Artsakh," Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, called on the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation-- Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) faction in the enclave's parliament to desist from "intolerance, denial, and confrontation" and become "a constructive opposition," Noyan Tapan reported on 21 August. That appeal was made in response to a statement the HHD faction released late last month criticizing the Ghukasian leadership for authoritarian tendencies and appealing for popular support to reverse what it termed a retreat from democratization (see "RFE/RL Armenia Report," 28 July 2000). LF

OFFICIALS DENY CHECHEN PRESIDENT CURRENTLY IN AZERBAIJAN

The Azerbaijani National Security Ministry on 21 August issued a statement denying an Interfax report earlier that day that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov is currently in Azerbaijan, Interfax and Turan reported. It also denied that Chechen rebels come to Azerbaijan to recuperate from fighting. "There is not a single Chechen rebel on the territory of Azerbaijan," the statement said. Azerbaijani Presidential administration official Ali Hasanov similarly dismissed the Interfax report as "unfounded rumors." An unidentified Chechen representative in the Azerbaijani capital told Turan that Maskhadov is in Chechnya. LF

FORMER PRESIDENT'S BODYGUARD ARRESTED IN AZERBAIJANI HIJACK CASE...

Ilgar Sayidoglu, a member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front (AHCP) who heads former President Abulfaz Elchibey's personal bodyguard team, was arrested with three other AHCP members in a teahouse in the Ordubad Raion of Nakhichevan on 18 August, Turan reported on 21 August. He is suspected of complicity in the unsuccessful attempt by Mehti Huseynli, a member of the Nakhichevan branch of the opposition Musavat Party, to hijack a passenger aircraft en route from Nakhichevan to Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). Sayidoglu's lawyer Ramiz Hadjiev told Interfax that although his client knows Huseynli personally, there is not even any circumstantial evidence to link him with the thwarted hijack. AHCP first deputy chairman Ali Kerimov termed Sayidoglu's arrest an attempt to discredit the AHCP, adding that Sayidoglu intended to run as the party's candidate in the Julfa-Ordubad electoral district in the 5 November parliamentary elections. LF

...WHILE OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER CONDEMNS ARREST

Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar told Turan on 21 August in Baku that his party issued a statement on 18 August condemning the abortive hijack by one of its members. He attributed the authorities' attempt to incriminate AHCP members in the crime to a desire to discredit the election alliance formed by Musavat and the AHCP (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT DIRECT RULE FOR SVANETI...

Speaking at a press briefing in Tbilisi on 21 August, President Eduard Shevardnadze said he will not introduce direct presidential rule in the northwestern region of Svaneti, the scene of repeated abductions, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze admitted that the situation in Svaneti gives grounds for concern, but he added that it is no worse than elsewhere in Georgia. He blamed one family for the high crime rate in the remote mountain region but declined to give its name. The former governor of the region last week suggested granting Svaneti autonomy and imposing direct presidential rule (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). LF

...SAYS KAZAKHSTAN COMMITTED TO EXPORT OIL VIA GEORGIA

Shevardnadze said during his traditional Monday radio broadcast on 21 August that during last week's informal CIS summit in Yalta he discussed with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, exports of Kazakh oil via the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, BS-Press and Interfax reported. Shevardnadze said Nazarbaev made a commitment to export a minimum of 20 million metric tons of crude per year via that pipeline and also to increase to 10 million tons the amount of oil it exports annually by rail through Georgia. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ALLEGE OFFICIAL HARASSMENT

Eight of the 17 registered candidates in the 29 October Kyrgyz presidential poll convened a press conference in Bishkek on 21 August at which they accused government and local officials of illegally obstructing their efforts to collect signatures in their support, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Parliamentary deputy Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, deputy parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebaev, and former parliamentary deputy Yuruslan Toichubekov all said that members of their campaign staff have been harassed or beaten. Toichubekov also alleged that members of the Kyrgyz government are actively campaigning for President Askar Akaev and that Premier Amangeldy MurAliyev is acting as the chief of Akaev's campaign staff. The candidates stressed Akaev's responsibility for ensuring that the poll is held in accordance with the country's laws and constitution. LF

SPORADIC CLASHES CONTINUE IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyz government troops and Islamic militants continue to clash on the border between Kyrgyzstan's Osh Oblast and Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 21 August, citing the Defense Ministry. A Kyrgyz military commander in Osh told RFE/RL that numerous groups of 10-15 militants are deployed on the Tajik side of the border. No further casualties have been reported. LF

TAJIKISTAN EXTRADITES ALLEGED TERRORIST TO RUSSIA

The Tajik authorities on 21 August extradited to Russia a man wanted on charges of organizing a series of explosions in Tatarstan, ITAR-TASS reported. The Tajik police had arrested the man at the request of the Russian Interior Ministry. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST SAYS ELECTIONS ARE 'PRIMITIVE JOB- GETTING'

Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the opposition United Civic Party, said he believes that the 15 October elections to the Chamber of Representatives are "primitive job-getting" for 110 people, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 21 August. "Elections to a parliament mean a struggle for power, while the elections to the Chamber [of Representatives] mean a struggle for privileges," Lyabedzka wrote on the Website of the "Charter 97" human rights group. The opposition united in the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces has sent a letter to the OSCE and other European organizations explaining that it does not want to participate in an undemocratic ballot. The letter was in response to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent message to the OSCE and the EU proposing some measures to democratize the electoral process in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 17 August 2000). JM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES FAIL TO RAISE NON-BUDGET FUNDS FOR ELECTIONS

Central Electoral Commission Secretary Ivan Likhach told Belapan on 21 August that not a single ruble has been paid to a special account to collect non-budget funds for the legislative elections. The account was opened on 20 July, in accordance with the presidential decree calling this fall's elections. The decree stipulates that voluntary contributions from the population and public organizations to the election fund, like budgetary ones, should be distributed evenly among all candidates. According to the agency, this stipulation renders such contributions "senseless." JM

UKRAINE WANTS CASH FOR TRANSIT OF RUSSIAN GAS

Premier Viktor Yushchenko told journalists on 21 August that Ukraine wants Russia to pay in cash for the transit of Russian gas via Ukrainian territory, Interfax reported. Yushchenko added that this is Kyiv's official position in the current talks with Moscow on the regulation of issues related to gas transit and supplies. So far Gazprom has been paying for the transit of gas via Ukraine with gas deliveries. Yushchenko also said the government will never agree to give Russia ownership rights to Ukraine's gas transport system in payment of Ukraine's gas debts. JM

UKRAINIAN ENERGY SECTOR OFFICIALS ARRESTED ON EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES

Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod said on 21 August that the authorities have arrested Valeriy Falkovych, deputy head of Ukraine's Unified Energy Systems, and Oleksandr Tymoshenko, a member of the Unified Energy Systems Board, Interfax reported. Falkovych and Tymoshenko are accused of embezzling $800,000 in scrap metal exports to Asian countries. In addition, Falkovych is accused of misappropriating some 3 billion hryvni ($550 million) by forging documents to illegally bring Russian gas into Ukraine and selling it to a British company. Tymoshenko is the husband of Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, who previously headed Ukraine's Unified Energy Systems. JM

UKRAINE TO BUILD GAS PIPELINE TO TURKMENISTAN?

Deputy Premier Tymoshenko on 21 August repeated a previous announcement that Kyiv is considering the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Ukraine via the Black Sea (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 August 2000), the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Tymoshenko noted that Ukraine has the necessary economic and technical resources to construct such a pipeline. "Estimations show that Ukraine may receive 60 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan each year. Within the next three to five years, Ukraine can build the first [section of the] pipeline, [which will be] capable of transporting 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year," Tymoshenko said. She added that the government is currently preparing documents for talks between Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, in Ashgabat next month. JM

ESTONIAN REGIONAL GOVERNOR QUITS OVER SLOW ADMINISTRATION REFORM

Robert Lepikson, the controversial governor of Voru county, submitted his resignation to Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus on 18 August, citing slow progress in administrative reform, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. Lepikson is the champion of the idea of "Greater Voru," which would entail the merger of several counties in the south to form a larger unit. Minister for Regional Affairs Toivo Asmer defended the government's record on regional reform, telling "Postimees" that the number of local governments will be cut from 247 employees to about 70 by the next local elections in 2002. Lepikson, a former cabinet minister who has been plagued by scandal and controversy, is also a member of a group of 30 businessmen taking part in the privatization of the country's railway network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). MH

ESTONIAN WAGES AT RECORD LEVEL

In the second quarter of this year, the average monthly wage in Estonia exceeded 5,000 kroons ($288) for the first time, rising by 10.5 percent from the second quarter of 1999 to reach 5,031 kroons, according to the Statistics Department. Among professions, securities brokers remain the best paid, at 2.2 times above the average, while hunting and farming remained lowest, at 55.4 percent and 55.7 percent of the average, respectively. Since 1992, Estonia's currency has been pegged to the German mark at 8 kroons to DM 1, thus comparisons with figures from previous years provide a clear picture of the scope of the increase: in the second quarter of 1995, the average wage was 2,395 kroons, less than half its level during the same period this year. MH

RIGA BOMBING CLAIMS FIRST LIFE

Maija Pusmucane, a 53-year- old clerk at the baggage check counter of the shopping center bombed in Riga on 18 August, died on 21 August from wounds suffered in the explosions. Pusmucane was being treated at the Karolinska Hospital burns unit in Stockholm, BNS reported. Two other victims remain in serious but stable condition in Norway, while another 10 were still in Riga hospitals as of 21 August. Police are continuing to investigate the bombings, and Prime Minister Andris Berzins has cut short his holiday in France to return to Latvia. MH

LATVIAN DEPUTY SUES PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

Latvian parliamentary deputy Janis Adamsons announced on 21 August that he is to file a civil lawsuit against both "Diena" and the Prosecutor- General's Office, BNS reported. Adamsons would not explain to BNS the exact nature of his complaint, but it is believed to be linked to the so-called "pedophilia scandal," in which Adamsons earlier this year publicly named three high-ranking government officials as being involved. The Prosecutor- General's Office has asked the parliament to lift the immunity of Adamsons to face libel charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2000). "Diena" editor-in-chief Sarmite Elerte said " I hope that Mr. Adamsons at last will stop cowardly hiding behind his lawmaker's immunity and stand before legal investigation like any Latvian citizen in this case should do." She added that she also hopes that Adamsons's latest move will not dissuade lawmakers from lifting his immunity. MH

COURT ORDERS ARREST OF POLISH FARMERS' LEADERS

The regional court in Slubice, western Poland, has issued a warrant to arrest Andrzej Lepper, leader of the radical Self-Defense farmers' trade union, and Roman Wierzbicki, leader of the Solidarity farmers' trade union, for 30 days, PAP reported on 21 August. The court made its decision after Lepper and Wierzbicki repeatedly failed to turn up for hearings of a case related to the blockade of the Swiecko customs terminal by farmers early last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1999). The 21 August hearing was the 14th one in the case. The trial proper has not yet begun because of the absence of either the defendants or their attorneys. Lepper commented that the court's decision is "over-zealous" and constitutes "interference" in his presidential election campaign. JM

CZECH ADVISERS DENY INVOLVEMENT IN 'OPERATION LEAD'

Vratislav Sima, an aide to Czech Premier Milos Zeman, denies writing the "Operation Lead" document smearing one of Zeman's party rivals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000), the daily "Pravo" reported on 22 August. The daily quotes Zeman's chief adviser, Miroslav Slouf, as saying Sima vehemently denied any involvement in the operation. Sima was accused by yet another Zeman adviser, Zdenek Sarapatka, of being behind the writing of the document. Meanwhile, Zeman told Czech Television that he received information in May that Sarapatka had written the document but that he met with Sarapatka and "swore on his mother's health" that he did not have anything to do with "Operation Lead." Both opposition and deputies from Zeman's party have called on the premier to dismiss those of his advisers involved in the scandal. PB

AUSTRIAN OFFICIAL: TEMELIN SAFETY MUST BE SETTLED BEFORE CZECHS JOIN EU

Josef Puehringer, the premier of the province of Upper Austria, said on 21 August that it is "unthinkable" for the energy chapter of the Czech Republic's negotiations with the EU to be closed without resolving the question of the safety of the Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. Puehringer said this view is shared by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and that Schuessel will hold a "Temelin summit" this fall. The Temelin nuclear plant is just 80 kilometers from Puehringer's province. It is to be activated this fall. PB

SLOVAK PRESIDENT HAS BLOOD CLOT, REFUSES HOSPITALIZATION

Rudolf Schuster has decided to remain at home in Kosice for treatment of a blood clot in his upper leg, AFP reported. The president's doctors recommended that he be treated at a hospital. Schuster, 66, returned home on 15 August from Innsbruck, Austria, where he received treatment after Slovak doctors had failed to diagnose his ruptured colon. Jan Bilek, Schuster's adviser, said the president continues to consult with his Austrian doctor and that a specialist from Innsbruck is in Kosice to supervise his rehabilitation. PB

SLOVAK, SLOVENIAN MINISTERS DISCUSS EU ACCESSION

Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and his Slovenian counterpart, Lojze Peterle, said in Bratislava on 21 August that the selection of countries for membership into the EU will be a highly political process, Reuters reported. After meeting with Kukan and Slovakia's negotiator with the EU, Jan Figel, Peterle said that politics and not geographic or economic factors will be the most important criteria in gaining EU entry. The two sides signed agreements on protecting investments, employment rights, and prepared a document on avoiding double taxation. Kukan and Peterle also discussed improving economic cooperation and investment. Trade turnover between the two countries last year was $147 million. PB




HAGUE PROSECUTOR FRUSTRATED, OPTIMISTIC ON BOSNIAN SERB ARRESTS

Carla Del Ponte told the "Financial Times" of 22 August that she is not happy about the "lack of communication" between U.S. and French peacekeepers in Bosnia, which she blames for NATO's failure to arrest indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. She also expressed concern that "the Americans want zero risk, which is impossible if you want to arrest a criminal." Del Ponte nonetheless said that she is "certain" that NATO has the political will to bring war criminals to justice, adding that she hopes to have Karadzic, General Ratko Mladic, or Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic behind bars in The Hague within 12 months. Del Ponte noted that the tribunal needs more money and judges to handle even its current case load. PM

BOSNIAN NGOS TO PROMOTE REFUGEE RETURN

Four non-governmental organizations have joined the initiative by the International League of Humanists (ILH) to form "an expert group of professionals to monitor the return process [of refugees to Bosnia] independent of local authorities and Western peace agencies," Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 21 August. The NGOs will also inform would-be returnees about what to expect when they go home. Several NGO officials said that Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has not kept his promise to promote the return of Croatian and Muslim refugees to the Republika Srpska. Roman Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica, who remained in Serb-held territory during the 1992-1995 conflict, noted that only 1,090 Croats have gone back to the Banja Luka area since the war ended. He added that "here we see a tendency to cement a crime against humanity," by which he meant ethnic cleansing. Komarica himself has not been able to return to his own pre-war apartment. PM

MESIC SACKS CROATIAN AMBASSADOR

On the recommendation of Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula, President Stipe Mesic fired Davorin Rudolf as ambassador to Italy, where he had served since 1993, "Novi List" reported on 22 August. Mesic told reporters in Dubrovnik that Rudolf's recent behavior gave him no choice. In an interview with "Slobodna Dalmacija," Rudolf recently criticized the government's decision to recall some 35 diplomats as politically motivated. Rudolf added that he knew he would be sacked because he was close to the late President Franjo Tudjman. PM

THACI: VIOLENCE WILL NOT AFFFECT KOSOVA ELECTIONS...

Hashim Thaci, who is a former leader of the Kosova Liberation Army and now a politician, said at the UN on 21 August that recent violent incidents against Serbs will not affect the 28 October local elections. "We are firm in organizing the elections and developing these new democratic institutions. It is in the Serbs' interests and our interests to build a new life together," AP reported. Referring to the recent bombing of the building housing OSCE offices in Prishtina, Thaci said: "This is an attack on elections and the political process in Kosova. The groups that are not interested in stability and order in Kosovo are doing these actions" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2000). The former guerrilla leader defended KFOR's recent take-over of the Trepca mining complex: "This act is not anti-Serbian. Trepca must be administered by international forces and Kosova, including the Serbs. We will engage them," he argued. PM

...BUT GERMAN MINISTER NOT SO SURE

Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Prizren on 21 August that he is concerned about the security situation in Kosova in the runup to the local elections. "There are some concerns, especially in relation to the preparation of elections in a few weeks, and we have to make sure that there's no risk for those who represent democratic values and power," AP reported. He paid a one-day visit to German troops, whose headquarters are in Prizren (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). PM

ARTEMIJE CALLS FOR PROTECTION FOR KOSOVA SERBS

Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije visited the village of Crkvena Vodica, where nine children were recently injured in a grenade attack, "Danas" reported on 22 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). Artemije and his aides called on the family of each child and distributed money collected by believers. Artemije said later in Gracanica that local residents told him that Norwegian peacekeepers only occasionally pass through the village and do not guard the children's playground. He added that some residents of the village told him bitterly that they would prefer even Arab peacekeepers to the Norwegians, who, they said, show no interest in defending the Serbs. PM

MILOSEVIC'S GENERAL: YUGOSLAV MILITARY DOCTRINE AGAINST DOMESTIC FOES

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the General Staff and has increasingly become Milosevic's chief spokesman on military affairs, has indicated that the new defense doctrine is primarily directed against Milosevic's internal enemies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2000). He told state-run media recently that the doctrine's goal is to "prevent and eliminate internal crises, [and] deter potential foes from aggression.... [It] is based on the determination of the Serbian and Montenegrin people to preserve and defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, and the constitution...from all forms of military threats to the nation's security," AP reported on 21 August. Pavkovic argued that "endangering the country's stability could be achieved from abroad and from within the country as well, both in armed or nonviolent means." He referred to Milosevic as the "supreme commander," even though that title is not mentioned in the Yugoslav Constitution. PM

BRITAIN SUMMONS YUGOSLAV ENVOY

The Foreign Office on 22 August summoned Rade Drobac, who is Belgrade's chief envoy in London, Reuters reported. A spokesman said that Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain wants the two Britons held in Belgrade to be either charged or released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). "In effect, they have already served three weeks in prison," the spokesman noted. PM

CANADIANS ALSO MISTREATED IN YUGOSLAV CAPTIVITY

A Canadian diplomat said in Belgrade on 21 August that the two Canadian citizens now held in a Belgrade jail were "roughed up" by their captors during the first days of their captivity in Montenegro, Reuters reported on 21 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). Charge d'affaires Angela Bogdan added that the two have since been treated "exceptionally well" in Belgrade. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LIKELY NOT TO RUN CANDIDATES IN MONTENEGRO

Zoran Djindjic, who is campaign manager for the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, said in Belgrade on 21 August that the opposition's priority in the campaign leading up to the 24 September Yugoslav elections is Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that the opposition is unlikely to run slates in Montenegro because of the Montenegrin authorities' opposition to the ballot, which President Milo Djukanovic regards as illegal and unconstitutional. Djindjic appealed to supporters of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) to vote for the Democratic Opposition's presidential candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, "Vesti" reported. Elsewhere, the SPO leadership decided that Draskovic will head the party's electoral lists, "Blic" reported. PM

ROMANIAN PARTY SAYS PREMIER MUST RESIGN IF HE RUNS FOR PRESIDENT

National Liberal Party deputy Vasile Mandroviceanu called on Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu to resign from his post should he decide to run for president, Romanian media reported. Mandroviceanu said the premier would have to resign to prevent any suspicion that government facilities would be used in his campaign for president. The same opinion is held by the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), although there are no legal provisions that force the premier to step down. In an open letter addressed to Isarescu, the PDSR also asked the premier to set 12 November as the date for parliamentary elections. ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON CIS MEETING IN YALTA

Petru Lucinschi said on 21 August that the CIS will "never become a viable, efficient organization" unless it creates a free-trade zone with a "mutually acceptable tariff policy," Infotag reported. Lucinschi made his comments three days after the 18 August summit in Yalta. He said that the other CIS member presidents realize the need for the free-trade zone and "are ready to work hard to deepen the integration processes." Lucinschi said that he held meetings with the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia during last week's summit. PB

BULGARIA TO EXPEL MORE FOREIGN BUSINESSMEN

Bulgaria's National Security Service (NSS) said on 21 August that it will expel seven or eight foreigners in addition to the five banned last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000), Reuters reported. Atanas Atanassov, the director of NSS, said all those "who threaten the country's security with their actions will be deprived of their right to remain [in Bulgaria]." He said the five banned last week had "introduced into Bulgaria's economy great amounts of money of unclear origin. This creates preconditions for compromising Bulgaria's image internationally." Atanassov said the expulsions cannot be appealed in court but added that businessmen can continue to operate their businesses in Bulgaria from abroad. PB

BULGARIA, TURKEY TO ACCELERATE PROJECTS TO PROMOTE TIES

Turkish Deputy Premier Mesut Yilmaz said on 21 August that Ankara will speed up work on infrastructure projects in Bulgaria to boost bilateral relations, Reuters reported. Yilmaz, speaking after a meeting in the Black Sea town of Evksinograd with Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, said that delays on construction of the Maritsa highway and the Gorna Arda hydroelectric power station need to be overcome. He added that Ankara views Bulgaria as "a future partner in NATO--and together we regard ourselves as future full members of the EU." Turkey is the 10th largest investor in Bulgaria and a large importer of electricity. PB

TOMB OF THRACIAN RULER DISCOVERED IN BULGARIA

Archeologists said on 21 August that they have discovered the tomb of an ancient Thracian ruler, BTA reported. The find is next to the biggest Thracian-era remains ever found in Bulgaria, near the village of Starosel, some 160 kilometers east of Sofia. PB




RUSSIAN BISHOPS REJECT KUCHMA'S PLEA FOR UKRAINIAN AUTONOMOUS CHURCH


By Jan Maksymiuk

Last week in Moscow, some 150 bishops convened for the four-day Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church. The situation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine was one of the topics discussed by that forum.

Before the Russian bishops' meeting, President Leonid Kuchma had sent a telegram to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II asking the patriarch and the Council of Bishops to consider the possibility of granting autonomy to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate). Kuchma's request was reportedly considered on 15 August and backed by "a number of bishops from western Ukraine led by Bishop of Vyshhorod Pavel." The forum, however, refused to consider the petition, saying that secular authorities should not interfere in Church affairs.

The situation surrounding Ukrainian Orthodoxy remains very difficult. Currently, Ukraine has three Orthodox Churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The Moscow Patriarchate recognizes the Church subordinated to itself as the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine, viewing followers of the other two Churches as "schismatics."

The official status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is unclear, however. In 1992 the Russian Orthodox Church granted its Ukrainian branch the right of self-governance. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has its own Synod of Bishops; it is empowered to consecrate new bishops without any special authorization from Moscow; and it can also canonize its own saints. Technically speaking, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is an autonomous structure. But in this case it appears that names do matter: the word "autonomous" does not appear in the Church's name or in any of the documents related to that Church.

According to the Moscow-based "Segodnya," most members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)-- particularly from Ukraine's eastern regions and Odesa--think that granting autonomy to their Church will encourage those in Ukraine who want the full independence of Ukrainian Orthodoxy from Moscow. And this, the newspaper maintains, is what those believers fear.

Official Kyiv, on the other hand, has repeatedly voiced the opinion that it wants Ukraine's three Orthodox Churches to be united into a "Ukrainian Local Orthodox Church." Judging by the reaction of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kyiv's striving is strongly supported by Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew I, who traditionally enjoys a special status among the world's Orthodox patriarchs.

Ukraine's Metropolitan of Odesa and Izmail Agafangel (Moscow Patriarchate) told journalists on 17 August that the Moscow forum condemned the Constantinople patriarch's "unprecedented interference" in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, meaning Estonia and Ukraine. (In 1996 some members of Estonia's Orthodox Church pledged juridical subordination to the Constantinople Patriarchate, but the Moscow Patriarchate has refused to acknowledge Constantinople's canonical rights over Estonia.)

"Patriarch Bartholomew declared Ukraine to be his canonical territory which is a gross violation of Church canons," ITAR-TASS quoted Agafangel as saying. According to Agafangel, the "dissenters" (followers of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church) are planning to convene an All-Ukrainian Council of Bishops at which Metropolitan Volodymyr (Moscow Patriarchate) will be forced to resign and his powers will be passed to the Constantinople Patriarchate's representative. Agafangel expressed his regret that Bartholomew is depending on the support of "Ukrainian nationalists and politicians who, in violation of the law, meddle in Church affairs."

Some Ukrainian media reported earlier this month that talks on the unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy were expected to take place in Chambessy, Switzerland, on 20 August, with the participation of representatives from Ukraine's three Orthodox Churches, government officials, and Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew. But this report has not been officially confirmed.

Judging by the Russian Orthodox Church's position on Ukraine, which was reaffirmed at its Council of Bishops last week, such talks would be highly unlikely to yield any results. To put it bluntly, the Moscow Patriarchate would allow the unification of the Ukrainian Churches only under one condition--namely, the "return of schismatics" under the wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which itself would continue to be in "canonical unity" with the Russian Orthodox Church.


XS
SM
MD
LG