Accessibility links

Newsline - August 23, 2000




PUTIN CUTS SHORT VISIT TO NORTH...

President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly returned to Moscow following a meeting in Vidyaevo with grieving relatives of the crew of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine. According to NTV, the meeting, which lasted for several hours and ended early on 23 August, took place in a hostile atmosphere, with the crew's relatives reportedly lambasting the military's handling of the rescue operation. AFP reported that access to the meeting was restricted. Putin, who arrived in the North in the late afternoon of 22 August wearing a black suit and casual black shirt with no tie, had been expected to visit the site of the disaster on 23 August and cast a wreath into the sea in tribute to the dead, but a Northern Fleet spokesman said the crew's relatives had asked Putin to cancel all planned ceremonies until the bodies have been recovered. ITAR-TASS reported that Putin plans to meet with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov later on 23 August, which has been declared a day of mourning in Russia. JC

...SUGGESTS NO TOP BRASS WILL BE SACKED...

During his meeting with the "Kursk" crew's relatives, Putin admitted that the Northern Fleet's rescue services had been poorly equipped to handle the disaster. At the same time, he warned against hastily attributing blame for the failed rescue operation. "We cannot punish the fleet command unless it is clearly shown it made a mistake," Putin remarked. Meanwhile, on 22 August, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev issued a statement apologizing to the "Kursk" crew relatives for failing to protect the sailors and asking for forgiveness. Sergeev's statement came one day after Northern Fleet commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov had made a similar, highly emotional apology on Russian Television (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). JC

...PROMISES RELATIVES FINANCIAL AID

Putin assured the relatives of the "Kursk" crew that the government will support them financially. He promised them a life pension and a lump sum equivalent to 10 times an officer's average annual salary. He also offered those who live on bases in the Kola Peninsula the option of moving to accommodation in any part of Russia they prefer. And according to ITAR-TASS, girlfriends of crew members who are expecting a baby will also receive assistance from a government commission chaired by Deputy Premier Valentina Matvienko. JC

PATRIARCH OFFERS WORDS OF SUPPORT FOR PUTIN...

In a message broadcast by state-run Russian Television on 22 August, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II came to the defense of President Putin, who has been fiercely criticized by most Russian media outlets for his handling of the "Kursk" disaster. Commenting that the tragedy of the sunken submarine is that of "all the people," Aleksii said he can "testify to the deep grief that has gripped Vladimir Vladimirovich" over this tragedy. "I am sure that the president and the government will do everything to help the families of the dead. Have courage and forgive," he added. JC

...AS MUSCOVITES CONTINUE TO FAVOR PRESIDENT

In the wake of the "Kursk" submarine disaster, a number of polling firms have carried out surveys on the government's handling of the rescue effort. In a telephone poll of 500 Muscovites conducted by Gallup International on 22 August, 59.4 percent said their attitude toward Putin had not changed, Interfax reported. More than 27 percent said their attitude toward the president had changed for the worse, while 10.2 percent were undecided. In a poll conducted two days earlier by ROMIR of 500 Muscovites, 34.9 percent blamed the navy's top echelons for the disaster, 22.5 percent the president, 15.1 percent the Defense Ministry, 8 percent the commanding officers of the "Kursk," and 7 percent the cabinet, according to "Vremya MN" on 22 August. In another poll reported by that newspaper, 83 percent of the 700 Muscovites polled said that it was "only thanks to the media that a lot about the tragedy became known." JAC

UPPER HOUSE TO LAUNCH ITS OWN INVESTIGATION INTO 'KURSK' DISASTER

Federation Council Security and Defense Committee head Ivan Shabanov announced on 22 August that the upper house will set up a working group to investigate the cause of the Kursk submarine incident, ITAR-TASS reported. Shabanov, who is also governor of Voronezh Oblast, said that he thinks what happened can be linked to economic policy of recent years, particularly with regard to the armed forces. The previous day, the Yabloko and Union of Rightist Forces factions in the State Duma called for the creation of an independent parliamentary commission to investigate the accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). JAC

FORMER POLICE GENERAL ELECTED CHECHNYA'S DUMA DEPUTY

Chechen Central Electoral Commission officials announced on 22 August that retired Interior Ministry Major General Aslanbek Aslakhanov is the victor in the 20 August election of a deputy to represent Chechnya in the Russian State Duma. Aslakhanov garnered 30.3 percent of the vote, beating 12 other candidates. His closest rival, Adamalla movement chairman Adam Deniev, polled 19.9 percent, according to AP. Aslakhanov, who heads Chechnya's Association of Law Enforcement Workers, pledged "to stop the murder of peaceful civilians" in Chechnya and to restore the morale of Russian troops fighting there, according to ITAR-TASS and AFP. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 August characterized Aslakhanov as never having espoused Chechnya's independence and as saying that he will work in the Duma to expedite an end to the fighting in Chechnya by political means. LF

CHECHNYA ELECTS NEW MUFTI

Meeting in Gudermes on 22 August, Chechnya's Muslim clergy elected Akhmed-hadji Shamaev as their mufti, ITAR-TASS reported. He succeeds Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who stepped down as religious leader after his nomination as interim administration head. Shamaev is 51 and a former teachers of physics, chemistry, and sports. LF

SLAVNEFT HEAD ARRIVES IN BAGHDAD

Mikhail Gutseriev, head of the Russian-Belarusian joint venture Slavneft, arrived in Baghdad on 22 August for talks with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and other officials. AP quoted the vice president of Slavneft, Andrei Shtorkh, as saying that the oil giant is seeking to be among "those international companies prepared to start oil production in Iraq immediately after" international sanctions against Baghdad are lifted. Slavneft is reported to have recently opened an office in the Iraqi capital. A 35-strong Russian delegation led by Deputy Emergencies Minister Ruslan Tsalikov was in Baghdad earlier this week on what Tsalikov called a "humanitarian mission" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). JC

POPULATION SHRINKS AGAIN

Russia's population dropped by 425,400 people from 1 January to 1 July, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August citing the State Statistics Committee. As of 1 July, Russia's population totaled 145.1 million. In terms of migration, more people arrived in Russia than left, with 1,170,100 people entering during the first half of the year and 1,069,400 leaving. The number of deaths outstripped births: 1,146,200 of the former were recorded and 623,500 of the latter. Last year, Russia's population declined by 406,200 people during the first six months of the year, according to Interfax. JAC

REAL INCOMES JUMP...

The Russian population's disposable incomes adjusted for inflation rose 8.7 percent during the first seven months of the year, compared with the same period last year, Russian agencies reported on 22 August citing the State Statistics Committee. The nominal wage rose 50.4 percent, while the real wage was up 23.4 percent. JAC

...WHILE UNEMPLOYMENT DECLINES

At the end of July, 7.198 million persons in Russia were registered as unemployed, a 1.3 percent drop from the previous month and 17.4 percent less than at the same time last year, Interfax reported. The number of unemployed constitutes 10.9 percent of the economically active population (for a regional breakdown of unemployment rates during the first half of the year, see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 23 August 2000.) The State Statistics Committee also reported on 22 August that not a single strike lasting more than one work day was registered in Russia during the months of May, June, and July. JAC

MAIN PROSECUTOR IN AEROFLOT CASE FORCED TO RESIGN

Nikolai Volkov, senior investigator at the Prosecutor-General's Office, told reporters on 22 August that he has resigned because he exceeded his authority by asking Swiss federal investigators to send him evidence related to the case against Aeroflot. His superiors had not given him permission to ask for the material. In an interview with "Kommersant- Daily" published the same day, Volkov implied that he had resigned because officials were pressuring him: "I won't be in anyone's pocket," he said. Volkov told NTV that he had been planning to bring more charges in the Aeroflot case. "The Moscow Times" noted on 23 August that Volkov's resignation is only the latest in a series at the Prosecutor- General's Office: in addition to that of Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov, officials investigating Mabetex, Boris Berezovskii, and the murder of Vladislav Listev have also resigned or been "promoted" to deal with other cases. Skuratov predicted that work on the Aeroflot case will now slow down considerably or the case itself will even be closed. JAC

FSB, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY TO TRY AGAIN WITH ISPS?

"Segodnya" reported on 22 August that an order recently signed by Communications Minister Leonid Reiman will require all Russia's internet service providers (ISPs) and operators of telephone, cellular, and paging networks to draw up plans for installing monitoring devices and forward them to the Federal Security Service (FSB). According to the daily, which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most, the decree stipulates that the FSB can monitor any of the companies' customers and does not have to let the companies know whom it is monitoring or why. The newspaper also reported that a similar Communications Ministry order requiring the ISPs to install special eavesdropping equipment was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court, which ruled that the order was just an internal memorandum and therefore did not have the force of law. JAC

GRAIN HARVEST FORECAST UPPED

Russian farmers will produce 73 million tons of grain this year, 12 percent more than previously forecast, Interfax reported on 22 August, citing government projections. The Agriculture Ministry had predicted earlier that Russia would harvest at least 65 million tons of grain in 2000, compared to 54.7 million tons in 1999 and 47.8 million tons in 1998. However, by 16 August, Russia had harvested 33.7 million tons of grain or 3.5 million tons more than at the same time the previous year. "Vedomosti" reported on 22 August that wheat prices have fallen on news of the good harvest. JAC

IMF URGES GOVERNMENT TO RETHINK FUEL POLICY

The IMF's Moscow representative, Martin Gilman, sent a letter to the Russian government on 18 August requesting that oil export quotas be scrapped, "Vedomosti" reported on 22 August. According to "The Moscow Times" the next day, Gilman said that the government's reinstatement of oil export quotas this summer and its plan to link such quotas with deliveries of fuel to the domestic market are inconsistent with its July 1999 pledge on economic policy. In less than a month, the fund is scheduled to make its annual evaluation of Russia's economic program. JAC

WARNING SHOTS ARE THE INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE

A Russian Border Guard ship in the Caspian Sea fired more than 40 warning shots at an Iranian vessel before it was able to persuade the latter to stop, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. The dry cargo ship "Iran Bashi," which was making a commercial run, ignored the Border Guards' signals and warning shots because, the shipmaster explained, none of the crew understood Russian. After an inspection of the ship's cargo had determined no prohibited goods were on board, the Iranian vessel was allowed to proceed to Makhachkala. AS

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 22 August that defense spending under Russia's draft 2001 budget will total 2.0632 trillion rubles. That figure should have been 206.32 billion rubles or $7.4 billion at today's exchange rate.




PEOPLE'S PARTY OF ARMENIA WILL NOT JOIN OPPOSITION

Stepan Demirchian, leader of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), denied on 22 August that he aims to become parliamentary speaker or that his party will align with the nationalist opposition Right and Accord bloc (see "RFE./RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 31, 3 August 2000). "The HZhK is a cooperative force willing to negotiate [with other parties] over certain principles and concrete issues. But we don't intend to run from one bloc to another," he told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Demirchian nonetheless criticized as "unacceptable" the sacking from the government of several deputy ministers close to the HZhK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2000). The HZhK, which was founded by Demirchian's father, Karen, is aligned in the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc with the Republican Party of Armenia of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian but has repeatedly criticized the government's economic policy. LF

ARMENIA SEEKS TO STEM PRISON TB RATE

Armenia's Ministries of Health, Justice, and Internal Affairs signed an agreement in Yerevan on 22 August with the International Committee of the Red Cross whereby the latter will provide approximately $1 million toward measures aimed at lowering the incidence of tuberculosis in Armenian jails, Noyan Tapan reported. According to a regional ICRC official, 240 prisoners or 4 percent of the prison population suffer from the disease. Snark on 19 August cited a figure of 350 prisoners suffering from tuberculosis, who, it claimed, were not receiving any medical treatment. The same news agency also reported that deaths in Armenian jails during the first six months of this year reached an all-time high of 54. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER DIES

Azerbaijan Popular Front chairman Abulfaz Elchibey, who was Azerbaijan's president from June 1992 to June 1993, died of prostate cancer in Ankara on 22 August at the age of 62. His body was flown back to Baku the same day, and a state funeral will take place on 23 August. Other leading Azerbaijani politicians, including President Heidar Aliyev and opposition Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, as well as the governments of Turkey and the U.S. paid tribute to Elchibey's patriotism and his role in securing Azerbaijan's independence. Liberal Party of Azerbaijan Chairwoman Lala Shovket Gadjieva described him as "Azerbaijan's Mahatma Gandhi," Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION JOURNALIST ARRESTED IN HIJACK CASE

Police searched the Baku apartment of Rauf Arifoglu, the radical editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," on 22 August and claimed to have found a pistol, Turan reported. Arifoglu, who told his colleagues the police had planted the weapon themselves, was arrested, apparently on suspicion of involvement in the failed 18 August attempt by Musavat party member Mehti Huseynli to hijack an Azerbaijani Airlines plane (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 August 2000). Huseynli had called Arifoglu on his mobile phone to dictate a list of demands to the Azerbaijan authorities. On 23 August, the heads of 14 media outlets issued a statement calling for Arifoglu's immediate unconditional release, Turan reported. They said they will call a three-day strike of all journalists if that demand is not met. LF

MORE KILLINGS IN ABKHAZIA

Three people died on 22 August and two were injured when unidentified attackers fired a grenade at their car in Ochamchire Raion, Caucasus Press reported. An Abkhaz security official blamed the attack on Georgian guerrillas. Four days earlier, an Abkhaz customs official was shot dead near the village of Chuburkhindji in Gali Raion in the zone patrolled by the CIS peacekeeping force. LF

KAZAKH CABINET SETS ECONOMIC TARGETS

Economics Minister Zhaksybek Kulekeev told a cabinet session in Astana on 22 August that GDP is expected to grow 32 percent by 2005, with industrial production increasing 42.5 percent and investment 75.2 percent, Interfax reported. Over the same period, Kulekeev said, inflation will be brought down from the 8.5 percent anticipated this year to 3.6 percent and the budget deficit will be reduced to no more than 1.3 percent of GDP from approximately 3 percent this year and a planned 2.2 percent in 2001. Kulekeev said a new tax code will be adopted that will increase revenues to 22-25.9 percent of GDP. He forecast a 50 percent rise in exports to $13.3 billion by 2005. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT ASSESSES THREAT FROM UZBEK MILITANTS

Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Almaty on 22 August that he perceives no immediate direct threat to Kazakhstan's security from the fighting in neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan between government troops and by Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan militants, Reuters and Interfax reported. But Nazarbaev added that increased vigilance and security precautions are imperative in order to thwart any attempt to impose "obscurantism" on Kazakhstan. Nazarbaev suggested, as he had done during the 18 August informal CIS summit in Crimea, that the presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan should appeal for military assistance within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES QUERY LEGALITY OF LANGUAGE EXAM

Nine Kyrgyz presidential nominees have appealed to the country's Constitutional Court to rule on whether the mandatory tests in written and spoken Kyrgyz for presidential candidates are lawful, parliamentary deputy and presidential nominee Dooronbek Sadyrbaev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 22 August. The candidates proposed by Kyrgyzstan's two Communist Parties both failed that test last week, although one of them, Iskhak Masaliev, hails from Osh Oblast, where Kyrgyz is far more widely spoken than in the capital, according to "Vremya-MN" on 17 August. Also on 22 August, the linguistic committee of the Central Electoral Commission postponed incumbent President Askar Akaev's language proficiency tests until 23 August. Akaev has not yet formally announced that he plans to run for another presidential term in the 29 October poll. LF

CORRECTION

"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 22 August that 17 candidates have registered to contend the 29 October Kyrgyz presidential poll. In fact, 18 persons have declared their intention to participate in that ballot, but none has formally registered his candidacy to date.

SPORADIC FIGHTING CONTINUES ON KYRGYZ BORDERS WITH TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN

Kyrgyz forces repelled an attempt by Islamic militants to enter Kyrgyz territory near the Rabat and Kur-Bakaa border posts early on 22 August, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported, quoting a Kyrgyz Interior Ministry official. He said intermittent exchanges of fire continued during the day. The previous day, a group of some 15 Islamic militants entered Uzbek territory from Kyrgyzstan near the Bostanlyk border post some 100 kilometers east of Tashkent, where they clashed with Uzbek government troops, killing at least two and taking several more hostage, Interfax and AFP reported. People vacationing at holiday camps in the vicinity have been evacuated. Local officials in Kyrgyzstan's Djalalabad Oblast, the only Kyrgyz oblast that borders on Tashkent Oblast, said there have been no clashes along that stretch of the border for one or two days. A Tajik border official told ITAR-TASS on 22 August that no movements of armed groups have been registered recently on either the Tajik-Kyrgyz or Tajik-Uzbek border. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT WARNS THAT FIGHT WITH MILITANTS WILL BE DIFICULT

Islam Karimov said on 22 August after visiting the Surkhandarya Oblast, the scene of the first militant incursion earlier this month, that the military failed initially to assess the complexity of the situation, and consequently Uzbek forces incurred "unjustified" losses, Interfax reported. He said that the militants "continue to offer resistance" and must be systematically tracked down and destroyed. An Uzbek Defense Ministry official had said last week that the operation to eliminate the militants was all but over (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2000). Unnamed Russian military sources told Interfax in Moscow on 21 August that the fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are taking advantage of the failure by the armed forces of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan to coordinate their military response to the incursions. Those sources repeated allegations by the Russian media last week that the militants are receiving support from former members of the United Tajik Opposition. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TALKS EUROPE OUT OF SENDING ELECTION OBSERVERS

The Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces believes there are no political, legal, or moral grounds to send international observers to the 15 October legislative elections in Belarus, Belapan reported on 22 August. The council laid down this position in a letter sent to the OSCE Chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Adrian Severin, EU Foreign and Security Policy chief Javier Solana, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President Lord Russel-Johnson, and U.S. State Secretary Madeleine Albright. The letter says the arrival of international observers in Belarus would "actually mean the recognition of the elections" and might lead to "international legitimization of the anti-democratic and anti-European regime." The opposition argues that such a move would create conditions for the incorporation of Belarus into Russia, weaken and split the country's democratic forces, and prolong President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's term in office. JM

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER SEES HUSBAND'S ARREST AS 'POLITICAL REVENGE'...

Yuliya Tymoshenko told Interfax on 21 August that her husband's arrest is an act of "political revenge" against herself for seeking to curb shady operations and corruption in Ukraine's fuel and energy sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). She estimates that her efforts have reduced the volume of deals in the shadow economy by some $5 billion hryvni ($920 million) annually. "Naturally, the companies that worked in the shadow economy and obtained huge profits have exerted political influence on officials at all levels to destroy...my political authority in order to bring back the entire shadow, corrupt system to the fuel and energy sector," she commented. Tymoshenko said the charges against her husband are groundless, adding that all losses in the scrap metal export case, in which her husband is alleged to have committed embezzlement, were fully repaid in 1997. JM

...VOWS TO DEFEND HERSELF 'BY ALL POSSIBLE MEANS'

Tymoshenko told journalists on 22 August that a special task force searched the offices of Ukraine's Unified Energy Systems the previous day and "simply tormented the employees" by tying their hands and forcing them to lie down. She said the action resembled the political repression measures in the USSR in the 1930s. She added that she, too, may be arrested in connection with her husband's case. Yuliya Tymoshenko headed the Unified Energy Systems from 1995-1997. "I will defend myself with all possible means that are envisaged in the legislation in force," she noted. She added that the rest of her family is "secure" and "out of the reach" of those whom she suspects of taking revenge against her. JM

EXPERT SAYS UKRAINE TO HARVEST LESS GRAIN THAN LAST YEAR

Yurii Makarov, an expert from the International Grains Council, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 22 August that this year's grain output in Ukraine will be lower than last year's. The government expects the current crop to be higher than in 1999, when the country harvested a record low of 24.5 million tons of grain, according to official data. Makarov said, however, that the 1999 grain output was in fact 23.7 million tons, while this year's will barely reach 23 million tons. Makarov noted that the main reasons for the poor harvest in Ukraine are high fuel prices, the shortage of fertilizers and pesticides, and unfavorable weather conditions. According to Makarov, Ukraine's recent restrictions on grain exports are likely to have a positive influence on the economy. JM

UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ON WAR PATH

The Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) said in Kyiv on 22 August that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is not an Orthodox Church according to canonical law, Interfax reported. The statement follows last week's refusal by the Russian Orthodox Church to grant its Ukrainian branch autonomous status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). The Kyiv Patriarchate bishops also condemned the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian branch for the "unwillingness to jointly overcome the split in Ukraine and unite Ukrainian Orthodoxy into a single local Ukrainian Orthodox Church." Meanwhile, Premier Viktor Yushchenko commented the same day that the government will not interfere in Orthodox Church affairs. JM

LATE RUKH LEADER RECEIVES 'HERO OF UKRAINE' TITLE

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree posthumously granting the title of "Hero of Ukraine" to Vyacheslav Chornovil, a famous Soviet dissident and leader of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, Interfax reported on 22 August. Chornovil, who died in a car accident last year, was also given the Order of the State for "the significant personal contribution to the national revival of Ukraine, consistent promotion of the ideas of independence, [as well as] vigorous social and political activity." JM

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ESTONIA

Irakli Menagharishvili arrived in Estonia on 21 August for a three-day visit that began with meetings with Prime Minister Mart Laar, Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and other officials. Laar stressed that "Estonia will continue supporting Georgia in international relations," while Ilves stressed Estonia's interest in sharing its experience in integration with Western structures, ETA reported. Ilves and Menagharishvili signed a bilateral customs agreement, and Estonia also offered to train Georgian border guards and police officers. Earlier, Georgia had noted that its officers would be interested in studying at the Baltic Defense College in Tartu. Menagharishvili, for his part, pledged his government's support for ethnic Estonians living in Abkhazia. MH

U.S. MILLIONAIRE SPONSORS CONTROVERSIAL DIVE TO 'ESTONIA'

U.S. millionaire Gregg Bemis, along with a team of divers, has begun a controversial diving expedition to the site of the ferry "Estonia," which sank in the Baltic Sea on 28 September 1994, claiming 852 lives. Bemis justified the expedition, which has been condemned by countries in the region, as an attempt to disprove the conclusions drawn by an international panel about the cause of the sinking, BNS reported on 22 August. Swedish authorities tried to talk Bemis out of the dive, and Finnish authorities called the expedition an "extremely unfriendly act toward the state of Finland," "Postimees" noted. More controversially, a German crew is filming the diving expedition and plans to sell the footage to cover some of the costs of the venture. MH

POLAND'S PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS SUBMIT SIGNATURES

Seven presidential candidates--including Aleksander Kwasniewski, Marian Krzaklewski, Andrzej Olechowski, and Lech Walesa--have submitted the necessary 100,000 signatures to the State Electoral Commission in order to register for the upcoming ballot, Polish media reported on 22 August. Incumbent President Kwasniewski supplied more than 1.7 million signatures. The deadline for submitting signatures is 24 August. The first candidate to be registered by the commission was radical farmers' leader Andrzej Lepper, who faces arrest following a court decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). Lepper, who appeared in person to accept his registration certificate, denied that he is hiding from the police. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT COMPLAINS TO PREMIER ABOUT SECURITY SERVICE

Aleksander Kwasniewski has sent a letter to Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek listing his complaints against the State Protection Office (UOP), PAP reported on 22 August. Presidential office head Jolanta Szymanek-Deresz said the letter contains information about the UOP's attempts to compromise the president and about "the UOP's slovenliness in handing over to the Lustration Court materials related to Kwasniewski's lustration trial." Kwasniewski make known earlier that he has lost trust in the UOP (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2000). JM

CZECHS DISMISS GERMAN CONCERNS ABOUT TEMELIN

The Czech Nuclear Safety Office (SUJB) said on 22 August that it was surprised by German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin's call to cancel plans to activate the Temelin nuclear power plant next month, as scheduled, Reuters reported. Trittin, a member of the Green party, said that a study commissioned by the German government revealed potential problems with the plant's safety mechanisms if an emergency should arise. But Dana Drabova, the SUJB chairwoman, said a report based on exchanges between Czech and German nuclear experts does not support Trittin's claims. She added that there were no major problems detected after a recent round of safety tests. The plant uses Soviet-designed reactors with a British control system. PB

HAIDER CALLS AGAIN FOR ABOLITION OF BENES DECREES

Joerg Haider, the controversial former head of Austria's coalition Freedom Party, said on 22 August that government decrees that led to the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in the 1940s need to be abolished before the Czech Republic and Slovenia gain EU membership, CTK reported. Referring to the Benes Decrees, Haider said it is "not appropriate in modern democracies" for laws to exist that "originated from the period of dictatorship." He said EU candidate countries need to send a "clear signal" that they will abolish such decrees. The Czech Republic has refused to do away with the decrees, claiming that though obsolete, they are are an integral part of the Czech legal code. Erhard Busek, Austria's commissioner for EU enlargement, rejected Haider's arguments the following day. PB

ROM IN SLOVAKIA DIES AFTER BEATING

A Romany woman has died from injuries sustained when three men entered her home and beat both her and her daughters with baseball bats, TASR reported on 22 August. Anastazia Balazova, 50, died of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by blows to the head. She and her family were attacked two days earlier while they were asleep in their home in the northern town of Zilina. Two children also sustained injuries. Police are investigating the case as a racially-motivated attack because the men reportedly made racial comments during the incident. PB

SLOVAKIA TO MINT COIN OF ALLEGED ANTI-SEMITE

The National Bank of Slovakia (NBS) is planning to issue a coin commemorating children's book author Ludo Ondrejov, who is alleged to have participated in the wartime "Aryanization drive," the daily "Sme" reported on 23 August. The daily reports that Ondrejov was given the Steiner Bookshop after it was taken from its owners in 1941. When deportations of Jews began the following year, Ondrejov allegedly issued a letter saying he did not need several employees, who happened to be members of the Steiner family. Several were deported to Poland with their families and never returned, according to the newspaper. A senior bank official said "if there is enough evidence and arguments, I cannot rule out that the NBS board will reconsider the project." PB

FRANCE TO REJECT HUNGARIAN ROMA'S ASYLUM BID?

French authorities are likely to reject the applications of the 46 Roma from the Hungarian town of Zamoly who are seeking political asylum in Strasbourg, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 23 August. A French government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "although there is anti-Roma feeling in Hungary, it is not to such an extent or so institutionalized as to justify granting political asylum." Jozsef Krasznai, leader of the Zamoly group, said he will organize a briefing in Strasbourg to inform the press about the anti-Romany measures taken by the Hungarian government. MSZ




KOSOVA PEACEKEEPERS HOLD ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS

U.S. KFOR troops recently detained four ethnic Albanian fighters of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac near the Kosovar settlement of Novo Selo, Reuters reported on 22 August. The four are suspects in the recent disappearance of two Serbs in the area. A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina that one of the suspects is Shefket Musliu, who is reportedly the commander of the illegal guerrilla group. The guerrillas say that they are protecting the ethnic Albanians of southwestern Serbia from the security forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Critics charge that the guerrillas hope to provoke a conflict between NATO and Belgrade. NATO has repeatedly said that KFOR's mandate is limited to Kosova and does not extend to the Presevo valley. PM

EU CONCERNED ABOUT VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA

The EU said in a statement in Paris on 22 August that it is concerned about the growing violence in Kosova in the runup to the 15 October local elections. The statement added that the international community will make every effort to ensure that the vote takes place in a safe and peaceful atmosphere, free from pressure from political "extremists," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Vienna, the OSCE protested the Belgrade regime's decision to bar the organization's monitors from the 24 September Yugoslav and local elections. PM

YUGOSLAV DIPLOMAT BLAMES U.S. FOR KOSOVA PROBLEMS

Vladislav Jovanovic, who is Belgrade's chief diplomatic representative at the UN, said on 22 August: "It is high time for the international community to face the reality, to admit that both [the UN's Kosova] mandate and [Security Council] Resolution 1244 were non-implemented-- even betrayed--and that the real control of [chief administrator] Dr. [Bernard] Kouchner and [the civilian administration] UNMIK and KFOR in Kosovo [is not in the hands of] the United Nations Security Council, but one outside power, the United States," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. He also likened UNMIK's recent takeover of the derelict Trepca mine complex to a "bank holdup." Jovanovic and other Belgrade diplomats periodically make such anti-Western statements in an effort to return Kosova to direct Serbian control. PM

KOSOVARS KILLED IN INCIDENT WITH ARAB KFOR

A soldier from the United Arab Emirates shot and killed two allegedly aggressive ethnic Albanians at a checkpoint near Svinjare on 22 August. U.A.E. KFOR officials said in a statement that "one of our soldiers warned [the two] for the first time according to the rules of combat agreed by KFOR, but they did not heed his warning and continued their attacks" on the peacekeepers. The U.A.E. soldier then shot in what the statement called self-defense. PM

MONTENEGRIN MILOSEVIC BACKER HAILS GOVERNMENT PLEDGE ON ELECTIONS

Predrag Bulatovic, who is vice president of the pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party, said in Niksic on 22 August that his party is pleased with recent statements by the government that it will not seek to obstruct the 24 September federal elections, Montena-fax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2000). Bulatovic added, however, that his party is prepared to work with the Federal Election Commission to set up polling places if the government goes back on its word. PM

SERBIAN COURT CHARGES SEVEN WITH 'TERRORISM'

A court in Uzice charged Ignjatije Popovic, Djordje Maksimovic, Djura Dragovic, Zivko Abasevic, Radoje Erakovic, Branko Zivkovic, and Milan Popovic with "terrorism" for their alleged roles in the abduction of an indicted Bosnian Serb war criminal from Serbia to Bosnia in September 1998, Reuters reported on 22 August. In the runup to the 24 September elections, the Milosevic regime has conducted a series of propaganda campaigns to suggest that Serbia is plagued by domestic and external foes. PM

BOSNIAN SERB REFUGEE MINISTER QUITS

Republika Srpska Minister for Refugees Miladin Dragicevic resigned in Banja Luka on 22 August, citing what he called "pressure" on him by representatives of the international community. He wrote Prime Minister Milorad Dodik that "there has been tremendous pressure lately by the international community, numerous associations, and [unspecified] individuals on the ministry and on me, personally, regarding the implementation of property laws," Reuters reported. Officials of the international community are adamant that property stolen or occupied during ethnic cleansing campaigns in the 1992-1995 conflict must be returned to its original owners. This is especially the case regarding housing, the return of which is a central issue for the return of refugees to their former communities. PM

DODIK MEETS BOSNIAN SERB PENSIONERS

Dodik met on 22 August with a delegation of retired persons who are protesting recent cuts in their monthly pensions, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BOSNIA ANNOUNCES JOINT OLYMPIC TEAM

Officials of the Bosnian Olympic Committee announced in Sarajevo on 22 August that Bosnia will send a team of nine Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian athletes to the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, in September. Five of the athletes come from the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation, and four from the Republika Srpska. Bosnia will have four competitors in track and field, one in judo, two in shooting, and two in swimming. Bosnian Serb political leaders blocked previous attempts to field a multi- ethnic team. The Olympics have had a special meaning for many Bosnians since Sarajevo successfully hosted the 1984 winter games. PM

BOSNIAN UNIVERSITY BECOMING POLITICAL FOOTBALL?

Sarajevo University Rector Nedzad Mulabegovic told "Dnevni avaz" of 23 August that the Bosnian police have twice sought recently to remove records from the university without a warrant. He said that the police arrived following remarks by legislator Rifat Skrijelj that the university has suspiciously large sums of money. Mulabegovic denied that the university is involved in any criminal wrongdoing, suggesting that the legislator's remarks can be interpreted as campaigning ahead of the 11 November parliamentary elections. PM

STANDOFF IN CROATIAN COALITION TALKS

After a meeting in Zagreb on 22 August between the six government parties, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said that he stands by his earlier statements that he knows nothing about alleged investigations by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal into the past of General Petar Stipetic, who heads the General Staff, "Novi List" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2000). Social Liberal leader Drazen Budisa, who had said that Racan and President Stipe Mesic know much about the investigations, declined to speak to the press. Mate Granic, who heads the moderate opposition party Democratic Center, said that the recent tensions between Budisa and his coalition partners suggest the government will not be able to remain in office until the end of its term. Granic stressed that he and his party are prepared to join what he called a government of national unity to replace the present coalition. A commentary in the Rijeka-based daily suggested that the tensions within the coalition have served to strengthen the position of Mesic. PM

UNHCR CONCERNED OVER ARRESTS OF SERBS IN CROATIA

A spokeswoman for the UNHCR said in Belgrade on 22 August that her office is concerned by the Croatian authorities' recent arrest of three Serbs returning to their former homes. She said that the three had all received permission from the Croatian authorities to return, and that the authorities had said that only persons not suspected of any crime would be approved. "Arrests made after this clearance process is a contradiction, and we fear that this [will] undermine and threaten the credibility of the return procedure that we have now," Reuters quoted her as saying. PM

LAST-MINUTE SESSIONS SLATED FOR SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT

The parliament will meet in two sessions before 15 September, when the campaign for the 15 October legislative elections begins. The first session will take place on 29 August, "Delo" reported on 23 August. On the agenda is unfinished business from the previous session, including numerous bills aiming at bringing Slovenian legislation in line with EU norms. Political power in Slovenia is centered on the parliament. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT COALITION SETS DATE OF ELECTIONS

At a 22 August meeting, Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu and government coalition leaders set 26 November as the date of parliamentary and presidential elections, Mediafax news agency reported. Coalition leaders also agreed to shorten the electoral campaign from 60 to 45 days. National Peasant Party Christian Democratic chairman Ion Diaconescu said the shorter campaign was aimed at reducing expenses and preventing "exaggerated political feuding." National Liberal Party Chairman and Senate Chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus added that the parliament will thus gain 15 days to work on approving important legislation. ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES RUMORS THAT GOVERNMENT WILL BE SACKED

Petru Lucinschi said reports in the press that either the government will resign or he will sack it are "rubbish," Infotag reported on 22 August. Lucinschi said on national television the previous day that it would be "reckless to stir up such a large-scale crisis." He said the parliament and the government must "find a common language" and work together. Lucinschi added that he supports holding a national referendum on whether the country should have a parliamentary or presidential style of government. He added that the parliament's decision to introduce a parliamentary form of government "is an erroneous step." He said "only the Moldovan people, to which the supreme power in the country belongs, have the right to solve this most important problem." PB

EIGHT YUGOSLAVS EXPELLED FROM BULGARIA

Bulgaria's National Security Service on 22 August ordered the expulsion of eight Yugoslav citizens for conduct threatening the national security and interests of Bulgaria, Reuters reported. In a statement, the Interior Ministry in Sofia said Milivoje Radulovic will be banned from the country for 10 years; the other seven received five-year bans. The expulsions come after last week's banning of five other foreign businessmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). Georgi Ganev, an analyst at the Center for Liberal Strategies, an independent think-tank, said "it is important for Bulgaria to start paying more attention to the origin of capital entering the country and the quality of investments, rather than quantity." PB

BULGARIA'S CONTROVERSIAL NUCLEAR REACTORS TO BE UPGRADED

Yonko Gledachev, the deputy director at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, said on 22 August that two reactors at the controversial plant will be given a security upgrade, BTA reported. Gledachev said the new equipment will help prevent the leakage of radioactive substances and will be operational at the end of 2001. He said the upgrades will be made on the two newest reactors, whose lifespan does not expire for another 10-12 years. The other two reactors are to be permanently shut down by 2002 owing to security concerns raised primarily by the EU. PB




There is no end note today.







XS
SM
MD
LG