Accessibility links

Newsline - August 25, 2000




RUSSIA LAUNCHES CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO 'KURSK' DISASTER...

Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov announced on 24 August that he has opened a criminal investigation in connection with the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine. It has not been revealed under which article of the Criminal Code the investigation has begun, but Federal Security Service (FSB) director Nikolai Patrushev was quoted as saying in Murmansk the same day that "we have determined everything that is needed to open a criminal case." Defense Minister Igor Sergeev commented that preliminary inquiries are expected to be concluded by the end of this week, stressing that he believed most of the crew had died almost instantly. JC

...AS FSB MULLS SABOTAGE THEORY

While Sergeev has repeatedly asserted that the "Kursk" collided with an "underwater object" the same size as the stricken submarine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000), FSB chief Patrushev told NTV that investigators have been gathering information on two men from Daghestan who were on board the "Kursk" but not part of its crew. The two--Mamed Gadzhiev and Arnold Borisov--worked for the Dagdizel company, which manufactures torpedoes for submarines. According to a Dagdizel official quoted by "The Moscow Times" on 25 August, they were on board the "Kursk" to oversee torpedo tests during military maneuvers. Patrushev was quoted by NTV as saying that the FSB has been collecting intelligence on the two men "since the very first day but we do not at the moment have any proof implicating them in the accident." Earlier, Movladi Udugov, who is close to Chechen field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab, had claimed that the "Kursk" was sabotaged by a member of the crew from Daghestan, Sirazhudin Ramazanov. According to AFP, the names of Gadzhiev, Borisov, and Ramazanov did not appear on a list of the "Kursk" crew members distributed on 23 August, the day of national mourning for the victims of the disaster. JC

NORWEGIAN, BRITISH RESCUERS SAY RUSSIANS HAMPERED OPERATIONS

Norwegian Rear Admiral Einar Skorgen said in a interview with the Norwegian daily "Nordlandsposten" on 24 August that he had threatened to call off the Norwegian-British operation to rescue members of the "Kursk" crew because "so many wrong details and disinformation" from the Russian side "came close to endangering the divers," Reuters reported. The same day, a member of the British LR5 submersible team that had been on stand-by at the scene of the disaster, Paddy Heron, told BBC Scotland Television that "any arrangement or proposed operation" mentioned by the Russian side "was rescinded, gone back on, altered or countermanded." Heron also claimed that the Russians had not allowed his team to make use of the submersible. First Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov was quoted by Interfax on 24 August as rejecting that claim as "groundless." JC

PUTIN ORDERS 20 PERCENT WAGE HIKE FOR MILITARY, POLICE...

President Vladimir Putin on 24 August issued a decree raising the wages of the armed forces, police, prison guards, customs officials, and tax police by 20 percent. That hike is to go into effect on 1 December. "The Moscow Times," however, points out that the increase may not be as generous as it appears: the military and police have been exempt from paying income tax but are due to begin making such payments next year. Under the new tax policy, a flat income tax rate of 13 percent will apply. JC

...AS KUDRIN PLEDGES TO SEEK EXTRA FUNDS FOR DEFENSE

Following a meeting with President Putin on 24 August, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksii Kudrin announced that any additional revenues in next year's budget will go toward, among other things, boosting defense and security expenditures. Such funds will be chiefly spent on developing and modernizing weapons, Interfax quoted Kudrin as saying. Fatherland-All Russia faction leader Yevgenii Primakov said earlier this week that the OVR parliamentary group will vote against the 2001 budget if military spending is not increased to at least 3 percent of GDP (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2000). JC

BEREZOVSKII URGES PUTIN TO 'CONSOLIDATE, NOT SPLIT' COUNTRY...

Referring to Putin's comments on Russian Television on 23 August, the national day of mourning for the victims of the "Kursk" crew, businessman Boris Berezovskii urged the president "to consolidate the country, not split it," adding that this is his "Christian and moral duty," Interfax reported on 24 August. In a thinly veiled reference to Berezovskii and Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii, whose media outlets have been among those criticizing the president for his handling of the "Kursk" disaster, Putin had lambasted those who he suggested had plundered the country and then become the staunchest defenders of the submarine crew (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2000). "Whoever Putin may be pointing at," Berezovskii commented, "he continues the chain of grave mistakes." JC

...FAILS IN BID TO CO-OPT LUZHKOV

In an interview with "Vek" to be published on 25 August, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that he rejected a recent request by Berezovskii to hold talks on forming an opposition to the current leadership, saying that any such meeting is "out of the question," Interfax reported the previous day. Luzhkov said that on "moral and ethical grounds," he would never form a partnership with Berezovskii, and he suggested it is unlikely that any governor will follow the "offended oligarch." Before quitting his post as State Duma deputy last month, Berezovskii had announced his plans to create a Duma opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000). Luzhkov also said that while he does not agree with everything the president does, he believes Putin is currently "acting properly" in his bid to consolidate state authority. JC

ALLEGED U.S. SPY REFUSED BAIL

Edmond Pope, the former U.S. Navy intelligence officer arrested in April on spying charges, has been refused bail, despite his lawyers' appeal on the grounds that he may be suffering from cancer. The judges ruled that the 54-year-old Pope will remain in Moscow's Lefortovo prison until his trial, which is expected to begin in October, according to Interfax. They also said they will ask a Russian cancer specialist to visit the defendant in jail. Pope is accused of purchasing secret data on the designs of a new underwater torpedo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 2000). Interfax reported that Pope's alleged accomplice, Bauman State Technical University Professor Anatolii Babkin, is also suffering serious health problems. Babkin is to be tried separately. JC

SWISS PROSECUTORS SEARCH SIBNEFT PARTNER FIRM

The Swiss Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 24 August that Swiss prosecutors have searched the headquarters of Runicom, which is reported to have been Sibneft's major export trading arm, as part of an investigation into the possible misuse of IMF funds granted to Russia in 1998. "The Moscow Times" said the next day that the search took place on 11 August, one day after Russian tax police officials conducted a raid on Sibneft's Moscow headquarters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2000). A spokesman for the Swiss Prosecutor-General's Office refused to comment on whether the two incidents were part of a "coordinated effort," according to the Moscow daily. Sibneft issued a statement on 24 August, one day after Geneva's "Le Temps" broke the story about the Runicom raid, saying it is "physically impossible" that Runicom was involved in any dealings with IMF money because the total funds to pass through its one account in Switzerland in 1998 amounted to only $1.2 million, Interfax reported. State Duma deputy Roman Abramovich is a former board member of Sibneft. JC

RUSSIA MAKES DEBT PAYMENT TO LONDON CLUB

Vneshekonombank announced on 24 August that it has transferred $274.8 million as the first payment on Russia's restructured debt to the London Club of creditors, Reuters reported. The Russian Finance Ministry earlier said that it had transferred $277.1 million to Vneshekonombank for that purpose, but according to the news agency, no one at the bank was available to comment on the discrepancy in the two figures. JC

UNITY HOSTS CHINESE COMMUNIST DELEGATION

A delegation of members of the Chinese Communist Party is currently in Moscow at the invitation of the pro-Kremlin Unity party, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 August. According to the newspaper, Unity officials and their Chinese guests agreed that ideological differences should not seriously impede cooperation between the two parties. And in an official press release, they stressed their support for a multi-polar world and their opposition to "hegemony by any single country." The Chinese delegation, for its part, invited Unity leader and Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu to visit China. JC

LEBED FOE RELEASED PENDING TRIAL

Anatolii Bykov, the former head of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant who is charged with money laundering and complicity in murder, was released on bail on 24 August, some four months after he was extradited from Hungary, where he had sought political asylum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2000). Bykov, who has been at loggerheads with Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed, denies the charges, arguing that they are politically motivated. According to Interfax, two of the four people who put up the money for his bail were State Duma deputies Aleksandr Klyukin and Vladislav Demin, both of the Liberal Democratic faction. Bykov reportedly told a Krasnoyarsk television station later the same day that he may consider selling his stake in the aluminum plant he formerly headed. JC

TATARSTAN'S LEADERS MEET WITH MODERATE OPPOSITION

President Mintimer Shaimiev, State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, and other senior officials met in Kazan on 24 August with representatives of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. During their discussion of approaches to strengthening Tatarstan's sovereignty, Shaimiev argued that the Tatar Public Center's proposal to create an Idel-Ural confederation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 9 August 2000) is inexpedient, given that Russia is a federal state, according to Shaimiev's press spokesman Irek Murtazin. But Shaimiev expressed support for greater economic cooperation between the republics of the Volga-Urals region. LF

DOCTORS SAY U.S. CITIZEN FIT TO BECOME FIRST SPACE TOURIST

Russian doctors have said that U.S. businessman and former rocket scientist Dennis Tito is fit to begin training outside Moscow to become the world's first space tourist. The 59- year-old Tito has reportedly agreed to pay $20 million to fly to the "Mir" space station on a trip that will last between seven and 10 days and is expected to take place in mid-2001. According to MirCorp President Jeffrey Manber, Tito has already transferred several million dollars to MirCorp's account and will pay the balance before blast-off, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. JC




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT GIVES PREMIER GREEN LIGHT TO RESHUFFLE CABINET

Robert Kocharian said on 24 August that he will not oppose changes in the composition of the cabinet if those changes ensure that the government has strong backing in the parliament, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian had warned the previous day that he may sack government members aligned with the People's Party of Armenia if that party moves closer to the parliamentary opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2000). Kocharian made clear that, contrary to rumors circulating in Yerevan, he does not intend to sack Markarian, whose track-record during his 100 days as premier was described by Kocharian as "positive." "Today I can't say anything negative [about the government]. I think that our cooperation has been positive, effective, and sincere. I have no reason to be unhappy," Kocharian said. LF

ARMENIA DENIES LINK WITH MOSCOW BOMBING

An Armenian Embassy official in Moscow rejected as "inadmissible and groundless" Chechen State Council Chairman Malik Saidullaev's claim that the 8 August explosion in the Russian capital was the result of a feud between Armenian traders, according to Snark on 23 August, cited by Groong. Saidullaev claimed that Armenians control trade in the capital's underground pedestrian precincts. Saidullaev has offered $100,000 for information on the perpetrators of the blast. He has frequently made unsubstantiated statements in the past. LF

GENERAL SAYS ARMENIAN TANKS NOT REPAIRED IN GEORGIA

Armenian armed forces chief of staff General Mikael Harutiunian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 24 August that Armenia does not have its military hardware repaired at the Russian military base at Vaziani, near Tbilisi. He said Armenia has its own facilities for such repair and maintenance work, which he said are "not inferior" to Russia's. Caucasus Press had suggested on 22 August that the imminent closure of the Vaziani base could deprive Armenia of access to repair facilities. LF

ARMENIAN CAPITAL TO ERECT MONUMENT TO SLAIN PREMIER

The Yerevan city authorities have decided to rename one of the city's streets after Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, who was among the eight victims of the 27 October parliament shooting, Noyan Tapan reported on 24 August. A monument to Sargsian, who was a former defense minister, will be erected near the Yerevan House of Officers. Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan is a former comrade-in-arms of Sargsian and a member of the Yerkrapah Union of veterans of the Karabakh war, which he founded. LF

MORE AZERBAIJANI POLITICAL GROUPS CONDEMN EDITOR'S ARREST

Three small political parties issued a statement in Baku on 24 August condemning what they termed a campaign of repression against the opposition Musavat Party and the 22 August arrest of Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the party's newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2000). Also on 24 August, Shayin Abbasov, who heads the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front's Ordubad (Nakhichevan) branch, told Turan that claims by the Azerbaijani authorities that Mehti Huseynli maintained regular contacts with Popular Front member Ilgar Sayidoglu are untrue. Huseynli had tried unsuccessfully on 18 August to hijack an Azerbaijani Airlines flight. Abbasov said Huseynli met with Seyidoglu only once, on 16 August, to discuss the 5 November parliamentary poll. Sayidoglu has been arrested on suspicion of complicity in the hijack attempt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). LF

TBILISI DENIES CHECHEN FIGHTERS ENTERED INGUSHETIA FROM GEORGIAN TERRITORY

The Georgian Border Guard Department on 24 August denied Russian media reports that a group of Chechen fighters intercepted by Russian forces earlier that day in Ingushetia had entered that republic from Georgia, Interfax reported. Russian military spokesmen said the Chechens were spotted the previous day in northern Georgia and subjected to air and artillery bombardment. Those spokesmen said that almost all the estimated 100 Chechen fighters were killed in a battle with Russian forces on 24 August. Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said in Moscow the same day that the Chechen detachment was "likely" to have been part of field commander Ruslan Gelaev's force, according to Interfax. LF

WEAK POINTS IN GEORGIAN CONSTITUTION HIGHLIGHTED

Speaking on 24 August at a conference in Tbilisi pegged to the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Georgian Constitution, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Spencer Yalowitz suggested that the basic document could be amended to provide stronger guarantees of freedom of religious belief, Caucasus Press reported. Yalowitz called for greater democratization of local government, specifically the election of local district officials, who are currently appointed by Tbilisi. He also reportedly advocated the "immediate" clarification of Georgia's territorial structure. The constitution does not define the relationship between the central government and the former autonomous formations of Abkhazia, Adzharia, and South Ossetia. Yalowitz termed the adoption of the constitution "a positive step toward a democratic society." Georgian Popular Front chairman Nodar Natadze, however, was more negative, saying the constitution "was written to ensure the functioning of a police state," according to Interfax. LF

KYRGYZSTAN TO ASK KAZAKHSTAN FOR HELP TO COMBAT MILITANTS

Kazakhstan's Defense Minister General Sat Tokpakbaev told a press briefing in Almaty on 24 August that Kyrgyzstan will formally request military assistance from Astana to counter the Islamic threat to the south of Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported. He said that the fighting in Bostanlyk in eastern Uzbekistan is close to the border with Kazakhstan but does not pose a threat to Kazakhstan's security as Kazakhstan has been strengthening its southern borders since late last year and has moved additional troops into Dzhambyl Oblast. LF

KYRGYZ POLITICAL PARTIES CALL FOR ABOLITION OF LINGUISTIC COMMISSION

The leaders of seven Kyrgyz political parties appealed on 24 August to the Central Electoral Commission to annul its June ruling setting up a commission to assess the Kyrgyz language proficiency of potential presidential candidates, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Earlier this week, nine presidential candidates asked the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the commission, which has so far barred three candidates on the grounds of insufficient knowledge of the vernacular (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2000). Meanwhile President Askar Akaev, who was to have sat the mandatory tests on 22 or 23 August, has still not done so. Presidential spokesman Osmonakun Ibraimov said on 24 August that Akaev will take the language tests only after he formally announces his intention to run in the 29 October presidential poll. LF

KYRGYZ PREMIER DENIES HE WILL RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Amangeldi MurAliyev told a cabinet meeting on 24 August that he does not intend to contest the presidential poll, nor has his Unity Party formed an election campaign staff, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. MasAliyev said he will back President Akaev's bid for re-election. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR INCREASED UN ROLE IN GUARDING PIPELINES

In an article pegged to next month's UN Millennium Summit in New York, Saparmurat Niyazov called for the UN to play a greater role in mediating a solution to the war in Afghanistan, determining the international status of the Caspian Sea, and providing for the safe functioning of international oil and gas pipelines, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 24 August. The "Wall Street Journal" reported on 18 August that Niyazov is now again favoring the U.S.-backed Trans-Caspian pipeline route. That pipeline would cross the territory of Azerbaijan and Georgia. Both those countries belong to the GUUAM grouping, whose members have discussed creating their own security force to guard the planned Baku- Ceyhan oil export pipeline. LF

RUSSIA OFFERS TO ASSIST UZBEKISTAN IN FIGHT WITH ISLAMIC MILITANTS

The first deputy chief of the Russian army general staff, Colonel General Valerii Manilov, told journalists in Moscow on 24 August that Russia is ready and willing to offer assistance to Uzbekistan to neutralize fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who have twice invaded that country this month, Russian agencies reported. Manilov characterized the present situation in Uzbekistan as "under control." Uzbek Deputy Prosecutor-General Azimzhon Ergashev told Interfax on 24 August that the Islamic militants "are criminals and cannot be regarded as opposition members." Uzbek government troops have orders to kill the militants rather than take them prisoner. Also on 24 August, Tashkent police chief Shurakhim Rasulov told Interfax that Interior Ministry and army troops have surrounded the area where the Islamist gunmen who infiltrated from neighboring Tajikistan earlier this week are believed to be located. LF

UZBEK CLERGYMAN RISKS EXTRADITION...

Uzbek Imam Khadji Khudjaev was arrested by Russian police in Omsk last weekend, apparently at the request of the Uzbek authorities, and may be extradited to Uzbekistan, where he faces charges of involvement in the February 1999 Tashkent bombings, according to an Amnesty International press release of 23 August. Khudjaev fled Uzbekistan three years ago to escape Uzbek police harassment of people thought to belong to independent Islamic congregations. He then settled in the city of Ishim in Tyumen Oblast. LF

...AS UZBEKISTAN PUBLISHES DATA ON PRISON POPULATION

Uzbekistan's official government newspaper "Pravda Vostoka" published in its 24 August issued an Interior Ministry report that puts the total number of people in the country's 47 prisons at 63,900, Reuters and AP reported. Thirty-six percent of those were said to have been jailed for theft, and 24 percent for unspecified "serious crimes." The report said that there are no political prisoners in Uzbekistan's jails. Unconfirmed reports say that persons sentenced on political charges or for their religious beliefs are generally incarcerated in a vast prison camp (not a jail) southwest of the Aral Sea. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT CUBA

Alyaksandr Lukashenka will visit Cuba from 3-5 September, Belarusian media reported on 24 August, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka. It is expected that Lukashenka and Cuban leader Fidel Castro will sign a treaty on friendship and cooperation, while the foreign ministers of the two countries will conclude an accord on bilateral trade and economic cooperation. According to Latushka, there is a large potential for Belarusian-Cuban economic cooperation: some 70 percent of Cuba's equipment and machinery is Soviet-made, and a considerable share comes from Belarusian enterprises. Belarus exports mainly machinery to Cuba and imports raw sugar from that country. Latushka said Belarus views Cuba as a "spring-board" for promoting Belarusian economic interests in Central America and the Caribbean Sea basin. JM

UKRAINE MARKS INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY WITH RELIGIOUS PROTEST...

Some 3,000 people on 24 August gathered in front of the newly rebuilt Assumption Cathedral in Kyiv to protest its consecration by Metropolitan Volodymyr, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, Interfax reported. The consecration, which was one of the events in the official celebrations of the ninth anniversary of Ukrainian independence, was attended by President Leonid Kuchma and other officials. Having taken up position outside the cathedral, which was cordoned off by police, the crowd chanted "Get the Moscow Church out of Ukraine!" Tensions have recently flared in Ukraine over the uneasy coexistence of the country's three Orthodox Churches (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 August 2000). JM

...WHILE PRESIDENT URGES RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

"We will oppose any speculation about the Church [or any attempts to] foment enmity and intolerance on religious and other grounds," Kuchma pledged at the consecration ceremony. The president admitted that there are people in Ukraine who "whip up tensions even around such shrines." He said he does not doubt the good intentions of those who want Ukraine's three Orthodox Churches to unite but added that he disapproves of some proposals on how to achieve that end. According to Kuchma, Church matters should be settled by the Church alone, because the state's interference in those affairs "has already cost Ukraine dearly." JM

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES ESTONIA'S MINORITY POLICIES

Russian ambassador to Estonia Aleksei Glukhov has criticized Estonia's policies toward its Russian-speaking minorities and called on the EU to put pressure on that country, "Postimees" reported on 25 August. Glukhov accused the "nationalistic" government of trying to break all links with Russia and Russians, "despite our common history." This, he said, has made life for ethnic Russians "unbearable." Glukhov went on to criticize the government's education policy, including the planned integration of Russian-language schools into the mainstream educational system later this decade. However, the leader of the Russian Baltic Party in Estonia, parliamentary deputy Sergei Ivanov, criticized Glukhov's statements for being confrontational and undiplomatic. MH

ESTONIA, FINLAND PLAN COOPERATION IN ENERGY SECTOR

Energy sector cooperation was top of the agenda during Finnish Foreign Trade Minister Kimmo Sasi's working visit to Estonia on 24 August. Sasi and Estonian Economics Minister Mihkel Parnoja discussed ways to cooperate in that sector, including the plan to lay an underwater power line between the two states, which in effect would link the Baltic power grid to that of the rest of Europe, ETA reported. Sasi and President Lennart Meri also discussed the merging of the two power systems. "Aripaev" added that the decision on whether to lay the underwater cable will be made in September or October. Sasi also told Prime Minister Mart Laar that Estonia is likely to be among the first wave of new members of the EU. MH

LITHUANIAN, LATVIAN PREMIERS MEET

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius met with his Latvian counterpart, Andris Berzins, in the town of Birzai on 24 August to discuss bilateral issues. The two heads of government agreed on the terms for establishing transit procedures that would allow freight destined for third countries to avoid customs declarations at the countries' joint border, ELTA reported. Kubilius reportedly caught Berzins off guard when he offered to lease or sell Latvia the thermal power plant in Mazeikiai, saying this could solve Latvia's chronic energy shortage, BNS added. Berzins said that the proposal was "interesting" but added that he was unable to comment on the matter. MH

LITHUANIAN ECONOMY STILL EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTIES

The Lithuanian Economics Ministry said on 24 August that despite economic growth, real wages are decreasing. Citing the Statistics Department, the report said that GDP in the first half of 2000 grew by 2 percent compared with the same period last year. However, real wages during the first six months of this year dropped by 3.6 percent, ELTA reported. Industrial sales dropped by 0.8 percent in the same period, with those of utilities dropping by 9.9 percent. On a positive note, exports rose by 26.1 percent, while imports increased by 10.3 percent. MH

SOLIDARITY'S BIRTHPLACE BESTOWS HONORARY CITIZENSHIP ON THATCHER, REAGAN

The Baltic port of Gdansk on 24 August granted honorary citizenship to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. President Ronald Reagan "for [their] historical role in dismantling the Iron Curtain and effective support for movement for democracy and freedom in our country," AP reported. The bestowing of honorary citizenship on the two former leaders was one of the events intended to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the birth of Solidarity. According to a recent poll by OBOP, 84 percent of Poles see the August 1980 strike in Gdansk, which resulted in an agreement between the protesting workers and the then communist government as well as in the emergence of Solidarity, as an important event in Poland's history. Eighty-one percent said Solidarity's first leader, Lech Walesa, deserves to be particularly remembered by future generations. JM

CZECH PREMIER BLAMES OUTSIDERS FOR 'OPERATION LEAD,' BUT SUSPENDS ADVISERS

Milos Zeman said on 25 August that he believes an unnamed organization organized and financed the "Operation Lead" campaign, presumably in an effort to discredit his government, CTK reported. At the same time, Zeman said it is "necessary to take" radical measures, even if it means "certain injustice toward the innocent." He went on to say that two of his advisers, Zdenek Sarapatka and Vratislav Sima, will be "off duty" until a police investigation into the affair is concluded. Sarapatka, for his part, said in the daily "Pravo" on 25 August that Zeman's earlier assertion that Sarapatka may be behind the scheme is "shocking" and that the affair reminds him of methods used by the mafia. "Operation Lead" was a plan to discredit Zeman's party rival and frequent critic Petra Buzkova, who is the deputy chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies. Among other things, Buzkova would have been subject to slander in the press. PB

AUSTRIA TO RESTART BILATERAL TALKS WITH CZECH REPUBLIC

The Austrian Foreign Ministry confirmed on 25 August that it is waiting for Prague to set a date for bilateral talks on a range of topics, including the Temelin nuclear power plant, the Benes decrees, and illegal immigrants, CTK reported. Erhard Busek, Austria's commissioner for EU enlargement, said the talks will be a "legal reassessment of all bilateral questions." He added that the dialogue was interrupted by the Czech Republic after the ultraright Freedom Party joined the Austrian government. Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil seemed less eager for a resumption of the talks, saying "a reasonable date will be found, perhaps still before the end of the year." PB

FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE CHIEF'S IMMUNITY LIFTED

The Slovak parliament voted on 24 August to remove the immunity of deputy and former director of the intelligence service (SIS) Ivan Lexa, AP reported. The vote was 86 to 33 with one abstention. Lexa is among 12 people who will be charged in connection with the kidnapping of the son of former President Michal Kovac in 1995. He is also accused of abuse of power, including fraud and using the SIS to discredit rivals of former Premier Vladimir Meciar. Lexa fled the country earlier this year and his whereabouts are unknown. Investigators said they will issue an international warrant for his arrest. PB

SLOVAK PRESIDENT TO DECIDE ON CALLING REFERENDUM ON EARLY ELECTIONS

Rudolf Schuster will decide by 8 September whether to call a referendum on early parliamentary elections, Reuters reported on 24 August. Presidential spokesman Jozef Leikert said Schuster has asked constitutional experts to assess if the question is valid. Opposition parties led by former Premier Meciar collected the 350,000 signatures need for a vote to be held. Public opinion polls have shown that the referendum will fail for lack of interest. At least 50 percent of registered voters must participate for it to be valid. PB

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT HOLDS MINUTE OF SILENCE FOR MURDERED ROM

A minute of silence was observed in the Slovak parliament on 24 August in memory of Anasazia Balazova, a Romany woman who died after being beaten in her home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2000), CTK reported. PB

COMMITTEE RECEIVES DOCUMENTS ON HUNGARIAN OIL CASE...

Laszlo Pallag, chairman of the parliamentary committee investigating the charges in the case of the "illegal oil" deals, has presented to the committee's Secretariat 10 files containing documents that allegedly include evidence of crimes committed by officials and politicians in those deals. The documents include the names of the companies implicated, copies of illegal requests for VAT refunds, and information on the role played by police and customs officials, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

...WHILE FIDESZ ACCUSES FORMER OFFICIALS

The leadership of the major coalition party FIDESZ issued a statement on 24 August charging that former Prime Ministers Miklos Nemeth and Gyula Horn, as well as some of the members of their cabinets, share political responsibility for the illegal oil deals. FIDESZ also expressed its support for the proposal, included in a letter recently sent by Prime Minister Viktor Orban to parliamentary speaker Janos Ader, that a parliamentary investigation be conducted into the previous government's involvement in the deal. Opposition Free Democrat parliamentary group leader Gabor Kuncze, a former interior minister, said if Orban is serious about the investigation, "the country has taken yet another step toward becoming a banana republic." MSZ




MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT: LOCAL AUTHORITIES HAVE NO OBLIGATIONS IN FEDERAL ELECTIONS

The Justice Ministry has sent a letter to the heads of local governments, informing them they are not legally obliged to play any role in the Yugoslav federal elections on 24 September, Montena-fax reported on 24 August. The letter said that the local officials have a duty to maintain voter registration lists and confirm that individuals are registered to cast ballots in local and republican elections, but not in federal ones. Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica that the authorities will not hinder citizens from casting their ballots, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added, however, that the government will wage a strong campaign to convince Montenegrins that voting is tantamount to participating in a project harmful to Montenegrin interests. PM

TENSIONS BETWEEN MONTENEGRO, YUGOSLAV ARMY CONTINUE

Zarko Rakcevic, who heads Montenegro's Social Democratic Party, said in Podgorica on 24 August that the army's recent blockade of the Montenegrin-Bosnian border is just one more example of how the army works against Montenegrin interests, Montena-fax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2000). He added that the army has lost its Yugoslav character. In related news, shipyard director Stanko Zlokovic said in Bijela that officials of the Yugoslav navy tried to create bureaucratic difficulties for a ship that recently arrived from Cyprus for repairs. Zlokovic demanded a meeting with Montenegrin authorities and Yugoslav military officials to put an end to military practices that, Zlokovic argued, could deter potential customers from having work done in Montenegrin shipyards. PM

BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER BLASTS BELGRADE'S BLOCKADE

Milorad Dodik said in Banja Luka on 24 August that the Yugoslav army's blockade of the border between Montenegro and the Republika Srpska is an attempt to isolate Yugoslavia from positive political trends in the Bosnian Serb entity, "Vesti" reported. The Frankfurt-based Serbian daily added that its own unnamed sources in the Yugoslav military say the reason for the blockade is to break up a smuggling ring. PM

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER WARNS OF MILOSEVIC'S WARMONGERING

Ilir Meta said in Washington on 24 August that the international community must continue to support the democratic government of Montenegro in order to preserve peace in the Balkans. Meta told Reuters: "It is very important that the government of Montenegro be patient and determined to develop democracy. And it is very important for the international community to follow with great concern and care the developments in Montenegro in order not to be unprepared if Milosevic were to provoke another conflict there, as it looks [like he will]." Meta charged that the Yugoslav leader is a man "who cannot stop in his criminal course [of action].... He could kill for a certain period the hopes of the Serbs and Montenegrins for democratic change in Yugoslavia, [leaving] the international community without a party in existing Yugoslavia for working for democracy, for peace, stability and for regional cooperation." PM

BRITAIN SLAMS YUGOSLAVIA IN HOSTAGE CRISIS

British deputy UN representative Stewart Eldon sharply criticized the behavior of the Belgrade authorities in the ongoing crisis over Western detainees in the Serbian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). Eldon told the Security Council on 24 August: "The delay of 10 days between arrest [of two Britons] and the permission of consular access was unacceptable. The conditions under which the detainees are being held are also unacceptable. They are in solitary confinement," Reuters reported. The diplomat added that "these irregularities are inhumane and unjustifiable. The current situation is a sad comment on the state of the regime in Belgrade." Eldon repeated Britain's previous demand that the Yugoslav authorities "immediately release the men or bring charges." PM

MS. MILOSEVIC TO RUN FOR YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT

Mira Markovic, who heads the hard-line United Yugoslav Left (JUL) and is the wife of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, is running for a seat in the parliament in the 24 September elections. She will seek to represent the couple's hometown of Pozarevac at the head of a joint slate that includes Milosevic's party as well as JUL. This is the first time that she has run for that office, AP reported on 24 August. PM

YUGOSLAV REGIME TO 'RESPECT' ELECTION RESULTS

Milosevic aide and indicted war criminal Nikola Sainovic said in Belgrade on 24 August that the authorities will "respect the will of the citizens" as expressed in the upcoming ballot, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In other election news, the Yugoslav government decided to put aside $18 million in foreign exchange reserves to purchase crude oil and refined oil products to ease shortages in the runup to the elections, Reuters reported. And leaders of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement decided to take part in the federal elections, thereby ending their previous threat of a boycott. PM

GREEK ANARCHISTS SET FIRE TO YUGOSLAV DIPLOMAT'S CAR

Members of an anarchist group calling itself Anarchist Struggle set fire to the car of the Yugoslav military attache in Athens in the early hours of 25 August, Reuters reported. Nobody was injured. The news agency said that the incident seems to be the latest in a series of apparently random attacks on cars with diplomatic license plates and was not necessarily directed against Yugoslavia. Most diplomats in Athens drive cars with ordinary Greek license plates to avoid being targeted by terrorists. PM

'ROAD RAGE' IN KOSOVA

A crowd of ethnic Albanians set fire to a vehicle belonging to the International Organization for Migration in Skenderaj on 25 August. The vehicle had blocked a road for three hours while police checked it for a bomb that was alleged to be in the vehicle. The bomb threat turned out to be a hoax, AP reported. An IOM spokeswoman said in Geneva that the driver of the vehicle was forced to seek safety from the angry Kosovars in a nearby UN building. She added: "The IOM, which has been working for over one year towards the rebuilding of Kosovo, is outraged at this event and has turned the matter over to the criminal authorities." PM

KOSOVARS SLAM KFOR

Some 200 angry mourners attended the 24 August funeral in Svinjare of two ethnic Albanians recently killed by peacekeepers from the United Arab Emirates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2000). The local mufti said: "This is a nasty killing and especially because it comes from a Muslim brother. Those responsible should receive the deserved punishment," AP reported. A relative of the dead men added: "They resisted Serbian oppression only...to be killed now, in their own land. No one ever imagined that KFOR soldiers would shoot and kill the people of Kosova." PM

CROATIA UPBEAT ON TOURIST SEASON

Despite a heat wave that has led to numerous fires, the Croatian government believes that this year's tourist season will be a success, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 August. Total tourist revenues are expected to reach $3.2 billion , and the total number of overnight stays by tourists is up 47 percent compared with 1999. PM

ROMANIAN LIBERALS DEMAND FINANCE MINISTER'S DISMISSAL

In a 24 August press release, the National Liberal Party (PNL) asked Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu to distance himself from Finance Minister Decebal Traian Remes's political support, "Adevarul" reported. The demand comes one day after Remes and seven other PNL leaders announced they are leaving the PNL and setting up a "true" liberal group. The eight protested Theodor Stolojan's endorsement as the PNL's presidential candidate. The PNL, meanwhile, announced that it will analyze the possibility of withdrawing its political support for Remes as finance minister. ZsM

PRICE HIKES IN ROMANIA

The Romanian government has approved a 25 percent increase in thermal energy prices, Romanian media reported on 24 August. The increase will have a negative impact on the already high inflation rate, estimated by the government to reach 32-35 percent this year, higher than the initial government projection of 27 percent. The measure comes as an IMF mission in Bucharest reviews the country's economic performance, including the higher-than- expected inflation rate. The government also issued a decree announcing that parliamentary and presidential elections will take place on 26 November. ZsM

FBI OPENS BUCHAREST OFFICE

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a Legal Attache's Office in the Romanian capital on 24 August, Romanian media reported. The bureau will facilitate an information exchange between the FBI and Romanian secret services in the spheres of combating economic crime, flesh peddling, child pornography, and organized crime. The office, which is staffed by two FBI special agents and an assistant, will also offer training and modern equipment for combating cross-border crime. ZsM

FORMER BULGARIAN KING MEETS WITH PRESIDENT

The deposed king of Bulgaria, Simeon II, held talks with President Petar Stoyanov in Sofia on 24 August, dpa reported. Simeon, who was accompanied by his wife, Margarita, and his son, Prince Kardam, declined to comment on the meeting. There is some speculation that Simeon, who fled to Spain after he was deposed by the Communists in 1946, may be nominated as a candidate for president in elections scheduled to take place next year. PB

RUSSIA REQUESTS INFORMATION ON EXPELLED BUSINESSMEN

The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on 23 August that it has asked Bulgaria's National Security Service to provide information on its decision to expel four Russian businessmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000), Bulgarian Radio reported. The same day, Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raykov met with Russia's ambassador in Sofia, Vladimir Titov. The Russian side indicated that it is interested only in the cases of three of the Russians, not that of Michael Chorny, who also has U.S. and Israeli citizenship. The Financial Intelligence Service reported the following day that it has launched a probe into the origin of the money that Chorny invested in Bulgarian businesses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2000). PB




There is no end note today.







XS
SM
MD
LG