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Newsline - August 31, 2000




THREE MAIN TV STATIONS RETURN TO MOSCOW SCREENS...

State- run Russian Television (RTR) and Russian Public Television (ORT), which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, resumed limited broadcasting in the city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast at 6:00 p.m. local time on 30 August, following a three-day blackout caused by the Ostankino television tower blaze. The two stations are sharing a frequency normally used by RTR because a temporary transmitter affixed to the Ostankino tower permits broadcasts on one frequency only, "The Moscow Times" quoted an RTR spokesman as saying. Several hours later, NTV, which is part of Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST holding, was also back on Moscow's screens, broadcasting on a frequency used by the state- controlled Kultura station via a transmitter in the north of the capital, according to the daily. Earlier, only residents in the southeast of the capital had been able to receive NTV on a cable television network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). JC

...AS LESIN PROMISES MORE BROADCASTS SOON

Speaking on an ORT newscast on 30 August (which Reuters reported was broadcast under a joint RTR-ORT double logo), Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said the government is "planning to finish work and restart transmissions" by 4 September on frequencies assigned to TV6, in which Berezovskii and LUKoil have stakes, and NTV, Russian agencies reported. The minister also noted that normal transmission on frequencies assigned to ORT and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's TV Tsentr will resume by the middle of next week. JC

FIRE CHIEF BLAMES BUREAUCRATIC DELAY FOR SPREAD OF BLAZE

Moscow fire service chief Leonid Korotchik told journalists on 31 August that firemen fighting the blaze at the Ostankino television tower had to wait three hours to get authorization to cut off the power supply to the tower."If we had cut the power earlier," Korotchik said, "we probably would have been able to localize the fire." According to the fire chief, the failure to cut power supplies resulted in a series of short-circuits that set off new fires in the tower. Deputy Moscow Mayor Valerii Shantsev, who came to the scene of the fire, telephoned with his superior, Luzhkov, who then called President Vladimir Putin to get permission to switch off the power. Putin reportedly gave the order immediately, but AP pointed out that Korotchik did not explain why the president's go-ahead was required. According to the agency, safety regulation call for power supplies to be cut immediately in such cases. JC

OPERATION TO RAISE 'KURSK' TO BEGIN IN SEPTEMBER 2001

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said after talks with President Putin in Moscow on 30 August that the operation to raise the sunken nuclear submarine "Kursk" will begin in September 2001. He added that the technical side of the operation will be 100 percent Russian and the financialside international. He declined to say how the vessel will be raised. Meanwhile, teams of Norwegian and Russian divers will begin retrieving the bodies of the "Kursk" crew next month, Klebanov said at the same briefing. The deputy premier noted that the Norwegian divers will remain in the diving bell, while only their Russian counterparts will enter the submarine. Prior to the operation, the Russian divers will undergo training at Norwegian rescue base, Interfax reported. JC

MOSCOW TO GIVE UZBEKISTAN 'ALL NECESSARY' HELP

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 30 August that Russia will provide Uzbekistan with "all necessary assistance, and not only in the field of politics," to combat extremists there, Interfax reported.Ivanov said that "at this stage, the Uzbek administration has requested help with some types of weapons." Uzbek President Islam Karimov has twice deniedrequesting such help (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000 and below). Meanwhile, the Russian arms exporting agency, Rosvooruzhenie, refused to comment on supplying arms to Uzbekistan, but Russian analysts said the current crisis could give Moscow new arms sales opportunities in that region.PG

RUSSIA TO WITHDRAW FROM CIS VISA-FREE REGIME

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on Ekho Moskvy on 30 August that Russia is preparing to withdraw from the Bishkek agreement on visa-free travel among most CIS countries.He said that Russian officials are preparing documents informing the other countries of Moscow's plans, which would go into effect 90 days after this notification.This declaration will not affect Moscow's arrangements with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine, he said, as "these countries were not parties to the Bishkek Agreement."PG

RUSSIA, BELARUS PLAN FOR INTRODUCTION OF COMMON CURRENCY

Following a discussion of the macroeconomic situation in Russia and Belarus in the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus, the two countries have agreed to use the Russian ruble as their common currency beginning 2005, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Interfax on 30 August.In other comments, he said the two countries will discuss creating a union television and press system at their October sessions.Belarusian Prime Minister Vladimir Yermoshin, for his part, said that he is displeased with the work of the Union State staff up to now but saidthere are "reasons to hope" for improvement in the near future. PG

PUTIN VETOES MEETING BETWEEN CHECHEN PRESIDENT, DUMA DEPUTY

Newly elected Chechen Duma deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov told a press conference in Moscow on 30 August that during his meeting the previous day with the Russian president, Putin rejected Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's proposal that he and Aslakhanov should meet to discuss approaches to resolving the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported. Aslakhanov quoted Putin as saying that Maskhadov has no authority and is being used "as a banner" by field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab. Putin asked Aslakhanov to draft proposals for "normalizing" the situation in Chechnya, which will be submitted to the Kremlin administration. Aslakhanov said Putin expressed "full understanding" for the plight of the estimated 150,000 displaced persons from Chechnya who remain in Ingushetia. Western journalists who recently visited camps for displaced persons in Ingushetia quote them as saying that the Russian authorities are pressuring them to return to Chechnya. LF

CHECHEN OFFICIAL APOLOGIZES TO ARMENIA

Aldan Magomedov, who is deputy head of the pro-Moscow interim Chechen administration, hasmade an official apology to Armenia's ambassador in Moscow, Suren Sahakian, for allegations made by the chairman of the Moscow-based Chechen State Council, Malik Saidullaev, Snark reported on 29 August. Saidullaev had blamed feuding Armenian traders for the 8 August bombing in a Moscow underground pedestrian mall and offered a reward of $100,000 for information on those responsible. An official at the Armenian embassy in Moscow rejected Saidullaev's statement as "inadmissible and groundless" (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"25 August 2000). LF

PUTIN'S APPROVAL RATING REMAINS HIGH

According to the results of a poll conducted by VTsIOM and released by Interfax on 30 August, 60 percent of Russians approve ofPresident Putin's performance in office this month, virtually unchanged from the 61 percent who voiced approval one month earlier.PG

PUTIN VISITS YELTSIN, LEAVES FOR SAMARA

Before departing for Samara to discuss the development of Russian agriculture, President Putin paid a visit on 30 August to the country home of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, Russian news agencies reported.Officials refused to describe the content of their conversation. Also before his departure from the Russian capital, Putin met with members of the Russian Olympic team and told them that "we will be waiting for success in Sydney," ITAR-TASS reported.PG

RUSSIAN, U.S. PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES URGE DISASTER COOPERATION

Boris Gryzlov, the head of the Unity faction in the State Duma, and U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon sent a joint letter to their respective presidents on 30 August urging the development of a protocol on cooperating in the event of future disasters at sea, ITAR-TASS reported.PG

RUSSIANS ALLOW U.S. ENERGY CHIEF TO VISIT NUCLEAR FACILITY.U.S.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on 30 August visited a formerly closed nuclear weapons design facility in Sarov, earlier calledArzamas-16, AP reported.Richardson promised that the U.S. would provide $13 million to help transform the facility into a civilian technology park."Clearly, their welcoming me to this forbidden site is a positive development and an encouraging sign for U.S.-Russian relations," Richardson said. PG

ECONOMIC GROWTH MAY ALLOW FOR GREATER DEFENSE SPENDING

Anatolii Aksakov, the deputy chairman of the Duma's economic policy committee, said on 30 August that more rapid than expected economic growth may allow the parliament to increase defense spending to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2001, Interfax reported.But Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev said the same day that the government does not intend to increase the defense spending figures contained in the draft budget already sent to the Duma. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin had told reporters earlier this month that under the draft 2001 budget submitted to the government, 206.32 billion rubles ($7.4 billion) has been earmarked for national defense. This amounts to 2.66 percent of next year's projected GDP, compared with 2.39 percent in the 2000budget. PG

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES U.S. ON IRAQ

Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 30 August that "the pressure being put on Iraq by the U.S. is worsening the humanitarian situation in the country and complicating the search for a settlement on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions."His comments came after he had discussed Iraq, the Middle East, and other issues on the telephone with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.PG

MOSCOW CONCERNED ABOUT POSSIBLE INTERNATIONALIZATION OF COLOMBIAN CONFLICT

As U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Colombia to discuss fighting the spread of illegal drugs, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 30 August expressing its concern about the possible introduction of "a large- scale military operation involving foreign advisers and defense hardware" to combat drug trafficking, Interfax reported.PG

HEARING TO TAKE PLACE ON ACCUSED U.S. SPY'S APPEAL

The Moscow city court will hold a hearing on an appeal by Edmond Pope, a U.S. citizen who is accused of espionage and who seeks release from prison while his case is being prepared, Interfax reported on 30 August.The U.S. embassy in Moscow has guaranteed that he will show up at his trial if he is released, and the U.S. State Department has called for his release.PG

MOSCOW EXPECTS JAPAN'S ANSWER ON PEACE TREATY

Russian Foreign Ministry officials told Interfax on 30 August that during President Putin's upcoming visit, Moscow expects Japan to provide an official answer to Russian proposals that a peace treaty between the two be concluded even before agreement is reached on the disputed territories.These officials also said that they anticipate a new program for expanded trade and economic ties between the two countries to emerge from the 3-5 September meetings. PG

MORE POSITIVE ECONOMIC DATA

The State Statistics Committee reported on 30 August that the federal budget surplus was 3.8 percent of GDP in the first six months of 2000, Interfax reported. It added that foreign investment in Russia has risen 11.9 percent (to $4.78 billion) during the first half of this year as compared with the same period in 1999.A recent poll of more than 1,000 business leaders in Russia said that the business climate there is the best in more than five years. But Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov complained on 30 August that Japanese investment in Russia's Far East is both insufficient and declining.PG

MOSCOW IMPOSES EXPORT CONTROLS ON FUEL OIL

Energy Ministry officials told Interfax on 30 August that Russian oil companies and refineries will not be allowed to export more than 10 percent of fuel oil production and 25 percent of diesel fuel production in September.PG

MOSCOW POLICE SEIZE HEXOGEN BOMB

Police in the Russian capital have arrested a 40-year-old man from Tambov who was carrying a hexogen bomb of the kind used in four bombings last September, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August.Hexogen is a special military explosive. The arrest follows the detention last week of two arms dealers in Tver who were in possession of some 5 kilograms of this special substance, dpa added. PG

SHAIMIEV REAFFIRMS IMPORTANCE OF STATE TREATY

Speaking on the Day of the Republic and the 995th anniversary of the founding of Kazan, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said the Russian-Tatarstan power-sharing treaty is "the guarantor of the stability of relations between the federal center and the region,"ITAR- TASS reported. PG

RED CROSS PROVIDES AID TO YAKUTIA

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have sent 300 tons of food, clothes, and school materials to 13 Arctic areas inYakutia, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August.Schoolchildren in the Komi republic are less fortunate. There, the power company has turned off the power to almost all educational establishments because they have not paid for past energy supplies, according to the Russian agency.PG

MINISTRY WON'T CONTROL BOLSHOI 'IN SOVIET SENSE'

Responding to criticism of President Putin's decision to place the Bolshoi Theater under the Culture Ministry, Mikhail Shvydkoi said his ministry will not oversee the theater "in the Soviet sense of the word,"Interfax reported.He said he and his staff will work to ensure the theater's artistic independence and physical well-being.PG

MORE INTERIOR MINISTRY EMPLOYEES DYING ON THE JOB

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo told Interfax on 30 August that 28 employees of internal affairs agencies died on the job last week, making those seven days "the hardest" in a long time.He said that 14 had been killed while detaining suspects and another 14 in combating Chechen fighters. In an average week, he said, between sevenand 15 internal affairs agency employees die in the performance of their duties.PG




EXPLOSION AT HOME OF ARMENIAN MILITARY PROSECUTOR- GENERAL

An explosion late on 29 August in the basement of the Yerevan home of Gagik Djahangirian caused minor damage and no injuries, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported the following day. Police have launched an investigation but released no details of the cause of the blast. Djahangirian has been repeatedly criticized for his conduct of the investigation into the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings. Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports claim that one of the detained suspects accused of selling assault rifles to the five gunmen responsible for those killings has died in jail under unknown circumstances. LF

FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER TO FOUND OWN POLITICAL PARTY

Aram Sargsian, who succeeded his murdered brother, Vazgen, as Armenian prime minister and served in that capacity from last November until mid-May, intends to found his own political party, according to Snark on 29 August, as cited by Groong. Sources close to Sargsian told the agency that the nucleus of the new, as yet unnamed party will be members of the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans who were elected to the present parliament on the slate of Vazgen Sargsian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The defection of some HHK parliamentary deputies would increase the likelihood of the collapse of the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc, within which the HHK is the senior partner, and the creation of a new intra-parliamentary alliance of which the nucleus would be the remaining members of the HHK. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER QUESTIONED OVER PLANE HIJACK

Isa Gambar, chairman of the opposition Musavat Party, was summoned on 30 August to the Prosecutor-General's Office and questioned for 90 minutes about his connections with the Musavat Party member responsible for the abortive 18 August hijack of an Azerbaijani Airlines aircraft and with other suspects in that case, Turan reported. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani government print and electronic media carried extensive coverage on 30 August of the Musavat party's alleged responsibility for the hijack attempt and called for the party's registration to be revoked and for the party to be banned from contesting the 5 November parliamentary poll. The Central Electoral Commission has, however, registered the list of Musavat candidates to contest the poll in single-mandate constituencies, according to Turan on 30 August. LF

WORLD BANK CRITICIZES GEORGIA OVER AMBIGUOUS TAX STATUS

Tofik Yaprak, who heads the World Bank mission in Tbilisi, said on 30 August that the bank may suspend the implementation of projects in Georgia unless the Georgian government clarifies how much tax it should pay on those projects, Caucasus Press reported. Yaprak said some projects have been suspended for the past 10 months, stressing that the bank is not asking for tax exemption but merely clarification of its tax liabilities. Caucasus Press quoted him as suggesting that funds allocated for World Bankprojects may have been diverted to fill gaps in the domestic budget. LF

JAILED GEORGIAN WARLORD PROTESTS IMMINENT TRANSFER TO LABOR CAMP

Georgia's Minister of Justice Djoni Khetsuriani has rejected a plea by Loti Kobalia, the former commander of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia's National Guard, not to be transferred from a Tbilisi prison to a labor camp, Caucasus Press reported on 30 August. Kobalia was sentenced to death in 1996 for his role in Gamsakhurdia's failed attempt to regain power in the fall of 1993, but that sentence was later commuted to 20 years' imprisonment. He went on hunger strike last month to protest his proposed transfer and to demand hospitalization. Kobalia believes the Georgian authorities are planning to have him murdered by a fellow camp inmate. LF

MOSCOW TALKS ON ABKHAZ CONFLICT CONCLUDE

A CIS working group held talks in Moscow on 28-30 August on the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Participants were to try to determine the reasons for the failure to implement resolutions on Abkhazia that were adopted at CIS summits in 1996 and 1997. Georgian media have carried no details of the talks. LF

KAZAKH LEADERSHIP POSTPONES PLANNED DIALOGUE WITH OPPOSITION

The "national dialogue" between representatives of the Kazakh leadership and the opposition, which was scheduled for 31 August, will not take place, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 30 August, citing sources within the presidential administration. Those sources claimed that the opposition parties aligned in the Forum of Democratic Forces of Kazakhstan had refused to participate in the exchange.Ghaziz Aldamzharov, who heads the executive committee of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL that the reason for the opposition's refusal to participate is that no agenda for the talkswas ever drafted. The idea of such a dialogue was first floated last year by the party's chairman, Akezhan Kazhegeldin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN CALLS UP RESERVE OFFICERS

Kazakhstan has begun mobilizing reserve officers for a three-year term, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August, citing sources in the Kazakh Defense Ministry. So far, those called up are mainly engineers, communications specialists, medical personnel, teachers, and journalists. Local observers link the mobilization with the threat posed to Kazakhstan by the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. LF

AGA KHAN VISITS KYRGYZSTAN

Prince Karim Aga Khan IV met in Bishkek on 30 August with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev to discuss the planned Central Asian University, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The Aga Khan has donated toward the Dushanbe and Bishkek colleges of that institution a total of $5 million each. The university will also have colleges in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, according to Interfax.The Bishkek college will focus on the study of the mountain regions of Kyrgyzstan and providing educational opportunities for residents there. The Aga Khan also met in Bishkek with the speakers of both chambers of Kyrgyzstan's parliament. LF

PARLIAMENT DEPUTY BRINGS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST INDEPENDENT KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER

Hearings began in a Bishkek district court on 29 August in a civil libel suit brought against the newspaper "Asaba" by parliamentary deputy and former Kirghiz Communist Party First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. UsubAliyev claims that over the past eight years "Asaba" has repeatedly published materials insulting him, and he is demanding 50 million soms (approximately $1.06 million) in compensation. He also wants publication of the newspaper suspended for the duration of the investigation period. The newspaper's editorial board believes the court case is intended to stop the newspaper publishing in the runup to the 29 October presidential poll. Usubaliev, who is now 81,is not eligible to contend the poll, as the upper age limit for candidates is 65.LF

CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY DELEGATION DISCUSSES COOPERATION WITH TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov met in Dushanbe on 29 August with a visiting delegation of the Chinese Communist Party headed by Minister for Party Affairs Dai Bingguo, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Topics of discussion included bilateral relations and expanding political, economic and military cooperation and regional security within the framework of agreements signed by the "Shanghai Five." Rakhmonov appealed to Beijing to use China's status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to urge that body to intensify its efforts to end the civil war in Afghanistan. LF

BORDER CLASHES CONTINUE IN KYRGYZSTAN

Further clashes between Kyrgyz government troops and Islamic militants were reported early on 30 August near the Jyluu-Suu border post in Batken Oblast, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Two attempts by militants the previous night to break through into Kyrgyz territory were repelled without casualties on the Kyrgyz side. Authorities in Kyrgyzstan's Djalalabad Oblast, which borders on Uzbekistan, continue to intensify patrols along the border. Meanwhile, Tajikistan has sent additional troops to man its borders with Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August, citing sources within one of the Tajik power ministries. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN AID NOT NECESSARY

Addressing the Uzbek parliament in Tashkent on 30 August, Islam Karimov said that Uzbek troops on 28 August killed eight members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Reuters reported. "I can say with confidence that within two or three days the entire group of bandits will be wiped out," he added. Last week Karimov had warned that the campaign against the militants would be both difficult and protracted (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"23 August 2000). Karimov again denied that he has asked Moscow for any assistance in combating the guerrillas. He said that if he had considered such help was needed, he would have raised the subject with Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov during the Bishkek meeting of Central Asian presidents on 20 August. Karimov also appealed for greater cooperation from Tajikistan in combating the IMU militants, according to Interfax. An Interfax commentator on 30 August cited unnamed military experts as noting "good teamwork" between Kyrgyz and Uzbek government forces fighting the militants. LF

TURKMEN ENVOY SEEKS TO MEDIATE IN AFGHAN CONFLICT

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's special envoy Boris Shikhmuradov arrived in Islamabad on 30 August from Kabul for talks on the prospects for ending the war in Afghanistan, Reuters and AP reported. Shikhmuradov said that during talks on 28 August with Taliban representatives, the latter had shown readiness to begin unconditional peace talks. He added that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had ordered the release of 85 prisoners "as a gesture of good will." "There is a very good chance to stop bloodshed in Afghanistan" he predicted, explaining that his optimism is based on the readiness of neighboring countries to develop cooperation with the Taliban, whom they consider "a strong political reality." Shikhmuradov said the leadership of Iran, which he visited prior to arriving in Kabul, expressed support for his peace mission. As Turkmen foreign minister, Shikhmuradov visited Pakistan last year in the hope of mediating a solution to the Afghan conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1999). LF




OSCE RECOMMENDS SENDING 'LIMITED MISSION' TO BELARUS POLLS

Experts from the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament, meeting in Vienna on 30 August, recommended that the OSCE send a "limited technical assessment mission" to the 15 October legislative elections in Belarus. In an adopted document, the experts said the electoral process in Belarus "still falls short of the internationally agreed criteria." They stressed that the mission's presence in Belarus would not "constitute an act of international recognition of the democratic character and outcome of the parliamentary election process." The OSCE is to discuss these recommendations on 31 August. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT BEMOANS 'SLACKENING'IN UNION WITH RUSSIA

Alyaksandr Lukashenka complained to Russian Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov in Minsk on 30 August that the Belarus-Russia Union has not only stopped evolving but also is witnessing a "slackening" in relations between the two countries, Belarusian Television reported. "I have the impression that those who once fiercely obstructed the signing of [the 8 December 1999 Union Treaty] are now ruining what has been created, [taking advantage of the fact that] President [Vladimir] Putin is absorbed in some way or other by events of recent months" Lukashenka said. He cited Moscow's re-establishment of customs controls on the Belarusian-Russian border as a development that impairs bilateral ties. Zyuganov assured Lukashenka that Russia's relations with Belarus are a "number one priority." "If we fail here, with whom else will Russia be able to build relations?" Lukashenka responded. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES CABINET TO SEEK IMF CREDITS

Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 30 August that Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet must prompt the IMF to resume its $2.6 billion loan program to Ukraine, Interfax reported. Kuchma said he realizes that the IMF might have suspended its loan program because the former cabinet of Valeriy Pustovoytenko was "non-reformist." "But today the West recognizes [Yushchenko's] cabinet as reformist, so why do they refuse to give credits to [someone with such a good name]?" Kuchma asked. He noted thathe currently does not intend "to make conclusions regarding Yushchenko's government" but promised that they will be not long in coming. "An IMF mission arrives soon, and after a meeting with them I will understand what demands they are making," Kuchma added. JM

UKRAINIAN AUTHORITIES ACCUSED OF SEEKING TO OBSTRUCT SINGLE ORTHODOX CHURCH

Metropolitan Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate), has criticized the authorities' approach toward the creation of a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Interfax reported on 30 August. "There are declarations but no desire; on the contrary, there is opposition [by the authorities]," Filaret noted. He said President Leonid Kuchma should have asked theRussian Orthodox Church to grant not autonomy but autocephaly to its branch in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). Autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Filaret argued, could provide canonical grounds for the unification of the Moscow-subordinated Church with the two other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. Filaret said the only way to create a single Church under current circumstances is to convene an All-Ukrainian Council of Bishops that would take a decision to that effect. JM

BALTIC, NORDIC FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET...

Foreign ministers from the Nordic and Baltic countries met on 29-30 August in Middelfart, Denmark, to discuss regional cooperation. The ministers also touched upon EU and NATO enlargement. Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen said EU enlargement is "well on track," adding that "the Baltic countries have made impressive progress economically and in other areas, and their membership perspective is now very clear," BNS reported. The group agreed that the EU's Inter-Governmental Conference should conclude by year's end that the EU must be ready for enlargement by 2002. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who also took part in the meeting, suggested the Baltic countries are on their way to both NATO and EU membership: "I am sure that both processes will end happily soon,"he commented. MH

...NOW UNDER NEW FORMULA OF 'EIGHT'

After years of meeting under the so-called "5+3" formula, the foreign ministers decided to recognize the strengthened cooperation between the two regions by holding such meetings under the "8" formula from now on. Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves called the move "logical and sensible," ETA reported. Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said such a change is "not only symbolic" but also indicative of changing attitudes,BNS added.MH

LATVIAN LUSTRATION LAW SURVIVES COURT CHALLENGE

The Latvian Constitutional Court on 30 August ruled against a challenge to the lustration law, which bans former KGB agents and members of organizations outlawed after 13 January 1991 from running for local and national office, LETA reported. Aleksandrs Bartasevics, one of the 23 opposition lawmakers who filed the challenge, said Latvian elections will be less than free as a result of the ban.MH

RUSSIA NOT TO EXTRADITE TO LATVIA WITNESSES IN 'PEDOPHILIA SCANDAL'

The Office of the Russian Prosecutor-General informed its Latvian counterpart on 30 August that it will not extradite two witnesses in the so-called "pedophilia scandal." The two individuals allegedly made statements linking Interior Minister Mareks Seglins to the case, but Latvian prosecutors found those statements to be false, LETA reported. Russian officials detained the two individuals on 18 July after Latvian officials requested cooperation. MH

POLISH PREMIER URGES SOLIDARITY GROUPS TO UNITE

Jerzy Buzek on 30 August urged parties that originated in the former Solidarity movement to work together to prevent the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) from winning elections next year. "We must not allow the four years between 1993 and 1997 to be repeated," he said, referring to the period when Poland was ruled by the SLD in coalition with the Peasant Party. Buzek was addressing Solidarity's one-day extraordinary congress convened in Gdansk to celebrate the trade union's 20th birthday. The congress adopted a resolution thanking Pope John Paul II for his guidance and support. "At the same time we would like to apologize to you, Holy Father, for our mistakes in managing the freedom we regained," the delegates wrote, mentioning unemployment and poverty as the evils they have not been able to prevent in Poland. JM

POLISH CENTRAL BANK RAISES KEY INTEREST RATES BY 1.5 PERCENT

The Monetary Policy Council, which oversees the policies of Poland's National Bank, announced on 30 August that it is raising key interest rates by 1.5 percent in order to curb inflation. The annual inflation rate in July stood at 11.6 percent. The council increased the intervention rate to 19 percent, the Lombard rate to 23 percent, and the discount rate to 21.5 percent. JM

AUSTRIA APPEALS TO BERLIN TO BACK OPPOSITION TO TEMELIN...

Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Vienna on 30 August that "we are calling on our German colleagues to support Austria" in efforts to "protect its population," a reference to the Czech Republic's planned start-up of the Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported, citing the Austrian news agency APA. Ferrero- Waldner said "we must have our tests" carried out to ensure the plant's safety before it is put into operation in September. Ferrero-Waldner said Austrian and Czech experts will discuss Temelin on 2 September. In a television interview, the foreign minister also said that "shadows of the past...should be resolved," a reference to the Czech government's refusal to abrogate the Benes decrees. PB

...WHILE CZECH, AUSTRIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS ISSUE

Czech President Vaclav Havel and his Austrian counterpart, Thomas Klestil, discussed the controversy over the Temelin nuclear power plant by telephone on 30 August, CTK reported. Havel told Klestil that there is no reason to link the safety of the plant to the Czech Republic's efforts to join the EU. The two agreed that experts need to analyze the safety of Temelin and guarantee that the plant meets international standards. Havel emphasized that the plant's safety is of paramount importance to Czechs. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said the previous day that Vienna will block the Czech Republic's efforts to join the EU if the plant does not pass safety and environmental standards. PB

HUNDREDS GATHER IN SLOVAKIA TO PROTEST RACIAL HATRED

A demonstration was held on 30 August in the northern Slovak city of Zilina, where a Romany woman was recently beaten to death (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2000), to protest racism against Roma, AP reported. Some 300 people, including some Slovak parliamentary deputies, gathered in the downtown area. Police said the protest was peaceful, despite the presence of some skinheads. The husband of the woman who was killed said he will seek to leave the country with his eight children. The Slovak government said the same day that it "sharply condemns" the attack and will use all means to "catch the perpetrators of this brutal act as soon as possible." PB

SLOVAK BANK SCRAPS PLAN FOR COMMEMORATIVE COIN OF 'ARYANISER'

The board of the Slovak National Bank said on 30 August that it has decided not to issue a commemorative silver coin honoring popular children's author Ludo Ondrejov. The board cited his role in taking over a bookshop that was confiscated from its Jewish owners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2000), CTK reported. PB

AUSTRALIAN COMPANY SEEKS OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT WITH HUNGARY

A group of investors in Esmeralda--the Australian owner of the Romanian Aurul gold mining company, which caused the cyanide spill into the Tisza River in January-- were in Budapest on 30 August to discuss with the Hungarian government an out-of-court settlement of compensation claims. Government Commissioner Janos Gonczy said Hungary is interested in "all decent offers" but continues to claim compensation totaling 29.3 billion forints ($100 million), Hungarian media reported. MSZ




SLOVENIA MARKS TEN YEARS OF DIPLOMATIC ACTIVITY

Lojze Socan, who was Slovenia's first unofficial diplomat in Brussels in 1990, told a press conference in Ljubljana on 29 August that his country can look back on 10 years of successful diplomatic activity. He noted that there is a broad consensus in Slovenian society on the most important foreign policy issues, "Delo" reported. PM

AUSTRO-SLOVENIAN RELATIONS PROBLEMATIC?

Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle declined to comment at the 29 August Ljubljana press conference on the current state of Austro-Slovenian relations, "Delo" reported. He was asked about recent remarks by Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner regarding the current legal status of Yugoslavia's World War II-era Avnoj decrees, whichled to the loss of property by and deportation of ethnic Germans from Slovenia. He noted that the Czech authorities have not responded to similar remarks by Ferrero-Waldner on the Benes decrees, which had a similar effect on Czechoslovakia's large German population. Peterle said that he will comment on relations with Vienna at the end of the week, after he returns from an international conference in Alpbach, Austria. Elsewhere, Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk wrote President Milan Kucan that any problems arising from the Avnoj decrees are a bilateral issue between Ljubljana and Vienna and will not affect Slovenia's application for EU membership, "Dnevnik" reported. PM

SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS HE HAS RIVAL

Peterle also told the press conference in Ljubljana on 29 August that he is "surprised" by Kucan's recent refusal to approve the recall of five ambassadors abroad, "Delo" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2000). Peterle stressed that the diplomats' mandates had expired and that they were overdue for replacement by the ministry. He joked that it seems that Slovenia has more than one foreign minister. This was a reference to the fact that the constitution assigns the president only limited powers. PM

SLOVENIAN PARTIES GIRD UP FOR ELECTIONS

In the runup to the 15 October parliamentary elections, political parties are already mapping out their electoral strategies and planning their conventions, "Dnevnik" reported on 31 August. The conservative Social Democrats will make it clear in their electoral program that they have no intention--as had been rumored--of boycotting the poll. The will also stress that they donot rule out any other party as a potential coalition partner. For their part, the Liberal Democrats will increase the number of women candidates in an effort to win women's votes. PM

CROATIAN POLICE 'MISLAID' BOMB VICTIM'S CALL FOR PROTECTION

The Interior Ministry said in a statement in Zagreb on 30 August that recent bomb victim Milan Levar's request for police protection was "mislaid," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). Some 60 persons are now under police investigation in the murder case, "Jutarnji list" reported. Levar had twice declined the Hague-based war crime tribunal's offer of "protective measures" abroad because he wanted to stay in Croatia. In The Hague, Deputy Prosecutor Graham Blewitt told AP that he fears that Levar's murder will have a deterrent effect on other individuals who are willing to tell the tribunal what they know about war crimes committed by their own side. Levar was such an individual. PM

SERBIAN ELECTIONS TO TAKE PLACE IN KOSOVA?

Gorica Gajevic, who is the general secretary of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party, said in Gracanica on 30 August that "we will have federal and presidential elections in the Kosovo Serb enclaves, wherever it is possible," AP reported. She added that she expects some 500 polling places to be set up in the province for the 24 September vote. In Prishtina, Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's civilian administration, said he has received no formal request from Belgrade to organize the vote in Kosova. Kouchner stressed that any elections will have to be held throughout the provinces and not just in Serbian enclaves. PM

A ROLE FOR KOSOVA IN MILOSEVIC'S ELECTION CAMPAIGN

London's "Guardian" reported on 31 August that the Belgrade regime will seek to use the vote in Kosova for propaganda purposes. The ballots from Kosova will also be a "fertile area for voting fraud," the daily added. The regime will soon hold military exercises of a "Kosova unit" based in southern Serbia and perhaps claim that it is "returning to the province." Serbian forces left Kosova in June 1999. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PLEDGES UPBEAT CAMPAIGN

Zoran Djindjic, who is campaign coordinator for the united opposition, told a news conference in Pozarevac on 30 August that presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica and his supporters "will visit the 50 largest cities in Serbia in 12 days. Our aim is to create a positive atmosphere and encourage the people," Reuters reported. Kostunica himself said that he "expects to win because of the general mood in Serbia.... The prevailing feeling is that we're in need of change." PM

SERBIAN MEDIA FINDING 'REASON' FOR STAMBOLIC'S DISAPPEARANCE

Articles appeared recently in two leading regime dailies suggesting that former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic's recent disappearance might be linked to his alleged business interests in the Republika Srpska and in Montenegro, "Danas" reported on 31 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). PM

DIRECTOR OF SERBIAN NEWS AGENCY DIES

Dusan Djordjevic, who was the director of Tanjug and a prominent official in Milosevic's Socialist Party, died on 30 August after what Tanjug described as a long battle with an incurable disease. PM

DOLE BACKS MONTENEGRIN BOYCOTT OF YUGOSLAV VOTE

Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole told Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic in Dubrovnik on 30 August that he agrees with the Montenegrin government's decision to boycott the 24 September elections. Dole stressed that participation in the vote would serve only to legitimize Milosevic's rule (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 August 2000). PM

NEW YUGOSLAV POLICY ON BOSNIAN CARS

Beginning 30 August, drivers of cars from the Republika Srpska no longer have to pay a special duty on their cars when they cross into Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Drivers of cars from the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation must still pay that duty. PM

ANGRY INVESTORS CONTINUE PROTESTS

Angry investors in the private National Investment Fund (FNI), which collapsed in May, protested in Bucharest on 30 August, Romanian media reported. The new protests were prompted by a hearing involving the FNI and the state-owned CEC bank over the validity of a contract under which CEC should have guaranteed investments. Some 1,000 people took part in the protest and shouted slogans containing physical threats against Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu and Finance Minister Decebal Traian Remes. The fund has assets worth some 3 trillion lei ($150 million) and approximately 300,000 investors. The parliament has set up a special committee to investigate the case. ZsM

ROMANIAN LIBERALS PROPOSE NON-AGGRESSION PACT

National Liberal Party (PNL) First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica has proposed to the party's allies in the government coalition that they conclude an electoral non-aggression pact, Romanian media reported on 30 August. Stoica said during a press conference that economic reform and the country's EU and NATO integration process should continue. He added that coalition members should "identify the real political adversary," which, he said,is the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). He denied accusations that the PNL and PDSR have a secret agreement, adding that two other coalition members, the Democrat Party and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), are "much closer" to the PDSR. PNTCD Secretary-General Remus Opris, meanwhile, announced that his party has accepted the PNL offer to conclude a non- aggression pact. In other news, Stoica said the PNL considers the issue of dissident top PNL members, including Finance Minister Remes, to be over. ZsM

ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN CHIEFS OF STAFF DISCUSS BILATERAL COOPERATION

At a 30 August meeting in the western Romanian city of Oradea, Romanian Chief of Staff Mircea Chelaru and his Hungarian counterpart, Lajos Fodor, announced their intention to set up a Hungarian-Slovak-Ukrainian-Romanian mixed logistics battalion, "Ziua" reported. The idea of such a battalion came from the Hungarian side in the aftermath ofthe environmental disaster caused bythe cyanide spill into the Tisza River last January. Fodor said that the setting up of the battalion depends on political factors in the four countries involved. And in an effort to increase bilateral cooperation, the generals announced that officers from the Hungarian and Romanian armies will spend their vacations together. ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TRYING TO DRUM UP BUSINESS IN GERMANY

Petru Lucinschi said in Hanover on 30 August that Moldova will join the World Trade Organization by the end of this year, Infotag reported. Lucinschi, who is in Hanover for the World Expo 2000, said Moldova urgently needs foreign investment to improve its economy. He met with local government officials in Hamburg before travelling to Hanover. Lucinschi said Moldtelecom, the country's phone company, will be privatized next year. In other news, the Japanese government approved sending some 380 million yen (about $3.5 million) to help aid agricultural development in Moldova, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. The Japanese Foreign Ministry said the aid was requested by the Moldovan government and will be used to buy farm machinery in an effort to increase the yields of several crops. PB

BULGARIAN SAYS COUNTRY NEEDS MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Petar Stoyanov said on 30 August that Bulgaria must do more to attract U.S. investors, AP reported. Stoyanov, speaking in Sofia before flying to the U.S. for the UN Millennium Summit, said "we should be explaining the situation [in Bulgaria] all the time because there are good conditions for foreign investment." Foreign investment in Bulgaria totals only the equivalent of about $2.5 billion since 1992. By comparison, Hungary, which has nearly the same population as Bulgaria, has received some $17 billion in foreign investment over the same period, AP reported. PB




THE PASSING OF THE REVOLUTIONARY GENERATION


by Paul Goble

The death of former Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey removes from the political stage a distinguished representative of those popular revolutionaries who captured the imagination of the world at the end of the Soviet period.

Elchibey, who died of cancer at the age of 62 in an Ankara hospital, had a remarkable political career, one few would have predicted as recently as two decades ago. Jailed by Soviet officials in the 1970s for his political activities, he helped to found the Azerbaijani Popular Front and lived to see his country become independent.

During his brief time in office, Elchibey succeeded in getting Russian troops to leave Azerbaijan, establishing a national army, and introducing a Latin-based, rather than Cyrillic-based, alphabet. And he reoriented his country toward Turkey,the West, and democracy and away from dictatorship.

But Azerbaijani military failures in the war with Armenia over Nagorno- Karabakh and his own loss of control of the situation contributed to instability in Baku, ultimately sparking a military revolt against him. To spare his fellow Azerbaijanis further bloodshed, Elchibey decided to hand over power to Heidar Aliev, who had been Azerbaijan's Communist Party chief from 1969-1982.

After leaving office, Elchibey spent four years in a kind of internal exile in his native village in Nakhichevan, the non-contiguous portion of Azerbaijan--a move on his part that drew much criticism. In 1997, he returned to Baku and resumed a more active political role as head of the Azerbaijani Peoples Front during the last years of his life.

In many respects, Elchibey did not achieve his own political goals or match the expectations of his followers. But the outpouring of respect on the occasion of his death from both the current Azerbaijani government, which gave him a state funeral, and thousands of followers showed how much of an impact Elchibey had had on his people and his country.

One of the mourners spoke for many when he said that, "Elchibey was the only politician who had a conscience bigger than his ambition." Another said that "he was the one politician that I really believed in, really trusted. He had the type of integrity that few other politicians have today."

Beyond these biographical specifics, Elchibey was very much part of the group that played a significant role in the 1980s and early 1990s but now appears to be departing from the scene. These were the dissident outsiders who attacked the edifice of the Soviet state in the name of democracy and freedom but who often found themselves unable to manage the results of the revolution they had begun.

Like Elchibey, these charismatic leaders in many of the other former Soviet republics and Baltic states inspired enormous affection and respect both in their countries and abroad. They were democrats unsullied by the Soviet past, but at the same time, they often lacked the kind of political skills necessary to manage the successful revolutions that they themselves had promoted.

Andthey often have failed to deliver what they had so clearly promised. Sometimes, this was the result of personal failings and sometimesbecause of the absence of the necessary support domestically and from abroad.

But regardless of the cause, many of them have yielded their positions to members ofSoviet-era elites who have the political skills, if not always the democratic convictions, apparently required to managepost-Soviet regimes.

Consequently, the mourning over Elchibey represents more than sadness over the loss of one remarkable individual. It also reflects a growing awareness by many in both the former Soviet republics and the West that those who made the revolution in 1991 are passing from the scene and that they are being succeeded not by their own democratic progeny but by members and offspring of the ancien regime.


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