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Newsline - September 1, 2000




PUTIN TO ISSUE STATE COUNCIL DECREE

President Vladimir Putin told journalists in Samara on 31 August that he will issue the decree forming the new State Council on 1 September, Russian agencies reported. Putin told journalists that the council will be "an executive body and gather for work once every three months." He added that it will include governors and heads of republics forming the Russian Federation, will have a presidium representing each of the seven federal districts and filled on a rotational basis every six month, and will be led by the president himself. Although created by presidential decree, Putin said, the new body will be known not as the State Council of the President but rather the State Council of the Russian Federation. "Moskovskii komsomolets," which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, reported on 1 September that during his recent meeting with former President Boris Yeltsin, Putin offered him the post of State Council first secretary. Yeltsin reportedly asked for time to consider that offer. PG/LF

PUTIN SAYS RUSSIAN, REGIONAL LEGISLATION VARIANCE HAS BEEN GROWING...

Speaking in Samara on 31 August, President Putin reaffirmed the importance of uniform legislation across the entire country, Russian agencies reported. But he noted that while only 2,000 regional legal acts were at variance with federal legislation in 1998, that number had grown to 6,000 by this year, ITAR- TASS reported. He said that some progress had been made in reversing this trend but that the resolution of this problem will take some time. PG

...NOTES 50 PERCENT OF AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISES INEFFECTIVE...

Even as Russian officials announced that this year's harvest will preclude the need for importing grain, President Putin said that more than 50 percent of agricultural enterprises in the Russian Federation are ineffective, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that 6-7 percent of the country's agricultural equipment is being written off annually, while only 1 percent is being replaced. Putin's comments came after he spent the day reviewing agricultural production around Samara. PG

...PRAISES CABINET'S PERFORMANCE

President Putin also praised the first 100 days of the work of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's government, Interfax reported. "All the tasks given to the government by the president have been fulfilled," he said, while admitting that "there are some things the government could be criticized for." Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov dismissed media reports that he would soon be promoted to become prime minister as "nonsense," but he declined to say whether he would accept the post if he were offered it, ITAR- TASS reported. PG

PUTIN BLAMES OLIGARCHS, MEDIA FOR COUNTRY'S RUIN

A transcript of President Putin's 22 August remarks to the families of the sailors of the "Kursk," published by "Vlast" on 31 August, has him blaming Russia's military fortunes on the oligarchs and independent media. The oligarchs, Putin said, "have embezzled enough, bought up the media, and are now manipulating public opinion." He suggested that these people had ruined the country over the last 15 years and are now trying to "show the military and political leadership that we need" the media. But Putin added that he is "ready to account for the 100 days that I have been president." With regard to the Russian navy's shortage of rescue equipment, Putin said "it has been ruined and there isn't a fig left. There isn't a fig left in the country." PG

ONE YEAR NEEDED TO REPAIR OSTANKINO TOWER, SAYS OFFICIAL

Head of the State Construction Committee Anvar Shamuzafarov predicted on 31 August that it will take one year to carry out all repairs to the Ostankino television tower, which was badly damaged in a fire earlier this week. The first priority, Shamuzafarov said, will be to restore a passenger elevator, a cargo lift, as well as two smaller elevators, which he added will cost some 60 million rubles ($2.4 million) alone, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, the government on 31 August made an initial allocation of 16.78 million rubles for the repairs but has not yet announced the entire sum it is prepared to spend on restoring the tower. According to "The Moscow Times" on 1 September, some parts of the capital are still unable to receive the three main television stations that resumed broadcasting in Moscow on 30 August. A Russian Television spokeswoman explained that the temporary transmitter those stations are using is not powerful enough to reach all areas of the city. JC

NORTHERN FLEET SEEKS DIVERS TO RECOVER 'KURSK' CREW BODIES

The Northern Fleet has published an appeal in a leading Kaliningrad newspaper for qualified deep sea divers to help recover the bodies of the 118 men who perished in the "Kursk" nuclear submarine disaster, AFP reported on 31 August. The appeal asked military reservists or civilians with deep sea experience to call the fleet headquarters. AFP quoted a Northern Fleet officer as saying that the fleet has only 10 qualified divers among its ranks. Also on 31 August, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted retired naval officer and environmentalist Aleksandr Nikitin as saying that there could be radiation leaks from the sunken submarine in a few years. Nikitin dismissed the "collision theory" favored by Russian defense officials seeking to explain the cause of the disaster. In his opinion, the submarine sunk following the explosion of two torpedoes in the vessel's first compartment. JC

PUTIN NAMES COMMITTEE FOR MILITARY COOPERATION WITH FOREIGN COUNTRIES

President Putin has issued a decree appointing Prime Minister Kasyanov to head a presidential committee for military-technical cooperation with foreign countries, Interfax reported on 31 August. Other members of the committee include Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and deputy chief of the presidential administration Sergei Prikhodko, both of whom will become deputy chairmen of the new body. PG

KASYANOV CRITICIZES PRIVATIZATION EFFORTS

Prime Minister Kasyanov said on 31 August that privatization efforts in the early 1990s were frequently inconsistent with the government's economic policies and aims, ITAR- TASS reported. "At times, people got the impression that the sale of state property was an end in itself," he said, "but this was not correct." Now, he said, the government must carefully "coordinate the planned measures in the sphere of privatization with the structural reforms that the government is planning to conduct." PG

MOSCOW HOPES TO ATTRACT INVESTMENT VIA REVISED PRODUCT- SHARING AGREEMENTS

Deputy Energy Minister Valerii Garipov told ITAR-TASS on 31 August that Russia can count on as much as $80 billion in income over the next decade if it improves the system of product-sharing agreements. The news agency reported that amendments to the current system will be considered at a conference in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on 3 September and then be submitted to the cabinet within two months. PG

RUSSIAN RESERVES NEAR RECORD HIGH

The Russian Central Bank's holdings of gold and foreign exchange rose to $24.1 billion on 25 August, Interfax reported on 31 August. That number is close to the figure of $24.5 billion reached in the middle of 1997. Reserves have risen $11.6 billion since 1 January 2000. PG

KASYANOV PUTS STATE WAGE ARREARS AT 2 BILLION RUBLES

Prime Minister Kasyanov told ITAR-TASS on 31 August that wage arrears in the country's state sector now total nearly 2 billion rubles ($72 million), slightly more than in April 2000. He said that these arrears reflect nonpayments by regional budgets as "there have been no federal budget debts in the state sector for a long time." But he did acknowledge that there have been delays in the payment of state wages in August for what he said were purely technical reasons. PG

TAX CASES OPENED AGAINST ENERGY COMPANIES

Federal Tax Police Chief Vyacheslav Soltaganov said on 31 August that his agency has opened criminal cases against five companies in the energy sector, Interfax reported. He declined to name the companies already charged and added that investigations against LUKoil, Sibneft, and AvtoVAZ are ongoing. PG

KASYANOV APPROVES DRIVE FOR COMMON TAX POLICY IN RUSSIA- BELARUS UNION

Prime Minister Kasyanov on 31 August directed Russian negotiators to reach agreement with their Belarusian counterparts on standardized tax legislation and policy, ITAR-TASS reported. He called for the creation of a single tax code by July 2003. PG

TRANSPORT CORRIDOR VIA RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION URGED

Pavel Borodin, the state secretary of the Union of Belarus and Russia, has urged the creation of a unified transport corridor from Europe to East Asia through the Russia- Belarus Union, Interfax reported on 31 August. He said that the Russian government plans to consider this step, which he said would become "the backbone of our union state," at its 7 September session. In other comments, he said that Moscow and Minsk plan to initial an agreement before 15 September whereby the Russian Central Bank will grant the Belarusian National Bank two stabilization credits, one worth $200 million and the other 4.5 billion rubles ($160 million). And contradicting earlier reports, Borodin noted the union has not decided what to call the common currency, which is to be introduced at some point in the future. PG

ZHIRINOVSKII BLAMES ALL TRAGEDIES ON WEST

Vladimir Zhirinovskii, the leader of the extreme nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, announced on 31 August that he plans to tell the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at its September session in Prague about the role that he claims the U.S. special services have played in recent Russian events, Interfax reported. "Every recent event, in particular the bomb blast on Pushkin Square in Moscow, the sinking of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea, and the fire in the Ostankino television tower, seems to have its own causes," Zhirinovskii said, "but they fall into the pattern of episodes in World War III, which NATO started against Russia in 1949." PG

PUTIN TO SIGN ECONOMIC PACT ON KURILS DURING JAPAN VISIT

Deputy head of the presidential administration Prikhodko was quoted by RIA on 31 August as saying that during his 3-5 September visit to Japan, President Putin will sign a pact on developing economic cooperation on the Kuril Islands. Prikhodko noted that ownership of those islands is the most complicated issue to be discussed during the upcoming talks but will not dominate the agenda. Russia and Japan are locked in a dispute over who owns the islands, which Soviet troops seized at the end of World War II. In 1997, they agreed to work toward finalizing by 2000 a treaty formally ending wartime hostilities. In an interview with Japan's "Asahi Shimbun" newspaper published on 31 August, President Putin was quoted as saying that Japanese- Russian relations "cannot be based only on the solution of old problems," ITAR-TASS reported. JC

MOSCOW EXPRESSES 'SURPRISE' AT U.S. POSITION ON POPE

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 31 August expressed its surprise at what it said are "attempts by U.S. officials to assert [Edmond Pope's] innocence, something that only investigating and judicial bodies can do," Interfax reported. The ministry statement said that "Russian law- enforcement agencies have evidence that Pope collected secret data on Russia's defenses." The ministry added that "attempts to put pressure on the investigating and judicial bodies do not add to the prestige of the United States." Indeed, the ministry concluded, such "a policy is unacceptable." PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY SLAMS WASHINGTON FOR VISA DENIALS

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 31 August criticized the U.S. for refusing to grant entry visas to Cuban and Yugoslav parliamentary deputies wanting to attend a Inter-Parliamentary Union conference ahead of the Millennium Summit. The refusal, Moscow said, is a "flagrant violation" of the U.S.'s obligations to facilitate the entry of people taking part in UN events. Reuters points out that while the conference is taking part at the UN headquarters, the IPU is not a UN organization. JC

MOSCOW DENOUNCES ESTONIAN 'PROVOCATION' IN SPY CASE

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 31 August issued a statement denouncing as an unfounded provocation Estonia's decision to expel two Russian diplomats for espionage, ITAR-TASS reported. The ministry said Moscow is expelling two Estonian diplomats in response. Both countries said they will not name the individuals involved or provide any other details (see also Part II). PG

RUSSIAN, CHINESE BORDER GUARDS TO EXPAND COOPERATION

Russian and Chinese border guards officials have signed a protocol in Vladivostok on cooperation between their respective services, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. Cooperation between the two has cut the number of border violations in Primorskii Krai by 50 percent during this year, the news agency said. According to the border guards, 317 border violators were detained in the region in 1998, compared with 224 in 1999 and only 87 in the first six months of this year. PG

FSB SAYS THREE TURKS INTERCEPTED EN ROUTE FOR CHECHNYA

Three citizens of Turkey have been detained in Chechnya after illegally crossing into Russia from Georgia, Russian agencies reported on 31 August, citing the Federal Security Service (FSB). According to the FSB, the three men were recruited as mercenaries by field commander Khattab. They have been charged with illegally crossing the Russian border. They told investigators they entered Russia illegally from Georgia via the Verkhnii Lars border crossing on 20 August in search of employment. A spokesman for the Georgian Border Guard Service on 31 August denied that the three men crossed through the Verkhnii Lars border point on 20 August or that any Turkish citizens have entered Russia illegally from Georgia. LF

KAZANTSEV OUTLINES PRIORITIES

Speaking at a press conference in Rostov-na-Donu to mark his first 100 days as presidential representative to the South Russia federal district, Viktor Kazantsev said his primary objectives are to bring about peace and economic stability in the North Caucasus, according to "Trud" on 1 September. But he rejected calls for talks with the Chechen leadership on an end to the fighting, saying that they should either surrender unconditionally or be wiped out. Reflecting on his own efforts to defuse tensions between local politicians, Kazantsev said he is sure that interim Chechen leader Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and his deputy, Beslan Gantemirov, "will not fight each other." As for the two rival candidates in last year's presidential poll in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Kazantsev said that he had succeeded in "containing" their ongoing feud, but not in making them friends. LF

OFFICIAL CATEGORIZES ETHNIC GANGS IN MOSCOW

Moscow region criminal police deputy chief Vladimir Novokshchenov said on 30 August that currently there are 74 ethnic criminal groups operating in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that those groups have developed certain specializations: the Georgian group is engaged in robberies, the Azerbaijani group controls marketplaces and the flower business, and the Chechen-Ingush group engages in highway robberies. He noted that many of these groups have close ties with some customs offices. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry reported that these groups obtain weapons, ammunition, and explosives from combat zones in the North Caucasus under the guise of rescue equipment. PG

ANNA PAVLOVA'S ASHES TO RETURN TO RUSSIA

ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August that the ashes of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova will be returned to Russia from London for reburial in Moscow's Novodevichy cemetery. Pavlova, who was born in St. Petersburg in 1881 and established her reputation at the city's Mariinskii Theater, moved to London in 1912. When she died some 20 years later, her ashes were interred in the Golders Green cemetery. According to the Russian news agency, it was the dancer's stated wish to find her final resting place in Russia. JC




ARMENIA, GREECE PLEDGE TO CONTINUE DEFENSE COOPERATION

During a four-day official visit to Armenia that ended on 31 August, Greek Army Chief of Staff General Manousos Paraioudakis met with his Armenian counterpart, General Mikael Harutiunian, President Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to discuss expanding bilateral military cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Both Kocharian and Markarian characterized Armenian-Greek relations as "a strategic partnership," but Kocharian stressed that cooperation between the two countries is not directed at any third country (meaning Turkey), Noyan Tapan reported. Paraioudakis and Harutiunian specifically discussed ways of expanding Armenia's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace Program and the training of Armenian military personnel in Greece. Agreement was also reached on creating a working group that will consider possible joint defense industry projects. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECT'S DEATH IN DETENTION CONFIRMED

Armenian Interior Ministry official Artak Vartazian confirmed on 31 August that Norayr Yeghiazarian, who was under investigation for having allegedly sold assault rifles to the five gunmen who perpetrated the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings, was found dead in his cell on 29 August, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2000). Vartazian said the cause of Yeghiazarian's death has not yet been clarified but that he may have inadvertently electrocuted himself with a device for heating water. LF

LAWYER OF ARRESTED AZERBAIJANI EDITOR'S LAWYER ACCUSED OF VIOLATIONS

Vidadi Mahmudov, the defense lawyer of arrested opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" editor Rauf Arifloglu, was warned on 31 August by officials from the Prosecutor- General's Office that action may be taken against him for violating the confidentiality of the investigation of Arifoglu's case, Turan reported. Arifoglu, who has declared a hunger strike, is refusing to give evidence. He has appealed to fellow Azerbaijani media editors to abandon their stated intention to call on the Council of Europe not to grant Azerbaijan full membership in retaliation for its harassment of Arifloglu and of the opposition Musavat Party. Also on 31 August, the deputy editor of "Yeni Musavat," Gabil Abbasoglu, appealed to the leader of Azerbaijan's Muslims, Sheikh Allahshukur Pashazade, to try to secure Arifoglu's release. LF

AZERBAIJAN CONCLUDES OIL THEFT INVESTIGATIONS

The Azerbaijani Interior Ministry Investigation Department has concluded two separate investigations into the embezzlement in 1992-1994 of oil products valued at $76 million, Tutan reported on 31 August. A total of 16 people are implicated in those thefts, including former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev and former Ministers for Foreign Economic Relations Hafiz Babaev and Rauf Garaev. Many Baku observers believe the arrests in March of Babaev, Garaev, and the former director of the Bakinskii Rabochii plant, Mamed Veliev, were intended to substantiate the case against Guliev. Veliev's lawyer said in April that the alleged thefts never took place and that he can prove the innocence of all those detained (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 15, 14 April 2000). LF

GEORGIA MAY ASK OSCE TO MONITOR BORDER WITH INGUSHETIA

Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze told Caucasus Press on 31 August that Tbilisi may ask the OSCE to extend its monitoring of the Georgian-Chechen border to Georgia's border with Ingushetia. The OSCE currently has 42 observers deployed along that border. Those observers last month affirmed that they have registered no unauthorized border crossings since beginning their duties in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2000). Russian officials have repeatedly claimed that Chechen fighters and foreign mercenaries enter Chechnya from Georgian territory. More recently, they said that federal forces intercepted a group of such fighters in Ingushetia who had allegedly entered that republic from Georgia en route to Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 28 August 2000). LF

KAZAKH INDUSTRIAL CONGLOMERATE REJECTS ACCUSATIONS OF TAX EVASION

The directors of six companies aligned in the Eurasia Group issued a statement in Almaty on 31 August denying allegations by the Kazakh official media and by President Nursultan Nazarbev that they have systematically withheld taxes, Reuters and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 9 August 2000). The statement termed such media allegations "distorted [and] false" and "intended to mislead the president, government and society. They said the group, which claims to produce almost one quarter of the country's GDP, paid some 16.6 billion tenges ($139 million) in taxes in 1999. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO CLOSE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

Kazakhstan's Ministry of Energy, Industry and Trade said in a statement issued on 31 August that the country's sole nuclear power plant, in Mangyshlak, will be closed down in February 2001, Reuters reported. The U.S. will provide $3.8 million toward the cost of the closure. The plant was originally built to provide electricity for a desalination plant to provide drinking water for the Caspian port of Aqtau. LF

PROSECUTORS DEMAND 17-YEAR JAIL TERM FOR KYRGYZ OPPOSITIONIST

The prosecution in the trial of Topchubek TurgunAliyev has demanded a 17-year prison term for the defendant for his alleged leadership in a conspiracy to assassinate Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 31 August. Twelve people were arrested last summer in connection with that alleged conspiracy on the basis of testimony given to the National Security Ministry that was later retracted. TurgunAliyev was only later linked to the alleged plot. Three National Security Ministry officials said in court earlier this week that there is no concrete proof that the accused had formed a team capable of implementing the assassination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2000). TurgunAliyev is leader of the Erkindik (Liberty) party and chairman of the Guild of Prisoners of Conscience. He has twice been imprisoned, in 1995-1996 and 1996-1997, for criticism of President Akaev. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO REPEL ISLAMIC MILITANTS

In a speech made in Bishkek on 31 August to mark the ninth anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's declaration of independence, President Akaev vowed that "international terrorists" trying to penetrate Kyrgyz territory and to destabilize Central Asia will be "ignominiously expelled" and destroyed, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Police were placed on special alert for the anniversary celebrations in Bishkek and other cities, and have intensified surveillance of vehicles, especially in the capital, according to Interfax. LF

PAKISTAN ENDORSES TURKMEN PEACE PLAN FOR AFGHANISTAN

Meeting in Islamabad on 31 August with visiting Turkmen presidential envoy Boris Shikhmuradov, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar affirmed his country's "full support" for Ashgabat's "important initiative for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan," Reuters reported. Shikhmuradov had said the previous day that during talks with the Taliban leadership earlier this week, the latter had expressed willingness to begin unconditional peace talks with representatives of Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2000). The Taliban had earlier made such talks conditional on Massoud's recognition of them as the legitimate government. LF

UZBEK PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR STRENGTHENING OF NATIONAL UNITY

Lawmakers on 31 August adopted an appeal to the country's population to close ranks in order to counter the threat posed to Uzbekistan's security by "international terrorist groups," meaning militants from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Interfax reported. LF

FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES UZBEKISTAN HAS REQUESTED OUTSIDE HELP

Abdulaziz Komilov told foreign ambassadors in Tashkent on 31 August that "Uzbekistan has requested no military assistance from any country for the elimination of terrorists and is not going to do so," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that Uzbekistan has adequate resources to protect its borders. President Islam Karimov has similarly twice denied that Tashkent has asked Russia for assistance to repel the Islamists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 August 2000). Speaking in Moscow on 31 August, Colonel General Valerii Manilov, who is first deputy chief of Russian Army General Staff, denied that any of the Central Asian states has requested help from Moscow to combat the IMU, Interfax reported. But he added that Moscow's capacity for responding positively to such a request "is being analyzed." LF




BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS OSCE FOUND 'COMPROMISE' ON ELECTION OBSERVERS...

Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Ural Latypau on 31 August said the decision that the previous day's OSCE conference took on Belarus's 15 October legislative polls was "a victory of good will, a compromise that opens way for international observation of the elections" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 31 August 2000), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The OSCE decided to send a "limited technical assessment mission" to the elections to the Chamber of Representatives in Belarus. OSCE Minsk mission head Hans Georg Wieck told Reuters that the recommendations to send a truncated observation team were "a compromise allowing to continue democratization in Belarus with international involvement. This is neither a victory for the government, nor for the opposition." Wieck added that the recommendations must still be approved by the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. JM

...WHILE OPPOSITIONISTS DEEM OSCE DECISION '80 PERCENT' SUCCESS

Anatol Lyabedzka and Vintsuk Vyachorka, who spoke on behalf of the Belarusian opposition at the OSCE conference, said in Minsk on 31 August that they are satisfied with the OSCE's recommendations. "The main result [of the recommendations] is that there will be no international monitoring of the polls," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Lyabedzka as saying. Vyachorka said he disagrees with the point of the recommendations stating that "progress has been made in the four major fields related to the organization of democratic elections [in Belarus]." But he added that this formulation was the result of "frantic search for a compromise" during the conference. Lyabedzka and Vyachorka believe that the opposition scored "an 80-percent success" in its attempts to prevent the international community from recognizing Belarus's election process as democratic and fair. JM

UKRAINE DECLARES ECOLOGICAL DISASTER ZONE IN MASS POISONING AREA

President Leonid Kuchma on 31 August declared five villages in Mykolayiv Oblast--Boleslavchyk, Chausove-1, Chausove-2, Michurino, and Pidhirya--an ecological disaster zone, following a mysterious mass poisoning in July, Interfax reported. Health officials are now checking some 6,000 residents of villages around the disaster zone for symptoms of the poisoning. Ukraine intends to appeal to the World Health Organization and foreign governments to help it deal with the emergency situation. The government, meanwhile, seems split over the reason for the poisoning: some officials attribute it to a high concentration of nitrates in the soil, while others point to liquid rocket fuel waste possibly buried in the disaster area. Kuchma asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide information about the possible burial of military equipment and toxic substances in Ukraine in 1991. JM

UKRAINE ASKS MICROSOFT FOUNDER, WORLD BANK TO HELP COMPUTERIZE SCHOOLS

Education Minister Ivan Kremen on 31 August said his ministry had appealed to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the World Bank to help Ukraine computerize its schools, Interfax reported. Kremen added that the appeal has so far remained unanswered. The minister noted that the computerization of schools is one of the priorities in Ukraine's education system reform, which is currently under way. He said the government will spend 6.5 million hryvni ($1.2 million) this year to buy computers and provide access to the Internet for schools in the countryside, adding that the Internet helps form "not provincial but global awareness." JM

ESTONIA EXPELS ALLEGED RUSSIAN SPIES...

Estonia has ordered two Russian diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours for "activities not compatible with their status." Although the Estonian Foreign Ministry confirmed the expulsion, it refused to comment on the case. Citing an anonymous government source from the government, "Postimees" reported on 1 September that the two expelled diplomats allegedly went "over the permissible line" in collecting information about Estonia's border defense. "Postimees" also said it has "confidential information" that two weeks earlier the Foreign Ministry asked Russian Ambassador Aleksei Glukhov to remove the two diplomats. Estonia's Security Police also refused to comment on the matter. MH

...AND RUSSIA RETALIATES

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 31 August "rejecting the accusations" of spying from Estonia and calling Tallinn's action a "deliberate provocation" that "seriously damages Russian- Estonian relations," BNS reported. Russia retaliated and ordered two Estonian diplomats expelled, saying, "Estonia bears the full responsibility for this." The last time the two countries traded diplomatic expulsions was in May 1996. Also on 31 August, the two countries' interior ministers met in Pskov to discuss cooperation in the fight against crime. MH

OSCE SATISFIED WITH LATVIAN LANGUAGE REGULATIONS

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel on 31 August expressed his satisfaction with the regulations to Latvia's language law. In his statement, Van der Stoel said that those regulations are "essentially in conformity with both the law and Latvia's international obligations," BNS reported. He also noted that nearly all his recommendations were taken into account in the final version. However, Van der Stoel did ask the Latvian government to make some minor adjustments on issues such as simultaneous translations during public events. The law and regulations go into effect on 1 September. MH

CONVICTION IN LATVIAN 'PEDOPHILIA SCANDAL'

The Riga Regional Court on 31 August convicted Ainars Eisaks of sex charges, the first conviction among seven people charged in the so- called "pedophilia scandal." Eisaks, head of the Logos Centrs modeling agency, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail for "forcing or coercing minors to have sexual intercourse" and "attempting [to obtain] sexual gratification in an indecent manner," LETA reported. Eisaks was arrested in December 1999. MH

ANGRY LITHUANIAN WORKERS PRESSURED TO UNDERTAKE HUNGER STRIKE?

Workers at the Zalgiris machines tool plant in Vilnius have accused Eduardas Sabilinskas, a member of the opposition center-left New Alliance (Social Liberals), of trying to talk them into following the hunger strike action taken by workers at the Inkaras footwear factory in Kaunas, ELTA reported on 31 August. The report added that Sabilinskas represents the interests of one of the company's creditors. Apparently, the company owes its workers 8.5 million litas ($2.125 million). The workers have since filed a complaint to the Prosecutor-General's Office. MH

POLISH PRESIDENT OPTIMISTIC OVER FUTURE ECONOMIC TIES WITH EAST

Aleksander Kwasniewski told a business forum in Krynica Gorska, southern Poland, on 31 August that he expects improvements in Poland's economic ties with central and eastern European countries over the next five years, PAP reported. The Poland-East Economic Forum brought together some 800 participants from 15 countries, including Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, and Russia. Kwasniewski also said Poland is interested in the development of gas and oil transport infrastructure in Europe. Referring to the Yamal gas pipeline, he stressed that Poland will not agree to any pipeline construction project that could harm Ukraine's interests. JM

SOLIDARITY ENDS 20TH-BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS

Some 3,000 people gathered in Gdansk on 31 August to watch former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa lay a wreath at a monument to the Gdansk shipyard workers killed by communist army and police troops in 1970. " I wish to thank you not just for what I am now but for selecting me as your leader. I thank you for what we jointly did at that time for Poland, Europe, and the world," Walesa told the crowd. Later Cardinal Jozef Glemp and 30 bishops celebrated a special Mass at the monument, which was attended by top government and parliamentary officials as well as former British Premier Margaret Thatcher. JM

SENATOR LAMBASTES CZECH PREMIER'S HANDLING OF 'OPERATION LEAD' AFFAIR

Senator Richard Falbr said on 31 August that Prime Minister Milos Zeman's handling of the "Operation Lead" affair is a "very stupid and lame attack on journalists," CTK reported. In an interview with the daily "Pravo," Falbr, who also heads the Bohemian and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, said the fact that no one from the Social Democratic (CSSD) leadership is able to calm Zeman down shows the "idiotization" of the party leadership. Zeman replied that the statements "are embarrassing" and that he no longer wishes to see Falbr. Falbr ran on the CSSD list of candidates and is a member of the Social Democrat group of senators. Zeman has been criticized by many for his government's decision to file charges against two journalists from the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" who the cabinet says fabricated the "Operation Lead" document (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2000). PB

CZECH PREMIER DEFIANT ON TEMELIN

Zeman said on 31 August that he will not respond in words to Austria's complaints about the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000) but in deeds, by putting the plant into operation, CTK reported. Zeman, speaking in the north Moravian town of Havirov, said that "in approximately 14 days I will [respond to the Austrian statements] by deed," alluding to the putting into operation of the first reactor at the plant. It is expected to begin operating between 10-15 September, a timeframe that the Austrian government and environmental groups are trying to postpone. PB

AUSTRIA TO INITIATE TEMELIN DEBATE AT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Austrian representatives in the European Parliament said on 31 August that they will submit the Temelin nuclear plant controversy as a topic for discussion in that parliament next week, CTK reported. Austrian Christian Democrat and European Parliament deputy Marilies Flemming said it is "perverted" that the first reactor at Temelin is to be activated soon. She said the Czech government is trying to bypass EU standards. It is unclear if the European Parliament will add the Temelin issue to its agenda. PB

PROSECUTION OF SLOVAK DEPUTY STOPPED

Legal proceedings against former Interior Minister and current parliamentary deputy Gustav Krajci, who is charged with abuse of office, falsifying documents, and marring preparations for an election, have ended, CTK reported, citing TV Markiza. Prosecutor Michal Barila withdrew a complaint in a regional court filed against a Bratislava district court that had concluded its proceedings against Krajci in late June. Barila acted in accordance with a Constitutional Court decision that the amnesty given to Krajci by former Premier Vladimir Meciar in 1998 cannot be overturned. PB

UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SIGNS AGREEMENTS IN SLOVAKIA

Oleksandr Kuzmuk signed an agreement with his Slovak counterpart, Pavol Kanis, on sharing information and on the joint command of military exercises in Slovakia and Ukraine, CTK reported on 31 August. Kanis and Kuzmuk also discussed NATO enlargement and European security. Kanis said the two countries hold similar views on security and cooperation with NATO and that Kyiv has no "reservations" about Slovakia's joining the Atlantic alliance. Kuzmuk said an agreement on military and technical cooperation will be signed soon. PB

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SLOVAKIA PRESENTS CREDENTIALS

Carl Spielvogel, the new U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, presented his credentials to Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 31 August, CTK reported. Spielvogel, a former "New York Times" columnist and former CEO of three large marketing and telecommunications companies, said that U.S.-Slovak relations are strong and that he wants to continue that relationship. Spielvogel replaces Ralph Johnson, who often clashed with Premier Vladimir Meciar before leaving in 1998. PB

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE STATE SECRETARY RESIGNS

Defense Ministry State Secretary Tamas Wachsler announced on 31 August that he will resign his post effective 15 September but declined to give reasons for his resignation, Hungarian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he will accept the resignation of the FIDESZ appointee. He added that he considers the Defense Ministry clearly a "Smallholder portfolio," as the coalition Independent Smallholders Party have nominated the minister and other state secretaries. Zsolt Lanyi, the Smallholder chairman of the parliament's Defense Committee, said Wachsler resigned because he did not want to obstruct military reform. MSZ




DOES ARREST AWAIT MILOSEVIC IN KOSOVA?

Indicted war criminal and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic said in Belgrade on 31 August that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic plans to visit Kosova as part of his campaign in the 24 September elections. Sainovic did not elaborate. In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Milosevic "can...and should be" arrested in Kosova and sent to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, which has indicted him for atrocities in Kosova. In recent weeks, Milosevic backers in Montenegro have urged him to come to that republic to campaign. His aides have suggested that he will go to Montenegro but have provided no other information. The BBC commented on 1 September that the fact that Milosevic cannot freely travel to Montenegro or Kosova shows how little of federal Yugoslavia he actually controls. Elsewhere, Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator in Kosova, consulted with European and U.S. diplomats about Milosevic's plans to hold the Yugoslav elections in that province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2000). PM

OSCE SLAMS YUGOSLAV VOTE

The OSCE has criticized the 24 September Serbian and Yugoslav elections as being neither free nor fair, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 31 August. The OSCE noted in a statement issued in Vienna that officials of the Milosevic regime will be in charge both of the polling places and of the counting of ballots. PM

YUGOSLAV MILITARY EXTEND DETENTION OF WESTERNERS

Military judges in Belgrade extended by four weeks the pre-trial detention of two Britons and two Canadians on "terrorism" charges, Reuters reported on 31 August. Canadian Charge d'affaires Angela Bogdan said: "There have been new developments. They are very distressing to us." The detention of the four, as well as that of four Dutch citizens, is widely seen as an anti-Western propaganda ploy by the regime in the runup to the 24 September elections. PM

SERBIAN POLICE HOLD UP EU BITUMEN FOR SUBOTICA

Serbian police ordered a shipment of bitumen from Norway intended for Subotica to be placed in a customs warehouse rather than given to the city authorities, Reuters reported on 31 August. Mayor Jozef Kasza told Reuters by telephone that "the police did not give any explanation for the move, but we have the information that the reason is political." The shipment is part of the EU's "Asphalt for Democracy" program, which is aimed at enabling opposition-controlled municipalities to repair roads. PM

ANTI-ROMA FEELINGS ON THE RISE IN SERBIA?

A Serbian human rights group has registered 90 cases of discrimination against Roma between October 1999 and July 2000, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 1 September. Anti-Roma violence is often carried out by skinheads in Belgrade and other Serbian cities. Police frequently detain Roma as suspects for crimes simply because they are Roma. The daily suggested that the anti-Roma climate is linked to the widespread social and economic decline in Serbia over the past decade. One Rom said: "Things were different when [Josip Broz] Tito was alive." PM

SOLANA EXPRESSES UNDERSTANDING FOR MONTENEGRIN ELECTION BOYCOTT

Javier Solana, who is the EU's chief official for international security issues, said in Dubrovnik on 31 August that he hopes the united Serbian opposition will win the elections, Reuters reported. After speaking to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic about his decision to boycott those elections, Solana added that he "respects" the Montenegrin decision, AP reported. Solana stressed: "I understand the reason why the president has decided that his party would not participate in these elections." For his part, Djukanovic said: "We are not for war, but I must say that if Milosevic continues to jeopardize the stability and security of Montenegro's citizens, with an aim of provoking a civil war, we are ready for such an option, to defend Montenegro's statehood and democracy." PM

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER: ELECTIONS NO REASON FOR VIOLENCE

After a meeting in Podgorica between officials of the governing Democratic Party of Socialists and the pro- Milosevic Socialist People's Party, Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said on 31 August that the government's decision to boycott the elections need not lead to a "confrontation" between rival political groupings. He added that leaders of both parties stressed the need for peaceful dialogue, Montena-fax reported. PM

CROATIAN BALKAN SUMMIT SET FOR 24 NOVEMBER

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 31 August that the EU Balkan summit will be held in Croatia on 24 November. The place where the meeting will be held will be announced later, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Participants will include the 15 EU countries, Albania, and all former Yugoslav republics. Serbia will be represented either by the democratic opposition or by a new, democratic government, but not by the Milosevic regime. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS KILLERS OF LEVAR

Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb on 31 August that the killers of war crimes witness Milan Levar are people who want to return Croatia to international isolation, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2000). He stressed that police are responsible for what goes on in their respective zones of responsibility, "Jutarnji list" added. PM

HERZEGOVINIAN CROAT NATIONALISTS WANT 'PURE' UNIVERSITY

The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) wants to maintain a separate university "in the Croatian language," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The HDZ regards attempts to merge Mostar's Croatian university with the city's Muslim university as a move toward "ethnic homogenization" in the runup to the 11 November parliamentary elections. PM

ROMANIAN DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION REBORN

After two months of negotiations, the leaders of five parties signed a protocol establishing the center-right Romanian Democratic Convention 2000 alliance, Romanian media reported. The founding members are the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, the Union of Rightist Forces, the National Christian Democratic Alliance, the Romanian Ecologist Forum, and the Party of Moldavians. Alliance members will run on a single list for the November parliamentary elections and will support Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu's presidential candidacy. The alliance's symbol remains a key but is now surrounded by a ring of yellow stars on a blue background--a clear allusion to the EU flag. ZsM

FORMER ROMANIAN OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION

Romanian prosecutors have asked the parliament and the president to give the go-ahead to a criminal investigation against former government members, "Ziua" reported on 31 August. Prosecutors investigating the so-called Jimbolia case found evidence that members of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) government might have been involved in the illegal export of oil products to Yugoslavia before 1996, thus breaching the UN embargo against the Balkan country. Former Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu and ministers Doru Ioan Taracila and Aurel Novac can be prosecuted only if the parliament or president make such a request. ZsM

STUDY BLASTS ROMANIAN BUREAUCRACY

A U.S.-funded study published on 31 August shows that Romania's "bureaucratic maze" smothers free enterprise and fuels official corruption, Reuters reported. U.S. Ambassador to Romania James Rosapepe said the study shows the "bureaucratic impediments to the creation and expansion of the entrepreneurial system in Romania." Rosapepe said the study can be used as "a blueprint for war against bureaucracy." He added that the study's results are "shocking" if Romanian red tape is compared to that of the U.S.: while it takes one day to register a new business in the U.S., it can take "anything between 49 and 102 days" in Romania. ZsM

MOLDOVA CELEBRATES ROMANIAN LANGUAGE

Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi marked the Day of Romanian Language on 31 August by laying a wreath at a monument to Moldovan Prince Stefan in downtown Chisinau, BasaPress reported. Lucinschi said that "along with all good things that occurred over the last 10 years, we cannot be entirely satisfied with the place that the state language occupies in public life." He added that indifference has led to "an obvious stagnation of the Romanian language." Lucinschi added, however, that he "is proud that more and more families...send their children to Romanian-language schools." The language holiday has been celebrated since 1990, when Romanian was declared the official language and the former Soviet republic reverted back to the Latin script. PB




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