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Newsline - September 4, 2000




PUTIN STANDS FIRM OVER KURILS...

During a first round of talks with Japanese Premier Yoshiro Mori in Tokyo on 4 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected Japan's proposal whereby Russia would cede sovereignty of the Kuril Islands but retain administrative control over that territory during a period of phased return. Putin was quoted as saying that the Japanese proposal, which was first made in 1998 and turned down the same year by Moscow, is "brave and well-considered" but "does not exactly correspond with the Russian idea." Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted Mori as rejecting a Russian proposal that the two countries sign an interim "peace, friendship and cooperation treaty" and leave the islands issue to be resolved in a separate pact, Reuters reported. Ownership of the four islands, which the USSR seized in 1945, is the main obstacle to a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities between the two countries. Further talks between Putin and Mori are planned for 4 and 5 September. JC

...HAS AUDIENCE WITH EMPEROR

President Putin met with Emperor Akihito in the imperial palace in Tokyo on 4 September and invited him to visit Russia. AFP quoted a unidentified Japanese official as saying. According to that official, the emperor replied that the government of Japan will consider the invitation. Japanese Premier Mori readily accepted his invitation to go to Russia, saying "the matter will be handled through diplomatic channels." JC

PUTIN GREETS U.S. DECISION PUTTING OFF NMD

In Moscow on 2 September and in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on 3 September, Russian President Putin welcomed U.S. President Bill Clinton's decision to put off a final decision on implementing a limited national missile defense system as a "well-considered and responsible step," Russian agencies reported. But he noted that despite this step, there are still differences between the two countries on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Other Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, echoed his words. PG

U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY PRAISES RUSSIAN 'COURAGE' IN OPENING UP SUB BASES

Bill Richardson was shown rows of decommissioned nuclear submarines during a trip to the Kamchatka Peninsula on 3 September. He also inspected six Oscar-class nuclear submarines there. Richardson praised the Russians for their "courage" in opening up their "most secret of sites." The energy secretary was speaking at the end of a tour of Russia aimed at ensuring the safe disposal of nuclear materials. JC

IVANOV SAYS MOSCOW TO FOCUS ON NATIONAL INTERESTS

Speaking on 1 September to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Foreign Minister Ivanov said that "Russia's foreign policy should be more purposely orientated to pursuing its national interests," ITAR-TASS reported. He said Moscow will follow those interests "in a tough manner if necessary," but he stressed that "the approach has nothing to do with a confrontation-oriented policy and by no means runs counter to our line toward Russia's further playing a constructive role in the democratization of the international community." He also said that it is important that "the information security of the state be ensured and [that] new information technologies be applied to create an objectively favorable impression of Russia in the world." PG

EXPLOSION IN RYAZAN LEAVES TWO DEAD

An explosion at a central marketplace in Ryazan on 4 September left two people dead and several wounded. A spokeswoman from the Emergency Situations Ministry said initially that the authorities were investigating whether the explosion was caused by a bomb. Later, ITAR-TASS quoted Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo as saying five people have been held in connection with the incident and early findings indicate that the explosion was the result of a local feud. JC

PUTIN FORMS PRESIDIUM OF STATE COUNCIL...

One day after issuing the decree on the State Council of the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2000), President Putin signed an order appointing the members of the Presidium of the new body, Russian agencies reported on 2 September. Those members are Khabarovsk Governor Viktor Ishaev, Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Daghestan State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii, Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Presidium members represent each of the seven federal districts and are rotated every six months. JC

...APPOINTS ABRAMOV AS COUNCIL'S ACTING SECRETARY

Putin also appointed deputy head of the presidential administration Aleksandr Abramov as acting secretary of the State Council, Interfax reported on 1 September, citing the presidential press service. JC

GREF SAYS NEW LAWS ON PRODUCTION SHARING TO BE READY THIS FALL

Speaking at a conference in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on 3 September, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that 16 new pieces of legislation on production sharing will be ready within two months, thus bringing Russian laws into line with international standards and creating "comfortable conditions" for investors, Interfax reported. He said that Russia needs far more investment than at present to consolidate its present rate of economic growth. PG

PUTIN CONCERNED BY DOMESTIC, FOREIGN PRICE GAP ON ENERGY...

President Putin said in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on 3 September that he is concerned by the gap between domestic and foreign prices for oil and gas. At present, he noted, gas is sold domestically in the Russian Far East for $12 per 1,000 cubic meters, while the same amount attracts $80 on the world market. He said that "we shall work on this problem," Interfax reported. PG

...PROMISES MORE ASSISTANCE TO FOREIGN INVESTORS

Putin also noted that Moscow must provide foreign investors with more assistance, both "moral and organizational," because of the challenges they face in dealing with the Russian market, ITAR- TASS reported. He did not clarify what he meant. PG

IMPROVED HARVEST REDUCES IMPORT REQUIREMENTS

The Russian Agricultural Ministry said on 1 September that this year's harvest of 68-73 million metric tons of grain will allow Moscow to substantially reduce its imports of meat, poultry, and dairy products, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

EES TO EXPORT POWER TO TURKEY VIA AZERBAIJAN

Unified Energy Systems announced on 1 September that it has signed an agreement to export electric power to Turkey via Azerbaijan, AP reported. PG

RUSSIAN MILITARY DENIES DUMPING POISONS IN UKRAINE

The press service of Russia's strategic missile troops has rejected Ukrainian suggestions that Russian troops dumped nuclear fuel or its components in Ukraine's Mykolayiv Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2000). PG

SHAMANOV DOUBTS PROFESSIONAL ARMY POSSIBLE NOW

Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the 58th Army of the North Caucasus Military District, told ITAR-TASS on 2 September that he could "not name a single officer" who opposes the creation of a professional army but that he doubts the government could afford one now. "When a professional soldier is paid 700 rubles [$25] a month, it is hard to persuade a grown-up man, a bread-winner for his family, to join the army," Shamanov said. He added that the growing number of desertions reflects poor recruiting efforts. PG

KASYANOV NOTES FALLING INFLATION

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told President Putin on 2 September that the country's economy is continuing to improve and that inflation has "dropped significantly" from July's 1.8 percent, Russian agencies reported. He gave no specific figure for the decrease. PG

TVER MEMORIAL TO POLISH, RUSSIAN VICTIMS OF STALIN OPENED

Poles and Russians gathered in Tver on 2 September to open the state memorial complex at Mednoe commemorating the 6,313 Poles and more than 9,000 Russians who were killed by Stalinist officials, ITAR- TASS reported. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said that the opening of the memorial marks the beginning of a new stage of relations between the two countries, and State Duma Deputy Chairman Vladimir Lukin said the memorial will have a "salutary" effect on ties because "the immortalization of the perished Polish servicemen completes a heavy and tragic process of disclosing the truth." Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek, who attended the opening ceremony, commented that the murders revealed "the tragedy and devilry of communism--tear the man from his beliefs and faith, from his consciousness which tells everyone what's good and what's bad." PG/JM

TATARSTAN BEGINS DROPPING CYRILLIC ALPHABET

Schools in Tatarstan will now use the Latin script, rather than the Cyrillic one, for written work in the national language, a local official told AP on 1 September. That step is part of a 10-year program to end the use of a Russian-related alphabet and replace it with one that more adequately reflects the sound patterns of Tatar. Moreover, the local official added, the new script will make European culture more accessible to the students. PG

THREE RUSSIANS FOUND MURDERED IN GROZNY

The bodies of three Russians--two men and a woman--were found in Grozny's Zavod Raion late on 2 September, Russian agencies reported. The three had been stabbed and shot. Interfax quoted Russian military sources as saying the three were staffers of Russia's Ministry for Emergency Situations, but the following day a Moscow spokeswoman for that ministry denied any knowledge that any of its employees had been killed. LF

FEDERAL PROSECUTORS GIVEN BYKOV CASE

The investigation into the case of former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Works chairman Anatolii Bykov has been transferred to the Office of the Russian Prosecutor- General, Interfax reported on 2 September. Counsellor to the Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov said this step was taken to allow for a "complete, comprehensive and objective" investigation. PG

NEW INVESTIGATOR IN LISTEV CASE

A new investigator has been appointed in the case of the 1995 murder of popular journalist Vladislav Listev, the head of the Russian Public Television network (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 2 March 1995). Aleksandr Gorbunov is to take over the investigation following the resignation of investigator Petr Triboi, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 2 September, citing unidentified sources in the Prosecutor-General's Office. JC

BOLSHOI GETS NEW GENERAL DIRECTOR

The government has appointed Anatolii Iksanov, the former director of St. Petersburg's Bolshoi Dramatic Theater and a manager of the state-run Kultura television channel, as general director of the Bolshoi Theater. Conductor Gennadii Rozhdestvenskii is to take over the post of artistic director. The appointments come in the wake of a presidential decree sacking the former leadership of the Bolshoi and placing the theater under the direct control of the Culture Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2000). JC

RUSSIAN POPULATION EXPECTED TO FALL BY 700,000 NEXT YEAR

The State Statistics Committee told the Duma on 1 September that the population of the Russian Federation is expected to decline by 700,000 in 2001, Interfax reported. The committee said the birth rate will rise to 8.8 per 1,000, up from 8.7 per 1,000 this year, but the death rate will rise as well, from 14.3 per 1,000 to 14.4 per 1,000. PG




ARMENIA, IRAN TO BEGIN GAS PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION

Agreement was reached during Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian's visit last week to Tehran that work on a pipeline to transport Iranian gas to Armenia will begin this fall, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 1 September. An international consortium comprising Russian, French, and Greek companies will be created to finance the $150 million pipeline, which will have a throughout capacity of up to 5 million cubic meters per day. Armenia currently imports 3-3.5 million cubic meters of gas daily from Russia. Meeting on 30 August with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Galustian termed the pipeline "important and strategic," according to IRNA. Galustian also met with Iranian First Vice President Hassan Habibi to discuss other joint energy projects, including the Meghri power plant as well as the construction of an oil refinery in Meghri and of a tunnel under the Kajaran mountain pass along the main highway from Armenia to Iran. LF

DATE SET FOR TRIAL OF FORMER KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER

The Supreme Court of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has scheduled the trial of more than a dozen men accused of involvement in the 22 March attempt to assassinate the enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, for 18 September, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 1 September. Zhudeks Shakarian, the defense lawyer of former Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan, who is accused of masterminding that attack, was quoted by Noyan Tapan on 31 August as saying he will continue to demand that his client be tried in Armenia. Shakarian believes that a Karabakh court would not hand down an impartial verdict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000). Shakarian also said that Babayan has been badly beaten in detention and treated with psychotropic drugs. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN PLANE HIJACK

Isa Gambar, chairman of the opposition Musavat Party, met on 1 September with heads of Azerbaijani media outlets to thank them for their campaign in support of Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Turan reported. Arifoglu was arrested last month and charged with terrorism in connection with that abortive 18 August attempt by a Musavat Party member to hijack a plane to Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 30 August 2000). Gambar again denied that the Musavat Party was involved in any way in the hijack attempt. LF

SECOND CONSIGNMENT OF RUSSIAN MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO LEAVE GEORGIA

Another consignment of military hardware is to be transported from the Russian military base at Vaziani, near Tbilisi, by train to the port of Batumi on 4-5 September and from there by sea to Russia, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. This latest consignment will comprise 10 tanks, 19 armored personnel carriers, and 32 special-purpose and motor vehicles. Russia is reducing its military presence in Georgia in accordance with the revised CFE Treaty and an agreement concluded at the OSCE summit in Istanbul late last year (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2 No. 47, 25 November 1999). LF

GEORGIAN PRESS ANTICIPATES COUP IN PRESIDENT'S ABSENCE

Two Georgian newspapers on 4 September express concern at the possibility of a coup after President Eduard Shevardnadze departs to attend the UN Millennium Summit in New York. "Akhali taoba" quotes Interior Minister Kakha Targaamadze as saying that the possibility of destabilization is "quite high," and that "the blow is directed against the president." "Rezonansi" claims that Moscow wishes to instal former Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze as Shevardnadze's successor. LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS AIR GRIEVANCES

Some 80,000 Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and are currently living in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi have demanded that Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili travel to Zugdidi to meet with the Abkhaz government in exile, which is based there, Caucasus Press reported on 1 September. The displaced persons say that tensions in the town are rising and a riot to protest inadequate living conditions may be imminent. They had demanded a meeting with Arsenishvili in late June to protest not having received for the past six months the monthly allowance of 12 lari ($6) to which they are entitled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). Georgian Minister for Refugee Affairs Valerii Vashakidze announced on 31 August that the authorities will allocate 200,000 lari for fuel for displaced persons in western Georgia this winter. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'CONSOLIDATION'

Addressing a joint session of the two chambers of Kazakhstan's parliament on 1 September, Nursultan Nazarbaev said that "cohesion and national unity," not only on the part of the law enforcement agencies and local authorities but of society as a whole, are essential to combat the threat from the Islamic militants, Reuters and Interfax reported. Nazarbaev termed last month's incursions into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan by the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) as "a precursor of serious times ahead for Central Asia as a whole" and "a problem that has already gone beyond the borders of Central Asia and [which] has no easy solution." Nazarbaev said that to meet that threat, military spending in the 2001 budget will be doubled to the equivalent of 1 percent of GDP. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER SENTENCED TO 16 YEARS IN PRISON

A Bishkek court on 1 September passed sentence on eight men accused of having plotted last year to assassinate President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Opposition Erkindik Party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, whom the prosecution branded as the mastermind behind that alleged plot, received a 16-year sentence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2000). Six other alleged conspirators were jailed for 16-17 years and one received a suspended three-year sentence. A ninth man, who claimed to have been recruited by the plotters and on whose testimony the entire case was based, was amnestied and released. LF

KYRGYZ TROOPS REPEL NEW INCURSION

During the night of 1-2 September, Kyrgyz government troops backed by air power succeeded after a six-hour battle in driving back a group of some 240 Islamic militants who had staged a three-pronged incursion into Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Oblast, Russian agencies reported. General Bolot Djanuzakov, who is secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, told journalists in Bishkek on 2 September that the Kyrgyz troops inflicted "heavy" casualties, while only two Kyrgyz servicemen were wounded. He said Kyrgyz planes continue to target possible areas near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border where guerrillas are believed to be concentrated. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT TROOPS CLASH WITH OPPOSITION FIGHTERS

On 1 September, a Tajik Interior Ministry spokesman said that Tajik government forces had killed 15 members of an armed detachment headed by Mullo Abdullo, a former field commander of the United Tajik Opposition, in the east of the country, Reuters reported. He added that an unspecified number of government troops also died or were wounded during the clash. It is unclear whether Abdullo had joined forces with the IMU. LF

UKRAINE, TURKEY OFFER TO HELP COMBAT THREAT TO CENTRAL ASIA

Kyiv is ready to cooperate with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian states in the struggle against "international terrorism and extremism," ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September, citing a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry statement. The statement expressed concern at the "escalation of tensions" in Central Asia and at "efforts by international terrorists aimed against the territorial integrity of regional states." Ankara has also offered Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan "financial and psychological assistance" in the battle with Islamic extremists, Caucasus Press reported on 2 September, quoting Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. LF

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SEES NO AGGRESSION IN CENTRAL ASIA

Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's International Military Cooperation Department, told "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 September that "there is no aggression against Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan at the present time." Describing events there as "raids by Islamic extremists," Ivashov said "these countries have not asked for Russia's military assistance." But he added that "if the situation develops in an unfavorable direction," the CIS "must be prepared to offer immediate and effective resistance," because "when aggression arises, there will be no time to warm up." On 1 September Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, held a telephone discussion of the situation in Central Asia and aspects of bilateral relations. PG

PHOTOGRAPHER SHOT DEAD IN TAJIKISTAN

Aleksandr Alpatov, a photographer with the Khovar news agency, was found shot dead near his home in Dushanbe late on 1 September, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

TAJIK OFFICIAL SAYS CURRENCY 'STABLE'

Gulomzhon Babaev, who is economic counsellor to Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov, told a press conference in Dushanbe on 3 September that rumors of an imminent devaluation of the Tajik ruble are totally unfounded, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. He added that Tajikistan's gold and foreign currency reserves have not declined over the past eight months. The official exchange rate has fallen from 1,910 rubles to $1 in early August to 1,925 rubles on 8 August and 1958 on 1 September. The black market exchange rate is currently 2,300 rubles to the dollar. LF

TURKMEN ENVOY CONTINUES AFGHAN MEDIATION MISSION

Turkmen presidential envoy and former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov met in Dushanbe on 1 September with Ahmed Shah Massoud, who heads the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, and handed him "a package of peacemaking proposals," Reuters and Russian agencies reported. Shikhmuradov met last week in Afghanistan with Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who reportedly agreed to unconditional talks with Massoud on ending the civil war in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August and 1 September 2000). On 4 September, Interfax reported that General Dostum, Massoud's former ally within the Northern Alliance, was in Moscow last week on a "private visit." LF

NEW TURKMEN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER APPOINTED

President Saparmurat Niyazov last week appointed Orazmurad Begmyradov, the former head of the chief tax inspectorate, as deputy premier with responsibility for the Finance and Economy Ministry and the customs and tax services, Reuters and Interfax reported. Begmyradov, who is 48, previously held key posts in the banking sector. LF

DROUGHT COULD LEAD TO FAMINE, UNREST IN UZBEK REGION

A spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned in Geneva on 1 September that the population of Karakalpakistan, in northwestern Uzbekistan, faces famine and possible social unrest as a result of this summer's drought, Reuters reported. Karakalpakistan is the region of Uzbekistan most severely affected by the adverse weather conditions, which have destroyed virtually all crops of rice, corn, millet sunflowers, and vegetables. The region has a population of between 1.2-1.5 million. LF




BELARUS, CUBA SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY, TRADE ACCORD

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Cuban leader Fidel Castro met in Havana on 3 September and signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation, Reuters reported. Castro praised Belarus as one of the former Soviet republics that has most sought to maintain friendly relations with Cuba since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Earlier the same day, Belarusian Foreign Minister Ural Latypau and Cuban Foreign Trade Minister Raul de la Nuez signed an accord on mutual trade. Cuba estimated trade with Belarus in 1999 at $11 million, while Belarusian officials put the figure at $42 million. Cuban officials said the discrepancy might be due to some products being shipped through third countries. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT 'GRATEFUL' FOR ELECTION OBSERVERS' DECISION

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 1 September that he is "grateful to the Europeans" for deciding to send a limited technical assessment mission to the 15 October election polls in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August and 1 September 2000), Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka added that "[the Europeans] resisted the frantic pressure from certain empires," apparently alluding to a U.S. appeal not to send any monitors to Belarus's "undemocratic" poll. Lukashenka noted, however, that "any resolution [of the OSCE] would be acceptable to us" because, he argued, the elections "will in any case be held according to our Belarusian laws." Meanwhile, the opposition Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces said that last week the state media distorted the OSCE resolution on election observers by reporting that Europe is to send full-fledged election monitors to Belarus. JM

BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS TO BE FIRED IF WAGE ARREARS NOT PAID

Lukashenka has threatened to fire all government and local officials as well as managers who do not repay wage arrears by the 1 September deadline he set last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2000). He pledged to take this measure when he returns from this week's UN session in New York and has familiarized himself with a special commission report on the repayment of wage arrears in Belarus. "Everyone will be fired, even if this [measure] applies to 2,000 people. We do not need leaders who are today incapable of paying their workers' collectives," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying on 1 September. JM

ILLEGAL MONEY TRANSFER CHARGES TO HIT UKRAINE'S DEPUTY PREMIER?

Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod told journalists on 1 September that in 1996-1997 Ukraine's Unified Energy Systems (UES) illegally channeled abroad more than $1.1 billion, including $100 million to accounts of former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko, Interfax reported. At the time of the alleged transfers, the UES was headed by Yuliya Tymoshenko, who is now deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector. Tymoshenko's party, Fatherland [Batkivshchyna], said the same day that the charges against the UES leadership are "senseless, absurd, and ridiculous" and intended to discredit the current government. Last month, the Prosecutor-General's Office opened a criminal case on embezzlement charges against Tymoshenko's husband, Oleksandr, a member of the UES board of directors, and Valeriy Falkovych, the UES's deputy director (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 August 2000). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES RUSSIA FOR QUITTING CIS VISA-FREE TRAVEL ACCORD...

Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 1 September that Russia's decision to back out of the 1992 Bishkek treaty on visa-free travel within the CIS will undermine prospects for creating a CIS free-trade zone, Interfax reported. According to Kuchma, such a zone means "free movement of capital, goods, and people." "If this is not the case, the idea of a free-trade zone is laid to rest. The question arises--who needs the CIS in such circumstances?" Kuchma commented. Russia's decision will not affect Kyiv directly, since Ukraine, like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, has a separate agreement with Russia allowing visa- free travel (see also "End Note" below). JM

...URGES SPORTSMEN TO REMAIN IN 10 TOP OLYMPIC TEAMS

Bidding farewell to Ukraine's Olympic team on 2 September, Kuchma said "it would be a serious disappointment [for Ukraine] not to join the club of 10 best teams again," AP reported. Ukraine has sent a 390-member delegation to Sydney, including 239 athletes. The Ukrainian government decided that the gold winners at this year's games will be given a prize of up to $50,000, silver winners up to $30,000, and bronze winners up to $20,000 each. JM

MORE DETAILS EMERGE ON WHY ESTONIA EXPELLED ALLEGED SPIES

More details are emerging about the reasons why Estonia expelled two Russian diplomats last week for "activities incompatible with their status" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2000). An unidentified government official told "Postimees" on 2 September that it is no secret that Estonia's eastern border is monitored by sensors, "but what's secret is the type, parameters, and their placement on the border." Another unidentified official from the security service told the daily that "[Yuri] Yatsenko and [Vladimir] Telegin went to places they shouldn't have visited and wanted to speak with people they shouldn't have talked to." BNS added that the two likely left Estonia on 3 September. MH

HOLE FOUND IN 'ESTONIA' FERRY?

U.S. millionaire Gregg Bemis told a press conference in Germany on 1 September that his controversial diving expedition to the wreck of the "Estonia" ferry may have resulted in the discovery of a hole on the ship's hull, BNS reported. Bemis added, however, that the matter needs further investigation. Bemis believes that an explosion was responsible for the sinking of ferry on 28 September 1994, in which 852 people were killed. German journalist Jutta Rabe, who filmed the dive to the wreck, noted that "We can't say whether or not the hole was caused by a bomb." She said that divers took some metal samples to be analyzed to see if there was indeed an explosion. MH

ESTONIA REGISTERS SOLID GROWTH IN SECOND QUARTER

The Statistics Department on 1 September announced that preliminary figures indicate Estonia's GDP in the second quarter grew by 7.5 percent compared with the same period in 1999. First-quarter growth in GDP totaled 5.2 percent, after which estimates for the entire year's growth were upgraded to 6 percent by most analysts. MH

LITHUANIAN HUNGER STRIKE CALLED OFF

A hunger strike by employees of the insolvent footwear maker Inkaras was called off on 1 September after some wage arrears were finally paid. The hunger strike began on 1 August by 10 workers who had received no pay for more than a year; one month later, only four were carrying on with the strike, the others having stopped for health reasons, BNS reported. Some 430,000 litas ($107,500) were transferred to the company's accounts after the military and other state institutions put in special orders. It was reported earlier that the company owed some 3.8 million litas in wage arrears. President Valdas Adamkus urged hunger strikers from other insolvent companies around Lithuania to give up their action. MH

POLISH PREMIER PROMISES ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS

During the harvest festival at the Jasna Gora national shrine on 3 September, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek thanked farmers for their hard work and promised state assistance for the countryside, PAP reported. Buzek said the government this year increased its allocation to the agricultural sector, assigning "50 percent more money from the budget than in previous years." Buzek added that the government's emergency purchases of grain total 4 million tons. He also announced that the government has recently adopted the so-called Pact for Agriculture and Rural Areas, which provides for 8 billion zlotys ($1.8 billion) to be spent on the agricultural sector. JM

AUSTRIAN NUCLEAR PLANT PROTESTERS BLOCK CZECH BORDER...

Austrian environmentalists opposed to the planned launching of the Temelin nuclear plant later this month blocked three border points crossings with the Czech Republic on 2 September. The blockade was lifted after five hours, and no incidents were registered. Upper Austrian provincial governor Josef Puehringer, who participated in one of the blockades, said he considers the attitude of the Czech government toward Austrian apprehensions to be "arrogant." Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil responded that the "whole atmosphere around Temelin is being unnecessarily dramatized and turned into a political issue." Government spokesman Libor Roucek called the blockade "hysterical and embarrassing" and said Vienna is "using double standards" by opposing Czech nuclear energy but importing electricity produced by nuclear reactors in neighboring Bavaria. MS

...WHILE EUROPEAN COMMISSION CALLS DISPUTE 'BILATERAL AFFAIR'

European Commission spokesman Jean-Cristophe Filori told CTK on 1 September that the commission considers the dispute "an exclusively bilateral one, in which EU bodies will not interfere for the time being." Filori said the commission has "no alarming information" on the safety of Temelin. Also on 1 September, the European Parliament rejected a demand by Austrian People's Party representative Marilies Flemming that the parliament debate Temelin in an extraordinary session. Meanwhile, the planned launching of the plant was discussed in Prague on 2 September by experts from Austria and the Czech Republic. A spokesman for the Czech side said "no new information emerged at the meeting that would make the Czech government change its mind." MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT WELCOMES GERMAN CHANCELLOR'S STATEMENT

Government spokesman Roucek on 3 September welcomed German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's statement to the annual meeting of the organization representing Germans expelled in 1945. Schroeder told the gathering that Germany will not raise property claims linked to the Benes decrees and has "no territorial claims" on its neighbors. Roucek said Schroeder's statement "confirms the good relations between the two countries," which are "at the best level they have ever been." Commenting on a proposal by Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, that a referendum be held on the expansion of the organization, Roucek said the Czech government "cannot advise the German government" whether to do so, CTK reported. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Verheugen made the proposal, which appeared in an interview with the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 2 September, without consulting the German government. MS

BELGIUM REINTRODUCES VISA REQUIREMENT FOR SLOVAKS

The Slovak Foreign Ministry on 2 September said Belgium has decided to re-impose visa requirements on Slovak citizens, just one month after lifting those requirements, Reuters and CTK reported. The reason for the move is the renewed influx of Romani asylum seekers, the ministry said. According to the Slovak ministry, the Belgian authorities had failed to consistently apply new asylum procedure regulations, as a result of which Belgium had again become "an attractive target" for Slovak Roma seeking asylum. MS




OPPOSITION CANDIDATE CONFIDENT OF BEATING MILOSEVIC

Vojislav Kostunica, the leading opposition candidate for the Yugoslav presidency, said he is "very optimistic" about his chances of becoming the country's next president, Reuters reported, citing the Germany's "Welt am Sonntag" on 3 September. In an interview with the newspaper, Kostunica said that "even more than the positive poll results, I'm happy about the general mood in the population. It encourages me and confirms the empirical figures." A 2 September poll by the Institute for Social Sciences gave Kostunica 52 percent support, compared with 31 percent for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Kostunica, who kicked off his campaign on 1 September with a rally in Belgrade, said he is worried that a "blatant attempt at election fraud" could take place, "because neither my party nor I have any control over what goes on in the south of the country or in Montenegro." Kostunica, the candidate of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia bloc, said his campaign is virtually being ignored by the state media. He refused to call Milosevic a war criminal, adding that he is against "any form of revenge, even against Milosevic." PB

MILOSEVIC SUPPORTERS CLAIM BROAD SUPPORT AS WELL

Yugoslavia's ruling parties on 3 September submitted to the parliament what they claimed are some 1.5 million signatures in support of Yugoslav President Milosevic, Reuters reported. Gorica Gajevic, the secretary-general of Milosevic's Socialist Party, said "it is obvious that on 24 September the general demand and will of the people is that Slobodan Milosevic...will be confirmed decisively" as president. Only 25,000 signatures are needed for registration. Officials said some 200,000 of the signatures came from Montenegro. Zoran Djindjic, the coordinator of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, said the names "were probably taken from the phone book or voting lists." He said "everybody knows Milosevic stands no chance of winning over Kostunica if votes are counted properly." PB

EU TO CHANGE POLICY ON SERBIA IF KOSTUNICA WINS

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said on 3 September that the EU will radically revise its policies toward Serbia if there is a change in leadership there after the 24 September elections, Reuters reported. Vedrine, who hosted a EU foreign ministers meeting in Evian, France, said all 15 members of the EU agreed to make major changes in its dealings with Belgrade should it "opt for democracy." France currently holds the rotating EU presidency. On 1 September, the OSCE said in a report issued in Warsaw that it is concerned that the rules for Yugoslavia's presidential, parliamentary, and local elections this month allow for widespread abuse, particularly vote-counting fraud "at each level of the tabulation process." PB

MILOSEVIC SUPPORTERS RESIGN FROM STATE TV BOARD

Two top officials from the junior coalition Serbian Radical Party (SRS) have resigned from the managing board of state television after accusing the board of bias against the SRS, Reuters reported on 3 September, citing Radio Index. Tomislav Nikolic, a deputy head of the SRS, and Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic said they were resigning to protest the "obvious non-existence of any influence of the SRS on [state television's] editorial policy." PB

U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS SERBS IN KOSOVA SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE

Robert Frowick, the U.S. representative for elections in the Balkans, said the West must consider various issues before allowing Serbs in Kosova to vote in the 24 September Yugoslav elections, Reuters reported. Frowick said there must be "some way of enabling all eligible citizens to vote in the elections in Serbia. But Kosovo is a very special case now and UN Security Council Resolution 1244 gives the international community...so much authority during the transition period." Bernard Kouchner, the head of the UN mission in Kosova, has not yet replied to reports that Belgrade wants to allow voting to take place in the province. PB

KOUCHNER ORDERS PROBE AFTER SERBS ESCAPE FROM JAIL IN KOSOVA

UN mission head Kouchner said on 3 September that he has ordered a review of the administration of jails and other detention centers in the Serbian province after 13 Serbian prisoners escaped from a Mitrovica jail on 2 September, dpa reported. The jailbreak was the fifth one this year at the Mitrovica facility. The guards were reportedly overpowered during the escape. Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the Serbian community in the town, said he has reliable reports that four of the prisoners have left Kosova and are in other parts of Serbia. Four of the escapees were charged with genocide and four others with mass murder. PB

KOSOVAR ALBANIANS REBURY MASSACRE VICTIMS

Hundreds of ethnic Albanians attended the reburial in Makovc, Kosova, on 3 September of 67 men, women, and children killed by Serbian forces last year, AP reported. The victims were reportedly taken away by Serbian forces while they fled Kosova between 19-23 April 1999. They were discovered in six mass graves near Makovc, about 10 kilometers from Prishtina. Stephen Leach, a war crimes tribunal investigator in Kosova, said "it is still too early to say how many people were killed in Kosovo...we are still discovering new mass graves." PB

CROATIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER RECEIVE DEATH THREATS

Police have increased security for Stipe Mesic and Ivica Racan after the two leaders confirmed on 2 September that they have received death threats, dpa and Reuters reported. Mesic said the threat against him came from the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood, which was founded in the early 1960s with the aim of establishing an independent Croatia but was thought to have been disbanded nearly a decade ago. It is not clear if the same organization threatened Racan. Racan said "I expect an outbreak of political violence within the next three months. But I'm not afraid because the government's response will be determined and effective." Mesic quipped on television: "Imagine that, they sentence me to death, effective immediately, with no right of appeal." PB

DOES CLINTON WANT KARADZIC AS GOING-AWAY PRESENT?

London's "The Times" reported on 2 September that Bill Clinton has told his military commanders that he wants former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to be captured before the U.S. president's term ends in January, dpa reported. "The Times" said that European military sources in Sarajevo report that the U.S. has increased its presence on the ground and that teams have intensified their surveillance of Karadzic as he moves to various locations around the Republika Srpska. Jacques Klein, the head of the UN mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said Karadzic, who has been indicted for war crimes by the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, "is a poison cloud hanging over this place." PB

ROMANIAN NATIONAL ALLIANCE ELECTS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

A 3 September extraordinary congress of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) and the Romanian National Party (PNR) approved the merger of the two formations and elected former PUNR chairman Valeriu Tabara and former PNR chairman Virgil Magureanu as co-chairmen of the new National Alliance. The congress also elected Marian Munteanu as the alliance's candidate for the presidential elections, scheduled for November and December. Munteanu, a former student leader, is the ex-chairman of the defunct Movement for Romania, a party modeled on the inter-war fascist League of the Archangel Michel (also known as the Iron Guard). On 2 September, an extraordinary National Convention of the Alliance for Romania (APR) designated APR leader Teodor Melescanu as its presidential candidate, as had been expected. MS

ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER LAUNCHES NEW LIBERAL PARTY

Decebal Traian Remes, who resigned from the National Liberal Party (PNL) over his opposition to Theodor Stolojan's presidential candidacy, was elected chairman of the National Liberal Party- -the Bratianus on 2 September. The party bears the name of the Bratianu family that headed Romania's Liberal Party over several generations in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The party chaired by Remes was formerly called the Liberal Monarchist Party. MS

TRANSDNIESTER CELEBRATES 'INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY'

The breakaway Transdniester Republic on 2 September celebrated the 10th anniversary of its 'independence" with a military parade involving heavy weaponry, included rocket launchers, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The previous day, separatist leader Igor Smirnov rejected the proposal by Yevgenii Primakov, Russian chairman of the commission for the Transdniester settlement, that the region form a federation with Moldova, AP reported. Smirnov said the solution must rest in a "gradual rapprochement" between the two sides as "independent nations." He said only a separate Transdniester state can stop the plans of "the nationalists in Chisinau... who want to unite with Romania." But on 3 September, General Stanislav Khazheyev, the "defense minister" of the separatist region, told ITAR-TASS that his government "hopes for a fruitful collaboration" with Primakov. MS

BULGARIA ACCUSES MACEDONIA OF OBSTRUCTING TRANSIT TO KOSOVA

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on 3 September said the Macedonian authorities are intentionally obstructing the transit of Bulgarian trucks to Kosova, causing food cargoes to spoil while waiting at the Blace crossing point, AP reported. The ministry said the truckers are forced to wait in line for days without any food, water, medical aid, and basic conveniences. It described this state of affairs "an ill-minded practice" rather than "an incident." Earlier on 1 September, AP reported that Bulgarian shipping officials said the country's Danube fleet is in danger of grinding to a virtual halt because of "chronic difficulties in passing the Yugoslav stretch of the river." The Romanian sailors' union announced it intends to block the eastern Danube port of Calarasi to protest the ongoing obstacles to navigation in Yugoslavia. MS




ANOTHER BLOW TO THE CIS


by Paul Goble

Moscow's decision to withdraw from the visa-free regime with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States may help the Russian government to protect itself against terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking.

But it is also likely to affect Russia's relationship with other CIS countries, offending many and at the same time giving Moscow new political leverage over some. In addition, this move seems certain to affect the attitudes of the 11 non-Russian countries toward Russia and Russians and possibly even Moscow's ability to recruit low-income workers from abroad.

Consequently, Russia's use of this tool to defend some of its national interests may have the effect of undermining other important interests as well.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced on 30 August that Russia is withdrawing from the 1992 Bishkek accord, which established visa-free travel among all but three of the members of the CIS. (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine have remained outside.) He said that terrorism and organized crime mean that Moscow will withdraw from this regime after giving the 90-day notice required by the original agreement.

Some of his aides pointed out that the Bishkek arrangements themselves have already begun to break down, with several of the Central Asian countries already having imposed visa agreements on one another's nationals. But the Russian foreign minister himself went out of his way to stress that this decision was not intended to divide the CIS countries: Russia's withdrawal, he said, "does not mean that Russia intends to create artificial barriers and to fence itself off from Commonwealth partners." He added that Russian diplomats will now begin discussions with CIS governments about travel documentation requirements in the future.

Nonetheless, many people across the 12 countries currently part of the CIS are likely to view this Russian decision as the latest blow to the continued existence of an organization that has tried to maintain ties among the 12 Soviet republics since 1991. After all, despite numerous meetings, the CIS could point to few real achievements beyond the visa-free regime system, an arrangement that allowed some of the countries involved to survive as their workers abroad sent back part of their earnings to their homelands. Russia's decision to withdraw will not only lead others to do the same but call into question whether the CIS has any future.

But regardless of whether this Russian decision has the effect of ending the CIS, it clearly will have an impact on Moscow's relationship with the other members. On the one hand, it will reduce Russia's ability to present itself to them as the guarantor of CIS arrangements. On the other, it will almost certainly allow Moscow to step up its pressure on various countries, demanding concessions as the price for a more favorable visa regime.

In addition, this decision may prompt many in the non- Russian countries to revise their views of Russia and their treatment of ethnic Russians resident on their territory. They will certainly view this decision as a reflection of Russian, even ethnic Russian national interests, a perception that may lead some of them to become more nationalist in the defense of their own interests domestically and internationally.

Finally, this decision seems certain to affect Russia itself. Economically, it appears likely to have the effect of depriving certain Russian firms of low-paid guest workers from the former Soviet republics, who up to now have provided some of the muscle behind Russia's recent economic gains. Such enterprises will certainly seek special arrangements for "their" workers, thus adding a new element to Russian politics.

And politically, this decision could have the effect of increasing Russian hostility to non-Russians living in the Russian Federation, regardless of their citizenship. Not only is it likely to increase demands, like those already in place in some Russian cities, for the expulsion of "persons from the Caucasus," but it may be seen by some as giving a kind of official green light to Russian nationalist organizations of various stripes.

Moscow's move last week thus may have a very different impact on Russian national security than its authors intend.


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