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Newsline - September 7, 2000




PUTIN OFFERS TO HOST TALKS ON HALTING ARMS IN SPACE...

Addressing the UN Millennium Summit in New York on 6 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed organizing an international conference in Moscow next year on preventing the militarization of space. Saying that plans to use space for military purposes are "particularly alarming," Putin proposed that the gathering take place on 12 April 2001, the 4Oth anniversary of Yurii Gagarin's becoming the first man in space, and said Moscow would be the natural venue for such a conference. Putin's proposal, a thinly veiled reference to U.S. plans to implement a limited national missile defense system, comes just days after U.S. President Bill Clinton announced his decision to postpone taking a decision on NMD. At a meeting with Putin later on 6 September, Clinton said he hopes that decision will give Putin and the next U.S. president more time to resolve their differences over the issue JC

...SIGNS STRATEGIC STABILITY STATEMENT WITH CLINTON...

At their 6 September meeting, Putin and Clinton signed a joint statement that provides for establishing "a constructive basis for progress in further reducing nuclear weapons arsenals, preserving and strengthening the [1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty], and confronting new challenges to international security." The statement stressed that the two sides reaffirm their commitment to the ABM treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability, while noting that both sides have been holding intensive talks on the treaty "with a view to initiate negotiations expediently." Also on 6 September, Putin met with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin on the sidelines of the Millennium Summit. The two leaders stressed their commitment to a multi-polar world, according to ITAR-TASS. JC

...URGES NUCLEAR ENERGY WITHOUT WEAPONS-GRADE MATERIALS

In his 6 September address to the UN Millennium Summit, Russian President Putin also said that in order to make nuclear nonproliferation measures more effective, Moscow wants weapons-grade materials such as enriched uranium and plutonium gradually eliminated from use in peaceful nuclear energy, Interfax reported. The practice of storing plutonium should be ended and its existing stocks "returned to the nuclear fuel cycle," he said. Research carried out in Russia has shown that nuclear energy can be developed without such materials and Moscow is prepared to cooperate with all countries in this field, Putin added. JC

TOP DUMA OFFICIAL CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO EXPLAIN MEDIA FUNDING...

Responding to reports that addenda to the draft 2001 federal budget regarding subsidies to the media are classified (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2000), State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksander Zhukov suggested that a bureaucrat had mistakenly stamped "top secret" on a small part of the expenditures for the media. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 6 September, he called on the government to explain its intentions vis-a-vis media funding and allay any fears about possible pressure on the independent mass media. Zhukov added that such spending has never been classified previously. He said he has reviewed the level of spending proposed for next year, which, he noted, differs little from previous years. Of a total 6.2 billion rubles ($223 million) for the media, some 5.6 billion rubles will be spent on television and radio broadcasts, while most is intended for the transmission of radio and TV signals. JAC

...AS MONEY LINKED WITH CHECHNYA PROPAGANDA EFFORT

However, "The Moscow Times" reported the same day, quoting a Duma staff member and an unnamed "high-placed government official," that funding of "special propaganda operations," in particular with regard to Chechnya, is classified and that money has been set aside to fund the operations of a propaganda commission under the Security Council. The newspaper also quoted Nikolai Leonov, a retired lieutenant general of the KGB and professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, as saying that it is "absolutely normal" to have secret budgets for media-related operations abroad, such as "bribing" reporters or funding media organizations. JAC

PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES TO BOOST BANKING SECTOR REFORMS...

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters on 6 September that Russia will intensify its efforts to reform the country's banking sector. He noted that "first of all," competition needs to be created in the sphere of banking services. The same day, "Vremya MN" reported that State Duma deputies may consider a number of new laws affecting the banking sector during the lower house's fall session, including one on the bankruptcy of credit organizations, one on the Central Bank, and one guaranteeing citizens' bank deposits. According to Deputy Chairman of the Duma's Banking Committee (Fatherland-All Russia) Pavel Medvedev, once the laws are approved, it will be possible to say that the creation of an overall structure for Russia's banking legislation has been completed. JAC

...REMAINS UNFAZED BY RUMORS OF HIS IMPENDING DEPARTURE

Prime Minister Kasyanov told reporters on 6 September that he is taking rumors about his impending dismissal from his post "calmly and with a smile," the website http://www.lenta.ru reported. He added that "for many years we have become used to tensions [rising] in the fall, otherwise living in our country would not be so interesting." "Argumenty i fakty" reported in its most recent issue, citing unidentified Kremlin sources, that last month President Putin started to consider the possibility of replacing Kasyanov with someone who is not associated with the "Family," the coterie of officials close to former President Boris Yeltsin. It suggested that the top candidates to replace Kasyanov are Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin. It also claimed that Communications Minister Leonid Reiman took himself out of the running for the premier slot. JAC

U.S. HANDS OVER DATA ON 'KURSK' SINKING.

U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Ivanov on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit in New York on 6 September, handed over U.S. intelligence data on the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine. A U.S. submarine had been monitoring Russian naval maneuvers in the Barents sea last month, when the "Kursk" sank, killing all 118 crew members on board. The U.S. has said that two explosions were recorded at the time of the sinking. According to U.S. theories, the "Kursk" sank because of an accident involving a torpedo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000), while Russian officials have continued to assert that a collision, possibly with a foreign submarine, caused the disaster. Also on 6 September, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said there had never been any contact with the crew after the submarine sank. That comment contradicts initial Russian Navy claims that Russian rescuers had heard tapping on the hull of the vessel. JC

CHECHEN ANNIVERSARY PASSES WITHOUT MAJOR INCIDENT

Contrary to Russian media predictions, Chechen fighters did not launch a wave of terrorist attacks to mark the 6 September anniversary of Chechnya's 1991 Declaration of Independence. Strict security measures had been imposed in Grozny and in cities across the Russian Federation in anticipation of such attacks. Russian commentators noted that all major Chechen onslaughts have been unexpected and, accordingly, have never been launched to coincide with a specific anniversary. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY, CHECHEN OFFICIALS DOUBT KHATTAB HAS LEFT CHECHNYA

Members of the interim Chechen administration told Interfax on 6 September that they doubt the veracity of reports that Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab has left Chechnya for Tajikistan. They noted that rumors of Khattab's departure from Chechnya have been circulating for several months but have not been confirmed. Russian commander Lieutenant General Valerii Baranov similarly told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that he cannot confirm that Khattab is no longer in Chechnya. "I do not think [Khattab] will go anywhere alone. He has a well-organized system of guerrilla units under his command that are now stationed in Chechnya," ITAR-TASS quoted Baranov as saying. LF

TUSSLE FOR CONTROL OF CHECHEN OIL SECTOR CONTINUES

During nine hours of talks in Rostov on 5 September, federal energy ministry officials and the interim Chechen administration failed to reach agreement on dividing the stock of the future Grozneft company that will manage the Chechen oil and gas sector, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 September. Moscow, represented at the talks by Energy Minister Aleksandr Gavrin, wants Rosneft to control the majority package of shares as the main investor, while the Chechen leadership in the person of Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov insists that it should control Grozneft (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 30, 27 July 2000). LF

PRO-KREMLIN PARTY DRAFTS ITS PLATFORM

The Unity party's political council has approved a draft program, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 September. According to the draft, the party supports the development of regular economic markets in the seven federal districts in order to prevent centrifugal tendencies in the regions. It also favors a reduction in taxes, the deepening of institutional reforms, unconditional guarantees of property rights, free medical assistance for the needy, and the increase of federal budget allocations for education to 1.5 percent of GDP by 2005. The draft also provided some guidance about the party's likely stance toward the Land Code, which the Duma will consider this fall. The draft declared that Unity stands for the timely adoption of laws to regulate land sales and insists on the right of the state to set specific rules for the sale of agricultural land. JAC

REPORT CHARGES THAT SOME RELIGIONS TREATED LESS EQUALLY THAN OTHERS

An unidentified official with the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow told Interfax on 6 September that the U.S. State Department's annual report on international religious freedom constitutes another example of the U.S.'s interfering in Russia's internal affairs. The report, which was released on 5 September, noted that while the Russian Constitution provides for equality of all religions before the law and the separation of Church and state, "in practice the government does not always respect the provision for equality of religions and in some instances local authorities imposed restrictions on some groups." The report also cites information from the Russian presidential administration that "30 of 89 regions have laws and decrees on religion that violate the Constitution by restricting the activities of religious groups." JAC

MOSCOW-BAGHDAD PASSENGER FLIGHTS TO RESUME

Two Russian airlines, Vnukovo and Aeroflot are competing for the right to resume passenger flights to Iraq, Andrei Okhotkin, director-general of Vnukovo Airlines-Trading House, told Interfax on 6 September. According to Okhotkin, UN sanctions against Iraq do not prohibit commercial flights to the country. He added that the State Civil Aviation Service and the Foreign Ministry have been thoroughly studying the possibility of resuming flights, but a final decision on the resumption of flights to the reopened Saddam Hussein International Airport may not be reached until the end of the year. An unidentified Aeroflot official told the agency that the company will reopen its office in Baghdad shortly. JAC

GRENADE ATTACK INJURES 16 IN MOSCOW

In the early hours of 7 September, an unidentified individual threw a grenade among what were thought to have been prostitutes on a Moscow street. Fifteen women and one man were injured, according to Reuters. The assailant escaped in a car. An initial investigation suggested that the attack was a settling of accounts between rival crime groups that run prostitution rackets. JC

YELTSIN TO HAWK NEW BOOK

Former President Yeltsin plans to publish new memoirs in the U.S., France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Great Britain next month, according to "The Moscow Times" on 7 September. The book is being adapted by former chief of presidential staff Valentin Yumashev from a series of interviews conducted soon after Yeltsin's resignation on 31 December 1999. The release of the Russian edition of the book has also been scheduled for October but may be delayed. According to the newspaper, the book will illuminate Yeltsin's thought- processes related to decision-making on Chechnya, his string of prime ministers, and his resignation. JAC

NEW ABODE OPENS TO SERVE MOSCOW'S PUBLIC SERVANTS

More than 200 State Duma deputies are to reside in an "elite" apartment building, located in a "prestigious" section of western Moscow, that is being constructed for them, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 6 September. According to the daily, the price of 1 square meter in the building, which is equipped with an underground garage and has stained glass windows and marble fittings, ranges from $950-$1,500, depending on which floor the apartment is located and the view it affords. The standard two- room apartments are 87 square meters. The newspaper reported that the Duma's second largest faction, Unity, has been allotted 59 apartments for its deputies, while the People's Deputy group has 42. JAC




ELECTIONEERING GUIDELINES PUBLISHED IN AZERBAIJAN

The Azerbaijani government press has published a list of tariffs for the publication of campaign materials in the runup to the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported on 6 September. The election campaign formally begins 45 days before that date. A Central Electoral Commission official told Turan the same day that 17 political parties and one election bloc have so far been registered to contest the ballot. Registration ends on 11 September. LF

EU TO HELP UPGRADE SECURITY ON GEORGIAN-CHECHEN BORDER

The EU will provide Georgia with special equipment, vehicles, and fuel for its border checkpoints in the villages of Shatili, Omalo, and Girevi, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 September, quoting an unidentified Georgian Border Guard Department official. That technical support is intended to facilitate the work of the 42 OSCE observers currently deployed along the Georgian-Chechen border. LF

POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER VISITS GEORGIA

Polish Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff met in Tbilisi on 6 September with Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili and with parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania to discuss expanding bilateral economic cooperation and the prospects of exporting Caspian oil via the planned Odesa-Brody-Gdansk oil pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT CALLS FOR GLOBALIZATION GUIDELINES

Speaking on 6 September at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, Nursultan Nazarbaev called on the UN to work with member states on drafting guidelines for globalization, an RFE/RL correspondent at the UN reported. Nazarbaev said such guidelines are needed to help overcome existing economic divisions between rich and poor and between developed and developing countries. He urged the UN to work more closely with regional groupings to promote security and economic development. Nazarbaev also called for a greater effort by the UN to counter the threat of terrorism and drugs emanating from Afghanistan. LF

KAZAKHSTAN SEES NO SWIFT SOLUTION TO BORDER DISPUTES

Bighali Turarbekov, who is chairman of Kazakhstan's Commission on Border Delimitation, told a press conference in Almaty on 6 September that it is unlikely all disputes over Kazakhstan's borders will be resolved before 2007, Reuters reported. Turarbekov said that Kazakhstan has reached agreement with China on their common 1,700 kilometer border, but not on the use of waters from rivers that flow from China into Kazakhstan. He said the demarcation of the border with Russia, which began last year, will be "a long process," as only 700 kilometers of the total 7,200 kilometers have been agreed on. Turarbekov predicted difficulties in demarcating the border with Uzbekistan because of villages in Uzbek territory inhabited by Kazakhs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 27 January 2000). LF

ONLY FIVE CANDIDATES TO CONTEST KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL?

It is likely that no more than five of the prospective 19 candidates will qualify to contest the 29 October Kyrgyz presidential poll, Omurbek Tikebaev, who is deputy speaker of the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament, told ITAR-TASS on 6 September. He predicted that incumbent President Askar Akaev, businessman Almazbek Atambaev, and parliamentary deputy Dooronbek Sadyrbaev will be registered, in addition to the two candidates registered to date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2000). Tikebaev said he doubts that the remaining candidates, who include the immensely popular former Vice President and Bishkek mayor Feliks Kulov, will succeed in collecting the required 50,000 signatures needed to register. LF

KYRGYZ PICKETERS PROTEST OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S SENTENCING

Some 20 people picketed the OSCE office in Bishkek on 6 September to protest the 16-year jail sentence handed down five days earlier to opposition Erkindik Party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. TurgunAliyev was found guilty of masterminding a plot to assassinate President Askar Akaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 4 September 2000). Several political parties have already protested the sentence, and others are collecting signatures to a petition calling for Turgunaliev's release. Turgunaliev's lawyer told RFE/RL on 6 September that he has not yet received written notification of his client's sentence. Such notification is necessary in order to appeal against the sentence, which must be done within 10 days. LF

KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN CONFIRMS HE WAS FORCED TO RESIGN

Akynbek TilebAliyev said in an interview published in "Delo Nomer" on 6 September that he was forced to step down last month as Supreme Court chairman following the acquittal of former Vice President Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Official media reported that TilebAliyev resigned "at his own request" because of failing health. Several days earlier, the government newspaper "Kyrgyz Tuursu" claimed that TilebAliyev had exerted pressure on Nurlan Ashymbekov, the judge presiding over the Kulov case, to acquit Kulov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). LF

KYRGYZ CURRENCY LOSES VALUE

On 6 September, the value of the Kyrgyz som fell for the first time to more than 50 soms to the U.S. dollar, trading at between 50.5 and 50.7, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Last month, the som traded at 47 to the U.S. dollar. "Vremya-MN" on 6 September attributed the currency's fall to the approaching presidential poll. The newspaper added that the Kyrgyz National Bank's announcement of the introduction of new banknotes worth 200, 500 and 1,000 soms has compounded nervousness on the currency market and is likely to fuel inflation. The inflation rate for the first seven months of this year was 5.3 percent, Interfax reported on 23 August. LF

KYRGYZ MILITARY SAYS ISLAMISTS TRAPPED

All highways and mountain paths linking Kyrgyzstan with Tajikistan are currently controlled by Kyrgyz government troops, according to a Defense Ministry statement issued on 6 September and quoted by ITAR-TASS. Also on 6 September, the Uzbek Defense Ministry estimated at 15-20 the number of fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) who are still trapped in Uzbekistan's eastern Surkhandarya Oblast. Addressing a meeting of CIS interior ministers in the Kyrgyz resort of Issyk-kul on 6 September, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev called for concerted coordinated measures to counter extremism, linking the IMU incursions into Central Asia to the fighting in the North Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

TURKMENISTAN JOINS ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK

The Asian Development Bank announced in a statement released by its Manila headquarters on 6 September that Turkmenistan became the bank's 59th member on 31 August, dpa reported. The statement said the bank will shortly send a mission to Turkmenistan that will focus on ways to reduce poverty and transform the Turkmen economy. It noted that 90 percent of economic enterprises in Turkmenistan remain state- owned. LF

UZBEKISTAN AGAIN DENIES EXISTENCE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS, PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE

There are no prisoners of conscience or persons convicted for their religious beliefs in Uzbekistan's prisons, Minister of Justice Abdusamat Polvon-zade told ITAR-TASS on 6 September. He said Western human rights organizations' claims that there are more than 200 political prisoners in Uzbekistan constitute an attempt to blacken the country's reputation. Two weeks ago, the official newspaper "Pravda vostoka" similarly denied that there are any political prisoners in Uzbekistan's jails (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 2000). Also on 6 September, President Islam Karimov issued a decree saying that those "extremists" and convicted terrorists who are currently serving jail terms for minor offences will be pardoned if they repent of their crimes, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. LF

CUSTOMS OFFICIALS CONFISCATE BANNED DRUG FROM MEMBER OF UZBEK OLYMPIC TEAM

Airport officials in Sydney on 7 September confiscated "a small quantity" of a prohibited drug from a trainer accompanying Uzbekistan's Olympic team, AP reported. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT BLASTS BIG POWERS FOR 'ARROGANCE'

Alyaksandr Lukashenka, addressing the UN Millennium Summit in New York on 6 September, accused the world's big powers of "arrogance," Reuters reported. "Lately, efforts have been made to create a sort of club of the chosen, which excludes the majority of the world nations. This arrogant attempt to divide the peoples into 'teachers' and 'pupils' can do no good for the real encouragement of democracy and human rights," the agency quoted him as saying. Lukashenka also cited growing attempts "to treat all alike and reject any national and regional specifics which do not fall in to the customary framework of the 'Western way of life.'" The same day the Belarusian diaspora held a demonstration in New York protesting Lukashenka's dictatorship in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LAUNCHES 'POPULAR REFERENDUM' TO COUNTER ELECTIONS

Five opposition parties that are boycotting the 15 October legislative poll have begun collecting signatures in support of the OSCE's four demands to democratize the electoral process in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 6 September. The action is called "Popular Referendum" and is organized by the Belarusian Popular Front Party (PBNF), United Civic Party, the Social Democratic Party of Stanislau Shushkevich, the Women's Party "Hope," and some members of the Social Democratic Party of Mikalay Statkevich. "The main goal [of the action] is to explain to people the united opposition's stance [on the elections]," PBNF deputy chairman Viktar Ivashkevich commented. "The boycott will fail, it is ridiculous in a political, moral, and legal sense," presidential aide Syarhey Posakhau said. JM

SEVEN CANDIDATES TO COMPETE FOR EACH DEPUTY SEAT IN BELARUS

Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna announced on 6 September that 769 people have filed documents to register for the 15 October elections to the 110-seat Chamber of Representatives, Belapan reported. Workers' collectives fielded 308 contenders, political parties 306, and groups of citizens 334 (some of the contenders were proposed by more than one group). The Belarusian Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party are the only opposition parties to officially nominate candidates for the ballot. JM

IMF READY TO RESUME COOPERATION WITH UKRAINE?

The IMF on 6 September welcomed Ukraine's repayment of $100 million ahead of schedule (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2000) and its agreement to tighten controls on future borrowing from the fund, Reuters reported. However, IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer noted that the fund sees Ukraine's progress on reform as insufficient and hopes Kyiv will take more steps to ensure continued IMF lending to Ukraine. "These efforts are needed to provide a strengthening of Ukraine's growth prospects and an improvement in standards of living for the Ukrainian population," Fischer said. Meanwhile, quoting "reliable sources," ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September that the IMF Board of Directors decided the previous day to resume its loan program to Ukraine, which was suspended a year ago. JM

UKRAINE'S GREENS WANT MORE FUNDS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Some 1,000 members of the Green Party picketed the government building in Kyiv on 6 September to demand more funds to upgrade waste storage facilities throughout the country, AP and Interfax reported. Green Party leader Vitaliy Kononov said the state-run Radon storage site near Kyiv received only 2.5 billion hryvni ($460,000) in funding this year, while its needs are nearly five times higher. Environmental Minister Oleksandr Zayets admitted to the protesters that the problem of waste storage is serious but expressed hope that a new waste site being built near the Chornobyl power plant will improve the situation. JM

LATVIAN PRISONERS ON SYMPATHY HUNGER STRIKE WITH JAILED BANKER

Six people being held in pre-trial detention announced on 6 September they are going on a 10-day hunger strike to protest the treatment of ex-banker Aleksandr Lavent, who has been in jail for some 62 months, despite an ongoing trial. Police officials confirmed the hunger strike, saying the six are under medical supervision, but declined to make known their identity or other details, BNS reported. The six inmates are protesting Judge Inara Steinarte's ruling on 6 September stopping Lavent from finishing his closing statement, saying the defendant was threatening the court. Lavent, who was taken to a prison hospital after suffering an angina attack in court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2000), is likely to remain in hospital for at least a week, according to doctors. His trial is scheduled to resume on 7 September. MH

U.S. COURT RULES TO DEPORT ANOTHER LITHUANIAN

An appeals court in Cincinnati on 5 September ruled to revoke the naturalized citizenship of 79-year-old Algimantas Dailide, AP reported. The Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which filed the case, charged Dailide with working as a volunteer for the Lithuanian security police (Saugumas) during the Nazi occupation and with hunting down Jews who had escaped from the ghettos. Dailide denied the charges and said that during the Nazi occupation, he belonged to a force that hunted down Communists rebels. Dailide admitted he concealed his membership in Saugumas when applying for entry into the U.S. 50 years ago because he had feared he would be sent back to then Soviet-occupied Lithuania. Lawyers representing Dailide said he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. MH

POLAND'S SECRET SERVICE SAID TO BEHAVE LAWFULLY IN LUSTRATION

Minister for Secret Services Janusz Palubicki said on 6 September that the State Protection Office (UOP) did not break the law in connection with the lustration case of President Aleksander Kwasniewski, PAP reported. After the court cleared him of charges of having been a communist-era secret service agent, Kwasniewski said he has lost confidence in the UOP. He demanded that the government investigate why the UOP had submitted to the court communist-era secret files connected with his case only after the presidential election campaign had begun. Kwasniewski's aides and the opposition Democratic Left Alliance suggested that the UOP wanted to thwart Kwasniewski's re-election bid. JM

POLISH BISHOP MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARS EN ROUTE TO SIBERIA

Roman Catholic Bishop Andrzej Sliwinski from Elblag, northern Poland, has disappeared en route to Irkutsk, Siberia, where he was expected to consecrate a cathedral administered by Polish priests, AP reported on 7 September. Sliwinski left Warsaw on 4 September on an Aeroflot flight. He was supposed to change planes at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport but failed to appear on the flight to Irkutsk. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that the bishop was due to arrive in Moscow on 4 September but failed to turn up at Sheremetevo. JM

ZEMAN RESPONDS TO AUSTRIAN RESOLUTION ON TEMELIN

Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on 6 September that the Czech Republic is "a sovereign country" whose government's decisions can be influenced by those of the Czech parliament but "not by the parliament of another country." Zeman was responding to the Austrian parliament's resolution the previous day calling on the government not to approve the energy chapter in the EU talks with Prague unless it is proved that the Temelin nuclear power plant meets EU safety standards. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE OPPOSES LIFTING NATIONALIST'S IMMUNITY

The parliament's Immunity Committee on 6 September recommended that the legislature refuse to lift the immunity of Slovak National Party deputy Vitazoslav Moric. The decision on lifting Moric's immunity is to be taken by the parliament's plenum. Police have asked the parliament to strip Moric of his immunity for having called last month for Roma to be sent to "reservations." Moric told the committee his comments had been distorted by the media. He said he had called for "all non- conformists" to be sent to reservations, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES CHIEF OF STAFF

"If [Chief of Staff General Lajos] Fodor feels he is unable to follow through the reform of the defense forces, he should draw the necessary conclusions," Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio on 6 September. Orban was responding to a statement by Fodor published in the daily "Nepszabadsag" saying that the decision to close the air base in Papa was not his decision but the cabinet's "political decision." Fodor denied having made that statement and said his exact words to "Nepszabadsag" were that the decision to close the base had been determined by the government's goal of creating "a smaller, more flexible army that is easier to finance and capable of guaranteeing Hungary's defense and territorial integrity." Responding to Orban's comment, he added that he does not know "what conclusions to draw." MS

HUNGARIAN EXTREME NATIONALISTS WANT REFERENDUM ON JOINING EU

The Justice and Life Party (MIEP) on 6 September said Hungary must not join the EU without conducting a referendum on membership in that organization. MIEP chairman Istvan Csurka said the plebiscite must be preceded by the publication of "accurate information" on what the consequences of joining would be. Otherwise, Csurka said, one should not speak of "accession but of colonization." MS




GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS SKOPJE, BELGRADE

George Papandreou arrived in Skopje on 6 September for the first stop of a Balkan tour that includes Belgrade, Podgorica, and Prishtina, AP reported. Papandreou met with Macedonian Premier Ljubco Georgievski, whose party faces a strong challenge in local elections this weekend (see "End Note" below). Later the same day, Papandreou flew to Belgrade where he met with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle. Papandreou said he is in Belgrade to "say some very clear and open things as a friend." He noted that the 24 September election is a "crucial moment" for the Serbian people. Papandreou will meet on 7 September with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, leading opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica, and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic. Papandreou's Belgrade trip is the first by a high-level official from the EU since the Greek minister was in Serbia after the end of the NATO bombing campaign last year. PB

MONTENEGRIN PREMIER SAYS MILOSEVIC WILL NOT ADMIT DEFEAT

Filip Vujanovic said on 6 September in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica that Yugoslav President Milosevic has always been "undemocratic" and "would never acknowledge a defeat in the elections," AP reported. Vujanovic said it will be "up to the Serbian people and progressive forces within Serbia to struggle and achieve democracy--something I am convinced is entirely possible." Vujanovic, whose pro-Western government has called on voters in Montenegro to boycott the election, said Montenegrin officials are holding talks with Yugoslav officials on how to conduct the elections in Montenegro. Vujanovic said Montenegro is insisting upon a deal that would allow "our officials to monitor balloting." PB

EU WORRIED ABOUT AILING SERBIAN JOURNALIST

The EU said on 6 September that it is concerned about the condition of imprisoned journalist Miroslav Filipovic, who suffers from a serious heart condition, Reuters reported. Filipovic, 49, was sentenced on 28 July to seven years in prison for espionage. The EU has demanded that "appropriate measures be taken to address his poor health state until he recovers fully." Filipovic worked for the independent daily "Danas," the French press agency AFP, and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting. PB

STUDENT OPPOSITION GROUP FOOLS SERBIAN POLICE

The Serbian student opposition group Otpor (Resistance) fooled the police in Belgrade on 6 September, two days after police raided the group's headquarters, AP reported. Otpor activists began unloading boxes in front of their headquarters, apparently to replace campaign materials and computers seized by police during the raid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2000). Police on the scene quickly came and confiscated the boxes, only to find out that they were empty. Bystanders laughed and jeered the police. Ivan Marovic, an Otpor leader, said he is "eager to hear how they will explain the seizure of boxes filled with air." PB

RADICAL SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DETAINED IN KOSOVA

NATO peacekeepers detained Serbian ultranationalist presidential contender Tomislav Nikolic on 6 September as he campaigned in the Serbian province, AP reported. Nikolic, who is running as the candidate of the Serbian Radical Party, and his 30-person entourage were stopped by French peacekeepers for about an hour at a checkpoint near Zvecan, in northern Kosova. The group was headed back to Serbia proper after a day of campaigning in ethnic Serbian towns and villages in Kosova. In the divided town of Mitrovica, Nikolic promised a "speedy return" of Serbian sovereignty to Kosova. PB

PEACEKEEPERS CONFISCATE ARMS IN KOSOVA

NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosova said on 6 September that in a routine search in the town of Fusha-Kosova (Kosovo Polje), several people were detained for illegal possession of weapons and ammunition, Reuters reported. Major Tim Pearce said the find was "one of the most successful searches we've had." The weapons, which were displayed in 25 piles, were taken from houses belonging to ethnic Albanians and Serbs. PB

CROATIA CHARGES TWO PEOPLE WITH WAR CRIMES

Police in the Adriatic port of Zadar said on 6 September that they have arrested two Bosnian Croats in connection with a massacre of Muslims in 1993, Reuters reported. Police said Tomislav Vlajic and Ante Sliskovic were charged "on a well-found suspicion that they committed war crimes in Ahmici." Police said they are still looking for two other suspects. Premier Ivica Racan said the arrest "proves that criminals will no longer be able to live freely and peacefully here." More than 100 Muslim civilians were murdered on 16 April 1993 in Ahmici, in Bosnia's central Lasva Valley. The Croatian government and the war crimes tribunal at The Hague have an agreement whereby Croatia is allowed to prosecute lower-ranking Bosnian Croat officers who were involved in the massacre. PB

BOSNIAN FOREIGN MINISTER LEAVES NATIONALIST CROATIAN PARTY

Jadranko Prlic said on 6 September that he has quit the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) because of discord among the party's officials, Reuters reported. Prlic, who helped found the nationalist HDZ, said the sacking last week of Marko Tadic, a reformist head of the university in the Croatian part of Mostar, was the deciding factor in his quitting the party. He said the HDZ has "let down the man who was the carrier of political changes." Despite the disintegration of the HDZ in Croatia following the death of its partiarch, former President Franjo Tudjman, the HDZ is still dominant in the Bosnian-Croat community. PB

SLOVENIA WON'T ABOLISH WORLD WAR II EXPULSION DECREES

Slovenia said on 5 September that the attempt by Austria to have the AVNOJ decrees abrograted is an attempt to change history, Reuters reported. Slovenian President Milan Kucan said in a letter to his Austrian counterpart, Thomas Klestil, that calls from Austria's right-wing Freedom Party for Slovenia to abolish the decrees before being allowed to join the EU "seriously worsen good neighborly relations." The AVNOJ decrees led to the expulsion from Yugoslavia of ethnic Germans and the seizure of their property. PB

ROMANIAN MINISTERS PAST AND PRESENT TO BE PROSECUTED?

The Prosecutor-General's Office has requested the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of former Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu and former Interior Minister Doru Ioan Taracila in connection with their alleged involvement in breaking the UN- imposed embargo on Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2000), Mediafax reported. The agency also said that former government secretary Viorel Hrebenciuc is to be prosecuted in connection with his involvement in the Adrian Costea money-laundering scandal and that the Prosecutor- General's Office has requested that Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica initiate the procedure for lifting his immunity. Hrebenciuc is now a deputy representing the PDSR. The prosecutor-general, moreover, is requesting the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of Agriculture Minister Ioan Muresan, suspected of "abuse of office," and that of Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, accused by one of his subordinates of having illegally dismissed him when Basescu was transportation minister. MS

ISARESCU TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT OF ROMANIA

Sources "close to the premier" on 6 September said Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu has made up his mind to run for president in the elections scheduled for November-December, Mediafax reported. The sources said Isarescu's campaign will be headed by Adrian Vasilescu, who is a counselor to the premier. MS

ROMANIAN POLL SHOWS ILIESCU STILL AHEAD

A public opinion poll conducted by Metromedia Transilvania shows Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) leader Ion Iliescu is leading the field of presidential candidates with 41.6 percent backing, followed by Premier Mugur Isarescu (23.1 percent), National Liberal Party (PNL) candidate Theodor Stolojan (13.5 percent), Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor (7 percent), Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman (4.6 percent) and Alliance for Romania (APR) leader Theodor Melescanu (4 percent). The PDSR has an absolute majority of 51.9 percent in the parliamentary poll scheduled for November, followed by the PNL (12.9 percent), the Democratic Convention of Romania 2000 (10.2 percent), the Democratic Party (7.9 percent), the PRM (6.1 percent), and the APR (4,9 percent), Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN DISSIDENT LIBERALS TO JOIN DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 6 September announced it backs the request of the National Liberal Party--the Bratianus to join the Democratic Convention of Romania 2000, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. PNTCD leader Ion Diaconescu said the party, headed by PNL dissident Decebal Traian Remes, can join the CDR 2000 only after it has been officially registered. But PNL leader Mircea Ionescu- Quintus said his party will oppose that registration under the name of "the Bratianus." The acceptance of Remes's group into the CDR 2000 rules out the PNL's future collaboration with CDR 2000, he added. MS

PRIMAKOV'S DRAFT ACCORD ON TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENT PUBLISHED

"Moldavskie Vedomosti" on 6 September published the draft agreement drawn up by Yevgenii Primakov, head of the Russian state commission on settling the Transdniester conflict, to Chisinau and Tiraspol. Infotag described the draft as "a combination of federative and confederative ideas." The document says the sides would create a "common state" in which the Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic would have its own constitution and legislative, executive, and judicial bodies as well as its own flag, coat of arms, and anthem. The "common state" would have jurisdiction over foreign policy and border guards. "Internal borders" would be "mutually transparent" and "not subject to customs." One side's army, security forces, and police would not be able to operate on the other's territory without its consent. The draft stipulates that peacekeeping units will include OSCE forces but the bulk of such troops will come from Russia and Ukraine. MS

BULGARIAN OFFICIAL SAYS KOZLODUY INCREASINGLY UNSAFE

Georgi Kaschiev, chairman of Bulgaria's State Committee for the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power, said the safety of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant is "diminishing at an alarming rate." In an interview with "Demokratsiya," Kaschiev said that since the beginning of this year, 50 incidents have been registered at Kozloduy, compared with 62 for the whole of 1999. He added that information about those incidents is being concealed from the public, dpa reported. MS




DIFFERENT ISSUES, DIFFERENT PRIORITIES IN BALKAN FALL ELECTIONS


by Patrick Moore

No fewer than six sets of elections will take place in the western Balkans between 10 September and 11 November. The stakes are potentially high in all of them.

The first country to go to the polls is Macedonia, on 10 September. Voting is for local offices, and this is the first such poll since the national elections in the fall of 1998 and since the Kosova crisis and presidential election of 1999.

Feuding within the governing coalition and its failure to significantly raise living standards are likely to mean votes for the opposition Social Democrats (the former communists who ran the country until late 1998). Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has said he might be willing to hold snap elections in October if his pro-business Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization loses more than 10 percent in the local vote. The next parliamentary elections are due in 2002.

Most international attention has been focused on the 24 September Serbian local elections and the federal Yugoslav parliamentary and presidential vote. At stake is the political future of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his machine. Serbian public opinion polls are often unreliable and show a large percentage of undecided voters. But there is general agreement in the surveys that the combined opposition could unseat the dictator.

The problem is that the opposition is anything but united. The Montenegrin leadership regards the laws under which the ballot will be held as illegal and unconstitutional. The Podgorica leaders and their supporters consequently refuse to participate in the vote, as the Kosova Albanians have done for many years.

For its part, the Serbian opposition is split between a joint slate of most of the parties, on the one hand, and Vuk Draskovic's backers, on the other. The four leading presidential candidates--including Milosevic--all offer a tweedledum- tweedledee mantra of nationalism and anti-Western rhetoric. They differ chiefly in the nature of the social and political forces behind them, as well as in their stated attitudes toward Serbia's leadership of the past 13 years.

The third elections are local ones in Albania, slated for 1 October. This ballot is widely regarded as a mid-term plebiscite on the governing Socialists. The opposition Democrats' defeat in the last general elections in 1997 was so massive that they have virtually nowhere to go but up. But their pre-election objections to the formation of the Central Election Commission and over the role of the OSCE suggest they might try to deny the validity of the vote if it goes too strongly against them. Smaller parties both inside and outside the governing coalition will be jockeying for local support, but Albanian politics remain heavily polarized between the Democrats and the Socialists.

Slovenia goes to the polls on 15 October to elect a parliament, which is the center of power in that country's political system. There is a general consensus throughout the country that its future lies in integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. Moves toward EU and NATO membership are therefore likely to continue, regardless of who wins.

The term "winning," however, may be relative. The next government is likely to be yet another shaky coalition with a narrow majority, reflecting the fragmented nature of the political spectrum. For more than a century, Slovenian politics have been divided into Liberal, Roman Catholic, and leftist currents, often with more than one party for each. In addition, a small nationalist Right is also present in post-independence Slovenia and could play a pivotal role in the formation of coalitions.

Perhaps the biggest wild card of the upcoming elections is the Kosova local vote slated for 28 October. Few Serbs have registered, so the elections are likely to be an all-Albanian affair, with some involvement by Turks and other minorities.

There are three central questions overshadowing the vote. First, will the recent political and ethnic violence continue and even lead to a disruption of the balloting? Second, will the outcome of the elections be more conducive to general political cohesion throughout the province or will it encourage trends toward rule by local warlords? And third, what will the balance be between the moderate, urban-based Democratic League of Kosova of Ibrahim Rugova and the more rural-based parties that grew out of the former Kosova Liberation Army?

Last, but certainly not least important, are the parliamentary elections in both entities in Bosnia on 11 November. The international community is hoping that the voters will weaken the respective positions of the three nationalist parties that have held sway for most of the past decade. Municipal elections earlier this year indicated that such trends are most pronounced among the Muslims, who may be drifting in ever greater numbers toward the Social Democrats. In addition, the powerful nationalist leader, Alija Izetbegovic, is leaving the joint presidency, which could make for further fragmentation among the Muslim elite.

The Croats, too, have no lack of parties from which to choose. The new government in Zagreb says it will not be helping the nationalists, but it is not clear if the changes in Zagreb earlier this year will translate into changes in Bosnia or especially in Herzegovina in the fall.

The situation among the Serbs seems less promising. Nationalists of various hues seem well entrenched, Milosevic appears poised to cause any mischief he can, and the moderates and minorities rely on the support of and active intervention by the international community.


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