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Newsline - September 8, 2000




BEREZOVSKII NAMES HIS 'TRUSTEES'...

At a press conference on 7 September, Boris Berezovskii named more than 20 people to whom he will transfer management of his shares in Russian Public Television (ORT). Included on his list were "Kommersant-Daily" journalist Natalya Gevorkian, "Novye izvestiya" editor Igor Golembiovskii and commentator Otto Latsis, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" editor Vitalii Tretyakov, ORT journalists Sergei Dorenko, Kirill Kleimenov, Leonid Yakubovich, and Vladimir Pozner, former ORT general director and former deputy head of the presidential administration Igor Shabdurasulov, TV-Tsentr journalist Igor Flyarkovskii, "Obshchaya gazeta" editor Yegor Yakovlev, RFE/RL journalist Anna Kachkaeva, "Segodnya" editor Mikhail Berger, "Itogi" editor Sergei Parkhomenko, NTV director Yevgenii Kiselev, and Ekho Moskvy director Aleksei Venediktov, attorney Genri Reznik, novelists Vasilii Asenov, Fazil Iskander, and Viktor Pelevin, film director Rustam Khamdamov, and theater director Yurii Lyubimov. JAC

...HALF OF WHOM WORK AT HIS COMPANIES

"Kommersant-Daily," "Novye izvestiya," and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" are all publications controlled by Berezovskii. "Segodnya," "Itogi," NTV, and Ekho Moskvy are owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST Group. The attorney Reznik has represented Berezovskii, Gusinskii, and RFE/RL reporter Andrei Babitskii among others. Berezovskii said the list of trustees is still not complete and suggested that he is giving "serious thought" to the possibility of transferring his stakes in other media, such as TV-6 and "Kommersant-Daily." On 7 September, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Sergei Goryachev has been named ORT's new director. He is former deputy chairman of the All Russia Television and Radio Company. JAC

PUTIN SAYS ORT 'TRUSTEES' MUST BE INDEPENDENT

Speaking at a news conference in New York, where he is attending the UN Millennium Summit, Russian President Vladimir President welcomed Berezovskii's plans to hand over his share in ORT to intellectuals but stressed that those people "must be independent," Reuters reported on 8 September. "If we find that the shares are turned over to other people subject to [Berezovskii's] control, then we will see no effects from the move," the president said, noting that he does yet know what and how much is being transferred and under what conditions. JC

ARMED FORCES TO FACE HUGE PERSONNEL CUTS?

Two Russian news agencies, AVN and Interfax, cited unnamed military sources on 7 September as saying that Russia's top military brass intends to significantly reduce the strength of the armed forces. According to Interfax, beginning next year troops will be reduced by some 350,000 servicemen to a total of 850,000 by 2003. The ground forces will lose 180,000 soldiers, the navy 50,000, the air force 40,000, the Interior Ministry 20,000, the Railways Ministry 10,000, the Federal Border Guard Service 5,000, and other ministries and agencies with troops 25,000 servicemen. (The agency did not explain from where the remaining 20,000 servicemen would be cut.) According to AVN, the Russian armed forces will be cut by 400,000 during the same time period. In a recent public opinion survey, respondents said Russia should support a large army, regardless of whether the country can afford one (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2000). JAC

DUMA PROPOSES ADJUSTING BUDGET PARAMETERS...

The State Duma's Budget Committee will recommend that the lower house postpone consideration of the draft 2001 budget until early October, ITAR- TASS reported on 7 September. According to the agency, deputies are asking for the delay in order to better familiarize themselves with the more than 3,000-page document. State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev announced the same day that the budget's first reading had been scheduled for 26 September. On 6 September, State Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov told reporters that some budget indicators may be revised. He suggested that annual inflation next year will likely total 15-18 percent rather than the 12 percent projected and that the average price of oil is also likely to be higher. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 7 September, additional revenues totaling 250 billion rubles ($9 billion) have been forthcoming this year because inflation exceeded projections by two percentage points. JAC

...AND INCREASING DEFENSE SPENDING

"Kommersant-Daily" also reported that Zhukov has suggested deputies will direct any additional revenues toward defense. Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman (Russian Regions) Nikolai Bezborodov told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that his committee will support President Putin's call for increased defense spending next year. Bezborodov said that Putin has proposed raising military expenditures in the draft budget from 206 billion rubles ($7.4 billion) to 271 billion rubles. JAC

PUTIN MEETS WITH BARAK...

On the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit in New York, President Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak during their talks on 7 September that Russia will continue to contribute to the promotion of the Middle East peace process, Interfax reported, quoting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. The talks focused on negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian delegations aimed at reaching an agreement between the two sides. According to ITAR-TASS, Putin described Barak's position in those talks as "very courageous." JC

...AND SEVERAL OTHER LEADERS

Also on 7 September, Putin met with several other world leaders attending the gathering, according to reports by ITAR-TASS and Interfax. With Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, the Russian leader discussed coordinating the two countries' efforts to help settle problems in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Caspian region. In his talks with South African leader Thabo Mbeki, Putin joined Mbeki in calling for closer economic cooperation between the two countries. Putin also told Mbeki that Russia appreciates South Africa's stance on the need to preserve the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The Russian president accepted Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer's invitation to visit Turkey. And he also extended an invitation to Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid to visit Russia, noting that contacts between their two countries are expanding rapidly. JC

JAPANESE OFFICER DETAINED FOR ALLEGEDLY SELLING SECRETS TO MOSCOW

Tokyo police have arrested a Japanese naval officer for allegedly selling classified military information to a Russian military attache. Lieutenant-Commander Shigehiro Hagisaki, who works for the Japanese Defense Agency's National Institute for Defense Studies, was detained while dining with the Russian diplomat. Tokyo police are quoted as saying that Hagisaki has confessed to the spying charges. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 8 September accusing unidentified forces in Japan of using "provocative methods" to undermine the "constructive work that is being carried out in the interest of creating a partnership between our two countries," AFP reported. The incident comes just days after Putin's visit to Japan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 September 2000). While Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori failed to reach agreement on a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities between the two countries, the two sides agreed to continue talks on that issue and step up cooperation in various areas. JC

GERMAN NEWSPAPER SAYS 'KURSK' WAS HIT BY RUSSIAN MISSILE...

In its 8 September issue, the "Berliner Zeitung" cited an unpublished Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) report as saying that a Granit missile fired from the Russian warship "Petr Velikii" sank the "Kursk" nuclear submarine last month, killing its crew of 118, dpa reported. The FSB report does not give the reason for the missile hitting the submarine, according to the Berlin daily, but the newspaper said there is speculation that an error in a new weapons system may have occurred or the "Kursk" was unable to respond because it could not distinguish between friend and foe. The newspaper also said that President Putin received the report on 31 August. JC

...AS U.S. SAYS MAJOR EXPLOSION RIPPED THROUGH SUB

Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon told reporters on 7 September that a major explosion believed to be equivalent to between 1 ton and 5 tons of TNT ripped though the "Kursk" submarine, Reuters reported. The explosion came shortly on the heels of a smaller one and led to the almost immediate flooding of two-thirds of the submarine. Bacon said that information had been included in a letter dated 31 August from Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Vernon Clark to his Russian counterpart. Also on 7 September, Russian President Putin was quoted as saying in New York that information Moscow had received the previous day from Washington (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2000) will help Moscow "analyze the situation and draw conclusions on what caused the catastrophe," according to AP. JC

RUSSIA CONCERNED ABOUT AFGHAN FIGHTING BUT WILL NOT INTERVENE

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 7 September condemning the capture the previous day by Taliban forces of the town of Talukan, in northern Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 7 September said the fall of Talukan is a serious setback for Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, but he predicted that Massoud will succeed in retaking the town, which has changed hands on several previous occasions. Sergeev denied, however, that Russia will launch preventive strikes against the Taliban. Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov had suggested three months ago that Russia might do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 May 2000). Russian Air Force commander General Anatolii Kornukov denied on 7 September that he has received orders to target Taliban bases in Afghanistan where militants undergo training before infiltrating Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Kornukov said that the Uzbek and Kyrgyz armed forces are capable of deflecting those incursions on their own. LF

INTENSIFIED SECURITY TO REMAIN IN FORCE IN CHECHNYA

Military commandant Lieutenant General Ivan Babichev told Interfax on 7 September that the strict security precautions taken across Chechnya earlier this week are the reason why no terrorist attacks took place on 6 September, the anniversary of Chechnya's 1991 declaration of independence. But he added that it is premature to relax those measures, which should remain in force until the threat of suicide bombings has receded. Chechen fighters ambushed a column of Russian OMON troops near Grozny on the evening of 7 September, killing two of them and injuring seven, according to Reuters. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY OFFICIAL DENIES JOURNALIST DETAINED, BEATEN

Colonel Georgii Seropyan, commander of the Khankala military base, denied on 7 September that Ruslan Musaev, a Chechen journalist working for AP, was detained in Grozny two days earlier and taken to Khankala, where he was beaten up, ITAR-TASS reported. Musaev claimed he was beaten up, held in a pit overnight, and then driven on 6 September to the border with Ingushetia, where he was released. In Moscow, a spokesman for Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that no journalist named Musaev is accredited to cover the fighting in Chechnya, according to Interfax. LF

TERRORISM NOT CONSIDERED PRIME MOTIVE IN METRO BOMBING...

Investigators looking into the explosion near the Pushkinskaya metro station last month now consider economic or personal motives the most likely reasons for the crime, Nikolai Yakovlev, deputy chief of the Prosecutor-General's Office for Supervising Criminal investigations, told reporters on 7 September. At the same time, Yakovlev added that his office does "not completely reject [the possibility of] terrorism." JAC

...AS NON-CHECHEN CAUCASIANS SAID TO BE BEHIND APARTMENT BOMBINGS

At a separate press conference the same day, Major General Alexander Shagako, first deputy head of the FSB's fugitive search department, said that at least 63 people were involved in planning and carrying out deadly apartment bombings across Russia one year ago, according to AP. Last year, apartment explosions killed more than 300 people in Moscow, Volgodonsk in Rostov Oblast, and Buinaksk in the Republic of Daghestan. Of the 63 suspects, 33 are in custody, six were killed in fighting in Chechnya, and five have been charged with terrorism in the Buinaksk bombing, while the remaining 19 are being sought. According to FSB official Vladimir Kozlov, most of the suspects are from ethnic groups from the Caucasus but are not Chechens. JAC

GOVERNMENT BACKS CHUBAIS?

"Segodyna" reported on 8 September that at a cabinet meeting the previous day, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko expressed the government's support for Unified Energy System's (EES) recent policy of turning off electricity supplies to those enterprises that have not paid their bills (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 August 2000). According to the newspaper, which is owned by Gusinskii's Media-MOST Group, this is the "first announcement by the White House" on this subject; "earlier the government preferred to remain silent." Khristenko said "without real accounting discipline, it is simply impossible to talk about normal preparations for the winter." EES head Anatolii Chubais had complained earlier that his company is unable to purchase adequate fuel supplies because of customers' unpaid bills. JAC

GOVERNMENT TRIMS NUMBER OF IMPORT DUTIES

The cabinet on 7 September announced it is reducing the number of tariff rates on imports from seven to four, ITAR-TASS reported. The rates will range from 5 percent to 25 percent. Addressing a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov noted the importance of customs policy to the economy and pointed out that 20 percent of budget revenues come from import tariffs. He also drew attention to the fact that importers apparently abuse the current system since some $50 million worth of items made out of straw were allegedly imported last year. "This is evidently not quite the case," he noted. JAC

ARCHAELOGISTS IN CENTRAL RUSSIA DISCOVER MEDIEVAL TEXT

Archaeologists working in Novgorod have found three 11th century wax tablets that indicate that Christianity's spread through Russia was much more rapid than once believed. The tablets may also be the oldest written artifacts ever found in Russia: they were found lying beneath logs dating back to the 1030s, while what was thought to be the oldest surviving Russian book dates from 1056. Moscow State University Professor Alexander Khoroshev told the newspaper that the discovery of the tablets "shows Novgorod's unity with all European culture." Scholars had previously believed that medieval Russians did not write on wax tablets, as their counterparts in Western Europe had done since Roman antiquity. JAC




SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS ADDRESS MILLENNIUM SUMMIT

In their 7 September speeches to the UN Millennium Summit, the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia--Robert Kocharian, Heidar Aliev, and Eduard Shevardnadze--all affirmed their commitment to democratization but said progress to a free market economy is hindered by unresolved conflicts, RFE/RL's UN correspondent reported. Kocharian said Armenia remains committed to finding a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict and will continue bilateral talks with Azerbaijan to that end. But he added that "we think direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and Nagorno- Karabakh would be more productive." Aliyev and Kocharian met on the sidelines of the summit on 7 September, but no details of their talks have been disclosed. Shevardnadze, for his part, deplored the fact that 23 UN Security Council resolutions on Abkhazia adopted over the past seven years have failed to expedite a solution to that conflict. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER RULES OUT ENTERING NEW ALLIANCE

Vazgen Manukian, chairman of the center-right National Democratic Union (AZhM), told journalists in Yerevan on 7 September that while he may hold talks at intervals with President Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, the AZhM does not intend to form an alliance with Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia or with any other party, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said the AZhM should not be considered in opposition to Markarian's government, in which it has one minister. Manukian argued against pre-term parliamentary elections on the grounds that the country's leading parties are not ready for them and the elections laws are seriously flawed. He also rejected as exaggerated rumors of serious disagreements within the AZhM. LF

ARMENIA, IRAN DISCUSS SECURITY

Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian met in Yerevan on 7 September with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Farhad Koleini to discuss bilateral relations and the military and security situation in the region, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIA, POLAND PLEDGE TO REVERSE DECLINE IN BILATERAL TRADE

Visiting Polish Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff attended an Armenian-Polish business forum in Yerevan on 7 September, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenian government ministers stressed the importance Armenia attaches to economic ties with Poland, while Steinhoff underlined the potential for cooperation in agriculture, the machine- building and chemical industries, and the manufacture of jewelry. Both sides expressed dissatisfaction at last year's decline in bilateral trade to $4 million, compared with $8 million in 1998. Steinhoff also noted Poland's interest in participating in the INOGATE and TRACECA projects. He pledged Warsaw's support for Armenia's efforts to join the World Trade Organization and integrate into other European structures. LF

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT URGES AZERBAIJAN TO ENSURE PARLIAMENTARY POLL IS DEMOCRATIC

In a statement released in Washington, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker called on the leadership of Azerbaijan to implement the remaining proposals by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights aimed at creating conditions that will ensure that the 5 November parliamentary poll is free and fair, Turan reported. Those proposals include guaranteeing access to polling stations by independent domestic election observers and allowing the functioning of free media. The statement also encouraged the Azerbaijani leadership to engage in a constructive dialogue with the opposition in the runup to the ballot. LF

CITY MAYOR REJECTS AZERBAIJANI EDITORS' REQUEST TO HOLD PROTEST DEMO

The Baku municipal authorities have rejected a request by the independent Union of Editors to convene a picket outside the Prosecutor-General's Office to protest the arrest of opposition "Yeni Musavat" newspaper editor Rauf Arifoglu, Turan reported on 7 September. Deputy mayor Gabil Abbasoglu said such a protest could be construed as pressure intended to influence the conduct of the investigation. Arifoglu is accused of terrorism, illegal possession of a firearm, and complicity in an abortive plane hijack attempt last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 23 August 2000). Also on 7 September, presidential administration official Ali Hasanov told a news conference in Baku that Arifoglu's arrest does not constitute oppression of the independent media and that he will be released if found not guilty. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONISTS FINED FOR 'HOOLIGANISM'

A Baku district court on 7 September handed down fines of $600 each to four members of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) charged with hooliganism after picketing the home of parliamentary deputy Shamil Gurbanov, Turan reported. The four were protesting what they termed slanderous statements Gurbanov had made in the parliament on 21 July about AMIP chairman Etibar Mamedov. LF

MASS GRAVE UNCOVERED IN KAZAKHSTAN

A burial site containing the remains of several hundred persons was discovered during construction work on the territory of the Aqtobe Metal Plant in northwestern Kazakhstan earlier this week, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 7 September. It is thought the bodies are those of German forced laborers taken prisoner during World War II. LF

MORE FIGHTING REPORTED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyz government forces clashed with fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) during the night of 6-7 September and early in the morning of 7 September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 7 September, citing the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry. One group of some 10 fighters attacked the Jyluu-suu border post overnight, and two militants were killed in a separate attack on a second border post in the Toeroe pass. Speaking at a press conference in Bishkek on 7 September, Kyrgyzstan's National Security Minister Tashtemir Aitbaev said he fears the militants' attacks may become an annual occurrence unless there is a political settlement of the civil war in Afghanistan whereby the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan can be controlled, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN TO SET UP COMMITTEE FOR FOREIGN DEBT

Kyrgyzstan's Finance Ministry is to set up a special committee to deal with the country's foreign debt, Interfax reported on 7 September. The government has drafted and will soon submit to the parliament legislation on the state debt and its repayment. Kyrgyzstan's total foreign debt is estimated at $1.2 billion, its main creditor being Russia ($30.5 million). The country must repay $56.9 million in principal and $26.6 million in interest this year. LF

TURKMENISTAN, INDIA PLAN TO EXPAND COOPERATION

Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov met in Ashgabat on 5 September with Indian Minister of Culture and Tourism Ananth Kumar, Asia Plus- Blitz reported on 7 September. The two discussed bilateral cooperation, including the creation of a joint working group that will focus on power engineering projects. Indian Prime Minister A.T. Vajpayee is to visit Turkmenistan soon. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS CHINA SUPPORTS STRUGGLE AGAINST 'TERRORISTS'

Chinese leader Jiang Zemin has written to Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov assuring him that Beijing backs the Uzbek government's campaign to protect the country's sovereignty against incursions by the IMU, Interfax reported on 7 September quoting the Uzbek presidential press service. Jiang said he believes the anti-terrorism measures jointly endorsed by the "Shanghai Five" at their summit in April will facilitate the struggle against separatism and terrorism and also promote military and security cooperation between China and Uzbekistan. Beijing has recently given Tashkent military equipment worth some $365,000, including sniper rifles and ammunition. LF

FOUR GUUAM PRESIDENTS MEET

The presidents of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova met on 7 September in New York on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit to discuss how to transform the grouping from an informal into a formal organization, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Uzbek President Karimov did not attend, as he was still en route to New York. Azerbaijani President Aliyev and his Georgian counterpart, Shevardnadze, both said that GUUAM's primary focus should be the realization of the Eurasian Transport corridor project. Shevardnadze and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the delays and problems in creating a CIS free trade zone and Russia's withdrawal from the Bishkek agreement on visa-free travel between CIS member states highlight the need for GUUAM states to introduce their own free trade regime. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT MEETS CHINA'S LI PENG

Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Chinese parliamentary chairman Li Peng in Minsk on 7 September, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka expressed Belarus's readiness to cooperate with China in the "technological and even technological-military sphere," the station reported, without elaborating. Lukashenka noted that the two countries' "views on global problems absolutely coincide," and he expressed gratitude for the fact that Belarus finds in China "reliable support [and] an influential friend." Lukashenka said there are 13 Belarusian-Chinese joint ventures, while trade turnover between the two countries reached $250 million in 1999. "This is the answer to all those criticizing us for our cooperation with China and for choosing China as our strategic partner," Lukashenka said. JM

MINSK DENIES LUKASHENKA LEFT NEW YORK IN PROTEST

Presidential spokesman Mikalay Barysevich and Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka denied on 7 September that Alyaksandr Lukashenka left the UN Millennium Summit in New York the previous day to protest his exclusion from the party organized by U.S. President Bill Clinton for the summit's participants. Some Russian media reported earlier that Clinton personally struck Lukashenka's name from the list of guests and that the latter left New York immediately after his address to the summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2000). The spokesmen said Lukashenka left New York at the time he had earlier planned. Latushka added that Lukashenka met at the UN headquarters with heads of delegations from Algeria, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Iran. "We met with such important states that are able not only to support us but also to ask other states to support Belarus," Lukashenka commented on those meetings. JM

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS ENERGY SECTOR REFORM IS WORKING

Yuliya Tymoshenko, who is in charge of reforming Ukraine's energy sector, has said consumers paid 663 million hryvni ($122 million) for energy in August, which constitutes 70.8 percent of the total cost of energy supplies that month, "Ukrainian Economist Daily" reported on 8 September. She noted that as a result of those payments the government was able to repay nearly all debts in the sector, including wages. She said the government still has debts only to those coal enterprises that have not paid for electricity. Tymoshenko added that the government expects 100 percent payment for electricity in September, noting that at the beginning of the year, only 13 percent of electricity supplies were paid for in cash. JM

UKRAINIAN TRADE UNION LEADER ARRESTED

Yuriy Pyvovarov, leader of the All-Ukrainian Trade Union "Solidarnist," was arrested in Donetsk on 6 September, Interfax reported. Donetsk Prosecutor Oleksandr Almezov told journalists that the Kharkiv Prosecutor's Office had launched a criminal investigation into "Solidarnist" activists on charges of abuse of office and had ordered "Solidarnist" headquarters in Donetsk to be searched. Almezov said Pyvovarov put up resistance to police officers and inflicted serious injuries on three of them when they tried to enter his office. Subsequently Pyvovarov spent eight hours on a window ledge of the "Solidarnist" headquarters' building in protest against the search. After finally persuading Pyvovarov to leave his ledge, police interrogated and then arrested him after he had made two attempts to "disappear." Almezov said there is no link between Pyvovarov's arrest and the 29 August protest action in Donetsk, which was organized by "Solidarnist," among other groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). JM

BALTIC LEADERS SPEAK AT UN SUMMIT

Two presidents and a prime minister represented the three Baltic countries at the UN Millennium Summit in New York on 7 September. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga focused on making the UN more efficient and on areas where she believes the UN can do better, saying that the UN should develop assistance programs that "do not compete with each other, do not overlap and do not squander [resources]," BNS reported. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus called on the UN to play a larger role in assisting people to cope with the transformation from communism. Adamkus said that people are "looking for justice which is perceived as compensation for their losses in the past." Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar focused on the role of information technology in today's world, in which, he said, small countries can compete by being economically open. MH

CONTROVERSIAL LATVIAN DEPUTY KEEPS IMMUNITY...

By a vote of 41 to 47 with five abstentions, the Latvian parliament on 7 September failed to revoke the parliamentary immunity of controversial deputy Janis Adamsons, BNS reported. The vote came as no surprise since most parties represented in the parliament had voiced objections to the proposal and two parliamentary committees had voted against it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). Earlier this year, Adamsons, head of a parliamentary ad hoc group investigating the so-called "pedophilia scandal," named three high-ranking officials, including then Premier Andris Skele, as being involved in that affair. Prosecutor-General Janis Maizitis last month asked the parliament to lift Adamsons's immunity in order to file libel charges in connection with the allegation. MH

...TRIGGERING SHARP RESPONSE FROM PREMIER

Prime Minister Andris Berzins called the vote "a slap in the face" for Latvian democracy, despite the fact that some members of his party, Latvia's Way, voted not to revoke Adamsons's immunity. Berzins added that this was, in effect, a vote of no confidence in the Office of the Prosecutor-General and the entire court system, and he accused the parliament of "attempting to be simultaneously both the prosecutor and the court." However, Prosecutor-General Janis Maizitis did not agree with Berzins and called the vote a political decision. Earlier, former Justice Minister Valdis Birkavs, one of the officials named by Adamsons, said he will file a civil suit for 100,000 lats ($163,132) for defamation of character. Adamsons responded that he will file a counter-suit, LETA added. Skele called the decision "sad and regrettable" and said he plans to file civil action against Adamsons as well. MH

LITHUANIAN POLITICAL PARTIES PREPARE FOR START OF ELECTION CAMPAIGN

The deadline for submitting applications to take part in the 8 October general elections passed on 4 September. Representatives of political parties planning to take part in the proportional representation part of the elections, in which 70 of the total 141 seats are to be allocated, met at the Central Election Commission on 7 September to draw spots for the election lists, ELTA reported. A total of 27 parties are participating in the elections, but there are only 15 lists because some of those parties have formed coalitions. There are 1,180 candidates on the proportional representation lists, while some 700 individuals-- mostly members of parties--will compete for one of the 71 constituency seats. On 6 September, the Electoral Commission rejected the candidacy of parliamentary deputy Audrius Butkevicius, who remains on parole following a bribery conviction. Butkevicius has said he will appeal that decision. MH

POLISH PREMIER TO REINFORCE UNIT FOR COMBATING ORGANIZED CRIME

Jerzy Buzek on 7 September said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a special police unit for combating organized crime, will be reinforced by 300 new officers, PAP reported. The CBI claimed this week to have liquidated the so- called Pruszkow Mafia, Poland's most notorious crime syndicate, which dealt in car and art theft, money laundering, extortion, prostitution, trafficking in drugs and weapons, and gang-land slayings. Polish Television reported the same day that gangsters have issued death sentences for some CBI officers involved in the clampdown on the Pruszkow Mafia. JM

SOLIDARITY LEADER'S ELECTION TEAM SAYS MEDIA 'DISTORT' CAMPAIGN

The election staff of Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski accused public television on 6 September of "distorting the presidential election campaign" by devoting too much airtime to the re-election bid of President Aleksander Kwasniewski, PAP reported. Krzaklewski's election staff cited results of monitoring carried out by a "well- known, independent firm" according to which Kwasniewski appeared on the two public television channels in August for a total of 524 seconds, while Polish Peasant Party candidate Jaroslaw Kalinowski chalked up 100 seconds and Krzaklewski 59 seconds. "This may pose a threat to the free public debate during the election campaign," Krzaklewski's election staff chief Wieslaw Walendziak commented. JM

MISSING POLISH BISHOP TURNS UP IN MOSCOW HOTEL

Bishop Andrzej Sliwinski, who was reported missing en route to Irkutsk, in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2000), showed up on 7 September in a hotel near Moscow's Sheremetevo airport. Sliwinski told Reuters that he checked in at the hotel after he had felt ill during his flight from Warsaw to Moscow. Sliwinski said he had no idea that anyone was searching for him. "The bishop is in good health and will go back to his country in the next few days," ITAR-TASS quoted a diplomat from the Polish embassy in Moscow as saying. JM

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PASSES RESOLUTION ON TEMELIN

The European Parliament approved in urgent procedure on 7 September a resolution submitted by the Greens' faction calling on the Czech government not to allow the nuclear power plant at Temelin to begin operating before an environmental impact assessment has been carried out, CTK reported. The resolution also calls on Prague to ratify as soon as possible an international convention on "cross-border environmental impact," which grants neighboring countries the right to participate in the assessment of that impact. The resolution does not explicitly say Temelin should not be launched, nor does it link the launch with the Czech Republic's admission to the EU. It emphasizes, however, the right of each country to choose the type of energy it uses. MS

'EUROMONEY' NAMES SLOVAKIA'S SCHMOGNEROVA 'BEST FINANCE MINISTER'

Slovak Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova has been named "finance minister of the year" by the prestigious British economic magazine "Euromoney," CTK reported. Schmognerova is the first woman ever to be selected by the magazine for the award, which will be presented to her at a ceremony at the annual meeting of the IMF and the Word Bank in Prague later this month. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT REJECTS NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION IN JUSTICE MINISTER

The parliament on 7 September rejected a no- confidence motion in Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky. The motion was moved by the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, which accused Carnogursky of "political interference" in the justice system and of "discrediting" himself by having initiated a government-sponsored resolution proposing that the parliament dismiss Supreme Court Chairman Stefan Harabin, CTK reported. Only 44 out of 117 deputies present supported the motion. Deputies representing the coalition Party of the Democratic Left abstained. MS

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT RAISES MINORITY ISSUE AT UN

Addressing the UN Millennium General Assembly on 7 September, President Ferenc Madl urged that a legally binding international agreement be approved to ensure the defense of the rights of national minorities and the right of international bodies to intervene in the defense of those rights, Hungarian media reported. Madl praised the role played by the UN in defending minority rights but added that the organization still has "historical debts to pay." MS




GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER GIVEN COOL RECEPTION BY MILOSEVIC

George Papandreou told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 7 September that the upcoming elections must be "free and democratic" and that Yugoslavia "must establish normal relations with Europe," Reuters reported. Milosevic thanked Papandreou for Greece's support of Yugoslavia during the war in Kosova but lashed out at the West's "shameful policies of pressure and blackmail." He added that Serbs see their future in Europe "only under conditions of free development and...cooperation, free from all discrimination and tutorial attitudes." The U.S. State Department said it is "unfortunate" that Papandreou met with Milosevic, saying it is concerned Milosevic will use the meeting to boost his chances in the 24 September elections. Papandreou later met with leading opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica, who said he was encouraged by the visit and that there is a "consciousness abroad that [Serbs] deserve to live without sanctions in a democratic society." Papandreou is to fly to Kosova and Montenegro on 8 September. PB

PAPANDREOU ANGERED BY DETENTION OF STUDENT ACTIVISTS

Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou issued a demarche on 7 September after four members of the opposition student group Otpor were detained after being forced to leave the Greek's ambassador's residence in Belgrade, Reuters reported. One of the four, Slobodan Homen, said the students were kicked out of a reception at the residence by Yugoslav security officials and then detained for two hours by police. They were released after the demarche was issued and later met with Papandreou at his hotel. Papandreou said "we reacted immediately and the issue was rectified." PB

BELGRADE ACCUSES MONTENEGRO OF OBSTRUCTING ELECTIONS...

The Yugoslav government said on 7 September that the pro-Western government in Podgorica is pressuring people not to vote in the 24 September Yugoslav elections, Reuters reported. A government statement said "there is organized and systematic pressure on Montenegrin citizens aimed at denying them the constitutional right to directly elect Yugoslav's federal bodies." The Montenegrin government rejected the charges. The ruling party has decided not to participate in the elections and has called on people to boycott them. In other news, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic refuted reports that former Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic had resigned his senior posts in Milosevic's Socialist party, as reported earlier by Serbia's independent press. PB

...WHILE U.S. WARNS MILOSEVIC NOT TO INTERFERE IN MONTENEGRO

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in New York on 7 September that Yugoslav President Milosevic should stay out of Montenegrin affairs, Reuters reported. Albright said after a meeting with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic that "we are paying attention everywhere...and nobody should miscalculate. Milosevic...should not think that the U.S. is out of business during the election period." Albright praised Djukanovic, who she said "is taking a lot of risks for democracy in Montenegro." She added that there are concerns about his safety. PB

OSCE SLAMS SERBIA FOR BOYCOTTING KOSOVA ELECTIONS

Daan Everts, the head of the OSCE mission in Kosova, said in Stockholm on 7 September that Serbian arguments for not participating in the 28 October municipal elections in the Serbian province of Kosova are "hollow and hypocritical," Reuters reported. Everts said "the Serbs have been given every opportunity to participate. It has been their own decision to abstain--it's a self-imposed isolation." Fewer than 1,000 of the approximately 100,000 Serbs living in the UN-run province have registered to vote. He said most are afraid of a backlash from Serb hard-liners if they participate in the elections. Meanwhile, Carl Bildt, the UN special envoy for the Balkans, said the same day that he expects Milosevic to falsify "several hundred thousands of votes" from Kosova during the 24 September presidential election. "They are not going to be free and fair elections--there's going to be massive fraud," he said. PB

SUPPORTERS, OPPONENTS OF MILOSEVIC CLASH IN KOSOVA

Fighting broke out in the Serbian part of the ethnically-divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica on 7 September between supporters and opponents of Yugoslav President Milosevic, Reuters reported. Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the Serb National Council and an avowed Milosevic opponent, said the fighting was started by Milosevic backers and was "very organized." One of his deputies said the instigators were members of Milosevic's ruling Socialist Party and its coalition partner, the Yugoslav Left. Fighting took place at two locations and was broken up by UN police. Some people suffered minor injuries. PB

BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT VOTES NO CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT

The parliament of the Republika Srpska in Banja Luka passed a no- confidence motion in the government of Western-backed Premier Milorad Dodik on 7 September, Reuters reported. The vote was 43 to one with two abstentions. Muslim and Croatian deputies did not vote, and the deputies from the ruling Sloga coalition left the assembly to protest the vote. Parliamentary speaker Petar Djokic said the vote relieves the government of its duties. Dodik said "the government accepts the decision and continues to work in accordance with the law and the constitution until the election of the new government." Bosnia's municipal elections are scheduled for 11 November. PB

KARADZIC SIGHTED IN SARAJEVO

Fugitive former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic was reportedly seen in a Serbian-dominated suburb of Sarajevo last weekend, according to Reuters, citing the daily "Oslobodjenje." The daily said that Karadzic dined at a small bar in Lukavica and that he looked weary. It said Karadzic is purported to be staying with friends near Sarajevo, although he spends most of his time in eastern Bosnia. PB

MACEDONIAN ELECTIONS CRUCIAL TEST FOR GOVERNMENT

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski has said he favors an early election if his three-party coalition loses by more than 10 percentage points to the opposition in the 10 September local elections, Reuters reported on 8 September. Voters will elect municipal mayors and councils, with a second round to be held two weeks later if necessary. Analysts, including the think-tank the International Crisis Group, say that the election is in fact a popularity test for the ruling coalition, made up of the VMRO- DPMNE, the Democratic Alternative, and Democratic Party of Albanians. Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, said he is confident of victory: "We will not wait for the election results, we will come out on to the squares and celebrate before [the votes are counted] because we are simply bound to win." PB

TRADE UNION LEADER MURDERED IN ROMANIA

Virgil Sahleanu, leader of the trade union at the Iasi Tepro steel pipe factory, was murdered on 7 September, an RFE/RL correspondent in Iasi reported. Sahleanu was stabbed by two unknown assailants, who managed to flee. The authorities launched a search for the murderers and ordered that checks be carried out at the borders. Sahleanu, a member of the opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM), has led the long-standing protest against the privatization of Tepro. Opponents of that privatization say the Czech company that acquired Tepro failed to carry out the plant's modernization, while dismissing half of its workers. Some 1,500 workers marched though Iasi to protest Sahleanu's murder, saying it was linked to "mafia opposition" to his campaign. The PRM and the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) have also expressed that view. MS

ROMANIAN LABOR MINISTER RESIGNS

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Smaranda Dobrescu submitted her resignation on 8 September, following a government decision the previous day to dismiss two prefects and two deputy prefects representing her Social Democratic Party of Romania (PSDR), Romanian Radio reported. The cabinet's decision came after the 7 September announcement that the PSDR and the PDSR have agreed that the new formation that results from their impending merger will be called the Social Democratic Party. Also on 7 September, the cabinet decided to shorten the election campaign from 60 to 45 days. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION

Peter Eckstein Kovacs, minister in charge of minority rights, told journalists on 6 September that the cabinet has "recently" approved an "urgent ordinance" against discrimination. Urgent ordinances are enforced prior to the parliament's approval. The new legislation prohibits any form of discrimination on grounds of nationality, race, ethnicity, age, gender, or sexual orientation and stipulates heavy fines for those who violate its provisions. The Department for the Protection of National Minorities, headed by Eckstein Kovacs, drew up the ordinance as part of the effort to bring Romanian legislation into line with EU standards. MS

DEL PONTE SAYS SUSPECTED YUGOSLAV CRIMINALS VISIT ROMANIA ON REGULAR BASIS

UN War Crimes Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte on 7 September told journalists in Bucharest that she has information that suspected Yugoslav war criminals make regular short visits to Romania. She called on the Romanian authorities to arrest those individuals, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER ADDRESSES RFE/RL FORUM

Dumitru Diacov told a press briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office on 7 September that Moldova's July decision to switch from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system will benefit both its citizens and democracy. Diacov, who is accompanied in the U.S. by Party of Moldovan Communists Chairman Vladimir Voronin, said many post-communist states face problems because they have a presidential system in which too much power is concentrated in one pair of hands. He said Moldova is "a small country with big problems" facing numerous challenges and having to perform a "difficult balancing act between East and West." He noted that if Ukraine becomes part of NATO, Moldova will also seek membership in that organization. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES POPULAR MEASURES

In what Reuters said was a "mix of populism and reform," Prime Minister Ivan Kostov presented to the parliament on 7 September a plan to cut taxes, raise the salaries of state employees, and freeze heating and electricity prices for the winter season. The plan also provides for selling Bulgaria's remaining state monopolies to reliable "strategic investors." In recent opinion polls, Kostov's Union of Democratic Forces is running neck-and-neck with the opposition Socialist Party, following a sharp drop in popularity since its electoral landslide of 1997. General elections are due next year. MS

BULGARIA DEPORTS TWO RUSSIANS OVER ALLEGATIONS OF ILLICIT ARMS DEALINGS

Bulgaria on 7 September deported two Russian businessmen, accusing them of involvement in international arms smuggling, dpa reported. The Interior Ministry said the two are among five Russian citizens who were declared persona non grata last month. A third person left voluntarily last week. MS




SOFTWARE BOOM BRIGHTENS ARMENIA'S ECONOMIC REALITY


by Emil Danielyan

Amid the gloom of Armenia's depressed economy, there is one bright spot offering the potential for recovery. The country's computer software industry has experienced a major upswing over the past several years, owing to an influx of foreign investment. Western companies are pulling the strings, offering Armenia the opportunity to preserve part of the hi-tech orientation it boasted before the collapse of the USSR.

At least 12 U.S. software companies and several European ones are currently known to have subsidiaries in Armenia, and the number is likely grow in the coming months. For Armenia's unemployment-stricken economy, this has meant hundreds of jobs and good prospects for the creation of new ones. Government officials already view computer programming and information technologies in general as one of the main potential engines of economic growth.

"Herein lies our future," says Aleksandr Adamian, deputy directory of HPLA, the Armenia subsidiary of the California-based Heuristic Physics Laboratories. Founded in 1995, HPLA is one of the pioneers of Western hi-tech investment in Armenia. It started off with just give programmers and now boasts more than 60. HPLA specializes in the development of a special software that is used for detecting defects in electronic microchips.

It was HPLA's positive experience that inspired another Silicon Valley company, Credence Systems, to launch operations in Armenia two years ago. Its Yerevan branch now employs about 50 people. The business is "very promising," according to its manager, Manuk Gevorgian. Chilli Technologies, a Yerevan-based company also owned by Americans, was opened six months ago but already has more employees than Credence. Its manager, Vasily Turovtsev, is equally enthusiastic: "I believe that this is one of the best ways of developing our economy."

It is the shared opinion of industry insiders that the low cost of skilled labor is the primary factor attracting foreign investors to the sector. An experienced programmer working in an U.S.-owned firm in Armenia is paid an average of $500 a month, 20 times less than their counterparts in the US. The overall volume of investment needed to launch a software subsidiary is fairly low compared with other sectors of the economy. High transportation costs resulting from Armenia's geographical position and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict do not affect information technologies.

Also important is the fact that the sector is export- oriented thanks to foreign companies. The more than 30 local firms have been very successful on the domestic market, where most banks and other businesses use Armenian software to keep their computerized financial records. But very few of those firms have found export markets on their own.

Information technologies is now one of the few areas where Armenia may soon be faced with a shortage of skilled specialists. The government has already increased the number of places in the computer science programs of state-run universities. The high likelihood of finding a well-paid job lures many young people to computer departments. "There should be no illusions about skilled programmers in Armenia. There aren't too many of them," says Hakob Duvalian, head of the Yerevan branch of the US firm Virage Logic.

The adequate training of specialists is thus high on the list of demands addressed to the Armenian government by the software sector. The "strategic importance" of that sector is recognized by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which has come up with a program to promote information technologies with "state assistance." The program "outlines those important directions that should enjoy state privileges and an appropriate legal framework," deputy minister Armen Grigorian said in a recent newspaper interview. One idea being considered is the creation of a "technopark" near Yerevan--a kind of tax haven for hi-tech businesses. The government hopes to secure funding from the World Bank for that purpose.

Despite robust growth, the Armenian software industry is still modest in size. Its annual output is at best $15 million, compared with a global market worth trillions of dollars. As HPLA chief executive Andranik Hovannisian puts it: "Most Western software firms don't even know of Armenia's existence."

If the government is to ensure a greater influx of foreign capital, Hovannisian and other industry insiders say, it has to meet a number of conditions. Software companies frequently complain about high taxation and customs administration. Customs officials are widely accused of the arbitrary taxation of imported computer equipment and programs. The official monopoly on Internet services enjoyed by the ArmenTel national telecom operator is also thought to be stifling growth. Companies that do not have a satellite connection with the rest of the world have to rely on ArmenTel's services, which are expensive even by international standards.

There is also the question of compulsory military service. Armenian university graduates serve two years in the armed forces and, as company executives say, need time to update their skills after returning home. "The loss of a single programmer who gets drafted to army may seriously hinder the ongoing projects and the business in general," Hovannisian warns.

The Armenian state has so far had only limited involvement in the emergence of the software industry. Analysts say the government can no longer stand by if it is intent on turning the information technology sector into a manufacturing leader. A comprehensive government strategy for hi-tech development would be a welcome boost, they add. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan.


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