Accessibility links

Newsline - September 13, 2000




KREMLIN BEGINS NEW ASSAULT IN ROLLBACK OF REGIONS' RIGHTS?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted to the State Duma a draft amendment to the Budget Code that would prohibit regional governments from entering into international economic agreements, Interfax reported on 12 September. Last week, an unidentified Kremlin source told RIA-Novosti that the federal government would no longer conclude power-sharing agreements with the regions (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 September 2000). JAC

PUTIN SIGNS NEW INFORMATION SECURITY DOCTRINE

President Putin on 9 September signed a new information security doctrine drafted by the Security Council, Interfax reported on 12 September. Anatolii Streltsov, deputy head of the Information Security Department of the Security Council, said that the 46-page doctrine will be published in full on the council's website. According to Streltsov, the doctrine has four main components: the provision of constitutional rights and freedoms in the use of information, information support for state policy, the development of modern information technologies and the domestic information industry, and the protection of information from unauthorized access, ITAR-TASS reported. Streltsov said that one objective of the doctrine is to make a "more accurate formulation" of the status of foreign media groups and reporters operating in Russia. JAC

TOP ELECTION OFFICIAL DISMISSES REPORTS OF FRAUD

Responding to a report in "The Moscow Times" on 9 September alleging widespread falsification in the March 2000 presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000), Central Election Committee Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters on 12 September that he "is sure that there were no serious offenses." He added that the number of voters increased by 1.2-1.3 million between the parliamentary elections in December 1999 and presidential elections in March 2000 because 500,000 voters in Chechnya had not participated in the State Duma elections. Also, there were young people who turned 18 and persons were allowed to cast their ballots outside their permanent residence. JAC

SUPREME COURT PRESIDIUM ACQUITS NIKITIN

The Presidium of the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by the Prosecutor- General's Office to reopen the case of retired navy captain and environmentalist Aleksandr Nikitin, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 September. A St. Petersburg court acquitted Nikitin of espionage charges in late 1999, and the Supreme Court upheld that ruling earlier this year. Several months later, however, the prosecutor-general challenged the ruling and asked the Supreme Court's Presidium to reopen the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April and 20 July 2000). The Presidium's rulings are final and cannot be appealed. Nikitin was first arrested in February 1996 for his reports revealing the Russian navy's environmentally hazardous handling of nuclear waste. JC

ENERGY SUPPLIER CUTS POWER TO MILITARY BASE...

In a dispute over unpaid bills, the Ivanovo energy distribution company, Ivenergo, cut off electricity supplies to a Strategic Rocket Forces base in the oblast on 11 September, until troops seized the power station and resumed those supplies, Russian agencies reported the next day. Agreement has since been reached between the supplier and the base on the payment of the latter's 19.25 million ruble ($692,000) debt. A spokesman for the Strategic Rocket Forces was quoted as saying that the temporary power cut had not affected the military capability of the base, only the homes of personnel and staff headquarters. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov slammed the cut-off as "inadmissible," saying that the base was on the list of top priority energy consumers not to be disconnected. In June, Strategic Rocket Force troops took over four power plants after the Altaienergo company threatened to cut off electricity supplies to a local unit of the force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2000). JC

...AS SUPPLIERS IN OTHER REGIONS MULL SIMILAR MOVES

ITAR- TASS reported on 12 September that energy suppliers in Arkhangelsk Oblast are seeking to limit supplies to military bases because of the latter's debts totaling 119 million rubles ($4.3 million). However, they are being stymied in those efforts by troops obstructing access to power stations. An Arkhenergo official told the news agency that the supplier does not want to cut off all electricity to the bases but rather to reduce supplies to the safety minimum stipulated by the military itself. Meanwhile, St. Petersburg prosecutors have warned Lenenergo not to cut electricity supplies to naval bases. Last month, criminal proceedings were launched in connection with an electricity cut-off at a military base in St. Petersburg, according to the news agency. JC

TROOP CUTS TO PROVE MORE EXPENSIVE IN SHORT TERM?

Commenting on recent plans to reduce the armed forces personnel by almost one-third, Viktor Ilyukhin, State Duma deputy (Communist) and head of the Movement to Support the Army, told reporters on 12 September that he fears that if Russia "starts limiting the army mechanically without...supplying it with the latest supplies of arms and hardware, then we may lose it altogether," Interfax reported. He added that over the next two to three years, the reduction in personnel "will require additional spending" because each dismissed officer will have to be given severance benefits and many others will have to be supplied with housing. Ilyukhin also questioned whether these costs are covered by the 2001 draft budget. JAC

HEADS OF DONOR REGIONS URGE DEPUTIES TO REJECT 2001 BUDGET

Heads of Russia's donor regions have called on the State Duma to reject the 2001 draft budget in the first reading and to form a conciliation commission, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 September. In particular, the donor regions' heads oppose the federal government's proposal that 52 percent of budget revenues should go to the center and 48 percent to the regions. They argue that the regions should receive at least half of those revenues. Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, who is also chairman of the Budget Committee of the Federation Council, told the news agency that there is no need "to skin the donor regions so closely." He added that the 18 donor regions of the federation account for 40 percent of the country's population and 65 percent of GDP. JC

KASYANOV PREDICTS SLOWER ECONOMIC GROWTH

Speaking in St. Petersburg on 12 September at a Eurasian transportation conference, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov predicted that GDP growth in the second half of 2000 will be about 5 percent, down on the more than 7 percent growth registered in the first half of this year. ITAR-TASS reported. He added that he also expects slower economic growth in the first half of 2001. Kasyanov said that growth in the first half of this year was stimulated, in particular, by inflation and asserted that "deep structural reforms" are now essential for steady economic growth. Meanwhile in Moscow, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told an investment forum that the government plans to ensure that annual inflation does not exceed 18-20 percent. JC

VENEZUELAN OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIA MULLING OPEC MEMBERSHIP

Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Jorge Valero told reporters on 12 September that Russia is "seriously" considering joining OPEC and that the issue was discussed by President Putin and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez when they met last week on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit in New York. He added that Energy Minister Aleksandr Gavrin will represent Russia as an observer at the next OPEC meeting on 27-28 September in Caracas. The same day, unidentified diplomatic sources told Interfax that Russia has not been officially invited to join OPEC and the topic is not on the agenda. JAC

PUTIN SEES RUSSIAN-VIETNAMESE RELATIONS DEVELOPING

Meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in Moscow on 12 September, President Putin said that Russian-Vietnamese relations are developing but added that "we have got things to talk about," according to Interfax. The report gave no further details. The previous day, Russian Premier Kasyanov had said after his meeting with Khai that the question of settling Vietnam's Soviet-era debt to Moscow will be resolved during the Vietnamese premier's five-day visit. Also present at Putin's meeting with Khai was Finance Minister Kudrin. JC

LI PENG PRAISES RELATIONS WITH FEDERATION COUNCIL

Chinese parliamentary speaker Li Peng told Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev in Moscow on 12 September that he is satisfied with the level of inter-parliamentary cooperation between China and Russia, Interfax reported. In particular, the two leaders discussed bilateral economic ties, and Li proposed to the leaders of several Russian regions, including Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, that direct trade links be established between those regions and China in a bid to reduce the number of poor-quality Chinese products on the Russian market. Stroev was quoted as describing his meeting with Li as a "feast for the soul." Li is due to hold talks with President Putin and Prime Minister Kasyanov, among others, during his week-long visit to Russia. JC

RUSSIA, INDIA, IRAN SIGN TRANSPORT CORRIDOR ACCORD

Addressing the Eurasian transportation conference in St. Petersburg on 12 September, Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov said that Russia, India, and Iran have signed an agreement on the North-South international transport corridor, Interfax reported. That project, he said, will help reduce by almost two-thirds the time required to transport cargo from countries such as Iran, India, and Oman. The bulk of such cargo is currently transported through the Suez Canal. Kasyanov noted that the development of cargo transit across Russia is a priority for Moscow, adding that the volume of such transit increased by more than 4 percent last year. JC

NEW DEPUTY GROUP FORMING

A group of deputies from the Northern regions of Russia is forming in the State Duma, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 September. Deputy Valentina Pivenenko, head of the State Duma Committee on Problems of the North and Far East, said the goal of the group will be to assist the passage of bills concerning those regions and coordinate the activities of deputies from the North. According to the agency, more than 50 deputies have expressed an interest in joining the group. Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters that the federal government has succeeded in fully financing food and fuel supplies to the Far North this year for "the very first time." JAC

ONE NOGAI KILLED IN FIREFIGHT WITH POLICE IN DAGHESTAN

One Nogai Tatar from Stavropol Krai was killed and a second wounded in a 90-minute exchange of fire with local police in Daghestan's Nogai Raion on 12 September, ITAR-TASS reported. The two men were said to be Wahhabis fighting under Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab. LF

MORE CHECHEN FIGHTERS AMNESTIED

The Chechen Prosecutor- General's Office has amnestied another 17 fighters who were found not to have committed "grave crimes," raising the total number of those freed to 316, Interfax reported on 12 September. The men, who are being held in detention in Rostov, are to be released by the end of this week. Chechen fighters who participated in the hostage-takings in Budennovsk and Pervomaiskoe in 1996 are not eligible for amnesty. LF




RUSSIAN MILITARY COMMANDER VISITS ARMENIA, GEORGIA

Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, who is commander of the North Caucasus Military District, visited Armenia on 11-12 September, Noyan Tapan reported. Troshev inspected the Russian military base in Giumri and Yerevan and met with Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Armenian Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Mikael Harutiunian to discuss bilateral cooperation, including the joint training program for this year. Troshev flew on 12 September to Tbilisi, where he said on arrival that he intends to discuss the threat posed to Georgia by Chechen militants. He noted that the Russian-Georgian border is currently sealed, preventing those militants from entering Georgia, but he added that they may manage to enter in the future if they are not destroyed by Russian forces, ITAR-TASS reported. Troshev is scheduled to meet in Tbilisi with Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze. LF

TURKISH BORDER GUARDS ENCROACH ON ARMENIAN TERRITORY

Three Turkish border guards illegally entered Armenian territory on 11 September in an apparent attempt to steal cattle belonging to their Russian and Armenian counterparts, AP and Interfax reported the following day. The Turks opened fire on Russian border guards who tried to detain them. However, there were no injuries, and the Turks subsequently retreated. LF

CATHOLICOS PLEDGES ARMENIA WILL CONFORM TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE REQUIREMENTS ON RELIGION

Armenian Catholicos Garegin II told journalists in Echmiadzin on 12 September that Armenia will fulfill all requirements on freedom of conscience imposed by the Council of Europe as conditions for Armenia's acceptance into full membership in that organization, Noyan Tapan reported. He noted that under Armenian law, which he admitted is "not perfect but does work," all religious organizations are free to conduct activities in Armenia but the Armenian Apostolic Church enjoys supremacy. LF

AZERBAIJAN TO SWITCH TO RUSSIAN NATURAL GAS FOR HEATING PURPOSES

Azerbaijan intends to switch to using natural gas imported from Russia to fuel its power stations, Azerbaijan state oil company president Natik Aliyev told ITAR-TASS in Washington on 12 September. Aliyev said the switch would enable Azerbaijan to export via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline another 2 million metric tons of oil per year. Azerbaijan halted the export of oil in January in order to meet an acute shortage of heating fuel for thermal power stations and did so again in June in order to stockpile heating oil for the coming winter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January and 28 June 2000). The Russian pipeline operator Transneft responded by demanding $29 million in compensation for Baku's violation of a 1997 commitment to export 5 million tons of crude via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline by 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2000). LF

GEORGIA DECLARES AIR SPACE CLOSED TO RUSSIAN MILITARY AIRCRAFT

Georgia informed the Russian Air Force on 11 September that owing to the non-payment of a $41,000 debt, Russian military aircraft are barred from entering Georgian airspace from now on, Caucasus Press reported on 12 September. Observers suggest the real reason for the ban may have been retaliation for Russia's recent withdrawal from the Bishkek agreement on visa-free travel between CIS member states. LF

GEORGIAN GUERRILLA LEADER ARRESTED

Georgian guerrilla leader Dato Shengelaia, who threatened the management of the Zugdidi central market with reprisals (see "RFE./RL Newsline," 12 September 2000), was arrested late on 12 September and is being held in pre-trial detention, Caucasus Press reported, citing "Rezonansi" of 13 September. Shengelaia's men are suspected of robbing a bank earlier that day. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CALLS FOR LAW RESTRICTING 'TOTALITARIAN SECTS'

Opening the fall parliamentary session in Tbilisi on 12 September, Zurab Zhvania urged deputies to draft a law that would restrict the activities of what he termed "totalitarian sects," while strengthening the Georgian Orthodox Church, which, he said, "is facing difficult competitive conditions," AP reported. He did not mention any religious group or sect by name. Zhvania suggested that the optimum approach would be to sign "a major agreement between the government and the Georgian Orthodox Church." A draft Concordat has been under discussion for almost one year (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 6, 11 February 2000). LF

ANOTHER ECOLOGICAL CRISIS REPORTED IN KAZAKHSTAN

Eight tons of dead fish have been retrieved from a lake near Petropavlovsk, in northern Kazakhstan, Reuters reported on 12 September, citing the government Khabar TV channel. The fish were apparently poisoned by a chemical salt that is used as a component of weed-killer. Earlier this summer, thousands of seals died from apparent poisoning in Kazakhstan's sector of the Caspian Sea. LF

KAZAKHSTAN SIGNALS READINESS TO HELP KYRGYZSTAN FIGHT ISLAMIC MILITANTS

Khusain Berkaliev, who is first deputy director of Kazakhstan's border guards, told journalists in Almaty on 12 September that Kazakhstan is ready to send army troops to Kyrgyzstan if requested to join the fight against guerrillas from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Russian agencies reported. He said that Kazakhstan has already provided Kyrgyzstan with arms, according to Interfax. LF

INCUMBENT REGISTERED AS CANDIDATE IN KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL...

Kyrgyzstan's Central Electoral Commission on 12 September registered incumbent President Askar Akaev as a candidate in the 29 October presidential election, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev is the third candidate to be formally registered. Five other candidates have submitted documentation and supporting signatures required for formal registration. They are human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov, parliamentary deputy and Social-Democratic Party leader Almaz Atambaev, parliamentary deputy and Erk Party leader Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, Ar-Namys Party leader Feliks Kulov, and former parliamentary speaker Almambet Matubraimov. Three of the seven candidates who failed the mandatory language test--parliamentary deputies Arslan MAliyev and Iskhak MasAliyev and Ar-Namys party activist Omurbek Subanaliev--are nonetheless still collecting signatures in a bid to register. LF

...AS DISQUALIFIED CANDIDATES APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court began on 12 September to consider appeals by MasAliyev and another of the seven presidential hopefuls who failed the language test, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Meanwhile some 40 people staged a picket of the Constitutional Court building to protest the mandatory examination. LF

RENEGADE TAJIK FIELD COMMANDER SURRENDERS

Tajik government forces on 12 September finally surrounded and captured field commander Mullo Abdullo and 37 of his men in Darband, some 110 kilometers east of Dushanbe, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Abdullo, who had fought as a field commander with the United Tajik Opposition during the civil war, had refused to disarm his men as required under the 1997 peace agreement. Government forces have been closing in on him since early this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 September 2000). LF

UZBEKISTAN, UKRAINE SEEK TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko held talks in Tashkent on 11 September with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, Interfax reported. Karimov expressed approval of plans to expand bilateral economic cooperation that were discussed at the fourth session of the Uzbek-Ukrainian cooperation commission on 12 September. Those proposals included closer cooperation within the parameters of the Eurasian transport corridor and increasing deliveries of Uzbek natural gas to Ukraine. Karimov also approved a proposal that the two countries should offset each other's mutual debts. LF




BELARUS'S PRO-REGIME DEPUTIES CALL FOR ALLIANCE AGAINST OPPOSITION

Eleven deputies of the Chamber of Representatives who are seeking re-election have appealed in "Sovetskaya Belorussiya," the presidential mouthpiece, for a common election platform with other candidates who support President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The group praised Lukashenka for stopping the "decay and disintegration" of Belarus, adding that he "has managed to keep the country stable and controllable under most difficult circumstances." According to the group, the opposition plans to "seize power in the country, cease talking about democracy, and do away with the government of the people." For this reason, the group argued, Belarus needs a "strong army, equipped with modern weapons, as well as highly professional law enforcement agencies." The group appealed for "an adequate response to the aggression that some 'democrats' call 'humanitarian intervention.'" JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST DENIED REGISTRATION AS ELECTION CANDIDATE

A district electoral commission in Polatsk, Vitsebsk Oblast, has refused to register Valery Shchukin as a candidate in the 15 October elections to the Chamber of the Representatives, Belapan reported on 12 September. Supreme Soviet deputy Shchukin is a well-known opponent of the regime, who has often been arrested and fined for his opposition activities. The commission said it denied Shchukin registration because he failed to collect at least 1,000 valid signatures in his support and to provide a declaration of his income. Shchukin rejected both claims and announced he will appeal to the Central Electoral Commission. JM

OPPOSITION ACCUSES OSCE OF EXACERBATING SITUATION IN BELARUS

The opposition Conservative Christian Party, led by Zyanon Paznyak, said on 12 September that the OSCE's "contradictory" resolution on sending a technical assessment mission to the Belarusian polls "has seriously aggravated the political situation" in the country. According to the party, President Lukashenka saw the OSCE decision "as a concession on the part of the OSCE and the go-ahead for [his] antidemocratic policies." The party once again demanded the dismissal of Hans Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus, saying the organization's decision on technical observers resulted from Wieck's "constant concessions to the Lukashenka regime." JM

UKRAINIAN RADIO REFUSES TO CARRY LIVE BROADCASTS FROM PARLIAMENT

The National Radio Company leadership has said the parliament's resolution on media coverage of this fall's legislative session is a "direct infringement on the company's creative process," Interfax reported on 12 September. The parliament on 5 September passed a resolution, proposed by leftist caucuses, obliging national radio to carry live broadcasts of parliamentary debates. According to the radio leadership, such broadcasts would take up too much air time and disrupt the company's programming schedule, including programs made under contract and advertisements. The company assured the lawmakers that it is seeking ways other than live broadcasts to inform citizens about the parliamentary session. JM

COMMUNISTS PROTEST NAT0-SPONSORED EXERCISES IN CRIMEA

Crimea's Communists have launched a protest against the NATO-sponsored exercises "Cossack Steppe-2000," which are currently taking place on the peninsula, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 12 September. Troops from the U.K., Poland, and Ukraine are practicing peacekeeping operations in ethnic conflict areas. Since 11 September, Crimea's Communists have been staging pickets and rallies in Feodosiya to demand that NATO's "occupational troops" be removed from the peninsula. JM

UKRAINE'S SECURITY SERVICE CLAIMS TO HAVE FOILED ATTEMPT ON PUTIN'S LIFE

Leonid Derkach, head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), told Interfax on 12 September that his service foiled an attempt to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin at the CIS summit in Yalta last month. Derkach noted that the SBU was tipped off about the planned assassination by "several special services" from outside the CIS. He added that the SBU passed on the information to Russia and detained several people in Crimea, who were subsequently expelled from Ukraine. Derkach had said earlier that four Chechens and several persons from the Middle East were detained in connection with the foiled plot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). Meanwhile, Russia's Federal Protection Service spokesman Sergei Devyatov told Interfax that it was Russian special services that informed their Ukrainian colleagues about the Yalta assassination plot against Putin. JM

COURT OVERTURNS CONVICTION OF ESTONIAN BANKER

The Tallinn District Court on 12 September overturned the conviction of Maapank manager Malle Eenmaa on charges of corruption in connection with the collapse of that bank. Eenmaa had been sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison and fined 29.5 million kroons ($1.64 million), ETA reported. She has maintained her innocence in the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 2000). The state has 30 days to appeal the ruling. Claims totaling nearly 1 billion kroons have been filed against Maapank, some 80 percent of which involve the state. MH

POLICE RAID HEADQUARTERS OF LITHUANIAN NAZIS

Police officials raided the Siauliai headquarters of the Lithuanian National Social Union on 12 September, seeking evidence that the candidacy of three of its members in the upcoming general elections is illegal, BNS reported. The local police, assisted by the Lithuanian State Security Department, entered both the office and residences of some members of the unregistered extremist party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). The party's leader, Mindaugas Murza, complained that police seized computers, diaries, and even campaign material from the office. The National Socialists failed nearly a dozen times to be officially registered by the Justice Ministry, which cited the party's anti- constitutional stance on ethnic discord. MH

SOLIDARITY LEADER'S AIDE ACCUSES PRESIDENT OF HYPOCRISY, LYING...

Wieslaw Walendziak, head of Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski's election team, has accused President Aleksander Kwasniewski of "hypocrisy and lying" in his 11 September justification of the veto on the mass privatization bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000), PAP reported. Kwasniewski had said the previous day that he bought an apartment with money he had worked hard to earn. Walendziak said Kwasniewski and "other leaders of the post-communist Left" bought the "luxurious apartments" they had been living in for almost nothing. "It was hypocritical on the part of the president to question the ability of ordinary citizens to handle the burden of ownership of their own apartments," Walendziak said, referring to the bill's provision that granted Poles ownership rights to the state-owned apartments they live in. JM

...IS CALLED 'POLITICAL HOOLIGAN' IN RESPONSE

Andrzej Szymczycha, the spokesman of Kwasniewski's re-election team, said the same day that Walendziak is a "political hooligan" and asserted that his comments on the president's veto "have nothing to do with truth." Asked whether he concurs with Szymczycha's assessment of Walendziak, the president noted that the spokesman has the "unusual ability to correctly determine people's attitudes and behavior." "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported during the 1995 presidential campaign that Kwasniewski and other prominent left-wing figures had bought their apartments in 1990 for a fraction of their market values. The daily had said at the time that the deals were not illegal. JM

CZECHS PROTEST AUSTRIAN BORDER BLOCKADES

The Czech Foreign Ministry on 12 August protested the Austrian government's support of a renewed blockade of border crossings between the two countries, CTK and AP reported. The ministry said it was "surprised" that those protesting the planned launching of the Temelin nuclear power plant are receiving support from local governments in Austria and that the federal government in Vienna has shown "indifference" to those protests. The previous day, protesters had said they intend to close all 26 crossing points on 15 September. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has met in New York with his Austrian counterpart, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and requested that the Austrian government take action against the blockades. Kavan also told Ferrero-Waldner that following the EU decision to normalize relations with Austria, the Czech cabinet has decided to "immediately resume standard relations" with Vienna. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT TO UNDERGO SURGERY AGAIN

President Rudolf Schuster will undergo surgery again in Innsbruck, Austria, on 3 October, the presidential office announced on 12 September. Presidential spokesman Jozef Leikert said the operation will be performed by the same surgeon who operated on Schuster earlier this year. On 1 October, Slovak artists are to perform in Innsbruck to thank the medical team who saved the president's life in June. MS

HUNGARY WELCOMES LIFTING OF EU SANCTIONS AGAINST AUSTRIA

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said on 12 September that Hungary "welcomes the decision of the EU to lift sanctions against Austria," AP reported, citing MTI. Nemeth said the decision justifies the policy toward Austria that Hungary has been conducting from the start of the crisis, when Budapest refused to join the sanctions. Nemeth said Hungary also approves of the decision to monitor the Austrian far-right People's Party, which is suspected of xenophobia. MS




CROATIA MAKES SWEEP OF WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS...

In an unprecedented sweep in several cities, Croatian police on 12 September arrested "dozens" of people suspected of atrocities during the 1991-1995 conflict in Croatia and the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, AP reported. Among those arrested were Generals Ivan Andabaka and Ignac Kostroman, who have been linked to atrocities against Muslims in 1993. Also detained were Tihomir Oreskovic and an unspecified number of other suspects in the recent murder of Croatian war crimes witness Milan Levar. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb: "I don't believe any sane person would protest...the arrest of war criminals. Democratic Croatia is determined to show that war criminals can no longer live freely here. The rule of law has been enforced." Some extremist war veterans and supporters of the late President Franjo Tudjman charge that the government's tough line on war criminals is aimed at discrediting persons in positions of responsibility during the first years of independence. PM

...ISSUES INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANTS

The Interior Ministry issued international arrest warrants on 12 September for Pasko Ljubicic and Vlado Cosic, who are wanted for atrocities against Muslims in the Bosnian village of Ahmici in 1993. Police recently arrested Ante Sliskovic and Tomo Vlajic in Zadar in conjunction with the same case, Hina reported. Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic said on 9 September that the government wants the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to take over the case. PM

CROATIA, U.S. FIRM SIGN NEW AGREEMENT

Representatives of the Croatian electric company HEP and the U.S. firm Enron signed an agreement in Zagreb on 13 September to replace a previous contract negotiated by the Tudjman government. Critics charged that Tudjman accepted an agreement disadvantageous to Croatia in order to promote political ties to the U.S. The terms of the new contract have not been made public, AP reported. PM

U.S., REGIONAL LEADERS ASSESS YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met on 12 September in New York with leaders from 12 southeast European countries, including Montenegro, to discuss the upcoming Serbian and Yugoslav elections, Reuters reported. They agreed that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will try to rig the elections but differed as to whether he will succeed. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a "senior U.S. official who knows the Balkans well" told the news agency that he believes the opposition would defeat Milosevic in a free election. The official added that "there was a sense [at Albright's meeting] that the one thing no one yet knows is whether the people of Yugoslavia will stand up for the results of an election in which they believe they voted against the man" officially declared to be the winner. The private Belgrade weekly "Vreme" of 9 September published the results of polls showing joint opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica leading Milosevic by a two-to-one margin in both the first and second rounds. PM

EU: SERBIA HAS PLACE IN EUROPE IF IT CHANGES LEADERS

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, speaking on behalf of the EU, told the UN General Assembly in New York on 12 September that "Serbs know that they have their place in the European family," even though "the nature of the present regime does not allow it." He added the "EU is looking forward to the day when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is in a position to participate fully in the stabilization and association process and recover its rightful place in Europe," Reuters reported. On his recent visit to Belgrade, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed that the EU is ready to welcome Serbia back to the European family of nations, but he stopped short of endorsing any specific candidate in the elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). PM

MILOSEVIC BLASTS OPPONENTS AS 'TRAITORS'

In his first public appearance during the presidential campaign, Milosevic told supporters at the Iron Gates hydroelectric power complex on 12 September that he believes "our people will best be able to differentiate between our interests and those of others-- between our own heroes and foreign traitors," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He chided neighboring Romania for being "subservient" to NATO, adding that the only other time in history that Serbia had problems with Romania was when Bucharest "took orders from Stalin," Romanian Radio reported. Meanwhile in Belgrade, the government's Election Commission warned the private media to "stop [conducting] political propaganda" for the opposition. The commission singled out the dailies "Blic," "Danas," and "Glas Javnosti," as well as the weeklies "Vreme" and "NIN," Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION ON THE HUSTINGS...

Some 15,000 opposition supporters in Nis heard Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic on 12 September warn that Milosevic may try to rig the elections by stuffing ballot boxes that are allegedly from Kosova. Djindjic stressed that the opposition will not recognize any votes from Kosova that were cast and counted without opposition monitors present, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Pirot, 2,000 people turned out for a rally addressed by Civic Alliance leader Goran Svilanovic. In Becej, Pal Sandor, who is president of the Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, called on members of the Hungarian minority to vote for the united opposition's candidates. In Belgrade, Mladjan Dinkic of the G-17 group of economists said that the opposition is planning a currency reform if it wins, "Glas Javnosti" reported. The opposition will introduce either a two-currency system (as in Montenegro) or a "convertible dinar," he added. PM

...AMID MONTENEGRIN WARNINGS

In Zagreb, Montenegrin parliamentary speaker Svetozar Marovic said on 12 September that if Serbs vote for Milosevic, they are in effect voting to end the union of Serbia and Montenegro. President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 12 September that the upcoming federal elections will, in effect, "decide about Montenegrin independence," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic also said that Montenegro "must have" its own mission to the UN, Montena-fax reported. PM

SLOVENIAN DIPLOMATIC SUPPORT FOR MONTENEGRO

Ernest Petric, who is Slovenia's ambassador to the UN, said that Slovenia will support Montenegrin efforts to win its own representation in the world body, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 12 September. Petric added that Slovenia played a key role in Montenegro's acceptance into the EU's Stability Pact. PM

MACEDONIAN LOCAL VOTE INCONCLUSIVE?

Preliminary official results from the 10 September local elections indicate that the governing coalition has captured city halls in 23 municipalities while the opposition has won 18, Macedonian Television reported on 12 September. The overall vote tally is 36.69 percent for the opposition and 36.6 percent for the government. Final results are expected on 17 September and run-offs will take place two weeks later. The ballot was marred by violence, and the OSCE said in a report that the ballot fell short of international standards (see "End Note" below). PM

BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT TO SHUN CONTROLS

The Western-backed government of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik will continue to exercise its full powers, despite a recent legislative vote of no-confidence in him and measures taken by the parliament to limit the government's authority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). The cabinet said in a statement on 12 September that "it is not limited in any way" and will carry out all powers specified in the constitution, Reuters reported. The international community's High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch called the parliament's decisions "highly irresponsible," "Oslobodjenje" reported. PM

ROMANIAN WORKERS DEMAND NULLIFICATION OF PRIVATIZATION CONTRACT

Thousands of workers from the Iasi Tepro pipe company demonstrated on 12 September to demand that the contract under which the factory was sold to the Czech Zelezarny Veseli company be annulled, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. State Property Fund chief Radu Sarbu said an attempt will be made to reach an "amicable agreement" with Zelezarny Veseli to nullify the contract, since the company has failed to meet its obligations to modernize Tepro. The Greater Romania Party, to which murdered Tepro trade union leader Virgil Sahleanu belonged, said the authorities are "assassinating [Sahleanu] a second time" by trying to shift the blame for his murder to a private security company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania said that "political crime" has become "the last weapon of the Emil Constantinescu regime." MS

ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OPPOSES LEGALIZING HOMOSEXUALITY

The Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church on 12 September appealed to the Senate not to approve an amendment to the Penal Code that would decriminalize homosexual relations, the RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported. Failing that, the Synod said, the president must refrain from promulgating the legislation. An amendment partly decriminalizing same-sex relations was approved by the Chamber of Deputies in June but has still to be debated by the Senate. The Synod said it does not want homosexuals to be sent to prison but "proselytizing must be forbidden." Under existing legislation, homosexual relations are punished by prison sentences of between one and five years. Observers say the upcoming parliamentary elections may influence the Senate vote: parties may prove unwilling to confront the Church, which polls show to be the most popular institution in Romania. MS

TIRASPOL TO ELECT NEW 'PARLIAMENT'

The authorities in the separatist Transdniester republic announced on 11 September that elections to the Supreme Soviet will be held on 10 December, BASA-press reported. Under the recently amended constitution, the Supreme Soviet will have 43 (instead of the previous 67) members and will be a unicameral rather than bicameral parliament. MS




VIOLENCE MARS MACEDONIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS


By Jolyon Naegele

Macedonia's 10 September municipal elections had little to do with local issues but rather were marked by the opposition's attempt to force the ruling three-party coalition into early general elections.

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski pledged during the campaign that if support for his coalition fell by more than 10 percentage points, he would call early parliamentary elections. But preliminary results suggest a fairly close race except in Skopje, where the opposition trounced the ruling coalition. On 12 September, the Macedonian Central Election Commission announced that after counting votes from 96 out of 123 municipalities, the opposition had won 36.69 percent backing and coalition 36.6 percent. The parties' own exit polls, however, differ widely.

Final results are not expected until the weekend, and runoffs for mayoralties will take place in two weeks. Town council elections require no run-off as those bodies are elected in accordance with a proportional system based on party lists.

The OSCE, which deployed 17 election experts and 130 short-term observers to monitor the 10 September balloting, is incensed at what occurred. A preliminary report issued by its election-observer mission charged that the polling fell short of international standards for democratic elections and did not fully meet Macedonia's OSCE commitment to conduct elections free of violence and safeguard the secrecy of the ballot.

The OSCE report alleges that violent incidents were committed by individuals and supporters of political parties at polling stations in some western municipalities, where the ethnic Albanian minority is concentrated. The organization's observers noted numerous instances where an individual cast ballots for family members as well as other examples of proxy voting. In addition, the OSCE recorded what it terms "a very high number of invalid ballots." It has called on the Macedonian government to investigate "vigorously and immediately" these and other breaches of the criminal code related to election violations.

The head of the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights' Election Observer Mission in Macedonia, U.S. Ambassador Charles Magee, told RFE/RL by telephone on 12 September that he is confident the run-off elections on 24 September will go better than last weekend's ballot. He cited incidents in the municipality of Debar where organized groups invaded individual polling stations, threatened the polling officials with weapons, and then trashed the places and destroyed ballot boxes, forcing the closure of all 24 polling stations in that one municipality. Such incidents, he commented, "go beyond what has happened here before." Nonetheless, he added, he hopes the violence does not threaten the stability of Macedonia or the region at large, where ballot stuffing and violence are part of the political culture.

Macedonian police say violence was reported at six locations on 12 September, resulting in one death as a result of manslaughter, six injuries, and some 20 detentions. Most of the violence appears to have been between activists of Macedonia's two main ethnic Albanian political parties: the Democratic Party of Albanians, which is part of the ruling coalition, and the opposition Party for Democratic Prosperity. Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia's population.

A Skopje-based ethnic Albanian political analyst, Kim Mehmeti, told RFE/RL that in Macedonia, as is the case throughout the Balkans, people view elections as an opportunity to unleash their frustrations, as if they were attending spectator sports. He added that "our politicians perceive democracy as a battleground between two enemies. Most of our democrats perceive democracy as the creation of [Albanian Stalinist dictator] Enver Hoxha, for whom all instruments were acceptable to liquidate his enemies and win."

Mehmeti also said that while policymakers fight for power, ordinary Macedonian Albanian voters are left with the task of electing community leaders, who, he says, have no real political authority. Nearly 10 years after the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia, most local authority in Macedonia remains with the Interior Ministry, rather than with municipal councils and mayors.

The opposition, led by the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM), used "Albanophobia" in a bid to attract votes, according to Mehmeti. He noted that the SDSM warned that a vote for the coalition parties would be a vote for the hard-line deputy chairman and heir apparent of the Democratic Party of Albanians, Menduh Thaqi. Mehmeti said that Thaqi's hard-line reputation irritates many Macedonian voters, who may have been swayed to cast their ballots for the opposition instead.

Opposition Party for Democratic Prosperity leader Imer Imeri blames the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) for the violence. "Weapons were used, funds were misused. They anticipated losing the election, so they resorted to all means in a bid to win," he told RFE/RL.

But DPA leader Arben Xhaferi, a moderate, points his finger at Democratic Prosperity. In an interview with RFE/RL, he said he regrets the violent incidents: "My party was the last to have to resort to violence because we enjoy widespread support among Albanians." This was borne out by the preliminary election results, with the DPA winning two- and-a-half times the number of votes that Democratic Prosperity obtained.

It remains for Macedonian police investigators to determine to what extent election-day violence was linked to political parties as opposed to criminal elements who merely took the opportunity to settle accounts. The author is an RFE/RL senior corespondent based in Prague.


XS
SM
MD
LG