Accessibility links

Newsline - September 14, 2000




MEDIA LEGISLATION UP FOR REVISION...

Commenting on the information security doctrine signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 12 September, Russian newspapers focused on the document's vagueness. "Kommersant-Daily" the next day argued that "it is possible to read almost anything into the doctrine: some of its articles seem to provide grounds for both protecting freedom of speech and significantly restricting it." Security Council Anatolii Streltsov told Russian Television on 12 September that implementing the doctrine may require changes to the law on the media and other federal legislation. In an interview with "The Moscow Times" on 14 September, Andrei Pikaev of the Moscow Carnegie Center said that the necessity of changing the media law, "the main achievement of [former President Boris] Yeltsin's reforms,...gives reason for concern," since the amendments suggested by the council are unlikely to be liberal. The full text of the information security doctrine can be found at . JAC

...AS PUTIN SAYS NTV WON'T BE NATIONALIZED

After a meeting with President Putin on 13 September, Union of Rightist Forces faction leader Boris Nemtsov said that Putin had said that independent NTV, will not be nationalized. The same day, "Literaturnaya gazeta" published an interview with Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov in which he said that the investigation into the activities of Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii continues. He explained that the court did not rule that Gusinskii had been arrested illegally. JAC

PUTIN URGES GOVERNMENT TO COMPROMISE ON BUDGET?

After meeting with Putin on 13 September, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov said the president told him he has "ordered the government to meet with Duma factions and committees to explain the budget concept without brushing away their proposals to revise the budget before the first reading," according to AP. The same day, Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov told reporters that "the draft budget in the form submitted to the Duma has little chance of approval." However, he added that a compromise may be reached even before the budget's first reading scheduled for early October. In the upper house, Budget Committee members are planning to recommend that the Duma reject the draft 2001 budget because they believe that the budget does not pay sufficient attention to raising the population's living standards, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

OFFICIAL SAYS 'KURSK' LIKELY SUNK BY RUSSIAN MISSILE...

Primore legislature speaker Sergei Zhekov, who is a member of the government commission investigating the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine during maneuvers last month in the Barents Sea, told a local newspaper it seems likely that the vessel was hit by a missile fired by the warship "Petr Velikii," Interfax reported on 14 September. Zhekov said that during a mock battle, "Petr Velikii" had fired five missiles at the "Kursk," but only four were later found. "It looks like the submarine was hit by the missing torpedo and collided with a Russian ship...[probably] 'Petr Velikii,'" he added. Zhekov also said the authorities "will not manage to hush up the reasons for the tragedy.... I will do my best to make the truth public and see the culprits are punished." Russian military officials have consistently argued that the "Kursk" collided with a large object, probably a foreign submarine. Last week, however, a German daily cited an unpublished Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) report as saying a Granit missile fired from the "Petr Velikii" sank the "Kursk" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). JC

...AS RUSSIA, NORWAY FAIL TO AGREE OVER COST OF RETRIEVING BODIES

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the government commission investigating the "Kursk" disaster, said on 13 September that Russian and Norwegian negotiations have failed to reach an agreement on how much it will cost to recover the bodies of the 118-strong crew. Norwegian divers are to help their Russian colleagues in that operation. Klebanov was quoted by AP as saying that talks continue "every day, every hour." Earlier this week, he had said divers will begin the operation to recover the bodies next month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2000). Also on 13 September, Klebanov said he doubts that all 118 bodies will be retrieved: the blast that sank the submarine was so powerful, he said, that at least some of the bodies were probably badly mutilated and cannot be extracted from the wreck. JC

PRIME MINISTER CONFIRMS OPEC MEMBERSHIP UNDER CONSIDERATION

Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters on 13 September that Russia has "begun studying" the issue of joining OPEC in order to "determine to what extent membership would correspond to [its] interests" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000). He added that "if after this period [of examining the issue] we decide that it is in our interest, and if we are invited [to join], then we can begin to speak of a theoretical membership," Reuters reported. JAC

GOVERNMENT FINDS EXTRA FUNDS TO PAY MILITARY'S ELECTRICITY DEBTS

The government announced on 13 September that it has allocated an additional 1.3 billion rubles ($47 million) to help pay the military's outstanding electricity bills. A Finance Ministry statement said the extra funds are from the government's surplus income. The move comes after supplies to a Strategic Rocket Forces base in Ivanovo Oblast were temporarily cut earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000). Also on 13 September, Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais signed an order prohibiting the halting of energy supplies to units of the Strategic Rocket Forces that owe money for such deliveries. Meanwhile, "Tribuna" reported on 14 September that two days earlier, a penal colony in Novosibirsk had been left without electricity, as a result of which its alarm systems ceased to function. The colony owes some 1.5 million rubles to the local electricity supplier. JC

PUTIN, LI PENG STRESS OPPOSITION TO U.S. NMD PLANS

Meeting in the Kremlin on 13 September, Russian President Putin and Chinese parliamentary speaker Li Peng underlined their opposition to U.S. plans to implement a limited national missile defense system. According to ITAR-TASS, the two leaders also emphasized the need to preserve the 1972 Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty. Putin praised Russian-Chinese relations as being "at the highest level" and noted that a friendship treaty is scheduled to be signed during a visit to Moscow next year by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Also on 13 September, Li met with former Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the latter's Gorkii-9 residence outside Moscow. ITAR-TASS reported that Li stressed Yeltsin's contribution to the development of neighborly relations between Russia and China. JC

RUSSIA ACCEDES TO TREATY ON WORLD CRIMINAL COURT

Russia on 13 September became the 112th country to sign the treaty setting up an international criminal court, Reuters reported. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov signed the accord at UN headquarters in New York. Earlier, Russia had been critical of the treaty, which the U.S. opposes unless it receives guarantees that its servicemen will be excluded from the court's jurisdiction. At least 60 countries must ratify the document before the court can be set up. So far, only 19 have done so. JC

RUSSIAN DUMA DEPUTY CALLS FOR NEW CHECHEN COUNCIL

Pavel Krasheninnikov, who is chairman of the State Duma's Legislation Committee and one of the founders of a Russian public commission on Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 16, 21 April 2000), told a news conference at Interfax's Moscow head office on 13 September that his commission will propose to the Duma next week that a new Chechen State Council be formed on which all Chechen clans will be represented, Interfax reported. He proposed that the new Council should be headed by a deputy premier who should be given "economic and law enforcement levers to control" the situation in Chechnya. He also suggested that individuals now "on the other side of the barricades" should join the council, explaining that by this he meant not supporters of field commanders such as Shamil Basaev but representatives of other, unnamed forces. LF

CHECHENS LIST REWARDS FOR KILLING PROMINENT RUSSIANS

Chechnya's Shariah Court has sentenced more than a dozen leading Russian politicians and military officers to death in absentia and posted on the website www.kavkaz.tsentr a list of the rewards that will be paid for photographic evidence that the death sentence has been carried out, according to "Moskovskii komsomolets" of 14 September. Top of the list is President Putin, for whose death $2 million will be paid, followed by former President Boris Yeltsin ($1 million) and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Chief of Russian Army General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin ($500,000). Former Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev also figures, with a price of $200,000 being offered, presumably owing to his role in precipitating the first Chechen war. LF

YASTRZHEMSBKII SAYS MOSCOW'S POSITION ON CHECHEN TALKS UNCHANGED

Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii told ITAR-TASS on 13 September that Moscow has not retreated from its insistence that talks can be held with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov only on the latter's unconditional surrender. "There is no qualitative change in Moscow's position on this question now, nor can there be in future," he said. Yastrzhembskii said that the federal center does not maintain contacts with Maskhadov but he believes that interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov is seeking contacts with Chechen fighters in an attempt to "narrow the field of resistance." He said success in doing so "can only be acclaimed." Kadyrov has repeatedly claimed to be negotiating the surrender of moderate Chechen field commanders. LF

COMMUNISTS TO SUPPORT CHALLENGER TO RED GOVERNOR?

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told General Vladimir Shamanov on 12 September that the Communist Party and the People's Patriotic Union might support him in his bid to unseat incumbent Ulyanovsk Governor Yurii Goryachev in upcoming elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Zyuganov told reporters that Shamanov, who is one of the Russian Army commanders in Chechnya, has taken the "wise and correct step" of seeking to consult with the leadership of the Communist Party as he prepares for elections scheduled for 24 December. Zyuganov said that the Communists will support those candidates who "are doing everything to conduct a new policy." Last month, Unity leader Sergei Shoigu said his party will support Shamanov's bid for the governor's seat in Ulyanovsk, according to "Simbirskii kurer" on 24 August. JAC

REGIONAL LEADERS HAIL RECENT DECREE CURBING INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS

A number of regional leaders interviewed by Interfax on 13 September support President Putin's recent decree prohibiting regions from entering into international agreements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000). Samara Governor Konstantin Titov said the president's "position is completely just" since regions do not always have a surplus in their budgets and if they fail to pay any external debts, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the federal government. Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin said "this is normal government policy--the government should regulate the process of foreign borrowing." In its comments on the decree, the presidential press service noted that analysis of the Russian Constitution and other federal laws suggests that the regions are not entitled to sign international agreements, in particular with foreign authorities. Moreover, the service added, such agreements cannot be regarded as international or covered by international law, according to Interfax. JAC

TRADE SURPLUS SURGES...

Russia's foreign trade surplus as of 1 August totaled $37.8 billion compared with $20.1 billion at the same time last year, Russian agencies reported on 12 September, citing the State Customs Committee. Exports to countries outside the CIS soared to $36.2 billion compared with $18.9 billion in 1999. JAC

...AS TAX REVENUES SWELL

The Tax Ministry collected 52.6 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) in federal taxes in August 2000--a 75 percent increase over last year's level, Interfax reported on 12 September. Revenues were also 50 percent higher than the target set by the budget. All regions, except Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, reached their revenue targets, while 10 areas collected 50 percent more than the target figure. JAC

DUMA GROUP SEEKS TO LIFT BAN ON DEATH PENALTY

The pro- Kremlin People's Deputy group has sent an appeal to President Putin asking that he lift the moratorium on capital punishment in cases of terrorism and organized crime. According to the appeal, voters are constantly raising the question of the moratorium at their meetings with deputies. State Duma Legislation Committee Chairman (Union of Rightist Forces) Krasheninnikov said that Russia has more important problems than lifting or preserving the moratorium--"the main thing is that we often fail to catch criminals." He continued that "to execute or not is not the problem, the problem is to make sure that punishment is inevitable." Russia declared a moratorium on capital punishment in 1996 in accordance with a condition for joining the Council of Europe (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 17 December 1996). JAC

SWISS PUT DOLLAR FIGURE ON ALLEGED BRIBES TO BORODIN

Swiss investigating magistrate Daniel Devaud sent a letter last July to Russia's Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov informing him that he has evidence that former Kremlin facilities directorate head Pavel Borodin and his relatives accepted more than $25 million in kickbacks from the Swiss- based Mercata company, "Segodnya" reported on 12 September. Borodin, who is now secretary of state for the Union of Belarus and Russia, has repeatedly rejected any charges of misconduct. In the letter, Devaud also asks Ustinov for assistance in collecting further evidence. The Prosecutor- General's Office said it is still examining the information in the faxed letter. JAC

JEWISH POPULATION PROJECTED TO CONTINUE DROPPING

Russia may have no Jewish population by 2080 if current emigration and demographic trends persist, according to an annual report of the American Jewish Committee, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 September. The news agency said that the total number of Jews on the territory of the former Soviet Union has declined from 1.5 million in 1989 to 440,000 in 2000. Within 10 years, the number of Jews on that territory might decline to 160,000 if the current rate of emigration and live births does not change. JAC




ARMENIA HOPES FOR TURKISH SHIFT ON 1915

The Armenian leadership hopes that Turkey will eventually drop its refusal to recognize the 1915 extermination of more 1 million ethnic Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire as genocide, presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian told journalists in Yerevan on 13 September. In his 7 September address to the UN Millennium Summit, Armenian President Robert Kocharian had said that "Turkey's continuing denial of the genocide of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire has only been intensifying our aspirations for historical justice." Kocharian expressed confidence that "a constructive dialogue with Turkey will allow us to jointly pave the way toward cooperation and good neighborly relations between our two peoples." Turkish President Akhmet Necdet Sezer in his speech to the summit expressed "great regret" that Kocharian had broached the issue, saying the "assessment of history should be left to historians," according to the Anatolia News Agency, as cited by Groong. LF

ARMENIA CONCERNED OVER POSSIBLE DELAY TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEMBERSHIP

Meeting in Yerevan on 13 September with a visiting European Parliament delegation, President Kocharian and Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Martirosian both expressed concern that Armenia's full membership in the Council of Europe may be made conditional on developments in neighboring Azerbaijan, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Delegation head Ursula Schleicher had repeated the European view that Armenia and Azerbaijan should be granted full membership simultaneously. Azerbaijan's chances of such membership depend, however, on an end to harassment of journalists and whether the parliamentary elections scheduled for 5 November are free, fair, and democratic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). Parliamentary speaker Armen Khachatrian assured the delegation that Armenia will meet all the preconditions set by the Council of Europe for full membership, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIA WILL NOT SHUT DOWN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WITHOUT ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES

Khachatrian also told the European Parliament delegation on 13 September that Yerevan cannot meet a 2003 deadline set by the EU for closing the Medzamor nuclear power plant unless alternative energy sources are available by that date, according to Armenpress, as cited by Groong. Medzamor currently produces some 40 percent of Armenia's electricity. Shmavon Shahbazian, who heads the Armenian parliament's foreign relations department, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 12 September that Yerevan expects a commitment from the EU to assist in the planned construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia and to lobby for the lifting of the Turkish and Azerbaijani energy blockades of Armenia, which he said threaten Armenia's energy security. LF

AZERBAIJAN SIGNS ANOTHER OIL CONTRACT

The Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR signed a contract in Washington on 12 September with the U.S. oil company Moncreif Oil International and with Turkey's Petoil, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. The contract is to develop the Kelameddin-Mishovdag onshore field in the Shirvan steppe, which has estimated reserves of 20-30 million metric tons. Moncreif will be the project operator with a 49.7 percent stake, while Petoil will take 35.3 percent and SOCAR 15 percent. LF

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER, RUSSIAN MILITARY COMMANDER MEET

During a four-hour meeting in Tbilisi on 13 September, Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze, Chief of General Staff Djoni Pirtskhalaishvili, and the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, discussed cooperation between the Russian and Georgian military in the Caucasus as well as the ongoing withdrawal of Russian military equipment from Georgia and the planned closure of its bases there, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. They also discussed the fighting in Chechnya and Russian allegations that Chechen fighters use the Pankisi gorge in northern Georgia as a base. Pirtskhalaishvili again rejected those claims, saying that the Georgian military and Interior Ministry have the situation in the gorge "under control." Tevzadze told journalists after the talks that agreement was reached on "practically all" issues discussed. LF

GEORGIA FAILS TO RESCHEDULE GAS DEBT TO TURKMENISTAN

During visits to Ashgabat in early September, Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili and a Georgian government delegation headed by Deputy Minister of State Levan Dzneladze failed to reach agreement with the Turkmen leadership on rescheduling Georgia's $348.8 million debt for gas supplies in 1993-1994, Caucasus Press reported on 13 September. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvardize told journalists that Tbilisi proposed two approaches to covering that debt, both of which would entail providing consumer goods to meet part of the sum owed and rescheduling the remaining amount. The Turkmen side, however, rejected both proposals. LF

SLAIN GEORGIAN INSURGENT LEADER'S SUPPORTERS INDICTED

Three supporters of rebel colonel Akaki Eliava who were arrested in Zestafoni in July after Georgian security officials gunned him down in cold blood (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 July 2000) have been charged with kidnapping, Caucasus Press reported on 13 September. Two of the three have also been charged with participation in the abortive uprising Eliava led in October 1998. LF

GEORGIA DENIES CLOSING AIRSPACE TO RUSSIAN MILITARY AIRCRAFT

Georgian aviation officials denied on 13 September that Tbilisi barred Russian military aircraft from entering Georgian airspace in retaliation for non-payment of Russia's debt, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000). They said Russia has been asked to submit a schedule for repayment of that debt. LF

INTERNATIONAL MILITARY MANEUVERS BEGIN IN KAZAKHSTAN

The annual Centrazbat military exercises began at the Ile training ground near Almaty on 13 September and will continue for one week, Interfax and RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Some 2,000 troops from Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, the U.S., the U.K., Russia, Mongolia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are participating. At the opening ceremony, Kazakhstan's Defense Minister General Sat Toqpaqbaev read out a message to participants from Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who underscored the relevance to the current situation in Central Asia of those war games, which focus on combating terrorism and extremism. But Toqpaqbaev stressed that the maneuvers were not organized in response to the incursions by fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan into southern Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. LF

MORE EXCHANGES OF FIRE REPORTED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

A spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's Defense Minister told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 13 September that Islamic militants made three attempts to cross the Tajik-Kyrgyz border during the night of 12-13 September but were repelled by Kyrgyz government troops. He put the number of Kyrgyz servicemen killed since fighting began in mid-August at 33. Also on 12 August, a police official from Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Oblast told RFE/RL that exchanges of fire between Kyrgyz government forces and militants have become a daily occurrence. He added that the Kyrgyz forces are currently combing the Zardaly and Kojo-Ashkan passes on the Kyrgyz- Tajik border. LF

JAPANESE DIPLOMAT VISITS TAJIKISTAN

Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov assured visiting Japanese Foreign Ministry official Kazuko Togo on 13 September that the political situation in Tajikistan is stable and its foreign policy aimed at strengthening peace and stability in Central Asia, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Togo said that Japan is considering opening an embassy in Dushanbe. The two men also discussed the situation in Afghanistan. Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov had met with Japanese Premier Yoshiro Mori on 7 September in New York on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit and thanked him for Japanese contributions of humanitarian aid to Tajikistan and for Japanese participation in post-conflict rehabilitation projects, including the reconstruction of Khujand airport. Rakhmonov accepted an invitation to visit Japan next year LF

UZBEKISTAN APPEALS FOR DROUGHT RELIEF

The government of Uzbekistan has appealed to international organizations for help in countering the damage to agriculture by this summer's severe drought, especially in the Karakalpak Autonomous Oblast in the west of the country, Interfax reported on 13 September. Uzbekistan is the fifth former Soviet republic to request such help, after Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan. A UN official warned earlier this month that the failure of 90 percent of all crops in Karakalpakia could lead to famine and spark social unrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2000). LF




BELARUSIAN POLICE CONFISCATE NEWSPAPER URGING ELECTION BOYCOTT

Police on 13 September confiscated 112,000 copies of a special issue of the newspaper "Rabochy" (Worker), the organ of the Belarusian Free Trade Union, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Police officers said they seized the issue because it includes appeals to boycott the 15 October legislative elections. "Rabochy" chief editor Viktor Ivashkevich, the newspaper's legal adviser, and the owner of the printing house where the newspaper is printed are to stand trial on 18 September on charges of "propagandizing an election boycott." Ivashkevich dismisses the charges as groundless, saying the Electoral Code does not prohibit boycotting elections in Belarus. JM

LUKASHENKA APPEARS CONCERNED ABOUT RE-ELECTION BID NEXT YEAR

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 13 September discussed with his cabinet the 2001 budget and socioeconomic development in the coming year, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka said the government should do away with poverty in Belarus and charged his ministers with the task of increasing the average monthly wage to $100 by 1 October 2001 (it now stands at some $45). "Next year is a test for all of us--[we have] presidential elections. What will we say to the people?" Lukashenka commented, adding that Belarus's continuing poverty may prompt people to change those in power. He warned that such a change would spell disaster for Belarus. "[New rulers in Belarus] can be installed only by the West or the East. But they would have to pay for this with refineries, pipelines, airplanes and helicopters, and, generally, with the lives of our people," Lukashenka said. JM

BELARUS'S CENTRAL BANK SETS SINGLE RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE

The National Bank on 14 September set the official ruble exchange rate at 1,020 rubles to $1, which is virtually the same as the street exchange rate. The bank's decision ends the four- year period in which Belarus had several currency exchange rates, while the ruble's official value was as much as five times higher than its market value. Former National Bank head Stanislau Bahdankevich welcomed the bank's step to introduce a single ruble exchange rate but warned that a multiplicity of exchange rates may soon be restored if the government continues to subsidize loss-making enterprises, control prices, and "stage show actions to pay wage arrears," Belapan reported. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT CONFIDENT ABOUT HRYVNYA'S STABILITY

Economics Minister Vasyl Rohovyy on 13 September said by the end of this year, the national currency exchange rate will not exceed 6 hryvni to $1, Interfax reported. Rohovyy added that the hryvnya will not weaken beyond that limit even if the IMF refuses to resume its loan program to Ukraine. The current exchange rate is 5.439 hryvni to $1. Meanwhile, the agency quoted Kyiv currency dealers as saying the "relative stability" of the hryvnya is being maintained by the National Bank's regular sales of hard currency. "If the National Bank fails to meet [the demand] on the currency market and stops selling hard currency even for one day, the hryvnya exchange rate will [go down]," one dealer said. JM

REPORT: ESTONIA LEAST CORRUPT COUNTRY IN EASTERN EUROPE

According to the annual Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International, Estonia scored 5.7 on a 10- point index (with 10 signifying virtually no corruption), coming in 27th out of 90 countries, BNS reported on 13 September. This was the highest placing of an East European country. Estonia came just ahead of Slovenia and Taiwan (5.5 points each), followed by Hungary (5.2) and the Czech Republic (4.3). Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland tied with El Salvador and Chile with 4.1 points in 43rd place, while Latvia scored 3.4 points in 57th place. Russia received 2.1 points in 82nd place, while Ukraine received 1.5 points and Yugoslavia came last among East European countries with 1.3 points. Finland topped the index with 10 points, while Nigeria was last with 1.2 points. MH

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT DECIDES AGAINST SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET THIS YEAR

The Estonian government decided at its 12 September meeting not to draft a negative supplemental budget for this year. Prime Minister Mart Laar said that since tax collection is more or less on target, there is no need for such a budget. However, there could be a shortfall resulting from privatization as there are no potential buyers for the TOP Olympic Yachting Center, whose sale was expected to bring in 320 million kroons ($17.6 million) of the 617 million kroon revenues anticipated from the privatization of state properties, ETA reported. The government on 12 September also failed to put its stamp on the draft 2001 budget owing to various disagreements on expenditures and taxation. MH

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2001 BUDGET DRAFT

The government on 12 September approved the main parameters of the draft 2001 budget, agreeing on a deficit of 1.74 percent of expected GDP. The draft includes a 40 percent reduction in taxes for large investments in Latvia, BNS reported. Expenditures are put at 1.499 billion lats ($2.42 billion) and revenues at 1.432 billion lats. Central bank head Einars Repse said the draft deviates from strict fiscal policy. Similarly, government members said the 2002 budget must be deficit-free. MH

NEW ALLIANCE LEADER PROPOSES SLOWER INCREASE IN LITHUANIA'S DEFENSE SPENDING

Leader of the New Alliance (Social Liberals) Arturas Paulauskas met with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson in Brussels on 13 September to introduce his party's policy toward Lithuania's NATO integration effort. Paulauskas, whose party has topped opinion polls for several months, suggested that plans to increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2001 are "ambitious" and said that the increase should take place by 2002 instead, ELTA reported. At the same time, he expressed his determination to continue Lithuania's integration into NATO and said he believes Lithuania will be invited to join the alliance in 2002. Paulauskas also met with EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen to discuss EU enlargement. MH

POLISH TRUCKERS TO DRIVE SLOWLY TO PROTEST FUEL PRICES

Poland's Association of International Haulers on 13 September announced it will stage a go-slow action on Polish roads to pressure the government to lower taxes on fuel. Over the next few days, some 22,500 trucks are expected to slow to 10-30 kilometers per hour for four hours in order to clog traffic on Poland's already overcrowded roads. The association wants the government to cut fuel taxes to bring the price of diesel fuel down from 2.84-2.94 zlotys ($0.63-$0.65) per liter to 2.1 zlotys. Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc, however, has ruled out cutting taxes on fuel, which account for 50 percent of the cost of diesel fuel and 57 percent in the case of gasoline. JM

POLISH NURSES THREATEN STRIKE OVER LOW WAGES

Some 1,000 nurses on 13 September picketed the parliamentary building to demand that the government grant them the wage increases it pledged last year following a wave of nurses' strikes in hospitals, Polish media reported. The National Trade Union of Nurses and Housewives said it will launch a strike in mid- October if the government fails to raise their wages by 2 percent above the inflation level, as promised. The government argues that it has no extra funds for the increase and advises the protesters to negotiate hikes with their employers--regional health funds. JM

CZECH, AUSTRIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES TO VISIT TEMELIN BEFORE LAUNCHING

Members of a Czech-Austrian commission of experts and deputies from the two parliaments will visit the Temelin nuclear power plant before its launching to discuss safety measures, CTK reported on 13 September, citing a press release issued in Vienna by parliamentary deputies from the two countries. Each side will be represented by four deputies and four experts. MS

CZECH POLICE PLAN TOUGH BORDER CHECKS DURING IMF MEETING...

Police announced on 13 September that strict border controls will be imposed during the annual meeting in Prague of the IMF and the World Bank on 26-28 September. Some 20,000 globalization opponents are expected to stage demonstrations during the meeting. A spokesman for the Initiative Against Economic Globalization group told CTK that three Dutch men and a U.S. citizen planning to take part in the demonstrations were denied permission to enter the country on 13 September. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Czech Republic's Greenpeace said a foreigner planning to take part in a demonstration on 15 September against the launching of Temelin was denied entry and a stamp put in his passport prohibiting him from entering the country before 30 September. MS

...AS CABINET ENDORSES POLICE MEASURES

The government on 13 September said it "fully supports" measures taken by the police ahead of the IMF-World Bank meeting. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said the cabinet "will certainly respect the right of demonstrators to express their views...but it will not respect any right to violent protest." MS

SLOVAK ROMA PROTEST PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE'S DECISION

Spokesmen for Slovak Roma have criticized the decision of the parliament's Immunity Committee not to recommend lifting the immunity of Slovak National Party deputy Vitazoslav Moric (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2000), according to Edmund Muller, who heads the Office for Legal Protection of Roma in Kosice. Moric had called for placing Slovak Roma "in reservations." Muller said that in reaching its decision, the parliamentary committee has in fact endorsed Moric's statement and the segregation of Roma in Slovakia. He added that according to his information, "Roma are heading to the U.S. Embassy, where they will ask for political asylum." The parliament has yet to vote on the police's request to lift Moric's immunity. MS




BALKAN CONTACT GROUP TO DEBATE YUGOSLAV ISSUES

Diplomats from the U.S., U.K., Russia, Germany, France, Italy, and the EU will discuss prospects for "democratic change" in Yugoslavia at the UN on 14 September, Reuters reported. It will be the first meeting of the group since the 1999 Kosova crisis. Italian diplomats prepared a preliminary draft calling for free and fair elections in Yugoslavia on 24 September. The draft added: "Democratic change is the only avenue to ensure that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will be able to reinstall [sic.] its position in the international community and within the family of European countries." It is unclear whether the text will be acceptable to Russian diplomats. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT DETERMINED TO DEMOCRATIZE

Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 13 September that "our strategy is development of democracy, further improvement of human rights and preservation of a multiethnic harmony," Reuters reported. "This is our strategy, and whether it will be implemented in Montenegro as an independent state or as part of a redefined Yugoslavia--a far more flexible alliance than envisaged by the present constitution--is an important but not a vital issue," he added. Djukanovic stressed that democracy and not independence is his government's primary goal. He added, however, that the government may hold a referendum on independence if Serbia does not agree to constitutional reforms. Montenegro is prepared to defend itself if Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic chooses violence, Djukanovic added. The Montenegrin leader said that he believes that Milosevic will try "to steal the elections" in the first round, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN RULING PARTY SAYS YUGOSLAV ARMY STAGING INCIDENTS

The Democratic Party of Socialists said in a statement in Podgorica that troops have recently staged several incidents aimed at fueling political tensions in the mountainous republic. The statement referred specifically to an incident in Danilovgrad on 11 September in which some 50 drunken troops allegedly jumped on cafe tables, taunted passers-by, and shouted "this is Serbia" as well as insults about Djukanovic, the daily "Vijesti" reported on 13 September. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY WANTS TROOPS TO BACK MILOSEVIC?

Army spokesman Colonel Svetozar Radisic said in Belgrade on 13 September that he expects military personnel to vote "for those who will help most in reorganizing the army,...securing conditions for a better and stronger defense system, and resolving social issues of active and retired officers and veterans." He did not specify which candidates he meant, but Reuters noted that top officers have recently attended rallies of Milosevic's election coalition. Defense Minister General Dragoljub Ojdanic and Chief-of-Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic, in particular, are widely regarded as political appointees. PM

TENSIONS, VIOLENCE MARK SERBIAN CAMPAIGN

The Serbian authorities are preparing to deny a prominent NGO the right to monitor the elections, the Belgrade Center for Free Elections and Democracy said in a statement on 13 September. Justice Ministry officials searched the center's office in what the statement called a preliminary move to disqualify the NGO from monitoring the vote. Center director Slobodanka Nedovic told Reuters on 14 September that ministry officials told her they will not accredit her organization. Foreign monitors are already banned except for those from "friendly countries." In the Vojvodina town of Kljajicevo, police arrested a supporter of the Democratic Party who had allegedly stabbed a pro-Milosevic off-duty border policeman for political reasons, Reuters reported. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said "politics should not be a cause for violence." Local Democratic officials are investigating the incident. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO CAMPAIGN IN KOSOVA

Vojislav Kostunica attended a Serbian Orthodox religious service at the historical Studenica monastery on 14 September. He then left for Kosova to campaign among local Serbs. He told Reuters: "We are going to give them our message there in the same way as we are doing throughout Serbia. People in Kosovo are aware of what they have lost in these 10 years of Milosevic's rule. It is important to encourage people to stay there, to encourage them to bring the refugees back to Kosovo," Kostunica added. In Belgrade on 13 September, Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj said that he will not recognize the results of the elections if they include votes from Kosova. He said that he believes that the regime will stuff the ballot boxes there, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROBERTSON: KOSOVA OFF LIMITS TO MILOSEVIC

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said on 13 September that peacekeepers will arrest Milosevic and send him to The Hague if he tries to campaign in Kosova. Robertson added that the elections "will not be free and they will not be fair," Reuters reported. In Goedoeloe, Hungary, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan expressed similar views about the elections, Reuters reported. He is attending a meeting of the prime ministers of Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. The four issued a statement calling for fair and free elections monitored by international observers. PM

KOSOVAR LEADER LAUNCHES ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Democratic Party of Kosova leader and former guerrilla commander Hashim Thaci opened his campaign for the 28 October local elections in Prishtina on 13 September. He told several thousand cheering supporters that his party will win because it "deserves to," Reuters reported. In an interview with the news agency, he said the election pits supporters of independence against those he claims want to keep Kosova part of Yugoslavia. It is unclear to whom he was referring, because all Kosovar parties support independence. PM

JOURNALIST MISSING IN KOSOVA

The organization of independent Serbian broadcasters, ANEM, said in a statement on 12 September that Marijan Melonasi, a journalist with the Serbian-language program on RTV Kosova, disappeared in Prishtina on 9 September. He previously worked for the multi- ethnic Radio Kontakt. The statement appealed to the UN administration and KFOR to create secure working conditions for journalists. PM

SULFURIC ACID SPILL IN KOSOVA

Sulfuric acid from a tank containing 600,000 liters of the substance has entered the Sitnica River, despite efforts of peacekeepers and fire- fighters to contain the leak. The UN civilian administration said in a statement on 13 September that the acid was from the battery factory at the Trepca complex. The Serbian news agency Tanjug blamed the UN and NATO for the incident. Observers note that aging industrial installations that are ecologically unsafe can be found throughout much of the former Yugoslavia. PM

BOSNIAN LEADER STILL AILING

Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint presidency, was released from a New York hospital on 12 September, the Bosnian UN mission said in a statement the following day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2000). The statement added that he delayed his return to Bosnia because "otherwise his situation could have critically deteriorated." Izetbegovic, whose health has been poor for several years, entered the hospital after showing early symptoms of pneumonia. PM

SECOND HERZEGOVINIAN CROAT WAR CRIMES SUSPECT TURNS SELF IN

Zoran Soldo of the Mostar Five group of indicted war criminals surrendered to police in the Herzegovinian city on 13 September. His colleague Erhard Poznic turned himself in on 8 September. Members of the Mostar Five are wanted for atrocities committed against Muslims in 1993. In a statement, the UN welcomed the move and called on local Croatian police to arrest Croatian war criminals, AP reported. PM

SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT BEGINS LAST SESSION

The legislature on 13 September began its final, three-day session before the opening of the parliamentary election campaign immediately thereafter, "Delo" reported. The legislative agenda includes passage of several bills necessary to bring Slovenian laws into line with those of the EU. PM

IMF CRITICAL OF ROMANIA'S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

IMF chief negotiator for Romania Emmanuel Zervoudakis told journalists on 13 September, at the end of a two-week visit to Romania, that the government is still moving too slowly in privatizing state-owned companies and has failed in its pledge to curb inflation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. This year's inflation rate is expected to be around 40 percent instead of the 27 percent pledged by the government. The IMF is to decide whether to release the next tranche of a $540 million loan but the decision will be postponed until after a meeting between cabinet members and IMF representatives in Prague in September. Zervoudakis also said that Romania has made little progress in reducing debts between state-owned companies and has seen an "unjustified increase in state-sector wages." MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER REJECTS PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION CRITICISM

Mugur Isarescu rejected as "unfounded and inaccurate" criticism of a parliamentary commission that investigated the reasons for the collapse of the National Investment Fund (FNI) earlier this year. The commission said that the National Bank, which earlier Isarescu had headed, failed to properly supervise the activities of the private fund, but Isarescu said such activities did not come under the bank's jurisdiction at the time he was its head. The committee also blamed political leaders for the collapse and recommended that investors be partly compensated, because investments were guaranteed by the CEC state savings bank, Mediafax and AP reported. MS

ILIESCU DENIES ROMANIA BROKE YUGOSLAV EMBARGO

Former President Ion Iliescu has denied that under his presidency, Romania broke the UN oil embargo against Yugoslavia. Speaking to a forum at RFE/RL's Washington office on 13 September, Iliescu said no "smuggling" was undertaken with the knowledge of the government. (The same day, the Senate's Judicial Committee in Bucharest rejected on procedural grounds the Prosecutor-General's Office demand that the parliamentary immunity of former Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu and former Interior Minister Doru Ioan Taracila be lifted on suspicion of involvement in the embargo break.) Iliescu, who is running again for president, also denied he supports the drive to rehabilitate wartime fascist leader Marshal Ion Antonescu. MS

TIRASPOL PRISONER JOINS ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTY

Ilie Ilascu, who has been in prison since 1992 after being sentenced to death by the Tiraspol authorities, has joined the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), Mediafax reported on 13 September. PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said Ilascu, who is now a deputy in the Moldovan parliament, will run on the PRM lists in the Romanian parliamentary elections in November. Tudor also said his party has asked the Foreign Ministry to start legal proceeding to grant Ilascu Romanian citizenship. Tudor said he has written to Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev telling him that if Ilascu is elected a PRM senator, he will represent the party in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. MS

SHARP DROP REGISTERED IN BULGARIAN LIVESTOCK

Bulgaria's livestock fell sharply in the first half of 2000, after authorities closed down meat and dairy farms that failed to meet EU veterinary standards, Reuters reported. The decline in the livestock is also attributed to shrinking domestic consumption of meat. Data released by the National Statistic Institute show that the number of pigs declined by 20 percent, poultry by 6.9 percent, sheep by 10.5 percent, and cattle by 0.9 percent. By the end of August, 192 dairy farms and 352 livestock units had been closed down, according to the National Veterinary Service. Of the farms still operating, only 12 meat and dairy producers have been licensed to export to the EU. MS




CHECHENS IN UKRAINE: A DIASPORA IN THE MAKING?


By Lily Hyde

The meeting around a table cluttered with lemonade bottles and food plates was rowdy.

A young Chechen warrior wanted to boast about his fighting exploits in Chechnya. A Ukrainian from Crimea pledged his undying respect for the Chechens, while a Ukrainian nationalist took issue with the Crimean's use of the Russian language. At the head of the table, a delegation of war veterans recalled the forced evacuation of Chechens from their republic in the Stalinist era. And from the next room, the plaintive sound of the Muslim call to prayer was heard.

The two dozen or so people had been brought together under the auspices of the Muslim Community in the town of Cherkassy, south of Kyiv. The group unites about 3,000 Muslims in the region, mostly Tatars, Azerbaijanis, and natives of Central Asian states. A network of such organizations across Ukraine represents 2 million Muslims. On 6 September, they gathered at the behest of their newest members, Chechens, to mark the Chechen day of independence, which was declared in 1991 but is still far from being a political reality.

Estimates of the number of Chechens in Ukraine vary from 2,000 to 5,000. Official statistics do not exist, since only a small fraction of the Chechens are registered and have received formal refugee status. Refugees have found it hard to get the Ukrainian government to recognize them.

Rakhman Khamtsuyev, a Chechen whose wife is Russian, arrived in Cherkassy with his family and his brother's all- Chechen family. The brother's family did not receive permission to stay and had to return to their home town just outside the capital, Grozny. According to Mamed Khataev, a Chechen who heads the Cherkassy Muslim community, this is the usual Ukrainian procedure with all-Chechen families, who are given no chance to live legally in Ukraine by the authorities: "They come and go, but no one registers you. [The authorities] can, they say they will, but it's only on paper. They appear on TV and say we have a good attitude to these people, we accept them--but its all on paper and on TV. In fact, there's an unofficial order that no Chechens are registered for any price, they are sent out of Ukraine."

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ukraine acknowledges that an "unwritten rule" does indeed prevent local immigration services from accepting many refugees from Russian republics like Chechnya. The official reason is that such refugees are Russian citizens and therefore from a country that respects human rights.

Nevertheless, Khamtsuyev is grateful to Ukraine, where he says the media offer a more balanced picture of events in Chechnya that their Russian counterparts. Ukrainian authorities have also allowed Chechen information centers to operate, despite the objections of the Russian government. Most important, Khamtsuyev has been able to escape the horrors of life just outside Grozny.

Chechens in Ukraine are linked by unofficial or social organizations, like the Muslim communities, where they have found a welcome and some support. But the Cherkassy community cannot do much for the seven Chechen families who have moved into the town. The community rents only two rooms in an apartment, one of which it uses as a mosque, the other as a study room for Arabic and religion classes and social gatherings, such as the Chechen independence celebration. The Cherkassy Muslim community head Khataev insists the group is purely a spiritual and social movement and does not engage in politics.

Leaders of the Chechen diaspora in Crimea cooperate with the Crimean Tatar political organization Mejlis to find Chechen families accommodation and support. And they also stay in touch with Chechen information centers around the country.

Not everyone at the 6 September gathering had a Muslim background. Some ethnic Ukrainians also support the Chechen cause, including nationalists, who see it as another opportunity to oppose what they consider Russian imperialism, and women who have married Chechen men.

Yuri Lepechin is from Crimea but grew up in Grozny and is now actively helping the Crimean diaspora organize. "Our goal is to found a diaspora and, with its help, send the children and old people in Crimea for health treatment," he told RFE/RL. Through the diaspora, we are also organizing the education of a cadre of Chechens. We're preparing Chechnya for freedom--I would say, free Ukraine is preparing Chechnya for freedom."

The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Ukraine.


XS
SM
MD
LG