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Newsline - September 15, 2000




MORE CRITICISM OF INFORMATION SECURITY DOCTRINE VOICED...

A top official with the Union of Journalists slammed the Security Council's new information security doctrine, calling the document "a real and present danger to the country's information security" because it is "written in a spirit very much at odds with the principles of freedom of expression and openness," Interfax reported on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). The Union's general secretary, Igor Yakovenko, objects to the apparent "conviction" of the doctrine's authors that Russia's state-owned media must be consolidated and expanded. He also questions a provision of the doctrine calling for the setting up of regional bodies to provide information security. He concludes that this provision "looks like a revival of censorship." Yevgenii Volk of the Heritage Foundation is equally critical of the doctrine, telling Reuters the same day that its "general intent is quite clear--the authorities are trying to increase their control over all aspects of the mass media, including the Internet" (see also "End Note" below). JAC

...AS NEWSPAPER CLAIMS ORT ALREADY UNDER KREMLIN CONTROL

"Vedomosti" reported on 14 September, citing an unidentified presidential administration official, that the Kremlin believes it has for the most part managed to wrest control of Russian Public Television from Boris Berezovskii. According to the source, the news department is no longer controlled by Berezovskii's cronies and is now headed by new official Sergei Goryachev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). Anchorman Sergei Dorenko has been taken off the air, and general director Konstantin Ernst has been wooed over to the Kremlin's side. Only Badri Patarkatsishvili, ORT executive director, remains loyal to Berezovskii, as well as some members of ORT's board of directors. According to the daily, the Kremlin also plans to cleanse NTV of its more "political" figures, such as general director Yevgenii Kiselev. JAC

DUMA TO SEEK 25 PERCENT HIKE IN DEFENSE SPENDING

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 14 September that the Russian government is planning to increase defense spending each year. However, he said there is no need to raise expenditures for next year above the level already provided for in the draft 2001 budget since this level is "sufficient, keeping in mind the possibilities of the budget." Meanwhile, the State Duma's Defense Committee plans to ask that spending be increased by up to 52 billion rubles ($1.9 billion), ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The draft currently calls for 206.3 billion rubles for defense. JAC

TWO LAWMAKERS WANT U.S. SUB EXAMINED AS PART OF 'KURSK' INVESTIGATION...

Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) and Nikolai Bezborodov (Russian Regions) have proposed that the State Duma appeal to U.S. President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress to order an "external examination" of the "USS Memphis" submarine, which the two lawmakers believe caused the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine last month in the Barents Sea. The Duma Council on 14 September turned down their request to put the appeal on the lower house's agenda, but Mitrofanov and Bezborodov intend to ask deputies directly to consider their proposal. The same day, a member of the government commission investigating the causes of the "Kursk" disaster said the stricken submarine was likely hit by a missile fired from a Russian warship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). On 15 September, Duma deputies are to debate what role they should play in the "Kursk" investigation. Opinions are currently divided in the house over whether a special parliamentary commission should be formed. JC

...AS RUSSIAN ANTI-SUB WARSHIP FIRES MISSILE AT TOWN--BY MISTAKE

Citing the Pacific Fleet press service, RIA-Novosti reported on 15 September that the anti-submarine warship "Admiral Pantilev" accidentally fired a missile at the town of Slavyanka, in Primorskii Krai, during naval maneuvers the previous day. The shell reportedly left a crater 1.5 meters deep after exploding in marshes just outside the town, AFP reported. The fleet admitted that "one elderly local resident suffered concussion" in the incident. It blamed the warship's gunners for the incident. JC

IVANOV SAYS SPY CASE SHOULD NOT UPSET RUSSIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS

Meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Yohei Kono, at Russia's UN mission on 14 September, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the emergence of a possible spy case involving a Japanese naval officer and a Russian diplomat was "regrettable" but "should not have a negative impact on good bilateral relations," AP reported, citing a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported the same day that Japan has asked that Russian army Colonel General Yurii Bukreev's scheduled trip to Japan be postponed. And it has also put off a trip to Russia by 30 Japanese military officers, according to the same news agency. JC

RUSSIA, U.S. TO SET UP JOINT GROUP TO FIGHT CRIME

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, speaking after talks with FBI director Louis Freeh in Moscow on 14 September, announced that Moscow and Washington intend to establish a joint working group to boost cooperation in fighting crime. That group is expected to meet for the first time next month, and Freeh noted that the two sides are interested in combating "not only organized crime but transnational crime in general." Freeh is also scheduled to meet with Russian Federal Security Service head Nikolai Patrushev and Justice Minister Yurii Chaika. JC

VIETNAM REACHES AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIA ON SOVIET-ERA DEBT

According to a Russian Finance Ministry statement released on 14 September, Russian and Vietnamese government negotiators have agreed that Hanoi owes Moscow some $1.7 billion and can repay that debt over 23 years. Most of that sum was borrowed from the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. Earlier talks on the issue had stalled because the two sides were unable to agree on the exchange rate that should be used to calculate the size of the debt. Also on 14 September, Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai ended his five-day visit to Moscow and left for Belarus. JC

RUSSIA LESS CORRUPT THAN UKRAINE, MORE CORRUPT THAN BELARUS

In Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index released on 13 September, Russia ranked 82 out of 90 countries, with the 90th being perceived as the most corrupt (see ). The only countries that scored worse than Russia were Cameroon, Angola, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, and Nigeria, with Nigeria occupying the last place. Of countries of the former Soviet Union included in the survey, Belarus fared best, occupying 42nd position. The Corruption Perception Index is based on surveys of business people, the general public and country analysts (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000, Part II). JAC

INGUSH, NORTH OSSETIAN PREMIERS SEEK TO EXPEDITE RETURN OF DISPLACED PERSONS

Meeting in Essentuki on 13 September, the prime ministers of Ingushetia and North Ossetia, Akhmet Malsagov and Taimuraz Mamsurov, agreed on measures intended to speed up the return to North Ossetia of Ingush forced to flee during the fighting in November 1992, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 September. The Russian government will allocate funds for that program, including to reconstruct damaged homes and create new jobs. LF

REGIONAL LEADER ADVISES MOSCOW TO LOOK EAST

In an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 September, Federation Council Chairman and Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev argues that the world's geopolitical center "is steadily shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific." As a consequence, he recommends that Russia's strategic priorities be reviewed to reflect this shift. Stroev also advocates that priority be given to "the joint utilization of oil and gas resources of Russia's Far East and Siberia, and the construction of a network of oil and gas pipelines and of powerful international electric power lines." He says that an agreement has already been reached with China on the implementation of major projects, which he says could be the basis for building a common energy system in Northeastern Asia. JAC

GUILTY PLEA ENTERED IN PLOT TO KILL GOVERNOR

Viktor Tikhonov, the younger brother of Olympic champion biathlete Aleksandr Tikhonov, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Aleksandr Tikhonov, 53, who was detained around the same time as his brother, was hospitalized last week following a concussion. Supporters of the elder Tikhonov say his arrest is linked to a feud between Tuleev and the MIKOM metals holding. Tihkonov is a close friend of MIKOM head Mikhail Shivilo (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 August 2000). JAC

FIRST LADY TO TAKE UP LANGUAGE CAUSE?

While attending Russian language and literature classes at the grade school in Kaliningrad Oblast where she was once a pupil, Lyudmila Putina, the wife of Russian President Vladimir Putin, told teachers and students that she "wants to raise the prestige of the Russian language in this country and abroad," Interfax-BNS reported on 14 September. According to the agency, teachers found some of her records and reported that she mostly earned the highest marks. JAC

ANOTHER FACTORY DIVIDED INTO ARMED CAMPS...

Two men, each of whom had been selected by different groups of independent shareholders to head Uralkhimmash, the chemical factory in Sverdlovsk Oblast, wound up wrestling in the director's office over the company seal, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 September. Each was accompanied by armed bands of his own supporters. On the night of 13 September, newly appointed would-be director Andrei Vikharev entered the factory's premises with a team of guards and employees and installed himself in the director's office. When the former director, Alekei Glotov, heard of this development, he and a team of factory workers entered the locked factory with the help of a crane. According to Interfax, 10 people have been injured in the conflict so far. Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, who was himself a director at the factory several years ago, has tried to mediate between the warring factions. According to RFE/RL's correspondent in Yekaterinburg, a local oligarch, Pavel Fedulov, is behind Vikharev, while the majority of the factory's workers support Glotov. JAC

...AS EXPERIENCED MANAGERS GET CAR, BODYGUARD

Employers in Russia's outlying regions are actively searching for experienced managers, "Vremya MN" reported on 14 September. And the greatest demand is for specialists in the food industry. According to the newspaper, such specialists can demand contracts for three-five years, while applicants with the highest qualifications are frequently provided with an apartment or free-standing house, transportation, and, depending on the type of business, a bodyguard. The daily reported that people want to live in the provinces generally for two reasons: to gain experience in managing a large enterprise and to be in a place where the cost of living is lower than in Moscow. JAC

EX-COLD WAR ENEMY TO BLAME FOR SMOKING-RELATED ILLNESSES?

Following the example of a host of other countries, Moscow is suing U.S. tobacco companies for compensation for public health care funds spent on smoking-related illnesses, AP reported on 15 September. The suit was filed by Kremlin facilities director Vladimir Kozhin in Miami, where a $145 billion anti-smoking verdict was reached in July. Since the collapse of the USSR, some of the biggest investors in Russia have been U.S. cigarette companies. Tobacco consumption remains very widespread in Russia, and there are few restrictions on smoking in public places. JC




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KARABAKH

On a working visit to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 13-14 September, Robert Kocharian met with enclave President Arkadii Ghukasian, Prime Minister Anoushavan Danielian, and National Assembly speaker Oleg Esayan, Noyan Tapan reported. Kocharian also reviewed construction and infrastructure projects in the enclave financed by Armenian diaspora foundations, including the north-south highway. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FACTION REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR CABINET

Karen Karapetian, secretary of the second-largest Kayunutiun parliamentary faction, told journalists in Yerevan on 14 September that at a recent meeting with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Kayunutiun members said the faction's two representatives in the present cabinet are prepared to continuing working in their current capacity, Noyan Tapan reported. Markarian, for his part, expressed satisfaction with the performance of Transport and Communications Minister Eduard Madatian and Nature Conservation Minister Murad Muradian. A member of Kayunutiun had told RFE/RL in late August that the faction hoped to gain additional cabinet posts. LF

EXILED FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SAYS HE'LL RETURN 'IN TRIUMPH'

Ayaz Mutalibov said in a 30-minute interview with Ekho Moskvy on 14 September that he does not doubt that some day he will return "in triumph" to Baku, provided that the current authorities enact legislation on the status of former presidents. Mutalibov has lived in exile in Moscow since the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front thwarted his attempt to regain power in May 1992; the parliament had voted him out of office two months earlier. Mutalibov criticized what he termed the lack of democracy in Azerbaijan and the oppression of the media, as exemplified by the arrest of opposition "Yeni Musavat" editor Rauf Arifoglu. Meanwhile in Baku, more than a dozen Mutalibov supporters are continuing a hunger strike they began one week ago to demand that the present leadership create conditions that would enable Mutalibov to return to Azerbaijan, Turan reported. LF

COMMITTEE TO DEFEND RIGHTS OF FORMER AZERBAIJANI COMMUNIST BOSS

A committee has recently been formed in Baku to protect the rights and lobby for the rehabilitation of Abdulrakhman Vezirov, Mutalibov's predecessor as first secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 14 September. Vezirov held that post from May 1988 until January 1990, when he was dismissed in the wake of the Soviet army reprisals against the civilian population of Baku. He is believed to be working at the Russian Trade representation in Prague. LF

AZERBAIJANI COMMUNIST PARTY PARTICIPATION IN PARLIAMENTARY POLL RESTRICTED

The Azerbaijani Communist Party has been barred from contesting the 25 mandates to be allocated under the proportional system in the 5 November parliamentary ballot, Turan reported. Central Electoral Commission chairman Mazahir Panahov said that 17 of the 30 candidates on the party's list failed to provide the required income and property declaration and that the list had not been signed by the party's executive. LF

SENIOR U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL VISITS GEORGIA

On a one-day visit to Tbilisi on 14 September, General Henry Shelton, who is chairman of the joint U.S. Chiefs of General Staff, met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Defense Minister David Tevzadze, and parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, AP and Caucasus Press reported. Shelton expressed approval of the ongoing reform and downsizing of the Georgian armed forces. He also said that the U.S. government has proposed military aid in 2001 worth $12 million, including 10 helicopters and financial assistance for retired army personnel. Congress, however, has not yet approved that sum. LF

GEORGIAN TEACHERS STRIKE

Pedagogues in 60 schools in Georgia's Mtskheta-Mtianeti region have refused to resume teaching when the academic year begins on 18 September to protest the non-payment of their salaries over the past 10 months, Caucasus Press reported on 14 September. Also on 14 September, Caucasus Press reported that retired policemen will be given 5 kilograms of macaroni by the Union of Police Pensioners and Invalids to compensate for not having received their pensions for the past 10 months. LF

POLICE DETAIN KAZAKH DISSIDENT

Without explanation, police in Almaty escorted Karishal Assanov from his apartment on 14 September but released him three hours later, RFE/RL's bureau the former capital reported. Assanov informed RFE/RL that he has been summoned for questioning on 20 September in connection with his journalistic activities. Assanov recently published an article criticizing Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev. LF

KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DEEMS LANGUAGE TEST FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES LEGAL

The Kyrgyz Constitutional Court on 13 September ruled that the mandatory language examination for prospective presidential candidates is legal, thereby rejecting an appeal by Iskhak MasAliyev and Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. MasAliyev failed the test, while Sadyrbaev passed but earlier this week announced his intention to withdraw his candidacy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2000). Seven candidates have passed the language test and another seven have failed. Opposition Ar-Namys Party chairman Feliks Kulov will sit the examination on 18 September. The deadline for registration of candidates is 23 September. LF

KYRGYZ DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES REPORT OF NEW FIGHTING

Government troops in Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken oblast told RFE/RL on 14 September that Kyrgyz troops engaged Islamist guerrillas earlier that day near the village of Syrt, which is 35 kilometers from the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. The government troops reportedly sustained no casualties. But spokesmen for the Defense Ministry denied any knowledge of that clash, saying that over the previous 24 hours only one minor exchange of fire had been reported. That incident was said to have taken place at the Jyluu-Suu border post. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT RULES OUT INCURSION BY 'TERRORISTS'

Speaking in the city of Tajikabad on 13 September, Imomali Rakhmonov said the Tajik armed forces will forestall any attempt by "international terrorists" in Afghanistan to infiltrate Tajikistan and use the country as a "bridgehead," AP and ITAR-TASS reported. He added that instability in Tajikistan would pose a threat to the security of the whole of Central Asia. Meanwhile "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 September published what it says are the details of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's proposed Afghan peace plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 4 September 2000). That plan entails a cease-fire that will last between 24 and 48 months, special administrative powers for Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud on the territory that he traditionally controls, cooperation between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban in governing the country, and the deployment of an observer mission on Massoud's "autonomous" territorry. LF

UZBEK ARRESTED IN KAZAKHSTAN IN CONECTION WITH TASHKENT BOMBINGS

An unnamed Uzbek citizen has been detained at a border crossing between southern Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on suspicion of involvement in the terrorist bombings in the Uzbek capital in February 1999, Interfax reported on 14 September. The man's name was not disclosed. Kazakh customs officials reportedly recognized him from photographs of the suspects circulated by Uzbek police. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER MAY NOT RUN IN ELECTION IN PROTEST

A Minsk district electoral commission has registered Mikalay Statkevich, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party (Popular Assembly) (SDP), as a candidate in the legislative elections, RFE/RL's Service reported on 14 September. Statkevich told journalists that regional electoral commissions registered only two out of the 16 SDP members seeking registration for the ballot. According to Statkevich, the authorities "intentionally" allowed him to run while excluding the other SDP members. Statkevich warned that unless the Central Electoral Commission or the Supreme Court rules that his colleagues must be registered, he will not run in the election. The SDP said the same day that none of its representatives has been included in regional electoral commissions. The party said it will join the other opposition parties in boycotting the poll if the authorities continue to violate legislation during the election campaign. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PUNISHES OFFICIALS FOR FAILING TO PAY WAGE ARREARS

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree punishing those officials who failed to pay wage arrears by 1 September, as he had earlier ordered, Belarusian Television reported on 14 September. Lukashenka fired 90 officials and ordered the Minsk Prosecutor's Office to bring to justice those officials who "deliberately provided incomplete or false information" about the payment of wage arrears. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY DEEMED 'UNRELIABLE'

Viktor Volkov, head of the Revival of Regions parliamentary caucus and an influential "oligarch," told journalists on 14 September that amending the constitution in line with the 16 April referendum will be difficult since the pro-government parliamentary majority is unreliable. According to Volkov, only six groups--Revival of Regions, Labor Ukraine, Social Democratic Party (United), Greens, Popular Democratic Party, and Yabluko--adhere strictly to the majority's obligations, while such groups as Fatherland, both factions of the split Rukh, and Reforms-Congress support the majority only when "it suits their interests," Interfax reported. Volkov added that his caucus wants Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko to be dismissed from Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet for her "incompetence" in the energy sector. Some Ukrainian commentators assert that Tymoshenko's energy policies have substantially reduced Volkov's control over Ukraine's gas and oil supplies as well as his personal financial gain. JM

UKRAINE MAKES TIMELY EUROBOND PAYMENT

The Finance Ministry said on 14 September that Kyiv made a second scheduled payment of $56.3 million on its Eurobonds, Interfax reported. The Eurobonds are part of the debt rescheduling scheme drawn up in the spring, whereby Ukraine swapped $2.7 billion worth of bonds maturing in 2000 and 2001 for seven-year Eurobonds denominated in euros (10 percent interest annually) and U.S. dollars (11-percent interest annually). Ukraine must pay interest on Eurobonds every quarter. The country's foreign debt currently stands at $10.6 billion, according to the Finance Ministry. JM

ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTER CALLS FOR REFORM OF UN SECURITY COUNCIL

In his address to the 55th UN General Assembly on 14 September, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves called for changes to be made regarding the lineup of the UN Security Council. Ilves argued that "the composition of the council reflects the power relationships current in 1945," BNS reported. "The guarantors and greatest contributors to stability in the world have, in the course of half a century, changed fundamentally," Ilves said, adding that the UN should also be subject to fundamental change. Ilves also pledged that Estonia will pay all its UN peacekeeping dues, saying "security cannot be had at discount prices." MH

LATVIAN COALITION TEETERING AGAIN

The governing coalition faced further internal turmoil on 14 September after the parliament failed to approve former Finance Minister Edmunds Krastins as the head of a new Finance and Capital Markets Commission. Andris Skele, the leader of the People's Party, of which Krastins is a member, noted that this was the second time in recent weeks that coalition partner For Fatherland and Freedom had voted against the government, BNS reported. Skele angrily accused the government of "vegetating" and blamed the result on his long-time rival, Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, saying all who voted against Krastins are "children of the same political family that has a foster father down in the Ventspils swampland." Earlier this week, Lembergs had called on prosecutors to file charges of abuse of power against Krastins in his former capacity as finance minister. Prime Minister Andris Berzins said he is "very disappointed" by Krastins's rejection. MH

POLISH TRUCKERS LAUNCH GO-SLOW PROTEST OVER FUEL PRICES

Polish truck drivers on 15 September launched the go-slow protest they had threatened the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). The decision to go ahead with the protest was taken following abortive all-night negotiations between the haulers' trade union and the government. The truck drivers demand a 30 percent cut in fuel prices, primarily by lowering government taxes on fuel. Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc said the taxes on fuel will not be changed but revealed that the government is considering cuts in fuel import tariffs. Meanwhile, Poland's two refineries decided on 14 September to lower the price for 1 liter of diesel fuel by the equivalent of 0.13 cents and for 1 liter of gasoline by 0.35 cents. The refineries refused to confirm whether the move was made owing to fears of blockades similar to those in Western Europe. JM

CZECH LOWER CHAMBER OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO

The Chamber of Deputies has once again approved the law on political parties, overriding President Vaclav Havel's 10 June veto of that legislation, CTK reported on 14 September. The law increased state financing of political parties from 500,000 crowns to 1 million crowns (some $25,000) for each deputy or senator elected and limited donations to political parties by individuals to 50,000 crowns a year. Also on 14 September, the chamber approved lifting the political immunity of Christian Democratic Party leader Jan Kasal, who is being prosecuted for causing bodily harm in a car accident in which he was involved in July. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT IS BITTER TOWARD RULING COALITION

"I am a democratically elected president, not the servant of the governing coalition," Rudolf Schuster stressed in an interview with the German daily "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 14 September. Schuster said the coalition wanted to avoid the referendum on early elections initiated by the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, but he had to call it in order not to violate the constitution. He added that he believes the plebiscite will not succeed owing to a low turnout, CTK reported. He also complained that during his recent serious illness, the coalition cared only about getting rid of him: "When I was fighting for my life in the airplane bound for Innsbruck, the government official who accompanied me had only one worry: he wanted the doctors to sign a document confirming my inability to perform as president," Schuster said. MS

SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY EXCHANGE WARNINGS

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo on 14 September summoned Hungarian Ambassador to Slovakia Miklos Boros to tell him that it is "inappropriate" for Hungary to interfere in Slovak domestic disputes over plans to redraw local administration boundaries, TASR and Hungarian media reported. The warning comes after Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth summoned Stefan Markus, Slovak ambassador to Budapest, to express "concern" that those plans will divide the Komarno region and that relations between the two countries will suffer as a result. The administrative reform plans to replace the eight existing regions with 12 new ones. The Slovak Hungarian Coalition is demanding that Komarno, which has a large Hungarian minority population, constitute its own region. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER WARNS AGAINST FUEL PRICE PROTESTS

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 14 September warned that demonstrations against rising oil prices in Hungary "will lead nowhere...just as they led nowhere in Western Europe." The Association of Hungarian Truckers had announced earlier that it will "shrink from no means" following the state oil and gas company MOL's stated intention to raise gasoline prices by 2.7 percent and diesel by 5.4 percent. "I tell every Hungarian...that it is not worth demonstrating [against damage] caused for reasons independent of us and beyond ourselves," Orban said in reference to the rising fuel prices on world markets. MS




EU MAKES MAJOR TRADE CONCESSION TO SEVERAL BALKAN COUNTRIES

The EU has announced it will "soon" establish a large free- trade zone for industrial and agricultural products from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Macedonia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 14 September. Montenegrin aluminum will also be admitted duty free. Brussels will extend similar trade concessions to Serbia once it has a democratic government. The EU's decision meets a long- standing demand from the countries of the western Balkans for improved trade relations. PM

ANNAN DISCUSSES YUGOSLAV SUCCESSION QUESTION

At the UN on 14 September, the foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that all former Yugoslav republics must be treated equally in determining their rights as successors. They slammed the Belgrade regime's claim that it is the sole legal successor to the former state and therefore entitled to its assets and seats in world bodies, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The ministers stressed that Belgrade must apply for a UN seat as a successor state and not automatically receive the former Yugoslavia's chair. PM

FINAL LEGISLATIVE, GOVERNMENT SESSIONS IN SLOVENIA...

The parliament passed two laws on 14 September aimed at bringing the country's legal system in line with that of the EU, "Dnevnik" reported. The government agreed on a 11.7 percent raise for health workers in 2000, which will be paid in lump sum next year, Ljubljana's Radio 24 UR reported. The cabinet also decided on financial help for the economically important Gorenje electrical goods company, whose main plant was recently damaged by fire. It is unclear, however, which government agency will pay how much money and to whom. PM

...AS ELECTION SEASON BEGINS

The closing of the legislative session marks the start of the parliamentary election campaign for the 15 October ballot, "Dnevnik" reported. Candidates will seek to use "arguments and charm" on Slovenian Television every weekday evening to win votes, the Ljubljana daily added. Some private television stations and radio broadcasters plan daily election coverage of their own, as well as Internet services. Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk, who leads one of three Christian Democratic parties, paid a "state visit" to Pope John Paul II in the Vatican on the eve of the start of the campaign. PM

CROATIAN OPPOSITION PLANS PROTESTS

Several war veterans' and invalids' organizations in various cities and towns will soon stage protests against the recent arrest of war crimes suspects, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000). The opposition-controlled government of Split-Dalmatia County also condemned the arrests as politically motivated. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb that he will not be intimidated by "groups of extremist individuals" who are working against "national interests." Elsewhere, a police spokesman said that General Ivan Andabak, who was among those arrested, was not charged with war crimes but with involvement in a major drug-smuggling ring. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT: UN SUMMIT MARKS START OF 'LEGITIMACY'

President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 14 September that his country's "participation" in the recent UN summit marks the beginning of Montenegro's "legitimacy in the UN system" of organizations. Djukanovic added that the international community's admission of Montenegro to unspecified meetings at the summit showed that members of the world body understand Montenegro's difficulties within the Yugoslav federation, Montena-fax reported. He argued that many UN members "appreciate Montenegro's efforts aimed at democratization, economic development, and international integration as a state [in its own right]." Meanwhile in Ljubljana, the Ministry for Economic Relations and Development said in a statement that Slovenia will henceforth exempt Montenegro from sanctions against federal Yugoslavia, "Danas" reported. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN PARTY: NO EARLY ELECTIONS

Arben Xhaferi, head of the Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSH), which is part of the governing coalition, said on 13 September that his party is opposed to dissolving the parliament and holding early elections, (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 September 2000). The opposition has demanded that such elections be held. Xhaferi added that the ethnic Albanians will boycott an early vote, MIC news agency reported from Skopje. He blamed communist-era police officials for several violent incidents in the recent local elections. Elsewhere, a spokesman for the opposition ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity said that his party will boycott the upcoming second round of the local elections. The PDSH won the majority of ethnic Albanian votes in the first round. PM

CONTACT GROUP CALLS FOR 'DEMOCRATIC' YUGOSLAVIA

Diplomats from the six-member international Contact Group for the former Yugoslavia issued a statement in New York on 14 September saying they "look forward to a democratic Yugoslavia, so that it can be reintegrated in the international community and play its rightful part in contributing to the stability of the entire region," AP reported. The news agency added that Russian diplomats only reluctantly agreed to including the word "democratic." ITAR- TASS reported that the text also calls for an end to violence against Serbs in Kosova and for strict implementation of Security Council Resolution 1244, as Russian diplomats wanted. PM

PRO-MILOSEVIC CROWDS ATTACK SERBIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE

Several dozen supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic pelted opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica with stones, tomatoes, and eggs in Mitrovica on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). The demonstrators also damaged several cars. Some eight people were treated for injuries. Kostunica was hit beneath the eye with a stone. He said in a statement that the attack shows Milosevic is weak. Kostunica added: "Lacking the courage to face either me or the people, Milosevic is exploiting those few desperate souls who are ready to take a fistful of freshly-printed money in order to tarnish the reputation of the people of Mitrovica and the remaining Kosovo Serbs," Reuters reported. The mob also attacked an RFE/RL correspondent, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Milosevic has frequently made use of street mobs over the years to intimidate his opponents. PM

'DAY OF SILENCE' FOR KOSOVA ALBANIAN MEDIA

Kosova's seven Albanian-language dailies did not appear on 15 September to protest the recent violence against journalists, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 12 and 13 September 2000). Radio stations played music instead of carrying news programs. Meanwhile in central Prishtina, a spokesman for UN police said that unknown gunmen the previous day killed an elderly Albanian, who worked for the police before Milosevic purged ethnic Albanians from government service in 1989, AP reported. PM

ROMANIAN VETERAN RIGHTISTS TO QUIT PARLIAMENT...

Ten veteran members of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) announced on 14 September they will not seek re-election to the parliament at the end of this year, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The veterans, many of whom are in their 80s, said they are "not withdrawing from politics" but intend to "allow the PNTCD" to forge an intellectual elite from among the ranks of the younger generation. Such an elite, according to the veterans, would promote Christian Democratic values, respect the party's past, and refuse to accept compromise disguised "under the mask of pragmatism" (a clear allusion to the National Liberal Party). Among the 10 veterans are former PNTCD First Deputy Chairman Gabriel Tepelea and PNTCD Deputy Chairman Nicolae Ionescu-Galbeni. MS

...AS DOES VETERAN SOCIAL DEMOCRAT

Social Democratic Party (PSDR) Honorary Chairman Sergiu Cunescu also announced on 14 September that he will not seek re-election to the legislature. Cunescu harshly criticized the agreement between the PSDR and the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania to run on joint lists and merge after the elections. He said the PSDR has "self-enslaved itself" to a formation that "has been born out of a conspiracy in the darkness of the Romanian Communist Party" and that ruled Romania after 1990 by "confiscating the revolution" and by carrying out a "Stalinist process of political assassination." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu has accepted the resignation of PSDR Labor and Social Affairs Minister Smaranda Dobrescu and appointed Lucian Albu, who is politically independent, to replace her. MS

CZECH FIRM DIRECTOR DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN ROMANIAN ASSASSINATION

Zdenek Zemek, chairman of the board of the Czech Zelezarny Veseli administrative council, refused on 14 September to travel to Bucharest for negotiations with the State Property Fund on reaching an "amicable solution" on revoking the privatization of the Iasi-based Tepro pipe mill. Zemek said his "personal security" is in danger owing to "allegations" in the media that he has been personally implicated in the murder of Tepro trade union leader Virgil Sahleanu. Zemek denies any "direct or indirect involvement" in the murder and says Sahleanu's assassination has "prejudiced the interests" of his company and generated "a wave of hostile emotions" against his country, Mediafax reported. MS

MOLDOVA REJECTS RUSSIAN PLAN FOR TRANSDNIESTER

Deputy Foreign Minister Eugen Kapova said on 14 September that his country cannot accept the plan drawn up by Yevgenii Primakov, head of the Russian state commission for the peaceful solution of the Transdniester conflict. Kapova said Moldova cannot agree to a plan that "provides for Moldova's federalization," Romanian Radio reported on 15 September. He said that Primakov's plan contravenes "the norms of international law" and all documents agreed on during earlier negotiations, including the 1997 Moscow memorandum. MS




NEW RUSSIAN MEDIA DOCUMENT GIVES CAUSE FOR CONCERN


By Sophie Lambroschini

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently approved a new policy doctrine on information security.

The doctrine, drafted by the Security Council, is not a law and has no legal force. Nevertheless, its vague and overly long wording has triggered concern that it may be used by the authorities to exercise stricter control over the media.

Sergei Ivanenko, the head of the Yabloko faction in the State Duma and a member of the lower house's information committee, told RFE/RL that as it stands, the document is an "empty shell." But he says the sheer length of the document-- some 9,000 words--probably masks various bad intentions. He says if the doctrine's authors really wanted to promote press freedom, the document would fit on one page.

On the one hand, the doctrine does pledge to protect the rights of citizens to receive, transmit, and share information. And it promises more efforts to update technology to protect military and commercial secrets. But on the other, its sheer wordiness leaves the reader with the distinct impression that the authorities consider information to be a dangerous weapon.

The doctrine states plainly that Russia's information security is threatened by the "dissemination of misinformation" about state policy and the aim of "certain countries" to infringe on Russian interests and dominate in the global sphere of information.

Yevgenii Volk, a researcher with the Heritage Foundation who writes frequently on Russian political and security issues, told RFE/RL that the doctrine reflects what he calls the authorities' "obsession with control." "[The doctrine] is in keeping in a completely logical way with what is happening with the government's policy to establish control over all key spheres of [political] life--be it political parties, parliament, the regions--and of course, to a certain extent, over information in its largest sense," he comments.

Volk says the doctrine should be read in light of past official statements. After the "Kursk" nuclear submarine disaster, for example, Putin chided the media, which had been critical of the government's handling of the crisis, saying newspapers and television had spread lies and were undermining the army.

According to Volk, another source of concern is the vagueness of a formulation that leaves "any bureaucrat free to interpret" the intentions of the president. He says the general tone of the document reflects what he calls the "Soviet" education of its authors.

Andrei Richter, head of the Center for Media Policy, a Russian non-governmental fund, agrees that the document lends itself to criticism. But he says there is no reason to panic since the doctrine has no legal force whatsoever.

Many fear, however, that the document is only a first step in a legal assault on the free press that could begin soon with changes to the country's relatively liberal media law. The law was first adopted in 1991 and then modified in 1995. For months, there have been rumors that the government intends to use its relatively strong position in the State Duma to push through certain amendments.

A member of the Duma information committee told RFE/RL that the lower house is constantly bombarded with proposals for amendments to the law on the media. Vadim Bulavinov says there have been more than 500 proposals to amend the law, although he says most will not be adopted.

Those amendments most likely to be passed, he says, would not infringe on basic press freedoms but would introduce some important changes. "[The amendments] don't violate the rights of journalists in any way. They speak about a more objective attitude and more responsibility for the information they publish," Bulavinov notes.

Other bills in preparation include one that would establish a higher council for morality in television and radio broadcasting. That bill would punish a radio or television station if journalists took advantage of an interviewee's emotional state to make him say things that may get him into trouble. And it would also force media outlets to give equal space to different points of view. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


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