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Newsline - September 19, 2000




PROSECUTOR-GENERAL LAUNCHES PROBE INTO MEDIA-MOST...

The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 19 September that it has a launched an investigation into an alleged breach of contract by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST company. The office said the move was in response to a request by Gazprom, which has accused Media-MOST of refusing to abide by an agreement whereby the media holding was to be turned over to the gas monopoly, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Gazprom's version of events, as reported by "The Moscow Times" on 19 September, the gas monopoly already owned a 14 percent stake in Media-MOST when it lent Media-MOST $473 million, taking a 40 percent stake as collateral. Gazprom claims that Media-MOST could not pay its debt to Gazprom and that the two companies agreed in July that Gazprom would forgive the $437 million debt and pay an additional $300 million for the remaining stake in the company. On 18 September, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev had told Russian Public Television that if Media-MOST refused to implement the agreement, "the situation will be settled by other, non-peaceful means." JC/JAC

...AS GUSINSKII CLAIMS HE WAS BLACKMAILED INTO SELLING MEDIA EMPIRE

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 18 September, Media-MOST head Gusinskii claimed that he was pressured into agreeing to sell his company to Gazprom for $300 million in July. Gusinskii accused Media Minister Mikhail Lesin of pressuring him to sell his assets in order "to escape the threatened punishment by Russian authorities." Shortly after Gusinskii signed the sales agreement, criminal charges against him were dropped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000). Copies of the documents that Gusinskii signed are available at . Meanwhile, on 18 September, Gusinskii held meetings in Washington, D.C. and New York with U.S. legislators and potential investors in his company. JAC

POTENTIAL ORT TRUSTEES LEARN TERMS OF SERVICE...

A group of almost 30 journalists and intellectuals selected by Boris Berezovskii to act as trustees to manage his stake in Russian Public Television gathered on 18 September to discuss the establishment of a private company to manage the shares, Russian agencies reported. Trustees participating in the company, which will be called TeleTrust, will have to contribute collectively some 35,000 minimum salaries or about $100,000 to form the company's charter capital. The potential trustees agreed to gather again on 2 October, when a final decision will be made on which of them will join TeleTrust. According to "The Moscow Times" on 19 September, Igor Shabdurasulov, who chaired the meeting, said Berezovskii would continue to fund the channel but did not want to finance TeleTrust because that might create the impression that ownership of the stake had not really changed. JAC

...AS BEREZOVSKII JOINS GUSINSKII IN U.S.

Berezovskii was in Washington, D.C. on 18 September, where he said he plans to meet with U.S. government officials, businessmen, representatives of media companies, and academics, according to AP. JAC

PUTIN, CONTROVERSIAL RABBI OPEN JEWISH CENTER...

Russian President Vladimir Putin joined Rabbi Berl Lazar, head of the Federation of Russian Communities, on 18 September to open a Jewish Community Center in Moscow. Last June, Lazar's federation declared him the chief rabbi of Russia, a post already held by Adolf Shaevich (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2000). According to Reuters, Shaevich was invited to attend the ceremony but chose not to because, he said, many other rabbis who deserved invitations had not received them. At the opening ceremony, Putin said the "upsurge experienced by the Russian Jewish community is an integral part of the general revival of folk traditions and spiritual values in Russia." JAC

...AS PUTIN CALLS FOR RUSSIA'S SPIRITUAL REVIVAL

Putin also noted that Russia's "spiritual revival is unthinkable without understanding that Russian culture is a combination of traditions of all the people who have lived in Russia for centuries." Putin singled out Lazar's organization for special praise noting that although "it was set up only a year ago, it has asserted itself as a constructive and influential organization." He also said that Russia's leading structures feel his organization's influence. On 10 September, Media-MOST head Gusinskii met U.S. President Bill Clinton at a dinner of the World Jewish Congress in New York, "The New York Times" reported on 18 September. Lazar's rival, Shaevich, has been linked with Gusinskii. JAC

PUTIN TELLS GOVERNMENT TO MAKE REVENUE DISTRIBUTION MORE TRANSPARENT

Following a cabinet meeting with President Putin on 18 September, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters that Putin said the government must work more actively with State Duma deputies to secure passage of the draft 2001 budget. He also instructed the government to elaborate more clearly what mechanism will be used to distribute extra revenues, should there be any next year. Duma deputies have called for increasing the amount of revenues and expenditures in the budget, in part because they believe the government is being too conservative in its estimate of future oil prices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2000). According to Kudrin, the issue of defense spending was also discussed. JAC

GOVERNMENT TO RAISE WAGES FOR STATE SECTOR WORKERS...

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko told reporters on 18 September that state sector workers will receive a 20 percent pay rise starting January 2001. The same day, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a decree increasing by 120 percent the wages of workers in the Interior and Justice Ministries, customs agencies of the Russian Federation, and federal tax police as of 1 December 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

...AS WAGE BACKLOG CONTINUES SHRINKING

The backlog of wages as of 1 September totaled 38.27 billion rubles ($1.4 billion), a drop of 5.6 percent from the level measured at the beginning of August, the State Statistics Committee reported on 18 September. Of the total amount, 6.298 billion rubles represented wages not paid by federal and regional governments, while 31.972 billion rubles represented wages owed by enterprises. Enterprises' wage arrears declined 4.5 percent from August, while government wage backlog dropped 11 percent. JAC

KASYANOV MEETS WITH BLAIR IN LONDON

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov met with his British counterpart, Tony Blair, in London on 18 September for talks that reportedly focused on macroeconomic reform in Russia. A British government spokesman told Reuters that Kasyanov put "particular emphasis" on changing the tax code to make it clearer, promote enterprise, and improve collection." Blair, for his part, used the opportunity to plead for a "clear legal and commercial framework for inward investment" in Russia. Kasyanov is also due to meet with Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, and British business leaders before leaving the U.K. on 20 September. JC

RUSSIA DEFENDS FLIGHT TO BAGHDAD

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 18 September defended the decision to send an airplane to Baghdad the previous day carrying 5 tons of humanitarian aid and a dozen or so Russian oil experts. The ministry also stressed that passenger flights to Iraq will be resumed "as soon as it becomes possible," arguing that such flights are not banned by UN Security Council resolutions. And it noted that it had informed the UN Sanctions Committee about the 17 September flight. Some committee members, for their part, were quoted by Reuters as saying that Russia had mentioned the humanitarian aid but not the oil experts, while others said Moscow had said it would be sending gas company officials. Last month, a Russian airplane carrying 3.5 tons of humanitarian assistance landed at Baghdad airport. On board was also a 35-strong Russian delegation headed by Deputy Emergencies Minister Ruslan Tsalikov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). JC

MOSCOW DENIES CENSORSHIP OF CHECHEN COVERAGE

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that "there will be no preliminary review of materials taped or filmed by Russian or foreign journalists in Chechnya," ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. His comments came after Russian Defense Ministry officials apparently prevented NTV from broadcasting live from Khankala. Colonel-General Valerii Manilov, the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, has ordered an investigation but said he did not rule out that the incident reflects "mistakes and incorrect actions on both sides." Yastrzhembskii added that the military has "well-grounded" reasons for the way it dealt with the NTV reporter involved. PG

KADYROV CRITICIZES PACE APPROACH TO CHECHNYA

Akhmed Kadyrov, the head of the temporary pro-Moscow Chechen administration, told visiting Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) representative Lord Judd that PACE has adopted an incorrect approach to the Chechen crisis, Interfax reported on 18 September. Kadyrov urged Judd not to make "an international show out of little Chechnya." Meanwhile, the Russian news agency reported that Shamil Beno, the Chechen envoy to the Kremlin, said on Ekho Moskvy that Kadyrov remains "the Kremlin's ally in settling the situation in Chechnya," despite Kadyrov's recent complaints against "federal forces' outrages" there. "Kadyrov does not see himself as anything other than the head of his people," Beno said. PG

CHECHEN-RUSSIAN MEETING SHIFTED TO GUDERMES

Officials decided that a meeting between representatives of Chechen communities and civilian and military Chechen leaders would take place in Gudermes rather than Tolstoy-Yurt, as originally planned, Lieutenant-General Ivan Babichev told ITAR-TASS on 18 September. The decision to move the meeting was taken only one hour before it was scheduled to start, and the shift resulted in a delay of the session's start, the Russian news agency reported. PG

WORLD BANK FUNDS TB TREATMENT PROGRAM FOR PRISONERS

The World Bank will start disbursing a $48 million loan on 1 January for the establishment of a tuberculosis treatment program in Russia's penitentiary system, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September, quoting Deputy Justice Minister Yurii Kalinin. According to Kalinin, the credit will be provided over three years and will be used to train personnel as well as to buy medicines and diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. In addition, centers for treating strains of tuberculosis resistant to medicine will be opened in the seven federal districts (for more details on the loan, see ). Kalinin said that the total number of prison inmates with tuberculosis is about 100,000 out of a total prison population of 1,080,000. Earlier, another Justice Ministry official put the total number of people behind bars in Russia at 980,000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). JAC

FORMER MISS RUSSIA CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE

Aleksandra Petrova, 20, former Miss Russia for 1996, was shot and killed in Cheboksary, Chuvash Republic, on 16 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Local police believe the unidentified gunman's main targets were the two men she was with: the deputy director of the town's central market and his associate. JAC

RUSSIA WINS FIRST GOLD MEDAL

Fencer Pavel Kolobkov has become the first member of Russia's Olympic team to win a gold medal at the Sydney summer games. He won 15-12 in a final match against a Frenchman, "Segodnya" reported on 18 September. Kolobkov, who went home with two silver medals at the 1996 Atlanta games, is planning to quit the sport after the Olympics because of the unfavorable financial situation. He explains that fencing is not popular with sponsors. JAC




ARMENIAN PREMIER APPEALS FOR DROUGHT RELIEF

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian on 18 September called on the international community to assist Armenia in coping with the worst drought in decades, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He said that Armenia's "extraordinarily difficult situation" represented "a serious threat to the country's food security. On behalf of the government of the Republic of Armenia, I am appealing to the governments of all countries, international organizations and the international community to help my country to alleviate and compensate for the damage caused by the natural disaster." Last month Armenia, along with Georgia, requested UN help to counter the effects of the drought (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August). Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have made similar appeals. PG

ARMENIA STRIPS INTERNET PROVIDER OF LICENSE

The Armenian Transport and Communications Ministry has cancelled the license of Armkompyuter, a major communications provider, Snark reported on 18 September. The ministry said the company violated the law by not concluding the necessary agreement with the national communications operator ArmenTel. But Armkompyuter's director, Vagram Mkhitaryan, accused ArmenTel of sabotage and ignorance in the case. PG

U.S. PROVIDES SOFTWARE TO ARMENIAN NEWSPAPERS

Under the terms of a USAID program run by the Eurasia Foundation, the 18 registered newspapers published in Yerevan received licensed computer software last week to help improve their capacity, Noyan Tapan reported on 18 September. PG

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT NOT SERIOUSLY ILL

The Azerbaijani embassy in Washington told Reuters on 18 September that President Heidar Aliyev is undergoing a routine checkup at the Cleveland clinic, where he had heart bypass surgery last year. His son, Ilham Aliev, told the Turan news agency the same day that his father has a cold and rejected "all the rumors that the Azerbaijani president is seriously ill." PG

AZERBAIJAN COURTS TO BE HOUSED IN FORMER AMERICAN UNIVERSITY BUILDING

The Azerbaijani Supreme Court and Court of Appeals will be housed in the building occupied by the former American University, which closed earlier this year, Turan reported on 18 September. PG

AZERBAIJANI ELECTION COMMISSION REJECTS MUSAVAT PARTY LIST

The Central Election Commission on 18 September refused to register the Musavat party's candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Turan reported. The commission said that it found forged signatures on the party's nominating petitions. Meanwhile, the electoral commission in Nakhichevan has refused to register candidates from the Party for National Independence, the People's Front of Azerbaijan Party, and Musavat for upcoming elections to the Supreme Council of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, Turan reported on 18 September. Election officials there said that some opposition applicants had attempted to hide their party affiliation. PG

SHEVARDNADZE CALLS FOR MILITARY COOPERATION WITH U.S., RUSSIA...

In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that without U.S. assistance, "it would be impossible to carry out military reform in Georgia," Georgian state radio reported on 18 September. At the same time, he said that he wants his country to "cooperate with Russia in the military field in the same mutually beneficial way that it is with the U.S." PG

...SAYS ANTI-CORRUPTION PROGRAM ALMOST READY...

In other comments, Shevardnadze said that his government's anti-corruption program will be completed later this week. Arguing that its drafting has already had an impact, the Georgian president said he is convinced the new program "will have a positive impact on the central and local budgets and the family incomes" of all Georgians. He also reaffirmed that there will be no reversal of privatization in Georgia. PG

...AND THAT GEORGIA CAN COPE WITH DROUGHT

Shevardnadze said that coping with the drought that has hit Georgia remains "our top priority" and that Tbilisi will do everything to ensure that all regions are supplied with enough food and seeds. PG

U.S. TEACHES MINE-CLEARING TECHNIQUES TO TRANSCAUCASUS MILITARIES

Some 70 U.S. military experts began a course in mine clearing for Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Armenian military specialists on 18 September, ITAR-TASS reported. The course is being run at Krtsanisis, near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. PG

MILITARY LEADER SAYS NO NEED FOR MORE PEACEKEEPERS IN SOUTH OSSETIA

Lieutenant-General Yevgenii Churaev, commander of the collective peacekeeping forces in Ossetia, sees no need for additional peacekeeping forces in that republic, the website of the AVN military news agency reported on 18 September. PG

KAZAKHSTAN TO DOUBLE DEFENSE EXPENDITURES

According to its draft budget for next year, Kazakhstan's government plans to increase expenditures by 87 percent over this year's level, Interfax reported on 18 September. PG

CENTRASBAT-2000 EXERCISES END IN KAZAKHSTAN

This year's Central Asian Battalion exercises ended on 18 September, Interfax reported. The maneuvers took place under the aegis of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Kazakh Defense Minister Sat Tokpakbaev said the exercises "once again confirmed the vitality" of the Central Asian battalion idea. He announced that next year the exercises will take place in Uzbekistan. PG

RUSSIA-KAZAKHSTAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION TO BE SET UP

On the basis of an 18 September agreement between Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Kazakhstan's lower house chairman, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the two countries will establish a permanent interparliamentary commission to promote cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Tyukbai stressed that Kazakhstan has such relations only with the Russian Federation. PG

ATTACKS CONTINUE IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

Insurgent groups continued their efforts to penetrate the Tajik-Kyrgyz border, Interfax reported on 18 September. But Kyrgyz forces have successfully repulsed all of them without sustaining any losses, the Kabar news agency reported the same day. Meanwhile, President Askar Akaev said on 18 September that his government will set up a special anti-terrorist center in southern Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported. He said that this center, rather than the army, will spearhead the fight against the insurgents. PG

KULOV REFUSES TO TAKE KYRGYZ LANGUAGE TEST

The Kyrgyz Central Election Commission on 18 September refused to register Feliks Kulov as a candidate for president after the leading opposition figure refused to take the language examination, the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights reported. Kulov said the language requirement has been imposed for political reasons by the current regime and is not required by the constitution or the election code, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the same day. But Kyrgyz officials suggested that Kulov's refusal to take the language examination showed him to be contemptuous of the Kyrgyz language, Interfax reported. PG

KYRGYZ NGO COALITION MAY NOT OBSERVE ELECTIONS

Tolekan Ismaiolva, the director of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations of Kyrgyzstan, has announced that the coalition may refuse to participate as an observer in the upcoming presidential vote, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 18 September. Ismailova said there is no reason to send independent observers when there is no independent judiciary, no independent election commission, and no effective political parties. PG

AFGHAN REFUGEE SCHOOL OPENS IN TAJIKISTAN

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and several international refugee organizations have opened a school for Afghan refugee children in Dushanbe, Asia-Plus reported on 18 September. PG

UZBEK PARTIES ADOPT ANTI-TERRORIST ACTION PROGRAM

Uzbekistan's four registered political parties, along with social organizations and religious groups, have adopted a joint action program to fight international terrorism and religious extremism, "Golos Uzbekistana" reported on 15 September. PG

TURKEY OFFERS SECURITY ASSISTANCE TO UZBEKISTAN

Uzbek Interior Minister Zohirjon Almatov received his Turkish counterpart, Sadettin Tantan, in Tashkent on 18 September to discuss improving security, stability, sovereignty, and the fight against international terrorism, Uzbek Radio reported on 18 September. Tantan said that Ankara is ready to provide security assistance to Uzbekistan. PG

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES


Through 18 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Russia_____________2_______4_______3_______9
Georgia____________0_______0_______1_______1
Kyrgyzstan_________0_______0_______1_______1
Armenia____________0_______0_______0_______0
Azerbaijan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Kazakhstan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Tajikistan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Turkmenistan_______0_______0_______0_______0
Uzbekistan_________0_______0_______0_______0





BELARUS CONCLUDES REGISTRATION OF ELECTION CANDIDATES

Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna said on 18 September that Belarus's district electoral commissions have registered 551 candidates for the 15 October legislative elections, while denying registration to 221 people, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Yarmoshyna noted that the commissions registered some opposition figures while "turning a blind eye to some shortcomings" in the lists of signatures and other documents presented by candidates for registration. According to her, Belarus's legislation is "sufficiently flexible" to allow such a practice. She said the documents presented by former Premier Mikhail Chyhir and his wife, Yuliya, included "approximately the same deficiencies and mistakes" but only the former was registered as a candidate. Another example of Belarus's "legislation flexibility," according to Yarmoshyna, is the ban on election boycotts in the Administrative Offenses Code and the lack of such a ban in the Electoral Code. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST SAYS PEOPLE 'LEFT NO REAL CHOICE' IN ELECTIONS

Vasil Shlyndzikau, deputy chairman of the opposition United Civic Party, told Belapan on 18 September that district electoral commissions registered only 17 out of the 58 democratic candidates seeking registration in the 15 October legislative elections. "In essence, the authorities have left no real choice for the people," Shlyndzikau commented. He refused to name the candidates who, in his opinion, represent the democratic camp and are seeking legislative mandates. Shlyndzikau said the opposition should support those 17 candidates and campaign for an election boycott in the constituencies where no democratic candidate is running. JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET PROPOSES BALANCED 2001 BUDGET DRAFT

Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet submitted a draft of the 2001 budget to the parliament last week. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov told journalists on 18 September that the document calls for consolidated budget revenues and expenditures at 52.3 billion hryvni ($9.6 billion) each, Interfax reported. Mityukov said the document was drafted on the basis of forecasts that in 2001 Ukraine's GDP will increase by 4 percent, the average hryvnya exchange rate will be 6.3 hryvni to $1, and inflation will not exceed 19 percent. The draft is Ukraine's second balanced budget: the 2000 budget provides for revenues and spending at 42.3 billion hryvni each. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNORS TO BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ELECTRICITY PAYMENTS

Premier Viktor Yushchenko on 18 September said he will seek the dismissal of governors of those oblasts where cash payments for electricity supplies are low, Interfax reported. Yushchenko said the reason for such a punitive measure is the sharp decrease in cash payments for electricity this month. According to Yushchenko, some oblasts have paid in cash for no more than 50 percent of electricity supplies in September. "I am in no way going to assume responsibility for these problems," Yushchenko told a conference of regional leaders and managers of energy supplying companies. Ukraine's governors are appointed and dismissed by the president. JM

UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST DISAPPEARS

Hryhoriy Gongadze, the 31-year old editor of the Internet newsletter "Pravda Ukrayiny" (), has disappeared, Ukrainian media reported on 18 September. On the night of 16 September, Gongadze failed to arrive at his home in Kyiv, where his wife and two children were waiting for him. "Pravda Ukrayiny" is known for publishing materials critical of the Ukrainian government. "Gongadze is known [for] his tough opposition to the current regime of President Leonid Kuchma and his exposing publications on corruption among the high- ranking authorities," AP quoted Lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko, known for his anti- corruption activities, as saying. The parliament on 19 September demanded that the police seek to explain Gongadze's disappearance. Presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said the president has expressed concern over his disappearance and ordered law enforcement bodies to pay special attention to the case. JM

FBI CHIEF VISITS BALTICS

Louis Freeh has undertaken a three-day tour of the Baltic countries to promote cooperation in fighting crime. Freeh visited Estonia on 15-16 September, saying "the Estonian police system could be an example to other Baltic Sea states as far as developing the interior security system is concerned," ETA reported. Freeh said that an FBI training center similar to one in Budapest could be opened in the near future in Tallinn. In Latvia on 16 September, Freeh promised to offer FBI assistance in the investigation of the Centrs department store bombing in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2000). Freeh also told his Latvian and Lithuanian colleagues that FBI representatives will soon be assigned to both countries, BNS added. Freeh concluded his tour in Lithuania on 17 September. MH

BALTIC DEVELOPMENT FORUM FOCUSES ON EU ENLARGEMENT

At the annual Baltic Development Forum held in Malmo, Sweden, on 18-19 September, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius called on the EU not to draw new dividing lines in Europe upon enlargement. "Would it not be simpler for the European Union itself to 'swallow' a larger group of states in one gulp and to ratify agreements as one package?" Kubilius asked, adding that slow preparations by countries "must not be an impediment" to enlargement, BNS reported. Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves criticized the dwindling momentum within the EU over enlargement: "The original vision of the European Union that was reflected in the Rome agreement has been lost and replaced by a so-called accountant's way of thinking," he said. MH

BIDDERS FOR ESTONIAN RAILWAYS JOIN FORCES

Two of the four parties that have made bids for Estonian Railways (Eesti Raudtee) announced on 18 September that they will join forces. The People for Railway Privatization (Raudtee Erastamise Rahva), a consortium of more than 30 well-known Estonian businesspeople, and SJ International, a subsidiary of Sweden's state-owned railways, will pool their efforts against two other bidders whom experts regard as stronger: CSX of the United States and the Baltic Rail Service consortium, representing U.S., British, and Estonian interests. SJ will acquire 35 percent of the privatization stake if the joint bid succeeds. SJ Director Daniel Johansson said, "We'd rather be partners in a successful consortium than dominators in an unsuccessful bid," BNS reported. The winning bid is scheduled to be announced by year's end. MH

POLISH TELEVISION OFFICIAL RESIGNS OVER ALLEGED ELECTION CAMPAIGN BIAS

Andrzej Kwiatkowski, chairman of Polish Television's Committee for Presidential Election Affairs, has resigned, Polish Radio reported on 18 September. Kwiatkowski said his decision was triggered by five right-wing presidential election teams' suggestion that he may be biased toward favoring incumbent President Aleksander Kwasniewski in the election campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2000). JM

BRITISH PRINCE PRAISES POLISH MATHEMATICIANS FOR BREAKING NAZI ENIGMA CODE

Prince Andrew thanked Poland on 18 September for its pivotal role in cracking Nazi Germany's Enigma code. "The Enigma codes would not have been broken if it were not for the knowledge of Polish mathematicians," the prince said. He presented Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek with an Enigma encoding machine, taken from a captured Nazi submarine, as a "symbol of our gratefulness and thanks," AP reported. Polish historians say three Polish mathematicians --Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki, and Henryk Zygalski--broke the Enigma code in 1933. In July 1939 Poland gave Britain and France replicas of the Enigma encoding machine, helping the Allies to decipher secret Nazi messages. Buzek indicated to the prince that the Encyclopedia Britannica still contains an entry saying that it was first and foremost the British who broke the Enigma code. JM

CZECH PREMIER POSTPONES U.S. VISIT

Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 18 September confirmed that his planned visit to the U.S. has been postponed but dismissed as "idle talk" a claim by the weekly "Respekt" that the postponement was due to an investigation launched by U.S. authorities, CTK reported. That investigation links Milan Jedlicka, who allegedly was in charge of organizing the visit, with the murder of a U.S. narcotics agent in the early 1990s. The magazine said questions about Jedlicka were raised during separate talks that President Vaclav Havel had with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and FBI Director Louis Freeh. Zeman told journalists that he does not "need any mafia member to organize my visits anywhere" and that the reason for the postponement was the debate on lowering taxes on oils and fuel. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT CORRECTS TEMELIN TALKS STATEMENT

Havel told journalists on 18 September that he is prepared to "talk with anybody" about the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant. "I never said that the [environmentalists] are no partners of mine or that I will not talk with them," CTK quoted him as saying. Havel, who thus refuted an earlier statement by his spokesman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2000), said he recognizes the right of all citizens, "including those of neighboring countries," to "show concern for their safety or fear of nuclear energy." Zeman, on the other hand, told journalists on 18 September that "neither Austrian environmentalists nor Upper Austrian Premier Josef Puehringer are partners of the Czech government" and that he will talk to neither of them. Also on 18 September, Austrian environmentalists announced they are canceling plans to resume blockades of border check points in order to "facilitate negotiations" between the sides. MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE APPROVES FUNDING FOR HOLOCAUST VICTIMS

The Chamber of Deputies on 15 September approved a government-drafted bill to allocate 300 million crowns ($7.3 million) to a foundation established by the Federation of Jewish Communities to help financially weak victims of the Holocaust or their successors who under existing Czech legislation have not been compensated for the loss of property, CTK and AP reported. Compensation is to be paid to those who lost property under Nazi rule between 1938 and 1945. Czech legislation provides property restitution or compensation only to those who lost assets after the February 1948 communist takeover. MS

KOHL HONORED IN HUNGARY

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 18 September awarded former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl the Hungarian Millennium Gold Medal for his contribution to Hungary's efforts toward European integration. Orban told the parliament during the award ceremony that "we regard Kohl as someone who focused not on the next election but on the next generation." Kohl praised Hungary's contribution to German unification, saying that its action in opening its borders to Austria for East German citizens in 1989 made the unification process possible in the first place. He also said Hungarians must be patient because they will eventually join the EU, despite delays in the enlargement process. MSZ




EU OFFERS TO LIFT SERBIAN SANCTIONS

Foreign ministers of EU member countries agreed in Brussels on 18 September to lift sanctions against Serbia if the opposition defeats Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in the 24 September Serbian and Yugoslav elections. In a statement called a "message to the Serbian people," the ministers noted that "the elections, whatever the circumstances under which they have been decided and organized, will give the Serbian people the opportunity to repudiate clearly and peacefully the policy of Milosevic," Reuters reported. The ministers stressed that "a choice leading to democratic change will entail a radical change in the European Union's policy with regard to Serbia...[and allow Serbia] to occupy its rightful place in Europe." French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine argued that "one must never forget that the Serbs are Europeans." PM

SERBIAN GENERAL: REGIME SEEKS TO HOLD POWER BY FORCE

General Momcilo Perisic, who is a former head of the General Staff and now leads a minor opposition political party, said in Belgrade that recent remarks by General Nebojsa Pavkovic indicate that the regime intends to use the army to keep Milosevic in power by force, "Vesti" reported on 19 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2000). Perisic appealed to voters to avoid provoking any incidents. He stressed that the constitution requires the army to stay out of politics. He added that he hopes that in the 24 September vote it will behave the way it did in recent Serbian, Montenegrin, and Yugoslav elections and not take sides in the contest. He did not mention that the military executed Milosevic's policies against its fellow citizens in Slovenia and Croatia in 1991, in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, and in Kosova in 1999. PM

MILOSEVIC TO MONTENEGRO TOMORROW?

Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic said in Kolasin that Milosevic will attend the closing session of Bulatovic's Socialist People's Party (SNP) in the northern mountainous town of Berane on 20 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 18 September. Bulatovic added that he is confident of victory and that he will continue to be prime minister after the elections. Berane is well away from the southern and lowland areas that are the political base of President Milo Djukanovic. Milosevic's spokesmen, however, have not confirmed that he will travel to Montenegro. PM

MONTENEGRIN MONETARY COUNCIL: MILOSEVIC PRINTING MONEY

Members of the Monetary Council agreed in Podgorica on 18 September that the reason for the recent increase in the value of the German mark against the Yugoslav dinar on Montenegrin money markets is that Milosevic is printing dinars to finance his election campaign. The dinar now officially stands at 33 to the mark, which is also legal tender in Montenegro, "Vijesti" reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARTIES TO MONITOR POLLING PLACES

Representatives of the SNP and the governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) have agreed to monitor the casting and counting of votes at the 671 polling places in the mountainous republic, Montena-fax reported on 18 September. The DPS-led government has called for a boycott of the elections and is not making the usual polling places available for the vote. Some polling places will be in private apartments. PM

PEACEKEEPERS ARREST SIX IN KOSOVA

KFOR troops arrested six persons in the Serbian town of Gracanica for illegally possessing weapons, a NATO spokesman said in Prishtina on 19 September. Some of the illegal materials included bomb-making equipment, AP reported. PM

MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS NO EARLY ELECTIONS

Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 18 September that he will not call early general elections (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 September 2000), Makfax news agency reported. He stressed that in the recent local elections, the opposition's backing failed to exceed that of his coalition by 10 percentage points and that consequently there is no reason for an early vote. He had previously promised to call new elections if the opposition polled 10 percent more than the government. The opposition is expected to issue a reply to Georgievski's statement shortly. PM

BOSNIAN POLICE ARREST DRIVER OF MURDERED MINISTER

Members of a special federal police unit arrested Zeljko Cosic in Doljani near the Croatian border town of Metkovic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 18 September. Cosic is suspected of involvement in unspecified acts of "terrorism." Cosic was the driver for Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar, who was killed in a car bomb attack in March 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1999). PM

CROATIAN AUTHORITIES END DRAGNET

Interior Minister Sime Lucin said in Zagreb on 18 September that the recent wave of arrests of war crimes suspects has ended, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000). Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic added that a total of 62 people are being held in Croatian jails on war crimes charges, Hina reported. The Rijeka daily "Novi List" noted on 19 September that it has reliable information to confirm Lucin's recent remarks that one of the five war crimes suspects arrested in Gospic has provided the authorities with information implicating the other four in atrocities. PM

CROATIAN UNEMPLOYMENT ON THE RISE

The Split-based daily "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported on 19 September that 349,871 Croatian citizens are without work, which is 10 percent higher than the figure for the same period in 1999. The government elected at the beginning of 2000 has given high priority to creating jobs and carrying out economic reforms. PM

SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT, TRUCKERS REACH DEAL

The government and officials of the SAS professional drivers' union reached an agreement in Ljubljana to cut diesel tax to offset the recent increase in fuel prices, the radio station 24 UR reported on 19 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2000). PM

ROMANIAN SECURITY HEADS DENY KNOWLEDGE OF PLANS FOR TRADE UNIONIST'S MURDER

The heads of the Ministry of the Interior and the Romanian Information Service (SRI) met with President Emil Constantinescu on 18 September to discuss the implications for national security of the murder of Iasi Tepro trade union leader Virgil Sahleanu earlier this month, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Interior Ministry and the SRI later issued a statement disputing the accuracy of a transcript of a taped telephone conversation published on 16 September by the daily "Ziua." The daily claimed the two institutions were aware of the preparations made for Sahleanu's murder from the taped conversation but did nothing to stop it. Those institutions, however, say that no conversation between Tepro Director-General Victor Balan and the head of the security company alleged to have ordered the murder has been taped. MS

ILIESCU, PDSR AHEAD IN ROMANIAN POLLS

Ion Iliescu, chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), has 43 percent backing ahead of the presidential contest scheduled for November-December, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 18 September, citing a public opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Market Research. Prime Minster Mugur Isarescu, whose candidacy is backed by the Democratic Convention of Romania 2000 (CDR 2000), is trailing with 19 percent, followed by National Liberal Party (PNL) candidate Teodor Stolojan (15 percent). Isarescu on 18 September denied he intends to resign as premier ahead of the elections. In the contest for the fall parliamentary ballot, the PDSR is backed by 49 percent, followed by the CDR 2000 and the Greater Romania Party (10 percent each), the PNL (9 percent), the Democratic Party (8 percent), the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (6 percent), and the alliance for Romania (5 percent). MS

ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS IN ROMANIA

Karekin II began a four-day visit to Romania on 18 September at the invitation of Patriarch Teoctist and the Romanian Orthodox Church, Mediafax reported. On arrival, Karekin praised the historical ties between the two Churches and thanked the Romanian people for its treatment of the Armenian national minority. Karekin will visit several monasteries and meet with President Constantinescu. MS

OSCE MEETING ON TRANSDNIESTER CANCELED

Tiraspol has refused to accept Moldova's conditions for an OSCE meeting scheduled for 19 September to discuss the Transdniester conflict, Infotag reported the previous day. As a result, the meeting has been canceled. Initiated by OSCE rotating chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the meeting had been organized with the participation of the Moldovan, Russian, and Ukrainian members of the state commission on solving the conflict. Transdniestrian Supreme Soviet chairman Grigori Marakutsa told Infotag that Tiraspol refuses to meet the Moldovan demand that its representative be a member of the Moldovan delegation. He also objects to Moldova's condition that the text of his speech be cleared by Chisinau before being delivered in Vienna. MS

RUSSIA TO HELP IN MODERNIZING KOZLODUY

Russia will grant Bulgaria a loan of up to $150 million for the modernization of two reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Interfax reported on 18 September. Roseximbank is to grant the loan to a Bulgarian contractor designated by the Sofia authorities under an agreement signed by the two sides on 14 September. The 15-year loan is to carry 7.5 percent annual interest. MS

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES


Through 18 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Ukraine____________2_______3_______0_______5
Bulgaria___________2_______1_______1_______4
Romania____________2_______1_______1_______4
Slovakia___________0_______3_______1_______4
Czech Rep._________1_______0_______2_______3
Belarus____________0_______1_______2_______3
Hungary____________1_______1_______0_______2
Croatia____________1_______0_______0_______1
Lithuania__________1_______0_______0_______1
Yugoslavia_________0_______1_______0_______1
Estonia____________0_______0_______1_______1
Latvia_____________0_______0_______1_______1
Albania____________0_______0_______0_______0
Bosnia-Herzeg._____0_______0_______0_______0
Macedonia__________0_______0_______0_______0
Moldova____________0_______0_______0_______0
Poland_____________0_______0_______0_______0
Slovenia___________0_______0_______0_______0





INVASION, INFLATION, IMPLOSION: THE KRYGYZ ELECTORATE SPEAKS


By Eric McGlinchey

The independent Bishkek-based Center for Public Opinion Studies and Forecasts recently completed a nationwide survey of the Kyrgyz electorate. Beginning in the comparative calm of early August 1999, the center tracked public opinion through three tumultuous periods of Kyrgyz state development: the first Batken crisis of fall 1999, this spring's parliamentary elections, and the current run-up to the October presidential elections. The study, conducted among 8,400 respondents in four stages, reveals deep public concern about the events over the past 12 months and about a future where not only democracy but Kyrgyz state viability itself is in question.

State viability is typically measured along three lines: secure borders, economic coherence, and an effective political order. The center's study reveals the electorate perceives the present Kyrgyz government performing poorly in all three areas. Given a list of 19 national problems, Kyrgyz citizens ranked the armed border conflict in Batken, inflation, unemployment and poverty, and state corruption as the most pressing challenges in Kyrgyzstan. Indeed, these concerns appear justified.

Defense Minister Esen Topoev recently warned that armed incursions by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) may become an annual event in Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Oblast. This admission of military weakness follows repeated assurances earlier this year that the Kyrgyz-Tajik border is secure. More troubling, the fighting in the south casts doubt on government promises not only of military preparedness but also of future economic development. Fighting the IMU has been costly. The Kyrgyz government's attempt to hold its southern border until the winter snows arrive will cost an estimated $15 million, or 6 percent of the state's annual budget. With the country's total foreign debt of $1.22 billion and servicing payments of an additional $80 million, the government now faces the impossible task of running the country on less than $155 million ($32 per capita) a year.

The state's broken promises have shaken public confidence. The majority of Kyrgyz believe the current government is incapable of effecting economic recovery. Four-fifths of those surveyed report that unemployment has worsened over the past 12 months, while two- thirds said that they cannot foresee poverty levels declining over the next three years. Facing Islamic militants in the south and country-wide economic collapse, most Kyrgyz fear the government can no longer deliver.

Surprisingly, however, Kyrgyz remain tolerant of President Askar Akaev. Despite economic collapse and, more recently, central manipulation of the spring parliamentary elections, Akaev still enjoys 58 percent support. At the same, only 42 percent said they have confidence in the country's electoral system, while 60 percent said they do not trust the judiciary. In fact, the Kyrgyz electorate is skeptical of almost all layers of government--the central state administration, the judiciary, the parliament, and regional administrations. The exception, besides the presidency, is the village and town administration--the ayil okmotu.

Is the electorate's trust in the presidency misplaced? Why, after all, should the electorate trust Akaev, who by virtue of his longevity in office is most closely linked with Kyrgyzstan's economic and political collapse? Equally, why would the public trust the ayil okmotu?

Kyrgyz trust the presidency and the ayil okmotu for the simple reason that Kyrgyz believe they are the only two government institutions still capable of effecting change. However, this is a tenuous trust--one attained through Akaev's discrediting of all other government institutions. For example, to ensure state administrators do not gain personal followings, Akaev regularly dismisses, reshuffles, and reappoints officials, from the prime minister to the raion akim. As for the parliament, Akaev has repeatedly reduced its legislative authority through questionable public referenda and, most recently, through electoral manipulation. Today, the hand-picked and little-respected Kyrgyz legislature acts as a rubber stamp on presidential decrees.

Akaev's strategy of eroding others' powers to maintain his own has led to a growing crisis of political order. His reshuffling of state administrators and discrediting of the national parliament has left hollow the vary institutions necessary to link his seat of state power to field officers in village and town government. Ironically but not unexpectedly, this undercutting of the state administration and the parliament is steadily eroding Akaev's own power base and popularity. While 58 percent of the electorate approves of Akaev's tenure in office, he is not the first choice of most voters in the upcoming presidential election: only 24 percent of those surveyed in May said they would vote for him in October.

With Kyrgyzstan's southern border being overrun daily by Islamic militants, unemployment increasing, and no relief from poverty in sight, the electorate is unsure about who, if anyone, is in charge of the country. Apathy and confusion have overtaken optimism as the country's predominant political sentiment. A full third of those surveyed in May (by far the largest percentage) said they had no idea whom they would vote for in the October presidential elections. Since the central government is unable to deliver, Bishkek politics seems increasingly remote from the average, every-day struggle. Increasingly, the Kyrgyz state and its politicians are becoming abstractions, which, like Bishkek's newly paved roads, cease to exist just beyond the city center.

The author is an IREX Research Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University.


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