Accessibility links

Newsline - September 21, 2000




MEDIA-MOST AFFAIR PUTS MEDIA MINISTER IN HOT SEAT...

In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 September, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin explained his role in the dispute between Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii and the leadership of Gazprom, telling the daily that he was involved in the negotiations with Gazprom only at Gusinskii's insistence. He also revealed that his superiors did not know at the time that he was planning to sign the protocol to the sales agreement between the two companies; in that protocol, Gusinskii is promised that criminal charges against him will be dropped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2000). At a press conference the same day, Lesin charged Gusinskii with trying to involve Russian President Vladimir Putin in the dispute between the two companies. Lesin also declared that he has no intention of resigning over the scandal since he acted in the matter with the best intention of trying to settle relations between the two parties. JAC

...AS MEDIA-MOST OFFICIAL RATCHETS UP VERBAL WAR...

In an interview on NTV on 20 September, Igor Malashenko, first deputy head of Media-MOST, accused Lesin of blackmailing Gusinskii. Malashenko said that when Gusinskii was in prison last June, Lesin came to him on his own initiative and suggested that Media-MOST give up NTV in exchange for Gusinskii's freedom. Lesin also reportedly criticized NTV's coverage of the Chechnya conflict and its coverage of the intelligence services. Lesin has categorically denied that he or the Kremlin put any pressure on Gusinskii. JAC

...AND GAZPROM OFFICIAL BACKS LESIN

In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 20 September, Gazprom Media head Alfred Kokh related his version of the events that led to the signing of the Media-MOST sales agreement on 27 July--a version that is similar to Lesin's. Kokh also claimed that it was Gusinskii's idea to involve Lesin in negotiations over the sale of Media- MOST and it was Gusinskii who insisted that Lesin sign the protocol to the sales agreement promising that criminal charges against Gusinskii would be dropped. Kokh characterized his company's relationship with Gusinskii as one in which Gazprom was routinely taken advantage of by Gusinskii. "All Gusinskii has seen from Gazprom is partnership, friendship, and investments. We gave him investments of more than $200 million. We gave him guarantees for credits of $473 million." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 September that during negotiations in July, Gusinskii and Kokh exchanged blows and had to be separated. JAC

DUMA DEPUTIES REJECT LAW LIMITING THEIR IMMUNITY

State Duma deputies voted on 20 September against legislation that would limit legislators' immunity from criminal prosecution. The vote was 119 in favor with 133 against and nine abstentions. The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) sponsored the bill, and SPS deputy faction head Viktor Pokhmelkin said the vote represented a victory of sorts, since the last time such legislation was proposed it attracted only 20 votes in favor. Pokhmelkin promised to raise the issue again in the lower house sometime in the future, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 20 September, deputies voted to increase the number of aides that each legislator can employ from 30 to 50, at an increased annual cost of 127.5 million rubles ($4.6 million), Interfax reported. JAC

SPOKESMAN DENIES KADYROV WANTS RUSSIAN TROOPS WITHDRAWN FROM CHECHNYA

Shamil Beno, who is the Moscow spokesman of interim Chechen administration head Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, told Interfax on 20 September that media reports that Kadyrov has demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya are untrue. On 19 September, Reuters had quoted Beno as saying that "withdrawing the troops is today possible and necessary" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2000). But Kadyrov did tell Interfax on 20 September that the situation in Chechnya warrants the gradual return of Russian troops to barracks, beginning in the Nadterechnyi Raion. Kadyrov expressed regret that only 2,500 volunteers have signed up to join the Chechen Interior Ministry, instead of the 8,000 needed. That statement suggests that few, if any, of the pro-Moscow militia force formerly headed by Beslan Gantemirov have joined the new Chechen Interior Ministry police force. Kadyrov wants that new force to take over from the Russian military responsibility for combing villages for Chechen fighters and other "anti-terrorist" operations. LF

KASYANOV SAYS EBRD READY TO EXPAND ACTIVITIES IN RUSSIA

Speaking to journalists in London on 20 September following talks with officials from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that the bank is ready to step up its operations in Russia, Interfax reported. Within the next few days, Kasyanov said, the EBRD intends to adopt a new strategy for developing relations with Moscow and increasing investments in Russia. He added that the bank expects Russia to go ahead with its reform plans. According to the news agency, over the past nine years the EBRD has approved projects in Russia worth some $10 billion. JC

MOSCOW SAYS PLUTONIUM DESTRUCTION COSTS COULD SOAR

Addressing the annual conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on 20 September, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov warned that the cost of destroying Russia's stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium could be much higher than originally thought. Reuters quoted the minister as saying that Russian nuclear power plants cannot use mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX)--a reactor fuel extracted from plutonium after spent nuclear fuel has been reprocessed--and that to adapt those facilities to use MOX would increase the cost of Russia's destruction program to $2.5 billion. Adamov noted that Russia is considering selling MOX to other states licensed to use the fuel, thereby avoiding the high cost of using MOX domestically. The U.S. and Russia recently signed an agreement whereby each country is to destroy 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium. That project is estimated to cost $5.75 billion, of which $1.75 billion is foreseen for the disposal of the Russian stockpile (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2000). JC

SOLZHENITSYN GIVES PUTIN AN EARFUL

President Putin met with writer and Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at the latter's home outside Moscow on 20 September, Russian agencies reported. The conversation reportedly lasted for three hours but no details have emerged. Last spring, Solzhenitsyn commented that the new president has been in office for not just 40 days but for more than a half a year, including his work as prime minister, and "in this time I have seen nothing." "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported the same day that Putin recently spent four hours chatting with Berlin-based political scientist Alexander Rahr, the author of "Vladimir Putin. A German In the Kremlin," which the president reportedly admires. JAC

NUMBER OF UNEMPLOYED SHRINKS

The number of unemployed people as of 31 August totaled 7.13 million, a decline of 18.1 percent from the level recorded at the same time last year, the State Statistics Committee reported on 20 September. The number of unemployed also fell 1 percent from the end of the previous month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2000). JAC

FINANCE MINISTER PLEDGES TO KEEP FLOATING EXCHANGE RATE

Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 20 September that the government will preserve the ruble's floating exchange rate, Interfax reported. When asked if the ruble might be pegged to the yen, Kudrin responded that "one could more likely talk about tying the ruble to a basket of currencies, in which the euro and yen would be included." JAC

GOVERNMENT SIGNS UP MORE BUDGET SUPPORTERS

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin told reporters on 20 September that the government has already reached agreement with several State Duma factions on the 2001 draft budget, including Unity, the second-largest faction, the Union of Rightist Forces, Yabloko, and the People's Deputy groups. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov recently declared that his party still plans to vote against the budget, while the head of the Fatherland-All Russia faction Yevgenii Primakov has asked for revisions in the document. However, Kudrin continues to insist the parameters of the budget will not be revised. He told reporters on 20 September that at a meeting with Putin the previous day, the president had expressed his support for the government's position in its difference with the Duma. JAC

NEW 'ALLY' FOR COMMUNIST PARTY REGISTERED...

State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev on 20 September registered his Rossiya movement at the Justice Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev again rejected claims that his organization represents a splinter group of the Communist Party. He told Russian Public Television that the formation of the new group may provide a "new impetus for the Communist Party. Our Rossiya movement is an ally of the Communist Party." According to ITAR-TASS, regional chapters of Rossiya have been set up in 75 regions, and the movement's first congress will be held on 16 December, when its political program will be adopted. JAC

...AS TULEEV CALLS FOR ZYUGANOV TO BE REPLACED

In an open letter published in "Trud" on 20 September, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev called for a new leadership of the Communist Party: "After the elections of 1996 and 2000, it was obvious to everyone that the leadership of the Communist Party has simply decided not to seriously fight for power. They are afraid to take on the responsibility--as if in the depth of their souls they understand that they cannot properly rule the country on behalf of the people." Last week, Tuleev wrote an article in the same newspaper criticizing the Communist Party's leadership and calling its faction in the State Duma "too obedient to the government on many unpopular questions" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 September 2000). "Trud" receives financing from Gazprom and is a popular newspaper in the regions. JAC

EDUCATIONAL REFORM TO BE TRIED AT REGIONAL LEVEL FIRST

At a meeting with rectors of Russia's largest institutes of higher education and other top educators in the North West federal district on 20 September, Education Minister Vladimir Filippov said that the first stage of his proposed educational reforms will proceed at the experimental level in two or three regions for several years, ITAR-TASS reported. Only after experts review the results will reforms be introduced throughout the entire school system. Filippov has proposed the introduction of a 12-year educational system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2000). JAC

GRAIN HARVEST PROCEEDS AT FASTER RATE THAN LAST YEAR

As of 1 September, Russian farmers had harvested 45.5 million tons of grain or 15.2 percent more than at the same time last year, according to the State Statistics Committee on 19 September. The next day, Interfax quoted experts at the Agricultural Market Research Institute as saying that the largest growth in the grain harvest this year will be achieved in the Central and Siberian federal districts, where the weather has been favorable. In the Urals district, the production of grain is expected to be lower, particularly in Kurgan Oblast where the harvest so far is 66 percent down on last year's level. In Chelyabinsk Oblast, it is 25 percent lower. JAC

TATAR PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DENIES RUMORS OF PRE-TERM PRESIDENTIAL POLL

Farid Mukhametshin has rejected as untrue media reports that the Tatar presidential poll will be brought forward from March 2001 to December of this year, RFE/RL's Tatar Service reported on 21 September, citing Efir- inform. Mukhametshin also denied that changing the poll date is on the agenda of the parliament session that opens on 22 September. He said that session will focus on drafting a republican law on presidential elections, which must then be approved by the federal center. LF

GUNMEN SEIZE HOSTAGES IN SOCHI

A group of three or possibly four armed men seized seven employees of a hotel still under construction in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on 21 September, Russian agencies reported. One of the hostages managed to escape by jumping from a first-floor window. The hostagetakers, who have been identified as local residents, are demanding a ransom of $30 million and the release of all Chechens held in prisons in Russia, according to ITAR-TASS. Some 80 police and 30 Federal Security Service personnel have surrounded the building and are trying to negotiate the remaining hostages' release. LF

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 19 September that Prime Minister Kasyanov has signed a decree raising the wages of workers in the Interior Ministry and other agencies by 120 percent as of 1 December. The rate of increase is in fact 20 percent.




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER'S DISMISSAL IMMINENT?

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and other leading members of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) informed President Robert Kocharian on 19 September that they intend to push for the dismissal of parliamentary speaker Armen Khachatrian, an unnamed HHK source told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 20 September. Khachatrian, who is a member of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), the HHK's junior partner within the majority Miasnutiun parliament bloc, has been subjected to increasing criticism since early this year (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 37, 15 September 2000). The HHK reportedly wants one of its members, deputy speaker Tigran Torosian, to succeed Khachatrian. Kocharian is reported to have urged Markarian to try once again to resolve his party's differences with the HZhK, which on 14 September pledged its support for further cooperation with the HHK within the Miasnutiun bloc (see "RFE/RL Armenia Report," 15 September 2000). LF

ARMENIAN MEDICAL PERSONNEL STRIKE

Thousands of Armenian doctors staged a six-hour strike on 20 September to protest the government's failure to meet its own deadline for paying wage arrears, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Many doctors have not been paid for 10-12 months. LF

NEW CHARGE BROUGHT AGAINST ARRESTED AZERBAIJANI EDITOR

A fourth charge has been brought against opposition "Yeni Musavat" editor Rauf Arifoglu, Turan reported on 20 September quoting Arifoglu's lawyer Elton Guliev. Arifoglu is now also accused of calling for a coup d'etat. Last month he was charged with illegal weapons possession, participation in a hijack attempt, and involvement in a terrorist act in connection with the abortive 18 August Nakhichevan plane hijack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). LF

ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY BARRED FROM PARLIAMENTARY POLL

Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission has rejected the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan's (DPA) application to register to contend the 5 November parliamentary election, Turan and Interfax reported on 20 September. The commission ruled that of the 53,000 signatures the party had submitted in support of its application, 4,000 were forged. A minimum of 50,000 valid signatures are required for registration. On 19 September, the trial opened in Baku of 18 people, including DPA chairman Rasul Guliev, who are accused of the theft of oil products worth millions of dollars (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2000). LF

AZEEBAIJAN, TURKEY SIGN AGREEMENT ON DEFENSE INDUSTRY COOPERATION

The defense ministers of Azerbaijan and Turkey, Safar Abiev and Sabahaddin Cahmagoglu, signed an agreement in Baku on 20 September on military-industrial cooperation between their respective ministries, Turan reported. Cahmagoglu, who is on a three day visit to Baku, will also meet with Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev. LF

GEORGIAN COMMUNISTS PREVENTED FROM MEETING WITH VISITING CHINESE DELEGATION

The Georgian Communist Party's (SKP) request for a meeting with a visiting delegation from the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China was denied on the grounds that the delegation had a heavy program during its 19-20 September visit to Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported on 20 September, quoting SKP secretary Vilgelm Makharadze. The Chinese delegation met with parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania and Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Shota Dogonadze to discuss expanding bilateral economic cooperation and trade. LF

UNHCR REPRESENTATIVE HOLDS TALKS WITH ABKHAZ LEADERSHIP...

Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba assured visiting UNHCR representative Ekber Menemencoglu that the Abkhaz leadership has no objections to the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons who fled during the 1992-1993 war, Caucasus Press reported on 20 September. They agreed that the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council for Refugees should resume its work next month. But Shamba warned that the security of those who return can be guaranteed only if the Abkhaz authorities succeed in neutralizing the "terrorists and guerrillas" currently operating in southern Abkhazia. The UN has been reluctant to encourage displaced persons to return to Abkhazia on the grounds that the Georgian guerrillas pose a threat to stability in the region. LF

...AS DISPLACED PERSONS CALL FOR EXPEDITING SETTLEMENT

Also on 20 September, the Union of Internally Displaced Persons demanded that the Georgian parliament convene an emergency debate on Abkhazia at which President Eduard Shevardnadze would speak on the peace process, Caucasus Press reported. The union's leader Murman Beria complained that no progress has been made towards resolving the conflict since the 1994 cease-fire. He said those responsible for delaying a political settlement should be brought to account. LF

KAZAKH INTERIOR MINISTER CONDUCTS FIRST-HAND BRIBERY INVESTIGATION

Qairbek Suleymenov told a press conference in Astana on 19 September that he was forced to pay 36 separate bribes totaling 32,200 tenges ($226) to traffic police and customs officers in order to transport a truck-load of watermelons incognito from Shimkent to Astana, Reuters and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 20 September. The acceptance of the bribes was filmed by video camera, and all the officials involved have been dismissed. LF

KULOV TO BACK PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SPEAKER IN KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL

Speaking at a joint press conference in Bishkek on 20 September, former Vice President and opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov said he has formed an alliance with Omurbek Tekebaev and will back the latter's candidacy in the 29 October presidential election, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Tekebaev, who is speaker of the lower house of the Kyrgyz parliament and chairman of the socialist Ata-Meken Party, said that if he wins the poll he will name Kulov prime minister. He said that he is in favor or Kyrgyzstan's becoming a parliamentary republic in which the president does not have the power to dismiss the premier at will. Tekebaev is one of seven candidates registered to contest the ballot, from which Kulov was barred after refusing to sit the mandatory Kyrgyz language proficiency test (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER MAY BE FORCED TO PUBLISH ABROAD

The opposition weekly "Delo Nomer" published a statement in its 20 September edition warning that its staff may be forced to leave Kyrgyzstan and publish the newspaper abroad unless official harassment ends, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Deputy editor Svetlana Krasilnikova was summoned to the National Security Ministry for interrogation the same day. On 19 September, employees of that ministry had searched the newspaper's premises for documents detailing the ministry's attempts to infiltrate opposition parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2000). LF

LIBEL SUIT BROUGHT AGAINST KYRGYZ NGO

Kyrgyz parliamentary deputy Alymbai Sultanov has brought a libel suit against the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations of Kyrgyzstan and is demanding 5 million soms (about $100,000) in damages, the coalition's chairwoman, Tolekan Ismailova, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 20 September. The coalition had criticized the Kyrgyz authorities' announcement that Sultanov won the run-off election in March in the Kara-Buura constituency where Feliks Kulov gained a majority in the first round of voting. The coalition also noted widespread procedural violations during that ballot. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ENHANCING CIS COLLECTIVE SECURITY AGREEMENT

During talks in Dushanbe on 20 September with Valerii Nikolaenko, who is general secretary of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, President Imomali Rakhmonov called for strengthening the role of that pact in guaranteeing regional security, Russian agencies and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov noted the existing regional division of responsibilities among signatories to the treaty, whereby Russia and Armenia are responsible for the Caucasus and Russia and Belarus for Eastern Europe. He underscored the key role played by Tajikistan in guaranteeing security in Asia, given that Tajikistan borders on Afghanistan. Rakhmonov added that the ongoing creation of regional rapid-deployment forces will likewise provide for a more effective response to international terrorism. LF

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES


Through 20 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Russia_____________4_______8_______8_______20
Azerbaijan_________1_______0_______0_______1
Georgia____________0_______0_______1_______1
Kyrgyzstan_________0_______0_______1_______1
Armenia____________0_______0_______0_______0
Kazakhstan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Tajikistan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Turkmenistan_______0_______0_______0_______0
Uzbekistan_________0_______0_______0_______0





BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DETERMINES 2001 GROWTH FIGURES

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree establishing key indicators of Belarus's socioeconomic development in 2001, Belapan reported on 20 September. According to the decree, Belarus's GDP is to increase by 3-4 percent compared with this year's level, industrial and agricultural production by 4.5-5.5 percent, and foreign trade by 2.8-3.8 percent. The real income of the population is to grow 3.5-4.5 percent next year. JM

OSCE TECHNICAL MISSION TO LEAVE BELARUS ON ELECTION DAY

Gerard Stoudmann, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, announced in Minsk on 20 September that the OSCE technical assessment mission will leave Belarus on 15 October, the day on which elections to the Chamber of Representatives are to take place, Belapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2000). Stoudmann met with government officials and representatives of the Belarusian opposition during his one-day trip to Minsk. JM

CRIMEAN SPEAKER URGES OUSTER OF CRIMEAN PREMIER

Leonid Hrach, the leader of Crimea's Communist Party and parliamentary speaker, wants Crimean Premier Serhiy Kunitsyn to quit his post, Interfax reported on 20 September. The Crimean legislature passed a resolution in May to oust Kunitsyn's cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). Hrach said that next week he will submit to President Leonid Kuchma a motion on dismissing Kunitsyn. Seven Communist ministers resigned from the peninsula's coalition cabinet earlier this week in a move widely seen as Hrach's bringing pressure to bear on Kyiv to expedite Kunitsyn's ouster. Kuchma said the previous day that he sees no reason "to change [Crimea's] government and parliament under the current...[political] balance" in the autonomous republic. JM

BALTIC, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer met with his Baltic counterparts on 20 September in Hanover, where Expo 2000 is taking place. The meeting focused on EU enlargement, and Fischer underlined that Germany is in favor of rapid enlargement, ETA reported. Fischer also said that he supports the "regatta principle" of evaluating each individual candidate's achievements toward integrating with the EU. The four ministers also discussed NATO enlargement and the action plan for membership in that organization. The annual meeting of the "3+1" foreign ministers will be held in Riga next year. MH

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2001 BUDGET

The Latvian government on 20 September approved next year's draft budget, which has a deficit equivalent to 1.74 percent of expected GDP and puts expenditures at 1.5 billion lats ($2.42 billion), LETA reported. The bill also placed a ceiling of 720 million lats on total state debt as of the end of 2001, while the limit on state guarantees next year is 23 million lats. The government also approved the budget guidelines through 2005, when the budget deficit is planned to drop to 0.6 percent of GDP. The plan forecasts GDP growth from 2001 to 2005 at 4.4 percent, 4.9 percent, 5.2 percent, 5.2 percent, and 5.3 percent, respectively. MH

EXPLOSIVES CACHE FOUND IN RIGA

Latvian police on 20 September discovered a large cache of weapons and explosives in the Bolderaja suburb of Riga, which was described as large enough to "blow up the center" of the suburb, LETA reported. A 46-year-old man was detained in connection with the find, which included five aerial bombs, more than 30 artillery charges, explosives and mines from World War II, some 1,000 cartridges, and various explosives, grenades, and home-made arms. The anti-terrorist Omega unit disposed of the cache. This is the second such discovery in the suburb within a month. Meanwhile, investigators have said the most likely reason for the 17 August bombing of the Centrs store is business-related. MH

WILL ISRAEL BOYCOTT PLUNDERED PROPERTY CONFERENCE?

BNS quoted the Israeli daily "Globs" as saying that Israel may boycott the upcoming international conference on plundered Jewish properties scheduled to take place in Vilnius on 3-5 October. The report states that the Israeli delegation would take part in the forum only if a commemorative event were held at a site near Vilnius where many of the country's Jews were massacred. The group also wanted war crimes to be included in the discussions, as well as a firm promise from Lithuania that it will return plundered Jewish properties on its territory. An organizer of the conference in Vilnius told BNS that the information is not official. About 50 government delegations and numerous NGOs are expected to participate in the conference, which the U.S. government and the Council of Europe are helping to organize. MH

POLISH FARMERS' LEADER TO REMAIN IN PRISON

The Supreme Court on 20 September ruled that Marian Zagorny, head of the All- Poland Protest Committee of Private Farmer's Solidarity Trade Union, will remain in prison, PAP reported. The district court in Jastrzebie Zdroj ruled on 31 July that Zagorny must serve a 15-month prison sentence for dumping imported grain onto railway tracks in Zebrzydowice, southern Poland, in 1998. Following the verdict, Zagorny went into hiding and was detained on 6 August for exceeding the speed limit on a road in southern Poland. JM

CZECH LOWER HOUSE AMENDS PROVISIONS ON INCITEMENT OF HATRED

The Chamber of Deputies on 20 September passed an amendment to the Penal Code providing for punishment for people who deny that the Nazis and Communists committed genocide, CTK and AP reported. The vote was 97 for and 86 against, with Communist deputies and most Social Democratic Party representatives opposing the amendment. The bill also established more severe punishments for inciting national and religious hatred and included incitement of class hatred among the punishable offenses. And it provided for stiffer penalties for those who commit such offenses as members of an organized group or via the media. Communist deputies argued that the bill could be misused to outlaw their party. MS

CZECH FAR RIGHTIST GIVEN SUSPENDED SENTENCE

A court in Decin, northern Bohemia, has sentenced a 24-year-old Republican Party member to a suspended two-year prison term for racism and spreading national hatred, CTK reported on 20 September. The man had displayed photographs of parliamentary speaker Vaclav Klaus, Premier Milos Zeman, and President Vaclav Havel with the inscription "Jew masons and murderers of the Czech nation" whose aim is "to destroy the state and liquidate the nation." None of the three politicians is, in fact, Jewish. MS

CZECH PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN CRITICIZES IMF, WORLD BANK...

Klaus on 20 September told the daily "Hospodarske noviny" that the IMF and the World Bank "must be strongly criticized because they did not attempt to adapt to a changing environment." Klaus said there is a "night and day difference" between the "quality of missions fulfilled by the IMF back in 1990," when he became premier, and its performance today. The two institutions, he said, are now trying to become "a doctor for all diseases in the world economy," CTK reported. But later on 20 September, Klaus praised the IMF during a meeting with high-school pupils in Prague for the role it had played when then Czechoslovakia acceded to the organization in 1990. He also commented that the demonstrators against the annual IMF-World Bank meeting scheduled to take place in Prague next week "only want to destroy, complicate the situation and breach the peace and order." MS

...WHILE HAVEL CRITICIZES 'FUSS' AROUND IMF MEETING

Meeting with former Israeli President Itzhak Navon in Prague on 20 September, President Havel complained about "the unnecessary fuss" created by the authorities in connection with the IMF-World Bank meeting. "It is not the demonstrators who are provoking agitation, but the authorities, with their constant informing the press about their preparations," Havel said. He said he personally views the meeting as "a challenge to the Czech Republic's population to share responsibility for the world and its development," CTK reported, quoting presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER 'NOT INTERESTED IN CONFLICT' WITH PRESIDENT

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 20 September said that Slovak President Rudolf Schuster's interview last week with the German daily "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" was "very unfortunate" and that many of the president's statements were "clearly untrue" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). Schuster had complained about the way the government responded to his illness earlier this year. Dzurinda said he is "not interested in a conflict" with the president, despite the latter's remarks. He added that he is in contact with Schuster by telephone every week and will meet with him when he next visits Kosice, where Schuster is recuperating. Earlier this week, the presidential office said Schuster's interview had been presented by the Slovak media in a distorted manner and demanded that Slovak newspapers publish it in full. MS

CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OPENED IN SLOVAKIA

Slovakia's first non-state Catholic University was opened in Ruzomberok, central Slovakia, on 20 September, CTK reported. Most of the costs of running the university will be covered by the Catholic Church, but the institution will receive some funding from the state as well. Slovak bishops appealed to the faithful to support the new university financially. Also on 20 September, International Romany Union chairman Emil Scuka presented a project for launching a Romany university in Kosice. He said the plans have been discussed with international organizations and government officials from Western Europe, who, he said, showed interest in offering financial assistance to launch the university. MS




TENS OF THOUSANDS CHEER KOSTUNICA IN BELGRADE...

A crowd of some 150,000 people cheered Vojislav Kostunica, the leading opposition candidate in the upcoming Yugoslav presidential election, at a campaign rally in central Belgrade on 20 September, AP reported. Kostunica, who is backed by a coalition of 18 opposition parties, said "May God help us to have enough courage and wisdom to win freedom. [Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic] does not want to go. [He] wants to rule at all costs." The crowd responded by chanting "he is finished," in reference to Milosevic. Numerous opinion polls have shown Kostunica with a large lead over Milosevic. Earlier, on Serbian Television, Kostunica criticized the UN war crimes tribunal's indictment against Milosevic. He said that indictment "turned the entire country into a hostage of one policy and one person." He added that "The Hague tribunal is an American, not an international tribunal." PB

...WHILE FAR FEWER COME OUT FOR MILOSEVIC ACOSS TOWN

Yugoslav President Milosevic accused the Serbian opposition of being "NATO colonizers" at a rally in Novi Belgrade on 20 September attended by some 10,000 people, Reuters reported. In a fierce attack, Milosevic said "those alleged political parties...are tasked with spreading lies and defeatism, provoking crime and terrorism, [and] inciting chauvinism." Milosevic arrived at the rally in a limousine that drove down closed streets, in sharp contrast to Kostunica, who walked through the throngs of supporters up to the stage. In Washington, U.S. President Bill Clinton said Milosevic is "capable of stealing an election." James O'Brien, a special presidential adviser on the Balkans, predicted that Milosevic will "claim victory," despite losing the vote. PB

MILOSEVIC SLAMS 'RATS AND HYENAS' IN MONTENEGRO

Yugoslav President Milosevic greeted some 15,000 cheering supporters in Berane on 20 September. He told his listeners that Montenegro's independent-minded leaders are "rats and hyenas," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2000). Milosevic called on all Montenegrins to "remain wise and brave in the interest of the survival of Serbs and Montenegrins in their joint state." It was his first visit to Montenegro since 1997. Berane is in the mountainous northeast near the border with Kosova. The army garrison town is considered politically loyal to Milosevic. PM

YUGOSLAV MILITARY LEADER SAYS HE WOULD ACCEPT KOSTUNICA

General Nebojsa Pavkovic said on 20 September in Podgorica that the Yugoslav armed forces will accept opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica as head of state if he wins the Yugoslav presidential elections on 24 September. Pavkovic's statement was made on Montenegrin state television. Pavkovic said he has never supported any political party. "I only support the president of the state, who is my superior." As for the vote and the possibility of unrest, Pavkovic said "we will not provoke any conflict unless someone attacks us from outside." Beta news agency quoted Pavkovic as saying that "if someone interferes from outside, it will not be quiet." PB

SERB SENTENCED FOR KILLINGS IN KOSOVA

Milos Jokic was sentenced on 20 September in Gniljane, Kosova, to 20 years in prison for the deaths of two people in the Serbian province last year, Reuters reported. Jokic, 21, was convicted of shooting Rexhep Emrullahu in the village of Vrban on 9 May 1999, of ordering another man killed, of raping and beating a woman, and of heading a paramilitary force that expelled some 2,500 Kosovar Albanians from their homes. A French judge presided over the case along with ethnic Albanian judges. It was the first war crimes trial in Kosova. Several Serbian witnesses refused to testify in the trial, fearing retribution from ethnic Albanians. PB

KOSOVAR COMMANDER FOUND MURDERED

A regional commander of the Kosova Protection Corps was found murdered in central Kosova on 20 September, AP reported. Skender Gashi was a commander of the corps' second battalion and had served in the now- disbanded Kosova Liberation Army. PB

ETHNIC ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS CLAIM THREE MEMBERS KILLED

The Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) said in a statement that three of its members died in a recent clash with Serbian police in Dobrosin in the south Serbian region bordering Kosova, Reuters reported on 20 September. There has been no independent confirmation of the UCPMB report. A NATO spokesman said: "We are watching, and we know pretty much everything that goes on [in the Dobrosin area], but it's a matter of intelligence and we don't comment" on such reports. PM

REPUBLIKA SRPSKA PARLIAMENT OVERRULES GOVERNMENT.

The parliament passed a law on 19 September indexing payments to pensioners and invalids to salaries of workers. The government previously rejected that approach, saying the size of payments should be linked only to the amount of money that the government has on hand. PM

KLEIN: ARRESTED CROATIAN GENERAL CHIEF SUSPECT IN BOMBING

Jacques Klein, who is the UN's chief representative in Bosnia, said that a general recently arrested in the Croatian government's dragnet against war criminals and gangsters is the main suspect in the 1999 car bomb slaying of a leading Bosnian crimefighter, "Jutarnji list" reported on 20 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). Klein said that since early this year, investigators have been looking into the theory that General Ivan Andabak was the man behind the killing of Bosnian Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar. Klein noted that Bosnian police recently arrested three men whom they believe carried out Andabak's orders in the killing. Elsewhere, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said the authorities in unspecified "other countries" have linked Andabak to organized crime there. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH VOJVODINA CROATS

President Stipe Mesic and Foreign Minister Tonino Picula discussed the problems of the Vojvodina Croats with a delegation of leaders of that community. Issues included the Croatian minority's general lack of rights, the widespread poverty in Serbia, and difficulties in maintaining ties to Croatia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ALBANIA ARRESTS SIX FOR CORAL SMUGGLING

A police spokesman said in Tirana on 20 September that four French citizens and two Italians are under arrest for attempting to smuggle 87 kilograms of coral out of the country, AP reported. Police found the coral in the suspects' hotel rooms after a tip-off from villagers in the Saranda area. Albania's coral reefs are protected by law. PM

ROMANIAN OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO REJECT YUGOSLAV ALLEGATIONS

President Emil Constantinescu, responding to Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic's recent allegations that NATO exercises in Romania are in fact preparations to invade his country should the opposition lose the upcoming elections there, said on 20 September that Romania's military doctrine "includes no aggressive intentions against anyone." Foreign Minister Petre Roman said Romania "has no aggressive intentions towards Yugoslavia or any other country." He said Matic's allegations are "a reflection of the dictatorial spirit, which we also knew during [communist dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu's times," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2000). MS

ROMANIAN LIBERALS ATTACK PREMIER

Valeriu Stoica, first deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL), said on 20 September that Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu has "lost credibility" as an even-handed, non-party affiliated premier and is following the orders of the "inefficiently governing" National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, which backs his presidential candidacy. He criticized Isarescu for having recently made changes in the administration without consulting the coalition partners. Several PNL members were replaced as a result of the reshuffle. Stoica added that Isarescu was to blame for the recent increase in the popularity of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania's presidential candidate, Ion Iliescu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

MELESCANU TO MEDIATE IN TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT?

Yevgenii Primakov, head of the Russian state commission for finding a settlement of the Transdniester conflict, has proposed that Alliance for Romania (APR) chairman Teodor Melescanu be appointed mediator in the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, according to first APR deputy chairman Marian Enache. The independent Flux agency, citing Rompres, said that Enache told journalists on 20 September that Primakov made that proposal during Melescanu's visit to Moscow from 18-20 September. The former Romanian foreign minister is now running for president. MS

OSCE DENIES TRANSDNIESTER MEETING CANCELED

In a letter received by Infotag on 20 September, the OSCE denied that a meeting in Vienna on the settlement of the Transdniester conflict has been canceled owing to the refusal of the Transdniester delegation to accept Moldova's conditions for its participation in the gathering (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). The OSCE says no such meeting had been scheduled for this week, although preparations are under way for a gathering involving both sides in the conflict, Russian and Ukrainian mediators, and the OSCE. MS

VIETNAMESE PREMIER IN BULGARIA

Phan Van Khai and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, met in Sofia on 18 September and discussed boosting bilateral economic ties, which have declined since 1989, AP and AFP reported. The two premiers told journalists they are interested in re- establishing joint ventures in the food and textile industries and creating new joint ventures. Trade between the two countries amounted last year to a mere $16.4 million, down from $30.6 million in 1997. The two premiers signed agreements on cooperation in health, culture, science, education, telecommunications, and maritime navigation. MS

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES


Through 20 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Romania____________4_______2_______4_______10
Ukraine____________2_______4_______3_______9
Bulgaria___________3_______1_______1_______5
Slovakia___________1_______3_______1_______5
Belarus____________0_______1_______4_______5
Hungary____________2_______1_______1_______4
Czech Rep._________1_______0_______3_______4
Poland_____________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
Slovenia___________0_______0_______0_______0





IMF URGES EU TO EXPEDITE PRE-EXPANSION REFORMS


By Breffni O'Rourke

The International Monetary Fund is urging the European Union to make greater progress on its key internal reforms so as to pave the way to the EU's eastward expansion. It notes that delays in the internal reform of the union have raised what it calls "substantial doubts" about the conditions under which the union's enlargement will occur. And those delays, in turn, have called into question when full membership can realistically be expected for even the first group of applicants.

The 15 EU member states have set themselves a target date of the end of 2002 to be institutionally ready to accept new members, and EU officials have spoken of 2005 as the likely--but not promised--date for the first new accessions. The internal reform process is going forward by means of an inter-governmental conference (IGC) currently under way, which is charged with reaching consensus on a reform package in time for a summit of EU leaders in Nice, France, in December.

But progress at the IGC is said to be slow, and in its latest survey of the World Economic Outlook, issued in Prague on 19 September, the IMF notes that "substantial" movement forward is still required in a number of critical areas. They include voting procedures, agricultural support policies, and regional funding policies.

However, Michael Mussa, the IMF's research director, struck a generally optimistic note in Prague on 19 September. "I don't regard that process [of EU enlargement] as slow at this stage," he said. "We are concerned that it may become slow, but that is a concern more for the future than for what has been accomplished up to this point."

The IMF report says any continuing lack of EU progress could present significant risks for the accession process. Membership for the Eastern candidates could be delayed, or new members could be placed in some form of transitional status. This, according to the IMF, could mean a weakening of the candidates' commitment to reforms and of public support for membership, both in the existing member states and among the applicants. In addition, the IMF warns, the transition economies could be subject to political or economic shocks that would distance them from the accession track.

Meanwhile, the IMF has assessed the progress that the 13 candidate countries--which include Cyprus, Malta, and Turkey- -need to make. Its report characterizes the overall picture so far as one of substantial progress by the accession countries in economic liberalization and adjustment, including reorienting their trade to the West, strengthening capital markets, and improving macro-economic stability.

But the IMF says that all the candidates still face major adjustments, particularly in terms of their mix of jobs and industries, notably agriculture, as well as in trade patterns and in the financial sector. Those changes, it says, will occur more smoothly if markets are able to operate efficiently and convey clear price and wage signals. Thus, the candidates need to continue strengthening the institutions that support market activities, particularly laws and regulations.

The IMF also says that by putting in place a legal framework designed for economically advanced economies, the accession countries have the chance to take a major step forward. But to realize that advantage fully, the transition economies must still build up their human capital and administrative capacity to ensure that laws are applied effectively.

The IMF's assistant director of research, David Robinson, speaks positively of the progress made so far by Central and East European EU candidate countries. Speaking in Prague on 19 September, he said that "one striking feature of the transition process has been the generally better performance by the countries that are now applying for membership of the European Union. And while that importantly reflects the initial conditions they faced, which were rather more favorable--I would say--than the Commonwealth of Independent States, it also reflects the better progress that they have generally made with structural and institutional reform."

Further, the IMF says that while the process of EU accession may be moving too slowly in the opinion of a number of applicant countries, there could be risks for them if they try to join the euro common currency zone too quickly. This is because the EU members' inflation and fiscal discipline under the EU members' drive to harmonize their economies could conflict for some time with the adjustments that the candidate countries will continue to have to make. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


XS
SM
MD
LG