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Newsline - September 25, 2000




PREMIER DEMANDS EXPLANATION FROM MEDIA MINISTER...

Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin met with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 23 September to discuss the controversial sale of Media-MOST to Gazprom Media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). According to Interfax, Kasyanov refused to comment after the meeting, which lasted 40 minutes. Kasyanov had announced the previous day that he wished to speak with Lesin about the media minister's "participation in the quarrel between the two companies." JAC

...AS GUSINSKII SUMMONED TO MOSCOW...

Moscow's chief bailiff Svetlana Kukushkina announced on 22 September that her office has completed its seizure of stocks of Media- MOST companies such as NTV, Ekho Moskvy, Zolotoi Ekran, and Kinomost, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, the Prosecutor- General's Office announced that it is summoning Vladimir Gusinskii to testify as a witness. One of Gusinskii's lawyers said they have not yet received such a summons, but two employees at Media-MOST's legal department have been called in for interrogation. A Moscow court is scheduled to open hearings on 18 October in Gazprom-Media's lawsuit against Media-MOST for overdue debt payments. JAC

...AND GUSINSKII NEWSPAPER CLAIMS KREMLIN HAS SPECIAL MEDIA UNIT

"Segodnya," which is owned by Media-MOST, reported on 22 September that the Kremlin has formed a special unit to keep tabs on the independent media and compile compromising materials on its executives. The team is reportedly managed by Simon Kordonskii, deputy head of the presidential administration's analytical department and is overseen by Vladimir Surkov, deputy head of the presidential administration. Surkov dismissed the report as "rubbish not worth commenting on." He added that "I am not in charge of this department, and the newspaper's assertions on this score are also a lie." JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR TALKS ON WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN TROOPS...

In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 September, Aslan Maskhadov argued that the Russian army should be withdrawn immediately from Chechnya as all its attempts over the past 11 months to impose a military solution to the problem of Chechnya's relations with Moscow have failed. A former Soviet army general, Maskhadov said that "the Russian army is a great army.... Everything possible should be done not to disgrace the Russian army again." Maskhadov called for negotiations on a Russian withdrawal to begin as soon as possible. He rejected as unnecessary the proposal that unnamed prominent Chechen politicians should mediate between himself and the Russian leadership, but he added that "any level-headed figure" within the Russian leadership could perform that task. Maskhadov claimed that the current war in Chechnya "was planned to begin approximately six months before the presidential elections in Russia" and that a pretext for starting hostilities would have been found even if field commander Shamil Basaev had not launched his invasion of Daghestan in August 1999. He said the Chechen forces currently number 15,000 men. LF

...BUT MOSCOW SAYS 'NO'

Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax on 22 September that Maskhadov's proposals indicate that he is "still in the grip of delusions that are dangerous for the Chechen people." He rejected as an exaggeration Maskhadov's claim to command 15,000 men, saying the true figure is only a few hundred. Yastrzhembskii again said Moscow will conduct talks with Maskhadov only on the conditions for the latter's surrender. "Discussing political issues with Maskhadov makes no sense," Interfax quoted him as saying. Also on 22 September, interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov similarly denied that the Chechen fighters number 15,000, Interfax reported. Kadyrov again said that Maskhadov should formally apologize to the Chechen people for precipitating the war and leave Chechnya to join his son in Malaysia. LF

TATARSTAN BRINGS FORWARD PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

A plenary session of Tatarstan's State Council on 23 September scheduled presidential elections for 24 December, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin told the session that the law on the presidential elections passed by parliament the previous day makes provision for bringing forward or postponing the poll by up to three months. Incumbent President Mintimer Shaimiev's five-year term expires in March 2001. Therefore, Mukhametshin argued, the 24 December date does not constitute a pre-term election. Mukhametshin had last week denied media reports that the poll date would be brought forward from March 2001 to December 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). Rashid Akhmetov, who is editor of the independent newspaper "Zvezda Povolzhya," told Tatar Television on 24 September that Shaimiev has approved the early poll date and considers the ballot to be a referendum on the success of the policies he has implemented over the past decade. LF

THIRD RUSSIAN PLANE TOUCHES DOWN IN BAGHDAD...

A Russian airplane landed in Baghdad on 23 September--the third such flight in five weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August. 2000 and 19 September 2000). The Vnukovo Airlines plane was carrying 5 tons of humanitarian aid, as well as a Russian delegation led by Central Fuel Company chairman Yurii Shafranik, lawmakers, a soccer team, and a group of musicians. Shafranik, who is also head of a Russian-Iraqi cooperation committee, is expected to meet with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, several other ministers, and senior oil officials. According to ITAR-TASS, the 23 September flight had been approved by the UN Sanctions Committee. On 22 September, a French plane had landed in the Iraqi capital; on board were reported to be doctors, athletes, and artists opposed to the sanctions imposed on Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. JC

...AS MINISTER SAYS NO REGULAR FLIGHTS TO IRAQ ANYTIME SOON

Deputy Transport Minister Pavel Rozhkov told Interfax on 22 September that the State Civil Aviation Service at his ministry is not holding, and does not plan to hold, talks on resuming regular flights between Russia and Iraq. Aeroflot, which is competing with Vnukovo for the right to relaunch flights to Baghdad, is currently involved only in technical discussions about the possibility of such flights, Rozhkov added. The news agency reported that a 70- strong Iraqi delegation including civil aviation officials and representatatives of Iraqi airlines will arrive in Moscow on 24 September. JC

SCHROEDER TO TELL PUTIN HE CAN COUNT ON GERMANY

In an interview with "Die Welt am Sonntag" published on 24 September, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that during his visit to Moscow scheduled for the next day, he wants to make clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow can count on Germany for support in implementing reforms, Reuters reported. Schroeder added that U.S. President Bill Clinton has told him often that Berlin must play a "special role in...stabilizing the reform process in Russia." At the same time, the German leader stressed that other countries should not fear a repeat of the Treaty of Rapallo, which was signed by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1922, causing concern among their neighbors. He also confirmed that the Schroeder and Putin families will celebrate Orthodox Christmas together in Moscow from 5-7 January. JC

RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS SEEK TO AID MILOSEVIC IN SERBIAN BALLOT

Among the 200 or so international observers at the 24 September Yugoslav and Serbian elections were 30 Russians, most of whom belong to the Communist Party, "The Moscow Times" reported on 23 September. The Moscow daily cited the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry as saying that the Russian delegation included State Duma deputy (independent) Nikolai Ryzhkov as well as Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko. And it quoted Duma deputy (Agro-Industrial) Vasilii Iver as saying that the Communist Party was sending observers because it wants to make sure that the will of the Serbian people is respected and that "the same countries that bombed Yugoslavia last year" do not interfere in the ballot. Similarly, Yugoslav Ambassador to Russia Boris Milosevic, who is the brother of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, told journalists in Moscow on 22 September that the U.S. would be making a "historic mistake" if it used force against Yugoslavia, with or without the support of its European allies, in the event of the incumbent's re-election. JC

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW

Nadezhda Mihailova told journalists in Moscow on 22 September that Russian- Bulgarian relations are "based on trust," and she welcomed the appointment of Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin as co-chairman of the Bulgarian-Russian Economic Commission. Mihailova, who was in Moscow to participate in the Pan European Forum discussions, said the appointment is "clear evidence that Russia attaches great importance to its relations with Bulgaria," ITAR-TASS reported. MS

RUSSIAN-NORWEGIAN DEAL TO RECOVER 'KURSK' BODIES DELAYED

The operation to recover the bodies of the 118-strong crew of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine may have to be postponed after Russian officials and a Norwegian diving company failed to reach an agreement over the contract on that undertaking. Russia's Rubin engineering company, which designed the "Kursk," and Norway's Stolt Offshore were scheduled to have concluded a deal on 22 September. But a Rubin official told Interfax the same day that the signing has been postponed until differences between the two parties can be resolved. He gave no further explanation. JC

GENERALS, CIVILIANS ALSO TO FACE LAYOFFS

The previously announced reduction in the strength of Russia's armed forces by some 350,000 over the next three years will likely be accompanied by a reduction in the number of generals by about 300, unidentified military sources told Interfax on 24 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). In addition, the defense minister will lose one deputy minister, as the total number of deputies will be reduced from five to four. The number of civilian personnel employed by the armed forces will also drop by 120,000. JAC

FINANCE MINISTER TELLS LEGISLATORS TO SEEK BUDGET COMPROMISE LATER

Addressing the State Duma on 22 September, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin told legislators that they can achieve a compromise on the draft 2001 budget when they consider the document in its second or third reading. He added that including "unguaranteed revenues" in the budget might lead to sequestration of the budget. Speaking about this year's budget, he said that of the 158 billion rubles ($5.7 billion) in revenues exceeding projected levels, 119 billion rubles were used to pay off or reschedule loans. The minister also updated legislators on the status of federal budget expenditures so far. According to Kudrin, the Defense Ministry has received 59.5 percent of its allocation for 2000, law enforcement bodies 64.9 percent, agriculture 46 percent, education 71 percent, health care 47 percent, and culture 50 percent, while financial assistance to the regions has been paid 70 percent. JAC

ZYUGANOV RE-ELECTED HEAD OF PEOPLE'S PATRIOTIC UNION

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov was re-elected chairman of the People's Patriotic Union (NPS) at the Union's third congress in Moscow on 23 September, ITAR-TASS reported. About 300 people attended, according to NTV. Union attendees also voted to confirm the ouster of Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, who has recently been particularly outspoken in his criticism of the Communist Party's leadership (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 September 2000). Tuleev, Spiritual Heritage head Aleksei Poberezhkin, and Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin were all expelled by the union's coordinating commission earlier this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2000). Several organizations were admitted into the union, including State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev's Rossiya. Gennadii Semigin was elected chairman of the union's Executive Committee. JAC

ULTRANATIONALIST GROUP EXPELS ITS LEADER

At a closed plenary session on 22 September, members of Russian National Unity (RNE) voted to expel their leader, Aleksandr Barkashov, from the organization, Interfax reported. According to RNE's deputy chairman, Oleg Kassin, 16 heads of the largest divisions of RNE took part in the session. They blamed Barkashov for triggering a crisis within the organization; 26 regional groupings have left RNE. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 23 September, the 16 leaders believe that their party has lost influence and "ceased to be truly active." JAC

RFE/RL JOURNALIST KILLED IN MOSCOW

Iskander Khatloni, a Moscow-based correspondent for RFE/RL's Tajik Service, died in Moscow on 21 September from head wounds after being attacked in his apartment. Khatloni, 45, had covered issues such as government corruption and drug trafficking in Tajikistan and human rights abuses in Chechnya. Khatloni was also a well-known poet, having published four volumes of verse. JAC

WHEAT IMPORTS RISE

During the first seven months of this year, Russia imported 10 percent more wheat than during the same period last year, Interfax reported on 22 September, citing the State Statistics Committee. Wheat imports reached 2,088,400 tons. Eighty-five percent of the imports came from CIS countries, compared with 22 percent in 1999. JAC

OFFICIAL DEPLORES DELAY IN RETURN OF INGUSHETIAN DISPLACED PERSONS

A deputy chairman of Ingushetia's Committee on Refugees and Displaced told the republic's television station that only 10 percent of the Ingush forced to flee North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion in the clashes of November 1992 have returned to their homes there, Glasnost- North Caucasus reported on 24 September. In 1996, Human Rights Watch estimated the number of Ingush who fled Prigorodnyi Raion in 1992 at between 34,000 and 64,000. Ingush officials said in February of this year that 9,200 Ingush displaced persons have been repatriated to the region so far and more than 19,000 are still waiting to return. LF

DAGHESTAN ASKS MOSCOW FOR RIGHT TO DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY

Daghestan's parliament on 22 September appealed to the Russian State Duma to incorporate into the draft law on the state of emergency, currently under discussion, an article empowering individual republics of the Russian Federation to declare a state of emergency on their territory, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported. LF

ALBRIGHT SEES IVANOV ON SCOOTER BUILT FOR TWO?

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is reported to be "thrilled" over the scooter and helmet that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave him for his birthday during their meeting in New York last week. Reuters on 22 September quoted an unidentified diplomatic source in Washington as saying that Ivanov quipped about "riding around the Foreign Ministry." Pointing to a troika ride they undertook outside Moscow earlier this year, the news agency notes that the two leaders appear to enjoy "amiable" personal relations, despite at times stark differences over such foreign-policy issues as Russia's campaign in Chechnya and NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia. JAC




ARMENIAN CLERIC CALLS FOR DIALOGUE WITH TURKEY

Patriarch Mesrop II of Istanbul expressed concern on 22 September that the endorsement the previous day by a sub-committee of the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill that characterizes the 1915 murder of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide could negatively impact on Armenian-Turkish relations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The involvement of parliaments of third countries is "not pleasing" and "no substitute" for a dialogue between Armenia and Turkey on the implications and aftermath of those killings, the patriarch said in a statement. Turkish Minister Bulent Ecevit on 22 September characterized the vote as a "sad and ugly event" precipitated by the acts of "irresponsible politicians." Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer urged the Clinton administration to make more efforts to block the bill's passage. Azerbaijan opposition politicians Ilyas Ismailov and Isa Gambar have both condemned the bill, Turan reported on 23 September. LF

CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY DELEGATION VISITS ARMENIA

A Chinese Communist Party delegation headed by foreign relations division head Xiai U met in Yerevan on 22 September with Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to discuss bilateral economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Particular attention was paid to the planned launch of a Chinese synthetic rubber factory that will draw on the expertise of the Armenian chemical plant Nairit, the largest producer of synthetic rubber in the USSR. The two sides also discussed possible Chinese involvement in the construction of the planned gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia. Both projects are to be discussed in greater detail when Markarian visits Beijing later this year. LF

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL POSTPONES VISITS TO ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN

Armenian officials said in Yerevan on 22 September that Lord Robertson has postponed indefinitely a visit to Armenia scheduled for 28-29 September, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The reason cited for that decision was the need for Robertson to remain in Brussels for the duration of the Yugoslav presidential elections. But Robertson is scheduled to arrive in Tbilisi on 25 September to attend a conference there, although his planned visit to Baku on 26-27 September has also been postponed, Turan reported on 22 September. Azerbaijani presidential administration official Novruz Mamedov denied that Robertson had cancelled his visit to Azerbaijan because President Heidar Aliyev is currently abroad. LF

AZERBAIJANI PROSECUTOR CALLS DEMANDS LIFE IMPRISONMENT FOR ISLAMIC MILITANT LEADER

Azerbaijan prosecutor Halid Tahmazov on 22 September called for a life sentence for Mubariz Aliev, leader of the Jeyshullah (Allah's Army) organization, and for prison terms ranging from four to 15 years for other members of that organization, Interfax and Turan reported. Thirteen Jeyshullah members went on trial last month on charges of murder and committing terrorist acts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT HINTS AT CONCESSIONS TO RUSSIA OVER MILITARY BASE

In his traditional Monday radio address on 25 September, Eduard Shevardnadze said Tbilisi is ready to negotiate with Moscow on designating the Russian military base at Gudauta a facility for use by the CIS peacekeeping forces deployed in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. Under an agreement signed on the sidelines of the OSCE Istanbul summit last November, Moscow undertook to withdraw its equipment and forces from Gudauta by 1 July 2001. But at talks in June on the timetable for the withdrawal of Russian troops from all four Russian bases in Georgia, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov proposed that the Gudauta base be handed over to the CIS peacekeeping force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2000). That force is composed entirely of Russian troops. A Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in July that Tbilisi would not agree to Klebanov's proposal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). LF

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS OSCE CRITICISM OF ELECTION REGISTRATION

Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission on 23 September dismissed a statement by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights expressing "extreme concern" that seven political parties have been barred from contesting the 5 November parliamentary poll under the proportional system, AP reported. In each case, the commission claimed that the party had submitted fewer than the required minimum 50,000 valid signatures in its support (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 September 2000). Commission member Gusein Pashaev said that the OSCE statement was based on "non-objective, unconfirmed information distributed by opposition parties." LF

TURKISH INTERIOR MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA

Sadetin Tantan and his Georgian counterpart, Kakha Targamadze, signed an agreement in Tbilisi on 22 September on cooperation in combating organized crime, smuggling, and drug-trafficking, Caucasus Press reported. Targamadze endorsed Tantan's proposal to convene a meeting of interior ministers from South Caucasus and Central Asian states to discuss drafting a common strategy in the fight against organized crime. Tantan also met with Georgian President Shevardnadze to discuss regional security and security guarantees for Turkish investments in Georgia. Tantan told journalists that Turkey will provide Georgia with aid to counter the damage inflicted by this summer's severe drought. LF

ANOTHER DISPLACED PERSONS' ORGANIZATION ISSUE ULTIMATUM TO GEORGIAN LEADERSHIP

A spokesman for the Party for the Liberation of Abkhazia, which was formed in 1999 by Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament in exile, said in Tbilisi on 22 September that the party will stage mass protests if the Georgian leadership does not begin the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons to Abkhazia by 15 December, Caucasus Press reported. He accused the Georgian government of failing to take any concrete steps to bring the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia back under its control. On 20 September, the Union of Displaced Persons had similarly called on the Georgian leadership to expedite a settlement of the Abkhaz conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2000). LF

GEORGIAN SPOKESMAN DENIES AVOIDING DIRECT TALKS WITH ABKHAZ LEADERSHIP

Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze on 22 September rejected Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's allegation the previous day at the UN General Assembly in New York that rather than embark on direct talks with the Abkhaz leadership, Tbilisi is relying on international organizations to mediate a solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported. A meeting between President Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba has been under discussion for almost two years, but Shevardnadze has repeatedly said there is no point in his meeting with Ardzinba, except to sign documents finalizing the repatriation process and on restoring the Abkhaz economy. LF

REGISTRATION OF KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ENDS

The Central Electoral Commission formally registered two further presidential candidates on 22 September, one day before the registration deadline expired, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The two are human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov and parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu. The four remaining candidates in the 29 October poll are incumbent President Askar Akaev, Social-Democratic Party chairman Almaz Atembaev, People's Party leader Melis Eshimkanov, and Omurbek Tekebaev, leader of the Ata-Meken party and deputy speaker of the lower parliamentary chamber. LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS CLOSE CHECK-POINT ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER

The Nizhnii Pyandzh border crossing between Afghanistan and Tajikistan was closed "temporarily" on 24 September after Taliban forces made further territorial gains in northern Afghanistan, taking the towns of Hazarbag and Hojagar, the capital of Tahor province, Interfax reported. Major-General Sergei Zhilkin, who commands the Russian Border Guard force deployed on the Afghan-Tajik frontier, told journalists in Dushanbe on 23 September that no large groups of refugees have yet attempted to cross from Afghanistan into Tajikistan to escape the fighting. Speaking to Western journalists in Dushanbe on 21 September, Tajikistan's Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov stressed the threat posed to stability in Tajikistan by Afghanistan, Reuters reported. Nazarov again denied that any fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are based on Tajik territory. LF

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES


Through 24 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total

Russia____________14______14______19______47
Georgia____________0_______0_______2_______2
Azerbaijan_________1_______0_______0_______1
Kyrgyzstan_________0_______0_______1_______1
Armenia____________0_______0_______1_______1
Kazakhstan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Tajikistan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Turkmenistan_______0_______0_______0_______0
Uzbekistan_________0_______0_______0_______0





BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY WILL SURVIVE ON ITS OWN GRAIN

During a national harvest festival in Shklou, Mahileu Oblast, on 23 September, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said Belarus has harvested enough food and forage grain this year to manage without grain imports. "We do not ingratiate ourselves with anybody, we do not speculate with our national assets--our property. We do not bow to anyone," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. This year's crop of 4.9 million tons of grain was well below Soviet-era results but was a significant improvement on last year's 3.6 million tons. Lukashenka canceled the 1999 national harvest festival, which was also planned to take place in Shklou, his hometown. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF 'STATE TERRORISM'

Social Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich on 22 September said the raid on his party's headquarters the previous day was carried out by special services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). "I'm confident that this is an act of state terrorism connected with the participation of the party's members in the elections," Belarusian Television quoted Statkevich as saying. Acting Interior Minister Mikhail Udovikau suggested the following day that the party itself may have staged attack on its headquarters in order to gain publicity. JM

UKRAINIAN SECURITY SERVICE CLAIMS TO HAVE FOILED STATE COUP

Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) on 22 September announced that it has arrested a group of people who prepared an armed coup d'etat, Interfax reported. According to the SBU, the group--which included residents of Chernihiv, Sumy, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts--started setting up military groups and gathering intelligence on the location of military units and weapons deposits. The group selected the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, the dam at the Kyiv water reservoir, and gas pipelines as targets for terrorist attacks. And it also wrote leaflets calling for an armed revolt and for legislation to be passed by new authorities. "The persons under investigation wanted to destroy our system with violent methods," SBU chief Leonid Derkach commented the following day but refused to give any details. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT TO SELL COMPANIES' PROPERTY FOR DEBTS

Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov on 22 September said that in order to repay foreign loans taken by companies under state guaranties, the government intends to sell those companies' property, Interfax reported. A government directive issued last month obliged Ukrainian companies to repay some $130 million in state-guaranteed foreign credits by the end of 2000. Between 1 January 1992 and 1 October 1997, the government granted its guarantees to $2.456 billion worth of foreign credits to Ukrainian companies. JM

TALLINN CITY COALITION THREATENED BY SCANDAL

The fragile ruling coalition in the Tallinn City Council is under threat after Mayor Juri Mois called for the removal of two city officials representing a small but important allied party. Mois asked the board of Tallinn Heating to discuss the removal of board chairman Elmar Sepp at its meeting, and he also requested that the city's Environmental Department dismiss Botanical Garden director Juri Ott. Sepp and Ott, both of whom belong to the Coalition Party, have been linked to an apartment privatization scandal that broke when they were city elders. Mois, who cut short a vacation to deal with the crisis, denied the ruling coalition will collapse. Meanwhile, the law firm Glikman & Glikman has concluded that deals cut by Sepp and Ott violated the law. MH

LATVIAN PREMIER WARNS COALITION TO STAY IN LINE

Andris Berzins warned his four-party coalition not to side with the opposition in an upcoming vote of no confidence in Economics Minister Aigars Kalvitis. Berzins said that voting against the minister would constitute a violation of the coalition agreement and play into the hands of those who "want Latvia to fail," BNS reported. Andrejs Pantelejevs, the chairman of Berzins's Latvia's Way, said any coalition parties voting against Kalvitis would spell the coalition's end, adding that For Fatherland and Freedom is the "weak link" in the chain. For Fatherland and Freedom has been involved in a public feud with Kalvitis's People's Party over the past few weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). MH

LATVIA WINS GYMNASTICS GOLD, BUT ROWER SENT HOME FOR DOPING

Latvia won its first-ever gold medal on 24 September, when Igors Vihrovs won a surprising victory in the gymnastics' floor competition over Russia's Aleksei Nemov. Vihrovs was in 26th place in qualifying before the finals. However, the same day rower Andris Reinholds was sent home after a positive drug test. The eighth-place finisher in the single sculls now faces a lifetime ban from the event, BBC Online reported. MH

LITHUANIAN PREMIER SAYS CONTROVERSIAL RESOLUTION WAS 'MISTAKE'

Speaking on 22 September, the eve of Holocaust memorial day in Lithuania, Andrius Kubilius said the controversial resolution on legalizing the independence declaration of the 1941 interim government was a "mistake." Kubilius called the adoption of the resolution, which angered Jewish groups around the world, "an example of a simplified point of view on a complicated period of Lithuanian history." He added that "Lithuania must take another look at its history without closing its eyes to sore historical facts," BNS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). President Valdas Adamkus took part in a commemoration on the same day at the former Paneriai concentration camp, where more than 50,000 Jews and other prisoners were killed during the Nazi occupation. MH

POLISH PRESIDENTIAL AIDE RESIGNS OVER PAPAL PARODY VIDEO...

Marek Siwiec, chief of the presidential National Security Office, tendered his resignation on 23 September after a presidential election advertisement the previous day showed him parodying Pope John Paul II. The advertisement, which was designed by the election staff of Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, included video footage in which Siwiec is seen getting out of a helicopter during a 1997 presidential trip to Kalisz, western Poland, and making the sign of the cross. The video also features the voice of amused President Aleksander Kwasniewski who asks: "Did the minister kiss the Kalisz soil?" Siwiec then kneels to kiss the ground, as the Pope used to do on his foreign trips. "Does Aleksander Kwasniewski, a person who publicly offends the Holy Father, deserve to represent our country?" the advertisement asks. JM

...WHILE PRESIDENT ACCUSES SOLIDARITY RIVAL OF DIRTY CAMPAIGNING

Kwasniewski commented the same day that the video was a "desperate and dirty move." "It's not a negative campaign. We are talking facts and facts alone," Krzaklewski's election staff head Wieslaw Walendziak responded. According to last week's polls, Kwasniewski had 66 percent support, while Krzaklewski trailed in third place with 7 percent backing. The first indication of the damage inflicted on Kwasniewski by the papal parody video appeared in mock elections in Nysa, southwestern Poland, on 23 September. Kwasniewski won with some 54 percent of the vote, but Krzaklewski came second with 17.5 percent support. "It is a breakthrough moment in this campaign. There will be a second round, and Aleksander Kwasniewski and Marian Krzaklewski will meet in it," Walendziak commented. JM

IMF/WORLD BANK MEET GLOBALIZATION OPPONENTS IN PRAGUE...

Critics of the IMF and the World Bank met with heads of the two institutions in Prague Castle on 23 September in a "dialogue" initiated by President Vaclav Havel, CTK and Reuters reported. That dialogue, however, yielded little else other than agreement that discussions are a good idea and must be pursued. World Bank head James Wolfensohn told globalization opponents: "You should not regard us as a black, evil, force.... Maybe we have done things wrong but...our objectives are very similar to those of the people in the streets." Walden Bello, who belongs to the Focus on the Global Growth activists' group, said the World Bank has supported dictators such as Chile's Augusto Pinochet and Indonesia's Suharto, while other opponents accused the two institutions of ruining the world environment. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Nova television on 24 September that he agrees with some of the criticism directed at the World Bank. MS

...AS GLOBALIZATION OPPONENTS LAUNCH 'COUNTER-SUMMIT'...

On3 day earlier, on 22 September, globalization opponents launched the so-called "Prague counter-summit," which was attended by various organizations. The counter-summit participants accused multinational corporations of running the world economy and manipulating the IMF and the World Bank to support projects that increase their earnings and destroy the environment, CTK reported. On 22 and 24 September, demonstrations staged by the Jubilee 2000 organization ended without violence. On 23 September, anarchists demonstrated in downtown Prague but disbanded when Communists joined them, saying the two groups have nothing in common. Anarchists returning from that demonstration clashed with several skinheads at the main railway station. Czech Television said the anarchists attacked the skinheads, who are also protesting the IMF/World Bank summit. On 24 September, protesters carrying white crosses staged a mock funeral in Prague to draw attention to the children who are dying, they said, as a result of IMF/World Bank policies. MS

...AND CZECH AUTHORITIES CONTINUE DENYING THEM ENTRY

A train chartered in Italy and carrying activists against globalization was kept waiting for 17 hours at the Austrian-Czech border crossing of Horni Dvoriste on 24 September, CTK reported. The Czech authorities refused to let in four Italian activists who had been involved in the Seattle December demonstrations against the IMF, as well as 14 activists from other countries. The other passengers at first refused to leave without them and started fires at the railway stations, which were extinguished by firemen. The authorities' action prompted demonstrations in Prague by globalization opponents. The authorities also denied entry to several foreigners arriving from Germany on 23 and 24 September. MS

CZECH FINANCE MINISTER ACCUSED OF PERJURY

Vladimir Mertlik on 22 September denied that he had lied under oath during investigations carried out by a special Chamber of Deputies' commission. The commission had looked into the government-initiated sale of the private Investnicny a Postovni banka (IPB) to a Belgian conglomerate in June, after the bank had been placed under "forced administration." Commission chairman Miroslav Kalousek of the Christian Democratic Party had filed a criminal complaint against Mertlik on grounds that he was lying when he denied having seen "official documents" and having discussed in advance the action against the IPB. Mertlik later said he had seen only "draft materials" that he did not consider to be "official documents." He said the accusations against him are "political" and that he might sue Kalousek for libel. MS

SLOVAK CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS TO ELECT NEW LEADER

The National Council of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) on 23 September nominated KDH Deputy Chairman Pavel Hrusovsky and Jan Figel, state secretary at the Foreign Ministry, as candidates to succeed Jan Carnogursky as party chairman when the KDH National Conference takes place on 21 October, CTK reported. Carnogursky announced in June that he will resign as party leader. Hrusovsky, who is a close ally of Carnogursky, was endorsed by 62 council members, while Figel, who is considered to belong to the KDH's liberal wing, was backed by 27 members. The two pledged to preserve the party's unity whatever the election's outcome. Carnogursky also called on Slovaks not to take part in the November referendum on early elections. MS

POPE RECEIVES HIGH-LEVEL HUNGARIAN DELEGATION

Hungarian President Ferenc Madl and Prime Minister Viktor Orban had a private audience with John Paul II in the Vatican on 22 September. They emphasized the link between the 1,000-years of Christian Hungarian statehood and the 2000-year-old Catholic Church. In other news, Balint Magyar, chairman of the opposition Free Democrats, announced on 22 September that he will quit his position at the party's fall congress. Magyar proposed that Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky succeed him as party leader, Hungarian media reported. MSZ




KOSTUNICA CLAIMS VICTORY IN FIRST ROUND OF YUGOSLAV VOTE

Vojislav Kostunica, who is the opposition's joint candidate for the Yugoslav presidency, said in Belgrade on 25 September that he won the election the previous day with more than 50 percent of the vote. Unofficial vote tallies confirmed Kostunica's statement, which, if borne out by the final results, will render a second round on 8 October unnecessary. Elsewhere in the Serbian capital, however, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic won re-election. The Federal Election Commission ended its preliminary counting earlier than expected on 24 September and went home for the night. British Balkan expert Tim Judah told the BBC that this was a sign that the regime realizes it has lost the election by a large margin. It is not clear when partial or full official returns will be available. PM

EU WARNS MILOSEVIC NOT TO STEAL YUGOSLAV VOTE

The EU said in a statement in Brussels on 25 September that Kostunica appears to be the winner. It added that "it is clear that any attempt by Milosevic to declare himself the victor would be fraudulent," Reuters reported. In London, Foreign Minister Robin Cook congratulated Kostunica and "the people of Serbia," the BBC reported. Cook noted that Milosevic did not carry even a single precinct in his native Pozarevac, adding that the magnitude of Milosevic's defeat nationwide is "too great for him to hide." The British minister stressed that Milosevic should leave office peacefully. In Vienna, OSCE Chairwoman and Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement that "claims of victory by pro-Milosevic forces are not credible. These elections were far from democratic, but despite reports of widespread fraud and intimidation, the will of the people for change has been overwhelming," Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN, YUGOSLAV VOTE MARRED BY IRREGULARITIES

International media reported on 25 September that it is difficult to obtain a complete picture of the previous day's election because the authorities limited the number of election monitors and journalists admitted to Serbia to observe the voting, especially outside Belgrade. Observers agree that there was a large turnout. The two main problems were a lack of privacy and a lack of supervision of the voting and the tallying. In some state-owned enterprises, workers marked and cast their votes under the eyes of their bosses. At some polling places, voters handed their ballots to election workers, who placed them in the ballot boxes only later. Reports from Kosova suggested that many precincts received ballots that were already marked or voting lists containing names of fictitious or dead people. Some precincts reported turnouts of nearly 100 percent. Some reports from regions outside Belgrade suggested that some individuals voted up to 10 times, VOA reported. PM

DID SERBIAN OPPOSITION PREVENT MASS VOTE-RIGGING IN KOSOVA?

Opposition spokesman Dragisa Djokovic told AP in Mitrovica on 24 September that "the elections were not conducted in an atmosphere of tolerance" or in keeping with standard rules and procedures. He stressed, however, that opposition monitors nonetheless "prevented" the massive vote fraud that many opposition supporters had feared. He mentioned specifically that monitors prevented the authorities from entering thousands of votes for the regime in the name of ethnic Albanians, who boycotted the poll. In Prishtina, Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN civilian administration in the province, said that only 45,000 out of 100,000 Serbian potential voters cast their ballots. PM

LESS THAN 25 PERCENT TURNOUT IN MONTENEGRO

Only 24.44 percent of the registered voters cast their ballots in Montenegro, where the reform-minded government had urged a boycott of the elections, which it regards as "illegal and unconstitutional," Montena-fax reported on 25 September. The highest turnout was in Andrijevica, where just over 60 percent of those eligible cast their vote. Low figures came from Cetinje (4.06 percent), Rozaje (5.23 percent), and Ulcinj (6.70 percent). Podgorica's turnout came very close to the national average, with 25.04 percent. In Berane, where Milosevic recently made his first public appearance in Montenegro since 1997, only 33.29 percent of the registered voters cast a ballot. PM

MONTENEGRIN LEADER SAYS 'TENSIONS REDUCED'

Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said in Podgorica on 25 September that the majority of the Montenegrin population heeded the government's call for a boycott. He added that Kostunica nonetheless won "an absolute victory" and that Milosevic will be gone from power within a month, Reuters reported. "What his reaction will be is [nonetheless] totally unpredictable," Burzan added. But whatever Milosevic decides to do, he will be too preoccupied with Serbia for the immediate future "to undertake anything in Montenegro," the minister argued. PM

TRAVEL WARNINGS FOR YUGOSLAVIA

In a statement on 25 September, the Croatian Foreign Ministry advised its nationals to avoid travel to Serbia and Montenegro "unless absolutely necessary," AP reported. The statement added that Yugoslav border police have recently informed persons crossing the border not to stay for more than 24 hours. On 22 September, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry urged its citizens not to travel to Yugoslavia: "We strongly advise everyone who will be in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during elections to avoid border areas and army facilities. If travelling to Yugoslavia is not necessary, we advise citizens to postpone it," Reuters reported. PM

POLITICAL PURGES IN THE SLOVENIAN MILITARY?

In recent months, Defense Minister Janez Jansa has replaced some 200 officers, including three top-ranking generals, "Dnevnik" reported on 25 September. Military spokesmen said that the changes are routine. The Ljubljana daily suggests, however, that Jansa is placing his own loyalists in important positions in the armed forces. In the 1980s, the controversial Jansa was the only leading Yugoslav dissident to become actively involved in military and security affairs. He subsequently played a major role in the development of Slovenia's intelligence service and armed forces. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HELP OVER MISSING SERBIAN LEADER

Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb on 23 September that he will seek unspecified "international assistance" to help clarify the whereabouts of former Serbian leader Ivan Stambolic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2000). Stambolic disappeared in August while jogging near his Belgrade home. He is widely believed to have been kidnapped by agents of the regime. PM

BOTH SIDES CLAIM VICTORY IN MACEDONIAN RUNOFF VOTE

Officials from both the governing and opposition coalitions claimed victory for their respective sides in the 24 September local runoff and repeat elections, AP and Reuters reported from Skopje (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2000). Runoffs took place in 54 districts, while voting from the 10 September elections was repeated in 27 districts. At least 25 violent incidents took place in various towns and villages, including a shootout between government and opposition supporters in Strumica and clashes between groups wielding baseball bats. Several cases of voting irregularities were also reported from various localities. At one polling place in Skopje, a man stole the voting lists. In one other neighborhood in the capital, local ethnic Albanians boycotted the vote to protest violence. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said, however, that "so far I have reports that mention only minor incidents, which cannot be compared to what happened in the first round." PM

ROMANIA CRITICIZES 'PRIMAKOV PLAN' FOR TRANSDNIESTER

The Foreign Ministry on 22 September said the so-called "Primakov Plan" for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict violates "some basic principles of international law." The ministry said the plan, which was drawn up by former Russian Premier Yevgenii Primakov in his capacity as head of the state commission for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, deprives Moldova "de jure" of sovereignty over that region by recognizing the region as a separate entity. It said the "self-determination principle" as interpreted in the plan is not in line with the "internationally recognized interpretation of that principle" and paves the way for "secession." The ministry said the conflict must be settled in line with the "obligations assumed by the parties at the OSCE [December 1999] Istanbul summit." MS

MOLDOVAN COURT DECISION ON MEDIA THREATENS RELATIONS WITH MOSCOW

President Petru Lucinschi on 22 September said the parliament must amend a 20 September ruling by a Moldovan court that the licenses of eight Russian-language radio and television stations be withdrawn. The court accepted the argument of a Moldovan organization called the Club of Graduates of Romanian and West European Universities that the stations violate a legal requirement to broadcast at least 65 percent of all programming in the "state language." The government said it is examining a draft law to change that regulation. The court's ruling was also criticized by the OSCE mission chief in Moldova, William Hill, while Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin called on Premier Mikhail Kasyanov to cancel a visit planned for this week by Molodovan Prime Minister Dumitru Bragis or at least raise the issue during that visit. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON PRESIDENT'S ELECTION

By a vote of 64 to 29, the parliament on 22 September approved in its second and final reading the bill on the procedure of the president's election by the legislature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). An amendment proposed by the opposition Party of Democratic Forces to rule out candidates who collaborated with the KGB was not accepted by the house. MS

IMF OPPOSES BULGARIA PEGGING CURRENCY TO U.S. DOLLAR

Peter Keller, assistant director of the IMF Baltic division, told an RFE/RL corespondent in Prague on 22 September that the fund will advise the Bulgarian government against switching the lev peg from the German mark to the U.S. dollar. The switch was earlier proposed by Professor Steven Hanke of the Johns Hopkins University, who is an adviser to President Petar Stoyanov. Hanke said the switch to the dollar peg would protect the lev from the impact of the depreciating euro currency. But Keller said that "a country aspiring to EU membership will at one point have to peg to the euro," adding that "to go from a euro peg to another peg and then back again does not seem to be the straightest way of proceeding." MS

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES


Through 24 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Romania___________10_______4_______5______19
Ukraine____________3_______6_______5______14
Belarus____________1_______1_______8______10
Poland_____________4_______4_______1_______9
Bulgaria___________4_______3_______2_______9
Czech Rep._________2_______1_______3_______6
Slovakia___________1_______3_______1_______5
Hungary____________2_______1_______1_______4
Lithuania__________2_______0_______1_______3
Slovenia___________2_______0_______0_______2
Croatia____________1_______0_______1_______2
Latvia_____________1_______0_______1_______2
Estonia____________0_______0_______2_______2
Moldova____________0_______1_______0_______1
Yugoslavia_________0_______1_______0_______1
Albania____________0_______0_______0_______0
Bosnia-Herzeg._____0_______0_______0_______0
Macedonia__________0_______0_______0_______0





ALTAI REPUBLIC SEEKS TO PRESERVE ITS ECOLOGICAL PURITY


By Lily Hyde

Altaians like to call their mountainous republic a second Switzerland. But in terms of untouched wilderness, it clearly surpasses Swiss standards.

The Altai republic is one of the Russian Federation's most unspoiled and beautiful environments--a haven for lovers of nature and adventure. Ecologists and economists, government ministers, and villagers all want to use the natural environment to attract tourists and revive the republic's stagnant economy. But at the same time, Altaians want to preserve the area's natural beauty.

Vasilii Manyshev, head of the republic's ecology committee, told RFE/RL that the republic is itself "a commodity." "We don't have any other commodities, nothing that can be competitive and keep up with demand," he continued. "It's a commodity we need to use wisely. People have understood that tourism is a business they can do and have to do."

During Soviet times, the Altai mountains were a popular tourist destination, with well-organized climbing and horse-riding routes. But the USSR's collapse nine years ago destroyed much of the tourist infrastructure. There are now almost no decent hotels or campsites, while roads are few and far between, and there is no fuel available for helicopters.

Still, Altai remains popular with tourists from Russia and the CIS, and there are even a few organized tours from Western Europe. According to the republic's tourism committee, some 80,000 people were registered as visitors to the region last year. The real number was probably closer to 400,000.

But the republic itself benefits little from these visitors. All organized tourist groups pay for their trips in their home country, and the profits rarely reach the Altai people. Meanwhile, independent visitors often cause environmental havoc by irresponsible behavior. Last New Year's Eve, some 1,000 tourists ascended Altai's highest mountain, Belukha, to greet the new millennium. The peak is thought to be sacred by many Altaians and others. The visitors left huge piles of rubbish that still have not been cleaned up.

According to Aleksandr Chekonov, head of the republic's tourism committee, such disrespect for nature is anathema to the Altai national character. The Altaian shamanist religion holds that every mountain and river has its own spirit, which must be respected.

"The local mentality, the Altai population's, is a caring attitude to nature," Chekonov told RFE/RL. "People don't have to learn ecology, they are already mentally geared up for it. There's a cult of worship at mountain passes--you must have seen the ribbons tied there--or springs' worship, you can't spit in the water there, it's not [even] allowed to drive a knife in the ground, and so on."

"Undoubtedly, a tourist invasion leads to conflict on the spiritual level," he continued. "A tourist doesn't understand local ways and doesn't take care of nature. Local opinion of tourism isn't entirely positive, because tourists have come, polluted the [river] bank, and left. So we are suggesting this system of national parks, which will represent the interests of [both]tourists and local people."

Under that proposal, tourists will be allowed to stay only in certain areas of designated national parks, which will be provided with all necessary facilities, and will have to follow marked routes with guides trained in eco- tourism. Chekonov looks to national parks in the U.S. and Africa as models.

But for the time being, neither the Russian nor the Altaian government has the money to implement such plans. The Altai budget received $1.2 million rubles (some $43,000) last year from tourism, a pitiful sum from what Chekonov calls the republic's most promising source of income.

About 22 percent of the republic's territory is already a UNESCO-recognized reserve, and some advocate turning the entire republic into a nature reserve. Another idea, floated at a 1998 inter-regional conference, is to create an international reserve that would include parts of China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. That would help control cross-border tourism: Altai staff at the Katun reserve on the Kazakh border say tours from Kazakhstan have trespassed on the reserve without paying fees or observing the reserve's rules.

Until Altai tourism does take off, the inhabitants of the republic's villages, where unemployment is as high as 70 percent, are using the environment in more harmful ways. They make their living from a flourishing trade in rare plants and animals.

Bear's gall bladders and maral deer horns go to China and Korea for medicinal use. The musk deer is hunted for its glands, which are used in perfumes. According to staff at the Katun reserve, a rare breed of falcon can fetch up to $50,000 in the United Arab Emirates, and the endangered snow leopard's fur is in high demand.

One of the biggest problems faced by ecologists in the Republic of Altai and in neighboring Kazakhstan is protecting these rare species from commercial exploitation. The fear is that uncontrolled commerce could wipe them out. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Kyiv.


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