Accessibility links

Newsline - September 27, 2000




PUTIN SAYS HE WON'T 'INTERFERE' IN MEDIA-MOST SCANDAL...

Russian President Vladimir Putin told former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who is now chairman of NTV's Public Council, that he "considers it wrong to interfere in a conflict between two commercial organizations," presidential press secretary Aleksei Gromov reported on 26 September. Putin added that such disputes can be resolved in court. According to Gorbachev, Putin also said that he was "surprised" by the actions of Media Minister Mikhail Lesin in the affair and called Lesin's behavior "inadmissible" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). Gorbachev said that Putin also confirmed his commitment to the freedom of the press in Russia. JAC

...AS FEUD BEGINS BETWEEN MOSCOW NEWSPAPERS

In an article in "Segodnya" on 26 September signed by "Segodnya" editor Mikhail Berger and "Itogi" editor Sergei Parkhomenko, "Vedomosti" is attacked for articles it ran the previous day giving details of the Media-MOST scandal and a press luncheon sponsored by the Media Ministry, which some members of Media-MOST attended. "Segodnya" tried to impugn the professionalism of "Vedomosti," which is jointly owned by the "Wall Street Journal" and the "Financial Times," by noting that it quoted the company TPG Aurora about the value of Media-MOST when that company has tried to purchase Media-MOST shares (therefore TPG might have had an interest in undervaluing the company). Commenting on the articles, the website smi.ru noted that the Media-MOST journalists do not like, in particular, the fact that "Vedomosti" is defending Lesin and does not believe that the freedom of the press is endangered. "The Moscow Times" reprinted the "Vedomosti" article on 26 September (see ). JAC

COURT OVERRULES PART OF LAW ALLOWING FSB TO EAVESDROP

The Supreme Court ruled on 25 September that a section of a Communication Ministry decree requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) and telephone and paging companies to install equipment that would allow the Federal Security Service to monitor its clients is invalid, "The Moscow Times" reported on 27 September. The court ruled that the ISPs and cellular phone service providers would have to inform clients that they are being monitored. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 26 September, the Communications Ministry decree dates from 25 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2000). JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL SET TO APPROVE NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET?

Federation Council Budget Committee Chairman Konstantin Titov told reporters on 26 September that the positions of the government, State Duma, and Federation Council on the 2001 budget are coming closer and a "compromise has practically been found." The same day, the heads of 16 regions receiving large subsidies from the federal government told the Budget Committee that they are going to support the 2001 budget, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, the leaders believe that inequalities between subsidized and highly subsidized territories are growing not only because of market reforms but also as a result of federal budget policy. JAC

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY URGES CALM IN YUGOSLAVIA

In a statement issued on 26 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry urged "all political forces" in Yugoslavia to refrain from "confrontational actions," following elections in which both the opposition and the incumbent, President Slobodan Milosevic, are claiming victory. Arguing that the first round of the Yugoslav presidential elections has revealed a "considerable democratic potential within Yugoslav society," the ministry added that regardless of who becomes the "legitimate Yugoslav president," the international isolation of Yugoslavia must end and Western sanctions must be lifted. The same day, businessman Boris Berezovskii blasted the ministry statement for supporting Milosevic and displaying "double standards." Moscow, he said, should clearly state its support for the "democratic choice of the people of Serbia." JC

AEROFLOT, IRAQI AIRWAYS TALK BUSINESS IN MOSCOW...

An Aeroflot spokeswoman was quoted by AP on 26 September as saying that the airline is holding talks with Maamoon Muheddin, the head of Iraqi Airways and chief of Iraq's civil aviation authority, about cooperation between the companies. She did not elaborate on what that cooperation might entail. A 70-strong Iraqi delegation including civil aviation officials and representatives of Iraqi Airways arrived in Moscow on 24 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). JC

...WHILE RUSSIA PROMOTES CULTURE IN BAGHDAD

Also on 26 September, Russian and Iraqi officials signed an agreement in Baghdad on opening Russian cultural centers in the Iraqi capital. According to Russian agencies, the two sides have agreed to implement broad cultural information exchanges and promote business contacts. A large Russian delegation arrived in the Iraqi capital last weekend aboard the third Russian airplane to land at Baghdad airport in five weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). JC

RUSSIA WANTS MORE INFO ON EU MILITARY COMPONENT

Meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Goran Persson, in Moscow on 26 September, Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov said Russia is not worried about the EU's "rapid expansion" but is concerned about the military component of the union. "We would to receive more information on this issue," Interfax quoted him as saying. Last week, EU defense ministers decided to prepare up to 230,000 troops for an EU rapid reaction force. Kasyanov also underlined that Moscow would like the EU to ensure that all new members meet EU standards with regard to ethnic minority rights, an illusion to neighboring Latvia and Estonia, both of which have large Russian-speaking populations. Persson, for his part, promised that Sweden will seek to improve EU-Russia ties when the country takes over the EU's rotating presidency next year. JC

KADYROV DEPLORES MOSCOW FAILURE TO PROVIDE FUNDS, AID

In an interview with AFP on 26 September, interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said Moscow has no comprehensive plan for rebuilding the Chechen economy and has given Chechnya funds only to pay pensions and social security payments and to provide some cash for the health and education systems. He claimed that all the humanitarian aid provided by the international community is distributed to Chechen displaced persons in Ingushetia, whose numbers he accused Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev of exaggerating. Kadyrov also complained that the Russian State Duma has failed to clarify his legal powers, which do not extend either to the Russian armed forces or the Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya. Finally, Kadyrov took issue with Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe General Secretary Walther Schwimmer, who last week estimated the number of persons reported missing in Chechnya over the past year at 18,000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). LF

MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN MOSCOW

Dumitru Braghis is meeting with his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Kasyanov, on 27 September for talks that are expected to focus on Moldovan payments for Russian deliveries of natural gas, ITAR-TASS reported. A 26 September meeting between Braghis and State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev dealt mainly with the settlement of the Transdniester conflict and the setting up of joint ventures in the agricultural-industrial sector. Seleznev said he would like the Tiraspol authorities to "adopt a more constructive position" and participate in the discussions of the so-called Primakov plan for the settlement of the conflict. Infotag reported the same day that the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing "concern" about the recent decision of a Moldovan court to bar stations that do not abide by Moldovan legislation from broadcasting in the Russian language. The ministry said it hopes measures will be taken "without delay" to solve the problem caused by the court ruling. MS

KLEBANOV ORDERS CONTRACT SIGNED ON RECOVERING 'KURSK' BODIES

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the government commission investigating the cause of last month's sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, has ordered officials from the Rubin engineering company to sign an agreement over the next few days on recovering the bodies of the vessel's 118-strong crew, Interfax reported on 26 September. According to the news agency report, it is unclear whether a contract will be signed with Norway's Stolt Offshore or another Norwegian company. Earlier this week, a Rubin official announced that a deal with Stolt Offshore on the recovery operation had been postponed indefinitely (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). JC

OUTLINES OF NEXT YEAR'S MONETARY POLICY REVEALED

"Kommersant-Daily" on 26 September published the Central Bank's macroeconomic targets for 2001 as included in its monetary and credit policy for next year. According to the newspaper, the bank will seek to keep inflation within the range of 12-14 percent annually from December 2000 to December 2001. Annual GDP growth is forecast at 4-5 percent. The bank is also projecting that Russia's trade surplus and current account surplus will decrease compared with 2000 but remain higher than the period from 1994-1998. Direct foreign investment will increase as well as portfolio investment. The bank's policy still needs to be approved by the State Duma. JAC

GDP SWELLS

Russia's GDP increased 9 percent in August, compared with the same month the previous year, Interfax reported on 26 September, citing estimates of the Ministry for Trade and Economic Development. The ministry also estimated that GDP rose 6.2 percent in July and 7.3 percent over the first seven months of the year. JAC

ZYUGANOV, PUTIN HAVE 'SUBSTANTIVE' TALKS

After a meeting with President Putin and fellow leaders of the People's Patriotic Union on 25 September, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters the next day that the talks were "very substantive." The two sides had discussed "ways of leading the country out of the crisis virtually in all spheres: economy, national security, science, industry, and agriculture." Zyuganov was recently re-elected head of the union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). JAC

RUSSIAN SCHOOLS TO GET WIRED

At a 26 September roundtable discussion on "Education and the Internet in Russia," Education Minister Vladimir Filippov reported that of Russia's 69,000 schools, two-thirds lack computers, while the remaining one-third has obsolete models, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Filippov, the 2001 budget has set aside some 2 billion rubles ($72 million) for equipping Russian schools with modern technology. However, Union of Rightist Forces faction leader Boris Nemtsov, who also addressed the conference, said that to connect all schools with the Internet will cost at least $1 billion. In his remarks, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok said that this year the government will be able to collect some 3-4 billion rubles above what was projected and part of this money can be directed for developing a system of computer specialists in Russia, which the country will need in five years. JAC

PATRIARCH ACCUSES U.S. POLITICIANS OF PUSHING FOR RELIGION LAW

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II told reporters on 26 September that he believes the 1997 law on religion and freedom of conscience is "imperfect," ITAR-TASS reported. He explained that he believes the law, which allows foreign missionaries and pseudo-religious organizations to work in Russia, was adopted because of the pressure from the U.S. president and senators. He added that the Americans wanted to pave the way for missionaries, who "exploit our difficulties and buy up human souls--literally--and who...suppress [people's free] will even with the help of psychotropic means." The patriarch and other Russian religious leaders, such as the Pandito Xambo Lama, have frequently spoken out against foreign missionaries (see "Endnote," "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1999). JAC

GOVERNOR DORENKO AT THE PEOPLE'S SERVICE?

Controversial television anchorman at Russian Public Television Sergei Dorenko refused on 26 September to confirm or deny reports that he intends to seek the governor's seat in Krasnodar Krai, the website reported. According to the site, Dorenko told reporters that he still intends to pursue a career in politics, but he refuses "to define more precisely what form his political activities will assume." A television station in Sochi reported recently that Dorenko is planning to run in gubernatorial elections set for 3 December. ITAR-TASS reported two days earlier that incumbent Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko is planning to seek re-election, despite an earlier announcement that he would not because of health reasons (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 6 September 2000). According to the agency, the decision was taken at a meeting of the Otechestvo political movement, which Kondratenko heads. Kondratenko was not at that meeting; he has been out of the country observing the elections in Yugoslavia. JAC




ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS SIGN NEW COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Expressing satisfaction at the level of bilateral relations, Robert Kocharian and Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on 26 September and signed a Declaration on Cooperation in the 21st Century. Putin said that document reflects the fact that Armenia is Russia's "traditional ally," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 September. Speaking at a press conference after their talks, Kocharian stressed that the aspiration for peace throughout the South Caucasus requires that regional leaders pursue a responsible policy. Asked by a Russian journalist what role Russia could play in resolving the Karabakh conflict, Putin said Moscow has no exclusive right to mediate a settlement and will not exert pressure "on either side" in order to achieve one, Interfax reported. He added that Moscow will endorse any settlement reached by the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to ITAR-TASS. Kocharian also met on 26 September with State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ENDORSE SPEAKER'S RESIGNATION

Only 63 out of a total of 131 deputies, three fewer than the 66 needed for a simple majority, voted on 26 September to accept the resignation of parliamentary speaker Armen Khachatrian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. After insisting for months that criticism of his activities was misplaced, Khachatrian submitted his resignation earlier on 26 September, reportedly under pressure from the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). Many deputies reasoned that Khachatrian's resignation would sound the deathknell for the majority Miasnutiun coalition, which is dominated by the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. Khachatrian's People's Party of Armenia is the junior partner in that coalition. Deputies from the second-largest Kayunutiun (Stability) faction, the Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, all of which endorsed the demand for Khachatrian's resignation, expressed support for the creation of a new majority bloc to supersede Miasnutiun. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN GREETS U.S. MOVE ON GENOCIDE

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan on 26 September characterized as "a serious step toward determining the truth" the non-binding resolution passed last week by a U.S. House of Representatives sub-committee that requires President Bill Clinton to describe the "systematic and deliberate annihilation" of 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 as genocide, Reuters reported. "We all welcome the decision of the Congress sub-committee," Papyan said. Turkish officials have deplored the U.S. move and threatened reprisals against Armenia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL LEAVE HOSPITAL TODAY

Interviewed by the independent Azerbaijani TV station ANS on 26 September, President Heidar Aliyev admitted that he had contracted viral influenza during his visit to the U.S. but added that he will leave hospital on 27 September and fly the same day to London, where he will spend one day before returning to Baku. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY ACCUSES OPPOSITION LEADERS OF BEING PRO-ARMENIAN

"Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous Azerbaijani political party, which controls the parliament, claimed in its 26 September edition that opposition Musavat party leader Isa Gambar and Rasul Guliev, the leader of the Democratic Party of Armenia, have embarked on cooperation with the Armenian lobby in the U.S., Turan reported. Guliev has lived in the U.S. since late 1996. LF

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS GEORGIA

On a one-day visit to Tbilisi on 26 September, Lord Robertson attended a conference on the prospects for cooperation between NATO and the South Caucasus states. He also met with President Eduard Shevardnadze and parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania to discuss Georgia's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program and regional security. Caucasus Press quoted Robertson as saying NATO has an interest in promoting stability in Georgia and that it will try to help Georgia create a modern army as economically as possible. He rejected any NATO involvement in regulating the Abkhaz conflict, which he termed an internal Georgian problem, saying that the UN and OSCE are already engaged in mediation. Robertson said he intends to visit Armenia and Azerbaijan in January 2001. He had originally been scheduled to travel from Tbilisi to Yerevan and Baku but cancelled those visits because of the Yugoslav elections. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS VIOLENCE BY ORTHODOX SPLINTER GROUP

Deputies on 26 September condemned the activities of followers of an excommunicated Georgian priest, Father Basil, who have repeatedly attacked members of other denominations, in particular Jehovah's Witnesses, Caucasus Press reported. On 25 September, Father Basil's followers welded shut the steel entrance door to the editorial office of the independent newspaper "Rezonansi" to protest the publication in that newspaper of an article criticizing their reprisals against Jehovah's Witnesses. Also on 25 September, the first hearings took place to discuss the draft Concordat between the state of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 6, 11 February 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PARDONS IMPRISONED OPPOSITIONISTS

As part of his proclaimed process of national reconciliation, President Shevardnadze on 25 September signed a pardon for 11 supporters of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Caucasus Press reported. None of them had been convicted of homicide. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S FIRST DEPUTY PREMIER HOSPITALIZED IN PRAGUE

Erzhan Utembaev was taken to hospital in Prague on 25 September complaining he felt unwell, Reuters reported the following day, citing the Kazakh Foreign Ministry. Utembaev heads the Kazakh delegation to the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank. Czech news agencies had initially identified the ailing Kazakh minister as Finance Minister Mazhit Esenbaev, who is currently in Astana. LF

KAZAKHSTAN SHELVES PLAN TO BUILD NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

A 26 September cabinet session decided against construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan's central Karaganda Oblast on financial grounds and because of public opposition and a lack of safety guarantees, Interfax reported. The session also failed to endorse a program for development of Kazakhstan's nuclear power engineering and uranium industry. LF

TAJIK OFFICIALS CALL FOR HUMANITARIAN AID FOR AFGHANISTAN...

Addressing a cabinet meeting in Dushanbe on 26 September, Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov appealed to the international community to provide humanitarian aid for the increasing number of Afghans whose homes have been destroyed in the civil war, Reuters reported. Rakhmonov said that the current hostilities close to the Afghan-Tajik border pose a threat to peace and security in Tajikistan and throughout Central Asia. Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov similarly appealed for aid for Afghan displaced persons who might otherwise try to flee to Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani estimated last week that some 200,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting. LF

...AS UZBEK PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS TALIBAN THREAT

President Islam Karimov told journalists on his arrival in Bishkek on 26 September for a two-day visit that the media should not exaggerate the threat posed to Central Asia by the Taliban in general and the current fighting specifically, Russian agencies reported. "I do not think the Taliban...are inevitably going to cross the frontiers of the CIS tomorrow," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying. Karimov argued that irrespective of Central Asian attitudes toward the Taliban, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to decide what kind of government they want. He suggested that creation of a coalition government on which both the Taliban and the Rabbani's North Alliance would be represented could end the ongoing strife. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY DENIES TALIBAN HAVE REACHED AFGHAN-TAJIK BORDER

Media reports that Taliban forces have reached the Pyandj River, which forms the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, are untrue, an unnamed Russian Federal Border Service official told Interfax on 26 September. He added that the Taliban remain some 5-7 kilometers from the border. Speaking in Dushanbe the same day, an Afghan embassy official similarly told ITAR-TASS that the Taliban claims to control large expanses of Afghan territory are exaggerated. He said Northern Alliance forces regained control over a number of strategic localities in the northern province of Samangan over the previous three days. In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told Interfax on 26 September that Russia has not changed its position vis-a-vis the Taliban and will not recognize them as Afghanistan's legitimate rulers. Also on 26 September, a spokesman for the Afghan Embassy in Moscow denied that President Rabbani was in the Russian capital, ITAR-TASS reported. The Afghan diplomat said Rabbani is currently in Afghanistan's northern Badakhshan Province, which borders on Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. LF

TAJIKISTAN, TURKEY SEEK TO EXPAND ECONOMIC TIES

On a visit to Tajikistan from 20-25 September, Turkish Minister of State Abduhalik Cay met with Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov and Economy and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Yahyo Azimov to discuss expanding economic cooperation in the fields of heavy industry, food processing, construction, and power engineering, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Cay and Azimov signed a long-term cooperation agreement on industrial cooperation. Cay also attended the first session of the joint Tajik-Turkish commission on trade and economic cooperation and traveled to the Tursunzade, Leninabad, and Khatlon Oblasts. Turkey's EximBank is considering an $8 million loan to the Tursunzade Aluminum Plant, which is Tajikistan's largest industrial enterprise. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT OUTLINES GAS PRIORITIES

In an interview published in "Vremya novostei" on 26 September, Saparmurat Niyazov said that Ashgabat has not rejected outright any of the proposed gas export pipelines currently under discussion, including the Trans-Caspian pipeline. But he added that proceeding from "national interests," the Turkmen leadership will implement only those pipeline projects that benefit Turkmenistan, noting that financial guarantees are required before a final agreement can be signed on the Trans-Caspian project. Niyazov said that Ashgabat has agreed to a Russian request to increase gas exports this year from 20 billion cubic meters to 30 billion cubic meters but that Russia has not yet agreed to Turkmenistan's proposed price hike from $36 to $38 per 1,000 cubic meters. He hinted that Turkmenistan will renege on the preliminary agreement negotiated two months ago by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko, whereby Ukraine will pay $36 per 1,000 cubic meters of Turkmen gas, of which only 40 percent will be paid in cash (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000). Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was to have traveled to Ashgabat this month to finalize that agreement. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT ENDORSES KYRGYZ COUNTERPART'S REELECTION BID

Arriving in Bishkek on 26 September for a two-day official visit, President Karimov expressed support for the candidacy of his Kyrgyz counterpart, Askar Akaev, candidacy in the 29 October presidential poll, Interfax reported. Karimov added that the threat of armed Islamist incursions that both countries have apparently successfully repelled this summer has "greatly clarified our bilateral relations," by which he presumably meant that Kyrgyzstan has realized that it cannot risk alienating its large and powerful Western neighbor. In that context he advocated greater bilateral cooperation in hydro-electric projects that would enable Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to export cheap energy to other Central Asian states. Karimov further noted that the construction of a planned highway from Uzbekistan via southern Kyrgyzstan to China "will bring millions every year" to Kyrgyzstan and will provide Uzbekistan with an export outlet to the markets of China and South Asia, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES


Through 27 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Russia____________18______16______21______55
Georgia____________0_______0_______3_______3
Armenia____________0_______0_______2_______2
Kazakhstan_________1_______1_______0_______2
Azerbaijan_________1_______0_______0_______1
Kyrgyzstan_________0_______0_______1_______1
Tajikistan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Turkmenistan_______0_______0_______0_______0
Uzbekistan_________0_______0_______0_______0





BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES MOSCOW FOR LACK OF GREATER UNITY

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 26 September that "too many" officials in the Russian government are against a union between Belarus and Russia, Belapan reported. Speaking on Russian Television, Lukashenka compared anti-union politicians to the opposition in Belarus. "We have [oppositionists] in the streets, throwing rocks at police. You [Russia] have them at various levels of government." Lukashenka added that the West is afraid that a union between Russia and Belarus would be hard to control, so "they have divided us and are trying to rule and domineer us." The Belarusian president said he will put the union question "point-blank" to the Moscow-based Supreme Council of the Belarusian-Russian Union at its next session in November. He said such a union must be "equal in all respects." PB

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER QUIZZED ABOUT TIES TO LAZARENKO

Yuliya Timoschenko has given U.S. federal agents a deposition and answered questions about her past connections to former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko, who is being held in the U.S. on embezzlement charges, dpa reported on 26 September, citing Interfax. Timoschenko was the number two person in Lazarenko's Hromada party and in the mid-1990s was the president of Ukraine's United Energy Systems (UES). Ukrainian authorities have accused Lazarenko of giving the UES a monopoly on Russian gas imports in return for cash payments to his offshore bank accounts. Timoschenko has denied any wrongdoing. U.S. investigators are also questioning Vladimir Falkovich and Timoschenko's husband, Oleksander, who are former UES board members. PB

UKRAINIAN POLICE DEFUSE BOMB AT NEWSPAPER'S OFFICE

A homemade bomb was found and disarmed by police at the offices of the "Bulvar" newspaper in Kyiv on 26 September, AP reported. Police said the bomb was defused three minutes before it was set to go off. Officials with "Bulvar" said they had not received any threats. Meanwhile, police said there is still no information on the disappearance of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). PB

TALLINN COALITION PARTY SUSPENDS COALITION MEMBERSHIP

The Coalition Party on 26 September announced it is suspending its membership in the Tallinn City Council's ruling coalition. While the party had only two seats in the 64-strong Council, the ruling coalition--composed of the three-party national ruling coalition and an alliance representing Russian-speakers--now can count on only 34 votes, BNS reported. Council chairman Rein Voog demanded an explanation for the suspension, while the Coalition Party said it is waing to see whether decisive steps will be taken against two of its prominent members accused of corruption as city officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). On 27 September, one of the accused, Elmar Sepp, was removed as board chairman of Tallinn Heating. MH

NUMBER OF HIV CASES SOARS IN NORTHEAST ESTONIA

The sharp rise in the number of HIV cases in the northeastern city of Narva was highlighted on 26 September with the announcement of 21 new cases. This brings the number of new cases of HIV infection in September to 46 and for the year as a whole to 61, which is as many as in the last seven years, ETA reported. All the new HIV cases were diagnosed in IV drug users. Social Minister Eiki Nestor requested that the government allocate 670,000 kroons ($37,925) to combat the spread of HIV. Prime Minister Mart Laar supported that request, saying "the reserve fund is meant for unforeseen expenses and that's what an unexpected upsurge of AIDS undoubtedly is," BNS added. MH

ACCUSED LITHUANIAN WAR CRIMINAL DIES

Aleksandras Lileikis died on the morning of 27 September of a suspected heart attack, ELTA reported. The war crimes trial of the 93-year old had been suspended on 3 July owing to poor health; earlier, a precedent had been set in his trial for testimony to be delivered via closed-circuit video-conferencing equipment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2000). Kazys Gimzauskas, another accused war criminal whose trial has been suspended owing to poor health, remains in hospital and the trial is suspended indefinitely. MH

LITHUANIA ADOPTS CRIMINAL CODE, REJECTS CONTROVERSIAL RESOLUTION

The parliament on 26 September adopted the first post-Soviet criminal code. The authors of the code said the document is harmonized with EU norms, although supporting legislation could take another two years to be enacted, ELTA reported. The parliament also voted to remove a controversial resolution on the 1941 provisional government, which triggered widespread anger among Jewish organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). Emanuelis Zingeris, the only parliamentary deputy of Jewish origins, said the move will allow Lithuania to "exclude this shameful fact" from history. MH

SEVEN ARRESTED IN POLAND AT KWASNIEWSKI CAMPAIGN STOP

Police arrested seven people on 26 September after a disturbance at a campaign stop in Bialystok by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, AP reported. At least two of the detainees were members of the local campaign staff of Solidarity party leader Marian Krzaklewski, who is also running for president. The president's campaign chief, Ryszard Kalisz, accused the seven of staging a "bandit attack." Krzaklewski's campaign staffers said they were watching the rally peacefully and that the trouble started when the president's supporters tried to take a banner from them. The seven were reportedly shouting "drunkard" and "apologize to the pope" at Kwasniewski. PB

POLAND CLOSE TO AGREEMENT WITH EU ON FARM TRADE

Negotiators in Warsaw said on 26 September that Poland and the EU are nearing an agreement that would liberalize agricultural trade, thereby removing a key obstacle in the country's talks on joining the union, Reuters reported. Polish Agriculture Minister Artur Balazs said "some issues still require negotiations but in the next few hours we should reach a compromise in the most difficult areas, namely the goods on which we raised tariffs last year." The goal of the negotiations has been to phase out Polish tariffs and EU export subsidies. Talks were suspended in April when Poland refused to cut some of the customs duties it had raised in 1999 to appease protesting Polish farmers. Poland's inefficient farming sector is considered Warsaw's main obstacle to gaining entry to the EU, for which it hopes to qualify by 2003. PB

HEAVY CASUALTIES AFTER OPENING OF IMF/WORLD BANK MEETING IN PRAGUE

Doctors had to treat 61 policemen, 31 participants in the annual IMF/World bank meeting, and 65 rioters after the first day of clashes in Prague, CTK reported on 27 September. Fifteen of the rioters have remained in hospital, three of them for the over-consumption of drugs. Reuters on 27 September reported that a total of 422 rioters have been detained. Police had to use tear gas and water cannons in their attempts to disperse the rioters, a number of whom moved in the late afternoon to downtown Prague. The protesters attacked buildings housing "international corporation symbols" such as McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, C&A, and Mercedes-Benz in the vicinity of Wenceslas Square. Two branches of the Czech IPB bank were also attacked. Underground transportation in Prague was partly interrupted as a precaution. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT, POLITICIANS DENOUNCE VIOLENCE

Vaclav Havel on 26 September denounced the activities of radical activists protesting the IMF/World Bank meeting in town and called on all participants in the protest "to quit the violent forms that have already claimed dozens of injured." CTK reported. Parliamentary chairman and leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Vaclav Klaus and ODS Deputy Chairman Ivan Langer expressed "resolute support for police intervention against the breach of public safety, destruction of property, and violence against citizens." The organizers of the main groups participating in the protest also distanced themselves from the rioters. Initiative Against Economic Globalization spokesman Viktor Piorecky stressed that only 1 percent of demonstrators took part in the violent actions. He also said that police violence "predominated on Prague streets" and that police had attacked groups of demonstrators "without any reason." MS

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT EXAMINING REFERENDUM COMPLAINT

Jan Mazak, chairman of the Constitutional Court, has approved an appeal that the court examine the constitutionality of the referendum on early elections scheduled for 11 November, CTK reported on 26 September. The appeal is backed by 30 deputies from the ruling coalition who say that shortening the legislature's four-year term runs against the provisions of the basic document and against provisions on human rights, "including the right to elect and be elected." Under existing legislation, the Constitutional Court cannot cancel the referendum but can declare it invalid after its results are announced. MS

SLOVAKS TO CUT MILITARY SERVICE

Compulsory military service will "likely" be cut from the present 12 to nine months, Defense Minister Pavol Kanis told CTK on 26 September. The parliament is now examining an amendment to the defense law, and, if approved, the shortened term will come into effect on 1 January 2001. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS FIDESZ PROPOSAL ON OIL SCANDAL REPORT

Lawmakers on 26 September rejected a motion moved by FIDESZ deputies to amend a report by the ad hoc committee investigating illegal oil deals between 1992 and 1996, Hungarian media report. The FIDESZ proposal would have laid political responsibility for the scandal at the door of the Socialist-Free Democrat cabinet led by former Prime Minister Gyula Horn. The amendment also mentioned the responsibility of the Democratic Forum-led governments of Jozsef Antall and Peter Boross, from 1990-1994. Opposition parties, as well as the coalition Democratic Forum and one-third of the Independent Smallholders' parliamentary group, voted against the motion. MSZ

MINISTRY FUNDS FOR HUNGARIAN ROMA PROJECTS TO BE CHECKED BY PANEL

National Gypsy Authority chairman Florian Farkas announced on 26 September that a panel of experts composed of representatives of both the authority and the government will examine whether ministries are using funds earmarked for Roma projects for that purpose. Farkas said he asked Prime Minister Viktor Orban for a meeting, but Orban postponed the meeting until a decision is made in Strasbourg on the fate of Roma families from Zamoly seeking asylum in France. Meanwhile, Attila Monostory, the lawyer for a family of a young man murdered last year near Zamoly, said there may be a link between the murder and the departure of the Roma to France. MSZ




SERBIAN REGIME CONCEDES OPPOSITION LEAD IN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

The Election Commission published its first preliminary official election results on 26 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). For the first time since the ballot two days earlier, an official body admitted that opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica received more votes than President Slobodan Milosevic. The official figures gave Kostunica 48 percent to Milosevic's 40 percent. Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said, however, that these figures represent a loss of 200,000 votes for Kostunica and a gain of 400,000 for Milosevic in comparison with the opposition's tally. Djindjic said that the opposition will demand to be allowed to study the voting lists to determine the truth of the matter, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS SECOND ROUND OF VOTING

Kostunica said in Belgrade on 26 September that he won the presidency in the first round of voting and that the commission's call for a second round on 8 October is an "insult to the voters," the BBC reported. Opposition spokesmen announced a rally in central Belgrade for the evening of 27 September to demand that the regime respect the opposition's first-round victory. Leaders of the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, the EU, and several other countries or organizations have called on Milosevic to accept defeat and leave office. Greece, however, has not acknowledged the opposition victory, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported 26 September. PM

CALLS FOR LIFTING EU SANCTIONS AGAINST SERBIA FROM GERMANY...

Gernot Erler, who is deputy chief of the Social Democrats in the German Bundestag and an expert on Balkan affairs, said that international sanctions against Serbia should be lifted in the wake of the elections, Deutsche Welle reported on 26 September. Similar calls came from the Greens and the Free Democrats. Karl Lamers, who is the foreign-policy spokesman for the Christian Democrats, said that the sanctions should have been lifted long ago, the "Frankfurter Rundschau" reported. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, however, is more cautious and wants sanctions lifted only when it is clear that Kostunica will become president. A spokesman for the ex-communist Party of Democratic Socialism took a very different approach, arguing that Milosevic won the elections and that reports of fraud are "undocumented," the Frankfurt daily added. PM

...AND FRANCE

In Paris, Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine also called on 26 September for sanctions to be lifted. "In the name of the [EU] presidency, I take the necessary initiative and [call upon the European] Commission to submit proposals for the rapid lifting of sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," dpa reported. "The Serbian people have expressed their confidence in Mr. Kostunica, who represents from now on in the eyes of the world a new Yugoslavia... He knows and the people must know that they can count on Europe," Vedrine stressed. He added that "something has happened with this vote that will not stop. The hour of change has [begun] in Belgrade... The European Union must revise its policy" of sanctions, AP reported. Meanwhile in Washington, Congress has approved a $500 million aid package for Serbia, "Danas" reported on 27 September. PM

THACI SAYS SERBIAN FORCES' RETURN WOULD MEAN 'WAR'

Former Kosova Liberation Army leader Hashim Thaci told AP in Prishtina on 27 September that if anyone "attempts to bring back the Serbian army and police to Kosova,...that would re-ignite the conflict in Kosova and bring another war." Kostunica has called for a return of Serbian forces to the province. Thaci is now the head of the Democratic Party of Kosova and is campaigning in the 28 October local elections. PM

BOSNIAN SERB SUPPORTERS OF MILOSEVIC WARN OF 'CIVIL WAR'

Milutin Pejic, who is a top official from the Bosnian Serb Socialist Party, said in Banja Luka on 26 September that "the opposition announced the possibility of not recognizing election results which do not show them as the winners, and they will start forming their own government," AP reported. "This would certainly lead to further tensions in relations that could result in a civil war," Pejic added. He also warned that foreign forces could become involved in such a conflict. Pejic said that the flow of events could lead to a dangerous situation possibly resulting "in a military intervention into the internal affairs of Serbia and Yugoslavia." His remarks imply that he agrees with the regime's earlier position that Milosevic defeated Kostunica. PM

SUPPORT FROM BOSNIA FOR KOSTUNICA

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in Sarajevo on 26 September that the Serbian people have made it very clear that they want change. Elsewhere, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the "victory of democratic forces...opens possibilities" to clear up some outstanding problems between Sarajevo and Belgrade. He added that the Bosnian government is willing to open diplomatic relations with Federal Yugoslavia. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HELP FOR DEMOCRACY

Ivica Racan said in London on 26 September that the international community should help to establish "full democracy" in Serbia. He stressed that the time has come to free the region from the "remaining sources of repression, tyranny, and instability," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

U.S., CROATIA HOLD MILITARY EXERCISES IN ADRIATIC

Some 400 U.S. sailors and 200 Marines from the amphibious assault ship "USS Austin" and 400 Croatian soldiers simulated a landing operation on the Adriatic island of Zirje on 26 September, AP reported. The exercise, code-named Phiblex 2000, is held under NATO's Partnership for Peace program. U.S. spokesmen have repeatedly denied any link between the exercises and the recent elections in Yugoslavia. PM

SOME 100 SACKED IN PURGE OF CROATIAN POLICE

Interior Minister Sime Lucin told Hina on 26 September that some 100 police have lost their jobs in the past six months as part of a crackdown on crime and corruption in police ranks. He added that another 500 police are under investigation for possible complicity in criminal activities, especially those relating to the lucrative field of human trafficking. PM

CALLS FOR OUSTER OF CONTROVERSIAL CROATIAN POLITICIAN...

Ivo Sanader, who heads the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of the late President Franjo Tudjman, has called for the ouster of Ivic Pasalic from his position as one of the deputy speakers of the parliament, "Vecernji list" reported on 27 September. Procedures have begun within the HDZ to remove Pasalic from that post in order to "further consolidate and improve the image of the party," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Pasalic was Tudjman's top adviser and head of the powerful Herzegovinian lobby in Croatian politics. His name has appeared in conjunction with numerous financial and political scandals that have come to light since Tudjman's death at the end of 1999. Observers note that Sanader has generally been reluctant to make a clean break with the Tudjman era and seek a new image for the HDZ. Sanader has instead preferred to hope that the governing coalition will collapse because of in-fighting, which will in turn prompt many voters to return to the HDZ. PM

...BUT PASALIC WON'T GO

Pasalic told "Vecernji list" of 27 September that he has no intention of quitting and that he is not afraid of political pressure for him to go. He stressed that the calls for his resignation did not come from the HDZ's governing body but only from Sanader and parliamentary faction chief Vladimir Seks, who is a bitter rival of Pasalic and at least as controversial. Pasalic added that the HDZ should be concentrating its efforts on acting as the voice of those unhappy with the governing coalition rather than on wasting its energy on internal feuds. PM

PATTEN HAILS EU TALKS WITH MACEDONIA

Chris Patten, who is the EU's commissioner for foreign relations, said in Brussels on 26 September that he hopes the EU and Macedonia can sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement at the EU's Balkan summit in Zagreb in November. "The fact that Macedonia is the first country with which we are holding these negotiations is a reflection of the great success of Macedonia in the last months and years in implementing wide-ranging political and economic reforms," an RFE/RL correspondent quoted Patten as saying. Patten spoke after meeting with Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. PM

GEORGIEVSKI CLAIMS VICTORY IN MACEDONIAN RUN-OFF VOTE

The State Election Commission reported on 26 September that Georgievski's coalition has won 30 out of 40 districts where local election runoffs were held two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). Georgievski said that "this was a victory of democracy and will bring Macedonia closer to Western democracies," AP reported. The commission has not yet provided tallies for 14 other districts. Georgievski blamed the opposition for a series of violent incidents that marred the voting. International monitors confirmed several cases of irregularities but added that there were fewer such problems than in the first round. PM

ALBANIAN POLICE FOIL ATTEMPT AGAINST BERISHA

Police in Fier overpowered a man on 26 September as he prepared to throw a hand grenade at opposition leader Sali Berisha at a rally, dpa reported. Opposition representatives claimed that the man was an agent of the secret police. A police spokesman said, however, that the man was a member of Berisha's own party. In Bajram Curri, opposition supporters forced Prime Minister Ilir Meta to break off a speech. Local elections will be held in Albania on 1 October (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 26 September 2000). PM

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES REPORT ON INVESTMENT FUND COLLAPSE

Lawmakers on 27 September began debating a report by the special parliamentary commission that investigated the collapse of the National Investment Fund earlier this year, Romanian Radio reported. The report, which names persons and institutions directly or indirectly responsibility for the fund's collapse, is endorsed only by representatives of the minor opposition Democratic Party and the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). Other commission members refused to sign what observers say is a document that may be geared toward influencing the outcome of the fall parliamentary elections. In a letter to the parliament on 26 September, Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu said he is "surprised" that a document carrying "such a great number of inaccuracies and errors could be issued under the patronage of the parliament." MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NOTHING WILL CHANGE IN FOREIGN POLICY

PDSR Chairman Ion Iliescu, who is running for president, said after meeting in Brussels with EU officials on 26 September that regardless of the outcome of the fall elections, Romania's foreign policy will be characterized by "continuity" and that the country's admission to the EU and NATO will remain the main objectives of that policy, Reuters reported. MS

OLYMPIC INCIDENT PLAYS ROLE IN ROMANIAN ELECTORAL STRUGGLE

Isarescu, who is also running for president, signed a decree on 26 September awarding gymnast Andrea Raducan $30,000 from funds that the premier can use at will, Mediafax reported. Raducan, who was deprived of one of the gold medals won in Sydney after the team doctor gave her medication containing a banned substance, was mentioned by Foreign Minister and Democratic Party leader Petre Roman, another presidential contender, in a speech in Arad on 26 September. Roman said the Foreign Ministry would normally not interfere with the decisions of the International Olympic Committee but will "use its voice in diplomatic channels" to correct a decision that is so "blatantly unjust." A special Olympic tribunal is to hear Raducan's appeal on 27 September and will make its decision known the next day. MS

BLAST AT BULGARIAN ARMS PLANT KILLS ONE

A 26 September explosion at the Arsenal plant, which manufactures Bulgarian Kalashnikovs, killed one worker and seriously injured three others, Reuters reported. The explosion occurred during maintenance work at the plant, some 200 kilometers east of Sofia. The management refused to comment on the extent of the damage caused by the explosion. MS

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES


Through 27 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Romania___________10_______4_______4______18
Ukraine____________3_______7_______5______15
Belarus____________2_______1_______10______13
Bulgaria___________5_______3_______2_______10
Poland_____________4_______4_______1_______9
Czech Rep._________2_______1_______3_______6
Hungary____________3_______1_______1_______5
Slovakia___________1_______3_______1_______5
Lithuania__________2_______0_______2_______4
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





AN OUTRAGE IN RYAZAN


BY Paul Goble

A group of toughs broke up a Jewish Sunday school last week in the central Russian city of Ryazan and intimidated a local official into denying that city's Jewish community any further use of school facilities there.

The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, which released the first reports detailing these events, said that 15 men armed with metal chains burst into the Jewish Sunday school on 17 September, smashed windows and furniture, and shouted fascist slogans and death threats at the 25 Jewish children and teachers there. The children and their teachers fled and thus avoided injury.

But the next day, the UCSJ reports, two neo-Nazis attacked the local school director, beating her on the legs and demanding to know why she "deals with Jews." She then told the city's Jewish community that she would no longer rent it a room for Sunday classes because she fears for her life.

Local police announced earlier this week that they have identified four of the people involved in the attack. But sources at the oblast Interior Department were quoted as saying that even though those identified pose "some social danger, there is no need to take them into custody."

Andrei Blinushov, a Ryazan human rights activist, told UCSJ that "we feel shame and hurt on behalf of our town. Once again, as it was 50 years ago, fascist scum, having taken up arms, have let loose a pogrom."

Moreover, he said, some media outlets there have "inflated the themes of 'the uniqueness of the Russian people,' 'zionist violence' and similar topics," while others have even issued calls for "violent actions against members of various ethnic groups."

At the very time these events were taking place in Ryazan, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at the opening of a new Jewish community center in Moscow, a widely-covered event that some Jewish leaders there suggested "herald a new era for religious democracy in Russia."

The events in Ryazan are far from unique. Elsewhere in Russia and in other post-communist countries, including the eastern regions of Germany, extreme nationalist, anti-Semitic and even explicitly neo-Nazi groups have emerged and sought to use violence to harass and intimidate those whom they have identified as "enemies" of their own people.

Most senior officials in these countries have denounced such groups, with Russian leaders like Boris Yeltsin and now Vladimir Putin condemning their activities as incompatible with the building of Russian democracy. But for three reasons, such statements have failed as yet to stem the growth of these groups. Indeed, some observers have suggested that the gap between what these leaders say and what is happening may help to prepare the ground for further outrages.

First, despite their repeated denunciations of such actions, officials across the region often have been unable--or unwilling--to bring those responsible to justice. That failure primarily reflects the weaknesses of the law enforcement agencies in these states. But the lack of successful prosecutions has encouraged some hate groups to conclude that they can act with impunity.

Second, many officials and even more writers in this region have increasingly sounded a nationalist theme, praising the dominant group and condemning its presumed enemies at home and abroad. Few of these statements have been anti-Semitic, but they have helped to create a climate in which some are prepared to act against those they believe are to blame for their problems.

And third, officials in some of the countries of this region have demonized non-Jewish minorities, thus opening the way to the demonization of Jews as well. In the Russian Federation, Russian officials have repeatedly attacked "persons of Caucasus nationality" and even sought to expel them from some Russian cities. These actions, in turn, have led some officials, such as the governors of certain southern Russian regions, to attack Jews as well as North Caucasians.

Concerned about the possibilities of such developments, Russian officials, including Putin, have explicitly warned against holding the entire Chechen nation responsible for the actions of only some of its members or blaming any other people as a whole. And they have criticized those who have gone further and attacked other groups, including Jews.

But unless the authorities move quickly and arrest those responsible for events like those in Ryazan last week, the history of this region suggests there are likely to be more such outrages in the future, a development that could threaten not only the Jewish community but the prospects for democracy as a whole.


XS
SM
MD
LG