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Newsline - September 28, 2000




KEY SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING DELAYED...

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on 27 September that he is postponing the Security Council's session planned for that day until the first half of November, Interfax reported. Putin revealed that "the leaders of all departments with military units had lodged objections" to issues that would have been on the agenda of the council's session. Council members had been scheduled to discuss Russia's military priorities, according to Reuters. Commenting on earlier announced plans to cut the armed forces by almost one-third, Putin declared at the council's working conference that day that "there will be no wholesale massive reductions in the Russian armed forces," Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). Putin also called for "measured, calm, and smooth work...to optimize the country's entire military machine." JAC

...AS VARIOUS MILITARY BRANCHES OBJECT TO REFORMS

According to Putin, Russia is spending more than 35 percent of its federal budget on national defense, which he said is "far too much." The money, he added, is not necessarily being spent "thriftily." He noted that there are military units in 11 power structures in addition to the Defense Ministry and hinted that some of these will be shed. Also on 27 September, an unidentified source in the Security Council told Interfax that redistributing expenses among the power agencies will enable the government to increase servicemen's allowances by 2-2.2 times over the next five years. The source added that the personnel of power agencies will be cut by 600,000 servicemen and civilian employees over the same period. JAC

PUTIN'S HANDS-OFF APPROACH TO MEDIA SCANDAL REFLECTS POST-YELTSIN POLICY...

In an interview with "Segodnya" on 27 September, political consultant and unofficial Kremlin adviser Gleb Pavlovskii explains President Putin's decision not to interfere in the conflict between Media-MOST and Gazprom Media. According to Pavlovskii, Putin is "shaping his own version of politics," which differs greatly from that pursued by his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. By not interfering, Putin reportedly avoids tempting the parties to the conflict to try to "increase their stakes in the game." Pavlovskii predicts that the conflict will end with Media-MOST's being legally forced to "leave the battlefield." Also on 27 September, a Moscow city court set 9 October as the date for a hearing of one of the lawsuits filed against Media-MOST by Gazprom-Media. Gazprom Media's attorneys requested that the proceedings be closed to the public. JAC

...AS GUSINSKII CONFIRMS RECEIPT OF SUMMONS

One of Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii's lawyers, Genrii Reznik, has confirmed that the media baron received a summons from the Prosecutor-General's Office for questioning as a witness, Interfax reported on 27 September. According to Reznik, if Gusinskii fails to appear, he may face criminal charges. However, Reznik said he will advise Gusinskii to stay away from the prosecutors' office, since a precedent exists for Gusinskii's being imprisoned after being summoned as a witness, Interfax reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office had announced earlier that it was summoning Gusinskii to Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). JAC

BABITSKII TO GO ON TRIAL NEXT WEEK

Speaking in Moscow on 27 September, a lawyer for RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitskii appealed to fellow reporters to cover Babitskii's trial, which is scheduled to begin in Makhachkala on 2 October, Russian agencies reported. Babitskii says he expects to be found guilty on charges of travelling with a forged passport. Babitskii was detained by federal troops in Grozny in January while covering the fighting in Chechnya and then handed over to unidentified Chechens in exchange for five Russian prisoners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2000). He was arrested in Makhachkala three weeks later. LF

U.S. BUSINESSMAN OFFICIALLY CHARGED WITH ESPIONAGE

The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 27 September that it has officially charged U.S. businessman and former navy officer Edmond Pope with espionage and sent his case to court. Pope has been held in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison since April, after he was arrested for allegedly seeking to buy military secrets. His appeal to be released on bail on medical grounds was recently rejected. In the past, Pope has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer. ITAR-TASS cited Moscow City Court officials as saying that Pope's trial will not begin before mid-October. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, addressing the House of Representatives' International Relations Committee on 27 September, described Moscow's handling of the Pope case as "outrageous." JC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S 'RIGHT-HAND MAN' CAPTURED

Russian army troops and Federal Security Service agents recently captured Mumadi Saidaev in a special operation in Urus Martan, Russian agencies reported on 27 September, quoting spokesmen for Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Those sources said Saidaev is currently under interrogation but did not specify where. Saidaev is a former Soviet army major and a specialist in radio-electronic reconnaissance; he has been described as President Aslan Maskhadov's right-hand man. LF

TALIBAN WANT COMPENSATION FOR SOVIET INVASION

In an interview published in "Novye izvestiya" and summarized by Interfax on 27 September, Abdul Hakim Mujahid, who is the unofficial Taliban envoy to the U.S. and the UN, accused Moscow of providing direct military assistance to the Northern Alliance, headed by President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Russian officials have repeatedly denied doing so. Mujahid also said that rather than continuing to support Rabbani's "illegal" government, Russia, as the successor state to the USSR, should compensate Afghanistan for the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent war. Also on 27 September, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called for a political dialogue between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance under the aegis of the UN, AP reported. Ivanov again said that there can be no military solution to the Afghan civil war. LF

MOSCOW URGES WEST NOT TO MEDDLE IN YUGOSLAVIA

Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 27 September that Russia's position on the outcome of the voting in Yugoslavia last weekend is that "the people of Yugoslavia should have full freedom of expression of their will without any internal or external pressure." According to preliminary official figures, opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica won 48 percent of the vote, compared with incumbent President Slobodan Milosevic's 40 percent. The opposition, however, believes its candidate won the necessary absolute majority to gain election. "It is important not to allow the situation to destabilize," Ivanov noted, adding that such a scenario would benefit "only those not interested in preserving a united Yugoslavia." Also on 27 September, Russian Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said he believes holding a runoff is the "best solution" since if the contest had been decided in the first round, a "very serious political stalemate" would have ensued. JC

PUTIN SEES SWEDEN AS BOOSTING RUSSIAN-EU TIES

Russian President Putin told visiting Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson on 27 September that he believes relations between the EU and Russia will improve when Sweden takes over the union's rotating presidency at the beginning of next year. "Sweden is both an old and a very promising future partner for Russia," Interfax quoted him as adding. Later the same day, Persson traveled to St. Petersburg to witness the signing of an agreement on the construction of a water supply network in one of the city's suburbs. Sweden is financing the project, which is worth some $2.2 million, according to ITAR-TASS. JC

RUSSIA SEEKS WTO MEMBERSHIP WITHIN TWO YEARS

In remarks to the Federation Council on 27 September, Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref stated that Russia has a good chance of joining the World Trade Organization within the next two years, Interfax reported. He added that bilateral negotiations with WTO members on joining the organization are already under way. According to Gref, Russia loses $2-$3 billion a year by not being a WTO member. Gref also explained that the government's economic program for the next four years targets six priority areas: judicial reform, education, infrastructure, developing regional parity, environment, and the so-called new economy, such as high technology telecommunications, and the Internet. Gref pledged that the fate of Kaliningrad's free economic zone will be decided in November, noting that the achievements of the zone are "confusing" since certain branches of the regional economy have ceased to exist, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

TIMING OF PARIS CLUB NEGOTIATIONS QUESTIONED

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters in Prague on 27 September that during the annual World Bank/IMF meetings, he had met with the president of the Paris Club of creditors and discussed the problem of rescheduling Russia's debt, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that he explained Russia will need to delay its payments to the Paris Club once the rates of growth of gold and hard currency reserves slow down. He added that he and the president agreed to exchange economic forecasts and that concrete negotiations with the club will follow after talks with the IMF are wrapped up. However, "Vedomosti" reported on 27 September that Kudrin had made clear in Prague that the IMF had agreed "in advance" to Moscow's negotiating with the Paris Club prior to the fund's approval of the Russian government's economic program. According to the daily, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov stated before the World Bank/IMF meetings that Paris Club negotiations might start as early as October 2000. JAC

MOLDOVAN PREMIER DISCUSSES GAS DEBT IN MOSCOW...

Dumitru Braghis and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Kasyanov, discussed in Moscow on 27 September Moldova's debt for Russian gas deliveries and the settlement of the Transdniester conflict. According to ITAR-TASS, the talks were conducted in "a businesslike and frank atmosphere." The agency later quoted Braghis as telling reporters that "mutually acceptable solutions have been found to the majority of problems." Infotag reported that Braghis secured Russia's agreement on Moldova's importing natural gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan via Russia, at prices considerably lower than those charged by Gazprom. Braghis also said the $800 million that Moldova owes for gas deliveries reflects "historical debts" mostly incurred by Tiraspol. He added that the two sides agreed to "restructure and reschedule" that debt. MS

...ALLUDES TO MOLDOVAN FLEXIBILITY ON 'PRIMAKOV PLAN'

Braghis also told reporters that Moldova is ready to consider proposals submitted by Russia and Ukraine "as a package of agreements on the Transdniester's status, guarantees, and the presence of military formations in the security zone," according to Infotag. ITAR-TASS quoted Braghis as saying Yevgenii Primakov, the head of the Russian state commission on settling the Transdniester conflict, is "a major Russian politician who knows the details of the situation" and can make "a serious contribution" to solving the problem. MS

MOSCOW TO SIGN DEAL ON RECOVERING 'KURSK' BODIES

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who is heading the commission investigating the causes of last month's sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, announced that an agreement will be signed by 30 September on recovering the bodies of the 118-strong crew. He did not reveal the name of the firm with which the deal is to be signed but said it would not be Norway's Stolt Offshore. Earlier this week, it was announced that the Rubin engineering company, which designed the "Kursk," had failed to reach an agreement with Stolt Offshore (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). JC

ROKHLINA TRIAL AGAIN POSTPONED

The trial of Tamara Rokhlina opened in Moscow Oblast on 26 September and was adjourned the next day until 16 October because of Rokhlina's health. Rokhlina is accused of killing her husband, Lev Rokhlin, who at the time of his murder two years ago was a State Duma deputy, retired general, and leader of the Movement to Support the Army. Rokhlina confessed to the killing shortly after but later recanted her testimony, alleging that her family was being threatened. Her trial was supposed to open on 25 September, but the court agreed to postpone it for one day because her son had to be hospitalized with epilepsy. JAC

SMOKING LIKELY ON MOSCOW-BAGHDAD FLIGHTS

Aeroflot issued a statement on 27 September saying that it wants to overturn the U.S. government-issued ban on smoking on its flights to the U.S., arguing that the rule "contradict[s] the norms and principles of international law" and constitutes "an intrusion into the economic activities of foreign companies outside the U.S.," Reuters reported. According to the agency, the airline's pro-smoking policy has helped it to attract large numbers of foreigners and more affluent Russian smoking passengers. Aeroflot officials raised the issue with the State Department at a meeting earlier in the month, Interfax reported. Aeroflot also recently complained about U.S. objections to its resuming passenger flights to Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2000). JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT, MAJORITY BLOC SPLIT OVER SPEAKER'S RESIGNATION

Five Armenian political parties, including the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the senior partner in the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc, issued a statement on 27 September saying they will boycott parliamentary sessions as long as Armen Khachatrian continues to occupy the post of speaker, Armenpress and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement argued that the previous day's vote in which 63 deputies approved and 31 opposed Khachatrian's resignation was valid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2000), and it condemned Khachatrian's refusal to step down as "an attempt to usurp power." The Democratic Party of Armenia (HZhK), to which Khachatrian belongs and which is the junior partner in Miasnutiun, argues that Khachatrian's resignation should have been approved by a majority vote of all 131 deputies. Neither the Armenian Constitution nor the parliament statutes stipulate how many votes are required to unseat the parliamentary speaker. LF

AZERBAIJAN DENIES VICTIMIZING REFUGEES FROM CHECHNYA, DAGHESTAN

The Azerbaijani Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office have issued a joint statement denying Chechen charges that the Azerbaijani authorities engage in the harassment of refugees from Chechnya and Daghestan, Turan reported on 27 September. The statement explained that six residents of Daghestan who were extradited to Russia on 20 September were not refugees but were wanted by Russian police on charges that include terrorism, attempted murder of police officers, and illegal possession of arms. Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev on 25 September condemned the men's extradition and said the charges against them are fabricated. Basaev appealed to the Azerbaijani leadership to put an end to what he termed "provocative acts" by some Azerbaijani power ministry officials. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY ACCUSED OF MAINTAINING SECRET RADIO TRANSMITTER

"Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous ruling political party, has accused the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) of maintaining a secret radio transmitter at its headquarters in the suburbs of Baku, Turan reported. In its 28 September issue, the paper claimed that police and security officials searched that building late on 27 September. An AMIP official who was the last to leave the premises on 27 September denied both that allegation and that the party has such a transmitter. Police and security ministry spokesmen have not confirmed the "Yeni Azerbaycan" allegations. AMIP is one of only four parties that have been registered to contend the 5 November parliamentary elections. LF

GEORGIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF FALL OF SUKHUMI...

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili paid tribute on 27 September to those Georgian troops and civilians killed during the 1992-1993 war in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. That war effectively ended on 27 September 1993 with the Georgian retreat from Sukhumi, the Abkhaz capital. Shevardnadze on 27 September repeated the claim he made two days earlier that the loss of Sukhumi was the result of "treachery" by an individual whose name he promised to disclose "soon." He added that "Sukhumi will be ours once again." Also on 27 September, Russia's Federation Council voted to extend for six months the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping troops that have been deployed under the CIS's aegis since July 1994 along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

... AS GEORGIAN OFFICIAL CONCEDES GEORGIA STARTED ABKHAZ WAR

Londer Tsaava, chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile, has admitted that the war in Abkhazia was started by Georgian government troops, adding that they did so under "provocation" from the Abkhaz side, according to "Rezonansi" on 28 September, as cited by Caucasus Press. Shevardnadze had admitted several years ago that the Georgian troops who entered Sukhumi were acting against his orders. LF

GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ACCUSED OF ILLICIT SURVEILLANCE

Mikhail Saakashvili, who heads the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) parliamentary faction, said on 26 September that Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze has organized the clandestine surveillance of deputies from his faction, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili condemned that activity as illegal and anti-constitutional but said he would leave it to the parliament's Legal Affairs Committee to decide whether to launch impeachment proceedings against Targamadze. Targamadze, for his part, told Caucasus Press that he possesses information on "numerous issues," including the situation within the SMK. Targamadze and the "reformers' wing" within the SMK have been at odds over the latter's proposal to amend legislation on fees for the mandatory inspection of all vehicles for roadworthiness. Targamadze, Saakashvili, and parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania have been identified as potential presidential candidates once Shevardnadze ends his current second term. LF

KYRGYZ TROOPS THWART NEW ISLAMIST INCURSION

Kyrgyz government troops repelled an attempt by 10 Islamic militants to advance into Kyrgyz territory during the night of 26-27 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 September, citing the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry's press service. One Kyrgyz serviceman was injured in the fighting. The ministry claimed to control fully those regions of Kyrgzystan that border on Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT...

Kyrgyz and Uzbek government representatives signed an agreement on 27 September in Bishkek, Russian agencies reported. According to Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev, it is the first such bilateral agreement to be signed between two Central Asian states. Akaev added that the agreement will contribute to both countries' ability to ensure security not only on their own territory but throughout the region. Akaev and his visiting Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, also signed a joint statement calling on Afghanistan's warring Taliban and Northern Alliance "to achieve national reconciliation." The statement warned that the two states will "regard hostile actions against either of the two states as a common threat to them both" and will retaliate accordingly, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...AS UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS CENTRAL ASIAN STATES MUST GUARANTEE OWN SECURITY...

President Karimov told Interfax on 27 September that if the states of Central Asia do not take the initiative in improving their armed forces and border guards, no outside power will help them do so. He said that unnamed countries that do not border on Afghanistan are deluding themselves that they are not at risk. "Aggression today is taking the form of creeping expansion, and bandit formations can pop up anywhere," Interfax quoted Karimov as saying. He criticized the UN Security Council for concentrating its attention on Kosova and Bosnia, while ignoring the situation in Afghanistan, and he called on the council to draft and implement urgent measures to prevent a further escalation of the Afghan civil war. LF

...ASKS FOR MOSCOW'S COOPERATION

President Karimov also told Interfax that maintaining peace in Central Asia is contingent on Moscow's dovetailing its policies in the region with those of the states of Central Asia. "As president of Uzbekistan, I recognize Russia's interests in Central Asia. These interests have to be protected, but they also need to be discussed with the leaders of the Central Asian states. We need to know what Russia will be doing tomorrow in our region and how it will defend its interests. Russia has to pursue a serious and well-thought-through policy in Central Asia," Interfax quoted him as saying. LF

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES


Through 28 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Russia____________19______17______21______57
Georgia____________0_______0_______4_______4
Kazakhstan_________1_______1_______0_______2
Armenia____________0_______0_______2_______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 SUPREME COURT REJECTS APPEALS BY WOULD-BE CANDIDATES

The Belarusian Supreme Court upheld a decision by district election commissions not to allow several candidates to register for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Belapan reported on 27 September. The court's press office said that of 63 appeals filed, 59 had been rejected, including those of human rights activists Oleh Volchek and Valery Shchukin; Yuliya Chyhir, wife of former Premier Mikhail Chyhir; Vladimir Honcharik, chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions; and Hennadi Hrushevoi, president of the For the Children of Chornobyl foundation. The reasons given for most of the rejections were invalid signatures in registration lists or inaccuracies in income and property statements. PB

SHARP GASOLINE, UTILITY PRICE INCREASES IN BELARUS

The Belarusian government announced a 10 percent hike in the price of gasoline on 26 September, the fourth increase since August. This makes gasoline in Belarus the most expensive among neighboring CIS states, Belapan reported. One liter of diesel in Belarus now costs $0.36, while in Moldova a liter costs $0.32, in Ukraine $0.27, and in Russia $0.21. Meanwhile, since August average utility rates have risen 80 percent for hot water and 21 percent for building maintenance and upkeep. PB

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WANTS CHORNOBYL TO BECOME RESEARCH CENTER

Leonid Kuchma suggested on 27 September that the Chornobyl nuclear power plant be turned into an international atomic energy research center after it is shut down in December, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma's spokesman, Oleksandr Martynenko said the president has decreed that a committee be set up on the plant's closure to investigate such possibilities. Vladimir Litvin, the head of Kuchma's administration, is to chair the group, which is charged with creating jobs for those who will lose their positions as a result of the plant's closure. Meanwhile, a reactor at the Rovno nuclear plant was re-started on 27 September after being shut down two days earlier owing to a failure in its turbogenerator. Of Ukraine's 14 commercial nuclear reactors, only 10 are currently in operation. PB

UKRAINE WANTS INTERPOL TO HELP FIND JOURNALIST

Ukrainian police are seeking the aid of the international police force Interpol for help in locating missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, dpa reported. Gongadze was last seen leaving work on 16 September. A massive manhunt ordered by President Kuchma has not found any clues about his disappearance. News sources have suggested that articles on Gongadze's website (http://www.pravda.com.ua) accusing Ukrainian politicians and businessmen of corruption are connected to his disapperance. PB

MORE SACKINGS IN TALLINN CITY GOVERNMENT

The Tallinn City government on 27 September ordered the dismissal of several high-ranking officials who are members of the Coalition Party. They included Tallinn Botanical Garden director Juri Ott, Environmental Department director Aap Mumme, and Tallinn Heating board chairman Elmar Sepp, BNS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2000). Ott and Sepp were both implicated last week in an illegal apartment privatization scandal. Coalition Party leader Mart Kubo responded by saying that the real reason for the sackings was not the apartment issue but pressure from various economic interest groups. The city also ordered a thorough financial audit of transactions between the Environmental Department and the Botanical Gardens. MH

LATVIA REGISTERS STRONG GDP GROWTH

The Central Statistics Department announced on 27 September that Latvia's GDP grew by 5.1 percent in the first half of 2000, compared with the same period in 1999. In the second quarter alone, GDP increased by 4.8 percent year-on-year, BNS reported. That increase is attributed to 5.9 percent growth in trade, 5.5 percent growth in the processing industry, and 16.6 percent growth in commercial services. The Statistics Department also revised first-quarter GDP figures to 5.5 per cent growth from 5.3 percent. And it put GDP growth for the whole of this year at 4-5 percent. MH

REGRET EXPRESSED OVER DEATH OF ACCUSED LITHUANIAN WAR CRIMINAL...

Both the prosecution and defense has voiced regret over the death of accused war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis on 27 September. Algirdas Matuiza, the lawyer for Lileikis, said that it was a "shame both for prosecutors and those medical experts who, under pressure from Nazi hunters, kept doubting whether the defendant was feigning his diseases," ELTA reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office issued a statement saying that together with the parliament and government, it "did [its] best to bring Lileikis to court." It added that "this work in pursuit of historical justice will be carried on." MH

...AS LEGAL PROCESS COMES UNDER CRITICISM

Simonas Alperavicius, chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, accused law enforcement officials of dragging out both the investigation and the court case: "Of course, nobody wanted him in prison but the [court] process should have taken place," BNS reported. Deputy Emanuelis Zingeris lamented that "Lithuania's legal system has so far failed to determine the truth in a single war-crime case," adding that "knowing the truth would make it easier for everyone." The head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, called it a "shame on Lithuania" that Lileikis died "a free man." Zuroff added that "Lithuania does not have political power to sentence war criminals." MH

POLISH PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE FOR PAPAL PARODY

Aleksander Kwasniewski was declared persona non grata by Krakow city officials on 27 September for his part in mocking Pope John Paul II, dpa reported, citing the daily "Gazeta Wyborcza." The council said it has no legal way to keep the country's president out of the city but said it hopes Kwasniewski will honor their decision and stay away from the city. Opposition politicians and some Catholic Church officials have called on Kwasniewski, who has apologized for the incident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000), to resign because of his actions. Several groups are demanding an investigation by the prosecutor's office on the grounds that the incident offended their religion, something forbidden under Polish law. Adam Michnik, editor in chief of "Gazeta Wyborcza," said "the joke was inappropriate...but what we see now is not a defense of good manners but an attempt to annihilate an election opponent." The Polish presidential election is set for 8 October. PB

WARSAW, BRUSSELS SIGN FARM TRADE AGREEMENT

Poland and the EU signed an accord on 27 September to liberalize bilateral trade in agricultural goods, AP reported. Bruno Dethomas, the EU ambassador to Poland, said "the agreement will give Polish farmers much better access to the EU market and prepare them for difficult competition after [Poland's EU] accession." The agreement means about 75 percent of Poland's farm exports to EU countries will be exempt from import tariffs. It takes effect on 1 January. Poland was left out of an earlier EU agreement with other East European countries after Warsaw raised import duties on dairy products, sugar, meat, and grains in an effort to placate striking farmers. PB

CHARGES BROUGHT IN CZECH 'OPERATION LEAD' SCANDAL

Police on 27 September charged former Prime Minister Milos Zeman's adviser Vratislav Sima with libel in connection with the "Operation Lead" scandal, CTK reported. The scandal emerged earlier this year after the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported that members of the premier's entourage were involved in an attempt to discredit Chamber of Deputies and Social Democratic Party Deputy Chairwoman Petra Buzkova, who is considered to be Zeman's rival. Zeman said on 27 September that he is "not interested" in the case and only knows that charges have been brought against three people. The two other accused are "Mlada fronta Dnes" journalists; they are charged with obstructing the investigation by refusing to reveal the name of the person from whom they obtained the "Operation Lead" document. Buzkova said the charge brought against the journalists is "strange." MS

IMF, WORLD BANK END PRAGUE MEETING EARLY...

The annual meeting of the World Bank and the IMF ended in Prague on 27 September, one day earlier than scheduled. The official reason was that participants had worked through the agenda sooner than planned. CTK reported that the road leading to the Congress Center, where the meeting was held, was opened in the early hours of 28 September, which is a public holiday in the Czech Republic, but the underground station close to the center remains closed. Globalization opponents are planning another demonstration outside the center on 28 September. MS

...FOLLOWING RELATIVELY CALM SECOND DAY

There were only a few isolated protests by globalization opponents on 27 September, following the heavy clashes of the previous day. Activists gathered in one downtown square in the morning of 27 September; after negotiations with the police and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, they were permitted to remain there. In the evening, activists were stopped by police as they marched toward the Old Town Square and Charles Bridge. In the early hours of 28 September, there were relatively minor clashes between police and protesters near the Prague Hilton hotel, where some of the participants in the annual meeting had been staying. MS

CZECH OFFICIALS PRAISE POLICE HANDLING OF PROTESTERS...

The government on 27 September passed a resolution praising the police for the way it had acted vis-a-vis the demonstrators, CTK reported. Premier Zeman told journalists after the cabinet meeting that "a cobblestone or the destruction of a restaurant are not an expression of a different opinion" but rather reflect "the ideological helplessness" of the protesters. President Vaclav Havel, accompanied by Interior Minister Gross and police chief Jiri Kolar, met with police on duty in a street where some of the worst clashes of the previous day had occurred. Thanking those police officers for their "professionalism," Havel said they "did not allow the germ of aggressiveness to infect their ranks and defended the place that had to be defended." But members of the civic Legal Observers Team, who monitored police activities, said they had proof that in several cases police acted as "provocateurs." MS

...AS POLICE BRING CHARGES AGAINST OFFENDERS

Charges have been brought against 18 out of the more than 500 rioters detained in Prague, CTK reported on 27 September. The 18 are accused of attacking public servants, rioting, and causing damage to property. Seven of those charged are Hungarian citizens, three Danish, two Spanish, two Polish, one German, one Austrian, one Czech, and one U.S. Police also started procedures for expelling 60 of the 127 foreigners detained during the rioting. A total of 364 foreigners were denied entry permits in connection with the strict measures adopted before and during the annual meeting. MS

SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER DENOUNCES PRAGUE VIOLENCE

Brigita Schmognerova, returning to Bratislava from Prague on 27 September, said it is possible to meet with globalization opponents to discuss their demands but the means used by demonstrators in Prague must be firmly condemned, CTK reported. Schmognerova, who at the annual IMF/World Bank meeting received the "Best Finance Minister of the Year 2000" award of the British "Euromoney" magazine, said she considers it "positive" that the two institutions are now ready to discuss the negative aspects of globalization and, above all, the division "into a rich North and a poor South" as well as the spread of "pernicious diseases" in poor countries. To protest against globalization itself, however, is tantamount to "protesting against some one's breathing," she commented. MS

OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED INTO SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S MEDICAL TREATMENT

Slovak President Rudolf Schuster on 27 September relieved those who treated him during his illness in June of their "medical secrecy oath," thereby making it possible for police to launch an official investigation, CTK reported, citing the presidential office. The office did not reveal whether Schuster himself will agree to testify in the case. MS

FIDESZ CHAIRMAN RULES OUT COOPERATION WITH EXTREMIST HUNGARIAN PARTY

Laszlo Kover, chairman of the major coalition party FIDESZ, said on 27 September that he does not have a "bad opinion" of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), as its members are "decent Hungarian people." Asked whether a coalition of right-wing forces is possible, Kover said he believes that MIEP has "no useful answers politically" and that it would be "disastrous "from the point of view of Hungary's image abroad if FIDESZ were to enter into a coalition with MIEP. MSZ

MOVE AFOOT IN HUNGARY TO REHABILITATE HORTHY-ERA MINISTER

The 81-year-old son of Balint Homan, who was minister of religion and education during the regime of Miklos Horthy, is requesting that the Budapest Metropolitan Court initiate an official retrial of his father, Hungarian media reported on 27 September. Homan was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes on 17 August 1946 and died of a heart attack in prison in 1951. In other news, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin will remain an honorary citizen of Budapest, the City Council decided on 26 September. Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky said that while he condemns Stalinism, "it must be realized that history cannot be deleted." MSZ




THOUSANDS TURN OUT FOR SERBIAN OPPOSITION

In central Belgrade on 27 September, some 200,000 people attended a demonstration of support for Vojislav Kostunica, who is the Democratic Opposition of Serbia's (DOS) candidate for the Yugoslav presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2000). Several journalists' reports of the gathering described the mood as "festive" and "determined." Demonstrations also took place in Novi Sad, Nis, Kraljevo, Kragujevac, and Leskovac. The protesters back the opposition's claim that it won an outright victory in the first round of voting, with 52.5 percent of the total compared with 35 percent for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The state-run Election Commission claims that no candidate won an outright majority in the first round and demands that a second round take place on 8 October. The commission has refused opposition calls that it admit opposition monitors to check its records. In Vienna on 27 September, the OSCE called on the commission to make a precinct-by-precinct report of the tally. PM

KOSTUNICA HAILS SERBIAN OPPOSITION VICTORY

Kostunica told his supporters in Belgrade on 27 September that "we won, despite the lies and the violence of Slobodan Milosevic," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Kostunica added that "we won, despite the sanctions which we lived under for years. We won, despite the NATO bombs that fell on this country last year. We won, despite some democrats in Serbia and Montenegro who turned their backs on us." He stressed that he will "make no deal" with the regime. Kostunica said the army, police, and people are "one," Deutsche Welle reported. He stressed that the army that "fought heroically against NATO" will not allow itself to be used against the people by the regime. He added that "the EU and Russia are with us." PM

DJINDJIC CALLS FOR GENERAL STRIKE IN SERBIA

Zoran Djindjic, who is the campaign manager of the DOS, told a Novi Sad radio station on 28 September that the opposition will soon issue a call to all citizens to join a "total protest...and peaceful general strike," Reuters reported. "We will call on people not to send their children to school, for theaters and cinemas not to work, for everyone to go out onto the streets and stay on the streets until he who wants to be president by force gives up his post," Djindjic added. Observers note that previous attempts by the opposition to force Milosevic from office through street protests have gradually lost momentum and failed. PM

SERBIAN CROWN PRINCE DEFENDS OPPOSITION VICTORY...

Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, who is the claimant to the Serbian and Yugoslav thrones, issued a statement in London on 27 September in which he urged Milosevic to respect the will of the voters and leave office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). The prince called the commission's decision to hold a second round of voting "outrageous... There is absolutely no question that Dr. Vojislav Kostunica and the DOS are the outright majority winners and that they have the full confidence of the people. It is imperative that the people of Serbia remain firmly united behind Dr Vojislav Kostunica and DOS. Beware, Mr. Slobodan Milosevic is scheming to steal the people's vote using massive fraud and cheating. Once again, Mr. Slobodan Milosevic has shown that he only cares about himself and perpetual power like all dictators. Mr. Slobodan Milosevic and his regime must not be allowed to steal what belongs to the people." PM

...DEMANDS THAT MILOSEVIC GO

Aleksandar also said in his message of 27 September that "the people of Serbia and Montenegro have only one option and that is to unanimously demand that Mr. Slobodan Milosevic hand over power to Dr. Vojislav Kostunica immediately. The armed forces must act accordingly to military honor and protect the people from the regime's deceitful behavior. I also strongly request all institutions to unanimously support the people and not fall into the hands of the conniving regime. I appeal to all citizens to put their differences aside and unite against the regime. There must be no retribution or abuse of any citizen. It is clear that Mr. Slobodan Milosevic has no alternative, but to hand immediately the presidency in a civilized manner to Dr. Vojislav Kostunica... Dr. Vojislav Kostunica and his government for the people must be allowed to get on immediately with the hard work and implementation of democratic reforms to ensure the survival of the nation for the benefit of all citizens." PM

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BACKS KOSTUNICA

The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church issued a statement on 28 September to "Vojislav Kostunica, elected president of Yugoslavia," Reuters reported. The bishops called on "Kostunica and all the people elected together with him, when they take over the control of the state, its parliament and its municipalities, to do so in a peaceful and dignified way." On 26 September, Patriarch Pavle received Kostunica. The patriarch said that "in the entire civilized world, governments are changed by the will of the people, only in free and democratic elections," "Vesti" reported. Pavle called on all Serbs, "including the army and the police, to defend the interests of the people and state and not of individuals." PM

U.S. TO LIFT SERBIAN SANCTIONS ONCE KOSTUNICA TAKES OFFICE

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said in New York on 27 September that "if the winds of change blow true, a government in Belgrade committed to respecting the will of its people will take its rightful place in the international community," AP reported. Holbrooke added that Washington will call for the lifting of international sanctions against Belgrade once Kostunica takes office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2000). The ambassador also called for full voting rights for Yugoslavia in the UN once the new government is in place. It is not clear if he intends to restore the former Yugoslavia's seat to Belgrade, as Milosevic has demanded, or require that Belgrade apply for membership as a new country, as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia want it to do. Those four republics demand a division of former Yugoslav properties and assets among all successor states, while Milosevic says that the properties and assets all belong to Belgrade as the sole legal heir to Josip Broz Tito's state. In Washington on 27 September, U.S. President Bill Clinton charged that Milosevic is seeking to steal the elections. PM

CROATIA WARNS AGAINST LIFTING SERBIAN SANCTIONS

Attending the conference of the British Labour Party in Brighton, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said on 27 September that a change of government in Serbia will not come quickly or lead to the substantial policy changes that followed the opposition victory in Croatia at the beginning of 2000, VOA's Croatian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 September 2000). In Zagreb, President Stipe Mesic stressed that sanctions should be lifted only "when Yugoslavia fulfils what we have fulfilled, that is when they pass a law on cooperation with the Hague tribunal, and when they hand over war criminals to be tried by the tribunal. It was precisely the sanctions that made the electorate turn against Milosevic," Reuters reported. Mesic argued that Serbia cannot claim to have met European standards so long as General Veselin Sljivancanin--whom the Hague-based tribunal has indicted in conjunction with the murder of 200 Croats in Vukovar in 1991--teaches at the Yugoslav military academy. PM

KOUCHNER SAYS KOSOVA READY FOR ELECTIONS

Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator in Kosova, said at the UN in New York on 27 September that plans are progressing for the local elections that will take place in the province on 28 October, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Kouchner said that he understands why most Serbs do not want to participate but added that there will be elections in the future in which they may choose to vote. Referring to the election of Kostunica, Kouchner noted that Kosova's ethnic Albanians do not think that there is much difference between him and Milosevic. The UN, Kouchner argued, will find it easier to "talk to" Belgrade and local Serbs once Milosevic is out of the way. Observers note that Kostunica, like Milosevic, has called for a return of Kosova to Serbian control. PM

MACEDONIA TO INVESTIGATE YUGOSLAV AMBASSADOR

The government has launched an investigation into the "undiplomatic activities" of Yugoslav Ambassador Zoran Janackovic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 27 September. The move comes in the wake of recent Macedonian and British press reports to the effect that the ambassador, who was a communist-era intelligence chief in Skopje, has been working with Yugoslav Military Attache in Macedonia Colonel Predrag Stanisic, who also has an intelligence background, "to destabilize Macedonia," the broadcast added. Janackovic is reportedly one of the "few individuals in daily communication with Milosevic." PM

CORRUPTION SPREADS TO ROMANIAN UNIVERSITIES

Education Minister Andrei Marga has suspended the rectors of the private Bucharest Ecological University and the state Iasi Medicine and Pharmacology University, following evidence that the two institutes sold diplomas to foreign students, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Iasi university's Senate, however, rejected the minister's decision. A report presented by the U.S.-based Transparency International organization at this week's IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague places Romania among the post-communist states with the highest level of corruption (of those states, only Russia and Yugoslavia fared worse). The report asks whether "in view of the massive level of corruption at every possible level of government in these countries, should the World Bank continue to lend to these countries," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. MS

ROMANIAN GYMNAST AT CENTER OF 'POLITICAL INDIGNATION'

The Court of Arbitration and Sport at the Sydney Olympic Games has rejected gymnast Andrea Raducan's appeal not to deprive her of a gold medal AP reported. Raducan had taken a banned drug in a medicine against colds. On 27 September Party of Social Democracy in Romania First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase filed a protest with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; that protest was endorsed by 16 other members of the Socialist group who represent eight countries. The National Liberal Party, the Alliance for Romania, and the National Alliance denounced the decision. Also on 27 September, protest meetings took place in several Romanian towns. Nicolae Marasescu, general secretary of the Romanian Athletics Federation, told Mediafax: "I am more and more convinced that Romania is a [sore in the eye] of great economic and sports powers." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SETS CONDITIONS FOR SECOND TERM

President Petar Stoyanov on 25 September told Bulgarian Radio that if he decides to seek a second term in the fall 2001 elections, he will run as an independent. At the same time, he will agree to run only if the ruling Union of Democratic Forces coalition "clearly and strongly" supports him, he added. But Stoyanov emphasized that to receive that endorsement he will not "act under pressure, irrespective of [whether such pressure comes from Premier] Ivan Kostov personally or any other politician." Until his terms ends, he said, he will "make no compromise with either my conscience or the oath I have taken to serve Bulgaria." MS

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES


Through 28 SEPTEMBER


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total


Romania___________10_______4______4______18
Ukraine____________3_______7_______7______17
Belarus____________2_______1_______10______13
Bulgaria___________5_______3_______2_______10
Poland_____________4_______4_______1_______9
Hungary____________3_______2_______1_______6
Czech Rep._________2_______1_______3_______6
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






RUSSIA SPEAKS PAST BALTIC NEIGHBORS


By Christopher Walker

For Russia and its Baltic neighbors, a constructive dialogue is something that has been sorely lacking for much of the decade since Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia reclaimed their independence. Over recent weeks, communication with Moscow has degenerated to one of the lowest points in recent memory, in particular with regard to Latvia and Estonia. During this period, rhetorical shots have been fired from Moscow at Riga and Tallinn on a range of issues.

Accusations and recriminations have been steadily exchanged between Moscow and Tallinn over issues ranging from Russian allegations of Estonian support for the Chechen rebels to ongoing border disputes and Russian minority rights.

Among the issues drawing Russia's ire in its relations with Riga have been the recent language law regulations that came into effect in Latvia earlier this month. In fact, the state language law and respective government regulations represent the culmination of more than a decade of legislative effort on this issue. It was before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 that Latvia, along with Estonia and Lithuania, first enacted important legislative measures designed to protect its language. At that time, it had appeared that the local language and culture in Latvia would be extinguished. As a result of intensive Russification during the post-war period, Latvians, through no choice of their own, had shrunk to near minority status in their own homeland.

In Latvia, as in Estonia, Moscow has played the role of defender of the Russian minority. The rhetoric between Riga and Moscow in the post-Soviet era, a time during which Latvia amended and tightened the language law, has been acerbic. To get around the lack of bilateral dialogue, the language legislation, like a number of other high profile issues relating to national minorities, has been managed in consultation with third parties. In this case, the OSCE, along with the EU, played a vitally important role in this process.

The OSCE has been operating in Latvia since 1993. The mandate of the OSCE Mission to Latvia is to provide advice on citizenship issues and other matters concerning the integration of Latvia's non-citizen population into the mainstream of Latvian society. Indeed, the OSCE mission in Latvia has functioned as an indispensable tool for handling sensitive matters between Russia and the Baltic states. The missions have provided an important mechanism for responding to Russian accusations against the Baltic countries, especially with regard to questions of ethnic Russians residing in the Baltics.

On the language law in Latvia, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel has said he views the regulations "as being essentially in conformity with both the law and Latvia's international obligations." He noted that "virtually all of [his] recommendations were accepted by the government in the drafting process." Van der Stoel added that Latvia still needs to fine tune the regulations further in some areas, and he expressed the hope that the law will be implemented in the "spirit of an open and liberal democracy."

Following the approval of the language law regulations, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that they constitute "yet another legislative enactment...in Latvia aimed at discrimination against and the assimilation of the national minorities." Undersecretary of State Ivars Pundurs of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs countered that "it is complete rubbish to say the Russian language will be assimilated [in Latvia]. Huge and influential Russia is right next door and Russian media plays a large role here."

Latvians are clearly frustrated by the relentless stream of criticism from Moscow. Pundurs, who describes Russia as an "unwilling partner," observes: "If you look back over the last 10 years, Moscow has been critical about language, education, citizenship, and other issues. Moscow has never been constructive. They only say that Russians have been treated unfairly."

Not content with devoting considerable attention to the Russian minority in the Baltics, Moscow has recently trained its rhetorical guns on Ukraine, a country where 11 million of the 25 million ethnic Russians now living outside Russia's borders reside. Following a meeting in Moscow with OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities van der Stoel on 14 September, Russian Nationalities Minister Alexander Blokhin leveled criticism at Kyiv, complaining that Ukraine's treatment of Russian-speakers is the worst in the Newly Independent States.

Ironically, it was Moscow's own Soviet system of preference for placing ethnicity before citizenship that contributed heavily to the difficult state of affairs today in the Baltics and other post-Soviet states. Latvian diplomats, for their part, speculate on whether Russia's behavior toward the Baltics is a calculated policy of obstruction or a result of its inability to manage its own affairs.

At a time when Moscow is dealing with one crisis after another --the "Kursk" tragedy, the Ostankino fire, the Pushkin Square bombing, not to mention the ongoing horrors in Chechnya--and when President Vladimir Putin is making a monumental effort to regain control of far-flung Russian regions, it seems unlikely Russia will be prepared to deal with the Baltics with magnanimity anytime soon. Latvian Undersecretary of State Pundurs recently suggested that Russia has yet to get over its "post-Imperial hangover." The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in European affairs.


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