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Newsline - October 3, 2000




PUTIN INVITES KOSTUNICA, MILOSEVIC TO MOSCOW...

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 2 October offered to host talks between Yugoslav opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in a bid to break the deadlock over the 24 September elections in the Balkan country. "I am prepared to receive in the next few days in Moscow both candidates who have gone through to the second round to discuss means of finding a way out of the current situation," Putin said. As implicit recognition of the official results of the first round of voting, Putin's statement contrasts with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's declaration at the weekend suggesting that Putin had acknowledged Kostunica's first-round victory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). Moreover, it is unclear how Putin could meet with the two Yugoslav leaders "in the next few days in Moscow" since the Russian president left on 2 October for a four-day visit to India (see also "End Note" below). JC

...WHILE MILOSEVIC'S BROTHER SAYS MEDIATION NOT NECESSARY

Kostunica responded to Putin's offer by saying that he would have to consult with members of his party before taking a decision. Milosevic has so far not responded in public, but his brother, Boris, who is Yugoslav ambassador to Moscow, said on 2 October that there is no need for Russian mediation because the voting procedure in Yugoslavia is established by law. Boris Milosevic also did not rule out further destabilization in Yugoslavia "if the opposition and certain circles in the West behave in an irresponsible manner." And he welcomed Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov's statement stressing the need to "prevent foreign interference and pressure" on developments in Yugoslavia, Interfax reported. JC

YAVLINSKII URGES MOSCOW TO RECOGNIZE KOSTUNICA VICTORY

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told journalists in Moscow on 2 October that he thinks the "Russian Foreign Ministry and government should recognize as soon as possible the victory of the opposition" in the 24 September Yugoslav elections, Interfax reported. Such recognition, he said, is "in the interests of both Russia and stability in Europe." Yavlinskii urged the Russian leadership to establish "close, constructive ties" with the opposition immediately. JC

RUSSIA, INDIA ESTABLISH STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

Russian President Putin and Indian Premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee, meeting in New Delhi on 3 October, signed a declaration on establishing a strategic partnership. That document pledges the two sides not to join any alliance or association or become a party to any understanding that would infringe on the other's territorial integrity or sovereignty, according to AP. It also commits Russia and India to work together to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons and to cooperate closely at the UN. Nine other agreements were also signed, including ones on cooperation in agriculture, the diamond trade, and production-sharing agreements for oil exploration, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin had told reporters the previous day that "Russia is building its relations with India [in the nuclear sphere] in conformity with its international obligations." He also stressed that Moscow is mostly interested in developing economic, cultural, and military-technical ties with India. Putin's visit to India is the first by a Russian president in eight years. JC

PUTIN CONGRATULATES GERMANY ON 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF REUNIFICATION

In a message sent to German President Johannes Rau and Chancellor Schroeder on 3 October, Russian President Putin congratulated Germany on the 10th anniversary of German reunification. "Good-neighborliness and partnership between Russia and Germany have become a reality that millions of our countries' citizens feel," Putin said, adding that Russian-German ties will continue to improve security and stability both in Europe and the world as a whole. JC

LESIN CONFIRMS MEDIA LAW TO BE UPDATED

Media Minister Mikhail Lesin told reporters on 2 October that the federal law on the media must be updated in keeping with the Information Security Doctrine, adopted recently by the Security Council, Interfax reported. Commenting on the provision of the doctrine relating to the status of foreign media in Russia, he said that "the goal is not to ban foreign stations in Russia but to place them under the same conditions as the Russian media, in particular as far as the payment for a license is concerned." He also noted that in the legislation, the functioning of certain stations, such as RFE/RL, needs clarification. JAC

TATARSTAN TO REVERT TO ORIGINAL PRESIDENTIAL POLL DATE?

Addressing a meeting of the State Council Presidium in Kazan on 3 October, President Mintimer Shaimiev proposed moving the date of the presidential poll back to March 2001, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Tatarstan's parliament had voted last month to bring the poll forward to 24 December, but Russian Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov criticized that decision as a violation of federal legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September and 2 October 2000). Tatarstan's State Council will meet in special session on 9 October to vote on the date of the ballot. LF

YABLOKO WANTS TO SPECIFY HOW EXTRA REVENUES WILL BE SPENT

Both State Duma Banking Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov predicted on 2 October that the draft 2001 budget will fail to pass the State Duma in its first reading, scheduled for 6 October. In an interview with "Vedomosti," Zhukov called the government's refusal to revise budget parameters "unwelcome from the point of view of politics and foreign investors." Meanwhile, Yabloko head Yavlinskii told reporters the same day that his faction is ready to support the budget if the government agrees that any additional revenues that are collected be spent on military reform, increased payments on foreign debt, education, and the preservation of the 50-50 split of tax revenue between the federal center and the regions. JAC

CRUDE OIL EXPORT DUTIES RISE

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a decree on 30 September increasing oil export duties to 34 euros ($30.06) per ton of crude oil, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 October. Export duties on high-octane and low-octane gasoline will rise to 32 euros per ton. JAC

CONFUSION REIGNS OVER LAW ON CENTRAL BANK?

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 September that the presidential administration has submitted its own proposed amendments to the law on the central bank, which would transform the bank into a state enterprise. The daily, in which Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest, argues that such a move would diminish the bank's current independence and transfer all leverage of influence over the national economy to the executive branch. On 3 October, Deputy Chairman of the Duma's Banking Committee (Fatherland-All Russia) Pavel Medvedev said that the president's opinion on the amendments would likely stall the discussion of the legislation in the State Duma. He said that currently there are "two absolutely different opinions" on the question of the ownership of the central bank and that the president showed the "chronic disease" of the executive branch--namely, "of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing." JAC

DEAL SIGNED WITH U.S. COMPANY ON RAISING 'KURSK' CREW

The Rubin design bureau and the Norwegian subsidiary of the U.S. company Halliburton signed an agreement on 2 October on recovering at least some of the bodies of the 118-strong crew of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, which sunk during maneuvers in August in the Barents Sea. Earlier, Russian officials had failed to reach an agreement with Norway's Stolt Offshore over the costs of that operation. Igor Spasskii, the head of the Rubin bureau, which designed the "Kursk," told reporters that the operation will begin on 18 October and last for three weeks, after which Moscow will look for a foreign partner to help raise the submarine. He also noted that if 20-30 percent of the bodies can be raised, the operation will be "a success." JC

RANKS OF MUSLIMS IN RUSSIA SWELLING

The number of practicing Orthodox Christians in Russia fell from 89.78 percent of the total population in 1989 to 88.95 percent in 1999, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii" reported on 18 September. During the same period, the number of Muslims increased from 8.05 percent to 9 percent, while the number of Buddhists grew from 0.54 percent to 0.6 percent. The number of practicing Jews slipped from 0.39 percent to 0.23 percent. According to the semi-monthly, if the current growth rate of Russia's Muslim population is maintained--some demographers are expecting the rate to increase--100 years from now Muslims will make up 18-20 percent of the population. JAC

BREAD RISES...

During the first eight months of 2000, bread production rose 1 percent from the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 October, citing the Agriculture Ministry. Cereals production increased by 2 percent, while macaroni production fell by 4 percent and flour 3 percent. Ministry analysts attributed the rise in bread production to the dwindling buying capacity of the population, since bread remains an affordable staple. JAC

...AS WINE, COGNAC FLOWS INCREASE

Russia's production of wine soared 24 percent during the first eight months of the year compared with the same period last year, the Agriculture Ministry revealed on 29 September. Cognac also increased by 31.5 percent. Champagne production fell 11.08 percent. JAC

JOURNALIST ATTACKED

The director of the radio station Ekho Rostova Aleksei Sharafskii was knifed by two unknown assailants in the center of town on 2 October. A regional Interior Ministry spokesman told AP that the police believe robbery was not the motive since nothing was taken from him. According to "Segodnya" on 3 October, several local media representatives are inclined to connect the attack with Sharafskii's work. The director of Ekho Rostova's news department, Aleksei Pavlovskii, told the newspaper that that since the crime was committed in a place where there were many people, it was likely meant as a warning rather than an actual attempt on Sharafskii's life. JAC

AEROFLOT-U.S. RELATIONS UP IN SMOKE?

Aeroflot has signed a memorandum with Iraqi Airways restoring regular air service to Baghdad, Reuters reported on 2 October, quoting an Aeroflot spokeswoman. The document was signed last week in Moscow after talks between the two carriers. According to the spokeswoman, Aeroflot declared its intention to resume flights "within the framework of a bilateral interstate agreement on air services." ITAR-TASS reported the same day, citing "Newsweek," that Aeroflot is considering retaliatory moves against the U.S. for its ban on smoking on Aeroflot flights to the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," tk September 2000). According to the agency, the magazine reported that one option being mulled is a ban on the sale of duty-free goods aboard planes flying to Russia. JAC




ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ASKED TO RULE ON PARLIAMENT SPEAKER

Parliamentary deputy speaker Gagik Aslanian on 2 October signed the parliament's disputed 27 September decision to accept the resignation of speaker Armenian Khachatrian, which President Robert Kocharian submitted to the Constitutional Court with a request to rule on its validity, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), to which both Khachatrian and Aslanian belong, argue that an absolute majority of 66 of the 131 deputies is needed for the decision to be binding. Only 63 deputies approved Khachatrian's resignation. Also on 2 October, the leaders of five parliamentary parties who claim that Khachatrian is acting illegally by refusing the recognize the validity of the vote to accept his resignation met with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to continue consultations on naming a new parliamentary leadership. LF

ARMENIA DENIES PRESSURING U.S. CONGRESS OVER GENOCIDE BILL

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan on 2 October rejected a statement unanimously approved by the Turkish parliament the previous day accusing Armenia of pressuring the U.S. Congress to adopt a bill in effect recognizing as genocide the killings in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Turkish statement warned the Armenian leadership to stop raising the issue in the international arena or risk a further deterioration of its already strained relations with Turkey. Papyan said that Ankara should raise with Washington its objections to the U.S. bill rather than blame support for it on Armenia. He added that "threatening statements" from the Turkish authorities are unacceptable. Papyan explained that while seeking recognition that the 1915 deaths were genocide is one of Armenia's foreign policy priorities, Yerevan is not seeking to exacerbate relations with Turkey. "On the contrary, we believe that problems between the two peoples can be overcome if they jointly try to find acceptable solutions." he said. LF

BAN ON AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY'S ELECTION PARTICIPATION UPHELD

Azerbaijan's Appeals Court on 2 October rejected an appeal by the opposition Musavat party against the Central Electoral Commission's refusal to register Musavat's proposed candidates to contest the 25 mandates to be allocated under the proportional system in the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). The commission had ruled that out of the total 54,000 signatures that Musavat had submitted, fewer than the minimum 50,000 were valid. Musavat secretary Arif Hadjiev said that a further examination had proved that 6,250 of the 9,758 signatures that the commission had rejected were genuine and valid. He accused the commission of bowing to political pressure to exclude the Musavat party from the ballot. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RULES OUT TALKS WITH KARABAKH LEADERS

Speaking on his return to Baku on 29 September, President Heidar Aliyev rejected the suggestion by his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, at the UN Millennium Summit that direct talks between the leadership of Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic would be the most effective way to reach a solution to the Karabakh conflict, according to Azerbaijani State Television, as cited by Groong. Aliyev recalled that former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov had similarly proposed direct talks with Stepanakert before his March 1992 ouster. Aliyev also rejected as "fantasy and lies" claims by Mutalibov's supporters to have collected more than 1 million signatures in support of their demand that he be allowed to return to Azerbaijan from Moscow. LF

ONE HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG QUESTIONS REPORTS OF GEORGIAN JAIL BREAK...

In a statement released in Frankfurt am Main on 2 October, Germany International Society for Human Rights casts doubt on Georgian media reports that 12 prisoners escaped the previous day from a Tbilisi jail through a 30-meter tunnel they had dug. The statement quotes Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili as questioning how former Finance Minister Guram Absandze, who weighs more than 150 kilograms, could have made his way through such a tunnel. The society expressed concern that the alleged jail break may be a pretext for liquidating Absandze, a supporter of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia who is currently on trial on charges of involvement in the February 1998 attempt to assassinate President Eduard Shevardnadze. It suggests that the Georgian authorities may subsequently announce that Absandze was "shot while resisting capture." LF

...AS ANOTHER SLAMS GEORGIA'S 'BACKTRACKING' ON REFORM OF OVERSIGHT SYSTEM

Also on 2 October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement deploring the repeal by the Georgian parliament of amendments to the criminal procedural code that had increased access to courts by prisoners or detainees who alleged torture or abuse by police, procuracy, or security officials. That vote was taken just weeks after Georgia became a full member of the Council of Europe in April 1999. HRW also claimed that since Georgia's accession to that organization there has been no improvement in what HRW called Georgia's "abysmal record on torture." LF

PRESIDENT CHARGES DIPLOMATIC CORPS WITH IMPROVING KAZAKHSTAN'S INTERNATIONAL IMAGE...

Addressing Foreign Ministry staff in Astana on 2 October, President Nursultan Nazarbaev criticized unnamed Kazakh diplomats abroad for their passivity and urged them to make greater efforts to create a positive image of the country, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev also characterized as unsatisfactory Kazakh diplomatic missions' failure to promote economic relations, noting that direct foreign investment in Kazakhstan declined from $1.34 billion in 1998 and $1.41 billion in 1999 to less than $500 million in the first six months of this year. LF

...PROMOTING SETTLEMENT OF AFGHAN CONFLICT

Nazarbaev also called on Kazakh diplomats to join the search for effective approaches to ending the civil war in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. He argued that the incursions into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in August by fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan demonstrate that the actions of Islamic militants in Central Asia, Chechnya, China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region and Afghanistan are interconnected. LF

KYRGYZ SECURITY OFFICIAL AGAIN WARNS OF AFGHAN 'THREAT'

Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary General Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 2 October that developments in Afghanistan pose a threat to the security of Central Asia, Interfax reported. He said the influx into Central Asian states of drugs, arms, and "international terrorists" from Afghanistan has been steadily increasing. Djanuzakov said Kyrgyz government troops continue to hunt down the last remaining IMU militants in southern Kyrgyzstan and killed 10 of them last week. LF

UZBEKISTAN ADMITS TO 'INFORMAL' TALKS WITH TALIBAN

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov told journalists in Tashkent on 2 October that Uzbekistan's ambassador in Pakistan met the previous day in Islamabad with Taliban representatives, AP reported. Komilov said that the two sides pledged non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Komilov added that numerous other countries have established such contacts with the Taliban, but he declined to name them. He said Uzbekistan will recognized the legitimacy of any government in Afghanistan that has the support of that country's population. Meanwhile AP reported on 2 October that the Uzbek government has banned foreign tour firms from taking tourists to the border mountain regions that were the scene of fighting between IMU and Uzbek government forces in August-September. LF

DOSTUM DENIES HELPING UZBEK AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON ISLAMIC MILITANTS

Afghan Uzbek General Abdurrashid Dostum on 1 October rejected allegations that his men fought alongside Uzbek government troops this summer in the latter's campaign to repel incursions by the IMU, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Dostum said his men are currently fighting against Taliban forces in Afghanistan. In a telephone interview with the BBC on 29 September, IMU leader Tahir Yuldash had accused Dostum and Tajik renegade Colonel Mahmud Khudoberdiev of participating in fighting in Uzbekistan against the IMU militants. LF




BELARUSIAN TAXI DRIVERS STRIKE OVER CONTROLS ON FARES

Private taxi drivers in Brest, southwestern Belarus, went on strike on 2 October to protest the authorities' ban on raising taxi fares, Belapan reported. "We cannot make a profit transporting passengers for 250 rubles (25 cents)," one driver told the agency. Last month, Brest taxi drivers raised the fixed single-trip fare from 250 rubles to 300 rubles. There were no protests from passengers, but the authorities responded immediately by imposing fines on seven drivers and threatening to revoke taxi licenses. JM

BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE CONVENES FOR LAST SESSION

The Chamber of Representatives on 2 October convened for its last plenary session, Belapan reported. Speaker Anatol Malafeyeu praised the outgoing chamber for its "courage, strong will, and devotion to the country." Malafeyeu said the chamber enacted more than 400 laws during its term. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka dissolved the opposition-minded Supreme Soviet in November 1996 and handpicked members of the Chamber of Representatives from among the Supreme Soviet deputies who pledged loyalty to him. The elections to the Chamber of Representatives are scheduled for 15 October. Lukashenka requested that the current legislature adopt a 2001 budget at its last session. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOWS NO CHANGE IN FOREIGN POLICY UNDER NEW MINISTER

Leonid Kuchma promised on 2 October that Ukraine's foreign policy will not change following Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk's dismissal and replacement by Anatoliy Zlenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000), Interfax reported. "Nobody should have any doubts about that," Kuchma noted, introducing Zlenko at the Foreign Ministry. Kuchma said Ukraine's course toward European integration will also remain unchanged. He stressed the need to find "an efficient algorithm" of relations with Russia, adding that those relations should be based "not [on] confrontation, but [on] mutually beneficial cooperation." Zlenko said Ukraine gives top priority to relations with the EU, the U.S., and Russia. JM

UKRAINIAN SPEAKER: TARASYUK'S DISMISSAL DUE TO FAILURES IN EUROPEAN INTEGRATION

Parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch said on 2 October that Tarasyuk was ousted as foreign minister because of his unsatisfactory performance in integrating Ukraine with Europe and promoting Ukrainian trade there, Interfax reported. "We are lagging behind in mutually advantageous economic cooperation [with Europe] on many counts," Plyushch said. Ukrainian political analyst Mykhaylo Pohrebynskyy commented the same day that Ukraine has proved unable to live up to the high expectations that were raised in the West by Tarasyuk and other Ukrainian politicians. JM

UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS TO PAY PRICE FOR 'FLOP' AT OLYMPICS

Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko on 2 October pledged to hold some sports officials accountable for Ukraine's "flop" at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Interfax reported. "This is a failure to some extent... We did not expect such a poor performance," Yushchenko commented. Ukraine's 239 sportsmen in Sydney won three gold, 10 silver, and 10 bronze medals, as a result of which Ukraine finished in 21st place. Kyiv had expected the Ukrainian team to finish among the top 10, as it did in Atlanta four years ago, when Ukraine won nine gold, two silver, and 12 bronze medals. JM

HANSAPANK ONLY BIDDER FOR LITHUANIAN BANK

Estonia's Hansapank is the only bidder in the privatization of Lithuania's largest remaining state-owned bank, the Lithuanian Savings Bank, ETA and ELTA reported. Bidding closed on 2 October; Hansapank officials would not comment on the nature of the single bid. The Lithuanian government plans to sell 90.73 percent of shares in the bank, the second-largest in Lithuania, with some 15 billion litas ($3.75 billion) in assets. In 1998 Hansapank consolidated its dominant position in the Estonian banking sector by taking over the Estonian Savings Bank. Sweden's Foreningssparbanken (known as "Swedbank") is the majority owner of the entire Hansapank group in the Baltics. MH

LITHUANIAN 'OLIGARCH' IS LARGEST CAMPAIGN DONOR

Bronislovas Lubys, the head of the Confederation of Lithuanian Industrialists, has made the largest financial contribution to the 8 October general elections, according to preliminary reports. Achema and the Klaipeda Shipping Company, both of which are controlled by Lubys, donated a total of 280,000 litas ($70,000) to three centrist parties that have formed an election coalition: the Liberal Union (60,000 litas from each company), the Center Union (110,000 litas from Achema), and the New Alliance (50,000 litas from KLASCO), BNS reported on 29 September. The two companies were also the largest financial contributors to the local elections in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000). According to BNS, the New Alliance has most funds at its disposal for the elections (710,000 litas), followed by the Liberal Union (572,000 litas) and the Center Union (463,000 litas). A company linked to LUKoil donated 250,000 litas to the left-wing social democratic coalition. MH

FINAL POLL PUBLISHED BEFORE LITHUANIAN ELECTIONS

The last public opinion poll to be published before the elections shows the center-left New Alliance (Social Liberals) still in the lead with 19.4 percent backing, despite having dropped 4.2 percentage points in two weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2000). The poll, conducted by "Vilmorus" and published on 30 September in "Lietuvos Rytas," shows the social democrat alliance led by former President Algirdas Brazauskas in second place with 16.4 percent (down 1.4 percent), followed by the Liberal Union with 10 percent (up 2.3 percent), the Conservatives with 5.5 percent (down 1.5 percent), the Peasants' Party at 3.7 percent (down 1.2 percent), and the Center Union with 3.5 percent (down 1.9 percent). The number of respondents who are undecided, would not reveal their preference, or do not plan to vote, rose to 31.1 percent (up 8.9 percent). MH

PAPAL PARODY PULLS DOWN POLISH PRESIDENT IN POLL

A poll conducted by the private PBS agency last week showed that President Aleksander Kwasniewski's rating has been negatively affected by the papal parody video used by the election team of Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). PBS said support for Kwasniewski dropped to 51.6 percent from 61 percent seven days earlier. The poll also showed that Andrzej Olechowski has 14.6 percent backing, Marian Krzaklewski 11.6 percent, and Jaroslaw Kalinowski 7.3 percent. Polish Television commented the same day that only Olechowski and Kalinowski have benefited from the video, while support for Krzaklewski remains the same. JM

RIGHT-WING CANDIDATE WITHDRAWS IN FAVOR OF SOLIDARITY LEADER

Former Premier Jan Olszewski, leader of the rightist Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland, withdrew from the presidential race on 2 October, appealing to his supporters to vote for Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski. Polish Television reported the same day that in exchange, Krzaklewski pledged to create a joint election bloc of "independent and patriotic groups" in the upcoming parliamentary and local elections. According to last week's PBS poll, Olszewski was supported by 2.3 percent of voters. JM

POLISH POST-COMMUNISTS WANT TO SUE PREMIER OVER BUDGET DELAY

A group of 120 lawmakers from the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) have lodged a motion with the Sejm speaker to bring Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc before the State Tribunal. The lawmakers argue that Buzek and Bauc have violated the constitution by failing to submit the 2001 budget bill by the 30 September deadline. SLD lawmaker Marek Borowski suggested last week that the Solidarity-led cabinet does not want to harm Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski's presidential bid and therefore postponed the submission of a 2001 budget draft until 15 November. Buzek argued that the 2001 draft has to be amended after the parliament recently voted down a bill on value-added tax, the revenues from which had been included in the government's budget calculations. JM

CZECH JUSTICE MINISTER CONFIRMS RESIGNATION

Justice Minister Otakar Motejl confirmed on 2 October that he has tendered his resignation and that Premier Milos Zeman has accepted it, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). Motejl said his decision was "free" and was prompted by his own failure to push through the parliament bills on the judiciary system reform. MS

GLOBALIZATION OPPONENTS DEMONSTRATE OUTSIDE CZECH EMBASSIES...

Globalization opponents are continuing to demonstrate in front of Czech diplomatic representations in protest at police treatment of demonstrators during last week's IMF/World Bank annual meeting in Prague, CTK reported. The demonstrations started on 29 September and have spread to several cities. Over the weekend, groups of demonstrators in Berlin and Bern managed to force their way into the embassies there. They were removed by police in Berlin and left of their own free will in Bern. Demonstrations also took place in Dresden, Paris, Rome, Oslo, Bratislava, Warsaw, Frankfurt am Main, and London. On 29 September, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told reporters that Czech diplomatic missions in countries whose citizens were detained during the demonstrations have asked for increased protection. MS

TEMELIN OPPONENTS PICKET CZECH EMBASSY IN VIENNA

Austrian environmentalists on 2 October blocked the entrance to the Czech embassy in Vienna, protesting the planned launch of the Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. The activists were later removed by police, who are now guarding the building. On 29 September, protesters from Austria again demonstrated at border crossing points with the Czech Republic, but unlike during previous demonstrations, they did not block traffic. Also on 29 September, some 150 Temelin opponents arriving from Austria in two buses demonstrated in Ceske Budejovice, southern Bohemia, against the planned Temelin launch. MS

CZECHS, SLOVAKS TO SET UP JOINT PEACEKEEPING FORCE?

Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy told reporters after meeting in Prague with his Slovak counterpart, Pavol Kanis, on 2 October that the two countries are considering setting up a joint peacekeeping unit for operations abroad. "We have similar equipment and there is no language barrier," he said. Kanis noted that the formation of such a unit "does not depend only on us, but also on whether there is a demand for it from the UN or NATO," AP and CTK reported. MS

SWEDISH PREMIER PRAISES SLOVAK-EU PREPARATIONS

Swedish Premier Goran Persson, visiting Bratislava on 2 October, praised Slovak preparations for acceding to the EU as "excellent" and said the EU appreciates Slovak efforts to solve "the Romany problem," CTK and AP reported. Persson said the EU will monitor, in particular, the issue of Roma in Slovakia during accession talks. He also said the EU countries are "worried" about Slovakia's political stability in view of the upcoming referendum on early elections. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda asked Persson, whose country will take over the rotating chairmanship of the EU next year, to help ensure that the remaining 12 chapters of the aquis communautaire will be opened during the Swedish presidency of the union. MS




SERBIAN GENERAL STRIKE ENTERS SECOND DAY

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in several cities and towns on 2 October to demand that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic leave office and to hail the victory of opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica in the recent Yugoslav elections. Some 60,000 people turned out in Kragujevac, while up to 40,000 took to the streets in Novi Sad and the same number in Kraljevo, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Novi Sad, some returning gold-medal winners from the Yugoslav Olympic team addressed the crowd. Milosevic had hoped to co-opt the athletes for his cause by awarding them a high state medal for their "patriotism." On 3 October, Reuters reported from Belgrade that the protests have "little effect on life in the capital." Many businesses are open and traffic, including public transportation, is moving freely. AP reported, however, that several roads remain blocked and that bus traffic has been cut between Serbia and Montenegro. PM

SERBIAN GENERAL FAILS TO GET MINERS BACK TO WORK

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who is the chief of the General Staff and a staunch Milosevic loyalist, appealed to striking miners at the important Kolubara coal mine to end their support for the general strike and return to work, AP reported from Belgrade on 3 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). The miners refused to give in to his demand that they go back to work or face compulsory work orders. An unspecified number of military police arrived near the mine but did not enter it. The news agency notes that Pavkovic's talks with the miners are the first instance of the army's becoming involved in the general strike. Beta news agency reported that the miners at one shaft blocked army vehicles from entering and that the entire management of the shaft resigned and joined the strike. The miners are slated to hold a press conference later on 3 October. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE PRAISES MINERS...

Kostunica also went to Kolubara, where he told a crowd of 7,500 on 2 October that "you are the ones who ignited the flame of democratic change in Serbia. Just hold on and we will finish this struggle together," AP reported. The mine provides coal for the Nikola Tesla power plant at Obrenovac, which supplies half of Serbia's power needs. The strike has already begun to affect power supplies, with cuts being reported in Cacak and Nis, the news agency noted on 3 October. PM

...CRITICIZES MOSCOW

Kostunica criticized Moscow's failure to openly endorse his election victory, saying that "Russia is too cautious. Russia is defending the indefensible," AP reported from Belgrade on 2 October (see Part I and "End Note" below). He did not elaborate. Kostunica added, however, that Washington is prompting Milosevic to hang on to power by insisting on prosecuting him for war crimes. Kostunica is usually effusive in his praise for Russia and the EU while invariably critical of the U.S. PM

MILOSEVIC SLAMS SERBIAN OPPOSITION

In a rare television appearance, Milosevic said on 2 October that the opposition is seeking to "break up Yugoslavia" and submit the country to "foreign occupation." He added that he intends to win in the second round of elections on 8 October. The opposition argues that it won outright in the first round and says it will not participate in the second one. PM

DIENSTBIER CALLS FOR YUGOSLAV VOTE RECOUNT

Former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, who is the UN's human rights envoy to the former Yugoslavia, said in Belgrade on 3 October that the election "results must have been manipulated," Reuters reported. He stressed that he does not know who to blame for the fraud, saying that "both sides should accept the demand to recount votes." Dienstbier proposed that the counting be done by a bi-partisan commission with international observers present. Earlier, CTK quoted him as saying that he "believes that signs of the weakening of the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have appeared in the country and especially in the media, accompanied by the growing optimism of the opposition." PM

GREECE, FRANCE, RUSSIA PLANNING YUGOSLAV VOTE RECOUNT

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters in Athens on 2 October that Foreign Minister George Papandreou is in telephone contact with his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, and Russia's Igor Ivanov about "sending observers [to Belgrade] to recount the ballots," dpa reported. Reppas added that he hopes that the plan can break the impasse between the Serbian authorities and the opposition. France currently holds the rotating EU chair. Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis added: "We are in contact with the government in Belgrade and with members of the opposition party, because the sending of fact finders presupposes the agreement" of both sides in Serbia, AP reported. Beglitis added that the request for the internationally supervised recount came from Kostunica. PM

MILOSEVIC'S HOLD ON SERBIAN MEDIA WEAKENING

Broadcasters at the formerly pro-Milosevic Duga Television in Pozarevac called on citizens to join the general strike, AP reported on 2 October. Pozarevac is Milosevic's hometown and power base. In Belgrade, staffers at the state-run Tanjug news agency, Radio Belgrade, "Politika," and "Vecernje Novosti" circulated petitions calling on management to stop serving the interests of the regime and to report news objectively. PM

NO SHAKEUP IN SERBIAN POLICE?

Officials at the Yugoslav embassy in Skopje said that Zoran Janackovic remains ambassador, "Danas" reported on 3 October. The officials denied Montenegrin press reports that he has been given a top Interior Ministry post in Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). PM

POLITICAL REALIGNMENT IN MONTENEGRO?

Kostunica said that when he becomes Yugoslav president, he will ask Predrag Bulatovic of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) to form a government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 2 October. Elsewhere, current Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who also is a leader of the SNP, said that a second round of voting must take place. He added, however, that "Kostunica has gained the great trust of the citizens of Yugoslavia. The will of the citizens must come first... No one has the right to make the mistake of not respecting the will of the people out of the conviction that he knows the people's interests better than the people themselves," Reuters reported from Podgorica. Bulatovic added, however, that Kostunica remains "our political opponent." The SNP, unlike Milosevic, has not condemned the general strike. The party said in a statement that "protests are the right of any political party and the right of any free citizen. We urge that protests be peaceful." PM

MESIC, STOYANOV HAIL SERBIAN OPPOSITION VICTORY

Visiting Croatian President Stipe Mesic and his Bulgarian counterpart, Petar Stoyanov, on 2 October issued a joint statement in Sofia welcoming "the victory" of Kostunica in the recent elections and calling on Milosevic to concede defeat, Reuters reported. Mesic told journalists that he does not believe civil war will break out in Yugoslavia because "Montenegro has [already] started on the road to democracy [and] forces have also emerged in Serbia that can make it democratic." Stoyanov said all of Yugoslavia's neighbors, including Romania, Albania, and Macedonia, are in "regular contact" and want "to believe that common sense will win in Yugoslavia...[turning it into] the neighbor we would all like to have." Mesic has argued that Kostunica is a nationalist but nonetheless a considerable improvement over Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). MS

FIVE SERBS INJURED IN KOSOVA

An unknown assailant injured five Serbs with a hand grenade and gunfire in a drive-by assault in Pasjane in eastern Kosova on 2 October. The five were treated for injuries and then released, AP reported. In Viti, two Serbian homes were destroyed in separate explosions. PM

EARLY RESULTS IN ALBANIAN ELECTIONS

Socialist Party spokesman Gramoz Ruci said in Tirana on 2 October that his party won 27 out of 65 mayors' races in the 1 October elections in what he called preliminary official results, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). He added that the opposition Democrats won only nine positions. The remaining seats will be decided in a second round on 15 October. Of the 409 seats in local councils nationwide, the Socialists won 110, the Democrats 33, and smaller parties three, Ruci said. The Democrats, however, refuse to accept the results. Party official Vili Minarrolli charged that "it was a totally manipulated [electoral] process. There were zero chances for a free and fair process." PM

ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTY CALLS FOR CEAUSESCU'S REHABILITATION

Greater Romania Party Senator Florea Preda on 2 October called on the Senate to pass a resolution "reconsidering the activities" of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed on 25 December 1989, Mediafax reported. Preda praised Ceausescu as a "patriot" and "a good diplomat." He said Ceausescu had displayed "courage" and that his "natural intelligence" had transformed him into "one of the world's great statesmen" and Romania into a mediator between such great powers as the U.S. and China. Ceausescu had been executed in order to undermine his efforts to "consolidate Romania's independence," Preda argued. While the former president was accused at his trial of genocide, Preda continued, "the real genocide against the Romanian people took place after 1989." In support of this argument, Preda pointed to the fact that last year alone, no fewer than 3,500 cases of suicides were registered in the country. MS

ROMANIA 'INDIGNANT' OVER VORONIN REMARKS

The Foreign Ministry on 2 October released a statement expressing "indignation" over recent remarks by Party of Moldovan Communist leader Vladimir Voronin, who had called Romania's flag during World War II "a fascist banner," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). The ministry said the "gravity of the insult is exacerbated by the fact that it comes from the leader of an important political party in Moldova". While calling on "competent authorities" in Moldova to examine Voronin's remarks, the ministry also expressed confidence that "such declarations can today no longer be a relevant obstacle on the road to consolidation of brotherly ties between the two banks of the River Prut." MS

U.S. DENIES EXISTENCE OF 'SECRET PLAN' FOR TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENT

The U.S. Embassy in Chisinau on 2 October denied the existence of a "secret plan" for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, Infotag reported. On 23 September, the Russian daily "Izvestiya" reported that a U.S. plan envisages incorporating Bessarabia into Romania and the Transdniester into Ukraine. The embassy said that the U.S, government's efforts to solve the Transdniester problem "are channeled primarily through the OSCE, although the U.S. is also consulting with the governments of the Russian Federation and Ukraine, in their capacity as mediators in the conflict." It said there "is no secret U.S. government 'plan' to solve the conflict in terms other than the above," Infotag reported, citing the embassy's press release. MS

MOLDOVAN FASCIST MOVEMENT INVOLVED IN INCITING STUDENTS?

Colonel Vladimir Koval, deputy chief of Chisinau police, told a municipal council meeting on 2 October that the Moldovan Fascist Movement is inciting students to join a protest rally planned by pensioners for 3 October, Infotag reported. Koval said the "fascists" are distributing among students "packages with nails and instructions on manufacturing weapons" to be used against police. No Moldovan Fascist Movement has been officially registered with the authorities, but there have been reports from both Moldova and Romania that the revived Legion of Archangel Michael has set up so-called "nests" not only in Romania but also in Chisinau. Infotag said police have detained one young person distributing leaflets issued by the Moldovan Fascist Movement. MS

BULGARIAN-TURKISH TIES TENSE AFTER RECALL OF TURKISH CONSUL

The Turkish Foreign Ministry is "evaluating the situation" after recalling Consul-General Beyza Untuna from Burgas, the BBC reported on 29 September, citing the official Anatolia state agency. The ministry recalled the consul-general after she allegedly became involved in disputes between two ethnic Turkish parties; her involvement triggered "Bulgarian protests." The ministry also said Turkey "might retaliate" against Bulgaria. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Television on 2 October inaugurated broadcasts in the Turkish language aimed at its own Turkish minority. MS




THE OFFER THEY CAN'T REFUSE?


By Patrick Moore

The current crisis in Belgrade may provide Moscow with a golden opportunity to expand its influence in Serbia. The decision on whether it will do so lies with Yugoslavia's leading politicians.

Since the 24 September Serbian and Yugoslav elections, Russian officials have carefully hedged their bets in choosing between the camp headed by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and that of opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica. Moscow has not openly declared one side or the other the winner but has stressed only that the elections were a "victory for democracy." Over the weekend, President Vladimir Putin offered to send Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to mediate, and two senior Russian diplomats arrived in Belgrade.

Then came what may prove to be the proverbial "offer they can't refuse." As he was departing for a four-day visit to India on 2 October, Putin issued an invitation to Milosevic and Kostunica to come to Moscow and let him personally mediate. Given Kostunica's anti-NATO and pro-Russia rhetoric during the election campaign, the opposition leader is likely to welcome the offer. Milosevic is similarly Russophile in his public statements and will also be hard pressed to refuse lest he lose credibility with the public at large.

But either man could still choose a way out of what could prove to be an uncomfortable situation. Kostunica could simply declare that he won outright and that there is nothing to discuss in Moscow or anywhere else. He would thereby preempt any pressure by Putin to force him into a second round of voting. Milosevic, for his part, could also declare that the matter is closed, since the Election Commission has already decided in favor of a second round. He could argue that the run-off must be held since Serbia is a state based on the rule of law.

Russia, in any event, appears to be playing its cards well. According to London's "The Observer" of 1 October, Moscow has placed its good offices at the disposal of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in his reported effort to persuade Milosevic to step down in return for not being prosecuted for war crimes. Putin has also spoken to U.S. President Clinton on the telephone about current Balkan developments.

This underscores the role that Serbia and the rest of the Balkans has always played for Russian diplomacy: a means to enhance its international position. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow never abandoned its claim to great-power status in the Balkans.

One of the most persistent myths in media reporting on the region is that Russia is concerned about Serbia because of traditional Eastern Orthodox ties. But as the late historian Barbara Jelavich pointed out, Russian (and Soviet) policy in the Balkans was always motivated by calculated national interests and not by sentimentality (the writings of some publicists and politicians notwithstanding). After all, Russia shifted its support back and forth between rival claims of Orthodox Serbia and Orthodox Bulgaria after 1878, depending on Russian policy makers' perceptions of their own country's interests. Russia could not please both, although Russophiles in both countries doggedly adhere to the myth that Russia is their own special friend.

The current developments in Serbia nonetheless provide Russia with an important opportunity in Serbia. First of all, Russia can shore up its own position of influence in Belgrade by helping ease Milosevic out. This is not just because Kostunica and many of those around him are Russophile. The main reason is that they are happy to have a strong Russian--and EU--presence in Serbia to offset what they see as the overwhelming power of the U.S. in the region and the world.

Similarly, by making good offices available in the current crisis, Putin can build up political capital in Berlin, Brussels, and Washington by helping solve the Milosevic problem. In particular, there are those in Western Europe--and not just in France--who would be more than pleased to see an enhanced Russian role in the region to counterbalance that of the U.S. The politicians in Belgrade will largely determine whether this comes to pass.


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