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Newsline - October 9, 2000




PUTIN PLEDGES CONTINUED SUPPORT TO BELGRADE...

In his message to then Yugoslav opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica, which was released by the Kremlin late on 6 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to continue to "unswervingly and firmly stand for the unconditional preservation of the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia." "The Yugoslav people," Putin added, "can continue to rely on our support in this and other issues [related to] guaranteeing stability, peace, and security in Yugoslavia and the Balkans as a whole." He also told Kostunica, who the next day was sworn in as president of Yugoslavia, that he is convinced that Kostunica and his supporters, "as advocates of democratic values, will do everything necessary for developments to unfold within a legal framework," Interfax reported. JC

...AS IVANOV DENIES MOSCOW WAS SLOW TO RECOGNIZE KOSTUNICA...

Speaking to journalists during a visit to Algiers on 8 October (see below), Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov denied that Russia had dragged its feet on recognizing Kostunica's victory in the 24 September elections. "Russia was the first to recognize Mr. Kostunica's election victory after such a decision was made by the country's Constitutional Court," Interfax quoted him as saying. "I personally congratulated Kostunica on his victory and he thanked me." The previous day in Moscow, Ivanov told Russian Television that during his meeting with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 6 October, there was no discussion of guarantees for Milosevic or his family or political party. "We spoke not about the fate of a concrete person or party, but about the fate of Yugoslavia," he remarked. JC

...AND ZHIRINOVSKII LAMENTS LOSS OF THE BALKANS

Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii told journalists in Moscow on 6 October that Ivanov's decision to recognize Kostunica as winner of the presidential elections is Russia's "disgrace," recalling how Russians "had drunk champagne with Ribbentrop and two years later German soldiers had bombed our cities." Interfax quoted Zhirinovskii as calling Kostunica " a purely Yugoslav Yavlinskii" and accusing the West of spending millions of dollars to support the Yugoslav politician during the elections. As for Russia, Zhirinovskii continued, the recognition of Kostunica as president means that Moscow has "lost the Balkans for approximately 50 years." JC

NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET SCRAPES BY FIRST HURDLE...

State Duma deputies on 6 October voted to approve the 2001 draft budget in its first reading. According to ITAR-TASS, the vote was 232 in favor with 186 opposed and two abstentions. For the bill to pass, 226 votes were needed. The government's victory marks the first time the lower house has approved a federal budget in the first reading. "Izvestiya" the next day declared that the State Duma has definitively established itself as an institution that is politically loyal to the federal government. The second reading is scheduled for 20 October. After four readings in the lower house, the Federation Council will consider the bill. JAC

...AS SELEZNEV FAILS TO VOTE WITH COMMUNISTS...

State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, whose Communist faction did not support the legislation, abstained from voting, further fueling speculation about his allegedly close relationship with the Kremlin. The Unity faction, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, the People's Deputy group, the Union of Rightist Forces, and Yabloko voted in favor of the budget, while the Communists, Agro-Industrial group, and Fatherland-All Russia opposed the draft. The vote in the Russian Regions faction was split. JAC

...AND GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO BOOST DEFENSE SPENDING BY 6 PERCENT

Before deputies voted on the draft budget, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told the lower house that the government plans to increase defense spending in the 2001 budget by 12.6 billion rubles ($452 million) to 218.94 billion rubles. He added that 10 billion rubles would come from extra budget revenues, adding that the redistribution of spending items could be made before the budget's second reading, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

COURT FINDS BABITSKII GUILTY

A court in Makhachkala, Daghestan, ruled on 6 October that RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitskii is guilty of having using a forged passport. Owing to an amnesty granted earlier by the State Duma for crimes such as Babitskii's, he will not have to pay the fine of 100 minimum wages--about $300. Babitskii and his lawyers said they will appeal the verdict to the Daghestan Supreme Court and, if necessary, to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation as well. JAC

IVANOV STEPS UP MID-EAST DIPLOMACY

Speaking in Algeria on 8 October during a visit aimed at boosting Russian-Algerian ties, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov stressed that Moscow wants to boost its diplomatic efforts to speed up the Middle East peace process. Ivanov also underlined that President Putin is in "permanent telephone contact" with Middle East leaders to try to find a way to put a stop to the ongoing bloodshed in those Israeli territories under Palestinian jurisdiction. During Putin's telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on 8 October, it was decided that Ivanov would visit Damascus the same day for talks on the violence in the Middle East. Reuters quoted unidentified diplomats as saying that Ivanov would then head for Lebanon for similar talks with Lebanese leaders. Russia is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process. JC

NORTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER MAKES MOSCOW STOPOVER

Paek Nam Sun made a brief stopover at Moscow's Sheremetovo airport on 6 October en route from Berlin to Pyongyang. Interfax reported that he met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin for talks that were "held in the spirit of sincere mutual understanding" and followed up on Russian President Putin's visit to the North Korean capital in July. JC

RUSSIA PREPARES AID FOR ANTICIPATED AFGHAN REFUGEE INFLUX INTO TAJIKISTAN...

Ministry for Emergency Situations official Yurii Brazhnikov told Interfax on 7 October that his ministry has already sent one plane-load of humanitarian aid to Dushanbe in anticipation that the ongoing fighting in northern Afghanistan will trigger an influx of refugees into Tajikistan. Brazhnikov said that a maximum of 150,000 Afghans will be allowed to enter Tajikistan. He did not say whether that figure was arrived at in consultation with the Tajik government. In related news, UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell met in Dushanbe on 6 October with Ahmed Shah Massoud, who commands the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces, ITAR-TASS reported. The two men agreed on the need for a peaceful solution to the ongoing fighting in Afghanistan. LF

...ACCUSES TALIBAN OF SEEKING TO ACQUIRE NUCLEAR POTENTIAL

Russian Security Council official Raisa Vdovichenko told a conference on nuclear non-proliferation in Moscow on 6 October that Taliban envoys have sought to recruit at least one Russian expert on nuclear weapons, Interfax reported. LF

FOUR KILLED BY EXPLOSIONS IN STAVROPOL KRAI

Two women died and more than 20 people were injured in four explosions on 6 October in Pyatigorsk and Nevinnomyssk in Stavropol Krai, Interfax reported. Two further victims died in hospital on 9 October, according to ITAR-TASS. Two bombs exploded within two minutes at the Pyatigorsk railway station, and two more simultaneously at a bus stop and a local market in Nevinnomyssk. A official from the local prosecutor-general's office said all the explosive devices were identical. Four unidentified suspects were arrested the same day. LF

REFUGEES FROM SOUTH OSSETIA PREVENT INGUSH FROM RETURNING TO ABANDONED HOMES

Ossetian refugees from the conflict in Georgia's disputed Republic of South Ossetia who occupied 14 abandoned homes of Ingush who fled North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion in 1992 refused on 6 October to vacate those dwellings in order to enable to original owners to retake possession of them, ITAR-TASS reported. The Ossetians clashed with bailiffs and other representatives of the local authorities sent to evict them. LF

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER REPORTED KILLED

Chechen field commander Baudin Bakoev was killed in a clash with federal forces near Shatoi in southern Chechnya on 8 October, together with 10 more Chechen fighters, Russian media reported. Those sources identified Bakoev as having participated in the abduction of Russian presidential representative Valentin Vlasov in May 1998 and of Major-General Gennadii Shpigun in March 1999. Vlasov was released six months later, while Shpigun's remains were recovered earlier this year. LF

CHECHEN FIGHTERS GUN DOWN POLICE IN INGUSHETIA

Chechen fighters crossed into neighboring Ingushetia and opened fire on a police patrol on 7 October, killing two officers and wounding three more, Russian media reported, quoting an Ingushetian Interior Ministry official. Chechen fighters have been accused of at least two attacks on Russian forces in Ingushetia in recent months. LF

ALLEGED U.S. SPY'S TRIAL SET FOR NEXT WEEK

Former U.S. naval officer Edmond Pope will go on trial on 18 October on charges of espionage, Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, told Interfax on 6 October. Pope is accused of buying plans for a high-speed torpedo. Astakhov noted that his defendant's request for a jury trial was rejected and that the defense's opening arguments will focus on whether Pope, who has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer, is fit to be tried. JC

SOROS CALLS FOR INCREASED POWERS FOR NTV PUBLIC COUNCIL

Addressing an investment conference at Harvard University on 6 October, international financier George Soros praised Russia's macroeconomic situation, calling it "the best in the last 10 years," but expressed his concern about the "arbitrary use of power" displayed during the recent scandal involving Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii and Media Minister Mikhail Lesin. Soros noted that while it is "important to separate the fate of Gusinskii from that of NTV," it "is extremely important that NTV remain independent and not fall under the direct control of the government." In order to separate editorial control and ownership, Gusinskii suggested that powers of NTV's Public Council be strengthened. That council is headed by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Soros concluded that he is "more concerned now about Russia's future as a democracy than as an investment prospect." JAC

OLIGARCHS JOIN FORCES WITH RED DIRECTORS

Delegates to the 11th congress of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs re-elected Arkadii Volskii as their chairman, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 October. Also elected were members of the union's board, who include Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, Interros Group head Vladimir Potanin, LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov, Russian Aluminum Group head Oleg Deripaska, Alfa Bank head Mikhail Friedman, and YUKOS President Mikhail Khodorkovskii. Commenting on the inclusion of many so-called oligarchs on the organization's board, Volskii said there will be "no more division between 'red directors' and oligarchs." Volskii also stated that one of the union's priorities will be to concentrate on defense conversion projects. JAC

NEW BUSINESS COUNCIL FORMED TO PROMOTE TRADE WITH U.S.

A new council composed of executives from top Russian firms plans to "push through [Russian] business to the U.S. market," Russian-American Business Council chairman and former Ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov announced at the group's meeting on 6 October, Interfax reported. According to "The Moscow Times" the next day, the meeting was the group's second gathering. Some 50 companies belong to the council, including Gazprom, LUKoil, the Tyumen Oil Company, Vneshtorgbank, Promexport, the ITERA Holding, and Vimpelcom. According to Vorontsov, the group is modeled on the Washington-based U.S.-Russia Business Council. JAC

INTERIOR MINISTER CALLS FOR JOINT EFFORTS WITH ORTHODOX CHURCH AGAINST SECTS

At a meeting with religious leaders on 6 October in Volgograd Oblast, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo declared that the ministry and clergy should pool their efforts to prevent the further spread in Russia of religious sects whose aim is "undermining Russian statehood," ITAR-TASS reported. According to Rushailo, certain sects have been increasing their efforts in Russian regions. He added that his meetings with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II have been helpful. JAC

BOLSHOI BALLET COMPANY HAS NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Boris Akimov, a former soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet Company, has been appointed artistic director of that company to replace Aleksei Fadeechev, Interfax reported on 6 October, citing the Culture Ministry. Fadeechev was fired by the ministry last week after blaming Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi for the "catastrophic" situation at the Bolshoi Theater (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2000). Since retiring as a soloist in 1989, Akimov has been a ballet master at the Bolshoi Theater. JC

PUTIN CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY IN HOMETOWN

President Putin celebrated his 48th birthday in the town of Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg, on 7 October. Among those political figures attending the celebration were presidential envoy to the Northwestern district Viktor Cherkesov, Leningrad Oblast Governor Valerii Serdyukov, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, and presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin, and Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, Interfax reported. On arriving in St. Petersburg on 6 October, Putin visited the grave of former St. Petersburg Mayor and mentor Anatolii Sobchak. JAC

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES PREDICTED LEWINSKY AFFAIR?

In an interview with Russian Public Television on 7 October publicizing the release of his latest memoirs, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said "none of the oligarchs exerted any influence [on him], nor did anyone dare do so." According to Yeltsin, his daughter and former adviser, Tatyana Dyachenko, had no chance to exert any pressure on him. "I told her never to put pressure on me in any way as it would be pointless." Yeltsin also revealed that Russian intelligence told him in late 1996 that enemies of U.S. President Bill Clinton "planned to plant in his entourage a young provocateur who would spark a major scandal capable of ruining the president's reputation." According to the intelligence report, the Republican party had already noted Clinton's "predilection for beautiful young women," However, Yeltsin dismissed the report as "far-fetched." Two years ago, Monica Lewinsky was accused of being a Russian spy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1998). JAC




CIS CUSTOMS UNION PREMIERS MEET IN ASTANA

Meeting in Astana on 6 October, the prime ministers of the five member states of the CIS Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) initialed a treaty establishing a Eurasian Economic Community (modeled after the EEC) on the basis of the customs union, Interfax reported. That treaty will be formally signed by the presidents of the five states at a summit in Astana on 10 October. The brainchild of Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the new organization will be empowered to represent the interests of member states in discussions with other countries and international organizations about questions related to international trade and customs policy, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 6 October. While its initial focus will be purely economic, observers view the new union as a first step towards broader integration between the five states. As such, it could contribute to realization of Nazarbaev's grandiose 1994 vision of a new Eurasian Union. The five premiers also agreed to draft an agreement on visa-free travel between their respective countries, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 9 October. LF

ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR DEMANDS EIGHT-YEAR SENTENCE FOR FORMER EDUCATION MINISTER

After an eight-month trial, the prosecution has demanded that former acting Education Minister Ashot Bleyan be sentenced to eight years in prison for the embezzlement of state property, according to Armenpress on 6 October as cited by Groong. A former presidential candidate and chairman of the small Nor Ughi party, Bleyan has claimed that the charges against him were fabricated for political reasons. LF

AZERBAIJANI CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION LIFTS BAN ON OPPOSITION PARTIES

Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission on 8 October complied with a 6 October request by President Heidar Aliyev to reverse its rulings barring several opposition parties from contesting the 25 parliamentary mandates to be allocated under the proportional system in the 5 November ballot, Turan reported. The commission had ruled on 7 October that there were no constitutional grounds for altering its original ban and had proposed that President Aliyev raise the issue with the outgoing parliament, but the following day the commission complied with his request. Of the 14 parties that originally applied for registration, the commission registered only five and barred the influential Musavat Party and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) from running. The U.S. State Department issued a statement on 5 October deploring the ban and calling for Musavat and the DPA to be allowed to contest the poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2000). LF

IRAN DENIES COMPLICITY IN MURDER OF AZERBAIJANI HISTORIAN

The Iranian Embassy in Baku issued a statement on 6 October rejecting as "false information" and "a political action aimed at misleading society" the claims made earlier the same day by the Azerbaijani Interior and National Security Ministries that the February1997 murder of eminent Azerbaijani historian Zia Buniatov was carried out by five Azerbaijanis recruited by an organization named Vilayet al-Fagikh Hizbollah, which operates in Iran, Turan reported. The Iranian statement denied that any organization of that name exits in Iran. Buniatov's son Heidar told Turan he considers the ministries' claim "strange and incomprehensible," noting that Hizbollah generally claims responsibility for assassinations its members carry out. LF

RUSSIA TO CLOSE ITS SOUTH GEORGIAN BASE THIS MONTH?

Moscow and Tbilisi have reached agreement that Russia will close its military base in Akhalkalaki, southern Georgia, by the end of this month and transfer at least part of the equipment currently deployed there to Russia's military base in Armenia, Caucasus Press reported on 6 October, citing unidentified Georgian Defense Ministry sources. "Vremya novostei" on 6 October claimed that agreement on the redeployment of the Russian equipment to Armenia was reached during Armenian President Robert Kocharian's recent visit to Moscow. The Armenian Ministry on 9 October declined to comment on the report. Under an agreement reached in November 1999, Moscow pledged to close its bases in Vaziani, near Tbilisi, and Gudauta, Abkhazia, by 1 July 2001, and then discuss the timeframe for closure of its Akhalkalaki and Batumi bases. LF

RUSSIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF EVADING DEBT REPAYMENT

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 7 October accused Georgia of failing to begin repayment of credits due in February of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. A Georgian Finance Ministry official had said in late August after talks in Moscow that agreement had been reached on continuing negotiations on rescheduling Georgia's $179 million debt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 9 October that the IMF and Paris Club will discuss the problem of Georgia's debt to Russia on 9 October, Caucasus Press reported. LF

HEPATITUS EPIDEMIC HITS CIS PEACEKEEPERS IN GEORGIA

Some 25 members of the 1,800 Russian peacekeepers deployed under the aegis of the CIS along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia have been hospitalized with hepatitus-A, Caucasus Press reported on 6 October. The outbreak of the disease is believed to have been caused by drinking contaminated water. LF

GEORGIA, ESTONIA SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and his visiting Estonian counterpart, Toomas Hendriks Ilves, signed a Memorandum on Mutual Understanding in Tbilisi on 5 October, ETA and Caucasus Press reported. The memorandum covers cooperation until the end of 2001 in the spheres of information technology, Estonian training for Georgian police and border guards, public sector management and bringing legislation into line with EU requirements. Caucasus Press on 6 October quoted Ilves as saying Estonia is interested in cooperation with the GUUAM member states but does not intend to join that group. LF

NEW CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST EMBATTLED KAZAKH NEWSPAPER

Ermurat Bapi, who is editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Soldat," has been charged with inciting ethnic hatred, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 6 October. Bapi told RFE/RL that Kazakh customs officials recently confiscated the entire 10,000 print-run of an edition of the paper he had printed in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Publishing houses in Kazakhstan have for months refused to publish "Soldat" because of its criticism of President Nazarbaev (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 7 July 2000). Speaking in Almaty on 6 October, media expert Razana Taukina said increasing pressure on Kazakhstan's media is evidenced by the decline in the number of media outlets from 200 electronic and 8,000 print media outlets in 1993 to 25 and 4,000, respectively, today, Interfax reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, NATO DISCUSS REGIONAL SECURITY ISSUES

Kazakhstan's President Nazarbaev and NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson have held a telephone exchange of information on the situation in northern Afghanistan and its possible implications for Central Asian security, Interfax reported on 6 October citing the Kazakh presidential press service. The two men also discussed the recent Centrazbat maneuvers and Kazakhstan's cooperation with NATO within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program. LF

KYRGYZ COURT EMBARKS ON REVIEW OF KULOV CASE

The Bishkek City Military Court on 3 October began reviewing in closed session the case of former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. After a six-week trial, the court had acquitted Kulov in August on charges of abuse of official position in 1997-1998, when he served as national security minister. However, the board of the Military Court last month annulled the acquittal and called for a retrial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August and 12 September 2000). LF

OPPOSITION CANDIDATE SAYS KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES PRESSURING VOTERS

Kyrgyz presidential candidate and Social Democratic Pary chairman Almaz Atambaev told Interfax on 6 October that the Kyrgyz authorities are "unscrupulously" pressuring the population to vote for incumbent President Askar Akaev in the 29 October presidential poll. He accused local officials of trying to prevent opposition candidates from holding campaign meetings in the provinces. Atambaev compared the present atmosphere to that during the Stalinist purges in 1937 and predicted that "if the elections are fair, Akaev will lose." LF




BELARUSIAN PROVINCES PROTEST 'ELECTION FARCE'

The Belarusian opposition on 8 October staged rallies in more than 20 provincial cities. The demonstrations took place under slogans urging free and democratic elections in Belarus and protesting the "election farce" on 15 October. According to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, the largest rallies took place in Hrodna (2,000 people), Homel (1,500), and Brest (1,500). RFE/RL correspondents reported sporadic arrests of opposition activists calling for a boycott of the legislative ballot on 15 October. The recent developments in Yugoslavia inspired some Belarusian demonstrators to unfurl banners reading "Today Milosevic, tomorrow Lukashenka." JM

MINSK BLASTS U.S. STATEMENT ON LEGISLATIVE BALLOT

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has slammed the U.S. State Department for its 4 October press release saying the U.S. will not recognize the results of Belarus's 15 October legislative ballot. "The statement from the State Department press secretary's office, rude in form and inadequate in content, has nothing in common with the struggle for democracy and represents open pressure on the Belarusian voters as well as an attempt to obstruct their free expression of will," Belarusian Television quoted the ministry as saying on 5 October. The State Department issued the press release following a meeting between Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Andrey Sannikau, head of the Minsk-based human rights group Charter-97. The State Department also said the U.S. opposes sending observers to monitor the15 October elections, saying this "would lend legitimacy to a fundamentally flawed election process." JM

EUROPEAN TROIKA TO SEND FULL-FLEDGED OBSERVERS TO BELARUS'S BALLOT?

Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna said on 6 October that OSCE Minsk mission head Hans Georg Wieck has asked her to accredit 16 representatives of the European parliamentary troika--the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe--as international observers to the 15 October legislative elections. According to Belapan, the OSCE Minsk mission confirmed that report news but added that the request does not contravene the OSCE's former resolution to send only a limited technical assessment mission to the Belarusian poll. "An international observers' mission [usually] numbers some 100 people who are present in some 30-40 percent of electoral districts on election day," the OSCE Minsk mission told the agency. JM

UKRAINE TO GET MORE CREDITS FROM WORLD BANK, EBRD

World Bank President James Wolfensohn pledged in Kyiv last week that his bank will soon allocate $70 million to complete a program restructuring Ukraine's coal sector, which was launched in 1996, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 9 October. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov commented that the loan will improve the country's financial situation but will not prevent the government from making budget cuts this year. Wolfensohn also promised to send a mission to Kyiv to discuss the allocation of $100 million to support Ukraine's financial sector. Meanwhile, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has signed an agreement with Kyiv on issuing a $100 million credit for the purchase of fuel for four Ukrainian energy generating companies. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER APPEALS OVER STATE 'PRESSURE'

Oleh Lyashko, chief editor of the opposition newspaper "Svoboda," has sent an open letter to the ambassadors in Kyiv of EU countries, the U.S., Russia, and Japan asking for help in purchasing printing equipment to publish his newspaper, Interfax reported on 6 October. Lyashko's letter mentions 14 publishing houses that had agreed to publish "Svoboda" but subsequently refused to do so while continuing to publish other newspapers. "Thus, we have every reason to say that the refusal of these publishers to print our newspaper was connected with pressure exercised on them by state bodies," Lyashko wrote. JM

LATVIAN PUBLIC DEEMS PRIVATIZATION UNSUCCESSFUL

A survey by the SKDS polling firm revealed that nearly three-quarters of Latvian residents (71.8 percent) believe privatization in Latvia has been unsuccessful. Only 14.5 percent said the privatization process has been successful, BNS reported on 6 October. MH

LITHUANIANS VOTE IN GENERAL ELECTIONS...

Lithuanians on 8 October elected a new parliament in which the political balance has swung back toward the left. According to preliminary results, the Social Democratic coalition, led by former President Algirdas Brazauskas, won the poll with 31.25 percent of the vote. The center-left New Alliance (Social Liberals) came second with 19.51 percent, followed by coalition partner Liberal Union (17.25 percent) and the current ruling Conservatives (8.58 percent), the Central Election Commission's website reported. The preliminary results showed only these four groups clearing the 5 percent threshold for the 70 seats distributed according to the proportional representation system. The Peasants Party had 4.35 percent backing, while the Center Union, the coalition partner of the New Alliance and Liberal Union, fared surprisingly poorly with 2.82 percent, prompting party leader Romualdas Ozolas to consider resigning, ELTA added. MH

...AS CONSERVATIVES SUFFER HUGE LOSSES IN CONSTITUENCIES

The ruling Conservatives fared poorly in the 71 direct-mandate seats that are elected by a simple majority, winning only one seat. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius lost his constituency (Silute-Silale), as did several other cabinet ministers seeking such seats. The only cabinet member to win a direct mandate is Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas, who thereby secured the Christian Democratic Party's only such seat. Preliminary results showed the Social Democrat bloc with 19 seats, followed by the Liberal Union with 14 and New Alliance with 10. The turnout is currently estimated at 55-57 percent. MH

VILNIUS SAYS SOVIET OCCUPATION COST LITHUANIA $20 BILLION

A Lithuanian government committee announced on 6 October that the Soviet occupation of Lithuania caused an estimated $20 billion worth of damage. The committee, led by Deputy Justice Minister Rasa Budbergyte, took into account the loss of property through destruction or confiscation as well as the persecution of Lithuanian nationals, the Catholic Church, and other institutions and groups in Lithuania. The report was in accordance with a law passed earlier this year calling for compensation from Moscow for the Soviet occupation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2000). MH

POLISH PRESIDENT WINS RE-ELECTION IN FIRST ROUND...

According to preliminary results of the 8 October presidential elections, President Aleksander Kwasniewski has been re-elected for another five-year term, gaining 54 percent of the vote, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on its website the next day. With votes in 63 of the 69 electoral districts counted, independent candidate Andrzej Olechowski received 15.81 percent backing and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski 15.25 percent. The turnout was more than 61 percent. Final official results of the ballot are expected on 10 October. "It's a knockout," Leszek Miller, leader of the post-Communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), said, commenting on Kwasniewski's victory. He added that the SLD hopes to win "in the same style" in next year's parliamentary elections. JM

...WHILE SOLIDARITY LEADER CALLS FOR UNITY ON THE RIGHT

Krzaklewski said on 8 October that the presidential campaign showed there is no alternative to the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) on the right wing. He added, however, that "the AWS currents must merge into one river" in order to win the "next battles." AWS activist Jacek Rybicki said the ballot results do not undermine Krzaklewski's leadership. "Lech Walesa's result is a tragedy for me," Rybicki said, commenting on the former Solidarity leader's 1 percent showing in the ballot. Meanwhile, "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 9 October called for Krzaklewski to step down in favor of a candidate that could unite the Solidarity bloc. "Krzaklewski can only lead the AWS to another defeat in the 2001 elections," the daily wrote. JM

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR APPEALS TO ZEMAN OVER TEMELIN...

Wolfgang Schuessel on 8 October appealed to his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, to stop the Temelin nuclear power plant from being launched, CTK and dpa reported. His appeal came after the Czech Utility company CEZ asked the Nuclear Safety Authority (SUJB) for permission to put the plant on line this week. SUJB deputy Chairman Karel Boehm on 8 October told Czech Television that a "complete and thorough examination " of the plant was completed that day and "no serious or substantial problems were found." He said he believes the "go-ahead" might be given as soon as 9 October. Schuessel stressed that the launching of Temelin would have consequences for Prague's EU membership bid, arguing that "the conclusion of the energy chapter [in the aquis communautaire negotiations]...will not be possible." MS

...WHILE PROTESTS CONTINUE AT BORDERS

Austrian protesters against the launching of the plant blocked all crossing points between Austria and the Czech Republic on 6 October in what was the longest (13 hours) anti-Temelin action so far. Several border points were also blocked on 8 October, CTK reported. MS

CZECH PREMIER'S ADVISER RESIGNS OVER 'OPERATION LEAD'

Zdenek Sarapatka, who several months ago informed the police that Vratislav Sima was behind the "Operation Lead" campaign aimed at discrediting Chamber of Deputies Deputy Chairwoman Petra Buzkova, has resigned as an adviser to the premier, CTK reported on 6 October, citing Czech Television. Sarapatka said he was "disappointed" by the recent statements Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Karel Brezina, who heads the premier's office, have made about the affair. Like Sarapatka, Sima is an adviser to the premier. He has been suspended until the investigations into the affair are concluded. MS

CZECH PREMIER INSULTS JOURNALISTS AGAIN

"Journalists claim they are the watchdogs of democracy, but they are no pit bulls of Czech society, rather degenerated mongrels who are only on the lookout for sensations," Zeman wrote in the daily "Pravo" on 7 October. "Given their intellectual inferiority, they are unable to grasp the core of developments," the premier added. He also commented that although he hopes Vice President Al Gore will win the U.S. presidential election, he very much approved of Gore opponent George W. Bush calling a journalist "a major-league asshole," CTK reported. MS

MATICA SLOVENSKA'S ANTI-HUNGARIAN RALLY REVIVES OLD THEMES

Anna Malinkova, leader of the Slovak National Party, told an 8 October rally of the Matica Slovenska "cultural" organization in Surany, southern Slovakia, that "the times of the extended friendly hands are over, now a fist must be shown and perhaps a weapon prepared," CTK reported. The rally was called to protest the demand of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) that a separate administrative district be established in the Komarno region, where many ethnic Hungarians live. Malinkova also denounced the SMK's demand for a state university offering Hungarian-language instruction to be set up in Nitra as well as a plan "to create a European Gypsy university in Kosice." She ended her speech by quoting from the Slovak national anthem: "Let's stop them, brothers." MS

HUNGARY READY TO AID YUGOSLAVIA

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on 6 October that there can be no way back to power for Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic. Orban cut short a visit to Paris to return home and follow developments in Belgrade. He told reporters at Budapest airport that Hungary is prepared to provide assistance to Yugoslavia, adding that Budapest insists that ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina be given equal treatment. In other news, a report on Hungary's National Military Strategy lists large-scale migration, religious and ethnic tensions, and Yugoslavia's "intermittent armed internal conflicts" as sources of danger to Hungary's security, Hungarian media reported on 9 October. MSZ




SERBIAN GOVERNMENT QUITS

The Constitutional Court ruled on 6 October that Democratic Opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica was elected Yugoslav president on 24 September in the first round of voting. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic conceded defeat (see below). Kostunica appeared on state-run television for a phone-in program to discuss his plans with citizens. In his inaugural speech on 7 October, he appealed for a climate of political tolerance and the cultivation of democratic values and practices. Kostunica promised to make a longer speech outlining his program "in a couple of days," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 9 October, Mladjan Dinkic of the independent G-17 group of economists said that Kostunica and his supporters will soon "ask for" the resignation of the Serbian government, which is controlled by Milosevic's supporters, AP reported. Opposition leader Velimir Ilic appealed to the Serbian government "not to ignore the will of the people." Later that day, opposition leader Zoran Djindjic told AP that the Serbian government agreed to resign and that new elections for the Serbian legislature will take place on 19 December. PM

KOSTUNICA HAS HIS WORK CUT OUT FOR HIM

Kostunica and his supporters on 6 October began work to form a Yugoslav government. He has said he would prefer to form a government of experts rather than attempt to include representatives of all the political parties in his large coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. One of his chief problems is that he does not have a majority in the lower house of the parliament and will have to win the support of at least one or two parties that formerly backed Milosevic in order to get his cabinet approved (see "End Note," in "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2000). His second major problem will be to reach a political understanding with the reform-minded government of Montenegro, which does not recognize the 24 September elections as legal or legitimate. President Milo Djukanovic said on 7 October that he will continue to boycott federal institutions, the BBC reported. Djukanovic referred to Kostunica as 'the representative of the democratic forces in Serbia" but not as Yugoslav president. PM

KOSTUNICA MOVES TO REIN IN YUGOSLAV ARMY

On 7 October, opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade that Milosevic "has lost all his influence over the police and military forces," Reuters reported. Djindjic added that the Serbian police recently "received some terrible, criminal orders, but they refused to carry them out and I thank them for that." Djindjic blamed Serbian police chief Vlajko Stojiljkovic for trying to "destabilize the country." Djindjic added, however, that the bugging of opposition politicians' telephones has stopped. The high command of the Yugoslav army issued a statement on 7 October saying that the military "can work with" Kostunica. The newly inaugurated president met with the top generals the next day to express "his concern about certain [unspecified] occurrences in the post-election period that were not in keeping with the constitution and [Yugoslav] law," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). Kostunica is expected to move quickly to depoliticize the army and the police. The army is a federal institution, but the police are subordinated to the Interior Ministry of Serbia. PM

EU TO LIFT SOME SANCTIONS AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA

EU foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg on 9 October to lift some of the sanctions imposed against the Milosevic regime. The move is intended as what British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called a "swift, generous, and welcoming" response to the recent changes in Belgrade, AP reported. The ministers are expected to lift bans on oil sales to Yugoslavia as well as on flights by Belgrade's JAT airlines to Western Europe. Restrictions on issuing visas to Yugoslav citizens and controls on Yugoslav assets abroad are expected to be eased soon but will remain in place for Milosevic and his entourage. The U.S. and the U.K. continue to say that at least some sanctions should remain in place until Milosevic goes to or is sent to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal for trial. France and Germany are more willing to lift all sanctions as soon as possible, regardless of what happens to Milosevic. Deutsche Welle reported that traditionally important business ties between Yugoslavia and Germany are expected to be restored soon, once the sanctions are lifted. PM

WESTERN PLEDGES FOR YUGOSLAVIA

On 6 October, French President Jacques Chirac said in Paris that he has invited Kostunica to an "informal EU summit" on 13-14 October in Biarritz. German officials announced an aid package on 7 October aimed at clearing the debris from destroyed bridges lying in the Danube River. The EU previously offered to remove the debris that resulted from NATO's 1999 bombing campaign but the Milosevic government attached political conditions that Brussels would not meet. Also on 7 October, Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland arrived in Belgrade. He called for an immediate lifting of sanctions and announced a Norwegian aid program for Yugoslavia. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said at a press conference with Kostunica that "Europe very much welcomes what is happening here." He added that "we see Yugoslavia as a country which has great potential for stability in the wider region of southeastern Europe and obviously has a role to play, a very important role. I am very moved to be in Yugoslavia, in Belgrade, at this historic moment," Reuters reported. PM

FIRST CONTACT BETWEEN CLINTON, YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT

U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 6 October that Kostunica is "a leader who has often publicly disagreed with me and my policies, who is a patriotic nationalist of his country, but who believes in the rule of law and obviously the democratic process... The great lion's share of the credit [for the changes] belongs to the people of Serbia. Seventy-five percent of them showed up [to vote on 24 September] in an environment that was somewhat less than congenial," Reuters reported. On 9 October, Clinton and Kostunica spoke on the telephone for 10 minutes in what National Security Council spokesman P. J. Crowley called a "cordial...congratulatory call." Clinton "acknowledged President Kostunica has a lot of hard work ahead of him to remove the vestiges of the Milosevic regime," Reuters reported. PM

MILOSEVIC'S FATE UNCLEAR IN SERBIA...

After a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Belgrade on 6 October (see Part I), Milosevic met for two hours with Kostunica, whom he thanked for "relieving me of this burden of office," the BBC reported. The former president delivered a televised address to the nation, which reporters described as "cheeky" and "arrogant." Milosevic said that he wants to rest, spend more time with his family, and prepare a political comeback at the head of a revitalized Socialist Party of Serbia. Kostunica has said several times in recent days that he has far more pressing things to think about than Milosevic's fate. But on 8 October, Mladjan Dinkic said that Milosevic will not be extradited to The Hague but may have to face trial in Belgrade. Dinkic added that he expects public prosecutors to file charges soon, AP reported. At least one non-governmental organization has already filed charges against Milosevic, his wife, and their son for abuse of office, theft, use of force against citizens, and several other charges, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

...WHILE DEL PONTE SAYS SHE'S READY TO MEET MILOSEVIC AT THE HAGUE

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in Munich on 7 October that the people of Yugoslavia should decide Milosevic's fate "without any outside pressure," Deutsche Welle reported. The previous day, Chirac told reporters in Paris that "for more than 10 years, Milosevic spread fear and death. Ousted from power, he will have to account for his crimes," Reuters reported. In Geneva on 8 October, Hague Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that "our objective is to indict the fallen dictator by December for crimes committed in Bosnia and in Croatia [between 1991 and 1995]. For the first time, Milosevic should be indicted for the crime of genocide," Reuters reported. Two days earlier, she said in Prishtina that "I will take this occasion to send a message to the president-elect, Mr. Kostunica, that I'm prepared to receive Milosevic in The Hague at any time," AP reported. PM

CHINA BARS ENTRY TO MILOSEVIC'S SON

On 7 October, Milosevic's controversial businessman son, Marko, flew to Moscow with his wife and child. Reuters reported two days later that Chinese officials refused him entry in Beijing and put him on a return flight to Moscow. PM

VOJVODINA CATASTROPHE FOR MILOSEVIC

On 8 October, the second round of voting for the Vojvodina provincial assembly gave the coalition of Milosevic's Socialists and his wife's United Yugoslav Left only two out of 120 seats, Reuters reported. The two parties had a majority in the outgoing legislature. PM

KOSOVA REMAINS UNIMPRESSED

Hashim Thaci, who is a former Kosovar guerrilla leader turned politician, said in Zurich that Kostunica's election means that "a new era is beginning in the Balkans. But for Kosova it doesn't matter much. We want to be independent from Belgrade and from Kostunica," Reuters reported on 8 October. In Prishtina, Thaci's associate Jakup Krasniqi told Reuters that Kostunica will, like Milosevic, face defeat if he does not abandon Serbian claims to the province. Krasniqi stressed that "now Serbia is out of Kosova. Kosova will walk to independence." In Luxembourg on 9 October, Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, appealed to the EU foreign ministers to link lifting of sanctions to Belgrade's cooperation in freeing the Kosovar prisoners it holds, dpa reported. PM

ROMANIAN 'ROYAL' CANDIDATE LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL BID

A grandson of King Carol II launched his presidential campaign on 7 October and announced he will also run for a seat in the Senate, Romanian Radio reported. "Prince Paul of Romania," as he calls himself, is the descendant of Carol and Zizi Lambrino, whose 1918 marriage was later annulled. On 8 October, National Liberal Party (PNL) candidate Theodor Stolojan officially launched his bid for the presidency amid bitter mutual accusations between the PNL and its former National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) ally. PNL First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica said the PNTCD has shown it is "unfit to govern." PNTCD secretary-general Remus Opris responded that the PNL is "about to become a leftist party" that is ready to "sacrifice democratic forces" in order to survive as the junior coalition partner of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER SUMS UP U.S. VISIT

Addressing a gathering at RFE/RL's Washington bureau, Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis said he has reasons to be optimistic after meetings with U.S. officials, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 6 October. He said he had discussed with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott the possibility of setting up a joint U.S.-Moldova "working group" to promote trade between the two countries and U.S. investments in Moldova. Braghis also said U.S. officials repeated that Washington is ready to help finance the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Transdniester and contribute to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict there. Braghis added that the privatization of Moldova's vine and tobacco industries are "totally dependent on the parliament's decision." The IMF and the World Bank continue to regard the passage of legislation on the privatization of those industries as a condition for resuming loaning. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL POWERS FURTHER CURTAILED

The parliament on 6 October amended the Law on the Information and Security Service (SIS), abolishing the prerogative of the country's president to appoint the director of that service. Under the amendment, the parliament must now approve the candidate whom the president proposes for that position, while the service is subordinated to the legislature instead of the head of the state. SIS deputy directors are to be appointed by the president, on the recommendation of that institution's director, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

LIBYA POSTPONES BULGARIAN MEDICS' TRIAL AGAIN

A Libyan court on 7 October postponed for the sixth time the trial of six Bulgarians accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus, Reuters reported. The trial is now scheduled for 4 November. The postponement was made at the request of the defense, which wants more time to study the indictment. A senior Bulgarian Foreign Ministry official told Reuters the postponement "shows the court respects the requests of the defence and acts according to the laws." MS




ALBANIANS VOTE FOR CONTINUITY


By Fabian Schmidt

The 1 October first round of local elections in Albania indicates that the governing Socialist Party (PS) is likely to win in a majority of municipalities and communities, many of which are currently held by the opposition Democratic Party (PD). The PD has clearly failed to present a credible alternative to the Socialists.

According to preliminary results, the PS got just over 50 percent of the votes nationwide and the PD just over 33 percent. The small Social Democratic Party received over 4 percent, the ethnic Greek Human Rights Union Party 2 percent, and all other parties together 7 percent.

The PS has won in 27 cities and 105 communities and the PD in nine cities and 33 communities. In 28 cities and 87 communities. there will be a run-off. The Socialist Party has claimed victory in the capital, Tirana, a traditional PD stronghold.

The PS's gains are likely to boost the government's self-confidence about winning the upcoming general elections early next summer. It also shows that the PD-led opposition has failed to convince most voters of its ability to pursue a policy of stabilization and economic recovery.

International observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe acknowledged that the elections were conducted freely and fairly. They also noted that there was considerable improvement compared with the two previous general elections, in 1996 and 1997, which were marred by violence. This time there were some irregularities--mostly involving names missing from the voters' lists--but OSCE officials denied PD claims that these irregularities affected the outcome of the vote. OSCE spokesman Giovanni Porta stressed that "everything reported by our observers is positive."

The Central Election Commission, responding to pressure from the opposition, had added about 360,000 potential voters to the voting lists in recent weeks, mostly people who are permanently living abroad. This increased the total number of voters to almost 2.7 million, the highest number of registered voters ever in Albanian history. By comparison, in the 1996 local elections there were only 2,178,110 voters registered. The large number of absent voters, however, resulted in a comparatively low turnout of only 61 percent of all those registered.

Nonetheless, Vili Minarolli, the local PD chairman for Tirana, claimed that up to another 200,000 names were missing from the voters lists in Tirana alone. He told "Shekulli" that "the electoral process all over Albania has been completely manipulated, and for this reason the PD does not recognize the election results." Minarolli claimed that "the Albanian government organized an electoral farce, knowing full well what it was doing. It followed the example of what their fathers [the Communists] had done for 50 years."

He argued that those missing from the lists did not have enough time to register themselves before the elections and that there were "fictitious names" on voting lists.

PD spokesman Edi Paloka--speaking on behalf of party leader Sali Berisha--described the vote as "invalid," arguing that "between 30 percent and 40 percent of the voting lists were manipulated." He also claimed that polling station commissions turned "tens of thousands of Albanians" away on voting day because their names were missing from the lists. Referring to incidents in which polling stations had not received enough ballot-papers for all the voters by noon, Paloka claimed that the Central Election Commission distributed the ballots according to "political geography."

Those charges lack credibility, however. For the first time, the elections were based on Albania's new computerized Central Population Register, developed since 1997 in close cooperation with the OSCE. For his part, OSCE Ambassador to Albania Gert Ahrens stressed that the claim of electoral fraud "is a phenomenon that we have seen eight times during elections in Albania over the past 10 years." Ahrens noted that such charges are often exaggerated.

Furthermore, the head of the PD Reform Movement, Genc Pollo, acknowledged that the PD had indeed suffered significant losses and put the blame for losing the vote on his political rival Berisha. Pollo told "Shekulli" that the declarations by several PD officials that they do not recognize the outcome are "irresponsible, undemocratic, and adventurous." He added that "these irresponsible attitudes toward democratic rules will lead the country into new tensions and clashes, which are both unnecessary and dangerous for Albania."

Pollo stressed, furthermore, that failure to recognize election results will send "a very negative signal to Kosova, where the first free elections in its history will take place in three weeks."

"Koha Jone" suggested that "the Albanian opposition faces its most difficult situation" yet. The daily added that PD officials "are confronted with a new situation, which forces them to readjust and accept a new political reality." That reality is that they are an opposition party that has to become more creative in developing credible policy alternatives to those of the current administration. Over the past four years, the PD's main political strategy was to ridicule the PS-dominated coalition government, often using extremely harsh rhetoric. The PD has serious problems, however, presenting itself to the voters as a constructive political force.

The local elections suggest that the voters see some improvement in Albania's economy and security situation. Some observers suggest that Albanians, moreover, are too afraid of a return to the anarchy and violence of 1997 to vote for change. Thus those voters have once again opted for the Socialists, not because they like the PS program but because they want stability and hope that the current government will continue its economic and administrative reforms.


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