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Newsline - October 18, 2000




PUTIN BOOSTS PENSIONS EARLIER THAN SCHEDULED...

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on 17 October that as of 1 November all pensions will be increased by 10 percent, ITAR-TASS reported. According to RFE/RL's Russian Service, the average pension in Russia today is 615 rubles ($22) per month. Pensioners in the Far North will receive an additional increase of 50-300 rubles per month, Interfax reported. According to Putin, the government had planned to raise pensions as of 1 February, but the government decided that the earlier date was possible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). JAC

...AS SOME OF EXTRA REVENUE TO GO TO CHECHNYA CAMPAIGN

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 17 October that the government is expecting 260 billion rubles this year of additional budget revenue. According to Kudrin, the cabinet decided that day that priority spending areas for the additional monies include national defense spending related to the military operation in Chechnya and money to replace loans not received from the West. On 26 October, the cabinet will discuss and approve draft amendments to the 2000 budget regarding the distribution of this extra revenue. JAC

FSB CLAIMS 'MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD' HAS NETWORK IN RUSSIA, CIS

The extremist wing of the "Muslim Brotherhood" has established a network of 49 groups throughout Russia and further organizations in unnamed CIS states, according to a Federal Security Service (FSB) press release of 17 October, as summarized by Interfax. The FSB claims that the main objective of that network is to fan separatist sentiments in those regions of Russia whose population is predominantly Muslim. It adds that they engage in charitable operations as a front for "spreading the ideas of militant Islam." LF

RUSSIA, SPAIN CALL FOR WIDENING PARTICIPATION IN MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters on 17 October that the results of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit between Israel and Palestine the previous day are the "maximum of what could have been achieved at the present stage," Interfax reported. Earlier in the day, the Foreign Ministry released a statement that "Russia as a co-sponsor of the peace process is continuing to work actively on the resuscitation of the Arab-Israeli talks on all tracks--Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese." Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique Camps, who was in Moscow for an official trip, suggested that the "format of the Camp David [talks] has been exhausted, and it is necessary to involve as many countries as possible in the peace process." JAC

...AS GROUNDWORK LAID FOR SPANISH PREMIER'S MOSCOW VISIT

After a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Camps on 17 October, Ivanov declared that relations between Russia and Spain have reached a "very high level," ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov added that the two officials discussed preparation for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's trip to Moscow in the first half of next year, the situation in the Middle East and Balkans, and bilateral trade and economic matters. In addition to Aznar's trip, also planned is an upcoming session of the intergovernmental Russian-Spanish commission on economic cooperation scheduled for the end of November or beginning of December and a visit by Ivanov to Spain in the first quarter of 2001. JAC

POPE PREDICTS INCARCERATION TO CONTINUE

U.S. businessman and former Naval intelligence officer Edmund Pope expressed pessimism the day before his trial on espionage charges, which is scheduled to open on 18 October. According to Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, Pope said "I see two possible outcomes: a better one and a worse one. The worse one would be that we are all thrown in jail, including the lawyers. The better one is that I am imprisoned alone," "The Moscow Times" reported on 18 October. The trial will be closed to the public. JAC

NEWSPAPER WARNS INCREASED POWERS FOR TAX POLICE IN THE OFFING

"Kommersant-Daily," in which Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest, reported on 17 October that it has somehow managed to obtain a copy of draft legislation that would "transform the tax police into a powerful secret service." The article does not clarify who authored the bill on "amendments to the law on the tax police" or when it will be submitted to the State Duma. According to the daily, the bill would give the tax police the power to establish subdivisions and branches and forbids other state organs from interfering in tax police activities. The major aim of the legislation is to prevent money-laundering. JAC

SPREAD OF HIV CASES CONTINUES

The number of persons infected with the HIV virus has risen almost 300 percent since 1 January to total 62,270 as of 1 October, Interfax reported on 17 October, citing the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Supervisory Committee. More than 90 percent of the new cases are intravenous drug users. The city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast continue to be the leaders in the rate of infection among regions nationwide. Sverdlovsk and Kaliningrad oblasts have also recorded a higher than average rate of HIV-infection (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 June 2000). JAC

SUCCESSOR GROUP TO RUSSIAN NATIONAL UNITY FORMED

A new nationalist movement has been founded in Moscow by the former deputy chairman of Russian National Unity (RNE), Oleg Kassin, "Vremya novostei" reported on 16 October. According to Kassin, Russian Revival will "take over where RNE left off," but will have a different organizing principle. "Emphasis will be placed on the propaganda of the national idea and of the organization rather than on the personality of its leader," Kassin explained. He added that the new group will participate in elections at all levels and will apply for official registration. RNE leader Aleksandr Barkashov was removed from leadership of that organization last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). NTV reported on 14 October that Russian Revival has the support of most of RNE's regional branches. JAC

NEWSPAPERS LIST THOSE WHO REFUSED BEREZOVSKII

Russian newspapers reported on 17 October that of the almost 30 media officials and artists invited to participate in Teletrust--the trust established by Boris Berezovskii to manage his stake in Russian Public Television--so far at least three people have declined the offer. According to "Moskovskii komsomolets," author Viktor Pelevin, Spartak soccer coach Oleg Romantsev, and NTV General-Director Yevgenii Kiselev have declined to join Teletrust (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). According to "Vedomosti," filmmaker Edvard Radzinskii and NTV journalists Svetlana Sorokina, Nikolai Karachentsov, and Kiselev have said "no." More than a dozen have accepted, but at least 29 members are being sought. JAC

TOP NTV OFFICIAL LEAVES MEDIA-MOST FOR STATE NEWS COMPANY

NTV First Deputy General-Director Vladimir Kulistikov has tendered his resignation, Interfax reported on 17 October. Kulistikov has confirmed that he will work at the RIA-Novosti agency. That agency is part of the federal mass media holding which includes the All-Russia Federal TV and Radio company, 99 regional state TV and radio companies, Kultura TV Channel 5, Radio Rossiya, and Radio Mayak. JAC

ABRAMOVICH'S PLANS CONFIRMED

An initiative group in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug has nominated State Duma Deputy (independent) and former Sibneft head Roman Abramovich for governor of that region in elections scheduled for 24 December, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 17 October (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 October 2000). Abramovich is the third candidate to be registered in the region. Incumbent Governor Aleksandr Nazarov is expected to run, and, according to "Segodnya" on 18 October, the local Unity branch has already given him their support. JAC

RUSSIA PICKS ITS FILM FOR OSCAR NOMINATION

"The Diary of My Wife," directed by Aleksei Uchitel, has been selected by Russia as its submission for the next year's Academy Award for best foreign film, "Segodnya" reported on 18 October. The film is about the relationship of Russian writer Ivan Bunin with his wife and another woman. Among recent Russian films that have won Oscars are "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" in 1980 (rereleased internationally many years later) and "Burnt by the Sun" in 1995. JAC




ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REINSTATES PARLIAMENT SPEAKER

Responding to a request by President Robert Kocharian, the Constitutional Court ruled on 17 October that the 26 September parliament vote to remove speaker Armen Khachatrian from his post was accompanied by serious violations and thus unconstitutional, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khachatrian himself had refused to acknowledge the validity of the ballot, but the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian regarded it as binding and accused Khachatrian of "illegally" clinging to his post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September and 2 and 3 October 2000). The chairman of the parliament's Commission for State and Legal Affairs, Viktor Dallakian, said after the Constitutional Court ruling that those 63 deputies who on 26 September voted in favor of Khachatrian's resignation may now call for a vote of no-confidence in him, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT TO UNDERGO MEDICAL CHECKUP IN EUROPE

President Kocharian traveled on 17 October to an unnamed European country to undergo a medical checkup, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported, quoting presidential spokeswoman Hasmik Petrosian. Petrosian denied that Kocharian, who is 46, is suffering from any illness, and said he will return to Armenia within three days. LF

ARMENIA, RUSSIA SIGN PROTOCOL ON VISA-FREE REGIME

Russian ambassador Anatolii Dryukov and Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Levon Mkrtchian signed a protocol in Yerevan on 17 October on visa-free travel between those two states by their respective citizens, Noyan Tapan reported. Dryukov said the protocol is "not a bureaucratic agreement," but is intended to ensure the rights of Russian citizens living in Armenia and Armenian citizens resident in the Russian Federation. LF

KARABAKH AUTHORITIES REJECT AZERBAIJANI STATEMENT

The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has responded to a 9 October statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry that condemned as a violation of Azerbaijani and international law a cooperation agreement signed five weeks earlier between the Armenian and NKR governments, Noyan Tapan reported on 17 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September and 10 October 2000). The Azerbaijani statement also criticized the Karabakh authorities' decision to replace some Azerbaijani toponyms in the enclave with earlier Armenian names. The Karabakh response noted that even before the demise of the USSR such decisions were within the competence of the leadership of the (then) Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. The Karabakh Foreign Ministry termed Azerbaijan's policy vis-a-vis the economic development of the NKR "openly hostile." It said Azerbaijani actions run contrary to the Azerbaijani leadership's stated readiness to establish peace in the region. LF

AZERBAIJAN SIGNS AGREEMENT ON OIL PIPELINE FEASIBILITY STUDY

Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR signed an agreement on 17 October in Baku with a group of seven international oil companies that have undertaken to finance a $25 million feasibility study on construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, Reuters and Turan reported. To date, no investors have expressed readiness to fund construction of that 1,730 pipeline, which will have an initial annual throughput capacity of 17 million tons, eventually rising to 50 million tons. The estimated cost of construction, which will begin in late 2001 and take 32 months, is $2.4 billion. David Woodward, head of the Baku office of BP-Amoco, which has a 25.41 percent stake in the feasibility study, told journalists at the 17 October signing ceremony that "we all believe that the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will be commercially viable and competitive." LF

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS CONDEMN U.S. MOVES ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE RECOGNITION

Passage by the U.S. Congress of a non-binding resolution urging U.S. presidents formally to designate as genocide the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey would cast doubts on the U.S.'s ability to act as an objective and fair mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev said in Moscow on 17 October. "We do not support any sort of discussion like this in Congress," Reuters quoted Guliev as saying. He added that discussion of the genocide should be left to historians. Speaking in Baku the previous day, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev condemned the discussion of the resolution in Congress as "a great injustice," according to Turan. LF

AZERBAIJAN TO WRITE OFF DEBTS OF STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES?

Opening a brewery near Baku established as an Azerbaijani-French joint venture, President Aliyev suggested on 16 October that writing off the debt of state-owned enterprises could encourage foreign investors, Turan and Interfax reported. Aliyev admitted that unnamed forces in Azerbaijan seek to create problems for foreign companies operating in Azerbaijan and condemned what he termed "illegal" checks of their economic activities by law enforcement agencies. Aliyev said only the Tax Ministry is empowered to conduct such checks. LF

GEORGIA TO CHALLENGE AGREEMENT ON SOVIET DEBTS, ASSETS

Georgia will demand, at a meeting in Tbilisi next month of the Georgian-Russian economic commission, a revision of the 1993 agreement whereby Georgia forfeited all claims on former Soviet assets while Russia assumed responsibility for all Soviet debts, Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze told Interfax on 17 October. The Georgian parliament has never ratified that agreement, "Izvestiya" noted on 18 October. President Eduard Shevardnadze said during his weekly radio address on 16 October that Tbilisi intends to demand its share of the assets of the former USSR. Former Georgian Premier Tengiz Sigua, who negotiated the 1993 agreement, said that it would be "unrealistic" for Tbilisi to demand billions of dollars from Moscow, but that the two countries could instead agree to cancel their mutual debts. The Russian Foreign Ministry has recently accused Georgia of failing to begin repayments on its $179 million debt to Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2000). LF

NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT ARGUES AGAINST RUSSIAN VISA REQUIREMENT FOR GEORGIANS

Aleksandr Dzasokhov told journalists in Moscow on 17 October that he sees no urgent or important reasons for the introduction of a visa requirement for Georgian citizens wishing to enter the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian officials have argued for the past year that persons entering Russia from Georgia should have valid visas in order to exclude Chechen and international terrorists. Dzasokhov objected that the introduction of a visa regime "does not meet the interests of two friendly countries either strategically or in the medium term." He added that such a regime would hinder communication between his republic and the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia in neighboring Georgia. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY SETS CONDITIONS FOR PARTICIPATING IN 'NATIONAL DIALOGUE'

Leading members of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan said in Almaty on 16 October that they will not attend meetings of the roundtable planned by the Kazakh government unless the party's chairman, Akezhaan Kazhegeldin, is permitted to return from exile to participate, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Kazhegeldin, who is a former prime minister of Kazakhstan, said a year ago he is prepared to mediate a dialogue between the government and opposition to discuss the problems the country faces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). LF

KYRGYZ CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION REJECTS CANDIDATES' CRITICISM...

Kyrgyzstan's Central Electoral Commission (CEC) issued a statement on 17 October rejecting the claim made three days earlier by three opposition candidates in the 29 October presidential poll, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The three candidates--Almaz Atembaev, Omurbek Tekebaev, and Melis Eshimkanov--accused the commission of creating obstacles to electioneering by opposition candidates and of preparing to falsify the outcome of the ballot in favor of incumbent President Askar Akaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). The CEC further accused unnamed NGOs engaged in training election observers of lobbying on behalf of those three opposition candidates, according to Interfax. Members of Tekebaev's campaign staff issued a further statement on 17 October repeating earlier claims that the CEC is denying opposition candidates access to premises to conduct election rallies. That statement also noted that opposition candidates face problems trying to secure TV air time. LF

...WARNS ONE OF THEM

Also on 17 October, the CEC issued a separate statement warning Eshimkanov that he had violated election regulations by publishing criticism of the current political situation in Kyrgyzstan in the 14 October issue of the newspaper "Asaba," which he owns. LF

INDEPENDENT KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER FINED

A Bishkek district court on 17 October fined the independent newspaper "Res Publica," the paper's editor and one of its journalists a total of 25,000 soms ($5,000) for an article it published two years ago, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. That article criticized the Ministry of Justice's decisions to revoke the registration of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights in September 1997 and to register in 1998 an alternative body with the same name that was loyal to the government. LF

TURKISH, TURKMEN PRESIDENTS MEET

Visiting Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer held talks in Ashgabat on 17 October with his Turkmen counterpart Saparmurat Niyazov, Reuters and Interfax reported. The two men focused on trade and economic issues, primarily implementation of the 1999 agreement whereby Turkey will buy 16 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas annually beginning in 2002. That agreement is contingent on construction of a Trans-Caspian gas export pipeline. AP quoted Niyazov as saying a new energy agreement with Turkey will be signed during a summit of Turcophone states to be held in April 2001. LF




BELARUS SLAMS U.S. FOR DISMISSING LEGISLATIVE BALLOT...

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 17 October criticized the U.S. State Department for dismissing the 15 October legislative ballot in Belarus as not free, fair, or transparent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000), Belapan reported. "The U.S. administration has once again ignored the democratic will of millions of Belarusians, which was clearly expressed in free and fair elections," the ministry said. According to Minsk, the U.S. assessment of Belarus's elections is "in stark contrast" to that of "140 independent international observers from 28 countries." The ministry added that the "independent observers came to the conclusion that the elections were free and fair." Minsk condemned the U.S. for an attempt to "reanimate the Supreme Soviet of the 13th convocation, which terminated its activities by its own decision on 27 November 1996." JM

...WHILE SUPREME SOVIET SPEAKER CALLS FOR INTERIM GOVERNMENT

Supreme Soviet speaker Syamyon Sharetski, currently in exile in Lithuania, said in a statement on 17 October that the Supreme Soviet remains Belarus's only legitimate legislative body, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to Sharetski, in order to find a way for Belarus out of its current situation, the Supreme Soviet needs to form a "provisional government of national trust to replace the bankrupt group of persons who are remaining illegally in power and working to liquidate Belarus's independence." Sharetski expressed his readiness to launch negotiations with all forces interested in putting Belarus back on the democratic path of development. He called the 15 October ballot an "act of a social tragicomedy," saying the voting showed that "the dictatorial regime has already lost the support of the people who, morally humiliated and driven into poverty, simply ignored the so-called elections." JM

MOSCOW PRAISES BELARUSIAN VOTE

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 18 October welcomed the outcome of the 15 October general elections in Belarus, adding that criticism by some Western observers exposed their bias, Reuters reported. The ministry said the elections were conducted "calmly and in an organized fashion." The ministry noted that "a lack of objectivity in [some Western observers'] conclusions, including the fact that they ignored Belarus's progress in meeting its OSCE obligations, demonstrates a politicized and prejudiced approach to justify a policy of isolating Belarus." The ministry expressed the hope that Belarus's newly-elected legislature will be admitted to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. JM

UKRAINIAN LEGISLATORS PROTEST NEWSPAPER'S CLOSURE

Leftist and centrist deputies on 17 October left the parliamentary session hall to protest the closure of the "Silski visti" newspaper for non-payment of taxes, Interfax reported. Ivan Bokyy, of the Socialist Party caucus, demanded that President Leonid Kuchma "immediately" cancel the ban on "Silski visti." The State Tax Administration ordered the newspaper to pay 1.8 million hryvni ($330,000) in penalties for not having paid income tax on property it received eight years ago. The Kyiv City Arbitration Court rejected the newspaper's appeal to cancel the penalties. "Silski visti" has been known for its leftist political sympathies and criticism of the Kuchma administration. JM

UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF HIDING INFORMATION ABOUT DISAPPEARED JOURNALIST

Lawmaker Oleksandr Lavrynovych on 17 October said Ukraine's law enforcement bodies are giving only "a part of the information" to the public about their investigation into the disappearance of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2000), Interfax reported. Lavrynovych heads a special commission created by the parliament to look into Gongadze's disappearance. Alona Prytula, chief editor of the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda," for which Gongadze worked before his disappearance, said Security Service head Leonid Derkach and Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko "are interested in convincing" the president that Gongadze "disappeared on his own initiative." According to Prytula, Gongadze was kidnapped and "is now being kept somewhere." JM

BALTIC AND RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTERS MEET

Latvian Interior Minister Mareks Seglins hosted his counterparts Tarmo Loodus (Estonia), Ceslovas Blazys (Lithuania), and Vladimir Rushailo (Russia) on 17 October to discuss cooperation in the fight against crime and smuggling. Agreements reached at the meeting include training of police and other officials in each others' countries and closer links between crime investigators in the four countries, BNS reported. The four sides also agreed to form a joint task force on fighting organized crime. However, the three Baltic interior ministers ruled out joining the meetings of CIS interior ministers. MH

AUTO SALE SCANDAL LEADS TO CONVICTION OF TWO ESTONIAN CIVIL SERVANTS

Former Finance Ministry Chancellor Agu Lellep and former Deputy Chancellor Peep Lass were both convicted on 17 October in a Tallinn City Court for corruption in a shady auto sale deal. Lellep was given a one-year suspended sentence for corruption, while Lass was fined 24,600 kroons ($1,343), BNS reported. The case came about with the acquisition of a car by Lellep under public procurement, but the car was in turn sold to Lass at an advantageous price. Lellep claims that the car in question was not state property, as it was not in the state properties register. Both individuals have 10 days to appeal the verdicts. MH

SECOND CONVICTION IN LATVIAN 'PEDOPHILIA' SCANDAL

A Riga court on 17 October found Andris Meinarts guilty of 21 counts related to pedophilia and sentenced him to the maximum 10 years in prison, BNS reported. In sentencing Meinarts, a former head of the Ms. Latvia pageant, the court ruled that the gravity of the crimes would not allow for a shortening of the sentence under an earlier amnesty. The first conviction in the scandal, that of Ainars Eisaks, was indeed cut under the amnesty, a move that has infuriated many in Latvia, including President Vaira Vike-Freiberga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2000). Meinarts was found guilty on all counts except coercing minors into prostitution, a charge the prosecutors dropped earlier. His attorney said they will appeal. MH

LITHUANIAN PREMIER VOICES DISPLEASURE OVER LATVIAN COUNTERPART'S REMARKS

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius voiced displeasure and concern over comments by his Latvian counterpart, Andris Berzins, over the ratification of the maritime border treaty between the two countries. Berzins said that the issue of economic and fishing rights is an "exceptional domestic policy issue" for Latvia, but noted that the establishment of borders with neighboring states is an "international commitment of every nation" that respects "democratic" forms of communications, ELTA reported. A spokesman for Kubilius added later, "Nevertheless, let's hope for the best and expect that soon the Latvian Saeima will ratify the sea border treaty because this is a prerequisite for the government of Lithuania to get down to the conclusion of agreements on use of economic sea resources." Berzins earlier warned that the ratification of the treaty without the supplemental agreements would be disadvantageous for Latvia. MH

OUTGOING LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT TO MERGE TWO MINISTRIES

The Lithuanian parliament, meeting on 17 October for the penultimate time before the newly-elected members convene later this week, approved the merger of the Public Administration Reform Ministry and the Interior Ministry into an Administration Ministry. The government is to work out the methodology of the absorption by 15 November, and the two separate ministries will cease to exist on 1 January, ELTA reported. However, the 56 to 5 vote angered many in the incoming ruling coalition, as they claim that the bill does not provide a model for the merger and will handcuff the incoming government, BNS added. The new coalition is likely to make two more mergers, namely those of the social welfare and health ministries and the culture and education ministries. MH

POLISH LEFTIST PARTIES JOIN FORCES...

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) on 17 October signed an agreement with the Labor Union (UP) on cooperation in the 2001 parliamentary elections, Polish media reported. SLD leader Leszek Miller said the goal of the two parties is to build a strong policy alternative to the ruling right wing. The UP, Poland's only leftist party without communist roots, failed to win a single parliamentary seat in 1997. The agreement with the SLD, which is widely expected to beat the Solidarity bloc parties next year, bolsters UP chances of gaining representation in the parliament. President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who attended the signing of the SLD-UP deal, commented that it is an important step confirming "the responsibility, farsightedness, and persistence of the Polish Left." JM

...WHILE RIGHTIST ONES REMAIN IN DISARRAY

Premier Jerzy Buzek, who is also chairman of the political party called the Social Movement of the Solidarity Electoral Action, has agreed to act as a mediator between the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the three component parties that want AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski to resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000), Polish media reported on 17 October. The Conservative-Peasant Party (SKL), the Party of Christian Democrats, and the Christian National Union argue that Krzaklewski, following his defeat in the presidential election, cannot lead the Polish Right in next year's parliamentary elections. SKL leader Jan Maria Rokita said he hopes that Buzek's mediation will help the AWS choose a new leader and transform itself into a coalition of political parties. JM

GERMANY ADMITS 'HISTORICAL RESPONSIBILITY' TO HELP POLAND IN EU BID

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer apologized on 17 October for Nazi Germany's treatment of Poland and pledged to help Warsaw join the EU by the year 2005 or, "if possible, earlier than that," Reuters reported. "We have an historical responsibility to help the Poles who were left behind the Iron Curtain for almost half a century because of the immoral policies of the Third Reich," Fischer told his Polish counterpart, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair. JM

POLAND CONCERNED ABOUT 'IMPASSE' IN LVIV CEMETERY'S RECONSTRUCTION

The Foreign Ministry on 16 October expressed its "great unease" over the "impasse" in the reconstruction of a Polish military cemetery in Lviv, PAP reported. Last week, cemetery security guards and Ukrainian policemen demolished the balustrade a Polish firm had assembled on the Polish section of Lyiv's Lychakivskyy Cemetery. Foreign Ministry spokesman Grzegorz Dziemidowicz commented that this act "embarrassed especially those circles in Poland who have for many years sought to build good neighborly relations with Lviv." The issue of the so-called Polish Lwow Eaglets Cemetery in Lviv has been a sticking point in Polish-Ukrainian relations for years (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 September 2000). JM

CZECH PRESIDENT DISAGREES WITH ZEMAN'S READING OF ANTI-GLOBALIZATION PROTESTS

President Vaclav Havel, in an interview with the daily "Lidove noviny" on 18 October, said he does not share Prime Minister Milos Zeman's view that the protest actions and the riots in Prague during last month's IMF/World Bank annual meeting were an "anti-Czech " or an "international" conspiracy, CTK reported. To do so, he said, is to elevate their significance. The riots, Havel said, had been caused by people "whose profession is to disrupt such events," and who were supported by Czechs "interested [in seeing] that the whole affair turns out badly." Havel repeated his praise of the police action during the riots but added that "some police excesses probably took place and I do not believe anyone should cover this up. They should be investigated and perpetrators should be punished." MS

CZECHS LESS ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT EU ENTRY THAN POLES, HUNGARIANS

A comparative public opinion poll conducted by the Central European Opinion Research Group in September shows a majority of Czechs back the country's accession to the EU, but that slight majority is smaller than those registered in Poland and Hungary, CTK and Reuters reported. Fifty-one percent of the respondents to the survey said they would back accession in a referendum, three percentage points up from the 48 percent registered in May this year. In Poland, a majority of 55 percent back accession, while in Hungary the proportion of backers is far higher--69 percent. Among Czechs, 22 percent would vote against accession in a referendum, as would 26 percent of Poles and 19 percent of Hungarians. The figures for those undecided are largest in the Czech Republic (27 percent), followed by Poland (19 percent) and Hungary (12 percent). MS

CZECH ROMA CRITICIZE MEMORIAL PLAQUE

The government-approved text of a plaque to be unveiled at what was the Lety Nazi concentration camp, where many Czech Roma perished during World War II, is being criticized by the country's Romany community, CTK and dpa reported. Representatives of the community object to the formulation "forced concentration camp" approved by the cabinet and want it to be replaced with "concentration camp." The Roma also say the plaque fails to clearly mention the role played by Czech police in running the camp. In addition, Romany representatives consider it an insult that the Lety camp is now used as a pig farm and want the farm removed. Estimates of those killed at Lety vary between 300 and several thousand. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION TO COOPERATE IN REFERENDUM

Movement for a Democratic Slovakia leader Vladimir Meciar and Slovak National Party chairwoman Anna Malikova on 16 October discussed ways to cooperate in the November referendum on early elections, AP reported the next day, citing the daily "Sme." The two leaders said their parties will separately conduct their campaigns in favor of the plebiscite, but will also cooperate. Meciar said he "does not think this will be an intensive cooperation" but "we will try to agree on some things." MS

BUDAPEST MAYOR WILL RUN FOR FREE DEMOCRAT CHAIRMANSHIP

Gabor Demszky on 17 October announced that he accepts the nomination for the chairmanship of the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats, and will run for that post at the party's December congress. He said Hungary "needs a strong, independent liberal party," adding that he is prepared to challenge Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the 2002 elections. Demszky criticized the current leaders of the party, saying that many of them "have resigned themselves to playing second fiddle," have lost their political imagination, and are unable to see the alliance as an independent political force. In other news, parliament voted unanimously to lift the immunity of Smallholder Zoltan Szekely, who is accused of blackmail and bribery. MSZ




MACEDONIA ANNOUNCES BALKAN SUMMIT

A spokesman for Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 18 October that the heads of state and government of seven southeast European countries will meet with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica in the Macedonian capital on 25 October. They will discuss changes in the region following Kostunica's recent replacement of Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslav leader. Participating countries will be: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, and Romania, Reuters reported. EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten and Stability Pact Coordinator Bodo Hombach will also attend. It is not clear whether Montenegro or Kosova will be represented, or whether other members of the international community--including individual EU states, the U.S., Russia, or Turkey--will participate. PM

KOSTUNICA LEAVES MONTENEGRO EMPTY-HANDED

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told President Kostunica in Podgorica on 17 October that he and his For a Better Life coalition will not take part in the new federal government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic does not recognize the elections that brought Kostunica to power. He stresses instead that the Serbian and Montenegrin leaderships must first redefine the legal basis of the relationship between their two republics. Djukanovic also met with Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic and parliament speaker Svetozar Marovic. Montenegrin officials gave Kostunica a reception "on a very low level of protocol," the broadcast added. PM

NO QUICK SOLUTION BETWEEN SERBIA, MONTENEGRO IN SIGHT

Kostunica said in Cetinje on 17 October that there will be no meeting of the Supreme Defense Council for some time to come. The body has not met in two years because Djukanovic, who is a member, does not recognize the current federal authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2000). In Belgrade, Democratic Opposition (DOS) leader Zoran Djindjic said that representatives of the DOS will meet in about 10 days with officials of Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists to discuss future relations between the two republics. Djindjic added that "serious talks" between Belgrade and Podgorica are still several months away, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Voters will elect a new Serbian government on 23 December. PM

POWER STRUGGLE IN MONTENEGRIN PARTY

A contest for leadership has begun in the Socialist People's Party, which until recently was loyal to Milosevic, "Danas" reported on 18 October. Outgoing Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic wants to maintain the alliance with Milosevic's Socialists. Podgorica-based leader Predrag Bulatovic favors a deal with Kostunica and wants a party congress to set a new policy, "Vijesti" added. PM

MILOSEVIC'S DEFENSE MINISTER RULES OUT YUGOSLAV COUP

Yugoslav Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic, who is a staunch Milosevic backer and indicted war criminal, told Studio B television that the army will not seek to remove Kostunica from office. The general asked rhetorically: "How could a military coup now follow after [the military leadership has] stated that somebody had been elected by the will of the people?" Ojdanic stressed that the military obey the constitution and consider the president their supreme commander (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Under Milosevic's rule, the army leadership lionized the president as "our commander in chief," even though, as the weekly "Vreme" pointed out, that title is not mentioned in the constitution. PM

GERMANY CONFIRMS KNOWLEDGE OF HIDDEN SERBIAN FUNDS

Germany's deputy foreign minister, Guenter Pleuger, told InfoRadio Berlin-Brandenburg on 18 October that Milosevic and several of his close associates are "criminals" who have deposited well over $100 million in ill-gotten funds abroad. He confirmed recent press reports that the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has concluded in a report that Milosevic has stored away a fortune in Russia, China, Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, and South Africa, Reuters reported. The former Serbian leader and his clique are believed to have $100 million in Switzerland alone. Pleuger stressed that "such accounts will be confiscated if they are found." The report noted that there is "considerable evidence indicating that Milosevic and his entourage constitute an OC [organized crime] structure and are engaged in drug dealing, money laundering, and other criminal acts." PM

MILOSEVIC'S SERBIAN BANKER OUSTED

Shareholders in Beogradska Banka, which is Serbia's biggest bank, voted on 17 October to oust Borka Vucic as chairman, "Danas" reported. Petar Cvorovic will replace her until more permanent changes are introduced. Vucic ranked as one of Milosevic's closest collaborators. Opposition economist Mladjan Dinkic is preparing an extensive reform of the banking system. PM

MILOSEVIC TO BE DUMPED FROM SERBIAN PARTY?

A group of founding members of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia issued a document in Belgrade on 17 October calling on Milosevic to quit as party chairman. Signatories included Milorad Vucelic, Borisav Jovic, Zoran Lilic, and Mihailo Markovic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN ELECTRIC COMPANY NEEDS MONEY

The management of Elektrodistribucija Srbije said in a statement in Belgrade on 17 October that the company needs $100 million to keep Serbia's shaky power grid functioning through the winter. The statement added that debtors owe the company $72 million, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MACEDONIA HIKES FUEL PRICES

The government announced a 7.5 percent rise in fuel prices to keep up with price changes on the international market, Reuters reported from Skopje on 18 October. The government took the decision at the request of the management of the OKTA refinery, who complained that low prices are causing them big losses. PM

SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT IN A MONTH?

The Ljubljana daily "Dnevnik" reported on 18 October that the leadership of Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democrats hopes to form a new government by mid-November. Protracted negotiations aimed at building coalitions are part and parcel of Slovenian politics, and not only after elections. PM

MAJOR CORRUPTION TRIAL OPENS IN CROATIA

The trial of Miroslav Kutle and 12 others opened in Zagreb on 17 October. Kutle was a member of the political and business establishment close to the regime of late President Franjo Tudjman and is accused of having embezzled some $5.5 million from the Tisak publishing company. All 13 men pleaded not guilty, "Jutarnji list" reported. In related news, Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic announced the formation of an anti-mafia prosecutor's office and the preparation of stiff anti-mafia legislation on the Italian model, "Vecernji list" reported. PM

CROATIAN EDITOR SACKED

Igor Mandic has been ousted as editor in chief of the 61-year-old Zagreb daily "Vjesnik," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 17 October. He served for less than a year. Mandic succeeded in turning the paper from being a mouthpiece of the Tudjman regime into a serious daily but failed to boost circulation and make the paper profitable. PM

BOSNIAN FEDERAL PARLIAMENT BALKS ON KEY LEGISLATION

The Bosnian federal legislature on 17 October rejected pension reform legislation for the third time. The proposed law specifies that no more money can be paid out than is actually on hand. Daniel Besson, who is the deputy high representative of the international community, told "RFE/RL Newsline" in Prague recently that passage of the legislation is crucial if Bosnia is to get on a sound economic footing. Failure to pass the law, he added, could undo much of the progress already made. PM

SOCIALIST WINS IN BITTERLY CONTESTED ALBANIAN MAYORAL RACE

The Socialist party candidate won in the southern Albanian seaside town of Himara with 1,870 votes to 690 votes for a rival candidate backed by the ethnic-Greek Human Rights Union Party (PBDNJ), Reuters reported on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Ethnic Albanian parties united behind the Socialist slate in a rare display of unity. The ethnic Albanian politicians accused the Greek party of trying to buy votes by promising that development aid and investment would come from nearby Greece if the PBDNJ won. Spokesmen of that party denied the charge, saying that the PBDNJ is simply trying to broaden its base into ethnic Albanian areas. The PBDNJ also denied charges that it is trying to increase Greek influence in the border region, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. PM

ISARESCU REPORTS TO ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT

Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, presenting a report to parliament on 18 October on his government's activity, warned against "populist measures" before the elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said that the legacy he inherited was one of political crisis, a 14 percent drop in the GDP, an 11.5 percent unemployment rate, and an inflation rate of 54.8 percent. In its 10-month tenure, the cabinet managed to generate a 1.5 percent rate in economic growth (the first positive rate registered in 3 years), to treble the country's hard currency reserves, and improve its gold reserves. Isarescu noted that the cabinet failed to reduce inflation to 27 percent, as it had intended, but noted that the rate for 2000 will under no circumstances be above 40 percent. MS

ROMANIAN SENATE CALLS FOR DISBANDING PRIVATIZATION AGENCY

With a vote of 86 for and 28 against, the Senate on 17 October passed a resolution calling for disbanding the State Ownership Fund (FPS), which is in charge of the country's privatization. The resolution approved a report of an inquiry commission into the FPS's activity, which accuses the agency of underevaluating companies for the purpose of selling them, of favoring certain buyers, and of breaking bidding laws, AP reported. The report also calls for dismissing FPS head Radu Sarbu and for the government and the Justice Ministry to launch an investigation into the FPS's activities. Addressing the Senate, Sarbu rejected all accusations as unfounded. MS

ROMANIAN LOWER HOUSE EASES PROCEDURE ON LIFTING PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY...

The Chamber of Deputies on 17 October decided that the parliamentary immunity of its members can be lifted by a simple (50 percent plus one vote) majority, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Under the previous rules, lifting the immunity needed the backing of two-thirds of deputies. The new procedure is to apply to the chamber that will be elected on 26 November. MS

...AND HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS RETURN TO DEBATES

Deputies representing the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) in the chamber ended on 17 October their boycott of the debates following the decision to give priority to debating laws on local autonomy and the organization of local administration, Mediafax reported. Last week, the UDMR deputies decided to boycott the debates in protest against the chamber's procrastination on deliberating those laws. Also on 17 October, Fokion Fotiadis, chief EU Commission representative in Romania, said in Cluj that the way the Romanian cabinet treats the country's Hungarian minority "can serve as a model for other countries." MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES SPEAK UP

Ion Iliescu, leader of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), said at an electoral gathering in Giurgiu, southern Romania, on 17 October, that even if the PDSR receives an absolute majority of 51 percent and more in the November parliamentary elections, it would still form a coalition with other parties. Iliescu said that "the country needs a strong government, solidly backed by a majority of at least 65 percent," Mediafax reported. Also on 17 October, National Alliance presidential candidate Marian Munteanu announced that his supporters have already gathered the 300,000 signatures needed to back his candidacy in line with the election law. MS

RUSSIAN COMMUNIST LEADER DEPLORES WEAKENING OF TIES WITH BULGARIA

Gennadii Zyuganov, on a visit to Sofia to attend the launching of one of his books, said on 17 October that he is "concerned" over "the weakening of contacts with our traditional ally Bulgaria," ITAR-TASS reported. Zyuganov said that during his stay he will discuss bilateral relations with parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov and intends to "continue the dialogue" with Socialist Party chairman Georgi Parvanov. The communist leader will also meet Patriarch Maxim. MS

DANISH QUEEN IN BULGARIA

Queen Margaret of Denmark and her husband Prince Henrik began a three-day visit to Bulgaria on 17 October--the first ever by a Danish monarch. The royal couple met President Petar Stoyanov, who said the visit was "an important symbol and a signal for the integration of Bulgaria into the rest of Europe," dpa and AP reported. MS




UKRAINE'S DIVIDED ORTHODOX CHURCH LOSING BELIEVERS


By Lily Hyde

A spate of church-building since independence seems to indicate a spiritual rebirth in Ukraine. The newly rebuilt Uspensky (Assumption) cathedral in the capital, Kyiv, stands on its original ruins like a phoenix risen from the ashes. But controversy surrounds the reconstructed church's future. Ukraine's divided Orthodox churches are at loggerheads over who should use it, and the building has come to symbolize the increasing identification of Orthodoxy with political and national divisions.

A recent poll by the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies found two-thirds of Ukrainians consider themselves Orthodox. But the study shows that Protestant and other religions are growing fast to rival Ukraine's traditional faith, even outstripping Orthodox communities in some regions.

One major reason for the growing popularity of other confessions, the study suggests, may be conflicts within the Ukrainian Orthodox church, which divided in 1992. The then Metropolitan, Filaret, split off from the original church, which is led by the Moscow Patriarch, and declared himself head of a Kyiv Patriarchate.

A third church, the tiny Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, renewed its activities in Ukraine in 1990. Neither the Kyiv Patriarchate nor the Autocephalous Church is officially recognized by either the Russian or Greek Orthodox Church.

All three Ukrainian Orthodox Churches hold identical beliefs, and the conflicts among them are the result of political, not spiritual considerations. According to the survey, most believers are not interested in the schism. More than two-thirds of those who said they were Orthodox could not or would not specify to which branch they belonged.

But adherence to the Kyiv or Moscow patriarchates increasingly is becoming attached to the idea of support for the independent Ukrainian state or for closer relations with Russia.

Kyiv Patriarch Filaret tells our correspondent: "The Kyiv Patriarchate and the [Ukrainian] Autocephalous Church support Ukrainian statehood, that is, they hold the position of the Ukrainian state. We have a common platform: Ukrainian statehood. Their position is based on state principles, from political interests, and ours from church interests--but we stand with the government, for Ukrainian statehood. Whereas, the Moscow Patriarchate, not all, but a significant part, takes the position of union with Russia."

For its part, the Moscow Patriarchate says the question of patriotism has nothing to do with which church people attend, and that the breach with the other Orthodox Churches is a problem of ecclesiastical rules that can only be resolved by the breakaway churches returning to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Kyiv Metropolitan vicar of the Moscow Patriarchate, Mytrofan, says: "We can't talk about union, but only about a return of those who left, a return to the fold. And the only way they can do that is through repentance. This isn't just a whim of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church or a whim of Moscow, it is clearly stated in Church rules. If we're true believers, we should not negate Church rules, but should carry them out. We are for a single Church in Ukraine, and [that Church] should be independent. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is practically autocephalous at present. We have our own synod, we decide our internal questions without Moscow. Our Church practically has independence, which needs to be legalized."

Division of Church property is also a cause of strife. Although the Moscow Patriarchate remains the dominant Church, with over 8,000 parishes to the Kyiv Patriarchate's 2,500, it is steadily losing church buildings and even whole parishes to its rival and to the Greek Catholic Church in western Ukraine.

Still, the Moscow branch holds part of the country's most important monastery, Pechersky Lavra. It was given to them by verbal agreement with former President Leonid Kravchuk, while the upper part, which contains the Uspensky cathedral, remains a state museum.

The Uspensky cathedral, destroyed during the war, has been rebuilt by the Kyiv city council and by state and private donations. The Moscow Patriarchate claims it as its cathedral church. But because of the cathedral's prominent historical and architectural value, whichever Church gains control of the building would appear to be the dominant Church of Ukraine.

When President Leonid Kuchma allowed the Moscow patriarch to bless the Uspensky Cathedral on Ukrainian Independence day, 24 August, it provoked demonstrations from nationalist groups. The group responsible for planning and raising funds to rebuild the cathedral is the Honchar foundation. Its executive director, Valentina Irshenko, says the fund wanted to rebuild the church as a symbol of the rebirth of Ukrainian culture and not of religion. She told RFE/RL: "As long as this conflict between confessions continues, the Uspensky cathedral will remain a state possession. After a united and single Orthodox Church is recognized, we will decide whether to hand it over to the Church or keep it under control of the state as a museum. That will be decided when the Church finds a common language. I can guarantee that, until then, neither confession will get this cathedral."

Few expect that to be soon. President Kuchma has spoken out in support of church unification, and the Patriarch of Constantinople has also said he would like to see an independent Ukrainian Church. But the Russian Church has refused even to consider the idea.

So, while the outer building is finished, the interior of the Uspensky cathedral is still awaiting completion. It remains a beautiful shell without an owner, less a symbol perhaps of Ukrainian cultural rebirth than of its modern-day crisis of national identity. And Ukrainian believers continue to turn to alternative Churches.


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