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Newsline - October 19, 2000




MEDIA-MOST, GAZPROM CLAIM TO HAVE REACHED PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT

Media-MOST and Gazprom Media have reached an out-of-court settlement in their dispute over the debt owed by the former to the latter, Russian agencies reported on 18 October. According to ITAR-TASS, quoting a Media-MOST spokesman, the draft settlement calls for a transfer of stocks of companies within Media-MOST as debt repayment. NTV director Yevgenii Kiselev said that preserving NTV's editorial independence is part of the new deal with Gazprom, Reuters reported. According to RFE/RL's Russian service, the Moscow court scheduled to hear Gazprom-Media's lawsuit against Media-MOST postponed proceedings until 8 November. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 October, the same court is scheduled to hear the Finance Ministry's claim against the Media-MOST Group's Bonum-1 on 25 October. That newspaper also reported that some German companies have started to show an interest in acquiring shares in NTV. JAC

DUMA VOTES AGAINST THIRD TERMS FOR REGIONAL LEADERS

State Duma deputies on 18 October rejected a bill that would allow the election of regional heads for more than two consecutive terms. The vote was 304 against and only 19 in favor. Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov (Unity), who is a member of the Committee for Federation Affairs and Regional Policy, told lawmakers before the vote that his committee did not support the bill because it would have ensured that certain regions had "perennial leadership." He explained that it is "no secret that in a number of regions certain regimes do not tolerate any opposition." Presidential envoy to the Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov also spoke out against the legislation. "Kommersant-Daily" reported earlier that the Kremlin has authored a bill that would allow certain governors now in their second terms to seek yet another term by grandfathering them from the law against third terms, which took effect in October 1999 (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 October 2000). JAC

TRIAL OF ALLEGED U.S. SPY OPENS IN MOSCOW

The trial of U.S. businessman and former naval officer Edmond Pope, who is charged with espionage, opened at the Moscow City Court on 18 October, only to be adjourned until 20 October to allow the defense to draw up requirements for a medical test for the defendant. Pope has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer; since his detention in April, he has been examined only by Russian doctors, who deemed him fit to stand trial. Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, said he will insist that a U.S. doctor examine his client. Astakhov added that he has demanded that another translator for Pope be made available--the one on hand on 18 October was from the Federal Security Service, which brought the charges against Pope. And the lawyer also noted that the request for a trial by jury had been turned down, as had the request that Anatolii Babkin, who is alleged to have handed over classified information to Pope, be called as a witness. According to Reuters, the start of the trial was delayed for several hours to allow the defendant to study the 26-page indictment (see also "End Note" below). JC

MOSCOW PUSHES FOR START-III TALKS TO BEGIN

At the latest round of arms control talks between the U.S. and Russia, which concluded in Moscow on 18 October, Russia insisted that talks on the START-III treaty begin as soon as possible, Russian Foreign Ministry sources told Interfax. A statement issued by the ministry after the talks, which were conducted by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov and John Holum, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, said there is "no objective political or military reason" why the U.S. and Russia should not reduce their warheads to 1,500 each under START-III. At the same time, the statement stressed that Moscow remains opposed to any amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, while noting that the Russia side had made some proposals on how "goals in the arms control sphere" defined by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton could be achieved without altering ABM. JC

U.S., RUSSIA SHARE NOTES ON TALIBAN...

After two days of talks with the Russian-U.S. Working Group on Afghanistan, U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering told reporters on 18 October that Russian officials "expressed not only understanding but support and concern for the same sets of issues." Pickering and First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov co-chaired the meetings, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, the main focus of talks was the imposition of additional UN sanctions against the Taliban as well as strengthening those sanctions already in effect. JAC

...AS U.S. PUTS BLAMES ISRAEL, PALESTINE FOR RUSSIAN ABSENCE FROM SUMMIT

In his remarks to reporters, Pickering also commented on Russia's absence from the Sharm al-Sheikh summit on 16 October: "The parties at Sharm al-Sheikh believed that they should have the minimum number of participants consistent with their hope to find an agreement to stop the violence," Reuters reported. "The United States made it clear that it would have welcomed [Russian] Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, had the parties, the others, been able to arrange for him to be there." JAC

GANTEMIROV GETS HIS OLD JOB BACK

Russian presidential representative to the federal district of South Russia Viktor Kazantsev announced in Rostov on 18 October that Beslan Gantemirov has been appointed head of the Grozny city administration, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. Gantemirov served as the city's mayor in 1995-1996. Kazantsev's announcement follows last week's reconciliation between Gantemirov and interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). The future of Supyan Mokhchaev, the most recent mayor of Grozny and until now a political ally of Gantemirov, is unclear. LF

U.S.-FUNDED NUCLEAR WASTE FACILITY OPENS

Russian and U.S. officials have opened a facility in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast, aimed at helping reduce the risk of pollution from Russia's decommissioned nuclear submarines. The joint Russian-U.S. project is estimated at $17 million and was carried out by Russian, British, and French companies with U.S. Lockheed Martin Energy Technologies as prime contractor, according to Reuters on 18 October. JC

IS GOVERNMENT STALLING OVER 'KURSK' RESCUE OPERATION?

Colonel General Valerii Manilov, first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, was quoted by Interfax on 18 October as suggesting the government may reverse its decision to recover the bodies of at least some of the 118 crew members of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, which sank in the Barents Sea in August during maneuvers. Manilov commented that a final decision will be taken after "an additional examination of the disaster site." Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads a government commission investigating the causes of the "Kursk" disaster, refuted Manilov's comments, stressing that the operation to recover the bodies will be carried out. He said that because of gale force winds at the scene of the disaster, the operation had been postponed until next week. However, Western agencies quoted a spokesman for the Norwegian subsidiary of the U.S. company Halliburton, which is to oversee the recovery operation, as saying the weather in the region was "fine" and that the operation will go ahead as planned later this week. JC

RESTORATION OF PRESIDENT'S PALACE TO BE FUNDED BY ST. PETERSBURG BUSINESSMEN...

Kremlin property department manager Vladimir Kozhin told reporters on 18 October that the Konstantinovskii Palace in St. Petersburg will be restored and used as a presidential palace, as reported earlier. However, funds for the restoration will come from charities being set up by a number of St. Petersburg firms (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 September 2000). In addition, he said that a large part of the structure will be permanently used as museum open to visitors, while only a small part of the premises will be used for state functions. JAC

...AS KREMLIN DENIES PUTTING BEREZOVSKII OUT ON THE STREETS

Kozhin also commented on Boris Berezovskii's recent comments that he was abruptly given notice to vacate the state-owned dacha that he had been renting for $500,000 a year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Kozhnin said that the oligarch was given three months' notice that his lease would not be extended. In addition, he said, Berezovskii had been paying $300,000 a year--not $500,000--for a house totaling 1,800 square meters. JAC

BYKOV READY TO SELL ALUMINUM STAKE

Former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov has expressed readiness to sell his stake in his former company, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 18 October. In an interview with "Argumenty i fakty," one of Bykov's lawyers, Genrikh Padva, revealed that Bykov is ready to examine the question in "a civilized fashion--without threats and pressure." Criminal charges against Bykov were recently downgraded from murder to conspiracy to commit murder when it was revealed that his alleged victims were still alive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). Padva said that he agreed with his client, who recently concluded that "until I sell my shared in Krasnoyarsk Aluminum, I will not be left in peace." JAC

ROKHLINA BLAMES MASKED INTRUDERS FOR HUSBAND'S DEATH

Testifying in her murder trial on 17 October, Tamara Rokhlina claimed that three masked intruders beat her and killed her husband, General Lev Rokhlin. Rokhlina is accused of murdering her husband, the leader of the Movement to Support the Army and a deputy in the State Duma. Rokhlina had initially confessed to the crime but later recanted, claiming that her family was being threatened (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). JAC




ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN SAYS PRESIDENT WILL AGREE TO LAND SWAP

Ashot Manucharian, who served in the early 1990s as national security adviser to former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, told journalists in Yerevan on 18 October that President Robert Kocharian should resign as he is ready to yield to Western pressure to approve an exchange of territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That exchange would entail Armenia securing international recognition of its sovereignty over the disputed and unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in exchange for giving up its south-eastern district of Meghri, which borders on Iran, Manucharian said. He added that Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchian were shot dead one year ago because of their opposition to that scheme. Armenian officials say the land swap was proposed by international mediators last year as a solution to the Karabakh conflict but that Yerevan rejected it (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 23, 8 June 2000). LF

AZERBAIJAN EXPLAINS RATIONALE FOR EXTRADITING CHECHENS TO RUSSIA

Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev said in Moscow on 18 October that handing over to the Russian authorities six Chechens wanted for terrorism was "a difficult step," given that both Azerbaijanis and Chechens are Muslims, ITAR-TASS reported. But Guliev explained that Baku felt obliged to comply with Moscow's request to extradite the men as Russia had handed over to Azerbaijan more than 1,000 "criminals." Guliev dismissed as "idle statements" a letter addressed by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev condemning the extradition as an "unfriendly and wrong" act (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). LF

AZERBAIJAN DISMISSES TURKMEN THREAT OF LEGAL ACTION OVER CASPIAN

Azerbaijan state oil company vice president Ilham Aliyev said on 18 October that Turkmen presidential adviser Boris Shikhmuradov's threat that Ashgabat will take legal action against an oil consortium currently developing two Caspian oil fields to which Turkmenistan lays claim are "not serious," ITAR-TASS reported. Turkmenistan has been threatening such action for three years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1997).Azerbaijan claims the fields in question lie in its sector of the Caspian. LF

RUSSIA TO WITHDRAW TANKS FROM GEORGIA TO ARMENIA

Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian on 18 October confirmed reports that Russia will withdraw 76 tanks from its base at Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia by mid-November and send them to its Armenian base at Gyumri, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2000). Sarkisian said that redeployment will not exceed the limits for Russian military hardware in the South Caucasus stipulated in the revised Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Also on 18 October, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov arrived in Tbilisi for a fourth round of talks on the closure of all Russian military bases in Georgia. Klebanov predicted that those talks will be "difficult," adding that Russia will propose "a new schedule" for the withdrawal, and that none of its remaining military hardware will be handed over to Georgia. Under the original schedule agreed in Istanbul in November 1999, Moscow undertook to close its bases in Vaziani near Tbilisi, and Gudauta, in Abkhazia by July 2001. Moscow has since proposed transforming the Gudauta base into one for the CIS peacekeeping troops currently deployed in Abkhazia. LF

GEORGIA SIGNS OIL PIPELINE AGREEMENT

The president of the Georgian International Oil Corporation, Gia Chanturia, signed an agreement in Tbilisi on 18 October with representatives of seven international oil companies that have agreed to conduct a feasibility study for the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. Those companies had signed an analogous agreement with Azerbaijan the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). Speaking at the signing ceremony, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze confirmed that he has held talks with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, on exporting up to 25 million tons of Kazakh crude via the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. The "Financial Times" reported on 5 October that the U.S. is pressuring Kazakhstan to make a firm commitment to doing so. Nazarbaev will discuss the Baku-Ceyhan option with visiting Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in Astana on 19 October. LF

KAZAKHSTAN STOPS RAIL TRANSIT FROM TAJIKISTAN

The head of Kazakhstan's state railway company issued a statement in Almaty on 18 October saying that, at Moscow's request, Kazakhstan has halted rail transit traffic from Tajikistan across Kazakhstan to the Russian Federation, Reuters reported. That move is intended to counter illegal immigration and drug smuggling, the statement said. It added that Tajik trains are dirty, overloaded, and a fire hazard and that Tajikistan owes Kazakh railways some $1.6 million in transit fees. Mahmudjon Nuraliev, who is deputy chairman of Tajik railways, told Asia Plus-Blitz on 19 October that the Kazakh ban has left 810 Tajiks stranded in Russia. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S RUSSIANS PROPOSE MEASURES TO STEM EMIGRATION

Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 18 October, Yurii Bunakov, who is one of the leaders of Kazakhstan's Russian minority, suggested that in order to prevent further Russian emigration, the Kazakh leadership should postpone until 2003 the implementation of legislation calling for all business correspondence to be conducted in Kazakh, Interfax reported. Bunakov said that special programs should be organized to help Russian-speakers learn the Kazakh language. Bunakov also argued that more Russians should be appointed to government posts. He noted that only 8 percent of government employees are Russians, although Russians account for 40 percent of the country's 14.9 million population. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, TURKEY DISCUSS TERRORISM THREAT

Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and his visiting Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, signed a declaration in Bishkek on 18 October on cooperating to fight terrorism and organized crime, Interfax reported. Turkey has pledged to provide the Kyrgyz armed forces with military and technical aid worth $2.5 million. The two presidents also reviewed economic and trade cooperation, which Akaev said they agreed should be expanded, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Trade turnover between the two countries in 1999 was $40 million. LF

KYRGYZ TV STATION REFUSES AIR TIME TO OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

The Kyrgyz radio and television station KOORT refused on 18 October to run any election-related propaganda by opposition presidential candidate Omurbek Tekebaev, a member of his campaign staff told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau the same day. The station, which is independent and owned by a former adviser to President Akaev, cited criticism of Tekebaev and two other opposition candidates by the Central Electoral Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). But commission official Aichurek Eshimova told RFE/RL that the commission has not issued any instructions to the broadcast media not to air such campaign advertising. A second independent television and radio station, Piramida, had similarly decided on 16 October not to air any further campaign programming. LF

PROTEST IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN CONTINUES

The number of participants in the picket of the administrative building in Djalalabad has grown to 21, of whom 16 are adults and five children, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 18 October. The protesters insist that seven of their relatives who received lengthy prison sentences last month on charges of planning to assassinate President Akaev are innocent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September and 17 October 2000). Meeting with the picketers, Djalalabad governor Kubanychbek DjumAliyev pledged to appeal to the Constitutional Court either to amnesty the seven men or to reduce their prison terms. LF

TAJIK ISLAMIC OPPOSITION CALLS FOR PEACE TALKS IN AFGHANISTAN...

Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party has issued a statement calling on the Taliban and the government of Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani to embark on negotiations aimed at ending the Afghan civil war, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 19 October. The statement says that only a broad-based government in which all the country's ethnic groups are represented can end the conflict and bring peace. LF

...AS UZBEKISTAN SETS CONDITIONS FOR REOPENING BORDER CROSSING

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdul-Aziz Kamilov told journalists in Tashkent on 18 October that Uzbekistan "will do its best" to promote the start of a peace process in Afghanistan and is ready to cooperate with those authorities in that country that come to power legally, Interfax reported. He again said that Tashkent has established contacts with the Taliban (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000), adding that "our meetings with the Taliban have been held between border guard commissars as well as at the ambassadorial level." Kamilov said the Uzbek authorities are prepared to comply with a Taliban request to open a border bridge across the Amu-Darya River "provided that peace and stability are ensured" and that there is no longer any threat to Uzbekistan's security from "terrorists" who have taken refuge in Afghanistan. Guerrillas from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has vowed to overthrow the Uzbek leadership, are believed to operate from bases in northern Afghanistan. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IS SATISFIED WITH 'BEAUTIFUL, ELEGANT' ELECTIONS...

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists on 18 October that he is satisfied with the 15 October elections to the Chamber of Representatives, ITAR-TASS reported. "These were beautiful and elegant elections in which the Belarusian people won," Lukashenka noted, adding that they were "absolutely democratic." Speaking about the OSCE's negative assessment of the elections, Lukashenka pledged to take "adequate measures" if the West fails to find "a worthy place" for the Chamber of Representatives in "European organizations." JM

...AND OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NEXT YEAR'S PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT

Lukashenka warned the Belarusian opposition that if it wants to survive until the presidential elections next year, it will have to begin "constructive cooperation" with the authorities, Belapan reported. He predicted, however, that the opposition will have some chance of winning a presidential election no earlier than 2006. "[The opposition] should possibly reconcile itself to the idea that 2001 will be the year of Lukashenka," he noted. Lukashenka ruled out the possibility that political developments in Belarus next year will resemble those in Yugoslavia in 2000. JM

BELARUSIAN NGO LISTS ELECTION VIOLATIONS

The Central Coordinating Council for Election Observation on 18 October said turnout in the 15 October ballot was below 50 percent in 31 constituencies, not 13 as announced by the Central Electoral Commission, Belapan reported. Council Chairman Mechyslau Hryb, who coordinated the activities of some 5,500 election monitors, said the most widespread violation among local electoral commissions was shortening the lists of registered voters in order to obtain turnout of more than 50 percent. According to Hryb, it was easy to falsify election results because half of the election commission members represented the authorities. Election violations were also facilitated by the early voting procedure, in which no monitoring was possible, he added. The Central Electoral Commission said 10 percent of the electorate voted ahead of 15 October, but in some constituencies, according to the Central Coordinating Council for Election Observation, this figure exceeded 45 percent. Overall, council monitors reported some 5,000 election irregularities. JM

UKRAINIAN VETERANS, SCIENTISTS RALLY FOR MORE BUDGET FUNDS

Some 5,000 war and labor veterans picketed the parliament building in Kyiv on 18 October, demanding that the legislature reject a provision in the 2001 budget draft calling for cuts in social benefits for them, Interfax reported. In a separate picket, 400 scientists from the National Academy of Sciences called for higher salaries and more spending for scientific research. The parliament will start debating the 2001 budget draft on 19 October. Premier Viktor Yushchenko said all parliamentary caucuses, except the Communists, are ready to endorse the draft in the first reading. "The government plans to direct the lion's share of its revenues to the social sphere, but they say they will not vote [for it]. What [budget] criteria would suit you, gentlemen?" Yushchenko commented on the Communists' stance. JM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT IN KYIV

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Macedonian counterpart, Boris Trajkovski, signed agreements on cooperation in the military sphere and agriculture in Kyiv on 18 October, Interfax reported. Kuchma and Trajkovski concurred that European integration is a common goal of their countries. "Today we agreed that we need to coordinate our actions starting from European integration, cooperation in regional institutions, as well as our aspiration for integration into the EU," AP quoted Kuchma as saying. JM

ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTER ACQUITTED AGAIN

Siim Kallas has been acquitted once more in a Tallinn City Court. Kallas, the subject of a long-standing probe into how millions of dollars were lost in a transaction involving the central bank, was acquitted earlier of all charges brought by the Supreme Court, with the exception of presenting false information, ETA reported on 18 October. This week's ruling cleared Kallas of that remaining charge, but prosecutors can appeal the verdict within 10 days. MH

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN NORWAY

Valdas Adamkus paid a three-day visit to Norway on 15-17 October aimed at enhancing ties with the NATO member state. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that Oslo supports Lithuania's bid to join the alliance, ELTA reported. Adamkus also discussed increasing economic ties, and Stoltenberg focused on a planned project to import natural gas from Norway to Lithuania. In addition, Adamkus met with King Harald V to discuss bilateral cooperation and with parliamentary spokesperson Kirsti Kalle Grondahl for talks on increasing ties between the two states. MH

LITHUANIAN COURT RULES OIL DEAL ILLEGAL

The Lithuanian Constitutional Court ruled on 18 October that the government did not have the right to agree to cover losses in the sale of a minority stake of Mazeikiai Oil. The case was initiated by the outgoing parliamentary opposition, which challenged the validity of the restructuring of Mazeikiai Oil that paved the way for the sale, BNS reported. Vytenis Andriukaitis, a Social Democrat who initiated the court challenge, told ELTA that "the oncoming Lithuanian government will have to revise the obligations of their predecessors." MH

POLISH CLERGY CRITICIZE U.S. FILM ABOUT POPE

A U.S. documentary about Pope John Paul II shown on Polish Television on 16 October has elicited criticism from Roman Catholic circles, PAP reported. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek said the film's presentation of the issue of anti-Semitism "does not seem to harmonize with what the pope has done for Jews." Poland's primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, said the decision to show the documentary was politically and ideologically motivated. "I think many people working in mass media, and especially public television, are linked with the old system based on Marxism and Leninism," Glemp noted. And priest Wieslaw Nieweglowski sent a letter to the Polish Television president saying that the film presents the pope "from the viewpoint of Jewish and lay circles" and "evokes pity for the intellectual paucity of its makers." Polish Television on 18 October apologized "to all viewers who feel offended" by the film. JM

POLAND TO HOLD NATIONAL CENSUSES IN 2002

President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 18 October signed a bill whereby Poland will conduct a general census at the same time as a count of livestock in the first half of 2002, PAP reported. The general census will ask questions about people's marital and other status, education, sources of incomes, and ownership of buildings and apartments. It will also cover people without a permanent place of residence. The cost of the two censuses is estimated at 624 million zlotys ($134 million). Poland's last general census was conducted in 1988, while the last livestock count took place in 1996. JM

CZECH, AUSTRIAN PREMIERS AGREE TO MEET OVER TEMELIN...

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, have agreed to meet and discuss the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK and Reuters reported. The meeting is to take place in Brno on 31 October. But both Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and governmental spokesman Libor Roucek warned that the meeting will be canceled if border blockades by the plant's opponents are resumed. Upper Austrian Premier Josef Puehringer, for his part, said the blockades will be resumed if the results of the meeting are not "fully satisfactory." MS

...WHILE THE EU AGREES TO MEDIATE

Czech Foreign Minister Kavan said after meeting in Brussels with EU Commissioner Guenter Verheugen that the commissioner made several proposals about how resolve the dispute between Austria and the Czech Republic. Kavan said he "fully agreed" with some of those proposals, "less so with others" and "not at all" with still others. Verheugen will now submit the proposals to the Austrian side. CTK said Verheugen is proposing "a multi-level dialogue" and "technical reviews and inspections at Temelin." The Austrian Environment Ministry said Prague has agreed to carry out "an extensive environmental impact assessment" in which Austrian experts will participate. Verheugen said after meeting with Kavan that "border blockades neither promote dialogue nor benefit the free movement of goods." MS

POLL SHOWS SLOVAKS WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN REFERENDUM

A public opinion poll conducted by the Slovak Statistical Office shows that only one-third of eligible voters intend to participate in the 11 November referendum on early elections, CTK reported. For the plebiscite to be valid, participation must be at least 50 percent and the parliament must approve the referendum results. The poll shows that 46 percent do not plan to vote and 21 percent are undecided. MS

HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRATS TO STAGE LEADERSHIP COMPETITION

Former Culture and Education Minister Gabor Fodor on 18 October announced that he will run for the post of chairman of the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) at the party's December congress. He said if he is elected, he wants to cooperate with Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky, who also intends to run for the SZDSZ chairmanship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). Fodor said Demszky might become the party's candidate for prime minister in 2002. In other news, former Prime Minister Gyula Horn criticized Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs for not meeting him for nearly a year to discuss party matters. Horn said he holds regular meetings with Miklos Nemeth, Hungary's first post-communist premier, and added that it is necessary that the two of them meet with Kovacs regularly. MSZ

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES HUNGARY

The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International said in its 2000 report, which was released on 18 October, that Hungarian police frequently and unjustifiably mistreat Roma and refugees. The report singles out the case of two Romany youths beaten by two policemen in Hajduhaza, eastern Hungary, in January. Regarding the treatment of refugees, the report mentions the enforced return to Beirut of a Congolese refugee seeking political asylum and an incident in Szombathely in which gas spray was used against foreigners, Hungarian media reported. MSZ




OSCE INVITES YUGOSLAVIA TO REJOIN...

Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who holds the rotating OSCE chair, said in Vienna on 19 October that she has written to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica saying she hopes to welcome Belgrade back to the OSCE soon. "The democratic change that has taken place in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, expressed by the election of a new leadership, now offers the long-awaited possibility for a new relationship between the OSCE and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," Reuters reported. She added that she hopes that Belgrade will participate in the OSCE foreign ministers' meeting on 27 November. It is not clear if she is inviting Yugoslavia back to full membership soon or if it must first fulfill as yet unspecified conditions. The OSCE suspended Yugoslavia in 1992 because of its role in the Bosnian war. PM

...SLAMS KOSOVA'S JUSTICE SYSTEM

The OSCE issued a report in Vienna on 18 October, in which it criticized the justice system of the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) as biased against the minority Serbian population. The report noted that there is "clear and compelling evidence" of a pro-Albanian bias. The 90-page study acknowledged "the efforts of all these people [in UNMIK]." It added, however, that "despite these achievements, the current system has a long way to go to meet necessary standards." The report pointed out that "the various sources of applicable law create confusion as to which law to apply and how to apply them." Bernard Kouchner, who heads UNMIK, has repeatedly appealed to the international community, and especially to his native France, to provide additional trained judges and other legal personnel for Kosova. PM

ITALIAN, LIBYAN AID FOR SERBIA

The Italian government has pledged $45 million in reconstruction and development aid for Serbia, Ljubljana radio 24-UR reported on 19 October. Italy has extensive business interests with Belgrade and was one of the least enthusiastic NATO member states regarding the alliance's 1999 bombing campaign. In Belgrade, a Libyan envoy presented Kostunica with a check for $800,000 in "humanitarian aid" for Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ARE SERBIAN SOCIALISTS PLAYING GAMES WITH KOSTUNICA?

Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who is also deputy leader of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), said in Belgrade on 18 October that the SPS wants the next Yugoslav prime minister to be a member of the Socialist People's Party (SNP) of Montenegro. The SNP supported Milosevic until recently but is now divided regarding its future loyalties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). It is not clear whether the SPS will insist on a role for itself in the federal cabinet, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia opposes inclusion of the SPS in the government. The SNP recently dropped its earlier demand that the SPS join the cabinet. PM

BOSNIA WARNS KOSTUNICA

The Bosnian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it objects to a planned visit by Kostunica to Trebinje in the Republika Srpska, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 18 October. The ministry added that it "will take a stance on the visit if it happens but is surprised by the way officials from the Bosnian Serb republic have invited the president of Yugoslavia. In this way, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which is the only Bosnian institution through which contacts with foreign states are agreed, coordinated and organized, has been skirted," Reuters reported. Kostunica planned to attend the reburial on 22 October of the poet Jovan Ducic. Kostunica's office told the news agency that he plans to go to Trebinje but not "if something comes up in the meantime" that would require his presence in Belgrade. PM

SERBIAN YOUTHS CONTINUE PROTESTS IN BOSNIAN TOWN

Up to 2,000 ethnic Serbian teenagers threw eggs at NATO troops and damaged Muslim property in Brcko on 18 October for the second day in a row. The young people chanted nationalist slogans and carried nationalist flags. The youths demanded that Muslims leave the strategic town, which is under joint administration of all three major ethnic groups. Representatives of the international community dismissed the protests as a propaganda ploy in the run-up to the 11 November parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MORE WOMEN IN SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT

The new parliament will have more women deputies than the previous Slovenian legislature, Ljubljana radio 24-UR reported on 19 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). Three out of five of the conservative New Slovenia party's deputies are women, as are some 27 percent of the members of the reformed communist parliamentary group. There are no women deputies from the two-party Christian Democratic coalition, from Janez Jansa's conservative Social Democrats, or from the pensioners' party. The average age of all legislators is 47, which is slightly above that of the previous assembly. PM

SOME LEADERS OF SMALLER SLOVENIAN PARTIES WIN INDIRECT MANDATES

Outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk has won an indirect mandate in the 15 October elections, as has the other most prominent member of his New Slovenia party, former Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle, 24-UR radio reported on 19 October. Far-right leader Zmago Jelincic will also be in the new legislature. The leader of the coalition of two Christian Democratic parties, Franc Zagozen, did not win election. His coalition's best-known deputy will be Janez Podobnik, who is the speaker of the outgoing legislature. PM

MACEDONIAN LEGAL EXPERTS: EU 'FORCING CHAOS' ON MACEDONIA

Several Macedonian legal experts say that the EU's proposed Agreement on Readmission of illegal migrants from EU countries back to Macedonia will make that Balkan country "a regional emigration waste bin," MIC news agency reported on 18 October. The agreement as proposed by Brussels will oblige Skopje to readmit persons sent back to Macedonia, as the country from which they arrived in the EU, regardless of their country of origin. The legal experts fear that the agreement could upset Macedonia's delicate ethnic balance by obliging that country to accept many people who fled Kosova or Albania to the EU via Macedonia. The experts also stressed that the proposed agreement involves procedures that are not standard in international law and differ "from the standards for readmission which exist for the EU member countries" themselves. The experts pointed out that Macedonia needs an agreement with the EU on the readmission of migrants in order for Brussels to agree on more liberal visa procedures for Macedonian citizens to travel to the EU. PM

ROMANIAN POLL SHOWS EXTREMISTS IN SECOND PLACE

A public opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Market Research shows that Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor and Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu share second place ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for November-December. Both politicians received 14 percent backing among respondents, Romanian Radio reported on 19 October. Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) Chairman Ion Iliescu continue to lead the field, with 46 percent support. The PRM is also in second place in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, with 13 percent support. The PDSR has 50 percent backing, the National Liberal Party 9 percent, the Democratic Convention of Romania 2000 8 percent, the Democratic Party and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania 7 percent each, and the Alliance for Romania 4 percent. MS

PROTESTING INVESTORS FORCIBLY REMOVED FROM ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT

Police used force on 18 October to remove from the Romanian parliament building a group of people who had invested in the collapsed National Investment Fund. The group had attended the debates in the legislature and was later received by Chamber of Deputies Chairman Ion Diaconescu, who failed to persuade the protestors to leave the building. After being forcibly removed, the group briefly blocked traffic in the vicinity of the parliament building. MS

SNEGUR WANTS TO BE MOLDOVA'S NEXT PRESIDENT

Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) Chairman Mircea Snegur, who is also a former president, proposed on 18 October that parliamentary chairman and Democratic Party leader Dumitru Diacov and Party of Moldovan Communist leader Vladimir Voronin back his candidacy for Moldova's presidency "to avoid a new crisis that may lead to early parliamentary elections," Infotag reported, citing "well-informed sources." The agency said Diacov's response was "restrained" and that he drew Snegur's attention to the fact that the CDM has 14 deputies, one less than the necessary minimum to propose a candidate. Diacov said that even if the Democrats backed Snegur, they have only 31 deputies--half of the total required to elect the president. Voronin said that his party, which is the largest in the legislature, "is not going to lend votes to anyone." MS

LUCINSCHI CONCERNED ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TRANSDNIESTER

President Petru Lucinschi told visiting Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil Robles on 18 October that Moldova is concerned about the widespread violations of human rights in the separatist Transdniester region, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi mentioned the Transdniester authorities' obstruction of the right to education in the mother tongue and restrictions on the freedoms of movement, speech, and the media. The most blatant violation, the president said, was the eight-year long detention of Deputy Ilie Ilascu in a Tiraspol prison. Lucinschi appealed to the Council of Europe to help find a solution to the conflict with the separatists in cooperation with the OSCE. The commissioner is traveling to Tiraspol, where he hopes to be able to meet with Ilascu, in addition to scheduled meetings with the authorities. MS




U.S. BUSINESSMAN'S SPY TRIAL OPENS IN MOSCOW


By Sophie Lambroschini

The espionage trial of U.S. businessman Edmund Pope got underway behind closed doors on 18 October. Judge Nina Barkova allowed a recess for Pope and his lawyer to study the Russian criminal-procedure code. The trial will resume on 20 October.

Pope's fate will be determined solely by Barkova. If convicted, he is subject to a sentence of from 10 to 20 years in jail. Pope himself will follow the proceedings inside the steel cage traditionally available in Russian courtrooms.

Pope was arrested in April by Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB. He was charged with seeking to buy secret technical data on a new high-speed Russian torpedo from Anatolii Babkin, a Russian scientist. Pope, who suffers from bone cancer, has been in prison ever since.

The FSB says that the 53-year-old Pope used his businessman status as a cover for spying. Pope, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, was employed by a private company under a contract with Pennsylvania State University.

Pope has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, acknowledges that he did try to buy information on the torpedo, but says that Pope did not seek to acquire any data illegally. He argues that espionage can only be proven in Russia if it is demonstrated that the accused knew that the information he was buying was secret.

Astakhov says he will seek to show that Pope acquired the data in good faith, believing the information was not secret. He told our correspondent that Pope knew how delicate such matters are and did his best to avoid any suggestion of illegality:

"[Pope] never acquired documents marked 'secret.' He always wrote up contracts when he acquired technologies or plans. He always checked whether--God forbid!--there was any secret material in the documents. He always counted on the honesty--and had the right to do so--of the other party that gave him these documents for money--for quite a substantial sum."

Astakhov points out, too, that Pope received a certificate from the institute where Babkin worked attesting that the data the American purchased was not secret. But, he allows, it was a group of scientists from Babkin's scientific institute who prepared the document.

The lawyer admits that Pope's defense will be a difficult one because the prosecution's chief witness is Babkin himself. The Russian scientist was initially accused of divulging state secrets, but the charges were later suspended for what were described as "reasons of health." Astakhov says of Babkin: "The task given to [Babkin] is to appear as the prosecution's main witness. It is specifically on his statements that the accusations against Pope will be built. It will be important what his testimony at the hearing will be. If, at the hearing, he claims that he really did give [Pope] secret documents, we will be in a very difficult situation."

So far, every request Pope has made of the court has been denied, including several appeals on health grounds. Pope's request for a trial by jury was rejected, and he has been allowed to see his wife only once. On 19 September, a Russian court rejected an appeal to release him under house arrest pending trial, after doctors employed by the FSB said that he was fit to stand trial. U.S. doctors have not been allowed to examine Pope.

The Pope case has created tensions between Moscow and Washington. U.S. officials have said several times that there is no evidence that Pope broke the law. But Russian officials called their statements attempts to pressure the Russian judiciary.

This month, the posting of an U.S. consular warning clearly discouraging American citizens from business dealings in the military-industrial sphere has evoked new Russian protests. The warning stressed that normal U.S. business practices are often considered illegal in Russia, thereby highlighting the wider context of the Pope case -- the different line drawn in each country between commercial dealings and espionage.

In recent weeks, Russian security services have called for stepping up the fight against foreign industrial espionage, which they claim has increased over the past years.

The Pope case also moved the U.S. House of Representatives last week to call on President Bill Clinton to consider suspending financial aid to Russia if Moscow does not release Pope. In a non-binding resolution, the house said that Pope traveled to Russia "to purchase commercially advertised underwater propulsion technology, as stated in his visa approved by the [Russian government]."

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the trial must take place, but hinted at an eventual release. In an appearance on U.S. television (CNN's "Larry King Live"), Putin said: "[After the trial,] in the spirit of the good relationship between our two countries, we will see what we can do."

The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent.


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