Accessibility links

Newsline - October 20, 2000




BUDGET EXPECTED TO SAIL THROUGH SECOND READING...

After passing the draft 2001 budget by a margin of only 6 votes in its first reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2000), the government has endeavored to win more support for the document ahead of the second reading, scheduled for 20 October. As of 19 October, the Communist faction had declared its plans to reject the budget again, while the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction, which did not support the budget in the first reading, said that it might change its position. On 18 October, deputy OVR faction leader Vyacheslav Volodin told reporters that his group will support the budget if the government allocates extra funds for road construction. Volodin praised the fact that since the second reading, the government has raised spending on defense, education, agriculture, and health services. The Agro-Industrial Group, which also voted against the bill in its first reading, said its members can now vote as they wish. JAC

...AS GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO TURN TO STRUCTURAL REFORMS NEXT

Federation Council Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Surikov said on 19 October that the upper legislative house currently has no objections to the budget, implying that the bill will pass the council after the four readings in the Duma. Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref told reporters on 19 October that once the State Duma passes next year's budget, the "government's next tasks will be structural and tax reform, the adoption of a new customs code, fine-tuning the payments and banking systems, and the reform of natural monopolies." He said that the government will also pay great attention to the energy sector, noting that energy supplies to industry are "lagging behind the economic growth rate." Most alarming is the decline in gas production, he noted. JAC

DUMA TAKES STEP TOWARD PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF LAND

"Kommersant-Daily" commented on 19 October that the State Duma's approval of an amendment to the mortgage law eliminating the ban on mortgages on agricultural land marks a "first step toward legalizing the private ownership of land." The Duma passed the bill in its first reading the previous day by a vote of 241 to 147 with one abstention, according to ITAR-TASS. The daily noted that leftist deputies staged a stormy protest against the bill before the vote; however, the government managed to gather the necessary support to pass the legislation. JAC

SMALL SHAREHOLDERS IN SVYAZINVEST GET ANOTHER UNPLEASANT SURPRISE?

Interros Group head Vladimir Potanin announced on 18 October that Mustcom, the Cyprus-based investment consortium that won a 25 percent stake in Svyazinvest during the latter's1997 privatization, will be dissolved. As the two largest members of Mustcom, Interros will retain a 2 percent stake in Svyazinvest and George Soros's Quantum Fund a 10 percent share, according to "The Moscow Times" on 20 October. The remaining shareholders will have only miniscule stakes in the telecommunications giant. The daily also reported that a spokesman for Soros could not confirm whether Potanin had Soros's support when he made the announcement. "Kommersant-Daily" concluded on 19 October that Mustcom's breakup will improve the shares' liquidity but give the state, which still owns 75 percent of the company, an even stronger say in decision-making. JAC

ALLEGED U.S. SPY MAY NOT TESTIFY IN COURT

Edmond Pope, who has been detained in Moscow since April on espionage charges, may decline to give testimony, his lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, told Interfax on 19 October, one day after the trial was postponed for 48 hours (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Pope had hoped to prove his innocence in court, Astakhov said, but following the opening day of the trial, the defendant has "arrived at the conclusion that it would be senseless to testify." A 40-page statement that Pope has written to "assert his innocence and announce his attitude toward the progress of the trial" will be handed to the judge on 20 October, when the trial resumes. Astakhov also noted that besides rejecting Pope's request for a trial by jury and the inclusion on the witness list of Anatolii Babkin (who is accused of selling Pope classified information), the presiding judge has refused to provide an independent translator for Pope to replace the one from the Federal Security Service's investigation department. JC

SECURITY COUNCIL CHIEF HELPS PREPARE KHATAMI'S VISIT TO MOSCOW

Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov has concluded a visit to Tehran devoted largely to preparations for Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's planned trip to Moscow. Speaking to ITAR-TASS on 19 October, Ivanov said he had "intensive" talks with almost the entire Iranian leadership, including Khatami, Vice President for Executive Affairs Mohammad Hashemi, and Ivanov's counterpart, Hassan Rohani. Besides Khatami's visit to the Russian capital, which is expected to take place in the first half of next year, Ivanov discussed security issues and the development of bilateral relations. JC

PUTIN REJECTS LUKASHENKA'S THANKS...

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Belarus's President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Sochi on 19 October. At a joint press conference that day, as Lukashenka was thanking Russia for its position following Belarus's recent elections, Putin reportedly interrupted, declaring that Russia "does not interfere in other countries' affairs," Reuters reported. Earlier in the week, Putin had called Lukashenka to congratulate him on Belarus's election, while the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the elections had been conducted "calmly and in an organized fashion." JAC

...SAYS UNION WILL NOT REQUIRE LEGIONS OF BUREAUCRATS

Addressing the issue of plans for the Union of Belarus and Russia, Putin told reporters that the two countries "would like to avoid the growth of a large army of bureaucrats." According to RFE/RL's Russian Service, the two leaders discussed questions related to the unification of the two countries' tax legislation and the struggle with corruption in the customs sphere. JAC

CHECHNYA'S DUMA DEPUTY ACCUSES RUSSIAN MILITARY OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Echoing numerous western journalists' findings, Aslanbek Aslakhanov told fellow State Duma deputies on 19 October that the Russian military in Chechnya engages in the arbitrary detention, beating and torture of Chechen civilians, 10,000 of whom he claimed have vanished without trace, Interfax reported. Aslakhanov said that military representatives routinely deny charges that they engage in such practices. He called on the Russian leadership to halt the "genocide" of the Chechen people and intervene to restore order in the republic. Aslakhanov also charged that the Russian military are obstructing the restoration of the judicial system in Chechnya. Meanwhile in Grozny, the city's newly appointed mayor, Beslan Gantemirov, has announced unspecified measures to stabilize the situation in the city, according to AP. LF

CHECHNYA CONSTITUTES ONE BARRIER TO MILITARY REFORM, IISS CONCLUDES

In "The Military Balance 2000-2001," the International Institute for Security Studies concludes that although military reform under President Putin is likely to be more "coordinated, strategically focused and economically viable" than under his predecessor, the regime's ability to tackle costly military reforms is challenged by the continuing war in Chechnya, which "is draining economic and military reforms and losing public support." According to the report, military reform continues to "lack not only economic resources but also the human talent capable of implementing a radical modernization" of the armed forces. The report notes that the Russian military's performance during the second Chechen campaign has been better than in 1994-1996, but the Russian forces continue to suffer from a shortage of well-trained ground troops as well as from out-dated weapons. Another feature of the Chechen conflict has been that the "heavy and often indiscriminate use of artillery and air-strikes" has caused unnecessary casualties, the report said. JAC

NAVY COMMANDER WARNS 'KURSK' RECOVERY OPERATION MAY BE CALLED OFF...

Following contradictory comments by Russian officials over the prospects for recovering at least some of the bodies of the 118-strong crew of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000), the Navy commander has suggested that the recovery operation may not take place. Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov said in a statement on 19 October that if an analysis of the situation inside the submarine indicates that the divers will be exposed to a high level of danger, "I, as the chief commander of the navy, will be forced to give the order to cancel the operation," Interfax reported. Besides the extreme cold and darkness 100 meters beneath the water's surface, the divers would also have to contest with "jagged metal debris floating in the wreck," Reuters quoted experts as pointing out. JC

...AS CAPTAIN'S WIDOW RESIGNS FROM COMMISSION HELPING VICTIMS' FAMILIES

Irina Lyachina, the widow of the captain of the "Kursk" who perished in the August sinking of the submarine, has resigned from a commission overseeing the distribution of government and private funds for the families of the victims of the tragedy. In a letter published by "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 19 October, Lyachina said "there is no talk about help for the 'Kursk' crew member families." She pointed out that the commission had decided to spend 23,000 rubles ($821) on a commemorative book about the accident for libraries and schools and 5,000 rubles on mailing "thank you" letters to donors. According to NTV, the combined total of government funds and private donations for the "Kursk" victims' families is some 118 million ($4.2 million). JC

OMON ENSURES ENERGY SUPPLIES TO TAMBOV DEBTORS

OMON troops stormed the premises of the energy distribution company Tambovenergo on 19 October, after the company's employees reduced supplies to consumers with outstanding bills, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the Unified Energy Systems' press service. According to the news agency, the city administration had issued the instruction to send in the OMON troops. In September, troops of the Strategic Rocket Forces seized the offices of the Ivanovo energy distribution company when the latter cut electricity supplies to the forces' base in the oblast. Several months earlier, Strategic Rocket Forces troops in the Republic of Altai occupied four power stations that had threatened to halt their supplies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September and 22 June 2000). JC

ANOTHER MOVEMENT TO REPLACE UNITY AS KREMLIN'S PARTY OF CHOICE?

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 19 October, without reference to sourcing, that Kremlin adviser and head of the Fund for Effective Politics Gleb Pavlovskii has proposed transforming the Duma's People's Deputy group into a pro-Putin political party called the People's Party. According to the newspaper, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Pavlovskii has not yet succeeded in persuading the Kremlin to back such a plan; however, news of the proposal has triggered "panic within Unity." The daily also maintains that the attitude of the presidential administration toward Unity is a "mixture of pragmatism, cynicism, and contempt" and that an unidentified senior Kremlin official recently described Unity faction leader Boris Gryzlov as a "very weak politician." Unity's next congress is scheduled for the end of October in Novgorod. JAC

WAGE ARREARS TO HEALTHCARE WORKERS SOAR

Unpaid wages to healthcare workers increased by 63.8 million rubles ($2.29 million) in one week to total 648.5 million rubles, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 October, citing the Health Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). The largest arrears continue to be recorded in the Far Eastern region, which owes 229.1 million rubles, and West Siberia, which owes 147.7 million rubles. JAC

TWO PORK CHOPS AND ONE HEALTHY LIVER, PLEASE

The main source for donor organs for human beings in the 21st century will be pigs, Valerii Shumakov, director of the Scientific Research Institute for Transplants and Artificial Organs, told ITAR-TASS on 19 October. Of course, not all pigs will be up to the task; Shumakov explained. Only pigs that have received human genes while still in the embryo will be eligible. In this way, he added, a human's immune system would not reject organs received from such a pig. JAC




ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN DENIES OPPOSITION LAND SWAP ALLEGATION

Vahe Gabrielian, who is President Robert Kocharian's press spokesman, told Armenpress on 19 October that statements made the previous day by opposition politician Ashot Manucharian are "groundless" and "too exotic to comment on." Manucharian had called on Kocharian to resign, accusing him of being ready to agree under Western pressure to cede Armenia's southeastern Meghri region in return for international recognition of Armenian jurisdiction over the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Interfax on 19 October quoted Gabrielian as having denied in an interview published in "Azg" the same day that Kocharian is suffering from heart disease. Kocharian left Armenia on 17 October for a medical checkup in Europe. LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT AGAIN DELAYS ENERGY PRIVATIZATION

Armenian State Energy Commission Chairman Vartan Movsisian told journalists in Yerevan on 19 October that the results of the tender to privatize four state-run electricity companies will be announced in March 2001, and not by the end of this month, as decided in July, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2000). That delay is likely to push back the disbursement of the next tranche of a World Bank loan needed to cover part of this year's anticipated budget deficit. Four international companies have been shortlisted in the tender. LF

U.S. GROUP PROPOSES INVESTMENT PROJECTS IN ARMENIA

Representatives of the King Group met in Yerevan on 19 October with Armenian Ministry of Trade officials to discuss planned large-scale investment in various sectors of the Armenian economy, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Among the 11 proposals the group has submitted to the Armenian government are the privatization of three Yerevan hotels as well as ventures in the telecommunications and service sectors and in the diamond-cutting, chemical, and textile industries. LF

DEFEATED CANDIDATE CHALLENGES ARMENIAN BY-ELECTION RESULTS

Mihran Movsisian of the Union of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle issued a statement in Yerevan on 18 October calling on President Kocharian and the Prosecutor-General's Office to annul the outcome of the 15 October by-election in Ararat, Noyan Tapan reported on 19 October. After losing that ballot to Armagrobank executive Gurgen Arsenian, Movsisian had lodged a protest with the Central Election Commission, citing major inaccuracies in voter lists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). LF

AZERBAIJAN ELECTION CANDIDATE BEATEN

Shahid Abbasov, chairman of the local branch of the opposition Musavat party in Sharur in Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, was abducted on 19 October and beaten by masked men who demanded that he stop criticizing the chairman of the exclave's parliament, Vasif Talibov, Turan reported. Abbasov and Talibov are both registered as candidates to contest the 5 November parliamentary election in the same single-mandate constituency in Sharur. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS CLOSURE OF RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES

In a fourth round of talks, Georgian and Russian government representatives reached agreement in Tbilisi on 19 October that the Russian military base in Gudauta, Abkhazia is to be transformed into a rehabilitation center for the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. Georgia insists, however, that the military hardware currently at that base must be withdrawn under OSCE supervision. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told journalists after the talks, which continue on 20 October, that a final decision will be taken at the next round of talks in December on handing over the Gudauta base to the CIS peacekeeping force and on the timetable for closure of the Russian bases in Akhalkalaki and Batumi. Klebanov added that new draft bilateral treaties on military and military-political cooperation will be ready for discussion in December, according to ITAR-TASS. Klebanov also met on 19 October with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss Tbilisi's claims on a share of the assets of the former USSR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). LF

GEORGIA OPENS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO ITALIAN JOURNALIST'S DEATH

Orde Bebia, who heads the Criminal Investigation Department of the Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office, told journalists in Tbilisi on 19 October that he cannot exclude the involvement of a foreign intelligence service in the death of Italian journalist Antonio Russo, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian human rights activist Giorgi Kervalishivili told journalists the same day he believes Russian intelligence may have arranged Russo's murder because of his "fair" coverage of the war in Chechnya. Russo was found dead with serious chest injuries at a roadside in eastern Georgian on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Reporters sans Frontieres has appealed to President Shevardnadze to take personal control over the investigation into Russo's death. LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS THREATEN MASS PROTESTS

An unknown number of Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and now live in the Tbilisi suburb of Tskhneti have called on the Georgian government either to meet their demands or resign, Caucaaus Press reported on 19 October. The displaced persons threatened mass protest actions unless the Georgian authorities comply with their "minimum" demands, which are to pay their overdue allowances for four months and provide them with free medical care and "edible" bread. Ultimately, they want the Georgian government to enable them to return to Abkhazia. President Shevardnadze had issued instructions on 11 October that all overdue allowances for displaced persons should be paid immediately. Displaced persons in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi similarly demanded an improvement in government food supplies at a meeting on 18 October with the chairman of the Abkhaz government in exile, Londer Tsaava. They accused that body of neglecting their problems and obstructing a settlement of the Abkhaz conflict. LF

KAZAKH, TURKISH PRESIDENTS AIM TO EXPAND COOPERATION

Nursultan Nazarbaev and visiting Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer met for talks in Astana on 19 October and discussed expanding cooperation in various spheres, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Nazarbaev told journalists after those talks that trade turnover between the two countries is expected to reach $500 million this year and that he and Sezer hope the figure will double in the near future. Turkey is Kazakhstan's third-largest trade partner. Sezer expressed appreciation for Kazakhstan's stated interest in the Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil and also said he hopes that the two countries will embark on military cooperation. The Turkish government agreed in July to grant $1 million in aid to Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry. The two presidents also signed a joint declaration on cooperation in the struggle against terrorism. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, WORLD BANK DISCUSS COOPERATION PROGRAM

Visiting World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Johannes Linn met with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev in Astana on 19 October to discuss a three-year loan program worth some $14-17 million, Interfax reported. Linn told journalists after the meeting that program focuses on stimulating economic growth, primarily in the private sector, combating corruption, and establishing welfare programs for the lowest-income groups. LF

UN FOCUSES ON DRUG THREAT TO CENTRAL ASIA...

Pino Arlacchi, who is UN undersecretary-general for drug control and crime prevention, told participants in an international conference in Tashkent on 19 October that the UN views drugs, crime, and the arms trade as threats to security in Central Asia. Arlacchi added that 75 percent of the drugs smuggled to Europe originate in Afghanistan. Delegates to the conference, which is co-sponsored by the UN and the OSCE, are to focus on formulating an integrated approach to combating the drug trade. Also on 19 October, OSCE chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner met in Tashkent on the sidelines of the conference with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to discuss the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan, Interfax reported. LF

...AS KYRGYZSTAN CALCULATES DRUG BARONS' PROFITS

Kyrgyz Deputy Minister of National Security Miroslav Niyazov told parliamentary deputies in Bishkek on 19 October that the annual profits of transnational groups smuggling drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan via Kyrgyzstan may be as high as $1 billion, Interfax reported. He added that heroin is sold in Kyrgyzstan for less than a 10th of the wholesale price in Germany. LF

UZBEKISTAN COMPLETES INVESTIGATION INTO ISLAMIST MOVEMENT

The Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office has completed its investigation into the involvement of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in terrorist activities, including the February 1999 Tashkent bombings, Interfax reported on 18 October. The investigation established that from 1991-1999, members of the IMU committed 19 murders and 35 attacks and perpetrated a number of bombings. Three of that organization's leaders--Takhir Yuldash, Djuma Khodjiev (Namangani) and Salay Madaminov--have been charged in absentia in connection with those attacks, while three other IMU members are accused of murder, inciting ethnic hatred, robbery, and plotting to overthrow the president and constitutional system. LF




LUKASHENKA THANKS PUTIN FOR 'GRAND STANCE' ON BELARUSIAN VOTE...

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka thanked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi on 19 October for the latter's support for and congratulations following the "free and democratic" elections to the Chamber of Representatives, Belarusian Television reported. "I want to thank you in front of the journalists for this grand stance that Russia took during our political events. You know how fierce the pressure was," Lukashenka said. Putin interrupted the Belarusian president by remarking, "We do not interfere in internal affairs." "No, you did not interfere, you supported us strongly. Russia has never taken such a definite stance, has never supported Belarus so firmly as now," Lukashenka elaborated (see also Part 1). JM

...ACCUSES OSCE OF CHANNELING MONEY TO OPPOSITION

Lukashenka on 18 October told journalists that the Belarusian opposition has received $118 million from the West over the past six years. According to him, some of those funds were transferred to the opposition through the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk. OSCE Minsk mission head Hans Georg Wieck told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service the following day that he does not know anything about the $118 million mentioned by Lukashenka. Moreover, Lukashenka revealed that "his hands are itching" to publish details in "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" about the financing of the Belarusian opposition by the West. He added that once such details are published, the opposition will "disappear as a class." JM

OSCE CONCERNED ABOUT HARASSMENT OF BELARUSIAN PRINTING HOUSE

Freimut Duve, the OSCE's representative on the freedom of the media, has sent a letter to Belarusian Foreign Minister Ural Latypau about harassment of the Magic private printing house in Minsk, Belapan reported on 19 October. Magic prints some 20 independent periodicals, including "Rabochy," "Narodnaya volya," and "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta." The Belarusian authorities seized Magic's bank accounts on 11 October and five days later moved to confiscate equipment that Magic had rented from the Belarus-Soros Foundation. Duve said he is viewing these acts as a "clear and flagrant violation of basic democratic principles" and as an attempt to silence the independent media in Belarus. The U.S. State Department also condemned the Belarusian authorities' moves vis-a-vis Magic, urging them to "cease persecution of the independent press." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SHRUGS OFF GAZPROM'S BYPASS PIPELINE...

Leonid Kuchma on 19 October said Kyiv will not take any countermeasures against a project to supply Russian gas to Western Europe via Poland and Slovakia while circumventing Ukraine, Interfax reported. Kuchma was commenting on the 18 October letter of intent signed by Gazprom, Germany's Ruhrgas and Wintershall, France's Gaz de France, and Italy's SNAM to study and develop the new section of the planned Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. Kuchma noted that "it takes a lot of time [to proceed] from the project to its practical implementation." "There has been much talk about an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea area to Ceyhan [in Turkey]. Where is this pipeline?" Kuchma asked. JM

...AND REJECTS POSSIBILITY OF IMPORTING NORWEGIAN GAS

Kuchma said it would be "absolutely inexpedient" for Kyiv to be involved in the construction of a gas pipeline from Norway to Ukraine via Poland. He was commenting on reports in some Ukrainian media that Kyiv has entered talks with Warsaw on such a scheme. Kuchma added that Norwegian gas would be more expensive than that received by Ukraine from Russia and Turkmenistan. And while noting that Russia is politicizing the issue of gas supplies to Ukraine, he said "I would do the same if I were in their place." JM

NO-CONFIDENCE MOTIONS FILED IN TALLINN CITY COUNCIL

No confidence motions were filed on 19 October against Mayor Juri Mois, city council chairman Rein Voog, and council deputy chairman Peeter Lepp. The opposition, led by the Center Party, sponsored the motions against Mois (Pro Patria Union) and Voog (Reform Party), ETA reported. Both the Pro Patria Union and the Reform Party are members of the Tallinn and national ruling coalition. The confidence motion against Lepp, a member of the Coalition Party, was filed by the Pro Patria Union. Lepp has been involved in several controversies stemming from the privatization of apartments in Tallinn several years ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2000). The opposition claim to have enough votes to topple Mois and Voog--33 oppositionists have signed a petition to that effect, including three members of the ruling coalition. MH

LATVIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES SECURITY IN STOCKHOLM CONFERENCE

Vaira Vike-Freiberga addressed the Stockholm Conference on Baltic Sea Region Security and Cooperation on 19 October, saying that the region is a "checkerboard of nations at different stages of development," which need not all belong to the same organizations, BNS reported. Vike-Freiberga noted that "Sweden and Finland's neutrality has served these countries well," but she added that "Latvia, in its current geopolitical position, cannot afford the luxury of being a neutral state." Before the conference began, two Swedish military leaders argued that Baltic membership in NATO would destabilize the region and threaten Russian reforms, BNS quoted "Svenska Dagbladet" as saying. MH

NEW LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS LEADERS...

The newly-elected parliament convened for its first session on 19 October and elected Arturas Paulauskas of the New Alliance (Social Liberals) as its chairman. Paulauskas received 76 votes while his challenger, Ceslovas Jursenas of the Social Democracy bloc, obtained 53, ELTA reported. Ten deputies voted against both candidates. A declaration of cooperation had been signed one day earlier by the leaders of the New Policy coalition (composed of the Liberal Union, New Alliance, Center Union, Modern Christian Democrats), as well as deputies of the Peasants Party, the Polish Electoral Action, the "Young Lithuania" movement, and controversial businessman Viktor Uspaskich, BNS added. MH

...AS PREMIER RESIGNS AHEAD OF CHANGEOVER

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius formally resigned on 19 October, and President Valdas Adamkus asked the cabinet to function until the new government is confirmed. It is considered likely that Adamkus will appoint his preferred candidate, Liberal Union leader Rolandas Paksas, as premier, especially since the ruling coalition's candidate for parliamentary chairman has been confirmed. Adamkus has 15 days to appoint a new premier and the parliament then has 15 days to approve his candidate. MH

CONTROVERSIAL LITHUANIAN PRIVATIZATION CONCLUDED

Representatives of the Lithuanian government and the Netherlands-based consortium B. B. Bredo have signed an agreement on the privatization of the Lithuanian Shipping Company (LISCO). Under the agreement, the sale price of 75.16 percent of LISCO is confirmed at $47.6 million. However, the value of LISCO stocks is significantly higher than the established price, which earlier had triggered complaints by the former parliamentary opposition that the country's shipping fleet is being sold off too cheaply, ELTA reported. The Dutch consortium is also obliged to invest $76 million by 2003. MH

POLAND CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL TALKS ON RUSSIA-EUROPE GAS PIPELINE

Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft on 19 October said Poland wants to organize an international conference of all countries interested in the construction of a gas pipeline linking Russia's Yamal peninsula with Western Europe, PAP reported. " We want to be a transit country, as this lies in Poland's interest, but at the same time Poland does not want [to harm the interests of] other countries," Luft added but did not elaborate. Polish officials have previously suggested that they do not want to harm Warsaw's "strategic partner" Ukraine by becoming involved in the construction of a Russia-Europe gas pipeline that would bypass Ukrainian territory (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 July 2000). JM

MAIN CZECH PARTIES AGREE ON 2001 BUDGET

The Chamber of Deputies on 19 October passed the 2001 budget in the first reading by a vote of 127 to 34 with 21 abstentions, CTK and AP reported. Earlier the same day, Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the main opposition Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus, who are partners in the so-called "opposition agreement," agreed that revenues expected from the sale of four telecommunication networks to undergo privatization will be used to reduce the state debt and finance investments. The networks are to be auctioned and bring in revenues estimated at 20 billion crowns ($48.3 million) or more. The budget provides for expenditures of 685 billion crowns and revenues of 636 billion. MS

FORMER CZECH JUSTICE MINISTER TO BE OMBUDSMAN?

The Senate on 19 October selected former Justice Minister Otakar Motejl as one of its two candidates for the post of ombudsman, CTK reported. Motejl received 46 out of the 67 votes cast. President Vaclav Havel, who must also recommend a candidate, said earlier that he will support Motejl, but presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told CTK that Havel will submit his proposal "the next day." Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky, speaking at his 18 October inauguration as justice minister, said that efforts to promote judicial reform will continue, CTK reported. Rychetsky, who restated his hope that his appointment will be "temporary," said it was the fault of the Chamber of Deputies, rather than that of Motejl, that bills on reforming the judicial system have not been approved. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT SET TO REVOKE MECIAR'S AMNESTIES

The parliament on 19 October passed in the first reading a bill that would revoke amnesties granted by former Premier Vladimir Meciar, CTK reported. Meciar granted the amnesties while temporarily assuming presidential prerogatives after Michal Kovac's mandate had ended. The amnesties were granted to those suspected of participating in the abduction of Kovac's son in 1995 and of hindering a referendum on NATO accession and direct presidential elections in 1997. If the bill is approved, it would override last year's decision by the Supreme Court to stop the prosecution of former Deputy Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) Chief Jaroslav Svechota. It would also make possible the prosecution of former SIS chief Ivan Lexa, as well as that of former Interior Minister Gustav Krajci. MS

ORBAN SAYS AUTONOMY 'NOT INDISPENSABLE' FOR HUNGARIAN DIASPORA

In an interview with the Slovak weekly "Domino Forum," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said autonomy "is not an indispensable solution" to the problems of ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary, MTI reported on 19 October. He said the ways of solving those problems should be decided by the Hungarian minorities themselves, not by the government in Budapest. The Hungarian government has only declared that the concept of autonomy is largely accepted in Western civilizations, Orban concluded. MSZ




AUSTRIAN OFFICIAL: MONTENEGRO 'MOVING IN DIRECTION OF INDEPENDENCE'

Albert Rohan, who is general-secretary at the Austrian Foreign Ministry, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 20 October that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic recently left him with the impression that Podgorica is "moving along in the direction of independence, albeit with a certain degree of caution." Rohan added that unspecified domestic and foreign policy considerations have prompted Djukanovic to be less than clear about his intentions in public. The Montenegrin president told the Austrian official that his government wants a new legal relationship with Serbia that would amount to a "union of independent states." According to Djukanovic, Serbia and Montenegro would have common foreign, defense, and financial policies but would otherwise function as independent countries. Rohan noted that he found little interest in Montenegro in the future of Kosova, which his interlocutors told him is "Serbia's problem, not ours." Swedish diplomat Carl Bildt recently suggested that Yugoslavia should be reconstructed as a federation consisting of Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosova. Kosovars firmly reject anything short of independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 October 2000). PM

RUGOVA: INDEPENDENCE ONLY OPTION FOR KOSOVA

Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 19 October that "independence is the only solution for Kosova," Reuters reported. He added that "it is clear to everybody that the independence of Kosova is inevitable. It would certainly be good if Belgrade recognized the fact. Otherwise the international community will at some point recognize [Kosova's] independence." He did not elaborate. The international community has been strongly urging the Kosovars to reach an accommodation with Kostunica instead of seeking independence. Referring a possible meeting between him and Kostunica, Rugova said: "Of course, why not meet with Kostunica? But we have to wait a little bit and see what direction they are taking and how democratic and pro-European those changes [in Serbia] are." Kosova votes in local elections on 28 October. PM

OSCE WELCOMES YUGOSLAVIA--AS NEW MEMBER

London's "Financial Times" published on 20 October the full text of the letter from OSCE Chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Ferrero-Waldner urges Belgrade to rejoin the OSCE and hopes it will do so by 27 November, when that body will have its next conference of foreign ministers. Ferrero-Waldner noted that Belgrade should apply for a new membership "as one of the successor states" to the former Yugoslavia. "Its application should therefore in its contents be comparable to the application letters addressed by the other [former Yugoslav] successor states to previous OSCE chairmanships." Under former President Slobodan Milosevic, Belgrade insisted that it was the sole legal successor to the former Yugoslavia and therefore automatically entitled to its rights and assets abroad. PM

KOSTUNICA SUMMONS SERBIAN SECURITY CHIEFS

Kostunica met in Belgrade on 19 October with three men who were pillars of Milosevic's rule to discuss unspecified security matters, AP reported. After the meeting with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, army Chief-of-Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic, and security chief Rade Markovic, Kostunica's office issued a statement saying that "it was concluded that the army and police must fully meet all [their] legal obligations." The statement did not elaborate. PM

YUGOSLAV FORMER GENERAL URGES TOP BRASS TO QUIT

Momcilo Perisic, who is a former chief of the General Staff turned opposition politician, said in Belgrade on 20 October that Pavkovic and other top officers should resign, Reuters reported. They are air force commander General Spasoje Smiljanic, Second Army commander General Milorad Obgradovic, and navy commander Admiral Milan Zec. Perisic stressed that the men had "discredited the armed forces' role with their [pro-Milosevic] behavior" and that "they should leave [the military] as soon as possible." PM

MYSTERY SURROUNDING SERBIAN EX-LEADER CONTINUES

General Pavkovic said in Belgrade on 19 October that he can confirm that former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic "is not in any military prison or on any military base," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Officials of the Serbian Justice Ministry recently said that Stambolic is not in any of its prisons. Stambolic disappeared in August while jogging near his Belgrade home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2000). He is widely believed to have been kidnapped by agents of the Milosevic regime. PM

POLITICAL GAMES CONTINUE IN YUGOSLAVIA

Predrag Bulatovic, who is one of the leaders of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP), told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in Podgorica on 19 October that his party no longer insists that Kostunica take members of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) into the Yugoslav government immediately (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Bulatovic said that the SNP will agree if Kostunica chooses to invite the SPS to join the government only in early 2001--that is, after the 23 December Serbian elections and after the SPS congress. Bulatovic stressed, however, that his party "cannot be held responsible for the consequences" if Kostunica does not bring the SPS into the cabinet at all (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 October 2000). PM

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT TO MEET

Parliamentary President Dragan Tomic said in Belgrade on 19 October that the legislature will meet on 21 October to choose a transitional government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Nebojsa Covic will be the candidate of Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia for deputy prime minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

PARTY COUP AGAINST SERBIA'S DRASKOVIC?

The youth organization of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) has called on him to step down as party chief, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 19 October. The young SPO leaders stressed that Draskovic must accept responsibility for the party's marginalization in the 24 September elections. The SPO was formerly the largest opposition party in Serbia, the young leaders stressed. Draskovic, for his part, shows no sign of stepping down, "Vesti" reported on 20 October. He recently sacked Borivoje Borovic from the party presidency in the runup to a meeting of the steering committee, which is slated for 22 October. Borovic said that Draskovic is "in a state of panic" as the potentially fateful party gathering looms. PM

BOSNIAN SERB STUDENTS PROTEST FOR SEGREGATED SCHOOLS

For the third day in a row, some 1,000 ethnic Serbian high school students staged violent protests in Brcko on 19 October to demand separate schools from those of Muslims and Croats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Jacques Klein, who heads the UN's mission to Bosnia, said that Serbian extremists are behind the protests. PM

NEW CULTURE MINISTER FOR ALBANIA

President Rexhep Meidani appointed Esmeralda Uruci as culture minister on 19 October, dpa reported. Uruci was previously head of the Economics Department at Shkoder University. Outgoing Culture Minister Edi Rama was elected mayor of Tirana in the 1 October elections. PM

ROMANIA INVITES YUGOSLAVIA TO JOIN BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION

President Emil Constantinescu, opening a meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization in Bucharest on 20 October, invited Yugoslavia to join the organization, Mediafax reported. The foreign ministers of the organization are meeting in the Romanian capital; Russian Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov, whose country will take over the organization's rotating chairmanship from Romania, is chairing the session. Ivanov is also scheduled to hold talks with Constantinescu and Foreign Minister Petre Roman. MS

ROMANIA APPROVES PLAN FOR PRIVATIZING INDUSTRIAL MAMMOTHS

The government on 19 October approved a plan for the privatization of three steel-making giants. Under the plan, the Sidex Galati plant is to be sold to a "strategic investor" and its debts to the budget are to be canceled. The Hunedoara Siderurgica company is to be split into several smaller companies that will be sold to "strategic investors." Unpaid fines for not meeting debts to the budget are to be canceled under the deal, while the debts themselves are to be restructured. The same "privatization strategy" is to apply to the Targoviste Special Steels Company. MS

CHIEF MONEY LAUNDERING SUSPECT RUNNING FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENT

Adrian Costea, the chief suspect under investigation by the French authorities in the money-laundering affair that also involves former President Ion Iliescu and other Romanian politicians, is the candidate of the extra-parliamentary National Christian Democratic Party in the November presidential elections, Romanian Radio reported on 20 October. MS

ILASCU RENOUNCES MOLDOVAN CITIZENSHIP

Deputy Ilie Ilascu, who has been imprisoned in Tiraspol since 1992, has written to President Petru Lucinschi announcing that he is giving up his Moldovan citizenship, Romanian Radio reported on 19 October, citing Moldpres. Earlier this month, Ilascu was granted Romanian citizenship. He is to run on the lists of the extremist Greater Romania Party in the November parliamentary elections in that country. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PRIVATIZES TOBACCO, WINE INDUSTRIES

The parliament on 19 October passed the law on the privatization of the tobacco and wine industries, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The vote was 55 to 40. The Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) faction, the largest in the legislature, opposed the bill, while all other parties represented in the parliament approved it. Prime Minster Dumitru Braghis said the law removes the main obstacle to relaunching negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER READY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

PCM leader Vladimir Voronin on 19 October said he is prepared to accept a nomination by his party to run for president, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin also said the PRM no longer supports Dumitru Braghis's cabinet, which had never included the privatization of the wine and tobacco industries in its program. He said the PCM will be ready to participate in a new government only after the next elections and only if it has an absolute majority in the parliament. MS

VERHEUGEN SEES EU ENLARGEMENT WITHOUT BULGARIA, ROMANIA

In an interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 20 October, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said "up to 10 countries" could join the EU by 2005. He noted that the only membership candidates unlikely to be admitted by that date are Bulgaria and Romania, both of which, he pointed out, have set themselves later target dates for accession. MS

FORMER BULGARIAN MINISTER CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION

Former Transportation Minister Wilhelm Kraus has been indicted on corruption charges, AP reported on 19 October. Kraus is charged with "abuse of power" in connection with the privatization of a Sofia-based bus company. He was forced to resign in December 1999, when Prime Minister Ivan Kostov reshuffled his cabinet. Kraus is the second former minister in Kostov's cabinet to face trial for corruption. Similar charges have been brought against former Deputy Premier and chief negotiator with the EU Alexander Bozhkov. MS




SHARING POWER WITH WAR CRIMINALS


By Margarita Assenova

The Serbian power-sharing agreement signed by supporters of the new Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and the remnants of the regime of his successor, Slobodan Milosevic, raises major moral questions as well as reasonable doubt about the future of democracy in Serbia.

Power-sharing not only creates a credibility question for President Kostunica and the 18 parties in his coalition; it is an approach that may have devastating consequences for the democratic process in Serbia. By entering a coalition with the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Kostunica is in effect legitimizing Milosevic's organization in the eyes of the public and the international community. He is giving this party a chance to mutate into another form of post-totalitarian communist formation that will continue playing a destructive role in Serbian society.

Why is Kostunica willing to do such a favor for his rivals, who falsified the election results and ordered the use of force against Serbian protestors? Certainly not because he is a supporter of Milosevic. Kostunica is regarded as a constitutionalist, who believes in the rule of law and seeks legality in any governmental changes. He wants to prevent any unrest or bloodshed, and this is the likely reason for his cautiousness. However, Milosevic and his supporters are obviously taking advantage of the new president's approach and are trying to entangle him in a web of constitutional and legal obstacles to forestall comprehensive reform.

Two weeks ago it appeared that not only was Milosevic finished but that his regime had come to an end. The protestors on the streets of Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia insisted on his arrest and stormed the parliament and other government buildings. In other words, they were denying authority not only to Milosevic but to the entire Socialist edifice.

The protesting crowds were much more radical than the opposition leadership and were ready to take responsibility in eliminating the power of Milosevic and his supporters. But Kostunica failed to arrest Milosevic. He also repeated his previous refusal to turn Milosevic over to The Hague, which he has called "an American and not an international court." He then began making deals with Milosevic's close associates, some of whom are also indicted war criminals, such as Serbian President Milan Milutinovic.

In fact, two weeks after the "revolution," Serbia is still the only country in the world to be led by a president who has been indicted by an international tribunal for war crimes--because nobody has overturned or challenged the authority of Milutinovic. In the meantime, Milosevic continues giving instructions to his party faithful on how to retain as much power as possible. And they appear to be managing this task quite successfully, both on the Serbian and Yugoslav levels, despite some calls from within the SPS for Milosevic to quit as party leader.

While it may be argued that Kostunica's steps are only temporary measures aimed at a peaceful and smooth transition until the Serbian elections in December, it appears that Kostunica evidently did not look closely at the experience of some of Serbia's neighbors. He failed to estimate how compromises with old communist establishments can become dangerous, even in cases where no war crimes are involved. When the Bulgarian opposition agreed 10 years ago to participate in a roundtable with the Communist Party, that move was perceived as a great democratic achievement. Several years later, however, some of the opposition leaders admitted that it was one of the biggest mistakes committed by the democratic forces.

First, it gave the Communists the status of a legitimate participant in the democratic process, even though the party had not come to terms with its own role in decades of terror, atrocities, political repression, and forced ethnic assimilation.

Second, the roundtable agreements gave an impetus for the revitalization of the 100-year-old Bulgarian Communist Party, which included not only changing its name to "Socialist" but also propelling it to occupy the social democratic space in the political system and in public perceptions. Five months later, the Socialists defeated the democrats in the general elections and continued to rule the country.

The "back-to-power" strategy of the Bulgarian Socialists also consisted of carefully constructing mechanisms to divide the opposition and undermine the credibility of opposition leaders. This led to a long period of Socialist domination in the parliament and a devastating economic catastrophe in 1997. At this point, the united opposition leaders demanded the immediate resignation of the Socialist cabinet and parliament. They also formed an interim government on their own, even though mass protests supporting the opposition were threatened with a military crackdown.

At a time when Kostunica has the full support of the army and the police, there is no credible reason for making deals with a party responsible for triggering four wars, launching ethnic cleansing, and creating a criminal environment throughout the region.

Moreover, once the euphoria subsides, Serbia faces the prospect of growing public frustration with worsening living conditions and the consequences of the wholesale criminalization of the economy. Clearly, the Socialists will seek to benefit from a potential public backlash and from splits within the Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition in order to launch themselves back into positions of power, with or without Milosevic. The experiences of at least some of Serbia's neighbors should serve as lessons rather than as models. The author is a consultant with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC (assenova@mindspring.com)


XS
SM
MD
LG