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Newsline - October 24, 2000




MEDIA MINISTRY TO REMODEL GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER...

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a decree on 23 October calling for the reorganization of the government newspaper, "Rossiiskaya gazeta." According to the decree, the Media Ministry controls the newspaper, overseeing its organization as well as its editorial and financial policies, ITAR-TASS reported. "Segodnya" reported the next day that according to First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii, the reorganization will have two aims: to make the newspaper's financial activities transparent and to make the publication more attractive to the general reader. According to Seslavinskii, "people look at 'Rossiiskaya gazeta' only to examine materials of an official character, but for materials connected to the life of the country, they prefer to read other newspapers." JAC

...AS UNION HEAD SAYS JOURNALISTS BECOMING STATE BUREAUCRATS

Igor Yakovenko, general-secretary of the Union of Journalists, said that the proposal to reorganize "Rossiiskaya gazeta" is "ghastly." Yakovenko told the daily that "this is part of the process that has been going on in Russia for more than two years, in which government newspapers are being converted in the expansion of state organs. In Russia there are more than 2000 regional government newspapers. Journalists are becoming government bureaucrats." JAC

SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL SUGGESTS FOREIGN JOURNALISTS SHOULD HAVE FEWER RIGHTS

Speaking at a conference on Russia's mass media on 23 October, Anatolii Streltsov, deputy head of the Security Council's Information Security Department, said there should be a separate regulation or law defining the status of foreign media and foreign journalists in Russia, Interfax reported. When asked if the rights of such journalists should be different from those of their Russian colleagues, Streltsov answered in the affirmative, explaining that he "would give Russian journalists priority access to information and jobs in the economically lucrative sectors of the information market." Speaking at the same conference, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the Security Council's new information security doctrine contains nothing that would indicate censorship is imminent in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

'KURSK' RECOVERY OPERATION RESUMES FOLLOWING STORM

The operation to recover at least some of the bodies of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine was halted in the evening of 23 October as weather conditions at the disaster site worsened. A Northern Fleet spokesman said a storm brewing all day had reached a level that endangered the lives of the Russian and Norwegian divers. The next morning, however, divers resumed efforts to cut a hole in the hull of the submarine to allow Russian divers to enter the vessel in a bid to recover bodies. Naval commander-in chief Vladimir Kuroedov has warned that he will call off the operation if he deems it too risky for the divers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000). JC

ALLEGED U.S. SPY DECLARES INNOCENCE IN COURT...

Edmond Pope, the U.S. businessman and former naval officer who has been charged with espionage, began on 23 October reading an 88-point statement declaring his innocence and protesting his treatment by the court. The accused intends to read the rest of his statement on 24 October, after which he will likely remain silent throughout the rest of the trial, his lawyer, Pavel Astakhov told journalists. According to Astakhov, Pope told the court that he is "disappointed" because he will not be given a fair trial. The lawyer noted that he intends to request that some of transcripts of Pope's interrogations be thrown out because they were "done incorrectly," Interfax reported. And he also complained that the official interpreter, a Federal Security Service officer, was "so bad that even the judge scolded him for translating inaccurately." JC

...AS PUTIN SAYS DEFENDANT'S FATE IN HANDS OF JUDICIARY

According to Western agencies on 23 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin was "unreceptive" to U.S. President Bill Clinton's expression of concern that Putin has not done enough to secure the release of Pope (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000). Quoting U.S. administration spokesman Jake Siewert, those outlets reported that Putin responded simply by noting that Pope's case is now in the hands of the Russian legal system. JC

PERES PRAISES RUSSIAN ROLE IN MID-EAST PEACE PROCESS...

Shimon Peres, a former Israeli prime minister who now holds the post of regional cooperation minister, told journalists in Moscow on 23 October that Russian policy is very important for the Middle East peace process, Interfax reported. Peres, who spoke after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, explained that Moscow pursues a policy on the region that differs from that of the former USSR. "With this policy, we will be able to reach a peace settlement," he added. Peres's visit comes shortly after Russia was not invited to attend a summit aimed at defusing the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). JC

...WHILE MOSCOW SAYS IT WON'T BE SIDELINED IN THAT PROCESS

Speaking on Russian Public Television late on 22 October, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov stressed that "those who say Russia could be ousted or squeezed out of the Middle East or sidelined in the peace process there are mistaken," Interfax reported the next day. The minister argued that Moscow occupies a "unique" position in the region in that "it has maintained good relations with the Arab world and established good relations with Israel." At the same time, he urged that other countries, "besides the United States and Russia," become involved in the Middle East peace process. JC

RUSSIAN PREMIER STRESSES POTENTIAL FOR PARTNERSHIP IN TURKEY

Kasyanov met with his counterpart, Bulent Ecevit, in Ankara on 23 October to discuss economic cooperation and countering unspecified threats of terrorism. At a joint press conference, Kasyanov stressed that Moscow views Turkey not as a rival but a partner and that the two governments plan to develop relations on that basis. Kasyanov said the two sides agreed to ensure that construction of the Blue Stream gas export pipeline under the Black Sea is completed on schedule by autumn 2001. Turkey will initially receive some 16 billion cubic meters of Russian gas per year through that pipeline. Kasyanov also said he hopes that Russia will win the tender to supply 145 KA-50 (Black Shark) combat helicopters worth some $4 billion to the Turkish armed forces. Kasyanov also met with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on 23 October. LF

RUTSKOI REGRETS KREMLIN DIDN'T TIP HIM OFF

Speaking on NTV's "Itogi" program late on 22 October, Aleksandr Rutskoi said he was disappointed that the Kremlin had not dissuaded him "in good time" from seeking re-election as governor of Kursk, Interfax reported the next day. On 21 October, one day before the vote, the Kursk regional court had barred Rutskoi from running, citing abuse of office and violations of election legislation, including an incorrect property declaration. The Kremlin's apparent favorite in the ballot, main federal inspector Viktor Surzhikov, went on to take second place and will now participate in a run-off election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). "Could it have been so difficult for the head of the presidential administration Aleksandr Voloshin, if not the president himself, to call me before the election campaign was launched and tell me frankly: 'You don't suit us and you should not be announcing your candidacy,'" Rutskoi commented, adding that he would have heeded that advice. The governor has said he will travel to Moscow on 24 October to appeal in person to the federal Supreme Court, according to Interfax. JC

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TELL FOREIGN AUDIENCES ABOUT BANKING REFORM...

Addressing a conference in Dublin, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko suggested that his bank is likely to raise the minimum capital requirement for Russian commercial banks next year, "Segodnya" reported on 24 October. Addressing the same conference, Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin criticized Russia's "feeble" banking system and noted that "its 1,320 credit organizations" have total assets worth an estimated 2.5 trillion rubles ($90 billion), ITAR-TASS reported. "It is a very small sum for such a country as Russia. It is 1.5 times smaller than the aggregate assets of the Japanese holding company Mizuho Holdings," he continued. Attending a different conference in Montreal, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin presented the government's program for reforming the banking sector, according to "Segodnya." The newspaper speculated that the government is eager to appear active with regard to the issue of banking reform as the IMF is sending a new mission on 7 November. JAC

...PROMISE NEW MONEY-LAUNDERING LEGISLATION

At the Montreal conference, Deputy Prime Minister Kudrin, noting that Russia loses "more than 5 percent of its GDP annually" to capital flight and money-laundering, pledged that the government will soon finish drafting a bill on combating money-laundering, which will be submitted first to the international Financial Action Task Force and then to the State Duma. The task force recently included Russia in a list of countries that are not taking adequate measures to combat money-laundering. Earlier this year, Kudrin told G-7 finance ministers that the government will submit new money-laundering legislation to the lower legislative house during its fall session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000). JAC

CABINET MINISTER ACTS IN DEFIANCE OF FEDERAL LAW?

According to "The Moscow Times" on 24 October, a Bulgarian power plant announced the previous day that it has completed a deal to store its nuclear waste in Russia, despite the fact that Russian federal law prohibits the long-term storage of nuclear waste on Russian soil. The daily said that environmental groups believe that Nuclear Power Minister Yevgenii Adamov is lobbying for a change to that law and he "has been quietly promising foreign waste-producers that he'll soon be ready to accept their storage business." A bill has already been submitted to the State Duma to allow the storage of foreign waste, and hearings have been scheduled for 19 December. Meanwhile, environmental activists announced recently that they have collected some 2.5 million signatures to hold a nationwide referendum on a number of issues, including the import of nuclear waste for storage or reprocessing. JAC

SAKHALIN GOVERNOR RE-ELECTED

Sakhalin Oblast Governor Igor Farkhutdinov was re-elected in elections held on 22 October, Interfax-Eurasia reported the next day, citing preliminary results. According to the oblast's election committee, he won 56.5 percent of the vote, compared with his chief rival the Mayor of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Fedor Sidorenko, who won only 21.4 percent. Farkhutdinov was supported in his re-election bid by the pro-Kremlin party Unity. JAC

UNITY ACKNOWLEDGES INTERNAL QUARRELS

Unity head and Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters on 23 October that the chief task at Unity's upcoming congress will be to "chill out a little bit hot heads, who have appeared recently in unprecedented numbers," ITAR-TASS reported. He continued that the "first and primary question [of the congress] will be the party's program," and he added that since the congress will be "sufficiently complex and serious," Unity's leadership does not want "dressing-downs" or "family quarrels" to occur there. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported last week that the Kremlin is considering replacing Unity with another party because the organization has been prone to internal strife and scandals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000). JAC

'MIR' TO BE DUMPED NEXT FEBRUARY?

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told journalists in Moscow on 23 October that Moscow will "most likely" bring down the "Mir" space station into the Pacific Ocean in late February 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the news agency, that option was chosen from among four possible scenarios for the aging station. At the same time, Klebanov noted that if non-budget funds were found to keep "Mir" in orbit, then a different scenario might occur. MirCorp, the Netherlands-based company that is leasing the space station for commercial use, announced earlier this month that it will make an initial public offering worth $117 million-- in February 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). JC

PUTIN CO-AUTHORS NEW BOOK?

President Putin is the co-author of a new encyclopedia of judo called "Judo: History, Theory, Practice," the website http://www.lenta.ru reported on 23 October. Putin is said to have been working on the book for more than a year with his co-authors--Vasilii Shestakov, vice president of St. Petersburg judo club Yavapa-Neva, and Aleksei Levinskii, an educational science specialist--and with the book's publisher, an Arkhangelsk publishing company, SK. Some 20,0000 copies of the book have printed for its first edition. On 24 October, "The Moscow Times" reported that the presidential press service had no knowledge of such a book co-authored by Putin. JAC




ARMENIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS COOPERATION

Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian met separately with visiting Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov in Yerevan on 23 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Topics of discussion included a meeting of the inter-governmental economic cooperation commission scheduled for December, a joint venture in the energy sector, and the restructuring of Armenia's debt to Moscow. Adamov also met with Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian, after which the two ministers told journalists that they see no reason why the Medzamor nuclear power station should not continue to function after 2004, which is the tentative deadline the EU has proposed for its closure, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RETURNS FROM MEDICAL CHECKUP IN FRANCE

Hasmik Petrosian, a spokeswoman for President Kocharian, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 23 October that the president is in good health after a medical examination in Paris last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). Petrosian said that the country to which Kocharian had travelled had not been publicly announced in order to ensure that the local Armenian community did not "disturb" Kocharian. LF

FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER EXPRESSES MISGIVINGS OVER PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS INVESTIGATION

Aram Sargsian, the brother and successor of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, who was one of the eight victims of the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings, told journalists on 23 October in Yerevan that he is disappointed with the findings of the investigation into those killings, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said he does not trust military prosecutor Gagik Djahangirian, who heads the investigation. Djahangirian has said he believes the shootings were part of an attempted coup but has not indicated who may have masterminded them. Sargsian suggested that the release of two close Kocharian associates arrested on suspicion of involvement in the killings was unjustified. He urged Djahangirian to look into the hypothesis that Vazgen Sargsian was murdered because of his opposition to the proposal that the Karabakh conflict be resolved by a land swap that would entail ceding the Armenian region of Meghri (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000). LF

OPPOSITION AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN'S BODYGUARDS CHARGED

Criminal proceedings have been launched against two of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party first deputy chairman Ali Kerimov's bodyguards on charges of hooliganism, Turan reported on 23 October. The two men are accused of having beaten the chairman of the Gyaanja branch of the association of Chernobyl invalids while Kerimov was addressing a meeting in that town the previous day. A spokesman for Kerimov said the man had tried to disrupt the meeting by addressing abusive remarks at Kerimov. Another of Kerimov's bodyguards was injured when someone threw a knife at Kerimov in the town of Masally, according to the independent newspaper "Azadlyg" on 21 October. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S PARLIAMENT BEGINS BUDGET DEBATE

Parliamentary deputies began debating the budget for 2001 on 23 October, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. The draft, which has been approved by the government and the IMF, envisages revenues of 4.17 trillion manats ($900 million), which is 17 percent higher than this year, and spending of 4.59 trillion manats. The resulting 2 percent budget deficit is to be covered by a $38 million World Bank credit and privatization proceeds. The budget foresees an increase of 8.5 percent in GDP, a 4.5 percent increase in industrial production, and a 28 percent increase in investment. Also on 23 October, Finance Minister Avaz Alekperov told journalists in Baku that Azerbaijan anticipates receiving some $530 million next year from the export of oil and oil products, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIAN SKEPTICAL ABOUT EURASIAN ECONOMIC UNION

Georgia has no intention of joining the Eurasian Economic Union formed earlier this month by members of the CIS Customs Union, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told Interfax on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2000). Menagharishvili said earlier efforts to promote economic cooperation among CIS members states did not bode well for the success of the new union. LF

RUSSIA TO ASK GEORGIA TO EXTRADITE CHECHENS

Russian presidential aide Serghei Yastrzhembskii said in Moscow on 23 October that Russia will ask Tbilisi to extradite any of the Chechen fighters who surrendered in Georgia the previous day and are suspected of involvement in terrorism, the slave trade, or the execution of hostages, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii suggested that the Chechens may have been part of the force of field commander Ruslan Gelaev, who is rumored to be in Georgia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 41, 21 October 2000). Prime News likewise identified the Chechens, who said they had entered Georgia after being subjected to a grenade attack by Russian forces in Ingushetia's Assa gorge, as Gelaev's men, adding that Gelaev had tried one month ago to recruit fighters among the Chechen refugees who have settled in Georgia's Pankisi gorge. Russian border guards deny, however, that the Chechens could have entered Georgia via Ingushetia, saying that Russian border guards fully control that border. LF

KAZAKHSTAN REVERTS TO SOVIET-STYLE PLANNING?

Addressing a joint session of the two chambers of Kazakhstan's parliament on 23 October, President Nursultan Nazarbaev announced that the first Five-Year Plan for economic development will be adopted by the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. Nazarbaev said the plan is the first stage in implementation of his Kazakhstan-2030 program, which details long-term economic development strategy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). Nazarbaev predicted that GDP will grow by 30 percent in the first five-year plan period, while wages will rise by no less than 25-30 percent. LF

KAZAKH PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SUMMONS FORMER PRIME MINISTER...

Akezhan Kazhegeldin has again been summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office in connection with charges of abuse of power and tax evasion, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 23 October. Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin said the summons was sent to Kazhegeldin's defense lawyer. To date, Khitrin has opened four separate criminal cases against the former premier. Kazhegeldin left Kazakhstan early last year and has lived abroad since then. He has ignored several previous summonses. LF

...IMPLICATES INTERIOR MINISTRY IN DRUG SMUGGLING

Khitrin told a session of his office's board on 20 October that the country's Interior Ministry is involved in secondary drug-trafficking, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 23 October. He said checks had revealed numerous instances in which confiscated drugs could not be accounted for. Deputy Interior Minister Bolat Bayzhasarov has admitted to negligence in the registration and destruction of confiscated drugs. LF

OSCE OFFICIAL ASSESSES INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel met with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev in Astana on 23 October, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Van der Stoel told journalists after those talks that Toqaev assured him there are no inter-ethnic problems in Kazakhstan. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT, CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION AT ODDS

The chairmen of three Kyrgyz parliamentary committees, including former Communist Party leader Absamat Masaliev, issued a statement on 21 October calling on the Central Electoral Commission to allow the Coalition of NGOs to monitor the 29 October presidential election, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 23 October. The statement noted the increasing role played by NGOs in Kyrgyzstan and characterized the coalition as an organization that is respected both in Kyrgyzstan and abroad. The Central Electoral Commission had refused to register the coalition's election observers, as the coalition itself has not been formally registered with the Ministry of Justice. LF

KYRGYZSTAN SAYS ISLAMIC THREAT DEFLECTED--FOR NOW

General Bolot Djanuzakov, who is secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, told journalists in Bishkek on 23 October that all Islamic militants who infiltrated the country in August and September have been expelled, Russian agencies reported. He added that Kyrgyz troops now fully control all mountain passes along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. But Djanuzakov again warned that until the war in neighboring Afghanistan ends, the Islamic militants who are based in that country will continue to pose a threat to the security of both Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia as a whole (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). LF

TAJIKISTAN, IRAN DISCUSS BROADCASTING COOPERATION

The chairman of the Tajik government's Television and Radio Committee, Ubaydullo Radjabov, told Asia Plus-Blitz on 24 October that during talks in Dushanbe the previous day, he and his Iranian counterpart, Saidmushin Sharifzoda, and Iranian Ambassador to Tajikistan Saidrasul Musavi had discussed possible cooperation, including the broadcast of joint television and radio programs. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi is expected to arrive in Dushanbe on 25 October for talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT ADVISER SENTENCED FOR FORGING TREASURY PROMISSORY NOTES

Tajikistan's Supreme Court has sentenced Akbar Sotiboldiev, a former adviser to the chairman of the Council of Ministers, to eight years' imprisonment for fraud, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 24 October. The court established that in 1995 Sotiboldiev forged the signatures of the Tajik Finance Minister and the chairman of the National Bank on bills of exchange to the value of $15 billion and transferred 16 of those forged bills to a Turkish commercial bank. LF

TAJIKISTAN SENTENCES TWO MEN TO DEATH FOR DRUGS POSSESSION

A regional court in Khojand sentenced two men to death on 22 October for possession of large quantities of narcotics, AP reported. When arrested last year, the two men had with them 422 kilograms of raw heroin and 3.5 kilograms of opium. LF




OSCE OFFICIAL SAYS BELARUS 'MISSED' OPPORTUNITY FOR REFORM

Hans Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, has said that the Belarusian government "missed a great political opportunity to broaden the political basis of state institutions and to engage in a moderate but ongoing reform process," Belapan reported on 23 October. According to Wieck, the government, motivated by its concern not to lose control over the legislature, went to great lengths to bring voters to polling stations and prevent the government's critics from participating in the polls as candidates. He also pointed to numerous violations of the election process, particularly manipulations with lists of registered voters. Next week, Wieck is expected to report on the political situation in Belarus to the Permanent Committee of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. JM

BELARUS'S LEGISLATIVE RUNOFF TO BE HELD ON 29 OCTOBER

Belarus will hold a second round of the legislative elections on 29 October in those 56 constituencies where none of the candidates obtained more than 50 percent of the vote in the 15 October first round. According to the electoral code, the second round is valid if turnout is no lower than 25 percent. Mechyslau Hryb, who coordinated some 5,500 observers from Belarusian NGOs during the 15 October ballot, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that NGO observers will observe the runoff "selectively," in those constituencies where "more or less democratic candidates" are running. According to Hryb, there are no more than 10 such constituencies. No international observers are expected in Belarus during the runoff. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT THREATENS PARLIAMENT, CABINET OVER 2001 BUDGET

Leonid Kuchma said on 23 October that either the parliament or the government must resign if one or the other proves "incapable" of performing its tasks, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Kuchma was commenting on the 2001 budget draft that is now under debate in the Supreme Council. Kuchma said budget revenues should be "balanced and sound," adding that officials who provide "unrealistic" budget indicators may be considered guilty of abuse of power. He also disapproved of the way the budgetary debate is being conducted. "If politics interfere with the economy, consequences can be negative," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying. The parliament is expected to vote on the 2001 budget next week. JM

UKRAINE SECURED GAS SUPPLIES FOR 2001?

Vadym Kopylov, head of Naftohaz Ukrayiny, has announced that Ukraine has resolved all issues connected with gas supplies in 2001, the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" reported on 24 October, citing the UNIAN agency. According to Kopylov, next year Ukraine will buy 30 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan, receive another 30 billion cubic meters as payment for the transit of Russian gas to Europe, and extract 18 billion cubic meters from domestic deposits. Kopylov said Naftohaz Ukrayiny is currently working on two agreements, one on the supply of Russian gas and the other on the transit of Turkmen gas to Ukraine via Kazakhstan and Russia. Last week, Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov said Ukraine has not yet concluded the agreements, which could cover all its gas needs in 2001. JM

PROSECUTORS BACK OFF FROM ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTER

In a surprise announcement on 23 October, Chief Prosecutor Raivo Sepp said that prosecutors will not appeal Finance Minister Siim Kallas's acquittal, ETA reported. Sepp noted that the "courts have acquitted Siim Kallas four times and I have no reason to mistrust the Estonian court system." That decision virtually ends the four-year legal battle Kallas has waged with the state over the so-called "$10 million affair" in which a shady transaction caused the central bank to lose that sum. Kallas was implicated in the affair in his capacity as Central Bank governor (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). MH

HIV RATE CONTINUES RISING IN ESTONIA

A total of 76 new cases of HIV infection have been registered in Estonia so far this month, following a large number of new cases reported in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2000). Most of the 76 were intravenous drug users from Narva, ETA reported. The total number of HIV infections diagnosed so far this year is 181--more than double the 89 cases between 1988 and 1999. MH

RIGA COURT ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR KALEJS

A Riga court ruled on 23 October that an arrest warrant be issued for accused Nazi war criminal Konrads Kalejs, who has Australian citizenship. Kalejs is accused of working as a guard at a concentration camp near Riga during World War II and in that capacity contributing to the massacre of Jews, BNS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2000). The arrest warrant allows prosecutors to request extradition for Kalejs, despite the fact that no extradition treaty between the two countries has been ratified. MH

PAKSAS NOMINATED AS LITHUANIAN PREMIER

President Valdas Adamkus has nominated Rolandas Paksas as prime minister, ELTA reported. Paksas, the leader of the Liberal Union, which finished second in the recent parliamentary elections with 34 seats, returns to the job he held for just under six months last year, as a member of the then-ruling Conservatives. He resigned from that post over disagreements with the party about the sale of oil company Mazeikiu Nafta to U.S. company Williams International. The vote on Paksas's nomination is likely to be scheduled for next week. MH

SOLIDARITY RULING COALITION TO BREAK UP?

Leaders of the Conservative Peasant Party (SKL), the Christian National Union, and the Party of Christian Democrats said on 23 October that they are quitting the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) leadership while remaining in the AWS parliamentary caucus, PAP reported. The move follows the three parties' calls for AWS head Marian Krzaklewski to step down after his defeat in the presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). "We are already on the other side of the river. Maybe we will return, but there is one condition: Krzaklewski's dismissal," SKL leader Jan Maria Rokita said. In a bid to stop the AWS from falling apart, Krzaklewski suggested earlier the same day that a deal be concluded whereby the AWS leadership will be rotated among heads of its component factions, provided that the AWS coalition is transformed into a unified party. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER TO PREPARE GROUND FOR TALKS WITH VIENNA

Jan Kavan said in Belgrade on 23 October that he will go to Vienna the following day for preliminary talks ahead of Czech Premier Milos Zeman's upcoming visit to discuss the controversial opening of the Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. Kavan said he will meet with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and the chairman of Austria's lower house, Heinz Fischer. Kavan said talks will center on compensation for Czechs forced to work by Nazis during World War II, Temelin, and bilateral relations in general. Zeman is to arrive in Vienna on 31 October. PB

CZECHS SUPPORT LAUNCH OF TEMELIN

A poll released on 23 October showed that 71 percent of Czechs approve of the starting up of the Temelin nuclear power plant, in southern Bohemia, CTK reported. The survey indicated that 16 percent disapproved. The same day, Temelin officials said they have asked for permission from the State Nuclear Safety Office to begin increasing the output of the 981 megawatt reactor. The plant could reach full capacity in about four months. Temelin is just 50 kilometers from the border of nuclear-energy-free Austria. PB

GERMAN CHANCELLOR PRAISES SLOVAK REFORMS...

Gerhard Schroeder said on 23 October in Bratislava that the current Slovak government "has been following a very correct path, to which there is hardly any alternative," CTK reported. Schroeder, who paid a one-day visit to Slovakia, made his comments in a televised discussion with Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda and representatives from Slovak student groups and NGOs. Schroeder said Dzurinda's government "is heading in the right direction, to the EU." He said it has made progress "in privatization and the eliminating of bureaucratic obstacles," but he added that there is nothing that could not be "further improved." Dzurinda said he hopes Slovakia will be ready to join the EU by 2003. PB

...AS VISIT SEEN AS SHOW OF SUPPORT FOR DZURINDA

German newspapers said on 24 October that Chancellor Schroeder's visit to Bratislava was meant to show the EU's support for Premier Dzurinda's government ahead of a referendum on holding early elections, CTK reported. The dailies noted that Schroeder said during a press conference that the current government is on the right track to EU and NATO integration but that "any other policy would push Slovakia back." The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" noted that "Slovaks had to wait seven years for a German chancellor to visit their country." PB

NEW COMMANDER OF LAND FORCES APPOINTED IN HUNGARY

Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lajos Fodor announced on 20 October that Andras Havril has been appointed commander of the Hungarian army's land forces, Hungarian media reported. In a separate development, opposition Free Democrat Imre Mecs, the chairman of the parliament's Defense Committee, urged the resignation of Defense Minister Janos Szabo, charging that after a delay of two years, the ministry has only now begun to transform the defense forces. He added that changes are being done in a hurried manner and without a clear concept. MSZ




YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT ADMITS SERBIAN WAR CRIMES IN KOSOVA

Vojislav Kostunica told the U.S. television news program "60 Minutes II" that he is "ready to...accept the guilt [sic] for all those people who have been killed. [I acknowledge] what [former President Slobodan] Milosevic had done, and as a Serb, I will take responsibility for many of these, these crimes," AP reported on 24 October. He made the statement in response to a question about whether Serbian forces were guilty of genocide in Kosova in 1999. Kostunica added: "Those are the crimes and the people that have been killed are victims. [But] there are a lot of crimes on the other side [as well]. Serbs have been killed." Asked whether he thought Milosevic will stand trial for his crimes, Kostunica replied: "Somewhere, yes." This is the first time that a top-ranking Serbian leader has admitted that Serbian forces committed war crimes. Most opposition leaders prefer not to discuss the subject or give evasive answers. Officials of the Milosevic regime and many nationalists place the blame on "Albanian separatists and terrorists" and "NATO bombs." PM

ALBANIA WANTS FORMAL APOLOGY

The Albanian parliament passed a resolution on 23 October welcoming the change of government in Belgrade, Reuters reported. The legislature stressed, however that "the state of Serbia should make a public apology for the monstrous crimes of its military and police structures in Bosnia and Kosova... The parliament of Albania expects that President Vojislav Kostunica will express himself clearly on the right of the people of Kosova to self-determination through a referendum." The legislators added that there can be "no question" of Kosova's being returned to Serbian control. They called on Belgrade to make a goodwill gesture by freeing the hundreds of Kosovars held in Serbian jails. PM

KOSTUNICA MEETS WITH SERBS FROM KOSOVA

Kostunica has met in Belgrade with a delegation from Kosova's Serbian National Council headed by Mitrovica Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic, "Vesti" reported on 24 October. Ivanovic told the daily that relations between Kosova's Serbs and the representatives of the international community in the province have improved considerably since Kostunica's election. Ivanovic added that the local Albanians lost "their main political trump card" when Milosevic fell. PM

REPORT CALLS FOR 'CONDITIONAL INDEPENDENCE' FOR KOSOVA...

An international commission has prepared a 297-page study for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that calls for "conditional independence" for Kosova. Full independence would come only once the leadership of the 90 percent ethnic Albanian province proves it can guarantee minority rights and establish stable relations with its neighbors. The Independent International Commission on Kosovo, which was formed at the initiative of Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, concluded that it has a "moral obligation" to make recommendations even though few leaders in the international community are willing to discuss independence. Commission head Richard Goldstone, who is a South African judge and former chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes commission, said in New York on 23 October that "it's not realistic or justifiable to expect the Albanians in Kosovo to accept rule from Belgrade," AP reported. Goldstone added that an "international security presence" will be necessary in Kosova "for years to come," before local people are fully ready to take charge of their own affairs. PM

...AND ANOTHER STUDY WARNS AGAINST CONCESSIONS TO BELGRADE OVER KOSOVA

The International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned the international community in a new report not to let its "new-found love affair with Belgrade" lead Kosovars to think the province will be returned to some form or other of Serbian rule, "The Guardian" reported on 23 October. The study warned that Kosovar extremists will gain popular backing if the population feels that the international community has turned a deaf ear to the idea of independence. The ICG believes that it would be "catastrophic" for the intentional community to allow Belgrade to send troops or police back into Kosova, as some Serbian opposition leaders have demanded. PM

UN ADMINISTRATION IN KOSOVA DEFENDS JUSTICE RECORD

Sylvie Pantz, who is co-chair of the justice department at the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said in Prishtina on 20 October that she welcomes outsiders' views on UNMIK and its work, but she argued that a recent critical OSCE report on UNMIK's justice system expected too much, too soon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Pantz stressed that "it is true that the judicial system of Kosovo still falls short of international standards. However, I find this report too ambitious, in some points unrealistic, academic and luxurious for Kosovo at the beginning of the 21st century." Pantz added in reference to the OSCE report's authors: "When making your criticisms, your observations, you have neglected to put everything in the right context, the context of today, the year 2000, in Kosovo," Reuters reported. PM

EU STABILITY PACT TO WELCOME YUGOSLAVIA

Bodo Hombach, who is the coordinator for the EU's Stability Pact, said in Brussels on 23 October that Yugoslavia will be admitted to the grouping at a meeting in Bucharest on 26 October. This will be the first international body to which Belgrade has been admitted since the fall of Milosevic earlier this month, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SESELJ'S SERBIAN RADICALS STAGE FILIBUSTER

Deputies from the Serbian Radical Party staged a marathon "discussion" in the Serbian parliament on 23 October to block legislative action on setting up a transitional government and calling new elections for 23 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Radicals were marginalized in the September elections and may well be eliminated as a political force in the December vote. PM

BOSNIA TO PREPARE FOR RELATIONS WITH BELGRADE

The joint presidency authorized the Foreign Ministry on 23 October to prepare an agenda for discussions with Belgrade on the opening of diplomatic relations between Bosnia and Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). PM

BOSNIAN DISTRICT INTRODUCES STIFF ANTI-HATE LAWS

The multi-ethnic district assembly of Brcko passed legislation on 23 October providing for prison sentences of up to five years for persons convicted of inciting others to ethnic hatred, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A second law provides for sentences ranging up to three years for persons who publicly attack the legal status of the Bosnian state or the district of Brcko. The move follows recent violent Serbian nationalist demonstrations by high school students (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000). Meanwhile in Tuzla, several thousand mainly young people protested against rampant crime and corruption in the city police and judiciary. PM

NEW TELEVISION RULES FOR BOSNIA

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative for Bosnia, issued a ruling on 23 October governing the operations of federal and public television and radio, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

KUSTURICA FILM FESTIVAL OPENS IN SLOVENIA

Films by the Sarajevo director Emir Kusturica will be shown in Ljubljana between 24 October and 4 November, Radio 24-UR reported. A highlight will be a showing of his best-known film, "Do You Remember Dolly Bell?" Kusturica spent most of the years following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in Belgrade. His film "Underground" was blasted by Muslim and Croatian critics for "whitewashing" Serbia's responsibility for the 1991-1995 conflicts. An ethnic Muslim, Kusturica engaged in public polemics with leaders close to Alija Izetbegovic, whom he accused of being provincial religious bigots. Kusturica's pre-1991 films, nonetheless, represent for many former Yugoslavs a golden age of their country's cinema. PM

FORMER ROMANIAN DIPLOMAT ACQUITTED

The Romanian Supreme Court on 23 October acquitted former diplomat Mircea Raceanu of treason charges, Romanian media reported. Raceanu, a high-ranking diplomat under Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, was charged with "treason by transmitting secret information" to the CIA and espionage; he was sentenced to death in 1989. That sentence was later commuted to 20 years in prison. After the 1989 change of regime, Raceanu was released from prison and soon after became a U.S. citizen. In 1998, Raceanu asked for the annulment of his conviction on the grounds that he had not been given a fair trial. ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT WARNS ABOUT PARLIAMENTARY RULE

Petru Lucinschi said on 23 October that he still believes the Moldovan people should be allowed to decide if the country is ruled primarily by the parliament or the president, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking on state television, Lucinschi said "the parliament has assumed the functions of the administration in the country, but there are no traditions for this." He argued that the standoff between the president and the parliament over the strength of the executive branch has created a situation in Moldova that "may have unpredictable consequences and may even lead to the loss of statehood." He added that he will not be a candidate in the upcoming election in the parliament for a new president. PB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR FORMATION OF COALITION FOR 2001

Petar Stoyanov has urged the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) party to seek alliances with other political factions to form a broad coalition government after the parliamentary elections in 2001, Reuters reported. Stoyanov said after a meeting with leaders of the UDF that "we all agreed that a broader coalition would give Bulgaria better possibilities to meet the challenges of the EU talks." Prime Minister Ivan Kostov agreed, saying: "We have started a long marathon [of EU negotiations] in which a broad base is very important for government and the UDF is ready to seek such a base." PB

RUSSIA TO DISPOSE OF BULGARIAN NUCLEAR WASTE?

Officials at Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power plant said on 23 October that Russia has agreed to store nuclear fuel that is being reprocessed there, Reuters reported. In a statement, the Kozloduy nuclear power plant said that last week Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov "told our delegation, led by Bulgarian State Energy Agency President Ivan Shilyashki,...that radioactive waste obtained in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel will not be returned to Bulgaria." However, Russian law on environmental protection bars the storage of nuclear waste from foreign countries (see also Part I). The USSR used to reprocess and store the spent fuel from Kozloduy under a bilateral treaty, but that agreement expired in 1990. Since then, Kozloduy has been storing the unprocessed fuel on site. It made its first shipment of the fuel to Russia last year and plans to send another at the end of this year. PB




RUSSIA'S DOUBLE BYPASS


by Jan Maksymiuk

Russia's Gazprom, Germany's Ruhrgas and Wintershall, Italy's SNAM, and Gaz de France signed a memorandum of understanding in Moscow on 18 October to study and develop a new section of the planned Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. The project calls for the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline--currently under construction--to be linked to Slovakia, where it would connect with a network of gas pipelines to Germany, Italy, and France. Such a link, while traversing Polish territory, would bypass Ukraine.

It remains to be seen if the project is feasible. In the meantime, all gas experts agree that the main goal of the agreement--regardless of whether it can be implemented--is to intimidate Ukraine into ceasing to siphon off Russian gas transiting Ukrainian territory and into paying for Russian gas more efficiently. According to some Russian estimates, Ukraine's debt for Russian gas stands at $2.5 billion (Kyiv admits to owing some $1.4 billion). Gazprom, however, says Ukraine stole 15 billion cubic meters of transit gas in 1999-2000 (worth some $900 million).

Gazprom's chief Rem Vyakhirev commented that the bypass pipeline scheme will make it possible to increase Russian gas supplies to the EU. But it remains a mystery how this can be done by simply constructing a pipeline to Slovakia through Poland without completing the entire Yamal-Europe pipeline. Most likely, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was aware of this when on 19 October he shrugged off the deal by saying that "it takes a lot of time [to proceed] from the project to its practical implementation." At the same time, Kuchma stressed that the capacity of Ukraine's existing gas pipeline network can be increased by 30 percent.

The estimated cost of that part of the Yamal-Europe pipeline that would be built to avoid Ukraine is $1 billion. It is not unfeasible that Gazprom and its Western partners could invest such a sum immediately after the project's feasibility study is completed in favor of the Slovak connection. For Russia, the implementation of the project would mean obtaining great political leverage in Ukraine. Without Russian gas supplies in payment for transit, Ukraine would become a country as politically and economically dependent on the Kremlin as Belarus.

Warsaw is well aware of all the consequences connected with the bypass pipeline project. That's why a number of Polish top officials hastened to assure Kyiv earlier this year--when the bypass pipeline project became known to the public--that Poland would not support any gas supply scheme that would be to the detriment of Ukraine, Poland's "strategic partner."

Many Polish politicians believe that the survival of sovereign and independent Ukraine is a guarantee that Poland itself will not return to "the Russian sphere of influence" and that the political changes that took place in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE a decade ago are irreversible. Given Poland's complicated and tragic fate in the 20th century, one should not dismiss such fears among Poles as trivial or groundless.

Europe wants more Russian gas in order to become more independent from OPEC countries in terms of energy consumption, while Poland wants to be in Europe, that is, in the EU as soon as possible. Moscow has calculated that these two aspirations can be utilized to exert pressure on Ukraine. According to this line of reasoning, Poland will not oppose the bypass pipeline project too strongly if Berlin or Paris (both of which have a powerful voice in Brussels)--ask Warsaw to come to its senses and agree. For this reason, Gazprom signed a deal with its Western partners on building the pipeline even without securing the permission of the country across which the pipeline is supposed to run. Moscow bypassed Poland in its political maneuvering, just as it wants to bypass Ukraine in gas transit.

From an economic point of view, Gazprom's project offers Poland more revenues for Russian gas transit. Some Ukrainian commentators say it is only a matter of time until Poland, pressed by its Western allies, will say "yes" to Gazprom's offer. For the time being, Poland has called for an international conference of all countries interested in the construction of a gas pipeline linking Russia's Yamal peninsula with Western Europe.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin put Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko in charge of negotiations with Poland on building a gas pipeline stretch to bypass Ukraine. Can Ukraine prevent the bypass pipeline scenario from being implemented? In an attempt to do so, Kyiv has proposed to Moscow that the latter jointly manage Ukraine's gas transport network. Putin reportedly showed interest in the proposal during his recent meeting with Kuchma in Sochi. But Khristenko has noted that "currently our position is that joint management is only possible if 51 percent of a consortium controlling Ukraine's gas transport system is in the hands of Gazprom." It seems that Kyiv is not yet ready to accept this technical parameter as the starting point for talks with Moscow on Russian gas supplies.


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