Accessibility links

Newsline - October 26, 2000




DIVERS RECOVER FOUR BODIES FROM 'KURSK' WRECK...

Following the cutting of a hole in the hull of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000), Russian divers recovered four bodies from the vessel before worsening weather conditions forced them to suspend the recovery operation on the morning of 26 October. The remains, found in the eighth and ninth compartments of the submarine, were due to be flown on 26 October to the naval base at Severomorsk for identification. Meanwhile, a team of Norwegian divers continued with efforts to cut a hole into the submarine's seventh compartment. At total of seven holes have to be cut for the Russian divers to reach those parts of the submarine where remains of the 118-strong crew might be found. According to ITAR-TASS, the weather in the Barents Sea will not improve until the weekend. JC

...AS NOTE REPORTED FOUND ON ONE CREW MEMBER

Quoting Russian navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 October that a note has been found on one of the four bodies indicating that at least 23 crew members did not die instantly after the sinking of the "Kursk." According to the news agency, one Lieutenant-Captain Kolesnikov had managed to scribble down shortly after the sinking that "all the crew from the sixth, seventh, and eighth compartments went over to the ninth. There are 23 people here. We made this decision as a result of the accident. None of us can get to the surface... I am writing blind." The agency did not explain how the note had remained legible. Shortly after the sinking of the "Kursk," there were reports that tapping on the hull of the submarine could be heard. Later, Russian officials maintained that most crew members died immediately after an explosion destroyed the bow of the vessel but that some crew members might have survived for a while in the back three compartments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 21 August 2000). JC

PROSECUTOR SAYS WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION AT CENTRAL BANK, FINANCE MINISTRY IN 1998

Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov told the Federation Council on 25 October that his office should be able to name the main culprits behind the 1998 financial crisis by mid-2001, Interfax reported. According to Kolmogorov, his office began an investigation at the Central Bank soon after the August 1998 meltdown, and it has established that a number of top Russian officials in the Central Bank and Finance Ministry bought and sold government securities, many of them not paying taxes on their earnings. Kolmogorov added that "some" of those officials appear to have been involved in broad insider trading arrangements under which they accepted money in return for well-timed hints to get out of the collapsing market in Russian treasury bills, according to "The Moscow Times." He added that some Central Bank and Finance Ministry officials also held second jobs and collected second salaries at institutions such as the Moscow Inter-Bank Currency Exchange. JAC

RUTSKOI RECEIVES SYMPATHY IN UPPER HOUSE BUT NO SUPPORTING RESOLUTION

Addressing the Federation Council on 25 October, Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi accused his opponents of carrying out a "small, Latin American coup in a banana republic" by having him barred from seeking re-election last weekend (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000). Among those he named as having conspired against him was Viktor Surzhikov, the federal main inspector in the oblast, who came second in the 22 October ballot. Rutskoi asked the Supreme Court to halt the election process in Kursk until it has ruled on his case, and he called upon the Central Election Commission to send an independent team to the oblast to check the election results. According to Reuters and Interfax, members of the upper house expressed support for Rutskoi's demand that the Supreme Court consider his case before the 5 November run-off in the oblast, but they refrained from passing any resolution to that effect. JC

ANOTHER INCUMBENT GOVERNOR FEELS PRE-ELECTION PRESSURE

The Federal Tax Police Service confirmed on 25 October that it has summoned Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov for questioning on suspicion of misusing budget funds. However, the Prosecutor-General's Office denied reports that Nazarov has in fact been arrested, Interfax reported. News of the investigation against the incumbent governor followed within days of Nazarov's announcement that he would seek re-election and that State Duma deputy (independent) Roman Abramovich would challenge him for the post (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000). When asked by reporters in Moscow whether he initiated the pressure against Nazarov, Abramovich said that he only recently received information about Nazarov's summons and that he "wants to win, but in an honest struggle." According to "Vedomosti," if all the crimes that Nazarov are suspected of committing are proven, he could face 25 years in prison. JAC

UPPER HOUSE REJECTS ADMINISTRATIVE CODE...

Members of the Federation Council voted on 25 October to reject the Administrative Code. The code had been approved earlier this month by the State Duma. Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov, who is a former federal justice minister, said that the code poses "significant dangers" to citizens' rights and suggested that a conciliatory commission be created to revise the document. Duma deputies have already promised to override the upper house veto, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

...DECIDES NOT TO TURN TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER FEDERATION REFORMS...

The same day, the council's Committee on Constitutional Legislation decided that it will not turn to the Constitutional Court to rule on President Vladimir Putin's package of laws reforming the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. Chuvash President Fedorov, who is a member of the committee, said the decision was reached because the president's envoy to the Federation Council, Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, indicated that the president is "in principle ready to discuss amending existing legislation and is prepared to suggest amendments himself." Earlier, Fedorov had suggested that the appeal was necessary because laws giving the president the power to dismiss regional leaders who violate federal laws and to dissolve local legislative assemblies guilty of the same offense violate the constitution. JAC

...AS HEAD CALLS FOR LAW ON PRESIDENTIAL ENVOYS

Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told reporters on 25 October that he supports the drafting of a law that would define the powers of the seven presidential envoys to the federal districts, explaining that until these powers are clearly defined, differences will arise between the heads of federation subjects and the envoys. Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel has recently locked horns with Petr Latyshev, presidential envoy to the Urals district, who angered the former by dismissing some of his local appointed officials (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000). JAC

ALLEGED U.S. SPY'S WIFE VISITS HIM IN JAIL

The wife of U.S. businessman and former naval officer Edmond Pope told reporters in Moscow on 25 October that her husband is not in good health and will die if he is not released. Cheryl Pope, who was allowed to visit her husband in Lefortovo prison, said she is still hoping for a "humanitarian release." Edmond Pope has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer and has been examined only by Russian doctors since his detention in April on espionage charges. Also on 25 October, Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, said that for the first time the judge had met two defense requests--agreeing to have new witness testimony and new documents submitted to the court. According to Reuters, Anatolii Babkin, a university professor alleged to have supplied Pope with classified information, will submit written testimony to the court. The previous day, the court had granted a prosecution request to that effect, having turned down a defense motion that Babkin appear in court, the Western news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). JC

PUTIN'S ENVOY TO VISIT MIDDLE EAST NEXT WEEK

Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin, who is President Putin's special representative on the Middle East, is to visit several Arab countries next week. Sredin told Interfax on 26 October that those countries will be Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. The talks, he said, will focus on the situation in the Middle East and "prospects for solving the Iraqi crisis." Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have recently called for Russia to play an increased role in the Middle East process. JC

KOSTUNICA LOOKING TO MOSCOW FOR HELP

In an interview with Interfax on 25 October, two days before his scheduled meeting with Russian President Putin in the Kremlin, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said that his country "needs help" and is "firmly convinced that Russia will give it." Asked what kind of help Yugoslavia hopes from Moscow, Kostunica said that "so much was destroyed in [last year's] criminal NATO air strikes that any kind of assistance is valuable to us." Specifically, he said that there is "huge room" for cooperation between Yugoslavia and Russia in the electricity, engineering, food, and light industries. Stressing that Belgrade wants to maintain good relations with both East and West, he ruled out the possibility of Yugoslavia's joining the union between Russia and Belarus. "A serious geographical obstacle" exists to such unification, he noted, adding that "we must be realists in politics." JC

ANOTHER PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LOCAL OFFICIAL MURDERED

Lecha Avturkoev, head of the Kurchaloi district administration, was shot dead on 23 October by three gunmen who flagged down his car, Interfax reported on 25 October. Also on 23 October, Chechen interim administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov accused Islamic radicals of the 21 October shooting of Goity village elder Magomed Sambiev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). LF

NATIONWIDE ENVIRONMENTAL REFERENDUM EXPECTED NEXT SPRING?

The Moscow City Election Commission has received 158,000 signatures in support of holding a nationwide referendum on environmental issues, "Vremya MN" reported on 25 October. The signatures are part of the more than 2.5 million signatures that have been collected in 62 of Russia's 89 regions in support of such a referendum; only 2 million signatures are required by law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). Local election commissions will now review the signatures and then present them to the Central Election Commission. Greenpeace Russia executive director Sergei Tsyplenkov told the daily that the Central Election Commission is expected to make a decision on the referendum in the middle of November and that the referendum may held in the spring of next year. JAC

GDP FINISHES FIRST THREE QUARTERS UP MORE THAN 7 PERCENT...

Russian GDP grew 7.3 percent during the first nine months of this year compared with last year, the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade announced on 25 October, Interfax reported. Industrial production over the same period grew 9.7 percent, according to the ministry. The ministry's head, German Gref, had predicted the previous day that GDP would finish up 7 percent at the end of the year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). Over the first nine months, consumer prices rose 14.1 percent while real incomes grew 9.4 percent. JAC

...AS INFLATION PREDICTED TO OVERSHOOT BUDGET LEVEL

The ministry also predicted that the annual inflation rate will be between 21.5 percent and 22 percent. In the 2000 budget, annual inflation was predicted at 18 percent. JAC

DEPUTIES SAY 'NO' TO POLYGAMY

State Duma deputies voted on 25 October to reject a bill proposed by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii allowing polygamy. The vote was 271 to 21 with two abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill would have amended the family code allowing Russian men to take up to four wives. Zhirinovskii justified the measure by citing Russia's population crisis and declining birth rate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). Duma Women's Affairs Committee Chairperson (Communist) Svetlana Goryacheva spoke against the measure, noting that the ratio of women to men--961 women:1000 men of an "economically active age"--does not favor such a policy. In addition, she noted that only five regions in Russia, including the republics of Ingushetia and Altai, favor the practice of polygamy. She concluded that the best way to raise the birth rate would be to raise living standards. Zhirinovskii has also suggested a ban on abortions and on foreign travel for women under 42. JAC




ARMENIA FACES $102 MILLION BUDGET SHORTFALL

Armenian Finance and Economy Minister Levon Barkhudarian told journalists in Yerevan on 25 October that his ministry has drafted plans for a budget sequester to counter the mounting shortfall in budget revenues, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That shortfall, which is the result of failure to reach tax collection targets and a delay in the release of $46 million in World Bank loans, will necessitate cutting planned government expenditures by one-third, or 86 billion drams ($160 million). Barkhudarian said the government hopes to save some 24 billion drams by cutting back on spending and rescheduling some of its external debts. He said the planned austerity measures have been approved "on the whole" by the IMF. Barkhudarian attributed Armenia's modest 2.9 percent GDP growth for the first nine months of this year to the summer's severe drought, adding that the 6.8 percent increase in industrial output and 22.5 percent leap in exports are "encouraging." LF

ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ENDORSES ENERGY CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

Boris Nazarian told parliamentary deputies on 25 October that the findings of a multi-party commission that investigated fraud in the energy sector since 1992 are mostly accurate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The commission's findings, which were made public in June, established that fraud, inefficiency, and mismanagement led to losses totaling some $200 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). Nazarian added that four criminal cases brought against 11 energy sector officials are nearing completion. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES CONCERNED AT RUSSIAN ARMS SALES TO TURKEY...

Four opposition parliamentary deputies expressed concern on 25 October over the possibility that Moscow may sell combat helicopters to Turkey, Armenpress reported. They said that such a deal could negatively affect Armenian-Russian relations. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov discussed possible Russian arms sales to Turkey during his visit to Ankara earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 October 2000). LF

...WHILE AZERBAIJAN PLANS TO PROTEST TRANSFER OF RUSSIAN EQUIPMENT FROM GEORGIA TO ARMENIA

Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev flew to Dushanbe on 25 October to attend the meeting there of CIS defense ministers, Turan reported. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry Press Center said Abiev plans to express his concern at the transfer of Russian weaponry from Russia's military base at Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia to its base in Armenia. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan said on 24 October that the redeployment does not constitute a violation of the CFE Treaty. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN PUBLISHES 5 NOVEMBER ELECTION 'RESULTS'

Social Justice Party Chairman Matlab Mutallimli has made public what he claims is a list of almost all the 99 candidates who are to be elected from single-mandate constituencies in the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported on 25 October. Mutallimli had claimed one week earlier to possess such a list. Seventy of the names on the list are candidates from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party and 21 are independent, while the Ana-Vatan, Musavat, Yurddash, Social Prosperity and Azerbaijan National Independence parties and the "Alliance for Azerbaijan" have one candidate each. The divided opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party is not represented. LF

GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DISAGREE OVER WHEREABOUTS OF CHECHEN FIGHTERS...

Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 25 October that the Chechen fighters who refused to surrender to Georgian troops who intercepted them on 20 October have now left Georgia, Interfax reported. Chief of General Staff Djoni Pirtskhalaishvili, for his part, denied that the fighters included Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev. But Russian Federal Border Guards commander Lieutenant-General Yevgenii Bolkhovitin said on 25 October that his men had not registered the passage of any Chechens from Georgia into Ingushetia. And on 26 October, the Russian Federal Border Guard Service said a group of Chechens had attempted to cross that border the previous evening but had retreated into Georgian territory after Russian border guards subjected them to artillery fire, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...AS RUSSIA PROPOSES DEPLOYING MORE OSCE OBSERVERS ON GEORGIAN BORDER

Speaking in Moscow on 25 October, Bolkhovitin's deputy, Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Manilov, proposed that the OSCE should deploy observers along the border between Georgia and Ingushetia, Caucasus Press reported. The OSCE deployed some 40 observers along the Georgian-Chechen border earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2000). LF

NEW EXPLANATION OFFERED FOR ITALIAN JOURNALIST'S DEATH IN GEORGIA

Giorgi Gachechiladze, the chairman of Georgia's Green Party, told a press conference in Tbilisi on 25 October that Italian journalist Antonio Russo may have been killed to prevent him publishing materials on the use by Russian forces in Chechnya of banned chemical or biological weapons, Caucasus Press reported. Gachechiladze said Russo had video materials testifying to the use of weapons that caused "ecological genocide." LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY AIRCRAFT CRASHES IN GEORGIA

All 83-86 passengers and crew were killed when a Russian military aircraft crashed in heavy fog in the evening of 25 October when approaching Batumi airport on a flight from Moscow, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze travelled to the crash site on 26 October. LF

KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR WARNS ONE OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER...

Bishkek City Prosecutor Tolobek Albanov warned opposition Ar-Namys party chairman and former Vice President Feliks Kulov on 25 October that a statement he issued five days earlier is illegal and an attempt to "discredit" the law enforcement agencies, Interfax and RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Kulov had appealed to police and security personnel not to be drawn into "confrontations" with the electorate in the runup to the 29 October presidential poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). LF

...AS ANOTHER ACCUSES KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES OF ELECTION FALSIFICATION

Opposition presidential candidate Melis Eshimkanov told journalists in Bishkek on 25 October that large numbers of voters are casting their ballots early under close supervision by the authorities and that all those votes are in favor of incumbent President Askar Akaev, Interfax reported. Eshimkanov also said that the opposition newspaper "Asaba," which he owns, will be forced to close as a result of the $105,000 fine it received for allegedly insulting former Kirghiz Communist Party First Secretary Turdakun UsubAliyev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). LF

KYRGYZ COURT REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE'S LAWSUIT

A Bishkek district court on 25 October rejected a law suit brought by Ata-Meken party chairman and presidential candidate Omurbek Tekebaev against Kyrgyz National Radio and Television, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The state media had refused on 9 October to air further election campaign propaganda by Tekebaev, thereby violating a contract signed on 12 September. The district court referred the case to the Court of Arbitration. Tekebaev had won a similar suit against an independent television and radio company the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). LF

KYRGYZ ELECTION COMMISSION REACHES SOLOMONIC DECISION ON NGO MONITORING

Central Electoral Commission chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev said in Bishkek on 25 October that while the Coalition of NGOs will not be permitted to deploy observers to monitor the conduct of the 29 October poll, the individual NGOs represented in the coalition will be entitled to do so, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Coalition chairwoman Tolekan Ismailova said in Bishkek the same day that representatives of 62 of the 172 NGOs aligned in the coalition will monitor the election. The chairmen of three Kyrgyz parliamentary commissions had appealed to the Central Election Commission to allow the Coalition of NGOs to deploy election monitors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). LF

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN

On a working visit to Dushanbe on 25 October, Kamal Kharrazi met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov to discuss bilateral cooperation and regional security, Russian agencies reported. The three officials expressed concern at the recent escalation of fighting in Afghanistan, which they stressed can be ended only by peaceful political negotiations and the creation of a coalition government in which all social and political groups in Afghanistan are represented. LF

IMF APPROVES LOAN TO TAJIKISTAN

The IMF on 25 October provisionally approved a $51 million loan to Tajikistan under the fund's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, Reuters reported. An IMF official commented that macro-economic developments during the first six months of this year, in particular continued GDP growth, were "favorable, despite the difficult external environment." In Dushanbe, Economy Minister Yahyo Azimov said on 23 October that industrial production during the first nine months of the year increased by 10 percent and agricultural output by 19 percent, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 25 October. It is unclear how that latter figure was achieved in conditions of severe drought. LF

TURKMENISTAN RESUMES PERSECUTION OF PROTESTANTS

Following a lull in the summer months, Turkmen police and security officers have raided at least three Protestant churches in Ashgabat since the beginning of this month, Keston News Service reported on 25 October. Members of all three congregations had their passports temporarily confiscated and were warned not to attend services in the future. LF




BELARUS'S OPPOSITION YOUTH GROUPS FORM COALITION

Belarus's largest opposition youth organizations have formed a coalition to launch a campaign aimed at introducing democratic changes in the country. Belapan reported on 25 October. "Young people can no longer tolerate humiliation from and the stupidity of the outdated regime," according to a statement signed by leaders of Maladaya Hramada, the Association of Belarusian Students, the Belarusian Organization of Young Politicians, the Youth Christian Union, and Malady Front. The coalition's declared goals include ensuring basic freedoms and democracy as well as building a law-based state and introducing a free market. The coalition plans to stage a demonstration in Minsk on 12 November to demand democratic changes in the country. JM

UKRAINE EXPECTS BETTER GROWTH THAN PLANNED

First Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said on 25 October that the government expects this year's GDP to grow by at least 3.5 percent compared with last year, Interfax reported. Earlier this year, the government predicted that the economy would grow by 2 percent in 2000. Yekhanurov said newly privatized food and wood-processing companies were among the main factors contributing to the revised growth estimate. JM

UKRAINE LAUNCHES PRIVATIZATION OF REGIONAL ENERGY DISTRIBUTORS

The State Property Fund has announced a tender for privatizing three regional energy distributors, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 26 October. The fund wants to sell 75.56 percent of ZhytomyrOblEnergo, 75 percent of KyivOblEnergo, and 75 percent RivneOblEnergo. The asking prices for those stakes are 95.174 million hryvni ($17.5 million), 174.032 million hryvni, and 100.612 million hryvni, respectively. Conditions of the tender include repaying the energy distributors' debts to energy-generating companies, uninterrupted supplies of electricity to consumers who have no debts, and preserving jobs for one year after the purchase. The tender date has been set for 22 February 2001. The fund plans to announce next month the terms for selling another three regional energy distributors. President Leonid Kuchma commented in Lisbon the same day that corruption and the influence of "oligarchs" over the economy will ease once Ukraine privatizes its key assets, Reuters reported. JM

BRITAIN TO SUPPORT ESTONIA'S EU BID

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and visiting Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves have signed a cooperation agreement in support of Estonia's entry into the EU. The agreement includes extensive cooperation in economic, social, legal, financial, and educational affairs, BNS reported on 25 October. Britain has signed similar agreements with other countries in the so-called "Luxembourg" group of EU front-runners. Cook and Ilves also discussed British involvement in the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, as well as NATO and EU integration issues. MH

LATVIAN FINANCE MINISTER PROMOTES WEBCAM FOR TRANSPARENCY

Gundars Berzins is the first of the People's Party's five cabinet ministers to have a 24-hour web camera in his office, BBC Online reported on 24 October. The webcam is hosted by the People's Party website at http://www.tautaspartija.lv/ministry/. People's Party spokesman Jurgis Liepniks said that it is important for people to "see what politicians do every day, how many hours they work" to provide more transparency in government for what he called an increasingly disillusioned public. MH

HEADS OF LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEES ELECTED

The newly-elected parliament on 25 October elected the chairs of 12 of the 13 standing committees. The Liberal Union of Prime Minister-designate Rolandas Paksas has been given six of those chairs: Alvydas Medalinskas (Foreign Affairs), Raimondas Sukys (Legal and Law Enforcement), Klemensas Rimselis (Public and Local Administration), Juozas Raistenskis (Environment), and Arturas Melianas (Social and Labor). The New Alliance of parliamentary chairman Arturas Paulauskas also has six: Viktor Uspaskich (Economy), Alvydas Sadeckas (National Security and Defense), Jeronimas Kraujelis (Rural Affairs), Rolandas Pavilionis (Education, Science and Culture), Kestutis Kuzmickas (Health Care), and Gediminas Dalinkevicius (Human Rights). The Center Union has the chair of one committee: Kestutis Glaveckas (Budget and Finance). MH

POLISH EX-PREMIER FOUND TO BE LUSTRATION LIAR

The Lustration Court ruled on 25 October that former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy lied in his lustration statement when he claimed he had never collaborated with communist-era secret services. The court said Oleksy secretly worked for Poland's military intelligence between 1970 and 1978. Oleksy denied that charge, saying "truth was the loser in this very peculiarly conducted trial." He said the court used "very questionable" procedures in allowing evidence to be presented in the case, and he announced that he will appeal the ruling. Oleksy, a member of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, resigned his post as prime minister in 1996 amid allegations that he had spied for Moscow when he was a military intelligence agent in communist Poland. A military prosecutor decided in 1996 that evidence was insufficient for a criminal probe into Oleksy's alleged spying. JM

CIVIC DEMOCRATS, HAVEL ENJOY MOST SUPPORT IN CZECH REPUBLIC

A survey released on 26 October shows that the Civic Democratic Party of former Premier Vaclav Klaus is supported by 32 percent of respondents, CTK reported. The ruling Social Democrats, with 19 percent support, narrowly defeated the Communist Party (18 percent) for second place. The Freedom Union was chosen by 10 percent of those polled and the Christian Democrats by 7 percent. In another poll released the same day, President Vaclav Havel enjoyed the confidence of 54 percent of respondents. The government polled only 36 percent, the Chamber of Deputies 25 percent, and the Senate just 19 percent. PB

TESTS AT CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT GO WELL

Temelin nuclear power plant spokesman Milan Nebesar said on 25 October that initial tests at the facility have been concluded successfully, AP reported. Nebesar said the reactor performed within the expected parameters, and officials expect to receive approval to increase the reactor's output (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). PB

BELGIAN MINISTER FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS KLAUS NOT 'EUROSKEPTIC'

Louis Michel said after a visit to Prague that he is "impressed" with Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus, saying the latter is not a "Euroskeptic nationalist," CTK reported on 26 October. Michel made his comments in the Belgian daily "L'Echo." Klaus told Michel that from a political and social standpoint, the Czech Republic is ready to join the EU but the country's economy is still "fragile," comparable to those of EU members Greece and Portugal. Michel was part of the delegation accompanying Belgian King Albert II on his visit to Prague. The king said after meeting with Czech Premier Milos Zeman on 25 October that an organization of small European states will be set up by Prague and Brussels. King Albert said that such a grouping will make it "easier for us to defend our interests in the EU." PB

SLOVAK CATHOLIC BISHOPS DON'T LIKE YOGA

A group of Roman Catholic bishops in Slovakia have protested the introduction of yoga into gym classes in the country, TASR reported on 25 October. The bishops said yoga, which is a widespread Hindu practice, might aid the spread of eastern religions in Slovakia. Bishop Frantisek Tondra said the introduction of yoga reminds him of when the communist regime introduced Marxist-Leninist theory in all schools. The bishops said they will discuss the matter with Education Minister Milan Ftacnik. PB

NEMETH, HORN DECLINE LEADING ROLE IN HUNGARY'S SOCIALIST PARTY

Two former prime ministers, Miklos Nemeth and Gyula Horn, announced on 25 October to the Socialist Party's (MSZP) nominating committee that they will not accept any nominations for a party post at the MSZP's November congress. Nemeth abruptly left the meeting and did not make any statement to the press. "Magyar Hirlap" reported, however, that Nemeth justified his decision by saying that under the present MSZP statutes he would be unable to put his ideas into practice. For his part, Horn said current MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs is not active enough and the party's policy is "in general too defensive." MSZ

NATO COMMANDER IMPATIENT WITH PACE OF HUNGARIAN MILITARY REFORM

Joseph Ralston, supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, told reporters on 25 October after a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest that he is impatient with the pace of Hungary's military reforms. He urged for measures such as the closure of barracks and technical upgrades to be undertaken at the earliest possible date. And he added that it is important that Orban supervise military reform. Ralston also met President Ferenc Madl, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, and Defense Minister Janos Szabo. MSZ




KOSTUNICA PRESENTS YUGOSLAVIA AS FACTOR FOR STABILITY

After returning from the Balkan summit in Skopje, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told reporters in Belgrade on 25 October that he succeeded in presenting Serbia to its neighbors as a contributor to regional stability, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). He stressed that Serbia no longer poses a threat to regional peace. Belgrade will conduct policies in keeping with its "interests, values, characteristics, ambitions, and wishes," Kostunica added. Earlier in Skopje, he stressed that "Yugoslavia has turned to its future and to improving relations, both bilateral and multilateral relations. That is very important for us," AP reported. He added that "the Balkans need peace and stability...[and] Europe needs a peaceful and stable Balkans." Kostunica argued that all countries in the region must accept their share of blame for its problems and free themselves "of pent-up prejudice...[in order] to solve the problems that burden our relations," the "International Herald Tribune" reported. PM

BALKAN NEIGHBORS GIVE KOSTUNICA MIXED REACTION

In their public remarks, most of the participants in the 25 October Skopje Balkan summit took a positive stance toward Kostunica and his promises that Serbia intends to be a good neighbor. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, however, said that Balkan problems are largely the work of the "Belgrade criminal regime" of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Meidani demanded that Kostunica send Milosevic to The Hague "as an apology for wartime atrocities" committed by Serbian forces in Kosova in 1998 and 1999, AP reported. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic called the Milosevic regime "the main source of instability and a generator of crisis." Granic urged Kostunica to "openly renounce the [aggressive policies] of the former regime." PM

KOSTUNICA, HOLBROOKE DISCUSS WIDE RANGE OF TOPICS

At the Skopje Balkan summit on 25 October, Kostunica met with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke for two hours, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The two men spent the last 15 minutes of their talks alone. Holbrooke told reporters that the topics included Bosnia, Kosova, and a wide range of other issues, adding that the details of the discussion were "confidential" and should remain so. Holbrooke also said: "We look forward to the very near, future day when Yugoslavia will join the community of nations as a free and democratic country, an full member of the United Nations and other international organizations." Holbrooke noted that "this is the beginning of a difficult and complicated process which...will lead to the first full integration of southeastern Europe and the Balkans in a unified Europe." He added that "I believe President Kostunica will continue to play a historic role in the process," AP reported. PM

KOSTUNICA SAYS BELGRADE 'WORKING ON' ISSUE OF KOSOVAR PRISONERS

After his meeting with Holbrooke in Skopje on 25 October, Kostunica told Yugoslav journalists that the two men "agreed on some issues and disagreed on many others." He added that it would be "boring if people always agreed," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kostunica said that Serbia's new leaders "are working on" the question of the future of several hundred Kosovars held in Serbian prisons. Kosovar and Albanian leaders have called on him to release the prisoners as a goodwill gesture. PM

SERBIA TO VOTE IN DECEMBER

Dragan Tomic, who is speaker of the Serbian parliament, announced on 25 October that elections for the legislature will take place on 23 December. President Milan Milutinovic then dissolved the parliament. PM

NEW YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT TAKING SHAPE

Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade that the new federal government will have 14 posts in place of the previous 30, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 October. Some 60 percent of the positions will go to the Democratic Opposition of Serbia and 40 percent to Montenegro's Socialist People's Party. He did not elaborate. He added that he plans to meet on 26 October with officials of Montenegro's governing coalition. PM

KOSOVAR LEADERS AGREE TO ACCEPT ELECTION RESULTS

Representatives of the five largest ethnic Albanian parties signed an agreement in Prishtina on 25 October in which they agreed to respect the results of the 28 October local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). Holbrooke was present at the signing. He then met with representatives of the Serbian community in Mitrovica. They gave him a letter in which they called for clarification of the fate of "all kidnapped and missing persons from the Serbian, Albanian, and other communities" in the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

KOSOVARS WANT EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a "UN official" in Kosova told Reuters on 26 October that "the ascent of a democratic president in Belgrade has changed the political landscape, diminishing the importance of the [local] elections in Kosovo Albanian eyes. The Serbs in Belgrade have now jumped ahead of Kosovo Albanians in a new race for democratic legitimacy. So the Albanians now demand we move up the date for parliamentary elections to gain bargaining power [for the Kosovars] vis-a-vis Belgrade. They want to represent themselves, not us to do it, as they realize they no longer automatically enjoy the ear of the West [after Kostunica's victory]," the official added. Holbrooke recently called for early parliamentary elections in the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). PM

PETRITSCH RULES ON SITE OF BOSNIAN MASSACRE MONUMENT

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, decided on 25 October that the planned monument to the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre will be at Potocari, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. That outlying village was the site of the Dutch army base where Serbian forces separated the women and children of Srebrenica from some 8,000 mainly Muslim males. Most of the men were never seen again. Local Serbs object to placing the memorial in the area under Serbian control. Petritsch said in his decision that he will hold Bosnian Serb authorities responsible for any delays in construction of the monument, AP reported. Holbrooke is slated to visit the site on 26 October. PM

CROATIAN EX-LEADERS FORM 'INDEPENDENT LIST'

Andrija Hebrang, who was health minister in the government of the late President Franjo Tudjman and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), said in Zagreb that he and several other prominent intellectuals in the HDZ will run in the spring 2001 elections for the upper house of the parliament on an "independent list." Hebrang argued that his and his colleagues' views on several important issues have been rejected by the current HDZ leadership. He stressed, however, that he and his colleagues do not want to give up their membership in the HDZ, "Jutarnji list" reported on 26 October. Miroslav Tudjman, who is a son of the late president and a former intelligence chief, is one of Hebrang's several supporters. PM

YUGOSLAVIA JOINS BALKAN STABILITY PACT

Bodo Hombach, the coordinator of the EU-backed Balkan Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, said on 26 October in Bucharest that Yugoslavia has been admitted as a full member of the organization, Reuters reported. The decision came at a meeting of the leaders of and representatives from the countries either funding the program or benefiting from it. Yugoslavia was banned from the program--begun by the EU in 1999--as long as Slobodan Milosevic was president. The pact will provide economic support to the countries of Southeastern Europe. PB

ANGRY INVESTORS RENEW PROTESTS IN ROMANIA

Angry investors in the private National Investment Fund (FNI), which collapsed in May, protested in Bucharest on 25 October, Romanian media reported. Some 400 people blocked traffic in front of the government building until police intervened. The investors marched through the capital for several hours protesting the continued delay in finding a solution that would allow them to get back their investments. The parliament has returned to the government a draft law that proposed partial compensation for the investors. In related news, the Bucharest Appeals Court on 25 October decided that the contract between the state-owned CEC bank and the FNI whereby CEC was to have guaranteed investments was legal. The court thus rejected an appeal lodged by CEC and the Finance Ministry. ZsM

BULGARIA, YUGOSLAVIA TO RESUME ECONOMIC RELATIONS

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and his Yugoslav counterpart, Vojislav Kostunica, said after meeting in Skopje that joint economic projects will resume, Bulgarian radio reported on 25 October. "It is a well known fact that Bulgaria has wonderful relations with all its neighbors. With Yugoslavia, however, our relations have lagged behind for obvious reasons and we must catch up now," Stoyanov said. The two agreed that they will meet again in Nis, Yugoslavia, in the coming weeks to discuss construction of the Sofia-Nis highway, part of an international route that will connect Europe and the Middle East. Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, also held a meeting in Belgrade on 24 October with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova aimed at kickstarting bilateral trade. PB




RUSSIANS SEARCH FOR SUITABLE NATIONAL ANTHEM


By Sophie Lambroschini

Ever since former President Boris Yeltsin decreed the abolition of the Soviet anthem and replaced it with a theme by the 19th-century Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, Russia has been looking for a text for the substitute anthem.

But in the seven years since Yeltsin's decree, Russians have not only been unable to agree on a text for Glinka's wordless "Patriotic Song" but have become increasingly dissatisfied with the music itself. The Kremlin has regularly organized national contests to find suitable words for the melody. None was agreed upon, however, and the issue remained dormant, until last month's Olympic Games in Sydney. There, after a disastrous first-week losing streak, a group of Russian athletes complained that standing tight-lipped during the playing of their national anthem at the opening ceremony had affected their morale.

Within days, following a meeting with Russia's governors, President Vladimir Putin appointed a special commission headed by Saint Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev to reconsider the anthem issue. The question has also been raised at recent meetings of the State Council, an advisory board of regional leaders recently set up by Putin to discuss important national issues.

According to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, a council member, a majority of the council's executive board supports the idea of reverting to the music of the "Hymn of the USSR," which was written by Aleksandr Aleksandrov, a military orchestra director, and music adopted in 1944 as the Soviet anthem. Some apparently reason that if the hymn is to remain wordless, its music might as well be familiar--at least to those who grew up before the break-up of the Soviet Union.

For many, the Glinka theme is just not in the same category as its Soviet predecessor. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has been quoted as saying that "the Soviet hymn's melody is solemn and easy to remember. It sent 'goose bumps' down my body when I was in the army." But Glinka's theme, he noted, does not create a "shivering thrill. It's not very vivid [and] therefore does not 'hearten,' as any good anthem should."

President Putin has the same view of Glinka's melody, according to Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii.

Not surprisingly, the Communist Party has long been pushing for the restoration of the Soviet anthem. At the same time, the Communists have called for substituting a red flag for Russia's current tricolor and a hammer-and-sickle instead of the present double-headed eagle as its coat-of-arms. So far, all communist efforts have failed to muster the two-thirds majority in the State Duma required for passage.

But some democratic politicians--especially those belonging to Democratic Russia, which was founded in the perestroika of the late 1980s--are wary of any sudden turnabout. They call the Communists' proposals "a sign of the old regime's restoration." And they point to other ominous signs, such as the vague project to bring back a guard of honor at the Lenin mausoleum.

Even if the Kremlin and Duma eventually agree on music for Russia's anthem, they will still have to choose an inspirational text for a population traditionally sensitive to poetry. The last text contest, held some two years ago, prompted some 6,000 offerings, but none was found suitable by Soviet-era pop singer Yosif Kobzon, who was given the "honor" of sifting through them.

Some historians say the quest for a new anthem text is hopeless. They believe that emerging Russian society has not yet found common ideals with which a miner from the Kuzbass, a Moscow banker, and a soldier in Chechnya can identify and which can be combined in one song.

Russian historian Andrei Zubov says that the hymn fiasco keeps repeating itself not because "we have bad poets and bad composers, but because the existing Russian state does not reflect the country or any tradition." Russians, he notes, still disagree over what to respect and what to be ashamed of. The country remains reluctant to condemn the Soviet period and "is still trying to find itself," he adds.

While the media has occasionally taken an irreverent view of the anthem issue--NTV's "Itogi" recently suggested the popular song "My country is big and wide," noting that a majority of citizens would undoubtedly agree that Russia is indeed big--others take the dispute more seriously. Sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii, for example, speaks of an "empty debate" that fails to touch on any of Russia's real concerns. For Kagarlitskii, the authorities' sudden infatuation with the Soviet hymn is really a political offering to the Communists, who have largely been supportive of President Putin's policies. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


XS
SM
MD
LG