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Newsline - October 31, 2000




PUTIN SAYS PRESS FREEDOM ISSUE REALLY ABOUT OLIGARCHS...

In comments to the French media during his visit to Paris, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to a question about freedom of expression in Russia by citing U.S. founding father Thomas Jefferson's statement that "where freedom of the press is absolute, there is no freedom for anyone," Russian Television reported on 29 October. He explained that he thought Jefferson "hit the nail on the head" since "no one in society should dominate, and everyone has to be placed in equal conditions before the law, including the press." He added, however, that "without the press, there can be no normal development of democratic society." Putin charged that the debate over freedom of expression in Russia "that is being foisted both on the Russian public and the international public" is in fact linked to another problem, "the problem of the influence of the so-called oligarchs on political power in Russia." According to Putin, those oligarchs acquired "by correct and more often incorrect means...a certain influence in the mass media, including the state media." JAC

...AS BEREZOVSKII FOLLOWS PUTIN TO PARIS

Putin continued that the oligarchs are now trying "to preserve this state of affairs, to secure for themselves the position in which they have found themselves--an advantageous position, even in relation to other businesspeople." This effort, he added, "dictates the campaign that is imposed from time to time in connection with the problems we allegedly have with freedom of expression. It has nothing to do with true freedom of expression." Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 30 October that Boris Berezovskii has arrived in Paris and is staying at the hotel where the Russian delegation, minus President Putin, is being accommodated. JAC

RUSSIA, EU AGREE POLITICAL SOLUTION NEEDED ON CHECHEN CONFLICT...

In a joint declaration issued following the Russia-EU summit in Paris on 30 October, Russian President Putin and EU leaders noted that with regard to the conflict in Chechnya, "we agreed on the necessity and urgency of seeking a political solution with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation." The statement also condemned "terrorism in all its forms." Putin later commented that Russia is ready to conduct a political dialogue with "all forces in Chechnya" but not with "people up to their elbows in blood." France, which holds the rotating EU Presidency, has been sharply critical of Russia's campaign in Chechnya--a stance that is perceived as having led to a cooling of relations between the two countries. Both Putin and French President Jacques Chirac have hailed Putin's official visit to France, which concludes on 1 November, as an opportunity to improve those ties. JC

...OPPOSE ANY CHANGES TO ABM TREATY...

Speaking at a press conference after the EU-Russia summit, French President Chirac stressed that the two sides are strongly opposed to the U.S.'s making any changes to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. "The European Union and Russia have an identical viewpoint. We have condemned any potential revision of the ABM treaty, believing that such a revision will involve a risk of proliferation that will be very dangerous for the future," Chirac said. Putin, who was also present at the press conference, underlined Moscow's stance that a "violation" of the ABM treaty will lead to a resumption of the arms race. According to the joint declaration issued at the end of the summit, agreement was reached to launch talks on how Russia might contribute to the EU's security policy, which includes the creation of a military rapid reaction force. JC

...DISCUSS INCREASED RUSSIAN ENERGY SUPPLIES TO EUROPE

The Russia-EU summit also discussed a proposal by European Commission head Roman Prodi that EU imports of Russian fuel, mainly gas, be sharply increased over the next 20 years. Reuters reported that no agreement was reached on this issue, but according to Prodi, a working group has been set up to study boosting such imports while investing in Russian infrastructure. He was quoted as saying that "it will be necessary to mobilize big economic resources" for possible investment projects in Russia. Putin, for his part, noted that the talks covered oil, gas, and electricity supplies and stressed that Russia is ready to "make its contribution to Europe's energy security in the long-term." "Both historically in the cultural sense and increasingly in the economic sense, too, Russia is very much part of Europe, greater Europe," he also commented. JC

SOROS OVERRULES POTANIN?

International financier George Soros told an audience in Vilnius on 27 October that he is not planning on leaving the Mustcom consortium, which holds a 25 percent plus one share stake in Svyazinvest, "Kommersant- Daily" reported the next day, citing Bloomberg. Interros Group head Vladimir Potanin had announced earlier in the month that the consortium was being dissolved and that Interros would wind up with a 2 percent stake in Svyazinvest and George Soros's Quantum Fund with a 10 percent share (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000). However, Soros said that he thought a blocking stake has more value than just individual shares in the company. According to "The Moscow Times" on 31 October, another influential shareholder in Mustcom, the Sputnik Group, has also announced that it has no interest in dissolving the consortium. Some analysts speculated that Potanin made his announcement as part of a deal with the government to forestall any review of the privatization of Norilsk Nickel. JAC

MOSCOW SAYS KOSOVA VOTE COULD 'LEGITIMIZE ETHNIC CLEANSING' AGAINST SERBS

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 31 October slammed the decision to hold local elections in Kosova three days earlier, despite calls by Moscow and the new Belgrade leadership to postpone the ballot until Serbs in the province halted their election boycott. "There is a real threat the municipal elections held by UN administrators [in Kosova] will de facto legitimise ethnic cleansing carried out by Albanian extremists after an international civilian and military presence was established in the province," the ministry said in a statement. Early results show that Ibrahim Rugova's moderate Democratic League of Kosova won the 28 October vote comfortably (see "End Note" below). JC

SECURITY CHIEF: 'KURSK' DISASTER CAUSE MAY NOT BE KNOWN TILL NEXT YEAR

Speaking in London on 30 October, Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov said that final conclusions about the causes of the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea in August will be made only after the vessel has been brought to the surface, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that this may not happen until next year. Meanwhile, divers have shifted the focus of their recovery operation from the submarine's ninth to its third compartment. As was the case with the ninth compartment, a hole will have to be cut in the hull of the submarine, which according to specialists quoted by the Russian news agency, will take at least one day. JC

COURT REFUSES TO ACCEPT DOCUMENTS ON U.S. ALLEGED SPY'S HEALTH

The Moscow City Court on 30 October refused to allow documents on U.S. businessman and former naval officer Edmond Pope's health to be included as evidence in his trial. Pope, who has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer, is being tried on espionage charges. The court explained its refusal by noting that the documents were in English and therefore "improperly formulated," Interfax quoted Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, as saying. Astakhov noted that the court's refusal violates Russian law, which allows a defendant to submit documents in his or her native language. He also pointed out that the court had earlier accepted a 40-page statement written and read out by Pope in English. Pope's statements were translated in court by an interpreter from the Federal Security Service. JC

DUMA FACTION SUGGESTS CHANGE IN ELECTION RULES

Following the recent disqualification of Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi from the gubernatorial ballot in that region one day before the vote was to be held, the Union of Rightist Forces' faction has proposed an amendment to the election law stipulating that an election commission can disqualify a candidate no later than five days before the election, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 October. Under the amendment, if the candidate wishes to challenge a commission's ruling legally, the relevant court should make its decision no later than three days before the election date. JAC

NORWAY REMAINS LONE PARIS CLUB HOLD-OUT?

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin told Interfax on 30 October that Russia has "either signed or initialed bilateral agreements with all members of the Paris Club of creditors for its debt payments for 1999-2000 for all countries except Norway." According to an earlier agreement with the club, Russia is obliged to seek bilateral agreements rescheduling debt payments with each member of the club. In the spring, Russia reached an agreement with Germany, its largest Paris Club creditor (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 15 May 2000). According to Kolotukhin, Russia owes Norway $100 million. JAC

INTERIM CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION'S MOVE TO GROZNY ON HOLD

The planned move from Gudermes to Grozny of most agencies of the pro-Russian interim Chechen administration has been postponed indefinitely, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo told journalists in Gudermes on 30 October. Interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov had said 10 days earlier that most agencies would move to Grozny by 1 November but that he himself would remain in Gudermes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). But Rushailo explained the postponement in terms of concern for the security in Grozny of the administration and of Kadyrov personally. Kadyrov said the restoration of Grozny's official status as Chechen capital is "a political issue," according to Interfax. LF

VICE PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER NAMED IN KARACHAEVO- CHERKESSIA

The parliament of the Republic of Karachaevo- Cherkessia on 27 October approved candidates for the posts of vice president and prime minister, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the following day. Under an agreement between the republic's Karachai, Cherkess and Russian communities mediated by presidential representative to the South Russia Federal District Viktor Kazantsev, the vice president must be a Russian and the prime minister a Cherkess. Deputies accordingly approved the candidacies of Aleksandr Lyashov, Gazprom representative in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, as vice president and of republican trade union head Alik Kardanov as premier. The Cherkess community had demanded, without success, that the candidacy of Ruslan Kazakonov also be considered for the latter position, as Kardanov is known as a supporter of the republic's President Vladimir Semenov, who is a Karachai. The refusal by Cherkess Stanislav Derev to concede his defeat by Semenov in last year's presidential ballot engendered repeated protest demonstrations by the Cherkess community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August and 15 November 1999). LF

RUSSIA REMEMBERS REPRESSION VICTIMS

Russia on 30 October observed the day earmarked in 1991 for the remembrance of victims of political repression. The Prosecutor-General's Office is still processing rehabilitation claims, ITAR-TASS reported, and during the last 18 months, local prosecutors in the Altai Republic and Volgograd, Kursk, Novosibirsk, Ryazan and Tver Oblasts have lodged almost 1,400 claims for a total of some 9 million rubles ($320,000) to be paid to rehabilitated persons and their heirs. Addressing a gathering in front of Lubyanka, the former KGB headquarters in Moscow, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii cautioned that "the danger of Stalinism has not disappeared. There are people who want to repeat this," AP reported. JAC

GOVERNOR COMMENTS ON TIFF WITH PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY

Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel told reporters on 30 October that no conflict exists between himself and presidential representative to the Urals District Petr Latyshev, Interfax- Eurasia reported on 30 October. Rossel recently said Latyshev's dismissal of local officials loyal to Rossel was "inadmissable muscle-flexing" (see "Endnote," "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2000). "Each of us has our own powers, and my critical remarks were directed at the budget policy being conducted by the federal center," he said. He added that by his calculations, Sverdlovsk Oblast will lose 7 billion rubles ($250 million) next year. He insisted that he will fulfill all President Putin's requirements since a confrontation between regional and federal authorities might negatively affect the situation in the oblast. JAC

RUSSIA TO LINK THE KOREAS BY RAIL?

The Railway Ministry's press service told Interfax on 30 October that the Railway Ministries of Russia and North Korea will sign an agreement at the end of Russian First Deputy Railway Minister Aleksandr Tselko's current visit to North Korea whereby Russia will restore the railway service between North and South Korea. The subject was raised recently during a visit to Moscow this month by South Korea's Transportation Minister Kim Yun Ki (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2000). Railway Minister Nikolai Aksenenko said earlier that his ministry is prepared "to give North Korea technical, construction and financial support in rebuilding the rail track on its territory up to the border with [South] Korea." JAC

TITOV CONFIRMED AS SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER

Delegates to the fifth congress of the Social Democratic Party chose Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov as their party leader and Aleksandr Yakovlev, former adviser to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, as its "spiritual leader," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. While he was head of the Federal Broadcasting Service, Yakovlev founded the party in 1995. Addressing the congress, Titov said the party has branches in 73 regions in Russia and supports the creation of a market economy combined with a social welfare state. He told reporters after the congress that the party is seeking to consolidate the Peasants' Party of Russia, Democratic Russia, the Free Democrats Party and the Social Federalist Party. JAC

RUSSIAN-U.S. TEAM HEADS FOR INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

A Soyuz rocket carrying a team composed of two Russians and one American blasted off from the Baikonur space station in Kazakhstan on 31 October bound for the International Space Station. William Shepherd of the U.S. and Sergei Krikalev and Yurii Gidzenko of Russia make up the first team to live aboard the station. They will be replaced there in February 2001. JC




DEMONSTRATORS CALL FOR ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION

Some 10,000 people attended a three-hour demonstration in central Yerevan on 30 October at which Arkadii Vartanian, millionaire businessman and leader of the 21st Century Association, laid the blame for the country's economic problems and the ensuing mass emigration on President Robert Kocharian, and called on the latter to resign, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The demonstrators then marched to the presidential palace, where they submitted a letter demanding Kocharian's resignation. The demonstration was the culmination of a one-month campaign by Vartanian, who aspires to succeed Kocharian as president, despite being a Russian citizen. Vartanian was summoned to the Yerevan police headquarters earlier in the day and warned not to make calls for violence. He said the city's police chief threatened to launch criminal proceedings against him unless he stops his campaign. During the evening of 30 October, police forced entry into Vartanian's Yerevan home and took him into custody for 10 days for having organized an unsanctioned march on the presidential palace, Noyan Tapan reported on 31 October. LF

FORMER BAKU MAYOR SAID TO HAVE LEFT AZERBAIJAN

Rafael Allakhverdiev, one of the deputy chairmen of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, has left Azerbaijan to avoid reprisals after criticizing numerous fellow senior members of the country's leadership, Turan reported on 28 October (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 42, 28 October 2000). Some of those persons whom Allakhverdiev accused are currently gathering evidence incriminating him, according to the independent daily "Azadlyg" on 28 October. LF

IRAN CUTS POWER SUPPLIES TO AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE

Iran's Energy Ministry halted power supplies to Nakhichevan on 27 October in retaliation for Azerbaijan's failure to meet a $45 million debt for deliveries, Groong reported, citing Turan and the "Tehran Times" of 29 October. An Iranian energy official told Reuters on 26 October that Baku had paid only $1 million toward the cost of electricity supplied to Nakhichevan over the past three years. Iran supplied more than 50 percent of Nakhichevan's electricity. Since 27 October, the town of Nakhichevan has had electricity for only four hours per day. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY FACTIONS CONDEMNS VIOLENCE AGAINST DEMONSTRATORS

Members of the Union of Citizens of Georgia's (SMK) parliamentary faction on 30 October condemned police violence against some 200 supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia who staged an unsanctioned demonstration in Tbilisi two days earlier to mark the 10th anniversary of the parliamentary elections that brought Gamsakhurdia to power, Caucasus Press reported. The faction again expressed its dissatisfaction with the work of the Interior Ministry and with Minister Kakha Targamadze. Targamadze hinted last month that he has compromising materials on some SMK deputies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). LF

GEORGIA IN LINE FOR NEW IMF CREDITS?

Georgian government ministers and IMF official David Owen signed a memorandum on 27 October on the conditions that Georgia must fulfill to qualify for the release of new tranches of two suspended loan programs, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. The funds suspended those programs last year on the grounds of poor tax collection and failure to meet planned budget revenues. The conditions include the publication of a long-awaited government anti-corruption program, the drafting of measures to combat poverty, fulfillment of tax collection targets, and structural economic reform. Owen also discussed with the Georgian leadership a possible three-year $150 million loan program to combat poverty. LF

NEW COMMANDER OF CIS PEACEKEEPING FORCED IN GEORGIA NAMED

Convening in Dushanbe on 26 October, the CIS Defense Ministers' Council named Major-General Nikolai Sidorychev to succeed Lieutenant-General Sergei Korobko as commander of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, "Vremya-MN" reported the following day. Sidorychev previously commanded the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan. LF

OSCE SAYS KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL FAILED TO MEET INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS...

In a preliminary assessment released in Bishkek on 30 October, the OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring mission said the previous day's presidential poll did not meet OSCE standards for democratic elections. It said "the international standards for equal, free, fair and accountable elections were not met." The statement noted that although the existing legislation allows for democratic elections, the flaws that marred the parliamentary poll in February-March 2000 were not eradicated. It noted restrictions on the registration of candidates that limited the field to six candidates and intervention by local officials in the electoral process. The statement noted the "remarkable transparency" for tabulation of returns provided for by the law was "marred by serious violations." LF

...WHILE ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIRMAN DENIES, THEN CONCEDES IRREGULARITIES

Speaking on national television on the morning of 30 October, Kyrgyz Central Electoral Commission chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev denied that any procedural violations had taken place during the previous day's ballot, Interfax reported. Following the release of the OSCE/ODIHR evaluation, however, Imanbaev conceded that such violations had taken place but "do not merit such a negative assessment from the OSCE." Imanbaev accused that organization of bowing to pressure from unnamed political forces to give a negative evaluation of the presidential poll. LF

KAZAKHSTAN ALLOWS TRAIN TO COLLECT STRANDED TAJIKS

Kazakh and Tajik railway officials have reached an agreement to allow one Tajik train to transit Kazakh territory en route for Russia, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 30 October. The train will bring back from the Russian city of Volgograd some 800 young Tajiks who were stranded there after Kazakhstan suspended the passage of further Tajik rail traffic because of safety considerations and non-payment of debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). No further Tajik trains will be allowed to transit Kazakhstan until Tajik railways pays its $1.6 million debt to its Kazakh counterpart. LF

AFGHAN FUGITIVES GATHER ON BORDER WITH TAJIKISTAN

Some 1,500 Afghans fleeing the ongoing fighting between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces have congregated at the Pyandj border crossing between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Interfax reported on 30 October. Russian border guards in Tajikistan have thwarted at least one attempt by about 100 of the fugitives to enter Tajikistan. The Tajik authorities fear that a mass influx of Afghan refugees would destabilize the domestic political situation. LF

THREE TAJIKS CHARGED IN KOREAN CHURCH BOMBING

Prosecutors in Tajikistan have charged three students from the Dushanbe Islamic Institute with terrorism in connection with the bomb that killed seven members of a Korean Christian congregation in the city earlier this month, AP reported on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 23 October 2000). Three further suspects have been arrested in connection with the bombing, the motives for which are as yet unclear. LF

UZBEK TERRORISM TRIAL OPENS

The trial began on 30 October at Uzbekistan's Supreme Court of 12 men charged with committing a series of terrorist acts, including the February 1999 car bombings in Tashkent, that killed more than 50 people, Russian agencies and RFE/RL's Tashkent bureau reported. Nine of the accused, including banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders Takhir Yuldash and Djuma Khodzhiev, are being tried in absentia. LF




BELARUSIAN NGO SAYS ELECTION RIGGED, LEGISLATURE ILLEGAL

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee on 30 October accused the authorities of falsifying this month's elections to the Chamber of Representatives, Belapan reported. The committee said mass violations of the electoral code mean the legislature cannot be recognized as legitimate. According to the committee, the most flagrant violations included compulsory early voting in military units and higher educational institutions as well as the shortening of election lists in order to obtain the necessary turnout figures to validate the vote. The committee also noted that at many polling stations observers from NGOs were not allowed to attend the vote count and were not given copies of the official reports on voting results, as stipulated by the law. JM

SWISS FOREIGN MINISTER IN KYIV

Joseph Deiss signed agreements on cooperation in transport and the avoidance of dual taxation during his visit in Kyiv on 30 October, Interfax reported. Deiss pledged that Switzerland will continue rendering humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including to people affected by the Chornobyl nuclear disaster and to Tatars who are resettling to Crimea. Parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch urged Deiss to help Ukraine return "illegal deposits of Ukrainian citizens in Swiss banks," the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. During a news conference at the end of his visit, Deiss said Switzerland is ready to supply cannons for Ukraine's new tank provided that those weapons are not sent to "undesirable" countries, Reuters reported. Ukraine needs a cannon that meets NATO standards in order to attract international buyers for its newly developed tank. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM FOR 200O

Leonid Kuchma on 30 October approved the monthly subsistence minimum for this year at 270.1 hryvni ($49.7), Interfax reported. According to a law passed in July 1999, the monthly subsistence minimum is calculated each year by the government, endorsed by the parliament, and approved by the president. The same day, Kuchma signed a law passed earlier this month stipulating that "the volume of the state's main social benefits to people for whom those benefits are their main source of livelihood" may not be lower than the subsistence minimum. JM

ESTONIA, CYPRUS SIGN FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT ON COOPERATION

Meeting in Tallinn on 30 October, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Cypriot Ambassador Leonidas Markides, who resides in Helsinki, signed a framework agreement on bilateral cooperation, BNS reported. The intergovernmental accord covers cooperation in economy, research, technology, and industry. It will go into force when the parties exchange notes informing each other about the completion of necessary domestic procedures. The talks focused on bilateral relations and EU enlargement. Both countries are part of the first-track (or Luxembourg) group of EU candidates. SG

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR MEET IN RIGA

Indulis Berzins and Russian Ambassador to Latvia Aleksandr Udaltsov have met to discuss Latvia's future presidency of the Council of Europe, BNS reported on 30 October. Berzins outlined Latvia's plans for its presidency and the main objectives that Latvia will present to the Council of Europe Ministerial Committee session in Strasbourg on 9 November. Udaltsov expressed Russia's support for the admission of Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Council of Europe. The officials also discussed bilateral relations, including possible ways of stepping up intergovernmental relations and parliamentary cooperation as well as the efforts of the Baltic states to get back former diplomatic buildings in Paris and Rome now used by Russian diplomats. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES NEW CABINET

Valdas Adamkus on 30 October signed a decree approving 12 of 13 ministers in Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas's cabinet, ELTA reported. The Liberal Union had nominated Eugenijus Maldeikis (Economy), Jonas Lionginas (Finance), Gintaras Striaukas (Transport), Gintautas Kevisas (Culture), Linas Linkevicius (National Defense), and Gintautas Bartkus (Justice). The New Alliance (Social Liberals) of parliamentary chairman Arturas Paulauskas proposed Algirdas Monkevicius (Education and Science), Antanas Valionis (Foreign Affairs), Vincas Janusonis (Health), Vytautas Markevicius (Interior), Kestutis Kristinaitis (Agriculture), and Vilija Blinkeviciute (Social Security and Labor). Adamkus has not yet decided whether to name Algirdas Kudzys or Henrikas Zukauskas as environment minister. SG

NEW MAYOR OF KAUNAS ELECTED

The Kaunas City Council on 30 October elected Gediminas Budnikas of the radical Freedom Union as mayor of Lithuania's second-largest city, Kaunas, ELTA reported. Earlier, leader of the Freedom Union Vytautas Sustauskas had resigned as mayor after being elected to the parliament. Budrikis, who became famous as a member of the Kaunas Zalgiris basketball club and the national basketball team from 1962 to 1973, received 26 out of 38 votes in a secret ballot. He was reportedly supported by the Freedom Union, Conservatives, Young Lithuania Party, and Social Democrats. SG

SOLIDARITY BLOC TO BECOME FEDERATION?

Parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski has proposed that the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) be transformed into a federation of the four parties that now constitute the AWS coalition, PAP reported on 30 October. Plazynski's plan envisages that the federation be led by a six-person body to which the four parties and the Solidarity trade union will name one representative each and also appoint a secretary. Plazynski proposed that the tenure of the federation's chairman last one year, adding that Premier Jerzy Buzek could become the first chairman. Plazynski's project is aimed at ending the leadership crisis in the AWS. Three parties belonging to the grouping have demanded that AWS current leader Marian Krzaklewski step down (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 24 October 2000). Meanwhile, Krzaklewski has proposed that the AWS hold a congress in March to transform itself into a federation. JM

POLAND'S COMMUNIST SECRET POLICE CHIEF RETRIED FOR PRIEST'S MURDER

General Wladyslaw Ciaston, deputy interior minister and chief of the secret police in the 1980s, has gone on trial for the second time in connection with the 1984 murder of Jerzy Popieluszko, a chaplain of the underground Solidarity, Polish media reported on 30 October. Ciaston was acquitted in 1994 for lack of evidence, but prosecutors have succeeded in obtaining a retrial. Prosecutor Tadeusz Miller told the Warsaw District Court that Ciaston and other high- ranking Interior Ministry officials pressured secret police officers "to silence Popieluszko." Ciaston denies the charge. Three officers and their immediate superior were found guilty in 1985 of killing Popieluszko and sentenced to terms of 12- 25 years. All but one have since been freed under amnesties. JM

POLISH FORMER DEPUTY MINISTER CONFIRMED AS LUSTRATION LIAR

The Lustration Court on 30 October confirmed its earlier ruling that Robert Mroziewicz, former deputy foreign minister and deputy national defense minister, lied in his lustration statement, PAP reported. This verdict is not subject to appeal. In July, the Lustration Court found that Mroziewicz was an agent of the communist-era security service and did not reveal this fact in his lustration statement. The court's ruling means that Mroziewicz will be unable to hold public posts for 10 years. JM

AUSTRIA TELLS CZECHS TEMELIN MAY BLOCK EU ENTRY

Austrian Vice chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer said on 30 October that Vienna will not approve the energy chapter that Prague must secure for EU membership as long as the Temelin atomic energy station is operating, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, other Austrian and Czech officials traded charges in advance of the 31 October meeting scheduled between Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, CTK reported. PG

CZECH PRESIDENT VETOES NEW BANKING LAW

Vaclav Havel on 30 October vetoed a bill that was intended to give the government greater control over the Czech National Bank, AP reported. His spokesman said that Havel believes the proposed legislation is unconstitutional and has returned it to the parliament for revision. Czech observers suggested that the lower house is likely to overturn the veto. PG

CZECH REPUBLIC TO JOIN WEU'S ARMAMENT GROUP

Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy said on 30 October that the Czech Republic will become a member of the Western European Armament Group (WEAG), CTK reported. He said that this could happen as soon as the 13 November meeting of the Western European Union Council in Marseilles. Describing this as "a very important step," Vetchy said that it will allow the Czech defense industry to participate on a fully competitive basis with other European arms producers. PG

KAFKA MONUMENT TO BE ERECTED IN PRAGUE

An 11-member jury has selected a statue of a massive walking suit without any body in it to serve as a monument to Franz Kafka, a writer of Jewish origins who was born and lived most of his life in the Czech capital and who wrote in German, CTK reported on 30 October. The statue, designed by sculptor Jaroslav Ron, is to be located between the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Spanish synagogue. PG

CZECHS USE INTERNET TO FIGHT DRUG USE

The Czech Education Ministry has set up a website at www.sidliste.cz to help young Czechs avoid using drugs, CTK reported on 30 October. The site includes information about the dangers of drug use as well as about free emails and chat groups for children between the ages of 12 and 18. PG

SLOVAKIA MAKING RAPID PROGRESS IN EU TALKS

Jan Figel, Slovakia's chief EU negotiator, said his country has resolved almost as many contentious issues with the EU as have Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, even though Bratislava began talks two years later than those three countries, Reuters reported on 30 October. Figel said that he had reached agreement with the EU on nine chapters, compared with Poland's 13 and Hungary and the Czech Republic's 11 each. PG

ROMA LEAVING SLOVAKIA

Some 2,000 Roma left Slovakia during the first six months of 2000, CTK reported on 30 October. Slovak officials said their departure was largely for economic reasons and to gain larger social benefits abroad. The Roma said that they had left not only because of bad economic conditions but also because of racial attacks by skinheads and other forms of discrimination. PG

HUNGARIANS TO LOOK FOR POWS IN RUSSIA

Hungarian officials believe there may be at least one more surviving World War II-era Hungarian prisoner of war in Russia and will be dispatching experts to that country to try to find out more, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 28 October. Meanwhile, Hungarian archivists have gained access to a list of 198 Hungarians killed during the Stalinist purges in the former Soviet Union and will now be able to say definitively what happened to many individuals whose fate has remained unknown, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 30 October. PG




RUGOVA'S MODERATE PARTY DECLARED WINNER OF VOTE IN KOSOVA...

The OSCE said on 30 October that ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) has won 58 percent of the vote, with 90 percent of the votes counted, Reuters reported. The party of former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) commander Hashim Thaci, the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), was trailing with 27 percent of the vote. The Alliance for the Future of Kosova, an ultranationalist group made up of many UCK leaders, is currently in third with some 8 percent of the vote. The results give the LDK control of 21 municipalities, while the PDK has six and three are still undecided. Daan Everts, the OSCE mission head in Kosova, said "we can confirm that the election took place without fraud and incidents." He said turnout was about 80 percent. Reports did not indicate, however, if that figure relates only to ethnic Albanians or also includes the ethnic Serbs, who overwhelmingly boycotted the vote. One count showed that some 1,100 Serbs had registered to vote in the election. There are an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Serbs living in Kosova (see also "End Note" below). PB

...AS THACI ACCEPTS RESULTS

PDK leader Thaci said on 30 October that his party accepts the results of the election and will cooperate with the LDK, Reuters reported. "We did not expect such a result...[but] the PDK will recognize the final result of the municipal election." He said that the election was made possible only because of the earlier military resistance of the UCK. Thaci echoed Rugova's call for independence for the province: "Citizens of Kosova should have no doubts about their future. We are here to continue to work for an independent and democratic Kosova." PB

U.S. PRAISES VOTE, SAYS 'NO' TO INDEPENDENCE

The U.S. State Department hailed the municipal elections in Kosova, saying that "all indications are that they were free and fair," Reuters reported. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said LDK leader Rugova's demands for independence will have to wait because the province's final status, according to UN resolution 1244, can be determined only after the province "develops democratic institutions in the interim period." While Yugoslav and Serbian officials continued to criticize the election because it was boycotted by ethnic Serbs, the moderate Serb National Council of Kosovo, based in the Orthodox Serb monastery in Gracanica, said it viewed the result with "cautious optimism." PB

YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT CLOSE TO BEING FORMED

Supporters of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said on 30 October that they have agreed to a cabinet lineup, Reuters reported. Vladan Batic, a leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) bloc, said the federal parliament will meet on 3 November, "when the new government will be voted on and then constituted." The DOS is to provide some 10 ministers in the new government, which is expected to be reduced from the current 28 ministries to 15 or so. Batic said the DOS will have Miroljub Labus, an expert from the G-17 Plus group of economists, as deputy premier in charge of foreign economic relations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2000). PB

OUTGOING YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT CHALLENGES APPLICATION FOR UN MEMBERSHIP

The cabinet of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said on 30 October that President Kostunica does not have the authority to file an application for UN membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2000), AP reported, citing Tanjug. Tomislav Nikolic, Yugoslav deputy premier, said the request is "unauthorized" since "the federal government, not the president of Yugoslavia, is in charge of foreign policy." But DOS official Batic said the same day that Yugoslavia could be admitted to the UN--where its status has been in limbo since 1992--within days. He added that objections from Montenegro, which wants Belgrade to refrain from joining international bodies until the federation's status vis-a-vis Montenegro is resolved, will not hold up the process. Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said on 29 October that Podgorica will not contest Yugoslavia's application to join the UN. PB

SURVEY SUGGESTS MAJORITY OF MONTENEGRINS SUPPORT INDEPENDENCE

A poll published in the Montenegrin daily "Vijesti" on 30 October showed that a majority of respondents would favor independence if a referendum on the topic were held, although a majority also favored some future association with Serbia, Reuters reported. Conducted by Montenegro's Center for Democracy and Human Rights, the poll found 48.1 percent of respondents would vote for independence and 38.9 would vote against it. But more than half of those polled said they want some kind of alliance with Serbia. Montenegrin Premier Filip Vujanovic said on 27 October that both republics should be internationally recognized but that some functions could be shared. PB

CROATIAN PREMIER DENIES COALITION IN TROUBLE

Ivica Racan on 30 October downplayed differences between members of his coalition as a "normal occurrence in coalitions and democracy," AP reported. "Where there is no fighting, there is no love," he told journalists. But speculation continues that differences between Racan's Social Democrats and the Social Liberal Party over posts in state offices, economic policy, and amending the constitution could lead to the government's fall. The main point of contention is changes to the constitution, with the Liberals complaining that Racan and his party are trying to shift powers currently held by the president to the cabinet instead of to the parliament. Racan has ruled out calling new elections, despite his party's increased popularity in opinion polls. PB

OSCE SAYS REFERENDUM BY BOSNIAN CROATS IMPERMISSIBLE

The OSCE said that a proposed referendum by nationalist Bosnian Croat political parties would violate election rules, AP reported. Luke Zahner, the OSCE's spokesman in Sarajevo, said "we are not even calling it a referendum, but an expression of opinion and a political party activity. If they go through with it on election day, they would be in violation of election rules." Party activities are prohibited one day before an election begins and one day after the election ends. Kresimir Zubak, leader of the moderate New Croat Initiative, said the Croatian Democratic Community's call for the referendum is "an effort to realize their permanent idea of the division of the country," the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni Avaz" reported. PB

SERBIAN OFFICIALS BURY UNIDENTIFIED WAR VICTIMS

Authorities in Banja Luka began burying the bodies of some 450 unidentified victims of the Bosnian wars, AP reported on 29 October, citing the daily "Glas Srpski." The bodies had been laid out in a factory for more than five years. DNA samples are being taken before burial. The head of the Association of Killed and Missing Soldiers and Civilians, Nedeljko Mitrovic, said some 900 Serbian soldiers and about 5,000 civilians remain missing following the war. PB

ALBANIA RATIONS ELECTRICITY

Albanian officials said on 30 October that electricity in the country is being reduced to five hours a day owing to the severe drought, which has lowered water levels at hydroelectic power plants, AP reported. Households are also experiencing water shortages because of insufficient energy supplies to pump water. PB

ROMANIAN PARTY WANTS TO STOP PRIVATIZATION PROCESS

The Party of Social Democracy in Romania's (PDSR) first deputy chairman, Adrian Nastase, announced that the PDSR will put forward a motion in the parliament to reduce the prerogatives of the current government, Romanian media reported on 27 October. The PDSR wants the government to undertake only administrative work until the parliamentary elections on 26 November. Nastase explained that PDSR wants to stop the government from privatizing large companies. Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu responded the next day by saying the PDSR's move is part of that party's electoral campaign and violates existing legislation and agreements with the World Bank Meanwhile, the opposition Party of Romanian National Unity has put forward a draft bill that would stop the government from continuing the privatization process. ZsM

GERMAN INTERIOR MINISTER AGAINST LIFTING VISA REGIME FOR ROMANIANS

German Interior Minister Otto Schilly is opposed to lifting visa obligations for Romanian citizens, "Adevarul" reported on 28 October. Schilly argued that statistics show Romania is the third largest source of illegal immigration to Germany and that the country's borders are not secured enough to prevent the flow of illegal immigrants. Schilly added that many Romanian citizens are part of organized crime in Germany. Romanian Foreign Minister Petre Roman responded that Romania knows its obligations and is applying measures in order to strengthen border controls. Earlier this year both the European Parliament and the European Commission recommended the lifting of compulsory visas for Romanians and Bulgarians, but many European countries expressed doubts about doing so. ZsM

HACKERS PUT ILIESCU ON FBI'S MOST WANTED LIST

Computer hackers have linked former President Ion Iliescu's official electoral website to the FBI site of its most wanted criminals, Reuters reported on 29 October. Anyone who tries to visit Iliescu's site at www.ioniliescu.com sees the FBI page instead. Iliescu's aides said they are trying to discover who was behind the incident. PG

LUCINSCHI OPPOSES FOREIGN FINANCING OF MEDIA

President Petru Lucinschi told AP Flux on 30 October that he supports a legislative proposal that would prohibit the distribution of newspapers financed by foreign governments. Such a step is needed, he said, to level the playing field for all publications. In another move, Lucinschi promulgated the presidential election law, BASA reported. PG

IMF PREPARED TO RESUME CREDITS TO MOLDOVA

IMF representative Richard Haas said in Chisinau on 30 October that his organization is ready to resume its loan program to Moldova as soon as the IMF leadership agrees to a memorandum of cooperation with that republic, Infotag reported. Haas said that the first $12 million of a $150 million credit package is likely to be extended in December. The IMF froze its assistance program to Moldova a year ago after Chisinau failed to approve laws regulating its 2000 budget and privatizing the country's wine and tobacco sectors. PG

TRANSDNIESTER VIEWS BADEN MEETING AS PREMATURE

The Foreign Ministry of the separatist Transdniester Republic broadcast a statement on Tiraspol television on 30 October saying that OSCE plans to hold a meeting in Baden of all parties to the dispute over the future of the breakaway region are premature and that the session should be postponed, Infotag reported on 30 October. The statement suggested that it would be better to hold a session only after Moldova elects a new president. PG

MOLDOVANS ILLEGALLY ABROAD BEING EXTRADITED HOME

The Moldovan Interior Ministry press service told AP Flux on 30 October that some 2,240 Moldovans who entered other countries illegally have been extradited back to Moldova in 2000 alone. Interior Minister Vladimir Tucan said that Chisinau plans to increase its efforts to prevent this flow of illegal migrants. PG

BULGARIAN STABILITY PACT COORDINATOR QUITS

Nikolai Karadimov, Bulgaria's stability pact coordinator, handed in his resignation on 30 October to protest parliamentary calls for Sofia to withdraw from the pact if the EU does not end travel restrictions on Bulgarians, Reuters reported. On 29 October, Assen Agov, the chairman of the parliament's foreign policy commission, said in a radio interview, that Bulgaria will withdraw unless EU countries drop their visa requirements for Bulgarian nationals. Karadimov said he resigned in order to disassociate himself from those remarks. PG




RUGOVA EMERGES VICTORIOUS IN KOSOVA LOCAL ELECTIONS


By Jolyon Naegele

The OSCE announced late on 30 October that Ibrahim Rugova's moderate Democratic League of Kosova (LSK) won 58.13 percent of the vote in municipal elections two days earlier. The LDK took 21 of the 27 districts where voting was held. The OSCE stressed, however, that these are "unofficial polling station results." Preliminary results are not expected until later this week.

The big losers were two parties led by former UCK commanders. Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova placed second with 26.95 percent of the vote and Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova was third with 7.72 percent. Both men have said say they will accept the election results.

Rugova, known as the Albanian Gandhi for his advocacy of non-violence, says the poll was a clear call for Kosova's independence. At a 29 October news conference at his home in Prishtina, Rugova called on "Paris, London, Berlin, and Washington to recognize the independence of Kosova. The people of Kosova have demonstrated that they are for democracy and peace and that they know how to lead Kosova. The proof of this is the massive turnout."

Voter turnout was, in fact, overwhelming, at "around 80 percent," according to OSCE mission head in Kosova Daan Everts on 30 October. At many polling stations, voters had to wait hours to cast ballots. Some polling stations remained open six hours longer than scheduled to cope with the crowds of eager voters.

The office of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, however, issued a statement on 29 October declaring the Kosova local elections invalid on grounds that the poll applied only to the province's ethnic Albanians. Most of Kosova's remaining Serbs, estimated to number between 50,000 and 100,000, chose to boycott the poll. Only about 1 percent of Serbs registered to vote. Nor did Serbian parties field candidates.

But the head of the OSCE election process, Jeff Fischer, told a news conference in Pristina on 29 October that the vote was free and fair because it represented a matter of choice. "I believe that the case can be made that this was a free and fair process because it represented a matter of choice. There are people in Kosovo who chose to participate. There are people in Kosovo who chose not to participate. That was their free choice."

Fischer added that "the door remains open to the Serbian community to participate in the governance of their municipalities, and I'm hopeful that the next electoral event will be more reflective and have greater participation by all communities within Kosovo."

UN chief administrator for Kosova Bernard Kouchner has said he will appoint Serbs to sit on local councils and may call new local elections within months. But Fischer noted that any decision on new elections will have to be made at the highest levels of the UN and OSCE.

In Belgrade, pro-Kostunica politicians have welcomed the victory of Rugova's LDK.

A leading member of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), Social Democratic Alliance chief Zarko Korac, told RFE/RL that Rugova's victory is "basically a good thing as it opens up space for the start of a dialogue between democratically minded Serbs and Kosovar Albanians about the future." He added that "if Rugova positions himself as the leading politician of Kosovar Albanians, it will be easier for the [Serbian] political forces that want dialogue with the Kosovar Albanians."

The head of another DOS member party, the Democratic Center's Dragoljub Micunovic, told RFE/RL, "We expect that Rugova as a moderate politician who has been through all the changes that Serbia and Yugoslavia have, is working toward the goal of stability of Yugoslavia, the Balkans and the region as a whole. As far as we can tell, somewhere sometime a change of thinking [on the part of the voters] occurred--at any rate it is a good thing that extremists did not win the elections."

In contrast to the pro-democracy leaders in Belgrade, Kosova Serb politicians are taking a more reserved view.

Moderate Rada Trajkovic, a member of the Serb National Council of Kosova and a member of Kosova's joint administration council (along with Rugova and Thaci), insists the conditions did not exist for legal, democratic and free elections for the Serbian community in Kosova. Trajkovic told RFE/RL, "You know we certainly do not have freedom of movement and the Serbian community in this region are denied their human rights."

Similarly, in the Serb enclave at Gracanica, near Pristina, Father Sava Janjic, a moderate Serb, said the significance of the election is overshadowed by the absence of conditions for Serbs to participate. He told AP that the legitimacy of Rugova's party will depend very much on its attitude toward the rights of the Serbs and other minorities in Kosova.

And the head of the Serbian community in the divided city of Mitrovica, Serbian National Council chairman Oliver Ivanovic, said in an interview with RFE/RL that he remains skeptical over whether Rugova's victory really means a vote for moderation. "We were expecting some sort of victory by Mr. Rugova and the Democratic League of Kosova, but not so convincing," he commented "Today, generally speaking, this doesn't mean anything at all for Serbs. I think the concepts of Mr. Rugova and Mr. Thaci in principle are very similar."

The 28 October vote was peaceful and orderly. Making the next round more inclusive to all the province's communities may be easier with Rugova's LDK replacing Thaci's UCK veterans in town councils across Kosova. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


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