Accessibility links

Newsline - November 2, 2000




PROSECUTOR BEGINS NEW ASSAULT ON OLIGARCHS...

The Office of the Prosecutor-General announced on 1 November that it is issuing new summonses to Boris Berezovskii and Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii to appear for questioning on 13 November. Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov told reporters that Berezovskii is being summoned to answer questions in the Aeroflot case, while Gusinskii must report the same day to face charges of fraud with regard to Media-MOST and its subsidiaries, Interfax reported. Kolmogorov added that if Gusinskii ignores the subpoena, an arrest warrant may be issued and Gusinskii will be placed on an Interpol wanted list. According to the deputy prosecutor, Gusinskii is guilty of violating joint-stock company regulations because he did not liquidate Media-MOST and its subsidiaries even though those companies were running heavy losses. In addition, Gusinskii is guilty of fraud and abuse of trust by taking out large loans for the companies using nonexistent assets as collateral, the deputy prosecutor added. JAC

...AS GUSINSKII TO FACE FRESH CRIMINAL CHARGES

Kolmogorov also revealed that Swiss prosecutors have handed over documents relating to the Aeroflot case that provide a basis for "issuing criminal charges against persons involved in the case." Berezovskii's lawyer, Semen Aria, told ITAR-TASS that there is no basis for bringing any charges against his client with regard to fraud in the Aeroflot case. He added that he cannot recall a situation in which the Prosecutor-General's Office announced in advance its plans for bringing criminal charges against a suspect, and he suggested that the prosecutors are trying to intimidate his client. Media-MOST press spokesman Dmitrii Ostalskii told the agency that the new accusations against Gusinskii are "an attempt to disrupt the agreement" reached between Media-MOST and Gazprom over the former's debt to the latter. He added that negotiations between the two companies are continuing and that he hopes an agreement will nevertheless be signed. JAC

PUTIN URGES RUSSIANS TO RALLY AROUND MOTHERLAND

Russian President Vladimir Putin spent the last day of his visit to France, 1 November (All Saints Day), by making a trip to the Russian cemetery in Sainte Genevieve des Bois. He paid his respects at the graves of, among others, writer Ivan Bunin, ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and Russian citizens who belonged to the French resistance movement during World War II. Speaking to journalists, Putin noted that many countries "have gone through periods of trial in their histories. We, too, must rally around our Motherland now." The previous evening, Putin had attended a "dinner and discussion" with several dozen French and Russian business leaders. Asked by one those businessmen which three portraits Putin would choose to hang in his office, the Russian president responded immediately, "Pushkin, Peter the Great, and Charles de Gaulle," "Izvestiya" reported. On 1 November, Putin to return to Moscow. JC

GAZPROM INKS BIG DEAL IN FRANCE, GIVE OR TAKE A BILLION

President Putin told reporters in Paris on 31 October that Gazprom and Gaz de France concluded a deal the same day worth "between one and two billion dollars." Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev said the next day that the two companies have signed an agreement that provides for the construction of a pipeline across Poland, Slovakia, and Belarus--bypassing Ukraine--that would ship Russian gas to consumers in Western Europe. Meanwhile, conflicting reports have emerged over the future employment of Gazprom Deputy Chairman Valerii Remizov. A Gazprom spokesman said Remizov is on a business trip, while Vyakhirev told "Vedomosti" that Remizov has resigned. Interfax reported that according Gazprom's charter, only the company's board of directors can sanction Remizov's termination ahead of the five-year term to which he was elected. JAC

DIVERS COMPLETE CUTTING HOLE INTO 'KURSK' THIRD COMPARTMENT

Russian and Norwegian divers have finished cutting a hole into the third compartment of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, which sank during maneuvers in the Barents Sea in August, a Northern Fleet spokesman told Russian Television on 2 November. He added that video cameras have been sent inside the compartment, which was badly damaged, and a decision will be made later whether divers will enter or start cutting a hole in the fourth compartment. To date, four of the bodies recovered by the divers have been identified, including that of Dmitrii Kolesnikov, the author of the message indicating that at least 23 crew members did not die immediately after the "Kursk" sank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). On 1 November, "Kommersant-Daily" reported, citing a "well-informed source" in the Northern Fleet, that the letter does not contain any information about the cause of the disaster but does list the names of the 23 seamen who fled to the ninth compartment after the submarine sunk. JC

PUTIN'S ENVOY ARRIVES IN MIDDLE EAST

At the start of a tour of several Arab countries in the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin, who is President Putin's envoy to the region, held talks in Qatar on 1 November with the Qatar State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ahmed bin Abdallah al-Mahmud, Interfax reported, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry. The ministry said that "special attention" was paid during the talks to the "crisis situation in the Middle East peace process." Both Israeli and Palestinian officials have called upon Russia to increase its role in the peace process, of which it is a co-sponsor. JC

RUSSIA TEST-FIRES ANOTHER OLD MISSILE

The Russian Strategic Rocket Forces test-fired an SS-19 missile on 1 November, reporting that it reached its target in Kamchatka from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The SS-19 missile has been part of the forces' arsenal for 25 years. A spokesman for the forces told Reuters the previous day that the missile is likely to be removed from service to join the SS-18 rocket as a booster for commercial satellites. Under the START-2 treaty, the SS-18s and SS-19s are to be decommissioned. Last month, a 16-year-old Topol ballistic missile was successfully test-fired, and a Strategic Rocket Forces spokesman said that while Russia is upgrading to a newer version of the missile, the Topol-M, it will also extend the original life service of the old Topol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2000). JC

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS DENIES RUMORS OF TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM CHECHNYA

Igor Sergeev told journalists at the Russian base at Khankala, near Grozny, on 1 November that media reports of an impending withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya are untrue, Russian agencies reported. He said that on the contrary, the Russian troops will intensify their efforts to wipe out Chechen resistance with the onset of winter. Also on 1 November, Federal Security Service director Nikolai Patrushev told journalists in Moscow that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, together with field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab, are currently in Chechnya and that "special operations are being planned and conducted against them," according to Interfax. LF

RUSSIA'S MIDDLE CLASS GROWING

The State Statistics Committee announced on 31 October that the proportion of the population that is very rich and very poor has decreased and that the middle class has therefore grown, "Vedomosti" reported on 1 November. According to the newspaper, the number of people with a monthly income exceeding 2,000 rubles ($72) has almost doubled in a year, from 18.5 percent to 35.2 percent. In addition, in September the average monthly income was 2,192 rubles, which is 30 percent higher than a year ago. The daily notes that members of the "real middle class" can be found mainly in Moscow; in that city, the number of mortgages has almost doubled from the level recorded this summer. The number of car loans remain few even in the capital, but "such lending programs have only been launched quite recently," the newspaper pointed out. JAC

CENTRAL BANK DECLARES FIRST STAGE OF BANKING REFORMS COMPLETE

"The first stage of restructuring [Russia's banking system], which involved the elimination of ineffectual banks, is over," Central Bank Deputy Chairperson Tatyana Paramonova declared on 1 November, Interfax reported. She continued, "Today, but for a few exceptions, [Russia] does not have banks that will have to be stripped of their licenses in accordance with existing legislation." She added that the Central Bank is preparing for further reforms leading to the revival of financial markets, the development of a banking supervision infrastructure, and the introduction of international accounting standards. Regarding the latter measure, she said that six Russian commercial banks have launched a pilot program for meeting international accounting standards. Also on 1 November, Sberbank President Andrei Kazmin revealed that foreign shareholders own 15 percent of the shares in Sberbank. Overall private shareholders own a 43 percent stake in the bank. JAC

THIS YEAR'S GRAIN HARVEST RESULT TO BE ANNOUNCED 15 NOVEMBER

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev announced on 1 November that Russia has collected some 71 million tons of grain. That amount will be lower after the grain has been cleaned and dried, and final harvest results will be made known on 15 November. Last year's grain harvest totaled 54.7 million tons. Also on 1 November, State Duma deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) and Agrarian party leader Mikhail Lapshin told reporters that the countryside has achieved a success this year "under difficult conditions," since it continues to face a shortage of machinery, fuel, and fertilizers. JAC

FSB NABS CRIME GROUP--AT LOCAL POLICE STATION

Federal Security Service (FSB) officers in Tula Oblast have detained members of a criminal group, the majority of whom are policemen. The group itself is headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Nikolai Volkov, the chief of the Kamenskii Raion police department, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 1 November. The policemen will be charged with banditism. JAC

ANOTHER KEY BUSINESS LEADER RUNS FOR GOVERNOR

Following in the footsteps of former Sibneft head and State Duma deputy (independent) Roman Abramovich, who recently announced his plans to seek the governorship in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Norilsk Nickel General Director Aleksandr Khloponin declared his candidacy for the governorship of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 November. Like Chukotka, Taimyr is a sparsely populated region in the Far North. Taimyr is home to Norilsk Nickel, which is the world's largest producer of nickel. Besides being the area's chief employer, Norilsk Nickel is also the area's main polluter and has caused widespread environmental damage to the region. Incumbent Governor Gennadii Nedelin has not yet declared his intention with regard to the election, scheduled for 28 January 2001. JAC

HEATING SUPPLIES CUT TO NORTHERN CITIES

Russian agencies reported on 1 November that 37 people died in October in Moscow of hypothermia, while as many as 98 were diagnosed with that malady as well as with frostbite. Most of those who froze to death were homeless people, the authorities suggested. Meanwhile, in the northern Republic of Komi, residents of Syktyvkar and Vorkuta are without heat as temperatures at night dip to minus 13 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) in Syktyvkar and minus 20 degrees Celsius in Vorkuta, RFE/RL's Syktyvkar correspondent reported on 1 November. Vorkuta authorities owe the local electricity supplier about 500 million rubles ($18 million), which is three times the city's annual budget. Currently, two other cities in Komi are facing electricity cut-offs. JAC




U.S. CALLS FOR CONTINUATION OF ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI TALKS

After meeting in Yerevan on 1 November with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Stephen Sestanovich, who is adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State on the Newly Independent States, said "there is no substitute" for the dialogue begun 18 months ago between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he also warned that it is "too early" to expect "a breakthrough" in the peace process, although he conceded that new policy initiatives may be possible following the 5 November Azerbaijani parliamentary elections. Sestanovich said that to his knowledge, no agreement has been reached between the two countries on resolving the conflict by means of an exchange of territory. Kocharian's political opponents have accused him of secretly negotiating such a deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May and 19 October 2000). But Sestanovich said that no ideas that could lead to a settlement should be ruled out. LF

TWELVE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES BACK MUSAVAT

Twelve Azerbaijani opposition parties, including the conservative wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP), issued a statement in Baku on 1 November calling on the electorate to vote for the Musavat Party in the 5 November parliamentary ballot, Turan reported. It is unclear whether they also agreed to withdraw their own candidates in single-mandate constituencies which Musavat candidates are contending. Five other small extra-parliamentary parties called on 1 November for a boycott of the poll, according to Turan. LF

PROSECUTOR CALLS FOR LENGTHY SENTENCES IN AZERBAIJANI EMBEZZLEMENT TRIAL

Prosecutor Behbet Ismailov on 1 November called for jail sentences of 10-12 years for former Ministers of Foreign Economic Relations Rauf Garaev and Hafiz Babaev and for 14 other persons accused with them of embezzling oil products worth $30 million in 1992-1993, Turan reported. Former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev is said to have master-minded those thefts (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 15, 14 April 2000 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2000). Giving testimony in September, Garaev rejected the charges as unfounded and absurd. LF

GEORGIA UNVEILS DRAFT ANTI-CORRUPTION MEASURES

Georgian newspapers on 1 November published the new draft anti-corruption program prepared by a special commission headed by Supreme Court chairman Lado Chanturia, Russian agencies reported. The draft analyzes the causes of widespread corruption and outlines measures intended to eradicate it, focusing on corruption within the police and cracking down on tax evasion. In an introduction to that document, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said corruption threatens to undermine the foundations of Georgia's statehood and described the struggle against it as one of his top priorities. Commentators fear the program will target primarily "survival corruption" by low-level officials who demand small bribes to feed their families and that senior officials who have illegally acquired large sums will be required at best to pay back taxes and at worst to resign, according to Caucasus Press. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISITS TO DENMARK, SPAIN

Visiting Copenhagen on 25-26 October, Nursultan Nazarbaev met with representatives of the oil company A.P. Moellez which is negotiating to supply oil rigs to the international OKIOC consortium, operating in Kazakhstan's sector of the Caspian, Interfax reported. A Danish company also has a stake to develop an oilfield in Aqtobe in western Kazakhstan. Nazarbaev also met with Queen Margarethe II, Prime Minister Poul Rasmussen, and parliamentary speaker Ivar Hansen. In Madrid on 30-31 October, Nazarbaev held talks with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on expanding bilateral economic cooperation and on the prospects for Spanish investment in Kazakhstan. Agreement was reached on the sale of two Spanish express trains that will link Almaty and Astana. Nazarbaev also met with King Juan Carlos I. LF

SAUDI DELEGATION VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

A delegation from Saudi Arabia led by Deputy Prime Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul al-Aziz Al Saud held talks in Astana on 1 November with President Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The talks focused on construction projects in which the Saudi government will invest, including a hospital in Almaty. An agreement was signed whereby the Saudi Development Fund will provide a low-interest $12 million loan toward building a stretch of the main Almaty-Astana highway. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER IGNORES PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S SUMMONS

Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin told journalists on 1 November that Akezhan Kazhegeldin failed to comply with a summons to appear at Khitrin's office, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Khitrin had announced last month the opening of a fourth criminal investigation against the former premier, who has lived abroad since early 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). Amirzhan Qosanov, who is deputy chairman of Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL that Kazhegeldin has not received any summons from Khitrin. He added that it would be dangerous for Kazhegeldin to return to Kazakhstan as the charges against him are politically motivated. Kazhegeldin was detained on arrival in Moscow in September 1999 at the request of the Kazakh authorities and held for several days before being released and allowed to leave the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 20 September 1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN MAY PARDON RUSSIAN 'SEPARATISTS'

Viktor Kartashkin, who heads Russian President Vladimir Putin's Human Rights Committee, told journalists in Moscow on 1 November that a visiting Kazakh delegation told him last week that the 12 Russians sentenced by a Kazakh court in June on charges of planning to establish an autonomous Russian republic on Kazakh territory may soon be released, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2000). Some Russian officials suggested the charges against those men had been fabricated. LF

MORE CRITICISM OF KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL

The Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, whose chairman Ramazan Dyryldaev is in self-imposed exile in Vienna, issued a statement on 1 November saying that the outcome of the 29 October poll, in which Askar Akaev was re-elected Kyrgyz president, was falsified and that Akaev violated the Kyrgyz constitution by running for a third presidential term, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The statement said the poll outcome "cannot be celebrated." On 31 October, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights sent an open letter to President Akaev expressing concern at the detention or arrest of 12 election campaign staff of opposition candidates. LF

POLICE DISPERSE PROTEST IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

Police in the southern town of Djalalabad forcibly dispersed some 200 people who tried to enter the local administrative building to demand the annulment of the outcome of the presidential poll, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Five of the protesters were detained. In Bazar-Korgon, several hundred people continued for the third consecutive day to block the main Bishkek-Osh highway to protest the election result. They insist opposition candidate Omurbek Tekebaev was the real winner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). LF

KYRGYZ MOSQUES TO BE REREGISTERED

Djolbors Djorobekov, who heads Kyrgyzstan's government commission on religious affairs, said in Bishkek on 1 November that all the country's estimated 1,300 mosques must be reregistered with the Ministry of Justice next year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The qualifications of all imams will also be evaluated. LF

TURKMENISTAN RESUMES GAS SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE

In accordance with an agreement signed during Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's visit to Ashgabat last month, on 1 November Turkmenistan resumed supplies of natural gas to Ukraine, AP reported. Turkmenistan is to supply 5 billion cubic meters this year at a cost of $38 per 1,000 cubic meters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2000. LF

ADB TO FUND UZBEK RAILWAYS MODERNIZATION

The Asian Development Bank has approved a $70 million loan to Uzbekistan to finance the modernization of the 341-kilometer rail link between the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, Interfax reported on 1 November. The bank had provided a similar $70 million loan two years ago for modernization of the railroad sector linking the Kazakh town of Chingeldy and Samarkand. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS LIBYA, NOTES 'SIMILAR POSITIONS'

Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripolis on 1 November. "There is no obstacle standing in the way of cooperation between our countries because the two enjoy a free will," Reuters quoted Gaddafi as saying. "Cooperation with Libya is very easy because of our similar positions," Lukashenka responded. According to Interfax, Lukashenka assured Gaddafi that Minsk is ready for "large-scale economic cooperation" with Tripolis, adding that Belarus "has everything necessary for developing such cooperation in various directions." JM

BELARUSIAN POLICE DISPERSE RALLY TO COMMEMORATE 'FOREFATHERS'

Police on 1 November dispersed a rally in Hrodna, northwestern Belarus and arrested some 30 people from the opposition Belarusian Popular Front who were marking All Saints Day, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 1 November. In Belarus, the 1 November is called Dzyady--the Day of the Forefathers. JM

UKRAINE TO STEP UP DEVELOPMENT OF 'EURASIAN OIL TRANSPORT CORRIDOR'

The Council of National Security and Defense announced at its 1 November sitting, chaired by President Leonid Kuchma, that the government's performance in diversifying energy supplies and in completing the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline has been unsatisfactory, Interfax reported. The council noted that the Odesa oil terminal and the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline are an important component of the "Eurasian oil transport corridor." It proposed "a number of economic and political measures to strengthen Ukraine's role in the Eurasian oil transport corridor," including the creation of an international consortium to complete the Odesa-Brody pipeline. JM

CHORNOBYL NOT TO BE CLOSED BY 15 DECEMBER?

The Council of National Security and Defense also recommended on 1 November that "appropriate ministries and government bodies" check the technical condition of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and study "possibilities for supplying fresh nuclear fuel to the plant in the next few months," Interfax reported, quoting "sources close to the [council]." Premier Viktor Yushchenko commented later the same day that this recommendation was made at a "working discussion level." Ukraine previously pledged to close the Chornobyl plant by 15 December. Meanwhile, Fred Higgs, secretary-general of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions, said in Kyiv the same day that the union will help raise at least $135 million to provide social protection for those who lose their jobs owing to the Chornobyl closure. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MULLS PRIVATIZATION OF GAS PIPELINES

The Supreme Council on 1 November debated a bill proposing the privatization of Ukraine's gas transport system, Interfax reported. The bill, submitted by deputy speaker Stepan Havrysh and lawmakers from four caucuses, calls for selling shares in the state company Ukrtranshaz--the owner of the network of some 36,000 kilometers of gas pipelines and underground gas repositories in Ukraine. According to the bill, the state is to retain 50 percent plus one share in Ukrtranshaz. Havrysh estimates that the value of the country's gas transport system may be $28.7 billion. Premier Viktor Yushchenko said the previous day that the government opposes the bill and considers leasing the gas transport system to international partners to be a better option. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 2001 BUDGET IN FIRST READING

The Supreme Council voted by 268 to eight with 22 abstentions on 2 November to back the 2001 draft budget in the first reading. The draft budget is balanced. The parliament simultaneously ordered the cabinet and the parliamentary Budget Committee to include proposals from lawmakers into the draft and submit it for a second reading by 16 November. JM

U.S. OFFERS $400,000 FOR INTERNET DEVELOPMENT IN UKRAINE

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual and U.S. Coordinator for Assistance to the Newly Independent States William Taylor announced on 1 November that their government is offering $400,000 in grants next year to develop Internet sites for free public use in Ukraine, Interfax reported. The grants will be distributed among 12-14 winners of a competition to establish Internet access sites at Ukrainian libraries. They will cover the costs of computer equipment and software, connection to the Internet, as well as expenditures on training and telecommunications. JM

BELGIAN SENATORS EXAMINE ESTONIA'S PREPARATION FOR EU

In talks in Tallinn with Estonian parliamentary deputies belonging to the European affairs and foreign affairs committees, three members of the Belgian upper house, Guy Moens, Jacques Devolder, and Josy Dubie, gathered information about Estonia's social and economic conditions, BNS reported on 1 November. They discussed Russia's opposition to the expansion of NATO to the Baltic states and asked about the size of the Estonian defense budget. They noted that it is important that on joining the EU each candidate country should be able to offer economic and social guarantees comparable to those of EU members. SG

LATVIA TO REQUEST TRANSITION PERIOD TO IMPLEMENT EU AGRICULTURAL POLICY

The Latvian government has approved the Agriculture Ministry's stance in EU accession negotiations that Riga request transition periods to implement various union policies, LETA reported on 1 November. Latvia will ask for a transition period until 1 January 2005 to meet requirements to keep slaughterhouses in good condition in order to provide for their optimization and modernization and to form enterprises for the processing of low-risk meat products. It will ask to be given until 1 January 2006 to guarantee the protection of animals during their transportation and until 1 January 2010 to reconstruct and develop livestock farms in compliance with EU requirements. SG

LITHUANIA TAKES LEAP FORWARD IN ECONOMIC FREEDOM INDEX

Lithuania has made the largest leap forward of any country included in the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom in the index's seven-year history, Radio Lithuania reported on 1 November. The annual index ranks the world's economies according to 50 economic variables in 10 broad categories such as banking and finance, capital flows and foreign investment, monetary policy, fiscal burden of government, trade policy, wages and prices, and government intervention in the economy. Lithuania leaped from 61st last year to 42nd position this year among the 155 countries evaluated. The main reason for its improved ranking is the government 's ambitious private-sector development program and reduced government spending. While trailing Estonia (in 14th place), the most successful of former communist countries, it was ahead of neighboring Latvia (46th), Poland (54th), Russia (124th), and Belarus (146th). SG

POLAND 'NOT SURPRISED' BY GAZPROM-EU BYPASS PIPELINE PLAN

Premier Jerzy Buzek told the 2 November "Gazeta Wyborcza" that the Polish government is "not surprised" by the agreement between Gazprom and European firms to make a feasibility study of a gas pipeline linking Russia's Yamal peninsula with Europe while bypassing Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 2000 and also today's Part 1). Buzek added that Warsaw will have a say when it comes to determining "routes and methods of gas transit." "Nothing will be decided about us without us," Buzek added. The daily said that Yevhen Marchuk, chief of Ukraine's Council of National Security and Defense, is to visit Warsaw on 2 November to inform Polish officials about decisions made by the council the previous day (see items above). "Gazeta Wyborcza" added that Ukraine is ready to lease to Gazprom "a small oil pipeline" that crosses the Ukrainian-Slovak border at Dolina. JM

CZECHS, AUSTRIANS TO HOLD MORE TALKS ON TEMELIN...

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel met late in the evening of 31 October in Zidlovchovice to try to resolve their dispute over the Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. The two agreed to hold further discussions on the Czech plant and to involve the EU to ensure its safety. To that end, Prague announced that its officials will meet with Austrian officials on 2 November, CTK said. But Zeman made clear that he is not prepared to close the plant, as many Austrians have demanded. PG

...PROMPTING VARIOUS REACTIONS

Austrian opponents of the Temelin plant announced on 1 November that they are not satisfied by the results of the Zeman-Schuessel meeting and will resume blocking border crossings between the two countries, CTK reported. Other Austrians expressed their support for what they called the "Europeanization" of the question of the future of the Temelin plant, the Czech agency reported. But Czech Civic Democratic Party leader and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus said on 1 November that he is appalled by what he called "the unnecessary and false Europeanization" of the Temelin issue, CTK reported on 1 November. PG

NEW CZECH JUSTICE MINISTER TO TAKE OVER IN FEBRUARY

Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky announced on 1 November that Jaroslav Bures, who has presided over the High Court in Prague, will become the new justice minister in February 2001, CTK reported. The delay reflects Czech legislation, which requires judges to wait three months before assuming such a political position. Rychetsky himself has taken over the post of acting justice minister since the resignation of Otakar Motejl. PG

GOVERNMENT CALLS FOR ETHNIC MINORITIES COUNCIL

The Czech government on 1 November approved draft legislation that would set up a new government Council for Ethnic Minorities, Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky told CTK on 1 November. By taking this step, the cabinet thus met another key element of the Council of Europe's framework convention on the rights of ethnic minorities. PG

CZECH BISHOP REMEMBERS SUDETEN GERMANS

Brno Bishop Vojtech Cikrle on 1 November called for reconciliation at a memorial near Pohorelice for those who died during the May 1945 expulsion of 20,000 ethnic Germans from the region, CTK reported. PG

CHARGES FILED AGAINST CZECH PUBLISHER OF 'MEIN KAMPF'

The Prosecutor-General's Office has filed charges against the publisher of the Czech-language version of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" for supporting and promoting movements that seek to suppress the rights and freedoms of citizens, "Pravo" reported on 1 November, according to CTK. If convicted, Michal Zitek could face up to eight years in prison. Zitek said that he expects to be exonerated in what he called a "political" case but added that if he loses, he will appeal to the European human rights court in Strasbourg. PG

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER CELEBRATES SPECIAL TIES WITH PRAGUE

Eduard Kukan told CTK on 1 November that relations between the Slovak government of Mikulas Dzurinda and the Czech government of Milos Zeman have dramatically improved ties between the two countries and improved the lives of Czech and Slovak citizens. He made his comments in advance of Zeman's sixth visit this year to Bratislava on 2 November. PG

ROBERTSON SAYS NO NATO EXPANSION BEFORE 2002

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said in Budapest at the 46th congress of the International Federation of Atlantic Councils that the alliance will not admit any new members before the 2002 summit, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 1 November. Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told the meeting that it is very important that an independent European defense system be developed to supplement NATO. PG




YUGOSLAVIA ADMITTED TO UN

The General Assembly of the UN approved by acclamation Yugoslavia's application to join the international organization, Reuters reported. Goran Svilanovic, an envoy of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, declared the raising of the Yugoslav flag outside UN headquarters in New York as a "very touching moment for everyone living in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia...thank you for this very bright moment of history in our country." Svilanovic is slated to become Yugoslavia's next foreign minister. The former Yugoslavia was a founding member of the UN in 1945, but in 1992 the UN ruled that rump Yugoslavia was not allowed to "continue automatically the membership of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" but had to rejoin, as did Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said "this is indeed an historic day for the UN...we welcome Yugoslavia as the United Nations' newest member." PB

SERBIAN PRESS HAILS UN ENTRY

Reaction in newspapers in Serbia hailed Yugoslavia's entry into the UN on 2 November. The daily "Politika" ran a headline saying "We Are Part Of The World Again," and argued that "the most credit for the rapid return to the world organization goes to the new Yugoslav leader, who has been in place as head of state for a little over three weeks." Another daily, "Vecernje Novosti," stated "We Have Returned To The UN." In Montenegro, the press was more muted. The daily "Pobjeda" had no story on the event, while another daily, "Vijesti," had a report on page two headlined "FRY Now Officially In The United Nations." The daily "Dan" stated that Montenegro should have its own seat at the UN. PB

DJINDJIC SAYS AGREEMENT MADE ON SERBIA-MONTENEGRO 'ASSOCIATION'

Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia bloc and a senior aide to Yugoslav President Kostunica, said on 1 November that an agreement has been reached with Montenegrin officials on a new relationship between Montenegro and Serbia, RFE/RL reported. Djindjic said a concept has been established for what he called "a common association of Serbia and Montenegro." He said the association will serve the people of both republics "as a single government." Djindjic said "I'm very satisfied that Serbia and Montenegro finally agreed on certain reasonable fundamentals without heightened emotions and without being mesmerized by the moment. We agreed on two things--the priorities at present and the priorities of the future organizations of our common state." PB

YUGOSLAV DEFENSE COUNCIL RECONVENES

Yugoslavia's Supreme Defense Council, which oversees the country's military, met on 1 November in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, Reuters reported. The meeting was chaired by Yugoslav President Kostunica, and attended by Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, Army chief of staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic, and the secretary to the Supreme Defense Council, Slavoljub Susic. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, an indicted war criminal, was reportedly absent for health reasons. A statement released after the meeting said the council "analyzed the current political and security situation in Yugoslavia and the economic situation of the Yugoslav army." It added that the "general security situation" in the country "is getting better and more stable, despite certain [unspecified] negative trends" (see also "End Note" below). PB

SERBIAN MINISTERS WARN OF HYPERINFLATION

Boris Milacic, a co-finance minister in Serbia's transitional government, said on 1 November that Belgrade must act quickly to prevent its high inflation rate from turning into hyperinflation, Reuters reported. Milacic said that inflation in October was 26.4 percent and that "it has pushed the annual inflation level already to 70 percent. If this trend continues, we will have hyperinflation like in 1993, which we all want to forget." Inflation seven years ago reached 60 percent a day. Trade Minister Milorad Miskovic said the government is "drawing up emergency measures to halt the prices and improve supply." PB

MONTENEGRO TO ESTABLISH OWN CENTRAL BANK

The Montenegrin parliament voted on 1 November to set up its own central bank, AP reported. The bill, drafted by the Montenegrin government in the summer, was approved by 37 deputies with seven abstentions. Most opposition deputies were not in the chamber when the vote took place, and objections may be raised to the law as it was not passed by an absolute majority. There are 78 seats in the parliament. PB

ETHNIC ALBANIAN ACTIVIST FREED FROM SERBIAN PRISON

Flora Brovina, a doctor, poet, and human rights activist from Kosova, was released from prison in Pozarevac on 1 November on orders from Yugoslav President Kostunica, dpa reported. Upon reaching Kosova, Brovina kissed the ground as she was welcomed by cheering ethnic Albanians. She said "I know that the war is over but until the moment that all [the Kosovar Albanians] who are in a Serbian jail are released, I cannot see freedom." Brovina, 50, spent 18 months in jail on terrorism charges after being arrested in Prishtina in May 1999. The UN's Kosova administrator, Bernard Kouchner, welcomed her release and called on Kostunica to "release all ethnic Albanian political prisoners who remain in Serbia." Eleven others were released along with Brovina; between 700 and 1,000 are thought to still be jailed in Serbia. PB

BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL DENIES ORDERING EXECUTIONS

Prosecutors at the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague presented an audio tape during the trial of Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic on 1 November that allegedly has the general ordering a subordinate to kill Muslims in the Srebrenica area immediately after thousands of men and boys were executed by Serbian forces, Reuters reported. "Kill each and every one...do not leave a single one alive," says a voice, identified as Krstic's, during a telephone conversation with another officer that was intercepted by the Bosnian army on 2 August 1995, around the time of the reported mass executions. Krstic called the tape "a total fabrication" and said he never ordered the summary execution of Muslims. Krstic has been on the witness stand for two weeks. He is charged with genocide. PB

HUNGARIAN, ROMANIAN PREMIERS MEET AT BORDER

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met with his Romanian counterpart, Mugur Isarescu, at a border post in Romania, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 1 November. The two discussed a possible compromise over the level of Romanian tariffs imposed on Hungarian meat exports. PG

PETROMIDIA OIL REFINERY PRIVATIZED--AGAIN

The Romanian State Property Fund (FPS) on 1 November signed an agreement selling the Petromidia Navodari oil refinery to the Rompetrol Group BV Rotterdam company, "Cotidianul" reported. FPS sold 70 percent of the Petromidia shares for $50.5 million, while Rompetrol took over the $340 million debt of the refinery and promised to invest $225 million to modernize it. Rompetrol is owned by Dutch and Swiss investment companies. FPS Chairman Radu Sarbu said the contract provides for canceling the sale should the new owner violate the agreement. Petromidia was previously sold to the Turkish Akmaya Group but that agreement was later cancelled. ZsM

NEW MILITARY ASSOCIATION CAUSES CONTROVERSY IN ROMANIA

A National Association of Military Personnel has been established by 28 active and retired soldiers in a bid to "form a strong belief in [Romanian] society in order to prevent corruption, anti-social and anti-national acts, and a decrease in crime." The association's members include former Army Chief of Staff Mircea Chelaru, who resigned from that post on 31 October, chief of the police academy General Costica Voicu, and two other generals from the Defense Ministry. However, a Defense Ministry press release says that "on account of its goals and objectives," the ANMR infringes on the Military Personnel Statute, while an Interior Ministry press release said that the ministry does not recognize the ANMR. ZsM

POPE DONATES MONEY FOR ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

Senior Romanian Orthodox clergy said on 2 November that Pope John Paul II has donated $100,000 toward the construction of a huge Orthodox cathedral in Bucharest that will accommodate up to 2,000 people, AFP reported. The pope made the donation shortly after his historical visit to Romania in May 1999. Construction of the cathedral is expected to begin later this year or early next year in downtown Bucharest. Construction costs are estimated at $100 million. ET

MOLDOVAN PENSIONERS DEMONSTRATE FOR MORE ASSISTANCE

Some 2,500 pensioners gathered on 1 November in front of the government building in Chisinau to demand that the government increase their monthly payments and provide them with free public transportation, Infotag reported on 1 November. They shouted down Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis, despite his promises to seek additional funds to meet their demands. And they announced that they will stage additional protests if their demands are not met by 5 December. PG

DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST AMENDMENTS TO BULGARIA'S DRAFT LABOR CODE

Some 5,000 demonstrators rallied in Sofia to protest draft changes in the country's labor legislation that many workers feel will reduce their rights, AP reported on 1 November. Meanwhile, hundreds of railway workers staged a demonstration to demand a 15 percent rise in their average monthly salary of 203 leva ($88). PG




KOSTUNICA AND DJUKANOVIC HOLD TALKS IN PODGORICA


By Jolyon Naegele

Yugoslavia's Supreme Defense Council on 1 November convened for the first time since Vojislav Kostunica succeeded Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslav president last month. The council had last convened two years ago, and this was the first time ever in the council's eight-year history that a meeting was held in Podgorica.

The Supreme Defense Council consists of the federal president, the Serbian and Montenegrin presidents, the federal defense minister, and the army chief of staff. But only Kostunica, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, army chief of staff Nebojsa Pavkovic and the council's secretary, General Slavoljub Susic, attended the meeting.

Since the federal government is still being formed--Prime Minister-designate Zoran Zizic says he expects a cabinet to be confirmed by 4 November--Yugoslavia has no defense minister yet. The Serbian government was formed last week, but it is in deadlock after two pro-Djukanovic deputy prime ministers, Nebojsa Covic and Spasoje Krunic, stormed out of a cabinet session on 31 October over the refusal of pro-Milosevic Socialist Party members to dismiss the country's state security chief, Rade Markovic.

Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who is vice president of Milosevic's Socialist Party, did not attend the 1 November meeting, on grounds of ill health. But Milutinovic faces a war crimes charge by the UN's Hague tribunal and may not have wanted to risk arrest.

A statement released by Kostunica's office after the meeting said the council "analyzed the current political and security situation in Yugoslavia and the economic situation in the Yugoslav Army." It added that the council "noted that the general security situation in the country--after the recent democratic changes in Serbia--is becoming increasingly stable," despite what it termed "certain negative trends," which it did not specify.

The main Montenegrin daily, "Vijesti," reported on 2 November that Djukanovic made several demands at a 30 October a preparatory meeting in Podgorica with the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), including Kostunica's campaign manager, Zoran Djindjic. Those demands included the dismissal of the Yugoslav army command, including General Pavkovic and the commander of Yugoslav troops in Montenegro, General Milorad Obradovic, and the dissolution of the Yugoslav Seventh Battalion, a paramilitary unit that he says was preparing to seize power in Montenegro in the final months of Milosevic's rule. Quoting "unnamed sources close to military circles," "Vijesti" reported that Djukanovic and Kostunica on 1 November took no concrete decisions owing to Milutinovic's absence.

Reuters quoted an unnamed source "close to Kostunica's backers" as saying that DOS had unanimously demanded from Kostunica on 31 October to replace Pavkovic with General Momcilo Perisic. Pavkovic led the Yugoslav Third Army in Kosova last year, while Perisic led the Serbian shelling of Mostar in 1992 before becoming Milosevic's chief of staff until 1998. He currently heads the Movement for a Democratic Serbia, a member of DOS.

The Belgrade daily "Blic" reported on 1 November that Djindjic said he and Djukanovic had agreed that the issue of Serbian-Montenegrin relations will not be dealt with until further democratization has been achieved in Serbia. "No definite solution can be made as long as we have the remainders of Milosevic's regime in our institutions," Djindjic is quoted as saying. Early legislative elections in Serbia are scheduled for 23 December, and Djindjic says he agrees with Djukanovic that the discussions on the Serbian-Montenegrin relationship should begin early next year and be conducted through institutions.

Djindjic offered further details in an interview with RFE/RL on 1 November. "I'm very satisfied that Serbia and Montenegro finally agreed on certain reasonable fundamentals without [the need for] heightened emotions and without being mesmerized by the moment," he said. "We agreed on two things: present priorities and the priorities for the future organization of our common state."

Djindjic went on to say that "a concept has to be established for a common association of Serbia and Montenegro that would have a maximum of practicality and serve citizens as one government quickly responding to their needs." He also dismissed suggestions that personal rivalries will play a role in any such association: "Certainly, this is not an issue of our interpersonal relations but rather of the general level of democracy and the resolution of certain key issues."

In an interview with Montenegrin state television on 31 October, Djukanovic stressed his belief that "the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a fiction." He said that he does not see that "it is in the interest of Serbia and Montenegro to shroud their statehood in some sort of Yugoslav construction." He called for a looser association of the two republics, to be named the "Alliance of the States of Serbia and Montenegro."

Djukanovic also expressed disappointment that Yugoslav authorities proceeded to reapply for membership in the UN without consulting the Montenegrin leadership. He suggests Montenegro and Serbia should have separate seats in the world body and that each should have what he calls its "own international legitimacy." Both republics, he says, have a "historical right" to independence and, according to Djukanovic, "[both] have been functioning as independent states for several years."

The UN General Assembly on 1 November admitted the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a new member. It had barred Yugoslavia from occupying its seat at the UN since 1992 as a result of the violent breakup of the country. The red-star flag of Titoist Yugoslavia, however, had continued to fly at UN headquarters in New York until 1 November, when it was replaced by the star-less Yugoslav tricolor. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


XS
SM
MD
LG