Accessibility links

Newsline - November 3, 2000




BEREZOVSKII CLAIMS HE'S READY TO BECOME POLITICAL MARTYR...

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 2 November, Boris Berezovskii called his latest summons to the Prosecutor-General's Office to answer questions in the Aeroflot case "political blackmail" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). Berezovskii drew attention to the fact that he is supposed to report to the prosecutor's office on the same day as Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii, concluding that this coincidence illustrates "the same policy of trying to intimidate those who have influence in the mass media." Berezovskii declared that he is ready to go to jail but only when it is made clear that the case against him is primarily political. "Kommersant-Daily," a newspaper in which Berezovskii owns a controlling interest, argued that the new charges stem from an attempt by the prosecutor's office to regain its position and avert proposed legal changes to its status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). JAC

...AS GUSINSKII REPORTED NOT LOOKING FOR POLITICAL ASYLUM

"Kommersant-Daily" also suggested that once negotiations between Media-MOST and Gazprom over the latter's debt to the former are concluded, the "matter will be quietly dropped." Media-MOST issued its own statement on the summons of 1 November, insisting that the new charges against its head "don't hold up any more than charges against Gusinskii in relation to the Russian Video case, which were dropped for lack of evidence." On 22 November, a Moscow court will consider a suit by Gusinskii against Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov for defamation, Interfax reported. Kolmogorov had sent a letter to State Duma deputy (Unity) Aleksandr Gurov last summer saying that detectives have proven that Gusinskii engaged in criminal activities. A Media-MOST spokesman on 2 November denied reports that Gusinskii is asking for political asylum in the U.K. or anywhere else. Gusinskii has dual Israeli-Russian citizenship. JAC

MEDIA MINISTRY SAYS NEW MEDIA LAW TO BE READY THIS MONTH...

In an interview with "Vremya novostei" on 2 November, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said that his ministry will finish work on the new law on the media at the end of this month. At that point, the ministry hopes to conduct a roundtable and seminars on the law at which journalists can participate in preparing the legislation. He stressed that work on the law will not be conducted in secret. Lesin added that he agrees with some of those people who say that they do not think the ministry will be necessary in the future, but he noted that will be the case only after the completion of the process of forming a mass media market. JAC

...AS SECURITY COUNCIL HEAD SAYS FOREIGN, DOMESTIC MEDIA TO HAVE EQUAL CONDITIONS

In an interview with "Vek" on 3 November, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov gave more details about his views on the council's information security doctrine. On the issue of foreign-owned media, he noted that the "doctrine calls for identical rules of the road for Russian and foreign media. Why does, for example, Radio Liberty have the right to unlimited broadcasting in Russia, while [government] Radio Mayak does not have similar rights in the United States?" He added that "a total of 38 electronic and 66 hard-copy media are registered in Russia in which foreign legal entities have invested or are among the founders," while "as many as 1,157 foreign publication have obtained permission to distribute their products in this country." JAC

STRATEGIC ROCKET FORCES TO RETAIN PRESENT STATUS TILL AT LEAST 2006

In his interview with the 3 November "Vek," Security Council Secretary Ivanov also said that the Strategic Rocket Forces will remain a separate branch of the armed forces for at least another six years. "A possible change in the [forces'] status will be considered only after 2006," he said. At the same time, Ivanov noted that over the next six years the forces' arsenal will decrease as missiles are decommissioned. Earlier this year, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin had engaged in a public battle over the fate of the Strategic Rocket Forces. Sergeev was in favor of leaving the forces' status intact, while Kvashnin wanted the forces to be merged with armed forces in order to save scarce funds (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000). Putin had ordered the Security Council to decide the matter. JC

SUPREME COURT REJECTS RUTSKOI'S APPEAL

The federal Supreme Court on 2 November upheld a regional court's ruling that barred Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi from seeking re-election in last month's ballot (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000). The lower court had found Rutskoi guilty of failing to declare all his property and of abusing his office during the election campaign. Following the Supreme Court ruling, Rutskoi said he does not doubt that Russian media claims "that special plans have been worked out for removing unwanted governors are absolutely true." He added that he will appeal to the presidium of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Kursk Oblast main federal inspector Viktor Surzhikov and State Duma deputy (Communist) Aleksandr Mikhailov are to take part in the 5 November run-off for the Kursk governorship. Surzhikov, a former KGB agent, is widely regarded as the Kremlin's favorite in the ballot. JC

DIVERS BEGIN WORK ON ENTERING SUB'S FOURTH COMPARTMENT

Russian Navy Commander Vladimir Kuroedov on 2 November halted work on the third compartment of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine, deeming it too dangerous for divers to enter, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, divers have begun cutting a hole into the fourth compartment. Northern Fleet spokesman Vladimir Navrotskii was quoted as saying that information about the state of the third and fourth compartments is vital for making a decision on how to raise the submarine next year. Some observers have suggested that the recovery operation is now focused on retrieving sensitive equipment rather than the bodies of the 118-strong crew (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). JC

COURT TURNS DOWN REQUEST TO SUMMON KEY WITNESS'S WIFE IN POPE TRIAL

The Moscow City Court on 2 November turned down a request by the defense in U.S. businessman Edmond Pope's espionage trial that the wife of Anatolii Babkin, who is accused of handing over classified information to Pope, be summoned as a witness. The prosecution had earlier claimed that Galina Babkina is an "imposter," but reports did not elaborate. According to AP, a woman identified as Babkin had appeared on NTV on 1 November saying that her husband, whose case was suspended on health grounds, has given testimony to the Federal Security Service (FSB) under duress. Meanwhile, the court rejected the request that Pope be examined by independent doctors or that U.S. Embassy officials be allowed to attend the trial. Earlier this week, the trial had been adjourned after Pope, who has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer, complained of acute joint pains (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). JC

FORMER FSB OFFICER REQUESTS ASYLUM IN LONDON

Aleksandr Litvinenko has requested political asylum in the U.K., saying that he fears the FSB may be seeking to kill him to prevent him from revealing information, including on last year's apartment bombings in Moscow. Litvinenko gained notoriety in 1998 when he claimed that an FSB deputy department head had tasked him with killing Boris Berezovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998). He was fired from the FSB the following year and has been the subject of three criminal cases in Russia, one of which is still pending. JC

RUSSIA RESUMES GAS SUPPLIES TO YUGOSLAVIA

Gazprom has resumed supplying gas to Yugoslavia, an official from the company announced on 2 November. That announcement comes less than a week after Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica was in Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. According to a statement released by Gazpromexport the same day, Yugoslavia will receive 4.2 million cubic meters of Russian gas daily until the end of this year and has been granted a Russian government loan to pay for those supplies, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 2 November, Moscow welcomed Yugoslavia's re-acceptance into the UN (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). JC

KASYANOV SIGNS TRADE DEALS IN BEIJING

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his Chinese counterpart, Zhu Rongji, met in Beijing on 3 November and signed several agreements covering trade and diplomatic relations, ITAR-TASS and dpa reported. Among other bilateral deals signed on that day was one providing for a feasibility study for a gas pipeline from Irkutsk to China. During his visit, Kasyanov was expected to discuss with Chinese officials the sale of a Russian airborne warning and control system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). Reuters reported from Beijing on 3 November that a Russian embassy official confirmed Russian media reports that Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who travelled to China ahead of Kasyanov, had said Russia and China are discussing the sale of an undisclosed number of A-50 planes. Also on 3 November, Kasyanov met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other Chinese leaders. JC

RUSSIA NOT DODGING ANY ISSUES WITH JAPAN, SAYS PUTIN

At a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Yuhei Kono in Moscow on 2 November, Russian President Putin stressed that Moscow is not dodging any problem in its relations with Japan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told NTV later the same day. Specifically, Ivanov said that Moscow will further examine issues linked to the outstanding peace treaty officially ending World War II hostilities between Japan and Russia. In 1997, Russia and Japan had committed themselves to concluding that treaty by the end of 2000--a deadline that is unlikely to be met. Kono, for his part, told Putin that the two sides should seek to find new approaches to resolving the dispute over the Kuril Islands, which has been the main stumbling block to the peace treaty. Kono is scheduled to meet with Ivanov on 3 November. JC

WILL RUSSIA JOIN THE OIC?

The Russian Foreign Ministry "is considering" a proposal by the Muslim Refah (Welfare) movement that Russia join the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Interfax reported on 2 November. Interfax quoted Mufti Sheikh Nafigulla Ashirov as saying that membership in the OIC would facilitate Russia's efforts to mediate in the Mid-East conflict. He said Libya has promised to support a Russian bid for membership of the OIC. LF

PUTIN LEAVES HIS MARK ON NORTH KOREA

North Korea has issued a series of postage stamps commemorating the historic visit of President Putin to Pyongyang last July, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 November. The stamp was issued in a series, together with ones honoring the summit between the two Koreas and the meeting of the leaders of North Korea and China. JAC

INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS CRIME RATE EASING

Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said on 2 November that the number of grave or extremely grave crimes fell 9 percent during the first nine months of 2000 compared with the previous year, Interfax reported. During the same period, the number of crimes overall slipped 3 percent. Kidnappings plunged 25 percent and crimes involving the use of firearms dropped 20 percent, ITAR-TASS reported. Despite the positive news, Rushailo concluded that it is "premature to talk about the stabilization of the criminal situation in the country." The problem of corruption persists, he continued, and economic crimes cost the country some 32 million rubles ($1.1 million). JAC

SCIENTISTS WARN OF ECOLOGICAL CATASTROPHE IN SIBERIAN REGION...

Russian and U.S. environmental groups have discovered dangerous levels of radioactivity in the Tom and Romashka Rivers near the site of a former secret nuclear weapons development plant in Tomsk Oblast, AP reported on 2 November. A report by the U.S.-based Government Accountability Project said the magnitude of beta activity in the River Tom is "staggering." Fish taken from the area showed levels of radioactivity 20 times above normal. According to the website lenta.ru, scientists from the Russian and U.S. groups believe that the rivers could cause serious damage to the health of local residents. Elena Pashchenko, chairwoman of Siberian Scientists for Global Responsibility, told reporters in Washington that Tomsk Oblast already is showing signs of an approaching ecological catastrophe. The incidence of cancer among children is higher in that oblast than in surrounding regions. JAC

...AS QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT SOURCE OF RADIOACTIVITY IN LOCAL RIVERS

The U.S. and Russian groups link the radioactivity to the former secret city of Tomsk-7, or Seversk, but argue that the levels of radioactivity are so high that they cannot come from a nuclear power plant or have been generated in normal reprocessing, according to AP. Instead, they suggest the possible presence in Seversk of "an unacknowledged nuclear weapons grade reactor or a giant nuclear accelerator," the agency reported. JAC

BASHKORTOSTAN COURT TURNS DOWN YABLOKO APPEAL

Bashkortostan's Supreme Court on 2 November rejected an appeal by Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and two Yabloko party members Dmitrii and Marina Khrustalev, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. The Yabloko members had appealed an earlier decision by a lower court imposing an 800,000 ruble ($29,000) fine for distributing election materials that defamed Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov. Yabloko's lawyer, Vladimir Suvorov, commented that the case established a dangerous precedent, so much so that no activist of any political party or public organization can feel safe distributing printed materials that criticize local authorities. Yabloko can appeal to the federal Supreme Court. JAC

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" on 25 October incorrectly reported that according to Oleg Shchepin of the Academy of Medical Sciences, in 1999 the average life span for men fell by one year to 65.5 years. This should have read that the average life expectancy in 1999 for both men and women was 65.5 years, which represented a decrease of one year. In 1999, men lived on average 59.8 years, according to Shchepin.




ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES MULL FURTHER CHARGES AGAINST VARTANIAN

Detained businessman and 21st Century foundation leader Arkadii Vartanian may be charged with calling for the overthrow of the country's leadership, Armenian Interior Minister Hayk Harutiunian told journalists in Yerevan on 2 November. Vartanian has organized a series of demonstrations across the country over the past month, culminating in an unsanctioned rally in Yerevan on 30 October in which some 10,000 people who marched to the presidential palace to demand the resignation of President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). Vartanian, who is a Russian citizen, was subsequently detained by police for 10 days. Harutiunian argued that Vartanian's arrest was justified as he had been warned not to convene an unsanctioned protest and had agreed not to do so. AP quoted Harutiunian as saying 17 of Vartanian's supporters have also been sentenced to prison terms of between seven and 15 days. But the left-wing Union of Socialist Forces that backs Vartanian estimated the number of people arrested at 33. LF

ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST POWER CUTS TO INDEPENDENT TV TRANSMITTER

The National Press Club on 1 November issued a statement deploring all restrictions on journalists and actions to disable television transmitters, Noyan Tapan reported. The statement was presumably prompted by the 30 October cutoff to the transmitter that airs Noyan Tapan's television news, shortly before exclusive footage showing Vartanian's arrest was to be broadcast. Power supplies to the transmitter were resumed only after 24 hours. LF

U.S. FUND INAUGURATES 'ALTERNATIVE' PRINTING PRESS IN ARMENIA

The Eurasia Foundation inaugurated a printing press in Yerevan on 1 November that is intended to provide independent publications with an alternative to state-controlled publishing facilities, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. The printing press is located at the Gind publishing company and will give it the technical capacity to print all Armenia's newspapers. LF

TWO AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES DENIED PERMISSION TO HOLD PRE-ELECTION MEETINGS

Two Azerbaijani opposition parties, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party and Musavat, have been refused permission to stage meetings in Baku on 3 November, the last day of campaigning before the 5 November parliamentary poll, but the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party has been granted permission to do so, Turan reported. The ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party will stage a pop concert in the capital. In an internet discussion sponsored by the independent daily "Ayna/Zerkalo" on 2 November, Gudrat Hasankuliev, who is the opposition secretary on the Azerbaijan Central Electoral Commission, said the election campaign "falls short of European standards" (see also "End Note" below). LF

U.S. DEPLORES CENTRAL ASIAN STATES' LACK OF COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY

A resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on 1 November notes the tendency of Central Asian leaders to manipulate elections to remain in power indefinitely and urges them to comply with their OSCE commitments to protect human rights and freedoms, including media freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. It encourages the U.S. administration to raise with the OSCE the possibility of excluding from that organization any state that "engages in clear, gross and uncorrected violations of its OSCE commitments." It also advocates an increase in VOA and RFE/RL broadcasting to the countries of the region to provide the population with "unbiased news." LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OFFERS TO HOST TALKS ON AFGHAN SETTLEMENT

Meeting in Astana on 2 November with visiting Saudi Deputy Prime Minister Prince Sultan ibn Abdul Aziz al-Saud, Nursultan Nazarbaev said he is ready to host peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S NATIONAL BANK RULES OUT MONETARY EMISSION

National Bank Chairman Georgii Marchenko told journalists in Astana on 2 November that the bank will not need to print money to cover the 30 percent increase in government sector salaries that is to take effect on 1 January, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. LF

U.S. EXPRESSES DISAPPOINTMENT OVER KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL...

In a written statement released on 2 November, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. is "disappointed that the conduct of the...election in Kyrgyzstan did not meet international standards," Reuters reported. He said the overall conduct of the poll "denied the people of Kyrgyzstan the right to exercise their vote in a free and fair political contest." The Kyrgyz government newspaper "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" printed an interview on 2 November with presidential adviser Askar Aitmatov, who conceded that isolated procedural violations and interference by local officials had taken place during the 29 October ballot. But echoing other senior Kyrgyz officials, he added that the OSCE's criticism of those shortcomings was overly severe. LF

...AS PRESIDENT THANKS ELECTORATE FOR RE-ELECTING HIM...

Speaking on national television on 1 November, Askar Akaev thanked the Kyrgyz people for re-electing him, adding that he is glad the ballot was not marred by serious irregularities or quarrels, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said his top priority now is to expedite and expand the lagging reform process, according to Interfax. On 1 November, Akaev travelled to Osh Oblast to meet with residents and thank them personally for voting for him. But he did not visit the neighboring Djalalabad Oblast, where protests took place from 30 October to 1 November against the poll outcome. The last protests in Djalalabad ended on 1 November after defeated candidate Omurbek Tekebaev appealed to the participants and police released several detained participants. LF

...AND OPPOSITION WARNS OF SERIOUS UNREST

Members of the press service of former Vice President Feliks Kulov's opposition Ar-Namys Party told Interfax on 2 November that the party is receiving numerous complaints from voters dissatisfied with the official results of the presidential poll. They said that in some regions of the country voters "are ready to take to the streets" in protest, as they have done in Djalalabad. Ar-Namys appealed to the population not to take any actions that are illegal or could destabilize the political situation. LF




BELARUSIAN DEMOCRATS TO PROPOSE SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE?

The Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces on 2 November adopted a resolution positively assessing the boycott of last month's legislative elections, Belapan and RFE/RL's Service reported. Only Social Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich, who unsuccessfully ran in the ballot along with several of his party colleagues, voted against the resolution. Statkevich said both the authorities and the opposition "lost the elections." The council also announced it will propose a single democratic candidate to challenge Alyaksandr Lukashenka in next year's presidential elections. Last month, a civic initiative called "Election-2001" also pledged to propose and promote a democratic candidate to challenge the incumbent president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2000). JM

BELARUSIAN NON-STATE JOURNALISTS ASK FOR INTERNATIONAL HELP

The Belarusian Association of Journalists has appealed to international organizations to send monitors to Belarus to look into the media situation in the runup to next year's presidential ballot, Belapan reported on 3 November. The association fears that most of the country's independent media outlets may be closed by January 2001, when all economic entities are obliged to re-register under a presidential decree. "Many are unable to re-register because the process lacks a clear legal framework. In addition, the central and local authorities have created a lot of bureaucratic barriers to prevent the newspapers from re-registering," the association said in a statement, adding that the situation of Belarus's independent media is "critical." JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER THREATENS TO RESIGN OVER ENERGY SECTOR CONTROVERSY

Viktor Yushchenko on 2 November threatened to resign over a report by Council of National Security and Defense chief Yevhen Marchuk saying that the government presented "unreliable" data on the situation in the energy and fuel sector, Ukrainian media reported. "If my mission here [as prime minister] is determined to be ineffective, then let it be undertaken by someone else," Interfax quoted Yushchenko as saying. Marchuk maintains that the government overstated the level of cash revenues in the energy sector as well as the amount of fuel stored for the upcoming winter. Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko previously claimed to have raised the level of cash payments to some 70 percent in the energy sector. According to Marchuk, a large part of the revenues was made up of credits granted by banks to state enterprises under pressure from the government. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS IMMUNITY OF EMBEZZLEMENT SUSPECT

The parliament on 2 November voted by 268 to three to lift the immunity of lawmaker Viktor Zherdytskyy, former chief of the Kyiv-based Gradobank, Interfax reported. The decision allows the Ukrainian authorities to demand Zherdyskyy's extradition from Germany, where he was detained last month on charges of embezzling 86 million marks ($38 million) from a German compensation fund for Nazi victims in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko told the parliament that an investigation has proved that in 1995 Zherdytskyy embezzled 4 million marks. Potebenko, however, did not indicate if the embezzlement pertained to the German compensation fund. JM

EFFORTS TO OUST TALLINN CITY GOVERNMENT FAILS

The opposition coalition formed last month in Tallinn's City Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000) was unable to muster the 33 votes needed to oust Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois and City Council Chairman Rein Voog, BNS reported on 2 November. The no-confidence motions against Mois and Voog were supported by 24 and 23 deputies, respectively; there were no votes cast against because the ruling coalition of the Pro Patria, Reform Party, and Moderates and other deputies left the chamber before the vote. Mois apparently gained the support of the Russian-speaking factions People's Choice and People's Trust by offering them two deputy mayor posts and two borough head positions. SG

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS AMENDMENTS TO BUDGET

By a vote of 79 to 12 with one abstention, lawmakers on 2 November passed amendments to the 2000 budget that stipulate increasing the budget deficit up to 3.2 percent of GDP, LETA reported. Those amendments provide for 2 million lats ($3.2 million) to be allocated for the purchase of a new embassy building in Washington. Other expenditures include 819,000 lats for the purchase of equipment for tapping mobile phones and increases of 228,000 lats for higher-education institutions and of 300,000 lats for health care. SG

LITHUANIA DETAILS PROGRESS ON EU BID TO AMBASSADORS

Klaudijus Maniokas, director general of the Europe Committee, on 1 November updated EU ambassadors residing in Vilnius on Lithuania's preparation for EU membership as well as its objectives and priorities, BNS reported. Maniokas said that Lithuania has made considerable progress, especially in structural reform and bringing legislation into line with EU norms. He added that for this reason he believes the European Commission's annual progress report on Lithuania, scheduled to be released on 8 November, should be more positive than in previous years. SG

POLAND NOT TO INVEST PUBLIC MONEY IN BYPASS OIL PIPELINE

Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff on 2 November said Poland does not plan to invest public funds in a planned new gas pipeline from Russia to Western Europe, PAP reported. He added that the budget will therefore not benefit from this project, Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Poland would receive $1 billion annually for the transit of gas via a pipeline that might bypass Ukraine. Steinhoff noted that Moscow's statements on Poland's possible profits from the bypass pipeline project are "premature." He said the government has created favorable conditions for Polish private businesses, adding that they might show interest in the planned project. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT PROPOSES CHANGING LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES

Vaclav Havel on 2 November proposed to the Constitutional Court modifying the country's law on political parties so that it creates a level playing field for all groups rather than benefiting the larger parties relative to the smaller ones, CTK reported. Civic Democratic Party (ODS) head and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus responded that Havel's proposal represents an attack on the country's current political arrangements, according to the Czech agency. Klaus said the country can afford to have only a few parties and not the large number that Havel seems to prefer. PG

TEMELIN CONTROVERSY CONTINUES

Austrian anti-nuclear activists continued to block more border crossings between Austria and the Czech Republic to protest the continued operation of the Soviet-designed Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that if these blockades do not end on 6 November "at the latest...this would very seriously threaten or practically prevent" him from visiting Vienna. Meanwhile, Germany's Environmental Minister Juergen Trittin told his Czech counterpart, Milos Kuzvart, that Berlin would never have approved starting up the Temelin reactor, dpa reported. PG

CZECH MINISTERS CLASH OVER EXTENDING URANIUM MINING

Environmental Minister Milos Kuzvart on 2 November criticized as "absolutely unacceptable" a proposal by Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr to extend uranium mining until 2003, CTK reported. Gregr said the mining would prove economically beneficial to the country. But Kuzvart said that uranium sales do not even cover the expenses involved in mining the metal. PG

CHARGES TO BROUGHT IN PRAGOBANK CASE?

Prague's "Pravo" on 2 November said that the government may bring charges against outgoing Central Bank Governor Josef Tosovsky, former head of the National Property Fund Roman Ceska, and Freedom Union parliamentary deputy Ivan Pilip for their alleged role in the collapse of Pragobanka, CTK reported. PG

CZECH ANTI-DRUG CENTER TO BECOME INDEPENDENT

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross told CTK on 2 November that the National Anti-Drug Center will become an independent police organization at the beginning of 2001. At present, the center is subordinate to the organized crime department of the police. Gross suggested that the center's independence would make it even more effective in the fight against illegal drugs. PG

CZECH-SLOVAK TIES SAID TO BE 'WITHOUT PROBLEMS'

Following a meeting in Bratislava with Czech Premier Milos Zeman, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told CTK on 2 November that "Czech-Slovak relations are developing without problems and are very good." The two said they are working to make it easier for citizens of each country to cross the joint border. Meanwhile, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, that Prague wants to help Slovakia become a member of NATO as soon as possible, the Czech news agency reported. PG

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER'S PARTY ATTACKS PLANS TO REVERSE AMNESTIES

Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) sharply criticized the current Slovak government on 2 November for proposing to reverse amnesties that Meciar granted to several people--including those involved in the 1995 kidnapping of the Slovak president's son--while he was in office, CTK said. Such a reversal could, the HZDS said, "even lead to dictatorship." PG

JEWISH CEMETERY VANDALIZED IN BUDAPEST

Some 30 Jewish gravestones were vandalized in the Hungarian capital on 2 November, Jewish community leaders told AP. The damage to the stones was put at 5 million florints ($16,000). PG

FORMER HUNGARIAN PEACEKEEPER CONVICTED

Lieutenant Colonel Gyula Papp was found guilty on 2 November of abuse of authority, fraud, and forgery while serving as commander of Hungary's peacekeeping contingent in Kosova, AP reported. But he was cleared of charges of theft and dereliction of duty. Papp announced that he will appeal the ruling. PG

MEMORIAL CROSS, STATUE VANDALIZED IN HUNGARY

"Magyar Hirlip" reported on 2 November that five high school students have vandalized a wooden cross memorial in Budapest. In an unrelated development, unknown persons poured red paint on the statue of Mihaly Karolyi, prime minister and president of Hungary before the 1919 communist takeover. PG




MONTENEGRO TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON INDEPENDENCE NEXT YEAR

The Montenegrin government said on 2 November that it will hold a referendum on the Yugoslav republic's status by June 2001, dpa reported, citing Montenegrin state television (RTCG). Officials from the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), the Social Democratic Party, and the People's Party told RTCG that they will complete preparations for the poll by the end of this year. People's Party President Dragan Soc, who has publicly opposed calls by Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic's government for independence, confirmed that the three parties will begin preparing for a referendum. Miodrag Vukovic, the DPS chairman, said that Montenegrins will decide the future course of the republic only after an association agreement with Serbia is reached. PB

NEW SERBIAN GOVERNMENT STILL DEADLOCKED...

Reform members continued their boycott of Serbia's transitional government on 2 November after members loyal to former President Slobodan Milosevic refused to dismiss Rade Markovic, the head of the secret service, AP reported. Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) bloc, said the DOS will not participate in the government until Markovic is removed. Djindjic said Markovic is a "main symbol of the old regime." He added that there still exists a "Department for Internal Enemies" within the state security office. "Markovic wants to stay to cover his tracks. We have information that for three days people from state security were destroying evidence," Djindjic said. "But there are eyewitnesses. You can't burn or shred them." Elections to a new Serbian parliament are to be held on 23 December. PB

...AS YUGOSLAV PREMIER-DESIGNATE FINALIZES FEDERAL CABINET

Zoran Zizic has reportedly completed the lineup for his proposed federal government, Reuters reported on 2 November. Zizic read out his proposed cabinet at a meeting of the executive board of his Socialist People's Party in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica. That government would be made up of 16 ministers, most of them allies of President Vojislav Kostunica. The Yugoslav parliament is expected to meet in Belgrade to vote on the government on 4 November. Among the proposed members are Goran Svilanovic as foreign minister, Miroljub Labus as deputy premier for foreign economic affairs, Mayor of Nis Zoran Zivkovic as interior minister; and Montenegrins Dragisa Pesic and Slobodan Krapovic as finance and defense ministers, respectively. PB

YUGOSLAV ARMY CHARGES PRISON GUARDS WITH EXTORTING MONEY FROM KOSOVAR ALBANIANS

A Yugoslav army prosecutor charged eight military police and a former army officer on 2 November with extorting money from Kosovar Albanian prisoners, AP reported. The nine are accused of breach of duty as prison guards and extortion while working at the army jail in Nis. They were arrested in September. An indictment claims that Miodrag Trajkovic led the extortion activities, providing prisoners with mobile phones so that they could call their families to ask them to send money so that the prisoners' terms would not be extended. Trajkovic allegedly extorted some $7,000 from the prisoners, as did his main accomplice, Nikola Sekulovic. The trial is to start within one month. PB

MILOSEVIC ALLY QUITS SOCIALIST PARTY

Dusan Matkovic, a close ally of former President Milosevic, said on 2 November that he has quit the Socialist Party and all posts he held within it, AP reported. Matkovic was a member of the Socialist Party's executive committee. A Socialist Party congress is to be held on 25 November. PB

SERBIAN ELECTIONS TO BE HELD IN KOSOVA?

A NATO official said on 2 November that the UN administrator for Kosova, Bernard Kouchner, must decide soon if Serbian parliamentary elections will be held in the Serbian province as well, Reuters reported. Observers say the decision will go far in determining Kosova's future status: an independent state, a Yugoslav federal republic with autonomy, or a province of Serbia (which is its current status). A decision to hold the elections in Kosova will anger ethnic Albanians, while not allowing the ballot to be held there will make Serbs in Kosova and the rest of Serbia unhappy. The Serbian elections are to be held on 23 December. The NATO official said Kouchner will make the decision after consulting with Yugoslav President Kostunica. PB

TUDJMAN'S DAUGHTER CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION

Croatian police have raised corruption charges against Nevenka Tudjman, the daughter of former President Franjo Tudjman, dpa reported on 2 November. A police spokesman said Tudjman is charged with using her "position in society" to ensure that her friend, Igor Knezevic, was the chief supplier of Alcatel telephone switchboards to the Ministry of Science and some other companies and institutions. Knezevic is alleged to have received large bribes from those companies, which he shared with Nevenka Tudjman. He is also alleged to have given her some $300,000. Nevenka Tudjman, 48, denies the charges. An investigating judge will now examine the charges before deciding whether to prosecute. PB

SWITZERLAND TO HELP CROATIA REGAIN STOLEN FUNDS

Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss told visiting Croatian President Stipe Mesic on 2 November in Zurich that Swiss officials will help Croats track down government funds that were embezzled from the country over the last decade, dpa reported. Deiss also said Switzerland is willing to freeze the Swiss accounts of Croatian citizens suspected of economic crimes. Many believe that former President Tudjman and his associates stashed millions of dollars of state funds in bank accounts around the world. Former Tourism Minister Ivan Herak went on trial in Croatia last month on charges of embezzling some $200,000 in funds marked for the reconstruction of a hotel. PB

REPORT: DOZENS OF PEOPLE LINKED TO WAR CRIMES HOLD PUBLIC OFFICE IN BOSNIA

A report by the International Crisis Committee (ICC) says that five years after the end of the Bosnian war, some 75 people linked to war crimes are in elected office or positions of authority in the Republika Srpska, AP reported on 3 November. The list includes mayors, police officers, and members of the Bosnian Serb parliament. The ICC says UN documents and witness testimony implicate many of those officials in "war crimes, like mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and mass rape" or in the running of prison camps. The report says none of the 75 has been publicly indicted by the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, probably because the court currently lacks the resources to draw up cases against them. It adds that some could be on the list of secret indictees. PB

CDR 2000 LEADER CALLS FORMER MEMBERS 'DESERTERS' AND 'TRAITORS'

At the campaign rally for the Romanian Democratic Convention 2000 (CDR 2000) in Bucharest, chairman Ion Diaconescu called former CDR members "deserters," "traitors," and "swindlers," Mediafax reported. Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, an independent candidate for Romania's presidency who is supported by the CDR 2000, thanked the alliance for "not deserting in difficult times." President Emil Constantinescu also made an appearance, expressing his full support for Isarescu and calling him the "president of development." Constantinescu accused the current coalition partners of criticizing "their own government and the premier" during the electoral campaignZsM

WAS ROMANIAN ARMY CHIEF'S DISMISSAL A GESTURE TOWARD NATO?

A 1 November report by the U.S. Stratfor intelligence consulting firm states that Romanian Army Chief of Staff General Mircea Chelar's resignation the previous day shows the degree to which the country wants to join NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). Stratfor sees Chelaru's dismissal as an indication of the "desperation and fragility of Romania's efforts to gain NATO entry." Although President Constantinescu argued that Chelaru's resignation was accepted "to avoid any misinterpretation [on]...the exercise of democratic control over the armed forces," Constantinescu's real reason was to avert a misinterpretation of the situation by NATO, the Stratfor report said. ZsM

MOLDOVAN BORDER POLICE WITHDRAWN FROM ROMANIAN FRONTIER

The Moldovan government on 2 November suspended the activities of frontier police at all border crossings between Moldova and Romania, AP Flux reported. Police officials complained that the government's action violated the law that requires that the Interior Ministry police be involved on the border. PG

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENT ON 1 DECEMBER

Lawmakers have voted to elect the country's president on 1 December, Infotag reported on 2 November. Candidates must secure the support of at least 15 parliamentary deputies to be nominated; to be elected, the next president must receive three-fifths of the votes in the 101-strong parliament. Moldovan Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin announced on 1 November that he will not run for that office, BASA-Press reported. PG




WILL AZERBAIJANI ELECTIONS CONFIRM WORST-CASE SCENARIO?


By Liz Fuller

On 5 November, the Azerbaijani electorate will go to the polls to elect a new parliament. But few people believe the ballot will be free, fair, and democratic. Opposition Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, for example, told RFE/RL on 31 October that "the Azerbaijani people and international community know that Heidar Aliev's government is trying to falsify the elections."

Observers do not doubt that the official election returns will give the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) an overall majority of the 125 mandates. That party is headed by President Heidar Aliev, and its election campaign is being spearheaded by his son Ilham, who is being groomed to succeed to the presidency. Ilham Aliyev heads YAP's list of candidates to contest the party list seats and will almost certainly be elected speaker of the new legislature.

In the hope of preventing a repeat of the massive falsification that marred both the 1995 parliamentary elections and the 1998 presidential poll. the Azerbaijani opposition suggested early this year that the UN should oversee the November parliamentary ballot. When the UN said it could not do so without an invitation from the Azerbaijani leadership, the opposition drafted its own election legislation, which the parliament refused to consider.

In the early summer, the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights consulted with both the Azerbaijani authorities and the opposition and succeeded in persuading the former to accept some of its proposed amendments to the legislation aimed at minimizing the potential for fraud. But in a report released earlier this week, Human Rights Watch described the new election legislation as less democratic in many respects than the laws it superseded.

The beginning of the election campaign was overshadowed by the arrest in late August of Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the newspaper published by the opposition Musavat party, on charges of involvement in a plane hijack, planning a coup, and illegal weapons possession. (He was released on bail in late September after countless protests from the international community.)

In late August, the Supreme Court ruled that the article of the election law excluding parties that registered with Justice Ministry less than six months before the announcement of the elections was unconstitutional. That decision paved the way for the participation in the ballot of former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev's the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan. But the Central Electoral Commission (the majority of whose 18 members are loyal to the authorities) initially registered only five parties wishing to contest the 25 seats to be allocated under the proportional system: Yeni Azerbaycan, the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party, the Civic Solidarity Party, the Communist Party, and the "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. (The last-named party split into two wings, reformers and conservatives, in August, shortly before its chairman, former President Abulfaz Elchibey, died of cancer.)

In early October, in response to calls by the OSCE and the U.S. State Department to register the Democratic and Musavat Parties, President Aliyev instructed the Central Election Commission to register those two parties as well as six others that had initially been barred from contesting the party list seats. Aliyev also said he would instruct the commission to register all candidates who wished to contest the 99 single mandate constituencies (no voting is taking place in the 100th constituency, Nagorno-Karabakh).

But local election commissions, whose members are appointed by the Central Election Commission, registered only 409 of more than 1,000 would-be candidates. And of those 409, only 25 percent or so represent opposition parties, while 140 are members of Yeni Azerbaycan and 149 are nominally independent but approved by the Azerbaijani leadership. Human Rights Watch has listed numerous examples of refusals by local election commissions to register opposition candidates.

Unlike in 1995, however, many voters have held rallies in recent weeks to protest such decisions by local election officials. And opinion polls suggest that such measures may have undermined support for Yeni Azerbaycan. The findings, released earlier of this week, of two such polls suggested that Musavat is the most popular political party with some 28 percent support, while Yeni Azerbaycan is in second place with 20 percent.

Assuming those findings are accurate, they are nonetheless unlikely to be reflected in the poll outcome. Official returns are likely to give Musavat less than the minimum 8 percent of the party list vote needed to qualify for representation under the proportional system and thus leave Gambar, who heads Musavat's party list, outside the new legislature. Opposition politician Matlab Mutallimli, the head of a committee to defend the rights of would-be candidates who were refused registration, has even claimed that the results of the poll have been determined in advance, and he published a list of names of those deputies to be "elected" in the 99 single-mandate constituencies. A similar list made public on the eve of the 1995 poll proved almost 100 percent accurate.


XS
SM
MD
LG