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Newsline - November 6, 2000




RUSSIA STREAMLINES ARMS EXPORT AGENCIES

President Putin on 4 November fired the heads of Russia's two remaining arms export agencies, Rosvooruzhenie chairman Aleksei Ogarev and Promexport's Sergei Chemezov, and amalgamated the two bodies into a new agency named Rosoboroneksport, which will be headed by Chemezov's former deputy Andrei Belyaninov, Reuters and AP reported. Promeksport had been created on Putin's orders in April this year by merging two arms export agencies, Promeksport and Russian Technologies. Those two agencies, together with Rosvooruzhenie, had in turn been formed on the basis of a decree issued by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin in August 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 1997). Reuters quoted Ogarev as having said last month that Rosvooruzhenie's exports in 2000 will total $2.95 billion and that its portfolios of foreign orders exceed $10 billion. LF

KASYANOV DISCUSSES AWACS DEAL WITH CHINESE OFFICIALS...

Interfax on 3 November quoted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov as saying that during his talks with Chinese officials in Beijing, the possible sale to China of Russian A-50 early warning aircraft was discussed. He noted that such a deal was considered earlier at both "expert and ministerial level" and will continue to be discussed. Last week, Russian media had reported that Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov had been discussing the sale of an undisclosed number of A-50 airplanes ahead of Kasyanov's trip to the Chinese capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 3 November 2000). Kasyanov left Beijing on 4 November. JC

...AS KLEBANOV FORESEES BIG INCREASE IN RUSSIAN-CHINESE TRADE

Speaking to journalists in Beijing on 3 November, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov predicted that China and Russia could boost their trade turnover to $20-25 billion annually over the next five years, compared with an expected $7 billion this year, Interfax reported. Klebanov noted that such an increase would depend on the implementation of the economic deals signed by Prime Minster Kasyanov the same day in Beijing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000). The deputy premier added that Russia and China may sign a number of major arms accords in late November or early December. He did not state, however, whether those deals would include the sale of A-50 planes to China. JC

KREMLIN CANDIDATE LOSES KURSK RACE...

Three regional elections took place on 5 November, and according to preliminary results, only one incumbent appears likely to have won. Magadan Oblast Governor Valentin Tsvetkov was re-elected, having won 62.8 percent of the vote with some 92 percent of the ballots counted, Interfax reported. His main rival, State Duma deputy (Russia's Regions) Vladimir Butkeev, had only 14.18 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, in a run-off election in Kursk Oblast, where incumbent Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi was recently barred from taking part in the ballot, State Duma deputy (Communist) Aleksandr Mikhailov appeared to have triumphed over Federal Security Service General Viktor Surzhikov; according to a regional election commission official quoted by ITAR-TASS on 6 November, Mikhailov won 55.5 percent of the vote and Surzhikov 37.9 percent. Surzhikov reportedly had the backing of the presidential administration. JAC

...AS KALININGRAD GOVERNOR TRAILS ADMIRAL

In Kaliningrad Oblast, Baltic Fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Yegorov was leading with some 38 percent of the vote, compared with only 18.4 percent for incumbent Governor Leonid Gorbenko, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November, citing preliminary results announced by the regional election commission. Yegorov is widely seen as being the Kremlin's choice in that election. A run-off will take place on 19 November. JAC

POPE TRIAL CONTINUES IN FITS AND STARTS

The espionage trial of Edmond Pope was adjourned for the second time in a week on 4 November after the defendant again complained of joint pains (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). The same day, Kremlin doctors carried out what Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, called an unsolicited medical examination of Pope, who has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer. According to Interfax, those doctors concluded that Pope's cancer remains in remission and he is well enough to take part in the trial. Astakhov told journalists that only the court is authorized to order a health check on the defendant, which it had not done. The trial resumed on 4 November, when Pope's request to be allowed to vote in the 7 November U.S. presidential elections was turned down. Further hearings will not take place until 8 November, after the 7 November public holiday in Russia. JC

DIVERS ENTER SUNKEN SUB'S FOURTH COMPARTMENT...

Russian divers on 6 November entered the fourth compartment of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, which sunk in the Barents Sea in August during maneuvers. The previous day, divers had entered that section of the vessel but had found their work hampered by poor visibility and the risk posed by debris obstructing their movements. The fourth compartment served as living quarters for the crew; at the time of the explosions that rocked the submarine, no more than 12 people are likely to have been there, according to Interfax. Of the 12 bodies recovered so far, 10 have been identified. JC

...AS NAVY COMMANDER STICKS TO FOREIGN SUB THEORY

Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov told Interfax on 3 November he is "certain" that the "Kursk" disaster was caused by a collision with a foreign submarine. He said that he is in possession of "certain facts" but has "insufficient proof" for the time being. However, "proof does not only lie on the sea bed," he added without elaborating. Kuroedov said that he will defend his position at the 8 November session of the government commission investigating the reasons why the "Kursk" sank. Last week, "Zhizn" and "Novaya gazeta" both reported that the "Kursk" had been hit by a "Vodopad" underwater torpedo fired by the Russian warship "Petr Velikii." But "The Moscow Times" on 4 November quoted Russian and Western experts as dismissing that theory. Several weeks after the disaster, the "Berliner Zeitung" had reported that that a Granit missile fired from "Petr Velikii" sank the "Kursk" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). JC

PUTIN TINKERS WITH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

President Vladimir Putin has submitted to the State Duma draft legislation amending the law on the Constitutional Court to extend judges' terms and eliminate the age limit, "Izvestiya" reported on 3 November. According to the daily, judges' terms would be lengthened from 12 years to 15 years, while the mandatory retirement age of 70 would be abolished. The latter provision would benefit current Court Chairman Marat Baglai, who will be 70 next year. The newspaper, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, suggested that Baglai is loyal to the government and to the president. Also loyal is Justice Tamara Morshakova; she, too, is nearing the retirement age. Some analysts have suggested that Putin is eager to revise the constitution; this fall the State Duma is scheduled to consider a draft law on convening a new constitutional assembly. JAC

BEREZOVSKII GIVEN TWO-DAY REPRIEVE?

Boris Berezovskii has been summoned to appear at the Office of the Prosecutor-General on 15 November, an unidentified source close to Berezovskii told Interfax on 4 November. Earlier, a deputy prosecutor announced that Berezovskii would be summoned to appear on 13 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). Meanwhile, hearings in the lawsuit filed against Media-MOST by Gazprom Media were postponed until 14 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. According to the agency, the two sides need more time to work on the text of a reconciliation agreement; a Gazprom Media spokesman told reporters that Media-MOST was reportedly not satisfied with the agreement presented to the court on 3 November. Media-MOST press spokesman Dmitrii Ostalskii said earlier 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 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). JAC

JAPAN SAYS RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIA STAGNATING

In an interview with "Segodnya" on 3 November, Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono was unusually outspoken in his assessment of Russian-Japanese relations and opportunities for Japanese investment in Russia. He told the daily that "Russian-Japanese relations can be characterized by one word: stagnation." He explained that over the past few years, Japan has given Russia $6 billion in loans and investment and is ready to continue doing so, but "Moscow must demonstrate its political will and make a contribution to the development of our relations, as Japan has done." Kono also said that investing in Russia is almost impossible because of Russia's "tax system, lack of transparency in concluding contracts, and legal mechanisms [that] do not promote normal economic cooperation." After meeting with Kono on 3 November, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the two countries will broadcast television programs and publish books on the Kuril Island dispute in order to boost public support for a peace treaty, AP reported. JAC

MOSCOW DENIES PLANNING JOINT AIR STRIKES AGAINST AFGHANISTAN

There are no plans by Russia and the U.S. to launch joint air strikes against locations in Afghanistan where Saudi terrorist Usama ben Laden is suspected of hiding, Interfax reported on 4 November quoting an unnamed Russian diplomat. That source added, however, that Russia would consider its options if the current fighting in Afghanistan spills over on to the territory of Russia's allies. The previous day, a Russian diplomat had told a meeting at UN headquarters in New York of the Six Plus Two group of states charged with mediating in the Afghan conflict that the UN Security Council should impose further sanctions on the Taliban in retaliation for their "open support" of the illegal drug trade, Interfax reported. Speaking at a ceremony in Dushanbe on 5 November to mark the sixth anniversary of the Adoption of the Tajik Constitution, President Imomali Rakhmonov again said that there can be no military solution to the civil war in Afghanistan, and called on the international community to renew its efforts to mediate a peaceful settlement of that conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA INTERESTED IN OIC

Meeting with the foreign minister of Qatar, Haman bin Jasim bin Jabir al Thani, at the Kremlin on 3 November, Russian President Putin noted that the Organization of the Islamic Conference is of "great interest to Russia," according to Interfax. Putin made that remark after pointing out that for centuries Christians and Muslims have "lived together [in Russia] and achieved harmony in the building of a single state." Last week, Interfax reported that the Foreign Ministry is considering a proposal that Russia join the OIC. JC

TAX, CUSTOMS OFFICIALS TO COMPARE NOTES...

State Customs Committee Chairman Mikhail Vanin and Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev met on 4 November to discuss the creation of a single information system to be shared by the two agencies, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the news agency, the two officials also discussed ways to prevent illegal activities by companies and individuals engaged in foreign trade and to combat the practice of concealing income. The same day, State Duma Security Committee Chairman (Unity) Aleksandr Gurov told reporters that he favors the extension of a "financial amnesty" to woo back capital that has fled the country. He suggested that international institutions might serve as a guarantor for the amnesty since the "Russian people have been deceived many times and therefore are not used to trusting the authorities." JAC

...AS TAX POLICE CHIEF CALLS FOR EXPANDED POWERS

Tax Police head Vyacheslav Soltaganov told Interfax on 3 November that his agency should be transformed into a kind of financial intelligence service that "would monitor, among other things, payments, transactions with securities and real estate, check them against addresses, names, accounts, and types of commodities" and track any transaction exceeding $5,000 or $10,000. He added that the tax police should either be independent or work as a branch of the Finance Ministry or Central Bank. JAC

TOP DUMA OFFICIAL URGES REFORM OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES, PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE

State Duma Security Council Chairman (Unity) Aleksandr Gurov told reporters on 4 November that he favors a thorough reform of the country's law-enforcement system, calling it "unprofitable and too expensive for the country." He added that there is "parallelism and repetition" among the various agencies. He also stressed that the reform should affect not only the special services and the Interior Ministry but also prosecutors and the courts. Earlier, it was reported that a group of deputies has drafted legislation to overhaul the Office of the Prosecutor-General (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). JAC

HIGH OIL PRICES CONTINUE TO BRING IN HEALTHY SURPLUSES

The federal budget surplus totaled 18.1 billion rubles ($651 million) in October, the Finance Ministry reported on 4 November, according to Interfax. October budget revenues totaled 96.8 billion rubles, while spending came to 78.8 billion rubles. The ministry attributed the surplus to higher-than-forecast prices for crude oil and other raw materials that Russia exports. JAC

RAIL FARES TO RISE

The Railways Ministry announced on 4 November that it will raise fares for passenger and freight transport by some 20 percent starting 1 December, ITAR-TASS reported. First Deputy Railways Minister Aleksandr Tselko said that the new rise is needed to finance repairs and the replacement of old passenger coaches and other outdated equipment. JAC




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES ECONOMIC UPSWING NEXT YEAR...

In an interview with Armenian state television on 2 November, Robert Kocharian said he understands the "unhappiness" of the Armenian population over widespread unemployment and delays in paying salaries and benefits, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But at the same time Kocharian expressed confidence that "we are going to have very serious economic growth," the benefits of which, he said, will be felt by April or May 2001. He predicted the creation of 40,000 new jobs as a result of investment by the World Bank and by U.S. billionnaire Kirk Kerkorian's Lincy Foundation in infrastructure projects. Kocharian appealed to the population to "wait a little more and everything will be all right." He warned that further political stability could deter foreign investment. Kocharian also proposed amending the existing election legislation to increase from the present 56 the number of parliamentary mandates allocated under the proportional system. LF

...BUT FAILS TO FORESTALL NEW PROTEST...

Ignoring Kocharian's appeal for patience, some 5,000 people attended a demonstration in Yerevan on 4 November convened by Union of Socialist Forces leader Ashot Manucharian to demand the president's resignation, Reuters reported. Manucharian has repeatedly accused the present leadership of being unable to solve the economic and social problems the country faces. Manucharian on 4 November again alleged that Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchian were shot dead in October 1999 because of their opposition to resolving the Karabakh conflict by means of a territorial exchange that would require Armenia to cede the southern district of Meghri (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). LF

...DOWNPLAYS TURKISH REACTION TO U.S. GENOCIDE RESOLUTION

Kocharian also said on 2 November that the Turkish government's outraged reaction to the U.S. Congress draft resolution on recognizing the Armenian genocide will have minimal impact on Armenian-Turkish relations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He noted that even before discussion of that resolution, the two countries had no formal diplomatic relations and that Turkey refused to open its border with Armenia. Kocharian and other Armenian leaders have repeatedly said that a dialogue with Ankara on the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey could facilitate the normalization of relations. But Abdulhalik Cay, who is Turkish minister of state with responsibility for relations with the Turcophone states of Central Asia, told journalists in Ankara on 3 November that Ankara will not embark on a dialogue with Armenia until the Armenian leadership abandons its efforts for recognition of the genocide and "withdraws from occupied Armenian territories," AFP reported. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY CLAIMS VICTORY IN PARLIAMENTARY POLL...

Shortly after polling stations closed on 5 November, Azerbaijan's ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) issued a statement claiming that between 60 percent and 80 percent of voters had cast their ballot in its favor, Turan and Reuters reported. Initial returns made public on 6 November, when 45 percent of the party list votes had been counted, showed YAP with 73.8 percent of the party list vote. According to those figures, no other party has surmounted the 6 percent minimum needed to win representation under the proportional system. The "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party had 5.03 percent, the opposition Musavat Party 4.59 percent, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) 3.67 percent, Communist Party 2.77 percent, the Civil Solidarity Party 2.16 percent, the Democratic Party 1.19 percent, and the Liberal Party 1.16 percent. Of 30 candidates reported to have been elected, 25 were on the list made public last month by Social Justice Party leader Matlab Mutallimli (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). Twenty of the 25 are members of YAP. Voter turnout was around 68 percent. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar rejected the official figures, telling Turan that Musavat monitors at more than 100 polling stations across the country calculated that his party garnered 60 percent of the vote. LF

...AS OPPOSITION, OBSERVERS DECRY MASSIVE FALSIFICATION

The leaders of the Musavat, Liberal, National Independence, and Popular Front Parties told journalists on 5 November that their monitors registered widespread procedural violations, including ballot-stuffing and refusal by local election officials to allow monitors to observe the voting. Gambar and AMIP deputy chairman Nazim Imanov spoke of "total falsification," as did a statement released by the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, which said the party will not recognize the official outcome of the poll as valid. Reuters quoted Gerard Stoudmann, head of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as saying that the OSCE's monitors registered ballot-stuffing and the refusal to allow observers access to polling stations at an unspecified number of precincts. A second, unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters on 5 November that there was little, if any, improvement over previous elections but that it is too early to say whether the falsification was so extensive as to determine the outcome of the ballot. LF

TURKEY, NAKHICHEVAN DISCUSS SIMPLIFYING BORDER CROSSING FORMALITIES

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz has held talks with leading officials of Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic on the possibility of simplifying procedures for persons wishing to cross the frontier between the two countries, Groong reported on 2 November citing a Turkish Foreign Ministry press release. They suggested that persons wishing to cross that border should be required only to produce an identity document and not a passport. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RULES OUT OIL SECTOR PRIVATIZATION

Heidar Aliyev said on 3 November that the country's oil industry is "too important" to be sold off to private investors, Interfax reported. He said it will remain under permanent state control. LF

RUSSIA BEGINS GAS SUPPLIES TO AZERBAIJAN

A spokesman in Baku for the Russian pipeline operator ITERA said on 4 November that the company has begun supplying natural gas to Azerbaijan following an agreement reached the previous day between ITERA and Azerbaijan's state oil company, Interfax reported. Under that agreement, ITERA will provide Azerbaijan with 217 million cubic meters of gas between now and 31 December 2000 at a cost of $48 per 1,000 cubic meters. The entire volume of Russian gas purchased will be used to fuel heating plants, thereby allowing Azerbaijan to sell the oil it extracts for hard currency. LF

RUSSIA REJECTS CRITICISM OF TRANSFER OF ARMORED VEHICLES FROM GEORGIA TO ARMENIA

The redeployment of 76 Russian armored vehicles from the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki, southern Georgia, to the Russian base in Armenia cannot and should not be construed as a violation of Moscow's commitments under the revised CFE Treaty, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement of 3 November summarized by Interfax and ITAR-TASS. The measures taken by Russia in compliance with the November 1999 agreement to close the Akhalkalaki base "are of a purely organizational nature," the statement continued, adding that Russia "has every right to choose the optimal and economically justified solutions." Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Safar Abiev has argued that the redeployment poses a threat to Azerbaijan and that the armored vehicles in question is to be sent from Armenia to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, according to "Obshchaya gazeta" (No. 43, 26 October-1 November 2000). LF

KAZAKH, KYRGYZ OFFICIALS REACH AGREEMENTS ON TRANSPORTATION, ENERGY

At the second meeting of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz intergovernmental economic commission, which took place in Bishkek on 2-3 November, agreement was reached on increasing from 2,000 to 3,000 the number of Kyrgyz trucks that may transit Kazakhstan this year without paying excise fees, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau. Under a second agreement, Kazakhstan will provide Kyrgyzstan with 50,000 tons of coal, 30,000 tons of oil, and 3,000 tons of diesel oil before the end of this year in return for 650 million kW hours of electricity that Kyrgyzstan will supply to Kazakhstan next spring. No agreement was reached on Kazakhstan's debt to Kyrgyzstan for earlier energy supplies. LF

EU CRITICIZES KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS...

France, which is the current EU chair, has issued a statement noting "serious violations" during the 29 October Kyrgyz presidential poll, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. The statement expresses regret at "deviations from the process of democratization" and calls on the Kyrgyz leadership to respect its commitments to the OSCE and those enshrined in its partnership and cooperation agreement with the EU. The OSCE and the U.S. State Department have also criticized the conduct of the ballot. Also on 3 November, the Kyrgyz Central Electoral Commission released the final poll results, according to which incumbent Askar Akaev was re-elected with 74.47 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Omurbek Tekebaev polled13.09 percent, Almaz Atambaev 6 percent. Melis Eshimkanov 1.80 percent, Tursunbai Bakir Uulu 0.96 percent, and Tursunbek Akunov 0.44 percent. Voter turnout was 77.28 percent. LF

...AS OPPOSITION CANDIDATES FILES SUIT

Aides to Socialist Party chairman Tekebaev said in Bishkek on 3 November that they have filed suit challenging the official election outcome, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. They noted irregularities during the election campaign, interference by local officials, and falsification of the poll returns. LF

THOUSANDS HOMELESS IN WAKE OF EARTHQUAKES IN TAJIKISTAN

Some 17,000 people have been made homeless by two earthquakes that hit southeastern Tajikistan on 31 October and 1 November, Interfax reported on 3 November. No casualties were reported in either quake. The Tajik government has allocated 100,000 somonis ($45,500) to help the victims. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO REDUCE ARMY

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 3 November that Belarus should "optimize" its armed forces by reducing them to 75,000-85,000 troops, Belarusian media reported. Lukashenka added that reducing the size of the military may take up to 10 years. He said cuts will affect not officers but conscript soldiers. He also noted that although there currently is little international tension in the region, "with NATO's expansion to the East, we must keep our powder dry." Belarusian Television reported that the country's military currently numbers 122,000 troops. JM

SOROS SUES BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT OVER SEIZED PRINTING PRESS

The Soros Foundation has sued Belarus's government over its seizure of the Soros-owned printing equipment in the Minsk-based independent publishing house Magic, which prints most of Belarus's independent and opposition periodicals, AP reported on 3 November. Last month, the tax authorities froze Magic's bank accounts and confiscated its equipment, saying the company owes taxes. Magic denies the charge. "This is a serious warning to any potential investor to stay away. Lukashenka's regime has not only strangled independent voices, but in stifling a legitimate commercial enterprise he now shows that Belarus has no respect for private property," the Soros Foundation said in a statement. JM

U.S. OFFICIAL REAFFIRMS RECOGNITION FOR BELARUS'S SUPREME SOVIET

David Johnson, the U.S. representative in the OSCE, has affirmed that Washington will continue to recognize the Supreme Soviet led by Syamyon Sharetski as Belarus's legitimate parliament, Belapan reported on 3 November. Johnson told the OSCE Permanent Committee in Vienna the previous day that Belarus's legislative elections in October were neither free nor democratic. "Belarusian authorities assert that President Lukashenka enjoys the overwhelming popular support of Belarus' citizens. We are willing to put that proposition to the test. If he holds free, fair, and transparent elections that allow for a real contest with the opposition, we will be the first to accept their outcome," the news agency quoted Johnson as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN SPEAKER THREATENS TO RECONSIDER CHORNOBYL CLOSURE

Ivan Plyushch pledged on 4 November to propose a bill that would keep the Chornobyl plant operational past the 15 December deadline for its closure if the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development fails to provide money to complete two nuclear reactors at Rivne and Khmelnytskyy, Interfax reported. Plyushch's remark followed his meeting with IMF official John Odling-Smee, whom he urged to renew the fund's suspended $2.6 billion loan program to Ukraine. EBRD President Jean Lemierre said in Kyiv the previous day that the EBRD is ready to lend Ukraine $100 million to compensate for the energy loss owing to Chornobyl's closure, but he made that credit conditional on the restoration of the IMF's loan program. JM

TYMOSHENKO FIGHTS BACK IN UKRAINE'S ENERGY SECTOR CONTROVERSY

Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko told STB Television on 4 November that Yevhen Marchuk submitted a "politically-motivated" report on the government's alleged misrepresentation of the situation in Ukraine's energy and fuel sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000). Marchuk, who is chief of the Council of National Security and Defense, accused the cabinet of overstating the level of cash revenues in the energy sector. Tymoshenko noted that Marchuk's report is the result of "intrigues" aimed at discrediting Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet. Yushchenko said the previous day that he is not going to work in a government "that has its own shadow cabinet." Marchuk's report was signed, among other officials, by Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov. JM

VATICAN SAYS POPE TO VISIT UKRAINE IN JUNE

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Walls said on 6 November that Pope John Paul II will visit Ukraine in June 2001, AP reported. The announcement followed a report in Germany's "Bild" that the pope will leave office at Christmas because of health problems and retire to a monastery in his native Poland. "There is no foundation to the report... I can confirm that the Holy Father will travel to Ukraine in June," Navarro-Walls noted. JM

EC SAYS ESTONIA STANDS TO GAIN FROM EU MEMBERSHIP

The representative of the European Commission in Estonia, Ambassador John Kjaer, told the international conference "Estonia and the European Union" on 3 November that after Estonia joins the EU, the EU's aggregate support from structural and agricultural funds would increase to 3-4 percent of Estonia's GDP, BNS reported. That compares with the 1.5 percent of GDP that Estonia now receives in financial aid from the EU. Kjaer also sought to dispel fears that the new EU member states will lose their cultural, linguistic, and national independence: "The European Union is an association of independent nations that are as proud of their language, culture, and traditions as [is] Estonia." He also argued that there is no need to fear increased unemployment since after accession, Estonian companies would attract more capital and would sell their products throughout Europe. SG

LATVIAN TV, RADIO COUNCIL PROPOSES SUBSCRIPTION FEES

The Latvian National Radio and Television Council on 3 November supported council chairman Ojars Rubenis's proposal to introduce changes to the way public broadcasting organizations are financed, BNS reported. The council wants to introduce a monthly subscription fee of 0.6 lats ($0.96) per household and 1.5 lats from a legal entity owning a television set. The revenues from subscription fees next year could total 2.7 million lats while direct state financing would be 14 million lats. By 2004, revenues from subscription fee would grow to 15 million lats, while state financing would decline to 1.7 million lats. The parliament had rejected subscription fees in January 2000, arguing that, among other things, the population already had to contend with many other social and economic problems. SG

LITHUANIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE PRESENTS PROGRAM TO PARLIAMENT...

Rolandas Paksas on 3 November presented his government program to the parliament, BNS reported. He singled out three priorities: education and setting up an information-based society, restructuring the system and structure of the state administration and economy, and membership in NATO by 2002 and in the EU by 2004. The government will seek to maintain a budget deficit that does not exceed 2-3 percent and eventually reduce that deficit to achieve a balanced budget. It will also seek to gradually reduce personal income tax from 33 percent to 24 percent and increase the non-taxable monthly minimum income from 214 litas ($53.5) to 320 litas. SG

...AS FORMATION OF CABINET COMPLETED

President Valdas Adamkus appointed Liberal Union parliamentary deputy Henrikas Zukauskas Environmental Protection Minister on 3 November, BNS reported. Adamkus had named the other 12 ministers on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). The average age of the cabinet members is 43, which is lower than that of its predecessors. Five ministers, including Prime Minister-designate Paksas, are members of the Liberal Union, one is a member of the Social Liberals, and the remaining eight are independent. Five cabinet members are also parliamentary deputies. SG

POLISH PREMIER OFFERS TO HEAD SOLIDARITY BLOC

Jerzy Buzek said on 5 November that he is ready to head the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) if this move puts an end to the current crisis within the bloc, Polish media reported. ""I can take responsibility for the country anytime, even [more] than now, but it has to be accepted by my colleagues," Buzek said in an interview with Radio Zet. Meanwhile, last week's negotiations on how to reform the AWS and resolve the issue of the AWS leadership ended in stalemate. The AWS's four component parties want to transform the current AWS coalition into a federation of parties but differ on how to set about this. In addition, three parties want to oust Marian Krzaklewski, the AWS current leader. JM

POLAND TO TALK TO RUSSIA ABOUT 'ADDITIONAL' GAS SUPPLIES TO EU

Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Steinhoff on 3 November said Poland's Oil and Gas Mining Company is to start talks with Russia's Gazprom on deliveries of Russian gas to the EU, Polish media reported. Steinhoff was commenting on his meeting with Russian Transport Minister Sergei Frank earlier the same day. Poland has so far been against the idea of the construction of a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine. Steinhoff said the situation has radically changed because Russia is now talking about an "additional 60-80 billion cubic meters" of gas to be delivered to the EU. Steinhoff noted that these deliveries require new gas pipelines and said that Poland is interested in their construction. JM

ANTI-TEMELIN ACTIVISTS CLOSE AUSTRIAN-CZECH BORDER

Ignoring an appeal by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel on 4 November, Austrian Environmental activists the next day blocked the last of the 15 border crossings between their country and the Czech Republic that had remained open, AP reported. Meanwhile, in remarks to Prima television on 5 November, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman lashed out at Vienna for failing to lift the blockade and said it might be impossible for him to go to the Austrian capital as scheduled later this month. He said the Czech authorities will demand financial compensation as required by bilateral treaties and the EU accession accords. Those exchanges followed an expression of concern by the European Commission on 3 November, CTK reported. PG

CZECHS SHOULD VIEW IRELAND AS A MODEL

An article in Prague's "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 3 November suggested that Czechs should see Ireland as a model for their economic future, CTK reported. The newspaper suggested that by turning to high-tech industries, Ireland had positioned itself for economic growth long after increases in wages wiped out its initial competitive advantages. It said that the Czech Republic could and should do the same in advance of its membership in the EU. PG

ANOTHER GOVERNMENT PARTY FORMED IN SLOVAKIA

On 4 November, the Liberal Democratic Union became the latest party to emerge out of disputes within the governing Slovak Democratic coalition, CTK reported. The new group, headed by Jan Budaj and Juraj Svec, will seek to serve as a liberal voice within the governing coalition. PG

MINORITIES CAN DECLARE THEMSELVES IN SLOVAK CENSUS

The office of Slovak deputy prime minister for human rights and ethnic minorities told CTK on 3 November that all Slovak citizens, including those of Moravian nationality, can declare their ethnic affiliation in the upcoming 2001 census. The Association of Moravians living in Slovakia had complained that there was no special column for declaring Moravian nationality, but the minorities office said that any Slovak citizen can write down whatever nationality he or she identifies with. PG

HUNGARY BANS FRENCH, IRISH BEEF IMPORTS

Hungary on 3 November banned the import of beef and beef products from France and Ireland, MTI reported. Hungarian officials said that tests of meat imports from these countries had revealed the presence of the bacteria that cause mad cow disease, Reuters said. PG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALLS FOR ROMA AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IN HUNGARY

Experts from the Council of Europe on 4 November called on the Hungarian government to introduce ethnic quotas for Roma in some government agencies, Nepszabadzag reported. It also called for the elimination of rules that allow for the immediate eviction of squatters, a regulation often used against Romany citizens. Meanwhile, Hungarian President Ferenc Mladl said that he is committed to seeing the Roma achieve their goals as full members of Hungarian society even as they preserve their distinctive national identity. PG




YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT

Lawmakers appointed a new government on 4 November that is controlled by supporters of President Vojislav Kostunica, AP reported. After some eight hours of debate between reformers and supporters of former President Slobodan Milosevic, the parliament voted 136 to 19 in favor of the government headed by Premier Zoran Zizic, a 49-year-old law professor from Montenegro. Zizic said his top priorities are "economic and social reforms..., accelerated privatization" and adjusting the legal and economic systems to be more in line with the EU. He said Yugoslavia will "pursue a policy of opening our country to the world and actively resolve disputes and outstanding issues that burden" the country. Zizic said Belgrade will "respect its international obligations," such as the Dayton agreement, but he criticized the UN and NATO actions in Kosova, stressing that the province remains an integral part of Yugoslavia. PB

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER PROMISES RESTORED TIES, RESPONSIBILITY FOR WAR CRIMES

Goran Svilanovic said on 5 November that the country should establish "truth commissions" to determine responsibility for crimes committed during the wars of the Yugoslav succession, Reuters reported. Svilanovic said "responsibility for crimes is a topic that cannot be skipped. We cannot, and should not, avoid facing the consequences of war and responsibility for crimes." He said the UN war crimes tribunal should be allowed to reopen its office in Belgrade as soon as possible. He said the members of the "truth commissions" would be people who "enjoy absolute confidence among our public." Svilanovic said trials on war crimes could be held in Yugoslavia. He also added that diplomatic ties with major Western countries such as Germany, France, and the U.K. could be restored within days. PB

KOSTUNICA REJECTS SUPPORTERS' DEMANDS FOR PURGE OF POLICE, MILITARY LEADERS

Yugoslav President Kostunica said on 4 November that he opposes any "hasty replacement" of police or army chiefs who served under former President Milosevic, Reuters reported. Kostunica said such actions could threaten democratic change and lead to instability. "At a time when our country is finally lifting its head and returning in a dignified manner and major way to Europe and the world, what we least need are personal and party passions, revengeful and destructive moves," he said. Kostunica's statement contradicted the stand taken by members of his Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) bloc who have refused to attend Serbian transitional government meetings until former Serbian state security chief Rade Markovic steps down (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000). According to DOS leader Zoran Djindjic, the DOS is also demanding the removal of Yugoslav army chief of staff Nebojsa Pavkovic. Kostunica responded to that call by saying, "I demand from the army and police [that they] faithfully serve their people and country, and they are doing so." PB

MONTENEGRO TO STOP USING YUGOSLAV DINAR?

Dmitrije Vesovic, a senior economic official in the Montenegrin government, said on 3 November that Podgorica will stop using the Yugoslav dinar altogether in a few weeks, Reuters reported. Vesovic, who is the head of the republic's Accounting and Payment Operations Service, said the government needs just over a week "to complete a procedure for closing down all dinar accounts and opening new German mark ones." But Montenegrin Premier Filip Vujanovic said the previous day that the dual use of the German mark and the Yugoslav dinar will remain in place, despite a new law establishing an independent Montenegrin Central Bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). Vesovic said there are some 70 million dinars ($1.35 million) remaining in about 20,000 accounts in Montenegrin banks, which will be converted into German mark accounts. PB

ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADER REJECTS TALKS WITH BELGRADE

Kosovar's moderate ethnic-Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, said on 4 November that Belgrade should not have any say in the future of Kosova following the "terrible war" there, AP reported, citing the German weekly magazine "Focus." Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova won last week's municipal elections, after which he called upon Western countries to recognize the province's independence. Yugoslav President Kostunica said last week that he is willing to meet with Rugova to discuss Kosova's future. Rugova said he cannot trust Belgrade, saying that "the govenrnment can change there anytime." He added that NATO's Kosova Force (KFOR) will "always" be in Kosova "because we will become part of NATO one day." PB

FORMER KOSOVAR REBELS SAY BELGRADE'S ADMISSION TO UN 'UNACCEPTABLE'

Bardhyl Mahmuti, a leader of the Democratic Party of Kosova, said on 3 November that Yugoslavia's admission to the UN is "unacceptable" until Kosova has a special status, AP reported. Mahmuti, whose party won more than a quarter of the vote in municipal elections last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000), said his party will try to ensure that the ethnic Albanian leadership in Kosova has the right to represent Kosova in the UN and other organizations. In other news, Flora Brovina, the Kosovar human rights activist released from a Serbian prison last week, called on ethnic Albanians to show respect for minority groups in Kosova. "We should prove that we can build and govern a society based on international standards... We [must] consider all citizens of Kosova as equals, regardless of religion, nationality, or political affiliations," she said. PB

HOLBROOKE SAYS INTERNATIONAL OFFICIALS REJECTED REQUEST TO BAN BOSNIAN SERB NATIONALISTS

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said on 3 November that Bosnian High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch has refused to ban the nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS) from the upcoming general elections, AFP reported. Holbrooke said he believes the SDS is "a criminal organization and that it should be dismissed." He said he had failed on several occasions to persuade Petritsch to ban the party from the 11 November elections. Holbrooke added that the OSCE also refused to ban the SDS and he is "very disappointed" about that. The International Crisis Group said in its latest report that the SDS should be banned from the elections as well as from political life in Bosnia-Herzegovina. PB

CROATIA TO GET TROPHY ART BACK FROM YUGOSLAVIA

Serbian Culture Minister Milan Komnenic said on 3 November that Belgrade has agreed to return to Croatia thousands of art objects taken during the 1991-1995 war in Croatia, AFP reported. Komnenic said most of the 7,966 works of art are from Vukovar, eastern Croatia. He said the return of the artwork is one of the conditions for Croatia to normalize relations between the two countries. The largest of the collections to be returned is a group of sculptures and paintings knows as the Bauer collection. PB

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RAPPORTEUR URGES ROMANIA TO SPEED UP REFORMS

European Parliament rapporteur Emma Nicholson said on 3 November in Bucharest that the EU wants to accept Romania as a member as soon as possible but noted that the government to be formed after the 26 November elections must "accelerate the reform process," Romanian media reported. Nicholson offered Bulgaria as an example of a country that has achieved "considerable and positive progress" leading to 5 percent economic growth. Nicholson urged the new government to adopt in its first 100 days urgent measures in the field of privatization, agriculture, social security, and legislation supporting investment. ZsM

ROMANIA TO INTRODUCE VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR MOLDOVAN CITIZENS

Romanian Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu announced on 4 November that Bucharest will introduce visa requirements for Moldovan citizens as of 1 January, Mediafax reported on 5 November. Ionescu said that some 70,000 Moldovan citizens have already obtained Romanian citizenship. The EU requires Romania to impose entry visas for the citizens of former Soviet republics and some Asian states in order to stem illegal immigration. Romania and Bulgaria have been trying to persuade the EU to abolish visa requirements for their citizens. ET

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES HUNGARY, CRITICIZES BULGARIA

Emil Constantinescu on 4 November praised Hungary for supporting Romania in its EU and NATO integration bid as well as for its role in the Romanian-Hungarian reconciliation process, "Cotidianul" reported. Responding to Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov's request to the EU to analyze his country's progress separately from that of Romania, Constantinescu criticized Bulgaria for not acting in the same manner as Hungary. Visiting the central Romanian region, where ethnic Hungarians form a majority, Constantinescu called the Democratic Federation of Hungarians in Romania's (UDMR) participation in the ruling coalition a "success," adding that the UDMR is loyal to the coalition. He said that Harghita and Covasna counties represent a "model" of understanding between Romanians and Hungarians. ZsM

PROBLEMS SURROUND ROMANIAN MILITARY ASSOCIATION

A Defense Ministry press release on 3 November said that the three founding members of the National Association of Military Personnel in Romania (ANMR), together with a general and three colonels, have been dismissed for breaking the rules that apply to active military personnel, Romanian media reported. Interior Minister Ionescu also decided to ban all active ministry personnel from joining the ANMR and to punish those who have already joined. President Constantinescu said that the army is capable of carrying out the reforms needed to join NATO. In related news, Party of Social Democracy in Romania First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase on 2 November declared that the ANMR "would be useful" in the wake of a "military dictatorship." ZsM

MOLDOVAN WRITERS' UNION CONDEMNS RUSSIAN STATEMENT ON TRANSDNIESTER

The council of the Union of Writers of Moldova on 3 November issued a declaration sharply criticizing a statement by the October plenum in Tiraspol of the Union of Writers of the Russian Federation, AP Flux reported. The Moldovan writers said that the Russian appeal was aggressive and chauvinistic and inappropriate from people of culture. Moreover, they said, the Russian appeal was an open call for separatism. PG

MOLDOVAN, UKRAINIAN LEADERS DISCUSS TRANSDNIESTER ISSUE

President Petru Lucinschi spoke by telephone on 3 November with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, about expanding cooperation in a variety of areas, including resuming deadlocked talks about the Transdniestrian dispute, Infotag reported. Meanwhile, the authorities of the breakaway Transdniester Republic said the same day that they will resume talks with Chisinau after Moldova elects a new president, BASA-Press reported. PG

ROSCA SAYS MOLDOVAN, ROMANIAN UNIFICATION 'INEVITABLE'

Iurie Rosca, the parliamentary leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Party, said on 3 November that "unification with Romania is inevitable," Infotag reported. In an interview published in "Kishinevskie novosti," Rosca said that Moldova's independence was "an historical accident" and that "this temporary state of things will continue for about a decade." PG

SOFIA URGED TO TAKE HARDER LINE ON VISA ISSUE

Bulgarian Helsinki member Yonko Grozev told BTA on 3 November that "now that the Bulgarian government has met all conditions for the lifting of visa requirements, it has the right to take a harder line" in talks with the EU. Meanwhile, Bulgarian scholars said that the EU's approach is cynical, especially since so few Bulgarians can afford to travel abroad. PG

RULING BULGARIAN PARTY SEEKS TO BROADEN BASE

At a meeting in Borovets on 4 November, the governing Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) announced that it will seek to broaden the basis of the government in order to preclude a partnership with the Socialist Party and the latter's allies, BTA reported. PG

LIBYA AGAIN POSTPONES BULGARIAN MEDICS' TRIAL

A Libyan court on 4 November postponed the trial of six Bulgarian medical workers accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the HIV virus, Reuters reported, quoting Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Officials. PG

CORRECTION:

The 3 November "RFE/RL Newsline" carried an incorrect headline. "MEMORIAL CROSS, STATUE VANDALIZED IN BULGARIA" should have read " MEMORIAL CROSS, STATUE VANDALIZED IN HUNGARY."




MINORITY MEDIA AND NATIONAL INTEGRATION


By Paul Goble

A recent survey of the national minority press in Bulgaria highlights the ways that such media can help mobilize ethnic communities and the contribution they can make to the integration of these groups into the broader society.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, together with a Bulgarian survey agency, last week published the results of a survey of the ethnic press in Bulgaria. That survey included 19 ethnic publications--seven Romany, three Armenian, two Wallachian and Romanian, two Jewish, two Russian, two Turkish, and one Macedonian--for the period from May 1999 to May 2000.

Only one, "Evrena," the newspaper of the Armenian community, was self-supporting. And one large minority, the Turkish community, generally relied on publications from abroad rather than generating its own output.

The authors of the survey reached three general conclusions, each of which appears to be applicable to the ethnic minority press in other countries as well.

First, the authors found that the publications of those groups that are the most integrated into Bulgarian society had the largest printruns per capita. Publications directed at the Jewish community, for example, generally produce one issue a month for every two Jews among the population, whereas there is only one issue of a Romany newspaper for every 10 Romany citizens each month.

This "circulation paradox," the authors of the survey suggest, reflects cultural differences among the groups and also the important role that the ethnic press can and does play in helping integrate communities into the broader society.

Some members of the dominant community view the ethnic press as a threat to national unity, but the survey suggests that it plays the opposite role. As the authors of the study note, the prevailing opinion among ethnic groups in Bulgaria is that the ethnic publications directed at them should be issued in both Bulgarian and those groups' native tongues, an arrangement that would appear to promote national consolidation.

Second, the survey's authors concluded that the newspapers of such minorities will need subsidies from either community groups or the government in order to continue. Because those groups are small, the publications seldom are able to attract the necessary advertising or subscription income. Even the one self-supporting newspaper in the survey was able to cover only 80 percent of its costs through advertising and newspaper sales.

Consequently, the national government and other institutions of the majority national community may have a compelling interest in providing subsidies to ensure that the newspapers of ethnic minority communities will not only continue to appear but even gain in influence.

And third, the authors of the survey pointed out that those communities that do not have a strong domestically produced ethnic press are more likely than others to turn to publications from their co-ethnics abroad. They cited the case of Bulgaria's 800,000 Turks, the ethnic minority that in the past has presented some of the biggest challenges to Sofia.

The Turkish-language paper with the largest circulation has a printrun of only 7,000, "too small," the authors of the survey argue, for the large community it serves. As a result, ethnic Turks in Bulgaria turn to "Yumit" and "Zaman," subsidiaries of Turkish newspapers produced in Turkey.

The survey's compilers noted that Bulgarian Turks accept these newspapers from abroad "as ethnic publications," but precisely because the focus of these newspapers is on Turkey, rather than on Bulgaria, such media outlets may promote separatist or even irredentist feelings rather than generate the kind of integrationist feelings that the domestic ethnic press appears to do.

Bulgaria is far from the only country in Eastern Europe and in the post-Soviet area that is wrestling with the problems of ethnic minorities and the ethnic press. The conclusions of this survey suggest that other governments, some of which have been openly hostile to the non-majority press, may want to reconsider their views about the role that minority media play.


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