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Newsline - November 7, 2000




OPERATION TO RETRIEVE 'KURSK' BODIES TO BE HALTED?

A spokesman for the Northern Fleet told ITAR-TASS on 7 November that later the same day, a decision will likely be taken to halt the operation to recover bodies from the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine. That remark came after divers had ceased to work in the vessel's fourth compartment because it was deemed too risky for them to continue. On leaving the compartment, the divers welded a metal plate over the hole they had cut in the hull to enter that part of the submarine. On 6 November, Russian agencies reported that all of the 12 bodies recovered earlier from the "Kursk" have now been identified. A total of 118 crew members perished in the disaster. JC

NEW IMF MISSION ARRIVES IN MOSCOW

Russia's ability to restructure its Soviet-era debt with the Paris Club may depend on the outcome of negotiations with the new IMF mission scheduled to arrive in Moscow on 7 November, "Vremya MN" reported on 4 November. Paris Club negotiations are scheduled for December, and the official goal of the IMF delegation is to develop a joint economic program for the next two years, the daily reported. The newspaper predicted that the result of upcoming talks is likely to be positive; however, "Kommersant-Daily" suggested on 5 November that negotiations will not be easy. The IMF is reported to be categorically opposed to the government's reform plan for the banking sector and, in particular, objects to the proposed draft amendments to the law on the Central Bank proposed by the presidential administration. JAC

BEREZOVSKII NEWSPAPER ENDORSES GORE...

"Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, argues that U.S. Vice President Al Gore's victory in the U.S. presidential election scheduled for 7 November is more desirable for Russia than a victory by Texas Governor George W. Bush. The daily comments that Gore is the "number two man in the incumbent administration, with whom the Kremlin has developed a stable, albeit not ideal, relationship." Bush's program, on the other hand, indicates that the Republican presidential candidate "is not an avid supporter of dialogue with Russia." However, the daily notes that while Gore is "preferable," Bush "is [still] good for us in that he has no experience of foreign policy." The newspaper also reveals that there have been unpublicized meetings between Russian officials and Bush advisers over the past 18 months. JAC

...AS ZHIRINOVSKII PREDICTS BUSH WIN...

In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 1 November, former ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov voiced a similar view of Gore, noting that "it will be more difficult for us to get used to Bush. There would be no need to get used to Gore." Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii told reporters on 5 November that while Gore's victory would be better for Russia, Bush will win with 52.6 percent of the vote. Zhirinovskii noted that Republicans "are more pragmatic [than Democrats], pay less attention to human rights and are more concerned with U.S. interests, and [these characteristics] perhaps could be of use to Russia." JAC

...AND ZYUGANOV, SELEZNEV SEE LITTLE CHANGE FOR RUSSIA EITHER WAY

Russian-U.S. relations will barely change regardless of who wins the 7 November elections in the U.S., Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov predicted in an interview with Interfax on 6 November. At the same time, Zyuganov indicated his preference for a Republican victory. Policies pursued in the past by the Republicans were "unambiguous and predictable," he said, noting that the former Soviet Union had signed major treaties with the U.S. when a Republican was in the White House. A victory by the Democrat Gore, however, would mean the continuation of a "destructive" policy as far as Russia is concerned, Zyuganov warned. State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev similarly expects few changes in Russia's relations with the U.S. whether Bush or Gore wins. Like Zyuganov, however, he suggested in an interview with Interfax that based on past experience, a Republican victory would be the more favorable outcome for Moscow. JC

U.S. PUTS MORE PRESSURE ON MOSCOW OVER POPE TRIAL

Washington has asked to see the results of a medical examination that Kremlin doctors performed last week on U.S. businessman Edmond Pope, who is currently being tried in Moscow on espionage charges, Reuters reported on 6 November, citing the State Department. The medical examination took place on 3 November after Pope, who has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer, complained again of joint pains (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2000). According to the Kremlin doctors, Pope's cancer remains in remission and he is well enough to take part in the trial. U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have both pressed for Pope's release. JC

INFLATION ROSE IN OCTOBER

Inflation in October stood at 2.1 percent compared with 1.3 percent in September, the State Statistics Committee reported on 4 November. For the first 10 months of the year, inflation totaled 16.5 percent, compared with 33.2 percent for the same period last year. The price of a basket of 25 basic food products at the end of October was 595 rubles ($21)--a 5.6 percent increase from the beginning of the year. JAC

AUTHORITIES DENY RADIATION HAZARD IN SIBERIA

Russian federal and regional officials have denied charges in a joint U.S.-Russian report on radiation in the Tom and Romashka Rivers in Tomsk Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000). Natural Resources Ministry official Andrei Pechkurov said the report's claim that the Tom River is the most polluted in the world in terms of radioactivity is "baseless," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He explained that there are only "pockets of radioactive residue." And a local government representative in Seversk, where a former nuclear weapons development facility is located, similarly called the report inaccurate, insisting the ecological situation in the area has improved. According to Interfax, the Seversk Chemical Complex is planning to sue London's "The Guardian" for its coverage of the report. JAC

IRAQ HALTS OIL SALES TO LUKOIL

Iraq has ceased selling oil to LUKoil, accusing the Russia company of not fulfilling its part of a 1997 contract to develop the Qurna oil field, in southern Iraq, AP reported on 6 November. LUKoil heads a consortium that signed the contract with Iraq three years ago. Viktor Demidov, the deputy general manager of LUKoil, told the Western news agency that while his company understands Iraq's position, it is "impossible" for LUKoil to bring drilling rigs and seismic stations to Iraq "under current circumstances." Demidov noted that his company has already fulfilled obligations allowed under the UN regime restricting international trade with Iraq. He added that while the Iraqis have threatened to nullify the contract, LUKoil has received no official notification that the deal is void. JC

RUSSIA, KUWAIT URGE SETTLEMENT TO MIDEAST CONFLICT

Russia and Kuwait have urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to honor their commitments, put an end to the violence in the Israeli territories under Palestinian jurisdiction, and return to the negotiating table. That position was stressed at talks in Kuwait at the weekend between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin, who is President Putin's special envoy to the Middle East, and Sheikh Sabakh al-Ahmed, Kuwait's acting premier and foreign minister, Interfax reported on 6 November. Also on the agenda of their talks was how to achieve the "peaceful reconstruction" of the Persian Gulf region. JC

CHECHEN CITY MAYORESS ESCAPES ASSASSINATION BID

Malika Gezimieva, who in January 2000 accepted the post of mayoress of the town of Gudermes after no male candidate could be found, sustained minor injuries in a car bomb explosion on 6 November, Interfax reported. Her driver and bodyguard were both hospitalized. Gudermes is currently suffering an epidemic of hepatitis-A: 152 people have been hospitalized with the disease over the past month, according to ITAR-TASS on 4 November. LF

GELAEV'S WHEREABOUTS REMAIN UNKNOWN

Senior Russian Interior Ministry official Colonel Mikhail Suntsov told Interfax on 3 November that Chechen field commandeers Arbi Baraev and Ruslan Tsagaroev were in Grozny. He added that their location was known but that Russian forces had not attempted to apprehend them as doing so could pose a threat to the lives of the city's population. Suntsov said that his ministry has information that field commander Ruslan Gelaev is in Georgia and intends to spend the winter there. Unconfirmed Russian press reports claimed that the band of Chechen fighters intercepted in northern Georgia in late October were Gelaev's men (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 41, 20 October 2000 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). But the Georgian Interior Ministry on 4 November denied that Gelaev is in Georgia or that it had received any information on his whereabouts from its Russian counterpart, Caucasus Press reported. LF

SOME REMEMBER REVOLUTION, WHILE OTHERS ENJOY DAY OFF

Russia's Communist Party announced its plans to celebrate 7 November as the anniversary of the October socialist revolution rather than as the Day of Accord and Reconciliation, as it was officially renamed by a 1996 presidential decree, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. Addressing a party gathering, Communist Party leader Zyuganov told his colleagues that the October Revolution was the greatest event of the 20th century. Meanwhile, a poll of 2,000 people conducted at the end of October by the independent Center for Russian Public Opinion and Market Research found that 51 percent of the respondents consider 7 November an ordinary day off, while only 31.6 percent remember that it is the anniversary of the October Revolution, Interfax reported. More than 36 percent believed that the revolution played a positive role in the country's history, while 39.9 percent considered its role negative. The remainder of the respondents, 23.8 percent, had trouble answering the question. JAC

RUSSIAN RUNNER WINS NEW YORK MARATHON

Lyudmila Petrova, who did not qualify for a spot on Russia's Olympic team, placed first among women runners in New York City's marathon on 5 November, Reuters reported. Petrova finished the race in two hours, 25 minutes, and 45 seconds. She received $90,000, a new car, and a motor scooter. Petrova, 32, is the mother of two and the first Russian, male or female, to win the New York race, according to AP. JAC

PUTIN WAS THERE

"Segodnya" reported on 3 November that Leonid Panov, director of a state museum in the town of Starii Izborsk in Pskov Oblast, has been conducting walking tours of the route made famous when President Putin visited the town on 2 August. Putin took a short stroll through the town, visiting a waterfall and sampling the wares of a local cucumber vendor. When asked about the similarity of the walking tour to plaques and other memorability honoring Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, one local souvenir shop owner, who sold Putin a picture of the town's fortress, was philosophical, saying "Earlier we were brought up on Lenin's ideas, and now Putin's." According to "The Moscow Times" on 4 November, Panov claims that the tour's popularity is skyrocketing, with Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, Russian Federation Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov, and Latvia's ambassador to Russia Imant Daudish having already participated. JAC




ARMENIAN TAX MINISTER RESIGNS

Minister for State Revenues Gagik Poghosian submitted his resignation on 6 November, four days after President Robert Kocharian had criticized the government's inability to collect more than 60 percent of planned revenues during the first nine months of this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Poghosian acknowledged that he would not be able to bring 32 billion drams ($60 million) into the state treasury over the next two months. Premier Andranik Markarian commended Poghosian's performance over the past five months but said that revenues over that period had not been sufficient to counter the poor performance of the previous cabinet headed by Aram Sargsian, which Kocharian had also noted. Markarian appointed as Poghosian's successor the head of government staff, 46-year-old economist Andranik Manukian, who ran the Ararat-Lada car-dealership before joining Markarian's cabinet in May 2000. A deputy in all three post-communist Armenian parliaments, Manukian was severely wounded in the October 1999 parliamentary shootings. Manuk Topuzian succeeds Manukian as head of government staff, according to Groong, citing Snark. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES REJECT OFFICIAL POLL RETURNS

The opposition Musavat Party issued a statement in Baku on 6 November claiming that the officially reported outcome of the previous day's parliamentary election was totally falsified, and saying that the party does not recognize the legitimacy of the new parliament, Turan reported. As of late on 6 November, the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party had reportedly won 70.83 percent of the vote.The statement said that exit polls conducted by Turan and the ADAM sociological center established that 26 percent of those who participated cast their ballots for Musavat and 23 percent for YAP. It said voter turnout, which was officially estimated at around 70 percent, did not exceed 25-35 percent. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar said he believes his party garnered 50 percent of the vote. Azerbaijan National Independence Party chairman Etibar Mamedov for his part estimated voter turnout at 35-40 percent, of whom he said 65 percent voted for the opposition. The Democratic Congress also issued a statement rejecting the official poll results, as did the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan. Fourteen opposition parties that had expressed their support for Musavat in the polls issued a joint statement backing the Musavat statement. LF

OSCE SAYS AZERBAIJANI BALLOT NOT UP TO INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

In its preliminary assessment, which was released on 6 November, the OSCE Monitoring Mission noted some improvements over the 1995 and 1998 polls in terms of increased political pluralism, Turan reported. But as in the case of the 1998 presidential poll, the mission characterized the elections as falling short of international standards and said that "significant improvements" are required in order to reach the accepted standards for democratic elections. The statement noted improvements to the legislative framework but added that those laws were not systematically implemented. It termed the rejection of approximately half of all would-be candidates in single-mandate constituencies "a major problem." The statement queried the official estimate of voter turnout and noted "numerous instances of serious irregularities," including ballot-stuffing, pre-marked ballots, the refusal to admit international observers to polling stations, and "a completely marred counting process." LF

FOUR GEORGIAN ENERGY SECTOR OFFICIALS ARRESTED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT...

Three Georgian energy sector officials were arrested on 5-6 November on suspicion of embezzlement or abuse of their official positions, Caucasus Press reported. The former director of GruzEnergo, Emzar Chachkhiani, who was detained late last month, has been charged with misappropriating some 7.75 million lari ($3.9 million). Further arrests are expected, according to unnamed officials in the Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office. LF

...AS PRESIDENT WARNS JUSTICE MINISTER OVER CORRUPTION 'HOT-LINE'

Responding to those arrests, Eduard Shevardnadze warned on 6 November that the new campaign to eradicate corruption, which philanthropist George Soros on 3 November praised and offered to help finance, will not be confined to the energy sector, Caucasus Press reported. Speaking at a press briefing in Tbilisi, Shevardnadze warned Minister of Justice Mikhail Saakashvili that the latter's plans to solicit and offer payments of up to 5,000 lari for evidence that staff of his ministry have accepted bribes may have unspecified "negative consequences," Caucasus Press reported. National Ideology Party Chairman Zurab Gagnidze, for his part, proposed extending that initiative to all government ministries. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES VISIT TO TURKEY

Shevardnadze on 7 November postponed an official visit to Turkey due to begin the following day after his only remaining sister died at the age of 80, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze is now the sole survivor of five siblings. LF

PAKISTANI LEADER VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

Arriving in Astana on 6 November for a working visit, Parvez Musharraf held talks with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on expanding bilateral cooperation and the situation in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The presidential press service issued a statement after those talks quoting Nazarbaev as saying that "Kazakhstan is willing to establish contacts and hold talks with representatives of all movements and groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban," Reuters reported. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov told journalists that Astana "has no allergy" to any political group in Afghanistan and desires only to see peace restored to that country. Meeting last week with Saudi Arabian government delegation, Nazarbaev had offered to host talks between the two warring Afghan factions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000). Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia recognize the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER ADVOCATES NATIONAL RECONCILIATION

In a statement issued in Bishkek on 6 November, former Vice President and opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov said that re-elected President Askar Akaev must play a key role in restoring Kyrgyzstan's democratic image in the wake of this year's disputed parliamentary and presidential elections, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. In order to do so, Kulov argued, Akaev will need to establish "a good working relationship" between the Kyrgyz leadership and opposition. Kulov added that it is important that the authorities and opposition close ranks to preclude a reduction in badly needed international financial aid. Regarded as the strongest potential opponent to Akaev, Kulov did not contest the 29 October presidential elections but aligned himself with opposition candidate Omurbek Tekebaev, who promised to appoint him premier in the event of his winning the poll. LF

TURKMENISTAN, PAKISTAN DISCUSS AFGHANISTAN, ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Pakistan's Chief Executive Parvez Musharraf held brief talks with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyzov on 6 November during a stopover at Ashgabat airport en route for Astana, Russian agencies reported. The two men reportedly agreed that Afghanistan should be invited to join talks on planned bilateral economic projects, including the planned gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan and highway construction projects. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT HAILS OCTOBER REVOLUTION

On the eve of the 83rd anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Alyaksandr Lukashenka reminded Belarusians how the uprising had allowed them to acquire statehood and develop their national culture, Belarusian Television reported on 6 November. Lukashenka stressed that the Belarusian people today face the future with hope, particularly following last month's legislative elections, in which, he said, voters "supported the president's domestic and foreign policies oriented toward building a strong democratic state and enhancing the well-being of the Belarusian people." However, the Minsk authorities did not allow the country's two Communist Parties to stage marches in the city center on 7 November to commemorate the 1917 revolution. As in Russia, the anniversary of the October Revolution is a state holiday in Belarus. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS PROBE $4.6 MILLION BRIBE CASE

Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod told journalists on 6 November that Oleksandr Tymoshenko, the husband of Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, has been accused of paying $4.6 million in bribes to former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, Interfax reported. Earlier, Oleksandr Tymoshenko, a member of the Unified Energy System (UES) Board, was arrested on charges of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2000). Obikhod also said Yuliya Tymoshenko has been interrogated by Russian investigators who are looking into a case of the UES's bribing officials in the Russian Defense Ministry. Yuliya Tymoshenko headed the UES from 1995 to1997. She previously claimed that her husband's arrest was an act of "political revenge" against herself for seeking to curb shady operations and corruption in Ukraine's fuel and energy sector. JM

SOROS PRAISES UKRAINE'S DEVELOPMENT

U.S. financier George Soros said on 6 November that Ukraine's development has been hastened by improved cooperation between the president, prime minister, and parliamentary majority, AP reported. Soros arrived in Kyiv to review projects implemented by his Renaissance Foundation and take part in ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the foundation's work in Ukraine. "I was critical and I am happy to see the progress that was made since the [last] election, but I am concerned about the future of Ukraine, because it's very important," Soros commented after his meetings with President Leonid Kuchma and Premier Viktor Yushchenko. JM

GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN KYIV

Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko and his Greek counterpart, Georgios Papandreou, signed agreements in Kyiv on 6 November on the avoidance of dual taxation as well as cooperation in merchant sea navigation and customs, Interfax reported. Papandreou commented that the two countries have not yet taken full advantage of their cooperation potential. Ukraine's trade turnover with Greece in the first six months of 2000 amounted to $63.3 million. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS STATE VISIT TO GERMANY

Accompanied by Defense Minister Juri Luik, Finance Minister Siim Kallas, and a delegation of Estonian businessmen, Lennart Meri flew to Germany on 6 November to begin the first state visit to that country by a Baltic president, ETA reported. Meri visited the Mercedes-Benz car plant in Stuttgart and laid a wreath at a monument to Estonian refugees in the town of Geislingen, where some 5,000 Estonian refugees lived in a camp after World War II. At an official ceremony, he presented the Cross of Terra Mariana to Prime Minister of Baden-Wuerttemberg Erwin Teufel. The following day Meri travelled to Berlin, where he met with German President Johannes Rau and Mayor of Berlin Eberhard Diepgen. SG

SLOVAK EMBASSY OPENS IN LATVIAN CAPITAL

During his visit to Riga on 6 November, Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan officially opened the first Slovak embassy in the Baltic states, BNS reported. Most of the foreign ambassadors accredited in Riga and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga attended the opening ceremony. Vike-Freiberga expressed the hope that the opening of the embassy will facilitate relations between the two countries. In talks with his Latvian counterpart, Indulis Berzins, Kukan noted that economic cooperation between the two countries is growing but many opportunities have not been explored by Latvian and Slovak businessmen. The ministers said that a bilateral agreement on defense cooperation will be signed soon. They also discussed bilateral relations, integration into the EU and NATO, and possibilities of regional development. SG

TWO LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS MURDERED IN LITHUANIA

The bodies of Panevezys Deputy Chief Prosecutor Vida Kazlauskaite and Pasvalys District Police Inspector Sergejus Piskunovas were found dead on 6 November with gun shot wounds to the heads, ELTA reported. Prosecutor-General Kazys Pednycia and Police Chief Commissioner Visvaldas Rackauskas travelled to Panevezys to investigate the murders and later the same day reported to President Valdas Adamkus. Pednycia has ordered an investigation team to be formed and headed by Algimantas Kliunka, the chief prosecutor of the organized crime and corruption investigation department. The failure of law enforcement officials in Panevezys to solve various crimes, such as last year's murder of the city prosecutor in charge of organized crime Gintaras Sereika, has led to the city being nicknamed "Lithuania's Chicago." SG

SOLIDARITY PARTIES SUPPORT POLISH PREMIER'S OFFER TO HEAD COALITION

All four parties in the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) coalition have declared their support for Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's offer to head the conflict-ridden AWS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2000), PAP reported on 6 November. The Solidarity trade union, which is another component of the AWS, declined to comment on Buzek's offer. Parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski, whom many in Poland also see as a potential AWS leader, commented that Buzek's candidacy to lead the AWS after Marian Krzaklewski is "acceptable." But Plazynski added that the AWS should become more democratic. "The idea is not for Buzek to become a second Krzaklewski with the same broad powers," he noted. JM

WARSAW TO DELAY EU MEMBERSHIP BID BEYOND 2003?

The Polish government may consider rescheduling the target date for its integration with the EU beyond 2003 if the EU does not liberalize its position on the issues that Warsaw sees as most contentious in its EU membership negotiations, PAP reported, citing an interview that Poland's chief EU negotiator Jan Kulakowski gave to the 6 November "Financial Times-Deutschland." Kulakowski told the newspaper that those contentious issues include direct subsidies for Polish farming, the free purchase of Polish real estate by EU citizens, the opening of the EU labor market for Poles, and adopting by Poles of the EU environment protection standards. Meanwhile, European Integration Minister Jacek Saryusz-Wolski reaffirmed the same day that the government is sticking to 1 January 2003 as the target date for its EU entry. Saryusz-Wolski simultaneously pledged to speed up the harmonization of Polish legislation with that of the EU. JM

POLAND BANS FRENCH BEEF IMPORTS

Poland's Chief Veterinary Inspectorate has imposed a ban on French beef imports effective 8 November, PAP reported on 6 November. Inspectorate spokeswoman Renata Patrycy said the measure was prompted by the growing incidence of mad cow disease in France. JM

CZECH PREMIER REFUSES TO MEET WITH AUSTRIAN COUNTERPART

A spokesman for Milos Zeman said on 6 November that the Czech premier will not meet with his Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Schuessel, to discuss the future of the nuclear power plant in Temelin until Austrian activists cease blocking Czech-Austrian border crossings, Czech media reported. Those activists have announced that they will continue blocking selected crossings until 9 November, despite Schuessel's pleas to end the blockades and give political dialogue a chance. The meeting between the two premiers was scheduled to take place at the end of this week. Also on 6 November, Vaclav Klaus, chairman of the Czech parliament's lower chamber, told a rally in Pardubice that he supports Zeman's decision not to meet with Schuessel. JC

SLOVAK PREMIER DISCUSSES CHANGES IN FINANCING OF UNIVERSITY EDUCATION...

Mikulas Dzurinda informed students at Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Kosice on 6 November about changes the government is preparing in the system of financing universities and colleges, CTK and TASR reported. According to Dzurinda, the current participation of students in funding education is low or even non-existent, while state subsidies are granted to all students regardless of the means at their disposal. He said the government is considering the idea that talented students from poorer families be allowed to study free or receive scholarships, while the children of wealthier parents or students who want to study but do not qualify for financial assistance would have to pay for their education. JM

...WHILE OPPOSITION AWARDS HIM BICYCLE WITH PUNCTURED TIRES

The youth organization of Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia has delivered a bicycle with punctured tires to the government building, TASR reported on 6 November. Jozef Bozik, the organization's chairman, told the agency that the bicycle symbolizes Dzurinda's unfulfilled promises. "Let him sit on that bicycle and go around the whole of Slovakia to explain to the citizens why he has deceived them," Bozik said. During the campaign for the last parliamentary elections, Dzurinda travelled around the country on a bicycle, albeit with fully inflated tires. JM

HUNGARIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER RESIGNS

Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced at a 6 November joint meeting of the three coalition parties' parliamentary groups that Transport Minister Laszlo Nogradi has resigned and will be replaced by the political secretary of the Prime Minister's Office, Janos Fonagy. Nogradi said in his resignation note that he felt it was his moral duty to vacate his post after being involved in a car accident late last month that resulted in one death. He added that he would have been unable to fulfil his duties while recuperating following the accident. MSZ.




OSCE SAYS BELGRADE HAS ACCEPTED CONDITIONS TO RESUME MEMBERSHIP

OSCE chairwoman and Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on 6 November that Yugoslavia has accepted the conditions necessary for the suspension of its membership to be lifted, dpa reported. Ferrero-Waldner made the announcement after a meeting in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. She said Kostunica showed "a very constructive attitude" toward the international community. Yugoslavia's OSCE membership was suspended in 1992. Kostunica has also agreed to allow OSCE observers to monitor the 23 December Serbian parliamentary elections and said an OSCE mission in Belgrade will be reopened soon. He added that an amnesty will soon be passed that could lead to the freeing of ethnic Albanian prisoners being held in Serbian jails. The OSCE has 55 members, including Yugoslavia. PB

MILOSEVIC TO GIVE UP PARTY LEADERSHIP?

The Tanjug news agency reported on 6 November that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will not stand for re-election as head of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). Tanjug quoted a source on the executive board of the SPS as saying that "Milosevic has explicitly said he does not want to lead the SPS any more." Milosevic has not been seen in public since 6 October, the day he conceded defeat in the presidential election in an address on state television. He is reported to be living in his two villas in the Belgrade suburbs. PB

EU AID FOR SERBIA TO ARRIVE THIS MONTH

The EU said on 6 November that the union's emergency aid for Serbia will begin arriving later this month, Reuters reported. The $172 million is designed to help Serbia provide enough energy, food, and medicine through the winter months. Serbia is experiencing power cuts that are rotated throughout the republic. Michael Graham, the EU executive's chief representative in Belgrade, said "if we don't intervene in these critical areas, the country could easily slip into a rather chaotic situation." The same day, Greece said it will help Yugoslavia by providing "as much oil and electricity as is needed." PB

SERBIAN INMATES' REVOLT SPREADS TO THIRD PRISON

Serbian prisoners demanding better treatment and inclusion in an anticipated amnesty staged a riot on 6 November, prompting revolts in other prisons, AP reported. The first riot had begun the previous day in Sremska Mitrovica, in northern Serbia, and spread to a prison in Nis and a jail near Pozarevac. Prisoners started several fires and took over sections of the institutions. Officials from Serbia's Justice Ministry are to meet with the prisoners and discuss their demands, which reportedly include that Serbian prisoners be among those granted freedom in an amnesty expected to apply to ethnic Albanians imprisoned in Serbia after being taken from Kosova. PB

COMMANDER SAYS ORGANIZED RETURN OF SERBS TO KOSOVA UNLIKELY BEFORE SPRING...

The commander of NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosova, Lieutenant-General Carlo Cabigiosu, said on 6 November that an organized return of Kosovar Serbs to the province is likely to take place in early 2001, AP reported. Cabigiosu said in Prishtina that NATO forces in Kosova (KFOR) are preparing for the repatriation. He declined to say how many might return but noted that the Serbs "are a part and will be a part of this society in the future." Between 50,000 and150,000 Serbs are estimated to have left Kosova after Yugoslav forces withdrew from the province some 15 months ago. PB

...ARGUES KFOR'S ROLE AS MILITARY FORCE LESS IMPORTANT NOW

KFOR Commander Lieutenant-General Cabigiosu also said on 6 November that his troops are less important as a military force since the democratic changes that took place in Belgrade last month, dpa reported. Cabigiosu, an Italian, said the election of President Kostunica means that an incursion by Yugoslav forces into Kosova is much less likely than it was while Slobodan Milosevic was in power. Cabigiosu added that the U.S. troops in Kosova are "an integral part of [his] force...and their presence here is very important to achieve progress." PB

BOSNIAN FOREIGN MINISTER URGES VOTERS TO REJECT NATIONALISTS

Jadranko Prlic said on 7 November in Sarajevo that Bosnia-Herzegovina will rid itself of its image as the "black hole" of Europe if voters shun nationalist candidates in this weekend's general elections, Reuters reported. Prlic warned that if "national political parties win, Bosnia...will remain far from Europe, far from the Council of Europe, the EU, and any possible cooperation with [NATO]." Prlic, who left the nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in September, said the elections are "the sole opportunity for the citizens of [Bosnia] to change the current situation." Prlic is hoping that the multiethnic Social Democratic Party will have a good showing in the elections; the party is hoping to get votes from both the Muslim and Croatian communities. Prlic said he has spoken with new Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic and that diplomatic relations between the two countries will be established soon. PB

SUSPECT IN BOSNIAN MINISTER'S MURDER TURNS HIMSELF IN

Jadranko Lucic, a suspect in the March 1999 assassination of Bosnian Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar, turned himself in on 6 November, Reuters reported. Lucic said he never received an official summons following the murder but had gone to the Sarajevo police because he is innocent. The Croatian agency Hina said Lucic was one of six people wanted by law officials on suspicion of having played a part in the bomb attack in Sarajevo that killed Leutar, who had received widespread praise for fighting corruption. Four other Croats, including former Croatian army General Ivan Andabak, have already been arrested. PB

ROMANIA TO RECEIVE 215 MILLION EURO FROM EU

The European Commission representative in Romania, Fokion Fotiadis, and Romanian Foreign Minister Petre Roman signed an agreement on 6 November whereby Romania is to receive 215 million euros (some $250 million), Romanian media reported. The sum has been granted as part of the EU's Phare program and is aimed at helping the country bring its policies into line with those of the EU. Among the projects to be funded are economic, social, and legislative ones. Fotiadis said granting the funds is a test for the Romanian government, as the latter needs to prove that the money will be spent efficiently. ZsM

DECLARATION ON PROTECTION OF ROMANIAN ORPHANS POSTPONED

After meetings on 6 November between parliamentary party leaders and Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu about the treatment of children in orphanages, the decision was taken to postpone signing a common declaration, BBC's Romanian Service reported. Three opposition parties, including the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, asked for more time to study the draft. The draft declaration contains a provision saying that all parties will "solemnly and unequivocally support the complete protection of all Romanian children." European Parliament rapporteur Emma Nicholson said on 4 November in Bucharest that the situation in Romanian orphanages is critical. ZsM

MOLDOVAN MINISTER DENIES CONSIDERING RESIGNATION

Moldovan Interior Minister Vladimir Turcan rejected rumors on 6 November that he is considering resigning, AP Flux reported on 6 November. Turcan said he has never discussed the subject with the republic's leadership and denied that he is being considered for an ambassador's post. Turcan blamed the rumors on "persons who want to destabilize the Interior Ministry." ET




GIVING SUBSTANCE TO THE UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP'


By Taras Kuzio

Ukraine's much-vaunted multi-vector foreign policy is again in flux following the dismissal last month of pro-Western minister of foreign affairs, Borys Tarasiuk. Kyiv is finding it increasingly difficult to continue a foreign policy that recognizes both the U.S. and Russia as "strategic partners" but gives substance only to its partnership with the U.S. and NATO.

The strategic goals of Ukraine's Western-oriented multi-vector foreign policy are unlikely to be altered because they have majority support among the country's leadership. While Ukraine is proceeding with plans to upgrade the GUUAM alignment (composed of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) into a fully fledged regional organization early next year, it released this summer a new plan for integration into the EU, and a new Ukraine-NATO Cooperation Program for 2001-2004 will shortly be unveiled. Support for CIS integration among the country's leadership is minimal.

There will nevertheless be short-term changes. Anatoly Zlenko, who was appointed as Tarasiuk's replacement, called upon his ministry to "change some tactical approaches in order to better tap the potential of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation." "We cannot proclaim a slogan and leave it unfulfilled," he added. For example, although both states signed a 10-year economic cooperation treaty in February 1998, the volume of bilateral trade has declined by half since 1996.

Zlenko, who was Ukrainian foreign minister from 1990 to1994, acknowledged the "low effectiveness of a purely declarative diplomacy" that Ukraine has conducted vis-a-vis Russia. Zlenko has been tasked with activating Ukraine's Russian policy. Not surprisingly, his first foreign trip was to Moscow.

Apart from the need to give a new lease on life to Ukrainian-Russian relations, Tarasiuk's dismissal as foreign minister can be seen in the context of four other factors.

First, disillusionment with the West has been growing since Ukraine's chances of joining the EU were blocked. Although there is a non-leftist (but not necessarily pro-reform) majority in the parliament and a reformist, non-corrupt government, no financial assistance has been forthcoming this year from either the IMF or the World Bank. It is surprising that when Ukraine at last has a committed reformist government the IMF has declined to provide assistance.

Second, there are no longer any high-ranking officials in the presidential administration who are pro-Western. Anatoly Orel, a former long-standing Soviet career diplomat and the head of presidential administration's foreign policy department, is reportedly a pro-Russian "grey cardinal" who supported Russian demands that Tarasiuk be relieved of his post. In return for not taking a hard line on energy debts and the re-routing of pipelines, Russian officials have long urged that certain outspoken, pro-Western officials--including Tarasiuk--be dismissed because they were not committed to a Russian-Ukrainian "strategic partnership."

Third, Ukrainian oligarchs who have acquired their wealth from illegal deals on Russian energy are blocking the re-routing of Ukrainian energy supplies from Russia via the Caucasus. Construction of the Odesa oil terminal, which was designed to import and refine Azeribaijani oil, was started in 1993 but has still not been completed. Ukrainian oligarchs can conduct their illicit energy deals only through cooperation with equally corrupt colleagues in Russia. Russia has turned down Ukrainian requests to install meters on the pipelines crossing its territory to prevent theft of Russian gas, which, according to Western diplomats in Kyiv, is taking place on either side of the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Indeed, Ukraine's oligarchs and their centrist "party of power" parliamentary factions, which control the parliamentary leadership, are hostile to the reformist government of Viktor Yushchenko because its reforms are undercutting their financial operations. While Ukraine's economy has grown this year for the first time since 1990, the government's reformist policies can also be considered to have contributed to the payment of all wage, pension, and social security arrears within nine months of the cabinet's having taken office. But President Leonid Kuchma has been noticeably reticent in supporting Yushchenko. If Kuchma were to remove him from office, the non-leftist majority in parliament would collapse: upwards of 100 of the 250 non-leftists in the parliament are pro-Yushchenko, but not pro-Kuchma.

And fourth, Russia is perhaps at last ready to accept that Ukraine is not Belarus and must be treated in a more equal, conciliatory manner than has been the case until now. It was, after all, Russia's poor treatment of Ukraine after Kuchma's election in 1994 that pushed Ukraine toward NATO. Russia's new attitude might yield better results in wooing Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told his visiting counterpart, Zlenko, at the end of last month that Russia will develop "equal, mutually advantageous and friendly relations with Ukraine taking into account the interests of both countries." Relations with Ukraine will therefore be built "on the principles of respect for Ukraine's sovereignty and independence," he added.

While a virtual strategic partnership was acceptable to former Russian President Boros Yeltsin, it is clearly not to the liking of his successor, Vladimir Putin, who will not tolerate an amorphous Ukrainian-Russian "strategic partnership" that has allowed Ukraine to cash in on its economic-energy relationship with Russia while developing political-strategic ties with the West. The Russian president is pressuring Ukraine to put substance into the two countries' "strategic partnership." It remains to be seen whether Ukraine can develop such partnerships with both Russia and the West simultaneously. The author is a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University.


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