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Newsline - November 8, 2000




MOSCOW WRAPS UP 'KURSK' CREW RECOVERY OPERATION...

Northern Fleet spokesman Vladimir Navrotskii announced on 7 November that the operation to recover the bodies of the 118-strong crew of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine has ended. That decision was taken, he noted, following a meeting between Russian and Norwegian officials supervising the operation. Work in the submarine's fourth compartment had proved too risky for the divers to continue, and divers had decided not to look for bodies in the fifth compartment because that would have entailed passing through a hatch too narrow for the divers' suits. In all, 12 bodies were recovered from the wreck and subsequently identified. JC

...MAY DELAY ANNOUNCING CAUSE OF DISASTER

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told Interfax on 8 November that the government is likely to postpone making an official announcement about what caused the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine. A special government commission investigating those causes, which Klebanov heads, was scheduled to meet on 8 November and make such an announcement. Klebanov said that the divers had collected new data while inspecting the submarine's hull and that data will have to be analyzed. He did not specify the nature of the new information gathered. JC

KEY WITNESS IN POPE TRIAL RETRACTS TESTIMONY

Anatolii Babkin, a key witness in the espionage trial of U.S. businessman and former naval officer Edmond Pope, has withdrawn testimony he gave against Pope. Babkin said in a 3 November letter to the Moscow City Court that his statement maintaining he gave classified information to Pope was made under pressure from investigators, Pavel Astakhov, Pope's lawyer, told reporters on 8 November. "I have never met Pope alone and have never disclosed any secrets to him," Babkin said in his 3 November letter, adding that Pope had never asked him to hand over secret documents either. The 70-year-old Russian professor, who suffers from a heart condition, has been deemed too ill to appear in court. Instead, he gave testimony in writing and read his statement before video cameras. AFP quoted Astakhov as saying that he will request to be allowed to interview Babkin and submit that testimony as new evidence in the case. JC

ANOTHER VODKA BATTLE UNDER WAY

The chief executive officer of the Smirnov Vodka trading house, Petr Smirnov, remained holed up on the third floor of his distillery on 7 November, following a raid by masked policemen over the weekend, "The Moscow Times" reported on 8 November. The police entered the plant by force in order to implement a recent court decision to name a single general director of the company, Sergei Yuzefov. Since last summer, the company has functioned with two general directors, two official stamps, and two separate distilleries both putting the Smirnov brand name on their product. Earlier, Petr Smirnov's cousin, Andrei Smirnov, had attempted to sell his half stake in the company to a subsidiary of Alfa Bank. Petr Smirnov told the daily, "If I walk out, I will not be let in afterwards. Ever." In August, another armed stand-off occurred during an attempt to install a new director at another vodka distillery (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2000). JAC

ELDERLY GATHER TO CELEBRATE BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION...

About 5,000 people in Moscow took part in a march marking the 83rd anniversary of the October Revolution on 7 November, according to Moscow police figures, AP reported. Another 1,000 participated in a march led by Viktor Anpilov, head of the Working Russia party. According to "The Moscow Times," the bulk of the participants in the Moscow rallies appeared to be elderly. In Chelyabinsk, a group of some 5,000 gathered in the city's main square in temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius, ITAR-TASS reported. Between 1,500 and 2,000 people gathered in Khabarovsk and Omsk, carrying red flags and streamers proclaiming the glory of the October Revolution. Temperatures in that city reached minus 20 degrees Celsius. St. Petersburg registered one of the largest holiday crowds with around 6,000 people taking to the streets, although some were members of Finland's Communist Party, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

...AS YOUTHS HOLD PRO-PUTIN RALLY

Also in Moscow on 7 November, some 3,000 students gathered on Red Square to express their support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, ITAR-TASS reported. The students' march was organized by a youth organization called Marching Together. The youths wore yellow stickers that read "Youth for the President" and praised Putin and his "strong hand," "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. Similar pro-Putin rallies were held in Tula and Volgograd, Reuters reported. JAC

MOSCOW URGES TALLINN TO GRANT EX-KGB OFFICERS RESIDENCE PERMITS

Russia has complained to Tallinn over what it says is the latter's refusal to automatically grant residence permits to former members of the Soviet KGB. Moscow says that refusal violates a December 1991 secret agreement that came to light only last month during a court case in Estonia. Under that agreement, Estonia allegedly agreed to guarantee former KGB officers social, political, and other rights, including immunity against prosecution for their secret service activities. According to AFP on 7 November, an Estonian government panel recently argued that the agreement is invalid because it was signed by a transitional administration, at the time when the Soviet Union was breaking up. Moscow said it has complained to Tallinn now "because of recent refusals to extend residence permits of former KGB personnel," Reuters reported. JC

RAILWAY PLANS FOR FAR EAST INCH ALONG

Designers have completed a blueprint for a project linking Sakhalin Island to the Russian mainland by railway, Interfax reported on 7 November. The blueprint will be submitted to the Railways Ministry by the end of the year. Meanwhile, designers will begin to calculate the cost of implementing the project. The railway track needed to connect the island will be some 10 kilometers long. It has not yet been decided whether the track will be built on top of a bridge or inside a tunnel. Ultimately, the ministry hopes to link the Russian mainland to Japan by constructing a 40-kilometer Sakhalin-Hokkaido rail track. JAC

SAVE-THE-REINDEER PROJECT LAUNCHED IN FAR NORTH

An international project has been launched to save Eurasia's largest population of wild reindeer, whose home is in the Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, Interfax reported on 7 November. Those animals have become increasingly at risk as the region has become more industrialized. Industrial pollutants have forced the reindeer to change their traditional migration routes, while the construction of oil and gas pipelines have made migration difficult and resulted in entire herds perishing. The UN Development Program (UNDP), the Global Ecological Fund, and Taimyr's non-governmental Arctic Ring organization are all involved in the project, to which UNDP is prepared to contribute $1 million. JC

CHILDREN'S WRITER DIES

Boris Zakhoder, the well-known children's writer and poet, died on 7 November at the age of 83, the website http://www.lenta.ru reported. Zakhoder is perhaps best known for his retelling/translations of "Winnie the Pooh," "Mary Poppins," "Peter Pan," "Alice in Wonderland," the fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers as well as the writings of Goethe and the Czech author Karl Capek. Zakhoder was born in the Moldovan town of Kagul but spent his childhood in Moscow. At the age of 23, he was sent to the front in World War II. JAC

NEW SCULPTURE OF AKHMATOVA TO BE FIRST IN SERIES

A bronze sculpture of the poet Anna Akhmatova was unveiled on 17 Bolshaya Ordynka Street in Moscow on 7 November. The sculpture is located in the courtyard of an apartment building where Akhmatova often stayed between 1934 and 1963. The sculpture was created by Vladimir Surovtsev based on a drawing of Akhmatova by Italian artist Amadeo Modigliani. According to Interfax, it is the first in a series of sculptures that will be erected at the site. Among those to be commemorated are Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Yurii Olesha, Lidiya Ruslanova, Boris Pasternak, Joseph Brodsky, Vladimir Vysotsky, all of whom lived in the apartment building at various times. JAC




NEW CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST DETAINED ARMENIAN BUSINESSMAN

Arkadii Vartanian, leader of the 21st Century Association, has been charged with calling for the violent overthrow of the Armenian leadership at a demonstration in Yerevan on 30 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 7 November, quoting Interior Minister Hayk Harutiunian. Together with his lawyer, Karo Karapetian, Vartanian, who is a Russian citizen, was detained by police late on 30 October and held for 10 days' administrative arrest. Vartanian's wife and the Armenian Helsinki Group have both condemned Vartanian's detention as politically motivated. LF

ARMENIA, WORLD BANK LAUNCH NEW INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM

The World Bank and the Armenian government on 7 November launched a program that will provide a total of $29 million for some 450 small infrastructure projects nationwide over the next five years, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A similar five-year program begun in 1995 funded 240 projects to provide educational facilities, quality drinking water, irrigation systems, and highway repairs. LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ASSESSES ARMY FUNDING

Funding for the armed forces in 2000 has been "adequate" and will remain "almost the same" next year, Serzh Sarkisian said in an interview with "Hayots ashkhar" on 7 November and reported by Groong. Sarkisian said that while the current level of funding is "satisfactory," it does not allow for the procurement of new weapons systems, noting that the existing ones "may become obsolete tomorrow." He said that the current level of funding is sufficient to ensure that the army is able to perform its duties and that servicemen do not lack food, uniforms, and medical care. But he added that "the army is a structure that can never have a surplus of funds, and there are no superfluous expenditures in the army." LF

AZERBAIJANI ELECTION BODY FAILS TO MAKE PUBLIC FURTHER RETURNS...

After the OSCE Election Mission's 6 November statement criticizing widespread falsification in the previous day's parliamentary election, Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission released no further results the next day, Turan reported. Instead, it issued a statement saying that complete returns will be made public on 15 November. The statement also pledged that all reports of violations of electoral procedure will be investigated. Commission secretary Ilgar Abbasov told Turan on 7 November that the outcome of the poll may be invalidated in several constituencies. Turan also reported that the staff of the Central Electoral Commission was summoned to the presidential administration on 7 November for several hours of talks with administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev and President Heidar Aliev. LF

...WHILE RULING PARTY STILL HAS LEAD NATIONWIDE...

As of late on 6 November, only two parties, the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) and the "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP), had surmounted the 6 percent barrier for parliamentary representation under the proportional system. At that time, with ballot papers from 70 percent of all polling stations processed, YAP had 70.83 percent of the vote, the AHCP 6.4 percent, the opposition Musavat Party 4.71 percent, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) 3.88 percent, the Communist Party 3.05 percent, the Civic Solidarity Party 2.69 percent, the Liberal Party 1.25 percent and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan 1.2 percent. In addition, YAP had 48 seats in single-mandate constituencies and opposition parties six. LF

...AND IN NAKHICHEVAN

The Central Electoral Commission of Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic published on 7 November the results of the elections for a new regional legislature that took place simultaneously with the parliamentary ballot on 5 November, Turan reported. Those results give YAP 37 of the 45 seats in the regional parliament, independent candidates seven, and the AHCP one. But local representatives of the AHCP, Musavat, and Democratic parties rejected those results as falsified. They also queried the official claim that voter turnout was 71.3 percent, claiming the true figure was no more than 40 percent. LF

MORE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES REJECT OFFICIAL POLL OUTCOME...

Etibar Mamedov, Ali Kerimov, and Lala Shovket--the leaders of AMIP, the reformist wing of the AHCP, and the Liberal Party, respectively--said on 7 November that they cannot accept the "falsified" results of the 5 November ballot, Turan reported. Shovket proposed creating an "alternative" parliament that would campaign for new parliamentary and presidential elections. She has reportedly discussed that suggestion with AMIP, Musavat, and Democratic Party representatives. In Kakh Raion, northwest of Baku, some 6,000 people gathered on 6 November to protest the election results, "Hurriyet" reported on 7 November. LF

...AS U.S. CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF IRREGULARITIES

In a statement issued on 7 November, the U.S. State Department said that Washington concurs with the OSCE Election Mission's assessment that the 5 November Azerbaijani parliamentary poll did not meet international standards, Reuters reported. The statement called on the Azerbaijani authorities to investigate violations that occurred during the voting and ballot count and correct the final tally accordingly. LF

IRAN RESUMES, AGAIN HALTS POWER SUPPLIES TO NAKHICHEVAN

Iran on 4 November resumed power supplies to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan which it had suspended on 27 October in retaliation for Baku's failure to pay debts amounting to $45 million, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). But power supplies were again cut on 7 November. Local officials attributed that move to an attack on the Iranian consulate in Nakhichevan the previous day by relatives of an Azerbaijani woman arrested in Iran in May. LF

THREE NEWSPAPERS LAUNCHED IN KAZAKHSTAN

Three non state-controlled newspapers began publication in Kazakhstan on 7 November, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The Russian-language weekly newspaper "Megalopolis" is owned by Armanzhan Baitasov, chief editor of the Almaty TV station 31 Kanal. The bi-weekly "Bigun-Segodnya" is owned by Nurzhan Mautov, a former member of the editorial board of the embattled "Sol-Dat" weekly. Mautov told RFE/RL that "Bigun-Segodnya" intends to provide the population with unbiased and independent information. A second bilingual newspaper, "Pravda Kazakhstana," which is published by the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, appeared for the first time on 7 November, the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. LF

KYRGYZ COURT BEGINS HEARING OF JAILED OPPOSITIONIST'S APPEAL

The Bishkek City Court on 7 November began reviewing the appeal by opposition Erkindik party leader Topchubek TurgunAliyev and six other persons against the jail sentences handed down to them in early September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The seven men were found guilty, on the evidence of one man, of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2000). Relatives of the seven, who received sentences of 16-17 years, have been picketing the regional administration in the southern town of Djalalabad since mid-October to protest the sentences (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 19 October 2000). LF




BELARUS REMEMBERS OCTOBER REVOLUTION WITHOUT PARADES

RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported that Belarus celebrated the October Revolution holiday on 7 November "extremely modestly," without mass meetings and parades. Most celebrations were limited to laying wreaths at monuments to Lenin. The Minsk authorities did not allow the country's two Communist Parties to stage marches in the capital, and regional authorities followed suit. In Homel, however, several thousand people participated in a rally organized by the oblast and city authorities, at which speakers praised the Soviet regime's achievements and warned NATO "to keep its hands off Belarus and the [Belarusian] president," Belapan reported. Alena Skryhan of the Belarusian Communist Party told RFE/RL that the regime played down the October Revolution celebrations in order to avert criticism at mass gatherings about the dire economic situation in the country. JM

UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS CELEBRATE REVOLUTION, PROTEST ECONOMIC PLIGHT

Ukrainian leftists held rallies across Ukraine on 7 November to celebrate the anniversary of the October Revolution and protest the government's policies in the socio-economic sphere. According to estimates by Interfax, 2,500 people demonstrated in Kyiv, 3,500 in Kharkiv, 1,500 in Dnipropetrovsk, 3,000 in Simferopol, 4,000 in Sevastopol, 1,000 in Luhansk, and 2,000 in Mykolayiv. Police said there were no incidents during the rallies, adding that attendance was "much lower" than last year. The Kyiv demonstration, which was attended by Communist leader Petro Symonenko and Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz, demanded that the government establish fixed prices for utilities and foodstuffs, set the minimum wage at a level no lower than the subsistence minimum, and re-establish the October Revolution anniversary as a public holiday. JM

NATO FINDS ESTONIA'S PLAN TO JOIN ALLIANCE REALISTIC

NATO Deputy Secretary-General Klaus-Peter Kleiber chaired a NATO political committee meeting in Brussels on 6 November attended by an Estonian delegation, BNS reported the next day. NATO officials called Estonia's 2001 plan for joining the alliance a realistic, well-considered, and constructive document. They praised Estonia's contribution to NATO's Partnership for Peace program and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. At the same time, they urged greater defense cooperation among the Baltic states and expressed the hope that Estonia will raise defense spending to 2 percent of GDP in 2002. SG

INFLATION IN ESTONIA UP ALMOST 1 PERCENT IN OCTOBER

The Statistics Office reported on 7 November that inflation rose by 0.9 percent in October compared with September and that year-on-year growth was 5.4 percent, BNS reported. The increase was largely due to higher telephone tariffs and higher prices for gasoline, meat, and dairy products. In October, the price of food products rose by 1 percent and that of industrial goods by 0.8 percent. SG

MARKET EXPERTS FORECAST MINIMAL GROWTH OF LITHUANIAN ECONOMY

Some 50 market experts polled by the Free Market Institute (LLRI) forecast minimal economic growth in Lithuania until mid-2001, ELTA reported on 7 November. The experts noted that while Lithuania's GDP declined by 1.8 percent last year, it will increase by 1.8 percent this year and year-on-year growth in GDP by mid-2001 will total 2.3 percent. They said that the GDP share of the shadow economy had stabilized at some 23 percent, while unaccounted imports equaled some 20 percent of all imports and unaccounted exports some 12 percent of all exports. The experts put inflation in the first half of 2000 at 2 percent and expect it to reach 3.4 percent by mid-2001. SG

SOLIDARITY ENTERS DISPUTE WITH POLISH GOVERNMENT

The Solidarity trade union is engaged in a "dispute" with Premier Jerzy Buzek's cabinet, demanding wage increases to compensate workers for higher-than-expected inflation this year, Polish media reported. "This decision means that we are increasing pressure on the government, demanding decisive negotiations, and paving the way for the union to start various protests, including strikes," Solidarity spokesman Kajus Augustyniak told PAP. Solidarity is also demanding that the monthly minimum wage be increased to at least 883 zlotys ($193) from the present 700 zlotys. Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said the cabinet is ready for talks with the trade union. JM

FORMER POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER READY TO LEAD PARTY AFTER BALCEROWICZ

Bronislaw Geremek has suggested that he may stand for the leadership of the Freedom Union (UW) at a party congress in December. "There are no quarrels in the UW and no internal disputes. But if the UW wants me to stand for chairman, I will," Geremek told the RMF radio station on 7 November. Rumors that UW Chairman Leszek Balcerowicz is to be replaced by Geremek have been circulating in Poland since the UW pulled out of the coalition with the Solidarity Electoral Action in June. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT SAYS NEW HEALTH MINISTER FACING 'EXTRAORDINARILY DIFFICULT' TASK

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 7 November endorsed Grzegorz Opala's nomination as health minister, Polish media reported. Kwasniewski said Opala is facing an "extraordinarily difficult" task because he will supervise the reform of Poland's poorly financed health system, which "raises lots of concern and criticism." Premier Jerzy Buzek nominated Opala, a 58-year-old neurologist, after Health Minister Franciszka Cegielska died last month. JM

CIVIC DEMOCRATS POISED TO WIN CZECH REGIONAL ELECTIONS

An opinion poll by SC&C and STEM, whose results were reported by Czech media on 7 November, suggests that the Civic Democratic Party of former Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus could win in as many as nine regions in the 12 November regional parliamentary elections, which are being organized for the first time in the Czech Republic. An alliance of four small right-of-center parties is expected to win in two regions, while the other two regions being contested are likely to be claimed by either the Communists or the ruling Social Democrats. The Czech Republic was subdivided into 14 regions last year in an effort to decentralize the state administration system. Voters in the Prague region will not cast their ballots this time, however. JC

COURT GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO SLOVAK REFERENDUM ON EARLY ELECTIONS

Slovakia's Constitutional Court on 7 November rejected a motion by 30 deputies from the ruling coalition to annul President Rudolf Schuster's decision to hold a referendum on early parliamentary elections. The court said Schuster's decision is constitutional. The referendum, which was initiated by the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party, will be held on 11 November. However, polls conducted by three Slovak agencies in late October indicated that there will not be the required 50 percent turnout to validate the referendum's results. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in Slovakia in 2002. JM

SMALLHOLDERS' CHAIRMAN CALLS ON HUNGARIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER TO QUIT

Agriculture Minister and Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) Chairman Jozsef Torgyan on 7 November urged Environment Minister Ferenc Ligetvari to resign, Hungarian media reported. Ligetvari refused to step down, saying that he has ended scandals at the FKGP-led ministry and restored its professional standing. Ligetvari and Janos Mujzer of the FKGP recently revealed corruption and the embezzlement of some 500 million forints ($1.6 million) at the Environment Management Institute. According to "Nepszabadsag," Torgyan said Ligetvari does not serve the interests of the Smallholders party. MSZ




YUGOSLAVIA TO DISBAND PARAMILITARY FORCE IN MONTENEGRO?

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica is prepared to dissolve paramilitary troops stationed in Montenegro, Reuters reported on 7 November, quoting an EU diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity. A decision to disband the Yugoslav Army's 7th Military Police Battalion "has been formally agreed," the diplomat said. The battalion, which was formed last year by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, is reported to number some 1,000 troops. It has been a source of friction between Podgorica and Belgrade. The battalion's dissolution was among the demands made by Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic at last week's Yugoslav Supreme Defense Council meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). PB

MONTENEGRO SEEKS BETTER RELATIONS WITH CROATIA...

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said a dispute over Prevlaka, a peninsula in the Adriatic, will not hurt relations between Croatia and Montenegro, AP reported on 7 November. Lukovac made his comments during a meeting in Dubrovnik with his Croatian counterpart, Tonino Picula. "Prevlaka should not be a bone of contention as we do not see it as a territorial question," Lukovac said. Prevlaka, a 3-kilometer-long strip of land, has been monitored by a UN observer mission since 1992. The UN recognizes Prevlaka as part of Croatia but insists on a bilateral resolution of the dispute. Yugoslav government leader Zoran Djindjic said recently that Croatia should cede the territory to Montenegro as a "gentlemanly gesture" to ensure good relations. PB

...ASKS TO ATTEND SUMMIT INDEPENDENTLY OF BELGRADE

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Lukovac said during a meeting with Croatian Foreign Minister Picula on 7 November that Montenegro wants to attend an EU summit in Zagreb later this month separately from Serbia, Hina reported. Lukovac said he is counting on Montenegrin President Djukanovic being "invited to the summit to express his views on the situation in Montenegro and Serbia." Picula said organizers of the 24 November summit will try to accommodate that request. Lukovac and Picula met in Zagreb to discuss bilateral relations. PB

SERBIAN MINISTER SAYS STATE CAN'T AFFORD ENERGY IMPORTS

Serbian Deputy Premier Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 7 November that the state does not have the $200 million needed to buy electricity, fuel, and natural gas imports for the winter, Reuters reported. Covic said "Serbia needs assistance right now and a timely supply of fuel and electricity will consolidate the democratic processes in the country." He said Yugoslav foreign exchange reserves total some $380 million, one-third of which is gold and $180 million of which is needed to repay a loan to China in December. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer pledged in a 7 November meeting with his Yugoslav counterpart, Goran Svilanovic, to grant Belgrade $25 million in emergency aid. And Fischer told Yugoslav Premier Zoran Zizic that Berlin is ready to restore diplomatic relations with Belgrade. PB

SERBIAN PRISON CHAOS CONTINUES

Serbian inmates at three Serbian prisons prisoners continue to demand better conditions and their inclusion in a general amnesty being drawn up for ethnic Albanian prisoners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2000), AP reported. Hundreds of ethnic Albanians were evacuated from a prison in Pozarevac after they were threatened by Serbs for not joining in the protests. At a Nis prison, prisoners are wearing guard uniforms and are armed. At least one man has died in the uprising at the prisons and several people are reported injured (see also "End Note" below). PB

OSCE RELEASES OFFICIAL RESULTS OF KOSOVA ELECTIONS

The UN administrator in Kosova, Bernard Kouchner, has endorsed the final results of the Kosova municipal elections, AP reported. Figures released by the OSCE showed that Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova won 58 percent of all votes or 504 seats in 27 municipalities. Former Kosova Liberation Army leader Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova won 27.3 percent of the vote or 267 seats. The hardline Alliance for the Future of Kosova won 7.7 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was put at 79 percent of registered voters. The OSCE mission said results in the Serb-dominated areas of Leposavic, Zubin Potok, and Zvecan should not be validated but that Kouchner should appoint Serbian leaders to those municipalities. PB

OSCE BANS NATIONALIST CANDIDATES, CAMPAIGN POSTERS IN BOSNIA

The OSCE said on 7 November that it has banned nationalist posters and four candidates from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) from running in the 11 November general elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Reuters reported. The four candidates were barred from taking part in the elections for local assemblies in the northern Bosnian town of Odzak after trying to "wield improper influence over the local election commission." The campaign posters, which say "Self-Determination or Extermination," were also banned. The OSCE acknowledged that the late ban on the posters will have a minimal effect on their usage. The HDZ responded by saying the OSCE has made it "impossible" to run a normal campaign, and it accused the organization of favoring the multiethnic Social Democratic Party. PB

CROATIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS RELEASED

Josip Nekic and Zeljko Stipic have been acquitted of complicity in war crimes for lack of evidence, AP reported on 7 November. Nekic, who was the head of a regional branch of one of Croatia's secret services, and Stipic, an army officer, were arrested in Zadar two months ago during a government crackdown on war crimes suspects and were charged with providing protection and shelter to four people suspected of committing attrocities against Muslims in the Bosnian village of Ahmici in 1993. PB

ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT BANS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

The Romanian Constitutional Court on 7 November banned independent candidate Lucian Orasel from running for the presidency, Romanian media reported. The court cited the fact that Orasel also has U.S. citizenship. By 6 November, which was the last day to file a protest against the candidates, the court had received a total of 59 such protests. Meanwhile, an opinion poll reported by "Cotidianul" on 7 November confirms former President and Party of Social Democracy in Romania Chairman Ion Iliescu's lead ahead of the presidential ballot with 37.5 percent backing, while Premier Mugur Isarescu has 19 percent support. Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor and National Liberal Party candidate Theodor Stolojan each received 12 percent. Other candidates have less than 10 percent support. The poll also suggested that of Iliescu's challengers, only Isarescu might be able to defeat him in a run-off. ZsM

ROMANIA TO SEND HUMANITARIAN AID TO MOLDOVA

The government announced on 6 November that a humanitarian aid package will be sent to Moldova, Mediafax reported on 7 November. According to the Romanian government, Bucharest will send some 1,300 tons of gasoline and mineral oil to Chisinau. The aid comes from Romanian state reserves. ET

MOLDOVAN DELEGATION TO NEGOTIATE GAS DELIVERIES WITH GAZPROM

A government delegation from Moldova will travel to Moscow next week to negotiate with Russia's Gazprom the conditions for gas deliveries, AP Flux reported on 7 November. Moldovan Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis informed the parliament the same day about the difficulties his government is experiencing in ensuring energy supplies for the winter and paying for gas imports from Russia. Gazprom said earlier in a letter to the Moldovan parliament that it intends to reduce gas deliveries to the former Soviet republic because of outstanding debts. ET

DISSIDENT BULGARIAN POLITICIAN DIES

Petar Dertliev, a dissident and one of the founders of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces, died in Sofia at age 84, AP reported on 6 December. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said the Dertliev's "youth was crushed by the communist labor camps, but no one could crush his spirit." Dertliev was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the communist authorities because of his political beliefs and work with the Social Democratic Party. After the communist regime fell in 1989, he revived the previously banned party and served as its leader until his death. PB




SERBIAN PRISON UNREST SPREADS


By Jolyon Naegele

Serbia's three main prisons--Sremska Mitrovica, Nis, and Pozarevac--are currently in the hands of rebellious inmates, with the first fatality being reported after nearly 48 hours of unrest.

The uprisings represent a major challenge to plans by the fledgling government of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica to amnesty some 800 Kosovar Albanians, whom Serbian forces seized as hostages during NATO air strikes last year. The inmates at the three prisons are demanding an end to poor treatment and the expansion of the proposed amnesty bill for Kosovar Albanian political prisoners in Serbia to include Serbian common criminals.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 7 November called on Kostunica's administration to "take all necessary measures to ensure the security and well-being of all prisoners, and in particular the Kosovar Albanian detainees."

The unrest started in Sremska Mitrovica, 75 kilometers west of Belgrade, late on 5 November, before spreading east and south to Nis and Pozarevac.

At least four buildings at Pozarevac prison were on fire on the afternoon of 7 November. Prison warden Stipe Marusic says guards shot in the air to calm down the rioters. But inmates contacted by telephone say the guards shot at them, injuring several prisoners.

At Nis, a prisoner slipped off the roof of a building, suffered serious head injuries, and later died in hospital. Several hundred riot police armed with sub-machine guns have since surrounded the prison.

Unrest at Sremska Mitrovica prison, where before the uprising some 1,300 inmates were incarcerated, including 50 foreigners and six prisoners on death row, resulted in three injuries. But Sremska Mitrovica was reported calm on 7 November.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Sremska Mitrovica spoke with several prisoners, including one who said the inmates are demanding that former prison warden Trifun Nivkovic be tried for torturing prisoners and forcing the prisoners to live in "impossible conditions." "We also want an amnesty. Thirty-three percent are political prisoners and 33 percent are first-time offenders, so they should all be covered in an amnesty," the inmate said.

At Nis prison, some 300 Albanian prisoners declined an invitation by Serbian inmates to join the revolt. At Sremska Mitrovica, Albanians joined the uprising, but late last night police evacuated several bus-loads of Albanians from the prison.

Kosovar Albanian inmate Mehmet Shabani says Albanians joined the Sremska Mitrovica protest as equals with the Serbs: "We have a common goal--Serbs, Albanians, and the others--we are all together. We fully support what our colleagues are demanding. We are political prisoners. There are 167 Albanians here. I don't think we are hurting anyone with our frustration. But even without this amnesty bill, we have expected more from this new government than the little it has offered up to now."

One of Serbia's three co-ministers of justice, Dragan Subasic, told RFE/RL that the Justice Ministry considers the prisoners' demands "fully justified," including the demand for extending amnesty to non-Albanians. Subasic is a member of Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition. "Above all, it is clear these protests are the result of long years of bad and abnormal measures in this prison... This [included] very bad treatment of condemned persons who don't even get health care."

Meanwhile, relatives of the prisoners have gathered outside the prisons awaiting news of their family members.

The prison revolts in Serbia have a recent historical parallel in Eastern Europe. Shortly after being inaugurated as the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia in late December 1989, Vaclav Havel issued a sweeping amnesty. Havel himself had spent more than five years in Czechoslovak prisons as a dissident playwright and was convinced that with communism gone, many inmates should be given a second chance.

The release of all political prisoners was a key demand of the leaders of the Velvet Revolution, and the communist authorities, which had consistently maintained that there were no political prisoners, finally released all those demanded by the opposition. Weeks before, Havel had been elected by the largely communist parliament.

Havel's amnesty did not only cover political prisoners but those who were jailed for non-violent crimes. The amnesty, however, provoked riots among more hard-core criminals not affected by the amnesty, who proceeded to trash and set several Czech and Slovak prisons ablaze. Many of the prisoners released under Havel's amnesty went back to crime and were soon behind bars again.

The amnesty permanently damaged Havel's reputation. More than a decade later, it is still perceived by many Czechs and Slovaks as having been Havel's greatest mistake. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


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