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Newsline - November 10, 2000




MILITARY TO BE SLASHED BY ONE-FIFTH...

The Russian Security Council on 9 November announced that the armed forces will be cut by some 600,000 troops over the next five years. That total includes the reduction of 365,000 servicemen announced earlier as well as 130,000 civilian staff and 105,000 troops from units not under the Defense Ministry's jurisdiction, including Interior Ministry troops. Reuters quoted an unidentified Security Council official as saying that the overall tally amounts to nearly one-fifth of the defense forces. The decision brings to an end the years-long debate on the reform of the military. President Vladimir Putin, addressing the Security Council, made clear that he believed it was high time to take such a decision, stressing that the country's "very security" depended on it. Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov was quoted as saying that the combat strength of the armed forces will not be affected by the cuts, which, he said, will take place in the "support and administrative services." JC

...BUT NO FINAL DECISION WHERE CUTS WILL TAKE PLACE

"Izvestiya" noted on 10 November that the Security Council has not yet made a final decision on where the planned cuts will take place, and it predicts that the security ministries will be lobbying hard over the next few months to protect their interests. Security Council Deputy Secretary Vladimir Potapov suggested on 9 November that some branches of the armed forces will be cut back more than others, saying the reductions "will not be proportionate to the departments themselves," according to Interfax. It was reported, however, that the cuts will affect 240,000 officers, including 380 generals. JC

IVANOV SHEDS MILITARY RANK

Also on 9 November, President Putin signed a decree stripping Security Council Secretary Ivanov of his rank as lieutenant general in the foreign intelligence service. Ivanov explained to the press later the same day that he asked the president to issue such a decree because he, Ivanov, has found it "difficult to pass decisions affecting the whole of the military" while holding the rank of lieutenant general. He also noted that his military title had placed him in an awkward position when travelling abroad and carrying out "instructions related to foreign policy," ITAR-TASS reported. Some defense experts have speculated that the move could be linked to future personnel decisions, including the appointment of a civilian defense minister. JC

OFFICERS GO ON TRIAL FOR 1994 JOURNALIST'S MURDER

A military court on 9 November began hearings against five former military intelligence officers accused of organizing the murder of "Moskovskii komsomolets" journalist Dmitrii Kholodov. A sixth defendant, the head of a bodyguards agency, is charged with complicity. Kholodov was killed by a suitcase bomb in 1994; at the time of his murder, he was investigating widespread corruption among the military leadership. It has been suggested that the motive for the murder was career advancement: the defendants allegedly wanted to impress their superiors, who were facing scrutiny for suspected corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2000). Shortly after opening the trial, the military court adjourned the proceedings until 14 November in order to consider requests filed by the defense. JC

COURT CALLS MAIN WITNESS IN POPE TRIAL

The main witness in the case of alleged U.S. spy Edmond Pope appeared in a closed court on 10 November to give testimony. Anatolii Babkin is alleged to have handed over to Pope classified information on a high-speed torpedo. He recently sent a letter to the court retracting testimony in which he admitted to providing the defendant with such data. Babkin claimed that he had been pressured by investigators to implicate Pope (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2000). According to NTV, Babkin was questioned by the prosecution and defense as well as by a panel of experts but it was not immediately known what he had said, AP reported. He also declined to answer reporters' questions on leaving the courtroom. JC

RUSSIAN REACTIONS TO U.S. ELECTION RANGE FROM GLEE TO CONTEMPT

Russian media outlets on 9 November featured various articles about the U.S. presidential election. Many of them included jokes about the vote count in Florida. "Vedomosti" said that "the president's name is Gorbush." "Moskovskii komsomolets" asked whether there were now "two presidents." And "Vremya-MN" said the current electoral impasse has created a "Divided States of America." But other media outlets and leaders took a more critical position. Central Election Commission chief Aleksandr Veshnyakov told "Kommersant-Daily" that "in Russia we would never adopt such a system," noting that Florida might have to vote again. One Russian citizen told dpa that Florida will inevitably go to George Bush: "It's obvious, his brother is governor there, and they'll count [the votes] five more times...until the math works out for him." Boris Nemtsov, a leading Russian reformer, said what was taking place in the U.S. "is simply quite stupid," Reuters reported. Europe Institute deputy director Sergei Karaganov said, "Thank God we have no such system in Russia!" And "Kommersant-Daily" editorialized that "the producers of the show known as the [U.S.] presidential elections have made everyone doubt that the voters or even electors decide the fate of presidents... Elections [there], where the programs of the leading candidates are practically indistinguishable..., tend to shift toward the show business sphere. The laws of this business demand that viewers be kept in suspense until the very last minute." PG

KLEBANOV SAYS DIVERS FOUND SUB'S LOG BOOK

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the government commission investigating the causes of the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, said officials are studying the vessel's log book that divers found in the fourth compartment while seeking to recover bodies of the crew, Interfax reported on 9 November. According to Klebanov's spokeswoman, Oksana Onishchenko, the documents are "unreadable" and "there is nothing related to the accident," AP reported. Two notes were found on the bodies of submariners recovered from the submarine's ninth compartment. Also on 9 November, Russian General Staff chief Anatolii Kvashnin repeated earlier demands that Russia be allowed to inspect NATO submarines. He noted that while the alliance says none of its vessels were involved in the "Kursk" disaster, "doubts remain" in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. JC

PRIVATIZATION REVENUES EXCEED TARGETS

The government realized 37.59 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) from its privatization program in the first 10 months of 1999, approximately 40 percent more than planned in the budget, Interfax reported on 9 November. PG

RUSSIANS BELIEVE OPPOSITION TO PUTIN EXISTS

The All-Russia Public Opinion Center told Interfax on 9 November that one of its polls shows that 53 percent of Russians believe Russia has an opposition to President Putin while 25 percent do not believe one exists. Forty-seven percent of those polled said Russia needs an opposition to Putin and his government, but 29 percent said that Russia does not need such a group. Moreover, the poll found, 34 percent of Russians believe the Russian media should "fully support" the Russian president. PG

CHIEF RABBI SAYS RUSSIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY TO BE 'MOST POWERFUL IN THE WORLD'

Berl Lazar, the chief rabbi of the Federation of Russia's Jewish Communities, told ITAR-TASS on 9 November that "the Jewish community in Russia will be one of the most powerful in the world." He pointed to the opening of "a major Jewish center" in Birobidzhan and a synagogue in Chelyabinsk as evidence of this trend. PG

ANOTHER LOCAL OFFICIAL GUNNED DOWN IN CHECHNYA

Yusa Tsuev, head of the Alkhan-Kala district administration in Achkhoi-Martan Raion, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in his office on 9 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The gunman also shot and seriously wounded two Chechen women. A Russian Interior Ministry official had said on 6 November, after the failed attempt to assassinate Gudermes Mayoress Malika Gezimieva (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2000), that protection for local officials would be intensified, according to Interfax. A Russian military spokesman made a similar announcement on 9 November, saying that terrorist attacks are anticipated in the coming week in Grozny, Argun, and Gudermes. LF

PUTIN SEEKS EXPANDED TIES WITH GERMANY...

In an article published in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 9 November, President Putin said that Russia and Germany have achieved great progress in the development of their bilateral ties but that there is still "tremendous potential" to improve ties further. He added that the citizens of former eastern Germany, "who know Russia not only from hearsay," could make a particular contribution to the Russian-German relationship. PG

...URGES CLOSER TIES WITH ASIA...

Noting that Russia is also an Asian power, President Putin said he will direct Russian attention toward the Asia-Pacific region, ITAR-TASS reported. In an article released in advance of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to be held in Brunei, Putin said "we have never forgotten that most of Russia's territory is located in Asia" but "sometimes we did not make use of that benefit." PG

...AGAIN CALLS FOR ENDING SANCTIONS ON IRAQ

President Putin said on 9 November that Moscow believes the sanctions imposed on Iraq should be lifted, Russian agencies reported. He added that Russia must play an expanded role in the Middle East peace process. Yevgenii Primakov, former prime minister and leader of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction in the State Duma, accused Washington of seeking to monopolize that process and argued that no peace will be possible without Moscow's involvement, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

GOVERNMENT INCREASES SUBSIDIES TO KURILS

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told a government session on 9 November that subsidies to the Kuril Islands will be increased. He did not state how much money would be allocated to the islands, which were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and whose ownership is disputed by Japan. According to "Izvestiya" the next day, the government is to draw up a five-year plan for the socio-economic developments of the Kurils. The newspaper comments that this suggested that at least in the near future Moscow does not intend to hand over the islands to Japan. JC

MOSCOW AGAIN RULES OUT TALKS WITH TALIBAN

Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 9 November that Moscow continues to believe that "any negotiations [with the Taliban] are out of the question." He added that "we believe the world community should toughen sanctions against the Taliban, severely punishing those who give them financial and military assistance or have any other contacts [with them]." PG

KVASHNIN SEES RUSSIA-NATO TIES EXPANDING

Russian General Staff chief Kvashnin said in Brussels on 8 November that relations between Russia and the NATO countries have become "more dynamic, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that he is "very glad to note" that this cooperation now involves not only the exchange of information but also joint assessments and operational plans. PG

PUTIN BANS IMPORT OF SIERRA LEONE DIAMONDS

President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning the import of diamonds from Sierra Leone, Interfax reported on 9 November. This decree brings the Russian Federation into line with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1306. Meanwhile, Russian agencies reported, the production of diamonds by Russia's diamond monopoly Alrosa increased by 10 percent in the first nine months of 2000 compared with the same period last year. PG

LUKOIL OPENS BALTIC OIL TERMINAL

LUKoil on 9 November opened a new export and import terminal in Kaliningrad Oblast, Reuters reported. The terminal will handle up to 5 million tons of oil annually upon completion within the next year. PG

KALININGRAD SEEN AS TESTING GROUND FOR U.S.-RUSSIAN COOPERATION

In an interview published in the 9 November "Kaliningradskaya pravda," U.S. Undersecretary for International Affairs Tom Pickering proposes that the U.S. and Russia could try out new forms of cooperation in Kaliningrad Oblast, Interfax and BNS reported. Pickering said he would like to see the exclave become a "bridge between Central Russia and a unified Europe" where "new forms and approaches to interaction in the 21st century" could be tested. He also commented that following the EU's completion of an "action plan" for its Northern Dimension initiative, the U.S. hopes to join the EU in taking concrete steps aimed at benefiting the residents of Russia's Northwest and the Baltic States. JC

INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS TERRORISM IN RUSSIA UP

First Deputy Interior Minister Lieutenant General Vladimir Kozlov said the number of terrorist acts in Russia has increased dramatically since last year, Interfax reported on 9 November. Kozlov said that there have been 64 terrorist acts in Russia so far this year, compared with 32 during 1999 as a whole. PG

FSB TO INVESTIGATE MOSCOW PIPELINE EXPLOSION

The Federal Security Service (FSB) will investigate the 8 November explosion of a pipeline in Moscow, Interfax reported the next day. FSB experts, the Russian news agency said, have already concluded that the pipeline was damaged as a result of "an unidentified cumulative explosive device." PG

SCIENTISTS SEEK CONTROLS ON INFORMATION FLIGHT

A group of prominent Russian defense scientists on 9 November submitted an open letter calling on the government to prevent the flight of political, economic, scientific, and technological secrets abroad, ITAR-TASS reported. The scientists said that such efforts must become "a national security priority," noting that foreigners currently "take advantage of our openness and economic hardships and sometimes of the venal nature of individual representatives of the military-industrial complex." PG




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DENIES GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE IMMINENT

Addressing a cabinet session on 9 November, Robert Kocharian warned ministers responsible for mounting wage and pensions arrears that they could be fired if the situation does not improve by the end of this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But Kocharian said he has no reason to be dissatisfied with the performance of the "power" ministers, and he denied that any major cabinet reshuffle would take place in the immediate future. Also on 9 November, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian again pledged that all back wages and pensions will be paid within the next two months. LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DISCUSSES SECURITY ISSUES IN IRAN

Visiting Tehran on 7-8 November, Serzh Sarkisian met with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamhani, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojjatoleslam Hassan Rowhani, and parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi, IRNA reported. In talks with Khatami and Karroubi, the two sides agreed that the presence of foreign forces poses a threat to regional security. IRNA quoted Sarkisian as telling Rowhani that no comprehensive or useful initiatives aimed at either resolving regional conflicts or establishing a regional security system can succeed without Iranian input. Before his visit to Tehran, Sarkisian had met three times since May with the Iranian ambassador to Armenia. Meeting with Kharrazi, Sarkisian discussed bilateral ties and expediting construction of the planned gas pipeline to supply Iranian gas to Armenia. Armenia is still seeking investors to fund that project. LF

ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS INVITES POPE TO VISIT

During a meeting in the Vatican on 9 November, Armenian Catholicos Garegin II extended an official invitation to Pope John Paul II to visit Armenia during next year's celebrations to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's official religion, Reuters and AP reported. The pontiff had been scheduled to travel to Armenia in 1999, but that visit was postponed due to the terminal illness of Catholicos Garegin I (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 17 June 1999). LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PLANS PROTESTS

The leaders of five Azerbaijani opposition parties--Musavat, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, and the conservative wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party--adopted a statement in Baku on 9 November accusing the Azerbaijani authorities of usurping power by falsifying the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported. They called on other "democratic powers" not to cooperate with the new legislature and appealed to the international community not to recognize the poll outcome as valid. They also plan to appeal the results in the European Court. Democratic Party General Secretary Sardar Djalaloglu told journalists the same day that the opposition plans to launch mass demonstrations beginning on 18 November to call for the annulment of the ballot and new elections. Also on 9 November, the Central Electoral Commission ruled to invalidate the elections results in one rural constituency. It had already done so in a district in Baku and another in Sumgait. LF

AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA HOPE TO REACH AGREEMENT ON CASPIAN...

Speaking in Baku on 9 November, Viktor Kalyuzhnyi, who is Russian presidential envoy for Caspian issues, said that Russia and Azerbaijan are narrowing their differences over the status of the Caspian Sea and now both advocate dividing the seabed into national sectors, Interfax reported. Unlike Russia and Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan had earlier proposed dividing both the seabed and the waters. Kalyuzhnyi and Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev expressed optimism that a bilateral agreement on dividing the seabed along the median line analogous to that signed between Moscow and Astana could be signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin's planned visit to Baku later this month. Kalyuzhnyi said such a bilateral agreement could pave the way for convening a summit of the five Caspian littoral states, for which he has been lobbying for months. At that summit, a formal agreement on dividing the sea would be finalized. The Russian envoy added that if Iran does not modify within 10 days its position advocating the division of the sea into equal sectors, he will propose another working meeting of littoral state representatives instead of the hoped-for summit. LF

...AS U.S. CALLS FOR INCLUDING KAZAKHSTAN IN BAKU-CEYHAN PROJECT

John Wolf, who is the U.S. special envoy for Caspian issues, said at an international energy sector conference in Baku on 9 November that the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline originally intended to export crude from Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian to world markets should be extended to the Kazakh port of Aktau on the eastern shore of the Caspian, ITAR-TASS reported. But he denied that proposal is intended to exclude Russia from Caspian oil transportation projects. Russian presidential envoy Kalyuzhnyi, for his part, argued that no pipelines should be laid on the Caspian Sea bed until the five littoral states reach agreement on how compensation should be calculated and paid for in the event of possible environmental damage resulting from the construction of underwater pipelines. LF

KARABAKH OFFICIAL DENIES PLANS TO RESETTLE KURDS ON OCCUPIED AZERBAIJANI TERRITORY

A spokesman for the presidential staff of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has rejected as untrue Azerbaijani media reports that the enclave's authorities have reached agreement with representatives of international Kurdish organizations on resettling several hundred Kurdish families from Syria and Iraq in the Kelbadjar and Lachin areas of Azerbaijan, according to Groong citing Snark of 8 November. Those districts are controlled by Karabakh army troops. Turan reported on 8 November that the Kurdish settlers would be granted Armenian citizenship. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT CRITICIZES PROSECUTOR-GENERAL, INTERIOR MINISTER...

Addressing a national conference on crime and corruption in Astana on 9 November, President Nursultan Nazarbaev criticized the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office for under-reporting crimes rather than implementing measures to prevent them, Interfax reported. He said there has been no improvement in the crime situation since a similar conference in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000). Nazarbaev also accused both agencies of systematic violations of human rights, including humiliating and even torturing persons under arrest, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He warned Interior Minister Qairbek Suleymenov and Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin that they face dismissal if the situation does not improve. LF

...CANCELS ATTENDANCE AT OIC SUMMIT

President Nazarbaev has cancelled a planned visit to Qatar to attend the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit there on 12-14 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 November. No reason was cited for that decision. Asked on 9 November whether he found his frequent foreign trips tiring, Nazarbaev, who is 60, had assured journalists that his health is excellent and his blood pressure and internal organs normal and that he plays tennis twice a week, Interfax reported. LF

LIBYAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

Saad Musatafa Mujbeer met in Astana on 8 November with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev to discuss expanding bilateral economic ties, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The two officials told journalists after their talks that they had agreed on the creation of a bilateral economic committee and that Libya is especially interested in Kazakhstan's oil sector. Mujbeer was also scheduled to meet with President Nazarbaev and present him with an invitation from Libyan leader Muammar Qaddhafi to visit Libya, according to Interfax on 8 November. LF

KYRGYZ POLICE WARN PICKETERS

Police in the southern town of Djalalabad on 9 November warned 12 people who are picketing the local administrative building that they will be arrested if they continue that protest, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. For almost one month, the 12 have been protesting the sentencing in September of seven of their relatives on charges of planning to assassinate President Askar Akaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October and 8 November 2000). Also on 9 November, the Bishkek City Court continued hearing appeals against those sentences. One of the men, Mamadiyar Orozov, told the court that until the trial commenced he had never met opposition Erkindik party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, who is accused of having masterminded the abortive plot. LF

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN DISCUSS BORDER DELIMITATION

Tajik and Uzbek government representatives met in Dushanbe on 10 November for a third round of talks on delimiting their common border, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The talks focused on Tajik casualties from mines erroneously laid by Uzbek border forces on the Tajik side of the border. The first talks were held in July following the signing of an protocol between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June and 18 July 2000). LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT THANKS RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE FOR HELP

Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Russian Foreign Intelligence Service chief Sergei Lebedev in Minsk on 9 November, Belarusian Television reported. "I especially want to thank you for your help with information and support, for those analyses you send to me on both a regular basis and the eve of major events, which, thank God, we have calmly [survived] in Belarus," Lukashenka told Lebedev. "Indeed, there is close cooperation and full understanding between us. We have been working shoulder to shoulder and, I think, will continue to work in the same way," Lebedev responded. JM

BELARUSIAN DEMOCRATS BICKER OVER PAST ELECTIONS

The Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces on 9 November failed to discuss fielding a single democratic candidate in next year's presidential ballot, a topic that had been included on its agenda for that day, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Instead, the council debated the participation of Social Democratic Party (Popular Assembly) leader Mikalay Statkevich and some of his party colleagues in last month's legislative elections, which were boycotted by other opposition parties. Statkevich's party, which won no seat in the Chamber of Representatives, intends to take part in repeat votes in those 13 constituencies where turnout was below 50 percent. The council's other members want Statkevich to give up that intention. Statkevich left the council suggesting he may set up a separate coordinating body of opposition parties. JM

EU'S PRODI PLEDGES CASH FOR CHORNOBYL CLOSURE

European Commission President Romano Prodi assured Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 6 November that international donors will stick to an earlier pledge to compensate Ukraine for the loss of energy following the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power station, Interfax reported. Prodi said he is "convinced" that on 16 November the EU will allocate 25 million euros ($21.6 million) to help Ukraine replenish stocks of fuel at thermal power plants. Kuchma confirmed his previous pledge that Ukraine will close Chornobyl on 15 December. In an apparent bid to speed up the West's decision on financial aid, Kyiv signaled last week that it may reconsider shutting down Chornobyl (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 6 November 2000). JM

UKRAINE URGED TO PAY FOR GAS SUPPLIES

Itera chief Igor Makaev has warned Kyiv that unless it pays for the gas Itera supplied last month, the company will consider this amount to have been siphoned off from Gazprom's transit deliveries, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 10 November. Makaev said Itera supplied 4 million cubic meters of gas to Ukraine's energy generating companies last month and has yet to receive $73 million for it; current supplies are not being paid for at all. Meanwhile, Gazprom has warned that it will sue the Ukrainian government if the latter continues to siphon off Russian gas. JM

ESTONIA NOT TO MEET EU DEMANDS FOR HIGHER FUEL TAX

Prime Minister Mart Laar has announced that the government will ignore criticism in the recent European Commission report that Tallinn is not keeping its earlier pledge to raise the fuel tax on 1 December 2000, BNS reported on 9 November. Laar said that the government's primary consideration is to boost economic growth; the tax increase, he said, "would have been insurmountably hard for the people to bear." Since Estonia cannot influence oil prices on the world market, the government must protect the people by its taxation policy, whether the EU likes it or not, Laar added. SG

LATVIA TAKES OVER COUNCIL OF EUROPE PRESIDENCY

Latvia on 9 November took over the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe, BNS reported. Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins will serve as the chairman of the council's Committee of Ministers. During its presidency, Latvia intends to strengthen the council's political role, help find solutions to cultural issues, and improve the council's efficiency, especially in its work on human rights. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT PROGRAM

By a vote of 72 to 48 with 16 abstentions, the parliament on 9 November approved the program of Prime Minister-designate Rolandas Paksas, whose 13-member cabinet is the 11th government since Lithuania's restoration of independence in 1990, ELTA reported. The program was supported by deputies from the Liberal Union, New Alliance (Social Liberals), and a number of smaller parties. The leftist opposition, Social Democratic Coalition, opposed the program, while the Conservatives and Peasant Party abstained. The parliament also endorsed President Valdas Adamkus's vetos of a law on the Lithuanian electric power system and amendments to the education law. It will discuss further his vetos of the mass media law and amendments to the civil service law. SG

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER COMPLAINS ABOUT SMALL BUDGET

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski told the 9 November "Gazeta Wyborcza" that unless corrections are made in the cabinet's 2001 budget draft, he will be unable to ensure that his ministry fulfills its role. "The minister is seeking a larger budget for his ministry," the Foreign Ministry's spokesman commented the same day, adding that Bartoszewski's statement was not a threat to resign. Meanwhile, General Czeslaw Piatas, the army chief of staff, said in Brussels that NATO has voiced surprise "that our government declared the defense budget at 2.1 percent [of GDP] in June and then cut it to below 2 percent in September." The government is to submit a 2001 budget draft to the parliament next week. Polish commentators predict that the parliament may fail to support the bill and the president will have to call for early parliamentary elections. JM

POLISH REPATRIATION TO FOCUS 'MAINLY' ON COMPATRIOTS FROM KAZAKHSTAN

The parliament decided on 9 October that the law on repatriation will "primarily" apply to Poles from the Asian part of the former Soviet Union and "mainly" from Kazakhstan, PAP reported. The Sejm rejected the Senate's amendment that stipulated repatriation provisions be extended to include Poles living in all states of "the former socialist bloc." Under the repatriation bill, a person seeking repatriation to Poland must prove that one of his/her parents or grandparents, or otherwise two great-grandparents, were of Polish nationality; an applicant must also demonstrate his/her "ties with Polishness," in particular, through continuing Polish traditions and customs. JM

PROTESTERS END BLOCKADES OF CZECH-AUSTRIAN BORDER CROSSINGS

Austrian anti-nuclear activists on 9 November ended the blockades of Czech-Austrian border crossings, Czech media reported. The activists had been seeking to force the Czech government to postpone the launch of the Temelin nuclear power plant. A spokesman for Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on 9 November that the end of the blockades paves the way for a meeting between Zeman and his Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Schuessel, in December. Earlier this week, Zeman had cancelled a meeting with Schuessel to protest the continuing border blockades. JC

CZECH SPEAKER ACCUSES EU OFFICIAL OF SEEKING TO INFLUENCE ELECTIONS

Vaclav Klaus, chairman of the lower house of the parliament, has criticized EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen for "interfering with the electoral campaign in the Czech Republic," Czech media reported. Verheugen had said on 8 November that he does not understand why Czech officials are so unhappy about the fact their country was included only in the third group of countries preparing for EU membership; he noted that the current government is trying to make up for what the past governments of Vaclav Klaus had failed to do in reforming the Czech economy. Klaus criticized the fact that Verheugen made those comments only days before the Czech Senate and regional elections and described Verheugen's words as "crude." JC

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER LISTS REASONS FOR REFERENDUM

"I admit that there are no miracles," Vladimir Meciar told the 10 November Czech daily "Pravo" in reference to the Slovak referendum scheduled to take place the next day. That vote is widely expected to be declared invalid because of turnout below 50 percent. The Slovaks are to decide whether to hold early parliamentary elections. Meciar noted, however, that "the ordinary Slovak has at least three serious reasons to take part in the referendum--his own wallet, soaring prices, and the number of unemployed in his own family." Meciar said his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia is poised to win the next parliamentary elections. He also noted that he does not necessarily have to be in a future cabinet, adding that there are "other alternatives." JM

HUNGARIAN PREMIER ASSENTS TO ENVIRONMENT MINISTER'S DISMISSAL

Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Agricultural Minister Jozsef Torgyan agreed on 9 November that Orban will dismiss Environmental Minister Ferenc Ligetvari, effective 1 December. Ligetvari had earlier rejected Torgyan's request to resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2000). Opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said Ligetvari's dismissal is an "alarming" move. He added that the minister did his best to restore the ministry's prestige by uncovering corruption. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PARTIES JOIN EUROPEAN PEOPLE'S PARTY

Coalition members FIDESZ and the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) have been admitted to the European People's Party as associate members, while their coalition partner, the Hungarian Democratic Forum, failed to gain admission. FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Jozsef Szajer and FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan said their parties' inclusion will promote Hungary's integration into Europe. MSZ




COUNCIL OF EUROPE URGES YUGOSLAVIA TO STRIVE FOR MEMBERSHIP

The Council of Europe told Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on 9 November in Strasbourg that Belgrade will be admitted to the body once it has established democratic institutions and observes human rights, AP reported. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said the council is "duty bound" to help Kostunica build a democratic country. He said Kostunica will have to "commit himself to a wide-ranging process of reform and moral and material reconstruction," as well as to holding free and fair elections, implementing democratic reforms, and protecting human rights and minorities. Kostunica told the council that Yugoslavia "has embarked on a democratic transformation, the first real reform since World War II." PB

SERBIAN OFFICIALS AGREE TO INMATES' DEMANDS

Serbian authorities released 14 Serbs and one ethnic Albanian from the Pozarevac prison on 10 November as the prison revolt in the republic loses momentum, AP reported. In exchange for the release, prisoners agreed to put down their weapons and allow guards back into the facility. Prisoner spokesman Darko Pavlovic said "we believe that we shall have a new amnesty legislation by the end of January." Serbian prisoners were angry that Kosovar Albanians were to be granted an amnesty that excluded them. Serbia's Justice Ministry said it will include some Serbians in the amnesty. The previous day, Kosovar human rights activist Flora Brovina secured the release of an ethnic Albanian teenager from Belgrade's central prison. Arrested in Kosova last year, Xhavit Podvorica was never charged with a crime. Brovina herself was set free by President Kostunica last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). PB

CROATIA BECOMES PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY

The parliament voted on 9 November to reduce the powers of the presidency by altering the constitution, AP reported. The vote was 106-35, with only the party of late authoritarian President Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian Democratic Community, voting against the measure. A compromise was reached in the dispute between President Stipe Mesic and the six-party governing coalition over the right to dissolve the parliament--which only the president had previously--as the president can still dismiss parliament, but only after a request by the government. The president also retains the post of supreme commander of the armed forces and participates in foreign policy by appointing ambassadors and the head of the intelligence service, after consultations with the prime minister. The powers of the Constitutional Court were strengthened, and the government will now be held accountable only by parliament. Both Mesic and Premier Ivica Racan promised during the last campaign that they would reduce presidential powers if elected. PB

TUDJMAN WOULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED BY WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL

Graham Blewitt, a prosecutor for the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, said on 9 November that the late President Tudjman would have been indicted by the court if he were still alive, AFP reported. Blewitt declined to comment on the charges that would have been brought against Tudjman, but he said evidence of his role in the Balkan wars will come out as more prosecutions are conducted. Tudjman died of cancer in December 1999. PB

BOSNIAN-CROAT LEADER THREATENS TO BREAK UP FEDERATION

Ante Jelavic, the Croatian member of Bosnia's three-man presidency and head of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), said on 9 November that he will break up the Muslim-Croatian Federation if international officials punish the HDZ for holding a referendum on autonomy, Reuters reported. Jelavic said at a campaign rally in Mostar that if the international community punishes the HDZ, "we will proclaim the Croatian National Congress the supreme legislative body and form a provisional government for the Croatian people in Bosnia." Jelavic said Croats will never accept a Bosnia based on individual rights instead of the rights of the three ethnic communities, and he called the Muslim-Croatian Federation "a prison for Croatian people." Bosnia's high representative, Wolfgang Petritsch, has banned some HDZ campaign posters and said that the holding of a referendum on autonomy by the HDZ during the 11 November elections will be declared illegal. PB

SLOVENIA: READY FOR EU BY 2002

Janez Potocnik, the head of Slovenia's office for European affairs, said that it welcomed an EU Commission report on Slovenia's progress as a candidate for EU membership and expected Ljubljana will be ready to join by 2002, Reuters reported on 9 November. Potocnik said the draft report "is relatively favorable and includes the warnings we expected." The report said that Slovenia's economy is stable but that the government should accelerate reforms in public administration and privatization. PB

ROMA MURDERED UPON RETURN TO KOSOVA

Four Romany men were found murdered less than two days after they had returned to the Kosovar village of Dosevac, AP reported. The UN's administrative head in Kosova, Bernard Kouchner, called the attack "shocking and beyond comprehension." The men, who died of shotgun wounds, had gone to their former homes ahead of their families. Roma have been a target of attacks in Kosova because Kosovar Albanians accuse them of siding with Serbs during Belgrade's crackdown against ethnic Albanians last year. PB

ALBANIA WANTS TO ESTABLISH CONTACT WITH YUGOSLAVIA

Albania's Foreign Ministry said on 8 November that it is prepared to establish contacts with the Yugoslav government, AP reported. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in a statement that "Albania wants to establish contact with the new authorities in Belgrade in order to strengthen cooperation in the region and to peacefully solve all problems involved in relationships between the Balkan countries." Largely because of Belgrade's treatment of the Albanian minority in Kosova, the two countries have had weak or non-existent relations. Tirana recognized the Republic of Kosova in 1992 and supported the Kosova Liberation Army in its fight against Serbs. PB

TIRANA'S MAYOR SURVIVES SNIPER ATTACK

Edi Rama, the newly elected mayor of the Albanian capital, escaped injury when a sniper fired shots into his apartment on 9 November, dpa reported. Rama, elected in October, blamed opposition leader Sali Berisha for the attack. Rama was brutally beaten by three men in 1996, when Berisha was president. Berisha's Democratic Party is protesting alleged fraud in last month's elections. PB

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS ON BOSNIANS TO VOTE AGAINST NATIONALISTS

Lord Robertson appealed to Bosnian voters on 9 November in Sarajevo not to vote for nationalist parties and to "reject the politics of the past," AP reported. Robertson said developments in Bosnia's "neighborhood" recently "show that change is possible and brings its own rewards." He said he hopes voters "seize this opportunity and look to the future." Observers predict that the Serbian and Croatian nationalist parties will fare well in the elections but that the multiethnic Social Democratic Party will make inroads (see also "End Note" below). PB

PARTIES DENY A COOPERATION PROTOCOL BETWEEN PDSR AND PNL

Adrian Nastase, first deputy chairman of the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), and Valeriu Stoica, first deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL), have both denied signing an electoral cooperation agreement, Romanian media reported. Bucharest-based "Curentul" daily on 9 November published an agreement allegedly signed by the two party representatives that fixed electoral and post-electoral cooperation, including the division of ministries in a new government. The agreement also mentioned the possibility of including the Democratic Federation of Hungarians in Romania in a future governmental coalition. Nastase called the agreement "intoxication," while Stoica called it a "gross lie" and accused the paper of "manipulation." ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SKEPTICAL ABOUT TRANSDNIESTER PROGRESS

Petru Lucinschi has said he believes the prospects for progress in talks on the status of the separatist Transdniester region are becoming dimmer, Interfax reported on 8 November, quoting presidential spokesman Anatol Golea. Lucinschi said presidential elections in Moldova and parliamentary elections in the self-proclaimed republic in Transdniester are likely to influence the outcome of negotiations. Golea confirmed that a meeting between Lucinschi and Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov was cancelled last week. Lucinschi this week announced he will not stand for re-election. Moldova's parliament is due to elect a president on 1 December. ET

MOLDOVAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL REJECTS CALL TO INDICT COMMUNIST LEADER

The Prosecutor-General's Office has rejected a call to indict Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin for allegedly desecrating the Moldovan flag, AP Flux reported on 8 November. Twenty-six right-wing deputies made that call after the Communist leader had said during a parliamentary debate that the flag is a fascist symbol. Voronin later denied he insulted the Moldovan flag but said he referred to Romania's national colors. Both Romania and Moldova have the red-yellow-blue national colors. The Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement that Voronin's remarks do not constitute a criminal offense. ET

BULGARIAN PREMIER DEMANDS THAT EU SCRAP VISA REGIME

Ivan Kostov demanded in Sofia on 10 November that the EU immediately lift visa restrictions on Bulgarians, Reuters reported. In a strongly-worded speech to parliament, Kostov said, "We want Bulgaria transferred to the list [of countries] with a visa-free regime, without any conditions, and that should come into force immediately." Bulgaria and Romania are the only two EU candidate countries that are excluded from having visa-free travel within the Union. Bulgarian politicians have expressed annoyance at being placed at the same level as Romania, recognized as the country among the 12 EU aspirants that needs the most reform. Kostov hinted in his speech that Sofia will consider resigning as a member of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe if the EU continues to enforce its visa regime on Bulgarians. PB




BOSNIAN VOTERS TO CHOOSE BETWEEN NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY


By Jolyon Naegele

Up to 2.5 million voters in Bosnia-Herzegovina will cast ballots in several elections scheduled for 11 November. They will elect representatives to legislatures in the Muslim-Croatian Federation and its 10 cantons and in the Bosnian-Serb entity, Republika Srpska. They will also vote for an all-Bosnian parliament as well as for the president and vice president of Republika Srpska and leaders of one municipality, Srebrenica.

The results of previous legislative elections, in 1996 and 1998, reflected pre-war political divisions along ethnic lines. But there is some hope this time that the recent shift away from radical nationalism toward moderation and democracy in Croatia, Serbia, and Kosova will serve as an example for voters in both Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croatian Federation.

Since the civil war, which ended five years ago with the Dayton Peace accords, Bosnia has experienced a brain drain of some 100,000. Many experts have fled a homeland where more a third of the population remains unemployed, while close to two-thirds--including the jobless--live in poverty.

A recent cartoon in the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni Ajvaz" shows three scenes. In the first, a man in Croatia stretches out under a sunny sky. In the second, three men blink after a light is turned on in the darkness of Yugoslavia. And in the third, a man stumbles in the darkness of Bosnia-Herzegovina and asks, "Will it ever be dawn here?"

The European Union's high representative in Bosnia, Austrian diplomat Wolfgang Petritsch, is urging voters across Bosnia to rethink their political allegiances. He used the "Dnevni Ajvaz" cartoon in a speech in Sarajevo earlier this week to appeal to voters to follow the example of moderation recently set elsewhere in former Yugoslav republics. He said a long-term protectorate is not the right answer for Bosnia.

For its part, the OSCE, which is supervising the elections, has produced a video clip featuring three young female singers--a Croat, a Serb, and a Muslim from different parts of Bosnia. The three young women tell voters that they can shape their own future. Television stations across Bosnia have been showing the clip for the last three weeks.

Among the political groups campaigning for moderation is Bosnia's multiethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP). SDP chairman Zlatko Lagumdzija is hoping voters will opt for responsibility rather than cast ballots according to their ethnic identity. "The SDP is a political party that wants to work with other political parties on a responsible program," he said. "This is the only chance for Bosnia and Herzegovina, for both entities, all three peoples and Bosnia's 4 million people."

The SDP's moderate stance has upset nation-oriented parties-- including, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA)--which fear they will lose votes to the Social Democrats. SDA leader Alija Izetbegovic recently resigned the presidency of Bosnia saying he wants to devote all his energies to party work, an indication of the serious threat he and his party perceive in the elections.

The end of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Yugoslavia is unlikely to have a significant impact on the outcome of voting in Republika Srpska. True, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which had its differences with Milosevic, has kept its nationalist, anti-Western rhetoric to a minimum in the campaign. Nevertheless, an international think tank--the International Crisis Group--and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke have recently called for the party to be banned. The OSCE rejects the calls, saying the SDS has yet to commit "a particularly egregious violation of the rules and regulations."

The SDS was founded by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic but is now distancing itself from him. The party's candidate for Republika Srpska president, Mirko Sarovic, is expected to get almost twice as many Serbian votes as Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, his chief rival.

Another moderate group fighting for votes in the Bosnian Serb entity, the Party of Democratic Progress, is campaigning on an economic reform and anti-corruption platform.

Bosnia's biggest Croatian party--the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)--is warning that Bosnia's Croats face extermination if moderate parties win. The HDZ's sister party in Croatia was defeated in parliamentary elections early this year after the death of the party's leader, President Franjo Tudjman.

Bosnia's HDZ has provoked the international community's ire by organizing a referendum on establishing a Bosnian Croat legislature. The EU's high representative has denounced--but not banned--the referendum.

The HDZ leader in the divided city of Mostar, Ante Jelavic, is telling Croats in Bosnia, who in past elections have voted overwhelmingly for HDZ, that a vote for HDZ means a vote for equal rights with the Serbs and Muslims. "On 11 November, we are going to the polls But we are also going into a referendum on the right of the Croat nation not to give a millimeter more or less than the Serbs and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina," he commented.

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina earlier this week called the 2000 parliamentary election campaign the "dirtiest" since the war--even though it has been less violent than recent past campaigns. It is doubtful that the increased mud-slinging will serve to persuade the people of Bosnia to vote for moderation. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


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