Accessibility links

Newsline - November 13, 2000




INTERIOR TROOPS TO SHED 33,000 POSTS

Interior Ministry troops commander Vyacheslav Tikhomirov told journalists on 10 November that the 200,000-strong force will be reduced by 33,000 troops as part of the cuts announced by the Security Council the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2000), Interfax reported. Tikhomirov stressed that this is an "insignificant reduction" and "will not affect combat units." According to the Security Council's 9 November announcement, the armed forces will be cut by some 600,000 troop--or one-fifth of their overall strength--over the next five years. Reuters on 10 November gave the following breakdown of the cuts, based on official information, unidentified defense sources, and Russian media reports: ground forces, 180,000; navy, 50,000; air force, 40,000; interior troops, 33,000, railway troops, 10,000; border guards, 5,000; civilians, 130,000; and other (including nuclear), 152,000 (see also "End Note" below). JC

INDUSTRIALISTS' UNION ELECTS BOARD

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs on 10 November elected to the union's 27-member bureau Interros's Vladimir Potanin, Yukos's Mikhail Khodorkovskii, Alfa Group's Mikhail Fridman, and Unified Energy Systems' Anatolii Chubais, among others, Russian news agencies reported. Among the bureau's members from the banking sector are MDM Bank chairman Aleksandr Mamut and Impexbank President Oleg Kiselev, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 November. Potanin said that the organization will be "a positive force" and "the president's and government's ally in economic reforms." Union President Arkadii Volskii pointedly noted that the process of consolidation of large businesses was "not initiated by Boris Berezovskii," and he dismissed a report in "Vedomosti" that his group plans to set up an association within the union. That is "a direct lie," he said. PG/JC

KEY WITNESS IN POPE TRIAL SIDES WITH DEFENDANT

Anatolii Babkin, a Russian university professor who is accused of handing over classified information to U.S. businessman Edmond Pope, told the Moscow City Court on 10 November that he retracts earlier testimony he gave to investigators, which he said was given under duress. The information he passed to Pope, he continued, is available in published textbooks, and he denied ever having taken money from the defendant. Pavel Astakhov, Pope's lawyers, told journalists after Babkin's five-hour appearance in court, that the judge had turned down Babkin's offer to present textbooks containing the data he had given to Pope. Earlier, Babkin had sent a letter to the court withdrawing his testimony, but the court had rejected that move (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 November 2000). JC

NATO AGAIN REJECTS SUB INSPECTION REQUEST

Admiral Guido Venturoni, the chairman of NATO's military committee, told reporters on 10 November that Russian General Staff chief Anatolii Kvashnin had made no explicit demands in Brussels last week that Russia be allowed to inspect NATO submarines within the framework of its investigation into the causes of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine disaster. Venturoni noted that on returning to Moscow, Kvashnin had claimed he made such demands, and the NATO official suggested "this was apparently meant to make him look tough at home" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2000). Venturoni also noted that such demands would have to be made to the U.S. and British navies since NATO has no submarines. Russian officials have suggested that U.S. and British vessels were in the vicinity when the disaster occurred. JC

RUSSIANS CONTINUE CRITICISM OF U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM

Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the head of Russia's Central Election Commission, told Interfax on 11 November that "there is something the Americans can learn from Russia" when it comes to conducting elections. He said that the same mistakes were committed in both countries but that the Americans have been less forthright about them. Veshnyakov's views were echoed by Oleg Mironov, Russia's human rights ombudsman. He told ITAR-TASS on 10 November that the U.S. elections had revealed "certain problems and mishaps" in the U.S. election system. Comments in Russian newspapers were more pointed. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" said that "the epicenter of the U.S. political storm" is not the two candidates "but the world's oldest constitution." Meanwhile, "Komsomolskaya pravda" argued that the U.S. "is now split in two. And no matter who will be the 43rd president of the United States, his position will be unenviable." PG

PUTIN MARKS POLICE DAY

Saying that the "lawlessness of the authorities gives rise to lawlessness in general," President Vladimir Putin marked police day on 10 November by calling for the establishment of a national institution under the supervision of Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Aleksii II to support law enforcement personnel who are injured on duty. The following day, Lieutenant General Vyacheslav Trubnikov, the head of the Interior Ministry's criminal investigation department, told Interfax that much of the increase in crime in Russia can be attributed to a rise in the number of terrorist incidents. PG

ZYUGANOV OPPOSES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 11 November that he opposes holding a no confidence vote now because the government "has not yet determined its policy," ITAR-TASS reported. In other comments, he said he will retain leadership of the party, despite calls from its Moscow branch that he choose to head either the parliamentary faction or the party as a whole. PG

GREF SAYS RUBLE WILL NOT BE DEVALUED

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on 10 November that the ruble will not be devalued anytime soon, even though such a devaluation would not harm domestic producers, Interfax reported. In other economic news, inflation jumped in the first four days of this month from a daily increase of 0.067 percent in October to 0.093 percent, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 10 November. Russian oil exports rose 9.5 percent during the first nine months of 2000 compared with the same period a year earlier, but revenues rose 110 percent because of rising prices, Interfax reported. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 10 November that the IMF's report on Russia, which was placed on the Internet the previous day, is objective and shows that the Russian government is now on the right track. Kudrin also said that there are no plans to shift bank supervision away from the Bank of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RECORD GRAIN HARVEST COULD HAVE BEEN LARGER

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev told ITAR-TASS on 10 November that Russia had a record gross grain yield of 72 million tons in 2000, 13 million tons more than in 1999. But he added that the country lost approximately 10 million tons because of a shortage of combine harvesters. As a result "bread won't cost less, but we have the task of keeping the price stable." In other comments, Gordeev attempted to justify the classification of information about the harvest, Reuters reported. Even though official information is often unreliable, he argued that secrecy is required to prevent speculation. PG

NEW KURSK GOVERNOR SLAMMED OVER ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS

Aleksandr Mikhailov, a State Duma deputy (Communist) who was recently elected governor of Kursk Oblast, has come under sharp criticism for comments in the Russian press that he and President Putin are working to rid Russia of Jewish "filth." Mikhailov had maintained that the Kursk election was a "test ground" for fighting what he called the All-Russia Jewish Congress. Pointing out that it was not clear which organization Mikhailov was referring to, the Russia Jewish Congress said the new governor's comments are a "serious political provocation" and called upon President Putin to respond. Aleksandr Rutskoi, who was recently barred from seeking election as head of the region and who has a Jewish mother, has said he will sue Mikhailov, while Communist Party leader Zyuganov responded that the new governor should concentrate on the economy rather than "digging up other people's genealogies" (see also "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 November 2000 [upcoming]). JC

PSKOV INCUMBENT RETAINS POST...

Yevgenii Mikhailov, a member of the pro-Kremlin Unity party, has won re-election as governor of Pskov, according to preliminary results reported by ITAR-TASS on 13 November, one day after the ballot in that region. Mikhailov garnered some 28 percent of the vote, while entrepreneur Viktor Babikov and State Duma deputy (independent) Mikhail Kuznetsov both received some 15 percent support. Turnout was put at 54 percent. JC

...AS VICE GOVERNOR LEADS IN KALUGA

Anatolii Artamanov was leading in the 12 November ballot for the governorship in Kaluga Oblast, according to preliminary results reported by ITAR-TASS the next day. With 64 percent of the vote counted, Artamanov had received 53 percent backing, compared with 17 percent for chairman of the Kaluga Savings Bank Aleksei Demichev and 8.5 percent for chairman of the Kaluga municipal legislature Valerii Artemov. JC

GROZNY MAYOR IMPLICATES RUSSIAN MILITARY IN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Speaking on local television on 12 November, Beslan Gantemirov said that the human rights situation in Chechnya is "very serious," with some 15-20 Chechen civilians being killed daily, Interfax reported. Gantemirov noted that not all those human rights violations are the work of Chechen fighters loyal to President Aslan Maskhadov, although he blamed Maskhadov for creating a situation in which such abuses can occur. He said that the Grozny authorities are working together with the Russian military command to put an end to "lawlessness and unauthorized arrests of civilians." Gantemirov also appealed to wealthy members of the Chechen diaspora to provide food and medical aid to the population of Grozny, adding that those who ignore that appeal will be barred from setting up businesses in the city as long as he remains mayor. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY TARGETS CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS

Federal forces have killed 15 Chechen fighters in a large-scale operation in eastern Chechnya aimed at neutralizing field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. A second operation in southwestern Chechnya, supported by air and artillery bombardment, is intended to prevent Chechen fighters from crossing the border into neighboring Ingushetia for supplies and reinforcements. Meanwhile on 11 November, an explosive device was discovered and neutralized close to the home in Tsentoroi of interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, Russian agencies reported. LF

BORDER GUARDS MAY USE FORCE AGAINST TALIBAN INCURSIONS

The Russian border guard force in Tajikistan said in an 11 November statement that it "does not rule out" that it may be "forced to make a decision to open fire on the Taliban fighters located in border regions and firing in the direction of Tajikistan." PG

RUSSIAN PLANE HIJACKED TO ISRAEL RETURNS TO RUSSIA

Avmerchan Amarchenov, a Daghestani citizen, hijacked a Vnukovo Airline plane carrying 57 passengers on 12 November. Saying that he had a bomb, Avmerchanov diverted the Makhachkala-Moscow flight shortly after takeoff first to Baku and then to Israel. After initially refusing to allow the plane to land, Israeli flight controllers diverted it to the Uvda airbase in the desert. When the hijacker gave himself up, no bomb was found, and both he and the passengers, who included Daghestan's finance and security ministers, were returned to Russia after Russian officials promised not to sentence Avmerchanov to the death penalty. PG

PUTIN SEEKS COOPERATIVE TIES WITH OIC

In a message to the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Qatar that opened on 12 November, Russian President Putin said that Russia seeks and expects "a further strengthening of interaction between Russia and the Muslim world in opposing such modern-day challenges as terrorism, extremism, drug dealing, arms smuggling, and human trafficking." PG

RUSSIA PRESSES TO END SANCTIONS ON BAGHDAD

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix in Moscow on 10 November that Moscow wants to work closely with that organization, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a Russian plane carrying Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii and a number of doctors landed in Baghdad on 10 November, INA reported. Representatives of the pro-Kremlin Unity party also flew to Iraq the same day to participate in a conference calling for an end to sanctions on that country, Interfax reported. Russian trade officials said Moscow is prepared to help restore the Iraqi economy, Interfax said. And Russia's ambassador to Iraq Aleksandr Shein said that the value of Russian commodity deliveries to Iraq have exceeded $500 million during the last six months. PG

LABOR INSPECTORATE FINDS 1.5 MILLION VIOLATIONS

Vladimir Varov, the deputy minister of labor and social development, told ITAR-TASS on 10 November that the country's labor inspectorate found more than 1.5 million violations of the country's labor laws during the first nine months of 2000. He noted that the inspectorate's actions helped to reduce back wages by 3 billion rubles ($110 million) during that period and reduced the number of strikes from nearly 6,000 in the first three quarters of 1999 to only 720 in the same period of 2000. PG

PUTIN GIVES STATE WORKERS 20 PERCENT WAGE INCREASE

President Putin on 10 November ordered state workers be given a 20 percent salary increase, Russian agencies reported. Most state workers earn less than those in the private sector, who currently average 2,290 rubles ($82) a month. PG

MOSCOW TO AUCTION OIL EXPORT QUOTAS

As of 1 January 2001, the Russian government will auction off the right to export up to 25 percent of the total volume of oil exports, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told ITAR-TASS on 10 November. That system will make the process more transparent. PG

PROSECUTORS STUDYING SWISS MABETEX FILES

Senior investigator Ruslan Tamaev told "Segodnya" on 10 November that new materials from Switzerland will determine whether Russian prosecutors bring charges in the Mabetex case. He said that to date the Swiss have not provided all the information in their possession and what they have provided is not enough to bring charges. Meanwhile, sources at the Office of the Prosecutor-General told Interfax the same day that the authorities may arrest businessman Boris Berezovskii. In other news, Vyacheslav Soltaganov, the director of the Federal Tax Police, told Interfax that U.S. prosecutors have not yet proved that any Russian money was funneled through the Bank of New York. PG

FISH POACHERS OVERWHELMINGLY RUSSIAN

Rear Admiral Vyacheslav Serzhanin, first deputy chief of the marine protection department of the Federal Border Service, told ITAR-TASS on 10 November that 95 percent of those who violate the country's anti-fish poaching rules are Russians. His statement came two days after a court in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii ordered the impounding of an American fishing schooner belong to the U.S. Arctic Sea Corporation. PG

POPE AGREES TO ICON'S RETURN

Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov told AP on 10 November that Pope John Paul II has agreed to return the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, despite controversy over whether the icon the Vatican acquired after the Russian revolution is in fact genuine. Iskhakov gave no date for the return and met with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II to discuss where the icon should be kept once it returns to Russia. Iskhakov had said earlier this month that at his meeting with the pontiff it had been agreed that the icon should be returned to Kazan as Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev asked, RFE/RL's Tatar Service reported on 13 November. PG/LF




ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES FAIL TO RELEASE DETAINED BUSINESSMAN

Arkadii Vartanian, head of the 21st Century Association, was transferred to the Armenian National Security Ministry on 9 November, one day before his 10-day administrative arrest was due to expire, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Vartanian was detained at the end of last month for leading an unsanctioned march to the presidential palace on 30 October, (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). Interior Minister Hayk Harutiunian said last week that Vartanian would be charged with calling for the violent overthrow of the Armenian leadership. LF

ARMENIA REGISTERS UPSWING IN EXPORTS, INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ashot Shahnazarian told journalists in Yerevan on 10 November that over the first 10 months of this year, Armenia's industrial output grew by 22 percent while exports increased by 47 percent compared with the same period in 1999, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said the upswing in the industrial sector has made possible the creation of 14,000 new jobs. He attributed the growth to increased foreign investment and the gradual restoration of trade ties with other former Soviet republics. LF

FIVE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES CALL FOR ANNULMENT OF PARLIAMENTARY POLL...

Meeting in Baku on 11 November, representatives of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP), the Democratic, Liberal, Musavat Parties and the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party [CHECK!] called for the annulment of the 5 November parliamentary poll and new elections, Interfax and Turan reported. They also called on President Heidar Aliyev to resign. The previous day, a Central Electoral Commission told Turan that of 96 deputies elected in single-mandate constituencies, 62 represent the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party and 26 are independent. The vote in the three remaining constituencies has been annulled. The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and Musavat each have two deputies, while AMIP, Ana Veten, the Social Prosperity Party, and the Alliance for Azerbaijan have one each. The Central Election Commission has meanwhile asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate reports of widespread violations and falsification of the ballot. LF

...AS FORMER PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES WILL CONTEND NEXT PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT

Ayaz Mutalibov, who fled Azerbaijan in May 1992 after an abortive attempt to regain the presidency, told Interfax on 10 November that he will run for Azerbaijani president in 2003. Mutalibov, who had been removed as president in March 1992 by the parliament, said he has decided to make another bid for that post not out of personal ambition but in order to help his country. Mutalibov compared the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary election to those Supreme Soviet ballots prior to the collapse of the USSR, noting that in both cases the list of deputies to be elected was drawn up in advance. He predicted that neither the international community nor the people of Azerbaijan will trust the new legislature. On 11 November, Azerbaijani police broke up a demonstration by members of Mutalibov's Civil Solidarity Party in Masally to protest the Justice Ministry's refusal to register the party, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2000). A similar planned rally in Djalilabad was called off following the disappearance of the chairman of the party's branch there. LF

RUSSIA CALLS ON GEORGIA TO HAND OVER CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 7 November gave its Georgian counterpart a list of 67 wanted Chechen field commanders and fighters, about half of whom are believed to be on Georgian territory, Russian agencies reported on 10 November. The list includes President Aslan Maskhadov, and field commanders Khattab, Shamil Basaev, and Ruslan Gelaev. Moscow officially requested Tbilisi to detain and hand over the men in question. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze told Interfax on 10 November that the Russian claim that many of the Chechens in question are in Georgia is untrue, but he added that should they enter Georgia, they will be detained and handed over to the Russian authorities. LF

GEORGIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S APARTMENT BURGLED

Thieves broke into the Tbilisi apartment of Djamlet Babilashvili early on 12 November and stole valuable belongings, Caucasus Press reported. Babilashvili and his family were at their summer residence at the time. LF

UN, RUSSIA PROTEST ABKHAZ MILITARY MANEUVERS

General Anis Bajwa, who is the chief military official attached to the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), has lodged a formal protest with the Abkhaz authorities over the conduct of military exercises in Gali and Ochamchira Raions, where restrictions on the amount of military equipment that may be deployed remain in force, Caucasus Press reported on 10 November. Vesselin Kostov, who is political adviser to UNOMIG, also protested the ban imposed by the Abkhaz authorities on UN helicopter flights over the border region between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia for the duration of the maneuvers. The Russian peacekeeping force deployed along the internal border has also protested the Abkhaz maneuvers, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA DISCUSS TRANSPORT, PIPELINE PROJECTS

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev and visiting Russian Transport Minister Sergei Frank discussed how to coordinate the two countries' transport systems within the framework of the planned North-South (Russia-Kazakhstan-Iran-India) and East-West (Berlin-Warsaw-Minsk-Moscow-Novgorod) transport corridors, Russian agencies reported. Frank noted plans to extend the latter corridor through Yekaterinburg and northern Kazakhstan to China. Also discussed was progress in made by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium in constructing a pipeline from the Tengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan to Novorossiisk. That pipeline is scheduled to be completed in June 2001, and the first tanker carrying Tengiz oil exported via that pipeline is scheduled to leave Novorossiisk two months later. LF

TWO GERMAN DIPLOMATS KILLED IN CAR-CRASH IN KAZAKHSTAN

Two German diplomats died on 12 November when their minibus crashed in a snow-storm on the main Almaty-Bishkek highway, Reuters reported. Two Kyrgyz nationals were also killed and eight people injured. LF

LOWER HOUSE OF KAZAKH PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR CHANGES IN DRAFT BUDGET

Deputies in the lower house of the parliament have called for the draft budget for 2001 to be amended to include $660 million in revenues received by the Kazakh government from the sale earlier this year of a 5 percent stake in the Tengizchevroil joint venture, Interfax reported on 9 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). They also demanded increased funding for social programs and the agricultural sector. The lower house nonetheless passed the draft for the debate to the Senate, the upper chamber of parliament. LF

KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION VALID

Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court on 10 November formally endorsed the results of the 29 October presidential poll in which incumbent Askar Akaev was re-elected with 74.47 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 10 November, defeated presidential candidate Omurbek Tekebaev, who according to official returns polled 13.09 percent, appealed to Central Election Commission chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev to order a recount in some constituencies in Chu, Djalalabad, Issyk-Kul, Osh and Talas Oblasts and in Bishkek where poll protocols drawn up by local officials differ markedly from the final results. LF

TAJIK OFFICIAL ADMITS GLITCHES IN CURRENCY REFORM

Mahmadsaid Ubaidullaev, who is chairman of the upper house of Tajikistan's parliament and one of Tajikistan's most influential political figures, admitted on 10 November that the government committed mistakes during the introduction late last month of a new currency, the somoni, to replace the Tajik ruble, ITAR-TASS reported. Specifically, the Tajik authorities failed to reassure the population that it would not suffer as a result of the reform. Panic buying in the wake of the announcement of the reform resulted in steep price increases and shortages of some foods (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 October 2000). LF

RUSSIA TO HELP REBUILD TAJIKISTAN'S MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

Tajik government officials signed a protocol on 10 November in Dushanbe with Russian Munitions Agency Director-General Zinovii Pak whereby Moscow will rebuild Tajik defense plants destroyed during the civil war, ITAR-TASS and AP reported. The two sides will also cooperate in developing new technologies for joint production in Tajikistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2000). LF

UZBEK JUDGE DENIES ISLAMIC MOVEMENT LEADER VOLUNTEERED TO STAND TRIAL

Uzbekistan's Supreme Court Deputy Chairman Bakhtior Djamalov, who is presiding over the Tashkent trial of 12 men charged with terrorist activities, denied on 10 November that Mohammed Solih had volunteered to stand trial alongside other members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Interfax reported. Solih is one of nine defendants currently being tried in absentia for their alleged role in terrorist activities, including the car bomb explosions in Tashkent in February 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). LF

UZBEKISTAN ANTICIPATES NEW ISLAMIST INCURSIONS

Recently appointed Uzbek Defense Minister Kodir Gulomov told journalists in Tashkent on 10 November said he cannot exclude the possibility of a new incursion into Uzbekistan by IMU fighters, although it is impossible to predict when such an attack might take place, Interfax reported. Gulomov noted that stretches of the Uzbek-Tajik border that are difficult to control are mined and that although Tashkent has repeatedly informed Dushanbe of the whereabouts of those minefields, Tajik civilians continue to fall victim to them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2000). LF




POLICE DISPERSE YOUTH MARCH IN MINSK, ARREST 100 PEOPLE

Riot police on 12 November dispersed a crowd of several hundred youths who were marching in Minsk under the slogan "[We Want] Changes!" The march, organized by a coalition of non-state youth groups, had been banned by the city authorities. Belapan reported that the Minsk police arrested some 100 participants. "Young people do not want to live in a country of lies and violence, of deceit and fear, of servile mentality and dictatorship," Pavel Sevyarynets, head of the Youth Front, told journalists before the demonstration. The same day, youth groups staged similar protests against the ruling regime in 25 Belarusian cities, albeit on a smaller scale. Arrests were reported in Hrodna, western Belarus. JM

CHORNOBYL CLOSURE STILL A BARGAINING CHIP?

Ukrainian deputy speaker Stepan Havrysh has said the parliament will adopt an "appropriate resolution" if the international community fails to meet its commitments to offer financial assistance to Ukraine if that country closes the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, Interfax reported on 11 November. Early next month, the parliament is expected to hold hearings on the plant's shutdown. Havrysh echoed parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch, who earlier this month threatened to reconsider the Chornobyl closure if the West provides no money to compensate for the energy loss (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2000). Meanwhile, Yevhen Marchuk, chief of the Council of National Security and Defense, told the 11 November "Den" that the council's previous recommendation to look into a possibility of Chornobyl's continued operation is of a "hypothetical" nature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). JM

NEW COALITION AGREEMENT SIGNED IN TALLINN

The alliance in the Tallinn City Council forged as a result of the recent unsuccessful no-confidence motion against the city's leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000) concluded a coalition accord on 10 November, BNS reported. City Council Chairman Rein Voog of the Reform Party, Mayor Juri Mois of the Pro Patria Union, Chairman of the Moderate faction Hagi Shein, Estonian Democratic Party leader Jaan Laas, Russian Baltic Party in Estonia head Sergei Ivanov, Estonian United People's Party leader Viktor Andreev, and Russian Party in Estonia leader Nikolai Maspanov signed the document. The new coalition pledges to appoint to municipal positions people who can speak several languages so that Russian-speakers can better obtain information about city affairs. SG

UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN IN LATVIA

Ilga Upeniece, head of the Unemployment Analysis and Prognosis Department at the State Employment Service, announced on 10 November that at the end of October, 92,793 jobless persons were registered with the service, of whom 26,899 have been seeking work for more than one year, LETA reported. Latvia's unemployment rate declined by 0.1 percent from the end of September to 7.8 percent. The lowest unemployment rates were in the city of Riga (3.7 percent) and the Ogre district (5.2 percent) and the highest in Rezekne (25.4), Kraslava (22.1), and Balvi (21.3) districts. SG

CRIME INCREASES SIGNIFICANTLY IN LITHUANIA

The police have announced that the number of reported crimes in Lithuania in the first 10 months of this year increased by 6 percent over the same period last year to total 67,411, ELTA reported on 10 November. The number of murders and attempted murders rose from 284 to 324, while the incidence of grievous bodily harm increased from 335 to 367, thefts from 39,227 to 43,819, car thefts from 3,148 to 4,198, and robberies from 2,676 to 3,384. Law enforcement officials had predicted such an increase, citing the poor economic situation in the country as well as reductions in police funding. SG

SPLIT WITHIN SOLIDARITY BLOC WIDENS

The Conservative Peasant Party (SKL) and the Polish Party of Christian Democrats (PPChD)--components of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS)--have set up a federation within the AWS that may cause the disintegration of the Solidarity bloc, Polish media reported. Parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski also signed the document on the federation. SKL leader Jan Maria Rokita told journalists that both parties have asked Plazynski to head the AWS federation's founding committee. "Let's not scare the people that this [signifies] disintegration; this is [only] the beginning of changes [in the AWS]," Plazynski commented. Meanwhile, AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski, who enjoys the support of the Solidarity trade union and the AWS Social Movement, the biggest party in the bloc, has rejected the demand by the SKL and the PPChD to step down. JM

POLISH NATIONALISTS STAGE ANTI-SEMITIC RALLY

Some 400 members of nationalist organizations marched in Katowice on 11 November (Independence Day), chanting anti-Semitic and anti-European slogans, PAP reported. At the monument to the Silesian Insurgents, the demonstrators burned the flags of the EU and Israel. A city official told the agency that the march was organized by the "No To Europe Association," adding that the authorities saw no reason to ban the demonstration. JM

RULING CZECH PARTY TROUNCED IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS...

The ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) have failed to win any of the 13 elections to regional assemblies that took place throughout the Czech Republic on 12 November. CTK reported the next day that the CSSD received 14.7 percent support, while the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of former Primer Minister Vaclav Klaus received 23.8 percent, a liberal four-party coalition 22.9 percent, and the Communist 21 percent. The ODS won in six regions and tied in another with the liberal coalition, which won outright in five regions. The remaining region was claimed by the Communists. (Voting in the 14th region, Prague, will not take place until 2002). Roughly one-third of the electorate turned out to vote. JC

...FARES POORLY IN SENATE BALLOT

Voters in the Czech Republic also went to the polls on 12 November to elect one-third of the 81 seats in the Senate. According to Reuters the next day, only one of the 27 seats up for grabs was determined in the first round: former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, a member of the liberal four-party coalition, was the sole candidate to receive more than 50 percent of the vote. CTK reported on 13 November that the CSSD will have only five candidates taking part in the 19 November second round, while the liberal four-party coalition will have 19, the ODS 18, and the Communists eight. The CSSD and the ODS are trying to gain a three-fifths majority in the Senate necessary to push through a constitutional amendment to curb the president's powers. JC

LOW TURNOUT INVALIDATES SLOVAK REFERENDUM

According to official results, only 19.98 percent of voters took part in the 11 November opposition-initiated plebiscite on early parliamentary elections, TASR reported on 12 November. Under Slovak legislation, referendum results are valid only if at least 50 percent of eligible voters participate in the plebiscite. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda commented that the referendum was nothing more than an attempt by Vladimir Meciar, leader of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), to regain power. Meanwhile, the HZDS said in a statement that the insufficient turnout was the result of the "demagogic anti-referendum campaign [carried out by] the current government, the intimidation of the electorate, and the political marring of the referendum." JM

TRADE UNIONS STAGE RALLY IN HUNGARY

More than 5,000 workers representing six trade union federations staged a mass rally at the National Sports Hall in Budapest on 11 November to appeal to Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the parliament to revoke recent amendments made to the labor code. Speakers at the rally said the government wants to build a "social iron curtain" between Hungary and the EU and is not willing to engage in dialogue with the trade unions. Protesters declared that they are prepared to go on strike to defend their interests. The demonstration was the first joint action of the six confederations since the collapse of communist regime in Hungary. MSZ




NATIONALIST SERBIAN, CROATIAN PARTIES CLAIM VICTORY IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONS

Officials from nationalist Serbian and Croatian parties claimed on 12 November that they are leading in the general elections held the previous day, AP reported. The Serbian Democratic Party, founded by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, said that its candidate for president of the Republika Srpska, Mirko Sarovic, is winning the race against pro-Western Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik. In the Muslim-Croatian Federation, the nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) said it is leading the vote count in five out of 10 cantons in the federation. But Zlatko Lagumdzija, the leader of the multiethnic Social Democratic Party, said his party is also receiving strong support, as is former Bosnian Premier Haris Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina. The OSCE said it will release the first official results on 13 November. OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President Bruce George said the organization and conduct of the elections was of the "very highest order." Other OSCE and Council of Europe officials agreed but pointed to some attempts at organized fraud. PB

BOSNIAN-CROATIAN LEADER PLEASED WITH REFERENDUM

HDZ leader Ante Jelavic claimed that some 70 percent of voters approved a parallel referendum held by the HDZ asking voters if they approve of greater autonomy for Bosnian-Croats, AP reported. Jelavic said that as far as Bosnian Croats are concerned, the UN and other international officials "are finished." The OSCE declared the referendum illegal and warned that international officials might punish the HDZ for holding the plebiscite. HDZ spokesman Zoran Timic said "we don't expect the OSCE to make a decision that would put a question mark [over] the implementation of the election results." PB

PETRITSCH DECREES NEW BOSNIAN LAWS

Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina, announced the implementation of several laws on 12 November designed to attract investment and bring the country closer to EU norms, Reuters reported. Petritsch announced a Bosnia-wide state court, pension reforms requested by the World Bank, and EU standardization norms. Petritsch said he was decreeing the laws after months of delay by Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian politicians to pass them. The reforms will allow the disbursement of a World Bank credit of some $24 million to fund the restructuring of public financial institutions. PB

MONTENEGRO DROPS THE YUGOSLAV DINAR

The Yugoslav dinar is no longer legal tender in the republic of Montenegro beginning on 13 November, AFP reported. Montenegro's Monetary Council said on 10 November that the German mark will be the only currency in the republic until 2002, when the euro goes into circulation. Montenegro introduced the German mark as a parallel currency in June. In retaliation, the Yugoslav National Bank imposed a ban on financial transactions between Montenegrin and Serbian companies. PB

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT THREATENS REFERENDUM ON INDEPENDENCE

Milo Djukanovic said on 10 November that Montenegro will hold a referendum on secession from Yugoslavia unless the union between Serbia and Montenegro is radically modified, AP reported. Djukanovic said: "I think that a union between Serbia and Montenegro is possible, but on completely new foundations. Present-day Yugoslavia must be changed to be the union of two internationally-recognized states... Yugoslavia doesn't exist." The Montenegrin president also said that the new union would "in fact have more common functions than the current one," adding that joint functions are only found in "state air control and the military, which Milosevic abused by threatening Montenegro's democracy." The latest opinion polls show that some 55 percent of Montenegrins support independence for the republic. PB

YUGOSLAVIA'S MEMBERSHIP IN OSCE RESTORED

The OSCE Permanent Council unanimously agreed on 10 November in Vienna to restore Yugoslavia's membership in the OSCE, Reuters reported. Yugoslav Foreign Minster Goran Svilanovic attended a ceremony in the Austrian capital at which the Yugoslav flag was raised. The OSCE now has 55 members. PB

INMATES RETURN TO CELLS, BUT PRISON GUARDS GO ON STRIKE

Guards at Yugoslavia's three largest prisons went on strike on 11 November, one day after prisoners ended a revolt and began returning to their cells, AP reported, citing Belgrade's Beta news agency. The guards are demanding better pay, improved working conditions, as well as consultations with prison and Justice Ministry officials. The ministry said money for unpaid wages is being made available and that the strike will end soon. PB

KOSTUNICA AGAIN RULES OUT PURGE OF MILITARY, POLICE...

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said on 12 November that a large-scale purge of the military and police in Serbia would destroy those institutions, Reuters reported. Kostunica said in an interview with the daily "Politika" that "I am sure that it is not the will of the people at this moment to destroy institutions such as the army and the police." He added that "nor is it the will of the people to replace everybody in various institutions just because they were members of [former President Slobodan Milosevic's] Socialist Party of Serbia." Officials in Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) are upset with the president's stance. DOS officials want Kostunica to remove army chief of staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic and Serbian state security head Rade Markovic and have refused to work with the transitional Serbian government until those two officials have been sacked or resign. Zarko Korac, a DOS leader, said "these people will destroy these institutions. People are watching this and wondering what the DOS is doing now." PB

...SAYS TOP PRIORITY IS RETURN OF SERBS TO KOSOVA

Yugoslav President Kostunica said in an interview with the German magazine "Der Spiegel" that the return of Serbs to the province of Kosova is his top goal, AP reported. Kostunica said that first "security must be established in Kosovo... Then the displaced Serbs should return, that is our main goal." He said he welcomed last month's election win by the party of moderate Kosovar Albanian Ibrahim Rugova but ruled out independence for the province because it would "destabilize" neighboring countries with large ethnic-Albanian populations. Kostunica said a political solution whereby Serbs and ethnic Albanians have substantial autonomy "must be found." But he added that he will respect the result of referendums, both in Montenegro or Kosova, saying "we will respect the people's decision." Kostunica said Russia's presence in Kosova is very important "as a counterweight to America, which has installed itself too deeply in this region." PB

SLOVENIAN PARTIES REACH DRAFT AGREEMENT ON COALITION

Four Slovenian political parties reached a preliminary agreement on 10 November in Ljubljana to form a center-left government, dpa reported. The Liberal Democrats of former Premier Janez Drnovsek, which emerged as the strongest party after last month's elections, signed an accord with the conservative People's Party, the former Communists known as the United List of Social Democrats, and the pensioner's party Desus. Drnovsek said the coalition will have 58 out of the 90 seats in parliament. He said a final agreement should be signed by 15 November. PB

ROMANIA'S NASTASE MAKES PLEA FOR 'ROMANIAN CAPITALISM'

During a 12 November visit to the city of Ramnicu Valcea as part of his election campaign, Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase made a plea for "a Romanian capitalism, with Romanian capitalists, on a Romanian market and with Romanian products," BBC's Romanian Service reported. Nastase, who is the PDSR's candidate for the premiership, added that Romania needs a clear strategy for joining the EU in order to avoid becoming "a colony for others to sell their products." The PDSR intends to create a so-called "Club 75" that would consist of companies willing to support the party's election campaign with a maximum of 75 million lei ($3,000). ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT NOT SATISFIED WITH FULFILLMENT OF CIS AGREEMENTS

Petru Lucinschi met with Yuri Yarov, executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), in Chisinau on 10 November, AP Flux reported. The two officials discussed preparations for a CIS summit scheduled for 31 November-1 December in Minsk. During the talks, Lucinschi said that CIS states must pledge to fulfill their commitments within the organization, noting that "almost 500 CIS agreements have not been implemented." Lucinschi is due to attend the summit in Minsk, although a presidential election has been scheduled in the republic for 1 December. ET

SOCIALISTS HOLD RALLY IN SOFIA AGAINST GOVERNMENT

An estimated 10,000 people marched in a Socialist-sponsored rally in central Sofia on 11 November to protest against government policies, Reuters reported. Georgi Parvanov, the head of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, told the mostly elderly people at the demonstration that the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) has brought only "poverty, unemployment, and corruption, and managed to secure well-being only for a tiny circle of people close to the UDF elite." The UDF government of Ivan Kostov came to power in 1997. Parliamentary elections are to be held next summer. PB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS DECLARATION ON VISAS FOR EU

The Bulgarian parliament adopted a declaration on 10 November demanding that the EU end its visa regime against Bulgarians, AP reported. The vote followed a strongly-worded speech by Premier Kostov condemning the visa regulations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2000). All 233 of the 240 deputies present in the chamber voted for the declaration. Kostov said "Bulgaria must defend its national interest by preparing for an active and strong foreign policy response in case visa restrictions are not lifted. We must...not let ourselves be treated as third-hand Europeans." PB




RUSSIA TO MAKE BIG CUTS IN MILITARY PERSONNEL


By Sophie Lambroschini

Last week, Russia's Security Council announced that the country's armed forces will be reduced by almost 20 percent over five years.

The council called the organization of Russia's military "unwieldy" and "wasteful." President Vladimir Putin, who presided over last week's meeting, said the reductions are needed to get what he described "a more compact and therefore a more mobile and professional army."

The reductions approved by the Security Council involve up to 470,000 military personnel and 130,000 civilians. They also include 380 generals and represent the latest step by the Russian authorities to streamline the country's defense and arms sector. Currently, Russia's armed forces total some 3 million.

Russia's Security Council, an advisory body set up by former President Boris Yeltsin, is composed of the heads of the main security ministries, including Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, the heads of the foreign and domestic intelligence services, and the interior, emergency situations, and other ministers. In the spring, the chief of staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, was also made a council member by Putin, who chairs the body. Over the past several months, Kvashnin and Sergeev's disagreements over military reform have become public.

Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told RFE/RL that Putin has supported the reductions because of the war in Chechnya: "It turned out a year ago, when Putin was very actively taking part in organizing, preparing, and running the present new Chechen war, that Russia cannot field more than 100,000 men and the Defense Ministry can send to war only fewer than 60,000 men--whereas [on the military] payrolls, there [are] up to 3 million people."

The Security Council's decision comes more than six weeks after the last of its many failed attempts to reach an agreement. At that time, analysts said that military leaders had strongly resisted reductions in any of Russia's 11 paramilitary forces. They were said to have argued, for example, that Interior Ministry troops--one of the 11 paramilitaries--are now being called on to play a bigger role in the face of threats to Russian security posed by conflicts such as the one in Chechnya.

At the 9 November council meeting, a compromise was apparently reached. While most of the proposed cuts affect the Defense Ministry forces--which will lose 360,000 personnel--additional reductions of some 110,000 will trim down some paramilitaries.

Army General Vladimir Potapov, the Security Council's deputy secretary in charge of military reform, said the proposals reflect the leadership's analysis that for the next 10 years, "Russia won't be in a position to wage a large-scale war with conventional weapons." Potapov also emphasized that the reductions are not calculated on a proportional basis but rather with regard to what he described as "the whole scale of threats" Russia will have to face and which of its forces will best withstand them.

Potapov's remarks are reflected in the details of the proposed reductions. The Interior Ministry will lose some 30,000 troops. Troops protecting the railways will be reduced by 10,000, and border guards by 5,000 (or 5 percent). Other special troops that will be reduced--but in so far undisclosed numbers--include those attached to the Federal Security Service, the Communications Ministry, and the Emergencies Ministry.

But Yurii Golotyuk, military analyst of the daily "Vremya Novostei," warned that the proposals are not final until Putin signs the necessary decrees. Golotyuk argues that since it took no less than 17 council sessions to reach the present compromise, more resistance can be expected, with ministries lobbying for changes until the last minute.

Felgenhauer, however, argues that the council's proposals are a big "step in the right direction" of the military reform Russia has been seeking, he says, for "centuries." According to him, "the Soviet leadership, the tsars all had the same problem: a gigantic army on paper, but no one to send to the front."

But Felgenhauer adds that Russia's armed forces should be "remodeled to fight small local wars and not try to balance or challenge countries like the United States that have defense budgets 10 times, or maybe even 20 times bigger, an economy that's 10 or maybe 20 times bigger. If Russia has an economy more or less the size of that of Belgium, it should not just rationalize, it should actually thoroughly rebuild its armed forces."

Other recent measures show that Putin is trying to realize a wider streamlining of the defense sector by centralizing the country's lucrative arms trade. Earlier this week, all of Russia's $3.5 billion worth of arms exports were put under the control of the new monopoly Rosoboroneksport, which will be directly managed by the Defense Ministry.

Since April of this year, the business was split between two state-controlled companies, Rosvooruzhenie and Promeksport. Officials say the arms sales merger was undertaken mainly because of commercial considerations. The competition between the two old firms had led, they say, to what Putin called "an unjustified price drop in Russian arms."

But Felgenhauer suggested that the appointment of the new monopoly's head reveals an effort to bring order into the highly profitable--but, according to some, graft-ridden--arms business. The new chief is former Promeksport deputy director Andrei Belyaninov, a one-time intelligence officer who-- like Putin-- served in Germany for a while. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


XS
SM
MD
LG