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Newsline - November 16, 2000




ROKHLINA FOUND GUILTY OF HUSBAND'S MURDER

A city court in Moscow Oblast has found Tamara Rokhlina guilty of murdering her husband, Lev Rokhlin, former State Duma deputy and leader of the Movement to Support the Army, in the summer of 1998, Russian agencies reported on 16 November. Rokhlina, who initially confessed to having committed the murder but later said she had been under pressure to make such a confession, was sentenced to eight years in prison. On 15 November, Rokhlina had delivered a final statement before the court delivered its verdict. The court proceedings were closed to the public, but Rokhlina's lawyer, Anatolii Kucherena, told reporters that his client again asserted her innocence and urged authorities "to check everyone who was present at their country residence outside of Moscow" the day that her husband was killed. Kucherena denied that Rokhlina had accused Rokhlin's personal bodyguards of the killing, as had been reported by some news agencies. He said some unknown person had distributed a false copy of her final statement outside of the courtroom (see also Part II). JAC/JC

DEFENSE MINISTER BACKS PUTIN OVER ABM...

Speaking in Tver on 15 November, Igor Sergeev said that President Vladimir Putin's proposal that Russia and the U.S. reduce their nuclear arsenals to below 1,500 warheads each can be put into practice only if the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is preserved, Interfax reported. Putin, in a 13 November statement, had proposed such cuts on condition that the ABM treaty is "preserved and strengthened" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000). JC

...AS YAKOVLEV SAYS TREATY UNLIKELY TO SURVIVE

Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces Vladimir Yakovlev told journalists in Moscow on 15 November he believes that regardless of who heads the next U.S. administration, the ABM treaty is unlikely to survive. He also commented that U.S. Senators are unlikely to approve the additions to START II that the State Duma made when it ratified that treaty earlier this year. Yakovlev recently proposed an "ABM index" that would allow a country to increase one component of its arsenal by reducing another (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000). Foreign Ministry officials were quick to point that this was Yakovlev's personal point of view and that President Putin decided policy matters. JC

RUSSIA TO GIVE BELARUS $30 MILLION NEXT MONTH...

Secretary of State for the Union of Russia and Belarus Pavel Borodin told reporters on 15 November that the union's Council of Ministers has approved documents related to the eventual establishment of a single customs system, a single tariff policy, a single currency, and a single monetary emissions center, ITAR-TASS reported. The documents will be signed at a meeting of the union's Supreme State Council in Minsk on 30 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). In its coverage of the Council of Ministers meeting, "Vremya novostei" reported that Russia will lend Belarus $100 million to establish a national currency stabilization fund and to maintain its balance of payments. The first installment, worth $30 million, will be transferred in December. The daily concludes that Russia's largesse vis-a-vis Belarus could negatively affect Russia's chances of negotiating a debt restructuring agreement with the Paris Club next month. JAC

...AS MOST OF FORMER USSR'S DEBTORS CONTINUE NOT TO PAY UP

Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Cheremukhin told Interfax on 15 November that only 14 of the 80 countries that owe Russia money have made payments on their debts this year. He explained that the "overwhelming majority of countries to which the former USSR extended credits are among the world's poorest, and their payment capabilities do not allow them to service their foreign debts in full." However, so far this year, Russia has received $662.3 million on loans extended to other countries by Russia or the former Soviet Union. JAC

BEREZOVSKII TO BE CALLED FOR ANOTHER INTERVIEW...

In an interview with NTV in New York on 15 November, Boris Berezovskii said he will return to Russia when he is convinced that the "Aeroflot case is being investigated in full compliance with the law" and not from the "point of view of the highest chief." The same day, ITAR-TASS reported that according to its unidentified sources in the Office of the Prosecutor-General, Berezovskii's next interrogation may be scheduled for 27 November. JAC

...AS UNITY DENIES RECEIVING FUNDING FROM OLIGARCH

Unity faction leader Boris Gryzlov said on 15 November that his party did not receive funding from Berezovskii or Aeroflot, contrary to Berezovskii's recent claims (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). Gryzlov asserted that when "Berezovskii runs out of facts, he invents them." He continued, "After becoming useless to the new authorities, he is resorting to every method available to him to be at the center of attention of the public and the media." "Segodnya" reported on the same day that unofficial presidential adviser Gleb Pavlovskii also denied that either Berezovskii or Aeroflot financed the pro-Kremlin party. JAC

RUSSIAN NAVY USING EXPLOSIVES TO PROTECT 'KURSK'

Northern Fleet spokesman Vladimir Navrotskii confirmed on 15 November that the Russian navy is using depth charges and grenades in the Barents Sea, where the "Kursk" nuclear submarine sank in August during maneuvers. Interfax quoted Navrotskii as saying that grenades were used by all navies to protect their ships against stray mines and scare off enemy divers. Norway's Norsar seismological observatory, which detected the explosions near the sunken submarine, said that a possible explanation for the blasts was that the Russian military wants to keep foreign submarines away from the area. Russian military officials have expressed concern that foreign navies could try to gather intelligence about the "Kursk." JC

DATA GATHERED BY POPE WAS CLASSIFIED, SAY PROSECUTION WITNESSES

Experts summoned by the prosecution in the trial of accused U.S. spy Edmond Pope told the Moscow City Court on 15 November that information gathered by Pope was secret. "This data has never been declassified and we are not going to declassify it," one of those experts told reporters outside the courtroom. Anatolii Babkin, a Russian university professor who is accused of having handed over classified information to Pope, said in court earlier this week that the information he gave to the U.S. businessman is available in published textbooks. He has also withdrawn earlier testimony, which he said was given under duress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000). Also on 15 November, during talks in Brunei on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, U.S. President Bill Clinton pressed his Russian counterpart, Putin, to release Pope, Western agencies reported. JC

WAGES STILL LAG BEHIND PRE-CRISIS LEVEL

Real wages in Russia in September were 19 percent lower than in December 1997, Interfax reported on 15 October, citing the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy. According to the center, the share of the population with revenues lower than the survival minimum in Russia equaled 27.6 percent in the second quarter and 33.5 percent in the first quarter of the year. In 1998, this proportion was 24.6 percent on average, and in 1997 it was 21.2 percent. JAC

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER TELLS TEACHERS, DOCTORS TO COMPLAIN TO REGIONAL LEADERS

Commenting on plans for an all-Russia strike by workers in education and culture on 17 November, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko told reporters on 15 November that currently there is no basis for state sector workers to protest the low level of their wages. She said that workers funded by the federal budget are already scheduled to receive an increase of 20 percent at the beginning of 2001. "At the present time not one region can claim not to have received the necessary transfers from the federal budget for the current year," she added. Nonetheless, regions owe back wages of up to 1.2 billion rubles, she reported, with the worst backlogs occurring in Tuva, Omsk, Altai Krai, and the Ussuriisk district of Primorskii Krai. She asserted that teachers and doctors are not being paid in Ussuriisk because of an upcoming mayoral election. Meanwhile, teachers strikes have been reported recently in a number of regions, including Altai Krai and Tuva Republic (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 November 2000). JAC

TEACHERS STRIKE IN CHECHNYA

Teachers in Chechen secondary schools launched a three-day strike on 15 November to protest wage arrears of six months totaling 119 million rubles ($4.3 million), ITAR-TASS reported. A series of two-hour warning strikes by teaching personnel in various Chechen raions began in late October. LF

GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL URGES INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES TO ASSIST SMALL BUSINESSES

At the 15 November opening of a two-day conference in Moscow on marketing in Russia, the president of the Russian Marketing Association, Aleksandr Braverman, who is also the first deputy minister for property relations, appealed to international organizations for assistance, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. According to Braverman, marketing would allow small and medium-sized companies to raise their level of competitiveness in Russia and help them survive under the current complex conditions. However, an official of a European marketing association explained that Russia's European partners are still trying to understand the particularities of Russian business. JAC

PUTIN PRAISES TIES WITH JAPAN, AS PEACE TREATY 'DEADLINE' LOOMS

Russian President Putin, meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in Brunei on 15 November on the sidelines of the APEC summit, said that there has been an "obvious" improvement in Russian-Japanese relations since he and Mori met in Tokyo in early September. Before their talks, however, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov said that work on drafting a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities between the two countries is unlikely to be completed before the end of 2000. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto had agreed to sign a peace treaty by the close of 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1997). A sticking point to reaching that agreement is the ownership of the Kuril Islands, which Soviet troops seized at the end of World War II. JC

MOSCOW WON'T ACCEPT BALTIC MEMBERSHIP IN NATO

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 15 November stressing Moscow's negative stance toward NATO's eastward expansion. The statement was released in connection with Estonian President Lennart Meri's comment during his recent visit to Germany that "even Moscow has gradually started to accept the fact that the Baltic states will soon join NATO," according to AP. That comment, the ministry said, "does not correspond to reality... NATO's further expansion...would make the restoration of our relations with NATO uncertain and raise new security problems in the Baltic region." JC

INTERIM CHECHEN LEADER CALLS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF SOME RUSSIAN TROOPS

Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 15 November called for an unspecified reduction in the number of Russian troops deployed in Chechnya, AP reported, citing Interfax. Kadyrov accused the federal forces of indiscriminate violence against the civilian population, especially during so-called "mopping-up" operations. He also called for the abolition of checkpoints along main highways, dismissing them as ineffective. ("Kommersant-Vlast" the previous day quoted him as claiming that on a recent drive from Gudermes to Grozny, he had found every single check-point unmanned.) Also on 15 November, Russian military spokesmen denied that a "mopping-up" operation is under way in Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny, where a number of civilians were reported murdered last weekend. AFP quoted unnamed sources within Kadyrov's administration as suggesting that those killings could be attributed to clan warfare. LF

SERGEEV FAILS TO CONFIRM BARAEV APPREHENDED

Russian Defense Minister Sergeev confirmed in Tver on 15 November that seven Chechen fighters were captured in Grozny on 12 November by federal forces and then commandeered by the city's mayor, Beslan Gantemirov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). But Sergeev declined to clarify whether the Chechens included field commander Arbi Baraev. Gantemirov is scheduled to meet on 16 November with Chechen Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov to discuss the detentions. LF

NEW KURSK GOVERNOR APOLOGIZES TO PREDECESSOR

Aleksandr Mikhailov, who was recently elected governor of Kursk Oblast after former incumbent Aleksandr Rutskoi was struck from the ballot, has apologized for his recent anti-Semitic comments, "The Moscow Times" reported on 16 November. Mikhailov, a member of the Communist Party, had suggested that he and President Putin were fighting to rid the country of Jewish "scum." He also noted that Rutskoi has a Jewish mother, whereas Mikhailov and Putin are "Russians" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 November 2000). In a statement to ITAR-TASS, Mikhailov said he apologizes to Rutskoi and his mother and "sincerely regrets that my answers to straightforward questions were understood negatively." Mikhailov's apology appeared after he met with presidential representative to the Central Federal District Georgii Poltavchenko. JC

DUMA HAS FUN WITH U.S. ELECTION STAND-OFF

State Duma deputies voted by 246 to zero and six abstentions on 15 November to adopt a draft statement on the presidential elections in the U.S., Interfax reported. According to the statement, the drawn-out procedure of tallying the recent presidential election results illustrates the "significant drawbacks in [U.S.] election legislation and the archaic nature of the election procedure in the U.S." The statement also noted that it was "surprising" that the leadership of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights "refused to take part in monitoring the presidential elections in the U.S., proceeding apparently from the presumption of the infallibility of the American electoral system." "Izvestiya" reported the same day that an earlier proposal by Duma deputies to send election observers to the U.S. had been prescient in its concerns about the pre-election situation in "the states of Texas and California and also in other territories forcibly annexed by the U.S." The newspaper noted that Florida was one of those territories "forcibly annexed." JAC




ARMENIA HAILS EU VOTE ON 1915 GENOCIDE

In a statement issued on 15 November, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan said Yerevan "strongly welcomes" the European Parliament resolution adopted earlier that day calling on Turkey to normalize its relations with Yerevan and recognize as genocide the mass killings of Armenian in the Ottoman Empire 85 years ago, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. "We believe that this step will be a serious incentive for Turkey to soberly assess its past and embark on a dialogue with the Republic of Armenia," the Armenian statement said. The non-binding EU resolution constituted a broader assessment of Turkey's progress toward achieving full EU membership. LF

ANOTHER RUSSIAN APPEAL TO ARMENIAN PRESIDENT IN VARTANIAN CASE

A Russian government Society for Friendship and Cooperation with Armenia has written to Armenian President Robert Kocharian in connection with the charges brought by the Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office against businessman Arkadii Vartanian, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 November. Kocharian is asked to exercise forbearance in the face of public protests against poverty. The appeal expresses confidence that Kocharian will succeed in "eradicating the true causes of the people's indignation and will display the constructive wisdom and Christian virtue typical of the sons of the Armenian people." LF

ARMENIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MEETS WITH HUNANIAN

Members of the Armenian presidential human rights commission met on 13 November with Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen who shot down eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament one year ago, "Aravot" reported on 15 November. The newspaper quoted commission member Vartan Harutiunian as saying that Hunanian was "calmer than I could imagine." He added that Hunanian "thinks of himself as an ideological fighter who happens to be in jail but is continuing his struggle." Hunanian said at the time of the murders that his purpose was to rid Armenia of officials "who drink the people's blood" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2. No. 43, 28 October 1999). LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, IMF DISCUSS ECONOMIC SITUATION

President Kocharian met in Yerevan on 15 November with an IMF delegation to review the country's economic situation, including the planned budget for 2001, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. But a press release issued by the presidential press service made no mention of any discussion of further IMF loans to Armenia. An IMF three-year $156 million loan program expired last year. Levon Barkhudarian, who was replaced on 14 November as economy and finance minister, had said on 25 October that the IMF and the Armenian government had reached agreement on a new three-year loan package worth approximately $120 million. Barkhudarian also said that the fund has approved the main indicators of the 2001 budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). Armenpress on 15 November quoted Barkhudarian's successor, Vartan Khachatrian, as saying that the draft budget, which has been submitted to parliament, is unlikely to undergo major changes. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR CLOSER ECONOMIC TIES WITH CHINA

Andranik Markarian told a visiting Chinese government delegation on 15 November that bilateral economic cooperation has been neglected while political cooperation has strengthened, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides discussed future projects, including a joint venture to produce synthetic rubber in Armenia and cooperation in the energy and metallurgical sector. Markarian also invited Chinese participation in the tender to privatize 13 large factories and thanked the delegation for the donation of 1,000 tons of wheat to offset the damage to Armenia's agricultural sector caused by this summer's drought. President Kocharian, who also met on 15 November with the Chinese officials, noted the potential for bilateral cooperation in the military-technical sphere, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

U.S. DEFENSE OFFICIAL VISITS AZERBAIJAN

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Walter Slocum met in Baku on 15 November with Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Safar Abiev and Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev, Interfax and Turan reported. Abiev emphasized the importance Baku attaches to military cooperation with both NATO and the U.S. Guliev expressed concern at what he termed the expansion of Armenia's military capabilities, which, he said, is negatively affecting the balance of power in the region. Guliev noted that international arms inspectors have not monitored the situation in areas of Azerbaijan controlled by Armenian troops, where, he said, much of Armenia's military hardware is deployed. LF

AZERBAIJAN ELECTION RESULTS SUBMITTED TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission submitted to the Constitutional Court on 15 November the final results of the 5 November parliamentary ballot, which opposition parties have rejected as falsified, Turan reported. The six opposition representatives on the 18-member commission refused to sign the final returns, which the Constitutional Court must endorse within 10 days. Also on 15 November, opposition representatives met with the Baku City administration but failed to reach agreement on the route for a march by some 10,000 people through the city on 18 November to protest the poll outcome. LF

KILLER OF AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SPEAKER ARRESTED

Aliyusif Tairov, who is suspected of having organized a series of murders in 1992-1994, including that of deputy parliament speaker Afiyaddin Djalilov, has been arrested in Baku, Interfax reported on 14 November, citing a statement released the previous day by the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office. Seven other men accused of the September 1994 murder of Djalilov, who many believed was President Heidar Aliev's illegitimate son, and other senior officials were sentenced in September to prison terms ranging from 13 years to life imprisonment. LF

SENTENCES IN AZERBAIJANI EMBEZZLEMENT TRIAL AGAIN POSTPONED

The sentencing of two former Azerbaijani ministers of foreign economic relations and 14 other people found guilty of embezzling oil products worth $30 million in 1992-1993 has again been postponed, Turan reported on 15 November. Originally scheduled for 6 November, the sentencing was postponed first until 10 November and then to 15 November; it is now scheduled to take place on 20 November. On each occasion, the judges demanded more time to consider the verdict. The prosecutor-general has called for jail terms of 10-12 years for all the defendants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000). LF

RESIDENTS OF GEORGIAN CAPITAL PROTEST ENERGY SHORTAGES

Several thousand residents of Tbilisi's Vake district blocked traffic in the city for five hours early on 15 November to protest the planned reduction of electricity supplies to their homes to six hours a day, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. President Eduard Shevardnadze promised that supplies will be increased to 13-15 hours daily. He blamed the shortfall on corruption within the energy sector and the government's inefficiency. LF

COPIES OF NEW BOOK INCRIMINATING KAZAKH PRESIDENT IMPOUNDED

Kazakh National Security Ministry officials on 14 November confiscated a consignment of copies of a book on the December 1986 Almaty protests from a train bound from Moscow to the former capital, the book's author, Arken Uaqov, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service the following day. Uaqov, who was sentenced to four years in a labor camp for taking part in the 1986 protests, describes in his book, which was published in Russia, the role Nursultan Nazarbaev played in repressing the demonstrations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). At that time, Nazarbaev was chairman of the Kazakh SSR Council of Ministers. LF

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DEPUTY DEMANDS LIVE TV COVERAGE OF LAND LAW DEBATE

Serik Abdrakhmanov, who is a deputy to the lower house of Kazakhstan's bicameral legislature, called on 15 November for live television coverage of parliamentary debates, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He argued that such coverage is needed to keep the population informed about the details of the new draft land law. Abdrakhmanov also expressed surprise that local media have ignored the hunger strike underway to demand that the draft law be published for public discussion and that the parliament also consider an alternative bill drafted by opposition parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). He said he will join the eight hunger-strikers if their demands are not met. LF

LIMITED RAIL TRAFFIC BETWEEN TAJIKISTAN, RUSSIA RESUMES

Kazakhstan has agreed to the passage across its territory of three passenger trains bound from Dushanbe to Moscow via Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The first train left the Tajik capital on 15 November, and the other two trains will depart on that route on 17 and 20 November. Kazakhstan halted transit last month to protest the lack of hygiene on Tajik trains and the number of passengers travelling without valid tickets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Since then, Tajikistan has paid part of its $1.6 million debt to Kazakhstan for transit. LF

UZBEK OPPOSITION PARTY DENIES PARTY'S INVOLVEMENT IN TERRORISM

Speaking in Tashkent on 14 November, Otanazar Oripov, who is general secretary of the opposition Erk Party, denied that the party's chairman, Muhammad Solih, is one of the leaders of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's bureau in the Uzbek capital reported. Oripov described the trial in absentia of Solih and several IMU leaders on charges of terrorist acts, including the February 1999 car bombings in Tashkent, as "a political show" staged by the Uzbek leadership. Oripov predicted that the trial "will polarize Uzbek society." But of 200 people polled by RFE/RL's Tashkent bureau, 99 percent expressed approval of the death sentences called for by the prosecution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000), while only two people protested them. LF




MINSK DENIES LUKASHENKA FINANCED ANTI-YELTSIN GENERAL

Presidential administration head Mikhail Myasnikovich and presidential spokesman Mikalay Barysevich have denied that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka financed preparations for an alleged anti-Kremlin protest by military and police officers in Russia in 1998, Interfax reported on 15 November. Tamara Rokhlina, the widow of State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, told a court on 15 November that Rokhlin had been preparing "a mass peaceful demonstration of Russia's power ministry employees" in 1998 because he believed that "the [former President Boris] Yeltsin regime was responsible for Russia's disintegration." She added that Lukashenka knew about the intended demonstration and helped Rokhlin financially with preparations to stage it. According to the widow, the general planned to meet with Lukashenka on 3 July 1998. Tamara Rokhlina confessed to killing her husband with his own gun on that day but later withdrew that confession. On 16 November, she was found guilty of murdering Rokhlin and sentenced to eight years in prison (see Part I). JM

UKRAINIAN POLICE FIND BODY OF DISAPPEARED JOURNALIST?

The Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" reported on 16 November that police have apparently found the body of "Ukrayinska pravda" chief editor Heorhiy Gongadze, who disappeared in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). The newsletter's journalists have visited a morgue in Tarashcha, Kyiv Oblast, where they were shown a decapitated body that was found near that city earlier this month. The journalists could not identify the body because it was too decomposed but said that judging by the description the journalists received from local forensic experts and by the bracelet, ring, and talisman found, the body is that of Gongadze. The body mysteriously disappeared from the morgue after the journalists' visit. Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Dzhyha told Interfax on 16 November that the body is now being examined by forensic experts in Kyiv. Dzhyha added that the experts have not yet established the body's identity. JM

ESTONIA TO SHARE EXPERIENCE WITH GEORGIAN DEFENSE FORCES

Estonian Defense Ministry Deputy Chancellor Margus Kolga and Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili agreed on 15 November in Tallinn to prepare a memorandum of mutual understanding in the sphere of defense, BNS reported. The two countries will start regular defense consultations, with Estonia sharing its experience with Georgia in building up its defense forces and border guards and in integrating with Western structures. During his visit, Bezhuashvili held talks with Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik and visited the Single Guard Battalion in Tallinn, the Peace Operations Center in Paldiski, and the Baltic Defense College in Tartu. SG

NEW VILNIUS MAYOR ELECTED

The Vilnius City Council on 15 November voted in a secret ballot by 27 to 18 to elect Liberal Union Deputy Chairman Arturas Zuokas as Vilnius mayor, ELTA reported. The 32-year-old Zuokas replaces Rolandas Paksas, who resigned after becoming prime minister. After starting work as a journalist, he became a successful businessman and an active member of the Vilnius City Council, serving as its urban services committee chairman. He was the only candidate nominated, and his election was assured after councilors from the allied Liberal Union, Conservatives, and Polish Election Action announced they would support his candidacy. SG

LITHUANIAN, RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS SIGN PROTOCOL

Commissioner of the Lithuanian Border Police Service Algimantas Songaila and Deputy Director of the Federal Border Service of the Russian Federation Aleksei Kozhevnikov, meeting on 15 November in Vilnius, signed a working protocol on cooperation between their services, BNS reported. Songaila told journalists that the two border services are cooperating smoothly and the large number of vehicles crossing the Lithuanian-Kaliningrad region border poses the greatest problems. During his two-day visit, Kozhevnikov also discussed with Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Juozas Galginaitis the situation at the joint state border, the struggle against illegal migration, and drug trafficking as well as possible trilateral cooperation between the Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish border services. SG

CEFTA COUNTRIES URGE SPEEDY EU REFORM

Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek chaired the annual summit of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in Warsaw on 15 November. The summit issued a statement urging the EU to speed up its internal reform in order to accept new members in 2003. Buzek said several EU hopefuls want to complete entry negotiations in late 2001, before the mid-2002 target suggested by the European Commission in its annual report last week. However, Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban suggested Budapest might seek fast-track membership even if that means leaving other CEFTA countries behind. "No country is obliged to wait for another," Reuters quoted him as saying. Orban also said CEFTA "has reached its limits" in liberalizing trade among its members. CEFTA's members are Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. JM

POLISH CABINET SUBMITS 2001 BUDGET DRAFT TO PARLIAMENT

Jerzy Buzek's cabinet on 15 November submitted a 2001 budget draft to the parliament, Polish media reported. The document projects spending at 182.3 billion zlotys ($39.9 billion) and revenues at 160.5 billion zlotys. The bill envisages 5.1 percent growth in GDP and an 8.3 percent rise in industrial production. Under Poland's constitution, the parliament is obliged to pass a budget bill within the four months after its submission. Some Polish commentators predict that the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action, which is in the parliamentary minority, is unlikely to push through the 2001 budget bill, as a result of which the president will have to call early elections. JM

TEMELIN DISPUTE DELAYS CZECH-EU TALKS

Negotiations between the Czech Republic and the EU over the former's membership in the union have been postponed because of the country's dispute with Austria over the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant, Reuters quoted EU officials as saying on 15 November. The talks had been scheduled to take place the following day. The officials said Austria and its EU partners disagree over how to approach the issue in EU membership talks covering the energy sector; as a result, the EU had no common position to present to Prague. Energy issue talks between the EU and five other countries negotiating EU membership terms--Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, and Malta (some of which also have nuclear power plants)--were to go ahead on 16 November as planned. JC

U.S. TO INCREASE AID TO SLOVAK MILITARY IN 2001

The U.S. will increase financial aid to Slovakia's army next year to $8 million. That aid will be spent on the training of Slovak military officers, foreign language instruction, and the establishment of a national military command center, among other projects. The news was announced on 15 November by Major General Joseph G. Garrett, a Pentagon official in charge of European and NATO policies. "The United States is very committed to help Slovakia in its bid to become a member of NATO," AP quoted Garrett as saying. Garrett and his team drew up a report this summer listing recommendations for Slovakia's military reform. JM

POLL SAYS SLOVAKS MOST CONCERNED ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT

A poll conducted by the MVK polling agency in late October and early November found that 39.9 percent of Slovaks consider unemployment and the lack of job opportunities to be the most serious social problem in the country, TASR reported on 15 November. The other pressing social problems listed by respondents include the increasing gap between the rich and the poor (33.2 percent), the high cost of living (26.9 percent), the high crime rate (25.3 percent), and poor health care (18.6 percent). Only 0.8 percent of respondents pointed to the situation of national minorities in Slovakia as a social problem. JM

EU CANDIDATES AGREE IN BUDAPEST TO SPEED UP EU ACCESSION

The foreign ministers of the six "first wave" countries seeking EU membership met in Budapest on 16 November and called for the acceleration of accession talks and for EU expansion in 2003. Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and his counterparts from Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, and Slovenia said they want to end accession talks by late 2001 or early 2002. They also pledged to wind up accession preparations by late 2002 (see also "End Note" below). In other news, Hungarian President Ferenc Madl told his Austrian counterpart, Thomas Klestil, in Vienna that Austria is exaggerating its concern that Hungarian workers will inundate his country when the free movement of labor is permitted. MSZ




NATIONALIST PARTY, MODERATES RUNNING NECK AND NECK IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONS

The OSCE said on 15 November in Sarajevo that the Muslim nationalist Party for Democratic Action (SDA) has taken a slight lead in elections to the parliament of the Muslim-Croatian Confederation, AP reported. With 86 percent of the votes counted, the SDA had 26.8 percent of the vote, compared with 26.3 for the multiethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP). The nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) received 17.6 percent of the votes, and the reformist Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina of former Premier Haris Silajdzic 14.8 percent. In the election to the Bosnian parliament, the SDP had 27 percent compared with 26.6 for the SDA and 20.7 percent for the HDZ. The hard-line Serbian Democratic Party has 41.8 percent of the vote for the parliament in Republika Srpska, and its presidential candidate, Mirko Sarovic, is far ahead of pro-Western Srpska Premier Milorad Dodik. PB

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UN CALLS FOR UNITED ARMY IN BOSNIA

Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton Peace accords, said on 15 November that NATO troops will be in Bosnia-Herzegovina as long as the country has three armies, AP reported. Holbrooke, speaking in New York ahead of a conference in Dayton to mark the fifth anniversary of the signing of the accords, said that Dayton "has become a shorthand word for peace." Bruce Hitchner, the organizer of the conference, said that "with three armies you have the greatest potential for future conflict." He said the leaders from the different ethnic groups in Bosnia will be called on to merge the three armies. Hitchner said such an undertaking will take a "huge commitment from the international community." The conference is to open on 17 November. PB

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT MENTIONS GOAL OF JOINING EU

Vojislav Kostunica told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 15 November that Yugoslavia's major foreign policy goal is to adhere to European norms and eventually join the EU, Reuters reported. Kostunica said Belgrade wants to "approach in a comprehensive manner a family of nations comprising the EU and then join it." Kostunica said "we are aware that none of the Balkan countries will be able to join the EU on [its] own, which makes it clear we have to develop good neighborly relations, free trade, and collective security structures first." Diplomats in Brussels said the same day that Serbia is likely to receive financial aid worth about 2 billion euros ($1.9 billion) over the next six years as part of EU efforts to stabilize democracy in the Balkans. Kostunica repeated his view that the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague not be the only place for suspects to be tried. He said "Milosevic is in many ways responsible to his own people...that's something that must be pointed out." PB

SERBIAN SECURITY SERVICE CHIEF REWARDED FOR AVERTING BLOODBATH

Rade Markovic, the head of Serbian state security, was removed from the EU's blacklist for travel in the West because he restrained security forces during the demonstrations that brought President Kostunica to power last month, Reuters reported on 15 November. Diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Markovic is being rewarded for his good behavior during the protests. The source said Markovic's removal from the list was suggested by Kostunica himself. Members of Kostunica's party were upset by Markovic and others' removal from the list (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). Kostunica said in Strasbourg the same day that "I would be against a visa ban list--there are other ways to solve the problem." PB

U.S. TO TIE AID TO YUGOSLAVIA TO COOPERATION WITH UN TRIBUNAL

U.S. Balkan envoy James O'Brien said in Belgrade on 15 November that Washington will require Yugoslavia to cooperate with the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague in order for it to receive U.S. assistance, Reuters reported. O'Brien said U.S. President Bill Clinton has earmarked some $100 million to Yugoslavia aimed at consolidating democracy. He said the first part of that sum will be granted without conditions, but that starting on 1 April 2001 there "will be some legally required conditions on our assistance." O'Brien said that in addition to cooperation with The Hague, Belgrade is expected to support the Dayton accords in Bosnia and to implement policies establishing the rule of law. O'Brien said that Croatia has been bold in cooperating with the war crimes tribunal and that the U.S. expects Yugoslavia to do the same. He added that bilateral diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Yugoslavia will be established soon. PB

MACEDONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MAKES GROUNDBREAKING BELGRADE VISIT

Aleksandar Dimitrov said on 15 November that Macedonia and Yugoslavia are prepared to settle outstanding bilateral issues and work together to bring stability to the region, AFP reported. Dimitrov said after meeting with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic: "My visit to Belgrade comes in a new atmosphere which offers the possibility of settling the open issues" between the two countries. It is the first visit by a Macedonian government official to Belgrade in more than five years. Svilanovic said that the two countries have yet to define a common border, noting that this issue needs to be resolved so that economic issues can be addressed. Dimitrov and Svilanovic also discussed the division of property held by former socialist Yugoslavia. PB

SERBIAN MINISTER GOES TO KOSOVA

Serbian Co-Minister of Justice Dragan Subasic led a delegation to Prishtina on 15 November to discuss the issue of ethnic Albanian prisoners in Serbia, Reuters reported. The UN administrator for Kosova, Bernard Kouchner, said "this is just a beginning but, if promises are met, it will go a long way towards healing the wounds of all parties affected by this ongoing tragedy." The delegation met with UN officials, but Kosovar Albanian groups pressing for the release of the prisoners from Serbia refused to talk directly with Subasic and the other officials. Bexhet Shala, the secretary of the Council for Human Rights and Freedoms, said: "All ethnic Albanian political prisoners need to be released immediately...this is our permanent demand, and we cannot back off from it." Some 3,500 Kosovars are still missing, and nearly 1,000 are known to be jailed in Serbia. PB

OSCE CRITICIZES CROATIA FOR SLOW MOVEMENT ON REFUGEE ISSUES

An OSCE report issued on 15 November criticizes Croatia for failure to make greater progress on minority rights and reforms in the media and judiciary, Reuters reported. Bernard Poncet, head of the OSCE mission in Zagreb, said "despite government policies pointing to the right direction, progress has been modest and uneven." Poncet urged the government to focus on the return of the mostly Serbian refugees and the restitution of property. He said "a serious obstacle remains the passivity or obstructionism of many local authorities who hamper the well-intended government policies." An estimated 270,000 Serbs were displaced from Croatia during fighting in the 1991-95 war of Yugoslav succession. PB

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO DISREGARD ANTI-PRIVATIZATION MOTION

Romanian State Property Fund (FPS) chairman Radu Sarbu said on 15 November that the government believes the motion approved by the Senate the previous day will not prevent the FPS from continuing to privatize state-owned companies, Romanian media reported. The motion, proposed by the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), asked the government to suspend the privatization process until the next government is formed after the 26 November elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). Premier Mugur Isarescu said the Senate's decision is "purely political" and must be followed by a law halting privatization. PDSR First Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase said that if the government continues selling state companies, it will be "defying the parliament." He added that his party is not against the privatization process as a whole, but against "robbing the economy." ZsM

MOLDOVAN SPEAKER FEARS CRISIS AS NO ONE REGISTERS FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Parliamentary speaker Dumitru Diacov said on 14 November that in order to avoid a parliamentary crisis, a new Moldovan president must be elected by the parliament in the first round of voting on 1 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Diacov said the best solution will be for the parliament to elect an independent candidate. Diacov said he is against early parliamentary elections, as proposed by President Petru Lucinschi. Presidential candidates have until 25 November to register with a parliamentary commission, but no candidate has registered yet. ET

TWO KILLED IN BLAST AT BULGARIAN HOTEL

Two men were killed in an explosion at a hotel in Sofia on 15 November, which Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski blamed on organized crime, dpa reported. Sofiyanski said "showing off" by organized crime organizations has been on the increase. Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov said one of the victims in the blast, which took place at the Ambassador Hotel, was a foreigner. He added that the incident could be called a "terrorist" attack. PB




EU PROGRESS REPORTS PROVE SOURCE OF DIVISION


By Ahto Lobjakas

The EU progress reports released one week ago made a tentative attempt to rank accession candidates according to their economic prowess. But instead of helping matters, the reports have created discord within the ranks of the leading Eastern candidate states.

The European Commission, which compiled the reports, attempted for the first time to list the 12 active candidate countries according to their perceived ability to withstand what was termed the "competitive pressure" of EU membership.

The two non-Eastern candidates, Cyprus and Malta--both of which have fully fledged market economies--were ranked highest. Estonia, Hungary, and Poland followed closely with near-term prospects for membership. The Czech Republic and Slovenia--until now considered to belong to the first wave of candidates--were relegated to a third level; both are considered to have not completed all essential reforms. Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia followed, with Bulgaria and Romania bringing up the rear.

The commission reports were meant to bring clarity and predictability to the accession process. But their main result so far appears to have been to shatter an already fragile unity among leading Eastern candidates.

This was especially clear earlier this week, when negotiating teams from six candidate countries--Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia--gathered in Brussels. It was the first time that first- and second-wave negotiators turned up together, possibly intended as a sign from the commission that talk of "waves" is meaningless and that every country will be judged purely on its own merit.

If so, that sign was received poorly by Slovenia, which, together with the Czech Republic, has taken exception to its relatively low ranking. Slovenia's chief negotiator Janez Potocnik says he does not doubt the objectivity of the commission, but he believes the criteria used in assessing economic performance were faulty. The EU gave relatively strong weight to factors such as how open an economy is, how much direct foreign investment it has attracted, and how many state assets it has sold off so far.

Potocnik says other major structural factors, such as the share of agriculture in overall employment and the EU's share of a country's foreign trade, were ignored. He says Slovenia would score highly on both of those counts: "If you say [a country] is able to cope with the competitive pressures of the EU, of course you have to take into account all the structures of the economy...not only how much foreign direct investment [a country has attracted], how open [the economy is], [and whether it] has already privatized everything."

Estonia, on the other hand, scores well on openness of the economy, foreign investment, and extensive privatization. Not surprisingly, Estonia has no fundamental problems with the commission's approach.

The head of the Estonian delegation, Alar Streimann, says this is a long-standing attitude: "We have never questioned the objectivity and expertise of the [European] Commission in evaluating and assessing [candidate countries'] progress. This approach is also valid this year. [If] what they have found is positive, we are happy, if it is negative, we accept the criticism."

Slovakia, for its part, was smarting from being described--together with Latvia and Lithuania--as a "medium-term" economic prospect. Slovakia's chief negotiator Jan Figel says this ignores his country's relatively high per capita gross domestic product, or GDP, which he says is a far better criterion of economic performance.

According to Figel, Slovakia's per capita GDP for 1999 stood at nearly 50 percent of the EU average, while Estonia languished at about a third of the EU average, with Latvia and Lithuania even further behind.

This was not an approach that found much support from the Latvian chief negotiator, Andris Kesteris: "There are lies, big lies and statistics. It is difficult to assess [real GDP levels] because if you visit [the] three Baltic countries and Slovakia, you wouldn't believe this statistic."

Kesteris says he believes Latvia's relatively low GDP figure has more to do with what he calls "conservative" accounting methods than any real differences in living standards between Slovakia and the Baltic states. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Brussels.


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