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Newsline - November 20, 2000




FEDERAL PROSECUTOR SUMMONS NTV ANCHORMAN...

The Office of the Prosecutor-General on 19 November issued a summons to NTV General Director and anchorman Yevgenii Kiselev to appear for questioning. The announcement of the summons was made soon after the broadcast of the show "Itogi," which Kiselev hosts and which criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for returning to Soviet management techniques, AP reported. NTV reported that it has no information about why Kiselev was being summoned but said that according to unofficial information law enforcement officials are interested in a show on NTV that appeared several years ago, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov recently sued Kiselev for defamation in relation to a broadcast last September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2000). JAC

...AFTER MEDIA-MOST, GAZPROM REACH AGREEMENT...

Kiselev's summons came two days after Gazprom-Media and Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST, which owns NTV, reached a new agreement settling the latter's debt to the former. The new agreement differs from one signed previously only in that it offers more legal guarantees for Gazprom-Media and the contract is concluded with Media-MOST rather than with Gusinskii himself. Under the agreement, Gazprom-Media receives a blocking stake of 25 percent plus one share of all Media-MOST companies, except for NTV. Another 25 percent of the company is provided as collateral, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Gazprom-Media will also receive another 16 percent stake in NTV, increasing its 30 percent stake to 46 percent. In addition, a 25 percent plus one share in NTV will be sold to a foreign investor. Most of the provisions of the agreement have to be completed by 20 December, according to Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh. JAC

...AND PROSECUTOR-GENERAL REOPENS CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST GUSINSKII

Aleksandr Gorbunov, the head of the department for "especially important cases" at the Office of the Prosecutor-General, told Interfax on 17 November that the investigation against Gusinskii on charges of fraud was prematurely ended and the case has been reopened. Last July, Gusinskii left Moscow after prosecutors dropped charges against him in a case involving the privatization of the state run company Russian Video (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000). JAC

FSB CONDUCTS SECOND RAID ON NEWSPAPER'S OFFICE

Representatives of the Military Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Security Service's (FSB) Military Counterintelligence Department searched the editorial offices of the weekly newspaper "Versiya" on 17 November. FSB officers had visited the newspaper's premises one week earlier asking how reporters there had obtained satellite pictures of Norwegian and British naval bases. And they had seized the computer of Dmitrii Filimonov, an editor with the investigation department who is the author of an article alleging that the "Kursk" nuclear submarine collided with a U.S. submarine. At the time, the FSB told Interfax that the confiscation of documents from the newspaper was part of its investigation into the "Kursk" disaster. JAC

BEREZOVSKII ALLEGEDLY TRYING TO SELL STAKE IN TV-6...

Boris Berezovskii is negotiating with the Kirchgruppe, a major European media holding, over the sale of a large stake in the TV-6 television channel, "Vedomosti" reported on 17 November. TV-6 General-Director Aleksandr Ponomorev told the daily that his channel "is interested in a company that will come to Russia not simply to set up its own subsidiary here but also to develop a specifically Russian channel with foreign capital." Officials from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. were reportedly mulling the option of acquiring a stake in the channel, which they ended up not doing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999). Berezovskii owns a 75 percent stake in TV-6, while 15 percent belongs to LUKoil and 10 percent to the Moscow Science and Technology Committee. JC

...AS HE DENIES SALE OF ORT SHARES

Berezovskii told NTV on 17 November that he does not intend to sell his shares in Russian Public Television (ORT) to former Sibneft head Roman Abramovich, as some news outlets had reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 2000). Also on 17 November, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office confirmed that Berezovskii has been sent another summons to appear for questioning in the Aeroflot case on 27 November. JAC

PUTIN URGES SPEEDY RATIFICATION OF AMENDED CFE TREATY...

In a statement released on 19 November, President Putin urged the State Duma to quickly ratify the amended Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. "There are no reasons to delay the ratification of the amended CFE treaty. This is our firm position," the statement read. The amended version of the 1990 accord, which was approved at an OSCE summit in November 1999, allows Russia to set higher limits in its northern and southern regions. Moscow had admitted violating the original treaty after its latest campaign in Chechnya began. "The Russian side values the understanding displayed of our unavoidable measures to counter the large-scale terrorist aggression, which resulted in the temporary raising of the flank limits," the statement said, noting that the government is preparing to submit the revised treaty to the Duma for ratification. Putin's statement coincided with the 10th anniversary of the signing of the original CFE treaty. JC

...TO HEAD NEW ARMS TRADE COMMISSION

Presidential spokesman Aleksei Gromov announced on 18 November that President Putin has appointed a commission for arms trade, which he himself will head, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is the deputy head of the commission, while its other members are: chief of the presidential administration Aleksandr Voloshin, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, newly-appointed Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Dmitriev, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Lebedev, Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev, and deputy head of the presidential administration Sergei Prikhodko. Earlier this month, Putin issued a decree merging Rosvooruzhenie and Promeksport to form new government arms export agency named Rosoboroneksport (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2000). JC

KLEBANOV CITES MORE 'EVIDENCE' FOR FOREIGN SUB THEORY IN 'KURSK' DISASTER

Speaking on Russian Public Television on 19 November, Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov said that SOS signals received after the "Kursk" nuclear submarine sank in the Barents Sea in August came not from that vessel but from elsewhere. Russian officials had announced shortly after the disaster that they had detected knocking on the hull of the stricken submarine. After studying a tape of the signals, Klebanov said, experts determined that the source of the signals was mechanical, not human, knocking. "According to all the evidence, [those signals were] not sent by the people on board" the "Kursk," he commented, adding that Russian submarines do not have "that kind of equipment." It is likely, he noted, that another submarine was lying somewhere nearby. In this context, Klebanov noted that the government commission investigating the cause of the "Kursk" disaster, which he heads, has collected many indicators "confirming indirectly the theory of a collision between the 'Kursk' and a foreign submersible," AFP quoted him as saying. JC

IVANOV CONTINUES MID-EAST DIPLOMACY

Speaking in Amman on 17 November at a joint conference with his Jordanian counterpart, Abdul-Illah Khatib, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stressed the need to work out a "mechanism" for the realization of the agreements that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak reached at a U.S.-mediated summit in Sharm el-Sheik, Interfax reported. Ivanov also had talks with King Abdallah II. The next day, Ivanov was in Kuwait, where he discussed both the Middle East peace process and Iraq. Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah urged Ivanov to help persuade Iran to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and to account for the more than 600 Kuwaitis and other nationals missing since 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. JC

PUTIN CALLS ON RUSSIAN INDUSTRY TO BE MORE COMPETITIVE...

During a visit to Novosibirsk on 17 November, President Putin declared that Russia must open its borders to imports in order to integrate with the international economic community. "Some Russian manufacturers will feel ill at ease under the pressure of cheaper foreign goods of higher quality," he said. "Nevertheless, this road should be taken or else we will die out as dinosaurs." Putin attributed the extended blackouts and lack of heat in many regions to the unpaid debts of influential corporations and local governments to the electricity sector, according to AP. JC

...CONSIDERS PROBLEMS OF METALS THEFT...

While addressing a group of scientists in Novosibirsk, Putin also said that he does not rule out the possibility of introducing a state monopoly on trade in non-ferrous metals, ITAR-TASS reported. However, he said that such a step would be taken only as an extreme measure against the theft of those metals. The scientists had complained of constant thefts of equipment and accessories containing such metals from their institutes; the thieves then sell the metals at a fraction of their real cost. Speaking at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies meeting in Denver on 10 November, Grigorii Ioffe of Radford University reported that in Pskov Oblast from April to June of this year, some 800 people died while trying to steal electrical cable. JAC

...SUGGESTS MIGRATION AS SOLUTION TO POPULATION PROBLEM

Putin also suggested that immigration from the former Soviet republics to Russia might solve the country's demographic problem. He added that the government needs to formulate a migration policy, directing immigrants to specific areas of Russia once priority industries and regions have been determined. Addressing the State Duma the same day, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok noted that the Russian population has declined by 6 million people since 1992 and now totals 145.6 million. He said that according to some forecasts, Russia could move from being the seventh most populated country in the world to the 14th if, as forecast, its population sinks to 138.4 million people by 2015. He added that the probability of accidental death in Russia is 4.5 times higher than in Europe on the whole. Vladimir Volokh, an official at the Ministry for Federation and Nationalities Affairs, told the Duma the same day that Russia currently hosts some 1.2 million illegal immigrants (see also "End Note" below). JAC

INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT CONTINUES TO SOAR

Industrial output jumped 10.4 percent in October compared with the same month last year and 5.6 percent compared with September 2000, the State Statistics Committee reported on 17 November. For the first 10 months of 2000, industrial production surged 9.8 percent, compared with the same period the previous year. Among the high performing sectors were the microbiology, printing, and ferrous metallurgy industries. The electric power industry lagged with 2.4 percent growth during the first 10 months of the year. JAC

RUSSIA OFFERS UKRAINE EIGHT-YEAR DEBT REPRIEVE...

Following talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko on 17 November, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters that Russia is ready to grant Ukraine an eight-year delay on paying its debt for shipments of natural gas. According to RIA Novosti, Russia wants the debt, which it considers to total $2 billion, to be paid in equal tranches between 2008 and 2010. Kasyanov added that while no final agreement on Ukraine's debt has yet been reached, "our positions are drawing nearer." He also reported that the two premiers have reached an agreement to end the practice by which Russian gas is illegally siphoned off in Ukraine. That agreement will be signed by 15 December. Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Yuschenko said Ukraine's gas debt to Russia totals $1.362 billion for gas shipments from 1998-2000. JAC

...AS GAZPROM STARTS FEASIBILITY STUDY ON PIPELINE BYPASSING UKRAINE

Yuschenko also said that the Ukrainian government is not considering giving Gazprom stakes in Ukrainian companies as partial payoff for the gas debt. Gazprom and Germany's Ruhrgas are conducting talks on the possibility of constructing a gas pipeline from Poland to Slovakia, Interfax reported on 19 November, citing Ruhrgas's Moscow representative, Rainier Hartman. Hartman told the agency that the "Gazprom is looking at diversifying its gas routes to Europe and has to decide on its own which to use--through Poland and Slovakia or through the Baltic Sea." He added that he regrets the project is taking on a "political coloring." On 17 November, Gazprom executive Yuri Komarov told reporters that a consortium of European companies that signed a memorandum on the Poland-Slovakia pipeline has started preparing a feasibility study for the project. Gazprom and Gaz de France recently completed an agreement on a pipeline from Poland to Slovakia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). JAC

ADMIRAL VICTORIOUS IN KALININGRAD BALLOT...

The commander of the Baltic Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Yegorov, easily won election as Kaliningrad governor in a run-off ballot on 19 November. Yegorov garnered some 56 percent of the vote, compared with around 34 percent for incumbent Governor Leonid Gorbenko, who reportedly was among those regional heads whom the Kremlin wanted replaced. Yegorov, for his part, enjoyed the support of the pro-Kremlin Unity, the Union of Rightist Forces, and, in the second round of voting, the Communist Party. JC

...AS INCUMBENT SECURES ANOTHER TERM IN UST-ORDYNSKII BURYAT

Valerii Maleev, head of the Ust-Ordynsk Buryat Autonomous Okrug, was re-elected to that post on 19 November, ITAR-TASS reported the next day, citing the regional election committee. Maleev received some 54 percent backing. JC

MOSCOW TO IMPROVE ROADS INTO SOUTHERN CAUCASUS

North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 November that the Russian budget for 2002 contains provisions for renovating highways between the Russian Federation and the countries of the southern Caucasus. In comments to ITAR-TASS on 18 November, Dzasokhov called on Russia and Georgia to introduce a special visa regime for those living in border areas. Failure to do so, he added, "will badly affect the divided Ossetian nation, part of which remained in Russia and the other half happened to live in Georgia after the Soviet Union's disintegration." PG

DAGHESTAN'S KHACHILAEV DIES OF GUNSHOT WOUNDS

Magomed Khachilaev, a former member of Daghestan's parliament and a leader of the Lak ethnic community's Kazi-Kumykh movement, died on 19 November of gunshot wounds he received on 15 November, Interfax reported. His former security guard, Mirza Ramazanov, has confessed to the crime, the news service said. PG

CHECHNYA'S KADYROV URGES REFUGEES TO RETURN

Akhmad Kadyrov, the chief of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, appealed on 17 November to those who have fled the republic to return, ITAR-TASS reported. "Our Fatherland, Chechnya, is in ruins," he said, adding that "most of all, I am upset by the fact that the republic has been deserted by its best specialists and professionals." Meanwhile, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev told the Russian news agency that more than 140,000 Chechens will spend the winter in his republic, with more arriving every day. Also on 17 November, officials arrested Kadyrov's son for illegal possession of weapons, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

SLAYING OF CHECHEN OFFICIALS SPARKS CONCERN

Sharami Dudagov, the chief of the Mesker-Yurt settlement in Chechnya's Shali region, and Hasmaqomed Tsumtaev, his deputy, were murdered on 16 November, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Both had reportedly feared for their lives, and pro-Moscow Chechen officials told Interfax that their deaths might be part of a new "fear campaign" by Chechen rebels. The Chechen Prosecutor's Office announced that it has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. Viktor Kazantsev, the Russian president's special envoy to the Southern federal district, promised that those responsible would be brought to justice. And Russian commander General Vladimir Shamanov said that it would be useful to set up a special Interior Ministry in Chechnya under the supervision of the Moscow-based one, Russian agencies reported. PG

MRS. PUTIN PICKS RUSSIAN LANGUAGE AS HER ISSUE

Addressing a panel discussion on culture and education in Novosibirsk on 17 November, Lyudmila Putina, Russia's first lady, said she has committed herself to "supporting and encouraging the Russian language," ITAR-TASS reported. She suggested that it is important for students to be provided with "better and more exciting" Russian-language textbooks. Meanwhile, AP has obtained a copy of the draft of proposed bill on the Russian language from one of its authors, Duma deputy (Unity) Aleksei Alekseev. The bill would mandate the use of Russian words instead of foreign ones and make the use of foul words in public a criminal offense. For example, politicians talking about default on debts would have to say "nevypolnenie obyazetelstv" instead of the more popular and succinct "defolt" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). JAC




PROTESTERS DEMAND AZERBAIJANI GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION

Up to 15,000 people marched in Baku and unspecified numbers in half a dozen other Azerbaijani cities on 18 November to denounce the recent parliamentary elections there as rigged and to demand the resignation of the country's leadership, Azerbaijani and Western news agencies reported. Sardar Jalaloglu told the Baku crowd that opposition parties are prepared to move toward a "Yugoslav scenario" and "take power from [President Heidar] Aliyev and give it to the people." Musavat leader Isa Gambar said that "the people of Azerbaijan are ready for democracy" and that "they understand that the main obstacle to this is President Heidar Aliev, who is trying to put his own son in power." The demonstration in Baku was peaceful, but protesters clashed with police in Saki. ANS television reported that officials in Baku had sought to block its coverage of the rally, and Reuters reported that Musavat organizational secretary Arif Hajiev had been detained for two hours. Opposition groups added that they planned to boycott the new parliament, but the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party said that it had enough seats to conduct parliamentary meetings. PG

AZERBAIJAN'S ELECTION COMMISSION CONFIRMS WINNERS

Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission on 17 November confirmed 92 winners in single-member districts, TURAN reported. It also canceled the results in four other districts and referred complaints about possible criminal violations in almost 50 districts to prosecutors. PG

AZERBAIJAN UNHAPPY WITH WORLD'S APPROACH TO KARABAKH PROBLEM

Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namig Abbasov told Alexander Cornelissen, the head of the OSCE office in Baku on 17 November, that Baku is dissatisfied with the approach of international organizations that are attempting to resolve the Karabakh problem, the Azerbaijani television station ANS reported on 17 November. Abbasov noted that 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory remains under occupation, that Azerbaijan has lost 18,000 dead and more than 50,000 wounded in the fighting, and that the country has suffered financial losses on the order of $22 billion without any resolution in prospect. PG

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS WORLD BANK CORRUPTION REPORT

Azerbaijan's Deputy Finance Minister Ogtay Hagverdiev dismissed as "ridiculous" the findings of a World Bank study that Azerbaijan ranks first among all countries with regard to the level of official corruption, Azerbaijani TV station ANS reported on 16 November. The study found that the level of corruption in Azerbaijan equals $1.4 billion, but Hagverdiev said that the real figure was somewhere in the area of $100 million. PG

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES BETTER ENERGY SUPPLIES...

Following yet another power blackout in Tbilisi on 17 November as well as a cutback to only six hours of supplies to private residences, Eduard Shevardnadze said on 18 November that he has formed a commission that he said will lead to improved electricity supplies over the next week to 10 days, Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani President Aliyev said Baku will supply Georgia with 1,000 tons of diesel fuel, and Russia's ITERA group said it will increase the flow of natural gas to the country, Prime-News reported on 18 November. And Interfax reported that Armenia is also sending additional electricity to its neighbor. PG

...WARNS OF CHAOS

Shevardnadze on 18 November said that anger about power cuts could lead to "mass disorder and complete chaos," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze said on Georgian television on 17 November that the police have evidence that criminals and political groups are seeking to exploit the situation. He urged people not to take part in any further protests and said that violators will be prosecuted. Meanwhile, Tbilisi's "Rezonansi" newspaper suggested the same day that many Georgians now refer to the Georgian government as the GKChP, a reference to the group that led the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991. PG

GEORGIAN ARMY ON BRINK OF DISASTER

Colonel Akia Barbakadze, the chief of the main rear logistics directorate of the Georgian Defense Ministry, told the Iprinda news agency on 18 November that current levels of government funding of the military have "doomed" the country's military to "starvation." He said that the military is short of most foodstuffs, owed more than 20 million lari to food suppliers, and is considering canceling the fall draft as a result. He said that underfunding of the army means that energy suppliers may cut off power to the military and that the Defense Ministry may have to close the central military hospital. PG

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT IN LONDON, MOSCOW

Nursultan Nazarbaev said in London on 17 November that "the priorities of Kazakhstan's leadership are strengthening of security and territorial integrity of the country, internal political and economic stability, and development of international cooperation," ITAR-TASS reported. On his way back to Astana, Nazarbaev stopped in Moscow and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At that meeting, Nazarbaev stressed Kazakhstan's interest in joining APEC. PG

KAZAKHSTAN TO REPLACE SOVIET-MADE PLANES

Air Kazakhstan plans to replace all Soviet-made aircraft with Western airplanes by mid-2002, Interfax reported on 17 November. PG

DRUG USE SURGES IN KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakh officials told Interfax-Kazakhstan on 18 November that the number of registered drug users in that country has tripled over the last five years and that the total number of those using illegal drugs may have risen 10 times during that period. PG

KYRGYZSTAN LOOKS TO MALAYSIA AS A MODEL

Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev said in Kuala Lumpur on 18 November that his country views Malaysia as a model for its future development, dpa reported. Meanwhile, in Bishkek, the Kyrgyzstan government announced that it has established diplomatic relations with Myanmar (previously known as Burma), ITAR-TASS reported on 17 November. PG

TAJIKS ARREST ISLAMISTS, TALIBAN RECRUITER

The Tajik Interior Ministry told Asia-Plus on 17 November that it has arrested nine activists of the banned Islamist party Hizb-e Tahrir who had been distributing leaflets calling for the overthrow of the country's government. Meanwhile, police officials added that they have arrested a recruiter for the Afghanistan-based Taliban movement. PG

OFFICIALS TO CHECK ANCESTRY OF TURKMEN OFFICIALS

Turkmen President Sapurmurad Niyazov said on 16 November that his government will conduct background checks on officials and their wives going back three generations as part of an effort to improve government performance, AP reported on 17 November. He did not say just what these background checks would involve but stressed that he is not restoring Soviet-era practice but rather using "the experience of our ancestors." PG

UZBEK COURT SENTENCES TWO TO DEATH FOR 'TERRORISM'

The Uzbek Supreme Court on 17 November sentenced two men--Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader Takhir Yuldashev and field commander Dzhuma Namagani--in absentia to death and 10 others to various terms of imprisonment for their role in the February 2000 bombings in Tashkent, Uzbek television reported. Also tried and sentenced in absentia was Muhammad Salih, the leader of the Erk Party, who now is in exile. Uzbek officials portrayed the sentences as lenient, noting that prosecutors had asked for stiffer punishments, but New York-based Human Rights Watch said the trials violated international law and called into question Tashkent's promise to move toward eliminating the death penalty. PG




LUKASHENKA AGAIN SLAMS OPPOSITION AS 'ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE'

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 17 November accused the opposition of opposing the planned construction of a second link of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline in Belarus as part of Gazprom's scheme to bypass Ukraine via Poland and Slovakia. Lukashenka said such oppositionists can be called "traitors" and "enemies of the people." "They are so embittered and hateful toward their people and Lukashenka that they are ready to act as with the Czech [grain] credit: let the Belarusian people kick the bucket, along with such a president," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir denied that anybody from the opposition is against the construction of the new pipeline across Belarus. "A lot of internal problems for Lukashenka have appeared, [and] as usual, he starts accusing the opposition," Chyhir told Belapan. JM

JUST WHOM DOES KUCHMA WANT TO 'SWEEP OUT' OF GOVERNMENT?

"No one's got it in for the government...but this team does have people in it whom I would have swept out of the government with a broom--I say that openly," AP quoted President Leonid Kuchma as saying at Kyiv University on 17 November. "And it's impossible to understand what it is that drives the prime minister to defend these people--I do not understand that," Kuchma added but mentioned no names. Ukrainian commentators say Kuchma is under pressure from influential "oligarchs" to fire Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, whose activity in the energy sector has considerably reduced their shadow deals. Premier Viktor Yushchenko has indicated he may resign if pressed to change policies in the energy sector (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 7 November 2000). JM

LABOR UKRAINE SET TO RULE?

A congress of Labor Ukraine on 18 November elected lawmaker Serhiy Tyhypko as head of the party, Interfax reported. Tyhypko told the congress that he expects Labor Ukraine to become the ruling party after the next parliamentary elections. According to Tyhypko, the party is able to win 10 percent of the vote, form a parliamentary majority with other parties, and have "as many ministers as possible" in a future coalition government. Labor Ukraine is widely believed to be an "oligarchic party" and to have considerable leverage in Ukrainian politics, as does the Revival of Regions and the Social Democratic Party (United). The Labor Ukraine's 48 lawmakers constitute the second-largest caucus in the parliament. JM

UKRAINE'S FIVE CENTRIST PARTIES MERGE

Five centrist parties formed the Party of Regional Revival "Labor Solidarity of Ukraine" at a congress in Kyiv on 18 November, Interfax reported. The new party united the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine, the Party of Labor, the Solidarity Party, the For Beautiful Ukraine Party, and the All-Ukrainian Party of Pensioners. The congress elected Volodymyr Rybak, Valentyn Landyk, and Petro Poroshenko as co-chairmen of the new party. JM

ESTONIA'S PRO PATRIA UNION CALLS FOR RADICAL ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM

The Pro Patria Union's policy-making council issued a statement on 19 November calling for radical administrative reform by reducing the number of ministries, counties, and local self-governments, BNS reported. It urged that political decisions be made by ministers and not chancellors of ministries or general directors of government departments, who implement the decisions. With regard to its proposal to slash the number of counties, the union also suggested that they be made more independent while centralized control be increased. The statement also called for decreasing the number of local authorities from the current 247 to 60-80. The council will present these proposals to its coalition partners, the Reform Party and the Moderates, for consideration. SG

RUSSIAN EXTREMISTS SEIZE STEEPLE IN RIGA TO PROTEST COMPATRIOTS' ARREST

After buying tickets to ascend the steeple of Riga's St. Peter's Church on 17 November, three persons pulled out grenade-like objects and threatened to blow themselves up if the four recently detained National Bolsheviks were not released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 2000), BNS reported. The three also hung a red cloth from the steeple. After an hour of negotiations and a telephone conversation with the Russian embassy, the three surrendered to the police. Security Police Chief Janis Reiniks later announced that the three are Russian citizens and will be prosecuted for entering Latvia illegally and for hooliganism. SG

LITHUANIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN RESIGNS

In protest at the possible merger of his Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party (LKDP) with the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Union (LKDS), Zigmas Zinkevicius announced on 17 November that he is resigning as chairman of the LKDP, ELTA and BNS reported. He complained that party board chairman Algirdas Saudargas has been conducting merger talks with LKDS Chairman Kazys Bobelis behind his back. Alfonsas Svarinskas, the head of the ethics commission, also offered his resignation, noting that Bobelis is not an acceptable choice since by forming a coalition with the Peasant Party, he had "helped chairmen of Soviet collective farms win the local elections." Zinkevicius's and Svarinskas's resignations still have to be approved by the party conference, which will be held early next year. SG

POLISH SPEAKER LEADS 'FEDERATION' WITHIN RULING COALITION

Parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski on 17 November became leader of the Federation of the Solidarity Electoral Action (FAWS), PAP reported. The FAWS, which consists of the Conservative Peasant Party and the Polish Party of Christian Democrats, was set up in a bid to overcome the current crisis in the AWS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000). The federation has pledged its "full support" for Premier Jerzy Buzek's cabinet. The next day, the Mazowsze branch of the Solidarity trade union issued a statement urging the exclusion from the AWS of parties and politicians carrying out "destructive activities" within the ruling coalition. "We assess very critically the prolongation of the paralysis of the AWS as a result of the actions of certain parties and people, [including] Sejm Speaker Maciej Plazynski," the statement read. JM

OPPOSITION SAYS POLAND'S 2001 BUDGET DRAFT UNREALISTIC

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has criticized the government's budget draft for 2001 and announced that it will not support it, PAP reported on 18 November. Parliamentary deputy speaker Marek Borowski of the SLD told journalists that the bill is "unrealistic," while some of its provisions are "virtual." According to Borowski, the parliament would make an "exceptionally irresponsible" decision if it adopted that bill. "The collapse [of the budget] will take place in the fourth quarter of next year. At that time it will be somebody else who will have to cope with all these problems," Borowski said, hinting at next year's anticipated power takeover by the SLD. JM

FOUR-PARTY COALITION TRIUMPHS IN CZECH SENATE ELECTION

A coalition of four small liberal parties has taken 16 out of the 26 Senate seats up for grabs in a second round of voting on 19 November. Last week, the coalition had won the only seat to be decided in the first round of elections, bringing its total in the 81-member Senate to 39 and meaning that it will now be the strongest force in that body. On 19 November, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won eight seats, while the ruling Social Democrats took only one and one independent candidate was elected to the upper house. As a result of this weekend's vote, the ODS and Social Democrats have been stripped of their majority in Senate and their plans to reduce the powers of President Vaclav Havel by reforming the constitution appear to have been quashed. According to CTK, turnout was even lower than in the first found, with only some 20 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000). JC

SLOVAK PREMIER HEADS NEW PARTY

The founding congress of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) on 18 November elected Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda as the union's chairman, TASR reported. The SDKU was set up to succeed the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), which is gradually falling apart. Dzurinda is also chairman of the SDK, since Slovakia's legislation allows double party membership. Dzurinda told the congress that the SDKU will not participate in the country's political life until the 2002 elections, so the 1998 coalition agreement on the establishment of Dzurinda's cabinet is not questioned by the emergence of that new coalition party. Meanwhile, nine deputies of the Christian Democratic Movement, a component of the SDK, have decided to leave the SDK parliamentary caucus and form a separate group, CTK reported on 19 November. JM

SLOVAK PRESIDENT BELIEVES COALITION WILL LAST

Rudolf Schuster resumed his presidential duties on 20 November following a five-month break after a serious illness and hospitalization, TASR reported. Schuster said he believes that the ruling coalition remains stable, despite the withdrawal of nine deputies from the SDK caucus. "If [they continue to support the cabinet], nothing will happen," Schuster said. According to Schuster, the ruling coalition has "favorable" prospects following the failure of the 11 November opposition-initiated referendum on early parliamentary elections. JM

HUNGARIAN PREMIER OFFERS ENVIRONMENT PORTFOLIO TO SMALLHOLDER DEPUTY

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 17 November met with Bela Turi-Kovacs, deputy leader of the Independent Smallholders' Party's parliamentary group, to offer him the post of environment minister. Turi-Kovacs told "Magyar Nemzet" that he expects to be sworn in on 1 December. Outgoing Environment Minister Ferenc Ligetvari said he does not know how long he will be able to remain in office but added that he has already agreed to the problem-free transfer of duties (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 17 November). MSZ




KOSOVAR LEADER CALLS ON WEST TO STAY IN BALKANS...

Ibrahim Rugova told a meeting of Balkan leaders and U.S. diplomats in Dayton to mark the fifth anniversary of the Bosnian peace accords that NATO and the UN should remain in Kosova in order to guarantee regional stability. Rugova said on 18 November: "We urge for those forces to stay there maybe forever. In the future [they] may have a different role, [such as serving as] a presence in the region with bases in Kosova [rather than as peacekeepers]. I consider the presence of NATO there as [a precondition for] our independence," AP reported. He added that "it will take quite some time" before Kosova and the Balkans can ensure their stability without outside help, according to Reuters. PM

...PLANS NEW ELECTIONS

Referring to the 28 October local elections, in which his Democratic League of Kosova won control of 21 out of 30 municipalities, Rugova said in Dayton on 18 November that the vote "proved that the people of Kosova are capable of governing [themselves] successfully, in cooperation with the international community." He added that Kosovar leaders "are [soon] going to organize national elections, presidential and parliamentary elections that will make it possible for the institutional [political] framework to be complete," Reuters reported. PM

KOSOVARS FIRM ON INDEPENDENCE

Speaking at the Dayton conference on 18 November, Rugova and former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci called on Belgrade to free the at least 700 Kosovars held in Serbian jails. The two men stressed that the new Belgrade leadership's policy on Kosova is no different from that of Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000). Rugova and Thaci added that Kosovars are determined to win independence. PM

HOLBROOKE, PETRITSCH CITE BOSNIAN PROBLEMS. U.S.

Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said in Dayton on 17 November that "as long as Bosnia has three armies, as long as refugees can't return home, as long as corruption remains rampant and unchecked, as long as press freedom is threatened, and as long as dangerous and divisive war criminals are allowed to run free, then the potential of [the] Dayton [accords] will remain unfulfilled," AP reported. Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, argued that "five years after Dayton, taxpayers in our countries are running out of patience. We need to tell the Bosnian politicians they need to do the job [of implementing the accords]... That is the reason why I am pushing, cajoling, threatening, [and] dismissing public officials. We need to get the Bosnians to take on ownership of their problems and resolve them in a spirit of compromise in a true democratic way. That is what is still lacking." PM

DAYTON CONFERENCE CALLS ON SERBIA TO SEND MILOSEVIC TO HAGUE

Organizers of the Dayton conference issued a declaration on 18 November in which they called on the international community to make future support for Serbian and Yugoslav membership in international institutions contingent upon Belgrade's extraditing former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague. The participants also urged the strengthening of central political and economic institutions in Bosnia and the extradition of indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic to the Hague-based tribunal. An additional recommendation from the conference included allowing the citizens of Montenegro to determine their own political future. Participants also urged the international community to set a deadline for resolving the political status of Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT WANTS FORMER YUGOSLAV GENERALS IN THE HAGUE

Speaking at the Dayton conference on 19 November, Stipe Mesic called on the Hague-based tribunal to launch war crimes proceedings against former Yugoslav generals Veljko Kadijevic and Blagoje Adzic for their involvement in Milosevic's war in Croatia in 1991, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He made his remarks after a discussion with Carla Del Ponte, who is the tribunal's chief prosecutor. The previous day, Mesic called on Belgrade to distance itself from Bosnian Serb nationalists. He noted that Zagreb has told the Herzegovinian Croats that they are part of a Bosnian "entity and not a [sovereign] state." PM

DJUKANOVIC OPTIMISTIC ON INTERNATIONAL BACKING FOR MONTENEGRO

After returning from the Dayton conference, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 19 November that his proposal for the future of Serbian-Montenegrin relations received "great understanding" in Dayton, Montena-fax reported. Djukanovic called for the international community to simultaneously recognize both Serbia and Montenegro as sovereign states, which will then consider setting up federal relations between themselves in a limited, unspecified number of areas. Djukanovic said that his discussions with unnamed U.S. and other foreign leaders led him to conclude that his country continues to enjoy the backing of Washington and the international community. PM

KOSTUNICA SETS CONDITIONS FOR SERBIAN VOTE

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told a meeting of his Democratic Party of Serbia in Belgrade that the Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition has his permission to use his name on its lists in the 23 December Serbian elections provided that it meets two conditions. The first is that all coalition members support the continuation of the federation between Serbia and Montenegro and agree that the future of that federation cannot be decided by the leaders in Belgrade and Podgorica alone. The second condition is coalition members agree that political changes in Serbia must come about only by legal means, "Vesti" reported on 20 November. PM

ALLIES DESERT FORMER SERBIAN LEADER

Zoran Lilic, who was formerly a close associate of Milosevic, said in Belgrade that the former leader should leave politics and retire, AP reported on 19 November. Lilic recently quit Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) to form his own Serbian Social Democratic Party. On 18 November, four prominent Socialists resigned from the party to protest its failure to transform itself into a democratic organization. Three other party leaders resigned from the committee that is preparing for the SPS's upcoming congress, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Nationalist political philosopher Mihajlo Markovic, who is one of the three, said that the party's top leadership lacks any basic understanding of democratic practice and is "divorced from reality" in its thinking, "Vesti" reported. PM

TEENAGERS FIRE ON SLOVENIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY

Police in Ljubljana arrested four young people on 19 November after unidentified persons fired gunshots at the offices of the Defense Ministry, breaking two windows, "Dnevnik" reported. The daily add that the young people appeared to have been under the influence of alcohol. PM

MACEDONIAN LEADERS VISIT RUSSIA, GREECE

Savo Klimovski, who is the president of the parliament, left Skopje for Moscow on 19 November for a visit that will include meetings with leaders of the Duma and government, Makfaks news agency reported. On 22 November, Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov is slated to hold talks on bilateral and regional issues in Athens with his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou. The meeting is part of the runup to the EU-sponsored Balkan summit that will open in Zagreb on 24 November. PM

CROATS MARK VUKOVAR ANNIVERSARY

Several thousand people took part in a commemorative meeting in Vukovar on 18 November to mark the anniversary of that town's fall to Serbian forces in 1991. Some 1,200 Croatian soldiers and civilians died in the fighting and in subsequent atrocities. Vukovar is widely regarded in Croatia as the single most important symbol of the 1991 conflict. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY BREACHED UN EMBARGO ON YUGOSLAVIA

Emil Constantinescu said on 17 November that between 1994 and 1995, "entire trains" loaded with ammunition and gas were smuggled into Yugoslavia from Romania, Romanian media reported. He said the operations were supported by the Romanian Customs Office, the Transportation Ministry, and the police, and were controlled by the Romanian Intelligence Service. According to Constantinescu, the Prosecutor General's Office has finished investigating the case. Observers note that Constantinescu's accusations a week ahead of the 26 November elections are mainly directed against presidential candidate Ion Iliescu. Iliescu, who leads all opinion polls, was president from 1990-1996. Meanwhile, former Romanian King Mihai on 18 November called on all Romanians to exercise their right to vote and to cast their ballots for the candidate that will aid the country's EU and NATO integration efforts. ZsM

ROMANIAN BANK APPEALS FOR HELP TO SUPPORT BANKING SYSTEM

Anthony van der Heijden, the chairman of Romania's Ion Tiriac Bank, appealed on 18 November to the Romanian Central Bank, the government, and the public to "prevent the destruction of the banking system, "Ziarul Financiar" reported. The appeal came amid rumors that the bank is facing problems. A bank press release said that such rumors came from, among others, competing banks. Reports of problems with the Ion Tiriac Bank began after the Turkish-Romanian Bank was reported to have liquidity problems (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000). Political analysts quoted by the newspaper say rumors about the banking sector's problems might be connected to an effort to discredit Prime Minister and presidential candidate Mugur Isarescu before the 26 November presidential election. Isarescu was governor of the Central Bank from 1991 to 1999. ZsM

ORTHODOX CHURCH THREATENS MOLDOVAN LAWMAKERS WITH EXCOMMUNICATION

The Moldovan Orthodox Church said in a letter to the parliament that any deputy that votes for an abortion bill will be excommunicated, AP reported. The letter said that "legalizing abortion means legalizing the killing of children, and those who decide to end the life of a child...can be qualified as killers." The letter was signed by two top Church officials "with the blessing of [Metropolitan] Vladimir," who heads the Church. The Moldovan Orthodox Church considers itself independent, although the Romanian Orthodox Church regards it as being under Bucharest's authority. The bill would legalize abortion, for which there is no legal provision in Moldova, set deadlines for having abortions, and allow minors to have them as well. The bill is expected to pass. PB

OSCE DISSATISFIED WITH LACK OF PROGREES IN THE TRANSDNIESTER REGION

The OSCE mission to Moldova on 20 November expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of progress toward a settlement in the breakaway Transdniester region of Moldova, AP Flux reported. In a statement, the OSCE mission also said it regretted that Russia hadn't started removing its armament from the region as pledged one year ago at an OSCE summit in Istanbul. ET

BULGARIAN BOMB BLAST SAID TO HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY WOULD-BE TERRORISTS

Slavcho Bosilkov, Bulgaria's chief of police, said on 17 November that the bomb that blew up in the Ambassador Hotel last week was mistakenly set off by the two victims in the blast, AP reported. Bosilkov said the Armenian Artashes Ter-Ovsepyan and Russian A. Romanov, the two men killed in the incident, set off the blast while working on an explosive device. Ter-Ovsepyan was wanted by Bulgarian police and is known to have links to Armenian mafia groups in Bulgaria. PB

BULGARIA ARREST IRAQIS ON BORDER

Border police detained 74 Iraqis trying to enter Bulgaria from Greece on 19 November, AP reported. Some of the Iraqis resisted arrest by throwing rocks. The arrests were made near the village of Dolno Lukovo, some 320 kilometers southeast of Sofia. Eleven Iraqis were arrested the previous day attempting to cross the same border point. All will be returned to Greece. The EU regards Bulgaria as a major transit route for refugees seeking to come to Western Europe and has placed a visa regime on Bulgarian citizens, which the government in Sofia says is unfair and unwarranted. PB




COMPOUNDING A DEMOGRAPHIC DISASTER


By Paul Goble

President Vladimir Putin's suggestion that increased immigration from former Soviet republics could help solve Russia's demographic crisis may trigger new problems in both those countries and Russia itself as well as in relations between the two.

Speaking in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk on 17 November, Putin said that "we could have a perfect opportunity to attract labor resources from the former USSR through immigration." Moscow, he added, would have to rigidly control where such migrants settled, noting that "in our country, the immigrants settle on the Black Sea coast and live in Sochi," while in reality such people are most needed in Siberia and other regions.

And while Putin was not specific, he almost certainly hopes that this immigration will consist primarily of some of the more than 20 million ethnic Russians who remain in the 11 former Soviet republics and three Baltic states rather than of non-Russians from these countries.

But regardless of whether that is the case--although Putin's remarks elsewhere strongly suggest that it is--his proposal now highlights both the seriousness of Russia's demographic situation and the political risks he is willing to run to try to address it.

The extent of Russia's demographic debacle was outlined the same day by Russian Labor and Social Development Minister Aleksandr Pochinok, who told the State Duma that the country's demographic situation now threatens not only economic progress but also national security. The population of the country, he said, has fallen by 6 million since 1992 and could sink another 7.2 million by 2015 if current trends continue. In such an event, Pochinok added, Russia would fall from the seventh largest country in the world in terms of population to the 14th.

Pochinok also noted that the extremely high death rate and low birth rate in Russia are "incomparable" with the demographic situation elsewhere in Europe, and he noted that in the last year, average male life expectancy in Russia fell below the pension age "for the first time ever." This means that Russia may soon face not unemployment but a lack of workers for the economy, he argued, adding that such a shortfall would represent an additional restriction on Moscow's ability to maintain a sizeable military force.

Pochinok told the Duma that the Russian government has "worked out" a demographic policy for the future to change these negative trends, but he gave few details. Consequently, Putin's remarks on the same day take on greater importance as a clue to future Russian policy.

But to the extent they do, the Russian president's words point to serious problems ahead across the region. The non-Russian countries could be the most affected. If a large number of ethnic Russians in these countries--almost all of whom are citizens of the states in which they live--were to respond, their economies would be negatively affected and ethnic tensions exacerbated, possibly leading some to view ethnic Russian communities there as disloyal.

And if a large number of their own co-ethnics were to move to Russia, something Putin does not appear to want, that, too, could hurt the economies of these states, especially given Moscow's exit from the CIS visa free regime.

But Russia too could face numerous problems. Since 1991, Moscow has generally discouraged any Russian return, not only because of the lack of housing and jobs for such immigrants but also out of a desire to use its "compatriots" as a political lever in these states.

If sizeable numbers of ethnic Russians were to return, that would put a large burden on the country's housing stock and challenge the government's ability to ensure that the immigrants went where Moscow would like them to go.

But if sizeable numbers of non-ethnic Russians were to enter the country, that would almost certainly exacerbate ethnic tensions in Russia itself and possibly lead to a new outburst of extremist nationalism.

Russian politicians, such as Vladimir Zhirinovskii and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, have played on the anger many Russians feel toward "persons of Caucasus nationality." Opinion polls show that relatively few Russians would welcome even more such Gastarbeiter in their midst. And because of the consequences such immigration would have in both the non-Russian countries and in Russia itself, such a policy almost certainly would cast a shadow on relations between Moscow and the 14 other states involved.

For most of the last decade, both Russian and non-Russian leaders generally have sought to promote the integration of all those living on the territories of their countries as the best means of preserving both internal stability and ethnic accord. But because the situation in Russia has become so grave, Putin now appears prepared to move in a very different direction, one that could add a political dimension to that demographic disaster.


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