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Newsline - November 22, 2000




PASKO CASE SENT BACK FOR RE-TRIAL

The Military Board of the Russian Supreme Court on 21 November annulled a lower court's ruling in the case of military reporter Grigorii Pasko. After being arrested in 1997 for giving Japanese television journalists information about the Russian Navy's dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan, Pasko was acquitted last year of treason but found guilty of abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). Pasko, who had been held in a labor camp for almost two years, was released under an amnesty program. Pasko responded to the news of the court's decision, saying that "Russia is becoming a torture chamber," Interfax reported. Pasko's lawyer, Anatolii Pyshkin, told ITAR-TASS that the case will now drag on for another 12-18 months. JAC

PUTIN, BLAIR TALK DEFENSE...

The new European rapid reaction force and the U.S.'s plans to revise the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty were among the topics topping the agenda of Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's talks in Moscow on 21 November. Putin used the occasion to stress Russia's position that the ABM treaty must be left intact but said he is in favor of further talks on the issue to seek ways to resolve the matter. Blair, for his part, said he is prepared to mediate such talks, stressing that discussions are "the right and sensible way" to approach the issue. With regard to the European rapid reaction force, Putin said that Blair had convinced him that plans for the force pose no threat to Russia, adding that it is not Moscow's intention "to block these processes or to encourage them." JC

...DISCUSS U.S. ELECTIONS 'OVER A BEER'...

"We should be tolerant and respect the events that are currently taking place in the U.S.," President Putin remarked on 21 November when commenting on the U.S. presidential elections. He added that the "uncertainty" over the outcome of that ballot has at the same time revealed a "certain balance of all U.S. institutions." "If the American people believe that there is a need to correct the election laws, that is their internal affair," Interfax quoted him as saying. According to the news agency, Blair said he agreed with this approach. When asked by journalists if he and Blair had discussed the issue during their talks, Putin quipped that they had started discussing the issue the previous night "over a glass of beer." He hastily stressed, however, that he was only joking. JC

...AS BLAIR'S DEFENDS RUSSIAN-BRITISH 'SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP'

Blair, who has met with Putin several times since the latter was elected president, spoke to journalists on 21 November about the "special relationship" that is perceived to have emerged between the U.K. and Russia during Putin's tenure at the Kremlin. "I know people say there is a risk in being so close with Russia and President Putin, but I think this is something well worth doing," he commented. 'It's important for Britain that we have a Russia that is stable, engaged in the outside world. If Britain can play a role in that, I think that's good for the world." Blair dismissed suggestions that he failed to raise the issue of human rights abuses in Chechnya and curbs on the freedom of the media. "Of course we raise all the difficult issues, but I constantly say to people that they have to understand the scale of the problem that President Putin has to deal with." JC

GOVERNMENT TO DELIVER VERDICT ON EES RESTRUCTURING IN MID-DECEMBER

After a conference devoted to the restructuring of Unified Energy Systems (EES) on 21 November, EES head Anatolii Chubais told reporters that a government decision on a draft document outlining the first stage of the reform of Russia's energy system will be made on 14 December. Under the plan, electricity tariffs would be deregulated by the end of 2001. Also under the first stage of the reform, EES's generating units would be spun off into separate companies, while retail energy trade would be liberalized. Chubais also proposed establishing a federal electricity grid company in which the government's stake would be 75 percent plus one share, according to Interfax. JAC

IMF MISSION WRAPS UP WORK WITHOUT REACHING AGREEMENT...

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 21 November that the IMF mission in Moscow has finalized its work and some of its members have left the country. Kudrin said that both Russia and the fund "made very serious concessions to each other" and "now we have a good basis for further work," Interfax reported. Kudrin added that it remains unclear when talks with the Paris Club of creditors will begin and that talks showed that Russia and IMF disagree on points that are important for Russia's negotiations with the Paris Club. JAC

...AS PARIS CLUB NEGOTIATION HEADED FOR DELAY?

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin told Interfax on 20 November that Russia can begin such negotiations only after it has coordinated a program with the IMF. Former Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said the previous day that the complication in talks with the fund may lead to a technical default on Russia's debt to the club in February, since the IMF board can consider the issue of cooperation with Russia next March at the earliest, Interfax reported. JAC

COURT REFUSES TO DISMISS CHIEF PROSECUTOR IN POPE CASE

The Moscow City Court on 22 November refused to dismiss Oleg Plotnikov, the main prosecutor in the espionage trial of U.S. businessman Edmond Pope. The defense had requested Plotnikov's dismissal because his son was a member of the Federal Security Service team of investigators that brought Pope's case to trial. Pavel Astakhov, Pope's lawyer, said that the defense will demand that all materials added to the case under Plotnikov be struck from the record, AP reported. Plotnikov has not been in court this week because of what he says is high blood pressure. JC

NAVY COMMANDER INSISTS ON FOREIGN SUB THEORY IN 'KURSK' DISASTER

Northern Fleet Commander Vyacheslav Popov told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 November that Russian authorities recorded distress signal from a foreign submarine when the "Kursk" was sinking in the Barents Sea in August. "The 'Polinom' hydro-acoustic system located SOS signals sent by a mechanical transmitter. Further spectral analysis made by the Northern Fleet laboratory showed that the signal belonged to a foreign submarine in the area." Popov has been one of the most vocal advocates of the theory that the "Kursk" collided with a foreign vessel.

CHECHEN LEADER SAYS RUSSIA IS LOSING WAR

In an interview published in "Moscow News" on 21 November, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said that Russia's "huge military machine has come to a standstill" in Chechnya and that it cannot hope to win the guerrilla war. "Not a single [Russian] general can honestly claim that he controls even the dead on Chechen territory," Maskhadov said. He added that Chechen forces will continue their hit-and-run tactics to wear the Russian forces out until Russian President Putin understands that his military has been lying to him and he begins talks. Maskhadov's statement was echoed by the pro-Chechen website Kavkaz-Tsentr, which asserted that "the Kremlin is preparing for an inevitable defeat," already blaming the military for a disaster that the political elite began. PG

YASTRZHEMBSKII REJECTS MASKHADOV'S CALL FOR TALKS

Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, has dismissed Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's call for talks, Interfax reported on 21 November. "In his so-called proposals, Maskhadov repeated his oft-stated and well-known stance. He refuses to understand that there is a fundamental difference in his position and the attitude of the federal authorities toward him in 1996 and 2000," Yastrzhembskii added. Meanwhile, General Anatolii Kvashnin, the Russian chief of staff, told ITAR-TASS that the situation in Chechnya is under control, although he acknowledged that Chechen fighters are sometimes able to inflict casualties on Russian forces. Like President Putin on 20 November, Kvashnin blamed this on shortcomings in the professionalism of the Russian military. PG

ANOTHER NEWSPAPER CHIMES IN ON KUDRIN CASE

"Moskovskii komsomolets" offered more theories to explain the recent summons received by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin (to appear before prosecutors in St. Petersburg see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2000). The daily, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, suggested three persons or groups that may have been behind the delivery of the summons: Boris Berezovskii, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, and those cabinet ministers supported by the so-called "Family" or entourage around former President Boris Yeltsin. The latter reportedly include Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and State Customs Committee Chairman Mikhail Vanin. Berezovskii's motivation would be to sow discord among the St. Petersburg team and discredit Putin, the newspaper suggested, while Yakovlev has allegedly disliked Kudrin since his time as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg under Anatolii Sobchak. The newspaper sees the third group as the most likely culprit since they are eager to preserve their "extraordinary opportunities" for financial gain in government. JAC

NEWSPAPER CLAIMS REGIONAL VOTERS DISENCHANTED

"Trud" reported in its 21 November issue that a number of regional elections this year have experienced both low voter turnouts and high percentages of voters voting against all candidates. According to the daily, 9.5 percent of voters in the presidential election in Udmurtia voted against all candidates, 8.1 percent in Novgorod voted against all mayoral candidates, 11.2 percent of voters in Tver voted against all candidates for mayor there, and 16.3 percent against all candidates for the municipal legislature. In Chita Oblast, low turnout meant that deputies were elected in only 10 districts out of 39. The newspaper, which receives financing from Gazprom and is popular in the regions, concludes that "after many decades of elections without a real choice, many Russians decided that...the democratic mechanism of demonstrating the people's will would provide worthy candidates and elevate them to office. [But] this never happened." JAC

REAL INCOMES SLIP IN OCTOBER

The Russian population's real income dipped 1.7 percent in October compared with September but showed an increase of 7.8 percent in comparison with October 1999, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November, citing the State Statistics Committee. Average per capital income totaled 2,243 rubles ($81) in October, according to the committee, while average nominal wages totaled 2,391 rubles. A report on Russia's economic development up to 2010, which was drawn up for the State Council by Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev, sets the target of no less than 75 percent growth in Russian citizens' incomes within 10 years. The same day, presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov told reporters that the Russian population's income has grown 9 percent this year, with wages increasing 24 percent and pensions 26 percent. JAC

PRESIDENT, GOVERNORS LISTEN TO MUSIC

On the eve of the first full session of the newly formed State Council, scheduled for 22 November, the council's Presidium met to finalize that meeting's agenda. Presidium members considered, among other things, eight possible melodies for Russia's new national anthem (see also "Endnote," "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). According to NTV, all members received a compact disc with the songs played by an orchestra under the direction of Pavel Obsyannikov. Composers of the competing tunes are Mikhail Glinka, Dmitrii Bortnyanskii, Prince Lvov, Aleksandr Aleksandrov, Georgii Sviridov, and Russian pop-star Alla Pugacheva, according to the website lenta.ru. For some melodies, alternative texts are available. For example, poet Sergei Mikhailov has provided verses for the music of Aleksandr Aleksandrov. JAC




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS GREECE ARMENIA'S 'NATURAL ALLY'

On his arrival for a two-day state visit to Greece, Armenian President Robert Kocharian said on Greek Television that Greece is "Armenia's natural ally in the region," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. In other comments, Kocharian said that Yerevan is "interested in having a peaceful relationship with Turkey" but that the initiative for improving ties must come from Ankara. PG

ARMENIA'S TRADE WITH IRAN JUMPS 10 PERCENT

Aram Vardanian, the president of the Union of Manufactures and Businessmen of Armenia, told Noyan Tapan on 21 November that trade between Armenia and Iran will total $110 million in 2000, up 10 percent from last year. PG

ARMENIA'S KURDS RALLY FOR OCALAN

In advance of a 25 November hearing at the European Court of Human Rights, the Kurds of Armenia staged a rally in Yerevan in support of Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan, the Snark news agency reported on 21 November. Speakers condemned what they called "the unfair and criminal decision of the Turkish court" in Ocalan's case and expressed the hope that the European Court will annul that decision. PG

ARMENIAN GROUP TO PROTECT ARMENIANS OF GEORGIA

The action group of the Armenian Resistance has released a statement saying that it will "struggle to ensure the safety" of ethnic Armenians living in Georgia's Javakheti region, Noyan Tapan and Caucasus Press reported on 21 November. The Resistance, which includes public figures in Armenia and in the Armenian diaspora, did not say what it will do in order to achieve that goal. PG

PROTESTS CONTINUE IN AZERBAIJAN, AS REVOLUTION SAID IMMINENT

Protests continued on 21 November on a variety of fronts. Some Azerbaijanis chose the French embassy to protest Paris's decision to recognize the 1915 events as genocide, Turan reported. A rally in Baku's Mashtaga settlement called for new elections. And a demonstration took place in Baku's Sabunchi region to protest energy shortages. Meanwhile, "Bilik Dunyasi" released a poll showing that 59 percent of the population supports calls for new elections. Against the background of those reports, opposition leaders predicted that things will only get worse. National Independence Party leader Etibar Mamedov said the population is increasingly unhappy, Interfax reported on 21 November. Musavat leader Isa Gamar told Turan that efforts by authorities to rein in the population will only prompt the opposition to take more radical steps. And Democratic Party of Azerbaijan chief Sardar Jalaloglu told "525 gazet" that "the counterrevolution of the authorities is causing this revolution." PG

AZERBAIJANI COURT REJECTS OPPOSITION SUIT

The Azerbaijani Court of Appeal rejected on 20 November a suit by the National Independence Party to cancel the results of the elections, Turan reported the next day. Lawyers for the party said they will appeal. Meanwhile, the Musavat party has filed a similar suit, the Azerbaijani news agency reported. PG

AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES SAID MOVING TO CONTAIN UNREST

The Baku newspaper "Sharg" on 21 November said that officials at the office of President Heidar Aliyev have directed its departments to curb the activities of political parties. The same day, the "Bilik Dunyasi" news agency reported that the authorities threatened to use assault rifles at a rally in Nardaran, on the outskirts of Baku. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan's ANS TV station reported that an opposition leader has been beaten and that masked men detained people in Sheki, the site of a major anti-government demonstration on 18 November. PG

ILHAM Aliyev DENIES PLANS FOR AZERBAIJANI 'HEREDITARY MONARCHY'

Ilham Aliev, the son of President Aliyev and one of the leaders of the Yeni Azerbaijan Party, told "Moscow News" on 21 November that any talk of "a hereditary monarchy" in Azerbaijan is "stupidity." He denied reports that he will become parliamentary speaker and thus be first in line to succeed his father. "The rumors about my future destiny are incorrect and do not reflect my personal wishes," he said. In response to a question about Azerbaijani-Russian relations, Ilham Aliyev said that the two countries have every reason "to treat each other as old friends and economic partners." He predicted success in this area "if we do away with artificially created barriers and forget the period of 'senior and junior brothers.'" PG

GEORGIAN OFFICIAL SAYS MOSCOW'S VISA POLICY IS ATTEMPTED ANNEXATION

Revaz Adamia, the leader of the Citizen's Union faction, told NATO's Parliamentary Assembly that Russia's decision to treat Abkhazia and South Ossetia differently from the rest of Georgia with regard to visa requirements represents an effort by Moscow to annex those territories, Kavkasia-Press reported on 21 November. Other countries at the meeting, except for Russia, supported the Georgian position, the press service said. Meanwhile, a senior Georgian security official told Interfax that Russian suggestions that Chechen commanders are hiding in Georgia are baseless and intended only to justify a new visa regime between the two countries. PG

SHEVARDNADZE TO ATTEND CIS SUMMIT

President Eduard Shevardnadze will attend the 1 December Minsk CIS summit, despite disagreements between Tbilisi and Moscow over Russian intentions to introduce a visa regime between the two countries, CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov said in Tbilisi, Georgian Television reported on 21 November. Yarov expressed the hope that the two sides can reach agreement and said that there is no need for Georgia to consider leaving the CIS even if the visa regime is put in place. Meanwhile, the two governments appear to have agreed that talks on the future of Russian military bases in Georgia will be postponed from 11-12 December to 21-23 December, Interfax reported. PG

GEORGIAN PRISONERS BEAT MAN WITH MINISTER'S NAME

Prisoners in the Sagarejo penal colony beat up a cellmate with the same name as new Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili, who has introduced a new tougher regime at that facility, Caucasus Press reported on 21 November. PG

KAZAKH SECURITY CHIEF SAYS MORE VIOLENCE LIKELY IN CENTRAL ASIA

Kazakhstan Security Council Secretary Marat Tazhin told Interfax on 21 November that both extremist groups and drug traffickers are likely to provoke more violence in Central Asia in 2001. He added that the armed forces in this region will likely have to respond as they did earlier this year. PG

KAZAKH BORDER GUARD CADETS EXPELLED FOR MUTINY

Kazakhstan's commercial television reported on 20 November that more than 10 cadets have been expelled from the Military Institute of the country's National Security Committee for taking part in a September protest after their commanders reduced their stipends for toothpaste and soap. An additional, unspecified number of the 200 future border guards received lesser punishments, the television service said. PG

KAZAKHSTAN SUFFERS WATER SHORTAGE

Prime Minister Ksymzhomart Tokaev said on 21 November that Kazakhstan is suffering from "a constant deficit of water" as a result of natural causes, Interfax reported. But he said that the problem cab be addressed jointly only through talks with neighboring countries. PG

KAZAKHSTAN SUSPENDS OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER

Ramazan Esergepov, the editor of "Nachnem s Ponedelnika," told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 21 November that a court has suspended the operation of his newspaper for three months. He said that the court said it was forced to take this action because Esergepov has changed his address so often, but Esergepov responded that he had to do so to avoid official harassment. PG

KYRGYZSTAN TO INCREASE DEFENSE BUDGET

The draft state budget approved in the first reading on 20 November calls for increasing the country's defense budget by 2.5 times to a total of 860 million soms ($18 million), Interfax reported on 21 November. Actual defense spending in 1999, however, was 900 million soms because of expenses incurred during fighting in the country's southern regions. PG

RATS ATTACK KYRGYZ CHILDREN

Rats have attacked sleeping children in a northeastern Kyrgyzstan town, Kyrgyz-Press International News Agency reported on 20 November. The service said that in Kyrgyzstan no one pays any attention to rats or seeks to exterminate them. PG

RUSSIAN GUARDS ON ALERT ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER

Responding to increased military activity by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, Colonel General Nikolai Reznichenko, the chief of staff of the Russian border guards, and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov agreed to put the border troops on high alert to prevent any spillover of the violence into Tajikistan, AP reported. Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy reported that Tajik officials have arrested another 14 members of the banned Liberation party. PG

U.S. TO SEND GRAIN TO DROUGHT-STRICKEN TAJIKISTAN

The U.S. Agency for International Development will send some 13 million tons of grain to drought-stricken regions in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. This assistance is the U.S. portion of a drought assistance package developed by the UN World Food Program. PG

TURKMENISTAN WANTS OEC TO ASSIST PETROLEUM EXPORTS

Turkmen President Sapurmurat Niyazov has asked the Organization for Economic Cooperation to help develop projects allowing countries that, like his own, have a surplus of oil and gas to export to countries that need those resources, Interfax-Central Asia reported on 21 November. His request came during a meeting with visiting OEC Secretary-General Abdulrakhim Gavkhi. PG

UZBEKISTAN TO REORGANIZE MINISTRIES

Uzbek officials told Interfax-Central Asia on 21 November that Tashkent plans to reorganize the agriculture and water ministries in the near future and will then reorganize other ministries, including social services. PG

UZBEK OPPOSITION FIGURE DENOUNCES VERDICT

Muhammad Solih, the exiled chairman of the Erk Democratic Party, told the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran radio from Mashhad on 20 November that the court's verdict against him and other democratic activists is completely illegal. He was among those tried in absentia for their alleged role in the February 2000 bomb blasts in Tashkent. PG




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO GIVE LEGISLATURE MORE POWERS?

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 21 November addressed the first session of the newly elected Chamber of Representatives, saying he might share some of his powers with the legislature in the future. Lukashenka said the legislature might one day be given the right to control the implementation of the budget and legislation as well as have a say in the appointment of diplomats. He added that the Prosecutor-General and the National Bank head might become accountable to the Chamber of Representatives. At the same time, however, Lukashenka said there is no possibility to change the constitution before presidential elections next year. "This is another attempt by Alyaksandr Lukashenka to make advances to the West," opposition politician Uladzimir Nistsyuk commented to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. Nistsyuk recalled that the expansion of powers of the Belarusian legislature was one of the West's requirements before the October legislative elections. JM

BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE ELECTS NEW SPEAKER

The Chamber of Representatives on 21 November elected 60-year-old Agriculture Minister Vadzim Papou as its speaker. According to independent observers, the election highlights the subservience of the current legislature to Lukashenka, who told its deputies at a closed-doors meeting last week to revoke support for their favorite, Uladzimir Kanaplyou, and elect Papou instead. Earlier, 66 deputies had expressed support for Kanaplyou, who was deputy speaker of the former Chamber of the Representatives and is widely seen as one of Lukashenka's closest associates. Kanaplyou withdrew his candidacy by saying that "there is an objective need for me to perform certain duties before the presidential elections." Kanaplyou was elected deputy speaker. Some observers suggest that Lukashenka prefers Russian-born Papou because the latter is not allowed to run in the presidential elections and therefore will not use the parliamentary rostrum to promote a bid for the presidency. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONISTS CLAIM TO HAVE WESTERN SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENTIAL POLL

Alyaksey Karol, Anatol Lyabedzka, Andrey Sannikau, and Vintsuk Vyachorka toured European capitals last week to inform the West about the situation in Belarus and seek support for the country's democratization. Vyachorka told journalists that the delegation appealed to the West to persuade Russia "not to save Lukashenka or impose its own [presidential] candidate" in next year's presidential elections in Belarus. Sannikau said the Western politicians they met pledged that "Europe will not only support but also defend" a single candidate of the united democratic opposition in the 2001 presidential ballot, Belapan reported. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS COAL INDUSTRY REFORM

Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko said on 21 November that the government is planning an intensive reform of the country's coal-mining industry, AP reported. Tymoshenko said the government intends to sell coal through a commodity exchange, link coal prices to the world prices, and privatize some of the country's 300 coal mines, Meanwhile, the same day a Kyiv court refused to release Tymoshenko's husband from jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2000). JM

UKRAINE, POLAND SIGN MILITARY DEAL

The chiefs of staff of the Ukrainian and Polish armed forces, Volodymyr Shkidchenko and Czeslaw Piatas, met in Kyiv on 21 November to sign a military cooperation accord for 2001, PAP reported. The agency noted that the deal provides for the training of Ukrainian officers in Poland. Until now, no Ukrainian officers have been trained in that country. "We don't want our cooperation to be limited to the Polish-Ukrainian battalion, although to date it is our flagship joint project," Piatas said, adding that Polish-Ukrainian military cooperation can be enhanced after both countries sign a military confidentiality accord. Piatas explained that the lack of such an accord is the reason why repairs of Polish military equipment, particularly airforce and naval gear, cannot be undertaken on a larger scale in Ukraine. JM

ESTONIAN NAVY RECEIVES NEW FLAGSHIP FROM DENMARK

In ceremonies marking the 82nd anniversary of the founding of the Estonian navy, Danish armed forces' commander in chief General Christian Hvidt and naval commander Rear Admiral Tim S. Jorgensen signed documents officially transferring the frigate "Beskytteren" to Estonia, BNS reported on 21 November. The 74.3-meter-long ship, built 25 years ago, will be renamed "Admiral Pitka," after the founder of the Estonian navy, and will become the new flagship of the Estonian Navy. It replaces the mine ship "Sulev," which will be scrapped. Equipped with a hospital, helicopter deck, and facilities for refueling at sea, the new flagship is suited to taking part in sea rescue operations. During the ceremony, President Lennart Meri underscored the importance of military cooperation between the two countries. SG

LATVIA SUBMITS NOTE TO RUSSIA OVER INCIDENTS IN ST. PETERSBURG

The Latvian Embassy in Moscow on 21 November submitted a note to the Russian Foreign Ministry about two acts of vandalism that took place at its consulate in St. Petersburg on 18 November, Latvia's National Day, BNS reported. Unidentified persons threw a bottle containing an inflammable substance at the consulate building; the ensuing flames were put out by a Latvian guard. Later the same day, a group of National Bolsheviks picketed the consulate, shouting anti-Latvian slogans and throwing eggs at the building. Local police arrived only after each of the two incidents. Latvia has hinted that it may revise its round-the-clock protection of Russian representations in Latvia if better protection is not provided for its representations in Russia. There have been at least eight such incidents at Latvia's consulates and embassy in Russia this year. SG

IMF CALLS ON LITHUANIA TO CONTINUE TIGHT FISCAL POLICIES

Patricia Alonso-Gamo, the head of an IMF mission to Lithuania, wrapped up a week-long visit by holding talks with Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas and other officials, BNS and ELTA reported on 21 November. Alonso-Gamo called on the new Lithuanian government to ensure continuity in fiscal policies, carry on structural reforms and privatization, deal with problems at the state-run social insurance fund SoDra, and take decisive actions to improve the business environment both for domestic and foreign investors. She urged the government to keep the 1.4 percent fiscal deficit for 2001 and consider cutting expenditures in various spheres. Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas expressed satisfaction that the IMF forecasts that Lithuania's GDP will grow by 3.4 percent next year are more optimistic than those of his officials. SG

POLAND PLEDGES BRIGADE FOR EU FORCE

Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski said in Brussels on 21 November that Poland is ready to allocate one brigade--capable of independent activities and with air and naval support--to the EU's rapid reaction forces, Polish Radio reported. According to Komorowski, Poland's participation in the EU forces does not entail any additional costs, since his proposal covers those units that are currently earmarked for cooperation with NATO. He added that the troops will be based at home and their participation in EU missions will depend on the consent of the Polish authorities. JM

POLISH NURSES PROTEST LOW WAGES

Nurses in Bialystok, Lodz, Wroclaw, Szczecin, and other cities recently launched protests, including hunger strikes in hospitals, to demand higher wages and increased state funding for the health service, Polish media reported on 21 November. Polish nurses, who earn some 700 zlotys ($154) a month, want a 250-zloty pay rise. JM

CZECH CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS CHOOSE CANDIDATE FOR QUADRANGLE LEADERSHIP

The National Committee of the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) on 21 November decided in a secret vote to propose that the party's 8-9 December National Conference nominate Jaroslav Kopriva as the KDU-CSL candidate for the leadership of the four-party coalition, CTK reported. The coalition will elect a joint leader by the end of January 2001. The Freedom Union, which is the coalition's other major party, is also likely to run its own candidate for that position. Kopriva, a former deputy interior minister who is now secretary-general of the Czech Catholic Charity, prevailed over former Interior Minister Cyril Svoboda. KDU-CSL chairman Jan Kasal said he was proposed as a candidate but refused to run, as he prefers his present position. The coalition won the recent Senate elections and performed well in the regional elections earlier this month. MS

CZECH NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR NOMINATION LIKELY TO STIR CONFLICT

President Vaclav Havel has decided to appoint Czech National Bank Deputy Governor Zdenek Tuma as the bank's new governor, CTK reported on 22 November, citing the daily "Pravo." Tuma is to replace Josef Tosovsky, who leaves that post on 30 November. The daily wrote that Havel's decision is likely to produce a new conflict between the president, on the one hand, and Premier Milos Zeman and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus, on the other. Both politicians are critics of Tuma, who in March 1999 was a signatory to the so-called "Drevic Appeal." That appeal criticized the poor implementation of Czech law in the economic sphere and called for the quicker introduction of European business standards. Most economists who signed the appeal are regarded as close to the four-party coalition. MS

KUKAN SATISFIED WITH SLOVAK EU PROGRESS

Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 21 November told journalists in Brussels after talks with his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, that he is satisfied with the progress his country has made in one year, since being admitted to the accession talks, TASR and CTK reported. Kukan said Bratislava has closed 10 out of the 29 chapters of the aquis communautaire and will be opening three more chapters soon. Also on 21 November, European enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen announced in Brussels that the EU will no longer differentiate between first-wave and second-wave candidates because two of the second-wave candidates "have already caught up" with those in the first group. Verheugen did not specify which two countries he has in mind, but EU officials in the past have singled out Slovakia and Malta, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. MS

SLOVAK, AUSTRIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS EU ENLARGEMENT, NUCLEAR POWER

Visiting Austrian President Thomas Klestil told his Slovak counterpart, Rudolf Schuster, in Bratislava on 21 November that Vienna is "willing to help" Slovakia so that it can join the EU as soon as possible, CTK and AP reported. Klestil said Slovakia has "provided a good example" with regard to the closing of nuclear power plants, "although we would have wished that those plants be closed earlier." Bratislava has agreed to close two reactors at the Jaslovske Bohunice plant in 2006 and 2008. MS

GAZPROM PRESIDENT, SLOVAK PREMIER DISCUSS PIPELINE PROJECT

Rem Vyakhirev met in Bratislava on 21 November with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda to discuss plans to build a pipeline for the transport of gas to Western Europe through Poland and Slovakia, AP reported. The controversial plan would by-pass Ukraine. Dzurinda said that if the plan "becomes reality, Slovakia will be very interested to participate" in it. MS

FIDESZ CHAIRMAN SAYS PRESS 'RULED BY BOLSHEVIKS'

Laszlo Kover, chairman of Hungary's major coalition party FIDESZ, told Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel in Vienna on 21 November that the new Western owners of Hungarian newspapers have "done nothing" to change the policies of those dailies. Kover said that editorial appointments continue to be made by "old Bolshevik editors." He also accused commercial television networks of political bias. "While to country is improving thanks to FIDESZ, this is not reflected in opinion polls as the [opposition] Socialists rule the media," he added. MSZ

HUNGARIAN COMMITTEE ADOPTS MOTION AGAINST RACISM

The parliament's Human Rights, Minorities and Religion Committee on 21 November agreed to call on the cabinet to enact a bill on combating racism and xenophobia and to provide equal treatment for all citizens. The proposal was opposed only by Lorant Hegedus of the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party, who said the motion is a "crime against Hungarians." MSZ




DEL PONTE WANTS YUGOSLAV LEADER TO MAKE MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION HIS PRIORITY

Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, told the UN Security Council on 21 November that "it would be inconceivable to allow [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic to walk away from the consequences of his actions. Milosevic must be brought to trial before the international tribunal. There simply is no alternative," AP reported. Del Ponte added that "the world has embraced President [Vojislav] Kostunica despite the fact that he has repeatedly said that cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia 'is not a priority' for him. Whatever President Kostunica may say, the surrender of Milosevic is a priority. It is a priority for him; it is a priority for me; and it should, in my submission, also be a priority for the Security Council of the United Nations." PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON SERBS TO ADMIT WAR GUILT...

In Zagreb, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that he will pay an official visit to Belgrade only if Milosevic first goes to The Hague, "Jutarnji list" reported on 22 November. He told AP that Kostunica should apologize for Milosevic's aggressive policies and bring those responsible for war crimes to justice. Mesic stressed that the new Belgrade leaders will be judged by deeds and not just words. He repeated his earlier call for Serbia to "go through a catharsis. It must give up Milosevic's imperialistic policy, which claimed that all Serbs must live in one state [and that] therefore they're allowed to seize other people's territories." PM

...WARNS SUMMIT PROTESTERS

Mesic said in Zagreb on 21 November that most Croats want the upcoming EU summit in the Croatian capital to be a success, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2000). He added, however, that some unnamed individuals are interested in disrupting the event in order to undermine the stability and reputation of their country. Elsewhere, the Interior Ministry banned demonstrations during the conference. For its part, the Croatian Helsinki Committee (HHO) said in a statement that it believes that anyone who wants to demonstrate should have the right to do so, even though the HHO does not agree with their aims. Most of the calls for demonstrations have come from veterans' and other organizations close to the former government of the late President Franjo Tudjman. PM

DJUKANOVIC SEES FEW TIES BETWEEN MONTENEGRO, SERBIA

Czech President Vaclav Havel told visiting Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Prague on 21 November that he hopes Yugoslavia will soon simultaneously resolve the issues "of all three entities: Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic replied that he envisions that Serbia and Montenegro will become independent states. He added that they will have an open border without visa or passport requirements for their respective citizens. Djukanovic told the Podgorica daily "Vijesti" of 22 November that Montenegro has achieved much in the past three to four years and has no intention of giving up any of its newly-won sovereignty. He added that he sees no reason why Serbia and Montenegro cannot easily redefine their mutual relations as two internationally recognized states with an open border and the free movement of "people, goods, and capital." PM

BOMB RIPS HOME OF BELGRADE'S ENVOY IN KOSOVA

A bomb explosion severely damaged the home of Stanimir Vukicevic in Prishtina in the early hours of 22 November. Vukicevic, who represents the Belgrade authorities in Kosova, was not hurt. The explosion nonetheless killed his driver and injured a security guard, AP reported. Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said that the attack was "well prepared and very carefully executed." He added that unnamed "extremists are now ready to step up their targeting of the Serbian community" but did not elaborate. Meanwhile in the Presevo valley area of Serbia bordering Kosova, three Serbian police are missing following a clash with "Albanian extremists," the Beta news agency reported. PM

BELGRADE TO AMNESTY KOSOVAR PRISONERS?

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said in Athens on 21 November that he expects the 800 Kosovars being held in Serbian prisons to be released soon as part of a general amnesty, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN PROSECUTOR INVESTIGATES STAMBOLIC CASE

The Serbian state prosecutor's office has launched an investigation into the disappearance in August of former Serbian leader Ivan Stambolic, "Politika" reported on 22 November (see RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000). The prosecutor's office is also investigating the killing of independent journalist Slavko Curuvija in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000). Both crimes are widely believed to be the work of forces close to Milosevic. PM

U.S. FLAG RAISED OVER EMBASSY IN YUGOSLAVIA

The building of the U.S. embassy in Belgrade has been cleaned of the anti-American graffiti that appeared during the 1999 Kosova conflict and the U.S. flag has been hoisted over the building, "Danas" reported on 22 November. The Yugoslav authorities recently decided to restore ties to Washington, Berlin, Paris, and London, which were broken during the Kosova conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 2000). PM

MILOSEVIC WROTE SERBIAN PARTY PROGRAM

The principal document that will be adopted at the upcoming congress of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) is the work of Milosevic himself, "Danas" reported on 22 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2000). The SPS will not consider an alternative proposal drafted by nationalist political philosopher Mihajlo Markovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2000). Milosevic will be the sole candidate for party president at the congress, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MACEDONIA, BOSNIA TO CLAIM EQUAL PARTS OF YUGOSLAV ASSETS

Bosnian and Macedonian officials discussed their respective plans in Skopje for the upcoming talks in Brussels aimed at dividing the assets and properties of the former Yugoslavia, "Danas" reported on 22 November. Officials of the two relatively poor republics agreed that they will each seek to claim one-fifth of the former state's assets and properties and to coordinate their strategies in doing so. Relatively wealthy Slovenia and Croatia are likely to argue that each successor state should receive assets and properties proportional to what it paid into the former joint Yugoslav budget. Sir Arthur Watts, who is the international community's representative for questions involving succession rights to the former Yugoslavia, has called for a meeting in the Belgian capital in December. PM

TURKISH BUSINESSES LEAVE BOSNIA FOR SERBIA

Turkish Ambassador to Bosnia Ahmet Erozan told "Dnevni avaz" of 22 November that 15 Turkish companies plan to transfer their offices from Sarajevo to Belgrade. The ambassador added that he has told Turkish businessmen that they must be guided by economic considerations and not by any "sentimentality toward Bosnia" stemming from historical and cultural ties between the two countries. He added that Turkey pursues its business interests independently of political or emotional considerations, noting that Ankara's most important trade partner in the Balkans is Athens. Meanwhile in Split, "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported that Athens and Rome are interested in obtaining EU membership for Belgrade at the earliest possible opportunity. Both Greece and Italy have considerable business interests in Serbia and supported the 1999 NATO intervention against Belgrade only reluctantly. PM

OSCE ISSUES FINAL PRELIMINARY BOSNIAN VOTE COUNT

OSCE officials released figures in Sarajevo on 21 November for the recent Bosnian elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). In the vote for the joint Bosnian parliament, the non-nationalist but largely Muslim Social Democrats won 27.3 percent of the votes, followed by Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA) with 27.1 percent. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) took 19.3 percent, while the mainly Muslim Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina of Haris Silajdzic won 15.6 percent. Among the Serbs, Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party led with 39.5 percent, followed by the Party of Democratic Progress of Mladen Ivanic with 15.3 percent. The coalition of Independent Social Democrats of Milorad Dodik won 10.7 percent. In the race for the legislature in the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation, the SDA took 26.8 percent followed by the Social Democrats with 26.1 percent. The HDZ has 17.5 percent, while Silajdzic took 14.9 percent. PM

SECOND ROUND NECESSARY FOR BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENTIAL VOTE?

Mirko Sarovic, who is the SDS candidate for the presidency of the Republika Srpska, missed winning that office outright in the first round of voting by only some 600 votes, "Vesti" reported on 22 November. Sarovic won 49.8 percent of the vote, which is just short of the 50 percent required for an outright first-round victory. Counters will now tally second-preference votes, which could still give him the victory without having to enter a second round. In the count of first-preference votes, Dodik came in second with 25.8 percent. Ivanic took third place with 8.6 percent. The second-preference votes must be tallied by 1 December. PM

WAS ILIESCU A SECURITATE COLLABORATOR?

The National Committee for the Study of the Securitate Archives on 21 November rejected the Democratic Convention of Romania 2000's (CDR 2000) appeal against an earlier ruling that Party of Social Democracy in Romania chairman Ion Iliescu did not collaborate with the communist secret police. CDR 2000 launched the appeal on the grounds that as a former Communist Party first secretary in Iasi County, Iliescu was in charge of coordinating the activities of the Securitate in that region. Committee chairman Gheorghe Onisoru said nobody can be suspected of collaboration with the Securitate without "proper documentation" proving such was the case. Onisoru added that an inquiry into the activities of the Securitate in Iasi County between 1974 and 1979, when Iliescu was first secretary there, would require "a huge effort," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN EXTREMIST LEADER VIEWS HIMSELF AS LOCAL 'GEORGE W'

Greater Romanian Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said on 21 November that in his campaign for the presidency, his message to the country is the same as that of U.S. Republican Party presidential candidate George W. Bush, namely "law and order." "Like myself, Bush is a practicing Christian and a fighter against gangland-style crime, which has smothered the U.S., as it has swept over Romania," he said, Tudor, who is expected to face Iliescu in a runoff, told Reuters, that Bush "jokes about bringing the electric chair into the White House... My message is [also] that of a nationalist and a that of a guardian of justice." MS

ROMANIA CLOSES ONLY ONE CHAPTER IN EU TALKS

Only one chapter out of the four opened has been closed in Romania's accession talks with the EU, Mediafax reported on 21 November, citing chief-negotiator Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea. The closed chapter is the one on statistical data. Romania lags behind all other aspiring candidates, all of which have closed more chapters out of the 29 included in the aquis communautaire. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER DISAPPOINTED WITH EU OVER VISA REQUIREMENTS

After talks in Brussels on 21 November, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov expressed disappointment about the EU delay on lifting visa requirements for Bulgarian citizens, AP reported. "I have to admit that the government's goal of having the requirement lifted by 30 November will not be achieved," Kostov said, adding that "it remains to be seen if in future Bulgaria will be able to devote as much effort as in the past to regional initiatives and European integration." EU Commission President Romano Prodi said he hopes the visa problem can be solved "within the next six months" but this will require "a strong effort" from Bulgaria. French European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici, who met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, said it is necessary to "avoid getting hysterical" over the issue. "We have a real problem, and we want to solve it quickly," Moscovici said. MS




THE SCHENGEN LIST IMPACTS ON BULGARIA'S ELECTIONS


By Margarita Assenova

Although the date for Bulgaria's parliamentary elections, due by the summer of 2001, has not yet been set, the major political parties have already launched their election campaigns. The ruling democratic coalition has initiated a campaign demanding that the EU lift visa restrictions for Bulgarian citizens, while the Socialist Party rallied its supporters in Sofia to protest against the government's domestic policies. These two events have demarcated the battle lines along which the two election campaigns will be fought.

The Democrats will emphasize the pro-European policies they have been pursuing for several years and underscore Bulgaria's progress toward Euro-Atlantic integration. They will attempt to convince voters, who are frustrated with low living standards, that joining a democratic and prosperous Europe is worth the high price Bulgarian citizens are paying under the current economic reforms. The Socialists are planning to exploit voter's dissatisfaction with the negative impact of the reforms and thereby build a campaign around the slogan "Enough is enough!"

Bulgaria's democratic government urgently needs to prove to voters that the country has received some EU recognition for its achievements since 1997. The start of accession negotiations with the EU at the beginning of this year raised hopes for the struggling Bulgarian people, but prospects for a brighter future seem to be receding. Although Bulgaria and Romania are candidate countries for the EU, they remain on the Schengen blacklist. The EU Justice and Home Commission is expected to make a decision on the issue on 30 November, but some European leaders are pessimistic about the chances of abolishing visa regime.

In response, the Bulgarian government has started an intensive campaign involving all state institutions. The national parliament adopted a declaration on 10 November demanding that the EU ends its visa regime. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov declared that "Bulgaria must defend its national interest by preparing for an active and strong foreign-policy response in case visa restrictions are not lifted." Earlier the parliamentary foreign-policy commission chairman Asen Agov suggested that Bulgaria leave the Southeast European Stability Pact if visa restrictions are not waived.

Such developments suggest that Bulgaria's ruling coalition is becoming desperate several months before the scheduled parliamentary elections. Popular support for the ruling United Democratic Forces (UDF) has dropped to 24.7 percent, only four percentage points higher than support for the Socialist Party, which had steered Bulgaria toward an economic catastrophe in 1997. Although the UDF has achieved more than any previous leadership in Sofia, Bulgarian citizens are disappointed by the slow pace of reforms, low incomes, rising unemployment, and corruption scandals.

In this atmosphere, voters are unlikely to consider that the country enjoys financial stability, low inflation, GDP growth of some 5 percent this year, and a 70 percent rate of enterprise privatization. Rather, they are more likely to remember that there is some 17 percent unemployment, the average monthly salary remains as low as $110, poverty affects mostly women and minorities, and 60 percent of single mothers suffer from malnutrition because they are giving most of their food purchases to their children, according to the "Twenty First Century" Foundation.

The recently released annual report of the EU commission points out that Bulgaria still lacks a functioning market economy, which would help curb poverty and stimulate the development of viable small and medium-sized enterprises. It also underscores that corruption remains a widespread

An opinion poll conducted recently among magistrates, tax inspectors, municipal councilors, and customs officers from the Veliko Turnovo region found that every fourth person admitted to taking a bribe during the previous 12 months. More than 80 percent of the 195 staffers surveyed by the regional EU Information Center accept bribe-taking as normal.

The main goal of the UDF before the upcoming elections is the restoration of public trust, but this is obviously a difficult task, especially during the winter period. The Socialist Party will use the UDF's weaknesses to its advantage. At a recent rally in Sofia, Socialist leader Georgi Parvanov said the ruling UDF has brought only "poverty, unemployment, and corruption and managed to secure well-being only for a tiny circle of people close to the UDF elite." When two bomb explosions killed three people in Sofia last week, the Socialist Party blamed the government of being incapable of cracking down on organized crime.

Such a strategy may prove successful, given the dire economic situation of large sectors of the population. Although it is unlikely to bring the Socialists back to power, it could prevent the UDF from gaining a majority in the new parliament. This, in turn, could lead to a weak, broad-based coalition government and further endanger economic reforms.

The World Bank has said that fighting poverty and corruption are among the most important issues in Bulgaria, but its new program targeting these problems will start only after the elections. The ruling coalition is desperately counting on Europe's giving moral support by lifting the visa restrictions. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Sofia Richard Miles, for his part, has announced that Washington will loosen its visa regime with Bulgaria. The author is a consultant with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. (assenova@mindspring.com)


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