PUTIN CALLS FOR REVIVING OLD NATIONAL SYMBOLS...
In a televised address on 4 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he will ask the State Duma to readopt the national anthem of the Soviet Union (without the words) and the coat of arms of Tsarist Russia as well as retain the tricolor flag but make the red victory flag of World War II the official banner of the Russian armed forces. Responding to critics of that move, Putin declared that "if we agree that the symbols of previous eras, included the Soviet era, mustn't be used at all, then we will have to admit that our fathers' and mothers' lives were useless and meaningless, that they lived in vain. Neither in my head nor my heart can I do that." Putin said that there are those "who see these symbols as the embodiment of the darker sides of our history," but even during those darker periods there are events and people worth remembering, he commented. JAC
...AS STATE COUNCIL RUBBER-STAMPS HIS DECISION
Members of the Presidium of the State Council on 4 December endorsed the same choices as President Putin regarding Russia's national anthem, flag, and coat of arms, ITAR-TASS reported. State Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that the State Duma will vote for the new anthem in the second and third readings and will ask the president to issue a decree on the new words for the old melody. The bill making the Soviet anthem Russia's new anthem was passed in the first reading in early 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March 1999). An unidentified Kremlin source told ITAR-TASS that if the bills on the flag and coat of arms pass quickly through the lower legislative house, then the government will present a version of the land code. A bill on trade in agricultural land will be considered separately. Draft legislation on political parties will be submitted by year's end, and, together with the bills on the anthem, flag, and coat of arms, is considered top priority. JAC
STATE COUNCIL CONSIDERS NEW LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES...
State Duma Chairman Seleznev told reporters on 4 December that the State Council will discuss the draft law on political parties at an expanded session later this month. The Presidium of the council decided on 4 December that the Central Election Commission will submit its version of the draft law to all Duma factions. Under the draft law, political parties will be required to have no fewer than 9,000 members or 200 members in each of at least 45 regions, "Itogi" reported in its issue No. 48. Existing parties will be given a year to comply with the new law. JAC
...AS PROBLEMS ALLEGED WITH YABLOKO/SPS MERGER
According to "Itogi," the pending law is making the question of a merger between the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko "even more important." However, Yabloko leader "Grigorii Yavlinskii's ambitions--he refuses to give up 'independence'--may cost his party its life." The weekly, which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST, also reported that unification is going well at the regional level but "in every place where local branches of Yabloko and SPS have merged, the hybrid presents itself as the SPS." On 29 November, Sergei Ivanenko, first deputy head of Yabloko's Duma faction, told reporters that the proposal by Yabloko's branch in Yaroslavl to dissolve Yabloko and create a joint party with the SPS is "politically erroneous." "There is no question of Yabloko's self-dissolution," he added, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC
U.S. TO TRY TO CHANGE MOSCOW'S MIND OVER ARMS SALES TO IRAN
A U.S. delegation headed by John Barker, deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Nonproliferation Affairs, is due to arrive in Moscow later this week in a bid to persuade Russia to stick to a 1995 pledge not to sell weapons to Iran. The decision to send the delegation to the Russian capital was reached during last week's talks in Vienna between U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, according to AP on 4 December. Russia recently informed the U.S. that it is withdrawing from its commitment not to supply Teheran with conventional weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). ITAR-TASS reported that U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev plan to meet on the sidelines of a Russia-NATO Permanent Council session in Brussels on 5 December to discuss the issue of Russian arms sales to Iran. JC
FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA INTENSIFIES...
Chechen fighters killed at least 13 Russian troops and wounded 21 in three separate attacks on 4 December, AP reported, quoting an unnamed Chechen government official. Movladi Udugov claimed on behalf of fighters loyal to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov that 23 Russians died in ambushes near Grozny and the northern town of Shchelkovskaya and in fighting in Nozhai-Yurt in southern Chechnya, Reuters reported. LF
...AS GROZNY MAYOR ESCAPES ATTACK
A group of some 120 Chechen fighters ransacked the home of Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov in Gekhi, in Urus Martan Raion, early on 5 December, Russian agencies reported. Gantemirov was not at home at the time. LF
PROSECUTORS ISSUE INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANT FOR GUSINSKII
Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii has been put on the international wanted list, Valerii Nikolaev, a senior prosecutor in charge of specially important cases, told reporters on 4 December. Media-MOST spokesman Dmitrii Ostalskii said that Gusinskii, who divides his time between Spain, Britain, Gibraltar, and Israel, is not in hiding and "authorities in the countries where Gusinskii is spending time are perfectly aware he is there." He added that the issuing of an international arrest warrant is "one more move to intimidate Vladimir Gusinskii and the Media-MOST company as a whole." JAC
ONE OF ACCUSED IN KHOLODOV CASE SAYS CONFESSION WAS COERCED
Lieutenant-Colonel Pavel Popovskikh, a former intelligence chief in Russia's paratrooper units, has recanted his confession to have conspired to commit the murder of journalist Dmitrii Kholodov, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. Kholodov, an investigative journalist with "Moskovskii komsomolets," was killed in October 1994 by a booby-trapped briefcase. Popovskikh said during the trial in a military court of both himself and his alleged accomplices that investigators agreed to give him necessary medical assistance only if he confessed to the murder. Popovskikh also testified that in 1994 he never had any contact of any sort with then Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, the prosecution is arguing that six former paratroopers, including Popovskikh, concocted the briefcase murder on their own initiative, simply to please the Russian Defense Ministry by ridding it of a journalist who was seen as meddling in military affairs. JAC
GOVERNMENT TO TRY AGAIN WITH IMF
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced on 4 December that Russia is seeking new talks with the IMF, AP reported. According to ITAR-TASS, the talks will take place sometime between the middle of December and the first half of January 2001. According to the agency, Kudrin also announced that the Russian government will seek a restructuring of its Paris Club debts, despite the lack of an agreement with the fund. JAC
GOVERNMENT'S BATTLE WITH SWISS FIRM MOVES TO NEW VENUE
The Switzerland-based Noga company has filed new lawsuits against Russia for some $495 million, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin told reporters on 4 December. According to Kolotukhin, the new lawsuits were brought at court hearings in New York in early November. The Russian side "presented compelling evidence to demonstrate that Noga had violated the timetable for advance payments long before the Russian government started to delay oil deliveries," Kolotukhin claimed. He added that the court instructed both sides to "exchange final statements before 15 December 2000." According to Interfax, the Stockholm Arbitration Court ruled in 1997 that Russia should pay Noga about $30 million--a figure that has grown to approximately twice that sum owing to interest and fines. JAC
EXPERTS EXAMINE PIECE OF 'KURSK' HULL
The Rubin central design bureau is examining a piece cut from the hull of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine in an attempt to determine what caused the vessel to sink during maneuvers in the Barents Sea in August. A member of the Northern Fleet command who spoke to Interfax on 3 December on condition of anonymity said that the fragment measures 15 meters by 2 meters and weighs 10 tons. "We were interested in torpedo equipment, some of which was cut out and delivered to Rubin," he commented, adding that a "preliminary analysis" suggested that the disaster was not caused by the explosion of torpedo equipment. At the same time, he said, it would be premature to assert that the "Kursk" sank as a result of a collision with a foreign nuclear submarine. JC
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DELAYS IMPLEMENTATION OF ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS
Parliamentary deputies voted on 2 December by 89 to14 to adopt amendments to the election law increasing from 56 to 94 the number of mandates in the 131-seat legislature to be allocated under the proportional system. RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But they ruled that those amendments should take effect only in January 2003; the next parliamentary ballot is due in May 2003. Several minority factions opposed the delay but voted for it after the ruling Miasnutiun bloc threatened to withdraw its support for them if the amendments take immediate effect. Miasnutiun fears that if the amendments go into effect immediately, President Robert Kocharian may call pre-term elections in which the bloc would risk losing its majority. LF
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY ADJOURNS CONGRESS
Following stormy debates, the National Democratic Union (AZhM) on 3 December adjourned for two weeks the union congress that had opened the previous day, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Most leading AZhM members, including party chairman former Premier Vazgen Manukian, favor continued cooperation with the present Armenian president and government, but others advocate a return to the uncompromising opposition that marked the party's relations with the leadership of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian. LF
ARMENIA INCREASES POWER SUPPLIES TO GEORGIA
In a bid to mitigate Georgia's worsening energy crisis, Armenia has increased power supplies to Georgia by over 12 percent in recent weeks, from 2.4 million to 2.7 million kW/hours per day, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 December, quoting energy sector official Spartak Hakobian. Hakobian added that the U.S. company AES Silk Road, which owns the Tbilisi energy distribution network, pays promptly for those deliveries, which are worth some $2 million per month. At a meeting on the sidelines of last week's CIS summit in Minsk, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze thanked his Armenian counterpart, Kocharian, for Armenia's help. The two presidents also discussed the possibility of direct Armenian power supplies to the Djavakheti region of southern Georgia, whose population is predominantly Armenian. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PLANS NEW PROTEST DEMONSTRATION
The six opposition parties that last month signed an agreement not to recognize the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary poll have applied to the Baku municipal authorities for permission to convene another demonstration on 9 December to protest the falsification of the outcome of that ballot, Turan reported on 4 December. Those parties are the Musavat, Liberal, Democratic, Civic Solidarity, and Azerbaijan National Independence Parties and the two wings of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). Thousands of people attended earlier protest rallies in Baku and other cities on 18 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2000). LF
RUSSIAN VISA REQUIREMENT FOR GEORGIAN CITIZENS TAKES EFFECT
The visa requirement imposed by Moscow for citizens of Georgia wishing to travel to Russia took effect on 5 December, as previously announced, Caucasus Press reported. But Georgian President Shevardnadze said in Tbilisi the previous day that Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised him during their 1 December meeting in Minsk that Russia will not exempt residents of the breakaway Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from that requirement, as it had earlier threatened to do, according to ITAR-TASS. Shevardnadze also denied that Tbilisi planned to "open" its border with Chechnya in retaliation for the Russian move or that it plans to quit the CIS in protest. Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has ordered the Foreign Ministry to continue talks with Georgia aimed at reaching a new agreement on border-crossing formalities, Interfax reported on 4 December, citing a Russian government press release. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO EU MEMBERSHIP
Zurab Zhvania has also rejected the argument raised by some parliamentary deputies that Georgia should quit the CIS to protest Russia's imposition of a visa requirement for Georgian citizens, Caucasus Press reported on 5 December quoting "Alia." Zhvania said doing so would only aggravate relations with Russia. He said that Georgia's primary foreign policy objective should be membership in the EU. President Shevardnadze had said last week that he believes Georgia could join that organization within three to four years. LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT CLAIMS AUTHORSHIP OF PROPOSED NEW NATIONAL ANTHEM
The two chambers of Kazakhstan's parliament on 2 December discussed a proposal to replace the current national anthem with one whose text is said to have been written by President Nursultan Nazarbaev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 4 December. The opposition newspaper "Sol-Dat," however, pointed out that the text in question was first published in "Egemen Kazakhstan" several years ago, at which time authorship was attributed to the prominent poet Tumanbai Moldagaliev. Deputies scheduled the first vote on adopting the new anthem for April 2001 and the second for one month later. LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT EXTENDS MORATORIUM ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
Askar Akaev on 4 December signed a decree prolonging until 31 December 2001 the moratorium imposed in December 1998 on implementing the death penalty, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. As of 1 January 2000, 60 prisoners were under sentence of death in Kyrgyzstan, 20 of whom were sentenced in 1999. LF
KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY DEMANDS IMPRISONED LEADER'S ACQUITTAL
The opposition Erkindik Party on 4 December issued a second statement in Bishkek demanding the acquittal and release of its chairman, Topchubek Turgunaliev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. TurgunAliyev was sentenced in September to 16 years' imprisonment on charges of masterminding a plot to assassinate President Akaev; that sentence was reduced last month to six years' imprisonment. Six other men sentenced on similar charges were amnestied by Akaev last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September and 1 December 2000). LF
THREE NEW PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES ELECTED IN TAJIKISTAN
In by-elections in three constituencies on 3 December, a member of the ruling Democratic People's Party of Tajikistan (DPPT) ran unopposed in a Dushanbe constituency, and a second DPPT candidate defeated a rival member of that party in Kurgonteppa, with 62.2 percent of the vote. In Karategin, an independent candidate ran unopposed. Muhammad Sharif Himmatzode of the Islamic Revival Party and Rahmatullo VAliyev of the Democratic Party both told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that their parties wanted to contend those seats. But Himmatzode said doing so "would make no sense" in the present political situation, while VAliyev said he was unable to establish contact with the Central Election Commission to register his party's candidates. LF
TAJIKISTAN MAY ADMIT AFGHAN DISPLACED PERSONS
Afghanistan's Ambassador to Tajikistan Said Ibrohim Hikmat told journalists in Dushanbe on 4 December that the Tajik authorities may allow the entry into the country of some 10,000 Afghans who have fled the hostilities in northern Afghanistan and taken refuge on islands in the Pyandj River, which forms the border between the two countries, Asia Plus-Blitz and Interfax reported. The displaced persons, who are mostly elderly people, women, and children, are being subjected to artillery fire from Taliban forces. Representatives of international relief organizations say there have been outbreaks of typhoid and dysentery among the fugitives. LF
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS CHIEF OF BODYGUARDS
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has appointed Major General Henadz Nyavyhlas as chief of the presidential security service, Interfax reported on 4 November. Nyavyhlas replaces Leanid Yeryn, who was named KGB chairman in last week's security shakeup. Before his nomination, Nyavyhlas served as deputy chairman of the State Border Troops Committee. JM
OPPOSITION PARTY SAYS BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PREPARING TO KEEP POWER BY FORCE
According to the United Civic Party (AHP), President Lukashenka's televised address to the KGB leadership on 28 November was "the public presentation of a plan to stay in...power by force," Belapan reported on 4 November. In his address, Lukashenka urged the KGB to spy more efficiently on foreign diplomats in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 December 2000) and promised to take "even tougher" measures to deal with the opposition before the presidential elections. He also warned the KGB about what he called NATO's plans to attack Belarus. "Such conclusions may befit a block hooligan or an extremist group member [but not] a high-ranking statesman," AHP Chairman Anatol Lyabedzka commented. JM
UKRAINIAN POLITICIAN SAYS PRESIDENT SHOULD RESIGN OVER JOURNALIST'S DISAPPEARANCE
Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz has said President Leonid Kuchma should resign in connection with the latter's alleged involvement in the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 December 2000), the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 5 December, citing UNIAN. According to Moroz, Kuchma's resignation should be demanded by "the people, public and political organizations, [or] at least the Supreme Council." Ukraine's legislation does not provide for a procedure to impeach the president. Moroz said he is certain of the authenticity of the audio recording he made public to support his claim of Kuchma's complicity in Gongadze's disappearance. Meanwhile, lawmaker Oleksandr Holub told UNIAN that "Moroz's tape" was first offered by 10 ex-servicemen of Ukraine's Security Service to Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, but the latter refused to publicize it. JM
NEW MAYOR ELECTED IN NARVA
The city council of the northeastern Estonian city of Narva has elected Center Party member Imre Liiv as mayor, BNS reported on 4 December. Liiv replaces Eldar Efendijev, also of the Center Party, who resigned on 26 October ahead of an anticipated no-confidence vote by the council. The 31-year-old Liiv, who until now has been the commercial director of the Narva office of the ESS security company, was approved by a vote of 16 to 14. SG
MAJORITY OF LATVIANS HAVE NEGATIVE VIEW OF PARLIAMENT
In a survey conducted by the public opinion center SKDS in October, 65 percent of respondents had a negative opinion about the performance of the current parliament, an increase of 3.2 percentage points over last year, LETA and BNS reported on 4 December. While 13.4 percent did not express an opinion, 20.7 percent said that they view the parliament's work favorably. A larger share of Latvian citizens (21.6 percent) had a positive view of lawmakers' work than that of non-citizens (17.4 percent). And 27.7 percent of those with incomes exceeding 127 lats ($203) a month had a positive view compared with only 15.3 percent among those with incomes less than 42 lats a month. SG
LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT 2001 BUDGET
The cabinet on 4 December approved a revised 2001 budget, with anticipated revenues of 6.228 billion litas ($1.557 billion) and expenditures of 7.134 billion litas, resulting in a budget deficit of 906 million litas (13 percent larger than the planned 2000 deficit), BNS and ELTA reported. The deficit is 1.9 percent of GDP, but if the 215 million litas earmarked for debt repayments under IMF calculation methods are excluded, it totals 1.47 percent of GDP. The draft differs from the one proposed by the previous government in that it allocates an additional 66 million litas to the Ministry of Interior, the Police Department, the Tourism Department, the State Nuclear Energy Inspectorate, and the Security Department. The government plans to revise the budget in May by allocating to education funds saved by reforming various departments. Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas confirmed that at least 100 million litas will be used to renovate school buildings. SG
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN WARSAW
Anatoliy Zlenko told his Polish counterpart, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, on 4 December that it is more efficient to modernize Ukraine's gas transportation system than to implement Russia's idea of increasing gas supplies to Western Europe by constructing a new gas pipeline circumventing Ukraine, Ukrainian New Channel Television reported. Zlenko also proposed establishing an international consortium to manage Ukrainian gas pipelines. According to Zlenko, if Russia starts the construction of a bypass gas pipeline, Ukraine will demand from the EU, gas transit countries, and gas customers that it be allowed to participate in this project. JM
POLISH GOVERNMENT PROBES CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS IN PROVINCIAL CENTER
The government has dispatched a commission to examine allegations of corruption in the Provincial Office of Katowice, southern Poland, Polish media reported on 4 December. Last week, "Rzeczpospolita" alleged that close aides of Katowice Governor Marek Kempski had abused their office for personal gain over a period of at least three years. Kempski denied any knowledge of corruption but said he will offer his resignation to Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek if the investigation uncovers any irregularities. The case has attracted nationwide interest because Kempski, a prominent Solidarity figure, is known for his well-publicized attempts to crack down on crime and corruption in the province. JM
CZECH GOVERNMENT TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER BANK GOVERNOR
The government on 4 December announced it will ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether the president can appoint National Bank officials without the assent of the cabinet. The decision follows the disagreement between President Vaclav Havel and Premier Milos Zeman over the recent appointment of National Bank governor Zdenek Tuma. The cabinet said it will not challenge Tuma's appointment until the court has ruled on the matter. Havel, who is suffering from pneumonia, attended the meeting and said later that the cabinet's decision "is the best possible under the circumstances." He said this means that the court's ruling will apply to future, not past appointments. MS
SLOVAKIA'S DEMOCRATIC PARTY WITHDRAWS FROM SDK PARLIAMENTARY GROUP...
All six parliamentary deputies from the Democratic Party withdrew from the Slovak Democratic Coalition's (SDK) parliamentary group on 4 December. The six cannot form a separate group since regulations state that a minimum of eight deputies are required for that purpose. The move was prompted by Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's refusal to set up a parliamentary group of his newly-formed Slovak Democratic and Christian Union as well as his statement that the SDK will function as a united party until the government's mandate ends in 2002. Last week, nine deputies representing the Christian Democrats split away from the SDK parliamentary group and set up their own parliamentary faction. Democratic Party spokesman Ondrej Dostal told CTK that his party's representatives in the legislature will continue to support the cabinet. MS
...BUT DZURINDA TO PROPOSE NEW SDK AGREEMENT
Dzurinda said on 4 December he will submit this week a draft agreement on a "joint line" to be followed by all 42 deputies elected on the SDK lists. Bela Bugar, chairman of the junior coalition member Hungarian Coalition Party, said the fragmentation of the SDK parliamentary group marks "the beginning of the end of the coalition agreement." MS
FREE DEMOCRAT GROUP LEADER RESIGNS IN HUNGARY
Gabor Kuncze, parliamentary group leader of the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats, resigned his post on 4 December, after the party's congress elected Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky as party chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2000). Demszky had sharply criticized the party's parliamentary group and its leadership during his election campaign, and Kuncze had pledged to resign if Demszky were elected. Kuncze is expected to be replaced by Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, chairman of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. MSZ
NEW INCIDENTS IN SOUTHWESTERN SERBIA
A Serbian police spokesman said in Vranje on 5 December that ethnic Albanian fighters fired on a Yugoslav army position late the previous night and at a Serbian policeman early that morning. The rebels fired from within the supposedly demilitarized 5-kilometer zone just inside the Serbian side of the frontier. The Serbian forces did not return the fire, AP reported. PM
SERBIAN LEADER AGAIN CALLS FOR TOUGHNESS
Following the breach in the cease-fire in southwestern Serbia the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2000), Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said on 4 December that "time is working against us. The terrorists have dug in along the whole boundary and there is a [stalemate] there. Each day that passes strengthens their position and weakens ours. Therefore, we have to act with determination and swiftly," AP reported from Lucane. Djindjic argued that the U.S. and its allies in Kosova should try to persuade ethnic Albanian militants to leave the demilitarized zone. If the NATO allies cannot succeed, the "Serbian forces should go into the buffer zone and clear out the terrorists," Djindjic concluded. PM
ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADER CAUTIONS SERBS
Sami Azemi, who is a leader of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac, said on 4 December that Serbian forces should respect the cease-fire, AP reported from Lucane. He added that, "For the moment, our soldiers are very vigilant, and they are watching every movement of the Serbian police and army. If they try to come toward our positions, they will be confronted with fire, with all the power that we have. I would appeal to the Serbian side that having agreed to the cease-fire, they should respect it, otherwise confrontation is inevitable." Referring to what he called "Djindjic's threats," Azemi said that "the moment we took up weapons we knew we would be threatened. And we will not put down our weapons without a solution to the problem of this region." PM
YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT WARNS OF WAR IN KOSOVA
Vojislav Kostunica said in Thessaloniki, Greece, on 4 December that any declaration of independence by Kosovar Albanian leaders would lead to a new war, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
SERBIAN DAILY BLASTS KOSTUNICA'S DISPLAY OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Shortly after Kostunica, Prime Minister Zoran Zizic, and 20 state officials ended a two-day visit to a Serbian Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, the Belgrade daily "Blic" wrote on 4 December that the president is not doing his country any service by his frequent public displays of his devotion to the Serbian Orthodox faith. The daily argued that his beliefs should be a private and not a public matter. Serbia has just gotten rid of authoritarian rule and does not need instead to embrace a "fundamentalist Orthodox regime," "Blic" added. PM
RUSSIAN GAS CUTS THREATEN SERBIAN POWER SUPPLY
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 4 December that the recent decision of Russia's Gazprom to cut its gas shipments to Serbia could lead to a "collapse" in the power system this winter, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). In Moscow, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said that the government will extend a $30 million credit to Belgrade to enable it to pay for gas deliveries, AP reported. PM
EUROPEAN, SERBIAN UNIVERSITY HEADS MEET
Some 40 rectors of an unspecified number of Serbian and European universities opened a conference in Belgrade on 4 December on the theme of "Serbian universities on the road to European integration," "Danas" reported. PM
MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT: PROCEED FROM REALITY
Milo Djukanovic told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 5 December that the present Yugoslav federal republic "has never functioned for a single day." He stressed that it would be best to proceed from this "fact" and accept that Serbia and Montenegro are de facto independent of each other rather than attempt to create a "new, fourth Yugoslavia." He appealed to the international community to deal with the question of his country's political status soon and not to link it with other regional issues, such as that of the political future of Kosova. PM
ALBANIA, MONTENEGRO SIGN AGREEMENT ON LAKE SCUTARI
Top Montenegrin and Albanian officials responsible for promoting tourism signed an agreement in Ulcinj on 4 December for joint development of Lake Scutari, "Pobjeda" reported. PM
CROATIAN MEDIA BOSSES ARRESTED
Police arrested Ninoslav Pavic and six of his associates in Zagreb on suspicion of being involved in an illegal media cartel, AP reported on 5 December. They have not been formally charged. Officials of the Interior and Justice Ministries said the previous day that they are investigating Pavic and several other men mentioned by the new daily "Republika" as being involved in illegal activities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2000). Ivica Pasalic, who is a member of the parliament and was mentioned by "Republika," is not among those arrested. The mass-circulation daily "Jutarnji list," which is published by Pavic, wrote on 5 December that the fact that it sells 165,000 copies daily is proof that the public trusts it. PM
CROATIAN DAILY GETS NEW CHIEF EDITOR
The managing body of "Vjesnik" voted on 4 December to name Zlatko Herljevic editor-in-chief of the troubled daily, Hina reported. Herljevic was born in Rijeka in 1956 and has a degree in political science from Zagreb University. He became a journalist in 1982 and joined the staff of "Vjesnik" in 1995. "Vjesnik" was founded during World War II is arguably Croatia's most serious daily newspaper. It nonetheless lost thousands of readers during the administration of the late President Franjo Tudjman, when it functioned as a mouthpiece for his government. The newspaper's staff and managers have been trying since early 2000 to restore its reputation and readership. Herljevic told Hina that he wants "Vjesnik" to be a serious, independent, and critical voice. PM
HAGUE COURT CONCERNED OVER PUBLICATION OF CROATIAN PRESIDENT'S TESTIMONY
A spokeswoman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal told RFE/RL on 4 December that she fears the recent publication in the Croatian media of excerpts of President Stipe Mesic's testimony before the tribunal will discourage other witnesses from testifying. The tribunal assures all witnesses that their testimony will remain confidential. For his part, Mesic said that he will take no legal measures as a result of the publication of his remarks. In any event, anyone found guilty of leaking his testimony to the press faces up to seven years in prison, "Vecernji list" reported. PM
BOTH LARGE ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTIES IN MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT?
The Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP), which is one of the two large ethnic Albanian parties, will soon join the government, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 4 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). If this report proves true, it would mean that both the PDP and its main rival, the Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSH), will be included in the cabinet. The daily wrote that the PDSH will give up at least two ministerial posts to representatives of the PDP. The PDP was part of the Social Democratic-led coalition government that was ousted in the 1998 elections. PM
NEW CABINET LINEUP EMERGING IN ROMANIA
The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), which is to form a minority government headed by Adrian Nastase, has made nominations for most posts in the new cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 4 December. The Foreign Ministry is to be headed by Mircea Geoana, who is Romanian ambassador to the U.S. A new Ministry for European Integration is to be headed by PDSR deputy chairwoman Hildegarde Puwlak, and another new ministry, that of public information, will be headed by Vasile Dancu, currently director of the polling institute Metromedia Transilvania. Mihai Tanasescu, Romania's present representative at the World Bank, will have the financial portfolio. Also on 4 December, the PDSR said it has decided to suspend negotiations with the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party on a one-year parliamentary cooperation pact and concentrate instead on the presidential runoff. MS
ALL SEATS IN ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT NOW DISTRIBUTED
The Central Electoral Bureau on 4 December finalized the distribution of seats in the parliament following the 26 November elections. The PDSR will have 155 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the Greater Romania Party (PRM) 84, The Democratic Party 31, the PNL 30, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) 27 seats. Eighteen deputies will represent national minorities' organizations. In the Senate, the PDSR has 65 seats, the PRM 37, the Democrats and the PNL 13 each, and the UDMR 12. MS
EXTREMIST ROMANIAN LEADER COMPLAINS OF 'MEDIA PERSECUTION'
PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor has denounced the "furious campaign of lies and insults" allegedly launched by state television and "numerous newspapers" against himself and his party since 26 November, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 4 December. Tudor claimed that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had noted in January that "there are no extremist parties in Romania." Also on 4 December, European Commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori said in Brussels that "it goes without saying" that EU cooperation with candidate countries "depends on their ability to respect human rights and democracy." On 1 December, President Bill Clinton said he expects Romania to "respect the rule of law [and] human and minority rights." MS
SECOND ATTEMPT TO ELECT MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT FAILS
Party of Moldovan Communists candidate Vladimir Voronin and Pavel Barbalat, who is backed by an alliance of center-right parties, both failed to secure the 61 votes required to be elected president during the second round of the first ballot in the parliament, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 4 December. Voronin was backed by 50 deputies, while Barbalat had the support of 35; there was one abstention and 13 ballots were invalidated. The second ballot, which may also require two rounds, will take place on 6 December; if that ballot fails, President Petru Lucinschi must dissolve the parliament and call early elections. Also on 4 December, the parliament voted to validate the results of the 1 December runoff, although the Constitutional Court ruled that the ballot had been marred by irregularities. But the court refrained from declaring the round invalid, saying it was up to the parliament to decide on the matter. MS
BULGARIA TO REVAMP VISA REGIME WITH NON-EU COUNTRIES
Bulgaria will introduce visa requirements for citizens of non-EU countries in order to bring its policies into line with those of the union, Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said on 4 December. The decision follows the 1 December announcement of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council that Bulgaria is to be removed from the lists of countries whose citizens require visas to travel to EU states. Mihailova said citizens of Tunisia and Georgia will need visas to enter Bulgaria as of May, while Russia, Ukraine and Macedonia will need to sign new "re-admission" agreements" with Sofia in order to avoid the imposition of visa requirements. Re-admission agreements allow countries to extradite citizens who have entered the country illegally. Mihailova also said visa relations with Yugoslavia will be discussed after the 23 December elections in that country, AP and Reuters reported. MS
CACAK MAYOR REGRETS INCOMPLETE YUGOSLAV REVOLUTION
By Jolyon Naegele
Cacak is a bustling market town known for its fruit and also for being a traditional bastion of opposition to Belgrade.
Shortly after World War II, Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito paid a 27-minute visit to a factory on the outskirts of town but never visited the city center. Slobodan Milosevic visited Cacak only once, 10 years ago, but was pelted with tomatoes and eggs and never returned.
Cacak historian Spomenka Aleksic says the people of Cacak are traditionally impatient as well as free thinkers and workers. As a result, she says, communism never took root in the region: "Neither in the past nor now could we tolerate dictatorship. We fought against the [Ottoman] Turks, later against other occupiers, Austria-Hungary, then against [Nazi] Germany, and today we have been fighting against the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic."
According to Aleksic, recent democratic trends in Serbia began in Cacak, which she says has been an opposition town for four years: "Milosevic's dictatorship did not take root here and local government worked democratically. [But this meant] all of the federal and [Serbian] republic institutions of power tried to suppress Cacak and its democracy, much more than other towns."
After the Milosevic regime tried to falsify the results of federal presidential elections in September, Cacak residents refused to accept defeat. They proceeded to block roads and hold nightly protests to demand that the regime concede. But the regime held on, and finally hundreds of thousands of people from across Serbia marched on Belgrade. Thousands of these were from Cacak, all led by Mayor Velimir Ilic.
Ilic, the owner of a shoe factory, is popular among ordinary people. He expounds views that might provoke derision elsewhere but are widespread and popular in Serbia. He is a monarchist and would like to see the establishment of a parliamentary monarchy modeled after Sweden.
He is also the leader of the two-year-old opposition party, New Serbia. And he played an important role in the October demonstration, bringing a bulldozer along to help clear police barricades and allow demonstrators to storm the main building of Radio-Television Serbia (RTS) in central Belgrade.
Eight weeks later, however, Ilic regrets that the overthrow of the Milosevic regime was not what he calls sufficiently thorough. He argues that without the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, "there can be no democratization of Serbia. His return to political life completely destabilizes Serbia."
Ilic says many aspects of the demonstration were planned in advance, including Milosevic's overthrow and the storming of the parliament and Serbian television. But he says there was no agreement among opposition leaders to arrest Milosevic.
Milosevic remains politically active. Late last month, he was all but unanimously re-elected as head of the Socialist Party of Serbia at a closed party congress in Belgrade. Serbia's parliamentary elections this month are expected to provide a gauge of Milosevic's remaining support.
Ilic says that he expects Milosevic's democratic successor, Vojislav Kostunica, to leave his current post as Yugoslav federal president to become Serbian republican president. But Ilic says if Kostunica does not want the job, Ilic would be willing to take it himself.
This is not an unrealistic possibility. Public opinion polls indicate Ilic is Serbia's fourth-most-popular politician, behind Kostunica and the two reformist economists Mladan Dinkic and Miroljub Labus. He is also is well ahead of the leading candidate for Serbian prime minister, Zoran Djindjic.
"If the federal state is not dissolved and Kostunica does not run as a candidate for president of Serbia, and if Montenegro does not become a problem, [and] if Kostunica doesn't run for the Serb post but remains as head of Yugoslavia, then I will certainly run for president of Serbia and I certainly will win," he says. "There is no one who could beat me, provided that Kostunica is not a candidate."
An Ilic presidency would not likely lead to any accommodation on the part of Serbia with ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosova.
Ilic says he is frustrated by the failure of the international community to find a solution to Kosova's status and by the difficulty of reaching an accommodation with the Kosovar Albanians, whom he speaks of with undisguised derision: "Quite simply, Serbia has to clarify what it wants. You see that life with the Albanians doesn't function. Serbia doesn't have any more time to waste with the Albanians. Serbia has to deal with its own issues. We in Serbia need to have a really good state, economically good and democratic, and we should forget about the Albanians. That's my vision. I don't want to hear anymore about Albanians. Living with the Albanians always led Serbia to war."
Ilic accuses the international community of failing to resolve anything by establishing a protectorate in Kosova and points to continuing violence in southern Serbia's Presevo Valley. But in an echo of the Milosevic regime, Ilic says a survey should be made to determine who the ethnic Albanians in Kosova really are.
Asked how his views on Kosova differ from those of Milosevic or Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party or Djindjic's Democratic Party, Ilic says: "All Serbs are united and all parties see eye-to-eye on this."
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.