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Newsline - January 3, 2001




PUTIN SAYS 2000 SAW NEW STABILITY IN RUSSIA...

In his message to the Russian people on 31 December, President Vladimir Putin noted that "we are leaving behind another year, a year of cheerful and tragic events, a year of difficult decisions," Russian agencies reported. And he said that "we know that on this festive night far from everyone has a lavish meal, and some homes do not have happiness and success." But despite this, the Russian leader added, the year 2000 had seen the emergence in Russia of "distinct elements of stability, something that he said "is valuable for politics, economy and everyone of us." On New Year's day, Putin hosted his predecessor Boris Yeltsin at the Kremlin, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

...MAINTAINS POPULARITY

Again at the end of the year 2000, 38 percent of Russians told Yuri Levada's All-Russian Opinion Polls Institute, that they considered Putin Russia's person of the year, Reuters reported on 2 January. The same percentage of Russians named Putin to that honor a year earlier. This continuity highlights "a very important feature of our social-political scene. We have no one else. There is only one figure on our chess board, without any alternatives, rivals or close comrades-in-arms." PG

AVALANCHE OF POSITIVE ECONOMIC NEWS...

Russia's GDP grew 7.6 percent in 2000, up from 3.2 percent in 1999. Meanwhile, the country's industrial production grew 9.2 percent in 2000, up from 8.1 percent in 1999, Interfax reported. Producer price inflation fell to 32 percent last year from 67.3 percent a year earlier. Investment in fixed capital reached 17.2 percent, up from 5.3 percent in 1999. Russia's trade surplus reached $66.8 billion, dramatically higher than the $22.6 billion a year earlier, with exports growing to $100.4 billion. More than half -- 54.7 percent -- of the exports were in the petroleum sector. Meanwhile, Prime Tass reported on 29 December that Russia's money supply minus foreign currency deposits increased 47.1 percent over the first 11 months of 2000. PG

...PUTS GOVERNMENT IN BETTER POSITION...

Russia's federal budget showed a surplus of 170.2 billion rubles ($6 billion) during the first 10 months of 2000, compared with a 43.2 billion ruble deficit in the same period a year earlier, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 29 December. These figures lead Russian officials to say that they will be able to increase social spending faster than inflation in 2001. PG

...BUT GROWTH MAY SLOW IN 2001

Experts at the economic development ministry told Interfax on 29 December that the Russian economy is likely to grow less in 2001 than in 2000. They predicted a GDP rise of 4 percent compared with 7.6 percent this year and industrial production up by 4.5 percent rather than 9.2 percent this year. The ministry experts suggested that real disposable money incomes will rise 6 percent in 2001, down from 9.6 percent this year. Russians may then dip into savings; their ruble accounts rose from 486.2 billion on 1 January 2000 to 677.9 billion on 1 December. PG

RUSSIA INTRODUCES NEW CUSTOMS REGIME...

The Russian government on 1 January introduced new customs duties on 30 percent of all imports, Interfax reported. In 88 percent of the cases, the duties will be lower than the ones they replace, and imports on goods that had been subject to maximum levies of 25-30 percent will be taxed at only 20 percent from now on. Maximum levies will be kept on cars, sugar, alcohol, and tobacco. PG

...NEW TAX SYSTEM

Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev said on Russian public television on 1 January that the Russian government has introduced several major tax changes beginning this year. Social payment taxes will now be calculated on the basis of an enterprise's average wage. "The higher [that wage] is," the television correspondent said, "the lower the rate," an arrangement intended to make it financially attractive for firms to pay using "plain brown envelopes." At the same time, Moscow is introducing a flat 13 percent income tax rate. That is designed to get the rich to declare their incomes accurately. PG

NEW-OLD NATIONAL ANTHEM APPROVED PLAYED

The Russian Federation's national anthem, combining the Soviet-era melody and new post-Soviet words, was published by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 29 December. (For the text, see the endnote below.) It then was sung out on New Year's eve. It was officially approved by President Putin on 30 December. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported, Radio of Russia head Aleksei Abakumov said that the anthem will be played on his station every day at midnight and at six a.m. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS 'SERIOUS' DIALOGUE WITH NEW U.S. BUSH TEAM

In an article in "Nezavsimaya gazeta" on 30 December and in an interview with ITAR-TASS on the same day, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Moscow will move quickly to have "a serious dialogue" with the incoming American administration. He said that he does not believe that differences between the two countries on national missile defense are insuperable. "The originality of Russia's approach [on this issue]," Ivanov said, "is that we are ready to very closely consider the concerns the U.S. administration has." Ivanov stressed that he was the first senior Russian official to meet with George W. Bush during the campaign and that he and other Russian officials know well other members of Bush's foreign policy team. PG

FSB SAYS U.S. CONCERNED BY NEW RUSSIAN MISSILE

The Russian Federal Security Service helped produce a film shown on ORT on 29 December which said that the U.S. Defense Department has intensified its efforts to learn about Russia's "Shkval" missile after the trial of Edmund Pope, Interfax reported. The film suggested that the U.S. intends to use "its commercial network cover" in Moscow to get more information because Washington now recognizes that the Shkval missile threatens U.S. plans to build ballistic missile silos on the sea floor. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS TO RELEASE 350 000 PRISONERS

Justice Minister Yuri Chaika told Interfax on 2 January that a draft amnesty bill would allow the government to release one-third of all inmates, or some 350,000 people in all. He said he expects the bill to be adopted sometime in the next six months. "Our goal," Chaika added, "is to get the maximum out of punitive practices, to move to more humanitarian methods of criminal prosecution and punishment." A 1999 amnesty led to the release of tens of thousands of convicts, some of whom had been imprisoned for serious crimes. In recent years, conditions in Russian prisons have been criticized by international human rights organizations. PG

OLENIK SUSPENDED

President Putin on 29 December issued a decree suspending Defense Ministry budget and finance chief Colonel General Georgiy Olenik, who has been charged with exceeding his authority and is being investigated for involvement in a multimillion dollar scheme between Russia and Ukraine, Interfax reported. PG

PATRIARCH BLAMES VATICAN FOR PROBLEMS

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II on 29 December expressed the hope that there will be improved relations between his church and the Roman Catholic church in the future, Interfax reported. But Aleksii insisted that the "still serious problems" between the two confessions "have arisen through no fault of Orthodox Christians." And he added that the situation in Western Ukraine is especially serious because there "three Orthodox eparchies were literally smashed up with the active support of Greek Catholics." In addition, he sharply criticized efforts by the Roman Catholic church "under the pretext of 'social work'" to convert Orthodox Christians. PG

IVANOV SAYS YUGOSLAVIA BEGINNING DEMOCRATIC CHANGE

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on Moscow television on 30 December that the recent changes in Belgrade "are undoubtedly an important event that may have a positive effect on the situation in the Balkans as a whole," Interfax reported. But he said that "this is only the beginning of the process" and that "very difficult talks on the relationship between Serbia and Montenegro are ahead," with Kosovo remaining as "an even much more complicated problem." PG

RUSSIANS UKRAINIANS BELARUSIANS WANT UNITY

A poll conducted by the Moscow Humanitarian Academy found that 61 percent of Russians, 53 percent of Ukrainians, and 69 percent of Belarusians are in favor of a new united state, Interfax reported on 29 December. Most of those supporting reunification backed the idea of a unitary state like the one in the pre-1917 Russian Empire. Only 15 percent of the Russians, 36 percent of the Ukrainians, and 19 percent of the Belarusians were against moving toward a new union. PG

REGIONAL LEADERS REVIEW ACHIEVEMENTS OF 2000...

Samara Governor Konstantin Titov told Interfax on 29 December that he considers last year's presidential election the most important event of 2000. He added that it is also important to note that "we are entering the next century with new state symbols, an anthem, coat of arms, and flag." Lipetsk Governor Oleg Korolev also considered it noteworthy that Russia has adopted new state symbols as the new century begins and that positive trends in the sphere of social development are evident. During the vote on the new anthem on 20 December in the Federation Council, Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov was the only regional leader to vote against the bill. JAC

...AND SARATOV LEADER CLAIMS CHANGE IN HIS REGION'S STATUS

Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told Interfax on 29 December that the most important achievement for his region last year was that it went from being a recipient region to a donor region, that is, a region that sends more tax revenues to the federal center than it receives back in the form of transfers from the federal budget. JAC

WATER IN EXCLAVE BAD-TASTING AND SCARCE...

Kaliningrad Oblast is suffering from a severe shortage of drinking water: the current level is around 1 million cubic meters compared to a norm of 8 million cubic meters, "Versty" reported in its December issue number 151. A five-month dry spell has reduced the region's water reserves, and the level of the Pregolya river is lower than that of the Baltic Sea, causing salt water from that body to flow into the river. According to the publication, the water from the Pregolya is not particularly palatable even when it is flowing freely, since industrial and household waste flow into it. JAC

...AS SOME SVERDLOVSK RESIDENTS RISK GETTING SICK

Meanwhile, on 29 December, local health officials in Sverdlovsk Oblast announced that more than 250,000 of the oblast 5 million residents are recieving water from the central water supply system that is potentially dangerous from the standpoint of spreading disease, Interfax-Eurasia reported. In cities with populations of more than 100,000, the cleanliness of water pipes did not correspond with acceptable norms in more than 50 percent of the cases. JAC

PRESERVATIONIST WARNS AGAINST CLONING LENIN

Academician Ilya Zbarskii told "Segodnya" on 29 December that it might be theoretically possible to clone Vladimir Lenin from molecules in his embalmed corpse, but he argued that "it hardly makes sense to clone such a cruel, such a destruction-oriented person as Lenin." Zbarskii's father was one of the two scientists who originally embalmed Lenin. The academician noted that former Russian President Boris Yeltsin had frequently talked about burying Lenin, "but I have not heard the new president make any such statement." That statement may be contradicted by a report in the 27 December "Kommersant" that Putin has made up his mind that Lenin should finally be buried. PG

SOME RUSSIANS REFUSE TO ANSWER TEST CENSUS

Some 10.1 percent of Muscovites refused to answer questions in a test census of 104,527 people that the State Statistics Committee had conducted there, in Moscow region and Primorskiy kray in advance of a nationwide count scheduled for 2002, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

WALLENBERG FAMILY DISPUTES LATEST RUSSIAN VERSION

Morris Wolff, a lawyer for the family of Raoul Wallenberg, appealed to U.S. President Bill Clinton in a 27 December letter to intervene with Russian President Putin to determine whether Wallenberg, whom the Russian authorities now acknowledge was arrested by Soviet troops in 1945 in Budapest, is still alive, AP reported. Wolff said that the family has reports that Wallenberg, who attracted international attention for his work in saving Jews from the Nazis, did not die in 1947 as Moscow insists but may still be alive. PG

ANTICIPATED CHECHEN NEW YEAR ATTACK FAILS TO MATERIALIZE

The Chechen capital experienced one of the most peaceful days for months on 1 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian military officials had predicted that Chechen fighters would launch a major New Year offensive against either Grozny or Gudermes to mark the sixth anniversary of the December 1994 onslaught on the capital. But despite those predictions, all roads in western Chechnya were open to traffic in the runup to the New year, according to Interfax on 30 December. LF

NEW CHECHEN DEPUTY INTERIM ADMINISTRATION HEAD NAMED

Rudnik Dudaev, a Moscow-based former KGB colonel who served most recently as head of the CIS Council on Relations with Muslims Abroad, was named as deputy to interim Chechen adminstration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 29 December, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 2 January. Dudaev replaces Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov and will take over from him responsibility for liaison with the law enforcement bodies in Chechnya. LF

TATAR OPPOSITION SLAMS RUSSIA'S 'COLONIALIST' POLICY

Supporters of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center convened a protest meeting in Kazan on 2 January at which they condemned what they termed Moscow's "colonialist" policy aimed at restricting the rights of Russia's national republics, RFE/RL's Tatar Service reported. Participants also criticized the decision of the Tatar authorities to proceed with the distribution of the new Russian passports, objecting that those passports "feature numerous Orthodox symbols," and that they fail to specify the holder's ethnicity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2000). Protest participants similarly condemned the adoption of the melody of the old Soviet anthem as Russia's new national anthem. LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET FOR 2001

Meeting in emergency session on 30 December, parliament voted by 99 to 14 with five abstentions to adopt the cabinet's final draft budget for 2001, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The draft, which underwent only minor changes since debates began one week earlier, sets expenditures at 247.2 billion drams ($450 million) and revenues at 193.4 billion drams. The resulting deficit, which is equal to 4.8 percent of planned GDP, will be covered mainly from external loans and grants. The volume of this year's budget is slightly smaller than that for 2000, reflecting a major shortfall in revenues last year that forced the government to abandon some spending programs. The military and related agencies will receive the largest slice of budget funds totalling 36.8 billion drams. Education will receive 30.7 billion drams, social security 28 billion and health care 18 billion. Some 17.5 billion drams is earmarked for servicing Armenia's external debt. Yerevan will also provide some 9 billion drams in financial aid to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

ARMENIA RATIFIES COUNCIL OF EUROPE CHARTER

Also on 30 December, deputies voted by 115 to one to ratify the Statute of the Council of Europe, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia is expected to be formally accepted into full membership of that body later this month. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian termed the ratification "historic," while Hovannes Hovannisian, chairman of the parliament committee on foreign affairs, said it "gives us a chance to find our place in the great European family." LF

AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT APPROVES REGULATIONS FOR STATE OIL FUND...

Heidar Aliyev approved the government-drafted regulations for the country's state oil fund on 29 December, exactly one year after instructing the cabinet to draft and submit such framework regulations within two months, Turan and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2000). Aliyev had proposed the creation of such a fund, to be administered by the Azerbaijan National Bank, in November 1999. Aliyev ordered the state oil company SOCAR to transfer the $270 million liable for payment into the fund to a special bank account by 5 January. Aliyev has not yet named the president of the oil fund; in December 1999 the independent daily "Zerkalo" predicted that his son Ilham, who is SOCAR vice-president, would be appointed to that post. LF

...PROPOSES HOLDING WORLD CONGRESS OF AZERBAIJANIS

In a 31 December address to mark the Day of Solidarity with Azerbaijanis world-wide, President Aliyev proposed convening a world congress of Azerbaijanis, to be held some time in the next three years, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev also appealed to fellow countrymen abroad "to unite around independent Azerbaijan and do their best to make the country prosperous, strong and mighty." LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY WITHDRAWS FROM REPEAT ELECTIONS

Nine candidates from the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) who had registered to contest the 7 January repeat ballot in 11 constituencies where the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary poll was invalidated (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 50, 29 December 2000), have now withdrawn from the ballot, Turan reported on 2 January. A party official explained that the decision was taken in response to the Azerbaijani leadership's failure to fulfill obligations it had given to the Council of Europe. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES LINKAGE BETWEEN RUSSIAN BASES ABKHAZ CONFLICT SETTLEMENT

Irakli Menagharishvili on 29 December denied that Tbilisi proposed during the visit one week earlier of a Russian delegation headed by Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov to allow Russia to maintain its military bases in Georgia for a further 15 years in return for more intensive Russian efforts to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 50, 29 December 2000). Menagharishvili characterized the bilateral talks as "quite fruitful;" Russian media reports had described them as tense. Menagharishvili also announced that Georgia has completed drafting a new framework treaty on relations with Russia which will be submitted to Moscow "soon," according to Interfax. LF

U.S. EMBASSY JEEP HIJACKED IN GEORGIA

A group of unidentified armed men hijacked a jeep belonging to the U.S. embassy on 29 December in the town of Gori, west of Tbilisi, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. The hijackers ordered three diplomats out of the vehicle, and handed over their belongings before driving away. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT NAMES NEW CABINET...

Askar Akaev named the members of Kurmanbek Bakiev's new cabinet on 30 December-2 January, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev named State Construction Committee Chairman Nikolai Tanaev, a Russian, as first deputy prime minister, to replace Boris Silaev, who resigned in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 2000). Arzymat Sulaimankulov was named deputy premier and minister of industry and foreign trade, replacing his former boss Esengul Omuraliev, and Osh Oblast governor Temirbek AkmatAliyev was named finance minister, replacing Sultan Mederov. Djalalabad Oblast governor Kubanychbek DjumAliyev was named minister of transport and communications, and former National Security Minister Tashtemir Aitabaev -- interior minister. Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, Defense Minister Esen Topoev, Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Kostyuk and Health Minister Tilek MeimanAliyev retained their posts. Three days later, Akaev reappointed General Bolot Djanuzakov to head the renamed National Security Service. He also appointed Roza Aknazarova minister of labor and social security and Kamila Sharshekeeva of the American University in Kyrgyzstan minister of education and culture. LF

...REGIONAL GOVERNORS

On 30-31 December, President Akaev named new governors for three of the country's seven oblasts where the former incumbents had joined the new cabinet. Former Minister for Emergency Situations and Civil Defense Sultan Urmanaev was appointed governor in Djalalabad and former state secretary Naken Kasiev in Osh. Issyk-Kul Oblast governor Toichubek Kasymov was transferred to the post of governor of Chu Oblast, which had been left vacant following the appointment of Kurmanbek Bakiev as premier. Osh City Mayor Jusupbek Sharipov replaced Kasymov as governor in Issyk-Kul. LF

UZBEKISTAN CUTS NATURAL GAS DELIVERIES TO KYRGYZSTAN

Following up on a warning delivered on 22 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2000), Tashkent on 31 December cut natural gas supplies to domestic consumers in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Uzbekistan had demanded immediate payment of Kyrgyzstan's outstanding $2 million debt for previous gas supplies, of which Bishkek then paid $600,000, according to a senior Kyrgyz government official. Uzbekistan is still supplying gas to fuel Kyrgyz heating and power stations in return for water supplies from Kyrgyzstan. LF

ELECTRICITY PRICE HIKE IN KYRGYZSTAN POSTPONED

Prime Minister Bakiev told parliament deputies on 29 December that the planned 40 percent price hikes for electricity will not go into force this winter, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 29 December, some 20 residents of the town of Naryn picketed the city administration building to protest non-payment of their social allowances for the past three months. LF

CHURCH BUILDINGS BOMBED IN TAJIK CAPITAL

Two separate bomb blasts in Dushanbe late on 31 December destroyed buildings belonging to a Russian Orthodox church and blew out windows at a Seventh Day Adventist church, Reuters and AP reported. No one was hurt by either explosion. In early October, seven people died when a bomb exploded at a Christian church mission in Dushanbe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). LF

TAJIKISTAN'S SUPREME COURT SUSPENDS OPPOSITION PARTY

At the request of the Ministry of Justice, Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 26 December suspended for six months the activities of the Adolatkhoh ("Justice") Party, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 2 January. Supreme Court judge Jalol Isroilov told the agency that the party's activities were suspended because it had violated the article of the Tajik Law on Political Parties that stipulates that all parties must maintain primary organizations in each of the country's oblasts. Adolatkhoh has primary organizations only in two raions of Sughd Oblast. In addition, Isroilov claimed, the party has failed to inform the local authorities of its activities in those districts, and has included in its membership lists persons who know nothing about the party's activities. Adolatkhoh's chairman Abdurakhman Karimov told RFE/RL on 29 December that the suspension is "an act of revenge" on the part of the Tajik leadership in retaliation for the party's opposition to incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov and his Democratic Party of Tajikistan in the November 1999 presidential elections and the parliamentary poll in February-March 2000. LF




LUKASHENKA SAYS BELARUS TO REMAIN NUCLEAR FREE

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Moscow on 1 January that Belarus has no plans to bring nuclear weapons back to its territory even if NATO expands eastwards, Interfax reported on 2 January. At the same time, he expressed the hope that the Belarus-NATO border, "which is also the Union-NATO border," will not become "a new dividing line in Europe. PG

MINSK SYNAGOGUE FIREBOMBED

As-yet unidentified assailants on 27 December threw firebombs at a synagogue in Minsk, AP reported on 29 December. A security guard was able to extinguish the flames before any serious damage was caused. PG

LUKASHENKA SAYS HE'S 'IN THE MOOD' FOR ELECTION FIGHT

Speaking at the opening of a new rail station in Minsk on 30 December, President Lukashenka said that he is "in the mood for struggle" in the upcoming presidential vote, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that he and his regime have not made any serious mistakes and "therefore we do not intend to give up power." A day earlier, Lukashenka's regime showed just what form that struggle may take. The state press committee prohibited one opposition paper from publishing satirical articles against the government and the paper thus appeared with large blank spaces, AP reported. PG

BELARUS INTRODUCES NEW CRIMINAL CODE

In a step he said would make Belarus more up-to-date and less tough, Lukashenka said on 31 December that Minsk as of 1 January will introduce a new criminal code, a new code of criminal procedure and a new code of executive procedure, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the new codes are the most liberal of any in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and correspond to all the standards of leading European countries. PG

BELARUS ENDS USE OF OLD NOTES

The Belarusian government ended on 1 January the use of the old banknotes for settling accounts, but those who hold them may still convert them at banks for the new notes at the rate of 1,000 old to one new ruble, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

INFLATION IN UKRAINE TOPS 25 PERCENT...

The inflation rate in Ukraine for 2000 was 25.8 percent, far above initial forecasts and above 1999's 19.2 percent, AP reported on 30 December. Price hikes for food and fuel are the single most important reason for the rise. In an effort to stabilize fuel prices, Kyiv signed accords for delivery of oil and gas respectively with Russia on 29 December and Turkmenistan on 2 January, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

...AS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PREDICTS BETTER 2001

Leonid Kuchma said on 29 December that inflation will fall in 2001 and the country's GDP will increase by 5 percent over the next twelve months, ITAR-TASS reported. He pointed to the National Bank's record gold and foreign currency reserves as evidence that the country will be able to repay all its foreign debts. Buoying Kuchma were the disbursal of the first installment of an IMF loan of $247 million on 22 December and of a $1,000 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Euroatom. PG

KUCHMA SEEKS FOREIGN HELP ON GONGADZE CASE

Arguing that "as president, I need the truth more than anyone else does," President Kuchma said on 30 December that he would welcome the arrival of foreign experts to probe the case of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax-Ukraine said. Meanwhile, Reporters without Borders told Interfax on 29 December that its experts will arrive in Kyiv on 8 January to investigate Gongadze's disappearance. And DPA reported the same day that Ukrainian parliamentarian (Reforms and Order Party) Serhy Holovaty said that German forensic specialists have confirmed that a body believed to be Gongadze's is in fact that of the missing journalist. PG

KUCHMA WANTS CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

On 30 December, President Kuchma repeated his argument that his country will remain in a political stalemate unless the constitution is modified to give him more powers relative to the parliament, Interfax-Ukraine reported. If there are no changes soon, he said, "parliament will remain what it has been during the past month" and "nothing sensible" will be achieved. PG

UKRAINE TO REDUCE ARMY BY 25 000

According to a decree issued on 29 December by President Kuchma on the basis of legislation approved on 7 December, Kyiv will reduce the number of uniformed service personnel by 15,000 over the next five years and the number of civilians employed by the military by 10,000, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials acknowledged on the same day that Kyiv had, as the United Nations suggested, unwittingly sold weapons to Burkina Faso that had fallen into the hands of rebels, AP reported. Such sales have been stopped, the Ukrainians said. PG

MORE PROBLEMS AT UKRAINE-RUSSIA BORDER

Border guard officials from Russia and Ukraine on 29 December told ITAR-TASS that the number of criminal groups smuggling migrants and illegal goods over the border increased during 2000. Specifically, the number of arrests of border violators by both sides grew by 33.4 percent in 2000 over the year before, while the value of confiscated contraband rose by 46.5 percent, of guns by 82.6 percent and of narcotics by 63 percent. PG

ESTONIA RAISES MINIMUM WAGE INCOME TAX FREE MINIMUM

According to an agreement concluded between the government, employers, and employees last year, the minimum wage in Estonia was raised from 1,400 kroons ($85) to 1,600 kroons a month from 1 January, ETA reported on 2 January. According to the Statistical Office, there are about 600,000 employees in Estonia, of whom around 15-20 percent are paid the minimum wage. Income tax law amendments that came into force from 1 January raised the income tax free minimum for individuals from 800 to 1,000 kroons a month. Last year this minimum had been raised from 500 to 800 kroons a month. SG

ESTONIA WANTS EU TO SET TIMETABLES FOR ENDING TALKS

Estonia's chief negotiator for talks with the EU, Alar Streimann, told Reuters on 29 December that he hopes that timetables for EU candidate countries to adjust to EU laws and standards will be set during Sweden's six month term as EU president in the first half of 2001. He welcomed Sweden's setting EU enlargement as a priority of its presidency, noting that "for the first time enlargement has been included as a separate point in the agenda for the (Gothenburg) summit at the end of the Swedish presidency." He said setting dates for wrapping up accession talks will give candidates a clearer idea of when membership will come and allow them to better plan needed transition periods. Estonia intends to fulfil all the criteria for EU membership by 1 January 2003. SG

LATVIA TO INSTITUTE DAYLIGHT-SAVING TIME THIS YEAR

The Latvian government on 2 January decided that the country will institute daylight-saving time this spring, LETA reported. Last February the three Baltic states decided not to turn back their clocks one hour in the spring and thus had the same time as Germany and Spain when these countries changed to daylight-saving time. Minister of Economy Aigars Kalvitis noted that Latvia had too few daylight hours and thus decided to comply with a draft European Commission directive that provides for instituting daylight-saving time in EU countries between 2002 and 2006. The Latvian government urged Lithuania and Estonia to adopt a similar time policy, but it appears that they will not do so and will join Iceland as the only countries in Europe not shifting to daylight-saving time. SG

EU PROVIDES FUNDING FOR CLOSING LITHUANIA'S NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis and the head of the European Commission delegation to Lithuania, Dieter Thiel, signed a financial memorandum on 29 December on the closing of the first reactor at the Ignalina nuclear power plant, BNS reported. In its national energy strategy adopted last year, Lithuania pledged to close the first reactor by 2005 and to decide the fate of the second reactor in 2004. The EU had earlier allocated 10 million euros ($9.2 million) for closing the reactor and will provide an additional 35 million euros under the terms of the memorandum. At an international donors' conference in Vilnius in June, the EU member states had promised to provide 265 million euros for closing the first reactor. Valionis said that the signing of the memorandum is concrete proof that the European Commission is carrying out those obligations. SG

POLAND ALLOWS KAZAKHSTAN'S POLES TO IMMIGRATE

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on 2 January said that ethnic Poles in Kazakhstan now have the right to immigrate to Poland under the terms of a repatriation law which went into effect on 1 January, DPA reported. PG

POLISH NURSES END SIT-IN MARCH INSTEAD

Nurses and other health care workers ended a 17-day-long sit-in at the Polish health ministry on 29 December but then joined in a march through Warsaw to protest the government's planned health care reforms, AP reported. Similar marches took place in other Polish cities, as did strikes at several dozen hospitals across the country. PG

CZECH TV UNION LAUNCHES OFFICIAL STRIKE

The Czech Television Trade Union on 1 January launched an official strike, while the rebel newscast staff who have been occupying the newsroom since Christmas to protest the appointment of Jiri Hodac as TV director general say they will continue broadcasting, CTK and AP reported. The formal strike was launched to prevent police from removing the protesters by force, since the law prevents such measures against peaceful strikers. The strike was called after police, responding to an order by Hodac who claimed many outsiders were in the newsroom, entered the premises earlier on 1 January to check the ID cards of the journalists there. The strikers are also demanding that the management remove private security guards hired by Hodac, who allow journalists to leave the room but not to return there. MS

CZECH CABINET DISCUSSES AMENDMENT TO TV COUNCIL LAW

The government is meeting on 3 January to discuss an amendment to the law on the Czech Television Council which CTK says would largely de-politicize that body. Although the Chamber of Deputies would continue appointing the members of the council, the daily "Pravo" on 3 January says council members would have to resign party membership and would not be appointed at the suggestion of parties. Instead, the chamber is to consider candidacies proposed by regional, labor, cultural, educational and minority associations and organizations. A 2 January meeting convoked by Chamber of Deputies speaker Vaclav Klaus of leaders of all parliamentary parties except the communists failed to solve differences between them on the issue, and Klaus's Civic Democratic Party remains the only formation that still backs Hodac. Klaus's compromise proposal to have both Hodac and the leaders of the strike dismissed was rejected by the other participants. MS

CZECH PREMIER MEETS CONTROVERSIAL TV DIRECTOR

Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 1 January received Hodac at his residence in Prague and discussed developments at Czech TV for about 90 minutes. Culture Minister Pavel Dostal, who later met with Zeman, said that "unlike the premier, I believe Mr. Hodac's resignation would solve the whole problem," CTK reported. Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla, who is expected to replace Zeman as leader of the Social Democratic Party, on 2 January said the strike of TV journalists is legitimate and Hodac should resign, as "he cannot decently cope with the situation." In an interview with the daily "Pravo" on 30 December, Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky also called on Hodac to resign. MS

HAVEL CONGRATULATES TV REBEL STAFF...

President Vaclav Havel on 1 January called the staff of TV news to wish them "Happy New Year," but a spokesmen for the TV journalists later said Havel's call was placed "not as president, but as a private person," CTK reported. Appearing in a TV program on 2 January, Havel's wife Dagmar expressed "solidarity" with the strikers. A large demonstration in support of these journalists is planned for 3 January in Prague. Meanwhile, some 120,000 people signed the petition in their support. MS

...AND INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR THE STRIKERS GROWS

On 29 December, the OSCE said it is "concerned" over the situation and asked the Czech Foreign Ministry for a clarification. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil on 31 December said the OSCE "does not back any of the sides involved." He added that the EU too is "carefully watching" developments. The Brussels-based International federation of Journalists said the crisis at Czech TV has become "a test for democracy in the country" and called on the EU and the Council of Europe to intervene. The Czech Helsinki Committee on 2 January demanded that Hodac be dismissed. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS CZECH DEVELOPMENTS 'WARNING FOR SLOVAKIA'

President Rudolf Schuster on 2 January told CTK that he is closely following the current dispute over Czech TV and considers it to be "a warning for Slovakia and a lesson from which Slovakia could learn." Schuster said Slovakia "is not immune" to similar developments and "we should realize this and allow Slovak TV and Slovak Radio to... remain independent," without anyone interfering with the journalists' "performance of their duty in line with their conscience." MS

SLOVAKIA HAS NEW DEFENSE MINISTER

Schuster on 3 January appointed Jozef Stank, former ambassador to the Czech Republic, as Slovakia's new Defense Minister, CTK reported. Stank was nominated for the post by the Party of Democratic Left on 29 December. He replaces Pavol Kanis, whose resignation took effect on 2 January. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS NO CHANCE OF UNIFYING ALL MAGYARS INTO ONE STATE

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in his televised address on the New Year, said that Hungarians must accept the "painful realization that there is no possibility to bring all those belonging to the Hungarian nation into one state in the near future," Hungarian media reported. Orban said that as a consequence, efforts must be made to "re-unite Hungarians in a way that bridges state borders, and accession to the EU will help achieve that aim." MS




YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER GOES TO WASHINGTON...

Goran Svilanovic left for Washington on 3 January for a three-day visit, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He is slated to meet with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other State Department officials. A department spokesman said on 2 January that any trial of former President Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia will not reduce the need to try him in The Hague as well (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). Svilanovic favors an internationally guaranteed political settlement in Kosova that "stacks the deck" against interests of the province's ethnic Albanian majority, which wants independence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2000 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 December 2000). PM

...OUTLINES POLICY GOALS TO MOSCOW

Svilanovic is also expected to visit Russia on 17 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 2000). He told Moscow's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 28 December that Belgrade's primary foreign policy goal is to join the EU, with which Serbia seeks "close cooperation." Belgrade also wants "full-scale cooperation" with both U.S. and Russia. Svilanovic argued, however, that too much has changed in international political life in the past 20 years for Yugoslavia to return to the non-aligned policies of the late Josip Broz Tito. PM

ETHNIC ALBANIAN FIGHTERS RELEASE SIX SERBS

Guerrillas belonging to the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) freed six Serbs unharmed on 1 January in Gjilan, eastern Kosova, following mediation by KFOR. The UCPMB detained the men the previous day as they were travelling through the demilitarized zone in southwest Serbia bordering Kosova. The fighters did not detain nine other, mainly elderly Serbs in the same party. KFOR commander Lieutenant General Carlo Cabigiosu condemned the incident, calling it a kidnapping. "Incidents such as this threaten to undermine the current process that seeks a resolution of the situation in southern Serbia through peaceful means," Reuters on 2 January quoted him as saying. PM

WHAT LED TO SOUTH SERBIAN INCIDENT?

It is not clear why the UCPMB detained the six Serbs. A BBC report on 31 December suggested that the fighters wanted to exchange the civilians for some of the more than 700 ethnic Albanians held in Serbian prisons. UCPMB spokesman Shaqir Shaqiri told Reuters on 1 January, however, that the six were detained to determine whether they had ever participated in atrocities against Albanians. Zoran Djindjic, who is expected to head the next Serbian government, told Beta news agency in Belgrade that U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia William Montgomery "told me that Washington had taken a strong initiative" leading to the release of the detainees. Djindjic blamed their capture on Albanian "extremists" opposed to a 30 December agreement between Serbs and Albanians to dismantle two checkpoints on an important local road and guarantee freedom of movement. PM

KFOR DEFUSES TENSIONS NEAR SERBIAN BORDER ZONE

Two KFOR soldiers entered Serbian territory adjacent to the border zone on the night of 31 December to defuse tensions in the village of Veliki Trnovac after local ethnic Albanians raised an Albanian flag, London's "Guardian" reported on 2 January. The daily added that "despite technically having no right to operate in southern Serbia, KFOR is increasingly acting as a liaison point for Serbian and Albanian forces over troubles in the Serbian zone." Following the release of the six detainees, state-run Serbian television hailed the improved cooperation between the new Serbian authorities and KFOR. In the buffer zone, a UCPMB commander said that "we want a monitoring mission and KFOR based here" because the former Serbian and Yugoslav constitutional guarantees protecting minority rights were abolished under the Milosevic regime. PM

NO SERBIAN REQUEST TO ENTER ZONE

The BBC on 2 January quoted a KFOR spokesman as saying that KFOR has not received any written request from the Serbian authorities for Serbian forces to enter the zone. PM

DJINDJIC PAVKOVIC TOUR SERBIAN BORDER AREA

Djindjic and General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commanded Milosevic's forces in Kosova in 1999 and now heads the General Staff, toured the Presevo valley on 31 December. Pavkovic kept his job the previous day when Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica sacked 13 top officers loyal to Milosevic. They included ex-Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic, Admiral Milan Zec, General Geza Farkas, and Lieutenant-Colonel Aleksandar Vasiljevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2000). Kostunica promoted General Vladimir Lazarevic, who heads the Third Army in southern Serbia. Pavkovic announced that military courts will reexamine several cases in which officers were cashiered for political reasons during the Milosevic era, AP reported. They include former top commander General Momcilo Perisic, who subsequently became an opposition politician. PM

SERBIAN COURT RULING DELAYS FORMATION OF GOVERNMENT

The Supreme Court ruled on 2 January that the recent parliamentary elections must be repeated in 19 out of 8,000 districts, London's "Financial Times" reported. The decision means that Djindjic will have to wait almost three more weeks before he can form a government, which he had wanted to do by mid-January. The governing coalition has a sufficiently strong majority that the outcome of the vote in the 19 districts will not affect the overall political balance. Djindjic plans to investigate past cases of corruption and introduce legislation to ensure transparency in use of government funds. He also wants to modernize industry, banking, and the overall legal and institutional framework in keeping with EU norms. PM

KOSTUNICA: MONTENEGRO IS 'KEY PROBLEM'

Kostunica said in his New Year's address on Serbian television on 31 December that Serbs should abandon the "need to...challenge others," AP reported. He stressed that Montenegro is his government's "key problem." He added that it will not be easy to find a solution, but that "we can do it... It is important that we know what we want and be able to talk and negotiate. We can preserve and constitutionally redefine our country, while building democratic institutions." He told the Belgrade daily "Blic," however, that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic bears some personal responsibility for the constitution that he now wants to change. Kostunica argued that Djukanovic was part of Milosevic's ruling elite when the current federation was "hastily" formed in 1992. PM

DJUKANOVIC: 'WE ALONE WILL DECIDE MONTENEGRO'S FUTURE'

Djukanovic said in his New Year's address on 31 December that "the New Year is the beginning of a big, realistic hope for Montenegro and its people. We alone will decide our future, and this is what this [dispute with Belgrade] is all about." He argued that Montenegrins have "the right to decide our own destiny, choose our own path, and reach that point in a civilized and democratic manner," AP reported. Djukanovic concluded: "Let us create together a new Montenegro, the one we deserve, a reliable neighbor to all." In an interview with the daily "Pobjeda," Djukanovic said that the problem is that "we want to run our state, but Kostunica also wants to run our state." He accused the Belgrade leadership of "patronizing" Montenegro. PM

MONTENEGRO HEADED FOR MINORITY GOVERNMENT

Supporters of Djukanovic expect to continue in office with a minority government but do not rule out the possibility of early elections, AP reported from Podgorica on 29 December. Djukanovic had previously linked new elections to holding a referendum on independence. The governing coalition broke up on 28 December when the People's Party (NS) left it to protest the government's new "proposal" on Montenegro's political future. The leaders of the NS, which favors continued ties to Serbia, argue that the proposal goes too far toward full independence. The minority government has been assured of the support of the pro-independence Liberal Party. In Belgrade, Djindjic said that his chief objection to the proposal is that it calls for both Serbian and Montenegro to be internationally recognized states with their own respective seats in the UN. He nonetheless ruled out any attempt to keep Montenegro in the federation by force, Reuters reported. He added that there have been no "painless divorces" in the Balkans. PM

PETRITSCH: 2001 IS 'MAKE OR BREAK' YEAR FOR BOSNIA

In his New Year's message, Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said that "the man who unleashed the violent beast of nationalism in former Yugoslavia and has been indicted for war crimes, Slobodan Milosevic, has at least been forced to leave the political scene," AP reported. The Austrian Balkan expert added, however, that "Bosnia has still not taken the decisive leap forward. Changes are occurring, but at a pace far too slow... The honeymoon [between Bosnia and the international community] is over for good. If we don't achieve a decisive breakthrough in 2001, Bosnia will find itself on the outskirts, but not part of European wealth and prosperity." He stressed that his three main priorities are carrying out economic reforms, building state institutions, and promoting the return of refugees and the implementation of property legislation. PM

ROMANIA TAKES OVER OSCE PRESIDENCY

The Foreign Ministry on 30 December said in a statement that Romania will "promote the ideals of peace, cooperation and security within the OSCE space" and will defend "the values of democracy, the state based on the rule of law and respect for fundamental individual rights and freedoms." Romania has taken over the OSCE rotating presidency as of 1 January, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In an interview with Mediafax on 2 January, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said the OSCE presidency is "the most important international task Romania has had in decades." He also said a meeting between President Ion Iliescu and members of the government will discuss ways to best discharge that task. MS

ROMANIAN EXTREMISTS SAY PREMIER WAS SECURITATE INFORMER

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 29 December said he "has no intention of engaging in polemics" with the Greater Romania Party (PRM) concerning allegations that Nastase served as an informer of the former communist secret services, Mediafax reported. In the last issue for 2000, the PRM weekly "Romania mare" wrote that Nastase is a Freemason (which the weekly often associates with an alleged "Judeo-Masonic" anti-Romanian conspiracy) and that he had been recruited by the Securitate as an informer. Nastase said that the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives has verified the personal files of all members of the parliament, adding that he may ask the council to verify again the files of all cabinet members. Also on 29 December, Nastase said the cabinet will set up an Office for Relations with the Moldova Republic. MS

LUCINSCHI DISSOLVES MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT

President Petru Lucinschi on 31 December signed a decree dissolving the parliament as of 12 January and scheduling early elections for 25 February, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He later told journalists that he had signed the decree now "in order not to enter a new year, a new century and a new millennium with old debts." He also called on the electorate to cast their ballots for politicians who will be "more competent and more responsible" than the members of the outgoing legislature. Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea earlier said the new parliament should revise the decision to transform Moldova into a presidential republic. MS

BALKAN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES POSTED ON INTERNET

The Bulgarian Investment Agency on 2 January announced that foreign investment opportunities for 11 countries in southeastern Europe have been posted on the Internet, AFP reported. Funded by the Balkan Stability Pact, the site www.seeurope.net contains macro-economic data and details of investment projects for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey, Albania and Yugoslavia. MS




TEXT OF NEW RUSSIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM


Russia, our sacred state!

Russia, our beloved country! A mighty will, a great glory [Are] your inheritance for all time! [Refrain:] May you be glorious, our free Fatherland, An eternal union of fraternal peoples. Popular wisdom given by our forebears. May you be glorious, country! We are proud of you! From the southern seas to the polar region Extend our forests and meadows. You are unique on earth! You are the only such! Native land protected by God. A broad space for dreams and for living, The years open up the future to us. Our loyalty gives strength to the Fatherland. Thus it was, thus it is and thus it will be forever!


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