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Newsline - January 8, 2001




PUTIN TELLS SCHROEDER RUSSIA WILL PAY ALL FOREIGN DEBTS

President Vladimir Putin on 7 January told German Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that Russia will pay all its international debts, Interfax reported. Putin's comments came as Schroeder was departing Moscow after a three day visit billed as a private one. Germany, which is Russia's largest creditor, has pressed Moscow to pay and on 5 January the German government issued a statement saying that Berlin "expects Russia to stand by its international debt service commitments in full," and that under current economic conditions, Russia is "fully capable of doing so," Reuters reported. But even as he promised to repay all international debts, Putin said that Moscow will continue to press for rescheduling, arguing that "it is in the interest of nobody in the world to put the Russian economy in a position where it will not be in the condition to fulfill its international obligations." In other comments, Putin said that any use of force in Europe is now "absolutely impermissible," and that questions of restitution of property between Germany and Russia can be the subject of negotiations. PG

PUTIN PRAISES 'PERENNIAL' CHRISTIAN VALUES

In his message on Orthodox Christmas, President Putin said that "the celebration of the great jubilee--2,000 years of Christianity--has united not only believers but all who cherish perennial Christian values," Interfax reported on 6 January. Putin said he hopes that in the new epoch, the traditions of friendship, mutual understanding and tolerance will take root in Russian society, traditions he said "have always been inherent in our multinational and multi-confessional country." PG

PUTIN DISCUSSES CHECHEN OPERATION

President Putin met on 6 January with Defense Minister Igor Sergeev to discuss the situation of the Russian armed services as a whole and "the course of the anti-terrorist operation in the Chechen republic" in particular, Interfax reported. The same day, Putin also met with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev and Presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin. PG

MOSCOW WANTS TO 'DOCK' ITS DEFENSE DOCTRINE WITH EUROPE

In advance of German Chancellor Schroeder's visit to Moscow, a senior Kremlin source told ITAR-TASS on 5 January that the Russian government wants to "dock" its defense doctrine with that of the European Union. The source was quoted as saying that "Russia is ready to coordinate the defense concepts so that security will be ensured in Europe," adding that "we appeal to Europe not to forget that Russia is part of the All-European space." PG

PUTIN DISMISSES AS 'RUBBISH' REPORTS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN KALININGRAD

President Putin on 6 January said that reports in the American press that Moscow has deployed nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad are "rubbish," Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 January 2001). Meanwhile, in an interview with RTR the same day, foreign ministry representative Aleksandr Yakovenko said that he would "not like to give credence" to suggestions that this story had been floated in the West to distract attention from reports about NATO's use of depleted uranium ammunition in the Balkans. But he added that "a number of experts really do ask this quesiton." Meanwhile, Russian military officials said they were testing the 3,616 peacekeepers to see if there had been any negative consequences from their exposure to the ammunition, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

PUTIN PRAISES YOUNG, INDEPENDENT THOUGHT

At an awards ceremony in the Kremlin on 5 January, President Putin said that recent victories by 26 Russian participants in international academic competitions demonstrate "graphically" Russia's "indisputable intellectual potential," Interfax reported. In other comments, Putin said that "the ability of independent thought is the most important quality for a modern man" and promised to work toward creating "a society attractive to young people as well as those of other ages." PG

VESHNYAKOV SEES PARTIES LAW WEAKENING OLIGARCHS

Aleksandr Veshnyakov, chairman of the Central Election Commission, told "Segodnya" on 5 January that the draft law on political parties will help to promote the transition to democracy by reducing the power of the oligarchs, Interfax reorted. He said that the government must support parties so that they do not become dependent "exclusively on financial circles." In other comments, he said that he does not think the country is ready for a situation in which the president would be a member of any particular party and that in his view, the Kremlin Property Management Office is "an anachronism." PG

2000 BUDGET REVENUES EXCEED PROJECTIONS

Budget revenues last year amounted to 1.120 trillion rubles ($40 billion) instead of the 1.103 trillion rubles anticipated in the budget, finance officials told Interfax on 5 January. These officials added that expenditures exceeded income for this period by 940 billion rubles. PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY WARNS RUSSIANS AGAINST VISITING GEORGIA

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 6 January recommended that Russian citizens avoid travelling to Georgia because of rising crime there, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that "the capture of hostages, foreigners among them, by Chechen militants and their accomplices has become more frequent not only in the Pankisi gorgebut in other regions of the country." The Georgian Foreign Ministry dismissed that statement as "irresponsible" and aimed at promoting anti-Georgian sentiments in Russia, Caucasus Press reported on 8 January. In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 8 January that if such Russian allegations continue, Georgia may ask the OSCE to deploy military observers in the Pankisi gorge, in addition to those currently monitoring the Georgian-Chechen border. LF/PG

BUSH HAS NO PLANS TO APOLOGISE

Ari Fleischer, press secretary for U.S. President-elect George W. Bush, said on 5 January that Bush has no plans to apologise to former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for Bush's suggestion last fall that Chernomyrdin had diverted IMF loans into his own pocket. Interfax on 5 January had quoted Chernomyrdin's advisor Valentin Sergeev as saying that lawyers for Bush and Chernomyrdin were discussing what form such an apology should take. PG

IS THE KGB ABOUT TO BE REVIVED?

Sergei Yushenkov told Ekho Moskvy on 5 January that it is simply "a matter of time" before the acronym KGB returns. He said that it would be the next logical step in President Putin's centralizing policies. Specifically, Yushenkov said, "I think it is quite possible that they will bring back the old name. They have brought back the old national anthem, why not bring back the usual old names?" He stressed that the old name would have a new content in the Putin era, but did not make clear which intelligence agency or agencies would comprise the new KGB. Nikolai Kharitonov, the head of the Agroindustrial group in the Duma, told Ekho Moskvy on 5 January that he would oppose the strengthening of the KGB or the Federal Security Service if it touches upon people's privacy and human rights. PG

CHECHEN WAR SEEN AS PAYBACK FOR SOVIET COLLAPSE

Writing in "Novoe vremya," no. 52, Vadim Dubnov argued that Russia is conducting the war in Chechnya at least in part because of wounded pride. "Fortunately for us," Dubnov writes, "we survived the collapse of the Soviet empire peacefully. We did not wage war on the former fraternal republics--we got down to our own Kosovo right away. To a certain extent, the Chechens had to pay for everything--for the Baltic states, for the Black Sea Fleet, for Georgia's eagerness for NATO membership, for Gorbachev and Shevardnadze." Dubnov added that Russians do not fear a continuation of the fighting "and this in itself is a real disaster. Not for the Chechens--but for us." PG

KASYANOV SIGNS ORDER TO DE-ORBIT MIR

Prime Minister Kasyanov on 5 January signed a cabinet resolution calling for "the discontinuation of the work of the orbital complex Mir," ITAR-TASS reported. According to the terms of that document, Russian space engineers are to send an unmanned cargo ship to the station on 16 January and then use the rocket's engines to push Mir into "a controlled and safe orbit" over the Pacific in February. PG

MOSCOW URGES ISRAEL, PALESTINIANS TO WORK TOWARD ACCORD

Vasili Sredin, Russian deputy foreign minister and presidential envoy for the Middle East, told Interfax on 5 January that Moscow hopes the Israelis and the Palestinians will make the most of their chances to achieve "a framework agreement" by accepting U.S. President Bill Clinton's proposals as the basis for talks. Meanwhile, Chief Rabbi Verl Lazar of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia told ITAR-TASS that Russia's participation in the talks could help resolve the conflict. And LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky suggested on 6 January that Russia should launch an international peace conference for the region, one to which the United States should not be invited so as to allow the presence of radical states from the region, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW PLANS INTENSIFIED FOCUS ON CENTRAL ASIA

First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said in Almaty on 5 January that the Russian government plans to increase its attention to Central Asia, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. But he added that "Russia, unlike certain other countries, will never resort" to bombing Afghanistan. That is "a gross violation of international law," Trubnikov said, asserting that Moscow "will not tolerate any cowboy tricks" in its foreign policy sphere. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii had suggested last summer that Moscow might launch air strikes against Taliban bases in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 May 2000). PG

NUMBER OF IMPOVERISHED IN RUSSIA DECLINES

As a result of economic developments in Russia in 2000, the number of "utterly destitute" Russians has declined from 60 million to 46 million, but that decline still leaves one-third of Russia's population below the poverty line, according to a report in "Trud" on 5 January. PG

INFANT MORTALITY RATE FALLS

The Russian Health Ministry told Interfax on 6 January that infant mortality in the Russian Federation fell to 15.8 per 1,000 live births in the first ten months of 2000. In 1999, the rate had been 16.9, and in 1990, it was 17.4. Infant mortality was highest in Ingushetia with 34.7 children dying before age one, and lowest in Samara oblast with only 10.1 succumbing during that period. PG

IMAM, VILLAGE ELDER MURDERED IN CHECHNYA

Khasmagomed Umalatov, imam of the Urus-Martan mosque, was shot dead in the courtyard of his home late on 6 January, Russian agencies reported. He was the second imam of that mosque to be killed in the past six months. Russian military commandant Lieutenant-General Ivan Babichev told ITAR-TASS on 7 January that he believes such killings are intended to intimidate anyone who is ready to cooperate with the pro-Moscow authorities. Also on 6 January, two Chechen policemen, a father and son, were shot dead by gunmen who broke into their home in Gudermes, Interfax reported. Saipudi Aksaktemirov, the head of the council of elders in the town of Argun and a member of that town's administration, was killed in unknown circumstances on 4 January. LF

GROZNY MAYOR CALLS FOR REPRISALS

Speaking on 6 January at a conference in Grozny on the prospects for resolving the Chechen conflict, Grozny mayor Beslan Gantemirov announced that "we are going to act against terrorists using their own methods," including breaking into their homes and killing them, ITAR-TASS reported. Gantemirov said he opposes any negotiations with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, arguing that Maskhadov, together with field commanders Ruslan Gelaev, Shamil Basaev and Khattab, "deceived the [Chechen] people" and "plunged the republic into trouble." He said he will not seek election as head of the Chechen Republic but will support the candidacy of interim administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov for that post. LF

NEW GOVERNOR TAPS OLD GOVERNOR FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL

Newly-elected Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev announced on 5 January that he is appointing his predecessor, Nikolai Kondratenko, as the region's representative to the Federation Council. Kondratenko tapped Tkachev, a State Duma deputy (Agro-Industrial group), as his successor after he unexpectedly decided not to seek re-election ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 11 October 2000). Kondratenko, while very popular in his own region, was perhaps best known nationally and internationally for his anti-Semitic remarks. JAC

SOME HEAT SUPPLIES CUT OFF IN SIBERIA AS WEATHER TURNS COLDER

As temperatures dipped throughout Siberia, electricity shut-downs occurred in a number of cities. On 6 January, around 200 houses in Krasnoyarsk were left without electricity due to a fault at a transformer station, Interfax-Eurasia reported. A city official said that the problem had occurred because too many residents had switched on electric heating devices. Temperatures in the city have been hovering at about minus 40-44 degrees Celsius for a week. In Novosibirsk Oblast, more than 2,500 residents in the village of Mashkovo are without heat; temperatures there are also minus 44 degrees Celsius. On 5 January, scores of office buildings and more than three fourths of apartment buildings in Birobidjan in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast were left without heat because of a water main break. JAC

MOSCOW DEPUTY MAYOR RECOVERING

Iosif Ordzhonikidze, the Russian capital's deputy mayor who was brutally attacked in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2000), is recovering and will soon return to work, his colleage Valerii Shantsev told Ekho Moskvy on 6 January. Shantsev added that there is no reason not to trust the investigators, even though no one has been arrested in the attempted assassination case. PG




AZERBAIJAN HOLDS REPEAT ELECTIONS

Elections were held on 7 January in 11 constituencies in Azerbaijan where the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary poll was invalidated. A total of 76 candidates contested those mandates, of whom 23 are members of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, which already has a majority of 72 seats in the125-seat parliament. The only influential opposition party to field candidates was the reformist wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. Voter turnout averaged 43.5 percent, AFP reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DECREES SALARY INCREASE FOR TOP OFFICIALS

President Heidar Aliyev signed a decree on 4 January raising the salaries of government ministers and regional administrators effective 1 January, Turan reported the following day. The prime minister will in future receive 3 million manats monthly ($605), the head of the presidential administration 2.8 million manats, ministers 1.1 million, and the Baku city mayor 2.2 million. The average monthly salary in Azerbaijan is 204,000 manats. Aliyev also charged the cabinet with implementing immediate salary increases of between 50-100 percent for all government employees except for the Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs. He ordered the cabinet to submit proposals for pay raises for employees of those ministries within three months. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ARGUES MERITS OF 'ZERO OPTION'

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 8 January during his traditional Monday radio broadcast that he believes it imperative that Georgia agree to Russia's proposal to forfeit any further claim on a share of the assets of the former USSR estimated at $5 billion in return for the rescheduling of Tbilisi's $168 million debt to Russia, Caucasus Press reported. The IMF has pegged the release of a $12 million tranche of a new loan program aimed at overcoming poverty in Georgia to an agreement on rescheduling those debts. Shevardnadze denied a 4 January report in the newspaper "Rezonansi" that Tbilisi has already begun talks on selling its share of the former Soviet assets. Shevardnadze had urged the Georgian parliament on 5 January to agree to the Russian proposal, but parliament majority leader Niko Lekishvili said the following day it is doubtful deputies will agree to do so. Georgian State Minister Gia Arsenishvili told Caucasus Press on 6 January that the question of debt restructuring "remains open." He added that the conditions for doing so outlined in a recent letter from Russian Finance Minister Aleksi Kudrin differ from those agreed on during talks in Tbilisi last month, but did not elaborate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 2000). LF

KAZAKHSTAN HOSTS CENTRAL ASIA ECONOMIC SUMMIT

Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov chaired a session of the Central Asian Economic Union in Almaty on 5 January, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Rakhmonov and his Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek counterparts Nursultan Nazarbaev, Askar Akaev and Islam Karimov discussed the threat to their countries posed by Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan. Karimov subsequently told journalists they are seeking "a concrete solution," that would preclude a further incursion on to their territory of Islamic militants based in Afghanistan, Reuters reported. Following criticism by Karimov that, like the CIS, the Union has adopted numerous decisions but failed to implement most of them, it was agreed on Karimov's suggestion to rename the Union the Central Asian Economic Forum and to amend its statutes. The four presidents also agreed to designate this year as the Year of Mountains in Central Asia, and that experts from the four countries should conduct an audit of the Central Asian Development Bank. LF

BELGIUM DEPORTS ASYLUM-SEEKERS FROM KAZAKHSTAN

The first group, numbering 33 people, of 2,500 citizens of Kazakhstan who had unsuccessfully applied for political asylum in Belgium were repatriated to Kazakhstan on 6 January, Reuters and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Most of the repatriants were ethnic Russians. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO PAY LESS FOR UZBEK NATURAL GAS

During an informal meeting in Almaty on 6 January, Nazarbaev and Karimov reached agreement that Kazakhstan will pay $50 per thousand cubic meters for natural gas supplied by Uzbekistan to southern Kazakhstan in 2001, Interfax reported. Under a preliminary agreeement signed late last year, the price was set at $50 per thousand cubic meters, and it was agreed that Kazakhstan would purchase between 820-850 million cubic meters during the first six months of 2001. On 5 January, Kazakhstan's First Deputy Prime Minister Daniyal Asenov told journalists that tapping the Amangeldy gas deposits in southern Kazakhstan would obviate the need for purchases of Uzbek gas. He said it is hoped to do so within four years. LF

CHINA PROVIDES EQUIPMENT FOR KYRGYZSTAN'S ARMED FORCES

A Chinese military delegation currently visiting Bishkek on 6 January presented military supplies worth 5 million yuan ($600,000) to the Kyrgyz armed forces, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The supplies include uniforms and boots for approximately half Kyrgyzstan's 10,000 troops, but no weapons, according to AP. LF

PRESIDENT SAYS TAJIKISTAN WILL NOT ADMIT AFGHAN DISPLACED PERSONS...

Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 5 January following the Central Asian Economic Union summit, President Rakhmonov said Dushanbe will not allow a single one of the estimated 10,000-15,000 Afghan fugitives from the fighting between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces now congregated on islands in the Pyandj river that marks the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan to enter the country, Reuters reported. He claimed that those fugitives include "several hundred men armed to the teeth," according to Interfax. The UNHCR representative in Dushanbe had formally asked the Tajik government one month earlier to allow the fugitives to enter Tajikistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 2000). Asia Plus-Blitz on 29 December quoted a Russian military officer who visited the border region as describing the fugitives' plight as "catastrophic." He said an unspecified number have died from cold or starvation. Iranian Ambassador to Dushanbe Saidrasul Musavi, who delivered a consignment of humanitarian aid to the displaced persons last month, similarly characterized their plight as catastrophic. LF

...REJECTS PAKISTAN'S OVERTURE TO SHANGHAI FORUM

Rakhmonov also told journalists in Almaty on 5 January that he opposes Pakistan's request for observer status with the Shanghai Forum, which comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 2001). "We're categorically against it-- against any application or wish to join," Reuters quoted Rakhmonov as saying. President Nazarbaev, for his part, said that the decision on whether to grant Pakistan's request should be taken jointly by all members of the forum, according to Interfax. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said Moscow interprets Pakistan's request as reflecting the Forum's "growing international influence," according to Interfax. He said that criteria and procedures for admitting countries outside the region to the Forum "are at the discussion stage." LF

PREPARATIONS FOR IRANIAN PRESIDENT'S TURKMEN VISIT DISCUSSED

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov met on 5 January with Iranian Ambassador Seyed Abrahim Derazgisu to discuss the preparations for Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's visit to Ashgabat, for which no date has yet been fixed, Interfax reported. The primary issue to be discussed during that visit is increasing cooperation in the oil and gas sector. The co-chairmen of the Turkmen-Iranian commission for economic cooperation initialled an agreement last November on increasing supplies of Turkmen gas to Iran (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). LF

TWO ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH MASS MURDERS IN UZBEKISTAN

Police in Bukhara on 2 January arrested a married couple suspected of having murdered at least five people and selling their internal organs for transplants, Interfax and RFE/RL's Tashkent bureau reported on 5 January. The couple ran a travel agency offering to help secure visas for persons wishing to emigrate, according to AP. A search of their home yielded 60 passports and some $40,000 in cash. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DENIES 'KREMLIN CANDIDATE' WILL CONTEST UPCOMING BALLOT

Speaking on Belarusian television on 6 January, Alyaksandr Lukashenka dismissed as "absurd" rumors that there will be "a Kremlin candidate" in the upcoming presidential vote in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "I have very good, decent and friendly relations with the Kremlin leader. We are building a union. I am the chairman of the Supreme State Council of this union. Therefore it would be ridiculous for the Kremlin to seek a replacement for Lukashenko." PG

BELARUS EXPECTS MORE ILLEGAL MIGRANTS

Officials of the Belarusian State Committee of Board Guard Troops told ITAR-TASS on 6 January that Minsk expects the flow of illegal migrants through Belarus to increase "considerably" in 2001. The committee's deputy head said that Poland's introduction of a visa regime for CIS and Asian countries is one of the major reasons for this. At the present time, officials said, there are 120,000 to 150,000 illegal migrants inside Belarus and additional groups of such migrants in adjoining Russian and Ukrainian regions. PG

BELARUS BANS SMOKING IN MEDICAL FACILITIES

Public Health Minister Igor Zelenkevich on 4 January banned smoking in all medical facilities in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. Health Ministry officials said that the country is living through "an epidemic of tobacco smoking," with nearly 50 percent of its population now smoking. They added that the ban is especially important because of the continuing impact of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and called the widespread smoking "another small Chernobyl." PG

UKRAINE'S DEPUTY PREMIER DENIES CHARGES

Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on 6 January denied charges of forgery, smuggling, and tax evasion brought against her by the Ukrainian authorities on 5 January, agencies reported. Tymoshenko, who was a close associate of former prime minister Pavel Lazarenko who was convicted of money-laundering by a Swiss court last year, and her husband, who has been arrested, are suspected of skimming millions of dollars from the country's energy complex. Tymoshenko told a news conference that "[a]ll the charges levelled at me by the prosecutors are simply a brutal falsification." She said that the the indictments against her and her husband were "orchestrated by criminal clans of oligarchs who de facto rule Ukraine." PG

FORMER KUCHMA BODYGUARD CHARGED

Ukrainian officials said on 6 January that they have begun criminal proceedings against Nikolai Melnichenko, a former presidential bodyguard who has accused President Leonid Kuchma with involvement in the disappearance of journalist Heorhy Gongadze. Melnichenko has produced tapes which he says show that the Ukrainian president and his aides discussed how to silence that independence journalist. The ensuring political crisis, now being called Kuchma-gate in Ukraine, has sparked protests in the streets and in the parliaments and calls for Kuchma to resign. PG

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS HEALTH CHECK ON UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN KOSOVA

President Kuchma on 6 January told Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk to check on the health of Ukrainian peacekeeprs in Kosovo following reports that some KFOR troops had become ill, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Kuchma is scheduled to visit Kosova on 9 January. PG

UKRAINE REJECTS MOSCOW'S CRITICISM ON LANGUAGE POLICY

The Ukrainian Committee for Information Policy, Television and Radio Broadcasting on 5 January rejected complaints by the Russian Foreign Ministry about Kyiv's language policy, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian statement said that Kyiv is trying to drive the Russian language out of the Ukrainian media. It said that the Russian statement was erroneous and unfounded. Moreover, the committee said that it proceeds "from the assumption that current problems in Ukrainian-Russian relations" in this and other spheres can be resolved by talks "without unnecessary emotions." PG

UKRAINE'S SLAV PARTY CRITICIZES LANGUAGE POLICY

The Slav Party of Ukraine has criticized efforts by the national orthodography commission to revise existing Ukrainian language rules, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. It issued a statement saying that "the Ukrainian language is being tailored to suit the taste of a foreign diaspora. Most emigrants who have left their homeland are natives of Western Ukraine, know as Galitsia, whose local dialect is infected with foreign borrowings." According to the party's leader, "the melodious Ukrainian language is being broken exclusively for its closeness to Russian." He added that he does not rule out the possibility that Kyiv's next step will be to replace the Cyrillic script with a Latin one. PG

ESTONIA'S TRADE DEFICIT INCREASES

The foreign trade deficit in November was 2.6 billion kroons ($160 million), the largest monthly deficit in the year, ETA reported on 5 January. Compared to September, imports increased by 13 percent to 7.9 billion kroons while exports grew by 9 percent to 5.3 billion kroons. Compared to November 1999, exports have grown by 55 percent and imports by 59 percent. In November, EU countries provided 77 percent of exports and 60 percent of imports and CIS countries--4 and 10 percent, respectively. SG

PROFIT OF LATVIAN COMPANIES LOWER

The Central Statistical Bureau announced on 5 January that the total profit of Latvian companies in the third quarter of 2000 was 75 million lats ($122 million), LETA reported. This was 19 million less than in the second quarter and 34 million lats less than in the first quarter. The corresponding total profitability - profit or losses before taxes against turnover - in the three quarters was three, four and six percent, respectively. The results included data from 31,800 economically active companies, of which 6,800 are large and public sector companies, and the remaining 25,000 small-size companies. SG

FOURTH LITHUANIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER APPOINTED

Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis on 5 January appointed career diplomat Evaldas Ignatavicius as his fourth deputy, BNS reported. Ignatavicius will be responsible for Lithuania's bilateral relations, with particular attention to relations with Russia. Last year he had been named general counselor to the Kaliningrad region, and earlier had headed the ministry's now defunct CIS section. The three other deputy ministers have separate jurisdictions: Giedrius Cekuolis is the senior coordinator for NATO integration, Dalia Grybauskaite is responsible for integration with the European Union and economic relations, and Oskaras Jusys is responsible for international law and consular affairs as well as relations with the United Nations. SG

LITHUANIA'S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE HITS RECORD HIGH IN DECEMBER

The Labor Exchange announced on 5 January that the number of officially registered unemployed rose 8,500 in December to 225,900, BNS reported. That corresponds to an increase of 0.5 percent to 12.6 percent. The unemployment level was 8.6 percent in Vilnius and Kaunas, 9.5 percent in Klaipeda, 16.4 percent in Siauliai, and 16.7 percent in Panevezys. Among the unemployed 54.5 percent are men and 45.5 percent women. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN CREDIBILITY AT STAKE IN KALININGRAD...

Speaking on Polish Radio on 7 January, Aleksander Kwasniewski said that he expects a complete explanation from Moscow about U.S. media reports concerning the presence of nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, DPA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 January 2001). "If it is the case that this kind of activity is being carried out secretly and that NATO partners were not informed, it would greatly undermine confidence in Russia," Kwasniewski said. Polish Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski said on 5 January that Russia is maintaining an excessive number of troops and military equipment in Kaliningrad, AFP reported. PG

...SEEKS OPEN LABOR MARKET IN EU

President Kwasniewski told the German weekly "Focus" that "we cannot accept that the European Union wants to block the free movement of labor while at the same time wanting to fetch the skilled workers from Poland that it needs today," Reuters reported. Kwasniewski was responding to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's suggestion that the EU introduce a seven-year transition period for new EU members before allowing unrestricted labor movement from those countries. In other comments, the Polish president said that calls in his own country for introducing an 18-year delay before EU citizens can buy property there are excessive. PG

POLISH PEACEKEEPERS NOT AFFECTED BY 'BALKAN SYNDROME'

After doctors examined more than 600 Polish soldiers and policemen in Kosovo for possible side effects from exposure to radiation, Polish Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski said on 7 January that none of them is suffering from what some are calling the 'Balkan syndrome.' The testing was ordered following reports that depleted uranium ammunition used by American forces there had exposed the peacekeepers to health risks. PG

CZECH LOWER HOUSE CALLS ON HODAC TO QUIT

The Chamber of Deputies on 5 January adopted a resolution saying that the appointment of Jiri Hodac as TV director last month was legal, but that Hodac's resignation has become "a necessary condition for the resumption of objective and balanced broadcasts" by Czech Television, CTK and international agencies reported. The resolution was backed by 96 deputies and opposed by 63, with 19 deputies abstaining. The resolution said that if Hodac does not resign, the Television Council which appointed him is requested to fire him on 8 January. Reacting to the resolution on 8 January, Hodac said he welcomes the acknowledgment of the legality of his appointment, but did not refer to its other points. He said he intends to leave hospital and return to work "soon". An aide to Hodac said one day earlier that he has no intention of resigning. MS

CZECH PREMIER ATTACKS HAVEL

Prime Minister Milos Zeman said during the 5 January debate in the Chamber of Deputies that he had initially backed Hodac's nomination by the Television Council but has now changed his mind because of Hodac's "managerial mistakes." Zeman criticized President Vaclav Havel's position in the dispute, saying that "any one who calls for the violation of valid laws, even the head of the state, does not have a justification for being in politics." Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel welcomes the chamber's resolution as a "victory for common sense" and that Havel will "insist on an apology" from Zeman for "an unprecedented and unjustified attack by a premier against the president of the Republic." Civic Democratic Party (ODS) chairman Vaclav Klaus warned in his speech that there could be "nothing worse" for the country than "a victory for an employee rebellion." MS

TV CONFLICT TO TRIGGER END OF 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT'?

The passing of the parliament resolution with the support of mainly the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Four Party Coalition could signal the end of the so-called opposition agreement between the CSSD and the ODS, according to local observers. Jiri Pehe, a former adviser to Havel, said on Czech Television on 7 January that the vote may have sowed the "germs of possible cooperation" between them, and political scientist Jiri Kucera said this was "a clear signal that the future of the opposition agreement is not very hopeful." Sociologist Ivan Gabal said the ODS has "suffered a total defeat" that may eventually diminish Klaus's prospects of being elected president. On another TV program, Klaus said the conflict is the outcome of a "provocation" by people around Havel and the Freedom Union, who are "afraid of a possible agreement of the right wing forces." MS

CZECH COURT RULES ON OLD TV DISPUTE

A spokesman for the Independent Television Company (CNTS) on 4 January said the company will appeal against the ruling of a Prague court of justice that declared invalid a 1999 decision to dismiss Vladimir Zeleny from the position of CNTS manager. Zeleny was dismissed from that post by CNTS's owner CME, which is owned by U.S. businessman Ronald Lauder. Following that decision Zeleny, whose firm CET 21 has run Nova TV, cut ties with the CNTS, and Lauder says this caused the CME losses of millions of dollars. The CME says the dismissal was due to the fact that Zeleny, the holder of the Nova TV license, was acting as both employer and employee. MS

CZECH CULTURE MINISTER FILES CHARGES AGAINST HODAC

Culture Minister Pavel Dostal on 5 January filed charges against Hodac after having received legal advice from experts, CTK reported. Dostal says that by blackouting broadcasts, Hodac has prevented Czech audiences from learning about a cabinet resolution to amend the law on the appointment of TV and Radio councils by the legislature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 January 2001). MS

TEMELIN MALFUNCTIONS AGAIN

The controversial Czech nuclear power plant at Temelin on 7 January briefly stopped operating after a malfunction of the non-nuclear circulatory system in a reactor block. The reactor was restarted shortly after, CTK and international agencies reported. MS

SLOVAK FAR-RIGHT DEPUTY 'IMPROVES' PLAN FOR ROMANY 'RESERVATIONS'

Slovak National Party (SNS) deputy Vitazoslav Moric, who was charged last year with disseminating racial and religious intolerance, on 6 January told Radio Twist that his proposal that "reservations" be set up for "unadaptable Roma" was intended to establish "communities of people who would receive all-around education, so that they become good citizens of the Slovak Republic," CTK reported. He said that in those reservations such "unadaptable citizens" would have "all necessary conditions for life except money." They would get money only if they "fulfill certain conditions" such as work "in the public service" or in "education for ethics and morals." On 5 January, Radio Twist reported that the Bratislava Prosecutor General's office has dropped the charges brought against Moric in October, following an appeal by the SNS deputy. CTK said new charges may now be brought against him. MS

SLOVAK ASYLUM SEEKERS REACH RECORD IN CZECH REPUBLIC

Seven hundred and twenty Slovaks, most of them members of the Romany minority, requested asylum in the Czech Republic in 2000, TASR reported on 5 January, citing a Czech Interior Ministry spokesperson. This is the highest number of asylum requests ever submitted by Slovak citizens since the split between the two countries, but none of the requests has so far been successful. The previous record --19 requests--was registered in 1997. MS

CZECH COURT RULES ON OLD TV DISPUTE

A spokesman for the Independent Television Company (CNTS) on 4 January said the company will appeal against the ruling of a Prague court of justice that declared invalid a 1999 decision to dismiss Vladimir Zeleny from the position of CNTS manager. Zeleny was dismissed from that post by CNTS's owner CME, which is owned by U.S. businessman Ronald Lauder. Following that decision Zeleny, whose firm CET 21 has run Nova TV, cut ties with the CNTS, and Lauder says this caused the CME losses of millions of dollars. The CME says the dismissal was due to the fact that Zeleny, the holder of the Nova TV license, was acting as both employer and employee. MS

DID HUNGARIAN SOLDIER DIE OF LEUKEMIA?

The Hungarian Defence Ministry has denied reports that a Hungarian soldier serving in Bosnia, Istvan Kormendi, died of leukemia in September 1999. Ministry officials described as "unnecessary hysteria-mongering" reports linking leukemia cases and depleted uranium shells used by NATO forces in the Balkans. However, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 8 January that according to the ministry's health group leader, Laszlo Sved, leukemia was one of several diagnoses in the final autopsy on Kormendi. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS TO FIGHT PRESS CRITICISM

The Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) announced on 4 January that it has submitted to parliament a draft law which would give politicians the right to appeal to a court to make newspapers publish corrections to editorials. The new law would treat opinion pieces as factual news articles. According to the proposal, the space allotted in the newspaper for the correction or reply should be in the same spot and as large as the offending original. The FKGP has been at the center of a recent series of corruption charges reported in the Hungarian media. MSZ




HAGUE TO SERBIA: WE MAKE DECISION ON TRIAL

Florence Hartmann, who is spokeswoman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, said on 5 January that "Yugoslavia as a member of the United Nations has to comply with its international obligations. They have to cooperate with us. We don't have to cooperate with them." She added that the location of the trial of former President Slobodan Milosevic is "not negotiable. It's clearly written [in his indictment] that he's expected in The Hague," AP reported. Hartmann noted that Del Ponte is not opposed to some of the hearings taking place in Serbia, but stressed that the tribunal will make the decisions, not the Serbian authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 2001). That same day, tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier reminded the Serbian authorities that they are "obliged" to extradite Milosevic as well as all other indicted war criminals on Serbian territory, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BELGRADE WANTS SERBIAN TRIAL

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said recently that Milosevic should be tried in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 5 January 2001). On 7 January, governing coalition leader Vladan Batic, who is widely expected to be the next Serbian justice minister, also called for the trial to take place in Serbia. He argued that "a locally held trial is being more and more mentioned as a realistic possibility," AP reported. Batic added that charges could include "inciting national, racial, and religious hatred and divisions...; abuse of public office..., violation of rights of citizens, (and) spreading of false information." Serbian Professor Dusan Batakovic told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service recently that it was not important how the U.S. authorities came to jail the gangster Al Capone, but that they jailed him. Capone ultimately went to prison on a tax evasion charge (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 23 and 30 November 2000). The fundamental principle of the war crimes tribunal is that individuals must be tried for their war crimes lest entire peoples be tarred with the brush of collective guilt. PM

YUGOSLAV MINISTER: TOP BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS NOT IN SERBIA

Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 5 January that Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic are not on federal Yugoslav territory, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Mladic had been widely reported to be living in Belgrade prior to Milosevic's overthrow in October. Also on 5 January in the Serbian capital, Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia called Svilanovic's pledges to cooperate with the Hague-based tribunal "contrary to the national and state interests of the Serbian people." Svilanovic and President Vojislav Kostunica have argued that they are obliged to cooperate on the basis of the 1995 Dayton peace agreements, to which Milosevic himself was a signatory. Del Ponte is expected in Belgrade shortly to discuss the modalities of that cooperation. PM

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER SEES END OF SANCTIONS

Svilanovic told a Washington press conference on 5 January that his country's top priority is getting out of its economic crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "Endnote," 5 January 2001). He called upon U.S. businesses to invest in the Yugoslav economy and help in its development, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Top German business representatives with long experience in the former Yugoslavia told "RFE/RL Newsline" recently that Serbia will have to make fundamental changes in its business culture and legislative framework if it is to attract any considerable amount of Western money. Several leaders of the governing coalition have also told "Newsline" that they are acutely aware of the magnitude of the problems, adding that they have no time to lose. In Belgrade on 6 January, Svilanovic said that he hopes that the U.S. will lift most of its remaining sanctions against Serbia in the "next few days." That, he added, will be the "main result" of his visit to Washington. PM

YUGOSLAV BANK HEAD RULES OUT MONTENEGRIN DELEGATION TO SUCCESSION TALKS

Mladjan Dinkic, who is governor of the Yugoslav National Bank, rejected Montenegrin demands that the mountainous republic have its own representation at the next round of talks aimed at dividing the assets of the former Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 5 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2000). Dinkic said that Podgorica has the right to its own representation only if it becomes an independent country. The Montenegrin authorities say they will refuse to recognize any settlement unless they have their own delegation. PM

POLITICAL DEAL IN MONTENEGRO?

A deal between the two largest parties in Montenegro appears to be shaping up, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 6 January. Under the reported terms, President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists would agree to hold early parliamentary elections separately from a referendum on independence. In return, the pro-Belgrade Socialist People's Party would agree not to boycott the referendum. PM

SERBIAN MEDICAL OFFICIAL: NO RISE IN LEUKEMIA IN YUGOSLAVIA

Dr. Slobodan Cikaric, who heads the Belgrade Oncological Clinic, said on 5 January that there has been no recent rise in the incidence of leukemia or other cancer-related illnesses in Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 2001). He added that it usually takes between two and five years for leukemia to develop, and that the illness can last for a decade. PM

UN: INCIDENCE OF LEUKEMIA IN KOSOVA ON DECREASE

In Prishtina on 6 January, the WHO said in a statement that an "initial survey showed the incidence of leukemia in Kosovo has not increased. In fact there was a slight decrease in leukemia in the year 2000 as compared with 1997 and 1998. After consultations with nuclear and health experts, international health professionals in Kosovo determined the potential public health hazards related to depleted uranium exposure were not high. They decided to devote their major efforts to rebuilding the Kosovo health system, launching a vaccination program," Reuters reported. PM

POLITICAL MOTIVE BEHIND 'BALKAN SYNDROME' SCARE?

Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 5 January that he believes that that the current campaign is simply a continuation of a Milosevic-era one aimed at discrediting NATO intervention in Kosova in 1999. Rugova said in Prishtina on 5 January that he and Italian Deputy Defence Minister Marco Miniti "agreed that research should be carried out to prove this propaganda wrong, because this might be propaganda against Kosova by those who opposed NATO intervention. Among our population there haven't been cases of uranium-related diseases. We will look into this situation, and there will certainly be scientific explanations which will be made public," Reuters reported. The Sarajevo daily "Avaz" on 8 January quoted a Kuwaiti expert as saying that the scare is aimed at prompting Western countries to withdraw their forces from the Balkans. PM

BRITISH PEACEKEEPERS DETAIN ETHNIC ALBANIAN FIGHTERS

British KFOR troops arrested nine armed, uniformed ethnic Albanians on 6 January after the men crossed into Kosova from the Presevo region of southwestern Serbia. A tenth man is still at large. Four men in civilian clothing were detained separately from the other nine at the U.S. base, Fort Bondsteel, AP reported. The uniformed men are suspected of being fighters of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB). NATO is seeking to block the flow of men and arms between Kosova and the other side of the border. PM

MACEDONIA DENIES SERBIAN REPORTS OF GUERRILLA BASES

On 5 January in Skopje, the Interior Ministry denied recent claims by the Yugoslav Army that the UCPMB has bases on Macedonian territory from which fighters are infiltrated into Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. An unnamed "high officer" of the ministry said that the charges are aimed at dragging his country into the fight in southwestern Serbia. PM

BOSNIAN MUJAHEDEEN DETAINED

Police detained three Islamic fighters of Middle Eastern origin in Bocinja on 4 January after SFOR peacekeepers tried to prevent a prayer meeting of Islamic veterans. SFOR has been trying for some time to encourage the remaining 14 mujahedeen families to leave the area. The men, who acquired Bosnian citizenship by marrying local women, say they have nowhere to go, AP reported. PM

ROMANIA FACING SEVERE DROUGHT

The cabinet on 4 January discussed measures to cope with an expected severe drought and decided to introduce a water rationing and power cuts program. Petre Marinescu, chief of the National Water Utility, said Romania is facing its most severe drought in 50 years. He warned that water supplies to towns may have to be totally cut off and agricultural production may face further setbacks, after it already dropped by 6 percent last year. On 5 January, Water and Environment Protection Minister Aurel Constantin Ilie said that water rationing measures have already been introduced in several parts of the country. He said rationing of water for the population will be introduced "only as a last resort," to be preceded by rationing for industry and agriculture. MS

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SAYS NO SIGNS OF 'BALKAN SYNDROME'

The Defense Ministry on 5 January said no Romanian military personnel who participated in peace keeping operations in Bosnia have been found to suffer from any illness due to radioactive emissions, Romanian Radio reported. MS

ROMANIAN COMMUNISTS WANT TO EXHUME CEAUSESCU

Ion Cristian Niculae, chairman of the extraparliamentary Romanian Workers' Party (PMR), on 7 January demanded that the remains of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu be exhumed. "We have information that he was tortured before he was shot and we want [President Ion] Iliescu to tell us what happened," AP cited him as saying. The PMR was set up in 1995. In 1998, the Bucharest Municipal Tribunal refused to approve the party's change of denomination to the Romanian Communist Party. MS

TIRASPOL SAYS ROMANIA CANNOT BE OSCE MEDIATOR...

The Transdniester conflict "cannot be rapidly solved" if Romania takes over the role of OSCE mediator, as Bucharest has "a negative attitude" towards the "Transdniester Republic," the governmental newspaper "Pridnestrovie" wrote on 5 January. The publication also said Romania, which took over the rotating OSCE chairmanship on 1 January, is likely to raise the case of Tiraspol-imprisoned Ilie Ilascu, who has been elected a senator to the Romanian parliament. Valerii Litskai, the separatist "foreign minister," earlier said that the OSCE has designated Portugal to be the OSCE mediator in the Transdniester conflict, and "Pridnestrovie" says that decision is "rational" because "unlike Romania, Portugal is a neutral party in the conflict," Flux reported on 5 January. Ilascu has been appointed a member of the Romanian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. MS

...SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH GAGAUZ-YERI

Separatist leader Igor Smirnov and Dumitru Croitor, head of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region in Moldova, signed an accord in Tiraspol on 4 January for the "regional integration" of the two sides in the economic, financial. environmental, transportation, health care and cultural spheres. The sides will also open "representations" in Comrat and Tiraspol, respectively, Flux reported the following day. MS

MOLDOVAN CENTER-RIGHT PARTIES FAIL TO SET UP ALLIANCE

Parleys between the Party of Conciliation and Rebirth headed by former President Mircea Snegur and the popular party Christian Democratic led by Iurie Rosca have failed to bring about an agreement on running jointly in the early elections scheduled for February, Romanian radio reported on 7 January. The two parties had run on the joint lists of the Democratic Convention of Moldova in the 1998 elections. Their leaders said that they hope to collaborate in the next legislature "in order to oppose the communists." MS

BULGARIAN LEFTISTS FORM NEW ALLIANCE

The main opposition Socialist Party (BSP) on 7 January forged an electoral alliance with three leftist extra-parliamentary formations ahead of the new parliamentary and presidential elections later this year, Reuters and AP reported. The name of the alliance, which also includes the Social Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Movement, and the United Labor Bloc, is the New Left. The agreement stipulates that the alliance is based "on the values and principles of the modern European left and Social Democracy" and that it would "continue the policy of speedy accession to the EU and NATO." BSP leader Georgi Parvanov said the formation of the alliance means that "the left parties want power." He said the New Left will try to form a broad coalition government that will "implement a new, social-liberal political model." MS

BULGARIAN PEACE KEEPERS SHOW NO SIGNS OF 'BALKAN SYNDROME'

Defense Minister Boiko Noev on 7 January said "no irregularities" have been found during the medical examinations carried on members of the Bulgarian peace keeping forces serving in Kosova, dpa and AP reported. A six-member military medical team traveled to the province last week to examine the Bulgarian contingent deployed there. Colonel Petar Petrov, head of the army's department of nuclear, chemical and biological defense, told reporters that testing also revealed "no radioactive contamination in the places where Bulgarian soldiers live and serve." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DENOUNCES PRO-NAZI INCIDENT

President Petar Stoyanov said on 4 January the Bulgarian people "will never accept individuals or groups with a Nazi ideology," BTA reported, citing the presidential office. The remarks were made following an incident on New Year's eve in Sofia's Alexander Batemberg Square, in which people waved a flag with the swastika. Stoyanov said Bulgaria "must on no acount allow a handful of people to stain its image, which has been created not only in the course of the last 10 years, but also during World War II, when Bulgarian citizens served as an example to many European nations by showing solidarity with, and tolerance toward, persecuted Jews." Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov said he doubts the culprits can be identified from among the multitudes who were in the square at the time. MS

LIBYA POSTPONES TRIAL OF BULGARIAN MEDICS

A Libyan court on 6 January postponed for the eighth time the trial of six Bulgarian medical staff charged with deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus, Reuters reported citing Bulgarian sources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2001). MS

BULGARIAN ARCHIVE DOCUMENT LINKS COMMUNIST OFFICIAL TO PERSECUTION OF TURKS

A document discovered in the Interior Ministry archives and released by RFE/RL's Sofia bureau on 5 January shows that in December 1984 former communist Interior Minister Dimitar Stoyanov ordered his staff to force the million-strong ethnic Turkish minority then living in the country to adopt Slavic names. At a meeting of top ministry officials, Stoyanov instructed security officers to "start renaming all Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin, in all districts where such a population exists." Stoyanov, who served as Interior Minister between 1981 and 1989, died last year. The campaign directed against Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish minority by the Todor Zhivkov regime spurred some 300,000 members of that minority to flee to Turkey in the mid-1980s. MS




THE RISE OF RUSSIA'S SECURITY COUNCIL


By Donald N. Jensen

Vladimir Putin has transformed Russia's Security Council, a traditionally advisory body, into a major policy-making forum. It is unclear, however, whether he seeks to use the Security Council as a counterweight to other presidential structures, or to give it the pivotal role in governing the country. Meanwhile, Council secretary and Putin ally Sergei Ivanov, perhaps the second most powerful politician in Russia, reportedly may be line to be the next Defense or Prime Minister. In addition to Ivanov and Putin, who serves as ex-officio chairman, Security Council members include Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin, as well as other cabinet members, the heads of the foreign and domestic intelligence services and law enforcement officials.

Since its creation in 1992, the Security Council has functioned--not always successfully--as a permanent presidential staff and a forum for discussing policy. Although Yeltsin originally set up the Council as an alternative to existing security structures, opposition from entrenched bureaucratic interests prevented the Council from becoming fully established. Nevertheless, the body served as an effective war council during the first Chechnya conflict, when then-head Aleksandr Lebed used it to broker a settlement. (The Council also was influential when oligarch Boris Berezovsky held the post of deputy secretary in 1996-97.)

In 1999, Putin combined the post of Security Council Secretary with that of head of the Federal Security Service. He began to build up the Council when he became acting president a year ago and named ally Sergei Ivanov, who like Putin is a career KGB officer from St. Petersburg, to head the body.

Under Ivanov the council has given the broadest possible interpretation to the concept of national security, with the scope its work often resembling that of the old Soviet Politburo. The council has helped draft the country's new national security and foreign policy doctrines, took the lead in military reform--it was the arbiter of a dispute last summer between Defense Minster Sergeev and General Staff Chief Kvashnin--and led the recent reorganization of the military-industrial complex. In addition, the council has crafted the so-called information concept, which would impose restrictions on the country's press, and has debated the country's hemorrhaging of capital abroad.

But there have also been several missteps along the way. It was the council, according to press reports, which recommended that the Kremlin continue backing Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosovic until just before his fall. Putin sent an initial draft of the military doctrine back to the council for review after some Russian generals complained about unspecified aspects of that document.

Ivanov has repeatedly denied that the Security Council plays a role in policymaking. He claims it is advisory only and notes that many government ministers are members. In recent months, however, the Council has taken on executive and administrative functions. Several sources suggest that the security services have used the Council, via Ivanov, to lobby for increasing the state's role in the economy and to launch a severe crackdown on Russia's oligarchs.

As with other Russian politicians, Ivanov has been linked to large sums of money. The recent reorganization of the country's lucrative arms export industry reportedly puts the profits from that sector under the control of Ivanov and his KGB associates from St. Petersburg. The Council's clout derives, above all, from Ivanov's close relationship to Putin. Ivanov is reportedly one of the few officials with direct access to the president and often accompanies Putin on his trips abroad. The Council's centralized, hierarchical structure, moreover, also matches Putin's governing style.

Yet Putin has not indicated unequivocally that he wants to make the Security Council his principal instrument of rule. True, the President has given Ivanov responsibility for the seven viceroys overseeing Russia's provinces--regional policy had previously been the purview of the Presidential Administration, the council's powerful bureaucratic rival. But Putin has publicly stated that Presidential Administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin, a Yeltsin holdover, will continue in his post. Voloshin continues to play a key policymaking role. Competition between the two bodies is thus likely to continue, especially as Ivanov and Voloshin reportedly disagree on how much control to exert over the media and how the Kremlin should deal with the business oligarchs. The two men also backed different candidates in recent gubernatorial elections in Kursk and Kaliningrad. Although this competition can create policy confusion, it gives Putin political cover by allowing him to maneuver via an informal system of checks and balances.

In the coming months, the Security Council's formal authority may grow. A bill pending in parliament provides that in cases of acute national crisis, the president can decree a state of emergency under which the Security Council would run the country. Another proposal would give the Council secretary the power to compel other officials to comply with its decisions.

There are signs, however, that Ivanov may soon move on. His formal retirement as an intelligence officer last month was widely interpreted as a step toward his becoming a civilian Defense Minister--out of uniform Ivanov might be better able to restructure the armed forces, whose leaders have sometimes publicly disagreed with him. He is also seen by many as a possible replacement for Prime Minister Kasyanov, to whom Ivanov's rival, Voloshin, reportedly has close ties. Without Ivanov to head it, however, and given the court politics of the Kremlin--where personality counts for much--the Security Council might again fade into obscurity. Donald N. Jensen is Associate Director of Broadcasting at RFE/RL


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