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Newsline - January 10, 2001




MOSCOW MAKES PARTIAL PAYMENT TO PARIS CLUB...

A finance ministry source told ITAR-TASS on 9 January that Russia will transfer $10 million to the Paris Club as a partial payment on its unrestructured Soviet-era debt. He said the delay in making this payment was caused "exclusively by holidays which slowed down interbank transfers in general." Meanwhile, the "Financial Times" reported that Russia and Germany will continue debt restructuring talks in Berlin on 15 January. PG

...BUT KASYANOV SAYS PAYING MORE WOULD ENDANGER RUSSIA

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 9 January that Russia cannot meet its scheduled payment on Soviet-era debt without putting the welfare of its citizens at risk, AP reported. Kasnyanov acknowledged that the state budget does not call for meeting the debt repayment schedule of the Paris Club countries. Kasyanov said that the Russian state budget would be in deficit in January, the first time in 18 months, Interfax reported. He blamed the deficit on cold weather. PG

EBRD PREDICTS RUSSIAN POSITION WILL HARDEN...

Jean Lemierre, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, told Reuters in Tokyo on 9 January that "it's very clear that Russia will apply a high degree of pressure to get something" in talks to reschedule $48 billion in debts to Paris Club members. Lemierre said that Russia's 2001 budget is "very strict" and consequently Moscow would like to get some relief and understanding from its creditors. But at the same time, he said that any debt for equity swap such as Moscow has proposed would have to be studied very carefully. PG

...AND 'IZVESTIYA' NOTES DANGERS OF NON-PAYMENT

In the 9 January issue of "Izvestiya," Elena Korop and Vladimir Tsypin argue that any failure to pay the Russian debt to the Paris Club countries could have negative consequences both abroad and at home. Abroad, they note, a failure to pay on time could lead to the seizure of former Soviet property and to the "final destruction of the reputation of Russian business." At home, it could reinforce the Soviet-era attitude that one need not pay one's debts if he can get away with it and thereby limit Russia's "historic chance" to become part of the world economy. PG

CAPITAL FLIGHT GREW 30 PERCENT IN 2000

Mikhail Delyagin, who heads the Institute for the Problems of Globalization, told Interfax on 9 January that capital flight from Russia in 2000 had amounted to approximately $24.6 billion, up from an estimated $18.6 billion a year earlier. The figure for 2000 was only slightly below that of the record year of 1998, Delyagin said. PG

RUSSIANS URGE UN STUDY OF 'BALKAN SYNDROME'

Russian political figures and senior officers on 9 January called for a thorough investigation into all leukemia cases among servicemen deployed in Kosovo under UN auspices, ITAR-TASS reported. Such investigations are needed, these officials said, to determine whether NATO's use of spent uranium in shells was to blame. ("Izvestiya" noted that five Italian soldiers had died from leukemia in December 2000 alone and that another 20 had come down with various forms of cancer.) Eduard Vorobev, the deputy head of the Duma defense committee, said that "accusations against Americans on the use of those barbaric weapons in Yugoslavia should be either confirmed or removed. The developments have gone too far," he continued, "and now it is impossible to confine ourselves to the discussion in the press alone." Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Boris Alekseev, the head of the Russian military's ecological security service, told Interfax that an international investigation is needed because "representatives of the North Atlantic alliance have not tried to establish the true extent" of the problem. Russia is already testing its own peacekeeping troops in Kosovo and will dispatch an experts team there in the near future, AP reported on 9 January (see also Part II below). PG

MOSCOW DEMANDS ALGERIA FIND KILLERS OF FOUR RUSSIANS

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called on Algeria to investigate the killing of four Russians in that north African country and to bring those responsible to justice, Russian and Western agencies reported on 9 January. The bodies of the four were discovered on 8 January about 400 km east of Algiers. The Algerian government has sent its condolences and promised to provide increased protection for Russians working in that country. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax that Moscow has no plans to recommend that Russian citizens not travel to Algeria. PG

KASYANOV EXTENDS COMPLETION DEADLINES OF FEDERAL PROGRAMS...

Prime Minister Kasyanov has issued a decree extending a series of federal programs in the economic, health, and transport areas, Interfax reported on 9 January. Many programs which were set for completion in 2000 will now be finished only several years later, the news agency said. Meanwhile, the government announced plans to spend more than four billion rubles ($145 million) over the next five years to help young people, the news service said. PG

...AS GOVERNMENT STEPS UP THE PACE OF WORK

"Izvestiya" noted on 9 January that the Russian government will be increasing the pace of work in the first months of 2001. It said that there are now eight working groups preparing new laws and regulations which are to report in January and February. It said that some 53 federal programs are being revised. And it noted that if President Vladimir Putin hopes to introduce a new constitution before 2003, the Russian government will almost certainly have to begin work on it sometime this year. PG

SWEDEN HOPES TO LOCK RUSSIA INTO WORLD ECONOMY

Swedish Trade Minister Leif Pagrotsky said on 9 January that Stockholm will use its term as chief of the European Union to help Moscow join the World Trade Organization to prevent it from being "tempted by isolation," AP reported. At the same time, Pagrotsky said that Russia must pay its debts to the Paris Club: "We want them to pay their debt and with the current oil prices they can afford to do so." PG

LOWER POSITIVE TRADE BALANCE PROJECTED FOR 2001

Russia's foreign trade balance will remain positive but be 1.5 times smaller in 2001 than it was in 2000, the First Deputy Minister of Finance Aleksei Ulyukaev told AFI on 9 January. He said that this trend reflects both falling world prices for oil and gas and also increased Russian purchases of imports. PG

ROGOZIN PROPOSES RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS FOR MIDDLE EAST SETTLEMENT

Dmitriy Rogozin, the chairman of the Duma's foreign relations committee, told Israel's Russian-language newspaper "Vesti" on 9 January that a Russian peacekeeping contingent under the UN flag could help to guarantee a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Interfax reported. He stressed that this was his personal opinion. PG

TED TURNER MAY INVEST IN NTV

Ted Turner, the founder of CNN and vice president of Time-Warner, is discussing the possibility of making major investments in Russian media companies, including NTV, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. Turner said that the talks with NTV had been difficult but that he hopes for success. PG

SUTYAGIN TRIAL AGAIN POSTPONED

The Kaluga regional court on 9 January postponed for the second time, until 26 February, the trial of Igor Sutyagin, a specialist on arms issues who has been in jail since being charged in October 1999 with espionage, Russian and Western news services reported. PG

ANOTHER MOSCOW BUSINESSMAN MURDERED

The deputy director of the Paris Commune shoe factory was shot dead in the stairway of a house in Moscow on 9 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The police have not released the name of the deceased, but they have issued a preliminary finding that his murder was "a contract killing." PG

PUTIN RESHUFFLES LEADERSHIP OF ST. PETERSBURG FSB

President Putin has signed a decree removing Aleksandr Grigorev as director of the Federal Security Services (FSB) directorate for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, "Segodnya" reported on 10 January. Replacing Grigorev will be Lieutenant General Sergei Smirnov. Grigorev, who is reportedly an old friend of President Putin and attended university with him in Leningrad, has been involved for some months in a fairly open conflict with presidential envoy to the Northwestern federal district Viktor Cherkesov, a former FSB official in St. Petersburg, the daily alleged. Smirnov too is a former associate of Putin's. When Putin became the director of the FSB, he sent Smirnov to Moscow where he was until recently serving as deputy head of the Federal Guard Service. JAC

GOVERNORS RACE HEATS UP IN TYUMEN?

ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January that four campaigners for Tyumen incumbent Governor Leonid Roketskii were beaten up while trying to distribute campaign materials in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug on 7 January. In addition, the life of one campaigner was allegedly threatened. According to the agency, other representatives of Roketskii have faced pressure during the lead-up to the 14 January election in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The governors of the two okrugs recently published in two local newspapers an appeal to voters to support Roketskii's chief rival in the race, Sergei Sobyanin, first deputy presidential envoy to the Urals federal district (see also "Endnote," "Russian Federation Report," 6 December 2000). Last month, Sobyanin's boss, presidential envoy to the Urals district Petr Latyshev, told reporters in Sverdlovsk that the gubernatorial campaign in Tyumen has been "particularly dirty" and that "enough facts have come to light to begin legal procedures against the local mass media [there]." JAC

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO COVER EXTRA COSTS OF FRIGID WEATHER

Prime Minister Kasyanov told reporters on 9 January that despite the unusually cold weather in Siberia, particularly in Tomsk and Novosibirsk Oblasts, "the situation there remains under control." Kasyanov reported that "in some regions, the low temperatures have tripled costs for local budgets." In Novosibirsk, for example, a heating pipeline ruptured and had to be repaired. Kasyanov pledged that the government will make additional transfers to cover the regions' costs. In Tomsk Oblast, the temperature reached minus 50 degrees Celsius on 9 January, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

RAIL FARES TO RISE...

As of 10 January, fares for long distance train travel in the Russian Federation will rise by 30 percent, "Izvestiya" reported on 9 January. PG

...BUT VODKA EXCISE STAMPS DON'T APPEAR

"Izvestiya" on 9 January noted that although the Russian government introduced a requirement on 1 January that all vodka sold bear an excise tax stamp, the authorities have not yet distributed these stamps. As a result, the paper said, much of the vodka trade over the last week has been technically illegal and subject to seizure by the police. PG

NO SMOKING IN SMOLNY

St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has prohibited smoking in the Smolny building which was Lenin's headquarters at the time of the 1917 revolution, "Izvestiya" reported on 9 January. PG

NUMBER OF YOUNG RUSSIANS DECLINING

The Russian Health Ministry on 9 January told Interfax that over the last five years, the number of young people under age 14 had declined by 12.3 percent. Health Minister Yuriy Shevchenko said that the preservation of each young life is thus especially important. PG

EVER MORE RUSSIANS INFECTED BY HIV VIRUS

Vadim Prokrovskiy, the head of the government's National Center for the Fight Against AIDS, told Ekho Moskvy on 9 January that more than one million Russians will be infected with HIV by the end of 2001 and that the number infected could grow to 50 percent of the population over the next decade, AFP reported. PG

SAKHALIN TUNNEL-BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION TO START IN 2001

The Sakhalin Oblast administration told Interfax on 9 January that construction of a tunnel-bridge between that island and the Russian mainland will begin in the second half of 2001. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin first ordered the construction of such a bridge in 1946, but it was cancelled after his death in 1953. PG

FISHING BOATS AGAIN TO BE NAMED FOR BORDER GUARDS

Interfax-Eurasia on 9 January reported the revival of the Soviet-era tradition of naming fishing boats after border guard heroes. The first boat to be so named will be called the "Border Guard Bogdanov," after Far Eastern border guard Major Aleksandr Bogdanov who was killed in Afghanistan. PG




DETAINED BUSINESSMAN'S WIFE PUBLISHES HIS APPEAL TO ARMENIAN PRESIDENT

Elena Vartanian, whose businessman husband Arkadii is in detention in Yerevan on charges of calling for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2000 and 9 January 2001), has published an open letter he addressed to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Noyan Tapan reported on 9 January. In that letter, Vartanian expresses concern that during a conversation last spring, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian adduced numerous arguments in favor of resolving the Karabakh conflict by means of an exchange of territories in which Armenia would cede its southern Meghri region to Azerbaijan. Vartanian inferred from those arguments that it had been decided even before the 1994 Karabakh ceasefire to resolve the conflict by means of such a territorial exchange, which Kocharian and other senior officials have denied that they would ever agree to. Elena Vartanian also told journalists on 9 January that in mid-December a relative of a senior Armenian official offered to mediate her husband's release in exchange for a payment of $1.7 million to the Hayastan Fund and a building Vartanian owns in Yerevan worth at least $5 million. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RESHUFFLES GOVERNMENT

President Kocharian issued a decree on 8 January splitting the Ministry of Urban Development and Territorial Administration into two separate entities and naming David Lokian as Minister of Urban Development, Noyan Tapan reported. Hovik Abrahamian, who previously headed the ministry, retains responsibility for territorial administration. Lokian is a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), which has hitherto criticized the government of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. HHD party official Armen Rustamian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 9 January that the party will only shoulder responsibility for Lokian's actions and will not endorse cabinet decisions which he opposes. Also on 8 January, Kocharian dismissed Transport and Communications Minister Eduard Madatian, a member of the Kayunutiun (Stability) parliament faction, and appointed as his successor Yervand Zakharian, who had previously held that portfolio in 1998-1999. LF

SAFETY STANDARDS IMPROVED AT ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

International nuclear energy experts said at a 9 January meeting at the Armenian resort of Tsaghkadzor that maintenance work conducted during a four-month stoppage last fall at Armenia's Medzamor nuclear power station has resulted in a "marked improvement" in the plant's safety, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Atomic Energy Security Council chairman Adolf Bierkhofer said that as a result, Medzamor could safely continue to operate beyond the 2004 deadline for its closure agreed in 1998 between Armenia and the EU. President Kocharian, who chaired the Tsaghkadzor meeting, said Medzamor will be closed by that date only if Armenia finds an alternative source of energy by then. In 2000 Medzamor produced 34 percent of the total electricity generated in Armenia. LF

SECOND DEFENDANT DENIES FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER"S ALLEGED ROLE IN KARABAKH ASSASSINATION BID

Erik Paramazian, one of 15 men currently on trial on charges of attempting to assassinate the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadii Ghukasian, denied on 9 January that the plot to do so was masterminded by his brother-in-law, former Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Paramazian told the court in Stepanakert that his earlier testimony implicating Babayan had been given under duress. The prosecutors rejected that statement and denied that Paramazian had been tortured during the pre-trial investigation. Paramazian's co-defendant Sasun Aghadjanian had similarly denied last month that Babayan had masterminded the 22 March attack on Ghukasian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS PLEDGE TO BUILD 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP...'

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Baku on 9 January on a two-day visit intended to mark a new chapter in bilateral relations. Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev told journalists after his two-hour talks with Putin that "we have reached mutual agreement on all the questions we have discussed, and this gives me great satisfaction," RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Aliyev and Putin signed the "Baku Declaration," which outlines the foundations for expanding bilateral political, economic and military relations over the next 10 years and stresses their readiness to develop long-term military cooperation. They did not, however, sign an agreement regulating the terms for Russia's continued use of the Gabala radar-station, although Russian presidential chief of staff Sergei Prikhodko told Interfax the two sides' positions on that issue have become closer and that failure should not be over-dramatized. LF

...DISCUSS KARABAKH CONFLICT, ARMS...

Putin said after his talks with Aliyev that Russia is ready to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict "without victors or vanquished," and will act as a guarantor of any peace agreement reached, Interfax reported. He said the optimum approach to resolving the conflict is to continue the "realistic and sensible" dialogue between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, according to Turan on 10 January. That position corresponds fully to that of the OSCE Minsk Group, whose Russian co-chairman Nikolai Gribkov accompanied Putin to Baku. Putin characterized as "a forced measure" the transfer to Russia's military base in Armenia of weaponry withdrawn from its Vaziani base in Georgia, which is to be closed by 1 July 2001, Interfax reported. He told journalists that the revised CFE treaty allows Russia to maintain a certain amount of weaponry in the region. He reasoned that since "Russia's military presence in the Caucasus is still necessary," Moscow has "no choice" but to deploy those arms in Armenia if it can no longer to do in Georgia. LF

...NARROW DIFFERENCES ON CASPIAN DIVISION

The second key statement signed by the two presidents registered their shared conviction that the seabed of the Caspian should be divided between the five littoral states along the modified median line, while the waters should remain in common use, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement also noted that each littoral state will have exclusive rights to the mineral resources on its sector of the sea. That phrasing suggests that Russia has abandoned its proposal of last summer, which Azerbaijan had rejected, that in cases where two states dispute ownership of hydrocarbons deposits, as do Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, they should reach an agreement on the joint exploitation of those deposits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). The two presidents expressed support for Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's proposal to convene a summit of Caspian littoral states in March to discuss the legal status of the Caspian Sea. LF

LUKOIL TO EXTRACT, REFINE, SELL AZRERBAIJANI OIL

On the sidelines of Putin's visit to Baku, the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR and Russia's Lukoil signed an agreement under which Lukoil will develop the Hovsani-Six onshore oilfield outside Baku. That field has estimated reserves of 20 million metric tons. The oil will be refined in Baku into gasoline for sale at Lukoil's chain of petrol stations in Azerbaijan, Platt's reported on 20 December. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER CASTIGATES ABSENTEE MINISTERS

Addressing a cabinet session in Astana on 9 January, Qasymzhomart Toqaev warned that he intends to punish cabinet ministers who regularly leave Astana to spend a three-day weekend in the former capital, Almaty, without good reason, Interfax reported. Reuters suggested that one of the reasons why so many ministers do so is that winter temperatures in Astana average minus 33 degrees Celsius, whereas in Almaty they rarely dip below freezing. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S TOP SPACE OFFICIAL HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE

Meirbek Moldabekov, who heads Kazakhstan's Aerospace Commitee, told journalists in Almaty on 9 January that the country plans to launch its own "medium-sized" communications satellite at a cost of $110-$150 million, Reuters reported. Moldabekov also said that Moscow paid the full agreed rent of $115 million in 2000 for the use of Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome. He said the launch of Proton rockets from that facility, which was suspended after two separate rockets exploded in 1999, will be resumed under special supervision, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July and 29 October 1999). Moldabekov also said that Russian and Kazakh officials are trying to resolve problems faced by Kazakh citizens employed at Baikonur who, unlike their Russian colleagues, are not protected by Russian law. LF

NEW KYRGYZ PREMIER CHAIRS FIRST CABINET SESSION

On 9 January, Kurmanbek Bakiev chaired the first session of his new cabinet, which was devoted to the country's energy sector, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Bakiev told colleagues that Kyrgyzstan's hydro-electic power-stations and high voltage power lines will not be privatized. He said that the country's main energy concern, Kyrgyzenergo, which is 93 percent state-owned, will be divided into four parts before privatization which, he added, would be a lengthy process. Bakiev's predecessor Amangeldy MurAliyev had said that Kyrgyzenergo would be privatized in 2001. The head of Kyrgyzstan's State Energy Committee, Ularbek Mateev, told the session that Kyrgyzenergo made a profit in 2000 of some 800 million soms ($16 million) and exported some 3 billion kW hours of electricity. LF

KYRGYZSTAN POSTS MODEST GDP GROWTH IN 2000

The government press service released on 9 January the main economic results of the past year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau report. GDP rose 5.1 percent compared with 1999 to 62 billion soms ($1.27 billion), of which the gold sector accounted for 60 percent. Commodity prices increased by 10 percent, and the average monthly salary amounted to 1,121 soms ($23). Exports rose by 10 percent to $455 million, while imports fell by 4 percent to $496 million. LF

THREE SENTENCED TO DEATH IN TAJIKISTAN

The military collegium of Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 9 January handed down the death sentence on three members of a criminal group charged with three murders, robbery, banditry and hostage-taking, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Four other members of the same gang, all of whom were captured in April 1999, were jailed for between 20-25 years. LF




BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS FACE BAN ON PUBLICATION?

Tax inspectors have sealed up the printing equipment of the Minsk-based private publishing company Magic, Belapan reported on 9 January. The move followed last month's ruling by the Supreme Economic Court that the equipment--which formerly belonged to Belarus's Soros Foundation and has subsequently been leased to Magic--be confiscated in retaliation for the foundation's alleged tax evasion. Magic prints major Belarusian independent newspapers, including "Narodnaya volya," "Rabochy," and "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta." "I think that tomorrow's [10 January] newspapers will appear, but I don't know what will be next," Magic director Yury Budzko told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. Belapan quoted some observers as saying the authorities, by confiscating Magic's printing equipment, intend to paralyze the independent press in Belarus in the runup to this year's presidential elections. JM

ANTI-PRESIDENTIAL PROTESTS OVER MISSED JOURNALIST RESUME IN KYIV

Following the holiday break, several hundred people gathered in front of the parliamentary building in Kyiv on 10 January to demand the resignation of President Leonid Kuchma and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, Interfax reported. The picketers blame Kuchma for ordering the kidnapping of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and Potebenko of impeding the investigation of Gongadze's disappearance. Some 100 people staged a pro-Kuchma picket at the same time. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko told the parliament that the authorities organized demonstrations "of support to the regime" throughout the country on 10 January. According to Symonenko, the authorities resorted to compelled "children, students, and budget sector employees" to attend those demonstrations. JM

ESTONIA HAS HIGHEST INFLATION AMONG BALTIC STATES

The consumer price index in Estonia rose by 0.2 percent in December and by 5.0 percent for the year 2000, BNS reported on 9 January. In Latvia, the corresponding increases were 0.3 and 1.8 percent, and in Lithuania - 0.2 and 1.4 percent. In Estonia, the largest price rises during the year were for food, fuel, housing and transport services. In Latvia, the price of goods in 2000 grew by 1 percent and of services by 4.2 percent, especially for those subject to administrative regulation such as liquified gas (45.8 percent), public transportation (8.7 percent), and sanitation (6.5 percent). In Lithuania, the largest increases were for housing and utilities, communication, and transport services while the prices of food, clothing, and alcoholic beverages declined. SG

NEW ESTONIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY CHANCELLOR APPOINTED

The government on 9 January approved the appointment of 35-year old Indrek Kannik as the new defense ministry chancellor, replacing Tarmo Mand who had resigned of his own accord one week earlier, ETA reported. Kannik previously worked as the head of the foreign desk of the daily "Postimees" and had served as defense minister in 1994. SG

LATVIA'S BUDGET DEFICIT LOWER THAN EXPECTED

Preliminary data of the State Treasury indicated that Latvia's national budget revenues in 2000 were 1.305 billion lats ($2.14 billion) and expenditures - 1.424 billion lats, BNS reported on 9 January. The deficit was 118.7 million lats or 2.75 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). The planned budget had envisaged a deficit of 129 million lats or 3.2 percent of GDP with revenues of 1.335 billion lats and expenditures of 1.464 billion lats. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS FRANCE

Valdas Adamkus met in Paris on 8 January with French President Jacques Chirac, who expressed firm support for Lithuania's integration into the European Union and NATO, ELTA reported. Regarding the return of the Lithuanian embassy building in Paris which the USSR had taken over after World War II, Chirac noted: "The stone in our shoe should be thrown out." He also accepted Adamkus's invitation to come Vilnius, although no firm date for the visit was set. Adamkus traveled to Paris at this time so that he could attend events commemorating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Lithuania's most famous artist and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis. His paintings are being exhibited at the Musee d'Orsay, while Mstislav Rostropovich conducted his symphonic poem "In the Forest" at the Champs Elysees Theater. On 9 January, Adamkus held talks with the chairmen of the French Senate and National Assembly, Christian Poncelet and Raymond Forni. SG

PARTIES RATIFY SOLIDARITY FEDERATION ACCORD

The Solidarity trade union, the Christian National Union, and the Polish Party of Christian Democrats on 9 January ratified the agreement concluded by Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) leaders last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2000) on transforming the AWS parliamentary bloc into a federation. Earlier the agreement was ratified by two other AWS members: the AWS Social Movement led by Premier Jerzy Buzek and the Conservative Peasant Union of Jan Maria Rokita. The AWS transformation intends to strengthen the Solidarity-rooted right wing in Poland ahead of this year's parliamentary elections. However, parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski refused to sign the AWS federation accord, saying that he does not want "to participate in the scenario" that fails to introduce meaningful changes in the AWS, PAP reported. The accord envisioned that the AWS federation would be headed by Buzek, while Plazynski was to become his deputy. JM

CZECH TV OFFICIAL ALLOWS 'REBEL' BROADCASTS

Czech Television news chief Jana Bobosikova said on 9 January that the blackout of news broadcasts made by striking journalists was ending, Reuters reported. Bobosikova said Czech TV officials halted the blackout because a public broadcasting law states that news broadcasts must originate from the station's Prague headquarters. That facility is being occupied by the striking journalists. Earlier, Bobosikova and staff loyal to the station's boss, Jiri Hodac, were denied entry to a Czech army facility where they had been producing the main news broadcasts. Hodac, a former BBC journalist, said the same day that he will not resign but added "if I am dismissed from the post I will honor the decision without objections." PB

CZECH BROADCASTING COUNCIL SEEKS PARLIAMENT MEDIATION

The Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting asked the parliament on 9 January to mediate a solution to the crisis at Czech Television and to assume some of the council's powers, CTK reported. Council spokeswoman Helena Havlikova said some deputies have been told of the decision. The lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, is likely to dismiss the council on 12 January, since it failed to resolve the controversy over Hodac's nomination as general-director of Czech Television. A new public television law is also likely to be debated by the parliament. On 10 January, Ladislav Paluska, who is the former financial director of Czech Television, told the dailies "Zemske noviny" and "Ceske slovo" that he would accept the post of interim general-director if it was offered to him. Paluska said: "I have [received] signals that I would be acceptable to both sides [in the dispute] and that my election would calm down the situation in Czech Television." PB

NATO COMMANDER SAYS CZECHS NEED MODERN PLANES

Joseph Ralston, the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, told Czech Premier Milos Zeman in a meeting on 9 January in Prague that the country's military needs modern airplanes, CTK reported. Ralston said the choice of which type of plane and when to buy them was the Czech Republic's own affair and NATO will not interfere. Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy is expected to announce a tender later this week for between 24 and 36 new supersonic tactical planes for the Czech army. Ralston is to meet with political and military leaders and will take part in a meeting of army officials. PB

SLOVAK PREMIER WANTS TO CLOSE GAP ON ADVANCED EU CANDIDATES

Mikulas Dzurinda said in Bratislava on 9 January that the first 10 months of this year will be "the most important period for Slovakia over the past years" in its attempt to gain EU membership, CTK reported. Dzurinda said the government's efforts in this period will determine if Slovakia is able to catch up to the first group of EU candidates. Dzurinda also outlined his government's top four priorities for this year, the first of which is fulfillment of EU conditions and evaluating Slovakia's chances of being included in the next round of NATO expansion. The premier said the second priority is creating an efficient business environment that includes investment incentives and a law on industrial zones. Third is an effort to curb unemployment and fourth, the battle against organized crime and corruption. PB

NEW SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER INTENT ON ATTAINING NATO MEMBERSHIP

Jozef Stank said on 9 January in Bratislava that he will continue reforming the military and is determined that Slovakia should be admitted to NATO, CTK reported. Stank, who replaced Pavol Kanis on 3 January, said that "one and half years [until the next general election] is time enough...to persuade all with decision-making powers that we are serious about Slovakia joining NATO and that we will do everything for the army to be reformed as necessary." Stank, 60, said it is also necessary to convince a greater number of Slovaks of the importance of joining the alliance. He said that although support among the populace for joining NATO has increased, it is still only at about 50 percent. Stank was most recently the Slovak ambassador to the Czech Republic. PB

STRUGGLE AMONG HUNGARY'S SMALLHOLDERS INTENSIFIES

Zsolt Lanyi, deputy chairman of the junior coalition member Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), said on 9 January that the 800 signatures needed to convene a national assembly of the party that would approve his chairmanship can be collected "within moments" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2001). He told Hungarian media that the expulsion of party members will be reviewed if a new leadership is chosen. FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan, who is in an official tour of South America, said that more than 100,000 party members had elected him, and claimed that all 19 county leaders stand behind him. MSZ




BOSNIAN SERBS' PLAVSIC FACES GENOCIDE CHARGES IN THE HAGUE

War crimes tribunal chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said on 10 January that former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic arrived in the Netherlands the previous day to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in a secret indictment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2001). "I confirm that Biljana Plavsic surrendered voluntarily, having been advised of the existence of an indictment against her," AP quoted Del Ponte as saying. Krstan Simic, Plavsic's lawyer, added that his client "is aware this is the only place she can legally prove her innocence or guilt." He added that Plavsic "surrendered as soon as she heard of the indictment," issued on 7 April 2000. Plavsic has long argued that indicted persons should go to The Hague voluntarily and that there is no need for peacekeepers to take them there by force. PM

WHY HAS BOSNIAN SERBS' PLAVSIC GONE JUST NOW?

Even if the actual indictment against Plavsic was issued only in April 2000, rumors of a secret indictment have appeared in the regional media for years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2000). Speculation in the mid- to late-1990s was that the international community ensured Plavsic's safety because she played a moderating role in Bosnian Serb politics. Since her political marginalization in recent years, her friends in the West have presumably had less reason to keep her out of The Hague. "Danas" wrote on 10 January that she may testify against her former colleague Momcilo Krajisnik, whom peacekeepers forcibly took to The Hague in April 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2000). Serbian media have suggested in recent weeks that she may tell what she knows about the role of former President Slobodan Milosevic's role in the Bosnian conflict in return for leniency in her own case. It is possible that Plavsic agreed to testify against Milosevic now that he is out of power and no longer able to use the security forces against her and her family. PM

ALBRIGHT HAILS PLAVSIC'S MOVE

Speaking in Washington on 9 January, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that "she made this decision to do this. I agree with it obviously and I'm sure that it was an incredibly difficult decision and she was courageous to take it," Reuters reported. Albright added: "I respect her for living up to what we think is an international obligation and that she is going to do the right thing." Albright supported Plavsic during her presidency, calling her and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik "a good ticket." PM

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER PRESSURES NATO ON BORDER ZONE

Goran Svilanovic said at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 10 January that his country and the Atlantic alliance "are not enemies any more," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2001). NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson added that "this is an important, indeed an historic day...[NATO's 1999] air campaign was never directed against the Serbian people." Svilanovic argued that the change in the nature of the relationship between Belgrade and NATO should enable the two sides to renegotiate their 1999 Kumanovo accords on the size of the demilitarized zone on Serbia's border with Kosova in the Presevo area (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2000). Robertson replied that both sides want to "reduce the level of violence and minimize the provocation that might be caused by certain [ethnic Albanian] extremists in that area." He and Svilanovic also agreed to share information regarding depleted uranium. Serbian military and medical officials have said that they have no evidence of increased cancer rates in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 January 2001). PM

KOSOVA'S RUGOVA HINTS AT RUSSIAN ROLE IN 'URANIUM SCARE'

AP reported from Prishtina on 9 January that moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova regards the current controversy over depleted uranium as an orchestrated anti-NATO campaign (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 January 2001). The correspondent suggested that Rugova feels that "the depleted uranium scare in the Balkans is being misused by those who opposed NATO intervention in Kosovo, in hopes it will lead to the withdrawal of the NATO-led peacekeeping force." The news agency added that "Rugova named no countries, but appeared to be alluding to Russia." In Rugova's words: "One of the aims of the whole issue is the will of some people to take NATO out of Kosova... [The scare campaign is the work of] those circles that were against NATO intervention in Kosova." PM

KOSOVAR LEADER CALLS CONTROVERSY 'PROPAGANDA'

Hajredin Kuci, who is vice president of the Democratic Party of Kosova, said in Prishtina on 9 January that the uranium scare is "more a propaganda issue than something based on fact," AP reported. He added that "we still need to check the health of our citizens, to check radioactivity, regardless of what is being said and written about it." The controversy comes at a time when Belgrade is seeking to improve its ties to the West. It also comes at a time of year that journalists know to be a predictably slow period for news, when a sensational story of general interest is likely to capture headlines. PM

BELGRADE PREPARES OFFER TO MONTENEGRO

In consultation with Serbian Prime Minister-designate Zoran Djindjic, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica will shortly make public his response to Montenegro's "platform" on redefining relations between Belgrade and Podgorica, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 January. Slobodan Samardzic, who is an aide to Kostunica, said that the proposal will limit joint functions to foreign policy, defense, a common market, a customs union, and a single currency. The biggest stumbling block appears to be Podgorica's view that the two republics must first become independent states with their own respective seats in the UN and then negotiate the basis of their future ties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001). Djindjic has called this unacceptable. PM

EX-YUGOSLAV BASKETBALL TEAMS SET UP JOINT LEAGUE

Basketball teams from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro have formed a joint Adriatic League that will begin competition in September, dpa reported from Zagreb on 10 January. Bozo Milicevic, director of Croatia's Cibona club, stressed that the individual national leagues are too small to turn a profit. He added: "We hope that within a year or two, our league will become a Central European one, covering a market of some 40 million people," including Serbia and Hungary. Basketball is highly popular in the former Yugoslavia, which has produced more than its share of international stars. Many people play basketball as a hobby, including Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. PM

MODERATE BOSNIAN POLITICAL ALLIANCE SEEKS SUPPORT

The Social Democratic Party said in a statement in Sarajevo on 9 January that it hopes that the international community will help create the legal conditions for the new moderate Alliance for Change to succeed. The statement stressed that it is crucial that Serbs, Muslims, and Croats alike be treated as "constituent peoples" in both halves of Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Currently the Serbs are the only constituent people in the Republika Srpska, while the Croats and Muslims alone are constituent peoples in the federation. PM

BOSNIAN REFUGEE RETURNS UP

UNHCR Chief of Mission Werner Blatter said in Sarajevo on 9 January that some 59,000 refugees or displaced persons returned to their homes in 2000. He stressed that the UNHCR hopes to promote additional returns in 2001, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

NEW YUGOSLAV AMBASSADOR TO MACEDONIA

Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic said in Podgorica on 9 January that the new ambassador to Macedonia will be Rade Filipovic of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party, Makfax news agency reported. Zizic stressed that Macedonia is a key partner for Serbia, and that it is important to fill the ambassador's post there as soon as possible. The former ambassador was one of a dozen or so Milosevic-era political appointees whom the new government quickly sacked. PM

ROMANIAN PEACE-KEEPERS TO UNDERGO RADIATION TESTS

Some 1,500 Romanian soldiers who served as peace-keepers in Bosnia will be re-tested for radiation exposure, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau and AP reported on 9 January. General Petru Chertic, chief of the Defense Ministry's medical services, said all 1,448 Romanian military who at different stages had served in Bosnia will be re-tested, although they underwent medical examinations on their return. Romania at present has 97 peace-keepers in Bosnia and earlier the ministry said no signs of the "Balkan syndrome" were reported among the Romanian peace-keepers. MS

ETHNIC HUNGARIANS PROTEST CLUJ LOCAL GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS

Sandor Konya Hamar, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Cluj local branch, on 9 January warned that the UDMR might withdraw its support of a Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) candidate for the post of county council chairman. That post became vacant after its incumbent, Ioan Rus, was appointed Interior Minister. Konya Hamar was reacting to a statement by PDSR county chairman Grigore Zanc, who told Mediafax that his party has not reached any agreement with the UDMR on nominating a UDMR representative as Cluj county deputy prefect. Konya Hamar said the UDMR wants outgoing deputy prefect Gyula Smoggy to be re-appointed to that position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2001). MS

ROMANIANS MAY SEE OWN SECURITATE FILES

As of this week, any Romanian citizen may request from the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives access to his or her secret police file, AP reported on 9 January. The agency cited political scientist and fiction author Stelian Tanase as saying that he wants to "see who among my colleagues, friends, neighbors and relatives, spied on me." Tanase criticized the law passed by the parliament last year because it provides no lustration or other sanctions for the informers of the former secret police. He also warned that the files are still kept in the Romanian Intelligence Service archives where "they can be manipulated or truncated." MS

ROMANIA STIFFENS PENALTIES FOR PETROL THEFT

The Chamber of Deputies' Judicial Commission on 9 January approved an emergency ordinance of the government stiffening penalties for theft of petrol, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The theft of crude, gasoline and other petrol products and the damaging of oil pipelines or tankers is to be punished with up to 18 years in prison. The same penalties will apply to those who steal or otherwise damage irrigation pipelines and railway, ground transportation and airway traffic safety systems. In its attempt to combat the phenomenon, the government has also ordered an inquest on punishment handed down by judges to such offenders in the past, apparently suspecting corruption. The cabinet has in the last few days dismissed and replaced several Interior Ministry officials, local police chiefs and the head of the border police. MS

TWO MOLDOVAN PARTIES DECIDE TO RUN ALONE...

The Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) and the Party of Rebirth and Conciliation (PRAM) decided to run on their own in the early elections scheduled for February, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The PPCD National Council also decided to apply the "rotation principle" to deputies elected on its lists, who will have to resign from the parliament after two years, being replaced by those next in line on the PPCD lists. The PRAM National Council said it will propose to other center-right formations an agreement whereby they would avoid mutually attacking one another during the electoral campaign, which will officially start on 12 January. The threshold for parliamentary representation is 6 percent. MS

...BUT OTHER FORMATIONS ARE CONTEMPLATING ALLIANCES

The extra-parliamentary Social Democratic Party "Furnica" (Ant) and the "Plai natal" (Native Region) formation signed an agreement to set up a joint electoral bloc in the forthcoming elections, Flux reported on 9 January. Infotag reported on 9 January that Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis may agree to head this ticket. The Oazu Nantoi-headed Social Democratic Party may also join the alliance, but the latter party is also negotiating an electoral coalition with the Democratic Party headed by Dumitru Diacov. MS

MOLDOVAN JOURNALISTS PROSECUTED

Eugen Pascari, editor-in-chief of the Russian language "Vremya" newspaper, told journalists on 9 January that the 29 December decision of the Prosecutor General's Office to start criminal proceedings against himself and journalist Iulia Korolkova is "groundless," Flux and Infotag reported. The proceedings were launched following a complaint by the Club of Graduates of Romanian and Western Universities (CAIRO), according to which an article by Korolkova "insulted national dignity and fomented inter-ethnic hostility." Korolkova wrote that the bulk of smuggling operations in Moldova are masterminded by members of the ethnic majority. Pascari said Korolkova "just noted the nationality" of those involved but did not "insult the Moldovan people." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS SOFIA DIDN'T RECEIVE NATO WARNING ON DEPLETED URANIUM

Petar Stoyanov said on 9 January in Sofia that Bulgaria never received NATO warnings concerning the possible effects of depleted uranium ammunition, BTA reported. Stoyanov made his comments in the presence of the chief of the army's General Staff, General Mikho Mikhov, and Defense Minister Boyko Noev after a meeting between Mikhov and the army supreme command. Stoyanov said part of the interpretation of the issue by the public is based on a misconception "that we have instilled in ourselves over the course of many years, namely that the military is always hiding something from civilians." Stoyanov said that NATO has morals, and one reason Bulgaria seeks to join the military alliance is because it "does not sweep the problems under the carpet, as was the practice within another military machine that counterbalanced NATO a decade ago." Noev said he sees no reason to convene a meeting of Bulgaria's Security Council on the subject until NATO provides more information. PB




STATUS OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE AGAIN THREATENS UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS


by Taras Kuzio

On 3 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry again raised the question of the status of the Russian language in Ukraine, an issue that has bedeviled bilateral relations since Leonid Kuchma's re-election for a second term as president in November 1999. The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that the Ukrainian State Committee for Information Policy, Television and Radio Broadcasting (Derzhkominform), led by long time leading Rukh member and writer Ivan Drach, is insisting that all television and radio in Ukraine be aired only in the Ukrainian language. Two days later, Derzhkominform issued a counter statement that its intention has never been to totally remove Russian from Ukraine's media.

At issue is Derzhkominform's insistence on implementation of Article 9 of the law "On Television Broadcasting," which states that programs broadcast throughout Ukraine be only in the state language (Ukrainian). The exception to this is in regions where national minorities "live compactly." Derzhkominform has submitted changes to the law to the Ukrainian parliament (Rada) that define what "compactly" means and whether that designation can be applied to a linguistic group (i.e. Russophones), as opposed to only national minorities (Russians are only in a majority in the Crimea).

Derzhkominform's insistence that all-Ukrainian programs be broadcast only in Ukrainian is supported by the National Council for TV and Radio (Natsrada), Derzhkominform's joint executive-parliamentary oversight body which is headed by a Kuchma appointee. The policies of Derzhkominform are, moreover, enthusiastically endorsed by center right Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and his government, in particular by Mykola Zhulynsky, Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for the Humanities and Director of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Ukrainian Language. Zhulynsky is also Chairman of the Council for Language Policy attached to the president, which is helping the National Orthography Commission to return to 1920s Ukrainian language rules that were replaced in the 1930s by Josef Stalin to make Russian and Ukrainian closer in style and syntax.

In February 2000, the State Committee for Information Policy and the State Committee for TV and Radio were amalgamated into Derzhkominform, and Drach was appointed its new head. Natsrada has been dominated by three parliamentarians from pro-Kuchma oligarch factions and one anti-Kuchma representative since the left lost control of parliament in early 2000. Yuriy Pokalchuk, a well-known writer and former member of Rukh, represents the United Social Democrats on Natsrada.

In October 2000, Derzhkominform issued a warning to newspapers from Russia registered in Ukraine, such as "Komsomolskaya Pravda v Ukraine," to abide by their registration documents; that is, publish material on Ukraine, open offices in Ukraine and use some Ukrainian language in their editions sold in Ukraine. Another complaint rested upon advertising revenues which Ukraine is losing because Ukrainian and Western companies located in Ukraine prefer to place their adverts in Russian newspapers sold in Ukraine, rather than Ukrainian ones, as they then reach both the Ukrainian and Russian markets.

Also in October, the Natsrada issued a warning to Ukrainian TV and radio stations that they must obtain a license if they wished to re-transmit programs from Russia. Yet, Natsrada had stopped giving out licenses on the eve of the Ukrainian presidential elections in October 1999. The Russian Foreign Ministry's complaints were based on the fear that TV and radio programs from Russia would no longer be available in Ukraine (the Russian Foreign Ministry purposefully ignored the large number of Russian-language TV and radio programs produced in Ukraine). Under Ukrainian law, 50 percent of programs on TV and radio in Ukraine should be in Ukrainian, a point that is only now being enforced by Natsrada.

Derzhkominform refused to register "Kommersant-Ukraina" and forbid further newspapers from Russia registering in Ukraine. Beginning in January 2001, all medicines sold in Ukraine have to have instructions only in Ukrainian. Derzhkominform also sent a draft law to the Rada calling for modifications to the legislation on media that define henceforth Ukrainian newspapers as only those written and published in Ukraine.

President Kuchma's draft law in June cutting taxes on Ukrainian-language publications was adopted by parliament on 15 September. At the large book bazaar in Kyiv's Petrivka region, 80 percent of books on sale are from Russia, a reflection of this unfair competition. In 1999 18 million books were published in Ukraine, while 25 million were imported from Russia. In November Kuchma also issued a decree providing financial assistance to Ukrainian book publishing.

These moves by Derzhkominform and Natsrada are likely to be supported by Ukraine's parliament and executive because of the catastrophic decline in newspapers published in Ukraine since 1995, when Russia removed all taxes on Russian publications, thereby giving them a big financial edge over those published in Ukraine. Newspapers from Russia circulated in Ukraine and elsewhere in the former USSR are also subsidized by the Russian state budget, meaning they are cheaper to buy. Of the top thirteen newspapers in Ukraine according to print runs, five are from Russia ("Izvestiya-Ukraina," "Trud (Ukraina)," "Komsomolskaya Pravda v Ukraine," "Argumenty i Fakty v Ukraine" and "Moskovskii Komsomolets v Ukraine." Of the remaining seven national newspapers published in Ukraine, only three are in Ukrainian, two are in Russian and another three have separate Russian and Ukrainian editions.

Kuchma's support for these moves against the Russian media, which are backed by the pro-presidential oligarchs, are not due to any patriotic support for the Ukrainian language. Kuchma has been a strong opponent of independent media in Ukraine, which he has been accused of undermining. Printed media from Russia are more independent and beyond his control and therefore their removal from Ukraine would be in his interest, particularly as they have been extensively reporting on the "Kuchmagate" scandal since November. Thus, the cultural-linguistic concerns of the national democrats coincide with the financial and authoritarian demands of Kuchma and the centrist oligarchs. Taras Kuzio is a Visiting Fellow, Watson Institute of International Affairs, Brown University


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