Accessibility links

Newsline - January 15, 2001




PUTIN SAYS HE'S FOR A FREE PRESS...

Speaking to 33 editors on Russia's Press Day, President Vladimir Putin said on 13 January that "paraphrasing Mark Twain, I can say that information about the death of free speech in our country is greatly exaggerated," ITAR-TASS reported. During a four and one-half hour meeting, Putin said that the freedom of the press was "one of the main gains of the last decade" and that media coverage helps the government "to react to the mistakes the state sometimes makes." He criticized certain actions by police and security forces against the media and said that now was not the time to modify the country's mass media law. PG

...BUT WARNS AGAINST IRRESPONSIBLE MEDIA...

At the same time, Putin said that journalists must "with each article and word, again and again show your right to the trust of the people. Indeed, authority and trust are not given once and for all." He said that the media must not be allowed to spread extremist and illegal ideas. Moreover, he added, the media must work with the government to create a single information space across the country, one in which the domestic and foreign media will have equal rights. PG

...AS CASUALTIES AMONG JOURNALISTS MOUNT

Putin said that "a reporter's job continues to be one of the most dangerous," something the Glasnost Defense Fund confirmed. It reported on 13 January that 16 journalists died in Russia during 2000 while doing their jobs, ITAR-TASS said. And the Fund added that five journlists are still missing and that there were 73 attacks on journalists, 26 criminal cases lodged, 35 cases of overt censorship, and 255 cases against the media for offending officials. A Fund spokesman said that the latest incident had taken place the previous night when unknown gunmen fired into the apartment of a Tver newspaperman. PG

STRUGGLE OVER NTV CONTINUES

The Media-MOST group filed suit in London and Gibraltar to prevent Gazprom-Media from taking control of NTV, Reuters reported on 12 January, but Gazprom-Media group denied Media-MOST's claims, Interfax reported. On the same day, prosecutors searched the office of Media-MOST financial department chief Anton Titov, an action Media-MOST spokesmen said was a response to a report in "Segodnya," which is owned by Media-MOST, that the daughter of Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov had been stopped at Sheremetyevo airport for attempted smuggling of foreign currency, Russian agencies reported. And prosecutors issued an indictment against Moscow city finance chief Yurii Korostelev in connection with the Media-MOST case, something Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's office described as a "provocation." Meanwhile, Media-MOST Deputy Chairman Andrei Tsimailo said through a spokesman that he will not visit London as planned to discuss the sale of the company's holdings to a foreign investor. PG

DUMA WON'T SEQUESTER FUNDS TO PAY DEBT

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said on 13 January that the Russian parliament will not sequester the 2001 federal budget in order to pay Russia's debts to the Paris club of creditors, Interfax reported. He was speaking to a congress of the Rossiya faction which he said would continue to support the government but would not become a party. Seleznev's comments came one day after Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin told Interfax that Russia will pay the Paris Club creditors only $31.5 million of the $316.4 million it is supposed to pay in January. PG

LIVSHITS WARNS AGAINST FAILURE TO PAY

Writing in "Izvestiya" on 12 January, former Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said that Russia must pay its Paris Club debts as soon as possible. He said that creditor governments cannot understand "why Russia -- which has a positive balance of payments of around $60 billion, and Central Bank reserves of around $28 billion, and which tolerates capital flight of about $1-2 billion a month -- now intends to repay $1.2 billion instead of $3.5 billion." He said that Russia's arguments that full payments might undermine growth and threaten social programs "are not groundless" but they remain "unconvincing." PG

WALLENBERG'S FATE STILL DISPUTED

Citing the "disappearance" of several key documents, a joint Russian-Swedish working group on 12 January acknowledged that it has been unable to reach a definitive conclusion on the fate of World War II-era Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, Interfax reported. Russian officials said they were able to say only that Wallenberg died on 17 July 1947 but not how, ITAR-TASS said. AFP, however, carried a report that Aleksandr Yakovlev had told that service that Josef Stalin had ordered his execution. Meanwhile, London's "Independent" reported on 13 January that Wallenberg may have had links to the wartime U.S. intelligence organization, the OSS, and that Russian officials may have assumed he was an agent. Swedish members of the working group said they would continue to investigate the case. And Interfax reported that on 18 January a statue in honor of Wallenberg will be erected in the Russian capital. PG

MOSCOW PUSHES 'BALKAN SYNDROME' ISSUE

Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu on 12 January called for an international conference, possibly under the auspices of the OSCE, to investigate the impact of depleted uranium ammunition on health and the environment, Russian agencies reported. And Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told Interfax the same day that the "uranium scandal" may become the basis for a demand that NATO withdraw from Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, specialists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research at Dubna said that depleted uranium shells probably had an impact not because of radiation but because of the toxicity of that element, Interfax reported. No Russian peacekeepers have yet come down with any illnesses connected to such shells, Russian agencies said. PG

HARMONIZATION COMPLETED IN 60 FEDERATION SUBJECTS, STROEV SAYS

Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev told Interfax on 12 January that 60 of Russia's 89 components have completed the process of bringing their legislation into line with the federal constitution and laws. In other comments, Stroev said that former Krasnodar Krai Governor Nikolai Kondratenko, who has been criticized for his anti-Semitic remarks, would be seated in the Federation Council on a permanent basis as of 31 January. "For us in the Federation Council," Stroev said, "it would be boring without Kondratenko." PG

PROSECUTORS SAY RUSSIA FAR FROM LAW-BASED STATE

Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said in the 12 January "Izvestiya" that "over the course of 300 years, our people have not become less thieving." He said that he will work to keep prosecutors out of politics and opposes any use of masked men in investigative raids. Meanwhile, former investigator Boris Uvarov told "Segodnya" that even under Soviet totalitarianism, there was "more legality" than now. He added that in his experience there was little "telephone justice" under Soviet conditions but that now "all cases connected with highly placed personages are 'telephone' cases." The same paper suggested that "telephone justice" had been involved in getting the daughter of Deputy-General Prosecutor Vasilii Kolmogorov out of legal difficulties for attempting to illegally carry cash out of the country. PG

FSB, TAX POLICE INVOLVED IN 6 PERCENT OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

The Interior Ministry's investigation committee told "Izvestiya" on 12 January that police under that ministry's supervision investigate 94 percent of all crimes in Russia. "Only 6 percent," the paper added, are conducted by the procuracy, the FSB, and the tax police. PG

ARMED FORCES CAN'T FULFILL TASKS WITHOUT MORE MONEY...

Aleksandr Nozdrachev, the general-director of the Russian Conventional Arms Agency, told "Vek" on 12 January that Russia's armed forces cannot fulfill even minimal tasks at the current level of funding, Interfax reported. PG

...AND MUST SHIFT PRIORITIES BECAUSE OF BUSH

"Obshchaya gazeta," no. 2, suggested that incoming U.S. President George W. Bush has already had an impact on Moscow's defense planning, forcing the Russian government to delay plans to spend less on strategic forces and thus providing less money to the ground forces than had been decided last fall. PG

UNITY SEEKS CLOSER TIES WITH U.S. REPUBLICAN PARTY

Boris Gryzlov, the head of the parliamentary bloc of the pro-Kremlin Unity party, will attend the inauguration of U.S. President George W. Bush in order to strengthen ties between Unity and Bush's Republicans, Interfax reported don 12 January. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported the same day that Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Yuri Ushakov will be President Putin's official representative. PG

INTERIOR TROOPS TO BE CUT BY 33,000

Lieutenant General Stanislav Kavun, the deputy commander of Russian interior forces, told Interfax on 12 January that the number of his forces will be reduced by 33,000. He said such cuts will mean that the authorities will have "to lift or reduce" some of the tasks these troops now perform. PG

STATE PROPERTY SALES BOOST STATE BUDGET

The Federal Property Fund told AFI on 12 January that the government had realized 31 billion rubles ($1.1 billion) from the sale of state property in 2000, far above the 21 billion originally projected. PG

MOSCOW SAYS NATO MUST ALLOW RUSSIA INTO PLANNING ON PEACEKEEPING...

Colonel General Leonid Ivashev, the head of the Defense Ministry's International Cooperation Department, on 12 January told Interfax that Russia will insist on being included in the planning of all future NATO peacekeeping operations. PG

...SEEKS END TO ARMS EMBARGO ON BELGRADE, HOSTS MILOSEVIC'S WIFE

Ivashev also told Interfax on 12 January that Moscow is in favor of lifting the arms embargo on Belgrade but believes that Yugoslavia should take the initiative in asking for it. Meanwhile, the Russian news service reported that Mirjana Markovic, the wife of deposed Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, was in Moscow for what it said "appears to be" a private visit. PG

RUSSIA, IRAN AGREE ON CASPIAN MEETING

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special presidential envoy for the Caspian Viktor Kalyzuhnyi and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani agreed during talks in Tehran last week on the advisability of convening a meeting of foreign ministers of the five Caspian littoral states next month, Andrei Urnov, who heads a Russian Foreign Ministry working group for the Caspian, told journalists in Tehran on 13 January. That meeting is intended to prepare for the Caspian summit that Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has proposed holding in February or March, according to Interfax. Kalyuzhnyi, for his part, characterized his talks with Ahani as "difficult but constructive," adding that there have been unspecified "positive changes" in Iran's position on the sea. LF

MOSCOW CRITICIZES LATVIA ON NEW TRIAL FOR WWII PARTISAN

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 12 January denounced a decision by Latvian prosecutors to retry 78-year-old Vasilii Kononov, who has been free while his lawyers appealed his original conviction, the ministry reported. "The collapse of previous attempts to secure his conviction proves that this 'affair' has no legal grounds and is driven by considerations far removed from jurisprudence," the ministry said. PG

TAX POLICE TO FREEZE DUMMY ACCOUNTS

Federal Tax Police head Vyacheslav Soltaganov told "Vek" on 12 February that his agency intends to freeze dummy accounts to limit capital flight and to ensure that all taxes and fees are collected. He said that if the owners of the accounts appeared, then they would receive back the funds if they were legally obtained, but that if the owners do not appear, then the monies in these accounts will be transferred to the state budget. PG

WEST TO HELP MOSCOW REPROCESS PLUTONIUM

The Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry on 12 January announced that the U.S., Britain, France, and Japan are prepared to provide Moscow with $500 million to reprocess Russian weapons-grade plutonium, Interfax reported. PG

COLD WEATHER CONTINUES IN SIBERIA, PARALYZING SOME REGIONS...

The unusually cold temperatures continued in Siberia and the Far East. On 12 January, schools in Buryatia and the Jewish Autonomous Okrug were closed as temperatures dipped to minus 40-45 degrees Celsius, ITAR-TASS reported. In Irkutsk, city authorities required public buses to operate in pairs in case one broke down, so that the stranded passengers would not freeze to death, according to dpa. In that region, authorities consider the energy situation critical, and have banned the export of coal, RFE/RL's Russian service reported. Supplies of coal have fallen by more than one-third because of the severe frost. In Primorskii Krai, the mayor of Vladivostok declared 12 January a non-working day because of the continued freezing temperatures, Interfax-Eurasia reported. JAC

...AS LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES OF COLD SPELL CONSIDERED

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued on 12 January that the so-called 2003 crisis--the crisis which has been predicted to occur when Russian will have neither sufficient resources to pay its foreign debts or to make needed improvements in its infrastructure--has arrived early, at least in Siberia. This is because the unusually cold temperatures in that region are taxing heating systems that were already in desperate need of repair. The newspaper, in which Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest, notes that "even those regional leaders who are particularly intent on independence" are now "screaming for help." It goes on to suggest that the cold weather may restrict "the president's room for maneuver and limit the implementation of radical economic and political reforms." The daily concludes that if this "string of man-made disasters is not broken soon," then Putin may even give some of his presidential envoys in the federal districts emergency powers. JAC

ONE INCUMBENT, ONE CHALLENGER LEAD IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS

The head of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Vladimir Butov, was re-elected with 68 percent of the vote according to preliminary results, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 January. In the election -- held on 14 January -- Butov's closest competitor was Aleksandr Shmakov, deputy general director of the Russian-U.S. company, Polar Radiance, who had 10.27 percent of the vote. There were 10 candidates competing. Meanwhile, in Tyumen Oblast, preliminary results showed that first deputy presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District, Sergei Sobyanin, was leading with 51.32 percent of the vote, incumbent Governor Leonid Roketskii had only 29.92 percent, according to Reuters. ITAR-TASS cited election specialists earlier who predicted that Sobyanin looked likely to defeat the incumbent in the first round. JAC

FORMER SOVIET KGB CHIEF SEMICHASTNY DIES

Vladimir Semichastny, who headed the KGB from 1961 to 1967 and played a key role in the ouster of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1964, died of a stroke on 12 January at the age of 78, Ekho Moskvy reported. He died unrepentant of his earlier role: "I have no regrets and nothing to reproach myself about," he told NTV in a recent interview, cited by Reuters. PG

KUROEDOV AGAIN INSISTS FOREIGN SUB HIT 'KURSK'

Navy commander-in-chief Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov told Interfax on 13 January that he continues to believe that the "Kursk" sank after being struck by a foreign submarine. PG

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PLAN ROME CHURCH TO 'RIVAL' ST. PETER'S

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 13 January laid the foundation stone for a new Russian Orthodox Church in Rome, ITAR-TASS reported. When completed, the news service said, "the dome of the Russian Orthodox church will rise high above the eternal city and rival the dome of St. Peter's basilica." In his message to the groundbreaking ceremony, Patriarch Aleksii II said that "the Russian embassy and the Russian church are perhaps the two places where our compatriots will always be able to come to and get moral and spiritual support." PG

SWISS SAY SECURITY SYSTEMS IN RUSSIAN PLANES NOT WORKING

Airport officials in Geneva on 14 January have restricted the landing rights of two Russian carriers, Aeroflot and Atlant-Soyuz, after discovering that impending collision warning devices were faulty, dpa reported. PG

MOSCOW TO HAVE MUSLIM CEMETERY

Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Muslim Board of European Russia, told Interfax on 14 January that a 15 hectare cemetery for Muslims will be opened just outside the city borders of Moscow. PG

'DON'T WANT TO SPY FOR THE WEST - CALL THE FSB!'

The Federal Security Service (FSB) told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 12 January that some 600 people had called its hotline over the last six months to report what they said were contacts by foreign intelligence services. FSB officers said that 20 of these calls had led to counterintelligence investigations. And it "advises those who have been enlisted by foreign secret services to think it over whether to sell out their country and call 914-22-22." PG

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD MEETS WITH PUTIN

During talks in Moscow on 13 January, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and Russian President Putin discussed the situation in Chechnya and possible candidates to head the new Chechen government, Russian agencies reported. Kadyrov identified as the most likely candidate for the latter post the former premier of Stavropol Krai, Stanislav Ilyasov. Kadyrov characterized Ilyasov as "an energetic politician who has experience and connections." Kadyrov also said he plans to present to Putin within one week a two-year draft program for restoring the Chechen economy, in particular the oil sector. He said the federal budget will provide 16 billion rubles in 2001 for reconstruction in Chechnya. LF

DID RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ABDUCT GLUCK?

Chechen field commander Ramazan Akhmadov, whom Russian military officials in Chechnya have identified as the probable kidnapper of U.S. aide worker Kenny Gluck, has suggested that Russian intelligence may have been behind that abduction, Turan reported on 12 January. Also on 12 January, a member of the pro-Moscow Grozny administration said he has formed a group of local officials charged with collecting "unofficial" evidence relevant to Gluck's disappearance. He characterized the circumstances of Gluck's 9 January abduction as "strange," noting that the village of Starie Atagi, where Gluck was snatched by armed men, has only one exit monitored by special police who check the identity of everyone who passes through. LF




ARMENIAN TV STATIONS SUSPEND BROADCASTING TO PROTEST NEW MEDIA LAW

Some 20 Armenian TV and radio stations, including state-run Armenian National Television, suspended broadcasting for 45 minutes at 8 pm local time on 12 January to protest a new media law which they say could lead to an information blackout, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The law, enacted by the parliament in October 2000, provides for the creation of a national commission charged with monitoring electronic media outlets' compliance with the law and issuing and withdrawing licenses. It also requires them to produce at least 65 percent of their own programming, and to publicize their advertising fees. Many of the 15 independent TV stations broadcasting in the Yerevan area air primarily dubbed foreign soap operas, pornographic and horror movies. Andranik Tevanian, who is executive director of the independent AR TV station, told RFE/RL that broadcasters fear the new commission will restrict the activities of TV companies and enable the authorities to exert pressure on channels considered undesirable. Also on 12 January, the Constitutional Court ruled that several provisions of the law are unconstitutional, AP reported. LF

ARMENIA WANTS RAIL TRANSIT FEES THROUGH GEORGIA REDUCED

Newly-appointed Transport and Communications Minister Yervand Zakharian told RFE/RL on 13 January that Armenia will demand that Georgia reduce by 50 percent the current transit fees for rail freight shipped through Georgia, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. Zakharian said Yerevan is entitled to that discount under a 1996 agreement signed by six Caucasus and Central Asian states within the framework of the EU's TRACECA project. He said he does not know why Georgia does not apply the favorable reduced rate to Armenia. The president of Armenia's largest transportation company told Noyan Tapan late last month that Georgia has reduced the preferential rates for Armenia at six monthly intervals over the past three years, most recently reducing the rebate from 25 percent to 17 percent. On most occasions, he said, the reduction was rescinded after talks between the two countries' governments. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES RUSSIAN-AZERBAIJANI RAPPROCHEMENT A THREAT

Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze told journalists in Tbilisi on 12 January that the ministry does not share the view of some Georgian political figures that the improvement in Azerbaijani-Russian relations reflected by Russian President Vladimir Putin's 9-10 January visit to Baku may adversely affect Georgian-Azerbaijani relations, Caucasus Press reported. Giorgi Baramidze, who heads the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia parliament faction, had expressed that fear two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2001). Napetvaridze added that Azerbaijani diplomats will brief their Georgian counterparts in the near future on the results of Putin's visit. LF

FORMER CHECHEN OFFICIAL ARRESTED, RELEASED IN GEORGIA

Police arrested former Chechen Foreign Minister Akhiyat Idigov at the Tbilisi airport on 13 January on the grounds that his name figures on a list of persons wanted by Interpol for suspected terrorism, Russian agencies reported. Idigov was released the same day after Russian officials said he is no longer wanted for questioning in Russia. LF

EC WARNS GEORGIA OVER AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES

Agriculture Minister David Kirvalidze told Caucasus Press on 12 January that the European Commission may suspend financial support for the agricultural sector in Georgia if Tbilisi continues to use those funds for other purposes, such as paying pensions and other social allowances. The state budget for 2001 envisages allocating 15.8 million laris ($8 million) for agriculture, of which the EC is to provide 13 million laris. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY SLAMS OPPOSITION ADDRESS TO U.S. CONGRESS

Representatives of the OTAN party formed two years ago to support President Nursultan Nazarbaev told a press conference on 11 January that the appeal by the Forum of Democratic Forces to the U.S. Congress concerning corruption charges against Nazarbaev's U.S. adviser, James Giffen (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 5 January 2001), is merely the latest move by former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin in his ongoing polemic with the Kazakh leadership, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Ermurat Bapi, editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Sol-Dat," dismissed the OTAN activists' criticism as an attempt to protect Nazarbaev's reputation. LF

KAZAKH DEFENSE OFFICIALS DETAIL SPENDING, ARMS EXPORTS

Major General Malik Saparov, who is first deputy chief of the Kazakh Army General Staff, told journalists in Astana on 12 January that as a result of measures taken over the last year, the country's armed forces are prepared to repel attacks by any "bandit groups," regardless of their nationality and strength, Interfax reported. He noted the successful establishment of the Western Military District and said the creation of the Southern Military District is a priority for 2001. Deputy Defense Minister Gosman Amrin told journalists that last year the armed forces received 17 billion tenges ($101.7 million) from the budget instead of the planned 12 billion, and that funding in 2001 is to be no less than 25 billion tenges, or 1 percent of planned GDP. He said Kazakhstan will receive arms from Russia worth some $20 million in 2001 in part payment of Russia's annual lease for the Baikonur cosmodrome, according to ITAR-TASS. The head of Kazakhstan's Kazspetseksport government trading company said that the country exported arms worth 900 million tenges in 2000 and plans to increase that figure to 3 billion this year. LF

WOMEN APPEAL TO KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OVER EMBEZZLED FAMILY ALLOWANCES

A group of women from South Kazakhstan Oblast have traveled to Astana to beg an audience with President Nazarbaev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 12 January. The women are demanding payment of family allowances for the past five years. Several officials were arrested and imprisoned last year on charges of embezzling those funds, but the money has not been recovered. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S SUPREME COURT DENIES RECEIVING IMPRISONED OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S APPEAL

The Supreme Court on 13 January denied receiving an appeal by Guild of Prisoners of Conscience founder Topchubek TurgunAliyev against the sentence handed down on him in September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2000). Turgunaliev, who was found guilty of masterminding a plot to assassinate President Askar Akaev, had submitted that appeal on 27 November, and must now resubmit it. He claims the charges against him were fabricated. LF

KYRGYZ ENERGY SECTOR SUB-DIVIDED

Kyrgyzstan's huge Kyrgyzenergo company was divided into five separate smaller companies on 12 January as a prelude to its privatization, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev had announced the planned privatization on 9 January, noting that it would be conducted over a lengthy time period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). Bakiev added that hydroelectric power stations, which are to be regrouped into a single company, and power lines will be exempt from privatization. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S KOREAN COMMUNITY HOLDS CONGRESS

Some 200 Koreans representing the estimated 20,000 strong Korean minority in Kyrgyzstan held a congress in Bishkek on 12 January, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. They re-elected Roman Shin as chairman of the Chinson organization that represents their interests. LF

IODINE DEFICIENCY SOARS IN KYRGYZSTAN

Prime Minister Bakiev on 13 January charged the Ministry of Health with drafting by 1 April a package of emergency measures to counter diseases caused by iodine deficiency, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Of a population of some 4.9 million, 75,500 were found to be suffering from such diseases in 1999, compared with only 18,000 in 1997. LF

TAJIKISTAN CREATES NEW ECONOMY AND TRADE MINISTRY

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 11 January abolished the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Relations and the State Committee on Trade and Contracts and replaced them with a streamlined Ministry of Economy and Trade, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the following day. Hakim Soliev, who had headed the State Committee on Trade and Contracts, was named to head the new combined ministry. LF

IS TURKMENISTAN'S STATE LIBRARY IN DANGER?

President Saparmurat Niyazov is planning to liquidate Turkmenistan's state library, which has holdings of over 3 million volumes dating back to the 19th century, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported on 12 January, quoting opposition Turkmenistan Foundation Director and former Foreign Minister Avdy Kuliev. LF




BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS WARNED AGAINST PROPOSING PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

The Justice Ministry has warned the Belarusian Trade Union Federation that it is not allowed to propose its leader, Uladzimir Hancharyk, as a contender in this year's presidential elections, Belapan reported on 12 January. The ministry argues that such a proposal would contradict the federation's charter and be at variance with the federation's tasks. Valyantsina Palevikova, secretary of the federation, told the agency that the ministry's statement is an "element of intimidation" of the trade union movement by the authorities. According to Palevikova, the federation has the right to participate in the country's political and economic life. Hancharyk, along with former Premier Mikhail Chyhir and former Hrodna Oblast Governor Syamyon Domash, has been mentioned by the Belarusian opposition as a potential challenger to Lukashenka. JM

LUKASHENKA COUNTS ON 'PRAGMATIC REALISM' OF NEW U.S. ADMINISTRATION

"I hope pragmatic realism of the U.S. new administration will help bring our positions closer to each other on a number of pressing political and economic issues," President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told foreign diplomats at a 13 January reception to mark New Year according to the Orthodox Church calendar. U.S. Ambassador Michael Kozak was not invited to the party in what is widely seen as Lukashenka's affront to Washington (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2000). "[Kozak] has not yet presented his credentials to Alyaksandr Lukashenka and, most likely, that was the reason why he was not invited," Belarusian Television commented. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAID TO BE SUFFERING FROM 'MOSAIC PSYCHOPATHY'

The independent "Nasha svaboda" on 12 January published a "medical conclusion" by Belarusian psychiatrist Dzmitry Shchyhelski stating that Belarusian President Lukashenka is suffering from a "moderately pronounced psychopathy with the prevalence of traits of a paranoid and distractive personality disorder." Shchyhelski provided a lengthy analysis of Lukashenka's deeds and career to prove his medical conclusion. According to Shychelski, Lukashenka's remaining in the post of Belarusian president "is posing a direct threat to both the citizens of the republic and the preservation of peace and stability in the region." Shchyhelski, who is currently on a trip in the U.S., told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that since 1996 doctors in virtually all psychiatric clinics in Belarus have been discussing symptoms of Lukashenka's psychopathic "deviations." JM

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER TO BE ARRESTED?

Last week, investigators twice interrogated Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, who is in charge of Ukraine's fuel and energy sector in Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet. The Prosecutor-General's Office has charged Tymoshenko with gas smuggling, document forgery, and major tax evasion during her previous job as head of the Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine. Tymoshenko told the 13 January "Zerkalo nedeli" that the charges against her are "absolute nonsense." However, she added that she is expecting her arrest any moment. Meanwhile, Yushchenko has warned against politicizing Tymoshenko's case, adding that she is "a Ukrainian cabinet member [whose case] should be approached with utmost transparency and under appropriate public control." Many in Ukraine believe that Tymoshenko's case was opened to divert the public spotlight from the scandal implicating President Leonid Kuchma in the disappearance of an independent journalist. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DISMISSES 'MOROZ'S TAPES' AS EVIDENCE

Mykhaylo Potebenko on 12 January said the tapes recorded by Kuchma's former bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, in the presidential office and made public by Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz cannot be accepted as evidence in the disappearance case of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported. Potebenko added that even if international experts confirm the authenticity of the tapes, the Prosecutor-General's Office will not accept them as evidence since they were obtained in an illegal way. According to Potebenko, Ukraine's legislation allows material to be accepted as evidence only if it was "...obtained in a legal way and by appropriate bodies that are authorized to gather information." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO VOTE ON REFERENDUM BILL THIS WEEK?

First deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk thinks that a bill on the implementation of the 16 April constitutional referendum should be considered by the parliament on 18 January, Interfax reported on 12 January. Last July, the parliament passed a resolution to incorporate the referendum results into the country's constitution during the current parliamentary session, which ends on 19 January. "There is no need to waste time and hinder this process," Medvedchuk noted. Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Mykola Zhulynskyy has said he foresees the parliament's "voluntary dissolution" because lawmakers are incapable of "fulfilling the people's will," meaning the implementation of the referendum, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. JM

SENATOR HELMS'S SUPPORT FOR BALTIC NATO MEMBERSHIP WELCOMED

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms told the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on 11 January that the NATO summit in 2002 should invite Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the 19-member organization. Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins thanked Helms for his statement the next day, which Berzins called the strongest and most influential support so far for the early admission of the Baltic states to NATO, BNS reported. The Estonian ambassador to the U.S., Sven Jurgenson, said that the senator's statement marked the start of a serious debate on NATO enlargement in the U.S., which he predicted will be shorter than it was for admitting Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves said it is good that both American major political parties continued to be unanimous in supporting the Baltic states as part of an enlarged NATO despite their differing positions on several other foreign policy issues. SG

ESTONIA'S CAPITAL PASSES 2001 BUDGET

The Tallinn City Council on 11 January passed the city's 2001 budget of 3.323 billion kroons ($200.5 million) by a vote of 35 to 10 with one abstention, BNS and ETA reported the next day. This was 763 million kroons -- or 29.8 percent greater -- than the 2000 budget. Initially, a 2.95 billion kroon budget had been proposed, but it was increased when it became clear that the city would receive 641 million kroons from the privatization of the city's water utility, Tallinna Vesi. The council also gave up plans to borrow 410 million kroons in 2001, but instead will pay back 200 million of the 953 million kroons of loans the city had made earlier. SG

LATVIA'S NEW PARTY CHANGES NAME, ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN

The Congress of the New Party changed the party's name to the New Christian Party and elected clergyman Guntis Dislers as its new chairman on 13 January, BNS reported. Surgeon Janis Zarzeckis was elected the party's deputy chairman. The congress elected an 18-member board, which includes Justice Minister Ingrida Labucka, former LETA news agency editor-in-chief Aleksandrs Niklass, Latvian Christian Academy rector Skaidrite Gutmane, and Ainars Slesers, one of the party's founders and financiers. It also decided to participate in the local elections and to draw up lists of candidates by 20 January. Dislers mentioned the Christian Democratic Union as a potential cooperation partner, but said that this would be decided only after more careful analysis of its political program. SG

POLAND'S NEW 'POLITICAL INITIATIVE' CAUSES PARTY DEFECTIONS

Several prominent politicians of the centrist Freedom Union (UW), including former Premier Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, Jacek Merkel, and Warsaw Mayor Pawel Piskorski, have left the UW to join the new "political initiative" launched by Maciej Plazynski, Donald Tusk, and Andrzej Olechowski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2001). "We are ready for any agreement and any dialogue, but there is no understanding with the party that is being created to destroy the Freedom Union," UW leader Bronislaw Geremek commented on the defections. PAP reported that seven lawmakers from the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) are pondering joining the new "political initiative." According to some Polish media, the Conservative Peasant Union, a component of the AWS coalition, is also facing a split over the Plazynski-Tusk-Olechowski initiative. JM

SOLIDARITY LEADER'S AIDES SUE TELEVISION FOR SLANDER

Representatives of Solidarity trade union head Marian Krzaklewski have sued Polish Television's main newscast staff for alleging that Krzaklewski's presidential election campaign was illegally financed by the Orlen Polish Oil Concern (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2001). Polish Radio quoted Krzaklewski's campaign team head Wieslaw Walendziak as saying that the program deliberately disseminated false information about Krzaklewski and "made no attempt to verify it in any way." JM

FORMER CZECH MINISTER DETAINED IN CUBA

Czech parliamentarian and former Finance Minister Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, a member of a Czech pro-democracy civic foundation, have been detained in Cuba, CTK and AP reported on 14 January. The Cuban authorities say the two were detained on grounds of "violating the foreigners' residential terms." CTK cited Cuban police as saying they had been trying to contact political opposition members. The Czech charge d'affaires in Havana, who was allowed to meet with Pilip and Bubenik on 14 January, said their physical condition was good. The Foreign Ministry described the detention as "groundless and incompatible with the principles the Czech Republic and other democracies abide by." MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE DISMISSES TV COUNCIL...

The Chamber of Deputies on 12 January voted 109 for and 35 against to dismiss the Radio and Television Council, CTK reported. The council earlier refused to follow the chambers' directives and dismiss former Czech Television Director Jiri Hodac, who later submitted his resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 12 January 2001). MS

...APPROVES AMENDMENT TO LAW ON TELEVISION...

After a marathon session that lasted to the early morning hours of 13 January, the Chamber of Deputies passed an amendment to the law on Czech Television. The vote was 133-52. The amendment was approved with the support of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), whose leaders, Milos Zeman and Vaclav Klaus, met before the vote in what observers say was a "surprising encounter." Under the amendment, the chamber is to approve a 15-member council -- instead of 9 as previously stipulated -- from among persons proposed by professional and civic organizations. The chamber is also to take over some of the council's prerogatives, including the appointment of a new TV director, until at least 10 members on the new council have been selected. MS

...BUT THAT DOES NOT CONCLUDE THE STORY...

The bill was opposed not only by the Communists, but also by the Four Party Coalition. The coalition objects to the fact that the amended law leaves approval to the council as the chamber's prerogative and does not add the Senate and the president to those entitled to make nominations to the council or vote on its make-up. The Senate must still approve the amendment but, unlike in the lower house, the CSSD and the ODS do not have a majority there. The vote is scheduled for 17 January. MS

...OR THE STRIKE

Reacting to the approval of the amended bill, the strike committee at Czech Television decided to continue the labor action. A spokesman for the striking journalists said all members of the new management appointed by Hodac will have to resign or be dismissed before the strikes ends, CTK reported. The strikers welcomed the parliament's "effort to find a quick solution" but criticized the provision that leaves the approval of council members as the Chamber of Deputies' prerogative. Earlier, Klaus called on the strikers to end their action while Czech Television News Director Jana Bobosikova, who was appointed by Hodac, said she will not resign. MS

ODS TO END 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT?'

ODS leader and Chamber of Deputies' Chairman Klaus on 13 January said the ODS wants to "seriously discuss" with the CSSD "addenda to the opposition agreement" under which the minority CSSD government rules with ODS support, CTK reported. Klaus said at a conference of ODS regional leaders that the ODS is mainly concerned with the 2000 state budget deficit having exceeded the limits approved by the parliament. Klaus also said 2001 will bring about "significant political shifts" in the position of political parties, as these will begin preparing for the 2002 elections. Zeman's expected departure from the CSSD chairmanship in the spring, Klaus added, "could signify radical shifts inside the CSSD" as well. He said a majority coalition formed by the ODS and the Four Party Coalition could emerge after the general elections. MS

TEMELIN TO BE SHUT DOWN FOR TWO WEEKS

Frantisek Hezoucky, director of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, on 14 January announced the plant will be shut down for two weeks "because of technical problems." The plant, which is in a testing stage, will be closed on 17 January. On 12 January, leaking oil caused a fire at Temelin, which was immediately extinguished without causing any damage. Also on 12 January, Zeman and Klaus met in Prague with Lower Austria Governor Erwin Proell to discuss Temelin and illegal people-smuggling across the Czech-Austrian border. MS

SMER WANTS TO CHANGE DIRECTION OF SLOVAK POLITICS

Robert Fico, leader of the Smer (Direction) party, on 12 January said the electoral system should be changed to reduce the number of political parties represented in the parliament, "clean" the political system, and do away with "disorder and incompetence." For that purpose, the proportional party-lists systems must be replaced with a majority system in which deputies would be elected in constituencies and be responsible before those who chose them, rather than before their party leadership, as is now the case. Fico also wants the electoral threshold to be raised from 5 to 7 percent. This, he said, will force small parties to either merge with large formations or "convince more people to back them." Fico said small parties now gain parliamentary representation "on the back of large formations," and once in the parliament, they behave "as if they were the most important" there, CTK reported. MS

SCHUSTER READY TO HELP SETTLE COALITION PROBLEMS

President Rudolf Schuster on 12 January said he said he will conduct separate talks with the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) and with the Hungarian Coalition Party (SDK) to help overcome differences between them, CTK reported. The SDL, as well as other coalition parties, are opposed to the SDK demand that a Hungarian-language state university be set up in Nitra and that land whose previous owners cannot be identified be transferred to the jurisdiction of local authorities. Many Slovaks suspect the transfer is aimed at restituting Hungarian lands confiscated under the Benes decrees of 1945. The SMK also demands that a separate administrative county be set up in densely Hungarian-populated southern Slovakia and that the constitutional preamble starting with the words "We, the Slovak nation" be replaced by "We, the citizens of Slovakia." MS

IVANOV WELCOMES HUNGARY'S FUTURE EU MEMBERSHIP

Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 12 January in Budapest that Hungary's future EU membership is expected to improve bilateral trade with Moscow. Ivanov and his Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi, signed a new consular agreement and protocol covering cooperation between their foreign ministries. Ivanov said that the temporary chilling of bilateral relations after Hungary entered NATO is "a thing of the past." According to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Ivanov's visit "opened new perspectives" in bilateral relations. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS FORM ANTI-TORGYAN CRISIS COMMITTEE

The former leadership of the Budapest branch of the Independent Smallholders' Party on 13 January established a "crisis committee" to remove party chairman Jozsef Torgyan. Katalin Liebmann, former leader of the branch who was recently suspended by Torgyan, said the meeting was attended by 10 county branch leaders, as well as party deputy chairmen and general secretaries. In related news, Jozsef Ferenc Nagy, a former agriculture minister, formed a party called "1930-2000 Smallholders," with the aim of gathering all forces dissatisfied with Torgyan. MSZ




YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA MEETS WITH MILOSEVIC

President Vojislav Kostunica met in Belgrade on 13 January for one hour with his predecessor, Slobodan Milosevic, whose Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) requested the meeting the previous day, "Vesti" reported on 15 January. The state-run Tanjug news agency said in a statement that the two men discussed the general situation in the country, the situation in Kosova, and the future of Serbian-Montenegrin relations. An unnamed individual "in Kostunica's office" told AP on 14 January that Kostunica wanted to show that he had broken with Milosevic's policy of not meeting with opposition leaders. Kostunica said that "the president is obliged to talk to party leaders, in this case with the leader of the largest opposition party." SPS spokesman Branislav Ivkovic hailed the meeting, saying that it was "quite normal" for two presidents to discuss affairs of state. Milosevic's own predecessor, Ivan Stambolic, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 2000). He has not been heard from since. PM

WHAT DID THE YUGOSLAV LEADERS TALK ABOUT?

Speculation is rife as to what the two men actually discussed, "Vesti" and "Die Presse" reported on 15 January. One theory is that indicted war criminal Milosevic wanted assurances from Kostunica that he will not be turned over to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Another theory is that Kostunica tried to persuade Milosevic to go to The Hague voluntarily, as former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic did the previous week. Kostunica himself told "Glas Javnosti" of 13 January that he considers the tribunal to be a "political rather than legal body." He added that reopening the court's Belgrade office "does not automatically mean accepting all demands of the court." Kostunica noted that Yugoslav law does not allow for extradition of citizens to foreign courts. He acknowledged that the Dayton agreement committed Belgrade to cooperate with the tribunal, but added that the Yugoslav parliament never ratified the document. Kostunica stressed that "we will cooperate to the extent that our laws allow and that [it] does not insult [our] national dignity." PM

SERBIAN COALITION ALLIES REBUFF KOSTUNICA

Serbian Prime Minister-designate Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade that he learned of the Milosevic-Kostunica meeting from a radio broadcast and wants an explanation. He added that the government should do exactly the opposite of whatever Milosevic advised. Djindjic stressed that he sees no purpose in getting advice on the future of the federation from the man most responsible for alienating Montenegro to begin with, "Vesti" reported on 15 January. Zarko Korac of the Social Democratic Union told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 13 January that "Milosevic belongs in jail." Korac added that the former dictator should not be treated like a legitimate politician "with whom one is obliged to consult." Korac argued that the fact that Kostunica is willing to talk to Milosevic about Montenegro is in itself a warning to the citizens of Montenegro. The small Sumadija League said in a statement that "it is unbelievable that anybody, especially the president of Yugoslavia, consults...with the man who brought us all to the brink of bare survival and disgraced us before the whole world." PM

HAGUE, OWN MINISTER WARN YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT

Florence Hartmann, who is a spokeswoman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, told AP on 14 January that Kostunica "knows that Milosevic is a fugitive and [Kostunica] is aware of the obligation to arrest him." In Belgrade, Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac said that "the Hague tribunal is a UN body, which means that the constitutional ban on extradition does not apply," AP reported on 13 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2001). PM

SERBIAN POLICE TO BE DOWNSIZED

Dusan Mihajlovic, who is tipped to head the police in the new Serbian government, told "Glas Javnosti" of 14 January that he has no idea as to the exact size of the force, estimated at between 60,000 and 100,000. He said he expects to cut it by two-thirds. He stressed that he intends to transform it from an instrument of state terror into a force that protects citizens and their property. Milosevic, who was never fully confident of the army's support, used the well-armed police as his own Praetorian guard. PM

SERBIAN COALITION BACKS KOSTUNICA ON MONTENEGRO

The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition issued a statement on 14 January endorsing Kostunica's recent proposal on relations with Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2001). PM

MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION TO KOSTUNICA PROPOSAL STIFFENS

Miodrag Vukovic, who is an aide to President Milo Djukanovic, said in Podgorica on 14 January that Kostunica's proposal is in many ways worse for Montenegro than was Milosevic's constitution of 1992. Vukovic stressed that Kostunica is wrong when he says that Montenegro previously sought union with Serbia, arguing that Montenegro wanted only "equal state relations" with its larger partner, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic is slated to meet with Kostunica and Djindjic in Belgrade on 17 January. Montenegro's two largest parties have still not reached an agreement on holding early parliamentary elections and a referendum on independence. PM

KFOR ARRESTS GUERRILLAS ON SERBIAN BORDER

KFOR troops arrested 11 uniformed and armed members of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac as they attempted to cross from Serbia into Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 13 January. The men were taken to a U.S. military installation at Gjilan for questioning. PM

ALBANIA STRESSES KOSOVA ROLE IN BELGRADE TIES

Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in Tirana on 13 January that Kosova will be Albania's main concern in pursuing new relations with Serbia. He added that Tirana supports any proposal for resolving the political status of the province that takes into consideration the wishes of the majority of the population there, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The ethnic Albanian majority is interested only in independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 December 2000). PM

NEW KOSOVA ADMINISTRATOR DOUBTFUL ON ELECTIONS

Former Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup, who recently succeeded Bernard Kouchner as chief civilian administrator in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 15 January that his first priority is to "create a legal framework" for general elections. He stressed that he will set a date for the vote only once that framework is in place, AP reported. His views are a departure from those of Kouchner, who stressed the need to keep up political momentum after the recent local elections by going ahead soon with general elections. Haekkerup added that international plans to return several hundred Serbian refugees by the summer might be too hasty. "My job is to create a secure environment so the returns are possible, and that might take some time yet," he said. PM

BOSNIAN SERBS GET NEW GOVERNMENT

The parliament in Banja Luka approved the new cabinet of Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic on 12 January. It includes one Muslim and one member of the nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which won November's parliamentary vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). Representatives of the international community have threatened to cut off aid to the Republika Srpska if the SDS is included in the cabinet, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Outgoing Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said that the SDS is responsible for the war in Bosnia and that its leaders belong in The Hague. PM

BOSNIAN NON-NATIONALIST PARTIES SIGN PACT

Representatives of the 10 political parties in the Alliance for Change signed an agreement in Sarajevo on 13 January, calling for a government that excludes the three main nationalist parties, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2001). The previous day, representatives of the Croatian Democratic Community and Muslim Party of Democratic Action criticized the decision by High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch to grant all citizens equal legal status throughout Bosnia regardless of ethnicity. PM

SERBIAN GUNNER KILLS SELF IN CROATIA

Suspected gunman Zivko Korac, who has hid out in the woods of Zrinska Gora since the arrival of Croatian troops in 1995, killed himself on 14 January after being surrounded by Croatian police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 2000). PM

UN EXTENDS MANDATE ON CROATIA'S PREVLAKA

The Security Council voted on 12 January to extend its military observer mission on Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula until 15 July, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). PM

CONTROVERSIAL ROMANIAN SENATOR TO HEAD INTELLIGENCE SERVICE

The National Supreme Defense Council on 12 January nominated Senator Radu Timofte to be the next director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The nomination is yet to be approved by the parliament. Timofte was chairman of the senatorial National Defense, Public Order and Security Commission between 1990 and 1996, and a vice chairman of that commission, which oversees the SRI activity, between 1996 and 2000. He is reputed to be close to President Ion Iliescu. In a recently-published book, political scientist George Voicu describes Timofte as being haunted by imaginary conspiracy theories involving alleged threats against Romania by neighbors, national minorities, and international financial circles. Meanwhile, on 10 January, the government decided to place the national news agency Rompres under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Information, ending the agency's independence, AP reported on 12 January. MS

IS ROMANIAN PATRIARCH A FORMER IRON GUARD MEMBER?

The daily "Monitorul" on 13 January reproduced a document discovered by historian Dorin Dobrincu, according to which Patriarch Teoctist was a member of the fascist Iron Guard and participated in that organization's rebellion against Marshal Ion Antonescu in January 1941. The document is in the Securitate file on Patriarch Teoctist and says the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church took part in the burning of a synagogue in Iasi. A spokesman for the Patriarchate described the document as "pure invention" but the daily says Teoctist's membership in the Iron Guard might have been used by the communist regime to blackmail him into collaboration. Teoctist resigned and retired to a monastery in 1990 to atone for that collaboration, but a few months later was recalled as the head of the Church by its synod. MS

PRIVATE HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY TO BE FORCED TO HAVE ROMANIAN TUITION?

The private Hungarian-language university about to be set up in Romania must introduce at least one faculty with Romanian-language tuition in order to be approved by the National Council for Academic Evaluation and Accreditation, Mediafax reported on 12 January, citing council chairman Ioan Mihailescu. The university is financed by the Hungarian government and private donations and is to be located in the Transylvanian town of Miercurea Ciuc. The Hungarian minority has not renounced demands that a state-funded Hungarian-language university be set up, but the government headed by Adrian Nastase has ruled out that possibility. No progress has been made in setting up the "Petofi-Schiller Multicultural University" approved in September 1998 by the Radu Vasile cabinet, and that project appears to have been stalled. MS

ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATIC PARTY DISPLAYS LIMITED DEMOCRACY

Democratic Party Vice-Chairman and Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu on 12 January said he "would not rule out" the possibility that if the party holds an extraordinary National Conference later this year, he will run against Petre Roman for the formation's chairmanship, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Roman said in reaction that he "does not believe this is a real possibility," but Basescu's declaration "demonstrates that there is democracy" in the party. Shortly after, Basescu said he would not run against Roman if that led to a party split and Roman on 14 January said the scenario was "mere speculation by the media and by people interested in disseminating such rumors." MS

LUCINSCHI CALLS ON PARTIES TO CONDUCT 'CIVILIZED CAMPAIGN'

Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi on 12 January called on political parties participating in the early elections campaign to transform the occasion into a "duel of ideas and proposals about how the country would get out of its present deadlock," rather than display "primitive behavior, use of dirty tricks against opponents, and of bad language...that harm the image of parties and of the country as a whole." The electoral campaign was officially launched on 12 January and the elections will take place on 25 February, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER HEADS CENTRIST ALLIANCE...

Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis will run in the elections at the head of a pro-Lucinschi block calling itself "The Braghis Alliance," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 12 January. Braghis said his alliance is likely to win the highest or the second-highest number of mandates, in which case he will stay on as premier. He also said the Braghis Alliance is likely to support Lucinschi for a new presidential mandate. He said the presidential system is more suitable to Moldova than the parliamentary one but as long as the latter system is in force "we must abide by its rules." Commenting on statements made by politicians in Bucharest who speak of "two Romanian states," Braghis said "thus far, the Moldovan republic is not a Romanian state." MS

...AND CONTROVERSIAL GENERAL RUNS ON CENTRIST PARTY TICKET

Controversial General Nicolae Alexei is a candidate on the lists of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD), PPCD leader Iurie Rosca told journalists on 12 January. Alexei was dismissed as head of the Interior Ministry's Department for the Struggle Against Organized Crime in 1999 after accusing parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov and other politicians of corruption. He was re-instated to that post and promoted to first deputy interior minister by Braghis, but was suspended from office following several complaints launched by Diacov. MS

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS SIGN AGREEMENT WITH NATIONALIST ORGANIZATION

Socialist party leader Georgi Parvanov and Dobromir Zadgorski, leader of the Committee for the Defense of National Interests (KZNI) "civic" organization, on 12 January signed a cooperation agreement for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential campaigns, and on cooperation in the next four years, Bulgarian Radio, cited by BBC monitoring, reported. The KZNI, which publishes the ultranationalist magazine "Zora," has taken chauvinist positions towards the Turkish minority and has defended the campaigns against this minority by the communist regime of Todor Zhivkov. Also on 12 January, Turkey announced it will send tens of thousands of Turkish-language schoolbooks for the use of the ethnic Turkish minority in Bulgaria, Reuters reported. The donation was organized by Abdulhaluk Cay, a state minister and a member of the far-right Turkish nationalist wing in the coalition government. MS




Ten Years Ago In Lithuania -- The Shots Heard Round The World


By Paul Goble

The date 13 January marks the 10th anniversary of an event that changed the world. On that day in 1991, Soviet troops fired into a crowd surrounding the Vilnius television tower. But they did more than kill 14 Lithuanian demonstrators: They destroyed three assumptions that underlay what many in both Moscow and the West saw as the emerging post-Cold War world.

First, this shooting and the reaction of Lithuanians to it suggested something that many had thought impossible: that Lithuania and her two Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia were in fact going to be able to escape from Soviet occupation and recover their national independence within a short period of time.

Second, the Vilnius shooting pointed to something many had assumed could not happen: that the East European revolutions of 1989, revolutions that ended Soviet domination of that region, could and would spread via a Baltic bridge into the Soviet inner empire, leading to its disintegration and to the appearance of 12 new countries on the map of the world.

And third, it demonstrated something many world leaders were unwilling to acknowledge: that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was not prepared either to negotiate in good faith with the ever-growing number of popular movements his policies had allowed to emerge or to reimpose order through the massive application of force.

None of these developments or conclusions was immediately apparent either in Moscow or in Western capitals, both of which were focused on the imminent start of Operation Desert Storm against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. But those developments meant that the unthinkable became the conventional wisdom and the impossible was transformed into the achieved.

A week before the shootings, on 6 January 1991, Gorbachev had dispatched Soviet security forces into Armenia, Moldavia, western Ukraine and the three Baltic republics nominally to enforce Soviet military draft laws but in fact as a show of force against the pro-independence and anti-Moscow political movements in all six places.

Throughout the following week, tensions between these Soviet troops and the populations they had been sent to control continued to rise, nowhere more sharply than in Lithuania. Then on Saturday night, 13 January, the Soviet soldiers fired into the crowd in the Lithuanian capital. And that country's leader, Vytautas Landsbergis, was convinced that Gorbachev planned to kill or imprison his entire government.

Soviet documents released later showed that such were in fact Moscow's intentions, but the kind of crackdown Landsbergis feared did not happen. On the one hand, one group of Soviet troops lost their way -- it hadn't been supplied with the necessary maps -- and never made it to the parliament building where the Lithuanian government was rapidly assembling a crowd. Moreover, the presence of Western journalists and diplomats in the parliament building guaranteed that any such action would be reported to the entire world.

And on the other hand, the Lithuanians showed a resolve that Soviet commanders were apparently not prepared to challenge, and Western leaders reacted sufficiently forcefully to convince Gorbachev that despite all the understanding these governments had shown to him, they would find it very difficult to deal with Moscow were there to be a Soviet version of Tiananmen Square in the Baltic countries.

After the Soviet troops fired on the crowd, it did not disperse as many might have expected. Instead, they began to sing an old Lithuanian hymn, and thousands of Lithuanians rushed to parliament square as a sign to Moscow that it would have to be prepared to kill far more than 14 of Lithuania's citizens if it wanted to block that country's national movement.

And even though Western leaders were working closely with Gorbachev in the international alliance against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, most of them were appalled by what the Soviet leader had done or at least was associated with. As he traveled to the Middle East for the last round of pre-war talks, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker spoke for many when he issued from his airplane a tough statement condemning what Moscow had done in Vilnius.

Moreover, the events in Vilnius suggested that despite 50 years of Soviet occupation, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had remained part of Europe and were thus in a position to become the bridge over which the ideas of the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe spread into the Soviet Union.

A few Soviet officials understood this -- including Gorbachev's reformist advisor Aleksandr Yakovlev -- and hoped to allow the Baltic republics to go their own way much as the East Europeans had. Gorbachev was unwilling to do that lest other Soviet republics follow the Baltic lead, but by trying to hold on to them after they had signaled that they wanted to leave, Gorbachev in fact created a situation in which the Baltic revolution spread to the entire Soviet Union.

And perhaps most importantly of all, the killings in Vilnius that January night a decade ago and the killings of five Latvians by the Soviet Black Berets in Riga a week later destroyed much of the faith many Soviet citizens and many Western leaders had in Gorbachev, and ever more of both groups began to ask whether he could in fact succeed in his policy of trying to liberalize the Soviet state.

For many in both places, Gorbachev as a result of Vilnius appeared too willing to rely on a show of force rather than engaging in negotiations with his political opponents but more unwilling that his predecessors to use the amount of force that might have been necessary to suppress them totally.

Many who reached that conclusion decided that Gorbachev's days in power were now numbered. Those who wanted to move toward a political solution, like the massive crowds of Russians who protested against the Vilnius action in the streets of Moscow, increasingly turned to Russian leader Boris Yeltsin or to the leaders of the non-Russian republics. Those who wanted more force -- including senior officers in the security services -- became the leaders of what was to be the last act of the Soviet system, the failed coup of August 1991.

The world of January 2001 was in many respects defined by that night in Vilnius a decade ago, in a confrontation between a frightened leadership and a people whose faith in the rightness of their cause meant that they were prepared to sacrifice themselves in the name of freedom.

(The author at the time of these events was special adviser on Soviet nationality problems and Baltic affairs at the U.S. State Department in Washington.)


XS
SM
MD
LG