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Newsline - January 19, 2001




MOSCOW REACTS ANGRILY TO GERMAN COMMENTS ON DEBT ISSUE

Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 18 January reacted sharply to a suggestion by German Deputy Finance Minister Caio Koch-Weser that Russia's failure to pay its debts to the Paris Club is "inconsistent with the demand of becoming a full member of the G-8." Kudrin said that Russia in fact will pay its debts -- President Vladimir Putin on 18 January directed the government to review its policies on this -- and that in any case the debt question is separate from the G-8 issue, Russian and Western agencies said. At the same time, he suggested that it is too soon to begin to speak about full payments this year. PG

PUTIN PRAISES MILITARY, SECURITY SERVICES

Speaking at a Kremlin ceremony on 18 January at which 27 generals were promoted, President Putin said that the country's armed services are successfully meeting their tasks -- including in the North Caucasus, Russian agencies reported. In other comments, Putin praised the effectiveness of the FSB and SVR in warding off terrorist actions and espionage. PG

PUTIN TO SET UP SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COUNCIL

"Izvestiya" reported on 18 January that a decree is being prepared for President Putin's signature that would set up a Science and Technology Council whose 255 members would help promote the development of science in Russia. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has directed the Science and Technology Ministry to develop a program to guarantee the more rapid introduction into the economy of scientific discoveries, Russian agencies reported. PG

MEDIA-MOST BATTLE CONTINUES...

Valerii Nikolaev, who is conducting the investigation into the case of media mogul Vladimir Gusinskii, said on 18 January that "the holding company Media-MOST does not exist" but rather is part of Gusinskii's larger empire, "Rossiiskie vesti" reported. Media-MOST responded that it very much exists, ITAR-TASS said. Meanwhile, Mikhail Seslavinskii, who is the first deputy media minister, told Interfax that Russia has more freedom of the press than certain other countries in Europe. PG

...AS PROSECUTORS TO GO TO SPAIN TO SEEK GUSINSKII'S EXTRADITION

Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov and his aide Pavel Barkovskii will visit Spain soon to seek the extradition of Gusinskii, Interfax reported on 18 January, citing the Madrid newspaper "El Pais." PG

PUTIN'S GROWING POWER MEANS MORE RUSSIANS BLAME HIM FOR SHORTCOMINGS

An article in "Vremya MN" on 18 January said that President Putin's concentration of power in his own hands is having a result he and his advisors did not expect: More and more Russians hold him responsible when things go wrong. Meanwhile, writing in "Novye Izvestiya" on the same day, Otto Latsis said that the failure of the state-controlled media to report on the heating problems in the Far East and the true situation in Chechnya is extremely troubling. "Just like a decade or two ago," he wrote, "all Russians can see on TV that the Kremlin is very busy. The president hands out decorations to priests. This is really something urgent and necessary...The president takes his time (five hours, to be more exact) explaining to chief editors that free speech in Russia is safe. Meanwhile, the Office of the Prosecutor-General prepares to take another Media-MOST manager into custody." PG

INFLATION UP IN JANUARY, GROWTH SEEN SLOWING

Inflation in the first half of January 2001 was rising at a 50 percent greater rate than during December, Interfax reported. For those 15 days, inflation rose an average of 0.076 percent each day, compared to a December average of 0.052 percent daily. Meanwhile, Alfa-Bank head Petr Aven told the agency that he believes that Russia's economic growth will be significantly slower in 2001 than in 2000. In a related development, the Property Ministry said that it expects to privatize 80 to 90 percent of the 11,000 state-owned firms over the next three years, AFI reported on 18 January. PG

RUSSIAN OIL COMPANIES WELCOME OPEC DECISION, OTHERS LESS SURE

The Union of Oil Exporters of Russia gave a positive evaluation of OPEC's decision to cut production and send prices higher, Interfax-ANI reported. But "Segodnya" pointed out on the same day that the higher revenues from the sale of Russian oil abroad will undercut Moscow's claims that it cannot afford to pay its Paris Club debts. PG

RUSSIA FACES DIFFICULTIES IN FILLING MILITARY DRAFT

A joint press conference of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers and representatives of the General Staff in Moscow on 18 January noted that the Russian military is facing ever greater difficulty in filling draft quotas with enough healthy and well-educated young people, "Vremya MN" reported on 18 January. General Viktor Kozhushko, who is responsible for the draft, said that only 64 percent of those called up last fall were physically fit for service, that only 13 percent of the draft-age cohort were actually drafted because of deferments, and that the percentage of draftees with secondary or special secondary education has fallen to 75 percent, with 13 percent of those inducted having a criminal record. PG

TRIUMF AIR DEFENSE MISSILES TO GO ON DUTY SOON

Air Force Commander General Anatolii Kornukov told "Krasnaya zvezda" on 18 January quoted that the Russian military will install Triumf missile systems near Moscow during the first six months of 2001. Meanwhile, Defense Ministry experts told Interfax that they are certain the U.S. could not build an effective national missile defense (NMD) system and that they are ready to go to Washington to tell the Americans this, Interfax reported on l8 January. PG

KREMLIN DRAFT LAW CALLS FOR REDRAWING TERRITORIAL MAP

"Vremya MN" reported on 18 January that a new draft law specifying the ways in which the constitutional-legal status of subjects of the Russian Federation can be changed is now under consideration. (Federation and Nationalities Minister Aleksandr Blokhin officially confirmed the existence of this legislation to "Segodnya," that paper reported the same day.) The legislation seeks to avoid constitutional problems by requiring that any change be initiated from below, either by the population or the regional leaders, rather than imposed from above, the paper said. PG

DUMA DEPUTIES WANT BETTER COORDINATION OF LEGISLATIVE PROCESS

Faced with an enormous flood of legislation, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that he and his colleagues have decided to ask President Putin about the creation of a coordination council on legislation when they meet with him this week, Interfax reported on 18 January. PG

DUMA DEPUTY FAILS TO GET U.S. VISA

The U.S. refused to give a visa to Duma deputy (Russian Regions) Iosif Kobzon, Interfax reported on 18 January. PG

PROPOSED LAND CODE SEEN BREAKING UP MAJOR FARMS

Anatolii Shutkov, the vice president of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told Interfax on 18 January that a major drawback to allowing the free sale of land in the countryside would be that it would allow the breaking up of some of the largest and most efficient agricultural enterprises. He said that legislators would have to develop safeguards to prevent that from happening. Meanwhile, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said that the subjects of the federation should have a voice in discussions about the possible sale of land. PG

MOSCOW, UN DISCUSS DEPLETED URANIUM SHELLS

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 18 January met with the executive director of the United Nations environmental protection agency to discuss the consequences of NATO's use of depleted uranium shells in Yugoslavia, Interfax reported. Ivanov used the occasion to stress "the importance of an objective and transparent study of all facts related to this theme." PG

EU'S COMMISSIONER URGES TALKS ON KALININGRAD

Christopher Patten, the EU official for foreign relations, told Russian officials that the future of Kaliningrad should be addressed in talks among Russia, Poland, and Lithuania, Interfax reported on 18 January. PG

FAR EAST ENERGY CRISIS CONSIDERED WORST SINCE WWII

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Kasyanov on 18 January, Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko told reporters that the government has demanded that Unified Energy Systems (EES) stop electricity shutdowns in Primorskii Krai, Interfax reported. According to Khristenko, 250 million rubles ($8.8 million) in credits from EES's reserve fund will be used to supply additional amounts of coal for the region's power plants. ITAR-TASS reported the same day that Kasyanov told cabinet ministers that the krai will have adequate power supplies within the next few days. Meanwhile, some residents of the krai are calling the current energy crisis the worst in the region since before World War II, "The Moscow Times" reported. One 73-year old resident told the daily "Even during the war, the streetcars were running day and night, industry was working for 24 hours. The city's windows were covered but we always had electricity." JAC

CRIME WAVE HITS MOSCOW

Crimes in the Russian capital rose by 41 percent between 1999 and 2000, Interfax-Moscow reported on 18 January, far more than most places elsewhere in Russia. Moscow police chief Viktor Shidkin said that street crime had risen by more than 50 percent over that period, and he complained about a lack of resources and attention from city officials as one of the reasons for this. PG

LEBED ACCUSED OF 'BETRAYING' RUSSIAN ARMY

Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential representative in the Far Eastern Federal District, told "Novye Izvestiya" on 18 January quoted Aleksandr Lebed, who is now Krasnoyarsk Krai governor but in 1996 was secretary of the Security Council, had "betrayed our army" by signing the Khasavyurt accord which ended the first post-Soviet Chechen war. PG

ENVOYS, KREMLIN FUNCTIONARIES FIGHT FOR CONTROL

The East-West Institute's "Russian Regional Report" reported on 18 January that President Putin has given his seven presidential envoys to the federal districts control over half of the staff of the Territorial Administration within the presidential administration. In addition, the envoys are opening their own offices in Moscow with staffs of about 15 employees. Earlier in the month, Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak protested what he called the liquidation of the Territorial Administration; however, Sergei Samoilov, head of that entity, said that the unit was only being reorganized, not liquidated (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 January 2001). According to the "Russian Regional Report," the bureaucratic turf battle over the powers of the envoys is "getting more and more intense." On one side, presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin is trying to reduce the envoys' powers, while "groups such as the Security Council support" the envoys. JAC

GORBACHEV OUT OF THE RUNNING IN TATARSTAN

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has informed the Tatarstan branch of his Social Democratic Party that he cannot run for president of that republic in elections scheduled for 25 March, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, Gorbachev said that he is currently overcommitted, since he must cope with the transformation of the Social Democratic Party into a "mass people's party." JAC

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY IN RUSSIA

Sergei Kovalev, a prominent Russian human rights activist, told "Segodnya" on 18 January that Russia is moving toward a Pinochet-type regime in which human rights are at risk. He added that the first emergency congress of civil rights activists from across Russia will open in Moscow on 20 January. He rejected suggestions that he is predicting fascism, but said that "something resembling the Pinochet regime is being quietly constructed in Russia. What do you think would be the reaction in Germany if its federal chancellor announced that he had served in the Gestapo and was proud of it? But our president says that he takes pride in his service in the KGB." PG

MOSCOW POLICE ARREST VIETNAMESE AFTER DISORDERS IN MARKET

Police in the Russian capital on 18 January arrested more than 30 Vietnamese who worked in one of the city's food markets after disorder arose when the authorities attempted to check their documents, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

NO RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS FOR MOSCOW MAYOR CANDIDATES

Moscow city Duma official Oleg Bocharov told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 January that the requirement that candidates for mayor have lived in the city for a year before their election has been eliminated. PG

YELTSIN REPORTED ILL

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" said on 18 January that rumors about the hospitalization of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin have not been confirmed but that people close to his family said that his health deteriorated unexpectedly several days ago. PG

BRIBES AMOUNT TO 4 PERCENT OF GDP

"Segodnya" reported on 18 January that corruption is now so widespread in Russia that bribes amount to 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry told Interfax that the number of economic crimes in Russia had risen by 23.9 percent in 2000 over 1999. PG

RUSSIAN, CHECHEN LEADERS DISCUSS REDUCING RUSSIAN MILITARY PRESENCE

Interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov presented President Putin on 18 January with his draft plan for stabilizing the economic, social, and political situation in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. One key component of that plan is an unspecified reduction in the number of Russian troops to be stationed in Chechnya. It also provides for the creation of a consultative body subordinate to Kadyrov that is to draft a new Chechen Constitution and a law on the election one or two years hence of a new Chechen leader, according to ITAR-TASS. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said after the meeting that Putin has given instructions to various ministries to prepare a plan for the withdrawal of an unspecified number of troops from Chechnya. Speaking in Moscow the same day, Lord Frank Judd, who headed a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe delegation that visited Chechnya earlier this week, similarly called for a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya in order to enhance the authority of the republic's civilian leadership, Interfax reported. LF




ARMENIA HAILS FRENCH PARLIAMENT VOTE ON GENOCIDE...

The Armenian Foreign Ministry on 18 January welcomed the unanimous vote earlier that day by the lower chamber of the French parliament to recognize as genocide the killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. "This move...upholds the historic truth and creates prerequisites for correctly assessing and overcoming the heavy legacy of the past," a spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The French Senate (the upper chamber of parliament) had passed an analogous bill last November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2000). LF

...WHILE AZERBAIJAN ACCUSES FRANCE OF BIAS

Commenting on the French parliament vote, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev said in Baku on 18 January that such action by a country that is one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group may adversely affect the search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Azerbaijan National Independence Party deputy chairman Ilgar Mamedov argued that France should be required to relinquish its Minsk Group co-chairmanship because of its "pro-Armenian bias." Opposition Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, for his part, characterized the vote as "a mistake from both the scientific and historical points of view." He suggested that it will adversely impact French-Azerbaijani relations. LF

AZERBAIJAN SAYS IT CANNOT MEET RUSSIA'S OIL EXPORT DEMANDS

Natik Aliev, who is president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, told journalists in Baku on 18 January that Azerbaijan cannot export annually via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline the 2.2 million tons of crude which Russian officials say is the minimum amount that would render use of that pipeline by Azerbaijan economically viable, Interfax reported. Aliyev said the maximum Azerbaijan could provide is 1.7 million tons. Azerbaijan produced almost 15 million tons of oil last year, of which SOCAR produced 9 million. During Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Baku last week, Russian and Azerbaijani officials failed to reach agreement on increasing Azerbaijan's oil exports via Novorossiisk but planned to resume negotiations after three weeks, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 14 January. LF

ABKHAZIA PROTESTS RELEASE OF GEORGIAN GUERRILLA LEADER

The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia has protested the Georgian authorities' decision to release from detention the leader of the "Forest Brothers" guerrilla force, Dato Shengelaia, Caucasus Press reported on 18 January. Shengelaia was arrested in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000) but released "on health grounds" late last month. The Georgian newspaper "Rezonansi" quoted him on 11 January as having admitted to the murder of four Abkhaz police officers. Five days later, Caucasus Press similarly quoted Shengelaia as saying "The more Abkhazians I kill, the more pleasure I receive, this gives me a reason to go on living." He also said he receives financial support from the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili, whom he termed "a real patriot." The Abkhaz statement said Shengelaia's release constitutes a violation of numerous pledges Tbilisi has signed (in August 1997, May 1998, January 2000, and July 2000) to crack down on unsanctioned guerrilla formations operating on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT APPEALS TO OIL CONSORTIUM TO NAME DRILLING OPERATOR

President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 18 January appealed to the international oil companies aligned in the OKIOC consortium not to delay the choice of a drilling operator to oversee oil extraction in the huge Kashagan field it is developing, Interfax reported. Five of OKIOC's nine shareholders -- Shell, TotalFinaElf, ExxonMobil, Statoil, and Agip -- are vying for that position. On 15 January, Interfax quoted OKIOC spokesman Matthew Bateson as saying the consortium plans to select an operator by the end of this month. East Kashagan contains reserves estimated at up to 7 billion tons. LF

KAZAKH ARMS CHIEF ON TRIAL FOR PREDECESSOR'S MURDER

The trial began behind closed doors in Almaty on 18 January of Erza Qoshqarbaev, head of Kazakhstan's State Arms Export Company, on charges of organizing the murder of his predecessor in that post, Talghat Ibraev, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Ibraev was shot dead outside his home in Almaty last April. His driver and his deputy's driver were arrested one month later in connection with the killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April and 22 May 2000). Qoshqarbaev was taken into custody in July, but in mid-August police in Almaty claimed that a young man they identified as Ibraev's murderer had killed himself during a shootout in an Almaty restaurant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July and 18 August 2000). LF

KAZAKH PREMIER ECHOES PRESIDENT'S WARNING ON INFLATION

Addressing a cabinet session in Astana on 18 January, Qasymzhomart Toqaev instructed ministers to monitor carefully the rate of inflation, Interfax reported. "Unjustified growth in prices for food and medical and household services should under no circumstances be permitted," Toqaev said. The previous day, President Nazarbaev had said that price increases in those areas last year had given rise to concern "in every household" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2001). Kazakhstan's National Bank said earlier this month that consumer price inflation in Kazakhstan last year fell to 9.8 percent from 17.8 percent in 1999. LF

KYRGYZSTAN REGISTERS DECLINE IN BIRTHRATE, BUT ALSO IN INFANT MORTALITY...

The birthrate in Kyrgyzstan has fallen by over 30 percent, from 29.3 in 1990 to 21.4 in 1999, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 18 January citing data released by the Health Care Ministry. Infant mortality was 30 per 1,000 live births in 1999 and perinatal mortality -- 43 cases per 100,000 population. In 1988, the corresponding figures were 53.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (the highest indicator of any Soviet republic at that time) and 72 deaths in childbirth per 100,000 population. Almost 90 percent of women in Kyrgyzstan currently suffer from anemia as a result of an inadequate diet. LF

...IMPLEMENTS REFORM OF HEALTH SERVICE

Newly-appointed Deputy Health Care Minister Ainura Ibraimova told a news conference in Bishkek on 18 January that her ministry's primary objectives this year are to continue implementing a reform of the health service, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. She said that the system of compulsive medical insurance pioneered in the Chu and Issyk-Kul Oblasts in 1998 will be extended throughout the country by 2004. The ministry will continue to train family doctors and to implement programs aimed at reducing the incidence of tuberculosis and other diseases. LF

ANTHRAX OUTBREAK REPORTED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

Some 145 people in a village in Kyrgyzstan's southern Djalalabad Oblast have contracted intestinal anthrax by eating tainted meat, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 18 January citing the Ministry of Ecology and Emergency Situations. LF

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS TURKMENISTAN

Meeting in Ashgabat on 18 January with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Defense Minister Batyr Sardjaev, and during a subsequent lecture at the Turkmen National University, Lord George Robertson proposed increased cooperation between Turkmenistan and NATO, specifically in the areas of coping with the aftermath of natural disasters and scientific cooperation, AP and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Robertson said such cooperation within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program (PfP) would not threaten Turkmenistan's neutral status. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 19 January, Turkmenistan participates only in those PfP exercises in which no regular troops take part. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS BORODIN'S ARREST 'CANNOT BE TOLERATED'

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 18 January called the arrest of Pavel Borodin in New York (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2001) a "gross violation of the generally accepted norms in international relations." "Such actions, which undermine mutual trust between states, cannot be tolerated in international relations," Belarusian Television quoted from Lukashenka's statement. Lukashenka noted that he personally "permitted" Borodin, who is secretary of the Belarus-Russia Union, to go to the inauguration of U.S. President George W. Bush, following an invitation from a U.S. official named James Sender. "You will be met at the airport," Lukashenka quoted from the invitation, adding that "well, they met him at the airport and put handcuffs on him." Lukashenka demanded that the U.S leadership take measures to secure Borodin's immediate release. JM

PROSECUTORS PROBE 'MEDICAL CONCLUSION' ALLEGING LUKASHENKA'S PSYCHOPATHY

The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a libel case in connection with a "medical conclusion" alleging that President Lukashenka is suffering from "mosaic psychopathy," Belapan reported on 18 January. The conclusion, which was provided by Belarusian psychiatrist Dzmitry Shchyhelski, was published on the Internet and subsequently by the independent newspaper "Nasha svaboda" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2001). "Nasha svaboda" chief editor Pavel Zhuk told Belapan that he was prepared for such a development. "If the case finds itself in court, we will demand that a commission of independent experts be set up to examine Alyaksandr Lukashenka's [mental health]," Zhuk said. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS FAIL TO IMPLEMENT CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM...

The parliament on 18 January failed to approve a bill on amending the constitution in line with last year's constitutional referendum, Interfax reported. In particular, one amendment gives the president the right to dissolve the legislature if the latter fails to form a pro-government majority or pass a budget. Only 204 lawmakers endorsed the bill, which was supported by 251 votes last July (300 votes are required to amend the constitution). The voting was boycotted by Communist and Socialist lawmakers as well as the Fatherland caucus, which used the action to protest the criminal charges brought recently against Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the Fatherland Party. President Leonid Kuchma, who is currently on an official trip in Germany, commented that the constitutional referendum needs to be implemented in a "civilized way." JM

...APPROVE PROPORTIONAL PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION LAW

The same day the parliament voted by 254 to 17 with four abstentions to pass a law that abolishes the current mixed voting system and envisions that a next parliament will be elected under a proportional party-list system. The pro-presidential caucuses of Labor Ukraine, Revival of Regions, Solidarity, and the Social Democratic Party (United) refused to participate in the voting. According to the law, lists of candidates for the parliament may be proposed only by those political parties or blocs that succeed in collecting 500,000 signatures in their support. The law stipulates that only parties supported by no less than 4 percent of voters nationwide can be represented in the parliament. The law does not specify the number of legislators to be elected, apparently leaving leeway for the implementation of last year's plebiscite which endorsed reducing the number of parliamentarians from 450 to 300. JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA AGREE ON BLACK SEA FLEET, BUT DIFFER ON NATO

On 18 January in Kyiv, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev signed with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Kuzmuk, a cooperation plan on 52 joint projects in 2001, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. In particular, the accord foresees the creation of a joint-command post in Sevastopol and a joint rescue detachment of the currently divided Black Sea Fleet. "Russia is categorically against NATO's expansion to the East," Sergeev said after his talks with Kuzmuk. Kuzmuk, whose country actively cooperates with NATO, responded that "we are proceeding from the principle that it is the sovereign right of each state to choose its own path." JM

CZECH PRIME MINISTER VISITS ESTONIA

Accompanied by deputy foreign, defense, and trade ministers, a delegation of 17 businessmen, and numerous journalists, Milos Zeman flew to Tallinn on 18 January for a two-day visit, BNS reported. He discussed with his Estonian counterpart, Mart Laar, bilateral relations, emphasizing the need to increase trade, and the ongoing negotiations for EU membership. Zeman expressed support for Estonia's membership in NATO and the hope to see Laar at the NATO Summit in Prague next year. After an official lunch hosted by parliament speaker Toomas Savi, Zeman met with President Lennart Meri, who noted the need to protect the diversity of languages and viewpoints in Europe. SG

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS MOSCOW

In his capacity as chairman of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, Indulis Berzins on 18 January discussed the legal situation in Chechnya with Russian Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev, LETA reported. He also obtained information about the events in Chechnya from his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, as he will present a report on the subject to the 25 January session of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. The two ministers also devoted considerable time to discussing their states' current relations, which Berzins said before the visit "can be described as inactive." Berzins invited Ivanov to visit Riga and noted that President Vaiva Vike-Freiberga is also inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to do the same. Ivanov noted that all bilateral issues should be tackled through constructive dialogue and both ministers agreed to organize a meeting of the intergovernmental commission in the near future. SG

LITHUANIA IMPOSES ANTI-DUMPING DUTIES ON CEMENT FROM CIS NEIGHBORS

The Competition Council ruled on 18 January to impose temporary antidumping duties on cement imported from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia for the maximum period of six months, ELTA reported. The only Lithuanian cement producer, Akmenes Cementas, lost 11.48 million litas ($2.87 million) last year and suspended production earlier this month, complaining about losing the domestic market to lower-priced cement from Belarus. The temporary customs duties will be 52 litas per ton from Belarus, 47 litas from Ukraine, and 22 litas from Russia, with the different rates being due to the costs of transportation to Lithuania. SG

POLISH PREMIER ASKS BRUSSELS TO SPEED UP EU MEMBERSHIP TALKS...

Jerzy Buzek told European Commission President Romano Prodi and EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen in Brussels on 18 January that Warsaw is still sticking to its target of joining the EU in 2003. Buzek added that his government will push to open talks to bring its national laws in line with the EU's agriculture and environmental policies within the next few months. These issues were originally scheduled to be negotiated next year. "We encourage Poland to accelerate, and if Poland can complete the preparations, if Poland can adopt all the legislation, if Poland can guarantee that there will be proper implementation, [then] of course it won't be impossible [for Poland to conclude membership talks in 2001]," an RFE/RL correspondent quoted Verheugen as saying. JM

...DISMISSES EU FEARS OF MASS MIGRATION OF POLES

Buzek told journalists in Brussels that there will be no mass migration of Poles to the West in search of work after Poland joins the EU. "We don't expect lots of Poles to rush to Germany, Austria, and other EU member states because we have a much better situation in Poland now than 10 years ago," Reuters quoted Buzek as saying. He said some 700,000 Poles have returned to Poland in the past few years, adding that this figure far outstrips the number of Poles leaving for the EU. Buzek noted that there is no need for a seven-year transition period before allowing freedom of movement for nationals of new EU members, as proposed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. JM

POLAND'S FREEDOM UNION SUFFERS MORE DEFECTIONS

The centrist Freedom Union (UW) led by Bronislaw Geremek is continuing to shrink because of defections of its members to the new "political initiative" proclaimed recently by Maciej Plazynski, Donald Tusk, and Andrzej Olechowski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2001). Several hundred members of the UW's Economic Forum on 18 January declared their intention to join the Plazynski-Tusk-Olechowski initiative. Defections to the new initiative were also reported in the UW's regional branches in Malopolska and Silesia (southern Poland). Plazynski, Tusk, and Olechowski are expected to announce the name of their initiative later today. According to unofficial reports, Plazynski will become the leader of the initiative, which will develop into an electoral committee and, following this year's parliamentary elections, transform into a political party. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER COORDINATES EFFORTS TO LIBERATE CUBAN PRISONERS...

The government on 18 January designated Jan Kavan as coordinator of Czech efforts to free Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik from detention in Cuba, CTK reported. Kavan has asked EU members and the OSCE to render assistance, and sent personal letters to Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda. Petra Buzkova, deputy chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies, announced she will head a six-member delegation of Czech parliamentarians who will go to Cuba to argue that the two be liberated. It is unclear whether the Cuban authorities will grant entry-visas to the delegation. Also on 18 January, European Parliament Chairwoman Nicole Fontaine and Hans-Gert Poettering, head of the People's Party group in that forum, called on Cuban President Fidel Castro to immediately release Pilip and Bubenik. MS

...AND CZECHS ACCUSE CUBAN ENVOY OF LYING

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil on 18 January said the Cuban charge d'affaires in Prague, David Paulovich, was "lying" when claiming that his Czech counterpart in Havana has met with Pilip and Bubenik at the place of their detention. Paulovich told CTK that Czech diplomat Josef Marsicek met the two "on Saturday, Sunday and Thursday" and that "unlike the Czech Republic," his country respects international conventions and allows visits to those detained. Pospisil said Marsicek has been denied access to the prisoners on grounds that he "lacks the necessary authorization from the Cuban Foreign Ministry." MS

CZECH PRESIDENT CHIDES TV STRIKERS

Vaclav Havel on 18 January said the attempt one day earlier by the TV journalists' striking committee to take over the station and appoint a manager was "slightly unnecessary," CTK reported. Havel spoke on return from his vacation in the Canary Islands and added that he was "not sure" that the information he has on the incident is correct and whether the action deserves to be called an "occupation" of the station by the strikers. Trade Union Confederation head Richard Falbr said the action was "the result of a provocation" set to coincide with the Senate's debates. Falbr said the provocation stemmed from "someone interested in the escalation of the situation" but could not say who initiated it. He added that Ladislav Paluska, whom the strikers appointed as acting director of the TV station, had "unfortunately completely written himself off" for the position now. MS

SLOVAK CENSUS TO HAVE QUESTIONNAIRES IN ROMANY LANGUAGES

The Slovak government decided to add the Romany language to the list of minority languages in which the May 2001 census will be conducted, Deputy Premier Pal Csaky told CTK on 18 January. Earlier, Romany organizations protested against the cabinet's failure to include Romany among the census languages. Bilingual Slovak-Romany questionnaires will be used in localities where the Roma make up 20 percent of the population and more. The census will determine, among other things, the amount of financial aid from state authorities received by organizations representing national minorities and churches. Csaky said the census will not have a separate entry for a "Moravian nationality." MS

SLOVAK 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER INDICTED

Agnes Burdova, publisher of the first Slovak translation of Adolf Hitler's infamous "Mein Kampf," has been charged with support of a movement suppressing citizens' rights and freedoms, CTK reported on 18 January, citing Markiza TV. If convicted, she faces a sentence of between three and eight years in prison. MS

TORGYAN SAYS HE WILL REMAIN SMALLHOLDER CHAIRMAN

Chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) and Hungarian Agriculture Minister Jozsef Torgyan told reporters at Budapest airport upon his return from South America on 18 January that "I am and will remain the FKGP chairman." Regarding the ongoing crisis within his party, Torgyan said the "whole issue was exaggerated by the leftist, liberal media, by repeating on a daily basis the confused declarations" of his enemies within the party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, 12, and 15 January 2001). Torgyan said those rebels who choose to work within the party instead of making defamatory declarations will not be expelled from the FKGP. Also on 18 January, Prosecutor-General Peter Polt directed Budapest district prosecutors to examine the legality of a number of financial transactions in the Agriculture Ministry. MSZ

HUNGARY'S JEWS PROTEST BARDOSSY RETRIAL PROPOSAL

The Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ) on 18 January protested against the judicial initiative launched by the Hungarian Justice and Life Party to have Horthy-era Prime Minister Laszlo Bardossy retried (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2001). MAZSIHISZ said that Bardossy was one of World War II's "darkest figures," who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews. Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky said any politician or party that dispute the historically well-established Bardossy crimes "seriously jeopardize Hungary's peaceful future." MSZ




KOSTUNICA REVERSES COURSE, WILL MEET WAR CRIMES PROSECUTOR

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told a press conference in Belgrade on 18 January that he has decided to reverse himself and to meet chief UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte when she visits the Yugoslav capital next week, Reuters reported. A spokesman for Del Ponte in Amsterdam welcomed this declaration. Kostunica said that he had been induced to change his mind by NATO's use of depleted uranium shells, an investigation into a mass killing in Racak, and the tribunal's use of sealed indictments. He said he wants to discuss these and other issues with Del Ponte. In other comments, Kostunica defended his recent meeting with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PG

KOSTUNICA RULES OUT TALKS WITH THOSE SEEKING INDEPENDENCE

In the same press conference on 18 January, President Kostunica said that he will not engage in any future talks on the future of Yugoslavia with leaders of republics who seek independence, AP reported. His comments came after talks with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic failed to produce any resolution on the relationship between Montenegro and Belgrade. "One cannot be equal to two," Kostunica said, adding that "Belgrade will do nothing to prevent those who will rule Montenegro in their eventual secession." PG

MOSCOW OPENS CONSULATE IN MONTENEGRO

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev has opened a Russian consulate in Montenegro, AP reported on 18 January. Avdeev said that he hopes that "the consulate will help strengthen friendly ties between the Montenegrin and Russian peoples as well as their economic cooperation." Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said that he hopes ties with Russia will soon rise to "a higher and more substantial level." PG

KOSTUNICA HOPES SARAJEVO VISIT WILL IMPROVE BOSNIA-YUGOSLAV TIES

Speaking in Belgrade on 18 January, President Kostunica said that he hopes his visit to Sarajevo on 19 January will promote trust and cooperation between the two countries, Reuters reported. He gave interviews in advance of his visit to the Bosnian Serb newspaper "Nezavisne Novine" and the Muslim Croat paper "Drevni Avaz." His conversation with the latter was a first for a Yugoslav leader. PG

YUGOSLAVIA TO APPLY FOR WTO MEMBERSHIP

Vice Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Milica Uvalic told a meeting of seven Balkan countries in Geneva on 18 January that Belgrade plans to seek membership in the World Trade Organization, Reuters reported. Representatives of that organization and Belgrade are to meet next week to begin the process, the news agency said. The old Yugoslav Federation was a member, and Slovenia and Croatia are now in, with Macedonia and Bosnia poised to join. PG

NEW SERBIAN LEADERS TO PROSECUTE MILOSEVIC SOON

The document outlining the policy plans of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic reported by AP on 18 January said that the new government's aim in bringing Slobodan Milosevic and his confederates to justice is to show "our determination for law and professionalism." Meanwhile, on the same day, Serbian Justice Minister-designate Vladan Batic said that "as soon as the new government is formed, criminal proceedings will be triggered against all suspected leaders of the Milosevic regime." To prevent them from fleeing the country, he said, their passports will be confiscated. PG

EU SEEKS TO EXPAND OBSERVER TEAM

Michael Sahlin, the ambassador to Yugoslavia for the current European Union president, told Reuters on 18 January that the EU is discussing with the Yugoslav authorities the possibility of expanding the presence of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in areas of conflict between Serbian police and ethnic Albanian fighters. At present, the EUMM has 120 monitors in the Balkans. PG

NATO PEACEKEEPERS FIND WEAPONS CACHE IN BOSNIA

A spokeswoman for the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia said that an American-Russian patrol had discovered a significant cache of weapons near Zvornik and would destroy them, AP reported on 18 January. PG

NATO FINDS NO EVIDENCE OF DEPLETED URANIUM POISONING IN BOSNIA

Lieutenant Colonel Rodger Rudolph, SFOR's environmental and preventive medicine officer, told AP on 18 January that an investigation in Bosnia-Herzegovina had confirmed that there had not been any significant health hazard for the peacekeepers of the population arising from the use of depleted uranium shells in 1995. He said that someone who remained one meter away from such a shell for a year would be exposed to less radiation than he would receive from the internationally accepted safe exposure standard for the general public. PG

MACEDONIA SIGNS FREE TRADE ACCORD WITH UKRAINE

Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubco Georgievski signed a bilateral free trade agreement with visiting Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 18 January. Yushchenko stressed that this was the first such accord reached by his government with a state "beyond the borders of the post-Soviet space" and said that Kyiv will promote Macedonian efforts to join the Black Sea Cooperation Council. PG

RUSSIA, ALBANIA AGREE TO COOPERATE ON KOSOVA

Following 16-17 January meetings with visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev, the Albanian government released a statement on 18 January saying that "despite continuing differences," Moscow and Tirana "are inclined to search for mutually acceptable paths of the resolution of the Kosova crisis," Interfax reported. PG

ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO EXAMINE RESTITUTION LAW

The Constitutional Court will examine on 7 February the appeal of the Greater Romania Party against the recently-approved restitution law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 18 January. The appeal was supported by 79 deputies, 29 more than necessary for convoking the court in line with existing legislation. MS

ANTONESCU STATUE GIVEN JUDICIAL GREEN LIGHT

A court of justice in Iasi on 18 January gave the Cluj municipality permission to proceed with the construction of a statue of Romania's wartime fascist leader Marshal Ion Antonescu, Mediafax reported on 19 January, citing the Cluj-based Hungarian daily "Szabadsag." The municipality decided to erect the statue in November 1999, but the decision was appealed by then Cluj county prefect Vasile Salcudean. The case was moved to Iasi, after extreme nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar and local councilors challenged the objectivity of the Cluj court. The decision to erect the monument was backed not only by Funar's supporters, but also by the center-right parties represented on the town's council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 1999 and 3 April 2000). MS

ROMANIAN SENATE WORRIED ABOUT COUNTY'S INTERNATIONAL IMAGE

The Senate on 18 January overruled a decision of the former cabinet headed by Mugur Isarescu to donate 30 exhibits owned by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to a French museum that runs an exhibition on the personality cults of former communist leaders, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The senators said the donation would have "further contributed to the deterioration of Romania's image abroad, which is already badly damaged." Also on 18 January, the government dismissed Constantin Badea as head of the official news agency Rompres, which was recently placed under governmental supervision. As grounds for the dismissal, the cabinet cited a report by state auditors claiming mismanagement of funds and Badea's purchase of costly sophisticated equipment that laid idle. Badea, who was appointed Rompres head by former Premier Victor Ciorbea, said no such audit was carried out, and challenged the cabinet to release it for publication. MS

ROMANIAN RIVER POLLUTED BY CYANIDE

The Siret River in northeastern Romania has been polluted by cyanide, with levels 130 times above the norm being registered in its waters and thousands of fish dead. Romanian Radio on 19 January said the pollution was caused by the Falticeni-based Metadet company, whose industrial wastes infested the Siret tributary Somuzul-Mare. Last year, a Baia Mare-based company in northwestern Romania caused severe pollution of the Tisa (Tisza) River and the Danube. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER HEATS UP ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN

Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) Chairman Vladimir Voronin on 18 January accused the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of being biased against his party. The accusation follows the CEC's decision to reject Voronin's demand that the commission register the PCM at the head of the list of parties competing in the February ballot. Voronin accused CEC chairman Dumitru Nedelcu of corruption and Nedelcu's deputy, Nicolae Telveco, of inefficiency. Voronin also claimed that President Petru Lucinschi has a vested interest that the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD), whose policies favor reunification with Romania, gain parliamentary representation. He said that without the PPCD, Lucinschi can count only on the Braghis Alliance, and that will not be enough to ensure that he is in a position to "continue to juggle deputies," Infotag reported. MS

MOLDOVAN CENTRISTS STILL ENVISAGE JOINT BLOC

Thirteen political formations have thus far been registered by the CEC to run in the 25 February ballot, but some of these are still negotiating the possibility of running on a joint ticket. The Democratic Party on 18 January said it is still hoping that a center-right bloc will be formed before the 25 January deadline for registering competing lists. The Party of Democratic Forces' (PDF) Valeriu Matei said that the PDF is ready to negotiate the formation of such a bloc, despite having already registered with the CEC. Also on 18 January, Transdniester Supreme Soviet chairman Grigorii Marakutsa said it is "unlikely" that the separatists will allow polling stations on the territory they control. He said that, as in previous elections, buses may be organized to transport those willing to cast a ballot in the Moldovan contest. MS

BULGARIA OVERCOMES RELUCTANCE ON STABILITY PACT

Seven Balkan countries, including Yugoslavia, signed in Geneva on 18 January an agreement to promote freer trade in preparation for their joining the EU, Reuters reported. The meeting took place under the auspices of the Brussels-based Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe and was attended by ministers or deputy trade ministers from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Diplomats said Bulgaria had not been keen to join the initiative but had been "persuaded" to do so by the pact's coordinator, Bodo Hombach. Hombach told journalists in Geneva it would be "a grave error" for any country in the region to believe it could move towards joining the EU "without taking account of its neighbors." The signatories pledged to prepare by June a "memorandum of understanding" covering specific actions to liberalize and facilitate trade. MS

BULGARIA PLANS DAMS TO OFFSET DROUGHT

Bulgaria plans to build six new dams in 2001 to overcome water shortages caused by droughts. Environment Minister Evdokia Maneva told journalists the costs of the dams are about $22 million, and they will help supply water to 450,000 people who currently ration its consumption because of the severe 2000 drought. The five dams will be built by 2005, Reuters reported. MS




The Nationality Question And Russian Foreign Policy


By Paul A. Goble

A Russian foreign policy analyst has urged Moscow to use its nationality policies at home to promote its foreign policy goals. But he has warned that the Russian government must at the same time take into consideration certain foreign policy challenges when dealing with its domestic ethnic minorities.

Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 January, Igor Igoshin argues that those who view Russia's numerous ethnic issues as a purely domestic affair are deeply mistaken because "a number of foreign policy goals critically important for Moscow are connected in the closest way with the nationality question," the term Russians have used since the 19th century to denote interethnic issues.

Igoshin identified four such foreign policy issues. Two of these involve situations in which he argues the Russian government can use ethnic issues to promote its own agenda. The other two confront Moscow with challenges it can meet only if it understands their implications for domestic interethnic relations and responds appropriately both at home and abroad.

The first of these issues, Igoshin says, involves "the support of the Russian-language population in the former Soviet republics." This is in the first instance a moral and ethical requirement because these people who were native to Russia were "practically thrown to their fates" in the early 1990s.

But, he adds, "this problem has another side as well." The Russian-speaking communities in many of the former Soviet republics form "a significant portion" of the population -- in Latvia, for example, some 34 percent in 1991. Such diasporas, Igoshin suggests "are capable of becoming a serious internal political factor in former Soviet republics which will have a positive influence on the relations" between these countries and Russia.

He pointedly notes that there are "many such examples" of diasporas having this effect: "The Jewish community of the U.S., which is much smaller in size, has exerted through pressure on the government the most powerful support of Israel over the course of several decades." Russian-speaking groups abroad, Igoshin says, are fully capable of playing the same role in what he calls "the near abroad."

Moreover, the use of such groups in this way, he suggests, is something Russia can do "despite the widespread view" that its foreign policy is weak. Russia's economic presence, its ability to direct the flow of goods across some countries but not others, and its ability to conduct propaganda, Igoshin argues, enable Moscow to have an impact on Russian communities abroad and, through them, on the governments of the countries in which they live.

The second of these issues, again one where Moscow can use its ethnic policies to promote its interests, involves the possible unification of Russia and former Soviet republics into a single state. One such example is Moscow's ongoing efforts to form a new union state with Belarus. Obviously, Igoshin says, not all countries of the region are interested. Those that are are likely to become more so, he continues, if Moscow recognizes that "the nationality question is one of the capstones" of such a process.

To the extent it acknowledges this fact, Igoshin argues, "a most important task for Russia is the formation of conditions which will assist the further improvement of relations between the peoples of Russia and the states with which unification is really possible." Igoshin does not draw the obvious corollary that Moscow will have less interest in doing that with groups whose co-ethnics outside of Russia are not interested in unity.

The third area where Russia's nationality question takes on a foreign policy dimension, albeit a more defensive one, concerns what Igoshin calls "the sharpening of tensions in the southern direction," the rise of Muslim groups which threaten Russia's interests in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

He says that this threat to ethnic harmony within Russia is potentially so great, as Chechnya has already shown, that Moscow must be prepared to counter it even with non-diplomatic means, including the actions of special services, military actions, and so on. Failure to do so, Igoshin says will mean that it will be "simply impossible to defeat national extremism in Russia" itself.

And the fourth area he identifies is also one in which Igoshin argues nationality policy must play a role: countering what he suggests is "the extraordinarily complex problem" likely to arise in Russia's Far East. "The active resettlement into Siberian regions of representatives of neighboring states with more dense populations" -- by clear implication, the Peoples' Republic of China -- presents a threat to Russian control.

Indeed, he suggests that this influx of outsiders could lead to a situation envisaged by the old Soviet anecdote about a future BBC report that there has been "a stabilization of the situation on the Finnish-Chinese border."

On the one hand, Igoshin's argument is little more than a revival of an early Soviet approach in which the nationality question was always linked to colonial issues, and a restatement of the frequent observation in other countries that foreign and domestic politics are inevitably interrelated -- especially as societies become more open.

But on the other hand, the appearance of this argument in such explicit form now suggests that Moscow is increasingly open to the possibilities of using ethnicity to promote its goals, but also increasingly concerned that others may use ethnicity against Russia itself.


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