PUTIN OUTLINES PLAN TO ISOLATE CHECHNYA
Addressing the Russian State Duma on 14 September, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he is absolutely convinced of a Chechen connection in the Moscow bombings. He cast doubt on the sincerity of Chechen leaders' denials of any involvement in those blasts, arguing that their failure to take measures to prevent such attacks is tantamount to approval of them. But, Putin continued, Chechen complicity does not justify calls for "annihilating the Chechen people." Putin proposed the following measures to exert pressure on Chechnya: an "objective" reassessment of the 1996 Khasavyurt agreement; the imposition of a strict cordon sanitaire along Chechnya's borders (he did not specify whether this would extend to Chechnya's border with Georgia) and the "destruction" of all Chechen guerrilla bands; and the creation of a Chechen government in exile. The 1994 war in Chechnya began after such a government, which was backed by Russia and was in opposition to then President Dzhokhar Dudaev, launched an abortive attack on Grozny with covert Russian military support (see "RFE/RL Daily Report," 28 November 1994). LF
CHECHEN PRESIDENT ADVOCATES JOINT ACTION WITH RUSSIA AGAINST TERRORISM
Aslan Maskhadov has written to President Boris Yeltsin proposing joint action against terrorism in Russia and the North Caucasus, Chechnya's permanent representative in Moscow, Mairbek Vachagaev, told journalists on 14 September. Vachagaev added that Maskhadov has authorized him to state officially that "ethnic Chechens and citizens of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria" had no connection with the two recent apartment building bombings in Moscow. Vachagaev cast doubt on the veracity of Russian media reports that Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab was responsible for the blasts. But he added that if those reports prove true, Khattab will be expelled from Chechnya. Interfax on 14 September quoted Khattab as denying responsibility for the blast. Khattab added that he is fighting the Russian army, not women and children. LF
CHECHEN FOREIGN MINISTRY CONDEMNS BOMBINGS
The Chechen Foreign Ministry issued an official statement on 14 September condemning the Moscow blasts and affirming that "Ichkeria stands firmly against terrorism in any manifestation," according to Interfax. The statement also described as "terrorist" the ongoing Russian air raids against villages in southern Chechnya, which Russian Defense Ministry officials say are directed against guerrilla bases. In an interview with "Moskovskie novosti," President Maskhadov termed the air raids "real aggression" and warned that if Russia again invades Chechnya, more Chechens will take up arms in self- defense than did so in 1994. Maskhadov again affirmed that neither the Chechen leadership nor the Chechen people initiated last month's incursion into Daghestan. LF
KREMLIN, GOVERNMENT REJECT DECLARING STATE OF EMERGENCY...
Prime Minister Putin advised members of the State Duma on 14 September not to rush consideration of a bill on declaring a state of emergency in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). He said he is "convinced that an effective application of current laws will remove from the agenda discussion of the application of the outdated 1991 law on the state of emergency." The same day, presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin and his deputy, Igor Shabdurasulov, dismissed Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov's claims that plans are under way to declare a state of emergency following the recent explosions in the country's capital. Zyuganov told reporters earlier that he has seen two pages of proposals from the presidential administration on introducing a state of emergency and that the plans are aimed at allowing the president to cancel elections. JAC
...AS DO BULK OF POLITICAL ELITE
Zyuganov's remarks accompanied public comments from a wide variety of policymakers, including State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev and former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who are against declaring a state of emergency. In an interview with "Trud" on 15 September, the leader of the Fatherland-All Russia bloc, Yevgenii Primakov, repeated his opposition to such a move, noting that it "may be used by certain political forces to further their own political interests." St. Petersburg Governor Aleksandr Yakovlev said on 15 September that most of his colleagues in the Federation Council do not think "a state of emergency should be imposed." The upper chamber will hold an extraordinary session on 17 September to discuss recent developments in Daghestan and the explosions in Moscow. JAC
MOSCOW CITIZENRY ORGANIZING MILITIAS...
In addition to an enhanced police presence, some Moscow residents have organized themselves into self-defense groups to patrol their neighborhoods in the hope of preventing another apartment blast, AFP reported on 14 September. According to the agency, in some districts kiosk vendors are being paid by residents to watch comings and goings from their buildings. The government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported the next day that 14,500 agents of the Main Moscow Department of the Interior Ministry and 9,500 Interior Ministry troops have been deployed in Moscow. JAC
...AS REGIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS INTENSIFIED
Outside Moscow, law enforcement officials are increasing their inspections of trains and trucks that enter their regions. In St. Petersburg, trade has been prohibited outside the city's metro stations, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 September. In Vologda, local policemen are working 12-hour shifts in order to apprehend the suspected "terrorist" responsible for an explosion at a local hotel on 14 September, according to the daily. In Stavropol, local police have been instructed to register all intercity transport. Meanwhile, local political leaders have expressed various views on the crisis and its causes. Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak recommended that Chechnya be granted political independence from Russia and that the border between Dagestan and Chechnya be made a state border. Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov recommended stopping all Russian military actions in the Caucasus and trying to settle the conflict by political means, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 September. JAC
COHEN PINS HOPES ON NEXT DUMA FOR START-2 RATIFICATION
Visiting Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast, on 14 September, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said Russian senior defense officials have told him that the current State Duma is unlikely to ratify START-2. ITAR-TASS quoted the U.S. secretary as saying he is "sure" that the treaty will be ratified by the next lower house. The following day, Duma Chairman Seleznev told reporters that the Duma is not planning to debate START-2 ratification in the near future, according to the Russian news agency. Cohen was in Severodvinsk to witness the destruction of Russian nuclear submarines under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program with the U.S. JC
IVASHOV THREATENS TO WITHDRAW RUSSIAN TROOPS FROM KFOR...
Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's department for international military cooperation, said in Moscow on 14 September that KFOR has failed to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Interfax reported. Ivashov warned that Russia will consider withdrawing its forces from Kosova, arguing that "80 percent of Serbs living [in Kosova] have become refugees." He also complained that KFOR has not allowed Yugoslav security forces back into Kosova "As a result, the borders [of Kosova] remain open.... Weapons and drugs keep arriving," he said. "If the tendency for [Kosova's] secession from Yugoslavia becomes irreversible..., the Federation Council may raise the question of whether our contingent's further stay in the region is expedient," Ivashov concluded. FS
...QUESTIONS UCK DISARMAMENT
Ivashov also said in Moscow on 14 September that he is "absolutely sure" that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) will not be disarmed by the demilitarization deadline of 19 September. He claimed that the UCK has so far surrendered only some 4,000 weapons, most of which are outdated. He also said that "the UCK is evolving into a political force and is replacing the local government." UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner is scheduled to visit Moscow on 15 September to explain to Russian officials the plan for the creation of a Kosova Corps, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia earlier rejected the creation of the corps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1999). FS
MORE NAMES ADDED TO MORE PARTY LISTS...
Delegates to the congress of the Movement to Support the Army on 11 September approved its party list for the upcoming State Duma elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 September. The movement's list will be headed by State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, Duma deputy Albert Makashov, and Yurii Savaliev, rector of the St. Petersburg University of Military Mechanics. Meanwhile, Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov will head the regional list of Our Home Is Russia movement, followed by Ilya Rosenbaum, general director of the Geometall-Plus in Magadan, and Vladimir Kolesnichenko, vice president of the Dalnii Vostok financial- industrial group, Interfax-Eurasia reported the same day. JAC
...AS LEBED SAYS HIS PARTIES WON'T RUN
On 15 September, Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed told reporters that the People's Republican Party of Russia and the Honor and Motherland movement, both of which he heads, will not participate in State Duma elections, Interfax reported. Lebed said that it would be a "shame" to participate in such a ballot. "One and the same people, who everyone is sick and tired of and who for 10 years have known what should be done but don't say it, are running," he added. JAC
KHAKAMADA TO RUN FROM ST. PETE IN DUMA ELECTIONS
Irina Khakamada, a leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), told Interfax-Northwest on 14 September that she will run from an electoral district in St. Petersburg in the upcoming State Duma elections. She noted that the SPS has decided to rise to the challenge of notorious television journalist and nationalist Duma deputy Aleksandr Nevzorov, who was behind a recent report shown first by Russian Public Television (ORT) and then by Petersburg Television that mocked several liberal politicians, including Khakamada. As a result of its decision to re-broadcast that program, for which ORT had already received a warning, Petersburg Television was taken off the air by the Mass Media Ministry for some 42 hours (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 8 September 1999). Khakamada occupies third place on SPS's election list, after former Premier Sergei Kirienko and former First Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov. JC
SOME SCHOOLS REMAIN CLOSED IN ALMOST A DOZEN REGIONS
According to the union of education and science workers, more than 10,000 education workers at 400 schools in 11 regions are continuing their strike to demand payment of back wages, Interfax reported on 14 September. The eleven regions are the Republics of Khakassia and Altai as well as Chita, Smolensk, Kursk, Kurgan, Tver, Kostroma, Volgograd, Irkutsk, and Sakhalin Oblasts. Teachers and other education workers are owed a total of 11.4 billion rubles ($446 million), according to the union. That figure is down 14 percent, compared with the beginning of the school year in 1998. ITAR-TASS reported that the situation last year was considerably more tense with some 2,500 schools remaining closed after 1 September (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 8 September 1999). JAC
PRESIDENT INAUGURATED IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA
Vladimir Semenov was formally sworn in as president of the Republic of Karachaev-Cherkessia on 14 September in Ust-Djeguti, the republic's second-largest town, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. The ceremony took place against the wishes of the Russian leadership and neither Semenov's defeated rival candidate, Stanislav Derev, nor Moscow's appointee as temporary head of the republic, Valentin Vlasov, attended. Semenov appealed for harmony and tolerance between the republic's ethnic groups. International Cherkess Association leader Boris Akbashev, one of Derev's most prominent supporters, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that if Semenov is inaugurated as president, the republic's minority Cherkess community will establish a temporary parallel administration representing the Cherkess autonomous territorial formation that they are demanding. Semenov has said that the issue of splitting the Karachaevo-Cherkess Republic should be put to a referendum. LF
NEW TRANSNEFT HEAD IN THE PIPELINE?
Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii on 14 September dismissed Dmitrii Savelev, the head of the giant pipeline company, Transneft, and named Semen Vainshtok, a former vice president of LUKoil, to replace him. Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Vladimir Stanev told reporters that the ministry is dissatisfied with the company's management and financial performance. He added that dividends on the company's shares have been paid only once in the last six years. Last year, the company's financial losses totaled 495 million rubles ($19.4 million), according to "Vremya MN" on 15 September. In the meantime, Transneft has sent a letter to Prime Minister Putin complaining that Savelev's dismissal breaches the law on joint-stock companies, "The Moscow Times" reported. Savelev said since the decision was illegal, he is refusing to step down and will not let Vainshtok on company premises, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC
ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET
Vagharshak Harutiunian and Safar Abiev met on the northern frontier between Armenia and Azerbaijan on 14 September to discuss strengthening border security and preventing violations of the cease-fire that took effect in 1994, Reuters and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The two countries' presidents agreed to the meeting last month during talks in Geneva (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). Speaking at a press briefing in Yerevan on 14 September, presidential press spokesman Vahe Gabrielian said that at their most recent meeting in Yalta on 10 September, Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliyev agreed that peace talks under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group should be resumed, according to Noyan Tapan. They also agreed on unspecified confidence-building measures in the border zone and in the vicinity of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF
AZERBAIJAN CONDEMNS ALLEGED ARMENIAN CLAIM ON NAKHICHEVAN
Azerbaijan's State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade has said that a recent statement by Armenians from the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan constitutes an Armenian government claim on Azerbaijani territory, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 September. Guluzade hinted that Baku might respond to that claim by demanding the return to Armenia of some 200,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis who fled in 1988. Meeting in Yerevan on 11 September, representatives of an estimated 400,000 Armenians who originated from Nakhichevan formed a National Council of Nakhichevan Armenians. That council adopted an appeal to the Armenian parliament to declare invalid the provision of the 1921 treaty whereby Nakhichevan was designated part of the Azerbaijan SSR. The region had formerly been part of the Yerevan province of the Tsarist Empire and of the independent Armenian Republic in 1918-1920. Presidential spokesman Gabrielian pointed out that the National Council of Nakhichevan Armenians is a public organization, not an official government body. LF
UN MEDIATOR TRIES TO KICKSTART ABKHAZ TALKS...
UN special representative in Georgia Liviu Bota held talks with Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze in Tbilisi on 13 September but reportedly failed to set a date for further talks between Tbilisi and Sukhumi on resolving the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported. The following day in Sukhumi, Bota met with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, who backed Bota's proposal to convene a session of the Georgian-Abkhaz Coordinating Council before the end of this month to discuss security issues, according to Interfax. Arzdinba told Bota he had written to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze expressing concern at reports that Georgian guerrillas plan subversive activities in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion in the runup to the Abkhaz presidential elections on 3 October. Tbilisi does not recognize the validity of that poll, in which Arzdzinba is the sole candidate. Bota, who has been appointed Romania's representative to the OSCE, extended his term in Georgia after Russia vetoed all other candidates proposed to succeed him as the UN Secretary-General's special representative there. LF
...AS NATO RULES OUT KOSOVA-STYLE INTERVENTION
Chris Donnelly, who is an adviser to NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, told the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee on 13 September that NATO will not intervene in Abkhazia, Interfax reported. Donnelly explained that NATO's intervention in Kosova was launched only after it became clear that all other peace efforts had failed and that the situation in the former Yugoslavia threatened European security. By contrast, Interfax quoted Donnelly as saying, NATO does not consider Abkhazia such a danger. He added that it is time to work out a model for resolving conflicts in the South Caucasus. Leading Georgian politicians have for months been campaigning for NATO military intervention in Abkhazia. LF
KAZAKHSTAN RETRACTS ORDER FOR FORMER PREMIER'S ARREST
Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin on 14 September retracted the order for the arrest of Akezhan Kazhegeldin, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The Russian authorities had rejected that request, saying the charges brought against Kazhegeldin are not adequately documented. The former premier is accused of tax evasion and illegal possession of property abroad. The Russian OMON guards outside Kazhegeldin's room at the Barvikha sanatorium, where he is under observation after suffering a suspected heart attack, were removed late on 14 September. In Almaty, members of Kazhegeldin's People's Republican Party of Kazakhstan who tried to stage a protest demonstration outside the Russian Embassy on 14 September to demand his release were immediately dispersed by police. Six of them were arrested, fined, and warned that they would receive labor camp sentences if they participated in further such unsanctioned demonstrations. LF
KAZAKHSTAN HOSTS REGIONAL SECURITY CONFERENCE
Foreign ministers from 16 countries (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Palestine, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan) signed a declaration on the principles of mutual relations at a conference in Almaty on 14 September. Observers from 10 other countries also attended. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev told participants that the problem of ensuring regional security is of special significance for Asian states, since the region accounts for two-thirds of the world's population and 55 percent of global GDP. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stressed that security in Asia is a key priority of Russia's foreign policy. The conference is intended to function as an Asian security body modeled on the OSCE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1999). LF
KAZAKH AUTHORITIES ARREST MIG SALE SUSPECT
Kazakhstan's National Security Committee has arrested a man suspected of acting as intermediary in the sale of some 30-40 MiG-21 fighter aircraft to North Korea, AP and Interfax reported on 14 September. AP quoted National Security Committee press spokesman Kenzhebulat Beknazarov as saying that the man was paid $1.8 million for his services. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Toqaev on 12 September denied that the Kazakh government had any knowledge of the sale (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). LF
UZBEK GUERRILLAS AGREE TO TALKS WITH KYRGYZ MILITARY
Kyrgyz human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov told an RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service correspondent in Batken on 14 September that Yunus Abdurakmanov, the leader of the Uzbek guerrillas holding a group of hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan, has agreed to talks with Kyrgyz officials and will not demand a ransom for the hostages. Interfax quoted Akunov as saying that the guerrillas are prepared to negotiate with the commanders of Kyrgyz troops deployed in the region but that those troops cannot agree to such talks until they receive permission to do so from the government in Bishkek. LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO GERMANY
On a three-day official visit to Germany, Askar Akaev met in Berlin on 13 September with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to discuss bilateral economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. President Akaev thanked Germany for its support during the first stage of economic reform in Kyrgyzstan and requested German financial support for construction of a new hydro-power station and in exporting electricity to neighboring China. Akaev also requested a DM 75 million ($40 million) loan to support small business in Kyrgyzstan and an additional DM 20 million in technical help. In addition, Akaev held talks with President Johannes Rau. In Bonn on 14 September, two cooperation agreements were signed between the German and Kyrgyz governments. Under one of those accords, Germany will grant Kyrgyzstan a DM 60 million low-interest loan for improving the health care service and reconstruction of the energy system. LF
INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG CALLS FOR INVESTIGATING TURKMEN DISSIDENT'S JAIL DEATH
Human Rights Watch on 14 September called on the government of Turkmenistan to launch an investigation into the circumstances of the death of Khoshali Garaev, who was found dead in his prison cell last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). The Turkmen authorities claim he committed suicide. Garaev, who was 37, had recently written to relatives saying he was in good health and hoped to be amnestied by the end of the year. Also on 14 September, Amnesty International issued an appeal on behalf of Mukhametli Aymuradov, who was sentenced in 1995 with Garaev on charges of "anti-state crimes." Aymuradov is 53 and in poor health. LF
FIVE PARTIES TO CONTEST UZBEK PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
A spokesman for Uzbekistan's Central Electoral Commission told journalists in Tashkent on 14 September that five political parties have received permission to contend the 5 December parliamentary elections, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). They are the People's Democratic Party (the former Communist Party of Uzbekistan), the Adolat (Justice) party, the National Revival Party, the For the Progress of the Motherland Party, and the Fidorkorlar (Selfless Ones). LF
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MINSK RESUMES DUTIES AFTER 15 MONTHS
Daniel Speckhard returned to his post in Belarus on 14 September after being recalled to protest his eviction from the ambassador's residence in June 1998. The U.S. State Department said Speckhard's return was made possible by Belarus's pledge to abide by the Vienna Convention and to compensate for losses suffered by the U.S. embassy as a result of Speckhard's eviction. "I'm very glad to return to Belarus--we have fallen in love [with the country]," Speckhard said at a Minsk airport. "Having Ambassador Speckhard back in Minsk will enable us more effectively to promote democracy and human rights, help those who support and work for the restoration of democratic rule, and promote other interests that we have in Belarus," the State Department noted. JM
KUCHMA'S RIVALS APPEAL TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE OVER ELECTIONS
Presidential hopefuls Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko have asked the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly to monitor the campaign for the 31 October presidential election in Ukraine. The four said they believe it is necessary to send observers in early October to "make it possible to conduct the final stage of the election campaign on the principles of lawfulness," UNIAN reported on 14 September. They also accused the government of illegally suspending the regular radio broadcast of parliamentary sessions in order to restrict the media access of President Leonid Kuchma's top rivals, who are all lawmakers. JM
ESTONIAN OPPOSITION CALL FOR DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Opposition groups in the parliament have heeded the Center Party's call for direct presidential elections. All factions that do not belong to the ruling coalition supported a bill calling for a referendum on changing the presidential election system. Currently, the parliament elects the president; in the event that it is unable to gain a two- thirds majority, an electoral college is convened. The ruling coalition has not made a statement on the opposition bill, although many prominent members, such as Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, have made similar proposals. In the early 1930s, the Estonian Constitution was changed to provide for directly elected presidents, which indirectly led to the authoritarian regime of Konstantin Pats. MH
ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2000 BUDGET
The government on 14 September approved the 2000 budget and will send it to the parliament once final details have been resolved later this month. The budget totals 17.1 billion kroons ($1.13 billion), foresees 3.8-4 percent growth in GDP, and, as Prime Minister Mart Laar stressed, is balanced. It also takes into consideration the introduction of import tariffs and the abolition of corporate income taxes. Only the Ministries of Defense, Education, Culture, and Foreign Affairs will receive more funds than in 1999. This year's budget totaled 17.46 billion kroons following the introduction of the 1 billion kroons negative supplement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999). MH
POLAND TO CRACK DOWN ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THEFT
The Polish government on 14 September approved a bill aimed at cracking down on bootleg copies of compact discs, videos, and computer programs. The bill extends copyright ownership rights from the current 25 years to 70 years and empowers prosecutors to launch investigations without waiting for complaints from producer or other interested parties, as is the case now. Under the bill, those selling unlicensed audio, video, and software material will face up to two years in jail. According to government estimates, losses caused by intellectual property theft in Poland amounted to $227 million last year. The bill must be approved by the parliament and signed by the president. JM
WARSAW AUTHORITIES BAN MASS PROTEST
The Warsaw Municipal Office on 14 September banned an anti-government protest that the left-wing National Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ) planned to hold in Warsaw on 24 September. The OPZZ had said it expected 100,000 people to take part in the protest. "The arrival in Warsaw of several dozen protesters and a march along Warsaw's main thoroughfares would paralyze the city transport," the municipal office argued. JM
POLISH NURSES TO PROTEST AGAIN
Nurses and midwives will launch protest actions throughout the country on 20 September, PAP reported on 15 September. Those actions will include sit-ins at health care centers, pickets, marches, road blocks, and hunger strikes. Bozena Banachowicz, chairwoman of the trade union of nurses and midwifes, said the government has not fulfilled the promises it made in July following a wave of similar protests. "Some 90 percent of nurses have not obtained their [promised] pay rises," Banachowicz said. JM
SUDETEN GERMANS WELCOME CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING
Franz Neubauer, spokesman of the organization of expelled Sudeten Germans, said a recent ruling by the Czech Constitutional Court is "a step in the right direction," CTK reported on 14 September, citing the Austrian news agency APA. The court had ruled that people of German and Hungarian origin whose property was confiscated under the 1945 Benes decrees and who can prove their loyalty toward the former Czechoslovakia and their innocence of collaboration with the Nazi occupying forces are entitled to the restitution of their confiscated property. At the same time, Neubauer said, the decision is based on "the presumption of guilt," since those affected must produce proof of their innocence. In a state based on the rule of the law, he argued, this is "inadmissible." MS
CZECH DEPUTIES OVERRIDE PRESIDENTIAL VETO
By a vote of 173 to 14, the Chamber of Deputies on 14 September overrode President Vaclav Havel's veto of an amendment to a law that removes from the list of lawyers those with less than four years' professional experience, with the exception of government and local government officials, senators, and other civil servants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). Social Democratic Party deputy Zdenek Jicinsky said the presidential objections to the bill are "unsubstantiated" because the law "serves public interest." MS
SLOVAK CABINET REVISES FOREIGN EXCHANGE REGULATIONS
The cabinet on 14 September approved amendments to the Foreign Exchange Act that liberalize the movement of foreign capital on Slovak markets, SITA reported. Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova told journalists that the amendments, which must be approved by the parliament, improve Slovakia's chance of becoming a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They also allow insurance companies, investment companies, and trusts to own real estate in Slovakia. Until now, this right was limited to banks. Moreover, the range of foreign stocks that can be traded without permission on the Slovak capital market is widened. Schmognerova said the amendments bring the Slovak crown close to full convertibility. MS
SLOVAK NATIONALIST LEADER DENIES HUNGARIAN 'ALLEGATIONS'
Speaking to journalists in Bradlo on 13 September, Slovak National Party (SNS) honorary chairman Vitazoslav Moric denied Party of Hungarian Coalition (SMK) chairman Bela Bugar's "allegations" that the defacement of a monument to General Milan Rastislav Stefanik last month was a provocation aimed at fomenting anti-Hungarian sentiment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1999). Moric said Bugar "must have gone mad" and that no Slovak would deface that monument. He said he felt "personally offended" because Bugar said the deed was committed by a former policeman from Martin who is a bodyguard to an opposition deputy. He pointed out that he himself is the only deputy from Martin who employs a former policemen as bodyguard. SNS chairman Jan Slota said that his party "will not be intimidated" into keeping silent about "those who anchored in their program this country's [territorial] disintegration," SITA reported. MS
HUNGARIAN NATIONAL BANK'S VIENNA SUBSIDIARY INVOLVED IN MONEY LAUNDERING?
Several former East European secret services made use of CW Bank in Vienna, and billions of German marks may have been smuggled out of the former East Germany to Austria in money-laundering operations, Hungarian National Bank (MNB) President Gyorgy Suranyi told journalists on 14 September. Suranyi was responding to Prime Minister Viktor Orban's recent decision not to nominate any official at the MNB until the matter of a 70 billion forint ($300 million) loss suffered by the bank's Vienna subsidiary is cleared up. Suranyi said the loss is due to "irresponsible and outrageous" mismanagement at CW Bank between 1991-1995. MSZ
HUNGARIAN '56 REVOLUTION TRIAL OPENS IN BUDAPEST
The trial of Istvan Dudas, a former border guard commander in Mosonmagyarovar, western Hungary, and three of his former subordinates began in Budapest on 14 September. The four men are accused of crimes against humanity. In particular, the 75-year-old Dudas is charged with ordering his soldiers to open fire on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators on 26 October 1956; some 100 people died in that incident. In June, the Supreme Court overruled a lower court's decision saying that the statute of limitation does not apply to crimes against humanity and ordering the re-opening of legal proceedings. MSZ
'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER TO BE INDICTED IN HUNGARY?
Hungarian police have recommended that the Prosecutor-General's Office indict Aron Monus for publishing a Hungarian-language version of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," Hungarian media reported on 15 September. In 1997, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary protested the book's publication, saying it incited racial hatred. MSZ
RETURNING SERBIAN REFUGEES AMBUSHED IN KOSOVA
Unidentified attackers fired at a convoy of returning Serbian refugees near Ranilug, in the U.S. sector of Kosova, on 14 September, AP reported. One unidentified person was killed and two Serbs injured. Elsewhere, KFOR soldiers found two elderly Montenegrin women killed in their home in Peja. In Prishtina, unidentified attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a Serbian cafe, injuring three Serbs, Reuters reported. Tanjug reported that 13 prisoners in Mitrovica--11 Serbs, one Montenegrin, and one ethnic Albanian--went on a hunger strike to protest what they called "total disregard" of Serbian criminal law in proceedings that the recently established UN court has launched against them. In an open letter, the prisoners said they were jailed on the basis of "unfounded reports and testimonies" by anonymous ethnic Albanians. FS
ETHNIC ALBANIAN REPRESENTATIVES AGREE ON DEMOCRACY PLAN
A group of 39 ethnic Albanians representing four political parties, various social organizations, and media outlets in Kosova agreed in Washington on 14 September on "a framework of basic principles, practices, and procedures to help guide Kosova during and after its transition to democratic self- rule," Reuters reported. The Kosovars, including the Kosova Liberation Army's Hashim Thaci, were invited by the U.S. Institute of Peace at the State Department's request. In a 10-page document, the Kosovars agreed to support a "multi- ethnic society that includes equal opportunity for all." U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the delegation: "You must combat the temptations of revenge, corruption, and criminality.... Evidence of unchecked criminality would lose you the support of the international community and the trust of your people." FS
PRODI URGES BALKAN PEOPLE TO OVERCOME HATRED
President- designate of the European Commission Romano Prodi told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 14 September that the people of the Balkans must overcome conflicts among themselves in order to be included in the process of European integration, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. The parliamentary commission on Southeastern Europe, headed by German legislator Doris Pack, is scheduled to submit a proposal to the European Parliament on 15 September on financing Kosova's reconstruction. The plan envisages annual expenses of 500 million euros ($519.5 million) up to the year 2004. Pack recently voiced sharp criticism of the EU agency for the reconstruction of Kosova and demanded that the EU office in Prishtina become largely independent of its counterpart in Thessaloniki (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). FS
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SETS UP FUND FOR SERBIAN REFUGEES
The European Parliament has agreed to set up a special fund to help Serbian refugees from Kosova, Vladan Batic of the opposition Alliance for Change told the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" of 15 September. Batic added that the alliance recently proposed setting up the fund. Strasbourg's approval is the first success of the alliance on the international stage, he noted. PM
NO SERBIAN JUDGES ON KOSOVA COURT
UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner swore in five judges and two prosecutors for a newly formed court of appeals in Prishtina on 14 September, Reuters reported. All are ethnic Albanians and some are legal professionals whom Milosevic fired in 1989. Kouchner said that he has been unable to find any Serbs who are qualified for jobs with the appeals court. He added that he will continue to look for suitable applicants and "hold open" an unspecified number of positions for Serbs. PM
ANNAN 'ALARMED' OVER HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN SERBIA
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is "alarmed" over the "deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Serbia, his spokesman said in New York on 14 September. He noted that "the sharp contraction of the economy in 1999, coupled with inflation, is compounding severe pension and salary problems and dramatically reducing the population's resources. There is a real threat of rising food prices and dwindling drug supply, problems which will be exacerbated by plummeting household income, partly due to a dramatic increase in unemployment." This is the first time that Annan has raised such concerns in public, AP reported. PM
SERBIAN PREMIER TELLS OPPOSITION NOT TO EXPECT OUTSIDE AID
Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic said in Belgrade that hyperinflation will not return (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). He called unnamed opposition leaders "Lilliputians" whom NATO is using to "destroy the government," "Danas" reported on 15 September. He added that the government "does not have time to respond to mindless criticism from compromised politicians and leaders of tiny political parties." Marjanovic stressed that only the government is working for the benefit of Serbia's population. He warned opposition-controlled cities and towns not to expect any reconstruction aid from abroad. The EU recently pledged aid to "democratically controlled" cities and towns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1999). PM
CLINTON AND CO. FAIL TO APPEAR IN NIS
Judge Miloje Micic of the Nis County Court canceled a hearing on war crimes on 14 September because 14 indicted persons failed to respond to their respective summonses. The 14 included U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Albright, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana. The judge said that he will announce a new date for a hearing once he has determined that the indicted persons have indeed received their summonses, "Danas" reported. PM
DJUKANOVIC TO MEDIATE BETWEEN FEUDING SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS?
Vojvodina opposition leaders Miodrag Isakov and Nenad Canak said that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic has offered to mediate between Serbia's factious opposition leaders, "Vesti" reported on 15 September. The two Vojvodina leaders added that they support Montenegro's proposals for changing the legal relationship between Serbia and Montenegro. On 15 September, Djukanovic said in Budapest that he fully supports the Serbian opposition. He stressed that only Serbs can bring democracy to Serbia. PM
KILIBARDA: MILOSEVIC MANIPULATING MONTENEGRIN CLANS
Montenegrin People's Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda said that Milosevic and Momir Bulatovic, who is his chief ally in Montenegro, have "manipulated" several recent meetings of traditional clan organizations for their own political ends. At the clan gatherings, many speakers called for the preservation of unity between Montenegro and Serbia, "Danas" reported on 15 December. Most recently, leaders of the Piper clan said they will secede from Montenegro if the government declares independence from Serbia. The Piper clan officials said that independence would render null and void the 1796 agreement under which the Pipers joined Montenegro. PM
MUSLIMS RETURN TO PALE
Some 30 Muslim families received keys to their rebuilt houses in the Pale area on 14 September, Reuters reported. It was the first organized return of Muslim residents to the ski resort, which became the Bosnian Serb capital during the 1992-1995 war (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 September 1999). The UNHCR's Werner Blatter called the return a "breakthrough." PM
KARADZIC IN SREBRENICA?
Wartime Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic recently gave a speech in Srebrenica in the company of his long-time ally Momcilo Krajisnik, Reuters reported on 15 September. Karadzic praised the "heroism" of Serbian forces during the 1992-1995 war and urged Serbs not to leave the town "where the most glorious pages of Serbian history have been written." Srebrenica was the scene of the largest massacre in post-1945 Europe after Serbian forces captured it from the Muslims in July 1995. An agreement between the international community and Bosnian Serb leaders specifies that Karadzic is not to make any public appearances. Unconfirmed reports occasionally appear in the regional or international media that he has been sighted in Belgrade, Montenegro, or eastern Bosnia. He is one of the most wanted war criminals sought by the Hague-based tribunal. PM
BOSNIAN SERBS TO RETURN TO MILITARY TALKS
A spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said in Sarajevo on 14 September that Bosnian Serb military officials have agreed to resume attending regular meetings of the Standing Committee on Military Matters with Muslim, Croatian, and international representatives (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 August 1999). PM
MAJKO PROMISES SECURITY IN TROPOJA
Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, visiting Tropoja on 14 September, promised local inhabitants that he will restore the rule of law there, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Majko said that it is necessary that the government and opposition communicate with each other and put an end to rhetoric of hate and "politics of the street." Majko accepted his administration's responsibility for the delayed implementation of public order in Tropoja region. He stressed that it is unacceptable that Tropoja is becoming an "oasis of crime." Majko rejected the view that in Albania there is antagonism between the north and the south, and he thanked the citizens of Tropoja for helping border guards and refugees during the Kosova conflict. FS
ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IS 'NATIONAL' AFTER ALL
Government spokeswoman Adriana Saftoiu said on 14 September that Prime Minister Radu Vasile has "used his prerogatives" to send to the parliament a draft law on religious denominations in which the Romanian Orthodox Church is defined as a "National Church." The government last week decided not to grant that status to the Church, prompting a strong protest by Patriarch Teoctist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 September 1999). MS
MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES MERCENARIES FOUGHT IN KOSOVA
The Defense Ministry on 14 September denied that Moldovan mercenaries fought on the side of Yugoslavia during the Kosova crisis, Flux reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1999). The ministry said allegations by the Moldovan Helsinki Committee on Human Rights chairman Stefan Uratu "tarnish the image of Moldova's army and of Moldova as a whole." However, the ministry indirectly confirmed Uratu's declaration the previous day that retired officers applied to serve in Yugoslavia. The ministry noted that those officers believed the Moldovan peace-keeping force about to be set up under the Partnership for Peace program would be sent there to serve with Yugoslav forces. MS
TEN YEARS LATER: HOW POLAND LED THE WAY
by Jan de Weydenthal
Ten years ago, the Polish Communists voluntarily stepped down from power, after losing the first partly free elections in a Soviet bloc country. The largest of the East European countries, Poland led the way in bringing about the demise of communism in the region. As Poland took step after step toward democracy without provoking a response from Moscow, other communist countries were emboldened to follow suit.
It was in Poland that the Communists were first forced by popular protests to accept a major breach in their power. In September 1980, the labor union, Solidarity, was established as the first independent union in a communist country. Solidarity was suppressed by military force 16 months later, but public opposition to communist rule neither disappeared nor weakened. Solidarity rebounded at the end of the 1980s.
It was also in Poland that the Communists were first forced by public pressure to accept free parliamentary elections. Such elections took place in June 1989, and the Communists were declared the losers.
And it was in Poland that the first democratic government in East Central Europe took office after decades of communist rule. In fact, the Polish Communists themselves voted it into office on 12 September 1989.
In the process, Poland's Communists, who had long claimed for themselves the right to determine all aspects of society's development, were gradually forced into obscurity. They dissolved their party in 1990 and became social democrats.
The communists' downfall in Poland was a long time coming. Years of divisiveness, managerial inefficiency, and political corruption had weakened their control.
Already in the 1970s, the Communists suffered severe political setbacks twice (in 1970 and 1976) when they were forced to change policies under pressure of workers' protests.
Their authority was further undermined when former Cracow Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected pope in October 1978. Less than a year later, the pope, now known as John Paul II, paid a visit to his native country, prompting an outburst of national pride. In the eyes of most Poles, it was the pope, rather than any communist leader, who had the right to guide the nation.
But ultimately, communism in Poland collapsed because its proponent did not secure effective support from the Soviet Union. Moscow declined to intervene to put down Solidarity, instead pressing their Polish allies to do so. The Soviet Union merely watched in early 1989 as the Communists in Poland negotiated away political control. And Soviet leaders eagerly opened a dialogue with the first democratic, non-communist Polish government.
These developments were not lost on other countries in Central Europe. Dissidents in various countries had kept close contacts with their Polish colleagues. They all took note of Moscow's passive attitude toward Poland. And all were determined to put it to the test in their own countries.
Kestutis Girnius, the coordinator of RFE/RL's Baltic services, notes that Soviet passivity toward Polish reform was encouraging to democrats in neighboring Lithuania "Similar processes were taking place in Lithuania, which began to become more free in 1989," he said. "And the fact that Moscow did not resort to violence to stop change in Poland and prevent Solidarity from coming to power encouraged Lithuania to believe that Moscow would eventually let them go."
Some analysts say Moscow's paralysis was the result of a conscious policy guided by the widely proclaimed strategy of perestroika. Others say Moscow was unable to intervene because its economy was in decline and its army tied up in the Afghan war.
The legendary leader of Solidarity, Lech Walesa, said at the time that communism collapsed because it was simply outdated. In November 1989, he told a press conference in Washington that political changes in the region merely reflected the spirit of the times: "The reforms in Eastern Europe are not happening because [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev or Walesa or somebody else wants them. The irreversibility of reform is based on the fact that those reforms are part of the development of civilization. After satellites, computers, and calculators, we are just following the steps of technology. So there is no question about reversibility or irreversibility of reforms. The question is not if, but how. The question is in what time span and what's the price going to be."
Pro-democracy activists in other communist countries supported those moves. Within months of the emergence of a democratic government in Poland, an unstoppable wave of change swept the entire region. And the system that dominated Central European politics, economics and societies for decades became history. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.