PRO-KREMLIN BLOC'S RATING REPORTEDLY SURGE...
According to the Public Opinion Foundation, the ratings of interregional bloc Unity (Edinstvo) jumped from 8 percent to 14 percent within the past week, according to Interfax on 1 December. Experts at the foundation believe that the movement's popularity was boosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's statement that he personally will vote for Unity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1999). Unity now ranks second behind the Communist Party, which has retained its 21 percent share of voter support, while the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance is third, having seen its support drop by 1 percentage point. The agency did not explain how Unity managed to boost its ratings, while "the ratings of other leading parties and movements remained unchanged." Yabloko continues to have 8 percent support, while backing for the Union of Rightist Forces fell by 1 percentage point to 4 percent. Support for Zhirinovskii's Bloc remains at 4 percent. JAC
...AS PUTIN WINS BACKING FROM NEW QUARTERS
Governors of several regions in the Urals area signed a statement on 29 November expressing their support for Prime Minister Putin, ITAR-TASS reported. According to that statement, "[Putin's] clear position on strengthening the federation, full support for the military industrial complex, his ability to maintain a constructive dialogue with [Duma] deputies [and] his understanding for the need to build a strong federation and reach concrete decisions on social issues is impressive." The statement was signed by Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, a prominent OVR member, and Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii of Our Home Is Russia. Putin has also won "unified support" among the educated, professional, and artistic classes, according to pollster Yurii Levada, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30 November. According to Levada, "Putin's popularity among the intelligentsia is comparable only to that of early Yeltsin." JAC
RUSSIA DECLARES U.S. DIPLOMAT PERSONA NON GRATA
Cheri Leberknight, a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, has been declared persona non grata and will not be allowed to return to Russia once she leaves, the Foreign Ministry announced on 2 December. Federal Security Service (FSB) officials have accused Leberknight of spying (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1999). They also claimed that Leberknight was carrying invisible ink and a pocket-sized electronic spy device when they took her into custody earlier this week. JAC
RUSSIAN FORCES ADVANCE ON ARGUN
Russian forces surrounded and attacked Argun, 5 kilometers east of Grozny, on 2 December and met with fierce resistance, Western agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS the previous day, local residents had asked Russian troops to stop shelling the town as all Chechen fighters had already left it. Chechen commanders told dpa on 1 December that more than 100 Russian troops have been killed in fighting close to Urus Martan, Grozny, and Argun in recent days. The "Frankfurter Rundschau" on 1 December quoted Russian military experts in Moscow as estimating Russian losses since the fighting began at between 500 and 1,500 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1999). LF
SERGEEV PREDICTS FIGHTING WILL END WITHIN THREE MONTHS
Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told journalists in Moscow on 1 December that the "anti-terrorist" operation in Chechnya will be over within three months, Interfax reported. He claimed that "the bandits' situation is deteriorating" and that federal forces will succeed in taking Argun in two or three days. Sergeev had said last month that the fighting could be over by the end of the year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1999). LF
COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPRESENTATIVE VISITS DAGHESTAN
Alvaro Gil-Robles traveled on 1 December to Daghestan's Botlikh Raion, which was the scene of heavy fighting in August- September between Chechen militants led by field commander Shamil Basaev and federal forces. Also on 1 December, OSCE Chairman-in-Office Knut Vollebaek said in Seattle, where he is attending the World Trade Organization meeting, that he has written to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to request permission to travel to Chechnya, North Ossetia, and Daghestan on 13-14 December, according to ITAR-TASS. Vollebaek noted that Moscow does not currently envisage a political role for the OSCE in Chechnya, but he did not exclude that "such a role may emerge at a later stage." LF
GOVERNMENT PREPARES FOR NEXT DUMA...
After a 1 December meeting between Prime Minister Putin and OVR leaders Yevgenii Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Putin's press secretary said that "no wide-ranging agreements that would crucially change the situation were reached." Although the meeting was only the most recent between the three men, it inspired a flurry of analysis in Russian newspapers the next day. "Izvestiya" speculated that Luzhkov and Primakov are hoping to arrange a cease-fire in the current information war, while Putin wants to find out how new factions in the next State Duma will treat his government in January and February. In an interview on 29 November, Putin said he could not rule out that the next lower legislative house might try to unseat his government. JAC
...AS YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION ENVISIONED FOR SPRING
"Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested on 2 December that President Yeltsin may choose to resign in March or April next year in order to circumvent a move by the Duma to unseat the government and leave other presidential candidates less time to prepare their campaigns. "Moskovskii komsomolets" is close to Mayor Luzhkov, while "Izvestiya" is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil. JAC
DUMA PASSES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BILL...
State Duma deputies have approved in its third reading a law on presidential elections with 360 votes cast in favor and two against. The law establishes the presidential election date for 4 June 2000, the run-off for 25 June, and the inauguration for 9 August. Although some deputies had proposed establishing an age limit of 60 or 65, this was not included. However, the law does limit campaign spending to about $1.3 million and requires candidates to declare their income and that of their family members from the past two years. The law is expected to win easy passage in the Federation Council since the Duma has already demonstrated it can easily muster the required 300 votes to overrule a rejection by the upper house, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 December. JAC
...LIFTS LIMITS ON PLATINUM EXPORTS...
Deputies also passed in the third reading a bill that would amend the Law on Priority Budget and Fiscal Policy Measures and allow the resumption of exports of platinum and rhodium, according to Interfax. Norilsk Nickel, which supplies about one-fifth of the world's platinum, announced that it intends to maintain a 2-3 percent deficit of platinum on the world market and sell only small portions to avoid flooding the market. JAC
...AND PREVENTS PETS FROM BECOMING PEOPLE CHOW
Deputies also passed a bill protecting animals from cruelty the same day. According to Reuters, the bill forbids owners from eating their pets, performing medical operations on them without a reason, or deliberately wounding them to photograph them for films or television. Also prohibited is fishing by using electric currents or killing female animals that must care for their unprotected offspring. JAC
RUSSIA NONCOMMITAL ON ABETTING IRAQ AT UN...
Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov, speaking at a joint press conference with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in Moscow on 1 December, said that while he favors lifting all economic sanctions against Iraq, Russia will deal with that issue by adhering to international law. "The problems must be resolved strictly in accordance with the norms and principles of international law, exclusively by political and diplomatic means," Reuters quoted him as saying. Aziz, for his part, said that Iraq has asked its "Russian friends" to help prevent the adoption by the UN Security Council of a resolution that links the suspension of the embargo against Iraq to the return to Baghdad of weapons inspectors. Aziz described that resolution as "rotten" and as implying more interference in Iraq's internal affairs. JC
...WHILE BAGHDAD TAKES DIPLOMATIC TACK OVER CHECHNYA
With regard to the conflict in Chechnya, Aziz commented that the events in the North Caucasus are a "purely internal matter for Russia, and we categorically condemn any meddling in its internal affairs." The Iraqi deputy premier added that Baghdad condemns "efforts by some circles to use the events in the North Caucasus against Russia, to set Russia and Islamic Arab countries against each other," adding that such efforts have "no future whatsoever." JC
IRAN TO HEAD OIC MISSION TO MOSCOW
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi announced in Teheran on 1 December that Iran will lead a delegation of foreign ministers from the Organization of the Islamic Conference to Moscow beginning 6 December, dpa reported. The delegation will discuss the Chechen crisis with Russian officials, but neither Iran nor the OIC will act as mediators, he stressed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 1999). JC
U.S. UNVEILS Y2K LINK WITH RUSSIA...
U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on 1 December demonstrated a video and telecommunications link aimed at helping Russia monitor its nuclear power plants for so-called millennium bug problems on New Year's Eve. AP reported that journalists were invited to the Situation Crisis Center at the Energy Department to witness an hour-long exchange with Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov. Richardson said that two Russian experts will be at the Washington center during the 2000 rollover, while two U.S. nuclear experts are to be present at the Atomic Energy Ministry's crisis center in Moscow. JC
...WHILE AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMATS PREPARE FOR 2000 FESTIVITIES DOWN UNDER
Canberra is to withdraw 13 of the 16-strong staff at its embassy in Moscow fearing possible disruptions caused by the Y2K bug, AP reported on 1 December. Last month, Washington announced that before 1 January, it will pull out hundreds of government employees and their families from Russia and other former Soviet republics in a move that could cost up to $8 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). Like the U.S. and Australia, Canada and New Zealand have urged their nationals living in Russia to return home for the New Year holiday, "The Moscow Times" reported on 17 November. JC
ANOTHER JOURNALIST ATTACKED
Igor Rostov, the director of an independent television and radio station in Kaliningrad Oblast, was beaten by unknown assailants, RFE/RL's Kaliningrad correspondent reported on 1 December. Deputies in the oblast's legislature believe that Rostov was attacked in connection with his work as a journalist. Rostov's company, Kaskad media, which operates two television stations, two radio stations, and a newspaper, has been critical of local administration officials, accusing them of mishandling budget funds and violating rules on Kaliningrad's status as a free trade zone, according to AP. The Moscow-based Glasnost Defense Fund said Rostov's colleagues reported that Rostov had received threats from local officials. Last week, a newspaper editor in Khabarovsk Krai was beaten at a bus stop near his home, the second such incident against a journalist in that region in recent weeks. JAC
TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT ESCAPES AIRCRAFT FIRE
Mintimer Shaimiev had a narrow escape on 29 November when one of the engines of his plane caught fire on the runway in Kazan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 2 December citing an unidentified "reliable source." Shaimiev was about to fly to Kyiv to attend President Leonid Kuchma's inauguration. Three days earlier, the aircraft in which Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu flew to Kazan was seriously damaged when it landed at Kazan airport, whose runway is in urgent need of repair. LF
PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DID NOT COMMIT ARMENIA TO MEMBERSHIP OF RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION
Opposition parliamentary deputy Shavarsh Kocharian on 30 November rejected Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev's claim that Karen Demirchian pledged during talks in Moscow in October that Armenia will accede to the Russia-Belarus Union, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Demirchian met with Seleznev in Moscow one week before he died in the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings. Seleznev said last week that Demirchian had promised him he would initiate a parliamentary debate on Armenia's accession to the union. But Kocharian, who accompanied Demirchian on his trip to Moscow, said Demirchian undertook only to set up a working group to study the possibility of Armenia's accession. Armenia's Communists collected tens of thousands of signatures in 1997 in support of Armenia's joining the Russia-Belarus Union (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 1997). LF
GEORGIAN MILITARY OFFICIAL ARRESTED FOR ARMS THEFT
Georgian police arrested a Defense Ministry captain on 1 December and confiscated large quantities of anti-tank shells and other ammunition found in his car, Caucasus Press reported on 2 December. The officer has confessed to stealing the ammunition from his unit's depot, according to ITAR-TASS. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ENDORSES BEREZOVSKII'S CHECHEN PEACE PLAN
Eduard Shevardnadze has expressed approval of Russian media magnate Boris Berezovskii's proposals to end the fighting in Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported on 2 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"17 November and 1 December 1999). Shevardnadze recalled that Berezovskii earlier tried to mediate a solution to the Abkhaz conflict (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1997). LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT PLEDGES CONTINUED DEMOCRATIZATION...
Addressing the first session of the two chambers of Kazakhstan's new parliament on 1 December, Nursultan Nazarbaev again said that Kazakhstan is committed to freedom, democracy, and equality but will proceed toward greater democratization at its own pace, Interfax and AP reported (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). He noted that the election system will be gradually modified over the next few years, "as conditions change." Parliamentary deputies voted by 56 to 16 to elect Deputy Prosecutor-General Zharmakhan Tuyakbaev as speaker of the lower house. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin's candidacy for that post was rejected, according to Interfax. Tuyakbaev, who belongs to the pro-presidential OTAN party, pledged to do all in his power to ensure that the parliament "plays a worthy role in the government." LF
...OUTLINES ECONOMIC PRIORITIES
Nazarbaev said that the priorities of the government and National Bank are "to pay on time; second, to repay debts; and third, to create jobs and combat poverty," which, he added, necessitates reviving industry by advancing loans, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev categorically rejected persistent rumors that disagreements with the IMF over reform could lead to financial problems or even default. He added that he hopes the IMF will approve a new three-year loan program "soon." Deputy Prime Minister Erzhan Utembaev had similarly told Interfax two weeks ago that the IMF is likely to endorse a new three-year cooperation program worth $400 million in mid-December. Nazarbaev said that the World Bank too is likely to release a $175 million loan before the end of the year. LF
KAZAKH OPPOSITION PLANS CONTINGENCY DEMONSTRATION...
Meeting in Almaty on 1 December, representatives of the opposition parties aligned in the Democratic Forum expressed concern at President Nazarbaev's failure to respond to proposals outlined by former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin last month, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Kazhegeldin had appealed to Nazarbaev to embark on talks with the opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). The opposition representatives decided to hold a one-day nationwide protest on 30 January if Nazarbaev fails to respond to Kazhegeldin's demands for a dialogue with the opposition and for new parliamentary and presidential elections. LF
...PROTESTS HARASSMENT OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA
The Democratic Forum meeting also discussed the crackdown on the independent newspapers "XXI vek" and "Nachnem s ponedelnika," neither of which can currently publish, RFE/RL's Almaty correspondent reported. Dozens of Kazakh intellectuals and opposition politicians have appealed to Nazarbaev to intervene on behalf of "XXI Vek." They condemned the refusal by all publishing houses in Almaty to print that newspaper as a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech. LF
KAZAKHSTAN, U.S. SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Kazakhstan's Defense Minister General Sat Toqpaqpaev and U.S. Defense Department official General Anthony Zinni signed a military cooperation program in Almaty on 1 December, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. That program includes holding joint maneuvers holding in Kazakhstan in September 2000 within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Maneuvers involving Central Asia and U.S. troops have been held annually since 1997, when Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan created the "Tsentrazbat" peacekeeping force. LF
KAZAKH OIL CONSORTIUM TO SUSPEND OFFSHORE DRILLING
The Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC) plans to halt drilling of its well in the East Kashagan field for the winter once it taps oil, Interfax reported on 1 December. A spokesman for the consortium said that deposits are likely to have a high sulphur-dioxide content and that continued drilling could have "unpredictable consequences" in the event of a storm or a buildup of sea ice. On 29 November, Kazakhstan's Deputy Ecology Minister Marat Musataev told journalists in Almaty that some international oil companies engaged in western Kazakhstan neglect environmental safety regulations, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. Drilling began at East Kashagan in August 1999. In September, OKIOC rejected Kazakh claims that it is violating safety and environmental regulations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1999). LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT HIGHLIGHTS SECURITY THREATS
Addressing a 1 December meeting in Bishkek of interior and security ministers from the "Shanghai Five" countries (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan), Askar Akaev said that for the past 20 years Afghanistan has played a "destabilizing role" in Central Asia, contributing to religious extremism, terrorism, as well as drugs and arms smuggling, Interfax reported. Akaev also expressed concern about the impact on the region of separatist tendencies in western China. At a meeting in Bishkek in August, the Shanghai Five presidents signed a declaration condemning terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1999). LF
TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH UN, OSCE REPRESENTATIVES
Imomali Rakhmonov held talks in Dushanbe on 30 November with OSCE mission head Marin Bukhoara and the following day with Ivo Petrov, special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov discussed with both officials preparations for next year's parliamentary elections. He pledged that those elections will be fair and democratic in order to promote stable political development. Meanwhile the government and opposition representatives on the Commission for National Reconciliation have again failed to resolve their differences over the number of deputies in each chamber of the new parliament, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 2 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 November 1999). LF
UZBEKISTAN PROMISES CURRENCY WILL BECOME FULLY CONVERTIBLE
President Islam Karimov said in Tashkent on 1 December that the country's currency will be fully convertible as of 1 January 2000, Interfax reported. That move would bring Uzbekistan into compliance with Article VII of the IMF Agreements. Foreign investors have begun pulling out of Uzbekistan because of restrictions on currency exchange. Karimov added that the government will take the necessary measures to ensure that the value of the Uzbek sum does not fall sharply once it becomes fully convertible. Black market exchange rates are already more than double those set by the Uzbek Central Bank. LF
BELARUSIAN ECONOMY CATEGORIZED AS 'REPRESSED'
In their latest "Index of Economic Freedom," the U.S.'s Heritage Foundation and "The Wall Street Journal" ranked Belarus as 145th among 161 countries listed in descending order. The index categorized the Belarusian economy as "repressed" and noted that "despite limited steps to liberalize the economy in 1994-95, by the second half of 1995, macroeconomic policies were again relaxed and structural reforms came to a virtual standstill or were reversed." It also commented that in 1996 the Belarusian authorities reverted to a policy of "credit expansion," simultaneously introducing a "pervasive system of price controls." JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S SUPPORTERS PROTEST PARLIAMENT'S 'NONCONSTRUCTIVE STANCE'
Some 200 representatives of the election bloc "Our Choice--Leonid Kuchma" picketed the parliament building on 1 December to protest the "nonconstructive stance" of the legislature, Interfax reported. According to Mykola Shevchenko, one of the organizers of the protest, "the parliament should cooperate with the executive, not block its activity." He added that if the parliament does not depart from its "confrontation course, we will initiate its dissolution through a nationwide referendum." President Leonid Kuchma, who has called on the parliament to form a pro-government majority, is expected to propose current Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko as the head of a new cabinet. JM
UKRAINIAN HRYVNYA NOT LIKELY TO RETURN TO EXCHANGE CORRIDOR
The hryvnya exchange rate on 1 December stabilized at 4.95- 4.97 to $1 at the interbank currency exchange, Interfax reported. According to currency market dealers interviewed by the agency, the hryvnya is not likely to return to the exchange corridor of 3.4-4.6 hryvni to $1 that was set by the government in February. According to one dealer, there is no sense in setting a new exchange corridor. "Earlier the corridors were declared only for foreign investors. But now there are virtually no foreign investors on the market. As for domestic dealers, they have long ceased to believe in any corridor," he commented. JM
UKRAINE CUTS OFF ELECTRICITY FROM NON-PAYERS
Some 16,000 enterprises, or 33 percent of their total number, have received no electricity supplies since late November because they have not paid for earlier deliveries, Interfax reported on 1 December. The debt of those disconnected from the grid amounts to 432 million hryvni ($87 million), or 7.5 percent of the total debt for electricity supplies in Ukraine. JM
INMATES IN TALLINN ON HUNGER STRIKE FOR MORE PHONES
Some 100 people in pre-trial detention at Tallinn Prison began a hunger strike on 1 December, BNS reported. The group is calling for more telephones and greater telephone privileges, the use of audio and video recorders in addition to the already permitted television and radio, as well as increased supplies of tea and cigarettes. Ulo Kabruska, director of the Prisons Department, called the action "blackmail" and ordered food to be sent instead to homeless shelters. He added that the use among inmates of phone cards that are fake or tampered with costs Eesti Telefon the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars annually. MH
LATVIAN TEACHERS STRIKE AGAIN
Latvian teachers on 1 December went on strike again as a follow-up to a work stoppage last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1999), BNS reported. The Latvian Education and Research Employees Trade Union, which represents the striking teachers, said some 48,000 people took part in the protest by working either not at all or very limited hours. Education Minister Silva Golde, who submitted her resignation on the day of the first strike, is due to leave her post soon. Prime Minister Andris Skele asked Golde to stay on until the 2000 budget is passed (see below), saying he will occupy the education minister's portfolio himself until after the Helsinki European Council meeting next week. MH
LATVIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET
Lawmakers on 1 December approved the 2000 budget in its final reading by a 61 to 31 vote, BNS and LETA reported. Expenditures are projected at 1.433 billion lats ($2.43 billion) and revenues at 1.366 billion lats, resulting in a deficit of 2 percent of expected GDP. Defense spending increased to 44.05 million lats, or 1.1 percent of GDP. As the session took place, protestors, including striking teachers, protested outside the parliament against the bill. MH
POLISH CABINET STARTS DEBATE ON AGRICULTURE
At a 1 December meeting of governmental officials, trade union activists, local government representatives, and employers, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek presented the guidelines of the government's "Pact for the Countryside" and outlined the possibilities for its implementation, PAP reported. Labor Minister Longin Komolowski said the government wants the pact to include commitments of all sides involved in reforming the agricultural sector. Farmers' trade unions also want to debate Poland's position on agriculture in negotiations with the EU. In particular, the trade unions are demanding that they be allowed to have a say in the country's position on the sale of land to foreigners and the privatization of the food-processing sector. JM
POLISH COALITION 'CEMENTED' AFTER PRESIDENTIAL VETO
According to PAP, coalition politicians believe that following the presidential vote on the personal income tax bill, the ruling coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) has been "cemented." UW Secretary General Miroslaw Czech said Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz's decision to remain in the cabinet is a stabilizing factor in the country's economic and political situation. "If the president and the Democratic Left Alliance counted on weakening the coalition, they were absolutely wrong," Miroslaw Styczen of the AWS-affiliated Peasant Conservative Party said, commenting on the opposition to the tax reform package passed by the parliament last month. JM
CZECH FREEDOM UNION LEADER RESIGNS...
Freedom Union chairman Jan Ruml resigned on 1 December, saying he shares responsibility for the current political situation, in which personal animosities among party leaders have prevented the formation of a stable government and have resulted in growing public dissatisfaction, Reuters and CTK reported. Ruml had announced his intention to leave politics some time ago, but observers said his resignation might have been accelerated by the so-called "Thank you, now leave" appeal. That appeal, made on 17 November by six former student activists in the 1989 movement against the communist regime, called on leading politicians of all parties to resign, saying their policies are "devastating the country internally and harming its reputation abroad." Freedom Union First Deputy Chairman Karel Kuehnl will head the party until the election of a new chairman. MS
...AS DOES CZECH HEALTH MINISTER
Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 1 December told President Vaclav Havel that Health Minister Ivan David has tendered his resignation. Havel will announce his decision next week on whether to accept the resignation, but he is considered unlikely to reject it. He told journalists that he "welcomes" David's decision because the situation in the health sector has become "untenable." In October, the Chamber of Deputies refused to pass a government bill on health insurance as long as David remained in his post. The Health Ministry's performance has been widely criticized by doctors and the media since David became its head. Also on 1 December, Havel accepted the resignation of Deputy Premier Egon Lansky. Lansky said he was resigning on health grounds, not because of the criticism of his performance or the ongoing investigation into his illegal bank account in Austria, CTK reported. MS
MACEDONIAN COALITION TO SURVIVE AFTER ALL?
Speaking in Skopje on 1 December, leaders of the small Democratic Alternative distanced themselves from their previous threats to leave the governing coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1999). Party leader Vasil Tupurkovski said "we don't want to burden the already complicated political and economic situation in the country. The talks about the survival of the coalition will continue after the elections" on 5 December, Reuters reported. Party spokesman Ljuben Paunovski told reporters that he sees "no reason" for the coalition to collapse, adding that there "is room for everyone in the government." PM
DJUKANOVIC SAYS MILOSEVIC SHOULD GO TO HAGUE
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Danilovgrad on 1 December that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic should appear before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, which indicted him in May for crimes against humanity. The Montenegrin leader stressed that "Milosevic should go to the Hague tribunal and try to remove a burden from his nation's back. People [in Serbia] are suffering bitterly [under sanctions] because of his irresponsibility." Djukanovic repeated his charges that Milosevic has carried out unspecified "subversive activities against Montenegrin democratic and economic reforms." He added that "the Montenegrin government will be exceptionally cautious in its future policy towards Serbia. However, Montenegro's future is in its citizens' hands," AP reported. PM
THOUSANDS MASS FOR PRISHTINA FUNERAL
Several thousand people filled the streets of Prishtina on 2 December for the reburial of 19 local ethnic Albanian men killed by the Serbian forces during the fighting earlier this year. "Dozens" of uniformed members of the new Kosova Protection Force provided an honor guard, Reuters reported. The dead men were fighters in the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and had previously been buried at various sites elsewhere in Kosova. PM
RUSSIA ANGRY WITH KFOR
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ordzhonikidze said in Moscow on 2 December that the UN's Bernard Kouchner and NATO's General Klaus Reinhardt are responsible for continuing violence in Kosova, AP reported. Referring to the violence that accompanied recent Albanian Flag Day celebrations in Prishtina, Ordzhonikidze accused KFOR of "inaction [that] bordered on connivance" with the ethnic Albanians who attacked innocent Serbian civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 1999). He added that that Russia will raise the issue at the next meeting of the UN Security Council and wants a "clear explanation." PM
BELGRADE CONTINUES TO BLOCK OIL DELIVERIES
Serbian customs officials said that they are continuing to deny entry to 14 trucks carrying EU heating oil for Nis and Pirot on the grounds that the truck drivers do not have documents to prove that the shipment is one of humanitarian aid, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 2 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1999). The mayors of the two opposition-run cities denied the charge, saying that the truck drivers presented customs officials with the necessary documentation several days earlier. In Nis, some 10,000 people protested on 1 December to demand that the authorities allow the trucks to deliver the oil. PM
SREBRENICA SURVIVORS TO SUE TOP UN OFFICIALS
The pressure group Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinje has hired a U.S.- based lawyer to bring charges in The Hague against several persons who were top UN officials at the time of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, a spokesman said in Sarajevo on 1 December. He added that the officials knew that the Serbian forces under General Ratko Mladic planned to kill the town's male population but did nothing to stop the Serbs. Those on the list include former Secretary-General Butros Butros Ghali, his successor Kofi Annan, special envoy Yasushi Akashi, and others, "Oslobodjenje" reported. The association also demands an investigation to determine the responsibility for the fall of Srebrenica of Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and army commander General Rasim Delic. PM
CROATIAN OPPOSITION DRAFTS JOINT PROGRAM
Representatives of the coalition of six opposition parties agreed in Zagreb on 1 December that their parties will form a parliamentary coalition and government should they win the 3 January parliamentary elections. The six parties also agreed on a program of reforms they will enact soon after forming a government. Measures include a reform and review of the privatization process carried out by the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which has held power since 1990. The privatization process is widely regarded as having enriched hundreds of people close to the HDZ. PM
RETAIL SALES PEOPLE PROTEST IN ZAGREB
More than 1,000 employees of the large Nama department store chain demonstrated in Zagreb on 2 December to demand payment of back wages. Officials of the Croatian Privatization Fund said the previous day that they can pay only half of the sum due to some 2,000 Nama employees. PM
SLOVENIA TIGHTENS VISA REQUIREMENTS
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in Ljubljana on 1 December that Slovenia will require entry visas for citizens of Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey in the near future. He added that Slovenia will require visas for Russian citizens, effective immediately. The new regulations are part of Slovenia's efforts to bring its regulations into line with those of the EU in order to speed up its entry into that organization. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 2 December that Russia will require visas of Slovenian citizens traveling to Russia, effective immediately, AP reported. PM
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT BOOED ON NATIONAL DAY...
Several hundred people carrying banners of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) booed President Emil Constantinescu in Alba Iulia on 1 December during ceremonies marking Romania's national day, an RFE/RL correspondent in the town reported. Constantinescu was forced to abandon the stage. He later said that the incident "once more proves that instead of unity and tolerance, we are ruled by hatred and violence." He added that it is "regrettable" that in a country where unlimited freedom of expression exists, those who booed him chose to do so at a ceremony that was primarily a religious and military one, thus offending both the Church and the army. MS
...WHILE GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION TRADE ACCUSATIONS
The ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic accused the PDSR of displaying "communist-like intolerance," while the Defense and Interior Ministries similarly denounced the incident. PDSR Deputy Chairman Adrian Nastase said the protest was prompted by "exaggerated security measures" and that "those who jeered Constantinescu are the same people who cheered him three years earlier" and are now protesting declining living standards. He also said Constantinescu "offended" the Romanian people by claiming that the jeering was directed at the Church and the army. MS
FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER RE-NOMINATED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The opposition National Christian Democratic Alliance on 28 November re-nominated former Premier Victor Ciorbea as its candidate in the 2000 presidential elections, Mediafax reported. On 22 October, Ciorbea said he did not intend to run for that post but appears to have since accepted the nomination. MS
VORONIN SAYS MOLDOVA WON'T RUSH TO BUILD SOCIALISM
Speaking in the parliament after his appointment as premier-designate, Party of Moldovan Communists leader Vladimir Voronin said his new cabinet "will not be rushing into building socialism on the morrow of its approval by the parliament." He said that he does not intend to change the present international image of the country and that his cabinet will continue the "path of democratic development and [promoting] market economic conditions." The cabinet's lineup will not reflect the political strength of parties represented in the parliament, he stressed, but he added that he will "insist that it include a significant number of Communist Party members." Voronin also commented that the priorities of the government will be economic development, the struggle against organized crime and "protectionism," and cooperation with international financial institutions, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS
TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADER VETOES OSCE DECISIONS
Separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 1 December said the recent OSCE summit's decisions on Russia's withdrawal from the Transdniester were taken without consulting representatives of the breakaway region and are therefore "invalid." In a telegram to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Smirnov said that in Istanbul, Russia assumed obligations that are "contrary to its previous statements on the importance of synchronizing the troop withdrawal with the settlement of the Transdniester problem." Smirnov is asking Putin to conduct joint consultations before implementing the obligations undertaken in Turkey, ITAR-TASS reported. In a telegram to Russian contingent commander Valerii Yevnevich, Smirnov said the destruction of Russian military arsenal stationed in the Transdniester has been "resolutely halted." MS
CIS TO PARTICIPATE IN MOLDOVAN CONFLICT SETTLEMENT
Foreign Ministry official Iurie Bodrug told journalists on 1 December that for the first time, the CIS has expressed the intention to participate in the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, Infotag reported. Bodrug said that a delegation led by CIS Executive Committee chairman Simion Cherkezishvili has arrived in Chisinau to familiarize itself with the negotiation progress and discuss the CIS's possible involvement in the mediating structures. MS
BULGARIAN ARMS PLANT WORKERS PROTEST LAYOFFS
For the second day in a row, workers from the VMZ arms manufacturer in Sopot, central Bulgaria, blocked the road between Sofia and Bourgas to protest wage arrears and the management's intention to lay off workers, AP reported. The company owes 58 million leva ($38 million) in taxes and for electricity supplies. Its chief executive said at least one third of the 9,500 jobs must be cut. Wages have not been paid since September. MS
RUSSIA'S GROWING NETWORK OF PRIVATE ASSOCIATIONS
By Sophie Lambroschini
There is a widespread belief in Russia that the rigors of post-communist life--including the non-payment of salaries and pensions, inadequate social care, sluggish courts, and corrupt police--have taught Russians to rely only on themselves. But some Russians say the idea that Russians reject all community action is no longer true.
Ella Pamfilova is a former Russian minister of health and social affairs. She acknowledges that after communism collapsed in 1991, most Russians felt themselves to be on their own. But she told RFE/RL that the rejection of collective action is fading: "I think that period is coming to an end. There has always been our tradition, our mentality, pulling us toward compassion and sympathy. [We Russians] remain drawn to the idea of overcoming a difficult situation together. And this mentality is now breaking through." Many analysts believe that, traditionally, a Russian will rely first on pulling strings or giving bribes to overcome a bureaucratic hurdle. They say Russians will turn to public initiatives--through courts or an association- -only as a last resort. But for Pamfilova, the key question is understanding that in the long run collective action can be more effective than individual solutions.
Pamfilova thinks that positive models for action, such as the success of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, have encouraged Russians to turn to collective solutions. That group first successfully lobbied then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to exempt students from the obligatory two years of military service. Then, under Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the committee campaigned against the first war in Chechnya (1994-1996) and acted as a mediator for the exchange of Russian and Chechen prisoners of war. It also denounced Russia's drug- and violence-ridden armed forces, counseling 18-year-olds on how to dodge the draft.
Valentina Melnikova, one of the committee's leaders, says that over the years "the Mothers"--as the group is often called in Russia--won support even inside the army. She says that some officers came to understand that the committee was not set on working against the military but rather pursued a cooperative effort to turn the Russian army into a "real army that does not murder its own soldiers." Pamfilova points out, however, that--unlike the Mothers- -most Russian collective initiatives today play a local or regional role, not a national one. "I know of a lot of examples of [collective] influence on local authorities in sectors like [social] rehabilitation or the environment. So there is some effect on a local level. But nationwide, [collective initiatives are] not significant. For the moment, our authorities, our elite neglect public opinion."
In Moscow, non-governmental organizations greatly contributed to breaking the Soviet mindset on ostracizing mentally and physically disabled youngsters. The communist system rejected such children, who were often locked away at home or in far-away institutions.
One parent, Galina Khokhlova, has a 21-year-old daughter, Sveta, who has severe motor deficiencies. Before perestroika, Khokhlova told our correspondent, many parents did not know what to do with their disabled children and simply kept them locked up at home. She says it is thanks to non-governmental organizations that many parents have learned that their disabled children can still learn, develop, and enjoy life.
In Moscow, one of the first such organizations for disabled children was The Circle, which is run by Nataliya Popova. Ten years ago, dissatisfied with the rehabilitation and education that state institutions offered such children, Popova began her own classes. Today, she teaches music, dance, and theater to some 110 disabled children. She says there are more than 30 organizations doing the same kind of work in the Russian capital.
Popova is convinced that non-governmental organizations have a real impact on Russian society. "NGOs have the advantage of being more flexible, more adaptable, and more sensitive to people's needs than the state," she commented. "They manage to slip by bureaucratic hurdles and can establish contact more easily with the West." She also believes that some official Russian bodies have ceased to regard NGOs as an enemy that exists to expose the state's failings. "The authorities take us into account," Popova says. "They even send us specialists for training."
Former Health Minister Pamfilova feels that achieving such cooperation between individuals and government is the most difficult hurdle to overcome because of Russia's long history as a state conceived to use, but not to serve, its citizens: "From a state that is an enemy, we have to make a state that is a friend. It's not so easy, you have to understand that--getting rid of the fear inside us. Because for many years, the state nourished this fear by its harshness. It wasn't only in Soviet times. Things were the same before the  revolution and probably go back to the time of serfdom."
Pamfilova stresses that her organization's objective is to revive a desire for civic dignity. She concludes that "one person's efforts are fine, but they're not enough." The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.