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Newsline - January 11, 2000


Acting President Vladimir Putin on 10 January promoted Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to first deputy prime minister, the highest position in Putin's newly restructured cabinet. According to Putin, Kasyanov's elevated rank makes official the role he has been playing as a behind-the-scenes manager of government policy. First Deputy Prime Ministers Nikolai Aksenenko and Viktor Khristenko were demoted. Aksenenko is now only railways minister, a position he held previously, while Khristenko becomes deputy prime minister. Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu was granted the additional title of deputy premier. Putin's spokesman, Mikhail Kozhukhov, told reporters that it is too early to speak of Kasyanov as a likely candidate for prime minister should Putin be elected president. Putin told reporters that he saw his reorganization of the cabinet "as strengthening the government's financial team." JAC


Also on 10 January, Putin dismissed Kremlin facilities manager Pavel Borodin and reappointed him secretary of state of the Union of Russia and Belarus. Borodin has been at the center of the scandal over the Swiss firm Mabetex, which won a lucrative contract to refurbish the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1999). Borodin has denied any wrongdoing. In other appointments, Borodin's deputy, Vladimir Kazelkon, was named to replace him and Aleksandr Yakovenko was named spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, replacing Vladimir Rakhmanin, who was recently transferred to the president's protocol directorate. Yakovenko is a career diplomat who last served as Russia's envoy to international organizations in Vienna. JAC


News of Kasyanov's elevation caused Russia's stock market to surge on 10 January, with the benchmark index RTS rising from 207 points to 212 as of 3:00 p.m. Moscow time, ITAR-TASS reported. Arnab Das, a specialist on emerging market debt at JP Morgan, told "The Moscow Times" the next day that Kasyanov's "appointment seems to be a sign that Putin wants his own stamp on the government and that he wants a government of technically proficient experts rather than one filled with politically motivated appointees." Peter Boone, research director of Brunswick Warburg, told Reuters that the appointment "is obviously quite positive [because] Kasyanov in particular has always been in favor of regulating Russia's domestic and external financing." JAC


The ruble fell sharply against the dollar on 11 January, dropping 2.5 percent to 28.44 rubles to $1, despite an announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko that a decision requiring exporters to sell to the government 100 percent of their hard currency revenues will not be taken until the second half of the year. The ruble dropped almost 2 percent the previous day following news that the government would require exporters to sell all of their hard currency revenues rather than the 75 percent currently required (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2000). Khristenko said that before adopting such a requirement, the government plans to recommend that the State Duma adopt a package of legislation tightening currency controls before the lower legislative body goes on its summer vacation. Traders told AP on 11 January that the ruble is continuing to weaken because few exporters are converting hard currency into rubles while Russian banks are seeking dollars to fulfill early 2000 contracts. JAC


Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and the commander of the Caucasus Group of Russian Forces, Lieutenant-General Viktor Kazantsev, both affirmed on 10 January that the previous day's Chechen offensives against the towns of Argun and Shali had been successfully rebuffed. Both generals condemned the attacks as treacherous in the light of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's call for a cease-fire from 9-11 January. Kazantsev said that "in the future we shall not believe promises, including those made by Maskhadov," Interfax reported. Kazantsev also denied that Generals Vladimir Shamanov and Gennadii Troshev have been dismissed from their posts as commanders of the Western and Eastern fronts in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2000). Kazantsev said the two commanders have simply been assigned "additional duties," according to Interfax. LF


The Russian Defense Ministry on 10 January denied media reports that Chechen detachments had seized a school in Gudermes earlier that day, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2000). According to Reuters, Major-General Sergei Makarov, who succeeded Shamanov as commander of the Western front in Chechnya, told RIA that Gudermes was fully under Russian control. But ITAR-TASS quoted an official at Russian military headquarters in Mozdok as saying that an attempt by the Chechens to regain control of the eastern part of Gudermes had been repelled. LF


Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov told Reuters by telephone on 10 January that the Chechen counterattacks over the previous two days herald a change in tactics. Udugov said the Chechens will concentrate on partisan warfare and avoid frontal clashes with federal forces. "We shall strike without respite at Russian outposts throughout Chechnya, leaving the Russians no time to come to their senses," he said. Meanwhile Russian military intelligence has ruled that the entire male population of those districts of Chechnya under Russian control will again be screened for possession of weapons, according to dpa. LF


Former Russian Premier Sergei Stepashin told Interfax on 10 January that "the federal authorities should be prepared for a long, drawn-out and painful terrorist war in Chechnya." He said that the Chechen switch to guerrilla warfare is reminiscent of the situation in spring 1995, noting that in order to counter the new threat, "garrisons must be fortified in the liberated territory, while law enforcement bodies must step up intelligence operations." The head of the pro-Moscow Chechen State Council, Malik Saidullaev, similarly told Interfax that the Chechen resort to guerrilla warfare could lead to a serious reversal for the Russian forces, which, he predicted, would negatively affect acting President Putin's popularity rating. Saidullaev again criticized Moscow's reliance on what he termed "stooges" who support former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov and former pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 1, 7 January 2000). LF


Russian chief military prosecutor Yurii Demin told journalists in Moscow on 10 January that a team of investigators has confirmed reports by journalists and Western human rights groups that Chechen civilians were killed in the village of Alkhan Yurt during a military operation in December, Interfax reported. But Demin added that it is very difficult to say whether the perpetrators were Russian soldiers or Chechen militants. Western reports quote survivors as saying that the killings were undertaken by drunken Russian soldiers. Demin denied that the killers also engaged in mass looting. LF


A former head of the supervisory department of the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office, Major-General Yurii Bagraev, told Interfax on 10 January that an action committee has been formed to nominate suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov for president. Skuratov announced on 11 January that he will respond to the group's invitation within a few days. Also on 10 January, Russian National Unity (RNE) announced that an initiative group of 108 people has nominated RNE leader Aleksandr Barkashov as a presidential candidate. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told Ekho Moskvy that he expects at least 10 candidates to vie for president in the 26 March elections. JAC


German magazines "Der Spiegel" and "Focus" reported on 8 January that acting President Putin earned a bronze order in 1988 from then Stasi head Erich Mielke. "Focus" said the award was "in recognition of considerable services to the [East German] ministry," while "Der Spiegel" said it was a routine commendation. "The New York Times" on 10 January cited unidentified U.S. intelligence officers who said that to their knowledge Putin's KGB career was unexceptional. According to "Der Spiegel," Putin worked as a KGB officer from 1975 to 1990 in East Germany recruiting West and East German citizens to work as informers for Russia. Germany's "Welt am Sonntag" meanwhile, interviewed a former Stasi officer who claimed to have worked with Putin. According to that officer, Putin appeared to like Germans, admired German discipline, and was a strong supporter of then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's economic and social reforms. JAC


Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin has accused former Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov of wanting to "form an agricultural section of the Communist Party in order to hold on to power," "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 11 January. The previous day, Kharitonov said that he is sure that at least 35 deputies are ready to form an Agrarian faction and that this group "will be pleased to accept Lapshin, [former Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii] Kulik and [former Agriculture Minister Viktor] Semenov and others." Lapshin, Kulik, and Semenov will join the new Duma from Fatherland-All Russia's federal list. Kharitonov added that "lack of unity [among Agrarian party members] will achieve nothing for the Russian villages." JAC


Chief Military Prosecutor Demin announced on 10 January that the number of cases of hazing in the Russian armed forces was down 10 percent in 1999, while the number of draft dodgers decreased by 30 percent, ITAR-TASS reported. Overall, the crime rate in the military last year declined by 13.5 percent, he noted. Demin also remarked that in 1999 criminal proceedings were instigated against 16 high-ranking officers, mainly for abuse of office and illegal financial dealings. JC


A spokesman for Russia's Energiya company, which built the "Mir" space station, told Reuters on 10 January that the U.S. firm Golden Apple has pledged $20 million to continue the space station program. According to Sergei Gromov, his company plans to send a crew to "Mir" in March for a mission that will continue for at least 45 days. He noted that Golden Apple has already transferred some $7 million for the project, which, he added, both the Russian Space Agency and the government must approve. "Mir" has remained unmanned in orbit since August 1999. Last year, a British businessman promised to raise $100 million to save the station in return for a ride in space, but that proposal came to naught (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April and 26 May 1999). JC


Police lieutenant Artur Hakobian was detained on 10 January on suspicion of operational negligence, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported, quoting a senior official from the military prosecutor's office. Hakobian commanded the police platoon on duty at the parliament building on 27 October that failed to prevent the five armed gunmen who murdered eight senior officials including Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian from entering the building. Hakobian is the third police officer to be detained in connection with the shootings. A total of 16 people are under investigation for their alleged roles in the killings. LF


The trial opened in Yerevan on 10 January of Ashot Bleyan, a former minister of education and leader of the Nor Ughi (New Path) Party, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bleyan is charged with abuse of power and embezzling public funds. He has rejected those charges as politically motivated. LF


On a visit to Ankara on 9-10 January, Heidar Aliyev discussed with his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, the proposed Baku- Ceyhan export pipeline for Azerbaijani oil and the prospects for resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Aliyev said the Karabakh conflict cannot be resolved without Turkish participation, according to AP. Also on 10 January, Azerbaijani presidential administration official Novruz Mamedov rejected media reports citing Aliyev as having said prior to his departure from Baku that Azerbaijan might drop its objections to the reopening of transport connections between Turkey and Armenia, Turan reported. Such reports, he said, are "misconstrued." On returning to Baku on 11 January, Aliyev denied media reports that he underwent a medical checkup in the Ankara military hospital where he was treated for bronchitis in January 1999, Turan reported. LF


Turan on 11 January quoted President Aliyev as saying that the ongoing demonstrations by ethnic Azeris in the Iranian city of Tabriz were orchestrated by unnamed forces interested in exacerbating relations between Azerbaijan and Iran. Aliyev denied having received and rejected a request from Mahmudali Chehragani, an Azerbaijani professor at the University of Tabriz and one of the leaders of the so-called South Azerbaijan National Liberation Movement, to be allowed to travel to Azerbaijan for medical treatment. LF


Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania told journalists in Tbilisi on 11 January that earlier that day Georgian security officials detained a convoy of military vehicles from an unnamed Russian base in Georgia that was transporting arms to Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported. LF


Eduard Shevardnadze confirmed in his weekly radio address on 10 January that he will run for a second term in office in the 9 April presidential poll. He said his primary objectives are to improve social and economic conditions in Georgia, to restore the central government's control over the entire country, and to raise Georgia's international standing, according to Caucasus Press. Also on 10 January, National Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Irina Sarishvili- Chanturia, who had been considered a possible presidential candidate, said her party will not support any candidate in the April poll. Socialist Party chairman Vakhtang Rcheulishvili said that the parties aligned in the Batumi alliance may propose as their presidential candidate either former Georgian Communist Party First Secretary Dzhumber Patiashvili or Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze. Patiashvili ran unsuccessfully against Shevardnadze in the November 1995 presidential poll. LF


Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 January that the threat made by the newly-formed Interim Committee for Liberating Abkhazia to resort to hostilities in order to bring the region back under the central government's control is not serious, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2000). Georgian deputy parliamentary speaker Vakhtang Kolbaya similarly expressed concern that the committee's appeal could encourage ethnic Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia, whom his parliamentary faction represents, to resort to arms. He called for the swift resumption of talks on a political settlement to the conflict. LF


The trial of two people suspected of arranging the illegal sale to North Korea of 40 obsolete MiG aircraft resumed in Almaty on 10 January, Reuters and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2000). Vladimir Abiev, a lawyer for businessman Aleksandr Petrenko, said his client is accused of smuggling military property, while co-defendant Bakhitzhan Ertaev, who is chief of the army general staff, is accused of abusing his official position. Ertaev, who had earlier protested his innocence, claimed that Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry knew of the sale and that he "was merely fulfilling orders" from his superior, Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev, who he demanded be summoned as a witness, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported on 11 January. Altynbaev was dismissed when the scandal broke in August. Kazakh government officials have denied any knowledge of the affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August and 7 September 1999). LF


The Free Trade Union of Outdoor Market Vendors in Mahileu has advised its members "to take leave" until February, Belapan reported on 10 January. The union believes that new value-added tax regulations will prevent vendors from making a profit. As of 1 January, vendors must pay a 20 percent VAT twice: on the customs value of goods at the border and on monthly sales. Many vendors have not started working so far this month in the hope that the new regulation will soon be revised. Small business entrepreneurs are planning a rally in Minsk on 31 January, at which they are expected to decide on a nationwide strike beginning 1 February. The action will be in protest at the "limitation of rights of small businesses," "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" reported on 10 January. JM


The Homel Oblast Executive Committee has adopted regulations whereby only the committee head, his deputies, and committee section heads are authorized to speak to journalists, Belapan reported on 10 January. In addition, Homel officials are allowed contacts with media representatives only in accordance with an approved schedule. Anatol Hatouchyts, chairman of the Homel branch of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, told the agency that the regulations contravene the press law, which bans interference in the activities of the media and any restrictions on contacts with journalists. JM


Citing the Democratic Union Party, Interfax reported on 10 January that Ukraine's 218 initiative groups have collected nearly 3.3 million signatures in support of a nationwide referendum on changes to the constitution (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 January 2000). The groups are proposing to ask questions on giving the president the right to disband the parliament, creating a bicameral legislature, lifting deputies' immunity, and adopting the constitution by a nationwide referendum. At least 3 million signatures are needed to launch a referendum in Ukraine as a popular initiative. JM


Supreme Council Chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko has called on all parliamentary caucuses to make every effort to pass the 2000 budget this week, Interfax reported on 10 January. Last week, the cabinet submitted a zero-deficit budget draft to the parliament for a second reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2000). Meanwhile, the parliamentary Budget Committee has concluded that the submitted bill is in fact a surplus budget since it includes a spending item denoted as "payments to cover the basic debt sum," which amounts to 405.4 million hryvni ($78 million). The committee argued that according to the international practice of drafting budgets, debt repayment is categorized as an item to be financed from a budgetary surplus. JM


Of the Baltic states, Lithuania registered the lowest annual inflation last year, BNS reported on 10 January. According to preliminary figures, inflation in that country stood at 0.3 percent, compared with 3.2 percent in Latvia and 3.9 percent in Estonia. Figures for all three countries are lower than those in 1998 ( 5.1 percent, 4.7 percent, and 6.5 percent, respectively). The most significant factor contributing to inflation in 1999 was the increase in fuel prices, but the lower inflation rates in all three countries, compared with the previous year, are attributed to the economic recession caused by the Russian economic crisis. MH


BNS also noted that according to "The Economist," the so-called Big Mac Index showed the currencies of the three countries as undervalued. Using the price of the popular McDonald's burger, the index showed that the Lithuanian litas is undervalued by 32.9 percent, followed by the Estonian kroon at 28.5 percent and the Latvian lats at 26.4 percent. While the average price of a Big Mac in the U.S. was $2.42 on 4 January, the equivalent prices in the Baltics were 6.55 litas ($1.64) in Vilnius, 26.50 kroons ($1.75) in Tallinn, and 1.04 lats ($1.80) in Riga. All the figures are slight improvements over the 1998 levels. MH


Poland has stopped at its border a shipment of Dutch flowers, arguing that the transporters do not have the necessary sanitary certificate, dpa reported on 10 January. The daily "Zycie" suggested the same day that Poland may be waging "a silent trade war" with the EU. Last month, Poland stopped a dozen trainloads of German rye, saying the grain was of low quality. "The norms are similar in Germany and Poland, and we do not understand methods of examining rye that lead to such [negative] results," dpa quoted a source in the German Embassy in Warsaw as saying. "Zycie" quoted European Commission spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber as saying that Poland's actions over the past few months may lead to a delay in beginning Poland's EU accession negotiations in the farming sphere. JM


The government has sent to the parliament the third version of the 2000 budget, CTK reported on 10 January. The legislature rejected the two earlier versions. The new budget provides for a deficit of 35 billion crowns ($996 million), which is 6.8 billion crowns smaller than that provided for by the budget rejected in December. MS


Anna Malinkova, chairwoman of the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS), announced on 10 January that her party is giving up the post of deputy parliamentary chairman and a parliamentary committee chairmanship to protest the ruling coalition's lack of will to "seriously pursue a dialogue with the opposition" on the country's internal problems and economic policies, SITA reported. Malinkova said the SNS intends to "radicalize its positions." She said she does not believe that Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Marian Andel, a supporter of former SNS leader Jan Slota, will refuse to abide by the SNS leadership's decision. Responding to reports in the media that Slota is planning to regain his position, Malinkova said the SNS is not an "event" to which people "buy return tickets." She added that the party has made progress since Slota was deposed three months ago. MS


Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) members of the Budapest City Council will attend a mass for wartime Prime Minister Laszlo Bardossy at St. Stephen's Basilica on 16 January. Bardossy was sentenced to death and executed in 1946 for war crimes. A MIEP official said the party's members in the city council had planned to seek a retrial for Bardossy but decided they would wait until the "views of society and historians have changed." MSZ


Representatives of 17 opposition parties or coalitions agreed in Belgrade on 10 January to begin joint protests on 9 March to demand that Serbian and Yugoslav elections be held at all levels by the end of April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2000). The opposition representatives called for an end to "state terror" and "repressive laws," including the 1998 media law, the private Beta news agency reported. The signatories agreed to "cooperate in preparing for the elections, as well as during and after those elections." The opposition leaders added that they intend to "institutionalize" cooperation among themselves. They demanded equality between Serbia and Montenegro and decentralization of political power at all levels. Signatories included representatives of Vojvodina, Sandzak, and Kosova's Serbian minority. PM


The signatories also appealed to the foreign ministers of the EU, the U.S., Russia, and China to fully implement Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosova and allow "Serbian soldiers and police" to return there "in keeping with [existing] signed agreements." The opposition demands that KFOR protect "the state boundaries of Yugoslavia and Serbia with Albania and Macedonia" in Kosova and ensure full rights and local self- government for all minorities "in that Yugoslav and Serbian province." They call for an end to lawlessness there and for the return of all refugees and displaced persons. Kosova Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic told the BBC's Serbian Service that he is pleased with the opposition's stand on Kosova. Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije also represented the Serbs of Kosova at the opposition meeting. PM


The opposition leaders appealed in their agreement for international aid for "about 1 million refugees in Serbia and Montenegro and for the more than 2 million [Yugoslav] citizens who live on the brink of starvation." The signatories asked for an immediate end to the ban on air flights and oil deliveries to Serbia. They appealed to the U.S. and EU to end all sanctions once Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic agrees to hold elections. The international community should also return Yugoslavia to full membership in the OSCE and thereby help thwart the "regime's [campaign] to satanize everything in Serbia that is European and democratic," they commented. The opposition leaders added that Belgrade should resume full diplomatic relations with Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin. They also called for full membership for Serbia and Yugoslavia in the EU's Balkan stability program. PM


The agreement is the first such pact between the main opposition groups in more than two years, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 10 January. Alliance for Change coalition leader Veran Batic hailed the move. Evidence of political jockeying among leaders was nonetheless evident. For example, Democratic Party chairman Zoran Djindjic and the Serbian Civic League's Goran Svilanovic did not sign the documents personally, but Batic did so on their behalf, "Danas" reported. This reflects Djindjic's insistence that he will not subordinate himself to the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic, who hosted the meeting, the BBC's Serbian Service commented. Former General Momcilo Perisic said that he agreed with the documents but did not sign them because they did not include his key demand for the immediate ouster of Milosevic. Regime media claimed that the opposition also concluded an additional "secret" agreement pledging loyalty to "their masters" in the West, the BBC noted. PM


On 10 January, some 18 tanker trucks left the oil refinery in Skopje for the Serbian border with heating oil for the cities of Nis and Pirot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1999). The shipment is a gift from the EU in its Energy for Democracy program, which provides heating oil to municipalities governed by the opposition. PM


A government spokesman said in Athens on 10 January that Greece will supply some 60 percent of Kosova's imported electricity. Greece will send the electricity via Albania, but it is not clear when the program will begin, AP reported. On 11 January, however, a spokesman for Greece's Public Power Corporation said he doubts that either Albania or Macedonia has the technical ability to transfer the electricity, which his company is willing to provide. Kosova needs to import about 100 megawatts daily, which is roughly half of its total consumption. Its main power plant is operational but in need of repair and improvements. PM


Italian and Albanian officials signed an agreement in Rome on 10 January aimed at reducing illegal migration from Albania to Italy across the Otranto Strait. Italy will supply two police helicopters to its neighbor and convert a Kosovar refugee camp in Albania for use by non-Albanians being repatriated, AP reported. Italian Interior Minister Enzo Bianco said that some 80 percent of the illegal immigrants leaving Albania for Italy are non- Albanians. PM


Acting President Vlatko Pavletic and opposition leaders Ivica Racan and Drazen Budisa agreed in Zagreb on 10 January that Pavletic will call on Racan to form a government as soon as the recent parliamentary elections are repeated in 11 polling places and the result of that vote officially confirmed (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 January 2000). The repeat elections are slated for 16 January, which means that Racan can expect to receive a mandate from Pavletic by early February, "Jutarnji list" reported. The three men agreed on the importance of a smooth transfer of power from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to the opposition coalition with minimum delay. PM


Ivica Vrkic, who heads state-run television (HRT), said in Zagreb on 10 January that he will offer his resignation once the new parliament convenes. This is the first time that a top HDZ appointee has publicly offered to resign once the transfer of power begins, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. "Jutarnji list" wrote on 11 January that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder replaced 51 top political appointees when he succeeded Helmut Kohl in 1998, but it noted that Racan "can expect to replace even more" top officials once the HDZ's 10-year reign formally ends. The Zagreb daily added that evidence is increasingly coming to light of the HDZ's links to Herzegovinian mafia structures and even to international terrorists. PM


President Emil Constantinescu went on nationwide television on 10 January to promulgate the land restitution law, which the parliament had passed in December. Also last month, the Constitutional Court rejected an opposition appeal to declare the legislation unconstitutional. The law allows former owners to claim back up to 50 hectares of arable land and 10 hectares of forest; a law passed in 1989 allowed the return of only 10 hectares of land and one hectare of forest. Constantinescu said he wanted to promulgate the law on television "not as a gratuitous gesture but as a sign that the year 2000 will remain in history as the year when land was finally returned to its lawful owners." He also harshly criticized the Party of Social Democracy in Romania for having attempted to block the legislation. MS


An IMF delegation headed by the fund's chief negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, began a new round of talks in Bucharest on 10 January on the implementation of the agreement reached with Bucharest last year. In August 1999, the IMF released the first tranche of a $547 million loan, but the second tranche has been delayed since October owing to IMF doubts about whether Romania can meet the fund's condition of a tight fiscal policy and given the political crisis in the country. Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu on 10 January convened a cabinet meeting to discuss strategy at the negotiations with the IMF, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Government sources said a deficit equal to 3 percent of GDP and annual inflation at 25-30 percent remain Romania's objectives for 2000. MS


National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) Chairman Ion Diaconescu said on 10 January that no disciplinary measures have been taken "thus far" against the so-called Brasov group supporting former Premier Radu Vasile. He added, however, that the PNTCD intends to be "stern" in its handling of those who do not comply with the party statutes. The same day, members of the Brasov group met with Vasile to discuss "strategies" at a meeting of the PNTCD's leading executive body planned for later this month. Meanwhile, at a gathering that the Civic Alliance Movement had organized, the PNTCD, the National Liberal Party, the Union of Rightist Forces, and the National Christian Democratic Alliance all agreed that "solidarity" of the center-right forces is required to "coherently counter-balance" leftist "anti-reform" tendencies, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS


Unidentified persons have painted a swastika on the building housing the editorial offices of the Russian- language publication "Novii poryadok" (The New Order) in Chisinau, Flux reported on 10 January. They also painted slogans demanding that "Russian occupants, go home!" and "Freedom to Chechnya." "Novii poryadok" said the attack was "an intimidation attempt or a provocation." It added that a movement calling itself "Novii poryadok" will soon be formed in Moldova. Moldovan Journalists' Association Chairman Valeriu Sahnareanu said his group cannot respond to the incident before the results of a police investigation are made public, but he said he does not rule out that "Novii poryadok" staged the incident itself and that the publication has "neo- fascist leanings." The name of one of Aleksandr Barkashov's Russian National Unity publications in Russia is "Russkii poryadok." MS

Former Soviet Defense Minister Yazov Speaks Out (Part 2)

This interview with the Soviet Union's last defense

minister, Dmitrii Yazov, first appeared in the Czech daily "Lidove noviny" on 25 November 1999 (Part 1 was published in "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2000). Petra Prochazkova conducted the interview.

Q: Today, your name is mainly associated with the events of August 1991, which are interpreted as an attempt at a putsch. You and then KGB chief [Vladimir] Kryuchkov allegedly gave orders to isolate Gorbachev in Crimea on 18 August.

This is an inaccurate interpretation of those events. We wanted to prevent the illegal break-up of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev wanted to liquidate the USSR against the will of the majority in August 1991. We tried to rectify the situation. Gorbachev was terribly confused, he had no idea what to do. He was most influenced by [Eduard] Shevardnadze, [Aleksandr] Yakovlev, and to a certain extent the Americans, the Germans, and Western European politicians. We went to Crimea to convince him that he was making a mistake, to remind him that on 17 March 1991, almost 77 percent of the USSR's citizens had voted to preserve the USSR. He took offense. That was the whole putsch. I told him that we have to fulfill the will of the people and preserve the integrity of the country. But Gorbachev went against the people, that's why I consider him to be a traitor.

Q: Do you regret that you didn't arrest Boris Yeltsin back then?

Perhaps it would have been better. I knew that things would be bad. But it was not in my jurisdiction to arrest Yeltsin. We had a legal president in Gorbachev.... But Gorbachev is a coward. He was the commander in chief of the Russian Federation's armed forces. Not me.... Gorbachev listened to his advisers, who were greater in number than the generals in our army. Thatcher, Reagan, and Bush unofficially belonged among them.... However, everything was just beginning in August 91.

Q: And it resulted in the Belovezha accords on the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

But that was a crime, don't you understand? What right did the Ukrainian [Leonid] Kravchuk, the Belarusian [Stanislau] Shushkevich, and the Russian Yeltsin have to sign an agreement on the liquidation of a superpower? That did not conform to the law or democratic principles. Three drunkards met in a forest almost on the Polish border and signed a piece of paper. And Gorbachev, who was the head of state, didn't do anything. So who's guilty...? Gorbachev should have ordered the deployment of the paratroopers, and he should have had all three of them arrested as traitors.

Q: Why do you think he didn't do it?

Because he sold himself. Him and Yeltsin. For example, [former Czechoslovak communist leader] Gustav Nikodimovich Husak, who I met many times, was an extremely honorable man. Just like [Czechoslovak communist Jozef] Lenart. What, they were bad Czechs? Was [Klement] Gottwald a bad Czech? None of them was a Nobel Prize laureate. Why didn't a single socialist politician ever win that award--and then suddenly Gorbachev won it? He didn't win it for ending the Cold War, as they say he did, but because he sold the interests of socialist countries. In reality, the Cold War didn't end. It continues.... The Cold War is also continuing in relation to the events in Chechnya.

Q: Who do you think is responsible for Chechnya?

It is the result of the misguided policies of our leadership. They should have negotiated with [Dzhokhar] Dudaev as early as 1991. I knew him personally. He was an excellent airforce commander. An intelligent person, and you could talk to him.

Q: So the Western protests against the military operation are justified?

What business is it of the Americans? Why are they interfering in Russia's internal affairs? They say we don't have the right to bomb Chechnya.... War is not a political matter, but an economic matter. Politics only serves economics. Lenin correctly said that politics is just a concentrated expression of economics. Economic interests were also behind the disintegration of the USSR. And separatism was added into the mix. Western politicians had been preparing the situation for a long time. We knew it. But what were we supposed to do? Bomb the USA? The main goal of certain American politicians was to destroy the Soviet Union. Their radio stations did some 500 hours worth of broadcasts in the languages of all nations of the USSR. They induced people to get out of the evil empire, Ukraine to fight for its independence. But look at what their so-called freedom brought them! For a Ukrainian who worked in the mines, it means unemployment. Back then, he was not free according to you, but now he is free and has nothing. Many people became the presidents of sovereign states. That's the essence of the matter....

Q: And us?

Not even you. In the times of the USSR, Czechoslovakia produced a ton of grain per head and a ton of steel per head annually. Fifteen million people gained 15 million metric tons of steel and grain. Try asking how much you produce today....

Q: Were you better off under the USSR?

I wouldn't say so. The Communist leadership didn't have any privileges. We were allowed to buy goods directly from the warehouses without waiting in line, but I never used that advantage. I sent my assistant, sometimes my wife did the shopping. Otherwise, we didn't need anything. We drove in a government car to the government dacha. Now the Defense Ministry has sold off 427 of its sanatoriums and dachas. They were all bought up by businessmen, and the soldiers are left with nothing. Translated by Victor Gomez.