BEREZOVSKII TO CREATE NEW PARTY...
In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 July, Boris Berezovskii said he is trying to form a new party and faction in the State Duma. He said that he has discussed the project with a number of regional leaders, such as Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel, Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, and Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov as well as several Duma deputies whom he declined to identify. Berezovskii explained that Russia needs "a constructive opposition," or "the process of centralization of power will inevitably begin." Berezovskii said that his faction will be made up of members of "Unity, People's Deputy, Russian Regions and even some of those deputies who consider themselves rightists." JAC
...AS HE VOICES NEW CRITICISM OF PUTIN
Following Russian President Vladimir Putin's state of the nation address on 8 July (see below), Berezovskii criticized Putin's suggestion that "perhaps only public and political associations should have the right to nominate candidates to the post of head of state," arguing that if such an idea becomes law, "democracy will shrink in Russia." Berezovskii also criticized President Putin's plans to reform the Russian Federation as "undemocratic" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2000). Some analysts have suggested that Berezovskii feigns opposition to Putin so that the Russian public will perceive the president as "tough" on oligarchs. JAC
PUTIN CALLS FOR RUSSIA TO BECOME STRONG, LAW-BASED STATE...
In his state-of-the-nation address on 8 June, President Putin touched on several of his pet themes, including obeying the law and the need to strengthen central authority. Putin declared that Russia must not remain a "weak state," noting that "the only realistic choice for Russia is to be a strong country." He said that "an era is beginning in Russia where the authorities are gaining the moral right to demand that established state norms should be observed" and that "strict observance of laws must become a need for all people in Russia by their own choice." He pointed out that "competition for power" between the center and regional powers has been "destructive," and he concluded that "we have to admit that [Russia] is not yet a full blown federal state." Instead, according to Putin, Russians have "created a decentralized state" (see also "End Note" below). JAC
...EMPHASIZES IMPORTANCE OF ECONOMIC REFORM...
Putin listed Russia's "economic weakness" as one of its most serious problems, arguing that "today's economic indices look optimistic only against the background of yesterday's." Putin again called for the protection of ownership rights, ensuring "equal conditions for competition" in the economy, distancing the state from "the practice of excessive interference in business operations," and easing the tax burden. Another acute problem, according to Putin, is Russia's demographic decline. During the past several years, he claimed, the population has been decreasing by an average of 750,000 people a year. JAC
...CHARGES MEDIA UNDER THREAT FROM ALL SIDES
Putin also discussed the need to strengthen Russia's civil society and preserve certain essential freedoms, such as that of the press. "It is not possible to have a strong state without respect for human rights and freedoms," he said. While stressing the need for "truly free media," Putin noted that Russia has not "yet managed to work out clear rules guaranteeing genuine independence for the fourth estate" and commented that the media have become a "convenient instrument in the interclan struggle." He went on to say that "journalistic freedom has become a tasty morsel for politicians and weighty financial groups" and that "censorship does not come solely from the state and interference can be more than just administrative." JAC
SENATORS DEAL PUTIN ANOTHER REJECTION...
Members of the Federation Council rejected a bill on 7 July that would give Russian presidents the right to dismiss governors who violate federal laws on more than one occasion. The vote was 83 against with 16 in favor and nine abstentions. Earlier the same day, Duma deputies had approved that measure in its third reading. The vote was 334 in favor, 27 against, and three abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 7 July, Federation Council members agreed to form a conciliatory commission with members of the Duma to draft amendments to the law on forming the Federation Council that are acceptable to both legislative chambers. The decision was supported by 129 senators, while eight were opposed and three abstained, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC
...AS THEY AGREE TO FORGE A COMPROMISE
The upper body rejected the bill reforming the upper house last month after it had been approved overwhelmingly by the State Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2000). Having rejected the second of Putin's bills on reforming the administration of the Russian Federation, some senators suggested that the conciliatory commission also consider the piece of legislation on dismissing governors. On 9 July, first deputy head of the presidential staff Dmitrii Medvedev said that although the Kremlin is "optimistic" about the outcome of the commission's work, "if something unexpected happens, the procedure for overriding the veto still remains [at the lower house's disposal]." The commission is supposed to finish its work by 14 July so that the Duma can consider the new version at its extraplenary session on 19 July (see below), according to Unity faction leader Boris Gryzhlov. The upper house would then consider the bill on 26 July. JAC
RUSSIA SAYS EFFECTIVE ABM DEFENSE 'IMPOSSIBLE'
Following the failed test of a U.S. limited national missile defense system on 8 July, Russian military leaders were quick to launch a renewed broadside against Washington's plans to implement such a system. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Defense Ministry's international military cooperation department, commented that anti-ballistic missile experts, both in Russia and the U.S., are "perfectly aware that it is impossible to create a system of absolute protection." He added that Russia will "always have the means to counteract any U.S. anti-missile system." General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, similarly argued that the U.S.'s proposed missile defense will be "unable to secure protection of U.S. territory, and attempts to deploy such a system will be an empty waste of money." Interfax also quoted Yakovlev as saying that the 8 July test was a "challenge to all of progressive mankind." JC
GREECE SHARES RUSSIAN STAND ON ABM
During a meeting with Greek Defense Minister Apostolos-Athanasios Tsokhatzopoulos in the Kremlin on 7 July, President Putin said that what he called "the Greek channel" has been important in developing Russian ties with NATO. Tsokhatzopoulos, for his part, stressed that Greece has a similar position to Russia's on U.S. plans to set up a limited national defense system, saying that experience shows the "workability and importance" of the 1972 ABM treaty. The Greek defense minister also met with his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeev, to discuss a wide range of security issues. And he revealed that his talks in Moscow had also focused on the issue of "unimpeded transportation of energy resources to Greece, including oil from Novorossiisk and from the new oil fields in Kazakhstan," Interfax reported. JC
DUMA URGES MORE FUNDS FOR CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION
The lower house on 7 July appealed to President Putin to speed up the destruction of Russia's large chemical weapons stockpile. According to AP, Duma deputies asked the president to allocate 6.4 billion rubles ($230 million) for that process in 2001. Russia failed earlier this year to meet a deadline for destroying 1 percent of its chemical weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April and 22 May 2000). JC
SERGEEV PREDICTS CHECHEN WAR WILL CONTINUE UNTIL LATE FALL
Addressing the Federation Council on 7 July, Defense Minister Sergeev conceded that "federal forces have not yet established full and continuous control over the entire territory of Chechnya," AP reported. He said that the Chechen fighters have begun preparations for large-scale operations involving car-bomb attacks in the lowland regions of Chechnya and that the fighting may continue until late autumn. Sergeev assessed the current effectiveness of "mopping-up" operations to isolate and detain Chechen fighters as lower than in the past. Sergeev also said that the car-bomb attacks in Chechnya in early July could have been prevented if the Russian military had reacted faster to military intelligence reports. LF
DOZENS DETAINED IN CONNECTION WITH CHECHEN BOMBINGS
Thirty people have been detained in connection with the car bomb attack in Argun on 2 July that killed more than 20 Russian OMON troops, Reuters reported on 8 July, quoting the commander of the joint federal forces, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev. Two of those detained are residents of Argun who have confessed to persuading a fellow Chechen to drive the lorry that contained the explosive. Another eight people have been rounded up in connection with car-bombings in other Chechen towns the same day, according to Interfax. LF
RUSSIAN, CHECHEN OFFICIALS DOWNPLAY THREAT TO GUDERMES
Russian Defense Minister Sergeev, Russian military commandant Lieutenant General Ivan Babichev, and Taus Dzhabrailov, who is press secretary to interim administration head Akhmed- hadji Kadyrov, all downplayed the seriousness of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's 6 July announcement that his men could capture the town of Gudermes by 10 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2000). Sergeev said on 7 July that the town "will never be captured," while Babichev called on residents, albeit with minimal success, not to give way to "provocations" and flee. Dzhabrailov said "special units" are capable of neutralizing any attack by Maskhadov's fighters in an initial stage. But Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev, who, like Maskhadov, is a retired Soviet Army general, told Interfax he believes an attack on Gudermes is "entirely possible," adding that Maskhadov lacks neither fighters nor weapons. LF
SIX DIE IN BOMB NORTH OSSETIAN MARKET BOMBING
At least six people died and 18 were seriously injured by a bomb that exploded in the market in the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz, on the afternoon of 9 July, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. The market was the scene of a similar bombing last year in which 60 people died (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 1999). Local security officials said on 10 July that preliminary investigations show the explosive used was not identical to that used in apartment bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities last fall, for which Russian officials hold Chechen "terrorists" responsible, Caucasus Press reported. LF
RUSSIA, BELARUS TO MINT COMMON CURRENCY
In an interview with "Novye izvestiya" on 7 July, Secretary of State of the Union of Belarus and Russia Pavel Borodin predicted that the union's budget will increase fivefold in 2000 compared with 1999 to total 2.23 billion rubles ($80 million). He added that the leadership of Russia and Belarus have decided to establish a joint mint to produce a common currency, the so- called "belo-ruble," which will be introduced in 18-24 months. JAC
LAND CODE ON SCHEDULE FOR THE FALL
The State Duma completed its spring session on 7 July but will meet for an extraplenary session on 19 July, ITAR-TASS reported. At the Duma's fall session, scheduled to begin in September, deputies will consider the second part of the Tax Code, the draft Land Code, and the federal budget for 2001, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev announced. JAC
TOP INDUSTRIALIST MURDERED
The general director of Uralmash, Oleg Belonenko, was killed outside his home by two gunmen on 10 July. Belonenko had been named to that post in December 1999. At his last press conference, Belonenko said the company had received enough orders to increase its metals production some 70 percent in comparison with 1999, the website reported. JAC
GUSINSKII FORBIDDEN TO ATTEND HEARINGS IN U.S.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General announced on 7 July that it will not allow Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii to travel to the U.S. to attend hearings at the U.S. House of Representatives, ITAR-TASS reported. The office also sent an official letter to the Dumas Security Committee outlining the criminal case against Gusinskii, Interfax reported. The letter claimed that Gusinskii obtained from "commercial banks, notably those that he controlled, loans against shares in organizations and enterprises of which he is the CEO or founder, and deposited these into the accounts of other organizations in Russia and abroad."According to prosecutors, Gusinskii "was involved in the fraudulent acquisition of ownership rights to the 11th TV channel."JAC
G-7 PRESSURES RUSSIA ON MONEY-LAUNDERING
French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on 8 July that the G-7 finance ministers had informed Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin at their meeting that day in Japan that the G- 7 wants progress from Russia on combating money-laundering. According to Reuters, Fabius noted that while Kudrin had said the government is drafting laws to address the problem, "what counts is [the laws'] implementation. It's clear that will be a part of the discussions and negotiations with the Russians in the months to come." According to ITAR-TASS, Kudrin said that the draft law on money-laundering will be submitted to the Duma in the fall and will be approved by the end of the year. JAC
DEATHS FROM FAKE VODKA RISING
In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 7 July, State Duma deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) Gennadii Kulik said that the number of deaths caused by the consumption of low-quality alcoholic drinks grew by 47 percent during the first six months of 2000 to 23,000-24,000 fatalities. Part of the problem is that the illegal production of alcoholic beverages increased by almost the same amount as the level of legal production of alcoholic beverages declined, according to Kulik. Kulik, who is a former deputy prime minister with responsibility for agriculture, added that the Duma is interested in increasing the consumption of beer nationwide. However, Kulik said that beer is currently too expensive in relation to vodka. JAC
PROSECUTOR SAYS ARMENIAN GUNMEN ACTED ALONE
In an interview published in "Hayastani Hanrapetutiun" on 7 July, Military Prosecutor Gagik Janhangirian said that the five gunmen who shot eight top officials in the Armenian parliament on 27 October were not acting on orders from any other persons, AFP reported. Jahangirian confirmed earlier reports that the gunmen's leader, Nairi Hunanian, had retracted earlier testimony implicating senior figures within the Armenian leadership. He also insisted that the investigation into the killings, which he heads, has been carried out "in accordance with the letter and the spirit " of the Armenian Criminal Code, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SETS ELECTION DATE
As widely anticipated, President Heidar Aliyev has scheduled the parliamentary elections due this fall for 5 November, Turan and Reuters reported on 7 July. LF
AZERBAIJAN REJECTS RUSSIAN DEMAND FOR COMPENSATION
Baku will not pay the $29 million demanded by Russia's Transneft in compensation for Azerbaijan's failure to comply with a 1996 agreement on exporting Azerbaijani oil via the Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline, Reuters reported on 4 July quoting Prime Minister Artur Rasizade. Transneft chairman Semen Vainshtok had announced late last month that his company would demand that amount as a penalty for Azerbaijan's failure to export the agreed minimum quantity of oil via that pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2000). LF
RUSSIA SOFT-PEDALS ON VISAS FOR AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 July quoted Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov as telling the independent Baku television station ANS that Russia has agreed not to impose in the immediate future a visa requirement for Azerbaijanis visiting Russia. Vladimir Putin, at the time Russian prime minister, had advocated introducing visas for both Azerbaijani and Georgian citizens in November 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 8 November 1999). Speaking in Tbilisi on 7 July, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze expressed the hope that Moscow would comply with its assurance not to introduce the visa requirement before the end of this year, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said late last month that the introduction of visas "is not on the agenda at this stage." LF
REBEL GEORGIAN COLONEL KILLED IN SHOOTOUT
Akaki Eliava, who headed an abortive insurrection in western Georgia in 1998, was shot dead at a police station in the west Georgian town of Zestafoni late on 9 July, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 October 1998). Eliava and four comrades-in-arms had been detained by transport police earlier that day and taken to Zestafoni police station, where they took four police officers hostage and demanded a meeting with senior Interior Ministry officials and free passage to the town of Zugdidi, some 100 kilometers to the west. After five hours of negotiations, Eliava, his men, and the hostages tried to leave the building but were caught in an exchange of fire with Georgian troops in which Eliava and one of his men were killed and three police officers wounded. Georgian Interior and Security Ministers Kakha Targamadze and Vakhtang Kutateladze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 July that their men had no choice but to kill Eliava. LF
GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT AGREES ON BUDGET SEQUESTER
President Shevardnadze chaired a closed session of the Georgian government on 7 July at which it was decided to sequester 300 million lari ($160 million) from this year's budget, Caucasus Press reported. Expenditures were reduced from the original 1.25 billion lari to 949 million lari and planned revenues from 883 million to 679.9 million lari. Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli said the following day that pensions, teachers' salaries, and allowances for displaced persons will not be affected. But presidential spokesman Kakha Imnadze told journalists that all ministries face funding cuts. LF
LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA
Indulis Berdzins held talks in Tbilisi on 4-6 July with his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Menagharishvili, parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, and President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. Menagharishvili told journalists after his meeting with Berdzins that Georgian and Latvian approaches to integration into European structures coincide, although Latvia is far closer than Georgia to achieving that goal. Zhvania said Georgia is interested in what he termed the "unique" Baltic model of regional cooperation. Berdzins handed over to Shevardnadze an official invitation from Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga to visit Riga. LF
FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER SHRUGS OFF CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
Former Premier Nurlan Balghymbaev, who is currently president of the state oil company Kazakhoil, told journalists last week that a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the possibility that western oil companies paid multi-million dollar kickbacks to himself and President Nursultan Nazarbaev may have been prompted by U.S. resentment at either the size of Kazakhstan's recently discovered Kashagan oil field or at the warming in Russian-Kazakh relations since Putin's election as Russian president, the "Wall Street Journal" reported on 5 July. Balghymbaev personally denied having accepted any such payment. Spokesmen for Nazarbaev have not yet commented on the U.S. investigation's findings, which were recently leaked to "Newsweek." LF
CONFUSION SURROUNDS REPORTED ATTACK ON KYRGYZ BORDER POST
The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry on 7 July failed to confirm a report it had issued earlier saying that a Kyrgyz border post on Kyrgyzstan's southern border with Tajikistan had been fired on the previous evening, Interfax reported. The border post is in Batken Oblast, the scene of incursions last fall by Uzbek guerrillas based Tajikistan. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 July reported that the Kyrgyz border guards had exchanged fire with "guerrillas" and radioed to the neighboring Batken post to request assistance. Defense Minister Esen Topoev has traveled to Batken to review the situation there. LF
UZBEKISTAN, FRANCE REVIEW DEFENSE COOPERATION
Visiting French Defense Minister Alain Richard signed an agreement in Tashkent on 8 July with his Uzbek counterpart, Yurii Agzamov, on creating a joint commission on military-technical cooperation and defense technology, ITAR-TASS reported. That agreement extends to exchanging experience on reforming the armed forces and the training of servicemen. Richard also met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who characterized military cooperation as a key component in developing bilateral relations. Richard and Karimov, among other things, discussed security and stability in Central Asia. LF
DROUGHT THREATENS COTTON CROP IN UZBEKISTAN
Uzbekistan's farmers fear that they may lose a large part of the country's planned 4 million ton cotton harvest because drought has reduced the amount of water available for irrigation, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 July. The situation is reported to be the worst for 50 years. Cotton is one of Uzbekistan's major exports. LF
ORT CAMERAMAN DISAPPEARS AT BELARUS AIRPORT
Dmitrii Zavadskii, a cameraman from Russian Public Television, disappeared on 7 July, ITAR-TASS reported. He was supposed to meet his colleague Pavel Sheremet at the airport but did not show up. Sheremet and Zavadskii were jailed for more than two months in Belarus in 1998. Sheremet told the media on 9 July that he suspects Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka "could not forgive Zavadskii for quitting when he worked as the president's personal cameraman." Belarusian officials said the country's opposition might have kidnapped him to blacken Belarus's international reputation, but the opposition blames the Belarusian secret services for Zavadskii's disappearance. PG
BELARUS OPPOSITION AT OSCE -- WITHOUT MINSK FUNDING
Semyon Sharetskiy, the chairman of Belarus's 13th Supreme Soviet, led a delegation of Belarusian opposition figures to the OSCE meeting in Bucharest, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 July. But the Belarusian government did not fund their trip. Instead, it was paid for by two German funds that support democratic opposition groups in Eastern Europe, the Russian agency said. PG
BELARUSIAN LEADER UNDERGOES KNEE SURGERY
Lukashenka, a sports enthusiast, underwent laparoscopic surgery on 8 July to remove a cartilage from his left knee, AP reported. PG
UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS PROTEST LAND PRIVATIZATION BILL
Despite communist opposition, the parliament voted by 229 to 32 to pass in the first reading a bill that opens the way to private ownership of land, Reuters reported on 6 July. Fistfights broke out after the vote, and the following day, dozens of communist and leftist legislators walked out of the parliament, demanding a strict probe into whether some deputies whose votes were counted had been present, as the law requires. Meanwhile, some 4,000 pensioners in Dnepropetrovsk marched to protest an IMF plan that would double their utility bills, dpa reported on 7 May. PG
UKRAINE SEEKS TALKS ON DIVISION OF SOVIET-ERA ASSETS
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk urged the parliament to consult with the Russian State Duma on the ultimate distribution of the assets and liabilities of the former Soviet Union, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 July. The so- called "zero option," Tarasyuk said, does not apply because Ukraine did not ratify the original post-Soviet accord. He added that in 1999, Kyiv had secured Moscow's agreement to discuss specific properties in 36 countries and to discuss the status of 10 of those properties. PG
UKRAINE INCREASES MILITARY EXPORTS
Ukraine is to provide engines and transmissions for Pakistan's new Al-Khalid tank, Interfax reported on 7 July. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksandr Kuzmuk told "Kievskie vedomosti" on 6 July that the 24 rocket silos located in his country are as closely guarded now as they were in Soviet times. PG
SWISS TO RETURN LAZARENKO FUNDS TO UKRAINE
Ukraine's Prosecutor-General Mihail Potebenko told ITAR-TASS on 7 July that the money former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko had kept in Swiss accounts would be returned to Kyiv. Meanwhile, Ukrainian prosecutors expressed the hope that the U.S. will extradite Lazarenko, already convicted in Switzerland of money-laundering, to Ukraine to face additional charges. PG
ANTI-RUSSIAN LABELS APPEAR IN WEST UKRAINIAN CITY
Labels bearing a skull and reading "Moscow poison, Russified, beware" appeared on shops, movie houses, and other public places in Lviv last week, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. The labels appear to have been placed by de-Russification teams who seek to block the use of the Russian language in public life there. PG
SOVIET AGENT CONVICTED OF GENOCIDE IN LATVIA
The Kurzeme Regional Court on 7 July convicted Yevgenii Savenko of genocide because of his role in oppressing Latvians during the early part of the Soviet occupation. The 86-year-old Russian citizen was sentenced to two years in prison but has the right to appeal the sentence. Savenko earlier had apologized to his victims, saying he was only following orders during nine executions in 1940 and other acts against Latvian citizens. MH
POLISH OPPOSITION SUPPORTS EU MEMBERSHIP DRIVE
Opposition leaders told Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on 8 July that they will support his minority government's efforts to achieve Polish membership in the EU by 2003, AP reported. Buzek, for his part, invited the opposition to participate in the government's European Integration Committee. PG
HOPES FOR POLISH PRESIDENT'S MOSCOW VISIT
Aleksander Kwasniewski's one-day visit to Moscow on 10 July will mean "the ice age" between the two countries is over, Kwasniewski's foreign policy aide Stanislaw Ciosek told Reuters on 7 July. But he refused to use the word "breakthrough" to describe the meeting between Kwasniewski and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Relations between the two countries have been cool since Poland entered NATO and expelled nine Russian diplomats in January 2000. And they have been exacerbated further by Poland's mounting current account deficit with Russia. PG
CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST POSTWAR TRANSIT CAMP CHIEF IN POLAND
Polish officials have brought war crimes charges against the former commander of a postwar transit camp for German expellees from Poland, "Gazeta Wyborza" reported on 8 July. Prosecutors said that the case, the first of its kind in Poland, involves a Polish citizen who ordered a building holding ethnic Germans to be set on fire. PG
POLISH LADY GODIVA RIDES THROUGH KRAKOW
A Polish actress rode nude through the Old Town of Krakow on 6 July to protest high taxes, AP reported the next day. Her action came on the seventh anniversary of the introduction of value-added tax in Poland. The rider, who identified herself only as Dziewanna, said that the legend of Lady Godiva "is beautiful, and I think that somebody should protest against taxes in this way. Nakedness is natural." PG
CZECH PRESIDENT JOINS TEMELIN CRITICS
Vaclav Havel told journalists on 9 July that he supports the idea of a referendum on the Temelin nuclear power plant. Havel said last week's "hasty start" to load the reactor's first bloc shows that "someone is trying to prevent democratic discussion," CTK reported. The previous day, Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart had said it is "unfortunately too late" for a referendum. Kuzvart, who is known to support such a plebiscite, said that this week, the cabinet will discuss the possible social and environmental impact of launching the plant. Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky on 7 July said that he would "be loyal" to the government's decision but noted that he still believes that unemployment will increase as a result of the reduced need for brown coal. MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S CONDITION 'VERY SATISFACTORY'
The doctors treating Slovak President Rudolf Schuster in Innsbruck said on 9 July that his condition has "considerably improved" and is "very satisfactory," CTK reported. Preliminary tests show Schuster's brain has not been affected. Although he currently is unable to speak because of the tracheotomy he underwent, he communicates with relatives and doctors by other means. MS
CONTROVERSIAL SLOVAK POLITICIAN RE-ELECTED TO PARTY OFFICE
Jozef Migas, leader of the Party of Democratic Left (SDL), was re-elected to that office by the SDL National Conference in Kosice on 8 July, CTK reported. He was supported by 243 out of the 443 delegates, while 182 delegates backed his pro- reform rival for the post, Education Minister Milan Ftacnik. Finance Minister Brigita Schmoegnerova warned before the vote that Migas's re-election would mean the party's ratings would continue drop. She had also said she might resign from the cabinet if Migas is re-elected. MS
ORBAN SAYS 'THERE'S LIFE OUTSIDE EU'
Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 7 July criticized the slow pace of EU expansion, saying that Hungary could "have a future outside the EU." He told journalists in Budapest that unless the EU establishes a timetable for first-wave candidates to join the union, Hungary "will be obliged to look for alternatives." He also noted that the date of joining the union has been repeatedly pushed back, pointing out that since 1990, Hungary "has been always five years away from accession." MSZ
TUFO CRITICIZES UPGRADE OF HUNGARY'S MIG FIGHTERS
U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Peter Tufo on 7 July said it would be a mistake for Hungary to spend its military budget on upgrading 14 Russian-built MiG-29 combat aircraft, Hungarian media reported. Speaking at the U.S. military base in Taszar, Tufo said the planes could not be deployed in any NATO action, even if they were overhauled. Hungarian Defense Minister Janos Szabo and Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath remarked that when admitting Hungary to the alliance, NATO was aware of the country's limited funds and accepted the MiG fighters as part of its fleet. Last week the Defense Ministry signed a letter of intent with Daimler-Chrysler Aerospace on upgrading 14 MiG-29 fighters to NATO standards. MSZ
MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT SLAMS MILOSEVIC'S CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
In the early hours of 8 July, the legislature passed a resolution by 36 to 18 votes rejecting the federal parliament's recent changes to the Yugoslav Constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2000). The resolution stressed that the federal parliament's moves are "illegal and illegitimate." It added that the changes amount to "the destruction of the constitutional order" of the Yugoslav federation and constitute a "gross violation of the constitutional rights of the Republic of Montenegro." The Montenegrin legislators promised unspecified "measures...[to] protect the interests of citizens of Montenegro and the undisturbed functioning of its legal system." The resolution also included an appeal to the "state bodies of the republic, especially of the Interior Ministry [to help] preserve peace," and it called on Yugoslav army personnel "not to let themselves be misused against the citizens, institutions, and state bodies of the Republic of Montenegro." The legislators appealed to "the citizens of Montenegro, the citizens of and democratic opinion in Serbia, and the international community" to help find a peaceful resolution to the "problems in Montenegro's relations with the state bodies of Serbia and the federation." PM
DJUKANOVIC: MONTENEGRO WILL DEFEND ITS INTERESTS
On 7 July, opening the session of the legislature that resulted in the passage of the resolution, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic called the federal parliament's moves a "brutal attempt" to end Montenegrin statehood, London's "The Independent" reported. Djukanovic later told Vienna's "Die Presse" that Montenegro faces a very real danger of a civil war because the Belgrade authorities continue to "brutally manipulate" Montenegrin supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Svetozar Marovic, who is speaker of the Montenegrin parliament, said that the constitutional changes amount to a revision of the legal basis on which the Yugoslav federation was formed in 1992, Belgrade's "Danas" reported. PM
MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT HOLDS OFF ON REFERENDUM
The legislature on 8 July rejected a proposal for an immediate referendum on independence. Djukanovic told "Die Presse" that his government still wants to give Serbia time to consider Montenegro's 1999 proposal for the redefinition of relations between the two republics. He added that if Serbia does not agree by some unspecified future date, the Montenegrin authorities will hold a referendum on independence. In Belgrade, pro-Milosevic media and several regime spokesmen taunted the authorities in Podgorica for not holding a referendum immediately, suggesting that Djukanovic does not want a referendum because he knows he will lose, Reuters reported on 9 July. Elsewhere, Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic threatened unspecified "measures to protect [Yugoslavia's] constitutional order" following the vote in the Montenegrin parliament, AP reported. PM
PATTEN CALLS ON EU TO OPEN TRADE BORDERS
Chris Patten, who is the EU's commissioner for foreign affairs, told an international conference on the Balkans in London on 7 July that the EU should quickly open its markets to several categories of goods from Albania and from the former Yugoslav republics, except Serbia. He added that Serbia should be included in the arrangement once Milosevic is out of power, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Among the categories he excepted from his proposal are beef and wine. Political and business leaders from the former communist countries of the Balkans have long appealed to Brussels to open its markets to their products, ranging from Montenegrin aluminum to Macedonian apples. PM
MYSTERY CONTINUES IN SHOOTING OF KOSOVAR POLITICIAN
UN police in Western Kosova are questioning witnesses in the 7 July shooting of prominent Kosovar politician Ramush Haradinaj, AP reported on 9 July. "The case is politically explosive because it raises the specter of armed clashes among ethnic Albanian political factions in advance of local elections in October. Western Kosova is known as a smuggling center where clans and political groups are competing for power," the news agency added. A NATO spokesman said in Prishtina that Haradinaj is undergoing medical treatment in Germany. Elsewhere in Kosova, the intense heat affecting much of the Balkans has led to the outbreak of fires in four out of five of NATO's military sectors in the province. The problem is further compounded by the presence of unexploded ordinance from the 1999 conflict and large amounts of uncollected trash. PM
SERBIAN MINISTER WARNS CROATIA OVER MEDIA
Serbian Information Minister Vucic warned the Croatian authorities not to assist Western efforts to broadcast to Serbia. He told a Belgrade press conference on 8 July that "the Western forces headed by the United States are preparing new media offensives on Serbia. They are using neighboring banana- republics, especially Croatia, as the most prominent exponent of their policies. The Serbian government is warning Croatia not to play with these things.... Our response will be adequate if they dare to violate international regulations," Reuters reported. He added that "if it becomes necessary, we will be ready to [use] ultimate [unspecified] financial resources for defending our country from the media aggression that Americans are intending to carry out from Montenegro and other neighboring countries." He did not elaborate. Vucic, who belongs to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party, is known for his outspoken criticism of the opposition and of the private media. PM
CROATIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO HELP PREVENT BALKAN WAR
Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb on 9 July that the threat of war in the Balkans "will diminish in proportion to the strength of the message that the international community sends to Serbia or to Milosevic," CTK reported. Visiting Czech President Vaclav Havel added that "it is always better to use political pressure and political means to avert a conflict rather than tackle its consequences by force." PM
BRITAIN BANS BOOK ON SREBRENICA
The Ministry of Defense has blocked the publication of a book on the role of the elite SAS in the fall of Srebrenica in 1995, the "Sunday Times" reported on 9 July. Critics have long charged that Dutch peacekeepers knew when they surrendered to attacking Serbian forces that Muslim male civilians would be massacred. The British authorities have never officially admitted that SAS had a small contingent in Srebrenica to help coordinate air strikes on Serbian positions. The massacre of some 7,000 Muslim males after the fall of Srebrenica is regarded as one of the blackest events in the history of UN peacekeeping. PM
ROMANIA'S LIBERALS NEGOTIATE WITH THE 'LEFT'...
The leaders of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Alliance for Romania (PNL) said after a meeting on 7 July that both groups support the emergence of "a new and realistic political alternative" that would be capable of winning the fall parliamentary and presidential elections. Former Premier Theodor Stolojan, who was present at the negotiations, said he will join the alliance only if the two parties merge. According to a Mediafax report, the PNL wants Stolojan to be its presidential candidate, but the APR says Teodor Melescanu's candidacy for that post is "not negotiable." Meanwhile, there is growing opposition within the PNL to the envisaged alliance. The party's Senate on 7 July sent a letter to PNL chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus warning against any alliance with formations that promote a different ideology and calling on the party to support President Emil Constantinescu's presidential candidacy. MS
...AND THE 'RIGHT'
Later on 7 July, the PNL leadership met with Constantinescu on the president's initiative. Mediafax said Constantinescu wants to run as an "independent" backed by both the PNL and the National Liberal Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD). Constantinescu reportedly proposed that the PNL and PNTCD run in the parliamentary elections on separate lists and that both parties back incumbent Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu for the premiership. The PNL leadership said it will consider backing Isarescu only if he joins the PNL; the premier, for his part, has already said he does not intend to join any party. PNL first deputy chairman Valeriu Stoica was non-committal after the meeting, saying it was "a useful encounter" for the purpose of clarifying "different political alternatives," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY COMMISSIONS APPROVE RESOLUTIONS ON MOLDOVA...
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Commission on Political and Security Affairs approved a resolution on 8 July saying that Moldova is a "fully independent and sovereign" state whose "territorial integrity" must be respected. The commission also said Russian troops must be withdrawn from the Transdniester breakaway region "gradually but totally" by 2002. Also on 8 July, the assembly's Commission on Democracy said the members of the "Ilascu group" detained in Tiraspol must be transferred to a third country and their case re-examined there. Ilie Ilascu has already said that he opposes this solution, because he enjoys immunity as a Moldovan deputy. MS
...WHILE OSCE CHAIRWOMAN VISITS CHISINAU, TIRASPOL
Austrian Foreign Minster Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who is the OSCE's rotating chairwoman, visited Chisinau and Tiraspol on 7 July. She met with President Petru Lucinschi, Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis, Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov, and the commander of the Russian contingent in the region, General Valerii Yevnevich, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Ferrero-Waldner said Russia has submitted to the OSCE a time- table for the withdrawal of its troops from the Transdniester and that the OSCE welcomes the appointment of former Russian Premier Yevgenii Primakov to head a Russian commission for the acceleration of the Moldova-Transdniester talks. She added that she expects Primakov's appointment to help bring about "Moldova's consolidation within its natural boundaries." MS
BULGARIAN PREMIER CONTRADICTS DEFENSE MINISTER
Ivan Kostov, addressing the parliament on 7 July, said Bulgaria has no intention of purchasing new aircraft, adding that the modernization of the army will be conditioned by the country's economic situation, BTA reported. Returning from a visit to the U.S., Defense Minister Boiko Noev had said recently that Bulgaria will purchase U.S.-made fighters. Kostov noted that the 2000 budget allocates 2.9 percent of GDP to defense, which, he said, is more than any other NATO candidate. He added that the government has never discussed allowing the construction of NATO military bases in Bulgaria. Also on 7 July, Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said at the end of a two-day visit that his country backs Bulgaria's membership in NATO and regards Bulgaria as "a factor of stability" in the region. MS
PUTIN'S BET ON THE STRONG
By Paul Goble
Russian President Vladimir Putin's newly enunciated priorities represent an explicit updating of the ideas of Petr Stolypin, the tsarist prime minister who tried to recoup the power and authority the Russian state had lost in the 1905 revolution and who attempted to revive the national economy before World War I by using state power to promote individual initiative.
In Putin's address to the nation on 8 July, Stolypin was the only individual the current Russian president mentioned by name, and Putin's reference to his tsarist predecessor provides significant clues as to how Putin views his current challenges as well to what measures he will adopt to meet them. But this reference also has the effect of highlighting just how difficult Putin's task is.
At the beginning of his remarks, which were delivered to the Federation Council, Putin said that "we do not always succeed in combining patriotic responsibility for the country's future with what Stolypin once described as civil freedoms." He then suggested that this is "why it is still so difficult to find a way out of false conflicts between the values of personal freedom and the interests of the state."
Like Stolypin, Putin argues that Russia risks not only political and demographic collapse but also the danger of falling ever further behind the world's advanced economic powers and becoming ever more dependent on "international loans and favors from the leaders of the world economy."
"We cannot put up with this situation," Putin said, echoing the words of Stolypin 90 years ago. Such an arrangement, he argued, raises the question of whether "we will be able to survive as a nation and as a civilization" or whether other countries will be able to "infringe" on Russia's "sovereign rights under the pretext of humanitarian operations."
Given this diagnosis of the problem--one Stolypin made in reference to the Russian Empire nearly a century ago-- Putin comes up with analogous prescriptions: promoting economic growth by relying on the most entrepreneurial elements in society, rebuilding state power at the expense of the regions and society at large, and justifying both those measures in the name of patriotism and even nationalism.
Like Stolypin, Putin focuses on the economy but largely for political reasons. He calls for further liberalization of the marketplace, removing the state from some of the spheres in which it is active and building it up in those spheres where it now is weak. And he urges changes in the country's regulatory, tax, and social welfare arrangements that will benefit the most entrepreneurial elements.
Such changes, Putin clearly believes, will ultimately benefit everyone. But at least in the short term, they seem certain to generate opposition both among those elites who may see his moves as depriving them of their current benefits and those in the broader population who may conclude that Putin has little interest in taking care of the least advantaged groups.
That combination of elite anger and popular unrest may prove to be as much an obstacle to Putin as it was to Stolypin at the end of the tsarist period.
Also like Stolypin, Putin seeks to rebuild the power of the state. Stolypin cut back the power of the tsarist Duma and suppressed the autonomy of Finland. Putin seeks to transform the current Federation Council as well as rein in the regionsin a bid to restore what he views as the legitimate and necessary powers of the executive over state and society.
Moreover, Putin does all this in the name of freeing many elements of society from what he suggests are the false freedoms they think they enjoy. He argues that even though "censorship and interference in the activities of the media are prohibited by law," in today's Russia, "journalistic freedom has become a tasty morsel for politicians and weighty financial groups" and "a convenient instrument in the inter- clan struggle."
And he says that a strong Russian state needs strong political parties to help guide the state and protect human rights, in place of the weak parties that currently compete for the attentions of a weak state. Indeed, Putin explicitly rejects the creation of "another party of bureaucrats that sucks up to the authorities and, even more important, tries to replace the authorities."
While many may accept Putin's critique just as many accepted Stolypin's analogous arguments, few who believe in democracy and political liberty are likely to be very comfortable with his prescriptions: an expanded role for the state in the media in order to break the power of the oligarchs, and a state-defined approach to the building of civil society and political parties.
But it is the third parallel between Putin and Stolypin that could prove to be the most disturbing. Like his tsarist predecessor, Putin cloaks his arguments in appeals to patriotism and the defense of Russia's uniqueness. Under Stolypin, these appeals sometimes were used by others to justify the actions of extreme nationalistic and openly anti- Semitic groups. And Putin's language, recent events suggest, could have a similar impact.
If that happens, the Russian president may have to choose between greater coercion or reaching out to those political groups in the regions and in the capital that he now seeks to ignore. Either action could quickly reduce the likelihood--as it did for Stolypin--that betting on the strong in Russia will prove to be a winning wager.