ARAFAT ARRIVES IN MOSCOW WITH HIGH HOPES...
Upon arriving in Moscow on 10 August, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat told reporters that he regards his visit as very important and has great expectations for it. According to Interfax, Palestinian officials are hoping that Russia will issue a statement supporting plans to declare Palestinian independence on 13 September and make East Jerusalem the capital of the new state. They are likely to be disappointed, according to Reuters, which reports that Russian diplomats have indicated that they will discourage Arafat from making any unilateral moves which could increase tensions between Israel and Palestine. JAC
...AS PUTIN CONFIRMS RUSSIA'S COMMITMENT TO THE PEACE PROCESS
Following his meeting with Arafat on 11 August, President Vladimir Putin declared only that "Russia, as a co- sponsor of the Middle East peace process, is ready to continue contributing to this cause," and its "position has always been characterized by respect for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to have their own state," he said. "We are very attentively following the negotiations between you and the Israeli president held with the help of Bill Clinton," the Russian president said. The previous day, Putin had a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. According to Interfax, the two leaders discussed the Middle East peace process and Putin pledged that Russia will continue to do all that it can to achieve a compromise to establish a stable peace in the region. JAC
BEREZOVSKII NEWSPAPER SUGGESTS ECONOMIC MOTIVE FOR MOSCOW BLAST
"Kommersant-Daily," a newspaper in which Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling stake, argued in its 11 August issue that the 8 August explosion at the Pushkinskaya metro station might have been an economic crime rather than a terrorist act. To support its case, the daily made three points. First, it noted that the head of the investigation at the Prosecutor-General's office is Vladimir Idkin, whose specialty is economic crimes. Second, it argued that the bomb was different from those typically used in terrorist acts committed by Chechen rebels such as the bombing of the market in Vladikavkaz. Third, it noted that the explosion took place in a much-coveted economically vibrant area: the underground passageway connecting the metro to one of the city's most popular neighborhoods. Each trading place along this passageway reportedly takes in at least some $10,000 a month in sales. JAC
FSB SAYS BRITISH NGO TRAINED CHECHENS AS TERRORISTS
In a statement issued in Moscow on 10 August, the Federal Security Service (FSB) accused the British non-profit HALO trust of training Chechen fighters to use explosives and of engaging in espionage activities in Chechnya on behalf of NATO in November 1998. It said Chechen employees of the trust had confessed to training "combat engineers." The statement further claimed that the HALO Trust personnel maintained close contact with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, and field commander Ruslan Gelaev. Speaking in London on 10 August, HALO Trust Director Guy Willoughby denied those charges, AP reported. "We are not involved--in any form--in spying. We were running a standard humanitarian mine-clearing operation and the Russian authorities knew about it," the agency quoted him as saying. LF
EIGHT DIE OF MYSTERY AFFLICTION IN CHECHNYA
Eight youths have died over the past few days in the Chechen village of Starie Atagi, south of Grozny, of symptoms that suggest poisoning, Russian agencies reported. A local physician said the victims died of asphyxia within hours of the onset of symptoms, which suggest a neuroparalytic poison that entered the system through the skin. All had worn new T-shirts that they had found at the village cemetery. Chechen interim administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and the first deputy chief of the Russian Army General Staff, Colonel-General Valerii Manilov, have called for an investigation into the fatalities, which Manilov blamed on Chechen fighters, Interfax reported. LF
ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO KILL KADYROV
The Chechen security service on 10 August found and defused a remote-controlled bomb at the side of a road that interim administration head Kadyrov was due to drive down later that day, Russian agencies reported. There have been several previous attempts to kill Kadyrov using such devices since his appointment in June. LF
TAX POLICE TURN THEIR ATTENTION TO SIBNEFT
Tax police officials conducted a raid on Sibneft's Moscow headquarters on 10 August, seizing reams of documents. A Sibneft press spokesman told NTV that the service's inspection of the company's financial documents was part of a "usual planned inspection" and was not part of any politically-motivated action. State Duma deputy (independent) Roman Abramovich acknowledged previously that he was one of Sibneft's largest stockholders. However, as a legislator, he is forbidden to play a formal role in the company. Abramovich is considered a member of the so-called "Family," which wielded considerable influence during former President Boris Yeltsin's tenure. Now, some analysts believe Abramovich wields his influence primarily through the head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin. In a recent report submitted by the Finance Ministry, Sibneft reportedly paid considerably less taxes over the past five quarters than most other large oil companies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2000). JAC
KREMLIN PUTTING PRESSURE ON LUZHKOV?
The Interior Ministry's Investigation Committee confirmed on 10 August that it has submitted a report on the increasing level of official corruption in Moscow to Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, ITAR-TASS reported. Luzhkov has one month to report on what actions he is taking to address the problem. The previous day, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin contradicted an earlier statement by Luzhkov that the federal government had agreed to transfer part of the city of Moscow's foreign debts to the federal government, "The Moscow Times" reported on 10 August. Kudrin said that not only would the federal government not help Moscow, but also that Moscow, as a debtor, was also likely to lose out on the redistribution of tax revenues to the regions. According to the daily, the city has two Eurobonds worth a total of $500 million due for redemption in the spring of 2001. JAC
FUTURE OF ARMED FORCES TO BE DECIDED...
The Russian Security Council was expected to hold an important meeting on 11 August to discuss short-term and long-term planning for the army and navy. Unidentified sources in the armed forces told Interfax that it will be proposed that these branches be reorganized to reduce spending on maintenance and increase spending on the purchase of military hardware and weapons. The goal is to ensure that by the year 2016 some 50 percent of the defense budget will be spent on the maintenance of the army and navy and 50 percent on their development. Also up for discussion may be the future of the Strategic Rocket Forces, which Chief of the General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin had suggested earlier should be reduced in part so that more money can be spent on ground forces. JAC
...AS NEWSPAPER SUGGESTS REGIONAL POLITICS WILL PLAY A ROLE
However, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that--according to its Defense Ministry sources--Putin is not expected to make any radical changes in the upper echelons of the Defense Ministry or risk alienating any general now because "the war with the governors is starting." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives funding from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC
RUSSIA TO REPAY MORE THAN 10 BILLION DOLLARS ON FOREIGN DEBTS
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin announced on 10 August that Russia will pay from $10.5-$11.5 billion on foreign debt this year, according to Interfax. This figure assumes that Russia will be able to negotiate an agreement with the Paris Club regarding Russia's Soviet-era debt. This figure is considerably higher than the figure AFP reported that Kudrin told journalists the previous day--$4.8 billion, which suggests that the agency may have been in error (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2000). JAC
GREF MINISTRY TO GET NEW PORTFOLIO?
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 10 August that the Commission on Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) called for transferring the management of the country's crude oil resources from the Energy Ministry to the newly created Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, which is headed by German Gref. According to Khristenko, President Putin may issue a decree ordering the change in the near future, Interfax reported. The cabinet plans to discuss the state of affairs with PSAs at a meeting on 31 August. JAC
PROFIT TAX REVENUES SOAR...
Revenues from the profit tax swelled 120 percent during the first half of 2000 compared with the same period the previous year, according to the Tax Ministry. The profit tax also accounted for a higher share of all budget revenues collected during this period, 28 percent this year versus 23 percent last year. JAC
...AS GAS EXPORT REVENUES SURGE
Natural gas export revenues increased 58 percent during the first six months of 2000 compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported. Export volumes also edged up 5 percent to total 97.567 billion cubic meters versus 92.843 billion cubic meters in 1999. JAC
RUSSIA ASKS GERMANY TO FORGIVE FORMER EAST GERMAN LEADERS
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko issued a statement on 10 August calling on the German courts to be lenient with the former leader of the German Democratic Republic, particularly former President Manfred Gerlach. According to Yakovenko, "many German citizens have been sending letters to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the country's Cabinet of Ministers, and president because they are "worried about Gerlach's fate and the continuous criminal persecution and political and social discrimination against former East German leaders, civil servants, servicemen and security personnel," ITAR-TASS reported. In a long book of interviews conducted with President Putin called "In the First Person," Putin, who worked as a KGB officer in the GDR during the late 1980s, said he had many friends in the GDR's Ministry of Security (StaSi). He noted that "the way they are being castigated now isn't right." He said that the StaSi "was also part of society. It was infected with the same sickness." JAC
PRO-KREMLIN PARTY FINDS COMMON GROUND WITH U.S. REPUBLICANS...
Returning from his trip to the U.S. Republican Party national convention, Boris Gryzlov, Unity party faction leader, said on 10 August that it was often easier for Unity members "to find a common language with Republican Party representatives than with representatives of some Russian parties." According to Gryzlov, Unity's delegation had more than 30 meetings in the U.S., ITAR-TASS reported. Gryzlov praised the stance of many well known Republican Party activists who take the position of non-interference with regard to Russia's policy vis-a-vis Chechnya. He alleged that the Republican Party would like to develop an anti-missile defense system together with Russia. JAC
...AND PLANS TO TRY TO LIMIT COMPETITORS FOR PRESIDENCY
Gryzlov also announced on 10 August that his party will submit legislation to the Duma that would require presidential candidates to be nominated by parties and require parties to have a minimum of 10,000 members in order to be registered. In a recent speech, President Putin suggested that presidential candidates must be nominated by a party or movement. JAC
DUMA DEPUTIES GROUP TO PUSH FOR BRINGING BACK DEATH PENALTY...
State Duma Deputy and leader of the People's Deputy group Gennadii Raikov said on 9 August that his group will submit legislation on lifting the moratorium on capital punishment for major crimes, "Izvestiya" reported the next day. Raikov said that he hopes the State Duma will turn to the bill promptly after their summer recess ends. He added that following the explosion in central Moscow, the regime should act more resolutely. The People's Deputy group is considered close to the Kremlin. JAC
...AND TO PROPOSE REDUCING THE NUMBER OF REGIONS?
In an interview with "Segodnya" on 10 August, Raikov also suggested that the number of subjects of the Russian Federation be reduced from 89 to 12-15. However, he noted that the consolidation of the federation cannot be achieved without altering the constitution. He suggested that a constitutional assembly could take up not only this issue but also the current principles for forming the lower legislative house and the proposed State Council. According to Raikov, the current draft bill on holding a constitutional assembly could be passed with sufficient additional work or an alternative might be proffered by the president. JAC
ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER NOTES IMPROVEMENT IN ARMED FORCES
Serzh Sarkisian, who was appointed defense minister for the second time three months ago, told journalists in Yerevan on 10 August that the Armenian army is now "better armed, better funded, and better organized" than in 1993-95 during his previous term as minister, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He claimed that discipline within the armed forces is strong, discounting repeated reports of hazing and the recent incident in which two deserters shot eight people dead before being apprehended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 21 July 2000). LF
ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT UNVEILS HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS
The Armenian government approved on 10 August the main points of what it expects to become a national system of mandatory health insurance in the next few years, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The insurance "concept" developed by the Ministry of Health introduces a system of monthly obligatory payments to a special public fund that will cover the costs of medical services, which much of the population cannot currently afford. Health Minister Ararat Mkrtchian told journalists that the majority of contributions will come from the state budget, and that the new system will be introduced "in the first half of next year." Also on 10 August, Noyan Tapan quoted a Public Health Service official as saying that during the first five months of this year the sector received only 17 percent of the total funds allocated from this year's state budget. Many Yerevan medical personnel have not received their salaries since last fall. LF
ARMENIA RETURNS MORE 'TROPHY ART' TO GERMANY
Armenia has sent back to Germany a second consignment of valuable books and manuscripts seized by the Soviet Army after World War II, Reuters reported on 10 August quoting a German government statement. A first consignment was returned in May 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1998). LF
AZERBAIJAN: ARMENIANS GAINING UNFAIR ADVANTAGE ON RUSSIAN PRODUCE MARKET
The Armenian government's exemption from customs duties on trucks transporting Armenian-produced cabbage and potatoes to Georgia has caused concern in Azerbaijan that its farmers may lose their share of the Russian produce market, Armenpress reported on 10 August quoting the Azerbaijani news agency Bilik Dunyasi. Russian customs officials on the Azerbaijani border with Daghestan routinely extort huge bribes from Azerbaijani truck drivers. LF
AZERBAIJANI EDITORS TO COORDINATE ELECTION COVERAGE
Editors of newspapers planning to give broad coverage of the runup to the 5 November parliamentary elections have formed a Media Union-2000 to that end, "Azadlyg" reported on 10 August. It is not clear whether they agreed to establish a uniform fee for publishing election-related materials submitted by parties contending the ballot. LF
GEORGIA DENIES RANSOM DEMANDED FOR ABDUCTED RED CROSS WORKERS
Former Georgian parliament deputy Mamuka Areshidze, who is one of the negotiators conducting talks on terms for the release of three Red Cross workers abducted in Georgia's Pankisi gorge on 4 August, told Caucasus Press on 10 August that the abductors are not demanding a ransom for their captives' release, nor have they made any "political demands." Instead, Areshidze said, they are demanding the solution of unspecified social "problems...of a rather complicated character," which will entail "courage and resolution" on the part of the Georgian authorities. LF
OSCE SAYS NO VIOLATIONS REGISTERED ON GEORGIAN-CHECHEN BORDER
Romania's ambassador to the OSCE, Liviu Bota, who was previously the UN secretary-general's special representative for the Abkhaz conflict, on 10 August inspected OSCE monitoring posts in the Georgian border villages of Shatili, Omalo, and Girevi, Caucasus Press reported. Bota said after that tour that the OSCE observers deployed along the Georgian-Chechen border have registered no unauthorized border crossings since they began their mission in February. Russian military officials regularly claim that mercenaries and weapons enter Chechnya from Georgian territory. LF
KYRGYZ PRESS TARGETS KULOV TRIAL JUDGE
In an editorial published in its 10 August edition, the pro-government newspaper "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" implied that presiding judge Nurlan Ashymbekov may have been paid a large bribe in hard currency to acquit former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. On 7 August, Ashymbekov announced Kulov's acquittal for lack of evidence on charges of abusing his official position while serving as National Security Minister in 1997-1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). Ramazan Dyryldaev, chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, told RFE/RL that he believes the decision to acquit Kulov was taken under pressure from the international community by President Askar Akaev, to the displeasure of other senior members of the country's leadership. LF
UZBEK ISLAMISTS ENTER KYRGYZSTAN...
Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Osmonakun Ibraimov told journalists in Bishkek on 11 August that two Kyrgyz servicemen were injured in fighting earlier that day between Kyrgyz government troops and a group of 30-40 fighters who had entered Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Oblast from Tajikistan en route to Uzbekistan, Reuters reported. Ibraimov said the fighters are believed to belong to the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group of whose forces clashed with Uzbek troops earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, and 10 August 2000). Also on 11 August, ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed Uzbek official as saying that Uzbek forces destroyed "the main group" of those fighters in a surprise raid early on 10 August. On that same day, the first deputy chief of the Russian Army General Staff, Colonel-General Valerii Manilov, said that Moscow will provide assistance if asked to help Uzbekistan defeat the Islamists, Interfax reported. LF
...AS MORE FIGHTERS DRIVEN BACK ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER
Russian Border Guards in Tajikistan thwarted an attempt during the night of 10-11 August by a group of some 40 armed men to cross the Shaartus sector of the Afghan-Tajik border, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The infiltrators were forced to retreat. The Russian border guards, although outnumbered, said they suffered no casualties. LF
OSCE ENVOYS CONFER WITH BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ON ELECTIONS
A delegation of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2000) met with Belarusian oppositionists in Minsk on 10 August to discuss the 15 October legislative elections in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Delegation head Hrair Balian said the mission's goal is not to conduct polemics with the authorities or the opposition about the legitimacy of elected power bodies but to see if anything can be changed in Belarus before 30 August, when the OSCE is expected to make a decision on whether or not to send international observers to the Belarusian elections. Belarusian oppositionists maintained that there are neither political nor legal conditions in Belarus for sending observers to the ballot. JM
UKRAINE TO REPAY $200 MILLION TO IMF AHEAD OF SCHEDULE?
Serhiy Yaremenko, head of the National Bank's hard-currency regulation department, told journalists on 10 August that the IMF is likely to demand that Ukraine return $200 million worth of credits ahead of the repayment schedule, Interfax reported. According to Yaremenko, the IMF Board of Directors can make such a demand as a sanction for the bank's overstating of its hard currency reserves in 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2000). Yaremenko said the bank is able to return such a sum immediately, because Ukraine's hard currency reserves are currently at $1.22 billion. He admitted, however, that the earlier repayment would harm Ukraine from a political viewpoint, causing "losses in other operations with capital." JM
KYIV GETS READY FOR MORE GAS DEBT TALKS WITH MOSCOW
Premier Viktor Yushchenko has said Ukraine's delegation for another round of gas debt talks with Russia will be headed by Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 10 August. Yushchenko added that the status of the delegation has not yet been determined and will depend on the status of its Russian counterpart. He noted that Kyiv's gas debt payment proposals include granting Russia a concession to part of Ukraine's gas transportation network. According to Yushchenko, the concession will extend from five to 10 years and details will be determined during the upcoming meeting. JM
UKRAINIAN CABINET TO PAY PENSION BACKLOG BY MID-SEPTEMBER
Premier Yushchenko on 10 August pledged that the government will repay all pension debts by 15 September, Interfax reported. This is the third consecutive promise by Yushchenko's cabinet to do away with the country's pension backlog, which on 1 July amounted to $478 million hryvni ($88 million). In February, the government said it will pay all pension arrears by the end of this year, while last month it promised to do that quicker, by 1 October. JM
ROW BETWEEN LATVIAN INTERIOR AND DEFENSE MINISTERS
A public row broke out in Latvia on 10 August when Interior Minister Mareks Seglins called on the government to extend more support to the police force than the military, BNS reported. In a report on crime over the first seven months of the year, Seglins criticized the resources spent on the military in preparing to join NATO or to prepare for a "hypothetical" conflict. Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis retalliated, calling the statements "politically incompetent." Seglins is a member of the center-right People's Party, while Kristovskis is a member of the right- wing For Fatherland and Freedom party. MH
POLISH PRESIDENT CLEARED OF CHARGES HE WAS SECRET SERVICE AGENT
The Lustration Court on 10 August ruled that President Aleksander Kwasniewski did not lie in his lustration statement in declaring that he had not been a communist-era secret service collaborator. The ruling means that Kwasniewski is allowed to seek re-election in the 8 October presidential ballot. The court's decision, however, is subject to appeal by prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski, who said he will decide whether or not to appeal after reading the text of the verdict. Nizienski previously asked the court to close the case for lack of evidence and give no ruling on Kwasniewski's veracity. "I am very glad that truth and justice have won," Kwasniewski commented after the decision. The Lustration Court is expected on 11 August to pass a verdict in the case of former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, also a contestant in the presidential race. JM
POLISH JUDGES UNDER SECRET SERVICE SURVEILLANCE
Judges from Torun, northern Poland, say they are under surveillance by the State Protection Office (UOP), Polish Television reported on 10 August. According to the accusation, UOP officers have sought information from the judges' neighbors as to whether the judges abuse alcohol, take drugs, or live above their means. The UOP claims that it is operating in line with the law. "The issue is to verify whether a person can have access to classified information, and if that person is a habitual drinker or a drug abuser, or whether he is susceptible to blackmail or pressure," UOP spokeswoman Magdalena Kulczynska said. Poland's ombudsman, Adam Zielinski, however, has doubts that the regulations concerning the protection of the classified information--which allow such action with regard to judges--are constitutional, Polish TV reported. JM
CZECH CULTURE MINISTER WON'T APOLOGIZE OVER JEWISH CEMETERY ARTICLE
"Those who know me, know I am no anti-Semite," Czech Culture Minister Pavel Dostal said in reaction to a letter in which the Central and East European office of the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League requested that he "publicly apologize" for an article published on 14 July in the daily "Pravo," CTK reported on 10 August. The article's title, "When They Were Not Jews," apparently alludes to Chief Rabbi Efraim Sidon, who converted to Judaism (his mother was not Jewish). "I do not know why the Jews of Prague think the remnants of skeletons of their ancestors sold to the Jagellonian dynasty must be subjected to theatrical dances. It is strange that they did not mind [buildings over the cemetery] for 522 years, and they suddenly do so now," Dostal said. A ministry spokeswoman said Dostal "stands by what he wrote." MS
ANTI-GLOBALIZATION PROTESTERS TO BE STOPPED AT CZECH BORDER?
Some foreign protesters planning to participate in the anti- globalization demonstrations in Prague might be denied entry permission, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross told CTK on 10 August. "We will avail ourselves of the instruments given us by the law on foreigners, if there are legal reasons for doing that," said Gross, referring to the preparations under way for coping with the expected demonstrations during the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank in the Czech capital in September. MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT PREDICTS EARLY ELECTIONS REFERENDUM WILL FAIL...
Rudolf Schuster, in an interview with Czech Radio on 10 August, predicted that the referendum on early elections initiated by the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) will fail, CTK reported. Schuster said it will "not be easy" for the opposition to secure a turnout of over 50 percent in the plebiscite and gain more than 50 percent support in favor of an early ballot. But he also added that the ruling coalition should "better explain to the people why early elections would not benefit the country." In related news, the pro-HZDS daily "Novy den" on 10 August claimed that shots have been fired through a bedroom window of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's house. The daily said the former premier discovered the window had been broken by bullets upon his return from the presidential office, where he submitted the petition for the referendum. MS
...AND SLOVAK PREMIER CONFIDENT HE WILL SERVE FULL MANDATE
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, in an interview with AP on 10 August, said he is confident the drive for early elections by his political adversaries will not affect his government. Dzurinda says he intends to "finish the mission" that he embarked upon to have Slovakia catch up with its neighbors on EU accession. "There are indications that we can join the union along with the Czech Republic," he said, adding that "There are many historic and geographic reasons for this" to happen. Dzurinda also said there "is no sensible Slovak politician that would go into a government with Meciar," because "every politician knows he could not show up anywhere in the world with Meciar on his side." MS
SAAB-BAE PUSHES FOR FIGHTER TENDER IN HUNGARY
Torbjoern Edberg, regional director of the Swedish-British concern Saab-British Aerospace Systems, said "there is discrimination in dealings with companies that hope to supply fighter jets to Hungary," the daily "Magyar Hirlap" reports on 11 August. He said that if Hungary takes a decision without issuing a tender, Saab-BAe will pull out of the country and "will not encourage other companies to invest there." In July, the Hungarian Defense Ministry signed a declaration of intent with DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and Russian partners to upgrade Hungary's MiG fighters, but recently the U.S and Belgium offered used F-16 fighters to the Hungarian air force. MSZ
SECURITY COUNCIL BLASTS SERBIA OVER ARRESTS
UN Security Council President Hasmy Agam of Malaysia issued a statement on 10 August saying that "members of the Security Council expressed their concern over the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's disregard of its international obligations with regard to the arrest and detention of the two British, two Canadian, and four Dutch citizens. [Members] urged the FRY authorities to fulfill all of the requirements of the relevant provisions of international law without further delay," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2000). On 11 August, a group of 56 distinguished Montenegrin authors, professors, and other persons appealed to the Security Council to "urgently dispatch monitors with an international mandate to observe all the destructive activities of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's military and paramilitary troops" in Montenegro, AP reported from Podgorica. PM
RUSSIA REPORTEDLY INTERVENES OVER SERBIAN ARRESTS
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants the legal status of international organizations in Yugoslavia "defined swiftly" to ensure their workers' immunity from arrest and persecution, London's "The Guardian" reported from Moscow on 11 August. Putin takes a dim view of "international hostage- taking," an unnamed presidential aide added. Aleksandr Yakovenko, who is a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told the daily that the Kremlin will react "positively" if Britain asks Russia to use its influence in Belgrade in the case. Later on 11 August, Interfax reported that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has written the Belgrade authorities, asking them to help "clear up the circumstances of the case," an unnamed ministry source noted. The source added that "the Yugoslav side has promised to listen to the advice of the Russian minister." PM
SERBIAN OPPOSITION WITHOUT DRASKOVIC IN LOCAL ELECTIONS
The united opposition will field joint slates in the 24 September local elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 10 August. Representatives of the 15 parties agreed that the slate will be called "Democratic Opposition of Serbia--Vojislav Kostunica." Kostunica, who is the united opposition's presidential candidate, will formally "head" each local slate. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic will chair the central campaign organization. As in the presidential race, Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement will run its own candidates and thereby play the role of strategic ally of Milosevic by splitting the opposition vote (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 August 2000). PM
SPECIAL UN STATUS FOR MONTENEGRO?
Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said that "there are good prospects" that his republic may soon receive an unspecified "special status" at the UN, "Vesti" reported on 11 August. He added that Montenegro may be allowed to open an accredited "mission" to the world organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2000). PM
U.S. WARNS MILOSEVIC ON MONTENEGRO
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 10 August that "Secretary Albright and other U.S. officials have reiterated many times our strong interest in the security of the region, including Montenegro. And in addition, NATO ministers and officials have also made it clear that NATO is concerned about the situation in Montenegro. So I think we've been quite clear about this situation. We remain vigilant. NATO is watching, we are watching the situation very closely, and we're working to support democratic forces in the region, which we believe is the best way for the region as a whole to find stability," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson also recently warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic against "miscalculating" in his relations with Podgorica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000). PM
SLOVENE ARRESTED IN MONTENEGRO
A Slovenian tourist was recently arrested by the Yugoslav army in Montenegro, the Ljubljana daily "Dnevnik" reported on 11 August, quoting Foreign Ministry sources. The tourist was arrested where he was vacationing, which was nowhere near any military sites, the ministry noted. The ministry recently warned its citizens to be careful when traveling in Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). PM
YUGOSLAV ARMY, MONTENEGRIN OFFICIALS MEET TO DEFUSE TENSIONS
The Montenegrin Interior Ministry issued a statement in Podgorica on 11 August saying that "Interior Minister Vukasin Maras has met an army delegation consisting of 10 generals and two colonels and headed by Deputy Chief of Staff General- Colonel Miodrag Simic. In an open and constructive dialogue, they discussed current issues related to the securing of state land and sea borders and adequate informing of the public. Special attention was given to intensifying cooperation between Montenegro's Interior Ministry and the Yugoslav Army to overcome accumulated problems and reduce growing tensions," the statement added. General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who is chief of the General Staff and a staunch Milosevic loyalist, is in Montenegro on a visit. He told a local radio station that the army "will not allow anyone to infiltrate into Yugoslav territory terrorists and foreign mercenaries whose aim is to provoke clashes between the army and the police, which would cause chaos leading to a break-up of the state," Reuters reported. PM
MESIC PREDICTS TROUBLE IN MONTENEGRO
Speaking to a press conference in Washington on 10 August, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that Milosevic has "learned nothing" from his defeats in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Mesic added that "the international community should now send a message to Milosevic to force him to desist from causing any crisis in Montenegro. He should not be permitted to engage in a military adventure in Montenegro.... He should never be able to engage in any further military adventure in the future. Ever. And Montenegro's citizens are entitled to choose their own way, their own path." PM
CROATIAN LEADERS PLEASED WITH U.S. VISIT
Wrapping up a three-day visit to the U.S., Mesic hailed military cooperation between Zagreb and Washington: "We said--not making any secret of it--that U.S. instructors have helped us in the structuring of the Croatian armed forces.... The Croatian armed forces are so close to NATO standards that we expect that membership very soon," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Washington on 10 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2000). Prime Minister Ivica Racan added that "if you had been present at the working breakfast meeting we had with the (U.S.) Chamber of Commerce and members of American business, you would have seen quite a few representatives of outstanding American companies offering concrete arrangements and business deals.... What was exceptionally important for us was the assessment which we received that currently the cooperation with Croatia and investment in Croatia is safer than it was ever [before]." PM
NATO 'STILL COMMITTED' TO CATCH BOSNIAN SERBS' KARADZIC
Unnamed NATO officials in Brussels denied recent press reports that the U.S. and some other members of the Atlantic alliance are "afraid" to capture indicted Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic lest they risk taking casualties, the "Financial Times" reported on 11 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). The officials stressed that NATO is "more committed than ever" and will arrest Karadzic "when the conditions are right." Jacques Klein, who is the UN's chief representative in Bosnia, and many other observers argue that Bosnia cannot put the legacy of the 1992-1995 conflict behind it until Karadzic is arrested and brought to trial in The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2000). Meanwhile in New York, a judge ruled on 10 August that Karadzic owes a group of Bosnian Muslim rape victims some $745 million in damages. PM
PETRITSCH BLASTS BOSNIAN EDUCATION MINISTERS
Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, charged Republika Srpska Education Minister Nenad Suzic and federal Deputy Education Minister Ivo-Miro Jovic on 10 August with "obstructionism." The two men have allegedly tried to hold up implementation of an agreement for joint textbooks for all of Bosnia. The books will be written in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets and will treat the history and literature of Bosnia on a unified basis, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
INVESTMENT FUND VICTIMS CLASH WITH ROMANIAN POLICE
Some 500 people protesting against the loss of their savings in the collapsed National Investment Fund (FNI) on 10 August clashed with police in Bucharest as they tried to force their way into the seat of the government and blocked adjacent roads, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Two policemen were injured and two demonstrators said to have attacked them with knives were arrested. A governmental counselor who received a delegation of the protesters said the government will not cover losses in a private fund from its state budget. A Bucharest court recently ruled that the state savings bank CEC, which guaranteed the FNI investments, must cover part of the losses, but the CEC has appealed that decision. On 9 August, two Romanian prosecutors flew to Israel to present in court arguments for the extradition of former FNI manager Ioana Maria Vlas. Media reports say Vlas may have left Israel, however. MS
ROMANIA REVISES UPWARD FORECAST INFLATION RATE
Governmental spokeswoman Gabriela Vranceanu-Firea on 10 August said the government has revised the expected inflation rate for 2000. The cabinet now forecasts a 32 percent annual rate, instead of 27 percent as it did in early 2000. Vranceanu-Firea said the revision was mainly due to the impact of the drought. The July inflation rate was 4.3 percent, considerably higher than the 2.8 percent rate registered in June, Mediafax reported. MS
TOEKES'S ALLEGED SECURITATE COLLABORATION STIRS CROSS-BORDER CONTROVERSY
Executive members of the Hungarian World Federation (MVSZ) declared that Reformed Church Bishop Laszlo Toekes will have to resign as the organization's honorary chairman if it turns out that he did cooperate with the communist-era Romanian secret services, Hungarian media reported on 11 August. Istvan G. Palffy, a member of the MVSZ's executive, said he was shocked to read Toekes' admission that he had written his own declaration as a Securitate informer, although Toekes had stressed that he did not sign the document (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2000). Palffy said he wrote to Toekes reminding him that the MVSZ had decided that leaders must scrutinize their own past, and should not accept key positions "if they have skeletons hiding in their closets." MSZ
U.S. MEDICAL AID EQUIPMENT ARRIVES IN MOLDOVA
A consignment of medical equipment--the largest single shipment of humanitarian aid received by Moldova since it became independent--arrived in the country's capital on 10 August, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The total value of the aid is $16.8 million and it will be distributed to medical institutions in the Transdniester and in the autonomous Gagauz-Yeri region as well. Thirty U.S. military medical experts will monitor its use and will remain in Moldova till March 2001 to instruct aid recipients. MS
DEMONIZATION IN RUSSIA AND ITS DISCONTENTS
By Paul Goble
The 8 August explosion in Moscow has thrown into high relief the gulf that exists in Russia between those who are prepared to play on prejudices against the Chechens and those who recognize the dangers of demonizing an entire people.
Immediately after the blast, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that there were "many indications" that Chechen rebels were responsible for the bombing. But less than 24 hours later, President Vladimir Putin backed away from such assertions when he noted on national television that "it is very wrong when we brand one nation, because criminals-- terrorists above all--do not have a nation or a belief."
This difference in approach reflects a longstanding difference in the attitudes and calculations of the two men. Since at least October 1993, Luzhkov has played on the prejudices of some Russians against people from the Caucasus. In the wake of the conflict between then-President Boris Yeltsin and the country's parliament, Luzhkov issued a decree expelling from the Russian capital "people of Caucasian nationality."
He has regularly invoked its provisions in the years since that time, most recently during what was called Operation Whirlwind at the start of Moscow's second campaign in Chechnya. And because his decree was enforced with the assistance of federal authorities, many other localities followed his lead and sought to deflect popular anger by moving against the Chechens.
And Luzhkov's playing to popular prejudice and extremist nationalist attitudes in this case appears to be part and parcel of his larger agenda, which has included demands that Moscow seek the return to Russia of all or part of Crimea from Ukraine.
Whatever his personal views, Putin, by way of contrast, has been much more cautious in this regard. Part of the reason for that appears to lie in his understanding that large-scale attacks on the Chechens as a whole--or on Muslims as a group--could complicate Russia's relationship with the West and with Muslim countries as well as Moscow's ties with its own Muslim minorities.
When he launched the campaign in Chechnya last year, Putin initially made some sweeping statements about the Chechen nation, but he quickly backed away when it was pointed out that such remarks--which suggested that Moscow was interested in exterminating the Chechens as a group--were not playing well either in the Middle East or in Western Europe.
Another reason for Putin's caution appears to be his understanding that a sweeping attack on the Chechens as a whole has the effect of driving those Chechens who might be willing to cooperate with Moscow into the hands of pro- independence Chechen groups and thus of complicating his efforts to end what he has called his campaign against terrorism.
Indeed, immediately after this week's explosion, Shamil Beno, an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen interim administration representative in the Russian capital, said publicly that comments like those of Luzhkov threaten stability both "in Chechnya and in Moscow itself." Beno's words were echoed by other Chechens, including those opposed to Moscow's rule in that North Caucasian republic.
And yet a third reason for Putin's relatively cautious approach is that many Russians are not persuaded by official charges that the Chechens are responsible for this or earlier terrorist acts in the Russian Federation.
A poll released two weeks ago, for example, found that 50 percent of Russians did not believe government claims that the Chechens were behind the attacks on apartment buildings in Russian cities a year ago. And a survey of more than 5,000 Russians the day after the bombing found that slightly more than one-third of them did not think that the Chechens were to blame for the latest explosion.
These poll results suggest that many Russians are not prepared to accept charges--like those made by Luzhkov-- without evidence. Many appear to take this position because they believe that the authorities must offer real evidence first. Others do so because they fear, on the basis of past experience, that sweeping attacks on the Chechens could lead to attacks on other groups or to serve as the justification for a new authoritarianism.
For all these reasons, Putin's reaction to the explosion in Moscow this week is likely to prove more politically prudent than the dramatic comments of Luzhkov, evidence of both the Russian president's pragmatism and the increasing unwillingness of Russian citizens to accept in the absence of clear evidence whatever the authorities say about Chechnya-- or indeed, about anything else.