PREMIER GIVES MEDIA MINISTER VERBAL REPRIMAND...
Two days after meeting with Media Minister Mikhail Lesin on 23 September, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov issued a statement through the government information department that Lesin had acted improperly when he signed the protocol to the sale agreement between Media-MOST and Gazprom Media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). According to Kasyanov, the protocol may not be legally binding, but it was nevertheless "inadmissible" for a cabinet minister to sign it. Lesin has said he signed the appendix as a private individual; however, Kasyanov argued that a minister cannot act as a private citizen in some cases. According to the government information department, Kasyanov "will make a decision on the subject later." In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 September, Vladimir Rimskii of the Indem Foundation said he does not think that Lesin can be dismissed since "his political position is pretty strong." He also predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue to keep his distance from the controversy. JAC
...AS GAZPROM ANTICIPATES NEW MANAGEMENT AT MEDIA-MOST
On 25 September, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told reporters that he thinks Lesin should resign since he acted as a "racketeer." Gorbachev, who is head of NTV's Public Council, will meet with Putin on 26 September. NTV is controlled by Media-MOST. In interview with Interfax, Gazprom Media head Alfred Kokh said he believes that as a result of his company's lawsuit against Media-MOST, external management could be introduced at Media-MOST as early as November. Gazprom is seeking the payment of more than $200 million in debt. JAC
RUSSIA HOPING FOR NEW MONEY FROM WORLD BANK, IF NOT IMF
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minster Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 25 September that Russia hopes to receive up to $800 million in new funds from the World Bank in 2001. This sum does not include loans carried over from this year, according to Kudrin. The minister met with World Bank President James Wolfensohn and IMF First Managing Director Stanley Fischer on 25 September in Prague at the World Bank/IMF annual meetings, according to Interfax. With regard to loans from the IMF, unidentified sources close to the Russian delegation in Prague told the agency that Russia and the fund may agree on contingency loans that are disbursed only in the case of negative unforeseen events. JAC
PUTIN, SCHROEDER DISCUSS ECONOMIC TIES, PRESS FREEDOM...
Meeting in the Kremlin on 25 September, President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder discussed a wide range of topics, including economic ties. Schroeder told a joint press conference that the main focus of their discussions on the economy was promoting small and medium-sized businesses in Russia. Putin, for his part, suggested that Moscow could help Europe overcome the current fuel crisis "if relations with Russia are put on a long-term basis," Interfax reported. He did not elaborate. Russia is reportedly currently exporting oil at full capacity. The two leaders also agreed to have regular meetings of politicians, businessmen, and journalists similar to the German-U.K Koenigswinter conferences. Another subject on the agenda of their talks was the freedom of the press. In a clear reference to the ongoing dispute between Media-MOST and Gazprom, Schroeder said he and Putin had agreed that press freedom was "one of the essentials of democracy," together with the ability to accept public criticism. JC
...AGREE THAT YUGOSLAVIA HAS OPTED FOR CHANGE
With regard to the weekend's elections in Yugoslavia, Schroeder said that he and Putin also agreed that while the final results are still not known, it appears that Serbia and Yugoslavia have decided in favor of democratic change. The German chancellor added that they both believe that foreign countries should promote stability in Montenegro. According to Reuters, Putin did not comment on the issue but said he agreed with Schroeder's "overall remarks" at the press briefing. Schroeder's visit, which lasted only a few hours, had been arranged at short notice. Germany is Russia's largest lender. JC
DUMA OFFICIAL CLAIMS NO MAJOR VIOLATIONS IN YUGOSLAV BALLOT
Speaking in Strasbourg on 25 September, chairman of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) said the "first results" of the weekend's elections in Yugoslavia indicate that there were no "notable infringements" in the voting procedure, Interfax reported. Rogozin also noted that Duma deputy Konstantin Kosachov (Fatherland-All Russia) and other members of the Russian delegation that observed the ballot in Belgrade have met with opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica. He gave no details of those talks. The same day, OSCE Chairwoman and Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement that there had been "reports of widespread fraud and intimidation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). The OSCE did not monitor the elections. JC
CHECHEN PRESIDENT REJECTS HIS DISMISSAL BY SHARIAH COURT
In a press release distributed in Ingushetia, Aslan Maskhadov has refused to acknowledge the validity of a 20 September ruling by five Shariah court judges to remove him as Chechen president, Interfax reported on 25 September. The judges, who met last week in Gudermes with interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, held Maskhadov responsible for the August 1999 invasion of Daghestan by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev. Maskhadov's statement stressed that his "legitimacy has been recognized by the international community and cannot be called into question." LF
POLICE IDENTIFY YOUTHS WHO ATTACKED JEWISH SCHOOL IN RYAZAN
Sources in Ryazan Oblast's Interior Department told Interfax on 25 September that four of the estimated 15 youths who attacked a local Jewish Sunday school last week have been identified. The same sources added that even though the youths pose "some social danger, there is no need to take them into custody." Wielding chains and insulting teachers and pupils, the attackers had broken windows and furniture and destroyed an art exhibit. There were no injuries. "The Moscow Times" reported on the 23 September, citing a statement released by the Union of Council for Soviet Jews, that three days after the attack, the director of the school where the Jewish classes were taking place was beaten and threatened by neo-Nazi youths who demanded to know why she "deals with Jews." The school director subsequently announced that her school's premises would no longer be available to the Jewish community. JC
DUMA TO SET AGENDA FOR NEW STATE COUNCIL...
The Duma Council will meet on 29 September to decide on the agenda for the newly created State Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 September. According to one future member of the council, Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii, the agenda may include the draft 2001 budget, which he said "is the most important and topical issue for regional leaders now." "Vremya MN" reported on 23 September, citing unidentified sources, that at the State Council's first meeting, governors will be asked to resign from the Federation Council. It added that Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress has confirmed that the Kremlin has made such a proposal to him. JAC
...AS SOLZHENITSYN SAYS PUTIN AGREES THAT REGIONAL LEADERS SHOULD BE APPOINTED
In an interview with "Trud" on 23 September, Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn provided more details of his recent conversation with President Putin, noting that the two men disagreed over the latter's decision to "disband" the upper legislative chamber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," tk September 2000). Solzhenitsyn reportedly told the publication that "what is absolutely necessary to do and what the president has already begun doing is to replace the election of the heads of the constituent members of the federation with their nomination. The constitution does not say that they should be elected." He continued that such elections are "out of place because they are leading to Russia's disassociation, to crawling off in different directions." JAC
LAWS STRENGTHENING MOSCOW'S PROPISKA SYSTEM OVERTURNED
A Moscow city court declared on 25 September that two decrees issued by Mayor Yurii Luzhkov are invalid, "The Moscow Times" reported. The two decrees, which followed the wave of apartment bombings last year, gave police the right to expel non-residents who had failed to register with the authorities and required those who had already registered to re-register within three days. The lawsuit challenging the decrees was filed by the Movement for Human Rights and the federal Prosecutor-General Office; however, the latter withdrew its challenge abruptly three days before the court decision. According to the daily, some observers said the prosecutors' retreat was a political decision connected to improved relations between Luzhkov and President Putin. The Moscow City government has the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. JAC
GOVERNMENT PLANS FOR RAINY RETIREMENT DAYS
"Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 23 September that under the government's current plans to reform the pension system, a more pessismistic scenario exists than that suggested by Pension Fund head Mikhail Zurabov. Earlier, Zubarov had revealed that under an optimistic scenario pensions will rise to 3,000 rubles ($108) a month by 2010 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). However, under the pessimistic scenario, after 2006 the number of Russian pensioners will start to increase, as the number of working persons decreases. Deductions to the Pension Fund will shrink, and there will be little possibility of providing "real" grants for the retired population. In order to avoid this outcome, the government is encouraging those who are currently working to open separate retirement savings accounts to bolster their state-provided pension. In addition, the state is considering extra pension payments to those who volunteer to postpone claiming their pension for a few years. JAC
GRAIN COLLECTION ALMOST COMPLETED
Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev told reporters on 25 September that Russia's farmers are continuing to harvest more grain than they did last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2000). So far, a total of 63.1 million tons of grain has been harvested, which is already 8.4 million tons more than in all of 1999. According to Gordeev, grain had been harvested on some 88 percent of the total acreage sown. JAC
RATE OF HIV-INFECTION INCREASING AMONG SOLDIERS
"Inostranets" reported in its September issue (no. 36) that the number of HIV-infected persons in the armed forces has increased "a hundredfold" from just four in 1991. The rate of infection has also spread from those units engaged in military action throughout the entire military. JAC
DACHA OWNERS IN SPAIN BEWARE
The Federal Tax Police Service has started investigating Russian citizens who own real estate abroad, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 September. According to the daily, in which Boris Berezovskii has a controlling interest, 298 Muscovites who own real estate in Spain are now facing audits. The daily also claims that the tax police are seeking additional legal rights to enable them to gather more "financial intelligence" about Russian taxpayers. Among well-known Russians reputed to own real estate in Spain are Berezovskii, Media-MOST head Gusinskii, and Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. JAC
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN OFFERS TO RESIGN
Armen Khachatrian tendered his resignation on 26 September in response to a campaign launched the previous day to impeach him, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khachatrian said he hopes his resignation will restore "a constructive working atmosphere" between the cabinet and the legislature. Parliamentary deputies from the Republican Party of Armenia have for months criticized Khachatrian over his extensive and expensive foreign travel schedule. Khachatrian rejected that criticism and had earlier argued that he cannot legally be dismissed from his post because the Armenian Constitution stipulates that the parliamentary speaker is elected for a four-year term (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 37, 15 September 2000). LF
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS MOSCOW VISIT...
On the first day of a five-day official visit to Moscow, President Robert Kocharian held talks with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on expanding bilateral economic cooperation, which both sides described as lagging behind ties in other spheres. ITAR-TASS on 25 September quoted both Kasyanov and Kocharian as deploring the fact that trade turnover between the two countries declined by 20 percent over the first five months of this year and expressing the hope that this trend will be reversed. Also discussed were prospects for expanding cooperation in the nuclear energy and transport sectors and creating joint ventures to cover part of Armenia's $113 million debt to Russia. Kocharian also spent an hour discussing the Karabakh conflict with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. LF
...AS MORE INTERGOVERNMENTAL AGREMENTS SIGNED
Four bilateral inter-governmental agreements were signed during the 25 September Moscow meetings. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, signed an agreement on the status of media correspondents, an agreement on cooperation in the information sphere, and one establishing a visa-free regime for citizens of the two countries. That latter agreement supplants the CIS agreement on visa-free travel, from which Russia withdrew last month. In addition, Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov signed an agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. LF
NEW ARMENIAN WAR VETERANS' UNION HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS
Members of the Union of Veterans of the Fight for Freedom (AVM), which was founded earlier this year as a counterpart to the pro-government Yerkrapah Union of veterans of the Karabakh war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2000), voted at the movement's constituent congress in Yerevan on 25 September to designate the movement a political organization, Noyan Tapan reported. As such, the AVM will support President Kocharian. "We must love and respect our president," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau quoted Mihran Movsisian, one of the movement's four co-chairmen, as saying. The AVM's membership is estimated at 27,000. LF
KARABAKH ASSASSINATION BID TRIAL ADJOURNED
The trial of Samvel Babayan, former army commander and defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and 14 other men accused of the 22 March attempt to assassinate the enclave's President Arkadii Ghukasian was adjourned in Stepanakert on 25 September because one of the defendants is ill, Noyan Tapan reported. The trial began on 18 September. LF
AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS DENY RUMORS OF PRESIDENT'S DEATH
The U.S. Embassy in Washington has rejected a report circulated on 25 September by the website www.gazeta.ru that President Heidar Aliyev had died earlier that day, Turan reported. An embassy spokesman said Aliyev had been suffering from a cold and flu. Azerbaijani Health Minister Ali Insanov similarly told Turan on 26 September that rumors that Aliev's health had deteriorated are "a provocation." Insanov said Aliev's condition is "normal" and that he will return to Azerbaijan "within the next few days." On 25 September, Turan had quoted Insanov as saying that "as far as I know, the president will remain in the Cleveland clinic until the end of this week." LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY APPEALS BAN ON ELECTION PARTICIPATION
The Liberal Democratic Party has raised with Azerbaijan's Court of Appeal the Central Electoral Commission's refusal to register the party to contend those mandates in the 5 November parliamentary poll that are to be allocated under the proportional system, Turan reported on 25 September. Also on 25 September, the Court of Appeal postponed consideration of a similar appeal by the opposition Musavat Party, which has likewise been barred from contesting the party list seats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). In Washington on 25 September, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman criticized the commission's decision to bar the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan from contesting the party list seats, Turan reported. "The participation of all major opposition parties is essential in offering the voters of Azerbaijan a true choice and ensuring that the elections can be termed free and fair," Turan quoted her as saying. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS RECORD ON REPATRIATION
Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on 25 September, Eduard Shevardnadze rejected claims by organizations representing Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war that the Georgian leadership has done nothing to expedite their return (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 25 September 2000). Shevardnadze argued that Tbilisi has done everything in its power, short of beginning a new war, to enable the displaced persons to return to Abkhazia. A new conflict, he added, would have "very grave consequences." Also on 25 September, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said he considers the participation of NATO in resolving the Abkhaz conflict highly unlikely, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
QUALITY OF OIL IN NEW KAZAKH FIELD LOWER THAN ANTICIPATED
The quality of the estimated 7 billion tons of oil in Kazakhstan's offshore East Kashagan field is not as high as originally thought, a Shell Oil executive told Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev in Astana on 25 September. Announcing the discovery of the East Kashagan field in early July, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev had said the oil "is of a very high quality, light and sweet" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2000). It is possible that the 25 September statement to the contrary will impact on the construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, which may not be economically viable without exports of Kazakh oil. Kazakhstan has pledged to export up to 20 million metric tons of crude annually through that pipeline. But the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, the consortium that plans to export high-quality Azerbaijani crude from offshore Azerbaijani Caspian oilfields, may balk at the prospect of mixing the oil with inferior crude from East Kashagan. OKIOC, the international consortium formed in 1998 to develop East Kashagan, will begin drilling a second test well later this week. LF
MORE FIGHTING REPORTED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyz government forces fought a three-hour battle with Islamic militants during the night of 24-25 September close to the villages of Syrt and Kyshtut but suffered no casualties, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The two villages are located some 40 kilometers from the Kyrgyz-Tajik border and 35 kilometers from an Uzbek enclave in southern Kyrgyzstan. The Defense Ministry declined to confirm reports of that battle, saying that there have been no clashes in the area since 22 September. Meeting in Bishkek on 25 September with Kyrgyzstan's Defense Minister General Esen Topoev, U.S. Central Command Commander-in-Chief General Tommy Franks said Washington is concerned about the incursions of Islamic militants into Kyrgyz territory during the summers of 1999 and 2000, Russian agencies reported. Franks said the U.S. will continue to provide Bishkek with unspecified military hardware. LF
RUSSIAN ARMY, BORDER TROOPS ON ALERT IN TAJIKISTAN
The Russian 201st army division and border guards in southern Tajikistan were placed on alert on 25 September, as fighting between Taliban forces and the Northern Alliance in neighboring Afghanistan advanced to within 5-7 kilometers from the border, Russian agencies reported. Also on 25 September, Interfax quoted unidentified Russian military sources as saying Moscow will not send its forces to help the embattled Northern Alliance or make available any military aid. Russian officials had said earlier this month that Moscow will not intervene in the fighting in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). On 22 September, Afghanistan's President and Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani had appealed to "Afghanistan's friends" to provide military help to the Northern Alliance, Interfax reported. LF
OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES
Through 25 SEPTEMBER
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO STAGE 'FREEDOM MARCH-3'
The Minsk City authorities have allowed the Belarusian opposition to hold a "Freedom March-3" in the capital on 1 October, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 25 September. The opposition parties are planning to gather 100,000 people for a march and rally demanding free and democratic elections in Belarus and protesting the 15 October legislative ballot, which they call an "election farce." The Freedom March-1 in October 1999 and the Freedom March-2 in March 2000 resulted in clashes with police as well as the arrest of opposition activists and journalists. JM
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS INTERIOR MINISTER, SECURITY CHIEF
Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 25 September appointed Uladzimir Navumau as interior minister and promoted him to the rank of major general, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka also appointed Major General Leanid Yeryn--who until now was first deputy chairman of the Belarusian KGB--as chief of the presidential security service, the position vacated by Navumau. JM
UKRAINIAN SECURITY SERVICE PROBES ALLEGED STATE COUP ATTEMPT...
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has instigated criminal proceedings in connection with the state coup attempt that it allegedly uncovered last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000), Interfax reported on 25 September. Ivan Kononov, an SBU official from Chernihiv, told journalists that the SBU arrested Yuriy Petrovskyy, who is suspected of being the coup's organizer, and a resident of Chernihiv identified as Bulakhov. According to Kononov, all suspects in the case are members of either the All-Ukrainian Union of Soviet Officers or the Ukrainian Union of Soviet Officers. Kononov showed journalists a leaflet allegedly printed by the coup plotters, which calls for "returning power to the working people in the form of soviets" and re-introducing the 1977 constitution of the Ukrainian SSR in Ukraine. JM
...BUT POLITICIANS REMAIN SKEPTICAL...
Parliamentary deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk said on 25 September that the SBU report on foiling the state coup is "not serious." Another deputy speaker, Stepan Havrysh, said the SBU's revelation is "superfluously sensational" and has a "destabilizing character." Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz suggested the coup attempt was "invented." And Ukrainian Popular Rukh leader Yuriy Kostenko commented that Ukraine's constitutional system is threatened not by an anti-constitutional plot but the current economic crisis. JM
...WHILE COMMUNIST LEADER CRIES 'PROVOCATION'
Petro Symonenko said the SBU report is "yet another planned, far-reaching provocation against the opposition-minded forces in society." According to Symonenko, the suggestion of a state coup prepared in the provinces is untenable since "all coups, as testified by history, are staged in the capital." Symonenko jeered at the SBU by noting that in their alleged bid to thwart the planned coup, SBU officers confiscated a "weapon for underwater hunting that today may be bought at any shop." JM
TALLINN COALITION SITUATION REMAINS IN LIMBO
The Coalition Party, which has two seats on the Tallinn City Council and is part of the city's ruling coalition, has said it will leave the coalition if two of its high-profile members, Botanical Garden director Juri Ott and Tallinn Heating board chairman Elmar Sepp, are sacked from municipal posts over corruption allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000), BNS reported. Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois stressed that the Coalition Party is an "equal partner" and that "all other parties support cooperating" with them. On 22 September, Mois had proposed the sackings after a local law firm issued a statement saying the two had violated the law. MH
ESTONIA WORRIED ABOUT 'POLITICIZING' OF EU ENLARGEMENT
Estonian Finance Minister Siim Kallas, addressing the press in Prague on 25 September, spoke out against politicizing EU enlargement at the expense of candidates' achievements. Kallas said the trend toward such politicization is "worrying" and that the entire enlargement picture has become "more and more confused," Reuters reported. Kallas added, "at a time when candidate countries aspire to the European Union through big efforts in economic policy and legislation, it would be wrong to use geopolitical arguments in the membership process." The minister stressed the need to evaluate each individual candidate on its own merits, ETA added. MH
MAIN LATVIAN COALITION PARTIES NOT TO OUST KALVITIS
For Fatherland and Freedom, a junior coalition partner, announced on 25 September that it will not support an opposition-sponsored motion of no confidence in Economics Minister Aigars Kalvitis, LETA reported. The small coalition New Party has not made its position public but together, the three main coalition parties--including the People's Party of Kalvitis and Latvia's Way of Prime Minister Andris Berzins--have a majority of seats in the parliament. Earlier the People's Party and For Fatherland and Freedom became embroiled in a political row after the latter voted twice with the opposition on two controversial decisions, as a result of which the government lost both votes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). MH
VILNIUS TAX AUTHORITIES GO AFTER PUBLIC TV
The Vilnius Tax Inspectorate said on 25 September that starting 29 September it will begin to seize the property of Lithuanian Radio and Television over tax arrears. Of LRT's total debt of about 13 million litas ($3.25 million), some 3.8 million litas are in tax arrears, BNS reported. This will be the first time its property is seized, as earlier only LRT bank accounts were frozen over the mounting debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2000). LRT director Vaidotas Zukas said that despite the debts, there will be no disruption in coverage of the Olympics and the 8 October parliamentary elections. MH
POLISH PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS SIGNIFICANCE OF PAPAL PARODY VIDEO
Aleksander Kwasniewski said on 25 September that his aide Marek Siwiec's behavior in Kalisz in 1997 "was not a good joke, nor correct conduct, but should not be regarded with indignation because it contained no negative connotation," PAP reported. Kwasniewski was referring to the video shown last week by Marian Krzaklewski's election staff, in which Siwiec parodies the pope and the president responds with amusement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). Krzaklewski said he has not yet decided whether to accept Siwiec's resignation. "I would expect Aleksander Kwasniewski to be as consistent and responsible as his minister Siwiec," Roman Catholic Bishop Jozef Zycinski commented, suggesting that Kwasniewski should resign as well. "[Some bishops] would want me to dissolve somewhere in space... I do not intend to follow such advice," Kwasniewski said later the same day. JM
ANARCHISTS CLASH WITH POLICE IN PRAGUE...
Heavy clashes between anarchists and police have broken out near Prague's Congress Center, the venue of the IMF/World Bank annual conference that started earlier on 26 September, CTK reported. The agency says that anarchists who gathered on a nearby street are throwing Molotov cocktails and trying to dismantle the pavement, while police are using tear gas, truncheons, and water cannons in an attempt to disperse them. CTK said about 15 policemen had been injured. MS
...AS BORDER POLICE DENY MORE FOREIGNERS ENTRY
U.S. journalist Lee Sustar was denied entry into the Czech Republic on 24 September, CTK reported the next day. Border police at Prague airport said Sustar had been involved in clashes in Seattle during the World Trade Organization meeting there, but "Mlada fronta Dnes" quotes the journalist as saying all charges against him were dropped in the U.S. CTK also reported that four New Zealand nationals were repeatedly denied entry at two border crossing points. The agency quoted the foreigners' police as saying their entry "could have endangered public order" during the IMF/World Bank annual meeting. The Interior Ministry said that between 10 and 24 September, a total of 287 persons were denied entry, of whom 119 were German citizens, 22 Italian, and 16 British. MS
CZECH PREMIER: TEMELIN WON'T BE ACTIVATED TILL ALL PROBLEMS SOLVED
The Temelin nuclear power plant will not be put into operation until all problems related to the malfunctioning of safety valves in its steam generator are eliminated, government spokesman Libor Roucek told journalists on 25 September. Roucek was responding to a letter sent to Prime Minster Milos Zeman by his Bavarian counterpart, Edmund Stoiber, calling on him not to activate the plant before all problems are solved. The State Nuclear Safety Authority ordered a repeat of tests after the malfunctioning was discovered. MS
CZECH WEEKLY CLAIMS PREMIER CANCELED U.S. VISIT DUE TO 'IRAQ LINK'
Zeman canceled a visit to the U.S planned for October owing to Washington's concern over possible "Czech espionage" for Iraq, the weekly "Respekt" claimed on 25 September. Last week, "Respekt" had said the cancellation was due to the fact that a Czech-born U.S. citizen suspected of criminal activity was involved in organizing the visit. This week, "Respekt" said Zeman's advisers, some of whom had been high-ranking Communist Party functionaries, inquired whether Zeman could meet with representatives of McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing, which is offering to sell fighter planes to the Czech Republic. "Respect" claimed this raised suspicions at the CIA, because Miroslav Slouf, Zeman's chief adviser and a former high-ranking communist, was a member of a Czech delegation that visited Baghdad in January 2000. U.S. officials had strongly criticized that visit. MS
SLOVAK OFFICIALS AGREE NOT TO SOLVE PROBLEMS VIA MEDIA
Slovak President Rudolf Schuster told journalists on 23 September that he has "not changed his mind" about the way the government treated him during his recent illness but has agreed with Premier Mikulas Dzurinda and parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas "not to solve their problems via the media any longer," CTK reported. Schuster had been criticized by the two officials after he said in a recent interview with the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that when he was close to death, all the government cared about was taking away his presidential prerogatives (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). After meeting the president, Dzurinda and Migas said they were "pleased" that his condition is improving. They also said they will not participate in the referendum on early elections. Schuster refused to reveal what his intentions are vis-a-vis the referendum, saying it is a "personal matter." MS
SLOVAK RACIST SUSPECTS TAKEN IN CUSTODY
Two of the alleged four perpetrators of a racially motivated attack on a Romany family in Zilina on 20 August have been taken into custody, a spokeswoman for the police told journalists on 25 September. The two men, aged 19 and 23, face charges of causing racially-motivated bodily harm and, if convicted, could receive up to 10 years in prison. The two have been identified by members of the family they attacked, one of whom died as a result of injuries sustained. MS
SERBIAN OPPOSITION SAYS KOSTUNICA CLEAR WINNER
Serbian opposition spokesmen say that Vojislav Kostunica won 55 percent of the presidential vote in the recent Serbian and Yugoslav elections, thereby making a second round unnecessary, CNN reported from Belgrade on 26 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). The opposition reports that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic won only 34 percent. Regime spokesmen claim, however, that Milosevic has 45 percent to Kostunica's 40 percent. Preliminary official results are due to be released at 8:00 p.m. local time on 27 September and final results are to be announced 24 hours later. CNN's correspondent reported that he has seen the votes being counted. He stressed, however, that at least some official preliminary results should have been announced by now. Late in the morning of 26 September, the Federal Election Commission said in a statement that it will announce the presidential and legislative election results according to schedule, Reuters reported. It is not clear whether this pledge also applies to the local election tallies. PM
SERBIAN MINOR PARTIES MAKING PEACE WITH WINNERS?
The Serbian Radical Party's Tomislav Nikolic has won some 6.5 percent of the presidential vote, "Vesti" reported on 26 September. He and party chairman Vojislav Seselj offered to resign their party offices as a sign of accepting responsibility for the defeat. On the night of 24 September, Seselj, who has been conducting negotiations with the united opposition, said that "Milosevic is finished." Elsewhere, Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) said he admits that he was wrong in not joining the united opposition. His movement's presidential candidate, Vojislav Mihajlovic, barely won 3 percent of the vote. Draskovic called these results "far less than our party expected." In most previous Serbian elections, the SPO was generally the opposition party that won the most votes. PM
SERBIAN MILITARY, SECURITY FORCES REMAIN QUESTION MARK
Many observers inside and outside Serbia say that perhaps the crucial factor in the coming days and weeks will be the attitude of the military and the special police, which Milosevic built up as his own praetorian guard. London's 'The Guardian" reported from Belgrade on 26 September that "the loyalty of the police force [to Milosevic] can no longer be guaranteed, and the army is unlikely to support the use of force against peaceful protesters." "Vesti" shows a photograph from Belgrade of two uniformed riot police laughing and joking with a young woman from the opposition, a scene that would have been almost unthinkable only a short while ago. PM
BRITAIN'S COOK WARNS MILOSEVIC NOT TO USE FORCE
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Sky Television on 26 September that Milosevic "cannot go on in power with any credibility or with any authority other than the use of naked power. We...need to make sure that Milosevic understands there is very substantial [foreign military] capacity in the region. He should not be attempting any further military venture" to stay in office. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said in Washington the previous day that "apparently, according to the vote count, people want Milosevic out. And certainly the international community would welcome that result," Reuters reported. PM
VOJVODINA HUNGARIANS FARE WELL IN YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS
The Federation of Vojvodina Hungarians fared "extremely well" in the elections, winning an absolute or relative majority in eight municipalities, thus "exceeding even the most optimistic expectations," Jozsef Kasza, leader of the federation told "Magyar Hirlap" of 26 September. Kasza said it has been shown again that ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina are a united community. In Budapest, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi welcomed the community's good performance and expressed his satisfaction that the democratic opposition in the province had been able to increase its strength in local government bodies. MSZ
CLAIMANT TO SERBIAN THRONE CALLS FOR MILOSEVIC TO GO...
Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic issued a statement in London on 25 September commenting on the elections. Aleksandar said: "I extend my warmest congratulations to Dr. Vojislav Kostunica and the Democratic Opposition of Serbia for having won the presidential, parliamentary, and local elections against all the odds. The people have convincingly expressed the desire for change and for democracy. I call upon Mr. Slobodan Milosevic to honor the will of the people who opted for change and not to prolong the agony of the nation. I call upon Mr. Slobodan Milosevic to immediately and without delay hand over the presidency to Dr. Vojislav Kostunica and order his regime to relinquish power in a respectable and orderly manner." PM
...AND FOR NATIONAL UNITY
Crown Prince Aleksandar also called for unity and calm in his 25 September statement: "I appeal to all the people of Serbia and Montenegro to put aside their differences and unite for the good of the nation regardless of their political background. I ask that the armed forces fully respect and protect all citizens, and defend the demand for change. There must be no revenge or conflict. All citizens must be vigilant, remain calm, and not be provoked. I request that the Democratic Opposition of Serbia work hard in doing everything possible to bridge the differences between all parties and set the course towards democratic reforms as soon as possible. There must be no delay in getting on with the job of putting the people's welfare and future first. The task is a big one. It can and must be done." PM
YUGOSLAV PRIME MINISTER ISSUES, WITHDRAWS RESIGNATION
Momir Bulatovic submitted his resignation to Milosevic on 25 September because he failed to make good on a pledge to obtain at least 100,000 votes in Montenegro for the regime, Montena-fax reported from Podgorica. Bulatovic withdrew his resignation the following day "at the request of the military leadership," the news agency added. PM
MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SAYS MILOSEVIC MUST GO
Milo Djukanovic told Montenegrin Television on 25 September that the "chances for the survival of the Yugoslav federation are minimal if Milosevic stays in power and his dictatorship remains." Djukanovic stressed that pressure will grow in Montenegro for a referendum on independence if Milosevic does not go peacefully. PM
CROATIAN PRESIDENT WARNS THAT MILOSEVIC COULD CAUSE BLOODSHED
Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb on 25 September that "remaining in power is the only guarantee for [Milosevic] to stay alive, not politically but literally alive. That is why he will do everything to stay in power, no matter how much blood may have to be shed." Noting that both Milosevic and Kostunica claim victory, Mesic argued that the electoral dispute "will end up with the Constitutional Court. It will be a matter for the judges and their consciences as to how they will rule," Reuters reported. Referring to Kostunica, Mesic said that the nationalist leader and former backer of Radovan Karadzic "is no angel...but he [respects the rule of law] and therefore his nationalism is less dangerous than Milosevic's." PM
SLOVENIA WELCOMES SERBIAN ELECTION RESULTS
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement in Ljubljana on 26 September that "Slovenia expects that democratic changes in Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will open the way to the normalization of relations and set a new basis for good cooperation between two friendly nations," Reuters reported. The statement added that "the Serbian nation has expressed a will for democratic change and for an end to policies that led to the country's isolation." PM
BOSNIAN SERB MODERATES HAIL MILOSEVIC DEFEAT
The Independent Social Democratic Party of Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said in a statement in Banja Luka on 25 September that "the defeat of Slobodan Milosevic is the defeat of the forces of the past, the defeat of the politics of conflict and isolation." The statement added that the opposition victory will contribute to the stabilization of the peace process in Bosnia, Reuters reported. The next day, former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said that the opposition "has obviously won" and that Milosevic should leave office, AP reported. PM
BOSNIAN MUSLIM SPOKESMAN SAYS CRISIS LOOMING
Mirza Hajric, who is an adviser to Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, said in Sarajevo on 25 September that Yugoslavia now faces difficult times. "Everything is happening in a more or less predictable way: Milosevic cheats, and the West watches impotently. After 10 years, [the foreign powers] still have not found a way to stop him. He will fight with all the means at his disposal to remain in power--and we all have to be ready," Hajric stressed. "We are moving towards a crisis in Yugoslavia... It will result in [Milosevic's] departure but the question is whether he will relinquish power democratically, or whether the opposition will have to fight for it, with the help of the international community," Reuters reported. PM
ISARESCU OFFICIALLY RUNNING FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENT
Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu confirmed to journalists on 25 September that he will run for president in the elections scheduled for November-December, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He insisted that he is doing so "as an independent candidate backed by civil society" but added that "some political parties" may back him "if it comes to a runoff." His candidacy is, in fact, already backed by the Democratic Convention of Romania 2000. Isarescu emphasized that "the year 2000 will be one of economic growth" and stressed that last month salaries rose more than inflation. He acknowledged the cabinet's failure to curb the inflation rate but said this reflected this year's drought, the drop in the value of the euro, and rising prices on the international oil market. He also admitted that debt arrears among state companies negatively impact on the budget. MS
ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER APPEALS TO YUGOSLAV ARMY
Foreign Minister Petre Roman appealed to the Yugoslav army on 26 September to refrain from using force against the opposition, Romanian Radio reported. He said that "the 1989 Romanian tragedy must not be repeated elsewhere" and expressed confidence that "democracy will win in Yugoslavia." MS
MOLDOVAN PREMIER SUSPECTS SABOTAGE BID OVER HIS MOSCOW VISIT
Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis, speaking on television on 24 September before departing for a scheduled visit to Moscow, said the scandal triggered by the Moldovan court's decision on Russian-language radio stations may have been engineered to sabotage talks between the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). Braghis, who arrived in Moscow on 25 September to meet with his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Kasyanov, and discuss economic relations and Moldova's gas debt to Gazprom, said the court's ruling runs the risk of inflaming inter-ethnic tension. Moldova "must learn the lessons of the past," he said. Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov criticized the ruling on the same grounds, Infotag reported. MS
JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES HELD IN BULGARIA
More than 1,1000 troops from six Balkan countries and Italy launched peace-keeping exercises at Koren, some 300 kilometers southeast of Sofia, on 23 September, AP reported. These are the first maneuvers of the Multinational Peace Force for Southeastern Europe, which was formed last year and is composed of troops from Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Greece, Turkey, and Italy. MS
OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES
Through 25 SEPTEMBER
*Lost a medal from previous day because of a failed drug test.
WORLD BANK REPORT BLAMES POVERTY ON GOVERNMENTS, VESTED INTERESTS
By Ron Synovitz
A new World Bank report on poverty says that falling living standards in former Soviet republics are largely a result of government policies that favor a narrow set of private interests rather than the broader public good.
The study was released on 19 September in Prague ahead of this week's annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It says economic policies in the poorest countries of the former Soviet bloc often serve an elite group of individuals who have close ties to governments.
World Bank economist Ana Revenga said in Prague last week that "the increase of inequality in the [Commonwealth of Independent States] has a lot to do with the capture of the policymaking and the legislative agenda by vested interests--or the 'capture of the state,' you may call it."
Both Revenga and the report cite high levels of bureaucratic corruption and criminality as major causes of poverty. "There are countries in [Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics] where, in some sense, the state is captured by vested interests," Revenga noted. "It's very hard to imagine these governments taking action in a sustained way that is good for [fighting] poverty if many of those actions go against those interests that have taken the state hostage."
The World Bank says the creation of new jobs has been severely hampered by widespread protection rackets that allow criminal groups to extort money from small businesses to such an extent that many of those businesses are unable to survive. In contrast, Revenga notes that small businesses have been a major source of new jobs in those East European countries where post-communist reforms have been more successful.
Another dangerous trend cited by the World Bank is that doctors and school teachers in the poorest former Soviet republics increasingly demand what the report calls "under-the-table" payments because they cannot survive on their meager state salaries. Revenga says this trend is especially dangerous for the poor because they are becoming trapped in a cycle where it is difficult to receive proper health care and education.
Disturbing health trends in post-communist states include a decrease in male life expectancy, the resurgence of tuberculosis, a drastic increase in sexually transmitted diseases, and the looming threat of an AIDS epidemic.
Emerging signs of nutritional deficiencies among children are becoming apparent in parts of northeastern Romania. Eastern Ukraine and Georgia's Imereti region also were listed as areas where poverty abounds.
The World Bank says the gap between rich and poor is becoming especially pronounced in Russia, Armenia, and Moldova. In Russia, for example, about 20 percent of the population is surviving on less than $2 a day. That means that Russia is home to nearly two-thirds of all people trying to survive below the $2-a-day poverty line in a former Soviet republic. "In places like Russia, you've had a shrinking pie and the poor have been getting a shrinking slice of that pie," Revenga notes.
The World Bank also says countries with the largest number of people living on less than $2 a day are Tajikistan (67 percent), Moldova (55 percent), Kyrgyzstan (50 percent), and Armenia (42 percent). About one-fifth of the people in Azerbaijan and Georgia also live on less than $2 a day.
Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova were named by the World Bank as countries where economic reforms often are hijacked by private vested interests.
Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia, Georgia, and Latvia were singled out as states where private monopolies and oligarchs have profited, at the expense of the larger economy, by bribing policy-makers to slow reforms.
World Bank loans to Turkmenistan were temporarily halted because of corruption allegations there, but Linn says financing could resume soon. Belarus currently receives no financing from the World Bank because of concerns about a lack of commitment in Minsk to basic economic reforms.
Serbia was not included in the study because it is not a member of the World Bank and because the bank is unable to verify whether the data provided by Belgrade accurately reflects the situation of the country's poor.
Speaking in Prague last week, World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn admits that the institution becomes defensive when faced with criticism, including the accusation that its recommendations are a cause of the widening gap between rich and poor. And Linn also admits that the bank has committed several errors in its recommendations to countries making the transition from central planning to market economics.
Linn says one mistake has been to underestimate the scope of corruption and criminal influence in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. Another mistake, according to Linn, was the World Bank's insistence on broader control of the reform process to ensure that fewer monopolies would be created through sales of state-owned assets and other market reforms.
Finally, Linn said the World Bank did not properly emphasize the importance of maintaining social security programs when the transition process began 10 years ago.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.