GUSINSKII FACING PROSPECT OF NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES...
The Prosecutor-General's Office has launched criminal proceedings on fraud charges against Media-MOST officials, including its head, Vladimir Gusinskii, Russian agencies reported on 28 September. Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov told Interfax that Media-MOST stock, which had been put up as collateral for a loan, was moved to offshore accounts in a fraudulent manner. Media-MOST attorney Pavel Astakhov dismissed the charges as "absurd," declaring that none of the 40 percent of the company's stock put up as collateral has been transferred abroad. JAC
...AS CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER COMPANY'S WORTH
Meanwhile, a commentator for "The Moscow Times," Peter Ekman, reported on 29 September that Gazprom's financial advisers have revealed that Gazprom-Media was willing to pay $743 million for about half of Media-MOST, whose total value according to Ekman is between $500-700 million. Ekman called for a "criminal investigation," if only to show that "[Gazprom-Media head Alfred] Kokh is the worst financial manager in history." Ekman also declares that as a business, Media-MOST is "dead." JAC
LESIN TO KEEP HIS JOB?
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov publicly lambasted Media Minister Mikhail Lesin at a cabinet meeting on 28 September. Kasyanov told Lesin that his signing of a protocol to the sales agreement between Media-MOST and Gazprom-Media had given "a political color to the conflict" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). He added that Lesin's action were "unacceptable." "You've been a minister for more than a month. You should know by now that public service, and work as a federal minister, in particular, comes with restrictions," he added. Some observers concluded that this verbal roasting may end the affair as far as Lesin is concerned and that he will be able to keep his post. JAC
NEW POWERS FOR SECURITY COUNCIL REPORTEDLY BEING CONSIDERED
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 September, citing unidentified "well-informed and reliable sources," that proposals to enhance the status of the Security Council are under consideration. According to the daily, which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, council analysts believe that a special law or presidential decree should legalize the "mandatory nature" of council decisions. In addition, they believe that the council's secretary should be given powers to control state structures and executives where the implementation of council decrees is concerned. JAC
PUTIN SAYS FRENCH TIES IN MANY WAYS 'IRREPLACEABLE'
At a meeting in the Kremlin on 28 September, President Vladimir Putin signaled to French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine that he wants relations between Paris and Moscow to improve. "France is Russia's traditional, most important, and in many ways irreplaceable partner," RIA quoted Putin as telling his visitor. Vedrine, for his part, told journalists that he believes "more specific meaning" should be given to the "concept of partnership" between Russia and the EU, according to Interfax. Vedrine was in Moscow to discuss Putin's first visit to France as president, which is scheduled to take place at the end of next month. Relations between France and Russia have been cool of late, largely as a result of Paris's sharp criticism of the campaign in Chechnya. JC
VEDRINE SAYS MOSCOW NOT SUPPORTING MILOSEVIC...
While Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stressed that Russia sees the recent elections in Belgrade as an internal Yugoslav affair and will not join Western pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, French Foreign Minister Vedrine said in Moscow on 28 September that he has the feeling that "as far as Russia is concerned, there is no support for Milosevic," Reuters reported. The policies of the West and Europe converge, Vedrine noted, "but for obvious reasons, Russia's position cannot be the same as that of Europe." Moscow knows "perfectly well" what happened in Yugoslavia last weekend, he added. JC
...WHILE NEMTSOV DISAGREES WITH HIM...
Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Rightist Forces' State Duma faction, demanded on 28 September that Moscow put pressure on Yugoslav President Milosevic to ensure that the runoff vote in the presidential elections is fair. "The Russian Foreign Ministry has the obligation not to pursue an ostrich-like policy, for which we all feel ashamed," an RFE/RL correspondent quoted him as telling a news conference. "Russia should make all possible efforts so that Milosevic kicks out the people who are his puppets in the Central Election Commission and fair elections are ensured." He added that it is clear to everyone, with the exception of the Russian Foreign Ministry, that Milosevic is a "bloody and lying dictator." JC
...AND LUKIN PROPOSES RUSSIAN MEDIATION
In an interview with Interfax on 28 September, Deputy Duma speaker Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) suggested that Moscow offer to act as a mediator "in the political dialogue" between Milosevic and the opposition. Such mediation, he said, is necessary to establish whether there has been any vote falsification and decide whether a second round of voting is required. "Russia has the chance to play a very important role in this process and thereby create the conditions that would allow it to have influence in [Yugoslavia] for a very long time," he added. Lukin professed to have been "very upset" by some Western leaders, who even before the elections had spoken of "election fraud." And he said he cannot rule out that the U.S. is considering "resolving the situation [in Yugoslavia] by force." JC
KOVALEV SAYS RUSSIA 'MAIN CRIMINAL' IN CHECHNYA
Russian Duma deputy (SPS) and human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that "the main criminal in the North Caucasus is the government of the Russian Federation and our top command," Interfax reported on 28 September. He called on PACE to impose real sanctions on Moscow: "A country that violates its commitments cannot go unpunished," he said, noting that "if once you punish a mischievous cat, you must not hint to her that the next time she steals a fish, you will only stroke her." He called for the "internationalization of the Chechen problem." Following a debate, PACE passed by a vote of 86 to five with two abstentions a resolution calling on Moscow to end human rights violations in Chechnya and seek a political settlement there. But even as PACE took these actions, Chechens told the Kavkaz-Tsentr news agency website that they have no confidence in the Council of Europe as a mediating agency. PG
YASTRZHEMBSKII AGAIN DENIES TALKS WITH CHECHENS
Speaking in Moscow on 28 September, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii again denied that Russian officials were negotiating with Chechen rebels about anything except their unconditional surrender, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that there may be representatives of Chechens living outside Chechnya who are now talking to the rebels. PG
RUSSIAN CONTRACT SOLDIERS IN CHECHNYA POOR QUALITY, OFTEN QUIT
Vladislav Putilin, the head of the Russian General Staff's organizational and mobilization department, told ITAR-TASS on 28 September that contract soldiers, who account for about 38 percent of all federal troops in Chechnya, are of poor quality and that 30 percent of them leave before fulfilling their contractual obligations. He said that only those who had already served six months were dispatched to that north Caucasus republic. PG
INGUSHETIA READIES CHECHEN REFUGEES FOR WINTER
Ingushetia's deputy emergency situations minister, Ruslan Koloev, told ITAR-TASS on 28 September that his republic is preparing to accommodate the more than 141,000 Chechen refugees likely to remain there over the winter. He said that 4,000 refugees now living in a train will soon be moved into tents. PG
ARMED FORCES TO SEEK A FEW MORE GOOD MEN
The Armed Forces plan to draft more than 190,000 men this fall, Vladislav Putilin, head of the General Staff's Department for Organization and Mobilization, announced on 28 September. The conscription campaign will cost 20 million rubles ($719,000), with the Defense Ministry covering one-quarter of the total and the rest coming from regional budgets, ITAR-TASS reported. Putilin also noted that on average, 37 percent of draftees have poor health, while 55 percent have "various limitations." Moscow Military Commissar Mikhail Sorokin told "Trud" the same day that almost half of draftees in the city of Moscow have never worked before conscription and that many are illiterate. JAC
FALL HARVEST LESS SWEET
While Russia's grain harvest has increased significantly over last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000), the 2000 sugar beet harvest has fallen considerably from last year's level. According to Reuters on 28 September, farmers have so far gathered 3,342,700 tons of sugar beet, compared with 6,935,300 tons collected at the same time last year. The sunflower seed crop is also down: only 783,000 tons have been collected, compared with 1,169,500 at the same date last year. Sugar beets have been harvested from 21.2 percent of the total area, with only 10.7 percent of the sunflower harvest gathered. JAC
PUTIN SIGNS DECREES TINKERING WITH PENSION SYSTEM
President Putin has signed a decree designed to improve management of the federal pension system, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September, citing the presidential press service. Under the decree, the heads of regions are required to conclude agreements with the Pension Fund in 2001 on transferring monies managed by the Pension Fund to the fund's regional organs. In addition, the decree directs the government to submit a law to the lower legislative house aimed at improving pension insurance management. JAC
DEPUTY MINISTER OUTLINES PLANS FOR NEW GAZPROM-LIKE RAILWAY MINISTRY
The reorganization of the Railways Ministry will take place in three stages, First Deputy Railways Minister Aleksandr Misharin told Interfax on 28 September. According to Misharin, the first stage will occur in 2000-2001, during which a legal foundation will be created for "delimiting state and economic functions of the railways and for organizing competitive operator companies." During the second stage, from 2002-2004, a joint-stock company with 100 percent state capital based on the existing ministry will be created. In the third stage, the Railways company's subsidiaries will be established, some shares for which will be available at tenders. JAC
SWISS OFFICIALS TURN DOWN TRIP TO MOSCOW
Swiss prosecutors Daniel Devaud and Bernard Bertossa have declined an invitation from the Office of the Prosecutor-General to visit Moscow to witness the inquiry into the case against the Swiss firm Mercata Trading, Interfax reported on 28 September. According to ITAR-TASS, the invitation had been sent on 26 September. Swiss investigators had been looking into whether Mercata had given kickbacks to certain Kremlin officials in exchange for lucrative contracts to refurbish the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). The invitation to the Swiss officials also occurs against a background of accusations from the Swiss that the Russian prosecutors have been lax in pursuing cases against Mabetex, Mercata, and Aeroflot. JAC
SHVYDKOI PROMISES HANDS-OFF POLICY TOWARD BOLSHOI ARTISTIC DIRECTION
Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi told Interfax on 28 September that his ministry does not intend to interfere in the artistic direction of the Bolshoi Theater. Shvydkoi was responding to statements made earlier this week by Aleksei Fadeevchev, who is artistic director of the theater's ballet company. Among other things, Fadeechev complained that following President Putin's decree dismissing the theater's management and imposing direct government control (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2000) there was a "complete repertoire reshuffle." As a result, Fadeechev said, contracts were lost and guest performances disrupted. He blamed, among others, the culture minister for this state of affairs. Shvydkoi responded that owing to his "talent and temperament, [Fadeechev] is, to put it mildly, exaggerating the situation." JC
NEW SOURCE ON RUSSIA APPEARS ON THE WEB
A new information service on Russia has opened a website, http://www.strana.ru, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September. The new service is a project of the Fund for Effective Politics, which aims to develop cooperation with federal authorities and the support of state media. The site is intended to combine the functions of a daily newspaper, an analytical journal, and an information agency. The site also has seven regional sites corresponding to the number of federal districts. JAC
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT PLEASED WITH RUSSIAN VISIT
On his return to Yerevan on 28 September, Armenian President Robert Kocharian said he is "satisfied" with his visit to Moscow and Saratov, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that new agreements signed with Moscow will help to improve economic conditions in his country, and he added that Yerevan hopes to expand ties with Armenian diaspora communities inside the Russian Federation, saying that his visit to Saratov contributed to that process. PG
ARMENIA NEEDS $50 MILLION FOR REFUGEE HOUSING
An Armenian refugee official told Noyan Tapan on 27 September that Yerevan needs some $50 million to solve the housing crisis now faced by refugees in that country. He said that the Armenian government had issued appeals to a number of international organizations. PG
A HEALTHY AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT STOPS IN LONDON
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev stopped in London on 28 September to rest on his way back from the Cleveland Clinic in the U.S., ITAR-TASS reported. Members of his delegation told the Russian news service that Aliyev is "fit and cheerful." Aliyev is scheduled to return to Baku on 29 September. PG
GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN SWAP TERRITORY
In a move that Georgian Television described as "unprecedented," Georgia and Azerbaijan have agreed to resolve a border dispute by an equal exchange of 66.5 hectares of land, Caucasus Press reported on 28 September. The two countries must still resolve another border dispute, namely at the Red Bridge: Tbilisi argues that Azerbaijani border guards have moved their border post there 500 meters into Georgian territory. Meanwhile, Georgian border guard officials said Tbilisi currently is able to guard less than half of the country's state borders. PG
RUSSIAN GENERAL THINKS ABKHAZ MANDATE SHOULD BE EXTENDED ANOTHER YEAR
Welcoming Moscow's decision to extend the mandate of CIS forces in Abkhazia until the end of 2000, General Sergei Korovko, the commander of CIS peacekeeping forces, said he believes that their mandate should be extended for yet another year, Interfax reported on 28 September. PG
GERMANY PROMISES DROUGHT AID TO GEORGIA
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told visiting Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze that Berlin will provide DM 2.7 million ($1.2 million) to help Georgia overcome the effects of drought, Kavkasia-Press agency reported on 28 September. Shevardnadze was in Berlin to take part in the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the unification of Germany. Schroeder also thanked Shevardnadze for both his past contributions and his current international activities. PG
KAZAKHSTAN'S NAZARBAEV IN TURKEY
In Turkey for a short holiday, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev met briefly with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Kazakh radio reported on 28 September. Nazarbaev said he was pleased with the increasing volume of trade and other ties between the two countries. PG
KAZAKH POLICE KILL FOUR UIGHUR ACTIVISTS
Kazakhstan's special forces have killed four Chinese citizens of Uighur nationality, Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev announced on 28 September, Khabar TV reported. He said the four, who were part of a group seeking independence for Eastern Turkestan, had refused to negotiate with the police and thus had to be killed in a shootout. But the premier stressed that the four had been killed not because of their nationality but because they were terrorists. PG
KAZAKH POLICE DEPORT VISA REGIME VIOLATORS
Kazakh Commercial TV reported on 28 September that the police have deported 28 people, mostly Uzbeks and Tajiks, from the northern portion of the country. The station also reported that some 45 Chechens were detained during the roundup there. And it noted that almost all of those detained said they knew nothing about Kazakhstan's visa regime requirements. PG
KAZAKH-UZBEK BORDER TALKS CONTINUE
The third session of border talks between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan began in Tashkent on 28 September, Kazakh Khabar TV reported. Both sides reportedly are "satisfied" with the progress thus far. PG
RUSSIAN-TAJIK MANEUVERS TAKE PLACE NEAR AFGHAN BORDER
Russian and Tajik units staged a joint military exercise near the Afghan border, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September. The same day, Russian border guard commanders met with representatives of the anti-Taliban coalition, the Russian news agency reported. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Markin, the commander of Russian border guards in Tajikistan, told Interfax that his forces were "strong enough" to prevent any Taliban incursions. PG
TURKMEN PRESIDENT RESHUFFLES GOVERNMENT
Saparmurat Niyazov has demoted his economics minister, Matkarim Rajapov, for poor performance and appointed a deputy prime minister, Orasmut Begmyradov, to fill his post, Turkmen Television's First channel reported on 28 September. PG
UZBEK COURT SENTENCES ISLAMIST TO DEATH
A Tashkent court sentenced one man to death and another 13 to prison for their involvement in the Islamist insurgency in Uzbekistan last November, Uzbek state television reported on 28 September. The court noted that the 14, as well as 11 others who were killed in the fighting, had entered Uzbekistan from Tajikistan. PG
OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES
Through 28 SEPTEMBER
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER TO STAY IN RACE FOR PARLIAMENT
Mikalay Statkevich, the leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, said on 28 September that he will still stand as a deputy for parliament, despite an earlier pledge to withdraw if fellow party members were denied registration, Belapan reported. Statkevich said the nine that have been denied registration by the state as candidates have urged him to continue his campaign. Statkevich said he realizes that government officials will use his participation to argue that the elections are fair and free but said "if we do not participate in an unfair election, we will get nothing." PB
BELARUS TO START LEVYING TARIFFS ON GOODS TRANSITING RUSSIA
Vladimir Goshin, deputy chairman of the State Customs Committee, has announced that on 1 October Belarus will begin levying duties on imports from Russia that originate in other countries, Belapan reported on 28 September. Goshin said the measure is in response to a similar regulation instituted by Russia some six months ago. He added that Russia began conducting "full-scale" customs inspections of all goods imported from Belarus on 22 September. Goshin said the new regulations by Minsk will neither require new customs checkpoints on the border nor lead to an increase in customs officers. PB
MINIMUM WAGE TO INCREASE IN BELARUS
The Belarusian government said on 28 September that it will increase the minimum monthly wage in the country to 3,600 rubles ($3.50) a month from the current 2,600 rubles, Belapan reported. The change goes into effect on 1 October. The last increase to the minimum wage was made on 1 May. The same day, the Belarusian State Control Committee said it has set up a telephone hotline for people to call about wage delays--either at state-owned or private companies. The hotline will only be open until 2 October. This latest move is seen as part of a campaign by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to crack down on companies with large wage arrears. PB
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES TEACHERS MORE MONEY--NEXT YEAR...
Leonid Kuchma said on 28 September that the government will raise salaries for all employees in the education sector in 2001 and wipe out all wage arrears to teachers by the end of that year, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported, citing UNIAN. There are some 500,000 teachers in Ukraine who make an average of 137 hryvnia ($25) per month. Social Policy and Labor Minister Ivan Sakhan said that other state employees will receive 25 percent wage hikes next year. He said it is the first time in three years that wages for those employees will be increased. PB
...AS PREMIER PREDICTS PENSION INCREASE
Viktor Yushchenko said that some 800 million hryvnia ($147 million) will be allocated to increase pensions in 2001, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 28 September. Yushchenko said "the government plans to eliminate all current social debts to the population." He added that Ukraine will experience substantial economic growth next year and that the government's goal is to increase the percentage of the budget spent on social services from 41 percent to 46 percent. PB
ESTONIAN DECATHLETE WINS GOLD UNDER CONTROVERSY
Erki Nool won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon on 28 September in Sydney after posting a personal best in the final event, the 1500 meter race, scoring 35 points more than silver medallist Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic. However, Nool won the competition only after judges had reversed a decision according to which his final discus throw had been disallowed. Estonia's last gold medallist, cyclist and parliamentary deputy Erika Salumae, welcomed Nool's victory and added that she hopes this time the Olympic authorities fly the Estonian flag the right way up during the medals ceremony, ETA added. (See Olympic Medals Table below). MH
ACCUSED LATVIAN WAR CRIMINAL CHARGED
The Latvian Prosecutor-General's Office has officially filed charges against accused war criminal Konrads Kalejs. The case was presented to a Riga District Court on 28 September, but the judge has yet to issue an arrest warrant, BNS reported. Kalejs has been charged with genocide and war crimes for his role as a camp guard at the notorious Salaspils concentration camp during the Nazi occupation in 1941-1942. MH
LATVIAN LEFTIST COALITION SPLITS
The left-wing coalition For Human Rights in an Integrated Latvia has suffered a major setback following the Russian Party's announcement that it will go it alone at the March 2001 local elections. Party member Sergei Mirski said on 28 September that the Russian Party opposed the coalition's controversial call for Russian speakers to embark on a civil disobedience campaign against the language law regulations. Mirski argued that "the dialogue between Russians and Latvians should not be lost" and that talks can "improve relations between Latvians and Russians" at the present time, BNS reported. However, Mirski said the Russian Party will not quit the coalition's parliamentary faction. Earlier the National Harmony Party, also a member of the left-wing coalition, criticized the civil disobedience call (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2000). MH
LATVIAN PREMIER CAUTIONS AGAINST QUICK BORDER PACT RATIFICATION
Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins cautioned against hasty ratification of the maritime border agreement between Latvia and Lithuania. Berzins, speaking on Latvian Radio on 28 September, said that he was "somewhat surprised" at the quick pace of the ratification process, saying he sees "no need" for it as fishing issues are governed by a bilateral agreement, BNS reported. One day earlier, the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee narrowly approved the treaty. The Latvian Fisheries Association said that the agreement would cause great harm to the sector, depriving fishermen of 20 percent of their income, LETA added. The association also warned that blockades of Latvia's main ports could result if the agreement is ratified. MH
COMMUNISM PRONOUNCED GUILTY IN VILNIUS
An international tribunal investigating the crimes of communism announced on 27 September a verdict of guilty against communist institutions. The panel, which held hearings in June and September, said the aim of the proceedings, which have no legal force, was for the crimes of communism to be aired in public. The panel said that the various Communist parties and their institutions--especially in Soviet-occupied states--were criminal organizations whose members carried out acts of physical, emotional, and material damage and can be labeled as criminals. The deputy chairman of the tribunal, Arturas Filikaitis, said that communism "resorted to terror, violence, and the search for enemies, the alleged culprits of their failures, who were tortured and destroyed," ELTA reported. MH
POLISH PRESIDENT SELECTS NEW CHIEF OF ARMED FORCES GENERAL STAFF
Aleksander Kwasniewski named General Czeslaw Piatas as Poland's new armed forces chief of staff on 28 September, dpa reported, citing Polish Radio. Piatas has served as deputy to the outgoing chief of staff, General Henryk Szumski, whose three-year term ends this month. Piatas was originally trained in the Soviet Union but attended the National Defense University in Washington D.C. in the early 1990s. Some observers say the nomination of Piatas will lead to a conflict with Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski over differences on the decision-making role of the general staff. PB
POLISH LEFTISTS MAKE GAINS IN CAPITAL
Official results released on 28 September show that the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) won municipal elections in Warsaw held last weekend, Reuters reported. The SLD won 39 of the 80 seats on the Warsaw City Council, an increase from 34 won in 1998. The Solidarity bloc gained just 27 seats--10 less than it had in the last elections. Wojciech Kozak of the Freedom Union, a deputy president of Warsaw, said "the results confirm a nationwide trend showing the SLD coming back to power." The city elections were called after the local government was dissolved in May. PB
ANTI-GLOBALIZATION PROTESTERS STILL STAGE DEMONSTRATIONS IN PRAGUE
About 200 globalization opponents, mostly foreigners, demonstrated near the Interior Ministry on 28 September, demanding the release of colleagues detained during the riots in Prague two days earlier, CTK reported. Police called on them to disperse, and when they refused,about 30 of them were arrested. In the afternoon hours, the protesters marched through downtown Prague blowing bubbles, playing horns, and displaying a festive mood. Police said that a total of 859 activists have been detained, of whom 330 were foreigners. Charges of hooliganism, attacking public servants, and damaging property have been brought against 18 foreigners and two Czechs. Some 600 people were treated in hospitals, of whom 123 were policemen. Ten policemen and 10 activists remain hospitalized. MS
U.S. CITIZEN HURT TRYING TO ESCAPE CZECH POLICE DETENTION
Silvia Yolanda Mach, a 26-year-old student who holds dual U.S. and Austrian citizenship, was hurt on 28 September when she jumped out of a second-floor window of a Prague police station. She suffered a leg injury and broke a rib. Mach, who was interrogated about her participation in the recent riots, complained to reporters about police brutality and claimed doctors at the hospital refused to give her pain-killing medication. Police said during the interrogation, she had physically attacked one of the policemen. MS
CZECH 'QUADRILATERAL' COALITION TO EXPAND ALLIANCE
The four parties that compose the so-called "quadrilateral coalition" signed an agreement on 28 September pledging to elect a leader by 31 January 2001, set up a "shadow cabinet" by March, and present an electoral program by June, CTK reported. The Freedom Union, the Christian Democratic Party, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the Democratic Union formed the alliance after the June 1998 parliamentary elections. MS
SLOVAKIA TO REQUIRE 'TRANSITION PERIODS' ON SIX AQUIS CHAPTERS
Jan Figel, chief negotiator with the EU, told reporters in Brussels on 28 September that his country will ask for "transition periods" on six chapters of the aquis communautaire, TASR reported. The six are on free capital movement, the free movement of services, agriculture, taxation, energy, and the environment. He said Slovakia intends to adopt all EU legislation by 1 January 2004. To date, Bratislava has opened negotiations on 8 chapters, of which six have been closed. In other news, Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary-General Donald Johnston met in Paris on 28 September and signed the agreement on Slovakia's accession to that organization. MS
RACIST MESSAGES FLOODING SLOVAK MOBILE NETWORK
Slovak mobile telephone owners have recently received a message telling them about a new service offering "free 50 minutes for every Rom you kill," the Czech daily "Pravo" reported on 26 September. A spokeswoman for the Globetel network said mobile phone operators cannot "influence or censor the content" of SMS messages. She also said it is not possible to detect the sender if the message is sent via the Internet. MS
HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT ON YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS
Ferenc Madl said in a 28 September statement that the "indisputable election victory" of the democratic Serbian opposition and its presidential candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, "marks the first historic step on Yugoslavia's road in catching up with the democratic progress in the region." Madl said he hopes to meet Kostunica soon to discuss ways of restoring Hungarian-Yugoslav relations, Hungarian media reported. MSZ
GENERAL STRIKE BEGINS IN SERBIA
In response to a call by opposition leader Zoran Djindjic that "Serbia must stop in order to go forward," thousands of high school students walked out of classrooms in Nis, Gornji Milanovic, and several other cities and towns on 29 September, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). In Cacak, people left shops and offices to take to the streets to demand that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic step down and yield power to Vojislav Kostunica. A major rally is planned for the afternoon in Belgrade. Djindjic has also appealed to the army and to transport workers to join the general strike, but it is not clear to what extent they have heeded his call. PM
MILOSEVIC LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR SECOND ROUND IN YUGOSLAV VOTE
Milosevic met with top officials of his Socialist Party of Serbia in Belgrade on 28 September to discuss strategy for the 8 October second round of the presidential vote. The opposition refuses to accept a second round on the grounds that it won the race outright in the first one (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). State-run television footage of Milosevic at the meeting is the first of him since the 24 September elections, when he and his wife, Mira Markovic, cast their ballots. Observers note that there have been persistent rumors in Serbia in recent days that Milosevic has fled abroad. The television footage may have been shown to counter those reports. PM
GREECE URGES KOSTUNICA TO CONSIDER SECOND ROUND OF YUGOSLAV VOTE
Reuters reported from Athens on 29 September that Foreign Minister George Papandreou has telephoned Kostunica from Sydney to urge him to "keep all possibilities open" and consider participating in the second round, provided international monitors are present. An unnamed "Greek diplomatic source" told the news agency: "We see many, many irregularities [in the first round vote]. Milosevic is politically finished. He is trying to win time." Observers note that Greek businesses have been very active in Macedonia and Albania in recent years and stand a good chance of doing well in Serbia once international sanctions are lifted. PM
MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT HOPES FOR TALKS WITH SERBIA
Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 28 September that Kostunica is the winner of the presidential vote. Vujanovic added that the Montenegrin government hopes the new government in Belgrade will soon dissolve the federal parliament and launch talks with Podgorica on redefining the legal basis of the federation. "Vijesti" on 29 September quoted President Milo Djukanovic as saying that Podgorica will not accept any "anti-Montenegrin policy" from Belgrade, be it from a democratic government or a dictatorial regime. Observers note that during the election campaign, Kostunica made some disparaging remarks about Montenegro. He recently accused its leaders of "turning their backs" on the Serbian opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). PM
U.S. 'PREPARED FOR CONTINGENCIES' IN SERBIA...
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said on 28 September that Washington is pleased with the growing momentum in Serbia against the Milosevic regime, AP reported. Cohen added, however, that U.S. forces in the region are "prepared for contingencies." He did not elaborate. Speaking recently in Prague, former NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark said it is important that the West keep Milosevic guessing as to exactly what NATO might or might not do were Milosevic to use violence against his opponents in Montenegro or elsewhere. PM
...AS CLINTON CALLS FOR LIFTING SERBIAN SANCTIONS
U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 28 September that "I think we should all say, in unequivocal terms, as soon as there is democratic government [in Serbia], the sanctions should be lifted," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). Clinton noted that "the case the opposition made--based on their actual numbers, poll place by poll place--was pretty persuasive, especially since it hasn't been refuted by the national [election] commission... It's time for Mr. Milosevic to heed the call of the Serb people, step down, and allow a peaceful democratic transition to take place," Reuters reported. After meeting with Clinton, Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok said: "A double message should be very clear. The [Serbian] people said: 'We want to get rid of Milosevic.' And we say as soon as there is a new leadership, the sanctions will be over." PM
SKEPTICISM IN CROATIA OVER CALLS FOR LIFTING SANCTIONS
Many Croats feel bitter and skeptical over calls by the EU and the U.S. to lift sanctions against Serbia, AP reported from Zagreb on 29 September. Many people argue that Serbia is being offered a reward without having first to meet tough European standards on political freedoms and ethnic tolerance. Croatia, those Croats argue, has had to meet rigorous standards in order to be accepted into Euro-Atlantic institutions but has received little to show for its efforts. Top Croatian leaders have also warned that Kostunica is a nationalist and that it is too early to welcome Serbia back to the international community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). PM
CROATIAN PRESIDENT FIRES SEVEN GENERALS
Some 12 generals sent an open letter to the state-run Hina news agency on 28 September criticizing recent arrests of war crimes suspects as a politically-motivated effort by the new government to discredit the 1991-1995 war of independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 29 September 2000). Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic rejected the charges, added that generals on active duty should not make political statements in public, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The next day, President Stipe Mesic ordered seven of the generals--Ante Gotovina, Kresimir Cosic, Damir Krsticevic, Ivan Kapular, Milenko Filipovic, Davor Domazet-Lose, and Mirko Norac--into early retirement, Hina reported. Mesic said that his "message to those who think they can bring down the government with pamphlets is that they are playing the wrong hand." He added that the army must become "depoliticized." The 12 generals were all strong supporters of the previous government. PM
SLOVENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER TO PRESENT CASE IN WASHINGTON
Janez Jansa has left Ljubljana for meetings in Washington with Defense Secretary Cohen and several other leading officials, including Senators Joseph Biden and George Voinovich, Hina reported on 29 September. Jansa will discuss Slovenia's preparations for NATO membership, its support for international efforts in Bosnia and Kosova, and its backing for democratic forces in Macedonia, Croatia, and Montenegro. Jansa has warned that Kostunica is a nationalist and that the West should not be in a hurry to ease sanctions on Serbia. PM
SLOVENIAN HEALTH WORKERS ANNOUNCE WARNING STRIKE
Medical personnel will stop work for two hours on the morning of 10 October in conjunction with an ongoing pay dispute, the Ljubljana radio station 24 UR reported on 29 September. PM
SWISS SAFE STOLEN IN KOSOVA
Unidentified burglars took a safe containing more than $600,000 from the Prishtina offices of the Swiss Kosova Coordination Office on 28 September. UN spokeswoman Susan Manuel said: "We have had several robberies where the entire safe disappeared. Unfortunately it is a phenomenon of Kosovo," dpa reported. PM
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR PEACEFUL ELECTIONS
Rexhep Meidani said in Tirana on 28 September that "our free vote [in local elections on 1 October] is important to let the world know that we have a consolidated democracy in Albania and that we are a civilized European nation," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2000). Elsewhere, national police chief Veli Myftari told Radio Tirana that armed criminal groups might engage in violence in conjunction with the vote. He added, however, that "we have taken all the necessary measures to crush them." Police are on alert throughout Albania, and soldiers are guarding many public buildings, AP reported. Political life remains highly polarized despite the efforts of some candidates to conduct their campaigns in a more professional manner (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 26 September 2000). PM
AMNESTY APPEALS TO MACEDONIA FOR CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS
Amnesty International said in a statement from London on 27 September that it is urging the Macedonian government to amend its legislation to enable persons to apply for conscientious objector status even after they have already entered the military or the reserves. New legislation makes military service compulsory for all men aged between 17 and 55 years. New conscripts have only 15 days to appeal for conscientious objector status. The statement cited the cases of three members of the Jehovah's Witnesses who were imprisoned in recent months for refusing to do military service. The three had offered to perform alternative civilian service. PM
ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT DECIDES TO COMPENSATE INVESTMENT FUND VICTIMS
Lawmakers on 28 September approved a recent recommendation by the special commission set up to investigate the collapse of the private National Investment Fund earlier this year, the RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported. That recommendation calls on the government to submit its proposals within 15 days for compensating investors in the fraudulent fund. They also said the government must expand the investigation into the scheme to all institutions and private individuals who were involved in, or profited from, the fraud. MS
ROMANIAN MAVERICK MAYOR ATTACKS HUNGARIAN CONSULATE IN CLUJ
Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar has addressed a letter to Foreign Minister Petre Roman claiming that the coat of arms on the Hungarian banner hoisted outside the consulate in Cluj symbolizes Greater Hungary, Hungarian media reported on 27 September. It is not the first time that Funar has made such a claim, but this time he added that the consulate's official seal evokes the so-called Vienna Dictate (Hungarians call it the "Vienna Award") of 1940, as a result of which Hungary briefly regained and re-incorporated northern Transylvania. Consul General Laszlo Alfoldi responded that the issue of the banner has been one of Funar's "idees fixes" for many years. He noted that Funar fails to distinguish between the one-time coat of arms of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and that of modern-day Hungary. As for the seal, Alfoldi emphasized that it is bilingual, including the town's name in both Romanian and Hungarian. MS
BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN PREMIERS URGE MILOSEVIC TO ADMIT DEFEAT
Ivan Kostov and his Romanian counterpart, Mugur Isarescu, said in a joint statement on 28 September that they "request the powers in Belgrade to respect the will for change of Serbia's population," Reuters and local media reported. They said the Yugoslav electorate demonstrated through its vote that President Slobodan Milosevic "no longer represents it." Kostov and Isarescu met at the Belene military training grounds in Bulgaria, where they witnessed peacekeeping exercises by a joint Bulgarian-Romanian force. Bulgarian Defense Minister Boiko Noev said the two countries are "strong candidates" for NATO membership because they will "complete the region's security map." In addition, Kostov and Isarescu announced they will jointly appeal to Ukraine to allow the transit of Russian gas to the Balkans via its territory. MS
OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES
Through 28 SEPTEMBER
THE KREMLIN VERSUS THE REPORTER
By Julie A. Corwin
Next Monday--2 October--RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitskii goes on trial in Makhachkala, Daghestan. After being beaten with a truncheon, locked in the trunk of a car, and confined to a tiny cell in a detention camp in Chechnya last winter, Babitskii would seem a more likely plaintiff or witness in a criminal trial--than a defendant. Officially, his crime is using a forged passport--a passport, which he says was forced upon him by men who kept him against his will and transported him to the Russian border. But the real charge against him--now and then--is quite different: "unpatriotic journalism."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already explained the concept himself in an interview included in a book called "In the First Person" released shortly before the Russian presidential elections in March of this year. Putin asserted that Babitskii is not a "Russian journalist," although he may be a Russian citizen. Babitskii dared to "write that [the Chechens] are cutting off the heads of our soldiers in order to portray the whole horror of the war." Putin accuses Babitskii of being sympathetic to the Chechens--"of justifying the decapitation of people"--a traitorous stance when Russia is at war.
According to Putin, "Russia's defeat during the first Chechen war was to a large extent owing to the state of society's morale. Russians did not understand what ideals our soldiers were fighting for." Noting that during the second "war," Russian media coverage has been much more favorable, Putin remarks "this time around, fortunately, it's different. [But] Babitskii and his ilk were essentially trying to reverse the situation."
The media coverage had changed, but Babitskii, who had covered both wars, remained the same. This time around, fewer journalists are operating in the region. And they are not supposed to travel unescorted or report from the Chechens' side or interview Chechen officials. Babitskii, however, continued going where other journalists did not: occasionally filing reports from the side of the Chechen fighters, whom he failed to demonize, as well as reporting from the federal troops' side of the conflict. He reported on Chechen commanders he believed were guilty of crimes. He reported on civilian suffering and instances of indiscriminate bombing. In short, he reported what he saw and heard.
Then one day--last January--Babitskii's "unpatriotic" activities caught up with him. Just days after implicitly contradicting a statement by Armed Forces Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin about Russian troops' territorial gains in Chechnya in a report of both sides' troop movements and after being sharply criticized by the Russian military, Babitskii was detained by federal troops in Grozny. They claimed at the time that he did not have the proper accreditation. Unable to contact his family, his employers, or a lawyer, he was confined at the Chernokozovo detention center, where he shared a tiny cell with two other prisoners. They slept standing up. Although he was exempted from the torture inflicted on selected prisoners, he did get the usual treatment afforded every newcomer: several dozen hits on the torso with a nightstick. He and his cellmates were also treated to occasional canisters of teargas thrown in their direction.
Approximately two weeks later, after agreeing to be handed over to a known Chechen field commander Atgeriev in exchange for Russian POWs, Russian troops handed him over to people they said were Chechen rebels but that Babitskii insists were working for Moscow. He was then held in a closed room for two weeks until on 23 February, he was transported in the trunk of a car from Chechnya to Daghestan, somehow managing to evade all federal military checkpoints. There, both his Russian and international passports were taken from him and he was given an Azerbaijani passport and taken to the Azerbaijan border. He managed to convince his "escort" to take him back to Makhachkala, where he was arrested for carrying a false passport. After four days in a jail in Makhachkala, he was put on a plane late one night heading back to Moscow and released on his on recognizance pending trial.
Six months later, Babitskii is now set to return to North Caucasus, but not as a reporter--not to continue the work that won him journalistic recognition from the OSCE and the International Center for Journalists and, more important, the respect of his fellow reporters in Chechnya--but as a defendant. At a press conference this week, Babitskii said that he expects a guilty verdict, if only because he "is well acquainted with the workings of the Russian justice system." Babitskii and his lawyer have appealed to the international journalist community to attend the trial so that the court process takes place in "in the glare of truth and openness." But even if found guilty, Babitskii is unlikely to go to jail because his case would fall under an amnesty granted by the Russian State Duma this spring.
But he is equally unlikely to return to Chechnya to cover that conflict in the near future. And, after hearing of Babitskii's ordeal and witnessing his being handed over to masked gunmen on national television, how many other journalists are likely to follow in his footsteps? That there may not be that many would appear to be the whole point of this latest Kremlin campaign.
END NOTE (PART II)
WHAT NEXT IN SERBIA?
By Patrick Moore
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic insists on a second round in the presidential vote, while the opposition demands that Vojislav Kostunica's victory be recognized. This standoff is unlikely to continue, but what the unpredictable Milosevic will do is anyone's guess.
Milosevic has made a gross miscalculation. He apparently thought he could stage a presidential vote on 24 September and win a new term of office because the opposition would remain divided. To his surprise and that of many other people, the opposition has united. The opposition leaders who did not join the united Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) now find themselves marginalized, while Kostunica has become the standard-bearer of all important political forces opposed to Milosevic.
Perhaps the dictator is hoping that he can buy time by insisting on a second round on 8 October. But to what purpose? Does he think that the opposition, which now senses victory, will fall apart in such a short period? Or does he believe that with an additional two weeks to prepare, he can steal the run-off vote?
There are other, less savory scenarios, however, for what Milosevic might try to do with extra time. One is that he might stage an incident in Montenegro or in Serbia that would give him the excuse to declare a state of emergency and annul the election or indefinitely postpone the second round. A similar scenario suggests that he might seek a pretext for a full-fledged conflict in Montenegro, thereby provoking the fifth and potentially bloodiest Balkan war of his career.
A key factor in these scenarios is the loyalty of the army and the police. Milosevic appears to command the allegiance of the top military commanders, whom he appointed. But middle-level officers may be asking themselves whether Milosevic will still be their boss in a few months' time and what such prospects mean for what they should be doing now. The conscript soldiers, according to most experts, are unlikely to obey orders from a defeated dictator to fire on their own people.
This leads to the important question of the police. Milosevic created them as his praetorian guard because he does not trust the army. The police have equipment that is similar to that of an army and are, by all accounts, pampered. But some of them, too, might be asking whether Milosevic will be their commander much longer and if it is therefore wise to continue to throw one's lot in with him now. Perhaps the most politically interesting photo to emerge from Serbia in some time is one published in "Vesti" on 26 September, which showed two uniformed riot police laughing and joking with a young female opposition supporter. Such a photo would have been difficult, if not impossible, to imagine just a short time ago.
Meanwhile, calls for Milosevic to respect the election results and to go quietly have come from many leaders in the Balkans and the West. Russia has appealed to all Serbs to "respect the law" and show restraint.
The prospect of an armed conflict nonetheless remains, including one that could involve outside forces. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov hinted darkly on 27 September that "it is important not to allow destabilization of the situation, which would play into the hands only of those powers that are not interested in preserving a single Yugoslavia and restoring its place in the world arena."
One can only guess at which "powers" he has in mind. Whatever the case, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook has warned Milosevic "that there is a very substantial [foreign military] capacity in the region." Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu was even more blunt: "If there is a crisis, there will be an intervention in the same way there was a NATO intervention in Kosova and Bosnia-Herzegovina in defense of UN values. But I hope this will not happen." He made his remarks in Koren, Bulgaria, on 27 September.
For now, Milosevic-watchers will be trying to guess the unpredictable dictator's next moves. As an indicted war criminal, the only place to which he could in theory flee abroad would be to a so-called rogue state. Some politicians who know him well--such as Croatian President Stipe Mesic and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic--have suggested that Milosevic will resort to violence rather than give up power. Former NATO commander General Wesley Clark recently suggested that Milosevic will leave the political scene only in the same bloody fashion as Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu did. Local people frequently point out that both of Milosevic's parents committed suicide and that his wife is believed to have attempted suicide on more than one occasion.