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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 206, 99-10-21

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 206, 21 October 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] U.S. DIPLOMAT ADVOCATES ARMENIAN-TURKISH RAPPROCHEMENT
  • [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS AZERBAIJAN OBSTRUCTING
  • [03] ARMENIA, IRAQ TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COPERATION
  • [04] AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PLANS RESISTANCE TO KARABAKH
  • [05] U.S. SUPPORTS GEORGIAN CALLS FOR RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL
  • [06] KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER GIVES POSITIVE ASSESSSMENT OF
  • [07] ...AS OPPOSITION CANDIDATE PREDICTS FURTHER VIOLATIONS
  • [08] NEW POLITICAL PARTY REGISTERED IN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [09] KYRGYZSTAN BEGINS WITHDRAWING TROOPS FROM SOUTH
  • [10] IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TURKMENISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] DJUKANOVIC SAYS MONTENEGRINS' PATIENCE RUNNING OUT...
  • [12] ...SAYS HE'S NOT WORRIED ABOUT MILOSEVIC'S ALLIES...
  • [13] ...SEES TWO PROBLEMS FACING YUGOSLAVIA...
  • [14] ..AND SAYS MONTENEGRO BECOMING MORE DEMOCRATIC
  • [15] INDEPENDENT RADIO BANNED IN MONTENEGRO
  • [16] DJINDJIC FEARS ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
  • [17] UN INVESTIGATING OWN OFFICIALS IN SERBIAN PROPERTY SALES
  • [18] NATO FEARS VIGILANTE ACTION IN KOSOVA
  • [19] UN BEGINS BUS SERVICE IN KOSOVA
  • [20] BELGRADE BLOCKS CIVILIAN FLIGHTS TO KOSOVA
  • [21] BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT BACKS REFUGEE RETURN PROGRAM
  • [22] CROATIAN COURT RULES THAT 'TUTA' CAN GO TO HAGUE
  • [23] OPPOSITION SLAMS TUDJMAN STAND ON ELECTIONS
  • [24] CROATIAN FARMERS BLOCK KEY HIGHWAY
  • [25] GERMANY TO PROVIDE MORE MILITARY AID TO MACEDONIA
  • [26] MAJKO WARNS NANO OVER ALBANIAN SOCIALIST CONGRESS
  • [27] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON ACCESS TO SECURITATE FILES
  • [28] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT URGES GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE HEATING PROBLEM
  • [29] ROMANIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR CONVICTED FOR RACIST ARTICLES
  • [30] ROMANIAN MAYOR WANTS TO HIRE EX-SERVICEMEN TO DEAL WITH ROMA
  • [31] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT INSISTS ON CHANGING CONSTITUTION
  • [32] GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES HELP FOR BULGARIA
  • [33] BULGARIAN GROUP CITES IRREGULARITIES IN LOCAL ELECTIONS

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [34] MUCH ADO ABOUT UNITY

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] U.S. DIPLOMAT ADVOCATES ARMENIAN-TURKISH RAPPROCHEMENT

    Meeting in Yerevan on 20 October with Armenian Prime Minister

    Vazgen Sargsian, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Steven

    Sestanovich proposed that Turkey and Armenia open

    "information centers" in each other's capitals as a first

    step toward establishing diplomatic relations, RFE/RL's

    Yerevan bureau reported on 20 October, quoting an Armenian

    government spokesman. Sestanovich said such a step would

    contribute toward a rapprochement between the two countries,

    which Washington considers essential for stability in the

    South Caucasus. He added that Ankara has responded positively

    to the proposal. Sestanovich also praised the recent talks

    between Armenian President Robert Kocharian, which whom he

    also met on 20 October, and Azerbaijan's President Heidar

    Aliev. Sestanovich said those talks "create a basis for

    agreement that can then be taken further by the [OSCE Minsk

    Group] mediators." LF

    [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS AZERBAIJAN OBSTRUCTING

    TRANSPORT COOPERATION

    In an interview with Armenian State

    Television on 19 October, Vartan Oskanian said Azerbaijan has

    rejected a proposal by the EU that rail communications be

    resumed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Armenian

    Service reported. He said that Armenia has offered to create

    a 3-5 kilometer security zone along the railway, which runs

    through Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenian forces,

    but that Azerbaijan has rejected that proposal, insisting on

    the complete withdrawal of the Armenian troops from those

    districts. Oskanian added that the EU and the U.S. are

    unhappy with Azerbaijan's position. The EU-sponsored TRACECA

    transport program envisages the restoration of transport

    links between the South Caucasus states. LF

    [03] ARMENIA, IRAQ TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COPERATION

    Senior Armenian

    Foreign Ministry official David Hovhanisian told journalists

    in Baghdad on 20 October that Armenia will soon open an

    office in that city to promote economic and trade

    cooperation, Xinhua reported. Hovhanisian said Armenia is

    interested in industrial and trade cooperation with Iraq

    within the framework of the UN oil-for-food program. Armenia

    and Iraq have not yet established formal diplomatic

    relations. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PLANS RESISTANCE TO KARABAKH

    SETTLEMENT

    A 20 October session of the Democratic Congress,

    which unites a dozen leading Azerbaijani opposition parties,

    agreed to create a working group to revive the National

    Resistance Movement, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus

    Report," Vol. 2, No. 42, 21 October 1999). The movement was

    created in 1994 to oppose a disadvantageous peace settlement

    in Karabakh. On 16 October, former President and Azerbaijan

    Popular Front Chairman Abulfaz Elchibey condemned U.S.

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's letter to President

    Aliev urging him to agree to concessions in order to resolve

    the Karabakh conflict as "the most insulting document in the

    history of world diplomacy," according to Turan LF

    [05] U.S. SUPPORTS GEORGIAN CALLS FOR RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL

    Visiting Tbilisi on 19-20 October, U.S. Assistant Secretary

    of State Sestanovich held talks with Minister of State Vazha

    Lortkipanidze, parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, and

    President Eduard Shevardnadze on the Russian military

    presence in Georgia and the North Caucasus, Caucasus Press

    reported. Sestanovich told journalists on 20 October that the

    U.S. shares Georgia's belief that Russian forces should be

    withdrawn from Georgia. During his visit, an agreement was

    signed under which the U.S. will provide Georgia with

    military uniforms and other supplies worth $1.8 million, AP

    reported. LF

    [06] KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER GIVES POSITIVE ASSESSSMENT OF

    PARLIAMENTARY POLL...

    Qasymzhomart Toqaev told U.S.

    Ambassador Richard Jones on 20 October that both he and

    President Nursultan Nazarbaev believe that the 10 October

    elections to the lower chamber of parliament marked a new

    stage in the evolution of democratic processes in Kazakhstan,

    Interfax reported. He added that the poll "largely met" the

    standards set by the OSCE and other international bodies. An

    RFE/RL correspondent reported earlier this week that the OSCE

    plans to issue a report on the first round of the poll

    criticizing instances of falsification of the results (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999). LF

    [07] ...AS OPPOSITION CANDIDATE PREDICTS FURTHER VIOLATIONS

    Lira

    Bayseitova, who heads the Respublika-200 political group,

    told journalists in Almaty on 20 October that she has

    information that the local authorities in Atyrau Oblast have

    printed 15,000 additional ballot forms to ensure that their

    preferred candidate secures victory in the 24 October runoff

    over Ghaziz Aldamzharov, a leading member of former Prime

    Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldoin's Republican People's Party of

    Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported.

    On 19 October, a district court in Almaty rejected a case

    brought by defeated parliamentary candidate Gennadii

    Belyakov, who accused the district electoral commission of

    falsifying the outcome of the vote in the district in which

    he ran. LF

    [08] NEW POLITICAL PARTY REGISTERED IN KYRGYZSTAN

    Republican

    Party Deputy Chairman Narkas Mulladjanov told RFE/RL's

    Bishkek bureau on 19 October that the Ministry of Justice

    formally registered the party last week. The Republican Party

    was founded last month and is headed by Zamira Sydykova,

    chief editor of the opposition weekly newspaper "Res Publika"

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). LF

    [09] KYRGYZSTAN BEGINS WITHDRAWING TROOPS FROM SOUTH

    A Defense

    Ministry spokesman said in Bishkek on 20 October that the

    first detachments of army troops sent to Osh Oblast in August

    following the hostage taking there by Uzbek guerrillas will

    return to Bishkek later that day, RFE/RL's bureau in the

    capital reported. He added that reservists called up in

    August are being demobilized. Also on 20 October, an

    unidentified source in the National Security Ministry said

    Deputy Minister Valerii Verchagin traveled to Dushanbe that

    day for talks aimed at securing the release of four Japanese

    geologists still held by the guerrillas. Tajik Minister for

    Emergency Situations Mirzo Zieev and other members of the

    United Tajik Opposition helped mediate the release of several

    Kyrgyz hostages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999). LF

    [10] IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TURKMENISTAN

    Kamal Kharrazi

    headed a delegation from the Oil, Energy, and Transport

    Ministries that traveled to Ashgabat on 20 October, Reuters

    and Interfax reported. Kharrazi and President Saparmurat

    Niyazov discussed plans for cooperation in road building and

    the extraction of Caspian gas and for the export of

    electricity from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Iran. It is

    unclear whether they also discussed exports of Turkmen gas

    via Iran. Niyazov had told visiting Turkish Energy Minister

    Cumhur Ersumer two weeks ago that the topic would be on the

    agenda of their talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October

    1999). An agreement was signed on the construction of a $167

    million dam and reservoir for irrigation purposes on the

    Tedzhen River, which forms the border between the two

    countries, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6

    September 1999). LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] DJUKANOVIC SAYS MONTENEGRINS' PATIENCE RUNNING OUT...

    Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said at RFE/RL

    headquarters in Prague on 20 October that a "critical mass"

    of the Montenegrin population is determined to press ahead

    with democratization, even if this means declaring

    independence from Serbia. He noted that independence

    supporters tend to be not "romantic, old nationalists" but

    rather "impatient young people." Montenegrins have already

    "lost a decade" of political and economic development during

    the rule of Slobodan Milosevic and are determined not to lose

    any more time. The president added that Belgrade has not

    begun "to negotiate seriously" with Podgorica about

    redefining the relationship between the two republics.

    Montenegrins' patience is running out and they will not wait

    indefinitely, Djukanovic stressed. PM

    [12] ...SAYS HE'S NOT WORRIED ABOUT MILOSEVIC'S ALLIES...

    Djukanovic said that he does not believe that Milosevic's

    Montenegrin allies will try to secede from the republic or

    start a war, as did his supporters in Krajina in 1991 or in

    Bosnia in 1992. Democratic forces in Montenegro are strong

    enough to block any attempt at secession. Milosevic's backers

    there, moreover, know that he deserted his supporters in

    Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova, Djukanovic stressed. He also

    noted that the international community has "tens of

    thousands" of troops in the western Balkans and will stop

    Milosevic if he tries to start a new war. PM

    [13] ...SEES TWO PROBLEMS FACING YUGOSLAVIA...

    Djukanovic argued

    that the federation's first problem is how to strengthen

    democracy, noting that no reform is possible as long as

    Milosevic remains in office, so Montenegro does what it can

    to help the Serbian opposition. The president said that the

    second problem is Kosova. The international community

    underestimated the potential disruptive effect on the region

    of growing ethnic Albanian demands for independence. If

    Kosova becomes independent, the result is likely to be a

    series of wars to establish a greater Albania, Djukanovic

    continued. PM

    [14] ..AND SAYS MONTENEGRO BECOMING MORE DEMOCRATIC

    Djukanovic

    conceded that "democracy is not perfect" in Montenegro. He

    argued, however, that even if state television is controlled

    by his party, there are ample alternatives on the media scene

    in which others can present their views. The country will

    become more democratic as the economy improves. He stressed

    that some of Montenegro's problems with democracy stems from

    the fact that the country remains part of an undemocratic

    federation in which Montenegro is the junior partner. He

    denied that Montenegro played a key role in Milosevic's wars

    in Croatia and Bosnia, saying that all the important

    decisions are made in Belgrade. PM

    [15] INDEPENDENT RADIO BANNED IN MONTENEGRO

    Officials of the

    Telecommunications Ministry said in Podgorica on 20 October

    that Radio Free Montenegro must stop broadcasting because it

    does not have a license or the technical staff that the law

    requires of all broadcasters. Nebojsa Redzic, who heads the

    station, told reporters that the real reason the authorities

    want his radio off the air is political. In Prague,

    Djukanovic said that he learned of the closure of the station

    only that same morning. He argued that the ministry's

    decision is not final and that the station has "two months or

    so" to clear matters up with the authorities. PM

    [16] DJINDJIC FEARS ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

    Democratic Party leader

    Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade that "the secret services are

    preparing an assassination attempt against me," "Danas"

    reported on 21 October. He said that he and some of his

    friends have recently been subjected to surveillance by

    unknown persons. Djindjic recently accused Milosevic's wife

    Mira Markovic of planning to have him killed (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 19 October 1999). PM

    [17] UN INVESTIGATING OWN OFFICIALS IN SERBIAN PROPERTY SALES

    A

    UN official who requested anonymity told AP on 21 October

    that UN police are investigating reports that several fellow

    officers have persuaded Serbs to sell their property below

    market value to ethnic Albanians. AP reported that there is a

    possible business link between the men under investigation

    and a local Albanian lawyer, who drew up the sales contracts.

    PM

    [18] NATO FEARS VIGILANTE ACTION IN KOSOVA

    A spokesman for the

    Atlantic alliance said in Prishtina on 20 October that

    unknown persons have posted bogus lists of "indicted Serbian

    war criminals" allegedly signed by the former Kosova

    Liberation Army or local Albanian militias. The spokesman

    expressed fears that the presence of such lists could prompt

    ethnic Albanians "to take justice into their own hands." PM

    [19] UN BEGINS BUS SERVICE IN KOSOVA

    The UNHCR has launched a bus

    service in the Gjilan area of southern Kosova to enable non-

    Albanians to shop and go visiting, AP reported on 20 October.

    In Prishtina, the UN's Bernard Kouchner opened the

    Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims. He also signed

    into law a series of measures aimed at eliminating

    discrimination in housing and employment. PM

    [20] BELGRADE BLOCKS CIVILIAN FLIGHTS TO KOSOVA

    KFOR on 20

    October suspended civilian flights to Kosova, which had

    resumed five days earlier. The suspension comes after the

    Yugoslav authorities issued a note to airlines warning them

    not to fly into Kosova from Macedonia. A KFOR spokesman

    protested the Yugoslav move, saying that the June agreement

    between Belgrade and NATO gives KFOR exclusive control over

    Kosova's airspace. Military and humanitarian flights will

    continue. PM

    [21] BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT BACKS REFUGEE RETURN PROGRAM

    The

    caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik approved a

    program sponsored by the international community for the

    return of displaced persons between the two Bosnian entities.

    An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka on 20

    October that the program envisages the return of 10,000

    families to their former homes on what is now Bosnian Serb

    territory. PM

    [22] CROATIAN COURT RULES THAT 'TUTA' CAN GO TO HAGUE

    The

    Constitutional Court ruled on 21 October that the authorities

    did not violate the rights of indicted Bosnian Croat war

    criminal Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic during the ongoing procedure

    of extraditing him to The Hague. The decision removes the

    last legal obstacle to Tuta's extradition, Reuters reported.

    He is expected to undergo heart surgery on 22 October,

    however, and it is unclear when he will be healthy enough to

    travel. PM

    [23] OPPOSITION SLAMS TUDJMAN STAND ON ELECTIONS

    Representatives

    of the coalition of six opposition parties objected to recent

    "ambiguous" remarks by President Franjo Tudjman on whether he

    will respect the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary

    elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999). In a

    statement in Zagreb on 20 October, the opposition politicians

    said that they are "disturbed" that Tudjman failed to say

    clearly that he would appoint a prime minister from the

    opposition if the opposition wins the elections. In London,

    Croatian Social Democratic leader Ivica Racan said that

    Tudjman will help "open the door" for Croatia's integration

    into European institutions if he respects an opposition

    victory, "Jutarnji list" reported on 21 October. The ballot

    must take place by 2000 at the latest, but it is widely

    expected before Christmas. PM

    [24] CROATIAN FARMERS BLOCK KEY HIGHWAY

    An unspecified number of

    farmers blocked the Zagreb-Belgrade highway near Vukovar for

    nine hours on 20 October. The farmers demand that the

    government pay its debt for deliveries of grain and other

    agricultural products. They also want several tax breaks and

    legal measures to protect Croatian agriculture from foreign

    competition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [25] GERMANY TO PROVIDE MORE MILITARY AID TO MACEDONIA

    German

    Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Skopje on 20

    October that all Balkan countries must improve democracy as a

    first step toward increased regional stability. His

    Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Kljusev, announced that

    Germany will provide 100,000 assault rifles and machine guns,

    an unspecified quantity of anti-aircraft guns, and radar

    equipment for the fledgling Macedonian military. Germany is

    Macedonia's largest supplier of military equipment, AP

    reported. PM

    [26] MAJKO WARNS NANO OVER ALBANIAN SOCIALIST CONGRESS

    Albanian

    Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told Fatos Nano, who heads his

    Socialist Party, not to go ahead with a planned party

    congress on 22 October, AP reported from Tirana on 20

    October. Majko said that holding a congress "will bring about

    a complete division of the party," which will in turn affect

    Albania's stability. Nano wants to hold a congress in order

    to replace at least some members of the party's steering

    committee, which, he said, was not elected according to the

    rules (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). PM

    [27] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON ACCESS TO SECURITATE FILES

    Romanian legislators on 20 October passed a bill that will

    allow the public greater access to the files of the former

    communist secret police, Securitate. The new law will provide

    public access to the files of the president, parliamentary

    deputies, cabinet ministers, and other officials. The bill

    must now be signed by President Emil Constantinescu. VG

    [28] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT URGES GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE HEATING PROBLEM

    Constantinescu on 20 October called on the government to take

    immediate action to resolve the heating crisis in Romania, an

    RFE/RL correspondent reported. Hundreds of thousands of

    Romanians are without heating because they cannot afford to

    pay their bills. Since apartment buildings in Romania are

    generally connected to blocs with a common heating station,

    many Romanians who have paid their bills are also without

    heating. VG

    [29] ROMANIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR CONVICTED FOR RACIST ARTICLES

    A

    Romanian court on 20 October convicted a newspaper editor of

    violating a law against racial discrimination, AP reported.

    The court handed Mihai Bogdan Antonescu a two-year suspended

    sentence for publishing articles designed to "spread

    intolerance toward Jews," according to Mediafax. The weekly

    newspaper, "Atac la persoana," regularly described

    politicians as "dirty Jews" and contains a column titled

    "Swastika." Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica has called for an

    investigation into the weekly. VG

    [30] ROMANIAN MAYOR WANTS TO HIRE EX-SERVICEMEN TO DEAL WITH ROMA

    Piatra Neamt Mayor Ioan Rotaru said he is thinking of hiring

    two ex-servicemen from Moldova to help remove a group of

    illegal Romany occupants from two housing complexes in his

    municipality, Basa-Press reported on 20 October, citing the

    Romanian agency Mediafax. The two former soldiers have

    reportedly served in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Rotaru said he

    does not know what methods the two men will use to remove the

    Roma, but he said he is sure they will employ "legal means."

    VG

    [31] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT INSISTS ON CHANGING CONSTITUTION

    Petru

    Lucinschi on 20 October sent a letter to the leaders of four

    parliamentary factions in which he reaffirmed his

    determination to strengthen the powers of the president in

    the constitution, Infotag reported. Lucinschi said he cannot

    understand why the deputies are opposed to holding a

    referendum on the issue. He added that if the constitutional

    changes do not secure the necessary two-thirds majority in

    the parliament, he will call a referendum on the issue. VG

    [32] GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES HELP FOR BULGARIA

    Rudolf

    Scharping said his country will help Bulgaria prepare its

    armed forces for potential integration into NATO. Scharping,

    who was on a visit to Sofia, said Germany will provide

    Bulgaria with advice on trimming its military and creating a

    social security net for officers who retire. He also offered

    German assistance in modernizing Bulgaria's Soviet-made T-72

    tanks. Scharping said that military security in the Balkans

    is an important pre-condition for the region to attract

    foreign investment. VG

    [33] BULGARIAN GROUP CITES IRREGULARITIES IN LOCAL ELECTIONS

    The

    Citizens' Initiative for Free and Democratic Elections on 20

    October noted that an average of 7 percent of ballots cast in

    local elections across Bulgaria last week were declared

    invalid, BTA reported. In districts with a mixed ethnic

    population, more than 10 percent of all ballots were invalid.

    Mikhail Mirchev, a member of the initiative, said the

    relatively complex voting procedure cannot have been

    responsible for such a high number of invalid ballots. He

    attributed the large percentages to ballot manipulations. The

    initiative also remarked that it has never taken so long to

    count the votes in an election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18

    October 1999). VG


    [C] END NOTE

    [34] MUCH ADO ABOUT UNITY

    by Julie A. Corwin

    If Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is Russian President

    Boris Yeltsin's anointed successor, then the newly registered

    interregional group Unity represents his bloc of choice for

    December's State Duma elections. Putin himself attended

    Unity's founding congress on 3 October as a guest, while

    First Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff Igor Shabdurasulov

    said that the bloc has "unequivocal support" from Yeltsin's

    staff. And one of the most popular and longest-lasting member

    of Putin's government, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu,

    has been tapped as its head.

    Although predictions of the bloc's success in upcoming

    State Duma elections vary widely, the bloc may have already

    achieved what most analysts believe to be its raison d'etre:

    chipping away support for the popular Fatherland-All Russia

    (OVR) alliance. In a recent interview with "Segodnya," Andrei

    Fedorov of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies

    explained that Unity's "first task is to put Fatherland-All

    Russia out of action and if possible, take 10 percent of the

    vote from them, thus pushing them into third place in the

    parliament, and after that it is supposed to try to become a

    springboard for the Kremlin's candidate for president."

    If reports of its membership can be trusted, Unity has

    already struck at core OVR interests by luring away four of

    its members, including Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii

    Nazdratenko. In fact, more than half of the governors who

    have reportedly joined Unity were already aligned with other

    political parties or movements: besides the four former OVR

    members, the group includes six former members of Voice of

    Russia, which is headed by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov.

    In addition, five governors out of the seven enrolled in

    former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is

    Russia (NDR) have expressed their wish for membership in both

    groups, while a sixth, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, has

    expressed his willingness to support Unity and has actively

    sought a merger of the NDR with Unity.

    Also, Unity already appears to be acting as a bloc

    within the Federation Council and can therefore counter any

    OVR-backed efforts there. Consider the recent Kremlin-

    initiated vote in the upper legislative chamber to oust

    suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. The voting was

    kept secret, but in interviews with senators that

    "Kommersant-Daily," Russian Public Television, and NTV

    conducted after balloting, all of the regional leaders

    expressing support for Skuratov's dismissal, except one, were

    members of Unity. Meanwhile, some of the most vocal

    supporters for retaining Skuratov were OVR members, such as

    Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov.

    However, Unity's failure to align with the NDR has

    prompted some analysts to conclude that the bloc will not

    capture enough votes in the Duma election to enter the lower

    legislative chamber. Unity officials claimed that NDR imposed

    too many preconditions, while NDR faction leader Vladimir

    Ryzhkov argued that NDR members resisted the union, despite

    Kremlin pressure, because Unity lacks a coherent political

    philosophy. NDR head Viktor Chernomyrdin put it this way:

    Unity "has no ideology," it has only business magnate Boris

    Berezovskii.

    While Berezovskii has denied that he was behind Unity's

    creation, as has Unity head Shoigu, Unity member and Governor

    of Kursk Aleksandr Rutskoi has acknowledged Berezovskii's

    involvement. Also, coverage of the movement in his media

    holdings suggests that Berezovskii has at least a mild

    interest in the bloc's good fortunes. In its reporting on

    Unity, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" has stressed the movement's

    successful recruitment efforts and alignments with smaller

    political parties and organizations following the failure of

    efforts to merge with the NDR.

    Such coverage contrasts sharply with the picture

    depicted in media owned by rival oligarch Vladimir

    Gusinskii's Media Most group or in newspapers close to Moscow

    Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, the head of Fatherland. "Segodnya" and

    "Moskovskii komsomolets" have reported Kremlin pressure on

    governors to join Unity, while "Obshchaya gazeta" claimed in

    its most recent issue that according to its sources, which it

    did not identify, only six or seven governors have actually

    joined Unity. EWI's "Russian Regional Report" puts the tally

    of governors affiliated with Unity at 28, including the five

    members of the NDR who will maintain dual allegiance.

    Some skepticism about Unity's membership list is perhaps

    natural, since little seems to unite its diverse members.

    Even the top three names on that list present an odd

    assortment of philosophies and professions: Emergencies

    Minister Shoigu, former NDR member and Olympic wrestler

    Aleksandr Karelin, and former top cop Aleksandr Gurov. Gurov,

    the current head of the security department of Tepkobank, is

    the former head of the Department Combating Organized Crime

    at the Interior Ministry and has expressed his support for

    General Aleksandr Lebed many times.

    Even more striking for a Kremlin-backed bloc are the

    names of Rutskoi and Nazdratenko. Unity's congress occurred

    on the sixth anniversary of the day Rutskoi, at the time

    Yeltsin's vice president, called on Russian troopers to storm

    Ostankino, while President Yeltsin has tried to remove

    Nazdratenko and only this year recalled his envoy from

    Primorskii Krai, whose main task was to rein in the governor.

    It is possible that these Yeltsin's foes have been drawn to a

    Kremlin-backed grouping for the same reason that one Chukotka

    official claims his governor has signed on: additional

    financial aid from the center. OVR members, on the hand, will

    presumably have to wait until after the election.

    21-10-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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