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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 209, 00-10-27

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. 4, No. 209, 27 October 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES AUSTERITY BUDGET
  • [02] ARMENIAN STUDENTS PROTEST WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. GENOCIDE BILL...
  • [03] ...AS PRESIDENT SAYS ARMENIA WILL CONTINUE TO CAMPAIGN FOR GENOCIDE RECOGNITION
  • [04] AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL, OPPOSITION LEADER EXCHANGE CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
  • [05] FORMER AZERBAIJANI COMMUNIST LEADER DIES
  • [06] KYRGYZSTAN PREPARES TO REELECT PRESIDENT...
  • [07] ...AS REPORTS DIFFER OF EXTENT OF PRETERM POLLING
  • [08] KYRGYZSTAN CELEBRATES VICTORY OVER ISLAMISTS
  • [09] CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN TAJIKISTAN
  • [10] TAJIKISTAN TO INTRODUCE NEW CURRENCY
  • [11] TURKMEN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES ANOTHER AMNESTY
  • [12] UZBEK BY-ELECTION RESULTS MADE PUBLIC

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] KOSOVA TO VOTE TOMORROW
  • [14] KOSOVA'S SERBS WANT OWN ELECTIONS
  • [15] SCHARPING: KOSOVA IS LONG-TERM PROJECT
  • [16] KOSTUNICA SAYS CBS TOOK REMARKS ON SERBIAN WAR CRIMES 'OUT OF CONTEXT'
  • [17] CBS SAYS YUGOSLAV LEADER BACKTRACKING
  • [18] YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA OPPOSES 'SOVIET, AMERICAN TOTALITARIANISM'
  • [19] FORMER SERBIAN LEADER'S DIPLOMAT BROTHER DOES NOT APPEAR
  • [20] VETERAN SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER NAMED FOREIGN MINISTER
  • [21] NO PARDON FOR KOSOVAR ACTIVIST
  • [22] MONTENEGRINS SEEK UNION OF INDEPENDENT STATES
  • [23] SCHROEDER, PRODI: AID FOR SERBIA NOT AT CROATIA'S EXPENSE
  • [24] HOLBROOKE WANTS BOSNIAN FEDERAL CAPITAL IN MOSTAR
  • [25] EXIT SLOVENIA'S BAJUK GOVERNMENT
  • [26] THIRTEEN CANDIDATES TO CONTEST ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY
  • [27] GOVERNMENT TO COMPENSATE FAMILIES FOR HEATING COSTS
  • [28] BULGARIAN PREMIER OUSTS DISSENTERS FROM HIS PARTY
  • [29] BULGARIA TO USE RUSSIAN MONEY TO UPGRADE NUCLEAR PLANT
  • [30] BULGARIA TO SEND ELECTRICITY TO YUGOSLAVIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] MINI-PUTINS AIMING FOR NEW STATE ORDER?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES AUSTERITY BUDGET

    The government on 26 October approved the main indicators of the 2001 draft budget, including a 62 billion dram ($115 million) deficit, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The draft sets revenues at 205 billion drams and expenditures at 301 billion drams. GDP growth is set at 6.5 percent. according to Noyan Tapan. The parliament is scheduled to begin debating the draft next week. Ministers also approved spending cuts amounting to 9 billion drams in this year's budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). LF

    [02] ARMENIAN STUDENTS PROTEST WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. GENOCIDE BILL...

    Hundreds of students participated in a protest organized by the youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun against the U.S. House of Representatives' decision last week to cancel a vote on a resolution recognizing as genocide the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). The protesters marched to the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan and handed to embassy staff a letter to House speaker Dennis Hastert protesting the move and expressing the hope that Congress will eventually pass the bill. They also chanted anti-Turkish slogans and burned a Turkish flag. LF

    [03] ...AS PRESIDENT SAYS ARMENIA WILL CONTINUE TO CAMPAIGN FOR GENOCIDE RECOGNITION

    Meeting on 25 October with members of the Armenian Assembly of America Trustee Council, President Robert Kocharian assured them that Yerevan will continue its "consistent activities" aimed at winning international recognition of the genocide, Noyan Tapan and Interfax reported. Kocharian praised the efforts of the Armenian diaspora to win such recognition, which he said has both moral and political significance for Armenia. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL, OPPOSITION LEADER EXCHANGE CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

    In an election campaign address on Azerbaijani state television on 25 October, Ilham Aliev, who is the son of the Azerbaijani president and a leading member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, implicated opposition party leaders Etibar Mamedov (Azerbaijan National Independence Party), Rasul Guliev (Democratic Party of Azerbaijan), and Ali Kerimov (who heads the reformist wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party) in financial corruption, Turan reported. Guliev, for his part, said in an election campaign broadcast the same day that the present Azerbaijani leadership misappropriates some $2 billion per year, according to Turan. He added that all potential foreign investors in Azerbaijan need to secure Ilham Aliev's approval and support. "We want to come to power to liberate you from arbitrariness, poverty, and lawlessness," Guliev told voters. LF

    [05] FORMER AZERBAIJANI COMMUNIST LEADER DIES

    Kyamran Bagirov, who succeeded Heidar Aliev as first secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan in November 1982, died in Baku on 25 October at the age of 68, Turan reported. Bagirov and his Armenian counterpart, Suren Harutiunian, were both dismissed "on health grounds" in May 1988 at the initial stage of the campaign for the transfer of the then Nagorno- Karabakh Autonomous Oblast to Armenian jurisdiction. LF

    [06] KYRGYZSTAN PREPARES TO REELECT PRESIDENT...

    Kyrgyzstan's 2.5 million electorate will vote on 29 October in a presidential poll in which none of the five opposition challengers is considered to stand a chance of preventing incumbent President Askar Akaev from being reelected for a third term. Akaev has headed the country since 1991. Fourteen other hopefuls failed to qualify for registration. Some failed the mandatory Kyrgyz language test, while former Vice President and Bishkek mayor Feliks Kulov refused to sit that test, saying it was imposed for purely political reasons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). LF

    [07] ...AS REPORTS DIFFER OF EXTENT OF PRETERM POLLING

    Election campaign helpers for opposition candidates businessman Almaz Atembaev and People's Party leader Melis Eshimkanov estimated on 26 October that up to 400,000 people have already cast their ballots, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They say that local authorities, rather than local election officials, are pressuring people to vote early. The Central Electoral Commission estimates the level of preterm voting as far lower. Eshimkanov has brought a lawsuit against the independent Piramida TV station after it refused on 16 October to air election propaganda for any candidate except Akaev. LF

    [08] KYRGYZSTAN CELEBRATES VICTORY OVER ISLAMISTS

    Kyrgyz President Akaev and Defense Minister Esen Topoev attended a victory parade in Bishkek on 26 October to mark the successful expulsion from the country of groups of Islamist militants who invaded Kyrgyzstan from neighboring Tajikistan in August and September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev announced that he will donate some $20,000 of a Russian peace prize he was awarded two days earlier to the families of the 34 Kyrgyz troops killed during the fighting. LF

    [09] CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN TAJIKISTAN

    The defense ministers of all CIS states except Georgia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Moldova met in Dushanbe on 26 October to discuss future military cooperation and the planned joint CIS air defense system, ITAR- TASS reported. They agreed to end the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan, but not to withdraw those predominantly Russian troops from that country. They also discussed candidates to succeed Lieutenant-General Sergei Korobko as commander of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed on the Georgian-Abkhaz border, according to Caucasus Press. Addressing the session, Safar Abiev of Azerbaijan said Armenian-Russian military cooperation poses "a real threat" to stability in the South Caucasus, Interfax reported. He noted that Russia has taken no measures in response to earlier complaints by Baku about Russian arms supplies to Armenia. LF

    [10] TAJIKISTAN TO INTRODUCE NEW CURRENCY

    Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov announced in Dushanbe on 26 October that a new currency, the somoni, will be introduced on 30 October to replace the Tajik ruble, Interfax reported. The ruble will remain legal tender for a further five months during which the two currencies will be exchanged at a rate of 1:1. Rakhmonov said the introduction of the new currency is intended to strengthen the national banking system. Interfax quoted an unnamed IMF representative as saying that the Fund supports the introduction of the new currency which it believes will contribute to macroenomic stability and expedite the transition to a market economy. LF

    [11] TURKMEN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES ANOTHER AMNESTY

    Saparmurat Niyazov has announced a further amnesty to take effect in December, acording to Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 October. Some 10,000 of an estimated 22,000 prsion inmates, most of them women, elderly people or persons convicted for the first time, will be eligible. A similar amnesty was announced one year ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1999). LF

    [12] UZBEK BY-ELECTION RESULTS MADE PUBLIC

    In by-elections in six constituencies on 22 October, the National- Democratic Party Fidorkorlar won two seats and the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan one, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 26 October quoting Uzbekistan's Central Electoral Commission. The remaining three seats went to candidates nominated by public organizations. Fidorkorlar remains the largest parliament faction with 51 mandates, while the People's Democratic Party now has 49. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] KOSOVA TO VOTE TOMORROW

    Hashim Thaci, who is a former commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) turned politician, told some 30,000 supporters of his Democratic Party of Kosova in Prishtina on 26 October that any return of Serbian forces to the province is "unacceptable" and would lead to "appropriate consequences," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that "we did not fight to make changes in Belgrade. Kosova has its own identity...and will be independent," AP reported. Kosovars vote in local elections on 28 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). Thaci and several other prominent former UCK veterans hope that the recent changes in Serbia will prompt voters to favor hard-line candidates over the moderates around Ibrahim Rugova and his Democratic League of Kosova. Some 900,000 registered voters will select 920 officials in 30 communities under the eyes of 4,000 election monitors. PM

    [14] KOSOVA'S SERBS WANT OWN ELECTIONS

    Few Kosovar Serbs and no Serbian political parties registered earlier this year for the 28 October elections. Many Serbs said during the voter registration that they doubt that voting could take place under sufficiently safe and secure conditions. Press reports also suggested that hard-liners and agents of the former Belgrade regime put pressure on local Serbs not to register. In view of the recent changes in Serbia, however, Kosovar Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic said in Prishtina on 26 October that "we have requested that local elections for the Serbs be organized, and in this way we can get legitimate Serbian leaders," AP reported. He criticized the 28 October vote as divisive. UN spokeswoman Susan Manuel said, however, that the Serbs had every opportunity to register and participate in the upcoming ballot. PM

    [15] SCHARPING: KOSOVA IS LONG-TERM PROJECT

    German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping told a conference in Bern, Switzerland that one of the lessons of the 1999 Kosova conflict is that U.S. involvement in NATO and Europe was and remains essential, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 27 October. His remarks were apparently directed at some elements within his own Social Democratic Party (SPD) as much as at the audience in Bern (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 October 2000). Scharping added that a Western presence will be necessary in Kosova for a long time to come. In response to remarks by former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that NATO has not been able to control crime in Kosova, Scharping responded that the crime rate in Kosova is lower than that in Moscow. PM

    [16] KOSTUNICA SAYS CBS TOOK REMARKS ON SERBIAN WAR CRIMES 'OUT OF CONTEXT'

    The office of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica issued a statement on 26 October in which it said that the U.S. CBS television network recently took his remarks on Serbian war crimes "out of context" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). His statements to the "60 Minutes II" news program were widely hailed as the first admission by a Serbian leader of guilt for atrocities committed by Serbian forces during the conflicts launched by former President Slobodan Milosevic. The statement from Kostunica's office said that CBS had taped some 100 minutes of an interview with him. Of that, the broadcaster used "only a few minutes...and even that was taken completely out of context." Without elaborating, the statement claimed that the excerpt used by CBS contained "a series of untruths and words which President Kostunica did not use. [In view of the wide publicity the CBS program has received in the media, it] could have inflicted much political damage on the president and the forces leading the democratization in Yugoslavia." PM

    [17] CBS SAYS YUGOSLAV LEADER BACKTRACKING

    AP reported from Belgrade that unnamed Yugoslav officials refused to elaborate on the statement and that Kostunica's chief of staff "was unavailable" for comment. CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley, who conducted the interview with the president, told the news agency on 26 October that the broadcast was "absolutely fair." Pelley added that he recognizes that Kostunica "is trying to stabilize a government with enemies conspiring all around him. When he took the courageous steps to be frank in our interview, I think he knew that telling the truth was going to cause trouble for him." Kostunica nonetheless "was very evasive, particularly on the question [of whether he will arrest Milosevic]. We had to go back to him again and again and again to get a straight answer," Pelley noted. PM

    [18] YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA OPPOSES 'SOVIET, AMERICAN TOTALITARIANISM'

    Before his departure for Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin on 27 October (see Part I above), Kostunica told the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency that "we shall expand and deepen our relations both with the East and the West on the basis of mutual advantage. I am sure that within this rational framework it is possible to strengthen friendly relations between Yugoslavia and Russia." Kostunica said that he feels linked to Russia in "creed, culture, literature, especially the classical literature of the 19th century, [and] handicraft--all that makes us [part of] the Slavonic world outlook." The Yugoslav president singled out "the latest period of the creative work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn." He shares with Solzhenitsyn his disillusionment with the totalitarian societies of this century, "both the Soviet and American ones," Kostunica added. The president noted that "this does not mean that I agree with all his ideas. I only agree with his critical stand and support his quest" for truth. PM

    [19] FORMER SERBIAN LEADER'S DIPLOMAT BROTHER DOES NOT APPEAR

    In an interview with Russian ORT television on 26 October, Kostunica said that he appreciates Russia's recognition of the democratic changes in Yugoslavia, adding, however, that the recognition "came somewhat slower than we would have liked." Kostunica also said that NATO should "definitely compensate" Serbia for damages stemming from the 1999 bombing campaign. Putin said in recent interviews that the West should compensate Serbia but did not mention the recent flurry of aid pledges from the EU, individual West European countries, the U.S., or Japan, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 27 October, ORT reported that Yugoslav Ambassador to Russia Boro Milosevic, who is the brother of Slobodan, was not present at the airport to greet Kostunica. ORT added that the ambassador had returned to Belgrade. It is widely believed in Serbia that one of Boro Milosevic's primary tasks in Moscow was to supervise the investment and banking of the ill-gotten Milosevic family fortune. PM

    [20] VETERAN SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER NAMED FOREIGN MINISTER

    The leaders of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia have agreed that Citizens' Alliance leader Goran Svilanovic will be the new Yugoslav foreign minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 26 October. The justice minister will Novi Sad's Professor Momcilo Grubac. Zoran Zivkovic, who is the mayor of Nis, will become interior minister. PM

    [21] NO PARDON FOR KOSOVAR ACTIVIST

    Outgoing Yugoslav Justice Minister Petar Jojic said in Belgrade on 26 October that he will not pardon imprisoned Kosovar rights activist Flora Brovina, as Kostunica recently requested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). Jojic stressed that Kostunica gave him no reason why she should be pardoned, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Over 700 Kosovars are being held in Serbian prisons, including Brovina and student leader Albin Kurti. PM

    [22] MONTENEGRINS SEEK UNION OF INDEPENDENT STATES

    Members of Montenegro's governing coalition will propose to Serbian leaders in Belgrade on 27 October that the two states form a union but only as two internationally recognized independent countries, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica the previous evening. In Bucharest at the Stability Pact meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000), Montenegrin representative Ranko Krivokapic said that diplomats from Belgrade have no right to speak for Montenegro but only for Serbia. He hailed what he called "Serbia's admission to the pact." He said that separate Serbian and Montenegrin membership in the pact is the only way to ensure that Montenegro receives its fair share of the assistance, "Pobjeda" reported. PM

    [23] SCHROEDER, PRODI: AID FOR SERBIA NOT AT CROATIA'S EXPENSE

    German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told Croatian President Stipe Mesic in Berlin on 26 October that international efforts to help Yugoslavia will not be at the expense of Croatia and other states in the region. On behalf of the EU, President of the European Commission Romano Prodi made a similar pledge to Mesic by telephone, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Mesic and many others in the region are concerned that the West will not subject Belgrade to the same clear conditions for acceptance into Euro-Atlantic structures as it has Serbia's neighbors, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM

    [24] HOLBROOKE WANTS BOSNIAN FEDERAL CAPITAL IN MOSTAR

    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said in Mostar on 26 October that he stands by the view he expressed at the 1995 Dayton peace conference that Mostar should become the capital of the mainly Muslim and Croat federation, "Oslobodjenje" reported. Holbrooke called for continued efforts to overcome the division and underdevelopment of the city. PM

    [25] EXIT SLOVENIA'S BAJUK GOVERNMENT

    Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk presided over the last session of his center- right government on 26 October. Right down to its last day, the government was concerned primarily with personnel issues, "Delo" reported. The new parliament holds its opening session on 27 October. Coalition talks among party leaders are continuing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2000). PM

    [26] THIRTEEN CANDIDATES TO CONTEST ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY

    Nine candidates representing political parties or associations and four independent ones have formally registered to participate in the 26 November presidential election, Romanian media reported. The last day for registering was 25 October. The Party of Social Democracy chairman and former president, Ion Iliescu, is the leading candidate, with the main challengers being Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu and National Liberal Party candidate Theodor Stolojan. This race includes the first female candidate and there is also an aristocrat running, Prince Paul Philippe de Hohenzollern. This is the first time the incumbent president will not run for a second term. President Emil Constantinescu decided last July not to participate in the race. ZsM

    [27] GOVERNMENT TO COMPENSATE FAMILIES FOR HEATING COSTS

    The Romanian government on 25 October decided to raise the amount of compensation for central heating costs for families with small incomes, Mediafax reported. The government will allocate a monthly amount of 370 billion lei (some $15 million) to compensate 1,340,000 poor families with 130,000 and 450,000 lei each, depending upon their need. Due to high heating costs and low efficiency, many Romanians decided to cut their apartments off from the central heating network and have installed their own heating devices. ZsM

    [28] BULGARIAN PREMIER OUSTS DISSENTERS FROM HIS PARTY

    Ivan Kostov forced two senior members of his party to resign on 26 October after they called for his resignation, AP reported. "I am not at a wedding party, where a drunken reveller can tell me to get out," said Kostov. "I will bear my responsibilities to the end." Hristo Bisserov, chief secretary of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and head of the parliamentary commission on national security, and Yordan Tsonev, a member of the UDF's ruling body and chairman of the parliamentary commission on budget and finance, quit after a party meeting confirmed strong support for Kostov. In an interview published in the daily "Trud" on 26 October, Bisserov had said "Ivan Kostov must leave the executive." PB

    [29] BULGARIA TO USE RUSSIAN MONEY TO UPGRADE NUCLEAR PLANT

    Russia's Export-Import Bank Rosexim said on 26 October that it will provide an $80 million loan to help Bulgaria modernize two reactors at its controversial Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Reuters reported. Finance Minister Muravei Radev said the loan will help further upgrade the plant to Western European standards. The work on Kozloduy--which supplies nearly half of the country's power--will be carried out by a consortium made up of German, French, and Russian companies. The 15-year loan has a five year grace period and carries a 7.5 percent annual interest rate. PB

    [30] BULGARIA TO SEND ELECTRICITY TO YUGOSLAVIA

    Bulgaria's National Electricity Company said on 26 October that it will begin supplying 5 million kilowatt hours of power to Yugoslavia in November, Reuters reported. Vast areas of Yugoslavia were left without electricity on 25 October after a failure at a power plant near Belgrade. Ivan Shilyashki, the head of Bulgaria's State Energy Agency, said the contract will continue through the end of the year and could be extended until April, if necessary. PB

    [C] END NOTE

    [31] MINI-PUTINS AIMING FOR NEW STATE ORDER?

    By Julie A. Corwin

    Almost half a year has passed since President Vladimir Putin appointed seven envoys to his newly created federal districts. While the Magnificent Seven have only a few accomplishments to their credit, it is already clear what at least some of them hope to create: a new state order in which the seven federal districts constitute a bureaucratic layer separating Russia's 89 federation subjects from Moscow. If their wish becomes reality, the seven federal districts will have their own media, their own long-term economic plans, and their own State Councils. The envoys' ability to achieve these goals remains questionable, however.

    To date, the presidential representatives appear to have done little other than set up offices, hire personnel, gather facts about their regions, and organize meetings and conferences. But their public comments reveal how they see their jobs evolving. Currently, they have four key tasks: ensuring that regional laws conform with federal legislation, overseeing cadre issues, developing economic strategies for their macro-regions, and organizing new bureaucratic and other structures at the new district level, including media organizations.

    Each envoy has already presented to the regions within his district a list of local laws that do not conform with federal legislation. However, on cadre issues, they have moved more slowly, possibly because they anticipate a stronger negative reaction. In the Urals district, envoy Petr Latyshev dismissed the head of a customs office in Yekaterinburg and is reportedly preparing to dismiss a local prosecutor and police chief as well. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel called Latyshev's moves inadmissible "muscle-flexing." Latyshev responded that he was given the right to make such appointments and intends to keep doing so.

    In the longer term, the envoys hope to concern themselves with their macro- regions' economic development. Latyshev reported that at a meeting last month, President Vladimir Putin advised the envoys to establish Centers for Strategic Development in their districts' capitals, along the lines of the Moscow-based think-tank of the same name. As head of that center, Minister for Economic Trade and Development German Gref coordinated the drafting of a 10-year economic plan for Russia. Presumably, the districts' seven centers will each draft such a long-term development plan.

    But judging from the envoys' statements, they consider a key ingredient to economic success to be getting the regions to regard themselves as smaller units of a larger whole, namely, the federal district. In a recent interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta," presidential representative to the Northwest district Viktor Cherkesov complained that one problem with the local media, particularly newspapers, is that 80 percent of coverage is about local news and 20 percent about national developments but there is no information at all about neighboring regions. He noted that "for the development of large business, it is necessary to push forward business information beyond an oblast's or republic's borders."

    Cherkesov was one of the first envoys to suggest the creation of district- level media with district-wide broadcasting and distribution capabilities, but others soon followed. Latyshev, for example, recently hosted a conference on how to create a "single information space" in Russia's federal districts.

    District-wide media, however, is only part of a much larger plan. Soon after his appointment, Putin's envoy to Siberia, Leonid Drachevskii, announced he is forming a council of all leaders of the regions in his district. And this month, Georgii Poltavchenko, envoy to the Central district, announced the formation of a similar council in his district. According to Poltavchenko, analogous bodies are being planned in the remaining federal districts. These new mini-State Councils will co-exist with district level entities of Sberbank, Rostelecom, and the All Russia State Television and Radio Company.

    Almost as soon as the new office of presidential envoy was created, analysts queried what powers--if any--those envoys would be given to enforce their will. Khakasia Republic President Aleksei Lebed recently suggested that the new envoys are mostly "paper lions" and that regional leaders cooperate with them only when it suits them. However, Rossel's negative reaction to Latyshev's dismissing some of his local appointees suggests the paper lions do have teeth. In fact, the ability to hire and fire local officials may be one of the envoy's most effective weapons, undercutting regional leaders' ability to distribute jobs and contracts to their local associates and thus diminishing the leaders' influence over local elites.

    And the ultimate weapon--control over money--may soon become part of the envoys' arsenal. Far East Envoy Konstantin Pulikovskii recently declared that envoys will have the ability to "guarantee" the transfer of federal monies to the regions. He also suggested that the envoys will ensure those monies are used properly.

    Meanwhile, presidential envoy to the Volga region Sergei Kirienko suggested in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" this week that rather than being given more powers, the office of the presidential envoys may simply fade away. At the same time, he maintained that the system of seven districts is needed to make the Russian Federation more governable. Therefore, the number of district-level organizations and personnel may continue to proliferate. If that happens, it may become increasingly clear that the Kremlin's aim is to create a new hierarchy in which regional leaders are bumped down in the chain of command.

    Soon regional leaders will be deprived of their forum at the Federation Council. But they may have at least one comforting thought: one level below them will remain, namely that of city leaders. These officials, with few weapons at their disposal, have battled against the governors for their fair share of tax proceeds--usually in vain.

    27-10-00


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


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