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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 120, 00-06-21

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. 4, No. 120, 21 June 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] LAWYER DENIES ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECTS ACTED TO
  • [02] KARABAKH ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCED...
  • [03] ...AS AZERBAIJAN SAYS POLL WAS INVALID
  • [04] SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS DISCUSS REGIONAL CONFLICTS WITH
  • [05] PUTIN SOFTENS RHETORIC TOWARD GEORGIA
  • [06] NEW GEORGIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER OUTLINES REFORM PROPOSALS
  • [07] ADJARIA AGAIN ON COLISION COURSE WITH TBILISI
  • [08] LARGE WEAPONS CACHE DISCOVERED IN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [09] CIS PEACEKEEPING OPERATION IN TAJIKISTAN TO BE TERMINATED

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] DEL PONTE: KOSOVARS MAY FACE WAR CRIMES CHARGES
  • [11] HOLBROOKE SLAMS HAGUE TRIBUNAL'S CRITICS
  • [12] HAGUE'S JORDA WARNS AGAINST DEAL WITH MILOSEVIC
  • [13] MONTENEGRO CHARGES SIX IN DRASKOVIC CASE...
  • [14] ...PRESENTS EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM
  • [15] DRASKOVIC WAITS IN MONTENEGRO
  • [16] SERBIAN COUPLE SHOT IN PRISHTINA
  • [17] SERBIAN AUTHORITIES TAKE MORE STEPS AGAINST OPPOSITION
  • [18] EU: ALL BALKAN STATES ARE POTENTIAL CANDIDATES
  • [19] CROATIA READY FOR EU'S SECOND ROUND OF EXPANSION?
  • [20] MACEDONIAN DRUG HAUL
  • [21] MOSTAR BUS LINKS BOTH HALVES OF TOWN
  • [22] PADDED ACCOUNTS IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA?
  • [23] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION'S VICTORY IN LOCAL ELECTIONS RUNOFF
  • [24] ...BUT PEASANT PARTY LEADER REFUSES TO STEP DOWN
  • [25] EUROPEAN COURT TO EXAMINE MOLDOVAN COMPLAINTS
  • [26] NATO COMMANDER PAYS 'SURPRISE VISIT' TO BULGARIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [27] THE NEW CENTRALIZER

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] LAWYER DENIES ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECTS ACTED TO

    ORDER

    Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen who shot

    eight people dead in the Armenian parliament building on 27

    October, continues to maintain that he was not acting on

    anyone's instructions, his lawyer, Artashes Pahlavuni, told

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 20 June. The military

    investigators charged with the case initially assumed that

    the gunmen were acting on orders and that the shootings were

    intended as part of a coup attempt. Pahlavuni said Hunanian

    has compiled a 100-page testimony expanding on his initial

    statement that desperation and anger at the deteriorating

    economic situation prompted him to mastermind the killing of

    Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian. The investigation into the

    shootings is expected to be completed shortly, but the trial

    of Hunanian, his four accomplices, and several persons

    accused of abetting them is unlikely to begin before October.

    LF

    [02] KARABAKH ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCED...

    Sergei Davidian, who

    heads the Central Electoral Commission of the unrecognized

    Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has confirmed the preliminary

    results of the parliamentary poll two days earlier, ITAR-TASS

    reported on 20 June. Of the 33 deputies, all of whom were

    elected in single-mandate constituencies, 13 represent the

    Democratic Artsakh party, which supports the leadership of

    President Arkadii Ghukasian, Nine are from the Armenian

    Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun, one belongs to the

    center-right Armenakan party, and the remainder are

    independents, most of whom support Ghukasian. Of the 19

    deputies to the outgoing parliament who contested the poll,

    six were re-elected, including speaker Oleg Esayan. Davidian

    said that the poll was valid but conceded there were

    inaccuracies in voter lists. LF

    [03] ...AS AZERBAIJAN SAYS POLL WAS INVALID

    In a statement

    published in the official newspaper "Bakinskii rabochii" on

    20 June, Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission said the

    Karabakh poll was not valid as the enclave's former

    Azerbaijani population were not able to cast ballots, AFP

    reported. In 1988, Azerbaijanis accounted for approximately

    20 percent of the population of the Nagorno-Karabakh

    Autonomous Oblast. The statement described the poll as "an

    attempt to give an air of legitimacy to a criminal regime."

    LF

    [04] SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS DISCUSS REGIONAL CONFLICTS WITH

    PUTIN

    Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his

    Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, met one-on-one in

    Moscow on 20 June ahead of the CIS summit and then jointly

    with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the Karabakh

    conflict, Russian and Azerbaijani agencies reported. No

    details of those talks were disclosed. Georgian President

    Eduard Shevardnadze later joined the three heads of states

    for talks on regional conflicts, strengthening security in

    the South Caucasus, and cooperating to fight international

    terrorism, according to Interfax. In a joint statement, the

    four presidents "expressed their readiness to consider

    specific steps for settling bilateral and multilateral

    relations, which will provide for the regulation of the

    conflicts in the region," Caucasus Press reported. They also

    welcomed international initiatives aimed at expediting a

    solution to those conflicts. The four presidents pledged to

    meet regularly at least twice a year on the sidelines of CIS

    summits. LF

    [05] PUTIN SOFTENS RHETORIC TOWARD GEORGIA

    In a separate meeting

    with Georgian President Shevardnadze, Putin hinted that

    Russia may reconsider its proposal last November to introduce

    a visa regime with Georgia, Caucasus Press reported (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1999). Putin said Russia "does

    not want to create difficulties" for residents of the two

    countries by doing so. He also said that Moscow is ready to

    consider Georgian proposals on rescheduling payments of its

    debts. Putin said Moscow is interested in a swift settlement

    of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts as stability in

    the Caucasus is beneficial to Russia. Both presidents greeted

    the decision of the CIS foreign ministers, who met in Moscow

    on 20 June, to extend until 31 December the mandate of the

    CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia. Putin and Shevardnadze

    also agreed on the need to continue talks on the terms of the

    withdrawal of Russia's military bases from Georgia. LF

    [06] NEW GEORGIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER OUTLINES REFORM PROPOSALS

    Meeting on 20 June with ministry staff, Davit Kirvalidze

    warned that he intends to replace his deputies and advisers

    and to implement structural reform within the ministry,

    Caucasus Press reported. He said that he envisages the

    ministry as flexible and working "on European principles" to

    provide prompt and effective assistance to Georgia's farmers.

    Kirvalidze also hinted that he will lobby for a reduction of

    value-added tax on agricultural produce, noting that the

    present rate of 20 percent is a deterrent to small farmers to

    increase production. LF

    [07] ADJARIA AGAIN ON COLISION COURSE WITH TBILISI

    In a move that

    may exacerbate longstanding tensions between Adjaria and the

    central Georgian government, Adjar Supreme Council chairman

    Aslan Abashidze told journalists in Batumi on 20 June that he

    intends to raise customs duties to compensate for the revenue

    shortfall in the national budget, Caucasus Press reported.

    Georgian Minister for Economic, Trade and Industry Vano

    Chkhartishvili commented that altering customs tariffs is the

    prerogative of the national parliament. LF

    [08] LARGE WEAPONS CACHE DISCOVERED IN KYRGYZSTAN

    Kyrgyz border

    guards have discovered more than 3 tons of arms hidden near

    the village of Khadji-Achkhan in Batken Oblast, Interfax

    reported on 20 June. The cache included four grenade

    launchers, several missile launchers, and a large number of

    anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. LF

    [09] CIS PEACEKEEPING OPERATION IN TAJIKISTAN TO BE TERMINATED

    The CIS Council of Foreign Ministers decided at its meeting

    in Moscow on 20 June not to renew the mandate of the CIS

    peacekeeping force deployed in Tajikistan since 1993, Russian

    agencies reported. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, who heads

    the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International

    Military Cooperation, said that peace process in Tajikistan

    has reached a stage where peacekeeping activities need to be

    replaced by concerted efforts by the country's police and

    armed forces to combat "international terrorism" and

    "extremism." Kyrgyz Presidential spokesman Osmonakun Ibraimov

    had told journalists in Bishkek the previous day that

    Kyrgyzstan would like the CIS peacekeeping force to remain in

    Tajikistan "to provide security and stability" in Central

    Asia, Interfax reported. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] DEL PONTE: KOSOVARS MAY FACE WAR CRIMES CHARGES

    Carla Del

    Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war

    crimes tribunal, said in Prishtina on 21 June that "we are

    investigating [Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK)] activity

    during the [1998-1999] conflict. Our mandate is always to

    look at the highest responsibility in the chain of command,

    and that is also the case for the [UCK]," AP reported. She

    mentioned that her experts are investigating five specific

    incidents, but she did not elaborate. She noted that

    prosecutors are considering "additional indictments of Serbs

    and non-Serbs, especially [ethnic] Albanians." Referring to

    Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Del Ponte said that

    her investigators are "also investigating the criminal

    responsibility of Milosevic for [the wars in] Bosnia and

    Croatia." She mentioned the "possibility of further

    counts...against Milosevic," whom the tribunal indicted in

    May 1999 in connection with atrocities in Kosova. PM

    [11] HOLBROOKE SLAMS HAGUE TRIBUNAL'S CRITICS

    U.S. Ambassador to

    the UN Richard Holbrooke said in New York on 20 June that

    charges by Belgrade, Moscow, and Beijing that the tribunal is

    anti-Serb are "not only not proven--they are not accurate."

    He added that he can hardly "wait for the day" when former

    Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko

    Mladic appear in The Hague. Holbrooke stressed that "long-

    term peace and stability in the Balkans will not be possible

    as long as the current leadership in Belgrade is in power,"

    Reuters reported. PM

    [12] HAGUE'S JORDA WARNS AGAINST DEAL WITH MILOSEVIC

    In New York

    on 20 June, Chinese envoy Shen Guofang "lectured" Hague

    tribunal President Claude Jorda, Reuters reported. Shen told

    Jorda that the tribunal has become "a political tool [against

    the Serbian leadership]...because you are affected too much

    by politics." Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov said

    that the tribunal has taken an "anti-Serb line." Later at a

    press conference, Jorda denied that charge. Referring to a

    recent story in the "New York Times" about a possible deal to

    allow Milosevic to go into exile without fear of prosecution,

    Jorda said that such a move "would be a severe blow" to the

    tribunal (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June 2000). Jorda

    stressed that "Milosevic...is an indicted criminal. He should

    be at The Hague." Meanwhile in Athens, a government spokesman

    denied any Greek role in possible negotiations over

    Milosevic's future, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

    PM

    [13] MONTENEGRO CHARGES SIX IN DRASKOVIC CASE...

    The Montenegrin

    police filed charges in Podgorica on 20 June against six

    Serbs from the Belgrade area in connection with the recent

    attempt on the life of Serbian opposition leader Vuk

    Draskovic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June 2000). Two of

    the six, namely the brothers Milan and Ivan Lovric, are in

    custody. Vladimir Jovanovic and Dusan Spasojevic remain at

    large, as are two other persons whose names have not been

    released. The Lovric brothers are slated to testify in a

    Podgorica court on 21 June. The Montenegrin police appealed

    to their Serbian colleagues to help arrest the four persons

    who are on the run. The Serbian police have not responded to

    Podgorica's request, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. PM

    [14] ...PRESENTS EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM

    Montenegrin police

    representatives said in Podgorica on 20 June that they know

    where the assailants lived while stalking Draskovic in Budva

    and carefully planning the attempted killing. The police

    found nearby the 7.65 millimeter Beretta gun used in the

    assault, which the Lovrices, Jovanovic, and Spasojevic

    allegedly carried out. They fired eight bullets at Draskovic

    as he was watching television. The police findings are summed

    up in a three-page report. PM

    [15] DRASKOVIC WAITS IN MONTENEGRO

    Draskovic is currently in

    Budva under heavy police protection, RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported on 20 June. He is recovering from slight

    wounds, including a pierced left earlobe and a grazed right

    temple. He told reporters that he will stay in Budva and

    conduct the affairs of his Serbian Renewal Movement from

    there for at least the time being. In Belgrade, Democratic

    Party leader Zoran Djindjic told "Blic" of 21 June that

    Draskovic has broken off all contact with other opposition

    leaders, with whom he had planned to discuss a common

    election strategy. PM

    [16] SERBIAN COUPLE SHOT IN PRISHTINA

    Unknown attackers shot and

    wounded a Serbian couple in central Prishtina on 20 June, a

    KFOR spokesman said the following day. Both victims are now

    in stable condition, Reuters reported. Del Ponte and Bernard

    Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator in

    Kosova, condemned the shooting. PM

    [17] SERBIAN AUTHORITIES TAKE MORE STEPS AGAINST OPPOSITION

    Zoran

    Andjelkovic, who was Milosevic's last governor of Kosova,

    sued the private Belgrade daily "Glas javnosti" on 20 June

    for $6,000 in damages. The newspaper had printed comments by

    moderate Kosova Serbian leader Rada Trajkovic, who noted that

    "those [Serbian] officials who betrayed and abandoned the

    province have fled to posh hotels and mountain resorts," AP

    reported. Slavoljub Kacarevic, who is editor-in-chief of

    "Glas javnosti," told a Belgrade court that Andjelkovic's

    name did not appear in the article. Elsewhere, a military

    court stripped former General Momcilo Perisic of his title of

    general of the reserves. The former head of the general staff

    frequently criticizes Milosevic and heads a small opposition

    party. PM

    [18] EU: ALL BALKAN STATES ARE POTENTIAL CANDIDATES

    Leaders of

    the 15 EU member-states said in a statement in Santa Maria da

    Feira, Portugal, on 20 June that all former Yugoslav

    republics are potential candidates for EU membership. "This

    is the first time in official [statements] that we talk

    [about them] as potential candidates," EU Commission

    President Romano Prodi told journalists, according to

    Reuters. The leaders also expressed support for the Serbian

    opposition but warned Kosovar Albanian leaders that

    "extremist violence will not be tolerated." French President

    Jacques Chirac, whose country will take over the rotating EU

    chair on 1 July, said that he will go ahead with plans for an

    EU-Balkan summit later this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20

    June 2000). He added that it will probably take place in

    Zagreb. It is not yet clear who will be invited, but the list

    will include members of the Serbian opposition as well as the

    Montenegrin authorities. PM

    [19] CROATIA READY FOR EU'S SECOND ROUND OF EXPANSION?

    Lord

    Russell Johnston, who heads the Council of Europe's

    parliamentary assembly, told the Croatian parliament on 20

    June that Croatia has experienced a "very big change" in its

    relations with Brussels and Strasbourg since the country's

    elections in January and February. He noted that the new

    Croatian leaders are "much more open" and reform-oriented

    than were their predecessors, AP reported. Croatia is quickly

    catching up with Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria,

    Slovakia, and Malta, which are the countries considered

    potential candidates for a "second wave" of EU expansion, he

    argued. He also commented that war crimes were committed by

    neither Serbs nor Croats but rather by bad people, "Jutarnji

    list" reported. PM

    [20] MACEDONIAN DRUG HAUL

    Macedonian police confiscated some 260

    kilograms of hashish from a truck crossing the border from

    Albania near Struga on 20 June, AP reported. A police

    spokesman said that the drugs have a street value of about $1

    million and that the Albanian truck driver is under arrest on

    charges of drug trafficking. Impoverished Albania has in

    recent years become one of the Balkans' main producers of

    cannabis. PM

    [21] MOSTAR BUS LINKS BOTH HALVES OF TOWN

    For the first time

    since the Muslim-Croat conflict began in Bosnia in 1993, a

    bus route was opened on 20 June to link Croatian western

    Mostar with Muslim eastern Mostar, RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported. Even though that conflict ended in 1994 and

    the Croats and Muslims became nominal allies, the border

    between east and west Mostar has remained tense. PM

    [22] PADDED ACCOUNTS IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA?

    "Vesti" reported on 21

    June that it has obtained access to a confidential internal

    report suggesting that large sums of money have been

    misappropriated in the government of Prime Minister Milorad

    Dodik. The report noted that the government spends $800 per

    day on flowers and that its daily allowance for public

    affairs expenses is $2,300. The daily added that if the

    figures were correct, it would mean that the government

    bought at least 47 large bouquets of flowers per day at local

    prices. PM

    [23] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION'S VICTORY IN LOCAL ELECTIONS RUNOFF

    CONFIRMED...

    According to the official results of the local

    election runoff on 18 June, the opposition Party of Social

    Democracy in Romania came first, with 714 mayoralties out of

    the 2,249 being contested, Mediafax reported. The Democratic

    Party came second with 386 mayoralties, followed by the

    Alliance for Romania (253), the National Liberal Party (212),

    independent candidates (126), the Democratic Convention of

    Romania (125), the Greater Romania Party (61), and the Social

    Democratic Party (54). The Romanian National Party won 52

    mayoralties, the Socialist Labor Party 47, the Party of

    Romanian National Unity 42, and the Hungarian Democratic

    Federation of Romania 38. Turnout was 46.9 percent. MS

    [24] ...BUT PEASANT PARTY LEADER REFUSES TO STEP DOWN

    National

    Peasant Party Christian Democratic Chairman (PNTCD) Ion

    Diaconescu, who is also head of the Democratic Convention of

    Romania, said in an interview with the BBC on 20 June that he

    does not intend to step down as a result of his formation's

    poor showing in the local elections. The octogenarian

    Diaconescu was responding to a Mediafax report saying that

    five "younger leaders" of the PNTCD intend to meet with

    Diaconescu on 21 June to demand that he "assume

    responsibility" for the electoral debacle. Diaconescu said

    only the PNTCD congress is entitled to replace the party's

    leader and that congress has been postponed until 2001,

    following this year's general elections. In other news, the

    Conel electricity state company workers on 20 June

    "suspended" their strike after talks with Prime Minister

    Mugur Isarescu. MS

    [25] EUROPEAN COURT TO EXAMINE MOLDOVAN COMPLAINTS

    The European

    Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will soon examine the

    complaint against the Moldovan and Russian governments about

    the continued detention in Tiraspol of members of the "Ilascu

    group." The complaint was filed by the wives of the

    detainees, among whom is Ilie Ilascu. Lucius Wildhaber,

    chairman of the court, said on 20 June in Chisinau that the

    court will examine the "Ilascu case," regardless of whether

    Tiraspol accepts or rejects a recent Romanian proposal (also

    backed by Chisinau) to have the case reviewed in an OSCE

    country. Wildhaber said the court will also examine the

    complaint filed by the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church

    against the government's refusal to recognize it. He

    recommended that the case be settled "amiably" out of court,

    Romanian Radio reported on 21 June. MS

    [26] NATO COMMANDER PAYS 'SURPRISE VISIT' TO BULGARIA

    Newly

    appointed NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Joseph

    Ralston arrived in Sofia on 20 June for what Reuters reported

    is a "surprise visit." He told journalists that it was

    "important to make an early trip to Bulgaria." The agency

    said Ralston is due to meet with President Petar Stoyanov and

    Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 21 June to discuss developments

    in Kosova. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [27] THE NEW CENTRALIZER

    by Julie A. Corwin

    Although it became a cliche during Russia's presidential

    election campaign to refer to then acting President Vladimir

    Putin as an enigma or "black box," by then it was already

    clear what kind of president he would become. Just seven

    weeks after his inauguration, Putin's preference for

    centralization has been demonstrated in three areas: the

    media, the vodka industry, and policy toward the regions. And

    because such centralization promises order, if not law, it is

    popular with Russian citizens who are looking for a way out

    of the country's prolonged crisis.

    Putin's tactics in each of these areas have been oddly

    similar: unleashing federal bureaucrats, via a reorganized or

    somehow empowered federal organ, and letting loose law

    enforcement officials and making a few high-level arrests--or

    at the very least, threatening to. All the while, the

    president seeks to justify his moves to increase central

    control by using the rhetoric of law and order.

    Putin's policy toward the media has gotten a lot of

    attention, perhaps because those doing the reporting are

    directly affected by it. The Media Ministry recently

    announced that it will begin to enforce a 1998 law requiring

    media organizations to be registered as well as licensed. "If

    one strictly follows the letter of the law, we could have

    shut you all down a long time ago," Media Minister Mikhail

    Lesin commented. Some six months earlier, one of Lesin's

    deputies announced that then acting President Putin had

    signed a bill amending the law on economic support for

    regional newspapers so that money for those newspapers comes

    directly from the federal budget rather than being channeled

    through local government organs. Presumably, one dependent

    relationship has been substituted for another, but with a key

    difference: now Moscow calls the shots.

    Meanwhile, Putin's moves deploying law enforcement

    officials against the media have gotten even more attention.

    The arrest of RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitskii in

    Daghestan in February was followed by the raid last month on

    Media-MOST headquarters, and most recently, the 13 June

    detention of Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii. If

    Gusinskii's case follows the same trajectory as Babitskii's,

    then the legal charges will hover over him for an indefinite

    period, during which he will be forbidden to travel abroad.

    The message to journalists without an impressive list of

    international contacts like Gusinskii's, or a high-level

    employer such as Babitskii, is criticize the Kremlin at your

    peril.

    With regard to the regions, Putin moved even more

    quickly and decisively, unfurling at least three new

    bureaucratic layers to oversee Moscow's interests. First, he

    restructured the system of having a presidential

    representative in each federation subject by creating seven

    administrative macro-regions or districts. Each district has

    a presidential representative that some analysts have dubbed

    "governors-general": five of the seven are former officers

    with the intelligence service or army. Supplementing their

    efforts will be a newly created corps of seven regional

    prosecutors and seven branches of the investigative Audit

    Chamber.

    In another saber-rattling exercise, just days after his

    inauguration Putin ordered federal prosecutors to investigate

    more than 200 cases of tax dodging, embezzlement, and other

    economic offenses in Smolensk Oblast. He then submitted

    legislation to the State Duma asking legislators to empower

    the Russian president to dismiss elected governors who

    violate federal laws on more than one occasion. While trying

    to persuade deputies of the bills' merits, Putin's

    presidential representative Aleksandr Kotenkov said that "at

    least 16 governors" face the prospect of criminal

    prosecution.

    Putin's policy toward the vodka industry has attracted

    less attention but could have as great an impact on the

    country's development, given the importance of that industry

    as a revenue-earner and as staple in the citizenry's diet. As

    with the regions, Putin took a bureaucratic institutional

    left-over from the Yeltsin presidency and reinvigorated it.

    Late last month, he issued a resolution stating that all

    state-owned companies producing alcohol will be restructured

    into branches of Rosspirtprom, a holding company that will

    also manage all of the state's stakes in alcohol-producing

    companies. Rosspirtprom had been provided for in a Yeltsin

    decree that was never implemented.

    Police have since targeted key facilities in the vodka

    sector. The offices of Soyuzplodimport, the company holding

    the rights to the names of about 50 of Russia's most famous

    brands of vodka, were raided several times by Interior

    Ministry police around early June. And Yurii Ermilov, the

    director of the Kristall factory, the country's leading

    alcohol producer, was sacked and a Rosneft vice president

    named in his place. Although the federal government owns 51

    percent of the company's stock, Moscow city authorities were

    reportedly virtually running the factory. A number of

    analysts suggested that the removal of Ermilov represents an

    attempt by federal authorities to reassert control over a

    lucrative enterprise.

    The vodka industry needed regulating, since the country

    has been overrun with bootleg manufacturers. And it is also

    true that some regional leaders have ridden roughshod over

    their population's best interests, suppressing any political

    opposition and pursuing an economic policy favoring local

    businessmen. Likewise, competing oligarchs have used the

    Russian media as vehicles to distribute "kompromat" against

    their enemies.

    All these "truths" are self-evident to the Russian

    population, which gave Putin a 53 percent mandate. What's

    less evident, though, is how increasing central control will

    necessarily address these problems. Judging by the Soviet

    experience, hooch, a corrupt press, and feudalistic local

    leaders can all exist simultaneously with increased oversight

    from Moscow. In fact, they can even flourish.

    21-06-00


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


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