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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 126, 00-06-29

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. 126, 29 June 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] CHARGES AGAINST ANOTHER ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECT
  • [02] ARMENIAN LAW ON STOCK EXCHANGE ENCOUNTERS RESISTANCE
  • [03] COUNCIL OF EUROPE APPROVES MEMBERSHIP FOR ARMENIA,
  • [04] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO CUT ARMED FORCES
  • [05] DISPLACED PERSONS IN WESTERN GEORGIA DEMAND ALLOWANCES...
  • [06] ... AS REGIONAL GOVERNOR OFFERS TO RESIGN
  • [07] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT TO BELGIUM
  • [08] HUNGER STRIKERS IN KAZAKHSTAN DECIDE TO REFUSE LIQUIDS
  • [09] JUDGE REJECTS KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S REQUESTS
  • [10] KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES' LINGUISTIC SKILLS TO BE
  • [11] IMF PRESSURES UZBEKISTAN TO MAKE CURRENCY CONVERTIBLE

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] ALBRIGHT RENEWS CAMPAIGN AGAINST MILOSEVIC...
  • [13] ...MEETS WITH SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS
  • [14] SIT-IN BY MAYOR LEADS TO RELEASE OF SERBIAN ACTIVISTS
  • [15] ECONOMISTS: SERBIAN GOVERNMENT RUNNING UP RECONSTRUCTION
  • [16] KOSOVA SERBIAN POLICE 'FOLLOWING ORDERS'?
  • [17] SPLIT IN SERBIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL
  • [18] UNCHR BACK TO WORK IN NORTHERN MITROVICA
  • [19] BRITISH, FRENCH COMPANIES TO MODERNIZE KOSOVA POWER PLANT
  • [20] DJUKANOVIC: MONTENEGRO TO PAY DAMAGES TO CROATIA
  • [21] FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW PUT FORWARD FOR BOSNIA
  • [22] GREECE TO WITHDRAW FORCE FROM ALBANIA
  • [23] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT CHANGES RULES OF ELECTORAL GAME...
  • [24] ... AND PARTIES ABOUT TO CHANGE ELECTORAL PHYSIOGNOMY
  • [25] ROMANIA DE-CRIMINALIZES HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONS IN PRIVATE
  • [26] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES MILITARY REFORM PROGRAM
  • [27] CHINESE PREMIER IN BULGARIA
  • [28] BULGARIAN BANK CHIEF ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF 'UNDERVALUED'

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [29] NEITHER AGREEMENT NOR SUSPECTS IN STAROVOITOVA CASE

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] CHARGES AGAINST ANOTHER ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECT

    DROPPED

    Investigators have dropped the preliminary charges

    they brought last November against pollster Nairi Badalian,

    who was accused of abetting the five gunmen who murdered

    eight senior officials and parliamentary deputies in the

    Armenian parliament on 27 October, Noyan Tapan reported.

    Badalian had been held in custody since his arrest last

    November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1999). He is the

    fourth suspect against whom charges have been dropped for

    lack of evidence. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN LAW ON STOCK EXCHANGE ENCOUNTERS RESISTANCE

    After

    several unsuccessful attempts, the Armenian parliament on 28

    June passed in the first reading the law "On Regulating the

    Securities Market," Noyan Tapan reported. The debate on the

    law had been postponed several times, reportedly as a result

    of lobbying by individuals who tried to argue that its

    adoption was counter to national interests. Parliamentary

    deputy speaker Tigran Torosian accused the owners of the

    Yerevan Stock Exchange of obstructing passage of the law,

    according to Armenpress, cited by Groong. He argued that

    without such legislation "all our efforts to attract

    investments in the Armenian economy will be in vain." LF

    [03] COUNCIL OF EUROPE APPROVES MEMBERSHIP FOR ARMENIA,

    AZERBAIJAN

    Apparently yielding to pressure from the U.S.,

    the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted on

    28 June to admit both Armenia and Azerbaijan to full

    membership in the council, RFE/RL's Armenian Service

    reported. Both countries have been guest members since 1996.

    The Legal and Political Committees of the assembly concluded

    that admitting both countries simultaneously would contribute

    to democratization and to a solution to the Karabakh

    conflict. The Political Committee had considered last month

    postponing Azerbaijan's admission, which it proposed should

    be contingent on the conduct of the parliamentary elections

    due in November (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No.

    21, 26 May 2000). Council of Europe Secretary-General Walther

    Schwimmer said on 28 June that the two countries' accession

    will probably be formalized by the Committee of Ministers in

    November. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO CUT ARMED FORCES

    Parliamentary

    deputies voted by an overwhelming majority on 28 June to

    reduce the armed forces from their present strength of 47,500

    to 38,414, Caucasus Press reported. Ministry of Defense

    forces will be cut from 27,000 to 20,000, Interior Ministry

    troops from 7,900 to 6,400, and the border guard force from

    3,600 to 3,000. U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Edward

    Warner had recommended such cuts on a visit to Tbilisi last

    week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2000). Revaz Adamia, who

    chairs the parliament's Security and Defense Committee, had

    advocated slashing the size of the armed forces even more

    dramatically, from 44,000 to 8,000, according to Caucasus

    Press. The Ministry of Defense has experienced serious

    funding problems in recent months. LF

    [05] DISPLACED PERSONS IN WESTERN GEORGIA DEMAND ALLOWANCES...

    Representatives of the estimated 80,000 Georgian displaced

    persons from Abkhazia currently living in the west Georgian

    town of Zugdidi have demanded a meeting with Georgian

    Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili, Finance and Economy

    Minister Zurab Nogaideli, and members of the Abkhaz

    government in exile, Caucasus Press reported on 28 June. The

    displaced persons have not received their cash allowances for

    six months or the flour they are entitled to as humanitarian

    aid since April. A local Georgian official predicted that if

    measures are not taken quickly to alleviate the plight of the

    displaced persons, "we will not avoid a social explosion."

    But former Abkhaz Interior Minister Givi Lominadze, who heads

    the Abkhazeti Georgian parliamentary faction, played down

    that danger, saying that the situation in Zugdidi does not

    differ greatly from that elsewhere in Georgia, Caucasus Press

    reported. LF

    [06] ... AS REGIONAL GOVERNOR OFFERS TO RESIGN

    Also on 28 June,

    Caucasus Press reported that President Eduard Shevardnadze

    has rejected an offer by Bondo Djikia, the governor of

    Mingrelia and Upper Svaneti, to step down if his resignation

    would contribute to defusing tensions in the region. Djikia

    accused unnamed forces of playing on the displaced persons'

    frustration in a deliberate attempt to destabilize the

    situation in the region. LF

    [07] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT TO BELGIUM

    Nursultan

    Nazarbaev on 28 June ended a two-day official visit to

    Belgium and left for France, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

    reported. Nazarbaev met in Brussels with Belgian State

    Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene and with businessmen, including

    representatives of fuel and energy companies, whom he urged

    to invest in Kazakhstan. He also held talks with European

    Commission President Romano Prodi and with NATO Secretary-

    General Lord Robertson. LF

    [08] HUNGER STRIKERS IN KAZAKHSTAN DECIDE TO REFUSE LIQUIDS

    The

    Alash party activists who began a hunger strike in Almaty

    late last month to protest the planned parliament debate on

    legislation permitting the private ownership of agricultural

    land have decided to stop taking liquids, RFE/RL's

    correspondent in the former capital reported on 28 June (see

    "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 16 and 23 June 2000). That decision

    was prompted by the parliament's decision to schedule the

    debate for next week. The hunger strikers want the draft bill

    withdrawn from the parliament's agenda. LF

    [09] JUDGE REJECTS KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S REQUESTS

    Presiding military judge Nurlan Ashyrbekov on 28 June

    rejected eight requests made by a lawyer for former Bishkek

    Mayor and opposition Ar-Namys Party Chairman Feliks Kulov,

    whose trial began the previous day, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau

    reported. Kulov is charged with abuse of his official

    position in his former capacity as interior minister. His

    lawyer had demanded an open trial to which domestic and

    international observers would be admitted and that President

    Askar Akaev be called as a witness. Some 80 Kulov supporters

    who have been staging a protest picket in Bishkek since mid-

    March congregated outside the court on 28 June to demand

    Kulov's acquittal. LF

    [10] KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES' LINGUISTIC SKILLS TO BE

    ASSESSED

    The Central Electoral Commission on 28 June

    announced the creation of a special seven-strong sub-

    commission charged with setting written and spoken tests in

    the Kyrgyz language for potential presidential candidates,

    RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The date of the poll has

    been set for 28 October. The Kyrgyz parliament last month

    adopted legislation designating Russian an official language

    to be used at all levels, alongside Kyrgyz (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 26 May 2000). LF

    [11] IMF PRESSURES UZBEKISTAN TO MAKE CURRENCY CONVERTIBLE

    Robert

    Rosenberg, who is the IMF's permanent representative in

    Tashkent, warned on 28 June that further delays in making

    Uzbekistan's currency fully convertible could prove

    dangerous, Interfax reported. An IMF mission that arrived in

    Tashkent earlier this month has discussed with the Uzbek

    cabinet the possible social and economic consequences of

    liberalizing currency regulations. Rosenberg warned that the

    present exchange rate and restrictions are a deterrent to

    foreign investors. President Islam Karimov pledged last year

    that the Uzbek som would become fully convertible as of 1

    January 2000 (see "RRE/RL Newsline," 2 December 1999). LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] ALBRIGHT RENEWS CAMPAIGN AGAINST MILOSEVIC...

    Speaking in

    Berlin on 29 June, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

    called for the ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic. "As far as U.S. policy is concerned, we want to

    see Milosevic out of power, out of Serbia and in The Hague"

    to face charges of war crimes, AP reported. She noted that

    the widespread poverty in Serbia is the result not of foreign

    sanctions but of "the mismanagement and thievery of a regime

    that has enriched Milosevic's cronies, while leaving everyone

    else with scraps." Albright called for support from abroad

    for the "courageous political and municipal leaders,

    journalists, students and other activists trying to assemble

    the nuts and bolts of freedom" in Serbia. She added that

    Milosevic "is now waging war against the democratic

    aspirations of his own people--a people that deserves far,

    far better." PM

    [13] ...MEETS WITH SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS

    Albright and her

    German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, met in Berlin on 29 June

    with Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic and

    representatives of the Social Democratic Union, the Civic

    Alliance, and Serbian Renewal Movement, Reuters reported. An

    unnamed senior State Department official told reporters that

    "what we see happening, and they discussed, was the gelling

    of democratic forces in Serbia and the need to remain

    united." PM

    [14] SIT-IN BY MAYOR LEADS TO RELEASE OF SERBIAN ACTIVISTS

    Opposition Mayor Zoran Zivkovic led a sit-in outside the

    police headquarters in Nis on 28 June to demand the release

    of eight activists from the Otpor (Resistance) student

    movement and three news photographers. Police took the 11

    people into custody at a demonstration, which was intended to

    satirize the proposed presentation of the Order of the

    National Hero to Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June

    2000). An unnamed police official told Reuters that "the

    rally was not banned, but it was not approved, either."

    Police released the 11 people after holding them for two

    hours. PM

    [15] ECONOMISTS: SERBIAN GOVERNMENT RUNNING UP RECONSTRUCTION

    DEBT

    Just one day after the Belgrade authorities announced

    measures to tighten control over businesses that have debts,

    a leading economics institute issued a report saying the

    government itself has become a major debtor (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 28 June 2000). The Institute for Market Research's

    chief research economist Slobodan Milosavljevic told

    reporters in the Serbian capital on 28 June that "the time

    has come [for the government] to start paying for months-long

    activities on reconstruction and raw material purchases,"

    Reuters reported. The Milosevic government regularly gives

    extensive publicity in the state-run media to its

    reconstruction campaign. PM

    [16] KOSOVA SERBIAN POLICE 'FOLLOWING ORDERS'?

    UN spokeswoman

    Nadia Younes said in Prishtina on 28 June that all 23 Serbian

    police in Shterpce handed in their "conditional resignations"

    that day to protest what they called "increased tensions" in

    the area and "bad working relations" with UN staff. She added

    that the Serbs "were following orders" but did not say from

    whom. Younes noted that a crowd of local Serbs led by

    outsiders recently "destroyed" the UN office in Shterpce, AP

    reported. PM

    [17] SPLIT IN SERBIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL

    Slavisa Kostic, who heads

    the central Kosova branch of the Serbian National Council

    (SNV), told the private Beta news agency in Gracanica on 28

    June that his organization has "broken off contacts" with

    Archbishop Artemije and other leaders of the main body of the

    SNV, following their decision to resume cooperation with the

    UN civilian administration in the province (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 26 June 2000). Kostic said that Artemije refused

    to meet with him and his delegation without Artemije's

    closest aides present. PM

    [18] UNCHR BACK TO WORK IN NORTHERN MITROVICA

    UNHCR spokeswoman

    Paula Ghedini said in Prishtina on 28 June that UNHCR

    officials resumed work in Serb-held northern Mitrovica after

    receiving guarantees of their safety from local Serbian

    leader Oliver Ivanovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2000).

    He promised to provide 50 unarmed guards for the UNHCR staff,

    AP reported. PM

    [19] BRITISH, FRENCH COMPANIES TO MODERNIZE KOSOVA POWER PLANT

    NPower, which is a subsidiary of Britain's National Power Plc

    in partnership with France's Alstom Power Centrales, signed a

    $38 million contract in Prishtina on 28 June to overhaul the

    lignite-powered Kosova-B power plant, Reuters reported.

    NPower's Project Director Bob Huntington told reporters: "Our

    primary objective is to deliver reliable power for the

    Kosovan [sic] people for the winter. We know Kosovo is

    politically unstable but we are comfortable with the

    [European Agency for Reconstruction] as partners and we

    foresee more projects in Kosovo and the Balkan region. We are

    not here to do one job and run," he added. PM

    [20] DJUKANOVIC: MONTENEGRO TO PAY DAMAGES TO CROATIA

    President

    Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica that his government is

    prepared to pay damages to Croatia "if necessary" to

    compensate for Montenegrin participation in Milosevic's

    campaign against the Dubrovnik area in 1991-1992 (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 26 June 2000). He did not elaborate, "Vesti"

    reported on 29 June. PM

    [21] FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW PUT FORWARD FOR BOSNIA

    Wolfgang

    Petritsch, who is the international community's high

    representative in Bosnia, and Robert Berry, who heads the

    OSCE mission there, unveiled a proposed freedom of

    information law in Sarajevo on 28 June. Opposition deputies

    from the Social Democrats and New Croatian Initiative then

    took the first steps to submit the measure to the parliament

    for approval. Petritsch, who has the authority to declare the

    bill a law if the parliament does not approve it, said that

    the proposal "will take Bosnia-Herzegovina several steps

    closer to Europe. It will take Bosnia-Herzegovina closer to a

    true civil society," AP reported. Barry added that "the

    initial reaction of bureaucrats is to dislike intensely a law

    like this because it takes away the shield of anonymity that

    otherwise cloaks the action of bureaucrats. [But] the public

    and the media like it very much." PM

    [22] GREECE TO WITHDRAW FORCE FROM ALBANIA

    A government spokesman

    said in Athens on 28 June that the military contingent that

    Greece sent to help restore order in Albania in 1997 will

    soon return home. "The agreed time for this force's stay in

    Albania had elapsed. Following a decision by the leadership

    of the Defense Ministry, this force is leaving soon, having

    completed its work," he added. The total contingent is 137-

    strong, but 30 of the Greeks will remain in Albania as

    military instructors. Unnamed Greek Defense Ministry sources

    told AP that the Albanian parliament did not approve an

    extension of the mandate for the peacekeepers, but the

    sources did not elaborate. PM

    [23] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT CHANGES RULES OF ELECTORAL GAME...

    The

    government on 28 June approved an ordinance raising the

    electoral hurdle from 3 percent to 5 percent of the vote.

    Two-party alliances will need a minimum of 8 percent to

    gain representation, while alliances of more than two

    parties will require an additional 1 percent for each other

    member of the alliance. Presidential candidates will need

    300,000 supporting signatures, instead of the current

    100,000, to qualify to run in elections for the head of

    state, Romanian Radio reported on 29 June. MS

    [24] ... AND PARTIES ABOUT TO CHANGE ELECTORAL PHYSIOGNOMY

    Alliance for Romania (APR) Chairman Teodor Melescanu on 28

    June confirmed media reports that former Prime Minister

    Teodor Stolojan is promoting an alliance between the APR

    and the National Liberal Party (PNL) that would support

    Melescanu's presidential candidacy and Stolojan for

    premier. APR Deputy Chairman Marian Enache said the

    alliance could "counterbalance" the "dominant position" of

    the Party of Social Democracy in Romania. PNL Deputy

    Chairman Valeriu Stoica said the PNL "welcomes" Stolojan's

    decision to make a political comeback but declined to

    specify how advanced the talks with the APR are. MS

    [25] ROMANIA DE-CRIMINALIZES HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONS IN PRIVATE

    The Chamber of Deputies on 28 June approved an amendment to

    the Penal Code whereby homosexual relations will be an

    offense only if "conducted in public." Such relations are

    still described as "perverted sexual acts" and as

    "unnatural," however. The public display of homosexual

    behavior carries a sentence of five years in prison,

    compared with the two-year sentence for offensive

    heterosexual acts in public, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau

    reported. The amendment was opposed by the Greater Romania

    Party, which said it offends the "Orthodox spirit" of the

    nation and its traditions. The Romanian Orthodox Church has

    protested the amendment on similar grounds. Spokesmen for

    the ruling coalition said the amendment was a "compromise"

    intended to fend off renewed monitoring by the Council of

    Europe. The Senate has still to debate the amendment. MS

    [26] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES MILITARY REFORM PROGRAM

    The

    cabinet on 28 June approved the guidelines for military

    reforms submitted by the Defense Ministry. The document

    must now be approved by the parliament. Defense Minister

    Boris Gamurai said the program extends over 12 years and

    would be implemented in three stages. Among other things,

    it provides for an unspecified reduction in the number of

    troops while increasing the number of professional soldiers

    serving on contracts and granting higher budget allocations

    to the army. MS

    [27] CHINESE PREMIER IN BULGARIA

    Visiting Chinese Premier Zhu

    Rongji and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, signed

    five economic and cultural cooperation agreements and

    discussed ways to increase trade turnover between their

    countries, Reuters reported on 27 June. The next day Zhu

    met with President Petar Stoyanov. During his two-day visit

    to Bulgaria, the Chinese leader said his country "respects

    the path of development chosen by the Bulgarian people" and

    that China sees Bulgaria as playing a "stabilizing role" in

    the Balkans, the BBC reported, citing Xinhua and BTA. MS

    [28] BULGARIAN BANK CHIEF ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF 'UNDERVALUED'

    PRIVATIZATION

    Chavdar Kanchev, director of Bulgaria's

    largest commercial bank, has said the government's plans to

    sell Bulgarbank to an Italian-German consortium for some

    $700 million are unjustified and undervalue the bank's

    assets, AP reported on 28 June. A statement released by the

    Bulgarbank managing board supported Kanchev's criticism of

    the government, saying the $700 million to be paid by the

    UniCredito Italiano-Allianz AG consortium represents only

    7.5 percent of the net value of the bank's assets.

    Normally, it added, the price should be "60 percent above"

    the value of those assets. Kanchev said he has sent two

    reports to Kostov but the premier ignored them and refused

    to meet with him. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [29] NEITHER AGREEMENT NOR SUSPECTS IN STAROVOITOVA CASE

    By Jan Cleave

    Opinions remain divided over who killed Galina

    Starovoitova. The family and close associates of the late

    State Duma deputy continue to assert she was killed in

    connection with her activities as a politician and public

    figure, but both official and independent bodies

    investigating the case believe that other factors may have

    played a major role.

    Starovoitova was gunned down in the stairwell of her

    apartment house on the Griboedov Canal in late November 1998

    after returning from Moscow. Her aide Ruslan Linkov was

    seriously wounded in the attack. In the manner of contract

    killings in Russia, the assassins--thought to have been a man

    and a woman--left their weapons at the scene of the crime.

    Initially, many theories were touted about the murder,

    most of them related to Starovoitova's activities as a

    passionate defender of democracy, human rights, and

    interethnic cooperation. At the time of her killing,

    Starovoitova had been in St. Petersburg to take part in the

    Northern Capital coalition of democratic forces, which she

    had founded to challenge Governor Vladimir Yakovlev in the

    upcoming municipal elections. Several weeks earlier, she had

    denounced the Communist faction in the Duma for not censuring

    Albert Makashov over his anti-Semitic comments made on the

    floor of the lower house. And it was rumored that she had

    been about to expose corruption in high places, perhaps even

    reveal who had killed St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Mikhail

    Manevich the previous year.

    Starovoitova's family remains convinced that the popular

    politician was slain for political reasons. Speaking to the

    "Moscow Times" late last month, Olga Starovoitova linked her

    sister's murder to the latter's attempts to expose those who

    abuse high office for personal gain: "She tried hard to make

    the country's budget transparent and believed legislators

    should be able to trace where state money goes. This, of

    course, was rather irritating for those on the receiving end

    of improperly directed budgetary funds." Declining to suggest

    who might have ordered her sister dead, Olga Starovoitova

    noted simply that "there are enough corrupt people here."

    Close associates of Galina Starovoitova, including other

    democratic reformers, have sought to explain her murder by

    similarly pointing to her tireless crusade against corruption

    and for a state based on the rule of law.

    However, Andrei Konstantinov, head of the independent,

    St. Petersburg-based Agency of Journalistic Investigations,

    points out that many theories about Starovoitova's murder

    took root before an official investigation had gotten under

    way. In an interview with RFE/RL earlier this week,

    Konstantinov recalled that immediately after Starovoitova's

    killing, the media reported that contract killers had

    committed the crime using "super-weapons." Later, it

    transpired that one of those weapons was an old submachine

    gun whose magazine had been clamped tight with a piece of

    wood and failed to function after the third shot, while the

    other was a homemade pistol. "No serious force (sila)," he

    argued, would undertake such a high-profile political murder

    with such weapons.

    Like the Federal Security Service (FSB) agents

    conducting the official investigation into Starovoitova's

    murder, Konstantinov believes that the motives for her

    killing were of an "economic" rather than "political" nature.

    Based on an investigation conducted independently by his

    agency, Konstantinov notes that around the time of

    Starovoitova's death, her supporters in St. Petersburg were

    waiting for a "large sum of money" to arrive from Moscow for

    use in the campaign for the upcoming elections to the city's

    Legislative Assembly. Starovoitova herself, he said, had

    "given to understand" that such a sum existed. Yet that money

    never arrived from Moscow and its whereabouts remain unknown.

    "I think that the reason [for Starovoitova's murder] is to be

    found namely [in this missing money] and not in the struggle

    between some political parties," Konstantinov concludes,

    implying that Starovoitova may have been killed because she

    knew something about what had happened to that money.

    While the investigations into Starovoitova's murder

    continue, her family and friends have been seeking to ensure

    that her name remains unsullied by unfounded press

    allegations. Earlier this month, Olga Starovoitova and Ruslan

    Linkov won a libel case they had brought against

    "Komsomolskaya pravda" over a December 1998 article based on

    the account of a television journalist who after the murder

    had arrived at the Griboedov Canal before the head of police.

    That article suggested that Linkov had not been seriously

    wounded in the attack and had in fact been an accomplice to

    the assassins. Galina Starovoitova was described as an

    "unsterile" politician who was one of the founders of three

    dozen companies involved in smuggling money abroad.

    Some 18 months after filing suit (the trial was

    repeatedly postponed owing to the television journalist's

    refusal to show up in court), the prosecution was able to

    prove that Galina Starovoitova had founded no companies

    whatsoever. On 2 June, a St. Petersburg court ordered

    "Komsomolskaya pravda" to publish a retraction of the

    allegations it had made against the murdered politician and

    her aide.

    Meanwhile, the longer the investigations into

    Starovoitova's murder fail to yield results, the smaller the

    chances of finding her assassins and establishing the motives

    for that crime. The FSB has a dismal record of solving high-

    profile murders--not least in St. Petersburg, which under

    Governor Yakovlev's rule has been dubbed Russia's "crime

    capital." Ironically, Starovoitova had been among those

    oppositionists actively seeking to ensure the city would one

    day shed that somber sobriquet.

    29-06-00


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


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