Issue No. 210 - February 8 , 2001
1. Russia: THE BORODIN AFFAIR - THE TIP OF THE
By Arkady Dubnov
2. FRY/Kosovo: TENSIONS CLOSE TO EXPLOSION
By Zoran Mamula
3. Ukraine: DESTABILIZATION FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT
By Ivan Lozowy
4. Slovakia: ON THE RIGHT TRACK
By Peter Mikes
5. Special addition: NEW AT TOL
Russia: THE BORODIN AFFAIR - THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
By Arkady Dubnov
Almost two weeks ago on January 17, Russia's political
was jolted by some news from New York: United States immigration
officials there had arrested the state secretary of the joint
government of Russia and Belarus Pavel Borodin. The arrest
occurred at the request of the Swiss authorities, who accuse Mr.
Borodin of taking a $25 million bribe from the Swiss firm Mabetex.
According to documents from the Geneva court, Borodin received
money from Mabetex as the chief administrative officer in
Yeltsin's government in the mid-nineties, in exchange for the
contract to restore the Kremlin, a job estimated at $200 million.
In Moscow, the affair turned into the largest scandal
post-Soviet Russia, since this was the first time that such a
high-ranking Russian has been arrested outside the country. After
a few weeks, however, the hubbub has already died down a little.
A meeting was held January 30 of the Council of
Russian-Belarussian Union, led by Prime Ministers of Russia and
Belarus Mikhail Kasyanov and Vladimir Yermoshin. It was the first
such meeting held without Borodin's participation. Russian
minister Kasyanov named an obscure official, Igor Selivanov, as
state secretary to the joint government. This action in itself
indicates that the state secretary's duties are exclusively
"official", that is, they hold no real importance for Moscow.
Moreover, this decision has complicated relations between Moscow
and Minsk, since the Belarussian leadership is upset that no one
consulted Minsk in naming a successor to Borodin's post, a post to
which Borodin seems unlikely to return soon, if ever. The shock
that Borodin's arrest gave Russia's elite cannot be understood
simply. Borodin's reputation had already long been tainted by
accusations of corruption. The Russian government just cancelled
its investigation into the bribery accusations at the end of
December owing to lack of evidence. But the Swiss continued to
look into the affair, and had already sent a request the year
before that Borodin be detained by Interpol. Borodin's Russian
lawyer claims his client knew nothing of this, and therefore saw
no reason not to travel to the USA.
The story of this trip is very puzzling. An important
businessman, James Zeng, allegedly invited Borodin to America for
an unofficial celebration of Bush's inauguration. Borodin's
arrest, therefore, sparked consternation among Russian
politicians; it was rumored that someone had purposely summoned
Borodin to America, issued an official guarantee, and then
betrayed him, at which point Borodin found himself handcuffed and
on his way to prison.
"Borodin was arrested," State Duma deputy Vasili
said, "because he was a Russian man and a patriot."
Another deputy, Nikolai Kharitonov claimed that
the issue--this could have happened to any Russian citizen in
America." Mr. Kharitonov obviously did not notice the other
possible interpretation of his statement: that any Russian in
America could be accused of corruption.
The problem actually looks much simpler--and yet
intriguing. First of all, Borodin's invitation was not official.
Mr. Zeng claims he didn't even know that an invitation was sent in
his name; it turns out that the document came from his firm's
Moscow branch office. Secondly, it does seem that the
Russia-Belarus state secretary was "set up." That is, someone
needed to get rid of this infamous figure from Yeltsin's
administration. It is widely agreed that that person was the
Russian president himself, Vladimir Putin. Putin has long been
trying to push Yeltsin's people out of his circle, since they
could compromise the new government in the Kremlin. But to do this
openly in relation to Borodin would look extremely unethical. The
problem is this: Putin lost the 1996 St. Petersburg mayoral
election to Anatoly Sobchak, and had to resign from his post as
vice-mayor, at which point he was literally left jobless. His
salvation came in the form of Pavel Borodin, who invited him to
Moscow be his deputy on the recommendation of then-influential
When Putin was elected president in March 2000,
surrounding Borodin was in full swing. The new Russian president
installed Borodin in the harmless post of state secretary,
removing him as chief administrative officer.
The "Putin version" is indirectly supported by the
lack of any response from the president regarding the arrest of
his former patron. This stands out in even greater relief against
the loud defenses of Borodin being heard from the other leader in
the Russian and Belarussian union, Aleksander Lukashenko. Standing
up for Russia and her officials, Lukashenko came to Moscow January
25 and accused the USA for taking a trillion dollars out of
Russia. This was an expensive move for Lukashenko; his expected
appointment with Putin was postponed. Nor did other Russian
"heads" receive him, and he had to wrap up his visit that very day
and return to Minsk. Thus began an entirely new scandal, this time
within the joint government. The consequences of this affair may
turn out to be more serious. Moscow has given Lukashenko the word,
it seems, that it won't be inclined to support his candidacy in
the upcoming elections this year.
As for the fate of Pavel Borodin, things look gloomy.
York court refused January 25 to approve a request from Borodin's
lawyer for release on bail. An appeal from Russian ambassador Yuri
Ushakov to let Borodin stay at the embassy under the guarantee
that he would appear in court was also turned down. Attorneys
generally agree that it will be difficult to prevent Borodin from
being handed over to the Swiss authorities. In Moscow,
spokespersons for the Russian leadership say there is nothing
politically suspect in the arrest of this high-placed Russian
official, that the case is built on exclusively legal grounds.
Observers consider that Borodin affair was an "assignment" from
Moscow, plus no one wanted to spoil relations with the new Bush
administration. Besides, with some help from Washington a new
scandal may soon start boiling, leveling accusations of corruption
against some much higher-placed former Russian officials from
Russian President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle.
FRY/Kosovo: TENSIONS CLOSE TO EXPLOSION
By Zoran Mamula
Fighting in Kosovska Mitrovica last Sunday, first
Albanians and Serbs and later also between Albanians and French
KFOR soldiers, has once again seriously endangered peace in
The uprisings in Kosovska Mitrovica, a town split
and Albania since the arrival of peacekeeping troops in June 1999,
started last Monday when two Albanians died in a clash between
Serbs and Albanians in a rare ethnically mixed part of town called
"Bosnian mahala". Three days of fierce fighting between Albanians
and French KFOR soldiers followed the deaths. Albanians have been
accusing the French of being pro-Serb since their arrival in
Dozens of Albanians and French soldiers were wounded
Albanian protesters tried to cross the bridge that separates the
southern (Albanian) and northern (Serbian) part of the town.
Peacekeeping forces threw canisters of tear gas at protesters, who
responded with Molotov cocktails. KFOR headquarters also came
under attack, and several UNMIK police vehicles were burnt.
Several hundred Serbs from the northern part of
Mitrovica watched the fighting closely and readied themselves for
action in case Albanians managed to reach the Serbian quarter. A
curfew was introduced after the first day of fighting. KFOR
received reinforcements from the Foreign Legion and the United
States, and British, Italian and German soldiers were standing by
to help if necessary.
Many feared the situation would escalate last weekend
Albanian community commemorated the deaths of nine Albanians
killed in clashes with Serbs a year ago, also in "Bosnian mahala."
But regional UNMIK administrator Anthony Walsh met with a group of
Albanian political representatives headed by Faruk Spahiu, mayor
of the southern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, demanding that they
pressure Albanians to avoid any new violence, and the weekend
protests remained peaceful.
Although the fighting has died down, tensions remain
Kosovska Mitrovica's Serbian National Council leader Oliver
Ivanovic said Albanian extremists were getting nervous
"They are losing battles in southern Serbia in the
zone between Serbian police and army forces and KFOR," he said,
"where they are futilely trying to provoke the Yugoslav Army into
large-scale fighting in order to force the West to ask Belgrade to
withdraw its army from Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja...Albanians
are trying to spread the uprising into northern Kosovo, which is
out of their control. If the security zone in southern Serbia is
reduced, they will have to transfer their armies elsewhere, so
they are "preparing" territory in the north."
The mayor of the Albanian section of Mitrovica Faruk
the fighting demonstrates Albanians' wish to establish a united
multi-ethnic town of Kosovska Mitrovica. He condemned a
"reluctance to tackle problems and an unequal treatment of
Albanians by the French soldiers" because of, as he put it, the
French's "special contacts with Serbs".
"A whole year later and we still haven't noticed
signs of any
intention to solve the crisis in Mitrovica", said Spahiu. He added
that exactly what Albanians least expected is now happening;
namely, that "many Albanian families were moved out from northern
part of town."
Spahiu claimed that Serbian extremists killed 20
front of French soldiers over the past year. He thinks the new
Serbian government should prove its commitment to democracy by
taking a different attitude towards Kosovo.
"I frankly wish it to be more clear than before,"
he said. "In
general, we have agreed to initiatives related to re-establishing
mutual understanding and trust. We will continue to honor this
agreement, but I think Serbian politicians and people in northern
Kosovo now need to find representatives who are in favor of peace.
This would remove the politics from the everyday lives of citizens
and help Mitrovica to finally unite and to rebuild its economy, so
that all our citizens could prosper."
In a show of goodwill toward Albanians, UNMIK chief
Hakerup and KFOR commander Carlo Cabigioso signed a declaration at
the end of last week on establishing peace and security in the
city. This agreement establishes a zone of trust, a multi-ethnic
part of the city, and the return of refugees in north and southern
part of Mitrovica.
Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic fiercely rejected this
saying that the problem cannot be solved partially and that, if
one wants multi-ethnic Kosovska Mitrovica, one also has to create
a multi-ethnic Pristina or Prizren, cities that are now, as he put
it, "devoid of Serbs."
Serbian representatives said they would submit their
for easing tensions in Mitrovica to international officials. But a
meeting of Serbian representatives with UNMIK chief Hans Hakerup
and KFOR commander Karl Kabidjozo failed from the start because
Kabidjozo demanded that Oliver Ivanovic be excluded from talks,
which the Serbs refused to do.
Many believe the international representatives consider
Ivanovic an unacceptable negotiator because of an extremely
hostile attitude towards Albanians.
"It is obvious that the international community
divide Serbs into acceptable and unacceptable," said Ivanovic.
"Probably General Cabigioso was irritated by my idea that
solutions for the Kosovo crisis cannot always be found by hurting
the Serbs. The crisis in Kosovska Mitrovica that has escalated
along with fighting in southern Serbia is worrying the government
At the beginning of this week, Yugoslav president
Kostunica met with the Serbian representative in the Transitional
Administrative Council of Kosovo Rade Trajkovic and agreed with
him that any radical act on the part of Yugoslav security forces
against Albanian rebels in southern Serbia would not only cause a
swift reaction from the international community but would also
prompt Albanians to seek revenge against Serbs in northern Kosovo.
The new government in Belgrade has so far refrained from using
harsh measures against Albanian extremists, and doesn't look ready
to change this policy. But the huge problems inherited from
Milosevic's former regime will force Belgrade to exercise extreme
patience and excellent diplomatic skills to avoid fighting in
southern Serbia and to protect their people in Kosovo from
Ukraine: DESTABILIZATION FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT
By Ivan Lozowy
Ukraine's days of calm and passivity are past.
has been shaken by an unprecedented political scandal which has
threatened destabilization from within and without. Just this
past Tuesday over 5,000 people blocked traffic in the center of
Kyiv and burned effigies of the "pakhan," or semi-criminal figure
symbolizing Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma. Talk of declaring
a state of emergency and early general elections abound.
Yet the full ramifications of what is transpiring are only now
becoming evident and they carry grave implications for Ukraine.
The scandal broke like a thunderbolt out of a clear,
A year earlier President Leonid Kuchma had successfully campaigned
for re-election, the first such instance in Ukraine's history.
mid-November 1999 the state media were busy fondly recalling how
Kuchma was again chosen as the country's president. Suddenly,
disappearance of a relatively obscure journalist Georgy Gongadze
on September 16 took on new significance with revelations and
accusations made on November 28 in parliament by the leader of the
Socialist Party of Ukraine, Oleksandr Moroz. Within several weeks
parliament was in an uproar, a national anti-Kuchma campaign was
launched, headlines around the world castigated Kuchma and his
team and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was
thinking of expelling Ukraine.
The driving force behind these developments has
"Kuchma-gate" and "Gongadze-gate", but probably most deserves the
label "Tape-gate." A series of audio-recordings, the first
portions of which were presented by Moroz, revealed conversations
between Kuchma and a wide range of public officials. Today few
are sceptical of the tapes' authenticity. The Prosecutor-General,
much criticized for his bumbling handling of the Gongadze case,
stated several days ago that The Tapes include actual
conversations by the President in his office, but that they were
spliced and otherwise manipulated, which constitutes a
falsification. Such a lapse on the Prosecutor-General's part
could only be punished, and swiftly, so Potebenko is now
officially on leave, presumably not of his own free will.
The uproar and political crisis which The Tapes
derive from the nature of Kuchma's discussions. Ukraine's
President discusses getting rid of the journalist Gongadze,
"destroying" the Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, taking bribes
from planned privatizations, putting into play special police
units whose function is to pressure and even physically remove
opponents. The picture painted by The Tapes is of a president
is paranoid about criticism, mired in corruption on a day-to-day
basis and who routinely employs the state apparatus to illegally
remove opponents. Although polls show that this picture is hardly
surprising to the citizenry, the political fallout has been
considerable, particularly on the international scene. Dragged
out over the past several months, Tape-gate has relegated Ukraine
to dungheap of international politics and endangered its
international commitments such as its partnership with the United
Given a general state of apathy, if not torpor,
and after two
months of revelations and discussion, however, the ongoing
political crisis has taken on aspects of the ordinary. And with
the situation normalizing in its abnormality, some have begun to
question what it all means. Foremost is the issue of who, if
anyone, is behind the scandal. Major Mykola Melnychenko, the
former employee of the President's personal security service who
is responsible for The Tapes, is living abroad in an undisclosed
location. Melnychenko is strangely confident and has repeatedly
asserted that he wishes to return to Ukraine as soon as possible,
despite knowing, as he surely does, that his life would be in
danger, which is attested to by the very tapes he made.
Also, it seems unlikely that Melnychenko acted alone,
claims. Melnychenko has stuck to his story that for months he
planted and regularly retrieved a tape recorder hidden in a couch
in the President's office. The unlikelihood of this scenario
compounded by Melnychenko's own statements that there are
like-minded officers in Ukraine's secret services, though he
insists he acted alone. The fact also remains that, as far as
anyone seems to know, the special lines of communication as well
as its potential use for eavesdropping, remain in place since
Soviet times. Since the former Russian leadership in Moscow did
not trust their henchmen in, for example, Ukraine, they retained
the option of listening in on local goings-on. This equipment
could apparently have been used to make the recordings contained
in The Tapes.
The finger thus points to Russia. Georgia's President
Shevardnadze first suggested this conclusion publicly during a
meeting with Kuchma. The involvement of Russia's secret service,
the FSB, and other similar agencies in Ukraine is a taboo subject.
But, given past history such as the flight to Moscow of Ukraine's
former KGB director after the failed coup attempt in 1991, it
seems reasonable that the two secret services are intertwined up
to their ears. People's Deputy Mykhailo Ratushny last week
publicly declared that Russia is working actively to destabilize
the situation in Ukraine in order to push it closer to integration
Certainly Ukraine has moved much closer to Russia
before during its past 10 years of independence. Under Kuchma's
guidance, Ukraine has opened up many of its most attractive
objects of privatization to Russian capital. The newly installed
Minister for Foreign Affairs Anatoly Zlenko, renowned for his
affinity to Russia, has embarked on a series of agreements with
Russia covering radio and television broadcasts which would reach
directly into Ukraine's territory. In the next week Kuchma will
meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the heavily
industrialized eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk to discuss ever
closer economic cooperation.
Putin himself adds to the circumstantial evidence
Russia as one of the principal forces moving the Tape-gate scandal
forward. The fact that Russia is headed up by a career KGB
officer with a penchant for relying on and trusting only his own
service (witness the FSB receiving control over the war in
Chechnya) may be circumstantial, maybe not. In any event, for
their part, some representatives of international organizations in
Kyiv privately admit that they are certain Russia has been
involved in Tape-gate and the furore surrounding it.
Certainly there is little doubt that, under Putin,
gotten serious on the issue of moving Ukraine much closer. So
long as the Tape-gate scandal rolls on the danger that Kuchma will
be pressured into relying heavily on Russian support will
continue. The only spoiler for this state of affairs is Kuchma's
leaving office, which, as per Ukraine's laws, he can only do
voluntarily. In that event, the Constitution stipulates that
Prime Minister becomes acting President. Since the current Prime
Minister, Viktor Yushchenko, is an honest and clean reformist this
scenario seems to be Ukraine's only hope for a better future.
Slovakia : ON THE RIGHT TRACK
By Peter Mikes
The losses of the nationalist Slovak National Party
the gains of Hungarian coalition's Hungarian Minority Party (SMK)
in the past 30 months are a sign that Slovakia is on its way to
After Meciar lost the 1998 elections Slovakia became
with a chance of joining NATO and the EU. This chance only
existed, however, if the government changes were not just
accidental, but reflected actual changes in the climate of the
society. One of the signs that these changes have taken place
the success of the minority SMK and the losses felt by the
The Party of Hungarian Coalition has made achievements
past two and half years that were unthinkable before 1998. The
Slovak government accepted the European Charter on Minority and
Regional Languagees, which gives all minorities-not just
Hungarian-the right to use its language in official places.
Another victory that could not have been won before
government changes was the Slovak govermnent's recent support for
the creation of a Hungarian Department in the University Of Cyril
and Metod in Nitra. The Hungarian Department will educate new
teachers of the Hungarian language, a key part of the Hungarian
minority's survival in Slovakia.
SMK made other gains in agriculture, since most
Slovakia work in agriculture. If the bill proposed by SMK and
supported by other members of govermental coalition is passed,
land with no owners could be owned by the villagers, under certain
conditions. The villagers could then rent fields out, which could
improve conditions in southern Slovakia, where most of this land
is and where the Hungarian minority lives.
SMK achieved these successes thanks to its popular
Bela Bugar replaced the old nationalist leader Miklos Duray as
party chief, and his humanity and original sense of humour also
makes him popular among Slovaks. Bugar is known for the joy he
takes in life, for instance, he is able to appear on TV dressed in
Slovak national costume and sing popular Slovak national songs
with his "Hungarian Slovak" He also has a small lovely adopted
Bugar is a constructive politician-it was Bugar
his colleagues to support Mikulas Dzurinda's government and,
recently, to promise to support the Slovak Constitution.
Bugar success and popularity contrasts starkly with
of the nationalist SNS after 1998. SNS also changed its leader,
choosing Anna Malikova to replace supernationalist Jan Slota.
Malikova is well known in the Slovak media because of her
relationship with Russian "entrepreneur" Alexander Belousov, who
is wanted by Interpol. She hasn't had much success
politically-last week's party convention was a disaster,
characterised by bitter political infighting closely followed by
media. These battles brought to the public eye the fact that SNS
deputy chief Villiam Oberhauser won his function only by
falsifying votes. Oberhauser supporters in turn gave the media
political dirt on the other side, etc.
The recent scandals combined with declining popular
means SNS is losing its political position among opposition
parties. The Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has declared
more than once that they do not want to cooperate with SNS. This
could be just a tactic on the part of the Meciar wing of the
party, but is meant seriously by the "rational" wing headed by
Meciar's opponents in HZDS.
A new party has entered the scene and quickly gained
popularity, which could also be one of the reasons for SNS's
decline. This new party, called SMER carries 16 percent of popular
support, and has become the HZDS's new target for cooperation.
Despite these gains, the political situation in
only halfway to "Europeanization." The opposition parties are not
standardized, and nobody knows what will happen if the goverment
coalition loses the 2002 elections. But the SMK's successes and
SNS's losses are good indications of a changes in the nationalist
climate that was so strong during Meciar's regime.
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WEEK IN REVIEW
Anxiety Attack: Violence and rumors of possible arrests rock Yugoslavia.
by Dragan Stojkovic
Thank You, Mr. Butterfly: The savior of Slovak steel resigns in triumph.
by Barbora Maroszova
Stray and Not-So-Stray Bullets: Bulgarians alarmed after a shocking
murder and an overall rise
by Konstantin Vulkov
The Tail of a Dragon: After a bone-dry summer and now in the
midst of a harsh winter, Mongolia faces agricultural disaster
by Nomin Lhagvasuren
Bear Power: The growing influence of Russia's Gazprom in the Hungarian
energy sector is making Budapest nervous.
by Laszlo Szocs
Tug of War Heats Up Over Russia's NTV
Poland Plans Military Reorganization
Russian Foreign Minister Pays First Visit to Prague
Kyrgyzstan Tackles Toxic Waste
Kazakh Oppositionists Continue To Drop Out of Race
YUGOSLAV SPECIAL REPORT: 100 Days To Skin A Cat
OVERVIEW: The Misery of Inheritance
by Svetlana Djurdjevic-Lukic
A truncated piece of a broken, spotty mirror, a
floor, and a 10-year-old girl saying: "This is my bathroom." The
appeal from the authorities to find homes for orphaned children
vividly illustrates the extent of the misery inherited by the new
Yugoslav government. The period of celebration is long gone.
Cracks are starting to appear in Yugoslav President Vojislav
Kostunica's charisma. Now, more than 100 days after the revolution
in Belgrade and the defeat of Slobodan Milosevic, really only two
things are crystal clear: There is no more fear of the regime, and
forming a healthy state and economy is going to be a very long and
PROFILE: Suspiciously Slick
by Tihomir Loza
It's been five years since Farakhnoz Abdul Kabir
and her five
children fled Afghanistan and the wrath of the Taliban to settle
in Uzbekistan. Since then, they've been living precarious lives as
refugees with no special status. As they gathered around the table
in their modest Tashkent apartment during Ramadan celebrations,
the sparse food was less a concern than the possibility of being
kicked out of their home in the dead of winter. Refugees in
Uzbekistan struggle to survive as foreigners with few rights.
FEATURE: The Ice Kitchen
by Russell Working
Sakhalin island is a remote former penal colony
where the sea
freezes for up to six months a year and villagers have been known
to sleep in tents pitched in their bedrooms when the central
heating goes out. In recent years, power outages have periodically
blacked out large parts of the island, and motorists grouse about
skyrocketing petrol prices at gas stations. It is not a place one
would expect to emerge as an energy source for East Asia. But with
offshore oil and natural gas reserves thought to rival those of
Europe's North Sea, an island still suffering from the Russian Far
East's perpetual energy crisis is poised to muscle into the market
as a major petroleum supplier for Japan, China, and South Korea.
FEATURE: The Human Toll
by Jennifer Balfour
Feature brought to you by EurasiaNet (www.eurasianet.org).
The recent discovery of a human organ smuggling
ring in the
southern Uzbek city of Bukhara is focusing attention on the
dangers of widespread poverty, which is driving many to resort to
desperate measures in a search for economic security. Authorities
have yet to establish a final death toll, but at least 70 murders
have been attributed to the human organ smuggling ring. A Bukhara
surgeon and her husband, a professor at a local technological
institute, stand accused of the murders. The couple allegedly
operated a phantom travel agency that purported to arrange foreign
work visas. Customers reportedly paid $200 for the agency's
services. However, an unknown number of those seeking to emigrate
ended up being killed and having their organs sold for