|Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Naught may endure but Mutability. - Percy Shelley|
No. 181, 22 September 1994
RUSSIA OPPOSITION, ADMINISTRATION MARK ANNIVERSARY OF YELTSIN'S DECREE. Both sides involved in the bloody confrontations last year commemorated the anniversary of Decree No 1400, issued by Boris Yeltsin on 21 September 1993. In it, the president dissolved the Russian parliament and suspended the Constitutional Court, although the constitution then in force explicitly forbade him to take either of these steps. While Yeltsin's administration marked the day with the presentation of a collection of heretofore unpublished documents, the opposition held rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg. A few thousand people took part in a torch-lit procession from the square in front of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater to Pushkin Square, where speakers called for an end to the Yeltsin regime. The rally in St. Petersburg, according to an RFE/RL correspondent's report, was larger and far better organized, embracing Yeltsin opponents of every stripe, from anarchists to monarchists. Also on 21 September, for the first time since the amnesty declared in February for the leaders of the parliamentary resistance to the decree, Rutskoi appeared on state-controlled Russian Television, on the live show "Podrobnosti," to air his views. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL Inc. TWO MAJOR DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENTS FORM POLITICAL ALLIANCE. The co-chairpersons of the Democratic Russia Movement--Galina Starovoitova, Gleb Yakunin, and Lev Ponomarev--signed an agreement on the formation of a political alliance with the leader of the Russian Democratic Reform Movement, former Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov. As they told a news conference on 21 September, both sides agreed to hold regular consultations aimed at coordinating the positions of Russia's two major democratic movements on matters of political importance, including backing the same candidates in the forthcoming parliamentary, municipal, and, most important, presidential elections. The lack of such coordination, Ponomarev noted, had resulted in a poor showing by the democrats in the December 1993 elections for seats in the Russian parliament. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL Inc. NO PLACE FOR GORBACHEV IN SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PARTY. The organizing committee of the new Russian Social Democratic Party (see Daily Report of 20 September) held its first news conference on 21 September, Russian TV news and an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow reported. At the briefing, the party's leader, Aleksandr Yakovlev (Number 2 in former President Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership and now the chairman of Ostankino Radio and Television) depicted the future party's orientation as centrist, adding that the socialist experience of the Soviet era only illustrated how the country should not be run. Yakovlev's deputy, former USSR Defense Minister Evgenii Shaposhnikov, named two men who will have no place in the new party--former Russian Vice President Rutskoi and former USSR President and Nobel Peace prize-winner Gorbachev. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL Inc. UNIONS THREATEN TO DISRUPT STATE TV BROADCASTING. In a statement broadcast by Ostankino TV news on 21 September, the leader of the Union of Communications Servicemen, Anatolii Nazeikin, announced his union's intention to stop broadcasting both state TV companies' programs, with the exception of two hours of evening newscasts a day. Financed from the state budget, the companies--Ostankino and Russian Television--have to pay for the stations that transmit their signals across the country; in the case of Ostankino, transmission costs account for 80% of its budget. This year the budget covered only a quarter of the companies' financial requirements; moreover, only a third of that sum was actually paid. As a result, the companies owe the communications network as much as 410.5 billion rubles, which means in turn that payment of the wages of its employees has been delayed for two to three months. The newscast also said Ostankino Chairman Aleksandr Yakovlev had informed the Russian finance minister by letter that he could not take responsibility for the continuation of broadcasting in such circumstances. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL Inc. PRESS COMMITTEE URGES COURT TO BAN ZAVTRA. The Russian State Committee on the Press has appealed to the Moscow courts to ban the hard-core opposition weekly Zavtra, Russian TV newscasts reported on 20 September. The committee stated that the weekly had been warned on several occasions for provoking discord among nationalities and inciting rebellion. Edited by the militant Russian nationalist writer Aleksandr Prokhanov, Zavtra is the successor to the weekly Den, which was banned by a decree issued by Yeltsin after the clashes between presidential and pro-parliamentary forces in October 1993; the two periodicals do not seem to differ in anything but name. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL Inc. STRIKES BY VORKUTA COAL MINERS. According to a Russian TV newscast on 20 September, a warning strike at a number of mines in the Vorkuta coal basin ended on 20 September; workers at another pit continued to strike. The miners were demanding payment of their wages, which they have not received for several months. They were also cited as threatening to stage another strike on 1 October if the government continued to ignore their problems. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL Inc. POWER OFFICIAL PULLS PLUG ON STRATEGIC MISSILES. The head of Moscow's power directorate turned off the electric power at the command center of the strategic rocket forces on 21 September, because of unpaid bills. According to ITAR-TASS, this action "created a threat to Russia's national security" that was only averted when the men on duty managed to switch the system over to its own power source. The Moscow official, Pavel Sinyuk, was accused of violating a 1994 government decision forbidding such action. The president of Mosenergo--the Moscow power company--told Ostankino Television that the electricity was cut off because the Moscow Military District owed over 50 billion rubles. -- Doug Clarke, RFE/RL Inc. SU-27 SALE TO CHINA HITS SNAG. A Hong Kong newspaper, Lien Ho Pao, reported on 21 September that a planned Russian sale of 24 Su-27 jet fighters to China had been shelved because the two sides could not agree on the price. The paper said that the Russians were offering the planes for $30 million each, in cash, while the Chinese were prepared to pay only $15 million in bartered goods. China was reported to have purchased 26 Su-27s from Russia last year. -- Doug Clarke, RFE/RL Inc. RUSSIAN OIL INDUSTRY TO BE RESTRUCTURED. Plagued by continually falling output, Russia's oil industry is to be fully restructured by 1997 under a scheme drafted by the Ministry of Fuel and Energy, the Union of Oil Industrialists, and Russia's largest oil companies and endorsed by the Russian government's commission on current management, Interfax reported on 20 September. The scheme, which is being submitted to the government for approval, envisages the creation in 1994 of 10 to 15 integrated firms to extract and refine petroleum and provide related services. Small and medium companies are to exploit small oil fields. A State Oil Company is to be set up in 1996-1997 to represent Russia in signing large contracts with foreign investors and coordinate the activities of companies operating on a national scale. The Transneft company is to continue operating oil pipelines. -- Bess Brown, RFE/RL Inc. RUSSIA SEEKS WORLD BANK OIL CREDITS. The Russian government approved documents concerning a second loan, worth $500 million, that it is seeking from the World Bank to rehabilitate and modernize West Siberian oil fields, Interfax reported on 20 September. It said that Russia had obtained a first oil rehabilitation loan, worth $610 million, from the World Bank in 1993. The latest request comes in the wake of Russian objections to a massive Western investment project in Azerbaijan's offshore oil fields and claims to a Russian right to "joint use" with Caspian states of their offshore resources. -- Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AGREEMENT ON DIVISION OF POWERS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Before setting out for official visits to Italy and Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev met with Supreme Soviet deputies and forged an agreement on the division of responsibilities between the legislative and executive branches, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. A document on the agreement alludes to the conflict earlier in the year between the Supreme Soviet and the government and asserts that such disputes are unacceptable in the face of Kazakhstan's worsening economic conditions and the falling standard of living. A commission of representatives of the legislature, government, and President's Office is to be formed to work out the details of the agreement. -- Bess Brown, RFE/RL Inc. CIS KOZYREV WANTS US ACCEPTANCE OF RUSSIAN ROLE IN CIS. In preparation for the impending US-Russian summit, Andrei Kozyrev urged the United States to expand bilateral economic relations with Russia in order to contribute to the "stability and prosperity of the CIS" as a region, ITAR-TASS cited the Russian foreign minister as saying on 21 September. Those (unnamed) US advisers who oppose Russia's role in CIS economic integration and conflict resolution "are giving very bad, incorrect, and irresponsible advice," Kozyrev said. "The US president should dismiss such consultants without delay." Kozyrev said that Russia aspires to turn the CIS into a European Union-like organization, "certainly not a centralized state or a new USSR." He "pointed to the lack of any imperial ambitions in Moscow," ITAR-TASS said. -- Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL Inc. EURASIAN UNION PROPOSALS ENDORSED AT CONFERENCE. At a conference in Almaty on 20 and 21 September, delegates from eight former Soviet republics endorsed steps proposed by Kazakhstan's President Nazarbaev toward creating a Eurasian Union, Interfax, ITAR-TASS, and Ostankino TV reported. In his address to the conference, Nazarbaev said the proposals were intended to accelerate economic and political integration among CIS member states. He and prominent Russian speakers, including the Duma's CIS affairs committee chairman Konstantin Zatulin and Russian Federation Communist Party head Gennadii Zyuganov, disclaimed any intent to reconstitute the USSR or a Russian empire or to use force in the process. Endorsing Nazarbaev's "and other integration projects," the conference resolved to establish an institute and a nongovernmental foundation to promote such plans. -- Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL Inc. MILITARY SPACE PROGRAM TO BE MOVED TO RUSSIA. ITAR-TASS announced on 21 September that Russia intended to move its military space program from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan to the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northwestern Russia. It said that Colonel General Vladimir Ivanov, head of the military Space Forces, was leading a group of experts visiting Plesetsk to discuss the transfer. Although Russia and Kazakhstan are about to sign an agreement allowing the Russians to remain at the Baikonur facility, the article said that the Defense Ministry did not want to be dependent on any foreign state. As it is much farther north than Baikonur, payloads launched from Plesetsk cannot be as heavy as the ones sent aloft from Kazakhstan. In the longer run, the Space Forces are counting on a new cosmodrome to be built in the Amur region in the Far East. -- Doug Clarke, RFE/RL Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UN OBSERVERS SAY SERBIAN HELICOPTERS AID BOSNIAN SERBS. The New York Times of 22 September quoted UN military observers as saying that they had noted "several hundred flights by Serbian helicopters over northeastern Bosnia in the past week, and many [appeared] to have originated in Serbia." They added that they had "not seen anything on this scale before and [doubted] that the Bosnian Serbs could organize this number of helicopter flights without the active involvement of the Yugoslav Army." NATO spokesmen challenged the report, saying that they had "nothing in any way to match this"; but the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 16 September had already reported on a massive increase in cross-border helicopter activity. Meanwhile, in Sarajevo, UN Commander General Sir Michael Rose was quoted by Reuters of 21 September as saying that the Serbs appeared to be meeting the midnight deadline for withdrawing their heavy weapons from the city's exclusion zone. -- Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc. OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. AFP of 21 September quoted Serbian sources as saying that Bosnian government forces were preparing an offensive from the Zvornik region to push through Serbian lines and retake the left bank of the Drina. From Banja Luka, Borba reported on 22 September that Bosnian Serbs and the self-styled Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna had reached an agreement to exchange populations that wished to move of their own accord. The Athens-based Balkan News noted in its 8-14 September issue that local elements among the Muslim and Croatian forces, particularly among the Herzegovinian Croatian hard-liners, were blocking the implementation of the Croat-Muslim federation program backed by their respective top leaderships. Bosnian Croat leader Kresimir Zubak, who is not part of the Herzegovinian group, had earlier protested to Muslim leaders about anti-Croatian propaganda in the Muslim media. -- Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc. KOSOVAR POLITICAL LEADER TAKES BACK RESIGNATION . . . The deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Fehmi Agani, has withdrawn his earlier resignation of his top posts. Agani had expressed discontent with the elections to the central committee at the second party congress on 14 July. According to Borba of 20 September, Agani charged that those elected were not long-term participants in the struggle for Kosovo's independence but mainly inexperienced people. He added that he was not content with the work of the party as a whole. Before the congress, party leader Ibrahim Rugova had argued for a change in the leadership to bring younger and "skilled rather than enthusiastic" people into the central committee and stressed that the LDK was "not an ideological party." -- Fabian Schmidt, RFE/RL Inc. . . . AND CALLS FOR TALKS WITH SERBS. After his return to office, Agani said in an interview with RFE/RL's South Slavic Language Service, together with the prominent Serbian ideologist Mihajlo Markovic, that talks with Serbia should start soon under international mediation. Markovic, however, stated that international mediation "would hardly be acceptable" for the Serbs, who regard Kosovo as a purely internal affair. Borba carried the whole story in several articles between 17 and 20 September. A possible compromise in the two sides' positions could be to hold talks in a foreign embassy in Belgrade. -- Fabian Schmidt, RFE/RL Inc. POLAND'S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY BEGINS CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATE. The Sejm and Senate, sitting jointly as the National Assembly, on 21 September began debating the seven draft constitutions submitted for consideration by various political parties, the president, the Senate, and the Solidarity union, PAP reports. President Lech Walesa also attended. The first session was dominated by procedural discussions. An ad hoc committee was set up to draft rules of order for the assembly. These provide for a first reading of all seven drafts, questions and answers, and a general debate, followed by the preparation in commission of a single compromise draft that will be submitted for a second reading to the National Assembly. After the passage of the single draft, the president will be able either to approve the draft or to suggest amendments. In the latter case, there would be a third reading before the president ordered a national referendum. Party political infighting over the past five years has so far prevented the completion of work on a new Polish Constitution. -- Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka, RFE/RL Inc. POLISH PRIME MINISTER IN KAZAKHSTAN. Waldemar Pawlak arrived in Alma Ata on 21 September at the head of a high-level delegation that included several economic ministers and representatives of state and private businesses, PAP reports. Pawlak and his Kazakh counterpart Sergei Tereschenko signed several agreements including one on Polish credits worth $30 million for Kazakh purchases of Polish goods. Pawlak also met with representatives of the large Polish ethnic group--the descendants of tens of thousands of Poles resettled from Ukraine in the 1930s--many of whom would like to repatriate to Poland. Pawlak said that repatriation could only be considered if all else failed in extreme circumstances. Instead, he stressed the need for the Kazakh Poles to play a role in bilateral economic relations. Pawlak suggested that the Polish community in the West should help to develop such relations. A representative of the Polish American Congress accompanied Pawlak. -- Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka, RFE/RL Inc. CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER RECALLED. At the request of Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, on 21 September President Vaclav Havel dismissed Defense Minister Antonin Baudys and appointed Foreign Ministry official Vilem Holan to replace him. Holan is to be sworn in on 22 September. The president and the prime minister acted at the request of Baudys's Christian and Democratic Union/People's Party. The leadership of the party claimed that Baudys had become a political liability after a series of political blunders, but both Baudys and Klaus have indicated that the minister's replacement was a result of an internal party struggle between two wings within the CDU/PP. Holan is also a member of that party. -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL Inc. SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTRY ON HORN'S STATEMENTS. A spokesman for the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs told journalists in Bratislava on 21 September that members of ethic minorities were sufficiently represented in the system of state administration. The statement was made in response to Hungarian Prime Minister Guyla Horn's recent remarks on Duna Television that he considered unacceptable the fact that in those regions of Slovakia where members of an ethnic minority constituted a majority "they do not enjoy corresponding representation in the system of state administration." The Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Horn was "again putting himself in the position of Slovakia's mentor." -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL Inc. HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON GOVERNMENT'S FOREIGN POLICY. According to Laszlo Kovacs, the Gyula Horn-led government has begun normalizing relations with Hungary's neighbors, MTI reported on 21 September. Good-neighborly relations were necessary for all concerned to integrate Europe and ensure political stability in the region, Kovacs said. Hungary would strive to sign bilateral treaties that guarantee both the inviolability of borders and the rights of national minorities, and experts' talks to that effect would take place in late September with Slovakia and "in the near future" with Romania. By signing such treaties, Hungary would not renounce the possibility of peaceful changes of borders due to changed circumstances and the agreement of both parties, as stated in the Vienna Convention, Kovacs added. -- Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL Inc. ROMANIANS PROTEST OVER COMMUNIST LEADERS' RELEASE. Reuters reported on 21 September that Romanian civic groups had protested against the release of the last two former communist bosses jailed in connection with the killings in the December 1989 revolt. The two, Ion Dinca and Ludovic Fazekas, had been freed on 20 December. A leader of the "21 December" association called the release "a new offense" to the more than 1,100 people reportedly killed in the 1989 events. All eighty-seven senior communist officials initially sentenced in connection with the massacres have already been freed on grounds of age or health. Six of them applied on 21 September for pardons to prevent the possibility of being sent back to prison. In a separate development, an "initiative group" announced on the same day that it planned to revive the Romanian Communist Party and prepare its fifteenth congress. The RCP's last congress was in November 1989, a month before the uprising that toppled the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. -- Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL Inc. BULGARIAN COURT ORDERS PARLIAMENT TO STOP REPLACING TOP JURISTS. The spokesman of the constitutional court told Bulgarian National Radio on 21 September that parliament would have to rescind its decision aimed at replacing several members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), adopted on 16 September. Vladislav Slavov said the assembly's vote was a "drastic and striking violation" of the court's 15 September ruling, which interpreted the 1991 constitution as unambiguously stating that all members of the SJC are appointed for five years, a provision that he said neither parliament nor the recently adopted law on the judiciary could ignore or modify. Slavov also stressed that the existing Law on the Constitutional Court gave the top legal body the authority to order any state institution, including the National Assembly, to revoke decisions that it regarded as inconsistent with the constitution. -- Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL Inc. ALBANIA TO COMMEMORATE LIBERATION ANNIVERSARY. On the recommendation of President Sali Berisha, a government commission has been set up to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Albania's liberation from Axis occupation, according to Rilindja Demokratike of 10 September. Last year Albania changed the national day from 29 November (the date celebrated for forty-eight years and chosen by Enver Hoxha to coincide with the liberation day of former Yugoslavia) to 28 November, the day that also marks the independence from 500 years of Ottoman rule in 1912. The Socialists (the former Communists) saw the change as part of Berisha's Democrats' wider agenda aimed at destroying the legacy of Albania's Partisans who had fought for liberation. But now, faced with the mounting pressure of what Tirana calls the "Serb-Greek threat" to the Albanian people, Berisha's decision to pay special tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of liberation can be seen as a rallying nationalist call to all Albanians, including the Socialists. Berisha also personally marked the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the city of Gjirokaster (bordering on Greece and the birthplace of the late dictator Hoxha), reported Rilindja on 20 September. The president said in his lengthy and nationalistic speech that all Albanians had to confront "bad Serb-Greek nationalism with good Albanian nationalism." -- Louis Zanga, RFE/RL Inc. UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS ON CHENCHENYA. On 21 September UNIAN reported that a delegation of the radical nationalist organization the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), led by Yurii Tyma, had met with Chechen President Dzhokar Dudayev in Grozny. Tyma said that Dudayev supported UNA's initiative to hold an international congress of "freedom-loving forces" in Grozny in October. Tyma also accused Russia of using the cholera epidemic in Deghestan to block approaches to Grozny and of fabricating the myth of an Islamic threat in the Caucauses. UNA's paramilitary arm, the Ukrainian National Self-Defense Organization (UNSO), has been active in fighting against Russian forces in Abkhazia and also on the side of the Russian Transdniester forces in Moldova in protection of Slavic rights. The former Ukrainian president, Leonid Kravchuk, had banned UNSO as a result of its activities. -- Ustina Markus, RFE/RL Inc. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ACTS ON CRIMEA. International media report that the Ukrainian parliament passed several amendments affecting Crimea on 21 September. One amendment allows the Ukrainian parliament to dismiss deputies in the Crimean parliament before their term of office is up. A second amendment says that the Ukrainian legislature can cancel legal acts adopted by Crimea if they do not conform to the Ukrainian Constitution. Yet another amendment changes the name of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to the "Autonomous Republic of Crimea." -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL Inc. FIRST HUNGARIAN INSTITUTE OF HIGHER EDUCATION OPENS IN UKRAINE. The teachers' college opened on 17 September in Beregszasz (Berehovo), Transcarpathian Oblast, according to Nepszabadsag of 20 September. On the recommendation of the joint Ukrainian-Hungarian commission and with the support of the teachers' college of Nyiregyhaza in Hungary, the new college will train twenty-five ethnic Magyar nursery school and regular teachers and seventeen teachers of English, history, and geography this academic year. It also plans to teach members of the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia agriculture and health at a higher level. -- Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL Inc. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ON THE ECONOMY AND RUSSIA. Belarusian Radio and Belinform-TASS reported on separate interviews with Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 21 and 20 September, respectively. According to Belinform-TASS, Lukashenka blames Russia for the unpopular economic measures the Belarusian government must take, because Russia began charging world prices for its energy rapidly, rather than adopting a gradual approach. Lukashenka also said that some $200 million had been deposited in Belarusian overseas bank accounts and that this money was not working for the benefit of the Belarusian economy. He added that a decree would soon be passed regarding these accounts. Belarusian Radio reported that Lukashenka had said Belarus would not accept Russian ultimatums on country's energy debt. When asked if it was possible that a situation could arise in Belarus similar to what happened in Russia during the confrontation between the president and the parliament in September 1993, Lukashenka replied that it could not. -- Ustina Markus, RFE/RL Inc. ESTONIAN-GERMAN DEFENSE ACCORD SIGNED. A defense cooperation agreement was signed in Bonn on 21 September by the defense ministers of Estonia and Germany, Enn Tupp and Volker Ruehe, BNS reported. Ruehe said the agreement marked the beginning of a new era in Estonian-German cooperation, while Tupp noted that the accord was a further sign of the importance that Germany and the present German government attach to the security of all three Baltic States (similar accords were recently signed also with Latvia and Lithuania). In their discussions, the two defense ministers dealt with various issues, including the training of Estonian officers in Germany, aid and technical assistance for the Baltic peacekeeping battalion and the Estonian armed forces, and security policy in the Baltic region following the withdrawal of Russian troops. -- Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL Inc. LITHUANIAN CABINET DISCUSSES MILITARY TRANSIT RULES. On 21 September the Lithuanian government discussed the draft regulations for transporting foreign military cargoes through Lithuania, BNS and Interfax reported. The document sets forth conditions and rules for the transit of servicemen and military cargo and specifies control mechanisms and compensation for possible damage. The regulations prohibit the transportation of nuclear arms and armed formations through Lithuania and the carrying of missiles, bombs, and weapons by foreign aircraft flying over Lithuania. According to Virglijus Bulovas, the head of the Lithuanian working group for talks with the CIS states, this document will serve as the basis for the Russian-Lithuanian agreement on military transit to Russia's Kaliningrad region via Lithuanian territory. Until now, Moscow has linked the signing of the agreement on transit to Kaliningrad with implementing the November 1993 agreement on granting Lithuania most-favored-nation trading status. -- Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL Inc. RIGA CITY COUNCIL BANS ANTISTATE MEDIA. After a heated debate, the city council in Riga, Latvia, on 20 September adopted new rules on the dissemination of foreign media, Diena and BNS reported on 21 September. Publications and other media that propagate violence or breaches of the law, campaign against Latvia's independence, or advocate chauvinism are banned. Failure to comply with the regulations may entail a fine of 50 lati. Council member Juris Dobelis commented on the move, claiming that newspapers such as Russkii Sobor, Rech, Al-Kods, and Nashe Otcetestvo, which are regularly sold in downtown Riga, "undermine Latvia's stability and threaten its independence." -- Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL Inc. 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