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Newsline - June 18, 1997


The State Duma voted by 231 to 88 with seven abstentions to reject in the first reading a package of measures to cut social benefits, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 17 June. Deputies from Our Home Is Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia supported the package, which the government says would save 30 trillion rubles ($5.2 billion) annually. Yabloko and the Communist-led left opposition in the Duma voted against the cuts. The proposals would have reduced privileges enjoyed by state officials and State Duma staff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1997).


Despite the Duma's lopsided rejection of the social benefits reductions, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev expressed hope that the government can persuade Duma deputies to pass the measures before their summer recess begins in late June. In an interview with an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow, Sysuev warned that failure to approve the cuts would only make it more difficult for the government to pay wage and pension arrears. He insisted that the government plans would protect the poorest families and would not take away benefits from those who truly needed them.


The State Duma has delayed debate on proposed cuts in non-essential 1997 budget spending, Reuters reported on 18 June, citing Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov. The previous day, government and parliamentary representatives again failed to reach agreement on the size of the cuts, Interfax reported. The government is seeking 86-108 trillion rubles ($15-19 billion) in spending cuts, while Duma representatives insist the reductions should not exceed 51-63 trillion rubles.


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov refused to meet with European Trade Commissioner Leon Brittan in protest at anti-dumping measures against 14 categories of Russian goods, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 17 June. In particular, the European Commission recently imposed a 32.9% duty against Russian producers of steel pipes, which the commission says are being sold in Europe at below market prices. Brittan expressed regret that Nemtsov chose to boycott the meeting, arguing that the anti-dumping measures affect only 1.1% of Russian exports to Europe. However, Brittan did meet with other senior officials, including First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, and Foreign Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Also on 17 June, European Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock slammed fees charged to European airlines that fly over Russia as "unjustified" and inconsistent with international law, Reuters reported.


President Boris Yeltsin has rescinded his June 1994 anti-crime decree, which allowed criminal suspects to be detained for up to 30 days without charges being brought against them, Russian news agencies reported on 17 June. Now law-enforcement agencies can detain suspects without filing charges for a maximum of 10 days. Yeltsin also annulled a clause of a July 1996 decree on fighting crime in Moscow that allowed homeless people suspected of committing crimes to be detained in "social rehabilitation centers" for up to 30 days. Human rights watchdog groups in Russia and abroad had sharply criticized both decrees, claiming the measures were unconstitutional and used primarily against ethnic minorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 1997). Yeltsin also instructed the government to prepare within two months a draft law on "preventing vagrancy and rehabilitating homeless people."


Experts working for the Duma's Committee on Labor and Social Policy have expressed doubts about Yeltsin's 14 June decree calling for raising the minimum pension payment to at least 80% of the subsistence level for pensioners, beginning on 1 January 1998, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 June. The Duma experts note that there is no agreed mechanism for calculating the subsistence level. The State Statistics Committee, Labor Ministry, and trade unions currently use different calculations. Yeltsin vetoed a law on the subsistence minimum passed by the Duma in April, which would have settled the issue. Yevgenii Gontmakher, the head of the government's department on social development, told "Kommersant-Daily" that the decree will probably be implemented in accordance with the Labor Ministry's calculation. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" on 18 June argued that the Pension Fund is likely to have trouble finding the money for the increased payments.


Speaking at a press conference in Grozny on 17 June, Aslan Maskhadov accused Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov of sabotaging the Russian-Chechen peace process, Reuters and Interfax reported. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii had charged three days earlier that Kulikov was hindering the exchange of Chechen prisoners of war for Russian Interior Ministry troops. In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 17 June, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin similarly said Kulikov is incapable of establishing productive contacts with the Chechen Interior Ministry. Kulikov denied those accusations, telling Radio Mayak that 70 Chechens were recently exchanged for 200 Russian prisoners. Kulikov also said that he had met twice in recent months with his Chechen counterpart, Kazbek Makhashev, and that the Chechen side had rejected as premature his offer to send Russian police to serve in Chechnya, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 June.


Chechens who fled to Kabardino-Balkaria during the 1994-1996 war are faced with imminent deportation, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 June. Their representatives have sent a telegram to the federal Coordinating Council for Aid to Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons protesting a ruling by the government of Kabardino-Balkaria to send them back to Chechnya by 1 July. Some 4,800 Chechen fugitives are officially registered in Kabardino-Balkariya, but their actual number is closer to 15,000, according to the Federal Migration Service.


At their meeting in Moscow on 16-17 June, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin and his North Korean counterpart, Lee In Kyu, made little progress toward a new bilateral treaty but agreed on several projects, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides agreed to cooperate in refining fuels, ensure access for Russian ships to the North Korean port of Najin, promote joint investment in the free trade zone at Najin-Sonbon, open a coking-coal deposit in Yakutia, and complete North Korea's Kim Chkhek metallurgical factory, which was begun as a joint project during the Soviet era. The treaty on Russian-North Korean relations will be discussed later this year in Pyong Yang. The last such treaty was signed in 1961 and provided for, among other things, mutual defense. Russia now is anxious to annul this commitment to North Korea in light of Moscow's improved relations with the U.S., South Korea, and Japan.


Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has asked the krai legislature to consider whether to call early gubernatorial elections, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 17 June. It appears unlikely that the legislature will approve an early vote, which, under regional law, can be held only if the governor loses his Russian citizenship, resigns voluntarily, or dies. If a new election were held, many observers believe, Nazdratenko would regain his post easily. However, RFE/RL's correspondent reports that some local opinion polls indicate that State Duma deputy Svetlana Goryacheva, a prominent member of the Communist Party, is more popular in her native Primore than either Nazdratenko or his arch-rival, Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. For his part, Cherepkov believes Primore's electoral commissions are filled with Nazdratenko's supporters. He opposes holding new elections unless new staff are appointed to the commissions.


First Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko, who headed a government commission that was recently sent to Primorskii Krai, says no other Russian regions are threatened by energy crises this summer, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 17 June. Kirienko told journalists that "mistakes and incompetence" by Primore officials in charge of energy policy had led to the severe crisis there. However, he declined to blame Governor Nazdratenko personally for the policy mistakes. Kirienko acknowledged that other regions could face energy crises in the coming winter, but he declined to name the regions at risk for fear of exacerbating "tensions."


First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais acknowledged on 17 June that it will not be possible to complete the transition to a treasury system for distributing budget funds by January 1998, Russian news agencies reported. In particular, Chubais said that the so-called "power agencies" (law enforcement, security services, and Defense Ministry) would still need to use authorized commercial banks to distribute funds next year. Aleksandr Smirnov, the head of the Federal Treasury, estimated that state funds are currently distributed among some 170,000 bank accounts. About half of those accounts are in the Central Bank, 6% in Sberbank, and 44% in commercial banks. A May presidential decree states that by 1 January 1998, the government must hold open, competitive bidding to select commercial banks to handle budget funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1997).


The European Commission has lifted a ban dating from August1996 on the import of horses from Russia, a senior Russian agriculture official told Interfax on 17 June. The ban was imposed after cases of an equine disease were discovered in six of Russia's 89 regions. Russia exports some 2,000 purebred horses every year. The 1996 ban resulted in losses of almost $4 million.


Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on June 17 sharply criticized a recent vote by the U.S. House of Representatives recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's "united capital," Russian news agencies reported. Tarasov said the non-binding vote "contradicts" international law, the position of the world community, and Washington's own official position. The vote was criticized by the U.S. State Department. Nonetheless, Tarasov argued, the action by Congress will "fuel negative sentiments" and further complicate the already difficult Middle East peace process, of which the U.S. and Russia are co-sponsors.


Russian scientist Aleksandr Zakharov is in critical condition after he received a dangerous dose of radiation on 17 June at the Arzamas-16 Nuclear Research Center in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, RFE/RL's correspondent there reported. The affected part of the center has been sealed off, although officials said the radiation did not spread beyond the center. The cause of the accident is not yet clear; ITAR-TASS on 17 June quoted the Atomic Energy Ministry as saying that safety procedures were "crudely violated." Television journalist and gubernatorial candidate Nina Zvereva and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov had to cut short campaign swings near Arzamas-16 because of the accident. Zyuganov is supporting Duma deputy Gennadii Khodyrev's candidacy in the Nizhnii Novgorod gubernatorial race (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1997).


Gennadii Geroev, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate, says Vladimir Lenin's body is an "anti-relic and a symbol of evil" that should be buried, Interfax reported on 17 June. Patriarch Aleksii II previously advocated removing Lenin from the mausoleum on Red Square but was less outspoken than Geroev. In a 16 June interview with Ekho Moskvy, Yeltsin's legal adviser Mikhail Krasnov argued that displaying Lenin's body next to the Kremlin violates constitutional guarantees against imposing a "state ideology" in Russia. Krasnov added, "If this [pagan] sect wants to worship a mummy, it should be allowed to do so, but in another place," according to Interfax. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Liberal Democratic Party of Russia says Zhirinovsky's party is willing to purchase Lenin's body and take it on a Russia-wide tour, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 June.


A delegation from the UN High Commission on Human Rights has concluded a week-long review of the human right's situation in Tajikistan, Dushanbe Radio reported. The delegation, which visited the cities of Khojand and Kurgan-Teppe as well as Garm and Jirgatal districts, concluded that human rights are often ignored. Most disturbing, it said, were the frequent hostage-takings, lack of access to legal counsel for suspected criminals and detainees, poor conditions in prisons, and growing violence against women. The delegation also identified other social ills such as lack of food for a balanced diet, lack of medical supplies, unemployment, and difficulties in receiving an education.


Soldiers loyal to Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, the commander of the Tajik Army's First Brigade, have disarmed government troops at the Fakhrabad and Dakhanakiik checkpoints (30km and 70 km south of Dushanbe, respectively), Russian media reported on 17 June. Khudaberdiyev is demanding that Khatlon Oblast Governor Davlatali Sharipov be replaced with the head of the regional trade board, Sherali Mirzoyev, and that Khatlon be divided into two oblasts, Kurgan-Teppe and Kulyab, as was the case before1993. He is also seeking guarantees that no fighters of the United Tajik Opposition will return to Tajikistan bearing arms after the 27 June signing of the Peace and National Reconciliation Accord between the government and the UTO.


One Russian soldier was killed and another seriously wounded in a 17 June attack by unknown assailants, Russian media reported. Maj. Gennadii Fedorov of the 201st Division died after he was shot in the back, while a warrant officer had to be hospitalized. The two were in uniform and returning from work when they were attacked.


In the northern city of Kokchetau, 25 Kazak citizens who were "mobilized" by the state to take part in clean-up operations at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant after the 1986 disaster are still on hunger strike after 20 days, according ITAR-TASS on 17 June. The group are demanding compensation for their loss of health. Local officials said the 25 receive special benefits as invalids, but the group claims those payments are not enough for basic foods, let alone the expensive medicines they require. The Kazak government has said it recognizes their demands are justified. The Ministry of Labor and Social Care will discuss the issue in September.


Some 1,000 coal miners marched on the presidential administration building in Kyiv on 17 June, demanding months of back wages from the government, RFE/RL's bureau in the Ukrainian capital reported. Viktor Derzhak, Chairman of the central committee at the nationwide Union of Coal Industry workers said the miners will continue their protest until their demands are met. He said the union wants the government to work out a plan to pay back wages and increase pensions for miners.


A Ukrainian energy official told journalists on 17 June that Kyiv aims to increase its electricity exports from 4.5 billion kilowatt hours to 16 billion kilowatt hours by 2000. Deputy Energy and Electricity Minister Yuri Ulitich said earnings from such exports have helped to pay energy debts to Russia and the reconstruction of the Burshtynska power plant. Also on 17 June, Turkey and Ukraine announced they plan to build a pipeline to carry Middle Eastern oil from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea. Turkish Energy Minister Recai Kutan and his visiting Ukrainian counterpart, Andrei Minchenko, are to sign an agreement on the pipeline on 18 June. The pipeline, to be located between Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan and the Black Sea port of Samsun, will have a capacity of 25 million tons of crude.


A team of experts from the Council of Europe arrived in Minsk on 17 June for talks with top government officials and opposition leaders. The team is expected to try to set up round-table talks involving President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the opposition. The council has invited both opponents and supporters of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to a hearing this month in Strasbourg. In January, the council's Parliamentary Assembly suspended indefinitely Belarus' Special Guest Status at the body. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Kenneth Yalowitz has sent a letter to Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich saying the U.S. government is worried about what it calls Minsk's misinterpretation of Washington's decision to suspend $40 million in aid as part of a joint program to reduce the threat of nuclear conflict. Yalowitz wants the Belarusian government to publicly renounce a statement by Lukashenka that the U.S. has backtracked on its commitment under a treaty on the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Belarus by refusing to finance the program.


The government on 17 June decided not to allow a Chechen parliamentary delegation to visit Estonia, ETA and BNS reported. Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the six delegation members were traveling on old Soviet passports and Chechen identity documents, which are not recognized by Estonia. The Chechens had embarked on a tour of the Baltic States in a bid to drum up support for the breakaway republic's independence. While Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis met with the delegation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1997), his Latvian counterpart, Alfreds Cepanis, refused to do so, saying that Chechnya is still a part of the Russian Federation and that Latvia does not want to worsen its relations with Russia. A Latvian Interior Ministry spokesman said later that the Chechen delegates were not issued with entry visas and that the ministry wants to clarify how they were able to enter the country.


Rihards Piks resigned from his post as culture minister on 17 June, following an announcement by the Prosecutor's Office that he was violating the anti-corruption law, BNS reported. Piks is a board member of one company and the founder and president of another. He also owns a 25% stake in a media firm. None of those companies has yet begun operating. The Prosecutor's Office noted that the minister failed to mention the three companies when he submitted his personal income declaration. Meanwhile, the office said that Economics Minister Guntars Krasts has not broken the anti-corruption law. Krasts quit all posts he held outside the government before 1 August 1996, the deadline set by the law. Prime Minister Andris Skele had ordered that Prosecutor's Office examine whether members of government are abiding by the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1997).


Algirdas Brazauskas announced on 17 June that he will veto the controversial property restitution law, BNS and dpa reported. The parliament passed the law earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 1997). Brazuaskas told a news conference that the law contradicted the constitution, under which "all citizens are proclaimed equal." He said he was most displeased with the provision allowing citizens to reclaim residential properties now occupied by tenants. It is estimated that under the legislation, some 10,500 families would be displaced. The law requires the state to provide alternative accommodation for those families. Brazauskas said he will send the law back to the parliament with suggested amendments.


The Sejm on 17 June rejected a proposal by the ruling former communist Democratic Left Alliance calling for a national referendum on abortion, Polish media reported. The alliance proposed holding the referendum in September to coincide with parliamentary elections. The vote was 165 in favor to 170 against with 26 abstentions. In May, the Constitutional Court overturned provisions of a law, passed by the parliament, liberalizing abortion laws. Pope John Paul II condemned the legalization of abortion during his recent visit to Poland.


Dariusz Rosati told a group of business executives in Warsaw on 17 June that Poland is receiving signals from the EU that accession talks may not start until April or May 1998, Reuters reported. He said Warsaw still hoped for talks in January, as originally scheduled. But he noted that the signals from Brussels suggest those discussions will not take place until later in the year. Rosati said Warsaw was disappointed that the EU seemed unable to stick to its original schedule, but he expressed confidence that Poland would join the EU by 2001 or 2002.


Vaclav Klaus was on a short visit to Britain on 17 June, Czech Television reported. Klaus told journalists that scheduling problems had prevented him from meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was attending the EU summit in Amsterdam. Nonetheless, he met with British Foreign Minister Robin Cook and Defense Minister George Robertson. He also had meetings with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development officials and members of the British business community.


Slovakia's opposition parties have succeeded in scheduling a special session of the parliament for 19 June, RFE/RL's Bratislava correspondent reported. Efforts to convene a special session recently failed because members of parties of the governing coalition of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar staged a boycott. The purpose of the special session is to attempt to recall Interior Minister Gustav Krajci, who is blamed by the opposition for the failure of the May referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections. Krajci defied a Constitutional Court ruling and the official Referendum Committee by refusing to distribute ballots that included a question on electing the president by popular vote.


European Parliament deputies visiting Bratislava for a three-day meeting of the EU-Slovakia inter-parliamentary committee have criticized Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and his government for failing to live up to promises of democratic reform, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. They warned that Slovakia stood little chance of joining the EU. Roy James Perry, deputy chairman of the committee, said he saw no chance of Slovakia's integration into the EU in the near future. Perry said Meciar's coalition has ignored EU demands for legislative changes considered essential for Slovakia's economic and political advancement. Herbert Boesch, a co-chairman of the committee, also expressed disappointment with what he called Slovakia's unfulfilled promises. Slovak parliamentary deputy chairman Augustin Marian Huska conceded that Slovakia has been slow to implement reform. But he promised to push for a re-opening of the dialogue with the opposition and President Michal Kovac.


The Budapest municipal court on 17 June prohibited the publication, sale, delivery, free distribution, or presentation to the general public of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," Hungarian media reported. "The work is harmful to public interest and to human dignity, and its distribution has been banned under Hungary's press law," MTI quoted unnamed officials as saying. The Prosecutor General's Office suspended the publication of the book in November 1996 and proposed that the municipal court ban it on the basis of media and civil code laws. Aron Monus, who translated the book and represents the publisher, said he will appeal to a higher court. Hitler's book was last published in Hungarian translation in 1942 and was banned in Hungary after World War II.


Unidentified assailants shot at a police cordon and several private cars leaving Berat after Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano held a rally there on 17 June, "Koha Jone" reported. The attackers reportedly fired Kalashnikovs and anti-tank weapons, killing one civilian and one policeman and injuring seven policemen. The circumstances of the incident remain unclear. "Koha Jone" pointed out that the police forces belonged to a contingent that had guarded Nano during the demonstration. But "Rilindja Demokratike" charged "Nano's gangs" with having attacked the police. Another pro-government daily, "Albania," runs the headline: "Nano causes blood-bath in Berat." Meanwhile, six people were killed in an armed confrontation between two rival families in a land dispute near Skrapar.


OSCE mediator Franz Vranitzky on 17 June rejected a proposal by the U.S. National Democratic Institute to postpone elections in some areas, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Austrian Radio added that Vranitzky told President Bill Clinton in Washington that the elections must go ahead on schedule, and Clinton agreed with him. Meanwhile, not all candidate lists from all electoral districts have reached the Central Election Commission in Tirana. And in some communes and municipalities, voters lists have not yet been publicly posted, "Koha Jone" reported on 18 June. The lists were to have been displayed by 12 June to give voters the opportunity to register if their names did not appear on the lists.


Some 130 soldiers of the presidential guard have deserted in recent days, "Dita Informacion" reported on 18 June. The desertions apparently came as a reaction to the shoot-out at a Democratic Party rally in Elbasan on 12 June, in which eight people were wounded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 1997). Most of deserters reportedly come from Mirdita in northern Albania. The presidential guard was recently involved in various violent incidents, including an attack by guardsmen on the military hospital in Tirana and a shoot-out with gunmen in Cerrik in which five guard members died and 12 were wounded. Guardsmen on 16 June beat up a journalist for "Koha Jone," who was working on a story about activities at police roadblocks after curfew. The journalist reportedly had an accreditation from Tirana police chief Pashk Tusha to cover police work. The police did not intervene on behalf of the journalist out of fear of the elite guardsmen, the independent daily added.


Opposition leader Novak Kilibarda charged in Podgorica on 17 June that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his Montenegrin backer President Momir Bulatovic may launch a putsch rather than allow Bulatovic's enemies come to power. Kilibarda added that a 12 June meeting of federal Yugoslavia's Military Council discussed the possible coup, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. The opposition leader claimed that the Second and Third Armies are on alert for possible action in the mountainous republic. Kilibarda compared Milosevic's current attempts to pressure Montenegro into submission with his ham-fisted efforts to bully Slovenia in 1991. Milosevic is trying to force Montenegro to agree to constitutional changes that will greatly diminish that republic's power within the Yugoslav federation.


The opposition "Popular Concord" coalition called in parliament on 17 June for Bulatovic and Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic to appear before a televised session of the parliament, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. The coalition wants the two to explain the development of their feud, which has dominated political life in recent weeks and threatens to split the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS). Djukanovic is slated to address the parliament on 18 June. Also in Podgorica, Deputy Prime Minister Slavko Drljevic resigned to protest what he called slander by Bulatovic and the president's allies. Meanwhile in Kolasin, the governing body of the DPS rejected Bulatovic's call for a special party congress.


President Kiro Gligorov told his U.S. counterpart Bill Clinton in Washington on 17 June that NATO peacekeepers should stay on in the Balkans once their mandate in Bosnia expires in June 1998. Gligorov said the troops have a stabilizing effect on the region and that he would like some of them to remain in his country. There is already a small force of peacekeepers in Macedonia, including U.S. soldiers. Macedonia has been at the center of many past Balkan conflicts but was not involved in the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia. Macedonia's leaders and their allies abroad are now concerned about the impact of the current troubles in Albania on Macedonia and on the Balkans as a whole.


In Nis, veterans and invalids from Serbia's recent wars in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia launched a hunger strike on 18 June in support of a similar protest in Belgrade. The ex-soldiers want the Yugoslav and Serbian governments to extend full veterans' benefits to them and to the families of those killed in the fighting. In Belgrade, some 10,000 students protested government plans to hike tuition costs. Stevan Vrbaski replaced Mihajlo Svilar as mayor of Novi Sad following Svilar's decision to change parties. In Sarajevo, representatives of the World Bank and the Bosnian government reached an agreement on 17 June on repaying Bosnia's share of the former Yugoslav debt. In Zagreb, representatives of 140,000 Croatian refugees from Serbia demanded that the Croatian government obtain for them from Belgrade any rights or benefits that Zagreb grants to its ethnic Serbs.


President Bill Clinton has invited his Romanian counterpart to Washington for an official visit, Radio Bucharest reported on 17 June. The date of the visit is yet to be established. In a letter to Emil Constantinescu, Clinton said the decision to limit the expansion of NATO in the first wave to three states was made "after careful deliberation." He says he "highly appreciates...the enormous progress" Romania made under Constantinescu and that the decision should not be interpreted as a rejection of Romanian aspirations. Clinton also said he hopes to see Romania "integrated into the community of Western states, including NATO," in the near future. Constantinescu also received a letter from French President Jacques Chirac, who says France continues to back Romania's NATO candidacy. Meanwhile, Premier Victor Ciorbea has departed for Washington, where he will discuss NATO enlargement with Vice President Al Gore and other officials.


The striking miners in the Jiu valley have rejected a protocol signed after all-night negotiations between their representatives, the government, and the state mining company, Radio Bucharest reported on 18 June. The protocol provides for an immediate 15% increase in wages and for negotiations on a possible additional increase in August. The miners, however, are refusing to go back to the pits. Rail traffic to the valley was restored on 17 June after interruptions earlier that day. Minister of Transportation Traian Basescu said the authorities suspended or re-routed trains after receiving information that the miners were planning to descend on Bucharest, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Rail links were restored only after the Ministry of Interior and the Romanian Intelligence Service established that the miners had renounced their intention to go to the capital.


Leonid Kuchma, in a letter addressed to his Moldovan counterpart, Petru Lucinschi, has restated his country's willingness to participate in the settlement of the Chisinau-Tiraspol conflict. The Ukrainian embassy in Chisinau told Interfax that Kuchma voiced support for setting up groups of experts who will draft the legal framework for stationing Ukrainian peacekeeping forces in the security zone of the breakaway Transdniester region. Kuchma also reiterated his country's willingness to guarantee the implementation of a final settlement.


Addressing a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Moldovan Deputy Minister of Economy and Reforms Dumitru Braghis requested that Moldova be admitted to the organization as a "developing country." This would allow Chisinau to bring its policies into line with WTO regulations within a time-table framework to be agreed with the organization, Reuters reported on 17 June. Braghis said Chisinau was requesting "some flexibility" in view of the current economic situation. "Despite all efforts made at the macro-economic level, including a program for privatization and agricultural reform, we have not yet achieved macro-economic growth," he said, adding that "most of our companies show a declining record, while others struggle to survive."


A Bulgarian citizen whose pyramid investment scheme wiped out the savings of thousands of his countrymen was extradited by France on 17 June. BTA said Ivo Nedialkov was taken into custody as soon as he landed at Sofia airport. His East-West International Holding Group collapsed in 1994, costing 9,000 Bulgarians their savings. Investigators said he misappropriated around 360 million leva (some $10 million at the exchange rate of the time) using income from new investors to pay off old investors. In other news, Reuters reported that a powerful bomb, apparently targeting the president of the Multigroup company, Ilia Pavlov, wrecked his car on a mountain road near Sofia. Pavlov was not in the car and his office declined to comment on the incident. Multigroup has been suspected of ties with former communist officials.


by David Nissman

The Crimean Turkic National Movement, which began in the Central Asian resettlement camps in the mid-1950s, now flourishes in Crimea, the ancestral homeland of the Crimean Turks and site of the present Crimean nation. The movement survived under very unusual conditions and is now having an unexpected influence.

When the Crimean Turks were deported from Crimea in 1944, they were deprived of their government, their culture, and their rich heritage. In short, they were denied the right to develop their nation. The establishment of the National Movement, with its tight and democratic structure, permitted the leaders of the movement to be in constant contact with the people. When the Soviet Union broke up, the Crimean Turks did not have to dismantle Soviet institutions and the thought patterns associated with them. As a result, the Crimean parliament has evolved into what is arguably one of the most democratic in the former Soviet Union.

By contrast, the former union republics continue to be burdened by the last vestiges of the Soviet command economy and have thus faced extraordinary challenges in moving toward a market system. That struggle has sometimes compromised their ability to proceed toward a democratic system as well. Thus, it is not surprising that some politicians in the former Soviet republics have expressed admiration for the Crimean democratic system, even if they have not attempted to apply the Crimean experience at home.

But now the Unified Independent Azerbaijan Front (in southern or Iranian Azerbaijan) appears interested in following the Crimean model. Like the Crimeans, the Iranian Azeris have been deprived by state of their national and political rights, their culture, and even an education in their mother tongue. Tehran has reacted with varying degrees of hostility to any effort by the Iranian Azeris to claim those rights.

The UIAF recently drew up a platform that bears a striking resemblance to that of the Crimean Turkic National Movement. It has proclaimed that it "believes in a state of law and freedom and rejects any form of individual or ideological dictatorship or a one-party system." The UIAF also states that it is "opposed to a mixture of religion and politics" and actively encourages a diversity of opinions.

Even the Iranian Azerbaijani's newly created national flag and the political hierarchy it represents appear to be a copy of the Crimean Turkic model. The flag's nine stars each stand for a province of the territory on which the Iranian Azeris hope to create their state. Each province will be ruled by a representative parliament, which will send its representatives to the "high parliament" in the capital.

In Crimea, the political structure is remarkably similar: each community has its own parliament or mejlis. Each local mejlis sends representatives to the mejlis that comes next in the hierarchy. The central mejlis in the capital has 33 members selected by the mejlises lower in the hierarchical structure.

Neither the platform of the Crimean Turkic National Movement nor that of the Unified Independent Azerbaijan Front mentions economic programs. As the Crimean experience shows, a free people is able to generate a free market on its own. The Crimean Turks have chosen to give priority to the development of free, national, democratic institutions.

That the Crimean model already appears to have inspired the Iranian Azeris gives some reason to hope that it may inspire others as well. The author is an independent specialist on the region.