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Newsline - August 22, 1997




GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT 1998 BUDGET

The government on 21 August approved a draft budget for 1998, which officials describe as "tough" but "realistic." The draft budget foresees revenues of 340 billion new rubles ($58.4 billion, calculated on the basis of the upcoming ruble redenomination), or an estimated 12.4 percent of GDP. Planned spending totals 472 billion new rubles, or 17.2 percent of GDP. The deficit is planned at 132 billion new rubles, or 4.8 percent of GDP. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that the total projected revenues and expenditures for 1998 are very close to the "sequestered" version of the 1997 budget. The government cut spending by about 20 percent this year, citing severe revenue shortfalls. At the cabinet meeting, Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko charged that the Finance Ministry had not thoroughly examined ways for the government to collect more revenues, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 August.

BUDGET CONTAINS ROSY PREDICTIONS

The draft 1998 budget projects GDP growth of 2 percent next year. First Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Materov told journalists on 21 August that raw material exports are likely to provide the basis for next year's economic growth, Reuters reported. The budget also assumes that a new tax code will go into effect on 1 January, although the parliament may not approve that code. In addition, the government counts on receiving $1.25 billion in repayed debts from countries that borrowed from the USSR. (Most of those countries are themselves short of funds.) Last year's budget projected 2 percent GDP growth, but the government has acknowledged that GDP will at best be flat in 1997 and could decline by up to 2 percent. Reuters noted that while the 1997 budget provided for a deficit of 3.5 percent of GDP, this year's deficit is expected to reach 5.35 percent.

DRAFT UNLIKELY TO FIND FAVOR WITH DUMA

State Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksei Golovkov, a member of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction, told "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 August that in its current form, the draft budget will be opposed by "all factions" in the Duma. He added that since it appears to be impossible to find additional sources of revenue, Duma deputies are likely to call for more deficit spending, which the government will oppose "to the death." Duma First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin, also of Our Home Is Russia, told ITAR-TASS on 21 August that the Duma will probably send the budget back to the government for amendments. Meanwhile, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin charged that the draft budget does not provide enough funding for defense or military reform, Radio Mayak reported on 21 August. Planned defense spending in 1998 totals 94.5 billion new rubles ($16 billion), according to Interfax.

RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORT COMPANY REORGANIZED

Yeltsin on 21 August signed several decrees aimed at tightening control over arms exports. The state company Rosvooruzhenie received the status of federal state unitary enterprise. Its current director-general, Maj.-Gen. Aleksandr Kotelkin, a protege of Yeltsin's former bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, was dismissed. At Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's suggestion, Yeltsin appointed Yevgenii Ananev, the chairman of MAPO bank, as Kotelkin's successor. Rosvooruzhenie will be able to trade only in arms and military equipment produced for overseas markets, according to Interfax. Other decrees create two state enterprises: Russian Technologies will deal with licenses and know-how, while Promexport will sell used Defense Ministry armaments that are obsolete as well as the spare parts for them. A special government commission, to be chaired by Chernomyrdin, will be created to monitor the activities of the new Rosvooruzhenie.

WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM REORGANIZATION?

Interfax quotes Ananev as saying that the reorganization of Rosvooruzhenie is aimed at "formalizing and simplifying the system of concluding contracts and their implementation." An unnamed Russian government source suggested, however, that the measures are intended to abolish Rosvooruzhenie's monopoly -- which, he claimed, had undercut the effectiveness of the arms trade -- and thereby to ensure a "division of labor." Noting that three days earlier, Yeltsin had praised the work of Rosvooruzhenie and of Kotelkin personally, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 August commented that the reorganization is symptomatic of the "total chaos reigning in the upper echelons of power." The newspaper also predicted that it will strengthen the influence of Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, who is responsible for the arms industry.

GENERAL SAYS MILITARY PERSONNEL TO RECEIVE BACK WAGES SOON

Col.-Gen. Valerii Manilov, deputy head of the General Staff, says all wage arrears to soldiers and civilian employees of the Defense Ministry will be paid within the next few days, Russian news agencies reported on 21 August. Military personnel will receive other benefits owed to them by the end of the year, Manilov added. Manilov, an influential figure in drafting the latest military reform plans, said the Defense Ministry plans to purchase or build 100,000 apartments across Russia for the approximately 97,000 officers currently without housing. He also said President Boris Yeltsin has been informed that plans to staff the armed forces entirely with contract soldiers by 2005 are "unrealistic," according to the 22 August "Segodnya." Under a May 1996 presidential decree, Russia was to have established an all-volunteer army by 2000.

SLAIN OFFICIAL BURIED IN ST. PETERSBURG

Hundreds of mourners packed a hall in St. Petersburg for the funeral of Mikhail Manevich, deputy governor and head of the city's Property Committee, Russian news agencies reported on 21 August. Manevich was shot on his way to work on 18 August by a sniper in an apparent contract killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18-20 August 1997). Speaking at the ceremony, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais vowed that the authorities will find "both those who pulled the trigger and those who paid with their stinking stolen money," Reuters reported. In addition to leading St. Petersburg politicians, many prominent Moscow officials attended the funeral, including State Property Committee Chairman Maksim Boiko, First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Federal Securities Market Commission Chairman Dmitrii Vasilev, Our Home Is Russia Duma faction leader Sergei Belyaev, and Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar.

OFFICIAL SLAMS DRIVING RECORD OF U.S. DIPLOMATS

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin has charged that U.S. diplomats break traffic rules more often than staff of any other foreign embassy, Russian news agencies reported on 21 August. He said U.S. embassy staff were cited for 141 traffic violations between 1 January and 18 August. The U.S. State Department on 20 August announced plans to recall Matthew Bryza, a second secretary of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, who two days earlier had been driving a car that hit and critically injured a Moscow pedestrian. Nesterushkin said the criminal case against Bryza will remain open as police continue investigating the accident. Bryza cannot be prosecuted unless the U.S. lifts his immunity. In February, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze lifted the immunity of a Georgian diplomat who caused a car accident in Washington that killed one woman. That diplomat is currently in pre-trial detention in the U.S.

SELEZNEV MEETS WITH YELTSIN

Meeting with Yeltsin on 21 August, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev expressed concern about frequent presidential vetoes, Interfax reported. The previous day, Seleznev had argued that the president appears to be "abusing his constitutional right" to reject laws passed by parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). Seleznev also urged that the upcoming ruble redenomination not be applied to Sberbank deposits opened before 1992. High inflation beginning in 1992 wiped out the life savings of many Russians. Seleznev argued that the government should increase the real value of old Sberbank deposits by 1,000 times by not taking three zeroes off the rubles in those accounts. Central Bank officials have said the redenomination will be applied to Sberbank accounts opened before 1992, according to "Segodnya" on 11 August.

SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN KILLING OF HOCKEY PRESIDENT

Police have arrested 10 people in connection with the killing in April of Russian Hockey League President Valentin Sych, according to Russian media. Among those arrested is Robert Cherenkov, who preceded Sych as head of what was then called the International Hockey League. Police say the motive of the murder was financial gain.

YELTSIN SUPPORTS SPACE PROGRAM

Yeltsin said on nationwide radio on 22 August that Russia will increase spending for its space program next year, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 3.5 billion new rubles (about $600 million) will be allotted for the 1998 program. Yeltsin also urged the youth of the country to work in aviation and aerospace as those industries "in many respects define Russia's status as a great power."

DAGESTANI PRIME MINISTER FIRED

The Dagestani State Council on 20 August dismissed Abdurazak Mirabekov, ITAR-TASS reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said on 22 August that the dismissal was precipitated by personal rivalry between Mirzabekov and State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov. The Dagestani Constitution is soon to be amended to introduce the post of president, which both men intended to contest.

COSSACKS BACK ENVIRONMENTALISTS IN ROSTOV

Representatives of the Vsevelikii unit of Don Cossacks are supporting efforts by environmentalists to block further construction of a nuclear power plant in Volgodonsk (Rostov Oblast), "Segodnya" reported on 22 August. Protesters led by the group Defenders of the Rainbow have been demonstrating near the plant and have occasionally blocked off the road leading to the construction site (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1997). Police recently turned back a bus carrying Cossacks who said they planned to defend the protesters, after which the Vsevelikii Cossacks vowed to seek the support of other Cossack units in Rostov. The deputy governor of Rostov, who is also ataman of the Vsevelikii unit, has said that the Rostov legislature will discuss the plant's construction in September. The environmentalists are demanding that an oblast-wide referendum be held on whether the plant should be built.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST DELAY IN SIGNING TREATY

Addressing journalists on 21 August, Aslan Maskhadov expressed concern that postponing the signing of a treaty defining relations between Moscow and Grozny for up to two years could lead to a new war in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov singled out NTV President Igor Malashenko, Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov as being opposed to peace in Chechnya. Maskhadov also reiterated Yeltsin's concern, expressed at a meeting of the Russian Security Council on 20 August, that the U.S. is seeking to increase its influence in the North Caucasus.




ARMED GROUP ATTACKS TAJIK POLICE STATION

An armed group loyal to former opposition field commander Mansur Muakhalov attacked a police station in the town of Kofarnikhon, 20 kilometers east of Dushanbe, on 21 August, RFE/RL corespondents reported. The incident occurred after a stolen vehicle containing two of Muakhalov's supporters was discovered during a routine police check on the road between Kofarnikhon and the capital. After the men were detained in the local police station, some 50-70 Muakhalov supporters surrounded the station and demanded their release. Fighting broke out when the police refused to meet their demand. There are unofficial reports of casualties. Muakhalov has been linked to the United Tajik Opposition, which, however, has denounced the attack. UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri said any UTO member who takes such unilateral action will be punished by the combined forces of the UTO and the government.

CRIME RISING IN TAJIK CAPITAL

According to reports from RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe, crime is rising sharply in the Tajik capital. Sporadic gunfire can be heard daily, and the number of robberies is increasing. The house of a foreign worker for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was burgled on 21 August.

UZBEK GRAIN HARVEST FAILS TO MEET TARGET

The 1997 grain harvest totals 2.86 million tons, or slightly more than two-thirds of the target figure of 4 million tons, Reuters reported on 21 August. This is the third consecutive year that Uzbekistan has failed to meet its quotas. Recently, Uzbek authorities introduced "centralized purchasing," whereby sales of flour, sugar, edible oil, and butter are controlled.

RUSSIANS IN KAZAKHSTAN PROTEST LANGUAGE LAW

At a 21 August press conference organized by the Society of Ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan, leaders of the country's Russian community "harshly criticized" Kazakhstan's new language policy, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kazakh capital reported. Members of the society urged the Russian State Duma to take "concrete measures" to protect the rights of Russian-speakers in Kazakhstan, who, they said, account for more than half the population. Under Kazakhstan's language laws, 50 percent of all broadcasting must be in Kazakh and all ethnic Russian state officials must be proficient in that language by 2006.

GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS STILL HOLD CIS PEACEKEEPERS

The White Legion said on 21 August that it will release the three CIS peacekeepers it abducted on 16 August only if the bodies of two Georgians recently killed in Abkhazia are returned, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian First Deputy Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani traveled to Zugdidi, in western Georgia, on 21 August in an attempt to locate the hostages and secure their release by non-violent means. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin expressed Russia's "indignation" that the abduction took place on territory controlled by Georgia. He said the Georgian Foreign Ministry has been asked to secure the men's immediate and unconditional release.

FORMER ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER PREDICTS "DRAMATIC TIMES"

Speaking at a new conference in Yerevan on 21 August, Hrant Bagratyan said that Armenia's international reputation has suffered in the wake of the 1996 disputed presidential elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bagratyan predicted that this fall will be "one of the most dramatic times" in Armenia's history, given anticipated concessions by the Armenian leadership over Nagorno-Karabakh. He criticized his successor, Armen Sargssian, who, he claimed, had undermined the achievements of Bagratyan's government during its three-year term. But Bagratyan praised current Premier Robert Kocharyan and said he hoped Kocharyan would continue strict economic reforms. Bagratyan is currently an adviser to the IMF. He founded the liberal opposition party Azatutyun in April 1997.

KARABAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE

Arkadii Ghukasyan, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said on 21 August that the region should aim for outright independence, an RFE/RL correspondent in Stepanakert reported. Ghukasyan, the favorite among three registered candidates for the 1 September Karabakh presidential elections, was addressing supporters in Stepanakert. He said that if elected, he will seek international guarantees for Karabakh's security, in which, he said, Armenia should play a key role. Ghukasyan also said that one of his priorities would be to strengthen the Karabakh armed forces, already acknowledged to be among the most professional in the CIS. Meeting on 21 August with Germany's representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, Frank Lambach, acting Karabakh President Leonard Petrossyan said that Karabakh will never again become part of Azerbaijan, Interfax reported.

ARMENIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP DEMANDS REOPENING OF LIBRARY

Armenian human rights groups on 20 August appealed to the international community to urge the Armenian government to reopen a human rights library in the city of Vanadzor, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian Helsinki Association and the Armenian Center for Constitutional Rights said that on 29 July, a group of uniformed men belonging to the defense ministry's volunteer militia [yergrapah] burst into the library's office, forcibly ousting its personnel and removing its equipment. The library's director, Gevorg Manukyan, said that despite numerous protests, the local authorities have taken no action to "restore law and justice." The Vanadzor human rights library was established in September 1996 with the help of a leading Armenian-U.S. organization to foster public awareness of human rights issues.




BELARUS RELEASES FOUR RUSSIAN TV JOURNALISTS...

Belarusian authorities on 22 August released four journalists working for Russian Public Television (ORT) who had been detained the previous week. Interfax quoted police sources as saying the journalists -- three Russian nationals and one Belarusian -- were on their way to Minsk from the Lida prison for an official handover ceremony at the Russian embassy. Pavel Sheremet and Dmitry Zavadesky, the Belarusian journalists working for ORT who were detained in July, remain in custody pending trial. Meanwhile, a seventh ORT journalist, Vladimir Foshenko, was expelled from Belarus on 22 August, a spokesman for the Belarusian Security Council told AFP.

...BUT NOT BEFORE CHALLENGING MOSCOW

The previous day, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii had said that relations between Minsk and Moscow would suffer unless all ORT journalists were quickly released. Belarusian presidential spokesman Ivan Pashkevich responded by complaining of "precipitate" statements by Russian politicians. Speaking on nationwide television, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka commented that the Russian leadership should either apologize or disavow Yastrzhembskii's statement. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov later said Yastrzhembskii's statement was "harsh but justified."

NEW GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN UKRAINE

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 21 August signed a decree appointing Susan Stanik justice minister, UNIAN reported. She was previously family and youth minister, a post that Valentina Dovzhenko, until now deputy head of the Kyiv Oblast administration, will fill. Under another presidential decree, Vasyl Durdynets, the head of the Presidential Anti-corruption Coordination Committee and Investigation Bureau Director, was given the rank of general of the Interior Ministry. A new information minister has yet to be appointed to complete the cabinet lineup. The new government will be presented formally to the president on 22 August.

WORLD CONGRESS OF UKRAINIANS KICKS OFF IN KYIV

Some 2,000 ethnic Ukrainians from 46 countries gathered in Kyiv on 21 August for the Second World Congress of Ukrainians. In his opening address, President Kuchma called on the Ukrainian diaspora to exercise influence on their governments to contribute to Ukraine's economic recovery. ITAR-TASS reported that the participants are to discuss the survival of Ukrainian ethnicity and preservation of the Ukrainian culture. The congress will also discuss the political and economic consequences of Ukraine's six-year statehood.

RUSSIA RESPONDS TO ESTONIA OVER IMPOUNDED TRUCKS

The Russian Foreign Ministry has responded to a diplomatic note from the Estonian Embassy in Moscow requesting an explanation for the decision to impound more than 20 Estonian trucks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997), ETA reported on 21 August. The ministry said that the recipient of the cargo had violated customs regulations and forged documents in a bid to avoid paying customs duties. The trucks were carrying some 600 tons of frozen chicken donated by the U.S. as humanitarian aid for the Russian army and navy. The Russian customs have found buyers for some of the cargo and have allowed five trucks to leave the customs warehouse near Moscow where they were impounded. Seven Lithuanian trucks are also reported to have been detained at the warehouse.

ESTONIAN POLITICAL PRISONER TO STAGE 24-HOUR HUNGER STRIKE

Tiit Madisson, who in September 1996 was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of planning a coup attempt, told BNS that he will stage a 24-hour hunger strike on 23 August to protest his conviction and to mark the 10th anniversary of the so-called Hirvepark meeting. Madisson was one of the organizers of that meeting, at which, for first time under Soviet rule, the restoration of Estonian independence was publicly demanded. Last year,. he was found guilty of planning a coup partly on the basis of a two-page article entitled "Estonia's Fate." Previously, he had received a suspended sentence on charges of embezzlement. Several leading politicians and public figures have appealed to President Lennart Meri to pardon Madisson, who continues to protest his innocence. Under the constitution, the president can grant a pardon only if the prisoner confesses to his crime and appeals for clemency.

POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY CHANGES POSITION ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

The opposition Freedom Union on 21 August announced it will support a no-confidence motion against the government. The move came as a surprise, because the union had previously criticized the no-confidence motion as a vote-collecting stunt. The motion was submitted to the parliament by the Peasant Party, the junior member of the ruling left-wing coalition, Premier Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz refused to discuss increasing state grain purchases in the aftermath of the disastrous flooding in the country. The Freedom Union's change of mind means the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (former Communists) could be defeated in the 26 August no-confidence vote.

INFLUX OF CZECH ROMA TO CANADA CONTINUES

John Jagt, director of hostel services in Toronto, Canada, told journalists on 21 August that Roma immigrants from the Czech Republic have filled city shelters to near capacity. Jagt said that no one has been turned away so far but that this could change because all of Toronto's 39 family shelters are now full. Several hundred Roma have arrived in the past few weeks after a Czech television station broadcast a documentary portraying Canada as a wealthy, generous country free of racism and open to immigrants. Officials say Roma now make up about 20 percent of the 2,000 people living in Toronto shelters. Most are waiting for refugee hearings. Twenty-two have been accepted as refugees since January on the grounds that their homeland is unable or unwilling to provide protection for them.

JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES TRADE WITH CZECH LEADERS

Yukihiko Ikeda met with Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Jozef Zieleniec in Prague on 21 August to discuss boosting bilateral trade. Zieleniec told reporters later that the possibilities for Japanese investments in the Czech Republic are "extraordinary," as is Czech interest in such investments. Asked why one of the four largest banks in the Czech Republic is being sold to the problem-plagued Japanese Nomurra Investment Bank, Ikeda said he is sure the Czech government knows what it is doing.

U.S. AGAIN ASKS SLOVAKIA TO SCRAP ITS SS-23 MISSILES

The U.S. Embassy in Bratislava emphasized in a 21 August statement that curbing the spread of missiles is one of Washington's top priorities. The destruction of Slovakia's SS-23 missiles would prevent their use for carrying weapons of mass destruction and their deployment in countries that could use them for that purpose, according to the statement. The U.S. on 18 August officially asked the Bulgarian and Slovak governments to dispose of their SS-23 missiles in accordance with a weapons control treaty signed 10 years ago. Both Bulgaria and Slovakia, however, responded that they are reluctant to dispose of the missiles. On 20 August, the U.S. State Department said it will continue to raise with Slovakia and Bulgaria the issue of weapons non-proliferation.

HUNGARY SAYS NATO ENTRY TALKS TO START IN SEPTEMBER

Government spokesman Elemer Kiss on 21 August told reporters that a delegation of experts headed by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Ferenc Somogyi will start talks on Hungary's accession to NATO on 10 September and that it is expected the talks will be concluded in late October. Kiss also said the government was "shocked" by the position recently expressed by the opposition Alliance of Young Democrats, which called for the planned referendum on accession to NATO to be binding. He said all seven parliamentary parties agreed in July that a non-biding referendum would be held before late November. Kiss also rejected the idea that the referendum on NATO accession be held simultaneously with a plebiscite on allowing foreign companies to purchase land in Hungary.

HUNGARIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR CLOSED FOR 10 DAYS?

The chief engineer at the Paks nuclear plant told Reuters on 21 August that the reactor shut down the previous day could be out of action for up to 10 days. Balazs Kovacs said that if the problem proves to be inside the block, rather than in the external mechanism of the rod, "we will have to use underwater cameras to see why the rod cannot be moved from its position and dismantle the reactor." He added that the safety of the reactor was not threatened and that the 10 percent shortfall in nationwide electricity output would easily be made up by other Hungarian power stations.




KARADZIC ALLY CALLS ON POLICE TO DISOBEY PLAVSIC

Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, appealed to police throughout the Republika Srpska not to follow orders from President Biljana Plavsic. He said on Pale Radio on 21 August that the police should obey only Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, whom Plavsic fired in June. Krajisnik called Plavsic's recent appointment of new police officials "illegal." He added that "the people will not allow [Plavsic] to destabilize the state." Meanwhile in Sarajevo, officials from Pale did not attend a meeting to sign an agreement on civil aviation. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative, threatened the Serbs with sanctions if they continue to hold up the signing of joint agreements on transportation and on joint citizenship, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital.

NATO CONSOLIDATES HOLD ON BANJA LUKA POLICE STATIONS

SFOR spokesmen said in Banja Luka on 21 August that they and police loyal to Plavsic are in complete control of five key police installations in the northwestern Bosnian town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). SFOR has accordingly reduced its armed presence outside the stations but will remain in the area in case Kijac's men try to retake the buildings. The peacekeepers have also sealed off the base of the Sixth Battalion of special police near Banja Luka. A spokesman added that some 80 percent of the city's police force has pledged loyalty to officials appointed by Plavsic. NATO commander Gen. Eric Shinseki warned Krajisnik that SFOR will hold him personally responsible for any attacks on NATO troops or the UN police.

BOSNIAN SERB JUDGE SAYS KARADZIC'S POLICE BEAT HIM

Constitutional Court Judge Jovo Rosic said in Banja Luka on 21 August that Kijac's men badly beat him on 14 August near Sarajevo. They ordered him not to support Plavsic in a key court decision and threatened "to liquidate" him if he did not obey them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997). Rosic subsequently was taken to the hospital in Banja Luka where Plavsic's police guarded him. The court later ruled against her.

GERMANY REJECTS MILOSEVIC'S CONDITIONS FOR BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONS

Wolfgang Ischinger, the political director of the German Foreign Ministry, said in Belgrade on 21 August that Bonn backs Plavsic and that Germany will insist more strongly in the future that the Dayton agreement be implemented. He told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to use his influence to end the Bosnian Serb political crisis. Milosevic replied that he is willing to support Plavsic's call for a vote in October, provided that presidential as well as legislative elections take place. Ischinger called Milosevic's condition "unacceptable." Plavsic has more than a year to serve in her two-year term, to which she was elected with 59 percent support. In Vienna, officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that Russia and Western countries have reached broad agreement on providing OSCE supervision for the October elections.

NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

The Hungarian Defense Ministry announced in Budapest on 21 August that 30 soldiers have left for Mostar, where they will reconstruct the 16th century Turkish stone bridge that Croatian gunners destroyed in 1993 during the Croat-Muslim war. The soldiers will first retrieve as much of the original bridge as possible from the bottom of the Neretva River. In Zagreb, Croatian and Israeli officials agreed to establish full diplomatic relations after the Croatia fully condemned and apologized for atrocities committed against Jews by Croatia's fascist government during World War II. In Belgrade, the army issued a statement denying press reports that the military is preparing to introduce a state of emergency. The text added that the army supports the constitution and the democratic process and denounced what it called attempts to drag the military into day-to-day politics.

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW SECRET SERVICE CHIEF

Rexhep Meidani has appointed Fatos Klosi head of the secret service (SHIK), "Dita Informacion" reported on 21 August. Klosi, a professor of education, is not a member of the Socialist Party, but the Socialists nominated him to the last Central Election Commission, of which he was deputy chair. The outgoing SHIK director is Arben Karkini, a lawyer from the Republican Party, who was appointed on 30 May by the multi-party reconciliation government. "Dita Informacion" pointed out that Karkini had a mandate to make "gradual changes" in the structure and leadership of SHIK, which was widely accused of using violence against opposition figures under the previous Democratic Party government. The daily charged, however, that Karkini has not fired any personnel and has failed to make SHIK a "truly independent institution." The Republican Party daily "Republika," defended Karkini and called SHIK a "bastion of communist spies."

ALBANIA'S DEMOCRATS ACCUSE POLICE OF MANIPULATING INVESTIGATION IN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

Democratic Party spokesman Genc Pollo on 21 August accused "the ruling clique" of being behind an assassination attempt on "Rilindja Demokratike" journalist Muje Bucpapaj the previous day. He also charged the police with manipulating the investigation, "Albania" reported. Bucpapaj was shot while driving in Tirana, but reports on the incident are contradictory. Pollo claims that the shots were fired from a car with a police license plate. He added that Bucpapaj, who was seriously injured, had received anonymous telephone threats before. Meanwhile, a bomb went off in a park in central Vlora on 21 August and injured one person, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported.

ROMANIAN CABINET RAISES WAGES

The cabinet on 21 August announced that wages will be raised by 15 percent in August and September and by an additional 14 percent beginning 1 October. That move is in line with an agreement reached recently with the main trade unions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1997). Pensions are to be raised by 16 percent for August and September and by 15 percent for the remainder of the year. The government also decided that women living in mining areas will be able to opt for early retirement. In other news, the cabinet froze the retail price of edible oil at 7,800 lei (roughly $1) per bottled liter in response to the crisis on the market (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997).

NORTH KOREAN AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE TO BECOME CASINO

The residence of the North Korean ambassador to Romania is to be turned into a casino and a restaurant, Mediafax reported on 20 August. The casino will be run by a Lebanese who is also involved in business in Russia. Citing "confidential sources," Mediafax said the embassy will charge $2,000 a month for the lease of the premises, which are owned by North Korea. It also said the embassy is facing a "serious financial crisis" reflecting that of North Korea as a whole.

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON PARLEYS WITH TRANSDNIESTER

Petru Lucinschi, in an interview with the Ukrainian newspaper "Nezavissimosti" on 21 August, says that granting the Transdniester region a "special status" is not a "concession" on Moldova's part, since it reflects the region's "peculiarities, and one must be naive not to take them into account." Lucinschi also said separatist leader Igor Smirnov is unable to understand that Russia and Ukraine have commitments not only to the breakaway region but also to the international community. "Both Russia and Ukraine recognize the Transdniester as part of Moldova and there is no way they could recognize Transdniester's independence," Lucinschi said. He added that "nobody is trying to change those rules," BASA-press reported.

PRO-PRESIDENTIAL FORCES IN MOLDOVA LAUNCH PUBLICATION

The first issue of "Dialog," published by the pro-presidential Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, appeared on 21 August, BASA-press reported. A commentary in the inaugural issue maintains that relations between the legislature and the cabinet are deteriorating and that there may be a repeat of the 1995-1996 crisis. It argued that the president's opponents are deliberately trying to compromise the cabinet's "centrist doctrine" and to "preserve the present deplorable economic and political situation" in order to prevent Lucinschi's supporters from gaining representation in the parliament in the 1998 elections.

BULGARIA READY TO DISCUSS SS-23 MISSILES WITH U.S.

Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, in a departure from previously expressed positions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1997), has said Sofia is ready to hold talks with the U.S. administration on the fate of the SS-23 Soviet-made missiles deployed in Bulgaria, ITAR-TASS reported.

BULGARIA RAISES PRIME RATE

The National Bank on 21 August announced it is raising the prime interest rate in response to continued inflation. Beginning on 25 August, the prime rate will increase by 0.16 percentage point to 5.86 percent annually, BTA reported. The National Statistics Institute said prices rose by 505.6 percent since the beginning of 1997. The daily "Standard" reported the same day that a new 100,000 leva bank note will soon be introduced.

BULGARIAN ABANDONED URANIUM PITS UNSAFE

According to "Standard" on 21 August, the abandoned Buhovo uranium mine, northeast of Sofia, is unsafe and threatens to contaminate the nearby River Iskar, which flows into the Danube. Citing Environment Ministry experts, the daily said that the Eleshnitsa mine, some 160 kilometers south of Sofia, is also a source of contamination and is endangering rivers flowing to Greece, in addition to posing the threat of landslides.




A Decree That Changed the World


by Paul Goble

On 24 August 1991, Boris Yeltsin, then president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, issued a decree recognizing the independence of Estonia, thus ending 50 years of Soviet occupation of that Baltic country. If the consequences of that decree were momentous for Estonia, they were, if anything, even greater for the Soviet Union, for Russia, and for the international community as a whole. In many respects, Yeltsin's decree was the death certificate for the Soviet Union, even though that state continued to appear in the world arena for another four months.

By recognizing the independence of Estonia, Yeltsin set the stage for his subsequent recognition of the independence of Latvia and Lithuania, the two other Baltic republics occupied by Stalin in 1940 as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. But because Yeltsin was unwilling to acknowledge that the status of the Baltic countries was fundamentally different from that of the 12 union republics, the Russian president failed to erect a firewall between them and thus paved the way for their independence as well.

Yeltsin's decision to issue a decree on Estonian independence guaranteed that the dissolution of the Soviet Union would be quick, because it foreshadowed the notion that the borders of the union republics should become the borders of the post-Soviet states. It meant that the dissolution process would be peaceful, precisely because independence would result not from struggle or long negotiation but rather from unilateral Russian action. And it created in the minds of Yeltsin and many other Russian leaders an expectation that the Balts and other non-Russians would be grateful and thus remain friendly to Moscow. (That hope was inevitably misplaced, at least in the case of the Baltic States; but its existence helps explain why Moscow has acted and continues to act in the way that it does.)

The decree had equally fateful consequences for Yeltsin and Russia. While many around the world had cheered Yeltsin's heroism during the failed coup only a few days earlier, few world leaders were willing to view him as the president of an independent country. His recognition of Estonian independence changed all that. Many countries around the world hurried to recognize Estonia -- in the next 10 days alone, more than 40 did so. But in doing that, they were implicitly recognizing Russia as an independent state as well. That was not well understood by many diplomats and politicians at the time, although there was widespread understanding that such steps constituted some kind of recognition of Yeltsin's right to act as the predominant leader in Moscow.

Given the attachment many Western leaders felt to then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev because of the changes he had brought about both inside the USSR and in Moscow's relations with the outside world, many world leaders were reluctant to recognize Estonia. But by acting on the Estonian demand for independence, Yeltsin effectively forced their hand, thereby gaining just as much for himself and his country as the Estonians had gained for theirs.

In the longer term, Yeltsin's action may have an even greater impact. By righting an historical wrong, it contributed to the moral renewal of the Russian people, who also had suffered under Soviet power. Even more important, it was a significant step in Russia's retreat from empire, which has given many hope that the Russia of the future may become a country living at peace with its neighbors rather than a cause threatening their existence.

Yeltsin's decree also helped transform the international system, posing a set of challenges to world leaders that all of them are still grappling with. It ushered in a post-Soviet and not just post-Cold War world. In addition to pushing aside Gorbachev and the USSR, it destroyed many of the landmarks of the bipolar world that had guided the foreign policies of the great powers since the end of World War II.

Most immediately, Yeltsin's decree helped to recreate what had been a major security challenge in Europe prior to 1939: coping with the zone of weak states caught between Moscow and Berlin and between the Baltic and Black Seas. Indeed, much of the current debate about the eastward expansion of NATO and the EU and about Russia's role in this region can be seen as the working out of the consequences of the August 1991 decree.

Finally, Yeltsin's recognition of Estonia six years ago served as a reminder that, despite the hopes of some and the fears of others, history has not ended and that individuals and nations can transform the world, regardless of the forces arrayed against them.


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