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Newsline - October 21, 1997




COMMUNISTS LIKELY TO DROP NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

Following the 21 October meeting between President Boris Yeltsin and leaders of the seven registered State Duma factions, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a Communist, told Interfax he expects the Communist faction to drop plans to hold a vote of no confidence in the government on 22 October. Nikolai Ryzhkov, the leader of the Communist-allied Popular Power faction, agreed, noting that the president "took steps to meet practically all our demands," according to Reuters. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov told journalists that Yeltsin promised to release a letter replying to opposition demands on 21 October, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The Communist faction will then decide whether to pursue the no-confidence vote, Zyuganov said. Interfax quoted Yeltsin as telling the Duma faction leaders that the 22 October session will determine whether Russia has "political stability" or whether there will be a "fight" between the executive and legislative branches.

KREMLIN MAKES SOME CONCESSIONS AT "COUNCIL OF FOUR" MEETING

Yeltsin on 20 October met with Seleznev, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev in the Kremlin. Chernomyrdin described the meeting of the "council of four" as "very constructive," adding that the participants had agreed on "all the main points" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1997). The president pledged that the parliament will have more air time on Russian Television (RTR) and on state-controlled radio stations. Parliamentary representatives will be invited to join new councils to be created to supervise RTR and Russian Public Television. In addition, Yeltsin agreed to hold regular meetings of the "council of four" and round-table talks on major policy questions. But Chernomyrdin stressed that the government will keep those promises only if the Duma removes the no-confidence vote from its agenda. "The government cannot be kept hanging in suspense," he said.

FIRST ROUND TABLE TO DISCUSS LAND CODE

Zyuganov told journalists that the first meeting of the round table will take place on 22 November and that the land code will be the main item on the agenda, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 21 October. The Duma recently overrode a presidential veto of a code that would prohibit the purchase and sale of farmland. Yeltsin has repeatedly said that he will not sign any code that does not grant farmers full ownership rights. The Federation Council has yet to vote on whether to override the presidential veto. Council Speaker Stroev told journalists on 20 October that 23 people will take part in the round table discussion, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma will nominate eight people, the Council nine, and the president and government three each, Stroev said.

FATE OF LAW ON GOVERNMENT UNCLEAR

Following the "council of four" meeting, Stroev announced that Yeltsin agreed to sign the law on the government if the Federation Council revokes its appeal to the Constitutional Court over Yeltsin's refusal to sign that law, Russian news agencies reported on 20 October. RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported the next day that Yeltsin agreed to sign the law only if certain amendments are made. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has indicated he is willing to discuss amending the law, which would force the entire cabinet to step down if the prime minister were dismissed. The law would also grant the Duma the right to confirm deputy prime ministers, not just the prime minister, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 October. First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov would be unlikely ever to win confirmation from the current Duma.

ROKHLIN'S COMMENTS TO BE INVESTIGATED

The Prosecutor-General's Office has instructed the Main Military Prosecutor's Office to investigate Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin's recent statements on plans to remove Yeltsin and his "hated regime" by next spring, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 20 October. No criminal case has yet been opened against Rokhlin, who told Ekho Moskvy he was expressing his own opinion and plans to act within constitutional limits, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 October. Military analyst Aleksandr Zhilin told RFE/RL on 20 October that he has discussed Rokhlin's comments with numerous army officers, none of whom supported Rokhlin's stated plans. However, Rokhlin remains very popular and influential in military circles, Zhilin said, and some officers have expressed doubt that Russian media quoted Rokhlin accurately.

REGIONAL AUTHORITIES CAN OUST LOCAL OFFICIALS WHO BREAK LAW

The Constitutional Court has ruled that regional authorities have the right to remove elected local officials, but only after a court has ruled that those officials have broken the law. The legislature of the Republic of Buryatia asked the court to rule on an article in the law on local government, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 October. The decision entitles the Buryatian authorities to fire Valerii Shapovalov, the mayor of Ulan-Ude. (In May, the Buryatian Supreme Court ruled that Shapovalov had broken the law.) "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 17 October that under the decision, the arrested mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast, cannot be removed from office unless he is convicted of a crime. The ruling also suggests that the Primorskii Krai legislature was not entitled to suspend Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov without a court decision.

YELTSIN, CHRETIEN DISCUSS LAND MINE BAN

Yeltsin told visiting Canadian Premier Jacques Chretien that he might participate in the December Ottawa meeting at which the land mind ban is to be signed, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 October. Yeltsin did not say when Moscow might accede to that convention, but he did promise Chretien that until that time, Russia will extend its existing ban on the export of mines. Also meeting with Chretien on 20 October, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said Moscow's relations with Ottawa are good and that he expects bilateral trade to double by the year 2000, Interfax reported.

RUSSIAN PREMIER SAYS NIKITIN CAN EMIGRATE

Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said 20 October that Aleksandr Nikitin, a former Russian naval officer who has been accused of espionage, will be allowed to emigrate to Canada after law enforcement agencies in Russia complete their investigation, Interfax reported. But Chernomyrdin did not say when that investigation will be completed. Nikitin, whose case has attracted international attention, has been accused of revealing a number of state secrets in a report he prepared for Norway's Bellona environmental group about pollution in the Barents Sea.

MILITARY ENVOY TO NATO APPOINTED

Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 20 October announced that Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin, currently chief of the CIS Joint Peacekeeping Forces in Tajikistan, will be appointed Russia's military envoy to NATO, Russian news agencies reported. Anatolii Kvashnin, the head of the General Staff, is to present Zavarzin to NATO headquarters in Brussels on 23 October, Sergeev said. Former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev reportedly had sought an appointment as Russia's ambassador or military envoy to NATO. Reuters on 20 October quoted an unnamed NATO military official as saying, "We're glad it's not Grachev. That would have been a comedy of errors."

YELTSIN NAMES NEW SECURITY COUNCIL DEPUTY SECRETARY

Yeltsin has named Aleksandr Ageenkov deputy secretary of the Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 October. The 28-year-old Ageenkov has worked in the Central Bank since 1992, most recently as head of the currency department in the bank's Main Administration for Moscow, according to the 21 October "Kommersant-Daily." Economic security questions will be among Ageenkov's responsibilities on the Security Council. He replaces Nikolai Mikhailov, a civilian who was appointed first deputy defense minister in September after Andrei Kokoshin became chief military inspector and Defense Council secretary.

SOROS ON AID, INVESTMENT PLANS

U.S. billionaire George Soros told journalists in Moscow that over the next three years, he plans to spend $300-500 million on humanitarian aid programs for Russia. The projects will cover health, education, culture, the Internet, military reform, the legal system, local government, and building an open society in Russia. Soros said he hopes to cooperate with the current government, "especially its reform element," an apparent reference to First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov as well as Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev. Soros's Quantum Fund contributed nearly $1 billion toward the winning bid for a 25 percent stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest in July. Soros confirmed that Quantum will participate in some future auctions for oil and gas companies but said it will not bid for shares in the oil company Rosneft.

FIGURES ON FAMILY VIOLENCE RELEASED

Some 30-40 percent of murders in Russia are committed by one family member against another and women and children are most frequently the victims, according to Yekaterina Lakhova, who heads the Presidential Commission on Women, Children, and Demographics. Lakhova has estimated that 14,000 women in Russia are killed by husbands or relatives each year, "Vechernyaya Moskva" reported on 18 October. Interior Ministry statistics indicate that 36,000 incidents of family violence have been reported this year. Lakhova also said some 2 million Russian children are physically abused by family members, causing an estimated 2,000 child suicides each year. According to a commentary published in the "St. Petersburg Times" on 13 October, there are only two shelters for battered women in Russia: in St. Petersburg, and in Langepas (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug). The Duma has yet to consider a proposed law on violence within the family.

THREE MORE REGIONS AUTHORIZED TO ISSUE EUROBONDS

Yeltsin issued a decree on 20 October allowing Krasnoyarsk Krai and Sverdlovsk and Moscow Oblasts to issue eurobonds, ITAR-TASS reported. While many Russian regional governments have expressed interest in borrowing on international financial markets, only three other regions have previously been allowed to issue eurobonds. The city of Moscow floated a $500 million eurobond in May, St. Petersburg a $300 million eurobond the following month, and Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast a $100 million eurobond in September.

OFFICIALS, DIRECTORS WIN MOST SEATS IN NOVGOROD LEGISLATURE

Most deputies elected to the Novgorod Oblast Duma on 19 October are either heads of local administrations or directors of large enterprises, ITAR-TASS and an RFE/RL correspondent in Novgorod reported on 20 October. According to preliminary results, top executive officials in cities or raions won 11 of the 26 seats in the regional legislature. Directors of industrial firms or agricultural enterprises won another seven seats. Turnout was higher than expected at nearly 35 percent. Representatives of political parties fared poorly in Novgorod. The only successful candidate to campaign with a party affiliation was a Communist, who was one of 12 incumbents re-elected to the legislature.

GOVERNOR SLAMS ATTEMPTS TO DERAIL KEMEROVO ELECTION

Aman Tuleev, the newly elected governor of Kemerovo Oblast, has slammed last-minute attempts by Kemerovo prosecutor Valentin Simuchenkov to have the region's electoral law declared invalid. Tuleev won the 19 October election with about 95 percent of the vote. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau the next day, Tuleev noted that Simuchenkov did not object when the electoral law was adopted three months ago. Tuleev and Simuchenkov have recently traded corruption allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October 1997). Meanwhile, two Duma deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Zhirinovsky's lawyer Sergei Belyak defended Gennadii Konyakhin, the arrested mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsk, in a 20 October court hearing. However, the Kemerovo district court denied requests to release Konyakhin pending trial. According to Belyak, Konyakhin has declared a hunger strike, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 October.

TATARSTAN OBJECTS TO NEW RUSSIAN PASSPORTS

The Tatar Ministry of Internal Affairs has stopped issuing new passports, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 20 October. Four days earlier, the State Council adopted a decree saying that the failure to designate the holder's nationality in the new passports is the "biggest provocation in the history of Russia." The move, the decree continued, is intended "to destroy interethnic harmony in the country, "according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 October. One of the new passports was symbolically burned at a public meeting in Kazan on 15 October. Tatar parliamentary speaker Vassilii Likhachev has discussed the new passports with officials from Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and the Jewish Autonomous oblast who have similar reservations.

PIPELINE DELAY

Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, the president of Chechnya's state oil company, has said the commissioning of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline has been delayed because of unspecified problems in the Azerbaijani sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 October. Two days earlier, Yarikhanov had said the 150 kilometer Chechen sector of the pipeline was ready to start operating. Russian government officials say the first Azerbaijani "early oil" will be pumped into the pipeline on 7 November. Yarikhanov also denied statements by Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov that Chechnya is planning to build a pipeline from Grozny to Georgia's Black Sea coast to export Azerbaijani oil. Meanwhile, experts from Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece have agreed form a joint committee to design the planned pipeline from Burgas to Alexandroupolis, ITAR-TASS reported. That pipeline would obviate the need to transport larger quantities of crude from the Black Sea through the Turkish straits.



GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS DISTRIBUTION OF MILITARY PROPERTY UNFAIR

In his Monday radio broadcast, Eduard Shevardnadze affirmed on 20 October that Russia's recent transfer to Georgia of four naval vessels is not adequate compensation for the withdrawal from Georgia from 1991-19933 of former Soviet military property worth several billion dollars, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze said aircraft, tanks, and naval vessels were "quietly" removed from Georgian territory and that no other former Soviet republic has been treated in this way. (Shevardnadze apparently did not add that Georgia, along with Moldova and the Baltic States, did not join the CIS in late 1991.) He argued that Russia's action was "unfair" and that if Moscow truly wishes to co-opt Georgia as a strategic ally, that injustice must be redressed. Shevardnadze added that Russian President Yeltsin "perfectly understands" the importance of a strategic alliance with Georgia.

GEORGIA TO RAISE ISSUE OF PEACEKEEPERS AT CIS SUMMIT

Georgian presidential adviser Levan Aleksidze told Interfax on 20 October that Tbilisi will ask participants at the upcoming CIS summit in Chisinau to find out why their March 1997 resolution broadening the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia has not been implemented. The resolution called for deployment of the peacekeepers in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion to facilitate the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee the region in 1992-1993. Aleksidze rejected as legally untenable the Abkhaz authorities' statement that the peacekeepers' mandate may not be amended without Abkhaz consent. He urged the summit to set a deadline for implementation of the March resolution, otherwise the peacekeeping force would be withdrawn. Aleksidze further accused Abkhazia of attempting to deadlock the peace process by linking repatriation and the expansion of the security zone to a decision on Abkhazia's future status.

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DENIES ANTI-ADJAR PLOT

Zurab Zhvania on 20 October said that claims made by former Batumi Mayor Tamaz Kharazi on Adjar Television the previous day are "absurd," Interfax reported. Kharazi had accused Zhvania and Rostom Dolidze, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Procedural Committee of plotting to oust Adjar Supreme Soviet chairman Aslan Abashidze. Zhvania and Dolidze have described the allegations as slanderous and threatened Kharazi with legal action, Caucasus Press reported on 21 October.

LEBANESE PREMIER IN YEREVAN

A government delegation headed by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was in Yerevan on 20 October for a one-day visit, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. Hariri and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharyan, signed an agreement on friendship and cooperation that is intended to create a legal framework for developing bilateral economic ties. Under that accord, a Armenian-Lebanese bank will be set up to facilitate business contacts between the two countries and air traffic will be resumed between the two capitals, according to Interfax. Kocharyan and Hariri told reporters later that bilateral cooperation is most promising in the areas of banking, trade, and tourism.

OSCE MILITARY REPRESENTATIVES IN TRANSCAUCASUS

A military working group from the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe recently held talks in Stepanakert, Yerevan, and Baku on regional security issues and the deployment of an OSCE peacekeeping force, Russian and Armenian agencies reported. In Yerevan, Foreign Ministry officials informed the OSCE representatives on 18 October of Azerbaijani violations of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, Interfax reported. Meeting with President Heidar Aliyev in Baku two days later, the OSCE representatives affirmed that the organization is prepared to mount a peacekeeping operation for Nagorno-Karabakh. They stressed, however, that the financial resources available for such an operation are limited, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported.

MOVE TO NEW KAZAKH CAPITAL POSTPONED

President Nursultan Nazarbaev told the parliament on 20 October that the move from Almaty to the new capital, Aqmola, will take place on 10 December and not on 23 October as planned, Russian agencies reported. He said an inspection commission has registered numerous unspecified shortcomings. The move had originally been scheduled for mid-October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 1997). Nazarbaev stressed that Almaty will remain Kazakhstan's "southern capital," and he signed a decree bestowing special status on that city. The existence of two powerful centers will revitalize the country's economy, he commented. Also on 20 October, Nazarbaev announced that Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev has completed forming his new cabinet. The number of ministers has been reduced from 27 to 18, Reuters reported.




LUKASHENKA CALLS FOR TIGHTER CUSTOMS UNION

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has sent a message to the heads of the three other members of the customs union within the CIS calling for increased economic integration, Interfax reported on 20 October. He sent the message in his capacity as chairman of that body's interstate council, even though Moscow indicated on the same day that it would like to see the chairmanship handed to one of the other member states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1997).

UKRAINE HOPES FOR BETTER TRADE TERMS WITHIN CIS

Nikolai Doroshenko, a senior official in the presidential administration, said on 20 October that Kyiv hopes the upcoming CIS summit in Chisinau will resolve trade problems within that organization, Interfax-Ukraine reported. But Doroshenko noted that Kyiv is not satisfied with many provisions of the documents drafted for that meeting. He also criticized the emergence of the four-member customs union. Meanwhile, Mikhail Shmakov, the leader of the Russian independent trade union federation, told Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma that he hoped "integration ties" between Russia and Ukraine will be revived, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 October. In other news, the IMF began a review of its standby loan for Ukraine because Kyiv has not kept to the monthly budget deficit ceiling.

CHORNOBYL DRIVERS STAGE PROTEST IN UKRAINIAN CAPITAL

Some 50 truck drivers who work in the "dead zone" around the troubled Chornobyl nuclear power plant staged a protest in Kyiv on 20 October to demand payment of wage arrears, Ukrainian media reported. The Ukrainian Energy Ministry said it would like to pay the drivers but has no money to do so.

ESTONIAN WRITERS HINDERED FROM ATTENDING FINNO-UGRIC SEMINAR?

Five Estonian writers say they have been hindered from attending a workshop of Finno-Ugric authors in Komi Republic, Russia, ETA and BNS reported on 20 October. Arvo Valton, who is also a former parliamentary deputy, was denied a visa, while the four other writers received visas with incorrect entry and departure dates. Valton claimed the action was deliberate, saying it was not the first time Russian authorities have sought to obstruct scientific and cultural cooperation among Finno-Ugric nations.

ALLEGED SLANDER AGAINST LANDSBERGIS TO BE INVESTIGATED

The Lithuanian Prosecutor-General's Office has initiated criminal proceedings to investigate allegations of slander against parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, BNS reported on 20 October. The decision followed a request by a parliamentary commission screening deputies for possible collaboration with the KGB. The commission had refused to regard as evidence testimonies submitted by former KGB officers alleging that Landsbergis had links to the Soviet security service in the 1960s.

POLISH PARTIES AGREE ON DIVISION OF MINISTRIES

Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) will control the Prime Minister's Office and 10 ministries, while its junior coalition partner, the Freedom Union will have seven ministries, PAP reported on 20 October. That division was agreed to only at the last minute after a sharp debate within the AWS parliamentary faction. Neither party has yet announced its candidates for all its slots. Also on 20 October, the parliament elected Maciej Plazynski as speaker, while President Aleksander Kwasniewski urged the coalition parties to work together to help Poland join NATO and the EU.

U.K. MAY REIMPOSE VISAS FOR CZECHS, SLOVAKS

Faced with a rising tide of Roma seeking asylum, the British Home Office announced on 20 October that London may reimpose a visa requirement for Czechs and Slovaks, CTK reported. British officials stressed, however, that no decision to do so has yet been reached.

OSCE REJECTS SLOVAK CHARGES

The Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe released a statement on 20 October dismissing charges by Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar that the body has adopted biased policies. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel said his organization has paid equal attention to the Slovak minority in Hungary and the Hungarian minority in Slovakia and has not "written off" the former, as Meciar has charged.

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WITHDRAWS RESIGNATION

Ivan Szabo has withdrawn his resignation as chairman and parliamentary faction leader of the Democratic People's Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1997), Hungarian media reported on 20 October. He said that if his vision of the party's future is endorsed at the November national convention, he will not give up his posts. Addressing a meeting of the party's parliamentary faction, Szabo said his party cannot adjust its program to meet the expectations of either the government or the opposition; rather, he said, it should develop an independent profile.




PRAISE FOR DJUKANOVIC VICTORY IN MONTENEGRO

A U.S. State Department spokesman called Milo Djukanovic's triumph in the 19 October elections a "hopeful sign," adding that Washington hopes for an improvement in bilateral relations and for greater Montenegrin support for the Dayton peace agreements. In Belgrade, Serbian opposition leaders Zoran Djindjic, Vesna Pesic, and Vuk Draskovic each issued statements praising the Montenegrin election results. Pesic said that Djukanovic's win marked a victory of "the future over the past." Observers in Montenegro noted that Djukanovic owed his triumph mainly to the support of young people, the coastal regions, and the Albanian and Muslim ethnic minorities (see also "End Note" below).

BELGRADE CHALLENGES DJUKANOVIC

Yugoslav Justice Minister Zoran Knezevic said in Belgrade on 20 October that the Montenegrin presidential vote was "a farce." He added he does not "believe [the official election results reflect] the choice of the citizens of Montenegro." Meanwhile in Podgorica, outgoing president and defeated presidential candidate Momir Bulatovic said he will challenge the results on account of unspecified irregularities. Bulatovic's office issued a statement saying that "as long as doubts over the poll's regularity have not been lifted, we will not recognize [poll] and we will call for it to be scrapped." Observers said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his allies in Montenegro want to exert pressure on Djukanovic, either to force him from office or to compel him to tone down his opposition to Milosevic.

PROTESTS IN BELGRADE OVER MURDER OF ROM

Some 1,000 people demonstrated in Belgrade on 20 October to protest the murder of Dusan Jovanovic, a Romani teenager, by skinheads two days earlier. The protesters charged that the killing was the latest example of increasing violence by skinheads against Roma. They also accused the police of not providing sufficient help. A spokesman for the Belgrade-based Roma Congress Party said the murder highlights the growing insecurity felt by Roma across Federal Yugoslavia. Spokesmen for the Belgrade Center for Human Rights and the Antiwar Campaign said the killing mirrors what they called the general social decline brought about by the current political system, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. Meanwhile, police have detained two 17-year-olds in connection with the murder.

KOSOVAR LEADER OFFERS DIALOG WITH BELGRADE

Kosovo shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Pristina on 20 October that the current situation in the province is difficult and could become worse, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. Rugova singled out what he called the provocative and aggressive behavior of the Serbian police for criticism. He called for talks with the Belgrade authorities aimed at finding a lasting solution to the Kosovo problem, but only with the participation of the U.S. and the EU. Observers noted that the Serbian authorities reject any foreign involvement in the Kosovo issue, which Belgrade considers an internal Serbian matter.

UN CALLS FOR "MORE PROGRESS" IN EASTERN SLAVONIA

The UN Security Council on 20 October urged Croatia to implement its obligations on the return of refugees and on other matters related to the transfer of Serb-held eastern Slavonia to full Croatian control. The Council added that Zagreb has enough time to meet its obligations by the projected 15 January deadline for UN administration of the region to end. Croatian Ambassador to the UN Ivan Simonovic said he is glad that the resolution mentions the 15 January deadline. In Vukovar, UN administrators said they welcome the Croatian government's recent appeal to the local media to show more tolerance and balance in covering interethnic relations in eastern Slavonia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Vukovar.

NATO USES AIRCRAFT TO BROADCAST TO BOSNIAN SERBS

SFOR began using a special aircraft on 19 October to jam a frequency normally used by hard-line Pale TV in eastern Bosnia. Broadcasts from the plane over the same frequency told television viewers that NATO took Pale TV off the air because of its bias and hate-mongering. The NATO broadcast added that Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's Banja Luka TV will soon be seen throughout Bosnian Serb territory. SFOR spokesmen in Sarajevo noted this was the first time that NATO had used such an aircraft to jam unwanted television transmissions and to broadcast its own message. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Sarajevo, has warned Pale TV against trying to get back on air by using pirate transmitters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1997).

ALBANIAN MILITARY CHIEF SAYS BERISHA PLANNED "MASSACRE"

General Aleks Andoni, the Socialist-appointed head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Tirana on 20 October that former President Sali Berisha and his top military officials gave orders to use air strikes and other means of force to quell the unrest earlier this year. Addressing a meeting on the disintegration of the military at the time of the anarchy, Andoni claimed that Berisha planned a "massacre" of civilians. Prime Minister Fatos Nano praised soldiers and pilots who disobeyed Berisha's orders to attack civilians. He added that the authorities should take legal measures against those individuals responsible for the disintegration of the army.

ALBANIAN COURT DROPS CHARGES AGAINST LAST COMMUNIST CHIEF

A Tirana court on 20 October dropped charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against former President Ramiz Alia and other former communist leaders. The Supreme Court recently recommended that the charges be dropped because the men's actions were not criminal under the law in force at the time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1997). Alia left office in 1992 and was subsequently jailed on two occasions. He fled prison and the country during this year's anarchy. Alia's friends in Tirana have said he will return to Albania once he has recovered from eye surgery in Sweden.

ROMANIAN 'REVOLUTIONARIES' STRIKE WIDENS

Members of the UNORD "revolutionaries" association on 20 October joined the hunger strike launched twelve days earlier by other "revolutionaries" protesting the government's decision to amend the law granting benefits to participants in the 1989 uprising. UNORD members went on hunger strike in 11 towns after the government annulled the protocol signed with their organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1997).

HUNGARIAN PREMIER IN BUCHAREST

Meeting with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Ciorbea, on 20 October, Gyula Horn praised the developing partnership between Budapest and Bucharest. Horn stressed Hungary's readiness to share with Romania its experience on integration in Euro-Atlantic structure. The two premiers also discussed widening economic collaboration and Hungarian investments in Romania. Later the same day, Horn told a crowd in the Transylvanian town of Sfantu Gheorghe (Sepiszentgyorgy) that both countries must act against the "evils of extreme nationalism" that have marred the history of bilateral relations. He added that it is the duty of governments to respect minority rights, which he pledged his government will do, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION IN ROMANIA

Meeting with a visiting delegation led by parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan, Ghiorghi Prisacaru, the head of the Senate's Foreign Policy Commission, said conditions are ripe for concluding "as soon as possible" the basic treaty between the two countries as well as a partnership pact, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prisacaru said the two sides reached agreement that Moldovan and Romanian experts will resume work on drafting the basic treaty later in October. The delegation also met with Prime Minister Ciorbea, Senate Chairman Petre Roman, and Foreign Minister Adrian Severin.

MOLDOVA'S SOCIALISTS PROPOSE ELECTORAL BLOC WITH COMMUNISTS

Valeriu Seniuc, the chairman of the Socialist Unity--Edinstvo faction in the parliament, told journalists in Chisinau on 20 October that he has sent a letter to Vladimir Voronin, the leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists, proposing that the two parties form an "electoral bloc" for the 1998 parliamentary elections. BASA-press quoted Senic as saying the "left wing" of the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova could also join such a bloc.

BULGARIA, IMF AGREE ON DRAFT BUDGET

Bulgaria and the IMF have agreed on a draft budget for 1998, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance said on 20 October. He described the proposed budget as an "austerity" one that envisages a deficit of 2.7 percent of GDP, compared with 6.2 percent this year, and an inflation rate of 16-17 percent. An IMF team has been in Sofia over the past two weeks to review the country's economic performance, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Finance Minister Muravei Radev said Bulgaria has prepared a letter of intent on the government's economic priorities and hopes to receive the fourth installment of a $510 million loan by December, Reuters reported. Also on 20 October, the government approved a list of 66 state enterprises to be sold through foreign investment banks, BTA reported.




MILOSEVIC'S RIVAL WINS MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENCY


by Patrick Moore

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic is the new president of Montenegro. But the only other certainty about his election is that Podgorica's relations with Belgrade will never be what they once were.

Milo Djukanovic beat outgoing President Momir Bulatovic in a run-off vote on 19 October by just over 6,000 votes or less than two percent of the total number of votes cast. Turnout was 72 percent. During the campaign, Bulatovic charged that his rivals denied him fair television coverage. Djukanovic, for his part, claimed that Bulatovic's backers manipulated the voting lists and brought in agents from Belgrade to disrupt the elections.

The campaign was acrimonious because the stakes were high. The main issue was the future of Montenegro's relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, of which Montenegro and Serbia are the two constituent republics. Bulatovic is a loyal ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who until recently was president of Serbia and who now wants to increase the Yugoslav president's powers. To succeed, Milosevic needs to control Montenegro, because Montenegro and Serbia have an equal number of votes in the upper house of the Yugoslav parliament. That body must approve any constitutional changes to increase Milosevic's powers.

Djukanovic, for his part, is committed to autonomy for Montenegro, and he described the election as a referendum on that issue. Djukanovic charged that Milosevic's policies have led to Yugoslavia's isolation, which has hit Montenegro especially hard, since that republic is dependent on tourism and shipping.

The rivalry between Djukanovic and Bulatovic has dominated Montenegrin politics all year and led to a de facto split in the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS). The majority of the DPS's governing body backed Djukanovic, but Bulatovic and his supporters still claim to constitute the "real" DPS. Nonetheless, it seems only a question of time before one or the other faction founds a new party under a new name.

According to one theory of how Podgorica's relations with Belgrade will develop, Djukanovic is set to lock horns with Milosevic in a major political fight. The outcome of that struggle could be that Montenegro secedes from Yugoslavia and declares independence rather than accept a strong federal presidency. Or it could be that Milosevic is defeated over the constitutional issue and somehow finds a way to become president of Serbia again in order to maintain power.

Another view is that Milosevic will not accept defeat over constitutional change but might precipitate a new ethnic conflict as a means to consolidate his power, should Djukanovic win the upper hand in parliament. According to that view, Milosevic may use the current violence in Kosovo to provoke a Slav-Albanian conflict that could spill over into Macedonia. Others, however, point out that Serbian forces are already in fairly firm control of Kosovo and that Milosevic's credentials as a Serbian nationalist are tarnished after he failed to aid the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia in 1995.

Yet another theory is that Djukanovic's election will not lead to any major changes because he and Milosevic are both reputedly crafty politicians who will strike a deal rather than engage in a political duel. Those who hold this view point out that Djukanovic has not called for full independence and that he worked together with Bulatovic and Milosevic for years. During this time, Djukanovic reportedly built up a fortune through sanctions-busting.


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