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Newsline - October 23, 1997


Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 22 October slammed continued attempts by State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin to seek a vote of no confidence in the government, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Baburin has accused Zyuganov of making a "strategic error" by withdrawing the no-confidence vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1997). Zyuganov denounced Baburin's efforts as a "farce." He argued that the opposition has already forced the authorities to "listen to the voice of the people," who, Zyuganov said, are not ordinarily heard. In contrast, Communist Duma deputy Vladimir Semago told RFE/RL that the government "has not made any genuine concessions" to the opposition. Meanwhile, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists on 23 October that Baburin has no chance of collecting the 90 signatures needed to put a no-confidence vote on the Duma's agenda, ITAR-TASS reported.


Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais announced on 22 October that the trilateral commission currently negotiating the 1998 budget has agreed unanimously on a procedure whereby it will revise the tax code, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Earlier the same day, Chernomyrdin and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii argued over whether the government or the Duma must take the first step toward withdrawing the tax code from the parliament, as Yeltsin has instructed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1997). First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, considered the government minister closest to Yabloko, took Chernomyrdin's side. Nemtsov told RFE/RL that the tax code is currently "not the property of the government" and cannot be withdrawn without action by the Duma. But Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov of Yabloko told ITAR-TASS that the trilateral commission exceeded its authority by contradicting Yeltsin's instruction.


Aslan Maskhadov has asked the Chechen parliament to grant his extra powers for a period of two years, including the right to impose a state of emergency, suspend existing legislation, and fire both cabinet ministers and civil servants, Interfax reported on 22 October, quoting parliamentary press secretary Lom-Ali Mirsibiev. Maskhadov argued that his request is justified given the appalling economic and social situation in Chechnya. The Chechen parliament will debate his request on 23 October. Mirsibiev also told Interfax that all Chechen civil servants, "from the minister to the cleaning lady," who kept their posts during the 1994-19966 war with Russia will be fired and banned from public office for five years.


Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin told journalists on 23 October that the media misinterpreted his speech four days earlier to members of his Movement to Support the Army (DPA), Russian news agencies reported. Rokhlin said the speech was "fully within the framework of the constitution and [Russian] law." Media quoted Rokhlin as vowing to remove Yeltsin and his "hated regime" by next spring and to hold a "rehearsal" in February to determine whether the movement is strong enough to "throw the government out." Rokhlin said he has a tape recording of his remarks and will distribute copies to prove he was misunderstood. He also read out a statement adopted by the DPA's executive committee saying the movement is not planning a military coup and accusing the authorities of holding up the DPA's official registration with the Justice Ministry.


Duma Speaker Seleznev on 23 October announced that the Communist opposition will call for changing the format of new Russian passports, which do not state the nationality of the holder, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Seleznev said the opposition favors restoring the line identifying the holder's nationality and leaving citizens free to decide whether to fill it out. Top officials in Tatarstan and several other republics in the Russian Federation have objected to the new passports, which the government began issuing in early October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 October 1997). Opposition politicians in the Duma are seeking support from the Federation Council, which is made up of regional leaders, in negotiations with the government over key economic policies. In the Soviet era, the infamous "line 5" on passports was blamed for facilitating discrimination against persons belonging to certain ethnic groups.


Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 22 October instructed the government to delay a cabinet meeting the next day "in connection with [Chernomyrdin's] need to be present for consideration of questions concerning pension reform and fulfilling the 1997 budget," ITAR-TASS reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais had been scheduled to chair the meeting while Chernomyrdin attended the CIS summit in Chisinau. Earlier on 22 October, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev told ITAR-TASS that the "reduction of unwarranted pension benefits" and the indexation of pensions would be discussed at the cabinet meeting. When Chernomyrdin addressed the Duma on 8 October, he was asked whether the pension age will be raised, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He replied that the government will not undertake any "stupidities" and added that he does not know "what Oleg Nikolaevich [Sysuev] told you, but [pension reform] will be done as I say, and as the president says."


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov described his "ideological" differences with Security Council Deputy Secretary Berezovskii in an interview published in the latest edition of the weekly "Interfax-AiF." Nemtsov charged that Berezovskii "thinks that first, all state property should be divided among people selected by God, which he of course considers himself, and afterward everyone should start to live honestly. While I think we must start to live honestly here and now." Nemtsov argued that the "overwhelming majority" in Russia's business community support the government's policies, while a small minority, who have "enormous influence in the press and on television," are afraid of losing their privileges and facing fair competition. Since August, Berezovskii and Nemtsov have exchanged harsh public statements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 21 August 1997). Nemtsov accuses Berezovskii of inappropriately influencing Russian Public Television and using his post for personal gain.


Russian Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu announced in Moscow on 22 October that Russia is ready to start talks with Libya on overhauling the Gazhura nuclear research center, Interfax reported. The Russian news agency quoted unidentified Russian government sources as saying Moscow's cooperation with Libya has been "slowed down" by the international embargo against Libya. Those sources added that "no firm ground exists for the sanctions since Libya has denounced terrorism and is taking steps in compliance with the demands of the international community."


Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said Moscow is closely monitoring trials of officials of the former German Democratic Republic, Interfax reported on 22 October. Although Tarasov said Moscow views those actions as "formally Germany's internal affair," he noted that defense attorneys for the accused regard them as an "attempt on the part of certain groups in Germany to delegitimize the GDR, once a sovereign and internationally recognized state."


Aleksii Arbatov, the deputy chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, and Peter Romashkin, his fellow Yabloko party member, argued in the 23 October "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that the defense budget proposed by the government is "internally inconsistent." The two suggested that the budget, which calls for significant reforms but fails to provide the funds for them, creates the impression that "there are at least two governments in Russia." According to them, one is headed by President Yeltsin and calls for military reform and fulfillment of international obligations. The other, whose leaders they do not name, is pursuing a policy of "macroeconomic stabilization," regardless of its consequences for Yeltsin's policies and Russia's needs. Until this situation of "dual power" in the executive branch ends, it will be almost impossible to find a compromise between the government and the Duma, they argued.


Federation Council Speaker and Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev is set to coast to victory in the 26 October gubernatorial election, "Izvestiya" reported on 23 October. Anatolii Trofimov, the chairman of the Orel electoral commission, predicts that Stroev will win 80 percent of the vote and that turnout will be 80 percent. Stroev's only opponent, collective farm head Vera Yenina, is hardly visible on the campaign trail. In a recent interview with the local paper "Orlovskii vestnik," Yenina remarked, "To be frank, I would prefer that the current head of administration win the election. Yegor Semenovich [Stroev] is a deserving, wise politician. The oblast is developing properly. Let everything stay as it is. I want only that." Two other candidates tried to run for governor, but the electoral commission refused them registration, and the Orel Oblast Court rejected their appeal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1997).


Psychiatric clinics in Vladivostok have been forced to release dozens of patients because of insufficient funds for food and medicine, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported on 22 October. One of those patients reportedly killed a neighbor with an ax, while another was seen walking naked several days in a row in front of the Primorskii Krai branch of the Federal Security Service. Health officials say the most dangerous psychiatric patients remain institutionalized but are deprived of sufficient food and medicine. Medical workers in several cities in Primore are on strike, demanding not just back wages but also funding for food and medical supplies. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais has reportedly promised Viktor Kondratov, the presidential representative in Primore, that the federal government will transfer 10 billion rubles ($1.7 million) to help finance health institutions in the krai.


The Primorskii Krai Duma on 21 October reversed its decision to suspend Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, ending the confusion over who is the city's legitimate mayor, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 October. The legislature appointed Yurii Kopylov acting mayor on 26 September, and Kopylov promptly set up an alternative city administration, despite protests by various officials and a ruling by a Vladivostok district court. The krai legislature stood by Kopylov for several weeks, and the Primorskii Krai Court recently validated Kopylov's appointment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1997). However, Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, a longtime political enemy of Cherepkov's who is almost invariably supported by the krai legislature, distanced himself from the controversy. Nazdratenko even visited Cherepkov in the hospital recently.


Magomed Saidov, a witness in a criminal investigation against former Tula Oblast Governor Nikolai Sevryugin, was shot dead on 22 October in an apparent contract killing, "Izvestiya" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Sevryugin, who lost his post in a March election, was arrested in June on charges that he accepted a $100,000 bribe from a Moscow-based bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1997). Saidov was the director of the Tula agricultural enterprise Sazhenets, which Sevryugin had headed before becoming governor. While in office, Sevryugin reportedly allocated substantial budget funds to the enterprise.


Arkadii Ghukasyan, the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Yerevan on 22 October that differences between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on how to resolve the Karabakh conflict are "to a certain extent" hampering the peace process. Ghukasyan said the international community has given Armenia far too much importance in its peace efforts and has disregarded the unrecognized republic. Speaking to journalists in Yerevan on 22 October, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said such differences have been exacerbated by the need to choose between a "package" and a "phased" solution. Karabakh advocates the former, and Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan the latter. Meeting with a German Foreign Ministry delegation, Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan said he personally prefers the "package solution, which he said would provide more reliable guarantees of Karabakh's security, according to Noyan Tapan.


Before leaving for the CIS summit in Chisinau, Shevardnadze met with representatives of the ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 hostilities, including deputies from the Abkhaz parliament in exile, CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 23 October. The fugitives' warned that they will demand Shevardnadze's resignation and launch a campaign of civil disobedience if the president refuses to demand at the summit that the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia not be extended "under any conditions." Shevardnadze agreed to demand the peacekeepers' withdrawal but warned it cannot be implemented immediately.


Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade told Turan on 22 October that the first oil from Azerbaijan's Chirag Caspian field will begin to flow on 12 November. But a spokesman for the Azerbaijan International Operating Committee involved in extracting the oil said that production will begin as scheduled, in late October. Natik Aliev, the president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, told Turan that Azerbaijan is ready to begin filling its section of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk export pipeline and that advance payment for the first 40,000 metric tons to be exported has already been transferred to the Russian pipeline company Transneft. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who is also fuel and energy minister, will attend a formal ceremony in Baku on 7 November to mark the opening of the pipeline, according to Interfax on 22 October.


Kazakhstan has begun increasing the amount of oil that it exports via Azerbaijan and Georgia, ANS-PRESS reported on 22 October, quoting the president of Azerbaijan's Transchart company, Fuad Rasulov. The oil is transported by tanker to Baku and from there by rail to Batumi. But Kazakhstan has temporarily suspended the export of oil to Iran under a 1996 inter-governmental agreement, Interfax reported. Under that accord, Kazakhstan exports 2-6 million metric tons of crude to Iran annually and receives the equivalent quantity of Iranian oil for sale on world markets. But Baltabek Quandykov, Kazakhoil's new president, told journalists on 22 October that Iranian refineries are unable to process Kazakh crude because of its high mercaptan content.


A Taliban delegation met in Ashgabat on 20-21 October to discuss possible solutions to the conflict in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. The talks took place within the framework of the UN program for resolving the conflict. The Taliban agreed to talks between all rival Afghan factions and expressed support for the Turkmen proposal to convene a conference of states bordering on Afghanistan. Russian President Yeltsin said in Moscow on 22 October that he supports a multilateral peace conference under the aegis of the UN. He mentioned specifically the initiative of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev to convene a peace conference in Bishkek, ITAR-TASS reported.


Tajik, Uzbek, and Afghan officials met with representatives of the UN High Commission on Refugees in the Uzbek town of Termez on 21 October to discuss the repatriation of some 7,000 Tajik refugees currently in Afghanistan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported . Following lengthy talks, the participants reached agreement on opening the bridge linking Termez with neighboring Afghanistan three times a week to allow the Tajik refugees to cross into Uzbekistan on their way home to Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik service reported. The UNHCR will pay the necessary travel expenses.


In a speech carried on Ukrainian Television on 22 October, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced he has signed the law regulating the upcoming parliamentary elections. But he sharply criticized parliamentary deputies for "populism that borders on madness" for passing legislation without taking into account the financial resources of the country. And he called on the Ukrainian population to show maturity and vote for "morally clear and decent" deputies. Meanwhile, U.S. special adviser on aid to the newly independent states Richard Morningstar told Kuchma that Washington backs the Ukrainian president's policy of budgetary restraint and that the U.S. will continue its policy of "strategic cooperation" with Kyiv.


Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko and his visiting Romanian counterpart, Adrian Severin, on 22 October exchanged documents confirming the ratification of the basic treaty signed by the two countries in June, Interfax and Radio Bucharest reported. Both ministers said the treaty signifies a "radical turning point" in bilateral relations. Udovenko told journalists that both countries have "progressive legislation" on the rights of national minorities and that there is no "political obstacle" to education in the mother tongue for the Romanian minority in Ukraine. But he added there are "technical and financial difficulties" that must be overcome.


At a press conference following his meeting with visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk ash-Shara, Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich said his country has no interest in joining the EU anytime soon, Interfax-West reported on 22 October. "We want to establish relations of equality with all European organizations," Antonovich said, "but we follow our own road." The EU has been sharply critical of the increasingly authoritarian policies of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.


The Belarusian Prosecutor-General's Office has reopened the investigation into Kuropaty, a mass grave on the outskirts of Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 23 October. "Slaviansky Nabat" quoted a member of the original independent investigative commission as saying the results of the original inquiry were falsified. Siarhiej Kascian, also a member of the original commission and currently the deputy director of the lower house's International Affairs Committee, told an RFE/RL correspondent that it was not the NKVD that was responsible for the deaths of those Belarusian citizens buried at Kuropaty, as the commission had concluded, but Nazi troops. The original investigation into Kuropaty was conducted in 1988-1989 and headed by archeologist Zianon Pazniak, currently leader-in-exile of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front. That panel concluded that from 1937-1941, the Belarusian NKVD shot some 250,000 citizens and buried them in an unmarked mass grave outside Minsk.


Mart Siimann has reconfirmed he will not fire Defense Minister Andrus Oovel, ETA reported on 22 October. The parliamentary State Defense Committee recently called for Oovel's dismissal on the grounds of the poor legislative record of his ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). "I am not the sort of lousy prime minister who sacks the defense minister when the State Defense Committee proposes [such a move]," Siimann said. He also stressed he does not believe the problems related to state defense can be solved by sacking one man.


The Prosecutor-General's Office has reopened a criminal investigation into abuse of office and negligence at the Defense Ministry over the 1992-1993 acquisition of weaponry from the Russian navy, BNS reported on 22 October. Among those under scrutiny is former Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius, a parliamentary deputy who is also charged with large-scale fraud in a separate, more recent case. A spokesman for the prosecutor-general said the investigation into the arms deal was terminated in August 1995 "without grounds" and that all facts linked to the case were not fully clarified. Under the deal, the construction firm Selma built apartment houses for Russian army troops in Kaliningrad in exchange for Russian weaponry. It is alleged that the Defense Ministry, under Butkevicius's leadership, paid Selma too much for the arms and equipment.


The parliament voted 99 to 97 to approve the government's budget in the first reading, CTK reported on 22 October. This victory for Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's cabinet was possible only because four deputies did not take part in the voting. Parliamentary spokesmen said they expect the legislature to approve the measure in the subsequent two readings. Meanwhile, "Mlada Fronta Dnes" reported on 22 October that officials in the eastern city of Ostrava are actively considering giving Roma families there money for air tickets so they can leave the country. Human rights groups around the world have been sharply critical of the rising tide of anti-Roma attitudes in Eastern Europe.


Slovak police on 22 October roughed up Greenpeace activists who tried to project an anti-nuclear slogan on the Mohovce nuclear power plant, Czech Television reported. The activists said they will seek to bring charges against the officers. TASR, meanwhile, said the police behaved in a proper way.


A parliamentary sub-committee on 21 October ruled that Croatia does not have a valid claim for compensation over a missing shipment of automatic rifles paid for in 1990, Hungarian media reported. At the same time, it ruled that the company acting as an intermediary between Zagreb and the Hungarian firm that failed to deliver the paid-for shipment is entitled to compensation. Two earlier shipments were delivered to Croatia on the eve of the civil war in former Yugoslavia, despite protests by Belgrade.


Police on 23 October blocked the road to the mainly ethnic Albanian village of Tuzi to an automobile convoy carrying supporters of outgoing President Momir Bulatovic. The previous day in Podgorica, speakers at a rally of 5,000 Bulatovic backers demanded weapons for supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his ally Bulatovic. They also charged that "traitors and Muslims" had voted for President-elect Milo Djukanovic. Bulatovic, for his part, called for new elections "as soon as possible." Montenegrin police officials blamed the leaders of the demonstration for what the police called the worsening security situation in Podgorica, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. The Montenegrin government's Information Department warned its Serbian counterpart in a letter that Montenegro will take "appropriate legal measures" unless the government-backed Belgrade media stop their "unobjective and tendentious reporting" about Djukanovic.


Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic and Democratic Party of Serbia head Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 22 October that their formations will not take part in the Serbian presidential elections slated for 7 December. The two Milosevic opponents charged that the government has not created the basic conditions for free and fair elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. Meanwhile, the Election Commission began to register presidential candidates and will continue to do so until 17 November. A potential candidate needs to collect 10,000 signatures of registered voters to qualify for a place on the ballot.


Leaders of Kosovar students said in a letter to foreign diplomats on 22 October that the students will resume demonstrations on 29 October, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. The students want the Serbian authorities to implement a 1996 agreement that provides for restoring Albanian-language education at all levels in the province. The students also demand the immediate restoration of Albanian-language instruction at Pristina University, where for some years professors have taught only in Serbo-Croatian. On 1 October, police broke up the first major protest by Kosovar students in years. The "New York Times" and the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" suggested recently that the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army may attract increasing support from young people if peaceful protests continue to be broken up or prove ineffective.


Diplomats said in Brussels on 22 October that an additional 1,000 SFOR troops will go to Bosnia to help ensure order during the 23 November Bosnian Serb parliamentary elections. The contingent will include soldiers from non-NATO member states as well as from NATO countries. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, spokesmen for the UN's international police force said UN police have found and confiscated illegal weapons from a Serbian police station in Brcko.


Officials of the World Bank and other international economic organizations said in Sarajevo on 22 October that the laws passed by the mainly Croatian and Muslim Federation's parliament the previous day will go far to help attract foreign investment and promote recovery. The laws deal with the privatization of state firms, the sale of apartments, and the settlement of war-related claims. Observers said the measures are similar to those adopted in many other former communist countries, except that the Bosnian laws also deal with damages and claims stemming from the war.


Stipe Suvar, a former leader of the League of Communists of Croatia, said in Zagreb on 23 October that he has founded the Socialist Workers Party of Croatia (SRPH) and that the party will hold its founding congress on 25 October. Suvar added that he expects the SRPH to attract large numbers of women, young people, and members of ethnic minorities, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Observers noted that leftist parties attracted little support in Croatia as late as 1995, but that Zdravko Tomac's Social Democrats are now the largest single opposition party. Public opinion surveys regularly show that most Croats have difficulty making ends meet.


Neritan Ceka on 22 October said Democratic Party leader and former President Sali Berisha freed 52 dangerous criminals by decree in March Ceka said he will provide evidence to parliament soon, "Koha Jone" reported. He added that the prisoners were freed "to sabotage the elections [in June and July] by using terror and violence." Ceka called for a parliamentary commission to be set up to investigate the matter and to press legal charges against Berisha. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj accused former army commander General Adem Cobani of having ordered troops on three occasions during the unrest to fire on civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1997). Speaking in the parliament on 22 October, he charged that Berisha, who was commander-in-chief at the time, had been involved in the incidents. Cobani also claimed that the army prepared chemical weapons and rockets for use against Vlora, Permet, and other southern towns, "Shekulli" reported.


The international donors' conference on Albania ended in Brussels on 21 October with the approval of a $600 million aid package. Of that sum, $100 million is to help cut the budget deficit and the other $500 million to support infrastructure, development, and administrative reform over the next two years. World Bank representatives, however, stressed that the availability of the aid will depend on the government's willingness to close down pyramid investment schemes. The donors earmarked some $1 million for that purpose. A further $30 million is available as humanitarian relief. The IMF said it hopes Albania will cut its inflation from 50 percent in 1997 to 15 to 20 percent the next year. It also wants Tirana to boost GDP growth from 8 percent this year to 12 percent in 1998.


Defying an order by the Bucharest Mayor's Office, the opposition demonstration against the government's policies was held in the capital's Senate Square on 22 October, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. That square is the scene of an ongoing hunger strike by the "1989 revolutionaries" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1997). Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the Greater Romania Party, Adrian Nastase, the deputy chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, and Adrian Paunescu, the first deputy chairman of the Socialist Labor Party, addressed an estimated crowd of some 5,00O. Scuffles broke out when some demonstrators tried to break the police cordon and join the striking "revolutionaries." Also on 22 October, five of the hunger strikers were hospitalized following 13 days without food.


Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu on 22 October launched the procedure for the judicial rehabilitation of several members of Romania's fascist government headed by Marshal Ion Antonescu. Those officials were sentenced in 1949 to prison sentences of between two and 10 years and their property confiscated for "crimes against peace," Radio Bucharest reported. An initiative to rehabilitate Antonescu, as well as those executed with him in 1946 or those whose death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment, has been under consideration by the Prosecutor-General's office for several years now.


Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev on 22 October revealed to the parliament that 14 of its current members collaborated with the communist-era secret police. Two of the named are members of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces. Ahmed Dogan, the leader of the Turkish ethnic party, the Movement for Rights and Freedom, was also identified as a collaborator. Bonev said Dogan worked for the secret services between 1974 and 1988, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Dogan told Reuters that the list is a plot aimed at removing his party from the political scene. The other deputies identified by Bonev belong to the opposition Socialist Party and the Business Bloc. The list, whose publication is in line with the provision of a law passed in July, also includes seven high-ranking government and judicial officials as well as the directors of two state-owned banks.


by Paul Goble

Russian President Boris Yeltsin's willingness to sign a border demarcation agreement with Lithuania now reflects the convergence of three strands in Moscow's foreign policy in the Baltic region. But when Yeltsin signs the demarcation agreement with visiting Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas during his visit to the Russian capital on 23-24 October, those strands may not be equally obvious, even though all three are likely to prove equally important.

First, Yeltsin's decision reflects Moscow's increasing willingness to treat the three Baltic States in a differentiated fashion, rewarding Lithuania, which has been the most cooperative, while putting pressure on the other two.

Second, it demonstrates an effort by the Russian government to show it can and will develop better relations with the Baltics if those countries are willing to cooperate. This is especially important in Russian calculations because many in Scandinavia and the West view progress in relations between Moscow and the Baltic States as the "litmus test" of Russia's readiness to be accepted into Europe, as former Swedish Premier Carl Bildt put it.

Third, Yeltsin's decision appears to be part of a Russian effort to portray Estonia and Latvia in the most negative light, hoping thereby to reduce those states' attractiveness to Western partners and as potential candidates for membership in the EU and NATO.

At one level, those three strands of Russian policy appear contradictory. Obviously, Moscow will have a difficult time in simultaneously presenting itself as a good neighbor and seeking to put pressure on two of the three Baltic States.

But at another level, this combination of factors is consistent. Yeltsin and the Russian foreign policy establishment are behaving entirely rationally in treating the three Baltic countries differently. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are three very different countries with very different domestic and international positions. Some Western governments continue to treat them as a unit because of their history of Soviet occupation from 1940 to 1991, but their very individual situations both domestically and internationally justify a differentiated approach.

By dealing with the Balts in such a way, Yeltsin and Moscow demonstrate that they recognize not only those countries' specific approaches to domestic issues, such as the treatment of ethnic Russians, but also the very different security problems of the three. In addition, Yeltsin is to be given credit for backing an improved relationship with the Baltic countries without any real danger of having to live up to promises.

The leaders of a number of factions in the Russian parliament have already indicated they will not ratify any agreement Yeltsin may sign with Brazauskas. As a result, Yeltsin will have the best of both worlds: approbation from the West without a commitment to follow the strictures of the agreement he appears likely to sign.

Moreover, Yeltsin's very positive approach toward Lithuania allows him to place enormous pressure on both Estonia and Latvia to change their positions on a variety of issues or face ostracism from at least some Western institutions. In particular, he may be forcing Estonia's hand to change its approach lest it lose the support of its West European partners, who have already indicated that they want Estonia to begin in December the process of becoming a member of the EU.

That apparent calculation is unlikely to prove wrong, especially if Western governments argue that Estonia and Latvia should make the same concessions that the Lithuanians have in order to establish good relations with Moscow. It may also ultimately prove the most critical in the thinking of the Russian government. Both Russian nationalists and the government have continued their criticism of Estonia and Latvia for their attitudes toward their ethnic Russian populations. And thus signing an accord with Lithuania only highlights what Russian nationalists and Moscow see as the lack of progress on this issue in the other two Baltic States.

Even if Russia's apparent calculation backfires because the West declines to follow its logic, Moscow has the choice of shifting gears and signing border accords with Estonia and Latvia, as Yeltsin has sometimes indicated he is willing to do. Thus, the Russian government's latest effort to demarcate a region politically as well as geographically appears to be a situation in which Moscow has much to gain and very little to lose.