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Newsline - January 21, 1998


President Boris Yeltsin on 20 January issued a decree dismissing Petr Deinekin as commander of the Air Force, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The same decree appointed Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov, who has headed the Moscow district of the Air Defense Force since 1991, as commander of the combined Air Force and Air Defense Force. Deinekin was criticized following a crash of a military cargo plane in Irkutsk in December. Soon after, Deinekin turned 60, the mandatory retirement age, and Yeltsin refused to make an exception to allow Deinekin to continue to serve. Military expert Aleksandr Zhilin argued that Deinekin's dismissal is most likely connected not to plane crashes, but to an investigation of commercial deals involving the Air Force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 1997). Zhilin said Kornukov is highly respected as a "first-class pilot" and a principled officer. LB


Yeltsin on 20 January signed a decree authorizing the Russian Space Agency to create a "unified policy" for the aerospace industry's civilian and military activities, Russian media reported. The agency is responsible for developing strategic military rockets, missile-attack warning systems, space reconnaissance, space aided-navigation, and other space equipment. However, Svetlana Savitskaya, former cosmonaut and a Communist State Duma deputy, said the situation in the space industry is already grim owing to years of underfunding and that this latest step is "beneficial only for certain political forces." Those forces, she claimed, want to "control what has not been misappropriated" and "influence the military." BP


While chairing a 20 January Defense Council meeting, Yeltsin announced that "we have managed to break down the resistance to the military reform among the military itself, among politicians, and even among the opposition," Russian news agencies reported. The president claimed that military personnel were reduced by 200,000 in 1997, although he gave no figure for the current number of troops in service. He has previously promised to cut the armed forces to 1.2 million by the end of 1998. It is unclear how much the cuts will affect the number of troops subordinated to other ministries and government agencies, such as the Interior Ministry and the Federal Border Service. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 19 January that Yeltsin has instructed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev to draft proposals on raising wages of military personnel. LB


Lieutenant-General Nikolai Staskov, the deputy commander of the Airborne Troops, announced on 18 January that Sergeev has approved a plan to complete the reorganization of the troops by mid-1998, ITAR-TASS reported. Staskov said the number of paratroopers will be cut from 46,000 to 36,000. Cutbacks in the Airborne Troops have been among the most controversial proposals related to military reform, and last year Yeltsin halted planned personnel cuts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 21 May 1997). Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, himself a former paratrooper, has been one of the most vocal critics of the downsizing plans. LB


"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 January that while the number of draftees for the call-up last fall reached 188,000, which meets the quota for that period, the number of draft dodgers increased to 40,000 in 1997 from 31,000 the previous year. Most of the draft dodgers were from the Moscow region, St. Petersburg, and Dagestan. The newspaper also claimed that law enforcement officials do little to apprehend such people. Also, one-third of prospective conscripts are not signed up for health reasons. BP


Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on 20 January told journalists that Moscow has submitted to the UN special commission on Iraq a list of some 60 experts who could oversee destruction of Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, Interfax reported. Tarasov also said that Russia could provide the commission with an aircraft for surveillance flights. Speaking in Lulea, Sweden, where he is attending the Barents Euro- Arctic Council meeting, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov again said that Baghdad's compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions is "essential." But he also called for increasing the effectiveness of the special commission's work and ensuring Iraq's constructive cooperation with that body. This, Primakov argued, could pave the way for lifting sanctions against Iraq. LF


Speaking to journalists on 20 January prior to a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov, Yeltsin predicted a period of intensified activity for the CIS in 1998. In an apparent reference to Georgia, Yeltsin added that last year, "some had considered opting out" of the CIS. Serov, however, affirmed that the presidents of all CIS member states wholeheartedly endorse Yeltsin's December appeal for suggestions as to how the CIS can be made more effective. The presidents of Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan have responded with specific proposals. LF


State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced on 20 January that Duma Deputy Speaker Svetlana Goryacheva of the Communist faction will replace Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin as the deputy speaker responsible for CIS issues, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Baburin, one of the leaders of the Popular Power faction, told RFE/RL that Seleznev's decision is an "anti-Russian action" motivated by Baburin's opposition to treaties Russia has signed with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. Baburin believes those treaties do not sufficiently protect ethnic Russians in Crimea, the Transdniester, and Abkhazia. Seleznev told RFE/RL that under Baburin's leadership, "we have damaged relations with CIS states" and hearings on vital documents have been delayed. Russian media have speculated that Baburin will soon be removed as Duma deputy speaker as well. He was appointed to that post under a January 1996 agreement among the seven Duma factions. LB


Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 20 January that Lev Rokhlin will soon be replaced as chairman of the Duma Defense Committee. NDR appointed Rokhlin to that post under the January 1996 agreement among the Duma factions. However, Rokhlin was expelled from the NDR faction in September 1997, a few months after he began to sharply criticize the government and Yeltsin. He has since formed an opposition movement. Shokhin said the Communist faction, which has supported Rokhlin's new movement, has agreed to let NDR appoint Roman Popkovich to head the Defense Committee. He also charged that Rokhlin has slowed down military reform because he is busy trying to register his new movement and is looking ahead to the 1999 Duma elections. LB


General Aleksandr Kotelkin has not been fired from the post of first deputy minister of foreign economic relations and trade, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 January, citing Kotelkin's assistant Vladimir Vasyutkin. Kotelkin was appointed to the deputy minister post in September 1997, following his replacement one month earlier as head of the arms export giant Rosvooruzhenie. Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov on 15 January denied reports that Kotelkin had been dismissed during personnel reductions at the ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). LF


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said on 21 January that a third presidential bid by Yeltsin could be a "stabilizing" factor in Russian politics, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio, Nemtsov again said he has no plans to run for president in 2000, adding that Yeltsin's candidacy would "not be the worst variant," provided that the Constitutional Court rules that Yeltsin is legally entitled to seek a third term. Nemtsov noted that Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, whom he described as the potential candidates from the "party of power," would not challenge Yeltsin. In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 20 January, Nemtsov predicted that the Russian bureaucracy will back Luzhkov in the next presidential race if Yeltsin does not run. He added that the bureaucrats' support could be a "decisive factor." LB


Also on 21 January, Nemtsov said he is not against oil company mergers such as that announced recently by Yukos and Sibneft, "as long as the market is not monopolized," ITAR-TASS reported, quoting comments made by Nemtsov on Ekho Moskvy. He argued that "superholdings" are good "from the point of view of international competition." But he noted that the State Anti-Monopoly Committee must approve such deals and would oppose mergers if the new company would control more than 25-30 percent of the Russian market. Supervising the Anti-Monopoly Committee is among Nemtsov's governmental duties. LB


"Russkii telegraf" charged on 20 January that Yuksi, the company formed from the merger of Yukos and Sibneft, will be "a campaign fund to elect [Prime Minister] Chernomyrdin as president." Chernomyrdin spoke at the signing ceremony on the merger (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 1998). In addition to Mikhail Khodorkovskii, who will be president of Yuksi, and Boris Berezovskii, a major investor in Sibneft, the signing ceremony was also attended by Aleksandr Smolenskii, who heads the SBS-Agro bank, and Vladimir Gusinskii, who founded Most bank and currently heads the Media-Most holding company. "Russkii telegraf" claimed that media financed by Gusinskii and Berezovskii coordinate their news coverage and are already preparing for the next presidential campaign. "Russkii telegraf" is fully owned by Oneksimbank, whose president, Vladimir Potanin, is the main business rival of Berezovskii and Gusinskii. LB


The Warsaw Appeals Court on 20 January upheld a lower court ruling rejecting the extradition of Sergei Stankevich, a former aide to Yeltsin and former deputy mayor of Moscow. Stankevich, who was arrested in Warsaw in April 1997, faces charges in Russia that he took a $10,000 bribe in 1992. Last November, a Warsaw court cited several reasons in its refusal to extradite Stankevich, including Stankevich's claim that he is a victim of political persecution, RFE/RL's correspondent in Warsaw reported. The European Convention on Extradition, which Poland has ratified, bans the extradition of persons who may be discriminated against for their political beliefs. Stankevich is seeking permanent residence in Poland. However, an unnamed Russian diplomat based in the Polish capital told Interfax on 20 January that the Warsaw Prosecutor's Office will probably appeal the case on Stankevich's extradition to the Supreme Court. LB


Major-General Artsrun Markarian, the commander of the Internal Troops, was wounded in the legs when an unidentified gunman opened fire on him near his home on 21 January, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian is said to be a protege of Vano Siradeghian, the chairman of the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) and mayor of Yerevan. An HHSh official, Ruben Hayrapetyan, was wounded by a hand grenade on 20 January. LF


Leading members of the Armenian Pan-National Movement told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 21 January that the "indifference" of Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan's government to the recent assassination bids threatens to plunge the country into chaos. The Pan-National Movement unequivocally supports Ter-Petrossyan's insistence on resolving the Karabakh conflict through compromise. Kocharyan, Serzh Sarkisian, and Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian back the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in its steadfast rejection of the latest "phased" peace plan proposed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. LF


Levon Zurabian, press secretary to Armenian President Ter-Petrossyan, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 20 January that the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is free to take a position on any issue but that "attempts to meddle in Armenia's internal politics are unacceptable." Zurabian added, however, that Yerevan will not release any official statement to that effect. The previous day, Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasyan had condemned speculation about the possible resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, his predecessor as president of Karabakh. Zurabian last week denied Armenian press reports that Kocharyan tendered his resignation during the 7-8 January Armenian Security Council session. That meeting failed to overcome differences between Yerevan and Stepanakert, as well as within the Armenian leadership, over the best way to resolve the Karabakh conflict. LF


Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian on 12 January chaired the first session of an inter-governmental commission on European integration and cooperation with European regional organizations. In an interview published in "Respublika Armeniya" five days later, Arzoumanian's first deputy, Vartan Oskanian, explained that Armenia's new European policy is based on direct talks with the EU and the Council of Europe, in the hope of eventually receiving associate member status, and on more active participation in European regional initiatives. Oskanian conceded that Armenia's integration into European structures will be "extremely difficult" and may take decades. But he added that creating a "new image" and disseminating a "new geo-political ideology" will expedite Armenia's being perceived as a European country and counter the erroneous impression that Europe is not a top priority of Armenian foreign policy. LF


Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile (which is composed of ethnic Georgian deputies elected to the Abkhaz parliament in September 1991), has appealed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Caucasus Press reported on 20 January. Nadareishvili calls on the UN to take measures to expedite the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 hostilities, and to restore Georgia's territorial integrity. Nadareishvili, who has in the past called for military intervention to restore Georgia's hegemony over Abkhazia, claimed that 1,200 ethnic Georgian repatriants to Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion have been killed by Abkhaz militants since the deployment in mid-1994 of CIS peacekeepers along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see also "End Note" below). LF


In a written statement released in Istanbul on 20 January, Rasul Guliev again rejected claims by the Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office that he had planned a coup to oust President Heidar Aliev, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 21 January. In an interview with that newspaper two days earlier, Guliev had accused Aliyev of creating a totalitarian regime and reaffirmed his intention to contend the October presidential elections. In Yerevan, political commentator David Petrossyan predicted that Aliyev will not run for reelection but that his son Ilham, vice president of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, will do so, Noyan Tapan reported. LF


A field commander loyal to the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and three of his bodyguards were killed on the evening of 19 January, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. Mahmud Rajabov was returning home from his unit's barracks in the Kofarnikhon area when unknown assailants attacked him and his guards. UTO representative Habib Sanginov said Rajabov was one of the first commanders to officially declaring his unit's support for the opposition and have his unit relocated in accordance with last June's peace agreement. Both the Tajik government and UTO have warned against further provocation by any faction, including a "third party" not interested in seeing peace in Tajikistan. That "third party" is being blamed for the Rajabov's murder. BP


Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court has ruled to find journalist Yrysbek Omurzakov guilty according to the civil code, rather than the criminal one, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 20 January. Omurzakov was found guilty of libel for publishing an article in the opposition newspaper "Res Publica" in January 1997 alleging corruption on the part of a Bishkek factory manager. He was sentenced last September to two-and-a-half years in prison under provisions of the criminal code. The Supreme Court, however, decided to find him guilty under the civil code instead. Omurzakov was pardoned under a law on amnesty signed on 1 January 1998. BP


Leonid Kuchma has signed the 1998 budget, dpa reported on 20 January. The budget, which was passed by the parliament three weeks ago, calls for revenues of 21.1 billion hryvna ($11.1 billion) and expenditures of 24.5 billion hryvna, resulting in a projected deficit of 3.3 percent of GDP. Viktor Yushchenko, the head of the central bank, said last week that the deficit should be kept at 2 percent of GDP to maintain economic stability and help attract foreign investment. PB


The state prosecutor in the case against Russian Public Television (ORT) journalist Pavel Sheremet and his cameraman, Dmitriy Zavadskiy, on charges of illegally crossing the Belarusian border has requested suspended sentences for the accused, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 January. Vlyadimir Sido asked the court to hand down a three-year suspended sentence to Sheremet and a two-year sentence to Zavadskiy. The men would be required to regularly report to police but would be jailed for their full terms if found guilty of any new offense, regardless of how minor. A verdict is expected this week. PB


Prime Minister Sergei Ling said on 19 January that the state would not revert to "totalitarian planning," Interfax reported. But he said it did support "indicative planning," in which the state does not direct the economy or own the means of production but attempts to assist the market and producers. He said this system had allowed Belarus to reach its economic targets in 1997, noting that GDP increased by 10 percent, compared with a 2.6 percent increase the previous year. He also said that industrial and agricultural production increased, official unemployment fell by one-third, and investments rose by 11 percent. Despite the apparently across-the-board economic improvements, Ling said most financial indicators are "unsatisfactory." PB


Speaking at a news conference in Lulea, Sweden, on 20 January, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov described the U.S.-Baltic partnership charter as a "normal development," BNS and Reuters reported. Primakov added that the document does not go against Russian interests and does not imply NATO membership for the Baltic States. At the same time, he stressed Moscow's position that if the Baltic States were to become members of the alliance, "this may have a serious effect on our relationship with NATO as a whole, although we have signed a founding agreement with NATO." He also commented that "the relationship between Russia and the Baltics--not all but some--is not yet sufficiently normalized," citing what he called discrimination against Russian- speakers. Moscow has repeatedly criticized Estonia and Latvia for their treatment of their ethnic Russian populations. JC


Mart Siimann has said he sees no problem in Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves's being a member of the Farmers' Party as long as that party supports the government's economic policy, BNS reported on 20 January. Ilves, formerly an independent, joined the non- parliamentary Farmers' Party in December, prompting speculation that he would be asked to resign his post as foreign minister. Following talks with Siimann on 19 January, Ilves was quoted by a government spokesman as saying there is no contradiction between the government's economic policy and the program of the Farmers' Party. The spokesman added, however, that the situation would be discussed again after the party merges with a right-wing opposition formation in the spring. JC


A revised autopsy shows that a blow to the head killed a 13-year-old boy last week in the northern city of Slupsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January), PAP reported on 20 January. The boy's death sparked four nights of rioting. The original report had said the boy died after he fell and his head struck a post. A policeman is being detained in connection with the case. Meanwhile, the government has said it will form a commission, to include Catholic Church and media representatives, that will study and campaign against youth violence. PB


Vaclav Havel on 20 January was re- elected president in a second ballot, having failed to win the support of a majority of all incumbent parliamentary deputies and senators in the first round. The second-ballot election required a majority of all deputies and senators present, and Havel was endorsed by 99 out of 197 deputies and 47 out of 81 senators. His rivals in the first round, Stanislav Fischer, who was backed by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, and Miroslav Sladek, the candidate of the Republican Party, received 26 and 22 votes, respectively, in the first round and were not eligible for the second. The Republicans claim the election was illegitimate because Sladek, who is currently in prison, was not allowed to cast his vote as a deputy. MS


The Freedom Union, which was officially founded on 17 January by dissenters who left Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS), has now formally established its faction in the Chamber of Deputies, Czech media reported on 20 January. So far, 28 former ODS members have left that party to join the new faction, CTK reported. The news agency also said that Defense Minister Michal Lobkowicz resigned from the ODS on 21 January to join the Freedom Union. Former Foreign Minister and ODS Deputy Chairman Josef Zieleniec has also announced he is leaving the ODS, whose leadership he accused of "lying and financial machinations." But he did not say whether he would join the Freedom Union. MS


The Slovak government said on 20 January that one of its diplomatic missions has warned of a planned attempt on Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's life before the end of next month. Government spokesman Jozef Kroslak told Reuters that the would-be assassins have been given 1 million German marks ($554,000) from someone inside Slovakia to murder Meciar. In other news, the parliament on 20 January rejected the opposition motion to debate the case of two deputies whom the ruling coalition chose as replacements for two defectors: Emil Spisak, who left the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS), should have succeeded a SNS deputy who died, and Frantisek Gaulieder, who was expelled from the parliament after he left Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. In July 1997, the Constitutional Court ruled that Gaulieder's rights have been violated but the legislature refused to reinstate him. MS


Hungarian Culture and Education Minister Balint Magyar says that in recent years, the Slovak government has introduced measures that negatively affect the country's Hungarian minority, Hungarian media reported on 20 January . Speaking at a ceremony marking the opening of the renovated Hungarian Institute in Bratislava, Magyar criticized the abolition of bilingual school reports, obstacles to taking university entrance exams in the mother tongue, and the dismissal of ethnic Hungarian school directors. Slovak Education Minister Eva Slavskova announced the same day that schools may issue bilingual school reports for a fee but added that such reports are for private use only. MSZ


A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 20 January that Westendorp has decided on the design for the new Bosnian joint currency, the convertible mark. The spokesman added that Westendorp will make public the design, which includes no nationalist symbols, on 21 January. Westendorp's decision follows the failure of the joint presidency to agree on a design. PM


Kresimir Zubak, who is a member of the joint presidency, and a representative of the World Bank signed two credit agreements in Sarajevo on 20 January. The first credit is for $10 million and will be used to repair Sarajevo's gas supply system. The second, $65 million credit is earmarked for several projects involving housing, water supplies, sewage systems, electrical systems, and agriculture. Some $17 million of the second credit will go to the Serbs, the first such international credit they have received. Meanwhile in Brussels, Westendorp said that the Republika Srpska needs international assistance to ensure the most basic necessities, including that the people have enough to eat. PM


Senad Pecanin, the editor- in-chief of the independent monthly "Dani," was convicted by a Sarajevo court on 20 January on five charges of slander. He received a two-month suspended jail sentence. Fahrudin Radoncic, editor-in-chief of the pro-government daily "Dnevni Avaz," plans to seek some $85,000 compensation from Pecanin, who last June wrote that Radoncic burned his newspaper's financial records and practiced bigamy. Pecanin said on 20 January that the trial had "the atmosphere of a pogrom" and proved that the government is trying "to strangle independent media through private lawsuits." Radoncic, for his part, insisted that his suit was a purely private matter. PM


Social Democratic leader Sejfudin Tokic, who is also the prime minister in the non-nationalist parties' shadow cabinet, said in Sarajevo on 20 January that the election of Milorad Dodik as Bosnian Serb prime minister marks a victory over Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS, see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 21 January 1998). Tokic added, however, that the battle against nationalism has not yet been won, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Tokic urged Dodik to eliminate what Tokic called the "remnants of the SDS's totalitarian rule." He added that he hoped Dodik's administration will mark the beginning of the end of the rule of nationalist parties throughout Bosnia. PM


German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told his Croatian counterpart, Mate Granic, in Stuttgart on 20 January that the course of Zagreb's future relations with the EU will depend on how well the Croats cooperate with the Muslims in Bosnia and on Croatia's willingness to allow Croatian Serb refugees to return to their former homes in the Krajina region. PM


President Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 20 January that he hopes that a recent incident in which Slovenian spies were expelled from Croatia will serve as a catalyst leading to the depoliticization and professionalization of the intelligence service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). Kucan added that the incident provided "a sufficient reason for Slovenia to finally get a security service supervision law and one more reason for my oft repeated demand for a national security council." PM


Police held Hamdija Jusufspahic and seven imams for two hours on 20 January. Police said they were looking for a Bosnian refugee who was reportedly living in the mufti's residency. Jusufspahic said he feared that the police action is the beginning of a campaign against his organization, the Islamic Community. Jusufspahic's Muslim detractors earlier nicknamed him "Milosevic's mufti" because of his close ties to the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM


Tensions remain high in Shkoder, where more than 50 armed civilians and former policemen have held regional prefect Gezim Podgorica hostage for two days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1998). Unidentified gunmen attacked police headquarters and injured two policemen on 20 January, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Other armed persons set up barricades in the city center. The protesters demand the resignation of the new local police chief, Mithat Havari, and the withdrawal of special police forces. Havari, a southerner, was appointed recently by the Socialist-led government "to crack down on police corruption" in the opposition stronghold. The protesters are supported by some local politicians from the city's center-right coalition government. FS


Legislators from the governing Socialist Party and the opposition Democratic Party have asked a high-ranking Council of Europe delegation in Tirana to reconsider an agreement banning Albania from carrying out the death penalty. The diplomats will present the request to the Council's Parliamentary Assembly for review in March. FS


Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi on 19 January proposed that the army should start a campaign to collect illegal arms. He also proposed a new amnesty for people who surrender their weapons voluntarily. Rakipi added that more people might be more willing to give their arms anonymously to the army than to the local police, who register the names of those handing in the weapons, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Rakipi also said that unidentified people sent him what appears to be a plan for an attack on Vlora last March. The plan was signed by the then national police chief, Agim Shehu, "Republika" reported. FS


Emil Constantinescu on 20 January told journalists that a meeting of the National Council for the Struggle against Corruption and Organized Crime (CNACC) next week will discuss "mafia-like structures" that have "destroyed the Romanian merchant fleet" and attempted to take over the petroleum industry. The CNACC, set up last year, is an ad-hoc body subordinated to the National Council of Defense, which is chaired by Constantinescu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Political observers say this may be a veiled threat directed at the Democratic Party, which was repeatedly accused by the media of corruption and involvement in illegal dealings during the 1990-1991 tenure of Petre Roman's government. One of those alleged to have been involved in illegal dealings is Traian Basescu, then and now minister of transportation. MS


Adrian Nastase, the deputy chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), has said his formation "does not necessarily want" Premier Victor Ciorbea replaced and consequently will not initiate a no-confidence motion when the parliament debates the privatization law on 21 January. Nastase said that tying the vote on the privatization law to a confidence vote in the government is nonetheless "unconstitutional," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS


The Ministry of National Defense on 20 January said the army will be cut by 12,700 people this year and that those laid off will be compensated. For the time being, the government has approved compensation for the 2,400 civilians working for the ministry who will be affected by the measure. In other news, Bulgarian Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev met with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, in Bucharest on 20 January and agreed to set up a joint peace-keeping unit, possibly with the participation of other Balkan countries. MS


The Parliamentary Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region on 20 January withdrew its appeal to the Constitutional Court over the election law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1998), Infotag reported . Assembly chairman Ivan Bejan said the deputies still believe that the law, which provides for proportional representation in a single, countrywide constituency, deprives the region from electing its representatives to the parliament in Chisinau. But he added that the decision was taken to "avoid aggravating the political situation" and bearing in mind that it may be too late to amend the electoral law at this stage. MS


The Joint Control Commission overseeing the truce in the Transdniester cannot resume its activities because Tiraspol is refusing to accept changes in the membership of the Chisinau representation, BASA-press reported on 20 January. Tiraspol opposes the inclusion of Vitalie Bruma, adviser to the Moldovan Interior Ministry, saying he has criticized the Transdniester authorities in the media. Gheorghe Roman, a Moldovan member of the commission, said the authorities in Tiraspol are deliberately blocking that body's activities. MS


Before departing for an official visit to Germany, Ivan Kostov told journalists that he has been misquoted on intentions to curtail the transit of Russian gas through Bulgarian pipelines to Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 January 1998). He said the interests of Bulgaria and Russia are so similar that a new deal on Russian gas deliveries and transiting rights is "inevitable," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova also said Bulgaria has no plans to limit the transit of Russian gas. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told RFE/RL on 20 January that Kostov's reaction could be interpreted as a positive sign in the development of bilateral relations. MS


by Liz Fuller and Patrick Moore

In his New Year's address to the Georgian people and a 12 January radio interview, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze suggested that the international community could launch a "peace-enforcing" operation under UN auspices in the renegade Georgian Black Sea region of Abkhazia that would be similar to the 1995 intervention in Bosnia. Shevardnadze stressed, however, that a peace-enforcing operation in Abkhazia should be undertaken only as a last resort--that is, if ongoing negotiations fail to yield an agreement on the repatriation of tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians forced to flee during the 1992-1993 fighting.

Shevardnadze's use of the term "Bosnia option" in the Abkhaz context is both misleading and inappropriate. There are two fundamental differences between the situation in Bosnia in mid-1995 and that in Abkhazia today. First, hostilities in Abkhazia ended in late 1993 and a formal cease-fire agreement was signed in May 1994. But both Abkhaz units and the Georgian "White Legion" formation, over which the Georgian leadership claims to have no control, are still engaged in low-level guerrilla activity, which could be used as a pretext for international intervention.

Second, in addition to a 136-strong UN observer force, a CIS peacekeeping force is already deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia . Tbilisi, however, has been arguing for the past year that this force is ineffective. The CIS heads of state summit in March 1997 voted to broaden the peacekeepers' mandate by investing them with police powers to protect Georgian repatriants against reprisals from Abkhaz militants. But implementation of that decision was blocked by the Abkhaz authorities, which argued that the peacekeepers' mandate could not be altered without their permission.

In addition, Shevardnadze has expressly ruled out the setting up in Abkhazia of "ethnic enclaves" such as the December 1995 Dayton agreement provided for. However, the repatriation of ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion, where they constituted 90 percent of the pre-war population, would in effect create such an enclave.

Moreover, the military role of the international community in Bosnia was never really a peace-enforcing one. This was primarily because the political will was lacking in most Western capitals to back up diplomacy with a credible military threat.

Three things, in fact, characterized what some now call "the Bosnian option." First, intervention in any form came only with the greatest reluctance. The Bosnian war began in the spring of 1992, but the UNPROFOR soldiers who were soon sent there were little better than monitors. France and Britain, in particular, argued against a tougher international military role out of fear that the "warring factions" might retaliate against foreign troops already on the ground. By the summer of 1995, the Serbs were taking peacekeepers hostage by the dozen in response to timid NATO air strikes.

Second, it took major catalysts to prompt any serious response. The no-nonsense Rapid Reaction Force was sent to the Sarajevo area in July 1995 only after the fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre of thousands of Muslim civilians. Massive air strikes came only in late August in response to the Serbian shelling of a crowded Sarajevo market place.

Third, the military moves of the international community helped tip the balance against the Serbs but were not in themselves decisive. There were, in fact, two other main reasons why the Serbs agreed to talk peace in the fall of 1995. By the end of August, Croatian forces had reconquered most Serb-held areas in that republic. They then teamed up with Bosnian government forces in that republic and sent the Bosnian Serb forces running. And by late 1995, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the man most responsible for the destruction of the old Yugoslavia, had decided he had to make peace in order to end the international sanctions that had helped cripple his country's economy.

It would seem that Shevardnadze is using the term "Bosnia option" as a euphemism for a surgical strike by international forces at Abkhaz forces concentrated along the administrative border between Gali Raion and the Abkhaz-dominated district of Ochamchire. The Georgian president presumably hopes that such intervention would destroy the Abkhaz military capacity and force President Vladislav Ardzinba to sign a formal peace agreement.

But it is highly unlikely that Moscow would endorse such action, even if Western powers decided that it is warranted. Russia provided logistical and military support for the Abkhaz during the war, and since 1994 it has tacitly encouraged Ardzinba in his obdurate rejection of any settlement document that would subordinate Abkhazia to Tbilisi. (Ardzinba worked during the early1980s under Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who at the time was director of Moscow's Oriental Institute and whom Shevardnadze has publicly accused of duplicity in his capacity as mediator between the two sides.) The present deadlock constitutes leverage that Moscow can bring to bear on Tbilisi.

Western interest in stability in Georgia is confined to ensuring the uninterrupted operation of the pipeline that is to transport Caspian oil from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa, which lies some 30 kilometers south of the Abkhaz-Georgian border. The chances of an international military operation against Abkhazia will depend largely on whether Abkhazia is perceived as a threat to Western oil interests.