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Newsline - January 27, 1998




YELTSIN LAUNCHES 1998 GOVERNMENT PROGRAM

President Boris Yeltsin announced on 26 January that he has signed a list of 12 main tasks for the government this year, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The names of several cabinet members and at least one official from the presidential administration are listed after each of the 12 tasks. Yeltsin promised that the document will allow for more "discipline, precision, and responsibility" in the government's work, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's signature is at the bottom of the government program, but his name is not listed after any specific task. In an interview with RFE/RL, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov explained that Chernomyrdin "answers for everything" in the program. Some of the points, such as restructuring the system of social benefits, were among the seven main tasks set for the government last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1997). LB

CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV GIVEN DIFFICULT TASKS

The government's plan for 1998 assigns responsibility for many of the most difficult tasks to First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Nemtsov. Chubais and Nemtsov are among those officials responsible for policies to alleviate the non-payments problem and cut back on state expenditures. Both are also partly responsible for implementing the government's military housing program. Chubais must ensure that taxes are reduced and a new tax code adopted by the end of the year. He also is responsible for paying state debts to the defense industry. Nemtsov must ensure that pensions and wages to state employees are paid on time and that natural monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors reduce their fees. He is also responsible for reducing expenditures on subsidies to housing and municipal services and for restructuring social benefits so that only the poor receive financial support from the state. LB

PLAN SETS AMBITIOUS ECONOMIC TARGETS

Yeltsin's government plan calls for an annual inflation rate of 5-7 percent in 1998, Russian news agencies reported. Inflation in 1997 was estimated at 11 percent. The Central Bank is expected to lower the refinancing rate, at which it lends to commercial banks, to 16-18 percent. (The bank raised the refinancing rate from 21 to 28 percent last November.) In addition, the plan calls for stimulating investment in domestic industry by lowering yields on treasury bills to 15-18 percent. Among those responsible for meeting those targets are Chubais, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, and Aleksandr Livshits, the deputy head of the presidential administration. The plan calls for economic growth of 2-4 percent this year. Cabinet officials have expressed different views about the likely growth rate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). LB

NEMTSOV SAYS REGIONAL LEADERS MAY BE PUNISHED

In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Nemtsov warned that "there are ways to punish" governors who are found to have misused federal funds earmarked to pay wage arrears. He cited unspecified "administrative measures," adding that prosecutors or the Federal Security Service could also be used to deal with governors who have broken the law. Yeltsin recently blamed regional officials for the failure to promptly pay back wages to state employees and vowed to punish those who "sabotaged" such efforts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998). The political survival of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who has been accused of misallocating federal funds, illustrates how difficult it is for Yeltsin to punish regional leaders. Governors have been elected in every oblast, krai, and okrug, which means the president no longer has the power to dismiss them. LB

NEMTSOV SAYS POOR PENSIONERS TO BENEFIT FROM INCREASE

Nemtsov told journalists on 26 January that the country's poorest pensioners will receive an additional 30-35 rubles ($5-6) a month when pensions are recalculated as of 1 February, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He said the increase will affect some 15 million people or some 40 percent of all pensioners. The government's estimate of 760 rubles as the average monthly wage in calculating the new pensions has drawn fire from State Duma deputies, who claim that average wages are much higher (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). However, Nemtsov argued that the government took Pension Fund resources into account when making that estimate. He added that if an average wage of 1,200 rubles were used as a basis for calculating the new pensions, as the Duma has demanded, pension arrears would mount this year, ITAR-TASS reported. LB

YELTSIN SENDS DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER TO IRAQ

Presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 26 January that Yeltsin has sent Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk to Baghdad in an attempt to resolve the most recent standoff over UN inspections of weapons facilities. Earlier this month, the Iraqi government had barred a group of UN inspectors from such facilities on the grounds that the group included too many U.S. citizens. Also on 26 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the use of military force against Iraq is "unacceptable," Interfax reported. LF

KOKOSHIN ENDS VISIT TO CHINA

A Russian delegation led by Defense Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin wrapped up a five-day visit to China on 26 January, Russian and Chinese media reported. Delegates visited several military complexes and discussed with Chinese officials military cooperation, state security, and the defense industry. "Segodnya" wrote on 23 January that Kokoshin's visit was in part aimed at persuading China to buy more Russian military hardware. China is the biggest purchaser of Russian military equipment. Since U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen's recent visit to China, there has been speculation that the U.S. will soon lift embargoes on U.S. companies against selling military equipment to China . BP

RUSSIA-JAPAN TO STRENGTHEN MILITARY TIES

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev met with Masahiro Akiyama, first deputy director-general of Japan's National Defense Agency, in Moscow on 26 January, Russian media reported. Sergeev said later that Russia and Japan will develop closer military contacts, including holding joint naval exercises. The Japanese delegation, for its part, requested that China be included in any talks between Russia, Japan, and the U.S. on security in the Asian-Pacific region. Akiyama also met with Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov to discuss the May visit to Russia of Japanese Admiral Kadzua Natsukawa. BP

CHECHEN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT DISAGREE

In a 26 January statement, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov criticized the Chechen parliament for interfering in the work of the executive branch and for revealing confidential information about the activities of the National Security and Interior Ministries, Interfax reported. Maskhadov also accused the parliament of obstructing work on a new constitution that would "allow the creation of an Islamic state." The parliament has accused Maskhadov of violating the existing constitution by dismissing the entire cabinet. It claimed that the constitution empowers the president only to fire individual ministers, "Segodnya" reported on 23 January. The parliament recently amended the constitution to restrict freedom of religious belief to those "religions that conform with the norms of Islam." LF

YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW BORDER SERVICE CHIEF

Yeltsin on 26 January appointed Colonel-General Nikolai Bordyuzha as director of the Federal Border Service, Russian news agencies reported. Until now, Bordyuzha has been deputy director of the service. In an interview with NTV on 26 January, Bordyuzha confirmed that Andrei Nikolaev resigned last month as head of the border service because he disagreed with the way a Russian-Georgian dispute was resolved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 22 December 1997). Meanwhile, Yeltsin is expected to issue a decree within a month subordinating the Federal Border Service to the Federal Security Service (FSB), Interfax reported on 23 January, citing an unnamed source in the Defense Ministry. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 27 January, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist and vocal critic of the president, said he would support subordinating the border service to the FSB. LB

SHOKHIN ELECTED DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE ASSEMBLY

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 26 January elected State Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin as the assembly's deputy chairman for Russia, Russian news agencies reported. That post had been vacant since January 1997 because the Russian delegation could not agree on a nominee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 1997). Shokhin, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, recently replaced Aleksandr Dzasokhov as head of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe after Dzasokhov was elected president of North Ossetia. Meanwhile, Chuvashian President Nikolai Fedorov, who is also a member of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe, argued on 26 January that the council's Parliamentary Assembly should disband its special commission on Chechnya, which was set up in 1995. LB

GOVERNOR CALLS FOR CHANGING ELECTORAL SYSTEM

Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told ITAR-TASS on 25 January that he believes the proportional representation system used to elect half of the State Duma deputies is unconstitutional and should be abolished. Under the current electoral law, 225 out of the 450 Duma deputies are chosen from the "party lists" of electoral blocs that receive at least 5 percent of the vote. The other 225 deputies are elected from single-member districts. If Duma elections were held only in single-member districts, regional leaders would have more influence over the results. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 27 January that the Kremlin, which has called for abolishing proportional representation, would likely settle for lowering or eliminating the 5 percent threshold for electoral blocs seeking Duma representation. However, the regional leaders who make up the Federation Council would be unlikely to support such a compromise, the newspaper noted. LB

PROTESTERS DEMAND ELECTION IN KARACHAEVO- CHERKESSIA

More than 5,000 protesters rallied in the city of Cherkessk on 23 January demanding that Yeltsin fire Karachaevo-Cherkessian President Vladimir Khubiev and call presidential elections the republic, an RFE/RL correspondent in the North Caucasus reported. The demonstration was organized by workers of the local firm Merkurii, which suspended operations last month. Merkurii's top executives have been charged with tax evasion. Some observers believe that the charges are politically motivated, since the firm's former head, Stanislav Derev, was recently elected mayor of Cherkessk and is considered a strong potential presidential candidate. Khubiev has been in power since 1980. He is the only regional leader in the Russian Federation who has not had to face an election. The republican legislature has not complied with an order from the local Supreme Court to set a date for presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 1997). LB

YELTSIN ANNULS DIRECTIVES IN NORTH CAUCASUS REPUBLIC

Yeltsin has signed a decree annulling several directives issued by the government of the Republic of Adygeya, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. The directives, adopted by the Adygeyan authorities last June, list tasks to be carried out by various collective farms and companies in the agrarian sector. They also put raion officials and the Adygeyan Agriculture Ministry in charge of monitoring how those tasks are carried out. Yeltsin's decree says the directives limit the economic freedom of the enterprises affected and thereby violate the Russian Constitution, the civil code and several federal laws. Last month, Yeltsin issued a decree annulling several directives issued by Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi on similar grounds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 1997). LB




ARMENIAN PAN-NATIONAL MOVEMENT LEADER BACKPEDALS...

Vano Siradeghian, mayor of Yerevan and chairman of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (the senior partner within the ruling Hanrapetutyun coalition), said on 26 January that the media have exaggerated the degree of dissent within the Armenian leadership over how to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Siradeghian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that he believes the leaderships in Yerevan and Stepanakert will reach a consensus within "a month or two." He refused to comment on Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian's 23 January statement suggesting that the Armenian Pan-National Movement had stage-managed the recent shootings in order to create a pretext for demanding the government's resignation. On 21 January, Siradeghian and other APNM leaders criticized the government for what they called its passivity over the attacks on senior officials. LF

...WHILE OPPOSITION CALLS FOR PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION

Meanwhile, two Armenian opposition parties have argued that only the resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan can resolve the domestic political crisis. The National Democratic Union issued a statement on 26 January accusing the president of resorting to violence because his power is "jeopardized" by those within the leadership opposed to his insistence on concessions over Karabakh, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Similarly, the board of the National Progress Party called on Ter- Petrossyan to step down as a prelude to free and fair elections, as did former National Security adviser David Shahnazarian, Noyan Tapan reported. Dashnaktsutyun board member Hrayr Karapetian suggested that the APNM's demands for the government's resignation may have been prompted partly by the loss of its ministerial posts. The Self-Determination Union predicts that the standoff may result in the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan. LF

SUSURLUK REVELATIONS STRAIN TURKISH-AZERBAIJANI RELATIONS

Azerbaijan has formally requested that the Turkish government deny allegations contained in an official report on the investigation into the so-called Susurluk scandal, according to Turan and "The Washington Post" on 26 January. Last week, parts of the report were leaked to the press. The investigation, which focused on links between Turkish politicians and organized crime, confirmed rumors that the government of former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller was involved in an unsuccessful coup attempt against Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev in March 1995. The report also claimed that Aliyev handed over to a Turkish citizen a casino built in Azerbaijan using Turkish Ex-Im Bank credits as repayment for a $6 million gambling debt incurred by Aliev's son Ilham. Heidar Aliyev is reportedly so incensed by that charge that he has threatened to cancel a visit to Turkey scheduled for February. LF

SELEZNEV PROMISES CONTINUED COOPERATION WITH TAJIKISTAN

At the end of his three-day visit to Tajikistan, Gennadii Seleznev, the speaker of the Russian State Duma, signed an agreement on cooperation between the two countries' parliaments, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 26 January. Seleznev also met with members of the National Reconciliation Commission and separately with Said Abdullo Nuri, the commission chairman and leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). Commenting on Russian soldiers in Tajikistan, Seleznev said their presence is still needed to guarantee the continuation of the peace process, but he added that a gradual withdrawal could begin. Seleznev also discussed Tajikistan's possible entry into the CIS Customs Union. BP

CASES DROPPED AGAINST TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADERS

Prosecutor-General Salomiddin Sharipov has announced an amnesty for leaders of some opposition parties, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported on 26 January. Charges have been dropped against UTO leaders as well against Shodman Yusupov of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan and Abdumassad Khimmatov of the Islamic Renaissance Party. The amnesty paves the way for the return of Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, the deputy leader of the UTO. But Turajonzoda has consistently said he will not return until he is officially offered the post of deputy prime minister. BP

AKAYEV ISSUES DECREE ON KYRGYZ LANGUAGE

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev signed a decree on 26 January aimed at boosting efforts to use Kyrgyz as the state language, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. A special 21-member council is to coordinate the use of Kyrgyz language in the activities of government agencies and public organizations. BP

ALMATY RESIDENTS DEMAND GAS, ELECTRICITY

As the problem of gas and electrical shortages worsens, hundreds of Almaty residents took to the streets on 26 January to demand the full restoration of supplies, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Marat Bulqairov, the deputy mayor of Almaty, met with the demonstrators but blamed the Belgian Intergas Company, which manages gas and electric supplies in southern Kazakhstan, for the shortages. Bulqairov promised the problem will be solved soon. BP




EU TO OPEN ENLARGEMENT TALKS ON 31 MARCH

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook announced in Brussels on 26 January that the EU enlargement process is to begin in London on 12 March with a European Conference attended by premiers and heads of state of the 11 countries invited to open membership negotiations. The talks will then shift to Brussels on 30 March, where the 11 will again present their EU credentials. The enlargement process will begin on 31 March, when negotiations will open with the six main candidates--the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia. MS

COUNCIL OF EUROPE "SHOCKED" ABOUT EXECUTIONS IN UKRAINE

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe is to decide on 27 January whether to suspend Ukraine from participating in the assembly because of its failure to halt executions, an RFE/RL correspondent in Strasbourg reported. Kyiv's membership in the council will not be debated. Ukraine agreed to a moratorium on the death penalty when it joined the council in 1995, but it has admitted that at least 13 people were executed last year. Parliamentary Assembly chairwoman Leni Fischer said the assembly is "shocked" that the moratorium has been violated. With parliamentary elections scheduled for March, Ukrainian politicians are reluctant to declare support for a ban on capital punishment. Opinion polls show most Ukrainians opposing such a ban. PB

UKRAINIAN MINE WORKERS DEMAND UNPAID WAGES

Some 200 construction workers from coal mines in eastern Ukraine have demonstrated in Kyiv for the payment of back wages, AFP reported on 26 January. Some of the workers have not been paid for more than a year. Government wage arrears at the end of 1997 totaled some 5 billion hryvnas ($2.6 billion). PB

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES TIGHTER CONTROL OVER ECONOMY

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 26 January that state regulations are needed to protect the country's industry. He called on the government to implement a state monopoly on oil, tobacco, and car businesses, Reuters reported. Lukashenka, who was speaking after a six- hour meeting with the cabinet, said the economy has "preserved many good old forms of management, including state control." Prime Minister Sergei Ling recently said the state will not go back to "totalitarian planning" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). Meanwhile, Minsk announced on 26 January that average monthly inflation was 4.2 percent last year, AFP reported. The budget had allowed for a 2 percent monthly increase. PB

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS BEGUN IN ESTONIAN KIDNEY TRANSPLANT CASE

Estonian police have launched criminal proceedings following kidney transplants performed and undergone by Israeli citizens at the Tallinn Central Hospital earlier this month, ETA reported. The police say that the two Israeli doctors who carried out the surgery, the six Israeli patients, and the donors--who were from Russia, Romania, and Moldova--concealed the aim of their visit in their visa applications. The chief surgeon of the Tallinn hospital told the Estonian news agency that the kidney transplants took place in Estonia because "it is cheaper here." Meanwhile, the daily "Eesti Paevaleht" reports that Social Affairs Minister Tiiu Aro will address the government on the issue on 27 January. JC

INFLATION IN ESTONIA OVER 11 PERCENT LAST YEAR

The consumer price index rose by 11.2 percent in 1997, compared with the previous year, ETA reported on 26 January. Foodstuffs increased 2.2 percent, consumer products 3.8 percent, and services 1.8 percent. JC

RIGA PREPARES RESPONSE TO MOSCOW OVER OCCUPATION DENIAL

The Latvian Foreign Ministry is preparing a response to a letter sent by the Russian Foreign Ministry to the State Duma arguing that the Soviet Union neither occupied nor annexed the Baltic States in 1940 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 1998). A spokesman for the Latvian Foreign Ministry told BNS on 26 January that the "position of Russian officials is being assessed, and we will draw up a statement and send it to Russia soon. " Both President Guntis Ulmanis and the Fatherland and Freedom party have urged the ministry to respond officially to the Russian statement. JC

POLAND GIVEN "ROAD MAP" TO EU

EU Commissioner for Single Market Affairs Mario Monti has given Poland official instructions to help facilitate accession to the EU, AFP reported on 27 January. Monti, who held separate talks with President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz and European Integration Committee chief Ryszard Czarnecki, said the instructions are a "road map" to joining the union. Balcerowicz noted that Poland and the EU have adopted a political declaration on cooperation in the areas of customs and taxes. Warsaw must approve an EU partnership agreement by 15 March. PB

NATO SUPPORT GROWING IN CZECH REPUBLIC

Support among Czechs for the country's membership in NATO has grown from 43 percent in October 1997 to 54 percent at present. The percentage of those opposed dropped from 29 percent to 24 percent, according to a poll conducted by the Institute of Public Opinion Research in January and cited by CTK on 26 January. MS

BOARD OF CZECH-GERMAN FUND APPOINTED

The controversy surrounding the establishment of the Czech-German Fund for the Future (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 1997) seems to have been solved with the appointment of two representatives of the Sudeten Germans to the fund's board, CTK reported on 26 January. The two are Volkmar Gabert, former chairman of the Bavarian Social Democratic Party, and Johann Boehm, the chairman of the Bavarian parliament. Max Stadler, a deputy of the Liberal Party in the German parliament, and ambassador to Prague Anton Rossbach are also on the board. The Czech appointees are Dagmar Buresova, a former chairwoman of the Czech National Council; Milos Pojar, former ambassador to Israel; Milos Rejchrt, director of the Prague Jewish Museum; and historian Miroslav Kunstat. The fund is to aid victims of the Nazi occupation during World War II. MS

REACTIONS TO ALLEGED PLOT TO ASSASSINATE MECIAR

A spokesman on 26 January said that last week, the Interior Ministry received further confirmation of an alleged plot to assassinate Premier Vladimir Meciar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). The spokesman said an individual had volunteered information that supplemented details already provided by Slovak diplomatic sources. Vladimir Palko, deputy chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement, told Reuters he is convinced the alleged threat was a hoax and was "part of Meciar's pre- election tactics." In October 1997, Meciar claimed that Palko had proposed his assassination, and the opposition had asked the parliament to order an examination into the premier's state of mental health. The request was turned down. MS

MECIAR ALLIES WANT HIM TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

The far- right Slovak National Party (SNS), a coalition government partner, says it has "unofficially" proposed to Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) that the premier run for the presidency. SNS deputy chairwoman Anna Malinkova, told Reuters that the proposal was made last week during coalition discussions. She added that Meciar should be nominated by his own party. A HZDS spokesman told the news agency that " the prime minister is the only strong man who, if nominated, could be accepted by the [three-fifths] majority needed in the parliament." MS

HUNGARY, SLOVAKIA AGREE TO SPEED UP DAM TALKS

Hungarian and Slovak delegations, meeting in Budapest on 26 January, agreed to hold weekly plenary sessions in order to end their dispute on the unfinished Danube dam, Hungarian media reported. A joint statement released by the two delegations said their positions have come closer on whether to put an existing Slovak dam at Cunovo into operation and on how to make use of the Hungarian reservoir at Dunakiliti. They agreed to set up a monitoring team to assess the environmental effects of those facilities. MSZ

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY

Romanian President Emil Constantinescu met with his Hungarian counterpart Arpad Goncz and Prime Minister Gyula Horn in Budapest on 26 January. Constantinescu assured his hosts that the government crisis in Bucharest will not affect Hungarian-Romanian relations. Horn complained that cooperation has slowed down in a number of areas since last fall, when the two countries' premiers signed a memorandum in Bucharest. Constantinescu responded by vowing to speed up dialogue and saying that three Hungarian colleges will be opened in Transylvania. MSZ




MAJOR PERSONNEL CHANGES IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

The new government led by Prime Minister Milorad Dodik issued a statement in Banja Luka on 27 January announcing the dismissal of 17 directors of state- owned companies. Goran Matrak, the editor of the hard-line daily "Glas Srpski," has also been fired. Information Minister Rajko Vasic will appoint his replacement soon, as well as new chief editors for Bosnian Serb television, which is based in Banja Luka. The customs and tax departments will also have new chiefs in the near future. PM

TRANSFER OF BOSNIAN SERB POWER UNDER WAY

A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 26 January that the outgoing Bosnian Serbian government is not moving quickly enough to hand over its powers to Dodik and his cabinet. Dodik, for his part, told RFE/RL in Banja Luka that the transition has been proceeding reasonably smoothly but that he does not rule out that Radovan Karadzic's supporters in Pale may stop being cooperative in the future. Meanwhile in Bijeljina, outgoing Interior Minister Slavko Paleksic formally handed over control of the ministry to Milovan Stankovic. The ceremony took place at a meeting of Bosnian Serb police chiefs, who agreed to reunite the force and end the split between followers of Karadzic and supporters of President Biljana Plavsic. PM

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR BOSNIAN SERBS

Representatives of the six-nation Contact Group, which is monitoring the peace process in Bosnia, issued a statement in Washington on 26 January calling on the outgoing Bosnian Serb authorities to "cooperate in ensuring a smooth transition of power to the new government." The statement reaffirmed the international community's support for Dodik. Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU approved a $6.5 million aid package to help the Republika Srpska authorities pay back wages to police, teachers, and other government employees. And in Banja Luka, Plavsic signed an agreement with a representative of the World Bank, who said the bank will provide a $17 million credit to the Republika Srpska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). PM

SERBS AGREE TO NEW TRIAL FOR MUSLIMS

A UN spokesman announced in Sarajevo on 26 January that the Bosnian Serb authorities have agreed to re-try three Muslims from the so-called Zvornik Seven group, all of whose members were found guilty of murder in 1996. Meanwhile in The Hague, Goran Jelisic, the Bosnian Serb who was arrested by U.S. peacekeepers in Bosnia and taken to The Hague the previous week, told the war crimes tribunal that he is not guilty of crimes against humanity. PM

WESTENDORP SETS DEADLINE ON BOSNIAN FLAG

Westendorp urged legislators in the joint parliament in Sarajevo on 26 January to agree to one of three proposed designs for a joint flag by 3 February. He added that should they fail to do so, he will chose a design for them. Westendorp recently chose designs for the joint currency after the three sides did not meet his deadline on that issue. All the proposed designs for the flag have the politically neutral colors white, blue, and yellow. PM

MORE LAW SUITS AGAINST CROATIAN NEWSPAPER

Health Minister Andrija Hebrang, the administrators of a hospital, and one doctor said in Zagreb on 26 January that they will sue the independent weekly "Feral Tribune" over a recent story dealing with the deaths of six children in the Zagreb hospital last year. "Feral" currently faces some 50 law suits for damages totaling $3 million from various Croatian authorities. The newspaper's editors charge that the government wants to bankrupt "Feral" through law suits. PM

ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS TO END BOYCOTT OF PARLIAMENT

Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha said in Tirana on 26 January that his party will soon end its boycott of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1998), "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. He noted that a "party that does not participate in the parliament is [committing] political suicide." He also said he wants to start a "fruitful dialogue" with the coalition about drafting a new constitution. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana on 27 January that a high-ranking delegation from the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe recently warned Berisha that the Democrats must return to parliament or risk international isolation. Meanwhile, Sabri Godo, the head of the parliamentary constitutional commission , has said the commission will not wait any longer for the Democrats, "Koha Jone" reported on 26 January. FS

ALBANIAN FORMER DICTATOR HAS HEART ATTACK

Ramiz Alia, who was president from 1985 to 1992, is hospitalized in Tirana after suffering a heart attack on 24 January, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported three days later. Doctors said the 74-year-old former communist leader is also suffering from severe respiratory problems. FS

NO SOLUTION IN SIGHT TO ROMANIAN COALITION CRISIS

National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) chairman Ion Diaconescu told journalists on 26 January that "no solution is in sight" to the coalition crisis. Diaconescu said the Democratic Party continues to demand the dismissal of Premier Victor Ciorbea and now wants the entire government to be reshuffled. He said the positions of the two parties had "polarized" and that the PNTCD rejected the Democrats' demand that their support in the parliament of a minority government be conditional on a detailed protocol, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Diaconescu said the PNTCD would not rule out cooperation with any deputy willing to support a minority government. MS

DEMOCRATS ON COALITION CRISIS

Democratic Party leader Petre Roman on 26 January said that if the reform process is not accelerated, Romania will lose its chance of becoming integrated into the European structures. He added that such acceleration is not possible as long as Ciorbea remains premier, Radio Bucharest reported. Roman had previously said the Democrats were undecided about whether to withdraw from the government because they had received no reply from the PNTCD. But an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported on 26 January that the Democrats may postpone withdrawing to give the PNTCD more time for considering their proposals. The correspondent said the Democratic Party is unwilling to renounce its demand for Ciorbea's removal. MS

ISSUE OF REHABILITATING ANTONESCU MINISTERS RESURFACES

Despite Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu's decision to withdraw his initiative for rehabilitating seven out of eight former members of the Ion Antonescu government, the Supreme Court may have to consider the rehabilitation of all those ministers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1997). The independent Pro TV and Mediafax reported on 26 January that the lawyer representing the family of Toma Petre Ghitulescu, the only former member of the dictator's cabinet whose rehabilitation is still on the agenda, says he has "found an article" in the Penal Code that will force the court to consider all eight cases. He said the prosecutor-general had been forced to withdraw his original initiative under "pressure from abroad," by which he meant the U.S. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS...

President Petru Lucinschi on 26 January met with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Belgian capital reported. Solana said later that they agreed to increase Moldova's participation in the Partnership for Peace program and in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Lucinschi emphasized that this participation did not harm Russian interests and was mainly of a humanitarian nature. Lucinschi is scheduled to meet European Commission chairman Jacques Santer and Belgian premier Jean-Luc Dehaene on 27 January. MS

...LAUNCHES WEEKLY RADIO ADDRESS

In the first of what will be regular weekly addresses to the nation, Lucinschi said on 26 January that Moldova has opted for European integration, but he warned that belonging to Europe "begins with having clean streets, with civilized relations among people,...and with learning modern spiritual values." He said that "genuine change" depended on "changing the mentality of the people," who, he added, must learn to "forge their own fate under conditions of freedom," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan said he hoped the president will not use his weekly addresses to engage in election campaigning for pro-presidential parties. The president must be "above politics," Motpan argued. MS




WITHOUT REMORSE


by Paul Goble

A statement by the new chief of the Russian air force that he has no regrets about having given the order to shoot down a Korean civilian airliner in 1983 and would do so again raises a series of disturbing questions both about that individual and the military and political system of which he is a part.

Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov told the Russian television program "Hero of the Day" last week that he would "always be sure" that his order to shoot down the KAL flight that had strayed into Soviet airspace over Sakhalin Island was correct. Moreover, he added, "if something like that would happen now, I would act the same way."

The shooting down of that civilian plane and the killing of all 269 people aboard was one of the chilliest moments in the Cold War. Not only was it criticized by many Western leaders, but it has been denounced by Russian President Boris Yeltsin as one of the greatest tragedies of that period.

But if Yeltsin has denounced it, he has now appointed to command the Russian air force the man who 15 years ago gave the order to shoot down that plane and who continues to insist that he acted properly.

This episode raises three serious questions: First, why did Yeltsin act so inconsistently? Second, what are the real attitudes of the high command of the Russian military today? And third, and most important, how can Russia or any of the other post-communist states proceed to a democratic future without a full acknowledgment of the crimes of the Soviet past?

Yeltsin's role is especially murky. More than any other Russian leader, he has spoken out forcefully against the KAL shootdown. Consequently, it is more than a little surprising that he has appointed the man who ordered that move as commander of the Russian air force. Why then did he take that step?

There are several possible explanations. Yeltsin may have believed that Kornukov had learned his lesson, although the general's statement last week suggests otherwise. Or Yeltsin may have felt that he was the best available candidate, especially given the president's push for a complete revamp of the military establishment.

Alternatively, Yeltsin may have had no choice in the matter. He may have been pressured to accept the dictates of hard-liners in the military and at the foreign ministry. Or the appointment may be a reflection of Yeltsin's own current thinking, a desire on his part to stake out a tougher line similar to the one adopted by his Soviet predecessors.

But whatever Yeltsin's intentions, the rise of this Soviet-trained general draws attention to how little has changed in the psychology and views of the Russian military. While many Russian generals appear to have accepted the new post-Soviet reality, Kornukov's comments show that not all of them have escaped the suspiciousness and aggressiveness of the Soviet military.

Kornukov's promotion is likely simultaneously to encourage those who have not changed their way of thinking since the end of the Soviet era and to discourage those who have advocated a change in the way they conduct themselves in the new environment.

But Kornukov's elevation and his unapologetic stance about an action almost universally condemned inevitably raise a far broader and more difficult question: how can Russia or indeed any post-Communist country move forward without an honest assessment of what its current leaders did in the past?

Since the collapse of the Berlin wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, many in both the West and the countries immediately involved have argued that a thorough evaluation of the past actions of officials would lead to chaos or even bloodshed.

According to that view, the past actions of current officials should be kept in the past both because so many current officials have problematic backgrounds and because many of them have demonstrated a new commitment to democracy and freedom, which in itself constitutes a kind of atonement.

But if this argument is not without weight, it is also not without difficulties. Not only does it make it difficult for those who have been victims of such past actions to feel that the new democratic political system will give them justice, but it means that the ideas that animated such officials in the past may continue to drive them in the future.

And as the Kornukov declaration shows, that danger may be just as great as would be the one caused by an honest evaluation of the Soviet past.


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