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Newsline - April 15, 1998




COMMUNISTS VOW TO STAND GROUND ON KIRIENKO

State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a prominent member of the Communist Party, has announced that Communist deputies are still opposed to confirming acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 April. The previous day, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, also a Communist, called on deputies to back Kirienko and predicted that the acting premier will be confirmed in the second vote, on 17 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). But Ilyukhin said Seleznev had merely "expressed his point of view." On 14 April, Duma deputy and high-ranking Communist official Valentin Kuptsov said Seleznev "failed to persuade deputies" in the Communist faction to support Kirienko, Russian news agencies reported. Kuptsov said the Communists will abide by the decision of the party's Central Committee to oppose Kirienko's nomination. LB

DUMA TO VOTE ON PREMIER BY SHOW OF HANDS

The Duma on 15 April voted to change the chamber's procedural rules to allow a vote on Kirienko's candidacy by show of hands rather than by secret ballot, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The procedure is expected to increase discipline within the Communist faction and the allied Agrarian and Popular Power factions. Opposition deputies hope that if Kirienko gains fewer votes on 17 April than he did a week earlier, Yeltsin will propose a compromise candidate. However, ITAR-TASS on 14 April quoted unnamed Kremlin sources as saying that if Kirienko is not confirmed in the second vote, President Boris Yeltsin may nominate someone even less acceptable to most Duma deputies, such as former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar or acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. The constitution calls for the dissolution of the Duma if deputies reject the president's prime ministerial nominee three times. LB

SELEZNEV SAYS YELTSIN WILL COOPERATE WITH PARLIAMENT

Duma Speaker Seleznev announced on 14 April that Yeltsin has promised to pursue various forms of cooperation with the parliament, Russian news agencies reported. Following a meeting with the president, Seleznev said Yeltsin has asked Kirienko to hold more consultations with Duma factions before his candidacy goes to a second vote. Yeltsin has also agreed to form a commission to discuss government policies and cabinet appointments; deputies from each house of the parliament would be represented on that body. In addition, the president told Seleznev that in order to avoid conflicts with the parliament, he has spurned recommendations by some advisers that he veto certain laws. LB

YELTSIN OFFERS TO TAKE CARE OF DEPUTIES' NEEDS...

Yeltsin has suggested that Duma deputies will be rewarded if they vote to confirm Kirienko in the second vote. On 13 April, the president announced that he has instructed Pavel Borodin, who heads a department in the presidential administration, to take care of the needs of Duma deputies if they "show a constructive approach," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yeltsin declined to specify what kind of help would be provided, saying Duma deputies would understand his remarks. The president added that he told Borodin to wait until 17 April--when the Duma will vote again on Kirienko--before attending to the deputies' requests. Borodin's duties include distributing cars and apartments to state officials. LB

...BUT WILL USE OF CARROT BACKFIRE?

"Izvestiya" argued on 15 April that by publicizing his instructions to Borodin, Yeltsin may have deterred Duma deputies from supporting Kirienko on 17 April. The newspaper said opposition deputies could have justified voting for Kirienko by saying they did not want to let Yeltsin dissolve the parliament and rule by decree. Seleznev has advanced that argument (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 1998). Now those who opposed Kirienko in the first vote may fear giving the impression that they have been paid off. Duma deputy Aleksei Arbatov of Yabloko made a similar argument in comments quoted by "Izvestiya." Meanwhile, Duma Security Committee Chairman Ilyukhin told "Izvestiya" that Yeltsin's comments on Borodin are tantamount to attempted bribery. Ilyukhin has charged that foreign money is being used to induce deputies to support Kirienko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 1998). LB

COURT NOT TO RUSH CONSIDERATION OF DUMA INQUIRY

The Duma on 15 April voted to ask the Constitutional Court to consider whether Yeltsin has the right to nominate the same candidate for prime minister more than once, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. However, Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai told Interfax the previous day that the court will not revise its docket in order to speed up consideration of the Duma's inquiry. The Duma is constitutionally obliged to consider Kirienko's candidacy by 17 April, seven days after the date Yeltsin renominated him. Baglai said that if the Duma has already confirmed Kirienko by the time the Constitutional Court considers the Duma's inquiry, even a ruling in favor of the Duma's position would not retroactively invalidate Kirienko's nomination as prime minister. LB

SHAKHRAI FAVORS NEW LAW ON SUCCESSION PROCEDURE

Sergei Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court, has advocated passing a federal constitutional law whereby the Federation Council speaker, rather than the acting premier, would assume presidential powers if the president were incapacitated and the Duma had not confirmed a prime minister. Shakhrai told Interfax that such a law would "clarify the situation and improve political stability." The constitution makes no provision for the possible incapacitation of the president when no prime minister has been confirmed. Our Home Is Russia Duma leader Aleksandr Shokhin recently proposed amending the constitution to make the Federation Council speaker, rather than the prime minister, the next in line to assume presidential powers, but Yeltsin rejected that proposal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). LB

CONFUSION OVER SIGNING OF TROPHY ART LAW

Shakhrai told journalists on 15 April that Yeltsin will soon sign the trophy art law but will simultaneously appeal that law to the Constitutional Court, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The previous day, Shakhrai told Ekho Moskvy that Yeltsin had already complied with a Constitutional Court order that he sign the law, which both houses of the parliament passed last year over a presidential veto (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 April 1998). Yeltsin and his advisers say many provisions of the trophy art law violate the constitution and international agreements signed by Russia. Among other things, the law would prohibit the transfer abroad of cultural values seized by the Soviet Union during World War II. LB

DUMA DIVIDED OVER START-2 RATIFICATION

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on 14 April that the uncertainty over the new Russian prime minister and government will not delay the Duma's plans to debate ratification of the START-2 treaty before the end of its spring session in June. Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma Committee for International Affairs, said that the lower house will '"work at normal speed" to ratify the treaty. But deputy speaker Sergei Baburin of the Popular Power faction argued that it is premature to begin discussing ratification, and Duma Defense Committee chairman Lev Rokhlin argued that START-2 "is not beneficial" to Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told journalists on 14 April that the protocol to the treaty that Yeltsin submitted to the Duma takes into account deputies' reservations and extends by five years the 2002 deadline for destroying all missiles, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

Vakha Arsanov escaped unscathed on 14 April when a bomb exploded as his motorcade was driving through Djohar-gala (formerly Grozny), Russian agencies reported. Arsanov told Interfax that unspecified "enemies of an independent Chechen state" were responsible for the attack. Also on 14 April, grenades were fired at a mosque in the Chechen capital used by Wahhabis, but no one was injured, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

CHECHEN OIL BOSS RESURFACES

Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, who was dismissed last October as head of the Chechen state oil company, has been appointed energy adviser to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Russian agencies reported on 13 April. Yarikhanov told Interfax he will concentrate on "streamlining" Chechnya's fuel and energy sector. He predicted that oil output this year will reach 1.5 million metric tons. And he said he will resume talks with the Russian government on terms for the export via Chechnya of Azerbaijani oil. An interim agreement on transit tariffs signed last September expired on 31 December. LF

OFFICIALS VOW TO STAND GROUND ON ROSNEFT ACTION...

Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov on 14 April said potential buyers of the oil company Rosneft will not be able to persuade the government to change the terms of the auction. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Nemtsov said some people are "walking around the White House," or government headquarters, trying to bargain down the starting price for a 75 percent stake in Rosneft. He said that although attempts by potential buyers to save money are understandable, the government will not budge from the minimum bid of some $2.1 billion, plus an additional $400 million in investment commitments. On 10 April, acting Prime Minister Kirienko also ruled out any change in the terms for the Rosneft auction. A winner is to be announced in late May. LB

...BUT COMPANY OFFICIAL THINKS PRICE IS TOO HIGH

Aleksandr Putilov, chairman of the Rosneft board of directors, warned on 10 April that the government's asking price for the Rosneft stake is unrealistic, given the current political instability in Russia and low oil prices on world markets, ITAR-TASS reported. Putilov said the Rosneft stake could have been sold for $2.5 billion to $3 billion last December but that the terms of the auction no longer correspond to "the current situation on the market." Putilov also predicted that if the auction does not take place in May, further attempts to sell a stake in the company later this year will attract bids of no more than $1 billion. In recent weeks, several potential investors have expressed qualms about bidding for Rosneft under the current terms of the auction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 7 April 1998). LB

YELTSIN WARNS BEREZOVSKII

Yeltsin has warned the businessman Boris Berezovskii that he may "drive him out of the country" if Berezovskii does not stop trying to influence the formation of the government behind the scenes, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 14 April. Unnamed government sources say that during a meeting with a group of cosmonauts the previous day, Yeltsin said he had issued the warning in a telephone conversation with Berezovskii. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev asked those present to keep quiet about Yeltsin's remarks, but the story was leaked. ("Kommersant-Daily" and "Moskovskii komsomolets" published similar accounts on 15 April.) Berezovskii, a billionaire, was a key financial backer of Yeltsin's re- election campaign in 1996 and has recently described himself as an "adviser" to Yumashev. His business empire includes a share in the airline Aeroflot, whose top executive is Yeltsin's son-in-law. LB

KIRIENKO, STEPASHIN CALL FOR TRUTH IN CRIME STATISTICS

Acting Prime Minister Kirienko and acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin have called on police to stop "whitewashing" crime statistics by not registering crimes that are difficult to solve, Russian news agencies reported on 14 April. Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has said that practice is widespread (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998) At a Moscow conference with high-ranking law enforcement officials, Stepashin demanded an "objective picture of crime" and said police will not be judged according to statistics showing fewer registered offenses. Kirienko charged that law enforcement bodies have waged an ineffective battle against crime, even though, he claimed, there are more police officers now than during the Soviet era. Kirienko also accused the Interior Ministry of having been "carried away with enhancing the functions of interior troops at the expense of criminal police and investigation." Last month, officials announced plans to downsize the Interior Ministry troops. LB

OFFICIALS TO INVESTIGATE BREAKUP OF STUDENT DEMONSTRATION

Interior Ministry officials and members of three Duma committees will investigate the circumstances surrounding the breakup of a student demonstration in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, on 14 April, ITAR-TASS reported. According to NTV and Russian news agencies, some 3,000 students were protesting government plans to cut funding for education and impose greater financial burdens on students. After an authorized rally ended, the students marched to the oblast administration building, where they were encircled by riot police. In the ensuing confrontation, some students threw bottles and ice at police and at the administration building, while police clubbed some students and threw others down the stairs of the building. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel said he was "shocked and aggrieved" by the police action. Student rallies that took place the same day in other Russian cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Tula, passed without incident. LB




GEORGIAN LEADERSHIP WILL NOT OPPOSE GAMSAKHURDIA'S REBURIAL

Georgian presidential spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze said on 14 April that there are no obstacles to reburying Zviad Gamsakhurdia in Georgia if the former president's family requests such a reburial, Interfax reported. Gamsakhurdia, who committed suicide in late December, 1993, is buried in Djohar-gala. Adjar parliamentary speaker Aslan Abashidze told journalists in Batumi on 13 April that Gamsakhurdia's reburial in Tbilisi would be an appropriate step toward the process of national reconciliation espoused by current President Shevardnadze after Gamsakhurdia supporters abducted four UN observers in western Georgia in February. LF

REVIVAL FACTION THREATENS TO BOYCOTT GEORGIAN ELECTIONS

Also on 13 April, Aslan Abashidze warned that the Revival faction that represents Adjaria's interests within the Georgian parliament will not participate in the 1999 Georgian parliamentary elections if his proposals aimed at ensuring democratic elections are not adopted, Caucasus Press reported. Earlier this month, the Revival faction had demanded that a representative of Adjaria be elected Georgian deputy parliamentary speaker. That demand further strained relations between Adjaria and the central Georgian leadership. All 24 deputies from the Revival faction traveled to Batumi on 14 April for talks with Abashidze. LF

GEORGIAN ENERGY MINISTER RESIGNS

In his weekly radio address on13 April, Shevardnadze announced he has accepted the resignation of Energy Minister David Zubitashvili following a parliamentary investigation into allegations of corruption, Caucasus Press reported. Electricity continues to be rationed in Georgia, despite substantial investments in that sector in recent years. LF

BELGIAN PREMIER VISITS AZERBAIJAN

Meeting in Baku on 14 April, Jean-Luc Dehaene and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev signed three cooperation agreements, Turan reported. They also discussed the possible expansion of the Belgian oil company Petrofina's participation in Azerbaijan's oil sector. Petrofina already has a 10 percent stake in the consortium to develop the Lenkoran-Deniz and Talysh-Deniz fields and reportedly hopes to acquire a 5 percent stake in the Kyurdashi field. But an unnamed Azerbaijani government source told Interfax that Belgian oil interests in Azerbaijan could be negatively affected by the resolution passed last month by the Belgian parliament recognizing the 1915 Armenian genocide. Dehaene, for his part, told journalists in Baku on 13 April that the Belgian government "does not espouse" the parliamentary resolution. LF

SIX RUSSIAN SERVICEMEN DIE IN TRAINING ACCIDENT IN TAJIKISTAN

On the eve of a training exercise in southwestern Tajikistan an armored personnel carrier was destroyed, killing six soldiers and injuring 15 others, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 14 April. It is unclear if the vehicle struck a land mine or simply overturned. Russia's 201st division is to hold exercises with Tajik troops on 15-16 April at a site 150 kilometers from Dushanbe. Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the cause of the crash of a Su-25 combat aircraft on 11 April, in which both pilots were killed. It was initially thought the plane crashed into a hill, but RFE/RL correspondents report investigators are looking into the possibility that the plane strayed over an artillery range during firing practice and was hit by a shell. BP

TURKISH PRIME MINISTER VISITS KYRGYZSTAN

Mesut Yilmaz met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and Prime Minister Kubanychbek JumAliyev in Bishkek on 14 April, RFE/RL correspondents and Kyrgyz Radio reported. The two sides signed agreements on cooperation between customs services, forestry agencies, and securities markets. Yilmaz said the last agreement allows the securities of one country to enter the market of the other. But he noted that the lack of an agreement on avoiding double-taxation is likely to prevent Turkish investors in from entering the Kyrgyz market. BP

OSCE CHAIRMAN MEETS WITH TURKMEN PRESIDENT

Bronislaw Geremek, the Polish foreign minister and chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 14 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The two discussed methods of accelerating democratic and peacemaking processes in Central Asia. Geremek stressed that Turkmenistan, as a neutral country, could play a role "in the formation of a future architecture of European security." Geremek also met with members of the Turkmen parliament and visited the Institute of Democracy and Rights. BP




CHORNOBYL REACTOR TO RESUME OPERATION

Serhiy Parashyn, director of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, told journalists on 14 April that the plant's third reactor will resume operation on 5 May following President Leonid Kuchma's directive to that effect, ITAR-TASS reported. The reactor has been undergoing repairs for the past nine months, and further repairs are planned for later this year. The first and second reactors remain shut down under pressure from the West, while the fourth, which exploded in late April 1986, is buried under a concrete sarcophagus urgently in need of reconstruction. According to Parashyn, the G-7 intends to pay Ukraine only $400 million out of the $750 million originally pledged to reinforce the sarcophagus. JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA LAUNCH JOINT NAVAL MANEUVERS

The Russian and Ukrainian naval fleets began large-scale joint maneuvers in the Black Sea on 14 April. The two countries are deploying a combined total of 37 vessels in what a Russian naval spokesman described as "the biggest Russian-Ukrainian maneuvers since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991," AFP reported. The eight-day exercises will simulate pursuit of enemy submarines and include missile launches and parachute landings on the Crimean peninsula. JM

IMF CLOSES OFFICE IN MINSK

Richard Haas, head of the IMF permanent representation in Minsk, is to return to Washington, "Svaboda" reported on 15 April. Following his departure, an IMF representative in Lithuania will assume responsibility for Belarus. The IMF, which set up an office in Minsk in 1992, has released only $70 million of the $500 million in credits it originally pledged to Belarus. According to "Svaboda," the IMF has stopped cooperating with Belarus owing to the government's unwillingness to carry out reform, in particular establishing the independence of the National Bank and accelerating privatization. JM

OPPOSITION CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT OVER 'SUBOTNIKS'

Vintsuk Vyachorka, deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, told journalists on 14 April that the government's decision to hold "subotniks" (days of unpaid or partly paid labor) on 11 and 18 April violates labor legislation and human rights, Belapan reported. Under the law, Vyachorka explained, mandatory labor for which part of the earnings is paid into various funds can be enforced only in the event of a natural disaster. "Most likely, recent events in the Belarusian economy are put on a par by the authorities with a natural disaster," he commented. JM

ESTONIAN SUPREME COURT RULES CLEMENCY BILL UNCONSTITUTIONAL

The Supreme Court on 14 April ruled that the clemency bill is unconstitutional since it would have curbed the president's right to grant clemency, ETA reported. President Lennart Meri had twice refused to sign the bill, objecting to its provision for a committee that would have advised the president on matters related to granting clemency. The court ruled that the committee's authority would have been too great and that the president's constitutional right to grant clemency cannot be curtailed. JC

LATVIAN WORKING GROUP DIVIDED OVER 'NATURALIZATION WINDOWS'

A working group composed of government parties on 14 April failed to agree on how to change the system of "naturalization windows" enshrined in the citizenship law, BNS reported. All members of the group stressed that the system should be amended, but they could not agree on what those changes should be. One proposal is that all non-citizens born in Latvia be granted citizenship by 2001; another is that people who came to Latvia as minors be included among those granted citizenship by 2001; and a third proposal is that the "naturalization window" be removed altogether. The group was due to meet again to seek a consensus on the issue. JC

IMF COMMENDS LATVIA ON ECONOMIC SUCCESSES

Latvia has received a commendation from the Executive Board of the IMF for its economic and financial successes, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. But while praising Riga for its "prudent financial policies," the board cautioned that Latvia must re-energize the privatization process, especially for large enterprises. It also urged Latvian authorities to continue improving tax collection and administration, in addition to increasing the transparency of the budget process and pushing ahead with pension system reforms. JC

RUSSIA WELCOMES ADAMKUS'S READINESS FOR DIALOGUE

The press office of Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 14 April issued a statement welcoming a recent statement by Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus expressing readiness to continue an active dialogue with Russia. "The strengthening of genuine good-neighborliness and trust with Lithuania remains a priority in Russian foreign policy. That is the firm intention of the Russian leadership," the statement said, according to ITAR-TASS and BNS. The statement also greeted Lithuania's intention to develop cooperation with Kaliningrad Oblast, adding that the conclusion of a long-term, intergovernmental agreement on the oblast would increase prospects for "deepening Russian-Lithuanian relations." JC

POLISH GOVERNMENT TO REDUCE 70,000 JOBS IN COAL MINING

Polish Deputy Economic Minister Janusz Szlazak announced on 14 April that by the year 2000, some 70,000 jobs in the coal mining industry will be slashed, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. Szlazak said the government does not plan group layoffs; rather, it believes that a social protection package will prompt miners to resign. That package will include paid leave and unemployment benefits for miners nearing retirement age as well as one-time payments for younger miners. The job cuts are intended to make the coal-mining industry financially self-sufficient. JM

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES JOINING NATO

The lower house of the Czech parliament has voted by 154 to 38 in favor of joining NATO, CTK reported on 15 April. Only the Communists and the extreme Republicans opposed joining the alliance. Deputies spent the previous day debating the issue, and small pro- and anti-NATO demonstrations were held. The issue must still be approved by the Czech Senate, which is dominated by mainstream parties that support NATO accession. PB

CZECH PRESIDENT RECOVERING AFTER EMERGENCY SURGERY

Vaclav Havel is in stable condition after emergency abdominal surgery in Innsbruck, Austria, on 14 April. Havel, who was vacationing in Austria, complained of abdominal pain and was rushed to a hospital, where he underwent nearly four hours of surgery to repair a tear in his large intestine. He is expected to remain in hospital for 10-12 days. PB

HUNGARY, AUSTRIA AT ODDS OVER VISAS FOR ROMANIANS

Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said on 14 April that he is against imposing visa requirements on Romanians, as Austria is insisting. Kovacs said in Debrecen that Hungary should not differentiate between Slovakia and Romania in applying visa regulations and that Budapest does not want an "impenetrable wall" erected between Hungary and Romania, where many ethnic Hungarians live. Kovacs did acknowledge that the border must be tightened. Austrian Interior Minister Karl Schlogel said on 12 April that one-third of illegal aliens entering via Hungary are of Romanian origin. PB




CROATIA AT 'TURNING POINT' ON REFUGEE RETURNS

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told U.S. and U.K. diplomats in Zagreb on 14 April that Croatia will consider all requests by Croatian Serbs to return home on an individual, humanitarian basis. Tudjman cautioned that the arrival of all refugees at the same time could prove destabilizing and lead to what he called the tense state of affairs that prevailed before the Serbian uprising in 1990- 1991, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. The diplomats reminded Tudjman that the pace of Croatia's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures is closely linked to its treatment of returning refugees. The diplomats also expressed the hope that the parliament will approve measures on refugee return recently worked out by Croatian and international officials. U.S. Ambassador to Croatia William Montgomery said that "this is a fork in the road for Croatia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March and 1 April 1998). PM

SAKIC CASE OFFERS OPPORTUNITY FOR CROATIA

A spokesman for the Croatian People's Party said in Zagreb on 14 April that the current case surrounding suspected World War II war criminal Dinko Sakic is an excellent opportunity for the present Croatian state to underscore the differences between it and Hitler's wartime puppet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). The spokesman said the government's request that Argentina extradite Sakic is a step in the right direction. In Buenos Aires, a Croatian embassy spokesman said Argentina has agreed to the request. Meanwhile in Belgrade, several Serbian experts on World War II war crimes called for the extradition of Sakic's wife as well, the daily "Danas" reported on 14 and 15 April. The experts charge that Nada Sakic (who now uses the name Esperanza) was the wartime commander of the women's concentration camp at Gradiska, where she committed atrocities. PM

GERMANS WILLING TO HELP CATCH KARADZIC

German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said in Sarajevo on 14 April that German peacekeepers will participate in any NATO action to apprehend indicted war criminals if the Germans are asked to do so. Ruehe added that he is confident that all indicted war criminals will appear in The Hague sooner or later. On 11 April, the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA quoted Radovan Karadzic's wife Ljiljana as saying that her husband will never give himself up (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 1998). On 14 April, Serbian media quoted hard-line Bosnian Serb politician Bozidar Vucurevic as saying that Karadzic is in eastern Herzegovina and that 23,000 Bosnian Serb soldiers will defend him against any attempt to arrest him. PM

SLOVENIAN AID FOR BOSNIA

Slovenian parliamentary speaker Janez Podobnik presented Bosnian officials in Sarajevo on 14 April with an aid package worth $600,000. Slovenian Foreign Trade Minister Marijan Senjur added that total Slovenian assistance to Bosnia this year will reach $3 million. Presidents Milan Kucan and Alija Izetbegovic met in Ljubljana the previous week. PM

GARROD WARNS HERZEGOVINIANS

Martin Garrod, who is the international community's chief representative in Mostar, called on the ultranationalist Croatian leadership in the town of Stolac to investigate recent minings and burnings of Muslim homes in the area, and to publish the findings of their investigation. In February, Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, fired the police chief of Stolac for not allowing Muslim refugees to go home. In March, Westendorp sacked the mayor of Stolac for the same reason. PM

SESELJ SAYS WEST WON'T START WAR IN KOSOVA

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told a private television station in Lesovac on 14 April that there will be no war in Kosova because the Western powers "prefer to advance their goals by peaceful means," BETA news agency reported. In Prishtina, a policeman was wounded when unidentified individuals threw at least two hand grenades into a police station in an ethnic Albanian neighborhood. And in the Decan area, some 40 ethnic Serbian families recently left their villages and are now settled together in a nearby recreation area. The Serbs told BETA that they moved because they feared attacks by armed Albanians. It is unclear if they moved voluntarily or were resettled by the authorities. PM

RADIOACTIVE SALT IN SERBIA

The opposition Democratic Party said in a statement in Belgrade on 14 April that it wants those persons responsible for the import of radioactive salt from Belarus to be investigated and punished. Some 50,000 kilograms of imported Belarusian table salt were found last week to be radioactive, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. The Democratic Party statement added that 50,000 tons of Belarusian salt were imported last year and that plans for this year call for total salt imports from Belarus to reach 100,000 tons. PM

ALBANIAN COALITION TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT

Members of the governing center-left coalition agreed in Tirana on 14 April to set up a new government with 18 members, down from the current 22. Socialist Deputy Prime Minister Bashkim Fino will replace fellow Socialist Sabit Brokaj as defense minister, and Socialist Luan Hajdaraga will become interior minister in place of the Democratic Alliance's Neritan Ceka, who will take up the portfolio on local government. Socialist Ilir Meta will head the new Ministry for Euro-Atlantic Integration, "Koha Jone" reported. The parliament must approve the new government. Socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano has repeatedly criticized the outgoing cabinet for inefficiency and indifference (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 1998). FS

ALBANIAN POLICE ACTION OVER MISSING CHILDREN

Tirana police seized birth registers and related files from the capital's hospitals on 14 April, "Koha Jone" reported. The police are investigating reports of alleged organized traffic in children and in the organs of children. Meanwhile near Fier, a gunman killed two policemen, bringing the total number of Albanian police killed this year to nine. And near Tirana, police arrested four suspects in connection with the recent shooting of two British diplomats on Mount Dajti (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). FS

MOLDOVA'S COMMUNISTS TO FORM OPPOSITION?

Vladimir Voronin, head of the Party of Moldovan Communists, said on 14 April that the party could function as the opposition, even though it won the most votes in the 22 March elections, Infotag reported. Voronin said it would be easy for the Communists to remain in the opposition, although they are still willing to form a coalition with the For a Prosperous and Democratic Moldova Bloc (PMDP). Voronin said the Communists are not against private businesses or the free market but that "runaway capitalism" has turned Moldova into "one big Turkish bazaar." The PMDP has not rejected forming a coalition with the Communists but says it will most likely form a government with the other two parties elected to the parliament. PB

GREECE, BULGARIA TO DEVELOP INFRASTRUCTURE

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said on 14 April that Balkan policy in the future will be "big infrastructure projects," Reuters reported. Stoyanov was speaking to reporters after meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Stoyanov said the two countries will work to build a "new pro-European image of the region." He said they agreed to build a highway between the Black Sea port of Bourgas and the Greek city of Ormenion. Simitis also met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov. Greece is Bulgaria's fourth largest trading partner. PB

GREECE SUPPORTS BASING BALKAN FORCE IN BULGARIAN CITY

A Bulgarian parliamentary spokesman said on 14 April that Greece supports the basing of an all- Balkan rapid reaction force in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, AFP reported. His comments came after Greek Foreign Minister Teodoros Pangalos met with Assen Agov, the head of the Bulgarian parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. The proposed force would include troops from Slovenia, Turkey, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Albania. The establishment of such a force was discussed at the recent Romanian-Bulgarian-Greek meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). PB




THE POLITICAL ENDS OF RUSSIAN ECONOMIC ADVICE


by Paul Goble

Even as Moscow applies economic pressure to Latvia, Russian officials are once again seeking to use economic arguments to promote Moscow's political influence over the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Last week, a spokesman for the Russian Ministry for Relations with the CIS Countries suggested that reversing the decline in trade turnover among those countries is the key to restarting their economic growth. Deputy Minister Marat Khasmutdinov noted that overall trade turnover among the CIS countries was down 10 percent in 1997, following similar decreases after the collapse of the USSR. He said that such trade now amounted to only 6 percent of the CIS's total GDP, down from 21 percent in 1992. Only by increasing trade, he concluded, can those countries deal with their current economic slump.

On the face of it, such arguments are plausible; after all, an expansion in foreign trade has often helped power economic growth. But there are three reasons why the countries involved are unlikely to take such arguments seriously, even if Western commentators find them attractive.

First, the decline in trade turnover among the former Soviet republics belonging to the CIS is not the primary cause of their economic distress. And reversing that decline would not necessarily be the primary cause of their recovery. Indeed, such a change might impede further economic reform.

It is certainly the case that dislocations in trade following the collapse of the USSR had an impact on the economic situation of the 12 member states of the CIS. When the Soviet Union fell apart, enterprises and ministries on the territory of each of the 12 countries suddenly had to seek new partners to obtain raw materials and spare parts as well as new markets to sell their own products. But whatever impact that process had on their economic growth, an even greater role was played by the shift toward a free market in many of those countries, the collapse of political authority, and the impact that uncertainty about those two processes had on both foreign and domestic investment.

Second, the CIS itself has little prospect of becoming the most relevant trade organization for most of the countries that are currently its members.

On the one hand, most have more natural trade partners beyond its borders. Moscow managed the Soviet economy in such a way as to promote the integration of its empire into a single state, cutting off the republics from most foreign trade and creating chains of economic activity that could be described only as irrational. In many cases, individual republics could have made far more by selling their products abroad than they did by providing them to Moscow. And few of them could have foreseen the effect their past dependence on Moscow for determining prices and patterns of trade would have on their ability to make their own way after the collapse of the USSR.

On the other hand, the CIS is increasingly becoming more a Russian claim than a genuine reality. Since its creation in December 1991, the CIS has adopted some 800 agreements, very few of which have been approved by all the members or implemented even when they are approved. As a result, and whatever the advocates of the CIS say in its defense, the commonwealth is simply not the most important actor in either the economic or political lives of its member states. Indeed, an increasing number of the leaders of those countries have indicated that they remain members only because of the likelihood of a sharp Russian reaction should they leave.

Third, such arguments obscure the fundamental difference between economic integration and economic reintegration. As the Soviet Union approached its end, President Mikhail Gorbachev and his supporters routinely pointed to developments in the EU, arguing that integration rather than disintegration was the order of the day. Russian officials are again making such claims, but those arguments are unlikely to impress many because they represent a confusion between integration and reintegration.

Integration is a natural process, reflecting both individual national interests and a level of self-confidence that would allow countries to yield some of their sovereignty for other gains. Reintegration, particularly in this context, is about the forced remarriage of countries that have only recently completed their divorce. Even before all the CIS member countries of the CIS can feel confident about their status, some Moscow officials are advocating that in the name of economic interests, those countries yield some of the sovereignty that still alludes them.

But the reactions of the non-Russian countries to such proposals in the past suggest that most of those states will view such arguments for what they almost certainly are: a political program to expand Moscow's influence rather than a genuinely economic one intended to benefit them all.


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