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Newsline - May 4, 1998




YELTSIN COMPLETES SENIOR CABINET APPOINTMENTS

President Boris Yeltsin on 30 April signed decrees appointing 11 more government ministers, thereby filling most of the senior posts in the cabinet. Following a lengthy meeting with Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Yeltsin named Oleg Sysuev as the third deputy prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 1998). Sysuev has been deputy prime minister since March 1997, but his new position is in effect a promotion since Kirienko has no first deputies and only three deputies. (Sysuev was one of eight deputy prime ministers in Viktor Chernomyrdin's government.) He will be tasked with coordinating the government's social policies. Yeltsin also kept on Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, who, like Sysuev, is considered ideologically close to Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Unified Energy System chief executive Anatolii Chubais. The president is expected to name the rest of the new cabinet on 5 May. LB

SEVERAL OLD HANDS STAY ON...

Six of the 11 ministers appointed on 30 April served in the cabinet Yeltsin sacked in late March. Besides Sysuev and Urinson, Yeltsin kept on Farit Gazizullin as state property minister, a job he has held since last December. Natalya Dementeva will also stay on as culture minister, the post to which she was appointed last August. The president reappointed Vladimir Bulgak as minister for science and technology, although Bulgak, considered a close ally of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, lost the post of deputy prime minister and will no longer supervise matters related to the Communications Ministry. Sergei Frank, who became transportation minister in early March, will remain in that job. In another nod to continuity, Yeltsin named Pavel Krasheninnikov as justice minister. He had served as first deputy head of the Justice Ministry since last August and became acting justice minister in March, when Yeltsin picked Sergei Stepashin to head the Interior Ministry. LB

...WHILE SOME NEW BLOOD IN EVIDENCE

Sergei Generalov, whom Yeltsin appointed fuel and energy minister on 30 April, is the new cabinet's most senior official tapped from the business community. He was previously the deputy head of the Menatep bank, founded by Mikhail Khodorkovskii. (Khodorkovskii now heads the Yuksi oil company, the product of a merger between Yukos and Sibneft, which is part of CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii's business empire.) In appointing Generalov, Yeltsin passed over Viktor Ott, who was first deputy fuel and energy minister when Kirienko headed that ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). Yeltsin appointed Viktor Nekrutenko, an official from the government apparatus, to head the Natural Resources Ministry. Viktor Orlov had held that post since the ministry was created last August. Viktor Semonov, the former manager of a farm in Moscow Oblast and first deputy chairman of the Agroindustrial Union of Russia, became agriculture minister. Viktor Khlystun headed that ministry since May 1996. LB

YABLOKO FACTION RECEIVES LABOR PORTFOLIO

Also on 30 April, Yeltsin appointed Duma deputy Oksana Dmitrieva as labor minister. Like Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, she suspended her membership in Yabloko upon joining the government. The Yabloko faction, the Duma's most consistent opponents of government policies, immediately released a statement saying Dmitrieva's decision to accept the post was "mistaken," ITAR-TASS reported. Political commentator Andrei Piontkovskii told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that Dmitrieva's appointment appears to be part of a government strategy to undermine Yabloko. Faction leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told NTV on 30 April that six or seven members of his faction were approached and that officials turned to Dmitrieva only after Tatyana Yarygina, a specialist on social issues, refused the labor portfolio. (Until now, Dmitrieva has headed a Duma subcommittee on the budget.) Yabloko member Aleksei Mikhailov was reportedly offered the job of fuel and energy minister. LB

DECREE ABOLISHES FOREIGN TRADE, CIS MINISTRIES

Also on 30 April, Yeltsin signed a decree restructuring the executive branch, which liquidates the Foreign Trade Ministry, the Ministry for Cooperation with CIS States and several state committees and federal agencies, ITAR- TASS reported. A newly created Trade and Industry Ministry will take over some functions of the Foreign Trade and CIS Ministries, along with some responsibilities of the Economics Ministry. The Foreign Ministry will take over the rest of the functions previously handled by the Ministry on the CIS. The same decree creates a Ministry on Land Policy, Construction and the Housing and Utilities Sector, which will take care of matters previously handled by the State Land Committee, the State Committee on Housing and Construction Policy, and the Federal Service on Surveying and Cartography. The Ministry for Nationalities Affairs and Federative Relations has been renamed the Ministry for Regional and Nationalities Policy. LB

RYBKIN LEFT OUT IN THE COLD

The latest government appointments suggest that Yeltsin will not name Ivan Rybkin to the new cabinet. Rybkin was Security Council Secretary from October 1996 until March 1998, when Yeltsin appointed him deputy prime minister in charge of CIS issues--a post that no longer exists. Rybkin is considered close to Boris Berezovskii, who reportedly worked behind the scenes to persuade Yeltsin to appoint Rybkin as prime minister. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party headed by Rybkin held its second congress in Moscow on 3 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The party is likely to compete in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 1999, but its prospects are poor. An electoral bloc headed by Rybkin gained just 1.1 percent of the vote in the 1995 elections to the State Duma. LB

COMMUNIST REPORTEDLY TURNS DOWN CABINET POST

Duma Economic Policy Committee Chairman Yurii Maslyukov of the Communist faction has rejected an offer to serve as minister in charge of the government's council of experts, an unnamed government source told Interfax on 1 May. Maslyukov headed the Soviet state planning agency, Gosplan, during the Gorbachev period. One of only two Communist Duma deputies who supported Kirienko's confirmation in the second ballot (which was held by open vote), he was considered among the Communists most likely to be offered a cabinet post. Some media speculated that Yeltsin would appoint Maslyukov as economics minister. The source quoted by Interfax did not say why Maslyukov turned down the post offered to him, which would have involved little authority. LB

REACTION TO CHUBAIS'S APPOINTMENT

Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, a senior Communist Party official, told Interfax on 30 April that the appointment of Chubais as chief executive of Unified Energy System is "further confirmation that the regime of Boris Yeltsin is authoritarian." Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia argued that in his new job, Chubais will wield more power than he had in the government and may use that authority to help finance a candidate in the next presidential election. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kirienko announced on 30 April that Chubais has six months to prove himself and will be fired this fall if he does not handle his new duties well. Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev were among the influential politicians who recently spoke out against putting Chubais in charge of the electricity giant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 30 April 1998). LB

LUZHKOV WARNS CHUBAIS NOT TO HARM MOSCOW'S INTERESTS

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 30 April predicted that Chubais will a "good administrator" in the energy sector and said his latest appointment may be "useful," ITAR-TASS reported. But while saying the Moscow city government is ready to cooperate with the electricity giant, Luzhkov warned that "the situation will change radically" if the company's policies harm the interests of Muscovites. For years, Luzhkov has been a vocal critic of economic policies endorsed by Chubais, especially the government's privatization program. Last fall, the mayor and then First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais sparred over whether the federal government should continue to compensate the city of Moscow for the costs of maintaining federal facilities in the capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 1997). Compensation payments were eventually included in the 1998 budget. LB

RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO CHECHNYA KIDNAPPED

The whereabouts of Valentin Vlasov are still unknown three days after armed men intercepted his car near the Ingush village of Assinovskaya on 1 May and abducted him. Chechen law enforcement agencies arrested Vlasov's Chechen driver and bodyguard the following day on suspicion of complicity in the kidnapping. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, CIS executive secretary Boris Berezovskii, and former Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin all condemned the kidnapping as a political act intended to sabotage peace talks between Russia and Chechnya and to destabilize the North Caucasus. Maskhadov imposed additional security measures throughout Chechnya and appointed a special commission to locate Vlasov, but a senior Chechen official denied Russian media reports that Maskhadov has offered a $100,000 reward for information on the abductors. On 3 May, a joint Russian- Chechen headquarters was established in Ingushetia to coordinate the search for Vlasov. LF

FINANCE MINISTRY SEEKS DEEP SPENDING CUTS

The Finance Ministry has proposed cutting federal budget spending by 62.4 billion rubles ($10.2 billion) this year, Russian news agencies reported on 30 April. The proposed cuts amount to 12.5 percent of all spending mapped out in the 1998 budget. The ministry has predicted that 1998 revenues will fall 63.9 billion rubles short of budget targets and will total 303.6 billion rubles for the year. Poor tax collection and the slump in world oil prices have cut into projected revenues. Speaking in the Federation Council before he was confirmed as prime minister, Kirienko said the government was drafting proposals on some 35-40 billion rubles in spending cuts. The Finance Ministry's announcement came during a Moscow visit by a team of IMF experts, who are checking Russia's compliance with the terms for continued disbursement of a four-year, $10 billion IMF loan. LB

COMMUNISTS, TRADE UNIONS DEMONSTRATE ON MAY DAY

Some 173,000 people participated in more than 330 rallies held across the Russian Federation to mark 1 May, a traditional labor holiday, ITAR-TASS reported, citing Interior Ministry estimates. The Communist Party and allied political groups, including Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin's Movement to Support the Army, drew a crowd of some 30,000 on Moscow's Teatralnaya Square. Addressing that rally, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov lambasted Yeltsin and the new government. The Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) organized a separate demonstration in Moscow, during which FNPR leader Mikhail Shmakov warned that the new cabinet "won't last a hundred days" if it tries to get by on promises alone, Reuters reported. Speaking to Interfax during that demonstration, Shmakov remarked that new Labor Minister Oksana Dmitrieva is not an expert on labor relations and was "not the best choice" to head the Labor Ministry. LB

ANOTHER SUSPECT CHARGED IN KHOLODOV CASE

The Prosecutor-General's Office has filed criminal charges against a third suspect in the October 1994 murder of investigative journalist Dmitrii Kholodov, Interfax reported on 30 April. The authorities have not named the suspect but say he is a civilian. Two officers have already been charged with premeditated murder in connection with the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1998). LB




MEDIATION EFFORTS QUELL FIGHTING OUTSIDE TAJIK CAPITAL

Fighting that broke out just east of Dushanbe on 29 April between government forces and a group nominally associated with the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) has ceased following intensive mediation efforts. President Imomali Rakhmonov on 2 May held talks with the deputy leader of the UTO, Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda, to mediate the dispute. The same day, UN observers and government and opposition representatives met with the rebel group in the village of Teppoi-Samarkandi, 12 kilometers east of the Dushanbe, and reached an agreement on a cease-fire. Road check-points were established on the highway from Dushanbe to Kofarnikhon with the help of both government and UTO troops. The situation in Dushanbe was calm on 4 May, RFE/RL correspondents in the Tajik capital reported. BP

BACKGROUND TO FIGHTING

The conflict began on 29 April after the Tajik government had issued an ultimatum to the UTO-affiliated group to withdraw to an area 12-15 kilometers outside Dushanbe by 16:00 local time. The deadline was extended by 90 minutes, but the group failed to comply with it. The government responded by ordering a military operation, with tanks and artillery, to clear the group from the capital's outskirts. Some members of the rebel group took up positions on hilltops in the capital and fired on the presidential palace and the Pakistani Embassy. No one was hurt at either location, though the embassy sustained some structural damage. Some 20 government soldiers, five rebel fighters, and 26 civilians are reported killed in the fighting. Those figures, however, are expected to rise as aid workers search for missing persons. BP

UZBEKISTAN TIGHTENS CONTROLS OVER RELIGIOUS GROUPS

The parliament on 1 May passed a law imposing new restrictions on religious groups, Reuters and Interfax reported. The law requires all mosques and all religious groups with more than 100 members to register. Attending the parliamentary session, President Islam Karimov spoke out harshly against one such group, the Wahhabis, whom he accused of seeking to turn Uzbekistan into a second Tajikistan by "killing officials [and destroying] food factories, powers stations, and other strategic installations." Karimov added that "such people must be shot in the head. If necessary, I'll shoot them myself, if you lack the resolve." Wahhabis were blamed for violence that broke out in the city of Namangan last December in which several police officials were killed. BP

KYRGYZSTAN ARRESTS UYGHUR SEPARATISTS

ITAR- TASS on 1 May reported that Kyrgyz authorities have arrested 20 Uyghurs who were allegedly involved in terrorist activities. According to Kyrgyz press reports cited by the Russian agency, those arrested belong to the organization "For Free Eastern Turkestan" and were in possession of weapons and Wahhabi training videos at the time of their arrest. "Vecherny Bishkek" reported the same day that many of the arrests took place in early April and began with an Uyghur citizen of China identified only as "Kasarli," who is alleged to have helped Kyrgyz youth travel abroad for Wahhabi training, mainly to Pakistan. The article claims Wahhabis have mosques not only in the Fergana Valley near Osh but also around Bishkek and in Kyrgyzstan's northern Chu Valley. It concludes by saying that the Kyrgyz Commission on Religious Affairs is unable "to resist the religious fundamentalist invasion." BP

ARMENIA CLARIFIES POSITION ON BEREZOVSKII...

President Robert Kocharian on 30 April said he does not oppose the appointment of Boris Berezovskii as CIS executive secretary but added that he has certain reservations about Berezovskii because of the constant "tension" surrounding him, ITAR-TASS reported. But Kocharian also said he had insisted that in compliance with the regulations on appointing CIS executives, Berezovskii's appointment should be reconfirmed within three months, Noyan Tapan reported. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii had told Interfax the previous day that Berezovskii's appointment had been supported by all summit participants except Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1998). LF

..AND CIS SUMMIT

Kocharian positively assessed the 29 April summit, which he said "opened the possibility for new development" of the CIS. He advocated rotating the chairmanship of the various CIS bodies, arguing that this would provide an incentive for member states to put forward specific problems and seek a solution to them within a given period. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian told "RFE/RL Newsline" on 1 May that the draft Declaration on Further Equal Partnership and Cooperation within the CIS was not "put for signature" but that a decision on its adoption was postponed at the suggestion of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Interfax had reported on 29 April that several summit participants had refused to sign that draft. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES MILITARY PRIORITIES

Eduard Shevardnadze on 30 April awarded newly appointed Defense Minister David Tevzadze the rank of major-general, calling the military leader "a brilliant specialist and a good warrior," Caucasus Press reported. Presenting Tevzadze to ministry staff the same day, the president argued that Georgia's national army must be "mobile, compact, and capable," according to Interfax. Shevardnadze said that Tevzadze's top priorities should be to improve living conditions for servicemen and to make military service "as safe as possible." Nodar Epremidze, president of the Society for the Rights of Soldiers, had told a 27 April news conference in Tbilisi that servicemen live in "elementary" conditions, exist on food that is extremely low in calories, and have ammunition and uniforms that do not meet required standards. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SLAMS ELECTION LEGISLATION

Several Azerbaijani opposition figures have harshly criticized the draft laws on the Central Electoral Commission and on presidential elections, Turan reported on 30 April. The bill on the commission stipulates that 12 of the body's 24 members are appointed by the president and the remaining 12 by the parliament. The bill on presidential elections, which was passed in the first reading on 30 April, restricts the right to propose presidential candidates to political parties that are legally registered with the Ministry of Justice six months before elections, according to ITAR-TASS. Azerbaijan Popular Front Deputy Chairman Ali Kerimov said the requirement that would-be presidential candidates collect 50,000 signatures in order to register, including a minimum of 400 from each raion, is "unfair." Musavat party chairman Isa Gambar said the draft laws deal not with electing but appointing the president. LF




MAY DAY DEMONSTRATORS IN UKRAINE CALL FOR USSR REVIVAL

Some 130,000 Communists and other leftists participated in May Day rallies in nearly 300 localities throughout Ukraine, Ukrainian media reported. At a 3,000-strong rally in Kyiv, Communist leader Petro Symonenko hailed the former Soviet Union and socialism and appealed "to fight against the capitalist way of life imposed on our people." The demonstrators called for Ukraine to join the Russia-Belarus Union and for the restoration of the USSR. In Donetsk, 20,000 demonstrators demanded President Leonid Kuchma's dismissal and branded government policies as "deeply anti-popular and anti-national." JM

MOROZ THREATENS TO SEEK CABINET RESIGNATION

Oleksandr Moroz, leader of the Ukrainian Socialist Party and current parliamentary speaker, says the Socialists/Peasants bloc in the Supreme Council will insist that the government resign unless wage and pension arrears are paid, Interfax reported on 1 May. Moroz added that the government may have to resign even before parliament is reconvened because Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko has won a parliamentary seat and may give up the premiership to take up that seat. JM

UKRAINIAN MINERS STRIKE AGAINST WAGE ARREARS

Miners at 30 coal mines in Ukraine refused to start work on 4 May to demand the payment of wage arrears and improved safety standards, dpa reported. A spokesman for the miners' trade union said most of Ukraine's 215 coal mines are likely to join the strike. The miners have also criticized the government's policy of increasing imports of less expensive coal from Poland and Russia instead of investing in Ukrainian coal pits. JM

MAY DAY MARCHES IN MINSK

Some 7,000 people took part in a 1 May march in Minsk organized by city authorities, Belapan reported. According to Mikola Statkevich, leader of the opposition Belarusian Social Democratic Party, the authorities mobilized support for the rally at plants, institutions, and schools. Belapan interviewed a worker who said his plant administration promised him 100,000 rubles ($2) for participating in the rally. The official parade was trailed by some 600 people taking part in another authorized march organized by the opposition Social Democratic Party. That group chanted slogans against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and demanded freedom for political prisoners. Men in civilian garb arrested some 10 members of the Social Democratic Party, including Statkevich, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. JM

EARLY ELECTIONS LOOM IN ESTONIA

Following a meeting between Prime Minister Mart Siimann and President Lennart Meri on 2 May, a government spokesman said the president will wait for all political parties to respond to the premier's proposal for early elections before he dissolves the parliament and calls a pre-term ballot. The same spokesman added that Siimann is finding it increasingly difficult to carry out his political program because of lack of support in the parliament. The premier has said that if various political parties in the parliament are against early elections, he will submit his resignation, ETA reported on 4 May. All three junior coalition parties have so far opposed an early vote. JC

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS TO DISPEL DISPUTE OVER MERI'S COMMENT

Valdas Adamkus has moved to quell a dispute over Estonian President Meri's recent statement about the introduction of visas for non-EU members once Tallinn joins the union. In response to a journalist's question early last week, Meri had admitted that if requested to do so by the EU, Estonia will require Latvian and Lithuanian citizens to have entry visas to enter the country. That comment prompted the Lithuanian government to issue a statement on 30 April slamming Estonia's behavior toward the other Baltic States as "arrogant." The following day, Adamkus told Lithuanian Radio he regretted that Meri had made such a statement but that "the Estonian president was fair in what he said." JC

LATVIAN CABINET SURVIVES CONFIDENCE VOTE

Lawmakers on 30 April voted by 5O to zero with no abstentions to express confidence in the cabinet of Guntars Krasts, BNS reported. The Democratic Party Saimnieks, which recently quit the ruling coalition, did not take part in the vote. Two days later, at a congress of the Fatherland and Freedom party, Krasts warned that "excessively close economic links with Russia may pose a threat under certain circumstances." He added that Russian political pressure has "consolidated [Latvia's] right-wing parties for movement toward the EU and NATO." He also recognized that an important precondition for Latvia's accession to the EU is agreement on changes to the citizenship law. JC

RESPONSES TO SENATE RATIFICATION OF NATO EXPANSION TREATY

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 1 May hailed the U.S. Senate's vote to ratify the NATO expansion treaty, which admits Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to the alliance, as "great step on the historical way of overcoming the tragic past of our continent." Czech President Vaclav Havel, who is recovering in Austria from surgery (see below), said in a 1 May statement that the Senate vote is important in promoting close political and economic ties with Central European countries and contributing to a basis of new stability. (The previous day, the Czech Senate had voted 64 to three in favor of joining NATO.) Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn said the Senate's passage of the NATO expansion treaty was recognition of the progress Hungary has made and of the country's stability. PB/JM

RIGHTISTS ATTACK LEFT-WING MAY DAY PARADE IN WARSAW

Right-wing youths from the Republican League and skinheads from the National Rebirth of Poland threw egg and shouted insults at a 1 May parade in Warsaw organized by various left-wing groups, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. Some 3,000 members of the Democratic Left Alliance, the OPZZ trade unions, and the Polish Socialist Party took part in the parade. Similar clashes took place during May Day parades in Poznan, Gdansk, and Krakow. JM

HAVEL OUT OF INTENSIVE CARE

Czech President Havel was taken out of intensive care on 2 May and is expected to be flown back to Prague on 6 May. He is reported to be resuming some official work in an Innsbruck hospital. Havel recently underwent three operations and was kept in a sedated state for nearly a week after suffering from an abdominal abscess while on vacation. PB

CONSTRUCTION ON CONTROVERSIAL CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT TO CONTINUE

Karel Kuhnl, Czech minister of industry and trade, said the Temelin nuclear power plant will be completed because it would cost nearly as much to stop construction as to complete it, Reuters reported on 30 April. Kuhnl said some 63 billion crowns ($1.9 billion) has already been spent on the project and that costs could reach 100 billion crowns before it is operational in about two years. Environmentalists and the Austrian government have urged the Czech government to halt construction on the plant, which is a hybrid of Soviet and Western designs. PB

SLOVAKIA STILL WITHOUT PRESIDENT AFTER SIXTH FAILED VOTE

The parliament on 30 April failed to elect a president, RFE/RL's Slovak Service reported. Milan Secansky of the governing Movement for a Democratic Slovakia received 72 votes, 18 shy of the three-fifths majority needed to be elected. Brigita Schmoegnerova of the Party of the Democratic Left received 47 votes. It was the sixth attempt by the parliament to elect a president since Michal Kovacs's term ended in early March. Parliamentary speaker Ivan Gasparovic said the legislature will vote for a seventh time on 29 May. In accordance with the constitution, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has assumed many of the president's powers. PB

BOMB EXPLODES AT OPPOSITION LEADER'S HOME IN BUDAPEST

The apartment of Jozsef Szajer, deputy chairman of the opposition Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP), was badly damaged by a bomb blast on 2 May. Szajer and his family were away at the time of the explosion. It was the third time a bomb has exploded or been found near the home of an opposition politician since March. No arrests have been made in connection with any of those incidents. The 2 May attack has been condemned by all parties. Prime Minister Horn said it is "dishonorable" to infer that such an attack would serve the interests of any of the political parties ahead of the 10 May elections. The FIDESZ-MPP is running a close second behind Horn's Socialist Party in all opinion polls. PB




HEAVY FIGHTING NEAR KOSOVA-ALBANIA BORDER

Albanian military sources and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported from the northern Albanian border town of Qafe e Morines near Bajram Curri on 3 May that they heard the fire of rifles, automatic weapons, mortars, and artillery from the Kosovar town of Ponoshec. "The Serbs said it was an attack on a police station," OSCE ambassador Daan Everts told Reuters. "There must have been heavy retaliation." Italian military attache Colonel Sergio Russo commented, adding that "things look dangerous in this part of the border. The Albanians report a build-up of Serbian military units." Other Albanian sources added that houses were on fire. Serbian police officials said that five of their men were wounded. Three Kosovars were killed and three wounded in the Drenica area the previous day. PM

ALBANIA CALLS FOR ARMY VOLUNTEERS

The National Defense Council on 1 May announced it will recruit 1,000 volunteers into the army. The new troops will help border security units in northern Albania prevent arms smuggling and illegal border crossings, "Koha Jone" reported. The volunteers will receive monthly salaries of up to $220. The average Albanian monthly income is about $65. Meanwhile in Kukes, the OSCE unofficially opened an office on 3 May to help monitor that part of the border region. Last month, the organization opened an office in Bajram Curri, to the north of Kukes. FS

STRONGER 'FIRE WALL' FOR MACEDONIA

A British Defense Ministry spokesman on 2 May said that British troops will go to the Macedonian-Kosovar border as part of an international "fire wall" to prevent the Kosovar conflict from spilling over into Macedonia, "The Sunday Telegraph" reported. "We are interested in greater cooperation with Macedonia and Albania. This is our effort to contribute to increased security and stability in the region," the spokesman said. The British units will join U.S. and Scandinavian soldiers already serving with the UN forces there (UNPREDEP), which is the first mission in UN history aimed at conflict prevention rather than at peacekeeping after a war. Senior British army officials told the newspaper that they expect the enterprise will become a Bosnia-type NATO mission within one year. PM

U.S. WARNS MILOSEVIC

A State Department spokesman on 30 April said that the latest sanctions against Serbia, including the freeze on foreign investments slated to take effect on 9 May, will have a "chilling effect" on Yugoslavia's economy. The spokesman added that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic may soon face the breakup of rump Yugoslavia as a result: "having successfully presided over the amputation of former Yugoslavia..., he's setting himself up for further successes of this nature unless he reverses course." The spokesman also said that the Contact Group's recent decisions affecting its relations with Belgrade contain incentives as well as punitive measures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1998). PM

MORE CRITICISM OF MILOSEVIC'S TELEVISION STATION

Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vojin Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 1 May that he and federal Prime Minister Radoje Kontic have not received an official answer from the Belgrade authorities as to who is behind Milosevic's new Yugoslav Television (RTJ). Djukanovic added that RTJ is not a federal broadcasting station but "the project of one group of citizens," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Montenegrin authorities refuse to rebroadcast the signals of the new station, which most observers regard as Milosevic's vehicle to bring his views to Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 29 April 1998). PM

WARNINGS FOR HERZEGOVINIAN CROATS

Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic, a Croat, warned extreme nationalists in Drvar on 2 May to stop attacking Serbs and their property because "the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot survive amid chaos." The previous day, the international community's Carlos Westendorp threatened the nationalists with unspecified measures to prevent further ethnic clashes. Kresimir Zubak, who is the Croatian member of the joint presidency, also recently warned the extremists in Drvar to end the violence (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report, 29 April 1998). PM

CROATIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DIES

Gojko Susak has died aged 53 after a long battle with lung cancer, Hina reported on 4 May. Susak was the leader of the hard-line Herzegovinian Croats, who hold many key positions in Zagreb, and helped fund President Franjo Tudjman's rise to power in the late 1980s. Many observers regarded Susak as the second most powerful man in Croatia. During the war of 1991-1995, he helped mastermind the development of the army, which led to its eventual victory over Serbian rebels. It is unclear who will succeed him as leader of the Herzegovinians. PM

TUDJMAN AIDE QUITS

Hrvoje Sarinic, until now the head of President Franjo Tudjman's office and one of the most influential men in Croatia, has quit his post at the presidential palace, "Jutarnji list" reported on 4 May. He gave no reason for his decision, but the Zagreb daily suggested it is in protest against the continued involvement of some of his colleagues from the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in an ongoing banking scandal. The daily added that the person most likely to benefit politically from Sarinic's resignation is Ivic Pasalic, who is Tudjman's chief domestic affairs adviser. Several leading opposition politicians told "Vecernji list" that the resignation is evidence of deep splits in the HDZ. PM

ARGENTINE POLICE ARREST SAKIC

Police in Buenos Aires on 1 May arrested Dinko Sakic, who was a commander at the World War II Croatian concentration camp at Jasenovac. Police spokesmen say he will be extradited to Croatia later this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 1998). Sakic, who is 76 and has lived in Argentina since the end of World War II, drew attention to himself by telling Argentine television last month that he was a commander at the camp and that he is proud of himself. He added that "all that we did in the war was in the interest of Croatia and the Christian world. My only regret is that we did not do all the things of which we have been accused," "Die Presse" reported on 27 April. The Serbian authorities say Sakic is a mass murderer. PM

ACCUSED CIGARETTE-SMUGGLING RINGLEADER ARRESTED IN ROMANIA

Colonel Gheorghe Trutulescu has been arrested on suspicion of masterminding a lucrative cigarette smuggling scheme that has led to resignations in the government, AFP reported on 3 May. Trutulescu was detained in Arad, northwest of Bucharest, after becoming a fugitive. On 30 April, General Ion Dohotaru, the chief of military counter-intelligence, and General Mihai Marin Stan of the State Security Service became the latest military officials to be dismissed, Mediafax reported. President Emil Constantinescu said the two should be held accountable for the actions of persons under their command who are thought to be involved in the affair. PB

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ACCEPTS CABINET'S RESIGNATION

In accordance with constitutional provisions, Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc's cabinet formerly submitted its resignation to the new parliament on 30 April, RFE/RL reported. The legislature accepted the resignation. Valentin Dolganciuc, a member of the Christian Democratic Popular Front, is premier-designate and is awaiting approval from President Petru Lucinschi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1998). The new cabinet is expected to be formed this week. Ciubuc said that despite the dreary economic situation in the country, his government can take the credit for some positive developments, including the halt in the decline of industrial output. PB

BULGARIAN SOCIALIST LEADER CALLS FOR LEFTIST COALITION

Georgi Parvanov, leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, said on 1 May that the party is in a "state of crisis" and should form a coalition with other leftist parties, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Parvanov, who was speaking at a Socialist congress, said the party's current state can largely be blamed on former Socialist Prime Minister Zhan Videnov's lack of "adequate and pragmatic policies." The Socialists hold the second- largest number of seats in the parliament, but the party's membership numbers and reputation severely suffered after it stepped down from power amid mass protests last year. PB

BULGARIAN POLITICIANS TO GIVE UP BUSINESS POSTS

Prime Minister Ivan Kostov has ordered politicians serving on the boards of state-owned firms to step down, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported on 2 May. Kostov's action comes on the heels of criticism by Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, who said such boards have become "hidden sources of income" for politicians. The opposition has accused the governing Union of Democratic Forces of allowing relatives and party loyalists to serve on those boards. Kostov also ordered a special commission to find competent people to fill the positions vacated by politicians and their appointees. PB




RUBIK'S CUBE IN OSSETIA


by Liz Fuller

It is unclear whether the draft document adopted at last week's CIS summit on resolving the conflict in Abkhazia will have the desired effect. But the January 1998 election of Aleksandr Dzasokhov as president of North Ossetia has given new impetus to the search for solutions to two other Caucasian conflicts--between North Ossetia and Ingushetia and between Georgia and South Ossetia.

Dzasokhov immediately established a cordial working relationship with his Ingushetian counterpart, Ruslan Aushev, who had had strained relations with Dzasokhov's predecessor, Akhsarbek Galazov. Dzasokhov also assumed the task of mediating between the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia and the Georgian government to reach a framework agreement for restoring formal relations between the two. (In late 1990, the nationalist Georgian leadership of Zviad Gamsakhurdia responded to South Ossetia's demands to secede from Georgia by abolishing the region's autonomous status within that country. The move triggered intensive fighting in South Ossetia between Georgian Interior Ministry forces and local Ossetian paramilitaries as well as a violent backlash against Ossetians living elsewhere in Georgia. In all, some 100,000 Ossetians fled north from Georgia to escape the threat of ethnic cleansing. ) It is unclear whether Dzasokhov can claim some of the credit for the recent rapprochement between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali. A planned meeting of Georgian and South Ossetian leaders in December 1997 was canceled, allegedly because of what the former considered to be the latter's unacceptable demands: a Georgian spokesman said at the time that Chibirov continued to insist on his unrecognized republic's independence from Georgia and unification with North Ossetia. In his annual address to the parliament in March of this year, however, Chibirov called for renewed talks with Tbilisi on establishing "equal and mutually beneficial relations" on condition that such relations do not infringe on South Ossetia's "sovereignty." He also listed as a priority "greater integration" with North Ossetia," including the creation of a "common economic space." The Georgian leadership, for its part, has signaled its readiness to begin contributing to the South Ossetian budget (since 1992 the region has been funded entirely by Moscow), and a working group has been set up to discuss restoring transportation links.

The one issue crucial to resolving both the Georgian- South Ossetia and the Ossetian-Ingush conflicts is the repatriation of those forced to flee their homes during the fighting. More than 40,000 Ossetians who fled Georgia from 1990-1992 settled in North Ossetia. Of those, some 16,000 occupied houses in North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion after they were abandoned by ethnic Ingush during the fighting there in November 1992. Prigorodnyi Raion had originally been part of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR but was incorporated into North Ossetia following the deportation of both the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia in 1944 and the ensuing abolition of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR as a territorial administrative unit. Following Secretary- General Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 "secret speech" to the 20th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the deportees were allowed to return.

But latent tensions between Ossetians and Ingush repatriates rose to the surface in 1991-1992 when the Ingush demanded the return of Prigorodnyi Raion. In late October 1992, those tensions erupted into fighting between Ingush informal militias and North Ossetian security forces backed by Russian Interior Ministry and army troops. In six days of violence, up to 700 people were killed and thousands of homes, mostly belonging to Ingush, destroyed. Almost the entire Ingush population of the district--estimates range from 34,000 to 64,000 people-- fled to Ingushetia.

Failure to expedite the return of those Ingush to North Ossetia was one of the factors that bedeviled relations between Galazov and Aushev. Vladimir Kalamanov, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's envoy to North Ossetia and Ingushetia, recently reasoned that the return of the Ingush to North Ossetia can neither be planned nor implemented in isolation but should be part of a broader effort that includes the repatriation to Georgia of the Ossetian refugees, some of whom are currently living in Ingush homes.

That undertaking, however, is likely to prove problematic, given that the majority of Ossetian refugees currently domiciled in Prigorodnyi Raion are not from South Ossetia but from elsewhere in Georgia and are convinced that their lives would be in danger if they returned there. (In contrast, 52 Ossetian families returned last year from Ingushetia to South Ossetia.) Over the past five years, the Ossetian refugees from Georgia have put down firm roots in Prigorodnyi Raion, taking over the role in trade (and, according to one commentator, in crime) that was once played by the Ingush. While agreement has been reached on providing funds to enable Ingush who wish to return to Prigorodnyi Raion to build new homes there, the returnees' prospects of finding employment are dismal in view of North Ossetia's 50 percent unemployment rate.

All the factors outlined above suggest that the large- scale, Rubik's Cube-type repatriation proposed by Kalamanov is utopian. Even the return of smaller numbers of Ingush to Prigorodnyi Raion might spark new tensions and rivalries with the recent Ossetian settlers, thereby undermining the chances for a lasting reconciliation between the two ethnic groups.


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