Accessibility links

Newsline - May 7, 1998




KIRIENKO SAYS FINAL CABINET APPOINTMENTS TO COME SOON

Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko announced at a 7 May cabinet meeting that he will meet with President Boris Yeltsin on 8 May, after which the president will make final cabinet appointments, NTV reported. The posts still to be filled include the trade and industry minister, the nationalities minister, and the health minister. Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction in the State Duma, on 6 May denied rumors that he has been asked to head the newly created Trade and Industry Ministry, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The NDR has reportedly proposed Duma deputy Sergei Mitin for that post, although Shokhin has expressed doubts about the wisdom of creating a Trade and Industry Ministry that is separate from the Economics Ministry. LB

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA NOT HAPPY WITH CABINET APPOINTMENTS

Duma deputies Sergei Boskholov and Vitalii Linnik of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction say some NDR members are "perplexed" over how the new government is being formed, Interfax reported on 6 May. No Duma deputies from the NDR have been named to the cabinet, although the faction unanimously supported Kirienko's confirmation in the third and decisive vote in the Duma. In contrast, Russian Regions faction member Vladimir Goman is slated to become chairman of the State Committee on the North, and Yabloko member Oksana Dmitrieva was given the labor portfolio, even though Yabloko opposed Kirienko's confirmation in all three Duma votes. Several ministers are formally NDR members, such as Science and Technology Minister Vladimir Bulgak, Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, and Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, but they are not active in the movement. LB

ARE REGIONAL LEADERS DESERTING CHERNOMYRDIN'S MOVEMENT?

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 May that regional leaders are "running away" from the NDR now that its leader, Viktor Chernomyrdin, is no longer prime minister. Valerii Kokov, the president of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, has announced plans to resign as deputy chairman of the movement. Formally, Kokov said he is stepping down because Kabardino-Balkaria's constitution does not allow him to be a member of political parties and movements. But "Kommersant-Daily" noted that the restriction did not deter Kokov from holding a seat on the NDR council while Chernomyrdin was prime minister. The newspaper predicted that more leaders will follow Kokov's example, which will substantially weaken the influence of the NDR in the regions. Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, who is on the NDR political council, recently announced that he plans to create his own political party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1998). LB

MORE ON KARIMOV VISIT TO MOSCOW

Following talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 6 May, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said he was "completely satisfied with the results," Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said, "We agreed on everything." The two agreed to fight the spread of what the called "fundamentalism" both in Central Asia and the northern Caucasus, though neither elaborated on what form that cooperation would take. They did say both their countries would increase efforts to help Tajikistan, the third party in the fight against fundamentalism, recover following its five-year civil war. Yeltsin and Karimov expressed their alarm at renewed fighting in Afghanistan after the Afghan peace talks broke down earlier this week and called on the warring parties to resume negotiations. Concerning an agreement on the status of journalists, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said it would " liquidate the existing legal vacuum and create safer conditions for the work of Russian journalists in Uzbekistan." BP

DUMA MAY TRY TO FORCE CHUBAIS OUT OF NEW POST

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev says the Duma may ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to check the legality of the recent appointment of Anatolii Chubais as chief executive of the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES). According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 7 May, the Audit Chamber has already informed the prosecutor's office of its conclusion that numerous laws were broken during an extraordinary meeting of EES shareholders, which was held on 4 April. The chamber maintains that all decisions made at that meeting should be annulled, including the election of the EES board of directors. That board appointed Chubais on 30 April. The newspaper also claimed that a new law on the distribution of shares in EES, which Yeltsin is obliged to sign, would place the legality of Chubais's appointment in doubt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 30 April 1998). LB

READING PUBLIC FACES LONG WAIT FOR HISTORY OF PRIVATIZATION

A notorious book on the history of Russian privatization, which was at the center of a scandal that cost several officials their jobs last November, will not be published before late 1998 or early 1999. Aleksei Kostanyan, the top editor at the Vagrius publishing house, told Interfax on 6 May that the manuscript contained too much scientific jargon and has been sent back to the authors for revisions. Vagrius purchased the rights to the book from the Segodnya-Press publishing house, which paid then First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais and several of his political associates $90,000 each for writing the manuscript. Segodnya-Press is partly owned by Oneksimbank, the winner of two controversial privatization auctions in 1997. In a recent interview with the magazine "Novoe vremya," Chubais claimed that the book is in the "final stages" of editing and will be published between June and August. LB

ANOTHER POTENTIAL BIDDER LOSES INTEREST IN ROSNEFT

British Petroleum chief executive John Brown has said his company is unlikely to participate in an auction for a 75 percent stake in the oil company Rosneft, given the price being asked for the shares, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 May, citing Bloomberg Business News. Last November, British Petroleum agreed to become a minority shareholder in the Sidanko oil company, in which Oneksimbank has a controlling stake (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1998). The British firm and Oneksimbank were expected to submit a joint bid for the Rosneft auction, which is scheduled for later this month. The Russian government has set the starting price at some $2.1 billion, prompting other potential bidders to say they will not take part. The auction will be declared invalid if fewer than two bids are submitted for the Rosneft stake. LB

LUZHKOV SEEKS TO DELAY LAST TSAR'S FUNERAL

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has proposed postponing the funeral of Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. The government has scheduled the funeral for 17 July, the 80th anniversary of the murder of the tsar and his family in Yekaterinburg. Government officials say exhaustive testing has confirmed that the bones are those of the tsar's family, but the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed doubt about the authenticity of the "Yekaterinburg remains" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March1998). Luzhkov proposed interring the remains in a symbolic grave until their authenticity has been proven. Nicholas II is scheduled to be buried in St. Petersburg, the final resting place of every tsar since Peter the Great. Luzhkov, who has not previously expressed doubt about the authenticity of the remains, had lobbied for the funeral to be held in Moscow. LB

CHECHENS CONTINUE SEARCH FOR KIDNAPPED RUSSIAN ENVOY

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev told ITAR-TASS on 6 May that the release of kidnapped Russian envoy Valentin Vlasov was a "matter of honor" for Chechnya, but he said that there was as yet no progress to report in the search. But Chechnya's acting prime minister, Shamil Basaev, took a different position. He said on 6 May that there was no evidence yet that Vlasov had been kidnapped in Chechnya and that consequently his government was "not going to show special concern over what happened," ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, the Russian news agency reported, Chechen forces released two Dagestani policemen who had been kidnapped in November 1997. But in a sign that relations between Chechnya and Dagestan are anything but smooth, Dagestan's minister for nationalities and external relations, Magmetsalikh Gusaev, denounced the recent Chechen-promoted Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan as an "unfriendly act," ITAR-TASS said. PG

LEBED CONTESTS WARNINGS FROM ELECTORAL COMMISSION

Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed has filed a court appeal challenging the two warnings his gubernatorial campaign has received from the Krasnoyarsk Krai Electoral Commission, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 6 May. Lebed's supporters were accused of breaking the rules on printed campaign materials. The commission has accused other candidates of breaking the rules as well, and some commentators have predicted that those warnings may be used as a pretext to annul the election if Lebed wins the runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 1998). "Moskovskie novosti" claimed in its 3-10 May edition that Viktoriya Mitina, the deputy head of the presidential administration, and Yeltsin's representative in Krasnoyarsk both favor cancelling the election result in the event of a Lebed victory. LB

DUMA SPEAKER SLAMS LEBED

Duma Speaker Seleznev says "it will be a tragedy for Russia" if Lebed wins the gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 May. Seleznev compared Lebed to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and said his gubernatorial campaign is being financed with "dirty money." The Krasnoyarsk Krai branch of the Communist Party has called on its supporters to vote against both Lebed and incumbent Governor Valerii Zubov in the second round of the election, but Seleznev described that decision as having been made too "hastily," Interfax reported. Citing unnamed sources in the Communist Party leadership in Moscow, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said some Communist leaders have decided to provide "hidden support" for Zubov before the runoff election. Communist Gennadii Zyuganov recently drew an analogy between Lebed's gubernatorial bid and Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1998). LB

DUMA DEPUTY EXCLUDED FROM BASHKORTOSTAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

The Republic of Bashkortostan's Electoral Commission has revoked the registration of State Duma deputy Aleksandr Arinin as a candidate in the presidential election scheduled for 14 June, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 May. Officials say the republican branch of the Interior Ministry found that seven percent of the signatures endorsing Arinin's candidacy were invalid, which exceeds the amount allowed under the republican electoral law. But Arinin claimed at a Moscow press conference that police went from door to door and forced people to disavow their signatures in support of his candidacy. Arinin, a member of the Our Home Is Russia faction, blamed incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov, whom he described as "the top policeman in a police state." The Central Electoral Commission is sending a group of monitors to Bashkortostan to investigate the decision to exclude Arinin from the race. LB

NOVOSIBIRSK GOVERNOR DEMANDS PAYMENT FROM FEDS

Novosibirsk Oblast Governor Vitalii Mukha has announced plans to cut off deliveries of goods to federal facilities that owe debts to the oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 May. Novosibirsk is owed an estimated 900 million rubles ($146 million) from the federal authorities in unpaid state orders for foodstuffs and other goods. Mukha made the announcement after local trade unions organized a 5,000-person rally on 1 May in Novosibirsk. Union leaders warned the governor that if the situation does not improve, they will launch a general strike in the oblast at the end of the month. Krasnoyarsk Governor Zubov recently threatened to stop transferring tax payments to the federal budget if federal authorities do not pay their debts to his region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 May 1998). LB

BUDDHISTS IN BURYATIA STILL OUTRAGED

More than 1,000 Buddhists in held a demonstration in the Buryat capital Ulan-Ude on 6 May to protest the removal of an "Atlas of Tibetan Medicine" to the United States for a museum tour (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 May 1998), ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a commission from Russia's Interior Ministry has arrived in Ulan-Ude to investigate reports that local police used excessive force to clear Buddhist monks from blocking the removal of the book from the museum where it was kept. BP

LAW SCHOOL HEAD GETS LESSON ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Aleksandr Lbov, the head of the law school in the Vladimir Polytechnical University, has been arrested on charges of systematic bribe-taking, ITAR- TASS reported on 6 May. According to Yurii Yevtukhov, the senior investigator on the case, law students were expected to pay 50,000 to 100,000 old rubles ($8 - $16) in order to pass certain tests, while a high grade on exams cost 100,000 to 150,000 old rubles. LB




AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION MAY BOYCOTT PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

Five leading opposition figures released a joint statement on 5 May indicating that they would not participate in this fall's presidential elections if a new election law goes into effect, AFP reported on 6 May. Isa Gambar, Albufaz Elchibey, Lala Shovket, Ilyas Ismailov and Rasul Guliyev said the legislation gives the government of Heidar Aliyev an unfair advantage and will encourage vote fraud. Meanwhile, Aliyev granted amnesty to 81 convicts, including several involved in the attempted coup of October 1994, and he proposed a resolution to the parliament that would allow for pardoning 10,000 additional convicted criminals, Interfax reported. PG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT REINSTATES DASHNAK PARTY

President Robert Kocharian issued a decree on 6 May lifting a ban on the activities of the Dashnak Party that had been imposed by his predecessor in December 1994, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Dashnak leaders told RFE/RL that they were pleased by Kocharian's move because he did not suggest that the Dashnak's were ever in violation of the law, as the Justice Ministry had implied in February 1998 when it lifted the ban on the basis of a finding that the Dashnaks were now in compliance with the law. PG

ARMENIA: OUTSIDE PEACEKEEPERS MAY NOT BE NEEDED IN KARABAKH

Speaking in Bonn, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said on 6 May that there would be no need for any outside peacekeepers if all the parties to the conflict could reach agreement, Itar-Tass reported. In other comments, Oskanian praised Russia's role in helping to resolve the conflict and said that only proposals "without preliminary preconditions" have any chance of leading to a resolution of the conflict, an obvious swipe at the OSCE Minsk Group and the Lisbon Principles. PG

KAZAKH CAPITAL BECOMES 'CAPITAL'

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree on 6 May changing the name of the country's new capital from Akmola to Astana, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Nazarbayev said negative translations of the word "Akmola" prompted the move. The word can be translated as "white grave" or as Interfax reported on 6 May "white welfare." Astana, on the other hand, is the Kazakh word for "capital." When Kazakhstan became independent in 1991 the city was called Tselinograd. BP

UZBEKISTAN CUTS GAS SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN BY HALF

Uzbekistan has cut supplies of natural gas to regions in southern Kazakhstan by nearly half, according to RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS. The Belgian company Tractabel, which is responsible for purchasing gas from Uzbekistan and delivering it to customers in Kazakhstan, cited unpaid bills from consumers in Kazakhstan as the reason the company could not pay its Uzbek supplier. Supplies were reduced from 40,000 cubic meters per hour to 25,000. BP

KAZAKH PERIODICALS UNDER INVESTIGATION

Kazakhstan's Procurator General's office has opened investigations into some of the country's periodicals, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 6 May. The statement released by the office did not specify which periodicals were under investigation and added that the names would not be released to the public until the investigations were over. The office said the periodicals are under examination for inciting "racial, tribal, ethnic and religious hatred." BP




UKRAINE SIGNS NUCLEAR COOPERATION ACCORD WITH U.S.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer signed in Kyiv on 6 May a cooperation agreement on atomic energy, ITAR- TASS reported. Under the agreement, the United States will allot $30 million for working out technical documentation regarding the creation of a nuclear fuel cycle for VVER-1000 reactors in Ukraine. The United States has stipulated that Ukraine should not supply nuclear turbines for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran. "This accord will allow the development of the strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine," AFP quoted Tarasyuk as saying. JM

LEONID KUCHMA TO REPLACE 90 PERCENT OF REGIONAL LEADERS...

The Ukrainian president said at a meeting with administration chiefs of Chernihiv Oblast on 6 May that he intends to replace 90 percent of Ukraine's regional leaders, Interfax reported. "The governors' promises have nothing to do with what they actually do," Kuchma commented. JM

... TO ANNOUNCE 'UNPOPULAR DECISIONS' AT PARLIAMENT'S OPENING

The president also said he is going to address the nation at the parliament's opening on 12 May. His address will mostly deal with what he called "unpopular decisions" regarding the budget deficit and other budget figures, Interfax reported. JM

STRIKING MINERS THREATEN TO LAUNCH RIOTS

Striking coal miners in Ukraine threatened on 6 May to take to the streets. "Miners from the Luhansk region say they are ready to seize trains and move to Kyiv to beat people who do not want to pay their wages," Mykhaylo Volynets, head of the Ukrainian Independent Miners Trade Union, told Reuters. Volynets also said the strike over wage arrears has involved 130,000 miners from 57 mines on its fourth day. JM

COMMUNISTS TO HAVE LARGEST PARLIAMENTARY FACTION

The Communist Party will have the largest faction in the Ukrainian Supreme Council with 125 members, Ukrainian Television reported on 6 May. The Communists are followed by factions of the Popular Democratic Party (77 deputies), the Popular Rukh (51), and the Hromada party (41). JM

BELARUSIAN WOMEN ASK HILLARY CLINTON FOR HELP

Six Belarusian women, mothers or wives of persecuted opposition activists, presented U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Daniel Speckhard on 6 May with a letter to Hillary Clinton asking her for support for political prisoners and human rights activists in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The letter protests against political repression in Belarus and "the transformation of all of us into Lukashenka's voiceless slaves." It also states that since the beginning of 1997 the Belarusian authorities have subjected more than 1,500 people to different kinds of political repression. JM

PLANS DROPPED FOR EARLY ESTONIAN ELECTIONS

Estonia's ruling minority coalition government on 6 May decided not to call for early general elections, BNS reported. At the same time, Prime Minister Mart Siimann's party asked him to remain its leader, thus quashing speculation that he would resign in favor of someone else. PG

LATVIAN BOMBING DRAWS RUSSIAN PROTEST, LATVIAN PROMISES

The 4 May bombing of a World War II monument in Dobele, a Latvian city 70 kilometers south of Riga, prompted a sharp response from the Russian Foreign Ministry and a Latvian promise to bring those responsible to justice, Interfax and BNS reported. The Russian foreign ministry said that this act of vandalism was only a further link "in the same chain" of events that have marred Latvian-Russian relations so far this year. The Latvian government responded by saying that it would work to restore the monument before 9 May, the day Russians mark as the anniversary of the end of World War II. In a related development, 120 public organizations in the Kuzbas region denounced Latvia's policies toward its ethnic Russian residents, Itar-Tass reported on 6 May. PG

NATO AMBASSADORS CRITICIZE MOSCOW'S PRESSURE ON LATVIA

The ambassadors of NATO countries resident in Riga criticized on 6 May the Russian Federation's use of economic pressure on Latvia, BNS reported. They said that such pressure was inappropriate in the context of a search for solutions to any bilateral problems. Meanwhile, on the same day, U.S. and Latvian defense officials met to discuss how Riga can implement an American Defense Department plan to upgrade the Latvian military. PG

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES CITIZENSHIP LAW CHANGES

Acting on the advice of the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, the Latvian cabinet approved a change to the country's citizenship legislation that would grant citizenship to all children born in Latvian after 21 August 1991 regardless of the citizenship of their parents, the Riga newspaper "Diena" reported on 6 May. The only restriction is that the parents must have been living legally in Latvia for at least five years. The Latvian authorities had earlier proposed allowing such children to apply for citizenship at age 16 but Van der Stoel suggested that such an arrangement was inconsistent with international standards and would provoke a negative response in Europe. PG

NEW LITHUANIAN LAW TO BRING ARMY UP TO NATO STANDARDS

The Lithuanian parliament on 5 May passed a new national defense law intended to bring the country's military arrangements up to NATO standards, BNS reported. In another move with possible NATO implications, the leaders of Lithuania's Klaipeda region have signed a broad cooperation agreement with Poland's Olsztyn region that will increase contacts between Lithuania and a country that appears set to become a NATO country in the current round of expansion. PG

ROW ABOUT CONTROL OVER POLISH TELEVISION

The recent appointment of a new director of the Polish Television First Program has incited a harsh squabble between Polish right- and left-wing politicians, "Zycie Warszawy" reported on 7 April. The Polish Television Supervisory Board, which was formed under the former, left-wing government, is widely believed to be dominated by leftists. The ruling coalition accuses them of making politically biased appointments to key television posts. Jan Litynski, a parliamentarian from the coalition Freedom Union, told "Zycie Warszawy" that the leftists treat television as their "private farm," and called for "taking into account the existence of different political forces." JM

HAVEL RETURNS TO PRAGUE

Czech President Vaclav Havel flew back to Prague on 6 May from Austria. Havel walked from the ambulance plane and was greeted by Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky and other officials. Havel, who underwent emergency abdominal surgery on 14 April and had two successive operations while in hospital, will spend at least the next 10 days in a military hospital. He will need another operation, once he has recuperated, to remove an artificial bowel. The head of Havel's medical council, Miroslav Cerbak, said that the operation would probably not take place until after the parliamentary elections scheduled for 19 and 20 June. PB

FREEDOM HOUSE DEFENDS LOW RATING OF SLOVAKIA'S PRESS

Leonard Sussman, the director of the U.S.-based organization Freedom House, said that an evaluation of the Slovak media as being "partially free" is justified, TASR reported on 7 May. Sussman said a "fundamental change of relations between government and media must take place" before the rating would be upgraded. Sussman did say that there is "lively" media in Slovakia, but added that many journalists in Slovakia complain of not being completely free. Several media organizations had complained about the designation when it was released on 1 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1998). PB

HORN ATTACKS RIGHTIST PARTIES AS CAMPAIGN HEATS UP

Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn told voters that they have a choice in the upcoming elections between a "European left" and an "outdated, hateful, shifting alliance of the right," Reuters reported on 6 May. Horn, speaking to a crowd of about 1,000 trade union supporters, said he was "afraid for this country" if right- wing parties such as the Independent Smallholders Party and the nationalist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) were to join a governing coalition. The Federation of Young Democrats, which is running second behind Horn's Socialists in opinion polls, distanced itself from the MIEP by issuing a statement saying it had nothing to do with the extremist party or its ideology. Former Polish President Lech Walesa was in Hungary over the weekend campaigning with Viktor Orban and the Young Democrats. Some 1,602 candidates and 26 parties will contest the election, which will be decided in two rounds, the first one on 10 May and the second round two weeks later. At stake are the 386 seats in the unicameral parliament. PB




NATO SAYS NO TROOPS TO ALBANIA...

NATO ambassadors agreed at their weekly meeting in Brussels on 6 May to reject again Albania's calls for the alliance to establish a presence on that country's border with Kosova. An unnamed spokesman nonetheless told AFP that the alliance will try to help Albania help itself within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program. The spokesman added that NATO is "taking a second look" at an Italian proposal to hold maneuvers in Albania. Europe's poorest country wants a NATO presence because it is in no position to defend itself; its military has not recovered from the ravages of last year's anarchy. Albania's border with Kosova is mountainous and difficult to control completely. Tirana also feels that a NATO presence would deprive Belgrade of the excuse that its crackdown in the border region is a response to provocations from the Albanian side of the frontier. PM

...BUT PARIS, BONN WEIGH OPTIONS

Unnamed German government officials told Reuters at the Franco-German summit in Avignon on 7 May that the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries are considering forms of military as well as political and economic pressure to end clashes in Kosova. The spokesmen added that France and Germany are seeking ways to pressure Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's government in particular. The officials stated that German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe believes that there are more ways of bringing military pressure to bear than just by helping Albania in the context of Partnership for Peace. PM

CLINTON WILL NOT RULE OUT GROUND TROOPS FOR KOSOVA

U.S. President Bill Clinton told a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi in Washington on 6 May that he does not rule out any options to help quell fighting in Kosova. "I don't think we can rule out any options because we don't want another Bosnia to happen," the president said. He added that the Serbs and Kosovars "obviously need to sit down and talk through how the legitimate aspirations of the Kosova Albanians can somehow be manifest in giving them some measure of self- government and decision-making authority over their lives within the framework of Serbia." Clinton stated that Italy should not be put in a position of having to "send troops to every one of its neighboring countries, [nor should] the United States [have] to send troops every time there's a dispute in that part of the world." PM

GELBARD WARNS ON KOSOVA

Robert Gelbard, who is U.S. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on 6 May that Belgrade has totally mishandled the Kosova question and helped turn it into an international issue. He added that the United States. and its allies will not just watch as repression continues and violence escalates, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Gelbard stressed that delays in starting a dialogue will only benefit the extremists on both sides and hurt ordinary people. The envoy did not rule out new sanctions against Serbia, but said that Montenegro might be exempted from the measures. PM

UCK TO TAKE WAR TO BELGRADE?

Spokesmen for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) told the BBC on 6 May that they would consider it an honor "to die for Kosova." When the reporter asked them if they plan to take the war to Belgrade in the manner in which the IRA took its campaign of violence to the British mainland, the spokesmen said that they rule out nothing in order to achieve their goal of an independent Kosova. In Kosova itself, low-level violence continues to claim several lives daily across the province. PM

DJUKANOVIC: SANCTIONS NOT THE WAY

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told a press conference in Vienna on 6 May that blanket sanctions against Yugoslavia hurt the reformers and innocent people as well as the regime, "Die Presse" wrote. Sanctions, he continued, enable Milosevic to blame the international community for Yugoslavia's problems and to increase repressive measures at home, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" added. Djukanovic urged the international community instead to actively support the democratic forces in Yugoslavia. He said that he has no intention of taking Montenegro out of the Yugoslav federation but only of changing Milosevic's policies, which, he continued, are the root of Yugoslavia's problems. Djukanovic stated that Milosevic has tried hard to defeat the reformers in Montenegro, but that Djukanovic and team have prevailed. The Montenegrin leader stressed that his people will resist Serbian efforts to whip up popular support for a conflict in Kosova. PM

PLAVSIC DETAINED AT VIENNA AIRPORT

Border police held Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic for one hour at Schwechat airport on 6 May because of a 1995 arrest warrant that they believed the Hague-based war crimes tribunal had issued for complicity in genocide, Radio Austria International reported. The police allowed her to continue on her way to London after judges at the tribunal told Austrian Interpol in a phone call that the court had never issued such a warrant. At Schwechat, Plavsic's staff also secured the intervention of Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, to help free Plavsic, "Nasa Borba" wrote. Plavsic subsequently expressed her displeasure over the incident. She visited Austria in February as the official guest of Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel. PM

NANO FREEZES BUDGET OVER KOSOVA

Prime Minister Fatos Nano ordered stiff budget cuts on 6 May so that Albania will have some extra cash reserves because of the deteriorating situation in Kosova. Nano argued that "assistance for northern Albania, [which includes] transport and lodging and feeding [refugees], requires extra budget expenses." He added that "in case of a growing influx [of refugees], many ministries will need to considerably reduce their daily expenses and to limit their new investments." Immediate measure include cuts on foreign travel for government officials, personnel reductions, a ban on buying new official cars, and limitations on government use of electric energy, telephone and fuel. In addition, Nano ordered budget reviews for every four months to reassess the financial situation, "Koha Jone" reported. Customs revenues have proven lower than anticipated in the original budget, partly due to smuggling. Tax evasion also places a heavy burden on the budget. FS

GUNMEN HIJACK NANO'S CAR

Unidentified gunmen stole the official car of Fatos Nano on 5 May in Tirana. The large black Mercedes limousine is easily identifiable as the prime minister's car by its license plate. The driver was alone in the vehicle at the moment of the carjacking. Despite increased police controls, robbers continue to steal luxury cars regularly. Earlier this year, robbers shot and injured a EU monitor and two British diplomats in separate carjacking attempts in and around Tirana (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 14 April 1998). FS

MOLDOVA'S PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE SEEKS HUGE GROWTH

Ion Ciubuc said on 6 May that his proposed government will aim to expand the economy by 8 percent this year, Reuters reported. Ciubuc was addressing parliament after being formally nominated as prime minister by President Petru Lucinschi, who said the incumbent should "act more resolutely...maintain tough discipline, and pay more attention to solving macroeconomic problems." Ciubuc has two weeks to present a government for parliament's approval. Ciubuc pledged that relations with international financial institutions would "become more clear and definite." An envoy from the International Monetary Fund arrived in Chisinau on 7 May to discuss reopening a credit that was suspended last year after the parliament blocked proposed reforms in agriculture and industry. PB

BULGARIA PREMIER REFUSES EU REQUEST TO CLOSE NUCLEAR PLANT

Ivan Kostov rejected a European Union proposal to close certain sections of the controversial Kozloduy nuclear power plant due to safety concerns, AFP reported on 6 May. Kostov, who recently returned from Germany, claimed that German Chancellor Helmut Kohl supports his decision not to shut down the plant's two oldest reactors. Bulgaria has spent over $100 million in repairs on the plant and claims the plant no longer poses a danger, despite its Soviet design. Kostov said he has requested that the EU perform a new inspection of the plant, claiming the proposal that it be closed is based on outdated information. PB

RULING WOULD LEAD TO RESTORATION OF BULGARIAN ROYALS' PROPERTY

Public prosecutor Ivan Tatartchev has ruled that a 1947 law that nationalized the property of the Bulgarian royal family is unconstitutional, AFP reported on 5 May. Bulgaria's former monarch, King Simeon II, said from his exiled home in Madrid that he was pleased that the restitution process could begin. Simeon has repeatedly called for property to be returned and the monarchy to be restored, but received no support from previous governments. Simeon was forced to leave Bulgaria by the Communists at age six. He returned for the first time in 1996. PB




READING FUNDAMENTALISM RIGHT


By Paul Goble

Many Central Asian leaders have failed to recognize that repressive policies are more likely to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism in their countries than to weaken or destroy it.

That they should make such a fundamental error is not surprising given their experiences in Soviet times, their desires to remain in power regardless of the consequences, and the often uncritical support they have received from Russia and the West for just such an approach.

But at least some Western leaders appear to be changing their views on this point. And that shift is likely to have major consequences for the policies of Central Asian governments over the longer term, even if -- as seems certain -- this change in the West will have little or no impact in the near term.

Two weeks ago, the current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislav Geremek, met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss how Tashkent is coping with a rising tide of Muslim activism both in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia.

As he has before, Karimov insisted that Islamic fundamentalism was the main threat to stability in his country and across the region, that such a movement could either destabilize the situation as in Tajikistan or bring to power a theocratic regime as in Iran. And he further argued that the West must understand the need to take strong, even repressive measures against such Muslim activists.

In the past, such arguments often were sufficient to forestall most criticism from Western leaders who themselves fear instability or Iranian radicalism. But in a meeting that his spokesmen characterized as "frank," Geremek responded to Karimov in a way that suggests that era may be ending.

During his April 20 meeting with the Uzbek president, the Polish foreign minister pointed out that in many Muslim countries, government moves against what some call politicized Islam and others Islamic fundamentalism had actually strengthened these groups. Indeed, Geremek suggested, in many cases, such extremists had no chance to win power unless they were perceived as being persecuted.

Geremek's argument is interesting in three respects. First, it is not directly about human rights. Instead, it is about stability and thus challenges the claims of Karimov and others that their policies will work to control the situation. Second, it suggests that governments bear a heavy responsibility for how much Islamic fundamentalism there is: If they are repressive, there will be more. If they are not, there will be less of it.

And third, by focusing on the responsibility of individual governments for dealing with Islamic challenges, Geremek's argument undercuts those both in Uzbekistan and elsewhere who suggest that Islamic fundamentalism is spreading out like a tidal wave from Iran or Algeria or Afghanistan or some other center of infection.

Not surprisingly, Karimov has not been led to change his position overnight. Last Friday, for example, he told his country's parliament that Muslim activists were so danger that they "must be shot in the head." And he added that "if you lack the resolve, I'll shoot them myself." Unless the parliament was prepared to follow his lead, Karimov continued, "Tajikistan will come to Uzbekistan tomorrow."

In response, Uzbekistan's rubber-stamp parliament adopted a new "freedom of conscience" law that requires all religious groups with more than 100 members and all mosques to register with the state. This measure will give legal cover to what a variety of Western human rights groups, Western journalists and Western governments have described as Tashkent's increasingly repressive policies toward Islam.

Many officials across Central Asia undboutedly still feel that they have no choice but to follow Karimov's line, especially since until recently, they could count on nearly unanimous sympathy for such a position from both Russia and the West.

But now that Geremek has spoken out, perhaps ever more people there and elsewhere will begin to understand what a mistake it can be to purchase short-term control at the cost of long-term stability. And to the extent that happens, they can begin to correct a mistake that has already given rise to so many tragic consequences.


XS
SM
MD
LG