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Newsline - June 4, 1998




RUSSIAN MARKETS RECOVER FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY...

Russian stock markets recovered for the second day on 3 June, giving the government a breathing space in which to deal with the country's financial crisis. In an auction of short-term Treasury bills, the government raised 5.83 billion rubles ($950 million), Russian news agencies reported. Most observers consider the auction to be a crucial sign that investor's confidence will soon reappear following last week's panic. Up for sale were three types of T-bills, including a seven-day bill, the shortest-ever issued in Russia. The auction was judged a "moderate success" by market operators, and leading share prices rose 11 percent, after increasing 12 percent on 2 June, Interfax reported. The ruble remained stable at 6.15 to the U.S. dollar on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange. The Finance Ministry also sold $1.25 billion in Eurobonds to international investors. FF

...WHILE KIRIENKO PRESSES FOR ACCESS TO EUROPEAN MARKETS

On a two-day visit to Paris originally scheduled by his predecessor, Viktor Chernomyrdin, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has met with President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Kirienko said he is visiting France to press for "equal access to EU markets" rather than to obtain any "concrete aid," Interfax reported on 3 June. Kirienko asked that France recognize Russia as a market economy nation, with all the access to European markets that status would imply. The following day, he assured French business representatives that Russia will meticulously meet its commitments to repaying foreign debts, according to ITAR-TASS. Interfax reported on 3 June that President Boris Yeltsin has endorsed Chirac's proposal on developing a Russian-French automobile construction project. PG/LF

POCHINOK NAMED TO NEW GOVERNMENT POST

Aleksandr Pochinok has been named head of the government's Department of Finance and Credit Regulation, Russian news agencies reported on 3 June. Pochinok was fired last week as head of the Federal Tax Service and replaced by former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1998). On 2 June, Yeltsin sharply criticized tax collection efforts during April and May and said he fired Pochinok because of the latter's "inert" work. However, announcing the new appointment, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko praised Pochinok as a "high- level expert in his field," according to ITAR-TASS. In his new post, Pochinok will be in charge of analyzing and forecasting the government's economic policy. "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 June reported that Pochinok will also oversee the tax service. FF

YASTRZHEMBSKII AGAIN HINTS THAT YELTSIN MAY RUN IN 2000...

Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 3 June hinted again that Yeltsin may seek a third term in the next presidential election. Yastrzhembskii told Russia's TV-Center that the issue of Yeltsin's participation in the election, scheduled for June 2000, "remains open." Yeltsin has repeatedly said he will "drop out of the election contest." However, most observers in Moscow argue that the president's renewed activities since the government's 23 March reshuffle indicate that running again remains an option and that conflicting statements are aimed at testing public response. Yastrzhembskii noted Yeltsin's statements "clearly signal he has not made a final decision." Under the constitution, an individual may hold the presidency for only two terms, but Kremlin officials argue that Yeltsin's first term does not count since it began before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the issue later this year. FF

...WHILE BUSINESSMEN SEEM IMPRESSED BY PRESIDENT'S PERFORMANCE

Some of Russia's financial leaders and industrial tycoons who met with Yeltsin in the Kremlin on 2 June told "Kommersant-Daily" that they were impressed by the president's performance during the one- and-a-half-hour meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1998). Media-Most Director-General Vladimir Gusinskii said that "for the first time," he saw that Yeltsin "was completely involved with economic problems." According to Gusinskii, Yeltsin "does not listen to opinions but has his own position. This is a big difference [from the past]." According to Vladimir Potanin, head of the Interros- Oneximbank group, Yeltsin's understanding of Russia's current economic crisis "is absolutely adequate to the situation." And Aleksandr Smolenskii, chairman of the SBS- Agro bank, suggested that Yeltsin may have called the so- called oligarchs to the Kremlin "in order to share responsibility" for Russia's financial difficulties. FF

YELTSIN POSTPONES MEETING WITH UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT

Although Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said recent economic problems were not sufficient to keep him from going to Paris, Boris Yeltsin cited precisely those difficulties in a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma seeking a delay in their informal summit scheduled for later this month. The Russian president also pointed to the need to travel to various parts of Russia. PG

MOSCOW CALLS FOR WORLD EFFORT AGAINST PROLIFERATION

First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 3 June said that the international community must move quickly to prevent a "chain reaction of nuclear testings in South Asia and beyond," ITAR-TASS reported. Many countries, he suggested, could quickly become nuclear states if the world does not take forceful steps to prevent that from happening. Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told Interfax the same day that Russia does not regard India or Pakistan as a member of the nuclear club. And Russian Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Georgii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS that Russian experts do not believe North Korea has a bomb. "Izvestiya" on 4 June argued that Russia should propose a global anti- ballistic missile system under the aegis of the UN but at the same time ensure that its own theater ABM system is reliable "in the face of potential regional crises in the Near East, the Korean peninsula, and southern Asia." PG

DUMA CLEARS WAY FOR START II HEARINGS

The Duma on 3 June failed to pass a resolution proposed by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky calling for the cancellation of hearings on the ratification of the arms control accord, Interfax reported. Only 149 deputies voted for the measure, far short of the 226 needed. Consequently, the committee hearings remain scheduled for 9 June. In other parliamentary news, the Duma rejected a bill calling for cooperation with Taiwan, approved on first reading a law laying out plans for sweeping military reforms, and passed a law regulating the legal status of foreigners on Russian soil. PG

RUSSIA IN COMPLIANCE WITH CFE LIMITS

A team of Greek military experts have inspected military facilities in the Moscow military district and found no violations of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 June. PG

DUMA DENOUNCES YELTSIN MEDIA DECREE

The Duma passed on 3 June a non-binding address to Yeltsin protesting his decree that would put radio and television broadcasting facilities under the control of a single state agency, ITAR-TASS reported. Such a measure, the appeal said, would violate freedom of speech and make it impossible for opposition deputies to receive air time either in Moscow or in the provinces. PG

INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS JOIN PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION

Three generals have been added to the Russian Security Council, Interfax reported on 3 June. Lieutenant-General Vladimir Potapov will oversee the military's general development. Lieutenant-General Grigorii Rapota of the Foreign Intelligence Service (FSB) will monitor international security. And Colonel-General Aleksei Molyakov, also of the FSB, will deal with internal security. In other developments, FSB officers Nikolai Petrushev and Viktor Zorin have been added to the presidential administration, replacing the heads of the comptroller's office and the special program board, respectively. PG

GAZPROM MAKES ECONOMIC, POLITICAL MOVES

Russia's gas giant on 3 June acquired a 13.2 percent stake in the country's second biggest bank, Inkombank, Russian news agencies reported. It repeated that it is considering purchasing Rosneft and announced plans to expand exploration for more natural gas. Gazprom also cut gas supplies to Yugoslavia because Belgrade has not paid for gas already supplied and threatened to cut supplies to Tatarstan as of 8 June for the same reason. Finally, Gazprom's Moscow offices served as the venue for continuing conversations among Russian leading businessmen on how to overcome the country's economic difficulties. PG/LF

SUPREME COURT HEAD URGES REPEAL OF DEATH PENALTY

Vyacheslav Lebedev, the chief judge of Russia's Supreme Court, told Interfax on 3 June that the Duma should abolish the death penalty. He said that Russia must do so in order to keep its pledge to the Council of Europe in January 1996. No Russians have been executed since August 1996, but Russian courts continue to sentence people to death under existing law, and nearly 1,000 convicts are still on death row. PG

TAX POLICE HELP PAY WAGE ARREARS TO MINERS

The Federal Tax Police have transferred nearly 27 million rubles ($4.39 million) to accounts that will allow a Rostov coal concern to pay back wages to miners there, ITAR- TASS reported on 3 June. The funds were seized in the course of tax investigations, some of which may lead to indictments, according to the news agency. The same day, the Russian government sent funds to pay back wages to miners in the Kuzbass region. And the Duma passed a non- binding resolution calling on the executive to consider "raising pay for workers of public sector organizations." The Duma noted that past failures to index those wages to inflation means that almost 98 percent of all such workers have incomes at the subsistence level or below. PG

WAR GAMES IN DAGESTAN POSTPONED

Military maneuvers scheduled to take place in Dagestan from 5-7 June (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 14, 2 June 1998) have been postponed until July because of the "tense situation" in the republic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 June, quoting an officer of the North Caucasus Military District. On 21 May, supporters of Union of Muslims of Russia chairman Nadirshakh Khachilaev temporarily occupied the government building in Makhachkala to demand the government's resignation. Elections to the Constitutional Assembly are scheduled for 7 June. LF

RANSOM DEMANDED FOR UNHCR OFFICIAL

The abductors of Vincent Cochetel, who was abducted in North Ossetia earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 1998), have demanded $1.5 million for his release, Interfax reported on 3 June. North Ossetian Interior Ministry officials say Cochetel is being held hostage in Chechnya. LF




BEREZOVSKII MEDIATES IN SUKHUMI...

CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii held talks in Sukhumi on 3 June with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, Interfax reported. Berezovskii told journalists before the meeting that "vast potential" for resolving the conflict exists, given that both Ardzinba and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze have demonstrated the "political will" to do so. Ardzinba, for his part, said he is ready to meet with Shevardnadze, but without preconditions. Shevardnadze has said such a meeting is contingent on Abkhazia's compliance with the 25 May protocol on a cease-fire and on the return of Georgian fugitives to Gali Raion. Also on 3 June, the Abkhaz and Georgian special envoys continued talks in Moscow aimed at preparing the agenda for an Ardzinba-Shevardnadze meeting. LF

... AND TBILISI

Following talks with Berezovskii in Tbilisi later the same day, Shevardnadze said that the CIS executive secretary's ability to influence the outcome of the conflict is limited as "the CIS peacekeeping force in the region is not subordinate to him," Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze added that Berezovskii was appointed to his present position solely in order to prepare for the CIS fall summit and that "if even [just] one president has any complaints to make," Berezovskii will be fired. In Moscow, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov hinted that the CIS peacekeepers will be withdrawn after their mandate expires on 31 July if there is no political progress toward a settlement and if they continue to be subjected to "slander and lies." Georgia has claimed that the peacekeeping force supplied Abkhaz Interior Ministry troops with heavy artillery, while Abkhazia says they failed to curtail the activities of Georgian guerrilla units in Gali. LF

U.S. TO GIVE AID FOR GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS

Following a meeting in Tbilisi on 3 June with Shevardnadze, U.S. Special Envoy to the Newly Independent States Stephen Sestanovich said the U.S. will give Georgia $3.1 million in aid for the ethnic Georgians forced to flee their homes in Gali during the recent fighting. Sestanovich said the replacement of the CIS peacekeeping force in Gali is impossible without the written agreement of both Georgia and Abkhazia. (Abkhaz special envoy Anri Djergenia said on 1 June that Sukhumi will not request the CIS peacekeepers' withdrawal.) Sestanovich also said he does not believe a Bosnia-style peace enforcement operation is appropriate to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, according to Interfax. LF

KARABAKH PRESIDENT TO ACCEPT PREMIER'S RESIGNATION

Arkadii Ghukasian told journalists in Stepanakert on 3 June that he will shortly accept Prime Minister Leonard Petrosian's resignation, which the latter tendered several weeks ago, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ghukasian said that Petrosian's decision to resign was prompted by differences with other cabinet members over economic policies, rather than by personal friction. Armenian media had claimed that Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan had pressured Petrosian to resign because of his own ambition to become prime minister (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 14, 2 June 1998). Ghukasian said that most government members want him to combine the posts of president and prime minister, but he has not yet decided whether to do so. LF

KARABAKH DIPLOMACY UPDATE

EU Commissioner for Foreign Relations Hans van den Broek and U.S. special envoy Sestanovich met separately with Armenian President Robert Kocharian in Yerevan on 2-3 June, respectively, to discuss the OSCE Minsk Group's attempt to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Russian and Armenian agencies reported. Both officials expressed support for direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert. Meeting on 30 May in Beirut with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, French President Jacques Chirac expressed support for Armenia's insistence on a "package" peace plan rather than the "phased" variant proposed last year by the Minsk Group co-chairman, Noyan Tapan and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Turan on 2 June quoted Azerbaijani Presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-zade as hinting that Azerbaijan might accept a "package" peace plan that preserved the country's territorial integrity. LF

AZERBAIJAN REBUKES FRANCE OVER GENOCIDE RESOLUTION

Meeting on 3 June with a visiting French government delegation, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev expressed his displeasure at the resolution passed on 29 May by the French National Assembly recognizing the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Interfax and Reuters reported. Aliyev termed the French parliament vote "unfair" and reprehensible, given France's position as one of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen. He said that the 1992 killing of Azerbaijanis by Armenians in the village of Khojali similarly constituted "genocide." LF

KAZAKH COURT UPHOLDS RULING AGAINST OPPOSITION LEADER

The Almaty city court on 3 June upheld a district court ruling sentencing a leader of Kazakhstan's Workers Movement, Madel Ismailov, to one year in jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998), ITAR- TASS reported. Ismailov was found guilty of insulting the honor and dignity of the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. BP




UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT SPEAKER FOR FOURTH TIME...

In a fourth round of voting for parliamentary speaker, Social Democrat Leonid Kravchuk received 193 votes, Communist Petro Symonenko 168, and Hromada party candidate Mykola Haber 31, Ukrainian Television reported. Eight deputies voted against all three candidates. Since none of the candidates gained the necessary 226 votes, the election was declared invalid. The four right-centrist parties that until now have abstained from taking part in the election supported Kravchuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 1998). JM

...WHILE PRESIDENT THREATENS TO FORM LEFTIST GOVERNMENT

Leonid Kuchma on 3 June said that if either Socialist Oleksandr Moroz or Communist Petro Symonenko is elected parliamentary speaker, he will ask the successful candidate to form the Cabinet of Ministers and assume responsibility for "the entire nation," Interfax reported. "That will be a horrible experiment, but without this experiment it would be simply impossible to dot all the 'i's.'" Kuchma commented. Kuchma added that Kravchuk could be a "proper" speaker. In his opinion, the leaders of the main parliamentary groups should agree on a "package solution" to electing a speaker and his deputies. JM

KUCHMA MEETS VATICAN SECRETARY OF STATE

The Ukrainian president on 3 June met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, who is currently on an official visit to Ukraine, Ukrainian Television reported. Both officials noted "the deepening of relations between the two states." Ukraine has 4.5 million Uniates (Eastern rite Catholics loyal to Rome) and 500,000 Roman Catholics. One of Sodano's goals was to discuss a possible visit by Pope John Paul II to Ukraine. The cardinal told Ukrainian Television that the pope's visit is "a question of the future.... I am sure that the pope will come because he wants to and he continually mentions Ukraine in his prayers." JM

UNCLAIMED PRIVATIZATION VOUCHERS TO GO TO BUDGET

Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko on 3 June said that the government has decided to transfer to the Ministry of Industrial Policy those privatization vouchers that were not claimed by Ukrainian citizens, ITAR-TASS reported. The unclaimed vouchers are worth more than 2.2 billion hryvni. Pustovoytenko believes they can be put into circulation and result in budget revenues worth 22 million hryvni in the near future. JM

YOUNG BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST RELEASED

Pavel Sevyarynets, the leader of the opposition Belarusian Youth Front, was unexpectedly released from jail on 3 June on his own recognizance. The previous day, the authorities had extended his jail sentence by one month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1998), and Sevyarynets had been preparing to launch a hunger strike, Belapan reported. Sevyarynets has agreed not to leave his hometown of Vitsebsk until an investigation into his case has been completed. He is charged with "malicious hooliganism" during the 2 April rally protesting the Russia-Belarus union and faces a maximum prison sentence of five years. RFE/RL Belarusian Service reported that the release order came from the Belarusian Security Council. JM

BELARUS EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT INDIAN, PAKISTANI NUCLEAR TESTS

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expressing "alarm and concern" over recent nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan, "Zvyazda" reported on 3 June. The statement calls on all countries with nuclear military programs to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty if they have not already done so and to draw up a treaty banning the production of fissionable materials for nuclear weapons. The ministry also repeated Belarus's proposal to create a nuclear-free zone in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE. According to that proposal, all non-nuclear countries would undertake not to have nuclear weapons deployed on their territory. JM

LATVIAN PRESIDENT URGES ADOPTION OF AMENDMENTS TO CITIZENSHIP LAW

Guntis Ulmanis has urged the parliament to adopt the government's proposals for amending the citizenship law before the end of the legislature's spring session, BNS reported on 3 June. In a statement issued one day before the parliament is scheduled to vote on those amendments, Ulmanis said their adoption would be a "sign that we ourselves create the policy of inclusion of noncitizens in our country. Nothing could be more dangerous than leaving the integration of noncitizens to drift." Latvia's Way, the National Reform Party, and the Farmers' Union/Christian-Democrats have all said they will support the amendments, and the Democratic Party Saimnieks is expected to give its backing. The Fatherland and Freedom party has said it will vote against the amendments, but "Diena" speculates that opposition support may be sufficient for them to pass. JC

DEADLOCK CONTINUES OVER POLAND'S SCREENING PROCESS

Right- and left-wing deputies are winding up the parliamentary discussion over the procedure for screening top state officials, "Zycie Warszawy" reported on 4 June. Under the 1997 screening law, officials are obliged to submit written declarations as to whether they collaborated with the Communist-era secret services. The ruling coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union proposes to appoint a public interest watchdog and have the Warsaw Appeals Court review the declarations. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance, however, is strongly opposed to those proposals. The current deadlock has resulted from the refusal by judges to sit on a screening panel, which is stipulated in the 1997 law. The voting on the proposed amendments to the law is expected this week. JM

CZECH ELECTION CAMPAIGN OFFICIALLY STARTS

A two-week official election campaign officially started in the Czech Republic on 3 June, Reuters reported. Former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told a rally of his Civic Democratic Party in Prague that the campaign "is about keeping our freedoms and democracy." Christian Democratic Union chairman Josef Lux told journalists in Prostejov, southern Moravia, that he "firmly believes" a coalition between his party, the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), and the Freedom Union is a "realistic possibility" after the elections. Both Milos Zeman, the leader of the CSSD, and Freedom Union chairman Jan Ruml have rejected that idea. The far-right Republican Party on 3 June announced it will field candidates in every electoral district, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARY'S ORBAN REBUFFS SMALLHOLDERS

Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) chair Viktor Orban on 3 June told the party's parliamentary group that development of the provinces cannot be the "fiefdom" of a single party. His remarks came after repeated calls by the Independent Smallholders (FKGP) for control of a "super-ministry" for the development of the countryside in the new government coalition. Orban said it is inconceivable that the provinces would belong to one party and the rest of the country to another. He concluded that even if FIDESZ-MPP starts coalition talks with the FKGP next week, his party will still be the most powerful in Hungary's cabinet. Orban's chief of staff, Andor Nagy, said Orban is not averse to meeting with FKGP chairman Jozsef Torgyan, but the meeting can take place only after preparatory talks. MSZ




REFUGEES CONTINUE TO POUR INTO ALBANIA

Thousands of Kosovar refugees continue to stream into Albania to escape the artillery barrage leveled against several villages in northwestern Kosova over the last five days. Milaim Cengo, an official of the Tropoje region, said there is a constant flow of people arriving in the region. The Kosovar refugees are now being forced to go to Bajram Curri because Tropoje is overwhelmed with people. "Koha Jone" reported that some 10,000 Kosovars fled to Albania by 3 June. "Shekulli," however, quotes an unnamed Interior Ministry official as saying that 15,000 have arrived so far and that tens of thousands more are on their way. The same day, a government delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Bashkim Fino left for northern Albania to assess the needs of the refugees. FS/PB

ALBANIAN PREMIER CALLS ON NATO FOR HELP...

In a letter sent to NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 3 June, Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano asked the alliance to step up its involvement in northern Albania. Nano asked for NATO to supply food and medicine to refugees who have crossed into Albania. He added: "I am convinced that the time has now come in which the international community must not only share our concerns but also act united and with force to ensure the protection of Kosova's innocent citizens and of peace in the region." Nano also said that "Serbian commando teams" have made incursions into Albania to "scout the area." Meanwhile, the Socialist Party's Foreign Relations Secretary, Maqo Lakrori, told a press conference in Tirana the same day that the armed resistance of Kosova Albanians is "legitimate self-defense against Serbian repression and massacres" and the only protection against "ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians," "Koha Jone" reported. FS/PB

...WHILE ALLIANCE SAYS THOROUGH PLANNING NEEDED

Solana said on 3 June that NATO is keeping "all options open" in regard to the tense situation in Kosova. The alliance's 16 permanent ambassadors, meeting in Brussels, agreed they will send reconnaissance teams to Macedonia and Albania to review plans for any troop deployment but that any military operation will have to be thoroughly planned, AFP reported. NATO defense ministers will meet in Brussels on 11 June for further discussions. At a meeting in Palermo, the foreign ministers of 12 European countries warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to stop the killing. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said Milosevic "has to learn that he will be hit with strong measures." U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said at a press conference in Washington with his British counterpart, George Robertson, that military action is a "last resort" for dealing with the crisis. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said that the U.S. could reimpose some economic sanctions if the violence continues. PB

RUGOVA APPEALS TO ITALY FOR HELP

Kosovar Albanian shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova was in Rome on 3 June for talks with Italian officials. Rugova was reportedly trying to get Rome to put pressure on Yugoslav President Milosevic to stop the violence. Skender Hyseni, a Rugova spokesman, said the renewed violence is a "bad omen" that ethnic cleansing has begun. In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross asked Serbian authorities on 3 June for "immediate and unimpeded access" to the Decan area of Kosova, where most of the violence took place. Reports from refugees arriving in Albania claim that thousands of people are either walking toward the border or hiding in the forests. PB

BELGRADE-PRISHTINA TALKS TO CONTINUE?

Fehmi Agani, the head of the Kosovar Albanian negotiating team, said on 3 June that talks between ethnic Albanian Kosova leaders and Yugoslav officials could begin on 5 June. But he added that the talks and hopes for finding a peaceful solution to the crisis are jeopardized by the deterioration of the situation since the latest Serbian offensive in the Decan region, Beta reported. PB

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL WANTS FORCE IN MACEDONIA STRENGTHENED

Kofi Annan said in a report to the UN Security Council on 3 June that he recommends "an expanded international presence in the region." Annan noted that in light of the upsurge in violence in Kosova, the 750 UN troops in Macedonia have increased patrols along the border with the Serbian province, established around the clock observation posts, and started boat patrols on the Ohrid and Prespa lakes. He said such increased activity cannot be sustained over a long period at the present troop strength. PB

BOSNIAN SERB, MUSLIM-CROAT POLICE SIGN COOPERATION ACCORD

Muslim-Croat Federation Interior Minister Mehmet Zilic and his Bosnian Serb counterpart, Milovan Stankovic, pledged on 3 June that their respective police forces will jointly fight organized crime and uphold all Bosnians' rights. The accord, signed in the presence of Elizabeth Rehn, the UN envoy to Bosnia, envisages cooperation in providing security for all citizens and "preventing infringements of freedom of movement and civil rights." Stankovic said the two police forces will cooperate in breaking up country-wide crime syndicates but will not be involved in the apprehension of war crimes suspects. PB

ROMANIAN COALITION RESUMES BICKERING

The leadership of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 2 June debated friction within the party after Prime Minister Radu Vasile complained last week that groups within the PNTCD want the government "to have the same fate as the cabinet headed by [Victor] Ciorbea." Vasile's remarks were later criticized by PNTCD deputy chairmen Mircea Ciumara and Remus Opris. PNTCD leader Ion Diaconescu said criticism is permitted within the leadership, but he added that once a decision is reached, all members must respect it, while those who fail to do so must face disciplinary action. The leadership also discussed tense relations with the Democratic Party, following the decision taken last week by Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu to replace the heads of several utilities companies with professionals. Leading members of the PNTCD have complained that the move violated the coalition agreement, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

FUTURE OF ROMANIAN SOCIALIST PARTIES' ALLIANCE QUESTIONED

Alliance for Romania (APR) deputy chairman Marian Enache told journalists on 3 June that the envisaged merger between his formation and the Social Democratic Party (PSDR) will be possible only if the PSDR quits the ruling coalition, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The PSDR National Council on 31 May approved a resolution to continue talks with the APR on the eventual merger of the two formations. MS

ROMANIAN SENATE TO DEBATE TUDOR'S PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY

Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica on 3 June asked Senate chairman Petre Roman to convene the house to debate lifting the parliamentary immunity of Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor. Tudor is accused of insulting President Emil Constantinescu and of slandering Roman, another senator, and several other persons. MS

TRANSDNIESTER LEADERSHIP ATTACKS NEW MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT

Grigorii Marakutsa, chairman of the Transdniester Supreme Soviet, has said Ion Ciubuc's cabinet is aiming at "Romanianizing the Moldovan Republic and unifying it with Romania," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 3 June . Marakutsa said "key ministerial posts" in Chisinau are now "occupied by those responsible for the outbreak of the armed conflict in 1992." He added that this "explains why the Moldovan side is rejecting our proposal for a mutual reduction of forces." He said Moldovan expectations of "setting up a unitary state" on both banks of River Dniester have "no chance" because they ignore the fact that the "Transdniester Republic has been existing for several years." Marakutsa warned that if Chisinau does not renounce "its insistence on a joint indivisible state," the separatists might "renounce our confederate state program and orient ourselves to setting up a fully independent state." MS

STOYANOV SAYS BALKAN FUTURE DEPENDS ON KOSOVA SOLUTION

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on 3 June told journalists after a meeting of the National Security Council that the future of the whole Balkan region depends on a peaceful solution to the conflict in Kosova, Reuters reported. He said the council concluded that there is "no direct threat" of Bulgaria's being drawn into the conflict. But it noted that the conflict itself poses "numerous dangers, including ethnic and religious strife and an upsurge in crime," and endangers the Balkans' economic development and integration into the EU and NATO. MS

BULGARIAN ROMA END PROTEST

The group of Bulgarian Roma protesting against discrimination and non-payment of unemployment and family benefits reached an agreement with the authorities on 3 June following a 10- day fast, AFP reported. Under the agreement, benefits owed since the beginning of the year will be disbursed immediately. Jobs will also be created for unemployed Roma in the town of Lom, where the protest took place. In other news, Trade Minister Valentin Vasilev on 3 June announced that Bulgaria will join the Central European Free Trade Agreement next month, Reuters reported. MS




A RENEWED SOURCE OF NATIONALISM


by Paul Goble

Environmental disasters--some left over from Soviet times, others the product of the actions of weak new governments, and still others the result of the activities of foreign firms--may reignite nationalist passions in many post-Soviet states.

There are three reasons behind this somewhat surprising conclusion. First, as a recently released poll shows, citizens in the post-Soviet states appear even more concerned about the environment than are residents of other countries around the world.

Second, the leaders of many of the national movements in these countries started as environmental activists in Soviet times and thus are now simply returning to their roots as a result of new ecological disasters . And third, the media have focused increasing attention on such disasters, especially when corrupt local officials or foreign firms appear to be to blame.

The United States Information Agency last month released the results of two surveys its researchers conducted in late 1997 in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan on popular attitudes toward environomental issues. Those polls found that majorities in all three countries--including more than 65 percent in Russia--said they favored protecting the environment even if doing so meant that they would have to put up with slower economic growth. Such support for environmental activism would be impressive anywhere; it is especially striking in countries whose economic situation is anything but good.

In addition, the survey showed that the citizens of these three countries were extremely critical of what their respective governments were doing to clean up environmental pollution. Some 70 percent of Kazakhs, 85 percent of Russians, and a similar percentage of Ukrainians felt their national governments were doing a poor job in this respect.

Not surprisingly, politicians both in power and in opposition are sensitive to such attitudes, seeing them either as a threat or an opportunity. And that is particularly the case with those political figures who began their careers as spokesmen for ecological causes in Soviet times.

In the 1960s and 1970s, environmental concerns were among the few issues that opposition groups, especially in the non-Russian regions, could raise without falling afoul of the Soviet state. Many of these environmental activists subsequently became active in the preservation of historical monuments when that became possible. And later still, they adopted an openly nationalist agenda as the Soviet state crumbled around them.

Now in the post-Soviet environment, these same people are drawing strength from others appalled by the environmental degradation visited upon them by past Soviet practices, by the failure of their own governments to prevent new disasters, and by the poor ecological record of many Western firms now operating in these countries. And just as in Soviet times, they are focusing attention not so much on the environment in general but rather on conditions in their own country or even in one part of it. According to the USIA poll, only one person in 50 was concerned about global climate change, but virtually everyone was worried about more immediate environmental degradation.

The media in these countries are playing up these issues, frequently with an increasingly nationalist gloss directed either at the Soviet past, an uncaring and corrupt local regime, or foreign firms. Recently, for example, the press in Kyrgyzstan has called attention to the environmental disaster visited on that country's Lake Issyk-Kul by a Kyrgyz-Canadian gold-mining concern. Ukrainian media have continued to discuss the fallout from the Chornobyl nuclear accident, a disaster made all the worse by Soviet policies and the West's unwillingness to help. And the Georgian media have raised questions about the consequences for that country if Turkey builds a dam on the border between the two countries.

Many both in the West and in these countries may be inclined to dismiss such concerns as relatively unimportant to the political life of this region. But the experience of these countries in the past and the intense feelings that environmental issues can still arouse point to a different conclusion.

They suggest that future environmental disasters in this region may quickly lead to a nationalist response, particularly if those responsible are individuals and groups from abroad. That conclusion, in turn, indicates that anyone seeking to do business with those countries must be especially environmentally responsible to avoid unleashing a popular movement that no one will be able to control.


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