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Newsline - June 19, 1998


Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and Russia's most influential businessmen are to ask President Boris Yeltsin to appoint a special council composed of business leaders to advise the government on economic policy. According to the government's information department, Kirienko and some 10 businessmen agreed on the proposal during talks on the evening of 18 June, Russian news agencies reported. It was the prime minister's second meeting with "oligarchs" in three days. Not all the participants were named, but ITAR-TASS said CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii was present, along with most of the business elites who met with Yeltsin earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 June 1998). In late 1997 and early 1998, government officials repeatedly promised to provide a level playing field for all businesses and not to favor "oligarchs" with high-level political connections. LB


In his first press conference as Yeltsin's envoy to international financial organizations, Unified Energy System chief executive Anatolii Chubais on 18 June said Russia needs $10 billion to $15 billion to help overcome the crisis on its financial markets, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. A Central Bank spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 18 June that Russia's gold and hard-currency reserves totaled $15.7 billion as of 12 June. Many market analysts doubt that Russia could fend off another run on the ruble without a bailout from foreign governments or financial institutions. Meanwhile, the main index of the Russian stock market closed down 2.6 percent on 18 June, despite gains in early trading that day. LB


An IMF mission headed by the fund's First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer is scheduled to arrive in Moscow on 22 June for talks with Chubais and Russian government officials. Chubais confirmed on 18 June that the talks will concern a possible new loan from the IMF, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. But while noting that IMF credits are the cheapest available, Chubais said that there are some conditions Russia "will not accept from anyone, not from any financial organizations." By way of example, he rejected the idea that Russia can extract additional budget revenues from the oil industry, given the slump in oil prices on world markets. He also argued against breaking up "natural monopolies" in the energy sector. Some Western media reported earlier this month that the IMF has asked the Russian government to break up the gas monopoly Gazprom. LB


The IMF on 18 June postponed for several days a meeting of its board of directors, which was scheduled to approve the latest $670 million tranche of a four-year loan to Russia. According to Reuters, an IMF spokesman said the delay was caused by Russia's failure to fulfill unspecified conditions for the disbursement. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told the news agency the next day that Russia and the IMF have two technical issues and one substantive issue to settle concerning the disbursement. He did not specify the nature of those differences but expressed confidence that they will be resolved. Speaking to NTV the previous evening, Chubais also said talks with the IMF delegation in Moscow next week will clear obstacles to disbursing the loan tranche. LB


Russia on 18 June issued a 30-year, $2.5 billion Eurobond, which is redeemable at face value in 10 years. According to Bloomberg Business News, the Eurobond was priced to yield 753 basis points (7.53 percent) above 10-year U.S. treasury bonds. (Finance Minister Zadornov told Reuters on 19 June that news of the postponed IMF board meeting drove down the price.) The sale came a day after the Finance Ministry canceled two auctions for treasury bills. The government prefers borrowing abroad to paying sky- high interest rates on the domestic bond market. However, this strategy entails risks, since a sharp devaluation of the ruble could make it difficult to pay back Eurobond-holders. Russia has issued seven Eurobonds, four of them during the last four months. Russia recently floated a five-year, $1.25 billion Eurobond. LB


Speaking in Kostroma on 19 June, Yeltsin announced that he will not run for a third term as president, Reuters reported. He noted that "it's not in the constitution. The constitution says two terms." Yeltsin's remarks came one day after CIS Executive Secretary Berezovskii told Ekho Moskvy radio that it would be "the right decision" for Yeltsin to say he will not run for re-election again. Yeltsin has said several times that he does not plan to seek a third term, but his advisers have occasionally left the door open on the possibility. Berezovskii was one of the key financial backers of Yeltsin's 1996 re-election campaign. He told Ekho Moskvy that Russia's business elite may unite around another candidate in the next presidential race, because, regardless of their differences, financial and industrial groups share "strategic goals" such as political stability. LB


CIS executive secretary Berezovskii met with President Yeltsin, who is also chairman of the CIS heads of state council, Russian on 18 June to discuss trends within the commonwealth and his recent meetings with CIS heads of state. Berezovskii told Yeltsin that CIS presidents are aware there is "no threat" to their sovereignty and that the West "never intended to act as...a benefactor." He added that they are therefore reassessing their economic ties with the U.S. in that light, Interfax reported, quoting Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Berezovskii said there is increased interest in reforming CIS structures to promote economic and financial integration. Also on 18 June, Berezovskii told Ekho Moskvy that CIS heads of state are aware of the emergence of "new unions" and consider integration within the CIS to be essential not only for economic but also for strategic reasons. LF


Berezovskii also told Ekho Moskvy that Yeltsin positively assessed the coordination of efforts between Berezovskii and the Russian Foreign Ministry to resolve the Abkhaz conflict He did not say, however, whether he and Yeltsin had discussed Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's 15 June letter to Yeltsin proposing that an emergency CIS summit be convened to discuss Abkhazia, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 June. Berezovskii and First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov are to hold talks in Sukhumi on 19 June with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and Georgian special envoy Vazha Lortkipanidze. On 18 June, six members of the Russian peacekeeping force in Abkhazia were seriously injured when their armored personnel carrier hit a land mine in Gali Raion, Interfax reported. Abkhaz parliament in exile chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili blamed the Abkhaz Interior Ministry for the incident, which, it said, was aimed at sabotaging Russian-Georgian relations, Caucasus Press reported. LF


Speaking at a press briefing on 18 June, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin condemned the Turkish authorities' detention of a Maltese cargo ship in the Turkish straits on 14 June as a violation of the 1936 Treaty of Montreux, Interfax reported. That treaty allows all vessels free transit through the straits in peace time. The Turkish authorities intercepted and searched the ship, believing that its cargo included S-300 missiles that Russia intends to supply to Greek Cyprus later this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1998.) Turkey has invoked the Treaty of Montreux to substantiate its argument that an increase in the volume of oil shipped through the straits would constitute a serious ecological threat. LF


State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev says legal experts in the Duma are questioning the legality of Yeltsin's decree appointing Unified Energy System chief executive Chubais as his envoy to international financial organizations, Russian news agencies reported on 18 June. He said some lawyers believe that the provision granting Chubais the rank of a deputy prime minister contradicts the constitutional law on the government. If necessary, Seleznev said, the Duma will appeal the matter to the Constitutional Court. Yeltsin also gave Ivan Rybkin the rank of a deputy prime minister when he appointed him as presidential envoy to the CIS last month. But while Rybkin, a former Communist ally, is viewed by left-leaning Duma deputies as a traitor for joining the Yeltsin camp, Chubais is far more hated in the lower house of the parliament. LB


The cabinet on 18 June decided not to send the State Duma a draft law on increasing the minimum monthly wage from 83.49 rubles to 110 rubles ($13.5 to $18) as of 1 April 1999, ITAR-TASS reported. Labor Minister Oksana Dmitrieva presented the draft law, which also called for indexing the minimum wage annually. However, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov called for rejecting the plan, which would have cost the federal budget 18.6 billion rubles and budgets at all levels a combined 68.3 billion rubles. They argued that the state is already unable to ensure timely payment of wages to its employees and said increasing the minimum wage now would exacerbate the problem. Many salaries and social payments are set in terms of multiples of the minimum wage. LB


Some 500 scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences demonstrated in front of government headquarters in Moscow on 18 June to protest lack of state funding for scientific institutions, Russian media reported. Demonstrators carried banners calling for Yeltsin to resign and fraternized with coal miners who have been picketing the White House since 11 June, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 June. Vladimir Strakhov, director of the Institute of Earth Physics, warned that if financing for science does not improve, scientific research "will simply perish within two or three years," ITAR-TASS reported. Strakhov has staged two hunger strikes to protest lack of funding for science (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 14 October 1996 and 7 January 1997). The 1998 budget reduced funding for scientific research by 26.5 percent, and the Academy of Sciences has received only 70 percent of allocated money for the second quarter. BT


The overwhelming majority of refugees from Afghanistan living in Russia are denied basic rights, according to human rights activists, scientists, and government officials who spoke at a 17 June conference at the UN's Russian Federation headquarters in Moscow. Of the estimated 150,000 Afghan refugees in Russia, only 300 former high officials have been granted refugee status, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 June. Among those living in Russia illegally, thousands have become homeless. The federal law on refugees, which provides for humanitarian aid such as temporary shelters, is frequently not implemented because the Federal Migration Service and the Interior Ministry have not granted refugee status to most refugees. Russian authorities have argued that they lack funds to carry out the legalization of refugees. The Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry did not send representatives to the conference. BT


The three suspects in the recent murder of "Sovetskaya Kalmykia Segodnya" editor Larisa Yudina have been transferred from pre-trial detention in the Republic of Kalmykia to a facility in Stavropol Krai, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June, citing Sergei Prokopov, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office's department in the North Caucasus. The previous day, Vladimir Shanukov became the third man charged with premeditated murder in connection with Yudina's death. Prokopov said the authorities moved the three suspects to Stavropol in order to prevent pressure on the investigators and leaks. LB


Kursk Oblast Deputy Governors Yurii Kononchuk and Vladimir Bunchuk have been formally charged with abuse of office, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June. Prosecutors say the two embezzled some 11 million rubles ($1.8 million). Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi has vowed to fight the criminal charges against his associates, saying the case is politically motivated. Rutskoi has long been at odds with the top prosecutor in Kursk, Nikolai Tkachev. Kononchuk and Bunchuk were arrested while Rutskoi was visiting the Republic of Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). LB


The Bratskoe water reservoir into which a chemical enterprise has dumped massive quantities of mercury waste is located in Irkutsk Oblast, not Krasnoyarsk Krai, as was reported by "RFE/RL Newsline" on 18 June.


In an interview with Turan on18 June, Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-zade said that Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian statement's that the Karabakh peace process is deadlocked as a result of Azerbaijan's intransigence is "groundless." Gulu-zade also rejected Oskanian's argument that Armenia cannot allow the deadlock to continue for a period of years as to do so would permit Azerbaijan to build up its military strength. In such a case, according to Oskanian, Armenia would be have to provide more concrete security guarantees to the Armenian population of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and would consider all other options, including the possible reunification of Armenia and the republic. Azerbaijani Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Yashar Aliyev told Interfax on 18 June that Oskanian's statement testifies to Armenia's "aggressive stance on Azerbaijani land." LF


An independent journalists' trade union, a group for the protection of women's rights, and the Democratic Congress (which is composed of a dozen leading opposition parties) have all issued statements condemning the detention of Amaliya Seidova, editor of the opposition newspaper "Chag," Turan reported. Security forces arrested Seidova after the newspaper's premises were searched on 16 June. LF


The Party of National Independence of Azerbaijan on 14 June voted to nominate its chairman, Etibar Mamedov, as a candidate for the October presidential elections, Turan reported. Mamedov, whose political orientation is ambivalent, told Turan he does not believe that opposition leaders' unanimous stance on boycotting the vote will last, given the substantive disagreements between them. Meanwhile, the Consultative Assembly, which unites 11 pro-government parties, issued a statement on 18 June saying that the controversial law on the presidential elections corresponds to international standards. The opposition has condemned that law as undemocratic (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 16, 16 June 1998.) LF


Meeting on 17 June with representatives of the Justice and Unity bloc, which was formed in March to back his presidential candidacy, Robert Kocharian called for a compromise solution to the deadlock within the parliament over the new election law, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian argued that Armenia is not yet ready for a parliament elected exclusively under a majority system. The presidential press service quoted him as suggesting that half the seats within the new parliament should be allocated to single- member constituencies and the other half on the basis of party lists. Kocharian also proposed "rating voting" in the party lists, whereby voters would be able to endorse candidates included on those lists (see also "End Note"). LF


President Imomali Rakhmonov on 18 June endorsed amendments to the controversial law passed last month banning religious-based political parties. The amendments were drafted by a trilateral commission composed of representatives from the government, parliament and the opposition. Oppositionists objected to the original wording of the law, which, they feared, would be used to ban the influential opposition Islamic Revival Party. Under the compromise wording, political parties are now forbidden to use either religious organizations or their premises for political ends. LF


In an interview with "Krasnaya zvezda" published on 18 June, Rakhmonov said he is aware of rumors that some Russian army officers serving in Tajikistan support the opposition. But Rakhmonov insisted that those rumors are without foundation. LF


Wrapping up his first visit to China on 17 June, the chief of staff of Kazakhstan's armed forces, Bykhtyzhan Yertayev, told ITAR-TASS that he reached agreement with his Chinese counterpart, Fu Quanyou, on sharing experience in the fields of military construction and reform of the armed forces. Yertayev also met with Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haitian and toured Chinese army units in Shanghai, Nanjing, and Urumqi. LF


The Kyrgyz Security Ministry has begun questioning the former president of the Canadian-Kyrgyz gold-mining joint venture, one of whose lorries discharged 20 tons of sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River last month, Interfax reported. Legal proceedings have been launched in connection with the spill. Meanwhile, the Movement for Ecological Safety, founded earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 1998), met for the first time in Bishkek on 18 June to discuss the aftermath of the spill, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Chairman Topchubek TurgunAliyev said the movement will conduct an independent investigation into the accident. It will also campaign for the cancellation of the contract between the Kyrgyz government and the Canadian company CAMECO and launch legal proceedings against all those responsible for the accident. LF


President Askar Akaev on 17 June appointed former Prime Minister Apas Djumagulov as ambassador to Germany, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Djumagulov replaces Omar Sultanov, who was named head of the presidential administration in late March. The former premier, 64, was appointed director of the state oil and gas company following his resignation in March 1998, which, he said, was aimed at making way for a younger and more energetic head of government. LF


The row over foreign diplomats' residences at the Drazdy compound, near Minsk, took a new twist on 18 June when Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka revoked the eviction order and declared that the entire compound is the "residence of the President of the Republic of Belarus." Deputy Foreign Minister Mikalay Buzo said the foreign diplomats living at Drazdy can be considered "guests of the head of the state.... They will receive passes and be allowed to enter the territory, but they will have to comply with the special security rules of a presidential residence," AFP reported. He added that the planned repairs of the utility systems will be continued and that "those who do not wish to move out will suffer a lot of inconveniences," according to ITAR-TASS. JM


Reuters reports that the Belarusian authorities locked foreign diplomats out of the Drazdy compound on 19 June. An anonymous Western diplomat told the agency that only the French ambassador, who was riding a motorcycle, was allowed into the compound, while other ambassadors had to return to the city center after waiting one hour outside the locked gate. The news agency adds that police checkpoints have been set up 1 kilometer before the compound and only those who have special passes are allowed through. JM


In a address on nationwide television on 18 June, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced he will issue a package of economic decrees to steer the country out of its financial crisis. Kuchma harshly criticized the "paralyzed" parliament for its inability to elect a speaker and address legislative tasks. "I am taking responsibility on issue the necessary decrees," he was quoted by Reuters as saying. Kuchma's aide told the news agency that there are 15 documents to be signed by the president in the next few days. The decrees are expected to lower the current 20 percent value-added tax, simplify tax procedures for small business, and introduce a fixed tax rate on agricultural products. The government is currently negotiating a $2.5 billion loan from the IMF and plans to lay off 112,000 state employees by year's end. JM


A Ukrainian Defense Minister official has told ITAR-TASS that the armed forces are unprepared for the troop cuts announced by Kuchma earlier this week. Under Kuchma's decree, the number of conscripts to be slashed from 80,000 in 1997 to 50,000 this year in order to reduce the military's expenditures and put its strength at the level of "necessary sufficiency." In addition, the 350,000- strong army is to be cut by 17,000 servicemen by year's end. JM


NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has urged Latvia to adopt amendments to its citizenship law in the third and final reading, saying that countries must meet political as well as military standards to qualify for membership in the alliance, BNS reported on 18 June. Solana was speaking at a press conference after talks with Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts in Riga. At the same press conference, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said he is convinced NATO's door will remain open but that Latvia will have to work very hard to make its armed forces compatible with NATO's. Recently, the government announced that the defense budget will be increased to 1 percent of GDP next year and to 2 percent by 2003. JC


The previous day in Vilnius, Solana welcomed the Lithuanian government's plans to allocate 2 percent of GDP for defense needs in 2000, BNS reported. "This will approach the indices in many European countries and this is good news," Solana said at a news conference. In talks with President Valdas Adamkus, Solana discussed the recent visit to Vilnius by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who had stressed Moscow's opposition to the Baltic States' possible membership in NATO. Solana, for his part, sounded the familiar refrain that "NATO expansion is continuing." Solana is due to wrap up his tour of the Baltic States in Tallinn on 19 June. JC


Fifty percent of passenger trains and 70 percent of freight trains were halted in Poland on 18 June as a result of the ongoing strike by train drivers. PAP reported that the Train Drivers Trade Union ordered a sit-in at engine depots the same day. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz said the government will not increase train drivers' wages because their demands are "unrealistic" and would entail increasing taxes, "Zycie Warszawy" reported on 19 June. The Polish State Railroads has threatened to sack strikers and demand compensation from them if their strike is declared illegal by the Warsaw Voivodship Court. JM


The lower house of the parliament on 18 June voted by 242 to 148 with 19 abstentions to empower the Warsaw Appeals Court to investigate whether state officials collaborated with the communist-era secret police. That decision revives a one-year-old law that never took effect because not enough judges volunteered to sit on a 21-member screening panel provided for by the law. The bill must still be approved by the upper house and signed by the president. Under the screening law, public office holders, judges, prosecutors, and candidates for public offices in Poland are obliged to submit written declarations on whether they were secret police agents. Those declarations may subsequently be checked by the Warsaw Appeals Court, following a request from a so- called public interest spokesman, for which the new version of the law provides. JM


Nine years after the overthrow of communist rule in Poland, the parliament on 18 June passed a much-disputed resolution condemning the "communist dictatorship imposed on Poland with force and against the nation's will by the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin." The resolution holds the former Polish United Workers Party responsible for the "many crimes and offenses" of the past and stresses that Poland's former system "was maintained by means of force, lies, and the threat of Soviet intervention and served to secure foreign interests." The bill, which the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance voted against, is seen by many Solidarity politicians as moral compensation for the communist-era repression of pro-democracy activists in Poland. JM


Presidential adviser Jiri Pehe told state radio on 18 June that the leader of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), Milos Zeman, has changed his mind about not wanting to become prime minister. Pehe was commenting on a letter recently written by Czech President Vaclav Havel to the chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (OSD), Vaclav Klaus, in which Havel said Zeman does not want the premiership and has told him he is "too tired" for the job. The letter was broadcast on 17 June by Nova TV. Zeman himself acknowledged he told Havel three months ago that he was "tired and exhausted" but said he is now prepared to form the government if the CSSD wins the elections, CTK reported. MS


European Commissioner Hans van den Broek, addressing the Civil Society Development Foundation in Bratislava on 18 June, said that Slovakia's record on democracy is raising concerns and that the EU expects to see "substantial progress" by the end of 1998, when it will issue a report on candidates for accession to the organization. He told the foundation, which was set up with EU support, that the main concerns are that legislation ensuring free and fair elections is passed and the free use of minority languages guaranteed. Van den Broek also criticized the "institutional vacuum" that has existed since March owing to the failure to elect a president to replace Michal Kovac, Reuters reported. MS


At the 18 June inaugural session of the new parliament, President Arpad Goncz designated Viktor Orban, chairman of the Federation of Young Democrats- Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP), as premier. Orban said it will take two or three weeks to draw up a new coalition government. Goncz recommended that the new government adopt a careful approach to its economic policies in order to preserve the country's achievements to date. The same day, the parliament elected Janos Ader of FIDESZ-MPP as its new chairman and Socialist Katalin Szili, Independent Smallholder Geza Gyimothy and Free Democrat Ferenc Wekler as deputy chairmen. MSZ


Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said in Brussels on 18 June that his government is willing to resume talks with Kosovar leaders but without international mediation. He rejected the key demand of the Contact Group that Serbia withdraw its security forces from Kosova. Jovanovic said that Serbia has the right to station forces on its own territory and that security troops are needed in the troubled province, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Fehmi Agani, who heads the Kosovar negotiating team for talks with the Serbs, told the Belgrade daily "Danas" that there can be no talks unless Serbia withdraws its security forces and accepts international monitoring of the situation. PM


Robert Gelbard, the U.S.'s special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, said in Washington on 18 June that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's recent offer to reopen talks with the Kosovars is a "red herring" because it was the Kosovars who broke off the previous negotiations in response to Milosevic's use of armed violence in the province. Gelbard called the Kosovars' attitude "understandable." Meanwhile in London, Amnesty International said that relatives are searching for some 150 missing ethnic Albanians in Kosova. The statement added that the organization is investigating reports of Serbian forces systematically looting and setting fire to homes of Kosovars who have fled to Albania or Montenegro. PM


Sergei Kislyak, who is Russia's permanent representative to NATO, told a special meeting of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council in Brussels on 18 June that Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevskii will soon go to Belgrade to obtain from Milosevic a detailed plan for implementing the pledges he recently made to President Boris Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). The minister will then go on to Prishtina, and a second Russian envoy will visit Tirana and Skopje to discuss the Kosova crisis. PM


The government of the Kosovar shadow- state and representatives of five Kosovar political parties met in Tirana on 18 June and agreed to appoint "people with full executive authority" to organize self-defense in those districts under attack by Serbian security forces, the Kosovar news agency KIC reported. This is the first time that the shadow-state government, which favors non- violence, has announced efforts aimed at resisting the Serbian forces. Spokesmen for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) have repeatedly called the shadow-state authorities defeatist and ineffective for shunning armed resistance. The Serbian armed crackdown has swelled the ranks of the UCK and given rise to the slogan among ordinary Kosovars that "we are all UCK." In Kosova, there was continued fighting in the western region between Gjakova and the Albanian border, KIC reported. FS/PM


State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 18 June that the UCK will be playing into Milosevic's hands if it launches fresh attacks on Serbian forces. "We are aware that the Kosova Liberation Army is promising another offensive [that will] make, in our view, the situation even worse. That is a sure-fire way to give President Milosevic another pretext to kill innocent Albanians, and the Kosova Liberation Army should think about that. The ball is in President Milosevic's court to create the conditions that will allow serious negotiations to begin." Rubin added that there is a danger that "radical Islamic elements" from Iran, Afghanistan, or other Muslim countries could join the fighting in Kosova, but he stressed that there is no evidence that they have done so. Many Kosovars are Muslim, but both the shadow state and the UCK are secular in orientation. PM


Rubin also said in Washington on 18 June that "we support enhanced autonomy [for Kosova], but people are deluding themselves if they think that they are going to achieve independence." In Paris, however, Defense Minister Alain Richard noted that Milosevic may be deluding himself if he thinks he "can maintain a unified Serbia with a [Kosova] that is merely autonomous. This is an extremely dangerous period for Mr. Milosevic...because, if he continues like this, in three months or six months, we will no longer be able to discuss merely autonomy." Independence is the officially stated goal of the shadow state and the UCK. Representatives of the international community have repeatedly told the Kosovars that the only acceptable solution is some form of autonomy within federal Yugoslavia. PM


Visiting Kosovar refugees in the northern city of Bajram Curri on 18 June, Rexhep Meidani said that "we have to stop the bloodshed, genocide, and ethnic cleansing by any [possible] means." He added that if Milosevic does not take part in serious negotiations with shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, NATO should carry out air raids on Serbia without UN approval. He added that force "is the only language Milosevic understands." Meidani, together with U.S. ambassador Marisa Lino and OSCE ambassador Daan Everts, visited the city's hospital, a new refugee camp at Qafe Molle near the border with Kosova, and a family that is hosting 50 refugees in its house. A high-ranking government delegation accompanied Meidani to assess the situation and coordinate relief efforts between civilian and military authorities. FS


A Foreign Ministry official on 18 June handed over to the Yugoslav charge d' affaires a note protesting the recent killing of an Albanian citizen by a Serbian sniper inside Albanian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). The statement said that "such adventurous acts must be stopped, or they could have grave consequences." The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug denied the Albanian charges and reported that the man was killed when he tried to enter Yugoslav territory. On 17 June, BBC television broadcast footage that substantiated the Albanian position. Meanwhile in Belgrade, some 250 parents of conscripts staged a protest to demand that the army return their sons from Kosova. PM


The Albanian air force began air maneuvers at Tirana airport on 19 June in a show of force in reaction to several recent violations of Albanian airspace by Yugoslav aircraft. The force has 12 airplanes of the types MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21. Elsewhere, Albanian customs officials in Durres told journalists on 18 June that they had seized a truck carrying smuggled weapons from Ancona on 11 June. The arms included 30 automatic guns, a sniper, 30 antitank launchers, maps, and communications equipment. FS


Dinko Sakic, the commander of the World War II concentration camp at Jasenovac, arrived in Zagreb on 18 June following his extradition from Argentina, where he has lived for over 50 years. He will face war crimes charges in conjunction with the deaths of thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Roma at the camp. Sakic maintains that no one died of anything other than natural causes during his tenure at Jasenovac. PM


Francisc Baranyi, who admits to having been forced to sign up as a Securitate informer, is refusing to resign, despite Prime Minister Radu Vasile's request that he do so. Baranyi said on 18 June that he wants the premier to study his file and witness the fact that he never informed on anyone. He added that the decision on whether he will resign must be taken by the leadership of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Government spokesman Razvan Popescu said Vasile is sticking to his position and wants all ministers to submit written declarations on their past links with the former communist secret police. MS


Transportation Minister Traian Basescu on 18 June said that the reports he made to the Navrom maritime company during the 12 years he was captain of a ship are "likely to have been forwarded to the Securitate." Also on 18 June, Romanian Information Service director Costin Georgescu said Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor's written pledge to act as an informer "does not figure" in his Securitate file. At the same time, Georgescu refrained from saying the pledge, published by the daily "Ziua," was a forgery, as claimed by Tudor. MS


Meeting in Bucharest on 18 June, Mesut Yilmaz and his Romanian counterpart, Radu Vasile, agreed that bilateral trade must increase from the $600 million to $1 billion over the next year. The two premiers also discussed the crisis in Kosova, saying after their meeting that they have "common views" on the ways to solve the conflict and on other regional developments. Yilmaz is scheduled to meet with President Emil Constantinescu on 19 June. MS


Half of the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, was without electricity for several hours on 17 June, causing trolley buses and broadcasting to grind to a halt, RFE/RL's bureau reported the next day. Ukraine, from where Moldova imports one third of its electricity, suspended exports after one of its reactors at Chornobyl was shut down earlier this week. Moldova owes Ukraine $11 million for electricity supplies. The energy crisis has been made worse by Gazprom's recent decision to cut gas deliveries by 50 percent. BASA-press on 18 June reported that Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc has resumed negotiations with the Tiraspol separatists on the price of electricity supplies from the Transdniester. Tiraspol claims Chisinau owes $19 million for deliveries, of which Ciubuc promised to pay $10 million by 1 July. MS


by Emil Danielyan

Disagreements over the country's new political system are emerging within the broad coalition that supports Armenian President Robert Kocharian. The euphoria over the election last spring of the president, shared by most opposition parties and the state apparatus, is starting to wane in the face of intensifying conflicts of interest.

The issue provoking controversy is how the next Armenian parliament should be elected. The answer to that question--which at first glance seems insignificant--will determine how the new political landscape in Armenia differs from the previous one. Four former opposition parties within the pro-Kocharian Justice and Unity bloc want the majority of parliamentary seats to be allocated according to the system of proportional representation. They argue that elections based on that system are more difficult to falsify and will promote the development of political parties, a prerequisite for democracy. But the bloc's other member, the Yerkrapah union of Karabakh war veterans, headed by Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian, favors allocating the overwhelming majority of the 131 seats in the next parliament in single-mandate constituencies. The Yerkrapah argues that most of the country's intellectuals are not aligned with any specific political party and will therefore will not play a role if party lists take precedence.

In reality, this seemingly conceptual debate is all about how to win elections. The Yerkrapah's position is indicative of the interests of a wider class that can tentatively be called the "people of power." Such people have no developed political ideology but have clearly defined economic interests that hinge on close ties with government bodies and, especially, on control over local authorities. The single-mandate system frees them of the need to formulate political programs by shifting the emphasis to the personalities of the candidates. It also creates fertile ground for vote manipulation through ties to local quasi-mafiosi clans, leverage over the authorities, and substantial financial resources. Such tactics enabled the Pan-Armenian Nat reported ruling party, to ensure the victory of Levon Ter-Petrossian in the disputed 1996 presidential elections.

Opposition politicians contend that the relationship between Kocharian government's and the "power class" (top bureaucrats, local bosses, businessmen, and so forth) has so far been based on an arrangement whereby the latter gives full political backing to the former in exchange for non-interference in its sometimes dubious economic activities. The power class has remained largely unaffected by the change of leadership in Armenia last winter after many of its members transferred their allegiance from the HHSh to the Yerkrapah. (Some HHSh members have, however, been stripped of their jobs, others are under investigation for financial abuses.) Its position, however, could be jeopardized if it loses control over the parliament.

The single-mandate system would leave the other Justice and Unity parties with few chances of winning considerable representation in the parliament. After many years of political isolation, they want to gain a broader share in the government system than is currently provided by the handful of minor positions distributed to the former opposition groups. Free and fair parliamentary elections (which it believes are possible only under a proportional representation system) is the only way to achieve that goal.

Meeting with representatives of the Justice and Unity group on 17 June, Kocharian urged them to try to reach a compromise. He proposed that half the seats in the new parliament be allocated under the single mandate system and the remaining half on the basis of party lists. He also said that he backs the idea of "rating voting" to be applied to party lists. According to it, as well as voting for political parties, Armenian voters would also make their choice among concrete individuals included on electoral slates.

It remains unclear whether the Yerkrapah will accept this compromise, or whether they will forge ahead with their intention to draft a new law from scratch. If they opt for the latter course, a showdown between the two camps will probably occur in the fall, when the new Yerkrapah draft law will be submitted for discussion. Some parties have already said they may boycott the summer 1999 parliamentary elections. Such a move would run the risk of renewed political polarization and signal the end of the new regime's declared "national unity." The author is a Yerevan-based RFE/RL correspondent.