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Newsline - July 13, 1998




RUSSIAN, IMF OFFICIALS WRAP UP TALKS ON BAILOUT

Russian officials wrapped up two weeks of negotiations with the IMF on 12 July, when Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Unified Energy System head Anatolii Chubais (presidential envoy to international financial institutions), Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin and Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov met with John Odling- Smee, the head of the IMF's second European department. Both Chubais and Kirienko told journalists on 13 July that the talks ended successfully, but they did not specify the size of the stabilization loan, which is aimed at shoring up the ruble. "The New York Times" on 12 July reported that the IMF is to lend Russia $11 billion. Citing an unnamed source close to the negotiations, Interfax put the figure at $12.5 billion. A government source speaking on condition of anonymity told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that the IMF loan will be slightly less than $15 billion. LB

YELTSIN USES PHONE DIPLOMACY TO SECURE LOAN

In an effort to drum up support for the IMF stabilization loan to Russia, President Boris Yeltsin on 10 July spoke with the fund's managing director, Michel Camdessus. The presidential press service later issued a statement saying Camdessus praised the government's anti-crisis program, while Yeltsin assured the IMF head of "his firm intention to use all his strength to implement the suggested government measures," Russian news agencies reported. In recent days, Yeltsin has also spoken to leaders of several countries that are major IMF donors. The Russian president on 10 July spoke by telephone with U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The next day, Yeltsin discussed Russia's economic situation with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. LB

KIRIENKO IN JAPAN

Russian Prime Minister Kirienko met with Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Keidzo Obuchi in Tokyo on 13 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Obuchi reassured Kirienko that Japan will continue to seek better relations with Russia and support Russia's reform course, despite Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto's announcement the same day of his resignation. An agreement was signed whereby Russia will receive $400 million for economic reform by the end of July. Another $400 million will be released before the end of the year. Those loans are part of a $1.5 billion credit that Obuchi promised Russia when he visited Moscow in February. At that time, the funds were said to be intended for the construction of housing for personnel affected by Russia's military reduction program. Kirienko and Obuchi also signed documents on the protection of investments and extending an agreement on cooperation in space exploration. BP

OFFICIAL CLARIFIES POLICY ON WORKING PENSIONERS

Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev on 10 July denied that the government plans to eliminate pension payments to elderly citizens who continue to work, ITAR- TASS reported. Earlier the same day, ITAR-TASS quoted Sysuev as telling the Federation Council that in order to solve the problems of pension arrears, the government plans to stop paying pensions to working pensioners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1998). But Sysuev subsequently told journalists that the government is seeking merely to reduce payments to working pensioners by an average of 80 rubles ($13) a month. He explained that such a policy would not affect the estimated 4 million citizens (out of 37 million pensioners) who receive minimal pensions of 234 rubles. The average monthly pension in Russia is 400 rubles, Sysuev said. LB

ARE GOVERNMENT, UPPER HOUSE UNITED ON ANTI- CRISIS PROGRAM?

Prime Minister Kirienko told journalists after addressing the Federation Council on 10 July that the government and upper house of the parliament support a single economic program for Russia, Russian news agencies reported. Federation Council Yegor Stroev was similarly upbeat, saying that "for the first time, the Federation Council and the government were speaking the same language." But although the upper house adopted a resolution endorsing the government's anti-crisis program in principle (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1998), that resolution also described several aspects of the program as "obviously insufficient," Interfax reported. In particular, the resolution charged that the program does not include measures to "revive industrial production, raise investment activity, increase the competitiveness of national industrial output, strengthen currency controls, ensure the ruble's stability, or provide social protection for the population." LB

UPPER HOUSE APPROVES TWO OUT OF THREE GOVERNMENT-BACKED LAWS

The Federation Council on 10 July considered three laws that are part of the government's anti-crisis program. Deputies approved laws on waiving value-added tax this year on imported equipment and reducing excise duties on carbonated alcoholic beverages, ITAR-TASS reported. However, the Council rejected a law on raising the taxes on gambling businesses. That law will be revised by a conciliatory commission. The Council normally holds sessions once a month, but deputies agreed to convene a special session on 22 July to consider the government-backed laws that may be approved by the State Duma during its own extraordinary session on 15-16 July. LB

FEDERATION COUNCIL CALLS ON YELTSIN TO SAVE DEFENSE INDUSTRY

The Federation Council on 10 July appealed to President Yeltsin to prevent the collapse of the defense industry, Interfax reported. A non-binding statement said that only 10 percent of the government defense order for the first half of 1998 has been fulfilled and that many defense enterprises face an "irreversible breakdown." It called on Yeltsin's government to repay all debts on the defense order by 1 October. In a 10 July address to the Federation Council, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson vowed that by October, the government will pay all back wages to defense industry workers, which he said totaled 4.8 billion rubles ($772 million). During nationwide defense industry protests on 8 July, government officials had put that figure at 2.5 billion rubles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1998). BT

YELTSIN SAYS AUTHORITIES CAN FOIL COUP PLANS

Yeltsin announced on 10 July that "we are strong enough to curb all plans for seizing power and other extremist plans," Interfax reported. Without specifying the nature of the alleged coup threat, Yeltsin declared that "extremists will fail, because our power and law-enforcement agencies are very well coordinated." He made the remarks during a meeting with senior military commanders and heads of law-enforcement agencies. He also promoted Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin and Federal Guard Service head Yurii Krapivin to the rank of colonel-general and promoted Presidential Security Service head Anatolii Kuznetsov to major-general. Also on 10 July, the Kremlin announced that Yeltsin is postponing a vacation planned for the following week in Karelia. No reason was given for the delay. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 July published an article speculating that a coup may be carried out during Yeltsin's vacation. LB

'NEZAVISIMAYA' PROPOSES 'TEMPORARY STATE COUNCIL' TO RUN COUNTRY

Vitalii Tretyakov, the editor in chief of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," says Russia must take drastic measures not foreseen by the constitution in order to stave off a "social explosion." In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 July, Tretyakov advocated forming a Temporary State Council, which would govern Russia while arranging for new parliamentary and presidential elections to be held within three months. Such a council would have the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister. Its members would include the speakers of both houses of the parliament, representatives of the political parties in the State Duma, the chairmen of the Constitutional, Supreme, and Arbitration Courts, and some regional leaders. Heads of the "power ministries" would be excluded from the council, and Yeltsin would be allowed to join only if he provided a written guarantee that he will not run for president again. LB

'KOMMERSANT-DAILY' SLAMS PROPOSED 'REVOLUTION FROM ABOVE'

"Kommersant-Daily" on 11 July blasted the article "signed by Tretyakov," saying that the formation of a Temporary State Council would be tantamount to a "revolution from above." The newspaper argued that "it has become completely obvious that despite all the attempts by the left-radical opposition and several Russian media outlets to transform separate actions of social protests into mass political disorder, there will be no revolution from below. Probably, this forced part of the financial- industrial elite and political establishment, close to [CIS Executive Secretary] Boris Berezovskii, to show their cards, issuing in yesterday's 'Nezavisimaya gazeta' in effect a program for a state coup." Berezovskii is the main financial backer of "Nezavisimaya gazeta." In his 10 July article, Tretyakov objected to charges that Berezovskii "pushes the pen" for the newspaper. The source of financing for "Kommersant-Daily" is not known. LB

GAZPROM MAY SELL ASSETS TO RAISE MONEY FOR TAXES

Irina Bogatyreva, the chief accountant for Gazprom, announced on 9 July that the gas monopoly may sell some of its property, ITAR-TASS reported. By way of example, she cited two recreation facilities for Gazprom employees outside Moscow that are each worth an estimated 100 million rubles ($16 million). She did not say how much Gazprom hopes to raise by selling such property. The company is under pressure to pay some 4 billion rubles in taxes this month or face asset seizures by the tax authorities as of 1 August. The company has already begun reducing gas supplies to non-paying customers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1998). Meanwhile, Yeltsin praised the government's recent steps to crack down on major tax delinquents during an 11 July Kremlin meeting with Prime Minister Kirienko and other high-ranking officials. LB

WILL GAS MONOPOLY DONATE SOME PROPERTY TO CHURCH?

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 July that Gazprom chief executive Rem Vyakhirev met with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II the previous day. The newspaper speculated that the gas monopoly, a large contributor to the Russian Orthodox Church in the past, may soon donate various facilities to the Church, thereby exempting those facilities from taxation or seizure by the authorities. The patriarch's support for Gazprom would be a political blow to the government as well, "Kommersant-Daily" argued. ITAR-TASS on 10 July reported that Vyakhirev and Aleksii did not meet the previous day but were to meet on 10 July. Vyakhirev told journalists that he meets with Aleksii regularly, but he added that Gazprom's capacity to contribute to charity has been significantly reduced by pressure from the tax authorities. LB

ANOTHER COURT REJECTS CHUBAIS'S LAWSUIT AGAINST JOURNALIST

The Moscow city court on 10 July left in place a lower court ruling that rejected Anatolii Chubais's slander lawsuit against the journalist Aleksandr Minkin and the radio station Ekho Moskvy, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 11 July. During a radio interview in November 1997, Minkin broke the story about $90,000 payments to Chubais (then first deputy prime minister) and several other officials who co-authored a book on privatization. Chubais sued him and Ekho Moskvy for 250 million old rubles ($42,000) for alleging that the payments from a publisher with links to Oneksimbank were "hidden bribes" and "a scheme for money-laundering." A municipal court rejected the lawsuit in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 1998), and the Moscow City Court rejected the appeal lodged by Chubais's lawyer, who cited alleged procedural flaws in the lower court's ruling. LB

BASAEV PROTESTS SUBORDINATE'S DETENTION IN DAGESTAN

Former Chechen acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev told journalists in Grozny on 12 July that the Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan, which he chairs, will take "appropriate measures" if the Dagestani authorities fail to release the deputy chairman of that organization, Adallo Aliev, within 48 hours, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev was apprehended on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan the previous day and charged with carrying a weapon. The Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan, which aims to create a unified state composed of both regions, is regarded with mistrust by the Dagestani authorities. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT ACCEPTS PREMIER'S RESIGNATION

Aslan Maskhadov has accepted Basaev's resignation as acting prime minister and assumed the latter's duties, presidential press spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev told ITAR-TASS on 11 July. The same day, Chechen Deputy Prosecutor-General Magomed Magomadov told journalists that he believes two British and two Hungarian aid workers abducted in Chechnya over the past year have been moved to neighboring Ingushetia. LF

YELTSIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS MEASURES TO SECURE VLASOV'S RELEASE

Following a meeting in Moscow on 9 July with Yeltsin, Russian presidential envoy to the CIS and co-chairman of the Russian-Chechen Commission Ivan Rybkin told Interfax that Yeltsin continues to insist that his abducted envoy, Valentin Vlasov, be released unconditionally, Interfax reported. Vlasov was abducted on 1 May close to the Chechen-Ingush border; both the Chechen and the Ingush authorities deny he is being held on their territory. The following day, Rybkin told journalists that Moscow should change its political and economic administrative approach in the North Caucasus and create a new state commission to expedite the socio-economic development of Russia's southern regions, according to Caucasus Press. Rybkin also denied Chechen claims that Russia has not paid the Chechen leadership for the transportation of Azerbaijani Caspian oil to Russia via Chechnya. LF

YELTSIN WARNS POWER MINISTRIES OVER NORTH CAUCASUS

Meeting with senior military commanders and heads of law-enforcement agencies on 10 July, Russian President Yeltsin warned Russia's power ministries against undertaking any spontaneous uncoordinated actions in the North Caucasus. according to ITAR-TASS. Yeltsin also said during that meeting that "our power and law-enforcement agencies are very well coordinated" (see above). He stressed that the Ministry for Internal Affairs, and specifically Interior Troops commander Colonel-General Leontii Shevtsov, has responsibility for coordinating measures to stabilize the situation in the North Caucasus. "Moskovskii komsomolets" claimed last week that the Russian military is planning a new war in the North Caucasus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1998.) LF

LUZHKOV PROTESTS LACK OF PUBLICITY FOR WORLD YOUTH GAMES

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 10 July sent a letter to Yeltsin complaining that major Russian television stations are ignoring the World Youth Games, ITAR-TASS reported. Luzhkov claimed that neither fully state-owned Russian Television nor 51 percent state- owned Russian public Television (ORT) nor private NTV will cover the events, taking place in Moscow from 11-19 July. Last year, Luzhkov decried ORT's lack of live coverage of festivities to mark Moscow's 850th anniversary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). Meanwhile, Moscow city authorities have ordered Medicins sans frontieres to remove their portable facilities in downtown Moscow, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 July. The authorities believe that "a crowd of sick refugees spoils the appearance of the Youth Games," according to "Izvestiya." BT




ARMENIAN, GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS IN MOSCOW

Vartan Oskanian met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in Moscow on 9 July to discuss bilateral relations and the Karabakh peace process, Noyan Tapan reported the following day. Both ministers stressed the need for the speediest possible resumption of talks on Karabakh. In an interview published by Turan on 10 June, Oskanian similarly called for the resumption of talks within either the "3+3" format (Armenia, Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic plus the three Minsk Group co-chairmen) or the "1+1" variant (Baku and Stepanakert). Oskanian said that question would not arise if Azerbaijan was serious about seeking to resolve the conflict. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili was in Moscow on 12 July to discuss the Abkhaz situation with Primakov, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

FIVE RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS KILLED IN ABKHAZIA

Five members of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia were killed and another five injured when their vehicle hit a land mine in Abkhazia's Gali Raion on 12 July, ITAR-TASS reported. More than 60 Russian peacekeepers have been killed in Abkhazia over the past four years. The commander of the Russian force, General Sergei Korobko, blamed Georgian guerrillas of the White Legion for the incident, according to Interfax. Two days earlier, the commander of the UN observer mission in western Georgia had complained that inadequate security precautions were preventing his men from carrying out their duties, according to Caucasus Press. LF

GEORGIAN FUGITIVES RELUCTANT TO RETURN TO ABKHAZIA

Representatives of the Russian peacekeepers and the Abkhaz authorities met in Tsalendjikha on 11 July with ethnic Georgians who fled Gali during the fighting in May. However, they failed to persuade the fugitives to return to their homes, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgians suspect that the Abkhaz overture was intended to prevent charges of ethnic cleansing from being leveled against the Abkhaz leadership at the 15 July UN Security Council meeting, at which the Abkhaz conflict is to be discussed. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DISSATISFIED WITH CONCESSIONS ON ELECTION LAW

The Azerbaijani parliament on 10 July endorsed two amendments to the election law that were proposed by President Heidar Aliyev in response to opposition demands, Turan reported. That law was passed last month. The amendments reduce the minimum required turnout from 50 percent plus one vote to 25 percent and allow voters to endorse the registration application of more than one potential presidential candidate. But the third opposition demand--for parity in the composition of electoral commissions--was rejected. Opposition spokesmen termed the modifications to the law " a great victory" but said they will not abandon their plans to boycott the poll unless their third demand is met. LF

GERMANY GRANTS AZERBAIJAN DM 17 MILLION

Germany has granted Azerbaijan a loan worth DM 10 million ($5.5 million) to support economic reform, as well as a DM 7 million a loan for scientific and technical assistance, ITAR- TASS reported on 10 July. The credits are to support the privatization of agriculture and the development of small and medium-sized businesses. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov's official visit to Germany, originally planned for May, has been rescheduled for mid-October, according to Turan. LF

NAZARBAYEV DEMANDS WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION...

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, addressing first the parliament and then the nation on 10 July, said that corruption is "one of the most dangerous phenomena today," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He added that fighting corruption is necessary to regain "trust in the state power structures," according to Reuters. The Western news agency also reported that "Nazarbayev, whose son-in-law heads the tax inspector's office and whose daughter runs the main television channel, said he would eradicate misuse of personal connections." The chairman of the National Security Committee, Alnur Musayev, told the parliament that the more than 300 corruption cases currently being investigated include judges, governors, public prosecutors, and policemen. BP

...PROMPTING VIOLENCE NEXT DAY

One day after Nazarbayev's comments about corruption, fighting broke out in Almaty between members of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee and police, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 July. In response to a complaint filed by a private individual, members of the committee went to a police station to arrest officials suspected of extortion. However, they met with insults and were forced out of the station by police. No injuries were reported. The committee has promised that legal action will be brought against the policemen. BP

DEATH TOLL RISES AFTER FERGANA FLOOD

Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 12 July said that relief workers have found the bodies of 92 people killed as a result of the 8 July flood in the Fergana Valley, eastern Uzbekistan, ITAR-TASS reported. However, RFE/RL correspondents on 12 July quoted Aleksei Yermolov, the spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Emergencies, as saying the Kyrgyz authorities have found the bodies of 44 people on the Kyrgyz side of the border, 43 of whom were Uzbek citizens and were not included in the Uzbek government's casualty figures. BP

AKAEV ELIGIBLE TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY IN 2000

The Kyrgyz Constitutional Court ruled on 13 July that incumbent President Askar Akaev, is eligible to run in the presidential elections scheduled for 2000, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Akaev was elected president by the Kirghiz SSR Supreme Soviet in 1990 and elected in a popular vote the following year and again in 1995. The court ruled that Akaev can run again since he has been elected only once since Kyrgyzstan adopted a new constitution in 1993. BP




BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS BANNED FROM ENTERING EU...

The EU on 10 July banned Belarusian government officials from entering its member states, dpa reported. The ban is in retaliation for the eviction of EU diplomats from their residences at Drazdy, near Minsk, and applies to some 30 ministries and senior officials from President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's administration. The charges d'affaires of Germany, France, the U.K., Greece, and Italy handed over a note to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 10 July informing it of the EU decision. According to dpa, France has proposed that the EU foreign ministers discuss severing diplomatic relations with Belarus. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Minsk has released a statement denying that several Western ambassadors are willing to move to new residences, as claimed by the Belarusian authorities. Both Germany and France earlier denied that claim (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1998). JM

...WHILE BELARUS SAYS BAN 'UNPRECEDENTED PRESSURE'

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a 10 July statement that the EU decision to ban Belarusian officials from entering its member states was accompanied "with threats to take even tougher measures," ITAR-TASS reported. According to the ministry, the EU has taken advantage of a "relatively small problem--the change of residences--as a reason for applying large-scale, unprecedented pressure on sovereign Belarus." Speaking on national television, Lukashenka's administration chief, Mikhail Myasnikovich, called the ban an "ill-considered" decision that is economically disadvantageous for both sides. Myasnikovich added that some foreign embassies in Belarus have already denied visas to children affected by the Chornobyl nuclear accident, who had intended to receive treatment abroad, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 July. JM

KUCHMA URGES PARLIAMENT TO APPROVE REVISED 1998 BUDGET

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma appealed to the parliament on 10 July to approve a revised 1998 budget draft, submitted by the cabinet earlier this month, before the parliamentary summer recess. The draft reduces the budget deficit to 2.3 percent of GDP. The government has faced difficulties in raising funds to finance the 3.3 percent deficit for which the original budget provided. The revised budget must be passed "to alleviate tension in view of the acute economic crisis in the country," Ukrainian Television quoted Kuchma as saying. The president also asked the Supreme Council to refrain from passing bills that "require additional budget assignations or reduce budget revenues." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PERMANENT COMMITTEE HEADS

The Supreme Council has approved the heads of its 24 permanent committees, Ukrainian Television reported on 10 July. The Communist Party received six chairs, the Popular Democratic Party five, the "Hromada" party four, and the Socialists/Peasants, the Greens, and the Social Democrats three each. Former speaker Oleksandr Moroz heads the committee for agrarian policy, former Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko the committee for human rights; former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk the committee for social policy and labor. The Progressive Socialists have strongly protested this distribution, which deprives both its deputies and non- affiliated parliamentary members of any committee chairs. JM

BALTIC STATES MOVE TOWARD COMMON ECONOMIC MARKET

The prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, meeting in Silguda (Latvia) on 10 July, signed an agreement standardizing customs procedures. The three also agreed to draw up a treaty next year on the free movement of labor. Observers say that because the countries are so small, a common market is critical for growth and investments in the long term. At the same meeting, the Baltic foreign ministers signed an accord pledging that each country will recognize the others' secondary and vocational school certificates. JC

ESTONIAN SS MEETING TAKES PLACE WITHOUT INCIDENT

Some 1,500 veterans of Estonia's former World War II SS battalion held a rally in Tallinn on 11 July, which passed without incidence. No top officials or military leaders attended the event. The previous day, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves had warned that the meeting could trigger a propaganda campaign against Estonia in the international press, according to ETA. However, Reuters reported on 11 July that there was "little or no criticism" of the event, while ETA commented that only "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" wrote about the "rehabilitation of fascism" in Estonia. A meeting of Latvian SS veterans in March provoked a sharp reaction from Moscow as well as the dismissal of the commander of the Latvian army, who had taken part in the Riga rally. JC

ADAMKUS WANTS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO RULE ON LUSTRATION LAW

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has proposed that the parliament postpone enacting the lustration law to allow the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the legislation is constitutional, BNS reported on 10 July. Last week, Adamkus announced that he will not sign the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1998). He also said he will consider proposing amendments to the law only after the Constitutional Court has made a ruling. According to the Baltic news agency, parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis, who initiated the legislation, has the support of more than one-third of deputies to hold an extraordinary session on 15-16 July in the event that the president returns the law to the parliament. JC

POLISH PREMIER SAYS EARLIER NATO ENLARGEMENT POSSIBLE

Following his visit to the U.S., Jerzy Buzek said on 12 July that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic may join NATO in January 1999, three months earlier than anticipated, Reuters reported. Buzek said the proposal to speed up the admission of new members to NATO has been accepted by the U.S. administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1998). NATO enlargement was initially planned to coincide with the alliance's 50th anniversary, in April 1999. He noted that if voting on NATO enlargement is completed by November and the Czech, Hungarian, and Polish parliaments ratify the NATO treaty in December, the new countries could formally join in January. He also said the U.S. agrees that the costly change-over of Poland's military hardware to NATO standards may be postponed. JM

POLISH FARMERS CLASH WITH POLICE IN PROTEST MARCH

Some 10,000 Polish farmers marched in Warsaw on 10 July to protest the government's agricultural policy, "Rzeczpospolita" reported. The farmers demanded that the government introduce higher duties on food imports and allot more funds to modernize agriculture before Poland joins the EU. Scuffles broke out between marchers and police, who used truncheons, tear gas, and water cannons to prevent traffic blockades. Farm leaders met later with Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz and agreed that regular negotiations between agricultural trade unions and the government would begin in mid-July. Poland has more than 2 million farms, mostly small and inefficient, which employ some 25 percent of the population but provide only 6 percent of GDP. JM

HAVEL LIKES NEITHER AGREEMENT NOR PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

Czech President Vaclav Havel says that although he is "disturbed" by the wording and content of the "opposition" agreement between the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Social Democrats (CSSD), he will probably appoint CSSD chairman Milos Zeman as prime minister, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 12 July. But Havel cautioned that "anything is possible." He added that he wants to appoint a new cabinet before 22 July, when he is scheduled to enter the hospital. Havel said a change in the constitution to increase the threshold for a party to enter the parliament is "an attack on pluralism." The ODS and CSSD have enough votes in parliament to alter the constitution, and both parties have spoken of a need to change the proportional system used to elect the lower house. The same day, the ODS's Miroslav Macek accused Havel of being paranoid after the president asserted that the ODS has considered accusing him of treason in an effort to remove him. PB

ZEMAN WANTS END TO RESTITUTION OF CHURCH PROPERTY

CSSD chairman Milos Zeman said on 10 July that his party will demand a halt to the restitution of property to the Catholic Church if it comes to power, CTK reported. Zeman said, however, that his party will support the return of Jewish property seized by the Nazis during World War II. Miloslav Fiala, the press director at the Czech Bishops' Conference, said such an action by the government would be alarming. He noted that such measures "might have a populist accent, but they are a warning signal abroad." PB

MECIAR ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT...

Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said on 10 July that the country's main goal is to join the EU, Slovak Radio reported. He added that Slovakia is also "interested in NATO membership," but he said that comments by former President Michal Kovac have hurt its chances for membership. He noted that relations with Poland, Ukraine, and Austria were good, although Bratislava and Vienna have "contrasting views" on nuclear energy, a reference to Austria's opposition to Slovakia's operation of the Mochovce nuclear power plant. Meciar argued that relations with Hungary have improved but are weakened by Budapest's failure to adhere to an international court verdict on the controversial Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam. And he said that tension over the Hungarian minority in Slovakia needs to be overcome, commenting that Slovakia is responsible to international institutions but not to any other government regarding minority rights. PB

...SAYS HE'S WILLING TO WORK WITH NEW CZECH GOVERNMENT

Meciar praised former Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 10 July, saying his ability to compromise and his "personal stature" are highlighted by the "opposition" agreement between Klaus's ODS and the Social Democrats, CTK reported. Meciar said he welcomes the steps toward "stabilizing the political environment" in Prague. He added that Slovakia is waiting for the government leadership to "emerge" and that Bratislava was ready to cooperate with it in all areas. According to the Slovak leader, relations with Prague are good and the only problem in those relations is the "failure to settle property issues." PB

HUNGARY'S HORN DECLINES HONORARY POST

Outgoing Socialist Party (MSZP) chairman and former Prime Minister Gyula Horn unexpectedly told a party board meeting that he does not intend to become the party's honorary chairman, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 13 July. Horn said he made that decision because of recent debates within the party about the need for the post. MSZP Executive Deputy Chairman Magda Kovacs Kosa said Horn does not lay claim to any other posts within the party but will remain active in the party's domestic and international affairs. MSZ

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS EU MEMBERSHIP IN FOUR YEARS

Janos Martonyi said that if Hungary is not admitted into the EU by 2002 it will be due to reasons "beyond our control," Hungarian Television reported on 12 July. Martyoni said Budapest's accession to the EU would be "favorable for the Hungarian communities beyond our borders." He added that once in the EU, Budapest would work to accelerate the process of accession for Hungary's neighbors. Meanwhile, eight FBI agents have arrived in the Hungarian capital to help police investigate the 2 July car bombing that killed four people. PB




UCK DOES NOT RECOGNIZE RUGOVA AS LEADER

Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) spokesman Jakup Krasniqi told the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" of 11 July that his organization does not "recognize shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova as the UCK's commander because [Rugova] did not create it." Krasniqi called on all political parties "to unite in a broad national front and recognize the UCK as Kosova's legitimate army. He added that the UCK fights for "the liberation of all occupied Albanian territories and for their unification with Albania" and that "we have not taken up arms just to gain autonomy." Krasniqi noted that the UCK is ready for talks with Belgrade, but he stressed that the Serbian authorities must first "free all political prisoners and hostages and withdraw their forces from Kosova." The spokesman added that foreign powers, "preferably the U.S.," must establish "control" over the province. And he pledged that the UCK will be in Prishtina "soon." FS

DAYTON-TYPE CONFERENCE FOR KOSOVA?

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel failed to secure the agreement of his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in Moscow on 11 July for international military intervention to end the crisis in Kosova, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Primakov informed his guest that Russia insists Kosova become autonomous within the frontiers of Yugoslavia. Kinkel told reporters that the international community must seek "creative [diplomatic] solutions." He told the Berlin daily "Tagesspiegel" of 12 July that one possibility would be to hold an international conference on the model of the Dayton meeting that ended the Bosnian conflict in 1995. The German minister concluded that the first order of business for the international community in Kosova is to secure a cease-fire. Meanwhile in Paris on 10 July, French Foreign Ministry officials said France and the U.K. have submitted to the UN Security Council a joint resolution on Kosova. PM

TURKEY SAYS READY FOR NATO ACTION OVER KOSOVA

President Suleyman Demirel told the Tirana daily "Koha Jone" of 12 July that Turkey is "ready to be part of any mission [in Kosova] that has the mandate of the international community." Demirel stressed that Turkey will not support independence for Kosova unless Belgrade and Prishtina agree to it. He criticized the EU's Balkan policy as "based on the lowest common denominator." Demirel argued that the EU "does not have a vision [for the region] and underestimates the role that it can play in developing a new international order." Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ismet Sezgin said before meeting his Albanian counterpart, Luan Hajdaraga, in Ankara on 10 July that military intervention may be necessary in Kosova if the international community does not find a diplomatic solution. FS

FIGHTING CONTINUES IN WESTERN KOSOVA

Serbian and Kosovar sources reported fighting in the Peja, Gjakova, and Decan areas from 10-12 July. The Kosovar news agency KIC added on 11 July that the Serbian forces used ground- to ground missiles near Peja. The "International Herald Tribune" reported on 13 July that the UCK is steadily acquiring more and better weapons and that Serbian forces are increasingly reluctant to enter UCK-controlled territory. The Tirana daily "Shekulli" reported the previous day that seven UCK fighters are receiving treatment in the Albanian capital's military hospital. PM/FS

OSCE FEARS NEW WAVE OF REFUGEES

An OSCE spokesman told Albanian State Television on 11 July that monitors on the Kosovar-Albanian border have observed extensive fighting in the area around Gjakova. He added that the fighting could trigger a new influx of tens of thousands of refugees into northern Albania. Official statistics currently put Albania's Kosovar refugee population at 12,000, but refugee workers estimate that there are another 5,000 or so unregistered people there. Meanwhile on 11 July, the U.S. humanitarian organization AmeriCares flew five tons of medicine, blankets, and other supplies into Tirana. FS

MACEDONIAN BORDER GUARDS STOP ARMS SMUGGLERS

Macedonia border guards on 11 July fired on some 30 suspected arms smugglers about 60 miles southwest of Skopje. The smugglers escaped after an exchange of gunfire, but nobody was injured. Interior Ministry officials did not say whether the border guards seized any arms during the incident. Meanwhile in an interview published in the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" on 11 July, President Kiro Gligorov said that NATO cannot use his country as a base for possible armed intervention in Kosova. He nonetheless welcomed NATO support to help stop arms smuggling by the UCK. FS

SREBRENICA SURVIVORS, IZETBEGOVIC TRADE CHARGES

More than 3,000 Muslims from Srebrenica staged a protest in Tuzla on 11 July to mark the third anniversary of the town's fall to Bosnian Serb forces. The demonstrators, who were mainly women, children, and elderly, demanded information regarding the fate of their 10,000 missing relatives, most of whom are males presumed to have been massacred by the Serbs. Speakers blamed the international community, but especially the Bosnian political and military leadership, for what happened. Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the joint presidency and who was Bosnian president in 1995, denied the charges. He stressed in an interview with state-run television that the government and the army did all they could to prevent the fall of Srebrenica. Izetbegovic said that the international community is responsible for what happened to Srebrenica and its people, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

CROATIAN OPPOSITION CALLS OFFICIALS' PAY 'SCANDALOUS'

The Istrian Democratic Assembly, a regional opposition party, passed a resolution on 12 July that sharply criticized a measure on officials' salaries passed by the parliament two days earlier, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Parliament set the president's salary at $8,000 per month and pegged the pay of top officials at 33-50 percent of that figure. Members of the parliament and the government must publicly declare all their property from the time they were elected. The Istrian party charged that the governing Croatian Democratic Community should pay some of the officials' salaries out of its own coffers. The government recently claimed that it is too poor to pay pensioners back benefits to which a court recently ruled they are entitled. The average monthly income in Croatia is $400. On 10 July, postal and telecommunications workers staged a warning strike for better pay. PM

EU DISAPPOINTED BY ROMANIAN ECONOMY

Gunther Burghardt, head of the foreign relations department of the European Committee, said on 10 July that he is worried by the slow pace of economic reforms in Romania, AP reported. Burghardt said that Romania has the worst economic performance of any EU applicant over the past year. He said reforms have been stalled by political infighting, corruption, and too much bureaucracy. PB

ROMANIAN, BULGARIAN, TURKISH PREMIERS AGREE TO BOOST TRADE

Radu Vasile, Ivan Kostov, and Mesut Yilmaz agreed in Sofia on 11 July on measures to increase trade in an effort to offset possible losses resulting from sanctions against Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Yilmaz also stressed Turkey's unconditional support for Sofia and Bucharest's attempts to join NATO. Bulgaria's Kostov and Turkey's Yilmaz agreed to phase out tariffs on 60 percent of Bulgarian exports and 40 percent of Turkish exports beginning on 1 January. They expect the agreement to increase bilateral trade fivefold. The three premiers and Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov also discussed construction of a second bridge over the River Danube near Serbia to increase access to the West. PB

FOUR LIBERAL BULGARIAN PARTIES FORM ALLIANCE

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the New Choice Liberal Alliance, the Liberal Democratic Alternative, and the Free Radical Democratic Party on 10 July announced the formation of the Liberal Democratic Alliance, Bulgarian Radio reported. Former Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev was named the alliance's honorary president. The parties will be allowed to act independently in matters outside the scope of agreements made by the alliance. PB




RUSSIA PRESSED TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM MOLDOVA


by Roland Eggleston

The U.S. and other delegations to the OSCE have told Russia to honor its promise to withdraw all troops and ammunition from Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester.

At two meetings in Vienna last week, Moscow was accused of ignoring the commitments made by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin at the OSCE summit in Lisbon in December 1996. Russia was also accused of ignoring repeated requests to allow OSCE monitors to check the levels of troops, equipment, and arms still deployed in Transdniester.

The charges were made by Moldova's deputy foreign minister, Iurie Leanca, and were backed by the U.S., France, Canada, and the EU. Romania and Azerbaijan also became involved in the debate. France said that "absolutely no progress has been made" in resolving the problem. And the EU delegate, Jutta Stefan-Bastl, said the OSCE has no real information on how many troops are still there.

In 1994, Russia said that it had 8,500 troops stationed there. Last November, the OSCE said it believed there were still more than 3,000 in place. Russia responded that it was not deliberately trying to maintain a military presence in the region but that there were many difficulties--including political ones--in fulfilling the commitment. Russian delegates said that the promises would be kept but gave no deadline for doing so.

At a meeting of the OSCE permanent council, the U.S. responded by proposing a number of concrete steps that it wants Russia to take before the end of the year.

Moldova demanded the withdrawal of the Russian troops when it declared independence in 1992, but the operation was complicated by domestic problems. The Transdniester region, largely-populated by ethnic Russians, declared separation from Moldova. The move led to heavy fighting in which scores of people died. The Russian 14th Army, then led by General Aleksandr Lebed, remained in the Transdniester. Moscow described it as a "peacekeeping" force but Moldova considered it to be a foreign army to be illegally based on its territory.

In October 1994, Russia and Moldova agreed on the withdrawal of the troops, but they nonetheless stayed in place. Russian commanders said that hundreds of their men were locals who wanted to remain in Transdniester.

In an OSCE summit meeting in Lisbon in December 1996, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin joined other government leaders in a statement calling for the "early, orderly, and complete withdrawal of Russian troops." The statement forms part of the final document issued by the summit meeting.

Delegates to last week's meetings in Vienna were told that some troops and military materiel were indeed withdrawn last year. But the withdrawal stopped and, as far as is known, no more troops have moved this year. The EU described this as "deplorable" behavior.

Speaking on behalf of the EU, the Austrian delegate Jutta Stefan-Bastl, said that "the EU would very much welcome a decision by the Russian side to provide detailed information on the number of troops, equipment, and arms still present in Transdniester." She added that Russia should allow international observers to inspect the situation. And she commented that "we deplore that our repeated requests for access to weapons depots have never been taken into consideration by Russia."

The U.S., the EU, and other countries said they regard the continued storage of arms in Transdniester as a "serious factor of instability and a risk for the preservation of stability in the whole region." They asked Russia to provide detailed information on how many weapons and other equipment were still in Transdniester.

Russia responded that it is ready to begin the destruction of munitions by the end of this month. Romania, for its part, commented that it is ready to assist in the destruction if required.

The U. S. delegate, David Johnson, said that Russia should establish a number of targets to be fulfilled before the OSCE foreign ministers meet in Oslo at the end of the year. "They should include the actual departure of several trainloads of equipment back to Russia and the conclusion of a comprehensive schedule for the complete withdrawal of Russian forces and equipment," Johnson said.

He welcomed Russia's statement that the destruction of munitions would begin this month. Johnson also proposed that Russia allow the OSCE mission in the region to monitor the withdrawal and the destruction of weapons.

The U.S.--backed by several other countries-- proposed that another meeting on the problem be held in Vienna in October. It would assess how much progress Russia has made in meeting those proposals and draw up a report for the OSCE foreign ministers conference in December. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich.


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