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Newsline - July 28, 1998


In a statement addressed to the Russian government on issued on 27 July, former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev expressed their alarm at the deteriorating situation in Chechnya and the North Caucasus in general. The four urged the Russian government "immediately to adopt and implement a position on the region that is clear to [Russian] society." In April, acting Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov unveiled Russia's new draft program on the North Caucasus, which was criticized as inadequate by several North Caucasian leaders, including Ingush President Ruslan Aushev. Berezovskii complained in early July that Russia still lacks a comprehensive North Caucasus policy. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which Berezovskii funds, has interpreted the statement as evidence of a possible pre-election coalition. LF


Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met again with his South Korean counterpart, Park Chung soo, on 28 July in Manila, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov said after the meeting that the series of expulsions of Russian and South Korean diplomats can be considered to have "run its course." Primakov also said he had invited Park and the South Korean minister of foreign trade to visit Moscow and that the invitation "was gratefully accepted." The previous evening, Primakov met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The two gave a press conference before that meeting, at which Primakov said the planned summit between Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton in Moscow this September is already "programmed for success." He added "that doesn't mean the leaders of the two countries will find solutions to every problem..., but it will allow development of relations between Russia and the United States." BP


An article in the 27 July issue of "The New York Times" claims that Russia is secretly engaged in the "new Afghan war" but that "the Russians are after oil, as well as protection of their border." Its engagement is part of a larger Russian strategy to reassert influence over Central Asia, according to the newspaper. The article argues that Russia is working together with Iran in supporting the alliance fighting the Taliban religious movement, which currently controls some 80 percent of Afghanistan. It also quotes Ahmed Shah Masoud, a key commander in the anti-Taliban alliance, as admitting that he receives most of his equipment from the Russian mafia, not the Russian government. Interfax on 28 July quoted sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying "these assertions are absolutely untrue" and that "Russia strictly adheres to its position of noninterference in Afghanistan's internal affairs." BP


Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko says that under its new director, Vladimir Putin, the "most important" task of the Federal Security Service (FSB) will be to ensure Russia's economic security, Russian news agencies reported on 27 July. Introducing Putin to top FSB staff, Kirienko praised the work of Putin's predecessor, Nikolai Kovalev, but said "conditions are changing, people are changing." An unnamed source in the government apparatus told Russian news agencies that Putin's appointment signifies "enhancement of the [FSB's] status." The source said "the fact that the new FSB chief used to serve as the first deputy head of the presidential administration demonstrates the attention paid by the Russian leadership to the problems of the service." LB


"Tribuna" on 28 July argued that the decision to appoint Putin as FSB director suggests that the Kremlin wanted a more loyal figure for that position. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated the same day that the decision to replace Kovalev with Putin was taken for purely political rather than "professional" reasons. The newspaper pointed out that Unified Energy System head Anatolii Chubais has been a "patron" of Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 July cast doubt on Putin's political skills, saying he did a poor job organizing the 1995 parliamentary campaign as head of the St. Petersburg branch of the Our Home Is Russia movement. The newspaper also charged that Putin contributed to former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak's June 1996 election loss. LB


Owing to strained budget resources, the government has reduced the number of enterprises fulfilling the state defense order from roughly 1,700 in 1997 to 1,000 in 1998, according to the Deputy Economics Minister Vladimir Salo, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. At the League for Aid to the Defense Industry's 24 July meeting, President Anatolii Dolgolaptev blasted the government for driving defense enterprises into bankruptcy and said that under the Civil Code, the league will try to force the government to pay unfulfilled defense contracts, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Dolgolaptev said that government conversion projects have completely failed, and restructuring of the defense complex has not gotten under way. The 1998 defense order was delayed by four months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1998). Meanwhile, recently appointed Industry and Trade Minister Yurii Maslyukov, who seeks authority to oversee the defense industry, did not attend the league's 24 July meeting, "Segodnya" noted. BT


The U.S. is failing to fulfill its agreement to buy diluted uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons, according to Aleksei Grigoriev, deputy director of the uranium export agency Tekhsnabeksport and the official in charge of the program. Under a $12 billion agreement signed in 1993, the U.S. agreed to help Russia convert and export to the U.S. 500 tons of uranium over 20 years, Reuters reported on 27 July. According to Grigoriev, the U.S. has been paying for only enriched uranium, and not the "natural" component, as was stipulated in the 1993 agreement. The U.S. government recently privatized the corporation in charge of treating uranium for use as fuel in nuclear reactors. Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov said this threatens the U.S.'s further participation in the program and will flood the world uranium market, hurting Russian uranium sales, ITAR- TASS reported on 24 July. BT


Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction in the State Duma, says his faction will seek to override the presidential veto of a law that would more than halve excise duties on oil, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July. Yeltsin rejected that law because the parliament did not approve other measures that would have increased budget revenues. Shokhin claimed that the Our Home Is Russia faction, not the government, proposed the law, adding that it is crucial for Russia to help stimulate exports now. Commenting on the recent appeal to Yeltsin and the government by several oil companies, Shokhin said that "perhaps [the companies] spoke out too emotionally and too sharply concerning the president's veto, but in essence we share their view" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 July 1998). LB


Konstantin Titov, the governor of Samara Oblast and chairman of the Federation Council Budget Committee, says he will ask the Constitutional Court to assess the legality of some recent government measures to boost budget revenues, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July. Titov believes the government usurped functions of the legislature when it unilaterally increased individual contributions to the Pension Fund and shortened the list of goods subject to a reduced rate of value-added tax (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 22 July 1998). The Samara Oblast administration is preparing legal documents that will be sent to the Constitutional Court in the next few days. LB


The recent government directive raising customs duties will affect goods brought to Russia after 15 August regardless of when import contracts have been signed, sources in the State Customs Committee told Russian news agencies on 24 July. In order to increase revenues, the government has levied an additional 3 percent charge on most imports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1998). Previous rules allowed imports to be taxed at whatever rate was in effect when the contract for the shipment was signed, according to ITAR-TASS. LB


The State Duma's impeachment commission on 27 July held hearings on the first of five possible charges against the president, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov and Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, both prominent members of the Communist faction, summarized the first charge against Yeltsin. They said he committed treason in December 1991, when he (as then president of the RSFSR) and leaders of the Ukrainian and Belarusian republics signed the Belavezha accords on dissolving the USSR. Among other things, Ilyukhin said Yeltsin and the other signatories lacked the authority to break up the USSR and ignored the will of the Soviet people, as expressed in a March 1991 referendum. (Although six Soviet republics boycotted that referendum, some 80 percent of the electorate in the remaining republics participated, of whom 76 percent voted in favor of preserving the USSR.) Presidential representatives did not turn up for the hearings. The impeachment commission postponed further consideration of the charge until 17 August. LB


Political groups supporting Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov have met behind closed doors to form a new electoral alliance, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July. The bloc, to be called Unity, will organize nationwide protests this fall before turning its attention to the State Duma elections scheduled for December 1999. It will then support Luzhkov in the 2000 presidential election. The mayor is not "advertising" his connection to the alliance, "Kommersant- Daily" said, but organizers have coordinated their actions with him. The Unity alliance will include Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi and his Derzhava movement, Duma deputy Andrei Nikolaev and his Union of Labor and Popular Power, Duma deputy Dmitrii Rogozin and his Congress of Russian Communities, and Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin and his Russian All-National Union. LB


Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Lebed told ITAR-TASS on 27 July that if the political and economic situation in Russia deteriorates, he may run for president in 2000. Earlier this year, Lebed repeatedly said he will not run for president until after he has sorted out the economic problems of Krasnoyarsk Krai, a task that could take several years. Lebed finished third in the 1996 presidential election with 15 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Lebed's Honor and Motherland movement is to hold a congress in Krasnoyarsk on 30 and 31 July. Lebed told ITAR-TASS that the movement will focus on the 1999 parliamentary elections. Lebed ran for the Duma in 1995 on the ticket of the Congress of Russian Communities, which did worse than analysts expected and won only five seats in the Duma. LB


Oleg Mironov, Russia's human rights commissioner, and Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov on 24 July signed a cooperation agreement, Russian news agencies reported. They promised to work together to fight human rights violations committed against prison inmates, citizens involved in criminal investigations, and workers (including the chronic wage arrears problem). Human rights watchdogs in Russia and abroad have repeatedly denounced conditions in Russian prisons and pre-trial detention centers, and Skuratov has called on the Interior Ministry to take more steps to improve the situation. (The prison system is to be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry later this year.) The Prosecutor-General's Office and Mironov's staff also agreed to conduct joint actions to check on possible violations of citizens' rights in the regions. LB


The television network Kultura, which is a division of the fully state-owned All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), ran advertising for the first time on 27 July. The network has an exclusive arrangement with the Japanese firm Sony and will show two commercials for Sony products each afternoon. When Yeltsin ordered the creation of Kultura last year, he promised that the network would focus on cultural and educational programming and would not run advertising. However, from the beginning some observers expressed skepticism that Kultura could survive for long without either advertising or some form of corporate sponsorship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997). "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 July quoted VGTRK Chairman Mikhail Shvydkoi as saying that "we would be happy if domestic producers or bankers helped the channel, but the first and only company that offered Kultura serious help turned out to be Sony." LB


Some 300 coal miners near Chelyabinsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, blockaded the Trans-Siberian Railroad on 28 July for the second consecutive day to protest non-payment of wages, Russian news agencies reported. The Railroad Ministry warned that Chelyabinsk's defense facilities and metallurgical plants will be severely affected by the blockade, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July. Meanwhile, more than 50 miners in Sakhalin Oblast are blocking coal supplies by rail and road to the region's main power station for the fourth consecutive day; as a result, there have been power cuts among local residences and some businesses. The protesters demand the plant pay them 50 million rubles ($8 million) for delivered coal, while the plant's management argues that they are owed 80 million rubles from consumers that rely on the federal budget. Meanwhile, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev on 27 July failed to convince coal miners to lift the 23-day blockade of the Novokuznetsk-Tashtagol railroad in Osinniki. BT


Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has asked Vazha Lortkipanidze to succeed Niko Lekishvili, who resigned as minister of state on 26 July, Caucasus Press reported on 28 July. Lortkipanidze, 48, has asked for two days to decide whether to accept that post. He began his political career in the Georgian Komsomol, serving as first secretary from 1983-1986, when Shevardnadze was Georgian Communist Party first secretary. He then served as first secretary of the Kalinin (Tbilisi) Raion Party Committee of the Georgian Communist Party. After Shevardnadze returned to Georgia in March 1992, Lortkipanidze served first as deputy prime minister and then as head of the head of state's administration. He was named ambassador to Russia in early 1995. LF


Almost the entire cabinet of ministers submitted their resignations on 27 July, with the exception of Agriculture Minister Bakur Gulua and Communications Minister Pridon Indjia, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Indjia is under attack for allegedly misappropriating a $4 million credit. Reuters reported on 27 July that the defense, national security, and interior ministers would be exempt from the cabinet reshuffle. LF


An armored personnel carrier belonging to the Russian peacekeeping contingent deployed in Abkhazia under CIS auspices was blown up by a land mine on 27 July in Abkhazia's Gali Raion. Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Konstantin Adleiba told Interfax that two Russian servicemen had been killed and three injured in the explosion, but a Russian military spokesman said that three peacekeepers were injured, one of whom subsequently died. Zurab Samushia, head of the "White Legion" Georgian guerrilla organization, disclaimed any responsibility for mining roads in Gali, Interfax reported. A spokesman for the Georgian National Security Minister, which the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused of abetting the White Legion, similarly denied that Georgia was to blame for the incident. LF


Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Vyacheslav Trubnikov held talks in Yerevan on 27 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and National Security and Interior Minister Serzh Sarkisian, Russian agencies reported. The presidential press service told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that it has no information on Trubnikov's itinerary or the agenda of his talks with Kocharian, but Interfax quoted a counselor at the Russian embassy in Yerevan as saying that they discussed cooperation in combating drug trafficking and organized crime. LF


NTV's Yelena Masyuk has been declared "persona non grata" by the Tajik authorities in Tajikistan, Interfax and ITAR- TASS reported on 27 July. The head of the Tajik Foreign Ministry's Information Department, Igor Sattarov, said Masyuk's reports were damaging to the country's leadership and the peace process. Sattarov singled out a recent NTV report on Tajik-Uzbek relations, which Sattarov said was aimed at "breaking up the fraternal ties between the two countries." "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July that Masyuk had engaged in other activities that displeased the Tajik government, such as traveling to the site where four UN employees were murdered on 20 July without informing the authorities of her plans. According to Russian daily, if Masyuk were to apologize, Dushanbe would be "prepared to forgive." But "if NTV blows this issue out of proportion," the Tajik authorities will close down the NTV office in Dushanbe. BP


Kazakhstan's Union of Oil and Gas Workers has sent a letter to President Nursultan Nazarbayev urging that he seek to stabilize the situation in the Mangistau oil field, Interfax reported on 27 July. Workers there say that they have not been paid since May and that this is the third consecutive year in which payments have been delayed. Some have been requested by the management to take three months' leave, while others have been laid off. Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev said last week that falling oil prices on world markets have already led Kazakhstan into a "pre-crisis" situation. President Nazarbayev is unlikely to respond to the letter until mid-August, when he returns from vacation in Switzerland, where he is writing a book. BP


So far this year, law enforcement agencies in Kyrgyzstan have confiscated more than 24 kilograms of heroin, compared with 4.5 kilograms for all of 1997, Interfax reported on 26 July. The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry blames the large increase on new laboratories in northeastern Afghanistan. Previously, most narcotics confiscated were raw opium, but those laboratories are now producing the finished product. A special government commission concluded that only 5 percent of the heroin transiting Kyrgyzstan is intercepted by law enforcement agencies. BP


Some 3,000 people marched in Minsk on 27 July to celebrate Independence Day, which was struck from the calendar following the November 1996 referendum. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has moved the holiday to 3 July, which marks the Soviet liberation of Belarus from German troops in World War II. The demonstrators marched under banned white-red-white flags and carried placards reading "Long live independent Belarus" and "Freedom of speech to Belarus," AP reported. They adopted a resolution condemning the Russia-Belarus Union treaty and violations of human rights under Lukashenka. Minsk authorities granted permission for the demonstration, which was organized by three opposition parties: the Belarusian Popular Front, the United Civic Party, and the Social Democratic Party. JM


A Belarusian delegation headed by President Lukashenka will attend a UN session in New York in late September marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Belarusian Radio reported on 27 July. According to Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich, Lukashenka is preparing for the session "very seriously." The minister added that Lukashenka will deliver a report that will have a "fundamental character." JM


National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko said on 27 July that he believes the IMF will approve a $2-2.5 billion loan to Ukraine, Ukrainian News reported. An IMF mission is currently in Kyiv to discuss conditions for the loan. "The fund is not insisting we meet all the starting conditions of the [loan] program. Ukraine should show that the measures that have already been taken will lead to the desired result, particularly to a balanced budget," he commented. Yushchenko said the IMF agrees that its main condition--reducing Ukraine's 1998 budget deficit to 2.3 percent of GDP--could be met by passing a governmental resolution or a presidential decree. Despite repeated appeals by President Leonid Kuchma, the Ukrainian parliament adjourned on 24 July for the summer recess without approving the required budget deficit reduction. JM


Yushchenko also vowed to keep Ukraine's embattled currency, the hryvnya, within the previously established exchange corridor of 1.8-2.25 to $1. The National Bank "is so convinced in its strategy on the financial market that it is not even discussing any other version of the corridor," AP quoted Yushchenko as saying. The hryvnya is facing pressure because of foreign investors' lack of trust in Ukraine's financial market. In August, Ukraine must repay $500 million of its $18 billion foreign debt. Domestic payment arrears by the end of June reached nearly 6 billion hryvni (some $3 billion). A possible IMF loan is widely seen as preventing Ukraine's financial collapse. JM


Lithuanian Minister of Agriculture Edvardas Makelis on 28 July announced the "administration has taken on the burden of purchasing all commodity grains grown in Lithuania this year, paying farmers favorable prices," BNS reported. The minister promised that roughly 70 percent of the price of grains sold would be paid to farmers immediately so that they have funds to sow new crops. The administration will provide some 40 million litas ($10 million) in supplementary funding to help pay for the grains. Lithuania's farmers have threatened to block all roads throughout the country on 1 August to protest the low minimum prices for agricultural products (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). JC


Aleksander Kwasniewski on 27 July signed the law consolidating Poland's 49 provinces into 16 new ones. The law, adopted by the lower house on 18 July and approved by the upper house on 24 July, is a political compromise between the Solidarity-led ruling coalition and the opposition Left Democratic Alliance, which had bickered for some six months over administrative reform. Kwasniewski said he hopes the new law will help "decentralize the state, strengthen local governments and citizens' powers," AP reported. JM


President Vaclav Havel, who underwent surgery on 26 July, will continue to receive breathing support for three or four days, CTK reported. The doctors treating him say the president's lungs are not yet "functioning normally" but that his state of health is "in accordance with expectations." Havel has no temperature and is able to talk, but some laboratory tests "are not optimal," the doctors say. MS


In his first major policy statement since the new cabinet was sworn in, Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 24 July told journalists that not only the Czech National Bank but also the government must participate in setting inflation targets. Zeman said the government "respects the independence of the National Bank" but it "would be totally absurd if the bank alone were to set the inflation targets," Reuters reported. The previous day, the Central Bank, headed by former interim Premier Josef Tosovsky, said it is not considering changing its current inflation targets, set at 5.5-6.5 percent for this year. MS


Zeman on 26 July told Prima Television his cabinet is considering banning skinheads and will take a much tougher line against them than did the previous government, CTK reported. He said the "skinhead movement", though not officially registered, is "organized" and has published magazines "spreading national and racial intolerance." MS


The death toll from last week's floods in northeastern Slovakia is now put at 39, with 24 people still missing, Reuters reported on 27 July, citing TASR. Interior Minister Gustav Krajci estimated the cost of the damage at up to 1.5 billion Slovak crowns ($43 million). In the neighboring Czech Republic, some 500 troops were mobilized to help flooded areas in the eastern part of the country, as weather forecasts predicted more heavy rains. Six people were killed in flooding in the region last week. According to preliminary estimates, the cost of the damage so far totals 1 billion Czech crowns ($31.80 million). MS


Yugoslav army forces and Serbian paramilitary police have driven the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) from large stretches of the Prishtina-Pec highway, including the Llapushnik area, in an offensive that began on 24 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). Reuters reported on 27 July that the Serbs "left [behind] a combat zone landscape resembling central Bosnia, with burnt-out houses, shot-up vehicles, abandoned trenches, roads littered with spent bullet casings, wandering farm animals and the ever-present danger of sniper fire." It is unclear how many persons died or how many fled. The army and police have meanwhile cut off the UCK stronghold of Junik and called on its defenders to surrender. In Prishtina, the Democratic League of Kosova said in a statement that the Serbian goal is "ethnic cleansing and a Kosova without Albanians." PM


The Prishtina daily "Bujku" wrote on 27 July that "the crime, which is assuming dimensions of genocide and large-scale ethnic cleansing, is being committed with the [tacit] approval of the European Union and the U.S. administration.... Milosevic was given a green light to carry on with ethnic cleansing in Kosova... The fact that the world has not criticized the Serbian government's [recent] decision to extend to five kilometers the security zone along the [Kosova-Albania] border is also evidence that the Balkan criminals are being pampered.... In the wake of the crime they have condoned, the EU and the U.S. will see to it that the parties come to the negotiating table: Albanians as victims, Serbs as victors." PM


Speaking in Tirana on 27 July, Paskal Milo accused the federal Yugoslav government with carrying out "ethnic cleansing operations" in Kosova. He also condemned the recent mining by Serbian forces of areas along the border with Kosova as "violations of international law." He said that move was intended to "prevent Kosovar refugees from crossing into Albania." Milo also sent a strong protest letter to the Yugoslav embassy over a series of recent border incidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). Meanwhile, an Interior Ministry spokesman said that a Serbian shell landed on Albanian territory near Tropoja that day. FS


State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 27 July that the U.S. is "deeply concerned about the increased fighting that has taken place... over the weekend. We are concerned in particular about the increased involvement in the fighting by the Serb army. We are especially concerned about the large number of displaced persons this new fighting has caused, and they are currently inaccessible to humanitarian assistance because of the fighting. We urge both sides, in the strongest possible terms, to cease the fighting and work towards a negotiated settlement." PM


Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said on 28 July at the ASEAN summit in Manila, the Philippines, that "the main task is to resume, without preconditions, the interrupted negotiating process between Belgrade and the leaders" of the Kosovars. He added that the problem of Kosova's status "could be solved through granting the province a broad autonomy. We oppose any solution which would lead to well as any outside intervention with the use of force." Primakov stressed that Russia is "actively contributing to the efforts to overcome the crisis while stressing the need for a balanced pressure on both sides." In Athens, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesmen said that Prime Minister Kostas Simitis sent a letter to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic the previous day calling for a peaceful solution to the Kosovar crisis and an increase in the number of Western observers allowed to monitor developments there. PM


Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said in Skopje that the Kosovar conflict could spread to Macedonia, which has a 23 percent ethnic Albanian minority, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 27 July. He added that the expanded war "could lead to changes in the ethnic map of Macedonia," which in turn could prove "dangerous" for neighboring countries. He did not elaborate. Also in Skopje, Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski and Victor Babiuc, his Romanian counterpart, signed an agreement on military cooperation. Kitanovski turned down Babiuc's offer to contribute Romanian troops to the UN's peacekeeping mission in Macedonia, UNPREDEP, Radio Bucharest reported. Kitanovski told Babiuc that Macedonia prefers to limit UNPREDEP to U.S. and Scandinavian forces "in order to avoid problems." He did not elaborate. Babiuc noted that the UN has not responded to Romania's offer of 300 soldiers for the mission. PM


Republika Srpska Information Minister Rajko Vasic said in Banja Luka on 27 July that the government has replaced the directors and editorial staffs of 11 radio and five television local stations. Vasic added that those fired were hard-line nationalists who were "frequently a source of misinformation and inflammatory reports...[and] prevented the truth from reaching the residents of the Republika Srpska." Spokesmen for the Serbian Democratic Party of Radovan Karadzic said in response to the sackings that the Banja Luka authorities are "terrorizing their political opponents," Reuters wrote. General elections are slated for 12-13 September. PM


Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi told "Shekulli" on 27 July that he does not have enough evidence to launch legal proceedings against imprisoned gang leader Myrteza "Zani" Caushi. Rakipi added that eyewitness testimony alone is insufficient to start a trial. He added that he is legally obliged to release Caushi on 28 September, which will be one year after his arrest, if sufficient evidence is not submitted by that date. Caushi led dozens of armed bandits in Vlora during the March 1997 uprising and is widely suspected of having killed four people and kidnapped six, including one child. In other news, unidentified gunmen shot and killed the head of the local Socialist Party in Sukth, west of Tirana, on 27 July. FS


The main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 27 July called on Premier Radu Vasile to condemn publicly Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's recent "ultimatum." Orban had urged support for the setting up of a Hungarian language university in Transylvania and had said that if the university is not set up "there is nothing more to talk about" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). The PDSR said "the process of instituting joint sovereignty in Transylvania" must be immediately stopped. The chauvinist Greater Romania Party demanded that Orban be declared persona non grata in Romania. Meanwhile, the nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity accused President Emil Constantinescu and the government of displaying an "ambiguous positions" towards the Hungarian demands. MS


Valentin Dolganiuc on 27 July told an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau that the parliament must amend the 1992 land privatization law, as well as its amended 1995 version to allow for "real" land privatization to take place. Dolganiuc said that only some 10 percent of those entitled to receive land have done so, owing to "procrastination" by local authorities. He said that the government has already approved a new draft law on land privatization and that he hopes reforms will be carried out by spring 1999. MS


President Petar Stoyanov told Leni Fischer, chairwoman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in Sofia on 23 July that if the international community decides to tighten sanctions against Belgrade, "we will be loyal." But he stressed that a new embargo on Yugoslavia will have a negative impact on Bulgaria's efforts at reforming its economy, ITAR-TASS reported. Fischer stressed the need to settle the Kosova conflict by taking into account the interests of both Yugoslavia and Albania, as well as those of neighboring countries. MS


by Wim van Meurs and Iris Kempe

Negotiations on an Estonian-Russian border treaty began in 1994, three years after then Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin recognized Estonian independence. Both the Estonian and the Russian parties have changed their positions and amended their arguments since then. In early 1996, some progress was made on the maritime border, but the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty remained a stumbling block to the land frontier. Estonia insisted on the validity of that treaty without--as Estonian diplomats claimed-- any "territorial strings" attached. Moscow, for its part, rejected that stance and linked the signing of the treaty to the treatment of the Russian minority in Estonia.

Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann finally opted for a treaty containing no reference to Tartu, but in early 1998, the Russian side pushed for negotiations to be reopened. Several inconclusive meetings followed, and talks are scheduled to continue after the summer recess.

Under the Tartu treaty, Soviet Russia recognized Estonian independence and accepted a border demarcation somewhat east of the frontier between the former tsarist provinces. In the north, Narva had joined Estonia by referendum in late 1917, and the treaty added several villages on the left bank of the Narva River. In the south, the region around Petseri, previously part of Pskov Oblast, was incorporated into the Estonian state. When Stalin occupied Estonia in fall 1944, he restored the tsarist border, this time as a demarcation between the Estonian SSR and Leningrad Oblast to the north and Pskov Oblast to the south.

Evidently, the current conflict is about national symbols rather than minor Russian-inhabited territories (totaling 2,322 square kilometers)--above all, the continuity of the Estonian nation-state within its 1920 borders. No nationalist conservative politician in Tallinn expects Russia to cede any piece of Russian territory, which in any case would only increase the size of the Russian minority in Estonia. Nevertheless, with the perception of statehood continuity acting as such a potent legitimizing symbol in contemporary Estonian politics, Siimann's decision to formally cede territories was surprising, more so than conservative politicians' insistence on historical rights.

The consequences of the delay in signing the Estonian- Russian border treaty are threefold. First, the conflict has a European dimension. It was definitely no coincidence that Siimann made his compromise on the eve of the NATO and EU enlargement decisions. And Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's recent demand that Estonia guarantee that Tartu will not be mentioned in connection with the Estonian parliament's ratification of the treaty can be understood only as an attempt to mobilize national conservative forces within Estonia against the treaty. With parliamentary elections due in Estonia next spring, more of the same can be expected from Moscow.

While keeping its relations with Estonia in a state of limbo, Moscow overlooks negative consequences at the local and regional levels. Surprisingly, the same applies to Tallinn: the Estonian government, for example, seems to worry more about the Setu, an Estonian-speaking, Russian- Orthodox minority in the Petseri region, than about the socio-economic situation in the backward Estonian border regions: In 1997, the government allocated a total of 60 million kroons (some $4 million) for regional policies and no less than 10 million kroons for the Setu community across the border.

Second, there are also economic and administrative consequences at the local or regional level. As a result of the 1991 border, the northeastern part of Estonia, with its derelict industrial complexes and its 90 percent Russian population, faces the same economic collapse as the agrarian, Estonian-populated southeastern. So far, initiatives for improving cross-border infrastructure, trade, and administrative regulations have come from regional authorities and the business community. Among those initiatives are the introduction of a ferry line between Mustvee and Pskov, Estonian participation at trade fairs in Pskov, and the 1997 cooperation between three Latvian and three Estonian provinces as well as three border raions of Pskov Oblast.

Third, the unsolved border issue has practical consequences in the immediate frontier area. Inhabitants of Narva-Ivangorod regularly demonstrate against the visa payment still needed to visit family members or one's dacha across the border. Social and cultural cross-border contacts in the south have also been seriously hampered by the border issue, in particular for the small Setu minority living on both sides of the frontier. It appears that setting up a special border regime for locals of the immediate border region depends on the signing of the border treaty.

In sum, the border treaty is a football in Russian- Estonian relations at the state level. For Moscow, it is an effective instrument to destabilize Estonian national politics and hamper the EU integration process. Tallinn seems to be more troubled by the possible consequences in foreign policy (EU accession) and in party politics (the symbol of Tartu) than by the practical implications at a regional and local level. Indeed, problems at the future EU border not solved on a bilateral or regional level might become European problems.

Thus, the "direct neighborhood" between the future EU member state and Russia also ought to include regional and local cross-border cooperation, which might help sustainable socio-economic development on both sides and reduce existing asymmetries and enmities. The drive for such cooperation exists at a regional level, in Tartu and Pskov. But what is missing is a signed border treaty between Tallinn and Moscow. After all, there can be no progress on cross-border cooperation without a fixed border. The authors are senior analysts at the Direct Neighborhood program at the Center for Applied Policy Research, Munich.