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Newsline - July 29, 1998


President Boris Yeltsin returned to Moscow on 29 July from Karelia, where he spent 11 days on holiday. The presidential press service initially said Yeltsin cut short his stay in Karelia because of the persistent cool, rainy weather there, NTV reported. However, ITAR-TASS quoted the president as saying he decided to come back to Moscow to attend to "urgent business" related to the "complex political and economic situation." Yeltsin added that Russia is experiencing a transition period "on the eve of the autumn political season." After meeting with Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko on 25 July, Yeltsin told journalists he expects this fall to be "rather difficult politically." The Kremlin press service announced on 29 July that Yeltsin will spend a day or two at his Gorky-9 residence outside Moscow before resuming his vacation at a location that has not yet been decided. LB


A Russian government spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 28 July that the cabinet fully agrees with the statement issued the previous day by four prominent Russian political figures arguing the need for the implementation of a clear policy to stabilize the situation in Chechnya and the North Caucasus. But he added that the call was "belated," citing Prime Minister Kirienko's 15 July visit to Dagestan as evidence that the government is already addressing the situation in the region. Vladimir Zorin, chairman of the Duma Committee on nationalities, praised the "statement of the four" and called for reviving the state commission on the North Caucasus. LF


Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov told Interfax on 28 July that he believes the statement by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev was "politically motivated" and had "far-reaching goals." He added that at the same time, the signatories had widely differing motives. Kuptsov suggested that Chernomyrdin was "seeking atonement for the sins he committed as premier," while Shaimev and Lebed sincerely wished to support Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov suggested that the signatures to the statement may have been forged, arguing that "it's impossible to unite a hedgehog, a grass-snake, a rhinoceros, and a parrot." He offered no hint as to which beast he equated with which signatory. LF


In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 28 July, Shaimiev again argued that Russia needs "a clear policy" on the North Caucasus and should proceed "from declarations to practical deeds," specifically in restoring the Chechen economy. Shaimiev rejected Russian media speculation that the statement is evidence of a planned alliance between the four signatories. Berezovskii similarly told ITAR-TASS on 28 July that those persons who construed the statement as evidence of a pre-poll alliance are lacking in political culture. LF


Chechen President Maskhadov decided on 27 July not to extend again the state of emergency he imposed five weeks earlier following the shooting of Security Minister Lecha Khutygov, Russian agencies reported. Presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev said that Chechnya's law enforcement agencies have succeeded in neutralizing numerous criminal gangs and that the situation is "fully normalized." LF


Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with representatives of the nine member states of the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila on 28 July to discuss a common approach to the Asian financial crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. They also discussed President Yeltsin's plans to attend the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Kuala Lumpur this November. During talks between Primakov and Philippine Secretary for Foreign Affairs Domingo Siazon, the two sides signed an intergovernmental agreement on cultural cooperation and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in training diplomatic personnel. BP


Following his 26 and 28 July meetings with Primakov within the framework of the ASEAN conference, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Chung soo announced that Russian diplomat Oleg Abramkin will be allowed to return to Seoul, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 29 July. South Korea declared Abramkin persona non grata after a South Korean diplomat was expelled from Moscow earlier this month on espionage charges. Abramkin will not remain long in Seoul. ITAR-TASS reports he is being allowed to return in order to retrieve his possessions there. Interfax reports he will stay only as long as it takes to find and name a successor. Primakov said "we view this as a kind of apology." BP


Russian President Yeltsin on 25 July signed a decree on military-technical cooperation as well as the so-called "List No. 1," which Russia's foreign partners in military-technical cooperation as well as military equipment and arms that may be exported, Russian agencies reported. That list has not been updated since 1993. The decree was the follow-up to several presidential decrees signed in August 1997 on restructuring the entire system of Russian arms exports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 1997). The president is empowered to endorse exports of military technology under the provisions of the federal law "On military- technical cooperation of the Russian Federation with foreign states." That law went into effect on 23 July, "Russkii telegraf" reported the following day. LF


At a 24 July colloquium, some 300 heads of major defense enterprises again criticized the Russian president and government for their failure to provide adequate funding for the defense industry, "Vremya-MN" reported on 28 July. Noting that profits from exports far exceed the entire Russian budget for spending on military equipment, they complained that the 23 July law on military-technical cooperation with foreign states fails to specify which bodies other than the arms export company Rosvooruzhenie and its two affiliates are legally entitled to sell military equipment abroad. LF


The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement on 28 July announcing that it plans to cooperate more closely with the Federal Security Service in order to prevent the unauthorized export of defense technologies, especially missile technology, Russian agencies reported. The statement noted that Russia will not make any exceptions to its commitments under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty but will continue to develop "traditional technological defense cooperation" with other countries, particularly in the field of conventional weapons. LF


Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says the financial situation in the energy sector will not improve unless energy suppliers impose "tough measures such as cutting power supply altogether" against chronic debtors, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 July. Nemtsov was speaking at a meeting of Fuel and Energy Ministry officials, which was also attended by representatives of the gas monopoly Gazprom and the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES). Aleksandr Remezov, the deputy head of EES, told the meeting that consumers owed the company 129 billion rubles ($20.7 billion) as of 1 July. That figure includes 16 billion rubles owed by the federal government and 15.5 billion rubles in debts of regional administrations. LB


Speaking at the same meeting, Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov announced that by 3 August, Gazprom and EES will sign agreements with the government on settling mutual debts, Interfax reported on 28 July. Both companies have large tax arrears but are owed massive debts by budget-funded organizations. Prime Minister Kirienko has said the government will insist that all debts be paid in cash and will not simply cancel the companies' debts to the budget against government debts to the companies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1998). LB


State Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov of the Communist faction told Interfax on 28 July that the recent agreement on a $11.2 billion IMF loan to Russia must be submitted to both houses of the parliament for ratification. Earlier this year, the parliament approved the government's borrowing program for 1998, which limits foreign borrowing to some $9 billion. Government officials say the latest IMF deal does not need to be ratified, partly because half the new credits have been earmarked for the Central Bank's hard-currency reserves rather than the Finance Ministry. Lukyanov charged that the government is breaking the law by not submitting the loan documents for ratification. He added that "foreign [financial] organizations know the value of the law in their home countries but do not want to understand that in Russia such laws are highly valued too." LB


Prime Minister Kirienko announced on 28 July that the government considered but rejected proposals to reduce pension payments, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to journalists in Voronezh (see below), Kirienko said the Pension Fund's deficit has grown to 16 billion rubles ($2.6 billion) this year because of attempts "to live beyond our means." He noted that pensions were increased in February without a source for additional finances. The government consequently decided to make up for the shortfall by increasing individual contributions to the Pension Fund (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1998). He admitted the policy was "unpleasant" but argued that "there is no other way...all working people are responsible for the payment of pensions." LB


The Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) has appealed to the president, parliament, and Prosecutor-General's Office to take steps to rescind the government directive increasing individual contributions to the Pension Fund, Russian news agencies reported on 28 July. The FNPR charged that the directive violates citizens' constitutional rights, hurts them economically, and will "sharply increase social tension." The appeal said the federation "understands the complexity of the tasks" facing the government and sympathizes with pensioners, "who have yet again become hostages of unskillful managing of the economy." But it argued that "the government should have looked for less-painful solutions" for working people through "compromise and constructive dialogue with [the government's] social partners." LB


Labor Minister Oksana Dmitrieva criticized the management of the Pension Fund in an interview published in the 28 July issue of "Komsomolskaya pravda." She called for examining the fund's finances closely before taking other steps to "patch up" the holes in the fund's budget. She added that the fund collects an "enormous" amount of money, but "neither the Labor Ministry nor local social security agencies know how [that money] is used." As for the government's pension reform plans, Dmitrieva said they are based on "hypotheses and calculations that no one has verified." Dmitrieva left the Yabloko faction in the Duma to join Kirienko's government and has already crossed swords with Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev and Pension Fund Chairman Vasilii Barchuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1998). She has also called for more indexing of wages, which other government ministers say Russia cannot currently afford. LB


"Izvestiya" argued on 29 July that the Unity coalition being formed to support Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov will hurt the Communists' political prospects. The newspaper noted that Duma deputy Aleksei Podberezkin, a member of the Communist Duma faction and head of the Spiritual Heritage movement, is joining the new Union of Labor and Popular Power, headed by Duma deputy Andrei Nikolaev. Podberezkin has been a close ally of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and was a co- leader of the Communist-led Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia, formed in 1996. Nikolaev's movement will be a key part of the pro-Luzhkov coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 28 July 1998). Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin and Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, who backed Zyuganov's 1996 presidential bid, have also distanced themselves from the Communists and are affiliated with the Unity alliance. LB


Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, the number two official in the Communist Party, says opinions differ within the party on Yurii Maslyukov's decision to join the government, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 July. Maslyukov gave up the chairmanship of the Duma Economic Policy Committee to become industry and trade minister in spite of objections from the Communist Party's Central Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 July 1998). Kuptsov declined to predict whether Maslyukov will be expelled from the party but said the Central Committee will evaluate his action at its next meeting, which may take place in August. On 24 July, Maslyukov informed the Central Committee that he agreed to join the cabinet only after Prime Minister Kirienko promised to meet several conditions, such as giving the Industry and Trade Ministry oversight of the defense industry, foreign trade, and military cooperation with foreign countries. LB


Prime Minister Kirienko was in Voronezh on 28 July to attend the signing ceremony for a deal between the city's aircraft company and Aeroflot, Russian International Airlines, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Under the $1 billion deal, Aeroflot will buy 20 IL-96MT jets from the local plant. The contract will be financed by a number of commercial banks, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Kirienko hailed the deal as "the first serious step to support the domestic industry," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 July. Russian airplane manufacturers have criticized Aeroflot for purchasing foreign planes, such as U.S. Boeing jets (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 12 September and 2 October 1996). BT


A government commission from the Fuel and Energy Ministry will soon arrive in Chelyabinsk Oblast, where coal miners are blocking the Trans-Siberian Railroad for the third consecutive day, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 July, quoting Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin. Sumin said that the federal government recently sent 9.6 million rubles ($1.5 million) to the region to offset miners' wage arrears, but he warned that "it is simply impossible to pay everything now." Also on 28 July, the management of a Chelyabinsk plant that treats radioactive waste warned that if the blockade lasts much longer, an "emergency situation" could result owing to the disruption of electricity supplies to the plant. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 29 July that the Sakhalinsk Prosecutor's Office is opening a criminal case against miners blocking rail and road links to a local power plant. Protesters claim they have not been paid in eight months. BT


Russia is less threatened by the worldwide computer glitch than countries in the West because Russia's computer technology is less developed, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 July, quoting Aleksandr Krupnov, the chairman of the State Committee on Communications and Information. However, updating Russia's computer systems will cost roughly $500 million, Krupnov said, and the federal budget will not assign money for this purpose. Many commercial banks and the Defense Ministry have said they will enlist the help of the Telecommunications Committee, while the telecommunications industry will rely on help from Western companies that supply their computer systems. The millennium bug was discussed during recent meetings between U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Prime Minister Kirienko in Moscow, Krupnov added. BT


The IMF on 27 July approved the third annual loan for Georgia from a special facility that is subsidized to help poorer nations, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported the following day. Georgia will draw some $74 million in two tranches, the first of which will be available immediately. The fund said the loan will help Georgia continue its economic stabilization and structural reform programs, including urban and industrial land privatization, faster privatization of medium-sized and large enterprises, and restructuring the electricity and banking sectors. Georgia's economic goals for this year are growth at 10 percent, inflation at 6 percent and a budget deficit at 2.5 percent of GDP. LF


Azerbaijani presidential aide Ali Hasanov has said that the country's authorities will not allow any "destabilizing" measures during the run-up to the 11 October presidential elections, Turan reported on 28 July. Earlier that day, five potential opposition candidates announced that they plan to stage a mass rally in Baku on 15 August to protest the law on the presidential elections, according to Interfax. But Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar said that the opposition may still nominate candidates. He told Interfax that "we are ready to participate in the elections if at least minimum conditions are created to ensure that the poll is free and honest." Activists collecting signatures in rural areas in support of the registration of presidential candidates from the Party of National Independence and the Association of Victims of Political Repression have been harassed by local authorities, Turan reported on 28 July. LF


The Glasnost Defense Foundation has appealed to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov to seek to have the decision declaring NTV reporter Yelena Masyuk persona non grata in Tajikistan revoked, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 28 July. Tajik authorities said Masyuk's reports "discredit the leadership of Tajikistan..., undermine peaceful development of society..., and interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state." The Glasnost appeal noted that Masyuk is "an internationally known, brilliant journalist," whose "reporting from Tajikistan attracts additional attention" to the country. It said that the "pretext" for declaring her persona non grata is "vague and poorly formulated" and that decision "will be a much greater blow against Tajikistan's reputation than the criticism contained in her reports." BP


The deputy chief of the Kazakh National Security Committee, Maratkali Nukenov, said at a news conference on 28 July that he expects gang warfare to break out in the country soon, Reuters reported. Nukenov said the recent murders of several leading businessmen testify to such a scenario. Interfax and the 29 July issue of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" report that the move of the Kazakh capital from Almaty to Astana is partly responsible, as criminal groups are now redividing spheres of influence. Nukenov said international criminal groups Latin America, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan are active in Kazakhstan. And he added that the National Security Committee is preparing for a sharp increase in crime in the near future. BP


Oleksandr Bondar, acting head of the Ukrainian State Property Fund, said on 28 July that privatization revenues this year will fall short of the planned $1 billion hryvni ($475 million), Ukrainian Television reported. In the first six months of 1998, those revenues totaled only 240 million hryvni. In Bondar's opinion, the fund will not fulfill its privatization plan because of the "emergency situation at a majority of Ukrainian enterprises." He added that it is impossible to sell shares in the most attractive enterprises "even at nominal prices." JM


In the first half of 1998, Ukraine witnessed a "positive trend toward increasing its GDP," Ukraine Television reported on 28 July, citing a report by the State Committee for Statistics. This is the first time in recent years that such growth has been registered. According to the committee, "small but long- awaited improvements" could be seen in both the industrial and agricultural sectors. The agricultural sector's contribution to GDP increased by 2.8 percent. Negative trends mentioned in the committee's report include an increase in the number of loss-making industrial enterprises and a decrease in real incomes. JM


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree lowering the income tax levied on farmers, Belarusian Radio reported on 28 July. The income tax in both the state and private sectors will be lowered by 40 percent "on average," as compared with that paid by workers in other branches of the economy. According to Belarusian Radio, Lukashenka's decree was in response to "complaints and protests" by farmers about their decreasing wages. Agricultural workers in Belarus are obliged to pay income tax this year for the first time. JM


Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus believes the participation of troops from Russia and other CIS countries in peacekeeping exercises on Lithuanian territory would not run counter to the country's stated intention not to join any post-Soviet Eastern alliance, BNS reported on 28 July, citing the president's spokeswoman. A 1992 constitutional act states that ""there can be no Russian or CIS military bases or units on the territory of Lithuania." Adamkus argues that neither this act nor the constitution prohibits troops from CIS countries taking part in joint peace- keeping exercises in Lithuania. He also advocates that legal provision be made for their participation, the spokeswoman said. The previous day, parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, who signed the 1992 act, said that comments on the possible rescinding of legal provisions prohibiting such participation seem neither "realistic [nor] constructive." JC


Twenty-two Lithuanians have been stripped of pardons for Soviet-era criminal convictions after Israel produced evidence suggesting they assisted in the genocide of Jews during World War II, Reuters reported on 28 July. Some 50,000 people convicted of crimes against the Soviet state were officially rehabilitated in 1990. But Israel later submitted to the Lithuanian authorities a list of some 100 people who had been pardoned and who it feared had taken part in the murder of Jews or otherwise collaborated with the Nazis. Lithuanian presidential adviser Julius Shmulkshtis said that the High Court has investigated most of the cases submitted by Israel and has stripped 22 people of their pardon. He added that he does not know if any of the 22 are still alive. JC


Lithuanian farmers are no longer preparing to block roads throughout the country, following a meeting between farmers' representatives and President Adamkus, BNS reported on 28 July. Adamkus told the representatives that he expects the government to honor its commitment to allocate 40 million litas ($10 million) in subsidies to purchase grain at new minimum prices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). JC


Four right-wing parties--the Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland, the Confederation for an Independent Poland-Patriotic Camp, the Bloc for Poland, and the National Alliance of Pensioners of the Polish Republic--will field joint candidates in the 11 October local elections, PAP reported on 28 July. The parties' leaders have signed a declaration providing for the creation of a national election committee under the name of the Fatherland Patriotic Movement. The alliance sees its main goals as preventing the sale of land to foreigners, stopping the "chaotic" sale of national assets to foreigners, defending the interests of Polish farmers, and supporting small- and medium-sized businesses. JM


The government on 28 July approved a plan to reform Poland's inefficient judicial system in order to bring it closer to EU standards, Reuters reported. "The reform will speed up proceedings in courts cases," Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka commented. Slow proceedings at courts are widely seen as a major obstacle to doing business in Poland. The reform will create some 400 local courts to deal with minor offenses, thereby giving judges more time to tackle major cases. The cost of the reform is estimated at $73 million, and subsequent annual budget spending on the judiciary is expected to total some $80 million. The first local courts are to be set up in the second half of 1999. JM


The latest round to elect a new president (the 11th since Michal Kovac left that office in early March), which was scheduled for 6 August, has been canceled because no candidates have been put forward, Reuters reported on 28 July. The office of parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic said no new date has been set for the next bid to elect a president. In other news, the death toll from the recent floods rose to 43 as rescue workers recovered more bodies from the mud and debris. Fifteen people are still missing. MS


The leaders of the parliamentary groups of the three governing coalition parties have signed a cooperation agreement, Hungarian media reported on 28 July. The pact stipulates that the three groups (the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party, the Independent Smallholders' Party, and the Hungarian Democratic Forum) will support the cabinet and cooperate in the legislature. Prime Minister Viktor Orban is to consult with the leaders of the three groups on a monthly basis, Hungarian media reported. The pact also stipulates that the leaders of the groups will consult regularly with Istvan Stumpf, head of the Prime Minister's Office, about the agenda of upcoming cabinet meetings. In addition, the signatories are obliged to ensure that there will be a majority supporting the government's position both in the legislature and in parliamentary committees. MSZ


Serbian paramilitary police and Yugoslav army troops captured Malisheva in southwest Kosova on 28 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Most of the town's civilian population and the 20,000 refugees who recently took shelter in what had been a stronghold of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) fled to the surrounding mountains. Kosovar sources charged that the Serbian forces committed "massacres" of Kosovar civilians who had surrendered. The reports could not be independently confirmed. Meanwhile in Geneva, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that 107,000 people have been displaced within Kosova in 1998. He added that another 25,000 persons have fled to Montenegro and 13,000 to Albania. In Belgrade, spokesmen for the International Red Cross noted that some 400 Kosovars and 130 Serbs have been reported as missing during the current conflict. PM


A Defense Ministry spokesman said in Tirana on 28 July that "the Albanian army will reply strongly to any provocation by the Serbian army that violates the [territorial] integrity" of Albania. He added that the ministry has ordered the army to use its weapons should it encounter further violations of the frontier, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. The government has recently accused Serbian forces of firing onto Albanian territory with machine guns and mortars in a series of incidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). Observers noted that the troops have been under orders to avoid confrontation and that the decision that they should use their weapons marks a policy change. FS


State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 28 July that U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill may soon be able to put together "an all-party [Kosovar] executive that will have responsibilities to include negotiations with the Serbs." Rubin added that three points on which Hill insisted in his recent talks with various Kosovar factions are that shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova be "in charge," that the "executive" be based in Prishtina and not outside Kosova, and that the team represent the entire Kosovar political spectrum. Observers noted that the three points mean that the UCK will be included but that it will not be in control. A major problem for the international community in seeking a negotiated solution in Kosova has been the failure of the Kosovars to form a single negotiating team. PM


The "Washington Post" wrote on 28 July that Rugova made a major concession in agreeing not to lead the talks himself. Instead, the chief negotiator will be an unidentified intellectual who was once Rugova's ally but now is closer to the UCK. Observers noted that this description fits Adem Demaci, who was Kosova's most prominent dissident under communism and who was dubbed "the Kosovar Mandela." The article added that the UCK has not yet agreed to Hill's proposal. The U.S.-backed plan reportedly calls for broad autonomy for Kosova now and a vote on independence that would take place "years later." The plan does not deal with some thorny issues, including control over the police or the division between Belgrade and Prishtina of revenues from Kosova's mineral resources. PM


Leaders of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Party (SPO) agreed in Belgrade on 28 July that the party's representatives in both the Yugoslav and Serbian parliaments will demand that the authorities declare a "state of emergency" in Kosova. The SPO leadership expressed alarm that part of Serbian territory "is under occupation," which presumably refers to the areas controlled by the UCK. The leaders called for "energetic action by the army and police" in the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 28 July that Kosova should have territorial autonomy within Serbia and a legal status giving it ties both to Serbia and to the Yugoslav federal government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Meanwhile in Belgrade, a spokesman for the U.K. embassy confirmed that British aid worker Sally Becker, who is imprisoned in Prishtina, has been weakened by a hunger strike and is being fed intravenously (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 22 July 1998). In Zurich, spokesmen for the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office said that that office has frozen two bank accounts belonging to unnamed Kosovars on suspicion that the accounts are being used to finance arms purchases. Police also raided the homes of two unnamed Kosovar refugees in Switzerland to seek evidence about illegal arms dealings, the "Financial Times" wrote on 29 July. PM


A Macedonian Defense Ministry spokesman said in Skopje on 28 July that a "large group" of armed Albanians attacked border guards between Zirovnica and Peshkopi the previous day. He added that the group was trying to enter Macedonia illegally and that it may have included UCK fighters. The spokesman noted that at least one Albanian was injured but that the group managed to escape back across the border. The Macedonian authorities subsequently reinforced border patrols, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. It was the latest in a series of incidents on the Macedonian-Albanian border since February, when Serbian forces launched their crackdown in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 27 July, 1998). FS


Conservative employees of the Institute for Archaeology and National Monuments sent a petition to President Rexhep Meidani on 28 July opposing plans by the Ministry of Culture to allow the British-based Rothschild Foundation to help administer Butrint, which is one of Albania's most important archaeological sites. Socialist legislator Limoz Dizdari, who heads the parliament's Culture Commission, agreed with the petitioners and said that inviting foreigners to help manage Butrint meant that Albania "risks losing its national culture." Auron Tare, who heads the Rothschild-backed Butrint Foundation, told "Gazeta Shqiptare" of 29 July that the charges are unfounded and that his foundation is supported by UNESCO. The Butrint site was heavily damaged during the 1997 unrest, as were many of Albanian's museums and historical sites. FS


Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 28 July that Bosnian Serb voters will choose between integration into Europe and isolation when they vote in the 12-13 September general elections. She added that the government of her ally Prime Minister Milorad Dodik offers "economic prosperity and inclusion in European structures." Plavsic stressed that a victory for the hard-liners in Pale would mean prosperity only for a small number of people. Elsewhere, regular rail traffic resumed between Sarajevo and Capljina via Mostar. PM


During a one-day visit to Ankara on 28 July, Emil Constantinescu, met with his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, and discussed economic cooperation and the conflict in Kosova, Romanian media reported. The two leaders said at a joint press conference that bilateral trade has reached $750 million and that they hope it will soon reach $1 billion. They noted that their views on the conflict in Kosova "coincide" and that they both support a large measure of autonomy for Kosova Albanians as well as the setting up of a Balkan peace-keeping force. During their meeting, they also discussed a Romanian project for a sector of the pipeline network to carry Caspian Sea oil from Baku to Trieste (Italy) via the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta. Constantinescu said the project did not "rival" but rather complemented a Turkish project to carry Azerbaijani oil from Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. MS


The former ruling Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova, the Party of Moldovan Communists, and five smaller leftist formations have set up a new political alliance, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 28 July. The Socialist Union-Edinstvo said it may also join the alliance. At a press conference, the new alliance criticized the government's "unionist" (pro-Romanian) policies, saying that the Moldovan " political and economic sovereignty" and "the very essence of Moldovan [separate] statehood" are endangered and that a new inter-ethnic conflict is likely to be triggered by "those who produced so much suffering and pain" between 1990 and1992. The alliance also criticized the agreements with the IMF and the World Bank and called on President Petru Lucinschi to support its "patriotic aspirations." The alliance has yet to choose a name and elect its leaders. MS


The parliament on 27 July approved a telecommunications law that some independent broadcasters criticize as creating opportunities for political interference. The law stipulates that licenses for telecommunications networks and for radio and television broadcasts are to be issued by a five-member State Telecommunications Commission appointed by the government. Each commission member is appointed for seven years and cannot be removed unless he or she breaks the law. But the licenses approved by the commission will then be subject to government approval, Reuters reported. MS


by Floriana Fossato

While Russian President Boris Yeltsin has warned that his country is heading toward a "politically difficult autumn," Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko seems to be advancing from a technocratic to a more political role.

Earlier this year, after sacking the entire government of Viktor Chernomyrdin and appointing Kirienko as premier, Yeltsin said the new cabinet's task would be to make economic reform more "tangible" for Russians. Kirienko's appointment won only lukewarm approval in the State Duma and among influential business leaders. Most pointed out Kirienko's lack of political experience and his relative youth. They said Yeltsin chose the virtually unknown Kirienko because he would serve as the president's puppet.

But Kirienko, who turned 36 earlier this week, has acted rather skillfully in the last four months to steer Russia during its worst financial and political crisis in years. He has given the impression that he is acting as an independent-minded politician who consults with the president and enjoys Yeltsin's backing.

Kirienko and his team have shown decisiveness in dealing with Russia's economic crisis. The government has convinced international financial institutions that it is serious about implementing vital economic and fiscal reforms--reforms that were promised but never fully delivered by previous governments.

As a result, the Kremlin has obtained part of a first tranche of an important bailout package from the IMF. Kremlin officials say privately that the IMF-led bailout was "essential" to calm investors' concerns and allow more time for strategic decision-making.

Kirienko's achievements since taking office underline the impression that he is now ready to upgrade his role. He has hinted at this in recent television interviews. On NTV, he said the problems faced by the government "do not allow" him to be a pure technocrat, but rather "require a more political role." He also said "the rules of the game have to be changed and the government is determined to [change them]." Those remarks appear to acknowledge that Moscow needs to move away from previous government policies, which critics say helped foster Russia's system of "crony capitalism."

Last week, Kirienko passed an important test of confidence. After two days of meetings with the Russian premier in Moscow, U.S. Vice President Al Gore praised Kirienko's personal role in the drafting and implementation of a government-backed anti-crisis program. It was the first time Gore met with Kirienko since the latter was appointed prime minister. Afterward, Gore said he was "impressed" with the new premier and his commitment to advance reform. He said Kirienko has a "full command of the facts" and that their talks were "very concentrated and fruitful." And he also commented that he is confident Kirienko's team can carry out fiscal policies included in the anti-crisis program and overcome domestic opposition to some of the measures.

Kirienko, for his part, said opposition in the parliament and society to the painful fiscal measures is "normal." He said he does not intend to "pay too much attention to political emotions" but wants to find "common approaches" that would guarantee the approval of his policies by a broad spectrum of society.

Yeltsin, who at the time was vacationing in northern Russia, met with Kirienko the day after Gore's departure. The premier briefed him on Gore's visit and on the latest developments. After the meeting, Yeltsin said "a politically difficult autumn awaits us." He said that "as always, there is a little breather and then [problems] starts again."

A number of new measures aimed at dealing with the current situation were revealed after that meeting. Yeltsin signed a decree dismissing Nikolai Kovalev, the head of the Federal Security Service, and replacing him with Vladimir Putin, a close presidential administration official. He also ordered the government to prepare the sale of a 5 percent stake in Gazprom, the world's largest natural gas monopoly, to boost state budget revenues.

Yeltsin also asked Kirienko to meet later this week with Aslan Maskhadov, the leader of southern Russia's separatist region of Chechnya, who survived an assassination attempt at the end of last week. The offer, welcomed by Maskhadov, is designed to help the Chechen leader establish order and stability in the troubled republic. The date and location of the meeting have yet to be announced. The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent.