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Newsline - September 10, 1998




YELTSIN NOMINATES PRIMAKOV

Ending a protracted stalemate with the State Duma, Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 10 September selected acting Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as his new candidate for the post of prime minister. Primakov's nomination is expected to sail through the Duma. "Moskovskii Komsomolets" on 10 September, anticipating Yeltsin's decision, noted that without even trying, Primakov accomplished what no other candidate had: gaining the support of the Communist, Yabloko, and Our Home Is Russia factions. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii first floated the idea of Primakov as a "compromise candidate" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1998). Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov reacted favorably to the news, saying "good sense has prevailed this time." He continued, " Everyone understands that we need a consolidating figure who would be supported by both the Duma and the Federation Council." Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that he expects the Duma to consider Primakov's candidacy on either 12 or 13 September. JAC

CHERNOMYRDIN WITHDRAWS

Chernomyrdin told reporters on 10 September that he was withdrawing because he "cannot harm Russia." He said "Russia has had enough upheavals this century. This is my choice." It was not announced whether Chernomyrdin will have a role in the new government, but "Moskovskii Komsomolets" speculated even before Yeltsin declared Primakov his choice that Chernomyrdin will likely become a "senior deputy minister in charge of the economy" in a Primakov-led government. However, Communist leader Zyuganov promised reporters that "none of the 'has-beens' responsible for looting the country will get into the Primakov government. [Primakov] is a man who is sensible and independent." JAC

SOME PRIMAKOV CABINET SLOTS FILLED?

Duma Speaker Seleznev told reporters on 10 September that "as far as I know, Yurii Maslukov [former minister of industry and a current member of the Communist Party] will be in the cabinet." According to ITAR-TASS, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will likely head the Foreign Ministry. Ivanov has played a major role in conducting Russian policy in the former Yugoslavia. JAC

REGIONS AIM FOR SELF-SUFFICIENCY

According to "Russkii telegraf," "Novyi izvestiya," and ITAR-TASS on 9 and 10 September, a number of regions, including Omsk Oblast, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Chuvashia, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, North Ossetia, Primore, and Kaliningrad Oblast, have reintroduced administrative regulation of their economies by controlling prices on food products. According to ITAR-TASS, Stavropol Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov banned all food exports from the region as of 9 September. "Izvestiya" reported that Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel has introduced a de facto state of emergency in his oblast. He has issued an edict setting up a anticrisis committee with extensive powers vis-a- vis banks, industry, schools, and hospitals. Only enterprises that agree to transfer controlling blocks of their shares to the oblast government will receive public monies, the newspaper reported (see also "End Note" below). JAC

TATARSTAN TO CUT PAYMENTS TO FEDERAL BUDGET

Officials in Tatarstan told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 9 September that Tatarstan will supply food and money to defense industry plants on its territory that have not received any funds from the central Russian government and reduce its tax transfers to Moscow by the amount of such payments. Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaimiev indicated that in this way, Kazan will help the federal budget settle its accounts with those enterprises. PG

SHOKHIN WARNS OF RUSSIAN DISSOLUTION

Our Home is Russia faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin told reporters on 9 September that the trend toward financial and monetary separatism being witnessed in the regions is similar to what occurred during the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 and may trigger political disintegration. He noted that several Russian regions have already proclaimed their financial and banking independence. JAC

CONSUMER DEMAND PUSHES RUBLE UP

As Russian consumers sought to convert cash into goods and thus traded their dollars for rubles, the ruble exchange rate against the dollar rose on 9 September from 20.8 rubles to the dollar to just over 15 rubles to the dollar. One reason Russians are now seeking to purchase good is that consumer prices rose 35.7 percent in the first week of September alone, Interfax reported. PG

NORDICS, BALTICS CONSIDER HUMANITARIAN AID TO RUSSIA

Murmansk Governor Yurii Yevdokimov on 9 September called on Scandinavian countries to provide humanitarian assistance to Russia's northern regions, Interfax reported. Norwegian officials indicated that they are considering sending aid to the Kola Peninsula, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann said Tallinn has not ruled out aid to Russia but will coordinate any assistance with Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine, ETA reported. And Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius said Vilnius is considering giving humanitarian assistance to Kaliningrad Oblast, according to ITAR-TASS. PG

U.S. AGAINST IMMEDIATE FINANCIAL AID TO RUSSIA

Lawrence Summers, the number two official at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, told journalists on 9 September that Washington will not provide any additional financial aid to Russia until U.S. officials have the chance to evaluate Moscow's plans for the future. "Until political authorities decide the direction they want to go," Summers said, "it is difficult to calibrate an appropriate international response." Meanwhile, a British Foreign Office spokesman said on 9 September that the G-7 will hold a ministerial-level meeting soon to consider how to respond, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSSIAN COMMUNIST PARTY RELEASES PLATFORM

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation on 9 September issued a new platform calling for payment of all wages, free education, nationalization of key industries, protectionism, a crackdown on crime and corruption, a professional government, and the resignation of Yeltsin. In addition, the document, widely reported in the Russian media, called for steps to be taken to reintegrate all parts of the former USSR into "a union of peoples on the basis of goodwill and friendship." PG

EXPORTERS ORDERED TO SELL DOLLARS VIA EXCHANGES

Implementing a plan that acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had announced on 8 September, the Russian Central Bank said the next day that exporters must use only licensed exchanges to make their obligatory sales of hard currencies. Under current regulations, exporters must sell 50 percent of their hard currency earnings. Until now, many had used the interbank market rather than licensed exchanges. PG

DUMA URGES CLOSER RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION

The Duma on 9 September passed a resolution calling for the closer coordination of policies between Minsk and Moscow, ITAR- TASS reported. It proposed an extraordinary convocation of the joint parliamentary assembly to ensure that the current Russian crisis does not undermine the union between the two countries. And the resolution called on President Yeltsin to consult immediately with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to find "uniform ways of overcoming the crisis." PG

MOSCOW CAN'T AFFORD TO PARTICIPATE IN NATO EXERCISE

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Interfax on 9 September that Russia will not take part in NATO Partnership for Peace exercises in Macedonia (see Part II also). The spokesman said that Russia is not going to send troops for "organizational and technical reasons," but he "hinted broadly that the actual reason is a shortage of funds," according to the news agency In another indication of the Russian military's woes, Interfax also reported on 9 September that the Russian military will soon begin baking bread to feed the families of officers, many of whom are only now receiving their June salaries. PG

PETROV CHARGED FORMALLY

The Prosecutor General's Office on 9 September officially charged Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Petrov with accepting a $520,000 bribe from the Eskado bank. Petrov was arrested last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1998). According to Interfax, a top executive in the Eskado commercial bank, Aleksandr Frangopulov, was arrested on 8 September on suspicion of bribing. "Kommersant Daily" reported the same day that Eskado was allotted 160 billion rubles ($7.7 billion) from the federal budget on Petrov's order. According to an investigator, a total of 13 billion of the 160 billion rubles was then illegally transferred to a bank in Andorra. JAC

RUSSIA'S AIRWAYS INCREASINGLY UNSAFE

The head of Russia's Federal Aviation Service told Reuters on 9 September that Russian planes were involved in more crashes and other accidents during the first eight months of 1998 than in the same period last year. Gennadii Zaitsev said that flight safety has deteriorated further as a result of the current economic crisis. PG

UN GIVES LOW MARKS TO QUALITY OF LIFE IN RUSSIA

In its annual rating of the quality of life in 174 countries, the UN said Russia ranks 72, a position that "Izvestiya" on 10 September described as "unfortunate." PG

DUMA SUPPORTS PKK CEASE-FIRE

Duma deputies on 9 September issued a statement approving the unilateral cease-fire announced by Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan on 1 September, Russian agencies reported. The Duma appealed to the UN and to the international community "to do the utmost to stop the armed conflict" and to promote a peaceful solution of the Kurdish problem that would preserve Turkey's territorial integrity. LF

MINORITY LEADER ARRESTED IN DAGESTAN

Local police on 9 September intercepted the car of Magomed Khachilaev, leader of the republic's Lak minority, and arrested him in connection with the 21 May storming of the Dagestani government building (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 May, 1998), AP and ITAR-TASS reported. Khachilaev's brother Nadirshakh, chairman of the Union of Muslims of Russia, who was one of the leaders of that attack, managed to escape arrest. Dagestan State Council chairman Magomedali Magomedov met later with Lak representatives to discuss the arrest, which acting Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said was sanctioned by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office as part of an anti-corruption campaign in Dagestan. On 10 September, security was intensified in Makhachkala and the central square was sealed off to prevent Khachilaev's supporters demonstrating there to demand his release, RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent reported. A meeting demanding Khachilaev's release is under way in Kaspiisk. LF

RADUEV THREATENS RETALIATORY STRIKE

Maverick Chechen field commander Salman Raduev threatened on 10 September that if Magomed Khachilaev is not released by midnight of 13 September, he may undertake retaliatory strikes against the government of Dagestan, ITAR-TASS reported. Raduev told Interfax that there are no grounds for Khachilaev's arrest. Khachilaev and Raduev are both members of the Caucasian Home organization, which aims to establish an independent state in the North Caucasus. LF




PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT ON ARMENIAN ELECTION LAW?

The parliamentary parties on 8 September reached unanimous agreement that 101 seats in the future legislature are to be allocated by proportional representation and only 30 in single-mandate constituencies, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported, citing the 9 September "Aravot." That agreements ends months of disagreement between the majority Yerkrapah union of war veterans, the largest group within the parliament, and most other parties. Yerkrapah had insisted that most seats be allocated under the majority system. It was also agreed that electoral commissions will continue to be formed only on a partisan basis and that army personnel be entitled to vote only in the precincts where they were registered prior to entering the army. LF

NAGORNO-KARABAKH TO ISSUE NEW PASSPORTS

The new passports to be issued in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be virtually identical to those in use in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 September. But the Karabakh passports will contain a special stamp designating the holder's place of residence in order to preclude Karabakh residents voting in elections in Armenia. Emma Gabrielian, deputy speaker of the Karabakh parliament, said the new passports are needed as the population of the disputed region finds it increasingly difficult to travel abroad with old Soviet passports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1998). Her Armenian counterpart, Albert Bazeyan, denied that the move violates Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. LF

GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER REFUTES RUMORS OF PLANNED ASSASSINATION

Meeting with journalists on 10 September, Djemal Gakhokidze denied that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his 9 September visit to Tbilisi for security reasons, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian media had speculated that an attempt would be made during that visit to assassinate both Netanyahu and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Netanyahu's spokesmen said the prime minister is suffering from influenza. LF

ABKHAZ GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO RUSSIAN ECONOMIC CRISIS

The Abkhaz cabinet on 9 September met to adopt urgent measures in response to the fall in value of the Russian ruble, which officially circulates in the region in place of the Georgian lari, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh said that in order to stabilize the economic situation, budget funding for the state apparatus will be cut and prices for the most basic goods, such as bread, will be pegged at their present level. The average salary in Abkhazia is 80-100 rubles (some $5-7). LF

RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN REACH NEW RENT AGREEMENT ON BAIKONUR COSMODROME

An 8 September meeting of the Russian-Kazakh intergovernmental commission resulted in a new agreement on the rent Russia is to pay for the Baikonur cosmodrome, in central Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. Russia will pay $115 million annually for use of the facilities. That figure was agreed on in 1994, when Russia leased the site for 20 years. The rent, however, has not been paid for three years. "Russkii telegraf" reported on 9 September that under the new agreement, Russia's $345 million debt for 1995-1997 has been canceled and Moscow will be exempt from rent for Baikonur in 1998. Beginning next year, Russia will have to resume paying for use of Baikonur. BP

KYRGYZSTAN TO HOST MEETING OF AFGHAN FACTIONS?

Kyrgyz First Deputy Foreign Minister Alibek Jekshenkulov said on 9 September that representatives of Afghanistan's Taliban movement and the northern alliance opposing it have agreed to meet in Bishkek, ITAR- TASS reported. Jekshenkulov said the meeting will be held under the aegis of the UN. He added that his country does not rule out recognizing the Taliban government, "taking into consideration the real situation in Afghanistan" today. BP

HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS PROTEST TREATMENT OF TURKMEN DISSIDENT

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and Moscow-based Central Asia Human Rights Society issued statements on 8 and 9 September, respectively, condemning the treatment of Turkmen opposition leader Durdymurat Khojamuhammedov. Both note that Khojamuhammedov was "incarcerated" in a psychiatric hospital from 1996 to April 1998, when he was let out "on the eve" of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's visit to Washington. On 4 September, Khojamuhammedov was abducted, driven to the outskirts of Ashgabat, and severely beaten. Khojamuhammedov remains in very poor physical condition. Human Rights Watch wrote: "In Turkmenistan, where public order is enforced with extreme vigilance, such an act of brutality could not be carried out without official sanction." BP

KAZAKH PRESIDENT DISTANCES COUNTRY FROM 'UNSTABLE MARKETS'

Nursultan Nazarbayev said on 8 September that "given the flight of capital from unstable markets," his country's "favorable investment climate is attractive to investors," Interfax reported. He added that during Kazakhstan's seven years of independence, the country has developed a financial system independent from Russia's financial system. He pointed out that Kazakhstan has received $1.6 billion in investment from January-July 1998 and has twice turned down an offer of a $450 million loan from the IMF. While wishing Russia a speedy economic recovery Nazarbayev noted that Kazakhstan has reaped "some benefit" from Russia's crisis as it is now cheaper to import Russian goods. Interfax, however, reported that the national currency, the tenge, which was trading at 77 to $1 in early August, traded unofficially at 95-120 to $1on 5 September. The National Bank is seeking to stabilize the official rate at 84 tenge to $1. BP




LUKASHENKA VOWS FOOD AID TO RUSSIA...

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 9 September said that Belarus intends "to organize centralized supplies" of foodstuffs to Russia to help it overcome the crisis, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. He added he has already given appropriate instructions to the government. The measure is intended "to ensure that rogues do not earn a fortune" from the crisis, Reuters quoted him as saying. JM

...URGES MEASURES TO PREVENT ILLEGAL EXPORTS TO RUSSIA

In view of the recent food shortages in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1998), Lukashenka demanded at a 9 September meeting with high-ranking officials that they ensure the delivery of essential goods to retailers and the replenishment of stocks of consumer goods at prices that take into account inflation, Interfax reported. He blasted the Interior Ministry and the State Customs Committee for failing to control illegal exports from Belarus to Russia. And he urged law-enforcement bodies to tighten control over automobile and railroad links that cross the border with Russia. JM

UKRAINE TO SPEND IMF LOAN 'EXCLUSIVELY' ON STABILIZING ECONOMY

Valeriy Litvytskyy, an aide to the Ukrainian president, said on 9 September that Ukraine is going to spend the $2.2 billion loan from the IMF "exclusively on structural reforms and the stabilization of the economic situation," dpa reported. Litvytskyy said the IMF credit will not be used to pay Ukraine's outstanding foreign debts, adding that Kyiv has reached agreement with private lenders on debt restructuring. JM

DENMARK TO GIVE $100 MILLION LOAN TO UKRAINE

Denmark will provide a $100 million loan under an agreement signed during Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen's visit to Kyiv on 9 September, AP reported. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said after the signing ceremony that the loan will support energy-saving measures, agriculture, and ship-building in Ukraine. Petersen said Denmark will also contribute some $3 million to solve problems related to the Chornobyl nuclear accident in 1986, dpa reported. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS PROCEDURE TO OUST PRESIDENT

The Ukrainian Supreme Council, which reconvened on 1 September, has included on its agenda a draft law "On the Procedure of Impeachment of the President," Ukrainian Television reported. The draft law was proposed by the Hromada party and supported by the Socialists/Peasants caucus. "We realize perfectly well that impeaching the president is unrealistic, but this is a form of pressure on the government and the president in order to make them change their policies," Ivan Chyzh of the Socialists/Peasants caucus commented. JM

ESTONIAN PREMIER ADMITS POWER STRUGGLE WITHIN OWN PARTY

Speaking to journalists in Tallinn on 9 September, Mart Siimann admitted to internal tensions within the Coalition Party but said he intends to stand again for the post of party leader, ETA reported. Various political directions are represented in the Coalition Party, and some do not support the government and the prime minister, Siimann commented. "I suppose it can be said there exists a power struggle within our party." The premier also said that he may dismiss Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves before the latter tenders his resignation. "It cannot be ruled out that I decide myself to dismiss Ilves and in that case there won't of course be any preliminary agreements," he noted. The Estonian press has recently reported that Ilves, whose People's Party is considering an election alliance with the Coalition Party's main rivals, may resign soon. JC

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT TO ADOPT LANGUAGE LAW LATER THIS MONTH

The Latvian parliament will convene an extraordinary session on 28 September to adopt the language law in the third and final reading, BNS reported on 9 September. The Cooperation Council unanimously agreed to adopting the legislation before the October referendum on amendments to the citizenship law. Dzintars Abikis, the head of the parliamentary Education, Research and Culture Committee, told reporters that OSCE recommendations permit regulating the use of the Latvian language in the private sector insofar as the interests of employees and consumers are concerned. JC

LILEIKIS'S TRIAL DELAYED

The trial of Aleksandras Lileikis, who is accused of crimes against humanity during World War 11, has been delayed because the defendant failed to appear in court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1998). Lileikis's lawyer told the court that the 91-year-old Lileikis is seriously ill and has been hospitalized since 2 September. A report on Lileikis's state of health is to be submitted to the court on 10 September. The court will then decide whether doctors should re-examine the defendant to determine whether he is unfit to stand trial. JC

POLAND ECONOMICALLY SAFE, BUT TO WATCH RUSSIAN CRISIS CLOSELY

The Polish Foreign Ministry held a conference of cabinet ministers, presidential aides, and top parliamentary officials on 9 September to discuss the possible effects of the Russian crisis on Poland, PAP reported. The meeting concluded that Poland is "outside the post-Soviet economic zone" and that its Western-oriented policies and good relations with all neighbors constitute a strong foundation for the economic development of the country. At the same time, participants agreed that Russian developments should be monitored very closely on a daily basis. JM

POLISH FAMILY AFFAIRS MINISTER BACKS SALE OF ANTI-IMPOTENCE DRUG

Kazimierz Kapera supports the sale of the anti-impotence drug Viagra, which is to be available in Poland in late October. He told Polish Radio on 9 September that he is also in favor of the introduction of reduced prices for the drug, which is expected to be sold at some $10 per pill. "If it is really going to improve the birth rate in our homeland, I am wholeheartedly behind it," Kapera commented. JM

CZECH POLL SHOWS DWINDLING SUPPORT FOR RULING PARTY

A public opinion poll conducted by Sofres-Factum shows that the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is losing support, Czech Radio reported on 8 September. But the main opposition formation, the Civic Democratic Party ODS), is also witnessing a decline in its backing. The CSSD, which won 32.3 percent of the vote in the June parliamentary elections, is now backed by 26.6 percent of the electorate, while the ODS has 25.4 percent support, compared with 27.7 percent in June. The CSSD has concluded a so-called "opposition agreement" with the ODS. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION TO CONDUCT OWN ELECTION COUNT

The main opposition party in Slovakia, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), says it will conduct a separate vote count to ensure that the 25-26 September parliamentary elections are fair. SDK deputy Pavol Hrusovsky told journalists on 9 September that the SDK has taken that decision "to prevent manipulation of the election results," Reuters reported. He said the party will send representatives to every polling station and keep an independent tally from each of them. MS

HUNGARY 'DOES NOT INTERFERE' IN ROMANIAN POLITICS

Hungary would like to see the Romanian governing coalition survive but believes that is up to the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania to decide whether it remains in the coalition, Foreign Ministry spokesmen Gabor Horvath told Hungarian media on 9 September. The survival of Romania's ruling coalition is in the interests of both Romania's Euro-Atlantic integration and regional cooperation, Horvath explained. In other news, Russia has offered six to eight MiG-29 fighters as means of paying its outstanding debt to Hungary, Defense Minister Janos Szabo told "Magyar Hirlap" on 9 September. He said "the offer can be seriously discussed only after the Russian crisis has been resolved." Szabo repeated Prime Minister Viktor Orban's recent statement that Hungary will be unable to afford to buy Western fighter jets in the next years. MSZ




THOUSANDS OF KOSOVARS FLEE SERBIAN SHELLING

An estimated 25,000 ethnic Albanians have fled Serbian shelling of their villages in western Kosova and are trapped on a 12 kilometer stretch of road south of Peje/Pec, Reuters reported. Fenando del Mundo, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Prishtina, said the mostly women and children have abandoned several villages in the Decan, Reke e Keqe, and Dushkaje regions, which are the target of Serbian offensives. A UNHCR spokesman in Geneva warned of a massacre if a shell landed on the column of refugees on the road. Most of the people spent the night outdoors in and around the villages of Isniq and Strellc. Some Western observers estimated the refugees to number 40,000 people. Del Mundo said he visited a clinic in which 25 people have been treated for shrapnel wounds in two days. The Decan region was a Kosova Liberation Army stronghold and has been targeted several times by Serbian forces. PB

MILOSEVIC REFUSES TO MEET BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic cancelled a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Erik Derycke on 9 September, Reuters reported. A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman said he thought it was in reaction to the EU's decision to ban Yugoslav airlines (JAT) flights to EU countries. Derycke later met with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, who condemned the ban. Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Austria have said they will honor the ban on JAT flights. Both Britain and Greece have said they cannot cancel flights without first giving advanced notice to the airline. Derycke went on to Kosova, where he met with Serbian leader Veljko Odalovic and with ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova. PB

NATO CHIEF SAYS KOSOVA WOULD NEED 50,000 PEACEKEEPERS

Admiral Joseph Lopez, NATO's Southern European commander, said on 9 September that the alliance would need some 50,000 troops in order to monitor a cease-fire in the Serbian province of Kosova, AP reported. Lopez, speaking in Washington, emphasized that the figure was only an estimate. AP reported the same day that NATO has finished a contingency plan for military operations in and around Kosova. The plan reportedly involves three options, including a preventive deployment of troops along the border with Kosova, air raids inside Yugoslavia, and the deployment of ground troops in Kosova. PB

NATO EXERCISES BEGIN IN MACEDONIA

Some 500 troops from 26 countries began military maneuvers in Macedonia on 10 September, AFP reported. The nine-day exercises are dubbed "Cooperative Best Effort" and are the first-ever in the Balkan country. Most of the countries taking part in the exercises are members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. PB

BOSNIA, CROATIA NEAR AGREEMENT ON USE OF PORT

Alija Izetbegovic, the chairman of the Bosnian presidency, has approved an agreement whereby Bosnia would be able to use the Croatian port of Ploce, Radio Bosnia-Herzegovina reported on 9 September. Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic, the co-chairman of the Bosnian Council of Ministers, signed the agreement in a ceremony attended by Jacques Klein, the deputy to the high representative, and special U.S. envoy Richard Sklar. The document is to be sent to Zagreb for approval. PB

WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL ASKS UN TO MAKE BELGRADE COMPLY

The War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague appealed to the Security Council on 9 September to force Yugoslavia to cooperate in apprehending three war crimes suspects, Reuters reported. Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, the president of the tribunal, said that Belgrade has disregarded the law by refusing to arrest Mile Mrksic, Miroslav Radic, and Veselin Slijvancanin. The three were indicted in 1995 for their alleged roles in the killing of unarmed men taken from a Vukovar hospital in 1991. She added that Yugoslavia is the only country in the region that does not cooperate with the tribunal. PB

WESTENDORP SEES CONTINUED TROOP PRESENCE IN BOSNIA

Carlos Westendorp, the international community's high representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina, said on 9 September that foreign troops should be kept at their current numbers until at least 2000, Reuters reported. Westendorp said the military presence might be able to be reduced after scheduled elections in two years. But Ambassador Robert Barry, head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia, said he thought troop levels could be reduced after the 12-13 September elections. "We don't need a military presence with quite the strength and firepower that we have here now," he said. PB

ALBANIAN FINANCE MINISTER THREATENS TO RESIGN

Arben Malaj said on 9 September that he will step down if Prime Minister Fatos Nano fails to give his support to the ministry, Reuters reported. Nano and Malaj clashed after the premier condemned the heads of the tax and customs departments for failing to collect budget revenues and allowing graft. Malaj supports the directors of those departments and says they are operating effectively. The daily "Gazeta Shqiptare" said Nano and President Rexhep Meidani are planning a government reshuffle. Nano is currently in Portugal and was unavailable for comment. PB

ROMANIAN EDUCATION MINISTER PROPOSES 'DANUBE UNIVERSITY'

Andrei Marga told the parliamentary groups of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) that a possible "compromise solution" to the dispute over setting up a Hungarian-language state university would be the creation of a Romanian-Hungarian "multicultural university." Such a university would be based on either side of the border and financed by both governments. Marga said the university must offer instruction in major international languages in addition to Romanian and Hungarian. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu rejected the idea, pointing out that only several thousand Romanians live in Hungary. Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania chairman Marko Bela said no compromise is possible as long as the legislation does not ensure instruction in minority languages at all educational levels. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO PROSECUTE ANTI-SEMITIC TABLOID

The government on 9 September said legal action must be taken against the publishers of the anti-Semitic weekly "Atac la persoana." Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica the same day asked Prosecutor- General Mircea Cristea to bring charges against the publishers and identify the author of the article, who had expressed regret that Romania does not have "barbered wire and Cyclone-B gas" to deal with "potential soap," meaning Jews (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1998). Stoica said the article constitutes "nationalist-chauvinist propaganda" punishable under the provisions of the Penal Code. MS

ROMANIA REJECTS UKRAINIAN CRITICISM

The Romanian government on 9 September rejected recent accusations by the Ukrainian government that Bucharest has canceled subventions to "Vilne Slovo," the only newspaper in Ukrainian published in Romania. Government spokesman Razvan Popescu said the government does not subsidize any newspapers but grants aid to the Ukrainian National Union (UNU), the newspaper's publisher, via its Department for National Minorities. He said that the Ukrainian government's accusations are due to a "misunderstanding," adding that Kyiv must direct its queries to the UNU, which bears "sole responsibility" for the difficulties encountered by "Vilne Slovo." Popescu also said he is confident that both Ukraine and Romania will "scrupulously respect" the provisions of the basic treaty concluded last year. MS

MOLDOVAN CULTURAL ORGANIZATION CRITICIZES UKRAINE

Petru Grozavu, chairman of the "Danube and the Sea" cultural organization, told journalists in Chisinau on 9 September that Ukraine is deliberately "driving a wedge" between Romanians and Moldovans, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Grozavu said that the Odessa Oblast authorities have forbidden the teaching of Romanian in the 18 Romanian-language schools and that teachers are now forced to tell children that their language is "Moldovan." Grozavu also said Ukrainian security forces are involved in "forcing Moldovanism" on teachers. He said the newly established Pro Moldova cultural organization in Chisinau and Moldovan Party in Romania are also serving the purpose of forging a "separate Moldovanism." MS

LUXEMBOURG, BULGARIA CALL FOR 'EUROPEAN STRATEGY' ON RUSSIA

Visiting Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, have called for a joint European strategy aimed at diminishing the impact of Russia's economic turmoil, AP reported on 9 September. Kostov said the Russian crisis could have an adverse effect on Bulgaria's balance of trade, and he urged "EU protection" for prospective members from CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE "as a sign that those countries are different" from Russia and as "a response that would soothe foreign investors." In other news, BTA reported on 8 September that President Petar Stoyanov has appointed Atanas Atanasov, former secretary at the Interior Ministry, as the new chief of the National Security Service. MS




MOSCOW'S CRISIS AND RUSSIA'S REGIONS


by Paul Goble

Political gridlock in Moscow is prompting ever more of Russia's farflung regions to make decisions on their own, a pattern likely to prove far more significant than any decision taken in the Russian capital.

There are three reasons for what may appear to be a rather sweeping conclusion: First, this effective decentralization of power will make it even more difficult for anyone in Moscow to regain authority for the central government anytime soon.

In the last several days, Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel has announced a 17-point anti-crisis program. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed has introduced price controls. And in Siberia's Kemerovo region, Governor Aman Tuleev told officials to make decisions "without looking to Moscow." He accused federal authorities of abandoning the coal-mining region.

Any effort to re-impose central control over such regional officials will inevitably spark increasing resistance among leaders and regions who now have had the experience of making their own decisions.

Second, the increasing diversity of decisions by regional leaders will make it even more of a challenge for the central government to devise any single policy for the entire country. That diversity among the regions is even greater than their difference with Moscow. Some regional leaders such as Arkhangelsk Governor Nikolai Malakov are seeking to use market forces to ration increasingly scare goods.

But many others, including Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhayev, have turned to the administrative measures of the past, imposing price controls and sanctions against those who violate them.

And consequently, even if the Moscow government can decide on any approach, it is likely to find itself in a bind similar to the one that confronted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

If Moscow tries to impose a common solution on the very different regions, it is likely to generate resistance. But if it tries to craft a policy that takes into account these differences, it is likely to radicalize some regions, which in turn may seek to gain the benefits others are receiving.

Third, both the decentralization and differentiation of the Russian Federation will force Western investors and even Western governments to deal with the regions individually even if they want to see Moscow's power and authority restored. While most Western governments and investors continue to focus on the Russian capital, there are indications that at least some of them may now be looking to the regions as a guide for their own decisions.

One such indication emerged in St. Petersburg on 8 September, when a German investment official said that Moscow might remain "the key to Russian problems" but that decisions by regional leaders could determine the investment climate in their areas.

Dieter Schubert, the director of the House of German Economics, added that foreign investors have been frightened away by the collapse of Moscow's credibility but that St. Petersburg leaders could regain creditiblity for their region through independent actions.

While Schubert repeated that much will depend on what happens in Moscow, his statement is the clearest indication yet that investors and the governments behind them are prepared to look beyond the Russian capital even as they hope the leaders in Moscow will recover.

To a remarkable extent, all three of these develoments recall what happened to the Soviet Union in 1991. But there are some important differences suggesting this analogy may not be exact.

Some of those differences suggest that Moscow may be able to regain control of the situation. Among them are Western opposition to any division of control over that country's nuclear arsenal, the unhappy experience of many former republics, and the power of Russian national identity.

But other deviations from the Soviet model suggest that the current decay of political authority in the Russian Federation may have even more far-reaching consequences. Such deviations include the inability of local leaders to build authority for themselves, the absence of control structures, and the ever deeper split between those few relatively well-off regions, which pay more in taxes than they receive, and those hoping to consume this surplus.

Which of these differences prove the more important remains to be seen, but they seem certain to play a major role in redefining the Russian Federation regardless of what decisions are taken by the Russian government or the Russian parliament in the coming days and weeks.


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