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Newsline - September 21, 1998




CENTRAL BANK BAILS OUT RUSSIAN BANKS

The Central Bank on 21 September announced that Russian banks still owe 30 billion rubles ($1.83 billion) in interbank debt, Bloomberg reported. Three days earlier, the Central Bank pledged to cover outstanding interbank debts with new loans. It also agreed to buy back most banks' defaulted treasury bonds. In theory, those measures will preserve the country's banking system and shake out the weakest banks, which will promptly go bankrupt. However, by printing such a large amount of new money, the bank risks plunging the country into hyperinflation. According to Interfax, Inkombank President Vladimir Vinogradov said in a speech on 20 September that Russian banks should surrender key stakes to the state. He added that he is prepared to give up 50-75 percent of his bank to preserve Russia's banking system. JAC

...LEAVES FOREIGN BANKS DANGLING

Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" on 19 September predicted that large Western investors might wage an "economic war against Russia" because of the Central Bank's most recent action to buy back defaulted bonds from Russian banks. Some Western banks plan to take the matter to court and to seize the accounts of some Russian banks. They also plan to present their grievances to the IMF and the governments of the Group of Seven. Recently, some Western banks banded together in order to conduct negotiations with the Russian government on debt restructuring. JAC

STATE TO IMPOSE NEW CURRENCY CONTROLS

In a move some analysts are predicting may trigger the rebirth of the black market, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov pledged on 18 September to introduce a requirement that exporters sell an additional 25 percent of their hard-currency revenues to the Central Bank. At the very least, analysts reckon that exporters will try to hide their proceeds from government scrutiny. JAC

MORE CABINET APPOINTMENTS ANNOUNCED

On 21 September, after promising to complete cabinet appointments by the end of the week, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Gennadii Kulik deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture. Kulik, a State Duma deputy, is a member of the Agrarian faction and was deputy chairman of the Duma's Budget Committee. Kulik told Interfax that acting Minister of Agriculture Viktor Semyonov will remain in his position. From 1990 to 1991, Kulik was himself minister of agriculture. On 18 September, Interfax reported that Ramazan Abdulatipov, former deputy prime minister in charge of ethnic policy, would likely be appointed to the cabinet and that a new ministry overseeing the defense industry might be created. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin told NTV on 20 September that acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov may retain his position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1998). JAC

RUSSIA, UKRAINE TO TAKE JOINT ANTI-CRISIS MEASURES

Informal meetings between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma concluded on 19 September with the signing of a communique. The presidents agreed to form an anti- crisis task force that would work out joint economic measures to ease the economic crisis squeezing both countries. They also discussed ways of reforming the CIS to transform it into a more effective vehicle for regional and international cooperation. According to ITAR-TASS, Kuchma pledged that part of Ukraine's debt for Russian natural gas will be settled with goods. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko also met with his Russian counterpart, Primakov. They agreed that priority sectors for Russian-Ukrainian cooperation are the aero-space industry, ship-building, machine-building, and military-technical cooperation. JAC

MEDIA FACING COST CRUNCH...

Russian media appear to be facing a challenge on two fronts, one fiscal, the other political. On 19 September, the "Moscow Times" reported that newspaper production costs have risen 70 percent from last month's level. The advertising market has collapsed, and the money received from subscriptions has now lost much of its value, according to "Segodnya" on 17 September. "Komsomolskaya pravda" is responding by doubling the price of its subscriptions. A spokesman for Russian Public Television and NTV denied that a massive lay-off of workers is imminent, despite the 60 percent reduction in the market for commercials, according to ITAR-TASS. Some kind of help may be on the way: in October, the State Duma is scheduled to consider the law "On State Support for the Mass Media" in the second reading. JAC

...AND REDUCED ACCESS?

Reports that Primakov has ordered all members of his cabinet to vet their statements to the press through the new head of the presidential apparatus, Yurii Zabakov, have triggered an outcry from Moscow-based media. "Kommersant-Daily" on 17 September quoted the chief editor of Ekho Moskvy as saying that when Primakov took charge of the Foreign Ministry, "one of his first actions was to ban interviews without his authorization." Andrei Korotkov, head of the Government Information Department, told journalists that the Primakov government "will not curb contacts with the press or impose any kind of censorship." Primakov himself said "I have been and remain a firm supporter of freedom of speech and independence of the media." JAC

GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL TOBACCO SECTOR?

A spokesman for First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov on 19 September rejected Russian news agency reports that the government will impose a state monopoly on the production and sale of tobacco. He said the government is only considering measures to simplify the licensing procedure for tobacco imports, set up a wholesale tobacco network, and eliminate breaks on custom duties for tobacco imports, according to Interfax. U.S. tobacco giant RJR Reynolds had temporarily suspended production in Russia because of economic uncertainty. According to the news agency reports, Prime Minister Primakov had ordered that a state monopoly be imposed on the sale and production of both tobacco and alcohol. Proceeds from the sale of the two products would reportedly be used to replenish state and local budgets. JAC

RUSSIA TO IMPORT GRAIN

Because of the poor harvest, Russia will be forced to import some 2 million tons of grain--mostly wheat-- this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 September, quoting a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture. The spokesman said that an estimated 56 million tons of grain will be harvested before winter, some 37 percent down from last year's level of 88.5 million tons. According to Interfax on 20 September, this year's harvest is only a little better than the worst harvest recorded over the last three decades, when Russia produced 55 million tons of grain. JAC

U.S. TO FUND 'MIR' RETIREMENT?

The "Washington Post" reported on 21 September that NASA will inject new funds into the Russian Space Agency in order to avoid any further delays with the international space station that is scheduled to be launched in November 1998. Earlier, a Russian Space Agency official said that the space station is unlikely to be completed on time, thus ensuring a delay in the retirement of the space station "Mir." According to the newspaper, NASA will spend up to $600 million on goods and services from the Russian Space Agency over the next four years. JAC

LUZHKOV, PRIMAKOV, LEBED ON RUSSIAN FEDERALISM

Meeting on 16 September with Prime Minister Primakov, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov proposed reducing the number of federation subjects from the present 89 to 10-12 "economic conglomerates," each of which would comprise 8-10 territories, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 September. Primakov told journalists on 18 September that the idea of reducing the number of federation subjects is "reasonable" and that "89 territories are too many," according to Interfax. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed told the news agency on 20 September that the Russian Constitution should be changed to give individual regions greater freedom. Lebed argued that "strong regions are the backbone of a strong Russia." LF

DAGESTAN DUMA DEPUTY STRIPPED OF IMMUNITY

The Russian State Duma on 18 September voted in closed session to strip Union of Muslims of Russia chairman Nadirshakh Khachilaev of his immunity from prosecution, Russian agencies reported. The Russian Prosecutor- General's Office had asked the Duma to take that action to enable criminal proceedings to be opened against Khachilaev in connection with the 21 May storming of the central government building in the Dagestani capital. Khachilaev and his brother Magomed played a leading role in that incident. Nadirshakh Khachilaev told Interfax on 19 September that he is ready to face "an independent and impartial trial." He blamed the Dagestani government for the May unrest in Makhachkala and claimed that the Duma "has become an accomplice in the plot devised by the Dagestani government in order to eliminate the opposition." LF

AUSHEV SUGGESTS NEW SOLUTION TO OSSETIAN-INGUSH CONFLICT

Meeting in Moscow on 19 September with Russian Premier Primakov, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, and North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev proposed that North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion should receive the status of a condominium whose administration should be appointed by the government of Ingushetia, Interfax reported. Most of the raion's ethnic Ingush population fled ethnic cleansing by Ossetians in November 1992. Aushev termed the present situation in Prigorodnyi Raion "dangerous," accusing the North Ossetian leadership of deliberately exacerbating inter-ethnic tensions. Ossetians destroyed up to 70 Ingush dwellings on 13 September after five Ossetian policemen were shot dead on the Ingush-North Ossetian border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). Meanwhile, an Ingush-populated village in North Ossetia was subject to artillery fire on the night of 20-21 September, according to Caucasus Press. LF

BRITISH HOSTAGES FREED IN CHECHNYA

Two British aid workers abducted in Chechnya in July 1997 were released on 20 September and returned to the U.K. via Moscow. Interviewed by ITAR-TASS, British Ambassador to Moscow Andrew Wood declined to give details of the negotiations that led to their release. He denied that either the British government or Russian oligarch Boris Berezovskii had paid a ransom. Meanwhile, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov returned to Grozny via Baku from a visit to Malaysia. Maskhadov said that "for the first time, Chechnya had the opportunity to conduct equal talks at the state level" with the Malaysian king and prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. On 18 September, Maskhadov discussed the situation in Dagestan and the North Caucasus with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported. LF




OPPOSITIONISTS MARCH IN BAKU

Opposition supporters staged a march in Baku on 20 September to demand the postponement of the presidential elections scheduled for 11 October and the resignation of President Heidar Aliev. Opposition supporters put the number of participants at between 25,000 and 50,000, whereas Reuters estimated that some 10,000 people took part. After negotiations with opposition representatives, the Baku municipal authorities on 18 September agreed an a compromise route for the march. Police did not intervene. At an opposition march on 12 September, police had clashed with would-be demonstrators (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). LF

Aliyev DOES NOT EXCLUDE NEW WAR OVER KARABAKH

Addressing some 20,000 supporters at a rally on the outskirts of Baku on 19 September, President Aliyev pledged his continued commitment to democracy and to ensuring that the presidential poll is free and democratic, AP reported. He claimed the credit for numerous construction projects in Azerbaijan in the 1970s and 1980s, including roads, schools, and hospitals, but conceded unspecified mistakes and failings during the past five years. He pledged to rectify those faults. Aliyev also warned that if it proves impossible to resolve the Karabakh conflict by peaceful means, then "we will use our own powers to restore our territorial integrity," according to Reuters. LF

AZERBAIJAN APPEALS TO DESERTERS TO RETURN

Azerbaijani Military Prosecutor Major-General Ramiz Rzaev has called on all Azerbaijanis who fled the country after deserting from the armed forces during the Karabakh war in 1992-1993 to return home, according to "Izvestiya" on 19 September. Rzaev stressed that all deserters have been amnestied under a recent presidential decree. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S AIDE DETAINED

Akezhan Kazhegeldin on 20 September demanded the release of his aide Mikhail Vasilichenko, who was arrested two days earlier in the Kazakh capital, Astana, AP reported. Vasilichenko was to have handed over to President Nursultan Nazarbayev and government officials proposals for amending the country's constitution and election laws. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 September that printing of the Kazakh edition of a book by Kazhegeldin analyzing the current situation in Kazakhstan has been halted and all copies of the Russian-language edition confiscated. LF

TAJIK FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS OPPOSITION CRITICISM

The Tajik Foreign Ministry has issued a statement condemning as "a deliberate attempt to disinform the world community" claims by Tajik opposition spokesmen that the Tajik government is deliberately delaying implementation of the peace agreement that ended the civil war, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 September. Four days earlier, United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri accused the Tajik leadership of failing to deliver on its commitment to reform the government and amend the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1998). LF

TAJIK INSURGENTS' TRIAL BEGINS

The closed trial of four men accused of attempting to overthrow the Tajik government in August 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11-12 August 1997) began in Dushanbe on 20 September, ITAR-TASS reported. The four men, who include former parliamentary deputy Sherali Mirzoev, are said to be associates of rebel Colonel Makhmud Khudoiberdiev, who had launched two previous unsuccessful coup attempts. LF

UZBEK AIRLINE SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENTS WITH AEROFLOT

The national airlines of Uzbekistan and Russia signed an agreement on 18 September establishing joint flights between Moscow and the Uzbek cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Urgench, and Bukhara. They also signed accords on cargo airlifting on the Moscow-Tashkent- New Delhi route and on introducing special tariffs for flights from Uzbekistan to European and Baltic cities via Moscow, ITAR- TASS reported. Uzbek Airlines director Aslan Ruznetov told journalists at the signing ceremony that the current Russian economic crisis will not impact on cooperation between the two airlines. LF




UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS KUCHMA TO ABOLISH BUDGET CUTS

The Ukrainian Supreme Council on 18 September voted by 259 to 28 in favor of a non-binding resolution asking President Leonid Kuchma to annul a decree that introduced spending cuts in the 1998 budget, AP reported. Kuchma's decree was issued in August to meet IMF requirements for granting a $2.2 billion loan to Ukraine. It slashed budget expenditures by 20 percent, bringing the budget deficit down from 3.3 to 2.5 percent of GDP. If Kuchma does not rescind the decree, the parliament threatens to consider whether he exceeded his presidential powers. The parliamentary resolution testifies to the recent increase in tensions between the legislature and the government. Earlier last week, the Supreme Council overrode Kuchma's veto on its law banning an increase in payments for public utilities and transportation. JM

LUKASHENKA AWARDS CARS FOR TOP HARVEST PERFORMANCE...

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has awarded new Lada cars to the country's 12 most successful harvest-combine operators and new official cars to six collective farm managers and six regional leaders in the town of Nyasvizh, AP reported. Some 10,000 people gathered in Nyasvizh on 19 September to celebrate the end of the summer harvest. "You saved the country. You secured its security, at a minimum, for the next two to three years," AP quoted him as saying to the prize winners. Lukashenka added that in view of the economic difficulties suffered by other countries, Belarus appears to have chosen "the most optimal course of social and economic policies." Lukashenka repeated his pledge to help crisis-stricken Russia, despite the fact that Belarus has harvested only 5 million tons of grain, instead of the planned 6 million tons. JM

...SAYS HE SHARES VIEWS WITH PRIMAKOV

Lukashenka told journalists at Nyasvizh that he and Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov have shared views "on many issues" in the past and are likely to continue to share them, Interfax reported on 19 September. He added that Primakov was a staunch supporter of the plan for Russian-Belarusian unification when it was ready for implementation two years ago. According to Lukashenka, Primakov "was nearly removed from the government" for his pro-unification stance. He warned that those opposed to the union are taking all possible steps to limit Primakov's influence. JM

ANTANOVICH SUGGESTS RETURN OF POLISH AMBASSADOR TO DRAZDY...

Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich told Polish Radio on 18 September that Polish Ambassador Marian Malyszkiewicz will be able to return to his residence once maintenance work at the Drazdy residential compound is completed. The entire compound is now divided into two sections: Drazdy 1, which includes the residences of President Lukashenka and the ambassadors of France, Germany, and the U.S., and Drazdy 2, in which the Polish ambassador's residence is located. JM

...SHOWS SURPRISE OVER VISIT BY POLISH PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES

Antanovich also said he is astonished that an official delegation of the Polish parliament had visited Minsk without notifying the Belarusian government in advance, Polish Radio reported. That visit ended on 18 September. "We are offended by the fact that a high-level delegation from Poland is in our country behind the back of the republic's government, apparently covertly," he commented. The radio station reported that the Polish delegation met with representatives of the Polish minority and local authorities but avoided meeting with the parliamentary National Minorities Commission, which is not recognized by the West. JM

ESTONIA'S SIIMANN RE-ELECTED AS HEAD OF COALITION PARTY

The ruling Coalition Party has re-elected Prime Minister Mart Siimann as its chairman, ETA reported. Addressing delegates to a party congress on 20 September, Siimann said the Coalition Party will have the best chance of success at the March 1999 elections if it continues its electoral alliance with the Rural Union. He asked the party to authorize him to hold talks on continuing cooperation with the rural parties and on seeking to have the Progressive Party join the electoral alliance. Siimann predicted that if the Coalition Party runs alone in the elections, it will garner at best 10-12 seats, down from 17 at present. Such a result, he continued, would mean the Coalition Party could be a junior partner in a coalition government. "But it is more likely that we would be left on the bench as punishment for ruling for four years, he commented. JC

LATVIAN PRESIDENT TO DECIDE ON ANNOUNCING PENSION LAW AMENDMENTS

Guntis Ulmanis must decide this week whether to sign amendments to the state pension law that were recently passed by the parliament, BNS reported. Welfare Minister Vladimirs Makarovs submitted his resignation on 17 September over the amendments, which he described as "unfeasible" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1998). Together with Prime Minister Guntars Krasts and officials from the Pensioners' Federation, Makarovs is to ask Ulmanis not to sign the amendments. JC

LITHUANIA, GAZPROM DISCUSS CONSTRUCTING GAS PIPELINE

The Lithuanian government and the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom are holding talks on constructing a new natural gas pipeline through Lithuania to Kaliningrad Oblast, Bloomberg reported on 21 September. Lithuanian Economy Minister Vincas Babilius is quoted as saying that Vilnius plans to build the pipeline and wants Gazprom to guarantee gas deliveries. Gazprom plans to increase annual gas supplies to the oblast to 2.5 billion cubic meters by 2005 and 3 billion cubic meters by 2010. JC

WALESA SET TO MAKE COMEBACK?

Former Polish President Lech Walesa has been elected chairman of the Christian Democracy of the Third Polish Republic, a right-wing party that he founded a year ago to draw on support from those who are reluctant to vote. "More than 50 percent of the people do not take part in elections. I want to fill this gap and give people the opportunity of voting for the Right," PAP quoted him as saying at the party congress in Warsaw on 18 September. The platform of Walesa's party calls for "Europe as a fatherland of nations" and backs freedom, justice, and solidarity, as well as turning the Polish Armed Forces into a professional army. The party's first challenge will be the local elections on 11 October. Walesa told the congress that he will consider running for president in 2000 if no one else appears capable of beating ex-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski. JM

POLAND REFUSES TO LAUNCH INVESTIGATION INTO RUSSIAN POWS

Polish Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Hanna Suchocka has refused to start an investigation into the death of Russian prisoners in Poland's prisoner camps during the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1919-21, Polish Radio reported on 18 September. The investigation was requested by Russian Prosecutor-General Yurii Chaika, who maintained that Poles murdered more than 80,000 Russians in what he described as concentration camps. According to Suchocka, the case has been adequately clarified earlier by copies of documents Poland has handed over to Russia. She said that a maximum of18,000 Russian prisoners died in Polish camps primarily because of the "harsh circumstances in the country, exhausted by war and suffering from hunger and epidemics. But it was not as a result of a special action undertaken by the Polish authorities." JM

HAVEL SAYS BORDER WITH SLOVAKIA MUST NOT BE 'CIVILIZATION BARRIER'

President Vaclav Havel on 18 September told journalists in Washington that his country's border with Slovakia must not be turned into a "civilization barrier" and that the Czech Republic wants Slovakia to be a member of the "same structures and organizations" that Prague is about to join, CTK reported. He said he would like Slovakia to respect the values of the "civilized Western world" but "unfortunately, there are many reasons for concern." Havel expressed the hope that the Slovak elections at the end of September will produce a result that "would perhaps make us feel less worried." Havel returned to Prague on 19 September. MS

CZECH PREMIER MEETS SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER

Milos Zeman met with Peter Weiss, leader of the Slovak opposition Party of the Democratic Left, in Prague on 18 September, CTK reported. Zeman said after the meeting that he invited Weiss to Prague in "a gesture of pre-election solidarity" that must not be interpreted as "meddling in other countries' affairs." Zeman said it is "absolutely normal" for two European parties that have "a similar ideology to offer electoral support before a ballot." MS

MECIAR VOWS TO QUIT POLITICS IF HE LOSES ELECTIONS

Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 18 September said he will quit politics if he loses the elections scheduled for 25-26 September, Reuters reported citing TASR. Meciar added that he would not agree to head a minority government and "would not even serve as a doorman" in such a cabinet. Also on 18 September, Pavol Kanis, deputy chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, said Meciar has "buried any possibility of cooperation with other political parties." MS

AGENCY LOWERS SLOVAKIA'S RATING

Standard & Poor's, one of the world's leading rating agencies, has lowered its ratings for Slovakia to "double B plus", citing lingering political tensions and inconsistent economic policies, an RFE/RL correspondent in London reported on 18 September. A report released by the agency says Slovak stability is "vulnerable" to the turmoil on international capital markets and to developments on the domestic political scene. MS

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER IN ITALY

Visiting Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 18 September told his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, that Hungary wants Vojvodina to have the same degree of autonomy that Italy proposes for resolving the crisis in Kosova. After meeting with Pope John Paul II, Orban told journalists that the new Hungarian government wants to deepen cooperation between state and Church rather than separate them. He said some of the provisions of an agreement that the previous government and the Holy See signed are incompatible with Hungary's judicial system. In order to resolve the matter, Hungary and the Vatican will set up a joint committee, Orban said. MSZ




EUROPEAN OFFICIALS BLAME BERISHA FOR CRISIS

Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, in his capacity as chairman of the OSCE, held talks with Albanian officials and opposition leader Sali Berisha in Tirana on 19 September, Reuters reported. After meeting separately with President Rexhep Mejdani, Premier Fatos Nano, and Berisha, Geremek said the OSCE fully supports Mejdani in his efforts "to find a political solution" to the crisis. Geremek urged Berisha to participate in those efforts. Nano said he will "not cooperate with crime and its promoters." Greek Foreign Ministry official George Papandreou, representing the Council of Europe, told Berisha that his actions have "undermined democratic institutions." He warned Berisha that he could be internationally isolated. French President Jacques Chirac said any effort to oust Nano by force is "unacceptable." PB

BERISHA'S CRUSADE CONTINUES...

Berisha said on 20 September that his Democratic Party (DP) is severing all contacts with the Socialists, including those at the local level, dpa reported. Berisha also said the DP is setting up a National Front for the Rejection of the Communist Neodictatorship in Albania. He said it will include all organizations and individuals "willing to oppose the government with non-violent means." A few thousand DP supporters attended a memorial service on 19 September for slain DP deputy Azem Hajdari, whose death triggered the recent crisis. The government announced that a $200,000 reward is being offered for information resulting in the arrest of Hajdari's killers. The government also ordered a purge of any government officials that assisted in the failed putsch. PB

...AS HIS IMMUNITY IS LIFTED

The Albanian parliament on 18 September voted overwhelmingly to remove opposition leader Berisha's immunity as a deputy, dpa reported. With Democratic Party members boycotting the vote, the 108 remaining deputies all voted for the measure. Western officials have warned the government that arresting Berisha could escalate the crisis. Berisha seemed unfazed by the vote and said he is not "scared of being arrested" and will continue his fight "from whichever cell" they put him in. Meanwhile, in a gesture to the DP, justice officials released four of the six DP officials arrested last month for their alleged roles in the country's turmoil last year. They are being held under house arrest. PB

HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY CALLS FOR END TO SERBIAN ATTACKS IN KOSOVA

Jiri Dienstbier, the UN's special envoy for human rights, has called on Yugoslav officials to immediately end the violence in Kosova, AFP reported. Dienstbier, who is in Kosova for talks with Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders, said he understands the fight against armed rebellion but said destroying villages is an "overreaction." Serbian forces reportedly refocused their attacks on central Kosova after a week of attacks on northeastern Kosova. In Frankfurt, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said talks with Russian officials have brought "slight progress" in mollifying Moscow's objections to a UN resolution on Kosova. PB

KOSOVAR ALBANIANS MAKE PROPOSALS TO PEACE AGREEMENT

Ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosova released details of their counterproposal to a U.S.-backed draft agreement to end the violence in the province, AP reported on 20 September. Published in the Albanian-language daily "Koha Ditore," the proposal calls for a three-year period in which Kosova would be an independent entity equal to Serbia and Montenegro. The document says that if Belgrade and Kosovar Albanian authorities cannot agree on a permanent political status for Kosova, the people of Kosova will hold a referendum to decide its final status. Belgrade rejects a referendum outright. The proposal, floated last week and drafted by U.S. envoy Christopher Hill, says that Kosova will stay part of Serbia. The Belgrade daily "Dnevni Telegraf" said on 20 September that Yugoslav officials will submit their own proposals at an extraordinary meeting of the parliament on 28 September. PB

SERBIAN OFFICIALS SAY NO HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN KOSOVA

Zoran Andjelkovic, Serbian minister without portfolio, said on 18 September that the term "humanitarian disaster" is being used to put pressure on Belgrade in the Kosova crisis, Tanjug reported. Andjelkovic, speaking in Prishtina, said that ethnic Albanians have returned to their homes en masse and no more are left without shelter. Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said the following day in Prishtina that although the situation is "far from normal," ethnic Albanians in Kosova do not face a "humanitarian catastrophe," Beta reported. He said that refugees could return to their homes but do not want to. In Geneva, Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the humanitarian crisis is "worsening by the day." He estimates that some 260,000 ethnic Albanians have been made homeless by the Serbian destruction of their homes. PB

BOSNIA SEEKS RESOLVE FROM UN

Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnia- Herzegovina's ambassador to the UN, said on 18 September that it is time for the UN Security Council to get tough with indicted war criminals living in Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Sacirbey said he would not have signed the Dayton agreement if he had known that war criminals would not be arrested. In a letter to the Council, Sacirbey wrote that Belgrade has displayed "contempt for the Security Council." PB

MODERATES SAID TO BE FARING WELL IN BOSNIAN PARLIAMENT RACES

Simon Haselock, a spokesman for high representative Carlos Westendorp, said on 18 September that moderate parties are doing well in elections for the Republika Srpska Assembly, AP reported. Haselock said the trend "is generally away from nationalist parties." He also concurred with statements by hard-liners that nationalist Momcilo Krajisnik is trailing Zivko Radisic for the Serbian position on the Bosnian presidency. Western diplomats are hoping a strong showing by moderates in the assembly will offset the expected election of ultranationalist Nikola Poplasen as president of the Republika Srpska. Observers say the move away from nationalist parties might also be realized in the results for the Bosnian joint parliament. U.S. Balkan envoy Robert Gelbard, who was in Banja Luka for talks with Bosnian officials, said Washington will cut off support to any leaders that do not back Dayton. PB

ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATS RECALL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN SEVERIN...

The National Coordination Council of the Democratic Party has voted by 201-189 to recall Adrian Severin from the position of deputy chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 19 September. In recent months, former Foreign Minister Severin has repeatedly criticized the party leadership. Party chairman Petre Roman said the decision "does not amount to sanctioning" Severin. The next day, Severin said the vote was unstatutory and fell short of the 266 votes stipulated by regulations. He added that he continues to regard himself as deputy chairman of the party. Also on 19 September, the council named Alexandru Sassu as its candidate for the Bucharest mayoral race in October. Sassu said that if elected, he will resign both from the legislature and as minister in charge of relations with the parliament. MS

...AS LIBERAL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN SUSPENDS HIMSELF

National Liberal Party (PNL) chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus on 18 September confirmed media reports that PNL deputy chairman Viorel Catarama has sent him a letter announcing he is "suspending himself" from that post "for an unlimited period." PNL spokesman Paul Pacuraru said the next day that Catarama's decision stems from his "dissatisfaction" with the fact that the government, of which the PNL is a member, "promotes few liberal policies" in the economy. Pacuraru also pointed to Catarama's failure to win PNL backing in May 1997 for the position of finance minister. MS

MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS APPEAL AGAINST NUCLEAR TRANSIT

The Constitutional Court on 18 September rejected an appeal by deputies from the Democratic Convention of Moldova against the parliament's decision to allow the transit of nuclear waste from the Bulgarian Kozloduy reactor, the RFE/RL Chisinau bureau reported. The court said the appeal "lacked legal grounds." The same day, BASA press reported that the management of the Moldovan Railroad Company and the Department for Civil Protection and Emergencies are refusing to reveal details on the transit "for safety reasons." MS

BULGARIAN PARTIES AGREE ON RATIFYING MINORITIES CONVENTION

President Petar Stoyanov told journalists on 18 September that all Bulgarian political parties have agreed to ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly is due to discuss Bulgaria at its fall session, which begins on 21 September. Council officials told an RFE/RL correspondent that the assembly is likely to continue monitoring whether Bulgaria is honoring the obligations it undertook when it joined the council. On 19 September, before departing for Washington for talks with President Bill Clinton, Stoyanov told journalists that he expects the discussion on Bulgaria's NATO membership aspirations to be "realistic, rather than optimistic." MS




RUSSIA'S INTERNAL CRISIS IMPERILS COOPERATION WITH WEST


By Christopher Walker

Russia's domestic chaos has entered a new and more precarious stage, one that may distinctly alter the country's direction for the foreseeable future. In the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has gone through periodic spasms of economic and political crisis and is currently suffering what is widely described as an "economic meltdown. " It seems that the outside world is learning a great deal more about Russia's desperate state of affairs than it would prefer. But while Russia's internal crisis is making headlines now, another issue of vital importance will preoccupy the Western community when the dust settles: namely, the impact of Russia's volatile domestic affairs on its foreign policy.

One likely result of the latest protracted crisis is the hardening of a Russian foreign policy that has already been drifting away from Western interests for some time. In fact, with the collapse of the Russian economy and the consequent growth in influence of communist and nationalist political forces, there is a grave danger that Russia's foreign policy will become more rigidly anti-Western--anti-American, in particular--than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Anti-Americanism is already on the rise in Russia. This is in no small measure due to the Russians' linkage of failed Western-inspired economic reform with current social and economic pain. Much of Russia has concluded that the Western prescription for domestic reform is ill-suited to their country. They may similarly conclude that cooperation on a range of international matters is not in Russia's interests either.

The recent installment of Yevgenii Primakov as prime minister may be providing a sense of relief to the immediate political crisis in Russia, but there is real doubt whether his experience is suited to bringing about an improvement in Russia's economy. Primakov's strength is in the foreign arena. A tough professional diplomat and former head of Russia's External Intelligence Service, he has extensive foreign policy experience and has been a strong proponent of an assertive posture for Russia in world affairs. Primakov's compromise candidacy resulted from President Boris Yeltsin's inability to gain adequate support for his own first choice, Viktor Chernomyrdin. That inability revealed Yeltsin's acute political weakness. While dogged and at times valiant, Yeltsin's leadership has finally succumbed to the overwhelming forces massed against it: a chronically ailing economy, widespread corruption, rampant crime, and a disaffected population.

The Communists and nationalists in the Duma--whose influence has steadily increased since gains in the 1993 and 1995 parliamentary elections--are now suggesting Cold War-era solutions for today's pressing domestic emergencies. Those proposals include economic isolation and renationalization of major industries and banks. Although Yeltsin's reform team became mired in the corruption that has colored Russia's recent past, their program was fundamentally integrationalist, predicated on modernizing the country's economy and bringing Russia into the global economic system.

With regard to international matters, the Russian foreign policy elite, much of which has not accepted its Cold War defeat, still harbors ambitions of more actively using Russian power abroad. As Yeltsin has weakened politically, this same elite-- which includes Primakov--has come out against Western interests in a number of critical areas: supporting the sale of sophisticated arms to Iran; maintaining close relations with a number of outlaw states, including Syria; undermining the weapons' inspection process in Iraq; assuming an often obstructionist role in former Yugoslavia during the Bosnian and Croatian wars; and at times playing a similarly uncooperative role in Kosova.

A more nationalist and aggressively anti-Western Russian foreign policy could mean greater antagonism toward the Baltic states and increased meddling in former Soviet republics in the south Caucasus and Central Asia. Russia's own weak economic condition may limit the degree to which it can exert such influence, but it is nonetheless likely to pursue anti-Western policies with increased vigor.

Some observers now speculate that Primakov will use his credibility with the Communists and his ties to the Russian foreign policy elite to curb the impulse of these hard-liners toward an even more aggressive foreign posture. But even if he were inclined to do so, he will find it difficult to withstand pressure from the very forces instrumental in his becoming prime minister. Enjoying an increased share of power, the hard-liners doubtless have their sights on more fully orienting Russia's foreign policy in a direction not consistent with Western interests.

Playing on the anxieties of an impoverished and demoralized population, the anti-Western elements on Russia's political scene may well consolidate their gains and thereby delay the establishment of a global security order. This will present the U.S. and the Western community as a whole with a new set of foreign policy challenges, not to mention a dose of nostalgia that few are eager to relive. The author is manager of programs at the European Journalism Network.


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