Accessibility links

Newsline - September 28, 1998

SHOKHIN, VASILIEV RESIGN. No sooner than some cabinet spots

were filled on 25 September than new vacancies emerged. Angry that Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov was reappointed, Aleksandr Shokhin and Dmitrii Vasiliev both resigned from their respective posts as deputy prime minister with responsibility for finance and head of the Federal Securities Commission. In 1994, Shokhin also resigned from government over the appointment of another finance minister, Vladimir Panskov, although Shokhin more recently touted Panskov as a possible replacement for Zadornov. Shokhin told NTV that Zadornov's appointment means that Yevgenii Primakov's government is "prepared to inherit the decisions taken by the previous cabinet and Central Bank," which he considered a "political mistake." Both Prime Minister Primakov and State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev condemned Shokhin's resignation after less than 10 days in office as "capricious" and irresponsible, given the country's acute crisis. JAC


"Moscow Times" reported on 26 September that in addition to being former first deputy minister of economics, newly appointed Minister of the Economy Andrei Shapovalyants was a former top official at Gosplan. He has served in the Ministry of Economy in every government since 1991. New Minister of Science and Technology Mikhail Kirpichnikov is a biologist by training and has also served as an official either in one of the ministries or in the government's apparatus since 1991. Several cabinet slots still lack confirmed ministers, such as the Ministries for Anti-Monopoly Policy, State Property, Health, Agriculture, and Labor. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 26 September that Shokhin's departure from the government may boost acting head of Federal Tax Service Boris Fedorov's chances of being reappointed. The newspaper hinted that Fedorov's reappointment would ensure fireworks between Fedorov and First Deputy Prime Minster Yurii Maslyukov and Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko. JAC


Despite entreaties from then deputy prime minister Shokhin to conclude an agreement, IMF officials on 25 September offered only to return again to continue talks on 12 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1998). The fund also issued a statement that "the economic situation in Russia is critical and must be resolutely addressed" and that the fund will consider the timing and size of new disbursement only when a program has been agreed upon. According to Interfax, Alexei Mozhin, IMF executive director for Russia said that fund and Russian officials will reach an agreement on budget and monetary targets toward the end of October. Shokhin was more pessimistic, telling Interfax after he resigned that it will be very difficult for Russia to obtain its next disbursement from the fund before the end of 1998 or maybe even during next year. JAC


In response to a recent rash of violent incidents with Russian soldiers killing other soldiers, "Trud" reported on 25 September that the army has drafted resolutions requiring commanders to respect psychologists' recommendations regarding specific servicemen and assigning a military psychologist to advise draft commissions. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that crimes in the armed forces for the first eight months of 1998 alone are up 12 percent compared with the total number of crimes registered for the whole of 1997. At the head of the list is the Strategic Missile Troops followed by the Navy. As a consequence of the deterioration of discipline among troops, the newspaper concluded that the Russian army is "not battleworthy, with the exception of the fully-staffed elite units." According to "Segodnya" on 24 September, this fall's draft will still take place but will number 30,000 less than the previous year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1998). JAC


ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September that although more than the required percentage of eligible voters cast their ballots in the mayoral election in Vladivostok, the election is likely to be declared invalid because half of the voters voted against all candidates. Polls suggested that about 50 percent of the electorate had planned to vote for incumbent Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, who had been barred from running at the last minute. A local court had barred him from running again because he used state money to finance his election campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1998). Reuters reported that by election day, some polling stations had crossed Cherepkov's name from the ballot, while others had not. A city election official said a date for new mayoral elections will be announced shortly. JAC


Meanwhile in Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR- TASS reported on 28 September that none of the 10 candidates won more than half of the vote in mayoral elections. A second round has been scheduled for 11 October and will include Yurii Lebedev, former presidential representative to the city, Dmitrii Bednyakov, former mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod, and Vladimir Semago, Duma deputy and former member of the Communist Party. According to preliminary data, Lebedev lead other candidates with 33.5 percent of the vote, compared with 25 percent for Bednyakov and 22 percent for Semago. JAC


Ramazan Abdulatipov, who was appointed minister for nationalities on 25 September, told ITAR-TASS the same day that ethnic factors lie behind only 10 percent of the conflicts in the North Caucasus while the remainder result from political and economic rivalries. He said that Russia's nationalities policy should not juxtapose Russians and other ethnic groups but "provide equally for all the nations of the Russian Federation." He advocated adopting a formal convention outlawing ethnic discrimination. Abdulatipov told Interfax his ministry will focus specifically on nationality issues. adding that for that reason his jurisdiction does not extend to relations with Chechnya. Discussing what he termed the "very difficult" situation in his native Dagestan, he warned that "the practice of selecting regional leaders based on their loyalty to Moscow is wrong." LF


Interfax reported on 25 September that upper-level staff of the Russian Foreign Ministry will soon be reshuffled. Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov will likely be reassigned to Washington, while Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov may be replaced, according to Vladimir Lukin, head of the Duma's Committee on Foreign Relations. Another deputy foreign minister, Nikolai Afanasyevskii, is expected to replace Russia's current ambassador to France, Yurii Ryzhkov. On 24 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met with his fellow foreign ministers from G-7 countries in New York and reaffirmed that Russia will continue to pursue economic reforms and honor its foreign debts. JAC


Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky reaffirmed his intention to run for president in the 2000 elections. He said "voters will have to choose between himself and [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov." He added that Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed is "a dictator" and pointed out that only 7 percent of the population supports former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, while leader of the Communist Party Gennadii Zyuganov will "not be allowed to take power." Meanwhile, Galina Starovoitova, leader of the Democratic Russia Party, declared her intention to run for the governor's seat of Leningrad Oblast, according to "Kommersant Daily" on 25 September. Earlier, Zhirinovsky declared his intention to run for that office, and Starovoitova said keeping Zhirinovsky from gaining office has compelled her to run (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 1998). JAC


Both Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov have voiced their concerns about the possible disintegration of the Russian Federation and suggested possible remedies, according to Interfax on 25 September. Luzhkov urged federal authorities to create a unified tax system and to subsidize selected regions so that living standards for state workers, pensioners and the poor are the same throughout the country. Earlier, Luzhkov had proposed that the number of regions be reduced through consolidation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1998). Nemtsov suggested that "a movement of locally-elected councils might reunite the nation." He added that governors who close their borders and refuse to remit taxes should be "brought to trial for violating the Russian Constitution and Criminal Code." JAC


An international chess tournament began on 26 September in the republic of Kalmykia. Human rights activists had urged players to boycott the games because of Kalymkian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's alleged abuses of human rights and diversion of federal monies earmarked for agricultural and industrial programs to fund the chess tournament in what Ilyumzhinov promised would be high style. "Kommersant-Daily" disclosed on 16 September that when Ilyumzhinov had difficulty raising money to finish preparations for the Chess Tournament, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov sent his wife's brother, who happens to be a construction firm executive, to finish the project. In return for the favor, Luzhkov will reportedly receive shares in two oil projects. JAC


"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 September ran an article by an "expert psychiatrist" and chairman of the board of the political Human Rights Party suggesting that President Boris Yeltsin may be displaying some first signs of a particular kind of Alzheimer's disease. The author proposed that the Constitutional Court call for a comprehensive psychiatric examination to determine the Yeltsin's fitness for office. He also claimed that the president's pauses during conversations are "psychopathological in nature" and occur because "he cannot immediately follow a shift in conversation." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC


Meeting on 25 September, leading representatives of the United Tajik Opposition announced they are suspending their participation in the government and their cooperation with the National Reconciliation Commission pending the arrest of the killers of prominent opposition figure Otakhon Latifi, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Latifi was shot dead leaving his home in Dushanbe on 22 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 1998). An opposition statement released on 26 September accused unnamed members of the Tajik government of crimes ranging from murder to drug-trafficking. Also on 26 September, President Imomali Rakhmonov met with opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri in a bid to prevent the peace process from collapsing, ITAR-TASS reported. LF


Kyrgyzstan's acceptance into membership of the World Trade Organization, which was scheduled to take place at a meeting in Geneva on 24 September, has been postponed until next month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported citing an unnamed Ministry of Trade official. Kyrgyzstan will still, however, be the first former Soviet republic to join the WTO. "Vremya-MN" on 24 September observed that in joining the WTO Kyrgyzstan is violating one of the fundamental principles of the five-nation CIS Customs Union, of which it is also a member. In Baku, Elcin Nadirov, head of the Ministry of Trade secretariat, said that a decision on Azerbaijan's entry into the WTO will be made in late 1999, Caucasus Press reported on 26 September. LF


The Armenian Constitutional Court on 26 September declined to rule that President Robert Kocharian's failure to convene an emergency parliament session violates the constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Parliamentary deputies had demanded an emergency session in June to debate the sale of the Yerevan cognac factory to France's Pernod-Ricard group for $30 million, arguing that the price was too low. The Armenian Constitution rules that the president must comply with such a request, but it does not specify the time frame within which he must do so. Seventy-one deputies had appealed earlier this month to the Constitutional Court to censure Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 September 1998). But court chairman Gagik Harutunian said on 26 September that "the court has no resolve constitutional disputes between various branches of government." LF


Addressing the UN General Assembly on 25 September, Robert Kocharian blamed the deadlock in the Karabakh peace process on Azerbaijan's refusal to engage in direct talks with representatives of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian again called for a settlement to the conflict that would preclude Karabakh's subordination to Baku and provide it with international guarantees of its future status and a land corridor linking the enclave with Armenia. Kocharian also said that Turkey and Azerbaijan constitute a "serious obstacle" to Armenia's integration into the world economy and its participation in regional economic initiatives. In Baku, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov told journalists on 25 September that Armenia is trying to prolong the peace process indefinitely, rather than achieve a settlement, according to Reuters. Armenian presidential foreign policy adviser Aram Sarkisian rejected that charge, accusing Azerbaijan of violating the confidentiality of the peace talks. LF


Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-zade said on 25 September that Russian-Armenian maneuvers that began the previous day "cause on the whole legitimate concern" insofar as they "enhance the military capacity of Armenia, with which Azerbaijan is practically at war," ITAR-TASS reported. Gulu- zade also expressed concern that Russia, which is one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group attempting to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, has become what he termed "a military ally" of Armenia. But Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian and Lieutenant-General Vladimir Andreev, who headed the Russian contingent participating in the maneuvers, told Interfax on 25 September that such apprehensions are unfounded, given that the exercises do not have "any hidden intent." LF


Meeting with voters in Baku on 24 September, Heidar Aliyev rejected a proposal to postpone the presidential poll scheduled for 11 October, according to RFE/RL correspondents in the Azerbaijani capital. The proposal was signed by 10 leading members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform, including those opposition candidates who have declared their intention to boycott the poll. LF


Vazha Lortkipanidze and his Armenian counterpart, Armen Darpinian, signed several economic agreements on 26 September following two days of talks in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Darpinian told journalists that those talks signal the beginning of "a new phase" in bilateral relations. One of the accords calls for the protection of property rights of Georgian and Armenian citizens engaged in business activities in the other country. The two premiers also reached an agreement on dealing with mutual debts between Armenian and Georgian enterprises. But they expressed dissatisfaction with the current volume of bilateral trade, which totaled a mere $16 million in the first eight months of this year. They also underscored the importance of joint participation in regional initiatives such as the TRACECA transport corridor. LF


The Georgian fugitives from Abkhazia who were barred by police from holding a congress in the Philharmonic building in Tbilisi on 23 September finally managed to convene that meeting on other premises two days later, Caucasus Press reported on 25 September. But the gathering was halted after 15 minutes when the electricity supply to the building failed. Congress organizer Boris Kakubava again demanded that the displaced persons be permitted to convene in the Philharmonic building, pointing out that they had paid in advance for use of that building. LF


Retired General Panteleimon Giorgadze, chairman of the United Georgian Communist Party, told Interfax on 25 September that his party has been refused permission to contend the 15 November local elections. He said the Central Electoral Commission informed him that a political party that calls for the reinstatement of the USSR does not have the right to participate in those elections. Giorgadze said he will appeal the commission's ruling in the Constitutional Court. LF


Some 228 inhabitants of the town of Zyriyanovsk, including 90 children, have been hospitalized with an as yet undiagnosed intestinal infection, RFE/RL correspondents in the region reported on 25 September. Experts from the Kazakh State Committee on Extraordinary Situations and State Sanitary Control Agency are investigating the outbreak. LF


In a letter to the Ukrainian Supreme Council, Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko and National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko have accused opposition parliamentary deputies of blocking fiscal austerity measures and economic reforms needed to stabilize Ukraine's finances, Reuters reported on 25 September. The letter--which singles out the Socialist Party and the Hromada party for criticism--stresses that further opposition will lead to the complete depreciation of the hryvnya, a political crisis, the isolation of Ukraine in the international arena, and heightened social tension. The parliament has so far vetoed three of President Leonid Kuchma's eight economic decrees issued last month to meet the IMF's requirements for obtaining a $2.2 billion loan. JM


The Finance Ministry has extended until 2 October the period in which Ukrainian hryvnya-denominated bills held by foreign investors can be converted into longer-term bonds, Ukrainian News reported on 26 September. Despite the previous optimistic announcement of the National Bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1998), some 25 percent of foreign investors have not converted their Ukrainian treasury bills under conditions proposed by the National Bank. The U.S. Standard & Poor's rating agency said on 24 September that Ukraine defaulted on its debt to both domestic and foreign investors. "The recovery value of treasury bills held by foreign investors is estimated at around 40-50 percent [of their original value]," the 25 September issue of the "Financial Times" quoted the agency as saying. JM


Employees at Ukraine's five nuclear power plants staged protests on 26 September to demand back wages for the past five months, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. Demonstrations took place in satellite towns built near the nuclear plants, which continued to operate normally. Ukraine's nuclear power plants account for some 50 percent of electricity produced in the country, but they can barely make ends meet because of huge debts owed to them by electricity consumers. The director of the Zaporizhska Nuclear Power Plant told journalists the previous day that the money received by his plant is only enough "to pay taxes and fines for overdue taxes." JM


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka unexpectedly inspected farms in Minsk and Vitsebsk Oblasts on 27 September, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the presidential press service, the Belarusian president is "very dissatisfied with the quality of land cultivation and the situation of farms and machinery pools." Lukashenka instructed the government to "introduce order in raions" by 1 November. He added that he will send representatives of the government, the presidential administration, and oblast executive committees to check that his order is being implemented. JM


Igor Ivanov, addressing the UN General Assembly last week, accused Estonia of repression against its Russian-speaking minority, BNS and ETA reported. Ivanov said Russia cannot remain indifferent to the fate of hundreds of thousands Russians subjected to "brutal repressive measures" by the Estonian and Latvian authorities. He gave no concrete examples but demanded that the international community impose sanctions on countries that abuse human rights on various pretexts. Estonian Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Indrek Tarand, who on 25 September addressed the assembly, noted that violations of human rights unfortunately still occur throughout the world. He urged the assembly to address the issue and find the most effective mechanisms to put a stop to such violations. JC


Guntis Ulmanis has said his address to the UN General Assembly last week was aimed at bringing Latvia and Russia closer and not at deepening their differences, BNS reported on 26 September. In that speech, Ulmanis had called on nations to address the issue of "one of the most inhuman regimes--Soviet totalitarianism." "I hope that the Russian Foreign Ministry after having studied [the text of] my address will still see my wish to get closer through the assessment of different stages of history," he said upon returning from the U.S. He added that assessing Soviet totalitarianism is equally important to the people of Latvia and Russia as the regime affected both nations. The Russian Foreign Ministry last week criticized Ulmanis for what it called an "openly unfriendly speech" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1998). JC


The remains of 10 Latvian Waffen SS troops were buried with full military honors at the village of Lestene on 27 September, AFP reported. Nearly 1,000 people, including veterans of the war- time Latvian Legion and their relatives, attended the ceremony. The Latvian government did not participate in the event. Some parliamentary deputies from the Fatherland and Freedom party, however, were reported to have attended. The veterans maintain they were patriots who fought against the Soviet troops that had occupied the country in the early stages of World War II. JC


By a vote of 241 to 42, the 10th Congress of Solidarity on 26 September forbade its leaders from simultaneously holding posts in the trade union and in Solidarity Electoral Action Social Movement (AWS), Television Polonia reported on 28 September. The ban applies only to the Solidarity trade union leadership--chairmen and members of the National Commission and regional commissions as well as department and branch heads. The decision is widely seen as a move to "depoliticize" the trade union, "Rzeczpospolita" commented on 28 September. Re-elected Solidarity chairman Marian Krzaklewski commented to the daily that the trade union is "now primarily a professional, expert machine, not the super- party led by Lech Walesa." Before the conference, Krzaklewski had announced he will step down as AWS leader (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1998). JM


The Solidarity Congress also adopted a four-year action program that aims at achieving universal property enfranchisement, a reduction in unemployment, and "family-friendly" taxes. The trade union will also strive to have wages increase in proportion to national income growth and will demand that the government implement an "employment-friendly" policy, including a mandatory insurance against unemployment. Delegates to the congress opposed the flat tax idea proposed by Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1998) and spoke in favor of a system with several tax brackets. JM


Bishop Marian Golebiewski has suspended Ryszard Krol for his part in erecting a 1.5 meter cross at a gravel pit adjoining the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz, Reuters reported on 26 September. Krol told Radio Zet on 26 September that he had hidden three Jews from the Nazis during the war, and he accused the media of turning him into an anti-Semite. The suspension was the severest penalty imposed on a clergyman to date in the continuing Polish-Jewish row over crosses erected by radical Catholic groups to commemorate the Poles shot by the Nazis in the pit. In a poll published by "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 25 September, only 5 percent of respondents said Auschwitz symbolizes the genocide of the Jews, while 48 percent said the former death camp symbolizes the martyrdom of many nations. JM


Josef Lux, chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, resigned on 24 September from all his positions for health reasons, CTK reported. Lux told journalists that he is suffering from chronic leukemia and that doctors are looking for suitable donors of bone marrow. Lux will be replaced as party leader and as chairman of the Christian Democratic group in the Chamber of Deputies by party deputy chairman Jan Kasal until a new chairman is elected. In other news, Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy on 25 September told journalists in Vilamoura, Portugal, that NATO must admit Slovakia into the alliance. Vetchy said that the "gap" created between Slovakia and its neighbors after the admission of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland into the organization is "unfortunate". MS


Unofficial results of the 25-26 September Slovak parliamentary elections show that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) is the strongest party in the 150-seat legislature, with 27 percent of the vote and 43 seats. The only party prepared to enter into a coalition with the HZDS is the Slovak National Party, which garnered 9.07 percent and won 14 seats; their combined mandates are insufficient for a parliamentary majority. The Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), which won 14.66 percent (23 seats), said it will support the united opposition. With 26.33 percent and 42 seats, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) came a strong second to the HZDS. Together with the SDL, the Hungarian Coalition (9.12 percent and 15 seats) and the party of Civic Understanding (8.01 percent, 13 seats), the opposition commands a 93-seat majority. MS


Visiting Romanian Foreign Ministry state secretary Mihai Razvan Ungureanu told his Hungarian counterpart, Zsolt Nemeth, that the Romanian parliament will probably support the establishment of a Hungarian-German "multicultural university" in Transylvania, Hungarian media reported on 25 September. Nemeth expressed his hopes that a solution meeting the demands of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania to remain in the Romanian governing coalition will soon be found. MSZ


Several Russian mafia leaders have recently met in Budapest with Russian extreme right politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, "Nepszava" reported on 26 September, citing secret service sources. Zhirinovsky reportedly met with Semen Mogilievich, whom Western media have called "the mafia kingpin of Eastern Europe." The Hungarian secret services monitored the meetings and the talks. MSZ


U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen again warned Belgrade on 28 September to pull back Serbian security forces or face air strikes, AP reported. Cohen, speaking in Rome with his Italian counterpart, Beniamino Andreatta, said that NATO has finished its planning for the air strikes. Cohen said "a very strong, credible threat must be made" to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic so that he will pull his forces back, allow humanitarian missions into the area, and "sit down at the bargaining table to peacefully resolve" the Kosova crisis. Cohen and Andreatta said some 50,000 ethnic Albanians risk either starving or freezing to death. German Foreign Minister Volker Ruehe said on 26 September that he disagrees with NATO plans to give Milosevic a couple of weeks before issuing an ultimatum. He said if NATO does not act soon, the world will have "the dead on its conscience." PB


Mirko Marjanovic told the Serbian parliament on 28 September that "armed terrorist groups have been defeated" and that security forces could begin withdrawing to their barracks, AP reported. Marjanovic said Belgrade has shown that there is "no compromise with those who want to create a new state on Serbia's territory by terror and force." He did not give a timetable for scaling back troops but said the move was in accordance with an agreement Milosevic had signed in Moscow with President Boris Yeltsin in June. A withdrawal of troops is one of NATO's demands to Belgrade for it to avoid air strikes by the alliance. PB


A new Serbian offensive southwest of the Kosova capital of Prishtina began on 26 September, causing several more thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee their villages, Reuters reported. The operation is reportedly directed against members of the Kosova Liberation Army that have regrouped after fleeing recent attacks by Serbian forces in northern and central regions of Kosova. Reports say 11 villages are being targeted in the attack and that Serbian forces are backed by a large contingent of tanks. U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said in Skopje on 26 September that his mediation in the crisis has reached a critical stage and that continued attacks by Serbian security forces are "intolerable." PB


The defense ministers from seven Balkan countries agreed in Skopje on 26 September to form a joint peacekeeping force, AFP reported. Defense ministers from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey signed the agreement. Slovenia said it may join the force, which is to number some 4,000 troops, at a later date. The U.S. also attended the meeting. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said the establishment of the joint force is a step toward bringing security and stability to the region. He said it is needed because many people in the Balkans would rather "dig fresh graves than bury old hatreds." PB


Haris Silajdzic, a member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Council of Ministers, said that Yugoslavia is repeating the ethnic cleansing that it committed in Bosnia and Croatia, Reuters reported. Silajdzic, former Bosnian foreign minister, said "everything is being repeated in Kosova." He added that ethnic cleansing is "a project drawn up by intellectuals and carried out by the [Yugoslav army] in Serbia." Silajdzic sharply criticized the international community for not acting to prevent the violence against ethnic Albanians. PB


The OSCE released final results from the general elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 25 September. As had been leaked by several sources, Serb ultranationalist Nikola Poplasen defeated incumbent Biljana Plavsic for the presidency of the Republika Srpska. Poplasen said there are differences in the way the Dayton agreement can be interpreted but that such differences will be "resolved through discussion." While Western officials were disappointed by Poplasen's win, they were pleased with moderate Serb Zivko Radisic's narrow victory over hard-liner Momcilo Krajisnik for the Serbian seat on the Bosnian presidency. But the moderate Croatian member of the presidency, Kresimir Zubak, lost decisively to hard-line rival Ante Jelavic. The incumbent Muslim member of the presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, was overwhelmingly reelected to his post. Radisic will be the chairman of the three-member presidency. PB


OSCE Ambassador Robert Barry said that despite the win of some hard-liners to executive posts, there was "continued erosion" of support for nationalist parties at the parliamentary level, Reuters reported on 26 September. Barry said there had been greater competition between political parties and that nationalist parties did not fare as well as in the last election. The OSCE said it is withholding an announcement on the number of parliamentary seats won by each of the parties in the respective parliamentary bodies until the results are certified by an electoral commission. Izetbegovic said he is satisfied with the results of the elections and noted that his Bosnian Party of Democratic Action and its coalition partners did well at the state and local levels. PB


The Stabilization Force (SFOR) peacekeeping forces in Bosnia arrested Stevan Todorovic, an indicted war criminal, and sent him to The Hague on 27 September, Reuters reported. Todorovic was captured in the northern part of Bosnia without incident. He is alleged to have instigated, ordered, and taken part in crimes against civilians while serving as a police chief in Bosanski Samac in 1992. A SFOR spokeswoman denied a report by Todorovic's lawyer that he was taken from Serbian territory. PB


Rexhep Mejdani issued a plea to Albanian political parties on 25 September, telling parliamentary deputies that it is time to end their fighting, Reuters reported. Mejdani, in a statement read by parliamentary speaker Skendar Gjinushi, proposed various political agreements aimed at ending the public protests led by the opposition Democratic Party. Mejdani also called for a reshuffling of the government and a political agreement to improve law and order and disarm the population. He urged the Democrats to end their parliamentary boycott so that the postcommunist consititution can be finished. PB


Albanian Socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano refused on 26 September to consider calling early elections, Reuters reported. Nano, speaking to top officials in his five-party coalition government, said he will reshuffle the cabinet and indicated that he will add some independents to it. Nano again accused opposition leader Sali Berisha of initiating riots on 12 September in an attempt to topple Nano's government. Also on 26 September, some 3,000 people demonstrated in central Tirana and called for Nano's government to resign. Berisha repeated accusations that Nano is behind the murder of Democratic Party official Azem Hajdari, whose death sparked the riots. On 25 September, the Democrats and several smaller parties that have joined their cause issued a statement denouncing violence and saying the parties will demonstrate peacefully every day until Nano resigns. PB


The U.S. government has taken issue with the Italian Eni oil firm, which supports the construction of an oil pipeline from the Black Sea Port of Constanta to Trieste that would pass through Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported on 27 September. Addressing a conference on transporting Caspian Sea oil to Europe, U.S. Ambassador to Romania James Rosapepe said an alternative route that would by-pass Serbia and pass through Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia has strong "economic and political" potential . Romania is pleading hard to include the Black Sea port of Constanta on the envisaged route. President Emil Constantinescu, addressing the opening session of the conference on 27 September, said the various proposed routes must be viewed as "complementary rather than competitive." MS


A congress of the Romanian Ecologist Federation (FER) on 26 September approved the merger of the party (which is a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania or CDR) with the Romanian Ecologist Movement (MER). Former MER chairman Octavian Ciobota was elected first deputy chairman of the FER. In other news, President Constantinescu. Prime Minister Radu Vasile and the CDR on 24-25 September said they back the nomination of former King Michael for the Nobel Peace prize. The proposal was first made by a Romanian emigre organization, which says the former monarch deserves the prize for his contribution to shortening World War II by having played a crucial role in Romania's switching of alliances. MS


Ion Sturdza told journalists on 25 September that he might resign owing to differences with his cabinet colleagues over reforms and the budget, Reuters reported. Sturdza, who is also economy minister in charge of reform, said that "different views about reforms have surfaced within the government." He said that ministries have requested funding for the 1999 budget totaling 5.2 billion lei ($1.05 billion), whereas this year's revenues would be half that amount--2.6 billion lei. "If we do not move to an austerity program, we shall find ourselves in financial collapse in the fall," Sturdza said. MS


The IMF board on 24 September approved an $840 million three-year loan to Bulgaria aimed at supporting market reforms and economic growth, AP reported. The loan will help Bulgaria service its $9 billion foreign debt while simultaneously revamping its social benefit system and closing or selling off inefficient state companies. Finance Minister Muravei Radev said the government expects the loan to be matched by credits from the World Bank, the EU, and the G-24 group, bringing the total amount of loans in the next three years to $1.6 billion. MS


Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev on 24 September announced the setting up of a commission to draft plans to change the ministry's present system of military ranking to one closer to those used by Western police forces, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Also on 24 September, Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told the UN General Assembly that there is a "serious risk" that the conflict in Kosova might spill over to other parts of the region. On 26 September, Mihailova met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to discuss both bilateral relations and international issues, primarily the situation in Kosova, ITAR-TASS reported. MS


by Jolyon Naegele

The defeat of Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's populist-nationalist coalition in parliamentary elections on 25-26 September presents the democratic opposition with its best opportunity since 1990 to turn the political tide and put Slovakia firmly on the road to European integration and NATO membership.

Four opposition parties won a constitutional majority of 93 of the 150 seats in the Slovak parliament. Within hours after preliminary election results were announced on 27 September, the leaders of those parties began roundtable talks on forming a stable coalition government.

Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which took first place, just seven-tenths of a percentage point ahead of the largest opposition party, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), is expected to go into opposition with its partner, the Slovak National Party (SNS). Meciar has repeatedly said he will not form a minority government.

The main opposition force, the SDK won 26.33 percent of the vote and 42 parliamentary seats. The post-communist Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) gained over 14 percent and 23 seats, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) over 9 percent and 15 seats, and the populist center-left Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) won 8 percent and 13 seats.

Together, the four opposition parties have 93 seats, three more than the three-fifths majority required to amend the constitution.

The man most likely to succeed Meciar as Prime Minister, SDK chairman Mikulas Dzurinda, says the election outcome shows that "Slovakia wants a change, a different orientation, and an end to constant confrontation." Dzurinda is 43 years old, a Christian Democrat, and former transportation minister. He is a close associate of former Prime Minister and ex-dissident Jan Carnogursky.

Dzurinda or whoever eventually becomes prime minister will have the difficult task of stopping Slovakia's economic slide downward and eastward, disentangling the country from its very close economic and defense industry ties with Russia, and re-establishing solid relations with the West. The new government will have to implement measures, some of them likely to be unpopular belt-tightening ones, to enable Slovakia to become a legitimate candidate for EU and NATO membership.

Parliamentary speaker and Meciar associate Ivan Gasparovic has 30 days to call the new parliament into session, after which, he says, the current Meciar government will resign.

The new parliament will have to elect a new president. The four parties have the votes to elect whomever they can agree on among themselves. Slovakia has been without a president since March, when Michal Kovac's five-year term expired. Ever since, Meciar's HZDS repeatedly prevented any candidate from being elected.

The outgoing speaker of parliament, Gasparovic, says the election outcome is a "mirror image" of parliamentary elections in Romania nearly two years ago, which resulted in an end to strong-arm, post-communist rule and the coming to power of the democratic opposition, including the ethnic Hungarian party. HZDS deputy chairman Sergej Kozlik told reporters that the HZDS is a "standard" party and will go into opposition in the event it fails to form a majority government.

In an important signal to the international community, the current opposition leaders agreed in roundtable talks on 27 September that the SMK should be in the government. Anti- Hungarian sentiment has been traditionally strong in Slovak politics, and the nationalist SNS once again played the Hungarian card during the campaign for these elections. The international community has been critical of the Meciar government's treatment of the Hungarian minority, which numbers more than half a million and inhabits a compact area of rural southern Slovakia.

In another important signal, the chairman of the post- communist SDL, Jozef Migas, said his party will do everything to ensure the formation of a functional government that will ensure post-election stability in Slovakia. After years of flirting with the idea of forming a coalition with HZDS, Migas has finally ruled out that idea. In his words, "the government must be functional and majority."

Despite predictions of election tampering, representatives of all parties said the two-day vote took place freely and fairly. International observers, however, were a little more reserved, criticizing the campaign, particularly the government's attempt through last-minute legislation to stave off an opposition victory.

A preliminary report issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bratislava on 27 September said that "although an atmosphere of political polarization led to a lack of confidence in the overall process by many Slovak citizens, the election as such was carried out in an apparently correct and acceptable manner."

Voter participation was almost 85 percent. The head of the Council of Europe monitoring delegation, Franciszek Adamczyk of Poland, praised the high turnout, saying it reflects a belief in the fundamental values of democracy. 'The elections do reflect the will of the people," he commented. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent.