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Newsline - September 30, 1998




PRIMAKOV APPEALS FOR REGIONAL UNITY

Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 29 September called on governors from Russia's 89 regions to put an end to their "fiefdom mentality" and mobilize local resources within the context of a national, coordinated effort. Primakov promised to continue his consultations with regional leaders, pointing out that he has invited many of them into the government. But he suggested that the central government expects these gestures to be reciprocated by local authorities. Primakov backed up his general appeal for unity with the implicit threat of retaliation against rebellious leaders. He said that the national government is drafting legislation setting out procedures for firing elected governors who abuse their power. According to "Izvestiya," Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov said the law will be ready by the end of the week and will suppress attempts by some regions to violate the constitution. JAC

GOVERNORS REACT WITH OBEDIENCE, SKEPTICISM...

The reactions of the governors was--not surprisingly--as varied as their numbers. According to NTV, Sverdlovsk Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov is drawing up his own initiative on "how governors should be subordinate to the federal government." St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that he doubts whether a law to remove elected officials will really be passed but said that criminal proceedings against regional leaders for non-payment of taxes is appropriate. President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev also thought legislation on removing governors will "lead to nothing." Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel, who earlier agreed to become a member of the government's presidium, stressed that only legal means should be used to dismiss a governor, according to ITAR- TASS. JAC

...AND RESENTMENT

"Trud" reported on 30 September that Primakov's efforts to include governors in the government may have had the unintended effect of alienating those governors who were left out. According to the newspaper, some local leaders believe including some governors in the government may "only amount to certain regional leaders gaining access to ruling powers and lobbying the interests of their regions." On the issue of consolidating regions into a smaller number, Ryazan Governor Vyacheslav Lubimov said that regional associations in Russia historically tend "to lack vitality." He drew an analogy with the practice of merging collective farms during the Soviet era. Lubimov also revealed that agriculture in his region receives more financial support from Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's government than from the federal government and that therefore Ryazan would be unlikely to stop supplying foodstuffs to the capital. "Trud" is financed by Gazprom. JAC

NEW TAX CHIEF APPOINTED

Duma deputy Georgii Boos was appointed head of the Federal Tax Service, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 September. In the Duma, Boos was a member of the Our Home is Russia faction and the Budget Committee. According to "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 30 September, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said that the government collected more taxes in September than in August. Zadornov's claim contradicts an earlier report by the Federal Tax Service that tax revenues had dropped. Zadornov added that large taxpayers, such as Gazprom, still have not paid all the taxes they owe. He reported that in September Gazprom paid nothing, while oil companies paid less than 10 percent of their total debt. JAC

COMMUNISTS, TRADE UNIONS FORM ALLIANCE?

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 September that top Communist Party officials finally agreed to cede leadership of the national day of protest on 7 October to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions. The Communists also agreed to follow the union's wishes on a number of other issues, including support for a law raising the official minimum wage. The newspaper concluded that only time will tell whether Russia has witnessed the formation of a "mighty new opposition alliance." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. On 30 September, Communist Party activists, members of some trade unions, as well as scientists and teachers are planning to hold a protest action and block several major highways to Moscow for one hour beginning at mid-day, local time. The protesters are demanding the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin. JAC

DUBININ AT CENTER OF NEW SCANDAL

Despite having resigned on 7 September, former Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin is still finding himself a target of critical press coverage. Investigative journalist Yurii Shchekochikhin, writing in "Novaya gazeta" on 29 September, reported that Dubinin's annual salary as bank chair was equal to $240,000 at last year's exchange rate-- "equivalent to the budget for five prominent Moscow high schools or 12 villages." According to "Moscow Times," such a wage is only half of what the governor of the Bank of England earns but is almost twice what US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan earns. Perhaps more troubling than Dubinin's high salary, a banking analyst pointed out, is the information that bank deputies accepted seats on the boards of commercial banks, which the Central Bank in theory regulates. "Novaya gazeta" is reportedly financed by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most group, while the "Moscow Times" is owned by Independent Media, a company controlled by Menatep. JAC

RUSSIA TO SEND NEW AMBASSADORS TO FRANCE, U.S.

In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov confirmed earlier press speculation that Russian ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov is to be replaced. He disclosed that Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Uzhakov is preparing to become Russia's ambassador to the U.S., while another deputy foreign minister, Nikolai Afanasyevskii, will become the new ambassador to France (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1998). JAC

SCHROEDER TO VISIT MOSCOW

After telephoning outgoing German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 29 September, Russian President Yeltsin called Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder to congratulate him on his victory and invite him to Moscow. According to ITAR-TASS, the summit will take place "shortly." "Noviye izvestiya" concluded on 29 September that while a hardening of the German position on Russia's repayment of its debts is to be expected, "Bonn's fundamental line in Russia will remain the same." German businesses have heavily invested in Russia. JAC

MOSCOW TARGETS RELIGIOUS GROUP

Moscow has become the latest locality to try to take advantage of a 1997 law on freedom of conscience and religious organization. According to Reuters on 29 September, Moscow's prosecutors have accused Jehovah's Witnesses of violating the Russian Constitution with their missionary activities and are seeking to ban them. Evangelical Christians in Magadan and a Lutheran group in Khakassia have complained of similar efforts to circumscribe their activities. ITAR-TASS reported that the Prosecutor-General's Office launched the proceedings following a complaint from a group that seeks to unite people whose relatives have been drawn into totalitarian sects. The Russian agency cited an earlier case in which the father of a minor was stripped of his parental rights for trying to involve his son in activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses against his former wife's wishes. JAC

LUZHKOV TO RUN AS NEW LABOUR CANDIDATE?

In an interview with Reuters on 29 September, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov hinted that he might run for president in Russia's elections in 2000. He said, "If I see that the only [candidates] with a change of getting elected are those who are not capable of leading the country sensibly and correctly, then I will enter the race." Currently on a trip to England, Luzhkov also said that he found the philosophy of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's New Labour party appealing. He said, "It's organizing the economy on market principles--it's capitalism but with a very serious system of social support for the people. The Moscow city government is following these principles, perhaps in a rather primitive way. Our slogan is: working like capitalists, sharing like socialists." The following day, ITAR-TASS cited members of Luzkhov's delegation in England as saying that media reports that Luzhkov will run for president are "premature." JAC

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN

Addressing a congress of some 5,000 fighters who took part in the 1994-1996 Chechen war, maverick field commander Salman Raduev accused President Aslan Maskhadov of "grave crimes against the Chechen people," Russian agencies reported. Delegates to the congress, which opened in Grozny on 29 September, adopted a resolution castigating Maskhadov for his alleged inability to govern the republic. They accused him of violating the constitution and thereby bringing Chechnya to the verge of civil war. And they also called upon the Chechen parliament and Constitutional Court to take appropriate legal action against the president. First deputy parliamentary speaker Selim Beshaev told Interfax that the parliament will set up a commission to investigate the congress's accusations against Maskhadov, which he described as groundless. Beshaev argued that it is the congress that has violated the constitution by calling for the overthrow of the leadership. LF

ANOTHER RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA

Akmal Saitanov, head of the socio-economic department of the Russian government mission in Chechnya, was abducted in Grozny on 29 September while on his way to attend the field commanders' congress, Interfax reported on 30 September, quoting Georgii Kurin, the Russian government's envoy to Chechnya. Kurin said he believed the motive of the kidnapping was to extort a ransom, but he added that "whether we like it or not, this crime is also aimed against Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov." LF

RYBKIN CRITICIZES KIRIENKO GOVERNMENT'S APPROACH TO CIS

Russian Presidential Envoy to the CIS Ivan Rybkin told Interfax on 29 September that the Kirienko government's "neglect" of the CIS undermined bilateral cooperation between Russia and other CIS states. Rybkin noted that Kirienko had named the Russian co- chairmen to the various CIS commissions for bilateral cooperation among the commonwealth states only days before he was fired in August. Rybkin added that he has asked Prime Minister Primakov to relieve him of his duties as a member of the presidium of the CIS Inter-State Economic Committee and has proposed First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov as his successor in that post. LF




SOLANA IN TBILISI

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze held talks in Tbilisi on 29 September on the Abkhaz conflict and on Georgia's participation in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Solana pledged that the current crisis in Russia will not adversely impact on NATO's plans for cooperation with Moscow. Speaking on Georgian Television shortly before Solana's arrival, Georgia's ambassador to the Benelux countries, Zurab Abashidze, said that it is premature to speak of Georgia's possible admission to the alliance, as state-building in that country has not yet reached the required level. Russia's opposition to NATO membership for the former Soviet republics would also have to be taken into consideration, Abashidze said. LF

GEORGIA TO CUT POWER SUPPLIES TO DEBTOR DISTRICTS

As of 1 October, supplies of electricity to Samtredia, Borjomi, Chiatura, and other cities will be cut because of the population's failure to pay outstanding bills, Caucasus Press reported on 29 September. Supplies to Tbilisi will be considerably reduced. Those measures should benefit other districts, especilly since Armenia resumed regular supplies of electricity to Georgia on 25 September. Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirosian told reporters that those supplies are part of a "long-term agreement" between the Armenian and Georgian governments. "This winter Georgia will have no energy shortages," he said. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CONDEMNS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING

In a statement released on 29 September, the Hanrapetutyun faction, which is the second-largest in the parliament, condemned the Constitutional Court's 26 September ruling. The court had said it has "no authority" to rule in the dispute over whether President Robert Kocharian violated the law when he failed to meet a demand by parliament deputies to convene an emergency debate on the controversial privatization of the Yerevan cognac factory, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement charged that the ruling is itself a violation of the law and a "retreat" from democracy. Also on 29 September, the Hayrenik deputies' group demanded that Kocharian "apologize to the people" for his actions. It also called on him to renounce "pressure" on the Constitutional Court and to appoint a new prime minister from the opposition. LF

AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER AT UN

Addressing the UN General Assembly on 29 September, Tofiq Zulfugarov said that a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the key issue of his nation's foreign policy, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. Zulfugarov repeated that Azerbaijan is willing to give the enclave a high level of autonomy within the Azerbaijani state. But he added that a just and lasting settlement cannot be achieved by what he termed Armenian military pressure on Azerbaijan. Interfax on 29 September quoted the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry as claiming that two Armenian intelligence operatives were killed the previous day when a reconnaissance group up to 20-strong tried to infiltrate Azerbaijani army positions east of Nagorno-Karabakh. LF

KAZAKH EX-PREMIER MOVES TO PROTECT BUSINESSMEN'S UNION

Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 29 September, Akezhan Kazhegeldin announced that he will step down as president of the Kazakh Businessmen's Union in the hope of precluding difficulties in renewing the union's registration, which is due next week, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Kazhegeldin, who founded the union, told Interfax in June he intended to transform it into a political party. Kazhegeldin is widely regarded as a possible challenger to incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the presidential poll in 2000, although he has not formally announced his candidacy. Kazhegeldin's press secretary, Amirjan Qosanov, was badly beaten in August, and his aide Mikhail Vasilenko was arrested and detained for several days earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 23 September 1998). LF

KAZAKH NEWSPAPER PROTESTS CLOSURE

The editorial staff of the Russian-language newspaper "21-iy vek" have appealed to the Almaty City Court to overturn a ruling by the Almaty City Juridical Board closing down the publication, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 30 September. The newspaper's premises were bombed and burned out on 26 September. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PLEDGES NOT TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT

In his annual budget message to both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament on 29 September, President Askar Akaev told deputies that as the country is currently at a "difficult stage" in the process of implementing political and economic reforms, all branches of power should consolidate, according to Interfax. Therefore, Akaev reasoned, the next parliamentary elections should take place only in 2000, as prescribed by law. Explaining the rationale for the introduction of private land ownership, which much of the population opposes, Akaev said that farmers should feel themselves masters of the land they cultivate. Opposition parliamentary deputies picketed the session, demanding that the referendum on private land ownership and other constitutional changes, which is scheduled for mid-October, be canceled. LF

TAJIKISTAN DENIES HOLDING TALIBAN PRISONERS

The Tajik Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 29 September denying Pakistani media reports that some 90 Taliban fighters taken prisoner by General Ahmed Shah Massood have been transferred from Afghanistan to the Tajik city of Kulyab, Russian agencies reported. Also on 29 September, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin expressed satisfaction at the United Tajik Opposition's decision to resume cooperation with the Tajik government and National Reconciliation Commission, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

TURKMENISTAN TO PURSUE "PERMANENT NEUTRALITY"

Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov told the UN General Assembly on 29 September that Ashgabat intends to pursue a policy of "permanent neutrality," seeking to maintain equal and equitable relations with all countries through economic cooperation and political impartiality, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. Such a policy, Shikhmuradov continued, will allow Turkmenistan to exert an active influence on regional developments. Shikhmuradov also called for a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict and a "dialogue of civilizations" between the U.S. and Iran. LF




KUCHMA 'CATEGORICALLY' OPPOSES UNION WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS...

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma says he is "categorically against" the idea of creating a union of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, proposed by Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev during his 28-29 September visit to Kyiv (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1998), Interfax reported. "The Belarusian-Russian Union and the Customs Union created by the CIS's individual members showed that nothing has come out of this idea," Kuchma told journalists on 29 September. He added that it is necessary first to ensure the implementation of bilateral agreements between CIS countries, including the Ukrainian-Russian accord on free trade. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 September that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is drawing up a protest note over Seleznev's proposals to the Ukrainian parliament. JM

...WHILE SELEZNEV SAYS KYIV VISIT WAS 'SUCCESS'

Despite the disruption of his speech in the Ukrainian parliament by Rukh deputies, Seleznev said his visit to the Ukrainian capital was a "success," ITAR-TASS reported on 29 September. "We reached full mutual understanding and our dialog will go on," he told journalists in Kyiv. According to Seleznev, his proposal of a union between Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine was "acceptable" to Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, while President Kuchma "got interested" in the idea. Commenting on the Rukh deputies' reaction to his speech, Seleznev said it was "normal," adding that "complete unanimity of opinion in the parliament is bad." An official communique signed by the Ukrainian and Russian speakers says their talks took place in an "atmosphere of friendship, cordiality, mutual understanding, and confidence," dpa reported. JM

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP PROTESTS 'RUIN' OF BELARUSIAN FARMING

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has disseminated a statement protesting the "ruin of Belarusian agricultural producers," Belapan reported on 29 September. The committee says both private and state-owned farms are on the verge of collapse because the government maintains low purchase prices for agricultural products while the prices of food, agricultural equipment, and industrial goods are very high. Farmers are forced to repay state loans by selling their products at 30-40 percent below their market value. The statement adds that farmers' wages are far below the subsistence minimum and are constantly paid late. The committee believes that the government's agricultural policy is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. JM

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS

Toomas Hendrik Ilves submitted his resignation on 30 September, saying he took that decision because leading politicians from the ruling coalition have attacked the Foreign Ministry owing to his party affiliation, ETA reported. Ilves said that there would be a negative effect on the country's foreign policy if he were to continue as foreign minister. He also commented that he believes foreign policy is no longer a priority for many political forces within the government, adding that the cabinet has found it increasingly difficult to take decisions, particularly foreign policy ones. Ilves joined the government as an independent in November 1996; earlier this year, he became chairman of the opposition People's Party. Leaders of the coalition rural parties have several times demanded Ilves's dismissal on account of his affiliation with the People's Party. JC

ESTONIAN RULING COALITION BLOCKS NEW ELECTION LAW

The Coalition Party and the rural parties on 29 September abstained from voting on a bill on parliamentary elections that would have banned electoral alliances, ETA and BNS reported. Seven members of the Russian faction voted against the draft law because it required parliamentary deputies to have "sufficient knowledge" of Estonian to take part in parliamentary work. As a result, the bill fell six votes short of the 51 votes required for its passage. The coalition partners have begun talks on renewing their alliance for the March 1999 elections. JC

ESTONIA REFUSES CITIZENSHIP TO FORMER KGB OFFICIALS

The Estonian government on 29 September refused to grant Estonian citizenship to 69 former KGB officers, ETA reported. All 69 applied for Estonian citizenship several years ago, but the Estonian security authorities uncovered their KGB connections as their applications were being processed. Also on 29 September, the government refused citizenship to 36 former Russian officers and their family members. JC

RUSSIA URGES LATVIA TO FOLLOW OSCE ADVICE ON LANGUAGE LAW

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists on 29 September that Moscow hopes the Latvian parliament will adopt a law on the state language that is in line with OSCE recommendations, BNS reported. He added that some of the draft law's provisions have triggered "serious objections by international organizations." The ministry claims that the present version of the bill considerably restricts the use of the Russian language in Latvia. The previous day, the parliament had to postpone the third and final reading of the bill until next week owing to a lack of a quorum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1998). JC

LITHUANIAN LEGISLATORS PAVE WAY FOR COLLEAGUE'S IMPEACHMENT

BNS reported on 29 September that the Center parliamentary group has collected enough signatures to request that impeachment proceedings be launched against Audrius Butkevicius, who last year was arrested on charges of attempted large-scale fraud. The Centrists hope that those proceedings would speed up Butkevicius's trial. Once the parliamentary chairman receives such a request, it must be included on the parliament's agenda within a week. A simple majority is required for impeachment proceedings to start. JC

INTELLECTUALS, FORMER SERVICEMEN APPEAL FOR END TO AUSCHWITZ 'PROVOCATIONS'

Six Polish intellectuals, including Nobel Prize laureates Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska, have sent an open letter to Premier Jerzy Buzek demanding that the government put an "end to provocations and adventures" at the site of the Auschwitz former death camp, PAP reported on 29 September. Radical Catholic groups have erected some 230 crosses in a gravel pit outside the camp site, sparking protests by international Jewish organizations. Several organizations of former servicemen have also issued a statement protesting the "incomprehensible passivity" of the Polish government in the conflict over the Auschwitz crosses. "It is high time for a decisive intervention that will let Polish society believe that we live under the rule of law," the statement reads. JM

SOLIDARITY TO RECEIVE COMPENSATION FOR LOSSES UNDER MARTIAL LAW

Solidarity will receive some 124 million zlotys ($35 million) in the form of fixed assets and state securities as compensation for the property it lost under martial law from 1981-1982, PAP reported on 29 September. An amendment to the 1990 law on the restitution of property lost by trade unions and social organizations under martial law will provide for such compensation. The cabinet approved the amendment on 29 September. JM

ZEMAN SAYS PRAGUE PREPARING FOR EU MEMBERSHIP

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, speaking at the EU headquarters in Brussels on 29 September, said the Czech Republic is quickly introducing the economic and legal measures required for EU membership and hopes to join the union by 2003 or 2004, AP and Reuters reported. Zeman added that his government nonetheless intends to take "a tough stance" in negotiations on some issues, including the Austrian demand that membership be preceded by a transition period to prevent the mass inflow of cheap labor from new member countries. European Commission President Jacques Santer said he "finds no clouds" in Brussels-Prague relations. Zeman described the result of the recent Slovak elections as a "victory for the democratic forces [there]," adding that Slovakia is now "ending its non-splendid isolation." MS

CZECH SKINHEADS SENTENCED TO JAIL FOR DROWNING ROMANY WOMAN

Two skinheads were found guilty of assault resulting in the death of a Romany woman, whom they pushed into the River Elbe in the Bohemian town of Vrchlabi last February, CTK reported on 29 September. The two skinheads were sentenced to six and eight years in prison. In other news, former Trade and Industry Minister Karel Kuehnl has been elected chairman of the opposition Freedom Union's group in the Chamber of Deputies, replacing Vladimir Mlynar. MS

SLOVAK RULING PARTY MAY DROP MECIAR...

Interior Minister Gustav Krajci on 29 September told Radio Twist that the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) may decide to drop Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar as its candidate to form the next government and appoint someone else instead, AP reported. Krajci said Meciar's deputy, Sergej Kozlik, may be chosen to replace the premier, but he added that the matter has been discussed only in unofficial talks within the HZDS. Earlier on 29 September, parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic said that he will "ask the HZDS to form a government" because "by tradition" the winner of the election is given the first chance to do so, Reuters reported. MS

...BUT WILL IT SUFFICE TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT?

In his interview with Radio Twist, Krajci admitted that the HZDS may nonetheless be forced to go into opposition. He said it is "unlikely that we will be able to form a majority government." To do so, the HZDS needs the support of the Slovak National Party, as well as that of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL). SDL leader Josef Migas said his formation regards such a partnership as "unacceptable" and that "the only alternative...is with the current opposition parties." Migas's deputy, Jan Langos, told journalists that the SDL has "already agreed with our future coalition partners on opening coalition talks and on the new government's program." MS

SLOVAKIA TO REDUCE DUTY ON HUNGARIAN WHEAT IMPORTS

Slovak Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Anna Jostiakova said after talks with her counterpart, Peter Balas, in Budapest on 29 September, that Bratislava will reduce the recently imposed customs duty on wheat imports from Hungary from 70 percent to 22.5 percent, MTI reported. Hungary is to withdraw the complaint it filed with the World Trade Organization. MS




NEW MASSACRES IN KOSOVA

Serbian forces killed some 18 Kosovar civilians in Obrinje, west of Prishtina, on 26 September, several major British and U.S. dailies reported on 30 September. The ages of the dead ranged from 18 months to 95 years and included a young pregnant woman. Some of the victims had been shot at close range or killed with knives, and some had been mutilated, Western journalists and diplomats said in Obrinje, after speaking to survivors and viewing the victims' remains. Further massacres of Kosovar civilians took place elsewhere in the same area in recent days, the BBC and "The New York Times" reported. Serbian forces continue to surround some 700 civilians at another locality nearby, VOA reported. PM

SHARP CONDEMNATION OF ATROCITIES

The killings at Obrinje provide "first-hand evidence ... that Serbian forces have been involved in killing civilians as well as in burning and looting," the BBC reported on 30 September. "The New York Times" wrote that the massacres "show as definitively as anything that the forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have been conducting a campaign of terror and destruction against ethnic Albanian civilians, which is intended to intimidate them but which appears instead to be inspiring even stronger defiance." John Fox, a former State Department official turned critic of U.S. policy, told the BBC that the massacres provide evidence that Western powers have been pursuing "the most cynical policy possible" in the region by refusing to take military action against Serbian forces. A BBC correspondent in Belgrade added that "if the West is serious, the time for air strikes might be drawing close." PM

HILL CALLS OBRINJE STORY 'DISTURBING'

U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who is the top U.S. envoy dealing with the crisis in Kosova, told CNN from Belgrade on 29 September that the accounts of the killings at Obrinje are "disturbing." He added that "there have been a number of these reports.... It's one more reason why we need to get international forensic experts in there" to establish the causes of the deaths. Hill also said that the reports also highlight the "need to get the political process going" in ending the crisis. Hill earlier spoke with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who stressed the need for the Serbs and Kosovars to begin negotiations. PM

ASHDOWN SLAMS 'SCORCHED EARTH' POLICIES

After speaking to Milosevic in Belgrade on 29 September, British Liberal Democratic leader Paddy Ashdown said that Serbian policies have led to "villages in flames [and] destroyed and plundered homes." He argued that Belgrade is conducting a "scorched earth policy" and "total war" that goes well beyond what "civilized nations" regard as an acceptable response to terrorism. Ashdown added that Milosevic promised him to "personally see to it that security forces end their operation" in the province. The British political leader spent three days in Kosova before his talks with the Yugoslav president. PM

UCK REMAINS DEFIANT

The Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) issued a statement in Prishtina on 29 September calling on the international community to act "more justly, swiftly, and energetically [to end the Serbian crackdown] lest the consequences of the war in Kosova have an impact throughout the Balkans and beyond." The guerrillas added that their own policies include taking reprisals against "treacherous elements," by which they mean their political enemies among the Kosovars (see also "End Note" below). PM

SESELJ THREATENS TO TAKE SERBIAN OPPOSITION HOSTAGE

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told the parliament that "the Americans have found their fifth column here. It is composed of politically irrelevant parties and independent media." He added that if NATO launches air strikes against Serbia, the U.S. should first "withdraw its agents, such as [the prominent opposition groups] the Helsinki Committee, the Women in Black and the Belgrade Circle. We can't shoot down each and every NATO plane, but we can grab those agents who are at hand," independent Belgrade Radio B-92 reported on 30 September. Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic charged that the "so-called independent media" are not interested in the truth but "serve up lies [and messages of] defeatism, fear, and hopelessness." Pro-government legislator Zeljko Simic added that some independent media are guilty of "high treason" for having aided "Albanian separatism." PM

PLAVSIC BACKERS CALL FOR ALL-SERBIAN GOVERNMENT

A spokesman for outgoing Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's Serbian People's Alliance said in Banja Luka on 29 September that his party wants the new government to include representatives of all ethnic Serbian parties in the legislature. Leaders of the hard- line parties recently said that they would welcome such a broadly based government. PM

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ASKS MAJKO TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT...

Rexhep Meidani on 29 September asked the 30-year-old Socialist Party Secretary-General Pandeli Majko to form a new government. Earlier that day, Majko defeated Foreign Ministry State Secretary for European Integration Ilir Meta and Deputy Prime Minister Kastriot Islami to win his party's nomination for the top government post. Observers noted that Majko lacks ministerial experience but that he heads the Socialists' parliamentary faction and worked closely with outgoing Prime Minister Fatos Nano. Majko played a role in the 1990 student movement that brought about the end of communism and has mediated disputes between the Socialists and the opposition. Majko told Reuters on 29 September that he will not call new elections. The next day, he began negotiations aimed at forming a coalition. He offered "dialogue" to Democratic Party leaders and stressed that "we must return the country to normal and not be guided by the psychology of revenge." FS

...WHILE BERISHA CALLS FOR 'CONSTRUCTIVE SPIRIT'

Opposition Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha on 29 September repeated his demand for new elections but urged his supporters to show a "constructive spirit and sense of compromise in [a] dialogue that...could lead to an [interim] government with a broad base." He added that the Democratic Party will not participate in the new government but will support its anti-crisis package including the "restoration of public order [and] disarmament of the population." Berisha also expressed his willingness to cooperate in drafting a new constitution. Majko responded that the Democrats should follow the Socialist's example and remove politicians who belonged to the communist-era establishment. He said that "the best support Berisha could give to the new government would be to make positions in his own party available to the generation of young politicians." FS

WESTERN DIPLOMATS WELCOME NEW LEADERSHIP

Unnamed Western diplomats in Tirana told Reuters on 29 September that they hope that Majko's nomination will put an end to Albania's highly polarized political climate. One diplomat stressed that Majko is untainted by past association with the communist regime. He added that Majko "is very open, very well disposed towards the outside world...[and] doesn't have the [political and intellectual] baggage that people in their 50's and 60's have." A second diplomat said that "I'm sure [Majko] has enemies but it's not nearly as long a list of enemies as the average Albanian politician has." In Brussels, a third diplomat stressed that the government change is not "a victory for Berisha [but] a tactical move by the Socialists to keep their government intact. The government has not fallen and that is important." FS

ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN PARTY TO LEAVE COALITION?

Citing procedural grounds, the Bureau of the Chamber of Deputies' Education Commission on 29 September refused to discuss the amendment, submitted by the coalition party leaders, revoking the stipulation that prohibits the setting up of state universities teaching in national minority languages. A meeting of the coalition leaders on 29 September failed to resolve the situation, and Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) leader Bela Marko said after the meeting that the UDMR's coalition partners are now backing the "multicultural university" solution, which the UDMR rejects. Marko added that the UDMR demands the dismissal of Education Minister Andrei Marga and that it will leave the coalition in accordance with the decision of its Council of Representatives if the UDMR's demands are not satisfied by 30 September. MS

BULGARIA SAYS IT'S 'READY' FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP

Bulgarian ambassador to the U.S. Philip Dimitrov on 29 September told journalists in Washington that his country is "an economic success story" among the states of the former communist bloc and is "rapidly meeting all requirements for entrance into NATO," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Dimitrov said that over the past two years, inflation has dropped from 1,000 percent to 6 percent and that by the end of 1999, some 70 percent of the state assets would be privatized. In other news, the government on 28 September issued a decree setting up a 10-member Security Council headed by Premier Ivan Kostov, BTA reported. MS

BULGARIA, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE IN FIGHTING ORGANIZED CRIME

Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and his visiting Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin, met in Sofia on 29 September and signed an agreement on cooperation in fighting organized crime, dpa reported. They told journalists that the goal is to improve communications between their ministries in order to curb drug smuggling, car theft, and economic crime. Stepashin singled out the need to protect "honest business" and said that Russia, hit by an economic crisis, needs cheap Bulgarian food imports. MS




THE CONFLICTS AMONG THE KOSOVARS


by Tim Judah

The war in Kosova has taken a deadly new twist. Just when a united front is needed to respond to the Serbs in order to avert a humanitarian disaster, Kosova's Albanian politicians are at one another's throats as never before. Skeptics say that a fiendishly clever Serbian "divide-and-rule" policy is at work, but the facts suggest otherwise. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must be pleased that Kosovars seem to have begun to shoot one another.

In June, at the height of its fortunes, the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) not only controlled large swaths of territory but appeared to have consigned Ibrahim Rugova, Kosova's pacifist leader, to the dustbin of history. That was not the case. Down, but not out, Rugova and his colleagues in the government-in-exile began to fight back.

The mastermind behind that government's attempt to seize control of the UCK was Xhafer Shatri, Rugova's minister of information, based in Geneva. Working with Bujar Bukoshi, the head of the government, who lives in Bonn, he dispatched 14 military officers to Albania and Kosova. The two cabinet members also activated the dormant Ministry of Defense, appointing Ahmet Krasniqi as minister.

The 14 officers, although formally operating under the aegis of their own Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova (FARK), had as their goal the takeover of the UCK. The idea was that once this had been achieved, Rugova could proceed to the negotiating table in a position of strength--with a government, a parliament, and an army.

Perhaps the U.S. unwittingly exercised some influence over the FARK's ambitions. On 4 July, Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy to the Balkans, told a meeting in London that in his view, a good compromise for Kosova would be the so-called "three republic solution." This envisaged a Yugoslavia in which Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosova would not only be self-governing within the country's present borders but also would each have its own army.

The FARK plan has ended in disaster because of deeply rooted antagonisms on both sides. The UCK was founded in 1993. The driving force behind its creation was Popular Movement for Kosova (LPK), a clandestine fringe group that, since its foundation in 1982, had consistently called for an uprising against the Serbs. Many of its members were, and are, former political prisoners who despise Rugova and his inner circle. They point out that while they, as radicals, were in prison in the 1980s, many of those who now surround Rugova were at the time politicians and functionaries of the then autonomous Kosova.

Moreover, some members of Rugova's inner circle, such as Xhafer Shatri, used to be LPK members. Sabri Hamiti, Rugova's closest adviser, is also a former hardliner now reviled as a defector, traitor, and political opportunist. The UCK also regarded Ahmet Krasniqi as a traitor because when he was captured as a former Yugoslav Army officer by the Croats in Gospic in 1991, he was duly returned to Belgrade. Others who met a similar fate defected to fight the Serbs.

On 21 September, unknown persons murdered Krasniqi in Tirana. Three days earlier, the UCK had virtually pronounced a death sentence on him after it denounced another FARK commander as a traitor. A UCK communique said: "One day these kind of people will pay for the damage they have caused to our nation." Sources close to the UCK have hardly bothered to disguise the fact that Krasniqi's death was the UCK's handiwork.

The UCK's military capacity has been devastated by the Serbian offensive. But Rugova has hardly been coy about showing his satisfaction. As he has not been able to take over the UCK, his power and influence now depend on its being eliminated as a credible rival.

The UCK then is down but, like Rugova several months ago, is far from out. In the spring, a commander named Qazim declared that anyone who dared sign a compromise deal with the Serbs would be "executed." In mid-September, 13 Prishtina politicians were detained by the UCK for two days. The UCK's aim was not just to show those politicians that it still existed but to instill fear into them. On 24 September, Sabri Hamiti was shot but not killed.

So far, Rugova has not backed off from his demand for independence but has agreed to the so-called "interim solution," whereby Kosova's final status would not be decided until three years after a preliminary agreement was reached. In view of the catastrophe now facing Kosovars, Rugova's star is back in the ascendant. If he could halt the war, win an acceptable measure of autonomy for Kosova, and offer the prospect of independence, he would have the backing of the vast majority of Kosovars.

It is precisely this possibility that the UCK wants to forestall. Its objective is to regroup during the winter so as to emerge in the spring as a rejuvenated but slimmed-down guerrilla organization whose aim would be to wear down the Serbs in a war of attrition. The author is a British journalist whose writings include "The Serbs: History, Myth, and the Destruction of Yugoslavia" (Yale University Press, 1997).


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