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Newsline - October 8, 1998




PRIMAKOV TAKES CHARGE OF FINANCIAL LEVERS

Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov seem to have divided the tasks of former Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin between themselves, with Primakov taking primary responsibility for financial policy. "Izvestiya" concluded on 8 October that Primakov "has not tempted fate by entrusting the most crucial sector of rescue work in the Russian economy to his deputies." As a consequence, Primakov has the "power to pursue a tough financial policy." According to Interfax, Primakov will personally oversee the work of the Finance and Justice Ministries, the Federal Tax Service, and coordinate the implementation of military reform. Maslyukov will manage industrial policy, military-technical cooperation and trade, and foreign economic relations, including dealing with the international financial institutions. He will also coordinate the work of the Ministries of Economy, Trade, and Anti-Trust Policies. On 6 October, President Boris Yeltsin reappointed Viktor Orlov minister of natural resources. JAC

TURN-OUT FOR NATIONAL PROTEST LOWER THAN EXPECTED

More than 600,000 people participated in the national day of protest on 7 October, according to Interior Ministry figures, Russian agencies reported. Even if government figures have seriously understated the number of actual participants, the turn-out was significantly less than organizers had predicted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1998). Rallies and marches were held in 500 cities and villages in 78 regions, for the most part without serious incident, according to Major-General Aleksandr Chekalin of the Interior Ministry. "Izvestiya" on 8 October criticized regional governors such as Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev for participating in marches, commenting that "regional leaders have pretended that they have nothing to do with Russian power structures and therefore are not at all responsible for what is happening throughout the country and in their regions." LUKoil and Oneksimbank are major investors in "Izvestiya." JAC

RUSSIA NOT TO DEPLOY TROOPS IN YUGOSLAVIA

Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak, chairman of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, told Interfax on 7 October that the council will not allow Russian troops to be deployed in Yugoslavia. Under the constitution, Russia cannot send troops to fight abroad without the Federation Council's approval. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 October that the General Staff is not formulating any plans to use Russian troops in Kosova and that the only Russian warplanes capable of getting to and from Kosova and performing a combat mission are planes better equipped for destroying than defending Yugoslav facilities on the ground. Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin telephoned British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Prime Minister Primakov called Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi to promote Russia's position against NATO air strikes. JAC

ARAFAT VISITS MOSCOW

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat arrived in Moscow on 8 October for meetings with President Yeltsin, Prime Minister Primakov, Federal Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev, and Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia. After President Yeltsin's meeting with Arafat, according to Interfax, his foreign policy aide, Sergei Prikhodko, announced that Yeltsin will appoint an envoy to the Middle East, who will regularly visit Middle Eastern capitals. Arafat invited Russia to send a representative to Washington on 15 October to attend a meeting with representatives from the U.S., Israel, and Palestine. JAC

OIL COMPANIES SET TO MERGE?

In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 October, LUKoil chairman Vagit Alekperov predicted that Russia's leading oil companies will be forced to consolidate in order to weather the current economic crisis and compete on international markets. He called for the creation of two or three truly international oil companies. Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev told reporters on 6 October that he believes a 5 percent block of shares in his company may be sold within two months so that the government can raise needed revenue. He added that a deal on writing off Gazprom's tax debt is close to completion. He also revealed that Gazprom had to cut its investment program by two- thirds because of lower fuel prices and Russia's economic crisis. JAC

RUSSIA TO BUILD NEW MISSILES, SUBS...

At a news conference on 6 October, First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov called for the ratification of START II and the construction of 35-45 new Topol- M missiles every year starting in 2000 and several new submarines for the Navy. The new missile system is necessary because existing weaponry is aging and will start to be deactivated within two or three years, he commented. JAC

...AND NEGLECT CONVENTIONAL FORCES?

Writing in "Segodnya" on 7 October, military analyst Pavel Felgengauer critiqued Maslyukov's proposals as unrealistic. He argued that "six intercontinental warheads would provide sufficient nuclear deterrence against the U.S., but Maslyukov is demanding more than 40 strategic nuclear missiles a year." He added that the "Russian military-industrial complex can survive only as a small, separate, narrowly specialized sector. If [Russia] attempts to continue the Soviet tradition of combining the development and production of TV sets and teleguidance for aviation bombs at the same firm, then televisions will spontaneously explode as they used to and half the bombs will miss their target." The other danger, Felgengauer concluded, was that if all of Russia's resources are used on nuclear deterrent forces, then conventional forces will suffer and Russia will be vulnerable to attack by a thousand well- trained guerrillas. JAC

WESTERN BANK BRANCHES ENSNARED BY DEFAULT

According to an "Interfax 100" report, the Russia-based subsidiaries of Western banks were among the most heavily invested in Russian government securities and therefore were among the hardest hit when the Russian government imposed a moratorium on debt payments, the "Moscow Times" reported on 7 October. Sberbank lost the largest amount, since it held 101.4 billion rubles ($6.4 billion) in Russian treasury bills and state securities, which accounted for 52 percent of its total assets. The Russian subsidiaries of Chase Manhattan and Republic National Bank of New York also had invested more than half of their assets in government bonds. SBS- Agro and Uneximbank both had only 19 percent of their assets invested in government bonds, but these banks have experienced other problems with contracts on Eurobonds and forward currency transactions. JAC

LUZHKOV GAINING SUPPORTERS

Although Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has not officially declared he is running for president, his candidacy is gaining new endorsements. Mikhail Lapshin, Agrarian Party leader, said his party will support Luzhkov for president, provided Luzhkov assists farmers with concrete measures, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 October. Interfax reported the next day that Mikhail Nagaitsev, chairman of the Moscow Federation of Trade Unions, declared at a rally that trade unions will advance Luzhkov's candidacy for president. Meanwhile, according to ITAR-TASS, Luzhkov expressed his profound admiration for Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and his economic program, calling him a "very serious, solid, highly respected political figure" capable of leading the country out of its current crisis. JAC

SACHS SLAMS RUSSIA, FUND

In an interview with "Noviye izvestiya" on 7 October, Harvard University professor Jeffrey Sachs accused Russian government officials of "squandering" $50 billion to $100 billion of credits from the U.S. and international financial institutions, funneling the money into foreign bank accounts and real estate. Sachs, a former economic adviser to the government headed by then Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, accused the IMF of injecting billions of dollars into Russia but not into its economy. He added that many people believe that he criticizes the Russian government because he no longer has the opportunity to work with it. In fact, he said, he quit his position because he could no longer tolerate corruption on such a massive scale. JAC

RUSSIAN FAR EAST LOSES U.S. AIR CONNECTION

Alaska Airlines suspended regular flights between Kamchatka and the U.S. on 8 October. According to ITAR-TASS, the airline has been having trouble filling its planes since Russia's economic crisis began. JAC

CHECHEN OPPOSITION TO PRESS FOR MASKHADOV'S RESIGNATION

Thirty- five Chechen opposition groups have formed a special coordinating body to press for the resignation of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported on 7 October. Denying that it would employ force, the new coordinating body said that it will discuss its demands with the parliament the next day. In other developments, Arbi Barayev, the head of the Islamic Regiment combat group, was severely wounded on 7 October in what the authorities said was an assassination attempt, ITAR-TASS reported. And the Russian envoy to Chechnya, Georgii Kurin, denied reports that a meeting has been scheduled between Maskhadov and Russian Prime Minister Primakov. PG




KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SCHEDULED FOR JANUARY

A joint session of the Kazakh parliament on 8 October approved holding presidential elections on 10 January 1999, RFE/RL correspondents in Astana reported. That vote was originally slated to take place in December 2000. Opposition parties and movements are expected to protest that decision. One day earlier, deputies approved amendments to the constitution extending the terms in office of both houses of the parliament and the president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1998). They also struck the provisions that a president may not be older than 65 and may not serve more than two terms in office. BP

NAZARBAYEV APPROVES DECISION

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has approved the parliament's decision to bring the presidential election forward, thereby shortening his current term in office by almost two years. Nazarbayev was elected once as president following independence in 1991, and his term in office was extended through a referendum in 1995, which also stipulated that the presidential election would take place in December 2000. BP

UZBEKISTAN TO INTRODUCE MONTHLY REPORTS ON FOREIGN TRADE

President Islam Karimov has signed a document stipulating that companies must produce monthly reports on their foreign trade activities, Interfax reported on 7 October. Starting in January 1999, "both public and private economic entities" are required to submit monthly reports of their exports, imports, and currency flows. Special legislation will be introduced to punish company heads who do not meet the deadlines. BP

KYRGYZ CHIEF BANKER PAINTS GLOOMY PICTURE

The chairman of Kyrgyzstan's National Bank, Marat Sultanov, was quoted by ITAR- TASS on 8 October as saying "we were prepared for the Russian crisis in Kyrgyzstan but not on such a scale." Sultanov noted that the Russian Federation is his country's main trading partner, accounting for 25 percent of Kyrgyzstan's foreign trade. He said the value of the national currency, the som, has decreased by 17-18 percent since the beginning of the Russian economic crisis. And he revealed that Kyrgyzstan was able to prop up the som by using bank reserves, "which then decreased by 7-8 percent." BP

DEPUTY SPEAKER OF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT RESIGNS

As the parliament met for the third day to consider opposition demands that the government's privatization program be changed, Albert Bazeyan, a deputy speaker of that body, announced his resignation on 7 October, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Bazeyan, a leading figure in the Yerkrapah group, which supports President Robert Kocharian, said that he "does not want to participate in political games." Following his announcement, the parliament narrowly rejected the opposition's changes to the privatization program. PG

ONLY 7,000 PARTICIPATE IN ARMENIAN COMMUNIST RALLY

Some 7,000 communist supporters--far fewer than organizers had predicted-- participated in a demonstration in Yerevan on 7 October to express "solidarity" with protesters in Russia and to demand the resignation of the Armenian government, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Communist party leader Sergei Badalian told the crowd in Yerevan that Armenians must place their hopes on the "victory of the Russian people." PG

ARMENIAN AIRLINE IN TROUBLE

Vyacheslav Yaralov, the director- general of Armenian Airlines, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 7 October that his enterprise needs at least $50 million in the immediate future to overcome serious financial difficulties, replace aging Soviet-made aircraft, and acquire Western planes. Yaralov acknowledged that the airline lost $2 million in the first six months of 1998. PG

ARMENIA ASKS COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO SET UP CAUCASUS MEETING

Armenian parliamentary chairman Khosrov Arutyunyan on 7 October asked the Council of Europe to organize a joint meeting of the parliamentary speakers of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, ITAR- TASS reported. Arutyunyan made the proposal in Tbilisi, where he is taking part in an expanded meeting of the bureau of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. PG

Aliyev AGAIN REJECTS AZERBAIJANI ELECTION DELAY

Arguing that the Azerbaijani Constitution gives him no choice, President Heidar Aliyev on 7 October again rejected opposition demands that the presidential poll be postponed, Interfax reported. Aliev's statement came on the date the opposition had declared as a deadline for any announcement. In other remarks, Aliyev noted that the country's hard currency reserves rose to $500 million in recent years, up from only $2 million in 1994. He added that inflation has fallen to nearly zero, and that the manat has strengthened against the dollar. And he also commented that he sees no reason to change the current government, which he said "consistently and intelligently implements the course of reforms." PG




TKACHENKO PLEDGES SUPPORT TO YUGOSLAVIA IN KOSOVA CRISIS

Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko told the Yugoslav ambassador to Ukraine on 7 October that Ukraine will give Yugoslavia "material and moral support" in the Kosova crisis, Interfax reported. "If the Yugoslav government appeals to us with such a request, we will offer help, despite our difficulties," Tkachenko said. He added that Ukrainians oppose the use of military force in Yugoslavia, irrespective of any decisions by NATO or the UN Security Council. He added that the recent statement by a Foreign Ministry official that Ukraine "unconditionally supports" the UN decision on Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1998) does not reflect the Foreign Ministry's stance. Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko, who is currently in Washington, has said his government sides with Russia in opposing the use of force in Yugoslavia, dpa reported on 7 October. JM

UKRAINIAN WORKERS SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH RUSSIAN PROTESTERS

Thousands of Ukrainian workers and hard-liners demonstrated on 7 October to show support for protests in neighboring Russia and to demand the resignation of President Leonid Kuchma, AP reported. The largest demonstrations were in Kyiv (1,000 people), Donetsk (6,000), and Kharkiv (1,000). The Independent Trade Union Federation sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Russian labor activists saying that Ukrainians have been hit hard by the Russian economic crisis and can understand the demands of the Russian protesters. Meanwhile, at a meeting with Justice Ministry officials on 7 October, Kuchma said Ukraine will overcome the current crisis. He accused various political groups of exploiting the country's difficulties and called upon them "to sit down at the negotiating table" with the executive, Interfax reported. JM

POLL SAYS HALF OF BELARUSIANS 'BARELY MAKE ENDS MEET'

A poll conducted by the Scientific Research Economic Institute under the Belarusian Ministry of Economy from 15 August to 15 September shows that 49 percent of Belarusians "barely make ends meet," Belapan reported on 7 October. Of the respondents, 7 percent said they have "incurred debts," 9 percent "are forced to use their savings," while 29 percent are able to save "a little bit" of money. Price hikes are expected by 87 percent of the respondents, and 47 percent believe that prices will increase even more steeply than to date. JM

ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK HAS SPECIAL RESERVE TO HELP SMALL BANKS

Chairman of the Central Bank Council Mart Sorg said on 7 October that the Central Bank has 2 billion kroons ($154 million) in reserve that could be lent to small banks to improve their liquidity, ETA reported. At the same time, Sorg noted that granting such a subsidy is a "political decision that may or may not happen." Recently, the Central Bank has intervened to help several commercial banks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 7 October). Justice Minister Paul Varul, who is currently standing in for ailing Prime Minister Mart Siimann, said on 7 October that the Central Bank's "decisive actions" are in line with the government's conservative economic policy. JC

THREE PARTIES REACH PRELIMINARY COALITION AGREEMENT...

Latvia's Way, the Fatherland and Freedom party, and the New Party have agreed on the intention to form a new government headed by Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans of Latvia's Way, BNS reported on 7 October. Latvia's Way Chairman Andrejs Pantelejevs told reporters a verbal accord had been reached that could form the basis for further talks on a government coalition. The combined number of the three parties' mandates in the 100-strong parliament would be 46. Fatherland and Freedom party Chairman Maris Grinblats said his party would like to see the People's Party, which won the recent general elections, participate in the new government. Pantelejevs noted that Latvia's Way could cooperate with the Social Democrats if latter does not make demands inconsistent with his party's liberal economic policy. JC

...WHILE PEOPLE'S PARTY MAKES OWN PROPOSAL

The People's Party is proposing that Latvia's Way and the Fatherland and Freedom party cooperate with it to form a new government coalition, BNS reported on 7 October. "It's only natural that the government should be formed by those parties that were supported by the most Latvian citizens," the party said in a statement. It added that the government should be formed on the basis of "common ideological positions rather than personal views or ultimatums." According to the official preliminary results of the 3 October elections, the People's Party will have 24 seats in the new government. JC

POLISH PREMIER, DEFENSE MINISTER DIFFER OVER NATO ACTION IN KOSOVA

Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek told the commercial Radio Zet on 7 October that Poland is ready to take part in a NATO operation in Kosova. Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz believes, however, that NATO does not expect Poland to send any military units. Onyszkiewicz told the commercial Radio PLUS the same day that Poland knows the plans for NATO's intended action in Kosova and that they envisage using only air units from current NATO member states. JM

ZEMAN MEETS WITH SOLANA

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman discussed the possibility of Prague's early entry into NATO with Secretary General Javier Solana in Brussels on 7 October, CTK reported. Zeman said Solana is happy "to welcome...a relatively boring nation without internal conflicts" as a future NATO member. He said no date has been set for the country's entry into the alliance. Solana said he is satisfied with how the Czech Republic is integrating its structures in accordance with NATO guidelines. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy, and Deputy Prime Minister Egon Lansky accompanied Zeman. PB

CZECH GOVERNMENT AGREES TO RFE/RL BROADCASTS TO IRAQ

The Czech cabinet said on 7 October that RFE/RL can proceed with broadcasts to Iraq, Reuters reported. A government spokesman said that for security reasons, a "suitable location" for the editorial offices of Radio Free Iraq will have to be found. The government had earlier voiced opposition to plans for the broadcasts, while President Vaclav Havel said it is up to RFE/RL to decide in which languages and to which countries it broadcasts. The previous Czech government approved plans for RFE/RL to begin broadcasts to Iran. Both services are slated to start this fall. PB

CZECH SKINHEADS SENTENCED

A district court in the city of Tabor sentenced three skinheads convicted in the drowning death of a Romany youth in 1993 to prison sentences ranging from 7-8.5 years, CTK reported. PB

U.K. IMPOSES VISA REGIME ON SLOVAKS

Owing to the increased number of Roma applying for asylum in the U.K., London on 7 October announced that from now on Slovak citizens will need a visa to enter the U.K., TASR reported. Home Secretary Jack Straw said the move is necessary to stop the abuse of the asylum system. Some 1,600 Roma have entered the U.K. this year seeking asylum. Former Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik said that London's decision is "wrong" and "complicates relations" between the two countries at a time when Slovakia is trying to remodel itself before beginning discussions on NATO membership. Some opposition politicians blamed Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar for failing to create the economic conditions to keep the Roma in Slovakia. PB

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS CLINTON

After meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton at the White House, Viktor Orban told reporters that he is the first Hungarian prime minister to arrive in the U.S. as an "ally," Hungarian media reported on 8 October. Clinton said he is deeply impressed by the new Hungarian government's program, and he praised Hungary's "energetic economic policy." Orban emphasized that Hungary no longer belongs to the Russian economic sphere, nor is it affected by the Russian crisis. He also raised the issue of the U.S. lifting visa requirements for Hungarians. MSZ




CLINTON WARNS MILOSEVIC

U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 7 October that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic runs the risk of NATO air strikes against Serbia unless he fully meets the demands of the UN Security Council. The president added: "I believe it is absolutely imperative that there be a cease-fire, a withdrawal of troops, that the humanitarian groups get access to these hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced, and that negotiations resume.... The most important thing we can do is work with the Russians to try to actually avoid military strikes by securing [Milosevic's] compliance. If he does that, if he completely complies, he doesn't have to worry about military force.... I do not believe the United States can be in a position, and I do not believe NATO can be in a position, of letting tens of thousands of people starve or freeze to death this winter because Milosevic didn't keep his word." PM

DIPLOMATIC DEAD-END ON KOSOVA?

U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke arrived in Brussels on 7 October to brief Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NATO leaders on his talks with Serbian and Kosovar leaders during the previous two days. He met with Milosevic three times but did not secure an agreement to end the crisis in Kosova. The Yugoslav leader's office issued a statement saying that "threats" against Serbia only make the crisis worse. U.S. officials in Washington noted that Serbian forces are "digging in for the winter" in Kosova, despite Milosevic's repeated assertions that they have withdrawn. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is scheduled to meet with Milosevic in Belgrade on 8 October before the Russian diplomat travels to London for talks with the other foreign ministers of the international Contact Group countries. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told CNN on 8 October that air strikes could be only "days" away. PM

GEREMEK SAYS OSCE NOT TO SEND MISSION TO KOSOVA

Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, who is also the OSCE rotating chairman, said on 7 October that the OSCE will not send its mission to Kosova, PAP reported. That statement followed Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic's invitation the previous day to send an OSCE mission to the province. Geremek said Jovanovic's proposal was "disappointing. It is hard to see a minimum of good will on the part of the Yugoslav authorities behind this proposal," he added. JM

SERBIA PREPARES FOR AIR STRIKES

The Serbian air force has begun shoring up its anti-aircraft defenses, including Russian SAM-6 air defense systems, and has dispersed its planes throughout the country, U.S.-based ABC Television reported on 7 October. The air force's MiG-29s have been placed in special hardened bunkers, and reservists have received call-up notices. State-run television has begun broadcasting patriotic songs and programs aimed at generating enthusiasm for the war tax that the government recently announced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1998). Shoppers have begun stockpiling basic food stuffs, and shortages have appeared in supermarkets for the first time since the Bosnian war ended in late 1995, Euronews Television reported on 8 October. PM

SERBIAN AUTHORITIES BAN REBROADCASTING...

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Milovan Bojic and Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic told the editors-in-chief of independent radio and television stations in Belgrade on 7 October that "public information services in conditions of immediate war must adapt their behavior" accordingly and not spread "fear, panic and defeatism" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 7 October 1998). Bojic added that "this is not an appeal, this is an order." He said that the authorities will soon issue a formal ban on the rebroadcasting of programs of RFE/RL, VOA, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle. PM

...WHILE INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS PROTEST

After the meeting in Belgrade on 7 October, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) issued a statement, in which it said that "such orders represent the most dramatic form of state censorship in Serbia and direct intolerable interference into editorial policy of the media. Therefore, they should be considered...unconstitutional and illegal." In a second statement, ANEM charged that the police have recently harassed independent journalists. Meanwhile in the Vojvodina town of Velika Kikinda, Interior Ministry troops arrested Zoran Milesevic, the editor-in-chief of independent Radio Velika Kikinda, on the grounds that he is a reservist and that the army "needs somebody to drive ammunition trucks" to Kosova, Radio B-92 reported. PM

SERBS FIRE ON ALBANIAN TROOPS

An Albanian Interior Ministry spokesman told the ATA news agency on 7 October that federal Yugoslav soldiers fired at an Albanian border patrol on Albanian territory the previous day. The Albanian forces did not return fire and no one was injured in the incident, which took place in the village of Borje, near Kukes. Albania called a meeting of the joint Yugoslav-Albanian border commission to investigate the shooting. FS

ALBANIAN PREMIER UNDERLINES SUPPORT FOR NATO ACTION...

Pandeli Majko, whose government faces a formal vote of confidence on 8 October, told the parliament the previous day that "our government supports any actions of the international community and NATO that would lead to a peaceful solution of the conflict in Kosova." Majko stressed that Albania "is threatened with [Serbia's dragging it into a conflict], which might take on regional proportions." He added that his government will make plans for accommodating refugees during the coming winter. FS

...PLEDGES TO RESTORE LAW AND ORDER

Majko told the parliament on 7 October that his government's top priority is fighting organized crime, corruption, and smuggling. He pledged to hold a referendum next month on a new constitution and stressed that he seeks to work with the opposition. Majko called on the Democratic Party to stop boycotting the parliament. (As he spoke, the Democrats were holding a rally outside to demand new elections.) With regard to the economic sphere, Majko said that inflation will be below10 percent and GDP will grow by 7-8 percent by the end of this year. He added that the 1998 budget deficit will amount to 6.6 percent of GDP and that the government aims to cut it to 3.2 percent by 2001. Majko also pledged to create 35,000 new jobs by year's end and 50,000 in 1999 as well as increase efforts to attract international financial aid. FS

BOSNIAN JOINT PRESIDENCY MEETS

The three members of the newly elected presidency agreed in Sarajevo on 7 October to hold their future meetings in that city rather than alternate the sessions between it and the Serbian-held suburb of Lukavica. This was the first meeting of that body, which consists of the Muslim Alija Izetbegovic, Serb Zivko Radisic, and the Croat Ante Jelavic. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, some 500 people protested against NATO plans to launch air strikes against Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION URGES PRESIDENT TO REPORT ON NATION

A letter has been sent to Emil Constantinescu requesting that he deliver a state of the nation address to the parliament, Rompres reported on 7 October. The letter, initiated by the opposition Alliance for Romania and the Romanian National Unity Party, was signed by some 130 parliamentary deputies. It states that Constantinescu owes it to "the Romanian people" to give them details and answers to the "serious problems" the country now faces. PB

ROMANIAN EDUCATION MINISTER AGAINST HUNGARIAN-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITY

Andrei Marga told his Hungarian counterpart, Zoltan Pokorni, that there will be no university instruction in Hungarian in Romania, MTI reported on 6 October. Marga made that comment during the World Higher Education Conference in Paris. Pokorni said further details on Marga's position are required to determine if the opinion is that of the minister or of the government. The Romanian government approved a resolution last week allowing for the establishment of a Hungarian- and German- language university, to be called Petoefi-Schiller. PB

MOLDOVA TO REDUCE FORCES IN TRANSDNIESTER SECURITY ZONE

Moldova has decided to unilaterally reduce the number of peacekeepers in its contingent in the Transdniestrian security zone, Infotag reported on 7 October. The Moldovan delegation of the Joint Control Commission said in a statement that the move was a "step of goodwill." It said that over the next week, 82 soldiers and six armored vehicles would be moved out of the zone, which is guarded by Moldovan, Russian, and Transdniester forces. PB

STOYANOV CONCERNED ABOUT KOSOVA

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said on 7 October that Sofia must be "very careful" in the way it reacts to the situation in Kosova, Reuters reported. During a visit to a military unit near Sofia, Stoyanov said that he is concerned that the events in Yugoslavia could negatively influence "the situation in our countries." He said Bulgarians should not "panic." Colonel-General Mikho Mikhov, the commander of the army's General Staff, said the Bulgarian army has not been put in an increased state of combat readiness because of the situation in Kosova. PB

BULGARIA TO EXPORT WHEAT TO RUSSIA

Stoyan Alexandrov, head of Bulgaria's Central Cooperative Bank, said on 7 October that some 500,000 tons of wheat will be exported to Russia this year, AP reported, citing "Trud." Alexandrov said the quantity represents Bulgaria's entire wheat surplus for 1998. Just two years ago, Bulgaria had to import wheat, but liberalized prices and the increased private ownership of farms have increased production. PB




KAMCHATKA: STUNNING BEAUTY, STAGGERING WASTE


by Floriana Fossato

The annual salmon run on Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East brings millions of salmon back to their spawning grounds after three or four years at sea. This year, the salmon run is particularly good. "In fact, the best in the last 40 years," say officials at Kamchatka's fish resources department.

As Russia's financial and political crisis deepens, it is clear that fish and vegetables, mainly potatoes, from private plots will be the main sources of food for most of the 400,000 people living on the peninsula, which lies some 11,000 kilometers to the east of Moscow.

Kamchatka, like other Russian regions, imports a large amount of foodstuffs from abroad, says Aleksandr Potievskii, head of foreign economic relations at the regional administration. Until August, when Russia in effect defaulted on its debt and devalued the ruble, importing goods from abroad was cheaper than bringing them from the "mainland," as continental Russia is called on the peninsula. According to Potievskii, transport tariffs across Russia made goods more expensive than those from abroad. As a result, food imports came mainly from the U.S., South Korea, China, and Japan.

Vyacheslav Zviagintsev, manager of the private Krechet tourist agency, one of Kamchatka's longer established companies, said in August that even importing helicopter fuel from the U.S was "cheaper than importing it from Russia." Following a controversial agreement with the regional administration, Krechet has the exclusive right to bring tourists by helicopter to the Valley of Geysers, one of Kamchatka's most fascinating and most frequently visited sites.

However, foreign imports had to be paid for in hard currency. Now, with Russia's banking and payments sector in effect paralyzed, most traders have reportedly had to cease their operations. Many are sinking in a sea of debt.

According to Potievskii, revenues from tourism, which last year contributed 10 percent to the regional budget, will also fall, since the number of foreign and Russian tourists is set to decrease sharply.

Potievskii said that some 90 percent of foreign tourists came from Japan, a country that itself is now deeply mired in economic difficulties. He added that the regional administration wanted to improve the tourist infrastructure, including upgrading the local airport. As for Russian tourists, only in the past two years had the country's emerging middle class started exploring Russia's best preserved wilderness, featuring 160 dormant and 29 active volcanoes as well as hot springs and a rich wildlife.

Now, as the middle class's profits and prospects are being wiped out, Kamchatka's plans and foreseeable tourism revenues, estimated at more than $1 billion in the next decade, are also likely to suffer, at least in the short term.

The main source of revenue for both the budget and the population of Kamchatka has traditionally been its fisheries, not tourism. According to official data, more than 80 percent of budget revenues originate in the fishing industry, and members of every family are involved in one way or another in the industry.

Much of the fish is sold abroad, mainly to Japan and in many cases in deals made directly at sea. Fishing authorities are widely accused of involvement in the activities of black-market traders.

The phenomenal salmon run of this year may have proven crucial in helping Kamchatka's economy. But the evidence suggests that profits will be strangled by a lack of adequate fish- processing and other facilities, poaching, and bureaucratic ineptitude.

The spectacle of rivers brimming over with salmon is remarkable, but the sight of trucks dumping tons and tons of unprocessed dead fish is appalling. The salmon are caught and their precious red eggs, which will be sold as caviar, are extracted, but the fish themselves are literally "good for nothing" as the available facilities are unable to process them in large quantities. Moreover, there are no refrigerating and transport facilities that would enable small fishing companies to take the produce to markets outside Kamchatka.

"Such blind exploitation and waste of natural resources is criminal," said Masha Vorontsova, Russian coordinator of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

"It is a sad sight indeed," concedes Pavel Gordeychuk, head of fishing expertise at Kamchatka's Federal Department for Protection and Reproduction of Fish Resources and Fisheries Regulations. "However," he explains, "since the breakup of the Soviet Union, fish processing facilities on land have collapsed, as previously state-run fishing companies were privatized and only now, amidst huge problems, are small steps bring taken to revive the sector."

To compensate the people of Kamchatka who are too old or unhealthy to help fishing companies with this year's salmon run, authorities have organized the free transport and distribution of tons of fish to the regional capital, Petropavlovsk Kamchatskii.

People elsewhere in the region, along with the wild bear population of Kamchatka, are stocking up on fish as best they can in order to make it through the long winter.

This is the first article in a three-part series on Russia's Far East by Floriana Fossato, an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


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