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Newsline - October 23, 1998




POST OF VICE PRESIDENT TO BE REINSTATED?

In a television interview on 21 October, First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov raised the idea of restoring the office of vice president, saying such a move is "quite likely." The next day, Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko volunteered to serve as vice president, provided that the State Duma reestablish the position and Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov decides to run for president. Nazdratenko's spokesperson, however, later clarified that the governor was speaking only hypothetically. Primakov has repeatedly denied that he will run for president. Viktor Chernomyrdin, former prime minister and leader of the Our Home is Russia movement, praised Gustov's idea, telling reporters that the position probably should not have been scrapped. President Boris Yeltsin did away with the post when former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi sided with the rebellious parliament against Yeltsin. Chernomyrdin said "If a good vice president were working now, there would be no concern over the health of the president or early presidential elections." JAC

DUMA SEEKS TO STAMP OUT MONEY-LAUNDERING

The Duma adopted on 21 October adopted in the third reading a law on money-laundering . According to the law's principal author, Communist party member and parliamentary deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, state comptrollers will inspect all transactions by individuals that exceed 2,000 times the minimum wage and those by firms that exceed 20,000 times the minimum wage. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 October, 2,000 minimum wages equals $10,000. The newspaper also reported that Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko protested the law's adoption in a letter, noting that the law was drafted when Russia was still able to attract funds from financial markets and individuals investors. That is no longer the case, Gerashchenko noted, adding that the law may discourage both the "reacquisition of funds from abroad" and from the Russian population. JAC

GOVERNMENT TO SELL SMALL GAZPROM STAKE?

As part of a package of measures to finance an expected budget deficit of some 60 billion rubles ($3.7 billion) in the fourth quarter, the Finance Ministry has suggested selling a 2.5 percent stake in Gazprom. According to ITAR-TASS on 22 October, the tender for the sale will be held on 5 November and the results announced on 20 December. A "government source" told Interfax that investment consultants are currently calculating the price of the share package. JAC

BANKS NEED ANOTHER RUBLE INJECTION...

Andrei Kozlov, first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, told the State Duma's Finance Committee on 22 October that Russia's commercial banking system requires at least 37 billion rubles ($2.2 billion) to begin functioning normally again. Arguing that the Central Bank "should not print money to rescue banks," Kozlov said that it will make use of some ruble bonds from its portfolio and is trying to redirect earlier agreed-upon "small" loans from the EBRD to the restructuring of the banking system. Central Bank Chairman Gerashchenko met with EBRD President Horst Kehler in London, after which Gerashchenko declared that the EBRD is still ready for close cooperation with Russia. JAC

...WHILE FOREIGN INVESTORS OFFERED EQUITY

Kozlov also told the Duma that the Central Bank will try to persuade foreign holders of defaulted bank debt to accept equity stakes in the most salvageable banks. The Russian government recently began a second round of negotiations with foreign creditors on debt restructuring. According to Kozlov, Russian commercial banks owe foreign banks about $6 billion for unfulfilled forward contracts. Gerashchenko told a conference in London that he does not exclude the possibility that the Western share in Russian banks amounts to almost 50 percent, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

RUSSIA WARNS ALBANIAN 'TERRORISTS'

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters on 22 October that Russia is seriously concerned about increased activity among Kosova "terrorists," suggesting that forces in the region "would like to undermine a peaceful settlement." According to ITAR-TASS, he said that "on behalf of the international Contact Group, we want to issue a very serious warning to all forces and Albanian terrorists in Kosova." He added that the "UN Resolution No. 1199 passed by the Security Council applies in full both to Belgrade and the Albanians." "Segodnya" characterized the agreement reached by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke as a "useful respite for no one likes to fight in the Balkans in the winter." The newspaper added that the "value of the agreement will depend on whether Russia and Yugoslavia strengthen their mutual relations and create something like the Belarus-Russia alliance. "Segodnya" is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group. JAC

GREECE, RUSSIA SEE EYE-TO-EYE ON NATO

On an official visit to Moscow, Greek Foreign Minister Theodhoros Pangalos met with Russian Prime Minister Primakov and Foreign Minister Ivanov on 22 October. Pangolos and Ivanov discussed, among other issues, the Kosova crisis and the delivery of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Cyprus. Primakov, Ivanov, and Pangalos all expressed their desire that the Kosova situation be resolved without the use of force. Ivanov also told reporters that Russia and Greece agreed to pursue large projects in the energy and defense sectors. Earlier, Greece had been poised to purchase S-300 missiles for its own defense needs but instead opted for U.S.- made equipment. Pangalos told reporters that the decision was one of "national choice" rather than one resulting from pressure from Washington. Russian Public Television noted that "as Russia's old ally, Greece is now the only NATO member whose viewpoints are close to those of Russia and sometimes even coincide." JAC

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS WITH CHINESE PRESIDENT

Igor Sergeev met with Jiang Zemin on 23 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The two discussed topics that Sergeev had covered with his Chinese counterpart Chi Haotian the previous day, agreeing that their countries are against use of force in Kosova and Afghanistan, that their new military cooperation is not aimed at any third party, and that further reductions of troops and weapons along the Russo-Chinese border are essential. Jiang confirmed China will cut its troops along the border by 500,000 men and Sergeev promised unspecified cuts on the Russian side. With regard to the U.S.-Japanese plan for creating a close range anti-ballistic missile system, Sergeev said that it would result in "tipping the balance in the region." Jiang commented that he is anxiously awaiting his meeting with Boris Yeltsin in the second half of November. BP

CHINA PROTESTS ZHIRINOVSKY'S VISIT TO TAIWAN

The Chinese Embassy in Russia has protested the 18-22 October visit to Taiwan of a delegation from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. A statement by the Chinese Embassy in Moscow notes that "there is only one China in the world. The government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing all of China...and Taiwan as an inseparable part." Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev tried to downplay the event, saying the LDPR delegation visit was a private one and representatives of the party had no right to make any official statements. Reuters reported on 20 October that Zhirinovsky invited Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, to visit Russia. Zhirinovsky told the Duma on 23 October that he was acting on behalf of "the millions who voted for us (LDPR)." He also said he plans to visit Beijing and "go to the [Russian] embassy with my thugs and blockade it." Seleznev responding by turning off Zhirinovsky's microphone. BP

MORE ARRESTS, STRIKES IN KRASNOYARSK

Another official from the Krasnoyarsk administration preceding that of current Governor Aleksandr Lebed has been arrested. Former Deputy Governor Valentina Cherezova was taken into custody on 21 October on suspicion of complicity in embezzlement. Another former first deputy governor, Vladimir Kuzmin, was arrested for allegedly misappropriating funds intended for residents of Krasnoyarsk. That money was instead deposited in an interest-bearing account in a Moscow bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1998). "Vremya MN" reported at the time that many in Krasnoyarsk believed that the local prosecutor's pursuit of Kuzmin is primarily political. Lebed denied these charges at a meeting with striking local schoolteachers, according to Interfax. He said, "These arrests are not settling political scores with the former administration." According to "Izvestiya" on 23 October, 5,000 teachers demanded a meeting with Lebed, despite a statement by one of his aides that Leben was suffering from food poisoning. JAC

MIKHALKOV TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT?

In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 23 October, "Our Home is Russia" (NDR) faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin revealed the name of a possible new contender in the 2000 presidential elections: Nikita Mikhalkov, Russian film actor and director. According to Shokhin, Mikhalkov is "no less photogenic than Ronald Reagan and has won an Oscar for directing." During the 1996 Duma elections, Mikhalkov came in second on the NDR party list but gave up his seat in order to concentrate on film-making. At the time, he said that he joined NDR to help prevent a victory for the radical opposition. JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT CALLS ON RIVALS TO DISARM...

Aslan Maskhadov issued an ultimatum on 22 October to illegal military forces to lay down their arms within seven days. The commanders of the groups in question were not named, but the districts of Serzhen- Yurt, Vedeno, and Urus-Martan, where the units in questions are said to be deployed, are the fiefdoms of the Jordanian commander Khottab, former acting Premier Shamil Basaev, and former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, respectively, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 October. The same day, Maskhadov met behind closed doors with 10 of Chechnya's most influential field commanders, who pledged their support for Maskhadov's anti-crime measures, Interfax reported. LF

...BUT THEY ARE UNLIKELY TO COMPLY

Radical field commander Salman Raduev, who together with Basaev and Khunkar-Pasha Israpilov is demanding Maskhadov's resignation, told Interfax that he will not disband his General Dudaev Army, as it is formally registered with the Ministry of Justice, and therefore does not qualify as an illegal armed formation. But presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev said that Maskhadov's ultimatum applies to any military unit that is not part of Chechnya's armed forces. On 23 October, Dagestani police halted a Chechen- registered vehicle whose passengers claimed to be personal bodyguards of Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov and confiscated several machine-guns, Caucasus Press reported. Arsanov has consistently espoused a far more radical position than Maskhadov on the need to make Chechnya an Islamic society and to sever all ties with the Russian Federation. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY

Robert Kocharian met for the second time in 10 days with members of the Yerkrapah parliament group on 22 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported quoting the presidential press service. The discussion focused on "all major spheres of state policy," including the ongoing disagreement between the Yerkrapah and other parliamentary groups over the draft election law. Kocharian told the Yerkrapah deputies that the group constitutes "the government's support base in the National Assembly" and that close cooperation between the government and the legislature is "a necessary precondition" for the parliament's activity to be effective. The Yerkrapah deputies called for more frequent discussions of policy issues with members of the government. A dozen Yerkrapah deputies sided with the opposition in a failed vote earlier this month to revoke several major privatization deals in which Yerevan enterprises were sold to foreign investors. LF

KAZAKHSTAN PREPARED TO JOIN ABKHAZ MEDIATION

Speaking at a Tbilisi press conference on 22 October, Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbayev said his country "is not opposed" to joining the UN Secretary-General's Friends of Georgia group, Caucasus Press reported. The group, which comprises the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., and Russia, is engaged in trying to mediate a political settlement between Georgia and Abkhazia. Balghymbayev added that Kazakhstan may provide a peacekeeping battalion to serve in Abkhazia under either UN or CIS auspices. LF

TWO MORE POLICEMEN KILLED IN ABKHAZIA

Two Abkhaz policemen were killed and two more wounded in a shoot-out on 22 October with ethnic Georgians in the village of Nabakevi in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported. The policemen had tried to steal belongings from the Georgians' homes. LF

USE OF GEORGIAN ARMY AGAINST INSURGENTS DISCUSSED

Mikhail Saakashvili, chairman of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia group within the Georgian parliament, told journalists on 22 October that the use of regular army troops to quash the 19 October insurgency in western Georgia was not a violation of the Georgian Constitution, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili argued that if the army had not intervened, the several hundred rebels could have taken Kutaisi, Georgia's second-largest city, and marched on Tbilisi. Vakhtang Khmaladze, chairman of the League for Protection of the Constitution, argued in an article published in "Akhali Kartuli gazeti" the same day that the use of army troops is prohibited by the constitution unless a state of emergency has been declared and that Interior Ministry troops should have been deployed instead. LF

MEHTIEV SAYS HE HAS PROOF Aliyev IS A KURD

Ashraf Mehtiev, chairman of the Association of Victims of Illegal Political Repression who was defeated in the recent Azerbaijani presidential elections, has told the independent Azerbaijani television station ANS that he has proof corroborating persistent rumors that President Heidar Aliyev is an ethnic Kurd and a Yezidi, "Vremya-MN" reported on 22 October. Mehtiev referred to an article published in the daily newspaper of the Azerbaijan Communist Party Central Committee in 1934 stating that Aliev's elder brother Hasan was the first Kurd to embark on graduate studies in the USSR. LF

KAZHEGELDIN RETURNS TO KAZAKHSTAN

Former Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Akezhan Kazhegeldin returned to Kazakhstan on 22 October following a week spent in Moscow and London, RFE/RL correspondents in Astana reported. Kazhegeldin brought with him documents that he believes will clear him of all charges of corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). Kazhegeldin handed over to the Central Electoral Commission the necessary documents proving he is mentally competent to serve as president, and he passed the Kazakh language proficiency test necessary to run in the presidential elections. He has also filed a protest with the Kazakh Supreme Court against a ruling that could lead to a three-day jail sentence or a fine for participating in a meeting of the For Fair Elections movement in early October. Kazhegeldin arrived at the court with a team of lawyers from Washington D.C. to file the protest. BP

KAZAKH NEWSPAPER'S PROPERTY IMPOUNDED BY AUTHORITIES

Law enforcement officials on 22 October seized property of the newspaper "DAT" were seized by , RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The newspaper was fined 35 million tenge (some $437,000) earlier in October for "publishing false information about Kazakh officials." BP

KAZAKH OFFICIAL HINTS AT CHANGES TO COUNTRY'S BUDGET

First Deputy Prime Minister Uraz Jandosov said on 22 October that the current world economic situation will decide if Kazakhstan's 1999 budget needs to be changed, Interfax reported. Jandosov said if the international economic crisis abates by the middle of next year and prices for Kazakhstan's major exports do not continue to drop, the budget will remain unchanged. Interfax also reported that Kazakhstan will not achieve the predicted 3 percent rise in GDP this year. Figures for January-August indicate a growth of 1.2 percent. That figure is unlikely to change for the year as a whole. BP

SHELLS FROM AFGHANISTAN LAND ON TAJIK TERRITORY

Three mortar shells from Afghanistan landed near the Pyanj border crossing in Tajikistan on 22 October, ITAR-TASS reported. No one was injured, but the Russian border guards said the incident is evidence that fighting is moving closer to Tajikistan. In related news, UN special envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Dushanbe on 23 October to discuss the Afghan situation with members of the Tajik government. While in Dushanbe, Brahimi is also scheduled to meet with Afghan General Ahmed Shah Masoud, who is fighting against Taliban movement forces. BP




BELARUS INVITES TURKISH ENVOY TO RETURN TO DRAZDY

The Belarusian authorities have formally invited the Turkish ambassador to return to his residence in the Drazdy complex, from which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka earlier this year ousted Western diplomats, a Turkish embassy official in Minsk told Reuters on 22 October. Turkey is the only country that has received such an invitation, possibly because although Ankara recalled its ambassador when other Western states did, the Turkish government did not ban visits by senior Belarusian officials. PG

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PRIVATIZATION CHIEF

After long wrangling, lawmakers on 22 October approved by a vote of 230 to 112 President Leonid Kuchma's nominee to head the State Property Fund, AP reported. Oleksandr Bondar will now oversee the country's privatization efforts. In a related development, the international accounting firm Price Waterhouse Cooper won in its bid to audit the Ukrainian telecommunications monopoly as part of the preparation for its privatization, Interfax reported the same day. PG

KYIV SAYS UKRAINE MEETS IMF REQUIREMENTS

Valeriy Lytvytsky, an aide to President Kuchma, told journalists in Kyiv on 22 October that Ukraine has met all the requirements for the next tranche of an IMF loan. But he acknowledged that the payout will depend on the outcome of negotiations with a major foreign bank. PG

UKRAINE IMPROVES NUCLEAR SAFETY RECORD

Oleksandr Smyshliayev, the chief of the Environmental Safety Ministry's nuclear regulatory agency, said that the number of malfunctions at Ukraine's nuclear power plants has been declining since the start of 1998, Interfax reported. But he acknowledged that malfunctions in the first half of 1998 were up 50 percent from the same period last year. Smyshliayev predicted that the number of problems at these plants will decline further by the end of the year. PG

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES TRIALS IN ABSENTIA OF MASS DEPORTERS

Lawmakers on 22 October completed the first reading of amendments that would allow people accused of crimes against humanity to be tried even if they are unable to appear in court owing to poor health, BNS reported. Under the current criminal code, court cases must be suspended until the defendant is able to attend his own trial. Criminal proceedings have been launched against some 10 individuals alleged to have played a key role in the mass deportations of Estonians to Siberia from 1941-1949. No verdicts have been reached in any of those cases, while two defendants died before the proceedings could be concluded. JC

ADAMKUS SAYS CLINTON SUPPORTS NATO MEMBERSHIP FOR LITHUANIA

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus on 22 October said that at a meeting with Bill Clinton the previous day at the White House, the U.S. president expressed his support for Lithuania's membership in NATO. Clinton "did not commit himself" to a specific date for Lithuania's joining the alliance "but basically he supports our idea and I was encouraged," AP quoted Adamkus as saying. JC

IGNALINA TO CONTINUE OPERATING FOR ANOTHER 30 YEARS?

According to a high-ranking Lithuanian energy official, the Ignalina Atomic Power Plant may continue operating for another 30 years or so, BNS reported on 22 October. Anzelmas Bacauskas, secretary-general of state-owned Lietuvos Energija, told the newspaper "Respublika" that he believes Ignalina will be in operation at least "until the year 2030." The European Commission is pressuring the Lithuanian administration to shut down Ignalina by 2010 and has stressed that its closure would have a positive impact on the country's prospects for joining the EU. Earlier this month, the Lithuanian authorities proposed to the commission that a team of international experts be set up to determine, among other things, how long Ignalina should remain in operation. JC

KWASNIEWSKI SIGNS LUSTRATION LAW

Despite his fears that a new measure may lead to a witch hunt, President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 22 October approved a law that will require all senior officials, parliamentary deputies, and judges to declare whether they worked with Soviet-era security forces, PAP reported. Those who acknowledge that they did so will not be forced out of public life but their declarations will be publicized. Anyone who does not make such an acknowledgment and is found to have lied faces fines and a 10-year ban from such posts. PG

CZECH DEPUTIES CALL ON GOVERNMENT TO CURTAIL REFUGEE INFLUX

The Czech Chamber of Deputies has passed a resolution requesting that the government quickly introduce visa requirements for some countries of the former Soviet Union, CTK reported on 21 October. The resolution received bipartisan support from deputies in the lower house. Civic Democratic Party Deputy Petr Kohacek said "we will not be able to be so benevolent toward refugees as in the past." More than 32,000 illegal immigrants, mostly from the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and several southeastern European countries, have been caught in the Czech Republic this year. On 22 October, 28 refugees were discovered by police in a Prague suburb. They were from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and the Serbian province of Kosova. PB

DZURINDA REPORTS PROGRESS IN SLOVAK COALITION TALKS

Mikulas Dzurinda, the chairman of the Slovak Democratic Coalition and leading candidate to become prime minister, said on 22 October that progress has been made in negotiations to form the new government, TASR reported. Dzurinda said "we are approaching a complex agreement...based on the results of the parliamentary elections." Dzurinda said the four parties have agreed to finalize an agreement by 27 October. In other news, Agriculture Minister Peter Baco said that naming a member of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) to head his ministry would be "a risk Slovakia cannot afford to take." There have been reports that the SMK will be offered the agriculture portfolio. PB

HUNGARY WELCOMES TURKISH APPROVAL OF NATO EXPANSION

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry has praised the Turkish parliament's 21 October ratification of Hungary's accession to NATO, MTI reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said the Turkish approval has special significance because Hungary is seeking to join NATO's Southern Command, where "cooperation between the two countries will be instrumental." Hungarian President Arpad Goencz is due in Ankara next week for the 75th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. The Netherlands is the only NATO member country that has not yet ratified expansion to include Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. PB




SERBS SAYS THEIR FORCES 'STABILIZING' KOSOVA

"Large numbers of troops and police have not budged" from Kosova, despite Serbian claims that Belgrade has withdrawn its forces, Reuters reported from the Serbian capital on 22 October. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who is Washington's chief envoy to Kosova, said "we're not satisfied with the level of compliance." An unidentified diplomat added that "we definitely still see a large [paramilitary] police presence and a Yugoslav army one." The pro-government daily "Vecernje novosti" wrote, however, that Belgrade's pledge to withdraw "has been fulfilled" but added that Serbian forces are still "securing settlements that have been bastions of Albanian terrorists. [The military] will continue to do so until the situation is completely stabilized." In Prishtina, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said on 23 October that "the Serbian forces have not yet withdrawn from Kosova..., NATO should maintain its [threat of air strikes] and keep up pressure on the Belgrade government." PM

NATO FACES FOUR OPTIONS

Unnamed NATO officials said in Brussels on 22 October that the Atlantic alliance wants a "coordination cell" in Macedonia for its Kosova aerial surveillance mission, which has the code-name "Eagle Eye." The officials added that NATO will await the outcome of the second round of the Macedonian elections on 1 November before starting talks with officials in Skopje. Unnamed diplomats told Reuters that the alliance faces four options as the 27 October deadline approaches for Milosevic to comply with the international community's demands. The options include military intervention, giving Milosevic an additional reprieve and a new deadline, maintaining the threat of air strikes but without a deadline, or removing the threat of air strikes entirely. The diplomats suggested that the third possibility--an open-ended threat--is the most likely. Top NATO officials are slated to discuss the options on 23 October. PM

UCK SAYS IT'S HOLDING SERBIAN JOURNALISTS

A spokesman for the military police of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) told the VOA's Albanian Service by telephone on 22 October that the UCK is holding and treating "correctly" two missing journalists from Serbia's Tanjug news agency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1998). The spokesman added that the UCK is investigating whether the two were involved in recent alleged atrocities by Serbian forces in Kosova, including the killing of civilians. The guerrillas will hand the journalists over to the Red Cross if the two are innocent, the spokesman added. He did not say what the UCK will do if it finds them guilty. In Prishtina, international monitors and diplomats said that they are concerned that of late, the UCK has repeatedly provoked Serbian forces in order to trigger a Serbian crackdown and thereby increase the likelihood of NATO air strikes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

DJUKANOVIC SAYS INDEPENDENCE NO SOLUTION

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 22 October that Montenegro's interests are best served by remaining in the Yugoslav federation. He added that to declare independence would open the small mountainous republic to "numerous internal problems and the ambitions of its neighbors," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic stressed, however, that Yugoslavia must break with the policies of President Slobodan Milosevic, which he regards as undemocratic and detrimental to Montenegro's political and economic interests. PM

MASS GRAVE OF SERBS FOUND IN BOSNIA

Bosnian forensics experts said in Sarajevo on 22 October that a forensic team has begun exhuming a mass grave in the Sanski Most area of northwest Bosnia. The grave contains at least 70 bodies that the experts believe to be of Bosnian Serb soldiers and civilians killed during the 1995 offensive of Bosnian government and Croatian forces. Nearly three years after the end of the war, some 20,000 citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina are still unaccounted for. PM

BOSNIAN POLICE FREE RFE/RL JOURNALIST

Bosnian police released Nikola Gurovic from custody in Sarajevo on 23 October. They had arrested him the previous day when he arrived at Sarajevo from abroad and charged him with staying abroad while on a business trip during the 1992-1995 war without repaying his travel advance to his employer, who was Radio-Television Sarajevo. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported that many citizens of Bosnia- Herzegovina took advantage of wartime business trips to stay abroad, but police did not arrest them on their return after the war ended. The question remains why they arrested Gurovic but not others, the broadcast added. PM

ZAGREBACKA BANKA FIRES CLERK OVER TUDJMAN SCANDAL

Robert Horvat, a 32-year-old bank clerk and a decorated veteran of the 1991 war, lost his job on 21 October after police interrogated him about his role in the disclosure to the press of hidden bank accounts belonging to Ankica Tudjman, the wife of President Franjo Tudjman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1998). Horvat said that he had confirmed to journalists information that they received from bank clerk Ankica Lepej about Ankica Tudjman's accounts. Ankica Tudjman has officially declared herself to be a pensioner who heads a children's charity and whose only wealth is a car. Lepej's revelations indicate that she has well over $100,000 in one account alone, in addition to 10 other accounts. The story has become a growing scandal in a country where the average monthly income is less than $500 and where the independent press has long reported that powerful people have enriched themselves at public expense. PM

ALBANIA'S LEKA BACKS UCK

Leka Zogu, who is the pretender to the Albanian throne, told "Gazeta Shqiptare" of 22 October that he intends to financially support "all those Albanians who struggle for [a greater] Albania, including the UCK." He did not elaborate. Zogu added that the recent agreement on Kosova between Milosevic and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke was "a big misfortune because it makes no sense considering the [recent developments] in Kosova. This agreement...gives no solution to the demands of the Albanian and Serbian peoples." Zogu, who faces prison in Albania for having allegedly organized a coup attempt in July 1997, added that he will call on Albanians to vote against the Socialist-backed draft constitution in the referendum next month, "Albanian Daily News" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1998). FS

ALBANIAN PROSECUTORS TAKE TERRORISTS TO COURT

A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office told the "Albanian Daily News" of 23 October that his office has finished its investigation into the terrorist group called Revenge of Justice. Prosecutors will soon formally charge 11 suspects with bombing a supermarket owned by the VEFA pyramid-investment company in February 1996 as well as with the subsequent murder of a top police official and several armed robberies since 1991. Two of the suspects are the brothers Orik and Laert Shyti, sons of communist-era secret police chief and Deputy Interior Minister Hajredin Shyti. In 1996, the father served a prison term for the killing of pro- democracy demonstrators on 2 April 1991 in Shkoder. Both sons confessed to belonging to Revenge of Justice and said that their aim was to destroy the post-communist system, which took revenge on their father by jailing him. FS

ALBANIAN MEDIA CRITICIZE DEFENSE MINISTER FOR RENEWING GREEN CARD

"Gazeta Shqiptare" on 22 October harshly criticized Luan Hajdaraga, who is currently in the U.S. on business and is seeking to renew the Green Card he won in the U.S. government's annual lottery in 1996. The newspaper asked, "What can you expect of a minister who is more anxious to emigrate than look after the defense of the country?" It added that he is sending the wrong message to thousands of ordinary Albanians: "Instead of giving hope to people, politicians like Hajdaraga are telling them that emigration remains the only way to build a new life." Unnamed officials of the Albanian Post Office told dpa that the number of Green Card applications for this year's lottery has considerably increased over past years. FS

UKRAINIAN, ROMANIAN, MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTS URGE RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL

Leonid Kuchma, Emil Constantinescu, and Petru Lucinschi signed a document in Chisinau on 22 October urging Moscow to withdraw its troops from the Transdniester region, AP reported. In the document, the presidents expressed concern about the situation in the Transdniester region and appealed for a "peaceful and definitive solution." Kuchma said after the meeting that Ukraine will always support Moldova's territorial integrity. The document referred to the Transdniester as a region "inside the territory of an independent, unitary, and sovereign Moldova." The breakaway republic declared independence in 1990 and fought a five-month war with Moldova two years later. Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov is due to meet with Lucinschi and Kuchma on 23 October. PB

MOLDOVA WANTS PART OF CASPIAN OIL

Moldovan President Lucinschi said on 22 October that Chisinau wants to purchase Caspian Sea oil and invest in a Romanian refinery in an effort to reduce its dependence on Russia and Ukraine, AP reported. Lucinschi made his remarks after a meeting with Romanian President Constantinescu. Moldova, which has no oil refinery of its own and has accumulated an enormous debt with the Russian gas giant Gazprom, is interested in purchasing a stake in the Onesti refinery, located about 150 kilometers from the Moldovan-Romanian border. It is also building an oil terminal at the confluence of the Prut and Danube Rivers, which Ukraine claims is partly on its territory. This issue is to be discussed during the two-day meeting of the three presidents. PB

ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS IMF MEETING CRUCIAL

Radu Vasile said on 22 October that upcoming talks with IMF and World Bank officials on securing loans are urgently needed to restore confidence in economic reforms, Reuters reported. Vasile said securing the loans is "more imperative now than in 1992 or 1994, especially because of the context...the [credit rating] downgrade we have been subject to." The same day, Finance Minister Traian Remes outlined the 1999 budget, which foresees no deficit providing there are no payments for mass layoffs. PB

PLESU HAILS BRITAIN'S CONTRIBUTION TO EU EXPANSION

Romanian Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu said British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's visit to Bucharest showed Britain's commitment to the EU expansion process, Rompres reported on 22 October. Plesu said "Europe's security greatly depends on the security in this area, so our desire to access the Euro-Atlantic structures is legitimate and backed by the whole international community." Plesu and Cook also discussed economic and bilateral trade issues. PB

BLACK SEA ECONOMIC CONFERENCE OPENS

The eleven member countries of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) agreed on 22 October to promote closer cooperation in the development of the Black Sea region at the opening conference in Sofia, dpa reported. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadejda Mihailova, who is ending her term as BSEC chair, said the organization "can only develop successfully in cooperation with the EU." She said the officials attending the meeting discussed ways to attract foreign investment in such fields as transport, tourism, and telecommunications. They also established the BSEC Bank, to be located in Salonika, Greece. Georgia will hold the BSEC chair for the next six months. The other member countries are Turkey, Romania, Albania, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Moldova. PB




RECENT CRISIS WITHIN HDZ MAY POINT TO POST-TUDJMAN ERA


by Andrej Krickovic

Over the last few weeks, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has faced the worst political crisis in the ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) history. A series of events pitting the party's moderate and hard-line factions (the latter is often called the Herzegovinian lobby) against each other have culminated in the resignation of three of Tudjman's most trusted political allies--all moderates. As a result, the balance of power within the party and within Croatia has dramatically shifted to the right. In the short run, this threatens the Dayton peace process and Croatia's hopes for integration into Europe and the international community. In the long run, as the opposition begins to act more effectively, the shift may ultimately threaten Tudjman and the HDZ's hold on power.

The two factions fundamentally disagree over a number of issues. The liberals are usually civilians and professionals who have a cosmopolitan outlook and support European integration and compliance with the Dayton agreement. The hard-liners have close ties to the military and to Croats in Herzegovina. They often support the idea of a separate Croatian state in Herzegovina, which has led to friction with the international community.

A month ago, key HDZ moderates Hrvoje Sarinic, the head of the president's staff, and Franjo Greguric, the president's special envoy for Bosnia and Herzegovina, publicly accused hard- liners, led by Ivic Pasalic, the president's special adviser for domestic affairs, of using the Croatian Military Intelligence Service to spy on them and of orchestrating a smear campaign against them in the tabloid press. At the same time, Andrija Hebrang, the new minister of defense, also became the target of a smear campaign conducted by HDZ hard-liners opposed to his policies within the Ministry of Defense. This public airing of the HDZ's dirty laundry confronted Tudjman with a difficult choice: either support an investigation of the activities of the hard-liners or lose Sarinic, Greguric, and Hebrang.

Only a perfunctory investigation was carried out, and last week Sarinic, Hebrang, and Greguric presented Tudjman with their resignations in protest. Tudjman had often sought to balance moderate and hard-line forces within the party in order to consolidate his grip on power and to take advantage of the extensive powers granted the president in the Croatian political system. In the end, however, Tudjman chose to side with the hard- liners who share his ambitious schemes for Bosnia-Herzegovina and who have displayed unwavering loyalty.

The moderates are at least partly responsible for their own demise. As a group, they have been more concerned about their own personal interests and positions than about acting as a cohesive force. It is telling that none of the other moderates supported Sarinic, Greguric, and Hebrang in their struggle with Pasalic and the right wing. Nor did anyone do so when the three were forced out of the party hierarchy.

Since their resignations, Tudjman has tried to stabilize the balance of power within the party by naming politicians like Nedeljko Mihanovic and Ivica Kostovic who remained neutral throughout the campaign to replace Hebrang and Sarinic, respectively. It is doubtful that these moves will have their intended effect. The departure of Hebrang, Sarinic, and Greguric has left the moderate wing without its most able politicians. The moderates are essentially in retreat, and the balance of power within the HDZ has decidedly shifted toward the right. Sarinic and Greguric were both personal friends of the president and his closest advisers. When Hebrang resigned as defense minister, he also resigned as Tudjman's head physician. Many credited him with helping Tudjman recover from cancer, and there was much speculation that he was being groomed as Tudjman's successor. He is regarded as an incorruptible and principled politician, a Croatian "Elliot Ness," the kind of man who could bring the wheeler-dealer activities at the Ministry of Defense under control. In losing Sarinic, Greguric and Hebrang, Tudjman has lost some of his most trusted and professional politicians and will increasingly have to rely on hard-liners.

In the short term, this shift could lead to Zagreb's support for Croatian separatists in Herzegovina and during Croatia's increasing international isolation. The international community's High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Carlos Westendorp, and his deputy, Jacques Klein, expressed their concerns that the victory of hard-liners in the party will have negative effects on the Bosnian peace process and on Croatia's hopes of integrating into Europe any time soon.

And in the long term, the HDZ's move to the right may threaten Tudjman's hold on power. The HDZ has increasingly relied on nationalist rhetoric and the nationalist vote to maintain power. While such an approach has been popular with Croat voters in Herzegovina and with the Diaspora, it has not had the same success at home. Hard-liners like Pasalic and the corrupt generals in the Ministry of Defense are unpopular with the electorate in Croatia. Nationalist rhetoric also seems to be losing its appeal in the face of increasing social and economic problems.

Taking advantage of such weaknesses, an opposition coalition won an overwhelming majority in recent local elections in Dubrovnik. Some opposition parties have also agreed to form a coalition for the upcoming general elections (which must take place by the end of 1999). With the opposition strengthening and the HDZ sliding further to the right, Croatia may be poised to enter a post-Tudjman and post-HDZ era after the next general elections. The author is a free-lance journalist based in Zagreb, Croatia.


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