Accessibility links

Newsline - October 26, 1998




ANTI-KIDNAPPING OFFICIAL KILLED IN CHECHNYA...

A car bomb killed General Shaid Bargishev on 25 October, only a day after he had said that his anti-kidnapping unit would launch a military sweep against criminal groups there, ITAR-TASS reported. Those groups are currently holding some 40 hostages. On 23 October, Bargishev acknowledged that criminal groups have failed to comply with his demand that they immediately release their hostages. The next day, he and other Chechen officials said they would attack and summarily execute hostage-takers. Following Bargishev's death, President Aslan Maskhadov pledged to crack down on all hostage- takers, Interfax reported. PG

...WHILE CHECHEN MUFTI ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

A bomb exploded 20 meters from the Muftiat building in Grozny on 26 October as Mufti Ahmad Haji Kadyrov's car was approaching, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The mufti's driver was injured, but Kadyrov escaped unharmed. A nearby building was completely destroyed and the mufti's car "burned to ashes," ITAR-TASS reported. Kadyrov blamed the attack on the same people who killed Bargishev the previous day, while an investigator confirmed that the same kind of explosive device was used in the attack on Bargishev as in that on Kadyrov. BP

CHECHEN OPPOSITION DEMANDS MASKHADOV'S SUSPENSION

Speaking to a rally in Grozny on 23 October, Chechen opposition leaders Shamil Basaev and Salman Raduev said that the parliament should suspend President Aslan Maskhadov until the Supreme Shariat Court can rule on the charges brought against him, Interfax reported. Basaev said that Maskhadov had signed a decree to disarm Chechnya's paramilitary formations "at the request of the Russian interior minister" arguing that "God gave each of us the right to carry weapons." For his part, Raduev said that anyone in Chechnya who backs Maskhadov now will "be held accountable." He suggested that opposition leaders will seize a Russian city if the Chechen president refuses to face the charges. PG

FAVORED MISSILE FAILS TEST

A single-warhead Topol-M missile exploded on 22 October during the first stage of its test launch, "Izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported two days later. General Vladimir Yakovlev, head of the strategic rocket forces, said on Russian Public Television that the test was "very difficult" but he did not elaborate. "Izvestiya" concluded that the missile's failure could have a "crucial impact on Russia's defense capability," calling it "Russia's last remaining hope for providing strategic nuclear deterrence against possible aggressors in the first decades of the 21st century." Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov proposed that Russia concentrate its resources on the construction of 35-45 Topol-M missiles a year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 21 October 1998). In addition, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that the government would make restructuring of nuclear deterrence forces a priority in future military reform, Russian Television reported on 24 October. JAC

ANTI-CRISIS PROGRAMS PROLIFERATE

The State Duma on 23 October adopted its anti-crisis program, which requires the lower house to debate and enact at least 10 pieces of legislation. "Izvestiya" the following day characterized the program as a "terrible mess" that combines the methods of the marketplace and the command economy. According to the newspaper, the program calls for the establishment of state control over prices as well as the introduction of a market for interenterprise debt. The same day, a draft of the government's own anti-crisis program was submitted to Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Interfax reported. ITAR-TASS reported on 26 October that Primakov had convened a meeting of top-level cabinet officers to discuss the draft. Meanwhile, the IMF mission currently in Moscow is reported to be analyzing the government's draft fourth-quarter budget. JAC

RUSSIA KNOCKS UN RESOLUTION

Russia on 24 October abstained from voting on a UN Security Council resolution authorizing ground and air monitors in Kosova. Russia objected to a number of provisions of the resolution, even after Security Council members dropped any clauses that seemed to directly or indirectly sanction the use of force. According to NTV, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's permanent representative to the UN, said the resolution still does not acknowledge that Belgrade has already complied with many of the UN's demands. Speaking on Russian Television on 24 October, Prime Minister Primakov noted that Russia's position on Kosova "annoys [Western powers] most of all." He added, "Let them get irritated. Russia is a great power." JAC

RUSSIA PRAISES NEW MIDDLE EAST ACCORD

Russian officials hailed the accords signed by Israeli and Palestinian officials in Washington on 23 October. Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk told Ekho Moskvy that Russia will do "everything possible" to continue the Middle East dialogue "in consultation with the U.S. co-sponsor but acting separately, in contact with the Arab states and Israel." Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that Russia "as a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process contributed to advances in the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and will do so in the future." Rakhmanin also hailed the "important role" played by U.S. diplomacy and called for a "coordinated international effort to support the Middle East peace process." JAC

VODKA PRODUCTION SET TO SOAR?

Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik told fellow members of the Agrarian Party on 23 October that Russian vodka production will increase by 60 percent next year, Interfax reported. The previous day, Prime Minister Primakov supported an idea floated by the Trade Ministry to impose a temporary embargo on imported alcohol. At the same time, the government lowered duties on food imports for next six months. Earlier, Kulik pledged that a government decree imposing tighter regulation over alcohol would not increase prices or diminish the choice of imported alcohol (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"7 October 1998). JAC

GOVERNMENT NAMES GAZPROM PRICE?

A "government source" told Interfax that the Russian government hopes to attract 10 billion- 11 billion rubles ($600-660 million) from the sale of a 2.5 percent stake in the company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). The source also claimed that Germany's Ruhrgaz is interested in purchasing the stake. In August, when the government was contemplating sale of a 5 percent stake in the company, "Kommersant- Daily" reported that Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev wanted Royal Dutch Shell, its "strategic partner," to purchase the stake (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1998). In the spring, Vyakhirev thought $1 billion was a fair price for a 3 percent stake. JAC

LUKASHENKA WINDS UP VISIT TO SIBERIA...

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka completed a three-day working visit to Omsk and Kemerovo Oblasts on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1998). One possible result of his visit is that Belarus will "take delivery" of up to 1 million tons of coal as soon as 1999, while Kemerovo may receive up to 400 BELaz trucks a year. It is unclear from media reports whether cash or barter will be used for the coal and/or trucks. Lukashenka told reporters that Belarus has established direct economic ties with 60 Russian regions. During his visit, Lukashenka also expressed support for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and advised members of Russia's Communist Party not to rewrite the constitution and weaken the presidency. He urged, "I appeal to you to get your hands off the constitution." JAC

...URGES RUSSIA TO STOP ARGUING ABOUT MUTUAL DEBTS

Lukashenka has proposed to resolve the problem of Belarusian and Russian mutual debts by creating a single economic area, Belarusian Television reported on 23 October. He told journalists in Kemerovo that both countries should end disputes over mutual debts. The Belarusian president admitted that Belarus owes Gazprom $240 million for gas deliveries but added that Russian companies owe Belarus more that $800 million for deliveries of machines and equipment. Lukashenka added that he will soon meet with Yeltsin in Moscow to discuss prospects of the Belarusian- Russian Union. JM

"MONICAGATE" IS BAD FOR RUSSIA

The impeachment of U.S. President Bill Clinton would be disadvantageous for Russia, "Noviye izvestiya" concluded on 23 October. Clinton, according to the newspaper, continues conducting a policy that is "very advantageous for Russia, if not pro-Russian." It added that U.S. congressmen's criticism of Clinton's "amoral behavior in his private life" invariably includes attacks on his policy concerning Russia, saying that he "granted Russia piles of money and gambled on a sick president." The newspaper also predicted that if Clinton is impeached, "the Gore-Primakov Commission will go downhill at such a rapid pace that many Russian enterprises, particularly those in the defense and space industries, will be carried along with it." JAC

MAYORAL ELECTIONS RESULTS TALLIED

The acting mayor of Kaliningrad, Yurii Savenko, won a second round of mayoral elections on 25 October. Savenko defeated Anatolii Khlopetskii, director-general of a local transport company. In Sovetsk, Vyacheslav Svetlov, deputy chairman of the city council and director of a local film school, captured 51.1 percent of the vote, compared with 43.1 percent for his rival, Nikolai Nikolaev, director of the joint-stock company Sandorgaz, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 October. On 18 October, voters in Kalmykia elected members of the local legislature, none of whom was from opposition parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). JAC

KRASNODAR ACTIVIST BEATEN

Human rights activist Vasilii Rakovich was brutally beaten in the Krasnodar region by attackers armed with a baseball bat and a brick, the "Human Rights Network" reported on 24 October. The attack was reportedly linked to Rakovich's defense of a fellow activist, Vasilii Chaikin, who has been under arrest in the region for 18 months. Rakovich was attacked close to the courthouse during a break in a court hearing of Chaikin's case. JAC

SVERDLOVSK SUGGESTS SCRIP AS RUBLE SUPPLEMENT

Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel's 1999 budget contains some unusual features, including introduction of a form of a new regional currency, a $500 million Eurobond issue and the nationalization of banks and various industries, the "IEWS Russian Report" reported on 22 October. Governor Rossel responded to questions about the proposed new currency by saying that it was not really a new "monetary unit" but trade coupons issued in accordance with the volume of goods produced in the oblast. Local businessmen and legislators questioned the wisdom of introducing a monetary surrogate, arguing that it will not protect the oblast from a shortage of cash but instead speed up the destruction of a unified market. Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii also criticized the budget, saying that the oblast government is trying to solve its problems at the expense of Yekaterinburg. He noted that the oblast lowered the city's share of income tax revenues by 70 percent. JAC




Aliyev URGES NATO TO HALT 'MILITARIZATION OF ARMENIA'

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev told visiting NATO officials on 24 October that Russia is "arming Armenia against" the Western alliance and suggested that NATO should make a "serious effort" to prevent the "militarization of Armenia," ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev said that various Russian officials had told him that Moscow is supplying weapons to Armenia not to help Yerevan in its fight with Azerbaijan but rather to counter NATO. "If Russia is arming Armenia against NATO," the Azerbaijani leader said, "this should make you think." Speaking in Moscow on 25 October, Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian suggested that there is a balance of forces in the region now, but he said that Azerbaijan might try to gain military superiority "given its close contacts with Turkey and NATO," Interfax reported. PG

AZERBAIJAN, KAZAKHSTAN EXPAND COOPERATION

During a visit to Baku on 23 October, Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev signed three intergovernmental agreement with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Artur Rasizade, that will increase economic cooperation between the two Caspian states, ITAR-TASS reported. The accords call for Kazakhstan to double the amount of oil it exports via Azerbaijan as well as increase the exports of metals, grain, and other goods to Azerbaijan. On 25 October, President Aliyev announced that the EU plans to extend a 30 million ecu ($25.4 million) loan to Azerbaijan to promote the TRACECA corridor project, which is intended to link Europe and Asia through the Caucasus, Interfax reported. PG

AZERBAIJANI PREMIER RECONFIRMED BY PARLIAMENT

The Azerbaijani parliament on 23 October reconfirmed Artur Rasizade as prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported. An oil engineer with long ties to President Aliev, Rasizade has been prime minister of Azerbaijan since November 1996. PG

AZERBAIJANI DEMONSTRATORS CALL FOR NEW ELECTIONS

An estimated 2,000-3,000 people rallied in Baku on 24 October to demand that the 11 October vote be declared invalid and new elections held, ITAR-TASS reported. First Deputy Chairman of the People's Front Party Ali Kerimov called on all opposition groups to close ranks and the prosecutor-general to launch criminal proceedings against Aliyev and other officials for "vote rigging." Other speakers said they will continue their protests until Aliyev resigns. They added that they wanted all foreign governments and companies to know that a post-Aliyev government may not honor agreements they have reached with the current Baku authorities. PG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NOT TO ATTEND TURKISH CELEBRATIONS

Citing pressure of work, President Robert Kocharian has announced he will not visit Ankara on 29-30 October to take part in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, Interfax reported on 23 October. PG

ARMENIA CONCERNED BY COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELAY

Khosrov Arutyunyan, the speaker of the Armenian parliament, on 24 October telephoned Bruno Haller, the secretary-general of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to say that Yerevan does not understand why the assembly has agreed to Azerbaijan's request that hearings on the Karabakh conflict, scheduled for 3 November, be delayed for at least another month, ITAR-TASS reported. Officials from Yerevan and Stepanakert had confirmed that they would attend the meetings in Strasbourg, which originally had been scheduled for November. PG

GEORGIA FIRES TOP GENERAL AFTER MUTINY ATTEMPT

The Georgian Defense Ministry on 24 October dismissed General Zaur Uchade as commander of the western group of Georgian armed forces for failing to prevent the 19 October mutiny in his region, ITAR-TASS reported. The Georgian military also relieved two other senior officers as it continued its hunt for mutiny leader Akaki Eliava, who is thought to be in hiding somewhere within Georgia. More than 30 other people involved in the mutiny have been arrested, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 October. PG

EBRD TO DOUBLE ASSISTANCE TO GEORGIA

A delegation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development told President Eduard Shevardnadze on 24 October that the bank will double its financial assistance to Georgia next year, ITAR-TASS reported. The new assistance is intended to help Georgia improve its ability to serve as a transit corridor and to rehabilitate the Ingouri hydroelectric station. Shevardnadze said that "close cooperation" with the EBRD is "one of the main guarantors of Georgia's stability." He pledged to increase tax collections and fight corruption. PG

UZBEK TAX COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN SACKED, JAILED

Murudulo Kurolov, who was dismissed by presidential decree on 21 October, was taken into custody three days later, ITAR-TASS reported. Kurolov was sacked for "serious violations," which Uzbek Radio reported to be "excessive vanity, pomposity..., contempt for national customs and traditions, disgracing the honor and authority as a leader, and abusing his post." His assistant, Masur Zakirov, committed suicide by jumping from a fifth floor window the day Kurolov was arrested. BP




BELARUSIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES PRICE INCREASES

Syarhey Linh told the legislature on 23 October that the government has been forced to adopt "a number of tough measures" to fight the current financial and economic crisis, Belarusian Television reported. He said Belarus will import foodstuffs at "negotiated prices" and increase prices for Belarusian goods to "equalize prices with neighbors and prevent [unauthorized] imports." He added that "we are forced to set higher prices on non-foodstuffs because production is unprofitable not only in the agricultural sector but also in a number of our [industrial] enterprises." JM

BELARUSIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CONFIRMS ATTEMPT ON LUKASHENKA'S LIFE

Aleh Bazhelka on 23 October confirmed Alyaksandr Lukashenka's disclosure of a failed attempt on the president's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1998), Belarusian Television reported. The prosecutor-general added that the perpetrators are under arrest and will face trial. The television report also reiterated Lukashenka's statement that the failed attempt is linked to the eviction of Western ambassadors from the Drazdy housing compound, near Minsk. JM

UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS FAIL TO BAN SEA BREEZE '98 MANEUVERS

Communists and their allies in the parliament failed on 23 October to achieve the required majority to ban the "Sea Breeze '98" naval exercises under NATO's Partnership for Peace Program scheduled. They fell 31 votes short of the necessary total of 226. The Sea Breeze '98 maneuvers, which are scheduled to take place in Ukraine from 25 October to 4 November, will involve 4,500 troops, including 14 Ukrainian ships and naval vessels from the U.S., Russia, and other countries. Ukrainian Communists believe that NATO's participation in the maneuvers poses a military threat to Ukraine. "Bringing NATO troops on Ukrainian territory is a prelude to a future imperialistic, aggressive war on Ukraine's territory," Ukrainian Television quoted Communist parliamentary deputy Volodymyr Moiseyenko as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 1999 BUDGET

The cabinet on 23 October approved a revised 1999 budget draft with a deficit of 0.6 percent of GDP, AP reported. The document provides for revenues totaling 22.5 billion hryvni ($6.6 billion) and 1 percent growth of GDP, which is expected to reach 117.5 billion hryvni in 1999. The cabinet will submit the new budget to the parliament at the same time as the government's action program for the next six months. Ukrainian Television reported that the action program's priorities include macroeconomic stabilization, completing tax reform, promoting entrepreneurship, and implementing administrative reform. JM

FORMER ESTONIAN PREMIER RE-ELECTED HEAD OF FATHERLAND UNION

The right-leaning Fatherland Union has re-elected Mart Laar as its chairman, ETA and BNS reported on 24 October. The 38-year-old Laar served as the party's head and as prime minister from 1992 to 1994, during which time he became known for his advocacy of economic "shock therapy." The Fatherland Union, which currently has 7-8 percent support among the electorate, is seeking to form an election alliance with the centrist Moderates and the right- leaning People's Party. The three parties have already set up a bloc, called the United Opposition, that cooperates in the parliament. JC

FINAL RESULTS OF LATVIAN ELECTIONS

According to the final official results of the 3 October general elections, the People's Party won 21.19 percent of the vote, or 24 seats in the 100- member parliament, BNS and Reuters reported on 23 October. Latvia's Way followed with 18.05 percent (21 seats), the Fatherland and Freedom party 14.65 percent (17), National Harmony Party 14.12 percent (16), the Social Democratic Alliance 12.81 percent (14), and the New Party 7.31 percent (eight). Voter turnout was 71.89 percent of the electorate. The new parliament will have 83 men and 17 women, compared with 90 men and 10 women in the current legislature. Meanwhile, talks on forming a new government are to continue this week. JC

TEAM OF EXPERTS TO HELP DECIDE IGNALINA'S FATE?

State-owned Lietuvos Energija has announced that while from a technical point of view, the Ignalina Atomic Power Plant could remain in operation until 2030, its continued use will be decided by the administration and parliament, BNS reported on 23 October. That statement follows an interview in which the company's secretary- general, Anzelmas Bacauskas, said he believes Ignalina will be in operation for the next 30 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). The statement stressed that Bacauskas's comments referred "only to the [plant's] technical capacity." It added that if required, the issue of the shutdown of [Ignalina]...could be resolved by a commission of independent international experts." At the same time, it stressed that the administration and parliament will have the final say. Meanwhile, a three-day international seminar on the safety of Ignalina opens in Vilnius on 26 October. JC

POLISH GOVERNMENT ADOPTS 1999 DRAFT BUDGET

The Solidarity-led government on 24 October adopted a 1999 draft budget that aims at economic growth and reform in line with Poland's goal of joining the EU, AP reported. Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz called the draft "responsible," saying it will encourage Poland's development. The draft calls for revenues of 129.28 billion zlotys ($38 billion) and foresees a growth of 5.1 percent of GDP and a deficit of 2.4 percent. Revenues are 15 million zloty down on this year's level because of the transfer of some funds to local governments under the administrative reform that goes into effect on 1 January 1999. The draft budget must now be approved by the parliament and the president. JM

POLAND'S MAJOR PARTIES WIN LOCAL ELECTIONS

The State Electoral Commission reported on 23 October that the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) won 10,613 of the 63,765 seats in regional councils, while the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) gained 8,840 mandates. The liberal Freedom Union, the AWS's coalition partner, won only 1,141 seats, a result widely considered as disappointing. According to Bogdan Szczesniak, director of the electoral commission, the distribution of regional power in Poland remains unclear because more than 38,000 seats were won by local groups that have no party affiliation. According to "Gazeta Wyborcza," the SLD has control of eight of the 16 provinces and the AWS six. Turnout was 45 percent, up from 34 percent in 1994. JM

HAVEL TO TAKE REST ON DOCTORS' ADVICE...

Martin Krafl, head of the presidential office's press department, told CTK on 24 October that President Vaclav Havel's visit to the German town of Muenster, which ended that day, will be his last foreign visit for some time. He added that on his doctors' advice, Havel will now take a rest and his schedule will be "radically reduced." Krafl said the demanding program of the last days had "exhausted" the president, who is suffering from bronchitis. MS

...REVOKES DECISION ON AWARD TO FORMER VIENNA MAYOR

Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek on 25 October said Havel is not planning to offer an explanation for his decision to withdraw an announced award to former Vienna Mayor Helmut Zilk. Zilk had reportedly been nominated to receive the Order of Thomas Garrigue Masaryk at a 28 October ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. Havel withdrew the honor after the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" claimed Zilk had spied for the Czech communist secret service in the 1950s and 1960s and provided information that led to several convictions. Zilk told Czech Television on 24 October that the accusations were "absolute nonsense." Spacek said that since there is "no legal claim" to a state order, it is not possible to view the president's decision as having inflicted "damage" on Zilk. MS

OBSTACLES TO HUNGARIAN PARTICIPATION IN SLOVAK GOVERNMENT REMOVED

A congress of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) on 24 October approved the participation of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) in the country's next government, AP reported, citing Slovak media. The SDL has been the only opposition party to express reservations about the SMK's participation in the new coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 21, and 22 October 1998). The coalition agreement is expected to be signed on 27 October. MS

POLISH PREMIER IN HUNGARY

Jerzy Buzek and his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, agreed in Budapest on 22 October that the two countries and the Czech Republic must coordinate policies related to NATO accession, Hungarian media reported on 24 October. Another meeting of the three countries' premiers will be held in Warsaw next year. Buzek said Hungarian and Polish experts will conduct talks to resolve the grain import dispute between the two countries and other issues related to agriculture. MS




BREAKTHROUGH IN BELGRADE?

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Luxembourg on 26 October that NATO Generals Wesley Clark and Klaus Naumann made a "significant advance" during their talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and army chief-of- staff General Momcilo Perisic in Belgrade during the two previous days. Cook added that top alliance officials will discuss the results of those talks in Brussels on 27 October, but he stressed that it remains to be seen whether Milosevic will keep his word to the two generals. On 25 October in Belgrade, an unnamed diplomat accompanying Clark and Naumann said that the two were not conducting "negotiations" with the Serbs "but rather discussions on [Serbian] compliance with UN Security Council directives," Reuters reported. A NATO deadline for Serbia to comply with UN Security Council resolution 1199 or face air strikes is slated to expire on 27 October. PM

U.S. SAYS SERBIA NOT COMPLYING

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said in separate television interviews on 25 October that Milosevic has not met UN demands that he withdraw his paramilitary police forces from Kosova. Berger added that General Clark has the authority to "take military action" against Serbia if NATO concludes that Milosevic has not met his obligations. The following day, OSCE observers told Reuters that both the Serbs and the Kosova Liberation Army are continuing to "build up [their forces] in some sensitive areas." AP quoted ethnic Albanian refugees as saying that Serb-led forces withdraw when diplomatic monitors appear and then return to harass civilians after the foreigners leave. PM

UN PASSES COMPROMISE RESOLUTION ON KOSOVA

On 24 October, the Security Council passed a resolution that allows NATO to take action to protect and evacuate international monitors in Kosova in case of an emergency. In response to Russian and Chinese objections, the council earlier deleted references in the original draft resolution that permit NATO to take "appropriate steps" to ensure that Milosevic carries out the provisions set down in resolution 1199 in September. British and U.S. diplomats said in New York that NATO nonetheless has the right to ensure compliance. In Prishtina on 25 October, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova said in a statement that the latest resolution is "inadequate" and that the Kosovars expect tough measures against the Belgrade authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

NATO PLANS BASE IN MACEDONIA

Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski said in Skopje on 23 October that NATO experts spent the previous two days inspecting the military airfield at Kumanovo, which is northeast of Skopje, as a possible base for 100 to 150 NATO personnel. Kitanovski added that NATO wants the facility to support its aerial surveillance mission over Kosova and the 2,000 unarmed civilian monitors there. The minister did not specify if NATO wants to base fighter aircraft or "rapid reaction" troops there to rescue monitors who are taken hostage or who otherwise become endangered. Nor is it clear whether NATO has discussed its plans with officials of the opposition coalition, which won the first round of parliamentary voting on 18 October and appears likely to form a new government after the second round on 1 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). PM

SERBIA CONTINUES MEDIA CRACKDOWN

Serbian government officials raided the offices of the Belgrade independent daily "Dnevni Telegraf" during the night of 25-26 October, the VOA reported. On 24 October, government officials imposed a fine of $230,000 on the weekly "Evropljanin." Editor-in-chief Slavko Curuvija, who also heads "Dnevni Telegraf," said that he does not have the money and would not pay if he did. Curuvija is charged with violating the new law regulating the independent media, which expands an earlier decree that the authorities used to shut down several independent dailies and broadcasters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1998). Spokesmen for the independent media said that the authorities are also planning to ban those media from posting on the Internet. Meanwhile in Opatija, some 60 members of the Croatian Journalists' Society signed a declaration in support of their Serbian colleagues, "Vjesnik" reported on 26 October. PM

U.S. URGES CROATIA TO REFORM MILITARY

Robert Gelbard, who is the U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, said in Zagreb on 23 October that he is pleased with his talks with new Defense Minister Pavao Miljavac but will judge Miljavac by his deeds. Gelbard stressed that Croatia must scale down the size of its military establishment and make its affairs more transparent. He added that Croatia cannot expect to joint Euro-Atlantic structures unless it meets Western standards of civilian control over the military. Miljavac said that his main priority is transparency. Some Western diplomats in Zagreb had earlier expressed concern over the appointment of Miljavac, who had to give up his general's commission on being appointed. PM

ANKICA TUDJMAN SAYS MONEY IS 'ROYALTIES'

Ankica Tudjman, who is the wife of President Franjo Tudjman, said in Zagreb on 24 October that the $130,000 she deposited in an account at the Zagrebacka Banka earlier this year and similar sums she deposited in previous years are royalties her husband received from his books. She maintained that the bank records can verify her statement. This is the first time she has spoken out in conjunction with a growing scandal involving her family's hidden wealth (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). The previous day, the parliament passed a law on salaries of state officials. President Tudjman will earn $5,700 per month, which is one-third less than the government originally proposed. The average monthly income in Croatia is $450, and pensioners and some war veterans make considerably less. PM

MUSLIM DETHRONED AS MISS CROATIA

Organizers held a new vote for Miss Croatia in Zagreb on 25 October to replace a previous ballot that the organizers claim was invalid. The winner in the original vote was Lejla Sehovic, a Muslim, who charged that her victory was invalidated because of her ethnicity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). The winner in the second vote was Ivana Petkovic, an ethnic Croat. AP described the 25 October ceremony as "surreal" and reported that both Sehovic and Petkovic seemed embarrassed by the developments. PM

SUSPECTED EMBASSY BOMBER KILLED IN ALBANIA

Selam Muhamet Omar Al Sead, a suspected Islamist organizer of the U.S. embassy bombings in eastern Africa in early August, was shot dead in Tirana on 24 October. "Shekulli" reported that the Egyptian citizen committed suicide in the face of imminent arrest. According to dpa, however, unspecified Tirana dailies claim that police killed the suspect in a shoot-out. The police have since issued a statement denying they killed the man and adding that a police officer suffered gunshot wounds from a pistol fired by the suspect. Owing to lax immigration laws, Islamists have been able to use Albania as a base in recent years. Assisted by the CIA, local police launched a crackdown on fundamentalist terrorists in mid-summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). FS

FIRST PRIVATE INTERNET PROVIDER IN ALBANIA

The 2K company has been granted a license by the government's telecommunications licensing body to provide Internet access to private and commercial users. 2K pledged to invest $360,000 in the project, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Previously, only the United Nations Development Program and the Open Society Foundation operated full-fledged Internet servers in Albania. Those servers were accessed only by non-governmental organizations, government agencies, Tirana University, and other educational institutions. FS

LOW TURNOUT INVALIDATES BUCHAREST MAYORAL ELECTIONS

Unofficial results suggest that low turnout has invalidated the 25 October Bucharest mayoral elections, which are likely to be repeated on 1 November, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported the next day. At least 50 percent plus one must participate in the elections for the ballot to be valid. Turnout at 867 out of a total 1,175 ballot stations is put at 34.2 percent. National Peasant Party Christian Democratic candidate and acting Bucharest Mayor Viorel Lis is leading the field, with 41.7 percent. He is followed by independent candidate George Padure (19.6 percent), Party of Social Democracy in Romania candidate Sorin Oprescu (18.9), Greater Romania Party candidate Nicolae Nitu (6.9), and Democratic Party candidate Alexandru Sassu (4.7 percent). Each of the other 17 candidates gained less than 2 percent of the vote. MS

ROMANIA OFFERS PARTICIPATION IN KOSOVA VERIFICATION MISSION

The Supreme National Defense Council on 25 October offered the dispatch of 2,000 monitors and one Antonov-30 military reconnaissance aircraft to take part in the verification mission in Kosova, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. President Emil Constantinescu chaired the meeting. In other news, visiting French Defense Minister Alain Richard and his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, signed an agreement on 24 October on bilateral military cooperation. MS

KUCHMA PROPOSES SUMMIT ON TRANSDNIESTER

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in Chisinau on 23 October that he has proposed to Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov that the Transdniester problem be settled at a summit meeting, Infotag and BASA-press reported. Kuchma, who met with Lucinschi and Smirnov, said Moldova, the Transdniester region, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE must participate in the summit. He also said he has requested that Smirnov pardon Ilie Ilascu, who was sentenced to death by a Transdniester court in 1992 for alleged terrorism and is still in jail. At the end of their summit meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998), Lucinschi, Kuchma, and Romanian President Emil Constantinescu signed agreements on cooperation in combating organized crime and on setting up a free trade zone in the lower Danube region. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NATO AIRSPACE USE

The parliament on 23 October voted by 150-47 to approve a resolution allowing NATO to use Bulgarian airspace if the alliance launches air strikes against Yugoslavia, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. All parliamentary groups, with the exception of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, approved the resolution. Earlier this month, NATO asked Bulgaria to allow unlimited access to its airspace for possible military operations in Yugoslavia. Both the Bulgarian National Security Council, headed by President Petar Stoyanov, and the government approved that request. The parliament's resolution also called for settling the Kosova conflict by peaceful means and said Bulgaria will not participate directly or indirectly in military actions in Yugoslavia. MS




PROMOTING FEDERALISM, FIGHTING DISEASE


by Paul Goble

A dramatic rise in the number of tuberculosis cases across the Russian Federation reflects a situation in which Moscow no longer has the administrative responsibility for fighting the disease and the regions do not yet have the resources to do so.

Speaking to journalists last week, Aleksandr Khomenko of Moscow's Tuberculosis Institute said that 2.5 million Russians-- or one in every 60 residents of the country--now have tuberculosis. He added that this figure is a 8.5 percent increase on the level at the beginning of this year.

One of the reasons for this development is the lack of money available to Russian hospitals and public health institutions. At present, Russia spends approximately 1 billion rubles--some $62 million--a year on treating tuberculosis sufferers. That is equivalent to some $25 dollars and is far below the amount needed. For most strains of tuberculosis, treatment costs between $50 and $10, while for some new killer strains that have appeared in the Russian Federation in the last several years, treatment costs are estimated at $10,000 per person or even more.

As a result, many of those infected either remain untreated or not cured and thus continue to spread the highly infectious disease to those with whom they come into contact. Thatmeans that the number of tuberculosis cases in Russia will continue to grow. Indeed, Khomenko said that Russia "can no longer control" this situation.

The impact of Russia's declining economic fortunes and state revenues on the health of the population has already drawn a great deal of attention. But Khomenko suggested that the lack of resources has been seriously compounded by a change in the country's administrative arrangements. During the Soviet period, the central Health Ministry directed and paid for the fight against tuberculosis. But since 1991, this situation has changed. The regions are now responsible for combating the disease, and they lack both the personnel and the funding necessary to do the job, Khomenko explained.

Moreover, when one region fails in its efforts to combat tuberculosis, an outbreak there can rapidly spread elsewhere, further complicating the battle. The government of Altai Krai, in southern Siberia, recently reported that it no longer has funds to deal with a rising number of tuberculosis cases among children, raising the specter that the disease there will quickly spread.

This human tragedy, one that international medical groups in August called on Russian President Boris Yeltsin to address, reflects an underlying and as yet unresolved political problem in the Russian Federation: a growing gap between those with responsibilities for doing something and those with the resources to do it. In the field of public health, this gap is especially critical and obvious. But it is true in many other areas as well, including education, crime fighting, and economic development.

Both by decision and default, Moscow increasingly has left to the regions the responsibilities for taking action but has not been willing or able to devolve to the regional governments the resources that these regions need to do the job. That situation helps to explain why many regional governors are pressing Moscow for more resources and why many in Moscow appear increasingly willing to argue that responsibility as well as resources should be returned to the center.

In the short term, a return to the more centralized pattern of the past might help to alleviate the human suffering that tuberculosis and other diseases have inflicted on the Russian people. But in the longer term, matching resources with responsibilities at the local and regional level appears more likely to allow Russia to overcome the plague of tuberculosis as well as the other challenges of fiscal and political federalism.


XS
SM
MD
LG