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Newsline - November 23, 1998


Russian President Boris Yeltsin was hospitalized with pneumonia and a high temperature on 23 November. Yeltsin was also taken to the hospital for signs of pneumonia in January 1997. His wife, Naina, disclosed recently that Yeltsin has been having trouble adjusting to Moscow's cold weather after the milder climate of Sochi, where he spent the first few weeks of November to recover from fatigue. JAC


Chinese President Jiang Zemin held the informal "no-neckties meeting" with his Russian counterpart in Yeltsin's hospital room on 23 November, Russian media reported. After the 40-minute meeting, Jiang told reporters that "everything is fine." ITAR-TASS reported that two documents were signed: a Russian-Chinese political declaration and a statement on the final demarcation of the western section of the Russian-Chinese border. Yeltsin's press secretary, Dmitrii Yakushin, told journalists that all goals of the meeting were achieved. Jiang also met with Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and is scheduled hold talks with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov. He leaves for Novosibirsk on 24 November. BP


Though somewhat inured to violence, Russia's political elite responded with shock to the murder of State Duma deputy and co-chair of the Democratic Russia party Galina Starovoitova, who was slain by gunmen in her St. Petersburg apartment late on 20 November. Her press secretary, Ruslan Linkov, was critically injured in the attack. Starovoitova, 52, had been a democracy activist both before and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. She served as one of Yeltsin's advisers on nationalities policies and more recently led efforts to censure Duma deputy Albert Makashov for his anti- Semitic remarks. President Yeltsin expressed "shock and profound anger" at the killing, calling her "one of the brightest figures in Russian politics." Historian Dmitrii Likachev said her killing seems to signal the "outburst of a new Red Terror" (see also "End Note" below). JAC


Linkov, a former journalist, reportedly had compiled a report on contract killings traceable to Duma Speaker Seleznev and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Viktor Krivulin, head of the St. Petersburg branch of Democratic Russia told reporters on 21 November. Starovoitova intended to present the report at the next Duma session, he claimed. Starovoitova had been receiving death threats in recent months over the reports published in "Severnaya stolitsa" about corruption among high-placed officials in the federal and St. Petersburg government, Duma deputy Ludmila Narusova told Interfax on 21 November. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin told reporters that there is no evidence linking Seleznev to the killing, and Federal Security Service chief Vladimir Putin said that he has no reason to believe the killing was a "political assassination." In October, a close aide to Seleznev was shot in St. Petersburg and critically injured (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 19 October 1998). JAC


Duma deputy speaker and member of the Our Home is Russia party Vladimir Ryzhkov cautioned against using the tragedy to "press for a ban on the Communist Party or insult one's political opponents." He told reporters that the country should pay attention not to political infighting between right and left but to the "growing wave of crime that is sweeping us all." Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called on the country not to tolerate violence any longer, saying "we must stop feeling powerless before the increasingly insolent scum." Former First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov and former Mayor of St. Petersburg Anatolii Sobchak all pointed to the growing lawlessness in St. Petersburg in their comments on the lawmaker's death. JAC


Imposing direct presidential rule in the Republic of Kalmykia may be discussed in the near future, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushin told reporters on 20 November. The next day, Security Council Chairman Nikolai Bordyuzha told journalists that the council has advised the government to resolve outstanding financial disputes with the republic and instructed the prosecutor-general to conclude his investigation into the misappropriation of funds by Kalmyk officials and the murder of journalist Larisa Yudina. Meanwhile, Interfax reported that roughly 3,000 people rallied in the Kalmykian capital to support President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who continued to insist his remarks have been grossly misinterpreted. He told Interfax that the Finance Ministry is perpetrating "genocide against an entire people" by "withholding funds for children's vaccinations, students' stipends, and public sector wages." JAC


Prime Minister Primakov on 20 November signed an order establishing an agency for restructuring the banking system. The agency's charter capital will total 10 billion rubles ($590 million). Earlier, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko said 10 billion rubles would be needed to supplement already planned sums to prop up the commercial banking sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1998). ITAR-TASS reported that the new agency will aim to restore confidence in the banks, attract new investors, restore the banking system's normal functioning, and increase capital to the "viable core of the banking system." The Federal Property Fund and the Bank of Russia will own 51 and 49 percent of the agency, respectively. JAC


The People's Patriotic Union reelected Communist Party leader Zyuganov chairman on 21 November at its second congress in Moscow. Zyuganov described the key goals of the alliance as achieving a return to centralized government, broad constitutional reform to redistribute the president's power among the government and parliament, and the creation of a union of Slavic states by Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Interfax reported that delegates to the congress applauded the anti-Semitic remarks of a Vorkuta miner. JAC


The Russian State Radio-Television Company is extending its reach to provincial broadcasters, having purchased a local broadcasting station in Tver Oblast, one of its first regional subsidiaries in central Russia, "EWI's Russian Regional Report" reported on 19 November. Under the arrangement, local viewers will receive new programs, Tver may obtain a new channel, and the parent company will gain new representation in the region. Moscow city and Tver Oblast officials earlier signed a special agreement on media cooperation under which several television programs are to feature Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and Tver Governor Vladimir Platov. JAC


Thabo Mbeki, vice president of the Republic of South Africa, met separately with Prime Minister Primakov and Duma Chairman Seleznev on 23 November. After his meeting, Seleznev told reporters that Russia's relations with South Africa are "gaining momentum" and that the Duma will ratify a bilateral agreement on diamond mining. Also attending Primakov's meeting with Mbeki were First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov, Interior Minister Stepashin, Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov, and Economic Minister Andrei Shapovalyants. JAC


Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists on 20 November that Russia is concerned about Ankara's decision unilaterally to introduce further restrictions on the passage of shipping through the Turkish Straits, Russian agencies reported. He said there should have been consultations with the signatories to the 1936 Treaty of Montreux regulating navigation through the straits before the new regulations were made public. Those rules cut the number of oil tankers that may transit the straits annually from last year's figure of 4,500. The nine signatories to the 1936 treaty were France, Belgium, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Japan, Britain, Australia, and the USSR. Rakhmanin's statement suggests that Russia is claiming the right to dispute the new restrictions in its capacity as successor to the Soviet Union. LF


Russia's Sakhalin Oblast and Japan's northernmost island Hokkaido signed a friendship and cooperation agreement on 22 November, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Sakhalin Region Governor Igor Farkhutdinov said the first priority for the new partnership should be developing geothermal energy sources around the Kuril Islands to be used as a power source for the area. BP


State traffic authorities in Vladivostok have opened a criminal case against U.S. General Consul Douglas Kent, charging him with violating traffic safety violations and seriously injuring a pedestrian, Interfax reported on 20 November. In an earlier report about the incident, "Komsomolskaya pravda" drew a parallel with an incident in Washington, D.C., in which a Georgian diplomat killed a young woman in a traffic accident and was later stripped of his diplomatic immunity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1998). JAC


Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev reversed his decision to return a church building to a revived local Catholic parish, Keston News Service reported on 20 November. According to the agency, Archbishop Paisii of the Moscow Patriarchate persuaded Stroev to annul an earlier decree restoring the building, which had been confiscated from local Catholics during the Soviet period. Since the decision, permission to rent a room for services on the premises of a local factory has been refused. According to the factory director, it would be "inexpedient" to rent a room to Catholics. JAC


Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov told the French, Russian, and U.S. ambassadors on 20 November that his country cannot accept the concept of a "common state" comprising the Azerbaijan Republic and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic proposed in the most recent OSCE peace plan, Azerbaijani agencies reported. Zulfugarov said that Baku is prepared to resume peace negotiations on the basis of the proposals made by the OSCE Minsk Group in September 1997. Karabakh has rejected that plan, and Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian's willingness to accept it precipitated his resignation under pressure early this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1998). Russia's ambassador in Baku, Aleksandr Blokhin, told journalists on 21 November that the latest peace plan attempted to "balance the interests of the two warring sides" and that Azerbaijan's rejection of it would hinder the peace process, according to Turan. LF


An OSCE spokesman told RFE/RL on 23 November that the organization is disappointed with Azerbaijan's rejection of the latest peace proposal but hopes that some elements of it can be salvaged. He added that the OSCE also hopes that at the OSCE summit in Oslo in early December it will be possible to announce that peace talks will resume. Polish Foreign Minister and OSCE chairman Bronislaw Geremek, who is currently in Tbilisi, will meet in Baku with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on 26 November and attempt to persuade him to take a more positive approach, the spokesman said. On 20 November, Geremek had appealed to all three conflict parties "to demonstrate the political will to negotiate and compromise in the interests of achieving a mutually acceptable resolution of the conflict." A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 23 November that Azerbaijan's rejection of the plan is not unexpected. He said it is uncertain how much more the OSCE can do to try to resolve the conflict. LF


Speaking at a news conference in Washington on 20 November, Azerbaijani State Oil Company Vice President Ilham Aliyev said that the anticipated cost of building the Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil could be reduced if Turkey cuts transit fees and contributes to the cost of the construction, an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S. capital reported. The Azerbaijan International Operating Company has repeatedly postponed making a commitment to that route, which it estimates will cost $4 billion The Turkish government puts that figure at $2.5 billion. Aliyev said that the Azerbaijani leadership "cannot wait forever" if the AIOC fails to make a definite commitment to the Baku-Ceyhan route within the next two months. Turkish energy officials told Reuters on 20 November that Turkey will limit purchases of crude from AIOC members British Petroleum and Amoco to protest the consortium's delay in making a decision on the Baku-Ceyhan route. LF


Vazgen Sargsian on 21 November presided over the formal establishment of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That party is the result of a merger, announced in July, between the Republican Party and the political wing of the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war, of which Sargsian is chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1998). Addressing supporters on 21 November, Sargsian said the HHK will serve as President Robert Kocharian's main support base. He characterized the HHK's ideology as "centrist" and vowed that it will reject the "wild liberalism" espoused by Armenia's first post-communist leadership in 1990. Of Yerkrapah's estimated 6,000 members, some 1,000 have joined the HHK; the others will remain members of Yerkrapah, which will continue to function as an NGO protecting the interests of war veterans and their families. LF


On 20 November, Albert Bazeyan, who heads the majority Yerkrapah parliamentary group, told journalists in Yerevan that both he and Sargsian consider the latter is "in the right place serving as defense minister," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bazeyan said there is no guarantee that Sargsian would perform better as prime minister. On 13 November, opposition parliamentary deputy Ashot Bleyan had argued that Sargsian should take over the premiership from Armen Darpinian. LF


Central Bank chairman Tirgan Sarkisian said on 20 November that the bank will not intervene to prevent further fluctuations in the dollar/dram exchange rate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The dram fell to 529 to $1 on 19 November, but rebounded to 523 the next day, having traded at 510-515 last month. Analysts attribute the fall to the repercussions of the Russian financial crisis and expect cuts in the government's 1998 budget. But Sarkisian blamed speculators, urging the population not to overreact. He said that the Central Bank's chief priority is to maintain the current single-digit level of annual inflation, adding that financial stability is more vital than what he described as "risky economic growth." LF


Visiting Tbilisi on 20-21 November for the first time as Armenian president, Robert Kocharian held talks with his Armenian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, and with Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, Caucasus Press reported. The two presidents agreed to cooperate on projects within the TRACECA transport network and on integration within the CIS as well as within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, Interfax reported. Zhvania told journalists after the talks that the two countries should create a common economic space and that their parliaments could expedite such a development by coordinating legislation on investments. Hovhannes Aivazian, chairman of the Djavakhk Union, which represents the interests of southern Georgia's Armenian community, said he hopes Kocharian's visit will promote greater regional cooperation, including the creation of a free economic zone on the Georgian-Armenian frontier, Caucasus Press reported on 19 November. LF


Anri Djergenia met with Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze on 22 November to discuss a draft protocol on the repatriation to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgian displaced persons and a draft agreement "on peace," ITAR-TASS reported. Those documents are to be signed at the upcoming meeting between Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba. In his weekly radio broadcast on 23 November, Shevardnadze said that the meeting will "most probably not" take place this month as originally planned, Caucasus Press reported. Zurab Samushia, commander of the White Legion Georgian guerrilla formation operating in Abkhazia, has threatened to prevent the Ardzinba-Shevardnadze meeting. Samushia has demanded the release of two ethnic Georgians abducted last week in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion and an end to the persecution of the local Georgian population. LF


Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kubanychbek JumAliyev told journalists on 20 November that his government will take a number of measures in an attempt to stabilize the som, RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS reported. JumAliyev said that the 1999 budget will have to be revised and financial controls on enterprises tightened to make sure they all pay taxes. JumAliyev promised the state will continue paying interest on Treasury bills and meet its obligations on paying its foreign debt. A number of free economic zones in Kyrgyzstan will be closed down, he added. National bank chairman Marat Sultanov said his bank has the means to stabilize the market, noting that there are $175 million and 2.8 billion som ($90 million) in the bank's reserves. He added that controls over the country's banks need to be strengthened. RFE/RL correspondents on 23 November reported that many vendors at Bishkek's Dordoi Bazaar, the city's largest market, are asking for payment in dollars. BP


The Uzbek motorized rifle battalion that was withdrawn from the CIS peacekeeping forces serving in Tajikistan will not return to that country for financial reasons, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. The unit arrived back in Uzbekistan on 16 November to take part in military exercises along the Uzbek-Afghan border. Bahodyr Umarov, the press secretary of the Uzbek Foreign Ministry, noted that Uzbek units have served in Tajikistan for six years. He added that the Tajik peace accord removes the main reason for Uzbek troops to be deployed in the neighboring country. BP


According to the State Statistics Agency, unemployment in Tajikistan grew by 18 percent in the first nine months of this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 November. Some 64,800 people are registered as unemployed, of whom some 53 percent are women. Unemployment is also rising sharply among the country's youth, many of whom have a higher education but cannot find work. BP


Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov will go on national television and radio on 20 December to answer questions put to him by Turkmen residents, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. Questions should be about the development of the country or society and must be sent to the president's press service or the national television and radio company before 20 December. BP


Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 20 November blasted the police and the court system for being inefficient in fighting crime, Interfax and AP reported. He told a conference on fighting organized crime and corruption that the three main reasons hindering the work of law enforcement bodies are lack of experience, low moral standards among police officers, and inconsistent legal norms. Kuchma said "people are losing faith in the state and the authorities" because of the police's inability to solve many serious crimes and combat organized crime. According to official statistics, the police have rooted out nearly 3,000 criminal gangs that have committed some 21,700 crimes in Ukraine over the past three years. JM


Kuchma and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko blamed the National Bank for failing to prevent massive capital flight from Ukraine. Potebenko said many banks are using accounts with Ukrainian branches of foreign banks to launder money and transfer it abroad. According to Potebenko, such a practice testifies to "the lack of control over and the lack of responsibility on the part of the Ukrainian National Bank." JM


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said he is ready to forgo his personal interests for the sake of the Belarus- Russia Union, Belapan reported on 21 November. Addressing a 20 November conference in Minsk, Lukashenka said the integration of the two countries is being hampered by the unresolved problem of "What to do with Lukashenka?" He commented that "If we decide that we have such a union and Lukashenka is a problem there, I agree to play a secondary or even tertiary role [in the union]." The Belarusian president added that Belarus and Russia should unite as two equal subjects of international law, Interfax reported. According to him, unification should be gradually implemented through the formation of supranational bodies. JM


The Belarusian Interior Ministry has refused to give an exit visa to Pavel Sheremet, chief editor of "Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta" and Russian Public Television's Minsk bureau chief, AP reported on 20 November. Sheremet was to be among the recipients of the International Press Freedom Award in New York on 24 November. Sheremet was arrested in 1997 and received a suspended sentence several months later for attempting to shoot a television feature on the Belarusian-Lithuania border. "The fact that I wasn't allowed to go to New York is far from being the most horrible this country where people are detained for 15 days just for taking part in an innocent trade union demonstration," he commented. Sheremet sent a videotape of his award acceptance speech to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. JM


The Estonian government has issued a statement saying it opposes recovering the remaining bodies from the sunken wreck of the "Estonia" passenger ferry, ETA and AP reported. That statement was issued following a proposal by a Swedish independent investigative team last week that an effort be made to bring up as many bodies as possible. Estonian government spokesman Daniel Vaarik said Tallinn based its decision on "overwhelming opposition to the idea in Estonia." And he stressed that Tallinn wants a 1995 agreement between Sweden, Finland, and Estonia declaring the shipwreck a sanctuary to remain in effect. The "Estonia" sank en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in 1994, killing 852 people. Only 95 of the bodies have been recovered. JC


Following talks with Prime Minister-designate Vilis Kristopans on 20 November, Fatherland and Freedom party chairman Maris Grinblats said his party does not intend to back down from its demand that it be granted the Foreign Ministry, BNS reported. Kristopans had stressed earlier that the Fatherland and Freedom party will not receive that portfolio, citing the need to improve relations with Russia. Grinblats also said that his party intends to continue to insist that the Social Democrats receive no cabinet posts. Last week, Kristopans announced he will form a three-party coalition composed of his Latvia's Way, the Fatherland and Freedom party, and the New Party. That coalition is five votes short of a parliamentary majority, and Kristopans has been negotiating with the Social Democrats on a deal where the latter would promise parliamentary support in exchange for government posts. JC


In an interview published in Russia's "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 November, Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis said he believes his country's ties with Russia will improve if Lithuania joins NATO, BNS reported. Lithuania "will no longer be afraid of its bigger neighbor" if it enters the alliance, he commented, adding that only NATO membership can "grant absolute guarantees to foreign investments." Landsbergis also commented that the issue of joining NATO and EU is not splitting the "Baltic front." "Perhaps it is even [a good thing] that we are not taken as a bloc, but as individual countries," he argued, noting that Estonia's possible membership in the EU will benefit both Lithuania and Latvia. JC


At its congress on 21 November, the opposition Polish Peasant Party (PSL) adopted a resolution saying the party will use "all constitutional means" to oppose "reforms carried out at the expense of agriculture and farmers," PAP reported the next day. The PSL criticized the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union for hindering economic development, hasty privatization, and an "unwise agricultural policy." While congress did not object to Polish integration into the EU, delegates stressed that Poland should be "offered considerable pre-accession assistance to help modernize the Polish countryside." JM


A four-party opposition coalition won the largest number of seats in the runoff election for one-third of the seats in the Czech Senate, CTK reported on 21 November. The center-right coalition won 13 of the 27 seats that were being contested. Premier Milos Zeman, whose Social Democrats (CSSD) won just three seats, called the results a "failure for the CSSD" and "a healthy scare," but not a verdict on his government, which he pointed out has only been in office for four months. Within the four-party coalition, the Christian Democratic Union/Czechoslovak People's Party won seven seats. The Communists secured two seats and former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won nine. The ODS and the Social Democrats maintain a three-fifths majority in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) needed to make constitutional changes. Turnout was a post-1989 low of just over 20 percent. PB


Vaclav Grulich on 20 November said that he promises there will soon be more Roma in the Czech police force, CTK reported. Grulich said 14 Roma have recently completed a preparatory police course in eastern Bohemia and will now attend a secondary police school. Four of the Romani trainees are female. In other news, CTK reported on 22 November that Czech President Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar are suing the country's leading television station, TV Nova, and two dailies, "Blesk" and "Lidove noviny," for publishing articles alleging that Dagmar had had an extra-marital affair. PB


Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, held talks on 21 November within the framework of the Central European Initiative summit in Zagreb, Slovak 1 Radio reported. Orban said the two countries are at the "beginning of a new era" in relations. He added that "NATO enlargement will really be complete--from the political as well a historical point of view-- only if Slovakia is involved." Dzurinda said the new Slovak government will "do its best to improve Slovakia's image abroad." Dzurinda also met with the premiers of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine. PB


Orban said upon his return from Germany the previous day that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder avoided naming any date for Hungary's EU accession but said "there will be no delay at all" when Hungary is ready. Orban said in an interview with the daily "Die Welt" that Budapest will meet EU requirements by 2002. Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl told Orban that "he will throw his political and moral weight behind efforts to get Hungary admitted to the EU at the earliest possible date." Orban also met with Wolfgang Schaeuble, chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and discussed possible cooperation between Orban's Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party and the CDU. Also on 20 November, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev met with his Hungarian counterpart, Arpad Goencz, in Budapest. Akayev led a delegation aimed at increasing trade and bilateral cooperation. MSZ/PB


General Tiberiu Costache, deputy chief of staff of the Romanian army, has acknowledged responsibility for the mistake that caused a Romanian unit to be turned back from the Hungarian border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1998), Hungarian media reported on 21 November. He admitted that an application for a permit was submitted to Hungarian officials only three days before the event. MSZ


Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian leaders signed three long-delayed agreements in Zagreb on 22 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1998). Tudjman and Bosnian Federal President Ejup Ganic signed a text to set up a joint council on cooperation in 14 areas, including military and internal affairs, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Tudjman approved the two additional documents with Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the joint presidency. Zivko Radisic, who is the Serbian member of the presidency and current chair, witnessed the signings. The two documents deal with Bosnian use of Croatia's port of Ploce, which is Bosnia's natural outlet to the Adriatic, and with Croatian transit rights through Bosnia's Neum region, which cuts the Croatian Dalmatian coast in half. Bosnia receives a 30-year lease on a free zone in the port of Ploce, while Croats will be able to transit Neum without going through any border formalities. PM


Prime Minister Pandeli Majko congratulated his Socialist-led government in Tirana on what he called a victory in the 22 November referendum on a new constitution, ATA news agency reported the next day. A spokesman for the Central Electoral Commission said that barely 50 percent of the electorate cast their ballots. Officials of the OSCE, which monitored the vote, said that voting took place without any serious incidents. After voting, Majko told reporters that he had "cast his vote for the future." Final results are not expected until at least 24 November. But observers in Tirana said that the outcome is likely to be at least 90 percent in favor because the opposition led by Democratic Party chairman Sali Berisha called on those opposed to the constitution to boycott the referendum. Observers also noted that bad weather and voter apathy may have contributed to the relatively low turnout. PM


Berisha told his supporters in Tirana on 23 November that only about 30 percent of the electorate voted in the referendum and that the OSCE based its figures of a higher turnout on the "figures of the devil." He called the draft constitution a "corpse" and thanked the Albanian people for "turning down the proposal of the most corrupt government in Europe." He added that "the sovereign people turned the government into a minority.... The sovereign people have been wiser and more courageous than ever in this country's history." Observers in Tirana told "RFE/RL Newsline" that the low turnout, which Berisha sought, together with a likely overwhelming vote in favor of the constitution, which the government sought, means that political deadlock is likely to continue. PM


An unnamed NATO official said in Brussels on 20 November that Yugoslavia has no grounds for claiming that NATO troops stationed in Macedonia would be a source of tension in relations between Belgrade and Skopje, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1998). "The notion that a NATO force of less than 2,000 can threaten Yugoslavia's security is ridiculous," the source added. In Skopje, French Ambassador to Macedonia Jacques Huntzinger said that "it is important for Belgrade to understand that this [French-led] force is not an imposing one.... This force is not aimed at fighting Serbian soldiers or policemen...[It will help extract OSCE monitors] in case of massive hostilities," taking of hostages, need for urgent medical help or problems with land mines, AP quoted him as saying. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov added that "our government has not taken any decision that [Belgrade could interpret] as a hostile act," "Die Welt" reported. PM


Moderate Kosovar spokesman Fehmi Agani said in Belgrade on 22 November that the latest Serbian plan for an interim political settlement in Kosova is unacceptable because it maintains "Serbian domination" over the ethnic Albanian majority. The previous day, the Serbian authorities published an 11-point plan in the Belgrade (but not the Prishtina) edition of the pro-government daily "Politika," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The plan weakens potential Kosovar control over the province by concentrating autonomy at the local rather than at the provincial level, by granting each ethnic group control over its own affairs, by establishing an upper house of the parliament in which each ethnic group has an equal number of deputies, and by giving the "last word" in the province's affairs to the Serbian legislature. EU spokesman Wolfgang Petritsch said that the recent U.S. "proposal is fully supported by the EU. This is not the time to come up with new concepts." PM


The Montenegrin government said in a statement on 21 November that it does not recognize "the illegal federal government nor its illegitimate prime minister," who is Momir Bulatovic, the arch-rival of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. The Montenegrin government issued the statement in conjunction with its refusal to take part in the federal government's celebrations to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


A Belgrade court fined the daily "Glas javnosti" $38,000 on 22 November for slandering Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj. The newspaper recently quoted a former member of Seselj's Serbian Radical Party as telling a press conference that Seselj is a "dictator" who works "against the interests of the Serbian people," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 12 November, a court fined the pro-government daily "Politika" $10,000 for libel against opposition leader Zoran Djindjic. Meanwhile, independent dailies have received fines of up to $120,000 under the recent draconian media law. PM


The Bosnian Serb government on 20 November denied media reports that it has given in to Belgrade's demands to change the official exchange rate for the Yugoslav dinar in the Republika Srpska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 1998). In a statement in Banja Luka, the government said that the only decision it has reversed is one raising the price of electricity, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In other news, the Information Ministry said in a statement that it "has no interest" in forming a joint television station with the Sarajevo-based Radio- Television Bosnia- Herzegovina (RTVBiH). The statement said that Serbian Radio- Television must remain independent and that it would be "illegal" to set up a joint Bosnia-wide company. PM


Ante Jelavic, who heads the Herzegovinian-dominated branch of Croatian President Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community, said in Mostar on 20 November that the Croats demand unspecified changes in the electoral law in order to increase their political weight as a group. He added that the Croats also want their own "national channel" on RTVBiH as well as a separate Croatian academy of sciences and arts. Jelavic added that he opposes the planned introduction of a joint curriculum in all Bosnian schools, which he called an "attempt to destroy the identity of the Croatian nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina." PM


Ion Iliescu, leader of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), announced on 20 November that PDSR senators and deputies will boycott the parliament and its institutions until the ruling coalition and the opposition agree on a code of conduct, Romanian radio reported. Iliescu said the code is needed owing to the repeated violation of parliamentary principles. The decision was made by the PDSR's Central Executive Committee. Politicians from the Greater Romania Party (PRM) are also on strike, PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor announced, though they will participate in limited parliamentary activities. Tudor called for early elections to solve the "serious situation facing the country." Meanwhile, Ulm Spineanu, the deputy speaker of the parliament, accused fellow deputies of manipulating the electronic voting system to cast votes for absent colleagues. Spineanu said legislators are using pins and toothpicks to activate voting buttons. PB


Deputy Prime Minister Ion Sturza said on 20 November that the Moldovan economy will drop by 6 percent in 1998, dpa reported. Sturza said the economic crisis is Russia has had a devastating effect on Moldova and ruined any chance of it attaining the 5 percent growth predicted for this year. He added that inflation could reach 20-25 percent this year, about double earlier forecasts. On the bright side, he predicted a 1 percent growth in GDP next year. PB


A parliamentary commission agreed on 20 November to propose legislation that would eliminate capital punishment, BTA reported. Svetoslav Luchnikov, the chairman of the parliamentary legal commission, said the commission will propose on 10 December that life imprisonment with no possibility of parole replace the death penalty. Executions have been suspended in Bulgaria since 1990. Nineteen convicts are on death row. In other news, the National Employment Service reported the same day that unemployment increased last month by 0.3 percent and now stands at 11.1 percent of the work force, down 2.3 percent on the level from one year ago. PB


by Paul Goble

The brutal murder of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova has deprived Russia of its most consistent defender of democracy, human rights, and interethnic cooperation.

But more than that, her death on 20 November in St. Petersburg threatens the possibilities of debate in Russia's still fragile democracy, to the same extent that the August 1998 devaluation of the ruble undermined the country's economy.

And that threat explains both the vehemence of the reaction of Russian political leaders and Starovoitova's recent anticipation of her own fate and her understanding of the likelihood that those who had made the democratic revolution might soon be cast aside.

In the decade before her death, at the age of 52, Starovoitova went from being an ethnographer to being a leader of the democratic movement in Moscow. In both capacities, she was never afraid to criticize others who called themselves democrats if they failed to defend democratic principles.

Earlier than almost anyone else, Starovoitova spoke out in defense of the rights of the Karabakh Armenians, a position that led to her 1988 election to the USSR Supreme Soviet from Yerevan and membership in that body's Human Rights Committee.

And even before the Soviet Union collapsed, she showed both her courage and commitment: In 1990, she won a libel suit against the Communist newspaper "Pravda," which had accused her of urging extraconstitutional means to change the government. But her concern for these human rights and constitutional rules was not, as some thought at the time, merely a reflection of her ethnographic interests. Instead, it arose from her deeply held belief that every individual and every group has certain rights that must be protected.

In 1991-1992, she combined her passion for both ethnography and democracy by serving as President Boris Yeltsin's senior adviser on nationality issues and as co-president of the Democratic Russia Party. And at that time, she also worked closely with reformers like Yegor Gaidar, Anatolii Chubais, and Anatolii Sobchak.

But her relations with all of these leaders, as well as others were often stormy, precisely because of her uncompromising commitment to principle. She was among the most outspoken critics of Yeltsin's ill-fated war against Chechnya. She condemned Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's decision to expel "persons of Caucasian nationality" from the Russian capital. And most recently, she denounced her colleagues in the Duma and some members of the Russian government for failing to take a tougher line against the vicious anti-Semitic remarks and activities of Albert Makashov and other Russian nationalists.

But perhaps because of her willingness to break with allies when they backed away from their principles, Starovoitova had greater moral than political success. She failed in her bid to run for president in 1996, supposedly for "technical reasons," but more probably because Yeltsin forces did not want her to draw off any reformist votes they felt they needed to defeat communist challenger Gennadii Zyuganov. At the time of her murder, Starovoitova was in St. Petersburg to take part in the Northern Capital political movement, a group she hoped to lead in a liberal challenge to that region's communist governor, Vladimir Yakovlev, in upcoming elections there.

Reaction to Starovoitova's death was swift and angry. Her former ally Gaidar, speaking for many who had worked with her, said that Starovoitova had "paid with her life" to advance the cause of democracy in Russia. She believed that "democracy in Russia is possible," Gaidar added, arguing that while this belief might seem "trivial" to some, her death shows that it "still needs to be demonstrated."

In a statement, Yeltsin professed himself to be "deeply outraged" by her murder. He pledged that the killers would be brought to justice because "the shots that have interrupted her life have wounded every Russian for whom democratic ideas are dear."

The Russian president dispatched his interior minister, Sergei Stepashin, to St. Petersburg to investigate Starovoitova's murder. And Stepashin indicated that her death would be investigated under the country's terrorism statute.

But as so often in her short but brilliant life, Starovoitova herself appears to have described what her murder-- the sixth of a Duma deputy since 1993--means.

In an interview on Ekho Moskvy a few days before her death, she gave what many are certain to see as her last testament to the country, people, and principles about which she cared most.

"Any revolution inevitably devours its own children," Starovoitova said. "We, the democrats, should recognize that this is true even of our peaceful one. But now we want to do what we can to save the gains of our revolution from being erased--the freedom to vote, the parliamentary system, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press."

Those who killed her would like to kill those things as well. Those who remember her best will do what they can, now that she is gone, to prevent such efforts from succeeding.