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Newsline - January 5, 1999




DUMA SCHEDULED TO CONSIDER START II RATIFICATION BY MID-YEAR

Vladimir Ryzhkov, the deputy speaker of the State Duma, told Interfax on 4 January that consideration of the START II treaty is now on the agenda of the Russian parliament for the first six months of 1999. But Ryzhkov added that no vote will be taken until a majority of deputies indicate that they will support ratification, which, he said, is "so far not in evidence." Signed in 1993, the treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996. PG

ZHUKOV SAYS DUMA LIKELY TO PASS 'SURVIVAL BUDGET'

Aleksandr Zhukov, the chairman of the Duma budget committee, told Ekho Moskvy on 4 January that he expects the Duma to adopt the 1999 state budget in the near future. He called it "a survival budget" because the funding requests are "at minimum levels." In other comments, Zhukov said that the ruble-dollar exchange rate will likely remain stable during the first quarter and then rise, depending on Russian government policy. And he said that he expects Russia to experience small economic growth--perhaps 2 percent--by the end of 1999. PG

YELTSIN, GOVERNMENT, DUMA ALL WORKING ON 4 JANUARY

Russian government spokesmen went to great lengths on 4 January to report that President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, and other senior officials were in their offices, even though the New Year's holiday does not end until 5 January. Government spokesman Igor Shchegolev told ITAR-TASS that Primakov and four of his five deputies were at work. Yeltsin's press service announced that he signed three new laws, and Duma committees resumed debate on the draft 1999 budget. PG

YELTSIN APPOINTS FSB OFFICER TO SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF...

President Boris Yeltsin on 4 January appointed Oleg Chernov as deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported. Until now, Chernov has worked for the Federal Security Service. PG

...NAMES THREE COSSACK-GENERALS

Also on 4 January Yeltsin issued a decree granting the rank of cossack-general--the highest rank available--to the atamans of the Don, Kuban, and Terek cossack troops, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

STROEV SAYS FEDERATION COUNCIL STABILIZES RUSSIA

Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 5 January that the upper chamber of the parliament prevents "social explosions" during a time of change, ITAR-TASS reported. "For the first time in the history of Russia," Stroev said, "a non- political organ has emerged that both influences the policy of the state and stands close to the people, as the Federation Council is made up of people who know the real local situation like nobody else," he said. He argued that Russian legislation must conform "to the principles of federalism," otherwise, "one will not succeed in securing the unity of executive and legislative powers at all levels and consequently in retaining the unity of the country." PG

REGULATIONS SET FOR CONTRACT MILITARY SERVICE

President Yeltsin on 5 January issued a decree that calls on the leaders of the armed forces to establish standard contracts for military service, ITAR-TASS reported. The contracts are to be for one, three, or five years, with a total duration of no more than 10 years. Moreover, they cannot be extended for anyone over 65. The Defense Ministry is to submit its own draft regulations for military service by 15 April. PG

STANKEVICH GIVEN POLITICAL ASYLUM IN POLAND

The Polish authorities have given former Yeltsin aide and Moscow deputy mayor Sergei Stankevich political asylum, his lawyers told Western news agencies on 4 January. Stankevich had fled Russia in 1995 to escape what he maintains are politically motivated charges that he accepted bribes. In December 1995, he was stripped of his immunity as a deputy. Stankevich told ITAR-TASS on 4 January that he will eventually return to Russia to clear himself "in a fair trial as soon as this is a real possibility"-- something he said could not happen until after Yeltsin leaves office. He said that his new status does not affect his citizenship and allows him to stay in Poland on a "regularized basis." He added that he is "not in conflict with the Russian state and Russian laws" but "with concrete people who use laws for their own political ends." In April 1997, Stankevich was arrested in Poland on an Interpol warrant but Warsaw refused to extradite him to Russia. PG

MOSCOW HOPES FOR EXPANDED TIES WITH SOUTH KOREA

Yevgenii Afanasev told the Seoul newspaper "Korea Herald" on 4 January that he hopes 1999 will be "the year of Russo-Korean relations," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that Moscow is looking forward to a state visit by South Korean President Kim Tae Jung and expanded economic ties. And he said that Moscow expects to play a role in any rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang. PG

CHINESE POACHERS REGULARLY VIOLATE RUSSIAN BORDERS

Eighty percent of the 282 people who violated the Russian border in the Far East in 1998 were Chinese, the Russian Federal Border Service's Pacific Regional Agency told ITAR-TASS on 4 January. The agency said that it held 357 meetings with the Chinese authorities over the past year to try to improve the situation. Meanwhile, the agency said, it allowed some 378,196 foreigners to cross Russian borders in 1998. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY BACKS LIBYA ON LOCKERBIE CASE

Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has repeated his support for Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and the latter's stand against "imperialism and Zionism" over a possible trial of those accused of masterminding the 1988 bombing of a Pan American jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, according to Libyan state radio, as monitored in Tunis by Reuters. Zhirinovsky has been in Libya since 2 January, his fifth visit there in the last year. PG

VOLGOGRAD, KOMI COOPERATE TO STOP COUNTERFEITING

Security officials from Volgograd and Komi Republic have cooperated to seize more than 20,000 counterfeit U.S. dollars and arrest those responsible, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. The officials said that the dollars were produced on a color copier. PG

STARAYA RUSSA, ESTONIAN DISTRICT COOPERATE

An accord between Novgorod's Staraya Russa district and Estonia's Valga district signed in late 1998 should expand cooperation between the two, the head of the Staraya Russia district told ITAR-TASS on 4 January. Yevgenii Ryabov said that Estonians want to visit his region to use its health resort, and Russians hope to make use of Estonian experience in timber-processing. PG

TANKERS TO DELIVER FUEL TO KAMCHATKA

Two tankers belonging to the Primore shipping company are to deliver some 17,000 tons of fuel to Kamchatka on 6-7 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. Some of the fuel will be used to power the region's fishing fleet. But experts told the Russian news agency that the region, which faces a serious energy crisis, should begin to switch over to volcanic-energy sources. PG

THIEVES TAKE ICONS FROM VLADIMIR CHURCH

As the Russian Orthodox Church prepares to celebrate Eastern Christmas, the Russian media on 4 January gave prominent coverage to a case in which thieves broke into the Church of the Intercession, near Vladimir, some 10 days ago. Describing the church as "one of the true holy places of Orthodoxy," an NTV television commentator said that the thieves would be unlikely to sell what they took for more than a few bottles of vodka. PG

CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S SUPPORTERS WANT FORMER PREMIER BROUGHT TO TRIAL

Three senior Chechen officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev, have asked the Supreme Shariah Court to open libel proceedings against former acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev, Interfax reported on 4 January. The three officials said that in 1998 Basaev made numerous statements insulting President Aslan Maskhadov. (Basaev is one of three former field commanders who in October called on the Chechen Constitutional Court to impeach Maskhadov for treason.) Meanwhile, Vice President Vakha Arsanov has expressed his support for the Supreme Shariah Court's decision to abolish the Chechen parliament and transfer its powers to a state religious council. Arsanov said such a move would contribute to political stability and an economic upswing in Chechnya, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

TATAR MINORITY WANTS TATAR DESIGNATED STATE LANGUAGE IN BASHKORTOSTAN

Organizations representing the Tatar minority of the Republic of Bashkortostan intend to send a written protest to Russian Premier Primakov and to the presidents of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, Murtaza Rakhimov and Mintimer Shaimiev, expressing their concern that the draft law on the state languages of Bashkortostan fails to include Tatar, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 5 January. Russian, by contrast, is listed as a state language. The Tatar Congress has proposed conducting a referendum on which languages should be designated the state languages of Bashkortostan. The Tatar minority of Bashkortostan constitutes more than 30 percent of the republic's total population. LF




NAZARBAYEV SAYS HE HAS KEYS TO PROSPERITY...

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev told a 4 January meeting of his supporters in Almaty that if re-elected, he will "continue to pursue the creation of an independent, democratic, and economically developed state," Interfax and RFE/RL correspondents reported. Nazarbayev said there are several "keys" to prosperity, one of which is taking measures to avoid an economic crisis and encourage growth. He also noted that the country's gold and hard currency reserves remained stable at $2 billion at the end of 1998 and that inflation was only 2 percent last year, instead of the estimated 9-10 percent. He added that the tenge dropped only slightly against the dollar last year, from 75 to $1 in January to 84 to $1 at year's end. BP

...PROMISES TO OPEN MORE LOCKS WITH THEM

Nazarbayev went on to say that if he is re-elected, the government will spend $100 million this year to support domestic manufacturing and a campaign will be launched urging consumers to buy products made in Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev vowed tighter controls over the banking system and repeated earlier promises to promote political stability, ethnic harmony, and gradual measures toward democratization. He added that he is in favor of further measures against corruption and crime, an effective social policy, and better ties with other CIS countries. With regard to the economy, Nazarbayev said "there will be no collapse," noting that the IMF will extend $217 million and the World Bank $75 million in loans. According to president, "Nobody has been able to receive such an amount of money at a time of crisis." Kazakh writer Sherkhan Mutaza, attending the 4 January, called Nazarbayev "the Kazakh Mustafa Kemal Ataturk." BP

OPPOSITION CAMPAIGNS, COMPLAINS

Also on 4 January, presidential candidate Gani Kasymov visited Almaty's Tastak market telling vendors he will liberalize import regulations for shuttle traders, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Another candidate, Serikbolsyn Abdildin of the Communist Party, appealed to Nazarbayev, speaker of the lower house of the parliament Marat Ospanov, the Central Election Commission, and the OSCE about bias in the campaign. Abdildin claimed it is unfair that popular Russian actors and musicians are appearing in advertising spots for the incumbent Nazarbayev. Abdildin also said that Nazarbayev has greater access to the media than other candidates. He called for the elections to be postponed, threatening that otherwise he will renounce his candidacy. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that in a 4 January televised address, Nazarbayev said his opponents' programs are "surprisingly similar" and that some of their policies would "lead Kazakhstan down the disastrous financial path followed by Russia." BP

GALE-FORCE WINDS WREAK HAVOC IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN

Gale-force winds and blizzards on 31 December and 1 January caused more than $1million worth of damage in Tajikistan's northern Leninabad Region, ITAR-TASS reported. The storm left more than 1,500 people homeless, tore down power lines, and damaged road. The Tajik government expects the damage estimate to increase as relief workers reach remote areas of the region. BP

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT LISTS PRIORITIES FOR 1999

In his weekly radio address on 4 January, Eduard Shevardnadze said Georgia's most important task for the coming year is to overcome the repercussions of the 1998 financial crisis, Caucasus Press reported. He warned against a continuation of the lax fiscal measures that contributed to last year's budget deficit and assured listeners that all wage and pensions arrears will be paid in full before the end of January. Georgia still has no budget for 1999: the parliament returned the draft budget to the government on 23 December for revision and postponed resuming the budget debate until February. Shevardnadze also divulged details of his income and property, describing himself as "not the poorest man in Georgia." He denied owning property either in Tbilisi or Moscow but said he has a share in his family's home in the west Georgian village where he was born. LF

HOW SERIOUS IS CRIME IN ABKHAZIA?

Prosecutor-General Anri Djergenia told Caucasus Press on 3 January that the crime situation in Abkhazia is gradually improving, with the exception of the southern-most Gali Raion, where he claimed Georgian law enforcement officials are obstructing a crackdown on terrorism. But Djergenia's deputy, Tariel Parulua, has admitted that up to 100 criminal cases have been brought against members of the Abkhaz police force, and Georgia's "Dilis gazeti" on 29 December quoted Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba as threatening to resign if armed robberies on public means of transportation continue. Abkhazia's economy is virtually paralyzed as a result of restrictions on exports to the Russian Federation. On 3 January, the region's parliament raised the minimum pension to 10 Russian rubles (some 50 cents), according to Caucasus Press. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S BROTHER KILLED IN AIR CRASH

Valerii Kocharian died on 4 January when his glider crashed during what was described as a routine practice flight from an airfield near Yerevan, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. Valerii Kocharian had been decorated for valor during the Karabakh war, in which he was seriously wounded. In recent years, he had engaged in business. LF




UKRAINIAN CABINET TO DRAW UP ADMINISTRATION REFORM DECREE

Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko has ordered his cabinet to prepare by 6 January a draft decree that would cut the number of ministries and increase the government's efficiency, AP and ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. Pustovoytenko said the planned cuts may affect 30 percent of government officials. The cabinet's step is seen as a response to the IMF's criticism of Ukraine's bureaucratic system of government. Radical administrative reform is an IMF requirement for the resumption of a suspended $2.2 billion loan. JM

OPPOSITION SAYS BELARUSIAN-LANGUAGE EDUCATION IN DECLINE

Aleh Trusau, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Language Society, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that in 1998, the government did "everything possible to destroy the Belarusian-language education system." According to Trusau, there are no schools with Belarusian as the instruction language in Mahilyou and Pinsk, while in Minsk the proportion of first-graders instructed in Belarusian has fallen to 4.5 percent. At the same time, Trusau noted that the "opposition to total Russification is increasing," particularly among young people. He said his society has recently opened 15 branches in raions and several at "major Belarusian plants. Thus, we can also see another trend--the people's respect for the Belarusian language has remarkably increased. This trend is also demonstrated by the persecution of both our organization and individual members by the authorities," Trusau commented. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT TO APPEAL TO EU OVER SHIPPING ROW?

The cabinet on 4 January discussed appealing to the EU to rule on the legal aspect of the boycott by Finnish dockworkers of vessels belonging to the Estonian Shipping Company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 1998), ETA reported. Danish dockworkers at the port of Arhus joined that boycott several days after it began. The Estonian Foreign Ministry argues that the Finnish and Danish trade union action violates the association agreement between Estonia and the EU. Government spokesman Daniel Vaarik said that the government intends to clarify all aspects of the shipping row. JC

ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN WATER TALKS MAY RESUME NEXT WEEK

The municipal authorities of Ivangorod will seek to continue talks next week with the Estonian water company Narva Vesi on resuming water supplies to the Russian border town and the treatment of its sewage, Antonina Kostitsyna of the Ivangorod authorities told BNS on 4 January. Several days ago, Narva Vesi cut off water supplies to Ivangorod, which owes the company some $1.4 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). Kostitsyna said that Ivangorod officials will be meeting with regional leaders to discuss possible ways of paying Ivangorod's debt to Narva Vesi. JC

LATVIAN PREMIER SAYS NO IMMINENT EXPANSION OF RULING COALITION

Vilis Kristopans told journalists on 4 January that no decisions about expanding the coalition government or appointing the state minister for forestry are expected to be taken soon, BNS reported. "I will not invite a state minister [to join the government] until the agriculture minister is approved," Kristopans said. The premier has nominated Peteris Salkazanovs of the Social Democratic Party as agriculture minister, but the Fatherland and Freedom Party opposes the Social Democrats' participation in the government and has postponed taking a final decision on the issue until 23 January. Under the coalition agreement, there must be consensus among coalition partners on inviting other parties to participate in the government. JC

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT DELAYS FORMING 'LUSTRATION' COMMISSION

Valdas Adamkus will delay forming a commission provided for by the law banning former KGB agents from holding government office and working in various private-sector jobs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999), BNS reported on 4 January. Under the law, which was vetoed by Adamkus last year but went into force on I January, the president is to form a commission that would consider lifting the restrictions for some former KGB employees. Adamkus's spokeswoman, Violeta Gaizauskaite, stressed that the law does not set a deadline for setting up the commission, adding that it "makes more sense" to wait until the Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality of the new legislation. Such a ruling is expected next month. JC

POLAND'S HEALTH REFORM STARTS AMID CONFUSION, PROTESTS

Polish Radio reported that there was "one huge, big muddle" caused by a "crowd of disoriented patients" at a Warsaw health clinic on 4 January, the first day that Poland's health reform was implemented. Under the health reform law, every patient can choose doctors, clinics, or hospitals for treatment. The National Union of Doctors has sent a letter to the prime minister accusing the ruling coalition of "burying the hope of an improvement" in the country's health service and of "devaluing the work of doctors." Meanwhile, anesthetists continued their protest on 4 January by tendering mass resignations and refusing to assist at operations, excluding emergencies. They are demanding that their new job contracts, which are required under the health reform, be signed by themselves, not by the hospitals for which they work. JM

MORE PROTESTS IN POLAND

The Federation of Light Industry Trade Unions has launched a nationwide protest, Polish Television reported on 4 January. Trade unionists demand that the government draw up a restructuring program for their sector and that the parliament debate their problems. Meanwhile, 10 coal miners' trade unions (excluding Solidarity) have announced that they intend to appeal the mining restructuring law to the Constitutional Court. The unions claim that the four-year wage freeze in the mining industry violates the constitution. And the Federation of Polish State Railroad Trade Unions has taken the recently adopted law on pensions to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the legislation contravenes the principles of social justice by giving preferential treatments to high earners. JM

KLAUS SILENT ON NEW ALLEGATIONS OVER PRIVATIZATION BRIBE

Former Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus, leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), told the private radio station Frecvence 1 on 4 January that he has "nothing to say" on the alleged 1995 bribes paid by the Dutch KPN telecommunication company to the ODS and the Civic Democratic Alliance for the acquisition of a 27 percent stake in the STP Telcom company, CTK reported. "Someone is still cooking this old soup, which is really far too old and without any spice," Klaus said. Dutch Television reported on 3 January that KPN had bribed the two parties, paying 12-18 million guldens ($6.4- 9.5 million). Dutch deputies asked the government in The Hague to comment on the allegations, because the state was a majority owner in KPN in 1995. MS

DISPUTE OVER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY IN SLOVAK RULING COALITION

Rudolf Schuster, chairman of the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) and mayor of Kosice, has dismissed as "laughable, shameful, and untrue" allegations that he has secured the backing of the ruling coalition for his presidential candidacy through "blackmail," CTK reported on 4 January. Schuster was responding to a call by Vladimir Palko of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) to explain the "immoral deals" through which his candidacy won the coalition's backing. As part of the coalition agreement, the SOP gave up a ministerial post and the coalition agreed to support Schuster's candidacy, but the deal was criticized by the Christian Democrats and the Democratic Union, which are both senior partners in the five-party SDK. Schuster said the objections are part of the SDK's internal disputes and he has "nothing to explain" to Palko. MS

FORMER SLOVAK OFFICIALS TO BE INDICTED?

Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner on 4 January said several ministers in the former cabinet of Vladimir Meciar may be charged with plotting the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son, CTK reported. While in opposition, Pittner headed an independent commission that investigated the kidnapping. He said the commission's findings have now been confirmed. The commission accused the former head of Slovak counter-intelligence (SIS), Ivan Lexa, of attempting to destroy evidence on the kidnapping. It also said the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office were involved in hiding evidence. Pittner added that "concrete charges" will soon be brought against officials who blocked the referendum on NATO and direct presidential elections in 1996 as well as against those involved in the murder of Robert Remias, an SIS agent who admitted participation in the kidnapping of Kovac's son. MS




DJUKANOVIC CALLS FOR MILOSEVIC'S 'ISOLATION'...

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told the Hamburg-based weekly "Der Spiegel" of 4 January that the international community must "isolate" Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and cease giving him "domestic political legitimacy" by treating him as a legitimate negotiating partner. The Montenegrin president said that Washington's recent acknowledgement that Milosevic is the main problem in the Balkans "has come far too late. The international community has been fooled by his tricks for years. [He is] one of the people responsible for the problem in Bosnia." Djukanovic promised to pull Montenegrin troops out of the Yugoslav army if Milosevic uses the military against NATO's rapid reaction force in Kosova. The Montenegrin leader added, however, that he believes Milosevic is "bluffing" when he threatens action against the force. But he warned that Milosevic may soon incite violence in Montenegro because he "needs [the republic] as a new trouble spot. He governs by stirring up conflicts." PM

...SEEKS 'DEMOCRATIZATION' FOR YUGOSLAVIA

President Djukanovic stressed that the Yugoslav federation "is not working" but added that the solution is democratization and not Montenegro's or Kosova's succession from the federation. He noted that neither the Montenegrin people nor the international community favor Montenegrin independence or "any additional dramain the Balkans." Djukanovic added that Podgorica nonetheless will "defend its own interestsby conducting its own financial policy" if Milosevic "sets off inflation by illegally printing dinars." Referring to Kosova, the Montenegrin leader called for "wide- ranging autonomy linked to the Yugoslav federation for the Albanian minority in Serbiaunder international mediation and guarantee." He opposed any "new state territories" in Kosova and added, "I am a firm opponent of any form of secession. That would cause new regional problems. What would happen if states were set up in the Balkans on the basis of ethnicity [alone]?" PM

UCK AGREES TO MEETING ON JOINT PLATFORM

Adem Demaci, who is the chief political representative for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko in Tirana on 4 January that UCK representatives agree to meet with unnamed other Kosovar leaders to work out a joint strategy for negotiations with the international community and the Serbs. Majko urged his guest to ensure that the Kosovars "finally speak with a single voice" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1998). The Albanian government issued a statement on 5 January noting that a joint platform "is the first necessary step to unite Kosova's political potential. Time is running out for Kosova to show one face to the international community and to eliminate unnecessary competition among political factions." PM

IS UCK OPEN TO COMPROMISE?

The guerrillas published a statement in the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" on 4 January saying that "Kosova should have a position of an undisputed territorial entityfully independent from the jurisdiction of Serbia and Yugoslavia." The text added that the current U.S. draft proposal for an interim political settlement is unacceptable because it "offers the [ethnic] Albanians much less than was given to the Serbs in Bosnia" under the Dayton agreement. Observers suggested that this formulation could indicate that the UCK is willing to discuss what some regional media call the "Republika Srpska model" as an interim solution for Kosova. According to this model, the Kosovars would have as much control over their affairs as the Bosnian Serbs do over theirs. Yugoslavia would thus formally remain a single, unified country--as does Bosnia--but the Kosovars would maintain with Belgrade only the limited ties that the Bosnian Serbs have with the joint government in Sarajevo. PM

U.S. WARNS THAT 'TIME IS RUNNING OUT'

Referring to the situation in Kosova, State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 4 January: "We think both sides need to understand that there is not that much time left for a negotiated solution which can give the legitimate rights to the peopleand protect the national interests of the Serbs before we face the prospect of renewed and very dangerous conflict this spring." Rubin added that "the current security environment" in Kosova is "of concern" but not sufficiently dangerous to prompt NATO to consider evacuating the unarmed OSCE civilian monitors in the province. PM

HAGUE GIVES SARAJEVO GREEN LIGHT TO TRY ABDIC

A spokesman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal said on 4 January that the court agrees that evidence supplied by the Sarajevo authorities is sufficient "to justify the arrest [of Bihac pocket kingpin Fikret Abdic] and the case proceeding further." A spokesman for Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, who is a long-standing political rival of the controversial Abdic, said that Abdic committed "grave breaches of international law through the inhumane treatment of civilians and war prisoners and through the forced mobilizations" of civilians during the 1992-1995 conflict. Abdic, who maintained good relations with the Serbian and Croatian armies during the conflict, is widely believed to be living under government protection in Croatia. Under a 1996 international agreement, authorities in Bosnia may proceed with war crimes cases only with the approval of The Hague. PM

TUDJMAN DEFENDS HIS WEALTH

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said in Zagreb on 31 December that some $140,000 held by his wife in Zagrebacka Banka are his "life savings" and income from "50 years of work and 30 published books" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1998). He added that unspecified "claims that I or my family possess billions and billions are pure lies..[and] attempts to compromise Croatia's freedom and democracy." He shrugged off recent opinion polls that suggest his Croatian Democratic Community is rapidly losing electoral support. He called the surveys "something made up at someone's desk." Tudjman added that Croatia is "still better off than all former communist countries except Slovenia," Reuters quoted him as saying. PM

ALBANIAN INSTITUTE WARNS OF 'BRAIN LOSS'

The Tirana-based Center for Economic and Social Studies published a study on 31 December showing that 31.5 percent of all university teachers and researchers working in Albania in 1990 have permanently left the country since then. Meanwhile, a poll among 251 academics showed that 63.35 percent are likewise planning to leave. Ilir Gedeshi, who heads the center, warned that "teachers, engineers, scholars, artists all seem to have lost hope of leading a normal life in Albania," dpa reported. Since 1991, 23 percent of academic emigrants have gone to the U.S., 19 percent to Greece, and 18 percent to Italy. Smaller numbers went to France, Germany, or Austria. Most scholars left for countries in which they had previously done post-graduate work. Gedeshi said that most emigrants do not find work in their professions, adding that in Albania "we do not have a brain drain, but a brain loss." FS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS MINERS' DEMANDS...

Government spokesman Razvan Popescu on 4 January said that the cabinet "rejects the politics of force" of the Jiu Valley miners and will not "conduct a dialogue" with them in view of their "ultimatum." Popescu also said that the striking miners will not receive wages for the days on which they strike. Trade and Industry Minister Radu Berceanu said he will not come to Petrosani, as demanded by the miners, but is ready to receive a nine-member delegation, on condition that Jiu Valley miners' leader Miron Cozma is not part of that group, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Berceanu added that meeting the demands of the striking miners would cost $500 million, while the losses of the Jiu Valley mining company in the last eight years amount to some $2 billion. MS

...AS MINERS CONTINUE STRIKE

Some 2,500 striking miners demonstrated in Petrosani on 4 January, shouting anti-government slogans. Cozma said Berceanu's estimation of the cost of meeting the miners' demands is a "lie" and proves he must be dismissed. Berceanu's dismissal is included on the list of demands that a delegation representing all miners' unions handed to him on 4 January. Cozma added that if the authorities refuse to let the miners travel to Bucharest by train, they will do so by bus or march on the capital from the valley. The Ministry of Interior announced it will "categorically oppose" the miners' intention to descend on Bucharest if Premier Radu Vasile or Berceanu do not travel to Petrosani by 5 January. The ministry said it "will not tolerate any act posing a threat to order and peace." MS

BULGARIAN POLICE FIGHT ANTIQUITIES THEFT

Colonel Kiril Radev, chief of the police department fighting organized crime, (CSBOP), says antiquities worth nearly $1 billion were prevented from being smuggled to the West last year, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. A source familiar with the activity of the CSBOP (who requested anonymity) told RFE/RL that since 1985, some 25,000 antiquities have been discovered at the border. The source said that according to estimates, this is only about 30 percent of the antiquities that were intended for smuggling to the West, where they are sold to private collectors and to museums. On 4 January, Hungarian customs officials seized hundreds of ancient coins while searching the car of a Bulgarian seeking to enter Austria, MTI reported. MS




A REVOLUTION OF FALLING EXPECTATIONS


By Paul Goble

Buffeted by the difficulties they experienced in 1998, ever fewer people in the post-Soviet states expect their situation to be significantly better in 1999. Indeed, polls taken across the region suggest that many there would now agree with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma who said last week that there is no reason to think that 1999 will be any easier for his country than 1998 was.

This shift from optimism to pessimism is now so widespread that it constitutes a veritable revolution of falling expectations, one that may have just as many serious political and economic consequences as the more familiar revolution of rising expectations has had elsewhere.

Revolutions of rising expectations occur when people begin to expect more owing to improvements in their lives. And such optimistic attitudes sometimes lead them to make demands that neither the economic nor the political system is able to meet. That frequently results in a crisis that can lead either to the transformation of these systems or to the demobilization of the groups making such demands. But in either case, optimism that goes beyond the capacity of the country to cope can create instability.

A revolution of falling expectations--such as the one that appears to be starting in some post-Soviet states--can be equally destabilizing but in very different and unexpected ways. Some observers have suggested that declining expectations by leaders and peoples in the post-Soviet states not only represent a new form of realism on the part of both but also give elites in these countries new opportunities to move toward democracy and the free market.

Certainly, popular and political recognition of the difficulties involved in the transition from communism is a more realistic stance than the often starry-eyed optimism that characterized the immediate post-communist period and that Western governments in fact promoted. And it is obviously true that leaders have more room to maneuver when they are not under pressure from populations that expect and even demand that tomorrow be better than today.

At the same time, there are three compelling reasons why such a view of what has been called "the new realism" in these countries is likely too rosy and why the revolution of falling expectations taking place there may have some potentially frightening consequences.

First, populations that believe that tomorrow will not be better than today and may even be worse have few reasons to seek leadership from political or economic elites. Not only does that make it more difficult for such elites to generate the kind of authority they need to make changes for the better, but it also means that these elites may be tempted to defend their own interests by force or at the expense of those of the population as a whole.

Second, when senior political leaders come to share the pessimism of the population, they are unlikely to be willing or able to take the risks necessary to help their countries escape from current difficulties. And that unwillingness is likely in many cases to reinforce the pessimism of the population and the other problems such pessimism entails.

And third, when both populations and their leaders become so pessimistic, the former are likely to be ever more willing to listen to those who would blame someone for their problems, and the latter are likely to be ever more willing to participate in such scapegoating. That helps explain the rise of anti-Semitism and growing antagonism toward those viewed as outsiders -- such as the North Caucasians in Russia -- in several of these countries. It also helps explain why ever more people and governments in these states are becoming more hostile to the West.

Such attitudes and the actions prompted by them will make it more difficult for these countries to move toward democracy and the free market or to integrate into the international community.

But while revolutions of rising expectations do not last forever, neither do revolutions of falling expectations. Both can end either when conditions finally begin to improve or, more often, when leaders seek to spread their own optimism to the population of their countries.

The role of leaders may be particularly important. To paraphrase U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who came to office in the depths of the Great Depression, the only thing to be pessimistic about in this region is the spread of pessimism to so many.


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