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Newsline - January 20, 1999




BUDGET PASSES IN SECOND READING...

The State Duma on 19 January passed the 1999 budget in its second reading by a vote of 296 to 54 with five abstentions. In keeping with the Budget Committee's earlier recommendations, regions received additional funds totaling 3.5 billion rubles ($156 million) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999), while industries got an extra 1 billion and the military 1.5 billion, at the expense of state workers and spending for emergencies. Deputies agreed to stick to the committee's recommendations, after the government promised to allocate any additional tax revenues to light and textile industry and forgive industries' total debt of 700 million rubles to the budget, according to "Kommersant-Daily." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" was critical of the final document, saying that the budget "has drowned in multiple amendments of deputies." The Budget Committee recommended that the Duma adopt parts of 173 amendments submitted by deputies and reject 108, the "Moscow Times" reported on January 20. JAC

...AS MONEY FOR FOREIGN DEBT REPAYMENT SCRUTINIZED

The Budget Committee also recommended that an additional 3 billion rubles ($134 million) be set aside from the $9.5 billion earmarked for foreign debt repayment to compensate individuals with frozen savings accounts, the "Moscow Times" reported on 20 January, prompting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov to remind deputies that the $9.5 billion represents a "sum that still has to be negotiated" with foreign creditors. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov also suggested that the amount paid to foreign creditors be reduced in order to increase social spending and subsidies to industry, ITAR-TASS reported. Zyuganov also suggested that the government, if it wanted, could "always find extra money since so much is concentrated in criminals' hands," "Kommersant-Daily" reported. JAC

PRESS SAYS EXPLOSION NEAR U.S. EMBASSY CAUSED BY BOMB

A car exploded near the U.S. embassy in Moscow on 17 January because of a faulty wire in its gasoline pump--not because of a terrorist act, according to embassy press spokesman Michael Hurley in response to Russian press reports, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 January. "Kommersant-Daily" and "Segodnya" had both reported that the car blast was in fact the result of a small bomb placed underneath the car, which belonged to the Federal Security Service (FSB). "Kommersant-Daily" reported that shortly before the blast, someone had phoned the embassy several times, warning in Arabic of an imminent terrorist act. Citing sources at a local police precinct, the newspaper revealed that evidence of a homemade device with 100 to 150 grams of TNT was found. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the "official story about an explosion caused by a "technical fault in the car,'" is an attempt by the FSB to cover up one of its mistakes. JAC

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS HAIL CLINTON OFFER OF MORE AID

In his State of the Union speech on 19 January, U.S. President Bill Clinton called for Washington to increase funds for nuclear weapons safeguards in former Soviet states by 68 percent, from $2.5 billion to $4.2 billion. First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov said that Clinton's proposals were most welcome in view of the difficult financial situation in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported the next day, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev suggested that Clinton "seems to be attempting to restore the level of relations that previously existed between the U.S. and CIS states." Seleznev added that Clinton "sounded as if he were apologizing for US actions that run counter to Russia's," such as recent air strikes against Iraq. JAC

RUSSIA REAFFIRMS CLOSE TIES WITH CUBA...

Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina Gonzalez met with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov in Moscow on 19 January. After the meeting, Primakov said the "Russian government considers its relations with Cuba one of its priorities in Latin America" and suggested that the already close ties between the two countries should be strengthened. The same day, Gonzalez also met with Duma Speaker Seleznev and Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev. The previous day, Gonzalez and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov signed a joint statement in support of the UN. After their meeting, Ivanov told reporters that Russia is interested in normalizing relations between Cuba and the U.S., while Gonzalez revealed that the issue of Cuba's foreign debt to Russia was not discussed. JAC

...DISCUSSES RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL

Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Moscow on 19 January for an official working visit. Sharon told reporters that the purpose of his visit is to "strengthen relations between Israel and Russia." He added that Israel "sees the returning influence of Russia in the Middle East and it is absolutely evident that this influence will grow." On the topic of recent anti-Semitic statements by Russian Duma deputies, Sharon said that "as a Jew, I am worried by the security of Jews in Russia in light of the statements of individual deputies." Sharon is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov and Prime Minister Primakov on 20 January. JAC

MORE TEACHERS JOIN PROTEST...

Teachers from six schools in Kursk Oblast have joined an indefinite strike over a five-month backlog of unpaid wages. About 1,000 teachers in the oblast are now on strike, according to ITAR-TASS. The next day, hundreds of teachers in Arkhangelsk staged a protest outside a regional assembly building to demand pay increases, ITAR-TASS reported. Teachers also want their wages paid through an exchequer so that "no one can snatch a bit for their own purposes as the money makes its way to the region," Valerii Pavlenkov, chairman of the city's educational workers union declared. According to a regional financial official, unpaid wages to state sector workers in the region amount to 212.5 million rubles ($9.5 million) and therefore, there is no money to increase salaries. JAC

...AS ALMOST HALF OF RUSSIAN REGIONS PREPARE FOR ALL-RUSSIA ACTION

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko called on teachers not to participate in an all-Russia teachers' strike on 27 January, since such action would not alleviate the ongoing crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Matvienko, the federal government is now current on wages to education and health workers. However, many of these workers have still not received their salaries from regional authorities. Applications to participate in the all-Russia strike action have so far been submitted by 38 oblasts, republics, and krais from 6,600 educational institutions, according to Vladimir Yakovlev, chairman of the Central Committee of the Education and Science Workers Union. JAC

RYZHKOV TAKES OVER NDR FACTION--RELUCTANTLY

Duma Deputy Chairman Vladimir Ryzhkov was named head of the Our Home is Russia (NDR) faction on 19 January. Ryzhkov had said earlier that he did not want the post because he considered his work as deputy chairman more useful but that he would accept the post if "weighty arguments" were given, ITAR-TASS reported the previous day. After his appointment, Ryzhkov announced that he was "not pleased by what has happened," adding that "it won't be easy to take the helm of a faction nine months before elections." JAC

INTELLIGENCE PRESS HEAD TRANSFERRED TO TELEVISION

Major-General Yurii Kobaladze, current head of the Foreign Intelligence Service's press bureau, will soon be appointed deputy chairman of All Russian State Television and Radio Company, "Trud" reported on 20 January. The newspaper suggested that Kobaladze's appointment shows Prime Minister Primakov wishes to secure "reliable support" from Russian television. JAC

CHELYABINSK'S DOGS MUST PAY RENT

Owners of dogs living in crowded communal apartment buildings in Chelyabinsk must pay a 5 ruble (22 cents) a month fee, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 January, citing "Vechernii Chelyabinsk." Cats, birds, and goldfish have been exempted from the extra fee because they do not generally use the buildings' elevators. JAC




ARMENIAN OFFICIAL DEPLORES LACK OF CONTROL OVER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

Gagik Poghosian, chief of the prime minister's oversight agency, said in Yerevan on 19 January that inadequate monitoring of the activities of government ministries and other agencies in Armenia has resulted in "criminal indifference, negligence, abuse of power, and widespread fraud," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Poghosian said an inspection of 38 government agencies has uncovered 114 criminal offenses, of which six have been referred to the Prosecutor-General's office for criminal investigation. Poghosian said it is "abnormal" that the activities of his office and its equivalent in the presidential administration are not regulated by law. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S HEALTH 'IMPROVING'

Turan on 19 January quoted unnamed sources within the presidential administration as saying that Heidar Aliyev continues to recover from a bronchial infection. Aliyev was flown to Turkey on 17 January to receive treatment at a military hospital in Ankara. Interfax reported on 19 January that Aliyev will probably return to Baku at the weekend. LF

GEORGIAN PROSECUTORS WRAP UP INSURGENCY INVESTIGATION

Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor Nodar Okruashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 19 January that charges of treason and arms theft have been brought against 44 participants in the insurrection at an army base in western Georgia last October, ITAR-TASS and AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19-20 October 1998). Most of those charged are supporters of deceased former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Police are still trying to apprehend the leader of the revolt, Colonel Akaki Eliava, and six of his supporters who are believed to be hiding somewhere in western Georgia. Interfax on 19 January quoted an unidentified relative of Eliava's as saying that Eliava is planning a new uprising. LF

PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN INAUGURATED

Nursultan Nazarbayev was sworn in as president of Kazakhstan in Astana on 20 January, 10 days after his re-election for another seven-year term, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. In his inauguration speech, Nazarbayev said his top priority will be to ensure that the population benefits directly from economic reform. He pledged that all the country's political parties will be able to participate in the parliamentary elections to be held under a new election law later this year, ITAR-TASS reported. The presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Ingushetia, and Tatarstan attended the ceremony, along with Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Chinese Deputy Premier Qian Qichen, and Turkish parliamentary speaker Hikmet Cetin. LF

PREMIER CALLS FOR COMPLIANCE WITH KAZAKH LANGUAGE LAW

In a decree published in the national press on 20 January, Nurlan Balghymbayev instructed the Ministry of Information and National Accord to monitor observance of the language law enacted in 1997, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. He also called for the "more effective implementation" of that law, which defines Kazakh as the state language and accords Russian the status of an official language. The law requires official bodies to complete the majority of their documentation in Kazakh, and stipulates that at least 50 percent of all television and radio broadcasting should be in Kazakh. Observers note, however, that neither the state nor the private sector is complying with the law. LF

MINERS IN KAZAKHSTAN DEMAND RUSSIA PAYS BACK WAGES

Workers at the Severniy Coal Mine in the Pavlodar Oblast of northern Kazakhstan continue to protest the failure by Anatolii Chubais, head of Russia's United Energy Systems (EES), to make good on his promise to pay all wage arrears to the mine's employees by 10 January, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. The workers are demanding their August and September 1998 wages. EES's total debts to the mine are estimated at 275 million tenges (approximately $3 million). LF

SETTLEMENT REACHED IN KYRGYZ CYANIDE SPILL

The Canadian company Cameco has agreed to pay $4.6 million to the government of Kyrgyzstan for damages incurred as a result of the spill of 20 tons of sodium cyanide into a tributary of Lake Issyk-Kul in May, 1998, AP reported. The accident occurred when a truck belonging to the Kumtor gold mine, which is jointly owned by Cameco and the government of Kyrgyzstan, plunged into the Barskoon River. Several subsequent deaths in the area were attributed to environmental pollution resulting from the spillage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1998). LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT IN VIETNAM

Imomali Rakhmonov met with his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Duc Luong in Hanoi on 19 January and discussed expanding bilateral cooperation, especially between the two countries' capitals, ITAR-TASS and AP reported. The two presidents signed agreements on trade and economic cooperation, the protection of investments, scientific and technical cooperation, and avoiding dual taxation. A Tajik-Vietnamese joint venture was created in August 1998 to build a coal-mine and highways in Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, according to Interfax. LF




IMF MISSION HEAD SAYS UKRAINE'S SITUATION 'CRITICAL'

Mohammed Shadman-Valavi, head of the IMF mission that arrived in Kyiv last week, has said Ukraine is in a "critical situation" and has no other option but to take "difficult and unpopular" measures to stop its economic decline, AP reported on 19 January. Shadman- Valavi said the IMF will not resume disbursing a $2.2 billion loan to Ukraine until the government proves to the fund that Ukraine's 1999 budget revenue targets are realistic and that the country has reliable sources for financing a projected deficit of 1 percent of GDP. The IMF mission is expected to announce its conclusions next week. JM

KUCHMA AUTHORIZES SALE OF LAND PLOTS UNDER PRIVATIZED PROPERTY

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree authorizing the sale of land for non-agricultural purposes, particularly plots on which privatized enterprises and property are located, Interfax reported on 19 January. Pavel Haydutskyy, deputy head of the presidential administration, said the decree is aimed at boosting foreign investments, ensuring improved protection of private property, and replenishing local budgets. It is estimated that the 500,000 hectares of plots to be privatized are worth some 40 billion hryvni ($12 billion). So far, about 50,000 enterprises have been privatized in Ukraine, but the plots on which they are located remain in the hands of the state. JM

OSCE URGES DIALOGUE BETWEEN BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES, OPPOSITION

Adrian Severin, head of the OSCE Working Group for Belarus, has reacted "cautiously" to the Belarusian opposition's plans to hold presidential elections in May, Reuters reported on 19 January. "We think a dialogue is needed to find a consensus solution. I don't even want to think of a country with two presidents, two governments, and so on," Severin told journalists on 19 January, winding up his group's two-day visit to Minsk. Severin rejected the assumption that the OSCE may adopt a "double standard" regarding Belarus and its authoritarian rule. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported the same day that the administration of Alyaksandr Lukashenka has "practically ignored" Severin's mission, which met only with minor officials in the Foreign Ministry. JM

LUKASHENKA APPROVES 1999 ECONOMIC TARGETS

President Lukashenka has approved economic targets for 1999, Belapan and Interfax reported on 19 January. GDP is expected to increase by 3-4 percent, compared with 1998. The population's real incomes are forecast to grow by 1-2 percent, industrial production by 4-5 percent, and agricultural output by 2-3 percent. Consumer goods growth is projected at 6-7 percent. JM

ANALYST PREDICTS BUDGET DEFICIT IN ESTONIA THIS YEAR

An analyst for PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that Estonia will have a 2 percent budget deficit this year and economic growth of 2-3 percent, ETA reported on 19 January. Hardo Pajula says that the effects of the Russian economic crisis will still be felt in the first half of 1999 and that the economy may grow by a few percentage points if the situation improves in the second half of the year. Inflation is expected to fall sharply this year (from 6.5 percent in 1998), while unemployment is expected to be a major problem, according to the analyst. Estonian law requires that the budget be balanced. JC

BIRKAVS CALLS FOR 'DEEDS' IN BID TO JOIN NATO...

Speaking on state radio on 19 January, Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said that Latvia should show its desire to join NATO through deeds such as approving the new commander of the armed forces as soon as possible, opening a Latvian embassy at NATO, and increasing the 1999 defense budget, BNS and "Diena" reported. Birkavs was responding to an article by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation that some Latvian politicians are seeking to revise Latvia's security policies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). He rejected that article's claim that by not allocating 1 percent of GDP for defense in this year's budget, Latvia is backtracking on its bid to join NATO. Birkavs noted that the current government is the "first to increase funding to the Defense Ministry by nearly 40 percent[resulting] in a real increase." JC

...SAYS RE-ISSUE OF 1942 BOOK MAY BE DAMAGING TO LATVIA

Birkavs also said that the decision to reprint a 1942 book describing crimes committed against Latvians under Soviet rule from June 1940 through 1941 may damage Latvia's reputation. The foreign minister described the book's contents as "very anti-Semitic." Entitled "The Fearful Year," the book was reprinted in 1997. Last week, the Latvian Foreign Ministry requested that the Prosecutor- General's Office examine it to see whether it contains anti- Semitic propaganda and/or any glorification of Nazi ideology (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1999). JC

LITHUANIAN DEFENSE BUDGET REVEALS THIS YEAR'S SPENDING PLANS

The Defense Ministry on 19 January revealed how it plans to allocate its 1999 budget, BNS reported. The ministry intends to earmark 19 percent of funds to construction and 11 percent to purchases, which will include anti-tank guns and communications equipment. Sixty-nine percent of the budget will be used for wages, social insurance, provisions for troops, maintenance of premises, and other similar expenditures. This year's defense budget amounts to 724 million litas ($181 million) and accounts for 1.51 percent of GDP. JC

POLISH RULING PARTIES DELAY DECISION ON COALITION'S FATE...

Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) have postponed a decision on the fate of their ruling coalition until later this week, Polish media reported on 19 January. The AWS announced that it will propose its own conditions for the coalition's continued existence, following demands made by the UW (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). Jerzy Wierchowicz, UW caucus head, said the coalition will collapse if the UW's demands are not met, but Polish observers consider such an outcome unlikely. The same day, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek dismissed Deputy Health Minister Jacek Wutzow. The UW called that move a "positive" response to its criticism of the health reform launched on 1 January. JM

...AS DOCTORS PRESS FOR MORE FUNDING TO HEALTH CARE

Meanwhile, trade unions representing doctors, nurses, and midwives have demanded that the government increase financing for the so-called "patient funds," from which health services are financed under the new health care system. Under that system, 7.5 percent of social insurance contributions are paid into the patient funds, but the trade unions want that figure to be increased to 11 percent and are threatening a nationwide strike next week if the government does not comply. Poland's health service is currently plagued by difficulties, including an anesthetists' strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 January 1999), an imminent no confidence vote in the health minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999), and a strike by 250 surgeons in the Szczecin region, which began on 18 January. JM

FINNISH PREMIER SUPPORTS POLAND'S EARLY EU ENTRY

Paavo Lipponen said in Warsaw on 19 January that Poland is likely to be "one of the first countries" accepted into the enlarged EU, PAP reported. "Poland has made progress in its internal reforms and if this kind of progress continues in the coming months and years, I can see an early accession for Poland," Reuters quoted Lipponen as saying. Lipponen stressed that after taking over the EU rotating presidency from Germany this summer, Finland will "concentrate on the challenge" of EU enlargement. He said EU expansion will become a priority only after the completion of EU internal reforms, but he noted that those reforms will be completed during Germany's EU presidency. JM

CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS TO JOIN ZEMAN'S CABINET?

Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla told CTK on 19 January that the Christian Democratic Party's (KDU-CSL) participation in Milos Zeman's cabinet is "not an issue under discussion right now." Spidla was responding to declarations by KDU-CSL leaders after the party voted in favor of the budget on 15 January. KDU-CSL acting chairman Jan Kasal said his party would be ready to participate in a government that had a majority in the parliament and would be "pro-European, non-communist, and pro-reform." A government formed by the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the KDU-CSL would not, however, have a majority in the legislature. Civic Democratic Party (ODS) deputy chairwoman Libuse Benesova said a CSSD-KDU-CSL minority government "could not reckon with the support of the ODS" and would need the backing of the Freedom Union, which, she added, was doubtful. MS

HAVEL CONTINUES 'DIALOGUES,' MEETS ZEMAN

Continuing the series of "dialogues" with politicians triggered by his New Year's speech, President Vaclav Havel on 19 January met with Premier Zeman at the latter's new official residence. A presidential spokesman said the encounter was a "logical" step after Havel's recent meeting with Civic Democratic Party chairman Vaclav Klaus, CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT REJECTS DEMAND TO DISMISS INTERIOR MINISTER

The parliament on 19 January voted by 73-32 to reject a motion of no-confidence in Minister of Interior Ladislav Pittner, AP reported. The motion was moved by the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), who said Pittner was personally responsible for the failure to combat crime. Former Interior Minister Gustav Krajci said threats directed at the HZDS have increased in the last months and culminated in the murder of former Economy Minister Jan Ducky. Premier Mikulas Dzurinda argued that the opposition had moved the dismissal motion in a bid to make political gains and "deflect attention from [illegal] deals made under the previous government." MS

HUNGARY, FRANCE PROMOTE BETTER TIES

Visiting French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine told journalists in Budapest on 19 January that his country considers Hungary one of "its key allies and strategic partners" and wants to "further increase its already considerable economic presence" in Hungary. In a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi, Vedrine said Paris is pressing for a political solution to the crisis in Kosova but will not rule out the use of force. He noted that Hungary can serve as an example in resolving minority problems in Europe. Martonyi, for his part, remarked that the parliament's decision allowing NATO to use Hungarian airspace remains in force. MSZ




NATO GENERALS APPEAL TO MILOSEVIC

The two top generals of the Atlantic alliance, Wesley Clark and Klaus Naumann, told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 19 January that he must respect all the commitments that he made to U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in October or risk NATO air strikes against Serbia. The commitments include reducing the presence of Serbian security forces in Kosova and ensuring the safety of the 800 OSCE civilian monitors there. The generals also urged him to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and to allow William Walker, who heads the monitoring mission, to remain in Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). An unnamed Western source close to the discussions between the generals and Milosevic told reporters that the generals' mission was "not completely successful." PM

MILOSEVIC UNIMPRESSED

The Yugoslav leader told his guests in Belgrade on 19 January that no "pressure from outside" could prevent him from doing what is necessary to "fight terrorism," by which he meant the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). His office issued a statement saying that at Recak on 15 January, the security forces acted fully in accordance "with the law and the constitution" and that the killings there cannot be "described as an attack on civilians" but rather on "terrorists." The statement appealed for good will on all sides and stressed that Milosevic remains committed to achieving a political solution in Kosova. PM

U.S. INSISTS WALKER STAY ON

The Yugoslav authorities on 19 January agreed to extend by 24 hours the deadline for Walker to leave the country. In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin stressed that Belgrade must rescind its expulsion order and allow Walker to continue as chief of the monitoring mission. The spokesman added that "it is hard to see how an independent verification mission can operate when the chief of mission is expelled for reporting the truth." (Walker had reported that the killings in Recak were a massacre of civilians by Serbian security forces.) Rubin noted that Washington has "been deeply outraged both by the massacres [at Recak] and by Belgrade's confrontational and destructive response to the justifiable international anger." The spokesman added that Serbian forces are continuing "some type of military operation" in the Shtima area. In Vienna on 20 January, EU envoy for Kosova Wolfgang Petritsch said that there can be "no compromise" with Belgrade over Walker. PM

NATO TO ENSURE MONITORS' SAFETY

NATO ambassadors began meeting in Brussels on 20 January to consider the alliance's reaction to Milosevic's refusal to comply with NATO's demands. In London, a spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defense told Reuters that "NATO has various plans in hand to ensure the safety of the [OSCE monitors,] of which the extraction force currently on the ground in Macedonia is a good example. The U.K. is pleased to be playing a leading role in this affair." The spokesman declined to comment on the specifics contained in an article in London's "The Times," which said that "several hundred" SAS troops have recently been placed on "high alert" to rescue the monitors if anyone tries to take them hostage. In 1995, Bosnian Serb forces took several UN peacekeepers hostage in response to NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb military targets. PM

MONTENEGRO SAYS WALKER IS WELCOME

Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 19 January that Walker is welcome to come to Montenegro, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the mountainous republic's capital. Justice Minister Dragan Soc added that Montenegro will not recognize any state of emergency that Belgrade may declare in conjunction with possible NATO air strikes. The reformist Montenegrin leadership around President Milo Djukanovic has long suspected that Milosevic will some day declare a state of emergency, the real purpose of which will be to provide an excuse to oust the authorities in Podgorica. PM

UN BLAMES NO ONE FOR MASSACRE...

The Security Council on 19 January approved a statement on Kosova that condemns the Recak massacre but does not say who carried it out. It notes that the monitors blame the Yugoslav security forces for the killings. The statement calls for "an urgent and full investigation of the facts and calls upon [Belgrade] to work with the International [Criminal] Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and [the monitors] to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice." PM

...WHILE SERBS SAY THERE WAS NO MASSACRE

Judge Danica Marinkovic, who is well known for her public statements in support of Belgrade's policies in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 19 January that the bodies from Recak do not show evidence of a massacre. She added that a team of Serbian and Belarusian forensics experts is examining the corpses, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The pro-Milosevic daily "Politika" wrote on 20 January that Recak is a "terrorist base." PM

DRASKOVIC HOPES TO IMPROVE BELGRADE'S IMAGE

Long-time Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, who recently became Yugoslav deputy prime minister, said in Belgrade on 19 January that he and four other new cabinet ministers from his Serbian Renewal Movement hope to use their numerous international contacts to help improve Belgrade's image abroad, "Danas" reported. PM

ALBANIAN PREMIER URGES U.S. INTERVENTION...

Prime Minister Pandeli Majko sent a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton on 19 January urging military intervention in Kosova, Reuters reported. Majko warned that "Belgrade has intensified its repression of the [Kosovars,] provoking the explosion of a wider Balkan conflict." He stressed that "all Albanian political parties are convinced that only a determined military intervention by NATO can prevent a regional war" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). Majko added that his "government has called on all political and military groups in Kosova to enter a phase of negotiations and institutional co-existence, as is foreseen in the U.S. plan for Kosova." FS

...WANTS MILOSEVIC INDICTED FOR WAR CRIMES

Majko on 19 January joined Albania's 10 main political parties in calling for Milosevic to be tried for war crimes over the Recak massacre (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999), Reuters reported. Majko described Milosevic as "a major and direct author of war crimes and crimes against humanity." He added that the Recak incidents were "a macabre killing in cold blood and a repetition of crimes against humanity that Milosevic has [previously] carried out in Kosova and other parts of [the former] Yugoslavia." FS

ITALY TO SET UP REFUGEE CAMPS IN ALBANIA

Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said in Rome on 19 January that a sharp rise in the influx of refugees from Kosova is "one of the principal concerns for our government." He noted that the Italian government is planning to set up refugee centers in Albania in the hope of stemming a fresh exodus, which saw a total of 500 people crossing the Adriatic on 18 and 19 January alone. D'Alema also pledged Italy's support for diplomatic efforts to end fighting in Kosova and for airstrikes against Serbia should diplomacy fail, AP reported. FS

ROMANIAN MINERS BOARD BUSES TO BUCHAREST

Romanian Radio on 20 January reported that the miners from the Jiu Valley have been joined by miners from Oltenia and have left Targu Jiu for Bucharest on buses. The previous day, they rejected a proposal by Premier Radu Vasile to resume negotiations. Following a meeting of the Supreme National Defense Council, chaired by President Emil Constantinescu, Vasile offered to set up a joint commission that would meet "on neutral territory," in Craiova. In a televised address, he said he is willing to participate in the talks if miners resume work immediately, but he rejected an ultimatum by miners' leader Miron Cozma to travel to Targu Jiu "within two hours," saying that "the time of miner-led rioting is over." While on a visit to Israel, Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said the army will stop the miners if the police is unable to do so. MS

U.S. COMPANY CANCELS ROMANIAN INVESTMENT PLANS

Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu on 19 January said that the U.S. AMOCO Company, specializing in energy projects, has announced it is ceasing all activities in Romania. He commented that this is "the first victory of the miners, " noting that Bucharest stands to lose as much as $1 billion,taking into account the possible total investment. In his televised address on 19 January, Premier Vasile said it is "no coincidence that the labor conflict is escalating on the eve of the arrival in Bucharest of World Bank and IMF missions." The same day, the World Bank approved a $10 million loan to Romania to help alleviate poverty and support community projects. MS

OPPOSITION PARTIES RESPOND TO MINERS' MARCH

Ion Iliescu, chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania and a former president, urged the parliament on 19 January to convene an emergency session to impose on the government a "short-term program" of measures designed to alleviate the miners' situation. He condemned the "transformation of the Jiu Valley into a concentration camp" as a result of the cabinet's attempt to seal the area off from the rest of the country. Iliescu also called on the miners to halt their march on the capital. Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor has appealed for a general strike and said the inevitable consequence of the miners' strike is the "crumbling of the Constantinescu-led regime." MS

GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN BULGARIA

Theodoros Pangalos and his Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, meeting in Sofia on 19 January, signed an agreement on cooperation in combating drug- trafficking, smuggling, and customs fraud, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The two ministers told journalists that they condemn Serbia's decision to expel the head of the OSCE control mission and that only cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague will lead to finding the perpetrators of the Recak massacre in Kosova last week. Pangalos said Greece opposes NATO strikes against Yugoslavia because "so far no one has explained [to] us what would be bombed, what will be accomplished, and what will happen afterward." Meanwhile, Yugoslav environment officials said on 19 January that the reports of oil spills on the Danube River originating from Yugoslavia are "part of the wider campaign of the media against our country," Reuters reported. MS

BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REFUSES TO VOID COMMUNIST MONARCHY REFERENDUM

The Constitutional Court on 19 January refused to consider an appeal by Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev to invalidate the referendum that abolished the monarchy in 1946, Reuters reported. The court said it cannot rule on the constitutionality of a plebiscite conducted under a constitution other than the one in force since 1991. Tatarchev had submitted the plea during last month's visit to Bulgaria by former King Simeon II. MS




FIGHTING SEPARATISM IN RUSSIA


By Paul Goble

Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has announced plans to step up the fight against separatist tendencies in the Russian Federation--lest that country go the way of the Soviet Union.

Speaking on 15 January to separate meetings of the Siberian Agreement (one of several inter-regional cooperation groups) and the Kemerovo Oblast authorities, Primakov said Moscow "will not allow Russia to be lost" in the way that "we lost the Soviet Union." And he pledged to work together with the regions "to stifle, liquidate, and root out separatist tendencies" wherever they exist, both by making some changes in Moscow's approach and by demanding other changes from the regions.

Primakov's remarks on regional policy are significant for three reasons. First, they constitute a remarkable acknowledgement by a senior Russian official of just how serious the problem of separatism in the Russian Federation continues to be. Many analysts inside Russia and beyond have long called attention to this problem. But since the end of the Chechen war, most senior Russian officials have followed President Boris Yeltsin in maintaining that the danger of separatism in Russia has "passed." And most Western governments have accepted that claim at face value and dealt with the country as if the Russian Federation were a solid and unified federal state.

But now that Primakov has admitted that separatism remains a serious issue and that Russia today is far from united, his words are likely to prompt some Western government to become even more cautious in dealing with the regions. lest they appear to be undermining Primakov. At the same time, others may devote more attention to the regions both directly and in their recommendations to central Russian officials.

Second, in his remarks about the dangers of separatism and the need to combat it, the Russian prime minister provided some important clues as to what his new regional policy may look like. He said that he was for "restoring of the state vertical administration system in which all matters are tackled jointly by the center and local bodies." He also called for an increase in regional representation in the management structures of enterprises rather than "the transfer of blocks of shares belonging to the state to local government bodies." And he urged the regions to agree to cooperate with his government "without changing any legislation."

In each case, Primakov's proposals suggest at least a partial return to the centralist, elitist, and closed-door politics of the Soviet past, in which Primakov spent most of his career but in which the interests of the regions typically lost out to those of Moscow.

Third, the Russian prime minister used the occasion of his meetings with regional officials to underscore that he wants to increase spending on the Russian military. "We cannot keep our backs turned any longer on the armed forces," Primakov said. He noted that he favors boosting defense spending to the 3.8 percent of GDP that senior Russian commanders have asked for.

These comments, possibly the most important in his message to the regional leaders, were clearly addressed to a larger audience both in Russia and beyond. But the regional officials who first heard them are likely to view them as having a particular meaning for themselves.

On the one hand, increased defense expenditures will make it more difficult for Moscow to maintain or increase subsidies to regions, a trend that could exacerbate center-periphery relations still further. On the other, Primakov's brandishing of his support for the military, on which central authorities have relied as the ultimate sanction but over which they have lost some control in recent years, may have appeared overtly threatening to some present.

As a result, Primakov's call for "a strong alliance of mutual cooperation between the center and the subjects of the Federation," could backfire, generating the very separatist impulses that the Russian prime minister is now trying to suppress.


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