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Newsline - February 4, 1999




INVESTIGATORS SAY YELTSIN WAS BUGGED

Deputy Prosecutor-General Mikhail Katyshev on 3 February revealed that a search of Sibneft's headquarters that day produced evidence that President Boris Yeltsin and his family had been the victims of illegal electronic surveillance, according to ITAR-TASS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). Katyshev told Interfax that he has no doubt that a criminal case will be opened and "the big shots" charged. Sibneft's press service responded to the news reports by noting that "equipment discovered in the office was only used inside the company to ensure commercial security." JAC

RUSSIA THREATENS RETALIATION FOR ABM REVISION

The head of the 12th Department at Ministry of Defense, Colonel-General Igor Valynkin, told reporters on 3 February that Russia will "undoubtedly respond" to "a revision of the ABM treaty," which would upset stability. He added that Moscow and Washington must extend mutual control over each other's strategic and nuclear weapons. "Segodnya" argued on 30 January that "Moscow is so antagonistic" to U.S. efforts to develop an anti-ballistic missile system not because it believes that even in 20 years such a system could ever be designed to achieve 100 percent effectiveness. Rather, according to the daily, Moscow realizes that the White House is trying to generate new business for the U.S.'s defense industry while trying to disguise its defense policy, as part of some magnanimous effort, to extend anti- ballistic missile defense technology to the world. JAC

IS BORIS BEREZOVKSII HAVING A BAD WEEK OR BAD YEAR?

The day after federal prosecutors raided the offices of Sibneft, officials at Aeroflot loyal to business tycoon Boris Berezovskii were sacked. Berezovskii has been closely associated with Sibneft and reportedly has a large stake in Aeroflot. Aeroflot managing director and President Yeltsin's son-in-law, Valerii Okulov, dismissed Aeroflot's commercial director and its head of the department for cargo sales, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 February. Berezovskii lost a controlling stake in a competitor to Aeroflot, Transaero, in January after a Moscow court decision, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported. Russian newspapers also noted that the recent financial troubles experienced by Russian Public Television, in which Berezovskii also has an indirect stake, constitute a blow against him. JAC

U.S. THREATENS RUSSIA OVER SYRIA

The administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton declared that it will reduce financial assistance to Russia by $50 million if Moscow carries out plans to sell anti-tank equipment to Syria, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 February. The newspaper concluded that the U.S. is still pursuing both its "old policy in the Middle East" of blocking the military development of countries hostile to Israel and pursuing its new one of "encroaching upon Moscow's right to choose its own partners." Syria's defense minister will visit Moscow in late February to discuss ways of boosting Russian-Syrian military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. Tlass will also discuss the purchase of Russian S-300 missiles. JAC

NEW THEORY TOUTED TO EXPLAIN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S DEPARTURE

In an article laying out a variety of hypotheses to explain Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov's resignation on 2 February, "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 4 February adds a few new twists to earlier press speculation. For example, the newspaper suggested that Skuratov's office went "too deep" in its investigation of the Central Bank and that Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko is deliberately hiding the material Skuratov uncovered because Russia needs IMF money. Likely candidates to replace Skuratov, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 February, are Yurii Chaika, current acting Prosecutor-General, Yurii Demin, chief military prosecutor, and Oleg Kutafin, rector of the Moscow State Legal Academy. JAC

PUTIN TO FOLLOW IN SKURATOV'S FOOTSTEPS?

Citing "unofficial sources," "Vremya MN" reported on 3 February that Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Vladimir Putin handed in his resignation at almost the same time as Prosecutor-General Skuratov. According to the newspaper, neither the presidential press service nor the FSB cared to comment. JAC

DEADLINE FOR IMF MEMO SLIPPING AGAIN

After telling reporters earlier that the Russian government will submit its memorandum explaining its economic program to the IMF on 4 February, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters on 3 February that work on the document may take another 10 days. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov had earlier said the memorandum will be ready on 1 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 1999). "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 3 February that Primakov is experiencing a mutiny among his staff, since not only Maslyukov but also Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik have publicly contradicted him, saying that a date for completing the memorandum has not been fixed. JAC

ANOTHER INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL PROMOTED AT WHITE HOUSE

Boris Ivanov, an officer in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service before 1992, has been appointed first deputy chief of President Yeltsin's press service directorate, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 February. According to the agency, Ivanov has 20 years of experience in journalism, including stints at TASS and "Izvestiya." JAC

DUMA WANTS RYZHKOV OR NO ONE

The State Duma has rejected a candidate to fill the post of deputy speaker, vacated by Vladimir Ryzhkov, who left to head the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction. After Duma deputies voted down Andrei Polyakov, who had been proposed by the NDR, Communist Party member and deputy Serge Reshulskii suggested abolishing the post altogether to save money, according to Russian Television. JAC

SARATOV GOVERNOR SUPPORTS IDEA OF NEW REGIONAL POLITICAL PARTY

Without commenting directly on fellow NDR member and Governor of Samara Konstantin Titov's formation of a new election bloc of regional heads, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told Interfax on 3 February that he supports the idea of a regional political movement and that whoever leads it should concentrate all his attention on the movement to avoid a repetition of what happened with the NDR movement. He predicted that the new Duma will differ radically from the current one because voters in the provinces have learned that only "150 out of the 450 deputies work actively," the rest are dead wood. Duma deputy and former NDR faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that the governors are apparently aspiring to govern the country, not just their individual regions, and that it is impossible to predict the country's future until after the upcoming parliamentary elections. JAC

RUSSIANS IN KURILS UNHAPPY WITH JAPANESE FISHING RIGHTS

The Sakhalin Regional Duma has taken up the cause of Russian fishermen in the area of the Kuril Islands, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 February. In a message to the authorities in Moscow, the local parliament claims that the Russian-Japanese fishing agreement signed last year prevents Russian fishermen from entering waters they traditionally fished prior to the agreement, meaning that their catch is now smaller. Vladimir Gorshechnikov, the president of the Sakhalin Association of the Fishing Industry, said bans on fishing aimed at ensuring Japanese fishermen their quota deprive thousands of Kuril residents of their means of earning a living. BP

'MIR' TRIES TO SPREAD SUNSHINE...

Cosmonauts on the space station "Mir" tried to position a large reflective screen to deflect sunshine onto Earth for several minutes on 4 February, but problems developed during the screen's unfolding. The experiment was expected to light up parts of Canada, Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, and the Czech Republic. According to ITAR-TASS, scientists hope to deploy such mirrors to light up areas where natural calamities have taken place or emergency situations are occurring. They also want to use them for far northern regions where sunshine can be extremely limited. JAC

...WHILE CHINA MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN STATION

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated on 29 January that a Chinese company might be the foreign investor that the Russian Space Agency is seeking to sponsor "Mir" over the next three years. According to the newspaper, "representatives of the greatest world power still declaring its allegiance to the socialist option" have "far reaching plans for a breakthrough in [the country's] efforts to achieve the status of a superpower." JAC

KURDISH REPRESENTATION IN MOSCOW REFUSES COMMENT ON OCALAN

A spokeswoman for the Kurdish National Liberation Front in the CIS and Eastern Europe declined on 3 February to respond to an Interfax query concerning Turkish media allegations that Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan had arrived in Moscow that day. She added that Ocalan's location "has not been made public for his personal safety." LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT DECREES INTRODUCTION OF ISLAMIC LAW...

Aslan Maskhadov on 3 February signed decrees suspending the legislative functions of the Chechen parliament and ordering the immediate transition to Shariah law throughout Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov also ordered the creation of a commission to draft a new Islamic constitution within one month. Later, he met with leading field commanders who had demanded the introduction of Islamic law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). The field commanders expressed their continued support for Maskhadov on condition that he implement the new decrees. Maskhadov, for his part, warned them not to proceed with their planned congress of war veterans. They, however, ignored that warning, and the congress took place in Grozny on 4 February, RFE/RL's correspondent in the Chechen capital reported. LF

...WHICH IS SEEN AS STABILIZING MOVE

Former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov expressed approval of Maskhadov's imposition of Islamic law, which he termed "the most correct decision" and one that will enable Maskhadov "to take the situation in the republic under [his] control," ITAR-TASS reported. Former Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin similarly described Maskhadov's move as an attempt to prevent an open split between the Chechen president and the opposition. But Rybkin also noted that Maskhadov's decree violates the Chechen Constitution adopted under deceased President Djokhar Dudaev. That constitution defines the Chechen Republic Ichkeria as a secular state on the territory of which all religions are equal and does not empower the president to dissolve the parliament. Rybkin also expressed concern at how the introduction of Islamic law in Chechnya might negatively impact on neighboring regions of the North Caucasus. LF




RUSSIA, ARMENIA REJECT CRITICISM OF DEFENSE COOPERATION

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 3 February rejecting Azerbaijani charges that the stationing of Russian arms in Armenia poses a threat to Azerbaijan's security, Russian agencies reported. The statement noted that the weaponry in question, which includes S-300 air-defense missile systems and MiG-29 fighter aircraft, is not being handed over to the Armenian armed forces but deployed at the Russian military base in Armenia. Armenian presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian told journalists on3 February that Russian-Armenian cooperation is regulated by the treaty on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance signed by the two countries' presidents in August 1997. Gabrielian stressed that the number of military personnel and arms deployed at the Russian military base in Armenia does not exceed the limits stipulated by the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. LF

WILL PRESIDENT DISSOLVE ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT?

Eduard Yegorian, leader of the opposition Hayrenik parliamentary faction, told deputies on 3 February that he believes President Kocharian is planning to dissolve the parliament after the final reading of the new election law, scheduled for 5 February, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Yegorian claimed that Kocharian wants to call pre-term elections in order to undercut the chances of the center-right opposition. The present parliament's term expires in June. Presidential spokesmen declined to comment on Yegorian's predictions. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER RESIGNS

President Robert Kocharian has granted Self-Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hairikian's request to step down as presidential adviser on human rights issues, Interfax reported on 3 February. Hairikian told parliamentary deputies on 26 January that he tendered his resignation in order to be able to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections "as a free citizen," according to Noyan Tapan. Hairikian stressed that he is not withdrawing his cooperation with the Armenian leadership and will continue to serve on commissions of which he is a member. On 28 January, Hairikian predicted that his party will be among the four with the largest representation in the next parliament. LF

SPOKESMAN DENIES SPLIT IN AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY

Siyavush Novruzov, a senior official of the Yeni Azerbaycan party loyal to Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, has said that the party's statutes do not allow the creation of factions and therefore claims by party member Einulla Fatullaev to head a faction named Adolat [Justice] are unfounded, TURAN reported on 3 February. Novruzov denied that Fatullaev has already been expelled from the party but did not rule out that possibility. The independent newspaper "Azadlyg" reported on 3 February that some 60 party members have joined Fatullaev's Adolat faction, which aims to foster democracy within the party. "Azadlyg" also claimed that Information Minister Siruz Tebrizli intervened to quash an attempt to expel Fatullaev from Yeni Azerbaycan. LF

TOP U.S. OFFICIAL VISITS TBILISI

U.S. special adviser for Caspian issues Richard Morningstar held talks in Tbilisi on 3 February with senior Georgian officials, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The talks, which Morningstar told journalists were "fruitful," focused on the transportation of Caspian oil and gas to international markets via Georgian territory. Morningstar said intensive discussions are under way with the Turkish government on how to make the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline "economically lucrative." He categorically rejected the alternative route via Iran, adding that the oil companies engaged in exploiting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil "had to face up to harsh economic realities," RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported. Morningstar said he hopes that conflicts will not jeopardize the exploitation of the oil pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea terminal at Supsa. Morningstar also said that the U.S. "is not considering" a military presence in Azerbaijan. LF

RUSSIA LAMENTS UZBEK DECISION ON SECURITY TREATY

An official at the Russian Foreign Ministry on 3 February said his country regrets Uzbekistan's decision to withdraw from the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Interfax reported. Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov responded to accusations by Uzbek officials that Russia is increasing its military presence in the CIS countries by arguing that "Russia is pursuing a restrained policy and is curbing military activity particularly in CIS countries." He charged that "individual members of the CIS are increasing the number of military exercises [involving] the participation of NATO units, particularly near the Russian borders." Ivashov added that the collective security treaty is more important than ever as "the U.S. has opted for an open use-of-force policy and NATO is demonstrating aggressiveness and is trying to enlarge its sphere of influence." BP

ISLAMIC GROUP POSES THEAT TO UZBEKISTAN

In an interview published in "Xalq Sozi" on 3 February, President Islam Karimov said members of an Islamic group called Hezbi Tahriri Islomiya are active in his country and represent a threat to security. Karimov said the group intends to eliminate all administrative boundaries between Islamic countries and form an "Islamic Caliphate." He noted that the group has substantial financial backing and is already "poisoning the minds" of young and inexperienced people. The Uzbek president called on the government to respect "real Islam" and not allow such forces to act on Uzbek territory. BP

KAZAKHSTAN'S GOVERNMENT PROPOSES SPENDING CUTS

Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev announced on 3 February that the government plans to cut 1999 budget expenditures by 10 percent, Russian news agencies and Reuters reported. The cuts will amount to 31 billion tenge ($335 million). Balgimbayev said they are necessary because of the drop in the world-market prices of the country's major exports, oil and metals. In the last quarter of 1998, Kazakhstan lost 40 billion tenge in revenues because of those falling prices. The premier said "excessive benefits and pensions" are the areas first to be trimmed, but he stressed that the government will maintain state funds for those most in need and local budgets will continue to provide part of the funding. Balgimbayev also said there will be reductions in the Finance, Interior, and Defense Ministries of 27, 15, and 30 percent, respectively. BP

KAZAKHSTAN RATIFIES BORDER AGREEMENT WITH CHINA

Kazakhstan's parliament on 3 February ratified an agreement with China demarcating a disputed section of their common border, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan receives 56.9 percent of the contested 34,000 square kilometers. BP

KYRGYZ ADMINISTRATION TO MAKE CUTS ALSO

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov on 3 February gave instructions to the government to cut spending, Interfax reported. Ibraimov said government expenditures on transportation, equipment, services, and communications exceeded its budget by 5 million som ($167,000). Ibraimov placed the responsibility for implementing the cuts on the heads of departments. Ministries, state agencies, and local governments were similarly instructed to cut spending. Limits were also imposed on the use of phones. BP

CENTRAZBAT TO BE HELD IN U.S. THIS YEAR

RFE/RL correspondents in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan report that this year's Centrazbat military exercises will be held in the U.S. of Louisiana on 19-20 May. The exercises took place in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in 1997 and in both those countries as well as in Kyrgyzstan last year. They are part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. BP




UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS SLAVIC UNION DANGEROUS

Borys Tarasyuk said on 3 February that Ukraine is not interested in any kind of Slavic union with Russia and Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent reported in London. Tarasyuk said any attempt to build a country on the basis of ethnicity is doomed to fail, particularly because Russia is a multinational, multiethnic country. He said Kyiv thinks the idea is "very dangerous, and the example of the former Yugoslavia is a warning for all of us." With regard to Chornobyl, Tarasyuk called on the EU and G-7 countries to adhere to a 1995 commitment to provide financial aid to help close down the nuclear power station by 2000. He said the EU and G-7's failure to do so "worries us." PB

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WANTS TO KEEP DEATH PENALTY

Oleksandr Tkachenko said the parliament will debate a ban on capital punishment in the coming months, even though he is personally opposed to its abolition, AP reported on 3 February. Tkachenko argued that too many Ukrainians favor the death penalty, particularly as the trial of Anatoliy Onoprienko-- accused of killing 52 people--continues. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly recently reminded Kyiv of its 1995 commitment to ban the death penalty. President Leonid Kuchma has decreed a moratorium on the practice. PB

UKRAINIANS DELINQUENT ON UTILITY PAYMENTS

Government officials said on 3 February that more than one-third of all housing and utility bills in 1998 were unpaid, AP reported. The State Statistics Committee said the debt for unpaid services reached 3.48 billion hryvni ($1 billion) as of 10 January, up from 2.49 billion hryvni the previous year. The committee also reported that inflation in January was 1.5 percent, down from 3.3 percent in December. The government has forecast a 19.1 percent rate for this year, compared with 20 percent in 1998. PB

FARMERS' DEBTS IN BELARUS NEARLY DOUBLE

Deputy Prime Minister Alyaksandr Popkou said on 3 February that he blames government price controls for a huge increase in the total debt of the agricultural sector, Belapan reported. The debts of Belarusian agricultural enterprises totaled some 65 trillion rubles ($22.8 million at the unofficial rate of exchange) at the beginning of this year, nearly double the 35 trillion ruble debt of one year ago. Popkov said a radical change in the state's pricing policy is needed for Belarus to make a financial and economic recovery. He added that the implementation of a long-term agricultural policy aimed at supporting large farms, encouraging the use of new technologies, upgrading farm equipment, and reforming farm collectives will increase agricultural production to the country's 1991 level within two years. PB

DO RUSSIANS VIEW UNION WITH BELARUS AS 'ABSORPTION?'

Sergei Karaganov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that the most "enlightened" Russian advocates of integration with Belarus view it as an "absorption" of that country, Belapan reported. Karaganov, in an interview in the weekly "Belorusskiy Rynok," said such a view frightened Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other Belarusian officials and prevented them from creating a real union with Moscow. Karaganov said he thinks Russian President Boris Yeltsin has pushed for a union with Minsk to lessen his "historic guilt" for destroying the Soviet Union. PB

ESTONIAN PREMIER APPROVES THIS YEAR'S PRIVATIZATION PLANS

Mart Siimann on 3 February approved Estonia's privatization plans for this year, ETA reported. Government spokesman Daniel Vaarik told the news agency the state will sell 51 percent of shares in the alcohol producer Liviko and in the Narva Power Grid. It also plans to sell all state shares in the railway operator Edelaraudtee as well as stakes in subsidiaries of the main railway operator Eesti Raudtee. In addition, the privatization of the Moe Distillery and gas distributor Eesti Gaas will be completed. Also on 3 February, a Uhispank representative announced that the Eesti Telekom tender, which was launched on 25 January, is already oversubscribed. JC

LATVIAN PREMIER, SOCIAL DEMOCRATS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Vilis Kristopans and Egils Baldzens, the head of the Latvian Social Democratic Union caucus, have signed an agreement on cooperation aimed at achieving the main objectives of the government declaration, LETA and BNS reported on 3 February. Under that agreement, the Social Democrats will assume responsibility for the agricultural sector and will neither vote against nor abstain from voting on any government-proposed bills that are supported by the Coalition Council. They also agree not to submit to the parliament any bills related to the state budget without the Coalition Council's prior agreement, nor will they support opposition-proposed bills on the budget or taxes. Baldzens expressed satisfaction that the accord includes several provisions important to the Social Democrats, singling out the increase of the education and research budget to 8 percent of GDP within four years. JC

PIPELINE REPAIRS TO BLAME FOR HALT IN CRUDE SUPPLIES TO LITHUANIA?

Speaking at a press conference on 3 February, Lithuanian Economy Minister Vincas Babilius said that according to information he has received from Moscow, one of the reasons for the stoppage of crude oil supplies to Lithuania may be repairs to pipelines in Belarus that began on 1 February, ELTA reported. He said he has asked the Belarusian ambassador for an official explanation, adding that due warning should have been given if such repairs are under way. Supplies of crude to the Mazeikiai Nafta refinery were cut on the weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 1999). Both the Russian government and LUKoil have denied ordering supplies halted. Meanwhile, the Russian news agency RIA, citing "well-informed sources from the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry," reported that LUKoil and Mazeikiai Nafta representatives meeting in Moscow on 3 February were unable to agree on Russian crude oil prices. JC

LITHUANIAN JOURNALISTS UNION DOES NOT SUPPORT 'BALTIC WAVES' PROJECT

The Lithuanian Journalists Union has said it does not support the planned launch of broadcasts for the Belarusian and Russian national minorities in Lithuania that would be heard on short-wave in Kaliningrad Oblast, Belarus, and all three Baltic States, ELTA reported on 3 February. The statement follows the announcement that the Baltic Waves project has received funding worth some $50,000 from the British Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Among other things, the journalists expressed fear that the setting up of a "Belarus-oriented" radio station on Lithuanian territory might "cause problems in international and bilateral ties." JC

POLISH GOVERNMENT, FARMERS DRIFT FURTHER APART

The Polish government on 3 February said it will not negotiate with protesting farmers until they dismantle roadblocks they have set up around the country, Reuters reported. Farmers, for their part, made new demands and increased the number of roadblocks to more than 200, including at a border crossing with Ukraine. Andrzej Lepper, the leader of the Self Defense farmers' group, who broke off talks with the government the previous day, added new conditions for meeting with government officials, namely, airtime on public television, a live debate with a leading politician, and the addition of an official from the junior member of the ruling coalition, the Freedom Union, to the government's negotiating team. The government said it will approve a restructuring program for the agriculture sector on 4 February, without input from farmers' groups. PB

DUTCH FOREIGN MINISTER SEES POLAND'S EU ENTRY IN SEVERAL YEARS

Jozias van Aartsen said in Warsaw on 3 February that Poland should join the EU in 2002 or 2003, PAP reported. Van Aartsen, who is in Poland for a two-day visit, said setting a tentative date for EU expansion is important both for the applying countries and the EU, as it could accelerate its internal reforms. Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowski said he is glad that Van Aartsen shares Warsaw's position that it could be ready for EU membership by 2002. PB

HAVEL, VLK CHALLENGE GOVERNMENT OVER CHURCH PROPERTY

Czech President Vaclav Havel and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk told reporters in Prague on 3 February that a recent study by legal scholars at Charles University on the property of the Roman Catholic Church does not contain the conclusions that the government says it does. The government recently decided on the basis of that report that the Church does not have legal claim to any property under restitution laws (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). Vlk added that he is glad that the study transformed the discussion about Church property from one about politics to one about law. Havel said he wants the question to be cleared up through legislation, not in the courts. He added that he will work to promote reconciliation between the government and the Church. He also recommended that the government's commission on Church-state relations be reconstituted to exclude politicians and include only experts, "Lidove noviny" reported. PM

CZECH PARLIAMENT SAYS ONLY CITIZENS CAN CLAIM PROPERTY

The legislature on 3 February voted down a proposal to allow persons who are not Czech citizens to claim property under restitution laws. Opponents of the bill said it would only create new injustices by opening disputes within families as to who is the rightful claimant, Radio Svobodna Evropa reported. PM

LEXA TO FILE SUIT OVER ARRESTS IN KOVAC CASE

Former Slovak Interior Minister Ivan Lexa said in Bratislava on 3 February that he will press charges against an unnamed person in conjunction with the arrest of two former intelligence agency officials earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). He repeated his long-standing claim that he had nothing to do with the 1995 kidnapping of the son of President Michal Kovac. Lexa told the daily "Sme" that the government will be able to lift his parliamentary immunity over the Kovac affair or the immunity of any other legislator it chooses to prosecute because it has the necessary votes in the legislature. In a veiled threat, he added that "the real question is what will happen in two or four years." Lexa charged that "Sme" is taking part in a government- backed campaign to frame him and his former subordinates. He said he intends to prove that accusation soon. PM




MILOSEVIC'S PARTY BACKS PEACE CONFERENCE

Gorica Gajevic, who is secretary-general of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, told the parliament on 4 February that the party "thinks that we should show that we are fighting for peace and to defend" Serbia's claim to Kosova wherever the future of the province is discussed, AP reported. The legislature is expected to vote later in the day on whether to attend the Rambouillet talks, which are to begin on 6 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). In New York, the UN Security Council on 3 February discussed the situation in Kosova but did not take up Belgrade's appeal for the UN to stop NATO from launching air strikes against Serbian targets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). PM

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH WANTS ROLE IN TALKS

Patriarch Pavle appealed to the French government on 3 February to include the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Rambouillet negotiations as an observer. Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren and his spokesman Father Sava would represent the Church, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Artemije stressed that the Serbs of Kosova do not trust Milosevic to represent their interests (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 January 1999). PM

UCK NAMES DELEGATION

The General Staff of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) has named Rama Buja, Jakup Krasniqi, Hashim Thaci, Azem Syla, and Xhavit Haliti to represent it at Rambouillet, Krasniqi told the VOA's Albanian Service on 3 February. The moderate shadow state will be represented by Ibrahim Rugova, Fehmi Agani, Bujar Bukoshi, Idriz Aeti, and Edita Tahiri, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Mark Krasniqi, Veton Surroi, and Blerim Shala will attend as independents. PM

U.S. GROUND TROOPS FOR KOSOVA?

Secretary of Defense William Cohen told Congress on 3 February that the U.S. may send a "relatively small" ground force to Kosova in order to reassure other NATO participants in that force that "they would not be attacked" by Serbian army or paramilitary police units. He stressed that there must first be "a real agreement" on the political future of the province before the Pentagon will send an armed force there. Cohen suggested that the troops might stay up to five years. General Henry Shelton, who heads the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that a maximum of 2,000- 4,000 U.S. troops might be required if NATO decides on an overall force of 20,000-30,000. He added that the Atlantic alliance is still discussing the number of troops it might send to Kosova. The Pentagon has previously been opposed to sending any U.S. ground troops to Kosova. PM

ALBRIGHT GIVES BACKING TO MAJKO...

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko on 3 February that the U.S. supports Albania's territorial integrity. Asked by Reuters if "this meant that the U.S. would not let Albania's borders be breached, he replied: 'Yes, this was the bottom line.'" Majko said that he is confident that the Kosovar leaders are patriots who will sink their differences and present a united front at the upcoming negotiations at Rambouillet. He added of the Kosovars: "They are not terrorists." Majko stressed that "those bloody massacres in Kosova" must end. Other top State Department officials pledged financial aid for the Albanian army and customs service, "Shekulli" reported. At the World Bank, Majko signed an agreement on a $9 million loan to improve infrastructure. He told Reuters he will soon sign an agreement with the U.S. firm New World Telecom, which will invest $325 million to modernize Albania's antiquated telecommunications system. PM/FS

...AND TO GEORGIEVSKI

In a separate meeting, Albright told Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski that the U.S. supports his efforts at promoting a free-market economy, a "Western orientation," and improved inter-ethnic relations. Her spokesman, James Rubin, added that Albright "reiterated our appreciation of the [Macedonian] government's firm support of our efforts to bring stability [to Kosova], including the agreement to host the NATO extraction force." Rubin stressed that the U.S. will oppose any attempt by China to link Macedonia's recognition of Taiwan with extending the mandate of the UN peace-keeping force in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). It is unclear whether Majko and Georgievski met or spoke with U.S. officials together. Macedonia and Albania will play key roles in any settlement in Kosova. PM

POPLASEN NAMES THIRD CANDIDATE TO HEAD GOVERNMENT

Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen on 3 February nominated parliamentary speaker Petar Djokic to head the government. It is unclear whether Djokic, whose Socialist Party is not allied to the nationalist Poplasen, will accept, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Poplasen's two previous nominees were unable to command a majority in the parliament, where Poplasen's supporters are in a minority. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the joint parliament elected Svetozar Mihajlovic, who is a Serb, and re-elected Haris Silajdzic, who is a Muslim, as co-prime ministers. PM

CROATIA WANTS TO OPEN ROAD TO REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

Deputy Foreign Minister Josko Paro said that Croatia has been waiting for a month for the Bosnian joint authorities to respond to Zagreb's offer to re-open the road linking Dubrovnik with Trebinje, in eastern Herzegovina, "Vecernji list" reported on 4 February. Paro added that he finds it difficult to understand the lack of a reply, because the opening of the frontier would benefit the Bosnian Serbs more than it would Croatia. PM

CROATIA DENIES REPORTS OF JOINT TANK PRODUCTION

Defense Minister Pavao Miljac said his country will not jointly produce M-84 tanks with Serbia, Bosnia, or Slovenia, "Vecernji list" reported on 4 February. There has been repeated speculation in the media since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1991 that the successor states might continue to produce arms jointly in order to earn hard currency. Miljac confirmed that Croatia will purchase Mi-8 helicopters from Russia and that Israeli experts will help modernize Croatia's aging MiG 21s. PM

INVESTIGATION INTO FORMER ALBANIAN LEGISLATOR CLOSED

Spokesmen for the Prosecutor-General 's Office announced in Tirana on 3 February that the investigation into former Democratic Alliance Deputy Ridvan Peshkepia, who allegedly organized a drug smuggling network to Italy between 1993-1996, has been closed, "Shekulli" reported. The investigators concluded that another person ran the network and used Peshkepia's diplomatic passport, which he lost in 1992. Journalists who asked not to be identified told an RFE/RL correspondent that the ring-leader is a well-known personality and the brother of a prominent politician. They did not elaborate. FS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES PLAN TO MODERNIZE INFRASTRUCTURE

Addressing a conference on upgrading the country's infrastructure, Emil Constantinescu on 3 February said Romania should prepare to act as an economic corridor between Central Asia and Europe, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported. He pleaded in favor of modernizing roads and communication networks, building new oil pipelines, and expanding the country's oil refining capacities. Constantinescu's optimism, however, was in stark contrast to the country's latest economic performance. The same day, the National Bank fixed the exchange rate for the dollar at slightly more than 12,000 lei. The national currency thus overstepped a new "psychological threshold," after crossing the 10,000 lei barrier on 24 November 1998 and the 11,000 one on 4 January 1999. Since the beginning of this year, the leu has lost almost 10 percent of its value. DI

MINERS' LEADER SAYS HE WILL SNUB JUSTICE

Miron Cozma, the controversial leader of the Jiu Valley miners, who has led several miners' marches on Bucharest since 1990, told a press conference on 3 February that he will not present himself at any court or submit himself to any criminal investigation as long as justice continues to be "politically manipulated by Bucharest." Cozma noted that several cases have been opened against him following the 18-22 January march, which came to a halt after an agreement had been reached with Premier Radu Vasile at the Cozia monastery. Meanwhile, General Gheorghe Lupu has denied any responsibility for the failure of the police to stop the miners' latest protest action. He blamed the deputy prefect of Gorj County for having ordered the withdrawal of officers from the Jiu Valley. DI

MOLDOVAN PARTY THREATENS TO LEAVE RULING COALITION

The chairman of the Party for Revival and Conciliation in Moldova, Mircea Snegur, said on 3 February that his party will leave the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) if the latter continues to refuse to designate Nicolae Andronic as the country's future premier, an RFE correspondent in Chisinau reported. But the next day, however, Snegur softened that stance, expressing optimism about the future of the CDM and the ruling coalition, known as the Alliance for Democracy and Reforms. The same day, President Petru Lucinschi continued separate consultations with parliamentary leaders over nominating a new premier. DI

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BULGARIA

During his visit to Sofia on 2-3 February, Igor Ivanov met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov, and President Petar Stoyanov, whom he gave personal messages from President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov's talks with Mihailova focused on bilateral relations, economic issues, including the repayment of mutual debts, the situation in the Balkans, and Kosova. Ivanov told journalists on 3 February that Moscow has decided to extend customs concessions to Bulgaria, noting the need to overcome the downturn in bilateral relations in recent years. Ivanov denied that the issue of NATO membership, to which Bulgaria aspires, was discussed. LF




WHEN THE WORLD TURNS AWAY


by Paul Goble

When the whole world is watching, even the most authoritarian regimes try to put on a democratic face. But when the world turns away, these same governments and their supporters often revert to the repressive practices and ideas that undercut their propaganda efforts.

Following its recent special presidential election, Kazakhstan became the latest in a long line of post-communist countries to follow this pattern, one that seems likely to present increasingly serious challenges to the country's authorities, the people under their control, and the international community as a whole.

Before the 10 January poll, in which President Nursultan Nazarbayev was easily reelected, Nazarbayev, his government, and his supporters did everything they could to present Kazakhstan as a country committed to democratic and free market values. They blanketed Western publications with advertisements extolling Kazakhstan's commitments in these areas, while the press in Kazakhstan was full of articles talking about the many linkages between the values of the West and those of Kazakhstan.

The authorities hosted international observers. And when they violated democratic norms during the election--such as excluding former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin from running against Nazarbayev--they sought to cover themselves with at least the veneer of legality.

But once the vote and the international attention it had attracted were safely behind them, these same people dropped many of the democratic pretenses they had adopted during the campaign, having failed to convince any of the international observers that the election had been genuinely fair and free.

One particularly egregious example of this shift in tone and direction is an article by Kerim Elemes published in the Kazakh- language newspaper "Qazaq Adebiyeti" on 28 January. Because the text of this commentary is unlikely to appear in Kazakhstan- supported advertising abroad, portions of it call for fuller quotation.

In a sweeping attack on U.S. interests and intentions in Central Asia, the article asserts that Washington wants "to dissolve Kazakhstan" and to replace Nazarbayev with someone "who does not speak his native language and has no idea about real Kazakhness, that is, a kind of person they want to rule us."

The article goes on to asks "What do Americans know about democracy? Their history is a bloody conquest of the new territories not belonging to them.... Kazakhs have never conquered anyone.... Kazakhs know much more about democracy. If Americans are real democrats, why are blacks still slaves in America, why do American Indians still not have equal rights with their conquerors?"

Such an article would not have appeared a month ago, just before the election. Not only would it have undercut the message that the Kazakhstan authorities wanted to send; it would also have attracted a great deal of international attention. Now, however, it is unlikely to have that effect.

But the appearance of such an article now calls attention to the dilemmas presented by the broader oscillation between democratic propaganda and authoritarian politics.

For the authorities in Kazakhstan, this shifting of gears appears likely to reduce rather than increase their legitimacy in the eyes of the population. In the absence of significant economic growth, that could force the regime to rely ever more heavily on repression to remain in power.

For the population of Kazakhstan, the move from authoritarianism to democracy and back again seems certain to have two contradictory effects. On the one hand, it almost certainly will contribute to a trivialization of democratic terminology in the minds of many people, as they see democratic terms misused. On the other, it may create greater demands for genuine, as opposed to propaganda, democracy.

And for the international community interested in promoting democracy in Kazakhstan and other former communist states, this change of vocabulary inevitably raises some serious questions about how this community can best advance the cause of democracy without generating the kind of instability that might make a democratic transition extraordinarily difficult.

Should the international community make a greater and more constant investment in monitoring developments in places such as Kazakhstan rather than going there virtually only when an election takes place? Or would such a policy backfire, infuriating potential supporters by suggesting a continuing tutelage?

There are no easy answers to such questions. But the "Qazaq Adebiyeti" article suggests that ever more people will pose such questions, while the various answers given will define not only the fate of democracy in Kazakhstan and other countries similarly situated but many other things as well.


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