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Newsline - March 31, 1999




MOSCOW SAYS PRIMAKOV MISSION NOT A FAILURE

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin told Interfax on 31 March that Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's diplomatic mission to Belgrade and Bonn cannot be characterized as a failure. "No efforts of statesmen aimed at ending bloodshed and returning the situation to one based on sound logic can be called wasted," he explained. Primakov, for his part, argued that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic sent NATO "a positive signal." Provided that support for Albanian separatists ends, Milosevic, according to Primakov, is ready to create conditions for the return of refugees, tackle all problems by political means, and start reducing Yugoslavia's military presence in Kosova if NATO air raids are stopped. After talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Primakov told NTV that Schroeder called on Russia to "continue playing a positive mediation role." Primakov spent six hours with Milosevic on 30 March discussing the Kosova situation, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR U.S. EMBASSY SHOOTING

A leftist organization called "Skif" (Scythian) has claimed responsibility for the shots fired at the U.S. embassy in Moscow on 28 March, Interfax reported on 31 March. The group said that the attack was the start of a campaign against Western targets to protest NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, AP reported. The group was formed in honor of the late Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, who according to Interfax, supported left-wing movements but not terrorist organizations. In letters sent to Russian newspapers, the group disclosed the serial numbers of the grenade launchers left on the scene, but the Federal Security Service has so far not confirmed the validity of those missives. JAC

SELEZNEV SUGGESTS IMPEACHMENT COULD BE POSTPONED

Russian President Boris Yeltsin's annual address to the federation on 30 March elicited mostly negative appraisals from his fellow politicians. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that the 20-minute speech had no content and that Yeltsin "is completely unable to respond honestly and intelligently to real-life problems." Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov argued that the president's address did not tackle one of the most important issues, namely, the reasons for the mid-August economic crisis. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev told "Kommersant-Daily" the next day that in his speech the president showed his full support for Primakov's government. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax that impeachment proceedings scheduled for 15 April could be postponed to a later date. Earlier, Zyuganov rejected Primakov's request to delay the debates. However, on 31 March, deputy head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev told reporters that the administration opposes postponing the vote, saying that "such issues must be dealt with in a clear way." JAC

IMF SUGGESTS WAYS TO EARN ADDITIONAL BUDGET REVENUE...

Citing one of the participants in negotiations with the IMF, "Vremya MN" on 30 March reported that IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus brought some concrete suggestions for increasing Russia's budget revenue. For example, he reportedly proposed abolishing tax and customs privileges for the media, increasing excise taxes on high octane gasoline, and increasing the taxes collected from Gazprom by $1 billion. Another boost for tax revenues will likely come from President Yeltsin's expected veto of legislation that would reduce value-added tax from 20 percent to 15 percent beginning 1 July, which both the State Duma and the Federation Council have passed, according to Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov on 29 March. Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik said the next day that the government is developing a plan to raise 30-32 billion rubles ($1.2-1.3 billion) in additional budget revenue. JAC

...WHILE 'VERY CONCERNED' ABOUT FIMACO

U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said on 30 March that the IMF is "very concerned" about Russia's use of an offshore firm to manage its hard-currency reserves, AFP reported. He added that the issue was very much on the minds of IMF officials when they structured the agreement that was reached on 29 March. Last month, a report by the Prosecutor- General's Office detailed the Central Bank's use of a tiny firm, FIMACO, in the Channel Islands to handle billions of dollars of reserves (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1999). JAC

RIGHT DEMOCRATS SEEK RELIGIOUS SOLUTION

The trio of members of the Right Cause political movement--former Acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, and former State Tax Service head Boris Fedorov--met with Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini in Rome on 31 March on the next leg of their European tour devoted to finding a peaceful solution to the Kosova crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. They are scheduled to meet later with the Vatican official, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. According to the agency, the three envoys believe that the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches should unite efforts to stop the war. The previous day, the agency reported that the three met with Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic and Patriarch Pavel of the Serb Orthodox Church. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 30 March that even "if the young reformers fail to influence the warring parties, they will not have wasted their time since the trip is good publicity." JAC

SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP VISIT

After meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on 30 March, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin announced that the two countries will sign an accord on measures to fight crime and terrorism next month, Interfax reported. Stepashin warned that "some of those terrorists in the North Caucasus who are trying to cloak themselves with religion and Wahhabism will have a hard time." Prince al-Faisal said that Saudi leaders will not be meeting with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who is currently in Saudi Arabia for the hajj. He also expressed surprise that people claiming to be supporters of Wahhabism in the North Caucasus "have long beards," which is more typical of followers of other religious traditions. The same day, the Saudi foreign minister also met with Duma Chairman Seleznev, with whom he discussed foreign-policy issues such as Iraq and Kosova. Both men agreed that the UN Security Council has been weakened. JAC

CUSTOMS SERVICE REPEALS BREAK FOR FOREIGNERS

The State Customs Service announced on 30 March that goods brought in on a temporary basis by foreign firms and organizations will no longer be exempt from customs duties, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, foreign entities will have to pay each month 3 percent of all custom duties for such goods; however, goods brought into the country before 1 April 1999 will not be subject to the new measure. JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS KREMLIN'S CANDIDATE FOR COURT

By a vote of 67 to 46, members of the Federation Council voted on 31 March to reject Mikhail Mityukov's candidacy for the Constitutional Court, ITAR-TASS reported. Mityukov, who is the presidential representative to the Constitutional Court, was nominated by President Yeltsin. JAC

PRIMORSKII ELECTIONS ATTRACT SUFFICIENT VOTERS...

Voters in Primorskii Krai on 28 March elected candidates for seven of 11 vacancies in the legislative assembly of Nakhodka, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 March. In the city of Arseniev, according to preliminary results, a sufficient number of voters turned out to fill 10 slots in that city's legislative body, according to the newspaper. However, mayoral elections in that city scheduled for the same day were postponed by court order. JAC

...BUT NOT SO IN TUVA

Elections in the Republic of Tuva for the republic's parliament and the legislature of Kyzyl were also held on 28 March. Results were declared invalid because more than 50 percent of eligible voters cast their votes in only two districts for the republic level legislature and in only four districts for the city's legislative assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, three previous elections have also failed to yield valid results because of lack of voter interest. JAC

CHECHNYA HALTS EXPORT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL

Chechen Presidential Press Secretary Mairbek Vachagaev announced on 29 March that Chechnya has halted the pumping of Azerbaijani oil through the Chechen sector of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk export pipeline because of Russia's failure to pay for security personnel to guard the pipeline, Turan reported the following day. Vachagaev said that Moscow owes a total 100 million rubles ($4.13 million) for the past six months. A spokesman for the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR told Turan that the disruption of exports via the Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline will not affect oil production, as the alternative Baku-Supsa pipeline is now in operation. LF




FOUR ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIANS TO BOYCOTT PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

In a statement issued in Yerevan on 30 March, four close political associates of former President Levon Ter- Petrossian said they will not participate in the 30 May parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian, former National Security Minister David Shahnazarian, former Yerevan Mayor Vahagn Khachatrian, and former deputy parliamentary speaker Karapet Rubinian predicted that the poll will be falsified. "The constitutional order in the Republic of Armenia has been destroyed. The institute of elections, as a legal base for forming a government, is not operational," the statement continued. The four politicians said that President Robert Kocharian has failed in all policy areas during his one year in power, adding that the country's economy "is fully controlled by the power structures." LF

AZERBAIJAN CONTINUES PROBE OVER INTERCEPTED MIGS

National Security Ministry press spokesman Araz Gurbanov on 30 March denied Russian and Czech reports that the criminal investigation into the 18 March detention of a Russian cargo plane carrying six MiG-21s has been shelved, Turan reported. Gurbanov said the plane violated Azerbaijan's air code by transporting fighter aircraft and weaponry without a license. And he argued that it also infringed the International Convention on Civil Aviation by transporting 16 persons not listed in the flight documents as either passengers or crew. Also on 30 March, CTK quoted a spokesman for the Azerbaijani presidential press service as saying that Azerbaijan is continuing its investigation into the role of the Czech company Agroplast in coordinating the transport of the MiGs from Kazakhstan to the Czech Republic. He said Azerbaijan will keep the MiGs until the investigation is completed. LF

AZERBAIJANI STATE ADVISER DENIES PLANS FOR PRESIDENT'S SON TO SUCCEED HIM

State foreign policy adviser Vafa Guluzade has dismissed as a joke claims by former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev that Guluzade is implementing measures to ensure that Ilham Aliyev succeeds his father, Heidar, as president of Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 30 March. The independent newspaper "Azadlyg" published Guliev's allegations on 30 March, adding that recent arrests of Interior Ministry officials were connected with the succession scheme. LF

IS CORRUPTION DETERRING FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN AZERBAIJAN?

Ali Masimov, president of the Foundation for the Development of Democracy, has argued that corruption in Azerbaijan is so serious that bribes paid to bureaucrats by enterprise managers now stand at 200 percent of production costs, Turan reported on 29 March. Consequently, the total "production costs" are so high that domestically produced goods cannot compete with imports on the local market. Masimov also observed that the lack of import quotas for cheap liquor and cigarettes have resulted in a "deep crisis" in Azerbaijan's tobacco and viticulture industries. On 25 March, Turan had quoted Turkish media reports of a meeting between Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Turkish businessmen, who said that 110 Turkish companies pulled out of Azerbaijan last year because of corruption among Azerbaijani officials. LF

UZBEK DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS TBILISI

Hikmatulla Tursunov and his Georgian counterpart, Davit Tevzadze, signed a protocol on expanding defense cooperation in Tbilisi on 30 March, the final day of Tursunov's three-day visit to Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. On 29 March, Tursunov's delegation had visited the Tbilisi aircraft works, which manufactures SU-25 jets. Uzbekistan had reportedly shown an interest in purchasing such aircraft during Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's visit to Tashkent on 9-10 March. But at a press conference on 30 March, Tursunov said the possibility of buying SU-25s was never discussed. Tevzadze told journalists that he and Tursunov discussed the possibility of Uzbek participation in the peacekeeping battalion to be formed by the four GUAM states (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) but that a decision on whether Uzbekistan will do so is not within their competence. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SAYS ANTI-CORRUPTION MEASURES INADEQUATE

Nursultan Nazarbaev chaired a session of the State Disciplinary Control Commission in Astana on 29 March, RFE/RL's bureau in Kazakhstan's capital reported the following day. Also present were Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin, Interior Minister Qayirbek Suleymenov, and National Security Committee chairman Nurtay Abyqaev. Nazarbaev criticized the work of the commission over the past year, noting that it targets "only small fry, not high- ranking officials," according to Interfax. In the future, the commission will convene monthly, and regional governors will be required to attend. LF

ANTI-NAZARBAEV GRAFFITI REPORTED IN TWO KAZAKH CITIES

National Security Council chairman Abyqaev told RFE/RL correspondents in Astana on 30 March that a special group has been formed to investigate the appearance last week of anti-Nazarbaev slogans on fences and buildings in Almaty and Astana. Abyqayev said that the inscriptions were apparently the work of mentally sick people, adding that those persons may have been used by "criminal or illegal groups". LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL ASSESSES IMPACT OF 'TRADE WAR.'

Arzymat Sulaimankulov, deputy minister of industry and foreign trade, said in Bishkek on 30 March that Kyrgyzstan has incurred losses totaling some $1.5 million as a result of the customs tariffs imposed by Kazakhstan on Kyrgyz goods one month ago, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Sulaimankulov predicted that those losses may rise to more than $4 million by the end of the year. He added that Uzbekistan has also increased customs duties on goods from Kyrgyzstan, but he did not provide further details. LF

ANOTHER TAJIK POLITICIAN SHOT DEAD

Tajik Socialist Party leader Safarali Kendjaev was shot dead by unidentified gunmen outside his home in Dushanbe on 30 March, AP-Blitz reported. One of Kendjaev's bodyguards also died in the attack, and a second was wounded. Kendjaev was chairman of the Tajik parliament's legislation and human rights committee. He is the third prominent politician to be assassinated in Tajikistan over the past year. LF

UZBEK POLICE KILL THREE BOMBING SUSPECTS IN SHOOTOUT

Uzbek police claimed on 30 March to have killed three people suspected of involvement in the 16 February Tashkent bombings that killed 13 people, according to AP on 30 March and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the next day. Three further suspects killed themselves, and several police were wounded during the shootout in an apartment building in Tashkent. LF

JAPAN TO ADVANCE NEW LOAN TO UZBEKISTAN

The Japanese government will open a $107.6 million credit line to finance improvements to Uzbekistan's telephone network, Interfax reported on 30 March. An agreement to this effect was reached during Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov's visit to Tokyo last week. LF




UKRAINE RECEIVES WORLD BANK CREDIT...

The World Bank announced on 30 March that it has granted Ukraine loans worth $110 million, AP reported. The move had been expected after the IMF agreed to renew a $2.2 billion loan to Kyiv (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 1999). Presidential adviser Valeriy Lytvytsky said the World Bank loan will lead to greater financial stability in Ukraine. Kyiv had warned it might default on its $2 billion or so foreign debt unless it received new loans. Finance Minister Ihor Mitiukov said that even with the IMF and World Bank loans, Ukraine is some $100 million short of the money needed to service its debts this year. PB

...DEFAULTS ON TURKMEN GAS PAYMENTS

Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko said on 30 March that Ukraine will ask Turkmenistan to suspend gas shipments beginning next month because Kyiv cannot afford them, AP reported. In December, Ukraine and Turkmenistan signed a $720 million deal for deliveries this year of 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Pustovoytenko said Kyiv currently owes Turkmenistan some $100 million for gas already received. Ukraine is also reported to owe Russian giant Gazprom some $1.4 billion for gas supplies. In other news, tens of thousands of students from 58 schools in the Kyiv and Mykolayv regions were sent home after their teachers went on strike over unpaid wages. The Education Ministry said it expects more teachers to go on strike soon. The government owes them some 427.8 million hryvni ($109 million). PB

KUCHMA NOT TO MEET WITH MILOSEVIC

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 30 March in Ljubljana that he will not go to Belgrade to meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Ukrainian TV reported. Kuchma is on a two-day visit to Slovenia, where he held talks with President Milan Kucan and signed three bilateral economic agreements. PB

CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on 29 March incorrectly implied that the Ukrainian parliament had adopted a resolution calling for Kyiv to rearm with nuclear weapons in response to the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. In fact the parliament debated the issue but failed to adopt such a resolution.

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DETAINED

Mikhail Chyhir, the former Belarusian premier and a candidate in the opposition presidential elections scheduled for May, was detained and interrogated on 30 March in Minsk, AP reported. The Interior Ministry said he was being questioned as a witness in a case against Belagroprombank, which he previously headed. His detention comes one day before he was to be officially registered as a candidate for the alternative presidential election, which the government has declared illegal. Chyhir said "this persecution is not criminal but political.... I am innocent, but in Belarus there are lots of people kept in custody without trial." He said that "the election must take place even if [opposition central election commission chairman Viktar] Hanchar and Chyhir are arrested." Popular Front leader Zenon Poznyak, living in exile in the U.S., is also expected to be registered as a presidential candidate. PB

LUKASHENKA, YELTSIN AGREE TO COOPERATE IN ASSISTING BELGRADE

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed on 30 March to coordinate their countries' efforts in sending aid to Yugoslavia, Belapan reported. The agreement was reached during a telephone conversation between the two leaders, who also condemned NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia and agreed to place the issue on the agenda of the 2 April CIS summit. PB

ESTONIA'S KALLAS PREDICTS 1 BILLION KROON GAP IN BUDGET

Finance Minister Siim Kallas has forecast that expenditures will outstrip revenues this year by 1 billion kroons ($71 million), ETA reported on 30 March. Kallas noted that the setback would be temporary and that money in the country's stabilization reserve would not be used to bridge the gap. Before his government was sworn in, Prime Minister Mart Laar had announced that the cabinet's most urgent task is to submit to the parliament a negative supplementary budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 1999). Also on 30 March, the Bank of Estonia released a report arguing that to ensure the further shrinking of Estonia's current account deficit, budget expenditures need to be cut during 1999 through supplementary budgets. JC

ESTONIAN RULING COALITION TAKES MOST COMMITTEE CHAIRS

Seven of the 10 parliamentary committees are headed by members of the ruling coalition, ETA reported on 30 March. The Center Party, the largest opposition group, has the chairmanship of only one parliamentary committee (environment), as do the opposition Coalition Party (agriculture) and Country People's Party (defense). JC

LATVIAN PROSECUTOR DECIDES AGAINST CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OVER 'FEARFUL YEAR.'

Prosecutor-General Janis Skrastins has decided not to launch a criminal investigation into the activities of Leonid Inkins, who in 1997 re-published "The Fearful Year," according to "Diena" on 30 March. The book, which describes crimes committed against Latvians under Soviet rule from June 1940 to the end of 1941, first appeared in print in 1942. Latvia's Jewish community has protested its re-publication, arguing that the book contains anti-Semitic propaganda, while Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin was also strongly critical (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1999). According to the daily, Skrastins considers that the book can serve as a source of historical information. JC

ADAMKUS GIVES FIRST ANNUAL REPORT...

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, in his first annual report to the parliament, "showered" the government with criticism, as ELTA put it on 31 March. Adamkus said that a strategy for the "modernization of the state" must be drawn up, stressing the need to "curb the increasingly growing power of administration." "We have failed to achieve much in setting up a modern, efficient civil service able to respond promptly to the interests of citizens and the nation," Adamkus noted. He also argued that the lack of independence of local government "in real terms is becoming a serious obstacle to the development of civil society" in Lithuania. And he said that the government has failed to essentially improve the work of law-enforcement bodies, adding that government bodies are "too complacent" about possible corruption cases. JC

...EXPRESSES SURPRISE OVER NOMINATION FOR ENVIRONMENT MINISTER.

Also on 30 March, presidential spokeswoman Violeta Gaizauskaite told ELTA that Adamkus was "taken aback" by Premier Gediminas Vagnorius's nomination of Danius Lygis as environment minister to replace Algis Caplikas, who resigned early this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999). Lygis is currently deputy minister. Gaizauskaite said Adamkus was surprised by the nomination because Vagnorius had known that the president, himself an environmental expert, favors the head of a local environmental research center with whom he is personally acquainted. JC

NAZI SLAVE LABOR GROUPS MEET WITH GOVERNMENT

Officials representing former Nazi slave laborers met with members of the Polish government on 30 March to discuss ways of coordinating their efforts toward receiving compensation from Germany, AP reported. More than 400,000 Poles forced to work for Nazi Germany during World War II are to file claims against Germany for compensation in the coming weeks, said Marian Nawrocki, the head of the Association of Polish Victims of the Third Reich. The government said in a statement that it understands the "moral and political dimensions" of the problem. PB

HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL SAYS NATO PLANS TO BRING GROUND TROOPS TO KOSOVA...

Istvan Simicsko, head of the foreign affairs department of the Federation of Young Democrats--Hungarian Civic Party, said on 30 March that "it is common knowledge" that ground troops will be sent into Kosova during the third phase of NATO's military campaign. His remarks came after NATO officials warned the Hungarian government to "exercise more caution" in their declarations. One day earlier, Defense Minister Janos Szabo had said on Hungarian television that NATO does not plan any troop movements from Hungary, but from Macedonia. NATO attributed that statement to a "communications problem," but Simicsko said on 30 March that Szabo "had not revealed any secret." MSZ

...WHILE CZECH AMBASSADOR TO NATO SAYS GROUND OPERATIONS 'RULED OUT.'

Karel Kovanda, who is currently attending NATO Council meetings in Brussels, told CTK on 30 March that a ground operation against the Serbs in Kosova "has been ruled out." Kovanda said that "no [NATO member] government is willing to send ground forces." He said that the possibility "was only mentioned among [various options] discussed" last summer but "was immediately pushed aside." In other news, President Bill Clinton on 30 March sent a letter to President Vaclav Havel to thank him for supporting the air strikes. MS

FRENCH MINISTER OF EUROPEAN AFFAIRS IN SLOVAKIA

Meeting with Premier Mikulas Dzurinda and members of the Slovak cabinet on 30 March in Bratislava, Pierre Moscovici said France supports inviting Slovakia at the Helsinki summit in December to start accession talks with the EU. Moscovici said he expects the EU to admit new members before 2006 and that "any of the fast-track countries, but also Slovakia and the Baltic States," have a chance to be among the first to join. Moscovici said Paris is in favor of Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Baltic States being admitted to NATO. He praised the Slovak cabinet for allowing mid-air refueling of NATO planes over Slovak territory during the military operation in Yugoslavia, CTK reported. MS




CLINTON WARNS SERBIA MAY LOSE KOSOVA

President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 30 March that "if there was ever any doubt about what is at stake [in the Kosova conflict], [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic is certainly erasing it by his actions. They are the culmination of more than a decade of using ethnic and religious hatred as a justification for uprooting and murdering completely innocent, peaceful civilians to pave Mr. Milosevic's path to absolute power.... Today he faces the mounting cost of his continued aggression. For a sustained period, we will see that his military will be seriously diminished, key military infrastructure destroyed, the prospect for international support for Serbia's claim to [Kosova] increasingly jeopardized We must remain steady and determined with the will to see [the campaign of air strikes] through.... We must not allow, if we have the ability to stop it, ethnic cleansing or genocide anywhere we can stop it, particularly at the edge of Europe." PM

WESTERN LEADERS SAY MILOSEVIC MUST STOP KILLING...

Clinton said in a statement in Washington on 30 March that Milosevic's conditional peace offer to visiting Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov is "unacceptable." Clinton made the statement after a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whom Primakov had previously briefed in Bonn. The Serbian leader told Primakov he will "begin to withdraw part of his forces" from Kosova if NATO stops the bombing, ends any "support" for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), and removes its forces from Macedonia, AFP reported. Schroeder said that the offer is "no basis" for a settlement. In London, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook stressed that Milosevic must stop the killing before the air strikes can end. Cook added that NATO is "now widening the range of military targets" for air strikes. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told a Paris radio station on 31 March that "with the current situation on the ground, it is absolutely impossible to engage in political negotiations." PM

...AND FACE CONSEQUENCES

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told the parliament on 30 March that Milosevic and other Serbian leaders are responsible for the atrocities their forces have committed in Kosova. Jospin added that the Serbian leaders may soon be indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 1999). In Brussels, a NATO spokesman said that the extent of Serbian "ethnic cleansing" in Kosova "is something we have not seen since the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1970s." Other alliance officials compared Serbian policies in Kosova to Stalin's terror in the USSR in the 1930s. PM

SERBS SEEK TO 'DRIVE ALBANIANS OUT.'

Refugees fleeing Kosova gave virtually identical accounts of a "methodical, well-organized government campaign to drive ethnic Albanians out," "The New York Times" reported on 31 March. The behavior of the paramilitaries who spearhead the Serbian campaign is "systematic, methodical and deadly," the "International Herald Tribune" commented. One refugee told the newspaper that the paramilitaries of Franko Simatovic "will not leave even one [ethnic] Albanian alive" in Peja. An unnamed former interior minister, who now opposes Milosevic, called Simatovic's men "criminals and killers." The paramilitaries often give the Kosovars only a few minutes to leave their homes, which armed Serbs then loot and burn, according to consistent but unconfirmed refugee accounts. In Vienna, an OSCE spokesman said that some 20 local OSCE staff in Kosova are "missing." PM

HAGUE COURT INDICTS ARKAN

Louise Arbour, who is chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said on 31 March that the court indicted paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan" in 1997 for unspecified crimes but kept the indictment secret in the hope of arresting him. She added that "the time has come where the diminishing prospect of an arrest outside Yugoslavia must yield to the necessity of sending...an unambiguous signal to all his associates that they should be under no misapprehension as to whom they are dealing with," AP reported. PM

KOSOVARS CONTINUE TO FLEE

OSCE monitors in Tirana told Reuters on 31 March that some 100,000 Kosovars have arrived in Albania in recent days, including 18,000 in the previous 24 hours. A Foreign Ministry spokesman told AP that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees did not adequately prepare for the influx. Some 20,000 Kosovars have recently sought shelter in Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Skopje, Macedonian officials said they will continue to admit refugees, even though Macedonia is now hosting nearly 10,000 more than the 20,000 it is willing to accept. The Foreign Ministry is holding talks with officials of unspecified "neighboring countries" to urge them to take some of the Kosovars, AP wrote. Macedonian ethnic Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi said that local ethnic Albanians will accommodate the refugees in villages. The Macedonian authorities have virtually closed the border by extending the amount of time they take to process each refugee's papers there, the BBC reported. PM

BRZEZINSKI'S PLAN FOR KOSOVA.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is a leading U.S. expert on Eastern Europe and was President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, wrote in the "International Herald Tribune" of 31 March that air strikes are not enough to end "the mini-genocide and mass ethnic cleansing" in Kosova. First, Brzezinski recommends an "immediate shift to a combined strategic as well as tactical air campaign" in order to destroy Milosevic's ability to kill Kosovars. Brzezinski adds that Western policymakers should recognize that "one cannot expect to wage war without suffering casualties." Second, he argues that the West must arm the UCK in order to prevent the "social extinction" of the Kosovars. And third, Brzezinski stresses that Serbia has lost "any moral or political right" to Kosova. He concludes that NATO must not accept any settlement "that entails the retention of Mr. Milosevic's authority" in Kosova. PM

RUGOVA BACKERS WANT GROUND TROOPS

Hafiz Gagica, who is a spokesman for shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, said in Bonn on 30 March that the Serbian policy of "chaos, terror, and anarchy" has made the Rambouillet accords "history." He urged the international community to recognize an independent Kosova and to send in NATO ground troops. He added that Rugova has sustained unspecified injuries and gone into hiding. PM

ALBANIA TO ALLOW WEAPONS SHIPMENTS

In New York, Albanian Ambassador to the UN Agim Nesho said on 30 March that his government will allow shipments of weapons to the UCK across its territory "if the international community sees that this is one of the ways to defend the innocent population and to save them from the genocide of the Belgrade regime." PM

ALBRIGHT WARNS MILOSEVIC OVER MONTENEGRO

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic by telephone on 29 March that she remains concerned "about a possible attempt by Belgrade to oust his government," State Department spokesman James Rubin revealed the following day. She stressed that any attempt to undermine Djukanovic would promote regional instability and increase Milosevic's isolation from the international community, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Milosevic seeks to destabilize Djukanovic by "flooding the country with refugees" and by undermining him politically, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 31 March. PM

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON KOSOVA.

The parliament on 30 March adopted a resolution calling for creating conditions for ending [NATO] military operations [in Yugoslavia], resuming negotiations, and "ending any violent repression of civilians, especially members of the Kosovar Albanian minority." The resolution also called for preserving Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, while stressing Romania's firm resolve for integration into NATO," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) leader Ion Iliescu criticized the "one-sidedness" of the government's position vis-a-vis the conflict, but the PDSR nonetheless voted for the resolution. The Greater Romania Party voted against the resolution, while 13 lawmakers from the Party of Romanian National Unity abstained. MS

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON POSSIBLE YUGOSLAV THREAT

Defense Minister Victor Babiuc has said Romania "will not tolerate the violation of its air space" by Yugoslav aircraft and will react in such an event "as would any other state," namely, "by stopping those planes before they take off," Mediafax reported on 30 March. Babiuc, who was inspecting a military unit in Ploiesti, said that "many of those [Romanians] who are sentimentally backing the Serbs forget that in Yugoslavia there are several hundred thousand Romanians who cannot freely express their national identity." In an opinion poll conducted by INSOMAR and published by "Adevarul" on 30 March, 70.9 percent of respondents wanted Romania to take a neutral stand in the conflict. Only 11 percent wanted Bucharest to back NATO, while 6.1 percent were in favor of supporting Serbia. MS

MOLDOVAN PARTY LEADER INVOLVED IN CORRUPTION COVER UP?

General Nicolae Alexei, chief of the government's Department for Fighting Organized Crime and Corruption, told Moldovan Television on 27 March that Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) leader Valeriu Matei has tried to cover up and influence an investigation into the Trans-Marconi company. In a letter of protest addressed to President Petru Lucinschi, Matei claimed the PFD headquarters, which are in the same building as the Trans-Marconi offices, were searched on 16 March. Alexei denies the allegation. Trans-Marconi is headed by PFD member and former Minister of Transportation and Communications Tudor Leanca, whom Alexei accuses of forgery and links with organized crime. He said he is suing Matei for "insulting" him during the search at Trans-Marconi. The department has complained to the Prosecutor-General's Office, accusing Matei of attempting to obstruct an investigation, RFE/RL Chisinau bureau reported. MS

BULGARIA REJECTS YUGOSLAV PROTEST

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told journalists on 30 March that Bulgaria's ambassador to Belgrade has rejected a Yugoslav Foreign Ministry protest against NATO's alleged use of Bulgarian air space, Reuters reported. Mihailova said the note came on the heels of opposition Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov's statement to the parliament last week that the cabinet is concealing the fact that NATO is using the country's air space. "The government will not allow itself to become involved in speculation about taking sides in the conflict," she said, adding that Sofia pursues neither "a pro-Serbian nor anti- Serbian policy but the policy of Bulgarian national interest." MS




THE JACKALS AND THE LION


by Paul Goble

As the Commonwealth of Independent States prepares for a summit in Moscow on 2 April, one of Russia's leading foreign-policy commentators is arguing that Moscow should stop trying to integrate the former Soviet space on the basis of the CIS and instead deal one- on-one with each of the former Soviet republics.

Appearing at a roundtable discussion organized by the Russian foreign-policy journal "International Affairs," Sergei Karaganov suggests that the CIS today "is a rare example of a retrograde movement in history" and that overcoming "illusions" about it will serve Moscow's interests as it attempts to expand its influence in the countries that now belong to the commonwealth.

Karaganov, who is chairman of the prestigious Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy and deputy director of the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Europe, has frequently been a bellwether for Russian policy toward the former Soviet republics. And as a result, his argument now is likely to affect how Moscow approaches the upcoming CIS summit.

According to Karaganov, the CIS "has long been moving increasingly in the direction of its own disintegration." He suggests it crossed that Rubicon five or six years ago, when it failed to serve as the basis for creating an integrated economic space on the territory of the former Soviet Union. It has been retained, Karaganov insists, largely because current Russian leaders bear some responsibility for the demise of the USSR.

Because that opportunity was missed, Karaganov continues, the increasing differences among these countries have now made it impossible to create such an integrated economic space. The more than 1,000 CIS agreements that some of the commonwealth's members have signed have had the effect of discrediting the very idea of future cooperation.

Karaganov goes on to argue that the non-Russian countries made "a major strategic mistake" in not agreeing to a tight political arrangement five years ago, one that would have restricted Russia's freedom of action even more than their own. Indeed, he suggests that this mistake was "a paragon of foreign-policy idiocy."

But in fact, several CIS leaders, particularly Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, did push at that time for a more precisely defined arrangement among the commonwealth countries, while Russian leaders routinely refused to agree, a reflection of their recognition at the time of what Karaganov is suggesting now.

Karaganov also suggests that the non-Russian leaders now recognize their "mistake" and are forming various coalitions and alliances--such as GUAM, which unites Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova and may expand to include others--to gang up on Russia as Karaganov suggests they did at the CIS summit in Chisinau in October 1997.

In describing these moves, Karaganov offers the following metaphor. He suggests that the non-Russian leaders now recognize that "only a pack of jackals can tear a lion to pieces." He asks rhetorically what policy the lion, even if he is "sick and wounded," should adopt. And he suggests that "more likely than not" there is only one answer: "to crush the jackals one by one."

Unfortunately, as Karaganov notes, Russia lacks "the political and economic resources" needed to do so and therefore should remain calm, recognizing that at present "there is no need to crush anyone."

While some observers may see this comment as vitiating his metaphor, many of the leaders of the CIS member states are likely to perceive it as something else: an effort to pressure them into following Moscow's line lest Moscow deal with them one by one in the future, as Karaganov's wounded "lion" might deal with individual "jackals."

While some of these leaders may be impressed by Karaganov's logic, others certainly will not be, thus setting the stage for a possibly contentious CIS summit on 2 April and an even more contentious future set of relationships between Russia and its neighbors.


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