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Newsline - April 7, 1999




RUSSIA MAKING RENEWED PUSH FOR PEACE...

Russian leaders may be adopting a new strategy with respect to the Kosova crisis by making a renewed all-out push for a political settlement, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 April. The intended result of the new approach will be that Russia will appear as the world's peacemakers even in the eyes of the Kosovar Albanians, according to the newspaper. So far, Russian President Boris Yeltsin has sent several world leaders a message about the Yugoslav crisis appealing for a peaceful resolution to it, and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov telephoned the foreign ministers of the U.S, France, and Germany, Interfax reported on 7 April. The previous day, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov called U.S. Vice President Al Gore. "Vremya MN" also reported that "doves" are gaining on the "hawks" within the Kremlin and the White House and that, according to its sources, in order to make Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic more willing to compromise, Moscow "may in the near future demand that ethnic purges be stopped." JAC

...AS BLACK SEA SHIPS ON STAND-BY

Meanwhile, four warships from the Black Sea Fleet are being held in a state of alert and are waiting for an order to head to the Balkans, sources in the Russian Navy headquarters told Interfax on 7 April. According to the agency, the ships have been loaded with ammunition and are fully fueled. On 5 April, the intelligence-gathering ship "Liman" reached the Mediterranean and was expected in the Adriatic two days later. JAC

BEREZOVSKII IS A WANTED MAN...

The office of Russia's Prosecutor-General issued a warrant for the arrest of influential businessman Boris Berezovskii and the former commercial director of Aeroflot, Nikolai Glushkov, ITAR- TASS reported on 6 April. According to Interfax, the two men are wanted on charges of "illegal entrepeneurship" and money laundering. Berezovskii called the charges "100 percent fake." Speaking from France, he vowed to return to Russia and not seek political asylum. Meanwhile, another so-called oligarch, Aleksandr Smolenskii, the head of SBS- Agro, is wanted on suspicion of misappropriation of funds, according to Interfax. Smolenskii is reportedly in Austria. JAC

...AS MOSCOW SHEDS FEW TEARS

A long-time Berezovskii foe, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov praised news of the arrest warrant, noting that he "likes everything the Prosecutor General's office is doing." According to Luzhkov, Russian society is unanimous in disliking Berezovskii, and therefore the arrest warrant will not trigger a "split" in its ranks. Recent Berezovskii political ally, Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed disagreed and called the warrant "a political act." He continued that the government's top echelons "are all in a pinch and have started sinking each other" and it is a "wretched sight." Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told Russian Public Television that President Yeltsin had not been aware of the plan to arrest Berezovskii. JAC

SKURATOV NOW SAYS HE WANTS TO STAY

Russia's controversial Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov, who was recently suspended by President Yeltsin pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, told Interfax on 7 April that his second resignation letter was just a "pretext for discussing the issue (of blackmail attempts) once again in the Federation Council." He also claimed that he has real information about illegal deals made by a number of high- ranking officials. "It is not a bluff," he said. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the previous day that a letter written by Skuratov calling "illegal" the appointment of Anatolii Chubais to head Unified Energy Systems (UES) was distributed in the State Duma last week. UES responded that such an interpretation was "impossible" under current laws. Skuratov is expected to address the State Duma on 7 April. JAC

PRIMAKOV SIDELINED BY ILLNESS

Prime Minister Primakov's visit to Ukraine scheduled for 7-9 April was postponed to 22-23 April because of back pain, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 April. According to AFP, the ailment has been diagnosed as sciatica. Primakov is 69. JAC

GOVERNMENT STILL RELYING ON BIG TAX CUT?

In its draft program for socio-economic development from 1999 to 2002, the Russian government has laid out a strategy for reviving the Russian economy based on galvanizing industry by reducing its tax burden, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 April. However, the government had earlier agreed with the IMF's insistence that value-added tax (VAT), for example, not be reduced at least in the short term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 1999). Under the second stage of the program, scheduled to be implemented in 2000, the tax burden on enterprises is to be eased, thus creating a "financial foundation for expanded production," according to Interfax on 31 March. Officials at the IMF told RFE/RL's Washington bureau that there is no way to know how long it will take to work out a new agreement with Russia once its team begins its work in Moscow at the end of the week. JAC

BUDGET REVENUE NEARLY 12 PERCENT SHY OF TARGET

Moscow missed its federal budget revenue target in March by 11.6 percent, according to a statement from the Ministry of Finance, Interfax reported. Although the State Customs Committee collected 6.4 percent more duties than expected, the tax ministry collected 20.7 percent less taxes than had been planned. The State Property Ministry also collected 28.1 percent less than envisioned. According to the Finance Ministry, federal spending was 10.4 percent less than planned. The resulting deficit of 5.1 billion rubles ($203 million) was financed by loans from the Central Bank, the ministry said. JAC

CHECHENS, SKIF PRIME SUSPECTS IN FSB BLAST

Investigators looking into the explosion outside of Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in Moscow on 3 April have already come up with several working hypotheses about the attack, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 April. One of them is that the blast was the work of one of several "subversive groups" sent to St. Petersburg and other major Russian cities by Chechen field commander Khottab. Another theory is that nationalists were behind the attack since it resembles the explosion of the Lubavicher Synagogue in Moscow last year. However, the newspaper and its sources consider the explosion to most likely be the responsibility of Skif (Scythian), the group which claimed responsibility for the recent attack on the U.S. embassy. According to the newspaper, Skif earlier warned that Americans who choose to stay in Russia after 3 April will be "targets for retribution" for NATO bombings of Yugoslavia. JAC

MALAYSIA, RUSSIA LOOKING FOR WAYS TO BOOST DEFENSE COOPERATION

First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov signed a memorandum on 6 March with his counterparts in Malaysia, outlining increased defense cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 April. The memorandum envisions training and the joint production of defense materiel and the establishment of a commission to look for further ways for the countries to cooperate in the defense sector. JAC

OTECHESTVO SCORES BIG VICTORY IN UDMURTIA

Additional data on elections held on 4 April in the Republic of Udmurtia revealed that Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's Otechestvo party fared extremely well, capturing 42 of 100 available seats in the republic's legislative assembly, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 6 April. The Communist Party performed even worse than originally reported, winning only eight seats compared with the 20 held in the last assembly. In addition, not one of the 14 candidates from the "Honor and Motherland" party, the 11 from the Liberal Democratic Party, or the five from Yabloko were elected. (On 6 April, "Newsline" erroneously reported that all of these candidates were elected.) Luzhkov called the results "very gratifying" and noted that candidates from his movement earned more seats than any other party. JAC

TATAR NATIONALISTS RAISE POSSIBILITY OF SECESSION

At a congress of the All-Tatar Public Center on 3 April, delegates to the 50,000-strong organization called on the leadership of the Republic of Tatarstan to abrogate the power-sharing treaty concluded between Kazan and the federal center, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 April. They also demanded that Tatarstan's security ministries be placed under Kazan's control. The congress also called for volunteers to fight in Kosova on the side of the province's ethnic Albanians, according to AFP on 5 April. LF

STAVROPOL EXPELS WAHHABIS

The Stavropol prosecutor's office has expelled eight foreigners, most of them Syrians, since late 1998 for actively spreading wahhabist propaganda, Caucasus Press reported on 7 April. A further 570 foreign nationals have been expelled from the krai for violating immigration laws. LF

FSB IDENTIFIED PERPETRATORS OF VLADIKAVKAZ BOMBING

Russian Federal Security Service head Vladimir Putin told journalists in Moscow on 6 April that his agency has established the identity of the persons responsible for the 19 March bomb in the central market of the North Ossetian capital that killed some 60 people, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 22 March 1999). Putin did not disclose the bombers' nationality. LF




DASHNAK PARTY TO SUE ARMENIAN EX-PRESIDENT

Vahan Hovannisian, leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (HHD), said on 6 April that his party plans to sue former President Levon Ter-Petrossian for slander, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ter-Petrossian suspended the party in December 1994, accusing its members of terrorism and political murders. Ter-Petrossian said last month that he considered his action justified as it prevented further "terror." Dozens of HHD activists, including Hovannisian, were charged with terrorism and coup plotting in two separate trials in 1995 and 1996 that were widely seen as politically motivated. Robert Kocharian, who succeeded Ter-Petrossian as acting president in February 1998, immediately lifted the ban on the HHD's activities and had Hovannisian and others released from jail. LF

NGO TO PROVIDE ONLINE COVERAGE OF ARMENIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Representatives of "Cooperation and Democracy," which is funded by the UN Development Program and the U.S. non-governmental organization Internews, told journalists in Yerevan on 5 April that the organization will host a Web site on 25 April to provide coverage in Armenian, English, and Russian of the 30 May parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Media specialist Mark Grigorian told RFE/RL that the aim is to provide election coverage in accordance with Western standards, with emphasis on objectivity and giving equal access to all parties and candidates. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION FORMS PARLIAMENT FACTION

Some 20 parliament deputies, including a dozen defectors from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party, attended the first formal meeting on 6 April of the Democratic Bloc, Turan reported. Only seven opposition representatives were elected to the 124-seat parliament in the November 1995 poll. LF

WAR VETERANS THREATEN SUICIDE OVER DEPRIVATION IN AZERBAIJAN'S SECOND CITY

Some 50 veterans of the Karabakh war have threatened to kill themselves in front of the parliament building in Baku over the next three days, Turan reported on 6 April. The veterans are protesting social and economic conditions in the city of Gyanja, in particular "total unemployment, and the lack of electricity, gas and drinking water." LF

GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA ASSESS CIS SUMMIT RESOLUTION

Anri Djergenia, who is Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's representative at talks with Georgia, criticized participants at the 2 April CIS summit in Moscow for failing to take into account Abkhazia's position when adopting a resolution on the Abkhaz conflict, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. The resolution sets conditions for a six-month extension of the mandate of the CIS peace- keeping force currently deployed along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. That mandate will be prolonged if Georgia and Abkhazia sign, within one month, documents abjuring a resumption of hostilities and stipulating conditions for the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons. Djergenia specifically objected to a clause in the CIS summit resolution calling for the creation of an interim Abkhaz-Georgian administration in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion with Russian and UN participation. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S CURRENCY CONTINUES TO LOSE VALUE...

At the close of trading on 6 April, the average exchange rate quoted for the tenge was 138.5 to the dollar, down from 100 tenge the previous day and 87.5 tenge on 2 April, Interfax and AP reported. Central Bank chairman Kadyrzhan Damitov termed that rate unrealistic, and attributed it to trader nervousness. IMF representative Paul Ross expressed support for the decision by the government and National Bank to allow the tenge to float. He also praised the bank's tight monetary policy. But Ross urged the government to withdraw its 5 April promise to convert all savings bank deposits to hard currency at a rate of 88.3 tenge to the dollar provided those savings accounts are frozen for nine months. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 April noted that the loss in value of the tenge may affect implementation of the country's sequestered 1999 budget, which was predicated on an exchange rate of 91 tenge to the dollar. LF

...IMPACTING ALSO ON KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan's som dropped 14 percent in value on 6 April, from 35 to 40 to the dollar, Interfax and AP reported. Central Bank spokeswoman Zhyldyz Kozhobaeva said the bank was trying to stabilize the som and prevent panic buying of foreign currencies. The exchange rate for the som plummeted from 17 to over 30 to the dollar between July and November 1998, primarily as a result of the Russian financial crisis. In Tashkent, however, the Uzbek som remained stable against the dollar on 6 April, according to Interfax. LF

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN

Meeting in Dushanbe on 6 April with President Imomali Rakhmonov, Igor Sergeev discussed expanding military and technical cooperation as well as the future of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Russian agencies reported. Sergeev subsequently told journalists that he and Rakhmonov came close to reaching agreement on allowing Russia to maintain a military base in Tajikistan for a period of 25 years. It was not clear from Sergeev's remarks whether this entails building a new Russian military facility, or bestowing the formal legal status of a Russian military base on the facilities occupied by the estimated 20,000 Russian troops already stationed in Tajikistan. On 7 April, Sergeev met informally in Dushanbe with Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of Afghanistan's anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, ITAR-TASS reported. Sergeev assured Massoud of the Russian government's interest in stepping up talks on a political settlement in Afghanistan at which all that country's political forces would be represented. LF




ELECTION VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS REPORTED

Observers from Belarusian NGOs have reported violations during the local elections in Belarus on 4 April, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 5 April. According to those reports, one polling station in the Haradotski raion of Vitsebsk Oblast was not open, while the commission was visiting voters at home with the ballot boxes. Observers from Homel questioned the official turnout of 66 percent, saying that at three monitored constituencies it was below 40 percent. In Brest, two candidates were present at the ballot boxes all day prompting voters to vote for them. Belapan reported that, according to Social Democratic Party activists, people with ballot boxes in Barysau visited voters at home, accompanied by a police officer in an "attempt to intimidate those residents of the city who had no intention to take part in the [election] farce." JM

LUKASHENKA SLAMS RUSSIAN TV FOR COVERAGE OF KOSOVA CRISIS

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 5 April accused Russian central television channels of taking a "more and more pro-American stance" in their coverage of the Kosova crisis, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 April. Lukashenka said the Russian channels are trying to suggest that "it was Milosevic that led to the humanitarian catastrophe, and not the bombings by the North Atlantic alliance." JM

PROMINENT BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST DIES

Henadz Karpenka, deputy speaker of the opposition Supreme Soviet and head of the opposition shadow cabinet, died in a hospital on 6 April at the age of 49 after surgery for a brain hemorrhage. "I realize that we may not be able to complete our task. However, we are making a long step on the path of democracy," Karpenka told RFE/RL last month, commenting on the opposition's initiative to hold alternative presidential elections this May. JM

BELARUSIAN RUBLE PLUNGES AHEAD OF SPRING SOWING

The Belarusian ruble has plunged by 11.5 percent against the dollar in the past six days, Belapan reported on 6 April. On the non-cash transaction market, which is not controlled by the state Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange, the exchange rate stood at 475,000 Belarusian rubles to $1. The National Bank exchange rate on 5 April was 238,000 Belarusian rubles to $1, while the street exchange rate reached 360,000 Belarusian rubles to $1. Currency dealers attribute the ruble plunge to massive National Bank loans issued in early April to agricultural enterprises ahead of the sowing campaign. JM

KUCHMA'S RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN ON THE MOVE

A memo listing 12 reasons why President Leonid Kuchma should be re-elected was sent to regional centers on 6 April, UNIAN reported, citing representatives of the parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security. The memo says that Kuchma's relatively good health and the experience he's acquired are highly favorable assets. It also argues that Kuchma is the cheapest option for taxpayers, while his opponents in the presidential elections--particularly leftist candidates-- would likely increase public spending and taxation. The Supreme Council on 7 April set the date of presidential elections for 31 October. JM

UKRAINIAN JEWS UNITE, BUT NOT COMPLETELY

Following a split in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 1999), a total of 242 organizations representing some 240,000 of Ukraine's 500,000 Jews have sent their delegates to Kyiv and formed a United Jewish Community of Ukraine headed by Vadym Rabinovych, AP reported on 6 April. However, three influential breakaway organizations of Ukrainian Jews are planning to hold a congress in mid-April to inaugurate their own union, the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine. JM

CENTRAL BANK DECLARES ERA PANK BANKRUPT

The Estonian Central Bank has announced that it is launching bankruptcy proceedings against ERA Pank, ETA reported. Last fall, ERA Pank was given six months in which to find a new investor, but it failed to do so by the 6 April deadline. The Central Bank noted that ERA Pank's obligations exceeded its assets by some 40 million kroons ($2.8 million). JC

DISPUTE OVER TELECOMMUNICATIONS TARIFFS CONTINUES IN LATVIA

The parliamentary commission investigating the activities of Lattelekom announced on 6 April that it will ask the government to dismiss the Telecommunications Tariffs Council, arguing that its work is "incompatible" with the interests of the state and taxpayers, LETA and "Diena" reported. In January, the council approved increased telephone rates effective 1 April, but Transportation Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs last week issued a decree overriding that decision. The council, for its part, has asked the Justice Ministry to rule on Gorbunovs's move. JC

BLAST AT RIGA HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL

In the early hours of 7 April, an explosive device went off next to the memorial for the Victims of the Holocaust in a Riga suburb, LETA reported. No one was injured, while the stone memorial sustained minor damage. JC

LANDSBERGIS PRESENTS NEW ANTI-KGB LAW

Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis has submitted to the legislature a bill outlining the procedures for liquidating an enterprise or organization that operated or continues to operate as a cover for a foreign secret service, ELTA reported on 6 April. Under the bill, the judicial authorities would be empowered to liquidate such an enterprise and transfer its property to the state. The bill reads that former regular members of the USSR KGB who own or operate such enterprises "shall immediately report about it to the Lithuanian State Security Department." That department will then determine whether the enterprise is operating as a cover for a foreign secret service. JC

POLAND BACKS SLOVAKIA'S SWIFT NATO ENTRY...

Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, in Warsaw on 6 April that Poland supports Slovakia's swift entry into NATO, PAP reported. Geremek said Poland opts for fixing a NATO expansion timetable, adding that the candidate countries should be assessed individually according to their merits. Kukan said he hopes for a specific decision on Slovakia's NATO membership at the alliance's summit in Washington. JM

...CONDEMNS ETHNIC CLEANSING IN KOSOVA

In a statement on 6 April, the Polish government condemned the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosova pursued by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and expressed hope that those responsible for the campaign will be brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The government also decided to assign 1 million zlotys ($248,000) in aid for Kosova refugees. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT TO SEND FIELD HOSPITAL TO ALBANIA

The Czech government is to approve sending a field hospital to Albania on 7 April, CTK reported. Deputy Premier Egon Lansky is leaving for a visit to Tirana on the same day. He said on 6 April that the Czech Republic will have to spend over 60 billion crowns ($1.7 billion) till 2002 to meet the requirements of NATO's defense system. Citing an official of the Interior Ministry's department for refugees, CTK reported on 6 April that some 400 Kosova Albanians have so far asked for refugee status. "Lidove noviny" on 7 April cites Deputy Interior Minister Jaroslav Kopriva as saying the Czech Republic could accept no more than 4,500 Kosovar refugees. MS

SLOVAKIA GRANT NATO PLANES 'UNLIMITED ACCESS'

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists on 6 April that at an "extraordinary meeting" the night before the cabinet "approved unlimited access of NATO airplanes to Slovak air space," CTK reported. The meeting clarified different interpretations by Slovak officials of the government's decision of 24 March, which some understood to refer only as consent to in air refueling and overflight of transport planes. Dzurinda and the Foreign Ministry explained that the overflight approval was "general." Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo said on Slovak radio that no NATO bombers have yet flown over Slovak territory. The cabinet also decided to provide "humanitarian aid" to inhabitants of Kosova but the form of the aid is still to be determined by several cabinet members. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER IN SLOVAKIA

Ivan Kostov told CTK on 6 April in Bratislava that the term "Kosova refugees" must be replaced with "expelled Kosovars." He said among the refugees "there is not one single Serbian, while Kosovar Albanians are being transported to Macedonia by train." Kostov said his country could temporarily receive a total of 5,000 refugees and that 122 Kosovars have so far applied for that status. Slovak Premier Dzurinda said he has no information about applications for asylum in Slovakia for now but expected such requests because "the genocide is considerable and is escalating." He said Slovakia could accept "several hundreds or thousands of refugees." Kostov and Dzurinda agreed to mutually support their efforts to join NATO, the EU, and the OECD, and to improve bilateral trade. Kostov will cut his visit short and fly back to Sofia on 7 April where the parliament will hold a no- confidence vote on his government. MS

YUGOSLAV PLANES VIOLATE HUNGARIAN AIR SPACE

Two Yugoslav MiG-29 fighters entered Hungarian air space on 4 April, Defense Minister Janos Szabo confirmed to reporters on 6 April. He said the two planes spent only about 30 seconds over Hungary and immediately left when two NATO planes flew over them. The incident "did not represent any danger to Hungary," and "the option of shooting down the Yugoslav fighters" was never considered, Szabo added. He described as "absurd" an ITAR-TASS report claiming that the planes had also entered Czech air space. MSZ

U.S. AWARE OF THREAT TO VOJVODINA HUNGARIANS

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on 6 April in Washington that the U.S. is fully aware of the dangers to which ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina are exposed, Hungarian media reported. She said that "it must be made clear again and again to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that escalating the conflict would entail very dangerous consequences." Meanwhile, Zsolt Nemeth, political state secretary at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, said that he "does not fear that ethnic Hungarians would be taken hostage by the Yugoslav army," since Hungary is not taking part in the NATO operations. MSZ




FISCHER REVEALS SERBIA'S 'OPERATION HORSESHOE'

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in Bonn on 6 April that Serbian security forces set into motion on 26 February a plan called "Operation Horseshoe" aimed at the expulsion of the ethnic Albanian population from Kosova, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported. Fischer added that he deeply regrets that he did not take Milosevic seriously when the Yugoslav leader told him in early March that Serbian forces could empty Kosova "within a week." Fischer stressed that Serbia is likely to emerge from the current conflict as a truncated state and that Milosevic will become known as "Serbia's destroyer." The foreign minister said that it is an "extremely difficult question" whether the West could accept Milosevic as a negotiating partner in eventual peace talks. Fischer noted that a lasting peace in the Balkans will require security guarantees for all states in the region, at least 20 years of EU economic assistance, and the development of democratic structures. PM

OGATA: EXPULSIONS WERE PLANNED

Sadako Ogata, who is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told an emergency aid gathering in Geneva on 6 April that the Serbian expulsion of Kosovars was "forced, planned, and directed" in a deliberate move to "destroy the identity" of the province. Ogata stressed that resettlement programs "must meet minimum humanitarian standards, including non- separation of families. Random, disorganized and, worst of all, forced evacuations will not, I repeat not, be accepted by the UNHCR." She added that "solutions, for the overwhelming majority, mean returning to their homes as soon as possible," AFP reported. PM

WHERE ARE THE REFUGEES?

The more than 40,000 Kosovar refugees massed in the no-man's land along the Macedonian border were gone by the morning of 7 April. "Confusion reigned" among aid workers as to what happened to them, Reuters reported. Some observers noted that the Macedonians have sent many refugees to camps to await resettlement abroad. Other observers suggested that the authorities may have put as many as 30,000 Kosovars on buses bound for Albania, Greece, or Turkey. The UNHCR's Paula Ghebini said that "we cannot account for about 30,000 people...You can't just put refugees on a bus and not tell them where they're going." She added that the UNHCR is concerned that the Macedonian authorities have split families up by arbitrarily selecting refugees for resettlement in one country or another. Some reports suggest that some of the Kosovars may have returned to the Serbian-controlled province. PM

NATO: NO FORCED DEPORTATIONS

Britain's Brigadier Tim Cross told Reuters at Macedonia's Stenkovec airfield on 7 April that families will not be separated and "no one will go anywhere they don't want to go." The UNHCR and OSCE set up a special registration desk for those wanting to go to Germany. By 8:00 am local time, "thousands" of people were lined up in front of it. PM

GEORGIEVSKI BLASTS NATO

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 6 April that the Atlantic alliance acted "completely irresponsibly" by ignoring his warnings that air strikes could lead to a humanitarian disaster, AP reported. He added: "Macedonia cried out that something dramatic was going to happen, but the U.S. and EU have done nothing to help...How many [refugees] do we have to take to satisfy Europe and for the Kosovar people to say 'thank you,'" Reuters quoted him as saying. Macedonia seeks to join NATO, but many citizens and government officials have become bitter over having become a front-line state. Many ethnic Macedonians sympathize with Serbian policies in Kosova. Macedonia's population is some 23 percent ethnic Albanian, and one of their two largest parties is part of the coalition government. PM

REFUGEE INFLUX TO ALBANIA CONTINUES

Another 16,000 displaced persons arrived in Albania on 6 April, bringing the total in that country to 280,000 according to OSCE estimates. Most were registered at the Morina crossing point near Kukes. A further 1,000 came from Montenegro. An OSCE spokesman in Tirana said helicopters ferrying supplies to the border had brought back wounded refugees to that city, including children hit by shrapnel. The next day, Serbian authorities closed the Morina crossing and told the refugees it is safe for them to go home because of Milosevic's unilateral declaration of a cease-fire (see below). Few Kosovars, if any, trust anything that the Serbian authorities say, the BBC reported. FS

GOVERNMENT ACCELERATES EVACUATIONS FROM KUKES

The Albanian authorities used 5,000 buses and trucks to evacuate 17,500 refugees from remote Kukes to other parts of the country on 6 April. The authorities so far have evacuated a total of 110,000 people from there since the influx began in March. Also on 6 April, 20 planes landed at Tirana airport with 2,400 tons of aid--mainly food, tents, and medicines. Elsewhere, the head of the World Bank's Tirana office, Carlos Elbirt, said that the World Bank will give Albania's government budgetary support of around $20 million to cope with the situation. FS

REFUGEE REPORTS MASS KILLING

A refugee, identified as Gani Bushati, told AP in Kukes on 6 April that Serbian forces in the morning of 2 April rounded up between 130 and 150 villagers in Llabjane near Peja, herded them into a barn and opened fire. He said he survived because others fell over him. The story, if true, would represent the biggest single alleged mass execution since the expulsions began. The man said he and two other survivors hid for two days in the mountains until they received care at a field hospital run by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Serbian authorities have expelled foreign correspondents from Kosova, so independent confirmation of Bushati's account is not possible. In Tirana, OSCE chairman and Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek told journalists that it is difficult to get verifiable information. He added nonetheless: "I think we have to admit that we're talking about genocide." FS

WEST SLAMS MILOSEVIC'S 'HOLLOW SHAM'...

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC on 7 April that Milosevic's offer of a unilateral cease-fire the previous day is a "hollow sham." Cook added that NATO has intensified its air operations against Yugoslav military targets. President Bill Clinton said that Milosevic must withdraw his forces from Kosova and allow all refugees and displaced persons to go home under international protection if he wants the air strikes to end. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema also called Milosevic's offer "insufficient." PM

...AS DOES ALBANIA

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement in Tirana on 6 April saying that the cease-fire is "just another act of cheating." It added that "the criminal regime of Belgrade is trying to buy time in order to continue its campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing." The statement stressed that real peace in Kosova can be restored only after the Serbian forces withdraw their forces from the province, accept the Rambouillet peace accords and allow all refugees and displaced people to return under the protection of NATO forces. President Rexhep Meidani called the cease-fire "an act of demagogy and a cynical provocation," Reuters reported. Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told an unnamed NATO official in Tirana that the government offers "full collaboration with NATO for any further action" that the alliance undertakes against Serbia. FS

BRITAIN SAYS SERBIAN MILITARY PUTS CIVILIANS AT RISK

Defense Secretary George Robertson said in London on 6 April that it is "deeply regrettable" that NATO air strikes have led to civilian casualties. He stressed, however, that "civilians are directly being put at risk as part of Serbian military policy," which places military assets in residential areas, schools, and factories, AP reported. Robertson nonetheless stressed that "we shall continue with our attacks as long as necessary to ensure Milosevic is defeated in his vile ethnic war." Serbian television reports on the destruction caused by NATO air strikes and highlights civilian casualties and injuries. It does not report on the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Kosovars, except to suggest that "the Albanians" are fleeing NATO air strikes. PM

TALBOTT IN ROMANIA

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott praised Romania on 6 April for its readiness to share its burden of the refugees from Kosova and for its position on the NATO actions in Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Talbott said the U.S. will increase by $6 million its assistance program for democratization, economic reform, and the army, to a total of $46.6 million in 1999. Talbott said the NATO Washington summit later this month will examine "not only the conflict in Yugoslavia, but the future of the region as a whole" and that he expects President Emil Constantinescu and Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu (with whom he conducted talks), to provide the summit with "an intellectual and political leadership role" in the search for the region's secure future. MS

ROMANIAN CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS THREATEN THE CDR

The civic organizations that are members of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) warned the political parties in the CDR on 7 April that they will "search for an electoral alternative" in the next parliamentary elections if their role in the CDR will not be equalized to that of the parties. The CDR council also decided to renew regular meetings among its leaders, but CDR chairman Ion Diaconescu said that in line with the electoral law, the new protocol now being worked out must distinguish between political parties and civic organizations. In other news, the Hungarian honorary consulate was officially opened in Constanta on 7 April. MS




ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN PARTY TORN BY INNER CONFLICT


By Michael Shafir

The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) is scheduled to hold its sixth congress in May 1999 and the event is likely to be tumultuous. The UDMR's "radical" and "moderate" wings, which have long been at odds, now appear to be headed for an open confrontation that may impact not only UDMR's future, but also that of the Romanian coalition in which the UDMR is a member, indeed may even have a regional and international influence.

The "radical" wing of the alliance, headed by Reformed Bishop Laszlo Toekes, has in the last months scored heavily against its adversaries, whose leader is the UDMR chairman, Bela Marko. Internal UDMR elections under way in preparation for the congress displaced "moderates" at the head of several important UDMR local branches, replacing them with partisans of the bishop. This was the case in Targu Mures, Cluj, and Timisoara, three of the most important and powerful UDMR local organizations. Moreover, the new leader of the Mures county UDMR local organization, lawyer Eloed Kincses, has been elected by the Cluj and Timisoara "radicals" to run against Marko for the UDMR chairmanship in May.

There are several explanations for the UDMR's rank and file radicalization. First, the minority Hungarian electorate, just like that formed by the ethnic majority, is dissatisfied with the economic performance of the ruling coalition. Marko has become associated with the promotion of the coalition partnership, and with the promise to deliver the "general goods" of reform and improved living standards as a means to solve the problems of the Hungarian minority.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the perceived responsibility of the "moderates" for the failure to deliver the "specific goods" pursued by the UDMR when it joined the coalition in 1996. The former cabinet headed by Victor Ciorbea, initially seemed inclined to meet those demands. In an unwritten "gentlemen's agreement," the UDMR leadership shelved its demands for autonomy in exchange for some concrete steps aimed at meeting more modest demands. Two government regulations issued by that cabinet allowed for the use of the minority mother tongue in administration in localities with a significant proportion of minority inhabitants, and amended the education law to make possible university instruction in the minority mother tongue. Government regulations, however, have to be eventually approved by the parliament, and some of the UDMR's partners in the coalition joined forces with the nationalist opposition to stall both pieces of legislation. UDMR threats to leave the coalition eventually brought about the compromise solution of setting up a so-called "multicultural university," but even that solution is, for the time being, stalled, as a court of justice (acting on appeals launched by three opposition parties) ruled that it was "unconstitutional" and contradicted the education law still in force.

The resignation of Gyorgy Tokay in January as minister in charge of minorities affairs, though submitted on "personal grounds" that were never elucidated, was another blow suffered by the "moderates," since its most likely reason was the untenable position of an avowed partisan of "dialogue" with the ethnic majority when that dialogue had produced little after more than three years of coalition partnership. His replacement, Cluj Senator Peter Eckstein Kovacs, is not easily identifiable as either a "moderate" or a "radical," but, if the current trend in the UDMR continues, is unlikely to pursue his predecessor's line.

Recently, several UDMR members of the so-called "Platform for Change of the UDMR" were summoned before the Prosecutor General's office in connection with a resolution adopted in September 1998 at a "forum" held by these Toekes supporters, which resurrected the call for territorial autonomy and demanded the granting of "double citizenship" for members of the Hungarian minority by Budapest. Marko was forced to publicly defend his rivals, though not their ideas. He could have hardly done otherwise, bearing in mind that the investigation was opened at the request of nationalist Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar.

Budapest has distanced itself from the "double citizenship" demand. The cabinet headed by Viktor Orban is wisely taking a cautious position vis-a-vis the internal UDMR struggle. Against the background of Kosova, the radicalization of the UDMR might indeed turn into too dangerous a card to play, the more so as Romanian nationalists are warning against a "Kosova precedent." Emblematically, Marko has spoken about the need to pre-empt Kosova-like situations by having the international community act before they become "hot and close to explosion." While pledging that Hungarian Transylvanians will only use "political means" to achieve their goals, Marko also warned that the Yugoslav lesson shows that "he who believes that borders are frozen...is wrong." The statement was probably intentionally ambiguous, bearing in mind the growing strength of his opponents in the UDMR. Less driven by subtleties, some pro-Toekes Transylvanian pundits on several occasions spoke of changing Western perceptions on solving interethnic conflicts triggered by the persecution of minorities.

The Toekes-posed challenge has already met with what is hardly a "moderate response of the moderates," and one of the most interesting proposals is to have the honorary UDMR chairman (that is, Toekes himself) allowed to speak in an official position only after the UDMR chairman (now, Marko) has "clarified" the bishop's statement. In other words, to silence Toekes. This, in itself, is a sure indication that the sixth UDMR congress will be anything but a "silent event."


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