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Newsline - April 12, 1999


Russian President Boris Yeltsin warned NATO on 9 April not to "push [Russia] towards military action. Otherwise, there will be a minimum of a European war or maybe even a world war, which must not be permitted." The same day, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov criticized the West for mishandling the refugee problem "created by NATO air strikes" and suggested that the conflict e was on the threshold of a "serious ecological catastrophe." He said that the West was settling refugees throughout the world "instead of ensuring in a well- considered way the return of refugees to their homes." He also said that Russia had evidence that NATO was using weapons that had "radioactive components" and that a higher radiation level has been recorded in Yugoslavia. He added that air strikes on oil facilities threaten to contaminate rivers. JAC


Russian Television reported on 10 April that its correspondent, Gleb Ovsyannikov, and a video engineer were expelled from Yugoslavia by government authorities for no apparent reason. According to the network, after its "Vesti" program showed the destruction of a Interior Ministry building by a NATO bomb, the journalists were deprived of their visas. On 4 April, NTV reported that their reports from the region were subjected to military censorship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999). JAC


Aleksandr Pochinok, head of the government's department for monetary and credit policy, told Ekho Moskvy on 9 April that the government has found ways of increasing budget revenues by more than 60 billion rubles ($2.4 billion). A saving of more than 30 billion rubles will result from postponing the reduction in VAT from 1 July to 1 January, according to Pochinok. In addition, the Tax and Finance Ministries and State Customs Committee have pledged to collect more revenues. In March, these and other federal entities missed their target for revenue collections by as much as 11.6 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1999). The previous day, Russia's executive director at the IMF, Aleksei Mozhin, told Interfax that the fund's board will not consider approval of the Russia's economic program before the end of May or early June. JAC


The official start of election campaigns for the State Duma will be declared no later than 19 August, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters on 8 April. The elections themselves are scheduled for 19 December. Veshnyakov also explained that his commission has proposed that candidates and parties place a 100,000 ruble ($4,000) deposit for an individual candidate and 2 million rubles for a party at Sberbank. If the candidate or bloc wins more than 5 percent of the vote, then the deposit will be returned, ITAR-TASS reported. However, if they fail to clear the 5 percent hurdle, then the money will go into government coffers. Under the current system, candidates must collect a certain amount of signatures and present them to the election committee, a practice which has led to signature-buying. JAC


Lawyers representing Grigorii Pasko scored one of their first legal victories on 9 April, the "Moscow Times" reported, when judges in the military court refused to allow 23 of the prosecution's 28 remaining witnesses to testify. Pasko, a military journalist, was arrested in November 1997 and charged with high treason for providing classified information about the hazardous environmental practices of the Pacific Fleet to Japanese television. Before the decision, Pasko himself was grim about his chances for acquittal, telling Interfax-Eurasia that "everything indicates that it will be a sham, not a proper trial." On 5 April, one of the prosecution's key witnesses, Yurii Ralin, recanted his earlier testimony, "Segodnya" reported on 10 April; however, the Federal Security Service directorate in Primorskii Krai told the daily that Ralin may have changed his testimony, but it has "proof of his insincerity." JAC


Meanwhile, Aleksandr Nikitin, an environmentalist facing similar charges for disclosing similar information about the Northern Fleet, has been accused by Petersburg Television of ruining Russia's reputation as a nuclear superpower in the West and paving the way for NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. According to the "Moscow Times," the new head of newscasts at the station is Yevgenii Lukin, a former Federal Security Services official and author of an anti-Semitic novel. Lukin was appointed by St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, whose government has a 38 percent stake in the station. JAC


Gennadii Tuganov, chief coordinator of the St. Petersburg branch of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), was slain in an apparent contract killing on 9 April. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii told reporters that day that the killing was "purely political" and that Tuganov was assassinated because he was knowledgeable about the attempts of local criminal gangs "to infiltrate government structures" and get their names on the LDPR party ticket during elections. According to "Kommersant Daily" on 10 April, Tuganov had been preparing the party for gubernatorial elections in the Leningrad Oblast scheduled for September, in which Zhirinovskii had said earlier that he would participate. More recently, LDPR officials have said that Zhirinovskii would run for governor in Belgorod Oblast (see "RFE/RL Federation Report," 7 April 1999). JAC


Three to four Russian regions are refusing Western humanitarian assistance, Agriculture Minister Viktor Semenov said on 9 April, "Izvestiya" reported the next day. He could not say what reasons the regions were giving for their refusal, but he suggested that they might change their position after the Ministry holds direct negotiations with them. JAC


The Russian presidential press service announced on 11 April that an official visit to Moscow by Syrian President Hafez Assad scheduled for 12-13 April was postponed, ITAR-TASS reported. A Kremlin spokesman later said that the visit has been delayed at the request of Syria. Arab diplomats told AP that Assad had called off the trip after the Russian government had hesitated in finalizing an arms deal. JAC


Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Moscow on 11 April for an official three-day visit, his second visit to Russia in a month. Sharon is expected to discuss Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran and military cooperation with Syria as well as bilateral economic relations, ITAR-TASS reported. Sharon was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov on 12 April. JAC


President Boris Yeltsin dismissed Pension Fund head Vasilii Barchuk on 10 April. Barchuk told Ekho Moskvy that his dismissal was a "good Easter gift," saying that he tendered his resignation in January 1999. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 April that, according to well-informed Kremlin sources, General Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of the Armed Forces' general staff, is likely to be dismissed because his recent bellicose statements on NATO actions in Yugoslavia openly conflict with the president's stance. JAC


A Turkish intelligence operative posing as a businessman was deported from Russia several days ago, Reuters and Russian agencies reported on 10 April quoting Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich. Zdanovich said 62-year-old Besik Mehmet Bahri had confessed after his detention by the FSB to conducting a secret mission in Russia in 1997-98 with the aim of discrediting Russia's foreign policy in the Near and Middle East. Bahri also admitted to trying to foster pro-Turkish and separatist sentiments among the leaders of several unspecified North Caucasus republics. In Georgia, police arrested one Georgian and two Turkish citizens on 9 April on the territory of the Supsa oil terminal, Caucasus Press reported the following day quoting "Dilis gazeti." LF


Chechen security officials located and defused bombs on the highway from Grozny to the town of Starie Atagi, and near the central square in that town, hours before the arrival of President Aslan Maskhadov, Russian agencies reported. It was the second apparent attempt to assassinate Maskhadov in the past month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 1999). Speaking later at a ceremony to mark the taking of an oath of loyalty by some 4,000 members of local self-defense units, Maskhadov, who recently returned from the hajj, abjured secular democracy and pledged to build an independent Islamic state in Chechnya. Former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, whose headquarters are in Starie Atagi, demonstratively pledged his support for "national unity" among Chechens. Yandarbiev has hitherto been perceived as allied with Maskhadov's domestic political rivals. LF


After attending the ceremonial opening of the new Italian embassy in Baku on 9 April, Valentino Martinelli held talks with President Heidar Aliyev and Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov, who stressed the importance of Italian participation in exploiting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil reserves, Turan reported. Martinelli told Zulfugarov that the holding of the municipal elections, which should have taken place two years ago, could expedite Azerbaijan's being given full membership in the Council of Europe. In Tbilisi the following day, Martinelli met with President Eduard Shevardnadze and Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, whom he assured of Italy's support for the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia. Martinelli also said Italy is interested in cooperating with Georgia to expand sea and air communications between the Mediterranean and Black Seas, ITAR-TASS reported. LF


Martinelli met in Yerevan the same day with President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The talks focused on bilateral relations, Armenia's relations with Russia and Turkey, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Pope John Paul II's planned visit to Armenia. Martinelli subsequently told journalists that he does not think the unresolved Karabakh conflict should prove an obstacle to Armenia's acceptance into full membership of the Council of Europe or its integration into European structures. LF


The Abkhaz parliament adopted a statement on 9 April saying that the region's leadership may abjure further Russian mediation of a settlement of the conflict with Georgia if Moscow continues its "one-sided support" of the Georgian position, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The statement further termed "invalid" the decision of the 2 April CIS summit, which it claimed tacitly supported the Georgian leadership's imputed intention to resolve the conflict by force. Also on 9 April, two Abkhaz officials were shot dead in their car in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion, ITAR- TASS reported quoting an Abkhaz government source. LF


A man identified as an employee of the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry twice rammed the car of opposition National Independent Party of Azerbaijan chairman Etibar Mamedov with his own vehicle on 9 April, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. On the second occasion, the attacker threatened Mamedov with a gun, but was disarmed by Mamedov's bodyguard and subsequently detained by police. LF


The Democratic Congress, which unites a dozen opposition parties, issued a statement on 9 April criticizing a draft bill on retirement benefits that proposes cutting pensions for the rural population by 50 percent, Turan reported the following day. The Democratic Congress further termed the proposed reduction illegal, as the pension expenditures were approved in the 1999 budget. LF


Kazakhstan's currency gained in value again in trading on 9 April, closing at 115.7 tenge/$1 after fluctuating only 3-4 tenge during the day, Interfax reported. But National Bank head Kadyrzhan Damitov told journalists on 9 April that as of 1 May the maximum amount of hard currency that can be exported in cash on any one occasion will be cut from $10,000 to $3,000. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, acting National Bank chairman Ulan Sarbanov told the lower chamber of parliament on 9 April that the bank will not introduce a fixed exchange rate despite sharp fluctuations over the past few days in the value of the som (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7-8 April, 1999). LF


Meeting in Ashgabat on 8-9 April, the presidents of the five Central Asian Soviet successor states reviewed the progress made since their January 1998 summit in improving the ecological situation in the Aral Sea region. They also discussed the prospects for future cooperation in the implementation of international projects for developing Transcaucasus and Trans-Asian transport corridors and in constructing a multiple pipeline network for the export of the region's hydrocarbon resources, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 April. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 9 April responded to Uzbek President Islam Karimov's protests that Tajikistan should first have consulted neighboring states before agreeing to allow Russia to maintain a military base on its territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 April, 1999). Rakhmonov said his country has a "sovereign right" to conclude such agreements, pointing also to the security risks posed by Tajikistan's 1,600 km frontier with Afghanistan. LF


Speaking at a press conference in Dushanbe on 9 April, Jan Kubis expressed concern at delay in implementing both the military and political protocols of the 1997 General Peace Accord, ITAR-TASS reported. Kubis attributed the reluctance of both the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition to act on agreements they had initiated to narrow political interests. Kubis also announced that the UN will resume operations in the Garm region of eastern Tajikistan. Operations there were suspended last summer following the murder of three UN observers and their interpreter. Also on 9 April, Tajik Defense Ministry spokesman Zerobiddin Sirodzhev told Interfax that a total of 900 former Tajik opposition fighters have been enlisted into three interim army units. LF


The city authorities in Hrodna, northwestern Belarus, have introduced the rationed sale of vegetables, Belarusian Television reported on 10 April. According to the new regulation, one customer is not allowed to buy more than 5 kilograms of potatoes and/or 2 kg of cabbages, beets, or carrots in a city shop. According to the television report, the authorities were forced to introduce rationing because a "considerable part of [Hrodna Oblast] vegetable stocks" had already been sold to "commercial structures" (a term usually applied to non-state firms) without coordination with local authorities. JM


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed a decree "on responsibility for [those] failing to fulfill supplies of agricultural products to the state," Belarusian Television reported on 8 April. Under the decree, collective farm managers who refuse to sign contracts with the state on agricultural supplies or fail to fulfill such contracts may be disciplined for a "gross violation of labor obligations." In particular, those avoiding to sign such contracts may be fined up to 200 minimum wages. Pre-paid state contracts for agricultural supplies--which usually set prices for agricultural products below their production cost--are the principal method of running the state- sponsored agricultural sector in Belarus. JM


Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 10 April in Odessa that a proposal by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for Belgrade to join the Belarusian-Russian Union is unrealistic. He added that Milosevic's request can be regarded as a "political measure for settling the Kosova crisis," Interfax reported. The previous day, Kuchma said Ukraine will not be drawn into the military conflict in the Balkans. "It is enough for Ukraine to have 12,000 boys killed in Afghanistan," he added. JM


Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko on 9 April ordered a cut in the salaries of tax inspectors after he was told they had failed to meet their tax collection target this year, AP reported. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov reported that the state collected 3.4 billion hryvni ($865 million) in revenues in the first three months of 1999, or 82 percent of the target. The overall tax debt to the government has risen to 13.9 billion hryvni. JM


The Supreme Council on 9 April set up a commission to investigate the death of Vyacheslav Chornovil, leader of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine and a former Soviet political prisoner and dissident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999). Both parliamentary caucuses of the internally divided Rukh have demanded that Chornovil's death in a car crash be investigated, even though Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko has said the crash was accidental. JM


The Justice Ministry on 9 April issued a statement confirming the validity of Minister of Transport Anatolijs Gorbunovs's 31 March decree revoking the Lattelekom phone rate approved by the Telecommunications Tariffs Council in January, LETA reported. The council had appealed to the Justice Ministry to rule on the legality of Gorbunovs's decree, which had argued that the higher phone rates are not in accordance with the law on telecommunications. Later on 9 April, the council's chairman, Raimonds Jonitis, told reporters that the council has adopted a decision reversing its approval of the new rates. He added that Lattelekom must comply with that decision. JC


Valdis Birkivs and Algirdas Saudargas met in the Lithuanian coastal resort of Palanga on 9 April to discuss bilateral relations and international issues, LETA reported. After the meeting, Birkivs told journalists that negotiations between Latvian and Lithuanian delegations on the common maritime border will continue at the end of the month. He said he hopes that an agreement will be signed before the end of this century but noted that he could give no guarantee. Bilateral talks on the Lithuanian-Latvian maritime border began some five years ago, with the main bone of contention being offshore oil deposits. JC


The parliament on 10 April passed a law setting "100-meter conservation zones" around former Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Majdanek. The law prohibits pursuing any activity within those zones. It is expected that the law will enable the government to resolve the Catholic-Jewish controversy around 240 crosses erected so far by radical Catholic groups near Auschwitz. Government officials hope the law will give them the right to terminate the lease on the land outside the camp--now held by the Association of War Veterans--and open the way for removing the crosses, as demanded by Jewish organizations. However, Catholic self- styled leader Kazimierz Switon--who has lived in a tent for a year near the controversial crosses--said he "will not be taken from here alive." A new cross was erected at the site on 11 April. JM


The Christian National Union (ZChN), a component of the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), has criticized Jerzy Buzek's cabinet for not implementing the policies of the ZChN and the AWS as promised during the election campaign in 1997. The ZChN has set five conditions for its further support to and participation in the government. The ZChN demands that the government implement a "more family- oriented policy," protect domestic enterprises, support agriculture with preferential credits, make the penal code more restrictive, and--upon EU entry--gain access to the EU labor market for Polish workers and obtain subsidies equivalent to those in other EU countries. JM


The ruling Social Democratic Party's (CSSD) three-day National Congress on 10 April re-elected Prime Minister Milos Zeman as its chairman and Vladimir Spidla as "statutory deputy chairman," CTK reported. Spidla is widely tipped to be Zeman's "crown prince." The congress later re-elected Petra Buzkova, Zdenek Skromach, and Petr Lachnit deputy CSSD chairpersons, while Karel Kobes replaced Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda as deputy CSSD chairman in charge of the party's finances. A total of 341 (out of 620) delegates to the congress signed a letter to the Yugoslav embassy condemning NATO's "aggression" against Yugoslavia. Addressing the congress on 11 April, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said that Prague was "not in favor" of ground operations in Yugoslavia. He praised the role of "Russian diplomacy" and said he hopes that Russian units will become part of an international peacekeeping force in Kosova. MS


At what CTK called an "impromptu meeting" held during the congress, the cabinet reached a unanimous position ahead of the NATO meeting of 12 April on the continuation of operations in Yugoslavia, CTK reported. Kavan declined to give other details, saying the meeting was called at his request "so I can represent the united position of the government." At another, special cabinet meeting held on 11 April, the government decided to allocate one billion crowns ($28.4 million) in humanitarian aid to Kosova. MS


The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 9 April announced that its chairman, former Premier Vladimir Meciar has "accepted the request" of "party organs and HZDS members" to run for president in the elections scheduled for 15 May, Reuters and AP reported. Analysts said Meciar stands a good chance to reach a runoff on 29 May, which will take place if no candidate scores more than 50 percent on 15 May. Before the HZDS announcement, polls showed that the strongest backing is registered by the ruling coalition's candidate, Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster, followed by former actress and ambassador to Austria, Magda Vasaryova. AP said eleven candidates had registered by midnight 9 April, when the registration deadline expired. Among them are former President Michal Kovac and Jan Slota, leader of the extremist Slovak National Party. MS


The government on 9 April decided to allocate 80 million crowns ($2 million) for aid to Kosova refugees, including the possible setting up of a refugee camp for 500 people in Slovakia, CTK reported citing Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner. In other news, Interior Minister spokesman Jozef Sitar on 9 April said that four former members of the Slovak Counter- Intelligence (SIS) Service were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping of Kovac's son in 1995, CTK reported. MS


A convoy of 73 trucks carrying "humanitarian aid" to Yugoslavia from Russia and Belarus was held up at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border on 10 April, after custom officials found that some of the vehicles and their cargo violate the UN embargo against Yugoslavia, Hungarian media reported. The officials said that five lorries had armored cabins equipped with embrasures, while eight other were carrying nearly 57 tons of fuel. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said that if the Russians withdraw these parts, the convoy can move on. Russian Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Budapest on 12 April. Before leaving Moscow, he said that Budapest was breaking international agreements by stopping the convoy and that President Boris Yeltsin and the government were "extremely disturbed by Hungary's position." Yeltsin and Premier Yevgenii Primakov on 12 April discussed the blocking of the convoy, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that "if there is not a solution in the coming hours, it will have the most serious results for Russian- Hungarian relations," Reuters reported. MSZ/MS


Serbian forces and guerrillas of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) exchanged fire in the Tropoja area of the border between 9 and 11 April. Yugoslav military authorities warned Tirana in a statement on 10 April not to harbor "terrorists." The text added that "Albania and its terrorist proteges will be responsible for the consequences of a possible flare-up of the war in the Balkans." The next day, Serbian forces shelled Albanian territory, killing three and wounding 12, some of whom were civilians, dpa reported. It was the first killing of Albanian civilians in the conflict. On 12 April, Serbian forces seriously wounded three UCK fighters and an unidentified foreign journalist in the Padesh area. FS


On 12 April, Interior Minister Petro Koci said in Tirana that "NATO needs to intervene to neutralize the Serbian artillery near the border with Albania, because it has been firing in the direction of Albanian territory in the last few days," Reuters reported. Earlier, the government issued a statement in which it condemned the killings as "an unprecedented act and a grave violation of the territorial integrity" of Albania. The text added that the government sharply condemns "the dangerous escalation of military activities of Yugoslavia against Albanian territory." The government said that citizens will resist aggression and that the authorities are working "to guarantee security and inviolability of the territory of the country." FS


The Albanian parliament passed a law on 9 April in which it gave the Atlantic alliance "full authority" over the country's air space, ports and military infrastructure. Two days later, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said that Albania urges NATO to send more troops to its territory. Some 8,000 NATO troops are due in Albania soon as part of the humanitarian relief effort known as "Operation Allied Harbor." FS


Unnamed British officials said in London on 11 April that some 100,000 Kosovar males remain unaccounted for, AP reported. The officials said that typical calculations for such population movements suggest that some 35 percent of the refugees arriving in neighboring countries should be males, but in fact at some border crossings the figure has been as low as 10 percent. The males may have been taken hostage by Serbian forces, may have taken to the hills to fight, or may have been massacred by the Serbian forces, "The Independent" wrote on 12 April. Two days earlier, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" suggested that the Pentagon has released very little of its intelligence regarding massacres in Kosova, even to NATO allies. PM


British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in London on 11 April that he spoke by telephone to UCK leader Hashim Thaci, who told him that some 400,000 Kosovars are living rough in snowy weather. Cook stressed that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is responsible for making these people "victims of ethnic cleansing." Cook added that Milosevic has turned Kosova into a "place of terror." In Brussels on 10 April, NATO spokesmen said that Serbian forces have destroyed some 200 towns and villages in the province. Meanwhile, Serbian forces selectively opened and closed Morina and other border crossing points over the weekend. There was no clearly discernible pattern behind the openings and closures, the BBC noted. Refugees uniformly told the same story of eviction, humiliation, robbery, and expulsion. PM


Cook said in London on 9 April that he does "not expect many of the refugees who have been expelled from the country to be willing to return in circumstances in which the people who carried out their expulsion are still in posts" of influence in Kosova. He stressed that "we should be looking for something further than we envisaged in [the] Rambouillet" accords. Two days later, Cook added that Kosova will need "a period...under the protection of an international military force." PM


NATO Secretary General Javier Solana told the BBC on 11 April that Serbian forces and Milosevic's political entourage are "cracking up" as a result of the bombing campaign. Observers noted that recent footage of Milosevic and his top aides broadcast by Serbian Television suggests that they are drawn out. In Belgrade, Telecommunications Minister Dojcilo Radojevic said that the telecommunications system is functioning only "with great difficulty." Milosevic, for his part, urged citizens "to work harder and better in response to the aggression." PM


Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Slavko Curuvija on 11 April 11 in Belgrade after a pro-Milosevic paper accused him of supporting NATO air strikes, the "Washington Post" reported. His girlfriend, who was present at the killing, said that the men appeared to be professional assassins. He was the publisher of the banned daily "Telegraf" and weekly "Evropljanin." PM


A Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Taipei on 12 April that Taiwan is sending about $5 million worth of food, medicine, shelter, ambulances, and jeeps to Macedonia, in addition to the $2 million in cash that the Republic of China's government has already donated, AP reported. Deputy Foreign Minister David Lee is slated to depart for Macedonia later in the day with a delegation that includes seven doctors as well as numerous nurses, pharmacists, and volunteers from local charities. Also present are six soldiers from the military's engineering corps. The news agency noted that this is the first time that Taiwan has sent a military mission to Europe. PM


Some 2,000 Kosovar refugees arrived in Montenegro on 11 April. This brings the total to reach that mountainous republic since 24 March to 43,000, Reuters reported. PM


Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told "The Daily Telegraph" of 12 April that he believes that Milosevic and his Montenegrin allies "intend to use the war situation to manipulate and use the army which, under the pretext of a state of war, will engage in confrontation with the civilian authorities and impose martial law. This would create the conditions that, after the war, would allow Milosevic finally to achieve his goal of reinstating the obedient [former President Momir] Bulatovic to power in Montenegro." Djukanovic warned Milosevic that any attempt to stage a coup "would be a much more tragic and much more profound conflict in Montenegro than simply one between the army and the [pro-Djukanovic] police. This would be a confrontation between the citizens of Montenegro, one against the other, with all the passions and emotions of which people in this area are capable," Reuters reported. PM


The Montenegrin government on 10 April turned down a demand made by the command of the Yugoslav Second Army the previous day that Podgorica ban the rebroadcasting of foreign radio programs in Serbo-Croatian. The Montenegrin Information Secretariat said in a statement that there is "no reason" to ban the broadcasts, "which have in no way adversely affected national defense," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 11 April. The Serbian authorities banned rebroadcasting of foreign programs, including those of RFE/RL, last October. Elsewhere in Montenegro, Radio Panorama in the Sandzak town of Pljevlja stopped broadcasting after the entire staff was drafted into the army, the South Slavic Service added. PM


President Bill Clinton recently informed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that he has reclassified Croatia as a "front-line" state in the Balkan conflict. The reclassification will entitle Zagreb to unspecified defense equipment and services, Reuters reported on 9 April. Croatia will be able to buy military equipment on a license-by-license basis. Clinton noted recent moves by the Croatian government "to increase the transparency of the military budget and enhance civilian control of the military." A State Department spokesman said that Washington hopes that Zagreb will continue to make progress in these areas. PM


The government approved a $2.6 million humanitarian aid package for Kosovar refugees in Albania and Macedonia, AP reported on 10 April. The Roman Catholic charity Caritas has collected a further $500,000 worth of aid. Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa said that his country already provides a home for 5,000 Kosovar refugees and can only take in an additional "limited number." He stressed that Croatia still houses 90,000 refugees and displaced persons from the Croatian and Bosnian wars of 1991-1995. He did not indicate how many more Kosovars Croatia will accept. Kosovars have long been a part of the Croatian landscape and predominate in certain professions, such as sweet-shop owners. PM


Andrei Plesu, in an interview with state radio on 9 April, said partitioning Kosova may satisfy some of Belgrade's "historic and symbolic" demands, while also "providing some satisfaction to the Albanians, who could be concentrated in the southern part of the region." The statement met with harsh criticism from the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, which on 10 April called it "unacceptable and irresponsible." Plesu also said that Romania could host up to 6,000 Kosovar refugees and has already prepared facilities for 1,300-1,500, but would need international help to do so. He said that Romania's losses as a result of the crisis amount to $50 million weekly. MS


Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 10 April announced that the summit on resolving the Transdniester conflict, which was postponed due to Russian Premier Yevgenii Primakov's illness last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999), will be held on 29-30 April, Romanian radio reported citing ITAR-TASS. On 9 April, Grigorii Marakutsa, chairman of the separatist region's Supreme Soviet, met in Chisinau with Moldovan parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov, discussing the settlement of the conflict and energy deliveries from the Transdniester to Moldova. Marakutsa said after the talks that the proposals advanced by the OSCE and the mediators are "unacceptable" to the Transdniester side and "other alternatives will probably be examined in Kyiv and Odessa," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Romania renewed electricity supplies after receiving assurances from Moldovan Premier Ion Sturza that Chisinau's debt will be paid "within the shortest possible time." MS


Petar Stoyanov on 9 April appealed to the government to accept more Kosova refugees, saying Bulgaria must "fulfill its obligations" under the Convention on the Status of the Refugees and expressing concern over "statements by politicians and journalists" that "create a nourishing environment for xenophobia." Stoyanov also said Bulgaria must not "erect internal Balkan fences based on ethnic and religious principles," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. MS


Patriarch Pymen died on 10 April of cardiac failure. He was aged 92, AP reported citing BTA. Since 1991, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has been split between supporters of Pymen and those who backed Patriarch Maxim. Pymen was proclaimed patriarch in 1996 by Maxim's opponents, who accused Maxim of collaboration with the communist regime. MS.


By Pete Baumgartner

The vehement opposition by the governments of Russia and Belarus to NATO's air campaign in Yugoslavia has placed them in a small group of countries within Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union that tend to support Belgrade over NATO in the Kosova crisis.

Though the three newest members of NATO--the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland--obviously back the alliance's actions in Yugoslavia, absolute support has not been forthcoming in every case.

The weakest link for NATO has been in Prague. Though Czech President Vaclav Havel has spoken strongly in support of the air strikes, the governing Social Democrats (CSSD) have made only lukewarm statements in favor of NATO's actions. Additionally, on 10 April 341 delegates at a CSSD conference in Prague signed a letter condemning the NATO air campaign. Among conservatives, parliament speaker and former Premier Vaclav Klaus said on 8 April that the air strikes "were not the right policy," and that since the bombing began "the suffering in Kosova has increased manifold." The rival Freedom Union party called for Klaus to be dismissed as speaker for "severely damaging the Czech Republic's credibility and prestige within NATO."

Hungary, the only NATO country that shares a border with Yugoslavia, has solidly endorsed NATO action. So much so, in fact, that one ethnic Hungarian leader in Serbia's Vojvodina region said Budapest's "extreme" support for the air strikes could have negative consequences for ethnic Hungarians there. Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban even spoke favorably of NATO's bombing of the bridges spanning the Danube River in Novi Sad, despite the fact that Hungarian companies will suffer substantial economic losses as a result of the stoppage in shipping traffic the bridge debris has caused. (Orban reasons that destruction of the bridge will help prevent Yugoslav troops stationed in Vojvodina, which includes many ethnic Hungarians, from being transferred to Kosova.)

In Warsaw, official backing for the air campaign has been solid, and only a small group of pacifist Catholic deputies and the Peasant Party have spoken against the NATO operation. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek gave an impassioned speech to parliament in support of air strikes on 9 April, and former President Lech Walesa even called for the alliance to send in ground troops.

Perhaps even more vocal than the fledgling NATO members in their support for military action against Yugoslavia are the seven countries striving to be part of the next wave of NATO expansion: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuanian, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. These countries sent a joint letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton on 9 April expressing their full support for action necessary to end "...the suffering and violence in Kosova."

In Bratislava, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda called the decision to bomb Yugoslavia the lesser "of two evils." But the party of former Premier Vladimir Meciar called the air strikes "modern barbarism" in parliament on 25 March and declared its "solidarity" with Yugoslavia.

In Bulgaria and Romania, government backing for NATO's actions faces harsh criticism from the major opposition parties--criticism that resonates somewhat within the public, who are uncomfortable with the close proximity of the military operations and who feel for the ethnic Romanian and ethnic Bulgarian minorities living in Serbia. Though the government of Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov supported the strikes, it was criticized in some Western circles for closing its borders to all Yugoslav refugees except ethnic Bulgarians. Romania and Bulgaria also stand to lose millions of dollars from the shutdown in shipping on the Danube, something the threadbare economies of those countries can ill afford.

The Moldovan Foreign Ministry said on 25 March that it notes that the Atlantic alliance's decision to use force was "to a large extent imposed by the irreconcilable position" of one side in the conflict, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported.

Croatian officials, whose country has not yet been accepted into NATO's Partnership for Peace program, have publicly supported NATO. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, pledges of official support for either Yugoslavia or NATO fall largely, predictably, along ethnic lines. Leaders in both countries no doubt feel a touch of schadenfreude that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is enduring the kind of destruction that other former Yugoslav republics experienced during the 1991-1995 wars of Yugoslav succession.

In Kyiv, government officials have mixed condemnations of NATO air strikes, with calls for resumed negotiations. The Defense Ministry also maintained that "strong relations with NATO are within Ukraine's interests." And despite virulent statements by deputies against NATO, resolutions reducing ties with NATO as well as one calling for Ukraine to renege on its nuclear-free status have failed to pass a largely leftist parliament. President Leonid Kuchma has also turned down all calls for military aid to be sent to Belgrade and called Yugoslavia's proposal to join the Belarusian-Russian Union "unrealistic."

In the Caucasus, both Armenia and Georgia expressed disappointment at the failure of negotiations to solve the conflict and concern at the decision by the alliance to use force against Yugoslavia. Most political groups in Yerevan spoke against the air strikes, though the Foreign Ministry said on 25 March that "Armenia has always stood up for the right of peoples to self-determination." Though on the same day, its defense minister signed a CIS joint statement in Moscow calling the NATO air strikes "inhuman." Meanwhile, the People's Front of Azerbaijan Party praised NATO actions against Yugoslavia "...which has committed genocide against Albanians." It said that "the same policy of ethnic cleansing has been carried out against Azerbaijanis living in...Nagorno-Karabakh" and was hopeful that "such [NATO] action will be carried out against Armenia..."

The Central Asian states have been relatively quiet and ever cautious in their official statements regarding the Kosova conflict. Kazakhstan neither endorsed nor condemned the air strikes but did call for Yugoslav forces to withdraw from Kosova. The Tajik Foreign Ministry condemned the air campaign as "destabilizing the global situation."

So while Belgrade knows it has little support in the West, unequivocal support in the East is also rare. Though in a global sense, Yugoslavia appears to be doing alright: Yugoslav Deputy Foreign Minister Zoran Novakovic pointed out on 9 April that Russia, China, and India oppose the NATO military campaign, and those countries "account for a majority of the world's population," he said.