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Newsline - April 19, 1999




DUMA RECOMMENDS UNION WITH YUGOSLAVIA...

The State Duma on 16 April voted to adopt a non-binding resolution recommending that Yugoslavia be accepted into the Union of Belarus and Russia. The vote was 293 deputies in favor and 54 opposed with one abstention, according to Interfax. The resolution calls on the president and government to immediately consider the international, political, economic, legal and other ramifications of such a union. The Communists, the Liberal Democratic Party, Our Home is Russia, People's Power, Russian Regions and the Agrarian faction supported the resolution, while Yabloko opposed it. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev called the idea of a three- country union "a political initiative of the three states to end the war." But Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov dismissed that idea, saying that the accession of Yugoslavia to the union "is not directly linked to a solution to the [Kosova] problem." JAC

...AS REGIONAL LEADERS PROTEST

Before the vote was held, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that the idea of the union "must be discussed in Russia's regions" and that a referendum is the only way to decide whether Yugoslavia can join such an alliance. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, who opposes expansion of the union, told NTV on 16 April that the vote was motivated by "passions and emotions" and suggested that "deputies are capable of voting for much, especially when their terms of office are about to expire." Although he also called the decision "emotional," Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was less critical, saying only that "it must not involve Russia in the Balkan conflict." Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov had said earlier that he is "categorically against any negotiation on unification with [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic", who is "one of those people responsible for the situation now unfolding in the center of Europe." JAC

CHERNOMYRDIN UNDER FIRE

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 April that new presidential envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin backed Germany's plan for a settlement in Kosova without first consulting the Foreign Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 1999). According to the newspaper, such a "blunder" is unsurprising since Chernomyrdin has a habit that is "very dangerous for any diplomat," that is, "agreeing with anyone he has just met." The next day, Mayor Luzhkov warned that the introduction of NATO ground troops into Yugoslavia would cause "another Vietnam" and possibly a third world war. JAC

BEREZOVSKII RETURNS

Influential businessman Boris Berezovskii returned to Moscow from France on 18 April. Soon after his plane touched down and he spoke with reporters, he was whisked away to a local hospital complaining of back pain. Berezovskii, who is facing criminal charges of money laundering and "illegal entrepreneurship," declared "I come to Russia free from any doubts and I am sure that I am not guilty in the eyes of Russian law." "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 April that Berezovskii needed to return to Russia in order to rescue his failing business empire. According to the newspaper, Berezovskii's influence on Russian Public Television is now virtually nil and "he needs to get his people back in the company." In addition, the daily contends that he must personally monitor the issue of Sibneft's American Depository Receipts so that it progresses without any problems and "Sibneft itself does not go bankrupt." JAC

SARATOV GOVERNOR OFFERS TO TAKE IN 100,000 REFUGEES

As an airplane loaded with humanitarian aid from his region headed for refugees in Macedonia on 18 April, Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov confirmed his proposal to "accommodate 50,000 refugees from Yugoslavia," Interfax reported. Ayatskov acknowledged that his proposal has aroused controversy but added that Saratov "has enough space to accommodate these people and find jobs for them." He added that after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the oblast took in 250,000 refugees and forced migrants from former Soviet republics, all of whom were given housing and jobs. "Izvestiya" noted on 16 April that the wealthier countries in Western Europe are prepared to take in only 100,000 refugees, adding that Ayatskov "has not ruled out the possibility of running for president of Russia in 2000." JAC

KULIK TO BECOME SACRIFICIAL VICTIM?

Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov hinted in remarks at a government session on 16 April that he might be willing to part with certain members of his cabinet. Primakov spoke about a recent government meeting that focused on the agro-industrial complex, saying that he ordered that he receive a list of all decisions made at the meeting and a list of all officials responsible for their implementation, Interfax reported. If tasks are not carried out, then "personnel will be replaced," Primakov said. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik claimed that not a single decision has been implemented since an extended government meeting on 7 March. "Everyone sitting at the presidium table, including me, are to blame," he commented. Also on 16 April, the chief editor of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented that Primakov has "repeatedly claimed his deputies are literally untouchable and unremovable." JAC

DUMA CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO FIMACO

The Duma on 16 April passed a resolution suggesting that the prosecutor-general consider launching criminal proceedings against current and former Central Bank officials for using the Channel Islands firm FIMACO to conceal profits the bank earned from the Treasury bill market. The bank in 1996 failed to mention these profits in its annual report, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

CZECH PREMIER'S VISIT TO BE TURNING POINT IN BILATERAL RELATIONS?

Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 16 April that the visit of Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman might mark a turning point in relations between the two countries. He said that the two officials discussed a number of international issues, primarily the Balkan crisis, as well as ways to boost economic, cultural, and other kinds of cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Zeman told reporters that the problems of outstanding Russian debt to the Czech Republic and the transportation of Kazakh gas via Russia have been resolved. In addition, Russia and the Czech Republic will create a joint trade organization and an insurance fund in which Russia will invest. JAC

METRO WORKERS RESUME HUNGER STRIKE

Workers at Sverdlovskmetrostroi, the construction company for rapid transit system in Yekaterinburg, have resumed a hunger strike to protest an 11-month backlog of unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. The workers suspended the strike earlier on receiving half of their unpaid wages, strike committee chairman Nikolai Maslov told the agency. Fifty-two female workers declared an indefinite hunger strike last month to protest unpaid wages. The women replaced 66 other protestors who were paid their own back wages after they had staged a nine-day hunger strike. Their good fortune caused their still unpaid colleagues to threaten them with revenge, according to "Kommersant Daily" on 26 March (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 March 1999). JAC

DAGESTAN ACCUSES ARMENIA OF INCITING LEZGINS

Magomedali Magomedov, chairman of Dagestan's State Council, has accused Armenian intelligence of controlling the Lezgin separatist movement Sadval, the radical wing of which is campaigning for an independent state on the Lezgins' traditional homeland in northeastern Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan, Caucasus Press reported on 17 April, citing Azadinform. He claimed that Sadval's military units are trained in Armenia and that the movement plans to launch hostilities on the frontier between Dagestan and Azerbaijan. Magomedov did not specify which branch of Sadval he was referring to. The movement split into a radical and a moderate wing at its congress last November (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 December 1998). Earlier, Azerbaijani leaders accused Armenia of abetting Sadval, but this is believed to be the first occasion on which a Dagestani politician has done so. LF

CHECHNYA ISSUES WARRANTS FOR FOREIGNERS' ABDUCTION

Chechen Prosecutor-General Magomed Magomadov told Interfax on 18 April that he has issued warrants for the arrest of four unnamed persons suspected of having abducted one New Zealand and three British telephone engineers who were murdered in Chechnya last fall. Magomadov said the investigation into who committed those murders is continuing. LF




RUSSIAN BASE IN ARMENIA FOUND IN COMPLIANCE WITH CFE

An international group of military inspectors from Turkey, Belgium, and the U.K. finished inspecting the Russian military base at Gyumri on 17 April, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. The group's leader, Turkish Colonel Yavuz Akgun, told journalists that the weaponry deployed at that base does not exceed the limits imposed by the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. LF

ARMENIAN SOLDIER SHOOTS TWO COLLEAGUES DEAD, WOUNDS SIX

Military police on 17 April arrested a private who the previous day had shot two colleagues as they slept and wounded six others in the southwestern town of Vayots Dzor, AP reported. "Oragir" on 17 April quoted military police as saying the young man was mentally ill, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a similar incident, an Armenian private shot dead six servicemen last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1998). LF

AZERBAIJAN-GEORGIA OIL PIPELINE OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED...

The presidents of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, together with senior U.S. government officials, attended a ceremony at the oil terminal in Georgia's Black Sea port of Supsa on 17 April to mark the departure of the second tanker loaded with Azerbaijani oil exported via the Baku-Supsa pipeline. Speaking at the ceremony, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze described the commissioning of the pipeline as "the forerunner to a new epoch" in Georgia's history. His Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, expressed the hope that some Azerbaijani oil will also be routed through the Odessa-Brody pipeline, noting that "oil is a powerful foundation for a nation's development. It is the backbone of national security," according to AP. LF

...BUT U.S. STILL WANTS MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE TO CEYHAN

At a press conference in Tbilisi on 16 April and at the Supsa ceremony the following day, Richard Morningstar, who is special adviser on Caspian energy issues to the U.S. president and secretary of state, argued that there is "no serious alternative" to routing the Main Export Pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan. He noted that working groups from the Turkish and Azerbaijani state oil companies signed a memorandum in Istanbul several days earlier affirming their intent to proceed with construction of that pipeline, which Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev said could get under way before the end of 1999, Interfax reported. Morningstar said the U.S. government advocates the use of five separate pipelines for the export of Caspian oil and gas: Baku-Supsa, Baku-Novorossiisk, Kazakhstan-Novorossiisk, Baku-Ceyhan, and the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. LF

U.S. SAYS RUSSIA, ARMENIA SHOULD NOT BE EXCLUDED

Morningstar also stressed at his Tbilisi press conference that the U.S. does not object to Russian involvement in the transportation of natural gas via Georgia and Armenia, ITAR--TASS reported. He added that in the interests of regional security Armenia should not be excluded from regional projects, according to Caucasus Press. Morningstar noted that the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, the route for which has not yet been determined, could be laid via Armenia, although he added that Armenia "is clearly not yet ready" for such a project. LF

RAIL-FERRY SERVICE OPENS BETWEEN GEORGIA, UKRAINE

The first rail-ferry left Supsa for the Ukrainian port of Ilichevsk on 17 April. The ferry service, which will be extended to Novorossiisk and ports in Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, is funded by the EU within the framework of the TRACECA project aimed at linking the states of Central Asia with Europe via the Transcaucasus and intended to provide landlocked countries in the region with access to the sea. LF

GEORGIAN, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS, MINISTERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS

Meeting on 16 April at the presidential residence at Krtsanisi, Shevardnadze and Kuchma signed a 10-year economic cooperation agreement, which Shevardnadze subsequently told journalists raises bilateral cooperation to "a qualitatively new level," ITAR-TASS reported. The two presidents also discussed the Russian State Duma's 16 April approval of Yugoslavia's application to join the Russia-Belarus Union. Shevardnadze predicted that the decision could negatively affect CIS member states. Also on 16 April, the Georgian and Ukrainian ministers of defense and internal affairs signed separate bilateral cooperation agreements, according to ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press. LF

NO PROGRESS IN KYRGYZ-UZBEK GAS TALKS

Toktosun Abduvaliev, who is deputy director of the Kyrgyzgas state gas company, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 17 April that although talks are continuing with Uzbekistan, a swift resumption of natural gas deliveries from that country is unlikely. AbduvAliyev said Kyrgyzstan owes Uzbekistan $4.5 million for gas deliveries but cannot pay that debt because enterprises in Kyrgyzstan owe Kyrgyzgas some 218 million soms (about $6.5 million). Uzbekistan halted supplies of gas to Kyrgyzstan two weeks ago. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW

Meeting at the Kremlin on 16 April, Imomali Rakhmonov and Russian President Yeltsin signed a Declaration on Allied Interaction, which is intended to complement the May 1993 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin said implementation of the 16 April agreement, which he characterized as "a practical guide to action," will expedite fulfillment of the 1997 accords ending the Tajik civil war. Seven intergovernmental cooperation agreements were also signed. LF

TAJIK, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS SIGN BASES TREATY

Most observers had anticipated that Yeltsin and Rakhmonov would sign an inter-state treaty allowing Russia to establish a formal military base in Tajikistan on the sites where its units there are currently stationed. (Preliminary agreement on that treaty had been reached during Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's visit to Dushanbe on earlier this month [see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 April 1999]). But that treaty was signed instead by Sergeev and his Tajik counterpart Sherali Khairulloev. Interfax had predicted on 16 April, shortly before the signing ceremony, that the event would be postponed for unspecified "purely political reasons" to allow consultations with other CIS states to take place. Uzbekistan had queried the rationale for creating a legal foundation for the Russian military presence in Tajikistan. The treaty does not envisage an increase in the number of Russian troops currently stationed in Tajikistan. LF




UKRAINE INVITES RUGOVA TO KYIV

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk on 16 April said Ukraine has asked Yugoslavia to allow Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova to come to Kyiv and freely express his opinion on the Kosova conflict. Tarasyuk said Ukraine wants to "dispel doubts that Rugova had spoken earlier [in Yugoslavia] without any pressure," AP reported. Tarasyuk added that Ukraine is also ready to grant shelter until the end of the conflict to the three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslav forces last month. JM

KUCHMA FIRES ENERGY OFFICIALS

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 16 April fired deputy energy ministers Yuriy Ulitych and Serhiy Kuzmenko for "abuse of authority" and Zinoviy Busyo, head of the National Commission for Energy Regulation, for "serious negligence" in his work, Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma also instructed the energy minister to dismiss directors of two energy companies. Kuchma made the personnel decisions after reading preliminary findings of an investigation into alleged abuses in the energy sectors. JM

UKRAINIAN REPORT ON POSITIVE INVESTMENT CLIMATE QUESTIONED

A Ukrainian delegation --including Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov and National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko--has told a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development board meeting in London that Ukraine is an attractive place for foreign investors, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 18 April. Several Western business leaders publicly questioned Kyiv's assessments and urged speedier reforms. They said administrative hurdles, foreign exchange restrictions, and an incomplete legal framework make Ukraine difficult and risky for foreigners. JM

BELARUS HOLDS LOCAL ELECTION RUNOFF

According to official data, 45.6 percent of the eligible voters participated in the local election runoff on 16 April, Belapan reported the next day. Under the local election law, the second round of voting is valid if turnout exceeds 25 percent. After the runoff vote, all but two of the regional and village councils in Belarus have a quorum. JM

BELARUS'S POLISH MINORITY LEADER DETAINED

The Belarusian police on 17 April arrested Tadeusz Gawin, chairman of the Union of Poles in Belarus, for organizing an unsanctioned picket in Hrodna. Gawin is to stand trial on 21 April for disturbing the public order. The protesters brandished posters blaming the central and local authorities for "suppressing the Polish educational system" in Belarus, "Gazeta wyborcza" reported on 19 April. Belarus's Poles complain that since Alyaksandr Lukashenka became president in 1994, they have not been allowed to build new Polish-language schools in Belarus. JM

EESTI TELEKOM RESTRUCTURING COMPLETED

The restructuring of Eesti Telekom has been completed following the company's acquisition of all shares in its subsidiaries, Eesti Telefon and Eesti Mobiiltelefon, ETA reported on 16 April. The company's share capital now totals some 1.37 billion kroons ($95.8 million). Following the tender for shares in Eesti Telekom earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999), the state has a 27.28 percent stake in the company, while private investors own 23.72 percent, Baltic Tele AB 25.5 percent, and Sweden's Telia AB and Finland's Sonera Holding B.V. 11.75 percent each. JC

VAN DER STOEL AGAIN OBJECTS TO LATVIA'S LANGUAGE BILL

In a letter to Dzintars Abikis, head of the parliamentary Education, Culture, and Research Committee, OSCE Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel has voiced concern over Latvia's language bill, pointing in particular to the provision regulating language use in the private sector, BNS reported on 16 April. Van der Stoel warned that passage of the bill in its current form might impair Riga's chances of integration into the EU. OSCE experts are to meet with lawmakers from 4-5 May to discuss the draft legislation ahead of its third and final reading. JC

KRISTOPANS PLEDGES TO CONTINUE PAYING PENSIONS ON TIME

Acknowledging that the social budget deficit is "one degree worse than planned," Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans told Latvian Radio that the shortfall will be covered by the surplus in the main budget, LETA reported on 16 April. "The situation is being closely monitored, and the governmentwill continue to pay pensions on time," he said. Finance Minister Ivars Godmanis predicted last week that the social budget deficit could total 96 million lats (some $166 million) this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1999). With regard to the issue of unemployment, which now exceeds 10 percent, Kristopans pledged to reduce that figure by the summer and ensure that export companies resume operations. Those companies have been strongly affected by the Russian financial crisis. JC

CONSERVATIVES DISCUSS HOW TO MAKE PEACE BETWEEN PRESIDENT, PREMIER

Lithuania's ruling Conservative Party has discussed how to end the ongoing "war of words" between President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, ELTA reported on 16 April, citing the country's major dailies. That discussion took place after Adamkus met with parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis to discuss the issue. The president has indicated that he will make a statement later this week on the premier's conduct following the recent escalation in his conflict with Vagnorius (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). JC

POLISH PREMIER DENIES BEING COMMUNIST AGENT

Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on 16 April denied that he collaborated with the Communist-era secret services, as alleged by a right-wing politician the day before (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1999). Buzek called for his personal file to be examined to clear his name. "I know that I have been wrongfully accused. I am someone in whom the public should have complete trust. Therefore I decided to act immediately in this matter and explain it," he told Radio Zet. JM

CZECH, HUNGARIAN, POLISH MILITARY CHIEFS PREFER AIR STRIKES TO GROUND TROOPS

The chiefs of staff of the Czech, Hungarian, and Polish armies reaffirmed their support for NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia at a meeting in Karlovy Vary on 17 April, CTK reported. General Jiri Sedivy, the head of the Czech army, said the question of introducing NATO ground forces in Yugoslavia is a "political" one. Hungarian army chief Ferenc Vegh said a ground operation would be "complicated" and dangerous from a military point of view. Polish General Henryk Szumski also attended the meeting. The previous day, the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committees of the three countries' parliaments issued a joint statement pledging their unequivocal support for the NATO operation. Meanwhile, a poll by the STEM polling agency found that opposition to NATO air attacks in the Czech Republic has risen from 40 percent to 48 percent over the last two weeks. PB

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER: GOVERNMENT LIKELY TO COMPLY WITH NATO REQUEST FOR AIRPORTS

Jan Kavan said on 16 April that the government will likely agree to a NATO request that the alliance's planes be allowed to use military airports in the Czech Republic, CTK reported. Kavan said the alliance will request the use of one or two airports at which NATO refueling aircraft can land. He added that the Czech parliament will have to approve the request as well. Earlier, Prague agreed to allow refueling planes to overfly Czech territory. In other news, Jiri Dienstbier, former Czech foreign minister and currently UN rapporteur for human rights, said on Czech Television on 18 April that the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia was a "fatal mistake" that shows Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that NATO "is not willing to risk the bones of a single soldier." PB

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRATISLAVA

Andrei Plesu met with his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, in Bratislava on 16 April, CTK reported. Plesu praised Romania and Slovakia over their treatment of minorities, saying that other methods "lead to tragedy." Kukan said both ministers agreed that a solution to the crisis in Kosova should be found without the intervention of NATO ground troops. He added that the two countries have similar foreign policy goals, including entry into NATO and the EU, and that bilateral cooperation in all areas will be strengthened. PB

MECIAR RE-ELECTED PARTY HEAD

Former Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar has been re-elected chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), AP reported on 19 April. Meciar is quoted by the daily "Sme" as telling an HZDS congress on the weekend that the arrest last week of the former director of secret service Ivan Lexa made him decide to re-enter politics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999). PB




NATO: EVIDENCE OF 43 MASS GRAVE SITES IN KOSOVA

Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani, who is a spokesman for the Atlantic alliance, said in Brussels on 18 April that aerial reconnaissance suggests there are 43 mass grave sites in various parts of Kosova. He added that "there have been numerous refugee reports of Serbian police assembling [Kosovars] into grave-digging chain gangs.... They are being used by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to dig graves for their countrymen killed by Serbian ethnic cleansing." Marani described the graves as "neat rows of individual graves pointing toward Mecca." He did not specify the total number of persons whom NATO believes to be buried in the graves. PM

THOUSANDS FLEE TO MACEDONIA

Some 15,000 Kosovars arrived in Macedonia during the weekend of 16-18 April, Reuters reported. This was the result of a "final push" by Serbian forces to clear southwestern Kosova of ethnic Albanians by applying the now- familiar pattern of "emptying, looting and burning villages," AP and the BBC added. On 17 April, Macedonian Defense Minister Nikola Kljusev said in Blace that his country will not build additional refugee camps to house the new arrivals. He demanded that the international community honor its agreements with Macedonia and move quickly to resettle the refugees in third countries. PM

MACEDONIA TO ESTABLISH 'BORDER ZONE'?

Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov said in Skopje on 17 April that Macedonia has no intention of allowing either the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) or Belgrade to force Macedonia into the conflict. Trajanov noted that Macedonian authorities recently found three UCK arms caches just inside the border and added that "there have been various attempts to infiltrate arms into Macedonia from Albania by various channels." He did not elaborate. The minister suggested that the UCK might be seeking to destabilize Macedonia by "militarizing" it. He added that Serbian forces might want to strike south of the border in order to eliminate UCK strongholds. Trajanov concluded that the only solution for Skopje could soon be to establish a six-mile-wide "restricted border zone" along the frontier with Serbia and Kosova. He did not specify when the authorities would set up the zone or what rules would obtain there. PM

MACEDONIA URGES AID AGENCIES TO BUY LOCAL FOOD

Macedonian Ambassador to the U.K. Stevo Crvenkovski told officials from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London on 18 April that aid agencies are flying food into Macedonia at a time when Macedonian farmers have a surplus of food that they can sell only with difficulty. Crvenkovski also called for Western debt relief to help Macedonia cope with the refugees. FS

REFUGEE TOTAL OVER 600,000

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement in Geneva on 18 April that more than 600,000 Kosovars have fled their country. Some 359,000 are in Albania, 133,000 in Macedonia, 73,000 in Montenegro, and 32,000 in Bosnia- Herzegovina. The largest group outside the former Yugoslavia consists of nearly 10,000 in Germany, followed by 3,700 in Turkey and 1,100 in Norway, AP reported. PM

ANOTHER 34,000 REFUGEES REACH ALBANIA

Another 34,000 refugees arrived in Kukes over the weekend, Reuters reported on 18 April. Refugees said that another 50,000 or so are currently en route to that city. Five refugees died on 18 April near the Morina border crossing when their car hit a mine. According to an OSCE monitor, Serbian forces have made a deliberate practice of leaving dead bodies along the road to frighten the fleeing refugees. Meanwhile, relief agencies made plans on 18 April to evacuate by helicopter some of the 130,000 refugees in Kukes, but many refugees refused to leave, saying they want to stay close to their homes. A large number of refugees there live in the open, protected only by plastic sheets. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels on 17 April that the effects of the current "second round of major ethnic cleansing" are exacerbated by food and water shortages among those internally displaced. Many children arriving in Albania show signs of malnutrition, the BBC added. FS

YUGOSLAVIA BREAKS DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH ALBANIA

Yugoslavia broke diplomatic relations with Albania on 18 April, Albanian Foreign Ministry officials told Reuters. They added that the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry has accused Albania of involvement in the NATO attacks against Yugoslav targets. Meanwhile, NATO Supreme Commander for Europe General Wesley Clark met with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko on 17 April in Tirana to discuss the possibility of a Yugoslav military threat to Albania. Clark told reporters later that Yugoslav forces are "indiscriminately firing rockets into Albania" and warned that Milosevic must "cease this aggression." The general added that the Serbian president represents a "danger to regional stability." And in northern Albania, NATO began preparations for the quick deployment of 24 U.S. Apache anti-tank helicopters, which are due to arrive in the region shortly. FS

ALBANIAN MINISTER WARNS OF POSSIBLE ECONOMIC CRISIS

Albanian Minister for Economic Cooperation and Trade Ermelinda Meksi told EBRD officials in London on 18 April that Albania will need $800 million to cope with the influx of refugees. She warned that the "impact of events in Kosova could upset the delicate balance of Albania's newly regained stability." And she stressed that the Albanian government has had significant economic success, achieving an 8 percent growth rate and lowering inflation from 42.1 percent in 1997 to only 8.7 percent the following year. An official in the Treasury Department of the Finance Ministry told Reuters that this year's budget deficit is expected to reach 15 percent of GDP. Before the refugee crisis began, the government had predicted a 10 percent shortfall. FS

CLINTON: MILOSEVIC OBSTACLE TO BALKAN PEACE

U.S. President Bill Clinton wrote in London's "Sunday Times" on 18 April that there will be no lasting peace in the Balkans until Milosevic is be secure with a belligerent tyrant in its midst. We a re in [Kosova] because Europe's worst demagogue has once again moved from angry words to unspeakable violence." Clinton added that Serbia needs "a democratic transition" a to become more integrated with the rest of Europe (see "RFE/RL New removed from power. Clinton stressed that "the region cannot sline," 16 April 1999). Elsewhere, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that "there is no doubt that while nd Milosevic remains in this region, we have a significant problem." PM

BULGARIAN, CROATIAN MINISTERS CALL FOR MILOSEVIC OUSTER

Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Borislav Skegro told a "Wall Street Journal" conference in London on 16 April that NATO must introduce ground troops if the refugees are to go home at any time soon. He added that "keeping Milosevic in power does not solve anything." Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov told the same gathering that "we expected $1.0 billion in foreign direct investment this year. I do not think we will get even half of it" as a result of the crisis in Kosova. "With Milosevic in power, nothing can be done," Bozhkov concluded. PM

DJUKANOVIC: MILOSEVIC MUST GO

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told Reuters on 16 April that "there is an objective danger that the fire and blood [in Kosova] could engulf not only Yugoslavia but also the entire region As long as Milosevic is in power, and I hope that that will not be for much longer, there will be continuing attempts by his supporters to suppress and destroy democracy in Montenegro, where he sees us as a threat.... Anyone who tries to conscript a minister or tries to apprehend him is certainly trying to provoke a conflict in Montenegro" (see below). Djukanovic argued that a civil war in Montenegro would be "more tragic and worse than anything else seen" in the former Yugoslavia. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY COURT ISSUES WARRANT FOR MONTENEGRIN MINISTER

The military court in Podgorica has issued an arrest warrant for Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 18 April. The court wants to try Kilibarda for allegedly "undermining the military and defense capabilities" of Yugoslavia. Court officials said that they issued the warrant after Kilibarda refused to respond to an earlier summons to appear before that body. Kilibarda is being guarded by members of the police force, which is loyal to Djukanovic. PM

SERBIAN FORCES SEARCH ALBANIANS IN MONTENEGRO

Houses of Albanians living in the Montenegrin town of Rozaje were searched by Serbian forces for arms on 18 April, VOA's Albanian Service reported. Rozaje is located virtually on the Montenegrin border with Kosova. Ethnic Albanian political leaders in Montenegro subsequently appealed to the Montenegrin authorities to protect their citizens against a possible spread of "ethnic cleansing" from Kosova to Montenegro. FS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT REASSURES ROMANIANS OF SECURITY

Emil Constantinescu said on 16 April that Romania will continue to live in peace and security, despite the developments in Yugoslavia, Rompres reported. Constantinescu said on Romanian Television that "all the outstanding voices of the international political life consider our country to be a zone of stability." He added that Romania's security is a result of its firm decision to join NATO and the EU, noting that there cannot be "content- less neutrality stands." PB

ROMANIA TO DENY RUSSIA USE OF AIR SPACE

Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said on 17 April that Russia will not be allowed to use Romanian air space to fly humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia, AP reported. He added that Moscow will be allowed only to transport aid across Romania via land. Bulgarian Radio reported that Romania has also been asked by NATO to provide an air corridor for its planes (see below), but Romanian officials have not confirmed that report. In other news, Romanian officials said on 18 April that the country has lost $175 million in trade as a result of the crisis in Kosova. PB

MOLDOVA EXPECTS TO SIGN WORLD BANK LOAN THIS WEEK

Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Alexandru Muravschi said on 18 April that the government expects to sign a loan agreement with the World Bank later this week, an RFE/RL correspondent in London reported. Muravschi made the remark at an EBRD board meeting. She did not say how large the loan would be but noted that it would bolster hard currency reserves in the Central Bank. The country's reserves reportedly fell to $143 million late last year but have since increased to $192 million. PB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES U.S. VISIT...

Petar Stoyanov returned to Bulgaria in mid-flight to the U.S. on 16 April after learning that NATO had made a request for an air corridor over Bulgaria. He was on his way to Washington ahead of ceremonies marking NATO's 50th anniversary. In an address broadcast by Bulgarian Radio before he left for the U.S., Stoyanov called on the cabinet and parliament to provide logistical support for NATO if it requested an air corridor. He said that Bulgaria will continue to support the West and that Bulgaria's interests coincide with those of the Western world and not those of a "handful of Yugoslav politicians." Stoyanov is expected to attend the NATO ceremonies. PB

...AS SOFIA CONSIDERS NATO REQUEST FOR AIR CORRIDOR

Prime Minister Ivan Kostov called for consultations with parliamentary groups on 18 April over the NATO request for an air corridor, Bulgarian radio reported. The Bulgarian Constitution requires that the parliament agree to such a request. Lawmakers declared at the beginning of NATO operations in Yugoslavia that Sofia will "participate neither directly nor indirectly in the military actions." Opposition among political parties to the request is expected. In other news, Nikolay Dobrev, the deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, died on 17 April at the age of 51. He was interior minister from 1996-1997. PB




WHAT IF MILOSEVIC SURVIVES?


by Christopher Walker

As the target of the international community's second major military operation this decade, Slobodan Milosevic is on the receiving end of a rhetorical campaign directed by the leadership of the Western alliance confronting his country.

From the outset, the Clinton administration and NATO officials have repeatedly characterized the NATO attack in individual ways. Operation Allied Force has variously been described as an effort to cause President Milosevic to change his mind as well as his pattern of behavior, while Milosevic himself has been depicted in Hitler-like fashion.

Though the Yugoslav leader is without question a vile, ruthless man, the reliance on inflated language--focused overwhelmingly on one leader in order to make the case for military action--does not come without a price.

As the prospect of a Kosova partition seeps its way into the public dialogue, one can only imagine the recriminations that will abound within the transatlantic alliance and the U.S. foreign policy community if Milosevic is able to maintain his rule and lay claim to a significant portion of Kosova--even if beforehand NATO virtually emasculates the Yugoslav military and destroys a good portion of that country's infrastructure.

Exacerbating this personality-driven phenomenon is the fact that much of the mainstream Western news media tends all too readily to follow the example that policy-makers set by portraying highly complex conflicts as little more than a showdown with one unsavory thug.

But beyond the inconsistencies in the U.S. administration's communication strategy in the Kosova conflict, there is another important issue to contemplate in the case of Serbia. Although Milosevic is indisputably a wily and resilient leader capable of manipulating public sentiment, it is safe to say that his policies on Kosova are not entirely without domestic support within Serbia.

Despite driving the Yugoslav economy into the ground and turning his country into a regional bandit state, Milosevic is still accepted by many Serbs, not least because of his nationalist program. His most enthusiastic core support may be a relatively small portion of the entire Yugoslav population, but his rule has been tolerated by the Serbian masses. With the exception of student-led protests in Belgrade in the winter of 1996-1997, there has been no concerted, consistent opposition movement against the Yugoslav leader.

Milosevic has managed to split, and in part co-opt, an unorganized opposition and manipulate a large segment of the Serbian population through control over state-run media. Independent media were consistently harassed and forced to the margins until the NATO attack began. Not surprisingly, one of the Yugoslav regime's first acts after NATO bombs began to fall was to crack down on foreign news organizations and domestic independent media.

Although some critics remain, much of what constituted the most active political opposition has already left Yugoslavia. A large number of educated, liberal-minded Serbs have elected to forsake their native country for Western Europe or North America over the past decade in frustration and disgust over the Milosevic regime's crony economics and anti-democratic practices. Those who remain are either too fatigued and demoralized to fight for change or have been driven into Milosevic's arms in a show of national solidarity during the NATO bombings.

One cannot underestimate how fiercely the Yugoslav leader will seek to retain his authority. Milosevic arguably has as much to fear from losing power as do the countries of the NATO alliance if he manages to hold onto it. If wrested from power, he would face, among other things, retribution from forces within Serbia. This could well mean a rather undignified and painful end to his reign. From outside, he and his associates face the prospect of pursuit and prosecution by the International War Crimes Tribunal.

In the end, however, history may repeat itself. The international community could become caught between the rhetoric of demonization and the reality that Milosevic is still confronting it. President Bill Clinton recently observed that Milosevic "would rather rule over rubble rather than not rule at all."

As we learned eight years ago in the Persian Gulf--and may well discover with Milosevic--the inability to oust a demonized adversary is likely to be interpreted as a policy failure, irrespective of the enormous damage the allied forces inflict and whether they have otherwise achieved their stated military goals. The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in East European affairs (intrel@aol.com).


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