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Newsline - April 21, 1999




RUSSIAN PATRIARCH MEETS MILOSEVIC, RUGOVA

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II and Serbian Patriarch Pavle met with the family of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 20 April, ITAR-TASS reported. According to a Church press release, Aleksii "expressed the support of the Russian people to citizens of Yugoslavia, who are struggling with the aggression of NATO." The statement added that a possible union of Serbia, Russia, and Belarus is a "historical step in the interest of the peoples of the three states." Aleksii also met with Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, but declined to give details of his talks. The same day, Rugova's former chief of protocol, Adnan Merovci, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Skopje that Serbian police have arrested Rugova and are "armed to the teeth." The daily "Berliner Zeitung" alleged that Aleksii has long-standing links to the intelligence establishment in Moscow. FS

YELTSIN SAYS KOSOVA CRISIS MUST NOT UNDERMINE RUSSIA'S WESTERN TIES

A spokesman for Russian President Boris Yeltsin told AP on 20 April that Russia does not want the Kosova crisis to undermine its ties with Western countries. He quoted Yeltsin as saying that "we cannot break off relations with leading world powers" and that it will take time before Yugoslavia can become a member of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He also quoted Yeltsin as saying that "haste will do no good." The same day, the second Russian plane carrying 31 tons of relief goods for Kosovar refugees arrived at Skopje from Moscow. FS

PRIMAKOV, IVANOV DISCUSS KOSOVA WITH OIC OFFICIALS

Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met separately in Moscow on 20 April with a delegation from the Organization of the Islamic Conference contact group for Bosnia and Kosova, which is headed by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov told journalists after those talks that the two sides agree there can be no military solution to the Kosova conflict and that an international force must be deployed in Kosova following a negotiated solution. But he added that "tactical differences" between them remain. The OIC delegation gives priority to resolving the refugee problem, whereas Moscow insists that NATO strikes first be halted and negotiations then resumed. Kharrazi underscored the importance of Russia's role in seeking a solution to the conflict, adding that "we are united in the opinion that the UN Security Council has failed to play the role it should play." LF

CHERNOMYRDIN HOLDS TALKS IN TBILISI...

Viktor Chernomyrdin, in his capacity as President Yeltsin's envoy for the Kosova crisis, flew to Tbilisi on 20 April to meet with President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss the peace proposal Shevardnadze had advanced the previous day, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. That five-point plan comprises an immediate halt to military operations, the withdrawal of troops from Kosova, the deployment of an international peacekeeping force, the unconditional return of refugees, and the immediate start of talks on Kosova's future political status within Yugoslavia. Chernomyrdin said that the Russian and Georgian positions on Kosova "largely coincide." Shevardnadze praised Chernomyrdin's appointment as envoy and expressed the hope that in the future he will be instrumental in mediating solutions to the Abkhaz and Karabakh conflicts. LF

...AND BAKU, KYIV

Chernomyrdin flew from Tbilisi to Baku on 20 April to continue talks on Kosova with President Heidar Aliev, who welcomed the Russian initiative to resolve the conflict, Interfax reported. Aliyev and Chernomyrdin both condemned "separatist extremism, ethnic cleansing, and military intervention." The Azerbaijani leadership, like that of Georgia, has a vested interest in forestalling a solution to the Kosova crisis that would entail independence for the region, since such a model would set a precedent they would not wish to see applied to Nagorno-Karabakh or Abkhazia. Chernomyrdin then proceeded to Kyiv for talks with President Leonid Kuchma, whose three-point peace plan for Kosova is very similar to Shevardnadze's (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1999). LF

RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS SAY 1,500 VOLUNTEERS GO TO YUGOSLAVIA

The chairman of the State Duma's Security Committee, Viktor Ilyukhin of the Communist Party, and the leader of the Spiritual Heritage nationalist movement, Aleksei Podberezkin, told Interfax on 20 April that "hundreds of volunteers" have left Russia to fight in Yugoslavia. Podberezkin said that 1,500 Russian military specialists with practical combat experience have registered as volunteers with his organization, which has put them in touch with Serbian forces. He added that they will travel to Yugoslavia privately via Budapest. FS

RUSSIA DEFAULTS ONCE AGAIN ON SOVIET DEBT

Russia will not be able to make a $1.2 billion payment on Ministry of Finance bonds maturing on 14 May, First Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Interfax on 20 April. According to Kasyanov, Russia will have to start negotiating restructuring of the debt with Russian and foreign holders of the bonds. Standard & Poor's responded to the news by lowering the rating on MinFin bonds from triple C minus to double C minus, AFP reported. The credit agency noted that the expected default was consistent with the government's declared strategy of not paying Soviet-era debt while continuing to service post-Soviet debt, including Eurobonds. For example, Kasyanov had said previously that Russia would make payments on the sixth and seventh tranches of MinFin bonds that are debt acquired by Russia after the Soviet Union's demise. On 21 April, ITAR- TASS reported that members of the Paris Club have verbally agreed to the restructuring of 20 percent of Russia's Soviet debt, totaling some $8 billion. JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL TO DEMAND THAT SKURATOV DELIVER THE DIRT?

The Federation Council again considered the fate of Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov in a closed session on 21 April. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that while opinion in the upper body has shifted against Skuratov, it is still impossible to make a prediction about the senators' likely decision. Stroev added that Skuratov said he honestly finds it difficult to do his job and will ask to be let go. The same day, Perm Oblast Governor Gennadii Igumnov and Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told "Tribuna" that they intend to vote against Skuratov, while Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin insisted that the senators "should know the reasons why he tendered his resignation twice." JAC

START-II TREATY DECLARED DEAD

Duma deputy and member of the Yabloko faction Aleksei Arbatov said on 21 April that "NATO aggression against Yugoslavia has buried hopes for the ratification by the Russian State Duma of the START-II treaty," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that while he hopes Russia's negotiations with the U.S. on the problem of strategic weapons are resumed, it is difficult for him "to imagine how the Duma would return to a discussion of the treaty." JAC

GOVERNMENT THREATENS OIL COMPANIES ON BEHALF OF FARMERS

A one-day suspension of Russian oil companies' right to export oil was canceled on 20 April, just hours after it was announced. The measure had been enacted by the Ministry of Fuel and Energy in order to compel oil companies to make deliveries essential for the agricultural sector. Agricultural officials have recently expressed concern that there will not be enough fuel during spring sowing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters on 21 April that the decision to cut off oil companies' exports is "not a measure to be used in a market economy." A spokesman for SIDANKO, Russia's fifth-largest oil company, told "The Moscow Times" that his company will be happy to sell fuel to farmers if they pay on time. He added that it sometimes takes farmers 200 days to pay for fuel from the company's Angarsk refinery in eastern Siberia. JAC

RUSSIA URGES PAKISTAN TO JOIN ARMS CONTROL TREATIES

Following a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 20 April, Prime Minister Primakov declared that even new nuclear states with no official status should join treaties that put limitations on nuclear weapons and ban tests. Primakov also said that Nawaz has asked Russia to play a more active role in peace-making in Southern Asia. Nawaz began an official three-day visit to Moscow the previous day, the first visit by a head of state of that country since 1974. Nawaz and Russian Minister of Trade Georgii Gabunia signed an agreement on trade and economic cooperation on 20 April. Trade between the two countries plummeted 49 percent in 1998, compared with the previous year, according to Interfax. Nawaz met with President Yeltsin on 21 April and is also expected to visit St. Petersburg and Kazan. JAC

KREMLIN REARRANGES TOP MILITARY POSTINGS...

President Yeltsin reshuffled top military brass, appointing Igor Puzanov to the post of commander of the Moscow military district and promoting him to the rank of colonel-general, Interfax reported on 20 April. Puzanov replaces Leontii Kuznetsov who is retiring. General Nikolai Serdtsev, until recently the commander of engineers in the Strategic Rocket Forces, was appointed commander of engineers of the armed forces. Yeltsin also appointed Colonel-General Vladimir Chilindin, formerly head of combat training for ground forces, to the post of commander of Russia's peace-keeping force in Tajikistan. JAC

...AS DUMA SUGGESTS DEFENSE-ORIENTED BUDGET POLICY

The previous day, "Vremya MN" reported that the Duma adopted a non-binding resolution on 16 April urging the government to transfer all monies owed to the military under the 1999 budget. According to the daily, the resolution has "no practical value" but "voices the generals' thoughts" and tries to prove that it is possible to revive the army "by radically revising the government's budget policy and partially reorienting it toward subsidizing the defense industry." Colonel-General Ivan Chizh, head of the armed forces' medical service, said on 20 April that suicide was a leading cause of death among servicemen in 1998, accounting for 22.7 percent of the total who died, ITAR- TASS reported. JAC

NEW OIL CONSORTIUM FOR BALKANS ESTABLISHED

Representatives of the Russian energy companies Rosneft, Slavneft, Transneft, Stroitransgaz, and Orel Oil signed an agreement on 20 April with Yukos Petroleum Bulgaria, establishing a oil consortium for the Balkans, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 April. Under the agreement, the companies will develop the market for oil and oil products on the Balkan peninsula as well as build the Burgas-Alexandropolis oil pipeline. JAC

ZHIRINOVSKII PROMISES INFLUX OF LIBYAN MONEY

Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, who recently confirmed his plan to run for governor of the Belgorod Oblast, promised that if he is elected, "Libya will grant $17 billion to Belgorod Oblast," "Tribuna" reported on 21 April. The daily noted that this sum is three times greater than what Russia is expected to receive from the IMF. ITAR-TASS reported the previous day that the would-be governor has recently cut an album of songs to honor the 50th birthday of popular singer Alla Pugacheva. JAC




DATE SET FOR POPE'S ARMENIA VISIT

Pope John Paul II will travel to Armenia from 2-4 July, Reuters reported on 20 April, citing the Armenian Foreign Ministry. Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Catholicos Karekin I had extended an invitation to the pontiff during their visit to the Vatican in March. John Paul will visit Armenia as part of the celebrations to mark the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999). LF

KARABAKH OFFICIALS DENY TALKS ON WITHDRAWAL FROM OCCUPIED AZERBAIJANI TERRITORIES

The Foreign Ministry of the self- proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has echoed Armenian denials of a Russian media report that Baku and Yerevan are conducting talks on conditions for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from five occupied districts of Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). A spokesman for the unrecognized republic's Defense Ministry similarly told RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent on 20 April that Karabakh Armenian forces will withdraw from those districts only "in the full context of the conflict's settlement, along with [determination of] Nagorno-Karabakh's status." LF

AZERBAIJAN RETURNS IMPOUNDED MIGS TO KAZAKHSTAN

Azerbaijan's Transport Prosecutor Chingiz Mamedov announced on 20 April that the six MiG-21 fighters impounded at Baku's Bina airport in mid-March were sent back to Kazakhstan the previous day. The Russian transport aircraft carrying the MiGs was prohibited from continuing its journey on 19 March pending an investigation into the final destination of the MiGs. The flight documents had listed that destination as Liberec, Czech Republic, but crew members had said they were en route for North Korea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). Kazakhstan's Office of the Prosecutor-General will continue the investigation into the case, Turan reported. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN MOSCOW

Zurab Zhvania and Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov discussed economic cooperation and the Abkhaz conflict on 20 April, ITAR-TASS reported quoting Primakov's press secretary Tatyana Aristarkhova. Zhvania also met with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who called for a "clear concept" for Russian policy in the South Caucasus, warning that "Russia must not lose Georgia as a good neighbor." LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER FACES NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES

Prosecutor- General Yurii Khitrin and the chairman of the State Commission for the Struggle against Corruption and Organized Crime, Oralbay Abdikarimov, have announced that charges of tax evasion have been brought against former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and his wife, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 21 April. Kazhegeldin's lawyer, Vitalii Voronov, told journalists on 20 April that the charges are politically motivated. Also on 21 April, National Security Committee Chairman Nurtay Abyqaev told RFE/RL that members of unnamed political parties have been interrogated or arrested in connection with the appearance on walls in Astana of slogans backing Kazhegeldin and denouncing President Nursultan Nazarbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S COSSACK COMMUNITY UNDER PRESSURE, MAY EMIGRATE

Speaking at a news conference in Almaty on 20 April, Vladimir Ovsyannikov, who is the leader of the Semirechie Cossacks, accused the Kazakhstan government of suppressing the culture and traditions of the Cossack community, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. He warned that the entire Cossack community may emigrate to Russia if that policy is not changed. Ovsyannikov's home and those of his deputies were searched for unregistered weapons late last month, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 1 April. Estimates of the number of Cossacks in southern Kazakhstan range from 20,000 to 30,000. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ASSESSES AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

In his annual address to the nation, delivered to both chambers of the parliament on 20 April, Askar Akaev noted the beneficial role of Kyrgyzstan's agricultural sector in mitigating the impact on the country of last year's financial crisis in Russia, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev said the October 1998 referendum in which more than 90 percent of voters endorsed private ownership of agricultural land showed the correctness of Kyrgyzstan's policy in that sphere. But he noted that a market for land has still to emerge and demand remains low, according to Interfax. Akaev also expressed concern that Kyrgyzstan continues to import many foods that it could produce domestically. LF




UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT AGAIN DECLINES TO BREAK TIES WITH NATO

The Supreme Council on 20 April failed to pass a motion calling on the government to suspend cooperation with NATO. The legislature voted six times on the communist-proposed motion, but the leftists were unable to muster the required 226 votes. This was the second time this month the Council tried to pass such a bill. Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said the same day that Ukraine's foreign policy of integration into European and Transatlantic structures remains unchanged. Tarasyuk added that Yugoslavia has so far not responded to either Ukraine's peace proposals for Kosova or Kyiv's invitation to Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 April 1999). JM

RENATIONALIZATION OF ENERGY SECTOR IN UKRAINE?

The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office has asked the judiciary to revoke privately owned stakes in six regional energy companies and return them to the state, AP reported on 20 April. "As a lawyer, I ascertain that gross violations were made during the privatization of these companies," Deputy Prosecutor- General Olha Kolinko said. The demand follows President Leonid Kuchma's decision last week to fire senior government officials over alleged abuses of authority in the energy sector. Ukraine's 27 regional energy companies are considered to be among the country's most attractive properties, since each has a monopoly or near monopoly on electricity supplies in its region. JM

OSCE CRITICIZED FOR IGNORING BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION

Andrey Sannikau, Belarusian former deputy foreign minister and leader of the Charter-97 opposition group, has criticized the OSCE mission in Minsk for avoiding a clear stance on the "most topical problems of the Belarusian situation," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 20 April. Sannikau took part in a Washington human rights seminar on the role of the OSCE missions in Kosova, Bosnia, and the former Soviet republics. According to Sannikau, the OSCE mission in Minsk "simply ignores the most essential political dates of 16 May and 20 July." The opposition Supreme Soviet scheduled presidential elections in Belarus for 16 May, as stipulated under the 1994 constitution, which it observes. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's term in office expires on 20 July. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE OVER CUSTOMS TARIFFS

Lawmakers have voted to postpone until the end of next month the debate on the bill providing for the introduction of new customs tariffs, ETA reported on 20 April. The law, which was drafted by the opposition Country People's Party, foresees, among other things, a 43 percent tariff on imports of pork, butter, and cheese and a 49 percent tariff on imported eggs. The government has rejected the bill, arguing that it contravenes the norms of the World Trade Organization, which Estonia is seeking to join. JC

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE BACKS KAMALDINS

The Latvian parliamentary defense and internal affairs committee has voted five to four to support the re-election of Lainis Kamaldins as director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, ELTA and BNS reported on 20 April. Last month, Kamaldins was at the center of a controversy following his suggestion that Latvian Jews may have been involved in the 1998 bombing of the Riga synagogue. The National Security Council, however, voted shortly thereafter to nominate Kamaldins for another term in office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 March 1999). The parliament is due to vote on his re-election next week. JC

LITHUANIAN PREMIER RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT'S CHALLENGE

Gediminas Vagnorius has issued a statement saying he is prepared to step down "to follow the country's strategic interests," Reuters and BNS reported on 20 April. That statement came one day after President Valdas Adamkus expressed no confidence in Vagnorius during an address televised nationwide (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). "Stability must be maintained in the country, therefore the prime minister does not intend to contribute to the escalation of political tension, as he sees the interests of the state as a top priority," Vagnorius's statement read. Meanwhile, an extraordinary session of the parliament is to be convened on 21 April at which the ruling Conservatives will submit a resolution expressing confidence in Vagnorius. The opposition has already indicated it will vote against that motion. The Conservatives and their Christian Democrat allies, however, have a majority in the parliament. JC

POLISH LAWYERS WANT TO GET RID OF FORMER COMMUNIST AGENTS

The Supreme Council of Advocates has called on lawyers who collaborated with the communist secret services during the period 1944-1990 to leave the profession. The appeal states that such collaboration "contravenes the most basic principles of lawyers' ethics." Lawyers constituted the largest professional group on the three lists of confessed collaborators published so far under Poland's lustration law. JM

OPPOSITION DEPUTY MOVES TO LUSTRATE POLISH PREMIER

Tomasz Karwowski, parliamentary deputy of the right-wing Confederation for an Independent Poland-Homeland, has submitted a written application to the lustration prosecutor to start examining the case of Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. Karwowski claims to have "serious circumstantial evidence" that Buzek had contacts with the communist secret services, while Buzek denies the allegation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 1999). Karwowski maintains that under martial law Buzek witnessed the arrest of a Solidarity leader activist but was not arrested himself. JM

POLISH AIRLINES TO BE PRIVATIZED

The cabinet on 20 April approved a privatization plan for Poland's national air carrier LOT, PAP and AP reported. Treasury Minister Emil Wasacz said selected airlines will be invited to talks on selling 10 percent of LOT shares. The 10 percent stake will be sold in the fourth quarter of this year. The investor will be required to increase the airline's capital to 38 percent of LOT's expanded share capital. The state will hold a 52 percent stake and employees the remaining 10 percent. LOT's net profits in 1998 amounted to 1.9 million zlotys ($475,000). JM

HAVEL SAYS FENCE SEPARATING ROMANY HOUSING NO SOLUTION...

Czech President Vaclav Havel said on 20 April that a decision by a Romany organization and the city of Usti nad Labem to build a fence separating Roma from ethnic Czech residents "will not resolve anything," CTK reported. Havel said the problem between the two groups "is, of course, much deeper." Mayor Pavel Tosovsky and the chairman of the Romany Rainbow organization, Tibor Badi, agreed to the plan last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1999). PB

...PRAISES GOVERNMENT APPROVAL OF NATO REQUEST

Havel also praised the government for allowing NATO to use Czech airports for refueling planes, CTK reported. The parliament is to consider that request on 21 April, and approval is expected. Deputies will also consider a NATO request to allow a train carrying NATO ammunition and technical equipment to transit the Czech Republic on its way to Hungary. PB

EU OFFICIAL UPBEAT ON SLOVAK PROSPECTS FOR EU

Hans van den Broek, the EU commissioner for relations with Central and East European countries, said in Bratislava on 20 April that he is optimistic about Slovakia's chances of making the "first wave" of EU applicants, Reuters reported. Van den Broek said at a press conference with Premier Mikulas Dzurinda that "Slovakia belongs in Europe, Slovakia has the resources and the capabilities." He added that the EU has "welcomed the change in [the political] climate in this country." And he commented that he expects a "success" at the EU summit in Helsinki later this year. PB

SLOVAKIA ASKED TO ALLOW NATO TRAIN TO TRANSIT COUNTRY

The Slovak government was asked by NATO on 20 April to allow the passage of a train carrying NATO materiel through Slovak territory, AP reported. The government was expected to issue a decision on the request the following day. The train would come from the Czech Republic and would transit Slovakia on 22 April en route to Hungary. The government of Premier Dzurinda supports NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, although a poll released on 20 April showed that some 65 percent of respondents oppose them. PB

RUSSIA RECALLS ITS AMBASSADOR TO HUNGARY

Russia has recalled its ambassador to Hungary for consultations and canceled a planned visit by Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi to Moscow in response to Budapest's holding up of a Russian aid convoy to Yugoslavia on 10 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 April 1999). Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath on 20 April described the decision as regrettable and expressed the hope that Russia will soon reconsider its stand. Defense Minister Janos Szabo's remark one day earlier that Hungary "will not hold any more talks with an unreliable Russian partner" on the overhaul of MiG-29 fighter jets may have contributed to Moscow's decision, "Nepszabadsag" speculates. MSZ

GONCZ CANCELS TRIP TO NATO SUMMIT

Hungarian President Arpad Goncz will not attend the NATO summit in Washington because its program has been changed and will be more of a working meeting than a protocol event, presidential spokesman Andras Farago announced on 20 April. Goncz was to attend the summit as a guest of honor, rather than a member of the official Hungarian delegation, Farago explained. Goncz will visit the U.S. from 7-9 June at the invitation of President Bill Clinton. MSZ




ALBRIGHT: NO TALKS WITH MILOSEVIC

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Washington on 20 April that NATO will not negotiate with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the VOA's Serbian Service reported. She added that Yugoslavia needs a democratic government and that only a democratic government can expect Western assistance once the current conflict ends. Albright stressed that "President Milosevic is responsible for the ethnic cleansing and all the depravations that are taking place, and we have questioned how he is going to continue...while the [Hague-based] war crimes tribunal keeps working." She noted that the purpose of NATO's air strikes is not, however, to overthrow Milosevic but to enable the refugees to go home. PM

BLAIR WARNS MILOSEVIC ON ALBANIA

In response to a question by an RFE/RL correspondent, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Brussels on 20 April: "We have made very clear indeed...that any attempt to cause difficulty or damage to Albania we will do everything possible to prevent, and [we will] make sure we give [Albania] proper protection. And I would like to pay tribute to Albania for the unstinting work that it has done in circumstances of very great difficulty to make sure the refugees are properly looked after. And one of the purposes of this action we are taking is to make sure that this entire military machine of the Serbs and Milosevic is degraded so he is not able to threaten his neighbors." PM

ALBANIAN, YUGOSLAV ARMIES CLASH AT KOSOVA BORDER

Yugoslav and Albanian soldiers exchanged fire for six hours near Qafe e Prushit in the Has Mountains on 20 April. It was the most serious clash between the two armies since the start of the Kosova crisis, Reuters reported. An OSCE spokesman said in Tirana that one Albanian soldier was injured in the fight. Previous clashes with Serbian troops involved chiefly the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). The Albanian army generally restrained from interfering. UCK and Yugoslav forces also clashed near Junik, inside Kosova close to the border, on 20 April. At least two UCK fighters were killed in the battle and 15 injured, RFE/RL's Albanian broadcasters reported. Kosovapress added that there were an unspecified but large number of victims on the Yugoslav side. FS

APACHE HELICOPTERS ARRIVE IN ALBANIA

The first of 24 U.S. Apache helicopters arrived in Albania on 20 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The deployment of the "terrain-hugging" aircraft had been delayed due to torrential rains in Albania in recent days. The Apaches will be used mostly against tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery in Kosova. About 700 U.S. parachute troops arrived in Albania the same day to give ground support to the helicopters. In Warsaw, the Polish government decided on 20 April to send 140 mountain troops to northern Albania to help guard the NATO bases there, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. FS

REFUGEE INFLUX FROM MONTENEGRO INCREASES

Nearly 2,500 Kosovar refugees arrived in northwestern Albania via Montenegro on 20 April, Reuters reported. It was the biggest single influx so far at the western part of the Albanian- Yugoslav border. Most of the refugees came from the region around Peja. At the Morina border crossing near Kukes, OSCE observers reported only a handful of refugees arriving. FS

MONTENEGRO CHARGES YUGOSLAV ARMY WITH 'WAR CRIMES'

Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said on a visit to the Rozaje area on 20 April that the recent killing of at least five Kosovar refugees and a Montenegrin citizen by Yugoslav troops there is "a war crime, a crime against humanity," "Newsday" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). In Podgorica, Interior Minister Vukasin Maras said that General Milorad Obradovic, who commands the troops in Montenegro, must explain the killings, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Milosevic's Tanjug news agency reported that the army was pursuing UCK fighters in the area. Burzan visited three villages, from which soldiers had driven the ethnic Albanian and Muslim inhabitants. In Brussels, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said that the Yugoslav army has begun "ethnic cleansing" in Montenegro. PM

SERBIAN PARAMILITARIES IN MONTENEGRO

An unspecified number of Serbian paramilitary troops has entered Montenegro near the border with Kosova, the BBC reported on 21 April. Kosovar refugees in the area said that they were "terrified" to learn that the paramilitaries were nearby. PM

DJUKANOVIC REFUSES TO SUBORDINATE POLICE TO ARMY

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic called "unacceptable" and "out of the question" a demand by the Yugoslav army that the Montenegrin Interior Ministry place the pro-Djukanovic police under army command, the "Financial Times" reported on 21 April. Djukanovic added that the army must explain to the Montenegrin authorities the killings in the Rozaje area. PM

CROATIA PROTESTS YUGOSLAV ARMY INCURSION INTO MONTENEGRIN BORDER ZONE

Croatian Ambassador to the UN Ivan Simonovic sent a letter to the Security Council on 20 April calling on Belgrade to withdraw the 300 troops who entered the demilitarized zone in Montenegro, which borders Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula. Simonovic wrote that he hopes for a diplomatic solution but added that "Croatia must be ready to use other means if necessary." The next day, however, an unnamed Croatian diplomat told Reuters that "everything that's happening is outside our borders. No damage has been done to us and Croatia is absolutely safe." The diplomat added that "this is a strictly internal Yugoslav matter. They have been very anxious to cut Montenegro off and now they have. This really puts the stranglehold on Montenegro." PM

YUGOSLAV TROOPS CLOSE MONTENEGRO'S BORDER WITH CROATIA

A UN monitor in the Prevlaka area told Reuters on 20 April that the situation there is "delicate, sensitive and extremely tense." Earlier, Yugoslav troops took control over and closed the border crossing of Debeli Brijeg between Montenegro and Croatia near Prevlaka. Prevlaka is Croatian territory, but Belgrade wants it because it controls access to Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base. Prevlaka and an adjoining strip of Montenegrin territory around Sutorina are demilitarized and under the control of a 28-member UN monitoring mission. PM

OSCE REPORTS 'SYSTEMATIC ABUSE' OF KOSOVARS

A NATO spokesman said in Brussels on 20 April that Serbian forces are conducting a "safari operation" in Kosova to expel virtually the entire ethnic Albanian population. In Skopje, members of the OSCE's monitoring mission in Kosova issued a report based on interviews with 250 refugees. The monitors concluded that "total lawlessness" reigns in the province. Uniform accounts by refugees indicated that "large groups" of Yugoslav soldiers, paramilitary police, and irregulars carry out "a pattern of intimidation and harassment, combined with assaults, pillage, shelling, killings, and executions..., after which people flee or are simply told to leave." The study noted that "the number of reports on sexual assaults-- including rape of groups of women--is increasing. Other reports include torture, ill-treatment, harassment, intimidation, and use of groups of people as human shields," the monitors' statement continued. The monitors also noted that some interviewees were able to identify their tormentors. PM

GLIGOROV CALLS FOR 'STATE OF EMERGENCY'

Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said in a television broadcast on 20 April that he wants the Supreme Defense Council to declare a state of emergency. He said that the current situation is "one of the most dangerous" since 1991, when Macedonia declared independence. He stressed that "dangers for Macedonia are growing" and that preserving "internal stability and external security" are top priorities for the authorities. He noted that some 4,000 NATO troops will arrive in Macedonia soon. Some 16,500 soldiers from the Atlantic alliance are already there. PM

UNHCR DECLARES MACEDONIAN CAMPS FULL

A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Skopje on 20 April that all camps in that country are filled to capacity. The UNHCR had to leave up to 3,000 refugees without shelter in the no-man's land at the border. Another 3,000 arrived at a mountain hamlet, where the UN had no facilities for them, either. Members of both groups said that "thousands" more refugees are en route, AP reported. Inside Macedonia, some camps have three times more inhabitants than UNHCR standards allow. There are 25,000 people in the Brazda camp alone. Recent arrivals stay in tents outside the camp and are subject to harassment by local Macedonians resentful of the influx of ethnic Albanians. PM

NATO HITS MILOSEVIC'S PARTY OFFICES

Aircraft from the Atlantic alliance attacked a high-rise office building in Belgrade on 21 April, causing considerable damage, the BBC reported. The building houses offices of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, his wife's Yugoslav United Left, and his daughter's radio station. Some of the targets of recent air strikes include factories and refineries controlled by his family or political allies. In Brussels, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that the bombing campaign is likely to last for some time. In Washington, Secretary Albright expressed the same view. PM

UN POLICE MONITOR BOSNIAN-MONTENEGRIN BORDER

UN police stepped up monitoring patrols along Bosnia's frontier with Montenegro on 20 April. The move came following reports by Kosovar and Sandzak Muslim refugees that Bosnian Serb police robbed and intimidated them en route from Montenegro to Sarajevo. In New York, Elisabeth Rehn, who is the UN's special envoy to Bosnia, said that many of the refugees are young males seeking to avoid the Yugoslav army draft. PM

CROATIA ARREST WAR CRIMES SUSPECT

Croatian police arrested Dragisa Cancarevic in Vukovar on 20 April. He is the head of the local police in Borovo Naselje. The ethnic Serbian police officer is suspected of committing war crimes in Vukovar during the 1991-1995 war. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT, DEFENSE COUNCIL APPROVES NATO AIR CORRIDOR REQUEST

The Romanian government and the Supreme Defense Council on 20 April approved a NATO request to use Romanian air space for attacks on Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Premier Radu Vasile said the decision does not "question Romania's sovereignty over its own air space." Approval by the four-party ruling coalition makes passage in the parliament likely, as only the opposition Socialist Party and some nationalist parties have objected to the request. Also on 20 April, a group of prominent Romanian intellectuals urged Romanians to back the government's decision. The deputy chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Ralston, said in Bucharest the same day that Romania can count on NATO to defend it in the event of a threat from Yugoslavia. PB

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CONSULTS BULGARIAN COUNTERPART OVER NATO REQUEST

Emil Constantinescu telephoned with Petar Stoyanov on 20 April to discuss the NATO request that both countries give the alliance unlimited access to their air space, Rompres reported. Officials said Stoyanov has suggested that the two countries coordinate their stances toward the NATO request. PB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY VOTE ON NATO REQUEST LOOMS AMID PROTESTS

Thousands of people rallied in downtown Sofia on 20 April to urge the parliament to reject a request by NATO to allow the alliance full usage of Bulgaria's air space, AP reported. Protesters chanted "NATO out of the Balkans" and other anti-NATO slogans. Thousands of people also demonstrated in the Black Sea port of Varna. Officials said the parliament may vote on the request on 21 April. PB




EBRD TAKES TOUGH NEW STANCE ON INVESTMENTS, LOANS


by Ron Synovitz

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is taking a new tougher approach to lending and investing in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

The approach, a reaction to Russia's financial collapse in August, became apparent at the EBRD's board meeting in London even before plenary sessions began on 19 April.

The EBRD was set up in 1991 to aid the market transition of the former communist states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It has already adopted a conservative lending strategy, and bank funds are being used as leverage to influence government policies.

But EBRD governors meeting in London this week are sharpening the strategy. They say they hope to instill financial discipline, better corporate governance, and long- overdue banking reforms in the 25 countries in which the EBRD operates.

Leading the new strategy is EBRD President Horst Koehler, a former private-sector banker and state secretary in the German Finance Ministry.

Koehler took the top post at the EBRD in September--just weeks after Russia devalued its currency, defaulted on domestic government debt, and declared a moratorium on debt servicing to foreigners.

The Russian crisis caused the EBRD last year to declare its first loss in six years--more than $225 million. More important, Koehler says, it taught the EBRD that its investments cannot be effective without macroeconomic stability, together with a reasonable legal and regulatory environment.

On a country-to-country basis, that means governments must move their reform programs forward or forget about receiving money from the EBRD--one of the last remaining institutions willing to invest across the crisis-plagued region.

Ukraine is a case in point. Koehler met with President Leonid Kuchma and other senior officials in Kyiv late last year to present the Bank's complaints about slow reforms there.

At stake are four EBRD projects, worth nearly $200 million, that have been stalled in the Ukrainian parliament for more than a year. The EBRD also says it will not approve Ukrainian railroad and water management investments, worth another $70 million, until the bureaucratic barriers to the earlier projects are cleared.

Lars Larsson, the director of the EBRD-administered Nuclear Safety Account, also is taking a tougher stance on aid recipients. Larsson says disbursements will go only to projects that expedite the closure of hazardous reactors in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.

Lithuanian Finance Minister Algirdas Semeta admitted there is increased pressure from the EBRD on the closure of the Ignalina nuclear plant. But Semeta, who opposes a shutdown without massive Western financial support, attributes Larsson's harder line to what he called "political pressure" from the EU

"I don't think the EBRD, as such, is the decision-making authority concerning the Ignalina power station," he commented. "Actually, the owners of the [Nuclear Safety] Account itself, and other European Union countries, are the major political forces which dictate policies concerning Ignalina."

In the telecommunications sector, the EBRD is trying to coax several governments to create the proper regulatory framework within which privatized firms can operate.

Legal assistance was provided last year to Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, and Poland. A contract for regulatory assistance has been finalized with Albania, and similar assistance is moving forward in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Georgia.

EBRD projects that develop capital markets and improve corporate governance have been approved for the Czech and Slovak republics.

Plans also have been finalized to work with the Russian Federal Commission for the Securities Market. That project will focus on developing capital market regulations and company laws. The aim is to increase the transparency of markets and improve corporate governance. Meanwhile, the EBRD is still trying to resolve a dispute over the privatization of the Slovnaft oil and gas monopoly in Slovakia. That dispute arose in 1995 when Slovnaft's state managers bought shares of the firm at a fraction of the price paid by the EBRD and other investors.

EBRD officials cite Slovnaft as a classic example of how insider deals and the lack of transparency can damage the confidence of global investors in an emerging market economy. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.


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