Accessibility links

Newsline - April 29, 1999




ONLY A FEW TECHNICAL DETAILS REMAIN IN IMF-RUSSIA NEGOTIATIONS...

IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus issued a statement on 28 April that the IMF and the Russian government have agreed on an economic program that he hopes will be approved by the fund's board of directors. He added that "there are still a few technical elements to be settled in the next few days." Once the program is approved, a loan worth $4.5-4.6 billion will be issued to Russia over an 18-month period, Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told reporters. Camdessus said earlier that once a pact is agreed, Russia will have to take various steps, including seeking legislative approval for a number of bills, before the money can be disbursed, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. JAC

...AS FIMACO PROBE TURNS UP LEADS?

"The New York Times" reported on 29 April that IMF money will never be sent to Moscow and will essentially be transferred from one of the fund's accounts to another so that Russia can avoid default on the money its owes the IMF this year and next. According to the newspaper, the arrangement reflects behind-the-scenes pressure from the U.S. and European countries that IMF money be safeguarded against misuse. Meanwhile, "Trud" reported on 29 April that the State Duma's Audit Chamber needs more time to complete its audit of the previous installment of the IMF loan to Russia. One auditor with the group, Eleonora Mitrofanova, told the daily that media accusations against the Central Bank and the Channel Islands firm FIMACO so far "look like the truth." JAC

NO KOSOVA SOLUTION APPARENT AT MOSCOW-BERLIN TALKS

Meeting in Berlin on 28 April, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said they see no imminent diplomatic solution to the Kosova crisis. Annan told Reuters in Moscow the following day that "the search for a political solution is a long, complex, drawn-out process." He made the statement before talks with Russia's envoy for Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin and President Boris Yeltsin. No details have yet been released about that meeting. Annan will also meet with the Russian, Greek, and Canadian foreign ministers as well as the German defense minister. After meeting with Annan, Chernomyrdin left for Bonn to discuss his peace initiative with Schroeder. He is scheduled to arrive for talks with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema in Rome on 30 April and to resume talks in Belgrade later that day. FS

CHERNOMYRDIN PLEDGES 'CONCRETE PROPOSALS'

Before leaving for Berlin, Chernomyrdin told AP that he will present "concrete proposals" in Bonn, Rome, and Belgrade. He said that at the core of his plan is NATO's suspension of its air strikes and argued that "it is useless trying to resolve the problem under bombs." He added that "in the Balkans everything must be done under the aegis of the UN, which must play a colossal role in the settlement." Annan, however, said the previous day in Bonn that the alliance "should remain firm, [while] we should do whatever we can in search of a political settlement." Annan has appointed Slovakia's Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan as his special envoy to Yugoslavia. He added that he will appoint a second envoy soon. FS

NEW 'TOP-SECRET' NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM DISCUSSED

Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 29 April chaired a closed-door meeting of the Security Council on the development of Russia's strategic nuclear weapons policy. Russian Television reported that Yeltsin said Russia's nuclear forces are the "key element in ensuring the country's national security." After the meeting, Security Council Secretary Vladimir Putin told reporters that Yeltsin signed two decrees on the development of strategic nuclear and tactical weapons and approved the adoption of one program, which is of a "top-secret nature," ITAR-TASS reported. Putin also said that "Russia has not tested its nuclear weapons for a longer period of time than all other countries and this raises certain problems." He added that Russia is thinking of giving its specialists the possibility of moving ahead in "this sensitive sphere" without withdrawing from outstanding agreements. JAC

MOSCOW FACING DEFAULT...

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 April that some foreign creditors of the Moscow city government do not want to negotiate a restructuring of one of the city's outstanding debts and are demanding that the city pay off a $100 million loan in full and not the just the $4.5 million in interest that it owes. On 27 April, Deputy Moscow Mayor Iosif Ordzhonikidze admitted that "Moscow could experience problems meeting its debt servicing obligations this year," Prime-TASS reported. In addition to the $100 million debt, the city must make payments of some $22 million and $23.7 million on two Eurobond coupons on 17 May and 31 May, respectively. JAC

...AS LUZHKOV'S POLITICAL FUTURE HANGS IN BALANCE?

Yurii Korgunyuk, a political analyst at the Center for Applied Political Studies, told "The Moscow Times" on 28 April that "Luzhkov has always stressed his difference from other regional governors. If there is a restructuring, it will be evident that the huge debt hanging around Moscow's neck was a result of faulty economic policy." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted that a default would seriously damage Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's chances in upcoming presidential elections. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. Berezovskii and Luzhkov are open rivals. JAC

RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN MILITARY COOPERATION ON FAST TRACK?

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka revealed on 28 April that he has brought with him to Moscow a more ambitious, more radical plan for the unification of his country and Russia, but he added that he "understands Russia is not ready" yet, Interfax reported. Lukashenka added that since Russia is not ready for the creation of a state with a single president, government, and parliament, then there is no need to change the constitution and organize a referendum, Russian Television reported. "Izvestiya" noted on 29 April that although the economic prospects of the union look "vague," the "military-political" detente is proceeding quickly. "It is friendship [aimed] against NATO that makes the [Russian-Belarusian] friendship so firm now," according to the daily. The two leaders discussed on 28 April a joint defense concept that envisions the two sides using the same types of weapons and equipment for a future joint force, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). JAC

KEMEROVO GOVERNOR FINDS WAY TO REWARD VOTERS

Newly re-elected governor of Kemerovo Oblast, Aman Tuleev, announced on 26 April that as of 1 June all enterprises in the region will begin making additional monthly "donations" to budget sector employees, "Vremya MN" reported on 28 April. The monies are supposed to be provided on a voluntary basis, but according to the daily, those companies that "forsake their new duty will face sanctions"; for example, their director will be replaced or, if they are private, the authorities will initiate a procedure to try to impose an external administration on them. According to the daily, Tuleev's government hopes to collect 170 million rubles ($7 million) each month in this way, until enough money is allocated by the federal budget to result in a pay hike for state sector employees. JAC

INDEPENDENCE OF REGIONAL MEDIA ENDANGERED

Top officials in the Union of Journalists expressed their concern on 28 April that regional newspapers and magazines are in danger of losing their independence, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the union's president, Vsevolod Bogdanov, local authorities are reorganizing the editorial boards of newspapers and magazines under the pretext of bringing them into line with Russia's Civil Code. After the reorganization, editorial boards are guided not by the Law on the Mass Media but by the Law on State Employees, which circumscribes the publication's editorial freedom and independence. Local journalists are turned into "clerks" who merely disseminate the information that their board chooses, the agency reported. The union is recommending that localities adopt a new statute on the composition of the editorial boards drafted by the union's lawyers. JAC

MANDELA MAKES MOSCOW TRIP

South African President Nelson Mandela and President Yeltsin signed an agreement in Moscow on 29 April to boost economic cooperation in areas such as gold and diamond production and improve political contacts between their countries, AP reported. Mandela arrived in the Russian capital on 28 April and is expected to meet with Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev as well. On 30 April, he will hold talks with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and visit the Academy of Sciences to receive an honorary degree, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

FORMER GROZNY MAYOR SENTENCED

Following a three- year investigation and trial, Beslan Gantemirov was sentenced on 28 April to six years' imprisonment on charges of embezzling the equivalent of $1.7 million allocated by Moscow for reconstruction in Chechnya, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 April. Gantemirov has repeatedly claimed the charges against him were fabricated and says he will appeal the sentence. LF

NORTH OSSETIA WANTS TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH ARMENIA

Armenian government chief of staff Eduard Tatevossian held talks with North Ossetia's President Aleksandr Dzasokhov in Vladikavkaz on 24 April to discuss the potential for cooperation between North Ossetian industrial enterprises and their Armenian counterparts, including the Zangezur copper and molybdenum plant, Noyan Tapan reported on 28 April. Dzasokhov also said that his republic is interested in buying electricity from Armenia. Much of North Ossetia's industrial potential was geared to producing components for the Soviet military- industrial complex and has been lying idle in recent years. Tatevossian headed the Armenian delegation to the North Caucasus Association council session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 1999). LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES RUSSIAN LOAN

Legislators on 28 April approved a $20.6 million Russian loan for the Medzamor nuclear power plant, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Most of that sum, to be released in several installments by the end of next year, will be spent on purchases of Russian nuclear fuel, on which Medzamor is dependent. An agreement on the loan was signed last December by the Russian and Armenian governments. The debt will be repaid over five years beginning in 2003. Medzamor was shut down under public pressure in 1989 but reopened in 1995 with Russian assistance to make up for severe energy shortages in Armenia, despite widespread safety concerns in the West. The Armenian government has pledged to close the plant in 2004, even though its management said last week that it could operate for another 16 years. Medzamor currently generates some 35 percent of Armenia's electricity. LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT UNVEILS MEASURES TO SAVE LAKE SEVAN

Environment Minister Gevorg Vartanian outlined to journalists on 28 April a new program to save Lake Sevan from an ecological disaster, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Under that program, the water level of the lake, which has been steadily declining for several decades and fell by 23 centimeters in 1998 alone, will be raised by 5 meters over the next decade. Vartanian said that the use of water from the lake for irrigation purposes will be cut by 20 percent this year, and it is hoped eventually to cease using water from the lake for hydro-electricity. In addition, the completion next year of the Vorotan tunnel to divert a nearby river into the lake should help raise the water level. Vartanian noted that a government ban on all forms of fishing will go into force on 15 June with the aim of replenishing the lake's fish stocks. LF

GEORGIAN HUNGER-STRIKERS ATTACKED

The six members of the Free Georgia--Future Generation organization, who began a hunger-strike in Tbilisi on 26 April to demand the release of persons they consider political prisoners, were attacked by a group of 20-25 men in civilian clothes during the night of 27-28 April, Caucasus Press reported. The organization's leader, Koba Bukia, accused the Georgian authorities of instigating the attack. LF

GEORGIAN CUSTOMS INTERCEPT RELIGIOUS LITERATURE

Customs officials in southern Georgia have thwarted an attempt to smuggle into Georgia some six tons of religious literature and video cassettes produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported on 27 and 28 April. The Turkish driver of the lorry transporting the materials was arrested. The 20 million religious tracts and video cassettes were said to be of high quality, but it is unclear what language(s) they were in. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER DENIES TAX-DODGING CHARGES

Speaking to journalists in Washington, Akezhan Kazhegeldin denied the recent accusations of tax evasion leveled against him by government officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999), Interfax reported. He added that he has documentary proof that he paid all his taxes in 1997. Kazhegeldin said the charges are intended to compromise him "as a person and as a politician." "A tragedy" is how he described the inability of Kazakhstan's authorities to find a common language with the opposition. And he argued that the country's leadership is "neither united nor a monolith" but composed of disparate factions pursuing their own "clan and corporate interests." LF

TAJIK POLICE OFFICERS HELD HOSTAGE

Some 40 members of an armed opposition group headed by Mansur Muakalov abducted six Tajik police officers in eastern Tajikistan during the night of 27-28 April. The kidnappers are demanding the release of five men charged with more than 80 crimes, including 10 murders, Interfax reported on 28 April, quoting an Interior Ministry press spokesman. LF

UZBEKISTAN RESTORES GAS SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN

Uzbekistan has resumed supplies of natural gas to three oblasts of southern Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 29 April. Those supplies were cut earlier this month because of non-payment of debts, and Kazakhstan responded by halting rail traffic from Uzbekistan and pointing to Uzbekistan's unpaid debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1999). The two sides subsequently agreed to resume both natural gas deliveries and rail transit, but they have so far made little progress on clearing mutual debts. LF




EU MISSION IN MINSK TO PROMOTE POLITICAL DIALOGUE

An EU delegation of regional policy department heads from the Foreign Ministries of Germany, Austria, and Finland met with Belarusian Foreign Minister Ural Latypau on 27 April and Belarusian oppositionists the next day, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 28 April. The two sides discussed the normalization of EU-Belarusian relations. Latypau's spokesman said they resolved to pursue that goal "by small steps," but he did not elaborate. The delegation urged the Belarusian opposition to enter into a political dialogue with the authorities without "any conditions." It declined to provide an answer as to whether the EU will recognize the opposition presidential elections scheduled for 16 May. JM

PACE HOLDS HEARINGS ON BELARUS...

The Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 27 April held hearings on the situation in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 28 April. The hearings were attended by two parliamentary delegations from Belarus--one from the opposition Supreme Soviet and the other from the official National Assembly. Both Belarusian delegations called their discussions "useful" though at times "very heated." Anatol Lyabedzka and Syarhey Kalyakin from the opposition told an RFE/RL correspondent that a PACE mission may soon visit Belarus. Uladzimir Kanaplyou of the official legislature--which was admitted to PACE hearings for the first time--was also satisfied, saying that "earlier we were only viewers on the balcony, while the opposition mocked us as much as it wanted to." JM

...AS DOES U.S. CONGRESS

The same day, the situation in Belarus was discussed by the U.S. Congress Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The hearings were attended by OSCE Minsk mission head Hans Georg Wieck, "Charter 96" Belarusian civic initiative coordinator Andrey Sannikau, international human rights activists, and a representative of the Belarusian embassy in Washington. Ross Wilson, an adviser to the U.S. secretary of state, said that "our policy of selective contacts reflects our attitude to President Lukashenka and to what he represents," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 28 April. Sannikau and Catherine Fitzpatrick, executive director of the International League for Human Rights, urged the U.S. to send back its ambassador to Minsk before 20 June, when Lukashenka's legitimate term in office expires. JM

UKRAINE'S GDP DROPS NEARLY 5 PERCENT IN FIRST QUARTER

The State Committee for Statistics reported on 28 April that Ukraine's GDP decreased by 4.8 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 1998. Industrial production was down 2 percent. Agricultural output among private farms increased by 2.4 percent, but owing to the poor performance of state-run farms, the increase in total agricultural production was only 0.5 percent. JM

KUCHMA SIGNS EDICT ON PROTECTION OF MORALS

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has signed an edict on "developing spirituality, protecting morals, and establishing a healthy way of life," Ukrainian Television reported on 28 April. The document sets up a nationwide body, headed by Deputy Premier Valeriy Smoliy, to coordinate the edict's implementation. Among other things, the cabinet and local authorities are ordered to take urgent measures to prevent the "propaganda of violence" in the media and the dissemination of pornography. "The edict is by no means intended to return to the former times [in Ukraine] of censorship or bans of a political or ideological character," Smoliy commented. JM

ESTONIA'S CRIME RATE HIGHEST AMONG BALTIC STATES

BNS reported on 28 April that Estonia's crime rate is the highest of the three Baltic States and is growing. In the first quarter of this year, crime in Estonia was up 10.1 percent on the same period in 1998, whereas Lithuania registered a decrease of 3.9 percent and Latvia a 1.7 percent decline. Some 75 crimes per 10,000 of the population were committed in Estonia in the first three months of this year, while the corresponding figures for Lithuania and Latvia were 51 and 36, respectively. During the same period, however, the number of homicides decreased in Estonia by 13 percent but increased in the other two Baltic States. JC

ESTONIA'S MERI TAKES SWIPE AT DEFENSE MINISTRY

Returning from the U.S., where he had attended the NATO 50th anniversary celebrations, President Lennart Meri told journalists that the alliance does not expect Estonia to acquire the latest weapons but rather to demonstrate "good organization of defense forces and convincing proof of our defense will," ETA reported on 28 April. Meri added that Estonia has taken a step toward achieving its goal of NATO membership, despite the "not too professional management of the Defense Ministry in recent years." He stressed the need to "act fast," predicting that the next wave of enlargement will occur before the planned 2002 summit. JC

MINIMUM WAGE TO BE RAISED IN LITHUANIA

After six months of discussions, a government proposal to raise the minimum monthly wage from 430 litas ($107.5) to 460 litas was approved on 28 April, ELTA reported. The new rate will take effect on 1 July. Lithuanian experts predicted, however, that the measure may prove detrimental to employees since companies already experiencing financial difficulties may have to reduce their work force or may opt to hire workers illegally rather than pay higher wages and social insurance contributions. They argued that increasing the minimum wage in the wake of an economic crisis, when lower growth results in reduced wages, was "illogical." JC

BELARUS TO PAY OFF PART OF ELECTRICITY DEBT WITH CRUDE

Lithuanian Economics Minister Vincas Babilius told a local radio station on 28 April that Belarus is to pay part of its electricity debt to Lithuania through deliveries of crude oil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1999), ELTA reported. The planned deliveries would amount to $20 million. According to the Lietuvos Energija company, Belarus's debt for supplies of electricity exceeded $75 million at the beginning of this month. Belarus will also allow Lithuania to use its railway network free of charge in order to pay off its outstanding debt. JC

POLISH PREMIER FIRES DEPUTY JUSTICE MINISTER

Jerzy Buzek on 28 April dismissed Deputy Justice Minister Leszek Piotrowski, who recently criticized Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka for being unable to control the Prosecutor- General's Office. The dismissal came the same day that "Gazeta Polska" and "Zycie" published Piotrowski's letter to Buzek, in which the former objected to the way Suchocka is handling the two investigations. Piotrowski commented to the 29 April "Gazeta Wyborcza" that the prosecutors in charge of those investigations were working against the ruling coalition, while Suchocka has not reacted to his demand to dismiss them. Piotrowski's dismissal reflects the continued friction between the ruling coalition partners--the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW)--despite the government reshuffle last month. Piotrowski and Suchocka belong to the AWS and the UW, respectively. JM

POLISH TROOPS DEPART FOR ALBANIA

A company of 140 soldiers from the Podhale Infantry Brigade in Rzeszow, southeastern Poland, departed on 29 April to Albania to protect NATO command posts, Polish media reported. "By becoming a NATO member on 12 March, Poland joined an alliance whose objective is not only self-defense but also building peace in Europe," Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz said the previous day. He added that no one had expected that Polish troops would be put to such a serious test so soon. JM

KAVAN WANTS TO MEET WITH HAVEL TO DISCUSS CRITICISM

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has requested a meeting with President Vaclav Havel to discuss the latter's recent criticism of statements made by the foreign minister, CTK reported on 28 April. Kavan said he has arranged to meet with Havel this weekend to "clarify our stands." Havel is currently on a three-day official visit to Canada. Kavan said the Czech government's position not to send Czech troops to participate in a possible ground offensive "is appreciated by NATO" because "only 34 percent of Czech citizens support the NATO action, while it is 70 percent and more in other countries." Meanwhile, a poll by the IVVM polling agency on 28 April showed that 74 percent of Czechs are dissatisfied with the political situation in their country, CTK reported. PB

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGES WANT BENES DECREES ABOLISHED

Two judges on the Czech Constitutional Court said on 28 April that they favor the parliamentary abolition of former Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes's decrees sanctioning the postwar deportation of Germans from the country, CTK reported, citing the daily "Pravo." Ivana Janu, the deputy chairwoman of the court, said "the Constitutional Court has reviewed only the constitutional character of the decrees...as a result [of that review], the parliament could abolish the decrees, whose validity has expired, without giving any explanation." Judge Vladimir Cermak said the decrees are "extinguished" legislation and could be canceled. He also dismissed any notion of such action leading to efforts by Sudeten Germans to reclaim former property. The European Parliament recently issued a resolution calling on the Czech government to throw out "outdated laws and decrees" from 1945-1946 on the expulsion of individual ethnic groups from the former Czechoslovakia. PB

SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER MEETS WITH IMF, WORLD BANK OFFICIALS

Brigita Schmognerova held talks with Michal Camdessus, the executive director of the IMF, in Washington on 28 April, TASR reported. The two discussed the results of a recent IMF mission to Slovakia. Schmognerova also met with World Bank officials and requested technical assistance for the restructuring of some companies and for combating corruption. Schmognerova told the daily "Sme" that many officials she met with during her recent visits to the U.K. and now to the U.S. have said that the election of former Premier Vladimir Meciar to the presidency in next month's election would severely damage Slovakia's image. PB

SLOVAKIA APPROVES EMBARGO AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA

The Slovak government approved a resolution on 28 April joining the EU embargo on the sale of oil or petroleum products to Yugoslavia, TASR reported. Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said Slovakia's economic losses from the embargo could be as high as $1.6 million. PB

HUNGARIAN PREMIER REASSURES POLITICIANS OVER YUGOSLAV CONFLICT

Viktor Orban told the leaders of political parties in the parliament on 28 April that no ground attack on Yugoslavia will be launched from Hungary and no Hungarian soldiers will take part in military actions, Hungarian Radio reported. Orban, who was briefing the leaders of six political parties on the results of the NATO summit in Washington, added that national unity is a top priority of his government. In other news, the Central Statistical Office reported that the slowdown in economic growth that began at the end of 1998 continued through the first two months of this year. PB




MORE EVIDENCE OF MEJ MASSACRE EMERGES

Kris Janowski, who is a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told RFE/RL in Geneva on 28 April that recent refugee reports about large-scale killings of male Kosovars at the village of Mej near Gjakova are "very alarming" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). Other refugees subsequently told the UNHCR that they have personally seen heaps of bodies of dead males executed by Serbian forces near Mej. Reuters quoted refugees as saying that Serbian forces rounded up and shot young men. The refugees also said that Serbian forces took jewelry and money from them. Janowski added that refugees who arrived from Lipjan have given the UNHCR similar reports about the expulsion of Kosovars and the separating of men and women. They said that Serbian forces killed at least 50 people in Lipjan. Janowski added that the UNHCR cannot confirm these reports independently. FS

NUMBER OF REFUGEES ARRIVING IN ALBANIA ON THE RISE

More than 3,000 refugees entered Kukes on 28 April, Reuters reported. Serbian forces shelled the villages of Vlahen and Cahan in the Has Mountains, along the frontier with Kosova, an OSCE spokesman said in Tirana. Meanwhile, 300 French soldiers equipped with 133 vehicles landed in Durres bound for Elbasan to improve a local refugee camp there. In Paris, Albanian President Rexhep Meidani estimated that the refugee relief is costing his country $33 million a month, calculating that each refugee costs $3 a day. Meidani added that "if the refugees stay until the end of December, we'll need $600 million, to which $255 million more must be added to balance the budget deficit." Meanwhile, United Arab Emirates forces have begun repairing an airstrip near Kukes. FS

REFUGEES WAIT TO ENTER MACEDONIA

"Several thousand" refugees from Kosova are waiting on the border to enter Macedonia, BBC Television reported on 29 April. The previous day, some 4,000 Kosovars crossed into Macedonia at Blace. An unknown number of ethnic Albanians from Serbia proper crossed into Macedonian mountain villages via dirt trails. Aid workers expressed concern that ever more refugees are arriving and there is no space in existing camps for them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). The relief workers are also worried that the refugees entering via mountain trails have no access even to basic relief aid or medical attention. A spokesman for the UNHCR said the Serbian authorities may be making "a final push" to drive ethnic Albanians out of Kosova and Serbia proper. He added that "the consequences are scary. We are looking a major problem right in the eye." Reuters wrote that efforts to resettle refugees outside Macedonia have proven only "a drop in the ocean." PM

SERBS STARVING REFUGEES OUT?

A spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Program told AP in Blace on 28 April that "people are being literally starved out" of Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1999). She noted that Serbian shops either do not sell food to Kosovars or do so only at greatly inflated prices. In Kumanovo, male refugees told reporters that the Yugoslav military has recently sent induction notices to many ethnic Albanian males. One refugee added that this means that those receiving notices have a choice either to flee or to be used as human shields by the Serbian forces. A spokesman for the UNHCR said some refugees report that Serbian forces assemble people from several villages in one village and then make them "pay bribes to get out and they only let a certain number out." PM

GEORGIEVSKI STRESSES LINKS TO NATO, EU

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 28 April that the current crisis has strengthened links between his country on the one hand and NATO and the EU on the other. He stressed that "Macedonia has no alternative in its foreign policy" than to seek integration into the most important Euro- Atlantic structures. Observers suggested that Georgievski was indirectly criticizing his rival President Kiro Gligorov, who has expressed disappointment with Western support for Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1999). PM

NATO AIRCRAFT HIT MONTENEGRO

Missiles hit Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's home town of Pozarevac and targets around the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica on 29 April, the 37th consecutive day of NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia. The previous day, a laser-guided missile went off course and hit civilians in Surdulica in southern Serbia. State- run media reported that 20 people were killed and 50 houses destroyed in the incident. There has been no independent confirmation of those figures. PM

MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT APPEALS TO NATO

The government in Podgorica appealed to the Atlantic alliance to stop bombing Montenegro lest NATO give Milosevic an excuse to intervene militarily against the reformist government there, the "Financial Times" reported on 29 April. Economics Minister Vojin Djukanovic said that bombing "is not the correct reward for the reformist policies this government is following." Nikola Dragomanovic, who heads the oil company Jugopetrol, said that a NATO blockade of Montenegro "would completely paralyze life and cause a humanitarian catastrophe." He suggested that instead of launching a blockade, "all interested [parties] control both the delivery and distribution of oil products." He stressed that very little oil has entered Montenegrin ports in recent weeks. PM

DJUKANOVIC CALLS DRASKOVIC'S SACKING 'A SIGN'

Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who is an ally of Milosevic and rival of the Montenegrin leadership, fired Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic on 28 April for making "public statements in contradiction to the positions of the federal government" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 1999). In Podgorica, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said that the sacking "is a sign for people in Serbia to listen to voices of democracy and reason." He added that the firing "reflects a lack of discipline in the Belgrade leadership [and] lends hope that the war will end" soon. He refused to speculate as to whether the incident reflects deep political divisions in Belgrade, AP noted. After his sacking, Draskovic told reporters that any differences within the leadership are not over policy but "only over means," the "Washington Post" reported. PM

STEINER: MILOSEVIC IS NO PEACE PARTNER

Michael Steiner, who is German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's chief diplomatic adviser and a senior diplomat for Balkan issues, told the "New York Times" of 29 April that an eventual indictment of Milosevic will make it impossible for Western governments to negotiate with him. Steiner stressed that "if Milosevic is indicted, he cannot be the signatory to any accord. That is already a factor we have to take into consideration." He added that "we don't need Milosevic for a solution." Steiner pointed out that the international community needed Milosevic for a signature during the Rambouillet negotiations but concluded that "we now need certain things to happen[including] Serbian troops out of [Kosova], and the Kosovar refugees back, but we are not necessarily in a signature game anymore." FS

RUGOVA AGAIN MAKES PROPAGANDA APPEARANCE

The Serbian authorities on 28 April brought Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, who is under house arrest in Prishtina, to Belgrade to sign a declaration with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic on Kosova's political future. Adnan Merovci, who is Rugova's bodyguard, said upon his recent arrival in Macedonia that Rugova made his several public appearances in Belgrade in April only under duress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). Isa Zymberi, who represents Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova in London, told the BBC on 29 April that the Serbian authorities should let Rugova travel abroad to clarify what his views really are. Since late March, when Serbian police occupied part of his house, the Kosovar leader has received numerous invitations from foreign governments and institutions to go abroad with his family. PM

UCK PLEDGES TO ORGANIZE KOSOVA GOVERNMENT

The self-proclaimed government of Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci issued a statement in the Tirana-based, Kosovar exile daily "Rilindja" on 28 April saying that it "assumes responsibility to lead Kosova and its people until conditions are created for free elections," dpa reported. The statement is apparently directed against the rival "government" of Bujar Bukoshi, which was appointed in 1990 by the last Kosovar parliament and does not recognize the cabinet that Thaci set up in early April. FS

BOSNIAN SERB POLITICAL CRISIS ON HOLD UNTIL BOMBING STOPS

The international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Banja Luka on 28 April that Republika Srpska Vice President Mirko Sarovic will not make a decision on whether to replace Nikola Poplasen as president until after NATO stops its bombing of Serbian targets. Westendorp added that "decisions made in tense and difficult situations are not the best decisions." Westendorp fired Poplasen on 5 March for preventing the formation of a new Bosnian Serb government, but Poplasen refused to step down. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'RECONSTRUCTION' OF SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

Emil Constantinescu said on 28 April that a massive reconstruction of southeastern Europe should be carried out after the Yugoslav conflict ends, Reuters reported. Constantinescu, in a television interview, said the West should have learned from the "negative" Bosnia experience that any reconstruction of a country must involve that country's neighbors. Constantinescu and other Balkan leaders urged a mass reconstruction effort for the region at the recent NATO summit in Washington and in talks with IMF and World Bank officials. The EU said a preliminary estimate for such a project was $30 billion. PB

MOLDOVAN-ROMANIAN TREATY TO BE SIGNED SOON?

The Moldovan Foreign Ministry said on 28 April that Chisinau and Bucharest will sign a basic treaty in the near future, ITAR- TASS reported. Moldovan Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Serebryanu said the treaty could be signed when Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and his Romanian counterpart, Emil Constantinescu, meet again sometime later this year. The two sides are arguing over the mention in the treaty of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, under which territory from Romania was ceded to Moldova. Serebryanu said the differences on this issue were resolved during meetings in Chisinau on 24 April, but he offered no more details. PB

MISSILE DESTROYS HOME IN SOFIA SUBURB...

President Petar Stoyanov said on 29 April that he has asked NATO if it is responsible for the missile that crashed through the roof of a home in Gorna Banya, a Sofia suburb 5 kilometers from the capital's center, Reuters reported. Stoyanov, who rushed to the scene in the middle of the night along with Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev, said the rocket did not explode and there were no injuries. Colonel Tomirko Tomanov, a weapons specialist for the Bulgarian military, said at a news conference that the missile was "an air-to-surface type" that could be carried by NATO's F-16 fighters. Members of the opposition Socialist Party walked out of the parliament on 29 April to protest the legislature's refusal to summon Premier Ivan Kostov to explain the incident. PB

...AS SOFIA, BRUSSELS WORK ON AGREEMENT GRANTING NATO AIR SPACE

The Bulgarian government said on 28 April that it has exchanged formal notes with NATO on the alliance's use of a limited air corridor in Bulgaria, Reuters reported. The two sides have been working on the finalization of an accord that would allow NATO to overfly a band of Bulgarian air space in return for security guarantees for Bulgaria in the event of an attack by Yugoslavia. A parliamentary vote on the accord is expected as early as 30 April. A poll published in the weekly "Kapital" showed that 74 percent of respondents oppose granting the NATO air space request. PB




HAS TRANSITION FAILED IN FORMER USSR?


By Robert Lyle

According to the World Bank, most of the countries of the former Soviet Union have seen nothing but decline and deterioration since the transition began 10 years ago.

World Bank Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz says the bank's annual World Development report shows that despite significant gains in development around the world, the gap between rich and poor is widening and in many countries income distributions are worsening, increasing the social pain of economic failure:

Stiglitz told a Washington press conference last week that "nowhere are these problems more evident than in the states of the former Soviet Union, where the numbers living in poverty increased from 14 million in 1989 to 147 million by the middle of the decade, a ten-fold increase."

The reason was not just because Russia experienced a crisis last year, according to Stiglitz. "More broadly, a decade after the beginning of the transition to a market economy, most of the countries of the former Soviet Union have a lower per capita income, worse social conditions, and higher levels of poverty than they did a decade ago."

So does this mean the transition to market economies has failed? The World Bank official admits it's a question that his institution is now pondering a lot.

"Most economists said the problem in the former Soviet Union was that they had central planning, no property rights and therefore inefficiencies and distorted prices," he argued. "You were going to change all that and it was supposed to release a burst of energy of entrepreneurship and output was supposed to increase. Instead output has fallen markedly and poverty has increased markedly and I think the lesson we've learned is that market economies are far more complicated than text book models often describe them. And that issues of governance, issues of legal infrastructures, issues of institutions are absolutely central."

The leader of the team that assembled the development report, World Bank senior economist Eric Swanson, said one interesting anomaly in Russia is that private personal consumption has remained quite strong.

"What's really disappeared is investment and public consumption, government consumption," he said. "I guess if you're not collecting taxes, it keeps down your public consumption as well. Essentially we see an economy that's in chaos right now and it's very hard to measure what's going on there."

The bank's chief economist, Stiglitz, says another strange occurrence in Russia is that the inequality of incomes has increased while economic growth has decreased: "In a sense, the economies in transition have repealed a standard law on economics, which says there is a trade-off between inequality and growth. What they showed is that you have negative growth and increasing inequality, so they've gotten the worst of both worlds. And that is one of the things we'll have to ponder as we go forward."

The bank's report warns that if present trends persist, there is a danger that the poor may become a permanent underclass far less able to respond to opportunities when things do turn around.

People are obviously feeling the pressure, too, said the bank, noting that stress reveals itself in declining life expectancy and sharply worsening adult mortality. It noted that the probability of a 15-year-old Ukrainian male surviving until his 60th birthday is a mere 65 percent, down from 72 percent in 1980.

The bank's report shows that while the former Soviet countries have been sinking for a decade, another former Communist giant--China -- is moving strongly ahead in a transition that is working. "One of the remarkable contrasts is the success of [China's] transition as measured by most indicators including increases in GDP, living standards, and reductions in poverty, Stiglitz noted. "The contrast between that and what has happened in the former Soviet Union [is] the result of quite different economic policies being pursued."

The key to economic success, according to Stiglitz, is adopting the reforms and policies necessary for a functioning market-based economy, including strong social safety nets to protect the most vulnerable. In the end, he said, it is not international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF that will save these countries but their own determination. The author is a Washington-based RFE/RL correspondent.


XS
SM
MD
LG