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Newsline - June 1, 1999




NEW ECONOMIC TEAM FINALLY IN PLACE...

President Boris Yeltsin appointed market reformer Viktor Khristenko as a first deputy prime minister on 31 May, replacing Mikhail Zadornov, who was sacked by Yeltsin three days earlier. Khristenko will be in charge of overseeing macro-economic policy. Zadornov, meanwhile, was named Russia's chief negotiator with the IMF and other lending institutions. That post was formerly occupied by Zadornov's deputy, Mikhail Kasyanov, who was named finance minister last week and is expected to keep his post. Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants remains in his job, according to ITAR-TASS. JB

...WHILE NEWSPAPER SAYS THE TEST OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING

"Izvestiya," commenting on the horse-trading that went into the selection of the new cabinet, wrote on 1 June that "since the whole process of forming the government looked rapid but rather dispiriting, only concrete work results will be able to fix the image of the new cabinet." Nevertheless, "Izvestiya" notes, "the two last key appointments--Zadornov and Khristenko--give reason to suppose that these results will follow." JB

AKSENENKO CALLS FOR RETURN OF ARMS INDUSTRY TO LEADING POSITION

First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, in an interview with the 3 June "Vek," calls for returning Russia's arms industry to the hallowed positioned it enjoyed in Soviet times. Aksenenko, who is charged with overseeing defense matters, says it is the government's "duty to return the military-industrial complex to the foremost position it used to occupy, when its employees took pride in world-class achievements in science, technology, and applied sciences." As to what concrete economic policies the government should pursue to achieve those goals, Aksenenko is less precise--or possibly more diplomatic. Asked for his role models, he said he appreciated the innovative spirit of Yegor Gaidar's government, the ability to compromise demonstrated by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the optimism of the short-lived cabinet of Sergei Kirienko. JB

RUSSIA EXPECTS TO SELL MORE ARMS IN 1999

Russia's main arms exporter, Rosvooruzhenie, is predicting increased sales in 1999. Director-General Grigorii Rapota, at a recent briefing on the company's performance last year, reported that Rosvooruzhenie sold weapons to 64 countries, netting $2.046 billion. Rapota expects to sell $2.5 billion worth of weapons in 1999, according to "Novoe vremya." Traditional markets such as India, a return to trading with old friend Libya, and possible exports to non-traditional markets such as Brazil should help boost the total, Rapota commented. JB

YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW DEPUTY SECRETARY OF SECURITY COUNCIL

President Yeltsin on 31 May appointed Vladimir Vasilev as deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported. Vasilev became first deputy interior minister in 1997 and headed the ministry's department charged with combating organized crime. JC

CHERNOMYRDIN OPTIMISTIC BEFORE KOSOVA TALKS IN BONN

Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin left Moscow on 1 June for talks with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Bonn. He told ITAR-TASS that "we are going to Bonn with new proposals, worked out by the Russian side and approved by [President] Boris Yeltsin." He did not elaborate. "The U.S., EU, Russia, all the parties concerned, have an enormous desire to find a political solution," he commented, The previous day, Chernomyrdin told AP: "We need the question to be solved. We...need results.... For two months this has been going on. We can't explain this to our own people any longer. We work, hassle nearly day and night, fly around--but people are expecting results." Chernomyrdin and Ahtisaari are expected to meet with Milosevic in Belgrade on 2 June, AP reported. FS

EU FOREIGN MINISTERS BACK CHERNOMYRDIN, AHTISAARI MISSION

EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels on 31 May, gave their "full backing" to the diplomatic efforts of Chernomyrdin and Ahtisaari. In a statement, they said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must show an "unambiguous and verifiable commitment to accept the G-8 principles and a [planned UN Security Council] resolution" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1999). They added that "the international community continues to exert strong pressure on the Belgrade authorities to reverse their course of action in [Kosova] and accept its demands for a political solution," AP reported. The foreign ministers also agreed to a European Commission proposal to offer several southeastern European countries "stability and association agreements" with the EU, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. FS

STEPASHIN SAYS KOSOVA SOLUTION POSSIBLE, AFTER TALKING TO CLINTON

Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told Interfax that "there are signs that [the Kosova problem], which originally seemed to be intractable, may be settled after all." He made the remarks after talking to U.S. President Bill Clinton on the phone, but did not elaborate. Stepashin stressed that NATO's demand for a full Serbian troop withdrawal from Kosova remains "the most difficult question" in reaching a settlement. FS

'IZVESTIYA' SAYS VOTERS START TO THINK

Commenting on the 30 May Belgorod gubernatorial election, "Izvestiya" on 1 June wrote that the ballot results disprove the oft-quoted thesis that Russian voters have become apathetic and that those who do cast their ballots are increasingly swayed by Communist or extremist rhetoric. In the vote, incumbent governor Yevgenii Savchenko soundly defeated the Communist Party candidate as well as Vladimir Zhirinovskii of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 1999). JB

MAGADAN GETS SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE

The State Duma and the Federation Council have passed a law creating a special economic zone in Magadan Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 June. The zone, which includes the city of Magadan, will offers special tax incentives and is aimed at creating more favorable conditions for investors who help develop the region's rich natural resources. President Yeltsin has signed the law, which will be valid for the next 15 years. JB

MORE RUSSIAN JEWS EMIGRATING TO ISRAEL SINCE AUGUST 1998 CRISIS

The number of Russian Jews who emigrated to Israel in the first quarter of this year--7,933--was up 116 percent on the same period in 1998, the Jerusalem-based Jewish Agency told Reuters on 30 May. The organization commented that "anti-Semitism has become one of the major reasons for immigration to Israel from Russia since the economic and political crisis began in August 1998." According to a survey carried out by the organization, 31 percent of new arrivals from Russia cite anti-Semitism as one of the two main factors for emigrating, up from 9 percent before August 1998. Some 750,000 Russian Jews have settled in Israel since 1989. JC

DRUG USE IN MOSCOW SCHOOLS INCREASING

Moscow's city government and the federal Interior Ministry have just completed a survey of Moscow schools showing that drug use among students is on the increase, "Kontinent" reported in its latest issue. Of the 60,000 students surveyed, almost half reported using drugs one or more times. Marijuana was the most popular drug among young Muscovites. JB

PACIFIC ISLAND IS NEW HAVEN FOR ILLEGAL MONEY TRANSFERS

The case of three former managers of Kreditimpexbank charged with embezzlement and illegally transferring hard currency abroad has focused Russian attention on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, "Parliamentskaya gazeta" reported on 1 June. The three bankers are accused of defrauding depositors and shipping the money to private accounts in Nauru. According to government investigators contacted by "Parliamentskaya gazeta," as much money is illegally transferred to Nauru as to Switzerland. But, the newspaper added, Moscow has until now lacked the resources and contacts to investigate matters on the distant island. JB




OSCE REGISTERS FLAWS IN ARMENIAN POLL

In a preliminary statement released on 31 May, the OSCE observer mission said the 30 May Armenian parliamentary elections showed an improvement over earlier polls and were generally conducted in a free and orderly manner without intimidation, Noyan Tapan reported. But the statement also registered "serious concerns" over the omission of thousands of names from voter lists, over the way electoral commissions were formed, and over technical and organizational shortcomings. It concluded that the poll was "a relevant step toward compliance" with OSCE standards but "did not quite" meet those standards. The Council of Europe observer mission, for its part, termed the poll "an important step toward achieving Council of Europe standards" and confirmation of "the country's commitment to democracy and its will to become a full member" of that organization. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TERMS MILOSEVIC INDICTMENT RELEVANT TO ABKHAZ CONFLICT

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 31 May that he hopes the 7-9 June meeting in Istanbul between Georgian government representatives and the Abkhaz leadership will restore confidence between the two sides and expedite the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons, Russian agencies reported. Shevardnadze blamed the Abkhaz side for Tbilisi and Sukhumi's failure to meet the deadline set by CIS heads of state on 2 April for the signing of documents on forestalling further hostilities and the repatriation of displaced persons. Shevardnadze also expressed approval of the indictment for war crimes of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, arguing that the situation in Kosova is similar to that in Abkhazia. Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, told "Alia" on 31 May that the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague should also sanction the arrest of Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba for genocide and ethnic cleansing. LF

AZERBAIJANI OIL PIPELINE RESUMES OPERATION

The export of Caspian oil via the pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa resumed after a four-day interruption on 31 May, Caucasus Press reported. Pumping had been halted to allow for maintenance work at the Sangachal terminal north of Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). Meanwhile, Interfax on 28 May quoted an official from the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR as saying that SOCAR will request permission from the Azerbaijani International Operating Company (AIOC) to use the Baku-Supsa pipeline to export its own oil, rather than the pipeline to Novorossiisk, which has been out of commission for most of the past two months. The AIOC financed reconstruction of the Baku-Supsa pipeline, which transports oil from Caspian deposits it is developing under a contract signed with the Azerbaijani government in 1994. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S NATIONAL BANK CHAIRMAN UNFAZED BY TENGE'S FALL

Interfax on 31 May quoted National Bank chairman Kadyrzhan Damitov as saying he does not anticipate great fluctuations in the exchange rate of the tenge in the near future. He said that following the introduction in early April of a floating exchange rate, the Kazakh currency "had moved toward a balanced position," adding that last week's sharp fall in value of the national currency was anticipated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). On 1 June, the tenge traded at 129.30 to $1 compared with 131.41 on 27 May and 121.85 the previous day, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. LF

FIRST LOCAL ADMINISTRATOR ELECTED IN KAZAKHSTAN

The first election for a municipal council chairman took place in the village of Chemolgan, 50 kilometers from Almaty, on 29-30 May, Reuters and RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Local businessman Qayrat Baybaktinov defeated six rival candidates to garner 52.7 percent of the vote. Previously, all municipal council heads were appointed by local administrators. Those local administrators, in turn, are appointed by oblast governors, who are nominated by President Nursultan Nazarbaev. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN DISCUSS MUTUAL DEBTS

A Kazakh government delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Janybek Karipjanov held talks in Bishkek on 29 May on outstanding payments for deliveries of commodities, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kyrgzystan's First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev said after the talks that agreement was reached on a timetable for deliveries of coal from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan in payment for water supplies Kazakhstan receives from Kyrgyzstan. Silaev also said that the Kazakh government agreed to try to persuade the Intergaz company not to act on its threat to halt supplies of gas from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan on 1 June in retaliation for Kyrgyzstan's failure to pay its outstanding debt for gas deliveries. Kyrgyzstan owes $3.5 million debt for gas supplies and an additional $2.5 million in transit fees to Kazakh railways, while Kazakhstan's debts for electricity supplies amount to $22 million, Reuters reported. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SIGNS ELECTION CODE INTO LAW

Askar Akaev on 31 May signed into law the election code passed by parliament earlier in May, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Under the new legislation, 25 percent of the seats in the lower house of the new parliament will be allocated on the basis of party lists to those parties that poll a minimum of 5 percent of the vote. Of the 21 political parties in Kyrgyzstan, the 19 that were registered one year before the February 2000 elections are eligible to participate. Parliamentary candidates are required to pay 30,000 soms ($700) to register and presidential candidates 100,000 soms. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION PULLS OUT OF A SECOND JOINT COMMISSION

The United Tajik Opposition announced on 1 June that it is suspending participation in the joint commission created to evaluate the qualifications of candidates for government posts and the eligibility of former opposition fighters to serve in the armed forces, ITAR-TASS reported. The UTO announced on 24 May that it is suspending participation in the work of the National Reconciliation Commission to protest the Tajik authorities' failure to meet certain provisions set down in the 1997 peace agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). Meeting on 31 May with UN special representative Jan Kubis, UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri said that the opposition's decision to resume cooperation depends entirely on Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov. LF

UZBEKISTAN, PAKISTAN CALL FOR 'MULTI-ETHNIC' GOVERNMENT IN AFGHANISTAN

During talks in Islamabad on 31 May, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, appealed to Afghanistan's Taliban militia and the opposition alliance that opposes it to agree to new talks with the aim of forming a multi-ethnic government, dpa reported. The two ministers also reaffirmed their support for efforts by the UN and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to mediate an Afghan peace settlement. LF




BELARUS MOURNS STAMPEDE VICTIMS

The government has declared 1 and 2 June days of national mourning for the victims of the stampede in a Minsk metro passageway on 30 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 1999). Fifty-two people died in that incident, while 8O have been hospitalized. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka offered condolences to the victims' families and ordered an investigation into the tragedy. "A dreadful, unexplainable tragedy took place. I ask the Belarusian people...to not accuse or judge [anybody].... Please do not allow this tragedy to become a reason for a split in our society," he commented. He suggested that the tragedy might be due to the authorities' "careless" attitude toward public gatherings. "We have been too careless with regard to those marches, escapades. Democracy [means]: let's walk until someone gets suffocated somewhere," he said on national television. JM

INCUMBENT KYIV MAYOR RE-ELECTED

According to preliminary results, 60-year-old Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko was easily re-elected, gaining 76 percent of the vote in the first popular ballot for the post since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Omelchenko beat 49-year-old businessmen and politician Hryhoriy Surkis and 25 other candidates in the 30 May vote. AP reported that the election was preceded by "weeks of mud-slinging and lavish campaigning." Surkis harshly attacked Omelchenko on Ukrainian nationwide television channels, organized concerts of Russian pop stars, and used his trump card--honorary chairmanship of the famous Dynamo Kyiv Soccer Club--in the campaign, but to no avail. Official results are expected next week. Meanwhile, Surkis claims to have evidence of election violations and has said he will appeal the vote. JM

UKRAINE FACES RUSH ON SUGAR

Deputy Economy Minister Viktor Kalnyk on 31 May said that increased demand for sugar and other foodstuffs has forced the government to impose retail price regulations. According to Kalnyk, demand for sugar increased following rumors of sugar shortages and low expectations for this year's crop following last month's ground frosts. He said the government recommends that local administration bodies introduce "temporary" price regulations on sugar, bread, cooking oil, and flour. He added that the government will also sell a part of its sugar reserves. JM

ESTONIAN OPPOSITION INTRODUCES MORE THAN 500 AMENDMENTS

The main opposition Center Party on 31 May proposed 513 amendments to the government's bill on the negative supplementary budget. Of the 560 amendments proposed in all, only 13 came from the three-party ruling coalition, "Postimees" reported. The Center Party is in effect proposing an alternative supplementary budget that would lower the cuts in cuts in expenditures from 1 billion kroons ($66.7 million) to 600 million kroons and would draw on funds from the sale of Eesti Telekom currently held in German bank accounts. The governing coalition believes the opposition is employing obstruction tactics, according to "Aripaev." MH

LATVIAN BUDGET SPENDING TO BE 'DELAYED'

The government has approved a plan to "delay" expenditures totaling 60 million lats ($100.5 million) from June to August. Finance Minister Ivars Godmanis stressed that key areas, such as pensions and salaries, will not be affected. Rather, projects not yet started will be postponed, according to BNS. Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans explained that the 1999 GDP growth rate is difficult to predict but will be easier to estimate after August, when it is clearer how much annual revenues will be. He added that if projected revenues threaten to fall short, the government will amend the budget. The opposition has criticized the plan, which the government had discussed behind closed doors last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1999). MH

ADAMKUS ON LITHUANIA'S NATO PROSPECTS

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus praised his country's progress toward NATO membership at the conference "NATO After 50 Years: The New- Old Alliance," which took place in Vilnius on 31 May. Adamkus emphasized that Lithuania boasts a stable democracy, maintains good relations with all its neighbors, and has a common border with NATO, according to BNS. Addressing Russian concerns over the alliance's possible enlargement to the Baltics, Adamkus suggested that "Lithuania's accession to NATO would strengthen the stability here, in close proximity with Russia, and it would also play a positive role in the development of the NATO-Russian partnership." Some 150 officials from Lithuania and abroad attended the conference. MH

NATO ASSEMBLY SESSION IN WARSAW ADOPTS DECLARATIONS ON KOSOVA, BELARUS

The North Atlantic Assembly session in Warsaw on 31 May adopted a declaration condemning Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's policy toward Kosova and expressing support for both NATO military operations and political plans to resolve the Kosova crisis, PAP reported. The same day, the North Atlantic Assembly Standing Committee adopted a declaration on Belarus noting that once President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's term expires on 20 July 1999 he will no longer be perceived as a democratically elected head of state. The declaration also called on Lukashenka and his government to restore democracy, the observance of human rights, and freedom of the mass media. It noted that the Supreme Soviet elected on the basis of the 1994 constitution is the only legal body of legislative power in Belarus. JM

POLISH COAL MINES PAY VAT IN KIND

Polish coal mines short of cash are paying value-added tax in kind, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 1 June. Poland's tax legislation allows taxes to be paid with real estate, so some coal mining companies have began transferring their land plots and facilities to district administration heads, who represent the State Treasury in the provinces. According to "Gazeta Wyborcza," if all the coal mining companies in Poland took to paying VAT with their property, they would be able meet their obligations until the end of this year. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC TO INTRODUCE VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR UKRAINIANS?

The government on 31 May commissioned an inter-ministerial report on the possibility of introducing visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals, CTK reported. The move is designed to combat unemployment. Labor and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla said that the largest number of illegal workers in the country come from Ukraine. Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich said the illegal migration of Ukrainians and other foreigners is also linked to tax evasion and growing violent crime. He added that visa requirements might be imposed on citizens of other countries as well, including Romania and Bulgaria. MS

BELGIAN BANK ACQUIRES MAJOR STAKE IN CZECH COMMERCIAL BANK

Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda on 31 May announced that the Belgian KBC Bankassurance Holding NV has been chosen to buy a 66 percent share in the Czechoslovak Commercial Bank (CSOB), one of the Czech Republic's four major banks, AP reported. The Belgian bank will pay 40 billion crowns (just over $1.1 billion) for the stake, having outbid the German Deutsche Bank and HypoVereinsbank. The CSOB will continue operating under its original name. Also on 31 May, the Statistics Office said that despite the country's economic problems, companies' pre-tax profits were up 30 percent in 1998 compared with the previous year, dpa reported. MS

SLOVAK POLICE CHARGE SUSPECT WITH MURDER OF DUCKY

A Ukrainian citizen has been charged with the murder of former Economy Minister Jan Ducky on 11 February, CTK reported on 31 May. Oleg T., known as "Alex," has been detained for two months as Ducky's suspected murderer. He was arrested in March in connection with another case, which involved the kidnapping of the son of the former driver of "Alex." The Interior Ministry had said earlier that "Alex" was a contract killer and was trained by the former Soviet KGB. Chief investigator Jaroslav Ivor said that "Alex" has been identified by several witnesses and has repeatedly failed a lie-detector test. MS

SLOVAK NATIONALIST LEADER WANTS AMNESTY FOR VOLUNTEERS IN YUGOSLAVIA

Slovak National Party leader Jan Slota told journalists on 31 May that at his first meeting with President-elect Rudolf Schuster he will ask Schuster to oppose the bill on national minority languages, the BBC reported, citing Radio Twist. Slota also said he will ask Schuster to grant amnesty to Slovak volunteers who are fighting on the Yugoslav side in Kosova. MS

NATO ROCKET LANDS IN HUNGARY

A NATO rocket fell on a pig farm in Beremend, some 2.5 kilometers from the Serbian border, but did not explode, Hungarian media reported on 31 May. The same day, an object landed in the village of Zalaujlak, 180 kilometers southwest of Budapest. Defense Ministry spokesman Lajos Erdelyi said the first object was a "Rockeye" rocket, while the second was part of a NATO jet fighter that contained no explosives. On a visit to Zalaujlak, Tamas Suchman of the opposition Socialist Party threatened to organize a demonstration outside the US military base at Taszar if the parliament does not approve his party's motion to restrict NATO attacks on Yugoslavia launched from Hungarian territory. MSZ




ARMED CLASH BETWEEN YUGOSLAV ARMY, MONTENEGRIN POLICE

More than 500 Yugoslav army reservists and about 40 Montenegrin police exchanged fire at a police training camp on the road leading from Cetinje up Mt. Lovcen on 31 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service and Reuters reported. An important television and radio relay center is located nearby. The soldiers briefly detained three policemen, along with five civilians from Cetinje, who had come to help the police. The soldiers freed the detainees after an unspecified number of citizens in Cetinje demonstrated for their release. Top army and police officials began negotiations aimed at defusing what Montenegrin officials described as a very tense situation. The Yugoslav army recently placed artillery and mortars "on three sides of Cetinje," "The Daily Telegraph" reported. Observers note that Montenegrin officials have long predicted that one incident could set off an armed conflict between supporters and opponents of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM

ETHNIC MONTENEGRINS FLEE TO ALBANIA

Ten ethnic Montenegrin refugee families arrived in Shkodra on 31 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. They fled Montenegro after refusing to send their sons to the Yugoslav army. The refugees were transferred to the Austrian refugee camp in Shkodra. FS

SERBIAN POLICE BAN DEMONSTRATION IN CACAK

Police officials on 31 May banned an anti-war protest in Cacak, which city officials had called for 1 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. City officials appealed to citizens to respect the ban and avoid provoking the police. In Belgrade, the League for Change (SZP), which is a coalition of several opposition parties, issued an open letter to the Serbian authorities calling on the government to take "concrete measures" to end the crisis in Kosova and bring a halt to NATO air strikes. The opposition parties called for general elections in Serbia following the end of NATO's bombing campaign. In Nis, a military court sentenced three army conscripts to five years in prison each for failing to report to their units after their leave was over, AP noted. In Krusevac, army authorities recently detained 24 conscripts who did not respond to their call-up letters. PM

CLINTON CALLS KOSOVA 'BIG TEST' FOR U.S.

President Bill Clinton said in his Memorial Day address at Arlington on 31 May that Kosova is a "big test of what we believe in: our commitment to leave our children a world where people are not uprooted and ravaged and slaughtered en masse because of their race, their ethnicity or their religion." He stressed that "what we are doing [in the Balkans] today" is in the interest of the U.S. because it "will save lives, including American lives, in the future, and it will give our children a better, safer world to live in." Clinton noted that many people died unnecessarily in conflicts earlier in the century "because of what was allowed to go on too long before people intervened." He added that "we see some parallels [in Kosova] to World War II. For the government of Serbia, like that of Nazi Germany, rose to power in part by getting people to look down on people of a given race and ethnicity and to believe they had no place in their country and even no right to live." PM

BELGRADE SAYS NATO 'MURDERS CIVILIANS'

The Yugoslav government said in a statement on 31 May that NATO has "murdered civilians" in a number of recent air strikes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 1999). The BBC reported from Belgrade on 1 June that the view is increasingly becoming prevalent in Serbian public opinion that the Atlantic alliance deliberately targets Serbian civilians. NATO spokesmen have repeatedly said that the air strikes are directed exclusively at military targets. The Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) Kosovapress news agency reported on 30 May from Gllogovc that recently "Serbian forces have placed wooden and plastic mock-ups" of tanks and artillery pieces around an abandoned farm where Kosovars have been detained. The Serbs purpose is "to attract NATO attacks on the site and then to accuse NATO of killing Kosovar civilians, [and thereby] allowing [the Serbs] to protect the real weapons, which are hidden not far away." PM

REFUGEES REPORT BEATINGS IN LARGE JAIL

Lindsey Davies of the UN's World Food Program said in Skopje on 31 May that 51 Kosovar refugees told her that Serbian forces are holding some 3,000 Kosovar males at a prison in Lipjan. The refugees added that the Serbs subject the Kosovars to regular and severe beatings. The Kosovars told her that the guards play loud music to cover up their victims' screams, she noted. PM

HEAVY CLASHES AT KOSOVA-ALBANIAN BORDER

NATO officials said on 31 May in Brussels that heavy fights erupted between units of the UCK and Yugoslav troops in the area of Pashtrik, which is just inside Kosova, close to the Morina border crossing with Albania. Meanwhile, government officials said in Tirana that they have evacuated about 8,000 Albanian citizens from the border region. An unspecified number of UCK fighters were wounded in the fights and brought to a hospital in Kukes, AP reported. Elsewhere, Serbian artillery shelled the villages of Kamenica and Zogaj in the area of Tropoja, setting parts of the villages on fire, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. FS

TROPOJA MAYOR CALLS FOR URGENT HELP

Mayor Sali Memia of Tropoja told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana on 31 May that his municipality is close to a "humanitarian catastrophe" after two months of Serbian bombardments. Memia said, "Every day Serbian forces shell our villages with heavy artillery. So far, seven inhabitants have lost their lives. We have taken measures to evacuate the inhabitants of villages directly on the border to less dangerous areas. Despite several requests to the government, these citizens have so far not received any aid." Memia stressed that the evacuations include about half of the population in the immediate border region. He added that "the economic situation is particularly difficult. No money has arrived [from Tirana] for the banks in Tropoja for two months." Observers note that Tropoja is a center of rampant crime and road robbery. Humanitarian agencies generally avoid the area. FS

MACEDONIA WANTS GUARANTEES, MONEY

Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov said in Skopje on 31 May that his government wants NATO to meet key preconditions before it gives the alliance permission to station some 14,000 additional troops there. Dimitrov stressed that the government seeks "separate guarantees about the non-offensive character of these forces and guarantees for the security and integrity of [Macedonia]. We have also asked for additional financial arrangements." He did not specify how much more money his government wants from NATO. PM

CROATIAN COURT RULES ON WAR CRIMES

Judge Ratko Scekic of the Zagreb county court on 31 May cleared four men of charges of having committed atrocities against at least 13 Serbs at Pakracka Poljana in 1991. Scekic sentenced two other men on lesser charges of extortion and abduction. The judge stressed that he was not able to sentence the six for having committed atrocities because the charges against them were poorly formulated, "Novi List" reported. The trial was the first in Croatia in which Croats were charged with war crimes against Serbs. PM

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT RAISES ELECTORAL HURDLE

By a vote of 124-85, the Chamber of Deputies on 31 May approved an amendment to the election law that raises the electoral hurdle to representation in the legislature from 3 percent to 5 percent, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. An electoral alliance must obtain an additional 3 percent of the vote for each of its members. The amendment is the result of a compromise reached by the opposition Party of Social Democracy (PDSR) in Romania, which had proposed that an alliance would have to obtain an additional 5 percent for each member, and the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD). It was backed by the PDSR, the PNTCD, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. The National Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, the Party of Romanian National Unity, the Greater Romania Party, and the Alliance for Romania all opposed the amendment. MS

NATO FLIES TEAM TO ROMANIA TO COORDINATE RAIDS

Two C-130 Hercules planes arrived at the Craiova airport on 31 May, bringing in crew and equipment to coordinate the flight of NATO bombers through Romanian airspace, the Defense Ministry announced. Meanwhile, the conflict in Yugoslavia was discussed, among other things, by Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu and his visiting Slovak counterpart, Boris Frlec. Plesu said that there are "no grounds to take at face value" Slobodan Milosevic's declarations on accepting the G-8 proposals. Lord Russell Johnson, chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said in Bucharest that Romania and Bulgaria must be compensated for the economic losses sustained as a result of the embargo on Yugoslavia, which, he said, both countries are "strictly respecting." MS

MOLDOVAN LOCAL ELECTIONS RESULTS OFFICIALLY RELEASED

The Central Electoral Commission on 31 May announced that run- offs will have to be held in 413 localities where no candidate was elected to the position of mayor in the 24 May elections. The run-offs will take place on 6 June. In five localities, voting will have to be repeated because turnout was less than one-third of registered voters, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. So far, the Bloc of Communists, Agrarians and Socialists has won 42 mayoralties, the Democratic Convention of Moldova 37, the Centrist Alliance 33, and the Party of Democratic Forces 19. Other political formations have won mayoralties in fewer than 10 localities, while 60 independents were successful in their bids. Police on 31 May detained two suspects in the shooting of a candidate from the Bloc of Communists, Agrarians, and Socialists on the eve of the elections in Kalarashovka, northern Moldavia. MS

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER IN MOLDOVA

President Petru Lucinschi on 31 May told visiting Ukrainian Deputy Premier Serhiy Tyhypko that economic cooperation must be intensified both at the bilateral and the regional level by providing for the establishment of free trade zones with Romania and Poland, Infotag reported. Lucinschi said Moldova will back Ukraine's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, and he praised Kyiv for its contribution toward helping resolve the Transdniester conflict. RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on the same day that Ukraine has again cut electricity supplies to Moldova, whose debt has risen to $16 million. MS

BULGARIA 'CONCERNED' ABOUT STRIKES ON YUGOSLAV TOWNS NEAR BORDER

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on 30 May said it is "greatly concerned" about the strikes carried out one day earlier by NATO planes on the towns of Pirot and Dimitrovgrad, near the Yugoslav-Bulgarian border. Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov said Bulgaria will "again express its concern" to NATO representatives for the security of members of the Bulgarian minority living in Yugoslavia. Members of that minority, he said, are "frightened" by the situation and by their "ongoing mobilization" into the Yugoslav army. Vlaikov said NATO must "do its best to avoid any risks to civilian population and non-military sites," BTA reported, as cited by the BBC. Nine NATO officials arrived in Sofia on 31 May to examine the transit through Bulgaria of troops and equipment to implement possible peacekeeping operations after the signing of a peace plan for Kosova. MS




CRIMEAN TATARS END PROTESTS AFTER AGREEMENTS


By Lily Hyde

A group of Crimean Tatars ended protests in the regional capital, Simferopol, last week, taking down tents that had ringed republican government buildings. That move came after Mustafa Dzhemilev, leader of the Mejlis (the Crimean Tatar unrecognized political council), announced key demands had been met by republican Prime Minister Sergei Kunitsin. Dzhemilev said the agreement will allow Crimean Tatars to own land and open their own schools. The Tatars were also given the right to set up a council representing their interests.

The concessions follow a similar agreement reached by Dzhemilev in talks with Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv in mid-May. After those talks, Kuchma issued a presidential decree setting up a Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar people, with Dzhemilev as chairman. Part of the committee's mandate is to resolve the question of the status of the Mejlis and the Kurultai, the Tatar congress.

The agreement with Kuchma followed massive demonstrations in which an estimated 18,000 Crimean Tatars converged on Simferopol. The march was organized by the Mejlis to protest discrimination.

The Tatars constitute just 12 percent of the Crimean population, but their cause carries great weight in view of the history of the peninsula. The Tatars were deported en masse from their Crimean homeland during World War II on orders of Josef Stalin, who suspected they had collaborated with the Germans. Between one-third and half of them died on the way to exile in Central Asia. Many Tatars have returned to Crimea since the 1980s, but they continue to suffer from political and economic discrimination.

Only half of the returned Tatar population has gained Ukrainian citizenship and therefore the right to vote. This means that Tatars are underrepresented in Ukrainian and Crimean political institutions. Tatars argue that a number of seats should be set aside for them in the republic's parliament. They also demand their language be granted the status of state language and that more Tatar schools be established. At the moment, according to Tatar organizations, there are only six schools for 39,000 Tatar children. The Ukrainian Constitution guarantees the right for all national minorities to use and study in their own language.

The Mejlis, which has no official standing, is demanding that it be recognized as the council of the Tatar people. Mejlis member Kurtveli Khiyasidonov,says that would be a step toward restoring the situation before World War II, when Tatars enjoyed a special status. "Let us be a minority," he says, "but it should be national autonomy because up to the war there was such autonomy and now [the authorities] won't grant it. Other nationalities [represented on the peninsula]- -Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians and so forth--have their own state, where their language develops, their culture can develop. We don't have that. Except for Crimea, and we can develop only in Crimea."

Last month's protest march not only highlighted current grievances but also commemorated the forced deportations the Crimean Tatars endured 55 years ago.

Highlighting the rights of the Tatars, however, is seen by many, especially Russians and Ukrainians, as stirring up ethnic tension. Events in Kosova were not far from the minds of many who took part in the rally and those who observed it. One Tatar banner called Crimean parliamentary speaker Leonid Grach a "mini-Milosevic," and speakers drew parallels between recent actions against the Kosovars and the deportation of the Tatars in 1944.

Ukrainians and Russians on the streets said they were afraid and angry at what they called 'agitation.' Many resent the Tatar towns that have sprung up throughout the peninsula, putting a strain on Crimea's already weak infrastructure. And although a representative from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarch) spoke out for peace and understanding at the rally, some Orthodox inhabitants of Simferopol, with the Serbian and Bosnian conflict in mind, said it is impossible for Christians and Muslims to live together peacefully.

In Kyiv, Georgiy Popov, head of Ukraine's parliamentary committee for human rights, minorities, and ethnic issues, said the problems of the Tatars should not be given special priority; rather they should be solved along with the overall economic problems of the country. Popov said that "these problems are felt especially painfully by those repatriated to Crimea, to the place where their ancestors lived." But he said "this same difficulty is the general situation in Ukraine." The author is a Kyiv-based RFE/RL correspondent.


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