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Newsline - June 16, 1999




IS RUSSIA WILLING TO COMPROMISE ON KOSOVA?

Vladimir Putin, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and chairman of the Russian Security Council, told Interfax in Moscow on 16 June that Russia insists on "a certain degree of independence in making decisions and conducting...peacekeeping operations" in Kosova. He added, however, that Russia is willing to cooperate with NATO through an unspecified Russian officer in the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR) command. Observers noted that such a solution would be similar to that used to define Russia's role in the Bosnian stabilization force. FS

SERGEEV PLEDGES 'CONSTRUCTIVE' TALKS

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told AFP in Helsinki on 16 June that "President [Boris] Yeltsin [asked him] to do everything, on the basis of the UN resolution, in order to resolve all litigious questions," over Russia's role in KFOR during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Sergeev added: "I think the negotiations will be constructive...The West should not worry about our paratroopers in Prishtina." Unnamed Defense Ministry officials told Reuters that Sergeev will urge NATO to give Russian planes access to Hungarian and Bulgarian air space to fly troop reinforcements to Kosova. Russia, however, continues to deny NATO troops access to Prishtina's airport (see related item in Part II). FS

COHEN PROMISES TO BE 'CREATIVE'

Cohen told AP aboard a plane to Helsinki on 16 June that "we are now going to examine some of those options, try to be as creative as we can, while still adhering to the basic principle that there must be a unified command." Cohen said the previous day in Washington that any failure of the talks could have wide-ranging implications for Russia's relations with the West in the fields of arms control and Western economic aid for Russia. He stressed that "there is a lot at stake here." Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will join the talks on 17 June. Both sides hope to finalize an agreement quickly and submit it to a NATO Council meeting in Brussels on 18 June. U.S. President Bill Clinton and Yeltsin expect to sign the document at a G-8 summit in Cologne on 20 June. FS

STEPASHIN PREDICTS IMF CASH BY JULY...

After meeting with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus on 16 June, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said that the two officials reached a "concrete agreement -- we will fulfill our obligations and the IMF will fulfill its," according to Interfax. Stepashin added that if the State Duma passes the package of bills drafted in accordance with the government's agreement with the IMF then Russia could receive a fairly big tranche in July after the fund's board meets. Camdessus also met with Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev. According to Stroev, the two officials discussed boosting the fund's ties with Russia's regions. Camdessus told participants at a conference in St. Petersburg that he was "optimistic" about Russia's long term prospects but that it would be difficult for Russia to sustain economic stability without a return of foreign investment capital. According to AFP, Camdessus also warned Russia not to overestimate the amount of foreign financing it could raise. JAC

...AS TOP ENERGY, RAIL COMPANIES PROMISE TO IMPOSE PRICE CEILING

Representatives from more than 50 energy and rail companies, including Unified Energy Systems, Gazprom, and a variety of major oil companies, agreed on 16 June to limit price increases through the remainder of 1999, Interfax reported. According to the agency, the agreement calls for establishing "economically justifiable" prices on energy, metals, and transportation and encourages the adoption of long term agreements between suppliers and their main customers. ITAR-TASS reported that companies agreed to raise prices at a maximum rate of 0.5 percent below the monthly rate of inflation. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, said the agreement "is not a government attempt to interfere in relations between producers and consumers." He added that such attempts "are not market- oriented." JAC

CHERNOMYRDIN TRYING TO RETURN TO GAZPROM

Presidential envoy to Yugoslavia and former Gazprom head Viktor Chernomyrdin said on 15 June that he does not exclude the possibility of reassuming the chairmanship of Gazprom, ITAR-TASS reported. He also confirmed that he is seeking a post on the company's board of directors. The same day, when asked whether current Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev might resign, Deputy Chairman Petr Rodionov said that there will be no surprises at the company's annual meeting scheduled for 30 June, Interfax reported. Earlier in the month new Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii said that it would be "absolutely sensible" for the government to review the trust agreement that it has with Vyakhirev, which gives him 37.5 percent of the company's stock in trust. Vyakhirev responded by telling reporters that he would remain chairman of Gazprom. JAC

CHUBAIS TO RUN FOR OFFICE IN ST. PETERSBURG?

The political movement Right Cause (Pravoe Delo) will take part in gubernatorial elections in St. Petersburg, according to Right Cause member and Unified Energy Systems chief Anatolii Chubais, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 June. The newspaper speculated that Chubais's open criticism of incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev indicated that Chubais himself intends to run. The previous day, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Chubais's "compatriots believe that only Chubais himself can compete" with Yakovlev. Meanwhile, a Yabloko press spokesperson told Mayak Radio that the movement will nominate Igor Artemiev for the mayoral post in St. Petersburg. Last January, Yabloko recalled Artemiev from the post of St. Petersburg deputy governor and chairman of the city finance committee, declaring that it will now be in opposition to Yakovlev and his government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1999). JAC

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO CONSIDER TAX LAWS

Russia's Constitutional Court on 15 June began considering an appeal by a group of Russian businessmen who are arguing that the punishment for violating tax laws imposes an excessive limitation on the freedom of enterprises and private property rights and stifles economic independence, ITAR-TASS reported. Previously, the court suspended a penalty of 32 billion old rubles imposed on a Voronezh businessman for underreporting his profits. Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Motorin, who attended the court session, said that the businessmen's case has no merit and almost all problems raised by entrepreneurs, such as the excessive level of fines, have been addressed by the new Tax Code, the first part of which entered into force in January 1999. According to the agency, the court will make a decision no earlier than in two weeks. JAC

AKSENENKO PROMISES NEW FUNDS FOR SIBERIAN RAILWAY PROJECT

At a meeting of the State Construction Commission on 15 June, First Deputy Prime Minister Aksenenko pledged the assistance of the federal government in developing the Baikal-Amur Railroad, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the government has "special programs and funds" to first build mining and then processing plants along the railway line. The railway was built 25 years ago as a more direct route to Russia's Pacific ports than the existing Trans-Siberian Railroad and was intended to allow for the extraction of mineral and other riches from the Siberian wilderness, according to AP. More recently, the East Siberian Railroad and the governments of the Buryatia Republic and Chita Oblast have been attempting to establish a special economic zone along the line to boost the railway's flagging revenues and the economies of the regions it traverses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999.) JAC

TOP ITALIAN LEGISLATOR ARRIVES IN MOSCOW

The speaker of the Italian parliament, Luciano Violante, arrived in Moscow on 15 June for an official visit. After meeting with Violante that day, Premier Stepashin declared that "Italy is approaching the ranks of Russia's priority partners." According to ITAR- TASS, Violante and Stepashin stressed the importance of carrying out two important joint projects, the creation of YAK/AEM-130 training planes and the production of Fiat cars in Nizhnii Novgorod. The same day, Violante met with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and he was also scheduled to meet with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II and top State Duma officials. JAC

FIRST COUNCIL SESSION GATHERS COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC GLITTERATI

Addressing the first session on 15 June of the Economic Council established by his government, Prime Minister Stepashin explained that the purpose of the council is to provide a forum for the constant interaction of representatives of the government, executive branch, and differing economic schools of thought, Interfax reported. "Izvestiya" reported the next day that rarely have so many of the nation's best economic minds with such varying political orientations been gathered together. Attending the meeting were former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, former economics ministers Yevgenii Yasin and Yakov Urinson, former Central Bank deputy chairman Sergei Aleksashenko, economists from the White House and the Kremlin, Soviet-era economists Nikolai Petrakov and Leonid Albalkin as well as leading businessmen such as Transaero head Aleksandr Pleshakov and LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov. JAC

ANDROPOV REMEMBERED

Vladimir Putin, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), laid flowers on the tomb of former Soviet leader Yurii Andropov to commemorate his 85th birthday on 15 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Andropov, a former head of the KGB, the predecessor organization to the FSB, served as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for just 15 months from November 1982 to February 1984. According to former KGB head Vladimir Kryuchkov, "Andropov's personality is the most relevant in Soviet history after Stalin's," "The Moscow Times" reported on 16 June. "He gave the impulse to the policy [of reform that former Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev carried out later, but he didn't do any harm to our state," he continued. According to "Segodnya" the previous day, academic and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov once remarked that under Andropov the KGB was the only uncorrupted state structure in the USSR. JAC

KEMEROVO GOVERNOR TO CONTEST TATARSTAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS?

Aman Tuleev "does not exclude" the possibility of running for president in Tatarstan in next year's presidential poll, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported citing APN of 14 June. Tuleev was born in Turkmenistan. His father was Kazakh and his mother Tatar, but he speaks neither of those languages. LF

DEFEATED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE CALLS FOR DIVISION OF KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS REPUBLIC

At a protest demonstration on 15 June in Cherkessk, the capital of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, supporters of Mayor Stanislav Derev called for the republic's division into separate Cherkess and Karachai entities, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the following day. That demand was prompted by the Cherkess minority's rejection of the ruling handed down on 10 June by the republic's Supreme Court recognizing as legal and valid the outcome of the presidential election. In the first round of voting on 25 April, Derev (who is a Cherkess) had polled 40.1 percent and his closest rival, Vladimir Semenov (a Karachai), 17.9 percent. In the runoff three weeks later, which both candidates claim was marred by voting irregularities, Semenov garnered 75 percent of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 24 May 1999). LF




NEW ARMENIAN CABINET NAMED

President Robert Kocharian announced the lineup of the new cabinet late on 15 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Nine ministers from the previous cabinet retained their posts, including Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. Former Premier Armen Darpinian was appointed economy minister, while the Interior and National Security Ministry was split into two component parts, with Serzh Sarkisian retaining responsibility only for internal affairs. Yerevan Mayor Suren Abrahamian was named national security minister. A young army general, Vagharshak Harutunian, who formerly served at the Armenian embassy in Moscow, succeeds Vazgen Sargsian as defense minister. The People's Party of Armenia, one of the two partners in the majority Miasnutyun bloc, acquired only one minor ministerial post (postal services and telecommunications). The Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun--lost one of its two ministerial posts, retaining only the Ministry of Culture. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ADVOCATES NEW FRIENDSHIP AGREEMENT WITH GEORGIA

In an interview with Armenian Television, Vartan Oskanian said that Armenia and Georgia should sign a new and "more global" agreement that would reflect the changed state of relations between the two countries, Caucasus Press reported on 15 June. Oskanian added that he hopes the new agreement will "include elements of strategic partnership." He said that the agreement could be signed during a visit to Armenia within the next few months by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. LF

U.S. CALLS ON ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN TO OBSERVE KARABAKH CEASE- FIRE...

In a statement issued on 15 June, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin called on "all sides" in the Karabakh conflict to heed the appeal last month by the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group to observe the cease-fire agreement of May 1994, Reuters reported. Rubin also stressed the need "to negotiate urgently a comprehensive and durable solution to the conflict based on the proposals advanced by the Minsk Group co-chairs." Turan on 11 June had quoted Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy Advisor Vafa Guluzade as stating that all points in the Minsk Group proposals that "counter in spirit" international norms should be dropped. Guluzade added that if Baku's opinion is not taken into consideration, no progress can be expected during the co- chairs' next visit to the region. No date has yet been set for that visit. LF

... AS BOTH SIDES CONTINUE TO DISCLAIM RESPONSIBILITY

In a statement issued on 15 June, the Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic blamed Azerbaijan for the fighting along the region's northeastern border the previous day, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. The statement said that the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army repulsed an attempt by Azerbaijani troops to bring their positions closer to the border. In Baku, the head of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry's press service, Colonel Ramiz Melikov, told Turan that it was Armenian forces who launched the offensive. Melikov said the attack demonstrated that "Armenian military leaders still dream of capturing Ter-ter and Yevlakh," which would enable them to isolate Gyanja, the second city in Azerbaijan. He added that the Armenian losses in the fighting were higher than those sustained by Azerbaijan. LF

BAKU-NOVOROSSIISK PIPELINE CLOSED INDEFINITELY

The ill- starred northern export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil will be shut down indefinitely following the explosion that damaged the Chechen sector on 14 June, Interfax reported the following day quoting unnamed Transneft officials. Transneft had threatened to halt transportation of crude through the pipeline unless the Chechen government took effective measures to prevent thieves tapping into it and siphoning off oil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1999). LF

TWO GEORGIAN POLICEMEN SHOT NEAR BORDER WITH CHECHNYA

Four people--including two Georgian police officers--were killed in a shootout on 15 June in the Pankisi gorge in eastern Georgia when five masked men flagged down a police car and opened fire on the two occupants, Caucasus Press reported. The motives for the attack are unclear. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY PESSIMISTIC OVER ELECTION PROSPECTS...

Bigeldy Gabdullin, who is editor of the newspaper "21 Vek" and vice chairman of former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin's People's Republican Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL correspondents in Astana on 11 June that local authorities are obstructing the registration of the party's regional branches. Gabdullin said the party has succeeded in registering branches in only three of Kazakhstan's 14 oblasts. Under the new election law, only those parties that have registered branches in at least seven oblasts are eligible to contend the parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall. LF

...AS IS EX-MAYOR OF KYRGYZ CAPITAL

In an interview published in "Vechernii Bishkek" on 11 June, Feliks Kulov announced his intention of founding a new political movement named Ar-Namys (Honor), the founding conference of which will take place "soon," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov, who resigned in late April accusing President Askar Akaev of condoning undemocratic practices by his subordinates, said that he has decided to remain in politics because the Kyrgyz economy "is headed for disaster" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). Kulov said that he will appeal to the Constitutional Court to abrogate as anti-constitutional the article of the election law that stipulates that only political parties that were officially registered no later than one year prior to the election date are eligible to contend the next parliamentary elections. That poll is scheduled for February 2000. LF

MINIMAL PROGRESS TOWARDS TAJIK RAPPROCHEMENT

Talks last week between working groups representing the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) on the terms for a resumption of cooperation between the two sides within the Commission for National Reconciliation failed to reach a compromise solution on unspecified disputed issues, Interfax reported on 15 June citing a press release from the UN mission in Tajikistan. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 June quoted the head of the UTO working group, Mukhammadsharif Himmatzoda, as saying that the talks achieved no positive results. Himmatzoda added that he hopes the UN will embark on a further round of discussions with both opposition and government representatives. The two working groups were scheduled to meet on 16 June to discusss a possible meeting between UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri and President Imomali Rakhmonov. LF




BELARUS, RUSSIA DISCUSS INTRODUCING SINGLE CUSTOMS RATES

In Minsk on 15 June the State Customs Committees of Belarus and Russia discussed the introduction of single customs rates within the Belarus-Russia Customs Union, Belarusian Television reported. "In 1997 the difference between the two customs tariffs was minimal. Today we have differences regarding hundreds of items in the customs tariff [table]," Belarusian Television quoted Russian State Customs Committee head Mikhail Vanin as saying. Vanin added that Russia has lost $600 million in customs dues for motor vehicles crossing Belarus. "One cannot say that Russia suffers, while Belarus gains. Unfortunately, we [also] have a lot of such decisions that place our Belarus and its partners at a disadvantage," Belarusian State Customs Committee head Vasil Makarevich commented. JM

NO PROGRESS IN UKRAINIAN-ROMANIAN BORDER DISPUTE

Ukraine and Romania have failed to define their common border in talks held in Kyiv, AP reported on 15 June. "There is no concrete solution...The discussion at the Kyiv talks is proceeding in a tense manner," Ukraine's delegation head Yuriy Kostenko commented. Ukraine and Romania disagree on how to demarcate the Black Sea continental shelf near Zmiyinyy Island where oil and gas deposits are believed to be located. Both countries signed a political treaty in 1997 pledging to solve the border dispute within two years or appeal to an international court for arbitration. JM

UKRAINE TO SELL SHARES IN MAJOR OIL REFINERY TO RUSSIA

Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii said in Kyiv on 15 June that Ukraine will sell a controlling stake in the LiNOS plant, a major oil refinery in Lysychansk, eastern Ukraine, AP reported. The Ukrainian government currently owns 67.41 percent of the shares in LiNOS. Ukraine does not have enough money to keep the refinery afloat, while Russia's ownership is expected to guarantee a steady oil supply to LiNOS and to provide revenues for the Ukrainian budget. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE ON CABINET OUSTER

The Supreme Council has put off its 16 June debate on the dismissal of Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko's cabinet until next week. The debate was proposed by the Supreme Council's communists who collected 153 signatures to initiate a vote of no confidence in the government. The postponement decision was taken owing to the need to look into several urgent economic bills and because Pustovoytenko is currently attending a CIS economic forum in St. Petersburg, AP reported on 15 June. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT TIES BUDGET TO CONFIDENCE MOTION

The Estonian government on 15 June decided to attach a confidence motion on itself to the hotly-debated 1 billion kroon ($67 million) negative supplementary budget. The government, supported by a majority of the parliament, is not at risk of losing the motion. Rather, the procedure allows the bill to be voted on without amendments. The government recently introduced amendments to change parliamentary rules to allow the linkage. The opposition launched over 500 amendments to the budget in order to obstruct its passage and BNS reported that they have already introduced 33 amendments to the parliamentary rule change. The 15 June session of parliament, which began to debate the budget and the plethora of amendments, declared a halt in proceedings for the government to plan the confidence motion. Prime Minister Mart Laar told "Postimees" that the budget will be passed by 1 July. MH

BALTIC AND NORDIC DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN RIGA

Defense ministers from Baltic and Nordic countries met in Riga on 14- 15 June. The defense ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden also hosted other officials, including NATO Deputy Secretary General Klaus- Peter Klaiber. The main issues of discussion included the Kosova crisis, activities connected with the Partnership for Peace program, and developments following the NATO Washington summit. The ministers signed a protocol on the Baltic Defense College in Tartu which will define the legal status of the institution and its personnel. The ministers also announced that the joint air-space monitoring program BALTNET will be completed this year and that the three Baltic countries will submit their action plans to NATO by the autumn. MH

BALTIC SEA FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN LITHUANIA

Foreign ministers from the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) met in the Lithuanian resort town of Palanga on 14-15 June. Taking part in the two-day meeting were foreign ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, deputy foreign ministers from Germany and Russia, as well as high-ranking officials from the European Commission and observer countries France, Great Britain, Ukraine, and the U.S. The agenda included a review of the CBSS's recent activities as well as discussions on EU integration and regional cooperation, which was reflected in the final communique. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas noted that during the Lithuanian presidency of the CBSS, cooperation with the Russian exclave Kaliningrad increased, stating that the relationship "could serve as a model for the development of the EU-Russia relationship on the whole and ultimately open perspectives for a free trade agreement between the EU and Russia," according to Reuters. However, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves commented on the discord between the CBSS and the EU over policy and stated: "That is why I don't take this organization very seriously," dpa reported. MH

LEGENDARY DIPLOMAT RETURNS TO REST IN LITHUANIA

Stasys Lozoraitis Jr., a well-known diplomat dubbed the "president of hope," was reburied in Kaunas on 15 June in a solemn ceremony with thousands in attendance. Most of Lithuania's political elite attended the service, including President Valdas Adamkus, who served as Lozoraitis's presidential campaign manager in 1993. Despite losing that race, the diplomat of nearly five decades earned his nickname for his hopeful message and tireless work during the decades of Soviet occupation. Lozoraitis served mostly in Washington where he fought for Lithuanian independence and played a large role in the country being recognized by the U.S. Lozoraitis died in the U.S. in 1994. MH

POLISH CABINET APPROVES AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDY TARGETS...

The government has approved agricultural intervention plans for the Agricultural Market Agency (ARR) to render support to producers of grain, milk, butter, pork, honey, and potatoes, PAP reported on 15 June. The ARR will provide direct subsidies for 2.5 million tons of wheat and 500,000 tons of rye as well as to 60,000 tons of powdered milk. These subsidies will cost the government 105 million zlotys ($26.5 million). JM

...LIFTS BAN ON INVESTMENTS IN SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES

Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff said on 15 June that the May ban on admitting new investors to Poland's special economic zones will be lifted on 16 June. The ban was introduced following pressure from the EU, which claims that Poland offers too liberal tax breaks in those zones. According to Steinhoff, investors will be admitted to the zones on the unchanged conditions until the end of 2000. In 2001 new investment permits will be granted only by those zones where unemployment exceeds the national rate by 50 percent. Poland has 17 economic zones in which 40 companies have created 6,000 new jobs and pledged to invest a total of $2 billion. JM

CZECH PARLIAMENT VOTES TO RAISE KFOR PARTICIPATION

The Chamber of Deputies on 15 June approved with a vote of 122 to 25 to send an 800-member military unit to join the peacekeeping force in Kosova, AP and CTK reported. The government planned to provide only 150 soldiers for KFOR, complaining about the legislature's unwillingness to raise the planned budget deficit to finance a bigger unit. But the chamber's Foreign Affairs Committee voted to increase the number of men and the plenum approved that proposal. The Senate is to vote on the plan on 16 June. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said he was "not against" sending 800 soldiers, but "deputies should know that we are talking about an operation that will cost 2.5 billion crowns (about $69.4 million)," instead of 243 million in 1999 and 456 million next year. MS

CZECH ROMA APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

Representatives of 12 Romany schoolchildren from Ostrava, northern Moravia, appealed to the Constitutional Court on 15 June about the violation of human rights by the Education Ministry, the Ostrava School Office, and the directors of five so-called "special schools" in Ostrava. They say that children placed in those schools are being deprived of the chance of further studies and this represents an infringement of the basic rights of children as defined by the Human Rights Charter and other international agreements. The European Center for the Rights of Roma, which helped the plaintiffs, says that there are 27 Romany pupils to one non-Romany in those establishments. James Goldston, the center's lawyer, was cited by CTK as saying "We want to give the Czech courts a chance to say that no racial segregation will be tolerated in the educational system." MS

SCHUSTER SWORN IN AS SLOVAK PRESIDENT

Rudolf Schuster, Slovakia's first president elected by popular vote, was sworn in on 15 June at a ceremony attended by the presidents of neighboring Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bratislava reported. Schuster called on the guests to help Slovakia in its efforts to be included in the "fast track" group of countries joining the EU, and said that in view of Bratislava's interest in joining both the EU and NATO, it would be "unrealistic" to expect Slovak neutrality. He vowed to be a president of "all Slovaks" regardless of political or ethnic affiliation and said he would listen to "comments" from the opposition if their goal was the "prosperity and well-being of Slovakia." Czech President Vaclav Havel met with Schuster briefly before the inauguration and accepted his invitation to pay an official visit to Bratislava, CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK MINISTER SAYS EUROPEAN ORGANIZATIONS BACK MINORITY- LANGUAGE BILL

Culture Minister Milan Knazko on 15 June said the OSCE, the European Commission, and the Council of Europe accept the minority-language bill recently approved by the ruling four-party Coalition Council. The bill is not backed by the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), which submitted its own version to the parliament. Knazko criticized the SMK for not discussing the bill with the coalition partners and for threatening to vote against it. He said the move had "met abroad with embarrassment, rather than understanding." The coalition-approved bill enables citizens in localities with a minority population of 20 percent or more to use their mother tongue in official contacts with the authorities, but the SMK wants its provisions to be extended to cover education and culture, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES KFOR CONTINGENT

The parliament on 15 June approved a resolution on sending a 350-member guard battalion to join the peacekeeping forces in Kosova, Hungarian media reported. It also approved the passage of foreign peacekeeping troops through Hungary or their stationing in the country in support of humanitarian aid missions. Government officials said the Hungarian battalion will guard the KFOR headquarters in Prishtina. MSZ




SERBIAN WITHDRAWAL PROCEDING ON SCHEDULE

NATO officials said in a statement in Brussels on 16 June that KFOR deployment in Kosova is going according to plan. The text added that withdrawal of Serbian troops and paramilitary police is also on schedule except for some minor delays due to "traffic congestion." Earlier that day, the Atlantic alliance extended by 24 hours its deadline for Serbian forces to leave "Zone I" of southern Kosova on the grounds that the Serbs were making "genuine efforts" to stick to the agreed schedule for their retreat, Reuters reported. The Serbian withdrawal from all of Kosova is slated to end on 20 June. PM

SUPPLY CONVOY REACHES RUSSIAN TROOPS IN KOSOVA

A Russian supply convoy from Bosnia reached the 200 Russian troops at the Prishtina airport on 15 June and another convoy left for Prishtina the following day, Reuters reported. Russian officials received NATO approval for sending the two convoys, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said in Moscow. Meanwhile, Russian commanders in Prishtina asked British KFOR troops to resupply them with water on 15 June, but continued to deny them and French troops access to the airport (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 15 June 1999). FS

SERBIAN CHURCH WANTS MILOSEVIC TO GO

The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church issued a statement in Belgrade on 15 June in which it called for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his government to resign and be replaced by a "government of national salvation," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The statement added: "It should be evident to every thinking person that [our] numerous internal problems and the international isolation of [our] state cannot be overcome with such a government and under the present conditions." The bishops urged Kosova's Serbs not to leave the province. Observers note that the Church has never trusted Milosevic because of his communist background. This is the first time, however, that the Church has openly called for his ouster. A Serbian political analyst told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that the bishops' "call may mobilize resistance against Milosevic's political power." PM

NATO NEGOTIATES DISARMAMENT WITH UCK

U.S. Army General John Craddock told dpa from Skopje on 16 June that NATO officials are negotiating with the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) about its demilitarization. Craddock did not release details about the content or location of the talks. He added that the UCK's possible disarmament is up to the "discretion" of the respective peacekeeping troops. Craddock said that "we approach it in a fair and even-handed manner...Our soldiers are not instructed to routinely disarm [the guerrillas]. However, we have got to make sure we defuse explosive situations. We don't want armed [UCK] in proximity with withdrawing Serbs." Pentagon officials said in Washington that both the Serbs and the UCK have initiated confrontations resulting in as many as "two dozen" deaths. They added, however, that "we are generally satisfied with the amount of compliance" with NATO's ban on armed violence. FS

KFOR TROOPS PULL BACK FROM CONFRONTATION WITH UCK

About 200 UCK fighters refused to turn in their weapons to French forces near Gjilan on 15 June and withdrew to the mountains, a French army spokesman told Reuters. British paratroopers pulled back from a confrontation with about 50 UCK fighters who set up a headquarters in a building in northeast Prishtina. The fighters threatened to resist any attempt to disarm them. In Prizren, UCK forces moved into vacant Yugoslav army headquarters and held victory parades in the city. The "Berliner Zeitung" quoted the local UCK leader Rexha Ekrem as saying that his forces took "control of the city together with German KFOR soldiers." German army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dietmar Jeserich, however, stressed that "the Germans control this city...The UCK is walking the streets with its weapons, but the authority lies with KFOR and not with the UCK." The BBC quoted an unnamed German KFOR official as saying that disarming the UCK would be futile because the guerrillas have more arms hidden away. FS

MORE REFUGEES RETURNING TO KOSOVA DESPITE UNHCR WARNINGS

A UNHCR spokeswoman in Geneva told AP that about 8,000 Kosovars returned from Macedonia and Albania into Kosova on 15 June. She added that many more are expected the following day. Long lines of cars backed up at border crossings, according to unnamed UN officials in Macedonia and Albania. Meanwhile, aid agencies stepped up their efforts to warn the refugees of the danger of landmines. Two people were killed and one injured on 15 June by a mine as they crossed a field between Macedonia and Kosova. UNHCR officials registered returnees and set up two supply stations on the road between Kukes and Prizren to provide people with food and water during their return. FS

SERBIAN CIVILIANS CONTINUE EXODUS...

A spokeswoman for the UNHCR said in Geneva on 15 June that some 23,000 Serbs left Kosova for Serbia and Montenegro during the previous four days. Most appeared to be heading for Nis, she added. Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that some 33,000 Serbian civilians left the province in less than a week, of whom 24,000 went to Serbia and the rest to Montenegro. In Prishtina, Zoran Andjelkovic, who is Milosevic's governor of the province, said: "Yes, it is a panic, and it is growing into a stampede," the "Financial Times" reported on 16 June. He accused KFOR of not doing enough to provide security for Kosova's Serbs. PM

...BUT PROBLEMS AWAIT MANY

The Red Cross officials in Geneva noted on 15 June that most of the departing Serbs plan to stay with relatives. But many Serbs arriving in Belgrade complained that the authorities have done nothing to help them, AP reported. A representative of the Belgrade city government said: "The best thing would have been if they had not come here at all--not because we don't want them, but because there are guarantees for their safety in [Kosova]. Unfortunately, they don't believe us." PM

ARTEMIJE TO LEAVE PRIZREN

Bishop Artemije, who is the leading Serbian Orthodox cleric in Kosova, said in Prizren on 16 June that he will leave that city because it is no longer safe for him there amid UCK patrols on the streets, Reuters reported. He added that he will leave for Prishtina with nine priests and 200 Serbian civilians later in the day. It is not clear why KFOR has not been able to ensure their security. Earlier, some 60 Serbian families took refuge with Artemije in the Monastery of the Holy Archangels, "Danas" reported. Artemije is a critic of Milosevic and advocates reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians. PM

SERB TOSSES GRENADE AT ALBANIANS

A Serbian paramilitary man leaving Gjilan on 15 June threw a grenade from his car at a group of Kosovar civilians nearby, wounding 13, including several children, AFP reported. The Kosovars were celebrating the departure of Yugoslav forces. It is not clear what action, if any, French peacekeepers took against the paramilitary. PM

MORE INDICATIONS OF ATROCITIES

Italian peacekeepers found two mass graves near Peja on 15 June. One of the two sites appears to contain at least 120 bodies. Britain's Sky Television reported that its journalists saw 82 mounds of freshly dug graves, some with limbs sticking out, north of Prishtina near a base of Serbian paramilitaries. On 16 June, Reuters reported from the Drenica region that villagers found bodies in four wells in an area where local people said that Serbian forces had killed up to 100 Kosovars. The villagers also found "dozens" of bodies in "freshly dug pits" nearby. PM

SURROI REAPPEARS

Leading Kosovar journalist, Rambouillet negotiator, and political figure Veton Surroi has emerged "safe and sound" in Prishtina, where he has been in hiding for the past 11 weeks, Human Rights Watch said in a statement in New York on 15 June. Surroi is now "under the protection of British NATO forces," the statement continued. PM

MILOSEVIC OUT ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL...

Milosevic spoke in Aleksinac on 15 June in what appears to be an effort to identify himself with resistance to NATO and with national reconstruction in a runup to possible new elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). He said: "By rebuilding our country we will renew ties with the whole world, first of all by correcting an image which for the whole decade had been created by those who were dissatisfied with our resistance to [their] colonization of the Balkans." PM

...AND WITH THE ARMY

Milosevic told guests at a reception to mark Army Day at Belgrade's Sava Center on 15 June that "after 11 weeks of [NATO] aggression, we can say that we have seen peace arrive with [our] combat potentials no less [intact] than at the beginning of this war imposed on us." General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who is a political ally of Milosevic and chief of the General Staff, said that the army will "obtain new, modern weapons that can strike at aggressor countries wherever they may be." Ojdanic praised the country's political leadership for "preventing the total occupation of our country as well as a total capitulation and loss" of Kosova. Milosevic promoted or decorated some 3,000 officers, including Ojdanic. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal recently indicted Milosevic and Ojdanic for atrocities in Kosova. PM

HERZEGOVINIAN TAKES OVER JOINT PRESIDENCY

Ante Jelavic, who belongs to the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, replaced moderate Serbian leader Zivko Radisic as rotating head of the Bosnian joint presidency on 15 June in Sarajevo. Jelavic, who represents the hard-line Herzegovinian faction of the HDZ, said that his "three priorities" are to promote Bosnia's membership in the EU, the Council of Europe, and the World Trade Organization. He also pledged to develop joint institutions within Bosnia and promote political and economic reconstruction aimed at strengthening the country as a "multiethnic, multiconfessional, and decentralized state," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MUSLIMS EXHUME MASS GRAVE

Jasmin Odobasic of the Committee for Missing Persons said in Mostar on 16 June that representatives of that organization have exhumed the remains of some 55 persons, presumably Muslim civilians, near Zijemlje. Odobasic added that Serbian forces reportedly killed the civilians in 1992. During the Bosnian war, some 200,000 people--mostly civilians--were killed on all sides and more than 24,000 persons are still missing. The remains of some 2,500 people have been exhumed since 1995, AP reported. PM

CONSTANTINESCU EXPLAINS REFUSAL OF RUSSIAN AIRSPACE USE

In an interview on Romanian television on 15 June, President Emil Constantinescu said Russia had requested a response to its request to use Romanian air space for transiting troops to Kosova within five hours. Constantinescu said that the use of air space granted to NATO had followed a long legal procedure, including approval by the parliament, and this could not apply to such a short-timed demand (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES COMPROMISE ON EDUCATION LAW

The Chamber of Deputies on 16 June approved a compromise on the article of the amended education law dealing with instruction at university level in the languages of national minorities, Romanian radio reported. The deputies voted to accept the formulation proposed by a commission that mediated between the chamber's stricter text of the law and the more liberal text approved by the Senate. The law now allows teaching in the mother tongue in existing universities and the setting up of so-called "multicultural universities." The amended law stipulates that in schools of national minorities Romanian history and geography are taught in the mother tongue at the primary school level and in Romanian at the secondary level, examinations being conducted in the language of the minorities. The Senate has yet to examine the compromise. MS

ROMANIAN PARTIES' MERGER FINALIZED

Twenty-five local branches of the Party of Romanian Unity Alliance on 15 June approved the leadership's decision to merge into the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 31 May 1999). In other news, the striking teachers said they will continue the labor sanctions till 17 June, awaiting the government's approval on that day of a protocol agreed on by their representatives after meetings with Premier Radu Vasile and Finance Minister Decebal Train Remes. MS

MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPROVES REFERENDUM VALIDITY

With a vote of five to one, the Constitutional Court on 15 June approved the validity of the non-binding 23 May referendum called by President Petru Lucinschi on changing the system to a presidential one, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The court said the referendum has no "judicial effect," since it was not a binding plebiscite. It also said that the Central Electoral Commission's decision of 5 June to recognize the validity of the referendum was legal, because the electoral law allows the commission to annul a referendum if participation was below 60 percent, but does not oblige it to do so. Presidential counselor Mihail Petrache said Lucinschi now intends to set up a "constitutional commission" to work on a draft law on changing the constitution. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER VISITS TRANSDNIESTER

Ion Sturza on 15 June met with Viktor Sinev, deputy leader of the breakaway Transdniester region, and discussed economic cooperation, Infotag reported. Sturza and Sinev visited the Moldavskaya power plant in Kuchurgan, which supplies electricity to Moldova, and said they were interested in attracting foreign investors to improve the plant's output, to modernize it, and make the exporting of electricity a possibility. The estimated costs are $150-200 million. At present, only two out of the plant's 12 power generating blocks are working. Sturza and Sinev also visited a truck repair plant in Bedery- Tighina, which assembles Russian-made trucks. MS

BULGARIA PROTESTS AGAINST TRIAL OF ETHNIC LEADER IN YUGOSLAVIA

Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 15 June warned Yugoslavia that if it goes ahead with plans to put ethnic Bulgarian leader Marko Shukarev on trial for desertion from his army unit, Sofia will seek "intervention" by the international community, dpa reported. The trial is to begin on 16 June. Vlaikov called on Yugoslavia to show "leniency" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 10 June 1999).




RUSSIA'S NEW BEZPRIZORNIKI


By Paul Goble

The social and economic disorder in the Russian Federation has pushed more than 1.5 million school-age children into the streets, a larger number of "unsupervised" youths than the Soviet state faced in the 1920s and a development which casts a shadow over that country's future.

According to the journal of the Russian Ministry of Education, unemployment, alcoholism, and assorted social pathologies in the home are not only driving ever more young people into the streets where they frequently drift into crime but also having a serious impact on their physiological development.

Ministry analysts suggest that the rising tide of criminal behavior by such young people reflects the collapse of Soviet-era arrangements for structuring leisure time activity and the rise of alternative and largely Western role models in the media.

One of these analysts, Vladimir Andreev, bemoans the fact that Russian children today face a situation in which the old system of organized activities and camps "is basically in ruins." As a result, he says, an ever increasing number of children take their behavioral cues from media which glorify violence and get-rich-quick schemes and from youths not much older than themselves who are already pursuing what this analyst calls a false and perverted goal.

In this, Andreev writes, the children have been following their parents and Russian society as a whole. In 1991, he notes, Russians "once again decided to restructure everything at one fell swoop, to start over again as we did back in 1917--this time, however, exclusively on a solid, 'democratic' foundation. The new starting point was found as well--just do everything completely opposite" to what had been done.

That radical change of sign posts, Andreev suggests, has subverted the moral order without providing a new one. And that pattern has been exacerbated by the fact that "every autumn and every spring a new Moses swears that stabilization" and prosperity "are just around the corner," thus undercutting any willingness by children or their parents to defer gratification.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Bazarnyi, a ministry doctor who keeps track of child health issues, suggests in the same journal that more than 90 percent of those who do remain in secondary schools now have developmental problems, with 85 our of every 100 school-age girls suffering from physical abnormalities in pelvic development.

This latter figure, he suggests, is "simply horrifying" because it points to a future in which "the overwhelming majority of future mothers will not be able to give birth to healthy offspring who are normal 'in all parameters.'" And such statistics, the ministry figures imply, are even worse for those 1.5 million children who have left school early.

This is not the first time Moscow has faced the problem of unsupervised youth or "bezprizorniki," as they are called in Russian. Following the Russian Civil War, Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin ordered his secret police chief Feliks Dzerzinskiy to commit half of the Cheka's employees to combatting the plague of homeless youth. And later, other Soviet leaders used the police to limit the number of such people on various occasions.

The Russian Federation Ministry of Education refers to these earlier approaches, but its officials call for more money to be devoted to the health and well-being of children. At present, they note that "there is a catastrophic lack of funds everywhere" children are involved. But they complain that even now there is "more than enough money" for other things:

There is "more than enough" for "the maintenance of two parallel governments," for "squadrons of flights to places like Davos and Strasbourg," for "multiple channels to transfer money abroad," and even for "the purchase of luxurious villas on the Cote d'Azur" where "obviously no kindergartens are going to be built for our little ones."

"Sackfulls of brand-new banknotes," these officials continue, "are being spent to build marble and crystal bank interiors, nightclub casinos, and personal mansions and estates in the suburbs, and to pay for the foreign schooling of the offspring of the hard-currency families that especially distinguished themselves during the era of the initial accumulation of capital."

Such a cry from the heart of educators is perhaps not surprising in the tough budgetary struggles in the Russian capital. But the problems they point to affect not only Russia's children but Russia's future. And analogous problems are to be found in many other post-Soviet states as well.


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