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Newsline - June 17, 1999




DUMA CALLS STEPASHIN'S BLUFF...

Resisting verbal pressure from Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and others, State Duma members issued their first rejection on 17 June of a bill from the package of measures drafted in accordance with the government's agreement with the IMF. The vote was 101 in favor with 219 against and 6 abstentions, according to ITAR- TASS. The Communist, People's Power, Agrarian, and Yabloko factions opposed the bill, while Our Home is Russia and Russian Regions supported it. Earlier, Stepashin threatened to call a vote of confidence in the government if the IMF legislation were rejected. Prior to the vote the government withdrew its version of the bill imposing a tax on gasoline stations in favor of one worked out by a trilateral commission composed of representatives of the Duma, the Federation Council, and the government. JAC

...APPARENTLY UNCONVINCED BY PRICE PLEDGE

One author of the compromise bill, Duma deputy and Yabloko member Sergei Don told "The Moscow Times" the same day that the trilateral commission's product had been distorted by government amendments introducing effective gas price controls, and that it would "bring about a rise in corruption and a huge rise in prices. At worst it would lead to deficits and lines for gas." "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" reported on 17 June that the pact signed by more than 50 Russian energy and rail companies promising to freeze prices until the end of the year contains no clause about penalties for violations of its provisions. JAC

IMF CASH MAY NOT COME TILL THE FALL

IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said on 16 June that he does not consider the passage of specific tax bills by the Duma a strict requirement for Russia to get new loans, Interfax reported. He reportedly said that the fund's only requirement for Russia is that it have a transparent budget and that the government tell the people the truth. "Segodnya" predicted that the law taxing gasoline stations notwithstanding, the government needs to get 30 bills through the lower chamber and approval on a first reading alone "cannot satisfy the IMF." Therefore, the question of resuming cooperation with the IMF is postponed till the fall, according to the daily. The same day, Peter Westin of the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy in Moscow also concluded that "it looks likely that the IMF money will not arrive until September- October now," AFP reported. JAC

NO NEWS ABOUT DEFAULT MAY BE GOOD NEWS

The 16 June deadline for Russia's London Club creditors to declare Russia in default for missing a payment on Soviet-era debt passed with no word from the creditors, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. Moscow missed a $850 million payment on 2 June. Before the deadline passed, some analysts said that rumors about the possibility of a default being declared by the club were designed to pressure Russia during negotiations over restructuring the debt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1999). Meanwhile, the Russian press has been carrying reports that the London Club has agreed to delay some of Russia's payments. ITAR-TASS reported on 15 June, citing an anonymous official at the Fitch ICBA credit agency, that the London Club had granted a grace period until 2 December. The same day "Segodnya" reported that club members had postponed payments worth $578 million due in 1999 until after 2000. JAC

COHEN REPORTS 'GOOD PROGRESS' IN TALKS WITH SERGEEV

U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen told AP that "good progress has been made" in Kosova negotiations with his Russian counterpart Igor Sergeev in Helsinki on 16 June. Cohen and Sergeev did not finalize an agreement, however, on the role of Russia within KFOR. Sergeev told ITAR-TASS after the meeting: "We have reached an agreement on the structure of command of the peacekeeping operation with the participation of the Russian military contingent." Cohen, however, told AP: "We've had some agreements in some areas, but until the entire package as such is resolved there can be no agreement." He added that one possibility is to give the Russians a "zone of responsibility" within a section of Kosova commanded by NATO forces. Sergeev and Cohen resumed the talks on 17 June. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov are scheduled to join the negotiations later in the day. FS

CONFUSION REMAINS OVER COMMAND STRUCTURE

Russian President Boris Yeltsin told ITAR-TASS in Moscow on 16 June that Russia insists on having an unspecified "area of responsibility" in Kosova. Yeltsin, after talking to Sergeev by telephone, said that "discussion [in Helsinki] of most of the questions went peacefully," but stressed that he "categorically disagrees" with NATO, which rejects the creation of a Russian sector under separate Russian command. Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin stressed that "at all stages of the...negotiations...we left no doubt that the Russian contingent will never be subordinated to NATO commanders." The chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and chairman of the Russian Security Council, Vladimir Putin, said after meeting with Yeltsin on 17 June that the model established in Bosnia--where Russian troops work in tandem with the NATO-led peacekeeping force--might serve well in Kosova. FS

ANOTHER BANK POISED TO LOSE ITS LICENSE...

Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told reporters on 16 June that Oneksimbank's license may be revoked at any moment. According to Gerashchenko, the bank's management is aware of its precarious state and is currently negotiating with the Central Bank and a variety of creditors--most of them foreign--about settling its debts, which were earlier estimated at $2 billion. Gerashchenko added that the fate of two more major banks is now being decided but he declined to identify them. Oneksimbank was one of Russia's top ten largest banks and its chairman Vladimir Potanin was considered one of Russia's so-called oligarchs. JAC

...AS OVERALL NUMBERS OF BANKS THIN ONLY SLIGHTLY

The same day, "Vremya MN" reported that the number of credit organizations operating in the Russian market slipped by 1 percent during the month of May, from 1,422 to 1,407 as of 1 June. From January to May, the number of credit organization declined only 5 percent. In February, Gerashchenko predicted that Russia would have only 200-300 commercial banks by the end of 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). He later revised this estimate upwards. JAC

JUSTICE MINISTRY FAVORS EXTENDING DEADLINE FOR RELIGIOUS GROUPS

Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov believes that only 35 percent of Russia's religious organizations have been registered as required by a controversial 1997 law on religion, "Segodnya" reported on 16 June. As a result, Krasheninnikov supports extending the current deadline of 31 December 1999 by an additional two years. Under the law, groups that are unregistered can be banned. JAC

DUMA PASSES LAW TO SUPPORT SPACE INDUSTRY

The State Duma passed on 16 June on the third reading a law on state support for the space industry. Under the law, space sector enterprises and organizations will be temporarily exempt from federal taxes and soft loans will be extended to the sector, Interfax reported. The law also calls for state support for regions whose land is littered with debris from rocket launches. Ecologists in one affected area, the Republic of Khakassia, estimated that 30 tons of waste has fallen on the region from rockets and satellites launched at Baikonur space complex in neighboring Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 19 May 1999). Other regions littered by space waste are Altai Krai, Astrakhan Oblast and the Republic of Bashkortostan. JAC

FIRES CONTINUE TO SWEEP RUSSIAN FORESTS

As of 16 June, 132 forest fires were blazing in Russia, 79 of which started in the previous 24 hours, a federal forestry service official told ITAR-TASS. According to the official, more than a thousand acres of forests were destroyed in the past day. Forest service officials have expressed concern that their agency's chronic lack of fuel and equipment will lead to the destruction of more of the region's taiga as the fire season sets in (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 26 May 1999). Last year, more than 400,000 acres of forest were destroyed by fire, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

KAMCHATKA RESIDENTS TURN FROM PETITIONS TO STREET PROTESTS

Almost 2,000 people participated in a protest march in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii on 16 June to protest continuing electricity outages, "Trud" reported the next day. Earlier, Russian Television reported that residents were collecting signatures on a petition asking that the UN establish control over their peninsula (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). On 16 June, the Japanese government responded by announcing that it would provide three diesel- run electric generators to three institutions for the handicapped, mentally retarded, and orphaned children, according to Interfax. According to a statement from the Japanese embassy in Moscow, the humanitarian aid will arrive at the beginning of September. After meeting with Kamchatka Oblast Governor Vladimir Biryukov on 17 May, Prime Minister Stepashin announced that a decision would be made that day on whether to allocate 50 million rubles ($2.1 million) to purchase fuel for the oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC




PAPAL VISIT TO ARMENIA POSTPONED

The planned visit to Armenia by Pope John Paul II on 18 June has been postponed due to the pontiff's illness, Reuters reported on 16 June quoting Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. The pope had hoped to make a brief stopover in Armenia on his return from Poland to Rome in order to meet with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin I, who is reportedly terminally ill with cancer. An official papal visit to Armenia in early July to mark the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as the state religion was postponed ten days ago because of the Catholicos's failing health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 1999). LF

AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE OIL EXPORT OPTIONS

Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii told oil executives in Moscow on 16 June that there is no alternative to the permanent closure of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk oil export pipeline, Interfax reported. Transneft head Dimitrii Savelev suggested that Azerbaijani oil could be exported by rail via Dagestan instead. But Natik Aliev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, said that he doubts whether that solution would benefit Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev added that Transneft has not yet informed Azerbaijan of its decision to close the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline. Chechen presidential chief of staff Apti Batalov told Interfax on 16 June that Chechnya "is taking the most resolute measures" to prevent further thefts of oil from that pipeline and will fulfill all its obligations in that respect. LF

ABKHAZIA ACCUSES TBILISI OF ABETTING GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS

Amazbei Kchach, interior minister of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, told Caucasus Press on 16 June that he is certain that Georgian leadership is backing the White Legion guerrilla movement, which Kchach accused of trying to destabilize the situation in southern Abkhazia in order to deter Georgian displaced persons from returning to their abandoned homes there. The White Legion recently issued a statement, which was summarized in the Georgian daily "Alia" on 15 June, vowing to continue its struggle for the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity and the repatriation of displaced persons, whose numbers it estimated at 300,000. According to UNHCR data, the true figure is probably closer to 200,000. Although the Georgian leadership claims to have no control over the White Legion, in May 1998 it undertook to prevent further killings by that force in southern Abkhazia (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1998). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WITHDRAWS REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL POWERS

Nursultan Nazarbaev retracted on 15 June the request he submitted to the lower chamber of parliament five days earlier to expand his legislative powers, Interfax reported on 16 June quoting presidential press secretary Asylbek Bisenbaev. Nazarbaev had argued that he needed such powers in order to clear a backlog of legislation that would help to galvanize the country's flagging economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). But deputies assured the president at a 11 June meeting that they will ensure the timely adoption of those laws despite the upcoming parliamentary summer recess. LF

KAZAKH LOCAL COURT REJECTS EX-PREMIER'S APPEAL

A district court in Almaty on 16 June rejected a written appeal by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin's lawyer, Vitalii Voronov, that the criminal proceedings brought against Kazhegeldin from tax evasion are unfounded, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Voronov informed the court that his client paid the 5 million tenge (approximately $38,000) he owed in taxes for 1997. But the court ruled that the charges are valid and denied that they were politically motivated. Voronov said that Kazhegeldin will remain abroad until his legal status is clarified, according to Interfax. LF

KAZAKH POLICE ROUND UP ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Police in Almaty have launched an operation to detain and deport illegal immigrants, RFE/RL correspondents reported from the former capital on 16 June. To date, 800 people have been deported, 132 of them on 15 June to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Some Chinese immigrants have also been apprehended. An additional 1,500 people have been fined for violating Kazakhstan's passport regulations. President Nazarbaev attended a session of the State Security Council on 16 June that discussed the illegal immigrant problem and the demarcation of Kazakhstan's frontiers, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. LF

BEREZOVSKII ACQUIRES KAZAKH TV CHANNEL, NEWSPAPER

Russian politician and businessman Boris Berezovskii has purchased the Almaty TV channel KTV and the independent satirical newspaper "Karavan," RFE/RL correspondents reported on 16 June, citing a second private Almaty TV station. LF

TURKEY EXPRESSES CONCERN AT KARABAKH CEASEFIRE VIOLATION

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 17 June expressing concern that the 14 June fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces could endanger regional stability and negatively impact on efforts to achieve a peaceful solution of the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). The statement repeated the Azerbaijani version of events which blamed the fighting on the Armenian side. Turan also reported that Armenian forces opened fire on the same Azerbaijani positions near the northeastern border of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh during the afternoon of 16 June with small arms and grenade launchers from positions 8 kilometers away. The use of small arms at that distance seems implausible. The Azerbaijani troops returned fire, and both sides suffered losses, Turan reported. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT BLAMES GOVERNMENT FOR GRAIN SHORTAGES

The lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament adopted a statement on 16 June criticizing the government's policy on grain and flour supplies, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The statement noted that the government had recently sent large quantities of flour to Uzbekistan in payment of Kyrgyzstan's outstanding gas debts and that domestic grain supplies are currently exhausted. It proposed that the Kyrgyz government should ask Kazakhstan to settle its $22 million debt to Kyrgyzstan in grain. Bread and flour prices in Kyrgyzstan have recently risen by 30-40 percent. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION WORKING GROUPS RESUME TALKS

Meeting in Dushanbe on 16 June, government and opposition working groups scheduled a meeting the following day between President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri, Reuters reported. The two will address opposition demands that the Tajik authorities comply with specific aspects of the 1997 peace agreement allocating opposition representatives 30 percent of national and local government posts. The opposition insists on the appointment as defense minister of its candidate, Mirzo Ziyoev, the release of 93 imprisoned Tajik fighters, and the holding of parliamentary elections before the presidential poll which Rakhmonov has pledged will take place no later than early November--when his five-year term expires. The UTO suspended cooperation within the Commission for National reconciliation on 24 May to protest the Tajik authorities' failure to meet those demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY OBJECTS TO RUSSIAN MILITARY PRESENCE, REFERENDUM

The Democratic Party of Tajikistan has issued a statement condemning the April agreement between Moscow and Dushanbe allowing Russia to maintain a military base in Tajikistan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 June. The statement says the Russian military presence serves to prop up the present Tajik leadership and deters foreign investment. The statement also appealed to the population and political parties to lobby against the holding of a proposed referendum on amendments to the Tajik Constitution. It argued that the proposed amendment on the "separation of religion from the state" could engender a new round of fighting between government and opposition forces. LF

UZBEK TERRORISM TRIAL RESUMES

Uzbekistan's Supreme Court resumed proceedings on 16 June after a five-day break against 22 people accused of perpetrating the bombings in Tashkent on 16 February that killed 16 people and injured almost 100 more, AP reported. They are accused of terrorism, attempting to kill President Islam Karimov, drug trafficking, illegal possession of weapons, and robbery. The state prosecutor called for the death sentence on 10 of the defendants, and for prison terms of 10-14 years for the remainder. Also on 16 June, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it had recalled its ambassador from Tashkent for consultations following criticism by Uzbek officials of Ankara's delay in extraditing to Uzbekistan two men suspected of participating in the bomb attacks. LF




BELARUSIANS FEAR ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS, CRIMINALITY, NATO

In a Minsk poll carried out by the Belapan sociological service "Zerkalo" from 10-13 June, 44 percent of respondents said they are afraid of being unable to buy foodstuffs and essential goods because of price hikes. Thirty percent are afraid of becoming a victim of criminal activities, while 26 percent fear a "NATO intervention in Belarus's affairs and the repetition of what is taking place in Yugoslavia," Belapan reported on 17 June. JM

UKRAINE COUNTS ON WESTERN HELP TO CLOSE CHORNOBYL

Presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said on 16 June that President Leonid Kuchma expects the G-8 summit will grant financial assistance to Ukraine for the completion of reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy nuclear power plants. In 1995 the G-7 promised that assistance to compensate for the loss of electricity following the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. Martynenko's statement was in response to Germany's expected opposition to the nuclear credits at the G-8 summit in Cologne this week. The German parliament's environmental committee voted on 15 June to block the credits and offer Ukraine funds only for non- nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, a dozen Greenpeace activists on 16 June chained themselves to two mini-buses at the entrance to the Rivne nuclear plant with a banner reading "No Western Money for New Chornobyls." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPEALS TO EUROPE OVER FREEDOM OF SPEECH

The Supreme Council has adopted an appeal to the Council of Europe and European parliaments and governments to help protect freedom of speech in Ukraine, UNIAN reported on 15 June. "Lawlessness rules in Ukraine where the president is forcing freedom of speech to its knees," the document reads. The appeal describes the coverage of the current presidential election campaign in Ukraine as biased in favor of the incumbent president, pointing to what it calls the almost total control over the information sphere by the executive. "All this can inflict irreparable harm on Ukraine's democratic development," the appeal warns. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S AIDE ACCUSED OF MONEY LAUNDERING

The 16 June "Den" reported that a parliamentary investigation commission has accused parliamentary deputy Oleksandr Volkov, President Leonid Kuchma's close aide and chief re-election campaigner, of money laundering. The commission said the accusation is based on information received from Belgian judicial authorities. According to the commission, a Belgian judge has ordered to freeze 135 million Belgian francs ($3.5 million) in Volkov's Belgian bank account and to confiscate his private property and luxury cars. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT SUCCEEDS IN CHANGING RULES FOR BUDGET DEBATE

The Estonian parliament on 16 June approved a change in its rules to allow the linking of the hotly-debated negative supplemental budget to a confidence motion in the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1999). The motion carried by a 52 to zero vote, as the opposition walked out of the chamber. With this decision, all the proposed amendments to the budget will be decided by the government, with the budget bill to face a single vote for passage. Government members noted earlier that all the opposition's amendments would be rejected for the final version, according to ETA. The parliament on the same day unanimously supported the harmonizing of rules allowing all resident non-citizens to vote in the October local elections. MH

NO WINNER IN FIRST THREE ROUNDS OF LATVIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

There was no winner in the first three rounds of Latvia's presidential election on 17 June. Third round results brought composer Raimonds Pauls of the New Party to the top of the field with 32 votes, followed by People's Party parliamentarian Vaira Paegle with 25, Transport Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs (Latvia's Way) with 23 and former Ambassador to the U.N. Janis Priedkalns (For Fatherland and Freedom) with 17. Preidkalns thus drops out of the next round. Earlier, Social Democrat Arnis Kalnins dropped out after the second round. The voting will continue throughout the day. Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans said before the vote that if parliament members took into account public opinion then they should support Gorbunovs. President Guntis Ulmanis is banned from seeking a third three-year term. PB/MH

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT FINALLY AGREES ON SESSION FOR LANGUAGE LAW

The Latvian parliament approved by a 62-31 margin holding an extraordinary session on 8 July to consider the new language law. The parliament originally scheduled an extraordinary session for 16 June, but the session did not have a document to debate since the Education, Culture, and Science Committee stated the bill would not be ready (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1999). To make sure the bill would be ready, the parliament will also call an extraordinary session on 18 June, according to LETA. MH

ADAMKUS CHIDES PARLIAMENT OVER FAILURE TO REMOVE CORRUPT MEMBER

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus scolded the parliament for not removing the parliamentary mandate of convicted member Audrius Butkevicius. Adamkus's spokesman said that the parliament has the duty to "revoke the mandate of a convicted deputy" and therefore must "shoulder [the] full moral responsibility for the decision [not to]," according to ELTA. The parliament on 15 June voted by secret ballot 70 to 29 to strip Butkevicius of his mandate, falling short of the three-fifths needed to remove him. Parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis called the decision a "humiliation and stain for the whole parliament." Arrested red-handed while taking a $15,000 bribe, Butkevicius said he would appeal his case to the European Court for Human Rights. MH

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 16 June that Lithuanian diplomat Stasys Lozoraitis Jr. spent most of his career in Washington. He worked mostly in Rome and went to Washington in 1987.

POLISH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS DISBAND THEIR PARTY

A congress of the Social Democracy of the Polish Republic (SdRP), the main opposition party, voted 275 to one with two abstentions to dissolve the SdRP, which succeeded Poland's United Workers Party in 1990. SdRP leader Leszek Miller told the congress that the party is being dissolved because its "chief goals have been reached." It is expected that the entire SdRP leadership and the overwhelming majority of SdRP members will join the Democratic Left Alliance, the new leftist party created last month. The right-wing Christian National Alliance (ZChN) has said the SdRP was dissolved to avoid paying debts to the state. According to the ZChN, the SdRP owes the state some 115 million zlotys ($29.4 million). JM

POLISH POLICE DISPERSE PROTESTING ARMAMENT WORKERS

Police used truncheons to disperse workers of the Lucznik armament plant, who were blocking traffic at the Defense Ministry in Warsaw on 16 June. The protesters were waiting for the results of negotiations between the Defense Ministry and Lucznik representatives on paying wage arrears and improving the financial situation of the plant. PAP reported that 100 Lucznik workers decided to remain in Warsaw for another day after negotiations failed. JM

POPES VISITS HIS HOMETOWN

"People say that it is good everywhere but it is best to be at home," Pope John Paul II told a 160,000-strong crowd that greeted him on 16 June in Wadowice, his birthplace. After a day in bed with a bout of the flu, the pontiff on 16 June was back on his feet, following the slightly curtailed schedule of his grueling 13- day trip to Poland. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPOINTS NEW COUNTER-INTELLIGENCE CHIEF

The cabinet on 16 June appointed Jiri Ruzek as the new head of the Czech Counter-Intelligence Service (BIS) as of 1 July. The BIS has been without a chief since January, when its former head, Karel Vulterin, was dismissed for "serious professional failure," CTK reported. Ruzek was previously head of the military counter-intelligence. In other news, NATO sources in Brussels on 16 June welcomed the Chamber of Deputies' decision to send to Kosova a 800-strong battalion, but said that the alliance is counting for now only on the 150-strong reconnaissance company the Czech Republic originally offered for KFOR.

FORMER SLOVAK COUNTER-INTELLIGENCE CHIEF IN HOSPITAL

Ivan Lexa, the former chief of the Slovak Counter-Intelligence Service, who is in custody on charges of participating in the abduction of former president Michal Kovac's son and other infringements of the law, is in hospital, where he is being treated for high blood pressure and heart problems. His lawyer, Svetozar Chabada, on 16 June dismissed information in the media that Lexa's health problems started after a former close aide, Jaroslav Svechota, testified against him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 8 June 1999). Chabada said that "two or three other witnesses," all former SIS employees, did not confirm Svechota's testimony. Lexa's lawyers claim their client's arrest infringes on the provisions of the constitution. Lexa was pardoned by former Premier Vladimir Meciar, but the amnesty was canceled by Meciar's successor, Mikulas Dzurinda. The lawyers claim the cancellation is unlawful, CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS TALKS WITH GOVERNING PARTIES

Rudolf Ziak, deputy chairman of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said on 16 June that the HZDS wants to hold talks with the governing parties. Ziak claimed that the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) and the Democratic Left Party (SDL) have indicated a willingness to do so. However, SDL spokesman Brano Ondrus told CTK that the SDL saw no reason to talk with the HZDS on questions such as "ensuring stability of ownership relations and the non- criminalization of the HZDS," as the opposition party proposed. The SDL believes these aspects must be treated in line with the provisions of the law and "no political talks can prevent the investigation of illegal activities." He also said the SDL was part of the ruling coalition and "interested in its genuine success." SOP deputy chairman Marian Mesiarik also rejected the possibility of separate talks with the HZDS. MS

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER UNHAPPY WITH DEFENSE MINISTRY

Viktor Orban on 16 June told Defense Minister Janos Szabo that he expects "a better performance" from the ministry, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Armed Forces chief of staff Ferenc Vegh has also criticized the ministry, saying that "a shadow general staff" operates there. Budapest dailies reported earlier this month that Vegh and Szabo had clashed on several occasions over Szabo's efforts to merge the general staff with the ministry. Seeing his position threatened, Vegh had reportedly turned to several ambassadors of NATO-member countries for support, who then approached the cabinet. MSZ




HAS MACEDONIA RECOGNIZED THE KOSOVAR PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT?

Hashim Thaci, who is prime minister of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK)-backed provisional government, paid an "official visit" to Skopje on 16 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. After meeting with Thaci, Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that "for the Republic of Macedonia it is of special interest that...the administration of the provisional government of Kosova of Mr. Thaci takes office as soon as possible, because this will...bring political stability to the entire region." Thaci said that each side agreed to open diplomatic "offices" in the other's capital. Both sides also pledged to jointly work for the "construction of a new Balkans, where cooperation and cohabitation will prevail." They also said that they agreed on a variety of political, economic and security questions in the framework of the planned international stability pact for the region. FS

EU PREPARES FOR TALKS WITH MACEDONIA

Officials of the European Commission said in Brussels on 16 June that the EU will soon begin talks with the Macedonian government on a stabilization and association agreement, dpa reported. A spokesman said: "In the long-term perspective, this will make Macedonia eligible for integration into European structures." Brussels will expect Skopje to show concrete progress on trade liberalization, banking reform, market access to foreign service-providers, and in other areas. EU officials added that similar talks may also begin with Albania, Bosnia- Herzegovina, and a post-Milosevic Yugoslavia. Observers note that Macedonian political figures across the spectrum have long asked for an association agreement. The crisis in Kosova has alerted Western capitals to the need to provide the countries in the region with a solid perspective for integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. PM

SERBIAN TANKS FIRE ON KOSOVAR VILLAGES

A NATO spokesman said in Prishtina on 17 June that 11 Serbian T-55 tanks fired on unspecified ethnic Albanian villages north of the Kosovar capital, AFP reported. The spokesman provided no additional details. As of the morning of 17 June, the only Serbian forces allowed in Prishtina are those in transit northward along designated routes. An estimated 11,000 members of Serbian forces remain in Kosova. They are all slated to leave by 20 June. PM

REFUGEES FLOOD BACK INTO KOSOVA

A UNHCR spokeswoman said in Geneva on 17 June that about 26,000 refugees have returned to Kosova since the weekend, AP reported. She warned that the security situation remains precarious, adding: "we are not going to organize returns at least until the Yugoslav withdrawal...and the deployment of KFOR is complete." The spokeswoman acknowledged that "it's of course a very difficult situation for us because people are voting with their feet." At the Albanian border crossing of Morina an estimated 15,000 people crossed on 16 June, while about 3,000 crossed into Kosova from Macedonia. Red Cross officials in Geneva reported 20 incidents involving land mines so far, but gave no casualty figures. Aid agencies handed out supplies to returning refugees. UCK soldiers registered returnees at Morina, while UNHCR officials did the same on the Macedonian border, Reuters reported. FS

NATO FINDS SERBIAN 'TORTURE CHAMBER' IN PRISHTINA

British peacekeepers cordoned off a police station in the Kosovar capital on 17 June after finding "strong evidence of the systematic torture of prisoners by [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's police in a cellar," Reuters reported. Elsewhere, foreign journalists and KFOR troops across Kosova continue to find evidence of Serbian war crimes. The BBC reported one case of a single policeman allegedly killing 52 ethnic Albanians near Prishtina in April by throwing a grenade into a room and firing at those trying to escape. Other reports suggest that Serbian forces recently burned large numbers of corpses at a steel plant in Gllogovc to hide evidence of mass killings. Western experts have concluded that the extent of atrocities may be much worse than previously thought, the BBC added. "The Guardian" reports at least 15 sites of massacres. The Vienna-based daily "Die Presse" wrote: "Every day brings new horrors." PM

SERBIAN PATRIARCH TO MOVE TO KOSOVA

Patriarch Pavle said in a radio broadcast on 17 June that he will move to the historic Serbian Orthodox center of Peja and appealed to Serbs in Kosova not to leave. "I, as your patriarch, am coming to the seat of the Patriarchate of Pec, to my first and main seat, and am intending to stay with you for a long time--with my spiritual children and all well-intentioned people living there." Pavle added that he will "invest all efforts" to improve the situation of the Serbs in the province. "I will ask for the same to be offered to all other inhabitants of the province, irrespective of their religion and ethnicity," Pavle said. Appealing to local Serbs, he concluded: "I am sending out this fatherly appeal to all of you, brothers and sisters living and suffering [in Kosova] not to leave your centuries-old homes and sacred things." PM

JACKSON URGES SERBS TO STAY

Local Serbs continue on 17 June to leave Kosova. Aid agencies put the figure of those who have done so in recent days at over 16,000. British General Sir Mike Jackson, who is NATO's senior commander in Kosova, appealed to remaining Serbs on 16 June: "We believe the world has too many refugees already. I beg you not to make the number any greater. Stay at home and we will look after you. ...Soon I hope that high emotions will come down and together we may all build a better life," he concluded. A spokesman for local Serbs told the BBC that Jackson's remarks were "perfect" but stressed that the Serbs want him to back up his words with actions. PM

RUSSIA PROTESTS OVER UCK BEHAVIOR...

Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov told Reuters in New York on 16 June: "We are concerned by the media reports that, as Serbs withdraw according to schedule and to everybody's satisfaction, the [UCK] moves in and takes positions and refuses to demilitarize. [In essence the guerrillas make] statements publicly that they would be running the area and not anybody else." He added that KFOR "just watches the [UCK] behave in that manner, which is contrary to [the] Security Council resolution.... Something must be done about it." FS

...WHILE UCK LINKS DISARMAMENT TO QUESTION OF RUSSIA'S ROLE

Pleurat Sejdiu, who is the UCK's London representative, told Reuters on 16 June that the UCK will not accept a partition of Kosova. He stressed that "if the Russians try to [set up] a larger [Russian] zone, sending 7,000 or 9,000 troops, then we can come to a situation to which we have to react militarily." Sejdiu said that in northern Kosova the UCK "will not disarm unless the Russian troops are under the joint command--a joint NATO command or a joint UN command." He also stressed that "if need be we will transfer our troops from the south." Sejdiu added that the UCK will transform itself into a "security force" after the Russians join a unified KFOR command. He did not elaborate. (See related items in Part I.) FS

U.S. MARINES DISARM UCK FIGHTERS

An unspecified number of U.S. Marines took weapons from about 200 UCK fighters in the village of Zegra on 16 June, AP reported. The marines also arrested six UCK leaders who refused to surrender their arms. Captain David Eiland said that "we are enforcing peace in Kosova and the mandate says all personnel will be disarmed. ...We draw no lines. We treat everyone the same, regardless if it's [UCK], if it's Albanian, if it's Serbian, it does not matter to us." Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary George Robertson said in London that "there may well have to be a formal agreement with the UCK so that they demilitarize." He added that some UCK commanders said that they will disarm once the last Serbian troops have left Kosova. He stressed that "we expect them to keep their word." FS

WHAT IS GOING ON IN SANDZAK?

Recently arrived ethnic Muslim refugees from Sandzak told the "Wall Street Journal" of 17 June in Sarajevo that "the Serbian military has been more visible in...Sandzak in recent weeks" and that "the situation is very tense." There have not, however, been any reports of systematic expulsions. Sandzak forms a land bridge linking Bosnia and Kosova and is divided administratively between Serbia and Montenegro. It has a slight Muslim majority. The region is known to students of European history as the Sandzak of Novi Pazar. PM

SESELJ ORDERED TO STAY IN GOVERNMENT

Serbian President Milan Milutinovic has invoked his powers under the legal state-of- war that is still in force in Serbia to prohibit any ministers from leaving the government. He stressed that continuity is important at the present time and that all top officials must be at their posts, "Danas" reported on 17 June. Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj and 14 other ministers from the Radical Party recently resigned to protest Milosevic's agreement with NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). PM

OSCE CLOSES BAJRAM CURRI OFFICE AFTER MURDER

The OSCE closed its office in the Albanian town of Bajram Curri on 16 June after unidentified gunmen killed a driver and a technical contractor there the previous day. It was the latest in a series of armed incidents involving the OSCE since it opened its office in the northern town in 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1999). Bajram Curri is notorious for banditry. The Tirana OSCE office issued a statement saying that "this latest incident. ...demonstrates that the situation is no longer tenable." FS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION, OPEN 'DIALOGUE'

Prime Minister Radu Vasile and several members of his cabinet on 16 June began a planned series of "dialogues" with parliamentary opposition parties, meeting a delegation of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) headed by PDSR First Vice Chairman Adrian Nastase, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Among the issues discussed were pending legislative debates on land ownership, the reform of the military, relations with international financing institutions, and foreign policy. The PDSR delegation told Vasile it has renounced its intention to submit to the parliament two motions against the government but demanded that early elections be called. In reply, Vasile said he is not empowered to discuss this issue, which must be raised at the level of the coalition leadership. MS

IMF APPROVAL OF STANDBY AGREEMENT WITH ROMANIA LIKELY TO BE POSTPONED

The IMF's chief negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zevourdakis, discussed with Vasile on 16 June the implementation of the obligations undertaken by Romania in its "letter of intention" to the IMF. The chief contentious issues are the fund's opposition to the intention to grant tax breaks to "strategic" foreign investors, the restructuring of the debt-burdened Bancorex and the securement of loans from private international creditors for the purpose of servicing the foreign debt. The fund conditions its granting of the agreed $475 million standby loan on such securement. National Bank Governor Mugur Izarescu said that the IMF's board might postpone approval of the loan till early July. Transportation Minister Traian Basescu, who heads the Romanian team for the negotiations, said the World Bank will postpone delivering the first installment of an agreed $325 million loan until an agreement is reached with the IMF. MS

ROMANIAN TEACHERS STRIKE ABOUT TO END?

Three out of the four trade unions representing teachers on 16 June announced they will accept the agreement reached with the government and end the labor sanctions provided the cabinet approves the agreement at its meeting on 16 June, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Also on 16 June, the Judicial Commission of the Romanian Senate recommended that the house lift Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor's parliamentary immunity for a further seven charges of insult and calumny. Tudor refused to attend the committee's meeting. Finally, the PRM, the Party of Romanian National Unity, and the Alliance for Romania Party said on 16 June that they will challenge the constitutionality of the amended education law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1999) before the Constitutional Court. On the other hand, visiting OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, who met Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, praised the amended law. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER REVIEWS RECORD

In an interview with Infotag on 16 June, Prime Minister Ion Sturza said European integration "must become our national ideal." He said that the parliament must bring Moldovan legislation "in harmony" with that of EU countries and added that in 1993-94 the legislation process has been "too American-style, and we are now suffering from that." Sturza, who marked 100 days since the inauguration of his cabinet, avoided saying whether he supports President Petru Lucinschi's initiative to change the parliamentary system into a presidential one. He said that the most difficult problem faced by the government is that of servicing the country's internal and external debt. Sturza said he believes economic performance will be less bleak in 1999 than expected, but forecast a decline of 10-12 percent in GDP. He said many people "dream about the government's collapse" but few want to assume responsibility. MS

MOLDOVA, U.S. SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Jeff Starr, counselor to the U.S. deputy defense minister, and Moldovan Defense Minster Boris Gamurari signed a military cooperation agreement in Chisinau on 16 June, Flux reported. Under the agreement's provisions, the U.S. will continue helping Moldova reform its military, set up a peacekeeping battalion, and improve the security of its borders. The agreement also stipulates that Moldova will continue to participate in the Partnership for Peace program and will receive U.S. aid for this purpose. On the same day, Lucinschi discussed with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Isakov the removal of Russian military equipment from the Transdniester. MS

BULGARIA DENIES AUTHORIZING RUSSIAN OVERFLIGHTS

The Foreign Ministry on 16 June denied an Interfax report that Bulgaria has agreed to a Russian request for an air corridor for overflights to Kosova, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said the Bulgarian position on allowing those flights has not changed, and that Sofia is ready to approve the overflights only after NATO and Russia reach agreement on the unified KFOR command in Kosova. Bulgarian radio said the ministry has received a "note" from the Russian embassy requesting the overflights of planes carrying food and medicine for troops at the Prishtina airport. According to the report, Bulgaria's position on the overflights has been "coordinated" with Hungary and Romania. MS




Obstacles To Party Loyalty In The East


By Paul Goble

Relatively few people in post-Soviet countries have developed much loyalty to the new political parties. This state of affairs has raised concerns about the prospects for representative democracy in this region--despite the slow development in the West of party loyalty in the past and recent declines in party loyalty there.

Most discussions about the absence of party loyalty in the post-Soviet countries have focused on the unwillingness of people to commit to a particular party because of their experiences with the single Communist Party in the past. Those discussions have focused on the lack in these countries of the kind of clear-cut social and economic cleavage lines on which parties and party loyalty normally rest.

But two recent studies of the development of political parties in Estonia point to a third factor that in the short run, at least, may prove to be even more important: the absence of loyalty to any particular party by members of the political elite and their willingness to hop from one party to another in the elusive pursuit of votes and power.

In his book, "Parties and Democracy in the Post-Soviet Republics: The Case of Estonia," David Arter traces the remarkable career path of Tiit Made, a former communist who founded the Green Movement but refused to join any of the Green parties. After that, Arter wrote, Made shifted to the left-wing Democratic Labor Party, only to jump to the rightist Entrepreneurial Party before leaving that to chair the Center Party.

And Made, who has jumped yet again since Arter's book was published--the Estonian politician has now founded a new Development Party--is not alone. As American social scientist Rein Taagepera points out in the current issue of "Party Politics," many other Estonian politicians have done the same.

He points out that in the 1995 parliamentary elections, 44 of the 101 incumbents were re-elected, but 16 of these-- more than one-third in all--had run and won under a new and different party label. And that has led Taagepera to ask: "How on earth could voters develop any party loyalty before the politicians themselves do?"

But in asking this question, Taagepera raises three broader issues that most of those discussing this "problem" in post-communist countries generally ignore. First, Taagepera notes, those who bemoan the absence of party loyalty in the post-Soviet states forget just how long it took Western countries to develop modern political parties.

In Scandinavia, he argues, it took "half a century to proceed from the first proto-parties of the mid-1800s to constellations that could be called party systems, without utterly diluting the meaning of the term 'system.'" Estonia and her neighbors have moved far more quickly, even if they do not yet have the kind of parties and party loyalties typical of western and northern Europe.

Second, Taagepera suggests that most studies of party development in post-Soviet countries ignore just what the Soviet system did to atomize the population, destroying the kind of social and economic integuments that bind people together for collective action of the kind political parties represent.

He acknowledges that Estonia, like other countries "where democracy existed before an authoritarian or totalitarian interlude," has done better than those countries lacking such a foundation. But he pointedly notes that "the atomization of society and economy under Soviet rule was far more severe than in Spain under Franco or even the communist regimes in Central Europe."

And third, Taagepera argues that the "central assumption democracy without parties is unthinkable," may not be true or at least not true in the way its supporters claim. Not only does it ignore that party loyalty is declining rapidly in most Western countries, but it fails to take into account the new media environment that allow politicians to advance themselves without the support of the party apparatus.

Indeed, Taagepera says, "if dealignment is real in the West (partly because TV stresses personalities and displaces the parties from their information-providing role), then Estonia could actually be seen as taking a shortcut into the Western future" rather than moving off in ways that preclude a democratic outcome.

Almost certainly parties, party loyalty, and party development will affect further development of the post- communist countries. But Arter's findings and Taagepera's arguments suggest that their role may be far more complicated and differentiated than some both there and in the West have assumed.

And that in turn suggests that those monitoring the development of democracy need to take into account a variety of factors--including the loyalty of politicians to parties-- before decrying the absence of party loyalty by the population at large.


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