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Newsline - June 29, 1999




YELTSIN TAKING UP OLD HABITS?

President Boris Yeltsin on 29 June announced that he is unsatisfied with the way the Justice Ministry is checking whether certain public organizations and political parties, such as the Communist Party (KPRF), are complying with Russian laws. He called on the ministry to redouble its efforts. Yeltsin said he has still not received information that he requested about possible violations by the KPRF of the constitution, Interfax reported. Earlier this month, "Segodnya" reported that Yeltsin had drawn up a decree calling for the removal of the corpse of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin from Red Square, which prompted an angry reaction from KPRF leaders. That report has not yet been verified, however. On 29 June, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported that Yeltsin has been filmed for the first time in recent months with a glass in his hand, toasting Russia's "excellent campaign in Kosovo and Yugoslavia." The daily noted that it is unclear what the president was drinking. JAC

IMF MISSION TO ENCOUNTER NEW PROPOSALS FROM AKSENENKO...

As IMF officials begin in Moscow on 29 June their review of the government's economic program, they may discover major discrepancies between various documents describing government policy. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 June, one document recommends the creation of an investment stabilization fund and cartel agreements on freezing prices. While the latter idea has already been implemented in the form of a pact between energy, rail enterprises, and the government, the former is still unknown to fund officials, according to the newspaper. Under the program, which was championed by First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, the government takes 2 percent of enterprises' revenue and then reinvests the money. On 28 June, Aksenenko pledged to review options for resuming construction of a tunnel between the Russian mainland and the island of Sakhalin. Earlier, Aksenenko had promised funding for the new mining and processing enterprises along the Baikal-Amur railway (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1999). JAC

...AND ADAMOV

Meanwhile, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov has his own proposal, which, in his words, "is better than borrowing money from the IMF." Adamov told reporters on 28 June that his ministry wants to get permission to process and bury nuclear waste from all countries--not just those whose nuclear power plants Russia helped build. JAC

U.S. SLAMS NEW INSURANCE LAW...

The U.S. State Department and U.S.-Russia Business Council (USRBC) have criticized the insurance legislation recently passed by Federation Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). State Department spokesman James Rubin called the bill "contrary to Russia's goal of revitalizing its economy and attracting foreign investment," according to AP. Eugene Lawson, USRBC president, noted that the law will put several prominent U.S. and European firms out of business "in an important segment of the insurance industry, literally confiscating assets they have already invested in the Russian economy." However, Deputy Economics Minister Mukhamed Tsikanov denied that the law entails "any restrictive or confiscatory consequences," although he admitted that participants in the insurance market might pick up some negative signals from the law, according to ITAR-TASS. International insurance companies had considered Russia a large untapped market, with the majority of businesses and individuals underinsured compared with their Western counterparts. JAC

...AS MORE FOOD AID IN THE OFFING?

Agriculture Minister Vladimir Shcherbak announced on 25 June that Russia has asked the U.S. for more donations of animal feed, which it will then sell and use the proceeds for investments in agriculture, Reuters reported. However, Shcherbak emphasized that Russia will ask for food aid "only if other measures prove unsuccessful." Duma Agrarian Affairs Committee Chairman Aleksei Chernyshev was more pessimistic, predicting that this year's grain harvest will be between 50-55 million tons and that the shortfall will have to be made up with imports of humanitarian food aid, ITAR-TASS reported. "Izvestiya" noted on 29 June that Russian experts' most optimistic prognosis for this year's grain harvest is 70 million tons, but the newspaper asserted that 60 million tons is more realistic. Russia harvested 47.8 million tons last year, which was the worst yield in 40 years. JAC

ELECTION COMMISSION TO REDRAW SOME DISTRICTS

Following President Yeltsin's signing of the new State Duma election bill into law, the Central Election Commission will begin work on a scheme of single-mandate constituencies, according to commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 28 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). Veshnyakov told reporters that the total number of constituencies will remain the same but that they may be increased in some areas, such as the Republic of Dagestan and Krasnodar Krai, and decreased in others, such as Chita and Murmansk Oblasts. JAC

MORE COAL MINES SLATED FOR CLOSURE

The Russian government is seeking to complete by 5 July its 1999 program for the coal industry in preparation for coal-sector loan talks with the World Bank, Interfax reported on 28 June. In the meantime, the government has decided to increase the number of coal mines slated for closure from 46 to 60, as the World Bank had earlier requested, but those additional closures will require more funds, according to Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii. Kalyuzhnii noted that strike actions in the sector have significantly decreased but that some politicians are trying to play the coal card in the run-up to parliamentary elections. A coal miners' congress on 10 July could destabilize the situation in the industry, he noted. First Deputy Prime Minister Aksenenko was named chairman of the interdepartmental commission on social problems of coal-mining regions. JAC

LIVSHITS IS BACK

President Yeltsin on 28 June appointed Aleksander Livshits chairman of the interagency commission for G-8 issues, giving him the rank of minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Livshits is a former finance minister, former deputy head of the presidential administration, and former presidential adviser on economics. Livshits told reporters that he will focus on implementing decisions reached at recent G-8 meeting in Cologne and oversee economic and trade relations with G-7 countries. He stressed that he will not replace the Finance Ministry in its negotiations with the Paris and London Clubs of creditors. JAC

RUSSIAN OFFICERS ARRIVE AT NATO HEADQUARTERS

A group of Russian officers arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 28 June to work out details of Russia's participation in the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR), ITAR-TASS reported. The delegation is led by Vice Admiral Valentin Kuznetsov, who is deputy chief of the department for international military cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry. Unnamed NATO officials told ITAR-TASS that they hope the arrival of the officers signals a resumption of cooperation between Russia and NATO, which Russia curtailed when NATO started bombing Yugoslavia on 24 March. Kuznetsov, however, said the arrival of the officers does not mark a return to the level of "interaction and confidence" that followed the signing of the May 1997 Russian-NATO Founding Act. He stressed that cooperation will be limited to the KFOR mission, during which Russian generals and officers will work at NATO's military command near Mons, Belgium. FS

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES LOSE COURT APPEAL

A Moscow court on 28 June rejected an appeal by the Jehovah's Witnesses challenging an earlier court decision to create a panel of experts to study their literature and recommend whether they should be banned, AP reported. A Moscow city prosecutor has been seeking to ban the group from the city under a 1997 controversial law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). According to the agency, the religious group says that the court's panel lacks the qualifications to decide the matter and that numerous materials on and studies of the group by authoritative researchers already exist. JAC

ELEVEN INJURED IN NORTH CAUCASUS EXPLOSION

Eleven people were injured, four of them seriously, when an anti-personnel mine exploded outside a railway storage facility in the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz, on 28 June, Interfax reported. Sappers defused another three mines found in the vicinity. Commenting on the explosion, North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov said that such incidents should not delay the planned meeting between Russian President Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Caucasus Press reported on 29 June. Dzasokhov said that the meeting "will certainly contribute" to stability in the North Caucasus. Some 60 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a bomb exploded in the Vladikavkaz central market on 19 March. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT FIRES FOREIGN MINISTER

Maskhadov issued a decree on 28 June dismissing Akhyad Idigov as foreign minister and appointing Ilyas Akhmadov to take over that post, Interfax reported. Idigov had replaced Movladi Udugov as foreign minister last fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1998). The agency quoted presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev as saying that the Foreign Ministry has proved "useless" during the past 18 months. Vachagaev characterized Akhmadov, who headed Maskhadov's press service during the 1994-1996 war and then served as army chief of staff, as "the only professional political analyst in Chechnya." LF




WAS NAGORNO-KARABAKH PRESIDENT BUGGED?

A senior official within the administration of Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent at the weekend that Ghukasian informed cabinet members on 24 June, before signing a decree dismissing Prime Minister Zhirayr Poghosian, that a surveillance device had been discovered in his office. It is unclear, however, whether that discovery was the primary reason for the firing of Poghosian, who has refused to comment on Ghukasian's allegations. According to unconfirmed reports from Stepanakert, a local electronics engineer who planted the bug is being held in custody in Yerevan. The Armenian National Security Ministry has denied any involvement in the incident. LF

AZERBAIJAN POPULAR FRONT PROTESTS INSULTS TO JOURNALISTS

The opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front has released a statement condemning abusive and insulting remarks addressed to journalists by parliamentary deputy Jalal Aliyev during a 25 June debate on the new draft law on the media, Turan reported on 28 June. Aliev, whose younger brother Heidar is Azerbaijan's president, reportedly argued that the new law should put an end to "immorality and callousness" in the press. He also accused unnamed media outlets of "betrayal" and seeking to undermine Azerbaijan's statehood. He referred to women journalists working for independent newspapers as "prostitutes" and their male colleagues as "rogues," RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Also on 25 June, Reporters Sans Frontieres wrote to Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov to protest the beating by two policemen in Baku on 19 June of Elman Maliev, a journalist with the independent newspaper "Hurriyet." LF

FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES DETAINED IN AZERBAIJAN...

Ashraf Mehtiev, chairman of the Geyrat Party and of the Association of Victims of Political Repression, was forcibly taken to the Baku City Prosecutor's office on 28 June but later released, Turan reported. Criminal proceedings have been brought against Mehtiev, who according to official results polled less than 1 percent of the vote in the October 1998 presidential elections, for insulting the honor and dignity of President Aliyev in his election campaign speeches. LF

...AND GEORGIA

In Tbilisi, Kartlos Gharibashvili, chairman of the Independent Lawyers' Association, said on 28 June that he will file charges for unlawful arrest against local police officials who arrested him on 25 June for hooliganism in connection with an incident in mid-April when his car collided with a bus, Caucasus Press reported. Gharibashvili was held in detention for 50 hours, then brought before a judge who dismissed the case after a 15-hour hearing. Gharibashvili attributed his arrest to his willingness to defend Temur Papuashvili, who is accused of planning a coup against the Georgian leadership. Gharibashvili ran for president in 1995 but polled only 0.4 percent of the vote. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEES GREATER EU ROLE IN SOUTH CAUCASUS

In his regular Monday radio broadcast on 28 June, Eduard Shevardnadze said the EU could play a key role in helping to resolve conflicts in the South Caucasus and in providing funds for the reconstruction of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the EU will shortly receive 13 million Euros ($12 million)from the EU for agricultural development and another 7 million Euros for the construction of a fiber-optics communication line through the South Caucasus. LF

GEORGIA TO MONITOR TURKISH SHIPPING

Shevardnadze also said on 28 June that Tbilisi has reached agreement with the Turkish government that all Turkish ships bound for the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia must first undergo customs clearance in the Georgian port of Poti, Caucasus Press reported. Only ships carrying humanitarian aid will be permitted to proceed to Abkhaz ports, Shevardnadze said. Georgian coastguards intercepted a Turkish vessel on 26 June for illegally entering Georgian territorial waters. LF

U.S., NATO CONDUCT TRAINING COURSES IN KAZAKHSTAN, UZBEKISTAN

NATO and the Uzbek Defense Ministry began joint training courses on 28 June for civilian agencies engaged in coping with emergency situations, Interfax reported. The following day, a U.S.-Kazakh seminar on defense planning begins in Astana. Participants will compare the two countries' approaches to identifying possible threats and risks in creating a national security strategy, Interfax reported, quoting a Kazakh Defense Ministry official. They will also draft proposals for Kazakhstan's defense budget. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

Imomali Rakhmonov gave "overall approval" on 28 June to amendments to the Tajik Constitution demanded by the United Tajik Opposition within the framework of the 1997 peace agreement, ITAR-TASS reported. Those amendments will be considered at an emergency parliamentary session on 30 June. No details of the proposals were given. The opposition had earlier demanded the removal from the constitution of an article pledging construction of a secular Tajik state, and the introduction of a bicameral parliament, according to "Vremya-MN" on 22 April. Rakhmonov had rejected the latter proposal on the grounds that it would cost the state budget $25 million. LF

UZBEK COURT HANDS DOWN DEATH SENTENCES FOR BOMBINGS

Uzbekistan's Supreme Court sentenced six men to death on 28 June for their role in the 16 February bombings in Tashkent that killed 16 people. Eight more defendants received prison sentences of 20 years, while another eight were sentenced to terms ranging from 10 to 18 years. All those accused pleaded wholly or partially guilty to the charges of terrorism, murder, and attempting to kill President Islam Karimov. In addition to admitting responsibility for the February bombings, some of those accused also admitted to murders committed earlier in the cities of Andizhan and Namangan, according to ITAR-TASS. AFP quoted human rights activists as saying that since the trial opened on 2 June, hundreds of people who sympathized with the defendants have been arrested for handing out leaflets in Tashkent. LF




NO MONEY TO PAY WAGES IN BELARUS?

Addressing the National Assembly last week, Finance Minister Mikalay Korbut said his ministry is unable either to pay wages or finance the purchase of medicines, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 28 June. Former Labor Minister Alyaksandr Sasnou told RFE/RL that Korbut's statement may mean a change in the ongoing practice of extensive money emissions whenever the government faces financial difficulties. Sasnou suggested that the country's main proponent of such emissions, National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich, may have recently fallen from grace with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Prakapovich told the National Assembly the same day that owing to a lack of foreign credits, the bank issued 50 trillion Belarusian rubles (some $200 million) in the first half of 1999 "to ensure economic growth." JM

MAHILEU RESIDENTS HELP IN HAY-MAKING

Following the example of the Brest Oblast administration, the Mahileu City Executive Committee has issued a directive ordering all enterprises in the city to help in this year's hay-making. As in Brest, the minimum required output is 200 kilograms of hay per capita. According to RFE/RL's correspondent in Mahileu, city residents are participating in hay-making for fear of losing their jobs. However, the correspondent noted, farm managers in Mahileu Oblast need money rather than a new labor force or equipment. Workers at some collective farms in the region have not been paid since February. "Peasants openly admit that they go to work on collective farms only to steal something for their own farmsteads, from which they feed their families," the correspondent reported. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT LAMBASTES PARLIAMENT FOR POPULISM

Leonid Kuchma said on national television on 28 June that the Supreme Council "is turning into an instrument of political fighting in which open demagoguery and populism have become usual tricks," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that this trend has become particularly evident since the onset of the presidential election campaign. Speaking on the third anniversary of the adoption of the Ukrainian Constitution, Kuchma noted that most problems in Ukraine arise from the "improper implementation" of the basic law. He gave himself credit for issuing economic decrees over the past three years to address economic problems not covered by laws. The 120 decrees or so that he signed have helped "to soften the blow delivered by the world financial crisis to the country's economy and create the basis for its steady economic growth," he argued. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS RALLY TO DEMAND WAGE PAYMENT, KUCHMA'S OUSTER

Only some 1,000 communist supporters gathered in Kyiv on 28 June (Constitution Day) to demand the payment of pension and wage arrears and the resignation of the incumbent president. It had been expected that as many as 15,000 would take part in the rally. One of the placards at the protest read "Kuchma, the guarantor of genocide," a taunting reference to the constitutional provision pronouncing the president "the guarantor of the constitution." JM

ESTONIAN AUSTERITY BUDGET PASSES

The Estonian parliament on 28 June finally passed the 1 billion kroon ($67 million) negative supplementary budget in its third and final reading. The vote, which fell along political lines, was 53 to 41. While the opposition proposed 46 amendments, the government had already earmarked extra money to agriculture and cut funds for the construction of government buildings. However, the opposition did not resume the delaying tactic it had used during the second reading, whereby it called for a 10-minute recess after the nearly 600 amendments it had introduced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). But it did manage to end the session before the debate on accession to the WTO could get under way, "Postimees" reported. MH

ESTONIAN OFFICER FOUND GUILTY IN KURKSE ACCIDENT

A Harju county court on 28 June found Lieutenant Jaanus Karm negligent in the deaths of 14 soldiers during a training exercise in Kurkse in 1997. Following an emotional trial, the court sentenced Karm to four-and-a-half years in prison for exceeding his authority and failing to heed orders from his superiors on the exercise in question. ETA reported that Karm's lawyers intend to appeal the verdict. Many of the families of the victims expressed disapproval of the harsh sentence and plan to send a protest letter to President Lennart Meri, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. MH

REGIONAL LEADERS GATHER IN RIGA

Presidents Lennart Meri (Estonia), Valdas Adamkus (Lithuania), and Aleksander Kwasniewski (Poland) were in Latvia on 28 June to meet with outgoing Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis and President-elect Vaira Vike-Freiberga. The meeting of the four current presidents focused on EU and NATO enlargement, as well as on Kosova. The presidents called for Latvia and Lithuania to join Estonia and Poland in the "fast-track" group for EU enlargement in order to "consolidate the power of the northern wing of the European Union," ETA quoted Adamkus as saying. The three visiting presidents also praised Ulmanis for his work toward Baltic cooperation. President-elect Vike- Freiberga also held separate meetings with each of the three visiting presidents. MH

POLISH COAL-MINING SECTOR PLUNGES DEEPER INTO RED

Deputy Economy Minister Jan Szlazak said on 28 June that from January-May 1999, Poland's coal-mining sector chalked up losses of some 900 million zlotys ($230 million), PAP reported. The total debt of Polish coal mines amounted to 17.6 billion zlotys at the end of May. The main reasons for this year's poor results were declining demand and falling prices for coal. Szlazak added that some 30,000 miners will leave the sector this year, two-thirds of whom will take advantage of benefits offered under a special social package. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS CSSD POSITION ON ELECTORAL LAW 'UNACCEPTABLE'

Ivan Langer, deputy chairman of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), told "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 28 June that the position of the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) on amending the electoral law is "unacceptable" to the ODS. Langer said that his party cannot agree to amending the law only next year, as demanded by the CSSD. He said that unless a compromise is found there could be "serious discussions" in his party about maintaining its agreement with the CSSD that allows the latter to rule as a minority government. Premier Milos Zeman responded that he "firmly believes" the CSSD position is in line with the agreement between the two parties and does not threaten it. MS

ZEMAN CRITICIZES HAVEL FOR KOSOVA VISIT

Zeman told journalists on 28 June that Havel should not have visited Kosova without an official invitation from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, CTK reported. Zeman said that the UN Security Council, the G-8, and other international organizations all consider Kosova to be an integral part of Yugoslavia. "An invitation from a head of state is necessary to visit any part of any country," he argued (see also below). MS

SLOVAK ROMA SEEK ASYLUM IN FINLAND

More than 300 Slovak Roma have arrived in Finland over the last four days to request political asylum there, CTK, reported on 28 June, citing the Finnish FNB/STT agency. The asylum-seekers arrived by air via Budapest and Prague. They were directed to a refugee camp. The Finnish authorities have not yet started investigating the requests. MS




SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO HOLD RALLY

Vladan Batic, who is a leading official of the Alliance for Change coalition of opposition groups, said in Belgrade on 28 June that the opposition will stage a rally in Cacak the following afternoon. Participants in the rally will demand the immediate resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and "early, free, and fair elections," Batic added. He stressed that if Milosevic does not call early elections under OSCE supervision, the alliance will do so itself and form a parallel government, "Danas" reported. Dragan Milovanovic, who heads Serbia's only independent labor union, said that members of his union will join the protest in Cacak. He added that workers will "no longer work for peanuts, nor will they help rebuild the country for free," Reuters reported. The alliance expects at least 10,000 people to attend the rally, "The Daily Telegraph" reported. PM

UCK ABIDES BY DEMILITARIZATION PLAN

A KFOR spokesman told Reuters in Prishtina on 29 June that Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) forces have met the deadline, which was midnight the previous day, for establishing sites where they will turn in their weapons and for "gathering" in designated "assembly areas." Outside these areas, UCK soldiers are not allowed to wear uniforms or carry arms under the demilitarization plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 1999). The fighters may keep only pistols and non-automatic hunting rifles in remote rural areas. The KFOR spokesman added that "we have every reason to believe that the UCK is in compliance" with the plan. He had no details on how many weapons the UCK has turned in, nor did he give an exact number of storage sites and assembly areas. He did say, however, that there are approximately 10 storage sites and five assembly areas in the British-patrolled sector alone. FS

CALL FOR PROTECTION OF SERBS IN KOSOVA

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle, Archbishop Artemije, and Kosova Serbian leader Momcilo Trajkovic recently sent an open letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and several Western leaders urging that KFOR better protect Serbs in Kosova, AP reported on 28 June. The letter noted: "It is hard to understand how it is possible that in spite of the presence of at least 20,000 members of KFOR, the worst crimes ever are taking place [against local Serbs]." The three Serbian leaders added that "it is necessary that [ethnic] Albanian leaders understand that those who are responsible for the crimes against Serbs will be treated in the same manner as those who are responsible for crimes" against Kosovars. The three stressed that the "Serbian community is ready to cooperate [with the international community]...only if the basic security is secured." If it is not, the letter continued, the Serbs will have to provide their own security. PM

COOK APPEALS TO SERBS

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in a statement to the Serbian media on 28 June that Milosevic is chiefly responsible for Serbia's problems and "is nearing the end of the road." Milosevic has a "record of sustained, unrelenting failure. The human cost of this appalling decade [of his rule] can scarcely be calculated." Cook added that "the Yugoslav economy is in ruins, Milosevic's friends and family have stolen or appropriated millions of dollars for their own selfish purposes." The Serbs should now replace Milosevic and "rejoin the European high road to peace and prosperity." PM

ALBRIGHT OPTIMISTIC ON KOSOVA

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told a meeting of the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on 28 June that "by meeting massive ethnic cleansing in the Balkans with a red light, we make it less likely that NATO will be called upon to use force in the future.... Until now, independence has seemed the only alternative to repression. But in the future, Kosovars will have something they have never had, which is genuine self- government." She added: "some [people] hope, and others fear, that [Kosova] will be a precedent for similar interventions [by NATO] around the globe. I would caution against any such sweeping conclusions." PM

CURFEW INTRODUCED IN TWO MORE TOWNS

U.S. KFOR peacekeepers introduced a curfew in Gjilan and Vitina beginning 28 June in order to reduce incidents of the looting and burning of properties owned by Serbs and Roma. Italian KFOR troops had introduced such restrictions in Prizren the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). PM

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WARNS AGAINST FORCED RETURN OF REFUGEES TO KOSOVA

Amnesty International issued a statement on 29 June in New York saying that a return to Kosova is not a solution for all refugees currently in camps in Macedonia and Albania. The human rights organization urged international aid organizations to pay special attention to the needs of elderly people, women, children, disabled people, and victims of torture. The statement stressed that the refugees need information that will "allow them to make an informed choice about return and the rights to which they are entitled." It suggested that "the international community should continue to provide protection to those refugees unable to return [and supply them with] identity documents...to benefit from further protection programs." The UNHCR resettled about 380 refugees from Macedonia on 28 June and 370 the following day. Most of them were from Prishtina and Ferizaj. FS

UCK TORTURE CHAMBER FOUND?

German KFOR peacekeepers in Prizren recently found what they suspect is a torture chamber used by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 28 June. Three Roma, who told peacekeepers that the UCK tortured them, took KFOR troops to the site. In New York, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on 26 June that there is evidence that UCK members have been involved in the rapes and murders of an unspecified number of Serbs and Roma. The report added that there is not enough evidence to suggest that the UCK leadership "orchestrated" the attacks, but it called on UCK commanders to punish individual wrongdoers. PM

CALL FOR TRUTH COMMISSION

Wolfgang Ischinger, who is a Balkan expert and a state secretary at the German Foreign Ministry, said that Kosova needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the South African model, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 28 June. He stressed that the Serbs in particular must confront their recent past. PM

YUGOSLAVIA PROTESTS HAVEL'S KOSOVA VISIT

The state-run news agency Tanjug on 28 June quoted unnamed Yugoslav Foreign Ministry officials as saying that Czech President Vaclav Havel's visit to Kosova on 27 June was "unacceptable." The officials said the visit had "circumvented usual diplomatic procedure" because it was not announced in advance. They added that it constituted a "gross interference in Yugoslav internal affairs." Havel was the first head of state to visit Kosova since the deployment of KFOR. FS

YUGOSLAV ARMY DISMANTLES CHECKPOINTS

The Yugoslav army on 28 June dismantled checkpoints that it had set up several weeks ago along Montenegro's borders with Bosnia and Albania, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service from Podgorica. The move follows the federal parliament's recent decision to end the "state of war" that was in effect during NATO's bombing campaign. It is unclear why the soldiers did not dismantle checkpoints on the border with Croatia. Many Serbs opposed to the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic nonetheless believe that the legislature will soon pass laws to maintain restrictions on both the media and the political opposition that the authorities imposed under the state of war. PM

CROATIAN FARMERS' PROTEST CONTINUES

Farmers continued to block many important roads in various parts of Croatia on 29 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). A farmers' union spokesman told RFE/RL that road transportation in some parts of Croatia could soon come to a complete standstill. A meeting between union leaders and Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa on 28 June ended inconclusively. Matesa told the state-run news agency Hina that the talks will continue. PM

STRIKERS STOP CIVILIAN AIR TRAFFIC TO TIRANA

Tirana's airport ground staff went on strike on 28 June, blocking all civilian air traffic into Albania. The strikers are demanding a 50 percent wage hike. Aircraft carrying humanitarian and emergency medical aid, as well as those transporting Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, will be allowed to land at the airport, assistant air traffic controller Genc Xhunga told Reuters. FS

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY QUERIES NATO COMMANDER'S STATEMENT

First Deputy Chairman of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) Gabriel Tepelea said on 28 June that the PNTCD wants the U.S. to offer an "official explanation" for the statement attributed to NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). In that statement, Clark suggested that the 1920 Versailles Treaty agreement is "outdated." Tepelea said he finds it "hard to believe" the general made such a statement in Budapest, "the more so as U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, during her recent visit to Romania, said Romania's sovereignty and integrity could not be questioned," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER'S CANDIDACY FOR PARTY CHAIRMANSHIP QUESTIONED

Responding to Premier Radu Vasile's recent announcement that he may run for the chairmanship of the PNTCD at the next party congress, scheduled for January 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1999), PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu noted that the congress will be held shortly before the start of the electoral campaign, adding that therefore "it would be a grave situation if the party were [subject to tensions] and torn by internal conflict at that time, " RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN MINORITY LEADERS WORRIED ABOUT SPREAD OF XENOPHOBIA, ANTI-SEMITISM

In an interview with RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau on 28 June, Minority Affairs Minister Peter Eckstein-Kovacs said the recent warning by the National Minorities Council against xenophobia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1996) was prompted by nationwide dailies' biased reporting on the Romany and Hungarian ethnic minorities and anti-Semitism displayed by such weeklies as "Romania mare" and "Atac la persoana." Dorel Dorian, who represents the Jewish minority in the parliament, said that "Atac la persoana" now has local editions in several provincial towns. He also noted that the dailies "Cotidianul," "Natiunea," and "Romania libera" as welll as the private television stations Antena 1 and Tele 7 abc often adopt an anti-Semitic stance. Dorian said there may be a connection between such reporting and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the plundering of synagogues. Both politicians called on the government to prosecute those who are involved in racial incitement. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CONTINUES DRIVE TO CHANGE PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 25 June, President Petru Lucinschi said his drive to change the existing system to a presidential one is prompted by the "inefficiency" of the parliamentary system. Noting that in the last eight years Moldova has had eight cabinets, he said that each change has meant a "destructive confrontation" between the government and the parliament, Infotag reported. On 28 June, Lucinschi told journalists in Chisinau that he will soon set up a commission on amending the constitution, which he expects to come up with proposals within a month. Thereafter, he said, he will submit to the Constitutional Court a draft amendment to the basic document to issue an opinion on that proposed change. Lucinschi said that either the parliament approves the amendment by the necessary two- thirds majority or he will call a referendum on changing the constitution. MS

WORLD BANK DISBURSES MOLDOVA LOANS

The World Bank's board of directors has approved the disbursement of two tranches of a loan to Moldova aimed at promoting the privatization of the country's agricultural, industrial, and energy sectors, Flux reported on 26 June. The two tranches total $40 million. The board also approved the disbursement of a $11.1 million loan intended for social protection. In other news, the National Agency for Energy announced on 25 June that the price of gas will increase by 45.1 percent, electricity by 19 percent, and heating by 23.3 percent. The agency said that the hike, which goes into effect as of 1 July, was necessitated by the devaluation of leu by almost one-third since prices were adjusted in December 1998. MS

FIRST KFOR TROOPS TRANSIT BULGARIA

Some 200 Polish KFOR peacekeepers have arrived in Bulgaria on their way to Kosova, AP and Reuters reported on 28 June. They crossed the border at Russe, arriving by train from Romania. This was the first of several trains expected to transport the 900-strong Polish contingent, which will join the U.S. troops in southern Kosova. MS




ISOLATING SERBIA: AN EFFECTIVE APPROACH?


By Christopher Walker

In remarks directed to the Serbian people earlier this month, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced that, "as long as [Slobodan Milosevic] remains in power...we will provide no support for the reconstruction of Serbia."

The United States and key European allies reiterated this position earlier this month in Cologne, Germany, during the summit of the world's seven major economic powers and Russia. At the same time, the EU announced its intention to provide $1.5 billion over the next three years for the reconstruction of Kosova. While the prevailing sentiment among the Western powers is to isolate Belgrade, the Russians are making an effort to have Serbia included in any post- conflict reconstruction efforts.

Although the thought of providing support of any kind to Milosevic--an indicted war criminal--is anathema to the U.S. and most EU members, a decision to effectively quarantine Serbia from all but the most basic of humanitarian assistance will certainly delay the speed with which the entire Balkan region can be reconstructed.

In many ways, progress in the Balkans has been in a holding pattern since the disintegration of Yugoslavia as Milosevic has systematically attacked, destroyed, and then cast off those territorial parcels of the former Yugoslavia inhabited by ethnic Serbian minorities outside Serbia proper.

During this time the international community has been frustrated in its effort to come up with a coherent and resolute approach to the region's problems. First and foremost, Milosevic has proven a thorn in the side of the international community. A series of economic sanctions and periods of diplomatic isolation have characterized the West's policy toward Belgrade since the beginning of this decade. Although tough economic sanctions on Yugoslavia have been in place in one form or another since 1992, the diplomatic isolation of Milosevic has not been seamless.

In fact, U.S. and European policy-makers have often sent mixed messages to the world audience regarding the Serbian leader. On the one hand, they have claimed that Milosevic is the root of the problem. On the other, these same Western countries have at crucial moments over the past years embraced him--among other things to negotiate peace agreements in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia--thus conferring credibility on the very person they claim is most responsible for destabilizing the Balkans. In Kosova, Milosevic remained crucial to the cessation of hostilities, though much of the diplomatic contact with him was made through Russia once the NATO campaign began.

While the West's isolation policy has manifold drawbacks, its periodic cooperation with Milosevic has caused its own "collateral damage." Within Serbia, members of the opposition and others fighting for the establishment of civil society communicated their strong displeasure with the West's partnership with Milosevic at Dayton, arguing it undercut their efforts to bring about democratic habits at home. In a similar regard, reform-minded Croats have expressed frustrations regarding President Franjo Tudjman--a leader with weak democratic credentials--whose inclusion in the Dayton accords and largely benign treatment from the West has handicapped the democratic reform movement in Croatia.

Outside Serbia, a policy of isolation adversely affects neighboring countries, which bear the brunt of Serbia's instability. While these countries may have little affection for Milosevic, they recognize that the prolonged denial of assistance to Serbia will continue to negatively impact their own economic recovery. In recognition of this fact, at the outset the evolving Balkans' reconstruction plan is specifically directed toward "frontline" countries such as Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Romania, as well as other impacted adjacent territories, including Montenegro and, of course, Kosova.

This dynamic is not limited to Serbia and the Balkans. The same holds true for Belarus, whose neighbors--including Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland--are greatly concerned about the effects of that country's diplomatic and economic isolation on regional stability. Not surprisingly, more than any other leader in the region, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka--a kindred spirit of Milosevic--offered the Serbian leader the warmest public embrace and encouragement. The most vexing question for the international community is whether the more intense isolation of Milosevic proposed in the post-Kosova conflict period will enable democratic forces within Serbia to regroup and encourage average Serbs to get rid of their leader.

Until now, the strategy of sanctions, embargoes and isolation has in many ways played into Milosevic's hands by allowing him to deflect blame for the sorry state of the Serbian economy on the West, as well as perpetuate the notion of Serbian victimization.

By and large, each cycle of crisis during the past decade has enabled Milosevic to reconsolidate his power. Ultimately, a policy of isolation comes down to the Western leaders' calculation--and hope--that Milosevic has finally overplayed his hand, and that the grim results of the Kosova conflict and continued economic hardship in Serbia will lead to Milosevic's fall from power. If history is any guide, one should not expect his demise in the near term. The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in East European affairs (intrel@aol.com)


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