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Newsline - July 2, 1999




YELTSIN PLAYS DOWN WESTERN THREAT, WARNS OF REGIONAL CONFLICTS...

President Boris Yeltsin, speaking at a Defense Ministry meeting to review the recently completed "West 99" military exercises, said the prospect of a military campaign by the West against Russia was "from the realm of theory," AP reported on 2 July. Yeltsin said, however, that "the danger of regional conflicts exists." He added that the Kosova crisis showed how difficult international relations could be despite the end of the Cold War. Premier Sergei Stepashin, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, and the head of the armed forces' General Staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, were among those attending the meeting. PB

...WHILE WASHINGTON MINIMIZES RUSSIAN MANEUVERS INCIDENT

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen has downplayed the significance of the recent incident during the "West 99' maneuvers, in which four U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers off the coast of Iceland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). Cohen said he thinks Moscow probably wanted to learn how quickly the U.S. could respond to such an occurrence as well as prove that Russia is still a force to be dealt with. He added that the incident should not be seen as setting a dangerous trend. Cohen also announced that he will travel to Moscow later this month, noting that "it's all part of maintaining good stable relations with them," AP reported on 2 July. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Russian air force stressed its aircraft did not violate Iceland's air space during the training flights. He added that media reports asserting that the Russian bombers came "within striking distance" of the U.S. were "untruthful," according to ITAR-TASS. JC

CHUBAIS ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF BLOC FOR DUMA ELECTIONS

Anatolii Chubais, a leader of the Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) movement, said on 2 July in Salzburg, Austria, while attending the Central and East European Economic Forum that four right-of-center parties have agreed in principle to form one bloc to participate in parliamentary elections scheduled for December, ITAR-TASS reported. Chubais, also the head of Russia's Unified Energy Systems, made the announcement along with ex-Premier Sergei Kirienko, leader of the Novaya Sila (New Force) movement, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, who heads the Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) electoral bloc; and Vladimir Ryzhkov, leader of the Duma faction of the Our Home Is Russia movement. Chubais said he will act as head of the coalition's electoral headquarters. Grigorii Yavlinskii, head of Yabloko, reportedly turned down an invitation to join the group. PB

CHERNOMYRDIN URGES GOVERNMENT NOT TO INTERFERE IN GAZPROM

Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called on the government not to become involved in the running of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Chernomyrdin, who was elected chairman of the board of Gazprom earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999), made his comments on 2 July in Salzburg, where he is attending the international economic forum. The Russian government holds a minority stake of some 38 percent in the concern. Chernomyrdin said he expects the government to sell part of its holdings eventually. Refusing to comment on the Russian presidential race in 2000, he added that the pre-election campaign under way in the State Duma is interesting and could shed some light on the short-term future of the country. PB

U.S. INVESTMENT BANK UPBEAT ON RUSSIAN GROWTH

Goldman, Sachs and Co. announced a forecasted growth rate of 7.8 percent in Russia this year, Reuters reported. That estimate is considerably higher than official Moscow's predictions on growth. According to figures released in May, industrial output went up by 6.1 percent, which was the best result since September 1995, the investment bank reported. The bank said the development of industrial enterprises and companies that are benefiting from the advantageous conditions following the ruble crash in August is a major reason for the optimistic forecast. PB

YELTSIN MEETS WITH FRENCH PREMIER

President Yeltsin held talks with Lionel Jospin in Moscow on 2 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said Russia enjoys "privileged relations" with France. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov also joined in the talks, which reportedly focused on the situation in Kosova. Jospin also met with his Russian counterpart, Stepashin (see below), Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov during the remainder of his two-day visit. PB

STEPASHIN STRESSES MOSCOW WILL HONOR ALL DEBT OBLIGATIONS...

Addressing the annual Central and East European Economic Forum in Salzburg on 1 July, Prime Minister Stepashin stressed that Russia will honor all of its obligations regarding economic restructuring and debt repayment, as demanded by the IMF. He added that in this way, Moscow hopes to regain investor confidence in the country's capital markets. "Russia should not become bankrupt or a pariah at the beginning of the next millennium," he said. During his two-day visit to Austria, Stepashin met with top Austrian officials as well heads of state of several East European countries (see below and Part II). JC

...BLAMES MILOSEVIC FOR KOSOVA EVENTS

Also on I July in Salzburg, Stepashin said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "in many respects is guilty for what happened" in Kosova. However, he called on the international community to help people in both Kosova and Serbia proper. He said that "the war has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, and aid to rebuild Yugoslavia...should be unconditional." U.S. and U.K. officials have repeatedly stressed that Serbia must not receive international aid unless it hands over indicted war criminals, including Milosevic, to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. In Moscow later on 1 July, visiting French Prime Minister Jospin told Stepashin that the Russian and NATO Kosova peacekeeping contingents should "share the same philosophy" yet take into account their own specific "sensitivities" and the reactions of local people to their presence, AFP reported. FS

DID RUSSIA'S PARATROOPERS WANT TO PARTITION KOSOVA?

"Moskovskii Komsomolets" of 2 July quotes unnamed sources in the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that the arrival of 200 Russian paratroopers in Prishtina on 11 June was part of a plan by the Russian General Staff to partition Kosova. The officials told the daily that the General Staff planned the operation in cooperation with the Serbian government. The paratroopers reportedly intended to establish a bridgehead at the airport and then move an additional 3,000 to 4,000 paratroopers in by plane. These forces would then have occupied the northern area of Kosova bordering Serbia proper and declared it a Russian sector. The alleged plan failed when Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria refused to grant Russian military planes an air-corridor. FS

WHY DID NATO NOT MOVE IN?

NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on 1 July that NATO had enough advance warning to "intercept" the 200 Russian paratroopers but that unspecified political leaders "at levels above mine" decided against blocking the Russians, "The Boston Globe" reported. The daily adds that after the meeting Clark took two Senators aside and expressed his displeasure about the decision. "Moskovskii Komsomolets" of 2 July says that Russian generals have not yet given up the plan to set up a Russian sector in Kosova and are trying to delay the departure of Russian troops from Prishtina to the German, French, and U.S. sectors in the hope of gathering forces at the airfield and eventually moving north. The daily quotes Colonel-General Viktor Zavarzin, commander of the Russian peacekeepers, as arguing that the housing conditions in the respective sectors "do not suit" the Russian paratroopers. FS

RUSSIA-NATO NEGOTIATIONS 'BUSINESSLIKE'

Senior Russian Defense Ministry official Valentin Kuznetsov told ITAR- TASS in Brussels on 1 July that the atmosphere at talks between his delegation and officials at the NATO military headquarters in Mons was "favorable and businesslike," (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). Kuznetsov said that both sides agreed to strictly implement the Russian-NATO agreement on the KFOR command structure. He stressed that all KFOR troops will try to "achieve common goals...in compliance with the [18 June] Helsinki agreements and the UN Security Council resolution" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 1999). In other news, Russia's Ambassador to Yugoslavia Yurii Kotov told "Kommersant-Daily" of 1 July that "the UN [arms embargo against Yugoslavia] is still in effect, but I think a legal framework for supplying weapons will be created soon." Kotov added that Yugoslavia turned down a Russian offer to upgrade its air defense before NATO's air campaign. FS

GENERALS, ADMIRALS CONVICTED OF CORRUPTION

Russian military prosecutors said on 1 July that 17 army generals and navy admirals were found guilty of corruption in 1998, adding that the incidence of such crimes is rising, Interfax reported. The numbers were released at a conference at the Main Military Prosecutor's Office. No further details of the crimes or the officers were given. PB

LEBEDEV APPROVED AS SUPREME COURT HEAD

In a secret vote of 132 to eight with three abstentions, the upper house of the parliament approved reappointing Vyacheslav Lebedev as chairman of the Supreme Court, Interfax reported on 2 July. Lebedev was named by President Yeltsin to continue in that post after his 10-year term expires this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May and 1 July 1999). Speaking to journalists after the vote, Lebedev rejected the suggestion that his appointment by the Federation Council is related to the case of Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov. The Council earlier asked the court to decide whether President Yeltsin had the right to suspend Skuratov from office, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, without the Council's approval. JC

TRIAL OF SLAIN JOURNALIST ADJOURNED

The trial of three suspects in the murder of journalist Larisa Yudina in the southern Republic of Kalmykia opened on 1 July and shortly thereafter adjourned when the defense accused the prosecution of "legal impropriety," AP reported, citing Russian television. The defense argued that the prosecutor must be replaced because he took part in the murder investigation, including interrogations. The court responded by ordering a week-long recess. An outspoken critic of Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and a member of Yabloko, Yudina was found murdered in the regional capital, Elista, one year ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1998). JC

HEALTH OFFICIAL SAYS AIDS CASES EXPLODING

Vadim Pokrovskii, head of the Russian Research Center for the Prevention of AIDS, said on 1 July that a lack of prevention and public education in Russia has led to a surge in the number of people infected with the HIV virus, Reuters reported. Pokrovskii said there has been a 12-fold increase in the number of HIV-infected people in the Moscow area during the first six months of this year, compared with the same period in 1998. He said Russia lacks money to keep the disease from spreading, which he said most commonly passes into the heterosexual population via drug-using prostitutes. The Health Ministry said a total of almost 16,000 HIV-positive cases were registered in the country as of last month. PB

NATIONALITIES MINISTER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST CAUCASUS POLICY

Nationalities and Federal Policy Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov said on 2 July in Moscow that Russia's policy of having a large military presence in the North Caucasus should be changed because most of the region does not want independence, AP reported. Mikhailov said "this strategically flawed policy should be discontinued." He made his comments at a cabinet meeting. Mikhailov continued: "The North Caucasus is not willing to [secede] and will not do so." Mikhailov said the government should better incorporate the region into federal programs. At the same meeting, Prime Minister Stepashin warned that despite a possible policy change, Moscow would maintain its tough stance in the North Caucasus. "Russia has the ability to instill order," he said. "We have a constitution and anyone who breaches it will be prosecuted." PB




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER

Robert Kocharian met with National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian on 29 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 1 July, citing the presidential press office. The subject of their talks is not known. Manukian, who served as prime minister in Armenia's first postcommunist government in 1990-1991, had queried the legitimacy of last year's presidential poll, in which he received only 12 percent of the vote in the first round. On 30 June, "Aravot" quoted Manukian as denying that he has been offered or would be prepared to accept the post of mayor of Yerevan. LF

AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE SIGN AGREEMENTS

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk held talks in Baku on 30 June with his Azerbaijani counterpart Tofik Zulfugarov, focusing on more intensive cooperation between NATO and the GUUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), Ukrainian arms sales to Azerbaijan, and the possible export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Ukraine, Turan and Interfax reported. The following day, the two ministers signed cooperation agreements on motor transportation, sea trade, and tourism. On 1 July, Tarasyuk met with parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov and with President Heidar Aliev. Describing Ukraine as one of Azerbaijan's most important partners, Aliyev expressed support for Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's bid for re-election this fall. Aliyev also acknowledged, but declined to divulge the content of, a new Ukrainian proposal for resolving the deadlocked Karabakh conflict, according to Interfax. LF

AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST BEATING OF COLLEAGUE

Meeting in Baku on 1 July, newspaper editors and news agency heads unanimously condemned the incident on 30 June in which "Hurriyet" journalist Kamil Tagisoy (not the newspaper's deputy editor, as incorrectly reported by "RFE/RL Newsline" on 1 July) was forcibly taken from his car and beaten, Turan reported. Several political parties similarly condemned the incident, as did the head of the public- political department within the presidential administration, Ali Hasanov. A Baku district court has opened a criminal case in connection with the assault on Tagisoy. LF

SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS AGREE TO NEW SUMMIT

Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 1 July, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said that Presidents Kocharian and Aliyev have expressed support for the proposal by their Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, to hold a summit before the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. The date for that meeting has not yet been fixed, but Menagharishvili said it will "probably" be held in Tbilisi. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has written to both Kocharian and Aliyev to reaffirm the need for further progress toward implementing the agreement reached by the three Transcaucasus presidents during a meeting in Washington in April on strengthening peace and economic cooperation in the South Caucasus, Noyan Tapan and Turan reported. Albright also stressed the need to resolve the Karabakh conflict on the basis of proposals by the OSCE Minsk Group, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

GEORGIA AFFIRMS DESIRE FOR EU, NATO MEMBERSHIP

At the 1 July press conference in Tbilisi, Menagharishvili told journalists that "Georgia's goal is to completely integrate into European economic, political, and defense structures," ITAR- TASS reported. He explained that this aspiration encompasses future membership of the EU and that Georgia considers that European security structures provide a greater guarantee for the country's security than does the CIS Collective Security Treaty, in which Georgia will not renew its participation. Also on 1 July, ITAR-TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Burduli as having told "Svobodnaya Gruziya" that Georgia has requested membership in NATO. But Georgia's eligibility for inclusion in the "second wave" of NATO expansion seems dubious in the light of recent comments by a retired German general and adviser to the Georgian government that both the materiel base and the psychological atmosphere within the Georgian army has deteriorated since 1998. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISAGREE OVER MILITARY COOPERATION

Also on I July, Menagharishvili admitted that there were "differences of opinion" at the Russian-Georgian talks on military cooperation that took place in Moscow on 29-30 June, according to ITAR-TASS. He explained that Russia wanted those talks to focus on the quotas allocated to the two countries under the amended CFE treaty, whereas Georgia considers any discussion of specific figures and quotas "impossible" at the present time and advocates drafting completely new framework for bilateral cooperation. It is unclear whether the issue of closing two or more of the Russian military bases in Georgia was discussed, as originally intended. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION HUNGER-STRIKE GATHERS MOMENTUM

Inmates of three Georgian prisons have joined the hunger-strike declared last month by supporters of deceased former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Caucasus Press reported on 1 July. Some 180 people have gathered in Gamsakhurdia's family home in Tbilisi and are fasting to demand President Shevardnadze's resignation and the reinstallment of Gamsakhurdia's government. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT ASSESSES ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

Responding to questions from a RFE/RL correspondent, on 1 July President Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Salzburg, where he is attending the annual Central and East European Economic Forum, that reduced spending on social issues in the 1999 budget does not affect pensioners or state-sector employees. He also said that the campaign launched last month in Almaty Oblast to collect gold jewelry to boost the country's dwindling hard-currency reserves was not organized by the Kazakh government. Nazarbaev said he believes the worst of Kazakhstan's economic crisis is over and that the economic situation will begin to improve before the end of 1999. Nazarbaev also met in Salzburg with Russian Prime Minister Stepashin to discuss economic and trade issues, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER FEARS COMMUNIST BACKLASH

Bakyt Beshimov, chairman of the People's Party of Kyrgyzstan, whose membership he estimates at 45,000, told Interfax on 1 July that the rapidly deteriorating social and economic situation could facilitate the return to power of the Communist Party in the parliamentary elections due early next year. He said his party intends to form a "strong opposition" to the present authorities, uniting all those forces that support social democracy, democratic institutions, and a market economy, in order to prevent the return to power of the Communists, who, he said, "could lead the country into even greater deadlock." LF




BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS DISAPPOINTED WITH UNION TREATY DRAFT

On 1 July in Minsk, Belarusian and Russian legislators discussed a union treaty draft prepared by expert commissions from both countries. According to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, the Belarusian side was disappointed with the document. Mikhail Sazonau, Belarusian presidential aide, said Belarus urged Russia to introduce a union presidency and supranational bodies with extensive powers, but Russia declined the proposal. Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Valyantsin Vyalichka commented that the draft treaty stipulates the creation of a "union of two states, not a single union state." The Minsk forum also discussed holding referendums on the unification of the two countries. According to Russian lawmakers, such a referendum could be held in Russia no sooner than March 2000. Belarusian Central Electoral Commission head Lidziya Yarmoshina declared that Belarus is ready to hold a unification referendum at any time. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT AGREES TO SEND PEACEKEEPERS TO KOSOVA...

The Supreme Council on 1 July passed a resolution on Ukraine's participation in the peacekeeping operation in Yugoslavia, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the resolution, the government is obliged to submit a proposal on the issue to the president, following consultations with the UN, the Yugoslav government, and participants in the peacekeeping operation. That proposal is to include information about the responsibilities of the Ukrainian contingent, its numerical strength, and its weaponry. The resolution says Ukrainian peacekeepers cannot be under NATO command. It also stipulates that the cost of their operation is to be met "by those who unleashed the criminal war in Yugoslavia and did colossal damage to this country and its people." JM

...URGES KUCHMA TO OUST INTERIOR MINISTER, SECURITY SERVICE CHIEF...

In a non-binding resolution the same day, the Supreme Council urged the president to dismiss Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko and Security Service chief Leonid Derkach. Lawmakers approved the resolution by a vote of 250 to 19 after a parliamentary commission had accused the two officials of assisting President Leonid Kuchma in his re-election campaign. "Factory and institution chiefs, often facing the threat of dismissal, have forced their subordinates to collect signatures or sign in support of the current head of state," AP quoted commission head Oleksandr Yelyashkevych as saying. JM

...FAILS TO OVERRIDE KUCHMA'S VETO ON MINIMUM PENSION RISE

The parliament on 1 July failed to override Kuchma's veto of the bill increasing the minimum pension from 16.6 hryvni ($4.2) to 55 hryvni, which was passed in May. Kuchma argued that the Pension Fund can muster only half of the some 26 billion hryvni needed annually to finance the increase. JM

KUCHMA QUESTIONS EU STRATEGY FOR UKRAINE

At the CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE Economic Forum in Salzburg on 1 July, Leonid Kuchma criticized the EU for failing to adequately support reform in Ukraine, the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. Asked about Western assistance to Ukraine, Kuchma replied: "In fact there is none. ...Could you explain the strategy of the EU toward Ukraine? When we ask such a question, we don't understand the answer." Kuchma also complained that the EU advises him to emulate Poland's reform effort without providing "massive debt relief" to Ukraine, as it did to Poland. JM

TALLINN APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL LOAN

The Tallinn City Council on 1 July approved a supplementary budget that includes a 130 million kroons ($8.6 million) loan. The supplementary budget, passed by a 33 to 15 vote, totals 100.8 million kroons. The opposition in Tallinn, which forms the governing majority in the national parliament, accused the coalition running Tallinn of using the budget issue for the October local elections campaign. The opposition stressed that the loan may endanger Tallinn's credit rating and cause a budget crisis, BNS reported. The opposition, protesting both the budget and the privatization of Tallinn's Central Market, filed a no confidence motion in City Council Chairman Edgar Savisaar of the Center Party. "Eesti Paevaleht" reported that the motion, signed by 22 members of the opposition, needs 33 votes among the 64 council members to pass. MH

GREEK PRESIDENT VISITS LITHUANIA

Constantinos Stephanopoulos began his three-day state visit to Lithuania on 30 June. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus met with him one day later to discuss bilateral ties, Lithuania's integration into the EU and NATO, and the Kosova crisis. Bilateral economic ties featured high on the agenda. An agreement on the readmission of illegal migrants was signed by the deputy foreign ministers of both countries, as well as a cooperation agreement between the Kaunas and Thessaloniki regions. MH

LITHUANIA, POLAND FAIL TO SOLVE MINORITY ISSUES

At meetings in Warsaw on 29-30 June, delegations from Lithuania and Poland failed to reach agreement on issues related to minorities in their respective countries. Head of the delegation and director of Lithuania's National Minorities' Department Remigijus Motuzas told BNS that "issues of national minorities should be solved on the basis of parity, but the problem is that the Poles seem to be more concerned for its nationals living outside the country than for the situation of national minorities inside Poland." He added that no resolution was found to any of the contentious issues, including the spelling of names in official documents and the controversial border troop base in the Polish town of Punsk, inhabited by mostly Lithuanians. MH

POLAND ARRESTS ANOTHER OFFICER ON SOVIET SPY CHARGES

Polish military authorities have arrested a high- ranking officer in the Polish armed forces on charges of spying for the Soviet KGB. Captain Jerzy Kwiecinski, spokesman of the Regional Military Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw, said the investigation into the espionage case was launched on the basis of evidence collected by the Military Intelligence Services and the State Protection Office. Kwiecinski added that the arrest was not connected with the case of two retired officers detained in May on charges of spying for the former USSR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1999). JM

RUSSIA APOLOGIZES TO POLAND FOR VIOLATING AIR SPACE

The Russian Foreign Ministry has apologized for the violation of Poland's airspace by four helicopters of the Baltic Sea Fleet last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999), ITAR-TASS reported on 1 July. The Russian ministry said the helicopters, which performed training flights, were unarmed and entered Poland's airspace because "the pilots temporarily lost their visual references." JM

POLISH LEFT-WING OPPOSITION PARTY ELECTS LEADER

The new Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) on 1 July elected Leszek Miller its leader. Miller will be SLD leader until a party congress this fall. Earlier, Miller was chairman of the disbanded Social Democracy of the Polish Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 1999). JM

CZECH PARLIAMENT CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT, FOLLOWING PROGRESS REPORT

The Chamber of Deputies has passed a resolution saying that "the government's activities do not benefit the Czech Republic," CTK reported on 2 July. The resolution was proposed by deputies of the Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Union. The chamber, however, rejected a resolution, proposed by deputies from the same formations, calling on the cabinet to resign. One day earlier, Prime Minister Milos Zeman said in a speech in the chamber evaluating the performance of his cabinet after one year in power that the government's domestic policy priority is decentralization and ensuring social stability, CTK reported. With regard to foreign policy, he said priorities are accession to the EU, adding that "isolationism" is "a dangerous policy that could back-fire." Zeman said this does not mean, however, giving up the "defense of national interests"; rather, it means a "struggle against some EU bureaucrats" who "block rather than speed up genuine European integration." MS

SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES BUGGING ALLEGATIONS

Pavol Kanis on 1 July denied that the Slovak military intelligence service bugged the Nafta Gbely oil company, which is at the center of an ongoing privatization scandal, CTK reported. Kanis was responding to reports in the media that he submitted to the Coalition Council tapes proving that National Property Fund (FNM) chief Ludovit Kanik was involved in the sale of Nafta Gbely to the U.S. Cinergy company. He did, however, confirm that classified materials on the affair included taped telephone calls. A lawyer representing the FNM accused the military intelligence service, which is controlled by the Defense Ministry, of having bugged the FNM leadership. In other news, the parliament on 30 June approved the dispatch of 40 army engineers to join the KFOR peacekeeping troops in Kosova, AP reported, citing the daily "Sme." MS

ORBAN PROMISES CHANGE IN HOLOCAUST COMPENSATION

Prime Minster Viktor Orban said in the parliament on 1 July that he agrees with Peter Tordai, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ), and with Chief Rabbi Jozsef Schweitzer that the 30,000 forint ($125) compensation granted by the government to survivors of the Holocaust and their and relatives is "indeed insulting." Orban pledged that a solution will be found within a year and asked MAZSIHISZ to make suggestions for amending the existing law, Hungarian media reported. Orban also said t he agrees with Schweitzer that existing legislation on racial incitement has proved difficult to apply and must be amended. He said it is "unacceptable" for neo-Nazi groups to parade around Buda Castle without hindrance, arguing it is necessary to "discourage" such behavior. MS




NATO TROOPS ARREST YUGOSLAV SOLDIERS

A spokesman for British KFOR peacekeepers said in Prishtina on 2 July that KFOR recently arrested five Yugoslav army soldiers and six suspected members of the paramilitary police near Kosova's northern border with Serbia proper. The armed men were in Kosova in violation of the peace agreement, under which all Serbian forcers should have withdrawn from the province. The armed Serbs told KFOR that they were part of a border patrol unit. The previous day, U.S. Brigadier General John Craddock said that KFOR's mission "is not going to be a quick fix. There are still too many acts of violence. There are still too many homes burning at night," AP reported. PM

UN CALLS FOR END TO VIOLENCE

UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello told a press conference in Prishtina on 2 July that the situation "has stabilized at a fairly high level of insecurity in certain parts of [Kosova,] and this cannot be allowed to persist. Every effort must be made...for the [Kosovar and Serbian] leaderships to contribute to the reduction of tensions." He added that he hopes to set up a multi-ethnic "transitional council" next week. Vieira de Mello stressed that he wants the council's members "to agree on a strong statement and possibly to deliver it together, condemning all forms of violence and appealing to all communities for restraint." PM

GANGS TERRORIZE PRISHTINA

"Gangs rule on the streets of Prishtina [and] are becoming an increasing headache for British soldiers trying to restore peace," "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 2 July. The newspaper goes on to describe the young men as "the violent underclass from [Kosova] and Albania intent on profiting from the chaos." Some of the men work in well-organized gangs, while others are "free-lancers." Their victims include ethnic Albanians as well as Serbs. The daily quoted several ethnic Albanians as saying that they live in fear of the gangs and that they are pleased when they learn that KFOR has arrested one or more of the toughs. The role of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in relation to the gangs is ambiguous, the newspaper noted. An additional source of difficulties is the presence of numerous displaced rural Kosovars, whose homes have been destroyed and who come to Prishtina seeking to occupy flats. PM

VOLLEBAEK OUTLINES KOSOVA POLICE RECRUITMENT

OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek said in Vienna on 1 July that the 700-member OSCE mission to Kosova will recruit and train the 3,000 local members of a planned 6,000-strong, internationally supervised police force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). The additional 3,000 policemen will be from other countries. Vollebaek added that "to create a real democracy...we have to recruit [policemen] from as broad a sector as possible.... Of course, we should not have people charged with criminal activity. We have to create a secure environment and then we have to establish trust in these policemen. [Therefore,] we will have to recruit from environments, groups that have been hostile to each other." Vollebaek also said that he has appointed U.S. diplomat Robert Barry, who now heads the OSCE mission in Bosnia, to coordinate OSCE efforts in the entire Balkans. FS

UNHCR LAUNCHES REPATRIATION OF KOSOVARS FROM ALBANIA

The Albanian government and the UNHCR on 1 July began to repatriate the remaining 170,000 Kosovar refugees living in Albania. An RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported from Tirana that most refugees travel from central and southern Albania by train to the northern village of Mjeda, where the UNHCR has set up a transit center. Busses and trucks provided by the Albanian government and NATO leave from there to cities in Kosova. UNHCR officials estimate that up to 2,000 refugees will pass through the Mjeda center every day in the coming weeks. NATO troops accompany the refugees on their return trips to Kosova. Elderly people and the handicapped will be transported by helicopter. Around 250,000 Kosovars have already returned home from Albania on their own. FS

ROMA REFUGEES FROM KOSOVA FLEE TO ITALY

A fishing boat carrying about 250 Kosovar Roma from Montenegro landed on Italy's southern shore on 1 July. The new arrivals included more than 100 children. Another ship carrying 500 Romany refugees arrived in Italy on 29 June. The Italian coast guard brought both ships to the port of Bari. Many Roma say they fear reprisals by ethnic Albanians, who often charge that the Roma collaborated with the Serbian forces during the recent crackdown. FS

CLARK CALLS MILOSEVIC 'FORMIDABLE POWER'

NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark told a Senate hearing in Washington on 1 July that the Serbian "opposition is fragmented and weak and traumatized by a decade of Milosevic maneuvering against them" (see Part I). The general added that "Milosevic retains formidable power in Yugoslavia, and he's an expert in dividing the opposition." Clark noted that the Yugoslav president continues to pose a threat to the Montenegrin leadership. The general stressed that Milosevic is "stubborn" and is seeking to "relegitimize himself" in Serbian politics despite his recent loss of control over Kosova, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. PM

PENSIONERS PROTEST IN BELGRADE

Several hundred pensioners demonstrated on 1 July to remand the payment of back pensions and the doubling of the size of pensions. The older Serbs also called for Milosevic to resign. PM

POLICE ARREST OPPOSITION MEMBERS

Serbian police in Novi Sad on 1 July arrested four members of the opposition League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina who were passing out leaflets calling on people to join an opposition demonstration in Uzice slated for 2 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The protest is organized by the Alliance for Change, which recently held a demonstration in Cacak (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 July 1999). PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY ISSUES WARRANT FOR DJINDJIC

Representatives of the Office of the Military Prosecutor issued a formal request to the Military Court on 1 July to launch proceedings against Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic. The charge is that Djindjic did not respond to a call- up notice during the recent crisis in Kosova. The opposition leader instead went into hiding in Montenegro. PM

MONTENEGRO TO HAND OVER WAR CRIMINALS

President Milo Djukanovic said in Niksic on 1 July that his government will send to The Hague any persons indicted by the tribunal who are found on Montenegrin territory. He added that Milosevic's policies are "xenophobic" and have led Serbia into isolation and self-destruction. Djukanovic stressed that Podgorica does not recognize the current federal parliament or government. PM

CROATIA CHARGES YUGOSLAVIA BEFORE HAGUE COURT

The Croatian government agreed in a closed session on 1 July to charge Yugoslavia with "aggression and genocide" before the UN's International Court of Justice in The Hague. The charges stem from the 1991-1995 war. Bosnia filed similar charges against Yugoslavia several years ago, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

PASSENGER TRAIN LINKS SARAJEVO TO PLOCE

After an interruption of seven years, a passenger train arrived in Ploce from Sarajevo on 1 July. Earlier. goods transport between the Bosnian capital and its natural outlet on the Adriatic were restored. Bosnia's rights to use the Croatian port's facilities have been the subject of years of disputes between Sarajevo and Zagreb. In related news, Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic said in Sarajevo that the two countries will sign an agreement delimiting their joint frontier on 7 July. PM

DISUINITY AND UNITY IN BOSNIA

The Bosnian federal parliament adopted a new law governing radio and television on 1 July, despite strong objections from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The HDZ is expected to block passage of the measure in the federal House of Nations, which is the second house of the parliament, in the near future, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. "Oslobodjenje" wrote on 2 July that the international community's Carlos Westendorp has indicated that he will enact the measure by decree if the Croats defeat it in the House of Nations. Elsewhere, representatives of Bosnia's Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian handball teams agreed in Sarajevo on 1 July to play in a "joint league" next season, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ZANI RIDES AGAIN

The notorious southern Albanian gang leader Myrteza Caushi "Zani" was injured in a shootout between rival gangs in Vlora on 1 July, Reuters reported. Police then tried to arrest Zani in the hospital, but he managed to escape. Three men were killed and three wounded in the shootout, but it remains unclear what triggered the confrontation. A court in Tirana ordered Zani's release from prison on 22 March 1999. He had been in jail since 1997 awaiting trial on charges ranging from robbery to murder. Witnesses declined to testify at his trial, however, and the court o sentenced him only for illegal arms possession (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 1999). Zani played a key role in the 1997 armed uprising in southern Albania. FS

ROMANIAN OFFICIALS REASSURED ON TRIANON TREATY

On returning from a visit to the U.S., Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said Washington is "not preoccupied with the prospect of Romania's federalization." Babiuc said that at a meeting with Defense Secretary William Cohen, he had raised the issue of the statement attributed to NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark suggesting that the 1920 Trianon Treaty is outdated. Babiuc said he was reassured that the position of the U.S. "remains that expressed by President Bill Clinton, namely that existing European borders must not be changed and borders must not be modified according to ethnic criteria," Mediafax reported on 1 July. One day earlier, U.S. ambassador to Bucharest James Rosapepe told Romanian Radio that Clark's statement has been "misinterpreted"(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 June 1999). MS

ROMANIA, RUSSIA AGREE TO 'RE-LAUNCH' RELATIONS

Meeting at the annual Central and East European Economic Forum in Salzburg, Austria on 1 July, Romanian President Emil Constantinescu and Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin agreed to "re-launch economic and political relations" between the two countries, an RFE/RL correspondent in Salzburg reported. They stressed that "urgent measures" are needed to redress Romania's balance of trade with Russia. Bucharest imports $1 billion worth of Russian goods and exports goods totaling $80 million to Russia. Stepashin pledged to clear Russia's $22 million debt to Bucharest by deliveries of Russian machinery. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT, PRESIDENT ON COLLISION COURSE

The parliament on 2 July approved a decision stating that referendums cannot take place within less than two years of one another. The decision virtually nullifies President Petru Lucinschi's intention to submit to a referendum in the immediate future the issue of changing to a presidential system, since a non-binding referendum took place in May 1999. On 1 July, Lucinschi signed a decree on setting up the commission whose task is to make recommendations for changing the present system into a presidential one, RFE/RL Chisinau bureau reported. Under the decree, the commission was to present its findings within one month, following which the change would have had to be either approved by a two-thirds parliamentary majority or submitted to a plebiscite. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER PRESENTS 'HUNDRED DAY RECORD'

Presenting the 100-day record of his cabinet to the parliament on 1 July, Ion Sturza said that "if circumstances are favorable," GDP in 1999 may "drop by only 5-7 percent," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Sturza forecast an inflation rate of 25 percent and a deficit totaling 3 percent of the GDP. He said that in 1998, GDP dropped by 8.6 percent, in comparison with the previous year, and inflation was 18.3 percent. Among the main achievements of his cabinet, he counted the resumption of relations with the IMF and the World Bank. He also said that Moldova has paid two-thirds of the $230 million debt due for payment this year. MS

BULGARIA OFFERS TO BE UZBEKISTAN'S 'GATE TO EUROPE'

Erkin Khalilov, chairman of the Uzbek parliament, told his Bulgarian counterpart, Yordan Sokolov, in Sofia on 1 July that Uzbekistan regards ties with Bulgaria as a "priority," because of that country's geographical location, namely on the "shortest route [for Uzbekistan] to Europe." Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told Khalilov that the Black Sea ports of Varna and Burgas may become "Uzbekistan's gate to Europe," BTA reported. Khalilov said that when TRACECA (Europe- Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor) is developed, his country will indeed use Varna and Burgas. MS




RUSSIAN DUMA ELECTIONS: THE POLITICS


By Floriana Fossato

Until recently, most top Russian politicians have focused their attention on the June 2000 presidential elections. But with the current lack of a presidential candidate who enjoys President Boris Yeltsin's support, the Russian political situation remains unpredictable. As a result, politicians and their advisers now say that the parliamentary elections due in five months have acquired new importance.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told a meeting of Federal Security Service (FSB) officials that the composition of the next parliament will greatly affect the outcome of next year's presidential elections. Stepashin said that "a great deal in the future...will depend on whom we elect to the parliament."

The establishment of new political movements that will participate in the parliamentary elections is now almost complete. Most of the political groups have held founding congresses in the past few months.

Many moderate Russian politicians repeatedly use phrases like "consolidation of forces" and "creation of a constructive opposition" in the new parliament when referring to the creation of these new movements. The moderates are seeking a more centrist-based State Duma to replace the present lower house, dominated by communist and nationalist groups. Leonid Raketskii is the governor of the oil-rich Tyumen region and one of the most influential representatives of the centrist movement Voice of Russia, which is led by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov.

In a recent interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service, Raketskii commented that several movements look "very similar, like sister organizations: [Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's] Fatherland, Our Home Is Russia, Voice of Russia, and All Russia. I think all the leaders of these organizations should overcome their own ambitions, stop promoting themselves, and understand clearly that we should create a 'golden' centrist group attractive to the electorate. [We should] not choose political leaders, but candidates for the Duma.... Only after that should leaders be chosen, to compete among themselves before next year's presidential vote."

One of the leaders of the Our Home is Russia group, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, foresees the possibility of coalition of centrist and center-right movements. Ayatskov recently told the Interfax news agency that in his opinion. only three or four political blocs are likely to garner the 5 percent of the vote necessary for parliamentary representation. Luzhkov's Fatherland group is not among the movements with which his party is consulting on the formation of a united centrist bloc. He said that consultations with several groups are under way but added that "it is too early to talk about the results." One of the leaders of the center- right Right Cause bloc, economist Yegor Gaidar, made a similar statement last week.

In recent days, some Russian media have been speculating that the Kremlin is trying to create its own coalition. They say it would be a kind of new "party of power" that would be called Rossiya and might be led by Stepashin. According to media reports, most moderate blocs would be invited to take part in the new party, with the exception of Luzhkov's Fatherland movement, which the Kremlin is said to actively oppose.

Last week, Yeltsin told Stepashin to "consider the place and the role of the government in the next parliamentary election." Stepashin answered that the government "cannot be cut off" from preparations for the parliamentary election campaign. On 29 June, he told FSB officials that Russia's security forces must not allow the Duma elections to be dominated by criminals seeking to influence Russian politics.

The daily "Vremya MN" wrote recently that "the recipe for success [in creating a new party] is well-known: [the backing of regional] governors, industrial captains and military men, some small parties and a few intellectuals, plus a lot of money and a huge amount of [television] broadcasting time." But, the newspaper added, Russian politicians have a poor record of agreeing on anything. Also, it said, Russia's bankrupt central government has little to offer to regional bosses.

More important, "Vremya MN" noted, in order to create a real "party of power," something else is necessary: "an idea that could unite all [moderate forces]." The newspaper noted that three years ago, the unifying idea was the perceived danger of a communist come-back. But now, it concludes, "this will not work, and for the moment there are no other ideas" that could unite all the possible members of a moderate alliance.

Some politicians say that the fragmentation of Russia's centrist and center-right political spectrum could benefit the Communists and their allies in the current Duma. But others doubt that will be the case. According to Ayatskov of Our Home is Russia, substantial differences of opinion are already noticeable among leaders of pro-communist groups. Together with other politicians, Ayatskov believes that the Communist Party "is rapidly losing its political weight, especially after the failed impeachment attempt against Yeltsin." The author is an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow. This is the first article in a two-part series.


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