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Newsline - July 8, 1999




RUSSIAN, NATO LEGISLATORS PLEDGE TO RESUME RELATIONS

State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and NATO Parliamentary Assembly chairman Javier Ruperez told ITAR-TASS in St. Petersburg on 7 July that their respective legislatures will resume relations, which the Duma suspended after NATO launched its air campaign against Yugoslavia. They made the announcement after the eighth annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Seleznyov noted that "we have not burnt the bridges because I am sure that the deputies, unlike the heads of executive power bodies, have to communicate with each other, even at the most dramatic and critical moments." Ruperez confirmed that normal relations between the two organizations will be restored "within months." He said his discussion with Seleznev was "very friendly, warm, sincere, and positive". FS

RUSSIA TO SEND 210 POLICEMEN TO KOSOVA

Aleksandr Malinovskii, who is the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's foreign relations department, told ITAR-TASS on 7 July that Russia will send 210 policemen to the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). They will include 110 specially trained officers from OMON and other elite police forces. Meanwhile, Russian President Boris Yeltsin told Russian high-ranking military and Interior Ministry officials in Moscow on 8 July that "we will not clash with NATO, but neither will we flirt with it. We shall closely follow NATO's activities and develop our tactics jointly," Interfax reported. Yeltsin also admonished the officials to "follow one line in life--the line of the president." FS

YELTSIN PUTS PRISHTINA GENERAL IN FOR A MEDAL

President Yeltsin instructed Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 8 July in Moscow to propose Colonel-General Viktor Zavarzin for a medal, ITAR-TASS reported. Zavarzin led 200 Russian paratroopers into Kosova on 11 June, one day before the arrival of NATO troops. On 12 June, Yeltsin promoted Zavarzin to Colonel-General from Lieutenant-General (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). Until March 1999 Zavarzin represented Russia at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Meanwhile in Bucharest on 8 July, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said: "Let me say clearly that I am very, very pleased with Russian participation in KFOR.... The negotiations in Helsinki and Moscow allow for positive, contractual cooperation between the different countries participating," according to Reuters. FS

ECONOMIC POLICY STATEMENT 'READY FOR SIGNING'

Mikhail Zadornov, presidential special envoy for relations with international financial organizations, told journalists on 8 July that the statement on economic policy in 1999 is "ready for signing" by the government and the Central Bank, Interfax reported. Zadornov was speaking after meeting with Premier Sergei Stepashin and Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko. He refused to say when the statement would will be signed, noting that "small details of a stylistic nature" remain to be sorted out. JC

DEPUTY SAYS IMF KNEW ABOUT FIMACO 'YEARS AGO'

Independent State Duma deputy Nikolai Gonchar told journalists in Moscow on 6 July that the IMF was informed several years ago that the Central Bank had used the off-shore company FIMACO to manage some of its hard-currency reserves, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. Gonchar pointed to documents in which the Central Bank's auditors in 1993-1994, Coopers and Lybrand, criticize its use of FIMACO. Those documents, which were obtained from "well-informed sources" in Washington, were handed over to the IMF in 1995 at the latest, Gonchar said. The IMF has consistently denied any knowledge of bank's use of FIMACO since the scandal broke in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 11 February 1999). On 5 July, Central Bank chairman Gerashchenko announced that the final version of the audit requested by the IMF found no evidence of "significant illegal activity." JC

MUSLIMS FOUND BLOC AHEAD OF DUMA ELECTIONS

Four groups representing Muslims in Russia have founded the bloc Mejlis, which will take part in the State Duma elections later this year, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. The bloc consists of the Nur (Light) movement, the All-Russian Islamic Congress, Muslims of Russia, and Refakh (Prosperity). Leonard Rafikov, who leads the bloc, said the new grouping intends to take a centrist line with "healthy conservative traditions," according to AFP. Estimating the number of Muslims in Russia at 20 million, its founders said they hope the bloc will win up to 8 percent of the vote. JC

WAGES, PENSIONS BEING PAID ON TIME

Addressing a conference in Moscow on reforming the social sector, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that delays in paying wages and pensions currently do not exceed "a few days," AP reported on 7 June. Prime Minister Stepashin told the same meeting that pension arrears still owed amount to 12 billion rubles ($490.6 million), which he called "an impermissibly large sum," according to ITAR-TASS. Stepashin pledged that the state's pension debt will be paid by September. JC

SPOKESMAN CLARIFIES STEPASHIN'S COMMENTS ON LAND LAW

Speaking to Interfax on 7 July, government spokesman Aleksandr Mikhailov denied media reports that Prime Minister Stepashin "favors a law that would ban the sale of land to foreigners" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). Mikhailov said that at a meeting devoted to the problems of Russia's border territories, the premier asked governors to sum up their proposals for a new land law so that the government could discuss them and submit a bill to the parliament in September. Several regional leaders, including Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev and Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, had spoken against land sales to foreigners. JC

INFLATION DOWN IN JUNE

Consumer prices rose by 1.9 percent last month, down from 2.2 percent in May, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 July, citing data released by the State Statistics Committee. Inflation for the first six months of 1999 totaled 24.5 percent, according to the Goskomstat report. "Segodnya" reported on 7 July that during the same period, food prices increased by 26 percent, non-food prices by 23.7 percent, and tariffs for services by 19.3 percent. JC

CENSUS POSTPONED

The national census has been postponed from the fall of 2001 to September 2002, Russian media reported on 3 July. Goskomstat officials said the reason for the postponement is that the government does not have the 3 billion rubles ($123 million) required to conduct the census. Interfax on 6 July quoted Goskomstat acting head Vladimir Sokolin as stressing that the decision is not politically motivated. He was responding to media reports that the aim of the postponement was to overstate the number of voters by including so-called "dead souls" in voter lists for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Earlier this year, Goskomstat officials had asked for more time to prepare for the census, saying they had been unable to finalize their cost estimates for conducting it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1999). JC

IL-96T WIDE-BODIED AIRCRAFT CERTIFICATED

At a ceremony in Moscow celebrating the certification of the IL-96T wide-bodied aircraft, which was attended by Premier Stepashin, Russian and U.S. officials hailed cooperation on the construction of the plane. Under an agreement partly worked out by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore within the framework of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation, the U.S. pledged to lend $1 billion to Aeroflot to start building a fleet of the wide-bodied jetliners. Those funds covered the sale of jet engines and electronic components that officials from the Ilyushin design and production organization said will help produce three IL-96Ts and 17 IL-96Ms for Aeroflot. U.S. Ambassador James Collins said the project was a test for both countries and the way is now open to cooperation in other fields of high technology, Reuters reported on 7 July. JC

U.S.-RUSSIAN COMMISSION TO RECONVENE AT END OF MONTH

Premier Stepashin is to meet with U.S. Vice President Gore in Washington at the end of this month. The 27 July meeting will mark the first gathering in a year of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation. According to AP, 10 committees will meet on business development, energy, health, environment, science and technology, and other subjects. Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov had been on his way to Washington in March to attend a meeting of the commission when he ordered his plane to be turned around to protest the imminent announcement of NATO air strikes against Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). JC

NEW HEALTH MINISTER APPOINTED

President Yeltsin on 5 July appointed heart surgeon Yurii Shevchenko as health minister. Until now, the 52-year-old Shevchenko was head of the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy. ITAR-TASS quoted Premier Stepashin as saying that Shevchenko is considered "one of Russia's best surgeons." The appointment filled the last vacancy in Stepashin's government. JC

SHAIMIEV URGES TWO 'GOVERNORS GROUPS' TO JOIN FORCES

Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, speaking to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 6 July, stressed the "necessity" of forming a union between Vsya Rossiya (All Russia), of which he is the informal leader, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo (Fatherland) party before the upcoming State Duma elections. Shaimiev remarked that while Otechestvo is ready to join forces with Vsya Rossiya, some questions remain open about forming such a union. Last week, four right-of-center groups--Pravoe Delo (Right Cause), Novaya Sila (New Force), Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia), and Our Home Is Russia-- agreed to form an election bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1999). The leaders of those groups are to meet on 12 July to discuss their joint ticket for the elections, Interfax quoted Kirienko as saying on 7 July. JC

TULEEV REFUSES YELTSIN AWARD

Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev has turned down the Order of Honor, which President Yeltsin had awarded him in a 6 July decree, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. Tuleev explained his decision by pointing out that for many years he has opposed the reform course pursued by the Yeltsin administration: "I cannot accept the award when many people do not receive wages, when more people die than are born in the country, and when...education and healthcare [are] paralyzed." Last year, Nobel Prize-winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn turned down the Order of St. Andrew, saying he was unable to receive an award from the authority that had "brought Russia to its present state of ruin" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 1998).JC

INTERIOR MINISTER MEETS CHECHEN SECURITY OFFICIALS

Colonel- General Vladimir Rushailo held talks in Moscow on 7 July with a delegation from the Chechen Interior and Shariah Security Ministries, Russian agencies reported. The two sides discussed joint efforts to reinforce security along the border between Chechen and Dagestan, where Chechen militants again attacked a Russian border post during the night of 6-7 July, wounding several Russian servicemen, one of them fatally. Rushailo told Interfax after the talks that Russia is "not at war" with Chechnya, and that his ministry and its Chechen counterpart agree on the need to eliminate "criminal gangs" that target Russian police posts on the Chechen-Dagestan border and elsewhere in the North Caucasus. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SIGNALS SUPPORT FOR NKR LEADERSHIP

Presidential press secretary Vahe Gabrielian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 7 July that "Armenia will not act as an indifferent observer with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh if any illegal attempts are made against its legitimate authorities." Tensions between Arkadii Ghukasian, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Defense Minister Samvel Babayan rose after Ghukasian sacked the premier and cabinet on 24 June following the discovery of an electronic surveillance device in his office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 29 June 1999). Police in Stepanakert were placed on full alert for several hours on 5 July. But the same day, the enclave's new prime minister, Anushavan Danielian, met with Babayan and asked him to join the new cabinet. Ghukasian reportedly met with senior army officers on 6 July for what one of them subsequently told RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent was a "useful dialogue." LF

IMF DELAYS LOAN TRANCHE FOR ARMENIA

Armenian Finance Minister Levon Barkhudarian said on 7 July that the IMF has delayed the release of the final $32 million tranche of a three-year $154 ESAF loan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He listed as the most important reasons for the delay over-optimistic projections by the previous government of anticipated growth rates and budget revenues for 1999, which have not been met. The lasting impact on Armenia of the Russian economic crisis was also underestimated. An IMF mission met in Yerevan on 7 July with Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian to discuss the economic situation, and a decision on the final tranche is to be made by 19 July, according to Interfax. The World Bank has also delayed a $15 million payment from a $65 million loan package it approved in December 1998 and which is intended to cover Armenia's anticipated 1999 budget deficit. LF

GEORGIAN-SOUTH OSSETIAN TALKS POSTPONED

Talks between representatives of the central Georgian government and the leadership of the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia that were to have been held in Djava on 7-8 July have been postponed at the request of the South Ossetian side, Caucasus Press reported on 8 July citing "Dilis gazeti." South Ossetian President Lyudvig Chibirov told the newspaper that because of the May parliamentary elections the South Ossetian leadership had no time to create a working group to prepare for those talks, which were to discuss an interim agreement on temporary status for South Ossetia within Georgia, according to "Svobodnaya Gruziya" of 2 July. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT CLEMENCY FOR JAILED WARLORD

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 5 July that the preterm release from prison of Mkhedrioni leader Djaba Ioseliani "is not on the agenda," Caucasus Press reported. Members of the Georgian intelligentsia are collecting signatures to lobby for the ailing Ioseliani's release from jail. He was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment in November 1998 on charges of terrorism, murder and a failed attempt to assassinate Shevardnadze, but denies all those charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). LF

GEORGIA TO REPAIR TURKMEN JET FIGHTERS

The governments of Georgia and Turkmenistan have concluded a contract whereby the Tbilisi Aviation Plant will repair 45 Turkmen SU-45 fighter aircraft at a cost of $46 million, Caucasus Press reported on 7 July. But Turkmenistan will pay for those repairs only after Georgia repays its $400 million debt for supplies of Turkmen natural gas. LF

DEVOTEES WANT STALIN REBURIED IN GEORGIA

Grigol Oniani, chairman of Georgia's Stalin Society, told journalists in Tbilisi on 7 July that he has discussed with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov the possibility of exhuming Stalin's remains from the Kremlin wall and transporting them to Georgia for reburial at an undisclosed location, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SETS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION DATES...

In a decree made public on 7 July, President Nursultan Nazarbaev scheduled elections to the upper and lower chambers of Kazakhstan's new parliament for 17 September and 10 October respectively, RFE/RL's Astana correspondent reported. Addressing parliament on 31 March, Nazarbaev had assured deputies that the election to the lower house would take place in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). Some observers had nonetheless predicted that they would be held in December 1999, four years after the previous parliamentary poll. Earlier on 7 July, several leading opposition parties and movements, including the Communist Party, the Republican People's Party headed by former premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the Orleu movement, the Association of Russian, Slavic and Cossack Associations, and some trade unions, announced the creation of a pre-election coordinating bloc that will target "the entire protest electorate," according to Interfax. The parties will not compete against each other in the 67 single- mandate constituencies. LF

...MEETS WITH TURKISH COUNTERPART

Nazarbaev, who left Astana on 5 July for a brief vacation in Turkey, has met with Suleyman Demirel to discuss bilateral relations, unspecified regional problems and the export of Kazakhstan's oil and gas, Interfax reported on 7 July. The two presidents also pledged to take steps to double bilateral trade, which currently stands at approximately $500 million. LF

CONFUSION OVER KAZAKH BAN ON BAIKONUR LAUNCHES CONTINUES

Kazakh officials continue to make contradictory statements about the extent of the temporary ban on launches of Russian rockets from the Baikonor cosmodrome. Interfax on 7 July quoted the Kazakh Foreign Ministry's Press Service as stating that the 6 July protest note to Moscow did not specify what types of rocket are banned, but Science Minister Vladimir Shkolnik told the agency that the ban extends to all launches. A third Kazakh government representative said, however, that the ban extends only to Proton rockets, which burn envirnmentally hazardous heptyl fuel, but not Zenit and Soyuz rockets fuelled by kerosene. A spokesman for the Russian Aviation and Space Agency told Interfax that Moscow will ask the Kazakh leadership to make an exception for the launches of a Ukrainian-Russian satellite scheduled for 8 July and a supply craft bound for the orbiting Mir space station scheduled for 14 July. LF

TAJIK INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN SHOT DEAD

Lieutenant- Colonel Djumakhon Hotami died shortly after being shot at pointblank range by unidentified attackers near his home in Dushanbe on the evening of 4 July, Russian agencies reported. Unidentified sources told Interfax Hotami may have been killed for having identified members of drug-running gangs on his weekly TV program on crime and corruption. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION REPRESENTATIVE APPOINTED TO SENIOR DEFENSE POST

Among the five Tajik opposition representatives appointed by President Imomali Rakhmonov to leading government positions on 6 July was former field commander Gairat Adkhamov, who was named first deputy defense minister, according to Interfax. AP quoted presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov as saying that in accordance with the 1997 peace agreement, opposition nominees will be appointed to 21 of a total of 69 local government posts. LF

TWO SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR HOSTAGE-TAKING IN UZBEKISTAN

A regional court in the Uzbek city of Khorezm has passed sentence on 16 men found guilty of hijacking a bus and taking the passengers hostage, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. Two of the accused were sentenced to death, and seven more received prison terms of 20 years. The hijackers had sought the release of comrades arrested in connection with the 16 February bombings in Tashkent. Nine people were killed during a shootout on 30 March between the hijackers and police seeking to free the hostages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT CHAIRS MEETING ON SECURITY

Also on 7 July, Islam Karimov chaired a session of the National Security Council devoted to the implementation of government decisions aimed at improving security and reorganizing the armed forces and border troops, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Particular atention was paid to improving cooperation between the army and interior ministry forces, to preventing terrorist and subversive groups from illegally entering Uzbekistan, and to creating "mobile and well-equipped units capable of safeguarding peace and calm," according to Interfax. LF




FRENCH FIRMS TO BUILD NUCLEAR WASTE STORAGE FACILITY FOR CHORNOBYL

A consortium of three French firms led by the Framatome state company has signed a deal with Ukraine on building a nuclear waste storage facility at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will finance the $72 million contract. The facility, which will have a storage capacity of 3,000 tons, is scheduled to be completed by 2003. Vissarion Kim, director of Ukraine's Enerhoatom nuclear energy company, described the construction of the storage facility as a "step toward the timely closure of the [Chornobyl] station." JM

UKRAINIAN POLICE REMOVES PLANT MANAGER FROM OFFICE

Police on 7 July forced Vitaliy Meshyn, former director of the Mykolayiv Alumina Plant, out of his office and "isolated him in another room," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. The government, which holds a majority stake in the plant, on 24 June appointed a new director to replace Meshyn. Meshyn's dismissal has provoked protests among the plant's 7,000 workers. According to Meshyn, the government fired him in order to put the plant under the control of an international metallurgical company which already controls much of the aluminum production in the former Soviet Union. Last week, the Ukrainian parliament passed a statement declaring Meshyn's dismissal illegal and asking the government to revoke it. JM

BELARUS AGREES TO RUSSIAN RUBLE AS UNION CURRENCY

Russian Premier Sergei Stepashin said at a session of the Executive Committee of the Russian-Belarusian Union in Moscow on 7 July that a union treaty between the two states could be signed this fall. Stepashin added that the two sides do not differ in principle on the structure or content of the treaty. "We are moving ever closer to becoming a unified state," Interfax quoted him as saying. Belarusian National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich said at the session that Belarus accepts Russia's proposal to introduce the Russian ruble as the single currency of the union. Stepashin instructed the central banks of Russia and Belarus to finalize a plan for the gradual introduction of the single currency and the establishment of a single emission center. The plan is expected to be implemented from 1999-2008. JM

OSCE TO SEND SPECIAL MISSION TO BELARUS

Adrian Severin, head of the OSCE working group for Belarus, announced at the 7 July OSCE parliamentary session in St. Petersburg that an OSCE special mission will visit Belarus from 15-17 July to help promote a dialogue between the opposition and the authorities, Belapan reported. Severin said one of the main tasks of the Belarusian authorities is to organize free and internationally recognized parliamentary elections in 2000. Severin asked Belarusian Council of the Republic Chairman Pavel Shypuk to persuade President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to enter into a dialogue with the opposition. Otherwise, he said, no progress will be achieved in the political standoff in Belarus. JM

BRITISH MILITARY COMMANDER IN ESTONIA

The chief of the British Defense Staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, met with President Lennart Meri, Defense Minister Juri Luik, and military leaders during a 6-7 July visit to Estonia. He also toured a center for training peacekeepers in Paldiski. Guthrie visited Latvia and Lithuania on 7-8 July. MH

POLISH NURSES STAGE SIT-INS, HUNGER STRIKES

The Nurses and Midwives Trade Union announced that some 20,000 nurses staged sit-ins at regional health centers throughout the country on 7 July, while another 10,000 went on hunger strike, PAP reported. The nurses are demanding a salary increase (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). The government insists that a package of health care reforms introduced earlier this year effectively transferred responsibility for pay increases to individual hospitals. Meanwhile, a poll held last month by an independent health sector watchdog found that 82 percent of Poles believe that the reforms have not improved health care in their country. JM

SLOVAK PRESIDENT VISITS CZECH REPUBLIC

During a 7 July meeting with Czech President Vaclav Havel in Prague, Rudolf Schuster proposed that the two countries adopt a joint program aimed at improving the situation of their Romany minorities and stemming the exodus of Czech and Slovak Roma to other countries, CTK and Reuters reported. Havel said he accepts the proposal and will pass it on to Petr Uhl, the Czech government's commissioner for human rights. Havel also said that Schuster's decision go to the Czech Republic for his first trip abroad as president demonstrates "a clear intention...to follow up on the close ties of the past and develop them in all possible ways." Schuster also discussed the division of the former Czechoslovakia's assets with Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. MS

CZECH JOURNALISTS SEND PREMIER AN OPEN LETTER

In a response to Zeman's recent attacks on journalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 7 July 1999), a group of Czech Television employees, along with journalists from other media, sent an open letter to the premier on 7 July. The letter states that the manner in which Zeman treats journalists has become "an obstacle to any dignified cooperation between the media and yourself." The journalists argue that most members of their profession do their best to carry out their work properly. They add that Zeman's "persistent and harsh attacks" on journalists will not force them to "change their critical view of the work of public officials," which is "their duty towards readers and listeners." MS

SLOVAKIA 'UNDERSTANDS, REGRETS' FINNISH DECISION ON VISAS

The Slovak Foreign Ministry, in a statement carried by CTK on 7 July, said it "understands" the reasons that led the Finnish government to suspend its visa-free agreement with Slovakia but added that it "regrets" the decision. The ministry further stated that it is determined to take action to prevent the development of "a situation that would question Slovakia's observation of human rights and democratic principles" and raise questions about the "justification of Slovakia's integration in Euro-Atlantic structures." Also on 7 July, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) sent a letter to Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen in which it described the Finnish government's decision as "discriminatory." The ERRC said it is troubled that the Finnish government, which has been a "traditionally strong advocate of Roma rights, has apparently succumbed to the widespread racial stereotypes and anti-Roma sentiment prevalent in much of Europe." MS

SLOVAK VICTIMS OF NAZIS TO RECEIVE COMPENSATION

The Slovak government on 7 July approved a draft bill that provides for token compensation to be paid to survivors of Nazi concentration camps and to their relatives. Under the bill, which will now go to parliament for approval, the survivors will receive 2,500 crowns (about $57) for every year they spent in a concentration camp and the descendants of those who perished in the camps will receive a lump sum payment of 100,000 crowns. Some 70,000 Slovak citizens, mostly Jews, were deported to the camps by Slovakia's war-time pro-Nazi regime, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN SKINHEADS ADMIT DESECRATION OF JEWISH CEMETERY

Two skinheads belonging to the Arrow Cross Movement on 7 July admitted to having defaced 15 tombs in a Jewish cemetery in the western town of Szombathely last weekend, local police told Hungarian media. The skinheads painted swastikas, the Star of David hanging from gallows, and obscene drawings on the tombstones shortly before a Holocaust commemoration was scheduled to take place in the cemetery. Hungarian President Arpad Goncz strongly condemned the desecration and urged Hungarians to reject anti- Semitism. MSZ




SERBIAN OPPOSITION ISSUES CALL OF 'NOW OR NEVER'

More than 10,000 people attended a meeting in Uzice on 7 July, which was organized by the opposition Alliance for Change under the slogan "now or never" to demand the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, "Danas" reported. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told protesters that, for the fourth time in 10 years, Milosevic has sent tanks into a war with the result that Serbs have fled their homes on tractors. PM

DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE IN LESKOVAC

On 7 July, some 2,000 protesters turned out for a third consecutive day in Leskovac to call for the resignations of Milosevic and district governor Zivojin Stefanovic, who had earlier called protesters "traitors, terrorists, and deserters," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). The protesters, whose ranks included an unspecified number of army reservists, demanded that Stefanovic apologize and that the authorities publish a list of all soldiers and police officers from Leskovac who were killed in Kosova. The demonstrators also called for the release of jailed television broadcaster Ivan Novkovic, whose unauthorized call on the air for a protest led to the 5 July demonstration, which attracted 20,000 people in a town not previously know for anti-Milosevic sympathies. According to "Danas" on 8 July, Stefanovic threatened a human rights activist with a pistol and police detained the activist's brother, who was one of the protest's organizers. PM

SERBIAN PETITION DRIVE MOVES AHEAD

Representatives of the Alliance for Change said in Belgrade on 7 July that their week-old anti-Milosevic petition drive has already collected some 100,000 signatures, AP reported. Nis Mayor Zoran Zivkovic said that the petition received 3,200 signatures on its first day of circulation in that city. Police told a group of people collecting signatures in Nis that they were engaging in illegal activities but took no action against them, "Danas" reported. The aim of the drive is to pressure legislators to launch proceedings aimed at ousting Milosevic. PM

U.S. SAYS MILOSEVIC'S DAYS ARE NUMBERED

State Department spokesman James Foley said in Washington on 7 July that the protests against Milosevic recall those that drove Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos from office or those that ended British rule in India. Foley added: "Milosevic's days are numbered. It's impossible to predict how many numbers there are in those days. Serbia historically has been a part of the West. Its separation from the West has been an anomaly. [Serbs nonetheless] have a lot to catch up on, and I think one can sympathize with the sense of impatience that's growing on the part of opposition leaders and their followers inside Serbia." PM

ETHNIC ALBANIANS PROTEST PARTITION OF MITROVICA

About 20,000 ethnic Albanian residents of Mitrovica demonstrated on 7 July against the recent de facto partition of their town, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. They marched to the main bridge leading to the northern part of the city, which is currently held by Serbs. French KFOR soldiers and gendarmes guarded the protesters. Serbian inhabitants insulted and shouted at the marchers, saying that Russians forces will soon come to the town. A Kosova Liberation Army commander in Mitrovica told RFE/RL that Serbian paramilitary groups are present in the northern part of Mitrovica. He added, however, that: "We have received guarantees that [KFOR] will ensure the security of the returning citizens. They have given us guarantees that all paramilitaries will be disarmed and will leave Mitrovica." French soldiers arrested one Serbian paramilitary fighter on 7 July. FS

KOSOVARS PROTEST AGAINST RUSSIAN DEPLOYMENT

About 3,000 ethnic Albanians protested against the deployment of Russian troops in Rahovec on 7 July, AFP reported. The protesters claimed that Russian volunteers and mercenaries participated in massacres of ethnic Albanians in that area in the spring, and that they do not trust the Russians to protect them now. A total of 750 Russian soldiers will be deployed in Rahovec under German "tactical control," which is a euphemism for de facto command. A Serbian resident there told AFP, however, that "we prefer to be protected by the Russians.... The Germans and Dutch do nothing to protect our houses." About 2,000 Serbs remain in that town. FS

WHAT DOES PODGORICA WANT FROM BELGRADE?

The Montenegrin government has not made public the content of its proposals on the future of the federation, which it recently sent to the federal authorities in Belgrade, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 7 July. Montenegrin Labor Minister Predrag Drecun of the People's Party said in Podgorica that he disagrees with recent remarks by Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic, who indicated that Montenegro will enter talks on recognizing the federal government if Montenegro's governing coalition is allowed to name that body's prime minister. Elsewhere, the Montenegrin Interior Ministry said in a statement that it will firmly oppose any attempt by the Belgrade authorities to send their paramilitary police into Montenegro. PM

NEW JUDGE FOR THE HAGUE

Officials of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal announced on 7 July that U.S. Judge Patricia M. Wald will replace Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald on the bench on 17 November. McDonald has also served as the tribunal's president. In Washington, Wald said that she regards the court's work as vital because "it establishes what kind of conduct is acceptable, even in times of internal stress." Back in The Hague, a court spokesman also said that Louise Arbour, who is the tribunal's outgoing chief prosecutor, will visit Kosova later this week. In January, Serbian authorities denied her permission to investigate a massacre in Recak. PM

ARBOUR STRESSES LOCAL RESPONSIBILITY

Arbour congratulated NATO forces on 6 July on their arrest of the Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Radislav Brdjanin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). She stressed, however, that the primary responsibility for arresting war criminals under the Dayton peace agreement lies with the local authorities and not with SFOR. Speaking in Sarajevo, British Defense Secretary George Robertson added: "We look on all of these arrests even- handedly and impartially, and those who have been indicted in any part of the former Yugoslavia must be prepared to face justice. All those who know of them have an obligation to deliver them." PM

BOSNIAN REFUGEE RETURN HALTED

Local ethnic Croatian officials and representatives of the international community agreed in Drvar in western Bosnia on 7 July to halt the return of ethnic Serb refugees to that town "temporarily but completely," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The move followed recent clashes between returning Serbs and Croatian displaced persons who had settled in the area since 1992. In Zagreb, representatives of the Croatian and Bosnian governments approved documents delineating the 1,000 kilometer-long boundary between the two states. PM

CROATIA TALLIES WAR'S IMPACT ON TOURISM

In Sarajevo, visiting Croatian Tourism Minister Ivan Herak said on 7 July that the conflict in Kosova has led to losses of $1.4 billion to his country's tourist industry, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that he will advise the government to cut the VAT for tourist-related purchases from 22 percent to 10 percent. In Zagreb, unnamed officials reported that 202,000 tourists have visited the country so far this year, which is an increase of 15 percent over the corresponding period in 1998. The Croatian authorities have recently sought to attract tourists by slashing prices for hotels and package arrangements. PM

MACEDONIAN CHURCH LEADER DIES

Archbishop Mihail of the Macedonian Orthodox Church died in Skopje on 6 July at the age of 88. He died in hospital and had suffered from a heart condition for two years, but the exact cause of his death was not released. Mihail became head of the church in 1991, shortly after Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia, AP reported. It is not clear when the Holy Synod will name his successor. The Macedonian Orthodox Church separated from its Serbian counterpart in 1967. PM

ALBANIA, MACEDONIA SIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Albanian Privatization Minister Ylli Bufi and Macedonian Economics Minister Mihailo Tolevski signed an economic cooperation agreement in Tirana on 6 July. Under the agreement, the two countries will cooperate in the fields of energy, mining, and trade. Both countries also plan to built new power lines to link border towns. Albania will supply a metallurgy plant in Tetovo with chrome. The two governments also agreed to implement projects aimed at protecting the environment around Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa, dpa reported. FS

GREECE EXPELS 2,000 ALBANIANS

Greek police deported about 2,000 Albanians during the first week of July, Reuters reported. The wave of deportations peaked on 6 July, when Greece expelled about 1,000 immigrants. Many claimed they were wrongfully deported given that their visas and residence permits were in order. Gezim Gjermeni, the Albanian deputy police chief at the Kakavia border crossing, confirmed their claims: "We checked the papers of some 200 and found that half of them had regular papers." Greece usually deports about 60 illegal immigrants a day, but on 1 July the Greek authorities suddenly increased the number of deportees. Some of them said police beat them in prison. Others quoted Greek police officers as saying: "Go and emigrate to Kosova. Now there is only room for immigrants from Serbia here. Let NATO employ you." FS

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ROMANIA

Javier Solana on 8 July met with Romanian President Emil Constantinescu at the end of a one-day visit to Romania. Solana thanked Romania for its stance during the Kosova crisis and said Bucharest had "led the way" toward achieving stability in the region. He also said that Romania will play a "major part" in the proposed stability and reconstruction pact for the region. He said Romania is "very close" to NATO, but he avoided using the words "NATO membership." In an attempt to soothe recent Romanian anxieties, Solana said NATO supports the principle of respect for minority rights but stressed that "European borders must not be changed." On 7 July, Solana met with Prime Minister Radu Vasile and Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ENDS TURKEY VISIT

Constantinescu on 7 July ended a two-day visit to Turkey after a meeting in Istanbul with a group of Turkish businessmen. On 6 July, Constantinescu met with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, and other officials. Romanian and Turkish delegations signed five agreements on economic cooperation, scientific research, and social security. Demirel said the Kosova crisis demonstrated the need for Romania and Bulgaria to be admitted into NATO. In turn, Constantinescu expressed support for Turkey's full membership in the EU, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. MS

ROMANIAN COURT ALLOWS 'MULTICULTURAL' UNIVERSITY

The Supreme Court of Justice on 7 July overturned an earlier ruling by a Bucharest court which had rejected as unconstitutional the government's decision to set up the Petofi-Schiller "multicultural" university (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 1998). The government had brought the appeal to the Supreme Court, while the earlier verdict was the result of a case brought to the court by the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR). PUNR chairman Valeriu Tabara--who on 3 July was designated as PUNR's candidate in the 2000 presidential elections--described the Supreme Court's ruling as having resulted from "political pressure." The Supreme Court has yet to rule on other appeals by the government against similar verdicts delivered in cases brought to court by the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the Greater Romania Party. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ONCE AGAIN POSTPONES DEBATE ON SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL TRANSIT

The leadership of the governing coalition on 7 July decided to postpone indefinitely a parliamentary debate on ratifying the 1997 agreement on the transit of spent nuclear fuel from the Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1999). If it actually takes place, the debate could cause the current government to collapse, since three of the four parties in the governing coalition are opposed to the transit, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Party of Moldovan Communists has hinted that it might join the coalition's pro- presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc in supporting the deal's ratification. MS

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS EXAMINES CASE OF DETAINED MOLDOVAN DEPUTY

The European Court of Human Rights has started examining the case of parliamentary deputy Ilie Ilascu who has been sentenced to death in Tiraspol for alleged terrorist acts in 1992, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The lawyers representing Ilascu filed the suit against both Russia and Tiraspol, arguing that Moscow is supporting the separatist regime which has imprisoned their client. The suit had to be brought against Russia because the European court only has jurisdiction over states that are members of the Council of Europe. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES RUSSIAN OVERFLIGHTS

The cabinet on 7 July approved the transit of Russian KFOR peacekeepers through Bulgaria's airspace and asked the parliament to endorse the decision, Reuters reported. Parliament chairman Yordan Sokolov said the legislature may require 72 hours to debate the approval. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said that the parliamentary debate may extend past the dates that Moscow has requested for the transit of its troops. MS

LEBANON CONSIDERS CANCELING BULGARIAN FLIGHTS TO BEIRUT

Lebanon is considering canceling all flights by Bulgaria's national airline to Beirut because the company was recently sold to two Israeli companies, AP reported. A consortium of the Zeevi Group Knafaim and Arkia Holdings bought a 75 percent stake in the debt-ridden Balkan Airlines in late June for $150,000 and a commitment to invest $100 million in the airline. MS

SECOND BULGARIAN JOURNALIST ATTACKED WITHIN ONE MONTH

Svetla Asenova, a layout editor for the "Computer World" weekly, was hospitalized with a skull fracture and brain injury on 7 July, after being severely beaten and robbed by unidentified assailants in Sofia, AP reported. A journalist from the weekly "Kapital" was hospitalized after being attacked in late June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999). Also on 7 July, a court in Sofia acquitted due to lack of evidence a man accused of throwing acid in the face of Anna Zarkova, a reporter from the daily "Trud," during an attack on her in late 1998. MS




Three Thoughts on Democracy in Serbia


By Patrick Moore

The legacy of Slobodan Milosevic's four lost wars has recently prompted Western capitals to show an interest in promoting democracy in Serbia. Part of the goal is to eliminate the main source of Balkan instability, once and for all. Much has been written on the subject in recent weeks, and more will no doubt follow. In the ensuing discussion, one might also raise these three points.

First, democracy comes from the bottom up. The focus of efforts to promote a transformation in Serbia should start with local and grass-roots efforts, including groups from the civil society and independent media. "Danas" wrote on 30 June that the German government plans to help opposition-run cities. That will be well and good if it happens. But one should not forget that previous pledges by the EU and other foreign sources to help Serbian independent media and the civil society have not always materialized, as the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 28 June.

Furthermore, in concentrating on local initiatives, one should not waste energy in lamenting the absence of some admirable and dynamic national political leader--a "Serbian Cory Aquino," as Richard Holbrooke recently put it. There are many opposition-party mayors and other local leaders who deserve support. Some of them have been at the forefront of the recent protests that have taken place in several cities and towns. Many prominent Western leaders began their careers in local or regional politics. Might Serbia, some day soon, offer similar examples?

Second, use the international protectorate over Kosova to make it a safe haven for Serbian democracy, including NGOs and the independent media (see "'RFE/RL Balkan Report," No. 25). One recalls that in Habsburg times the Vojvodina played a similar role in bringing modern European culture and politics to the Serbs of Serbia proper. The Kosova protectorate now provides a golden opportunity both for Serbian democrats and for the international community. Perhaps the time has come for those concerned to seriously discuss the possibilities with each other.

Before all else, however, Kosova has to be made safe for Serbs. Ending the revenge attacks and restoring an atmosphere of safety and security should be top priorities for KFOR. They are also necessary prerequisites if the international protectorate is to serve as a vehicle for promoting democracy in Serbia proper.

Third, perhaps time has come for giving serious consideration to the restoration of the Karadjordjevic dynasty in Serbia. The decision to do so will obviously be a matter for the Serbs themselves, but foreign governments might want to think about what role, if any, they might seek to play. They might reflect, for example, on whether they wish to treat Crown Prince Aleksandar as a private citizen or as something else.

The main argument for the restoration is that a good constitutional monarch could provide a stabilizing and guiding influence in Serbia's transition to democracy. The role of Spain's Juan Carlos in his country's transition comes to mind. The monarchist tradition is strong in Serbia, and among Serbs outside its boundaries. Aleksandar's British education and his exposure to British political culture might be just the qualifications that would best recommend a constitutional monarch in a troubled country like present-day Serbia.

The main argument against a restoration has been that a majority of Serbs do not support it, at least according to polls in the past. Perhaps in view of the dramatic events of the past few months, however, it's time for some fresh opinion surveys. A democratically elected Serbian parliament might choose to settle the issue by calling a referendum.

A second set of negative arguments involves Aleksandar personally. Critics charge that he is a man of only average intelligence. They add that his command of Serbo-Croatian is very limited, noting that he was born and raised in Britain and never expected to reclaim the throne.

Whatever the merits of the first argument, it fails to appreciate that he has apparently shown excellent judgment in selecting good advisors and following their suggestions. And with his British background, Aleksandar may be precisely the sort of individual best suited to serve Serbia in these difficult times.

As to the language issue, it might be recalled that most of the Balkan countries were ruled at one time or another in the past 100-odd years by foreign-born monarchs who had little knowledge of their people's language. One exception was Serbia, where the two rival dynasties--Karadjordjevic and Obrenovic--were both home grown. Given his family's place in Serbian history, perhaps many Serbs would be willing to forgive Aleksandar on the language issue. In any event, he has two young sons who could still master the intricacies of Serbo-Croatian declensions.


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