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Newsline - July 12, 1999




LOCUSTS JOIN LIST OF PROBLEMS PLAGUING RUSSIAN HARVEST

Locusts have infested more than 1 million hectares of Russian cropland, "Izvestiya" reported on 9 July in an article entitled "Locusts Without Borders." The insects, which arrived from Kazakhstan, are eating their way through crops in a host of southern regions along the Russian-Kazakh border. Russian farmers have already been trying to cope with unusually hot weather this summer, combined with a lack of rain. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported late last month that drought has practically destroyed all crops in Kalmykia and the lower Volga region, so there will be little to harvest (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 30 June 1999). Yelena Tyurina, director-general of the Institute of Agrarian Market Research, told "The Moscow Times" on 10 July that the grain harvest will be 53 million tons at most this year, about 10 percent lower than predictions the previous week because of the continuing dry weather and insect problem. JAC

STEPASHIN REJECTS BID FOR EXPANDED FUEL MINISTRY

Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin declared on 12 July that no one is planning to incorporate Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems (EES) into the Ministry of Fuel and Energy, although he noted the ministry is examining the issue of "coordinating" the activities of the two companies, Interfax reported. According to Reuters, Fuel Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii said on 9 July "the ministry of fuel and energy must become the body which actually runs the fuel and energy complex, regulating the strategically important systems of oil, gas, coal and electricity supply both directly and indirectly." "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day that Kalyuzhnii had in essence called for the two companies to be merged under the auspices of an expanded Fuel and Energy Ministry and that such a proposal was evidence that the "clan" of Sibneft head Roman Abramovich is "once again trying to gain control over natural monopolies." JAC

U.S. CONGRESS SUSPICIOUS ABOUT CENTRAL BANK

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko predicted on 12 July that the joint economic memorandum of the Russian government and Central Bank will be signed that day or the next, noting that only one "technical question" remained, Interfax reported. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 July that the delay in signing the statement is becoming "dangerously explosive" for Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko and Prime Minister Stepashin and that IMF officials want to insert a "substantial correction" into the document. The daily also reported that some U.S. Congressmen have demanded that the results of an audit of the Central Bank be published. It said that these congressional officials may try to delay the fund's disbursement of money to Russia. First Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin told Interfax on 12 July that the fund's board of directors will discuss the $4.7 billion credit for Russia at a meeting on 28 July. JAC

HITCH REPORTED IN YELTSIN'S POST-RETIREMENT PLANS?

Minister for CIS Affairs Leonid Drachevskii said that Russian President Boris Yeltsin could not head a unified Russian- Belarusian state because the draft treaty on forming such a state does not allow for that possibility, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 July. The treaty stipulates that a Supreme Council composed of the two country's presidents, prime ministers and parliamentary speakers would rule the unified state (see also Part II). The previous day, Chairman of the State Duma's Committee for CIS Affairs, Georgii Tikhonov (People's Power), said that signing of the treaty by the end of the year is "completely realistic," according to ITAR- TASS. Meanwhile, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called plans to form a unified state of Russia and Belarus "a thoughtless political venture," "Izvestiya" reported on 10 July. Yavlinskii told reporters on 9 July that an economic union should precede any political unification and that restoration of democratic rights and the creation of market economic institutions would be preconditions for the formation of the union. JAC

PENSION BACK-LOG TO BE WIPED OUT BY EARLY NOVEMBER

Pension Fund head Mikhail Zurabov pledged that pensioners will receive all overdue pensions by 7 November, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 July. According to the daily, the government paid off more than 18 billion rubles ($737 million) in overdue pensions during the first six months of the year and the remaining debt totals 11.7 billion rubles. In addition, pensioners are experiencing delays of only 14 to 15 days, compared with the previous "norm" of two months, in the majority of oblasts that have not yet eliminated their pension backlog, according to the daily. ITAR-TASS reported earlier that Stepashin said that pensions would be made current as soon as September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). Meanwhile, "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 8 July that earlier this month the Federation Council adopted a bill allocating 8 billion rubles to increase military pensions by 1.62 times. According to the military daily, retired servicemen were supposed to start receiving higher pensions as of 1 January, but the Finance Ministry only recently found the money to finance the increase. JAC

US-RUSSIAN STEEL NEGOTIATORS AIM FOR LAST-MINUTE COMPROMISE

During talks held on 8-9 July, Russian and U.S. trade negotiators failed to forge an agreement on terms for exporting Russian steel to the U.S., Interfax reported on 9 July citing Russian Trade Minister Georgii Gabuniya. ITAR- TASS reported on 11 July that the two sides have taken a break in negotiations and that Russian negotiators are bringing a package of proposals from the U.S. to Moscow for discussion. The agency added that if the two sides do not reach agreement by 12 July, the U.S. will impose "punitive measures" on Russian steel producers. According to the government daily, "Rossiiskaya gazeta," on 9 July, administration heads of the steel-producing regions of Chelyabinsk, Vologda, and Lipetsk proposed in April that Russia respond to U.S. "protectionism" by increasing the import duty on U.S.-manufactured aircraft equipment. Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev reported that Moscow said it must first reach an agreement on deferring payments on Soviet-era debt. JAC

SECURITY COUNCIL CRITICIZES FOREIGN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS

At a Security Council meeting on 10 July, Prime Minister Stepashin said that various groups with radical and extremist tendencies have noticeably intensified their activities ahead of Russian elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Security Council members decided that to ensure fair and honest elections, new legislation including a law on combating political extremism must be enacted. According to the Security Council's press service, foreign religious organizations have also become more active in Russia, while some have been waging an active campaign to discredit Russia's traditional religions and provoke inter-religious conflicts, the agency reported without naming any such organization or identifying Russia's traditional religions. JAC

RUSSIAN LEGISLATORS ABSTAIN FROM OSCE VOTE ON WAR CRIME SUSPECTS

At the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in St. Petersburg on 10 July the Russian delegation abstained from voting on a resolution that called on member states to extradite indicted war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax that NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is "the chief hand behind the NATO aggression" against Yugoslavia and must also be considered a war crimes suspect. The resolution, which was adopted by the assembly, also paves the way for the deployment of 700 OSCE personnel in Kosova to help build democratic institutions, prepare and supervise elections, and train a new police force as well as judicial and administrative officials. FS

DUMA OFFICIAL ACKNOWLEDGES RUSSIAN SECTOR WOULD PARTITION KOSOVA

Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich told "Parlamentskaya gazeta" of 8 July that "in the current situation...the allotment of separate zones in sectors where forces of other countries are located seems to be the most suitable option for Russian peacekeepers." He argued that "a separate [Russian] sector would be indeed a division [of Kosova]. If we came, the Albanians would immediately leave the territory. Not because Russian paratroopers would oppress or...not protect them, but in order to make a political point. And then our guys would attract the wrath of all the bandits of the so-called Kosova Liberation Army." Popkovich added that "I am certain that mutual understanding [with NATO troops] will be reached among servicemen. Peacekeepers will allow no one to insult them." FS

PATRIARCH ALEKSII PLEDGES RECONSTRUCTION AID FOR SERBIAN CHURCHES

Patriarch Aleksii II said in Moscow on 9 July that the Russian Orthodox Church will open a special fund for donations to help reconstruct 18 cathedrals and churches reportedly damaged during the NATO bombing campaign against targets in Yugoslavia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Aleksii also announced that the Church will send four priests to Kosova to give "spiritual support" to the Russian KFOR soldiers. Vitalii Tarasov, an official of the Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral in Belgrade, said that his church was also damaged during the air campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. He accused NATO of turning a blind eye to crimes committed by Albanians against Serbs in Kosova, saying that "murder, arson, and rape are now a daily occurrence [in Kosova]. The criminals do not distinguish between women, young girls, and nuns. This is nothing but terror against the Christian population." FS

RUSSIAN YOUTH SHOW LITTLE INTEREST IN POLITICS

Russia's youth, particularly its university students, express little interest in politics or political organizations and are likely to participate in upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in even smaller numbers than during the last elections, "Segodnya" concluded on 9 July. According to Sergei Tumanov, head of the Center for Sociological Studies at Moscow State University, 63.6 percent of respondents in a poll of students at the university said that they do not participate in any form of public or political activities. A similar portion said that youth need social organizations of their own, but only 10 percent said it is necessary to found such organizations. According to the daily's own investigation, there are about 250 members of the Communist Party of Russia at Moscow State University, while the ranks of active supporters of Yabloko and Democratic Choice "are not much wider." JAC

CENTRAL BANK OFFICIAL NABBED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES

The head of the Central Bank's Department for Construction and Material and Technical Supplies, Sergei Kapranov, has been arrested on charges of accepting bribes and embezzlement, Interfax reported on 11 July. Kapranov, who was in the Central Bank's medical facilities in Moscow at the time of the arrest, is suspected of accepting a bribe of 120 million old rubles from a Moscow criminal group. JAC

CHECHNYA SAYS IT WILL NOT CONDUCT ELECTIONS TO DUMA

Chechen presidential press spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev told Interfax on 10 July that the breakaway republic will not hold elections to the Russian State Duma. ITAR-TASS the previous day had quoted former Russian presidential envoy in Chechnya Valentin Vlasov as saying that Chechnya wants to elect a representative to the Duma, and that Russia's Central Electoral Commission is currently holding negotiations with the Chechen authorities to this end. Also on 10 June, Duma speaker Seleznev rejected Yabloko faction leader Yavlinskii's proposal the previous day to introduce a state of emergency in all Russian regions bordering on Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev said he believes the deployment of additional Interior Ministry forces in those areas is sufficient to counter the activities of criminal and terrorist groups. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT VISITS STEPANAKERT

Robert Kocharian traveled to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 10 July, together with Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian and Interior Minister Suren Abrahamian, for talks with the enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian and its defense minister, Samvel Babayan, RFE/RL correspondents in Yerevan and Stepanakert reported. Government sources told RFE/RL that Kocharian expressed optimism that the discussions had laid the foundations for defusing the tensions between Ghukasian and Babayan. Those tensions emerged after the sacking last month of Karabakh Premier Zhirayr Poghosian, who was arrested on 9 July (see also "End Note" below). LF

VIOLENCE MARS LOCAL ELECTIONS IN ARMENIAN CAPITAL

Voting for local council heads passed without incident on 11 July in three Yerevan districts where only one candidate stood for election, AP and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But at least eight people were seriously injured in the fourth district, Ajapniak, where armed supporters of one candidate opened fire on proxies representing a rival. The outcome of the Ajapniak vote has been declared invalid. LF

AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT

Wolfgang Schuessel met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Tofik Zulfugarov and with President Heidar Aliyev in Baku, the last stop on his tour of Transcaucasus capitals, on 9 July, ITAR- TASS and Turan reported. Discussing the prospects for increased Austrian involvement in the Karabakh peace process, Aliyev again warned that Azerbaijan "will never agree" to the creation of a "common state" comprising Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS RESTRICTIONS ON OIL EXPORTS VIA RUSSIA

Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR issued a statement on 9 July calling on the Russian government to act "resolutely" to prevent further stoppages in the export of Azerbaijan's oil via the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk export pipeline, Interfax and Turan reported. Since the beginning of 1999, that pipeline has been out of commission for a total of 95 days The SOCAR statement said that those stoppages have limited the amount of oil Azerbaijan could export and thus negatively affected the country's economy. It noted that under an intergovernmental agreement signed by Russia and Azerbaijan in January 1996, the Russian pipeline operating company Transneft is obliged to export some 2.5 million tons of Azerbaijani oil via Novorossiisk annually. Some 2,500 tons of Azerbaijani crude were pumped through the pipeline last week to Izberbash in Dagestan, from where the oil will be transported by rail to Novorossiisk bypassing Chechnya. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE THWART JOURNALISTS' PROTEST

Police in Baku prevented a group of independent journalists from congregating near the Azerbaijan Publishing House on 9 July in order to undertake an unsanctioned march to the parliamentary building, Turan and Interfax reported. The journalists, whose number was estimated at between 80 and 300, intended to protest "attacks on the free press," including the recent beating of Kamil Tagisoy, a journalist with the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1999). The journalists issued a statement demanding the formation of an independent group to investigate reprisals against their colleagues, the removal of articles limiting press activities from the draft media bill currently under discussion, and the lifting of bureaucratic obstacles to the granting of licenses for independent television stations. LF

ABKHAZ GOVERNMENT-IN-EXILE ABDUCTED

All 17 members of the Abkhaz government-in-exile were kidnapped by eight masked men on 9 July, when their helicopter landed in the Kodori Valley, the only region of Abkhazia still controlled by the central Georgian government. The kidnappers released their prisoners the following day after talks with local governor Iveri Chelidze, claiming that the kidnapping was "a mistake." Four of the ministers had been badly beaten by their captors. The reasons for the incident remain unclear. Initial reports said the kidnappers wanted to exchange their hostages for associates held in prison in Tbilisi, but one of the captured ministers subsequently quoted the kidnappers as demanding that the Kodori gorge be declared "Free Svaneti." Inhabitants of the mountain region of Svaneti, which straddles the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, have for centuries had a reputation of lawlessness. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION ELECTION ALLIANCE FORMALIZED

Meeting in Batumi on 11 July, representatives of five Georgian left-wing opposition parties formally pledged to create an alliance to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections, Caucasus Press reported. The five parties are the Union for Democratic Revival, headed by Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze, the Socialist Party, chaired by Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, the Union of Traditionalists, the Constantine Gamsakhurdia Society (one of several parties created by supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia), and the People's Party, which split three years ago from the National Democratic Party of Georgia. As of 30 June, 56 political parties had registered with the Central Electoral Commission to contest the poll. On 12 July, President Eduard Shevardnadze pledged to set the date of the election by the end of this week. LF

RUSSIAN-KAZAKH ROW OVER BAIKONUR CONTINUES

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and officials at Russia's Khrunichev Space Center said on 9 July that the 5 July explosion of a proton rocket launched from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome was probably caused by engine problems. Kazakhstan's government has suspended further launches from Baikonur, including the planned launch on 14 July of a supply craft bound for the "Mir" space station, until the causes of the explosion are fully clarified. After flying over the region affected by the explosion on 10 June, Khrunichev director Yurii Koptev told Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev that preliminary tests show no signs that the region has been contaminated by spills of toxic heptyl fuel. But Balghymbaev said Moscow had not shown adequate concern over the consequences of the disaster. He hinted that Kazakhstan may require Moscow to request permission for future launches from Baikonur, rather than simply notify the Kazakh authorities in advance, as has been the practice until now, Reuters reported. LF

FIRE DESTROYS AIRPORT IN FORMER KAZAKH CAPITAL

Almaty's main airport was almost entirely destroyed by a fire that broke out during the night of 9-10 July, RFE/RL correspondents reported. No one was injured in the blaze, which is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. LF

NEW KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS

The Ar- Namys (Dignity) party headed by former Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov held its founding congress in Bishkek on 9 July, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov told the 742 delegates present that to date some 2,400 people have applied for membership in the party, of which he was elected chairman. Interfax quoted Kulov as telling congress participants that Ar-Namys aims to stabilize all aspects of the situation in Kyrgyzstan and to create a law-abiding and democratic society. (In a 7 July interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta," President Askar Akaev claimed that Kyrgyzstan is already a democratic state.) LF

KYRGYZ PREMIER ENDS VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN

Amangeldy MurAliyev ended a two-day official visit to Uzbekistan on 10 July, Russian agencies reported. MurAliyev held talks with his Uzbek counterpart, Utkir Sultanov, parliamentary speaker Erkin Khalilov, and President Islam Karimov, who noted that the "speedy resolution" of unspecified outstanding problems in bilateral relations would benefit both countries. Reports of the meetings suggest, however, that little progress was made in this direction. MurAliyev was to have discussed the transfer to Kyrgyz control of oil and gas fields in southern Kyrgyzstan's Osh and Djalalabad Oblasts previously worked by Uzbekistan, but no document regulating this issue was reported to have been signed. LF




ANOTHER BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL SEEKS ASYLUM ABROAD

Lieutenant- Colonel Alyaksandr Datsiy, former chief editor of the Belarusian Interior Ministry's "Na strazhe," has asked for political asylum in "one of the democratic countries of Europe," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 9 July. In a telephone conversation with RFE/RL, Datsiy said he was pressured by Belarusian special services to acknowledge that he illegally sponsored the opposition activities of former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, who disappeared in Minsk in early May under unexplained circumstances. Datsiy added that the authorities threatened to bring him to trial and sentence him for financial offenses unless he confessed to his ties with Zakharanka. JM

LUKASHENKA SAYS BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION MUST HAVE PRESIDENT

In an interview with "Die Woche" on 9 July, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said the planned Belarus-Russia union must have the posts of president and vice president as well as a government. According to Lukashenka, as things currently stand, the union's presidency should be assumed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, while the Belarusian president should become the vice president. Lukashenka added that he will not agree to a different model for the distribution of power within the union. He said that Russian ruble may become the union's single currency if Russia shows its readiness to develop the union while "taking into account the proposals of the Belarusian side," Belapan reported. JM

SCHROEDER, KUCHMA FAIL TO AGREE ON CHORNOBYL

At a meeting in Kyiv on 9 July, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma failed to reach agreement on the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. Schroeder was unable to persuade Kuchma to accept Western support for developing conventional power plants in exchange for the Chornobyl shutdown in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999). Kuchma said later that Chornobyl will be closed only after nuclear reactors in Rivne and Khmelnytskyy are completed to compensate for the power loss. Schroeder said Germany will take no decision on financial aid for Ukraine until September, when the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development is to decide whether to finance the completion of the two reactors. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BANS SALE OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS GIANT

Ukrainian legislators on 9 July voted by 235 to 23 to reject a bill that would have sanctioned the privatization of more than 25 percent of Ukrtelekom, which employs some 130,000 people, while ensuring that the state retains a majority stake in the company. The parliament said there is no need to privatize Ukrtelekom since the company is operating at a profit. Kuchma criticized the decision as a political move, adding that proceeds from the sale would have been used to pay off wage and pension arrears. JM

BALTIC PRIME MINISTERS MEET IN PALANGA...

Prime Ministers Mart Laar (Estonia), Vilis Kristopans (Latvia), and Rolandas Paksas (Lithuania) met in the Lithuanian coastal resort of Palanga on 9 July under the auspices of the Baltic Council of Ministers. Among the topics discussed were NATO and EU enlargement, joint energy issues, commerce and trade concerns, and the Via Baltica transport link. Laar stressed that Estonia supports the beginning of EU accession negotiations for Latvia and Lithuania, ETA reported. At the same time, Latvian Prime Minister Kristopans stressed support for Baltic free trade, saying Riga would work to lift the barriers against it. "The two other sides have been critical of Latvia since it imposed an import tariff on pork (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999)." The prime ministers also agreed that all three countries will raise defense spending to 2 percent of GDP within a few years. MH

...LATVIA, LITHUANIA SIGN MARITIME BORDER DEAL

At the same meeting, Kristopans and Paksas signed the long-delayed treaty on the Latvian-Lithuanian maritime border. ELTA reported that the agreement, which took over five years to be completed, establishes the territorial seas of the two countries up to Sweden's fishing zone. Although some officials hinted that the agreement was a compromise one, Lithuanian negotiators called it "fair for both sides." The disagreement over the maritime border has been acrimonious at times, with the two countries fighting over rights to oil deposits in the contentious area. The parliaments of both countries must still ratify the treaty. MH

BALTIC, NORDIC DEFENSE MINISTERS IN OSLO

Defense ministers from the Baltic and Nordic countries gathered in Oslo on 9-10 July to discuss regional cooperation and KFOR's deployment in Kosova. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who also attended the meeting, stressed the need for good relations with Russia. However, AP reported that Cohen, despite praising the Baltic States' progress in defense and minority policies, gave no assurances or timetables with regard to possible NATO entry, saying "it's too early to tell how this will unfold." MH

POLISH NURSES OBTAIN PAY HIKE, SUSPEND PROTEST

The Nurses and Midwives Trade Union and the Health and Labor Ministries have signed an agreement on a pay increase equal to 2 percent above the inflation rate, ending a 52-day protest by the nurses. Under the 11 July agreement, the pay increase will be backdated to 1 April and implemented by the end of August. The hike will be financed by hospital managements, whose debts incurred by paying wage increases and bonuses last year have been forgiven by the government. The cabinet will also ask the hospital managements to reduce the number of medical workers to be laid off. JM

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW CITIZENSHIP LAW

The Chamber of Deputies on 9 July approved a bill allowing citizens of the former Czechoslovakia who emigrated under communist rule to apply for Czech citizenship. The bill must still be approved by the Senate. The law allows former emigres to hold dual citizenship and makes it easier for Slovak citizens who have lived in the Czech Republic since the 1993 split to acquire Czech citizenship, Reuters reported. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW

The parliament on 10 July approved the government bill on the use of minority languages in contacts with the authorities, CTK reported. The vote was 70 to 18 with one abstention. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) voted against the bill, while the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party boycotted the ballot. SMK parliamentary group chairman Gyula Bardos said his party will have to "re-evaluate" its further participation in the ruling coalition. The SMK wanted the bill to be extended to culture, education, the media, and the courts. It also wanted the law to permit the use of minority languages in contacts with the authorities in localities where minorities make up 10 percent of the population, rather than 20 percent, as stipulated by the approved bill. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS ROMA MUST HELP FIND SOLUTION TO INTEGRATION PROBLEM

Rudolf Schuster on 9 July said in Presov that solving the problem of Romany integration is not possible without the Romas' participation, CTK reported. He said the Czech Republic can help Slovakia solve this matter, which is why he discussed last week with his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Havel, the involvement of Romany organizations in seeking to solve the problem. Schuster also said that if the opposition's alleged participation in organizing the recent mass exodus of Roma to Finland were confirmed, oppositionists would have gone "beyond the limit of what is acceptable in political life." Also on 9 July, the Finnish ombudsman for foreigners, Antti Seppaelae, told CTK that no Rom who has applied for political asylum has a chance of being granted that status. MS




KOSOVA SERB LEADERS 'END COOPERATION' WITH NATO, UN

Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije and Kosova Serb political leader Momcilo Trajkovic said in a statement on 11 July that the Kosova Serbian leadership will "cease cooperation [with the UN and NATO] as long as violence continues" against Serbs in the province, the "Financial Times" reported. The Serbian leaders stressed they will not participate in UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello's multi-ethnic "transitional council" until the security situation improves. Artemije and Trajkovic appealed to U.S. President Bill Clinton to receive a delegation representing the Serbs of Kosova. In Prishtina, a UN spokesman said that he agrees that the "level of violence is too high" but added that the statement nonetheless came as a "surprise," Reuters reported. The spokesmen added that the statement "doesn't seem to be a recipe for trying to improve the situation." PM

RUSSIAN TROOPS MOVE INTO KOSOVA ZONES

Advance troops of the Russian contingent moved into Kamenica in the U.S. sector and Malisheva in the German sector of Kosova on 11 July. Over the weekend, hundreds more Russian troops arrived at Prishtina airport. In Rahovec, near Malisheva, about 3,000 ethnic Albanian protesters continued demonstrations against the deployment of the Russians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999). In Malisheva, ethnic Albanian children gathered around a Russian armored personnel carrier with about 10 soldiers and chanted, "UCK, UCK" in reference to the Kosova Liberation Army. A "Financial Times" correspondent noted that some of the Russian troops were "waving the distinctive Serbian three-fingered salute." No further incidents were reported. FS

U.S. TROOPS ARREST GUNMEN IN GJILAN

U.S. peacekeepers arrested 11 unidentified people on 10 July in Gjilan, a KFOR spokesman told AFP in Prishtina the next day. In one incident, unknown gunmen fired shots in the vicinity of a patrol that was investigating a grenade attack on an apartment building. The soldiers arrested four men and two women as they came out of the building and another five men nearby. The peacekeepers later discovered a dead body inside the building and a wounded person. The peacekeepers also found several weapons, including five rifles, seven pistols, and ammunition. In a separate incident, U.S. troops fired at gunmen who had earlier fired shots out of their car. No one was reported injured in the incident. FS

ARBOUR INVESTIGATES KOSOVA WAR CRIMES IN REGION

Louise Arbour, who is the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, arrived in Tirana on 11 July to discuss the ongoing Kosova war crimes investigation with her Albanian colleagues. The Albanian government has set up a special group of legal investigators who over the past two months have interviewed refugees in Albania to gather testimony from witnesses and victims of war crimes. Albanian officials have pledged to hand over all evidence to the tribunal. Arbour is scheduled to fly to Skopje on 12 July and will subsequently visit Kosova. FS

HUGE MASS GRAVE IN KOSOVA?

A NATO spokesman said in Prishtina on 9 July that KFOR troops have sealed off a site near Ljubenic, in western Kosova, so that forensics experts from the Hague-based war crimes tribunal can investigate reports of a mass grave there. Local ethnic Albanian villagers recently told KFOR troops that in April Serbian forces systematically killed and buried some 350 Kosovars there. The villagers stressed that the killings had no military justification because the UCK was not strong in that area. If the reports prove true, the mass grave would be the largest one found to date in Kosova, Reuters reported. PM

ALBANIAN VILLAGERS LOOT REFUGEE CAMP

An Albanian was killed on 10 July during a shoot-out between police and a crowd that attacked and looted an Italian-run refugee camp near Vlora, Reuters reported. An Albanian soldier was injured during the shootout. The crowd surrounded and looted the camp after the last refugees left for Kosova and Italian officials turned over the camp to the Albanian authorities. An unnamed eyewitness said that "the situation was completely out of control because armed men fired from all sides and the police could do nothing." He added that the crowds took everything "except the field hospital, which the Italians had donated to the Vlora hospital a day earlier." The camp had modern toilets, spacious tents, and electrical wiring. FS

SHOOT-OUT AT AUSTRIAN CAMP

In Shkodra on 9 July, Austrian troops shot and wounded two out of four Albanians who drove up to the Austrian refugee camp and began firing with automatic rifles, AP reported. An Austrian Red Cross spokesman said that the attack was apparently linked to fights among rival clans. FS

THOUSANDS PROTEST IN KIKINDA

More than 4,000 people attended a rally in the eastern Vojvodina town of Kikinda on 11 July to demand the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Over the weekend, dozens of army reservists protested in Vranje to demand back pay. On 10 July, some 1,500 anti-Milosevic demonstrators gathered in Leskovac (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999). On 9 July, the town councils of Nis and Sombor passed resolutions calling on Milosevic to resign. In Novi Sad, university students held a protest meeting. They later issued a statement calling on the federal president to go because of "10 years of failed policies" and appealing to the Serbian Orthodox Church and Yugoslav Army to support the opposition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

DJINDJIC SAYS PROTESTS TO GROW

Serbian opposition Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told Reuters in Belgrade on 9 July that the strategy of his anti-Milosevic coalition Alliance for Change "is to organize protests in the 15 to 20 largest cities in Serbia during the next 15 to 20 days. Our goal is daily protests throughout the country. By mid-August, we should be able to stage the biggest protest, [which will be] in Belgrade" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999). Djindjic added that a transitional government of experts could take office in the interim between Milosevic's resignation and the holding of new elections. The opposition leader suggested that former Central Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic would be an excellent candidate to head an interim government. PM

OPPOSITION ACTIVIST SENTENCED

The Democratic Party said in a statement on 11 July that Goran Vesic, who is a party activist and member of the Belgrade City Council, was sentenced by a military court in Uzice "in secret to two years in prison for failing to respond to a military call-up notice and for high treason." The statement said that the sentence was designed to intimidate Vesic from taking part in opposition activities. The text added that military courts have launched proceedings against 12,000 men in Montenegro for allegedly failing to respond to call-up notices. One leading Belgrade lawyer noted that similar cases are pending against a total of 23,000 male Yugoslav citizens, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. As for Vesic himself, he denied that he was ever drafted into a reserve unit or had received a call-up notice, AP reported. PM

SREBRENICA SURVIVORS PROTEST

Several thousand mainly Muslim women and children who survived the 1995 Serbian conquest of Srebrenica demonstrated in Sarajevo on 11 July to mark the fourth anniversary of the capture of the eastern Bosnian town. The survivors demanded that the international community take action to clarify the fate of the missing 8,000 Srebrenica males, who are widely believed to have been massacred in the largest single atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II. PM

WESTENDORP TELLS BOSNIAN MAYOR TO RESIGN

The international community's Carlos Westendorp called on Sanski Most Mayor Mehmed Alagic to resign or take a leave of absence until corruption charges against him are cleared up, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 July. Westendorp also called on the town council of Sanski Most to lift Alagic's immunity from prosecution. Alagic was a prominent Muslim general during the 1992-1995 war. Corruption is endemic throughout Bosnia and is the largest obstacle to reviving the economy. PM

SLOVENIA, ROMANIA AGREE, DISAGREE

Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile and his host, Janez Drnovsek, said in Ljubljana on 9 July that NATO should admit several countries of southeastern Europe to the alliance. Vasile mentioned Romania, Slovenia, and Bulgaria by name, Reuters reported. Drnovsek did not specify which countries NATO should take. Vasile also stressed the need to develop "quadripartite cooperation between Italy, France, Slovenia, and Romania." Drnovsek responded, however, that the proposal is not sufficiently clear because it does not specify the concrete role that each country would play in the group of four countries, Radio Bucharest reported. PM

ROMANIAN PARTIES BRACING FOR EARLY ELECTIONS?

The Romanian National Party (PNR) on 10 July announced it will start negotiations with the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) on setting up an alliance for the 2000 local elections and on a "possible merger of the two formations," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The next day, however, PUNR leader Valeriu Tabara said that his party does not envisage any electoral alliance and that any party that wants to join the PUNR would have to merge with it rather than vice versa. The PNR also elected former Romanian Intelligence Service chief Virgil Magureanu as its first deputy chairman to replace Mihai Berca, who left the party on 22 April to become deputy chairman of the Alliance for Romania Party. Also on 9 July, the nationalist Vatra romaneasca organization said it will begin negotiations with the Party of Social Democracy in Romania on forming an electoral alliance. MS

MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN DISMISSED

Valeriu Matei, leader of the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD), was dismissed as deputy parliamentary chairman on 9 July by a vote of 59 to four, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) had demanded his dismissal, accusing him of corruption. Apart from the PCM, deputies from the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD) and the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc voted for Matei's ouster. The PFD and the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) did not participate in the vote. In an interview with RFE/RL on 10 July, Matei said he was "a victim" of "communist machinations" and President Petru Lucinschi's "scenarios for destabilizing the [ruling] Alliance for Democracy and Reform (ADR)" and for "introducing an authoritarian regime." MS

MOLDOVAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL RESIGNS...

Prosecutor-General Valeriu Catana resigned on 9 July, parliamentary speaker Dumitru Diacov announced the same day. His resignation came after the activities of the Prosecutor General's Office were criticized in an 8 July report to the legislature by the Committee for National Security and Public Order and after the demand by PFCD leader Iurie Rosca that Diacov tender his resignation because he was allegedly covering up Catana's links with the underworld. Catana resigned without waiting for the house to vote on whether to dismiss him, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

...AS DEMANDS FOR PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN'S RESIGNATION GROW

CDM parliamentary group leader Mircea Snegur on 9 July told journalists that Diacov "has no moral right" to remain in his post, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The former Moldovan president said that the CDR will demand Diacov's resignation "even if this means the breakup of the [ruling] ADR." Parliamentary deputy chairman and FPCD leader Iurie Rosca, repeating his earlier demand for Diacov's resignation, said the speaker must depart as soon as possible. He added, that he doubted Diacov would do so "of his own accord." MS

GREEK, DUTCH CONSORTIUM BUYS MAJORITY STAKE IN BULGARIAN TELCOM

Bulgaria on 9 July sold a 51 percent stake in the state-owned Telcom company to a consortium of the Greek OTE and the Dutch KPN NV. The consortium paid $502 million for that stake and another $8 million for shares owned by a manager-employee Telcom association. The consortium will also invest $200 million in the company. BTA reported that this is the largest privatization sell-off in Bulgaria since 1989. Also on 9 July, Privatization Agency executive director Zahari Zhelyazkov said in a report on the agency's activities over the last six months that 80 percent of the state-owned companies slashed for privatization or liquidation this year have been sold off or closed. The private sector now accounts for more than 65 percent of the country's GNP, he said. MS




KARABAKH STRONGMAN LOSING INFLUENCE IN POWER STRUGGLE?


by Emil Danielyan

A 10 July visit by top Armenian leaders to Stepanakert, the capital of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, appears to have defused--at least for now--tensions between Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian and the enclave's powerful defense minister, Samvel Babayan.

Discord between Babayan and Ghukasian first emerged in the spring of 1998, when the latter forced the then head of the Karabakh cabinet to resign. Ghukasian proposed assuming the duties of prime minister himself but was rebuffed by the pro-Babayan parliament. Babayan's preferred candidate, Zhirayr Poghosian, was named premier.

At the end of last month, Ghukasian fired Poghosian and his cabinet without warning. The official explanation was Poghosian's failure to improve the republic's economic situation. But reliable sources in Stepanakert told RFE/RL that the move was triggered by the disclosure of a surveillance device in Ghukasian's office, which Poghosian was suspected of having ordered planted. On 11 July, the Karabakh chief prosecutor revealed that Poghosian has been arrested and will be formally charged with illegal arms possession. It is unclear how that accusation is related to his alleged surveillance activities.

Ghukasian's hail of criticism directed against Poghosian was clearly also aimed at Babayan, to whom the ex-premier was known to be loyal. It also reveals the extent of the president's frustration with his hitherto limited role in Karabakh politics. The new prime minister, Anushavan Danielian, a former deputy parliamentary speaker in Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimea, was Ghukasian's choice, as was the enclave's new interior minister, Artur Aghabekian.

Both of the new appointees, for their part, have come under strong criticism from Babayan's loyalists. Some deputies in the Karabakh parliament are reportedly seeking Danielian's dismissal, while other reports spoke of acts of defiance among police staff directed against their new boss. On 6 July, Babayan's brother Karen, who is mayor of Stepanakert, went on local television to criticize President Ghukasian.

Senior commanders of the Karabakh army similarly expressed their discontent at a meeting with Ghukasian on 6 July. Three days later, 11 senior army officers announced that they have returned all their military decorations to protest what they termed inaccurate media accounts of the 6 July meeting. Those reports claimed they had pledged their backing for Ghukasian in his struggle with Babayan. The presidential press office responded the same day with a statement suggesting that the 11 officers had acted on Babayan's orders.

The Armenian leadership in Yerevan has made clear its unequivocal backing for Ghukasian. On 7 July, President Robert Kocharian's press secretary warned that "Armenia will not act as an indifferent observer with regard to Nagorno- Karabakh if any illegal attempts are made against its legitimate authorities." That warning suggested Kocharian may be worried that Babayan's political ambitions are no longer confined to Karabakh. A nationalist bloc backed by Babayan won eight seats in the 131-member Armenian parliament in the 30 May elections, while several independent lawmakers are also believed to be under his tutelage. And there is speculation that Babayan's hard line on the conflict with Azerbaijan could thwart Yerevan's future efforts in the peace process.

Unlike his rival politicians, the 33-year-old Babayan does not have a university degree, having risen to prominence on the battlefield. He is largely credited with leading the Karabakh army to victory over Azerbaijan. In the political arena, he has been rather shrewd, largely acting from behind the scenes. But Babayan may have reached the point where any further advance will not be tolerated by others.

Together with Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian and Interior Minister Suren Abrahamian, President Kocharian, who is Ghukasian's predecessor as Karabakh president, visited Stepanakert on 10 July in a bid to find a way out of the standoff between Ghukasian and Babayan. Government sources there told RFE/RL that Kocharian expressed optimism about the success of his mission after talks with the two rival camps. He told a group of local prominent figures that the problem will be settled "more easily" than had seemed possible, the sources said.

More important, the Armenian president was quoted as saying that "issues related to the [Karabakh] army will definitely be solved" and as reaffirming Armenia's unconditional support for Ghukasian. No official statements to that effect have been made to date, but all the signs are that Babayan will lose at least some leverage as a result.

There seems to be little the defense minister can do now in the face of mounting pressure from Yerevan. The blatant use of the military against Karabakh's civilian authorities would never be forgiven. Such an extreme measure is unlikely, however, not least because Babayan's rivals are offering him a face-saving exit from the crisis whereby he would keep his current post. It cannot be ruled out that Babayan would also be allowed to retain a certain say in key government appointments. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan.


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