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Newsline - July 16, 1999




BATTLE OVER GAZPROM CONTINUES...

Despite the Fuel and Energy Ministry's insistence that Gazprom's board of directors must be altered less than a month after it was elected, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 15 July that the board's make-up will not be changed that dramatically. He added that the Finance, Fuel and Energy, and State Property Ministries will have representatives on the board. According to Interfax, the state is currently represented by the state property minister, a deputy finance minister, Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug governor, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin Chernomyrdin. JAC

...AS COMPOSITION OF BOARD OF DIRECTORS DEBATED

However, "Kommersant-Daily" speculated the same day that dark forces were behind the Fuel and Energy Ministry's desire to alter the board's composition--namely, business magnate Boris Berezovskii and Sibneft head Roman Abramovich. According to the daily, both are increasingly seeking to gain control over Gazprom, and recently compromising materials about the company were televised on Russian Public Television, which Berezovskii reportedly controls. Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii, whom "Kommersant-Daily" and other newspapers have described as a Berezovskii/Abramovich protege, announced on 16 July that he personally would like a seat on the company's board. New candidates to the board of directors will be discussed at a meeting on 20 July, according to Interfax. "Vremya MN" reported on 13 July that the Kremlin wants to reestablish the board of state representatives at Gazprom, which was abolished after the dismissal of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's cabinet. JAC

GRAIN STOCKS STILL DWINDLING, WHILE LIVESTOCK ENJOY WESTERN FOOD AID

As of 1 July, Russian grain stocks plummeted by 76.8 percent to 3.8 million tons, compared with the same period last year, according to the Russian Statistics Agency on 16 July. Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 July that Russian agricultural officials throughout the region have concluded that the hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat that arrived as humanitarian assistance from the U.S. and EU might better be classified as high-quality animal fodder. According to Russian government standards, wheat must be at least 23 percent gluten to be considered third-class quality, while the wheat the U.S. provided is 20-22 percent and the EU 18-19 percent. In order to make bread, high-quality wheat must be added. However, according to Nikolai Lugovov, the head of Nizhnii Novgorod's agriculture department, "finding high quality wheat is a real problem now, because no one planned for this in advance," the daily reported. JAC

RUSSIAN INDUSTRY REBOUNDING?

Industrial output increased 3.1 percent during the first six months of 1999, compared with the same period last year, according to the Russian Statistics Agency on 15 July. The agency also reported that average daily inflation rose to 0.126 percent from 6-12 July compared with 0.063 percent in June, according to ITAR-TASS. Interfax reported that experts believe inflation in July could reach 4.0 percent, compared with 1.9 percent in June. First Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko was more optimistic, predicting that inflation in July will total 2.2 percent. JAC

KREMLIN ALLEGEDLY PRESSURING MOSCOW MAYOR THROUGH CAPITAL'S FIRST LADY

"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 16 July reported that the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Vladimir is conducting a criminal investigation of "commercial structures connected with Inteko," a company owned by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina. According to the daily, those commercial structures are managed by Baturina's brother, Viktor, who is also prime minister of the Republic of Kalmykia. FSB agents reportedly seized all documents relating to Inteko from the Russian Land Bank in what one official from the State Duma's Committee for Legislation on Security, Intelligence, and Borders said was an illegal search. The newspaper alleges that the activities of the Vladimir FSB directorate are politically motivated and part of an overall campaign by the Kremlin to pressure Luzhkov, a likely presidential contender. JAC

RUSSIA REJECTS EARLY RESUMPTION OF FULL NATO TIES

An unnamed senior official at the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax in Moscow on 15 July that Russia will maintain its "freeze" on relations with NATO. The official said that there will be "no exchanges, visits, talks, or meetings between Russian and NATO representatives...at least until the fall." The official said that Russian participation in the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR) is the exception. He added that Colonel- General Viktor Zavarzin will visit NATO headquarters in Brussels soon to coordinate KFOR operations. Zavarzin was Russia's military representative at NATO headquarters until 24 March, when NATO began its bombing campaign of targets in Yugoslavia. Moscow responded by suspending relations with NATO and withdrew Zavarzin. He led the Russian advance command into Prishtina airport on 11 June, before the arrival of NATO troops in Kosova. FS

RUSSIAN GROUND TROOPS ARRIVE IN KOSOVA

Some 500 Russian troops arrived from Thessaloniki at the Russian logistical support camp in Fushe Kosova on 16 July, ITAR- TASS reported. They brought with them 124 armored personnel carriers and more than 100 tons of cargo. The previous day, two Russian planes brought 100 paratroopers, an Mi-8 helicopter, a crane, and other heavy machinery to the Prishtina airfield. These were the 15th and 16th flights of Russian military aircraft to Kosova. A total of 50 flights are scheduled by late August, Interfax reported. Elsewhere, Aeroflot resumed regular flights to Skopje on 15 July. FS

RUSSIA TO SEEK TO PREVENT PROLIFERATION OF LASER WEAPONS...

Russia will "actively contribute" to international efforts to prevent the proliferation of laser weapons, according to a statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry on 15 July, Russian media reported. The statement stresses that "unlike various Western countries," Russia is neither developing nor producing such weapons. It also points out that on 25 June, the Federation Council approved a bill, passed by the State Duma, ratifying a protocol on banning or limiting the use of laser weapons. JC

...TO 'WAIT AND SEE' ON CHINA NEUTRON BOMB ANNOUNCEMENT

Speaking in Tashkent on 15 July, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said his country wants to receive all relevant information from China about its neutron bomb capabilities before it formulates its stance on that issue, Russian agencies and AFP reported. Earlier the same day, China had announced it has the technology to make neutron bombs. Ivanov stressed that Moscow's position is to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation and international strategic stability. JC

SECRET CHEMICAL WEAPONS PLANT IN MURMANSK?

The Norwegian daily "Verdens Gang" claimed in its 15 July issue that for the past 15 years, Russia has had a secret chemical weapons plant just 2 kilometers outside Murmansk, Reuters reported. The newspaper quoted unnamed "international experts" as saying that photographs of the site published in the daily show "without doubt" that chemicals are being produced at the plant. The Norwegian environmental group Bellona said it has heard rumors of chemical weapons stores on the Kola Peninsula, adding that the article is "logical" because the site is close to the Northern Fleet's ammunition storage facilities. A Norwegian Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that the Russian authorities' position remains the same--namely, that there is "no storage, research, or decommissioning of chemical weapons in the Kola region." JC

PERUVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW

During Fernando de Trazegnies's 13-14 July visit to the Russian capital, a number of bilateral documents, including a joint political declaration, were signed, "Nezavisimaya gazeta' reported on 15 July. De Trazegnies met with his Russian counterpart, Ivanov, and Premier Sergei Stepashin, who said later that the two countries have a created a sound basis for "mutually advantageous cooperation, including military- technical cooperation," according to ITAR-TASS. AP quoted the Peruvian minister as saying that Lima will continue buying spare parts from Russia for its Soviet and Russian-made weapons. Last year, trade turnover between the two countries totaled $220 million. JC

ANOTHER FAR EAST REGION HIT BY FUEL CRISIS

A severe shortage of fuel is threatening to isolate the Southern Kuril islands from the outside world, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 July. Phone services have been cut off on the island of Shikotan, while the rapidly dwindling fuel supply at a electricity plant in Vladimir Zema Raion threatens phone services there. According to the agency, the Southern Kuril administration has appealed to those Japanese citizens wishing to visit the island to bring canisters of diesel fuel with them. JAC

ONE ACCUSED JOURNALISTS DELIVERS LAST WORD AT HIS TRIAL...

Military journalist Grigorii Pasko said on 16 July in closing comments at his espionage and treason trial that he was guilty only of doing his job as a journalist. Pasko is charged with supplying classified information to Japanese television about the Pacific Fleet's hazardous waste-dumping practices. Pasko added that the charges were brought against him as revenge for disclosing the environmental damage caused by the fleet, according to AP. Pasko's attorney told dpa that he expects the military court to announce its verdict on 20 July. JAC

...WHILE ANOTHER FACES ADDITIONAL CRIMINAL CHARGE

Lawyers for another military journalist, Aleksandr Nikitin, told reporters on 15 July that the Russian Supreme Court's decision to bring an eighth charge against their client is purely political, according to Interfax. Like Pasko, Nikitin is accused of treason and espionage. He allegedly disclosed classified information about the environmentally hazardous practice of the Northern Fleet. Nikitin said the same day that his lawyers are finding it difficult to prepare their case because of new secrecy restrictions. JAC

KRASNODAR OFFICIALS DECLINE TO REGISTER HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP...

"Vremya MN" reported on 15 July that officials at the Justice Ministry's regional directorate in Krasnodar Krai have refused to register the local Association for the Protection of Human Rights, which has been operating in the area for the past five years. According to the daily, the group has 89 members including lawyers who--among other things--examine whether the region's legislation corresponds to that of federal and international laws. The director of the Krasnodar Justice Ministry directorate, Natalya Ivashchenko, said that the group's "intention to participate in elections violates existing legislation." JAC

...AS LARGE NUMBER OF ORGANIZATIONS IN MARII EL FACE EXTINCTION

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Marii El, more than 100 public organizations face liquidation because they have not been reregistered by the Justice Ministry, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 July. By law, public organizations were required to reregister with the Justice Ministry by 1 July or face loss of certain legal rights, such as that of participating in elections or owning property or a bank account (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). JAC

PECHENEV PROPOSES MORATORIUM ON BORDER CHANGES BETWEEN FEDERATION SUBJECTS...

Russian First Deputy Nationalities Minister Vadim Pechenev has made several proposals aimed at defusing tensions in the North Caucasus and increasing stability in the region. Those proposals are contained in a confidential memorandum on the situation in North Ossetia following the 5 March bombing in Vladikavkaz, which killed 50 people and injured more than 100. The memorandum was addressed to then Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 July. Pechenev advocates a 25-year moratorium on any changes in existing borders between federation subjects (not only in the North Caucasus) in order to "calm the present generation of extremists who are trying to extract political capital from tragedies and historical slights." LF

...AND 'GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT' FOR DUMA ELECTIONS

Pechenev also suggests that the Russian government should convene a meeting with representatives of major political parties to seek an agreement not to "play the nationalism card" by stressing issues that could exacerbate interethnic tensions during the upcoming Duma elections. The Duma, Pechenev proposes, could even introduce a draft bill to that effect. LF




ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT OBTAINS COURT INJUNCTION AGAINST GREEK TELECOM

The Armenian government has obtained a court order against Greece's OTE, which owns a 90 percent in Armenia's ArmTelecom monopoly, allowing it to seize shares worth $140 million in ArmTelecom, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 July. Armenia brought a lawsuit against OTE in late June for non-payment of at least $18 million in profit tax. OTE acquired its share in ArmTelecom when the communications monopoly, previously owned by the Armenian government and the U.S. registered Trans World Telecom, was privatized in 1997. LF

SUSPECT IN ARMENIAN ELECTION VIOLENCE RELEASED AFTER QUESTIONING

Ashot Aghababian, whose supporters are accused of opening fire on supporters of a rival candidate during the local elections in Yerevan's Ajapniak district on 11 July, was taken into custody for questioning on 15 July but released later the same day, Noyan Tapan reported on 16 July. A spokesman for the Prosecutor- General's Office told the agency that Aghababian has not been formally arrested (as erroneously reported in "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1999). LF

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL SHEDS LIGHT ON ALIEV- KOCHARIAN MEETING

Presidential administration department head Novruz Mamedov told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 15 July that the 16 July meeting in Geneva between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan was arranged at the urging of the U.S. Mamedov also said that in a letter to both presidents following their meeting in Washington in late April, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright outlined additions to the most recent Karabakh draft peace plan proposed by the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group. He added that one of those additions deals with the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. The two presidents had planned to met in Luxembourg last month, but Aliev's doctors dissuaded him from making that trip (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). LF

AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN CUSTOMS POST INCIDENT

Husein Djavadov, a leading member of the Nakhichevan branch of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, has rejected allegations by Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov that members of his party arriving in Nakhichevan from Ukraine instigated the violence at the Sadarak border crossing between the Azerbaijani exclave and Turkey earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). A spokesman for residents of Sadarak similarly denied any involvement by the Popular Front, attributing the clash to customs officials' unfair treatment of local residents, Turan reported on 16 July. The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party's Nakhichevan branch and some Azerbaijani newspapers have attributed the fighting to rivalry between mafia groups. LF

ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT-IN-EXILE CHAIRMAN DEMANDS PUNISHMENT FOR KODORI KIDNAPPERS

Tamaz Nadareishvili, who is chairman of the Abkhaz parliament-in- exile (composed of the ethnic Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament elected in late 1991, has cancelled international travel plans and will remain in Tbilisi until the persons responsible for the 9 July kidnapping of the entire Abkhaz government-in-exile are found, Caucasus Press reported on 16 July. Nadareishvili blamed the abduction on "those who cannot reconcile themselves to the existence of legitimate Abkhaz authorities, especially on the eve of parliamentary elections" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 28, 15 July 1999). He has founded his own political party to contest those elections. Nadareishvili planned to visit Azerbaijan and Ukraine to discuss the possible participation of those countries in an international peacekeeping force for Abkhazia. He also intended to address the UN Security Council in New York. LF

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

Petru Lucinschi arrived in Astana on 14 July at the head of a government delegation that also included First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolae Andronic and Foreign Minister Nicolae Tabacaru, INFOTAG reported. Lucinschi held talks on 15 July with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on boosting bilateral trade and Kazakhstan's repayment of its $5.5 million debt to Moldova. Nazarbaev noted that some Kazakh bankers believe the breakaway Transdniester Republic has outstanding debts to Kazakhstan that accumulated before 1991, but his country will not press for repayment, according to Interfax. The two presidents expressed satisfaction at the overall level of bilateral relations and reached agreement on setting up a joint commission for economic cooperation. They also signed a convention on avoiding dual taxation. LF

KAZAKHSTAN PROTESTS RUSSIAN BAN ON MEAT IMPORTS

Kazakhstan's Veterinary Agency issued a statement on 16 July terming Moscow's recent imposition of a ban on imports of meat from Kazakhstan "politically motivated," RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Russia had said the ban was prompted by the discovery of hoof-and- mouth disease among cattle in the Qostanay Oblast of northern Kazakhstan. The Kazakh agency claimed the ban was in retaliation for Astana's temporary ban on the launching of Russian rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome. LF

RUSSIAN, UZBEK FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET

Igor Ivanov met with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov, in Tashkent on 15 July to discuss bilateral relations, regional problems, and the conflicts in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Interfax reported. The two ministers also assessed preparations for Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin's planned visit to Uzbekistan and for the 19-20 July meeting in Tashkent under UN auspices of the "Six Plus Two" group of states (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, and Pakistan, all of which border on Afghanistan, plus Russia and the U.S.) to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Representatives of both rival factions in Afghanistan have also been invited to that meeting, but it unclear whether the Taliban will send a representative (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 4 June 1999). LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT REPORTEDLY AGREES TO ROUNDTABLE PROPOSAL...

RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 16 July quoted Leanid Zaika, head of the Minsk-based independent Center for Strategic Research, as saying that Alyaksandr Lukashenka has agreed to hold roundtable talks with the opposition and NGOs alongside OSCE observers. According to Zaika, Lukashenka promised OSCE special mission chief Adrian Severin that the authorities, the opposition, and NGOs will have six representatives each at the roundtable. The negotiations are to focus on how to ensure free parliamentary elections in 2000 and resolve some socio-economic problems. Severin has not confirmed that report. JM

...REJECTS DISCUSSING HIS LEGITIMACY AFTER 20 JULY

At the same time, Lukashenka said holding presidential elections before 2001, as stipulated by the constitution introduced after the controversial 1996 referendum, cannot be discussed with the opposition. "The date of 20 July, as perceived by the opposition, means nothing to us," he commented. Referring to reports by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and intelligence services, Lukashenka added that the U.S. "has adopted a constructive stance on Belarus." He admitted that acting "out of inertia," the U.S. may adopt a statement questioning his legitimacy after 20 July, but he said he will regard it as a "fleeting episode." He pledged "to take the most rigorous, adequate measures" against the opposition if it stages protests against his presidency once his five-year term expires on 20 July. JM

WATCHDOG ON VIOLATIONS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN BELARUS

Jonathan Fenton and Malcolm Hawks of Human Rights Watch presented a report in Minsk on 15 July on violations of academic freedom in Belarus under Lukashenka. The report draws attention to the politicization of history studies. By order of the government, high-school and university history textbooks written during the post-Soviet era have gradually been replaced by Soviet-era editions. State university authorities issue reprimands and warnings to politically active lecturers and curb research in what the authorities deem politically sensitive issues. The report also says the Belarusian Patriotic Union of Youth, an organization modeled on the Soviet-era Komsomol, aims at politically indoctrinating students and preventing them from becoming involved in opposition politics. JM

RUSSIAN PREMIER IN UKRAINE

Sergei Stepashin held an informal meeting with President Leonid Kuchma and Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko in Kyiv on 15 July. According to ITAR- TASS, the two sides discussed a "broad range of aspects of the Russian-Ukrainian relations," including the payment of Ukraine's debt for Russian oil and gas supplies. On 16 July, Stepashin is scheduled to participate in a session of the Ukrainian-Russian cooperation commission and in a meeting with Kuchma, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, and Transdniester breakaway region leader Igor Smirnov to discuss the settlement of the Transdniester conflict. He will also travel to Sevastopol to meet with Pustovoytenko and discuss issues related to the deployment of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DECREES SENDING 800 TROOPS TO KOSOVA

Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree ordering 800 Ukrainian servicemen to join the international peacekeeping force in Kosova. Kuchma told Interfax that NATO has agreed to finance transportation and housing costs of the Ukrainian peacekeepers, while Kyiv will pay their salaries. The decree must be approved by the parliament. JM

UKRAINIAN AGRICULTURAL MINISTER SACKED

Leonid Kuchma on 15 July fired Agricultural Minister Borys Supikhanov. According to the presidential press service, Supikhanov was dismissed for failing to supply farms with enough fuel and equipment for the harvesting campaign. Supikhanov recently reported to the parliament that this year's harvest will yield some 30 million tons of grain, up from 26.5 million tons last year. Some experts have questioned Supikhanov's prediction as overly optimistic. JM

NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVED

The Latvian parliament on 16 July approved the new government of Andris Skele by a 60 to 37 vote. Comprised of the three largest parties in the parliament--the People's Party, Latvia's Way, and For Fatherland and Freedom--the new government controls 62 seats out of 100. All three non-coalition parties voted against confirming Skele's cabinet. Several ministers have retained their portfolio: Anatolijs Gorbunovs (transport), Girts Valdis Kristovskis (defense), and Roberts Zile (international financial affairs). Others have new heads, including Indulis Berzins (foreign affairs), Edmunds Krastins (finance), Valdis Birkavs (justice), Vladimirs Makarovs (economy), and Mareks Seglins (interior). MH

REACTIONS TO LATVIAN LANGUAGE LAW VETO

The decision of Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga to send back the draft language law has drawn responses from both within Latvia and abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1999). OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel, a leading critic of the law, "warmly greeted" the decision: "It is my firm conviction that the language law can be elaborated by the parliament [to] enhance the position of the Latvian language while at the same time being in conformity with international standards," BNS reported. Head of the left-wing For Equal Rights in a United Latvia Janis Jurkans called the decision "bold and civilized." Skele, an avid supporter of the law, stated that he respects the decision of the president and called on the parliamentary leadership to work on revisions starting 26 August. MH

LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN FINLAND

Rolandas Paksas paid a two-day visit to Finland on 14-15 July. Lithuania has been lobbying Finland, which currently holds the EU presidency, to be included in accession negotiations. Paksas met with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, and Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, who had just completed a whirlwind visit to the three Baltic States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1999). MH

FRENCH PREMIER IN POLAND

Lionel Jospin met with Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and President Aleksander Kwasniewski in Warsaw on 15 July and assured them of France's support for Poland's EU entry bid. Both sides signed an agreement on environmental protection, which provides for French assistance in helping Poland adjust to EU legislation. Jospin is accompanied by a group of French businessmen who are expected to discuss Poland's purchase of a multi-task military aircraft and a combat helicopter. Poland has asked five major defense companies, including Dessault of France, for offers on the purchase of 60 advanced jet-fighters for the Polish army. JM

CZECH POLICE CHARGE FINANCE MINISTER

The Czech police on 15 July brought charges against Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda for damaging the interests of creditors of the Liberta baby-stroller factory, which he co-managed before taking up his cabinet post last year, CTK and Reuters reported. If convicted, he faces between two to eight years in prison. Svoboda is expected to be dismissed in the upcoming reshuffle of the cabinet, announced by Prime Minister Milos Zeman one day earlier. Zeman told CTK that public officials suspected of a crime "should bear a certain amount of responsibility" even if the presumption of innocence until conviction applies. MS

CZECH CHIEF OF STAFF PRESENTS ARMY REFORMS PROGRAM

General Jiri Sedivy on 14 July said that a reform plan currently under examination envisages a Czech army that is "small, modern, highly mobile, and logistically sufficient," CTK reported. Sedivy said the army is to be reduced from 80,000 to 62,000 soldiers by 2004, Soviet- made T-54 and T-55 tanks decommissioned, and Czech- made L-159 aircraft introduced in the air force. On 15 July "Mlada fronta Dnes" quoted Sedivy as telling a forum of officers that within two years, they must master English-- the official NATO language--or lose their jobs. MS

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SLOVAKIA

Kofi Annan on 15 July met with Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, who is also his special envoy for the Balkans, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, and parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas, CTK reported. Annan said his visit had "nothing to do" with Bratislava's efforts to obtain a seat on the UN Security Council. Dzurinda said Bratislava's three main foreign-policy goals are becoming a NATO member, joining the EU in the first wave of that organization's enlargement, and gaining membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT IN AUSTRIA

Rudolf Schuster said after talks with President Thomas Klestil in Vienna on 15 July that he is opposed to closing down the controversial nuclear power plant in Jaslovske Bohunice "under pressure on politicians." He said experts from third countries should be asked to establish the plant's safety, CTK cited APA as reporting. If those experts decide that the plant is unsafe, the Slovak government will accept Austria's demand that it be shut down, he said. Originally, Slovakia had promised to close down the Jaslovske Bohunice plant after the new plant at Mochovce becomes operational, but it later changed its position. MS

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER NAMES NEW ARMY CHIEF

Janos Szabo on 15 July recommended President Arpad Goncz that he appoint Lieutenant-General Lajos Fodor as commander and chief of staff of the Hungarian Armed Forces beginning 1 August. Fodor, Deputy State Secretary at the Defense Ministry, replaces Ferenc Vegh, who resigned last week because of differences with Szabo over a planned merger of the ministry and the general staff (see "End Note" below). MSZ




RUGOVA ENDS 'MYSTERY VISIT' TO KOSOVA...

Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova left Kosova on 15 July, only a few hours after arriving in the province, VOA reported. The "Los Angeles Times" noted that his quick departure "puzzled observers." The daily added that Rugova and his wife briefly returned to their home in the late evening after meetings with UN officials and journalists. While she remained in the car, he went into the house, "rushing out" after a few minutes and departing without smiling, stopping only to wave briefly to a few children. His Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) Vice President Edita Tahiri said that Rugova will return next week to "restart work as president of Kosova." FS

...AFTER CALLING FOR COOPERATION WITH UN ADMINISTRATION

Earlier on 15 July, Rugova met with several UN officials in Prishtina, including newly appointed UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner. Rugova indicated at press conference that he is not willing to share power with his rival Hashim Thaci of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Rugova stressed that "the objective of the people and political groups of Kosova [must be] to cooperate with the international community," an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Rugova added that "the priority is the economic, democratic, and social reconstruction of Kosova and especially the building of pluralism." Rugova said that elections could be held after "some months." FS

LDK DOES NOT PARTICIPATE IN KOUCHNER'S ROUNDTABLE

Kouchner told AFP on 16 July that the LDK did not participate at the first meeting of an UN-sponsored roundtable in Prishtina, which included various political groups. The meeting was intended to support the reconstruction of public administration. Kouchner said: "I am sad that the LDK has chosen not to participate.... They are unhappy about the current composition" of the roundtable. The previous day Kouchner told Reuters that "in our hearts and minds we know this is all about reconciliation. In our heads, we know real peace will take time...." FS

THACI 'FEELS GOOD' ABOUT RUGOVA

Thaci told AFP on 15 July: "I've been inviting Rugova to come back to Kosova for a long time.... I feel very good that he accepted." He noted that "there is enough space in Kosova for Rugova." The main positions in the new administration "belong to Kosovars, not to people who are losers, who have been losers before the war, during the war, and now after the war," he commented, adding that he is "not talking specifically about Rugova" but about "the ones...who have placed obstacles in the resistance's path." Thaci said that Kouchner can help "create a better climate among the political factions in Kosova." He also commented that the UCK wants to "build a multi-ethnic, open, and tolerant society, [and] create democratic institutions including [the participation of] Albanians, Serbs, and Montenegrins." FS

EXPLOSION INJURES 20 IN KOSOVA

A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina on 16 July that some 20 people received shrapnel injuries the previous day in Vitina in the U.S.- controlled sector. A U.S. helicopter evacuated seven of the most seriously wounded people to U.S. military hospital facilities elsewhere. KFOR detained two unidentified males after the blast. Witnesses reported seeing unidentified persons dropping a box from a car in the area shortly before the explosion, AP reported. PM

ALLIANCE CALLS FOR SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO UNITE

On 15 July in Kragujevac, some 10,000 persons attended an anti-Milosevic rally called by the Alliance for Change, VOA reported. Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic and former General Vuk Obradovic told the crowd that they hope that Vuk Draskovic and his Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) will join with the alliance in "a united front fighting for a new Serbia." Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic urged all of Milosevic's opponents to sink their partisan differences and support "a social revolution of a people deprived of its rights." Some of the people attending the demonstration told Reuters that they do not care which party organizes rallies so long as the protests are anti-Milosevic. Some of those people added that they plan to attend the Kragujevac rally called by the SPO for 17 July. In Leskovac, some 1,000 people took part in the 11th consecutive day of protests aimed at freeing a local television journalist from prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). PM

PENSIONERS STAGE PROTEST

Some 2,000 "angry pensioners" gathered in Belgrade on 15 July to demand higher retirement benefits and Milosevic's resignation, AP reported. Among those attending was Dragoslav Avramovic, the former governor of the National Bank, who is widely credited with having stopped hyper-inflation in 1994. Avramovic has recently begun to take an active role in opposition politics. Some observers have suggested that he might hold a high post in a post-Milosevic government if his health permits. PM

SERBIAN POLICE HARASS OPPOSITION PETITION DRIVE

Democratic Party officials said in Belgrade on 15 July that several "regime thugs" beat eight party workers who were collecting signatures on the opposition's anti-Milosevic petition in Novi Beograd. The officials added that they have the license plate numbers of the attackers' car and will press criminal charges. In Novi Sad, police harassed several opposition party workers who were putting up signs urging people to sign the petition. In Gornji Milanovac, police prevented opposition activists from collecting signatures on the petition on streets and in a park. The party workers continued the petition drive at the entrance to a church after the priests gave them permission, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Sremska Mitrovica, police detained four persons who were gathering signatures, Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT MAKES 'WARTIME' MEASURES PERMANENT

The Serbian legislature voted on 15 July to enact into law several economic measures that the government temporarily instituted under its "state of war" during NATO's air campaign in the spring. The SPO, the League of Vojvodina Hungarians, and the Vojvodina Coalition did not take part in the voting. Before the ballot, parliamentary speaker Dragan Tomic of the governing coalition announced that the New Democracy Party has left the coalition. The other members of the coalition thereupon "cancelled" the five legislative mandates that New Democracy received under a pre-election agreement between the coalition parties. New Democracy's Dusan Mihajlovic called the move "illegal" and motivated by a desire for revenge. PM

DRASKOVIC POINTS FINGER AT ALBANIANS

Draskovic said in Athens on 15 July that the situation in Kosova "is more than dramatic. Now there is ethnic cleansing against the Serbs by the Albanians. They burn their houses, their churches, their fields." Referring to the recent hi-jacking of a Greek bus by an Albanian (see below), Draskovic added: "This should show that the Serbs are not the problem, but the Albanians who want to create a Greater Albania," Reuters reported. PM

MACEDONIA TO OPEN ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITY

Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov told Reuters on 15 July in Skopje that the Macedonian government will allow the ethnic Albanian minority to establish its own university. He did not indicate when this will happen. Dimitrov added that "it is the inviolable right of everyone to have education in their mother tongue, including higher education." Observers note that the statement marks a milestone in Macedonian politics. Efforts by ethnic Albanians to establish an Albanian-language university in Tetovo in 1994 were met with a violent crackdown by the police. At the time, the Social Democratic government argued that establishing such a university would be tantamount to secession. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski told "RFE/RL Newsline" in September 1998, when he was still an opposition leader, that he would allow the establishment of the university if the ethnic Albanian leaders ceased raising ethnically- related issues and joined him in concentrating on economic development. FS

GREEK POLICE KILL ALBANIAN HIJACKER

Greek police killed an Albanian who had hijacked a bus after a stand-off near Florina on 15 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1999). Special police stormed the bus and freed the last five hostages unharmed, AP reported. FS

HAGUE COURT OPENS DOOR FOR MORE INDICTMENTS

Ruling on an appeal by convicted Bosnian Serb war criminal Dusan Tadic, the appeals chamber of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal concluded on 15 July that the Bosnian war of 1992-1995 was "an international armed conflict" and not merely a civil war. In light of this ruling, persons inside and outside Bosnia can now be prosecuted for violations in Bosnia of the Geneva conventions that protect civilians in wartime. The court also ruled that there was a "direct chain of military command" from Belgrade to the Bosnian Serbs. PM

BOSNIA TO CUT MILITARY EXPENDITURES

Bosnia's Permanent Committee for Military Issues, which is chaired by officials from the international community, decided in Sarajevo on 15 July to cut military spending in the Republika Srpska and the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation by 15 percent this year. A spokesman for the committee said that its members hope their decision will serve as an example to other Balkan countries. PM

UN EXTENDS PREVLAKA MANDATE

The Security Council voted on 15 July to extend by six months the mandate for the 27-member UN military observer mission in Croatia's Prevlaka region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). The new mandate runs until 15 January 2000. PM

NATO SUPREME COMMANDER EUROPE IN BUCHAREST

Following his 15 July meeting with President Emil Constantinescu, Prime Minister Radu Vasile, and Chief of Staff General Constantin Degeratu, General Wesley Clark told journalists the Kosova crisis has demonstrated that "Romania is fully prepared to participate in the NATO spirit of shared risks, burdens and benefits in security," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. At the same time, he said the decision on Romania's NATO entry is a "political one." For now, he said, one can discuss only the "gradual integration" of Romania's armed forces into NATO under "concrete cooperation programs." Clark stressed that his statement last month on the Trianon Treaty did not envisage a change of borders (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"28 June 1999). MS

ROMANIAN GENERALS SENTENCED

Generals Victor Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac on 15 July were sentenced by the Supreme Court to 15 years in prison for their part in the attempted quashing of the December 1989 popular revolt in Timisoara, which sparkled the toppling of the communist regime. They were also stripped of their military rank and ordered to pay 500 million lei ($ 31,400) compensation to the relatives of the 72 people who were killed and the 253 wounded during those events. The judges rejected the defendants argument that they had been carrying out orders from dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, saying "military discipline excludes blind subordination and does not annul responsibility for a crime." After the toppling of the Ceausescu regime, Stanculescu became industry and later defense minister, while Chitac was interior minister. MS

FIRST MOLDOVAN-RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING EXERCISES TAKING PLACE NEAR MOSCOW

Russian-Moldovan peace- keeping forces began exercises on 16 July in the vicinity of Moscow, Infotag reported. The exercise is the first ever involving troops from the two countries and is taking place within the framework of a military cooperation agreement signed earlier this year. MS

BULGARIA RAISES DANUBE BRIDGE DISPUTE WITH EU OFFICIAL

Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova on 15 July handed Bodo Hombach, the EU official in charge of Balkan reconstruction, a file on Bulgaria's decade-old dispute with Romania on building a second bridge over River Danube, Reuters reported. Hombach, was asked to intervene to persuade the Romanian side to drop its objections to the construction of the new bridge and its location (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February and 22 June 1999). From Sofia Hombach went to Bucharest, where he conducted talks with President Constantinescu, Premier Vasile, and other officials. MS

ISRAELIS CIRCUMVENT ARAB BOYCOTT OF BULGARIAN NATIONAL CARRIER

Gad Zeevi, chairman of the board of one of two Israeli companies that recently acquired a 75 stake in Balkan Air, told journalists in Sofia on 15 July that the Zeevi-Arkia consortium has transferred its shares to a Dutch subsidiary in response to Lebanon and Syria's annulment of landing rights. He refused to name the new shareholder and said that "the next flight of Balkan Air to Beirut will take off as scheduled, unless the [Bulgarian] Foreign Ministry stops it," AP reported. MS




HUNGARIAN ARMY CHIEF RESIGNS


By Matyas Szabo

Chief of Staff and Commander of the Hungarian Armed Forces Colonel-General Ferenc Vegh's resignation last week came as no surprise. Since early June, Budapest dailies have reported on the sharp disagreements between Vegh and Defense Minister Janos Szabo over a government plan to increase the Defense Ministry's control over the armed forces. Paradoxically, Vegh's resignation came at a time when both sides claimed to uphold one and the same principle: namely, that of civilian control over the military. Opinions diverged, however, on how that control was to be achieved.

Vegh, a graduate of the Hungarian Military Academy who also studied at the Soviet Union's Military College of Tank Units and the U.S. Army's War College, was promoted to commander in chief in 1996 under Socialist Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti and played a leading role in preparing the army for accession to NATO. Vegh believes that the 1990 decision to separate the military command and the Defense Ministry was a wise one and that the status quo should be maintained. He told Hungarian Radio on 6 June that he has "always respected civilian control over the army, but the General Staff was established two years ago to ensure conformity with NATO, and it would be a mistake to touch that."

Viktor Orban's government, however, thought differently. "We cannot have a situation whereby on the grounds of professional decisions the politicians have no say in how public funds are spent," administrative state secretary at the Defense Ministry Tamas Wachsler said two weeks before Vegh's resignation. "The duty of the military is to execute political decisions. This is what civilian control is all about," he concluded.

The conflict peaked on 16 June when Orban told Szabo very firmly that he expected a better performance from the ministry. The same day, Vegh accused Szabo of managing a 400-strong "shadow General Staff" at the Defense Ministry that advises decision-makers, while army commanders are pushed to the background.

The ministry's response, transmitted to the media through anonymous sources, was quick and firm: "The General Staff must merge with the ministry and not vice versa. We shall quash anyone who opposes the government program." Szabo broke his long silence by admitting that he had differences with Vegh. He said he was ready to compromise but noted that "there are matters within the ministry that can be settled only through orders."

Szabo won Orban's support for personnel changes in the ministry. The first person to be removed, however, was not Vegh, but one of his deputies, Nandor Hollosi. As for his own status, Vegh refused to make a statement until the situation was fully clarified. The daily "Magyar Hirlap" on 1 July reported that NATO military leaders had already been informed about Vegh's dismissal and that he would be offered a diplomatic post should he volunteer to resign.

In early July, Orban ordered his military adviser, Jeno Poda, to bring the dispute to an end within one week. Vegh had to choose between three options: accept the new organizational concept, resign, or be fired. Vegh submitted his resignation to President Arpad Goncz on 9 July, thereby ending weeks of guessing about the outcome of the rift between the armed forces and the Defense Ministry.

Owing to the laconic statements of all the parties involved in the conflict, it is difficult to say whether questions of principle or of personnel were behind the dispute. The opposition Hungarian Socialist Party believes that "the ministry was obviously acting in accordance with a scenario." According to the party, the unjustified dismissals and personnel changes in the ministry and General Staff as well as internal tensions and operational disorders cast doubt on the competence of the ministry's leadership. The party also noted that Hungary's constitutional system includes the principle of the army's civilian control and that the present government coalition ignored the parliament's role in shaping military decisions.

According to some military experts, the merger of the General Staff and the ministry would contravene NATO's basic requirement about civilian control over the army. Paradoxically, those who are in favor of the merger refer to the lack of civilian control in the existing structure. In their opinion, civilian control would be achieved if military commanders were supervised by civilians.

Military diplomats, however, are mainly concerned about Vegh's replacement. On 15 July, Lajos Fodor, deputy state secretary at the Defense Ministry, was recommended to succeed Vegh. Surprisingly, both the governing coalition and the opposition--but more important, the ministry and the General Staff--would be satisfied to see Fodor appointed chief of staff. And there is consensus that the personnel change will not affect Hungary's relationship with NATO. Indeed, visiting U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said on 12 July in Budapest that Vegh's departure is Hungary's internal affair.


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