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Newsline - July 26, 1999




NEW 'RIGHT-CENTER' COALITION EMERGES...

The leaders of three self-proclaimed "right-center" groups announced on 23 July that they have formed a coalition to participate in the State Duma elections in December. The new bloc is composed of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause), led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, Novaya Sila (New Force), headed by former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, and Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia), whose informal head is Samara Governor Konstantin Titov. According to Interfax, the three groups have agreed to present a common party list. A name for the new coalition will be chosen by 28 July. Political observers had been skeptical that the groups would manage to forge a coalition. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 24 July that the leaders "did the impossible," in part by "leaving out the question of leadership, which is ruinous for democrats." JAC

...AS FATE OF LUZHKOV'S ALLIANCE WITH GOVERNORS STILL UNSETTLED

Meanwhile, Otechestvo (Fatherland) election campaign head Georgii Boos told Interfax that the leadership of Otechestvo and Vsya Rossiya (All Russia) will meet on 29 July to discuss their future cooperation. Otechestvo is headed by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, while Vsya Rossiya's informal head is Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev. Analysts and media have also become increasingly skeptical that these two groups will forge an alliance. The "EWI Russian Regional Report" noted on 22 July that clear differences exist between Luzhkov, who is at war with the Kremlin, and Shaimiev, who tries to cultivate a closer relationship with the Russian president. Meanwhile, the head of the Islamic Committee, Geidar Dzhemal told "Kommersant- Daily" of 24 July that his group will form an alliance with the Movement in Support of the Army, which is headed by Duma deputies Viktor Ilyukhin and Albert Makashov. According to the newspaper, the committee supports the activities of radical Islamic groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestine's Hamas. JAC

PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION HEAD'S PAST SCRUTINIZED...

"Moskovskii komsomolets," a newspaper that is close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, has joined NTV, a television station owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most group, in making allegations against presidential administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin. In a front page article on 23 July, the daily said Voloshin was involved in an illegal bond purchase in the mid-1990s when he headed the Esta Korp joint-stock company. The transaction attracted the attention of a regional prosecutor's office, which ruled that the bond should be confiscated from Esta Korp. However, that decision was overruled by the Moscow Prosecutor-General's Office on 30 September 1998. The newspaper alleges that Voloshin engineered this ruling as chief of the presidential staff, but he did not occupy that post until March 1999, when he was promoted from deputy head (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 1999). JAC

...AS GUSINSKI-OWNED MEDIA COMPLAIN OF KREMLIN HARASSMENT

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 July that Gusinskii has requested that the Prosecutor-General's Office conduct an investigation into Voloshin for urging state agencies, such as the tax service, to pressure independent mass media organizations. Gusinskii's action follows complaints from editors at NTV, Ekho Moskvy, the weekly magazine "Itogi," and "Segodnya" that high-ranking Kremlin officials, such as Voloshin, are trying to pressure them by instigating investigations into their finances. In an open letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin published in "Segodnya" on 24 July, editors from those outlets write that following a number of critical stories they ran on the Kremlin, "the directors of the Russian Tax Police Service received instructions to institute legal proceedings" against their organizations. The Media-Most Group owns NTV, "Segodnya," "Itogi," and Ekho Moskvy. JAC

ANOTHER SYNAGOGUE BOMBING ATTEMPTED

An explosive device discovered on 25 July inside a synagogue in Moscow was defused before it could explode, Interfax reported. According to the agency, a celebration had been planned that day in which a number of children as well as influential members of the city's Jewish community were to have taken part. JAC

GOVERNMENT PROMISES WORLD BANK IT WILL ELIMINATE BARTER

The World Bank has approved new loans to Russia under its Structural Adjustment program and for its coal sector, Interfax reported on 26 July. A key plank of the structural adjustment program for Russia involves increasing payments in cash to energy and transportation monopolies so that barter transactions are completely eliminated by 2001, "Segodnya" reported on 24 July. According to the newspaper, cash payments to Unified Energy Systems (EES) should amount to 75 percent by 1 January 2001. This year they have increased from 15 percent in April to 28 percent in June. The government also agreed that the EES, Gazprom, Transneft, and the Road and Transportation Ministry must "start publishing their accounts in accordance with 28 international standards in the near future," according to the daily. JAC

STEPASHIN SAYS HE WON'T SEEK PRESIDENCY...

Russian Premier Sergei Stepashin told reporters on 25 July that running for president of Russia in 2000 "is not part of his plans," Interfax reported. Stepashin's statement appears to contradict an earlier one by chief of the presidential administration Voloshin, who concluded in an interview with "Izvestiya" on 8 June that "a man who becomes prime minister a year before the elections must have presidential ambitions." In a CBS interview shown on NTV the same day, Stepashin's answer to the same question about his presidential plans was less definitive. "At the moment I am more concerned about the State Duma elections," he said. "This is a very important stage for forming the parliament and relations between the branches of authority. This will be a point of departure for the presidential elections next year." JAC

...STRESSES NEED TO MODERNIZE ARMY...

"The events in Yugoslavia, the NATO bombings, showed that we need new, high precision weapons, new equipment and new electronics," Prime Minister Stepashin told journalists in Nizhnii Tagil, Sverdlovsk Oblast, on 23 July. His comments came after the government commission on the defense industry recently met to set priorities for developing the military-industrial complex. JC

...CALLS RELATIONS WITH U.S. 'STABLE'

Following a stopover in Vladivostok to inspect Russia's Pacific Fleet, Stepashin arrived in the U.S. on 25 July at the start of a visit that he says has primarily economic goals. In an interview with "Newsweek" released on the eve of his visit to the U.S., Stepashin stressed that relations between Washington and Moscow are "stable," despite the "serious damage" done by NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. JC

'IZVESTIYA' PREDICTS DEMISE OF NAVY

Under the headline "Russia May Be Without a Navy by 2010, " Izvestiya" on 24 July detailed those conditions that it believes may lead to the force's demise over the next decade or so. The newspaper bemoaned wages in the 180,000-strong force, noting that assistant officers receive on average 1,300 rubles ($54) a month, captains 2,600 rubles, and admirals 3,500 rubles. It pointed out that officers and warrant officers are only now receiving ration allowances for 1997-1998. And it noted that on average, every fourth officer lacks accommodation or has housing in need of improvement. JC

RUSSIA-NATO COUNCIL CONVENES IN BRUSSELS

The Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council convened on 23 July for the first time since NATO launched air strikes against Yugoslavia some four months ago. A NATO official said the meeting dealt only with cooperation on the ground in Kosova, Reuters reported. In a brief statement, the two sides said they are determined to "do their utmost" to ensure the security of everyone in Kosova. They condemned all acts of violence and stressed that those responsible should be brought to justice. And they also expressed concern over the continuing departure from Kosova of large numbers of Serbs, whom they urged to return home. In an interview with "Vremya MN" published on 26 July, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said it is very important that healthy relations are restored between Russia and the alliance, noting that both sides are seeking to "overcome difficulties" in those ties. JC

ZHIRINOVSKII'S PARTY FORGING SIGNATURES IN SVERDLOVSK?

Election commission officials in Sverdlovsk Oblast have determined that many of the signatures collected to support the candidacy of Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii in upcoming gubernatorial elections are fakes, according to Russian Public Television on 24 July. Of the 29,000 signatures that were submitted, 2,000 had been written by one person and more than 200 lists of signatures violated electoral laws, according to the station. Zhirinovskii told Russian Television that his party will conduct its own investigation and if the signatures do appear to be invalid, a thorough purge of the regional organization will result. Elections are scheduled to take place on 29 August. So far, the only officially registered candidates are incumbent Eduard Rossel, Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, State Duma deputy and member of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) Andrei Selvanov, and Igor Kovpak, president of a local supermarket chain. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1999). JAC

TARGETTED BY FSB, PROMINENT SCIENTIST FEARS RETURNING HOME

Vladimir Soifer told Reuters on 23 July that he fears returning to Vladivostok because Federal Security Service (FSB) investigators raided his home and laboratory earlier in the month, accusing him of misusing classified documents in his research on the ecological effects of a nuclear submarine accident in 1985 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). Soifer said "my work as a the head of the research group is under threat and also the work in our lab is being interrupted by this investigation." According to Interfax, the warrant used to search Soifer's home and laboratory said Soifer's actions "threaten the state and national security of Russia" (see also "End Note" below). JAC

ZYUGANOV WANTS 'LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP' BETWEEN U.S., RUSSIA

On the eve of Stepashin's visit to the U.S., Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told U.S. Ambassador to Moscow James Collins during an hour-long meeting in the State Duma that Russia and the U.S. should have a long-term partnership," Interfax reported on 23 July. Zyuganov said that Moscow and Washington must "join forces" to tackle such important issues as nuclear nonproliferation, technological progress, and environmental protection. In an interview with Interfax, Collins confirmed that he and Zyuganov had agreed on the need to expand Russian-U.S. relations. JC

VIOLENCE CONTINUES ACROSS NORTH CAUCASUS

Four people were killed when their car was attacked near the Chechen-Ingush border on 23 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, three Russian soldiers were wounded in Dagestan, and 13 actors were kidnapped in Chechnya, the Russian agency reported. At the time of their abduction, the actors were involved in negotiating the release of hostages there. The new round of violence prompted Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to say that he will take new measures to protect Georgians from kidnapping, while one Georgian politician said that the proposed Georgian-Chechen highway should not be built, Caucasus Press reported. But Azerbaijani Ethnic Affairs Adviser Hidayat Orujov told Baku's ANS television on 24 July that he does not believe events in the North Caucasus will affect Azerbaijan. PG

YELTSIN APPOINTMENT SPARKS PROTESTS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA

Russian President Boris Yeltsin's appointment of an aide to serve as acting governor of Karachaevo-Cherkessia led at least 12,000 people to protest in that North Caucasus republic on 25 July, Reuters reported. Yeltsin named Valentin Vlasov to that post following a Russian Supreme Court decision on 23 July voiding a decision of the Karachaevo- Cherkessia Supreme Court to recognize General Vladimir Semenov as the victor in disputed presidential elections there. PG




GAS SHORTAGE HITS ARMENIA

The most serious fuel crisis to hit Armenia since the winter of 1993 brought motor traffic to a virtual standstill on 24 July, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The authorities blamed a storm on the Black Sea for delaying deliveries, warned against panic, and said the situation will return to normal by 26 July. PG

SARKISIAN SAYS ARMENIA NO THREAT TO GEORGIA

In an interview with Georgia's Prime News agency on 25 July, Armenian Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian said Yerevan will not use its new Typhoon missile launchers to attack pipelines in Georgia, as some people in Georgia, he said, have suggested. In purchasing these new weapons from China, the Armenian leader said, Yerevan is "simply trying to protect its airspace, people, and state." PG

AZERBAIJAN GETS TURKISH FUNDS FOR KOSOVO MISSION

Turkey has given Baku approximately $3.5 million to support the modernization of Azerbaijan's military forces in general and the dispatch of 30 Azerbaijani soldiers to participate in the Kosova peacekeeping operation, Reuters reported on 24 July. PG

AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES U.S.

In a statement released to the Turan news agency on 23 July, Azerbaijan's Democratic Congress, an umbrella group uniting most of that country's opposition parties, criticized the U.S. for what the ADC said is a "double standard" in treating Azerbaijan and Armenia. The ADC said that Washington is pushing Azerbaijan to make concessions even as it maintains Section 907, a provision in U.S. law that prevents Washington from providing most kinds of assistance to Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, on the same day, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry criticized Armenian Americans for the pressure they have put on the U.S. Congress to maintain Section 907 and thus for promoting what it said is confrontation in the Caucasus. PG

GULUZADE SAYS MOSCOW NERVOUS ABOUT ARMENIA

Azerbaijani Foreign Policy Adviser Vaga Guluzade told Baku's Trend agency on 23 July that Russia is seriously worried about the possibility of a rapprochement between Armenia and Western countries. He suggested that was why the Russian government had given such a warm welcome to Armenian Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian last week. The Russian authorities, Guluzade said, are especially concerned that there might be a settlement of the Karabakh dispute without Moscow's direct involvement. "In fact," he said, recently all conflicts have been settled by the U.S. with Russia and earlier the Soviet Union as only honorary observers. But in Karabakh and Armenia, Russia has more opportunities to jump in, just as it did in Prishtina, if Armenia suddenly decides to settle the conflict jointly with other countries." PG

GEORGIA REJECTS RUSSIAN STATEMENT ON GUUAM

On 23 July, the Georgian Foreign Ministry released a statement that "no one has the right to tell Georgia with whom it can cooperate and in which spheres," Caucasus Press reported. The statement came in response to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's remark that GUUAM (a cooperative group including Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) is becoming a military-political union. PG

GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA SQUARE OFF DIPLOMATICALLY

Prior to a UN Security Council session to be devoted to Abkhazia, Tbilisi, and Sukhumi laid out their positions, ITAR-TASS reported. On 24 July, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said that Abkhaz elections scheduled for October will be illegal and represented an attempt to subvert UN and OSCE resolutions on the conflict. A day earlier, Sergei Shamba, the foreign minister of the breakaway Abkhaz republic, sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggesting that "there are no grounds to persuade CIS or NATO peacekeepers to use force against Abkhazia." PG

GEORGIA TO SHAVE HEADS OF PICKPOCKETS?

As part of a crackdown on pickpockets in the Georgian capital, the Tbilisi police have decided to shave the heads of pickpockets who are caught in the act, Caucasus Press reported on 23 July. The police believe that they have the legal right to do so, but the country's legal ombudsman has already suggested that such punishments would be a violation of human rights. PG

KAZAKHSTAN RELEASES MORE MUSLIMS

The police in Taraz have released another 25 members of a religious group arrested last week after relatives of those belonging to the group began a hunger strike in front of the regional center administration building, Kazakhstan's Khabar TV reported on 24 July. But lawyers for those still detained said the authorities are considering charging those detainees with forming an illegal paramilitary organization. PG

CHINA TO PROVIDE MILITARY AID TO KAZAKHSTAN

A Chinese military delegation told Kazakhstan authorities on 24 July that Beijing was prepared to provide Kazakhstan with military aid. But it provided no details beyond suggesting that the aid will include communications equipment and textiles for uniforms, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. PG

BAIKONUR INVESTIGATOR FOUND DEAD

Igor Bogatyrev, the 33- year-old deputy governor of Qaraghady Oblast and the head of the Kazakhstan commission investigating the Russian PROTON rocket explosion over Kazakhstan earlier this month, was found dead in his apartment on 23 July, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. There was no immediate evidence as to whether his death was an accident or suicide. PG

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE AGAINST LOCUSTS

Agricultural officials from Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation have agreed to cooperate in the fight against locust infestations in both countries, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 23 July. The two sides said "locusts know no borders." PG

FORMER KAZAKHSTAN PREMIER WILLING TO TALK TO INVESTIGATORS-- IN SWITZERLAND

Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the former prime minister and presidential hopeful, has volunteered to meet Kazakhstan investigators "on neutral ground," namely in Switzerland, where he is vacationing, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 23 July. Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yuri Khitrin said Kazhegeldin's behavior is inadmissible and that the former premier must explain the sources of his income. PG

TAJIKISTAN, U.S. DISCUSS DEMILITARIZATION

The U.S. embassy military attache in Dushanbe met with Tajikistan's Deputy Prime Minister Abdurahmon Azimov to explore ways how Washington might help Tajikistan remove weapons and landmines from its territory, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 July. PG

1,000 FROM UZBEKISTAN ILLEGALLY SETTLE IN TAJIKISTAN

More than 1,000 people from Uzbekistan have illegally settled in eastern Tajikistan, Tajik officials told ITAR-TASS on 23 July. The officials, representing both the government and opposition, spent three days in that region last week. PG

UZBEKISTAN TO MEMORIALIZE 'MARTYRS OF COLONIALISM'

The Uzbekistan government has decided to build a special memorial in Tashkent to those who suffered under the Soviet regime in order to inculcate in young people "respect for their forefathers' heroism and selflessness, belief in the victory of social justice, and devotion to the ideas of independence and patriotism," Uzbek Television reported on 22 July. The memorial project will also involve the establishment of a special fund to support research activities on the lives of these people. PG

UZBEKISTAN JAILS CHRISTIANS

Three Christians working for the Full Gospel Church in Nukus, the capital of the Karakalpak Autonomous Republic in Uzbekistan, have been jailed for long periods, Keston Institute reported on 23 July. All three were convicted for possessing drugs, but both they and their supporters say those drugs were planted on them by the police. One was also convicted for illegal religious activities. PG

UZBEK OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES FUNDING SUBVERSIVE LITERATURE

Speaking on Iranian Radio's Uzbek Service on 24 July, Mohammad Solih, the leader of the banned Erk Democratic Party, denied Tashkent's charges that he funded the dissemination of subversive literature in Uzbekistan and was involved in the 16 February bombings in the Uzbek capital. PG




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER FLEES TO LITHUANIA

Syamyon Sharetski, speaker of the opposition Supreme Soviet, fled to Lithuania last week, fearing for his safety after the end of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's legitimate term on 20 July. Sharetski's colleagues from the Supreme Soviet had said he should now be regarded as the legitimate head of state (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 22 July 1999). Sharetski told the Vilnius-based "Respublika" on 26 July that he wants to avoid a confrontation with Lukashenka and "evaluate the current situation." Sharetski also called on Lukashenka to enter into talks with the opposition and honor the constitution. "We have only one plan--to eliminate...dictatorship and [restore] democracy.... We do not want to go to Russia, if Lukashenka wants it, let him take his possessions and go," Reuters quoted Sharetski as telling "Respublika." JM

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER FACES HEAVY FINE

A Minsk court on 22-23 July heard a case brought by the Belarusian Council of Judges and Judge Nadzeya Chmara against the independent newspaper "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 23 July. The claimants accuse the newspaper of biased coverage of the trial of Vasil Staravoytau, which was chaired by Chmara, and demand 11 billion Belarusian rubles ($41,400 according to the official exchange rate) in compensation. The newspaper erroneously reported that Chmara had no computer in the court when drawing up her verdict on Staravoytau. An RFE/RL Minsk correspondent reported that under current economic circumstances in Belarus, such a fine is "astronomical" and, if imposed, will most likely result in the closure of the newspaper. JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA STAGE FIRST JOINT NAVY PARADE SINCE 1991

Ukraine joined Russia's annual celebration of Black Sea Fleet Day, 25 July, for the first time since the country gained independence in 1991. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov attended a joint navy parade in Sevastopol. Luzhkov stressed his view that Sevastopol belongs to Russia, adding that the issue "sooner or later will be resolved as history and justice demands," AP reported. Following a meeting with Luzhkov the same day, Kuchma said "Sevastopol is and will remain Ukrainian, I do not have any disputes on the matter with anyone," ITAR-TASS reported. JM

EU PRAISES UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT...

"Let me take this opportunity to express my personal admiration for the leadership of President Kuchma and the concrete achievements of Ukraine in the past five years," Reuters quoted Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, who now presides over the EU, as saying in Kyiv on 23 July. An EU delegation led by Lipponen signed agreements on oil transport and on nuclear safety and research. Lipponen pledged up to 150 million euros ($143 million) to strengthen Ukraine's banking and financial systems. He also said the EU may provide funds to complete the construction of two nuclear reactors in Ukraine. JM

...WHILE UKRAINIAN SPEAKER SLAMS HIM

Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, a major candidate in the October presidential race, has accused President Kuchma of harboring authoritarian plans and causing the economic and social collapse of Ukraine. "The years of the current president will be remembered in history as the epoch of political cynicism, lack of action, irresponsibility, and a downfall of the entire social life," Tkachenko said in Cherkasy on 23 July, according to AP. Kuchma's leftist rivals have recently begun publicizing the idea that Kuchma may introduce a state of emergency in order to call off the presidential elections. Tkachenko mentioned the acute fuel crisis, price hikes, and a possible devaluation of the hryvnya as probable reasons for a state of emergency in the country. JM

EU CRITICIZES ESTONIAN POLICE, CUSTOMS

"Postimees" on 24 July reported that in an interim report about Estonia's development in interior affairs, the European Commission focused its criticism on the police and customs. The report states that those two areas are effective only if officers are "qualified, motivated, well-paid and well-equipped." Other targets of criticism in the report include passport security, various police prefectures, as well as Estonia's visa-free regime with Bulgaria. In conclusion the report suggests that without improvement, "it is doubtful that Estonia can quickly become an EU member." The Estonian Interior Ministry said the EU has a good understanding of the situation in Estonia but that its report, while objective, included some factual errors and was at times vague. MH

POLISH PARLIAMENT ELECTS BOARD TO EXAMINE SECRET FILES

The parliament on 24 July elected 11 members of the National Remembrance Institute board, which will oversee making secret police files accessible to the victims of Poland's communist- era repression. Under the law on secret police files, the institute is also empowered to launch investigations into Nazi and Stalinist crimes in Poland. The members of the board, which is composed of historians and judges, were proposed by the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (four members) and Freedom Union (two members), the opposition Peasant Party (two members), the Democratic Left Alliance (one member), and the National Judiciary Council (two members). JM

CZECH INTELLECTUALS CALL FOR NATIONAL DIALOGUE

Some 200 intellectuals, including academic, business, and religious leaders, made a public appeal on 23 July for dialogue on the country's political, social, and economic problems, Reuters and CTK reported. The document, entitled "Impulse '99," is reminiscent of Charter '77's appeal for a dialogue with the then communist regime. It says the Czech Republic is "headed in a direction that may stifle hope for a rapid integration into European structures and lead to a further decline in the economic, legal, social, and moral spheres." It also calls on politicians to end "the power games" and "confrontational behavior" that have "caused many Czechs to lose faith in democracy." MS

SLOVAK POLICE TO QUESTION MECIAR ON KOVAC'S SON ABDUCTION

Chief investigator Jaroslav Ivor on 23 July said Slovak police want to question former Premier Vladimir Meciar about his involvement in the 1995 abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son, CTK reported. Ivor said that it depends on the evidence gathered whether Meciar will be investigated "as a suspect." For now, Ivor noted, he will be questioned "as a witness." Ivor was responding to an interview published by the weekly "Plus 7 dni" with former Slovak Deputy Counter- Intelligence chief Jaroslav Svechota. Svechota said that the abduction was "not entirely" carried out at the initiative of his former chief, Ivan Lexa, and that in his opinion, Meciar "masterminded the abduction." Svechota, who has admitted participation in the abduction, has asked to be amnestied on grounds of ill health. MS

U.S. REPORT HIGHLIGHTS SHORTCOMINGS OF HUNGARIAN MILITARY

A study of the Hungarian armed forces by the U.S. company Cubic Applications Inc. outlines numerous shortcomings and suggests ways of modernizing the forces, "Magyar Hirlap" reported 24 July. The study notes that there are still too many senior officers and too few NCOs. It says that armor-piercing artillery used by land forces is virtually ineffective, while radar and air defense systems are well below standard. And it recommends the gradual withdrawal of MiG-21s, noting that other air force equipment is out of date. MS




SERBIAN CIVILIANS MASSACRED IN KOSOVA

Unknown persons with automatic weapons killed 14 Serbian farmers as they were bringing in the harvest near Gracko, southwest of Prishtina, on 23 July. The UN's Bernard Kouchner, KFOR's General Sir Mike Jackson, and the Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) Hashim Thaci condemned the killings. KFOR and the Hague-based war crimes tribunal are investigating the massacre, which is the largest single atrocity against Serbs since KFOR arrived in June. It is unclear whether the killings were an act of revenge for the murders of more than 40 ethnic Albanians at nearby Recak in January. Representatives of the UN and KFOR said in Prishtina that they fear the incident could lead to a renewed cycle of violence that could destabilize the fragile peace in Kosova, the BBC reported on 26 July. PM

JACKSON PLEDGES ACTION TO FIND KILLERS

General Jackson told a news conference in Prishtina on 25 July that the massacre "overshadows everything at the moment. The investigation is ongoing.... I have made some adjustments to troop concentrations and efforts. There will be some increase in [road] checkpoints." He stressed that he will do everything necessary "to stamp out criminal behavior." Jackson added that it is unclear whether the killings are an isolated incident or "part of something more sinister." He and Kouchner said that all inhabitants of Kosova must leave behind the "cycle of hostility" if they want to become part of the modern and democratic world and achieve prosperity. Kouchner stressed that "our mission must go on [even though] the murderers sought to stop us." PM

SERBS PREPARE FOR FUNERALS

Several local Serbs in Gracko told reporters on 25 July that the Serbian population there is frightened. One said in an interview with AP: "We have yet to decide what to do. It is difficult to do anything if you fear for your life." Kosova Serb political leader Momcilo Trajkovic added that "people have lost confidence in KFOR, and it will be very difficult to rebuild it." Some villagers said that local Serbs had asked KFOR for protection prior to the killings, the BBC reported on 26 July. KFOR spokesmen said in Prishtina that autopsies on the 14 bodies are continuing and that the funeral that was planned for 26 July will have to be postponed. UN officials on 25 July indefinitely postponed a meeting of the joint transitional council slated for the following day after Serbian representatives said that they would be busy with preparations for the funeral and would not attend the meeting. PM

BELGRADE WANTS TO RETURN FORCES, CUSTOMS OFFICERS TO KOSOVA

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said in Belgrade on 24 July that KFOR and the UN civilian administration are responsible for failing to protect the 14 villagers, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that he wants the UN Security Council to allow an unspecified number of Serbian police to return to Kosova. The following day, Vladislav Jovanovic, who is Belgrade's chief representative at the UN, requested an urgent meeting of the Security Council to discuss the killings. He demanded that the council allow the "forces of the Yugoslav army and police, as well as customs officials" to return to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). The June agreement between NATO and Belgrade envisages the eventual return of several hundred Serbian troops, police, and border guards to Kosova but leaves the timing for the UN to decide. PM

SERBIAN RESERVISTS LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE

Nine reservists began a hunger strike near the headquarters of the Third Army in Nis on 26 July to reinforce their demands that the government pay their back wages immediately. Spokesman Miodrag Stankovic said the previous night: "All those who want to see a Serbian soldier turn to hunger strike to prevent his family from starving tomorrow should be ashamed," Reuters reported. PM

OPPOSITION WARNS SERBIAN GENERALS TO STAY OUT OF POLITICS

The Social Democratic Party said in a statement in Belgrade on 25 July that "any attempt to use the Yugoslav army to suppress popular discontent would be a suicidal act and...the end of the army." Social Democratic leader Vuk Obradovic, who is a former general, said that opposition demands that Milosevic resign are "perfectly legal and democratic" and do not constitute "an attempt to take power by force," as pro- Milosevic Generals Dragoljub Ojdanic and Nebojsa Pavkovic recently alleged. Also in Belgrade, Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said that unnamed senior generals have recently "violated the constitution and put themselves in the service of one man, thereby alienating themselves from the people and the rest of the army." PM

BELGRADE STUDENTS PROTEST MILOSEVIC RULE

Members of the student opposition group "Otpor" (Resistance) scattered leaflets from rooftops in downtown Belgrade on 23 July in which they called for opposition to the regime led by Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic. The students dubbed their protest "End of JUL-y," a reference to the United Yugoslav Left (JUL), which is Markovic's party. Later that day, approximately 5,000 persons attended a rally in Sombor of the Alliance for Change. The following night, some 25,000 turned out for a meeting called by Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement in Nis. PM

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT MODIFIES CALL FOR KOSOVA INDPENDENCE

President Rexhep Meidani told "Koha Jone" of 25 July that "the autonomy of Kosova or conversion of the province into a new unit [within Yugoslavia] with the same [republican] status as Montenegro might be [eventually] realized in the framework of European integration." He stressed that "European and Euro-Atlantic integration" will at some unspecified future date reduce the role of international borders to "geographic symbols," dpa reported. Albanian leaders usually say that the only political solution for Kosova is independence. Observers note that Tirana is seeking extensive development aid from the international community, which opposes independence for the province. In Tirana on 23 July, the group of aid donors known as Friends of Albania said in a statement that the Albanian authorities must improve law and order if they want more foreign investment, Reuters reported. PM

SCHROEDER PLEDGES AID FOR MACEDONIA

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in Skopje on 23 July that Macedonia "behaved perfectly" during the recent crisis in Kosova. He stressed that "it has shown solidarity and therefore it deserves solidarity" when international leaders discuss the Balkan stability pact in Sarajevo on 30 July. PM

NO SUPPORT FOR SANDZAK AUTONOMY?

Rasim Ljajic, who heads the Sandzak Coalition, said that calls for autonomy made by his political rival Sulejman Ugljanin are "unrealistic," "Danas" reported on 26 July. Ljajic argued that the international community pays no attention to Sandzak and that the leaders of the 240,000 ethnic Muslims are divided among themselves. Ljajic stressed that the Muslims should support democratic forces within Serbia and Montenegro rather than seek regional autonomy for themselves. PM

REHN WARNS OF BOOMING CRIME IN BOSNIA

Elizabeth Rehn, who is the outgoing UN representative in Bosnia, said in New York on 23 July that Bosnia is becoming an "El Dorado of organized crime." She noted that many judges are corrupt, prosecutors afraid, and witnesses intimidated. Rehn added that criminals have recently brought more than 1,000 women as prostitutes into Bosnia from foreign countries, including Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, Reuters reported. Observers note that there are strong links between military leaders, politicians, and criminals among each of Bosnia' three main ethnic groups. During the 1992-1995 war, criminals cooperated with one another across front lines. PM

BULGARIA, ALBANIA, MACEDONIA PROPOSE BALKAN RECONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

The foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Albania, and Macedonia, meeting in Sofia on 25 July, agreed to propose joint economic projects to the 30 July Sarajevo summit on Balkan reconstruction, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Nadezhda Mihailova, Paskal Milo, and Alexandar Dimitrov said the joint projects will make their countries more attractive to foreign investors. One of the key projects is the construction of an East-West transport corridor linking Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas with the Albanian Adriatic port of Vlore. The three ministers also stressed the importance of NATO's continued presence in the Balkans to ensure regional stability. MS

ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN PREMIERS DISCUSS OUTSTANDING ISSUES...

Radu Vasile and Viktor Orban, meeting in Targu Mures on 23 July for "informal talks," agreed that ethnic conflicts in the region must be quickly eliminated. With regard to the envisaged Hungarian-language state university in Romania, Vasile said the "constitutional obstacles" for setting it up have been removed and the problem is now a "technical" one. The next day, however, Vasile said in Cluj that the university cannot be established during the current parliamentary session because of "procedural difficulties." Vasile also told Orban on 23 July that the restitution of Church property confiscated by the communist regime will be provided for either in a law passed by the parliament or in an emergency government regulation. Some 195 buildings will be returned, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau quoted him as saying. MS

...WHILE ORBAN SAYS HE WANTS 'RESOLUTE STEPS'

Addressing the traditional Balvanyos Free Summer University in Baile Tusnad on 24 July, Orban complained that the Hungarian government must "time and again raise the same issues" with the Romanian cabinet, in particular the Hungarian-language university and the restitution of Church property. He said that his cabinet will "not make concessions" on the problems faced by Hungarians living outside Hungary and that the restitution of Church property is linked to "safeguarding the Magyar minority's identity." He said Romania has made a "few nice gestures" but added he expects "resolute steps." Orban also said that it is up to the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) to decide what policies best serve the interests of Romania's ethnic Hungarians. Since the UDMR supports the setting up of the university, he said, his government will also "not give up supporting it." MS

SEPARATISTS PLUNGE MOLDOVAN CAPITAL INTO THREE-DAY BLACK OUT

Electricity supplies from the Cuciurgan power plant in the separatist Transdniester region were restored on 24 July, following negotiations between Moldovan Deputy Premier Alexandru Muravschi and separatist deputy leader Viktor Sinev, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The three-day black out heavily disrupted public transportation and water supplies as well as forcing shops and businesses to close. The separatists said the restoration of supplies is "temporary" and stressed they are insisting on the immediate payment of $12 million out of the $31 million that Chisinau owes Tiraspol for electricity deliveries. Prime Minister Ion Sturza on 23 July said in the parliament that the separatists' move is politically motivated and that Moldova must increase supplies from Romania and Ukraine. MS

RUSSIA READY TO WITHDRAW TROOPS, ARSENAL FROM MOLDOVA

Russia is ready to carry out the stage-by-stage withdrawal of its troops and military equipment from the Transdniester, in accordance with a timetable proposed by the OSCE, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry. The statement was released after a meeting in Moscow earlier last week of Russian Foreign Ministry and OSCE experts. It added that Moscow has provided the OSCE with "full information" on the amount, the operational state, and the storage conditions of stocks stationed in the region. MS

BULGARIA OFFERS TRANSIT CORRIDOR AGREEMENT TO RUSSIA, FINLAND

Bulgaria on 23 July offered Russia and Finland a draft agreement on the transit of their KFOR peacekeeping forces. The draft is similar to that under which NATO peacekeepers are already transiting Bulgarian territory to Kosova. Russia last week said it has renounced its request for transit corridors in view of "unacceptable" Bulgarian demands but unnamed Russian officials quoted by AP on 23 July welcomed the Bulgarian initiative. MS




PASKO FREED FOLLOWING CLOSED-DOOR TRIAL


by Matt Frost

The Russian military journalist Grigorii Pasko was freed from a Vladivostok jail last week after a military court ruled that he had misused his office but was entitled to amnesty. Pasko, a former officer in the Russian Navy and a reporter for the Pacific Fleet newspaper, was arrested in November 1997.

Pasko was found guilty of abuse of power for personal gain and violating the interests of society and the state. He was sentenced to three years in prison but immediately set free under an amnesty bill signed into law last month by President Boris Yeltsin.

The Pacific Fleet military court ruled that the treason and espionage charges against Pasko were unfounded, saying the information he had given Japan's NHK television station was not secret.

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service shortly after his release, the 37-year-old journalist spoke about how he felt after more than 20 months in jail and after escaping a potential 12-year prison sentence for treason: "In the first place, the decision was not totally unexpected, because it would have been scandalous to sentence an innocent man to 12 years' imprisonment," he said. "The only correct decision was to release me. Therefore, to use football jargon, you can say the score is a tie (1:1)."

The court found that much of the evidence against Pasko had been collected in violation of the law and that two of the documents submitted as evidence by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB)--heir to the Soviet-era KGB--had been falsified.

Asked if he agreed with the verdict that found him guilty of abuse of power, Pasko replied: "No way. In the criminal case, there is no evidence for the charge of Article 275 [abuse of power under the Russian criminal code], but not even under Article 285 on the misuse of office, for one very simple reason. I am not a public servant."

Much of the trial was held behind closed doors, but prosecutors said publicly that Pasko had handed over 10 documents containing state secrets to Japanese television and divulged information about the combat readiness of Russia's Pacific Fleet.

Pasko said the case was fabricated by the FSB to punish him for reports he filed on Japanese Television about the Pacific Fleet's nuclear-waste dumping practices. Pasko said his material documented environmental hazards at several fleet facilities but did not involve classified information.

Pasko said the aim of the trial was to silence him. He said the FSB had been trying to get him to collaborate with it for some time but that he had refused. He said the FSB knew he had a wide circle of people who shared information with him: "From simple sailors to foreign correspondents, including generals and admirals. Because I have always been an honorable journalist. [The FSB] wanted to exploit this."

Asked about the prison conditions during his 20-month detention in Vladivostok, Pasko said they were the "same" as everywhere in Russia. "For the last year, I was held in solitary confinement, and in as much as I was on my own, then it was more or less bearable. But where people are held 50 or 40 in a cell, then these are very difficult conditions."

The Pacific Fleet's branch of the FSB said it still wants to review the results of Pasko's case, but it appears to have accepted the verdict. Pasko qualified for the amnesty because he had already served more than one-third of his full three-year sentence and was a first-time offender.

Pasko's case is not the only one where Russia's FSB appears to be attempting to quash Russia's budding environmental movement.

The Federal Security Service recently raided the Vladivostok laboratory and home of Vladimir Soifer. Soifer is an internationally known scientist who has been investigating the problem of nuclear waste and storage in Russia's Far East.

Alexander Nikitin, a retired navy captain, was also accused of espionage. He allegedly helped the Norwegian environmental organization Bellona document nuclear pollution by Russia's Northern Fleet. Nikitin was later released from prison but the FSB is moving to renew the case.

And Vladimir Putin, director of the Federal Security Service, recently defended his agency's vigilant stance against environmentalists, claiming that foreign agents are penetrating ecological organizations and endangering state security.

Environmentalists say the FSB is simply trying to help the military cover up an embarrassing legacy of neglect. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.


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