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Newsline - July 27, 1999




STEPASHIN STRESSES CONTINUITY IN U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS...

Sergei Stepashin arrived in Washington, D.C. on 27 July for his first visit there as head of the Russian government. Stepashin told reporters that among the aims of his visit are "reviving" the Gore-Stepashin Commission and developing personal contacts with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, ITAR-TASS reported. At a dinner in Seattle the previous night, Stepashin told members of the U.S.-Russia Business Council that reports of the "criminalization" of the Russian economy are exaggerated and that he is not dependent on magnates and tycoons. Stepashin also downplayed friction that developed between the U.S. and Russia over Kosova policy, noting that "the economic ties never snapped," AP reported. Stepashin added that his current visit "is a continuation of those head starts [in U.S.-Russian relations] which were made in the Chernomyrdin-Gore Commission and the agreements between [Russian President] Boris Yeltsin and [U.S. President] Bill Clinton." JAC

...AS NEW ROUND OF ARMS CONTROL TALKS IMMINENT

During his meetings with U.S. government officials in Washington, Stepashin is expected to agree on a date and time for consultations on the ABM and Start-III treaties, diplomatic sources told Interfax on 26 July. According to these sources, the first round of talks may be held in August in Moscow. JAC

RUSSIA, U.S. ESTABLISH SECOND 'HOT LINE'

Meeting on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum in Singapore on 26 July, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said bilateral relations are on the mend following NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia. Both stressed, however, that serious differences remain over that campaign. With regard to the Start-II treaty, Ivanov stressed his government will press for its passage when the State Duma convenes after the summer recess. The two leaders signed an agreement on establishing a "hot line" to avoid future misunderstandings during times of crisis. This will be in addition to the so-called secure communications link that has connected the White House and the Kremlin since 1963. Albright and Ivanov were meeting for the first time since the beginning of the NATO campaign. JC

IVANOV SAYS RELATIONS WITH CHINA GROWING STRONGER

Also on 26 July, Ivanov noted in an interview published in a Beijing newspaper and released by the Russian Foreign Ministry that Moscow's relations with China are strengthening and will play an increasingly important role as a stabilizing factor in global politics, Interfax reported. With regard to the "growing cooperation" between the two countries in the military-technological sphere and conversion of the defense industry, Ivanov said this development shows the level of "trust" in the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership. He also referred to "new alarming factors" that have emerged in the Asian-Pacific region, in particular those related to "U.S.- Japanese plans to set up ABM systems in Eastern Asia" and to the "renewal" of those countries' "military union." JC

PRIMORYE GOVERNOR UNWELCOME GUEST IN U.S.

The "Seattle Post- Intelligencer" reported on 24 July that Washington state officials privately admitted to a great deal of discomfort in hosting Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who is part of Prime Minister Stepashin's delegation to the U.S., because local investors have had a variety of bad experiences in the krai. They consider Nazdratenko a "crook," "a thug" and the "godfather of Vladivostok," among other things. Elisa Miller, president of the Seattle-based Russian Far East Advisory Group, called Nazdratenko's use of federal police agencies "out of the ordinary behavior, even for Russia." The daily reported on 26 July that Nazdratenko was purposefully seated some distance away from Washington State Governor Gary Locke at a dinner for Stepashin. A spokesman for Locke had said previously "The governor is hosting the dinner with the Prime Minister. We don't have any control over who he brings with him." JAC

STEPASHIN MEETS WITH RUSSIAN EMIGRES

On 26 July, Stepashin met with a group of prominent Russian emigres including University of Maryland professor Roald Sagdaev, "Novoe Russkoye Slovo" editor Valerii Vainberg, Russian Orthodox Archbishop of Washington, San Francisco, and U.S. West Coast States Vasilii Rodzyanko, and Princes Vladimir Golitsin and Grigorii Gagarin, ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin suggested that the emigres "can do a lot to create a favorable climate in the U.S." regarding Russia. According to the agency, Stepashin expressed his verbal support for a proposal to set up a New York-based council to supervise lobbying efforts on behalf of Russia in the U.S., but he quipped that the Russian government does not have the money to fund such an organization. JAC

RUSSIAN 'AID' TO YUGOSLAVIA TO REDUCE RUSSIA'S FOREIGN DEBT LOAD

The $150 million that the Russian government is allocating for the rebuilding of Yugoslavia will be taken out of Russia's debt to that country, Aleksei Ginsburg, an adviser to the Economics Ministry, announced on 26 July, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). According to Ginsburg, the Russian government decided to earmark $150 million of its debt to Yugoslavia as far back as 1997 for modernizing industries, reconstructing thermal power plants, and other projects. He added that the details of that transaction were settled only in 1999, however. JAC

KALUZHNII DENIED SEAT ON GAZPROM'S BOARD...

Gazprom on 26 July released a list of 19 names of candidates for members of the board of directors. Noticeably absent was the name of Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii, who had announced 10 days earlier that he would like a seat himself (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1999). Kalyuzhnii had insisted that new elections to the board be held less than a month after previous elections. Board chairman Viktor Chernomyrdin told reporters on 26 July that the federal government wants to secure five seats on the board when new elections are held on 26 August; currently it has four, including Chernomyrdin. Of the 19 candidates, 10 listed were government officials including, deputy ministers of state property, finance, economics, and fuel and energy, as well as the deputy chairman and chairman of the Federal Property Fund, Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok, adviser to Prime Minister Stepashin Aleksei Chizhov, former State Tax Service head Boris Fedorov, and Chernomyrdin. JAC

...LEFT OUT OF OTHER IMPORTANT GATHERINGS?

"Kommersant-Daily" noted on 27 July that Chizhov was on the short list of candidates for the post of fuel and energy minister, but Sibneft head Roman Abramovich reportedly managed to get Kalyuzhnii appointed instead. The daily, which has written many critical articles about Kalyuzhnii, also noted that Kalyuzhnii was not invited to a recent meeting between Prime Minister Stepashin and the head of Russian oil companies. JAC

COURTS TO STOP ACTIVITIES OF UNREGISTERED ORGANIZATIONS

Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov told Ekho Moskvy on 23 July that the activities of more than 700 federal organizations that did not reregister by 1 July 1999 as required by law will be stopped by courts and that his ministry has initiated procedures related to that process. Krasheninnikov added that more than 140 public organizations will not be able to nominate their own candidates to the State Duma this year because they did not apply to re- register their organizations by the 19 December 1998 deadline as required by law. Krasheninnikov also said that the Justice Ministry will tighten the procedure for verifying parties and movements, "Segodnya" reported on 24 July. JAC

JEWISH OBLAST WANTS BEREZOVSKII AS STATE DUMA CANDIDATE

The Organization of Entrepreneurs for Economic Development (OPER) in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast has invited influential businessman Boris Berezovskii to run for a seat in the State Duma from their region, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 27 July. OPER President Sergei Leskov said that he believes Berezovskii would be able to attract investment to the region. He added that the written invitation to run was sent to Berezovskii care of Sibneft since it was impossible to find another address for him, "even on the Internet." The oblast is currently represented by Sergei Shtogrin, who is a member of People's Power. JAC

RUSSIANS, CHECHENS AGAIN EXCHANGE FIRE

Russian and Chechen units again exchanged fire along the Dagestan-Chechen border on 25-26 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian agency said there were no casualties on the Russian side. PG

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA SITUATION UNRESOLVED

Interfax political analyst Natalia Timakov suggested on 27 July that President Yeltsin's decision to appoint his aide Valentin Vlasov as acting head of Karachaevo-Cherkessia postponed rather than resolved problems there. Supporters of the two local candidates, Stanislav Deryev and Vladimir Semyonov, have vowed to continue to press their cases in court. Meanwhile, Semenyov told Interfax on 26 July that "we will not permit a Chechen scenario" in the republic, even though many outsiders are trying to destabilize the situation and people there are "angered" by what he called "the clumsy actions of the federal government." PG




ARMENIAN GAS CRISIS EASES

Gasoline was again available in most retail stations in Yerevan on 26 July, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported, but prices were approximately 10 percent higher than a week earlier. Meanwhile, Armenpress reported that Armenian authorities are blaming Romania and Bulgaria for the crisis, noting that Bulgaria is now selling gas to Yugoslavia while Romania's major refinery is undergoing repairs. PG

AZERBAIJAN DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL SACKED

Colonel Mehman Salimov, the chief of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry's educational department, has been fired "for serious mistakes in his work," the Turan news agency reported on 26 July. The agency suggested that he was released because of an interview he had given to the press supporting military critics of the current defense minister and opposing improved relations between Baku and NATO. PG

MUTALIBOV OPPOSES CONCERNS ON KARABAKH

Former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov told Turan on 26 July that he opposes making concessions to Armenia in order to resolve the Karabakh problem. He rejected proposals for confederation or a "common state" combining Azerbaijan and Karabakh, which, he suggested, "in fact would mean independence" for the disputed region. PG

GEORGIA SEEKS UN FINDING OF ETHNIC CLEANSING IN ABKHAZIA

President Eduard Shevardnadze on 26 July said that his government wants the UN Security Council to issue a statement finding that there has been ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia, Interfax reported. But a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow would oppose any such finding and suggested that the Georgian request would likely be turned down. "We have no arguments in favor of recognizing the fact of ethnic cleansing against the Georgian population in Abkhazia," the unnamed source told ITAR-TASS the same day. Meanwhile, Georgian officials told Caucasus Press that the failure of the UN to issue such a finding would be "a defeat of the UN and a great disappointment for Georgia." At the UN, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that the UN mandate in Georgia be extended. PG

GEORGIAN-ADJARIAN TENSIONS INCREASE

Georgian parliamentary deputies have said that a statement by Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze that the 1921 Kars Treaty should be restored is "treasonous," Prime News reported on 26 July. Abashidze had earlier cited that treaty as justifying his region's right to free trade with Turkey and even to give him the right to stop the collection of customs duties at seaports there. PG

TBILISI TO RE-EXAMINE APRIL 1989 EVENTS

President Shevardnadze has instructed his government to re-examine all documents related to the actions of Soviet forces in dispersing a peaceful demonstration in Tbilisi on 9 April 1989, Caucasus Press reported on 26 July. Shevardnadze said he intends to publish a book on that tragic day, in which 16 people were killed and many more wounded. Meanwhile, former Georgian Communist Party leader Jumbar Patiashvili said he welcomes this new investigation and that if he or anyone else is found to have violated the law, those people should be punished. PG

SHEVARDNADZE ACCUSES FIVE PARTIES OF BUYING VOTES...

The Georgian president told a 26 July news conference that five political parties in his country have sought to bribe voters, Prime News reported. But the deputy chairman of the Central Election Commission, Gia Zesashvili, appeared to limit their legal liability by saying that vote-buying before a poll date is set is not in fact a crime. Shevardnadze told the journalists that he will soon fix a date for the elections. PG

...SAYS HE MET WITH CHECHENS ON HOSTAGES

In other comments at his 26 July press conference, Shevardnadze announced that he has met with Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov, now in Georgia for medical treatment, to discuss the release of Georgian citizens now held captive in Chechnya and the joint fight against kidnapping. PG

NAZARBAYEV SAYS KAZAKH MEDIA SHOULD PLAY 'POSITIVE' ROLE

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev told journalists in his country on 26 July that further democratization there is out of the question without a free media, "the basic institution of any law-abiding state," Interfax reported. But he suggested that journalists should give more attention to "positive" developments" since "shortcomings are present in any society; positive attitudes must be encouraged." PG

LOCUSTS DRIVE OUT KAZAKH AGRICULTURE MINISTER

Kazakhstan's Minister of Agriculture Zhanibek Karibzhanov resigned on 26 July after being criticized for failing to prevent the widespread locust infestation in that country, Reuters reported. His resignation was immediately accepted. At present, almost two-thirds of the area under cultivation there is suffering from locusts, the agency noted. PG

KAZAKH WOMEN PROTEST LAND PRIVATIZATION

Seven women have declared a hunger strike in Almaty to demand that the country's parliament not act to privatize agricultural land, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 26 July. The women, ranging in age from 30 to 81, said that "we are not frightened by prison and death. We are only afraid of disgrace before future generations." PG

KYRGYZ-UZBEK GAS TALKS CONTINUE

An official from the Kyrgyz state gas company told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 26 July that Bishkek is trying to secure agreement with Tashkent on stable deliveries of gas to Kyrgyzstan from Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan owes Uzbekistan some $3.5 million, and gas supplies have been irregular over the last year. PG

KYRGYZSTAN TO REMOVE DZERZHINSKY STATUE

The Bishkek city administration has decided to remove the statue of Soviet secret police founder Feliks Dzherzhinsky from the center of the city sometime in the near future, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 23 July. In its place, the city authorities plan to erect a Statue of Liberty. PG




BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER HEAVILY FINED

A Minsk court on 26 July ordered the independent newspaper "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" to pay 2.1 billion Belarusian rubles ($7,900) in compensation to Judge Nadzeya Chmara for the "moral damage" inflicted on her by its coverage of a trial over which Chmara had presided (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). According to the court, the newspaper had suggested that the verdict pronounced by Chmara was not written by her but by someone whose "political order" she was obeying. Valyantsin Zhdanko, deputy editor of "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," said he is surprised by the unprecedented amount of compensation demanded by the court. "This is a new form of the Belarusian authorities' struggle against independent media--[the authorities] do not close but ruin them financially," Belapan quoted Zhdanko as saying. The newspaper is to appeal the verdict. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL SAYS INCUMBENT PLAYING DIRTY

Vasyl Onopenko, head of the Social Democratic Party and a presidential candidate, has accused President Leonid Kuchma of unfair tactics in seeking to secure his re-election in October, dpa reported on 26 July. Onopenko said Kuchma plans to regain office by "extensive falsification of vote results" and by putting administrative pressure on his opponents. JM

SUPREME COURT SUSPENDS DECISION ON ANNULLING KYIV MAYORAL ELECTION

The Ukrainian Supreme Court on 26 July suspended the decision of the Vyshhorod district court annulling the mayoral elections in Kyiv in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1999). Oleksandr Omelchenko, who won a landslide victory in the mayoral elections, had appealed that decision. The Supreme Court has requested relevant materials and documents so that it can examine the case further. JM

UKRAINE WANTS TO PAY GAS DEBT WITH STRATEGIC BOMBERS

Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk said on 26 July that Ukraine can give Russia 10 Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers to cover part of Kyiv's debt for Russian gas supplies, Interfax reported. Kuzmuk added that the price of each aircraft would "exceed $25 million." Russia has so far not responded to Kuzmuk's offer. Under a 1991 arms reduction program, Ukraine is obliged to eliminate all bombers and other nuclear hardware by December 2001. The U.S. has contributed more than $500 million for that purpose. JM

ESTONIAN PUBLIC SUPPORTS GOVERNMENT, BUDGET CUTS

A recent poll conducted by the Sociological Research Center indicated that about half of Estonians regard the work of Mart Laar's government as successful. About a quarter disagreed with that viewpoint, BNS reported. Two-thirds of those polled agreed with the government's budget cuts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999), while calling for a larger cut than provided for by the 1 billion kroon ($67 million) negative supplementary budget. MH

DUMA DEPUTY SPEAKER SOUNDS OFF ON LITHUANIA

On a visit to Kaliningrad on 26 July, State Duma deputy speaker Sergei Baburin attacked Lithuania's policy to integrate into NATO and blasted the pending Lithuanian-Russian border treaty. Baburin stressed he will do "whatever it takes" to prevent the treaty's ratification in the Duma, adding that "only a madman, a fool, or a traitor can attempt to remove the obstacle to open Lithuania's way into the military bloc," BNS reported, Baburin also questioned Lithuania's right to the port city of Klaipeda, saying Vilnius should abandon Klaipeda "before denouncing triumphantly the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact," according to "Lietuvos Rytas." MH

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES DIPLOMATS

President Valdas Adamkus, opening the annual meeting of Lithuania's ambassadors on 26 July, called on the envoys to work on improving Lithuania's image abroad. "Obviously this sphere is in need of coordination," said Adamkus, adding that the Foreign Ministry could play a "more dynamic role," BNS reported. Adamkus also stressed the need to promote better economic contacts between and support for Lithuanian businesses in foreign markets. MH

POLAND, U.K. SIGN DEAL ON PRODUCTION OF HOWITZERS

Poland's Stalowa Wola steelworks and the U.K.'s Marconi company on 26 July signed an agreement on the production of self-propelled 155 mm howitzers adapted to NATO standards for the Polish army, PAP reported. Poland will buy six howitzer turrets and technology from Marconi worth 100 million zlotys ($26 million) and spend another 100 million zlotys to construct the howitzer chassis by 2003. The Polish army plans to buy 70 howitzers by 2012 to upgrade its military hardware. "We are buying new equipment and giving jobs to the Polish defense industry," Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek commented after the signing ceremony. JM

POLISH LEFT-WING DAILY TO BE SUED FOR INSULTING POPE

The Warsaw district court on 26 July revoked the decision of a Warsaw prosecutor not to start proceedings against the left- wing daily "Trybuna" for insulting Pope John Paul II. In 1997, "Trybuna" called the pope a "coarse vicar" and said one of the pope's statements was "sloppy and mumbling." Catholic associations in Poland, arguing this was an insult to the foreign head of state and the supreme authority for Catholics, had notified the prosecutor that an offense was committed. Following the prosecutor's refusal to start proceedings, some 1,500 people appealed to the Warsaw district court and managed to have the case against "Trybuna" opened. JM

CONFIDENCE IN CZECH GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO DROP

Sixty- nine percent of Czechs do not trust Milos Zeman's cabinet, according to an opinion poll carried out by the Institute for Social Research. Compared with last month, confidence in the cabinet dropped by four percentage points and now stands at 27 percent, CTK reported on 26 July. Fifty percent of the respondents negatively evaluated the "opposition agreement" between the Social Democratic government and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), while only 20 percent said the agreement is "beneficial" and 30 percent said they have no opinion (see also "End Note" below). MS

CZECH OPPOSITION POLITICIAN WARNS AGAINST COMMUNIST POPULARITY

Premysl Sobotka, Senate deputy chairman, said on 26 July that the growth of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia's (KSKM) popularity is a "warning" for Czech society. Sobotka, who represents the ODS in the Senate, said the Communists "never changed their goals, ideology, and desire to nationalize property, " CTK reported. On 22 July, Vaclav Exner, KSCM deputy chairman, had told journalists that those among them who are in their 50s "might still see the return of socialism." Exner said recent polls show there is no need for the party to change its program and that "the re-establishment of socialism" remains its "long-term aim." MS

NORWAY INTRODUCES VISA REQUIREMENT FOR SLOVAKS

Norway on 26 July became the fourth country after the U.K., Ireland, and Finland to introduce visa requirements for Slovak citizens, CTK reported. The Foreign Ministry in Oslo said the measure was "temporary" and will remain in force till 6 November. The Norwegian NTB agency said the step was taken because Norway feared an influx of Slovak Roma asylum seekers similar to that in neighboring Finland. MS

SLOVAK AUTHORITIES EXPRESS REGRET OVER ATTACK ON CHINESE DIPLOMAT

The Slovak authorities on 26 July said they "deeply regretted" the attack in Bratislava two days earlier on a senior Chinese diplomat and two Chinese nationals. The diplomat suffered head injuries and is in hospital, while the others were treated for their injuries and released. Police said they are seeking eight youths who carried out the attack at a trolleybus stop. Eyewitness reports said the attackers were skinheads. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER LINKS VOJVODINA AUTONOMY TO TIES WITH CROATIA...

Addressing a meeting of Hungarian ambassadors on 26 July, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his government wants to see "more concrete results" in the coordination of policies with neighboring countries. Orban said he expects the Hungarian diplomatic mission in Croatia to "do more" to promote the "good strategic alliance" between the two countries, stressing that cooperation with Zagreb is "essential" in finding a solution to the problems faced by the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina, "Magyar Hirlap" reported, citing anonymous sources that attended the closed-door meeting. MS

...WHILE EXTREMIST HUNGARIAN LEADER WANTS TO 'RESCUE' PROVINCE'S MAGYARS

Hungarian Justice and Life Party chairman Istvan Csurka on 26 July said his party is starting a campaign aimed at "rescuing the Hungarian minority" in Vojvodina. The drive is to be launched at 20 August ceremony on Heroes' Square in Budapest. Csurka said that he has not changed his opinion that only a revision of borders can save the province's ethnic Hungarians, who, he said, are now at risk of being outnumbered by Serbian refugees from Kosova. Csurka added that leaders of Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries have been invited to attend the ceremony, but he declined to give names, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. MS




HAGUE COURT MOVING CLOSER TO INDICTING TUDJMAN?

Prosecutor Gregory Kehoe told the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 26 July that Croatian General Tihomir Blaskic, who is on trial for war crimes committed in Bosnia's Lasva valley in 1993, was only an instrument of anti-Muslim policies, for which Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is ultimately responsible. Kehoe argued that the plan that Blaskic carried out was developed "in the halls of power in Zagreb by Franjo Tudjman and his associates, then deployed in [Bosnia] by the political structure there and the military machine" of the Herzegovinian Croats. "Blaskic was the tool. He worked hand in glove with [Tudjman and key Herzegovinian leaders] to achieve their goals--the removal of Muslims and ultimate annexation [of the Lasva valley] to the Republic of Croatia," Reuters quoted the prosecutor as saying. Kehoe's remarks come at a time when Zagreb's relations with the court are strained over Croatia's refusal to extradite two indicted war criminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). PM

CROATIAN OPPOSITION FORESEES POLITICAL REPERCUSSIONS

Opposition Istrian political leader Damir Kajin told "Jutarnji list" of 27 July that Kehoe's statements could lead to the most serious domestic crisis in Croatia since the country gained independence in 1991. Liberal leader Drazen Budisa said that the latest developments in The Hague do not bode well for Croatia. The Social Democrats' Ivica Racan called the news from the court "disturbing." Tudjman's spokesman, Tihomir Vinkovic, charged the court with meddling in politics. Ivica Ropus, who is the spokesman for Tudjman's governing Croatian Democratic Community, said that he is "not surprised" by the news from The Hague, because the court has a "political agenda" against Croatia. PM

EFFECT OF INDICTMENT COULD BE DEVASTATING

"Jutarnji list" of 27 July noted that the Hague court recently ruled that the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia was an international conflict and not a civil war. That decision opened the way to a possible indictment of Belgrade leaders for their role in the bloodletting in Bosnia. Kehoe's remarks suggest that the prosecutors might soon turn their attention to the Zagreb leadership as well. Observers note that the potential effect of any future indictment by the Hague tribunal of Tudjman and other top Croatian leaders could have an immense impact on Croatia. That country depends on tourism and remittances from workers abroad for most of its hard-currency income. Croatia would therefore be much more vulnerable than Serbia if the international community were to apply sanctions as long as indicted war criminals remained in high office. PM

SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS KILLINGS IN KOSOVA...

The UN's highest body issued a statement on 26 July, in which it called the recent killing of 14 Serbian farmers in Staro Gracko a "criminal act" and urged that those responsible be brought to justice (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). The statement also expressed support for KFOR and the UN- sponsored civilian administration "in their efforts to ensure peace and security for all inhabitants" of the province. In Brussels, the EU Presidency condemned the killings in a statement calling on all citizens of Kosova to work for a common future "without violence or atrocities." PM

...AS DOES BERGER

President Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said in Washington on 26 July that the U.S. will provide up to $500 million to help Kosovars restore their homes and otherwise prepare for the coming winter. Referring to the Staro Gracko killings, Berger added that "this act of violence is not the same as the massive systematic campaign which was unleashed by [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic. But it is profoundly wrong and unacceptable and we will work against it. Those in the region who wish to be our partners must work actively against it as well," Reuters reported. PM

THACI SAYS GREATER ALBANIA NOT A GOAL

Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci told the Ljubljana-based weekly "Mladina" that the Kosovars did not fight to establish a greater Albania, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 26 July. He added that the border between Kosova and Albania will remain in place. Thaci stressed that the UCK will not accept republican status within Yugoslavia. He noted that Kosova's legal tender soon will not be the Yugoslav dinar but rather the German mark. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO FORGE AGREEMENT?

Opposition Alliance for Change leader Vladan Batic told Reuters on 27 July that "we expect a gentleman's agreement between the Alliance for Change and [Vuk Draskovic's] Serbian Renewal Movement very soon." He did not elaborate but suggested that talks are approaching an agreement whereby the two main opposition groupings would not publicly attack each other. PM

DJINDJIC CALLS ON GENERAL TO OPPOSE MILOSEVIC

Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said in Sabac on 26 July that General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands the Third Army, based in southern Serbia, should support the drive to oust Milosevic. Djindjic argued that the president is no longer capable of carrying out his duty to represent Yugoslavia abroad because he is an indicted war criminal. Djindjic stressed that it is Pavkovic's "duty" to help oust a president who cannot carry out his responsibilities. Pavkovic recently criticized the opposition for allegedly seeking the "unlawful" overthrow of a legally elected government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). PM

SERBIAN PETITION DRIVE CONTINUES

Officials of the Alliance for Change said in Belgrade on 26 July that volunteer workers have collected 550,000 signatures on a petition calling for Milosevic to resign. Some 70,000 signatures come from Belgrade and 30,000 from Nis. The goal of the petition drive is to collect 2 million signatures, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

DANUBE COMMISSION SAYS CLEAN-UP TO COST $90 MILLION

Experts from the international Danube Commission told Yugoslav officials that it will cost $14 million to clear the waterway as a result of damage caused by NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia. Another $13 million will be needed to build temporary bridges and a further $63 million to rebuild or repair damaged bridges over the Danube. The experts said it will take up to six months to clear the waterway and some three years to rebuild the bridges. PM

ROMANIAN OFFICIAL SAYS IMF ACCORD NOT CERTAIN

Gheorghe Banu, state secretary in the Ministry of Finance, told journalists on 26 July that Romania must still fulfill two conditions before the IMF executive board will consider approval of the $500 million stand-by loan agreed on in Bucharest last April. Banu said the two conditions-- securing a $350 million credit from private lenders and completing the transfer of accounts from the near-bankrupt Bancorex to the Romanian Commercial Bank--must be fulfilled by 5 August, when the board is scheduled to discuss the loan, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CONTINUES 'TRANSYLVANIA OFFENSIVE'

Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) chairman Ion Iliescu on 26 July said Hungary has no right to criticize Romania's minorities policies as long as "it has not set its own house in order" and pursues a policy of assimilation toward its own ethnic minorities. Adrian Nastase, PDSR first deputy chairman, said three days earlier that the setting up of a Hungarian-language state university "makes no sense in a unitary state, where a state university in a language different from the official one is inconceivable." On 25 July, Nastase elaborated that "one cannot accept the existence of two types of nationalism, a good one that is Hungarian, a bad one that is Romanian." He said that Romania must not become the "practice ground for all sorts of revisionist sharp-shooter formulas." MS

U.S. TO HELP FINANCING RUSSIAN ARSENAL WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA

The U.S. will grant Moldova $30 million in aid to help finance the withdrawal of the Russian troops' arsenal from the Transdniester, AP reported on 26 July, citing the Moldpres agency. Ceslav Ciobanu, Moldovan ambassador to Washington, said the decision was adopted last week by the House of Representatives. MS

BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS KOSOVA CRISIS HELPED BALKANS

"Every cloud has a silver lining," Deputy Premier Evgeni Bakardzhiev commented in a 26 July interview with Reuters on the impact of the Kosova crisis on the Balkans. Bakardzhiev explained that the region "used to be one of divisions" between Islam and Christianity and later between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, but in the wake of the Kosova crisis, the Balkan states have "identified common goals, such as EU membership and cooperation in joint infrastructure projects." He added that "Europe and the world are now paying serious attention to southeastern Europe," and foreign investors could return to the region if they see it as stable and reform-inclined. MS




ZEMAN'S GOVERNMENT ONE YEAR ON: A DUBIOUS RECORD


by Michael Shafir

On 22 July 1998, Czech President Vaclav Havel swore in the minority Social Democratic (CSSD) cabinet of Milos Zeman. One year minus one day later, Zeman dismissed Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda, against whom police had recently brought charges for damaging the interests of creditors of a baby-stroller factory that he co-managed before becoming a minister. Worse still, the anniversary was heavily shadowed by the findings of a public opinion poll conducted by the STEM institute showing that the CSSD has been pushed to third place in party preferences, trailing not only its rival-and- ally, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), but also the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM). Given what prompted the Czech electorate in June 1998 to return the CSSD as the strongest party in the Chamber of Deputies (32.3 percent, 74 seats), the record of the Czech cabinet is dubious.

Following a series of corruption scandals, former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus was forced to resign in 1997 and his party was decimated by dissidents who broke away to set up the Freedom Union. Apparently aware that the CSSD owed its plurality in the parliament more to Klaus's failures than to its alternative electoral program, Zeman pledged from the outset to launch a "clean hands" campaign and extirpate corruption from public administration. Ironically, it was one more corruption scandal that marred the anniversary of his one year in power.

Like the ODS in its time, the CSSD has been eager not only to make arguably justifiable political appointments at the head of government departments, but also (and this can no longer be justified in any way) to appoint its cronies to leading positions in state-owned companies. And owing to the "opposition agreement" with the ODS--which allowed the formation of a minority government in exchange for leading positions in the parliament--this amounted to little else than reaching a modus vivendi (albeit sometimes a tense one) with Klaus's party over the division of the spoils.

In July 1998, Zeman promised that his ministers would receive a "performance review" after one year and that those found to be lacking the necessary skills will be fired. That promise was apparently not kept. At the very least, Zeman might have been expected to part company with Jaroslav Basta, the minister in charge of the anti-corruption campaign. Not that other cabinet members were immune to criticism: the daily "Lidove noviny" on 21 July called Deputy Premier Egon Lansky "the non-coordinating coordinator" of foreign policy, while Development Minister Jaromil Cisar, Health Minister Ivan David, and Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl were all heavily criticized by the media, the opposition, and interest groups for their performance. In fact, Zeman himself had acknowledged on 16 July that the performance of at least four members of his cabinet (whom he did not name) was "unsatisfactory."

The reluctance to subject his cabinet to more radical consequences raises the question of whether Svoboda has been pushed away for reasons other than his implication in the Liberta baby-stroller affair. The former minister is known to belong to the so-called "[Stanislav] Gross faction," headed by the CSSD parliamentary group chairman, who reportedly is a Zeman rival within the party.

Be that as it may, after one year in power Zeman's ratings in opinion polls have plunged by 20 percent, and the CSSD's performance accounted for most of the upsurge in the support for the KSCM, with 20 percent of CSSD voters in 1998 now backing the Communists. A STEM poll published on 21 July indicated that nearly three in four Czechs (74 percent) are dissatisfied with the government's performance and that even those who are still CSSD supporters tend toward the same dissatisfaction (43 percent).

The minority cabinet's handling of foreign policy has been just as bad, and possibly even worse. Perhaps no one outmatched Lansky, who as foreign policy coordinator should have known better than to contradict Foreign Minister Jan Kavan during the Kosova crisis. Criticism of the NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia emanating from different ministers as the crisis peaked, a "Czech-Greek initiative" for settling the conflict launched without consulting the other NATO members, and criticism of Havel's visit to Kosova after the war by Zeman himself and other ministers--all these factors led (according to NATO sources that desire anonymity) to the questioning of the wisdom of expanding the alliance. Add to this the failure to promote legislation bringing Czech legislation into line with that of the EU (which has prompted union officials to wonder whether Prague will forfeit its membership in the "fast-track group") and one is left with a rather poor overall record.

Is Zeman, as a columnist in "Zemske noviny" claimed on 21 July, the "worst and the most untrustworthy head of government the independent Czech Republic has ever had?" He has at least one rival for that spot. The premier has repeatedly said that he intends to leave politics at the end of his cabinet's term. Those inclined to prophesize are already saying that Zeman will blame his failures on that same competitor, by whose grace the CSSD cabinet rules under the "opposition agreement." Should that prophecy come true, what started as "operation clean hands" would end up as "operation wash hands."




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