Accessibility links

Newsline - July 29, 1999




RUSSIA WINS NEW IMF SUPPORT...

As expected, the IMF's executive board has approved a new $4.5 billion loan for Russia. An IMF spokesperson said on 28 July that the money will be disbursed over 17 months, with $640 million available immediately. According to Western agencies, the new IMF funds will be used to pay off part of the debt Russia owes the fund, so the money will not actually leave IMF accounts. "Izvestiya" the next day likened the Russian government's experience winning a new IMF loan to the U.S. movie "Groundhog Day" in which a man lives the same day over and over again. "The IMF knows that the latest macroeconomic program will not be implemented by Russia because of the parliamentary and presidential elections," but "they want us again and again to declare, at least verbally, our commitment to the market and democracy. They are even willing to pay for the privilege." JAC

...PAVING WAY FOR PARIS CLUB DEAL

The day after the loan was approved, Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was in France for talks with Paris Club creditors. Kasyanov told ITAR-TASS he is confident an agreement will be reached soon-- possibly as early as 30 or 31 July. According to Reuters, negotiations will focus on the rescheduling of about $9 billion of principal and interest due in 1999 and 2000. Russian officials had predicted earlier that talks with London Club creditors would not go as smoothly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). JAC

BATTLE BETWEEN MEDIA GROUP, KREMLIN INTENSIFIES

Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin has asked Finance Minister Kasyanov to sort out the Media-Most Group's "financial relationships." ITAR-TASS reported on 29 July. Stepashin's instruction follows a strings of accusations and denials by Kremlin and government officials on the topic of Media-Most's finances. A group of editors from a variety of media outlets owned by Media-Most signed an open letter accusing the Kremlin of using tax inspectors to punish them for negative coverage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). Meanwhile, Kremlin officials have privately accused Media-Most of engaging in an information war in order to "extort even more money to resolve its own financial problems," Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July. Presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin publicly said the company has received substantial financial assistance from the state, which the company denies. "Kommersant-Daily" concluded that the "nature of the mutual accusations leaves little hope for reconciliation." JAC

STEPASHIN SAYS VISIT NOT ONLY HELPED IMPROVE BILATERAL RELATIONS...

Upon returning to Moscow on 28 July, Russian Prime Minister Stepashin declared his trip to the U.S. a success, calling the visit "a major step in improving Russian-American relations." Stepashin told reporters that his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton the same day had touched on the subject of the provision of humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia. According to Stepashin, Russia and the U.S. must have a coordinated position on the issue. During his visit, Stepashin also met with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, and U.S. Jewish group leaders. Stepashin promised the latter to intensify efforts to combat anti-Semitism. JAC

...BUT ALSO ADVANCED RUSSIAN ECONOMIC INTERESTS

Meeting with Gore, Stepashin raised the issue of the recent agreement on increasing the Russian quota of U.S. commercial space launches and Russian titanium exports to the U.S. The two leaders also agreed to renew arms control talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). During Stepashin's visit, top officials from the Khrunichev space research center and U.S.- based Lockheed-Martin signed an agreement on cooperation in the use of booster rockets, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 July. "Segodnya" reported the same day that a new U.S.-Russian trade dispute may be in the offing: The Association of American Producers of Nitrogen Fertilizers has sent a complaint to the Commerce Department accusing Russian fertilizer manufacturers of dumping. According to the daily, exports of nitrogen fertilizers to the U.S. during the first quarter of 1999 earned $7.4 million. JAC

ALL KOSOVA PEACEKEEPERS TO BE IN PLACE BY NEXT WEEK

Talking to journalists in Moscow on 28 July, Colonel-General Georgii Shpak said that the deployment of all 3,616 Russian peacekeepers in Kosova will be complete by 6 August. The following day, according to Shpak, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev will visit Bosnia-Herzegovina to hand over medals to the 200 paratroops who marched from Bosnia to Kosova in mid-June, becoming the first foreign forces to enter the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). Shpak added that all those who took part in the march are now back in Bosnia. JC

YELTSIN PARTICULARLY PARTIAL TO IVANOV?

President Yeltsin has awarded Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov the "For Service to the Fatherland" order of the second degree. Citing unidentified political analysts, "Segodnya" on 28 July notes that in bestowing this award--the second highest in Russia after the Order of St. Andrew, with only the president himself having the first-degree Fatherland order--the Kremlin may want to show that it has a "special affection" for the foreign minister. The newspaper points out that the award is normally reserved for "round" birthdays of officials who have distinguished themselves in their posts for a significant period. Ivanov, however, is due to turn 54 soon, has not been foreign minister very long, and, like most career diplomats, was not widely known before taking over that portfolio. JC

ANOTHER RESIGNATION TENDERED AT PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE

The Federation Council member will consider the resignation of acting Prosecutor-General Yurii Chaika after their summer recess, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 July. According to the agency, President Yeltsin has asked Chaika to transfer to the position of first deputy secretary of the Security Council. Current Prosecutor-General for the Caucasus Vladimir Ustinov will take over Chaika's position. According to "Kommersant- Daily," which first reported Ustinov's imminent transfer, Prime Minister Stepashin got to know Ustinov in the Caucasus and proposed his candidacy, assuring the Kremlin of Ustinov's loyalty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). JAC

COUP D'ETAT FAILS IN VORONEZH

Accompanied by a group of men wielding submachine guns, municipal deputy Vasilii Kochergin forced his way into the Voronezh Mayor's Office on 28 July in a bid to seize power in the oblast capital, ITAR-TASS and "Izvestiya" reported. According to the daily, the armed men were OMON officers. The incident ended without violence later the same day, and Mayor Aleksandr Tsapin broke off a tour of the raions to return to the capital. Earlier this year, Kochergin had been proclaimed mayor by his mostly Communist supporters in the city council but was "deposed" one day later pending a ruling by the federal Supreme Court (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 April 1999). "Izvestiya" reported that Tsapin had recently won over two Kochergin supporters, giving him and his supporters a quorum in the council with which to enact legislation. JC

'MIR' COSMONAUTS TAKE LAST SPACE WALK

Two Russian cosmonauts aboard the space station "Mir" completed a space walk on 28 July, successfully installing a new aerial antenna, Interfax reported. Five days earlier, the cosmonauts tried unsuccessfully for six hours to install the antenna. Deputy flight director Viktor Blagov told the agency that the walk was likely to be the last one for "Mir" cosmonauts, since the station will remain unmanned after the cosmonauts leave late next month. Unless funds are found to keep the space station going, "Mir" will be lowered into the earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean next February or March. Yurii Koptev, director-general of the Russian Space Agency said earlier in the month that "it is better to bring the station down to the bed of the Pacific Ocean with honor rather than prolong its service life until serious troubles...mar the history of this unique example of Russian space engineering." JAC

WHAT RHYMES WITH NATO AGGRESSION?

"Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 29 July that Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's department for international military cooperation, has won acceptance to the federation Writers' Union. Ivashov, a prolific poet, told the newspaper that even though he has an extremely busy schedule, he finds time to write by using every spare minute on flights, "waiting at the airport, and in cars." Ivashov also revealed that a compact disc of songs whose lyrics he had written would be released within days. Purchasers of the disc can hear songs with titles such as "Officers of Russia." Ivashov was one of Russia's most outspoken critics of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, saying before the campaign began that NATO "has no diplomatic, legal, political, or economic levers in its arsenal, only naked military force" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1999). JAC

CHECHEN OPPOSITION LEADER ACCUSES RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE OF PLANNING ASSASSINATIONS

Former acting Chechen Premier Shamil Basaev told journalists on 28 July that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has recruited ethnic Tatars and Bashkirs who infiltrated Chechen opposition military units, Interfax reported. Basaev said 38 such agents have been intercepted, of whom 18 were present at the press conference. Basaev said the agents planned to assassinate himself, radical field commander Khottab, and President Aslan Maskhadov in order to provoke a civil war in Chechnya. FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zhdanovich denied Basaev's allegations, which he termed a provocation intended to torpedo the planned meeting between Maskhadov and President Yeltsin. LF

MORE DEATHS IN DAGESTAN

Three Russian soldiers were killed by a remote-controlled bomb on 28 July. At the time of the blast, they were headed for a training ground near their base in the town of Buinaksk, Interfax reported. The following day, one Chechen militant was killed and a second injured in a pre-dawn attack on a police post on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan. LF




ARMENIAN PREMIER OUTLINES AUSTERITY MEASURES

In his first television address since his appointment as prime minister last month, Vazgen Sargsian on 28 July explained his proposed measures to overcome Armenia's budget crisis, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sargsian said that budget revenues for the first half of 1999 were 33 billion drams ($61 million) less than planned, which is equal to some 10 percent of projected government spending for 1999. Characterizing the situation as "extremely difficult but not hopeless," Sargsian vowed to raise some taxes, crack down on tax evasion, and increase excise duties on cigarettes and gasoline. He said those measures will help to bridge the budget shortfall without seriously affecting the poor and the middle class. During talks in Yerevan last week, IMF representatives gave the Armenian government until late August to bridge the budget gap, which has delayed disbursement of planned IMF and World Bank loan tranches totaling some $55 million. LF

AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY AT ODDS OVER OIL EXPORT PIPELINE

Azerbaijan's State Oil Company SOCAR issued an official statement on 27 July saying that talks between Azerbaijani and Turkish working groups have failed to reach agreement on four draft documents that would constitute the legal basis for the construction and use of the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 July. Representatives of the two countries had signed a protocol in Istanbul in April pledging to finalize and sign the four documents in question by the end of July. The points of disagreement, according to "Izvestiya," are over transit tariffs and the requirement that Turkey meet additional construction costs if the total cost of building the pipeline exceeds $2.4 billion. Turkey is demanding a tariff fee of $21 per metric ton of oil, while Azerbaijan and Western oil companies engaged in the Caspian refuse to pay more than $18- 19. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER ACCUSED OF INSULTING PRESIDENT

Seydakhmet Quttyqadam, who heads the Orleu (Progress) Party, told journalists in Almaty on 28 July that he has been formally charged with insulting President Nursultan Nazarbaev, an RFE/RL correspondent in the former capital reported. Quttyqadam had said at a rally in February that he considered that Nazarbaev has failed to fulfill his obligations as president and should resign, adding that Kazakhstan needs a "strong leader" like Ataturk or de Gaulle. Quttyqadam also argued on 28 July that the presidential system should be replaced by a parliamentary one and that the parliament should be empowered to form a government and to appoint regional leaders, according to Interfax. He said that the parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall, in which he will run in a single-mandate district in Almaty, offer "the last chance" for the development of democracy in Kazakhstan. LF

GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE COMPLETED IN KYRGYZSTAN

Prime Minister Amangeldy MurAliyev on 26 July presented to the cabinet three new ministers appointed to replace those dismissed by President Askar Akaev three days earlier, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Former State Property Fund director Sultan Mederov replaces Marat Sultanov as finance minister and is himself replaced by former Customs Director Tashkul Kereksizov. Jalalabad University rector Tursunbek Bekbolotov takes over from Sovetbek Toktomyshev as minister of education, science, and culture, and Imankadyr Rysaliev, a former presidential administration department head, succeeds Mira Jangachareva as minister of labor and social issues. Jangaracheva was named deputy governor of Chu Oblast on 26 July. LF

OPPOSITION IN KYRGYZSTAN PLANS JOINT COUNCIL

Meeting in Bishkek on 28 July, representatives of five opposition parties (Free Kyrgyzstan, the Communist Party, the People's Party, the republican Party and "My Country") announced they will form a joint political council on which each party will have one representative, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They also expressed their objection to President Akaev's proposal to amend the election law passed by the parliament in April in order to reduce from 12 months to six the period for which a political party must be officially registered prior to parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May and 22 June 1999). Akaev's proposed amendment is presumably intended to facilitate the participation in the February 2000 parliamentary elections of the Adilet Party, created as a support base for the president. The Jalalabad regional branch of Adilet held its founding conference on 24 July and elected as its head Kubanychbek Djumaliev, the governor of Jalalabad Oblast and a former premier. LF

MORE ANTHRAX CASES REPORTED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan's First Deputy Minister of Public Health Viktor Glinenko told Interfax on 28 July that six more cases of anthrax been reported in Osh Oblast over the past nine days, Interfax reported. The victims had eaten infected beef. A total of 957 people have been placed under medical observation. Meanwhile, 10 people have been hospitalized with anthrax in the Bazar-Korgin district of Jalalabad Oblast, which borders on Osh, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

DEMILITARIZATION, REFERENDUM PREPARATIONS ON TRACK IN TAJIKISTAN

United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told journalists in Dushanbe on 28 July that the opposition will meet the 31 July deadline for disarming its forces, Reuters reported. That deadline is stipulated in the protocol that he and President Imomali Rakhmonov signed on 17 June. Of a total of some 6,000 opposition fighters who have been screened by the Central Attestation Committee, 4,500 have opted for service in either the army or the police. Meanwhile, preparations are continuing for the 26 September referendum on constitutional amendments that will remove the present ban on political parties with a religious orientation, AP-Blitz reported on 27 July. Acting UN Special Representative Joges Saksena told journalists in Dushanbe on 27 July he hopes the constitutional amendments will be approved, paving the way for a special parliamentary session that will schedule new parliamentary elections for January. The opposition has retracted its demand that those elections be held before the 6 November presidential poll. LF




BELARUS TEMPORARILY LIBERALIZES FUEL MARKET

Responding to the country's acute fuel shortage, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued an edict allowing foreign companies to export fuel to Belarus without paying customs duties and value-added tax. Foreign companies may also sell fuel in Belarus without opening representative offices or paying excise tax. In addition, the government has revoked the requirement whereby fuel wholesale traders in Belarus must have licenses. All these measures are to remain in effect until the end of this year. JM

SPOKESMAN SAYS MOSCOW NEWSPAPER MISINTERPRETED LUKASHENKA

Uladzimir Skvartsou, spokesman for the Belarusian president, told Interfax on 28 July that the previous day's issue of "Moskovskie novosti" misinterpreted Lukashenka's remark in an earlier interview with "Die Woche." In that interview, Lukashenka said he will not agree to being an "errand boy for Yeltsin" in the planned Belarusian-Russian union state. "Yeltsin's entourage is deluding itself if it thinks that Lukashenka will act as the Trojan Horse on whose shoulders some politicians can prolong their time span in politics," "Moskovskie novosti" commented with regard to Lukashenka's remark. Skvartsou said Lukashenka' statement meant that the Belarusian president opposes the unification of both countries "for the sake of prolonging the political future of this or that official...[be it] Yeltsin, Lukashenka, or anyone else." Skvartsou added that for Lukashenka the unification idea is "sacred." JM

LITHUANIA PROVIDES SECURITY TO BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER

Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis has officially asked the interior minister to make security arrangements for Belarusian Supreme Soviet Chairman Syamyon Sharetski during his stay in Lithuania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 July 1999), BNS reported. "The visitor is a high-ranking person and my parliamentary counterpart. Any accidental misunderstanding or an incident involving him would be instrumental to further numerous misunderstandings, political complications, and unnecessary rumors," Landsbergis told journalists on 28 July. He added that Lithuania, if requested by Minsk, could act as an intermediary in the standoff between the Belarusian authorities and the opposition. An Interior Ministry official told BNS the same day that the ministry has made security arrangements for Sharetski and provided him with a car. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER DENIES CABINET PLANNING TO CHANGE ECONOMIC STRATEGY

Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko on 28 July denied that his government plans any changes in its economic strategy, Interfax reported. Pustovoytenko was responding to First Deputy Premier Volodymyr Kuratchenko's proposals at a government meeting earlier the same day in which the latter called for restoring state economic planning and revising Ukraine's accords with the IMF and the World Bank. "We have a clear strategy for our reform course and we will stick to it," Pustovoytenko said, adding that Kuratchenko expressed his personal opinions at the meeting. Meanwhile, IMF senior official John Odling-Smee has urged the government to accelerate economic transformation, particularly privatization and agricultural and administrative reform. JM

UKRAINE CONDITIONS ALUMINA SUPPLIES FOR TAJIKISTAN ON COTTON SUPPLIES

Pustovoytenko on 28 July threatened to stop supplies of alumina to Tajikistan from 1 August unless Dushanbe pays off its debts with cotton supplies promised earlier. Last week, Pustovoytenko and his Tajik counterpart, Yakhye Azimov, signed a deal on partly repaying Tajikistan's $60 million debt to Kyiv with cotton supplies totaling 7,000 tons, including 1,300 tons this month. In return, Ukraine pledged to ship 500,000 tons of alumina to Tajikistan in both 1999 and 2000 and increase imports to 600,000 tons in 2001, Reuters reported. JM

ANOTHER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL REGISTERED

The Central Electoral Commission has registered former Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko, head of one of the two splinter groups of the Rukh party, as the sixth official candidate for the 31 October presidential polls. Earlier, the commission registered President Leonid Kuchma, Petro Symonenko, Yevhen Marchuk, parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, and Oleksandr Moroz. The commission is still verifying the signatures supplied by another seven presidential aspirants, Reuters reported. According to Interfax, a total of 15 aspiring candidates have supplied signatures to the commission. Meanwhile, Marchuk, Moroz, and Tkachenko have signed an agreement on fair play in the presidential race, pledging to restrain themselves from mud-slinging and other such practices. JM

BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY IN ESTONIA

Robin Cook, paying a one-day visit to Estonia on 28 July, met with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Laar, Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Defense Minister Juri Luik. Speaking about Estonia's EU integration process, Cook said that Estonia has "earned its place" among the front-runners and that the British government will give Estonia its "full support" in its EU membership bid. With regard to NATO, Cook stressed that "nothing has changed" since the Washington summit in April and pointed to cooperation in the defense sphere between the two countries. Cook also said Estonia provides a good example of "how a small country integrates its ethnic minorities," "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. MH

CLARK IN LITHUANIA

General Wesley Clark, while on a visit to Lithuania on 27-28 July, confirmed his departure as NATO Supreme Commander Europe, explaining that this is a "regular rotation procedure" and that "each soldier must obey orders," ELTA reported. During his visit, Clark met with President Valdas Adamkus and discussed Lithuania's military development, saying that it is "obvious" that Lithuania's military is "step by step approaching NATO standards." Clark also inspected the Rukla training grounds before departing for Latvia. MH

U.S. CITIZEN CHARGED IN LITHUANIA WITH WAR CRIMES

The Lithuanian Prosecutor-General's Office on 28 July charged 77- year-old U.S. citizen Petras Bernotavicius, who served as an aide-de-camp to a high-ranking German occupation official during World War II, of conveying orders to kill civilians. The office also noted that Antanas Gudelis, charged with similar crimes on 19 July, served in the same contingent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). Bernotavicius currently resides in the U.S. MH

POLISH PREMIER BLAMES REFORMS FOR CABINET'S LOW RATING

Jerzy Buzek said on 28 July that his cabinet's low rating in recent opinion polls is due to the introduction of reforms affecting Poland's health care, education, pension and social security, and administrative systems. He admitted that these reforms have "defects and shortcomings" but also stressed that "positive effects of change can be seen in many areas," PAP reported. According to a poll carried out by the CBOS center, public support for the Buzek government dropped from 36 percent in June to 30 percent this month. JM

ZEMAN AMONG LEAST POPULAR CZECH POLITICIANS

A public opinion poll conducted by Sofres-Factum earlier this month to determine the popularity of politicians from Milos Zeman's minority cabinet and their "shadow counterparts" from the Civic Democratic Party shows the premier among the least popular politicians, CTK reported on 27 July. Zeman ranks 30th out of 34 politicians included in the survey. For the first time since he took office last July, Zeman trails former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, who ranks 24th. The most popular politician is Justice Minister Otakar Motejl (an independent) while the least popular is Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES PLAN TO FIGHT EXTREMISM

The government on 28 July approved a plan drawn up by Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky and Human Rights Commissioner Petr Uhl for clamping down on organizations and movements that act against human rights, CTK reported. The plan provides guidelines to be followed by the Ministries of Education, Interior, Justice, and Labor and Social Affairs. It also lists organizations that can be dissolved by Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich. The list includes the Patriotic Front and the National Front of Castists, which disseminates propaganda against foreigners, Jews, Roma, and homosexuals. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION SUBMITS REFERENDUM PETITION TO PRESIDENT

The petition demanding that a referendum be conducted on the right to use minority languages in contacts with the authorities and on the privatization of "strategic enterprises" (see "RFE/RL Newsline", 7 July 1999) was handed to the president's office on 28 July, CTK reported. The petition was signed by 444,823 individuals, considerably more than the 350,000 required to initiate a plebiscite. The youth organizations of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party, as well as the nationalist Matica slovenska cultural organization, were behind the referendum drive. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT WANTS TO MEET HUNGARIAN COUNTERPART

Rudolf Schuster on 28 July said that he hopes to meet with Hungarian President Arpad Goncz "as soon as possible," Hungarian media reported the next day. Schuster said that both he and the Slovak government have fulfilled electoral promises vis-a-vis the country's Hungarian minority by approving the new law on minority language use in contacts with the authorities. He said he does not believe the ruling coalition is facing a split. The Hungarian Coalition Party has said it will "reconsider" its participation in the coalition because the law does not meet some of its demands. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE APPROVES NEW CHIEF OF STAFF

Opposition representatives on the parliament's Defense Committee walked out of a 28 July extraordinary meeting after the pro-government majority voted against a proposal to allow outgoing Chief of Staff General Ferenc Vegh to present his version of the events that led to his resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 9 July 1999). A report on those events was presented by Defense Minister Janos Szabo, Hungarian media reported. Vegh's successor, General Lajos Fodor, outlined his proposals for reforming and modernizing the armed forces. He said his priorities are reducing bureaucracy and the number of senior officers and creating a smaller and more mobile army. The daily "Vilaggazdasag" reports on 29 July that the army's budget is forecast to rise to 192.3 billion forints (some $809 million) in 2000 from 134 billion forints this year. MS

CHARGES AGAINST HUNGARIAN JOURNALIST DROPPED

Police on 28 July said the criminal proceedings against journalist Laszlo Juszt on suspicion of breaching state secrets (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 4 June 1999) were stopped after the Prosecutor-General's Office ruled that Juszt had not broken any legislation. In his magazine, "Kriminalis," Juszt had published materials on the so-called "data-gathering case" against senior FIDESZ officials. The journalist responded to the ruling by announcing he will sue for compensation since the investigation against him had forced the magazine to cease publication. He said he will also sue Hungarian Television, which had stopped his popular program after the investigation was launched. MS




GENEROUS PLEDGES FOR KOSOVA

Representatives of more than 60 countries and dozens of aid agencies and regional organizations, meeting in Brussels on 28 July, pledged more than $2 billion for humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Kosova. The largest pledge was the U.S. offer of $500 million, followed by $200 million from Japan, $190 million from Germany, and $145 million from the U.K. Prior to the meeting, representatives of several UN agencies and the EU said that $564 million is needed for immediate aid needs, AP reported. In New York, the General Assembly authorized a budget of $200 million to finance UN operations in Kosova. Marjatta Rasi, who is Finland's ambassador to the world organization and who spoke in the name of the EU, said she fears that the UN will not provide enough money for its agencies to carry out their respective mandates. PM

ALBRIGHT ARRIVES IN KOSOVA

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Prishtina on 29 July for a one-day visit. She is slated to meet with KFOR's General Sir Mike Jackson and the UN's Bernard Kouchner. The previous day in Rome, Albright called on Washington's allies to show "the same kind of cooperation in peace as we had during the war." She and her Italian counterpart, Lamberto Dini, said that the reconstruction process is proceeding too slowly. PM

ITALY URGES RUGOVA TO RETURN TO KOSOVA

Foreign Minister Dini told a press conference in Rome on 28 July that the Italian government has "taken note of the fact that [Rome-based, Kosovar shadow-state] President [Ibrahim] Rugova has not been playing an active role since the arrival of KFOR in Prishtina. The Italian government has been encouraging Rugova to return to the region and play the role that his own election [as president entitles] him to play. He [should become] more active than he has been so far. We have encouraged him to take part in meetings with KFOR and UN administrators, which he has shied away from, and we expect him to go back to Prishtina soon to resume his political role," Reuters reported. PM

KOSOVAR LEADER 'PIQUED' AT EXCLUSION FROM SUMMIT

Rugova said in Rome on 28 July that he is "piqued" that his Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) was not invited to the 29-30 July Balkan reconstruction summit in Sarajevo. He played down reports of tensions between the LDK and the Kosova Liberation Army, saying: "We discuss. There is no war between us." Reuters reported that "sources close to [Rugova's] entourage in Rome" told the news agency that Rugova has no plans to return to Kosova soon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1999). In Prishtina, Kouchner told "Corriere della sera" that "there can never be real change" in Kosova without Rugova. PM

KFOR JAILS THREE MEN FOR KOSOVA MURDERS

A spokesman for British peacekeepers said in Prishtina on 29 July that KFOR has jailed three of the five men whom peacekeepers recently questioned about the murder of 14 Serbian farmers in Staro Gracko (see "RFE/RL Newsline,' 26 July 1999). KFOR released the other two men. The spokesmen did not elaborate. In Staro Gracko, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle conducted a funeral service for the 14 men. He said that "the only good thing about this misfortune is that you left the world not as criminals but as innocent victims." Kosova Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic stressed that the international community's mission in Kosova will fail if KFOR does not prevent ethnic Albanians from killing Serbs. Several hundred Serbs attended the funeral, which KFOR troops guarded. Kouchner also attended. PM

TWO KEY YUGOSLAV RADIO STATIONS RESUME BROADCASTING

Radio Prishtina went back on the air on 28 July for the first time since NATO's springtime bombing campaign damaged its facilities. The broadcast began with an address by Kouchner. Programs made under UN supervision were in Albanian, Serbian, and Turkish. In Belgrade, the private radio station B-92 resumed broadcasting under the name of B2-92. A spokesman said that the station will broadcast only music until 2 August, when it will resume newscasts. He stressed that any interference by the authorities with the station will lead to "abandoning the project," AP reported. B2-92 broadcasts on a frequency assigned by the Belgrade city council to Studio B Television, which is close to Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement. The Serbian authorities shut down B-92 on 2 April. PM

SERBIA'S DJINDJIC TURNS TRIAL INTO PROPAGANDA COUP

Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told a Belgrade military court on 28 July that he never received the army call-up notice that the authorities maintain they sent him during the conflict in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). He stressed that the proceedings are a "political trial" and vowed to continue his demands for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to resign. The court decided not to arrest Djindjic, nor did it set a date for a second hearing. A Democratic spokesman told AP that Djindjic must appear before a Belgrade local court on 3 August to face charges that he failed to report a change of residence to the authorities. PM

ANTI-MILOSEVIC PROTESTS CONTINUE IN SERBIA

Some 4,000 people attended a rally sponsored by the opposition Alliance for Change in the southern spa town of Vrnjacka Banja on 28 July. Near Cacak, 30 reservists blocked a road to intensify demands that the government pay their back wages for the weeks they spent in Kosova. One reservist told Reuters that they are determined to get their back pay before winter. PM

YUGOSLAV COLONEL BLASTS PRO-MILOSEVIC GENERALS

Colonel Dragan Vuksic, who was a member of the Yugoslav delegation to the 1995 Dayton Bosnian peace talks, told the mass- circulation Belgrade daily "Blic" of 28 July that unnamed, pro-Milosevic "self-styled mouthpieces" have no right to speak for the entire army. He said that the unnamed generals support the regime only to "defend their positions and privileges." This was an apparent reference to recent pro- Milosevic statements by Generals Dragoljub Ojdanic and Nebojsa Pavkovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). Vuksic stressed that "the current regime" has no right to use the army "as a means of last resort to stay in power." He added that he has resigned from the army rather than remain in a situation in which "others speak on my behalf and against my beliefs and will." PM

ALBANIA'S MAJKO CALLS ON UN TO TAKE CONTROL OF YUGOSLAV ARMY

Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 28 July that the UN should place the Yugoslav army under international control. He argued that Belgrade's military "has waged four wars [since 1991] and caused much suffering to the region. It is the obligation of the international community to take measures to reduce Serbia's military capacity and exert control over its armed forces," dpa reported. PM

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT TELLS COURTS TO 'STAND UP' TO CRIMINALS

The government said in a statement on 28 July that unnamed courts have undermined the police and the legal system by freeing criminals whom the police have caught red-handed. Observers note that many witnesses are afraid to testify against often powerful local gang members, which prevents courts from convicting the accused. Moreover, criminals are sometimes able to intimidate or bribe judges. PM

TAIWAN ANNOUNCES INDUSTRIAL ZONE IN MACEDONIA

Peter Cheng, who is Taiwan's charge d'affaires in Skopje, said on 28 July that Taipei will soon make up for time lost during the Kosova conflict and start construction of a special industrial zone in Petrovac, near Skopje. The Taiwanese government hopes to attract investments that will provide employment for Taiwanese-trained Macedonian workers. The government has been urging Taiwanese businessmen to produce goods in Macedonia for European markets. PM

HAGUE COURT SEEKS LIFE SENTENCE FOR CROAT

Prosecutor Gregory Kehoe told the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 28 July that Croatian General Tihomir Blaskic deserves a life sentence for his role in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from the Lasva valley in 1993. This is the first time that a prosecutor has demanded the maximum penalty from the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. PM

MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CANCELS PRIVATIZATION LAW

The Constitutional Court on 27 July declared unconstitutional a law on the privatization of the Moldtelcom company, which passed in 1998 by a simple majority of the parliamentary deputies present. The basic law stipulates, however, that so-called organic laws, which are considered of prime importance, must be passed by a majority of all deputies elected to the parliament. The law was contested by deputy Victor Cecan, who represents the Party of Moldovan Communists, Infotag reported the next day. MS

BULGARIA HAS LOWEST BIRTH RATE IN EUROPE

Bulgaria's population is rapidly sinking and the country now has the lowest birth rate in Europe, Reuters reported on 28 July, citing the National Statistics Institute. Yordan Kalchev, an expert with the institute, told journalists that the decline began in 1990. Last year, the birth rate in Bulgaria was 7.9 per 1,000, while the mortality rate was 14.4 per 1,000. In the same year the population decreased by 0.6 percent and now stands at 8.23 million. If the trend continues, the total population will fall to 6.91 million by 2020, Kalchev said, adding that it is also getting older. In 1998, every fourth Bulgarian was a pensioner. MS




ALBANIA'S NEW ENVIRONMENT


By Fabian Schmidt

Following the end of the war in Kosova, Albania has begun to return to normality, but its perceptions of both itself and its surroundings have changed. The Albanian public's friendliness and hospitality vis-a-vis the refugees throughout the Kosova crisis and Albania's support for the international military and humanitarian effort gave the country a very good image abroad, which contrasts sharply with its reputation before the crisis of being crime-ridden, impoverished, and politically polarized.

Since early 1997, Albania had become notorious for its Kalashnikov-waving adolescents who dominated scenes of civilian unrest that broke out after the collapse of pyramid investment schemes. But Albania's political leaders seized the Kosova crisis as a unique opportunity to show the international community Albania's maturity. Now the country finds itself on the winning side in what is in effect a large international alliance. The post-war order offers Albania a serious prospect of long-term regional development and prosperity, and it is up to the Albanians to make sure that prospect becomes reality.

Plans for regional cooperation in the Balkans are not new, but the presence of the U.S., the EU, the UN, and other key international figures instrumental in ending the Kosova conflict has removed numerous practical and psychological barriers that were blocking the country's regional integration with its neighbors.

The largest barrier to collapse was that between Albania and Kosova. This development's significance compares to the fall of the Berlin Wall, despite some differences. While before 1989 the Berlin Wall served only the East German regime in helping it prevent its citizens from fleeing to the democratic West, the Albanian-Kosova border, for most of its post-1945 history, was a border between two dictatorships that were highly suspicious of each other. Furthermore, the border dates back to the creation of the Albanian state in 1913; therefore, it had a more profound impact on the cultural and social development on either side of it than did the Berlin Wall.

The Rambouillet accord specifies that there must be free movement of goods, services, and people from and to Kosova. With the border now open, regional integration between Albania and Kosova can take place quickly in terms of economy, trade, culture, and other sectors. More so than Kosova, Albania will profit from that integration, which will allow the remote and underdeveloped mountainous northern regions of Bajram Curri and Kukes to link up with their Ottoman-era markets in Gjakova and Prizren. Albanian legislator Neritan Ceka has already suggested that the government draw up plans to build a highway to Kosova.

Similarly, closer integration with Montenegro is now possible. In late June, the Yugoslav federation withdrew its border controls between Montenegro and Albania, thus opening the way for free movement of people. Now it is up to Tirana and Podgorica to regulate the border and customs regime in a mutually beneficial way. Both sides have already made clear that they want to promote a liberal border regime.

To the south, Athens is interested in linking its Adriatic coastal region with central Europe through a highway via Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, agreed in Athens in early June to put that project high on the agenda of the Sarajevo stability summit that began on 29 July. The two met shortly thereafter with their Macedonian counterpart, Aleksandar Dimitrov, and agreed to launch a smaller-scale regional project designed to facilitate cross-border travel for people living in the frontier region.

Another result of the crisis has been the substantial strengthening of many Macedonians' trust toward both their own ethnic Albanian minority and towards Albania. Many Macedonian politicians and voters long feared that an explosion of the Kosova crisis could lead to a breakup of Macedonia. During the crisis, almost a quarter of a million Kosovar refugees entered Macedonia. This, however, did not lead to any moves by Macedonia's Albanians against the Macedonian state, which remained stable. In return, Skopje has shown itself willing to make concessions, including permitting university education in the Albanian language, which the previous Macedonian government had rejected for fear of fostering "separatism."

Albania thus faces a much friendlier neighborhood than it did only a short time ago. But Albanians will have to show that they are capable of taking advantage of the new opportunities. Albania's opposition Democratic Party took a first step toward ending the political polarization that has long bedeviled Albania. On 17 July, an extraordinary party congress voted unanimously to end the party's 10- month boycott of the parliament, which the Democrats had launched in response to the killing of one of their legislators.

Party leader Sali Berisha told the delegates that: "Fulfilling the request of the U.S. government to return to the parliament is the least we could do, after all that they did for Albanians," indicating that the move was linked to the U.S. involvement in ending the Kosova crisis. Berisha added that "the Democratic Party commits itself to creating a new political climate where nobody will be excluded anymore."

But not all Albanians have proven responsible enough to promote a vision for a common future. Another Albanian way of returning to "normal" was evident in Vlora on 10 July, when local citizens armed with machine guns stormed and looted an Italian-run refugee camp. If Albania remains unable to tackle the problem of crime, it will be difficult for its neighbors to take the next large step of relaxing the border regime or establishing a customs union.


XS
SM
MD
LG