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Newsline - August 5, 1999




INFLUENTIAL NEWSPAPER EDITOR SACKED...

Editor-in-Chief of "Kommersant-Daily" Raf Shakirov was dismissed on 4 August. Shakirov told NTV the next day that financier Boris Berezovskii, who recently acquired a 15 percent stake in the Kommersant Publishing house, was behind his dismissal. Shakirov also alleged that the little known U.S. company that acquired a majority stake in the publishing house is actually controlled by Berezovskii. According to Shakirov, Berezovskii is likely to run for the State Duma from the Evenk Autonomous Okrug, a region bordering Krasnoyarsk Krai and over which Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed reportedly wants to extend his control. Berezovskii and Lebed have been allies in the past. JAC

...AS OTHER NEWSPAPERS HEADED FOR MANAGEMENT RESHUFFLE?

"Nezavisimaya gazeta," a newspaper financed by Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, had predicted on 4 August that Shakirov would be sacked later in the month and replaced by someone loyal to Berezovskii. The daily also reported that current editor of the government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" will also be replaced around the same time by Andrei Shtorkh, who is currently a consultant to President Boris Yeltsin. On 2 August, Shakirov and the editors of "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and 12 other publications signed a letter appealing to President Boris Yeltsin to discuss the "abnormal" situation in the country's media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). JAC

YELTSIN TRIES TO NUDGE NDR INTO JOINING RIGHT-CENTRIST BLOC

The governing body of Our Home Is Russia (NDR) will discuss on 6 August the possibility of joining the recently formed right-centrist bloc composed of Right Cause, New Force, and Voice of Russia (GR), according to GR's informal leader, Konstantin Titov, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 August. Right Cause is headed by Unified Energy Systems Chairman Anatolii Chubais, and New Force by former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. At a recent meeting with NDR head Viktor Chernomyrdin, President Yeltsin urged NDR to join the bloc, Interfax reported on 4 August. A source close to NDR's leadership told the agency that NDR is willing to ally with Voice of Russia or New Force but not with Right Cause. Earlier, NDR faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said that "an alliance with the rightists would be damaging" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). JAC

RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET WINNING BACK SOME INVESTORS

Standard & Poor's on 4 August raised its rating on Russia's Eurobonds from triple C to double C. Certain types of Finance Ministry bonds issued in 1994 and 1996 were also upgraded. The agency noted that the risk of default of Russia's debt inherited from the Soviet Union remains "substantial." Meanwhile, more and more investment houses are recommending buying Russian stocks, "The Moscow Times" reported on 5 August. According to the daily, London-based investment banks and companies have been issuing either neutral recommendations or advice to buy Russian stocks and bonds. One reason is that share prices are rising: For example, the value of Unified Energy Systems shares rose from 3 cents in January to 7.8 cents on 4 August. Another reason is that the country's economy is performing better than had been expected a few months ago. JAC

ANOTHER REGION GRIPPED BY BREAD SCARE...

Shoppers in Ufa, the capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan, have been buying up bread, Interfax reported on 4 August. Buyers line up early in the morning and buy two or three loaves to hedge against a further price increase or shortage. Prices recently increased by an average of 30 percent and temporary shortages occurred reportedly because of the shutdown of a main supplier for sanitary treatment. In Kemerovo Oblast, where panic buying was reported last month, the price for a 600 gram loaf of bread increased by 43 percent on 2 August, rising from 3 rubles (12 cents) to 4 rubles and 30 kopeks, Interfax-Eurasia reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 July 1999). According to the agency, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev had recommended that the price be raised to only 3.5-3.8 rubles, but Kemerovokleb Director-General Vladimir Safyanov noted that the cost of producing one loaf is 4-4.5 rubles. JAC

...AS MILITIA ENFORCES BAN ON GRAIN SHIPMENTS ACROSS REGIONAL BORDER

Local militia stopped Anatolii Kaprov, a farmer in Terbuny in Lipetsk Oblast, from transporting his grain outside of the oblast's boundaries in keeping with Lipetsk Governor Oleg Korolev's ban on such shipments, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 August. Kaprov has threatened to protest the ban by either dumping his grain in a local pond to feed the fish or in the middle of Terbuny's central square at a monument commemorating Soviet authorities' expropriation of grain from peasants. JAC

ST. PETE TV DENOUNCED FOR ANTI-SEMITISM

The local watchdog organization Civil Control is to appeal to the St. Petersburg Prosecutor-General's Office to launch criminal proceedings against St. Petersburg Television for its "overt anti-Semitic orientation," "Segodnya" reported on 4 August. According to the daily, anti-Semitic pronouncements have become a frequent occurrence at the television station, whose share-holders include members of the St. Petersburg and regional administration. More recently, that trend peaked in a series of shows in which viewers were invited to take part in polls asking whether "ethnic purges should be carried out in St. Petersburg" and, more specifically, whether in the event of such purges viewers would "take part or defend the victims." JC

GASOLINE PRICES CONTINUE CLIMBING...

Gasoline prices soared 15.2 percent in July, compared with a 14.5 percent rise the previous month, the Russian Statistics Agency reported on 4 August. The same day, a Fuel and Energy Ministry spokesman reported that local refineries would be required to provide 70 percent of their diesel fuel and fuel oil to domestic customers this month. Two days earlier, Fuel Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii pledged that the problems occurring on the domestic fuel market will be resolved in a number of regions this month or next. He said that the worst situations are in those regions where the fuel supply system is "distorted" and the private sector controls 50-60 percent of the retail gasoline market. JAC

...AS 'MYSTERY' BEHIND SHORTAGE REVEALED

Meanwhile, the recent "gentleman's agreement" between oil companies and the government under which the former will be issued with a monthly plan for oil deliveries is "likely to be torn apart by the laws of supply and demand," the Moscow bureau chief for "Petroleum Argus" concludes in "The Moscow Times" on 3 August. According to Euan Craik, the consequences for violating the agreement have not been spelled out. Craik also argues that soaring world crude prices and increased crude exports are not the primary reasons for the current shortage of gasoline, as Kalyuzhnii has maintained. The true situation is that Russian refineries produce little gasoline because they cannot manufacture sufficiently high quality fuel to export it to Europe. Instead, they manufacture what they can sell abroad-namely fuel oil and gas oil--because since the devaluation of the ruble last August, domestic prices for products such as gasoline remain quite low with 95-octane gasoline retailing at less than 20 cents per liter. JAC

MOSCOW'S FIRST LADY CLEARED?

Yelena Baturina, the wife of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, told reporters on 4 August that the international accounting firm, Ernst & Young, found no evidence of malfeasance during a recent audit of her firm, Inteka. "Segodnya," which is owned by Luzhkov ally Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group, reported on 31 July that the firm found the accusations brought against it by the Vladimir branch of the Federal Security Service to be groundless. On 28 July, the Prosecutor-General's office reported that it will bring no criminal charges against Baturina at present. JAC

RUSSIAN DEFENSE OFFICIAL URGES ROBERTSON TO USE MORE DIPLOMACY

An unnamed high-ranking Russian Defense Ministry official told Interfax on 4 August that the Russian government is hoping that NATO will have a "more predictable structure" when British Defense Secretary George Robertson takes over from Secretary-General Javier Solana. He added that "we shall be pleased if under Robertson NATO relies more on military diplomacy and not on military force in matters of cooperation and especially in dealing with conflict situations." The official expressed the hope that NATO will "take into consideration the opinions of other states" in future conflicts. The official said Russia's Defense Ministry has studied an article by Robertson on the issue of military diplomacy, noting that the Kosova crisis highlighted a "gap in the rhetoric and actions of the alliance." FS

ROBERTSON PLEDGES TO 'IRON OUT MISCONCEPTIONS'

Robertson told Reuters on 4 August in Brussels that "relations with Russia and with the [sic] Ukraine are going to be enormously important.... We have to iron out some of the misconceptions that some of the Russians have about NATO's motives over [Kosova]. It is very important to make it clear that we are not there as some kind of marching station toward the Russian borders." Robertson said, however, that he hopes to admit more CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan countries to NATO. FS

RAISA GORBACHEV STRUCK BY CANCER

Raisa Gorbachev, wife of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is suffering from acute leukemia, AFP reported on 4 August. Gorbachev, 67, is reportedly in a severely weakened state and has just begun chemotherapy treatment. JAC

ORDER RESTORED IN TSUMADIN

Dagestan Security Council secretary Akhmednabi Magdigadzhiev told ITAR-TASS on 4 August that all "criminal armed gangs" have been expelled from Tsumadin Raion and that the Dagestan authorities are in full control of the district. Tsumadin was the scene of fierce fighting between Dagestan Interior Ministry troops and unidentified guerrillas on 2-3 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999). Also on 4 August, two of five unidentified gunmen who opened fire on a police patrol car in Dagestan's Botlikh Raion bordering Chechnya were killed in an ensuing shootout, Interfax reported. LF

COURT DELAYS RULING ON KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA ELECTIONS

The Supreme Court of the North Caucasus Republic of Karachaevo- Cherkessia has postponed a hearing on the disputed outcome of the 16 May presidential runoff, Interfax reported on 4 August. That hearing will now take place on 9 August. Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev appealed the official outcome of the poll, according to which his rival, former Russian army ground forces commander Vladimir Semenov, gained more than 70 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, thousands of Semenov's supporters continue to picket the republic's Interior Ministry to demand that Semenov assume office, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

INGUSH PRESIDENT RETRACTS ULTIMATUM

At a meeting in Moscow on 3 August with his North Ossetian counterpart, Aleksandr Dzasokhov, and Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Ruslan Aushev withdrew his demand that Moscow impose direct presidential rule on North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). Aushev also retracted his refusal to participate in any further talks with the North Ossetian leadership on expediting the return to Prigorodnyi Raion of an estimated 60,000 ethnic Ingush who fled the district during inter-ethnic clashes in October 1992. Moscow agreed to provide 200 million rubles ($8.2 million) in 1999 to build housing in the district for returning Ingush families, and unspecified other measures were adopted to ensure their safety. LF

CONFUSION OVER BOMBING RAIDS ON CHECHNYA

Spokesmen for the Russian airforce on 4 August denied claims by Chechen First Deputy Security Minister Adam Machukaev that two Russian aircraft had bombed the Chechen village of Kenkhi the previous evening, Interfax reported. A Russian Interior Ministry official said, however, that air raids had taken place, but over Tsumadin Raion of neighboring Dagestan, according to Russian Television. Kenkhi residents who arrived in Grozny on 4 August said that some villagers had been injured in the air raids. It is unclear whether anyone was killed. LF




GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ LEADERS MEET IN MOSCOW

Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba met in Moscow on 4 August in the presence of Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin to discuss the repatriation to Abkhazia of an estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgians who fled the republic during the 1992-1993 war. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov subsequently told journalists that although the two sides failed to sign a protocol on repatriation, they succeeded in narrowing differences, and will continue talks on that issue, according to ITAR-TASS. Both ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported that the two sides agreed that the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia should be renewed. That mandate expired on 31 July. At a meeting earlier on 4 August of the Russian- Georgian intergovernmental economic commission, which Lortkipanidze attended, the two sides agreed to a 12-point plan for rebuilding the Abkhaz economy, Interfax reported, quoting Russian First Deputy Premier Nikolai Aksenenko. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SETS DATE FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

Eduard Shevardnadze issued a decree on 4 August scheduling parliamentary elections for 31 October, Caucasus Press reported. That date coincides with the Ukrainian presidential poll and may therefore create logistical problems for the OSCE and other organizations intending to monitor both elections. To date, 60 parties have registered with the newly-appointed Georgian Central Electoral Commission to contend the poll. The new parliament, like the outgoing legislature elected in November 1995, will consist of 235 deputies, of whom 150 will be elected from party lists and the remaining 85 in single-mandate constituencies, according to Reuters. LF

KAZAKHSTAN SLASHES FUNDING FOR STATE PUBLICATIONS

Minister of Information and Social Concord Altynbek Sarsenbaev has issued a decree abolishing state funding for 23 publications, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 5 August, citing "Komsomolskaya pravda." The decree has not been published in the Kazakh press. The staff of the publications affected have been advised to take a one-month vacation without pay, during which their editors are to secure new sources of funding. In future only three newspapers--"Egemen Qazaqstan," "Kazakhstanskaya pravda" and "Zhas Alash"--will receive state funding. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S COSSACKS AGAIN THREATEN TO EMIGRATE EN MASSE

Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 4 August, Vladimir Ovsyannikov, one of the leaders of the Zhetysu (Semirechie) Cossacks, again said that the entire Cossack community may leave Kazakhstan and seek political asylum elsewhere if the Kazakh authorities "continue to oppress their traditions and culture," RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). He estimated that community as numbering 140,000. Recalling that both Canada and China had welcomed Cossack immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, Ovsyannikov added that the Zhetysu Cossacks may choose to resettle either in Canada or in Moldova's Transdniester Republic. LF

KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE TO BE REREGISTERED

Deputy Justice Minister Erkin Mamyrov said in Bishkek on 4 August that the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR), led by Ramazan Dyryldaev, will be re-registered soon, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Mamyrov spoke after meeting with representatives of both the KCHR and the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan (HRMK), from which the KCHR split in 1995. The Justice Ministry revoked the registration of the KCHR in September 1998 and has refused to re-register it since, despite the Kyrgyz parliament's recommendation to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 27 May 1999). LF

KYRGYZSTAN DRAFTS NEW LANGUAGE LAW

Almaz Toktomambetov, secretary of the National Commission on the State Language, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 4 August that the commission has prepared a new law draft on the state language, which he added has been submitted to the government. According to Toktomambetov, the draft enhances the role of the state language (Kyrgyz), which would have to be used for all official documentation. Proposals made in 1997 to give Russian the status of either an official language or the language of inter-ethnic communication were rejected. Russians currently account for approximately 15 percent of the country's population of 4.8 million. LF

KYRGYZSTAN TO ABOLISH VISA REQUIREMENT FOR WTO STATES

Under a presidential decree published on 3 August and scheduled to take effect on 1 October, citizens of World Trade Organization member states will no longer need a visa to enter Kyrgyzstan, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported the following day. President Askar Akaev told Kyrgyzstan's state television that the decision is aimed at encouraging tourism and foreign investment in the Kyrgyz economy. LF

TAJIKISTAN REINFORCES BORDER WITH AFGHANISTAN

Alarmed at the intensifying fighting in northern Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, President Imomali Rakhmonov gave orders on 4 August to dispatch Tajik frontier troops to reinforce the Russian border guards deployed along the Tajik-Afghan frontier, Russian agencies reported. Rakhmonov also called on the UN Security Council and the countries of the Six plus Two group to take urgent action to bring about a peaceful settlement of the Afghan civil war, according to Reuters. Afghanistan's ambassador in Dushanbe, Muhaeddin Mehdi, said the same day that an estimated 200,000- 300,000 Afghan refugees have fled the Taliban advance and are now concentrated in the Afghan province of Badakhshan, which borders on Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. LF

TURKMENISTAN'S GEOLOGICAL EXPLORATION COMMITTEE CRITICIZED

At a meeting of government ministers and fuel sector officials on 3 August, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov instructed the country's geological exploration committee to "radically restructure its working style" and to intensify prospecting for commercial deposits of hydrocarbons and mineral deposits, Interfax reported. Among the sector's priorities Niyazov named the chemical industry and the construction of three fertilizer plants that will have a planned combined annual capacity of 800,000 tons. Niyazov fired committee chairman Ezismukhamet Abdyllaev, appointing Orazmukhamet Atageldiev to replace him. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO SEEK RE-ELECTION IN 2001...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Russian journalists in Minsk on 4 August that he will seek another five-year term in 2001, when his extended, seven-year tenure expires. "I will persuade people in a civilized way that I can represent their interests for another five years after 2001," AP quoted him as saying. Lukashenka denied that he is a dictator but admitted that there are "elements of authoritarian rule" in his regime. According to him, economic processes in Belarus, as a country in a "transition period," cannot be allowed to "drift along on their own." JM

...CHIDES RUSSIA FOR NOT HEEDING HIS ADVICE

Lukashenka also castigated Russia's leadership for failing to heed his advice not to withdraw nuclear missiles from Belarus. He said he had warned Russian President Boris Yeltsin that NATO would immediately embrace former Soviet allies in Eastern Europe. "This is exactly what happened: as soon as the missiles were withdrawn, Eastern Europe joined NATO," Interfax quoted him as saying. He also complained that Russia did not respond to his appeal to form a joint front against NATO. "The result was military intervention by the alliance in the Balkans," Lukashenka concluded. JM

YOUNG BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST SEEKS POLITICAL ASYLUM IN POLAND

Uladzimir Antonau, an activist of the opposition Youth Front, has requested political asylum in Poland, Belapan reported on 4 August. In a public statement, Antonau explained his move by pointing to the "authoritarian rule that is strengthening in Belarus." This year, Antonau was arrested twice for his participation in opposition protest actions and was expelled from a Minsk university. JM

UKRAINIAN CURRENCY CONTINUES TO LOSE VALUE

Ukraine's interbank market, which is used by the National Bank to set its official exchange rate, quoted $1 at more than 4.7 hryvni on several occasions on 4 August, breaching the government's lower trade limit of $4.6 hryvni to $1 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999), AP reported. National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko said on 5 August that Ukraine faces a currency crisis as a consequence of soaring fuel costs, dpa reported. An analyst told AP that commercial banks, in order to raise their profits, may trigger devaluation since the central bank has no reserves to intervene. Meanwhile, the IMF is pressing the bank not to impose additional currency controls. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS PRIVATIZATION OF ENERGY SECTOR

Leonid Kuchma on 3 August signed a decree ordering the sale of 26-35 percent of shares in four energy giants that control thermal power plants and are majority-owned by the state, AP reported. At the same time, Kuchma ordered the sale of majority stakes in seven regional electricity distributors and of 26-45 percent of shares in another 12 such companies. This attempt to privatize Ukraine's energy sector comes three months after the Prosecutor-General's Office moved to revoke privately owned stakes in seven energy-distribution companies on charges of financial machinations. JM

ESTONIA OPENS HUNGARIAN REPRESENTATION

Estonia on 4 August opened its first-ever diplomatic representation in Hungary. Charge d'Affaires Lembit Luht presented his credentials to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and will start work on establishing the new embassy in Budapest. Estonia's ambassador to Hungary, Mart Laanemae, currently resides in Vienna. Estonia is aiming to open representations in nearly all NATO countries, having opened embassies in most EU countries (except Luxembourg) by 1997. Cuts in the 1999 budget have postponed plans to open an embassy in Ottawa. Hungary, meanwhile, has announced that its embassy in Tallinn will be opened by October. MH

POLISH ANTI-COMMUNISTS LAUNCH POSTER CAMPAIGN AGAINST 'MURDERER'

The group Radical Anti-Communist Action (RAAK) has decorated downtown Poznan with some 700 posters proclaiming that "A Murderer Lives Next Door to You," PAP reported on 4 August. The posters give the full name of Colonel Wladyslaw L as well as his address and telephone number, noting that he gave orders to shoot at protesting workers in the Gdansk shipyard in 1970. "Ten people died and 83 were injured.... We are deliberately violating the law on the protection of personal data, but this leads us to believe that we will be summoned to court and will finally look the murderer in the face," RAAK leader Wojciech Wybranowski commented. "I do not feel guilty of having given that order," Wladyslaw L. told PAP, adding that he will sue the RAAK. JM

CZECH SENATE RATIFIES EUROPEAN SOCIAL CHARTER

The Senate on 4 August approved the ratification of the European Social Charter, which lays down the basic social and economic rights of citizens in EU countries, CTK reported. The Chamber of Deputies approved its ratification on 8 July. MS

HAVEL AIDE ATTACKED BY SKINHEADS

Three skinheads on 4 August assaulted Jana Chalupova and Jakub Polak in a restaurant close to the district court of Karvina, northern Moravia, CTK reported. Chalupova is head of the Department for Public Relations at the presidential office, while Polak is representing in court the family of a Rom who was killed by skinheads last year. Five skinheads are currently being tried in the Karvina district court on charges of several racially motivated crimes, breaching the peace, and causing bodily harm. MS

IMF WARNS SLOVAKIA

The IMF on 4 August urged Slovakia to curb its budget and current account deficits and warned that large deficits and weak banks may threaten the economic gains of recent years, Reuters reported. The fund said that strains in the banking and corporate sectors have become increasingly visible, while taxes and government spending are too high. It added that the austerity measures announced by the government in May were "strong and courageous" and expressed the hope that the parliament will soon approve the remaining government measures. But the fund also warned that a slowdown in economic growth could "complicate efforts to reduce deficits." Slovakia's current account deficit last year was 10 percent of GDP, while economic growth was 4.4 percent, down from 6.5 percent in 1997. MS

MAJORITY OF SLOVAKS SUPPORT GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE

More than half of Slovaks (57.4 percent) believe that the restructuring of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet is necessary, according to a poll conducted by Polis Slovakia. Jan Baranek, Polis Slovakia's director-general, told CTK on 4 August that 28.7 percent of respondents see no reason why the cabinet should be reshuffled, while 13.9 percent expressed no view on the subject. The Hungarian Coalition Party is calling for a government reshuffle and is supported by other members of the ruling coalition in that bid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999). MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES ROMANIA OVER UNIVERSITY PROJECT

Viktor Orban on 4 August told Hungarian Radio that the Romanian leadership "lacks the political will" to set up a Hungarian-language state university. As long as such will is absent, recent legislation providing for such a university "does not help much," he said. Orban said that during his visit to Romania in late July, he discussed with the leaders of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) how to overcome these obstacles "by other means." UDMR honorary chairman Bishop Laszlo Tokes's statement that the Hungarian Churches in Transylvania are "ready to set up a Christian university" was "brilliant," Orban said, adding that this could be an alternative. The Hungarian premier noted that he has "promised" ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania that by 2002 they will have Hungarian-language education from the nursery to university. He added that he will keep that promise. MS




DJINDJIC SAYS MILOSEVIC OUT BY NOVEMBER

Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told Reuters on 5 August that "by mid-September, rallies across Serbia will gain momentum, and [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic will probably call for elections in November." Djindjic added that Milosevic in the meantime is unlikely to use force against the demonstrators lest he drive still more people into the ranks of the opposition. This year's elections will be for a transition government to replace Milosevic, Djindjic noted. He stressed that neither he nor the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic nor any other prominent politician should serve in the transitional government. Djindjic suggested that such a government should hold office for one year, after which new elections should take place. PM

DRASKOVIC: KFOR PLAYS INTO MILOSEVIC'S HANDS

Draskovic said that any transitional government should include both supporters and opponents of Milosevic, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 5 August. He appealed to members of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia to reach an agreement with opposition parties on forming such a government. In Rome, Draskovic said on 4 August that KFOR's failure to protect Serbian civilians in Kosova "gives ammunition to [anti-Western] forces in Serbia, first of all to President Milosevic," Reuters reported. Draskovic stressed that "there is not a single Serbian policeman or Serbian soldier" in Kosova. The result has been "the exodus of the Serbs, the ethnic cleansing of Serbs," he concluded. PM

GELBARD MEETS WITH SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS

U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard met in a Montenegrin coastal town on 4 August with Djindjic and other prominent opposition leaders. They included the Alliance for Change's Vladan Batic, the Social Democrats' Vuk Obradovic, the Civic League's Goran Svilanovic, and senior banker Dragoslav Avramovic, "Vesti" reported. Gelbard also held a separate meeting with Draskovic, who has repeatedly refused to form a coalition with the other opposition parties. The theme of Gelbard's talks was that all opposition parties should sink their differences and concentrate on removing Milosevic from office. PM

BELGRADE ATTACKS OPPOSITION OVER GELBARD MEETINGS

Serbian state-run television said in a broadcast on 4 August that the opposition leaders who met with Gelbard are "traitors...bent on completing the job NATO failed to accomplish in 78 days" of air strikes. The official Tanjug news agency called the leaders "quislings...[and] NATO's extended hand in Serbia and Yugoslavia." Tanjug added that the opposition wants "to topple the legally elected Yugoslav and Serbian leaderships [and replace them] with stooges of the Western military alliance." In response, Social Democratic spokesman Slobodan Orlic told "Vesti" that the opposition is willing to meet with anyone if it is "in the interest of Serbia and its citizens" to do so. PM

SERBIAN STUDENT GROUP CALLS FOR ELECTIONS

The Belgrade student organization Otpor (Resistance) issued a "Declaration for the Future of Serbia" on 4 August. The manifesto calls for free and fair elections "under the control" of the OSCE. The text stressed that all democratic forces should unite to oust Milosevic, who must be "held accountable for the policies he has conducted over the past 10 years," AP reported. PM

MILOSEVIC FAILS TO EXPAND GOVERNMENT'S BASE

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic failed on 4 August to convince leaders of Draskovic's party and of the League of Vojvodina Hungarians to join his government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Podgorica, Montenegro's governing Democratic Socialist Party said in a statement that it will not take part in similar talks that Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic has slated for 5 August. Bulatovic told "Vesti" that the opposition should outline its program if it thinks it can run the country better than his government has. PM

BULATOVIC WANTS 9,600 POLICE FOR KOSOVA

Bulatovic said in Belgrade that he hopes that Serbian police can begin to return to Kosova in September, "Vesti" reported on 5 August. He noted that there are "2,400 Serbian holy places" in the province and wants four policemen to guard each of them. There were some 9,600 police in Kosova before the fighting began, he added. PM

KOSOVAR SERBS DISAPPOINTED BY RUSSIAN 'IDLENESS'

A Kosovar Serb, whose brother was killed by ethnic Albanians in Kamenica recently, told "The Daily Telegraph" of 5 August that the Russian KFOR soldiers "sit behind their checkpoints and oil their engines" but offer little protection to local Serbs. A Canadian doctor of Serbian origin said that "the Serbs were waiting for the Russians as though it were the Second Coming and when they arrived nothing happened, the situation only got worse." Since the deployment of KFOR, 17 Serbs have been kidnapped in the Kamenica region alone, while nine others have been found dead. Those who were kidnapped are believed to have been killed by ethnic Albanians. FS

KOUCHNER VISITS MASS GRAVE SITE...

UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner visited a mass grave site near Mitrovica on 4 August, AP reported. Kouchner said that it was the first time he had been confronted with "the reality of mass murder." He added that the experience helped him understand the level of animosity that still exists in the province. Investigators have identified 72 graves in and close to an existing cemetery and have retrieved 40- 50 bodies for autopsies since late July. The bodies appeared to have been transported to the site between April and June. A spokesman for the Hague-based war crime tribunal said that "some of them appear to have been tortured." Most were shot at close range, and about a third of the corpses were those of women. FS

...WARNS KOSOVA CONFLICT IS NOT OVER

Kouchner told AP in Mitrovica on 4 August that "people believe all over the world that now the war [in Kosova] is over.... That is not true, because of the families' suffering.... It's a long story. It's always a long story." Kouchner acknowledged that his earlier estimate of 11,000 ethnic Albanian bodies in Serbian mass graves was inaccurate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). He added that there are no reliable or official figures because investigations are far from finished. FS

SHOOT-OUT BETWEEN ALBANIANS, FLEEING SERBS

A Serb travelling in a convoy of refugees leaving Kosova and an ethnic Albanian were killed in a shoot-out near the Kosova-Serbian border southeast of Prishtina on 4 August, Reuters reported. The exchange of fire began after ethnic Albanians threw rocks at the convoy, which was guarded by U.S. forces. Elsewhere, in Viti three armed Albanians killed a 39-year-old Serbian man in his bed and beat up his mother, Beta reported, citing sources in the Serbian Orthodox Church. FS

TRIBUNAL PROSECUTOR WARNS UCK

In The Hague, Graham Blewitt, who is the war crimes tribunal's deputy chief prosecutor, warned the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) that it will "fall into the tribunal's jurisdiction" if it conducts an "ethnic cleansing campaign." He added: "I am saying that in the hope that it may act as a deterrent," Reuters reported. FS

GANG WAR BREAKS OUT IN NORTHERN ALBANIA

Unidentified attackers blew up a car on a bridge between Valbona and Bajram Curri on 4 August, killing two people and injuring three. Less than an hour later, two people died in a shoot- out in Bajram Curri. Local police chief Veli Myftari told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent that "a gang organized the ambush of a rival [criminal] group with a remotely controlled explosive device.... The situation is under control, and special forces from Kukes and Tirana have arrived." He did not release the identity of the victims pending an investigation. Albanian police officials pledged last week to launch a campaign against armed gangs in that northern region. FS

POLICE SEARCH ANGERS ALBANIAN OPPOSITION

Democratic Party Deputy leader Genc Pollo told Reuters on 4 August that police searched the home of legislator Myslim Murrizi the previous day and seized two licensed hunting rifles. As a legislator, Murrizi enjoys immunity from such searches. Meanwhile in Johannesburg, South Africa, the trial of Leka Zogu, who is the pretender to the Albanian throne, began. He is charged with illegal arms possession, dpa reported. FS

CROATIAN MINISTER APPEALS TO HAGUE COURT

Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic said in Zagreb on 4 August that he has written to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal regarding Croatia's role in the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict. He asked that the court allow the Croatian government to present its response to a court prosecutor's recent statement alleging President Franjo Tudjman is responsible for war crimes in Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 July 1999). PM

TUDJMAN SACKS TRANSPORT MINISTER

On 4 August, Tudjman removed Zeljko Luzavec from his post as minister of transportation, maritime affairs, and communications. The President's Office said in a statement that Tudjman holds Luzavec responsible for the recent "collapse" of the transportation system to and from the island of Pag at the height of the tourist season. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER REPUDIATES BORDER AGREEMENT

Zivko Radisic, who is the ethnic Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, told a press conference in Banja Luka on 4 August that he does not endorse the recent border delineation agreement between Bosnia and Croatia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999). He said that he signed the agreement only "because the signing was part of the scheduled events" at the 29-30 July Balkan summit in Sarajevo. PM

MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC IN ROMANIA

The Health Ministry on 5 August announced that a meningitis epidemic has broken out in Iasi, Suceava, Botosani, Bacau, and Neamt Counties, Romanian Radio reported. The previous day, Iasi Mayor Constantin Simirad declared the town an "epidemic zone" in order to force the water utility company to renew supplies to homes that have been disconnected owing to unpaid bills. Doctors in the northwestern city of Baia Mare reported the outbreak of 350 cases of hepatitis, while three people in Buzau were reported to have died of letospirosis, a disease transmitted to humans by animals. Poverty, malnutrition, and poor hygiene are the main causes of the illnesses, Reuters reported on 3 August. Meanwhile, Bucharest garbage collectors went on strike on 4 August, and doctors say the epidemic may now spread to the capital. MS

ROMANIAN LIBERAL LEADER ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT IN 2001

Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, the octogenarian National Liberal Party chairman, announced on 3 August that he will step down at the next party congress, which is scheduled for 2001, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Ionescu-Quintus also said he will propose that the mandate of the PNL chairman be limited to two four-year terms. On 4 August, the PNL chairman said Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica, who is now PNL first deputy chairman, is "best placed" to succeed him. But he added that "there will surely be more than one candidate" for the party leadership. MS

MOLDOVAN POLITICIANS REBUFF PRESIDENT

Former President Mircea Snegur, leader of the Party of Revival and Conciliation, told RFE/RL on 4 August that the draft project on instituting a presidential system in Moldova indicates that President Petru Lucinschi wants to introduce an "authoritarian system." Deputy parliamentary chairman Iurie Rosca told journalists in Chisinau that Lucinschi intends to "institute a presidential dictatorship." Rosca said that "Lucinschi and his camarilla...[intend] to do away with the division of powers and transform the judiciary...and the legislature into mere decorative artifacts." He added that the draft worked out by the presidential commission shows that the mentalities inherited from the previous regime have survived behind a pro-European and democratic facade, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

SHARP DROP IN MOLDOVAN FOREIGN TRADE

Moldovan foreign trade volume dropped by 52.1 percent in the first half of 1999, compared with the same period last year, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 3 August, citing data released by the Economy and Reform Ministry. The total value of trade in this period was $447.3 million. The ministry said that the drop is largely attributable to the sharp reduction in trade with CIS countries, which dropped by 56.6 percent. Trade with other countries dropped by 46.8 percent, owing to a major reduction in imports. Moldovan exports to CIS countries from January-June increased by 5.4 percent. MS

SENIOR BULGARIAN POLICEMAN CAUGHT TAKING BRIBE

Mikhail Dimitrov, head of Sofia's Economic Police, was caught on 4 August taking a $75,000 bribe from a local businessman, Reuters reported. Kiril Radev, chief of the Central Service on Fighting Organized Crime, told Bulgarian Radio that Dimitrov had been under surveillance. MS




CRIMES OF WAR


by Christopher Walker

Four years ago, the name "Srebrenica" became known to the world as the site of one of the most gruesome atrocities of the Bosnian war. Some 8,000 men and boys--Bosnian Muslims- -had been rounded up and slaughtered by Bosnian Serb troops.

More recently in Kosovo, the world learned of new place names--Bela Crkva, Djakovica, Izbica, and Velika Krusa--in which the latest round of war-time horrors has occurred, allegedly at the hands of Serbian military and paramilitary forces during the conflict with NATO.

International authorities estimate that more than 10,000 civilians may have been killed in Kosovo. In the month since the NATO bombing ended, the international peacekeeping force that entered Kosovo has been confronted with another cycle of atrocities, apparently committed in revenge by ethnic Albanians, against Serbian civilians who have chosen to remain in the province. Thus, while the names of the towns have changed in former Yugoslavia, the barbaric methods used to redress grievances have not.

Last month in New York City, a panel of journalists and authors assembled to discuss the subject of war crimes during an event organized by the Freedom Forum at the Newseum/NY.

The occasion for this meeting was the publication of a new book entitled "Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know." This work, a collaborative effort of more than 90 authors and photographers, defines the major war crimes and provides a range of important information for journalists and the public on international humanitarian law. "The goals of the book are to recover from five decades of obscurity the standards for judging what is permitted in conflict from what is criminal", said Roy Gutman, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work uncovering Serb-run concentration camps during the Bosnian war and is co-editor of the book as well as director of the Crimes of War Project.

The "Crimes of War" book has been published within the framework of the broader Crimes of War Project. According to Gutman, the project, a non-profit charity, intends to build on the basis of the book a series of educational and training programs. The organizers of this effort intend to hold a seminar for reporters in Washington DC on war coverage and war crimes and then possibly take it on the road to regions of conflict.

In addition, there will be a web site--located at www.crimesofwar.org--associated with the Crimes of War project. At first, this site will contain mainly highlights of the book but eventually will include articles about Kosovo, major rulings by the Hague tribunal, and other important international humanitarian topics, such as the Pinochet case.

The hope of a "New World Order" envisioned in the aftermath of the Berlin Wall's collapse has been dampened by the outbreak of regional conflicts, many of which have been characterized by their ferocity and impact on civilian populations.

Gutman notes that "in the early 1990s we saw a wholesale regression to barbaric practices in war--barbarism in Bosnia and Rwanda, uncontrolled and continuing conflict in Sudan, revived and savage conflict in Angola and other places, to name a few. [That is] not to say this didn't occur during the Cold War era, but this time around, the major powers, instead of attempting to curb the violence by influencing their clients or in some cases encouraging their clients, turned away, closed their eyes, or even denied what was going on."

The recent panel discussion in New York devoted attention to both the advances and weaknesses of the evolving institutional framework on war crimes since the start of this decade. In the absence of a permanent International Criminal Court, two ad-hoc tribunals have been established, one for the former Yugoslavia, the other for Rwanda.

Gutman observes that "until the Hague and Rwanda tribunals were set up by the UN Security Council after the two genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, there had been no place to investigate judicially the allegations nor to indict, try, or convict violators. And even though these two instances are ad hoc and region-specific, there may well be an international criminal court in the next decade."

The tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has, in fact, indicted a considerable number of alleged war criminals, including Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other leading figures.

But while the tribunal has produced a significant number of indictments, some of the panelists at the Freedom Forum discussion questioned whether there is an unequal application of resources and political attention devoted to crises on the European continent, as compared with those in other parts of the world, such as Africa.

Other participants questioned the resolve of the Tribunal. Kati Marton, former chairman of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, criticized the failure of the international community to arrest indicted Bosnian war criminals Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.

In the final analysis, sufficient public awareness is crucial to the determination and effectiveness with which international judicial bodies carry out their obligations to the world community.

And as Gutman points out, "in a state of ignorance, the public will hardly be likely to insist that the laws be observed." The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in East European affairs (intrel@aol.com)


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