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Newsline - August 9, 1999




EXIT STEPASHIN...

Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 9 August dismissing Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin after only three months on the job. As was the case with his predecessors, three of whom had preceded him in the past 17 months, rumors of his pending dismissal started to dog him almost as soon as he was confirmed. His visit to the U.S. in July intensified such speculation both because of the visit's success and his own impromptu remarks there, such as, the U.S. has come to understand that "there are not just senile invalids in wheelchairs" in Russia. On 7 August, "Kommersant- Daily" characterized Stepashin's recent whirlwind tour through the Volga region as a last-ditch effort to convince Yeltsin not to dismiss him: during that tour, the ex-premier sought to persuade regional leaders to back the Kremlin's candidates in upcoming parliamentary elections. The newspaper had reported earlier that a Kremlin-backed effort to place Stepashin at the head of the election bloc composed of governors failed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). JAC

...ENTER PUTIN...

By 9 August, Yeltsin had decided that "the person who is able to consolidate society and, drawing support from the broadest political forces, ensure the continuation of reforms in Russia" is Vladimir Putin. Putin was director of the Federal Security Service and secretary of the Security Council until a decree that day relieved him of those posts and named him first deputy prime minister. Yeltsin also submitted Putin's name as candidate for the premiership to the State Duma, which has three opportunities to approve Yeltsin's choice for prime minister or be dissolved. Putin, a St. Petersburg native, is reportedly close to Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais. He started his career with the Foreign Intelligence Service, spending many years in Germany. He also served as first deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. JAC

...AS DUMA ELECTION SEASON OFFICIALLY BEGINS

Also on 9 August, Yeltsin signed a decree stipulating that Duma elections would be held on 19 December. With the announcement of that date, the campaign season formally begins. A total of 450 deputies will be elected to the lower chamber, 225 in single-mandate districts and 225 on party lists. By law, candidates are allowed to spend only the equivalent of 10,000 minimum monthly wages (about $360,000) on their campaign; however, "Rossiya" reported in its July issue that political analysts reckon that a campaign for a Duma seat can cost as much as $500,000. A successful presidential campaign is much more expensive, costing between $30-50 million, according to the publication. JAC

ANOTHER ST. PETERSBURG NATIVE TAPPED FOR FSB

Putin's replacement at the FSB is First Deputy Director Nikolai Patrushev, who is also from St. Petersburg. Patrushev, whom Yeltsin appointed as FSB director on 9 August, has served in the service since 1974. He spent some three months last year as deputy chief of the presidential staff, according to ITAR- TASS. JAC

LATEST YELTSIN MOVE BLASTED

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters that his faction, which is the largest in the Duma, has not yet decided whether it will support Putin's candidacy, although he noted that there "is not much difference between Putin and Stepashin--they are members of the same team." Zyuganov predicted that the situation in Dagestan would given Yeltsin the pretext for imposing emergency rule and postponing State Duma elections. State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) suggested that Stepashin's dismissal was orchestrated by Yeltsin's inner circle: "'The Family' probably looked for a more reliable figure who could serve as Yeltsin's successor, the main thing being to preserve the very existence of the family." "It's hard to explain the madness," former Deputy Prime Minister and Right Cause Boris Nemtsov told Ekho Moskvy, adding that "the [Russian] people have grown tired of watching an ill leader who is not capable of doing his job." Right Cause recently proposed introducing an age limit for presidential candidates. JAC

STOCKS PLUMMET ON INITIAL NEWS, BUT REBOUND EXPECTED

Leading Russian share prices fell 12-14 percent after news of the government upheaval. By mid-morning local time, shares in Unified Energy Systems had slipped 13.19 percent and LUKoil shares were down 10.83 percent. Shares in Gazprom plunged 11 percent. Traders and analysts told Reuters that since the possibility of Stepashin's firing had already been priced into the market in recent weeks, the market would quickly shake off its initial reaction and begin to rebound by the end of the day. The Russian stock market had recently experienced a somewhat limited renaissance, with some Western investment firms recently recommending once again the purchasing of Russian shares (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). The ruble also tumbled on 9 August from 24.9 rubles per dollar to 25.4 rubles. JAC

ALLIANCE OF FATHERLAND-ALL RUSSIA REJECTS SOME MEMBERS...

Fatherland head and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said on 7 August that Our Home Is Russia would not be invited to join the alliance of Fatherland and the governors' bloc, All Russia, whose informal leader is Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev. Luzhkov declared that "the NDR is a fading star and it hardly makes sense to galvanize it through a union with Fatherland." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day that the Congress of Russian Communities, led by Dmitrii Rogozin, has been expelled from Fatherland. Meanwhile, Aleksei Podberezkin, leader of Spiritual Heritage, told Ekho Moskvy that his group is continuing to negotiate with both Fatherland and the People's Patriotic Union. His group's condition for joining the latter bloc is that it be allowed to have its own faction in the State Duma so that it would not have to answer to the Communist Party's Central Committee, which he says has dictatorial tendencies. JAC

...AS VOLSKII'S GROUP OFFERS TO AUTHOR BLOC'S ECONOMIC PROGRAM

Union of Russian Industrialists and Entrepreneurs head Arkadii Volskii told Interfax on 7 August that his group will support the Fatherland-All Russia bloc in upcoming elections. According to Volskii, the union's economic experts have studied the economic programs of six election alliances, including the one composed of former Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais's Just Cause, former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's New Force, and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov's Voice of Russia. "[The programs] are so primitive that there is nothing to criticize," he said. According to Volskii, his group will outline an economic program that an election bloc expecting his union's support should pursue. JAC

RIGHT-CENTRIST BLOC CHOOSES ITS LEADERS?

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 August that the right-centrist coalition of Just Cause, New Force, and Voice of Russia will be headed by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and former head of the State Committee for Development and Support of Small Business Irina Khakamada, with the top three spots on the federal list going to these candidates. According to the daily, Right Cause leader Anatolii Chubais decided that three fellow Right Cause members-- former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, former Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov, and former State Tax Service head Boris Fedorov--will not be included on the federal election list. Instead, Gaidar will be number one for the City of Moscow regional list, Fedorov for Moscow Oblast, and Nemtsov for Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. Former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev will reportedly head the list for Murmansk Oblast. The newspaper reported that an official announcement on the issue can be expected at the coalition's 11 August congress. JAC

MOSCOW CITY TAX INSPECTORS FACE AUDIT

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told reporters on 7 August that the audit being performed on Moscow city tax authorities by the federal Tax Ministry is "a political action," Interfax reported. According to "Segodnya," one reason for the detailed audit, which will be the first in seven years, is the decreasing proportion of taxes collected in cash. The newspaper, which is owned by Luzhkov ally Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group, speculates that the Kremlin initiated the audit to destabilize the work of the Moscow tax inspectorate and hinder its plans to collect money for the city budget on the eve of parliamentary elections. JAC

FORMER SOVIET PREMIER HEADS DELEGATION INVESTIGATING 'NATO CRIMES'

Nikolai Ryzhkov, former chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and chairman of the Duma commission collecting information on alleged NATO war crimes against Yugoslavia, arrived in Belgrade on 8 August. Ryzhkov told ITAR-TASS that his delegation will collect "materials on the harmful effect of the NATO aggression on the [population] of Yugoslavia and draft a plan for our parliamentary commission [on] sending documents to [the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia]." He added that "we do not want to be guided by...the cooling or warming of bilateral relations with NATO.... We are an independent commission.... Our aim is to establish the truth and to submit the collected materials to the State Duma." Ryzhkov stressed that "we are not all that satisfied by the objectiveness and impartiality of [the tribunal]." FS

ARE RUSSIAN TROOPS IN KOSOVA DEPLOYING SERBIAN PARAMILITARIES?

According to AP on 8 August, "Scotland on Sunday" quoted Captain Michael Taylor of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division as saying in the village of Dobercan, southeastern Kosova: "We have had numerous reports, which we are investigating, of Serb paramilitaries operating in Russian uniforms." The weekly added that its reporter witnessed Russian military convoys crossing the border between Kosova and Serbia in a move that is forbidden under the KFOR rules of deployment. The reporter also saw Serbian paramilitary police waving through the Russian forces. FS

MOSCOW APPROVES KYIV'S BOMBERS-FOR-GAS PROPOSAL

Colonel- General Anatolii Kornukov, commander of the Russian air force, told Interfax on 6 August that Moscow has agreed to Kyiv's proposal to repay part of its gas debt to Russia through the delivery of eight Tu-160 strategic bombers. Russia puts that debt at $1.8 billion, while Kyiv claims that it owes only $1 billion and that commercial structures are responsible for the remainder of the debt. Kornukov did not say how much each plane would be considered to be worth. Russia already has six Tu-160 planes as well as some 50 Tu- 95MS long-range bombers, according to Interfax. JC

NO DECREASE IN CRIME AMONG MILITARY COMMANDERS

In an interview with "Vremya MN" published on 6 August, Main Military Prosecutor Yurii Demin said that while crime in the armed forces was down 12.4 percent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 1998, the number of lawsuits against the forces' top commanders has not decreased. Currently, some 20 lawsuits against generals and admirals are being considered by military prosecutor's offices around the country. Demin added that while the most frequent crimes committed in the armed forces continue to be desertion and hazing, the number of "economic crimes" is on the rise, reflecting the disastrous "material situation" of the armed forces. JC

'ISLAMIC MILITANTS' OCCUPY VILLAGES IN DAGESTAN...

A group of gunmen seized at least two villages in Dagestan's Botlikh Raion on 7 August. The gunmen, whose number has been variously estimated at between 300-600 and 2,000, allegedly include Arabs, Central Asians. and members of Dagestan's various ethnic groups. They are reportedly led by former acting Chechen Premier Shamil Basaev and Jordanian-born field commander Khottab and have two armored personnel carriers, an anti-tank gun, and air defense systems. Residents who fled the villages and officials of the Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan told Interfax on 7 August that the "Islamic units" are creating local power bodies and Islamic courts in Dagestan as a first step toward declaring the republic an independent Islamic state. Basaev founded the Congress last year with the aim of creating an independent Islamic state comprising Chechnya and Dagestan. LF

...WHILE MOSCOW SENDS TROOPS TO CONTAIN THREAT...

One Russian army batallion and one Interior Ministry battalion, together with 1,000 Dagestani police, were sent to Botlikh Raion on 7 August. The Russian forces launched artillery and air strikes against the mavericks on the evenings of 7 and 8 August. Then Russian Prime Minister Stepashin flew to Makhachkala on 8 August, where he discussed the situation with local officials and with Russian Interior Ministry forces commander Colonel- General Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, who flew to Dagestan the previous day. Stepashin subsequently told journalists that the standoff would be resolved without risking the lives of either civilians or Russian servicemen. Two days earlier, Stepashin had ruled out new fighting in the North Caucasus. ITAR-TASS on 8 August quoted a Russian military source as saying that the head of Botlikh Raion asked Basaev to withdraw his forces, but Basaev refused to do so until the Russian federal troops withdraw. LF

...AND CHECHNYA DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY

Chechnya's official representative in Moscow, former presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev, told ITAR-TASS on 7 August that the "bandit formations" that occupied villages in Botlikh Raion have no relation to, and are not financed by, the Chechen leadership. The previous day, the Chechen Foreign Ministry had issued a statement warning of unspecified countermeasures unless Moscow halts what it termed "armed provocations on the Chechen-Russian border," Interfax reported. LF




CIS TOP OFFICIAL VISITS AZERBAIJAN

On a working visit to Baku on 6-7 August, CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov discussed the ongoing streamlining of CIS executive structures with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. Yarov said that the creation of alliances such as GUUAM by CIS member states does not detract from the viability of the CIS, which, he argued, would be more effective if its members could agree on creating a CIS free trade zone. (Turkmenistan in June rejected that proposal). Turan quoted Yarov as saying that the CIS Executive Committee wants individual CIS member states to give Russia plenary powers to negotiate with international organizations, such as the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank, on behalf of the presidents of CIS states. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S TRIAL POSTPONED

The trial of Geyrat Party chairman and former presidential candidate Ashraf Mehtiev has been postponed indefinitely, Turan reported on 6 August. Mehtiev was charged with insulting the honor and dignity of President Aliyev by alleging the latter is an ethnic Kurd. Mehtiev's trial opened in Baku last month but was subsequently adjourned. LF

SUSPECTS WALK FREE AS KAZAKH LAWYERS CONTINUE STRIKE

Criminal suspects are being released from jail without trial because of the ongoing strike by Kazakhstan's lawyers, AP reported on 7 August. Under Kazakhstan's constitution, suspects can be detained without trial for no longer than six months. The lawyers' union estimates that in Almaty alone, more than 100 persons charged with violent crimes have been released. Lawyers in Kazakhstan launched a strike in early April to demand that the government pay their back wages for the previous six months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN RELEASES DETAINED KYRGYZ

The 17 Kyrgyz detained three weeks ago at a holiday home near the Kazakh town of Taraz were released on 6 August, Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan chairman Tursunbek Akunov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau the following day. The Kyrgyz were among 78 people who had gathered to hold common prayers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July and 6 August 1999). LF

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN

On a two-day working visit to Dushanbe on 6-7 August, Vladimir Rushailo held talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and with Tajik colleagues on cooperation in combating organized and economic crime, terrorism, as well as arms- and drug- trafficking, ITAR-TASS reported. They focused on the performance of joint working groups created for that purpose earlier this year. LF

TAJIK COTTON HARVEST A WASHOUT

Minister of Agriculture Sherali Safarov told Interfax on 6 August that this year Tajikistan is likely to harvest only 380,000 tons of cotton or just over half the planned target of 600,000 tons. He blamed the shortfall on shortages of fuel and spare parts for agricultural machinery and on the torrential rains in Khatlon Oblast last month. In 1997, Tajikistan harvested 385,000 tons of cotton. LF

TURKMEN GAS PIPELINE AGREEMENTS SIGNED...

Representatives of Shell and PSG signed three agreements in Ashgabat on 5 August on the extraction of Turkmen natural gas and its export via the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Interfax reported. Shell and PSG signed a letter of intent on the implementation of that project, under which Shell undertook to raise 50 percent of construction costs. Shell also signed an "agreement of strategic alliance" with the Turkmen government on exploring and developing gas deposits from which gas can be exported via the planned pipeline. And PSG signed a preliminary agreement with the Turkmen government on the commercial and legal basis for operating the pipeline. LF

...AS AZERBAIJAN EXPRESSES INTEREST

Speaking in Baku the following day, Azerbaijan state oil company president Natik Aliyev said his country hopes the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline will transit Azerbaijan and Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev said the pipeline will have an annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters, and he expressed the hope that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will be able to reach an agreement allowing Azerbaijan to use part of that capacity to export its own gas. US State Department adviser for the Caspian John Wolf said in Baku the same day that PSG will conduct talks on this issue in Baku "soon." LF

TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE AGAIN AT ODDS OVER GAS SUPPLIES

Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko said on 6 August that agreement had been reached during talks with Turkmen government officials the previous day on resuming supplies of Turkmen natural gas to Ukraine before the end of this month, Interfax reported. Turkmenistan halted exports to Ukraine in late May. But in Ashgabat, the chairman of Turkmenistan's state gas company, Berdymurat Redjepov, said the same day that supplies will not be resumed any time soon because Ukraine has not yet made the required payment in hard currency for 6 billion cubic meters of gas it received between January and late May 1999. Forty percent of that debt was to be paid in hard currency and the remainder in barter goods, not all of which have been supplied. LF




TWO BELARUSIAN ANARCHISTS FINED FOR 'SOLIDARITY' WITH PROTESTERS

A Minsk court fined Syarhey Shmyalou and Vadzim Kastsyukevich 20 million Belarusian rubles ($74) each for taking part in an unsanctioned protest rally (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 6 August. Shmyalou and Kastsyukevich had argued that they were at the place of the rally only after the protesters had dispersed. The court failed to prove that the accused had participated in the protest, but the judge argued that by going to the site of the protest and by speaking in Belarusian in the courtroom, they had demonstrated their solidarity with those protesting against the ruling regime. JM

UKRAINIAN TOP BANKER BLAMES HRYVNYA FALL ON FUEL CRISIS

National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko has blamed the hryvnya's slide below the government's exchange rate limit on recent gasoline shortages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). "The reason [for the fall] is not in the hryvnya and not in the currency market. It's in the increased demand for dollars to sign new fuel import deals," AP quoted Yushchenko as saying on 6 August. That day, in trading among banks, the hryvnya plunged to as low as 5.25 to $1, according to the news agency. Yushchenko refused to intervene on the currency market, stressing that the hryvnya will stabilize once the government manages to satisfy the country's gasoline demand. The same day, President Leonid Kuchma threw his support behind Yushchenko, saying the National Bank is right not to resort to intervention on the currency market. JM

UKRAINIAN COURT ORDERS COMMISSION TO REGISTER 10TH PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL...

Ukraine's Supreme Court on 6 August ordered the Central Electoral Commission to register Vasyl Onopenko, leader of the Social Democratic Party, as a candidate in the presidential election, bringing the number of contenders to 10. The commission earlier refused to register Onopenko, saying that only 845,000 or so signatures out of the 1.44 million submitted by him were valid. JM

...REINSTATES KYIV MAYOR IN OFFICE

The same day the Supreme Court revoked the decision of the Vyshhorod district court canceling Oleksandr Omelchenko's election as Kyiv mayor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 27 July 1999). JM

UKRAINE TO OBTAIN $569 MILLION FOR NUNN-LUGAR PROGRAM

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv announced on 5 August that Ukraine will receive $569 million from the U.S. this year for the implementation of the collective threat reduction program, which is popularly known as the Nunn-Lugar program. Both sides decided during U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen's visit to Kyiv on 31 July that the Nunn-Lugar program will be prolonged until 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). JM

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" on 6 August incorrectly reported Ukraine's hard currency reserves at $1.3 million and its debt obligations through 2000 at $3.5 million. The correct figures are $1.3 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively. JM

LATVIAN PREMIER HINTS AT DECREASING PENSIONS

Andris Skele has suggested that pensions will be decreased if a referendum defeats the government-sponsored amendments to the law on pensions. BNS quoted Skele as telling Latvian Radio on 6 August that he does "not rule out that we will have to reduce [current] pensions because we will not have any other source" with which to fund pensions. For Fatherland and Freedom, a member of the ruling coalition, accused the opposition of trying to destabilize the new government and to force early general elections. The Finance Ministry repeated Skele's threat to pay for the referendum with money earmarked to help revitalize the failed Rigas Komercbanka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999), LETA reported. MH

POLAND SAYS PROPERTY RESTITUTION CLAIMS NOT FOR U.S. COURTS

Referring to the property restitution claim against Poland filed by 11 Jews in a New York court in late June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999), government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said on 6 August that the claimants can recover their property via Polish courts, Reuters reported. Witold Danilowicz, a lawyer representing Poland in the U.S., noted that legal suits against Poland filed by Jewish U.S. citizens seeking to recover their property are outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. He argued that those suits should be filed in Poland. JM

POLISH FARMERS UNHAPPY WITH STATE PROCUREMENT OF GRAIN, RAPE

The National Council of the Farmers' Solidarity Trade Union on 8 August criticized the state procurement of grain and rape seed, PAP reported. "The network of procurement points is inadequate, the procurement campaign began too late, and the quality parameters of grain are determined in a way unfavorable for farmers," Farmers' Solidarity leader Roman Wierzbicki noted. The council decided to launch protests in September unless the government increases the price of rape seed to exceed 800 zlotys ($200) for 1 ton. JM

CZECH MEDIA COUNCIL WILL NOT RULE IN TV DISPUTE

The Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasts said on 6 August that it will not intervene in a months-long dispute over television rights because no broadcasting rules have been broken, CTK reported. The dispute is between CET 21, the license holder of TV Nova, the country's most popular station, and the Czech Independent Television Company (CNTS), which supplies TV Nova's programs. The previous day, the U.S.-based Central European Media Enterprise (CME), which is the majority share holder in the CNTS, asked the council to intervene in the dispute. The conflict began in April, when the CME fired Vladimir Zelezny, TV Nova's director-general and the majority owner of CET 21, accusing him of attempting to harm CNTS's business interests. CET 21 on 5 August terminated cooperation with the CNTS and began broadcasting independently. MS

SLOVAK COALITION LEADERS REJECT CABINET RESHUFFLE DEMANDS

The leaders of the four-party coalition government, meeting behind closed doors on 6 August, said there will be "no major cabinet reshuffle" in the near future, although "changes in individual ministerial posts might take place," Reuters reported, citing TASR. CTK said that the decision was endorsed by Bela Bugar, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK). The SMK has recently demanded a reshuffle of Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet. The four parties' leaders also decided to prepare by 31 October a "comprehensive evaluation of the fulfillment of the government's program." They also rejected opposition demands for early elections. MS

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER URGES SOCIALISTS TO REFORM

Miklos Nemeth, in an interview with Hungarian Television on 6 August, said he has not yet decided whether to return to politics but if he does so, he will join only a "genuinely reformed" Hungarian Socialist Party. Nemeth, who is deputy chairman of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has met with former party colleagues during his vacation in Hungary, and media have speculated that he is considering a return to politics. He said that the Socialist Party "has not yet reached the stage where it can be described as a classic, Western-type social democratic formation." MS




ETHNIC ALBANIANS CLASH WITH KFOR IN MITROVICA...

Up to 1,000 ethnic Albanians clashed with French KFOR soldiers from 7 through 9 August at Mitrovica's central bridge leading into the Serb-dominated northern part of the city, Reuters reported. The soldiers were hindering the protesters from entering that part of the city, fearing bloodshed between armed ethnic Serbs and Albanians. The protesters punched, spat, and threw cans at the soldiers. KFOR detained one ethnic Albanian. A KFOR spokesman said that "these mobs on the bridge were certainly orchestrated by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) to crank up the pressure on us [to let them take over northern Mitrovica]. But this would cause major violence." French troops also arrested four Serbs in the northern part of Mitrovica for possession of weapons. Meanwhile, unknown attackers fired a rifle-propelled grenade from the south into northern Mitrovica, but there were no injuries or serious damage. FS

...CAUSING CONCERN THAT UCK LOST CONTROL OVER HARD-LINERS

Reuters reported on 9 August that KFOR commander General Sir Mike Jackson told "The Scotsman": "I can't say I'm fully confident that [the UCK is] in full control [among ethnic Albanians]. They are going to have to work with their own people to show that they have a [Kosova] now which is hugely different from the [Kosova] they had three months ago.... They've got a great deal of what they fought for--O.K. not independence--but they have a free [Kosova], which is almost the same thing." Jackson warned: "We may get some difficulty with fringe hotheads and we will deal with it. But for the [UCK] to do anything other than conform to the [demilitarization] undertaking they have assigned themselves...would be the most foolish thing to do, and I'm sure they are not going to be that foolish." FS

INTERNATIONAL POLICE BEGIN WORK IN KOSOVA

The first 500 international policemen formally assumed their duties in Kosova on 8 August, AP reported. The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) plans to deploy a total of 3,100 international police. So far, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sweden, and the U.S have all contributed to the force. Meanwhile, 10 people, including eight Serbs, were injured in four separate grenade attacks that day in various parts of Kosova. In Prishtina on 6 August, KFOR raided the house of the UCK's interior minister, Rexhep Selimi. The peacekeepers found a submachine gun, a hand grenade, ammunition, and 20 radio frequency scanners, along with illegal identity cards, marked "Ministry of Public Order," allowing the holder of the card to make arrests. FS

RUGOVA WANTS TO REMAIN KOSOVAR PRESIDENT

Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova told "Der Spiegel" of 6 August that he will run in the Kosova presidential elections in 2000. Rugova was elected as president of the Kosovar shadow state twice in underground elections, namely in 1992 and 1998. He stressed that "I remain the president of Kosova and insist on a direct vote shortly before or after [parliamentary] elections." Rugova added that "within three years we will hold a referendum [on independence]. After that the Serbs can only accept our independence." FS

TRAJKOVIC: MILOSEVIC'S DEPARTURE IS KOSOVA'S HOPE

Momcilo Trajkovic, who heads Kosova's Serbian Resistance Movement, said in Belgrade that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must leave office if Kosova is to remain multiethnic and part of Serbia. He stressed that Serbia must become democratic if the Serbs are to have a future in Kosova, the daily "Danas" reported on 9 August. Trajkovic said that he will seek the establishment of five special "cantons" in the province as an interim solution. Each canton would be multi-ethnic, and Serbs and ethnic Albanians would share political power. The five would be centered on the cities of Prishtina, Mitrovica, Gjilan, Prizren, and Peja. PM

GJILAN SERBS BOYCOTT UN AUTHORITY

The local Serbian "Church and People's Committee" in Gjilan has turned down a request by the UN's civilian administration to take part in local government bodies. Committee leaders said that they will not take part in UN-sponsored bodies until the security situation for Serbian civilians improves, "Danas" reported on 9 August. PM

MILOSEVIC BLASTS OPPOSITION

Milosevic told a gathering of Serbian emigres in Belgrade on 6 August that his opponents are "corrupt politicians" seeking to destabilize Serbia. He charged that NATO is using those politicians to achieve "the aims it failed to do with 22,000 tons of bombs dropped on our country." On 7 August, Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic told state-run television that "big powers have their agents in Yugoslavia." He was apparently referring to the opposition. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION REMAINS ADAMANT

Vladan Batic, who is one of the leaders of the Alliance for Change, told more than 2,000 protesters in Vrbas on 7 August that Milosevic should have responded to his critics sooner. The president has "only now peeked out from his mouse hole to call us traitors. But who is the traitor after all," Batic added. His remarks reflect the view of many Serbs that Milosevic betrayed Serbian interests by provoking and losing a conflict with NATO. In Zabalj, Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told 800 people that the only way to oust Milosevic is to continue to hold meetings in cities and towns across Serbia, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported. He urged the people to "take their destiny in their hands [and oust] "tyrants, thieves, and criminal gangs." PM

DRASKOVIC SAYS TRANSITION MUST BE GRADUAL

Serbian Resistance Movement leader Vuk Draskovic told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 7 August that Milosevic will leave office only if there is a "political agreement" between his government and the opposition leading to the establishment of a transitional government. Draskovic added, however, that Milosevic's Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic must resign as soon as possible because Montenegro does not recognize him. PM

MOST SERBIAN RESERVISTS END HUNGER STRIKE

Miodrag Stankovic, who heads the local veterans' association in Nis, said on 8 August that out of a group of nine reservists, he is the only one who will continue the hunger strike for back wages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). Stankovic noted that the other men ended their 13-day-old protest on doctors' advice. He added that he has received no response from other veterans to his recent call for a joint protest in Belgrade, Reuters reported. PM

CROATIAN ARCHBISHOP IN VOJVODINA

Zagreb's Archbishop Josip Bozanic arrived in Subotica on 7 August for a three-day visit to Vojvodina. He appealed to local Croats to remain in Subotica, "Jutarnji list" reported. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER CALLS FOR REVISING BORDER AGREEMENT

Petar Djokic, who is speaker of the Republika Srpska's parliament, said in Banja Luka that the recently signed border delineation agreement between Bosnia and Croatia should be changed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). He stressed that the Una River should form the boundary between the two republics, RFE/RL South Slavic Service reported on 7 August. PM

BOSNIAN-CROATIAN BORDER CROSSING OPENS

Representatives of the office of the international community's high representative in Bosnia opened the border crossing near Ivanica on the Dubrovnik-Trebinje road on 6 August. No local Croatian officials took part, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The route linking southern Dalmatia with the eastern part of the Republika Srpska had been closed for eight years. PM

CROATIA EXTRADITES WAR CRIMES SUSPECT

Croatian authorities placed Vinko "Stela" Martinovic on a flight bound for The Hague on 9 August. The war crimes tribunal previously indicted him for crimes committed in Bosnia during the 1992- 1995 war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). The Croatian authorities' refusal until now to extradite him has been a source of tension between Zagreb and the tribunal. PM

MACEDONIA, TAIWAN SIGN ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS

Taiwanese and Macedonian officials signed several economic cooperation agreements in Skopje on 7 and 8 August, AP reported. Taiwan will invest $200 million in a tax-free industrial zone near Skopje. The signing of the agreements came at the end of a visit by Premier Vincent Siew and a high-ranking Taiwanese delegation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, who is opposed to Macedonia's recognition of Taiwan, refused to meet with Siew. FS

ROMANIAN AMBASSADOR HAILS U.S. CONGRESS DRAFT RESOLUTION

Romanian Ambassador to the U.S. Mircea Geoana, in an interview with Romanian Television on 6 August, hailed the draft resolution on Romania that was submitted to the House of Representatives on 3 August but warned not to overestimate its significance, which, Geoana said, is "mainly political." Among other things, the draft says the U.S. will "support Romania's territorial integrity and will insist on that integrity being respected by all neighboring countries" as well as by all political formations in Romania or in other countries. The draft also recommends that the U.S. assist Romania in overcoming the costs incurred by the Kosova war and in rescheduling or writing off debts to foreign creditors. President Emil Constantinescu is currently on a private visit to the U.S. MS

MINERS' COMMEMORATION STIRS UP ROMANIAN CONTROVERSY

Former President Ion Iliescu, addressing a gathering in Lupeni, Jiu valley, on 6 August to mark the 70th anniversary of a miners' strike that was quashed by the army, said that "unfortunately, history repeats itself," noting that the current government has again used violence against the miners. Iliescu called on those present to "hold on" till he returns to power and repairs the damage caused by the country's rulers. Alliance for Romania chairman Teodor Melescanu also attended the gathering, an RFE/RL correspondent in Lupeni reported. A Ministry of Defense press release on 7 August said the ministry views the "presence of certain politicians" at the ceremony as "an insult to the army." It said the 1929 miners' strike was a "Comintern provocation" and the army's "energetic intervention" at the time "re-established peace and the rule of the law." MS

IMF APPROVES TRANCHE DISBURSEMENT FOR MOLDOVA

The IMF executive board on 6 August approved the disbursement of a $34 million tranche of a $195 million loan approved in 1996, Reuters reported. The board said that the financial crisis in Russia has had a severe impact on Moldova, and it praised the steps taken by Ion Sturza's cabinet toward tightening monetary policy and accelerating privatization and structural reform. But the board added that it is "concerned" about the fact that "domestic arrears continue to mount" and about Moldova's foreign-debt servicing difficulties. It urged Chisinau to "seek a prompt negotiated settlement with its creditors." The conditions for disbursing further tranches include keeping the decline in GDP below 5 percent this year, not allowing inflation to exceed 24.2 percent, and ensuring that the budget deficit is below 3 percent of GDP. MS

MOLDOVAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY DISTANCES ITSELF FROM LUCINSCHI

The Executive Bureau of the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova movement has urged President Petru Lucinschi to renounce the intention to hold a referendum on changing the country's system to a presidential one, Infotag and BASA-press reported on 6 August. The bureau said the presidential initiative might "negatively impact" Moldova's image abroad and that it runs contrary to "the fundamental European democratic principles." It also said it is ready to initiate a debate in the parliament on strengthening the president's executive prerogatives. MS

LUKOIL BID SELECTED FOR BULGARIAN REFINERY PRIVATIZATION

LUKoil's bid for a 58 percent stake in the Neftochim refinery, the largest in Bulgaria, has been selected by the Privatization Agency from among several bids, AP and BTA reported on 6 August. The Russian oil giant has undertaken to pay $107 million for the stake and to invest a "much larger" sum in the refinery's modernization. The daily "Demokratsia," cited by AP, said the price of the stake could be revised after LUKoil experts carry out by the end of next month a detailed examination of the refinery and its equipment. MS




TILTING THE CHESSBOARD IN MOSCOW


By Paul Goble

Once again, Boris Yeltsin has tilted the political chessboard in Moscow, giving himself new room for maneuver by upsetting the calculations of others--at the cost of throwing the Russian government into turmoil.

Earlier today, the Russian president fired his prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, along with the entire government, and replaced him with Vladimir Putin, until now head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and a longtime KGB agent.

In making this change, Yeltsin said that he wants to put Putin in a position to succeed him as president, thus highlighting Yeltsin's growing unhappiness with the political coalitions now being formed against him and hinting at his approach in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Further, this latest move--particularly in the context of the renewed fighting in the North Caucasus--raises the possibility that Yeltsin will seek to postpone those votes by declaring a state of emergency or will try to gain more influence over the electoral process by putting himself in a position to do precisely that.

But any short-term gains he may have made in the overheated politics of Moscow may be swamped both by the probable reaction of his political opponents and the even more predictable reaction of international financial markets and Western governments.

Precisely because most of Yeltsin's opponents are likely to view his motives as a transparent threat to themselves and because Yeltsin has used similar tactics in the past, political leaders in the State Duma and in Russia's regions are likely to redouble their efforts to gain power at his expense.

The electoral coalitions that have emerged in the last few weeks are likely to consolidate rather than crack as a result of Stepashin's departure and Putin's appointment. Those involved in such coalitions will doubtless conclude that Yeltsin's move is directed not only against their current clout but also their future power in the Russian state.

That may make the confirmation of Putin more rather than less difficult. It may also lead to new demands for Yeltsin's impeachment and possibly trigger other kinds of political maneuvers against an action that many political figures, not to mention the Russian public, are likely to view as the latest indication of Yeltsin's arbitrariness and unfitness for office. Thus, August is likely to once again prove the hottest month politically in the Russian capital.

Moreover, this pattern of domestic unhappiness with Yeltsin's move may be compounded by the reaction of the West. Both financial markets and international financial institutions are likely to react negatively to this latest indication of instability within the upper echelons of the Russian state.

The reaction of the markets is almost certain to be both quick and negative, driving down the ruble's exchange rate, reducing still further the willingness of private firms to invest there, and thus further exacerbating Russia's economic difficulties. All those developments will only highlight the conditions that are behind the growing opposition to Yeltsin among the Russian people.

The initial reaction of Western governments is likely to be more cautious. On the one hand, many are likely to view Yeltsin's latest move the same way they viewed earlier ones of this kind--as a high risk but as perhaps the necessary step by someone many have come to view as the only reliable partner they have in Moscow.

On the other, precisely because Yeltsin has used this stratagem so often and precisely because it is once again threatening to destabilize the political situation in Moscow, ever more voices in Western capitals are likely to begin to ask questions about Yeltsin's reliability and about relations with Moscow after Yeltsin.

The latter response is particularly likely because of Yeltsin's suggestion that he would like to see Putin as his successor. Some are certain to be concerned by the prospect of a longtime Soviet spy at the head of the Russian government, while others will be worried by the possibility that Yeltsin may suddenly transfer power to Putin as a means of avoiding a loss in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Each time Yeltsin has tossed the Russian chessboard into the air in order to maintain power, there have been suggestions that he has used this strategy once too often. That is certain to be the case once again this week. And regardless of whether this is Yeltsin's final August ploy, the suggestions themselves will cast an ever larger shadow over Russian politics, the Russian people, and Russia's relations with the West.


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