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Newsline - August 18, 1999




PRIMAKOV AGREES TO HEAD CENTER-LEFT ALLIANCE...

Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov ended his long silence about his career plans by declaring on 17 August his intention to lead the party list for the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance in the upcoming State Duma elections. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who heads Fatherland, will occupy the number two position, and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, one of the founding leaders of All Russia, will be number three. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said he is not among the top three slots on the party list because the constitution of his republic prohibits the president from joining any political organization, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Asked whether he will seek the presidency in 2000, Primakov, 69, replied that he has not yet decided. Political analysts have predicted that a Primakov-Luzhkov tandem would be almost unbeatable in the elections. JAC

...OUTLINES BLOC'S GOALS...

However, "Segodnya" noted the next day that "judging by Primakov's policy statement, which resembled a presidential state-of-the-nation address, the former prime minister is not inclined to underestimate either the allure of his personality or the degree of his influence on the outcome of parliamentary and presidential elections." In a written statement, Primakov noted that his agreement to take the bloc's top spot "does not mean that I have joined one of the parties or movements." Primakov went on to describe the OVR alliance as a "union of healthy centrist forces" that will promote "synergy between the Duma and the government," "amend the constitution to strengthen Russian statehood," and "preserve the country's integrity in combination with federalism," Interfax reported. JAC

...AND JOINS CALLS FOR AMENDING CONSTITUTION

In remarks to journalists, Primakov said the constitution should be amended so that some of the president's powers are transferred to the government and the parliament. In particular, he noted that future governments should be formed by a parliamentary majority. Primakov called for reinstating the post of vice president and for granting the Security Council constitutional status, according to ITAR-TASS. And he also urged the passage of legislation that would "guarantee former Russian presidents complete safety and a dignified life." "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 August that the Communist Party will initiate a discussion at the Duma about introducing amendments on limiting presidential power. The newspaper concluded that there is not enough time for the amendments to pass before the elections, but considering the "wave of anti-presidential sentiment caused by the dismissal of [former Prime Minister Sergei] Stepashin, amending the constitution does not seem as impossible as it used to." JAC

ARE MORE PARTIES SPLITTING?

The head of the Agrarian Party's Duma faction, Nikolai Kharitonov, told reporters on 17 August that his party is about to split because the party's leadership has decided to join the OVR bloc. Meanwhile, the names of Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin and former Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik have been proposed for the OVR's party list, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. A final decision about their candidacies and whether the party will join the OVR will be made at the Agrarian Party's congress on 26-27 August. The issue of joining OVR appears to have caused dissension in another movement. ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August that the OVR voted to accept a representative of Voice of Russia on its Coordination Council but that Moscow Mayor Luzhkov insisted that the representative not be the group's informal leader, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov. Titov had proposed that the group join a bloc of right-centrist forces. JAC

OUSTED JUSTICE MINISTER CLAIMS HE WAS PRESSURED BY KREMLIN

Former Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov told Ekho Moskvy on 17 August that chief reason why he was dismissed that day was because of his ministry's failure to find legal grounds for banning the Communist Party and to prevent Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's Fatherland movement from registering for the State Duma elections. Krasheninnikov said he "was pressed a little" by the Kremlin to make such decisions and was told simply "to always cite the law." President Boris Yeltsin replaced Krasheninnikov with former acting Prosecutor General Yurii Chaika, who, though not considered a Kremlin ally, might be flexible enough to be a compromise candidate, Moscow Carnegie Center analyst Andrei Raykov told "The Moscow Times." According to the daily, analysts believe that while Chaika continued investigations into corruption allegations of Kremlin officials started by his embattled predecessor, Yurii Skuratov, these inquiries "lost their momentum" under Chaika's leadership. JAC

ISLAMISTS ANNOUNCE FORMATION OF GOVERNMENT IN DAGHESTAN

Self-styled Prime Minister of Islamic Daghestan Siradjin Ramazanov told Turan on 17 August that he has started consultations on forming a government and has already appointed Magomed Tagaev as minister of information. Tagaev is the author of several books calling for a Holy War in the North Caucasus. Also on 17 August, the United Headquarters of Daghestan Mojahedin, which represents the command structure of the Islamic militants, announced the creation of Shariat guards, who will maintain public order in the villages occupied by the militants. The indigenous inhabitants of those villages continue to flee to Makhachkala, where some 10,000 of them are now living in tent cities or pioneer camps. The government of Daghestan, demonstrating little confidence in Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's repeated claim that the situation in Daghestan will be normalized within a week, are making preparations for enrolling the children of the displaced persons in schools before the school year begins on 1 September. LF

RUSSIAN FORCES REGROUP

Meanwhile, the situation on the ground remains unclear. Caucasus Press reported a lull in hostilities on 17 August as federal forces regrouped. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted the next day that the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, Colonel-General Viktor Kazantsev, has been named head of the operation against the militants in Daghestan, replacing Interior Ministry troops commander Colonel-General Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov. Contrary to Putin's repeated claim, Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin said in Moscow on 17 August that the "normalization" of the situation in Daghestan will take "several months," according to Interfax. Also in Moscow, Russian President Yeltsin affirmed his readiness to meet with Magomedali Magomedov, chairman of Daghestan's State Council, while acting Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told journalists that Russian soldiers serving in Daghestan will be paid as much as their colleagues serving with KFOR in Kosova. Those servicemen receive $1,000 a month. LF

TATAR OPPOSITION GROUP PROTESTS RUSSIAN MILITARY ACTION IN DAGHESTAN...

The Tatar Public Center has issued a statement condemning the "escalation of hostilities" in Daghestan, in particular the bombing of villages, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 18 August. The statement compared the Russian military's response in Daghestan to its response in Chechnya. And it condemned the formation by the Daghestani authorities of volunteer self-defense brigades, which it predicts will exacerbate tensions between Daghestan's numerous ethnic groups. LF

...AS DAGHESTAN'S LEADER TAKES ISSUE WITH TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT

Meanwhile in Makhachkala, State Council chairman Magomedov rejected Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev's statement that domestic factors are behind the crisis in Daghestan. Magomedov accused Shaimiev of pursuing "separatist" policies and of being totally ignorant of the situation in the North Caucasus, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 August. LF

REPORTS OF RUSSIAN INVASION OF CHECHNYA PROVE FALSE

A congress of veterans of the 1994-1996 war in Chechnya ended abruptly on 17 August, after President Aslan Maskhadov told the meeting that a Russian armored unit had crossed the Chechen border from Stavropol Krai and occupied the village of Bratskoye in Nadterechnyi Raion, Interfax reported. Presidential chief of staff Apti Batalov initially confirmed that report, but the head of Chechnya's border department, Umid Dalaev, said later that it was untrue. He added that the alarm stemmed from an intercepted radio message broadcast by unknown persons on a frequency used by the Chechen secret service. Maskhadov had earlier told participants at the Grozny congress that Chechnya plays no role in the fighting in Daghestan. But former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev expressed support and sympathy for the Islamists, arguing that it is the duty of every Muslim to help Daghestan in its fight for independence, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

U.S.-RUSSIA TALKS ON START-3 KICK OFF

Three days of talks began in Moscow on 17 August on the START-3 treaty and possible modifications to the 1972 ABM treaty in view of Washington's plans to implement a national ABM system. Under Secretary of State John Holum is head of the U.S. delegation, while Grigorii Berdennikov, director of the Foreign Ministry's Department for Security Disarmament, is leading the Russian delegation. The talks are taking place behind closed doors and are scheduled to continue in Washington in September. JC

YAKOVLEV STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF STRATEGIC NUCLEAR FORCES

In an interview with "Krasnaya zvezda" published on 17 August, Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, stressed that Russia's economic situation is "not favorable" for the development of general-purpose forces, which he described as "extremely necessary" following the expansion of NATO and in view of the "absence on the CIS border of a firm system of collective security." "Our hopes remain [pinned] on nuclear deterrence forces and their main component--the strategic rocket forces," he said. Yakovlev also named the two main priorities with regard to the development and maintenance of the strategic rocket forces: completing the introduction of mobile and fixed-site Topol-M complexes and prolonging for as long as possible the service life of existing missile complexes. JC

U.S. HELPS MURMANSK DESTROY NUCLEAR SUBMARINES

The U.S. is to grant $15 million for the destruction of nuclear submarines at the Nerpa shipyard at Snezhnogorsk, "Segodnya" reported on 17 August. That project is being carried out within the framework of the program "On the Reduction of Mutual Threats," to which Russia and the U.S. agreed in 1992. Under the program, the shipyard has already destroyed three decommissioned submarines belonging to the Northern Fleet. JC

RUSSIA, CHINA CONTINUE TO COOPERATE ON NUCLEAR ENERGY

The president of Russia's TVEL, the scientific-industrial association of nuclear energy enterprises, and the director- general of the Chinese Nuclear Energy Industry Company have signed a contract whereby Russian experts will draft blueprints for the active zone of an experimental nuclear reactor using accelerated neutrons and also will supply enriched nuclear fuel for the reactor, "Vek" reported in its latest issue (No. 31, August 1999). According to the publication, the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry and the Chinese State Corporation for the Nuclear Industry concluded an agreement in 1995 on cooperation in developing such a reactor in China. JC

RUSSIA CHARGES WEST WITH 'APPEASING SEPARATISTS' IN KOSOVA

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 17 August urging the international community not to "turn a blind eye to terrorism, separatism, and ethnic cleansing" in Kosova, Reuters reported. The statement argued that unspecified "Western countries" are conducting an "appeasement policy towards Albanian separatism." It added that "the situation...demands energetic and responsible actions to correct it." The statement also called for an accelerated deployment of UN police and the quick disarmament of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Finally, it urged the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to investigate crimes committed against Serbs in Kosova. The ministry issued the statement one day after unidentified attackers fired mortars into a Serbian village near Gjilan, killing two teenagers and injuring five other people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). FS

STEPASHIN TO RUN FOR DUMA FROM ST. PETE

Former Prime Minister Stepashin told Interfax on 17 August that he will run for a State Duma seat from a single-mandate district in St. Petersburg, most likely his home district of Krasnoselskii. "This is only the first step that demonstrates my intention not to return to government service," he said, noting that he is working on forming a right-of-center coalition. JC

ANOTHER GOVERNOR TRIES TO BAN INTERREGIONAL GRAIN EXPORTS

Volgograd Governor Nikolai Maksyuta has said he does not agree with a recent announcement by the regional branch of the federal Anti-Monopoly Ministry that his decree prohibiting the shipment of grain outside the oblast's borders violates federal law, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 August. According to the daily, Maksyuta added that his decision will remain in force. The governors of Orenburg and Lipetsk Oblasts have passed similar decrees restricting grain shipments (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 11 August 1999), while governors in Kirov and Saratov Oblasts have ordered local bakeries to sell certain varieties of bread to local citizens below cost (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 August 1999). JAC




SOUTH CAUCASUS STATES OFFER EARTHQUAKE AID TO TURKEY

Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev on 17 August sent a message to Turkish President Suleyman Demirel expressing condolences over the earthquake that struck the west Anatolian city of Izmit earlier that day, Turan reported. Azerbaijan has sent 30 doctors and 30 aid workers to participate in relief work. Armenian President Robert Kocharian similarly expressed condolences in a telegram to Demirel, according to Noyan Tapan. An Armenian government source told the agency that Armenia is prepared to send rescue groups to Turkey if asked to do so. In Tbilisi, Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili expressed condolences to his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem, Interfax reported. A group of 10 Georgian rescue workers left for Turkey on 18 August. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN KARABAKH

Vartan Oskanian met in Stepanakert on 17 August with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, to discuss "organizational issues" connected with a major conference to be held in Armenia next month on relations between that country and the diaspora, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Oskanian later told deputies to the enclave's parliament that the conference will explore "the need to establish a pan-Armenian umbrella structure" as well as discuss the economic development of Armenia and Nagorno- Karabakh and the creation of a "single Armenia-Karabakh- diaspora information space." With regard to the ongoing search for a political solution to the Karabakh conflict, Oskanian said "the Armenian side is now in a better diplomatic position than ever before." Also on 17 August, Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian met with Andrzej Kasprczik, who is the permanent representative of the OSCE chairman-in-office, to discuss preparations for the latter's visit to Stepanakert next month, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

PROTESTS IN AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE CONTINUE

Women in Sadarak have again picketed the local government building to protest the authorities' handling of the 12 July clash involving local residents and employees of the Sadarak customs post, Turan reported on 17 August. Local residents have staged periodic protests for the past five weeks to demand the firing of the head of the customs post, whom they blame for a clash in which one person was killed and four injured (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). The participants in the 17 August picket also demanded a meeting with Nakhichevan parliamentary chairman Vasif Talibov to discuss their demands. LF

DAGHESTAN CONFLICT WILL NOT AFFECT AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT

Interfax on 17 August quoted an unnamed official from Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR as denying that the hostilities in Daghestan constitute a serious threat to the continued export of Azerbaijani oil via the Russian Federation. But he admitted that the present system for exporting crude by rail from Makhachkala to Tikhoretsk allows Baku to export just over half the planned amount of 120,000 metric tons per month. He rejected as untrue claims by Russia's pipeline monopoly Transneft that SOCAR exported 1.5 million tons of oil via the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline during the first six months of this year. LF

RUSSIA TO APOLOGIZE FOR BOMBING GEORGIAN VILLAGE

The Russian air force will official apologize to the Georgian leadership in the name of the Russian Defense Ministry for the 9 August incident in which two Russian aircraft bombed the village of Zemo Omalo in northeastern Georgia, Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. According to an unnamed Defense Ministry source, the commission created to investigate the incident concluded that the pilots dropped mines on the village by accident, their intended target being Botlikh Raion in neighboring Daghestan. In related news, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will visit Tbilisi on 3-4 September. LF

KAZAKH EX-PREMIER'S SUPPORT BASE CRUMBLING?

Six members of Akezhan Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan addressed an open letter to Kazhegeldin on 17 August announcing that they are quitting the party, Interfax reported. The six accused the party's deputy chairman, Gaziz Aldamzharov, of being unable to overcome divisions within the party. They noted that they had warned Kazhegeldin earlier of an imminent split in the party's ranks but he had ignored such warnings. Kazhegeldin left Kazakhstan in December 1998, shortly after the party's founding congress. The six also announced their intention to create a new party in the near future that will "unite all sane opposition forces." It is unclear whether they consider it feasible to do so before the 10 October elections to the lower chamber of the parliament. LF

KAZAKHSTAN EXPORT PIPELINE LIKELY TO BE SHELVED

Interfax on 17 August quoted an unnamed Kazakh gas sector official as predicting that Astana may abandon plans for an oil export pipeline to China. The official said that the Kazakh government will probably reject the feasibility study on that project, which is expected to be completed shortly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). The Kazakh official said that Chinese engineers who participated in the feasibility study agree that the 2,900-kilometer pipeline "is too long." In late 1997, China and Kazakhstan signed a general agreement on construction of the pipeline at an estimated cost of $2.7 billion. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL ACCUSES BATKEN GUERILLAS OF PLANNING 'ISLAMIC STATE'

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 17 August, Kyrgyz National Security Ministry spokesman Talant Razzakov claimed that the ethnic Uzbek guerrilla band headed by Juma Namangani aims to create an Islamic state in the Fergana Valley that would include the Andijan, Fergana, and Namangan Oblasts of Uzbekistan and the Leninabad Oblast of Tajikistan. Razzakov estimated the guerrillas' total strength at more than 1,000, and claimed that some of them were trained in Afghanistan. Kyrgyz forces are continuing military action against 21 of Namangani's men who took four Kyrgyz officials hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan on 6 August. The hostages were released on 13 August. LF

TURKMENISTAN POSTS SOLID INCREASE IN FOREIGN TRADE

Turkmenistan's foreign trade turnover grew by 57.2 percent to $1.22 billion during the first half of 1999, compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported on 17 August quoting the National Statistics Institute. The trade surplus as of 30 June 1999 was $112.1 million, compared with a deficit of $259.4 million the previous year. Also during the first six months of 1999, industrial output rose by 19 percent, primarily as a result of a 160 percent increase in gas production and a 60 percent increase in the output of the cotton industry. LF

UZBEKISTAN CLARIFIES CIRCUMSTANCES OF BOMBING RAIDS

Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said on 17 August that at the request of the Kyrgyz government, Uzbek combat jets dropped bombs two days earlier on the district of southern Kyrgyzstan in which ethnic Uzbek guerrillas from Tajikistan are entrenched, Interfax reported. Kamilov and Uzbek Security Council Secretary Morakbar Rakhmonkulov said those strikes were justified as the guerrillas had planned to cross into Uzbekistan and stage attacks there. Kamilov admitted that the Uzbek aircraft may have inadvertently dropped bombs on the territory of neighboring Tajikistan, noting that the guerrillas are very close to the frontier between the two countries. Tajikistan on 16 August delivered an official protest to Tashkent over the attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). LF




FORMER BELARUSIAN MINISTER SAYS HIS FATE ALREADY SEALED BY LUKASHENKA

The trial of former Agricultural Minister Vasil Lyavonau, who was arrested in 1997 on charges of corruption, began at the Supreme Court on 17 August. Lyavonau is charged with embezzlement, bribe-taking, exceeding his authority, organizing a criminal group, and owning illegal arms. He told the court that he does not believe in a fair trial because his fate has already been decided by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. "I am innocent but I realize that this is of no significance for the judges because I am actually being tried by Lukashenka himself," Lyavonau said, adding that Lukashenka has publicly called him a criminal on at least two occasions. Lyavonau added that he wants to use the trial to record for posterity the absurdity of the charges brought against him. JM

HALF OF MINSK RESIDENTS AGAINST BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN UNION

A poll conducted by Belapan among 600 Minsk residents in mid- August showed that more than 51 percent of respondents would vote against the creation of a union state of Belarus and Russia if a referendum were held on the issue. Thirty-one percent would vote for the union state and 11 percent would abstain, while 7 percent said they were undecided. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES ECONOMIC WOES ON FOREIGN 'SHOCKS'

Leonid Kuchma on 17 August said Ukraine's economy is not sufficiently protected from "outside shocks," which cause economic instability in the country, AP reported. He cited acute gasoline shortages in Ukraine this summer as the latest example of such instability, adding that those shortages were provoked by world oil price hikes. The same day, the government reported that the country's economy shrank by 2.9 percent in January-July 1999, compared with the same period last year. Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, the country's economy has been in steady decline. JM

UNEMPLOYMENT IN ESTONIA, LATVIA DECREASING

ETA reported on 17 August that the July unemployment rate in Estonia stood at 5 percent, down 0.6 percent from the previous month but up by more than 50 percent from July 1998. More than 57 percent of those looking for work are women, while nearly 20 percent are over the age of 50. Meanwhile, the Latvian National Employment Service reported that Latvia's July jobless rate was 9.9 percent, down by 0.1 percent from the previous month. MJZ

FOREIGN TRADE SLUMP CONTINUES IN LATVIA, LITHUANIA

Lithuanian exports dropped 23.5 percent in the first half of this year, while imports decreased by 19.4 percent, according to ELTA on 17 August, citing Lithuanian Statistics Department data. In Latvia, the Central Statistics Administration announced that exports there were down by nearly 11 percent, while imports decreased by more than 13 percent, LETA reported the same day. Both countries blamed drastically reduced trade with Russia. MJZ

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES LASCO PRIVATIZATION PROCEDURES

The government on 17 August approved procedures for the long- delayed privatization of Latvian Shipping Company (LASCO), one of the world's largest shipping companies. According to these procedures, the authorities plan to sell 44 percent of the company to a strategic investor, with part of the proceeds being used to satisfy claims of employees at bankrupt state enterprises, BNS reported. LETA reported that the government will offer an additional 15 percent of LASCO to holders of privatization certificates, while reserving 6 percent for LASCO employees. Economics Minister Vladimirs Makarovs said LASCO's privatization should be completed by 1 September 2000. Privatization Agency head Janis Naglis predicted that the first-round auction could be completed by 1 December 1999. MJZ

APPEALS COURT RULING MAY CHILL POLISH-LITHUANIAN RELATIONS

Following a 17 August ruling by the Lithuanian Appeals Court to extend the jail sentences of four ethnic Polish activists, three Polish Senators and a former head of that legislative body vowed to act to "cool off" Polish-Lithuanian relations, according to BNS and ELTA. Former Senate chairman Andrzej Stelmachowski, who now heads a society for relations with Poles abroad, said that the trial was "purely political" and therefore "we should take political actions in Poland itself." The activists, all officials of a Soviet-era local governing council, were found guilty of trying to create a Polish autonomous territory at the time Lithuania regained its independence. MJZ

POLISH MINERS THREATEN STRIKE OVER REFORM

Poland's 12 coal mining unions have threatened to stage a two-hour warning strike on 30 August to protest the government's reform of their industry, Reuters and PAP reported on 17 August. The trade unions oppose the amendments to the 1998 reform program, which would speed up layoffs in the industry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1999). They demand negotiations with the government on the reform of the coal mining sector. "The mining reform carried out by [Jerzy] Buzek's government has collapsed. The proposed changes only aggravate the situation," Reuters quoted a trade union activist as saying. The 1998 reform envisaged closing down half the mines, cutting employment by 115,000 jobs, lowering coal output, and making the sector profitable in 2002. Such goals became unrealistic this year when the sector's losses amounted to 3.3 billion zlotys ($833 million), instead of the planned 1.3 billion zlotys. JM

FORMER SLOVAK COMMUNIST LEADER TO BE AMNESTIED?

Vasil Bilak, former chief ideologist of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, may be amnestied under a pardon issued by President Rudolf Schuster at his inauguration, SITA reported on 17 August. Bilak is eligible for the amnesty, which was granted to those over 65. Prosecutor-General Milan Hanzel said Bilak's case is being examined and that his office will make a recommendation to Schuster over whether Bilak should be amnestied. Bilak was indicted for breaching the peace and violating some economic laws. He has confessed to being among those who extended an "invitation" to Warsaw Pact countries to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968. MS

AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY FACULTY FOR SLOVAK HUNGARIANS?

Deputy Prime Minister Pal Csaky, who is in charge of minority issues in the Slovak cabinet, told the Hungarian daily "Magyar Hirlap" on 17 August that he is proposing the establishment of an autonomous Hungarian-language university department for the country's 600,000-strong ethnic Hungarian minority. He also said the Education Ministry has asked him to outline his ideas for training primary-school teachers and pastors for the country's ethnic Hungarian community. MS

SLOVAK HUNGARIAN PARTY WARNS AGAINST REFERENDUM ON LANGUAGE LAW

Also on 17 August, Csaky warned that if President Schuster decides to call a referendum on the law on minority-language use in contacts with the authorities, Slovakia's "international credibility" will "suffer again," SITA reported. Csaky, who is deputy chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party, said the referendum would contravene those provisions of the constitution prohibiting plebiscites on human rights issues as well as infringe international conventions. Two out of three teams of experts have advised Schuster not to call the plebiscite. The opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia warned that if he does not call such a vote, it will launch a petition in favor of early elections. MS

OPPOSITION CRITICIZES HUNGARIAN FAR RIGHT

Balint Magyar, chairman of the opposition Free Democratic Party, warned on 17 August that the 20 August demonstration planned by the Justice and Life Party (MIEP) will endanger ethnic Hungarians living beyond the country's borders and harm Hungary's external relations. The demonstrators intend to express support for annexing a part of Vojvodina to Hungary. MIEP chairman Istvan Csurka said that ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina cannot wait for democratic changes in Yugoslavia. He added that the area that MIEP wants annexed is "small even in Vojvodina terms" and that MIEP will continue its campaign to "show that the borders established in Trianon are no longer binding." MS

HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL ON RELATIONS WITH MAGYARS ABROAD

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said in Debrecen on 16 August that a "key concern" of Budapest's foreign policy is to help Hungarians living abroad improve their situation and remain where they are. Nemeth noted that a Permanent Council of Hungarians was set up in February for this purpose and helped Vojvodina's Hungarians draft a blueprint for their demand for autonomy. MS

HUNGARIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ORDERS INQUIRY INTO ANTI- SEMITIC PUBLICATION

The Prosecutor-General's Office on 17 August launched an investigation into the recent publication of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," saying the book serves as a "propaganda tool inciting hatred against Jews," "Magyar Hirlap" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 16 August 1999). The Federation of Jewish Religious Communities and the Association of Hungarian Book Publishers and Distributors welcomed the announcement. MS




SERBIAN GENERAL THREATENS CRACKDOWN

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands the Nis-based Third Army, told Belgrade's "Glas javnosti" of 17 August that the army must intervene to separate opposing groups if that is necessary "to prevent civil war." He stressed that the army will not allow anyone to seize power "illegally." Pavkovic noted that the army's crackdown in March 1991 led to "human losses and destruction." But he stressed that the death and destruction would have been far worse had the army not intervened to put down demonstrations against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Observers suggest that Pavkovic's remarks are a warning that the army may intervene again if there is politically-inspired violence in conjunction with the Yugoslavia-Croatia soccer match on 18 August or the opposition rally the following day. Both events are to take place in Belgrade. PM

BELGRADE REGIME WARNS OPPONENTS...

Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic told the parliament on 17 August that an unspecified "powerful, illegal, international movement" seeks to overthrow the "legally elected Yugoslav government." Telecommunications Minister Ivan Markovic of the hard-line United Yugoslav Left said that "the agents of terrorism in Serbia are not just the members of the so-called Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), but those gathered in the Alliance for Change." The alliance is one of the main sponsors of the 19 August demonstration. Elsewhere, the state-run daily "Politika" called unnamed members of the opposition "political midgets and losers." PM

...TAKES MEASURES AGAINST THEM

Seven policemen beat up and arrested artist Bogoljub Arsenijevic on 17 August in front of the Belgrade offices of former General Momcilo Perisic's Movement for Democratic Serbia. A spokesman for the movement criticized the police action and promised that "our lawyers will launch proper legal action" on Arsenijevic's behalf. The artist attracted public attention in July when he led a violent take-over of the town hall in Valjevo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 1999). In Pancevo, the local Prosecutor's Office began an investigation into opposition leader Vesna Pesic's remarks at a recent rally in Vrsac, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 17 August. Pesic told the protesters that the Serbian people might get rid of Milosevic by using the "Romanian method" unless he goes voluntarily. Her remarks were an allusion to the violent overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989. Top Serbian officials subsequently accused her of encouraging "terrorism" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). PM

BELGRADE DEMONSTRATION LOSING SUPPORT?

Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 17 August that he will not attend the Belgrade demonstration but will be represented by his deputy instead. Draskovic did not give a clear reason for reversing his earlier decision to attend. He said only that he cannot "accept many many stupid ideas of [unspecified] irresponsible people," Reuters reported. He also suggested that he fears that the rally could turn violent, AP noted. Observers said that Draskovic is piqued because he was slated to speak only second. Shortly after Draskovic announced his decision not to attend, Alliance for Change leader Vladan Batic said that he will not address the gathering, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported. It is unclear why, nor is it clear whether he plans to attend at all. PM

YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT CUTS IMPORT DUTIES

The federal legislature on 17 August approved significant cuts in the import taxes for cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and used cars, "Danas" reported. At that same parliamentary session, Sports Minister Velizar Djeric denied rumors that his ministry bought up 22,000 out of a total of 70,000 tickets to the Yugoslavia-Croatia match. Critics had charged that the ministry sought to pack the stadium with Milosevic supporters. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BACKS MONTENEGRIN PLAN

Social Democratic leader Vuk Obradovic said that the Serbian opposition finds Montenegro's proposal for redefining relations between the two republics "basically acceptable" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 August 1999). He added, however, that Montenegrin officials would be "wasting their time" if they tried to negotiate the plan with Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 17 August. Obradovic stressed that this is the view of most opposition parties in Serbia. PM

EU PREPARING TO END SANCTIONS AGAINST KOSOVA, MONTENEGRO

A spokesman for the EU Presidency, which is currently held by Finland, said in Brussels on 17 August that EU officials will lift economic sanctions against Kosova and Montenegro "soon." He added that experts are studying ways to make sure that Milosevic and the Serbian authorities do not benefit from the move, Reuters reported. One key problem is preventing Montenegrin oil imports from reaching Serbia. Another is ensuring that Serbia's JAT airlines does not profit from the reopening of flights from EU countries to Montenegro's two airports. PM

LOCAL SERBIAN LEADER DENIES BREAKTHROUGH IN MITROVICA

Oliver Ivanovic, who is the leader of Mitrovica's Serbs on the city's UN-chaired interim council, denied on 17 August that Serbs and Albanians in the city have agreed on a plan to end the division of the city, AP reported. The previous day, Bajram Rexhepi, who is Ivanovic's counterpart in the Albanian-dominated south of the city, reported that both sides agreed on the return of 25 Albanian families per day to the north. Ivanovic, however, stressed that "relentless Albanian onslaughts on the Ibar River bridge [which divides the two parts of the city] are very dangerous." He referred to several recent incidents in which local Albanians seeking to return to their homes in the north clashed with French troops who were blocking the bridge. FS

ANOTHER GRENADE ATTACK AGAINST SERBS IN GJILAN

Unidentified attackers wounded three Serbs in Gjilan on 17 August, AP reported. It was the second grenade attack against the Serbian community in that region within two days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). The same day, Russia charged Western countries with "turning a blind eye" to attacks against Serbs (see Part I). FS

TORTURE CHAMBER DISCOVERED IN PRISHTINA'S GRAND HOTEL

The Prishtina daily "Rilindja" reported on 17 August that the staff of the Grand Hotel has discovered two prison cells and a torture chamber in an underground building belonging to the hotel. The daily added that the employees found women's clothes and lists containing the names of unspecified students, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. During the recent conflict, journalists reported that Serbian paramilitaries used the building as their command center. Many foreign journalists stayed at the hotel, which also housed the regime's media center. International war crimes investigators have started investigations. FS

UN LAUNCHES PRISHTINA CLEAN-UP CAMPAIGN

UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner launched a municipal clean-up campaign in Prishtina on 17 August, Reuters reported. Kouchner said that since the war "all over the place in the city garbage was...disposed [of in a way that poses a] real danger for public health." He added, however: "We are confident that through this project, we'll be able to make Prishtina a clean and beautiful city." The initiative, called "I love my city Prishtina," is the beginning of a larger cleanup project for the whole of Kosova, which is jointly financed by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the UN Development Program. It receives substantial technical support from KFOR and employs 330 locals. FS

MAJKO WANTS 'PAN-ALBANIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM'

Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko has urged Education Minister Ethem Ruka to draw up plans to unify education in Albanian language in Albania, Kosova, and Macedonia and intensify cooperation between the universities of Tirana and Prishtina, Reuters reported on 17 August. He said that "it is time to talk about [creating] a unified strategy for education in Albanian wherever Albanians live in the Balkans." Majko stressed that "this is...a turning point to make the biggest investment for the future of the Albanian community in the Balkans," adding that first steps should include an exchange of teachers and professors. Majko argued that "Albanians should read the same history because we are part of the same history. Now it is time for us Albanians in the Balkans to make history." FS

IZETBEGOVIC SLAMS FRAUD CHARGE

Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic called a "New York Times" report on massive fraud in his republic "lies." He charged that the article constitutes an attempt to discredit his government and deter foreigners from investing in Bosnia, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 18 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). Izetbegovic issued a statement rebutting several specific charges of fraud cited in the article. In Washington, a State Department spokesman noted that "U.S. government assistance has not been misused or abused to the best of our knowledge." VOA's Croatian Service reported that the embezzled funds amount to 20 percent of all public money in Bosnia. In Sarajevo, a spokeswoman for the office of the international community's high representative said the "lost" money probably totals more than $1 billion. PM

SACKED CROATIAN MINISTER BLAMES TOP LEADERS

Zeljko Luzavec, whom President Franjo Tudjman recently fired as minister of transportation, maritime affairs, and communications, has blamed several top officials for his demise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). Luzavec singled out Ivic Pasalic, who is Tudjman's top adviser, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Ljerka Mintas-Hodak and Reconstruction Minister Jure Radic, "Novi List" reported on 18 August. Luzavec charged he was the victim of a "palace coup" aimed at covering up evidence of mismanagement of the bankrupt shipping company Croatia Line (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 August 1999). PM

DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER TO RUN FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY

Petre Roman told a 17 August meeting of the Democratic Party in Targu Mures that he will run for president in 2000, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Transylvanian town reported. Roman, who is leader of the party, said the Democrats will not participate in any election alliances formed for the 2000 parliamentary elections, adding that after the ballot they will agree to participate in a government coalition only if it is set up on the basis of a "clear joint program" and not for "the sake of power alone." One day earlier, Roman said the Democrats are ready for "a dialogue" with the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), provided the PDSR "seriously reforms its political philosophy." PDSR deputy chairwoman Hildegard Puwak on 17 August responded that her party welcomes a dialogue but rejects Roman's conditions. MS

ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN CHURCH TO SET UP PRIVATE UNIVERSITY

Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania honorary chairman Bishop Laszlo Tokes, addressing a forum of the Ady Endre Academy in Debrecen, Hungary, on 16 August, said that a Hungarian-language high school in Oradea will be transformed in September into a private ecclesiastic university for the Hungarian minority, Romanian Radio reported the next day. Tokes said that in 2000 the new university, to be called the Partium Christian University, will set up branches "in all of Transylvania." MS

MOLDOVAN COMMISSION RECOMMENDS CHANGING DESIGNATION OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

The Republican Commission overseeing the implementation of the law on the official state language has recommended that the official designation of that language be changed from "Moldovan" to "Romanian," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 17 August. The recommendation will be submitted to the government and later to the parliament. The commission said that the 1994 decision to opt for "Moldovan" was prompted by " political considerations that ignored the opinion of experts from Moldova and abroad." The mentioning of "Moldovan" in the country's constitution must be changed accordingly, the commission says. MS

BULGARIA'S KOZLODUY REACTOR SHUT DOWN

Reactor No. 2 at the aging nuclear power plant at Kozloduy was shut down on 16 August following a non-radioactive water leak, Reuters reported. A spokeswoman for the plant said the leak did not affect the plant's safety and that the unit will be shut down until 27 August for repairs. MS




SERBIAN PROTESTS: WILL THIS TIME BE DIFFERENT?


By Christopher Walker

The mass protest scheduled to take place on 19 August in Belgrade will be the third in a series of demonstration waves that the Serbian opposition has staged since the beginning of this decade. On the two previous occasions--in 1991 and in the winter of 1996-1997--ordinary Serbs took to the streets to vent their frustrations with the miserable state of affairs in their country.

But to date, each protest wave has fallen short, with the opposition unable to achieve the crucial precondition for setting Serbia's reform process in motion: Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's removal from power.

The earlier protest campaigns failed owing to a variety of reasons, including a fragmented opposition, a passive, exhausted Serbian population, deft political maneuvering by Milosevic, and the manipulation of Serbs through tight control over state-run media.

In addition, Milosevic has been the beneficiary of short-sighted Western policies that have allowed him, among other things, to convince his electorate that the West--and the U.S. in particular--is the villain and Serbia the victim. Thus while it is encouraging that the opposition is once again working to muster an organized effort against the status quo, its ability to effect a leadership change in Belgrade is questionable.

In the two months since the cessation of hostilities between Serbian forces and those of NATO and the Kosova Liberation Army, there have been small, spontaneous pockets of protests throughout Serbia. The round of demonstrations scheduled to begin on 19 August will be the first broad, organized effort to pressure the Milosevic regime since the winter of 1996-1997.

At that time, tens of thousands of Serbs marched to protest the annulment of the results of municipal elections that Milosevic's Socialist Party had lost. While Milosevic's extralegal action served as a catalyst for the demonstrations, a host of other chronic problems in Serbian society--including a very sick economy-- kept protesters on the streets every day over three months. Ultimately, Milosevic reversed the annulment but otherwise paid only lip service to the key opposition demands for reform.

As was the case in the earlier rounds of protests, the planned demonstrations starting this week will feature the participation of two main opposition figures: Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic and Vuk Draskovic, the controversial head of the Serbian Reform Movement, who served in Milosevic's government until his dismissal during the conflict with NATO.

Both Djindjic and Draskovic are calling for a transitional government but have not agreed on a blueprint for achieving this goal. While Djindjic is seeking Milosevic's unconditional departure from power, Draskovic has indicated he prefers some sort of power-sharing arrangement with the Yugoslav leader. Whether the two opposition leaders will be able to work together to mount a successful challenge to Milosevic and then orient Serbia's policies toward the West is an open question.

The challenge for the opposition has always been formidable, but post-Kosova politics in Serbia may make the task even more difficult. During the two previous rounds of major protest activity, the opposition was able to associate itself with the values of the West, including calls for deeper integration into and cooperation with Western institutions. As a variation on the "divide and conquer tactic" so often used by Milosevic, Serbian advocates of cooperation with the West face the prospect of being branded as "traitors against Serbia" or "lackeys for NATO." Democratic Party leader Djindjic, who fled to Montenegro during the Kosova conflict, is the best known of those labeled an agent of Western interests.

As a result, proposing closer ties to the West as an important part of any prospective reform program may not be a winning message with many Serbs. The shift from pre-Kosova discourse, in which it was normal to view the West as a desired partner, to the more ambiguous post-Kosova climate, raises questions about the direction Serbian politics will take in the post-Milosevic era, whenever it arrives.

Other key institutions in Serbia have not made their intentions fully clear with respect to the country's leadership. The Serbian armed forces, considered by the rest of the world to have suffered overwhelming losses during its conflict with NATO, seem to have weathered the storm by having resourcefully squirreled away much of their crucial weaponry during the conflict. Despite some rumblings in the immediate aftermath of the war, the military--a conservative institution not easily disposed to changing the existing order--has not made any bid to alter the current leadership.

The Serbian Orthodox Church, for its part, has sent mixed signals. While it has decided not to take part in the opposition-led demonstration this week, Church leaders have publicly appealed for the resignation of Milosevic and Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, both of whom are indicted war criminals.

For Serbia--as well as the rest of the world--there is no more to be learned or gained from Milosevic's leadership. If 12 years ago someone had scripted a worst-case scenario for his rule, it would have been difficult to imagine one as tragic as today's reality.

The latest cycle of protest in Serbia will be viewed as a success only if it achieves the goal of removing Milosevic, thereby distinguishing itself from previous efforts. The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in East European affairs (intrel@aol.com).


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