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Newsline - September 14, 1999




FEDERAL, CITY OFFICIALS BLAME ISLAMIC INSURGENTS FOR MOSCOW BLASTS...

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told reporters on 13 September that two people suspected of involvement in the explosion on Kashirskoe Road have been detained, while First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko announced that "a ring of suspects" are in custody. Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo noted the same day that a man is being sought who rented premises in both buildings using the documents of a man who died in January. He added that his ministry is "all but certain that one and the same team of terrorists" is behind the explosions on Kashirskoe and Guryanov streets. "We have no doubt that events in Dagestan and the explosions in Buinaksk and Moscow are links in the same chain," he added. Mayor Luzhkov told reporters that "we are naming the source of this terrorism Chechen bandits." JAC

...AS OTHERS POINT FINGERS IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

The Russian government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" argued on 14 September that among those groups who stand to gain from the "ostentatious explosions" are Chechen extremists who "want to create a great state in the Caucasus," international terrorists who see the Caucasus "as a bridgehead for large-scale actions," world oil barons "who want to redraw the map of a rich region in their favor," and "those people who want Russia to be immersed in local conflicts and retire from the world stage." The same day, "Moskovskii komsomolets," a newspaper close to Luzhkov, accused the mayor's arch foe, media magnate Boris Berezovskii, of arranging the invasion of Dagestan. The previous day, the newspaper accused Russia's secret services of arranging the recent explosions. Meanwhile, State Duma deputy and Communist faction member Viktor Ilyukhin accused the Kremlin of plotting the bombings to discredit Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. JAC

DEATH TOLL CONTINUES TO SOAR IN LATEST MOSCOW BOMBING...

The tally of those who died in the explosion on 13 September on Moscow's Kashirskoe Road had climbed to 116 as of the late morning (local time) the next day, according to the federal Emergencies Ministry. Eleven of the dead were children, while nine people have been hospitalized. The blast on Guryanov street on 9 September killed more than 90 people. The Kashirskoe blast was caused by a bomb equal to 440 pounds of TNT planted in a storage area of the apartment building, according to Interfax. JAC

...AS ANOTHER EXPLOSION THWARTED

The next day, Interior Minister Rushailo said that another blast was prevented when police officials cleared explosives from a building on Borisovskie Prudi street in the southern part of the city, Interfax reported. In addition, Rushailo claimed that reports from a number of people led to the discovery of several caches of ammunition, from one of which 3,800 kilograms of explosives were seized. JAC

SECURITY TIGHTENED IN MOSCOW...

The head of Moscow's police department, Nikolai Kulikov, told Russian Public Television on 13 September that additional Interior Ministry troops are being assigned to the capital and that the city's police will guard practically every Moscow residence and thoroughly inspect all ground floors and cellars. According to "Segodnya" the next day, all Moscow policemen have been assigned 12-hour shifts without the possibility of days off. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov the same day announced that all temporary residents of the city will have to re-register within three days. JAC

...AND IN REGIONS

Local police in Rostov-na-Donu have undertaken measures to improve security in the city, such as searching empty houses and apartments and organizing tenants and public associations to patrol territories adjacent to apartment blocks, ITAR- TASS reported on 13 September. Meanwhile, administration officials in Nizhnii Novgorod met with local law enforcement officials and owners of large residential properties to discuss ways to prevent terrorist acts. Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service officials have already started checks of offices, attics, and basements, according to the agency. Similar searches were conducted in Kemerovo Oblast, while all trains arriving from the North Caucasus are being thoroughly searched. JAC

CAUCASIANS FEAR DISCRIMINATION, BACKLASH

Following Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's statements that the recent explosions were the work of Chechen gangsters taking revenge for the defeat of Islamic extremists in Dagestan and that "special attention will be paid to visitors from the [Chechen] republic and cargo arriving from there," human rights group officials in Russia expressed fear that the civil rights of persons of Caucasian origin may be violated, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 September. In addition, according to the daily, Russian Muslim leaders say that Russia's central media and politicians are enflaming public opinion against Muslims by equating all Muslims with extremists and bandits. "Izvestiya" reported the same day, without reference to sources, that Russia's intelligence services have various measures at their disposal, such as threatened tax audits, to pressure members of the Chechen diaspora who "support the criminals" behind the explosions. JAC

CHECHNYA DIGS IN AHEAD OF ANTICIPATED RUSSIAN ATTACK

Speaking on Chechen Television on 13 September, President Aslan Maskhadov again warned that there is real danger that Russia will launch another attack on Chechnya in retaliation for the Moscow apartment house bombings. Maskhadov, who on 11 September extended the state of emergency he had imposed in mid-August, called on the population to take up arms in readiness to repulse a new attack. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 September quoted Maskhadov as saying that more than 300 people have been killed in Russian air raids on Chechnya that began in late August and continued on 9-10 September and 13 September. Chechen officials have begun constructing a series of defensive barricades and trenches along Chechnya's border with Kursk Raion of neighboring Stavropol Krai, according to ITAR-TASS on 13 September. LF

LULL IN DAGHESTAN FIGHTING?

A spokesman for the self-styled Islamic Government of Daghestan confirmed on 13 September that all Chechen militants have retreated to Chechnya from Novolaksk Raion, Caucasus Press reported. According to Russian Television the same day, however, fighting is continuing for control of five villages in Novolaksk. Some reports claim that the Wahhabi residents of the villages of Chabanmakhi and Karamakhi have taken refuge in Chechnya, whereas others say they have abandoned the villages for the surrounding mountains. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 September, the federal forces' failure to prevent the Chechen retreat has reinforced the Daghestani authorities' discontent with Moscow's handling of the situation in their republic. Also on 13 September, Daghestan's Interior Minister Adilgirey Magomedtagirov met with Chechen Deputy Interior Minister Khamzat Khatsiev at the border between Chechnya and Daghestan to discuss an exchange of bodies of Chechen militants killed in the fighting for citizens of Daghestan held hostage in Chechnya. LF

COHEN SAYS AGREEMENT ON ABM POSSIBLE...

Following talks with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in Moscow on 13 September, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen told Ekho Moskvy that he believes that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty can be modified in such a way as to take into account both Russian and U.S. concerns. While Sergeev was reported to be more reticent on the prospects for amending the treaty, the Russian minister said Moscow wants to improve military relations with the U.S.--even though Russia's assessment of the NATO operation in Kosova "has not changed." The same day, the two leaders signed an agreement on stationing military officers from both countries at the Y2K Center for Strategic Stability in Colorado during the year 2000 transition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). JC

...VOWS TO COOPERATE IN FIGHTING TERRORISM

Condemning the 13 September explosion in Moscow's Kashirskoe Road as a "cowardly and callous act of terrorism," Cohen told his Russian counterpart that the U.S. is prepared to work with Russia to combat terrorism. He told journalists later that specific measures had not been discussed. Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense Roman Popkovich, meanwhile, made a specific proposal during his meeting with Cohen at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Moscow. Popkovich suggested that a joint anti-terrorist center be set up to promote the exchange of information, sharing of equipment, and "material- technical assistance" in the fight against terrorism. JC

PARTY LIST DRAWN UP BY LDPR...

Delegates to the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDPR) congress in Moscow on 11 September chose candidates for its federal party list. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii will head the group, followed by Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant head Anatolii Bykov and State Duma deputy Mikhail Musatov, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 September. Bykov, for whom a warrant has been issued on charges of money-laundering, is a foe of Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 1 September 1999). Former head of the Moscow National Bank Ashot Yegiazaryan will hold the number 12 slot, "Segodnya" reported the previous day. Yegiazaryan's brother owned the apartment where the infamous video was filmed of former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov cavorting with two female prostitutes. According to Zhirinovskii, the party's candidate for the Moscow mayoral race might be Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov. JAC

...AND SPIRITUAL HERITAGE

The Spiritual Heritage bloc announced on 13 September the names of its three top candidates to head its party list, ITAR-TASS reported. Leading the list are Spiritual Heritage leader Aleksei Podberezkin, writer Petr Proskurin, and State Duma deputy Valerii Vorotnikov. According to Podberezkin, the bloc will finalize its list of candidates and submit it to the Central Election Board by 15 September. JAC

KREMLIN OFFICIAL SENDS OFF MORE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The same letter as, or one strikingly similar to, that from presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin to Italian daily "Corriere della Sera" on 12 September has been sent to a number of U.S. publications warning them that the Kremlin is ready to "use the entire force of international law" to bring an end to the anti-Russian campaign of slander using "a certain invented financial scandal," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. According to the agency, unidentified sources at the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. reported that the letter was sent to "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal," "USA Today," and "Newsweek." JAC

RAISA GORBACHEV TOO WEAK FOR BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT

Vladimir Polyakov, a consultant for the Gorbachev Foundation, told Interfax on 13 September that Raisa Gorbachev is too weak for doctors to set a date for her planned bone marrow transplant. The wife of the former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, is running a temperature and is an a weakened state following chemotherapy, Polyakov said. Raisa Gorbachev has been receiving treatment at a hospital in Muenster, Germany, since late July. JC




ARMENIA LIKELY TO BECOME FULL MEMBER OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE IN 2000

Lord Russell Johnston, who is president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told journalists in Yerevan on 13 September that he will be "very surprised" if Armenia is not accepted into full membership of the council next year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He noted "a great change" over the past two years in implementation of legal reform and in the conduct of elections. He added that lack of progress in resolving the Karabakh conflict is unlikely to have a negative impact on Armenia's chances of acceptance, as Armenia and Azerbaijan "are not Siamese twins." The three South Caucasus states were granted special guest status in the Council of Europe in 1996. Georgia was accepted as a full member earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). LF

ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR APPEALS JAIL SENTENCE

Nikol Pashinian, editor of "Oragir" and its successor, "Haykakan zhamanak," has asked the Review Court to annul the one-year prison sentence for slander that a Yerevan court handed down to him two weeks earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 September 1999), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 13 September. Pashinian said if the Review Court fails to overturn that sentence, which he considers illegal, he will appeal to the Court of Appeals. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT TALKS TOUGH

Meeting with visiting U.S. State Department official William Taylor in Baku on 13 September, Heidar Aliyev said he sees no point in attending the summit of presidents of South Caucasus states in Tbilisi on 10-11 October, Turan reported. Aliyev argued that no cooperation is possible between Azerbaijan and Armenia until a political solution is found to what he termed the "military conflict" between the two countries. The Tbilisi summit, initiated by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, is to focus on regional cooperation in the energy, ecology, and transportation spheres. LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER OF STATE REPORTS ON BUDGET

Addressing the parliament on 10 September, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze said Georgia's current budget deficit amounts to 356 million lari ($180 million), Caucasus Press reported. As a result, Lortkipanidze said, the government still owes a total of 42.8 million lari in wage and pension arrears for 1999. He noted there are problems with funding the army, police, and border guards. And he called for changes in Georgia's investment policy to attract investment in larger enterprises. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIALS NOT ALLOWED ACCESS TO DETAINED EX- PREMIER

Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin has not been permitted to visit former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who was hospitalized in Moscow after being detained by Russian police on his arrival from London on 10 September, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. But in a telephone conversation, Khitrin urged Kazhegeldin to return "voluntarily" to Kazakhstan. The Russian authorities also rejected a request by Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Russia Tair Mansurov to order Kazhegeldin's extradition to Kazakhstan so that he face charges of tax evasion and illegally possession property abroad. Those authorities said the evidence offered does not adequately substantiate those charges. In Almaty, several members of Kazhegeldin's People's Republican Party of Kazakhstan have launched a hunger strike after being arrested and fined on 11 September for staging a demonstration to protest Kazhegeldin's detention. LF

EBRD CONCERNED OVER KAZAKHSTAN'S TAX POLICY

At a meeting in Almaty on 13 September with President Nursultan Nazarbaev, a senior European Bank for Reconstruction and Development official urged that Kazakhstan ensure the "transparency and objectivity" of tax collection, Interfax reported. The delegation also questioned whether investors are treated equally and expressed concern over frequent changes in legislation and tax standards. LF

KYRGYZ MEDIATOR HEADS FOR MEETING WITH MILITANTS

Security Ministry senior official Talant Razzakov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 13 September that human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov traveled to Batken the previous day to meet with the leader of a band of several hundred ethnic Uzbeks who are holding hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan. Razzakov said Akunov has orders from the Kyrgyz leadership not to hand over a message from the Kyrgyz government on negotiations on the hostages' release before he has met the hostages in person. Interfax on 13 September cited an unnamed Kyrgyz army source as saying the army command headquarters in southern Kyrgyzstan fears that more guerrillas may try to cross the border from Tajikistan into Kyrgyzstan. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER PROTESTS RESTRICTIONS ON OPPOSITION PARTIES

United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri has written to President Imomali Rakhmonov and to the UN and the OSCE expressing concern at what he terms the persecution of some opposition parties, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 14 September. Nuri cites the refusal of the Supreme Court to register the National Movement of Tajikistan, the court proceedings on banning the activities of the Agrarian Party, and the invalidation of the registration of the Adolat va Tarakiyot Party. He demands that in order to facilitate the peace and democratization process in the country, equal conditions be created for all political parties to participate in the upcoming elections. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO PERSUADE REFUGEES TO RETURN

The Tajik government has issued a decree allocating financial compensation to displaced persons and hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled the country during the 1992-1997 civil war, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 13 September. Under the decree, families whose homes were destroyed will receive credits of 300,000 Tajik rubles ($200) toward the cost of building new housing and buying household goods and cattle. There are 14,000 Tajik refugees in Kyrgyzstan alone, of whom 74 percent have applied for Kyrgyz citizenship. LF




BELARUS TIGHTENS SECURITY AFTER MOSCOW BLAST...

The Interior Ministry on 13 September said it has taken special measures to protect Belarusian citizens in connection with the growing number of terrorist attacks in Russia. According to Belarusian Television, the police and Interior Ministry troops are concentrating on maintaining order and guaranteeing security at recreation areas and enterprises as well as on public transportation. JM

...AS DOES UKRAINE

President Leonid Kuchma on 13 September signed a directive providing for measures to strengthen "public security and guard technically dangerous facilities." Kuchma appealed to citizens to take in their stride any inconveniences they may experience in crossing the state border or participating in public events. JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET APPROVES 2000 DRAFT BUDGET

The government has approved a 2000 draft state budget that provides for revenues totaling 37.4 billion hryvni (some $8 billion). The government expects to gain 2.5 billion hryvni from the privatization of state property. A list of enterprises designated for sale in 2000 was submitted earlier to the parliament. JM

MINIMUM WAGE TO BE RAISED IN ESTONIA

The government and representatives of trade unions and employers signed an agreement on 13 September raising the minimum monthly wage from the current 1,250 kroons ($83) to 1,400 kroons as of January 2000. The agreement also establishes the minimum annual tax-free income at 9,600 kroons as of 200, compared with the current 6,000 kroons, and foresees that figure rising to 12,000 kroons in 2001. MH

LATVIAN-LITHUANIAN MARITIME BORDER PACT BACK ON TRACK?

While the Latvian parliament's Economics Committee rejected the Latvian-Lithuanian maritime border treaty last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999), its Foreign Affairs Committee approved the treaty on 13 September. The vote was six to two with two abstentions and one member failing to vote, BNS reported. Most experts predict that the debate over the impact of the treaty will continue in the Latvian parliament itself. Latvian fishermen, meanwhile, have said they will block ports if the treaty is ratified. MH

LARGE MILITARY EXERCISE BEGINS IN LITHUANIA

The "Amber Hope '99" peacekeeping exercises began on 13 September on the Rukla training site. The exercises bring together more than 1,000 servicemen from Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, Germany, and Romania. The Lithuanian-Polish peacekeeping battalion (LITPOLBAT) is also participating in the maneuvers. MH

POLISH LEFTIST LEADER WARNS AGAINST 'SOCIAL EXPLOSION'

Leszek Miller, leader of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), said on 13 September that the "feeling of helplessness and frustration" among Poles may result in a "large-scale conflict and social explosion," PAP reported. Miller criticized Jerzy Buzek's cabinet, saying its biggest fault was the "violent slowdown of economic growth." Miller stressed the need to hold early parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). He also noted that the SLD, which was formally registered as a political party in April, has more than 34,000 members, one-third of whom are under 30. JM

EU COMMISSIONER'S INTERVIEW ON CZECH REPUBLIC DISTORTED

CTK on 13 September said a summary of EU commissioner Guenter Verheugen's interview with "Der Spiegel" that was distributed by the magazine the previous day distorted the commissioner's statement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). In the interview, Verheugen says that "no one knows whether admission [to the EU] will be implemented in groups" and that "at the moment, all [countries seeking membership] still have an equal chance." He also said that Vaclav Klaus's cabinet "did not take the talks with the EU very seriously" and behaved "as if the EU were approaching the Czech Republic and not vice- versa." That cabinet "did not want fully-fledged membership" but "a free-trade zone" At the same time, Verheugen noted that the minority government of Milos Zeman "really wants full-fledged integration." MS

SLOVAKIA'S MECIAR CALLS FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, in an interview with the private VTV television on 12 September, called on Slovaks to start staging "protests, strikes, and rallies" to bring about a change of the political situation in the country, CTK and SITA reported. He said the ultimate goal of these protests should be early elections by June. Meciar added that his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia will play a "leading role" in organizing these protests and will transform itself by June into "a people's party" that he "will lead in the elections, if chosen to do so by it." MS

SLOVAK HUNGARIAN LEADER WANTS BENES DECREES ABOLISHED

Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) honorary chairman Miklos Duray, in an interview with SITA on 13 September, said that as a member of the ruling coalition, the SMK strives to "remove all undemocratic elements" from Slovak politics, including the Benes decrees. Duray was responding to Czech Premier Milos Zeman's statement that the Benes decrees have "faded away." He said the SMK will not raise the issue in the cabinet because the coalition agreement does not mention it. However, if a petition garnered enough support, the cabinet would have to deal with it, he noted. MS

SLOVAK DEPUTY PREMIER AGAIN ATTACKS DZURINDA ALLY

Ivan Miklos, deputy premier in charge of the economy, has again criticized Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak, a close ally of the premier, for the way his ministry handled the tender in which the SE utility company chose Devin Banka to clear part of Russia's debt to Slovakia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1999). Miklos told journalists that the cabinet agreed that responsibility for the irregularities rests with the economy minister. He added that Cernak told the cabinet he will accept whatever decision Miklos takes with regard to the affair, SITA reported on 13 September. MS




ARE SERBIAN POLICE ACTIVE IN KOSOVA?

NATO'S Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina on 13 September that "one of the Serbian assailants...who was killed by the Russian forces [near Gjilan on 6 September] was carrying a [Serbian Interior Ministry] ID card" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1999). Clark added that another of the dead was wearing a "paramilitary uniform." He said that "we cannot permit this" and that he is "increasingly concerned by the evidence that we see of organized Serbian efforts to cause a little bit of disruption here and there and to bring increasing pressure on this fragile community.... There is an obligation [on Belgrade's part] that these Serbian forces are out [and] are going to stay out." He indicated that at a later date, KFOR will discuss the possible return of some unspecified Serbian "personnel" to clear minefields, protect monuments, or monitor border crossings. FS

CLARK: KOSOVA CORPS NOT A MILITARY ORGANIZATION

General Clark told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina on 13 September that the planned Kosova Corps will be an exclusively civilian body that will undertake humanitarian and emergency tasks and reconstruction efforts. Clark stressed that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) has accepted that arrangement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). Following a visit to the UCK's general staff, Clark said he expects the UCK to meet its demilitarization deadline on 19 September. The NATO commander visited Russian troops in Malisheva and praised their role in KFOR. Clark met briefly with Britain's Prince Charles, who visited British troops and spoke with UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner. FS

EU FOREIGN MINISTERS CALL FOR END OF VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA...

The EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels on 13 September, denounced any form of violence in Kosova and expressed concern that many Serbs and other minorities have recently left the region, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported from the Belgian capital. The ministers stressed that all refugees must be able to return to their homes, regardless of their ethnic or religious origin. They said that the UN civilian administration must develop a complete institutional framework as soon as possible, and they pledged to assist in the reconstruction of the region through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The ministers also said they expect the demilitarization of the UCK to be completed by 19 September. And they expressed their concern about several thousand people who disappeared during the war and whose fate remains unknown. FS

...PLEDGE TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY IN SERBIA

The same day, the EU foreign ministers expressed their willingness to support democratic forces in Serbia, particularly in cities governed by parties that oppose the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. The ministers issued a statement saying that "the time has come to establish formal contacts with the representatives of democratic forces in Serbia and Montenegro." They agreed to invite opposition representatives to Brussels to discuss how to provide energy to towns with anti- Milosevic mayors and pledged to "make sure that the regime will not benefit from EU action in favor of the population," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Bodo Hombach, who is coordinator of the EU's stability pact for Southeastern Europe, submitted his first report to the foreign ministers. FS

SERBIAN ECONOMISTS: GOVERNMENT CAUSING MONETARY INSTABILITY

Mladjan Dinkic, who is the spokesman for the G-17 group of independent economists, said in Belgrade on 13 September that the recent drop in the value of the dinar was caused by the government's printing money without adequate hard-currency reserves to back it up (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). Dinkic added that he expects the inflation rate for 1999 to reach 70 percent by the end of December, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

UN ENVIRONMENT TEAM WARNS OF 'HOT SPOTS' IN SERBIA

Finland's Pekka Haavisto, who heads the UN Environment Team's Balkan Task Force, said in Belgrade on 13 September that NATO bombing of Serbian targets in the spring did not in itself cause "any ecological catastrophe," AP reported. He noted that there are nonetheless two "hot spots" in industrial areas that should be cleaned up soon lest pollution spread. He cited unspecified "toxic waste" at the Kragujevac automobile plant and mercury and other pollutants in a canal near the Pancevo petrochemical works. It is unclear whether the environmental damage was caused or exacerbated by the bombings or if it occurred before the air attacks began. PM

CROATIA GOES TO THE HAGUE

Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic presented Croatia's case against Yugoslavia to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 13 September. Zagreb has accused Belgrade of genocide against Croats in the course of the 1991-1995 war. An RFE/RL correspondent quoted a Yugoslav lawyer at the tribunal as saying that Belgrade will file similar charges against Zagreb. PM

TUDJMAN PLEDGES FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said at the opening of the Zagreb Trade Fair on 13 September that Croatia is coming out of a recession. He added that the economic situation remains "complex but not dramatic," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The president lambasted crime and corruption, pledging a "merciless" struggle against those who break the law. PM

NGOS SEEK BAN ON CROATIAN RIGHTIST PARTY

The Croatian Helsinki Committee and the Croatian Movement for Democracy and Social Justice called on the parliament and the state Prosecutor's Office to launch proceedings to ban the right-wing Croatian Party of Historical Rights (HSP), an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb on 13 September. Representatives of the two human rights groups wrote that the HSP's leader Ante Djapic recently urged the army to stage a coup if the government extradites any Croatian generals to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). The rights groups listed additional charges against Djapic, whom they accused of glorifying the pro- Axis World War II regime of Ante Pavelic and of openly opposing rights for ethnic minorities. PM

ALBANIAN POLICE ARREST WAR LORD

Police arrested Nehat "The General" Kulla in Elbasan on 12 September, AP reported. During a raid on his bunker-like home, police discovered a large arms cache, including explosives, machine guns, and mortars. While serving a prison sentence for murder in March 1997, Kulla escaped from prison during the anarchy that swept the country. He went on to become a folk hero in a northern Tirana suburb, where he maintained a relatively high degree of public order. The Supreme Court subsequently overturned his original conviction. At one time, Kulla drove an army vehicle with government number plates, which suggests he had powerful friends. He enjoys popularity among many poor residents of Tirana because of his reputation of helping them when asked. FS

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES EXISTENCE OF 'DEATH SQUADS'

A spokesman for the Public Order Ministry on 10 September denied recent allegations by the opposition daily "Albania" that the government has eliminated suspected criminals recently by using "death squads," dpa reported. The spokesman said that "such squads do not exist. The police fight crime only by legal means." "Albania" quoted unnamed police officials as saying the squads are composed of experienced policemen who have executed several well- known gang leaders. The daily alleged that the government set up the squads after courts repeatedly released gang leaders for "lack of evidence." FS

ALBANIAN PREMIER ORDERS TOP OFFICIALS TO DECLARE WEALTH

Pandeli Majko issued an order in Tirana on 10 September obliging all high-ranking government officials, including the heads of ministerial departments, to declare their personal wealth. Those officials must also declare their families' assets and the sources of this wealth. The measure is designed to curb rampant corruption, dpa reported. FS

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY LEADER CRITICIZES PREMIER

Responding to Prime Minister Radu Vasile's threat to leave the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) if criticism against him in the party does not end (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999), PNTCD leader Ion Diaconescu said that "criticism is common in a democracy," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 13 September. He added that the threat "demonstrates that [Vasile's] allegiance to the party's political ideas is circumstantial and interest-serving." MS

HUNGARIAN CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY INAUGURATED IN ROMANIA

Reformed Church Bishop Laszlo Toekes inaugurated the Partium Christian University for ethnic Hungarians in Oradea on 11 September, Romanian Radio reported. The university will comprise both religious and non-religious faculties and will have some 700 students. It is to be funded by private donations and the Hungarian government. Asked by Romanian Television to respond to the opening of the new university, Education Minister Andrei Marga said he "knows nothing" about it. MS

JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED IN ROMANIA

Unknown perpetrators recently desecrated two tombstones in the Galati Jewish cemetery, Romanian Television reported on 13 September. The same day, "Cotidianul" reported that a cross was erected by followers of Iron Guard leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu at Tancabesti, where the Romanian fascist leader was assassinated in 1938 on the order of King Carol II. MS

KOSOVA MERCENARIES RECRUITED IN MOLDOVA?

Stefan Uratu, chairman of the Moldovan Helsinki Committee on Human Rights, told journalists on 13 September that Moldovan mercenaries were recruited during the Kosova crisis and sent to fight on the side of the Yugoslav army. He said he has information on at least 20 cases of veterans of the Afghanistan war fighting with Yugoslav troops. The mercenaries, he noted, were paid $2,000 a month, Flux reported. Uratu also said that mercenaries from the Transdniester are being recruited to fight in "military conflicts in Russia" and that, according to unidentified sources, "some Transdniestrians" were involved in the recent terrorist acts in Moscow. MS

MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BULGARIA

Nikola Kljusev told journalists in Plodviv on 12 September that "there are many positive results" in relations between Bulgaria and Macedonia and "there is no reason why these relations should not continue developing in this direction," BTA reported. Kljusev was attending the inauguration of the Multinational Peace Force Southeastern Europe. He said that by the end of this month, Macedonia will receive from Bulgaria a second shipment of decommissioned military equipment. A final shipment is expected within a month or two. Visiting the military academy in Veliko Turnovo, northern Bulgaria, on 13 September, Macedonian Chief of Staff General Trajce Krstevski said the common aim of both armies was NATO membership and that the Macedonian military wished to "learn from the Bulgarian experience on military reform." MS




BETWEEN THE BIBLE AND THE TRADEMARK


By Michael Shafir

Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's announcement early last week that he is returning to the ranks of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) surprised many observers. Interpretations of that move ranged from the "biblical" to the "post-modern." According to "Pravda," society was witnessing the "Return of the Prodigal Son," whereas the more skeptical "Sme" predicted that the premier was about to launch a "Fight for KDH Trademark". Both head-lines appeared on 8 September and both were right, each in its own way. Which is another way of saying that both were equally wrong.

The "biblical" interpretation is "past-oriented," as political scientists might be inclined to say. It refers to Dzurinda's repeated declarations that it is "out of question" that the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) be dismembered into its five "mother parties"--the KDH, the Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Union, the Democratic Party, and the Green Party. Dzurinda, in fact, appears to have been defeated by KDH leader Jan Carnogursky, whose advocacy of the SDK as a loose alliance of the five "mother parties" seems to have been accepted by a humiliated premier.

On learning of Dzurinda's move, Carnogursky said it shows that "in Slovakia it is not possible to make politics without the KDH and that all attempts to liquidate the KDH, under whatever pretext, are bound to fail." Carnogursky's deputy, Vladimir Palko, appeared to add insult to injury, commenting that Dzurinda and the other SDK officials who followed him back into the ranks of the KDH, "had to make a choice between sacrificing their vision or their political future, and they decided to sacrifice the vision."

But did they really? The "future-oriented" or "trademark" interpretation begs to disagree. Its proponents are likely to admit that Dzurinda has been unable to defeat his adversary but are no less likely to remind those willing to listen of the old adage "if you can't beat them, join them." Or rather, "re-join them," in Dzurinda's particular case. The premier, according to this interpretation, is bound to launch a struggle to unseat Carnogursky. Unable to change the KDH "from without," Dzurinda will question his old- new party's policies "from within." And what he has in mind is no less than the transformation of the KDH from a "traditional" Christian-Democratic party with limited voter appeal into a modern formation able to appeal to much larger segments of the electorate.

There are several factors supporting this interpretation. On making his "return announcement," Dzurinda said on 6 September that his decision was prompted, among other things, by his desire to "halt the decreasing popularity" of the KDH. He added that the party "needs a new political agenda." What that agenda will be Dzurinda failed to specify. But it is noteworthy that when Carnogursky voted against a coalition agreement on education because he wanted religious teaching to be backed by state support, Dzurinda was unable to remove him as justice minister. Should he be able to undermine Carnogursky's position from within the KDH, things might look different next time.

No less important, Dzurinda retains his position as SDK chairman. At first glance, this may appear a disadvantage, since the KDH statutes prevent SDK officials from seeking leadership positions in the party. Dzurinda told journalists at his 6 September press conference that it is "too early" to say whether this provision will be changed. The timing is interesting. As in Hamlet's soliloquy deploring the fact that "The time is out of joint; O cursed spite/That ever I was born to set it right," Dzurinda's "too early" does not rule out "setting right" the course of the KDH in the not too distant future. His return to the party, he said, is aimed at changing the party's "orientation" to ensure that "it would not attempt to disengage from the SDK too much." As for challenging Carnogursky himself, it was, of course, "too early" to decide. Which is another way of saying that the decision has, in fact, been taken.

A "post-modern" scenario in Shakespearean costume, then? This is how Carnogursky read it. Following Dzurinda's return, he said, the party was likely to witness " a noble struggle" between two opinions on the movement's future. The struggle (or is it a battle?) seemed to have been over by 12 September, when the KDH's Executive Council decided that in the 2002 parliamentary elections the party will run either independently or in an election coalition. All observers agreed that this will be the death blow for the SDK and for Dzurinda personally. "Pravda" summed it up under the caption "Return to your grave, SDK." If one is to believe these observers, Dzurinda has turned into a Yorick searching for his own skull. Yet the premier vowed to "take arms" and pursue the struggle.

One thing is certain: no Shakespearean play is known to end with two kings ruling over the same kingdom. The question is which of the two, Dzurinda or Carnogursky, will prove willing to "trade his KDH kingdom" for a horse. For now, Carnogursky has kept the KDH's coat of arms all to himself. Or is it a trademark?


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