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Newsline - September 16, 1999




RUSSIA ROCKED BY ANOTHER APARTMENT EXPLOSION...

A truck parked next to an apartment building in the city of Volgodonsk in Rostov Oblast exploded on 16 September, killing 13 and injuring 115, according to the Emergencies Ministry as of the late morning local time. Both Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and a Federal Security Serviced spokesman said that terrorism is suspected. Two recent explosions at apartment buildings in Moscow left more than 200 people dead. JAC

...AS PRESIDENT RESHUFFLES GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL

Before meeting with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 16 September, Russian President Boris Yeltsin declared that Russia has the strength and means to put an end to terrorism and that one of its most essential tasks is to tighten security along the Chechen border, Interfax reported. Yeltsin also sent a telegram to Rostov Governor Vladimir Chub lamenting "the barbaric act," noting that "more attempts have been made to intimidate Russians, to spread fear and panic," ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 16 September, President Yeltsin dismissed Railways Minister Vladimir Starostenko and appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, who formerly held the job, in his place. JAC

MORE SUSPECTS IN MOSCOW BOMBING IN CUSTODY, CHECHNYA IMPLICATED

Moscow deputy police chief Aleksandr Vildyaev told reporters on 15 September that 27 persons are in custody in connection with the two recent bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow. According to Vildyaev, "Chechen fighters" were behind the explosions and were responsible for shipping some 19 tons of explosives, disguised as sugar, to Moscow. However, Interfax earlier cited unidentified law enforcement sources as saying the explosives transported in sugar sacks were labeled by a Cherkessk sugar mill. Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zhdanovich added the same day that "clues point to Chechnya" and that while investigators "may not yet have identified all" the culprits," he revealed that "officially, for the time being, I can only say that we know of two men." Vladimir Koslov, director of the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that one of the suspected culprits is known as Denis Saitakov. Reportedly, Saitakov stayed for some time at a base run by Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab. JAC

PUTIN AGAIN BLAMES CHECHNYA FOR MOSCOW BOMBINGS...

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 15 September again accused Chechnya of providing refuge for the perpetrators of the Moscow apartment building blasts, whom he said receive support from "Chechen extremist forces," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that Moscow will demand that Grozny hand over those those responsible. LF

...SAYS BLASTS AIMED AT UNDERMINING CIS

Also on 15 September, Putin told a meeting of CIS defense ministers in Moscow that "international terrorism" masquerading under Islamic religious slogans aims to destroy the CIS and establish military dictatorships in its former member states, Interfax reported. He said that Russia wants to forge a common policy with the Transcaucasus states in order to counter such attempts and hopes that Georgia and Azerbaijan will agree to do so. The defense ministers adopted a statement affirming their readiness to undertake joint actions to eliminate threats to their interests, noting that any actions aimed at undermining the stability of any CIS state will be regarded as a threat to their collective interests, according to Interfax. LF

ISLAMIC MILITANTS EXPELLED FROM DAGHESTAN?

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told Prime Minister Putin by telephone on 15 September that all "terrorists" have been driven out of Daghestan. But Sergeev added that several thousand Chechen- led militants are congregated at three locations on the Chechen side of the border between Chechnya and Daghestan. He vowed that the army is "fully ready" to repel any new incursion. Daghestan's State Council chairman Magomedali Magomedov similarly announced in Makhachkala on 15 September that the territory of the republic has been freed from guerrillas. LF

ARSON ATTACKS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA

Explosions damaged two cafes in Cherkessk, the capital of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and a third was burned down during the night of 14-15 September, Interfax reported. The owners of all three establishments were ethnic Karachais. Meanwhile, Vladimir Semenov, who was unofficially inaugurated as the republic's president on 14 September, has flown to Moscow for talks with the Russian leadership. Valentin Vlasov, whom in late July President Yeltsin appointed as acting president of the republic, has also returned to Moscow for consultations, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 September. LF

TATARSTAN HALTS CONSCRIPTION

Tatarstan's parliament on 15 September issued a decree suspending conscription to the Russian armed forces, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The decision was based on a report by military commissioner Rim Mustay that of the 43 draftees from Tatarstan who were sent to serve in Daghestan this summer, seven were killed. Parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin told Interfax that the deputies' demands to halt the sending of conscripts to Daghestan during their first year of service is justified in the light of Russian Defense Ministry statements that only trained volunteers are to sent to serve in trouble spots. LF

TATARSTAN'S PARLIAMENT SETS ELECTION DATES...

Also on 15 September, the parliament approved holding parliamentary elections on 19 December, at the same time as the elections to the Russian State Duma, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. President Mintimer Shaimiev argued that this will not impinge on Tatarstan's sovereignty and is more convenient for voters. LF

...APPROVES SWITCH TO LATIN ALPHABET

The parliament also passed in the third and final reading legislation on reverting to the use of the Latin alphabet, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The law was approved in the first reading in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). LF

PUTIN DISCUSSES CRIME, TERRORISM PREVENTION WITH IRISH PREMIER

Meeting in Moscow on 15 September, Russian Premier Putin and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, signed an agreement on combating crime and drug-trafficking. The two leaders discussed the recent bomb explosions in Russia, and Putin called for Irish law enforcement agencies to help in fighting terrorism in Russia, noting that those agencies have had "much experience" in this area. Economic issues were also on the agenda. According to Russian Radio, Putin noted that Russia's trade turnover with Ireland totaled almost $1 billion last year. JC

NEW RESIGNATION RUMORS DOG YELTSIN...

Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told "The New York Times" on 16 September that "Yeltsin's resignation would benefit the nation, the political parties and himself." He added that the Russian constitution gave Yeltsin "enormous powers, but "he has no authority over the country at all." He continued that if such a system of authority, which "does not extend beyond the Kremlin's walls," is preserved, then "we shall lose Russia." Stroev's remarks follow speculation in the press that Yeltsin is preparing to resign, which some analysts say would strengthen the hand of his anointed successor, Prime Minister Putin. However, "Moskovskii komsomolets," which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, reported on 15 September that its sources in the Kremlin believe that the presidential administration is now viewing All Russia-Fatherland leader Yevgenii Primakov favorably. They also claimed that Yeltsin's daughter and adviser Tatyana Dyachenko recently inquired about the legal procedure for an early transfer of presidential powers. JAC

...AS PRIMAKOV, LUZHKOV SPLIT TIPPED

The next day, "Moskovskii komsomlets" reported that according to its sources, at its next congress the Fatherland movement, led by Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, will transform itself into a political party with a rigid hierarchical structure and break up its alliance with All Russia. After elections to the State Duma, the new Fatherland party will nominate its own candidate for the 2000 presidential elections, mostly likely Luzhkov, and create its own parliamentary faction, the newspaper predicted. One reason for the pending split, according to the daily, is the vigorous activity on the part of Primakov, who had been expected to play a more ceremonial role not unlike that of a British monarch and leave election campaign work to his younger, healthier colleagues. Instead, Primakov has been going to the bloc's headquarters almost every day, convening meetings on election strategy and ordering the bloc's symbol re-designed. JAC

REGIONS REJECT DRAFT FEDERAL BUDGET

Federation Council Chairman Stroev panned the 2000 draft federal budget on 15 September, calling the document a budget "of an anemically sick country," Interfax reported. Stroev suggested that both legislative chambers participate in the drafting a new budget (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 August 1999). Stroev and other senators objected to the uneven split in revenues between the center and regions, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. According to the daily, the split under the current draft is 53 percent for the center, 47 percent for regions, although some governors are claiming it is 60-40. Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told the legislators that the federal center simply cannot afford a 50-50 revenue split because of its need to service the country's foreign debt. However, senators responded skeptically to that claim, according to the daily, insisting that the budget is unacceptable in its current form. JAC

NEW ROUND OF TALKS WITH LONDON CLUB CREDITORS BEGINS

Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 15 September began a new round of negotiations with London Club creditors on restructuring debts Russia inherited from the former Soviet Union. According to Interfax, Kasyanov admitted that the talks are proceeding with difficulty. Earlier, he had said that negotiations are likely to be protracted, requiring five to six rounds. Russia owes London Club creditors some $32 billion. Western sources close to the negotiations told the news agency that the Russia is hoping to have about 30 percent of its debt written off. JAC

RUSSIA TO CONTINUE KFOR PARTICIPATION...

UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner told Reuters that at a meeting in Moscow on 15 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov "did not mention Russian troops leaving KFOR. On the contrary, he reiterated his support for the operation." Ivanov dismissed earlier warnings by a senior Russian Defense Ministry official that Russia would pull out of KFOR. The official had claimed that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) would not meet its demilitarization deadline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). Kouchner said: "I hope the man from the Defense Ministry is mistaken and that the disarmament...will be effective as of 19 September." The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "despite the extremely difficult nature of regulating the situation [in Kosova], it is possible to move ahead with a political solution." Ivanov said that Kouchner can count on "full cooperation with Russia," AP reported. FS

...APPROVES INTRODUCTION OF GERMAN MARK IN KOSOVA

Kouchner said in Moscow on 15 September that he has convinced Russian officials, as well as the UN Security Council, that the German mark should be adopted as Kosova's currency, AP reported. He said: "The money that is coming into [Kosova] is the money of those Kosovars who are working in Germany, Switzerland, America, and other countries. And it is primarily in German marks," according to ITAR-TASS. FS

POLICE ENSURE LEADERSHIP TRANSITION AT TRANSNEFT

After Semen Vainshtok, newly appointed head of the giant pipeline company Transneft, was denied entry to his new place of employment on 16 September, a team of police officers forced their way into the company with saws so that Vainshtok could assume his duties, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). His predecessor, Vladimir Savelev, announced the same day that he is filing suit to appeal the government's decision to remove him. JAC




TRANSCAUCASUS PARLIAMENT CHAIRMEN MEET IN TBILISI

Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania and his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Karen Demirchian and Murtuz Alesqerov, took part in a meeting in Tbilisi on 15 September under the aegis of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Caucasus Press reported. PACE President Lord Russell Johnston also attended. Demirchian told journalists after the talks that regional conflicts, including Nagorno- Karabakh, were discussed. Zhvania said that it is planned to hold such meetings regularly. Meeting the previous day, Alesqerov and Zhvania had discussed integration of the South Caucasus states into European structures. Alesqerov told Turan that he asked Zhvania to support his request that Armenia and Azerbaijan be admitted simultaneously to full membership in the Council of Europe. LF

TBILISI AGAIN DENIES ARMS TRANSPORTED VIA GEORGIA TO RUSSIA...

The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 15 September denying three senior Russian officials' allegations that arms, ammunition, and mercenaries transit Georgia and Azerbaijan en route for Chechnya and Daghestan, possibly without the knowledge of the Georgian authorities, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Border Guards Department Head Valerii Chkheidze likewise denied those charges, saying that the demand to close the Russian-Georgian frontier is "groundless." Last week, Chkheidze had rejected Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev's calls to close the border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). Since then, Duma Defense and Security Committee chairman Roman Popkovich and senior Russian Defense Ministry official Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov have both repeated the claim that arms are being sent to Chechnya and Daghestan via the South Caucasus. LF

...WHILE NADAREISHVILI SAYS SUCH SHIPMENTS TAKING PLACE

Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile (which is composed of ethnic Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament elected in 1991), told Caucasus Press on 15 September that Abkhazia serves as a transit point for both arms and mercenaries entering Chechnya. Nadareishvili added that he believes the claims by some Russian politicians that Chechen guerrillas maintain training camps in Abkhazia. LF

GEORGIAN ANTHRAX EPIDEMIC SPREADS

Caucasus Press reported on 14 September, citing "Rezonansi," that three residents of the western Georgian town of Samtredia have been hospitalized with anthrax. Previous reported cases were confined to Tbilisi and Gardabani Raion, south of the capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1999). A spokesman for the Georgian Health Ministry said on 15 September that 42 people have been hospitalized with the disease in Tbilisi over the past month, AP reported. LF

KAZHEGELDIN'S ARREST WARRANT RETRACTED ON 'HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS'...

Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin told journalists in Almaty on 15 September that he annulled the warrant for the arrest of former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin "on humanitarian grounds" because of the latter's poor health, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 September 1999). Reuters quoted Khitrin as adding that Kazhegeldin agreed during a telephone conversation to answer the charges against him within one month. Leading members of Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan told journalists in Almaty on 15 September that Kazhegeldin's release constitutes a victory for their party and for nascent democracy in Kazakhstan (see also "End Note" below). LF

...AS MEDIA IMPLICATE HIM IN MIG SALE TO NORTH KOREA

Meanwhile on 15 September, Kazakh newspapers and Russia's "Komsomolskaya pravda" published a statement by Kazakhstan's National Security Committee claiming that Kazhegeldin was involved in the decision to sell MiG fighter aircraft to North Korea. Kazhegeldin's spokesman Igor Poberezhskii told RFE/RL that in 1996, Kazhegeldin had indeed approved the sale of those aircraft in his capacity as prime minister. However, the buyer countries were not specified, Poberezhskii said, adding that responsibility for selling the MiGs to North Korea lies with the present government of Kazakhstan. LF

NO BREAKTHROUGH IN KYRGYZ HOSTAGE CRISIS

Human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov, who is mediating between the Kyrgyz government and the ethnic Uzbek guerrillas holding 13 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 15 September that during his last talks with the guerrillas on 13-14 September, he did not see the hostages. Interfax quoted Akunov as saying that those hostages are "far away," but there is "a real chance" of securing their release. Akunov told RFE/RL that the guerrillas' leader, Yunus Abdrakmanov, demanded free passage into Uzbekistan for himself and his men and repeated his willingness for talks with the Kyrgyz government, without explaining his exact negotiating position. Although Abdrakmanov had promised that the guerrillas would not attack Kyrgyz troops before the next round of talks, tentatively scheduled for next week, a detachment of some 25 Kyrgyz troops came under fire near Batken on 15 September, AP reported. There were no casualties in that attack. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S PRESIDENT MAY NOT RUN FOR THIRD TERM

"Der Tagesspiegel" on 15 September quoted Askar Akaev as saying once again that he may not run for a third presidential term next year. Akaev told the Berlin daily that someone younger should take over the presidential duties, after which he would return to academic work. Akaev told Interfax last December that he has not yet decided whether to seek a third term as president. LF




LUKASHENKA CANCELS HARVEST FESTIVALS

Following a 15 September cabinet meeting devoted to the situation in the agricultural sector, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has decided to cancel the national harvest festival in Shklou and all oblast harvest festivals, Belarusian Television reported. The station cited no reason for this decision. Belarusian media reported earlier that this year's harvest totaled some 3.7 million tons, far below the projected target of 6 million tons. JM

DIASPORA CALLS FOR AID TO BELARUS TO DEPEND ON HUMAN RIGHTS

On 15 September in New York, a session of the Presidium of the Belarusian Democratic Republic Council, which represents the Belarusian diaspora in the West, adopted an appeal "On Financial Assistance to the Republic of Belarus," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The forum urged Western governments and international financial organizations to make financial assistance to Belarus conditional on the country's compliance with international human rights standards, the release of political prisoners, and the return to the rule of law. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES PRESIDENT'S VETO ON BUDGET BILL

Lawmakers have overridden President Leonid Kuchma's veto on a bill introducing amendments to the 2000 budget, the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported on 16 September. The amendments, adopted by the parliament in June, provided for additional allocations to pay wage arrears to teachers, finance the agricultural sector, and increase the financing of the presidential elections. The parliament also rejected a presidential bill on additional sources of revenues to pay wage and pension arrears as "overtly populist." Kuchma proposed state-owned assets such as non-arable land, sanatoriums, spas, and hotels be sold to raise funds for this purpose. JM

ALL ESTONIAN SOLDIERS TO BE INSURED

Defense Minister Juri Luik announced on 15 September that all Estonian military personnel will be insured. The Defense Ministry's 2000 budget for next year has allocated more than 3 million kroons ($200,000) for this purpose, BNS reported. The ministry will soon announce a tender for the insurance policy package, Estonian media reported. MH

LASCO CONFUSION FORCES LATVIA TO ISSUE EUROBOND

The government announced on 15 September that it will issue bonds for 75 million euros ($77.9 million) in October. Finance Minister Edmunds Krastins explained that the "delay in privatization matters" means expected revenues will not be forthcoming for an indefinite period, LETA reported. The proceeds from the sale of the Latvian Shipping Company (LASCO) are included for spending in the 1999 budget, but intra-coalition disputes have held up the sale (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June and 18 August 1999). Meanwhile, the decision to issue the bonds in October is reportedly to offset any possible disruptions in the global financial market due to the so-called millennium bug. MH

VILNIUS TO HOST CONFERENCE ON IGNALINA SHUTDOWN

Lithuanian Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis told journalists on 15 September that an international donors conference will take place in Vilnius this fall on the shutdown of the Ignalina nuclear power plant. ELTA reported that the initial scheme to fund the shutdown foresees the EU covering about half of the costs for the first unit at Ignalina. The government recently announced that it will close that unit in 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1999). Maldeikis also said that the EU will issue grants worth 200 million euros ($209 million) over the next decade to finance the closure of the first unit and will provide possibly some 10 million euros for further safety improvements at Ignalina. Experts believe that closing the first unit will cost some 10 billion litas ($2.5 billion), excluding compensating the town of Visaginas, where most of Ignalina's employees live, for its ensuing losses. MH

POLAND, RUSSIA DIFFER OVER 1939 SOVIET INVASION

Russia's Foreign Ministry on 14 September issued a statement saying the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939 was "dictated not so much by the wish to gain new territories as by the need to protect our own country," PAP reported. The ministry took issue with the comparison of the Soviet invasion to Nazi Germany's attack on Poland on 1 September 1939. It also accused "certain circles in Poland" of politicizing the issue in order to claim reparations. Poland's Foreign Ministry responded on 15 September by saying that the Soviet annexation of eastern Poland in 1939 bore the "hallmarks of aggression," as defined in the London Convention of 1933, to which the USSR was a signatory. The Polish ministry added that Polish-Russian relations "cannot be built on a denial of historical truths." JM

CZECH PREMIER HAILS ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

"We have fulfilled our promise and have taken the country out of the [economic] crisis," Prime Minister Milos Zeman told "Lidove noviny" on 15 September. He was responding to data released by the Central Statistics Office, according to which GDP in the second quarter of 1999 grew by 0.3 percent. Zeman said that this is "the happiest day" since his Social Democratic Party took over power one year ago. "Until now I and the entire cabinet were like a pilot approaching the earth in a falling plane. Now the pilot sees blue skies," CTK reported him as commenting. MS

BAHAMAS REINTRODUCE VISA REQUIREMENT FOR CZECHS

The Bahamas on 15 September announced the re-introduction of a visa requirement for Czech citizens. A spokeswoman for the Bahamas embassy in London told CTK that the Bahamas have unilaterally abolished visa requirements for a number of countries but the requirements have been re-introduced for the Czech Republic, as well as Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Russia, because those countries did not reciprocate. In late August the Bahamas, a member of the Commonwealth, introduced visa requirements for Slovaks. It explained that the step was in line with similar measures introduced by the U.K., which last year introduced the requirement for Slovak citizens to halt an influx of Roma seeking asylum there. MS

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER PROMISES COMEBACK

"After last year's election, I firmly intended not to return to politics, but since the new government has made a lot of blunders, an increasing number of people want my return," Vladimir Meciar told the Austrian daily "Die Presse" on 15 September. He said that early elections are very likely and that in the meantime, social unrest cannot be ruled out because the government's economic policies are "disastrous," CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK POLITICIAN TO SET UP NEW PARTY

Robert Fico, whom the polls show to be the most popular politician in Slovakia, announced on 15 September he is leaving the Democratic Left Party and will set up a new political formation, CTK reported. He said that until the new party is established, he will be an independent deputy in the parliament. His departure does not affect the government parliamentary majority, which now has 92 out of 150 deputies belonging to the ruling four-party coalition. MS

MONTENEGRO PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 15 September told visiting Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic that Hungary would like to see Montenegro join the OSCE and the Council of Europe, Hungarian media reported. Djukanovic said Montenegro continues to rely on Hungarian political and economic help. He said that the efforts of the Vojvodina ethnic Hungarian minority to gain autonomy are "legitimate." "I believe we have a common enemy, the last anti-democratic and dictatorial regime in Europe, which not only wants to strangle the autonomy of Vojvodina but also totally ignores Montenegro," Djukanovic said in reference to the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. MS




MONTENEGRO: NO SIGN OF COMPROMISE FROM MILOSEVIC

Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Paris on 15 September that his government has received "no sign that [Yugoslav] President Slobodan Milosevic is ready for talks about [Montenegro's] demand for more autonomy within the Yugoslav federation," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Meanwhile in Budapest, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic charged that Milosevic is bent on destabilizing Montenegro and replacing the current government with "puppets." Djukanovic added that outsiders should not pin too great hopes on the Serbian opposition, noting that only the Serbs can bring democracy to Serbia. He told his hosts that Montenegro will seek admission to the OSCE and the Council of Europe, even though it is not an independent country, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. He also said that Malev and Montenegro Airlines will begin flights between Budapest and Podgorica in October. PM

UN INTERVIEWS CANDIDATES FOR KOSOVA CORPS

The UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 15 September began interviewing applicants for positions in the Kosova Corps, a UN spokeswoman told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina. The IOM has so far registered over 10,700 applicants, most of them former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) fighters. The Kosova Corps will have a staff of 5,000, including 2,000 reservists. KFOR spokesman Ole Irgens said the corps will not be a military or defense force, nor will it be in charge of implementing the law or maintaining public order and security. FS

KFOR GENERAL SAYS KOSOVA IS DEVELOPING 'VERY WELL'

Major- General Pierre Giuseppe Giovanetti, who is the deputy head of KFOR, told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Tirana on 15 September that "the general situation in Kosova is going very well. Going very well means that the level of incidents have decreased [considerably]. We are sure that we [will see] a big improvement in the near future." Giovanetti added that KFOR expects the UCK to meet its demilitarization deadline of 19 September. Referring to recent threats by Yugoslav Army General Vladimir Lazarevic to retake Kosova by force, Giovanetti said the Yugoslav Army is "not a threat to NATO" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). He explained that the June military-technical agreement between NATO and the Yugoslav authorities envisages the return of several hundred Serbian police to Kosova, but he pointed out that this is not going to happen until "the atmosphere permits." FS

KFOR DISCOVER WEAPONS CACHES

A KFOR official said in Prishtina on 15 September that the peacekeeping troops raided homes in various regions of Kosova that day and confiscated arms, explosives, and ammunition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. U.S. soldiers arrested three Serbs near Gjilan, who were in possession of "large amounts" of weapons. In Shtrpce, Polish soldiers arrested another Serb in possession of arms and a Serbian paramilitary police uniform. Meanwhile, "The Daily Telegraph" on 16 September quoted an unnamed high-ranking NATO official as saying that UCK commanders are seeking ways of keeping some of the organization intact and are "squirreling away" some of its guns. FS

BRITISH RAILWAY WORKERS SEND HUMANITARIAN TRAIN TO KOSOVA

The Train of Events charity, a group of still active and retired British railway workers, have loaded a train with humanitarian aid for Kosova. Representatives of the organization told Reuters on 15 September that it will be "the first time" that a train runs directly from Britain to the former Yugoslavia. The "Train for Life" is scheduled to leave Britain on 17 September. It will carry 800 tons of aid, including supplies to equip a school. The train's three locomotives will be donated to the UN Mission in Kosova to help deliver winter housing materials. FS

REFUGEES FROM PRESEVO LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE IN MACEDONIA

Ethnic Albanian refugees from the Serbian town of Presevo recently began a hunger strike in the refugee camp of Cegrane, near Gostivar, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported on 15 September. The refugees demand that either they be transferred to third countries while the UNHCR prepares their return to Presevo or the UNHCR opens a refugee camp for them in Kosova. UNHCR spokesman Bujar Idrizi said "the UNHCR cannot organize their return to...Presevo, because it cannot guarantee their security there." On 14 September, the Macedonian government ruled that residency permits of all refugees will expire on 28 September. Idrizi, however, said that "the UNHCR will negotiate with the Macedonian government [and demand] that all refugees who cannot return now to their homes will have their residency rights extended." FS

CLARK DEFENDS WAR RECORD

NATO's Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark told NATO ambassadors that the alliance's spring bombing campaign was highly effective. He argued that pilots hit 181 Serbian tanks, of which 93 were destroyed. A diplomat who attended the closed-door presentation in Brussels on 15 September told Reuters that Clark delivered an "impressive report. [He and his staff] clearly applied very rigorous accounting standards" in determining how effective the air strikes were. Reuters suggested that Clark's presentation was intended to counter Yugoslav claims that NATO destroyed only 13 Serbian tanks during the bombing campaign. PM

KARADZIC REPORT JUST 'PROPAGANDA?'

A spokesman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said in Sarajevo on 15 September that a Muslim daily's recent report of a public appearance by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic is "incorrect," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). The spokesman suggested that Sarajevo's "Dnevni avaz" had published the story as "propaganda" to show that the international community has grossly neglected the task of catching war criminals and bringing them to justice. Mensur Osmovic, who is the editor-in-chief of "Avaz," told the news agency that he stands by his story. He stressed that "this is not about propaganda." PM

SESELJ'S PARTY MAY FACE BAN IN BOSNIA

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has drawn up legal measures to ban Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party from the Bosnian Serb entity, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 16 September. Dodik is only waiting for an "opportune moment" to make the ban public, an unnamed "high official of the international community" told "Vesti." The ban would also remove 11 Radicals from the parliament. It is unclear whether new parliamentary elections would be necessary as a result. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke recently called for a ban on the Radicals and on Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party on the grounds that they propagate ethnic hatred, which is banned under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement. PM

ALBANIA'S NANO BLASTS MAJKO FOR SUPPORTING BUKOSHI'S FIGHTERS...

Former Prime Minister Fatos Nano has accused his successor, Pandeli Majko, of having allowed the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova (FARK) of Kosovar shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi to smuggle arms through Albania before and during the recent Kosova conflict. Nano made the remarks in a speech to supporters in Fier on 15 September, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Nano said that Majko allowed FARK to train on Albanian territory. The former premier charged that Majko did so even though he knew that FARK was involved in arms smuggling and in an armed uprising by the Albanian opposition one year ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). FS

...WHILE SOCIALIST PARTY TO LOOK INTO ALLEGATIONS

Gramoz Ruci, who heads the Socialist faction in the parliament, told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent on 15 September that legislators will discuss Nano's allegations at a special session. He pledged that "if there is such information, the Socialist Party structures will respond in an appropriate way." Jolos Beja, who is a Socialist deputy from Fier and head of the parliamentary commission dealing with emergency aid for Kosova, said that "Nano [must] give the National Information Service (SHIK) the documents that prove his charges." FS

BUCHAREST COURT DENIES REGISTRATION TO FORMER PREMIER'S PARTY

Former Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 15 September said that the decision of the Bucharest Appeals Court the previous day to refuse registration to his National Christian Democratic Alliance (ANCD) is "illegal, unconstitutional, and undemocratic," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The court upheld an appeal by the Prosecutor-General's Office and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) against the party's registration on grounds that its emblem too closely resembles that of the PNTCD (from which the ANCD split in April) and on several procedural grounds. The Bucharest Tribunal, which decided to grant registration on 28 July, is to review the registration application once the ANCD has dealt with the objections raised against it. Ciorbea appealed to President Emil Constantinescu, saying he must seek to stop political intervention in the judiciary. MS

ROMANIA DENIES INTENTION TO IMPOSE VISA REQUIREMENT ON MOLDOVANS

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Simona Miculescu said reports in the Moldovan press that Romania intends to impose visa requirements for Moldovan citizens are "speculation" aimed at "creating tension between the citizens of the two states," Flux reported on 15 September. She noted that both countries are striving for integration into the EU, which "means that in the future they will both be part of the Schengen agreements." Miculescu added that the process of integration is "long and complex" and involves "certain regulations on border crossing." She added, however, that Romania's "political will" is to have "privileged relations" with Moldova, meaning that "there will be no restrictions on traffic between the two banks of the River Prut." MS

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA

Nursultan Nazarbaev and his Bulgarian counterpart, Petar Stoyanov, meeting in Sofia on 15 September, signed seven bilateral agreements and a declaration on promoting cooperation and friendship, BTA reported. The declaration notes the "strategic importance" of the TRACECA project, which will provide access for the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus to the trans- European and trans-Asian transport networks, and of the Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe Program (INOGATE). Nazarbaev said his country is ready to compete with OPEC countries in supplying crude oil to Europe if pipelines between Bulgaria and other Balkan countries are built. Premier Ivan Kostov told journalists that Nazarbaev showed "great interest" in the planned Bourgas-Alexandropolis pipeline project, but "I was surprised to learn that I was the first one to have told him about it," he added. MS

IMF RELEASES TRANCHE TO BULGARIA

The IMF on 15 September released a $72 million tranche of its three-year $860 million stand-by credit to Bulgaria, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer said the fund's executive board noted that the Kosova crisis has had an impact on Bulgaria and that the closure of inefficient state enterprises has entailed new social costs for the country. Fischer said the IMF is urging Bulgaria to complete its privatization program. MS




WILL FORMER PREMIER'S DETENTION IMPACT ON KAZAKHSTAN'S ELECTIONS?


By Liz Fuller

On 17 September, the population of Kazakhstan will elect members of the Senate--the upper house of the parliament--in the first round of parliamentary elections. A second round of voting, for the 77 seats in the Mazhilis, the lower house, is scheduled for 10 October.

The runup to the elections has been dominated by the uncertainty of whether one of Kazakhstan's most prominent and charismatic opposition figures, former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, would be permitted to run as a candidate. A 47- year-old economist, Kazhegeldin presided over Kazakhstan's privatization program for three years before resigning as premier in October 1997, reportedly for health reasons. In 1998, he founded a political party to defend the interests of Kazakhstan's industrialists and businessmen and in October of that year declared his intention to contend the pre-term January 1999 presidential election.

Kazhegeldin accused incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev of authoritarianism, nepotism, and indifference to human rights. He advocated creating a coalition government to reverse the economic downturn, rising unemployment, and the increasing impoverishment of the population, trends that he predicted could result in mass social unrest. Kazhegeldin, however, was barred from running in the presidential elections on the grounds that he committed "an administrative offense" by participating in an unsanctioned demonstration. The OSCE and the U.S. subsequently termed the poll, in which Nazarbaev was re-elected by almost 80 percent of voters, "deeply flawed" and falling far short of OSCE standards.

In March, Kazakhstan's parliament adopted an election law that introduced 10 seats in the Mazhilis that are to be contested under the proportional system. But both the OCSE and opposition parties criticized other provisions of that legislation, including the $1,000 registration fee for parliamentary candidates and the ban on persons running for office who have committed an "administrative offense." The parliament in June approved amendments proposed by President Nazarbaev reducing the registration fee and abolishing the ruling on administrative offenses.

Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan (KRKhP) was formally registered by the Ministry of Justice in July and announced it would contend the Mazhilis elections. But in April, the Prosecutor-General's Office had brought charges of tax evasion and illegal acquisition of real estate in Belgium against the former premier, who had left Kazakhstan late in 1998. Kazhegeldin has denied those charges, which he terms politically motivated.

On 9 September, the deadline for registration, Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission refused to register Kazhegeldin's candidacy because the charges of tax evasion against him had not been lifted. He headed the KRKhP list of 10 candidates for the 10 party-list seats in the Mazhilis. His party responded that it will boycott the elections. Six of its members, however, are to run in single-mandate constituencies.

On10 September, Russia police detained Kazhegeldin on his arrival at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport, saying the Kazakh authorities were demanding his extradition. Kazhegeldin was hospitalized after suffering a suspected heart attack but told RFE/RL from his hospital bed that he traveled to Moscow en route for Kazakhstan following published assurances by Kazakhstan's ambassador in Washington that he is free to return to Kazakhstan, and that no legal measures will be taken against him if he does so. On 15 September, Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin announced that the charges against Kazhegeldin have been dropped "on humanitarian grounds" and that he is free to return to Kazakhstan.

Kazhegeldin's detention sparked protest demonstrations in Almaty and was denounced by prominent opposition figures, including Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin. The Communist Party, together with the Orleu (Progress) movement and the Association of Russian, Slavic, and Cossack Associations, is aligned with the KRKhP in the Republika election bloc formed in July. Those parties have pledged not to compete against one another in the single-mandate constituencies.

A total of 565 candidates from 10 parties have registered to contend the parliamentary poll. Russian observers predict that the pro-presidential Otan party and the Civic Party, which claims to represent businessmen and industrialists, will garner the lion's share of the vote in the Mazhilis, followed by the Communist Party. In the Senate elections, 33 candidates will contest 16 seats.

The removal of the threat posed by Kazhegeldin and his party does not necessarily guarantee a decisive election victory for Otan, however. (Otan's proclaimed objective is to replace the existing government with one both willing to and capable of implementing Nazarbaev's economic policies.) Kazhegeldin's supporters can vote for whichever opposition party they consider has the best chance of competing with Otan, or they can vote for no one in protest.

How many are likely to choose the latter option is difficult to predict. The political situation in Kazakhstan is characterized by a high degree of resentment among the impoverished majority of the population against an oligarchy centered on Nazarbaev. That oligarchy, many observers both in Kazakhstan and abroad believe, is prepared to defy the international community by rigging the elections in order to cling to power.

But that resentment is accompanied by widespread political passivity. To date, popular resentment has found an outlet in protest demonstrations against employers' or local authorities' failure to pay wages and pensions rather than in support for opposition parties. Indeed, the results of a recent opinion poll showed that more than half the respondents could not name even a single political party. One in five said they do not support any political party, while Otan received the highest approval rating with 17 percent.




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