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Newsline - November 10, 1999




RUSSIA HOPES FOR DECEMBER DISBURSEMENT OF IMF FUNDS...

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 9 November that the IMF mission currently visiting Moscow wants to complete its work on 12 November. However, mission head Gerard Berlanger told reporters the same day that his team is not yet ready to evaluate its talks with Russian officials. Khristenko predicted earlier that the second installment of the IMF's loan to Russia would be disbursed mid-December. "Kommersant-Daily" suggested on 9 November that key issues in this round of talks will be the liberalization of oil product exports and the audit of the Central Bank. Before the mission arrived, Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi declared that the fund's insistence that limits on oil product exports be removed is a non-starter because the center must ensure that regions have sufficient fuel supplies (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 November 1999). JAC

...AS ALLEGEDLY PRO-RUSSIA ADVOCATE SET TO LEAVE

Russian newspapers commented on the announced departure of IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus from his post at the beginning of 2000. "Segodnya" noted on 10 November that the beginning of Russian economic reforms coincided with the beginning of Camdessus era, while "Vremya MN" reported the same day that Camdessus "came into conflict with the U.S. administration over the introduction by the Group of Seven of political conditions for credits to Russia." JAC

TOP KREMLIN OFFICIAL SAYS PUTIN'S TENURE NOT UP YET

Asked to comment on rumors about the possible departure of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, first deputy head of the administration Igor Shabdurasulov told Mayak Radio on 9 November that "no dismissals are under discussion." He added that such rumors are being spread "deliberately" by people "playing a very dirty game." Boris Kagarlitskii of the Institute of Comparative Political Studies told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that rumors of a rift between Putin and business magnate Boris Berezovskii may have been initiated by the Kremlin to give Putin more support since Berezovskii is so unpopular. Kagarlitskii also predicted that Putin's popularity ratings are likely to drop soon as the public begins to realize that an all-out victory in Chechnya is unlikely. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 November, Putin said "if you think about whether or not you will be dismissed, there will be no time left for work." JAC

YAVLINSKII AGAIN CALLS FOR PEACE TALKS WITH CHECHNYA

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, who has repeatedly protested the Russian military campaign in Chechnya, issued a statement on 9 November calling for a halt to Russian bombing raids and ground operations, Interfax reported. Yavlinskii advocated beginning peace talks on the liberation of all hostages, an end to abductions, the handover to Moscow of all internationally wanted terrorists, and measures to disarm military formations that are not subordinate to the current Chechen government. Yavlinskii had argued earlier this month that the time had come to begin peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1999). LF

SHOIGU SAYS THERE IS NO HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE

Speaking in Moscow on 8 November after talks with G-7 ambassadors, Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu said Russia is capable of resolving the problems that have arisen in the North Caucasus without outside help, according to Interfax. He denied that the exodus of civilians from Chechnya constitutes a humanitarian catastrophe but said that Moscow is ready to consider offers of humanitarian aid from international organizations. LF

U.S. NGO CALLS FOR EVACUATION OF CHECHEN NON-COMBATANTS

Also on 8 November, the Washington-based Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe appealed to Russian President Yeltsin and to Chechen President Maskhadov to declare the towns of Shatoi, Shali, and Goity and the villages of Starye Atagi, Nozhai-Yurt, and Benoi a safety zone or neutral zone in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Tens of thousands of fleeing civilians from Grozny and other locations in Chechnya have taken refuge in those towns and villages. The institute also called on the international community to pressure Russia to allow the evacuation of all civilians from Grozny and other besieged towns. LF

RUSSIA RESTRICTS TRAVEL TO NORTH CAUCASUS...

Russian Prime Minister Putin signed a government resolution on 9 November outlining what were termed temporary measures to prevent the transport of arms and foreign mercenaries to Chechnya. Those measures include the suspension of flights between southern Russia and Georgia, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, Qatar, and Iran; the closure of Russian border crossings with Georgia and Azerbaijan to foreigners, except those who are citizens of other CIS member states; intensified searches of shipping entering the port of Makhachkala; and a blanket ban on imports to Chechnya. LF

...DENIES REQUESTING USE OF GEORGIAN AIRSPACE

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 10 November rejecting as "groundless" claims by President Eduard Shevardnadze and other Georgian officials that Moscow asked permission to launch strikes on Chechnya from Russian bases in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1999). LF

GEORGIA RESTRICTS VISAS FOR CITIZENS OF MUSLIM COUNTRIES

Georgian Border Department commander Valerii Chkheidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 November that Georgia's consulates have "practically stopped" issuing entry or transit visas to citizens of 21 countries including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Marocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, and Tunisia. Chkheidze said that measure is in response to repeated Russian accusations that mercenaries from those countries are entering Chechnya via Georgia. LF

TURKEY EXPRESSES CONCERN AT POSSIBLE CHECHEN SPILLOVER

In a statement issued in Ankara on 10 November, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem expressed concern lest the ongoing Russian military offensive in Chechnya compound instability elsewhere in the Caucasus, Reuters reported. LF

SPAS BUYS TIME...

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 November that attorneys for the Spas (Salvation) election alliance are "doing everything possible to drag out the legal process" recently initiated by the Justice Ministry, which hopes to have the group's registration for the upcoming State Duma elections invalidated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1999). The Spas bloc is headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the ultra-nationalist group Russian National Unity. The daily commented that "for Justice Ministry officials, who would like the matter resolved quickly, the tactics of their opponents were a genuine surprise." On 9 November, a Moscow court judge devoted more than four hours to hearing the claims presented by Spas attorneys. JAC

...AS OTHER MOVEMENTS' FATE HANGS IN BALANCE

The previous day, "Vremya MN" reported that the number of election movements, parties, and blocs registered to participate in the 19 December elections may decrease by election day, because a party or movement will be disqualified if more than 25 percent of its candidates are excluded from its electoral list. Three parties are already close to this level: the Union of Rightist Forces, Our Home Is Russia, and Ivan Rybkin's Socialist Party, according to the daily (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1999). Some 28 blocs and parties are currently registered to take part in the upcoming ballot. JAC

ELECTION MONITORING BEGINS

The OSCE on 9 November officially began observing preparations for the upcoming State Duma elections, following the arrival in Moscow of Edward Brunner, the head of the OSCE delegation, Interfax reported. The observer mission is expected to consist of about 500 people, who will reportedly visit "every part" of Russia. According to the Foreign Ministry, the Duma elections will be observed by as many as 1,200 international monitors. JAC

MOSCOWS URGES END TO 'BLOC MENTALITY' IN EUROPE

In a statement marking the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that the anniversary is a good occasion to "think about the inadmissibility of drawing new dividing lines in Europe and reviving thinking based on bloc affiliation," ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 9 November. He urged joint efforts to deal with contemporary challenges. JC

FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES PLANS TO HAND OVER KURILS

The Foreign Ministry on 9 November denied that Moscow is planning to begin handing over the Kuril Islands to Japan. A ministry spokesman was quoted by Russian agencies as saying that Moscow believes it is necessary to seek a "mutually acceptable" solution to the Kurils issue that would not be "detrimental to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation." That statement followed a press conference earlier the same day at which Chairman of the State Duma Security Committee Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) had announced that by 2000 President Boris Yeltsin might gradually transfer the islands to Japan. Ilyukhin claimed that Yeltsin and former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto had reached agreement on this at their informal meeting last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1998). Ilyukhin told journalists that he has submitted to the Duma Council a draft statement "warning" the president about his "equivocal position" over the Kurils. JC

RUSSIA TO SCRAP 18 NUCLEAR SUBS NEXT YEAR

Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Valerii Lebedev told the International Forum of Northern Territories in St. Petersburg on 9 November that next year Russia plans to scrap 18 nuclear submarines out of a total of 107 earmarked for dismantling. Lebedev acknowledged that existing technologies available to Russia do not permit the process of scrapping the submarines to be speeded up, but he noted that the ministry's research centers are working on a new concept for their disposal. According to Lebedev, some 500 million rubles ($19 million) in federal funds were allotted this year for dismantling the submarines but that current funding was 80 percent of that level. JC

CYPRUS FOR BANKING, GREECE FOR SAFE HAVEN?

Following a number of reports that well-known Russian politicians and businessmen, some with criminal ties, have Greek passports, the Greek government has ordered an inquiry into the matter, AFP reported on 9 November. Russian election commission officials discovered that both Sergei Mikhailov, whose alias in organized crime circles is allegedly "Mikhas," and Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov have dual Greek- Russian citizenship (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 November 1999). Bykov was arrested by Hungarian authorities on an international warrant for money laundering and other charges. A prominent foe of Bykov, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed, also has a Greek passport and drivers' license. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 November, other Russian citizens with Greek passports include three members of a crime group based in Kurgan Oblast, one accused murderer, and one embezzler. JAC

SUICIDES INCREASING

Six percent more Russians committed suicide during the first half of 1999 compared with the same period last year, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 9 November. According to the daily, a "suicide epidemic" began in October 1998 because of the mid-August financial crisis. One of the leading causes of suicide are workplace conflicts. The newspaper also noted that men are four times more likely than women to commit suicide. JAC

BLACK GOLD EXPORTS TO SHRINK

Smaller fishing quotas in the Caspian will force Russia to slash its black caviar exports this year, Interfax reported on 9 November citing Deputy Chairman of the State Fisheries Committee Vladimir Izmailov. So far in 1999, Russia has caught less than half the amount of sturgeon compared with the previous year. Black caviar production will likely total only 100 tons this year compared with 120 tons produced only for export last year. JAC




TALKS ON NEW ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT DEADLOCKED?

President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Aram Sargsian have agreed that the security portfolios in the new cabinet should go to career professionals with no political affiliation, but they still disagree over the future of Vahan Shirkhanian, who is minister for industrial infrastructures in the outgoing cabinet, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 November quoting a source close to the Armenian government. A former deputy defense minister, Shirkhanian was close to murdered Premier Vazgen Sargsian (Aram's elder brother). Kocharian reportedly opposes his being given a new cabinet post. The disagreement over Shirkhanian is reportedly delaying the announcement of the composition of the new cabinet, which is expected this week. The current ministers dealing with economic issues will remain in their posts to underscore the government's continued commitment to market reforms, the source said. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ALLOWS DEPUTY'S ARREST IN CONNECTION WITH SHOOTINGS

Deputies voted on 10 November to lift the immunity of independent legislator Mushegh Movsisian, who can now be charged with involvement in the 27 October shootings of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and seven others, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian told the parliament that the leader of the five gunmen who committed the killings implicated Movsisian, claiming that the latter began planning the murders last March. Movsisian has denied any involvement in the killings. Ten people have now been detained in connection with the murders, according to Noyan Tapan on 9 March. LF

KAZAKHSTAN ROCKET LAUNCH BAN MAY AFFECT INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

Nurlan Utembaev, who is deputy head of Kazakhstan's National Space Committee, told Reuters in Almaty on 9 November that the temporary ban on launches of Russian Proton rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan may delay the launch of a module that is to form part of new International space station. That launch is scheduled for December or January. Utembaev said the ban on Proton rocket launches could be lifted "fairly soon" after completion of the investigation into the explosion of a Proton rocket shortly after blastoff on 27 October. But Meirbek Moldabekov, who is director of Kazakhstan's Space Agency, said that no Proton launches will be allowed before February or March, AP reported on 9 November, citing Interfax. Also on 9 November, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov told RFE/RL correspondents that Kazakhstan will demand substantial financial compensation from Russia for the 27 October disaster. He said that Russia receives $70-90 million for each commercial Proton rocket launch, whereas all Kazakhstan gets is ecological damage. LF

KAZAKHSTAN ADOPTS NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY

President Nursultan Nazarbaev chaired a session of the National Security Council on 9 November that adopted a new national security strategy for the period until 2005, Interfax reported. That document identifies the most serious short- and long-term threats to the country in the foreign, military, economic, political, social, environmental, and information spheres. Journalists were not admitted to the session, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT NAMES NEW TOP SECURITY OFFICIAL

Askar Akaev on 9 November appointed 56-year-old Tashtemir Aitbaev as minister of national security, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. A former Kirghiz Komsomol first secretary, Aitbaev served as deputy KGB chairman and then as a Kirghiz Communist Party Central Committee secretary in the late 1980s. In that latter capacity, he expressed support for the unsuccessful August 1991 putsch. Aitbaev replaces Misir Ashirkulov, who was named on 5 November to head the presidential administration. Akaev on 9 November also named Tilekmek MeimanAliyev Minister of Health Care and appointed Colonel Anarbek Shamkeev commander of the Interior Ministry forces. The previous commander resigned in September after he was taken hostage and then released by ethnic Uzbek guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan. LG

KYRGYZSTAN DENIES THEFT OF HOSTAGES' RANSOM

An unidentified spokesman for the Kyrgyz presidential administration denied on 9 November Japanese media reports that Kyrgyz and Tajik officials embezzled part of the multi-million dollar ransom allegedly paid by the Japanese government to secure the release of four Japanese geologists taken hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan in August, ITAR-TASS reported. Japan's "Mainichi Shimbun" on 9 November had claimed that Tokyo paid $3 million under the guise of Official Development Assistance to ransom the four hostages, according to dpa. In Dushanbe, Tajikistan's Minister for Emergency Situations Mirzo Zieyev, who helped negotiate the hostages' release, told Reuters that "as a Muslim" the leader of the guerrillas who seized the hostages freed them "without asking for or receiving any money." LF

TAJIK NATIONAL RECONCILIATION COMMISSION RECONVENES

The Commission for National Reconciliation convened on 9 November to discuss the work of its joint committees charged with drafting legislation on the media and the conduct of parliamentary elections scheduled for February, Asia Plus- Blitz reported. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) had suspended its participation in the work of the commission on 18 October to protest the authorities' refusal to convene an emergency parliamentary session to debate deliberate obstruction of opposition candidates' efforts to register as candidates for the 6 November presidential poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER OPTIMISITIC

UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri told journalists in Dushanbe on 9 November that although the opposition formally withdrew its boycott of the 6 November presidential poll, its members did not vote for opposition candidate Davlat Usmon because his candidacy was illegal, ITAR-TASS reported. Nuri expressed relief that the poll did not exacerbate tensions and that the Tajik leadership acceded to what he termed the opposition's "fair demands." Nuri and incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov signed a protocol on 5 November containing political guarantees related to the preparations for and conduct of the February parliamentary elections. LF

ANOTHER TAJIK DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL MURDERED

A lieutenant-colonel with the Tajik Defense Ministry was shot dead in a Dushanbe suburb late on 8 November, Reuters and AP reported the following day. It was the second such murder of a military official in less than a month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). LF

UZBEKISTAN, CHINA SIGN LOAN AGREEMENT

China will advance an $11 million loan to Uzbekistan under the terms of a framework agreement signed during President Islam Karimov's ongoing visit to China, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 November. Meeting that day with China's Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangshen, Karimov called for expanded cooperation in the chemical, aircraft building, and light industry sectors. The annual trade turnover between the two countries totals $830 million, which Karimov termed insufficient. LF




RUSSIAN OMBUDSMAN SAYS NO HUMAN RIGHTS PROBLEMS IN BELARUS

Oleg Mironov said in Minsk on 9 November that there are no problems with human rights in Belarus, Belarusian Television reported. According to Mironov, Belarus meets world standards with regard to the independence of the judiciary, while "in terms of some other [human rights] indicators, [the situation in Belarus] is even better than in Russia." Following his meeting with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka the same day, Mironov noted that one of the aims of his visit to Minsk is "to shatter a myth about large-scale violations of human rights and freedoms in Belarus." He added that Lukashenka invited him to extend his activities to Belarus until the country enacts a law on the institution of ombudsman. JM

LUKASHENKA SAYS UKRAINE MAY JOIN RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION

Lukashenka told journalists in Minsk on 9 November that Ukraine may join the Russia-Belarusian Union "within a year" if the union "is realized and begins to develop dynamically." Lukashenka added that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also "look closely" at developments in the union. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told the 10 November "Izvestiya" that the "Slavic union is nothing more than a political trick, an abstract theoretical construction that has no real basis or historical prospects." JM

U.S. AMBASSADOR CALLS ON BELARUS TO 'BREAK DOWN BARRIERS'

In a statement issued on the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Daniel Speckhard said that Belarus is much closer to the rest of Europe than many other CIS countries, Belapan reported. Speckhard noted, however, that it will not benefit from this until it "breaks down barriers that hampers its economic and democratic development." The ambassador added that "as Belarus tears down the remaining walls, the United States will be ready to forge new and enduring ties between our people, societies, and economies." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BUYS MARCHUK'S SUPPORT?

President Leonid Kuchma on 10 November appointed former Prime Minister and Security Service chief Yevhen Marchuk chairman of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, ITAR-TASS reported. Marchuk came fifth in the 31 October ballot with 8.13 percent backing. Both Kuchma and Marchuk have signaled their willingness to cooperate in order to defeat Symonenko in the runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1999). JM

UKRAINE'S RUNOFF CAMPAIGN SEEN AS 'LUKEWARM'

According to AP, "lukewarm campaigning and voter apathy" prevail in Ukraine before the presidential runoff between incumbent President Kuchma and Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko on 14 November. Kuchma's campaigners, as expected, have taken to publicizing the "red revenge" message to the electorate. Television channels broadcast documentaries about the communist horrors and compare Symonenko's view of Ukraine's future to that of Cuba and North Korea. Kuchma on 9 November appealed to young people to vote on 14 November in order to keep his rival out of office. In a bid to lure votes of the moderately leftist electorate, Symonenko's supporters have began to promote him as a reformed Communist, comparing him to Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. JM

FRENCH FIRM WINS TENDER TO BUILD ESTONIAN RADAR SYSTEM

French company Thomson CSF has won a tender to build a comprehensive air surveillance system for Estonia, BNS reported. The cost of the system will exceed 1 billion kroons ($66 million).The system is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2001 and will become an integral part of BALTNET, the joint Baltic airspace surveillance system, which corresponds to NATO requirements. MH

OPPOSITION FILES SUIT AGAINST TALLINN MAYORAL ELECTION

The opposition Center Party on 9 November appealed the election of Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois. Party leader Edgar Savisaar told BNS that the Centrists want the court to annul the Tallinn City Council vote for mayor and to suspend Mois from the office until a ruling is made. The opposition argue that Mois should not have been allowed to run for the post a second time after failing to receive a majority vote on 4 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). Mois was elected in the second ballot. Mois has chosen to hold on to his parliamentary seat, which means he must forego his mayoral salary. Also on 9 November, Tarmo Loodus was sworn in as interior minister to replace Mois. MH

OMON TROOPS CONVICTED IN LATVIA

The Riga District Court on 9 November handed down guilty verdicts against 10 former OMON officers who took part in crackdowns during the 1991 independence struggle. The 10 received suspended sentences of between one and four years and probation of up to three years, LETA reported. The OMON forces were charged with attacks against various targets, such as the offices of the Latvian Popular Front and the Latvian National Independence Movement (LNNK), and the headquarters of Latvian Television. BNS added that all civilian claims, such as for property damage, were dismissed. Another five OMON officers are involved in a separate trial. Neither the prosecutors nor the convicted officers indicated whether they will appeal the verdict. MH

NEW PARLIAMENTARY BOARD APPOINTED IN LITHUANIA

The Lithuanian parliament appointed a new board on 9 November. Conservative Party deputy chairwoman Rasa Jukneviciene and Social Democrat Rimantas Dagys are new deputy speakers of the parliament. Conservative Vytautas Landsbergis remains speaker. Two of the four deputy speaker posts were vacated when Andrius Kubilius became prime minister and Center Union leader Romualdas Ozolas resigned to move into full opposition. MH

POLAND'S TAX REFORM UNDER HEATED PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE

A 9 November heated parliamentary debate on the tax reform bill proposed by the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action and Freedom Union failed to yield any results since the parliament lacked a quorum to vote on an opposition motion to reject the draft legislation, PAP reported. The coalition is eager to push the bill through the parliament as soon as possible because new taxes have to be approved and published by 30 November if they are to take effect in January 2000. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance says the bill is unconstitutional (because the trade unions were not consulted) and vows to contest its legality in the Constitutional Court immediately after the bill's passage. The draft calls for personal income tax rates of 19 percent, 29 percent, and 36 percent and the reduction of corporate tax from 34 percent to 30 percent in 2000. JM

CZECH MINOR OPPOSITION ALLIANCE WILLING TO CONSIDER COALITION WITH ODS

In a statement to CTK on 9 November, the "four- party coalition" says it will be willing to start talks with the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on forming a new government if the ODS backs its motion of no confidence in Milos Zeman's cabinet. The coalition, which includes the Christian Democrat Union (KDU-CSL), the Freedom Union, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the Democratic Union, initiated a no-confidence motion on 2 November but the ODS has refused to back it. The coalition, moreover, does not have the necessary parliamentary strength to have the motion debated. Meanwhile, CTK and Reuters reported that the ODS-initiated meeting to discuss forming a new parliamentary majority will take place on 13 November. The ODS, the Social Democrats, the Freedom Union, and the KDU-CSL will all participate in that gathering. MS

SLOVAK DEPUTY PREMIER PRAISES HUNGARIAN COALITION PARTICIPATION...

Deputy Premier Pavol Hamzik told journalists on 9 November that the presence in the government of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) has contributed greatly to the cabinet's success. Hamzik said the SMK's participation has "erased the nationalist scarecrow" and made life more difficult for those who wish to "manipulate" the electorate by means of "Hungaro-phobia." Hamzik added that the SMK itself has benefited from its participation in the cabinet because it had to "change its style" and work for promoting the interests of all Slovaks--not just those of the Hungarian minority. MS

...AS SLOVAK NATIONALISTS PROVOKE ANTI-HUNGARIAN INCIDENT

Slovak National Party (SNS) deputy and honorary chairman Vitazoslav Moric and several other SNS members shouted insults at participants in a 9 November ceremony at the grave of 1848 Hungarian revolution hero Gyorgy Lahner in the village of Necpaly, central Slovakia, CTK reported. Hungarian Ambassador to Slovakia Miklos Boros was among those taking part in the ceremony, which the SNS constantly interrupted by singing Slovak nationalist songs. Moric said that for Slovakia, 1848 signifies the beginning of the era of "flagrant Magyarization." They also objected to the fact that the ceremony was conducted in the Hungarian language. Deputy Premier Pal Csaky of the SMK described the incident as "undiplomatic, unjustifiable, and...offensive." MS




SERBIAN POLICE BEAT DEMONSTRATORS

Police in Belgrade forcibly broke up a protest by the student opposition organization Otpor (Resistance) on 9 November, injuring about 50 demonstrators, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The students want the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, early elections, and the repeal of legislation regulating universities and the media. Police prevented several buses from reaching the capital from elsewhere in Serbia. PM

DRASKOVIC BACKERS WALK OUT OF SERBIAN LEGISLATURE...

Deputies belonging to Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) walked out of the parliament on 9 November after legislators belonging to the governing coalition rejected a motion to investigate a mysterious car accident last month that left three of Draskovic's aides dead. Draskovic has called the accident an "assassination attempt" against him staged by the authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). PM

...ARE SKEPTICAL ON REGIME'S ATTITUDE TOWARD ELECTIONS

Before the SPO deputies walked out of the parliament, the legislature approved an opposition motion to discuss early general elections. SPO legislator Milan Mikovic said, however, that "it's a tactical maneuver [on the part of the governing coalition]. They are afraid of elections and have no real intention of holding them," the "Wall Street Journal Europe" reported. The legislature also began discussions of proposed changes in legislation regarding elections to local government posts. The opposition, which controls more than 30 municipalities, is opposed to the proposed changes. PM

MILOSEVIC MEETS WITH RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT

Sergei Lavrov, who is Russia's ambassador to the UN, discussed Kosova with Milosevic in Belgrade on 9 November. The two men agreed that UN resolution 1244 is the "sole document" regulating the affairs of the province. The resolution states that Kosova remains a part of Yugoslavia and of Serbia. They also agreed on the need to send Serbian forces back to Kosova, to ensure the return of all refugees, and to disarm remaining "armed formations" in the province. Western diplomats stopped meeting with Milosevic after the Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted him in May for atrocities in Kosova. PM

CHURCH DESTROYED BY FIRE IN KOSOVA

Unknown persons set fire to the Serbian Orthodox church in the village of Donji Zakut in the early hours of 9 November. KFOR troops previously maintained a 24-hour presence at the church but recently began to limit their role to occasional patrols in order to conserve manpower. PM

ARTEMIJE APPEALS TO SERBIAN REFUGEES

In Belgrade, Archbishop Artemije and other leaders of Kosova's Serbian National Council urged some 100 Serbian refugees from the province to return to their homes. Artemije stressed that the refugees must go back if a Serbian presence is to be maintained in Kosova. PM

MACEDONIA POSTS REWARD IN GLIGOROV CASE

The government on 9 November announced that it will pay up to $550,000 for information leading to the arrest of the persons who in October 1995 attempted to kill President Kiro Gligorov with a car bomb. Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov noted that "it's been four years since the attempt on President Gligorov's life, and the investigation has produced no result," AP reported. Gligorov lost an eye and suffered extensive damage to his face in the explosion. He will leave office following the election of his successor on 14 November. PM

PRIME MINISTER SAYS CROATIAN GOVERNMENT FUNCTIONING 'NORMALLY'

Speaking in Zagreb on 9 November, Zlatko Matesa denied rumors that the government is unable to function because President Franjo Tudjman has been incapacitated. Matesa stressed that "everything is functioning completely normally," including the security services, "Jutarnji list" reported. The Zagreb daily added that Tudjman's doctors have stopped issuing daily reports on his condition. Observers note that the Croatian Constitution assigns 24 powers to the president that he cannot delegate to anyone else. These include key decision-making functions in military and security policy. The constitution is widely believed to have been written to guarantee Tudjman a commanding role in state affairs. His recent illness has led to much speculation as to what would happen if he were to die or become incapacitated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). PM

CROATIAN BISHOP WARNS AGAINST ISOLATION

Archbishop Josip Bozanic told a meeting in Zagreb to discuss the Vatican's recent European Bishops' Conference that Croatia must remain "politically and psychologically" oriented toward Europe, "Jutarnji list" reported on 10 November. He warned that if Croats "close themselves off" from Europe, they will find themselves "back in the East." Bozanic also noted that the effects of communism on society have proven more deeply rooted and longer lasting than most people thought at the time the system collapsed. He added that the period of post- communist optimism is long past. Observers note that some elements in the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) have reacted to frequent criticism of its policies by the EU and OSCE by expressing the view that Croatia does not need to take European views into account. PM

BOSNIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES MEASURE ON CORRUPTION

The legislature on 9 November approved a comprehensive anti- corruption plan put forward by the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch. Measures include establishing an independent judiciary, setting up tighter border controls, and making a survey of the change in officials' wealth between 1992 and the present, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Observers note that corruption is rampant throughout Bosnia and is widely seen as a major stumbling block to post-war reconstruction and development. PM

OSCE APPEALS TO BOSNIAN JOURNALISTS

The office of the OSCE in Sarajevo called upon all journalists to report to the organization any threats that they may have received, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 November. Reports will be treated as confidential. The move comes after several violent attacks on journalists. PM

ROW OVER BOSNIAN SERB TELEVISION CHIEF

The Bosnian Serb parliament will soon discuss the controversy over the government's decision to replace Andjelko Kozomara with Slavisa Sabljic as head of Radio Television of the Republika Srpska (RTRS), "Oslobodjenje" reported on 10 November. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik says that he sacked Kozomara because he has become politically too close to Milosevic. Petritsch's spokesmen argue that Dodik has no right to make changes in the administration of RTRS and that Kozomara has not allowed his personal views to affect program content, "Oslobodjenje" and "Vesti" reported on 9 November. In related news, "Jutarnji list" wrote on 10 November that Tudjman's top aide Ivic Pasalic is seeking to "build up a media empire" in Bosnia. Pasalic is one of the most prominent Herzegovinian Croats in the Zagreb power structure. PM

ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES LAND RESTITUTION BILL

The Senate on 9 November approved by a vote of 89 to 12 with 27 abstentions a bill providing for the restitution to former owners of up to 50 hectares of farmland and 10 hectares of forest confiscated by the communist regime, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Chamber of Deputies passed the law earlier this year in a version that provided for the restitution of up to 30 hectares of forest. A bicameral commission will now mediate to decide on a final version of the law. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ENDORSES BRASOV AGREEMENT

The cabinet on 9 November approved the main points of an agreement reached one day earlier between its representatives and unions representing workers at the Roman truckmaker in Brasov, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1999). The cabinet did not approve that part of the agreement that provides for granting workers tax exemptions and financial bonuses. It also rejected the demand to raise salaries, dismiss managers, and revise layoff plans. AP reported from Brasov that union leaders accuse the government of fomenting tension by dispatching riot police to the town. Meanwhile, thousands of students resumed protests in Bucharest and other Romanian cities to push their demands for higher grants and better living conditions in dormitories. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER 'IRRESPONSIBLE'

Petru Lucinschi told journalists on 9 November that parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov is "irresponsible," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi was responding to Diacov's statement earlier that day accusing Lucinschi of having "provoked" the government crisis "in order to impose a state of emergency in the country and hold early parliamentary elections." He also rejected Diacov's accusation that he is responsible for the split in the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc, saying "not me, but Dumitru Diacov promoted the split...by exercising pressure [on deputies] to force them to vote" the way Diacov wanted. Also on 9 November, the World Bank followed the lead of the IMF by announcing it is suspending credits to Moldova owing to the parliament's refusal to approve the laws on the privatization of wineries and the tobacco industry. MS

EU WILL HELP BULGARIA MEET COSTS FOR NUCLEAR PLANT SHUTDOWN

Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in charge of expansion, said the EU will help Bulgaria meet the costs for shutting down the four aging nuclear reactors at Kozloduy. In a video- recorded address to participants in an international meeting in Sofia on 9 November, Verheugen said the EU is prepared to finance the modernization of the two units that went on line in 1989, but he added that the older four reactors "cannot be brought up to Western safety standards at reasonable costs." He also said democracy has been "firmly established in Bulgaria" and the country has made "sustained progress" in bringing its legislation into line with the EU's. There has been progress toward establishing a functioning market economy, but Bulgaria has yet to complete privatization, bring accounting and taxation up to EU standards, and develop a "stable environment" for business, AP reported. MS




FOUR YEARS AFTER ERDUT, EASTERN SLAVONIA CONTINUES TO LAG


by Christopher Walker

When the Erdut Agreement was signed four years ago, much of Eastern Slavonia was unsure whether to expect another round of bloodshed or an end to the violence that had plagued that region since 1991. The regional capital of Osijek remained garrisoned--store windows were taped and buildings barricaded with wood planks and sandbags against possible attack from the Serbian forces that held positions across the Drava River. After Croatia declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in June 1991, Serbian rebel forces had seized about 30 percent of Croatian territory, including a large portion of Eastern Slavonia.

The agreement reached in Erdut, a small village on the bank of the River Danube, brought to an end the fighting over the last Serb-held area in Croatia and provided the framework for the peaceful return of that territory to Croatian administration.

In fact, the agreement, which was concluded during the Dayton negotiations on Bosnia-Herzegovina, set out ambitious settlement terms for Eastern Slavonia (and the regions of Baranja and Western Sirmium). It provided for a United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAES) to oversee the reintegration of the region into the Republic of Croatia as well as functioning as an interim political authority, supervising the return of refugees, organizing elections, training a police force, and demilitarizing the Serbian rebels who had gained control of Eastern Slavonia. The two- year mandate of UNTAES expired in January 1998.

However, the passage of four years since the cessation of hostilities has neither eased the raw feelings that exist between Croats and Serbs in the region nor enabled Eastern Slavonia to restore its hobbled economy to its pre-conflict status.

In fact, the legacy of the conflict and the embittered atmosphere that persists threaten to keep Eastern Slavonia in the same chronically impoverished state as plagues other war- torn ex-Yugoslav territories, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosova, and Serbia.

Nevenka Cuckovic of the Zagreb-based Institute for International Relations observes that Eastern Slavonia has "remained economically depressed and not much progress has been achieved in the last three or four years. The [Croatian] government started many programs, but the [effort to build] housing and infrastructure reconstruction prevailed in all initiatives, while neglecting economic restructuring, privatization and business start-ups."

The outbreak of war eight years ago disrupted trade and supply routes. Traditional regional economic links remain frayed to this day. Local business people complain that the region has been unable to shake the image it has acquired over the years--namely one of on-and-off fighting. Moreover, the post-conflict period has been marked by tense inter- ethnic relations, economic stagnation, and substantial population shifts.

With regard to refugees and the internally displaced, the Erdut Agreement provides for facilitating the return of those people "under secure conditions, assuring them the same rights as all other residents." This task has proven very difficult.

A report published by Human Rights Watch earlier this year concluded that the "exodus of [Eastern Slavonia's] Serbs calls into question the success of the UNTAES mission beyond peaceful reintegration into the territory" of the Republic of Croatia. On this same subject, the OSCE has been critical of the lack of political will shown by Croatian authorities in upholding basic rights of the Serbian minority. This exodus has been just one in a series of population transfers in the region involving Serbs and Croats alike. This phenomenon is of course not specific to Eastern Slavonia. Real or perceived concerns about personal security, discrimination by local authorities, and miserable economic prospects are common to all parts of the former Yugoslavia that have experienced violent conflict.

To add to the region's woes, much-needed international assistance has been stretched to its limits by the onset of new crises. Over the course of this decade, assistance flows have been subject to the demands of successive conflicts, each fresh conflict more serious than the previous one. In 1991, world attention was focused on Kosova, where Slobodan Milosevic--then in power for less than two years--was stepping up his repression of ethnic Albanians in Serbia's southernmost province. Events in Eastern Slavonia in late 1991, punctuated by the horrors in Vukovar, then diverted attention from Kosova. Ironically, eight years later, Croatian officials point out that Kosova--as well as Bosnia-- has absorbed critical aid that could otherwise have been used in Eastern Slavonia.

In addition, the Kosova war has had a spillover effect on the region. Cuckovic notes that "NATO intervention also hurt legal economic entities in Eastern Slavonia, while the informal [gray] economy was flourishing during the conflict."

Eastern Slavonia is just one small piece of the damaged fabric of the former Yugoslavia. Sadly, as the case in most of the other conflict-ridden areas in the Balkans, few observers are bullish on the region's prospects for renewal in the short term. For the time being, conditions in Eastern Slavonia will continue to suggest a cessation of hostilities rather than an enduring peace. The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in Eastern European affairs (intrel@aol.com)


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