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Newsline - January 20, 2000




CHECHENS SUSTAIN HEAVY CASUALTIES IN GROZNY...

Chechen spokesmen said on 20 January that they had sustained their heaviest losses to date during fighting in Grozny the previous day, Reuters reported. They said that 45 Chechens had been killed and 60 wounded in the previous 24 hours. Also on 20 January, former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov claimed that Russian forces have now taken full control of Minutka Square and the bridge over the Sunzha River, scene of yesterday's fighting. Gantemirov said that the fiercest hostilities are currently underway in the city's Zavod Raion. He named the field commanders coordinating the defense of Grozny as Ruslan Gilaev and Akhmed Zakaev. LF

...AS RUSSIAN GENERAL PREDICTS WAR WILL END NEXT MONTH

On 19 January, Lieutenant General Gennadii Troshev, whom Interfax identified as deputy commander of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, predicted that the fighting in Chechnya will end by 26 February, one month prior to the Russian presidential election, AP reported. But Troshev, whose status has been in doubt since he was reportedly demoted two weeks ago (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 2, 14 January 2000), added that "no one is giving the forces any firm deadlines for ending the operation." Also on 19 January, Russian Chief of Army General Staff Colonel General Anatolii Kvashnin told journalists in Yekaterinburg that he knows when the war is expected to end, but refused to name a specific date, Interfax reported. LF

PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LEADER PLANS TALKS WITH MASKHADOV

Malik Saidullaev, the Chechen businessman elected last fall to head the Moscow-based Chechen State Council, said on 20 January that he plans to travel to Grozny for peace talks on 24-25 January with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, ITAR-TASS reported. Maskhadov was reported several days ago to be in the village of Dachi-Barzoi, which has since been cordoned off by Russian troops. On 19 January, Saidullaev, who is one of several candidates to head a pro-Russian Chechen puppet state, claimed that four "influential" Chechen field commanders had arrived in Moscow on 16 January for talks with Russian leaders on ending the war. He did not name those field commanders, but said that they come from the Nozhai Yurt district and have not participated in the recent hostilities. Chechen spokesmen denied on 20 January that any field commanders are in Moscow, Reuters reported. In early January Saidullaev claimed that 27 field commanders were ready to go over to the Russian side, but none have yet publicly done so (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 1, 6 January 2000). LF

BASAEV REPORTEDLY WOUNDED

Saidullaev also confirmed on 19 January media reports that field commander Shamil Basaev has been wounded in a shootout with Chechen Defense Minister Magomed Khambiev, ITAR-TASS reported. Interfax the same day said that former Chechen minister Shamil Beno had told the Spanish newspaper "La Vanguardia" that Basaev was shot in the stomach during a dispute with Khambiev after the latter chastised Basaev for precipitating the war with Moscow by his incursions into Daghestan last summer. LF

PROTESTING DUMA FACTIONS CONTINUE BOYCOTT...

Duma deputy (Yabloko) Vladimir Lukin told reporters on 20 January that the Yabloko, Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), and Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) factions will continue to boycott Duma sessions until the Coordination Council established by the three groups decides otherwise. He said that what really matters in the dispute is "that part of the members of the State Duma with vast experience in lawmaking have been removed from this work." Lukin, who headed the International Affairs Committee, was replaced by Dmitrii Rogozin (see item below). SPS leader Sergei Kirienko said the previous day that factions are demanding a new "package" agreement distributing Duma posts. JAC

....FORM TEMPORARY ALLIANCE...

Kirienko also said that the factions will form working groups to coordinate their legislative initiatives. Oleg Morozov, head of the Russian Regions group, said that the alliance between the Duma's opposition forces may burst like a bubble at any minute. He added that his group is not a member of the council. According to "The Moscow Times," on 20 January. Russian Regions deputies attended the 19 January Duma session although many of them walked out the previous day. JAC

...AND REJECT PEACE OVERTURE

After meeting with Yevgenii Primakov, Morozov and Yabloko leader Grigorrii Yavlinskii on 19 January, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that those talks had been fruitless. Seleznev also met with acting President Vladimir Putin, who he said was "surprised" by the tactical alliance between the Communists and other groups. On 20 January, Seleznev told reporters that the "battle over portfolios should not be continued" and deputies should return to constructive work. JAC

REGIONAL LEADERS TAKE DUMA CONFLICT IN STRIDE

Russian regional leaders expressed calm at the divisions developing in the Duma. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said on 19 January that "nothing extraordinary" has happened in the State Duma, while North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov said the next day that the refusal of some factions to participate is "unuseful," ITAR-TASS reported. Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov and Primorksii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko both hailed news of Seleznev's re-election as Duma speaker. Rakhimov called Seleznev "one of the most experienced politicians in our country who is capable of compromise," according to Interfax-Eurasia. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 19 January that he does not think that the alliance between the Communists and Unity will last long. He told Interfax the next day that emotions played a large role in factions' walking out and that he hopes the conflict will be settled soon. JAC

PRIMAKOV DOES NOT EXCLUDE RUN FOR PRESIDENCY

After a group of supporters issued a request on 19 January that he run for the presidency of Russia, Fatherland-All Russia head Primakov told reporters that "I cannot say now, but I won't rule out anything." On the same day, a group of 147 voters gathered to nominate Yabloko leader Yavlinskii, who has already agreed to run. The Central Election Commission also received documents from an initiative group that nominated acting President Putin. JAC

...AS TITOV ACCEPTS OFFER

Samara Governor Konstantin Titov announced on 19 January that he will run for the presidency. Titov told reporters that the leadership of the Union of Rightist Forces, of which he is a member, has not reached a decision on whom to support in the elections. He added that "today Russia has two new figures running for the presidency, Putin and Titov. All the other candidates have already tried several times and the result we already know." He suggested that there will be two rounds and that the struggle will be "very serious." JAC

MORE DUMA POSTS APPORTIONED...

Duma deputy Lyubov Sliska (Unity) was elected first deputy speaker of the Duma on 19 January with 266 votes in favor, 10 against and five abstentions. Also elected were four deputy speakers including Petr Romanov (Communist), former deputy head of Rostov Oblast administration Vladimir Averchenko (People's Deputy), Chairman of the non-profit Center for the Defense of Citizens' Economic and Social Rights Gennadii Semigin (Agro- Industrial) and Vladimir Zhirinovskii (Liberal Democratic Party). Romanov was a deputy in the old Duma. Zhirinovskii announced that his faction will now be led by his son, Igor Lebedev. "Kommersant-Daily" reported that the Communist Party in Saratov Oblast, where Sliska was the governor's representative to the local legislative assembly, plans to lodge a legal complaint challenging the validity of State Duma elections results in that region. JAC

...AND COMMITTEE CHAIRS SELECTED

Duma deputies also approved a resolution naming the chairmen of Duma committees by a vote of 282 in favor, one against and seven abstentions. Former Interior Ministry official Aleksandr Gurov (Unity) was named head of the Security Committee, former Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin (People's Deputy) was named head of the Banking Committee, Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) was named head of the International Affairs Committee, and General Andrei Nikolaev (People's Deputy) was named head of the Defense Committee. The Communists won 8 committees, Unity 7, People's Deputy 5, the Liberal Democratic Party 1, and the Agro-Industrial group 1. According to Unity Chairman Boris Gryzhlov, some positions were left vacant because former Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov (SPS) has been offered the chairmanship of the Legislation Committee, former Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov (OVR) the Committee for CIS Affairs and former Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov (Russian Regions) his old position. JAC

OLIGARCHS, OIL INTERESTS SUPPORT SELEZNEV

"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 20 January printed a list of the deputies who voted in favor of former Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev's assumption to the post of speaker of the State Duma. Included in the list were business magnate Boris Berezovskii, Sibneft head Roman Abramovich, former Transneft head Dmitrii Savelev, new Slavneft head Mikhail Gutseriev, former Yeltsin security aide Aleksandr Korzhakov, former Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and former Our Home is Russia faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov. Berezovskii on 19 January declared that an alliance with the Communists is in line with acting President Putin's calls for consolidation and cooperation between the lower legislative house and the government. JAC

AGRARIANS SPLIT AGAIN

Nikolai Kharitonov, former head of the Agrarian faction in the old Duma, was elected head of the newly created Agro-Industrial Deputy group, "Segodnya" reported on 19 January. According to the daily, Kharitonov managed not only to hold onto his old post but also to oust his rivals for leadership of the Agrarians, Mikhail Lapshin, head of the Agrarian Party, and Gennadii Kulik, former Deputy Prime Minister. According to the web site, , Lapshin, Kulik and Deputy Mikhail Burgera have left the group to join the Fatherland-All Russia faction in protest against the formation of what they consider an agricultural offshoot of the Communist Party. According to "Segodnya," Kulik and Lapshin plan to take revenge on Kharitonov at the upcoming congress of the Agrarian Party. JAC

INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT SCORED BIG GAINS LAST YEAR

Industrial growth rose 8.1 percent in 1999 compared with the previous year, according to the State Statistics Committee on 20 January. Growth measured 11.1 percent in December compared with the same month last year or 7.4 percent compared with the previous month. According to Interfax, the growth trend started in March of 1999 and was sustained through the end of the year. Top-performing sectors were microbiology with 29.1 percent growth, chemicals and petrochemicals with 21.7 percent, timber with 17.2 percent, and metallurgy with 14.4 percent. JAC

NEWSPAPERS REACT TO BONY SCANDAL DEVELOPMENT

Government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" commented indirectly on "The New York Times" story of 18 January which revealed that a key source for journalists covering the Bank of New York (BONY) scandal has a questionable past and may have provided forged documents. The Russian newspaper argued on 20 January that the U.S. economy is likely soon to experience a collapse following its "wild boom" and since it is also election year, "it is highly disadvantageous for the U.S. to inflate any financial scandals." It continued that "it is possible that from now on, there will be a certain warming in Russia's relations with the international financial community, in particular with the U.S." and "this is probably why the American media have rushed to 'expose the provocateur' who had allegedly incited the [Bank of New York] scandal." "Kommersant-Daily" noted the previous day that "it has only now become clear that the scandal started because of American journalists' own stupidity and unprofessionalism." JAC




FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER SAYS PRESIDENT SHOULD RESIGN

National Democratic Union (AZhM) chairman Vazgen Manukian, who served as prime minister in 1990-1991, told a press conference in Yerevan on 19 January that President Robert Kocharian should step down voluntarily to prevent a further deterioration in the political situation, which he described as "anarchy," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Manukian argued that Kocharian has no power base and does not behave as befits a head of state. He added that neither a referendum on amending the constitution nor new parliamentary elections would improve the worsening economic situation, according to Armenpress. Manukian said his party will seek to ensure that the new presidential poll is fair and to prevent unnamed members of the present leadership from rigging the poll to install their preferred candidate as head of state. Manukian, who was defeated in both the 1996 and 1998 presidential elections, did not say whether he would run in a new election. LF

COMMUNIST LEADERS ADVOCATE ARMENIA'S ACCESSION TO RUSSIA- BELARUS UNION

Newly-elected Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Vladimir Darpinian told a press conference in Yerevan that membership in the Russia-Belarus Union would only strengthen Armenia's sovereignty, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 January. The leader of the party's parliament faction, Leonid Akopian, argued that accession to the union would create new jobs in Armenia and thus improve living standards. In 1997 the Armenian Communists collected several hundred thousand signatures in support of Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus Union. LF

GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ PREMIERS MEET UNDER UN AUSPICES...

Dieter Boden, the UN secretary-general's special representative in Georgia, chaired a session in Tbilisi on 18-19 January of the Coordinating Council for settling the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. The meeting was attended by Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba, the commander of the CIS peacekeeping forces deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, and representatives of the U.S., France, Russia, Germany, and the U.K. The meeting had intended to focus on defining Abkhazia's political status within Georgia, but Tsugba refused to do so, saying that the population of Abkhazia had reaffirmed its desire for independence in last year's referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1999). Tsugba, who met separately on 18 January with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, nonetheless affirmed that Abkhazia wants to resolve the conflict as soon as possible, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...AGREE ON ANTI-TERRORISM MEASURES

Lortkipanidze and Tsugba on 19 January signed two sets of minutes of the proceedings of working groups dealing with acts of terrorism in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion and with missing persons and the disinterment and reburial of war dead, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Under those minutes, the two sides undertook to cooperate in investigating acts of terrorism in Gali and in the reburial of 47 Georgians killed during the 1992-1993 war. They also reached agreement on resuming talks on a peace settlement and on the repatriation of displaced persons. Boden termed the session "constructive," but Shevardnadze's international affairs advisor, Levan Aleksidze, was less optimistic. He told Interfax that no progress towards resolving the conflict will be possible unless the Abkhaz "abandon the idea of creating a separate Abkhaz state." LF

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA POSITIVELY ASSESS BILATERAL RELATIONS...

Visiting Moscow on 19 January at the head of a government delegation, Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev held talks with Prime Minister and acting President Vladimir Putin and with First Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Russian agencies reported. Kasyanov characterized bilateral relations as "on the upgrade," and noted "definite progress" in the political sphere, especially with regard to delimitation of the Russian-Kazakh border. Putin, for his part, remarked upon the absence of any complex political or economic problems between the two countries. LF

...SETTLE MUTUAL DEBTS

Kasyanov and Toqaev reached agreements on 19 January whereby Russia will supply Kazakhstan with civil aviation equipment in partial payment for the lease of the Baikonor cosmodrome. Kazakhstan in turn ceded to Russia's Unified Energy Systems a 50 percent stake in the state thermal power plant in Ekibastuz in payment of its outstanding $239 million debt for energy supplies from Russia. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO INCREASE DEFENSE SPENDING?

Kazakhstan's national security advisor, Marat Tazhin, said on 19 January that President Nursultan Nazarbaev supports his proposal to increase defense spending in 2000 from the planned 0.78 percent of the budget to a minimum of 1 percent, Interfax reported. Tazhin said the increase is needed to fund reform of the armed forces and the building of an effective defense system. Tazhin called for enacting legislation on government defense spending that would create tax breaks for both state- owned and private companies that manufacture equipment and goods for the armed forces. He added that unspecified laws should be amended to provide for stiffer penalties for inciting social, ethnic, or religious enmity. LF

KAZAKHSTAN MIG SALE TRIAL AGAIN POSTPONED

The resumption of court proceedings against businessman Aleksandr Petrenko and Armed Forces Chief of General Staff General Bakhytzhan Ertaev, who are charged with arranging the illegal sale to North Korea of 40 MiG fighter aircraft, has again been postponed, RFE/RL's Almaty correspondent reported on 19 January. The trial should have resumed on 18 January, but Ertaev is still hospitalized after suffering a minor heart attack in court a week ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2000). Defense lawyers for the two accused again said at a press conference in Almaty on 19 January that their clients are not guilty, RFE/RL's Almaty correspondent reported. Petrenko's lawyer claimed that his client's life is in danger as the persons responsible for the sale of the aircraft may try to kill him lest he divulge further details of the deal. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION FIGURE ALLEGES SYSTEMATIC HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 18 January, Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan member Bauyrzhan Zharylqapov accused Kazakhstan's leadership, including President Nazarbaev, of regularly violating the country's laws and constitution, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported the following day. Zharylqapov added that the human rights of inmates of labor camps and jails in Kazakhstan are violated "on a daily basis." LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT VOWS TO BRING YOUNGER GENERATION INTO LEADERSHIP

Askar Akaev told some 800 students invited to a belated New Year's party in Bishkek on 19 January that he has proclaimed 2000 "the year of youth," and called for the drafting of special policies and legislation of youth and education, Interfax and RFE/RL's correspondent in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Akaev vowed to bring "fresh blood" into the state administration in the interests of expediting economic reform. LF

TURKMENISTAN HOLDS TALKS WITH PIPELINE SCHEME PARTICIPANTS

Delegations from Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, together with U.S. special envoy on Caspian energy issues John Wolf, met in Ashgabat on 18-19 January to discuss a framework document for the planned Trans-Caspian gas export pipeline, Interfax reported. The delegations also discussed the agreements which each country will conclude separately with the operators of the pipeline project, PSG and Royal Dutch/Shell. Wolf said that Russia has also been invited to participate in the project, for which the U.S.'s Ex-Im Bank may provide some financial support. Cost of the project is estimated at $2.5 billion. Wolf said that the disagreement between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over the amount of gas that Azerbaijan will be permitted to export via the pipeline was not discussed. Baku is reportedly demanding a 50 percent share of the facility's annual throughput capacity of 30 billion cubic meters, whereas Turkmenistan is offering no more than a 20 percent share. LF




FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER SAYS HIS TRIAL POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

More than 100 people, including German, French, and British diplomats, came on 19 January to the Minsk City Court for the opening of the case against former Premier Mikhail Chyhir, who is accused of abuse of office and negligence that allegedly inflicted a loss of some $4 million on the state. "This is a political trial. All the charges are falsified," Reuters quoted Chyhir as saying before the session. He added that there is "no fair court" in Belarus and that he is ready for a "political sentence." Chyhir was arrested in March 1999 after he consented to run in the opposition presidential elections that challenged President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rule--which was prolonged by the 1996 controversial constitutional referendum. The judge adjourned the trial until a larger courtroom, able to accommodate all observers, was found. JM

CRISIS CONTINUES IN UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT...

The recently created center-right majority in the Ukrainian parliament on 19 January continued to block debate in a disagreement over changes to the parliament's regulations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2000), Interfax reported. The majority wants to introduce the procedure of a roll-call vote in the parliamentary regulations, which supposedly is to facilitate ousting the current speaker, Oleksandr Tkachenko. The agency quoted Tkachenko as saying that if the current parliamentary leadership is changed, Ukraine will "ultimately be ruled by the IMF" together with the president and the prime minister. JM

...AND IN CRIMEAN AUTONOMOUS LEGISLATURE

The Crimean Supreme Council on 19 January failed to open its regular session because of the lack of a quorum, Interfax reported. Deputies from the Zlahoda and Respublika caucuses, which constitute a pro-presidential majority in the 100-seat Crimean legislature, did not register for the session. They are calling for the dismissal of Crimean speaker Leonid Hrach, who is supported by the Communists and People's Democracy caucus. Last month 51 deputies voted to oust the Crimean legislature's presidium, but Hrach has ignored that vote. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS MARKET ECONOMY PRIORITIES

Speaking to the diplomatic corps on 19 January, Leonid Kuchma said the main objective of his activity is to accelerate and deepen market economic reforms in the country, Interfax reported. Kuchma added that the government is primarily going to transform the budgetary and tax systems, implement land reform, develop entrepreneurship, liberalize economic relations, and improve the investment climate. He also noted that Ukraine cannot move forward under the current "continuing differences of opinion and confrontation between the power branches." According to the president, the constitutional referendum decreed for 16 April will help him to learn the opinion of compatriots regarding the consolidation of Ukraine's power system. JM

ESTONIAN LOTTERY HITS NORDIC JACKPOT

The pan-Nordic Viking Lotto on 19 January decided to accept Eesti Loto (Estonian Lotto) as a full member, BNS and "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. Eesti Loto will now be joined to the lotteries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, thus a larger jackpot. Average Eesti Loto jackpots have been about 1.5 million kroons ($97,000), while Viking Lotto jackpots usually range from 13-26 million kroons. MH

YUKOS TO TAKE SHARE IN LITHUANIAN OIL COMPANY?

Reuters quoted "Respublika" on 18 January as saying that Russia's Yukos is ready to take a 10 percent stake in Lithuania's Mazeikiai Oil. However, Yukos representatives denied the imminent acquisition, but added, "if I were in the Lithuanian company's shoes I would have offered us a certain stake, as a kind of insurance policy to secure stable supplies." The report said that Yukos is close to finalizing a deal to purchase 10 percent of shares from the state's holdings for $22.8 million. Lithuanian Economics Minister Valentinas Milaknis told ELTA that "the negotiations are rather confidential," refusing to confirm or deny the rumors or elaborate. At the same time, representatives of Williams, which acquired control and a one-third stake in Mazeikiai in 1999, are in Moscow negotiating with representatives of LUKoil. ELTA reported that the negotiations appear to be stuck on the issue of price. Yukos officials said they have worked out an agreement with LUKoil as it also coordinates the crude export scheme to Lithuania. MH

LITHUANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ADAMANT ON SPENDING

Ceslovas Stankevicius said he stands by this year's budget allocation for national defense and criticized opposition politicians calling for an immediate reduction in defense spending. The New Union (Social Liberals), led by former presidential candidate Arturas Paulauskas, announced on 19 January that it is organizing a petition drive to defer about 148 million litas ($37 million) of defense spending towards education. Stankevicius called the move a "lack of respect for the constitutional system." Stankevicius suggested the funding situation of the defense sphere remains difficult, as debts of about 49 million litas accrued in 1999 due to budget cuts and shortfall will have to come out of the 2000 defense budget. He added that in 1999 only about 1.2 percent of GDP was actually allocated to defense instead of the planned 1.5 percent. Lithuanian law requires the parliament to debate a measure if 50,000 citizens sign a petition in support of the measure within two months. MH

POLISH SUGAR PRODUCERS BLOCK BORDER CROSSING

Some 100 sugar beet growers and trade unionists from a number of sugar refineries on 19 January blocked a road to the border crossing with Ukraine at Zosin, Polish Television reported. The protesters demanded the rescheduling of sugar refinery debts, the immediate completion of the sector's privatization (preferably by foreign capital), and the allocation of sugar production limits for farmers. There is also another group of farmers and trade unions in Poland who oppose the privatization of sugar refineries by foreign capital and demand the creation of a Polish sugar holding to save the sector from bankruptcy. JM

MORE COUNTRIES JOIN PROTEST AGAINST NEW CZECH BORDER REGULATIONS

Lithuania and Bulgaria on 19 January protested against the new Czech border regulations, which went into effect on 1 January, CTK reported, citing Czech television. Russia had one day earlier filed a diplomatic protest against the regulations, and demanded that their implementation be delayed until March so that travelers be given time to comply. Under the new regulations, foreigners entering the Czech Republic must fill out a border card, produce two photos and proof that they have valid health insurance. Excepted are nationals of the so-called "no-risk" countries of the EU, U.S., Canada, Croatia, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. Enforcement of the new regulations has resulted in chaos at Czech border crossings. MS

CZECH POLICE ARREST WANTED TURKISH MILITANT

Czech police on 19 January said they had arrested a left-wing militant wanted in Turkey on charges of murder and robbery, Reuters reported. The Turkish Anatolian news agency said the man was Suleyman Sahin, who has been sought throughout Europe since escaping from a Turkish jail in 1993. A Czech police spokeswoman declined to confirm the arrested person's name and said he was wanted in connection with his activities as a member of a "terrorist group" and would be held pending extradition hearings. Sahin, a member of a Maoist group calling itself the Turkish Workers and Peasants Liberation Army, was serving a prison term for "attempting to subvert Turkey's constitutional order by force." MS

MECIAR, SLOVAK NATIONALISTS TO COORDINATE ACTION...

Opposition leaders Vladimir Meciar and Anna Malikova on 19 January agreed on a "concerted strategy" for launching a petition drive calling for early elections, CTK reported. Meciar said that the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party will jointly organize civic protests against the "government, the parliament and the mounting poverty." He also said the two parties will "elaborate a strategy of passive resistance." MS

...UNDER MECIAR'S COAT OF ARMS?

Meciar has registered his personal coat of arms with the authorities and now displays it outside his villa in Trencianske Teplice, together with the Slovak national flag, CTK reported on 19 January. The coat of arms features three crossed swords and the Slovak national emblem. The agency cited a local teacher as saying: "To me, this looks like a symbol of megalomania. Meciar has possibly been inspired by a similar despot who used to live in the nearby Treciansky castle in the Middle Ages." MS

SLOVAK EU INTEGRATION DEPENDS ON 'CREDIBILITY'

Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Figel on 19 January told journalists that Slovakia's chances of joining the EU "sooner rather than later" depend on its credibility. "Credibility," he said, "is hard to gain and easy to lose." Figel told CTK that the current coalition crisis is "not yet" a threat to the country's credibility, provided the Slovak Democratic Coalition can be preserved and can function until elections scheduled for 2002. MS

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY LAUNCHES ANTI-CONSCRIPTION DRIVE

The Free Democratic Party will launch on 25 January a campaign to collect signatures in public places and on the Internet to require a debate in the parliament on the abolition of compulsory military service. The National Electoral Committee on 19 January verified the validity of the signatures in support of the campaign submitted by the party, Hungarian media report. In order to force a debate, 50,000 signatures are necessary. Istvan Simicsko, deputy chairman of the parliament's Defense Committee and a member of the ruling Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party, said it was impossible to eliminate conscription "on short- or medium-term" and that his party aims at the "gradual transformation of the army into a professional one." MS

HUNGARY WELCOMES ROMANIAN LAND RESTITUTION LAW

The Foreign Ministry on 19 January said it welcomes the recently-passed Romanian land restitution law and views it as being favorable for ethnic Hungarians in that country. The ministry emphasized that under the law, members of the Hungarian minority can claim restitution and in addition, the law provides for restitution of land to educational, ecclesiastical and other associations, including those of minorities. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said this will "help ethnic Hungarians to preserve their identity and pursue happiness in their motherland." MS




FINAL CROATIAN ELECTION RESULTS

On 19 January, the election commission in Zagreb released the final tally for the parliamentary elections for the 151-seat lower house. The main two-party opposition coalition of Social Democrats and Social Liberals took 71 seats. The coalition of four smaller parties allied to it won 24. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which has held power since the first free elections in 1990, holds only 46 seats. A right-wing coalition will have five deputies, as will the country's ethnic minorities. A spokesman for acting President Vlatko Pavletic said that Pavletic will ask Social Democratic leader Ivica Racan on 27 January to form a government. PM

CROATIA'S MUSLIMS TO ASK FOR DEPUTIES

A spokesman for the Croatian branch of the largest Bosnian Muslim political party, namely Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA), said in Zagreb on 19 January that the SDA will ask the new government to change the election law so that Muslims are guaranteed representation in parliament, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. At present, the relatively large Muslim and Slovenian minorities have no guaranteed representation, while some smaller minorities of Central European origin do. The spokesman added that SDA voters supported the opposition against the HDZ in the parliamentary vote and lean toward Stipe Mesic of the four-party coalition in the 24 January presidential elections. In related news, the weekly "Globus" published a poll that shows Mesic with 31 percent of the vote, followed by the two-party coalition's Drazen Budisa with 23 percent. The HDZ's Mate Granic is a distant third with 14 percent. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION INCHING TOWARD UNITY?

Representatives of the fractious Serbian opposition presented their plans for concrete aid projects to officials of the EU and U.S. in Budva on 19 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2000). EU ministers will meet in Brussels on 23 January to consider the proposals. The Democratic Party's Zoran Djindjic told Reuters that he hopes the EU will also consider lifting the fuel embargo and flight ban against Serbia. In Belgrade, some 13 opposition representatives held their second meeting in ten days to coordinate their activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2000). Goran Svilanovic of the Serbian Citizens' League told AP that the "opposition's disunity is a thing of the past." The Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic called on the West to support the opposition by lifting sanctions. PM

ARKAN FOLLOWERS BLAME REGIME FOR HIS DEATH

Yugoslav Foreign Ministry spokesman Rade Drobac told AP on 19 January that the government had nothing to do with the recent murder of warlord Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 January 2000). Drobac added that "we are not interested in it.... Arkan was not a political figure." But one "Degi," who is a member of Arkan's militia, said that "there is no doubt that the [secret] service killed him. Those [communist] monsters who have been killing this country for 50 years have murdered my commander." Led by Arkan's tearful wife Ceca, some 2,000 friends and followers attended a commemoration ceremony for him in Belgrade. Elsewhere, media attention has focused on the town of Loznica near the Bosnian border, "Danas" reported on 20 January. There police are watching the hospitalized Dusan Gavric, whom some Belgrade media claim was an accomplice of Arkan's assassin. PM

DEL PONTE URGES NATO TO ARREST KARADZIC

Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said in Brussels on 19 January that the Atlantic alliance should be more "aggressive" in catching war criminals still on the loose. She singled out Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic as the most important of them. Del Ponte noted that he "still wanders around the country" despite a public indictment going back several years. Jacques Klein, who heads the UN's mission in Bosnia, said recently that the continued failure to arrest Karadzic shows up the "impotence of the West in the face of evil," Reuters reported. He added that Western governments do not have the political will to accept the casualties that a fight with Karadzic's bodyguards would likely produce. PM

DIFFERENCES SETTLED OVER KOSOVA PROTECTION CORPS?

Officials of the UN administration in Kosova and of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) settled differences on 19 January regarding the question of ranks in the incipient Kosova Protection Corps (KPC), a UN spokeswoman said in Prishtina. As the UN prefers, there will be no ranks as such. But as the UCK wants, leaders will "wear insignias denoting their seniority in the organization," Reuters reported. The differences reflect the contrast between the UN view of the KPC as a civilian work force and the UCK hope that it will be the core of a new army. The ceremony to swear in 43 officers was postponed from 19 to 21 January "for technical reasons." PM

IMF APPROVES NEW TRANCHE FOR ALBANIA

Officials of the IMF agreed in Washington on 19 January to approve a further $13 million credit for Albania, dpa reported. The IMF hailed what it called that country's strong economic growth in 1999 despite the disruption caused by the crisis in Kosova. The economy grew by about 8 percent, while inflation was near zero. One IMF official added that the Albanian "authorities will continue to face challenging tasks in implementing the deep-seated reforms required to establish a fully functioning market economy and to ensure its rapid growth." PM

ROMANIA'S LIBERALS INITIATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

The National Liberal Party (PNL) on 19 January submitted to the Chamber of Deputies' Permanent Bureau a list of nearly 700,000 signatures collected in support of a constitutional amendment, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The amendment envisages changing article 41 in the basic document, to read that "the state guarantees private property." Under the existing constitution, the article says the state "protects" private property. PNL chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus on the same day said that his party wants the local elections to be held "on time" and not later than "the first week in June." MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ATTEMPT TO BAR HIS RUNNING

Party of Socialist Democracy in Romania Chairman Ion Iliescu on 19 January said in Timisoara that the Constitutional Court would "discredit itself" if it ruled that he is barred from seeking a new term of office as president, RFE/RL reported. Iliescu said that in 1996 the court already ruled that his next term would not be a third term in office, which is barred by the constitution. Iliescu also said that "personally" he is not "particularly motivated" to seek re-election and would step aside if "someone at least equal to myself" would emerge as a credible candidate. In related news, Alliance for Romania Chairman Teodor Melescanu said he would "not be surprised" if political adversaries attempt to "fabricate" a file ahead of the 2000 elections proving that he collaborated with the Securitate, but that "lies are always short-lived." MS

UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA

General Oleksander Kuzmuk and his Romanian counterpart Victor Babiuc on 19 January agreed to finalize three bilateral accords by the end of the year, envisaging measures to increase mutual confidence, collaboration in procurement of materiel and logistics, and the protection of secret information, Mediafax reported. Babiuc said Ukraine is "more advanced than Romania" in its preparations for setting up a battalion with Hungary and Slovakia for intervention in case of natural disasters and that Romania will try to "recuperate its lag behind" to ensure the battalion is set up by the end of the year. MS

TIRASPOL AGREES TO OBSERVERS IN SECURITY ZONE

The separatist Transdniester authorities on 18 January agreed "in principle" to grant access to observers to their military bases in the security zone that separates the belligerents in Moldova. The refusal of the separatists to do so in the past had led to a deadlock in the negotiations conducted under the auspices of the joint Control Commission. George Roman, the commission's Moldovan co-chairman, said that now the process of demilitarization in the zone "can finally begin," since previously Moldova had no way of checking whether the agreement on the Transdniester evacuation of armored vehicles would really be implemented, Infotag reported on 19 January. MS

UNHCR REPRESENTATIVE IN MOLDOVA SAYS 'NO CHECHEN TERRORISTS' REGISTERED AS REFUGEES

Oldrich Andrysek, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative to Moldova, said on 19 January that he agrees with President Petru Lucinschi that no terrorists from Chechnya must be granted refugee status in Moldova and that he is convinced that "not a single terrorist" will get that status. Andrysek rejected Lucinschi's accusation that his organization is "exceeding its authority" in Moldova. "We are present in this republic at the invitation of the Moldovan government and with regard to people seeking refugee status we act in accordance to international law," he said. Andrysek also said that in January alone 120 Chechens have applied for receiving the status from the UNHCR and said he does not think any of these, who had been checked many times on their long journey, could be terrorists. MS




An Anniversary Of Unintended Consequences


By Paul Goble

Moscow's military intervention in Baku ten years ago this week exacerbated the three things it was supposed to quell: ethnic unrest between Azerbaijanis and Armenians, the influence of Islam in the Soviet Union, and support for independence movements across the non-Russian portions of the USSR.

As such, the events in Baku a decade ago call attention to the unintended consequences which characterized so many aspects of Mikhail Gorbachev's reign as the last Soviet leader. And they serve as an object lesson of the ways in which the incautious use of military force by any government to address political problems can backfire.

But even more, especially when viewed from the perspective of today, the gap between what Moscow said it wanted to do in Azerbaijan at that time and what it actually achieved suggests some almost eerie parallels between what the current Russian government says it is doing in Chechnya and what its actions there may ultimately lead to.

For that reason, if for no other, the events of January 1990 in the southern Caucasus are currently attracting more attention in the Caucasus, in Russia, and in the West than might otherwise be the case.

The actual history is both complex and in some places still very much actively disputed.

On 15 January 1991, President Gorbachev approved the airlift of some 11,000 military and security troops to Azerbaijan. The Soviet leader said he was taking this step to stop escalating violence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

Violence between these two nations had been percolating since 1988, but it flared up at the end of 1989 and the beginning of 1990, following Baku's decision to blockade the railroad leading into Armenia and Yerevan's declaration that Nagorno-Karabakh should be integrated into the Armenian economy and that Armenian laws took precedence over Soviet ones.

These actions in turn sparked demonstrations in Azerbaijan, some of which turned violent, and they led to the formation of volunteer militias and self-defense forces on both sides. In the face of this escalating violence, Gorbachev on 17 January ordered its troops to open fire in self-defense and to protect civilians.

But this measure, designed to be intimidating and to limit the violence, had just the opposite effect. Over the next week, hundreds of people were killed--the exact numbers remain a matter of dispute--and Moscow upped the ante by introducing still more of its forces into Azerbaijan.

Moscow's action initially enjoyed the support of major Western countries--the United States, for example, said that it recognized Moscow's right to use force to protect its citizens and to oppose "age-old tensions"--but that support ebbed as the violence continued.

At home, this process was far quicker. Gorbachev soon faced mounting opposition from Russians who questioned the value of what he was doing. During the Soviet leader's visit to his native Stavropol Krai on 19 January, for example, one Russian woman told him that "I won't give you my son" for such campaigns in the Caucasus.

Non-Russians were even more outraged by this action. Most saw it as a reversal of the cautious approach Gorbachev had adopted following the massacre of demonstrators in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in April 1989. But an increasing number decided that such a use of force meant that autonomy within the Soviet Union was no longer an attractive option for them and that outright independence might be a better choice.

The Azerbaijan SSR Supreme Soviet indicated on 22 January, nearly a week after Soviet forces arrived, that the republic might seek to secede from the USSR. That move was followed within months by equally assertive actions from the Caucasus to the Baltics.

Faced with this challenge and hoping to send a message far beyond the borders of Azerbaijan, Soviet forces sealed the borders of that republic, imposed a state of emergency, and sought to hide what they were doing by denying entry to foreign journalists.

That show of force initially appeared very successful. For a few weeks, force appeared to have gained the upper hand. But in less than two years, Azerbaijan was independent, and the Soviet Union was no more.

At least part of the reason for that dramatic acceleration of the pace of history in Azerbaijan and elsewhere was the misplaced effort of those in Moscow who sought to slow it down.


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