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Newsline

Newsline - August 12, 1998



RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET SINKS

Russia's benchmark stock index on 11 August fell to its lowest level in more than two years. Yields on long-term government debt rose to 130-140 percent from 90-110 percent the previous day. Shares in some companies slipped by as much as 20-25 percent. According to Interfax, traders feared that Russia will not be able to cope with the rising costs on both its domestic and foreign debt and that a devaluation of the ruble is inevitable. JAC

TEACHERS STRIKES TO ACCOMPANY START OF SCHOOL YEAR?

According to "Izvestiya" on 12 August, unless teachers are paid part of the 12 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) in back wages they are owed, strikes by teachers at the start of the school year appear inevitable. With the exception of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Dagestan, Samara Oblast and the Yamalo-Nenetsk autonomous okrug, teachers across Russia have not been paid. On 3 August, teachers at a school in the Sverdlovsk oblast declared a hunger strike. However, the Ministry of Education does not believe that the public should be alarmed. It considers the situation in Sverdlovsk to be peaceful and notes that wages have been paid without interruption and the region has not required any federal assistance. However, "Izvestiya" reports that teachers there have, in fact, not received any wages since April. JAC

GOVERNMENT DEPLOYS POLICE AGAINST MINERS

Police have questioned Aleksandr Sergeev, head of the Independent Union of Mineworkers, about his members' blockade of the Trans-Siberian railroad near Chelyabinsk. ITAR-TASS reported that more than 500 policemen stopped miners from the Chelyabinskugol coal-mining company from trying to extend their blockade of railroads through to the Dubrovka station, some 30 kilometers south of Chelyabinsk. Chelyabinsk regional prosecutor Anatolii Bragin said that force was used only against those who tried to expand the current blockade. JAC

ACCORD REACHED WITH MINERS?

Interfax had reported on 8 August that miners in Chelyabinsk have agreed to end their strike following a promise of back wages worth 25 billion ($4 billion) from Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). But Reuters reported that part of the railroad in Chelyabinsk remained blocked on 11 August, and according to ITAR- TASS, an agreement with union leaders, Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin, and Chelyabinskugol company officials, was not signed until that day. ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August that although the rails have been cleared, protesters at the Potanino Station continue to stand next to the tracks, while police and OMON forces remain in position along other parts of the line. JAC/BP

GOVERNMENT WORKERS FACE CUTS

"Trud" reported on 11 August that more than 100,000 state employees will be dismissed by the end of 1998. The 20 July government decree "On the content, limited number, and wage resources of the territorial organs of the federal bodies of the executive branch" determines the number of employees for each ministry. The Transport Ministry will have to lay off only 728 people or 19 percent of its staff, while the Federal Tax Service will have to cut its personnel by some 28,000 people (15 percent). The State Statistics Committee will lose more than 20 percent of its staff, and the Federal Security Service will cut more than 4,000 posts. JAC

LARGE STAKE OF SVYAZINVEST UP FOR SALE

Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 11 August signed decrees authorizing the sale of 50 percent minus one share of the telecommunications company Svyazinvest. Twenty-five percent plus one share will be available at auction, while 25 percent minus two shares will be sold via an investment tender. Foreign companies may make bids for both packages. Last year, a 25 percent stake in the company was sold for $1.9 billion to an international consortium led by Oneximbank. Losing bidders charged the auction was fixed in Oneximbank's favor (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 1 August 1997). JAC

EU CHARGES RUSSIAN FIRMS WITH DUMPING

The EU on 10 August imposed a 32 percent anti-dumping tax on fiber boards manufactured in Russia, according to Interfax. Eighty percent of Russian fiber board exports go to the EU. Russian manufacturers of seamless pipes are facing a similar anti-dumping tax of 26.8 percent. There is a long history of friction between Russia and the EU on trade issues. Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov refused to meet with the EU's top trade official, Leon Brittan, during a visit to Moscow to protest what he called the EU's discrimination against Russian imports. JAC

FORMER ROSVOORUZHENIE BOSS JOINS LUZHKOV'S TEAM

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has offered Major- General Aleksandr Kotelkin the post of first deputy director of the Department of Municipal Property, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 12 August. That post entails supervising the capital's defense industry enterprises and seeking overseas markets for their output. After being fired one year ago from his post as director of the arms export monopoly Rosvooruzhenie, Kotelkin worked for several months as first deputy minister of foreign economic relations and trade. LF

RUSSIA WARNS OF TALIBAN THREAT...

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said on 11 August that Russia considers fighting in northern Afghanistan to constitute a threat to CIS borders, Interfax reported. Nesterushkin said the Taliban movement is ignoring the desire "of the Afghan people to restore peace and maintain [territorial] integrity." Nesterushkin described the Taliban as "a regime based on religious fanatic ideas, extremism, and intolerance to different opinions." He added that "peace and accord can be established in Afghanistan only through talks between the confronting sides without foreign interference." Nesterushkin said Russia maintains the right to use all measures to ensure security along the southern CIS borders, but he repeated an earlier offer to mediate and "participate constructively in seeking political solutions for the conflict in Afghanistan." BP

...AGAIN LINKS PAKISTAN TO AFGHAN EVENTS

Nesterushkin pointed to Pakistan as an example of a foreign country interfering in Afghan affairs, saying "Pakistani military experts directly help [the Taliban] in planning, conducting operations and providing material and technical supplies," Interfax reported. According to Nesterushkin, "concrete facts" such as the capture of "numerous Pakistani servicemen" by forces opposing the Taliban are evidence of Pakistan's role in the Afghan conflict. He also noted that such "massive military assistance...encourages [the Taliban's] aggressive [striving], fueling dangerous armed conflict which can exert a negative impact on international peace and stability" (see also below). BP

RUSSIAN-CHINESE RAIL LINK OPENS

The first rail traffic passed through the Russian-Chinese border crossing of Makhalino-Hunchun on 12 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The 22-kilometer rail track is expected to handle 500,000 tons of cargo annually this year and in 1999. That figure is forecast to reach 3 million tons by 2002. The track will boost trade between Russia's Primore Region and the northern provinces of China. BP




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NOT TO VISIT BAKU

Robert Kocharian told journalists on 12 August that he will not travel to Azerbaijan next month at the invitation of his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian said that an official delegation, most probably headed by Prime Minister Armen Darpinian, will travel to Baku to attend the 7-8 September conference on the TRACECA project. Kocharian did not explain why he declined the invitation, but he noted that security considerations had no bearing on his decision. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION...

Aliyev announced his candidacy for the 11 October presidential elections on state television on 11 August, Russian agencies reported. Nine of the 10 individuals who had expressed their intention to contend the presidency submitted the required documentation to the Central Electoral Commission before the 11 August deadline. The nine are Aliev, Azerbaijan Party of National Independence chairman Etibar Mamedov, Independent Azerbaijan Party chairman Nizami Suleymanov, Association of Victims of Political Repression chairman Ashraf Mehtiev, Umid [Hope] Party chairman Abulfar Ahmedov, Social Welfare Party chairman Hanguseyn Kazimli, Azerbaijan Communist Party- 2 chairman Firidun Hasanov, pedagogue Ilgar Kerimov, and Abutalib Samedov of the Alliance for Azerbaijan. United Communist Party of Azerbaijan Secretary-General Sayad Sayadov failed to submit the necessary application and signatures in support of his candidacy, according to Turan. LF

...AS HIS POWER BASE CONTINUES TO CRUMBLE

Three of the 91 founding members of Aliev's Yeni Azerbaycan Party have released a statement accusing the president of betraying the group of people who engineered his return from Nakhichevan to Baku in 1993, Turan reported. The three also announced their intention to quit the party. A fourth founding member of the party, Musa Heydarov, similarly wrote to Aliyev on 11 August announcing he plans to join the opposition. Several hundred members have left Yeni Azerbaycan in recent months, some of whom founded the Democratic Azerbaijan Party (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 16, 16 June 1998). LF

CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER DROPPED

The Azerbaijani Prosecutor's Office on 11 August dropped the criminal case against Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, Turan reported. Gambar was accused of using force against the population for ordering army units to open fire on insurgents led by Suret Huseinov in June 1993, when Gambar held the post of parliamentary speaker. Gambar is one of five opposition figures who made their participation in the 11 October presidential elections conditional on concessions by the Azerbaijani authorities, including dropping criminal charges against Gambar and one of his successors as parliamentary speaker, Rasul Guliev. Also on 11 August, Labor Party leader Sabutay Hadjiev was released from prison after serving less than two years of a three-year sentence for illegal weapons possession. The Labor Party is loyal to former President Ayaz Mutalibov. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY FACTION ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN

The Union of Citizens of Georgia faction on 11 August elected as its chairman 29-year-old Mikhail Saakashvili, chairman of the parliamentary committee on state and legal affairs, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili replaces Giorgi Baramidze, who will spend a year studying at Georgetown University. LF

MORE CLASHES IN ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN BORDER ZONE...

Four Abkhaz police officers were killed and a fifth wounded when Georgian guerrillas opened fire on their patrol car in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion during the night of 10- 11 August, Russian agencies reported. Early in the morning of 11 August, some 10-15 unidentified men crossed the Inguri River and shelled dwellings in two villages in Zugdidi Raion that lie within the 12 kilometer zone controlled by the CIS peacekeeping force, Caucasus Press reported. No injuries were reported. The Abkhaz government in exile said the men were Abkhaz, but an eye-witness told Caucasus Press that they spoke Russian and Mingrelian. LF

... ELICIT CONDEMNATION OF RUSSIA, ABKHAZIA

The Abkhaz Interior Ministry issued a statement on 11 August blaming the Georgian government for the ongoing series of attacks on Abkhaz police in Gali in recent weeks, Interfax reported. It claimed that since June 1998, Georgian guerrillas have perpetrated 11 terrorist acts in which 24 people, including 13 Abkhaz policemen and five members of the Russian peacekeeping force, were killed. Also on 11 August, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement calling on Georgia to take "effective steps to prevent the infiltration of armed formations into Gali." It also appealed to the Abkhaz leadership "to exercise restraint and desist from steps that could trigger dramatic consequences." LF

OSCE DELEGATION MEETS WITH ABKHAZ PRESIDENT

On a one-day visit to Sukhumi on 11 August, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel explained to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba that the OSCE abides by the principle of territorial integrity of member states. At the same time, he noted that there are different forms of self-determination. Van der Stoel said that he believes Georgia and Abkhazia can arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict if they make the "maximum effort" to do so. Ardzinba told the OSCE delegation that politics appear to take precedence over international legal norms, which he said are applied "selectively," ITAR-TASS reported. LF

TAJIKISTAN CALLS FOR CIS, UN ACTION ON AFGHANISTAN

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with senior security officials on 11 August to discuss the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. They later issued a statement calling on the CIS states to take all necessary measures to strengthen security along the CIS border with Afghanistan. The statement also called on warring factions inside Afghanistan to begin negotiations and for nations giving military support to those factions to cease their activities. In a separate statement, Tajikistan called on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to take urgent steps to end fighting in Afghanistan and to find a political solution to the conflict. BP

RUSSIAN DIVISION TO STAY IN TAJIKISTAN

Interfax on 11 August quoted an unnamed source in the Russian Defense Ministry as saying the 201st Motorized Infantry stationed in Tajikistan will remain there. The source said the division will remain in the assigned barracks but "will be ready for combat." Other media sources claim units of the 201st division are being moved into support positions near Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan. ITAR-TASS reported that armed soldiers of Afghanistan's Taliban movement have been observed by Russian border guards at two locations near the Tajik-Afghan border. BP

TURKMENISTAN DENIES CONSULATE IN AFGHANISTAN ATTACKED

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry on 11 August denied that the Turkmen Consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif was attacked by Taliban forces and that personnel there were forced to evacuate the building, Interfax reported. The denial came after reports from Iranian Radio earlier the same day claiming that Taliban soldiers had "broken into" the Turkmen Consulate, examined documents, equipment, and interrogated staff there. According to the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, the staff at Mazar-i-Sharif continues to work normally and has already established contact with Taliban forces in the city. BP

TURKMEN PRESIDENT UPBEAT ABOUT ECONOMY, AGRICULTURE

Saparmurat Niyazov, chairing an 11 August meeting of the expanded cabinet, said the country has reached "a new boundary" in economic reform," Interfax reported. Niyazov noted that this year's successful grain harvest showed "Turkmen soil is fertile." He said that fulfillment of the grain quota means that 40 percent of the processed grain products can be sold to low-income families at a reduced rate, the rest at free-market prices. He also called on regional governors to account for every kilogram of cotton during the harvest of that crop, which is due to begin on 15 August, and to meet the target figure of 1.5 million tons. There is "every chance of getting a bumper cotton harvest this year," he commented. BP

UZBEKISTAN TO INVESTIGATE BEATING OF RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 11 August said Moscow has received assurances from Uzbekistan that "competent bodies" there will investigate the 1 August beating of Russian journalists Vitalii Ponomarev and Nikolai Mitrokhin, ITAR-TASS reported. The journalists were attacked by "unidentified young people" in Tashkent. They were in Uzbekistan to collect material on the unrest in the Fergana Valley. That unrest, which began last December, is attributed to an extremist religious group. Nesterushkin acknowledged that the Russian journalists did not have accreditation from the relevant Uzbek authorities. BP




UKRAINE DENIES SHIPPING ARMS TO TALIBAN

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuriy Yermylko has rejected claims by the Afghan ambassadors to the UN and Russia that the Ukrainian mafia is shipping aircraft, tanks, and machine guns to the Taliban militia through Pakistan, Ukrainian Television reported on 11 August. He stressed that the sources of information in both statements have not been identified. Yermylko added that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is trying to obtain official information about the statements through its embassy in Moscow and mission at the UN in New York. JM

PUSTOVOYTENKO PRESSES FOR TAX COLLECTION

Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, who is also chief of Ukraine's Civilian Defense, has ordered some 1,000 Ukrainian managers to take part in civil defense field exercises scheduled to begin on 12 August, Ukrainian Television reported. The decision follows his threat to force tax debtors to pay up by sending them to a camp near Kyiv to exercise in "manuring gardens" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). According to the television station, Pustovoytenko has so far been able to extract only 80 million hryvni ($38 million) in payments to the pension fund and 108 million hryvni for the central budget. He had originally aimed to collect $1 billion hryvni. JM

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG CRITICIZES BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has sent an open letter to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry to protest violations of human rights in Belarus, AP and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 11 August. In particular, the letter criticizes the judiciary's refusal to investigate violence against journalists, the persecution of university students for political activities, and unreasonably high fines for participants in unsanctioned public protests. "Instead of being governed by law, the country is being governed by decrees," federation director Aaron Rose told journalists in Minsk on 11 August, following a three-day fact-finding trip to Belarus. JM

NO SPECIAL BENEFITS TO SOVIET-ERA VICTIMS IN BELARUS

A Minsk court on 11 August rejected an appeal by the Minsk Association of Victims of Soviet Repression to restore additional pension and other benefits to its members, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. The benefits were introduced in 1994 by the Supreme Soviet but were later canceled by order of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Recipients were either former prisoners of Stalin-era camps or their orphaned children. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS AMENDMENTS TO ALIENS LAW

The government on 11 August adopted amendments to the aliens law allowing the immigration quota to be exceeded in the case of citizens of some countries, ETA reported. Currently, the annual quota of foreigners who can move to Estonia and apply for residence permits is 0.05 percent of the permanent population of Estonia. Under the amended law, that quota will no longer apply to citizens of EU countries, the U.S., Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland. Nor will it apply to the spouses and children of Estonian citizens, in accordance with international norms. National Affairs Minister Andra Veidemann stressed that there has been no change in government policy; rather, legislation has to be amended to deal with problems that have arisen in daily practice. JC

RIGA EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY REMARKS

Latvian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins has voiced concern over what he called the "unprecedented disregard" for the opinions of both Latvia and the international community demonstrated in recent remarks by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin, BNS reported on 11 August. Riekstins also accused Moscow of the "public distortion" of facts about the conformity of Latvian legislation with international norms and OSCE recommendations. He was commenting on the remark by Nesterushkin that Moscow is puzzled by the fact that some countries regard recent amendments to the Latvian citizenship law as virtually solving "humanitarian problems" in Latvia. Nesterushkin noted that despite recent "cosmetic measures," the problem of the Russian-speaking minority in Latvia continues to cause tension. He added that "no real improvement has been made." JC

POLISH PRIMATE URGES NO MORE CROSSES AT AUSCHWITZ

In a letter to bishops published in the 11 August "Gazeta Wyborcza," Polish Catholic Church Primate Jozef Glemp appealed to Poles to stop erecting crosses outside the former Auschwitz concentration camp. However, another four-meter cross was put up the same day at a gravel pit near the camp. Chief Rabbi of Poland Menachem Joskowicz criticized Glemp's appeal as "no solution" to the Auschwitz crosses controversy, Polish Radio reported. The previous day, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles sent a letter to the Polish government demanding that the crosses outside the Auschwitz site be removed. The letter accuses "a group of Polish radicals" of imposing "Christian symbols on Jewish suffering," PAP reported. JM

GERMAN ACQUISITION OF POLISH NEWSPAPER SPARKS PROTEST

The sale of the local newspaper "Gazeta Olsztynska" to Franz Xavier Hirtreiter, the German owner of the "Passauer Neue Presse," has provoked sharp protests from some Polish politicians, Polish Radio reported on 11 August. The sale of the newspaper, which sought to preserve Polish identity and culture in the Warmia and Masurian Lake area (formerly in Eastern Prussia, now in Olsztyn Province), has been dubbed "an irony and a sale of symbols." Freedom Union parliamentary deputy Halina Nowina-Konopka has appealed to Hirtreiter to cancel the sale contract. Democratic Left Alliance Senator Janusz Lorentz, former Olsztyn Province governor, has sent a letter to Hirtreiter informing him that an initiative group wanting to buy back the newspaper has been created in Olsztyn. JM

CZECH ORGANIZATIONS PROTEST DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN

In an open letter to Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 11 August, several non-governmental organizations representing women protested the absence of any women in the country's new government, CTK reported. Michaela Tominova-Marksova of the Gender Studies Foundation said the letter described Zeman's arguments that work in the government is too hard for women as "unjustifiable and laughable." MS

CZECH AIR FORCE SHORT OF FUNDS

The Czech air force will not be able to purchase new aircraft owing to a shortage of funds, Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy said in an interview with "Pravo" on 11 August. Vetchy said that "no matter what party is in power, it cannot decide to purchase new fighters at present." He also said that for the time being, the shortage of fighters in the air force can be partly solved by ordering Czech-made L-159 subsonic aircraft. In other news, Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart and Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr on 10 August announced that an independent commission will examine the continuation of the construction work at the controversial Temelin nuclear plant. The commission is to include both foreign and local experts. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADERS SEE ELECTION BOYCOTT AS POSSIBLE

Slovak opposition leaders on 11 August warned that the attempts by Vladimir Meciar's ruling Movement for a Democratic (HZDS) Slovakia to bar the main opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) from running in the September parliamentary elections could lead to a boycott of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1998), Reuters reported. SDK leader Mikulas Dzurinda said the move to appeal to the Supreme Court over his party's registration is "simply an attempt to destroy the democratic constitutional system in Slovakia." The leader of the opposition Hungarian Coalition Party, Bela Bugar, told private-owned Radio Twist that "a call for civil disobedience" might be necessary. He added that he "cannot rule out the possibility that opposition parties will not take part in the elections or that they will call on citizens to boycott the poll." MS

HUNGARIAN POLICE INVESTIGATE PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL ALLEGATIONS

Police on 11 August began investigating allegations, published the previous day in "Nepszabadsag," that members of the ruling Federation of Young Democratic-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ) were involved in illegal privatization practices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1998). A spokesman for the police said that "at first glance," it appears that charges might be brought for either forgery of documents, deception, or misappropriation of documents, Hungarian media reported. The opposition Socialist Party has called for both a parliamentary inquiry and a criminal investigation. MS

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF UNDEMOCRATIC PRACTICES

Former Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 11 August accused FIDESZ of attempting to take over control and supervision of state property by putting its own people in charge of structures overseeing state assets. He argued that when the Socialists were in power, they left in office leading civil servants appointed by the Democratic Forum government before 1994, despite the "obvious failures" of that government's policies. Horn pointed out that 10 out of 12 state secretaries have been replaced. He also denounced the "undemocratic" concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office. MS




SECURITY COUNCIL TAKES NO ACTION ON KOSOVA

Fighting continues in western Kosova, AP reported on 12 August. Independent Belgrade Radio B-92 said that Serbian forces are conducting a major assault on Gllogjan near the Decan-Gjakova road. The previous day, the UN Security Council approved a statement in which it appealed to both sides in the Kosova dispute to seek a "final end to the violence" and a "meaningful dialogue" aimed at a negotiated settlement. The text criticized the "ongoing offensive by Belgrade's security forces" but reaffirmed support for federal Yugoslavia's "sovereignty and territorial integrity." The statement also called for the return of all refugees to their homes. "The Washington Post" wrote that the Council's failure to pass a formal resolution on Kosova "underscored anew the degree to which the United Nations has been forced into the role of a relatively passive observer" in the Kosova crisis. PM

ARE WEAPONS THE PROBLEM?

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York on 11 August that Annan is concerned that Belgrade "may be conducting a 'scorched-earth policy' in some areas" of Kosova. The spokesman added that Annan is also worried by "the continuing infiltration from outside...Yugoslavia of weapons and fighting men." The Security Council statement expressed similar concern. Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Yurii Fedotov stressed that Moscow will not support any tough resolution on Kosova unless the international community first finds a way to monitor the flow of arms into the province. He told AP that "preventing the flow of arms would help resolve the crisis." Fedotov also noted that Milosevic is willing to negotiate but that the Kosovars have yet to agree on the composition of their delegation for any future talks. PM

SERBIA EXPELS GERMAN JOURNALIST

The Serbian authorities have declared the veteran Balkan correspondent Erich Rathfelder persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country, the German satellite broadcaster NTV reported on 12 August. Rathfelder wrote in the Berlin daily "taz" and in Vienna's "Die Presse" on 5 August that members of the Serbian forces in Kosova buried hundreds of ethnic Albanian civilians in mass graves in Rahovec. EU monitors were subsequently unable to confirm that report. Rathfelder and his editors stand by their story and have called for international forensics experts to investigate (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 12 August 1998). Rathfelder is the author of several books on the former Yugoslavia, including a recent one on the war in Bosnia. PM

MONTENEGRO REFUSES TO SEND REINFORCEMENTS

An unnamed advisor to the Montenegrin government told London's "The Guardian" of 12 August that the government turned down a request by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic the previous week to send reinforcements for the paramilitary police in Kosova. The adviser told the newspaper that "Milosevic doesn't understand that you cannot win a war if you commit war crimes. You simply create new soldiers, who join the opposing side to avenge their families." Another unidentified official in Podgorica said that the military authorities have respected Montenegro's wish that Montenegrin conscripts not be sent to Kosova. He added that the generals realize that young Montenegrins "do not care" whether Kosova remains part of Serbia. Also in Montenegro, an Austrian refugee relief worker told Austrian Radio that Montenegrins increasingly regard themselves as "Montenegrins and not as a sub- group of Serbs" as a result of Milosevic's policies in Bosnia and Kosova. PM

CROATIA TURNS DOWN MONTENEGRIN AID OFFER

A spokesman for the Croatian government told "Slobodna Dalmacija" of 12 August that the Dubrovnik region does not want the aid offered by the Montenegrin border town of Herceg Novi in response to the recent wave of fires that has swept much of Dalmatia. The spokesman stressed that Croatia has no need of assistance from those "who killed our children" during the 1991 war and whose unexploded shells continue to cause injury. In Dubrovnik, another government spokesman said that the authorities have registered some 155 fires in Dalmatia since 5 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

KARADZIC PARTY TO SIT OUT CAMPAIGN

Dragan Kalinic, who heads the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) loyal to Radovan Karadzic, said in Banja Luka on 11 August that his party has stopped campaign activities for the 12-13 September Bosnian general elections. Kalinic charged that the SDS has long been the object of a "witch hunt" led by the government of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik. Kalinic added that his party's candidates feel that their security is threatened in the wake of the recent killing of pro-Plavsic police official Srdjan Knezevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). Pro-Plavsic Interior Minister Milovan Stankovic subsequently suggested that Momcilo Krajisnik, who is a leading SDS member and the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, ordered Knezevic's assassination. Krajisnik called the charge a "filthy lie and Goebbels-type propaganda," "Nasa Borba" reported on 12 August. PM

ALBANIA, MACEDONIA, WORLD BANK TO PROTECT LAKE OHRID

The ambassadors to the U.S. of Albania and Macedonia met with World Bank representatives on 10 August in Washington and signed an agreement to protect Lake Ohrid. The agreement seeks to develop joint management of the region around the lake and protect the nearby natural springs and the region's wild-life, ATSH news agency reported. FS

CONTROVERSY OVER ALBANIAN SECRET SERVICE LAW

Namik Dokle, the deputy speaker of the parliament, told "Gazeta Shqiptare" of 11 August that he opposes the recent draft law regulating the National Information Service. He said the bill bans the service from giving any information to government ministers or parliamentary deputies without the prior approval of the parliamentary speaker and the prime minister. Dokle added that the draft also increases the prime minister's authority over the secret service at the expense of the president. "Gazeta Shqiptare," however, pointed out that most Socialist Party legislators seek early passage of the bill on the grounds that Islamic fundamentalists have recently stepped up their activities. Spokesmen for the opposition Democratic Party have criticized the draft, arguing that it undermines parliamentary control over the service and allows the service to investigate politicians. FS

ALBANIAN CULTURE MINISTRY ACCUSES MOVIE DISTRIBUTOR OF THEFT

Culture Ministry official Blendi Gonxhe has accused Genc Ruzhdi, director of the Alba-Film Distribution company, of theft. Gonxhe told the ATSH news agency on 11 August that since 1991, Ruzhdi has sold hundreds of films, documentaries, and animated cartoons to private television companies at prices well below their value. Gonxhe added that an unspecified number of "video tapes, [movies, and] pieces of electronic equipment are missing" from Alba-Film's archives. And he noted that Ruzhdi recently prepared to sell "truckloads of movies at low prices." FS

NEW TENSIONS IN ROMANIAN COALITION

The chairman of the Senate's Agriculture Commission, Trita Fanita of the Democratic Party, told journalists on 11 August that all senior officials at the Ministry of Agriculture should resign for "lack of professionalism and interest" in dealing with aftermath of the drought in Romania this year. Incumbent Agriculture Minister Dinu Gavrilescu is a member of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, the strongest member of the ruling coalition, of which the Democrats are also a partner. Also on 11 August, Viorel Catarama, chairman of the Senate's Economic Commission and deputy chairman of the coalition member National Liberal Party, said that both he and former Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, who heads the Senate's Privatization Commission, backed Finance Minister Daniel Daianu's position opposing the extension of state guarantees for the purchase of the 96 helicopters in the envisaged deal with Bell Helicopters Textron. MS

TRANSDNIESTRIANS WANT TO JOIN RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION

According to the results of a non-binding referendum on joining the Russia-Belarus union, published in Tiraspol on 11 August, 67 percent of the population of the breakaway Transdniester region support the initiative. The referendum was called at the initiative of the United Soviet of Work Collectives and took place between April and June. The deadline for casting votes was repeatedly extended because of low participation. The organizers did not say what the final turnout was. The results are to be sent to the union's Executive Committee, which will respond to the results of the initiative by year's end, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 11 August. MS

BULGARIAN CABINET AMENDS PRIVATIZATION LAW

According to an amendment to the privatization law approved by the government on 10 August, debts of enterprises may be reduced or written off. This, however, can only be done with the prior consent of the government and only in those cases where there is evidence that the debt will obstruct the privatization of the enterprise, BTA reported. The state will also assume responsibility for environmental damage caused by the enterprises that are privatized. MS




UKRAINIANS SUPPORT BOTH UKRAINIAN AND RUSSIAN LANGUAGES


by Stefan Korshak and Vitaly Sych

Most Ukrainians would like to keep Ukrainian as the sole language for government use, but an even larger percentage would like to give the Russian language some official status, according to a recent Ukrainian Surveys & Market Research/Kyiv Post poll.

The survey also confirmed Ukraine's east-west linguistic divide: respondents from the west are more likely to favor the Ukrainian language, while respondents from the east and south are more likely to support Russian.

But the poll brought some surprises. Most notably, the results show that the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to favor the Russian language.

Comparisons with the Soviet era are impossible, as comparable surveys were not taken. But the results suggest that the current policy of conducting all public education in the Ukrainian language has so far failed to halt a long-term trend toward linguistic Russification in Ukraine.

The primary language in western provinces and in some rural areas, Ukrainian was confirmed in the 1996 constitution as the sole "state language." This means that all government documents, public education, and commercial contracts must be in the Ukrainian language, although such regulations are less likely to be enforced in Russian-speaking regions.

Of the 1,000 people polled throughout Ukraine, more than 70 percent said they favor giving Russian some kind of official status, but almost 60 percent were against making Russian a state language.

The results are not a mandate for radical change. Slightly more than 30 percent favored keeping Ukrainian as the sole state language and at the same time giving Russian legal status in the commercial sphere only. The status quo was favored by 24.2 percent. But 36 percent favored making Russian a second state language. Only 4.6 percent said they would like to see Russian become the sole state language, while 4.1 percent approved of "completely banning the Russian language from Ukraine."

In the east and south, resistance to current policy is strong: solid majorities there favored putting Russian on an equal legal footing with Ukrainian, while about a quarter of respondents preferred merely recognizing Russian in the commercial sphere. And the south was also the most pro-Russian: more people there favored making Russian the sole state language (8 percent) than favored the status quo (6.2 percent).

Likewise, anti-Russian sentiment was strong in the west. Less than a third (29 percent) in that area favored recognizing Russian in any way, while more than half (54.7 percent) favored the status quo and 16.1 percent favored banning Russian.

The capital Kyiv differed from the north as a whole. In both the city and the region, nearly half of the respondents were in favor of recognizing Russian in the commercial sphere. In the region, 25 percent favored the status quo and 22.6 percent favored making Russian a state language, while in Kyiv 37.1 percent favored the status quo and only 12.7 percent favored making Russian a state language.

Ukraine's handling of ethnic and language issues has been a relative success. Observers have long predicted growing ethnic tension between Ukrainian nationalists in the west and ethnic Russians in the east and Crimea. Ukrainians appear to be fairly comfortable with not one, but two functional national languages.

The survey confirmed that despite its relegation to non-official status since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, Russian remains the primary spoken language in Ukraine. The number of respondents who said they spoke Russian at home outnumbered those who said they spoke Ukrainian at home by a ratio of 3:2.

Nationwide, almost half of respondents (45.6 percent) said they speak Russian at home, 29.8 percent said they speak Ukrainian, and 23.5 percent said they speak both languages. The high number of bilingual households may be partly explained by the use of mixed Ukrainian-Russian dialects.

Younger people are considerably more likely to speak Russian. In the 30-39, 40-49, and 50-and-over age groups, 41 percent said they speak Russian at home, while 53 percent of people in their twenties and 57 percent of people aged 15 to 19 said they spoke Russian.

People in their thirties were most likely to speak Ukrainian, with 36 percent saying they speak it at home. That figure fell to 29 percent among people aged 50 and over and to 24 percent among people aged 15 to 19.

Younger people are also more likely to support making Russian an official language: 46.4 percent of teenagers favored such a move, 41.4 percent of those in their twenties, 40.1 percent of people in their thirties, 40.2 percent of people in their forties, and just 37.3 percent of people aged 50 and over. The authors are Kyiv-based RFE/RL correspondents.


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