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Newsline

Newsline - May 7, 1999



G-8 AGREE ON KOSOVA DOCUMENT...

The foreign ministers of the world's seven leading industrial countries and Russia approved a document on Kosova at their meeting in Bonn on 6 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the German city. They demanded an immediate and verifiable end to violence in Kosova, the withdrawal of Serbian police, military, and paramilitary troops, the deployment of "effective international civilian and security presences" mandated by the UN, the appointment of a provisional administration by the UN Security Council, the unhindered return of all refugees, and full access to Kosova for humanitarian relief organizations. They also want to see the beginning of a political process that will lead to autonomy for Kosova under the principles of the Rambouillet agreement, with respect for the sovereignty and integrity of Yugoslavia, including the disarmament of the UCK and a joint assistance program for the economic development of the Balkans. FS

...WANT SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION

The foreign ministers authorized Germany's Joschka Fischer to draft a UN resolution on the basis of the G-8 document and Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force to uphold international peace and security. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC that he understands that an "efficient security presence" means well-armed NATO forces that can secure a withdrawal of all Serbian forces. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York that Secretary- General Kofi Annan considers the adoption of these principles an "important step." NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels that the document marks a significant step toward securing "peace with justice for Kosova." He added that NATO will not end its air strikes until it has achieved its goals. FS

IVANOV REJECTS NATO PRESENCE WITHOUT BELGRADE'S APPROVAL

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the meeting did not produce "a breakthrough but a step in the right direction," adding that "a breakthrough will be achieved when the war ceases," ITAR-TASS reported. He told "Trud" of 7 May that a peace-keeping force could not include NATO troops without Belgrade's agreement. He accused NATO of aiming to "establish its complete domination in the 21st century." Referring to the NATO air strikes, he said that "if this madness is not stopped immediately there will be the gravest consequences for the future of the international stability and security." FS

NUKES NO LONGER JUST FOR MASS DESTRUCTION?

Writing in "Segodnya" on 6 May, military analyst Pavel Felgengauer suggests that the documents discussed at a 30 April Russian Security Council meeting "aim to make a limited nuclear war possible in theory." The announcement of the classified program may indicate the beginning of work on a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons "within the framework of a program that has long been proposed by the Ministry of Atomic Energy." The ministry's aim, according to Felgengauer, is to change the notion of nuclear weapons as only weapons of mass destruction. The program, which would reportedly not require much funding, at least initially, would aim to radically modernize Russia's entire nuclear arsenal, both tactical and strategic, so that Russia can "carry out precision low-yield 'nonstrategic' nuclear strikes" anywhere in the world. Felgengauer concludes that NATO air strikes enabled the ministry to finally win authorization to implement its plan. JAC

GOVERNMENT SUGGESTS MORE POLITICALLY PALATABLE TAX INCREASES...

Fearing that the State Duma would automatically reject legislation increasing taxes on gasoline, the government is set to propose that gas stations pay a new tax of 7,000-10,000 rubles a month, Russian Television reported on 6 May. In addition, the government will propose a new tax on cars whose engine-size exceed 2500 cubic centimeters. An annual payment of 1.2-1.8 rubles per cubic centimeter will not apply to cars produced domestically. The new tax measures will be submitted as part of a package of legislation required by the IMF in order to release new funds. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 May, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov said that the text of a memorandum concerning the government and Central Bank policies will be signed soon and submitted to the IMF Board of Directors. JAC

...AS COLLECTIONS RISE, INFLATION STEADY

Aleksandr Pochinok, head of the government's finance department, told reporters on 6 May that the government collected 27 million rubles ($1.12 million) in taxes and 13 million rubles in customs duties in April. Together these sums represent a 40 percent increase over March and the first time the government has met its goal for revenue collection in some months. Meanwhile, Russia's inflation rate in April was 3 percent, compared with 2.8 percent the previous month, according to the State Committee for Statistics, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. JAC

ANOTHER HITCH SURFACES WITH EU FOOD AID

As the EU ponders whether to approve a third export tender for food to be shipped to Russia, EU and Russian officials are disagreeing over the pricing of food aid within Russia, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 May. The EU wants the Russian government to cover additional expenses, such as transporting the aid and clearing it through customs. Under the current agreement, the food aid is sold at market prices, with the proceeds going to the Pension Fund. Some regions have rejected the aid, saying it is too expensive, while others refused to accept French grain because of its allegedly insufficient quality. According to the daily, about 30 percent of regions that originally signed up for assistance have now dropped out of the program. In some cases, regional administrators did not want to assume responsibility for ensuring that the profits went to the Pension Fund. JAC

LUZHKOV TARGETTED IN ANTI-SEMITIC CAMPAIGN

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, a likely presidential contender and head of the Otechestvo movement, is featured on an anti-Semitic leaflet that is being distributed in Kirov Oblast. "Izvestiya" reported on 6 May that Kirov residents found anti-Semitic leaflets in their mailboxes claiming that Luzhkov is a Jew and "wants to be become president!" The leaflet shows Luzhkov and so-called oligarch Vladimir Gusinskii, who is also president of the Russian Jewish Congress, wearing yarmulkes at the opening of the Holocaust memorial synagogue on Poklonnaya Gora on 2 September 1998, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 May. Last December, residents in Krasnodar Krai found leaflets in their mail boxes calling for the extermination of all Jews in the krai. The leaflets also called for Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko to run for president of Russia in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). JAC

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, SKURATOV MAKES NO NEW REVELATIONS

At a 6 May closed-door session of the Federation Council's commission on corruption, Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov more or less recapped his earlier address to the full Federation Council, revealing no new information, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 May, citing unidentified sources. The newspaper reported that the commission's main work will likely be to agree on Skuratov's successor, since "his dismissal will happen anyway sooner or later." Among the potential candidates, according to the daily, are Yurii Golik, an adviser to Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, and Vladimir Platonov, deputy speaker of the Council. Also on 6 May, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Deputy Prosecutor- General Mikhail Katyshev has been removed from the investigation of key cases. According to the daily, Katyshev, who has a distinguished record of service at the prosecutor's office over the past 30 years, issued the orders to arrest business tycoons Boris Berezovskii and Aleksandr Smolenskii. JAC

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES RE-REGISTERED BY FEDERAL AUTHORITIES

The Justice Ministry re-registered the Jehovah's Witnesses as a religious organization on 5 May, despite a Moscow prosecutor's effort to ban the organization from the city. A controversial 1997 law requires that all religious organizations in Russia be registered or face the possibility of being banned. A Church spokesman told Reuters on 6 May that the Justice Ministry made its decision after a six-month examination of the group's literature and operations. The Moscow case is currently on hold as a panel of court- appointed experts conduct their own examination of the Church's literature. The Church claims that more than 250,000 people in Russia attend their religious services. JAC

COAL MINERS LAUNCH NEW PROTEST ACTION

Miners at the Berezovskii coal mine in Krasnoyarsk Krai have stopped the shipment of fuel to the local power plant, which owes the miner 120 million rubles ($5 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. Under a previous agreement, the power plant is supposed to transfer to the pit 50 percent of all payments it receives for electricity, but, according to a local trade union official, it regularly fails to do so. JAC

SUSPECT ARRESTED IN NORTH CAUCASUS ELECTION VIOLENCE

A man has been arrested in connection with 11 terrorist acts committed since the beginning of the presidential election campaign in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day listed several arson or grenade attacks against members of the campaign staffs of the two candidates in the 16 May runoff. The newspaper cited a spokesmen for one of those two candidates, former Russian ground forces commander General Vladimir Semenov, as blaming the violence on unnamed candidates defeated in the first round of voting on 25 April. LF

CRIMINAL GANGS CLASH IN GROZNY

At least three people were killed and 10 wounded, including some passers-by, when members of two criminal groups engaged in fighting in central Grozny during the evening of 6 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, the committee charged with drafting a new constitution for the Chechen Republic Ichkeria has completed that draft, which is currently being translated from Russian into Chechen under the supervision of former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 May. LF




ARMENIA DENIES ASPIRING TO NATO MEMBERSHIP

In an interview published on 6 May in the Armenian- and Russian-language government dailies, Deputy Defense Minister Vahan Shirkhanian said that Armenia does not intend to join the alliance but will continue to participate in the Partnership for Peace and other programs that contribute to strengthening national security, according to ITAR-TASS and Asbarez-on-Line. He also denied that Armenia's participation in last month's NATO summit in Washington could have a negative impact on Russian- Armenian relations. LF

ARMENIAN COURT REJECTS TRADERS' APPEAL

A Yerevan district court rejected on 6 May the suit brought by the Armenian Traders Union against the Armenian government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The traders had claimed that they had been wrongfully fined for failing to comply with a government ruling requiring them to input all transactions into cash registers, beginning on 1 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1999). No fines should have been imposed prior to 1 April for failure to do so. The district court refused to hear the traders' appeal, claiming that only the Constitutional Court is empowered to challenge government rulings. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS JOURNALIST"S ARREST IN IRAN

Independent organizations representing Azerbaijani journalists issued a statement on 6 May condemning the detention three days earlier of Ganimat Zahidov, editor of the newspaper "Ekspress," by Iranian customs officials, Turan reported. Zahidov was returning from a trip to Iran during which he conducted a 10-hour interview with Mahmudali Chehragani, who is a professor at Tabriz university and a representative of Iran's ethnic Azeri community. The Iranian officials claim Zahidov was smuggling a pair of binoculars, but they also confiscated his tapes of the interview with Chehragani. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON ECONOMIC CRIME

Addressing a government session on 6 May, Eduard Shevardnadze said that more than 1,000 cases of corruption and economic crime have been registered in Georgia since the beginning of 1999, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze added that some 400 police, customs and tax officials have been dismissed for various crimes. Georgian Internal Minister, Kakha Targamadze noted that 12 people have been arrested since January for attempting to circulate a total of more than $2 million in counterfeit bills. LF

ARE THERE MOLES WITHIN THE GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY?

"Alia" on 6 May quoted senior Georgian Defense Ministry official Gogi Gogashvili as saying that he believes unnamed ministry staff slated for redundancy in personnel cuts aimed at bringing the ministry's structure into conformity with NATO standards have been coopted by Russian intelligence. A second newspaper, "Rezonansi," reported the same day that unnamed Georgian generals are seeking to engineer the sacking of West Point-trained Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze and the appointment of a pro-Russian replacement. LF

GEORGIA ACCUSES ABKHAZIA OF NEW TROOP BUILDUP

A spokesman for the Abkhaz Security Ministry in exile, which represents the Georgian population forced to flee Abkhazia in 1992-3, said on 6 May that the Abkhaz government deployed an additional 86 troops, including some ethnic Armenians, in Gali Raion on 5-6 May in order to secure the region's borders in the event of the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force, Caucasus Press reported. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER AGAIN DENIES TAX EVASION CHARGES

Akezhan Kazhegeldin has written an open letter to Prosecutor- General Yurii Khitrin again saying that the accusations of tax evasion leveled against himself and his wife are "groundless" RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 7 May. The open letter was published in the 7 May edition of the newspaper "XXI vek" (21st Century). Khitrin announced last month that criminal proceedings are to be opened against Kazhegeldin, at which time the latter denied the charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 29 April 1999). LF

HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN KAZAKHSTAN EVOKES U.S. CONCERN

Speaking at a congressional hearing on 6 May, U.S. congressman Christopher Smith expressed concern at Kazakhstan's apparent retreat from democratization, noting that the January 1999 presidential elections were "neither free nor fair," an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. A senior State Department official added that Kazakhstan should bring its electoral legislation into line with international standards, schedule elections far enough in advance to give the opposition adequate opportunity to prepare for them, register new political parties promptly, and include non-government representatives on central and local electoral commissions. Kazakhstan's ambassador in Washington, Bolat Nurgaliev, said his country takes "seriously" its obligations to meet OSCE standards, but he added that problems inherited from the Soviet era are an obstacle to democratization (see also "End Note" below). LF

KAZAKH POLICE DISPERSE HUNGER STRIKERS

Seventeen employees of the Shymkent Phosphorus Plant who began a hunger strike on the town's central square last week to demand payment of their salaries for the past three years were dispersed by police on 6 May, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The plant, which is bankrupt and up for sale, owes its former workers about 600 million tenges (approximately $5 million). LF

KYRGYZ CABINET DEBATES BUDGET CRISIS

Addressing a cabinet session in Bishkek on 6 May, newly appointed Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev said the country's present financial situation is the most serious ever, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said the cabinet is unable to pay some 500 million soms (about $14 million) in back payments, including wages, pensions and other allowances. Finance Minister Marat Sultanov reported that industrial output declined in 1998 by 39.7 percent, compared with 1997. Agricultural output fell by 12 percent and construction by 48 percent. Revenues from privatization in 1998 also fell short of the anticipated figure. LF

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN UZBEKISTAN

Kamal Kharrazi met with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov, and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov during a two-day working visit to Tashkent on 5-6 May, AFP and Interfax reported. The talks focussed on economic cooperation, the peace process in Tajikistan, and the situation in Afghanistan, AP-Blitz reported from Dushanbe. Karimov and Kharrazi agreed that the UN Security Council should be asked to mediate in the Afghan conflict. LF




LUKASHENKA SEES NO NEED FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES IN BELARUS

Belarusian President Alyaksandr on 6 May said he sees no need to build Russian military bases in Belarus since Belarus is a friendly country and its army will also defend Russia if need be, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Lukashenka noted that "the latest events in the world prove the need for modernizing [our] national armed forces", adding that Russia's contribution to this modernization would be desirable. He complained that Russia does not pay for weapons imported from Belarus but it remembers "when we build up a debt for their natural gas and then there is a hue and cry throughout the media," Interfax quoted him as saying. JM

KUCHMA REAFFIRMS TIES WITH RUSSIA

"There is not and will never be any severance with Russia, which is a traditional partner of Ukraine," President Leonid Kuchma said in Sevastopol on 6 May at a ceremony dedicated to Victory Day and the 55th anniversary of Sevastopol's liberation from the Nazis, UNIAN reported. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev delivered Russian President Boris Yeltsin's message to the people of Sevastopol, describing the city as a bonding link between Ukraine and Russia. JM

CRIMEAN TATARS MARCH TO DEMAND MORE RIGHTS

Crimean Tatars on 6 May began a march on the Crimean capital, Sevastopol, to demand more rights for their ethnic minority, AP reported. Some 170 people set out from Kerch to Simferopol to cover the 190-kilometer route to the capital. Tatars from six other towns are expected to leave for Sevastopol on foot over the next several days and to convene there on 18 May to mark the 55th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia. After the demonstration, the Tatars are planning to set up a tent camp in front of Crimea's government and parliament headquarters and begin negotiations with the authorities. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS ACCUSE CENTRAL BANK OF MISUSING RESERVES

Viktor Suslov, head of a parliamentary investigative commission, said on 6 May that his commission has examined the National Bank's activities since last October and found that currency reserves were misused. According to the findings, Ukraine's Central Bank has failed to return some $85 million from a Cypriot bank account. The commission also alleges that the bank illegally transferred part of its reserves to Russia's National Reserves Bank. "If I were [National Bank Chairman] Viktor Yushchenko, I would resign," AP quoted Suslov as saying. Yushchenko has denied the allegations. JM

MERI RECOMMENDS REORGANIZATION OF OSCE MISSION

Writing in "Postimees" on 6 May, Estonian President Lennart Meri argued that the OSCE mission in Estonia has achieved its aims and should be reorganized into an education center that would "continue to help Estonia overcome the burden of its Soviet past." The president proposed that such a center could help educate the young "in preventing conflicts." At the same time, he stressed that this is not an attack on the OSCE as an institution and that his proposal is up for discussion. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel is to meet with Meri in Tallinn on 7 May to discuss the OSCE's concerns over language law provisions requiring elected officials to be proficient in Estonian, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tallinn reported. JC

IMF AGAIN WARNS CUTS IN ESTONIAN BUDGET INSUFFICIENT

One day after the Estonian government approved a negative supplementary budget reducing the volume of the budget by 1.03 billion kroons (some $70 million), the IMF repeated its position that cuts of at least 2 billion kroons are needed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 May 1999), ETA reported on 6 May. A representative of the fund urged the government to take resolute measures to curb public sector spending in Estonia, which, he said, has increased too quickly. He noted that such spending will account for 42 percent of GDP this year even after the planned 1.3 billion kroons cut, according to BNS. The parliament is expected to vote on the supplementary budget next month. JC

WORLD BANK GRANTS LATVIA LOAN FOR EDUCATION PROJECTS

The World Bank has approved a loan to Latvia for education projects worth $31 million, the bulk of which will help renovate school buildings, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 6 May. It will be repayable over 15 years and carries a three-year grace period. The bank noted that it has committed $300 million to Latvia since the country joined the institution in 1992. JC

SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT IN VILNIUS

On the second day of his official visit to Lithuania, Milan Kucan met with parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, with whom he reportedly exchanged views on the role of post-Soviet countries in contemporary Europe, ELTA reported on 6 May. The previous day, Kucan held talks with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus. Emerging from that meeting, Adamkus told journalists that he had been given assurances that Slovenia will support Lithuania's bid to join the EU and NATO. Slovenia is one of the "fast-track" candidates for EU membership. JC

TWO POLISH OFFICERS ARRESTED OVER SUSPECTED ESPIONAGE

Two Polish retired colonels have been arrested on charges of spying for the USSR and Russia, Polish media reported on 6 May. Commenting on a spy investigation launched last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1999), Premier Jerzy Buzek said three officers are involved: two retired ones and another who is still working but holds no important post. "Rzeczpospolita" reported that the detained officers worked in regional branches of Poland's military intelligence service. The "Zycie" daily, which first publicized the spy case, said that after uncovering the spies, the Polish intelligence service moved them to less important posts outside Warsaw and kept them under observation to see how Russian intelligence operates. However, when Poland joined NATO on 12 March, the arrests were unavoidable. "Zycie" added that the three spied for "ideological reasons." JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT REJECTS BAN ON ADVERTISING FOR CHILDREN

By a vote of 221 to 177 with seven abstentions, the parliament on 7 May failed to override the presidential veto on a bill banning radio and television advertising targeted at children, Reuters reported. The vote divided the ruling coalition, with the Freedom Union (UW) teaming up with the opposition Democratic Left Alliance to reject the ban. Deputies from the Solidarity Electoral Action, the UW's coalition partner, had propose the prohibition. JM

FIRST LUSTRATION STATEMENT CONTESTED IN POLAND

Prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski has sent to the Lustration Court the first application to question an official suspected of having made a false statement on collaboration with the Communist-era secret services, Polish Radio reported on 6 May. The identity of the official has not been disclosed. Under Poland's lustration law, anyone found guilty of lying in his/her lustration statement will be barred from holding public office for 10 years. JM

KLAUS REJECTS EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT'S CRITICISM OF TEMELIN

Czech parliamentary speaker Vaclav Klaus said on 6 May that the European Parliament's criticism of the unfinished Temelin nuclear power plant is unacceptable, CTK reported. Klaus said Temelin is "certainly much more modern than the overwhelming majority of nuclear power plants now used in [Western] Europe." He said it is an "incredible, unprecedented thing" for the parliament to "meddle" in the affair. The parliament approved a resolution earlier the same day that called for alternatives to completing the plant, which is a hybrid of Soviet and Western designs. Josef Kreuter, the Czech EU ambassador, said the resolution was based on "a number of half-truths and downright untruths." He added that he had never heard "such a load of lies and deliberate misinterpretations." PB

CZECHS LOSING CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT'S ECONOMIC POLICIES

A poll released on 6 May showed that 59 percent of respondents no longer believe that the ruling Social Democrats can solve the country's economic problems, CTK reported. Only 14 percent said they still have faith in the government's economic policies while the rest were undecided. Some 55 percent of those polled said their standard of living is worse today than it was one year ago. The poll was taken by the STEM polling agency. PB

SLOVAK PREMIER WANTS EU MEMBERSHIP BY 2006 AT LATEST

Mikulas Dzurinda said that he expects Slovakia to enter the EU between 2003 and 2006, CTK reported on 6 May. In an interview with the French economic daily "La Tribune," Dzurinda also said he believes Slovakia will be admitted to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development late this year or early in 2000. He said Slovakia is making the effort "to get to the level of its neighbors soon." In other news, the first group of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosova arrived in Bratislava on 5 May. About 90 people, mostly women and children, will be moved to a humanitarian center in Gabcikovo, about 50 kilometers from the capital. PB

SLOVAKIA, CZECH REPUBLIC WANT TO MAINTAIN CUSTOMS UNION

Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Telicka said in Bratislava on 6 May that he expects "long and intensive" talks with the EU on the fate of the Czech-Slovak customs union, CTK reported. Telicka, the Czech Republic's chief negotiator with the EU, said Prague wants to maintain the customs union with Bratislava while "fully integrating into the EU's internal market, even if the two countries enter the EU at different times." Telicka held talks in Bratislava with his Slovak counterpart, Jan Figel. The two discussed the upcoming Visegrad summit, scheduled for 14 May, and agreed that the grouping should evolve into a group similar to the Benelux. PB

COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S ANNIVERSARY MARKED IN BUDAPEST

Ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe began in Budapest on 6 May, with representatives from 41 countries taking part, AP reported. Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban gave the opening address to delegates at the parliament building. Lord Russell-Johnston, president of the Parliamentary Assembly, said "the tragedy of Kosova should serve as a painful reminder of what happens when values are forgotten and nationalist hatred allowed to dominate." The council was the idea of British Premier Winston Churchill, who envisaged that the "free nations of Europe could assert their shared values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law." Kosova is expected to be the main topic during the two-day meeting. PB




RUGOVA LEAVES KEY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova spoke to the press in Rome for three minutes on 6 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1999). Standing next to Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, Rugova said that international peace-keeping forces, including NATO and others, must be deployed in Kosova. Moreover, he demanded the immediate withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova. Rugova avoided saying whether he supports the NATO bombing campaign or whether meetings he had with Serb leaders during his five weeks of house arrest were held under duress, AP noted. ANSA quoted him as saying: "I am for peace and non-violent resistance.... The entire Kosova population, including the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), is in favor of a peaceful, political solution." He also thanked Italy for "all its efforts and solidarity with the refugees," and he extended special thanks to Don Vincenzo Paglia of the Roman Catholic Sant'Egidio organization, which helped mediate Rugova's release. FS

UCK LEADERS WANT CLARIFICATION

UCK official Visa Reka told RFE/RL from Tirana on 6 May that the guerrillas' "provisional government of Kosova demands that [Rugova] openly declare...his position on the NATO air strikes on Yugoslav targets [and his position towards] the provisional government of Kosova." Reka also said that "we expect a full explanation from Rugova about what happened to him during the time when he was a hostage in Belgrade." The UCK's provisional government of Hashim Thaci and the shadow-state government of Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova do not recognize each other (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). Adnan Merovci, a close colleague of Rugova's, told RFE/RL that Rugova "still holds the same position that he always had." He added that "you as journalists know that Rugova is not a person who participates much in polemics...or speculations." FS

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT SUSPECTS MILOSEVIC PROPAGANDA MOVE

Pellumb Xhufi, who is an assistant to Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, told RFE/RL from Tirana on 6 May that "the liberation of Rugova is, no doubt, something that we welcome." He added, however, that "on the very day that Rugova was released, the criminal regime of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic continued its [ethnic cleansing] campaign in Kosova. [The release] was a calculated gesture, like all other gestures and actions of Milosevic, with which he tries to divide the international community." He added that Milosevic hopes "to create an environment" in which the international community will agree to "half-measures." Information Minister Musa Ulqini told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana that he "will be happy to hear Rugova's opinions from his own mouth." FS

NATO TO STRENGTHEN FORCES IN BALKANS...

The U.S. will soon send an additional 176 aircraft to join in NATO's efforts in southeastern Europe, bringing the total number of U.S. aircraft in the region to more than 800, AP reported on 6 May. In Bonn the next day, the Bundestag voted to send 1,000 German soldiers to assist in constructing refugee camps and other humanitarian work in Albania and Macedonia. In February, it voted to send 6,000 soldiers to Italy and Macedonia as part of NATO's efforts in the region. During the night of 6-7 May, allied aircraft pounded targets in Nis, which is Serbia's third-largest city. Serbian media reported that there were casualties and that fire-fighters worked several hours to put out blazes at oil storage facilities. NATO aircraft also hit a bridge on the Belgrade-Bucharest railway line. PM

...CLAIMS GAINS AGAINST YUGOSLAV MILITARY

Spokesmen for the Atlantic alliance said in Brussels on 6 May that NATO air strikes in recent weeks have left Serbian forces in Kosova cut off from the rest of Serbia and without one-fifth of their tanks and heavy weapons. They added that Serbian forces are increasingly demoralized and have hidden much of their remaining equipment lest it be attacked. The "Financial Times" the next day quoted several British military experts as saying that NATO has not yet been able to turn the tide on the ground and halt ethnic cleansing. One expert stressed that NATO will need to consider sending in ground troops and arming the UCK if it wants to achieve its aims in the province. He added that the Serbs are hiding troops and equipment because this is in keeping with the Yugoslav army's tradition, dating back more than 50 years, of using guerrilla tactics to resist a stronger enemy. PM

MACEDONIAN BORDER 'OPEN' BUT NO ONE IS CROSSING

Kris Janowski, who is a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Geneva on 7 May that the Macedonian authorities have assured the UNHCR that the border to Kosova is open (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1999). He added, however, that UNHCR personnel on the border report that no refugees from Kosova are waiting at the frontier to cross into Macedonia. Janowski said that "it is not clear why they're not crossing. We don't know whether the problem is on the Serbian side or the Macedonian side." "The Chicago Tribune" quoted unnamed UNHCR officials at Blace, Macedonia, as saying that the Serbian authorities in recent days have provided additional train and bus transportation in a major effort aimed at expelling ethnic Albanians from Kosova. The officials added that "as many as half a million" may be expelled "in the next several days." PM

MACEDONIA REMAINS TENSE

Macedonian authorities told UNHCR officials on 6 May that the international community must take out of Macedonia each day as many ethnic Albanian refugees as arrive in the country during that period. Zarko Jordanoski, who is the editor of the independent daily "Dnevnik," told "The Chicago Tribune" on 7 May that the "invasion [of Kosovar Albanians] is equivalent to the United States being flooded by 20 million Mexicans." The BBC reported that Macedonian soldiers and police have recently used "threats and intimidation" in ethnic Albanian villages to discourage locals from taking Kosovar refugees into their homes. Nearly half of the refugees live in private homes. Arben Xhaferi, who chairs the ethnic Albanian party that is part of the governing coalition, said that the government nearly collapsed on at least one occasion over the issue of Macedonia's taking in refugees from Kosova. He did not elaborate. PM

VATICAN: FIRST MAJOR ATROCITY AGAINST ROMAN CATHOLICS

Vatican Radio reported from Tirana on 7 May that Serbian forces recently killed some 200 Kosovar civilians at an unnamed village. The broadcast noted that Serbian forces have not previously conducted mass killings in Roman Catholic ethnic Albanian communities. There has been no independent confirmation of the report. PM

MILOSEVIC HITS AT DOMESTIC OPPOSITION

Serbian state-run television (RTS) on 6 May accused opposition politicians Zoran Djindjic and former General Vuk Obradovic of betraying their country by supporting the NATO bombing campaign in order to further their own respective political careers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1999). The broadcast also accused Obradovic of espionage, AP reported. The hard-line United Yugoslav Left, which is headed by Mira Markovic, who is also Milosevic's wife, said in a statement about the two men: "The public should be informed about anything they do against their country, and then let the people try them." The statement was read on RTS news. PM

OBRADOVIC: SERBIA NEEDS PEACE

Former General Obradovic told the private Beta news agency on 6 May that Milosevic is conducting a "pogrom" against those who disagree with him. Obradovic told the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that the Serbian government must "save" the country by agreeing to admit an international peace-keeping force to Kosova. The force's mandate would have a fixed expiration date and be limited to that province. He stressed that Serbia has nothing to fear from a peace agreement that clearly respects the country's territorial integrity. He suggested that Serbia should not have to withdraw all its forces from Kosova and that it should be allowed to keep at least border troops there. The former general added that Milosevic will have no choice but to leave office soon "because of what he has done and because of what the country has lived through under his rule." PM

MONTENEGRO PREPARES FOR SHOWDOWN

President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 7 May that Milosevic was unwise to provoke NATO air strikes. Djukanovic stressed that Montenegro cannot remain in the Yugoslav federation as long as Belgrade continues its present policies at home and abroad. Djukanovic added that Milosevic "will continue to undermine democracy" as long as he is in power. From Cetinje, "The Daily Telegraph" reported that well-organized, armed "vigilantes" opposed to union with Serbia have recently prevented the Yugoslav army from inducting local males into the armed forces. Bozidar Bogdanovic of the Free Montenegro organization told the London-based daily that his organization has 15,000 members, including 200 who are "training in the mountains" under the supervision of former Yugoslav army officers. PM

HAGUE COURT MAKES LANDMARK RULING

On 6 May, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal sentenced Zlatko Aleksovski to two-and-a- half years in prison for violating "laws and customs of war" against Muslim prisoners when he was commander of a Bosnian Croat prison camp in 1993. He has already spent two years and 10 months in prison, both before and during his trial, and is now a free man. The court also ruled that the Muslim-Croat conflict was an internal one and not subject to the Geneva Convention that governs international conflicts. The ruling effectively means that the Croatian authorities in Zagreb cannot be indicted or tried in The Hague for their alleged role in the 1993 Croat-Muslim war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. PM

POPE JOHN PAUL ARRIVES IN BUCHAREST

Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist and President Emil Constantinescu greeted Pope John Paul II on 7 May as he arrived in Bucharest for the first papal visit to a predominantly Orthodox country since the Churches split in 1054, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported. Pope John Paul said he trusts his visit will "continue healing wounds" which occurred in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches during the past 50 years. This was a reference to the estimated 2,000 Greek Catholic churches that were taken and given to the Orthodox Church. The Greek Catholics have been trying unsuccessfully to have the churches returned to them. Greek Catholics recognize the Pope's authority but use an eastern rite liturgy. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to see the pope during his three-day visit. PB

ROMANIA BANS SALE OF OIL TO YUGOSLAVIA

The Romanian government approved a law on 6 May that will ban the sale or supplying of crude oil or gasoline to Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. A government spokeswoman said the restriction applies to planes and ships as well as to Romanians living outside the country. This effectively outlaws the practice of motorists driving to Yugoslavia and selling the gas in their car for a profit, something that thousands of Romanians have been doing for the past several weeks. PB

NATO TO SET UP AIR DEFENSES IN ROMANIA

Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said on 7 May that NATO will set up anti-aircraft defense systems in Romania to protect NATO planes using the country's air space in its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, AFP reported. The Romanian parliament voted two weeks ago to allow NATO full access to its air space and airports. PB

BULGARIAN OFFICIALS ACCUSE RUSSIAN AGENCY OF FALSE REPORTS

Colonel-General Mikho Mikhov, the chief of the staff of the Bulgarian Army, denied an allegation made by ITAR-TASS that NATO aircraft used Bulgarian air space to launch attacks against Yugoslavia, BTA reported on 6 May. Two ITAR-TASS correspondents reported the previous day that NATO planes used Bulgarian air space to conduct bombing raids in southern Serbia. Lieutenant-General Stefan Popov, chief of air force headquarters, said on national radio that "the allegations are untrue." Two days earlier, the Bulgarian parliament approved an agreement with NATO allowing it limited use of Bulgarian air space (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1999). PB




KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OUTLINES POLICY PRIORITIES


By Liz Fuller

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Astana bureau on 4 May, President Nursultan Nazarbaev outlined his vision of Kazakhstan's domestic political development and relations with its two powerful neighbors, Russia and China.

Nazarbaev said that the top priority both for himself and for the entire Kazakh nation is the preservation of Kazakhstan's independence. He warned that the country's independent status could be jeopardized by internal political dissent, in particular by attempts (he did not specify by whom) to use the country's present economic problems to score political points or to stir up tensions between the three main "hordes" or clans.

Nazarbaev conceded that the world economic crisis has not spared Kazakhstan, but he claimed that his country has overcome the crisis's adverse effects more easily and more smoothly than other neighboring states. He noted that today, all the main decisions, including state budget allocations and new legislation, are based on the main premises of the Kazakhstan--2030 program of long-term economic and social development, which he unveiled in October 1997.

Nazarbaev stressed that Kazakhstan must develop its industrial base and encourage the growth of small and medium- sized businesses, rather than rely exclusively on the export of oil or other mineral resources. He also noted the importance of ensuring the timely payment of wages, pensions and other benefits, which he admitted currently poses problems given the fall in world market prices for oil, gas, and non-ferrous metals, which constitute the country's prime exports.

Turning to foreign policy, Nazarbaev stressed that Kazakhstan's independent status does not mean that the country should close its borders or retreat into isolationism; on the contrary, he argued that it should pursue a policy of open doors and "increase our relations with neighboring countries in all the possible spheres." He termed Kazakhstan's foreign policy "multivectoral" but owned that it is dictated in the first instance by the country's geographic location between two major powers.

With reference to that location, he characterized relations with both China and Russia as "very good, very friendly," describing the two countries as "our main partners in economic development, in market relations and political life. We don't have any kind of demands [on them], neither economic or political." He noted the "historic fact" of Russian assistance in Kazakhstan's social and economic growth during the Soviet period.

"If Russia is able to overcome all the economic and other hardships, if it manages to establish a real democratic society with market economy and freedoms, for us in Kazakhstan, this will be a real advantage," he said. "To live with such a great neighbor in peace is very important for us.... Our further cultural development without Russia is not possible... In the last several hundred years, we have got used to this nation." Without elaborating, he conceded that Kazakhstan still has differences with Russia but stressed that they must be resolved by exclusively peaceful means.

Nazarbaev likewise emphasized the current, unprecedented harmonious relations with China, as reflected by his own "personal good relations" with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, with whom he signed a landmark treaty last year demarcating the frontier between the two countries.

Nazarbaev added that Kazakhstan also enjoys "very good" relations with the Islamic world, with other Turkophone countries, and with India and Pakistan. Asked about the rationale for Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev's recent meeting with Taliban representatives, Nazarbaev said that it should not be construed either as a gesture of support or as an attempt to "exclude" Russia from the Afghan peace process. He explained "we need peace in Afghanistan. If there is peace in Afghanistan, we shall be able to transport our oil to India through the shortest route."

Nazarbaev's remarks on the domestic political landscape were more ambivalent. He greeted the recent amendments to the country's constitution, in particular the decision by the Kazakh parliament that 10 seats in the next parliament be allocated to representatives of political parties under the proportional system, saying this move is the fulfillment of a personal "dream." He noted that he considers it his duty as president to foster political tolerance and the development of democracy. But at the same time he noted that until eight years ago, Kazakhs had always lived under a totalitarian system, implying that democratization should not be rushed.

"Our main goal now," he said, " is to give our people roofs over their heads, to give them their jobs and salaries. Those are our main three tasks with which to start democracy." A reversion to CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of indiscriminate criticism of all shortcomings could, Nazarbaev argued, culminate in the loss of Kazakhstan's statehood.

In this context, Nazarbaev made it clear that he envisages very strict constraints on the activities of political parties, which he noted have "rights but also responsibilities and obligations." He warned that any party that proved "unable to continue its activities," or engaged in activities that could pose a danger to the country's independence would be banned immediately. He also made it clear that those constraints and obligations extend to the media.

Asked to comment on journalists' recent criticisms that the country's new draft media law restricts press freedom, Nazarbaev said journalists would not be forbidden to criticize either the president or the government. But if they do so, he said, they should "bear in mind the norms and standards recognized elsewhere in the world."


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