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Newsline - January 19, 1995

YELSTIN RULES OUT TALKS WITH DUDAEV. Speaking at the Kremlin after the formal presentation of credentials by new ambassadors on 18 January, Russian President Boris Yeltsin affirmed, in a clear attempt to preclude further Western speculation that he is no longer in control, that he is closely monitoring the situation in Chechnya and that no decisions of substance were taken without his knowledge, Interfax and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin further ruled out any negotiations with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, given that he "unleashed a campaign of genocide against his own people," but said that the Russian government was prepared to conduct talks with Chechen military and clan leaders. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, however, was quoted by Komsomolskaya pravda on 18 January as arguing that Russia will have to negotiate with Dudaev since "he has the support of his people." The proposed cease-fire tentatively agreed to during informal talks in Moscow on 17 January between Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and two senior Chechen government officials failed to take effect as planned on 18 January. AFP reported that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai accused the two Chechen officials of duplicity and charged that they had made no attempt to travel to Grozny to brief Dudaev, while the Chechen officials told journalists in the Ingush capital of Nazran that the Russian commanders with whom they had intended to liaise had failed to make contact, according to the Los Angeles Times of 19 January. Meanwhile, heavy Russian aerial bombardment and street fighting in Grozny continued on 18 January. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

KOZYREV, CHRISTOPHER FINISH TALKS. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev signaled a warming of US-Russian relations after two days of talks in Geneva. "There will be no cold peace and the partnership between Russia and the United States will be preserved and strengthened," Kozyrev told journalists on 18 January, Interfax reported. Christopher told a news conference at the end of the two days of meetings, "I can only repeat what President Clinton said, . . . that he intends to press for aid to Russia," AFP reported. Some difficulties remained, however. The diplomats did not set a date for a presidential summit, but Kozyrev said that Clinton and Yeltsin will work out a time to meet later. Christopher warned that the Chechen war was exacting too high a price for Russia both at home and abroad, The New York Times reported 19 January. Christopher softened earlier comments that Russian democracy was at risk due to a falling out between Yeltsin and the pro-democracy politicians, saying that such disputes are normal. Kozyrev rejected allegations that Yeltsin had fallen captive to hard-line advisors and is creating an authoritarian government. Kozyrev said Yeltsin "is the main reformer who was elected by the people," and said he saw no alternative leader who could replace him. He expressed concern that some officials in the US Congress wanted to delay ratification of the START-2 treaty, which hasn't been ratified by either Russia or the US. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

WHAT ROLE FOR OSCE IN CHECHNYA? Interfax of 17 January quoted Russian Foreign Ministry official Mark Entin as ruling out any OSCE involvement in mediating a settlement of the Chechen conflict, which he termed "Russia's internal affair," but conceded that the organization could help resolve "humanitarian and legal" aspects of the crisis. Chairman of the State Duma committee for International Affairs, Vladimir Lukin, told Interfax after talks with OSCE emissary Istvan Gyarmati that the proposal to deploy OSCE observers in Chechnya is "legal and sound." Speaking at a press conference in Bonn on 18 January, Gyarmati said that he would head an OSCE delegation including diplomats and military experts that will travel to Moscow on 21 January and then to Chechnya on 24 January to gather information prior to beginning work with the Russian government on possible peaceful solutions to the Chechen crisis, AFP reported on 18 January. Gyarmati advocated free elections in Chechnya after which the republic's status within the Russian Federation should be "defined in a generous manner." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

MORE THAN 1,000 RUSSIANS KILLED? While Interfax on 16 January reported a semi-official count of 505 Russian soldiers killed and 1,860 wounded in Chechnya, its correspondent in Mozdok said that some 1,160 servicemen had been killed in the conflict. He based his count on a tally of the bodies sent to Mozdok aboard what the soldiers grimly call "black tulips"--a term that originated during the war in Afghanistan to describe helicopters used to transport those killed in action. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

"NO CONNECTION" BETWEEN EVENTS IN CHECHNYA AND OIL PIPELINE. Interfax on 18 January quoted an unidentified official from Transneft (the Russian agency responsible for oil export pipelines) as denying any connection between the Russian military intervention in Chechnya and the planned construction of a Caspian pipeline linking the Tengiz oil and gas fields in western Kazakhstan with the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. Numerous Western analysts have hypothesized over the past few weeks that the Russian desire to establish firm control in Chechnya was largely motivated by economic considerations. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

PRESS FREEDOMS VIOLATED. Oleg Panfilov, an official with the Russian Fund for Freedom of Information, reported 97 violations of the civil and professional rights of journalists since the beginning of the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported 18 January. He listed cases of journalists being detained without explanation, threatened with bodily harm, and deprived of their equipment. The Fund is a public organization that seeks to publicize violations of journalists' rights. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

"TEMPORARY CENSORSHIP" ON RUSSIAN TV. According to Interfax, the makers of the popular TV program "Sovershenno Sekretno" (Top Secret), held a news conference on 16 January in the Moscow House of Journalists on the four-day suspension of the last edition of "Sovershenno Sekretno." Scheduled to be broadcast by Russian Televison on 14 January, the program had been advertised in the liberal media well in advance. The program contains footage filmed from inside the besieged presidential palace in Grozny on 7 January--i.e, the Russian Orthodox Christmas. According to Novaya ezhednevnaya gazeta of 11 January, the program shows a meeting of a Russian military doctor, held in the palace as a POW, and his mother, who is a nurse. On 14 January, the RTV program announcer told the audience that the program "was not ready" for broadcasting and will be aired later. The temporary ban of the film is the second such instance with "Sovershenno Sekretno" in less than three months. On 19 November, another edition of the same program, about corruption among the military, was taken off the air but broadcast a week later, following a stir of protests against censorship in the media. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN TO ADDRESS PARLIAMENT. President Yeltsin will make his annual presidential address to the Russian parliament 9 February, almost a month later than the planned 11 January date, Interfax reported 17 January. No official reason was given for the delay. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

SENATORS REJECT YELTSIN'S JUDGES, APPROVE OF LEBEDEV'S. The Russian Constitutional Court will not resume its work in the near future due to the repeated failure of Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, to approve the last of the 19 judges who, according to the constitution, must be on the Constitutional Court before it may function. According to Russian television newscasts, Yeltsin's second attempt to nominate Robert Tsivilev, an aide to Yeltsin administration chief Sergei Filatov, was rejected by the senators on 17 January. Tsivilev received only 60 of the 90 votes necessary for approval. Filatov's attempt to interfere into the matter personally, in the form of an address to the Federation Council on behalf of Tsivilev, proved counterproductive. In the first vote, taken just a few weeks ago, Tsivilev lacked only a few votes to gain election as the 19th Constitutional Court judge. Later that day, the senators rejected both of Yeltsin's nominees for positions on the Russian Supreme Court. Both candidates, their critics argued, lack the necessary experience as judges. On the another hand, the Federation Council approved all five judges recommended by V. Lebedev, the chairman of the Supreme Court, for membership in its presidium. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.

FOREIGN DEBT IN '95 COULD REACH $130 BILLION. Speaking at a special commission on social and economic problems at the presidential office on 17 January, Minister of Economics Evgenii Yasin said that Russia's foreign debt may grow to $130 billion this year, Interfax reported. Yasin said that Russia had to borrow more money to tame inflation, achieve economic stability and help the people adjust to changing living conditions. Yasin stated that the USSR's foreign debt grew from $25 to 30 billion in 1985 to $80 billion in 1991. According to the Ministry of Finance, Russia's debt at the beginning of 1994, inclusive of debts of the former USSR and credits extended to Russia since 1992, totaled $112.8 billion. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

IMF BEGINS TALKS WITH RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT. Crucial talks began between IMF delegates and Russian officials on 18 January to determine whether the IMF will grant Russia a $6 billion loan, Western and Russian agencies reported. Russia is counting on receiving total loans of $15 billion from Western sources, or 10% of its budget, to boost economic reform plans. In light of the political and economic implications of the war in Chechnya, the uncertainty of Russia sticking to its 1995 draft budget and the country's general ability to carry out market reforms, the IMF is expected to assess various factors and attach stringent conditions to the loan. If granted, the loan would be made in quarterly installments based on Moscow's progress in meeting budget targets and moving toward a market economy. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

WORK STOPS AT ZIL CAR FIRM. Zil, formerly one of Russia's largest industrial enterprises, temporarily shut down on 17 January owing to a shortage of cash to buy parts, agencies reported. Zil Director Valerii Saikin said the plant, which owes $110 million to the state and suppliers, needs $260 million to get over the crisis, but he was not optimistic that credits would be forthcoming. In 1994 Zil was forced to cut production by half and put employees on a four-day work week. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

FEDERATION COUNCIL RENEWS RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE IN ABKHAZIA. The Federation Council approved on 18 January by a vote of 129-3, with one abstention, to renew until 15 May 1995 the mandate of the 3,000 Russian peacekeeping troops deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Interfax reported. The Russian peacekeepers were dispatched to Abkhazia for an initial period of six months in June, 1994. In an interview in Krasnaya Zvezda on 12 January, the commander of Russian peacekeeping forces, Lt.-Gen. Vasilii Yakushev, positively assessed his troops' contribution, but argued that other CIS states should also provide a contingent. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

TURKMEN-UKRAINIAN GAS AGREEMENT INITIALED. Interfax reported on 18 January that Ukraine and Turkmenistan have initialed an agreement on gas supplies from Turkmenistan to Ukraine. Under the terms of the agreement, Turkmenistan will supply Ukraine with 11 billion cubic meters of gas in 1995 for $50-60 per 1,000 cubic meters. Ukraine will pay for 40% of these supplies in hard currency and the rest will be covered by manufactured goods and commodities including meat, butter, wheat and sugar. A protocol on the schedule for Ukraine to repay its debt for deliveries from 1994 is still being prepared. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

President Leonid Kuchma's chief of staff, Dmytro Tabachnyk, attacked a 16 January meeting of regional and local council chairmen for what he called a deliberate effort to turn public opinion against a draft constitutional law on the separation of powers proposed by the president, Radio Ukraine reported on 18 January. The bill, which received preliminary approval from the parliament in December, would centralize many powers in the president's hands and limit those of national and local legislatures. Tabachnyk said the chairmen of the local soviets, as well as many deputies from the national parliament who participated in the meeting, were undermining public support for the bill. He said the participants, who issued a resolution voicing opposition to the bill, were driven by nostalgia and fear of the dissolution of the Soviet system of government. The parliament is scheduled to debate and vote on the bill within the next month. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Reuters on 18 January reported that some deputies in Ukraine's legislature proposed that a tough statement be issued condemning Russia's actions in Chechnya as a violation of human rights. The statement asked that Russia cease all military action immediately and begin talks with Chechen separatists. Other deputies were concerned that such a statement would be interpreted as interference in Russia's internal affairs and would prompt hard-liners in Russia to become involved with separatists in Crimea. Parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz removed the issue from the agenda, saying that it could be considered interference in Russia's internal affairs. In the Crimean parliament in Simferopol, deputy Oleksander Kruglov proposed issuing a statement lauding Russia's actions in Chechnya as "the first decisive step by Russia to strengthen its statehood and territorial integrity." The Crimean Tatars objected to the statement, and more moderate deputies suggested toning it down. The debate adjourned without a final decision. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

At a meeting in Kiev on 18 January, a Russian military delegation and officials from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry discussed the possibility of Ukraine selling to Russia some of the TU-160 and STU-95 strategic bombers it inherited from the USSR, Ukrainian Television reports. Russian experts, together with Ukrainian officials, are expected to assess the condition and value of the aircraft. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The Estonian Labor Department has announced that on 1 January 1995, 12,670 people or 1.51% of the country's working age population were officially registered as unemployed, BNS reported on 18 January. This is a 4.36% increase over the previous month. The number of people looking for work, including those not registered as unemployed, is almost three times as high, at 34,270. The highest urban unemployment rates are in Narva (3.98%) and Sillamae (3.61%), while the capital, Tallinn, has a very low rate (0.26%). -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Latvia last year produced industrial goods worth 903 million lati ($1.64 billion) in actual 1994 prices, BNS reported on 18 January citing the State Statistics Committee. Production was down 9.3% on 1993 levels, with the volume of 78 of the 120 most important production categories being reduced. But there were increases in timber processing (30%), the extraction industry (12%), and the production of transportation equipment (9%). The value of unsold goods was 66.2 million lati or 74.6% of the total production in December. The largest stockpiles were to be found in the food processing (10.8 million lati) and textile (7.5 million lati) industries. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on 18 January presented a note to its Russian counterpart extending until the end of 1995 military transit regulations, established in an 18 November 1993 agreement, for Russian troops withdrawing from Germany, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reports. The Russians responded by stating that the trade agreement granting reciprocal most-favored-nation trade status has finally gone into effect. Both sides made concessions to achieve the agreement, signed in November 1993. Lithuania gave up its demand that all countries abide by its regulations on dangerous and military cargoes due to go into effect on 1 January 1995. Russia, in turn, settled for an agreement and not a treaty on military transit to and from Kaliningrad. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Adopting a more conciliatory stance toward President Lech Walesa, Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak on 18 January offered to hold negotiations without any preconditions and officially withdrew the candidacy of Longin Pastusiak for defense minister. He also requested that the president formally approve the dismissal of Foreign Minister Andrzej Olechowski and announced that the coalition would present the president with three nominees to head the Foreign Ministry. Pawlak stressed that all three are specialists with no party affiliation. Their names will be made public only after Walesa has been consulted, Radio Warsaw reports. Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski described the coalition's moves as an "olive branch" but restressed his party's rejection of the president's candidate for defense minister, Zbigniew Wojciech Okonski. Queried at a press conference about the coalition's moves, Walesa quipped that Kwasniewski was more likely to approach him with "barbed wire" than an olive branch and that even "a rose has thorns." The president nonetheless accepted the offer of talks. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

President Vaclav Havel believes the Czech Republic will apply for membership in the European Union this year but Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus still thinks the country will not be ready to apply until 1996, Czech media report on 19 January. Mlada Fronta Dnes quoted Havel as saying after talks with Polish President Lech Walesa on 18 January that an official application will probably be made this year, although the Czech Republic may be admitted first to NATO and then to the EU because conditions for the former are not so strict. Klaus did not exclude the possibility of applying to the EU this year but is in favor of sticking to the government's original plan of asking for membership before the 1996 EU summit. A government committee is due to begin work next month on the arduous task of ensuring that Czech laws meet EU standards. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

Controversy surrounding the construction of Slovakia's nuclear plant at Mochovce has recently soured otherwise good relations between Slovakia and neighboring Austria, Slovak press and Reuters report. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, in an 18 January letter to Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, criticized the Austrian side for "unilaterally" selecting the "place, time, and form" of discussion on the subject. He said the management of Mochovce considers the meeting organized by the Austrians on 23-24 January in Vienna as "inappropriate for achieving the intended goal." Slovak and French construction firms working on the Mochovce project have refused an invitation to attend the meeting, complaining it would likely be turned into an antinuclear demonstration. Austrian Environment Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat said it is "an unbelievable insult to Austria when someone says that in our country we cannot hold a peaceful and matter-of-fact discussion," Sme reports. She also noted the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development would have to extend the public hearing period if the Slovak side refused to attend. One of the conditions for an EBRD loan needed to complete the project is that studies on Mochovce be made available for public review. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Survivors and dignitaries braved freezing temperatures to commemorate the Red Army liberation 50 years ago of Budapest's ghetto, Western news agencies report. Hundreds filled the Garden of Heroes behind the main synagogue, from where many Budapest Jews were transported to death camps. The ghetto was set up in late 1944 following the German occupation of Hungary in March of that year. More than 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in Nazi camps, while some 50,000 survived in the ghetto. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.

International media report on 19 January that a host of problems continue to dog the UN's attempts to reinforce the shaky cease-fire in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Government forces fired on Serbian forces near Donji Vakuf; a Serbian sniper seriously wounded a Sarajevo teenager; and government forces were again spotted in the Mt. Igman demilitarized zone. Supply roads remain closed and Sarajevo's gas supply is precarious. In violation of the UN's no-fly zone over the embattled republic, Krajina Serb helicopters on 18 January flew at least 20 supply missions to Serbian forces around Bihac, the Los Angeles Times reported the next day. Bosnian Serb gunners also reinforced their positions around the "safe area" of Srebrenica. All these developments suggest that the current cease-fire is regarded by both sides as little more than a breathing space before resuming serious fighting in the spring. The New York Times concludes that the international community has given up on military deterrents and that other options have not worked. "Peace-making efforts . . . now lack direction, ideas, or any momentum," the newspaper says. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

The independent Borba on 19 January quotes US ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright as outlining eight points that rump Yugoslavia must clarify regarding its relations with the Bosnian Serbs. The move is connected to the extension of the partial lifting of sanctions against Belgrade for a second period of 100 days. One of the points is "ending all logistical and other support for the Bosnian Serb army." Vjesnik, meanwhile, describes continuing problems between the Muslim and Croatian partners in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Zagreb press has been reporting for some days on various tensions and frictions stemming from the Croatian fear that the Muslims view themselves as the dominant--if not ruling--element and refuse to treat the Croats as equals. In the latest exchange, the Constituent Assembly was unable to meet on 18 January because the two sides' leaderships could not reach agreement in advance on the rotation of the current president and vice president. The Muslims say that the term of the federation's Croatian president, Kresimir Zubak, has expired, while the Croats maintain that the length of his mandate must be linked to the implementation of all provisions of the Washington agreements that set up the federation. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

News agencies report on 18 January that Zagreb may let UNPROFOR stay on after its current mandate runs out on 31 March if Belgrade recognizes Croatia in its Tito-era boundaries and if Croatian refugees from Serb-held territories can go home. This would fulfill two key demands that Zagreb has long made regarding UNPROFOR's mandate. Meanwhile, Hina notes that the Croatian government will build a center near Osijek to house 40,000 refugees with Norwegian and other West European money. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Hina reports on 18 January that Croatia had 247,55 registered unemployed in December 1994, up 1.8% over the previous year. The list is topped by lawyers and other "skilled and highly skilled professionals." Elsewhere, Finance Minister Bozo Prka on 17 January told Reuters that his government has "stabilized the economy and eliminated inflation," adding that "if we settle the political problems, Croatia will be a model for small countries in economic transition." Hina reported the same day that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has made a DM 70 million loan to Croatia to improve its road network, including completing a major highway between Zagreb and the Adriatic coast. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Borba on 19 January notes that the list of national and international voices offering their material and moral support to the independent newspaper has grown to include the Independent Syndicate of Metalworkers of Serbia. Leaders of the ethnic Hungarian community in Vojvodina have also registered their backing, recognizing Borba as "a symbol of objective, independent, and free" reporting. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime on 26 December attempted to silence Borba by backing the launching of a state-sanctioned version of the newspaper under the directorship of Milosevic's ally Dragutin Brcin. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Flaka reports on 19 January that Max van der Stoel met with Fadil Sulejmani, the director of the self-declared and not legally recognized Albanian-language university in Tetovo, and with members of the ethnic Albanian Democratic People's Party. The Albanian representatives stressed that the educational situation of Albanians in Macedonia has deteriorated since Serbian authorities closed the University of Pristina in Kosovo. Van der Stoel noted that in accordance with international conventions signed by Macedonia in 1990, the Albanians have a right to higher education in their mother tongue. But he added that this issue must be solved in keeping with the law and that a new measure dealing with higher education, which could bring a solution to the conflict, might be passed by the parliament soon. Van der Stoel also met with Arben Xhaferi, the leader of the Tetovo-based wing of the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity, and his deputy Menduh Thaci. The splinter grouping is not legally recognized under the party's name but is vocal in its demands that Albanians and Macedonians be recognized as legal co-equals in the Macedonian state. This demand has been criticized by both other minorities and Macedonians who argue that the current constitution guarantees the equality of all citizens. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Nicolae Vacaroiu on 18 January visited several industrial facilities in Hunedoara county, including steel plants at Hunedoara and Calan and a mining equipment maintenance plant at Hunedoara. He was accompanied by a delegation that included the industry and transports ministers, as well as Adrian Nastase, executive chairman of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. The high-ranking officials, who were briefed on the precarious state of the ailing communist-era industries in the region, stressed in separate statements the need for restructuring Romania's metal industry. Some referred specifically to Resita, where an agreement has been reached on more government support for that purpose. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

Reuters reported on 17 January that Romania was holding a tugboat suspected of violating UN sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. The tugboat, which was towing six barges laden with cement for Austria, was detained on 15 January.
A senior Romanian police official said 11 tons of fuel oil were found aboard the vessel. Rump Yugoslavia has experienced an acute fuel shortage over the past two years because of the UN embargo. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

Almost all heating plants in Bulgaria are currently working to a special schedule because of a shortage of gas supplies from Russia, Kontinent reports on 19 January. Lyulin Radulov, chairman of the government Committee for Energy, told 24 chasa that Bulgaria has received 1.5 million cubic meters less than it should. He added that Bulgaria has no alternative to supplies from Russia. On the same subject, Trud reported on 18 January that the metallurgical plant of Kremikovtsi near Sofia was forced to stop production for the first time due to a lack of gas supplies. The monthly losses caused by the gas shortage are estimated at 2.5-3 billion leva ($37-44 million) a month, Pari reported the same day. The newspaper notes that the honoring of contracts for exports worth $320 million is also at stake. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Petar Stankov, chairman of the Sofia City Council, said that the present water regulations for Sofia may be in force for the whole year, BTA reported on 18 January. Most districts in the capital currently have water only one day in four. If there is not enough rain, measures will be even stricter in the summer, Stankov added. 24 chasa reported on 17 January that the Union of Democratic Forces is trying to blame the former government led by Lyuben Berov for the water crisis, while Berov says "it is not the only one responsible." The former prime minister referred to a statement by UDF leader Ivan Kostov, who noted that the Berov government failed to secure a $98 million credit from the World Bank for water projects. Standart reported on 17 January that the mayor of Sofia, Aleksandar Yanulchev, has presented a program to the city council to secure water supplies by the year 2000. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Jan Cleave