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Newsline - July 22, 1997


Meeting on 21 July with Defense Minister Igor Sergeev to discuss the implementation of his decrees on downsizing the armed forces, President Boris Yeltsin said that the number of generals will be cut by some 500 to a maximum of 2,300, Russian media reported. Yeltsin later told journalists that the reform is aimed at creating a "mobile army equipped with advanced weaponry" and that the greatest consideration would be shown toward demobilized officers, for whom approximately 100,000 apartments will be built. Alluding to bitter opposition to the reform plans within the Defense Ministry, Yeltsin vowed that "we shall sweep aside the Rokhlins with their counterproductive actions... We do not need such assistants," according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 July. Four days earlier, State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin had told Interfax that the proposed reforms will lead to "the destruction" of the armed forces.


"Izvestiya" on 22 July quoted Sergeev as saying he intends to enlist the support of middle-ranking officers to counter opposition to the reform from the upper echelons of the Defense Ministry. He added that if he is unable to implement the proposed reform, he will resign. Four days earlier, Sergeev had told journalists that Yeltsin supports the Defense Ministry's proposal that social benefits military personnel who lose their jobs constitute a separate article in the 1998 budget, Interfax reported. Sergeev said that servicemen's wages would double before 2001. On 19 July, Sergeev noted that the final draft of the seven-point concept for reforming the armed forces will be submitted to Yeltsin in late September. The previous day, former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed told Interfax he doubted that the reform concept was workable, saying it was unclear how it could be implemented or funded.


Representatives of several minority religious groups have appealed to Yeltsin to veto the controversial law on religion, which they consider "undemocratic" and "unconstitutional," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 21 July. Yeltsin is to consider the religion law on 22 July and is expected either to sign or veto it during the next few days, according to Interfax. Opponents are likely to appeal to the Constitutional Court if Yeltsin signs the law. Sergei Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court, recently predicted that outside pressure on Yeltsin to veto the law, in particular from the U.S. Senate, will most likely encourage the president to sign it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 21 July 1997). Shakhrai added that support for the religion law is probably strong enough in both houses of the Russian parliament to override a presidential veto.


Ruslan Aushev and Akhsarbek Galazov addressed a 21 July meeting of the Security Council on the deteriorating situation in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion, Russian media reported. Aushev again argued that the only solution is to impose presidential rule on the district, but Galazov rejected this option, arguing it would lead to further violence. Galazov said it was time to stop "unilateral" attempts at destabilization and to "bury once and for all" territorial claims on Prigorodnyi Raion, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 July. Galazov later told journalists that if presidential rule is imposed in Prigorodnyi Raion, North Ossetia may quit the Russian Federation. Security Council First Deputy Secretary Mikhail Mityukov, who chaired the session, told Ekho Moskvy that the council opposed presidential rule and will submit to President Yeltsin alternative, unspecified proposals for resolving the tensions, Reuters reported.


Commenting on the tensions between neighboring Ingushetia and North Ossetia, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov suggested on 21 July creating a pan-Caucasian security organization modeled on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that would serve as a forum for resolving regional conflicts, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. Specifically, Udugov proposed the formation of a Caucasian peacekeeping battalion that would be sent to Prigirodnyi Raion. Udugov denied that a Caucasian security organization would have an anti-Russian orientation, arguing that Russia has a vested interest in the creation of such an organization.


Shots were fired at the Moscow apartment of Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin on the evening of 21 July, Interfax reported, citing the Moscow police. An unnamed Central Bank official told the agency that the incident was most likely "a warning and a means of exerting psychological pressure" on Dubinin rather than an assassination attempt. Dubinin recently charged that more than $500 million of government funds have been misused in fraudulent banking deals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14-16, 18 and 21 July). An unnamed Central Bank official told Interfax on 21 July that the banking supervision committee of the Central Bank is seeking the dismissal of several top executives at Unikombank, which was at the center of Dubinin's allegations. Dubinin's apartment was fired on in March 1996.


Yeltsin has issued a decree on diamond exporting procedures in accordance with a government recommendation that the Russian diamond monopoly Almazy Rossiya-Sakha continue to cooperate with the South African-based multinational company De Beers, Russian news agencies reported on 21 July. The decree paves the way for Almazy Rossiya-Sakha to sign a new agreement with De Beers, which controls some three-quarters of the world's diamond market. A five-year agreement between the two companies expired at the end of 1995. A framework agreement signed in February 1996 expired on 31 December, after which diamond exports were halted pending a new accord. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 July, the presidential decree revokes the right of the Republic of Sakha to sell abroad 20 percent of the diamonds mined on its territory. Russia extracts about 26 percent of the world's diamonds, mostly in Sakha.


The Russian Federal Property Fund on 22 July began accepting applications to participate in an upcoming sale of a 38 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel, ITAR-TASS reported. The shares were acquired by Oneksimbank in November 1995 in exchange for a $170 million loan to the government. The acquisition was one of the most controversial loans-for-shares deals, which were said to have benefited commercial banks with close ties to the Kremlin. The London-based Trans-World Metals group recently appealed to the Russian government to postpone the Norilsk Nickel auction for at least a year, arguing that the planned sale is rigged in favor of Oneksimbank, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 July. Trans-World Metals is itself a controversial player in the Russian aluminum industry (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 7 and 11 March 1997).


Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev says the government is drafting a law that would increase pensions by 10 percent beginning on 1 October and another 10 percent as of 1 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. He said the law will be submitted to the parliament before the start of the State Duma's fall session. Sysuev added that the proposed increases will not lead to new delays in pension payments. As wage arrears to state employees are paid, he explained, the resulting contributions to the Pension Fund will provide funds to pay higher pensions. A recent presidential decree ordered all wage arrears to state workers to be paid by 1 January 1998. The Federation Council recently rejected a law passed by the Duma that would have raised pensions by 20 percent beginning on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1997).


Yeltsin on 21 July signed a law to allow the cities of Novgorod and Tver to introduce a real estate tax, ITAR-TASS reported. The tax experiment was approved by the Duma in June and the Federation Council on 3 July. Novgorod and Tver will replace three current taxes--on property belonging to individuals, on property owned by enterprises, and the land tax--with a real estate tax. All of the revenues from the new tax will go to the cities' budgets.


In order to deter enterprises from moving to St. Petersburg, the Leningrad Oblast legislature has passed a law granting large tax breaks to investors in local industry, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 July. Enterprises that are the site of new investment projects will be exempted from regional property taxes for two years. During the same period, profit taxes on such enterprises will be cut by 30 percent, 50 percent, or 100 percent, depending on the size of the investment. In June, the Leningrad legislature created more incentives for enterprises to stay in the oblast, cutting regional taxes on profits, property and road use by 50 percent for enterprises. Former Leningrad Governor Aleksandr Belyakov advocated merging the oblast with St. Petersburg, but "Kommersant-Daily" noted that there is now little talk of such a merger. Belyakov lost a gubernatorial election to Vadim Gustov in September 1996.


Valentin Kovalev has filed a 5 billion ruble ($864,000) lawsuit against the tabloid weekly "Sovershenno sekretno," according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 July. Kovalev was fired shortly after "Sovershenno sekretno" published an article and frames from a videotape allegedly showing Kovalev in a sauna in a Moscow club reportedly frequented by the mafia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June and 2 July 1997). However, Kovalev is suing the tabloid only for the material printed on the cover rather than for the content of the article, which was printed on inside pages. Frames from the video published on the cover showed Kovalev with a towel around his waist in the company of nude women. The accompanying headlines read, "The Minister Has No Clothes" and "The Secret Mischief of Justice Minister Kovalev." Kovalev's lawyer, Anatolii Kucherena, said the trial is only the "first step" in defending his client's honor and dignity.


The three co-chairmen of the Organization for Cooperation and Europe's Minsk Group met in Stepanakert on 19 July with leading Karabakh Armenian officials, Noyan Tapan reported. The talks centered on the need to strengthen the existing cease-fire regime and to open a direct dialogue between Stepanakert and the Azerbaijani leadership in the hope of finding a mutually acceptable compromise solution to the conflict. The co-chairmen then traveled to Yerevan the same day, where they discussed with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan organizational issues related to the negotiating process.


Meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council in New York on 21 July, Eduard Shevardnadze again advocated the deployment in Abkhazia of a UN peacekeeping force to supplement the existing UN observer mission there. He subsequently told journalists that Annan had expressed a "positive attitude" toward this proposal, Reuters reported. The mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently stationed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia expires on 31 July. Tbilisi opposes its extension, while Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba will not agree to the replacement of the CIS peacekeepers by an international force. Meanwhile, Greek Defense Minister Apostolos Tsohatzopoulos said during his recent visit to Tbilisi that Greece is prepared to provide a contingent for a UN peacekeeping force, according to "Delovoi mir" on 18 July.


The prime ministers of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan met with Chinese officials on 21 July at the new Erkecham customs post on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border for the official opening of the Andijan-Osh-Kashgar highway, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Kyrgyzstan and ITAR-TASS. Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov said the road will become the "transcontinental bridge between Europe and Asia."


Representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan met in the northern Tajik city of Khujand on 19-20 July to discuss water distribution, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Tajikistan. The Kazakhs and Uzbeks requested an increase in the volume of water flowing from the Kairakum reservoir in Tajikistan into the Syr River. Tajik representative Kosim Kosimov said such a decision can be made only by the Tajik central government. Kyrgyzstan has already announced it will begin charging its neighbors for water from the Naryn River; it has not yet decided on a price, however. The sources of most western Central Asia's rivers are found in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.


Four people from Turkmenistan's Mary Province have been sentenced to death for drug-trafficking, according to the Turkmen newspaper "Adalat" on 22 July. Two of the sentenced men had regularly crossed from Turkmenistan into Afghanistan. The sentences are in contradiction to a June amnesty that commuted the death penalty into life imprisonment for most cases of drug-trafficking.


Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasymjomart Tokayev and Russian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Valerii Nikolaenko took part in an official ceremony in Almaty on 21 July exchanged the instruments of ratification of an agreement that makes it easier for Russian and Kazakh citizens to transfer their country of residence, according to ITAR-TASS. The original agreement was signed by the parliaments of the two countries in January 1995.


A delegation from the IMF is scheduled to arrive in Kyiv on 22 July to begin discussions on a one-year stand-by loan, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. The loan will be handled on a priority basis and is, according to sources at IMF headquarters in Washington, expected to be finalized and approved by the end of August. The loan, whose size has yet to be determined, is in lieu of the planned three-year loan program worth up to $3 billion that was put on hold in early July. An IMF review team said Ukraine had not yet implemented enough reforms to qualify for the loan.


Ukraine and Indonesia have agreed to work jointly to put satellites into orbit and to share scientific data. A Ukrainian space official told Interfax on 21 July that the agreement was reached two days earlier during a visit by Indonesian officials. The two countries also pledged to cooperate in building and launching satellites. Meanwhile, Russia is about to hand over the first batch of warships to Ukraine under a May agreement settling the dispute over control of the Black Sea Fleet. The fleet's Rear Admiral Boris Chernishkov told Interfax on 21 July that warships, a submarine, several patrol boats, naval destroyers, minesweepers, and other smaller vessels are to be delivered.


Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Prokopovich, speaking at a press conference in Minsk on 21 July, denied earlier reports that the Russian gas company Gazprom cut off shipments to Belarus because of mounting unpaid debt. Prokopovich claimed that Belarus had paid all current bills to Gazprom and had transferred another $80 million toward payment of its 1996 debts. However, he did not deny that the Belarus government had received notification from Gazprom that it would reduce gas supplies to Belarus unless debts were paid. Earlier reports indicated that Gazprom had reduced by half the flow of gas to Belarus because of debts that, according to the Russian company, amount to $203 million. Belarusians claim the debt does not exceed $123 million. A Belarusian delegation is due in Moscow on 22 July to discuss Minsk's remaining debt to Gazprom. Belarus officials plan to offer a new schedule of payments for gas.


Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Deguang met with Estonian President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Siimann, and Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn on 21 July, BNS and ETA reported. Zhang praised bilateral relations and said he saw the potential to develop trade between the two countries. Estonian exports to China remain well below imports from that country. Zhang stressed that China sees Estonia as a possible transit country for developing trade relations with northern and western European states. He also said that Beijing "firmly supports" Estonia's bid to join the EU and, though not in favor of military blocs, backs Tallinn's wish to join NATO. Also on 21 July, a visiting delegation from Taiwan met with deputy parliamentary speaker Tunne Kelam and members of the parliament's Taiwan support group, ETA reported.


Andris Skele announced at a 22 July press conference that he has reached agreement with the Cooperation Council, which is composed of members of the ruling coalition parties, on how to overcome the present government crisis, RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. Three ministers have resigned over violations of the anti-corruption law; and Skele on 21 July called for the resignation of Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans over his failure to abide by that law. Interior Minister Dainis Turlais also quit his post recently over the accident at the firefighters' celebration in Talsi, which claimed the lives of eight children. Skele said parties must announce their candidates for the vacant ministerial positions by 4 August. He urged the parliament to approve the new ministers by 6 August. Details of the agreement with the Cooperation Council are to be released later on 22 July.


Lithuanian and Russian officials have agreed to remove "organizational difficulties" that have occasionally obstructed Russian military transit across Lithuania, BNS reported on 21 July. Maj. Sigitas Butkus, the Lithuanian acting commissioner for military transport, said that a recent meeting in Vilnius of the two countries' transport services focused on ways to improve adherence to Lithuania's military transit regulations. The meeting came some two months after a Russian military unit had been refused entry to Lithuania from Kaliningrad Oblast; the unit had requested in advance, but not received, a transit permit. Russian officials had said the incident demonstrated "Lithuania's increased strictness" toward Russian military transit, while Lithuanian officials claimed Russia had sought to transport troops and cargoes from forces other than the army. The Lithuanian Transport Service issues single permits for military cargoes transiting Lithuanian territory.


Rain subsided on 21 July across Central Europe following two weeks of heavy falls have flooded huge areas of land and left thousands homeless. The death toll has reached 52 in Poland and 47 in the Czech Republic. Polish officials on 21 July denied Swedish press reports that recent flooding might add significantly to pollution levels in the Baltic Sea. RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent quotes officials of the Polish Environmental Protection Ministry as saying there is no danger of significant pollution flowing into the sea from the Oder and Vistula Rivers. However, officials do say that at least 56 sewer treatment plants have been flooded by the overflowing rivers. The comments follow Swedish press reports that flood waters were carrying heating fuel, fertilizers, industrial chemicals, and other pollutants into the sea.


Michal Kovac has distanced himself from "verbal attacks" on U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson made recently by Premier Vladimir Meciar and Parliamentary Chairman Ivan Gasparovic, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Kovac met with Johnson on 21 July, one week after Johnson said in a public lecture that the main reasons for Slovakia's failure to be included in the first wave of NATO expansion were the centralization of power and the government's intolerant attitude toward people who do not share its opinions. Meciar accused Johnson of meddling in Slovakia's domestic affairs. Gasparovic made a similar statement. Kovac said Meciar's and Gasparovic's statements could not be considered the "legitimate stance of the government and parliament" but rather were the "private views" of the two leaders.


Zdenka Kramplova and Laszlo Kovacs, meeting in Komarno, Slovakia, on 21 July, agreed that Slovak Prime Minister Meciar will hold talks with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, in Gyor, Hungary, on 15 August, Slovak and Hungarian media reported. A statement after the meeting said the prime ministers will focus on European integration and the implementation of an awaited ruling by the International Court in The Hague on the controversial Gabcikovo dam project. The last official meeting between Meciar and Horn was in Paris in early 1995, when they signed a friendship treaty under the auspices of the EU. Hungarian media report that the two foreign ministers were unable to agree on a number of issues and that setting the date of the prime ministers' meeting was the only result of the three-hour meeting.


Ten members of the Christian Democratic People's Party's (KDNP) parliamentary faction decided to quit the group on 21 July, Hungarian media reported. The KDNP now has only 13 deputies in the parliament. Under house regulations, the party must have at least 15 seats in order to qualify as a parliamentary faction. The 10 deputies who quit the KDNP, including party chairman Gyoergy Giczy, want to establish a new Christian Democratic group. Those who remain in the faction recently distanced themselves from the party leadership's policies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997).


Visiting Hungarian Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy said on 21 July in Beijing that the Bank of China will shortly open a regional office in Budapest, Hungarian media reported. At a meeting with Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Li Lanching, Medgyessy discussed a $40 million credit from Eximbank to facilitate Hungarian exports to China. The two ministers agreed to establish in the near future a share-holding company that would promote bilateral trade and inform Hungarian companies of Chinese development tenders. Hungary's trade deficit with China was up 68 percent last year on the 1995 level, exceeding $175 million.


Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said on Banja Luka TV on 21 July that she intends to finish out her term in 1998, despite her recent expulsion from the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). She charged that she "was not suitable for the party because [she] was merely insisting on resolving the crime problem in the Serb republic. Such widespread crime is the reason why the state cannot pay its workers and pensioners." Plavsic added that Karadzic chaired the meeting at which the SDS's governing body expelled her. Her campaign against the wealthy war profiteers, whom she claims run the Republika Srpska, has much appeal to ordinary Serbs, whose average income is $35 per month.


The UN police said in Herzegovina's main town on 21 July that Croatian and Muslim police have begun joint patrols on both sides of the Neretva River. In the coming weeks, more men will be added to the units, which will expand their beats to include more parts of the region. The Muslims have charged the Croats with sabotaging previous attempts in Mostar to set up joint patrols by the nominal allies, and the Croats argue that the Muslims obstruct practical cooperation in central Bosnia. Most observers agree that smooth teamwork on the ground between the Croats and Muslims is essential if their federation is ever to become more than just an agreement on paper.


In recent days, the Serbian authorities have closed down several local radio stations and a television station in Kraljevo in the south. Some reports suggest that there have been closures in other towns as well. Officials claim that the stations are not legally licensed, but independent media spokesmen argue that the crackdown on the non-state stations is part of the governing Socialists' preparation for the Serbian elections due in September. Opposition spokesmen said in Belgrade on 20 July that they may boycott the vote following recent changes in the election law that clearly work to the Socialists' advantage.


A recently released U.S. intelligence document from 1946 suggests that the Vatican held for safe-keeping gold sent by the pro-Axis Croatian government during World War II. It is unclear how much of the original gold valued at some $120 million might remain in the Vatican, which has not yet commented on the reports carried by Western media on 22 July. The press accounts say the Ustasha regime confiscated the gold from its own Serbian, Jewish, Roma, and moderate Croatian citizens. Meanwhile in Split, "Feral Tribune" reported on 21 July that the bibliography of President Franjo Tudjman's works in the country's two main libraries has been purged of almost all his writings from the 1950s and 1960s. The deleted titles deal with Tito's Partisan movement in World War II and with the founding of socialist Yugoslavia.


Albanian Television on 21 July denied that Tirana played any role in recent ethnic unrest in Tetovo and Gostivar in Macedonia, as some Macedonian politicians have charged. The broadcast added that Belgrade is the most likely source of outside meddling in Macedonia's affairs. On 18 July, a delegation of ethnic Albanian political leaders from Kosovo went to Macedonia to try to calm the situation. Meanwhile in Skopje, Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski denied reports that his country wants to buy Russian tanks. He said that Russia and Macedonia signed an agreement on military cooperation on 20 July but that Macedonia will purchase only weapons that are compatible with NATO systems.


An explosion destroyed at least one cafe and damaged nearby buildings and vehicles in the early hours of 22 July in the center of Tirana, near the Interior and Defense Ministries. Three people were badly injured. News agencies said that the injured men were private guards at the Greek-owned cafe. The attackers drove up in a car and planted over four pounds of explosives. No motive for the attack is known, and such explosions are relatively rare in Tirana.


President Sali Berisha issued a decree on 21 July to summon the newly elected legislature for a session on 23 July. His own Democratic Party said in a statement on 20 July, however, that it will boycott the first few meetings of the parliament to protest the conditions under which the legislature was elected. A statement charged that "the elections of 29 June were held in a climate of violence and terror exercised by Socialist gangs against supporters of the Democratic Party and the population in general." International monitors, for their part, said that the elections were fair, if not perfect. Meanwhile, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 22 July that the Democrats have agreed to elect Berisha as party leader. He has yet to say when he will resign the presidency and take up his seat in the parliament and the party chair.


Prime Minister Kostas Simitis met with top security officials in Athens on 21 July to discuss the deteriorating situation along the Albanian frontier. After the session, the Interior Ministry said in a statement that the "police are to redouble their patrols and their activity will be intensified across the country, while security forces and the army will cooperate in the border regions." Albanian bandits have been attacking and kidnapping Greek citizens, and the Greek government has responded by sending army and police reinforcements to the north. On 22 July, Greece briefly closed and then reopened the main border crossing at Kakavia.


Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, in a report prepared for internal use by the Democratic Party, says the party should prepare an alternative program that would make its "separate Social-Democratic options" more clear to the electorate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Babiuc said the dominance of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) in the present coalition is due to the influence of President Emil Constantinescu. Premier Minister Victor Ciorbea recently called for a meeting of coalition leaders to discuss differences that have emerged in the last weeks. Among other things, the Senate postponed discussing an amendment to the Land Restitution Law because many Democratic Party senators who oppose the PNTCD's intention to increase the restitution of land from 10 to 50 hectares per family were not present during the debate.


Dumitru Diacov, who recently was dismissed by the parliament as deputy chairman, says President Petru Lucinschi has offered him the foreign affairs portfolio. Incumbent Foreign Minister Mihai Popov intends to resign on health grounds. In an interview with RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau on 21 July, Diacov said a group of deputies will soon announce their resignation from the main coalition party, the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova (PDAM). Diacov said on 21 July that the group will support President Petru Lucinschi's economic reform program, which has met with resistance in the legislature. Diacov said the group will support Ion Ciubuc's cabinet only if there is a government reshuffle and new ministers who back Lucinschi's program are appointed. On 22 July, 11 PDAM deputies announced they have left the party.


The Constitutional Court on 21 July ruled that two decrees issued by President Lucinschi in April 1997 are unconstitutional. The decrees set up a government department for fighting organized crime and corruption and appointed the chief of the department. The court also declared unconstitutional a government decision issued in May 1997 in connection with the implementation of the decrees. The decrees and the government decision were contested in the court by Valentin Dolganiuc, the leader of the parliamentary opposition Christian Democratic Front faction. The court said the prerogative of setting up new departments of the government belongs to the parliament and not to the president. The court also ruled that the government decision on implementing the decrees infringes the constitutional right to personal liberty, the personal and family privacy, inviolability of domicile, and the secrecy of private correspondence and of telephone conversations.


In a message on the fifth anniversary of the signing by Moldova and Russia of the memorandum on the principles of a peaceful settlement of the military conflict in the Transdniester region, Moldovan President Lucinschi said the "tragic consequences" of the conflict have not yet been overcome because Moldova's territory is "still split," Infotag reported on 21 July. He also noted that the negotiations for a final settlement are experiencing "great difficulties." Only when the country is "fully unified" will Moldova "take a worthy place among other European countries," he added. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in a message to Lucinschi marking the anniversary, said Russia "desires to assist fully in the search for a constructive outcome" to the Transdniester conflict. He commented that no efforts should be spared until that settlement is reached.


The government on 21 July said the EU should start negotiations with all the countries aspiring to membership in the union, Reuters reported. The statement said such a move "would be a confirmation that all countries have equal chances to become members of a united Europe." It added that the government in Sofia appreciates the faith recently expressed by the European Commission in Sofia's intention to quickly implement the program of reforms.


Speaking to reporters on the occasion of launching his memoirs (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 16 July 1997), Bulgaria's former communist ruler Todor Zhivkov says that in the book he is "smashing the whole Marxist theory. Marxism is mere nonsense, and I am the first one to say that it is completely wrong," Zhivkov told reporters at his grand daughter's villa in a wealthy Sofia suburb, Reuters reported on 21 July.


by Salimjon Aioubov

The Tajik political scene is set to change significantly following the signing of the peace accord that formally ended long years of fighting in the country. The accord, signed in Moscow on 27 June by Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri, creates a power-sharing arrangement and legalizes some opposition parties and movements that until now were banned, including the Islamic Renaissance Party, the Democratic Party, the Rastokhez People's Movement, and the Laali Badakhshan. All those parties amalgamated into the Islamic Revival Movement while their leaders were in exile in Afghanistan in 1993. Last year, the movement renamed itself the UTO.

Opposition leaders say they want to keep the UTO alive as an umbrella organization until the parliamentary elections that are scheduled to take place by the end of 1998. But at the same time, they are also seeking to amend the Tajik election laws to allow each opposition party to run their own candidates in the election. The new National Reconciliation Commission, which was established in early July, is now laying the groundwork for elections and recommending amendments to election laws.

The principal aim of the peace negotiations, which took place under UN auspices, was to transfer disagreements among Tajiks from the battlefield to the political stage. The first possible result of such a transfer is that Tajik society will be aligned along two axes; namely the current ruling party and the Islamic opposition. The Islamic Renaissance Party is the main force on the opposition side, while the National Unity Movement, created in June to put up a monolithic front to the opposition, dominates on the pro-president, pro-government side. Headed by Sulton Mirzoshoev, the former chief of the presidential administration, the movement brings together the People's Party and the Political and Economic Renewal Party, both of which were formed by pro-government supporters after 1993.

The upcoming election campaign is expected to be fought vigorously. All the leaders say they look forward to an election without intimidation, as opposed to earlier ballots, when heavily armed men were often present at polling booths in an obvious attempt to influence the vote. Rahmonov says that this time citizens will be able to vote for whom they like without the presence of weapons. Opposition leader Nuri has also pledged that his side will not try to impose its will on the people.

Both sides are facing the new political era with various disadvantages. Rahmonov can still count on a solid ruling elite, but he has bled away a lot of its strength through his purging of the ranks, a process that continues today. The country's ruinous economic and social situation has deeply scarred the ruling circles' image. For their part, the opposition parties and leaders do not have a cohesive social base. The government has tried to smear the opposition parties by scaremongering about the threats of fundamentalism, which in the past had some success. But now the opposition leaders say that ideology is not the important factor but that they must demonstrate instead their professionalism and dedication the concept of genuine independence and reform for Tajikistan.

Both sides have a credibility problem in that the war-weary and anxiety-ridden population is highly skeptical about all politicians. And both the opposition and the government sides are courting Russia and neighboring Uzbekistan, which have considerable influence on Tajik affairs. Russia still supports Rahmonov, and Uzbekistan has improved its ties with the opposition.

Yet another factor is the National Revival Bloc of former Tajik Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullajonov, which has no formal links to either the opposition or the government but has some influence in the northern region.

In short, it can be said that, despite the peace agreement between the two opposing sides, there are still severe threats to the peace process. Those threats take the form of looming power struggles, the possible fragmentation of political forces, and underlying differences between Russia and Uzbekistan.

The author is an editor for RFE/RL's Tajik Service.