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Newsline - July 23, 1997


President Boris Yeltsin on 22 July vetoed the law on religious organizations, which would have favored four "traditional religions"--Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism--over more recently established "religious groups." The law has drawn criticism from human rights defenders and minority religious groups in Russia, as well as from the Pope and the U.S. (see Part II). In a statement issued from the Samara Oblast resort where he is vacationing, Yeltsin said his decision was difficult and that he is aware of the need to "prevent the infiltration of radical sects" in Russia. However, he argued that "numerous provisions of the bill curb constitutional human and civil rights and freedoms, make [religious] confessions unequal, and are inconsistent with Russia's international commitments." He sent proposed amendments to the law to both houses of parliament. Article 14 of the Constitution says that religious associations are equal under the law.


Communist Viktor Zorkaltsev, who chairs the State Duma Committee on Political Associations and Religious Organizations, blasted Yeltsin's decision to veto the religion law. He told Interfax on 23 July that "Russia has been trampled on." Duma Security Committee Chairman and Communist Viktor Ilyukhin charged that the West is attempting to "brainwash the younger generation [in Russia]." Valentin Kuptsov, also a prominent Communist, predicted that the parliament will override Yeltsin's veto, which he called a "public humiliation of Russia." There was no immediate reaction from Russian Orthodox Church officials, who strongly supported the law. Fifty Church leaders, including Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II, recently issued an appeal urging Yeltsin to sign the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 1997).


Also on 22 July, Yeltsin signed the law listing seven sites that may be developed in accordance with production-sharing agreements, Russian news agencies reported. The law is expected to pave the way for substantial foreign and domestic investment in the approved sites: five oil and gas fields, one iron ore deposit, and one gold mine. Production-sharing agreements allow companies to invest in natural resource deposits in exchange for a percentage of the resources extracted in the future. Meanwhile, Yeltsin signed laws on the procedure for adopting and revising the 1998 budget and on calculating and increasing pensions for non-working pensioners. Earlier this month, Yeltsin vetoed the witness protection law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 1997). The president's veto message said some of that law's provisions violated the constitutional rights of criminal defendants to a fair trial, "Rossiiskie vesti" reported on 4 July.


Yeltsin on 22 July issued a decree saying political asylum in Russia may be granted by presidential decree to persons who risk persecution in their home countries "for public and political activities and views that are not inconsistent with democratic principles recognized by the international community and international standards," Russian news agencies reported. However, persons who are persecuted for actions that are forbidden under Russian law will not be eligible for asylum.


Vladimir Kolesnikov, head of the Interior Ministry's passport and visa department, announced that new Russian passports will not contain the infamous "Line 5," on which Soviet citizens were required to list their nationality, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 July. In accordance with a recent government directive, the new passports will begin to be issued on 1 October. All Soviet-era passports currently held by Russian citizens are to be replaced by 2005.


Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin convened a meeting of his deputies and staff on 22 July to discuss rising tensions between North Ossetia and Ingushetia, Russian media reported. Among the proposed measures for stabilizing the region were the restoration of direct Russian government representation in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov named as a possible candidate for this post, according to Interfax. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 July quoted North Ossetian President Akhsarbek Galazov as affirming that all citizens of North Ossetia are equal before the law, and that alleged discrimination against the Ingush is a reflection of the catastrophic economic situation in the region. The Security Council also discussed the security of the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk oil pipeline. The Chechen stretch of that pipeline will be protected against terrorist attacks by 400 guards 24 hours a day, ITAR-TASS reported


Speaking in St. Petersburg, State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin on 22 July described the military reform plan drawn up by Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and approved by Yeltsin as a "disgrace for the country," an RFE/RL correspondent in St. Petersburg reported. He also criticized the growth of the "police forces," a reference to troops subordinate to the Interior Ministry or other federal agencies, which are not affected by recent presidential decrees on downsizing the armed forces. Rokhlin told RFE/RL that he had not been allowed to address generals of the Leningrad Military District. Before arriving in St. Petersburg, he met with top officials and directors of defense enterprises in Vladimir, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 July. Rokhlin plans to tour several other Russian cities to drum up support for his new movement to support the military and the defense industry.


Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has praised Rokhlin for showing "statesmanship in his approach to the needs of the army," Interfax reported on 22 July. Duma Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Valentin Varennikov, also a Communist, said he too supports Rokhlin's new movement to support the military, which will hold its founding congress in September. Meanwhile, Duma First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin, a leading member of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia (NDR) movement, criticized Rokhlin for creating a "left-wing opposition movement in defense of the armed forces." Rokhlin belongs to the NDR Duma faction, but Shokhin said Rokhlin has "placed himself outside" the NDR because of the "extremist and marginal membership" of Rokhlin's new movement. NDR Duma deputies will consider whether to expel Rokhlin in September. Yeltsin recently vowed to "sweep aside the Rokhlins with their counterproductive actions" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1997).


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says the government will allocate 1.8 trillion rubles ($310 million) in July toward paying wage arrears to those serving in the armed forces, Russian news agencies reported on 22 July. He said that sum is about one-third of total wage arrears to military personnel and pledged that the government will pay all back wages to those serving in the military by 1 September, in accordance with a recent presidential decree. However, "Trud" reported on 22 July that wage arrears to military personnel total at least 8 trillion rubles. The paper also noted that back wages are only part of the government's debt to soldiers, many of whom have not received other benefits payments for one and a half to two years.


Following a meeting of the government's commission on tax collection, State Tax Service chief Aleksandr Pochinok announced that four more large enterprises have said they will keep to schedules for paying their back taxes, Russian media reported on 22 July. The Mechel metallurgical plant in Chelyabinsk will be forced to pay its debt of some 100 billion rubles ($17 million) by 1 September. The Moscow Oil Refinery was given six months to pay its back taxes, while the Ulyanovsk and Urals automobile manufacturers are to pay their arrears by early 1998. All tax debts must be paid in cash, NTV reported. The commission's next meeting will focus on state-run enterprises, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 23 July. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomryrdin warned that if such enterprises do not stick to schedules for paying their back taxes, their directors will be fired and in some cases may even be prosecuted.


Appearing on local radio, Viktor Cherepkov has warned that Vladivostok city officials will go on strike beginning on 28 July if the Primorskii Krai administration does not pay 211 billion rubles ($36 million) reportedly owed to the capital, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 22 July. Cherepkov and krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko have been bitter political opponents for years. Also on 22 July, some 2,000 municipal workers demonstrated outside the Vladivostok city administration building for the second straight day. They are demanding a contract with the city on providing services, payment of wage arrears, and Cherepkov's resignation. Doctors are warning of possible outbreaks of epidemics in Vladivostok as the strike by municipal workers, and in particular garbage collectors, continues. The mayor has attributed the strike to "political intrigues" by Communists who oppose reforming the city's housing and municipal services.


Viktor Kondratov, Yeltsin's representative in Primorskii Krai, has criticized the "unprofessionalism" of those in power in Primore, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 22 July. Kondratov dismissed Cherepkov's threat of a walkout of Vladivostok officials as "nonsense." He also charged that krai officials flout presidential decrees by continuing to distribute federal funds without Kondratov's consent. As a result, he argued, the funds are being spent "unfairly" and state employees in Vladivostok and the port of Nakhodka are being shortchanged. Kondratov said he has informed Yeltsin about the violations. He has also requested that First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais discipline the head of the Primore branch of the Finance Ministry. Kondratov's remarks indicate that Moscow will have trouble enforcing a recent presidential decree expanding the powers of Yeltsin's representatives in the regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1997).


Government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov has questioned the veracity of newspaper reports on alleged secret meetings between First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and the Danish businessman Jan Bonde Nielsen, Interfax reported on 22 July. Some newspapers have published photographs of Chubais meeting Bonde Nielsen, and the weekly "Novaya gazeta" noted that Bonde Nielsen has a "shady reputation," citing Danish journalists. An RFE/RL stringer in Denmark reported on 16 July that Norwegian television networks have broadcast footage shot from hidden cameras showing Chubais and Bonde Nielsen meeting on a yacht. Neither the subjects they discussed nor the nature of Bonde Nielsen's business interests in Russia are known. According to the Danish newspaper "Ekstra Bladet," Bonde Nielsen was charged with embezzlement in Denmark during the 1980s but escaped prosecution by residing in the United Kingdom until the charges against him were dropped in 1995.


Ivan Sklyarov on 22 July was sworn in as governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, RFE/RL's correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov spoke at the ceremony, although relations between him and Sklyarov have been strained since the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 18 July 1997). Aleksandr Livshits, deputy head of the presidential administration, cited Nizhnii Novgorod's importance as Russia's "third capital" (after Moscow and St. Petersburg). Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, whom the new governor has credited with helping his campaign, also spoke at the inauguration. He described Sklyarov's election as a "most difficult victory of democratic forces." But Luzhkov warned against "euphoria," noting that 42 percent of the oblast's voters supported the opposition candidate. The Moscow mayor also called for cooperation among cities and regions, "so as not to allow foreigners to take over the economy."


Eduard Shevardnadze said on his return to Tbilisi from the U.S. on 22 July that the Georgian leadership will take no "hasty or light-headed" decisions on expelling the CIS peacekeepers after their mandate expires on 31 July, Russian media reported. But Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, has ordered Georgian volunteers to western Georgia to replace the CIS force now deployed along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 July. Lev Mironov, a Russian representative to UN-sponsored talks on the Abkhaz conflict that opened in Geneva on 23 July, told Interfax it will be difficult to avoid fresh violence if the peacekeepers leave. Citing an unnamed UN source, AFP reported that the talks will not address Abkhazia's future political status but are intended to secure agreement that neither side will renew hostilities after 31 July.


A military court in Baku on 22 July handed down the death sentence to Karen Barashev on charges of spying for Armenia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Baku reported. Barashev, an Armenian who was born in Baku and served in the Soviet army in Azerbaijan, was recruited in Russia by Armenian intelligence, according to "Literaturnaya gazeta" on 16 July, quoting a senior member of President Heidar Aliev's administration. Barashev agreed to return to Azerbaijan, where he enlisted in an anti-aircraft unit and between 1993 and 1996 carried out systematic sabotage causing more than $1 million damage. Azerbaijani Security Minister Namik Abbasov has frequently commented that Russian, Turkish, Iranian, and Armenian agents are engaged in espionage in Azerbaijan. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 July quoted the head of the Public Relations Department of the Armenian National Security Ministry as saying that "you would think the sole aim of the world's intelligence services is to organize a coup in Azerbaijan."


The nuclear power station at Medzamor was closed down on 22 July for two months, during which one-third of the nuclear fuel will be replaced and the security system upgraded, Armenian media reported. At a recent meeting with senior Armenian officials, including Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Hans Blix noted "considerable progress" in ensuring the safe exploitation of the plant, according to Noyan Tapan. Blix and Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirossyan also discussed the possibility of building a second nuclear power station in Armenia, Interfax reported on 17 July.


At a 22 July session of the Kazakh Security Council, Nursultan Nazarbayev blasted the work of the State Committees on Taxation and Customs, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. According to Nazarbayev, "inappropriate work" of the two committees was responsible for the government losing an estimated 13 billion tenge (about $170 million). Nazarbayev also told the session that criminal proceedings have been initiated against 29 officials of the Taxation Committee and 22 officials from the Customs Committee.


A report on religious freedom in 78 countries issued on 22 July by the U.S. State Department expresses concern about religious freedom in several former communist countries. The U.S. expressed concern about a draft law, approved by both houses of the Russian legislature, that would restrict the activities of some minority religions. President Boris Yeltsin has since vetoed the bill (see Part I). The report expresses concern about harassment of and violence against Baptists and Greek Catholics in Romania as well as about freedom of worship of non-Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria. It also notes that in Armenia, denominations other than the Armenian Apostolic Church face legal restrictions and that an Azerbaijani law forbidding religious proselytizing by foreigners is discriminatory and leads to harassment of Christians.


The Russian gas company Gazprom on 22 July announced it is restoring full gas shipments to Belarus after reaching a deal with Minsk on repaying debts amounting to $125 million, Interfax reported. Gazprom recently cut deliveries by half to force Belarus to pay its debts. After talks in Moscow on 22 July, Belarusian government officials agreed to pay the debts and Gazprom to return shipments to normal levels. Interfax quoted a Gazprom official as saying Belarus agreed to pay 30 percent of the debts in cash and the remainder through barter and other means. Meanwhile, Gazprom began reducing supplies to Ukraine on 22 July in an effort to force it to pay more than $300 million in debts.


Belarusian border guards on 22 July detained a Belarusian camera team working for Russia's ORT television network. The journalists were detained on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, Interfax reported. The crew included ORT's Minsk bureau chief Pavel Sheremet, a cameraman, and a driver. They were detained while shooting footage on the activities of Belarus border guards. A spokesperson for the Belarusian State Border Committee said Sheremet had applied for permission to shoot footage on the border and was given approval for this fall. He had decided, however, to film now without permission. A report has been filed stating that the journalists violated laws on protecting the border area. The men have since been released and have returned to Minsk. Sheremet was recently stripped of his accreditation for Belarus.


Leonid Kuchma signed a decree on 22 July dismissing Prosecutor-General Hryhory Vorsinov. A presidential spokeswoman told journalists that retirement was given as the reason for relieving Vorsinov. She also said Kuchma has appointed Oleh Lytvak as acting prosecutor-general. Vorsinov, 61, was considered an ally of former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who quit recently citing health problems. Until now, Lytvak has headed the National Bureau of Investigation, a recently created body to fight widespread corruption and organized crime. Lytvak was previously Kuchma's top legal adviser.


Ukrainian deputy Vladimir Alexeyev told a news conference in Simferopol, Crimea, on 22 July that the Ukrainian government and the president's office have submitted a bill to the parliament under which Ukrainian would become the only official language in Ukraine, Russian news agency RIA reported. The bill proclaims Ukrainian as the only official language in all social spheres throughout the country, including the autonomous region of Crimea. All civil servants and other persons speaking languages other than Ukrainian in public offices will be fined. Alexeyev said "this coercive promotion of the Ukrainian language amounts to discrimination against citizens of many nationalities" in Ukraine. Opposition parliamentary groups have prepared an alternative bill, but the government version is more likely to be passed, Alexeyev noted.


Economics Minister Jaak Leimann announced on 22 July that the government has refused residence permits to nine Russian reserve officers and their families, ETA reported. The men are all former Soviet officers who are married to Estonian citizens and remained in Estonia after Soviet troops withdrew from the country. Leimann said they were not granted permits because they "could be called to active duty for Russia." Tallinn perceives this "as a danger to the security of Estonia," he added. One of the officers, Sergeii Miroshnitshenko, was previously refused a permit, but a court overruled that decision because his name had been misspelled. The government corrected the mistake and compiled a lengthy file on Miroshnitshenko, noting that he received training in Soviet ideological propaganda and is reported to have recently made anti-Estonian remarks to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe representative in Tallinn.


Guntis Ulmanis on 22 July expressed his support for Premier Andris Skele, who earlier had announced a plan to resolve the government crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1997), BNS reported. Ulmanis said he believes Skele's government "should continue the work it started until the [October 1998] parliamentary elections." He added that the crisis threatened the country's reforms and its bids to join NATO and the EU. Besides drawing up a timetable to fill the five ministerial vacancies, Skele proposed the ruling parties meet soon to discuss the EU Commission's recommendation that six countries be invited to begin accession talks, RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. He also proposed that within 10 days, the Foreign Ministry and parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission present a plan on how to improve the performance of Latvian diplomats and that the minister for European affairs submit a detailed proposal on how Latvian state institutions can better comply with EU requirements.


Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius has accepted the resignation of Vilnius police chief Vytautas Leipus and approved the dismissal of two of his deputies over the beating of a French diplomat, BNS reported on 22 July. Three young men severely beat and robbed Patric Donobedian, the 42-year-old cultural officer at the French Embassy, not far from his home in the city's Old Town on 20 July. Donobedian remains in intensive care in a Vilnius hospital. The assault was the latest in a series of incidents in the Lithuanian capital in which diplomats and other foreigners have been attacked. Vagnorius said the French diplomat's beating has "damaged the state's prestige." Meanwhile, Interior Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis has informed the premier of plans for a police operation to eliminate criminal gangs from the city.


Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz says he regrets telling Polish flood victims they should have taken out insurance. In a statement published in the press on 22 July, Cimoszewicz said his 8 July comments had been inappropriate and had "above all aroused understandable bitterness in the context of the scale of the rapidly growing natural disaster." Critics have accused the government of mismanaging flood relief. According to the latest estimates, the floods have so far killed 60 people and swamped more than a thousand towns and villages. Damage is estimated at billions of zlotys. Many people, including small farmers, have lost their homes and livelihoods. Most were not insured because, they say, they could not afford to pay insurance premiums.


Tony Blair has said Britain is ready "to provide [to Slovakia] whatever assistance we can to meet the standards required for integration into Western structures." The British ambassador to Slovakia handed a letter from Blair to Meciar on 22 July. Britain will hold the rotating chairmanship of the EU as of January 1997, when EU integration talks are scheduled to begin. Blair also wrote that he believes that "the decisions taken by NATO in Madrid will enhance the security not only of the alliance but of the whole of Europe." The NATO summit in Madrid left Slovakia out of the first group of Central European countries invited to NATO integration talks. In addition, the European Commission did not recommend Slovakia as one of the countries to begin EU integration talks because it is not seen as meeting political conditions for EU membership.


Spokeswoman Ludmila Bulakova told journalists in Bratislava on 22 July that the government considers U.S. ambassador Ralph Johnson's remarks of 14 July "inappropriate" and fully supports Premier Meciar's stance. When asked whether the government also identified with Meciar having compared Johnson to former the Soviet ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion, she replied, "Yes." Johnson, in a public lecture in Bratislava, criticized the growing centralization of power in Slovakia and intolerance toward people whose opinions differ from those of the government. He also criticized the failure to solve criminal cases that have a political background, including the 1995 abduction of President Michal Kovac's son. The president has distanced himself from Meciar's attacks on Johnson (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1997).


Laszlo Koever, a member of the Alliance of Young Democrats and of the parliament's National Security Committee, has demanded the resignation of Secret Services Minister Istvan Nikolits and his chief of staff Tamas Somogyi, on grounds of inefficiency, Hungarian media reported on 22 July. The committee's report on the controversial "Operation Birch Tree" concludes that the secret service collected potentially damaging data on parliamentary members while investigating organized crime by foreign groups. The report also states that the Intelligence Office overstepped its authority but that there was no indication that its staff intended to use the information to discredit politicians. Committee chairman Imre Konya said he voted in favor of the report, although Nikolits's political responsibility is not made explicit in the document.


The Constitutional Court of the Republika Srpska met in Pale on 22 July and overruled the cabinet's objections to President Biljana Plavsic's decision to dissolve the parliament and call new elections. The court said the government has no business interfering in matters that the constitution clearly delegates to the president and to the legislature. Aside from the army's luke-warm backing for Plavsic, the decision marks the first time that a major institution of the Bosnian Serb state has taken the side of the embattled president. The court must now rule on the parliament's objections to Plavsic's decision dissolving the legislature and calling elections, an RFE/RL correspondent in Pale reported.


Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Osterthaler said in Washington on 22 July that British SFOR troops acted within their mandate when they recently hunted down two Bosnian Serb war criminals. The senior military official added, however, that all NATO member states must agree on a "new political guidance" if the troops are to go after major figures such as Radovan Karadzic. Meanwhile in Bosnia, a grenade exploded outside the Brcko district office of Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia.


Montenegrin parliament speaker Svetozar Marovic has decided to call presidential elections for 5 October, the independent news agency Montena-faks reported from Podgorica on 22 July. Also in the Montenegrin capital, the parliament continued discussions of the recent election of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to the federal Yugoslav presidency. Most Montenegrin leaders charge that the election was rushed through the federal parliament before the Montenegrin legislature could discuss Milosevic's candidacy. Political observers say that Milosevic forced the early vote precisely in order to head off potential opposition from Podgorica. Milosevic was inaugurated on 23 July. The Montenegrin parliament also expressed its opposition to Milosevic's proposed changes to the federal constitution, which are aimed at strengthening his power over the republics.


U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson said in Skopje on 22 July that Washington regards Macedonia "as a source of regional stability." Earlier that day, he stated in Dubrovnik that UN monitors should stay on in southern Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula until Zagreb and Belgrade agree on its future. Prevlaka is Croatian territory, but it offers access to Yugoslavia's only naval base, which is located in Kotor Bay. President Tudjman has hinted that he would be willing to swap the peninsula for Bosnian Serb territory near Dubrovnik, but Croatian public opinion and the Bosnian federal government strongly oppose such a deal.


The Croatian Defense Ministry on 22 July announced the retirement of three well-known generals--Ante Roso, Djuro Decak, and Ivan Korade--as well as the transfer of nine other top officers. No official reason was given for the changes. Independent media said, however, that the ousted officers were linked to war crimes or corruption and were sacrificed as part of President Tudjman's efforts to promote Croatia's admission to NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Since the Croatian armed forces were set up in 1991, Tudjman has tried to raise them to NATO standards of equipment, leadership, and training.


A Vatican spokesman on 22 July denied that the Holy See is holding Ustasha gold from World War II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1997). In Sarajevo, representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is monitoring the Bosnian local elections slated for September, banned from the ballot in Brcko the top three candidates of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). This marks the second time that the OSCE has punished the Serbs for manipulating voter registration lists in the strategic north Bosnian town. The OSCE has forced Muslims and Croats off the ballot elsewhere. And in Kosovo, Radio Pristina said that storms have destroyed up to half the region's harvest.


Top military officials said in Gjirokaster on 22 July that unidentified persons stole some 15 surface-to-surface and surface-to-air Chinese Silkworm-type missiles from an underground tunnel on 20 July. A Defense Ministry spokesman said on Albanian TV that an investigation is under way. An army commander told Reuters that "all the Kalashnikovs that have been looted are nothing compared to this." Military officials said they suspect that foreign or domestic "mafias" are behind the theft, but the officials did not rule out political motives. Meanwhile in Vlora, rival gangs fought on 21 July with anti-tank rockets, mortars, and machine guns. Local residents fled to underground shelters. News agencies said the fighting was the worst Vlora had seen since anarchy broke out in March. The international community had hoped that the June elections would end unrest.


Gen. Decebal Ilina, chief of the Military Intelligence Service, announced at a press conference in Bucharest on 22 July that he is resigning as of 1 August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said he has completed four years in that post, adding that intelligence chiefs should not serve for decades, as was the case before and during the communist regime. Ilina rejected a recent statement by Premier Victor Ciorbea, who said the country's secret services must undergo a process of de-Sovietization. He said Romania's military intelligence had cut any ties with Warsaw Pact countries intelligence services in 1962. There is speculation among Romanian media that Ilinca's resignation is connected with the recent detention of a Swiss diplomat under suspicion of spying for Romania.


Also on 22 July, Radio Bucharest reported that Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) Gen. Dumitru Ciobanu, a former deputy director of the service, is under investigation by the military section of the Prosecutor-General's Office. He is suspected of having leaked secret information to unauthorized sources. The independent news agency AR-press says Ciobanu may be "a scapegoat" for SIE chief Ioan Talpes, who, according to as yet unconfirmed reports, has resigned and will be replaced by presidential counselor Catalin Harnagea. The same agency reports that the military section is investigating allegations that Talpes received $50,000 to use his influence for facilitating a bank loan to the former ruling party, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania.


Acting on instructions from President Emil Constantinescu, Costin Georgescu, the director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), has revoked the appointment of Col. Gheorghe Atudoroaie as SRI chief for western Romania. Atudoroaie was acquitted by a Timisoara court for involvement in the reprisals against the anti-communist uprising in December 1989 in Timisoara. He had served in that city as deputy chief of the Securitate, the communist-era secret service.


In a declaration issued on 22 July, the 11 parliamentary deputies who quit the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova (PDAM) said that the party has "diverged" from the platform that ensured its election victory in the 1994 elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1997). They also said that the dismissal of Dumitru Diacov as parliamentary deputy chairman was an "act of revenge" for his and other PDAM deputies' support of President Petru Lucinschi rather than Andrei Sangheli, the PDAM candidate in the presidential December 1996 elections. They explained that they did not back Sangheli because he had "discredited" the PDAM. They also noted that Diacov's dismissal demonstrates the PDAM faction's opposition to the reforms promoted by Lucinschi, according to RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau. Valentin Dolganiuc, the leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Popular Front, called the resignation of the 11 PDAM deputies "a political farce," Infotag reported.


Vladimir Ustinov, the Russian representative on the Joint Control Commission (JCC) in the Transdniester breakaway region, told the commission on 22 July that the military units in the security zone should be "gradually reduced" rather than bolstered by more observers. Ustinov made the remarks in connection with the possible arrival of Ukrainian peace keepers in the region. But Moldovan representative Vasile Sova said the arrival of the Ukrainian observers did not mean that Kyiv would be represented in the region by large military contingents, BASA-press reported. Rather, their presence was part and parcel of Ukraine's role as a mediator in the peace-keeping process.


by Liz Fuller

Armenia has traditionally considered itself, and been regarded by the international community, as Russia's closest ally in the Transcaucasus, not least because of the two countries' shared mistrust of Turkey. True, since coming to power in August 1990, the post-communist leadership of Levon Ter-Petrossyan has consistently sought to pursue a balanced foreign policy and to establish cordial relations with all neighboring states, including Turkey. Russia nonetheless remained the primary focus, and relations between Yerevan and Moscow were so harmonious that, during his visit to Armenia in fall 1994, Russian Federation Council chairman Vladimir Shumeiko was hard put to name a single issue on which the two countries' leaderships disagreed. (This is not to suggest that Armenia's sovereignty is in any way subservient to Russia: it behaves as a "model geo-political citizen" but not as a satellite.) From Moscow's standpoint, the most crucial component of this "special relationship" is military cooperation. Under a series of bilateral agreements signed over the past few years, Russia maintains a military base in Armenia, and the countries' armed forces regularly conduct joint maneuvers.

In terms of regional geo-politics, Russia and Armenia, together with Iran, were until recently perceived as a counterweight to the Western-oriented axis that originally comprised Azerbaijan and Turkey. Over the past year, however, Georgia and Ukraine have aligned themselves with Azerbaijan. Two factors contributed to this configuration change: the search for the economically most viable export route for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil that bypasses Russian territory, and the ongoing debate over NATO's eastward expansion, which offered the (admittedly long-term) possibility of alternative security guarantees to the CIS Collective Security Treaty.

The views of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine on both those issues have not always corresponded to those of the Turkish leadership. Georgia and Ukraine propose pumping Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to the Georgian terminal of Supsa, shipping it by tanker to Odessa, and transporting it by pipeline from there to Western Europe. Ankara, for its part, is intent on building a major export pipeline from Baku to Ceyhan in southeastern Turkey. As for NATO expansion, Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller threatened in January to veto acceptance of any new NATO members unless concrete assurances were given that Ankara would finally be granted entry into the EU.

The emergence of the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Ukraine axis appears to have served as the catalyst for a revision of Armenia's traditionally Russia-oriented foreign and security policies. (This policy shift may also have been prompted by apprehension that some circles within the Russian leadership who want Azerbaijan's oil to be exported via the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk-Novorossiisk pipeline would make major concessions to Baku that could negatively impact on the search for an acceptable solution to the Karabakh conflict.) Yerevan has in recent months engaged in an intensive dialogue with Kyiv. The Armenian Foreign Ministry has also drafted a new security doctrine that provides for military cooperation with Russia and the CIS as well as for Armenia's more active participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program; a role for Armenia, together with international organizations, in guaranteeing the security of Nagorno-Karabakh; and the proposed creation of a sub-regional security and arms control system.

(In this context Armenia is likely to support the recently resurrected Russian proposal to beef up the security component of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Greek Defense Minister Apostolos Tsohatzopoulos may have had this in mind when he commented after recent talks in Yerevan with his Armenian counterpart, Vazgen Sargsian, that "it is necessary to establish a new body of collective security, proceeding from the existence of regional institutions.")

In late April, the Armenian Foreign Ministry advised postponing ratification of a treaty permitting Russia to maintain a military base in Armenia. In a document circulated among parliamentary deputies and subsequently published in the independent newspaper "Molorak," the ministry argued that by formalizing the Russian military presence in Armenia, the treaty limited the amount of heavy weaponry that Yerevan would be permitted under the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. If Russia withdrew its troops, Armenia would not be automatically entitled to increase its arms holdings and could therefore find itself vulnerable to attack. However, this reasoning failed to convince the parliament, which ratified the treaty by a large majority.

To interpret this episode simply as a clash between two foreign-policy visions--one traditional and static and the other evolving in response to a more complex and changing geo-strategic environment--would overlook three key points. First, the phenomenon of two apparently divergent foreign policy orientations reflects the growing professionalization of the foreign-policy establishments of the former Soviet republics and, as such, is not unique to Armenia. Second, the debate focuses on the priority to be given to Armenia's relations with Russia; that is, it is a question of degree, rather than of two mutually exclusive alternatives. Third, both these orientations have their supporters within the Armenian leadership and the opposition, as does the proposal that Armenia accede to the Russia-Belarus Union. Which vision prevails will likely be determined not by the relative strength of the domestic political lobbies but by the nature and extent of the long-term security guarantees provided for Nagorno-Karabakh under any proposed political settlement of the conflict.