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Newsline - August 1, 1997


Oneksimbank head Vladimir Potanin on 31 July expressed the desire for future cooperation with Most Bank, which was founded by current Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Commenting on the news that Gusinskii intends to sue him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997), Potanin joked that he hoped Gusinskii would not seek large damages, since buying a stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest has significantly depleted Oneksimbank's financial resources. Potanin also said he did not understand why Gusinskii is claiming that the Most group was not involved in the consortium that submitted the losing bid in the Svyazinvest auction. "We had a very worthy competitor," Potanin added, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 1 August.


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov's press secretary Andrei Pershin has denied reports that Leonid Rozhetskin, who represented the winning consortium at the Svyazinvest auction, worked for Nemtsov when the latter was governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. The radio station Ekho Moskvy, which is owned by Media-Most, reported that Rozhetskin had been an economic adviser to Nemtsov. But Pershin said Rozhetskin had neither advised Nemtsov nor worked in his administration. He added that Rozhetskin had represented the losing side in an auction last year among banks seeking to participate in the distribution of eurobonds issued by Nizhnii Novgorod. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 August that the Svyazinvest sale was not discussed at a 31 July cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and attended by Nemtsov, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, and State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh, among others.


"Komsomolskaya pravda" charged on 1 August that Nemtsov has become the leading target of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii and Media-Most head Gusinskii, who cannot get over losing the Svyazinvest auction. The newspaper accused Berezovskii of continuing his business activities while serving in the government, in violation of a May presidential decree on fighting corruption. It also claimed that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is Berezovskii's patron and asked whether Nemtsov would suffer the same fate as former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who was ousted from the government in October 1996. (The media connected with Berezovskii's and Gusinskii's financial empires ran a barrage of unfavorable coverage of Lebed before and after his ouster.) Oneksimbank is a major shareholder in "Komsomolskaya pravda."


"Segodnya" on 31 July published a profile of George Soros, whose Quantum Fund was part of the winning consortium in the Svyazinvest auction. The paper, which is owned by Media-Most, charged that Soros has used his philanthropic activities to gain influence in the economies of former communist countries during the transition period. At his press conference the same day, Oneksimbank head Potanin said that more than half of the Svyazinvest stake would belong to the Russian partners in the winning consortium. He added that Soros would not play a leading role in managing the shares. Soros recently told the "Financial Times" that Quantum put up $980 million for the Svyazinvest stake, roughly half of the winning bid.


Ruslan Aushev and Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met in Moscow on 31 July to discuss the attack two days earlier on Ingush displaced persons in North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion, Interfax reported. Aushev reiterated that the North Ossetian leadership is incapable of ensuring safe conditions for the repatriation of the 40,000 Ingush who fled the district in 1992. He asked that Russian Interior Ministry troops be sent there. Also on 31 July, North Ossetian President Akhsarbek Galazov sent a telegram to President Boris Yeltsin blaming "nationalist extremists" for the 29 July reprisals, according to ITAR-TASS. Russian presidential envoy Aleksandr Kovalev said "Chechen gunmen" were responsible for destabilizing the situation. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin has appealed to the presidents and people of both Ingushetia and North Ossetia "to show common sense, wisdom, and restraint." Yastrzhembskii also said that Yeltsin has called for a new decree on measures to defuse tensions in Prigorodnyi Raion.


Following talks on 31 July with Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on the failure of Russian agencies to supply funding for Chechen reconstruction, Rybkin told journalists that Yeltsin may meet with his Chechen counterpart, Aslan Maskhadov, in early August in an attempt to break the deadlock, Russian media reported. Rybkin said that a special decree from Yeltsin may be needed to release the necessary funding, as some Russian government officials are failing to comply with requests from the Security Council to do so. Maskhadov, who recently called for the suspension of talks with Moscow, is ready to meet with Yeltsin "at any time," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 1 August, which quoted presidential press spokesman Kazbek Khadzhiev.


Rybkin also said he considers that the existing treaty on the division of functions between Grozny and Moscow corresponds to "the reality of the day," according to ITAR-TASS. But Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov said that the Chechen leadership will soon submit to Moscow a new friendship and cooperation treaty defining the principles of Russian-Chechen bilateral relations in accordance with international law, Interfax reported. Sergei Shakhrai, who heads the presidential commission that drafts power-sharing treaties between the federal center and federation subjects, considers that it is currently impossible to sign a Russian-Chechen power-sharing treaty "in its traditional, classic form" because of increasing discord within the Chechen leadership, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 August.


A 31 July Russian government meeting discussed proposals for improving the economic situation in Dagestan, Russian media reported. Prime Minister Aburazak Mirzabekov said his republic is one of the poorest in the Russian Federation, with 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line and with unemployment at 30 percent. He asked the Russian government to grant Dagestan a 853 billion ruble ($147 million) credit to help create new jobs. Russian Premier Chernomyrdin expressed skepticism that increased subsidies from the federal budget would improve the situation. But he promised that Russia will provide funding for specific projects proposed by the Dagestani government, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 1 August. Chernomyrdin also proposed the creation of a free economic zone in Dagestan.


Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii told ITAR-TASS on 31 July that he will sue former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed. At a recent press conference, Lebed accused Berezovskii of profiting from the war in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997).


State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has advocated changing the Duma's procedural rules to allow leaders of factions to revoke the mandates of some deputies who violate party discipline, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 31 July. The proposed rule change would apply to the 225 Duma deputies who are elected from party lists using a proportional representation system. The 225 deputies who win their seats in single-member constituencies could not be expelled from the parliament. Seleznev said the Communist Party (KPRF), Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and the pro-government faction Our Home Is Russia (NDR) support the rule change. Defectors from the LDPR Duma faction include the party's former deputy leader Aleksandr Vengerovskii. KPRF deputy Vladimir Semago and Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin of NDR, among others, have opposed the leaders of their factions in Duma votes or public statements.


Duma Labor and Social Policy Committee Chairman Sergei Kalashnikov says a Duma faction to support Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov will be formed this fall, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. "Kommersant-Daily" on 1 August quoted Kalashnikov as saying that the faction will include deputies from both Moscow and the regions. Kalashnikov, a member of Zhirinovsky's LDPR, said he will not join the pro-Luzhkov faction and declined to name the organizer of the group. Duma factions must include at least 35 deputies in order to be registered. Earlier this year, some Duma deputies from the Communist and Popular Power factions announced plans to form a new faction called the Russian Industrial Union but were unable to recruit 35 deputies.


Almost exactly a year since it was forced to suspend daily publication, the opposition newspaper "Pravda" has published its first regular weekly edition, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 31 July. In July 1996, the Greek-financed publishers of "Pravda" shut down the paper, claiming that it was loss-making and of low journalistic quality. The publishers subsequently turned the former weekly supplement "Pravda-5" into a daily. Since late 1996, the editors of "Pravda" have published occasional special issues but only recently secured financing to begin regular weekly publication. "Pravda" editor Viktor Linnik refused to tell "Kommersant-Daily" the source of the newspaper's funding other than to say that it is being financed by a Russian investor. He confirmed that it will remain an opposition newspaper.


The Moscow Procurator's Office is investigating the slander case against Duma deputy and former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 August. The criminal case was opened following a request from NTV anchorman Yevgenii Kiselev, one of Russia's most prominent television journalists. Korzhakov has accused Kiselev of cooperating with the KGB beginning in 1988 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 1997). ITAR-TASS noted that Kiselev's request was contradictory, since the journalist asked that Korzhakov be charged with revealing state secrets as well as slander. The news agency argued that if Korzhakov revealed state secrets, then Kiselev really did work for the KGB. But it also argued that if Korzhakov slandered Kiselev, then he cannot have revealed state secrets. Even if the procuracy decides to press charges, Korzhakov cannot be tried unless the Duma votes to lift his immunity.


In an address at Georgetown University on 30 July, Heidar Aliyev gave details of the Karabakh peace proposals that the U.S., French, and Russian co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group submitted to the conflict parties in May 1997, Turan and Interfax reported. A first stage would entail the withdrawal of Armenian forces from six Azerbaijani raions adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh and the deployment of OSCE peacekeeping troops along the enclave's borders. During the second stage, Armenian forces would be withdrawn from the Lachin corridor and the strategically located town of Shusha and talks would be held on Nagorno-Karabakh's status within Azerbaijan. Aliyev said Baku accepts some points of the peace plan and wants others to be revised. Armenian presidential adviser Zhirair Liparitian recently condemned Azerbaijani officials for disclosing details of the proposals. Under an agreement between the co-chairmen and the leaderships in Baku, Yerevan, and Stepanakert, those proposals are to remain confidential.


At a news conference in Yerevan on 31 July, a Foreign Ministry spokesman cited statistics published in Azerbaijan's Annual Exchange of Military Information that demonstrate Azerbaijan is violating the arms ceiling imposed by the1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Armenian agencies reported. Baku is exceeding its entitlement by 50 tanks, 337 armored vehicles, and 16 artillery systems. The spokesman claimed that in 1993-1994, Azerbaijan received 947 armored vehicles, 436 tanks, and 388 artillery units from Ukraine. He also noted that 50 percent of Azerbaijan's weaponry is concentrated in the exclave of Nakhichevan, which borders Armenia.


Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze flew to Moscow on 31 July to discuss with his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeev, the future of the CIS peacekeeping troops in Abkhazia, Interfax reported. A Russian military spokesman told Reuters that it is unlikely the peacekeepers will be withdrawn, even though their mandate expired on 31 July. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Lev Mironov said a decision will be taken at the CIS heads of state summit scheduled for late October, according to ITAR-TASS. Another Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Gennadii Tarasov, said it is "illusory" to believe that peace can be preserved in Abkhazia if the peacekeepers leave, Interfax reported. Georgian presidential spokesman Levan Aleksidze said, however, that new fighting is not inevitable. Also on 31 July, the UN Security Council extended for a further six months the mandate of its observer mission in Abkhazia, Reuters reported.


Chechen Deputy Prime minister Akhmed Zakaev told journalists in Tbilisi on 31 July that Chechnya "is ready to act as a mediator in the Abkhaz conflict," ITAR-TASS reported. Zakaev met twice with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss a possible meeting between Shevardnadze and Aslan Maskhadov. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 1 August quoted Shevardnadze's press spokesman as saying that Shevardnadze wants to win the support of North Caucasian leaders in order "to prevent any complications" in Abkhazia. The daily also published the text of the draft protocol on preliminary measures to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, which was accepted by the Abkhaz leadership in June but rejected by Tbilisi. The newspaper commented that Georgian hopes of a UN or NATO peacekeeping force for Abkhazia are "utopian," warning that the "arrival of Turkish troops in the Caucasus, under whatever aegis and in whatever capacity, can only inflame the situation."


Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov informed Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov by telephone on 1 August that an official statement will shortly be issued confirming that Russia has annulled the contract to exploit the Kyapaz Caspian oil field, ITAR-TASS reported. The contract was signed on 4 July by the heads of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, Rosneft, and LUKoil. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry immediately protested that the Kyapaz deposit is located in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian. Meeting with Niyazov in Ashgabat on 28 July, Serov said that the Russian government assumed Azerbaijan had coordinated its actions with Ashgabat. He conceded that Russia's position was legally untenable and said the contract would be annulled, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 July. A spokesman for Rosneft president Yurii Bespalov told Interfax the next day that Rosneft would withdraw from the contract.


The Turkmen Foreign Ministry released a statement on 31 July saying that Ashgabat "highly appreciates" the recent decision by the U.S. not to apply the 1996 act imposing sanctions on Libya and Iran to the proposed Turkmen-Iran-Turkey gas pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported. The pipeline has been under discussion for five years and would transport annually 30 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey and Europe. Washington announced in late July that since the project benefits Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Europe more than Iran, it will not object to the participation of U.S. companies (see also "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997).


The Tajik parliament on 1 August approved an amnesty law allowing members of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to return to Tajikistan, according to ITAR-TASS and AFP. Presidential adviser Khalifibobo Khamidov said "all criminal cases are closed and no new ones will be opened" against those who fought on the side of the UTO during nearly five years of civil conflict in Tajikistan. The amnesty does not cover those who engaged in "terrorism, banditry, drug-trafficking, large-scale theft, premeditated murder, or rape." Of the 157 deputies attending the session, 140 voted in favor of the law.


Between 40 and 50 Uyghurs attempted on 31 July to deliver a note to the Chinese Embassy in Almaty protesting Beijing's policy in Xinjiang Province, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kazakh capital reported. They were turned away by Kazakh security guards but went on to stage a demonstration in a nearby park. They carried placards that read "Freedom for Uyghuristan" and "Down With Chinese Colonists." The president of the Uyghur Association in Kazakhstan said the Uyghurs do not want trouble with the Kazakh authorities but want to show they are opposed to China's alleged repressive policy in Xinjiang Province, where Uyghurs form the majority. China announced on 28 July that several Uyghurs had been executed on 22 July for their alleged participation in riots in Yining and Urumqi early this year.


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's office announced on 31 July that Lukashenka has canceled a trip to Russia because of the controversy over the journalists from Russia's ORT television network were recently arrested in Belarus, Interfax reported. Lukashenka's office said his visit to Kaliningrad Oblast, due to start on 1 August, has been cancelled at the request of the oblast governor owing to "concern" about the arrests. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has demanded an official explanation from Moscow of the snub, according to ITAR-TASS .A spokesman for Lukashenka's office told journalists that Russian pressure over the issue would seriously hinder the development of bilateral relations. The ORT crew has been officially charged with illegally crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian border and is being held in custody. Russian President Boris Yeltsin recently expressed his surprise and indignation over the arrests.


Fifteen journalists working for local and foreign media were briefly detained in Minsk on 31 July, Belapan reported. The reporters were detained while covering the handing in at the president's office of a petition in support of the jailed Russian television crew. The petition calls for their release. The Belarusian Interior Ministry press service says the 15 journalists detained on 31 July must appear in court on 1 August to face charges of violating restrictions on public rallies.


Leonid Kuchma on 31 July named Vasily Durdinets as chief of the National Bureau of Investigations, ITAR-TASS reported. Durdinets until now was first deputy prime minister. He replaces Oleg Litvak, who was recently appointed prosecutor-general. Kuchma also reappointed Yuri Kostenko as environment minister and named new heads of the Ministries of Justice, Transportation, Information, and Social and Family affairs.


Tiit Vahi, former prime minister and chairman of the governing Coalition Party, has announced he will resign from the leadership of the party at its annual congress in December, ETA reported on 31 July. Vahi said he made the decision to resign some time ago. Over the past month, he has increasingly criticized government policies, particularly the plan to impose custom duties and higher taxes. In other news, Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in Washington on 31 July. Discussions focused on the situation in Europe following the NATO Madrid summit and on Estonian-Russian relations. According to the Estonian Foreign Ministry press service, Talbott commented that Estonia has done a great deal to improve relations with Russia.


Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius told journalists on 31 July that his government will give priority to having Lithuania included among the countries invited to begin membership talks with the EU in 1998, Interfax reported. He said the European Commission's July decision to recommend that only six countries receive such an invitation was based partly on "political" criteria. "Such a biased assessment...may create new dividing lines," he commented. Vagnorius also said he was confident that Vilnius will be able to do much to resolve "economic, social, and other problems" before the EU summit in December. In other news, Defense Minister Ceslovas Stankevicius announced on 30 July that a NATO mission will be opened in Lithuania to help promote the country's integration into the alliance and its involvement in the Partnership for Peace program.


Polish Finance Minister Marek Belka and Manfred Stolpe, the premier of the neighboring German state of Brandenburg, met on 31 July to discuss ways to regulate the Oder River, which runs along the Polish-German border and has flooded large areas of both countries. Belka told journalists after the meeting that a flood-relief project might be jointly financed by Poland, Germany, and the EU. "We will discuss the topic further and are awaiting comments from the German side," Belka said. Stolpe has also met with Polish Interior Minister Leszek Miller to discuss improving coordination of flood relief efforts.


Emma Bonino, the EU commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid, told journalists in Prague on 31 July that damage and economic losses caused by recent flooding must not be allowed to threaten talks over the Czech Republic's entry into the EU. On the contrary, it was necessary for the EU to show more solidarity, she added. Deputy Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said EU assistance in dealing with flood damage is an opportunity to show Czechs how important the EU is. Meanwhile, Environment Minister Jiri Skalicky, the government's commissioner for dealing with flood damage, rejected the idea that the Czech Republic delayed approaching the EU for aid. "As a decent, civilized country, we had to wait until the EU itself showed an interest in finding out about the situation in the Czech Republic," he said.


"Magyar Hirlap" reported on 1 August that the 1998 budget includes a separate section allocating 14.9 billion forints ($78 million) to cover the costs of preparations for EU and NATO membership. Gusztav Bager, a department head at the Finance Ministry, said the amount represents 2 percent of the total budget. Analysts estimate that 60 percent of the allocated amount will be spent toward EU admission and the remainder toward NATO membership. In addition, individual ministries will allocate funds from their budgets to deal with accession issues.


Representatives of more than 30 countries and international organizations agreed with Albanian government leaders in Rome on 31 July to hold two more international aid conferences once the Albanian government finalizes its own program. Franz Vranitzky, who is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's chief envoy to Albania, and the conference's final statement both stressed that the Albanians must quickly restore security and implement democratic practices. The statement said that "all the Albanian parties must admit that the stabilization of the situation rests in their hands first and that international assistance will depend on the degree of cooperation they show towards the international community. Law and order must be re-established in Albania, human rights and democratic rules must be respected." Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said some Italian troops will remain after 12 August to train security forces.


Pashk Tusha, the police chief of Tirana, said on 31 July that his forces will soon start rounding up the illegal weapons that proliferate in the capital. Tusha added that the project will begin in the suburbs. He stated that citizens in Tirana are tired of the nightly firing of weapons and that "Tirana is more quiet that the rest of the country, so we are able to start the operations immediately." A Greek ship arrived in Durres on 31 July with bullet-proof vests and other equipment to help police in their work. There are an estimated 1 million illegal weapons across Albania, which claim several lives daily. Albanian military sources as say, however, that thefts of large weapons, such as anti-aircraft guns and missiles, have increased recently. Such stolen goods are usually sold abroad.


A group of judges said in Tirana on 31 July that an order from Justice Minister Thimio Kondi to close the courts during August and urge lawyers to go on vacation was "illegal." Kondi's office claims that many court buildings have been damaged, which, he argues, prohibits the courts from functioning. The judges say that the ministry has no right to tell them what to do and that they suspect that Kondi is trying to curb their independence. Under the previous government, the court system was purged of all Socialists and Democratic Party loyalists appointed to replace them.


Representatives of the Democratic Union of Albanians political party and Montenegrin Interior Minister Filip Vujanovic agreed in Ulcinj on 31 July to increase the number of ethnic Albanian police. More Albanians will be stationed in areas with large Albanian populations, especially in Ulcinj, BETA reported from that town. A local Albanian leader said there are now only four Albanian policemen in Ulcinj, although ethnic Albanians make up 85 percent of the local population.


The Republican Election Commission in Podgorica on 31 July registered Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic as the sole official candidate from the Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) for the October elections. Djukanovic said at a campaign kick-off rally that Montenegro wants to continue to be a part of federal Yugoslavia, but only as Serbia's fully equal partner. It seems likely that incumbent President Momir Bulatovic will form a splinter party to challenge Djukanovic. The DPS recently voted Bulatovic out of the party presidency, but he and his allies in Belgrade refuse to recognize that decision. Also in Podgorica, a representative of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal said Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour has accepted the Montenegrin prosecutor's invitation to visit Podgorica, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital.


Zoran Thaler submitted his resignation as foreign minister in Ljubljana on 31 July. Thaler said in a statement that some Slovenian politicians for purely political reasons have been undercutting his efforts to integrate Slovenia in Western and European institutions and that he cannot continue under those circumstances. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek has asked him to reconsider his decision. Some deputies in the parliament strongly opposed constitutional amendments necessary for Slovenia to secure associate membership in the EU. The changes, which allow foreigners to own property, were finally approved on 15 July. Many Slovenes fear that Italians whose families fled Slovenia at the end of World War II will now buy up scarce land.


Sulejman Ugljanin, a political leader of Sandzak's Muslims, told a Belgrade radio station on 31 July that the latest trial against him proves "there is no democracy in Serbia and the authorities have a colonial attitude to the Sandzak region." The Serbian authorities have recently removed the legally elected Muslim government of Novi Pazar, stripped Ugljanin of his parliamentary immunity, and put him on trial. Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU appealed to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to permit international observers to monitor the Serbian presidential and legislative elections slated for 21 September. The EU also upbraided Belgrade for not implementing earlier OSCE recommendations on electoral reform and media freedom.


A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the chief international negotiator in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo that anyone who has been indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is liable to arrest. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, had cited "security concerns" as his reason for not attending a recent meeting with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on Bosnian government territory. Westendorp's spokesman replied to Krajisnik's remarks: "If Mr. Krajisnik feels that he's on a list somewhere, that's for him and his conscience. We welcome the process of sealed indictments, we think it's good, and if its strikes terror into the hearts of those that should be frightened then we're all for it."


Angry crowds of Serbs turned back between 40 and 50 Muslims who were trying to return to their village of Svjetlica on 30 July. Some of the Muslims were soldiers, and one Muslim was injured in a fist-fight with the Serbs. A few days earlier, Muslims beat up Serbs near the village of Ratkovici. On 31 July, up to 300 Muslims blocked a road to protest that their village is to be included in a Croatian municipality. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, OSCE representatives slammed Bosnian Serb Television for engaging in propaganda in "gross violation" of the rules set down in the Dayton agreement. Some recent broadcasts have used racist epithets against UN personnel, and others have claimed that NATO planes were dropping poisons and vermin onto the Republika Srpska. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and U.S. Senator Carl Levin have called on NATO to jam the broadcasts.


Representatives of Romania's largest trade unions on 31 July walked out of a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea after the premier did not appear on time. They accused the government of failing to provide documentation for the meeting on the discussions under way with the IMF and of changing the meeting's agenda. They also said that various ministers were providing contradictory information on privatization plans. One of the unions' leaders commented that there are only two possible solutions: the resignation of the government as a whole or an immediate reshuffle. The trade unions said that they will not return to the negotiating table unless President Emil Constantinescu takes part in the talks, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Premier Ciorbea blamed the discord in the government on the "lack of communication" among ministers.


Adrian Severin on 31 July accused Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar of pursuing "separatist" and "segregationist" policies in Cluj, Radio Bucharest reported. He said Funar's recent statements are likely to create "tension and confusion" and to "seriously harm" Romania's interests. Severin also said Hungary has expressed concern about the mayor's actions opposing the hoisting of the Hungarian flag at the Cluj consulate. But he added that Budapest does not view those developments as endangering bilateral relations or as in any way reflecting "Romanian state policy or the feelings of the Romanian people." Also on 31 July, Funar addressed another open letter to Severin reiterating claims that hoisting the flag was illegal and that the Hungarian national emblem represents "Greater Hungary" since one of its six symbols is the Hungarian crest of Transylvania.


Roger Grawe, the new chief of the World Bank's department for Moldova, expressed concern about the slow pace of Moldovan reforms at a meeting in Chisinau on 31 July with Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc. He said the bank will monitor Moldovan developments in August and then make a decision on whether to approve a credit for structural reforms, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Grawe said the World Bank was concerned that the Moldovan parliament will slow down the passage of legislation on reforms ahead of the elections scheduled for early 1998.


The parliament on 31 July approved a new coat of arms to replace the one abolished in 1991, Reuters reported. The new crest replaces a red star above a lion with the crown of the 14th century monarch Ivan Shishman above the lion. The dispute over the new coat of arms had divided the legislature for seven years. During the communist era, the Saxe-Coburg crown on the country's emblem was replaced by a red star. After 1989, the Socialist Party remained opposed to reintroducing the crown because it wanted no symbols of the monarchy on the crest. In July 1996, the then Socialist-dominated parliament approved an uncrowned lion as the country's official post-communist emblem, but former President Zhelyu Zhelev vetoed that decision. The coat of arms approved on 31 July is a compromise since the crown of the former Saxe-Coburg dynasty was replaced by that of Ivan Shishman.


by Michael Shafir

More than a few eyebrows must have been raised when Moldovan Foreign Minister Valeriu Pasat paid a two-day visit to Romania on 24-25 July and agreed with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, to set up a "joint peacekeeping unit."

That agreement follows a recent pattern triggered in part by the efforts of would-be NATO members to "prove" to the West that their militaries can be "providers of security, not merely security consumers" (as Romanian officials recently put it) and to demonstrate that territorial disputes with neighbors are being resolved. While reaching an agreement to set up joint peacekeeping units has evidently become a rite of passage for NATO candidacy, it has seldom been followed up in practice. A Hungarian-Romanian peacekeeping unit has been in the offing for more than half a year, and there has also been talk about setting up Romanian-Ukrainian and Romanian-Polish units. More recently, Bulgaria followed suit when it decided to set up a joint peace-keeping unit with neighboring Turkey.

But while the Romanians are clearly still hoping to gain entry to NATO in a second wave of expansion, the question to be asked is why the Moldovans would be keen on such a unit. President Petru Lucinschi has repeatedly emphasized that Moldova intends to keep its neutrality and that NATO membership can be considered only sometime in the distant future, following Moldova's integration into the EU (which is clearly far from being imminent). The question is all the more relevant given that Transdniester separatists cite the "danger" of Moldova's reunification with Romania as the main reason for pursuing independence. Why should Chisinau, then, wish to provide Tiraspol with additional ammunition? While it is true that both Babiuc and Pasat stressed that the envisaged unit will not be deployed in the Transdniester, such statements are unlikely to convince Igor Smirnov's supporters.

Viewed from this angle, Pasat's expressed interest in the purchase of PUMA helicopters produced in Romania under U.S. license seems to have verged on irresponsibility. It was also unclear why such intentions were made public. Furthermore, the 24 July agreement states that Moldovan officers would receive instruction at Romanian military establishments. Moldovan Chief of Staff Gen. Vladimir Dontu, who accompanied Pasat to the Romanian capital, explained that the Moldovan officer corps could not be trained in Russia because Moscow conditioned such collaboration on participation in the CIS collective security system, to which Moldova does not belong. He added, however, that problems may arise with the plan to have officers trained in Romania because Moldovans do not have sufficient command of Romanian.

The Moldovans' seemingly strange behavior was soon explained, however. Shortly after Pasat's visit, it transpired that the "Bucharest show" was a smoke screen designed to pre-empt criticism of a real policy departure being prepared by the Chisinau government and likely to enrage the pro-unification opposition. No sooner had Pasat returned from Bucharest than he left on another visit, this time to Moscow. And it was "not a coincidence" (as "Pravda" used to write) that he reached there two agreements (one of which is still to be signed at deputy premier level) that seemed carbon-copies of those concluded in Bucharest.

There was one significant difference, however: Russian, not Romanian, troops are stationed on Moldova's territory. Nothing was said about the significance of the agreements for Moldova's non-integration in the CIS collective-security structures. But while Pasat was still in Moscow, an announcement was made in Chisinau that a CIS summit in the Moldovan capital in early fall was "under consideration." That nothing Pasat and Dontu did or said in Bucharest was "coincidental" was demonstrated at the end of the visit to Moscow, when it was revealed that Moldova was studying the possibility of purchasing Russian-made helicopters.

The agreements reached in Moscow provide for the instruction of Moldovan officers at Russian military establishments (where they apparently will have no communication problems) and for joint military maneuvers of "peacekeeping forces." The first such maneuvers are to be held in Moldova in October. The location has not yet been specified, but it is a safe bet that it will not be in the Transdniester. To hold maneuvers on that territory would infringe on what Tiraspol regards as its "sovereignty," which, such as it is, would not exist without the continued presence of the Russian troops.

While in Moscow, Pasat discussed with Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin the withdrawal of the Russian troops and the ratification by Russia of the basic treaty with Chisinau. The agreement on the withdrawal dates back to 1994 and that on the basic treaty to 1992. This, in itself, says volumes about Chisinau's recent show of tightrope-walking. While such a feat may be taken for skillful diplomacy, the origins of the metaphor should not be forgotten -- namely, the circus.