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Newsline - August 19, 1997


Following his meeting in Moscow on 18 August with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov told journalists that he and Yeltsin agreed on the need for economic and defense cooperation, given that "our strategic interests coincide." Yeltsin refused Maskhadov's request that he sign an inter-state treaty recognizing Chechnya's independence, which Maskhadov argued would contribute to stabilizing the entire Caucasus region. But the Russian president did agree to conclude a new bilateral treaty defining relations between Chechnya and Moscow giving Chechnya broad autonomy. A joint committee will be created to draft this treaty. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin told Interfax that regardless of the nature of Russian-Chechen relations and the content of the proposed treaty, Chechnya will remain a constituent part of the Russian Federation.


Three NTV journalists abducted in Chechnya in mid-May were freed on 18 August, Russian media reported. Their release came one day after two employees of the Russian television production company VID were allowed to return home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997). Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, VID's senior manager Aleksandr Lyubimov, who is also executive director of Russian Public Television (ORT), proposed that all Russian television companies agree not to send their reporters to Chechnya in future. Lyubimov praised the role of Security Council Deputy Secretaries Boris Berezovskii and Boris Agapov in securing the journalists' release. Lyubimov also expressed his admiration for Maskhadov's "honesty and sincerity" but said he fears the Chechen authorities do not have complete control over the situation in the republic. He estimated that "professional kidnappers" in Chechnya total 300, saying that they have the tacit backing of middle-level authorities, including some police officials.


Yeltsin has ordered the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Interior Ministry, the Procurator-General's Office and the tax police to investigate the assassination of Mikhail Manevich, deputy governor of St. Petersburg and chairman of the city's Property Committee, RFE/RL's correspondent in St. Petersburg reported on 19 August. The FSB will lead the investigation. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev vowed that his government will not be intimidated by the assassination. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak said Manevich had been under pressure from criminal groups and that the murder shows those groups feel "very comfortable." First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais expressed shock at the killing, describing Manevich as a friend since student days. Manevich had been scheduled to meet with Chubais in Moscow on 18 August. Meanwhile, State Property Committee Chairman Maksim Boiko demanded better protection for privatization officials at the federal and regional level, Russian news agencies reported.


Six years after the State Committee for the State of Emergency (GKChP) attempted to seize power, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev described those who planned the coup as "honest people" trying to prevent the collapse of the USSR, Interfax reported on 18 August. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said GKChP members undertook a "daring but unsuccessful attempt to rescue the country's integrity." Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky also praised the coup organizers, adding that the day the tanks entered Moscow in 1991 was "the happiest day of my life." In contrast, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko argued that "Russian democracy of the 20th century was born" during the three days in which coup opponents defended the White House. Yeltsin, who gained worldwide fame by defying the coup, on 19 August said Russia would have been set back several decades if the coup had succeeded.


Audit Chamber Deputy Chairman Yurii Boldyrev has charged that the National Sports Fund in 1995 alone defrauded the budget of 37 trillion rubles ($6.4 billion at current exchange rates), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 19 August. A 1993 presidential decree granted the fund customs privileges on imports of sports equipment, but the fund also claimed those privileges on cigarette and alcohol imports. Yeltsin revoked the fund's privileges in 1995, but the fund continued to receive reimbursements for customs duties paid on cigarette and alcohol imports. Boldyrev said the Audit Chamber has sent documents on the fund to the Procurator-General's Office, but no criminal case has yet been opened. In 1995, Sports Fund head Boris Fedorov and State Sports and Tourism Committee chairman Shamil Tarpishchev were close associates of Yeltsin's bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 9 July and 7 October 1996).


The government has approved tougher measures to collect customs duties and fines for customs violations, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 August. In accordance with a new government resolution, goods intended for import or export by companies that owe duties or fines will be impounded until all customs debts have been paid. The State Customs Committee announced on 11 August that customs agents confiscated illegal imports and exports worth 416 billion rubles ($72 million) and levied 613 billion rubles in fines during the first six months of 1997, Russian news agencies reported. Customs agencies reported some 105,000 violations from January through June, up sharply from 72,000 in the first half of 1996.


A poll by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VCIOM) indicates that First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov is still Russia's most trusted politician. Of the 2,322 Russians surveyed in late July, 32 percent of respondents said they trust no politicians. Some 21 percent said they trust Nemtsov, down from 25 percent in May. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed placed second with 16 percent of respondents, up from 15 percent in May but down from 28 percent in January. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov ranked third with 14 percent, unchanged from May. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii was considered trustworthy by 11 percent in both May and July, while Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was trusted by 10 percent in the latest poll, down from 14 percent in May. Some 7 percent said they trust Yeltsin, down from 8 percent in May.


The gas monopoly Gazprom will soon purchase a 51 percent stake in the newspaper "Rabochaya tribuna" and is negotiating to buy shares in "Trud," according to the 19 August "Kommersant-Daily." Both "Rabochaya tribuna" and "Trud" have long been considered politically close to Gazprom and to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. "Kommersant-Daily" claimed that Gazprom has been helping both newspapers financially for several years. Negotiations with "Trud" staff are reportedly stalled over the size of the stake to be sold to Gazprom. Vyacheslav Boikov, the paper's commercial director, told "Kommersant-Daily" that "Trud" will not sell a controlling packet to any investor. "We will never be in a situation like 'Komsomolskaya pravda' or 'Izvestiya,'" he added. (The editors of both those newspapers were replaced this year following clashes with new shareholders.) In June 1996, Gazprom bought a 30 percent stake in NTV.


Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II says the revised version of the controversial law on religious organizations should retain a passage noting the special role and significance of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russian history, "Segodnya" reported on 19 August. Speaking in Moscow the previous day, Aleksii expressed confidence that the "high evaluation" of the Church will remain in the law's preamble but warned that some "forces are trying to cast doubt on the significance of the Russian Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy." A conciliatory commission of representatives from the Church, the government, and the presidential administration are to agree on a revised version of the law by 1 September. An earlier version was approved by large margins in the State Duma and Federation Council but vetoed by Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1997).


Mortality rates for infants and mothers in childbirth are declining, according to Aleksandr Tsaregorodtsev, director of the Scientific-Research Institute of Pediatrics and Pediatric Surgery, "Segodnya" reported on 18 August. Deaths of children under one year dropped from 27,946 in 1993 (20 deaths per thousand births) to 24,840 in 1995 (18 per thousand). He added that while 941 women in Russia died from complications linked to childbirth in 1991, only 727 did in 1995. Tsaregorodtsev said those trends were continuing in 1996 and 1997. He attributed the declining mortality rates to a decrease in the number of abortions. Registered abortions fell from 3.2 million in 1992 to 2.4 million in 1996. Specialists believe the number of "criminal abortions" -- those not performed in hospitals, which are more likely to cause health complications for the next child -- has fallen as well, Tsaregorodtsev added.


The computer aboard the ill-fated space station "Mir" crashed on 18 August, after the crew had successfully docked with a cargo ship. As a result of the computer crash, the station lost both its orientation toward the sun and its power supplies. All systems, except life-support, were closed down. The crew fired rockets periodically to temporarily reposition the station's solar panels toward the sun and recharge the batteries. By 19 August, the computer had been repaired, but it will need two or three days to begin fully functioning again. The computer problems will delay repair work on the station's "spektr" modules, which were damaged in late June when a cargo ship collided with the station while attempting to dock.


Forces loyal to rebel Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev have lost several battles against government troops, which are currently engaged in mop-up operations in southwestern Tajikistan, according to RFE/RL correspondents. Khudaberdiyev's unit was forced to retreat from Kabodien on 18 August. By the morning of 19 August, they had also withdrawn from the Shaartuz area. Gen. Gafar Mirzoyev, commander of the presidential guard, said the only routes open to the mutineers led to the Uzbek or Afghan borders. Forces loyal to the Tajik government are seeking to prevent members of Khudaberdiyev's troops from heading north. Uzbekistan has promised to hand over to the Tajik government any mutineers who try to cross the Tajik-Uzbek border . A lieutenant from Khudaberdiyev's unit was quoted in the 19 August issue of "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" as saying "[the government] did not understand us. They threw troops of Popular Front units, mostly criminals, against us."


Japan's Foreign Economic Cooperation Fund will lend Turkmenistan some $39 million to upgrade its railroad network, Interfax reported on 18 August. The 30-year loan has a 2.7 percent annual interest rate with a 10-year grace period. The Japanese fund will hold a tender in September for companies to take part in upgrading the Turkmen rail system, including the renovation of the Ashgabat depot, providing maintenance equipment for locomotives, and computerizing the traffic control system.


President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed a decree saying that elections to the Senate (upper house) will be held on 8 October. RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported that 17 candidates have already registered for the vote. The Senate currently has 47 members.


Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin told two visiting U.S. senators in Almaty on 18 August that his country is assessing unspecified possible alternative oil export pipelines as "one pipeline will in no way suffice for transporting Kazakh oil," Interfax reported on 18 August. Despite the disputed status of the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan plans to proceed with the distribution to Western companies of the rights to exploratory drilling in its sector of the Caspian, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 August.


Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR has reached agreement with the U.S.-Kazakh joint venture TengizChevroil to build a 46 kilometer bypass pipeline from Dashkil to Ali-Bayramli, Interfax reported on 18 August. The pipeline, which TengizChevroil will finance at an estimated cost of $5-6 million, will run parallel to an existing pipeline leased to Caspian Trans Oil in order to transport oil from Kazakhstan's Tengiz field to Ali-Bayramli, from where it is shipped by rail to Batumi. The new bypass pipeline will transport Azerbaijan's domestically produced oil to Baku for refining.


Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 18 August, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin reiterated Russian Deputy Fuel and Energy minister Sergei Kirienko's suggestion that a new pipeline be built for transporting Caspian oil that will bypass Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August, 1997), Interfax reported. Rybkin said that one pipeline is inadequate for exporting Caspian oil, but he did not refer to the planned pipeline from Baku to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast (that is, bypassing Russian territory),scheduled to be completed in late1998. The president of the Chechen state oil company told Interfax on 18 August that there is no need for an additional agreement to be signed by Moscow and Grozny on the transportation of Caspian oil through the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk pipeline.


Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR has released a statement reaffirming its commitment to develop the Kyapaz/Serdar Caspian oil field. The statement also said that SOCAR has not yet received official notification that its Russian partners, Rosneft and LUKoil, have annulled the 4 July memorandum of intent on developing the field, Interfax reported on 18 August. Meanwhile, the Turkmen Embassy in Washington recently issued a letter from President Saparmurat Niyazov inviting tenders for oil and gas fields on its Caspian shelf. "Delovoy mir" pointed out on 15 August that any foreign company that wants to engage in exploration in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian will have to enlist the cooperation of either Russia or Azerbaijan, since Turkmenistan has no drilling platforms.


Russian President Yeltsin has written to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev asking him to name Azerbaijan's representative to the trilateral Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani commission that is to investigate Russian arms supplies to Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 16 August. Yeltsin noted that Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has already nominated his country's representative. A group of international military officials is to visit Baku from 18-21 August to inspect Azerbaijan's military facilities within the framework of the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe.


Yurii Yukalov, Russia's former co-chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, has rejected as an "unfounded provocation" Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's claim that Moscow offered to liberate Armenian-occupied regions of Azerbaijan contiguous to Nagorno-Karabakh in return for the right to maintain military bases in Azerbaijan, Asbarez-on-Line reported on 18 August, citing "Respublika Armeniya" and the Snark News Agency. Aliyev made the claim during a recent meeting with three U.S. senators in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"14 August 1997).


The distribution of privatization vouchers among the 7.5 million population officially ended on 15 August, "Azadlyg" reported the next day. Distribution had begun on 1 March. The State Privatization Committee may appeal to President Heidar Aliyev to extend the distribution period, since some people have not yet received vouchers as a result of "bureaucratic shortcomings." The process has been complicated by the existence of some 780,000 displaced persons who have no registered place of residence. Each inhabitant is to receive four vouchers whose total nominal value is 1 million manats ($250).


Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian met with a NATO delegation headed by Lt.-Gen. Nicholas Kehou, deputy chairman of NATO's military committee, in Yerevan on 15 August. Oskanian said that Turkey's attitude toward the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is "non-constructive," Armenian agencies reported. He also noted that Ankara's attitude is destabilizing the situation in the region and obstructing both the development of Armenian cooperation with NATO and a possible role for NATO in resolving the Karabakh conflict.


Belarusian authorities on 18 August started legal proceedings against four journalists from Russian Public Television (ORT), Interfax reported. The journalists -- three Russians and one Belarusian -- are accused of illegally crossing the border between Belarus and Lithuania on 15 August. They were arrested at almost the same point where another ORT team was detained in July. Belarusian officials said on 18 August that one of the journalists, Anatoly Adamchuk, had written a letter to the authorities admitting that ORT "deliberately planned " the incident. Interfax also quoted Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as saying the journalists had sent him a message naming the people who had sent them to Belarus "under threat of dismissal." He said it was "clear who stands behind the puppeteers." Meanwhile, Belarusian authorities on 18 August arrested another ORT journalist, Vladimir Fashenko, after he refused to make a statement in the case.


Meeting with Belarusian President Lukashenka in Minsk, Russian ambassador Valerii Loshchilin on 18 August handed Lukashenka a request from Russia that the ORT journalists detained on 15 August be released as a "gesture of goodwill," Russian news agencies reported. Speaking in Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told Interfax that Russia is considering providing legal support to the ORT journalists. Later the same day, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying the ministry and the Russian embassy in Minsk are taking "active measures" to try to resolve the conflict. Also on 18 August, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin said the recent arrests of Russian journalists do not reflect well on the Belarusian leadership, Interfax reported.


Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko on 18 August said is considering a proposal by Turboatom, a Kharkiv-based factory, to supply a turbine for a reactor Russia is building in Iran," Interfax reported. Udovenko was speaking during a visit to the eastern Ukrainian city. Udovenko said he will study a draft contract under which Turboatom would supply a 1,000-megawatt turbine for the plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr. Udovenko admitted that "fulfillment of the contract could complicate relations with our partners." The U.S. and Israel have argued that the plant could help Iran develop nuclear weapons. In April, Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Natan Sharansky said Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had promised him that Ukraine would not provide Russia with turbines for the Bushehr project or "do anything to help Iran, Iraq, or Libya build weapons of mass destruction."


Marina Tsvygun-Krivonogova, one of the leaders of the White Fraternity sect, was released from the Dneprodzerzhinsk corrective labor camp on 17 August under an amnesty, ITAR-TASS reported. Tsvygun-Krivonogova was sentenced to four years in prison in February 1996 on charges of citing mass disorder during a prayer vigil outside Kyiv's cathedral. Tsvygun-Krivonogova, together with her husband Yuri Krivonogov, patriarch of the sect, involved mostly teenagers in their organization. Calling herself Maria Devi Christ, Tsvygun-Krivonogova last addressed supporters of her faith one month ago in a televised interview from the camp.


In an interview with the Estonian daily "Sonumileht" published on 18 August, Algirdas Brazauskas said that Estonian-Lithuanian relations should be "much more concrete" at the government level, BNS reported. He stressed there are no "ill signs" in those relations but that too little attention is paid to bilateral free trade and improving customs and communications. Brazauskas also commented that Estonia managed to "show itself in a better light" than Latvia and Lithuania and was thus proposed by the European Commission to begin talks on accession to the EU. He argued that Baltic statistics are difficult to compare because of different methodologies, which, he said, makes the work of the European Commission difficult. Brazauskas's remarks came on the eve of Estonian President Lennart Meri's first state visit to Lithuania, scheduled to begin on 20 August.


A presidential spokesman told journalists on 18 August that Aleksander Kwasniewski will not recognize a no-confidence motion against the government submitted by the Polish Peasant Party, a coalition partner of the ruling, former communist Social Democratic Party for almost four years. The Peasant Party recently called for the government to be dismissed, citing disagreements over agricultural policy. The president recommended that the party should withdraw the no-confidence vote and quit the coalition if it does not agree with government policies. Peasant Party leader Janusz Piechocinski said on 18 August that his party had collected enough signatures for the no-confidence motion and that he expects the parliament to take action this week. Opposition leaders have said they, too, will reject the no-confidence vote, which they regard as an attempt to increase support among farmers ahead of the 21 September general elections.


Eleven candidates in the 21 September elections have admitted working for the secret police during the communist era, the chairman of the electoral commission told journalists on 18 August. Five of those candidates are on lists of the Social Democratic Party. The Polish Peasant Party, the Union of the Polish Right, the Polish National Union, and the Party of Pensioners each have one former agent on their lists. Recently, two candidates competing for Senate seats, Gerhard Bartodziej of the German minority and Aleksander Gawronik, one of Poland's richest men, also confessed to having been agents under the Communists. A new lustration law obliges members of the parliament and the government, senior officials, and candidates for such posts to declare if they collaborated with the secret police between 1944 and 1990. No action is taken against those who confess, but anyone found to have lied risks being barred from public office for 10 years.


The Executive Council of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on 18 August condemned "racially motivated statements" by some ODS members, "Pravo" reported. Senator Zdenk Klausner had recently suggested in a Prague newspaper that Roma residing in a Prague district be moved outside Prague. Liana Janackova, a district mayor in the city of Ostrava, had proposed that the city contribute to the cost of plane tickets for Roma who would like to emigrate to Canada. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists after the meeting that the ODS is not asking the two officials to resign but is distancing itself from any statements by its members that could be interpreted as racist.


U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 18 August that the U.S. is asking the Slovak and Bulgarian governments to destroy SS-23 rockets on their territories. He said the rockets are capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction. The Soviet Union supplied the rockets to Bulgaria and the former Czechoslovakia in the 1980s. Their destruction is called for by the 1988 Soviet-U.S. Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement. In July, the Bulgarian government said the rockets were part of the country's national security requirements and were a strong deterrent. But it also said that the country is reevaluating its national security strategy to take into account its wish to join the European security system and NATO. A spokesman at the Slovak Embassy in Washington declined to comment on what Rubin said, CTK reported.


Gang members in the southern town of Perondi, near Berat, ambushed a rival group on 18 August. Six people were killed, bringing the total number of Albanians killed as a result of gang warfare in the past week to 18. The government has set deadlines for the return of illegal weapons, but disarming the gangs may prove a tall order (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997). Meanwhile in Bari, Italy, the authorities said they finding it difficult to persuade the 10,000 Albanian refugees there on temporary visas to go home. Some 7,000 Albanians have simply gone underground, and many have turned to crime. Refugees in government shelters told journalists that they do not want to go back to a country where "everything has been burned" and where illegal arms abound.


Vuk Draskovic, the Serbian Renewal Movement's candidate in the September Serbian presidential elections, said in Pristina on 18 August that Kosovo should receive back what he called its historical name, Old Serbia. Draskovic stressed that Kosovo is the historical Serbian heartland, but he added that "there is enough room for Albanians and Turks as well as Serbs." Kosovo elects 42 out of 250 seats in the Serbian parliament, but its Albanian majority is boycotting the elections. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told ethnic Albanian shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova on his recent visit to Washington that he should continue his policy of non-violence and that autonomy, not independence, is the only political option for Kosovo acceptable to the international community, Belgrade dailies reported on 19 August. In Pristina, Adem Demaci, the leader of the Parliamentary Party, said that the Kosovo question can be solved only on the basis of national self-determination.


The Montenegrin Constitutional Court warned its Yugoslav counterpart on 18 August that the Belgrade court will be violating federal law if it intervenes in the ongoing dispute regarding the registration of Montenegrin presidential candidates, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. In Belgrade, representatives of the five parties participating in the September elections each nominated a representative to the central electoral commission that will oversee the vote. In Vienna, Niels Helveg Petersen, chairman of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, said the body has agreed to the Serbian government's offer for the OSCE to monitor the vote. Vienna and Belgrade had disagreed on the terms under which the monitoring would take place. It is not yet clear what those terms will be.


Police loyal to the hard-line Republika Srpska Interior Minister Dragan Kijac in Pale arrested Milan Sutilovic in Banja Luka on 19 August. They freed him after he refused to sign a formal resignation. Embattled President Biljana Plavsic appointed Sutilovic police chief of the northwestern Bosnian town on 17 August. Her sacking of Kijac in June touched off the current power struggle among the Bosnian Serbs. Plavsic's offices in Banja Luka are surrounded by loyal soldiers and police. NATO troops recently prevented a clash between police loyal to Plavsic and those backing Kijac (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997).


President Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 18 August that evidence her supporters found in the local headquarters of Kijac's police the previous day proves that Kijac's men bugged her telephone, fax machine, and offices, as well as those of other opponents of the Pale leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline." 18 August 1997). UN police also searched the headquarters and seized 200 tapes. One Western official said that Kijac's men had been "running an espionage center." International officials added that they are particularly interested in evidence that Kijac's police intimidated members of the Constitutional Court, which recently ruled against Plavsic. Transcripts of Plavsic's phone calls and faxed documents found at the police headquarters appeared in Belgrade and Sarajevo dailies on 19 August.


Ivo Saraf, the Croatian mayor of the Bosnian town of Jajce, has limited the number of Muslims scheduled to return to the nearby village of Lendici to 80, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on 18 August. She added that Saraf's decision is arbitrary and violates the latest Croatian-Muslim accord on the return of refugees and that the UNHCR will appeal to the Sarajevo authorities to overrule him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997). In the Olovo area, Bosnian Serb police released the five Muslims whom they had arrested the previous day. In Vukovar, William Walker, a U.S. diplomat, arrived to take up his duties as the UN's new chief administrator in eastern Slavonia. He said his chief concern will be the safe return of refugees to their homes.


Spokesmen for the Croatian Justice Ministry said in Zagreb on 19 August that they have arrested Pero Skopljak and are holding him in a Zagreb prison pending his extradition to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Skopljak was police chief in the central Bosnian town of Vitez during the war and is wanted in connection with atrocities against Muslims in 1992 and 1993. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic told his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, in Frankfurt on 16 August that seven Bosnian Croats are ready to go to The Hague if they can be assured of a speedy trial. It is unclear if he included Dario Kordic, the most wanted Croatian war criminal among the seven (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1997). Croatia is under intense international pressure to observe its obligations under the Dayton agreement and hand over war criminals.


In a declaration released on 18 August, the Bucharest branch of the anti-Hungarian Romanian Cradle organization called for establishing a "National Guard" of Romanian ethnics in Transylvania to defend the ethnic majority in the region against the Hungarian minority there, Radio Bucharest reported. The organization also demanded the dismissal of Victor Ciorbea's cabinet, sharply criticizing its decision to allow bilingual signs in localities where ethnic minorities make up at least 20 percent of the population and to amend the education law. The organization also called on President Emil Constantinescu to "analyze" the situation created by those policies and to avoid "a further escalation of 'Hungarianism' in Transylvania."


The Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) has protested the law recently passed by the Hungarian parliament that provides compensation to Hungarian army veterans who were prisoners in the Soviet Union during World War II and to former Hungarian citizens deported to the Soviet Union, regardless of their current citizenship. PUNR leader Valeriu Tabara said that before paying compensation, Hungary should apologize to states and citizens of countries that suffered as a result of Hungary's wartime policies. Gheorghe Funar, the nationalist mayor of Cluj, said compensation will be given to those Hungarian Transylvanians who are guilty of crimes against Romanians. He also called on the Romanian government to urgently pass a law stipulating that those who were forced to Magyarize their names during Hungarian rule in Transylvania revert to their original names, Mediafax reported.


Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister Vasile Sova has confirmed that the next CIS summit will be held in Chisinau on 20 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997), RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Foreign Ministry sources, however, said that it is unclear how the summit will be financed, since the Moldovan government lacks the necessary funds and does not have 12 limousines or 12 "presidential apartments." Moreover, Chisinau has not paid its debts to CIS, the sources added.


Georgii Tabunshchik, the governor of Moldova's autonomous region of Gagauz Yeri, has said that the region's leadership will not allow the law on the sale of land to be implemented in the region, BASA-press reported on 18 August. The Moldovan parliament passed that law on 25 July. Tabunshchik said the sale of small plots would lead to the impoverishment of the population, because ownership of two or three hectares of land is economically unfeasible. In other news from Gagauz Yeri, Infotag reported on 18 August that the authorities banned an opposition rally in the regional capital, Comrat, to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the declaration of independence by the region. Ivan Bejan, a deputy in the Popular Assembly, told Infotag that the independent Gagauz republic ceased to exist in 1994 and therefore it does not make sense to celebrate the declaration of independence.


Operators at Bulgaria's only nuclear power plant had to switch off an aging reactor on 18 August , after one of its two turbines stopped for unknown reasons, BTA reported. The malfunction occurred at the 23-year-old Unit 1, but no increased radiation was measured. The plant, which generates about 40 percent of Bulgaria's electricity, is located at Kozloduy, some 170 kilometers north of Sofia. The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna has repeatedly expressed concern about safety at Kozloduy, saying the four units of the plant are outdated.


by Paul Goble

Six years after a failed coup in Moscow sent the Soviet Union toward its demise, many people around the world continue to search for a single term to describe the group of countries that emerged from the rubble. None of the terms proposed until now has proved entirely successful. And with each passing year, the search for such a term seems increasingly unnecessary, if not counterproductive.

Among the terms most frequently suggested are the former Soviet Union, the new independent states, and Eurasia. But, like all other suggested terms, they fail to capture some important features of the new landscape and carry some significant political baggage.

The term "former Soviet Union" is perhaps the most obviously problematic. The Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991; continuing to refer to it both diminishes the status of the successor states and encourages those in Russia and elsewhere who would like to restore the union. Equally important, it dramatically overstates the similarities among countries whose only real feature in common was Russian and Soviet occupation. While that had a major impact on each, it did not wipe out the differences increasingly on view.

At first glance, the term "new independent states" appears to be more neutral; but, if anything, it is even more politically charged than the other two. Prior to the demise of the Soviet Union, no government in the world referred to independent countries arising from the ruins of empires as "new independent states." Instead, those countries were quickly viewed as countries much like all others.

Consequently, the use of this term so long after the end of the USSR implies that the relationship between those countries and Moscow is somehow different. That has led many people in the region to wonder aloud whether their states are less equal than others. Both the citizens of those countries and others are beginning to ask just how long those countries will have to be "independent" before they cease to be "new."

The term "Eurasia" also has some negative connotations, although they are perhaps less obvious. It indiscriminately lumps together countries that are definitely part of the European cultural world with some that most definitely are not. It also has a history that is anything but encouraging. One group of Russian nationalists popularized the term to suggest that Russia represented an amalgam of European and Asiatic civilizations and that it had a civilizing mission across the region.

But if none of the terms advanced thus far is adequate, the continued search for one highlights three more fundamental problems.

First, many people are unwilling to accept what happened in 1991 as an irreversible watershed in world history. When other empires dissolved in this century, few world leaders felt compelled to reiterate support for the independence and territorial integrity of their successors five years after the fact. No one was saying such things about the successors to the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, or Russian empires in 1924. But in the post-Soviet case, many leaders have done just that and thus have sent a message to those countries very different from the one they say they intend to send.

Second, many people are unable to recognize how diverse the countries of the region are and how many now have far greater ties with countries beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union than with countries within those borders. Other than Russian and Soviet occupation, Armenia and Kazakhstan, for example, have little in common in almost any respect. And despite the impact of the past, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are both looking beyond the Soviet borders rather than to the former imperial center.

Third, the search for a single term reflects an unwillingness on the part of some Westerners to challenge the desire of some Moscow circles to remain the dominant power in the region, regardless of the wishes of people in those countries. Through instruments such as the Commonwealth of Independent States and via statements about the relevance of the borders of the former Soviet Union, the Russian government has advanced a claim to a sphere of influence across the region.

Such assertions make Western terminological discussions all the more important. To the extent that the West uses terms that imply the territory once occupied by the Soviet Union is a single region, some circles in Moscow will be encouraged to believe that the West has recognized Russian claims. To the extent that the West uses terms that treat the countries of the region as separate and unique states, each of those states will be encouraged to develop along its own lines.