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Newsline - September 9, 1997


The Procurator-General's Office on 8 September launched a probe into the recent public executions in Chechnya, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. An aide to the procurator-general told ITAR-TASS that Russian legislation does not provide "for such forms of court proceedings and executions of sentences." A married couple were executed by firing squad on a central square in Grozny on 3 September in front of some 2,000 onlookers and television cameras. An Islamic court had found them guilty of murder. The executions have been roundly condemned by Russian officials, including President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and legislators in the State Duma.


Chechen state oil company President Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov flew to Moscow on 8 September predicting that an agreement on the transport of Azerbaijani oil via Chechnya to Novorossiisk would be signed the same day. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who is also fuel and energy minister, echoed that prediction but warned Moscow would sign the agreement only on its terms, and "should not be a hostage of Chechen leaders." The compromise currently under discussion provides for Chechnya to receive $854,000 in payment for the export in 1997 of 200,000 metric tons of oil, according to Interfax. It remains unclear what tariff will be fixed for subsequent deliveries remains unclear. Talks adjourned late on 8 September with no agreement signed. They resumed the next day.


Russian and French Foreign Ministers Yevgenii Primakov and Hubert Vedrine discussed the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic during talks in Moscow on 8 September. Speaking to reporters afterward, Primakov said fulfillment of the Dayton peace accords should not occur at the expense of the dissolution or partition of the Bosnia's Republika Srpska. Primakov said he and Vedrine expressed support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, but he added that the mostly ethnic Armenian exclave should be granted a large degree of self-administration. Russia, France, and the U.S. are co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, which is trying to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.


At a meeting with Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev in Moscow on 8 September, Erik Deryche appealed to the Duma to assist in the restitution of Belgian archives seized during War World Two and currently stored in Russian archives, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Duma deputies earlier this year overrode Yeltsin's veto on legislation drawn up by the Duma that would have declared war booty state property.


German Kuznetsov, the deputy finance minister and chairman of the state diamond depository, announced on 8 September that Russians can now legally purchase certified diamonds, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking at an international diamond trade fair in Moscow, Kuznetsov explained that until now, Russians could buy diamonds only in jewelry form. Kuznetsov said each diamond offered for sale will be accompanied by a certificate indicating its carat and price. Earlier this year, President Yeltsin lifted a ban on the acquisition by private individuals of gold ingots.


In an interview on 8 September with Interfax-AiF weekly, presidential adviser on defense cooperation Boris Kuzyk said the restructuring of the country's arms trade industry is likely to continue through next year. Yeltsin's 29 August decrees on tightening control over arms exports should result in increased sales abroad of Russian weapons and parts, Kuzyk explained. Five or seven defense concerns, notably in the aerospace sector, could be created with foreign partners in the next few years, he added. The 29 August decrees granted Rosvooruzhenie the status of federal state unitary enterprise. Other decrees created two state enterprises: Russian Technologies will deal with licenses and know-how, while Promexport will handle the sale of obsolete military hardware and spare parts. Observers say the decrees were aimed at abolishing Rosvooruzhenie's monopoly.


New models of the T-80 tank, equipped with an anti-missile system, are on show at an international weaponry exhibit in the Siberian city of Omsk. The models were manufactured at the city's Transport Building Plant with financing provided by Rosvooruzhenie, South Korea, and Cyprus, according to the plant's chief designer, Boris Kurakin. An essentially new tank model produced by the Omsk plant is also on display. Many features of the so-called "Black Eagle" have been kept under wraps, but the tank has elicited much interest from West European and U.S. companies, Interfax reported. Military hardware produced by 126 Russian defense plants from 26 Russian regions, as well as Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, is currently on display at the exhibit, Interfax reported.


In an interview with an RFE/RL correspondent in St. Petersburg on 9 September, Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova said that just one day before he was shot dead on his way to work in mid-August, Vice Governor Mikhail Manevich was ready to turn over documents containing death threats against him. She added that those documents purportedly contained suggestions from criminal organizations on how Manevich, who was also St. Petersburg's privatization chief, could "redistribute property." Starovoitova said the documents were seized by police when they searched Manevich's home shortly after the murder. She dismissed the theory that Manevich's slaying was politically motivated. Rather, she argued, the murder was over the distribution of local real estate, which is "of interest to criminal structures."


Arkadii Ghukasyan on 8 September took the oath of office as president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's correspondent in Stepanakert. Addressing a special session of the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament, Ghukasyan vowed to guarantee the region's "independence, democracy, and freedom." The swearing-in ceremony was attended by a high-level Armenian delegation that included two government ministers, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan, and the leaders of the three main opposition parties. Ghukasyan is expected to appoint Nagorno-Karabakh's new prime minister within the next few days.


The agenda for the National Assembly's fall session includes approval of the 1998 budget and up to 70 draft laws, speaker Babken Araktsyan told deputies on 8 September. He noted that the most important of those bills deal with the economy and the reform of the legal system. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 September reported that deputies will also consider an investigation into allegations of misappropriation of international credits. Meeting with representatives of the various parliamentary factions on 7 September, Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan said he hoped new legislation introducing a more equitable tax system will be enacted before the end of the year. He also called for a new privatization strategy, Interfax reported.


A senior law enforcement official says 14 inmates have died this year in Armenia's prisons because of harsh conditions and inadequate medical care, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The official told a meeting at the Prosecutor-General's Office on 8 September that those shortcomings contribute to the spread of diseases, which threaten to "double and even triple" the mortality rate in the country's jails. In 1995 and 1996, the death toll among prison inmates was 56 and 60, respectively. Pneumonia is the most common cause of death. Some 400 convicts in Armenia are currently suffering from, and six have already died of, that disease so far this year. The total prison population in Armenia is estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000.


Ismail Cem met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Hasan Hasanov, parliamentary speaker Murtaz Alesqerov, and with President Heidar Aliyev in Baku on 8 September, Russian and Azerbaijani agencies reported. The Azerbaijani leaders expressed concern at Turkey's "passivity" in response to the Russian-Armenian strategic treaty signed in August and the earlier clandestine shipments of Russian arms to Armenia. Aliyev noted that Turkish intelligence must have been aware of those shipments. He called on Ankara to play a more active role within the OSCE's Minsk Group, which is mediating a settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Aliyev conceded that some unspecified aspects of the latest Minsk Group peace proposals "are not fully acceptable" to Azerbaijan but that they constitute a basis for further negotiations, according to ITAR-TASS. The Azerbaijani leaders also made clear their categorical opposition to the opening of a Turkish frontier crossing with Armenia.


Aliyev and Cem pledged their determination to route the main export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku through Turkey to the eastern Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 9 September. The same day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz as saying Ankara will not compete with Moscow for the main export pipeline. Aliyev also announced that Azerbaijan plans to export Turkmen gas via Turkey to Europe did not specify the route for doing so, which would have to cross either Armenia or Iran, according to Turan. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Azerbaijan International Operating Company engaged in developing three Azerbaijani Caspian oil fields has denied Azerbaijani media reports that the date for the export of the first "early oil" from the Chirag field has been postponed from 1 October to 7 November, Interfax reported on 8 September.


The arrival of United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri in Dushanbe for the 9 September Independence Day festivities has been postponed owing to "technical reasons," RFE/RL correspondents reported. Nuri was scheduled to be in Tajikistan for the celebrations, but a last-minute disagreement over the number of UTO members in the delegation caused the delay. In May, the government and the opposition signed a peace agreement in Moscow. This is the first time in Tajikistan's short history as an independent state that the country has not been at war on its Independence Day.


Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich told journalists on 8 September that Belarus intends to sign a charter with NATO, despite Minsk's negative stance toward the eastward expansion of the alliance. Antanovich said that the document will be similar to the cooperation charters that Russia and Ukraine concluded with NATO earlier this year. According to Antanovich, the charter provides NATO security guarantees for Belarus. He said Belarus will take into account its relations with the alliance when it plans its defense policy. The charter will be discussed during a visit to Minsk by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana scheduled for 23-24 October.


An international conference on nuclear safety and security began in Odessa on 8 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Taking part in the meeting are representatives of several large Western firms, five Ukrainian nuclear plants, the Energoatom company, and Ukrainian government officials. Up to 48 percent of Ukraine's electricity is produced by nuclear plants. Because the nuclear industry suffers from a lack of funds, some facilities are unable to maintain safety standards and to replace outdated equipment. Among other things, the conference will discuss prospects for international cooperation in nuclear safety.


The Swedish government is to launch another investigation into the sinking of the "Estonia" passenger ferry in 1994, dpa and ETA reported. A new committee has been formed whose task will also be to decide whether the wreck should be raised from the sea bed. The international committee investigating the cause of the disaster has been sharply criticized for its slow progress and for the repeated delays in issuing its final report, which is expected to blame the faulty construction of the ferry for the sinking.


Some 300 troops from 14 nations, including the U.S, are taking part in peacekeeping exercises in Latvia. The exercises--Cooperative Best Effort '97--are part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. A naval search and rescue exercise is also under way in the Baltic Sea between Latvia and Sweden, while a mine-sweeping exercise will continue until 16 September in the Gulf of Riga.


Foreign Minister Jacques Poos of Luxembourg, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, assured visiting Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas that the EU process of enlargement is "continuous," Reuters reported on 8 September. Poos noted that the EU is likely to start entry negotiations with six countries in 1998 but added that it could still "add one or two countries which by that time have fulfilled [membership] criteria." Following the European Commission's decision on which countries to recommend for membership talks, Lithuania complained that the commission's report on its candidacy was not objective and contained outdated figures. Saudargas said on 8 September that "we would like to know more precisely what we must do in specified areas to be invited for negotiations."


Two multi-national peacekeeping exercises began at Polish military training sites on 8 September. Some 350 soldiers from Poland, the U.S., Denmark, Finland, Hungary, and Ukraine are participating in a peacekeeping exercise, called Brave Eagle, using computers to help train a multinational brigade. In the Eagle's Talon exercise, Polish and U.S. airmen are carrying out peacekeeping maneuvers during simulated ethnic conflict. Both exercises will last until 9 September.


Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 8 September told journalists he has asked Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec to start talks with the Vatican over the return of Roman Catholic Church property confiscated during the Stalinist era. The issue has clouded relations between Prague and the Vatican since the fall of the communist regime. The decision comes four months after Pope John Paul II's visit to the Czech Republic, during which he said the Church is ready to discuss the issue. The pontiff had suggested the creation of a joint committee to deal with the matter and to be composed of state and Church representatives, including from the Vatican. In the past, Klaus had rejected all "intrusion" by the Vatican in dealings between the Czech Catholic Church and the state.


Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 8 September submitted to the parliament a draft constitutional law whereby legislative elections would be held on 5-6 June 1998, Slovak Radio reported. The vote is currently scheduled to take place in fall 1998. The HZDS argues that holding the elections in the fall would shorten the gap between them and local elections to a mere seven weeks. A new president is also to be elected in 1998. The five-year term of incumbent President Michal Kovac expires on 2 March 1998. Meciar has proposed holding the presidential ballot in December 1997.


Leaders of two junior coalition parties--the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Slovak Workers' Party--told journalists on 8 September that their formations do not reject the idea of a "voluntary exchange of minorities between Slovakia and Hungary." Slovak Premier Meciar proposed such an exchange at a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, in mid-August. SNS chairman Jan Slota said the departure of "discontented people" to Hungary was a "possible and constructive solution." Also on 8 September, ethnic Hungarian minority leaders called on Meciar to resign in connection with his proposal. In an open letter, the chairmen of three parliamentary Hungarian minority parties said that Meciar's proposal coincides with the 50th anniversary of the postwar "resettlement and deportation" of the German and Hungarian populations.


Prime Minister Horn said on 8 September-- the first day of the parliament's fall session--that the government may postpone the referendum on NATO membership, currently scheduled for 16 November, Hungarian media reported. Opposition members of a parliamentary committee recently refused to give priority attention to the referendum. It therefore cannot be held according to schedule, Horn said. He added that the vote, which will also include a question on foreign ownership of land, is likely to take place on 23 or 30 November


SFOR troops prevented over 100 buses carrying supporters of Bosnian Serb hard-line leader Radovan Karadzic from entering Banja Luka on 8 September. NATO spokesmen told CNN the next day that the troops sealed off the town to prevent a coup against Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, who has her headquarters there. The spokesmen added that some of Karadzic's supporters had previously entered Banja Luka and sought to take control of police headquarters and other strategic buildings. Coup organizers had paid $130 each to the people on the buses, some of whom threw stones at peacekeepers. The buses returned to eastern Bosnia on 9 September.


Plavsic's police on 9 September surrounded the hotel in Banja Luka where Karadzic's chief supporters had spent the night. Momcilo Krajisnik, who is the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, and Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic, are heading the group from Pale. Police said they are looking for illegal weapons and have towed away some cars belonging to Krajisnik and his party as part of their search, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. Police added that they have arrested 13 special police from Pale for possessing illegal weapons. An adviser to Krajisnik said he and the others in the delegation are hostages. CNN reported that the situation is calm. Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle attempted to mediate between Krajisnik and Plavsic, but that meeting was inconclusive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1997).


SFOR commander Gen. Eric Shinseki said on 8 September that the hard-liners' TV Pale must broadcast materials supplied by SFOR and by Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pale. Shinseki and Krajisnik had earlier signed an agreement, according to which SFOR returned a transmitter near Bijeljina to TV Pale and Pale agreed to tone down its anti-NATO broadcasts and to broadcast materials supplied by NATO and Westendorp (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 3 September 1997). TV Pale announced on 8 September, however, that it will not air the foreigners' programs or submit to what it called international censorship.


Top ethnic Croatian leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina said in Sarajevo on 8 September that they doubt the local elections slated for 13-14 September can be free or fair. Kresimir Zubak, the Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, said that Croats, including some of those living abroad, have been denied their right to vote in large parts of Bosnia. Zubak added that "terrorist acts" have been committed against Croats to prevent them from participating in the political process, but he did not name specific incidents or say who was involved. Zubak charged, however, that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is supervising the elections, has discriminated against Croats. Meanwhile in Zagreb, representatives of the small Croatian Christian Democratic Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina said that Zubak and his colleagues have failed to solve the refugee problem and should make way for new leaders and policies.


Transport Minister Zeljko Luzavec said on 8 September that the government will give top priority to finishing a highway linking Rijeka to Zagreb and the Hungarian border by the year 2000, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Observers noted that highway construction and other infrastructure projects are of central political and economic importance both to Croatia and to neighboring Slovenia. Meanwhile in Ljubljana, a spokesman for the Slovenian People's Party announced that the party will run parliamentary speaker Janez Podobnik in the presidential elections expected later this year, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 8 September. Podobnik is the first prominent politician to enter the race against incumbent President Milan Kucan, whom most observers expect to be easily reelected.


The Kosovo Center for the Defense of Human Rights demanded in Pristina on 8 September that the Serbian police explain how three young men were killed recently in the province. The police said the three died in a traffic accident, but the center charged that at least one of the men's bodies had gunshot wounds. In Pirot, police arrested several hundred supporters of the Democratic Party who were demonstrating against the candidacy of Zoran Lilic for the Serbian presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. Spokesmen for the Democratic Party said the police had no business arresting the demonstrators, who had booed Lilic, a close associate of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.


Former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori ended his 20-day hunger strike for balanced television reporting on 8 September after his Democratic Party and the governing Socialists reached a deal on allotting air time on television newscasts. The two largest parties agreed that air time will be granted proportionally on the basis of the number of votes a party received in the 29 June election. Former President Sali Berisha called the pact "a victory for freedom." It is unclear whether the smaller parties will accept the deal, which parliament must still approve.


Meeting in Beijing on 8 September, Romanian President Emil Constantinescu and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, signed agreements on expanded trade and "intensified political dialogue," RFE/RL's Romanian service reported. The signing took place on the first day of Constantinescu's five-day visit to China. Constantinescu is scheduled to meet with Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng on 9 September. The two leaders are expected to discuss a draft contract on the sale of some 50,000 Romanian-built Dacia cars to China. Constantinescu also plans to visit Shanghai on 10 September and the economic zone of Zhuhai, in southern China, the next day. He is scheduled to return to Bucharest after visiting Hong Kong.


The Prosecutor-General's Office has been reorganized as part of the government's anti-corruption drive, state television reported on 8 September. A new service for special enquiries has been established. President Emil Constantinescu has pledged to push forward with the campaign against corruption on his return from China within the next few days. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported that leaders of the ruling parties have asked why they were not informed in advance of state police chief Pavel Abraham's firing. The Interior Ministry on 6 September had accused Abraham of "lack of interest" and a poor record in the fight against crime. Romanian daily newspapers speculate that the sacking was connected to preferential loans Abraham allegedly received from the state-owned foreign trade bank. That bank is currently undergoing a corruption investigation.


Mladen Georgiev, head of the government's structural reform program, said he expects amendments to the privatization law to be implemented in February or March 1998, the Sofia dailies "Kontinent" and "Trud" reported on 9 September. He predicted the changes would be approved by the end of 1997, noting they are needed because privatization is not moving forward as quickly as the government expected. Georgiev also said that three privatization methods are being considered: a second wave of voucher coupon mass privatization, the sale of firms on a case-by-case basis, or holding tenders for packages of 10 to 20 companies. Alexander Bozhkov, deputy prime minister in charge of industry, said on 8 September that Prime Minister Ivan Kostov will receive a proposal for a new privatization strategy by the end of September. Bozhkov recently told RFE/RL's Sofia bureau that privatization is being delayed by state managers who are trying to retain control of their firms.


by Jeremy Bransten and Jolyon Naegele

Timothy Garton Ash, British historian and expert on Central Europe, says it is quite clear that Eastern Europe no longer exists. He made the comment in Prague during the recent Forum 2000 conference on the state of the world at the turn of the millennium. As Garton Ash put it, today there is CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, southeastern Europe, and several other Europes, and their sets of problems are quite different.

Garton Ash, a professor at Oxford University, is the author of books on Poland's Solidarity trade union movement, the Czech velvet revolution, and German unification. His latest work recounts how he read his East German secret police (Stasi) file.

Garton Ash notes that he was among those who in the 1980s popularized the notion of Central Europe. "We meant it of course in contra-distinction to the Soviet Eastern Europe." But he says that what has happened since 1989 is that the idea of "Central Europe" has more or less collapsed. In its stead, attempts have been made to point to a new division between Orthodox and Roman Catholic Europe. But this distinction, too, is a dubious one, according to Garton Ash.

He also notes that Slovakia, albeit nominally a Roman Catholic nation, will not be among the former Communist states of Central Europe joining NATO in 1999 and that its prospects for joining the EU are quite remote. He says that the three nations that have been invited to join NATO--the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland--are only a part of what is usually considered Roman Catholic Central Europe.

Garton Ash says Slovakia has shown many predictions about the post-Communist world to be dramatically wrong: "Slovakia could have been in NATO in 1999; Slovakia blew it." In his view, Slovakia failed because of politics, and the quality of post-Communist politics in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, as opposed to post-Communist politics elsewhere, have made the crucial difference.

Garton Ash believes that many Western politicians are convinced that NATO can admit Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic and then stop its expansion for a long time. But he says he is convinced this view is not realistic. There is a logic that leads from one expansion to the next, and the first waves of NATO and EU expansion to the East are only the beginning of a very long process, he stresses.

Asked whether Czech President Vaclav Havel, one of the organizers of Forum 2000, should consider retiring from politics when his current term expires early next year, Garton Ash responded that while change is always a healthy thing, Havel had a clear choice whether to remain in politics five years ago, when Czechoslovakia ceased to exist. At that time, he said, Havel decided to lead the new Czech Republic rather than go back to being a "great political and moral intellectual authority."

But, Garton Ash says, once Havel made the choice to be president of the Czech Republic, with considerably diminished powers, it is consistent and right that he should run again. He points out that if re-elected, Havel will be able to oversee the completion of his country's return to Europe--that is, the Czech Republic's entry into NATO and the EU. (Havel announced two months ago he would be willing to run again but recently hinted he might not do so after all.)

Garton Ash said Europe is currently in what he characterized as a "period of disorder and reformation." He added that such periods have traditionally been succeeded by periods of order. But, he remarked, it remains to be seen whether the coming period of order will be a liberal order or a hegemonic order. All postcommunist countries have certain features in common, he says. These include privatization by the nomenklatura, a kind of predatory capitalism, and a scale of corruption rarely encountered in Western Europe. But there are also growing differences among the former communist countries, he notes.

Garton Ash says that, at the same time, several Western models of capitalism are currently being questioned-most notably, the West German model of a market economy. The West in general, he adds, faces the huge challenge of structural, large-scale unemployment, whose outcome is unpredictable: "If we do not know what kind of capitalism is emerging out of the crisis in the West, I do not quite know how we can predict what will come in the East."

The authors are RFE/RL news editors. Garton Ash's remarks are taken from an interview with RFE/RL and from his lecture at Forum 2000.