CENTRAL BANK RAISES INTEREST RATES AMID MARKET TURMOIL
The Central Bank on 19 May raised the refinancing rate and the Lombard rate to 50 percent, an 18- month high. The rate hikes were announced the evening of 18 May, after the Russian stock market posted a 12 percent fall earlier that day and Russian bond markets were battered. Market analysts quoted by Western news agencies attributed the declines to flight by foreign investors and nervousness related to the market turmoil in southeast Asia. According to AFP, the Russian stock market has fallen 40 percent since the start of the year. On 15 May, the Central Bank announced plans to raise the Lombard rate from 30 percent to 40 percent, effective 18 May, but said the refinancing rate would remain unchanged at 30 percent. The rate hikes are intended to stave off a sharp devaluation of the ruble. LB
OFFICIAL SAYS RATE HIKE 'SHORT-TERM' MEASURE
Interfax on 19 May quoted Central Bank Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Potemkin as saying the "harsh" measure to increase the refinancing and Lombard rates to 50 percent will be "of a short-term nature." He expressed the hope that "in the near future we will be able to return to a more acceptable level of interest rates that are easier on the economy." Earlier this year, the Central Bank announced plans to bring the refinancing rate down to between 15 percent and 18 percent by the end of 1998. Inflation is expected to register in single digits for the year. LB
LEBED SETS AGENDA AS KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR
Aleksandr Lebed outlined several priority tasks he will address after he is inaugurated as governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai during a lengthy interview with NTV on 18 May. Lebed said he is preparing a package of more than two dozen agreements to supplement a power-sharing treaty that President Boris Yeltsin and then Krasnoyarsk Governor Valerii Zubov signed last November on behalf of the federal and krai authorities. He also said he plans to work within the Federation Council to change policies on taxation and transportation fees, which, he said, are hurting industry in Krasnoyarsk. (All regional leaders automatically become deputies in the upper house of the Russian parliament.) Lebed repeated that he will try to prevent "fires" in the North Caucasus region from being "rekindled," adding that "I have authority and influence there. People there respect me." LB
KREMLIN OFFICIALS SAY THEY WILL COOPERATE WITH LEBED
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Ekho Moskvy on 18 May that the presidential administration will cooperate with all three winners of the 17 May regional elections, including Lebed. Aleksandr Livshits, the deputy head of the presidential administration, told journalists in Moscow that "we are ready to work with any governor," Interfax reported. He added that "political and ideological qualities vanish" after someone is elected governor and needs to tackle the region's economic relations with the federal authorities. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 18 May described Lebed's victory as a "misfortune" for Russia. But Lebed, who is likely to face Zyuganov in a future presidential campaign, told Interfax that the Krasnoyarsk election shows the Communist leader is "out of the game." Zyuganov has described Lebed as "a young Yeltsin, but three times worse," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 13 May. LB
YELTSIN TO PUSH PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS ON START-2
President Yeltsin is to make the case for ratifying the START-2 arms control treaty during a meeting of the "big four" (Yeltsin, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, and State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev) within the next few days, presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced during an 18 May appearance on Ekho Moskvy. Both Russian and U.S. officials have said the next summit meeting between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton will not take place until Russia has ratified the treaty. The Duma was scheduled to hold closed hearings on the treaty next month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 1998), but Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia told Russian news agencies on 19 May that the hearings have been postponed until September. LB
RUSSIA NEEDS AID TO DESTROY CHEMICAL WEAPONS
Colonel-General Stanislav Petrov, commander of the Defense Ministry's Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces, says Russia currently lacks the funds to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles within the time frame imposed by the Chemical Weapons Convention, ITAR- TASS and AFP reported on 18 May. Appearing at a conference in The Hague on Russia's chemical weapons, Petrov said Russia faces "significant financial and political problems" and will need to attract non-budgetary sources of financing, as well as foreign aid and technical assistance, in order to meet the deadline for destroying the stockpiles. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which Russia ratified last November, requires treaty members to destroy their chemical weapons within 10 years of ratification. Russia has the world's largest chemical weapons stockpile, estimated at 40,000 tons. LB
RUSSIA STILL PLANS TO CONSTRUCT NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN INDIA
Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told journalists on 18 May that recent nuclear tests conducted by India will not affect his ministry's plans to construct a nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, India, Russian news agencies reported. He said that if Russia were to abrogate the contract on building the plant (signed during the Soviet era), it would look as if Moscow is imposing sanctions against India, "which is not Russia's stand." Georgii Kaurov, press secretary of the Atomic Energy Ministry, told Interfax that while the ministry does not welcome India's nuclear tests, it distinguishes between peaceful and military uses of nuclear energy. Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced on 16 May that during a visit to India planned for 6-8 December, Yeltsin will urge India to join treaties on non-proliferation and on banning nuclear tests. LB
SELEZNEV SUPPORTS INDIA'S NUCLEAR TESTS
Duma Speaker Seleznev on 16 May said that India "acted correctly" in conducting nuclear tests, Russian news agencies reported. He argued that "one can only rejoice at India's enhanced feeling of national pride. It has not curtailed its nuclear program, despite U.S. pressure." LB
MINERS' PROTESTS CONTINUE TO SPREAD
Unpaid coal miners in Anzhero-Sudzhensk (Kemerovo Oblast) blocked the Trans-Siberian railroad on 19 May for the fifth straight day, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. A trade union official in Kemerovo told RFE/RL by telephone that miners in Prokopevsk may block another section of the Trans- Siberian, which would cut off all rail traffic from the Far East. Meanwhile, miners from the Donbass region of Rostov Oblast on 18 and 19 May blocked the North Caucasus railroad. A trade union official in Tula Oblast told Interfax on 18 May that miners may block six major railroads and highways if the federal government does not meet miners' demands. On 19 May, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov is to meet with leaders of regions that have a substantial coal industry. Nemtsov chairs a government commission on the socio-economic problems of coal-mining regions. LB
SCIENTISTS BLOCK MAJOR ROAD IN PRIMORE
More than 200 scientists from research institutes in Primorskii Krai blocked a major road connecting Vladivostok and Khabarovsk for two hours on 19 May, ITAR-TASS reported. They were protesting the low level of state support for the sciences and monthly wages averaging a mere 300-400 rubles ($49-65) for scientific workers. Also on 19 May, teachers across Primorskii Krai interrupted their classes to stage demonstrations outside local administration buildings. Wage arrears to teachers in Primore are estimated at 110 million rubles. LB
GREECE TO EXTRADITE KEY FIGURE IN CORRUPTION CASE
The Greek Supreme Court on 15 May decided to extradite Andrei Kozlenok to Russia, where he faces charges in connection with a $180 million embezzlement case, Russian news agencies reported. The Greek Justice Ministry, which has the final say on the extradition, is expected to approve the ruling. Kozlenok argued that the case against him is politically motivated and that the Russian authorities will intimidate or silence witnesses who could vindicate him, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 May. He also claimed that if he returns to Russia, he will suffer the same fate as a former associate who was found hanging in his jail cell (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 1998). Several former high-ranking officials in the government and the State Committee on Precious Metals may be implicated in the case, which involves the sale of diamonds and precious metals. LB
LAWYERS DECRY CHARGES AGAINST ENVIRONMENTALIST
Genri Reznik and Yurii Shmidt, who are representing retired Navy Captain Aleksandr Nikitin, said on 15 May that the criminal charges against their client violate Russian law and the constitution, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Nikitin helped write a report for the international environmental group Bellona about possible radioactive contamination from Russia's Northern Fleet. He was arrested in February 1996 and held in pre- trial detention for 10 months before being released and ordered not to leave St. Petersburg. Criminal charges were recently filed against him for the seventh time. Federal Security Service officials and Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, among others, have claimed that Nikitin revealed state secrets in the Bellona report. Reznik and Shmidt say the charges are based on secret Defense Ministry documents and note that the constitution prohibits charging citizens with a crime based on unpublished information. LB
CE CRITICIZES PRESIDENTIAL POWERS, HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD
The Council of Europe has warned in a report released on 15 May that the broad powers of the Russian presidency could in "cases of abuse" lead the country to a "presidential dictatorship," AFP reported. The report suggested that a dictatorship could arise if the growing activity of organized crime groups enhanced popular support for a "commanding figure" to restore order. The report also charged that prison conditions are in some cases "tantamount to torture" and alleged that prison overcrowding is partly caused by the "excessive use of arrest as a means of repression." The report slammed what it called the "basic failure to observe recent rules and regulations," citing Russia's failure to adopt a legislative ban on the death penalty. Abolishing capital punishment is a condition of membership in the council, which Russia joined in early 1996. LB
EXTREMIST LEADER DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR SYNAGOGUE BOMBING
Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the national-socialist group Russian National Unity (RNE), on 15 May denied that his group carried out the 13 May bombing at a Moscow synagogue, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1998). Earlier on 15 May, Interfax quoted Moscow police sources as saying an anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the bombing on behalf of the RNE. But Barkashov alleged that the act was a "callously planned provocation mounted by the victims themselves." The RNE publishes neo-Nazi literature and claims that Jews, Chechens, and other minority groups are subjugating ethnic Russians. Regional and Nationalities Policy Minister Yevgenii Sapiro speculated during a 15 May press conference that one of Russia's parties whose members wear "black uniforms and swastikas"--a description that fits the RNE--may have carried out the bombing, ITAR-TASS reported. LB
GROUP'S LEGAL STATUS UNCERTAIN
Barkashov's movement is registered in some Russian regions, and paramilitary units trained by the RNE have helped the police patrol the streets in a few cities, such as Voronezh. However, the Justice Ministry, which is in the process of re-registering political parties and movements, has refused to register Barkashov's movement at the federal level. In January, the RNE lost an appeal against that decision in a Moscow district court, and last month it lost another appeal in the Moscow City Court, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 April. High-ranking members of the movement have vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court. Even if that appeal is rejected, the RNE could still be registered later this year if it holds a congress to approve certain changes to its charter, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LB
KARELIAN LEADER SEEKS TO CHALLENGE ELECTION RESULT
Viktor Stepanov, who lost his job as the top official in the Republic of Karelia in a 17 May election, says he has appealed to the republican Supreme Court to examine possible vote fraud, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 May. State Duma deputy Aleksandr Salii of the Communist faction, who observed the Karelian elections, says ballots were handled carelessly and were printed on newsprint without any special precautions against falsification. But "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 May that both the Karelian Prosecutor's Office and the republican electoral commission have announced that the election results were valid. During the final week of the campaign, Stepanov accused the campaign staff of his opponent, Sergei Katanandov, of using "dirty methods," including slander, according to the 14 May "IEWS Russian Regional Report." LB
DAGESTANI OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED
Kurban Kurbanov, head of the local administration of Daghestan's Akusha Raion, and his driver were shot dead by unidentified killers early on 19 May, an RFE/RL correspondent in Vladikavkaz reported. Kurbanov was elected district administration head in March, after his predecessor was killed in the same way. LF
ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER ROW ENDS
The staff of the Russian-language daily newspaper "Respublika Armeniya," which is funded by the parliament, has ended its standoff with parliamentary speaker Khosrov Harutiunian and agreed to his appointee as the newspaper's new editor, Ramkavar-Azatakan Party member Shamiram Aghabekian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 18 May. The newspaper's staff had protested that Aghabekian's appointment was illegal, and some launched a strike to demand that acting chief editor Ashot Gazazian be appointed permanently to that post. Gazazian and four other journalists have resigned, however, rather than work under Aghabekian. LF
MORE GUERRILLA CLASHES IN ABKHAZIA
Georgian guerrillas killed 17 Abkhaz policemen in a surprise attack in the village of Repi in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion on 18 May, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi. Also on 18 May, the Russian-Georgian Inter-Parliamentary Commission met in Sochi to discuss means of resolving the Abkhaz conflict. Two Abkhaz parliamentary deputies also attended the session. Kakha Chitaia, chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Commission on International Affairs, stressed Georgia's readiness to achieve a peace settlement based on compromise. LF
BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE TO BE COMPLETED ON SCHEDULE
Meeting in Baku on 18 May with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania said that reconstruction of the oil export pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa and construction of terminals at Supsa and Poti will be completed by October 1998, Interfax and Turan reported. He said he is confident that the financial problems connected to the pipeline repairs can be overcome. Estimates of the cost of those repairs were recently raised, triggering disagreements between the Azerbaijani International Operating Company exploiting three offshore Caspian oil fields and Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 20 April 1998) over how the repairs will be funded. LF
TURKEY, AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA AFFIRM SUPPORT FOR BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE
Following three days of talks, Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer and senior Georgian and Azerbaijani oil sector officials signed a memorandum of intent in Istanbul on 15 May, Caucasus Press reported on18 May. That document affirms their support for the Baku-Ceyhan route for the main export pipeline for Caspian oil. The presidents of the three countries are to sign an agreement to this effect in September, 1998. LF
TURKMEN PRESIDENT ON CASPIAN PIPELINES, CIS
In a speech to foreign diplomats in Ashgabat on 16 May, Saparmurat Niyazov affirmed his opposition to the Russian and Kazakh demand that the Caspian seabed, but not its waters, be divided into national sectors, Interfax reported. Niyazov said that the proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline is contingent on resolving the dispute between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan over the delineation of their respective sectors of the Caspian. He added that the Trans-Caspian pipeline is not an alternative to planned Trans-Iranian pipelines for exporting Turkmen gas to Europe and the Persian Gulf. He also invited Russian participation in the construction of pipelines and the exploitation of Turkmenistan's hydrocarbon resources. And he repeated his objection to the creation of supranational regulating agencies within the CIS, expressing skepticism that the planned CIS interstate conference will yield solutions to the problems facing the organization. LF
EU SAYS ECONOMIC GROWTH IN EASTERN EUROPE 'MEDIOCRE'
The EU's Executive Commission, in a report released on 18 May, said that average economic growth among the 10 Central and East European EU candidate states slowed down in 1997. The commission says the overall growth of 3.4 percent is "mediocre" and attributes the fall (from 3.9 percent in 1996) largely to economic problems in Bulgaria, Romania, and the Czech Republic. Bulgaria's performance is linked to the depth of its economic crisis in late 1996-early 1997. Romania's negative (-6.6 percent) growth is attributed to "continuing political, legal, and economic uncertainty," while the Czech Republic has been affected by last year's exchange-rate difficulties that highlighted other structural economic weaknesses. The report says there were wide economic differences among the 10 countries, ranging from a 10 percent growth in Estonia to a 7.4 percent contraction in Bulgaria. MS
WORLD BANK CRITICIZES BELARUS FOR 'DISTORTED' RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE
David Philips, a World Bank official, told journalists in Minsk on 18 May that the main obstacle toward economic reform in Belarus is the practice of using multiple and distorted official exchange rates for the Belarusian ruble, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Philips, such a practice has a negative impact on the balance of payments, prevents the accumulation of hard- currency reserves, and inaccurately reflects the situation in the trade and production spheres. Philips added that the mandatory sale of 30 percent of hard-currency export revenues to the state at an undercut exchange rate constitutes a "fine" imposed on exporters. JM
AWARDS TO BELARUS FOR EXPANDING DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS
EU-U.S. Democracy and Civil Society Awards have been given to the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Charter-97 group, and former constitutional judge Mikhail Pastukhou in acknowledgment of their efforts to expand democracy and protect human rights in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Belarusian Helsinki Committee Chairwoman Tatsyana Protska received the award in London from U.S. President Bill Clinton and European Commission head Jacques Santer. Mikhail Pastukhou and former Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Sannikau, representing Charter-97, accepted their awards at the British embassy in Minsk. JM
STRIKES OVER WAGE ARREARS SPREAD THROUGHOUT UKRAINE
Some 2,000 coal miners from Pavlovhrad have set off on a 70-kilometer march to Dnipropetrovsk to demand unpaid wages, mirroring the action taken by 1,000 miners from Pervomaysk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1998). Ukrainian Radio reported on 18 May that the government has created a special commission for drawing up proposals by 21 May to resolve the socio-economic problems of coal miners in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Meanwhile, the teachers' strike over unpaid wages has expanded to 129 schools throughout the country, Ukrainian Television reported. JM
CRIMEAN TATARS COMMEMORATE DEPORTATION WITH POLITICAL DEMANDS
Some 10,000 people gathered in Simferopol on 18 May to mark the 54th anniversary of Stalin's deportation of Crimean Tatars, ITAR-TASS reported. Addressing the gathering, Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev said the 250,000 Tatars who have returned to the peninsula find themselves "in a disastrous situation and without rights." Many have no jobs and housing, while 70,000 Tatars do not even have Ukrainian citizenship. A resolution adopted at the gathering demanded a simplified procedure whereby Crimean Tatars can acquire Ukrainian citizenship. It also demanded Crimean Tatar representatives in state bodies, and official recognition of the Kurultay and the Mejlis, the representative bodies of the Crimean Tatar people. JM
CE SLAMS LATVIA OVER CITIZENSHIP, DEATH PENALTY...
The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly's monitoring committee has criticized Latvia's citizenship law, BNS reported on 18 May. Committee head Terry Davis told the news agency that "after seven years of independence, Latvia has not yet managed to successfully integrate its non-citizens." He added that "particularly worrying is the practice of classing many children born in Latvia after 21 August 1991 as noncitizens, the inclusion of history exams in the naturalization procedure, and the insistence on a knowledge of the Latvian language for any job in the private sector." Also on 18 May, the council's leadership expressed regret over the Latvian parliament's decision to retain capital punishment in the criminal code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1998), saying it is a "setback in the fight for the abolition of capital punishment in Europe." JC
...WHILE ULMANIS TO RETURN CRIMINAL CODE TO PARLIAMENT
Meanwhile, the press office of Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis told BNS on 18 May that the president will return the criminal code to the parliament for revision as he objects to the clause retaining capital punishment. And on another subject, the office reported that Ulmanis has asked the Foreign Ministry to discuss with Russia preparations for his possible meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That move follows Yeltsin's statement in Birmingham, England, last week saying he is confident he will soon meet with Ulmanis and Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii's comment the next day that Latvia must request such a meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1998). JC
LILEIKIS TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN
The trial of suspected war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis has been postponed for another month, BNS and dpa reported on 18 May. The decision comes shortly after a letter to the Lithuanian daily "Lietuvos rytas" from a Holocaust survivor claiming that Lileikis saved her life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1998). In order to allow prosecutors to interview Grace Montes (formerly Shifra Grodnikaite), who lives in Denver, Colorado, Judge Viktoras Kazys postponed the trial until mid-June. JC
CATHOLIC OR LAY SCHOOLS IN POLAND?
The Education Ministry has drawn up a project whereby a dual public education system will be introduced at the start of the 1999-2000 school year, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 19 May. Under the project, each school will have to declare whether it is Catholic or secular and change its curricula and educational methods accordingly. Education Minister Miroslaw Handtke commented that a synthesis of those two forms of education is not possible but that separate educational programs may be run in separate classes at the same school. The proposal has been sent to local educational authorities for discussion. JM
SLOVAKIA TO DELAY STARTUP OF NUCLEAR PLANT?
The startup of the controversial nuclear plant at Mochovce "could be delayed for several days," plant director Jozef Valach told journalists on 18 May. The delay follows the criticism expressed by an international group of experts who inspected the plant earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1998). Chancellor Viktor Klima told Austrian Television that relations with Bratislava will deteriorate if it decides to go ahead with the startup. He delivered a note of protest to the Slovak ambassador to Vienna the same day, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. MS
SLOVAKIA ACCUSES HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER OF INTERFERENCE
The Slovak Foreign Ministry rejected on 18 May Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs's warning three days earlier that a proposed amendment to the Slovak education law would violated the Hungarian- Slovak basic treaty. The amendment would require that history and geography be taught in Slovak in Hungarian- language schools. The Slovak statement called Kovacs's protest "an inadmissible interference in domestic affairs." Kovacs reacted by saying that minority issues "cannot be a domestic affair for any country," Hungarian media reported. MSZ
HUNGARIAN ELECTIONS WILL NOT CHANGE NATO MEMBERSHIP PLANS
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Franklin Kramer on 18 May told Hungarian officials in Budapest that the results of the second round of elections will in no way affect Hungary's plans to join NATO. He said that regardless of the composition of the new government, Hungary's referendum last year on NATO membership clearly showed the country's support for accession. In other news, prices on the Budapest stock exchange fell again on 18 May amid political uncertainty over the result of the elections. The market closed at 7,829 points, 309 points down from the weekend. Prime Minister Gyula Horn pointed out last week that falling prices on the bourse signals "investors are afraid of instability." MSZ
YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT OUSTS PRIME MINISTER...
Serbian and Montenegrin federal legislators loyal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have endorsed a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Radoje Kontic. Milosevic said immediately after the vote that he will meet with leaders of the parties represented in the parliament on 19 May to discuss possible successors to Kontic. During the debate before the vote, Kontic rejected accusations by Milosevic loyalists that he is incompetent and argued that economic performance was better under his leadership in 1997 than it had been in years. Milosevic wants to oust Kontic, who is a Montenegrin with ties to the reform-minded leadership of President Milo Djukanovic, in favor of someone who would declare a state of emergency in Montenegro and remove Djukanovic and his allies from office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 1998). PM
...BRINGS ON CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS
Immediately after Kontic's ouster on 18 May, Montenegrin parliamentary speaker Svetozar Marovic called a special session of the Montenegrin legislature for the following day. Speaking in Podgorica after the Belgrade vote, President Djukanovic said there can be no joint state of Serbs and Montenegrins if there is no equality between the two republics, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. The president added that the vote to oust Kontic means the destruction of the foundations of the joint state. Top pro-Djukanovic politicians both in Podgorica and in Belgrade said that Montenegro will not recognize Kontic's ouster and that federal Yugoslavia is entering a major constitutional crisis. Stefan Susic, who heads the federal parliament's Judicial Committee, charged that Milosevic has begun the "dissolution of Yugoslavia" by ousting Kontic, the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. PM
EU BACKS DJUKANOVIC
Hans van den Broek, who heads the EU's Foreign Affairs Commission, and Montenegrin Labor and Social Affairs Minister Miomir Mogusa signed an agreement in Brussels providing for EU aid to Montenegro worth $3.3 million. The money will help Podgorica to pay invalids' and veterans' benefits, to make payments for needy children and families, and to improve the health service. The Djukanovic leadership says that Milosevic's policies are preventing the revival of Montenegro's key shipping and tourism industries and hence of its economy. The EU and the U.S. provide political and economic support for Djukanovic. PM
RUGOVA FACES KOSOVAR CRITICS
Kosovar shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova told the leadership of his Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) on 18 May in Prishtina that he insisted on Kosovar independence during his talks with Milosevic on 15 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1998). Several members of the party's governing body criticized Rugova's decision to meet Milosevic without foreign intermediaries and accused Rugova of failing to consult his colleagues. Some speakers said that Rugova has completely sidelined the LDK in his efforts to manage the current crisis. Many top politicians both within the LDK and Rugova's group of 15 key advisers have recently charged him with becoming increasingly authoritarian, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 15 May. Rugova's political position in Kosova has become weaker in recent weeks, while that of the Kosova Liberation Army is on the rise, "Nasa Borba" reported on 19 May. PM
SANCTIONS ON SERBIA EASED
The British Foreign Office said in a statement on 18 May that the international Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia agreed to suspend the group's recently proposed ban on foreign investments in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 1998). The statement added that the freeze on the investment ban comes in response to Milosevic's agreement to hold talks with Rugova. In Prishtina, Veton Surroi, who is Kosova's leading journalist and a member of Rugova's team of 15 advisers, said that ending sanctions reduces the chances that Milosevic will negotiate seriously. In Tirana, the Albanian Foreign Ministry urged the Contact Group to maintain the sanctions as long as there is fighting in Kosova. PM
CROATIA TO TAKE IN REFUGEES
Parliamentary speaker Vlatko Pavletic told a delegation from the German Bundestag in Zagreb on 18 May that Croatia will soon formally tell Germany that it is ready to accept 80,000 Croatian refugees, who are mainly from Bosnia- Herzegovina, back from Germany. Pavletic added that Croatia wants the refugees to return to Croatia before the end of 1998. Germany took in more refugees from the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995 than did any other country other than the Yugoslav successor states. Many German politicians are under considerable pressure during this election year to send the refugees home as soon as possible. PM
DEFENDANTS BOYCOTT 'FERAL' TRIAL
Viktor Ivancic, the former chief editor of the independent weekly "Feral Tribune," and journalist Marinko Culic did not appear at their trial in Zagreb on 18 May to answer charges that they slandered President Franjo Tudjman. The two defendants said in a statement that do not intend to take part in what they called a political trial. In an article published in April 1996, the two journalists compared Tudjman to the Spanish head of state, Francisco Franco. In their latest statement, the two defendants noted that Tudjman has publicly compared himself to Franco, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
MORE NATIONALIST OBSTRUCTION IN BOSNIA
The joint parliament failed on 18 May to agree on any of the three designs for a new coat-of-arms that international mediators proposed. Muslim deputies endorsed one design, Serbs rejected all three, and the Croats abstained, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, will soon impose a solution. Meanwhile in Mostar, Herzegovinian Croat officials again refused to issue joint Bosnian identity documents and license plates. A Herzegovinian Croat spokesman said that the documents, which are written in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, are illegal because laws in Mostar permit only the Latin script. Sir Martin Garrod, who is Westendorp's representative in Mostar, warned the Croats that persons without the new documents and cars without the joint license plates will be unable to leave the country after 1 June. PM
ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA
Paskal Milo met with his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu, on 18 May and discussed the conflict in Kosova and bilateral relations, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The two ministers agreed that the conflict must be resolved through peaceful means. Milo said his country supports the setting up of a Kosova republic within the Yugoslav federation. He added that Kosova is "not merely an Albanian issue," since the ramifications of the conflict are "regional, and even international." Plesu said Romania is ready to mediate in the conflict, but "for the time being," the Yugoslav side has "some reservations" about international mediation. The two ministers also agreed that Romania can offer Albania "expertise in the setting up of democratic institutions." MS
FUNAR PROMISES MORE MEMORIAL PLAQUES
The extreme nationalist mayor of Cluj, Gheorghe Funar, said on 15 May that he has "postponed" unveiling the controversial memorial plaque that claims Hungarian national poet Sandor Petofi was a Serb forced to "Magyarize" his name. Funar said he postponed the unveiling of the plaque after the prefect of Cluj had ordered police to prevent the anti- Hungarian "provocation." The mayor said the plaque, which is to be hung on a house where Petofi stayed from 21-24 June 1847, will nonetheless be unveiled. He also promised that by the end of this year, he will hang another 10 memorial inscriptions on buildings in Cluj, including one on the town's Roman Catholic cathedral, an important landmark of Hungary's historical presence there. MS
IMF RELEASES TRANCHES TO BULGARIA
The IMF has released the last two tranches, totaling $167 million, of a $502 million standby loan to Bulgaria, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The IMF Executive Board said, however, that the challenge of turning Bulgaria into a growing competitive economy is still daunting and the country must move ahead with a long-term reform program, including the completion of privatization, liberalization in the agricultural sector, and legal and administrative reforms. In other news, a survey conducted by Gallup shows that Ivan Kostov's cabinet is the most popular since the collapse of Communism, with 68.5 percent support, AFP reported. MS
BULGARIAN SKINHEADS KILL ROMANY BOY
Bulgarian skinheads killed a 15-year-old Romany boy and beat several others the following day, AFP reported, citing police sources. The skinheads attacked the teenage Roma in an abandoned house in the center of Sofia and threw him out of the window. The young Roma died instantly, while the skinheads fled before police arrived on the scene. MS
CIVIC EDUCATION FOR KOSOVA
by Michael J. Jordan
It's a scene familiar to Eastern Europe since Communism collapsed nine years ago: well-intentioned Western missionaries of democracy spreading the gospel to peoples with little or no tradition of democracy.
Recently, the focus was Kosova, the simmering Serbian province on the brink of interethnic war between Albanians and Serbs. The three-day seminar in tranquil Budapest--some 500 miles away--centered on integrating "civic education" into the Kosovar Albanian "shadow" schools, which operate outside the Serbian system. Yet with Kosova increasingly radicalized and the death toll climbing almost daily, the seminar begged the question: is it ever too early to preach civic values like pluralism, rule of law, and respect for human rights?
Participants and sponsors alike were scratching their heads. "We could just sit and wait for a political solution, or we could do something in small steps that may help indirectly," said Agon Demjaha, a Kosovar Albanian representative of one seminar co-sponsor, the New York- based Open Society Foundation. "This is how I excuse all of this, otherwise it might seem silly."
Yet the seminar illuminated the magnitude of difficulties for those in the Balkans and former Soviet Union who hope to transform authoritarian political cultures into kinder, gentler societies. These rigid mores took root over centuries, long before Communism. On top of that, there are myriad current political and economic obstacles.
At least today, Western governmental and non- governmental organizations are more realistic about the prospects for success. Their revised strategies for "conflict resolution" and the like are now presented more accurately as a painstaking, step-by-step process. It will take years - if not generations - to undo these traditions and nurture a society where the polarizing values of ethnic groups are subordinated to the civic values shared by the whole community.
Enlightenment, if it comes at all, comes one person at a time. After all, does anyone break old habits easily? In light of this, Westerners generally take a two-pronged approach. The first is to ferret out moderates and progressives from both sides, then promote dialogue as a means for easing ethnic tension. The second, more effective tactic targets the youth, before behavior and attitude are set in stone. In the process, much of the older generation is written off, but the groundwork is laid for a future democratic infrastructure.
For Kosovar schoolchildren, this means compulsory "civic education," though none of their teachers knows exactly what it is or how to teach it. "Kosova has such a large young population, we have to worry about how they're going to view their future and express themselves," said Joseph Julian, chairman of Syracuse University's Joint Eastern Europe Center for Democratic Education and Governance, another co-sponsor of the Budapest seminar. "Let the politicians do their work, but the people themselves need to learn to work together as citizens."
However, even as these children learn about human rights, some of their fathers and uncles are taking up arms against the Serbs. "The people arguing for peace are losing their arguments," said Shkelzen Maliqi, who attended the seminar and is both director of the Kosova Education Enrichment Program and a member of the Kosovar team negotiating with the Serbian leadership. Indeed, bloody clashes are reported daily between Serb police and Kosovar villagers, and Yugoslav border patrols and volunteers from neighboring Albania.
Slobodan Milosevic, now the Yugoslav president, seems as intransigent as ever, despite the threat of renewed sanctions. He also enjoys the support of belligerent Serbs in Kosova. Serbian faculty and students at Pristina University, in the Kosovo capital of Prishtina, resisted a new government directive that orders the re- admission of Albanian students by 15 May.. Serbian students threatened a hunger strike in protest and reportedly threw stones at their would-be Albanian classmates on the first attempted return to the university.
At the Budapest seminar, meanwhile, the dozen or so participants--including one Kosova Serb--spoke dreamily of Albanian-Serb summer camps, soccer matches and cultural events. This despite the fact most Serbs are suspicious of foreign-financed projects (the U.S. is enemy No. 1); on the Kosovar side, many fear death from the Kosova Liberation Army for appearing to "collaborate" with Serbs.
So community activists have their work cut out for them. Although war could wipe out even the smallest of their gains, they look no farther than next-door Bosnia for motivation. Laid bare is the nightmare of trying to encourage co-existence in the aftermath of wartime killings and rapes. The point, say Kosova reformers, is to do something. Anything. "Sure, you can wait five years. But then you've lost five years," said Ellie Keen, project officer for the London-based Citizenship Foundation. "Education is a long process anyway." The author is a Budapest-based free-lance correspondent (e-mail: email@example.com).