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Newsline - May 21, 1998


Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov announced on 20 May that striking coal miners will not succeed in "blackmailing the government," Russian news agencies reported. Addressing the Federation Council, Nemtsov said that those who are blocking railroads will not be paid more than they are slated to receive from the 1998 budget. He noted that while the constitution guarantees the right to strike, "no one has the right to destroy the country" and paralyze the economy by blocking railroads. Meanwhile, Tax Police chief Nikolai Medvedev said tax police squads will be sent to five coal- mining regions to investigate the causes of the current crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. He suggested that directors of private coal companies employ dubious financial practices and are responsible for many of the problems afflicting unpaid miners. LB


The Federation Council on 20 May voted in favor of inviting President Boris Yeltsin to a joint session of both chambers of the parliament, Russian news agencies reported. Earlier in the day, the State Duma passed a similar appeal for convening a joint session of parliament, to be attended by Yeltsin, to discuss the current situation in the coal industry. Yeltsin has not yet responded to the proposal, which Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev vowed to raise in person at a meeting of the "big four" scheduled for 21 May. In televised remarks on 20 May, Yeltsin cautioned against "over-dramatizing" the situation in the coal industry, saying he recently signed a decree that satisfied miners, trade unions, regional authorities, and railroads. LB


Railroad Minister Nikolai Aksenenko on 20 May expressed sympathy for unpaid coal miners but criticized the practice of blocking railroads, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Suggesting that the miners are hurting their own cause, Aksenenko said some factories that cannot receive coal shipments are seeking to purchase coal from abroad in order to meet their needs for fuel. (ITAR-TASS reported that the Severstal metallurgical plant in Vologda Oblast has already starting buying coal from Finland.) According to the Railroad Ministry's press service, nearly 300 trains have been delayed because of the miners' strikes. As of 20 May, the blockages have cost Russian railroads 111.2 million rubles ($18 million). Miners have entirely cut off the Trans-Siberian and North Caucasus railroads and are allowing only passenger trains to pass a blockade on the Moscow-Vorkuta railroad. LB


More than 50,000 people took part in dozens of protests staged on 20 May by students, teachers, and professors in 32 regions of the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported, citing estimates released by the Interior Ministry. Some 10,000 people attended a rally in St. Petersburg, at which speakers slammed education reform plans and the chronic underfunding of the education system, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported. In Moscow, protesters marched to the government's headquarters. In many cities, educators suspended classes or attended demonstrations. Teachers in Arkhangelsk Oblast went further, announcing that they will not conduct graduation exams until they receive all back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. LB


Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, who is in charge of coordinating the government's social policies, announced on 20 May that a proposal to reform Russia's education system has been withdrawn from the agenda of a cabinet session scheduled for June, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to a group of participants in the teachers' and students' protests, Sysuev also said the government will on 21 May consider urgent measures to settle wage arrears to workers in the education sector. Earlier this year, officials announced planned cost-cutting reforms in Russia's education system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 25 March 1998). The plans have triggered anxiety among students and teachers. Several protesters interviewed on 20 May by an RFE/RL correspondent expressed concern that the reforms will put higher education out of reach for those who do not come from wealthy families. LB


Police in Makhachkala have surrounded a house owned by State Duma deputy and chairman of the Union of Muslims of Russia Nadirshakh Khachilaev, Russian media reported. A group of gunmen took refuge in the house after shooting dead one police official and injuring three more in a dispute on 20 May. The gunmen again clashed with police while trying to break through the cordons the next day. Also on 21 May, several thousand people occupied the government building in the center of Makhachkala to call for the resignation of the region's government and for free presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported. The republic's parliament amended the constitution in March to allow the present state council chairman Magomedali Magomadov to seek a second term. The state council chairman is elected by a 242-person Constitutional Assembly, not by direct vote. LF


The Duma on 20 May approved in the second and third readings a government-backed amendment to the 1998 budget calling for 526 million rubles ($86 million) in spending cuts, ITAR-TASS reported. The law calls for saving 94 million rubles in spending on the presidential administration, 90 million rubles on maintaining the Duma, 32 million rubles on the Federation Council, 296 million rubles on executive agencies (including 32 million rubles in spending reductions on the government's apparatus), as well as 14 million rubles in savings on holding elections and referenda. The law earmarks the saving for state support for the coal industry and now goes to the Federation Council for approval. The 1998 budget calls for 499.9 billion rubles in total expenditures. LB


Gennadii Yezhov, press secretary to Gazprom board chairman Rem Vyakhirev, said on 20 May that Vyakhirev welcomes the U.S.-EU agreement not to impose sanctions on the three companies that intend to exploit Iran's South Pars natural gas field, Interfax reported. Gazprom formed a consortium last year with France's Total and Malaysia's Petronas to develop South Pars. Vyakhirev affirmed that Gazprom intends to continue its activities in Iran regardless of the possible threat of penalties. On 19 May, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov had welcomed the U.S.-EU decision not to impose sanctions, which he termed a victory for common sense. LF


Aleksandr Pomorov of the Communist faction charged on 20 May that influential businessmen Boris Berezovskii and Vladimir Potanin have abandoned their competition to control oil reserves and are now engaged in a struggle to gain control of nuclear enterprises, Interfax reported. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Pomorov claimed that some provisions of the Russian-U.S. agreement on the use of highly enriched uranium extracted from nuclear missiles violate existing non-proliferation agreements. He said the Duma has prepared a draft law on ending the non-regulated export of fissionable materials. LF


General Ismail Hakki Karadayi held talks in Moscow on 20 May with his Russian counterpart, Anatolii Kvashnin, and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. Karadayi and Kvashnin signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening the national security of both countries and security in the Black Sea region as a whole. The document also seeks to step up the participation of both countries in joint exercises within NATO's Partnership for Peace program. The two generals also agreed to prepare an accord on cooperation in the defense industry. Karadayi later told journalists he asked for "clarification" of Russia's position on the sale to Greek Cyprus of S-300 air defense missiles. "There is not yet a clear Russian position on this issue..., we don't yet know what the Russians will do," he commented. LF


Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 20 May that his faction and its allies have collected 177 signatures in favor of initiating proceedings to remove Yeltsin from office, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The Duma can now create a special parliamentary commission to consider the charges against the president before an impeachment motion is put to a vote. According to Interfax, the Communist faction has prepared a 12-page document outlining evidence of "high crimes" committed by Yeltsin. The document cites the economic hardship that has accompanied the implementation of policies supported by Yeltsin. It also blames Yeltsin for current demographic trends and says the president must be called to account for signing the agreement to dissolve the USSR in December 1991, for carrying out a "state coup" in October 1993, for the war in Chechnya, and for the decline in the Russian armed forces. LB


The Duma on 20 May approved an agreement distributing the chamber's leadership posts among the seven Duma factions, Russian news agencies reported. Of the 28 Duma committees, 25 retain the same heads that were selected in January 1996. But Our Home Is Russia member Roman Popkovich will replace Lev Rokhlin as chairman of the Defense Committee. Rokhlin was the number three candidate for Our Home Is Russia in the 1995 Duma elections, but last year he became an outspoken critic of the authorities. Russian Regions faction member Aleksandr Zhukov will chair the powerful Budget Committee, which was headed by Yabloko member Mikhail Zadornov before he joined the government last November. In exchange, Yabloko member Boris Misnik will become head of the Committee on the Far North, replacing Russian Regions member Vladimir Goman, who was recently appointed to the cabinet. LB


The Federation Council on 20 May overrode a presidential veto of the law on the status of military personnel, despite Yeltsin's objection that the state lacks the financial resources to implement that law, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, the Council overrode a veto of a law making it a crime to carry out "unlawful" power cuts that could lead to deaths. Anatolii Sliva, the president's representative in the upper house, called on deputies to postpone consideration of that law pending clarification of the term "unlawful stoppage." Earlier in the day, the Council approved a land code that is almost certain to be rejected by Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1998). From 1994-1996, when Yeltsin had the power to sack most regional leaders, the Federation Council rarely passed laws opposed by the president or garnered the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. LB


A Moscow municipal court has rejected Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's and the Moscow city government's libel lawsuit against Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 May. The lawsuit was based on an article Gaidar wrote for "Moskovskie novosti" in February. In particular, the city authorities objected to the following passage: "Economic life in Moscow is terribly bureaucratized and regulated, the result of which is a massive proliferation of corruption, and everyone who has had and has dealings with the Moscow municipal structures knows this very well." During the court hearings, Gaidar's attorney submitted evidence of numerous cases of bribe- taking by city officials. He also criticized Luzhkov for refusing to implement a Constitutional Court decision banning the system of residence permits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 March 1998). Luzhkov has long been a vocal critic of the economic policies advocated by Gaidar. LB


A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Interfax on 20 May that Moscow has again rejected a proposal by the Chechen government to establish diplomatic relations. Noting the Chechen leadership's "exceptional stubbornness" in raising the issue, the spokesman said Moscow's top priority is to establish economic cooperation with Chechnya. He noted that under the 1996 Khasavyurt agreement, a decision on Chechnya's status vis-a-vis the federal center must be taken no later than 2001. But Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov told journalists that Chechnya formally declared its independence from the Russian Federation on 6 September 1991 and that the bilateral treaty signed in May, 1997, constituted Russia's formal recognition of Chechen independence. He also said Chechnya has asked the German and Turkish governments to recognize its independence. LF


Ethnic Georgian repatriates are fleeing from Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion as fighting between Georgian and Abkhaz guerrilla formations continues, Caucasus Press reported on 21 May. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists on 20 May that Abkhaz guerrillas began reprisals against the Georgian repatriates the previous day. A spokeswoman for the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile, composed of Georgian deputies from the Abkhaz parliament elected in 1991, told Caucasus Press that the Abkhaz are wearing the uniforms and using the heavy weapons of the Russian contingent of the CIS peacekeeping force stationed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. Abkhaz Defense and Interior Ministry spokesmen said the fighting is solely between Abkhaz forces and guerrillas from the Georgian White Legion. Estimates of the death toll range from 10 to 30. Both the Abkhaz and Georgian armed forces have been placed on alert. LF


Prosecutor-General Henrik Khachatrian told reporters on 20 May that progress has been made toward solving a series of murders of prominent figures in 1993-1994, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Those deaths include the killings of Hambartsum Ghandilian, former railroad chief, and Hambartsum Galstian, ex-mayor of Yerevan and a member of the Karabakh Committee. He said fresh facts are being discovered about two dozen men arrested last January on charges of murder and robbery and suspected of involvement in Ghandilian's murder. Khachatrian has also reviewed the investigations into the deaths of former KGB chairman Marius Yuzbashian, shot while walking his dog, and former Writers' Union chairman Vardges Petrossian. He disclosed that an arrest warrant has been issued for Romik Ghazarian, former head of the presidential security service, who is currently in Moscow. LF


Yervand Zarkarian told journalists in Yerevan on 20 May that his primary task is to ensure safe and reliable communications with the outside world via Georgia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He noted the importance of rail communications with the Georgian Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti, which are the transit points for most of Armenia's foreign trade. Zarkarian said Armenia hopes to receive funding from the EU to upgrade the Yerevan-Giumri-Batumi highway within the framework of the EU's TRACECA project. That project entails expanding the existing road, rail, and ferry network linking Central Asia and the Transcaucasus with Europe via Turkey. LF


At a donor conference in Paris on 20 May, Tajikistan received pledges of $280 million in aid over the next three years, RFE/RL correspondents reported. A statement released by the World Bank says there is need for greater donor involvement in Tajikistan and that the World Bank will lend Tajikistan $220 million. The statement also notes that 80 percent of Tajikistan's population is currently living in poverty and urges the Tajik government to "pay particular attention to privatization and farm restructuring." Another $60 million will be given as humanitarian aid, and the European Commission promised $220,000 to the Red Cross/ Red Crescent for alleviating the effects of flooding and landslides in southern Tajikistan. BP


Jan Kubis of Slovakia was named to replace Gerd Merrem as UN special envoy to Tajikistan on 20 May, Reuters reported. Kubis faces the task of accelerating the reconciliation process in Tajikistan, which is lagging behind the schedule established last June, when the Tajik peace accord was signed. Last week, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Tajikistan not to hold parliamentary elections this year, as stipulated in the peace accord. Annan said the continued unrest would make it difficult to hold free and fair elections. BP


Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 20 May signed a decree dismissing Oil and Gas Minister Batyr Sarjaev and replacing him with Turkmenneft deputy chairman Rejepbai Arazov, Interfax reported. The previous day, Niyazov had attended a ceremony marking the beginning of oil production at western Turkmenistan's Burun oil field. Niyazov said his country has created the proper conditions for foreign investment, pointing by way of example to the Monument-Mobil company, a U.S.-British joint venture, which runs the field. Niyazov also mentioned his country's cooperation with Iran, which, he said, was based on "geopolitical and economic realities." BP


Agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation have arrested three people who are allegedly part of a Russian mafia group and responsible for a kidnapping in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 May. The operation was coordinated with Kazakhstan's secret services and began after a Kazakh businessman was abducted in Almaty and held for a $100,000 ransom. The ransom was paid in installments to a bank account at a New York branch of Chase Manhattan bank. FBI agents traced the owner of the account and the owner's accomplices, while agents in Kazakhstan made the three arrests and continue to search for another four suspects. BP


Some 5,000 miners who marched from Pavlovhrad to Dnipropetrovsk to protest wage arrears spent the night from 20-21 May outside the oblast administration building after presenting an ultimatum to the government, ITAR- TASS reported. The ultimatum says the miners will wait 24 hours for a government decision to pay back wages. If the government fails to take such a decision, the group will march to Kyiv. The acting coal industry minister has pledged to pay this month's wage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1998), but the protesters demand payment of all wage arrears to Pavlovhrad mines, now totaling 84 million hryvni ($42 million). They also are calling for the restoration of subsidies to coal mining sector, which were suspended by the government 18 months ago. JM


Leonid Hrach, a leading Communist who was elected speaker of the Crimean legislature last week, says he hopes to establish a partnership with Kyiv, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. In Hrach's opinion, such relations are essential to overcome the current crisis and reinstate civil peace in Crimea. Hrach has already met with President Leonid Kuchma, whose presidential spokesman announced that Kuchma agrees to Serhiy Kunitsyn's appointment as Crimean prime minister. The Crimean Supreme Council nominated Kunitsyn, leader of the centrist bloc in the parliament, as premier after the bloc supported Hrach's election as speaker (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 1998). JM


Presidential spokesman Oleksandr Maydannyk said on 20 May that the Ukrainian budget failed to collect 5 billion hryvni ($2.5 billion) in the first quarter of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Maydannyk, the main reasons for this failure were tax evasion and the slow pace of privatization. He added that President Leonid Kuchma has submitted to the Supreme Council several draft laws intended to stabilize the budget situation, including a bill on reducing income tax and another on introducing a single land tax. JM


In an opinion poll conducted by the Belarusian Trade Union Federation among 2,500 employees nationwide, 82.3 percent of respondents said the economic situation in the country has worsened, Belapan reported on 20 May. Most of the respondents are living at or below the subsistence level, despite having permanent employment and being highly skilled. Of those polled, 49.7 percent cannot buy sufficient amounts of food, 57.2 percent are unable to buy necessary clothing and footwear, and 63.5 percent cannot provide "normal support" to their families. JM


The ruling coalition has threatened to sack Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Ethnic Affairs Minister Andra Veidemann if their parties--the People's Party and the Development Party, respectively--continue to refuse to share political responsibility for the government's actions, ETA and BNS reported on 20 May. Siimann said that it is "not normal" that parties whose leaders are cabinet ministers should accept responsibility only for the sphere of governance of those leaders. He also said that parties represented in the government cannot vote against government-proposed bills in the parliament. "If our conditions are not accepted, those parties cannot be represented by a minister in the government," Siimann commented. He added that the coalition will not discuss the issue with the parties. JC


Lawmakers on 20 May voted by 52 to one with one abstention to approve in principle amendments to the citizenship law that would allow children born to non-Latvians after 21 August 1991 to become citizens at the age of 16 if they can prove sufficient knowledge of the Latvian language. Those amendments, however, do not comply with the recommendations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which wants all children born in Latvia to be automatically granted citizenship, regardless of nationality or language skills. Amendments based on those recommendations are to be discussed at a future, unspecified date. The Democratic Party Saimnieks, which recently quit the ruling coalition, did not take part in the 20 May vote. JC


Andreas Gross, a representative of the Council of Europe's parliamentary Legal and Human Rights Committee, has said that Russian allegations of ethnic discrimination in Lithuania's prisons are groundless, dpa reported, citing ELTA. He made the comment after visiting two Lithuanian prisons and meeting with several ethnic Russian inmates. "I see no evidence proving that the prisons or the law treat national minorities any differently from citizens of Lithuania," Gross said. Lawmakers in Moscow and Russian representatives at the Council of Europe have accused Lithuania of treating non-Lithuanian convicts unfairly and of convicting people for political reasons. JC


The parliament on 20 May voted down no-confidence motions brought by the former communist Democratic Left Alliance against Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka (Freedom Union) and Education Minister Miroslaw Handke (Solidarity Electoral Action). "This is a very good day for the government: the no-confidence motion turned into a great vote of confidence," "Zycie Warszawy" quoted Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek as saying. The ruling coalition controls 260 of the parliament's 460 seats. The coalition's unanimous voting came after a recent series of rifts between the ruling parties and a setback in the government's push for administrative reform. A parliamentary committee recently adopted a proposal that the number of provinces should be reduced to 17, rather than 12, as advocated by the government. JM


The Chamber of Deputies on 20 May passed a law on the protection of classified data and the National Security Office's role in implementing the law. The new legislation will make it possible for the Czech Republic to receive such information from NATO. The absence of such a law had been one of the more serious reservations expressed in NATO circles over the admission of the Czech Republic to the organization, CTK reported. MS


Lawmakers on 20 May approved the controversial amendment to the electoral law proposed by Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau and Reuters reported. The amended law requires each party within an alliance to cross a 5 percent threshold in order to gain representation. The previous law had required that alliances of three parties or more receive at least 10 percent of the vote and individual parties 5 percent. In response to the intention to amend the law, the Slovak Democratic Coalition, which was the main opposition alliance, has formed a single party, while three ethnic Hungarian parties have merged to form the Hungarian Coalition. Bela Bugar, a deputy of the Hungarian Coalition, said the amended law's "sole purpose" is to ensure the HZDS's victory in September. MS


Gyula Horn, chairman of the ruling Socialist Party, and Viktor Orban, leader of the main opposition Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP), took part in a debate broadcast live on national radio and television on 20 May. Most analysts consider the result of that meeting to have been a "draw." Orban said his party proved in the first round of the elections that an alternative to the present government exists. Horn criticized the FIDESZ- MPP's economic program and mentioned the possibility of continuing the coalition with the Free Democrats, while Orban said that FIDESZ-MPP hopes to win enough seats to form a coalition with the Democratic Forum and the Christian Democratic Alliance, without including the Independent Smallholders' Party. MSZ


Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 20 May that the new government of Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic is "illegitimate, illegal, and un-Yugoslav" (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 20 May 1998). Djukanovic added that Montenegro will recognize neither Bulatovic nor his cabinet. In Belgrade, Bulatovic announced the composition of his cabinet, which is almost completely identical to that of his predecessor, Radoje Kontic. One change is that Bulatovic backer Danilo Vuksanovic replaces Vojin Djukanovic, a supporter of President Djukanovic, as one of five deputy prime ministers, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Bulatovic also told the parliament that corruption and crime are "public enemy number one." President Djukanovic and many of his backers made their fortunes through sanctions-busting during the 1991-1995 wars. PM


NATO ambassadors said in a statement in Brussels on 20 May that the Atlantic alliance is concerned about the rising tensions between Serbia and Montenegro. The ambassadors also discussed the situation on the Albanian-Yugoslav border but made no decision regarding NATO's role in the Kosova crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1998). In Washington, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and his German counterpart, Volker Ruehe, said they favor a political rather than a military solution in Kosova. Ruehe added that "we must look at the military options and the study that is being done by NATO, and avoid symbolism, dangerous symbolism, but look at options that could be meaningful" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1998). Ruehe stressed that the real problem is not along the Kosovar border but "in Kosova--the dictatorship, the police state, and lack of autonomy." PM


Fehmi Agani, who is a top adviser to Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, said in Prishtina on 20 May that the Kosovars will attend talks with a Serbian delegation on 22 May despite the Kosovars' concern about the ongoing Serbian blockade of the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1998). In recent days, Kosovar sources have reported food shortages across much of the province. Serbian officials say there is no blockade but only a check on the papers and safety of privately owned vehicles. Reuters, however, quoted an unnamed Serbian source as saying that the blockade is unwise "and could not have come at a worse time." A Western diplomat added: "What is [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic playing at? If he wants to prevent the talks from going ahead, the blockade is a sure way to do it." PM


Serbian police in Klina on 19 May released four of the eight Kosovars they took off a train on the Prishtina-Peja line earlier that day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1998). The Kosovar news agency KIC said that all four had been beaten while in custody and sought medical treatment after their release. KIC added that there is no information on the whereabouts of the other four Kosovars whom police removed from the same train. PM


Police intercepted a truck loaded with arms at a routine checkpoint in Lezha on 20 May. It was the largest quantity of illegal arms ever seized by Albanian police in a single operation and included 200 machine guns, 500 boxes with ammunition cartridges, and 400 grenades . Police arrested the driver of the truck, who is an Albanian citizen, as well as a Kosovar who was following the truck in a private car. An unnamed police official told "Koha Jone" that those arrested "bought [the arms] for a low price on the private Albanian market and [wanted to] bring them to [Kosova]." The same day, villagers living near the border in the Kukes area said Serbian border guards shot at them. FS


A spokesman for the UN High Commission for Refugees said in Livno in Herzegovina on 20 May that nobody from Glamoc's pre-war Serbian population has returned to their former homes, "Oslobodjenje" wrote. In 1991, some 10,000 Serbs lived in Glamoc, where they made up 80 percent of the population. At that time, only 200 Croats, or 1.5 percent of the total residents, lived there. Croat-controlled Glamoc is now inhabited by 500 Muslims, as well as by 1,400 Croats, who are mainly refugees from central Bosnia. In Banja Luka, spokesmen for Serbian refugees from Croatia, who fled during the Croatian army's offensives in 1995, said that at least 80,000 Krajina Serbs live in the Republika Srpska, mainly in the west. The spokesmen added that one-quarter of them want to go home but that neither Banja Luka nor Zagreb has proven willing to help them. PM


Members of a group of foreign ambassadors to Croatia monitoring the situation in eastern Slavonia said that Vukovar "will not get one cent" from the international community unless the city administration begins to function properly, "Novi List" reported. The ambassadors noted that Serbs continue to leave eastern Slavonia for Yugoslavia or the Republika Srpska and that the Serbs have difficulty returning to their former homes elsewhere in Croatia. The ambassadors also stated that ethnically motivated incidents continue to take place in eastern Slavonia, and that Croatian authorities harass individual Serbs whose alleged crimes have been pardoned under an amnesty, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The diplomats called on the Croatian authorities not to prosecute any Serbs for war crimes without the approval of the Hague-based tribunal. The ambassadors also urged local Serbs to cooperate with the Croatian authorities. PM


Opposition Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha said on 20 May in Tirana that his party will boycott the 21 June local elections unless there are changes in the composition of the Central Election Commission. Berisha demands that all parties be allowed to send representatives to the commission, including smaller parties currently not represented in the body. The elections will take place only in localities where mayors or a significant number of city council members quit their jobs during last year's unrest. FS


Virgil Magureanu, former chief of the Romanian Intelligence Service, confirmed in an interview with RFE/RL on 20 May that in December 1992 he asked the then prosecutor-general to free from detention Lebanese citizen Elie Nassar, who was under investigation in an earlier case of cigarette smuggling. Magureanu also confirmed that he intervened on Elie Nassar's behalf at the request of his brother, Mike Nassar, who is a fugitive involved in the latest smuggling affair. A transcription of the conversation between Mike Nassar and Magureanu was published on 18-19 May in the daily "Evenimentul zilei". Magureanu said the taping of the conversation was "illegal" and denied any wrongdoing. The Nassar brothers offered to pay $3 million to "compensate" Romanian customs, and Magureanu claims he immediately informed former President Ion Iliescu and former Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu about the offer, which was accepted. MS


The Prosecutor-General's Office on 20 May asked the Minister of Justice to propose that the Senate lift the parliamentary immunity of Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party. This is the first step in the legal procedure for such a move. Tudor is accused of having insulted President Emil Constantinescu and one of his counselors in allegations about their involvement in the cigarette smuggling affair. Last month, the Prosecutor-General's Office asked to begin the procedure of lifting Tudor's immunity in connection with in other calumny cases involving the senator. The office is also asking the Chamber of Deputies to lift the immunity of Gabriel Bivolaru, a deputy of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, for alleged involvement in fraud against the Romanian Bank for Development. MS


Seven former officials and military commanders in Cluj have been charged for their role in the repression of demonstrators during the December 1989 uprising. Among them is General Iulian Topliceanu, who is accused of having ordered the opening of fire on demonstrators. In other news, the Civic Alliance Movement on 20 May clarified its position towards President Emil Constantinescu, saying it continues to support his struggle against corruption and that most of the corruption cases involve persons with links to the previous government. It also said the movement's criticism of the president by its executive chairman, Valerian Stan, was the latter's "personal position" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 20 May 1998). MS


Nine international consortia are participating in an international tender for a feasibility study of a proposed oil pipeline from Bulgaria to Greece. The deadline for the tender closed on 19 May, an RFE/RL correspondent in Athens reported. The study is to be completed within 10 months. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Bulgarian Energy Committee Ivan Shilyashki told Reuters on 20 May that upgrading the reactors at the controversial Kozloduy nuclear power plant will make it possible to run safely two of the reactors until 2005-2006 and the other two until 2010-2012. Also on 20 May, the opposition Socialist Party daily "Duma" resumed publication after pledging to pay its 650 million leva ($360,000) debt to the state printing company, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1998). MS


by John Helmer

Aleksandr Korzhakov, the former Kremlin security chief and confidante of President Boris Yeltsin, has made more revelations that may have a bearing on the fate of Andrei Kozlenok, a Russian diamond trader who is currently in an Athens jail awaiting extradition to Moscow.

Kozlenok was arrested by Greek police as he arrived at Athens airport in January. In a warrant issued by the Russian prosecutor-general, he is accused of embezzling some $180 million in diamonds and precious metals from Russian state stocks in 1993 and 1994. Russia has applied for his extradition, and last week, Greece's Supreme Court ruled that Kozlenok should be extradited. The Greek Justice Ministry, which has the final say on extraditions, is expected to approve the ruling.

Kozlenok argued that the case against him is politically motivated and that Russian authorities will intimidate or silence witnesses who could vindicate him. He also said that if he returns to Russia, he may suffer the same fate as a former associate found hanged in his jail cell. Russian authorities say that death was suicide. Several former high-ranking officials in the government and the State Committee on Precious Metals may be implicated in the case as a whole.

Kozlenok has also claimed that his diamond operations were authorized by the Kremlin for political purposes. Kozlenok told a Russian newspaper in April that one of those operations paid for the publication of a book of memoirs by Yeltsin. According to Kozlenok, money from his diamond operations went "into the fund of presidential programs of Russia. Probably, the money was used for publication of the book."

Russia has been applying intense diplomatic pressure on the Greek government to return Kozlenok. The Russian press has been filled with unsubstantiated speculation about Kozlenok's spending sprees and the involvement of high-ranking officials in the alleged embezzlement.

During the period of Kozlenok's activities, Korzhakov was the head of Yeltsin's personal security service and one of Yeltsin's constant companions. In time, Korzhakov became a powerful and influential decision-maker in his own right, keeping watch over all the president's subordinates and ministers.

However, four days after the first round of the 1996 presidential elections, Korzhakov was sacked after officers from the Presidential Security Service apprehended two Yeltsin campaign aides carrying more than $500,000 out of government headquarters. The two aides were associates of Anatolii Chubais, who misleadingly portrayed their detention as a frame-up by Korzhakov's men.

Korzhakov then successfully campaigned for a seat in the State Duma, where he remains today. He has also published a memoir of his time with Yeltsin in which he openly attacks the president, his family, and those who currently run the Kremlin. "The president is an empty bottle, filled by others around him," Korzhakov told RFE/RL in a recent interview.

Korzhakov publicly warns that he has details of corruption among Yeltsin's advisers and high-ranking government officials amassed from investigations he and his subordinates conducted when they were in the Kremlin. A new book containing those details is to be released very soon, Korzhakov said.

Asked what he knows about Kozlenok, Korzhakov told RFE/RL he had investigated the diamond transactions by Kozlenok's San Francisco-based company, Golden ADA. "I received the materials about Golden ADA, and sent them to the President. They were met with total indifference. There were major violations and shady deals, but nothing was done."

Korzhakov suggests the Kremlin investigation he ordered could substantiate the claim that some of the money generated by the scheme was diverted to Yeltsin's book. "I don't exclude this," Korzhakov said, adding that he thinks it likely because Boris Berezovskii, the Yeltsin family's adviser and a wealthy financier, "was in charge of this book." Korzhakov expresses deep hostility toward Berezovskii.

Korzhakov returned several times in his interview with RFE/RL to the theme of Yeltsin's betrayal of those closest to him. He also claimed he had predicted former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's dismissal well before it happened--in an interview with "Argumenty i Fakty" that was never published.

According to Korzhakov, the president "now lives in a virtual world. He is not in control of himself." And Korzhakov claims the dominant influence is exercised by Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko. The appointment of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko was arranged by her, Korzhakov argues, after a family business associate brought Kirienko to Dyachenko's attention.

Kirienko is "the president's Barbie doll", Korzhakov said, adding that he is convinced Yeltsin intends to run for a third term. The author is a Moscow-based journalist who routinely contributes to RFE/RL.